The Brothers Wilde - Chapter 27 - Cmdr_Xavier (2024)

Chapter Text

Oscar felt something odd pass through him. It was not a bullet, otherwise his vest would take the hit and Oscar would feel the impact.

It felt more like Fate weaving her tapestry. The minor deity ruefully shook his head. He was not out of the woods and whatever he just thought of better not come true.

When no other sign made itself known, Oscar continued to walk towards the table as the two princes’ energy finally petered out and began to nod off. Sir Reinsdyr was kept interested in the conversation as the reindeer was convinced that the two were heads of the largest family business in Zootopia.

“Mister Bagnoli, Lady Bagnoli. Thank you for coming to my small celebration” Oscar informed the two of them as he gave a quick peck to Nonna’s ring, making the elderly shrew blush.

“We have one more gift for you, Your Highness” Antonio said as he snapped his fingers and the polar bear guard approached. In the mammal’s paws was a white envelope which he gave to Oscar with a deep bow.

“May I know what this is?” Oscar asked as he turned the large envelope over in his paws.

“Your parents left us some money to invest. We believe it is time to return it” Nonna Big informed Oscar with a watery smile.

With some degree of trepidation, Oscar unsealed the envelope and removed a stiff piece of paper. Pulling it out of the envelope, and with the two princes leaning towards Oscar, the paper was revealed to be a stock certificate granting the owner a majority holding in one company.

In this case, Oscar held the controlling shares for the parent company of The Palm Hotel and Casino: Bare Bones Investment Group, Incorporated. The hotel being one of many under the giant umbrella corporation.

“Thank you” Oscar thanked the two shrews as they hugged the fox. Nonna Big going so far as to leave a quick peck against the red fox’s cheek and to whisper into Oscar’s left ear. “You kept the FBI from our doors long enough for us to diversify. The staff will swear loyalty to you once you call a meeting. My son has an offer for you”.

“Oscar, since the hotel is yours now, you do not need to hide in any of the embassies. There is one floor that you can turn into your private residence here in the city. Just think of your brother Antonio when there are events, okay?” Antonio Bagnoli spoke with mirth.

“Like the one tomorrow with all the dignitaries?” Oscar asked with tears in his eyes, wiping these quickly with a cloth napkin.

“No. They brought their own transports. We had no in yet. Now, we do. Take care, mio fratello” Antonio Bagnoli, Mister Big, replied as he kissed the fox’s cheeks before the two shrews said their goodbyes. They would not be able to join Oscar at his official party as they could not risk being arrested.

Even a guarantee of safe passage would not be honoured if the federal government could twist it just right.

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Oscar and the princes were back in their armoured SUV as this pulled away from the kerb outside Koslov’s Ice Palace.

Ambassador Reinsdyr had displaced James from the front passenger seat and the wolf had joined the other security agents in the third car. Which also brought along the prince’s leftovers. There was quite a lot, almost embarrassingly so. Some meals were untouched and were boxed up neatly. Others were in Styrofoam containers with Sharpee written on the top covers.

Oscar looked wistfully out the left side window at the falling snow in Tundratown. The convoy was headed back to the Norwegian embassy to drop off the two princes and bring HRH Oscar’s things to the hotel. Maybe have a stopover at the chocolate store.

Both princes were snoozing with the amount of food in them.

“A krone for your thoughts, Your Highness?” Sir Reinsdyr asked the Prince Royal, interrupting Oscar’s many what-ifs.

“Sure. Ask away” Oscar replied as he gazed at his reflection.

“Who are those shrews to you?” Ambassador Reinsdyr asked as the cervid felt sick to his stomach with how familial the shrews acted with the prince. There were rumours surrounding the two small mammals that would bode ill for the royal families.

“That was my adoptive family when my parents were assassinated by a speciest ram just because they had money and he had none” Oscar answered as he continued to stare out at the mammals the convoy passed. “Long before I was identified as a Royal, I was their son and brother. They took us in after the crash that killed our parents, nurtured us, fed us, and clothed us. Even in my coma, they took care of me. I chose exile to placate my aunt, the FBI Director, when I woke and went to Bunnyburrow once a place was ready. I have been there ever since. This is the first time I have set paw in Zootopia after six years” Oscar told an abridged version of his story to the ambassador.

“If you are exposed as once being a member of a crime family?” Sir Reinsdyr had to ask the hard question.

“Then I abdicate my titles to protect my new family. After I eviscerate the mammal who spilled the secrets” Oscar answered, voice colder than ice.

Sir Reinsdyr swallowed past the lump in his throat. He had an inkling the fox prince could do so, even if he abdicated all the titles. Others then, would want him to join their houses as added strength.

If this young fox was born before the First World War was but a pipe dream, the world would have willingly knelt at his feet.

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“Sir? Sir?” a voice interrupted Oscar’s dreamless nap.

Oscar did not wake slowly. He was instantly alert and ready to draw his weapons.

“Whoa, sir! Easy!” that same voice firmed up into the maned wolf he stabbed earlier this morning.

“Rook?” Oscar relaxed slightly, removing his right paw from the semiautomatic pistol he was grasping.

“Yes sir. You’re at the Norwegian embassy. You’re safe. Deep breaths, sir” Rook held Oscar against him. The maned wolf all too familiar with his old master’s habit of starting a blood bath if he woke without his memories.

Rook was there when a distant colony on an Earth-like world near the galactic core had managed to subdue Shinigami. Half the colony’s population had been decimated before Rook could reach the snow leopard. The other half died when the planet’s protective atmosphere was removed, and the water boiled off in the vacuum of space. The planet imploded on itself, destroying any trace it had ever existed. That was the first time Rook feared for the galaxy’s safety.

Now, too, with most of his powers curtailed and in a new body; Ivan could still be a force to reckon with.

“I just had the most horrible dream” Oscar shared with Rook as the maned wolf carried the red fox out of the car.

“Do tell” Rook commented as he set the red fox on a snow-covered bench in the consulate’s courtyard.

“I dreamt I was given control over numerous hotel properties under the corporate umbrella of Bare Bones Investment Group, Incorporated. I do not know the first thing about running a business” Oscar shared with the maned wolf as he nuzzled into the wolf’s side, acting five instead of fifteen.

“That’s true, Young Master” Rook answered as he stroked his charge’s furry ears as they both sat on the snowy bench. “The stock certificate is in your name. I followed up and The Palm Hotel and Casino is also yours. Though,” Rook sniffed the now-stinky fox prince, “I do suggest a bath before we go. You stink”.

“Rook!” Oscar protested as he was subsequently carried by his scruff like a misbehaving kit, making the consulate staff chuckle at the prince’s predicament. “So unfair” Oscar mumbled as Sir Reinsdyr had a spittake after he had a sip of brandy, burning his nostrils as the alcohol came back out.

Princes William and Harold, at least, were out cold in their food comas. The brothers were sprawled out on the nearest warm surface, snoring softly.

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Oscar was forcibly divested of his clothes and weapons in the royal quarters and plopped down into the bathtub like a kit by the maned wolf officer.

“Now, I will fill the tub and come back. You best be finished in twenty minutes so we can check you in and proceed to Magie du Chocolat” Rook informed the pouting fox, who perked up just like a kit.

“I knew I liked you best for a reason, Rook” Oscar hurriedly turned on the tap for the tub and let the cold-water flow.

“That’s Sir Rook to you, Oscar” Rook winked at the fox tod before he closed the door on Oscar’s surprised face.

Without even waiting for the tub to fill, Oscar began to scrub himself clean of the day’s activities. The teenaged fox tod wanted answers, and by golly, he would get them even if he pinned Rook to the floor.

