No mammal is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.
Prejudice is part of society.
There is no denying it. There is no escaping it.
It is something ugly to look at, and it is something that many want to see disappear for good, but it is something that was built over many generations and that ingrained itself in society so deeply that one cannot just remove it as if it is a piece of decoration.
Prejudice ingrains itself in society and creates roots to burrow itself in place, feeding on itself, feeding on fear and ignorance, on anger and resentment. It can be fought, of course, but it is so deep in the heart of mortals that it is just not possible to get rid of it completely.
Zootopia had been build having tolerance as its base. It was a place where all species could live together in harmony, as equals, calling each other friend. A place where the prey would live without ever having to fear being hunted, and where the predators would be able to live without having to hunt. A place where they would stand as equals in the world and discover that deep down they were not that different and that they could live in peace together, side by side.
However, to hope for prejudice to just vanish was never a realistic goal. It still existed in the society of the animals that came to live in Zootopia. It was an ugly feeling that was carried from eons of mistrust and fear, and that would not stop showing its head because of the many speeches of peace and understanding.
Hate crimes were occurrences that were not as rare as most people would like them to be. With stories of mammals who got beaten up when they were coming home from work being heard now and then, only because someone else didn't quite like them because of their species. Most of these crimes were of prey against a predator, for once the prey was in a much greater number, therefore having more representatives in society, while the predators were a considerable minority.
However, that didn't mean that the hate crimes against prey were nonexistent. There were still stories out there of predators who used their size and their nature as hunters to oppress and intimidate the prey, who were (presumably) weaker and more helpless.
There were predator supremacists, just like there were prey supremacists, the only difference being the frequency they got on the news, due to the difference in numbers in their rankings.
Still, prejudice was prejudice, and it was a part of society.
Nick had his fair experience with prejudice. Being not only a predator but a fox, a kind of predator who faced a lot of stigmas, even from other predators. He had been looked down, screamed at, insulted, even spat on in one occasion or another. Nick knew that prejudice was part of the world and that it was something that was common to both predator and prey. He had seen both kinds before, even in the same place at once.
Like in that present moment…
"About time you chompers got put in your place!"
"Oh, go chew on grass, grazer!"
The two sides, separated by the wired fence, were throwing insults at each other. On one side, the prey supremacists, calling the predators "chompers" (a derogatory term that came from decades ago, coming from the fact that predators "chomped" at others), all of them saying that they should be collared and put back into the ghettos. On the other, were the predator supremacists, being smaller in numbers, but just as ferocious, as they told the "grazers" (another derogatory term that came from the prey, the herbivores "grazing" for food) that they should recognize their place in the bottom of the food chain.
Each side had their own opinions, formed by pre-conceived notions that they probably learned from their own families, or that they developed into their own. Anyway, it was prejudice, maybe born from mere enmity, maybe born from fear, maybe born from righteous indignation (Nick thought it could be the case of some of the predators), but it was all prejudice. It was inflamed, and it was something that perfectly reflected in the theme of tonight's fight:
"Prey vs Predator, the battle for supremacy."
Nick already knew that this bust going undercover was not going to be easy, but now that he knew that the place was filled with two different supremacist mobs, the thing had escalated into another level.
Nick was worried about what would happen if any of these guys found out that he was a cop. Supremacists like that usually were involved with other kinds of illegal stuff, and they were many times criminals by default, meaning they truly disliked cops.
However, Nick's greatest worry at the moment was Wolfard. The wolf was wearing a disguise of sheep, and due to this, he was sent to the side of the prey supremacists. He was in the middle of dozens of hostile prey who was very clear that hated predators with all that they had. If any of them discovered that Wolfard was not only a cop but a disguised wolf… Nick had a small shudder as he thought of what they could do to the poor bastard.
'Doesn't change the fact that this is his fault.' Nick thought as he was still mad at the wolf for not telling them that the fight of tonight had a "theme". He really thought that this piece of information was not important? Was he not even a little bit curious over the "theme" to ask the guy about it?
If they both go out of there in one piece, Nick was going to smack that dumb wolf on the back of his head.
A buzzing on his head snapped him out of his thoughts, and Wolfard's voice came through the earpiece he was using:
"Uhhh, guys? We might… have a little situation here."
"You think?" Nick asked sarcastically in the phone hidden in the lapel of his shirt.
"Apple, Orange, what is your status?" Bogo's voice came from the communicator, and Nick was prompt to answer:
"You nothing big, just realizing we are in the middle of a fight to 'decide the supremacy between predator and prey', with the audience for the fight being two mobs, one of predator supremacists and the other of prey supremacists. You know, the usual."
Nick could hear a curse coming from the other side of the communicator, and soon, Wolfard's voice came again:
"Do we need to abort the mission?"
"What, you scared, Orange?" Nick said, playfully.
