Note: This story is based loosely on the "Lykan Invasion" series by Nex Canis, and my previous "Vanguard". Reading the other stories is not strictly necessary, but would be an aid to comprehension.
The sprinklers damped down the stranger's dark hair and beard, sheeting off his strange garment as he answered "I'm a Lykan."
Daichi immediately clamped down on his distress pheromones, as well as his less-biological reaction to pull the trigger on his accelerator pistol. His third priority was his now-soaked clothing, which he couldn't do anything about except shuck his coat. His fourth was to get out from under the Lykan. His fifth-
The insect rounded the corner, pistol up and finger resting on the trigger guard.
"You really think anyone's alive in there?" the Lykan said, following him.
The chief's senses didn't. No smell, other than the all-too familiar explosives and burnt apartment.
"People who set off bombs don't usually stay in the same room as the explosion, Daichi."
Both his training and something darker and nastier were worrying at his mind, telling him not to let a stranger get behind him. He ignored them both as he reached up with a free hand and tapped the damaged door to make sure it was secure, then proceeded into the room, clearing left and right as quickly as possible.
"Don't you want to know who I am?" said the stranger. The vibrations of his footsteps read, to Daichi's antennae, as being a sort of a swagger, a strut.
"A Lykan. You told me already."
"More specifically, I mean."
"Someone who's tresspassing on a crime scene."
"So are you."
"I've got a get outta jail free card."
"Not exactly." No one in the bathroom, the kitchen, or the slertyn.
"What are you looking for, anyway?"
It occurred to Daichi that in the holos, the detective can always work the door perfectly, so he could dramatically slide the door to the closet open in an instant, then dramatically goes "that". In the real world, however, doorknobs tended to be damaged by explosions going off nearby, and the Inago had to remove the panel and spend a minute or so fiddling with it before the servos kicked in and pulled the door around to the side, its slats clicking over some invisible catch somewhere in the works.
Inside was the owner of the apartment, a hole neatly punched in his forehead.
Daichi turned and dramatically said "That."
The stranger had what seemed to be a thoughtful look, eyes narrowed, lips tightly compressed. Daichi wondered if something similar had been on his face, in the alley.
The Lykan in red kneeled, and reached into the closet.
"Hey," Daichi protested. "You could get in trouble with station security for that."
"I doubt it."
"Not exactly." He emerged with a small disposable display, and flipped to the ID. "Yeah, it's him. Kujo."
"No clan name?"
"Nothing that can be expressed in written language, no."
Something clicked. "You're the security chief for the Lykans."
"Got it in one, Security Chief Daichi J'n."
"How do I know you didn't do this?" Daichi raised his weapon. The grip was still slippery from the sprinklers.
The Lykan went very still. He rested one hand on the frame of the door, and the Inago saw some muscles in his neck tense.
"Whoever did this is either powerful enough or dumb enough to not be worried about the consequences. This will certainly trigger a B-Sec investigation, assuming it doesn't go to some Galactic-Level agency. Kujo was your only lead. Why destroy it in such a dramatic fashion?"
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but the logic seemed sound. Daichi lowered his weapon.
"What about the Lykan Hive Mind?"
"What about it? We don't use it outside of the territories, just like you Inago turn off your nanites, and for the same reason."
"To prevent infiltration and compromise."
"Say, do I call you He? She? It? Some other pronoun I don't know?"
"Your profile didn't include that?" Daichi stared at his counterpart. "I know Lykan SCs are also in charge of intelligence. Your workup didn't say whether I identified as a boy or girl or not quite both?"
"Most of you are hermaphrodite. I think, somewhere down the line, someone just assumed. Kujo seems to have gotten a call lately."
"I recognize the name...it's a drug dealer, one of the biggest ones on the station."
"And you're not racing off to pursue it...why?"
"Because two heads are better than one."
There was a brief silence. "Are you...hitting on me?"
The stranger sighed. "Not all Lykans will have sex with anything with the proper hole, or hit on everyone."
"However, I'm one of the hit-on-everyone types." That smile was back. "Don't worry. I'm all bark, no bite. Unless one is into that kinda thing and has assigned the appropriate waivers. Do you want to team up?"
"Do you. Want to. Team up. To cooperate on uncovering the possible threat to both of our people."
"I'll have to call my boss," said Daichi, who thought events were moving a wee bit too fast for him. He had gone from meeting this guy to offering him a teamup in about five minutes. If he wasn't careful, they'd be married by nightfall.
"I've just been contacted by my Lykan counterpart." said the Ambassador. "They have informed me that any investigators I might employ might cross paths with their security chief. She also supplied a quite unprofessional photograph."
Daichi looked at the being in red, who waved at him. He took the capture, and sent it to his boss.
"Oh, good, he's wearing clothes. Yes, that matches the photo in all the vital aspects."
