Cities in Peril

When Calatonia and Zootopia are in danger of facing an illegal recession, ZPD Officers Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde bring in Johnny on the case. But when he goes undercover, will he stay focus on the case or get distracted and put his families and friends and the cities into risk?


2. Catching Up

Ash was sweating heavily as she was rocking her electric guitar out. She was on a big wooden stage in a massive restaurant called the Tough Rock Bar. Containing no less than one hundred tables, the seating area was big enough to be an entire food court. Ash wasn’t alone; she was in a band with other porcupines. They called themselves The Rock Corns and she had been with them for nearly a year now. They saw her on TV when she sang her own song Set It All Free at the show she did at the Moon Theater while it was destroyed. Then they recognised her in a bar when she was trying to book a gig but the manager wouldn’t have her, who obviously didn’t see her performance. The Rock Corns, who actually did, took her onboard as the lead guitarist. She was honoured and she always did her best to be reliable, work hard and smart and give it her all. All they could get to perform was in bars and restaurants. They had tried to enter competitions to perform in concerts and get record labels to take them on board, but they didn’t impress them. On the bright side, Ash was able to earn enough to pay for food and rent for her apartment.

            Tonight the band was performing a song that Simon the lead singer wrote. Ash thought it was stupid but she kept on focusing on her guitar playing. She had tried writing a few more songs since Set It All Free, but all of the other porcupines were narcissist and stuck to their own songs that they wrote. When Simon’s song finished, the audience booed them and even threw their table scraps at them.

            The Rock Corns went into their dressing room. As they cleaned the food scraps of their clothes, they wondered what went wrong with their performance.

            “I know what went wrong,” Ash said. “You chose to stick to your own songs, Simon, instead of giving mine a go like you promised.”

            Simon approached her. “I am the lead singer of this band, Ash. I make the decisions here.”

            Simon reminded Ash a lot of her last ex-boyfriend Lance. Sometimes she even wondered if they were related to each other. “Don’t forget I wrote that song you guys saw me sing on TV.”

            “Oh, a diva!” cried Susan, the drummer.

            Ash knew that the Rock Corns were difficult since she joined them and had managed to tolerate them, but recently times grew tougher and they were becoming bigger divas. “No, no,” she protested. “All I’m suggesting is that we gave each other a chance to sing each other’s song.”

            “No wonder Lance chose Becky instead of you,” said Katrina, the keyboard player.

            That insult really crossed the line. Ash was still not over Lance cheating on her Becky and she never had a boyfriend since. “Gosh, you guys are so antagonising!”

            “You think I’m completely selfish?” Simon said. “Let’s take a vote, guys. All those in favour of kicking Ash out of the band?”

            Simon, Susan and Katrina put their hands up.

            “See, Ash?” Simon smirked. “I’m not so selfish after all.”

            Ash didn’t bother to wait for her turn to vote otherwise not because she didn’t stand a chance but because she had enough of them anyway. After she left the room with his guitar in its case, she took a deep breath. She started to wonder what was wrong with her. She wondered why the Rock Corns didn’t enjoy playing with her. She wondered why no one else wanted to take her on board. She still wondered why her ex-boyfriend Lance who cheated on her with Becky, who was still with him. This scarred her for life and made her vow to never have a boyfriend again. As she walked into the restaurant to exit, she wondered what she could do to keep paying her rent. She had only enough money for two months pay and she’ll be evicted if she didn’t find a way to make some more.

            Ash was so busy with her thinking that she didn’t realise she wasn’t focusing on where she was going when she bumped into a pair of blue jeans. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean – ” She looked up to see who she bumped into and was amazed to see who it was. Those blue jeans belonged to a young gorilla who also wore a green undershirt, a black leather jacket and dark blue shoes. “Johnny?”

            Johnny looked down. “Hey, Ash. How have you been?” Then he saw her guitar. “Are you playing here?”

            “Yeah. I just finished playing a song with a band but they just kicked me out.”

            “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

            “It’s all right,” Ash said. “I was never getting anywhere with them anyway. So, how are you doing yourself?”

            “I’ve been keeping myself busy myself,” Johnny said. “I’m actually working tonight. I’m out helping a group of special needs animals with their meals right here tonight. Want to join us if you haven’t got a lot on your plate tonight?”

            “Well, if you’re sure. I won’t distract you from working, right?” Ash wasn’t hungry or thirsty. It was because she had missed Johnny since the grand opening of the New Moon Theater and she knew seeing a friendly face wouldn’t solve her problems but it would be a great start to feel better.

            “Nah. It’s only volunteering.”

            Ash was still confused as she followed Johnny into the restaurant. He took her to the big table where a lot of animals were sitting down. He introduced her to the staff members and the animals that had the learning difficulties. Some recognised her from her TV performance and the rest didn’t, but they were all friendly and shook her hand. Then she sat next to Johnny. “So what’s this charity you volunteer for, Johnny?”

