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Zootopia : AdoptionVitani. Lioness, ZPD Captain for precinct 2: outer Savanna Central and Sahara Square. Only being thirty-three, she was too young for such a position in the eyes of some, especially since her particular non-crisis Captain responsibility was dealing with promotions. She was the last mammal to care though . . . at least visibly. Granted, the view of “too young” changed with every position level. Even Bogo had told her he’d been considered too young when he became Chief of the entire department at forty-six, despite him secretly feeling like he was already an old crippled by that point. But whatever, she didn’t care. What she did care about was what was to come. Not tomorrow, although tomorrow she did have to conduct the interview for and go through the promotion application of that stupid bunny everyone was so obsessed with. But no, it was . . . later today, probably even less than an hour from now. That was the time she was afraid of—NO! . . . no . . . yes. She felt her eyes actually close for a second, before she shot them back open. She was afraid, but she wasn’t going to shut her eyes while waiting at a traffic light; not as a police officer, not as a police captain, and not as herself. Not out of fear, not out of tiredness, not out of anything. No, she was too responsible. Even her mother had told her that much, and coming from an old lioness who was a shift manager at a nuclear power station, that was kind of a statement. Maybe that had something to with her advancing so quickly. The light changed, and she pressed down gradually on the accelerator. She left the intersection behind and continued on to her destination of the moment: the central train station. Her grip on the steering wheel tightened as she made a turn, and she felt the lower half of a ring of metal pressed between her finger in the wheel. She had to grab him first, before they went there. Even after what bit of time had passed, she had trouble believing that she’d said yes to anyone, let alone that stupid . . . happy, smiling sweetheart leopard . . . Vitani might have groaned out loud, had she been the kind of mammal to do so. But, even were she not in the midst of driving, she would’ve merely let her eyes roll upward for an instant. Too responsible though, she didn’t. One more light until the train station. Another thirty-second stop in traffic to wait through, while feeling her insides both turning to Lead and lifting up against gravity at the same time. One more minute before she’d pick up Badili, and then they’d both go to . . . that place. Green light. She pulled through the intersection with a group of other cars about her. Each of them was moving along and about at safe and reasonable speeds, and going above and beyond to make sure it was plainly visible they were following all of the rules: signaling for several seconds before shifting lanes, maintaining more than a car-length’s distance between them and the vehicle in front of them, keeping their attention on their driving with no phones or distractions in sight. The presence of a police cruiser elicited such a reaction from most drivers, so Vitani wasn’t exactly impressed. Granted, there wasn’t really all that much that could impress her to begin with. A left turn into the main lot in front of the train station and a slow cruise along the curbside brought her husband into view. Even amongst the hundreds of mammals scattered about the huge open area between the curb and the doorless station entrance, Badili was difficult to miss. Being dressed in a full BDU woodland camo uniform was pretty far from normal, so it made one stand out quite easily, just as much or even more so than a police uniform did. He wore one, while she wore the other. His in particular, was the chosen uniform of Final Alliance Militarized Security. That had impressed Vitani, and continued to; Badili working for a security firm, the fact that he was much braver than he let on, or than he would ever credit himself with being. The side door opened within a moment, and the pale-furred, red-brown spotted leopard climbed into the passenger seat. He looked just as obnoxiously sweethearted as ever . . . of course he did. “HeY Vitani.” He greeted her, after shutting the door. He always had a thing for placing random extra emphasis on some parts of some words. And while she was so glad he listened to her right from the word go, and didn’t call her anything sickening like “honey” or “sweety” or anything else . . . why did he have to sound like such a dork? Because he did, and he was . . . and she loved him. UGH! Even after several years the truth still made her want to let her eyes roll back into her head, or at least it did for a small piece of a moment. That eye-rolling feeling was gone in an instant, and was replaced by the soul-warming feeling of brushing her head up against his while he held her right paw between both of his. He kept one paw over hers even after they both leaned back to look at each again. “I love you too.” She said. Why did she always have to sound so awkward about it though? “Ooh, I know.” Badili made his sweethearted smile brighter. He didn’t care how awkward she made the words sound . . . of course he didn’t. “So,” he said, his smile contracting a fair bit for his wife’s nerves, “you ready?” Vitani squeezed his paw hard, and closed her eyes for one lone second as she turned back to the wheel again. She exhaled immediately upon her eyes opening, and slipped her paw out from his to place it back onto the wheel as well. “Yeah.” She made herself say. Badili gave her a second, putting on his seatbelt while she put the cruiser back into gear. “It’s all gonna be okAY,” he promised, as she pulled them away from the curb, “he already loves you!” “He’s never even seen me before.” She said back. “I didn’t even come to any of the days.” “You didn’t have any control over that.” He tried reminding her, as they pulled out of the lot and onto the actual road. “All that stUFF was happening.” “I could’ve delegated my extra duties off to a lieutenant for an afternoon.” She reminded him, in turn, and herself as well. Then why hadn’t she? “But you’ve never done that to anyone.” Badili replied. “And you ALways take care of everything yourself.” That bit had been true for her whole life, not just her fourteen years in the ZPD. Since her mother was working most of the time for their sake, Vitani and her brother were on their own a fair deal. And growing up with Nuka for a brother . . . she had to take care of everything herself. None of it would actually get done properly otherwise. “What did you tell him?” She asked. “I told him the truth.” He answered. Her mouth slipped to let out a steeper breath, while her head went to tilt back as the muscles in her neck tensed. “What did you really tell him?” She asked, inserting more firmness than her voice naturally possessed already. “I told him the truth.” Badili actually answered with some solidness of his own, yet somehow almost without losing any of the caring sweetness from his voice while doing so. Only he could manage to do such a thing. “He knOws you had to stay at work to protect everyone and make sure everything was safe again.” He went on to tell her. Vitani wanted to shake her head, but she kept her focus forward on the road. “I wasn’t even directly involved with most of it. You were providing more protection to anyone than I was.” “YeAH, but you’re ALways protecting everyone.” Badili said. “I’m only keeping mammals safe where and whenever anybody hires us. And he knows leadership and coordination are important. He’s a smART little guy!” He assured her with excitement. She gripped the wheel just a bit harder, and let out another long, steep breath, through her nose this time. “I can’t not trust you.” She forced herself to admit. Her husband’s smile only grew more assuring and smiley-er. “You’ll seeee.” He promised, placing a big, soft leopard paw on the side of her shoulder. Why? Why did he have to be like this . . . why did he always have to be exactly what she needed? “I love you too.” Badili said. *** They rolled slowly down an avenue in the most northwestern part of Savanna Central. It was a few blocks from the water, and far out enough from the city center that the building and street density was almost akin to a suburb. And the feeling of such would only be broken if one turned to the east to see the skyscrapers only a few miles away. It was a more quaint, quieter place, a better area than most for an orphaned children’s facility. Vitani brought the cruiser to a stop just in front of the building and shut it off. She kept her paws gripped on the wheel for a moment afterward, and finally shut her eyes. She held herself like so for just as long as she could, right up until she knew Badili would’ve reached over to her if she’d gone any longer. They both got out, Vitani strangling her fear and apprehension like