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Saturday, September 10th, 2016 05:52 pm
Summary:(Star Trek and Zootopia crossover) Judy Hopps doesn't do diplomacy. Nick Wilde doesn't do Away missions. Both of them are going to have to make up for what the other lacks if they're going to survive Draconis and maybe save Captain Bogo while they're at it.

Sequel to "the map that leads to you". Features Judy firing big guns, Nick sassing everyone and romance on a planet where reptiles are the dominant species and mammals are not.

Rating: T
Genre: Gen, slices of romance, sci-fi
Warnings for: Fantastic racism, if Nick had a tombstone it would read "dead from deadpan", STAGGERING LEVELS OF COMPETENCY
Disclaimer: If I owned both Star Trek AND Zootopia, I would be paying other people to write this.


Judy Hopps had made many sacrifices when she enlisted for Starfleet. She had left her home planet of Zootopia for several years, she had risked her life on Away missions constantly, and she had to wear dress uniforms at diplomatic functions.

Including this diplomatic function on Draconis. Judy wasn't suited for diplomacy - that was why she had joined Security, instead of Communications as was typical of rabbits with good ears. That diplomacy wasn't for her was especially clear to her now she was holding herself in a parade rest position, even though Starfleet hadn't been a military organisation for quite some time. The alternative was fiddling with her tight skirt and Bogo had already glared at her twice. He hadn't crossed his arms yet while asking Senator Rindja about the status of the Crurotarsi delegates, so that was a good sign.

Or maybe that was because Senator Rindja had already turned his attention to her, also drawing Captain Bogo's attention. Now more than ever it was apparent they were matched in height - komodo dragons were of a size with cape buffaloes. "I am sorry," the Senator said, and Judy tried not to stare as his forked tongue flicked out on the word "sorry". "It must be warm for you. Temperature is important for Draconians, because we are not - ah, there is no word for this in our language, nor yours. The word in Standard is warm-blooded." The default male voice set on the universal translator and the Senator's voice overlapped in a disconcerting manner on the use of the same word.

"Oh it's not a problem sir!" Judy hastened to assure, but Bogo had cut in.

"Ensign Hopps, perhaps you can check in with the perimeter guards." When Judy reached for her communicator, he clarified, "In person."

It was probably undignified to let her ears droop. But Senator Rindja probably wouldn't notice, seeing that Draconians in general didn't have ears. The closest equivalent Judy could think of was Senator Plumi's impressive crest that could shift with mood, but that was neatly tucked away now under the collar of his all white outfit.

As she left the ballroom, Judy tried to remind herself perimeter duty was where she should have been anyway, if it wasn't for her counterpart on the diplomatic team. Command had noticed that the meeting was dominated by the larger size lizards, and Senator Plumi was the largest for his species type, the basilisk lizard. Unfortunately, the Away team member in the same weight class that could be spared was Judy.

She probably ought to check in with Delgato now - that was probably what the Captain meant. She'd meant to just pass through the foyer where guests were still trickling in. There were an impressive number of mammals and reptiles milling around here, with the contrast of Starfleet's dress uniform red and the Draconian's white the most eye-catching against the greens that Draconians enjoyed in their decorations.

Judy still picked out Nick's pointed ears and relaxed grin from her vantage point at the top of the stairs leading to the ballroom. Even in dress uniform, Nick somehow looked as relaxed as he did in his favourite green button up. (Judy would never say this to his face, but she preferred the dress uniform. It did something to the line of his shoulders that made him look dashing.)

Well, the Captain had never mentioned that she should only check on one perimeter. There was a perfectly good security perimeter where the guests were being screened.

Target acquired, Judy bounded her way through the crowd, dodging larger Draconians and bounding over the smaller ones. Someone might have shouted a complaint, but she didn't understand and she didn't care right now.

Nick turned as she drew near, somehow picking up her presence. He faked a gasp. "Bogo threw you out already? Quick, what's the time now? I need to see if I can collect on my bet."

"Har har." She squinted at him. "You didn't actually bet on me, did you?"

"Your universal translator's still on, Carrots."

She tapped it off then repeated, "You didn't actually bet on me, did you? Because I can think of things with longer odds, like how you ended up on this mission."

"How else would I be able to get you any presents for your birthday? Unless you really don't mind something from the replicator, that can still be arranged. I don't bet on things that I actively try to avoid, like the plague and Claw when he's low on sugar. I'm here under duress, just like you are."

"You're just saying that so I won't get mad at you." But she was already grinning as her spirits lifted. This was why she had come here. "Sly fox."

"You know you love me." His voice was playful, but that didn't explain the tingle it gave Judy when Nick had said that right in her ear, as if he were on Comms back on the USS Integrity rather than next to her on an Away mission. Luckily for the both of them, Nick stepped away the very next moment. "However. I am a very important Comms officer doing very important Comms duty right now. And I will betcha you aren't here to help me calibrate the universal translators for the guests."