"What did the Relians say about the incident?" the security chief subvocalized.
"They said they had nothing to do with it."
"That seems remarkably restrained of them."
"Well, do you want me to work with--" He switched to audible. "Hey, I can't keep calling you 'the Lykan'."
"Call me Lex."
"Do you want me to work with 'Lex' here?"
"Inasmuch as it benefits your investigation, certainly."
"Fantastic. Daichi, out."
Lex was waiting patiently for Daichi, and smiled broadly at him. "I hope this will be a long and mutually beneficial partnership."
"One, don't hit on me. Two, most murders are solved within two standard days."
"How many which involve volatile trade agreements between the Relian Federation, the Inago Monarchy, and the Lykan Colonies?"
"Okay, things like that tend to take much longer. We could probably shave a little bit off the time if you, oh, decided to give me the location of the drug dealer."
"That dog won't hunt."
"Because I don't have it."
"I thought you said--"
"That I recognized the name, yeah. But I don't know where he is. He's not in the system, not under his real name."
"Do you know someone who knows where he is?" Daichi didn't want to think about the fact that his own network of criminal and semi-criminal contacts was sadly lacking.
"I do have the scent, yes. But they'll need a little...massaging."
"The thing with you is that I can never quite tell what's a euphemism and what's sexual innuendo."
"I mean we can't just walk up to them, flash a few creds, get the info, and be on our way. Code of silence. Our best bet is to go to his competitors and pretend to not be any kind of authorities. They may prick up their ears if they think I'm a disappointed customer, but you're obviously a cop."
"No offense." Lex tapped his chin thoughtfully. "We need some way to disguise you, or else these guys will turn tail and run."
"Please stop it with the dog idioms."
"Sorry. But your clothes are ruined, and you know how we're going to get you a disguise, right?"
"Oh, S'd'lnkhit no," Daichi whispered.
It wasn't so bad, really.
Daichi Jun was a practical bug. He dressed for environmental protection, mobility, and inconspicuousness, in that order. So pretending to be some sort of heavy wasn't that much of a stretch.
What did rankle was tooling around with a being who dressed in red. A security chief was supposed to be invisible. Flirting with everything and everyone was extremely conspicuous, and exactly what a chief was not supposed to be.
Of course, that meant that no one would be expecting Lex to be a security chief.
Daichi left the changing room to find Lax having a chat with the shopgirl, who was responding to him in a universally recognizable tone. She blanched under The Inago's glare, and found some very urgent work to do in the stockroom.
"Can't you people go more than five minutes without hitting on someone?" Daichi grumbled.
"You're not my type."
"Lykan. I hate this coat, by the way."
"You're welcome. Honestly, Daichi, you look kinda cool."
"'Cool'? Is that what they're calling it now?"
"Looking awesome? Yeah."
"Oh. I thought you meant--"
"I know what you meant."
There was a brief silence.
"My people have a reputation for hitting on everything that moves. It's mostly true. But while we can convert others, we don't unless they really want it. Psychological evaluation, legal documents, forms, the whole nine yards. Do you know how much responsibility we have?"
"Your people weren't always so restrained."
"No." Lex looked away. "No we weren't."
Daichi coughed. "I don't think my charge account covers this."
"No need to thank me. C'mon, we need to find a rental agency."
"I'll drive my own car, thanks."
"About that...can you stand in the background and look threatening?"
"Why, are you shooting a music holo?"
The car had a certain amount of...presence.
The drug dealers had arranged themselves in what they imagined was a tactically advantageous manner, able to crossfire the individual meeting with their boss with relative impunity. Of course, none of them had realized that this also put their boss in the line of fire. They were that kind of gang.
Xalis was the brains of the organization. Also the heart, the soul, and on occasion the right fist. He didn't like to delegate.
When the car pulled to a stop, he fought the urge to dust homself off. Intimidating, that transport. A humanoid in loose, sober clothes stepped out of the driver's seat, scanned the area, frowned, and tapped the roof of the car. The being inside waited just long enough to let the people outside know what he thought of him, and emerged.
The humanoid was smiling, and it made certain parts of Xalis' anatomy blush a cautious red. Not frightened. Never frightened. Cautious.
He was dressed quite nicely. Either he had just robbed a suit shop or he had a very generous credit chip.
"Good--" The stranger glanced at his watch, which was probably worth more than any building in the neighbourhood. Heck, it was probably worth more than the neighbourhood. Not that it would be difficult.
"Morning. I'm looking for an Enisru named Nbrui."
"You a cop?" Xalis said, by way of introduction.
"Am I a--" The stranger turned to his bodyguard. "'Am I a cop', he asks me. How many cops, d'you think, are going to come down to this part of town, unarmed, with one man for backup?"
"Clever boy. No, I am not some sort of peace officer, private investigator, or vigilante. Even if I were, I'm not asking about your organization. I am merely trying to find Mr. Nbrui, and am willing to reward you handsomely."