she’d always been able to do whenever she came to moments where it might impede her actions. Badili waited for her to walk around from her side, his aggravatingly sweethearted smile refusing to go away. It was never really possible to make it do so. Her own face did change though, as they began to walk up together. Even if it was only slight, the ends of her mouthline began to actually lift up. The front doors led into a wide, school-like hallway, minus the presence of lockers. It was a more than well-kept place, though Vitani had already known as much from what Badili had told her. The better number of these places were far from the horrid, miserable things they were so often portrayed as. The absence of family, the sense of being unwanted and forgotten that only compounded with time, those were the real sources of the misery that most mammals’ minds overlayed on the idea of such places. But . . . it was quite the opposite of misery that came to meet them. Before the adult deer who emerged with a collection of official papers could even finish greeting the two of them, another door flung open to briefly fill the hallway with the voices of children, and to send a little leopard boy running towards them. He was in a simple pair of blue shorts and a shirt of matching colour with the ZPD lettering on in. His own colours were similar to Badili’s in many ways, however he had a few more spots, and his spots as well as the topfur on his head were closer to a kind of orange than the rusty brown Badili had. His tail went waving behind him as he came racing up to them, the doe he’d passed just smiling and not even calling out for him stop or slow down. The leopard cub came to stop on his own well enough, less than a single step from them. “Dad!” He may as well have shouted up at Badili. “HI, Koda! It’s todaaAY!” Badili cheerfully responded to the little eight-year-old. Koda probably would have beamed up with excitement if he wasn’t already. Vitani expected the cub to jump-hug her husband, but instead she found little Koda’s attention turning to her instead. “Mom?” Koda asked, uncertainty coming over his face, but with a smile clearly waiting to return from behind it. Possibly, probably . . . certainly, the truest feeling of actual fear and apprehension washed over Vitani in that one moment. Captain Vitani, after having to take care of everything for herself and her brother growing up, after fourteen years of ZPD service, of willful self-endangerment for the sake of the public at large, after years of being disdained, sworn and screamed at, surrounded and outnumbered and menaced to, threatened, attacked, and even shot at more than once . . . only now, here, was she actually for the first time unsure of herself. What was she even supposed to do? What was the “correct” thing to do here? She couldn’t do nothing; she wouldn’t just stand there frozen. Whatever she did, at least she would capable of that much. Vitani knelt down closer to Koda’s level. She didn’t even know why, whether it was just the first idea that came to mind or something else. She saw the boy’s uncertainty begin returning to a smile, and his eyes briefly flick over and up to Badili. Before she even said or did anything else, she felt her husband’s arm come around her shoulders, and was struck by Koda suddenly closing their small gap and hugging onto her. Badili’s other arm came around the little boy so that he was hugging them both, and Vitani . . . she couldn’t help but complete the whole moment by hugging their new son back. *** “Dad brought me these last time.” Koda was telling Vitani as the three of them were heading out the door, referring to his ZPD casual clothes. “Are they the same ones the wolves wear?” He asked. “Only in the station buildings.” Vitani answered, holding the cub’s full attention, so much so that he even occasionally stumbled a bit as they were walking away from the building. “Everyone has to wear actual uniforms on patrol or in public.” “The bunny that stopped the two mayors wasn’t in a normal one when she was on tv.” Koda mentioned. “Yeah,” Vitani remembered her own upcoming dealings with Officer Hopps, “I’ll be taking care of that tomorrow.” “Are you her boss?” Koda asked, briefly stumbling again, and seemingly almost enjoying it. “Careful buddy.” Badili placed a single paw down on one of the boy’s shoulders, occasionally tugging to try and keep him focusing forward. “Mommy’s not everybody’s boss, but everybody still listens to her anyway.” He told him. “Cause she’s the best?” Koda asked. A single, suppressed giggle escaped Vitani, and left her with a greater smile for a moment than was normal for her. “BAUM!” A large ship’s horn sounded off from out across the harbor. “BAAAUUUUOOOOOOOOOOM!” The section of street the building sat on was elevated enough to actually allow most mammals to see out to and across the waterway. Sure enough, there was a vessel departing from the central terminal on along the shore of the industrial district. “It’s a bulk carrier!” Koda proclaimed, correctly. “ThAT’s right!” Badili confirmed for the little cub. Vitani was a bit surprised, although she knew she shouldn’t have. Badili had already told her Koda was smart, and her husband didn’t lie. She looked out at the vessel and saw that he absolutely was right. It was a huge, flat-looking ship, one most mammals probably would have mistaken for an oil tanker if not for the ore loading/offloading cranes jutting up from the deck. The giant words East Iron across its side made it plenty obvious it had just delivered a bunch of iron ore for the steel mill. “That one comes every weekend.” Koda said. Well, he was still just a kid after all, and it seemed at least for the moment neither of them was going to tell him it wasn’t the same exact ship every time. “Come on buddy.” Badili said, stepping down to the cruiser and opening one of the back doors. “Do I have to sit where the bad guys sit?” Koda asked. “You have to go in the back seat but you can stILL talk to mommy and me cause she put the wall down, see?” Badili showed the cub the inside of the back of the cruiser. True to his word, the hardglass divider that normally separated the front and rear seats was gone, slid down inside the regular wall that made up the lower half of the divide. “Does it go down inside?” Koda asked, now willingly climbing up into the back seat. “You go it right.” Vitani answered him as she went around the front of the car and got into the driver’s seat. Badili shut the back door behind their new son, and got into the front passenger seat. “See?” He said, twisting around and lifting the divider out by a couple inches. “And when it goes up,” he said, sliding it back down and then pointing up to the securing points on the car’s ceiling, “the parts where it gets locked are only in the front so the bad guys can’t get it down.” Vitani waited, quietly amused, until her husband noticed and untwisted himself to sit properly in his own seat again. “Seatbelt?” She prompted Koda, turning her head to look back at him. He reached up and pulled his down without any hesitancy. And, once Vitani knew the much larger, thirty-four year old child sitting next to her had put his own on as well, she started up the police car, and they finally left. They drove down to and along the shoreside road for a few minutes so Koda could watch the ship for a little bit longer. Which he did, and got just as excited over the incoming oil tanker that was coming in to pass it by as well. Eventually they did have to turn in the actual direction of home though, but that didn’t really deprive the little cub of his fascination for long, as Vitani caught sight of something. “Perfect time for a little plane-lover.” She said to Badili, indicating to him what she seen coming their way. It was an airliner of some kind, still low having apparently just left the airport and now turning to pass over the city on its way off to the west. “Heeey buddyyy,” Badili turned as far around as he feasibly could, “guess what mommy found for you?” “What?” Koda asked, face and voice filled the true intensity of curiosity that only children ever had. “Look up.” Vitani told him herself, finding herself starting to smile again. She was going to end up legitimately smiling a dozen times in just one day at this rate. She saw Koda looking up in the rear view mirror, not exactly sure what he was looking for. “Lean back.” She specified. “Look up out the back window.” Koda wasn’t anywhere near tall enough to be able to lean his head back beyond the edge of the back seat, so he ended up twisting himself about and practically flopping back and forth between his own side window and the back windshield, until it had finally passed over them and come into some part of his view. “It’s a P-843!” He declared to them, with more joyous excitement than Vitani was used to hearing even from her husband. “It IS?” Badili happily encouraged the little boy to go on. “Yeah, see?” Koda