Their schedule was pretty simple: get out of the hospital, go to the press conference, let Alex speak, break away from the reporters, and drive straight back to the hospital. It was simple, fast, and safe; however, they had a change in it in the last moment.
Instead of heading straight to the hospital, the group had to reroute their path in direction to Savanna Central Station, the train station located into Savanna Central, from which arrived nearly all of the trains of the city, both to and fro other districts and outside of Zootopia itself.
Both Nick and Judy were a bit worried about this change in schedule, since the chief was not the kind that made changes like that in the last minute. Still, they knew that if he decided to make this change there was probably a very good reason for this.
Once they got closer, Alex and Linda both could notice that the place was big. It fit easily many animals, including elephants and giraffes, into it, and it still had a lot of spare room that allowed the animals to roam freely into it, and there really were many of them. The bad thing was, with so many animals in there, many of them looking into their carrot phones, iPaws, and similar, there was a greater chance that some of them could actually recognize Alex and Linda, and this could lead to them being crowded. The good thing was, that place was so huge, and there were so many animals in there, that there was the actual chance of no one recognizing them, or even noticing their presence, unless they did something to bring out attention to themselves.
Once they got in there, they tried to make their best to look the kind that would not bring up attention. Linda used the same tactic that she used to get into the hospital days earlier: a handkerchief tied to her head and a pair of sunglasses. In Alex case, Nick was able to go into one of the stores and buy a hooded jacket for him.
"You own me 47 bucks." The fox said with a sly smirk as he gave the camouflage jacket to the cougar, who wore it and pulled to hood over his head.
Both these disguises were rudimentary, but they were the best they could come up with in so little time. So, with them, both gazelle and cougar walked in direction to the station. They walked among all of the animals for around five minutes, and they didn't seemed to be attracting anyone's eyes. They both took it as a good sign, as they both walked in direction to the platform.
"Another meta mammal?" Nick asked, once their boss explained to them what they were doing in there.
"Yeah, his name is "Jeff", and apparently he is a very good friend of both Hunter and Thompson. At least that was what they said." Bogo spoke, as he looked around. "They said that he was with them in the night they both ended into Zootopia, whatever they meant by that, and that he wanted to meet with them in here in the station. It seems that he is in a train that will arrive in…" The cape buffalo checked on his watch. "Five minutes or so."
"Do you think we can trust him?" Judy asked to the chief, who sighed.
"Honestly? I don't know. But these two seem to trust him. Enough to agree to meet him at the station without any of us around."
"Do you think it's safe for them?" Nick asked, "I mean, last time that Hunter went into the meeting of another mammal who was looking for him it didn't quite ended nicely."
"Hunter claims to know this guy." Bogo said, "Both him and Thompson agreed to come here without anyone, and they didn't seemed sacred at all. They really trust him, and they seem to think that he will not do anything to them." Bogo said, still looking around, at the animals who were moving in and out of the station. "And even if he did, those two surely look like they can fend for themselves." He took a ship of coffee, while both bunny and fox shared a look among themselves.
After walking around the place, Alex and Linda both decided to sat into a bench into the station, into the place where the train that Jeff said he was in was coming.
"Remember, we are waiting for a train that is coming from Podunk… wherever it is." Linda said, as both she and Alex did their best to try to look invisible, and they were both being surprisingly efficient in it. It seemed that a gazelle walking around with a tissue on her head and sunglasses was not that strange, and neither was a big feline wearing a hood.
"No one even bats an eye at us." Alex said as he sat by Linda's side, and they both looked at the crowd around them as they waited for their friend's train to arrive. "I'm pretty sure that we look at least suspicious."
"Maybe this is a bit like New York." Linda said, "Maybe they have seem a little of everything, and they don't raise their eyebrows too much."
"Up until a few days ago, when a cougar with super powers appeared." He said, and he pulled his hood more over his own face, wishing that the thing could actually make him invisible. He really felt uncomfortable around so many people who could easily identify him.
"Just relax, as soon as we meet Jeff we get out of here." Linda said, as they continued to wait, and as they did, many animals were lignin up with the train, all of them waiting for it to arrive. Soon, came the voice, "Arriving now, train 44072, coming from Podunk, with its next stop in Tundratown Station."
Both Alex and Linda perked up in their seats, as they knew that it was the train of their friend, Jeff.
They both looked as the train stopped, and the many doors opened, and many animals walked out of the train, at the same time that others walked in. The animals that walked out all got going by their own business. Some of them stayed and walked around, seeming either lost or marveled at the place, most likely tourists. Some of them were actually having meeting with other people who had been waiting for them in the station, and one of them was Jeff, who was going to meet with both Alex and Linda.
"How do we know which one is him?" Linda asked, as she scanned the crowd. "Just search for someone who looks familiar. It worked for us." Alex spoke, as both of them continued to look at the crowd in search for a face that looked even slightly familiar.
Sure, during the call, Linda didn't had the chance to ask to Jeff in which animal he had turned into, it was probably for the best, since this kind of question would cause Bogo to raise an eyebrow, and they now had to believe that they were going to be able to recognize him only through seeing his face. They were able to recognize each other instantly, so it was to b think that they would be able to do the same with all of their friends, still, it was a wild guess, as they were scanning a big crowd of animals without even knowing what kind of animal they should be looking for in first place.