"We are not aborting anything." Bogo said, "We need to stop these illegal fights [/i]tonight. This is not up to discussion." The voice of the cape buffalo left no space for complaint or negotiation. "You both keep where you are, take care of what you do and say, and tell us the exact moment when we start this. And, Orange…" There was a brief pause, in which Nick could imagine the glaring of the bull on the other end of the line. "…When this is over, we will have a talk about how to treat information in the future."
Nick could swear that he distinctly hear the wolf in sheep disguise on the other end swallow a lump, before saying a quick "yes sir", and then the line went silent. Nick looked around, and the crowd around him seemed to be becoming more and more aggressive, as they were still throwing insults at the ones on the other side of the barbed-wire fence.
Well, to be fair, not all of them were aggressive, as some of them were still sitting on their tables, few, actually. They were sitting there, eating, drinking, and also chatting. The chats were catching Nick's attention:
"So, here hoping that the lion will win."
"You kidding? Of course, the lion will win! What chances does prey have?"
"He will put that grazer in his place, along with all of his kind."
"Yeah, why do the prey still act as if they were not born to be on the bottom of the food chain?"
Then the three mammals laughed. Nick sipped more of his coffee as he continued to sit alone. It was not the first time that Nick saw himself in the middle of a gathering of predator supremacists.
Nick never shared any of their views, of course, no mattered how many times the prey had mistreated and misjudged him, he was not willing to go so far as to label them all as inferior and plot hate crimes. Still, in the shady underbelly of Zootopia, it was possible to find guys like these, and they were among the elements that Nick wanted to avoid, but he had already run in a few of them in one or another occasion.
Nick could actually feel kind of glad for that, for he had learned how to navigate himself out of these places with little risk of angering the guys. He just needed to remain silent, sit on his corner, and if any of them came to talk to him about anything, he just sat there with his sly smile, would nod, and give an occasional "uh-huh". Nick disliked these kinds of guys, but he was smart enough not to voice his disagreement to them out loud, once he knew that guys like that not only disliked prey but also the "prey apologists", as they called those who didn't share their views.
Nick just wished that Wolfard would also do well on his end. Of course, it was the wolf's fault that they walked in there without really knowing what they would find, but he was still a good guy, and Nick knew that he was in far more danger than him. He just hoped that the wolves in there wouldn't start howling…
"Man, what a night." A voice came, making Nick turn his head. "This fight is gonna be-"
The owner of the voice stopped in mid-sentence as he looked at the fox. The coyote stood on 4'4'' feet tall, not much taller than Nick himself. The fur on his body was of a grayish-brown coloration, with a lighter shade on the underside of his muzzle and probably going down his chest and stomach. He was wearing a black hooded shirt and a pair of ripped jeans. His eyes were of a faded shade of brown, and they were wide as they looked at the fox, and Nick could see recognition and surprise in them, followed by what seemed very much to be fear.
Nick knew these emotions, and he partially shared of them. He had also recognized that coyote, and he was also surprised to see him there.
It was a coyote he had seen days ago, into a shady corner of the Downtown, talking to a tiger who was just as shady… while he was at his police uniform.
"What is he doing here!?" Was the thought on Nick's mind. That animal that was in there was someone who knew that the fox was a cop. Someone who could easily snitch on him and let everyone in there know who he was and if that happened… Nick would be lucky if he could get out of that place in one piece…
However, the coyote didn't look like he would snitch on him if the slightly fearful expression on his face was anything to go by. The coyote stood in there for a few moments, just looking at him, and he said:
"Uhhh… h-hi…" He said.
That was the look of someone who wanted to run away, or at least not to do or say anything stupid. Nick looked at that expression, and he decided to play along. His years in the street taught him how to hide his emotions from others behind a mask of confidence and cynicism. Nick just put that mask back on, and he gave a sly smile at the coyote.
"Hey there." Nick said, as casually as possible. The coyote looked back at him, and he cleared his throat before he spoke:
"W-well, it is a surprise… I-I would not think I would find you here… Mr. Wilde."
Nick tensed internally. This was not good. The coyote was talking too much. Nick looked at him as he remembered the meeting that he had with the canine a few days ago. It was strange and fast, and quite awkward. Most of all, it was strange, enough for Nick to want answers. If the situation was different, if he was alone with the coyote, in his police uniform, he would try and get answers from the canine. However, at the moment, Nick was undercover, and it was imperative that no one knew that he was a cop. The way the coyote acted, it would surely draw attention, and Nick could not have that at the moment. He would have to let it slide, for he would be in trouble if he didn't.
"Seriously… A-a place like that is not one where you would expect to find someone of your clan, Mr. Wilde." The coyote said again, and Nick tensed a bit more. The canine was still talking too much, Nick needed to stop him.
"Hey, hey!" Nick said in a hushed tone, making the coyote stop talking, and gestured for him to get closer. The ears of the canine were flat on his skull as he approached the smaller mammal, and Nick whispered to him:
"What is your name, dude?"
The coyote tensed a little bit, and Nick could swear that he heard a small whimper coming from him.