pointed to it in the sky, even though Badili had no way of seeing it anymore. “It goes 1,780 miles an hour!” “Not till it gets up really high.” Vitani found herself saying. She didn’t hold any interest in planes, but officers at least had a tiny bit of familiarity with that one. It was included in part of their training to be able to recognize a far-off sonic boom, in the rare event the sound survived that far and broke through surrounding city noise, so as not to potentially mistake it for distant gunfire. It was rare to actually hear one though; the Peregrines usually were almost a hundred miles off and nearly ten miles high before they actually throttled up and went supersonic. “They can go to 75,000 feet!” Koda added with just as much thrill as the first time. “We’RE gonna be going up high when we get home.” Badili told him. “Really?” Koda’s returned to facing forward, attention back to them again. “Not as high as that.” Vitani said, finding herself still unable to let go of her smile completely. “How high?” Koda asked. *** They unlocked the door to their apartment, and let Koda walk in first. It was a long, open place to start, with a large window at the opposite end, and two doors, one mid-way along each side wall. Each led to a bedroom and attached bathroom, with theirs on the right, and what would now be Koda’s off through the left. There was an open kitchen to right a few feet in from the door, past the washer and dryer closet, separated from the rest of the space by an outer rib-high counter. Beyond that, the main open space turned into a living room, with a sizeable-enough grey couch on the left wall, a TV directly across from it on the opposite, and low table in between running three quarters the length of the couch. Koda immediately went for the large, enormous to him, window, and set right about looking out at the nearby other highrise buildings and taking in the 27th-floor height. He even tilted his face against the window, trying to do what was angularly impossible and look straight down. “Coool.” He breathed out quiet audibly. “Is it high enough?” Vitani asked him. The little leopard cub turned around with his mouth well-open in a wondersmile. “Dad never said it was this tall.” “And that’s not the ONly cool thing.” Badili said, walking over to the door of Koda’s room and signaling with his paw for him to come over. Koda came running right away, though Badili did wait for Vitani to walk over before actually opening the door. “Heeeres your room!” Badili said as he swung the door open. Koda stepped in just as his new dad switched on the lights. And what was revealed was a wonder whirl for that little cub. There was a bed, of course, certainly a larger one than he’d had in the orphan care home, as well as the usual dresser, nightstand and all else. However, it was the other contents that had Koda’s full attention. On the wall above the head of his bed was a massive poster of an enormous military cargo plane coming in to land, straight on from the camera, and so close and low that all but filled the entire image. Nearby to the bed, close to the wall was an incredible model replica of a modern space launch rocket, about as tall as Koda himself was. Hanging from the ceiling by strength wires, was a model of another sort, a two-foot long replica of the very same aircraft they had seen in the sky earlier: a Peregrine 843, supersonic airliner. And even apart form the models and posters themselves, between two metal bookends on a small desk were a number of books. Books about aircraft, police, ships, space and everything they knew Koda loved. Some were at his level, or what was considered normal understanding for his age, some were a bit beyond, but he would understand them eventually. Most had numerous images and diagrams as well, some simple, others much more detailed. Though unseen, there were plenty of shirts bearing all kinds of related images and designs inside his dresser, and even on some of the shower towels they’d gotten for his bathroom. Koda froze for one second, before immediately then rushing in. He went right for the rocket, but quickly began going from thing to thing will thrill within a few seconds afterward. “It’s a Starclimber!” He exclaimed when he ran up to the rocket model of his own height. “And a P-843!” His marveling attention jumped to the supersonic airliner model. “And one of the old big army planes!” He finalized his new burst of excitement by rushing over to what was now his bed and climbing up onto it on his knees to get up closer the poster. “It’s an MC-93.” Badili let him know. “An MC-93!” Koda repeated, the way many children would when they were told what something really was immediately after they’d spoken what they thought it to be. “I think I’LL go bake the surprises.” Badili told Vitani quietly, though he looked face to face with her first, with his shrunken smile of care and concern. “If you wanted to show him everything else?” Vitani . . . wasn’t afraid. No, she was. But, somehow she also wasn’t. Not in the same way as earlier in the day at least. Whether it was because her fear of Koda not liking her had proven wholly false, or she had just managed to get a grip over herself during the last two hours, she didn’t know. It was enough of a difference for her to feel ok alone with their new child, socially, or parentally, without her husband being right there to ease things for her. Though he still ultimately would be, given he was only going to be one room away, but it didn’t alter the concept. Vitani agreed, and Badili slipped off to start baking chocolate chip cookies as sneakily as he could. So, she went on to show and explain everything else to Koda. She showed him which sets of clothes were in which drawer, his school supplies and backpack, his little beanbag chair that was stored under his bed, and each of the books they gotten him. She spoke with what she hoped was a soft enough voice, or at least she tried. It was less solid than she normally spoke, even with Badili, and it certainly wasn’t her completely normal, abrasive self she typically became at work. But, she still didn’t sound remotely close to motherly, she was positive of that much. However . . . Koda didn’t care. He never stopped following her, listening or asking questions . . . he never grew slowly more quiet and afraid of her like she kept waiting for. How? . . . Badili eventually came back into the room to get them both, and as soon as they’d followed him back out, little Koda’s nose started going. He sniffed quickly, in increasingly more rapid sequences until he finally just exclaimed. “It’s cookies!” Vitani, another time again, didn’t make herself smile, instead she could keep herself from it, however mild of one it was. “Of COurse they are.” Badili confirmed for their son. “But they’re not ready yet, so you have to go sit with mommy on the couch, and you can come up when they’re all DOne.” He told him. Koda was too excited to complain, if he even would have. He looked over to the couch, but then abruptly ran back into his room. It only took a second for him to emerge again with one of his books and then head for the couch while encouraging Vitani to come on and come with him. The Police Captain had to exchange a glance with her husband before walking over herself. He deserved to see her face, and the happiness she knew he would see behind it, no matter reserved her smile would always be. She sat with koda on the couch for the next few minutes, him flipping through the book he’d taken out and pointing out various aircraft parts and even basic engine components in all the large pictures and diagrams. He even stopped and both read and looked at everything on the double-page about the military cargo plane Badili had gotten the enormous poster of. It seemed to last for the good kind of eternity, until Badili’s voice reached both of them again. “Guess whAAaaat?” He teased from the open kitchen. “Cookies!” Koda leapt right up into a run; the cub and his cookies were not going to remain separated. Badili did manage to slow him to a stop as he actually reached the kitchen, and convinced him to wait for a few more seconds while the grown leopard made sure the cookies were actually cool enough. Cool enough, that was, to be safe. Still warm and gooey, with plenty of meltiness, just not still oven-hot. “We need milk too.” Koda suddenly declared. Vitani looked to her husband as she was just reaching the kitchen herself, with him visibly expressing the same amusement she felt. Clearly, their adopted son knew what was truly right and proper. She got their milk out of the fridge and began to pour them each a nice, full glass. Meanwhile, a certain little leopard cub gripped the counter’s edge with his paws, peering just up and over to see the awaiting cookies, and just able to get his nose above the counter line enough to take in the smell. And that day and night, was among the most memorable of all three of their lives....