"Do you think he turned into a deer, or a moose?" Linda asked, as she looked at a few cervines who walked out of the train.
"Maybe a wolf, I always imagined him like one." Alex said.
"Maybe a bull?"
"Yeah, he would love that." Alex chuckled, and they continued to look at the crowd, trying to find recognition into the face of a single animal that stepped out of that train. They looked for two minutes, and then four, and eight, and they still could not be able to recognize Jeff among them.
"Do you think that he will see us and recognize us?" Linda asked.
"I hope so, because I can't recognize him among all of these muzzles."
"Maybe you should look to another direction."
Came a squeakily voice that almost made both Linda and Alex fall of the bench they were sitting, and they looked around, trying to pin-point where that voice had come from. They looked left, right, back, and didn't saw anyone.
"Down here!" The voice said, they both finally looked down, and they saw a very small mammal looking up at them. Really small, a rodent, actually.
"Oh! Sorry, sir." Linda said, "We didn't saw you." Linda never had problems with rodents, actually, she had always found them cute, and since in that world there were rodents too, she felt like she would not have problems with them. Still, ever since the incident with Judy, she refrained herself from calling any animal smaller than herself of "cute" out of fear of sounding… speciest?
"Look, buddy, we can't talk right now, we are waiting for a fried of us here and he might step on you when he comes." Alex said, s He continued to look up, and so did Linda.
"Seriously?" The rodent said, sounding annoyed at the two bigger animals, Alex looked down at him.
"Alexander!" The rodent said, and the way he talked sparked something into Alex's mind, who then took a very good look into the rodent in front of him.
He had light-brown colored fur, with a cream-colored muzzle, round ears, a pink snout, and round and hazelnut colored eyes, and he was wearing a green colored T-shirt and a set of pants that seemed leather, and they were very fitting for his size. He had a slender body, a long tail, and long whiskers on his face. He shouldn't be much taller than three inches high, less than four, that was for sure.
As Alex looked at him, the way that he was looking back at him, and these eyes… imagining the eyes and expression into a human face, and the voice much deeper…
It couldn't be…
There was no way…
Alex blinked, as he looked down at the rodent, who looked at him. "Is this the sound of the bulb flicking?" He said rhetorically, taking a small hand to one of his big ears. Alex almost fell from the bench he was sitting when realization hit him full on. And by "almost fell off", I mean that he slide from it into his knees to the ground, and was now resting his hands at the ground to take a very close look at that small mammal.
"Jeff?" Alex asked nearly breathless, catching Linda's attention, who got on her knees next to Alex to look at him, and them her gaze shifted at the mouse. She looked at it for a few seconds, removing her sunglasses, and as realization hit her, she gasped and covered her mouth with a hooved hand.
The small rodent smiled up at the two bigger animals, and he said, "Yeah, I expected you two to react like that… so, cougar and gazelle, huh? Not bad." Jeff said at the two mammals, who continued to look down at him with wide eyes, as if he was a being of another planet. Jeff looked at them, who were now looking at him like that for almost half a minute now, and he cleared his throat, saying, "Guys, if you keep looking at me like that some of the animals around might wonder why two animals like yourselves are paying so much attention to a small domestic mouse like me."
The two blinked, then Linda looked around, and she saw that, indeed, some of the animals in there were starting to stare at them.
"Oh… right! W-we must be going." Linda said, and she was getting up, and Jeff said:
"I totally agree, by the way, would any of you, big guys, help me with this?" He said, gesturing to the baggage that he had been carrying, which was of a size corresponding to his… new stature.
"Oh… r-right." Alex said, reaching out for the small baggage, but Jeff stopped him.
"Since we are at it, why don't you give me a ride?"
"In your hand." Jeff explained, "I mean, I'm a little small and I might have trouble keeping up with you, and I almost got stepped on a lot in the past few days. I don't want to take risks in here."
Alex looked at him, and he slowly nodded, as he put his hand on the ground, with the paw turned up, so Jeff could climb on it with his baggage and everything. Once he was in, Alex raised his hand, being careful not to shake it very much, at Jeff's request, and they started to walk.
There was a silence as they walked, and all the while, Jeff was standing into Alex paw, feeling the padding, "Quite comfortable." He said with a smirk, "I'd recommend to a friend." Alex didn't answered, as he simply continued to walk, casting the occasional glance into Jeff from time to time. This, of course, didn't went unnoticed by the small rodent, who said, "Still trying to take a grip at this?"
Alex looked at him, and Linda too, who was walking by Alex's side. "Y-yeah, sorry, I guess we got caught off guard." He said, trying to be discrete into the way that he talked, since they were still into a public place, even though the animals around them seemed to be too busy minding their own affairs to actually pay very much attention to them.
"Well, I guess we can talk calmly about it later, but right now, I believe we have other matter to attend to." Jeff said, and he added, "So, you guys came here with someone else, didn't you?"
Bogo, Nick and Judy all stood outside the station, waiting for the return of the two meta mammals with their friend. They were taking a while, and this was making them worried.
"Shouldn't they be back by now?" Nick asked, checking on his watch, and Bogo sighed.