"I'm here to give the guests a non-sarcastic option in collecting their translators. I hear there's a fox with a very sharp tongue that's handling that important role right now."

"Oh you're definitely the non-sarcastic option, because the guests don't know enough Standard or Zootopian languages to pick up on your sass."

"I can totally be polite in Draconian!"

"Uh huh. You don't have the tongue for it, Fluff."

"What do tongues have to do with anything?" This was a public venue, so Nick was likely being serious instead of referring to what they did with their tongues in their free time. Maybe. Probably.

"See, languages that evolved on Draconis have a common feature - they involve tongue flicks to convey emphasis, emotion, and sometimes to convert a word to its polite form. Your tongue is too short to do a convincing flick, Carrots." Then his grin sidled to the salacious. "I've enough experience to know."

She was not going to blush in front of gathered dignitaries who wouldn't pick up on the double meaning of Nick's words. "As if your tongue is long enough."

Nick let his tongue loll out, even though it made him look like he was sticking his tongue out at her. Judy stuck out her tongue right back.

"Is everything alright?"

Although the question had been posed in Standard, Judy turned to find that they'd been addressed by S'ken Waran, Head of Security for Draconis and a Commander equivalent in Starfleet from the number of medals he had pinned on his black uniform. Judy couldn't read reptile features that well, but Waran's head tilt as he looked at them would have signalled confusion on a mammal.

And hopefully just that. Judy had flashes of trying to explain to Captain Bogo that she'd started a diplomatic incident because she'd stuck out her tongue at Wilde, sir, he did it first, sir, no she did not have the mental maturity of a 5 year old, sir, all evidence to the contrary.

While Judy was so occupied, Nick who had no sense of shame at all had already replied, "Everything's good." Then he went into a series of sibilant hisses and clicks that Judy had been told was typical of Draconian language.

Waran threw his head back such that it showed off the white of his neck, a contrast to his dominant green and yellow dotted stripes. The way he had opened his mouth read to Judy like he was laughing in response, but unlike a mammal there was no sound. When he looked back at them his voice was friendly without any hint of amusement. "They did not joke when they said you spoke our language well."

"I've had time to practise. It's been a while since Draconis began negotiations to join the Federation. Your Standard isn't shabby either."

"With luck, tonight all the hard work will pay off when Draconis' membership is formally signed. If there anything I can help with, let me know." Waran looked straight at Judy then. "That includes you, Ensign Hopps. Is there anything I can help with for the task Captain Bogo assigned you?"

Judy didn't know why the polite request had Nick scowling, but she hoped mammal expressions were just as hard for reptiles to read. She smiled, just in case it helped. "It was just a simple request really, I'm checking in with the other officers on the perimeter guard."

"Then I will go with you. Perimeter duty is important."

Judy's first hint that Nick was up to something was when his scowl cleared as if it hadn't been there at all. "Perimeter duty is oh so important," said Nick. "And while you're at it, can you pick up the guest list I've been asking for the past, hmm, hour or so?"

"Starfleet already has a guest list."

"Oh silly me, how could I have overlooked this?" He tugged his ears flat against his cheeks that pushed his contrite expression to the comic. "Only that doesn't explain why I've been hearing Gekkota all evening when they weren't invited, and no one will tell me if the Crurotarsi have sent any last minute delegates. But I'm just a dumb Zootopian who doesn't understand how much you hate the Crurotarsi, what do I know? I'll just recalibrate the universal translator to make Gekkota one of the defaults – "

Nick's spiel was cut short when Waran's tail lashed the floor hard enough to create a whip-like sound. The way Waran was staring at them made Judy categorise his current stance as pissed off. It didn't help that his tongue was flicking out more often, and that his tongue flicks were echoed by some of the nearby Draconians.

He spat an open-mouthed hiss at Nick, who merely pointed in response. Waran snapped, "Tsiny!"

A Draconian chameleon that had made himself the same shade as the drapery shifted his skin and clothing colours to a black that matched Waran's uniform. He surveyed the area that Nick had pointed out, where Judy had heard the shout she didn't understand, then opened his mouth.

Judy had expected hissing - she didn't expect a pink tongue to shoot out to ridiculous lengths. She'd barely had time to register the tongue was longer than a pangolin's before the chameleon's tongue was back in his mouth. He spat into his palm, and a shrieking reptile the size of a mouse came out covered in saliva.

Judy tucked both herself and Nick behind a pillar as black uniformed reptiles surrounded Tsiny and his captive. She whipped out her communicator. "Delgato, it's Judy. Crurotarsi spotted in the reception area. Judging from the reaction of Draconis' security, the Crurotarsi were not invited."

"We've been asking if the guest list was right all night," growled Delgato. "Are you with the Captain?"

"Negative. He sent me to check on the perimeter."

"I'll send someone else. You get back to the Captain and bring him to our Security area."

"On it." She thumbed the communicator off, and turned to Nick. "Did you spread the word?"