"What are you looking for him for?" piped up one of the dumber-looking thugs.
"Oh dear," said the stranger, rubbing his forehead. "Perhaps I was unclear. 'Compensated handsomely' means 'lots of tax-free credits'."
"What's the catch?"
"You never saw me. You never heard of me. In fact, I'd appreciate it if you were eating at a restaurant on the other side of the station section right about now. My treat."
"That's a nice car," said Xalis.
The stranger turned back to glance at it, and it took Xalis a second to realize what was wrong when he turned back.
"It certainly is," he said, and slipped bonelessly aside. By the time Xalis opened his mouth, it was already too late.
There was a series of popping noises, the characteristic sign of a close shot from an gravity acceleration weapon. There was also duller, flatter sounds, and Xalis realized that the shots were being banked off surfaces like the gunbeing was playing 3D Astro-Pool. Then he realized his leg had vanished below the knee. Luckily, it was prosthetic, but a leg's a leg, and Xalis fell over, accompanied by the sound of Yali knew how many of his men doing the same.
Who were these guys?
The stranger approached.
"You said--" Callus got out as he tried to crawl away. "You said--"
"I said I was unarmed. I made no such promises about my associate. Now I think we can both agree, I have been more than reasonable. I only care about your little enterprise as much and as long as it takes for me to find the individual I seek. Perhaps I wish to collect on sums owed. Perhaps I wish only to present him with the loveliest little Asteran astro-pony. Neither would be any of you concern. You've had a shot at the treat, Mr. Xalis. Would you really like to see the rolled-up newspaper?"
"That was fun," Lex said a few minutes later.
Daichi stared down the empty street. "I nearly blew out my subprocessors. Do you know how hard it is to calculate those kind of deflection angles? I had to dig up software I didn't even know I had. I had to rewrite the cover integrity software. I had to do the math in my head, Lex! No one likes to do that much math in their head! It would've been nice if you had seen fit to warn me I had to do more than look tough!"
"Whoops. And don't worry," said his counterpart. "If anyone was sneaking up on us, I'd know." He tapped his nose. "We have excellent senses of smell."
"Who's this 'we'?" Daichi grumbled.
"I didn't expect them to cave so quickly."
"I think I've heard this joke, so let me just cut to the chase; is the 'we' you often refer to the same as the 'they' you are currently referring to?"
"No. I meant 'they' as in the thugs."
"We're just lucky they didn't call our bluff about our backup."
"We're just lucky you had enough tranq rounds."
"Yeah, about that...I didn't get a chance to estimate or adjust the dosages."
"So I may have killed or brain-damaged several of them."
Lex stared off into the distance, his face hard. "So?"
Daichi wasn't sure what to say to that.
"That address was in the methane section of the station. I don't breathe methane, but I don't know if you--"
"This outfit is vactight. A methane gmask will be enough. Luckily, there are enterprising vendors near the entrance to the sector selling them at skyway-robbery prices. Let's go."
"I swear, he's just sitting there!"
Nbrui tapped at the control for his window, moving the slider just far enough for him to look down at the big being in red sitting on a bench across the street, reading a deedee, like he'd been for about twenty minutes now.
The being looked up at him, and the Enisru slammed the slider to the stop. He backed away from the now-opaque window, and resumed his conversation.
"How do you expect me to be calm? We cannot afford scrutiny at this stage! No, he can't be a cop. How many cops wear bright red? Hang on, lemme write that down; Smokey Memorial Park, three Lar from now. Got it. I'm gonna try and sneak out the back, shake this guy. End call."
As the Enisru left his apartment, he passed an Inago leaning against the wall. Judging by his unsteady stance and the tattered bag on the floor, he was probably getting high on the methane. A lot of species were doing that these days.
The breather nodded at him. Nbrui nodded back, and adjusted his enviro suit as he went down the stairs. It wouldn't do to spring a leak in Oxy-Nit.
If there had been anyone else in the hall, they would've been surprised by the change that came on to the Inago shortly after the Enisru left. He stood up straighter, his features tightened, his shoulders squared, and he looked altogether like someone who had undergone a very fast conversion to Mathitology.
Then Daichi spoiled the effect by yawning.
As he crossed the street, the security chief nodded at his Lykan counterpart, who was somehow lounging casually in a threatening manner.
"Did you get the call?" Lex asked.
Daichi patted the bag. "Yeah, the directional picked it up. He locked the apartment behind him, though. We need to exchange numbers--don't raise your eyebrow at me. I could've told you all this without coming downstairs."
"I didn't say anything."
"You were thinking it very loudly."
They listened to the recording.
"We've got time. Want to go pick up some plant seeds boiled in water to produce a beverage high in caffeine?"
"No thanks," Daichi said. "I prefer tea."