Zootopia : Arrival-- Note : Use of very awkward grammar is for depiction of how certain characters speak. Stories include Zootopia versions of characters from other works. They are not the exact same, as their lives/backstories having been born and lived in the world of Zootopia are different, however they will still be recognizeable. "Heinz Doofenschmirtz" is all I have to say about this particular chapter =P Arrival The fluctuating, vocal ambient sounds of the airport swam through the ears of every mammal of every size who walked through it. An almost bubbling sound of thousands of voices across all kinds of distances, along with sporadic intercom announcements, beeping of scanners, and the quieter, but still discernable sound of the ventilation system providing a foundational background to all the others. And of course, it was joined very frequently, at almost perfectly-scheduled intervals, by the roar of aircraft either starting their takeoff roll or activating their reverse thrust upon landing. One of those interruptions came along right at this particular moment, though it turned out to be neither of the two. It was clearly an aircraft engine, but a more intense sound than any usually brought, more droning, almost like some kind of doom vacuum. That particular term was a creation of grizzly bear customs officer Nick. He’d come up with the uniquely descriptive term when trying to relate the sound of supersonic airliner engines to his friends after his first day of work. The tall grizzly, and everyone else within proximity to the airport’s window wall, turned to see the aircraft responsible as it touched down. It was a Peregrine 843, bearing the unmistakable white and blue colours and soaring falcon emblem of Skyway Air Speed Services, the world’s primary supersonic carrier. There were only two daily flights they offered in and out of Zootopia: one from and back to Tanukio, in Japanda, and one from and back to Frankfur, in Purropa. The one landing right then was the arrival from Tanukio, Nick would’ve known from the time alone, if not already from his work screen showing the details of every single arriving international flight as they landed. It also displayed other pertinent information such as the number of passengers, their entered ID information as it should appear on their passports, and their flag status. The meaning of a passenger being red-flagged was more than obvious, though they almost never had any. Green flag icons appeared beside visitors, blue beside returning citizens, and the neither common nor uncommon white flag beside the names of passengers undergoing actual immigration. The last were his responsibility this week. All the I&C officers rotated through designated assignments week by week, so that no one was perpetually having to deal with the massive workload of working regular arrivals. Regular arrivals, returning citizens and bag inspection were actual work. Red flag duty and immigration duty were almost free weeks, to an extent. After a scroll through the arriving Japanda flight’s passenger manifest, the bear did take notice that there were actually two white-flagged passengers, bringing about the revelation that he was actually going to have to do a short bit of work soon. He pulled up their information and immigration filings on his screen. Up came two ID photos along with it. Both of each came up together, as it was apparently a joint immigration grant for a married couple. And, a rather odd one at that; a hyena and a fennec. That would certainly be a new one. Looking at their ID shots, the hyena dude looked . . . well, somehow more submissive than a male hyena would already naturally look, and he honestly also kind of looked like a dork, at least based on how much effort Nick could tell the guy was putting into trying not to make his ID smile look too awkward. This guy’s wife on the other paw though . . . was something else. The short desert fox descendent was smiling in her photo, but it was more like an amused at the downward spiral of life smile than anything else. Not to mention her eyes kinda looked like she was staring straight through the camera into the soul of whoever was looking back. Well . . . whatever. At this point, Zootopia might as well already be weird enough. Nothing could really take it any further down the scale. *** Haida and Fenneko finally reached the end of the airport’s international terminal. It effectively ended in a T, with mammals of all kinds entering from the left after having made it through security, restrooms and various employee-only doors across the wall directly ahead, and their turn, the turn off to the right leading down to the wide row of immigration and customs booths. “Ready for the follow-up interrogation?” Haida asked after they’d made their turn, looking down at his half-sized life companion. Fenneko walked beside him, in the same blue longsleeve and brown skirt she always wore whenever not in their former work uniforms. She rolled her roll-on case alongside her with one paw, while holding her passport and immigration slip in the other. Haida, in turn, wore his usual red and black striped shirt and slate cargo pants, carrying his own passport and slip in one hand and fold-out bag in the other, with his green winter parka draped over his forearm. “Still not gonna be any worse than getting cornered by Tsunoda in the break room.” Fenneko responded. “Or any of the times I spent the morning sweating out excuses to Ton for Retsuko not showing up?” Haida offered up another alternative. “Nah,” she responded, “I doubt you’ll be able to pull off anything that cringe again.” Haida couldn’t avoid feeling a literal anime sweat drop forming on the back corner of his head. “Haheh, thanks.” He said back, keeping his eyes on her until their proximity to the customs lines drew his attention back upward. The row of I&C processing counters now less than a few dozen meters ahead was probably twenty wide. Granted, not all of them of them were actually open, but those that were had lines, and plenty of length to them. “Eh,” Haida remarked with some embarrassment, “guess we’re just gonna make up the eight hours we skipped with Skyway standing in line instead.” “Not really.” Fenneko said, drawing a pair of now-confused eyes back down to her. “The I-slip said we go to white-front booths.” “Huh?” He asked, having come to a stop to choose a line before immediately picking his steps back up again when Fenneko kept going. “Said so in the arrival instructions section.” Fenneko added. The hyena blinked twice, now following about a step behind his wife. He pulled out his I-slip and turned it over to the back. Sure enough, under the arrival instructions it did in fact specify which color-marked counters were for each type of arriving traveler. Some bit of his perpetual embarrassment had to come back into being, with a nervous, under-bitten smile coming over his face for a moment. “Ah, guess you’re right.” He said. “I probably should’ve read over more than once.” “That might help.” She agreed, without any real change from her natural ever-so-slightly bemused Fenneko tone. His embarrassed smile held for the remaining moment it took them to reach the customs counter Fenneko was taking them up to. To his initial surprise, which he later did realize he shouldn’t have had, there was no line in front of them, just the processing booth and the officer sitting within it. He was a tall, younger grizzly bear, who even came off like he was around their same age. “Hey.” He gave them a more informal greeting, before deferring to what he was supposed to say. “Passports and Immigration-Clearance slips please.” He sounded almost like a close friend would when someone had to pass through them on the job. Haida looked down and over to Fenneko, who passed off both of her items to him. And then Haida in turn, handed both of their passports and I-slips over to the officer. *** Nick took both pairs of documents from the hyena and set right about the process with neither a lack of speed, nor an excess of it. He would never rush anything serious on the job, which was basically the entire job, but he didn’t want to drag out the final step of these two being granted permanent entry. He quickly slid each passport and then each I-slip in and out of the validity