""C-Coyle." The coyote said back. "Hudson Coyle, of the Coyle clan. Yeah, that Coyle clan. But we didn't do what they accused us!" The coyote was saying in a hushed and respectful way, but he still sounded as if he was really trying to defend himself for something. "It was just an accusation of our enemies to taint our name! We were always responsible when we were-"
"Okay, okay!" Nick said, interrupting whatever it was that the coyote was saying. "So, Hudson, I'm kind of by myself in this table, and I kind of want to be left alone for now. So, why don't you go around see if you can find someone to talk?"
"O-oh…" The coyote said, and Nick could see something in his eyes that was almost relief as if he was glad for getting away from Nick.
"Also, don't go telling people that I'm here, okay, I like my privacy." Nick added, and the coyote nodded.
"Y-yes! Of course, Mr. Wilde. I totally understand it! After all, of course, someone like you would not want to be bothered by just anyone! You know, being a Wilde and-"
"Bye, Hudson." Nick said again, between clenched teeth, and this time the coyote did whimper a little bit. He said a quick "sorry" and immediately left, so quick that Nick lost sight of him for a while. Nick was once more left alone.
That coyote was surely a figure.
The way that he acted as afraid and scared of Nick, despite being bigger than him. Well, not by much, but he was surely a small kind of canine, and that alone should be enough to make him more confident against a smaller fox. However, the way he acted with Nick, as if Nick could easily wriggle his neck if he could. Or at least as if Nick had enough influence to track him down and completely ruin his life.
Nick did not understand that, but that was for later, for he now had to focus on his mission. Still, Nick felt like he should track down that coyote, to be able to ask him a few questions. It would not be that hard since he now had the coyote's name:
This is bad. This is really bad. Bogo thought as he had just informed the rest of the teams about the change in the situation.
Bogo was no strange to dealing with supremacists, both prey and predator, and the great myriad of individual subgroups that could spawn from it.
Sheep supremacists. Wolf supremacists. Horse supremacists. So on, so on.
Bogo knew from experience that these groups were all the same in their base nature, a great speech built over prejudice, fear, and hate. Dealing with them was always hard, and it was something that Bogo disliked at every moment that he was forced to. Few things could get to him more than hate speeches.
"What do we do now?" Judy's voice came from the other end. "Nick is still in there!"
"Apple will be fine." The cape buffalo said firmly at the bunny on the other end. "And so will Orange. They both know how to take care of themselves."
"But what if these criminals find out that they are undercover?" The bunny came again. "What if the barbed-wired cannot keep them separated and it all becomes a mess? They could be caught in between! We need to -"
"WE…" Bogo said, forcefully interrupting the bunny. "…need to stay in our positions and wait for the right moment. We have a plan, and we are going to stick to it. Sure, this is unexpected, but unexpected things happen all the time. We will continue and we will attack once we have the signal."
" But chief…"
"Is that clear, Alpha 2?" Bogo said, and he used the same tune that he always used when he wanted to make a clear point. He knew that Hopps understood it, and like clockwork, she replied:
"Yes… understood, Alpha 1."
Bogo sighed. Hopps was one hell of an officer. She proved that many times, during the Nighthowler Case and after. However, she was still far emotive sometimes, and that was something that could be good in certain situations and a problem in others, as it was proving to be in this case. She was far too worried about the safety of her partner.
Not that it was a bad thing, but if she got too emotive it would get in the way of her judgment, and that was something that Bogo could not have.
Not on there, not at that moment.
"What do we do now?" One of the officers with Bogo said, and the buffalo didn't even bother to turn around as he answered:
"Are you deaf? We stick to the plan." Bogo said, and he made it clear by his voice that it was final, and he took the silence as a confirmation that he had been understood.
Sticking to the plan was all that could be done at the moment, even if things had taken an unpredicted turn. This new development was worrisome, and Bogo truly wished that he had information about this beforehand, for he maybe would have prepared with more care, and escalated other officers for the inside work, but no use worrying about that now. Now he had to have faith in his officers in the inside and hope that neither of them would do anything too much stupid to put themselves into even more trouble…
It meant hoping that Wilde would keep his mouth shut and that Wolfard would be able to hold back if some of the wolves in the place started howling…
Bogo grunted as he turned his attention back into the entrance of the warehouse, and just in time for him to see another mammal who had just arrived. It was from far, but it was possible to see that it was a tiger. The animal was wearing a black shirt and a pair of shorts, he was smoking a cigar, and he approached the rhino, who looked up to look at him.
The rhino talked to the tiger, probably asking him for his ticket. However, the tiger seemed not to have one, and they continued to talk. Bogo looked at them as the talk they were having seemed to be getting more heated. At some point, the tiger simply tried to go inside, but the rhino stopped him with a hand on his chest, and it was possible to see that the rhino was snorting.
Oh, crap. Bogo thought, as some fight breaking in in the entrance of the warehouse and starting off a series of events that could very well spell problem for his officers on the inside.