"Yeah, maybe they should." He said, as he looked at the place. There were no screaming or running animals coming from inside, so it was to be supposed that they didn't engaged into a fight with the one they were meeting. Still, the fact that they were taking so long to come back from a simple meeting with a friend was making Bogo start to grow worried that something might have happened. Of course, the buffalo had not yet discharged the possibility that the two could have used this chance to elope from them and go somewhere else, probably into a train to out of the city.
"Hey, I see them!" Judy said, and the others went into attention at this, as they saw the two animals walking back to them. They were both alone, and they seemed to be a bit uneasy as they approached.
Bogo raised an eyebrow at them, as he looked around, trying to spot someone who could be that "Jeff" that they both talked so much about, but he saw no one.
"Didn't you meet up with this friend of yours?" Nick asked, the two animals shared a look, and Linda said:
"Yeah, we did."
"Where is he?"
As an answer, Alex stretched his arm, showing them his open palm, and the small brown rodent that was in it. "Hi." The small rodent said, as the other animals looked at him. Judy was in an advantageous position into the car, so she could have him directly on her line of sight, and she looked at him curiously, very much the same way that she looked at Mr. Big when first meeting him. Bogo, on the other hand, crouched a little to look at the rodent with a raised eyebrow.
The smaller mammal just looked up at him and smiled, offering a tiny paw at the bigger mammal, and saying: "Jeffrey Small, at your service."
Bogo looked down at him, and he slowly reached out to shake his tiny hand with only one of his much bigger hooved fingers. "Mason Bogo. Chief of the ZPD of Precinct 1." The buffalo said, and the smaller mammal only nodded at him.
"Well, it is nice to meet you." He said, and he looked at the other two animals who were with him, and he said, "Don't tell me. Officers Judith Laverne Hopps, and Nicholas Piberius Wilde, respectively the first bunny and fox to ever join the police in the Zootopian police force."
"Yeah, we have quite a fame." Nick said with a smirk, and Jeff, looking at him, added.
"You have a record of minor infractions in a good part of your teenage years, including scamming and instinct exploitation." He said, and Nick looked at him, "You have a scar in the back of your left leg due to an accident when you were fifteen, and even though you were born and grew up in Zootopia, both your parents came from Vulpesville." He then turned to Judy, and said, "Judith Laverne Hopps, you came from BunnyBurrow, where you were born and grew up. You formed into the ZPD Police Academy with the best grades of your class, but you were only able to enroll thanks to the Mammal Inclusion Initiative. You have two minor infractions in your teenage years, one for order disturbance and the other for public indecency."
"Wait, what?" Nick said, looking back at Judy, who was now blushing.
"I-I got drunk in a party. Long story."
"You two got famous for the exposure of the Night Howler Conspiracy, and for arresting Dawn Bellwether and a good number of her co-conspirators into one of the greatest mass arrests of the history of this city, and among the arrested there were corrupt cops and some business mammals, curiously, all of them sheep." Jeff said, as he looked in between the two officers.
"Well, it sounds like someone has been making research." Nick said with a smile.
"Too bad that most of her conspirators were not charged, or even discovered at all." Jeff added, causing the animals to look surprised at him. "But again, the guys were influent and they knew how to cover their tracks. I'm surprised that you arrested so many, in the first place."
As he spoke that, Bogo had a raised eyebrow at him, deciding to cut out the talk and go straight to business, and he asked, "Are you a meta mammal too, yes or not?"
Jeff smiled as he looked up at him, and he chuckled, "Meta mammal. What a very interesting concept. Kind of tacky, but indeed appropriated. Well, it guess it is better than 'mutant animal'." He said, and Bogo continued to look down at him, his expression serious and not amused. "But, answering your question, yes, I am a 'meta mammal', as you call it."
"And, what would be your super power, my friend?" Nick asked, "Can you walk over water? Make it rain? Change the color of our fur?"
Jeff chuckled, "Well, I don't really have flashy powers like my two friends in here." He said as he gestured to both Alex and Linda. "My power is a little more subtle. As you probably have already realized by now."
Bogo raised an eyebrow, and the rodent continued. "My specific mutation allows me to have a brain capacity that allows me to process information at a much faster, complex, and more efficient way than most of the ones of my species, or many other species, by the way, are able to. This way, I have greater capacity of memory, creativity, ingenuity, cognition, analysis, and overall mental efficient than many other individuals."
As he finished, the other animals only stared at him, before Alex traduced into simpler terms what Jeff just said: "He is super smart."
The other animals then nodded, and Judy said, "So, you are smart hum?"
"I scored 300 points in the IQ test when I was ten." Jeff said with a smirk. "I know that being smart is not as interesting as being able to move things with your mind or shooting lightnings form your paws, but it is mine, and I like it." He said as he fixed his shirt, and Bogo looked down at him.
"Well, I'm sure that it is." He said, looking down at the smaller mammal. "But, how would it help you with someone like me, for example?"
"Is that a challenge?" Jeff said with a smirk, "Because I'm pretty sure that I could bring you down if I wanted."
Bogo narrowed his eyes, Jeffrey looked back at him, and he added, "By the way, how is your son going?"