"Everyone's been told about the domestic dispute. Captain's not checking his comms."

"He was talking to the Senators, he wouldn't interrupt the conversation to check his comms."

"Then we'll have to bring the message to him."

The advantage of being in Security was that Judy got to keep weapons on her person, though it was a phaser instead of her preferred rifle. She powered up the phaser as she surveyed the scrum and the guests that were being ushered to the side. "Do you want to grab your phaser?"

"I'm not sure where Spots over there put it," said Nick, jerking a thumb at Waran. "I'll be more useful keeping an ear out for the Crurotarsi. It's up to you to defend my virtue, Hopps."

"Har har," said Judy, but she switched on her universal translator so she could hear which were the safe zones based on what Waran was snapping to his security. "The staircase to the ballroom has just been cleared."

They dashed back the same way Judy had come, though there were fewer reptiles to avoid now. A glance at Judy's Starfleet badge was enough to have the newly installed guards in front of the ballroom door step aside.

Once in the ballroom, Judy kept her phaser down low but at the ready. The delegates still mingled as if unaware of the commotion outside, though she supposed some of their security must have briefed them already. Captain Bogo and Senator Rindja were immediately apparent as the tallest in the room.

There was a light touch on her paw, which nearly made her bring up her phaser. The close proximity of Nick had her holding her stance.

"Stop standing as if you want to shoot up the place," he cautioned. "Walk with me, Carrots."

He angled himself so the guests they passed couldn't see Judy's phaser, even though she was keeping it at the ready. Once they got to Captain Bogo, he kept himself between Judy and Senator Rindja.

"Captain," said Judy. "We've spotted an uninvited member from the Crurotarsi faction. We suggest you come with us until we have a clearer view of the situation."

Bogo glanced at Judy's ready phaser, though his expression didn't shift. Instead he said to Senator Rindja. "It seems the Crurotarsi still have an interest in the agreement."

Rindja smiled. Judy preferred Waran's method of showing his amusement. When Rindja smiled, she wasn't sure if it was his intention to show off his teeth with their sharp edges curved back for tearing flesh. "Ah, trespassers," said Rindja through the universal translator. "We can expect no better of the Crurotarsi."

"As far as the Federation is concerned, they're welcome to sign the agreement that involves their own planet," the Captain replied. "That has been our stance for years."

"On Draconis, when you reject an invite, that choice is final. By choosing not to come, they've rejected their right to sign the agreement."

"That depends on whether they were invited in the first place. Perhaps you'd like to take this time to check with your staff on these details." Bogo looked down at Judy. "Hopps, Wilde, with me."

Judy kept her eyes averted from Rindja's smile as she and Nick followed the Captain out the back way to the ready room for the guests. Fangmeyer and McHorn were already at attention, their communicators buzzing with updates.

It was Judy that Bogo turned to. "Ensign Hopps, report."

"Wilde and I saw a Crurotarsi agent who is now with Draconian security. It's unclear if he's acting alone. Delgato recommends heading to the Starfleet Security area."

"It won't be an easy walk," Fangmeyer added. "They've found about four bombs that weren't found in earlier sweeps that could hint at more Crurotarsi. We'll have to avoid these areas."

Bogo huffed his displeasure. "We don't have time for an obstacle course. Did any Starfleet officer verify the Draconian sweeps were clean?"

"We did our own. The Draconian type of sweeps were... unconventional. Maybe a squirrel could have followed them, but we don't have any on our ship. The Draconians let us have video feeds of the other checks."

"Video can be tampered with," said Nick.

"Much as I hate to agree with Wilde, things are starting to look too convenient. Fangmeyer, find us a clear route to the Security area. McHorn, weapons."

McHorn tossed Bogo a phaser rifle, and when Judy had holstered her phaser McHorn tossed over her personal rifle too. To Nick, McHorn said, "Delgato has all the weapons originally kept with the Draconians at his Security Centre. You'll be without a weapon until we get there."

Having completed her checks on her rifle, Judy shouldered it so she could offer Nick her phaser. "Here, you can have this."

Nick simply eyed it. "I can see you work in armory, with how casually you handle a loaded gun."

"The safety's on, you big baby."

"If I admit to being a big baby will you hold my hand?"

"There are some things I cannot unhear," Bogo rumbled. "And that's regretfully one of them. If you could kindly shut up, Wilde, and take the bloody phaser."

"Don't be jealous, sir, you can hold my hand too."

"I said shut it!"

Nick winked at Judy as if it were all part of his plan, and took the phaser.

By then, Fangmeyer had finalised the route. "The corridor right in front of us is cut off, but if we take a right immediately after we'll be able to take a short cut through one of the function rooms."

"Alright team, let's move out. I'd like to get some answers before our hosts pre-process them like the appetisers served earlier."

McHorn left the room first, horn tilted down to clear any potential enemies blocking the way. Fangmeyer and Captain Bogo followed. Judy and Nick took up the rear behind the Captain - anyone coming from behind was likely to try an ambush that Judy had the speed to avoid.