The tiger continued to try to push his way in, but the rhino continued to push him back. Bogo tensed as he watched this, even more, when he saw the rhino pull out a gun and point it at the tiger. Bogo gripped his own weapon unconsciously, and he seemed ready to aim and fire if there was the immediate need.
The tiger visibly tensed when the rhino pointed the gun at him, his muscles flexing and his claws unsheathing. It looked like the tiger was going to attack. However, after a few agonizing moments, the tiger seemed to relax and take a deep breath.
Bogo himself, relaxed slightly when he saw it, thinking that the tiger was going to back down and maybe leave. However, instead, the tiger continued in front of the rhino, and he reached out for his own face, taking the cigar out of his muzzle.
Bogo looked at it, seeing what the tiger was going to do next.
Unexpectedly, the tiger waved the cigar in front of the rhino's face, and after a few moments, the rhino seemed to relax. It seemed that the tiger was telling him something, and next, the rhino was lowering his weapon, and Bogo thought that he was swaying slightly. The rhino put his weapon back, and now was opening space for the tiger to walk.
The feline simply walked in, while the rhino once more resumed being on guard.
Bogo had a raised eyebrow at this, but he decided that it was just not worth worrying about it, as there was a much more serious situation going on.
Of course, the buffalo was not close enough to see the strange dazed look in the rhino's eyes…
The fight still hadn't started.
It was an entire hour late, and the fight still hasn't started, and the crowd was not happy about that.
Nick could see it clearly on the side of the predator-supremacists, as they were throwing insults and even trash on the side of the prey-supremacists, who returned it in kind. As if it was not enough, they seemed to no longer be satisfied with throwing their insults and aggression at others and had resorted to doing it to each other.
Nick saw a nearby lion nearly go into a punch fight with a wolf, and the weasels who he had seen fighting each other earlier now seemed like they truly wanted to bit each other's throats off.
The fact that they were having to wait was leaving them on the edge. Of course, the fact that the food was horrible, and that the warehouse they were in felt like an oven was surely not helping.
Poor Wolfard, must be nearly baked to perfection inside the sheep costume. Nick thought to himself.
As he took another sip of the water that he just bought himself (water that seemed just as dubious as the coffee), Nick once more caught himself wanting to get the hell out of there before he would be the next one caught in the aggression that was clearly building in. However, he knew that he could not, for he and Wolfard both had to remain inside and wait for the right moment when the fight would start, so they could give the signal to the other teams for the busting to start.
Of course, it would have been far better if they were to be together to give each other backup, as it was originally planned. However, due to the "theme" of tonight's fight, they have been each one sent to a side, with Nick with the predators while Wolfard, in his sheep disguise, was sent to the side of the prey. Now they were each on their own, and they needed to hope that no more unpredicted circumstances would happen to either of them…
"Hey, have you seen-" someone said, and Nick turned his head to see who it was:
It was a tiger standing on 8'6'' feet tall, with a strong build, as it was possible to see through the black shirt he was wearing, as his strong arms were clear through the sleeves. His fur was of a solid orange with black, as it was normal for tigers, with white on his under muzzle and down his neck, but the fur on his face faded from orange to nearly white. His eyes were of a greenish-yellow coloration, and they widened as Nick looked at him, as did Nick's own green eyes.
"You…" The tiger said, his eyes narrowing, just like they did days ago into that dark alley.
Nick tensed. It was bad enough that he met one of the animals that had known his real name in the place where he was trying to remain undercover. Now, as if that was not enough, he had found the second one.
Some days it seemed that the world just didn't want to help…
Nick did his best to compose himself, and he said to him, as indifferently as he could. "Sup?"
The tiger continued to look at him, his expression was definitely not a friendly one. Nick looked at him for a few moments, before he asked:
"What, do you find me attractive?"
The tiger scoffed. Nick smiled a little at him.
"Well, cannot say I blame you, I have been said that I'm a dazzling handsome fox."
The tiger looked like he wanted to maul Nick, and he probably would have if someone had not come. It was Kyle, the same bear that had greeted Nick when he first came inside the warehouse.
"Hello, hello." He said, somewhat awkwardly, as if he was nervous. "I hope I'm not interrupting, I'm just here to tell everyone that the fight will begin very soon and that I'm terribly sorry for the delay. This usually doesn't happen."
"It's fine." Nick said, and the tiger only looked at him. Kyle stopped for a moment to look at the tiger.
"I… don't remember greeting you in the entrance…"
"I arrived late." The tiger said indifferently, and the bear only looked back at him and shrugged.
"Well, anyway, I'm terribly sorry for the delay, and the fight will start soon." He said, and before leaving, he turned to Nick, and said: "Mr. Russet, hope you enjoy the fight." He approached very close and whispered. "Also, I hope that the sheep who came with you is still your friend at the end of the night."
He soon was leaving, however, the tiger was left behind, and he was now looking at the fox with a raised eyebrow. Nick looked back at him.