authenticator, a machine that was both a scanner and a spectrum analyzer, checking both the embedded RFID lines and UV material patterns. A single beep and green light came for all four, and subsequent image of each passport appeared on his screen with green lines shown connecting each section of information on their documents to the information that was in the system. Every line was green, everything matched. Now, he just had to make sure the third side of the triangle fit. “Names?” Nick asked. “Huh?” Haida froze for a second, ever mentally uncoordinated. “Uh-Haida and Fenneko Nolaugh.” He answered. Well . . . they were supposed to answer separately, but, it was fine. Nick checked the names on his screen to make sure, and then carried on. “Date of birth?” He asked, this time resting one paw visibly on the counter with his pointer finger protruding to single them out one at a time. “Uh, 5/08/0236.” Haida answered. “9/07/0236.” Fenneko answered when the bear’s finger pointed to her. Matched. “Date of marriage?” Nick asked. Haida would’ve just uttered some kind of confused sound, not expecting that question, but he didn’t even get the chance to do that much. “10/26/0264.” Fenneko answered immediately, with what almost seemed like the kind of intense affirmation from someone full of enthusiasm, just . . . with Fenneko in place of the enthusiasm. The manner of her response drew her husband’s attention in the form of a surprised blinking stare, however that quickly became closed eyes and a happily-embarrassed laugh. “Haha, well, I guess you really are never gonna be letting me forget that one.” “Nope.” She confirmed. “Possessive?” Nick asked, drawing the two’s attention back to himself. Haida would’ve thrown an embarassed paw behind his head if he had one free, but all he could produce in the moment was an awkward, open-mouth smile of admission. “Aaahh, kinda. Something like that.” He answered. “She was always kind of like my keeper anyways. I only stopped being stupid like a year ago.” “He’d be dead in more ways than one if I wasn’t around.” Fenneko added her own commentary. Unbeknownst to them, Nick had switched to their immigration files on the screen, and had scrolled down to the statements they’d given to the actual NCCC immigration agent during their grant approval interview. He found similar comments in their marriage section, enough to meet his minimum requirement for them being the same mammals who’d been in the interview. That was, apart from the already-confirmed fact that their faces were the same as those on file, of course. “Former employer?” Nick asked. “Ah-Carrierman Trading LTD,” Haida answered, “for both of us.” “New employer—OH, alright now that all makes sense.” Nick broke from the question when he actually saw who their Zootopia employers were. “Huh?” “Huh?” Both Haida and Fenneko shared the same audible reaction this time. “Oh, nothing. Immigration approval grants usually take like a year, but yours got pushed through a month after it says you completed everything.” Nick explained, before he resumed what he was supposed to be doing. “New employers?” “Final Alliance Militarized Security.” Fenneko gave her answer while Haida was firing up his brain. “Zootopia Nuclear Power Station.” Haida answered. Both correct. “Do you know anyone in the city?” Nick asked. “Uh, just our friend who’s coming with us.” Haida answered. “Oh-and Fenneko’s online chess buddy.” “Who’s your friend?” Nick asked, opening an incoming migrant search, specifying for Japanda. “Ookami.” Haida told him. “He was one of our coworkers. He’s coming today too, but he’s stuck on a normal-speed flight.” Nick typed in the name, or at least the first letter of it. The name Ookami came up immediately; he was the only immigrant from Japanda with an O-starting name arriving today, or anytime within the next few months for that matter. The guy looked like an odd fox, but it listed his species as: maned wolf. That might be the only time in his life Nick would ever see a wolf with orange fur. “What’s his species?” Nick asked. “Ah-maned wolf.” Haida answered, and added some bit on, unsure of how much information he was supposed to provide. “He’s got orange fur, and kinda yellow eyes.” All correct. “What’s chess guy’s name?” Nick asked, scrolling down to the section of interview comments where they’d mentioned him. When he actually saw one particular part . . . well, if it’d been back during his first few days on the job, he probably would’ve snickered at least a little. “His real name’s Finnick.” Fenneko answered. “Don’t know about his last name, his usual social media id’s SmolFoxThugLife.” A second or two passed by while Nick took in the reality of actually hearing that id name.“Oookay, that should be enough.” He eventually said. “That’s it.” That caught both Haida and Fenneko by surprise, enough so that Fenneko actually showed some degree of it visibly. At least, for the whole two seconds visible emotions usually lasted on her face. “Uht—wait, really?” Haida asked. “Yeah.” Nick confirmed. “You already went through all the real stuff. I’m just supposed to confirm you’re the same mammals who got approved.” He slid their I-slips aside for filing, and then stamped a glinting golden “Northern Continental City-State Confederation - Permanent Entry : Approved” onto the inside of the rear cover of each of their passports. “Welcome to Zootopia and the rest of the N-triple-C.” He said, holding both of their passports out for Haida to take, which the hyena did after a few blinks. “You’re free to change residency at any time between any of the NCCC members. All your information’s been transferred to the DMV systems so you can get new IDs whenever you’re ready.” Fenneko’s visible surprise had faded, and she’d returned to just her normal Fenneko face, albeit now aimed up at Haida instead of the I&C counter. She was waiting for him to get over his state of dumbfoundedness. And considering she knew more about him than he did himself, she knew it would only be two, one . . . Haida’s attention suddenly turned down to the beady gaze of the half-sized creature beside him. “Eh . . . sorry,” he finally said, “it just kinda doesn’t feel real.” “It’ll feel even less real when you actually get moving and walk past the counter.” She responded. “Uht—” Haida’s eyes shot wide for an instant, before returning to normal just as quickly. “Right,” he turned back to the I&C officer, “so uh, we can just go?” Nick nodded. “Yup, have at it.” He motioned to the turnstile on the side of the counter. Haida looked back down to Fenneko, who was still plain-staring at him . . . and was going to keep doing so until he moved. So, he finally moved, stepping over to the turnstile just as Nick held down the release button to unlock it. There was only one beside each I&C desk, but different desks had different sizes. Theirs was a medium size, as they both fit into that category. Even with Fenneko little more than half Haida’s size, he’d been surprised to learn she was actually taller than what was normal for fennecs in most places. It was enough for her to be over the line into medium according to Zootopia’s classifications. Still, after Haida had walked through and a new turnstile bar rotated up into place, he turned around to see it was still basically up at her neck level. She had to reach up and push it half of the way before it was low enough for her to continue walking through it. A heavier, metallic click sounded behind them after she had come through as Nick let go of the release button and the arms locked in place again. *** The hyena and fennec pair stepped off the downward escalator and through the exit-only pair of automatic doors. They emerged into the main front building of ZTP airport, a grand lengthwise atrium like any other: baggage carousels running down the length to one end and check-in counters running down the length to other, scattered vending machines and ATMs, rental car counters every few dozen meters, front wall and ceilings of glass, all of it. It was similar enough to the entry building of the Tanukio airport actually, at least in design, with the main difference being which airlines were present. It was certainly just as crowded, but then again so was any large city’s airport. What was abnormal to them was the sudden sight