Oscar rolled in the tub like a crocodile trying to tear off a piece of meat. As he did so, the water got darker from the dirt and debris the prince had stepped in or picked up. When the cold water got high enough to cover him, the tub itself was only a quarter full. Scrubbing his back with the handy bath brush, Oscar dislodged clumped up fur and the water was soon filled with the auburn follicles.

When the fox felt that he was clean enough to step out, he rinsed off the lather by stepping under one of the water jets and turning the tap on. The icy water had no effect on the fox, who shook himself dry, after pulling the drain plug and letting the water drain away.

Oscar then stepped into the medium-mammal fur dryer and turned it on. As the machine warmed up, the electric motor began to turn and soon hot, dry air was blowing around the fox. The air carrying away the moisture sticking to the fur and giving Oscar some air massages from where he was buffeted by strong currents.

Oscar emerged with a puffy coat that resembled a lion’s mane. The bathroom door clicked open when the fur dryer cut out, and Rook appeared with an assortment of grooming brushes. Running the square slicker brush through Oscar’s dense coat, Rook managed to remove clumps of dead skin and matted fur. Rubbing the steel brush on the fox’s head, Rook managed to make Oscar pant in joy.

“There” Rook or Sir Romero, declared after he had removed several balls of auburn fur from the fox. “Now you look presentable enough to greet your adoring fans” the maned wolf declared as he let Oscar admire himself in his reflection.

“Wow! I look a thousand years younger!” Oscar chortled with glee as Rook almost lost the battle with his laughter. Every part of the fox’s fur was glossy, including his cream chest and stomach.

“Now, I have chosen a selection of outfits for you that are both breathable and offer ballistic protection. These are on the bed now and we can choose while the two lions are still snoozing” Rook continued as he ushered Oscar out of the bathroom and into the master bedroom.

“That one” Oscar pointed at an ivory button-down shirt, khaki trousers, tan boxer briefs, and a red necktie.

“Excellent choice, Your Highness” Rook clapped his paws as he gave the ensemble to Oscar as he kept the rest of the clothes, packing these into a suitcase. “If you need me, I will be at the car helping load your luggage” Rook then left the fox alone in the room.
Before Rook had gone too far, the maned wolf barked out “Your weapons and armour are on your dresser with the rest of the RSVPs. Everything else has been loaded into the car or the chopper”.

Oscar was soon dressed in record time. The Type III-B bullet-resistant vest went on top of his button-down shirt and clip-on necktie. His hip holster for the Colt 1991 Government sat proudly on his right side, the magazines had been refilled with more .45 ACP rounds and in his black suit jacket were three knives hidden in the armoured jacket’s lining.

His wallet was on the dresser as well as his watch. Oscar snagged both, pocketed the wallet and wore the watch.

Instead of his Rolex Divemaster, this was a more subdued Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse in Platinum. The small stack of envelopes with the RSVPs were swiped as well.

Now suitably outfitted, Oscar departed the quarters that felt like home for a day. The fox felt a tear escape his left eye as he did not want to leave.

Steeling himself, he closed the door on the bedroom and made his way back outside to where the cars would be waiting for him. Closing the door to the royal quarters for the last time, Oscar met Ensign Soland in the hallway dressed in a similar outfit to his.

“Ready, Your Highness?” the caribou asked as he looked up and down the prince with approval.

“Born ready. Let’s go” Oscar answered, a little choked up with emotion from his charged day.

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“Took you long enough, Your Highness” Rook commented as the maned wolf stayed beside the door of the middle car when Oscar approached the idling vehicles with Ensign Soland.

“I got a little choked-up” Oscar answered truthfully as he climbed into the armoured SUV for the trip first to Magie du Chocolat in Savannah Central. Ensign Soland closed the door on the prince and got into the chase car with the Irish wolves.

“I’m not surprised, Your Highness” Ambassador Reinsdyr sounded like he had a cold as he spoke beside the fox prince. “Our consulate is beautiful especially during the Christmas season when the lights give it an ethereal quality. Though, there are no Northern Lights this far south, the city does have something approximating it in the winter months”.

“Yeah” Oscar replied as the cars pulled away, leaving through the open gates of the embassy. A silvery glint from high up caught Oscar’s eye as the MQ-7 Reaper kept pace with the convoy. The soldiers did not show any reaction to the convoy’s departure nor of the helicopter departing.

A security measure to prevent hostile forces from recognising VIPs.

“Cheer up, sir. I’m sure there is something delicious for you at Magie du Chocolat” Rook tried to buoy up Oscar’s spirits.

“From the notes of my Belgian counterpart, His Highness will inaugurate a royal commemorative limited edition chocolate piece. Neither he nor I were made aware what kind of piece it was going to be” Ambassador Reinsdyr pointed out as the chill of Tundra was slowly replaced by the warmer environs of Savannah Central.

Time was now 3:30PM and traffic would begin to slow down soon.

Hera, this is Overlord. Blocking units will proceed to The Palm Hotel. No more through traffic in a four-block radius from the hotel. Stay safe, sir” Oscar’s earpiece buzzed with Overlord’s message.

Pressing a button on his vest for the microphone, Oscar replied to the controller “Hera copies your last, Overlord. What is the challenge to pass?

Hera, standby. Challenge is Star. Counter is Texas. Alternate is Fruit” Overlord informed Oscar who sighed out at the new challenge.

Hera copies your last, Overlord. Headed to Mike Delta Charlie and then to Tango Papa Hotel” Oscar answered the general.

Overlord copies your last, Hera. Snag a few pieces for me?” General Boise joked over the line.

That’s affirm, Overlord. Hera out” Oscar cut the connection as the convoy travelled down Lionheart Avenue.

“Where is Magie du Chocolat anyway?” Oscar asked Ambassador Reinsdyr who hummed as he tried to remember.

“You know? I’m not sure if it was behind City Hall or closer to the Zootopia Courthouse on Herd Street” the ambassador replied as he rubbed his fuzzy chin.

“GPS says its neither, Your Highness” James Cohen replied from the front passenger seat, drawing Oscar’s attention. “It’s at 1356 Troop Street. The sign is a talking bonbon”.

“Been there before James?” Oscar asked the Irish wolf as he grinned at his new employer. “Used to work there as clean-up, Your Highness”.

“Then, let’s go. If it moved, I could always call up Overlord” Oscar replied as the cars followed the directions.

Without much fuss, the convoy reached Magie du Chocolat’s last known location at 1356 Troop Street.

“Looks like the place” Oscar muttered as there were ZPD barricades blocking the road. Their convoy was waved through, but no one else could follow.

“Yes, it definitely looks like the place” Rook muttered as there were at least four news vans parked opposite the shop.

Stay inside, Your Highness. We’ll check those vans first” James Cohen radioed in from the chase car as the Cohen pack disembarked and casually walked over to the vans. Four wolves, not counting Padraig Cohen seated behind Prince Oscar, advanced to the vans to check if the occupants were who they were claiming to be. Three wolves emerged from the lead car and investigated the shop’s exterior and the surroundings.

ZNN is clean” as a snow leopard in a dress came out of the van with her camera crew.

Fox needs to watch his mouth” as a scowling goat came out of the van with a beaver cameramammal.

Deutsche Welle clear” as another wolf emerged in a suit with his own camera crew.

BBC needs f*cking honey” as a black bear got out in a rumpled polo shirt with a rabbit in the same attire. The bear shouldered the TV camera, as the rabbit looked nervous.

Have Secret Service here inside and a striped jackrabbit from MI-5. You and the ambassador are clear to exit the vehicle” James’ voice came over the radio clear as a bell.