"Yes?" Nick asked, and the tiger continued to look at him.
"So… Russet, huh?"
"Yeah, as cliché as it sounds…" Nick said, "So, now, if you don't mind, I would like to be alone here in my table." Nick said, and he hoped that the tiger would act the same way as the coyote. However, it seemed that it was not the case, as the tiger only approached him, looking very intently at the fox.
"You sure you're not interested in me?" Nick said to him, trying to mask his growing uneasiness with humor, and the tiger scoffed once more. Nick even hoped that he was getting feed up with him and would turn around and leave, however, the tiger seemed to have other ideas, as he actually pulled one of the boxes that made the "chairs" of Nick's "table", and sat himself.
Nick tried to remain neutral, but the attitude of the tiger was not helping at all.
"So, do you have a first name, Mr. Russet?" The tiger asked, looking at Nick, and the fox could do nothing more than to keep in character.
"Jake." He said, "Nice, isn't it? My mother chose it."
"Jake Russet." The tiger said. "Jake Russet…" The tiger said, and he looked like he was trying to remember something. "I'm pretty sure I never have heard of a Jake Russet before." He finally spoke, and he looked at the fox. "This means you are either excellent or terrible."
Nick shrugged, not wanting to contradict the tiger, in the risks of blowing his cover and starting a scene.
"So, are you from a new clan?" The tiger asked, "A family that still has no ties with the Association?" He was looking intently at the fox and (Nick presumed) his reactions. "Or are you some freelancer?"
Nick was not sure what any of that meant. It was just like the alley, all over again. Still, Nick kept his cool and tried to act as if he knew everything. The fox only kept his smug expression in place and he shrugged.
"I'm many things, my friend." Nick said, to him, "Right now, I'm a fox who is in an old warehouse waiting to see two mammals beat the snot out of each other."
The tiger continued to look at him, with a raised eyebrow, and he said: "Why are you interested in that?"
"Personal reasons." Nick said, already formulating a way to talk himself out of that situation while avoiding it from escalating, and keeping himself from attracting too much attention. "Now, why are you interested in that? I mean, you are also in here, aren't you?"
The tiger scoffed once more. "I have no interest in that. This is a business for the mundanes, I have much more important things to do."
"Really?" Nick said to him, "Then maybe you should not waste your time talking to a poor little fox like me in a place like this. I don't want to rob you of your precious time, you can go on, I'll take care of my business.
It was a longshot hoping that this would work, and Nick knew that. It was no surprise that the tiger did not move, and continued to stare daggers at the fox.
"Or, it is just that you are really interested in me?" Nick said, and for a moment, it actually seemed that the tiger was going to jump on him and maul him then and there. However, the big feline just scoffed.
"I have no interest in you, fox." He said with a lot of disdain. "Honestly, I couldn't care less about you, or about whatever it is that you are doing right now." He spoke, and soon, he was approaching Nick. "Either you are a member of a new clan trying to make a name for himself, or some freelancer trying to earn some money, I don't really care… but I cannot ignore the thing you have done a few days ago."
Nick looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"How often do you go around using the names of important clans?" The tiger asked, and Nick simply continued to look at him. The tiger then whispered the next part to him:
"To who else did you told that you were a Wilde?"
Nick flinched a bit. Still, he held his composure.
"You know, some are willing to go to great lengths to reach their goals. I understand that, and I can even respect some of that." The tiger spoke to him in whispers. "But, it really gets on my nerves when some smug bastard goes around using the name of an important clan like it is their own."
Nick remained silent, and let the tiger continue.
"It is quite bold, surely, but it is also cheap and very disrespectful."
"When you say it like that, it probably is." Nick said, still acting as if he knew what the tiger was talking about. "I mean, if someone went around using my name I would not like it either. What if the guy started to throw trash in the streets and take candy from small kittens, it would not be good for me."
The tiger had a deep frown on his face as he looked at the fox.
"Do you know it is also dangerous?" The tiger asked him. "That many clans would take great offense on someone impersonating them? That the Wilde is just as proud as any of these clan, if not even more, and that they would be really furious for some mangy fox like you going around saying to be one of them?"
Nick looked at him. A raised eyebrow. "Worried about me? Well, you shouldn't be. I can take care of myself." He said, hoping that he sounded confident. "I mean, it is not like the guys can be that bad. If they were people would be talking about them a lot, right?"
The tiger looked at him with an unamused expression. "I don't know if you are stupid, insane, or a little of both, but if you think you sound brave saying that, you don't. They have already made many of their enemies disappear, we are talking about powerful individuals. Making a nobody like you disappear? That would be easy for them…"
"Wow…" Nick said, "You speak like the Wildes are relatives of the boogie mammal."
"They are worse." The tiger said, leaning over to the fox. "They are the ones who know how to kill the boogie mammal. They are the ones who truly rule over this city. They, Höleh, and Bellwether."
That last part caught Nick's attention.