of a puma in a blotchy BDU woodland camo uniform, walking slowing by with one paw kept on the assault rifle clipped to her front. She was looking about, and swiveling her ears just as much, scanning the airport crowd in multiple ways. “Man, wonder if there was threat or something.” Haida voiced, after the feline had gone by. “Nah,” Fenneko responded, “probably just predator/prey tension hanging around from all the stuff that was happening a couple months ago.” “Huh? I thought that stuff was all done and it was like a political scandal?” Haida asked. “It was,” Fenneko answered, retrieving and checking her phone, “but everybody got all worked up while they thought it was real. Kinda had too much momentum built up for everybody to drop it just like that.” “I mean, I saw the stuff about those protests and segregation advocacy events that were still going on the first week after that mayor chick got arrested.” Haida said. “But I thought all that got shut down?” “It did.” Fenneko answered again, now in the midst of typing. “Nothing big like that’s happened since then. It’s all just been small, one-on-one kinda stuff.” “Ha, what, like shopping cart fights?” He asked. “Stuff like that, yeah.” She answered, done typing and now apparently waiting. “A lot of it’s mostly just public cringe moments now. But nobody really wants to put up with those either.” “Yeah, I can feel that.” He said. “Like all six years of my try-hard Retsuko cringe packed into one moment.” “Nah, don’t go thinking anything’s ever gonna top that.” She responded. “Eht—ah . . .” Haida’s mouth hung itself halfway open at the humiliating reminder. “Right.” Fenneko didn’t respond for a second, freezing her claws right above the phone screen. “Sorry,” she said, in her same, normal Fenneko flat-voice, “I couldn’t help myself.” It was strange, and always had been. Even though she still spoke in her exact same Fenneko phone fox voice . . . Haida still somehow heard that it was different. He’d always been able to, and he really couldn’t come up with any proper way to explain it. He could somehow hear . . . no, he guessed he just knew, those moments when there was actual regret behind her voice. She was capable of other tones of speech and actual expression, but it took a significant situation usually to cause as much. “Wha—hey, come on, you know you don’t have to worry about it.” He tried assuring her, and himself really, but the weight of the six wasted years of his life made his voice unable to be free of wavering. Fenneko didn’t say anything. She kept her eyes down on her screen, but, she also removed her other paw from roller bag handle and held it up against his side. A little, underbitten smile formed on the hyena’s face, and he took hold of the smaller paw with his own, half-holding it up like always. “Looks like our ride’s here.” Fenneko suddenly spoke again. She put away her phone, as unnatural as it was for her to be seen without it, and took hold of her roller bag again with her newly freed paw while keeping ahold of her husband with the other. With an actual vehicular destination outside now, the moderately odd couple began to move forward through the shifting crowd. It was about forty meters from where they stood to the nearest exit, but the walk over to it took more than twice as long as that distance would’ve indicated. Stepping and weaving around mammals who were either at a standstill or moving parallel to their same heading added hardly any time. It was mainly the mixture of stopping for others walking perpendicular to their path that padded the clock, along with once or twice stopping to look up at passing rhinos and elephants or the overhead enclosed walkways for mice and other rodents. They did eventually reach the nearest set of doors, which slid themselves open as the two came within range. They stepped out into the late morning light of the winter sun. It wasn’t particularly cold out, just a little bit closer to freezing than to room temperature, enough for the exhaust of the innumerable vehicles lined along the curb to be visible in the air. From what Haida had looked up himself, which he naturally assumed was probably a single percent of what Fenneko had, the Zootopia city-state region was a temperate climate zone. So, everything outside of the four core city districts experienced regular seasons. The four hugely varied climate districts in Zootopia were created and maintained via massive artificial temperature and humidity alteration, and water and air flow operations. All of those required a gargantuan amount of power, which was of course where Zootopia Nuclear Power Station came in. “So,” Haida spoke up after they’d been walking down the line of taxis, shuttle buses and cars for a minute or so, “what’s our ride supposed to be in?” “Company vehicle.” Fenneko answered. “Should be pretty noticeable.” “Huh? Whatta they drive?” Haida asked, but his eyes answered the question before Fenneko had to. A dozen cars or so further down, waiting in front of one taxi and behind another, was a vehicle that certainly stood out among the others. Though not as large as the various hotel shuttle buses, it definitely outclassed all of the taxis in size. It was obvious that it was something of militaristic design, even apart from it baring the same BDU woodland colour scheme as the uniform of the puma they’d seen only a few minutes ago. It had an arrangement of sturdy bars set out on the front of it, several inches out from the grill, giving off the impression it was meant to be able to ram its way through plenty of obstacles that might lie in its path. It wasn’t one of the old Humvees; Haida at least knew what those looked like. It looked like something vaguely similar, but a lot newer. “Hahah’alright,” Haida said, “I gotta give on this one. Your new group rolls pretty cool.” “Hm? Yeah, apparently they’re called JLTVs.” Fenneko responded. “Probably the only time I’m actually gonna be rolling anywhere in one though.” “Huh?” Haida asked. “They hired me for client social media profiling. Why would I be going around to actual location assignments with the regular security crew?” Fenneko asked back. Haida’s mouth slipped and stayed one third open for a second while his brain caught up. “Oh, yeah, I mean, come on!” The urge to throw a nervous paw behind his head was strong enough to make him actually start to lift it, only stopping when the weight of his fold bag registered. “You know I totally remembered that.” “Uh-huh.” Was Fenneko’s only response. By now, they’d almost reached their obvious ride, and were just starting to pass the final taxi before it when their driver appeared. An older-looking ocelot, probably in his fifties, wearing a uniform of the same camo as the vehicle stepped out from around its front. “Oh, hey! You guys must be Haida and Fenneko.” The ocelot spoke with a slightly nasally, central Purropean accent. He was clearly from somewhere in the former Howlstrian empire. “I did get that right didn’t I? You’re Haida and you’re Fenneko?” He asked, pointing them each out correctly. “Yeah, you got us.” Haida answered. “Ok, I thought I remembered it right, but, you know, still kinda paranoid I was gonna get it wrong. Oh! Here let me get those for you!” The ocelot spoke with an odd, almost regular cadence of pauses, grabbing each of their bags after jumping to the subject of them. “Man, I can’t believe I almost wasn’t even out here when you guys showed up.” He said, taking their bags to the rear of the vehicle and sliding the cargo gate open. “I mean, I was here here, but, you know, I wasn’t out here as in like, standing outside where you could see me.” He loaded their bags into the back a second or two later, after suddenly realizing he hadn’t yet done so. Haida wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the mammal, though when he looked down at Fenneko he found her wearing her just ever-so-slightly amused smile. Whether it was the ocelot himself that was amusing her, or equally as likely the fact that he was unwittingly leaving Haida confused and off-balance, Haida didn’t know. “Oh I’m Heinz, by the way.” Heinz told them, just after sliding the back of the vehicle closed again. “Though-aah, I, I guess I kind of you know, should of led with that instead since you know, normally then you’d, tell me your