Bogo's ears perked when he heard that, and both Nick and Judy shared a look. Not many knew that Bogo was married and that he had one son, the cape buffalo always made his best to keep his personal life separated from his job.
"He is six years old, right?" Jeff said.
The bull looked down at him for a few seconds, before saying, through clenched teeth, "Ferdinand is seven." He really did not like the way that the rodent was now bringing his son into the talk all of sudden.
"Oh, then he is small for his age, he sprawled soy milk in you this morning." Jeff said, and Bogo looked surprised at him. "Two drops right beneath your badge." He said, and Bogo looked, trying to see the said stains, they were small and they were very thin, and it was only possible to look if you looked hard enough. "Soy milk has characteristic smell that makes it easy to differ it from the milk made of nut, you were having breakfast with him on one edge of the table, you on the other, and your wife at the center, right?"
"Who are you? Sherlock Hound?" Bogo said, and there was a silence, as Jeff simply looked up to him with a smile, and he said, "Yeah, you can say I'm like Sherlock Hound. Only smaller. Talking about breakfast, I didn't had mine this morning; can we go somewhere grab some grub? I'm starved!"
Bogo snorted as he looked at that small mammal, and he looked up at the two mammals, Linda said. "Yeah, I'm kind of hungry too."
"Me too." Nick admitted, and Bogo shot him a glare, before sighing, and saying:
"Okay, let's get back to the hospital, and then you can eat."
"Actually." Jeff said, "I believe that my friends in here might be a little tired of hospital food. If you could take us to a place with good food around here we can just serve ourselves and we can go back to the hospital right away."
Bogo looked down at him, and looked back at the two mammals, who looked as if they were quite afraid to meddle in. The buffalo looked back at the mouse, who had a confident smile on his face, as if he was sure that he was going to win this talk, no mattered what Bogo said. The buffalo groaned as he rubbed the bridge of his muzzle, and said: "Fine, we'll search for a place, but we go straight back to the hospital after." He then said, pointing a finger to the mouse's chest. "And you better not try anything!"
"Seems like a fair deal to me." Jeff said, and he added, "If possible, could it be in a place that serves sunflower seeds? I have been dying for some of them!"
Nearly fifteen minutes later, they were into a place named "Graze Times", which seemed to be a place that was more centered into serving food to prey animals, since they had a wide variety of vegetarian food, but they also had some options for carnivores, as it was demonstrate by their "Special Bugloaf".
It ended up being the place that they had chosen to eat, and Nick even mentioned how their bugloaf was great. Alex already had decided to try that, and once inside, they sat on tables. The officers had one near the door, while Jeff had convinced his friends to take one far from them, into a deeper part of the place. He said that it was to avoid peeping eyes on Linda and Alex, and Bogo was forced to agree, but he made it clear that they were going to keep an eye on them.
As soon as they were away, Alex ordered his bugloaf, Linda ordered some of the especial salad, and Jeff ordered toasted sunflower seeds. As they ate, Alex noticed on how happily Jeff devoured the few seeds that were brought to him.
"Good to see that changing into a rat didn't changed your love for these things." Alex said.
"First of all, I am a mus musculus, a common domestic mouse." Jeff said, and he added, "And second, nothing will ever change my love for these delicious! Look, now they are so big that only one of them is a whole meal to me! This is nearly a dream coming true!"
"A dream coming true? Really?" Alex asked.
"I said 'nearly'." Jeff added, and he also said, "Still, I have to say that the fact of being reduced to a few inches high is somewhat unsettling."
"Yeah, you used to be taller than me." Alex said, "Seeing you turned into a mouse came as a startle."
"Oh, you wanna hear about a startle?" Jeff said, "When I woke up the first thing I saw was a huge bunny looking down at me. Big eyes and ears and a mouth that was big enough to bite me if he thought I was a carrot… Seriously, I had nightmares like that."
"Yeah, I only imagine that." Alex said, unable to hide his smile, and Linda chuckled as she continued to eat. "But I still don't understand how you can find seeds to be delicious."
"Personal taste, I guess. And I see that you developed a new taste for bugs, by the way." Jeff said, looking at the bugloaf that Alex was eating, that was, basically, a big paste-like cake that was mixed with grasshoppers all over it.
"They taste really good." Alex said, taking another bite from his plate. "Also, I didn't really had a problem chomping on bugs, I guess that has something to do with me turning into a predator." Alex said, and a silence befell the three friends, as Alex looked around, to be sure that no one was eavesdropping, and he approached the table, as he started to say in a low voice. "Okay, I guess we all are just waiting for the moment when we will talk about the fact that we are no longer among humans and neither look like one, right?"
"I was about to get to that." Jeff said.
"What happened to us?" Linda asked, the then rodent looked up to her, and he said:
"Well, ever since I woke up eight days ago, I have been thinking a lot about that. More than I usually think about anything else." As he spoke that, he looked up at his two friends. "Well, at first I thought that could be delirious, or trapped into a nightmare, or that it could be one of Martin's jokes." He spoke, and he looked like he was getting ready to explain. "However, I took only two hours to realize that this new world was far too complex and realistic to be anything like a dream or an illusion, or anything around these lines. So, as soon as I realized that this world was real, I did the only thing I could think of: I tried to learn as much about it as I could."