Beings had been visiting Earth for millennia, studying it's fauna and flora. The higher species known as "humans" had intrigued them. Oddly enough, a lot of the beings had been interested in the wide variety of human sustenance methods. Due to often-imperfect memory alterations, many who claimed to have been probed had simply been asked whether to remove that little white thing from eggs. As a result, there had been plenty of offworld samples when the Lykans had taken over, and the planet had been put on quarantine for a while. A few precognitive races had even rushed to stockpile the most valuable food on Earth, at least in the eyes of the galaxy at large.
The planet formerly known as Earth and currently known as Lykia Prime had one very popular coffee chain, and its management--and Marketing department--might've been pleased to know that they had been nearly as popular off-planet as they were on it. After the lockdown, several beings had decided to pool their knowledge and resources in order to reproduce that chain for the entire galaxy. They would honor the traditions of their predecessors, they agreed.
And in the tradition of their predecessors, they sued the sd'onk out of anyone who even vaguely infringed on their products or branding.
Daichi ordered tea, Lex a chocolate iced mocha with a shot of vanilla. Somehow, the being who delivered it managed to look haughty, despite its ugly shirt and slightly less-ugly hat. Perhaps it had something to do with its long neck, large, nearly luminous eyes, and short, flicked-back ears.
"Felideans. Ew." said Lex.
Daichi watched his counterpart relax as they made their way to a table near the window. The chair creaked slightly under the larger being's weight.
"So!" said Lex. "Why do you hate Lykans?"
Daichi paused with his Styrofoam cup halfway to his lips. "I don't-"
Lex gave him a look common to several species in the galaxy. It gave an impression of understanding, wisdom, and tolerance, and invariably made Daichi want to hit the person wearing it in the face.
"I've noticed how you act around me. When we met, when I told you who I was, you nearly drew your gun. I smelt distress pheromones. The strange thing is that we are not so different, you and I."
"I don't rape anyone."
The words were out there, in the open, before Daichi could stop himself. There were a few seconds of silence. Lex wasn't looking him in the eye-
"We don't...Lykans don't do that anymore," said the being in red quietly. "And it's not so different from you."
"Virulent nanomachines getting into everything, yes? The ones fully integrated with Inago biology, that have to be deactivated or extracted when travelling off planet, lest someone exploit them? Strange.Your planet guards its secrets jealously, and mine would give them freely. We can't even use our innate telepathic communication. Not so different from your Great-Mind."
"The only real difference is that our vector was biological, not technological."
"We aren't infectious to anything offworld. You people are more like a virus. Albeit a stable one, but still."
"We can't...convert anyone at will anymore. We've bred it out of ourselves. It requires an active effort, expensive medical treatments, and even then it's only temporary."
"Oh, as long as it's only temporary. That makes it all okay."
"Do you know how long it took for us to stabilize?" Lex growled. "Hm? Decades of genetic research, so we could go out into the stars without guns pointed at us. Even now, we're still dangerous, even when we don't want to be. We have to wear these suits, just in case.something goes wrong. I can barely feel anything with it on. I can't feel the wind on any skin lower than my neck."
"We're on a space station. All the wind is artificial."
"You know what I mean. We spent the better part of a century in negotiations before the Council would let us out in anything other than environment suits, and more time to legalize conversion. You would not believe the forms anyone wanting it has to sign. And then they legally become a Lykan, superseding any other designator. They're not Felidian, or Relian, or Enisru, or whatever, no matter what they look like. Lykan. The galaxy doesn't even recognize us as hybrids." Lex took a slow, deep breath. "None of which answers my initial question."
"Fine." Daichi took a deep breath. "I wanted to go to Japan."
Lex looked confused. "It's still there."
"No. No it's not. Not like it was." Daichi had a strange look on his face. His lips were compressed into a thin line, and Lex wasn't sure what that meant. Was he happy? Angry? What would be the Lykan tail position in this sort of situation? Just because they were both semi-human didn't mean they shared the same facial expressions.
"The man who was...encoded in the nanoprobe, his name was Frank Tanaka. He was partially Japanese. He had plenty of memories, before he died. About the old country, about Nippon. I grew up hearing about those stories. Imagine my surprise when I found out what Japan had...become. What your people had done to it. Akitas in Akihabara."
"And I'm not the only one. There are plenty of Inago who'll never get to see New York, or Paris, or Seattle. Not the way it was supposed to be. Not with humans."
"There aren't any more humans." Lex said, looking suddenly tired. "Despite the plastic surgeries, the cubs altering themselves for some trend, the closest the galaxy has is the Lykans. And the Inago."
There was an awkward sort of silence, broken by a grenade punching through the window and sticking itself in the table.
"A Lykan" 2/3
by Eulalie "Nequ" Quentin
partially based on stories by Nex Canis
2011 CC By-SA-NC