names, but I already know now so . . . but whatever here let me get these open.” He broke from his mind-wandered ramble and hurried to open the rear and front passenger doors for them. Haida blinked a single round before he looked down at Fenneko again. “Uuhh you want the front or the back?” “You can take the back.” She answered. “There’s more room for you to stretch out your yeen boi arms.” “Oh wait, yeah, before I forget!” Heinz suddenly reached down to the out-facing side of the front passenger seat and pulled out an unfolding trio of little steps for Fenneko to use. “Ta daaaaa.” He half-shouted with an oddly still-genuine enthusiasm, not unlike a parent doing something they knew wouldn’t really impress their child. “Wow.” Fenneko responded, actually switching to her just slightly impressed voice for the single word. “I know right?” Heinz said, as Fenneko took the steps up to the seat. “We got you guys aaall covered. Anything you might need, one way or another, you know, we got it.” He folded the steps back into the side of her seat once she was in, whilst Haida climbed up into the back seats without trouble. Haida was able to shut his own door, while Heinz had to shut Fenneko’s for her as she wouldn’t have been able to reach out to the inside handle. Once the two of them were inside, he went around the front again and entered into the driver’s seat. “Alright, let’s get going.” Heinz said, turning the keys in the ignition. The JLTV engine thundered to life, and quickly settled into a rapidly barking growl, shaking the vehicle itself as it did. “Whoops! Almost forgot!” Heinz blurted out as he grabbed ahold of a handle on the side of the steering wheel. He pressed down on something that resembled a clutch peddle at the same time, and pulled down on the handle with some deal of exertion. There was a quite audible thunk sound, after which the intensity of the engine noise abruptly dropped down to something much more akin to a large pickup truck. “Have to drop it down to four cylinders for regular driving. Cause you know, if we’re running eight just like, out on normal roads then all it’s really doing is eating like, a whole gallon every six miles. Or wait maybe it’s seven? You know I don’t remember which one it is particularly but, whatever I’m going off again, here we go!” The babbling ocelot finally put the vehicle into motion, turning out from behind the taxi in front of them and beginning to roll down the endless lineup of other waiting vehicles at the curb. They passed a few dozen before they actually reached and passed the end of the line, and what had been the outer lanes of the airport pickup and dropoff zone turned away and merged with several parking lot exits to become the away road. “Hey, just so you know I, I want you to know I don’t like, intend to suddenly ramble off about stuff just to bore you.” Heinz said. “It just, like kinda keeps happening. It’s like one of my things.” “H’what, are you kidding?” Fenneko responded. “This a way more interesting one-sided conversation than we ever got at the office.” “The office?” Heinz asked. “You guys got out of one those soul-killing cubicle jobs?” “Ehh,” Haida answered this time, “not really cubicles. The company never would’ve paid for the divider walls.” Fenneko gave the actual detail of their former workplace. “It was more like a bunch of us and our work computers crammed onto one of those long highschool lunch tables.” “Oooh I worked at one of those once.” Heinz told them. “You know, for like a month, then I got fired.” “Hm? What’d you do?” Fenneko asked. “Eh, I was kind of, you know not, doing everything the way we were supposed to.” Heinz explained. “I was actually doing everything a little bit faster, cause like, I found some ways to make the whole process more efficient. And you know I thought I was helping, but . . .” “Ha’yeah,” Haida agreed with where he could tell the story was going, “that’s not how the office works.” “Yeah, I kind of found that out too late.” Heinz said, now driving them down a long, singular road following the coastline of the bay towards the skyline of Zootopia visible some miles in the distance. “That when you jumped over into this?” Haida asked. “Huh? Oh you mean driving for FAM?” Heinz responded. “Nah this is way more recent. I’m actually a science teacher at my daughter’s highschool. Or, former highschool, cause, you know she’s in college now, so, obviously she doesn’t go to highschool anymore but, you know it’s the one she went to, so it’s still her highschool. But yeah anyways I just took this driver job like a year ago, so I could get extra money to make sure I can pay for her education. And FAM kinda pays a lot, so . . .” “FAM?” Haida asked again. “Yeah, FAM!” Heinz answered, returning to an enthusiastic parent voice again. “It works really well doesn’t it? I mean I know the whole name is Final Alliance Militarized Security, but it doesn’t sound as good having to pronounce the S at the end of the actual acronym. So, we just drop it and say FAM instead. And it sounds nice, you know, cause like, like fam, that, that slang term for family?” “Uh, how do you know when someone’s using it like that or using it the normal way?” Haida asked. It was Fenneko who actually answered him. “It wouldn’t’ exactly be the most likely thing for normal mammals to be talking about a specific military security firm in everyday conversation.” She said. “Yeah,” Heinz followed up, “we’re kind of the only ones who actually say it. Well and our families. Which you know, that’s, that’s kind of ironic because you know, fam? Or maybe it’s unironic? You know I’m never sure which ones actually the right one to use.” There was a pause in the conversation for a minute as they keep driving, Zootopia itself still miles away, but now twice as large as it had first been. “Oh, yeah,” Heinz suddenly spoke up again, “did you guys need to stop anywhere to like, get stuff or whatever while we’re on the way? I noticed you each only brought like, one bag.” “Eh, yeah we didn’t exactly wanna try to bring our entire lives with us.” Haida explained. “Plus only overhead bags are allowed on the supersonic flights anyway.” “Ooooh that’s right!” Heinz responded with some degree of excitement. “I forgot there’s no checked luggage space underneath on the long-range Peregrines; it’s all fuel. And that means you guys flew with Skyway! You know I know a guy who works for Skyway; he’s a pilot. Viktor. He’s a goat, from Doevakia.” “Uh, I think one of our pilots was a goat?” Haida said, looking to Fenneko for the actual answer, or rather the back of Fenneko’s ears. “Yeah, he was.” Fenneko confirmed. “Captain was a goat. Other pilot was that Tanuki guy, the one Retsuko shot down during her speed-dating adventure because he didn’t make enough money.” “Huh? I mean I thought he looked familiar,” Haida asked, “but I didn’t think he was the same guy.” “Yup. He was.” Fenneko confirmed. “Wait, wait wait,” Heinz asked, “this girl you guys knew, she didn’t think a pilot made enough money?” “He wasn’t a pilot back then.” Fenneko explained. “Just a civil service rep at the airport.” “Oh, ok, yeah that makes more sense.” Heinz said back. “But, I mean airport reps still kind of make ok salaries. What was up with that whole thing then?” Haida couldn’t avoid a stretched mouthline, more regretful kind of embarrassment. Though at least this time both arms were free, so one of them was able to make it up behind his head as he turned to look away out a window. “Retsuko’s . . . kind of a period of time Haida wants to leave behind.” Fenneko explained. “Huh? Oh, ok I’ll stay away from that then.” Heinz promised, pausing for a moment to shift lanes as the highway split. He kept them to the left, which continued on to the bridge into the city, while the right split went off into the Meadowlands and then through them into the hundreds of miles of farmland and burrows beyond. “But that’s neat to know that Viktor’s here, at least until tomorrow, probably. I should probably call him and see if he wants to do anything. If enough of the others want to do something maybe we can all go bowling, or, or have a game of Sharkcano.” The ridiculous-sounding game title drew Haida’s attention back away from the window. “Uht, play what?” He had to ask. “Sharkcano!” Heinz answered. “It’s