Judy sent the video over to Chief Bogo and his men were on the scene just as Lionhart was beginning to transport his captives to a new location. He tried to claim that he’d done it for the good of the city but the officers didn’t care and simply arrested him and his co-conspirators. The evidence was forwarded to the Board of Directors for MarsCo’s Jupiter Developments subsidiary and within hours Director Lionhart’s employment was terminated and his position and shares were transferred to his secretary Dawn Bellwether, surprisingly. However, the most shocking part came when they accessed his personal computers.
“Felis Supremis?” Judy stared at the file in confusion, back in Bogo’s office at the precinct once again as she waited to address the press.
“Have you ever heard of them?” Bogo inquired. When Judy shook her head he explained, “they’re essentially what the name would suggest, a group that believes members of the Felidae family are inherently better than everyone else.”
“Which isn’t to say that they’re right.” Clawhauser threw in quickly. “I’ve seen Vectors and Cogs of all species and body types excel in their own ways. You’re living proof of that.”
“Huh,” the micro bunny police officer thought. “So, Lionhart was part of this Felis Supremis group, but what does that have to do with the case? I mean, it would look bad for Felidae to go savage but they only made up about a third of the missing Vectors.”
Bogo sighed, “the Feline Supremicist leadership decided that to prove their taxonomic family’s superiority, they had to ‘put another species in their place.’ And it so happens that they picked your species for that ‘honor’. Over the past five years we’ve seen several feline-owned businesses fire all their rabbit employees, the IRPF here hasn’t gone that far but before you came along the station management always gave some reason to block us from hiring or transferring in lapine cops. When he went so far as to publicly endorse a bunny, and a micro at that, I knew he had to be setting you up for a big fall.”
Judy gasped in realization, “that’s why you kept me on parking duty!”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I thought it would keep you out of trouble.”
“But I just couldn’t stay out of it, could I?” The small bunny cop tapped the file for emphasis. “I’m not sure what exactly he was planning though.”
Clawhauser stepped forward to speak. “Well, it looks like the first Vector to go savage was a coyote who went crazy in his office, so his personal security was able to capture him pretty easily without our notice. You were about to graduate at the time and the news was infuriating Feline Supremecists throughout the solar system, but he had a rather nasty idea. He’d bring you to the station, and you’d find this savage Vector and be killed by him.”
“What?” Judy was astonished. “How could he be sure that I’d be killed, or even assigned to the missing Vectors case?”
“Ehhh,” the cheetah looked a little uncomfortable, “there were a couple contingency plans to make sure you died, and his secretary- I mean Director Bellwether- has given a signed statement that Lionhart ordered her to make sure you were on the case but she had no idea why.”
“Some “friend in administration” she turned out to be.” Judy commented. “But I suppose she would have been tricked into thinking she was helping and she did lead me straight to Lionhart, where did he slip up?”
“He wasn’t expecting so many Vectors to go insane.” Bogo stated gruffly. “He left for your graduation ceremony shortly after catching the first one and during the month-long round trip to Venus and back his private security caught the rest. He especially wasn’t counting on you to encounter a “wild” Vector and incapacitate it before his people were in position.”
“So that’s it then?” She conceded. “He brings me all this way just to kill me and make my species look bad? And the only reason I’m still alive is he didn’t realize he had a crisis on his hands?”
Clawhauser shrugged, “yeah, I guess that doesn’t really sound too encouraging, does it?”
Over the next four months more Vectors became “savage” and attacked their fellows, all of them predatory species. The IRPF couldn’t discern any other connections between the victims and Progenitus’s doctors were puzzled, no closer to finding a cause than Lionhart’s own staff. None of the initial group were showing any signs of improvement even after multiple applications of Cleanse, Progenitus’s much-lauded universal antidote, and in one case a Body Replacement. It seemed like the disorder was set into the very structure of the brain now, even a bioprinted replica would carry it when there wasn’t even any physical transfer of biomass between the original and clone.
Possibly worse was the public backlash, news reports of organized armed conflict between rabbits and felines streamed in daily, many pundits were already starting to call it a “war”. Seemingly every remaining rabbit-owned corporation had suddenly united and bought up enough guns, armor, and ships to challenge even a MegaCorp. Every one of the Megas had found their subsidiaries factionalizing, one report even claimed that a rabbit-owned Pulse subsidiary and an ASR corp had ganged up on another Pulse branch run by felines. The head offices of the MegaCorps had, as one, claimed neutrality in the issue, but were powerless to stop their distant branches.