Rook exited first and held the door open for the ambassador to exit. Prince Oscar followed the ambassador in leaving the vehicle.

Standing at about eyelevel with Captain Bogo, Rook was tall even for a maned wolf. Thus, he commanded attention by just exiting the vehicle as maned wolves were a rarity in Zootopia. He was also mistaken as a giant fox more often than not.

Though the news teams saw Rook, they (mostly) chalked him up as part of the security and safely ignored. It was when Oscar emerged from around the bulk of the vehicle that the chatter from the news teams increased and the snow leopard reporter was the first to approach.

“Your Highness. Fabienne Growley, ZNN! What can you tell us about your coming-of-age party?” the snow leopard called out as she thrust the microphone at the fox prince from an old European royal house.

“I can safely tell you Miss Growley that the press is invited to the party. Other than that, I have also been kept in the dark” Oscar answered the query with his Westminster accent, sounding very posh. As Fabienne opened her mouth to ask another question, Oscar added in a teasing manner “Though, I do think it is quite queer that my birthday is July 4. Let’s keep that between us, shall we?”

“Your Highness. Chester Philipps, BBC! What made you decide to visit Zootopia this week?” the rabbit asked as Fabienne bit her tongue to stop a growl coming out. She wanted to ask that question.

“Mister Philipps, the houses I represent have been extraordinarily keen that I work for my keep. As I will be of legal age in just two days’ time, it has been deemed a necessity that I come out from the manor once in a while” Oscar answered as he saw the scowl deepen on the goat from Fox News.

“Miss Growley, Mister Philipps, if you would excuse me. I am to go see that delightful chocolate that was said to be for me to try” Oscar informed the two as he turned around to enter the store.

Your Highness, you are allowed one network into the shop. Make your choice and kindly do it quickly” Rook’s voice came over the earpiece.

Oscar did not respond to that as he was being filmed live. He could see into an open news van’s door, and it was a live broadcast to every mammal tuning in.

“Miss Growley, perhaps you would do the honours of accompanying me inside as we sample some chocolates?” Oscar offered the snow leopard who had to fight off a giggle at being allowed exclusive access. Not even Nobel Peace Prize winner Christiane Amanpour was allowed inside the shop in an official capacity.

Magie du Chocolat had NEVER allowed reporters inside, increasing the shop’s mystique from its one hundred years of operation.

“I would be delighted to, Your Highness” Fabienne performed a curtsy as she followed the prince into the esteemed chocolate boutique. Philipps could only shake his rabbit ears in disbelief as he lost the scoop because he was the wrong gender.

=====

Back at the studio, ZNN was in a frenzy.

Peter Moosebridge had to cut to commercial as he was laughing too hard at the set-up. The veteran news anchor had resorted to pounding on his news desk when Fabienne performed the curtsy and her being invited into the notoriously secretive Magie du Chocolat’s premises. It was too bad that the camera crew was not allowed inside as filming was prohibited on the store premises.

The ZNN floor director, Manuel Burger, was also losing his mind. No one was supposed to be allowed entry of the news teams. That part was explicitly stated when the store agreed to have the news teams be on station outside. He was already on the line with the station’s legal team about to discuss the probable fines the station would incur. The other televisions tuned to the live broadcasts of the other networks were talking about the preferential treatment accorded to Growley (Fox News), compliments about His Highness (BBC), and cold facts (DW).

Thirty minutes later, Fabienne Growley came back on air. The snow leopard looking a little flustered as the fox prince waved to the crowd of fans held back by the barricades. There was an opened box of chocolates on a folding table beside her stamped with the Belgian crown.

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“Your Highness, this is most irregular” Fabienne Growley protested as she was frisked by the security team for weapons and made to wear a white pair of coveralls over her clothes. There was a tube of cloth attached for the snow leopard’s tail to poke into. It was the same for the fox prince’s suit.

“You came with me of your own free will. I did not know this was the procedure upon entry” HRH Prince Oscar commented, as he instead had stripped down to his underwear to put on the coverall. His Highness was not frisked, but Fabienne did take note of the body armour under the fox’s clothes and the weapons he carried. The clothes went into a locker for esteemed guests. The prince’s locker had the Belgian Royal Coat of Arms.

Both mammals were admitted into the shop with the staff bowing to the Prince Royal of Wallonia. The moment the door behind them closed, the sound from outside had been cut off. The dark glass displays were revealed to be specially tinted to reflect the goods in the window display and prevent outsiders seeking to penetrate the mystique.

For Magie du Chocolat was wholly staffed by the dregs of society. Weasels, pine martens, foxes, and a honey badger. The honey badger was the proprietor. It was not her fault that mammals thought of her as the muscle.

All everyone saw from the outside were the paws of the leucistic red fox assistants as these changed the window chocolates weekly.

“I did not know we would have to strip almost naked and put on coveralls” the snow leopard reporter protested as HRH Prince Oscar placed a hairnet on his head, folding his ears to ensure a good fit.

“I am stepping outside now, and a female member of staff will supervise to ensure no hidden cameras, Miss Growley” she was informed as the fox prince opened the door and a female pine marten entered.

“Rook, no eating the chocolate!” was heard before the door closed on her.

“Do I have to wear this?” Fabienne Growley asked the pine marten who answered in a blunt manner. “If you don’t wear that, you are free to leave through the front door. We do not allow reporters inside the kitchen for a reason”.

Sighing out as she also took off her purple blouse and skirt, Fabienne Growley exchanged her reporter’s outfit with the same coveralls. The pine marten padlocked the locker doors, and the key was given to Miss Growley to hold on to during the tour.

The coverall had one singular pocket on the left side of her chest, just large enough to hold the key and could be zipped closed.

Still grumbling, and with her tail unable to move because of the stiff material, the snow leopard exited and rejoined His Highness.

“Took you long enough, Miss Growley” His Highness muttered as he was waiting beside the honey badger in her white chef’s uniform.

“Now that we are all present, I shall take you into my secret sanctum” the proprietress clapped her paws together and opened the Employees Only door. The maned wolf held the door open as the prince was ushered in first.

The wonderful aroma of roasted cocoa nibs filled the air as the honey badger began talking.

“This is my receiving area. As you can see, we receive whole cocoa beans from farms that used to be part of the Belgian colonial empire in Africa. Due to the rumours of exploitation, we personally visit the farms to ensure nothing of the sort happens. We also source the milk we need in an ethical manner. Most of the richness of our products come from sheep milk. Our policy is to ensure that, at every stage in the production process of, our chocolates can be the most environmentally and ethically friendly we can make it” the proprietress began her speech. Neither Fabienne nor the honey badger saw HRH Oscar frown for the briefest of moments.

“As much as possible, we try to source our ingredients locally to cut down on both carbon emissions and a complicated logistics chain. We have honey from Ashgrove Township just past Deerbrooke County, granulated sugar from our farm in the Marshlands, fruits sourced from suppliers in Bunnyburrow, nuts sourced from Squirrel Hollow and legumes also from Marshlands” she continued to spout as the group moved on a catwalk above the delivery area filled with ingredients for making chocolate.

“Madam Delfin, may we go down and look at the ingredients?” Oscar posed this question to the honey badger, interrupting the next part of her talk.

“Unfortunately not, Your Highness. We want as little interference with the production process as possible and it is also security against saboteurs who wish to tamper with the product” Madam Delfin replied to the Belgian prince with a small bow.

“I can accept that. What next?” HRH Oscar nodded as he prodded the honey badger to continue.