            “It’s called Homes for the Homeless, Ash,” Johnny explained. “It’s to help animals that are either homeless or can’t live on their own find a home and keep it.”

            Ash was impressed. “And what’s your volunteering role?”

            “I help out with the day and night activities,” he replied. “When I’m not volunteering for these guys, I also volunteer in an office for Peaceful Thoughts, a charity for animals with mental problems from babies to elderly, and I also volunteer for Tree Genies where I plant trees for those who need them the most.”

            “I’m impressed,” Ash said. “You’re doing better than me.”

            “Well, I haven’t got a paid job,” Johnny said. “I’ve been trying to apply for paying jobs, including paying jobs these charities offer, but I guess I’m not experienced enough. I’ve had to sell the garage my dad and I used to live in. And I’ve had to sell my pickup truck. It got me enough money to pay rent for the room this charity is letting me stay in. It helps me when I have to get up to help the tenants with their breakfast.

            “Also I’ve been trying to get to sing more as well. I’ve tried more singing competitions and tried to get to appear on an album, but I’ve had no success. However, Homes for the Homeless do karaoke so I still get to do my singing in that sense.”

            Ash really enjoyed listening to this. She wished one of the boyfriends she ever had been more like Johnny instead of them being all jerks, especially Lance.

            “Now, what about you, Ash?” Johnny asked. “How have you been since the opening of the New Moon Theater?”

            “Well, I was in a rock band with other porcupines. All we’ve done is play in restaurants like this. Concert buildings and recording studios wouldn’t take us on board. I’ve been with them a year and tonight I’ve just got kicked out. I don’t know why. Probably because they didn’t like my style or my ideas.”

            Johnny felt sorry for her. Then he had an idea. “You know, some of these guys love to play musical instruments. If you decide to start your own band, you could let them audition.”

            Ash thought about it. “Hmm, that’s an idea.”

            “And you see the zebra at the other end of the table?”

            Ash looked to see a female zebra in a silky red dress eating a bean salad. She didn’t look very pretty but she looked friendly and optimistic.

            “Jenny over there hasn’t got any music skills but she’s great with fashion,” Johnny told Ash. “She could be your fashion designer and advisor.”

            “Well, this will take some thinking, Johnny,” Ash said. “But all you said are great options.” She meant it. Anything was better than feeling hopeless about the future and sorry for herself.

            “Oh, Johnny, Jenny needs to go,” said a snow leopard, who was the supervisor of the group. “Do you mind?”

            “Not at all, Holly.” Johnny turned back to Ash. “This might take a while.”

            “No hurry.” Ash felt so much better for catching up with him that she still didn’t want anything to eat or drink, except the water she drank from her glass.



Johnny showed Jenny to the female bathroom. “I’ll be outside when you’ve finished.”

            As he waited, he saw a rabbit and a fox in police uniforms approaching him. He felt a little nervous whenever cops came near him. He never enjoyed being a member of his dad’s gang and was glad he was not in the cells with them, but he was nervous in case they knew that he was their leader’s son and how he helped them during their heists.

            “Are you Johnny?” asked the rabbit.

            “Yes, Officers,” Johnny said. “How can I help you?”

            The rabbit showed her badge. “ZPD Officer Judy Hopps.”

            The fox showed his. “ZPD Officer Nicholas Wilde.”

            “ZPD?” Johnny asked.

            “Zootopia Police Department,” Judy said. “We need you to come with us right now.”

            “All the way to Zootopia,” Johnny asked.

            “For a mission,” Nick said. “We will explain on the journey.”

            “We know about you and your dad’s gang and how you helped them,” Judy said. “If you come with us, we can get the charges against you dropped. If you don’t, we can’t help you.”
            Johnny gave the choice a lot of thought. He felt like he had to make a snap decision. “All right, I’ll come to Zootopia with you. I know I’m not in a position to make requests, but before I go I need to go and tell my friends outside that I have to go with you and I would also like to speak very quickly to my dad at the prison here. The whole thing shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

            Judy and Nick looked at each and nodded.

            “One hour,” Judy said. “Officer Wilde and I will be watching.”

            Jenny came out of the girls’ bathroom and Johnny helped her back to the table. When they reached back, he called for everyone’s attention. “I’m sorry to tell you guys this very late, but I have been called back to Zootopia for an urgent matter that can’t wait. I don’t know when I’ll be coming back. So I’ll see you whenever I come back.”

            Everyone said bye to him awkwardly all because he didn’t give them enough information. Ash was about to follow him out and ask him more about this urgent matter when she saw him walk out with a rabbit and a fox in police uniforms. She began to wonder what was happening.

            “Excuse me, Ash.” It was coming from Holly. “We’re going to do a little singing when we get back to the houses tonight. Would you like to bring your guitar and join in?”

            “Yes, Holly. Thanks very much.” She would have enjoyed it more if Johnny was there but duty called for him. If only she knew what that duty was.

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