a big board game that takes up like the entire table. It’s got a big volcano in the middle, and different paths through little cities, and forests, and all kinds of obstacles. You can have up to eight players, but, there’s gotta be at least two of you. So basically you try to get to these, like, reverse-geothermal freezinators, to stop the volcano. And ever few turns the volcano will erupt and it spews out a bunch of little card-paper sharks. And they go everywhere and if one hits your piece then, you know, you’re out, cause your guy got eaten by a flying shark.” There were . . . no words for a moment from either the fennec or the hyena. They were quiet as their vehicle rounded the final long curve leading onto the bridge. “Man,” Fenneko finally remarked, “nothing here has anything held back.” “Haha, yeah it definitely doesn’t seem like it.” Haida agreed. “Oh, yeah,” Heinz said, “yeah you’ll definitely find a lot of crazy stuff, but like, like only really with me, it’s . . . it’s mostly just me. Everyone else is pretty normal. Ok, well not necessarily normal, but not really crazy. Or like, crazy awkward or anything, that’s really just me. Great, no, I’m probably scaring you into wanting to go back aren’t I?” He started to look pre-emptively regretful. “Not really.” Fenneko answered. “If I couldn’t handle being around cringey nerd stuff I wouldn’t have said yes to that thing in the back seat.” Haida just gave a light wave into the rear-view mirror, an accepting smile coming across his face now. “Oh hey! There it is, over there. You can see it way over there.” Heinz suddenly directed their attention out the left side of the vehicle, right as they were at the highest point of the bridge. There, across the harbor from the actual peninsula the main four districts of the city sat on, were the docks and the huge industrial district. And then, further behind the industrial district, set at the base of some low hills, was the nuclear power station. Even at such a distance, the cooling towers made it more than easy enough to spot. “You can’t really see the other stuff,” Heinz added as they rolled down the descending half of the bridge, “like the FAM office, or the employee housing building, but it’s all there.” “There’s supposed to a subway stop close by, right?” Haida asked, remembering something about it. “Uhh I wouldn’t exactly call it, close,” Heinz answered, “but, yeah it’s there. It’s about a ten-minute walk down from the main compound gate, for medium-sized mammals. It’s the last stop on the i-1 line. Or the first, I guess, you know cause it, it depends whether you’re going or coming back.” “Yeah, that should probably be fine.” Haida said. “Something tells me the cars on our particular subway line aren’t exactly packed wall-to-wall.” Fenneko commented as well, just as they passed the end of the bridge and entered Savanna Central. “What? Oh wait yeah, I bet the trains in Tanukio were just like, crammed.” Heinz said. “Or I mean, I know you guys flew in from Tanukio but like, I don’t know if you actually lived somewhere else in Japanda.” “Nah, we were both part of that crowded captiol life.” Haida confirmed. “Ok, well, anyway yeah, the subway cars here aren’t really ever full.” Heinz went on to actually answer Fenneko’s prior question. “I mean, some of them can get full sometimes but, like, never that full. The i-1 one’s usually empty when you get on at our stop.” “Ha’man,” Haida said, “that’s gonna be a nice fresh breath.” “A literal one.” Fenneko added. “That’s kind of why I was asking if you wanted to get anything,” Heinz said, bringing them to a stop at their first red traffic light, “or you know, needed to go anywhere. Cause like, I didn’t want to take you all the way there just to leave you to have to ride the subway all the way back into the city.” “We’ll be fine.” Fenneko assured him, granted with no audible assurance, just her normal Fenneko voice. “Yeah,” Haida said as well, “honestly we were probably just gonna get something to eat and then chill.” “Oh! We have a Cubway inside the compound.” Heinz told them. “You guys know about Cubway? It’s a sandwich place; they do subs. I don’t know if you guys eat subs or not, but, yeah we have our own Cubway just for FAM and power plant staff.” “Huh? Actually yeah that sounds kinda good.” Haida said. They rolled forward by a few blocks, until another red light brought them to another stop. “Egh, ah sorry guys.” Heinz apologized. “The uh, the straight-through part of the drive is over. It’s probably gonna be a while.” *** Eventually, almost a half hour later, they finally pulled up to a gated portion of a thick line of fencing. Inside, they could see a row of more JLTVs, a large, seemingly unoccupied section of concrete beyond them, a multi-story rectangular living-unit building, a nearly-windowless building much closer to the fence, bearing the Final Alliance label, another line of fencing further in separating the outer section from the grounds of the actual nuclear plant itself, and then of course the massive cooling towers and plant facilities beyond. “Alright,” Heinz said, “just one second.” He took something off his uniform belt, the only thing his actually had on it. It was about the size of an old pager, and had a usb plug protruding from one end, and a small slot dug into the top that appeared just large enough for . . . a claw? It was quickly shown to be such when the ocelot slipped one of his claws into it and then plugged the device into a usb port at the base of the steering wheel. Two lights, one on either side of the fence gate, flashed a quick, single red before immediately shutting off again. A triple beep sounded from the device, and then a blatantly automated voice spoke from the vehicle’s speakers. “Please insert the device first, then scan the quick of your claw.” “Oh come on!” Heinz complained. Sighing, he complied with the soulless instructions and ripped the little device out of the usb port, inserting it again and waiting until its light came on before then placing his claw into the scanner. This time, a double beep sounded, and the twin lights of the gate flashed green. The gate went on to slide itself open, and Heinz drove them through. Almost the instant they were completely through, the gate slid itself closed again. Heinz drove to the farther end of the JLTV line, from which Haida and Fenneko could both see that the large unoccupied section of space they had seen actually bore the large, encircled H used for marking a helicopter landing zone. “Oh, well it looks like Max and Jamie got called off for something.” Heinz remarked, seeing the empty helicopter site. He backed them into the final spot on the JLTV line, and shut the engine off just over an hour from when it had started. “Ok, ah, I’m gonna message Sarah.” He said, pulling out his own phone. “She should already have your building access cards and, well you both have claws so you can get your own gate devices too. Otherwise you’d have remember a new code like, every day.” “Ah-I’d definitely mess that up.” Haida remarked at the idea of remembering codes, hopping out of his own door just as Fenneko hopped down out of hers, skipping the use of the fold-out steps. “Don’t undersell yourself.” She said. That came as a surprise, as did most Haha Fox compliments, usually. He looked down at the living internet scanner standing beside him. She was looking up at him . . . well, an actual expression. She meant what she’d said, that’s what he immediately knew from it. “Hey, alright, if you say so.” He said back. Fenneko seemed to accept the response. Haida ultimately knew he would know it if she hadn’t. They both eventually walked out into the open after Heinz had gotten them their bags. She looked out at the city itself, while Haida looked over to the colossal columns of steam rising from the six nearby cooling towers. It was a new life now....
CD: Cemetery Bloom by HaraaJubilee
Blood Moon Diana (Quick painting) by EPHAS
CD: To Hold You Close by HaraaJubilee
Firebrand Adopt by zyavera
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Flyer Masked Fridays Party with model by n2n44
Classy Toxic Cool Party In Club With DJ by n2n44
Country Music Usa Western Flyer by n2n44
Night Club Flyer by n2n44







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