And that wasn’t all, while the news of the “savage” predators hadn’t had much impact in the Inner System, a movement had sprung up on Longbow and to a lesser extent the other Jovian satellites. This movement, composed primarily of Ungulatae, Rodentia, and Cogs, argued that Vectors of the same families as the “savages” needed to be contained until someone figured out the reason for their behavior.
All through this, Chief Bogo tried to maintain his precinct as a neutral corporation, struggling to maintain order even while other IRPF precincts took sides in the growing conflict. But it was difficult to put up that pretense while employing the bunny who had revealed Lionhart’s conspiracy. He pretended that it didn’t matter but Judy knew that it weighed on him, her own conscience tormented her enough.
She knew that Lionhart had been in the wrong, but with the news feeds of the ongoing destruction and the weekly riots on Longbow itself she couldn’t help but doubt herself. The day she paid off her contract she handed in her resignation.
Her bovine employer read the letter carefully and looked Judy straight in the eye as she sat across the desk from him. “Are you certain about this Hopps?” Bogo asked, “the war isn’t your fault you know, tensions have been rising for a while and would have reached this tipping point with or without you.”
“Intellectually, I know that.” Judy replied sorrowfully, “but emotionally I feel responsible for the riots, and the bombings. If I hadn’t revealed it all so suddenly, could it have been handled in a way that didn’t set the entire solar system at each other’s throats?” She pulled out her Toggle case and glanced at a photo from the date of the arrest. “To be honest, the anti-pred movement here bothers me more, entire taxonomic families being blamed for the actions of a couple dozen insane individuals. Could Lionhart have discovered a cure before I busted him?”
“Doubtful,” Bogo said. “But I’m not going to press the issue. No matter how much Director Bellwether wants me to keep you on. We’ll miss you.” He took Judy’s proffered badge and weapon, then signed the documents to terminate her employment.
No longer an IRPF officer, Judy Hopps left the building past the desk Benjamin Clawhauser had vacated when corporate had reassigned him to internal records. She returned to her dingy apartment and threw her custom uniform down the recycling chute, after donning her civilian clothes she packed her few possessions, sent a message off to her family, and bought a ticket back to Venus.
The spaceport was crowded with Vectors leaving the station, so far the attacks had only happened on Longbow and many were convinced that something in the habitat environment, if not Jupiter’s orbit itself, was the cause. Spaceport security had sorted the lines into two categories: Felidae, Canidae, Ursidae, Mustelidae, Selachii, and most Reptiliae and Aviae were in one line behind an opaque wall, while the “harmless” reptiles and birds were sorted into another line with Cogs, Rodentia, Ungulatae and Delphinidae (despite dolphins being as carnivorous as sharks). Judy was two-thirds of the way down her line when her case chimed with a message from her dad.
She put in an earbud and opened the video file Stu had sent. Her parents seemed to be in one of the farm’s underground storage cellars, along with what seemed like the entire expansive family, many of them sitting on bags of grain or crates of vegetables. “Hey Jude,” her father started, “just got your message, looking forward to seeing you here again. Even given the circumstances.”
Bonnie sighed as she addressed the camera. “The truth is, things aren’t too good around here either.” She waved a paw at the assorted relatives. “Bunnyburrow was left relatively untouched by the, war I guess is the right term for it now, until this week when there was an air battle over our little Corptown. We’ve been hiding down here to stay safe ever since.”
“Not without reason, mind you.” Stu clarified. “One plane, we don’t know whose, crashed in one of the fields, burned down half a season’s crop of amaranth.”
Judy sighed, she should have known that running from Longbow wouldn’t take her away from the conflict. It was everywhere in the system by now.
“Terry, what are you doing!” Bonnie suddenly shouted at someone off-screen. “Those Midnicampum holicithias represent a quarter of the family’s income.”
“Oh come on.” The camera swung around to her uncle Terry munching on a purple flower. “If anyone needs anti-depressants now it’s going to be us.”