“Next is where we crush the nibs and extrude the resulting paste. We have three milling machines to grind the chocolate: milk, dark, and white. As this batch is for milk chocolate, we have already added the milk and sugar. It is a closed process and the only thing we will see are stainless steel pipes until the extruder. That part down there” the honey badger pointed at an open machine where two foxes were tipping over a sack of cocoa nibs to feed the hungry machine, as she explained the process of making her chocolate. Madam Delfin looked around to see if there were questions and continued talking when there were none.

“The next step is to refine the chocolate and what we receive from the extruder will be further processed to induce the creaminess we all love to savour. The process is called conching and can take anywhere from 6 to 72 hours. For normal commercial chocolate, it is finished in under 24 hours. Ours is made with love and we do most of the conching in small batches, hence the machines keep going for at least 60 hours to enhance the creaminess. It is that creamy texture that keeps customers coming back for more” the honey badger spoke from the head of the group as they moved into the next room and looked down at large antique pots with mixing wheels alternating grinding and mixing the chocolate.

“Tempering follows” the honey badger said as the group watched as a fox wearing protective clothing stepped up to a vat-like machine that could easily drown him or her and filled a mould with chocolate, tilting it this way and that. After tapping it with a long spatula, the fox opened the mould and out came a chocolate statue.

“May we skip to the end of the tour, Madam Delfin?” HRH Oscar asked as his stomach began to grumble at smelling all the chocolates and not having a bite to taste.

“Most certainly, Your Highness. This way, please” Madam Delfin opened another door and the tour group exited back into the shop. The assistants who had decided to rest their legs, snapped back up from their stools at the reappearance of the group. And sat again with the panicked look that graced the honey badger’s face before it vanished.

“This royal line of chocolate that I was informed about. Was that supposed to be your piece de resistance?” Oscar asked as the honey badger gave a grimace of a smile. They had not gone to that part of the factory where the boxes were being assembled for the Belgian prince.

“Yes, Your Highness. It would have been the highlight of the tour” Madam Delfin replied, wringing her paws unconsciously with worry.

“Est-ce qu'il contient de la noix de coco et du rhum?” Oscar asked as he thought about a unique flavour. [Does it have coconut and rum?]

“Est-ce votre saveur de chocolat préférée, Votre Altesse?” the honey badger replied, noticeably more relaxed as she spoke. [Is that your favourite flavour of chocolate, Your Highness?]

“L'un d'eux. Mon autre préféré est un fudge moelleux recouvert de poudre de thé matcha et d'une ganache au chocolat blanc” HRH Oscar answered as Fabienne Growley gasped at how smoothly French flowed off the tongue of the royal. [One of them. My other favorite is a chewy fudge covered in matcha tea powder and with a white chocolate ganache]

“Par hasard, c'est ce que nous avons créé! Magnifique, nous préparerons vos coffrets gratuits” Madam Delfin clapped her paws together as two assistants re-entered the facility to retrieve the boxes. [Serendipitously, that is what we have created! Magnificent, we shall have your complimentary boxes ready]

“And how much will this cost at retail price?” HRH Oscar asked a little bluntly as specialty chocolates could run into thousands of dollars with rare ingredients.

“$550.00 with taxes” the honey badger winced as she said it. “You must understand that…” Madam Delfin began to explain before she was cut off by the prince.

“I understand perfectly. This is a limited time offer and as your chocolates are made by paw, it is a reasonable investment of both time and money” HRH Oscar acquiesced, his paw raised to stop any objections. “Now, since Miss Growley, Ambassador Reinsdyr, and I will be leaving with our complimentary boxes, I would like to order twenty more for my party tomorrow. I have yet to taste any of this company’s products as I am spoiled by my own royal chocolatier. Kindly ring me up and I will pay for it. Please delay the product release by one more day as I converse with my family. Gods Willing, you will have more than one house endorsing it” Oscar continued, presenting the Credit Suisse card for payment.

Madam Ivana Delfin nee Romanova was in shock. She had dismissed the prince as just another spoiled royal. True, he had ended the tour before she got to expound on the virtues of the Royal line of chocolates. But then, to simply order twenty boxes without seeing the finished product was nothing short of breathtaking. The honey badger gulped, hoping that there were no imperfections in the chocolates, or he might renege on the promise to have the establishment placed under Royal Writ.

She accepted the card and had Mary, the least weasel behind the counter, ring up the order on the cash register. She herself hastened her pace and disappeared into the room where the chocolates were being packed with care.

(Oscar, in fact, promised no such thing. Just a Royal Endorsem*nt.)

“Miss Mary, while you’re ringing me up, could you also add a purchase of those dried mango slices dipped in dark chocolate? I shall take those for eating right now, no need to wrap it up nicely” HRH Oscar informed the weasel as she climbed down from the counter and opened the display case with the aforementioned chocolate pieces. The prince’s instruction kept her from sealing the 120g bag and she pawed it over to the red fox as he began to snack on these. The snow leopard, Fabienne Growley, was offered some and daintily took a piece.

She tapped out the prices for the prince’s purchases into the register and she read the amount displayed. “That would be $11,020.50, Your Highness” the weasel curtsied as she spoke the price. “A little too steep for the average mammal, but I do believe a special occasion merits such exquisite examples of chocolate” the prince remarked as his card was inserted into the PIN machine and the amount typed out. The prince tapped in his code and the machine dutifully printed out a thermal receipt. This was duly attached to the paper one issued by the cash register by means of a stapler and given to the prince.

“This mango was sourced from where? It is much too sweet to be from a local grower” Oscar commented as he rolled the dried fruit around his mouth.

“I apologise, Your Highness” Madam Delfin spoke up as the honey badger had returned with twenty-two boxes of the Royal Selection. “That batch was overripe, and I refused to throw it away”.

“It’s perfect. It mitigates the, what, 70% dark chocolate? That might just be my taste, but it is remarkably balanced” Oscar commented after he swallowed the piece.

“You are too kind, Your Highness. I feared no one would want the product and we would be forced to throw it away” Madam Delfin spoke with a bow, holding out the paper bags containing the complimentary chocolate for the prince and the reporter.

“Thank you, Madam Delfin. The payment has also gone through, and these boxes will be one of the highlights at my party” Oscar smiled at the honey badger, who had been rendered speechless.

“Le Rochelle does not carry any of my products. They deemed it too artisanal” the honey badger spoke as if in a daze.

“They will have to bear it as these delights will probably be raffled off to a few guests” Oscar answered as the honey badger and her staff just stood there in shock.

“Delay the launch by one day, Madam Delfin. I will call you as soon as I talk with my relatives” Oscar said as he moved to the locker room to retrieve his clothes. The pine marten following to unlock the locker.

“Peter gets to eat his heart out” Fabienne Growley crowed as she made to exit the store only to be reminded to exchange the white coveralls with her regular attire.

=====

The pine marten, Alice as it stated on her tag, helped the prince undress from the stiff coveralls. She also squeaked out as the prince was basically naked in the coveralls, having taken off his clothes to fit inside. The inordinately strong scent of fox musk and violets trapped by the attire was tempered by the scent of power wafting from the prince.

“Are you married, Miss Alice?” the prince had asked as he pulled on his trousers, hiding his nether regions from view. That left his visible muscles under his fur coat and the pine marten discreetly fanned herself.

The holster on the fox’s hip making the weasel gulp, especially when the pistol that sat inside was returned. When the fox pulled on his button-down shirt, and then his tactical vest, the rest of the view vanished.

“Y-yes. Your Highness. I have two pups to call my own” the pine marten squeaked out as she felt called out for staring at the royal’s sculpted body.

“How old are they?” Oscar asked as he made small talk with the pine marten while dressing up. “Twelve and ten, Your Highness. They’re with my brother in a farming town to the south of the city” Alice replied to the query.