The two bigger mammals nodded, as they both knew that this was the kind of thing that Jeff would most likely do in a situation like that. The mouse continued, "I spent the last seven or eight days as a host into the house of another family of mice, who were kind enough to allow me to use their television and computer. I spent days and nights on zapping through channels and websites, trying to get just as much information about this world as it was possible for me. I still haven't gotten all of it, and there is some things that I haven't understood completely yet. Still, I saw enough to understand that this Earth seems almost like a reflection of our own world, only that in here, humans never happened, and instead it seems that every other animal evolved to rule the world at the same time. What, I have to say, goes against many of my most basic understandings of genetics and evolution."
The two animals looked at him as he explained that. "Yeah, we kind of noticed that already." Linda said to him, "But, this does not quite explains why we have turned into animals by coming here… or how we ended up here, in the first place."
"Yeah, I know." Jeff said, as he looked up at them, and he said, "Part of the time I spent without contacting anyone, I spent trying to figure out what kind of place is that. The only answer I could come with was that we were sent into another dimension."
"Well, that we figured out by ourselves too." Alex said, "But, about we being animals…"
"For years, scientists theorized the existence of alternate dimensions, in which the laws of nature, physics, and even reality, would not necessarily have to be the same as in ours." Jeff said, "So, basically I'm saying, that each dimension has its own set of rules." He spoke, and he continued, "So, my theory, in that night, when that vortex swallowed us and the building, it was some kind of dimensional rift that somehow connected our own reality with an alternative reality, whose laws diverged from ours' in a way that our mere presence in here would break its laws."
"So, as we crossed the dimensional tissue that separated our human dimension of this animal one, in order to be able to fit into this new world, we were forced to change to match its rules." Jeff continued. "Since humans didn't existed in here, then we could not be humans, and as a result, we had to change into something else, something that would fit the rules of this new world. So, basically, we turned into some of the sentient creatures that are common in this world, these "evolved animals" so to speak, as a result of passing to it, and having to go by the same rules the govern this dimension, in order not to mess with its balance and organization."
There was a long silence following these words, and after a while, Linda said: "This is… kind of far-fetched, don't you think?"
"It almost sound like something that you would come up in a B-type crossover fanfiction…" Alex said, looking at Jeff. "I mean, we all changing in both shape and even gaining animal instincts by coming to here? And it weren't just we who changed. My money became the currency of this world, and Linda's phone had a bitten apple in the back before the vortex, and now it has a bitten carrot! And my photo…" Alex said, reaching for the photo on his pocket, and he pulled it out, showing it to Jeff. "My mother and brother both turned into cougars! I would understand that it happened with my biologic body, but changing a photograph? And I still recognize them without any problems, just like I recognized Linda, and like I can recognize you now! As if you all had always had these faces! What, the vortex has somehow changed my mind too? Jeff, I know that you are way smarter than me, and that I didn't even finished high school, but even I think that this theory of yours has a lot of holes."
Alex and Linda both looked at Jeff, who they expected to come up with a much more elaborated explanation, that they were both probably going to fail at understanding, to try to defend his point. However, he instead only looked at both of them, before sighing, and hanging his head down, as if in defeat, as he said: "I know… but for now, it is the best one that I could think of that didn't involve fairies and gremlins."
Alex and Linda shared a look among themselves, as they both knew that Jeff was probably having a hard time coming to terms with all of that. After all, he was a rational guy, and this kind of place… well, it made you doubt a lot of things once you arrived in there…
"So… the vortex somehow turned us into animals because this way we would be according to the world we came into?"
"Yeah, that is the theory." Jeff said, looking up at them again.
"But… if that is like this, why haven't we all turned into the same animal? I mean, I turned into a cougar, Linda into a gazelle, you into a mouse… how did the vortex decided in which animal to turn us?"
"I'm not sure yet." Jeff admitted, "Maybe it was random, or maybe it had to do with something in our own subconscious minds. I'm really not sure of the process yet."
"Well… all I know is that now you kind of fit your name… Mr. Small." Lind said, and the ones in the table started to laugh at the joke, including Jeff.
"Oh, yeah, and you look really great as a Thomson gazelle Ms. Thompson." Jeff added, and he turned to Alex, "And you, Mr. predator, now truly live up to the surname Hunter." As he spoke that, they continued to laugh a little, but after a few moments, their laughing slowly died down, until they were left into another silence, and their faces now far from being smiling, as they all started to really think about it…
There were moments of silence, as neither of them could think of something else to say, and finally, Alex broke the silence. "So… what caused that vortex?"
"I don't know that either." Jeff said, quite glad that the subject had changed. "It was possible that it was some event regarding dimensional interaction, or maybe even some quantum mechanics. The most likely, however, was that it was caused by… someone like us."
"Maybe one of the guys Stoats hired?"
"That would be the most likely, I guess."
"So, that guy decided to just send us all into this alternate dimension full of talking animals?" Alex asked, trying to keep his voice down to avoid others hearing, even though they were somewhat far from other tables, and the ones who were in them seemed more worried about eating their own food and talking to each other than try to eavesdrop their conversation.
"I'm not sure if it was intended, but I guess that it would be safe to assume that, if however did this took us here…"
"Maybe could also take us back." Linda said, following his logic.