Stu focused the camera back on himself while his wife tried to reason with her brother. “Anyways, we know you wanted to get away from fighting and all that, but we’re forming a bit of a town watch and we’d like you to, show them a thing or two from the police academy if nothing else. Not an obligation or anything, we’d be just as glad to have your help with the farmwork. Once it’s safe to work again…”
While her father was babbling Judy heard her mother suggest something to her uncle. “Look, if you’re feeling stressed out I’ve got that Gazelle tape Judy sent us right here.” There was a click and Gazelle’s voice started to stream gently over the video’s audio track.
“Oh, please.” Terry scoffed. “You don’t actually believe that load of pellets about analogue quality do you? And just because Gazelle’s a Hemi doesn’t mean she’s got the “Master’s Voice” or…” He trailed off all of a sudden.
“Terry?” Bonnie said, concern sounding in her tone. “What are you, AIEEE!”
Stu dropped the camera and there was the sound of several dozen rabbits piling on a snarling beast. When the video came back on Stu was looking a bit disheveled and Judy could see a couple of her sisters hovering over her mother with a Progenitus Emergency Responder Kit. “Hey, Jude,” he said, apologetically. “Oddest thing just happened, your uncle Terry went berserk all of a sudden, took a bite out of your mother’s arm. I guess the situation just got to him. Fortunately Jim had that shotgun with the gel rounds, he’s out cold and tied up until we can get a paramedic down here. Hope to see you soon. Bye.”
Judy stared in shock at the screen. Her own uncle had just, or nearly an hour ago judging from the light-lag, gone as savage as the predatory Vectors she’d seen here on Longbow. But why? What had been going on there that was common to this station? He’d been eating that genetically-engineered pharmaceutical plant at the time, and the badger at the mental hospital had mentioned all but predators were using it, but she’d also claimed a big chunk of the station used it, what else? Terry had been saying something about the “Master’s Voice” before he went berserk, now that she thought of it Manchas had mentioned Otterton talking about that same thing, what was it?
A quick SolNet search led her to an website compiling urban legends, the site alleged that some Vectors believed the humans who founded MarsCo weren’t completely altruistic when they created the first Vectors, and to make sure their creations obeyed they keyed a safeguard into their brains. While pure-blooded humans were now extinct, recordings of their voices still remained, and those who believed claimed that if a Vector listened to those recordings they would become hypnotized. In addition, these same theorists claimed that Hemivectors, descendents of humans who had modified their genomes with the guided mutation technology corporations like Pulse now used to enhance modern Vectors, had a touch of the Master’s Voice, making them seem more charismatic to ordinary Vectors. But the effect only worked with live voices or analogue recordings, never digital. Analogue audio like magnetic tape and vinyl records had become a fad on Longbow, with enthusiasts claiming they provided far superior sound quality to the digital files most everyone was used to. Gazelle in particular had sold thousands of copies of her albums on analogue.
Now that she thought of it, the music on the PA system before Manchas went berserk had felt oddly relaxing to her. To confirm the other half of her developing theory she searched her Toggle for the medical files on the victims, IRPF hadn’t gotten around to revoking all her access yet. Sure enough, half of them, before and after Lionhart’s arrest, had a prescription for Midnicampum extract. The rest, including both Otterton and Manchas, had the drug in their systems, and medical exams by Lionhart’s personnel and Progenitus had discovered shards of metal embedded in those Vectors’ necks. The profile on those shards fit within the specifications for a Spyglass shardshot but the lack of outright poison in the victim’s bloodwork had prompted the medics to dismiss them as mere debris.
That was it. Judy realized. Somebody had discovered an antagonistic link between the Master’s Voice and Midnicampum, something the drug did to Vector brains caused them to go permanently berserk upon hearing the human voice. And whoever had discovered it, was targeting Vectors based on predatory animals. But why and what did they have to gain from it?
Her first impulse was to alert Chief Bogo, but her past experience stayed her hand. What would happen if she forced the conspiracy’s hand? It might set off an even worse backlash than Lionhart’s arrest. No, she would have to solve this herself, and quickly. But how?
Judy was roused from her thoughts by the ticket counter at the register. “Your ticket ma’am?” A tall sheep in the uniform of spaceport personnel asked.
“Sorry,” she apologized quickly. “I just remembered something I forgot.” Judy dropped her bag and leapt back the way she’d come, sailing over the astonished crowd. Somehow the sheep had reminded her of someone who could help her, if only she could convince him.