Had the guy really said "Bellwether"? The same ewe that he and Judy had busted one-and-a-half year ago? The one that was currently in jail?
And "Hole"? Who or what were they?
"If you say so… Still, it must be hard for Bellwether to 'rule the city' from jail, right?" Nick said with a smug confidence, and the tiger looked at him for a few moments, as if he was trying to figure him out. Soon, comprehension filled his face, and the tiger let out a small chuckle.
"Oh, you mean the arrest of Dawn Bellwether by the mundanes? Ha! As if that means anything at all!"
Nick perked a bit at this. "Are you saying she can have influence in things from inside the jail?"
The tiger looked at him, and he said:
"I'm saying, that jail is something that means nothing for the power that Bellwether represents in Zootopia. And if you truly understood anything about this city, you would know it."
Nick looked at the tiger for a while. His mind processing all that he had heard, trying to make sense of what the big feline had spoken to him. Nick had to give the impression that he knew what he was talking about, even though he had absolutely no idea. Still, all that he had just heard was enough to make him think.
The tiger was looking at him, and he said to the fox:
"If you already notice this is a bad idea, Russet, then stop to go around using the names of other clans. It will only bring you trouble, and honestly, it is something that gets on my nerves. Either you make fame with your own name or you fade away." The tiger said, and the fox looked at him.
"So… you came all the way here just to say that to me?" Nick asked. The tiger looked back at him. "What, do you consider me important, or something?"
"I don't care jack about you!" The tiger shot back. "I'm just here looking for someone."
"Oh." Nick said, "Would that, by any chance, be your coyote friend?"
The tiger turned back at him, looking at the fox.
"He passed by my table just a few minutes ago." Nick said, "He went in that direction."
The tiger looked at where Nick pointed, and back at the fox. He kept staring daggers at the fox, before he started to walk in direction to where Nick had pointed, leaving the fox alone.
Nick also kept his eyes on the tiger, and once the big feline was finally out of sight, Nick found himself letting out a breath he felt like he was holding ever since the tiger locked eyes with him.
Nick took his cup and took another gulp of that cheap slur "coffee" as he tried to calm himself. Once he did, he couldn't help but ask himself:
What the heck was all of that?
Nick remained in place for a few moments, before he went for his lapel.
"Orange, you there?"
"Yes, I am." Wolfard's voice answered. "What is it, Apple? Did something happened?"
"Yes… No… Maybe… Look, let's move closer to the fence, I think it will be better if we can both see each other."
"… Yeah, I agree."
Outside of the warehouse, team Alpha 2 was still waiting, and they were quite anxious.
They had been informed of the situation, as well as Alpha 3, and they were uncomfortable with the situation.
Many mammals didn't like hate groups, and the ones present were included in this. All of them were serious as they waited for the signal in the inside. Even Eliot Fanghanel, who was usually jolly most of the time, was serious like Judy had few times saw him. The wolf looked determined, just like the other two predators who were in the team.
Judy herself was growing restless. She knew that Chief Bogo was right and that they needed to stick to the plan, otherwise everything could go South faster than a flock of migrating birds. Still, knowing that her partner was currently in the middle of two hate groups that could break into a fight with each other at any given moment was making her even more nervous than she was when this was just a regular busting.
Before, there was already the suspicion that the mammals who were inside would be violent. Now, that was most certain, and the danger that a fight could break in there between the two mobs was a very real threat.
The idea of Nick being caught up between both prey and predator supremacists was something that terrified her. She felt like getting in there and dragging Nick out before things could get worse, but she knew that this was no longer an option.
Danmit! Why did Wolfard did not share that information? They could have prepared better! Judy was going to have a very serious conversation with the wolf as soon as this situation was over. If anything, she would at least join the conversation that Chief Bogo would surely have with him about the same subject.
Back inside the warehouse, the coyote, Hudson Coyle, was sneaking out of an area of the warehouse that seemed to have been modified to be separated from the rest of the place. He passed by the cords that were in place and passed by the two burly bears that seemed to be there as securities.
"Thanks, dudes." Coyle said, waving at the bears, who lazily waved back at him.
Okay, one is done, now for the other-
However, Coyle didn't finish this thought, for as soon as he turned around, he nearly bumped into the chest of a much bigger animal. Looking up, he saw a familiar face of a scowling tiger.
Coyle immediately stopped in place, his ears pressing flat against his head while his tail tucked between his legs.
They looked at each other for a few moments, before Coyle said:
"Zane… Dude! What a surprise seeing you here!" He said, with a fake smile. The tiger's scowl deepened. "So, did you changed your mind about coming with me?"
"You really cannot follow instructions, can you?" The tiger said. "I told you that we needed you for the ritual."
Coyle shrunk a little bit under the tiger's gaze. Still, he was able to speak his mind, even though he sounded meeker.
"W-well, the fight was postponed because the lion was not feeling well, you know since his brother died back there in Fangtropolis and all. I-I just assumed that tonight would be better."