Unlike the foyer, the corridor they exited to was white, with more reptiles in black uniform moving along them. They eyed the guests as they moved past. One reptile even swiveled his eye so he was still looking at them long after he passed them. Judy resisted the urge to look back, even though she felt the reptile's gaze until they ducked into the function room Fangmeyer had mentioned.

Function room might have been a misnomer. The room had been an architect's reinterpretation of a jungle in concrete and glass. In each corner of the room, a fountation gurgled.

Nick paused long enough for Judy to glance at him. "What's wrong?"

"Please tell me those fountains are decorative and aren't linked to any rivers."

"Why should they be?"

"Why should they be, of course they shouldn't be, who builds convenient doors for their enemies to come in?"

"Nick -"

The splash of water, Fangmeyer's yell and the snap of bone must all have happened at different times, but to Judy they all blended together into one awful sound. At the sound she brought up the rifle and shot with her phaser set on stun. Her shots spluttered as uselessly off the crocodile's hide as McHorn and Bogo's shots. She changed the setting -

A growl, twisted by an alien throat to boom as Judy had never heard before, filled the room. She swung her rifle towards the new threat, getting between it and Nick.

Armed crocodiles in uniforms that were any other colour but black had filed into the function room. She knew them from her briefing notes. They were part of a faction that had called themselves the Crurotarsi in their dealings with the Federation.

The largest, larger than even the crocodile that still had Fangmeyer's leg in his mouth, stepped to the front of the group. He held up his hands to show he was unarmed. "He was only acting on orders," he said in halting Standard. "If you must shoot someone, shoot me."

"I will if you don't let my officer go," said Bogo, his own rifle trained on the head crocodile.

"Don't you want to know what we want?"

"After your introduction I'm inclined to say no on principle. Let my officer go and I might reconsider."

"It will go better for you if he remains in his current position for now." The head crocodile paused, as if listening to something from his headphones. "I've been told if your officer keeps struggling, he will lose his leg. Please order him to stop."

Despite his blood flowing thick enough to mask his stripes, Fangmeyer grit out, "Leave me, Captain. Get out while you can."

"Stay still, Fangmeyer," said Bogo without a twitch out of his firing stance. "Whoever you are, hurry up with your demands before you lose your bargaining chip to blood loss."

"We'd like you to be our guest for three days."

"You should have sent me an engraved invitation a week ago."

"You will also not sign the agreement on behalf of the Federation until the three days are up."

"Why would I agree to either of those?"

"If you have no reservations about the agreement you were about to sign, you may turn around and leave. We will then respond as we see fit."

Judy kept her rifle at the ready. Her response would depend on the captain's response.

"My officers leave first, without any further injury."

The head crocodile gestured, and Fangmeyer was unceremoniously released. McHorn dropped his stance to prop Fangmeyer up and keep him off his injured leg. That left only Judy and the Captain with their rifles trained on the leader.

Then it was only Judy when Bogo lowered his rifle.

"Captain."

"Back down, Hopps."

"I don't think it's a good idea, sir."

"McHorn won't be able to defend Fangmeyer alone. Wilde, I assume your communicator would be on."

"Wouldn't dream of turning it off."

McHorn and Fangmeyer hobbled out the way they'd come. Judy held her ground.

"Hopps, that was a direct order! This isn't the transporter!"

"How you do know, sir?"

Her stance didn't waver, not even when Nick stepped closer. "It isn't," he murmured, low enough that the universal translator didn't filter his words to Standard. "You'll need five shots on the highest setting to make it stick. Walk with me, Carrots."

Judy knew her own rifle like the back of her hand. She could navigate the sixteen settings blindfolded, with the highest setting being the easiest because she just had to spin the dial all the way to the end. She had pretty good scores in markmanship, and the head crocodile was a target in clear line of sight.

But five shots would still take time, unlike yanking a part out of a transporter to disable it. The safety of both Captain Bogo and Nick depended her doing the right thing, and they'd made it clear they thought that the right thing should be retreating.

Judy backed her way out of the room, rifle still trained on the crocodile making the demands and keeping pace with Nick by her side. She was sure the mouths of crocodiles happened to be shaped that way, but the head crocodile's toothy grin still had her back up at its smugness.

She'd barely cleared the door when it slammed shut in her face, cutting off the Crurotarsi and Captain Bogo from her line of sight.


In the corridor Fangmeyer's bitten leg gave way, leaving a streak of red against all the white. As McHorn checked the injury Judy re-orientated herself to cover the door and have a clear view of both ways in the corridor, just in case the Crurotarsi changed their minds despite holding Chief Bogo captive. Nick tucked himself next to Judy, his attention on a PADD he'd pulled from his bag. Judy called over her shoulder to McHorn, "How bad is it?"

"Crushed. Like that time with Delgato and the trash compactor."

"Never thought I'd end up a chew toy." Fangmeyer's voice was weak, but at least he was coherent.