“Out of curiosity, are you paid hourly or a fixed salary?” Oscar asked as his last job, Shinigami, had a fixed salary for eight hours of work and a per diem outside of the country/planet of origin.

“Fixed. We can make some more from commissions. You just made Mary a happy weasel as she gets 3% of the purchase added to her wages” Alice answered, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“If Madam Delfin’s chocolates are any good, we will be back. If you are here when that happens, maybe you will also get a turn at the graces” Oscar answered, letting Alice know she had failed to hide it. “So, you are not allowed to be tipped?”

“I did not say that Your Highness” Alice quickly backpedalled as a bill was placed in her paws. “Here. This should make up for Mary’s victory chirp later” the prince replied as he opened the door back to the store proper.

“I did not earn this! I cannot accept…” Alice tried to protest at the $100 bill in her paw.

“Tough luck, it has left my paws and I do not accept bribes” Oscar winked at the pine marten as he left the locker room and joined his security in exiting the store. “Let your boss know about guided tours that are either free after purchase or with a set fee. You’ll draw in more customers that way”.

Alice was left dumbfounded at what the fox prince said before the snow leopard reporter returned and meekly went to her assigned locker to change out of her coveralls.

=====

The moment Oscar exited the shop, he waved to the growing crowd and got some howls from a pair of wolves. The howls made his escort wolves’ ears twitch before they huffed out and got into the cars. Oscar had to duck behind the car before he lost it. If it had been Gary on the team, he knew none of the escorts would be able to hold back.

Oscar entered the middle car. The ambassador did not go down and had just sat inside the idling transport.

“Here you go, Sir Reinsdyr” Oscar dropped a box of chocolates into the reindeer’s lap.

“Your Highness, what is this?” the reindeer looked down into his lap at the paper bag with the shrinkwrapped plastic over a cardboard box with 64 pieces of chocolate truffles and pralines.

“A complimentary box of chocolates from the Royal Selection line that Magie du Chocolat will release tomorrow afternoon or two days later” Oscar answered the ambassador.

“These are very good artisanal chocolates, Your Highness. Once a line is done, it is not brought back unless by popular demand. How much did you convince her to sell it at retail?” the reindeer admired the box of chocolates. He had not been able to purchase any of the previous iterations before the stock ran out as his Belgian counterpart rubbed the complimentary box in his muzzle many times before.

“$550.00 a box. I checked and two of your pralines have gold leaf” Oscar answered as he placed the two bags of ten boxes in the rear compartment of the SUV.

“That’s twice as expensive for a box of Swiss chocolates!” Sir Reinsdyr hissed as the rest of the security team got into the cars and the cervid’s eyes got wide.

Each of the security team had a bag of chocolates, bar Rook who had an assorted box of more economically priced chocolates.

“Off to the hotel, John” Oscar informed the driver of his vehicle as the cougar nodded in the affirmative.

“Yes sir” the mountain lion answered as the cars pulled away from the kerb. With a yelp of the siren, the crowds near the barricade were moved away by FBI agents in their blue blazers.

Using one last yelp, the three SUVs left 1356 Troop Street and made a left turn to cut across to Herd Street via the cobblestone road that wound around Precinct One. The new route bypassed the expected traffic surge from office work ending at 5PM from the Downtown area.

The three vehicles were under constant aerial surveillance by both the MQ-7 Reaper drone and the OH-6 Loach scout helicopter.

The last chance to attack the convoy would be when these would take the Lionheart Avenue Underground Extension and the exit towards Palm Street. The drone could not go under as it would lose signal with its operator and crash. The Loach was just small enough to fit into the tunnel that it theoretically could go under in the event of an emergency.

=====

Hera, this is Overlord. How copy?” Overlord came online into Oscar’s earpiece as the fox was conversing with his bodyguard about the merits of using dried fruit as a counterbalance to the inherent bitterness of unsweetened chocolate.

Overlord, this is Hera. Go ahead” Oscar stopped the conversation to reconnect with the Pentagon controller.

Hera, recommend the ground level route. The drone cannot watch if you go into the tunnel” Overlord informed Oscar on the secure frequency.

Overlord, what cars are we using on the drone feed?” Oscar asked as he saw the giant glass and metal tower in the shape of an enormous palm tree approaching them through the windscreen.

Three armoured SUVs from the FBI field office” Overlord replied. “Right?

Hera is arriving at the Palm now, Overlord. Disembarking” Oscar informed General Boise as the Kodiak sputtered on the line. “Hera, what?!

“Let’s go, people. The distraction won’t hold for long” Oscar informed his security team as they disembarked with a stunned Ambassador Reinsdyr from two white limousines. The drivers touched their peaked caps as they pulled away. Oscar’s luggage was currently on a hotel cart and the cape buffalo pushing was waiting for them to enter the hotel.

“Your Highness?” the reindeer ambassador blinked out at the sight of the glass panels of The Palm Hotel and Casino.

“Come on Sir Reinsdyr. The other assault teams will be on station in fifteen mikes. Best if we are inside and out of the sun” Oscar pulled the reindeer’s left arm, bringing the cervid stumbling along inside the bullet-resistant building façade.

"Good afternoon, Miss Darcy" Oscar nodded at the Bactrian camel employee behind the gleaming black marble Check-In desk of The Palm Hotel and Casino.

Said camel was in so much shock that she fainted.

"Darcy, what have I told you about fainting on the job?" a gnu appeared in the same uniform as the camel and began to chastise the unconscious mammal. "Excuse me?" Oscar asked the gnu who had not looked in his direction.

"One moment sir" the gnu informed the guest as he continued to look down at where the camel had fallen behind the desk. When the camel was not getting up anytime soon, the gnu turned his attention to the waiting guest.

And also fainted.

"Well, that's just rude" Oscar commented as he folded his arms across his chest. The fox prince took a sniff of himself and found nothing out of the ordinary. "I did remember to take a shower before I left the embassy and the staff at the shop said nothing".

“Perhaps, sir, it would be best to look up at the broadcast from ZNN?” Rook answered as he pointed out the obvious.

“Quoi?” Oscar asked as he watched the footage of his convoy’s departure from Magie du Chocolat in Savannah Central. [What?] The broadcast was normal until the convoy approached the entrance to the Lionheart Avenue Underground Extension which had its exit at Palm Street in Sahara Square. A streak hit the first SUV sending it onto its side and throwing up a shower of sparks as the other two halted. The two SUVs disgorged security forces who began to pour fire at the building the streak came from. Three units peeled away from the main attacking force to see what could be done about the SUV ostensibly containing the prince. Only to immediately back away as the vehicle brewed up as its fuel tank detonated.

The teletype had the text: Attack on Norwegian Prince Royal’s convoy. Prince Oscar feared dead.

“Glad we stopped at that fruit market for some watermelons” Rook chuckled as responding ZPD units who fired at the security came under immediate withering fire from the security escort. The position of the cruisers vanished in a cloud of dust and debris as a tracer streaked down from the sky.

Overlord, this is Hera. We are at the lobby of the hotel. Operation: Firestarter is a go. I say again, Operation: Firestarter is a go” Oscar informed General Boise as the mafia security came around the corner, a little out of breath.

Overlord copies your last. All units be advised. Operation: Firestarter is active. I say again. Operation: Firestarter is active” the broadcast went live.

“Firestarter?” the ambassador asked as he sat down in a plush lounge chair, suddenly feeling weak at the knees. To spare a long explanation, someone fired a deer tranquiliser into the cervid’s neck and he slumped in the armchair.