"But, how do we know who is this guy? Or where to find him? Or if he is in this world? Or if he is even alive?"
"I… don't really know that." Jeff admitted in defeat. "I'm just a genius, not a medium!" He said in his own defense, while the two animals let out sighs. There was another silence, before Alex asked:
"So… did you had contact with anyone else? Martin, or Tania?"
"No, I just heard about you two, and it wasn't hard, you have been on all the news lately. Oh, and I saw that press conference that you made, how did they convinced you to do that?"
"Well, they said that the animals were scared and that some of them were getting really nervous about this, and that if I gave them some answers they would calm down." Alex said, "So, I went to the tv and tried to be honest with them."
"Yeah, I saw it." Jeff said, "That thing you did, hesitating like that, you showed emotion, and that surely will make a lot of them to feel sympathy with you."
"Yeah, I just glad that you sent me that message before the event."
"Yeah, the one you sent into my phone using an unknown number." Linda said, gesturing at her phone, but Jeff looked confused.
"I didn't sent you any message." He said.
"What? But, I received it here." She said, and she looked into her phone, but after a few seconds, she said "…is not here anymore."
Alex and Jeff both looked at her, and she said. "The message is not here anymore… it is gone…"
As they spoke, they didn't realized that another animal had just passed by the window, and that this animal had gotten a very good look at Alex's face, and that had immediately recognized him…
"The best bugloaf in Savanna Central! Impressive, considering that they serve mostly herbivores." Nick said as he sighed, reclining back on his seat as he patted hid stomach. Meanwhile, Judy had just finished her carrot special, and she looked at him with a smile as he relaxed. "Now, for the dessert… Uh! They have blueberry pie!" Nick said, almost sounding like a child as he saw the special pie of the day, and Judy couldn't help but chuckle, as sometimes her partner could behave just like a kit.
Bogo, on the other hand, was looking at the other end of the restaurant, at the animals who were sitting into the far end. They seemed to be whispering among themselves, and talking about something that they didn't wanted anyone else to hear.
Bogo knew that it was, most likely, a subject that they were not ready to share with him, not yet, at least. Still, the fact that they have chosen a table so far and were now talking in whispers; it was enough to get the buffalo at least curious. He now wished that he was a small fly, just so he could buzz to there and hear whatever was it that they were talking.
"How was the salad, Chief?" Nick asked to the buffalo, but the bull continued to look away, in direction to the table of Alex and his friends. Nick raised an eyebrow at him, and looked in direction to the table. "What, are you afraid they will vanish if you blink?"
Bogo snorted as he cast a glare to the fox, and Nick only chuckled at this. "Oh, com one, chief, didn't they already showed us that they are nice guys?" He asked as he looked back at the buffalo, and he said, "I mean; if they wanted to escape they could have done that already a hundred times, right?"
"Nick is right in here." Judy said, making the buffalo look at her. "I'm sorry, sir, but I guess that Alex and Linda both showed that they are willing to cooperate, and that they don't intend to do harm. They showed in a lot of occasions that we can trust them, and honestly, I guess I do trust them both."
Bogo looked at Hopps, and he knew that she was right. Those two could have escaped rather easily if they wanted, but they didn't. Besides, if they actually tried to escape, there was probably little that any of them could do to stop them. The thing was; Bogo knew that they were not sharing just everything. He knew that they were keeping secrets, and this made him suspicious. Of course, it wasn't more suspicious than he had always been towards Savage…
Thinking about it, he didn't had any news from Savage in the following days since Hunter was taken to the hospital. The mammal said that he would send someone in the city to keep an eye on things, but neither Savage, nor this someone he had sent, had made any attempt to contact Bogo ever since. This was enough to raise Bogo's curiosity; since Savage didn't bothered to give him any short of information other than "the situation is more complicated than I thought".
Savage keeping secrets and not talking to Bogo, and sending his personnel into the city to watch on the things. Now this new guy, who claimed to be a friend of Hunter and Thompson, just arrived in the city and now they were all with little secrets. That was the kind of thing that made Bogo uncomfortable, and of course, it made him more suspicious than he already was.
Could it be a coincidence that Jeffrey Small suddenly appeared in the city around one week after his strange last talk with Savage? Maybe. Or maybe not. He knew that Razorback didn't believed in coincidences himself, and sometimes Bogo was forced to agree…
Bogo was so focused, that he barely heard the sound of the small bell by the door as someone entered. At least until a big lion get on his line of sight. Bogo perked in his seat as the big lion blocked his view from the table that the meta mammals were in. However, what really made him stand, was the fact that this lion seemed to be heading straight to that same table…
"I'm saying that I didn't sent you any message! I didn't even knew that you were going for that press conference! I told you, I'm not a medium!" Jeff said as the other animals looked at him.
"Wait, then who sent that message?"
"Well, I don't know, I could analyze you phone if you let me, and maybe I could figure out… Oh boy. Guys, don't look now, but there is an angry looking atlas lion coming right to us." Jeff said, as he tried his best not to look, and both Alex and Linda looked at him, before a strong voice called their attention.
"Leaving your den, freak?"