Judy spared a glance behind her and saw McHorn had started on a field tourniquet. While he worked, he said, "Seems like we'll be changing your call sign, Chewie."

"Better than being called trash."

Their cackling had Nick looking up from his furious tapping on his PADD. He seemed to regret it, his fur bristling before he looked away from all the blood.

"Chewie, you feeling stable enough to move out?" Judy called back.

"I've got one better," Nick cut in. "Bogo asked if my communicator is always on. It turns out his is – "

"So we can eavesdrop on their conversations?"

"Or we can see where the Crurotarsi are taking him this very minute."

Judy's spirits lifted at the prospect of rescuing Bogo. "Pretty sneaky Slick! Let's move Fangmeyer – "

"Can't," Fangmeyer grit out. "Call it in."

"Yeah," McHorn agreed as he worked on a make-shift splint. "We'll get him medical attention and see what assistance Delgato can send."

"Seems like it's Christmas for Delgato. One starship powered trace heading his way, courtesy of Clawhauser." Nick fiddled with his PADD. "Any more surprises to leave Delgato under his tree?"

"You think he has any surprises for us?" Judy wondered.

"Let's find out. Away Comms to Security Center, I've got news - the good, the bad and the ugly. Take your pick."

"Wilde, why is Captain Bogo moving away from his escort team?"

"That's the bad. The Crurotarsi decided the Captain had too many leave days and was due for a vacation in their neck of the woods."

"That isn't the kind of vacation we or the Draconians want to send him on."

With her universal translator still on, Judy could make out Draconian ranting in the background layered with Standard. " – as if our guards didn't get snapped right in half! Your Captain – "

"Is Hopps there?" Delgato spoke over the rant.

"Present!"

"We're sending a team to intercept, but you're still the fastest. Do what you can to stall them."

"Got it." She glanced at Nick. "Five shots was it?"

"On the highest setting. Level 10? Kill?"

Judy let Nick mull over the right name, focusing on the whine of her weapon as she turned it up to its highest setting, then put the safety on. "Where to?" she asked.

Nick handed her an earpiece. "I'll walk you through it."

"Don't lead me into any walls."

"That was just the one time, Fluff!" His next words came out doubled by the ear piece. "I already have photos of you running smack into the wall anyway."

She only had time to punch him on the arm before she broke into a run, but the joke already had her calming down. This was just like any other Away mission, she could do this.

"Straight ahead," said Nick in her ear.

"And right on till morning?"

"If you're hiding any fairy dust, now's a good time to get your Tinkerbull on."

"How far ahead are they?"

"Well, the way they're moving puts Bogo in a china shop to shame. Take a right here, Carrots."

Judy ducked down the corridor. "Warn me when I'm about to catch up."

"Two more turns and you should be right on top of them."

"Literally?"

"Do you need to be?"

"Where are they headed to?"

"To the boats. Crurotarsi have a thing for water."

"I have an idea. Guide me to the docks and let Delgato know where I'm headed."

"Copy that. Another right here, Carrots."

Judy ducked her head and ran flat out. She wasn't just intercepting the Crurotarsi now - she had to be ahead of them. The white corridor, disrupted now and then by a door or a turn, stretched ahead of her.

"Straight if you still want to intercept, left to the docks."

Judy could hear the pounding of feet in the T junction ahead, and the weight behind the footfalls. She thought about vantage points for firing down the T junction and the narrowing distance. She thought about Crurotarsi jaws and Fangmeyer's crunched leg.

She took the left and the white corridor gave way to brilliant sunlight. Along the wooden dock lay subdued guards, Starfleet and Draconian. "At the docks. No visible Crurotarsi. Going radio silent now."

"Got it. Stay lucky, rabbit."

Words that would have annoyed her in the past were what she held on to as she vaulted off one of the pier's posts to land directly in a boat. Without time to read up on Draconian boat designs, she adjusted her rifle settings and fired at anything that looked like it might house a motor or electronic controls. One of her targets sent up sparks.

Her warning came in the form of dual thuds. The boat listed and she saw a snout peek over the railing, before slit eyes above a flat snout peered at her.

She didn't linger, hopping to the highest point of the boat and using the Crurotarsi's attempt to capsize it to catapult herself to the next boat. Maybe she could rely on them to help her sabotage the boats.

Or not. One of the Crurotarsi guards had opted to clamber onto the boat now, slinking with belly low to the curved base. Judy knew to watch out for the snapping jaws. It was pure instinct that had her flattening herself to the bottom of the boat when she saw his tail lash towards her.

Unfortunately that left her on her back clutching her rifle as the Cruotarsi reared over her, drawing back up to an upright position. She didn't think she could leap out of its way without risking its jaws.

So she rammed her rifle settings to maximum and held her trigger down for five shots in succession.

She didn't see anything happen until the fifth shot, when the beam finally spilt the skin stretched across the guard's thigh. She didn't stop to see the full aftermath, choosing to use the opening to jump out of the boat.