“Kevin, Raymond. Clear the 24th floor with your teams. Robert, Paul. You take the 25th floor with your teams. Francis, Charles. Clear the 26th floor. Albert, Greg. You guys have the 31st floor. Fred, George. You have the 32nd floor. James, Richard. You have the 33rd floor. Daniel, Thomas. You get the 34th floor. Edward, Sam. Break the servers on the 35th floor. Howard, Bruce. Your targets are on the 36th floor. Ivan, Quentin. Your targets are on the 37th floor. Get those hostages free. Rook, with me. We’re going up to the penthouse floors. Check your fire. We have goddamned civilians mixed in with our targets on the lower levels. If you can, bring them in alive. If they resist too much, you’re weapons free. Clear?” Oscar unrolled a blueprint drawing of the outside of the hotel tower and pointed out where the teams would go. The ex-Spetsnaz team were currently in the air looking, for all intents and purposes, like the Finnish skydiving team as they practiced their moves. They would land on the helipad and secure the roof.

Kevin and Raymond of the Tundratown mob would lead their teams to sweep the 24th floor where the Zootopia Trial Court Judges and the Chief Justice were staying incognito. They had the room numbers.

1Lt Robert Shaw and 1Lt Paul Young of 1st Battalion Army Rangers, Company A, would take care of the ZFD district chiefs and their security on this floor.

1Lt Albert Trueheart and 1Lt Gregory Morris of 1st Battalion Army Rangers, Company B, would take care of the corrupt ZPD district chiefs on this floor.

Floors 27 through 30 were the Bagnoli Family offices. There was no direct access from the lobby or the roof, and these were not marked on the building directory.

Secret Service Special Agents Frederick Wolford and George Fangmeyer would tackle this floor with Tactical Teams Four and Five from D.C. This floor held the rogue federal agents and would put up a mean fight.

James and Richard Cohen would assault this floor. No civilians would get caught in the crossfire and the ex-RUC wolves were free to use maximum force on the remaining terrorists from the airport.

FBI Special Agents Daniel Wolfex and Thomas Eldridge would lead Hostage Rescue Teams Alpha and Bravo. They had the dubious honour of taking on the numerous supporters of Zootopia Mayor Julia Swinton holed up here. Two notable crimes they all possessed were ballot stuffing and forging of federal documents.

CIA Technicians Edward Thornton and Samuel Winters would hack the mayor’s servers in the building to find her boltholes and hidden caches. The Wetworks team would protect them against reprisal.

Howard Cropus and Bruce Dahlgren from the Australian Security and Intelligence Service (ASIS) would take custody of a troop of marsupial fugitives who entered Animalia through forged travel documents. Both were red kangaroos with a mean temper and were known to kick suspects off high-rises.

Ivan Kono and Quentin Adams from MI-6 would link up with Jack Savage here and rescue the family members of the City Council held hostage to pass Mayor Swinton’s decrees.

Rook and Oscar would take on the mayor’s family who had long overstayed their welcome at The Palm Hotel. Abusive to both hotel staff and service workers, the swine would pray for deliverance as their hubris caught up with them.

“CLEAR SIR!” was the resounding call as the mammals dispersed towards their respective lifts. The hotel security would listen with deaf ears on the “disturbances”.

=====

DING!

Kevin and Raymond Koslov stepped out of the lift designed to hold twenty mammals with their chosen team. The two brothers nodded their heads wordlessly at each other and separated down the hallway to their targets. Kevin went left, Raymond right.

Wearing the conspicuous magenta suits of Palm hotel security, the teams went unnoticed by the vacationing mammals as these separated into partners of two. The closed suits also hid their body armour, just in case.

Kevin in position” Kevin radioed in as he knocked on the door of Executive Suite 2405. Louder, the polar bear called out to the occupants “Hotel Security. We have a noise complaint from another guest”.

“Look, I told your boss already that we’re not using the TV in here!” an exasperated female voice undid the security chain and opened the door. Kevin kicked in the door and the female goat went flying.

“You’re making a mistake!” a male goat bleated out as he placed a hoof in his travel bag and was in the process of drawing a pistol when he was shot between his eyes by Kevin. The goat dropped as the nanny goat tried to make a run for it and was dropped where she stood.

2405 clear. Both occupants terminated” Kevin radioed in as he checked the bathroom, breaking the locked door with a swift kick inward as he also shot the cowering Associate Justice Henry Romper in the bathtub. The sheep who was a giant in the courtroom died to a classic gangland style execution.

2411 clear. Occupants well-ventilated” Kevin’s brother radioed in.

Solid copy, fellas. Clear the rest” Citadel replied as the airborne controller had command authority.

====

DING!

“Good luck, guys. First platoon on me” 1Lt Shaw nodded to 1Lt Young as the platoons separated to clear their rooms. The four sets of Rangers were lucky enough to not run into civilians as these were enjoying the pools at ground level.

Hold up. Door ajar. Johnson, prep a nine-banger” 1Lt Shaw, callsign Badger One, held his left paw up and made a fist to halt the platoon. While simultaneously instructing one soldier of the platoon to prepare the experimental stun grenades.

Breach!” went the order and Johnson hurled the stun grenade inside as his platoon leader held the door shut. The pop-pop-pop-pop sound of the stun grenade swiftly followed by a squad of Rangers all screaming “HANDS! HANDS! SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!” at the occupants who laid face down on the carpet with their arms raised.

Second squad, move up to breach the next room. Go!” the lieutenant called out as the next door was kicked in and the second experimental stun grenade was tossed in.

To screams of “f*ck NO!” before the stun grenade detonated in the enclosed space. “GUN! WEAPONS FREE!” could be heard both in the corridor and on the radio as automatic fire sounded from the room next door.

Room clear. ZFD Chief Breaker is dead. Requesting a medic for Zulu Foxtrot Delta Captain Meadowes and Lieutenant Undertow” the voice of Corporal Rubeus Calles sounded over the airwaves.

Citadel copies your last. Medics headed your way now. Secure the rest” came the reply from the controller as 1Lt Young joined the broadcast. “Citadel, this is Aardvark One. Remaining chiefs in custody”.

Citadel copies. Reinforcements are Oscar Mike” the airborne controller replied as Blackhawk helicopters began to lift off from Fort Hamilton and Fort Drum.

“Keep those hands where I can see ‘em” 1Lt Shaw growled as the wolf brought out plastic zipties and secured the shamed ZFD captains.

One of them, a giant river otter, tried to bribe his way out and got pistol-whipped for his trouble.

=====

DING!

“These guys are armed and are supposed to have undergone stun grenade tolerance training. Take them out as clean as you can. Oorah?” 1Lt Trueheart informed 1st platoon of Company B, 1st Battalion Army Rangers. The bookish lion hoped his troops got home unscathed today.

“Oorah” members of first platoon declared as these filed out from the elevator and took a left turn. The lion had swiped two room keycards from the front desk and gave one to his second squad. The first keycard was to Room 3102 for Downtown and Rainforest chiefs Grunt and Stewart.

Lieutenant Trueheart inserted the card into the slot and turned the latch. The latch moved, but the door remained stuck.

“Breaching team, go!” the lion pulled back as Corporal Johnson attached a square of C4 and lit the fuse, the squad elements flattening themselves against the walls.

The door’s lockplate was destroyed as the C4 detonated, spraying the inside of the room with wooden and metal shrapnel.

“Throwing a flashbang” Pvt Foxglove called out as the cylinder was tossed in, detonating with a deafening bang.

The squad looked inside the main room and only Chief Stewart was inside, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the ram’s left temple. The loud volume of the television had masked both the C4 and the flashbang detonations as the ram was watching a S.W.A.T. episode of all things.

“Oi! Turn it down!” a voice yelled out from the closed bathroom door. “I want to hear the bell of room service”.

With quick paw gestures, two squad elements stacked up on the door and placed another charge. When this blew the door wide open, it led to a shocked and naked water buffalo to hold his hooves up in surrender.

Citadel, this is Romeo Two-One. Casevac required for Chief Stewart. Chief Grunt is in custody” the lion commented as another detonation was heard in the corridor.

Citadel, this is Romeo One-One. Chiefs Higgins and Trunkaby are in custody” came the voice of S/Sgt Winifred Humphries [Romeo One-One].

Solid copy, Romeo One-One and Two-One. Where is Mike, Tango, and Sierra?” Citadel answered, as the controller put forward the query. [Meadowlands, Tundratown, Savannah]

Update: Tango has surrendered downstairs to Hera. Mike got sliced by a 20, and Sierra is still kissing someone’s ass” Citadel continued as the Rangers let out an involuntary chuckle.

=====

“Chief Snarlov” Oscar sat across from the Precinct Four District Chief in a private lounge for high rollers at the Desert Café overlooking the casino floor. The hotel security now answered to the prince as these were all members of the two main crime families of Zootopia: Inyathi and Big. The Inyathis’ representative here took one look at the fox and swore the loyalty of his clan from Rainforest. The Inyathis were a crime family in name only as they ran the casinos of Sahara. The Moriartys had displaced them until the Big Family took out everyone in one attack.

The fox’s Kevlar helmet was on the table. He and Rook were supposed to take the service elevators to the penthouse, but the sudden arrival of one of the wanted mammals stayed his paw.

That soon became a moot point as Commander Krikov telephoned from the penthouse floors and the pigs had surrendered with only one shot being fired at the head of the most belligerent porcine: the mayor’s husband Alexander Steven Razorback. Once he fell, resistance ended, and the pigs were led to the roof at gunpoint where Blackhawks brought the twenty mammals in groups of four over to Fort Hamilton for processing.

“Your Highness” the polar bear chief for Tundratown answered with head bowed as he worried his peaked cap between his paws.

“Here to surrender?” the fox asked as the polar bear nodded wordlessly. “Why should I accept?”

“I have a cub. Thinks the world of me. He’ll enter the Academy in two years’ time and wants to be like his old mam” Chief Snarlov answered softly.

“And if I arrest you, it will kill his chances as his name becomes anathema to public service” Oscar said what the polar bear was thinking.

“Yes, Your Highness” the polar bear replied as he continued to look at the table with sadness.

There was a sudden burst of static that made Oscar wince. “Overlord, what?” Oscar asked the Pentagon controller. “Where is she? Meadowlands? Can we get her with a surgical strike and pin it on extremists? Fine. I will wait for her to make an appearance here on Friday. She won’t be able to run. Hera out”.

“Chief Snarlov, who is your second-in-command?” Oscar asked the polar bear who had tried to listen in to the broadcast.

“Political appointee from the mayorrrrrr” Chief Anton Snarlov growled out at the hopelessly ill-prepared porcine who was never on time, flagrantly abused his connection with the mayor, and made goldbricking an Olympic event. “Douglas Swinton”.

“That will work” Oscar smirked as the fox prince moved to Chief Snarlov’s right side and tapped his leg. “How deep are you in with the Bigs?” Oscar whispered as the polar bear leaned down.

“Same as everyone in Tundratown, Your Highness. Why?” the bear whispered back. The arctic shrews never conducted business with him, it was always with his deputy. Oh…

Oscar smirked as the proverbial light bulb finally came on for the polar bear.

“There is a price for my silence on this matter. Testify against Julia Swinton in federal court on corruption and nepotism. I will retain the Fleece, Dehm, and Drey law firm to be your defence attorney” Oscar informed the bear who shuddered at how high the price would be.

Until he relaxed as he had files on how dirty the mayor truly was. It was stored with one Theodore Lionheart at the Lionheart law firm in Chicowgo.

“Pending the resolution of a federal inquiry, you are suspended from your position as chief of Tundratown. Because of the powers granted by the ongoing special operation, I am afraid to say that you are under hotel arrest. Rowan” Oscar informed the polar bear who nodded sadly at his loss of position and prestige, before the fox beckoned a caribou forward in the concierge uniform. “Mister Snarlov, this is Rowan. He will be your liaison with me as you are to be held incognito until the investigation is over” the caribou nodded his head as held out a keycard for the polar bear to take.

“Come Mister Snarlov, I shall take you to your room on the 42nd floor. His Highness has expressed a desire to keep you close” the mule deer tugged at the polar bear’s right arm, making the ZPD officer stand up.

“Rowan, have the tailor come by later. I will introduce Mister Snarlov to my family when they arrive tomorrow morning” Oscar informed the caribou.

“Of course, Your Highness” the caribou bowed as he led the polar bear away.

“I so wanted to clear the penthouse in a two-pronged assault” Oscar mumbled as the ex-Spetsnaz team had managed to refrain from killing everyone.

The penthouse floors needed to be deep cleaned as it had become a literal pigsty.

“We could always join Bruce’s team as they apprehend the arms dealer and his cronies” Rook suggested as a cheetah waiter brought a cup of cappuccino for the prince.

“Thank you, Chip” Oscar informed the cheetah who bobbed his head. “What time is the fireworks display tonight?”

“Around 7 or 8pm, Your Highness” the cheetah bowed deeply. “Should I call the Head of Housekeeping in?”

“May as well” Oscar sighed as he reached into his suit jacket and brought out the RSVPs he had been ignoring as the operation went live. Breaking open the seal of this one from the Swedish royal family, Oscar gave a soft chuckle as the family were sending in Princess Tildie, with her escort, as their representative. The princess would undoubtedly try and woo Oscar.

A series of soft knocks sounded on the closed door of the suite. The lone tiger on Oscar’s Zootopia security team, Gregory Jackson, opened the door to admit a quivering wallaby in a frock coat and long skirt.

“Good afternoon, Your Highness. I am Mary Wallace from Outback Island” the wallaby curtsied and introduced herself.

“Good afternoon, Miss Wallace. As of this morning, I was granted control over the hotel and others like it as the majority shareholder. While I do admit that these are trying times, is there anything you would want to make the lives of your staff better?” Oscar replied in kind, querying the wallaby on what she wanted.

“Get rid of the pigs on the penthouse floors and the staff will like you even more. Those “relatives” have destroyed most of the fixtures there and have been blaming us for their own carelessness” the wallaby managed to not yell out at her new boss.

“They surrendered to my other security team on the roof deck. Nary a shot fired. You and the rest of Housekeeping can go up now. Bring Maintenance with you and send me the bill for all the parts that need replacing or refurbishing” Oscar informed the wallaby who clasped her paws together and proclaimed “The Lamb is Good” as she looked skyward.

The wallaby then proceeded to do another curtsy as she bustled out the private lounge with renewed energy that was infectious as the casino floor manager was shown in next and the cape buffalo snorted.

“Mister Alan Inyathi the Fourth, pleasure to make your acquaintance. Your Highness” the buffalo bowed low to the fox royal before straightening up.

“Please have a seat, Mister Inyathi. Have you have been informed that the investment company B.B.I.G., Incorporated has seen me become its majority shareholder” Oscar informed the cape buffalo as he gestured for the large herbivore to take the chair that Chief Snarlov had sat in.

“There have been whispers for months that a royal would finally come and take charge once again of the company. The Inyathi family will be most pleased that it is you, Your Highness” the cape buffalo nodded his horned head in approval.

“Do you wish to retake your old properties in Rainforest?” Oscar asked as he motioned Rook to come closer. The lands were being held in receivership until a suitable claimant could be found. It being the federal government, the lands were being left to rot.

“We would like those properties back, Your Highness. However, the federal government has blocked us at each turn. Demanding more paperwork than what is necessary” Alan Inyathi the Fourth answered.

“Your phone, Your Highness” Rook placed down the cellular with a preset number being dialled.

Good afternoon, Bureau of Land Management. Kim speaking” a male voice came out of the phone’s loudspeaker.

“Good afternoon, this is His Royal Highness Prince Os-” Oscar greeted the mammal on the other end.

Your Highness! What can I do for you?” the bored tone of the mammal on the other end suddenly became exceedingly eager. It called to mind an extremely excitable puppy.

“I am calling regarding a few land purchases that I would like to investigate. Perhaps I could turn it into some low-cost housing for the homeless of Zootopia or a business centre. Still haven’t decided yet” Oscar spoke to the BLM representative. “I know it is getting late and I apologise if you have to stay behind on my behalf. I can always continue this conversation on the next business day”.

Your Highness. I am BLM Director Nicholas Kim. I do not mind staying behind if you are looking at some land purchases. What properties are you looking for?” the voice, now identified as Director Kim from the Bureau of Land Management, asked.

“It would be best if you could, perhaps, send someone to Zootopia with some picture books. I am afraid that I know very little of the zoning laws. I usually just point at something, and it gets delivered” Oscar answered the BLM director who hummed in response at the prince’s naivete.

Tell you what, Your Highness. I can fly up there with the president as we are going to be talking about some idle lands anyway. Please expect us to arrive at The Palm Hotel by, where was that Post-it, 10:30AM tomorrow” Director Kim answered, making the cape buffalo at the table raise his eyebrows.

“Very well then, Director Kim. Should I prepare brunch or just regular lunch?” Oscar humoured the BLM head.

That’s up to the president and his staff should have notified the embassy about the changes. I can bring some files so we can all look at the lands. How does that sound, sir?” Director Kim replied over the line. Alan Inyathi enthusiastically nodded his head.

“That sounds perfect, Director Kim. I shall have to check what the suites were and have my staff forward these to the White House. Thank you” Oscar complimented the mammal on the phone who got even more excited.

You won’t regret the purchases, Your Highness! Also, may you put down the phone? I’d rather not have Jobsworth get on my case about protocol again” the director answered, and requesting that Oscar put down the phone, which he did.

“Alan, kindly inform the restaurant staff at the mid-level to prepare for lunch with the Animalian president. I also want you to join me when I talk with Director Kim. Your family knows their old lands best, after all” Oscar let the cape buffalo know who to inform and to be ready to represent the prince’s interest tomorrow.

“Of course, Your Highness. I shall meet with you in time for the president and his director to arrive. May I?” Alan Inyathi informed the prince as he gave a small bow as he stood up. Oscar obligingly turning his back so the cape buffalo could escape.

“Time to call the embassy and figure out if our lunch is a formal affair” Oscar informed Rook who tapped in the number to call Viscount Lumley.

“Rook, who input the numbers into that phone? Second question, where did you get that phone?” Oscar asked as it was highly unlikely that he was thinking about land and the phone could anticipate that change.

“I do not know, Your Highness. It was on my nightstand in the guard quarters of Buckingham Palace” Rook answered as the call connected with the viscount.

“Good afternoon, Uncle Nick” Oscar informed the viscount through the handheld.

Oscar! The Crown Prince and I were just talking about you! Do you know why we are essentially confined to quarters? Princes William and Harold are getting restless in the embassy compound” Viscount Lumley answered the phone in a jovial mood.

“Sorry about that Viscount Nick. Is Uncle Charles there?” Oscar asked as he rubbed his forehead with his brown-gloved paw.

Why yes. Your uncle is present as we watch the news. What’s left of it. Did you have anything to do with that?” Viscount Lumley asked over the line.

“Operation Firestarter went into effect, and it will cleanse the rot from the city. Just stay in the embassy until tomorrow morning and eighty-nine percent of the objectives will be completed by then” Oscar informed the viscount, who sighed out loud.

Oscar, will your birthday celebration still push through as planned?” Prince Charles asked, displacing the ambassador.

“Very much so, uncle. Quite a few heads of state are flying in tomorrow and the Animalian armed forces will be securing everything” Oscar answered with a bit of levity.

Do forgive an old mammal his worry then, Oscar. Good evening” Prince Charles closed the line with a click.

Oscar disconnected the call and began to scroll through the contact list.

Hera, this is Citadel. How copy, over?” Oscar heard over his dangling earpiece and stuck it back in his right ear.

Citadel, this is Hera. Go ahead. Reading you five by five” Oscar replied to the AWACS controller’s query.

Hera, be advised. Only Pink Queen and Pink Knights remains in play. All other pieces are off the board” Citadel informed Oscar that only three pieces remained to be taken into custody. These were the Queen herself (Julia Swinton), ZPD Chief of Savannah Central Albert Whiskers, and ZPD Over-all Chief John Coffee. Both the ZPD district chief and the over-all one were not present in the hotel, but their bags were.

Solid copy, Citadel. Pink Queen will be desperate without her pawns and officers. Expect an appearance at the party” Oscar replied to the AWACS as Rook chuckled beside him.

=====

Inside her private office at City Hall, Mayor Julia Swinton clutched at the string of pearls around her neck. She had watched the footage, that ZNN and Fox News claimed to be, from an independent newscaster up till the camera toppled over and showed the masonry lip of a building opposite where the prince’s SUV had been hit.

“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Why did I believe that those idiots from Meadowlands could perform at the same level as Precinct One? Those glorified code enforcers can’t tell the difference between a conmammal and a disguised soldier” the porcine muttered to herself as the footage cut out with ZPD units firing on the dismounted security teams, getting themselves cut down in the process.

Most especially when streaks of light came down from the sky and pummelled their blocking position at the entrance to the tunnel. The screen soon went black, ZNN anchor Peter Moosebridge going so far and calling it “A dark end to the new royal”.

To top it all off, no one was picking up her calls.

She really regretted listening to her husband when he said that all the chiefs needed to stay quiet or be caught when the federal government began looking for scapegoats to pin the assassination on.

Excuse me, Madam Mayor?” the intercom buzzed on her desk, startling her and drawing attention away from the muted flatscreen TV.

“Yes Jeannie?” the sow hastily trotted over and slapped one of her trotters on the button to answer.

“You have a call on Line 1, Ma’am. From The Palm Hotel” her secretary, Jeannie May, informed her.

“Put it through. You can have the rest of the day off. See you on Monday” Mayor Swinton replied as the call rang on her desk phone.

“Of course, Ma’am. See you on Monday. Have a happy weekend” Jeannie May replied as the intercom shut off and, presumably, began to pack her things.

“Julie baby. I didn’t know that the Finnish Army had a skydiving team. They’ve landed on the roof (of the hotel) and Mikey (Michael Swinton) intercepted them. I’m going up myself to see if I can get an autograph. Wish me <Roarssian voices and gunfire with the sounds of shattering glass mixed in with the screams>” her husband’s voice could be heard on the line, before the sounds, and a clattering noise after as the phone fell onto the marble floors of the upper penthouse.

“Alex? Alex? ALLLEEEEXXXX!!!” Julia Swinton screamed into the phone as heavy steps approached. “ALEX, ARE YOU OKAY?!” she continued to scream into the transmitter of the phone.

“Ty sleduyushchiy” Mayor Swinton heard a Roarssian voice speak over the phone before it was hung up. [You are next] A chill descended on her as she dropped to her knees, the phone fell from her right manual trotter to bang against the legacy oak desk.

The Brothers Wilde - Chapter 27 - Cmdr_Xavier (2024)

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