"We would be busy all week." The tiger shot back. "I told you that. Boss has been asking for you, and you know how she gets when things don't go the way she wanted."
Coyle shrunk a little more. The tiger sighed.
"You're lucky I decided to cover for you, against my better judgment, I must add. If she finds out I lied to cover you, not only will she want your tail, but also my own."
The coyote instinctively took both hands to his behind, his tail tucking even more between his legs. The tiger only sighed at this, and he said:
"We are leaving. Now."
Next thing Coyle knew, he was being pulled by his arm, and just as they turned, another mammal was passing by them. It was the bear from earlier.
"Oh, sorry." The bear said as he passed by the two mammals, and walked to the two other bears who were acting as securities. He passed by both of them, ignoring their slightly blank expressions. However, while he ignored them, the tiger could not help but notice these looks as he had turned his head to see the bear going, and had a catch a glimpse in the expressions of the two bears.
His eyes widened, and he turned his head in the direction to the coyote, who looked even meeker than before, and he looked like he wanted to just disappear in thin air. The coyote gave him a meek smile, and the tiger only continued to look at him, his expression was now severe.
"Hudson." He said, his voice denoted almost what it could be considered a warning. "Please, tell me you were not stupid enough to do it… again."
The coyote opened and closed his mouth a few times as if he was trying to speak but could not find his voice under that hard gaze. Behind him, the bear was coming out of the secluded part, and right behind him, was a big lion…
Nick was able to see the disguised mammal on the other side of the fence, as they both stood as close as they could, having a good view of each other.
The animals around them were getting more and more riled up, as both sides threw insults and profanities of each other, as well as some garbage that they within paw's reach. Nick looked at the wolf disguised as sheep, and the animal looked back at him (or at least Nick supposed that he was, once these dead eyes of the sheep mask made it quite hard to determine) and they both seemed to agree that it was better for them not to lose sight of each other.
It was hard to hear over the screaming and name-calling of the two mobs, but the two animals were able to communicate with each other by subtle gestures Nick was happy that he taught some of his fellow officers the gestural language that he was used to utilizing, and he was glad that they were able to get it better than Carrots once did (she also had learned it, and could understand him better now).
'These guys are wild, aren't they?' Nick said through hand gestures at the wolf, who caught sight of it through the lenses of his mask.
'Yeah, I think that soon the barbed wire won't keep them apart for long.' The wolf replied, also through gestures. 'Maybe we should call the teams now?'
'Getting cold feet?' Nick asked through his gestures. 'We came this far, cannot turn around now. Besides, it is all your fault.'
The "sheep" stopped at this, and Nick was sure that he knew what expression was behind that emotionless sheep mask. 'My fault?' Wolfard asked through gestures, and Nick nodded at him, choosing instead not to answer with gestures of any kind.
The disguised wolf would probably have pressed the question if their attention had not been called back to the main ring by the voice of the pig.
All eyes turned to the ring and the pig that was standing in the middle of it, with a mic on his paw and looking around the full warehouse.
"I hope you all are still as excited about this fight as you were when you came in because it will start now!"
The crowd cheered at this, and Nick and Wolfard both traded looks as they both knew: the moment of calling their backup was coming.
"The time has come for the battle of all battles! The battle that will put an end to the generations of struggle and conflict. The battle that will finally decide the supremacy between predator and prey!"
The crowd cheered more, and Nick could hear a very familiar and distinguished sound.
The wolves were howling.
Oh, crap. Was the thought in Nick's mind.
Outside, the animals could hear a sound of howling. The rhino in the front looked over his shoulder, but merely shrugged and returned to reading his newspaper.
The team Alpha 1, however, was more nervous.
"Oh, no…" Bogo groaned.
On the other side, the animals of Alpha 2 stiffened slightly.
Eliot himself, who was caught off-guard, nearly started howling himself in answer to the howls but was kept quiet when Catano and Rhinowitz both stopped him. The rhino used his big hand to clamp his muzzle shut, while the cheetah put a hand covering his lips.
This seemed to be enough to make Eliot himself to snap out of it, and now he too was using both his hands to help the two keep his mouth shut.
On the advantage points upward, the animals of Alpha 3 could also hear the howling, and they knew that this was not really good.
The compulsion to howl was a deeply ingrained into a wolf's instincts, especially if it was to answer to other wolves. It was something that they could not help, and it took a lot of willpower to hold back from howling when someone else was howling.
"I hope Wolfard has strong willpower," Meerkovitz said to himself as he continued to look through the lens of his dart rifle.
Nick was nervous as he heard the howling and even more because they were continuing, and it was actually possible to hear them clearly over the uproar of the two mobs.
"Crap, the wolves started howling!"
"What did you expected? That is all they actually know how to do!"
"Yeah, stupid mutts."
The jeers of the prey supremacists would have Wolfard staring daggers at them through his sheep mask if the disguised wolf was not so focused on suppressing his own urge to howl with his peers.