Judy had used up her buffer. She saw Captain Bogo with the Crurotarsi, heading for the boat furthest away from the commotion she was causing. Bogo was unharmed, although his rifle was nowhere in sight and one of the Crurotarsi had a clawed hand on his shoulder. The head crocodile stood head and shoulders above them all, an opening for a lethal shot.

She could do it. Her rifle was on a setting that worked. Phaser rifle shots didn't lose power with distance.
But phasers were always set to stun on Away missions.

She slid the rifle back to the right setting for blowing up electronics and fired at the boat the Crurotarsi were headed to. A grenade would be good right about now, but beggars in dress uniform couldn't be choosers. Besides, her firing was more accurate after the first boat she wrecked. This time, she hit the same thing that sent up sparks on the first boat.

Unfortunately that got the Crurotarsi's attention. They turned their guns on her. Bogo's escort might have done the same, if Bogo hadn't rammed his shoulder against the escort. "Hopps, behind you!" He bellowed, keeping his escort's gun directed down.

Judy turned to see a Crurotarsi guard with his own gun aimed at her. She darted into another empty boat. Holes from metal bullets appeared in the side of the boat that let water trickle in. Well, at least they couldn't get away in this boat either. That almost made up for being outgunned.

She touched her earpiece. "Nick."

"Not sure you can look now, but you've got incoming friendlies."

She looked anyway, and managed to see the red of Starfleet uniforms before a new hail of bullets had her ducking again.

" – Don't get too trigger happy on them," Nick was saying.

That made her scoff. "As if! My aim is better than that." She started looking for better cover in the boat, somewhere thick enough that would give her more cover so she could fire without having to worry about being shot full of holes in return.

"That's not what Wolford said."

"Wolford needs to remember Sharla and I share a room before he opens his big mouth." From what she had been firing at in the first boat, she had a few ideas. She positioned herself now. "You think you could let the team know I'm shooting from a boat so I'm not the target of friendly fire?"

"On it. Hop to it, Hopps."

She popped her head up and fired as soon as she saw the Crurotarsi. Bullets thudded into the side of her boat, but she'd chosen her cover well. All she had to do was make sure no one shot her in the head.
Thanks to Nick none of the phaser fire was heading her way. She didn't like what she was seeing. The Crurotarsi had taken up firing positions that left lethal headshots as the only possible means of attack, including the guard that seemed to have made it his personal mission to take Judy out from a distance. From his cover on the docks, he shot more holes in the boat.

Water starting gushing in instead of trickling. She could switch her cover, but the guard probably wouldn't let her get to it. "Nick, what's Bogo's status?"

"Last I heard he was making a run for it. That's a lot more talking and a lot less fighting than I expected from you, Carrots."

"I'm kind of pinned down at the moment."

Nick faked a gasp. "No one puts bunny in a corner!"

She snorted. Nick, flippant until the last. "It's a tighter corner than I'm used to." Water was lapping at her heels. "A little wetter too. Can you swim?"

"I wouldn't advise swimming with alien crocodiles, Carrots."

"Nick. Can you swim?"

"Can I swim? Yes I can swim. Did you miss that class in Academy? You're going to have to wait until you get back to get some pointers."

"Yes, when I get back." Her jacket sleeve was getting wet, and not from scrubbing at her face. "When I get back, let's find a proper beach and go swimming."

There was a long enough pause that Judy thought the water had killed the connection. Then Nick was saying without a change in his tone, "I don't think that suggestion is good enough, Carrots. You didn't mention you wearing a bikini anywhere."

She was smiling. She was smiling and wasn't that why she made the call in the first place? "Sorry to disappoint, I don't own a bikini."

"Not an excuse. Did you know, Fluff, that the replicator does clothes too?"

Her laugh at the idea of Nick programming the replicator to make a bikini in her size was interrupted by the roar of a motor. Judy dared a peek and spotted Bogo and the head crocodile in a boat rapidly travelling down the river. Only Bogo was looking back - the head crocodile didn't even seem to care that the rest of the Crurotarsi were still on the dock, holding the Starfleet officers at bay.

Despite being in a sinking boat, Judy was still the closest. She repositioned herself and started firing after the boat.

Thuds against the bottom of her boat ruined her aim. She glanced over the side to find that the Crurotarsi had taken to the water, swimming away from the Starfleet officers that they'd pinned down earlier. Now and then one of them swam into the side of Judy's boat, as if to dissuade her from firing more shots.

Then her boat stopped rocking and the surface of the river was completely smooth again. There was no firing of any kind, whether from phasers or other types of guns.

Judy hopped back onto the dock, her dress uniform pattering water all over the wood. Bogo was out of range, and the Crurotarsi had sunk out of sight in the river.

She held a hand up to her ear piece and called it in. "Nick, they're gone."
 

The one good thing from the fight was that Judy had an excuse to change out of her now soaked dress uniform. She felt a little better about facing the interview panel in her usual uniform.

It was Nick's turn to look less comfortable now, with his dress uniform collar unbuttoned and tugged askew. Maybe he was just annoyed at being on the same panel as Commander Higgins, S'ken Waran and Tsiny. Comms officers weren't strictly needed for interviews, except for interviews conducted via universal translators. Judy was less certain about why Tsiny was here.

"So there was a time lapse between the Crurotarsi holding your officer hostage, and the Captain's attempt at the dock to escape," said Tsiny through the translator. He was now visible due to the yellow of his skin and clothes, as compared to the greens he had adopted earlier. "Why didn't he break free during this time?"

Maybe the real reason Comms officers had to be on hand was because translators alone were unable to pick up the accusation in that question. Judy struggled to stay polite when she replied, "I don't know what Captain Bogo was thinking. What I do know was that I chose to engage them on the docks because there was no cover in the corridors."

"Yet he wasn't able to escape despite the advantage that the docks provided. And now you are telling me your transporter cannot pick him up."

"We're interviewing Hopps now," Higgins grumbled.

"But that is a fact?"

"The Captain's comm signal disappeared over the river," Higgins replied, as if by rote.

"The river has always been kind to the Crurotarsi," said Waran.

Tsiny swivelled one eye to focus on Higgins, while keeping the other on Judy. "It seems to me that your Captain was counting on that. Maybe your Captain is a belly crawler after all."

"Tsiny!" Waran barked.

"We didn't measure their legs when they came down, did we? How do we know they are worthy of dealing with Squamata like us?"

"Since we're all speaking out of turn here, how about some mammal biology 101?" Nick piped up, not caring that the universal translator didn't pick up his tone. Or maybe he was counting on it. "See I couldn't help but notice this is a more natural position for Draconian limbs." He pressed his hand against the table with his arms crooked. "While mammals walk like this." He straightened his arm and locked his elbow. "Point is, you're already going to be measuring wrong. We aren't belly crawlers by your standards."

Both of Tsiny's eyes twitched down to glare holes in the paper in front of him. If Judy were to hazard a guess, she'd think he was sulking. Waran didn't seem to care, starting on his questions as if Tsiny was done with his.

"Ensign Hopps, I understand you saw the Crurotarsi that took Captain Bogo away. Do you think you could identify the leader?"

"I probably could if I saw him. I- I'm afraid I'm not very good with Draconian features."

"They don't deserve to be Draconians," Tsiny said.

"Ignore my colleague. Ensign Hopps?"

"Well, the head crocodile was the tallest of the Cruotarsi, taller than the Captain even. I'll put him at about four metres, maybe six including the tail."

Nick supplied the measurements in the local equivalent, turning off his translator so he could hiss and click at the Draconians in their language.

"That narrows it down," Waran noted. "Only a few of the Crurotarsi have reached that age and authority. Continue, Ensign Hopps."

"He was wearing a pair of grey headphones. I think he was using that to communicate with his men, because he seemed to have received an update on our injured colleague through that. There was a thick gold chain on his uniform, which was green."

"It's Vector."

"Vicious Vector," said Tsiny.

Judy had read about Vector in the briefing notes, but she hadn't matched the picture of the terrorist with the crocodile she had seen. How did Draconians tell each other apart?

"Now we know who took your Captain, we can start identifying the locations that he might be in. My officers – "

"We can discuss the search when we're done with Hopps' interview," Higgins cut in.

"Why waste time? We should start immediately."

"We should, but we will not start the search until we receive the list of Crurotarsi locations that Captain Bogo might be held in."

"Your men would not even know where to begin in narrowing the locations – "

"We might not know the Crurotarsi, but we can map locations! We can focus our search for Captain Bogo's signal, which is Starfleet technology best searched for by Starfleet officers who know how it works."

Waran whipped his tail to crack against the floor, an echo of what he'd done when the first Crurotarsi agent was found. "Beyond technology, my officers – "

The wall of the interview room exploded.

Judy dove for the only cover in the room, the table. Most of her interviewers had done the same, and Higgins' bulk left Judy shoved up against Nick. Only Waran had headed towards the bomb, dropping to all fours to move faster. His belly definitely didn't touch the floor.

Judy kept an ear out for more explosions, though Nick's quickened breathing was a tad distracting.

"Just like that time in the closet," he quipped.

"Wilde, stop ruining closets for everyone else," Higgins groaned.

"This is a table," said Tsiny, unconcerned about being crammed in with a bunch of crazy Zootopians.

"Yes. Doesn't Draconis have similar traditions as Zootopia involving tight spaces and – "

Judy clamped Nick's mouth shut between her paws. "I think it's clear, but I can't be sure unless you stop talking."

Everyone shut up. Judy listened, but other than running footsteps and murmured conversation everything else seemed to be fine. "Everything seems calm. I'm not sure if there are more bombs."

"Yes, Draconian security assured us there were no more." Higgins glared at Tsiny, who was wriggling out from the crush of Zootopians under the table.

Tsiny stood and dusted himself off before saying, "Accidents happen when defusing bombs."

Higgins too clambered out. "Starfleet will discuss this in detail after we get back to our Security Centre," he said as stiffly as he had removed himself from cover, before heading off. Judy leapt to follow, Nick a beat slower because Tsiny had tossed his universal translator at Nick, along with a few words in Draconian.

But Nick didn't catch up by the time Judy and Higgins stepped out of the room. Judy wondered if she should call Higgins back, but the stiff, annoyed posture of Higgins dissuaded her. Higgins could take care of himself. She was less certain about Nick, who hadn't drawn the phaser she'd lent him even once in all this time. He'd passed Academy, but so had a number of officers that had personal hang ups over weapons.

The interview room was empty of Zootopians, though there was Draconian security examining the blast site. Maybe one of them had left the other door ajar; maybe it had been Nick.

Hurrying past the exploded wall, she went through that door and found herself in one of the corridors Nick had guided her through earlier. On a hunch she tried the docks. The docks had been cleared of fallen guards, but it would take longer to clear the sunken boats, phaser marks and bullet holes. Nick was standing by the edge, looking down at the rushing river. As he had in the busy foyer earlier, he turned as she drew nearer.

"I don't know how you stand Away missions, Hopps. I wasn't expecting them to bring down the house literally."

His translator was off, so Judy tapped hers off too. "We only lost a wall."

"I generally like my houses with all four walls, a roof, maybe a white picket fence."

She elbowed him, chuckling. "C'mon, we can discuss dream houses when Higgins isn't freaking out over where we are."

"We're probably the least of Higgins' worries."

The way Nick was holding himself reminded Judy of the way he'd paused before Fangmeyer had his leg crunched. "What's wrong?" She took his arm, intending to guide him away from the river and any lurking Crurotarsi. He placed his paw over hers but didn't budge.

"You almost died twice and you still don't see what's wrong?"

"We can talk about what's wrong somewhere safer – "

"Safer isn't back that way, Carrots."

"For someone who was warning me about water earlier you're standing awfully near it."

"Right now I'd rather take my chances with an alien crocodile than with the Draconians in there."

The idea of Nick bloodied and injured left a sour taste in Judy's mouth as she said, "After Fangmeyer, I don't see how you can joke - "

"Tsiny's Draconian Secret Service, and he just happened to be lurking nearby when Starfleet were screening guests. They accused the Captain of being one of their enemies. Waran ran towards the bomb instead of away. And you want to go back in there."

"Where else is there to go? Are you going to call in a favour from Finnick and get yourself transported back to the Integrity?" She dropped her paw from his arm. There were times when she forgot Nick didn't do Away missions. The ship was where he belonged.

"Do you want that? I hope you remembered the carrot communicator, that would make it easier -"

"I can't just abandon my post!"

She only realised that she'd rejected his helping paw in the worst way when his expression went cold. "But I could, huh? Is that how you've been seeing me all along, Hopps? Were you just waiting for me to quit and run?"

"Nick, stop it. You're not like that."

"Aren't I? You're right, I wasn't planning on going back in there. I was planning on abandoning my post."

"Look, you're right and there's a lot of problems with the Draconians. But if we just go in and tell Starfleet – "

"Tell Starfleet what? What we've been saying for months? Telling them that we're not sure half of Draconis will be represented at the signing of their planet's agreement, but being told to go ahead anyway? Starfleet knows, and they put us here, right smack in the crossfire. Literally, in your case." He made a sweeping gesture at the phaser marks and bullet holes.

"Captain Bogo thought it was worth entering the fray in the first place."

"That's why he won himself a stay at Casa de Vector. Wherever that is."

"We're trying to get a list of locations – "

"Replace 'trying' with 'failing' and you'd have summed it up."

" – but what were you planning to do instead?"

"Oh, nothing that you'd want to do." Nick's tone was flippant, but the way his eyes were hooded showed he was still on his guard. "I was planning on making a quick trip to call in a few favours, find someone local who might give us a real list of Vector's locations."

"A quick trip, was it? Would it still be as quick with two?"

"It was fine the last time I went with Finnick."

"Do you think we have time to gear up?"

"We? Does the widdle bunny want to go on a field trip?"

"We," Judy insisted. His sarcasm got to her, but she could grin and bear it. "Fangmeyer was on my team, but now that he's injured I'm waiting to be reassigned. As long as I stay planet-side and get back before my reassignment, I should be able to go with you."

"Do you even know where we're going?"

"I've run into fights with no clue of what I'm getting into except for your voice in my ear. It's no different from what we already do on Away missions."

Nick's smirk reminded Judy of a plastic knife – brittle but surprisingly sharp if it was held the right way or snapped. "After you get your gear, we come back here for a boat. I hope you do actually know how to swim, Fluff."

"Why's that?"

"To show our goodwill when visiting the Crurotarsi, we go by water."

Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6