Alex and Linda both perked their heads as they could see the one who just spoke to them, and it was a big lion. He should be around nine, maybe ten feet tall, and he looked to be muscled, his fur was of a golden yellow, and had a big dark mane and a strong jaw, along with golden-colored eyes. He wore a brown colored shirt with long-legged cream pants. He looked down at them… no, he was look at Alex, with an expression that was somewhat a mix of disgust and rage.
Alex felt a shiver as he saw the way that lion was looking straight at him, and he simply looked back. "Excuse me?" He said, as he already started to recognize the kind of look that the lion was giving him, once he already faced it a lot before he ended up in Zootopia. Alex didn't even bothered to play fool with him, for he already knew that the lion recognized him, and that the lion was not going to let it go. He could see it in his eyes.
"So what? You got tired of hiding behind the police and decided to come for a stroll in the city?" The lion asked, and the disgust was clear on his voice, as if he found Alex to be a cockroach or something similar.
"Look, I don't know you, and I don't know what you have against me." Alex said, as he was slowly getting up, "But if my presence here annoys you, then I guess I can just leave."
"Running back with your tail between your legs?" The lion said, his tone growing louder and catching the attention of a few of the patrons in the restaurant. "Can't you at least stay and face me a normal guy like a man?"
"Look, I don't want trouble."
"Well, too late for that, freak!" The lion said, pushing Alex and almost making him fall to the ground. Alex recovered, but as he got back, the hood fallen from his head, letting the others see his face, and soon enough, they all started to recognize the cougar.
"Hey, ain't that the lightning cougar?"
"Yes it is him!"
"He was on the news earlier!"
"What is he doing here?"
"Sweet cheese and crackers!" Judy said, as she, along with her partner and chief, where seeing that scene unfold.
"Is just me, or that lion looks familiar?" Nick said, and indeed it wasn't just him. Bogo too could get a look into the face of the lion, and he could quickly recognize him.
Meanwhile, Alex stared daggers at the lion, who was looking at him with very much the same amount of anger. "Oh, you got angry, freak? What will you do? Will you fry me?" He tainted, and as he did, he unsheathed his claws. "Come on! Try to see what happens with you!"
"Hey, stop!" A booming voice said, and the eyes turned to look at Bogo, who approached with Nick and Judy right on his heels. "Joseph Grooms!" The buffalo said, looking straight at the lion, "You have already been arrested three times in the past five days, now you are about to be arrested for the fourth time if you don't step back now."
The lion glared daggers at the bull, and he turned back to Alex. "So, still hiding behind the cops, huh? You are really as coward as I thought you to be!"
"Do I even know you?" Alex said to him, getting increasingly angry, "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm the mammal who is not falling for this theater of yours!" The lion nearly roared, prompting many of the animals around to take a step back out of fear. "You go around, acting as if you were a poor guy with super powers who just want to be a friendly neighbor, and acting as if you were a poor victim! That little show you made in the press conference? Well, you are a good actor, I'll give you that! You know that you almost got me fooled?"
"But I'm not falling for this! I know exactly what you are! You are a freak! A monster! These things you can do just aren't natural!"
Alex was felt a strong feeling rising in his chest and his stomach as he looked at the lion, feeling the increasing need to at least throw a few words back at him. However, before he could say anything, the lion continued with his tirade.
"We just can't trust a thing like you! Sure, everyone thinks that you are a cool guy now, maybe even a hero, but sooner or later you will show your true colors! A thing that does the things you do doesn't care about the feelings of other mammals, and you will soon start to show everyone how dangerous you truly are! You should at least be locked away where you would no longer be able to hurt anyone!"
Alex got more and more nervous as the lion spoke, as memories of the human world filled his mind. The whole speeches, the persecutions, the protests, the Renautas, all of that came back to him as he could see the despise that this lion had on his eyes, simply because Alex was what he was. Alex felt the anger and frustration building up inside of him, ready to explode.
"Why are you being so mean?" A small voice asked, and the eyes all few into a small lioness. She should be around six, or five years old. She was holding onto a doll with her hand, while the other held the hand of an adult lioness, who was, most likely, her mother, while she looked up at the big lion with her green eyes. "What the big cougar did to you?"
The lion looked at her, a bit surprised, but he recovered quickly, and he said, "Nothing… yet, but he will do!" He said, almost as if it was an accusation and an affirmation in one. "With the things he can do, it is only a matter of time before he decides to do something to someone."
"Excuse me!" Said a voice, and everyone turned around to look at Judy Hopps, who stepped up, and looked straight at the lion.
"Was he doing anything wrong just now?" She demanded of the lion, who was taken back by her tone. "Well, I hadn't done anything wrong in the past days, not eight days ago, when he saved several innocent civilians from danger!"
"You stay out of this, bunny!" The lion countered, but Judy was not intimidated by him.
"In the past days, Alex Hunter has done absolutely nothing to make us think that he was dangerous or that he had bad intentions regarding anyone! In fact, much of his actions only gave us reasons to think positively at him!" She spoke, and as she did, Alex looked at her, who was now standing for him. "So, since he didn't did anything wrong, nor committed any crime, using his powers or not, there is no reason why he should be persecuted by someone who demonstrates an erratic behavior and aggressive dispositions, and that just decided to come up and start aggrading him without any seeming reason. If anything, you are the one who is dangerous and who should be watched!"
The lion growled, as he unsheathed his claws, and he seemed almost ready to pounce at Judy.
"Try!" Nick said, pointing a tranquilizer gun at him. The lion looked at him, and he turned his gaze back at Alex, who looked at the bunny. Judy looked back at him, and she was able to nod. Alex saw this, and returned the nod, and he turned to the lion.
"I really don't know you, and so, I guess I don't have anything against you." He said to the lion, "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go back to the hospital, because I have more important things to do than to serve as a target for the anger of a lion."
Alex spoke, and he turned to leave, but as he did, the lion turned to him. "YOU FREAK!" He said, and he jumped at Alex. It was so sudden and fast, that almost no one was able to react fast enough. However, before the lion could make contact with Alex, he was forced backwards, and his back slammed into the wall.
The crowd all gasped as they saw it, and the lion was a bit dazzled. He was able to get his senses clear in time to see a gazelle stepping on his way, standing between him and the cougar. She had a fierce look in her eyes, and she was looking at the lion with a look of the purest disgust in her face.
"Why you…" The lion said, ready to pounce at her, but Linda was faster than him. She simply outstretched her hand, and the lion was forced into the wall. With his back pressed into it and his arms forced to the sides, he was raised from the ground, held into the wall by an unseen force as Linda had her hand stretched in his direction.
The crowd gasped as they watched that scene, but it only lasted for a moment, before Linda lowered her hand and the lion came collapsing into the ground, gasping for breath.
He stayed in there for a few minutes, before someone came on to him, but it wasn't to help him stand, but to force his arms behind his back, and cuff them. "Okay, you need a night into a cell to calm yourself down." Bogo said, as he cuffed the lion and soon was making him stand.
As he was up, the lion glared daggers at the two mammals. "See? This is what I'm talking about! They are dangerous! We can't 'rust them! We can't let them on the loose to see as they please! This is a great mistake!"
The lion continued with his tirade, while Bogo continued to drag him away, already requesting back up on his radio to help take that lion into custody, and to take Thompson and Hunter back into the hospital. Silently, he was already regretting having let Small convince him to come to there.
As the lion was taken away, many in there continued to look at Alex and Linda.
"Man, it is that gazelle!"
"It is truly them! The meta mammals!"
"What are they doing here?"
The crowd continued to look at them, while Judy approached both. "Are you two okay?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Who was that guy?"
"Remember that guy who the chief said that had been around trying to cause riots? Well, you just met him." Nick said, "Joseph Groom."
Alex looked at him surprised, and he looked back at the lion, who seemed like he was still struggling while Bogo tried to keep him subdued. It was hard even for a bigger, heavier, and much strong animal like himself. The lion even tried to bite on him on one or another occasion.
"Man, that cat needs a muzzle." Alex said, and he didn't noticed the way that Nick tensed, but the fox said:
"Yeah, maybe he does."
Judy looked at her partner, as she knew that the muzzle thing made him very uncomfortable. She had already seem Nick look very uneasy around them, even when he had to put them into dangerous suspects.
"Well, that escalated quickly." Jeff said, making the others remember that he was still there. "Now, since we all seem to have failed miserably into avoid getting attention, what about we get out of here before we receive too much of it?"
As he said that, Alex took a good look around, to see that all the mammals were looking at him and Linda, some of them even taking pictures or filming them. Some talked among themselves as they pointed at them and some of them were talking in their carrot phones. One thing Alex was sure, pretty soon that place was going to be filled with many more animals, all of the anxious to take a good look at the two animals and maybe take a few picture themselves.
"Yeah, we better get going." Alex said, and Linda offered both of her hands cupped to Jeff, and he soon hopped in. They were just leaving, when a small voice called:
Alex turned to the source of the voice, to see the small lioness looking up at him, holding her mother's hand as she watched him with big, curious eyes.
"What that lion said, it is not true, is it?" She asked, still looking up at Alex. "You are not bad, are you? Because you don't look bad."
Alex looked at that innocent little face, and he felt a warm within his chest. He didn't knew what to say, but he knew that he wanted to tell her the truth. "No, it is not true." Alex said to her. "I'm not the bad guy."
This seemed to be enough for the lioness, by the way that she looked up at him, and for some reason it was also enough for Alex. He turned his head away as he and the others walked outside, still with the many eyes of every animal of the place on them.
As they walked, Alex once more felt moved by someone standing for him like that, and it made him believe that maybe things could be different in this world, even with a guy like that "Joseph Groom" around.
As they walked outside, with Alex almost forgetting about everyone around him, as he repeated what he said to the young lioness to himself.
"I'm not the bad guy."
As they walked outside, none of them noticed that one present mammal didn't seemed all too impressed with the scene that just had transpired. Instead, this mammal seemed to be calmly reading a newspaper and shipping on coffee while the whole thing took place, and as the animals got out, he pulled out a phone, dialed a number, and took it to his ear.
"Hey, its me… Yeah… Yes… They meet with someone else… A friend of their… Yeah… There was a small situation in here, but it solved quickly… Yes… Okay, I will."
As soon as he finished, he closed his phone, put it in his jacket, and got up, leaving behind a one hundred zollar bill as he walked out of his table…