The 'sheep' was stiff, his arms close to his body, and his fists clenched. It was even possible to see that the animal was trembling slightly as he tried to hold his howls inside. Nick could see it from where he was standing, and he had to recognize that it was admirable how the wolf was holding it, for he knew that it took a lot of willpower to hold in like that.
"Now!" The voice called their attention back to the center of the warehouse, and to the ring, where the pig was standing. "Let's all know the two brave fighters of tonight! On this side, representing all the prey everywhere, we have him! 1.200 lb. of muscle and fury! The former champion of the wrestling circuits! Now in here to be a hero of the prey everywhere! JASON 'KILLER HOOVES' BISANTIIIIIIIIIIIIN!"
The prey supremacists all exploded in cheers, and the predators booed the animal that walked into the ring.
Bisantin was a former wrestler, and it seemed that tonight he had decided to dress the part. The 10 feet tall, very muscled Eurasian bison was dressed into a wrestling outfit, a green singlet with bracers and anklets of the same color, and a mask on his face. It did nothing to hide his horns, although it pressed the great amount of fur that he had on his head. The fur on his body was of a dark-brown coloration. The animal walked into the ring, looking at the crowd around and bellowing as loud as he could, and the crowd answered with boos and cheers. It did look like the animal was right on his element…
"And… on this side, representing the predators." The pig continued. "We have a young individual who has a lot of passion for his ideals and for his causes! 320 lb. of determination, strength, and killer instinct! The champion of predators! MATEO FERAAAAAAAAAA!"
More boos and cheers echoed into the warehouse, along with more excited howls (much to Nick's dismay and worry) for the second mammal to walk into the ring. The lion was also well-muscled, as he stood on nearly eight feet tall himself. The fur on his body was of a sand coloration, it was easy to see because the lion walked in with nothing more than worm out shorts, and it was also possible to see that he had a number of scars on his body, making others wonder that the lion truly was no strange for battles. The mane around his neck and head was thick and of a reddish-brown coloration. The lion looked around as he walked into the ring, his face was one that would make anyone think twice before getting too close to him. The lion looked around and roared, loud enough to be clearly heard above the many sounds that the two sides of the crowd were making, and enough to be heard from the outside, slightly startling the animals who were surrounding the warehouse.
Nick knew that lions could roar loud if they wanted, but most of them refrained from doing it because it was seen as rude. Still, it was not a few times when Nick had the chance to hear the roar of a lion, especially the angry ones. And what he just heard – Nick was pretty sure – was a very, VERY angry roar.
The crowd was going wild, cheering for their "champion" while jeering the other, the wolves continued to howl (causing Nick to tense up, and making Wolfard scrap out every ounce of mental resistance that he had), meanwhile, the two fighters got into position as they were getting ready to charge at each other on the right moment. Actually, it seemed that they were eager, almost itching to charge at each other. The bison would not stop grinning as he snorted and gestured at the lion, passing a hooved thumb over his own neck as a threat. The lion only snarled, his eyes widen and his chest heaving in deep breaths as he looked at the prey before him, he almost looked like he was foaming from the mouth.
"Almost time…" Nick said, and he looked at the other officer, who looked back at him and nodded. Immediately after, the howling started again in the predator mob, and the disguised cop stiffened once more, and he was actually shaking slightly.
Oh, come on…
"Now, both of you, you know the rules: there aren't any!" The pig said, and the two animals were panting deeply as they stared at each other. "Now, make sure to do a great fight!" The pig said, and he was rushing out of the stage.
Nick saw that from where he was standing, in between the legs of the bigger animals, and looking back at his partner, who was now barely holding it in from the howling of the other wolves.
Crap, he won't hold it for long. We need to do this now!
Nick quickly grabbed the lapel of his shirt and spoke to the piece in there:
"Alpha 1. Alpha 1, do you copy? Mushroom. Mushroom!"
As soon as Bogo heard the signal, he switched the channel to the one used by all the Alpha teams.
"The signal was given, start operation, now! Alpha 2 and 3, in alert now, we are going in!" Bogo said, and soon, he was gesturing to his mammals, and they soon were moving.
They came from behind the warehouse, and as they moved, Bogo immediately aimed at the rhino, who was hit by a dart on the neck, and was out before he could react. The team then moved to the entrance.
Back inside, the pig was talking in the microphone.
Wolfard was shaking, and Nick said it, and he also saw when one of the prey on his side came to him.
"Hey, dude." He said, talking to the "sheep". "Are you okay? You look…" He said, putting a hoof on the disguised mammal's shoulder.
As soon as that hoof made contact with the shoulder of the animal, the wolf could just not hold it anymore, as he threw his head back and let out a howl, joining the other wolves, and startling the animal who was trying to help him.
At the same fight, the pig on the stage said to the two: "Fight!" urging them to immediately lunging at each other.
Almost in the same moment, mammals in tactical clothing and with special guns came through the entrance, the buffalo who was leading them saying: