Disclaimer: I feign no ownership. Honorverse is Weber’s, Buffyverse is Whedon’s.
Spoilers: Set post- (and boy, do I mean post!) season seven for Buffy, somewhere around At all Costs in the Honorverse.
FR15 for the F-bomb and other naughty words.
Vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness shared the Diaspora with humanity. At least it isn't just one girl in every generation to stop the swell of their numbers anymore.
1: A Bad Night? I Should Be So Lucky.
Maybe there’s nothing new under the Sun, especially now that thousands of suns are shining down on a humanity that’s scattered itself across the galaxy, but this was pretty damn new to me: deep inside one of the monstrous towers supporting one of Landing’s civilian cargo transshipment points, this guy was sitting against a stanchion for a sign for some low-end food chain, closed for the night, glowing in the dim light of the odd offshoot of the even lower-end mall’s hollow, he was beat and bruised, semiconscious, cuts on his face, neck, and arms, just another victim of just another mugging – except for the treecat laying sprawled on its side half fifty meters down the hall from the guy, motionless.
“Oh, shit.” New-girl’s soft curse wasn’t nearly strong enough for this: one more thing to get the kid up to speed on.
“Right,” I started, training and experience taking over, letting me set the surprise aside to enjoy later. “Vic-one’s the human. Check him out. The cat’s vic-two, and pray to the gods of paperwork that it’s not dead.” It occurred to me as I ran towards it that I had no idea how to check the pulse of a treecat, let alone administer first aid. Oh, was this going to be a fun conversation. I triggered my radio. “Center, begin four-kilo-seven-two responding anonymous call location Reach-Two, level five-alpha, two vics, two down, need transport now, one code X, treecat, over.”
“Four-kilo-seven-two begin center. Say again code X, over?”
As far as I know, there’s never been an actual code X in the long, storied history of Landing’s civilian policing. The general consensus of the few cops who think about it figure the ‘cats are too smart to hook up with anyone dumb – or desperate – enough to end up anywhere near the bad parts of town. Personally, I think there just aren’t that many crooks stupid enough to go after someone with a treecat – educational vids just love to show the recordings of treecats thwarting assassination attempts by clawing open throats and tearing out eyes. “Center, code X. Treecat. No shit.” I was close enough to see it was breathing. Bleeding, too, but I’ll take whatever small favors come my way. “Code X is down but breathing. Put wings on the transport. Out.”
Medical transport in a modern tower, with tens of thousands of residents, was usually just a matter of putting a couple of trained people on an elevator with a life-support bed and giving the elevator priority; it was pretty tough to find a place it would take more than a couple minutes to get something close to a surgical suite on-site and – excuse the pun – operating anywhere in Landing, assuming the victim is human: and, really, how much of an assumption should that be? At least I wasn’t the one trying to figure out where the treecat could be treated. Small favors, right?
“Seven two begin center. Transport in eight. Have fun with the paperwork on this one. Out.” I groaned: small favors my ass.
“Four-kilo-seven-two, begin five-lima,” and here come the brass! “Please confirm the code X and status, over.”
Really? Didn’t I just do that? At least I kept that comment to myself. “Five-lima, begin seven-two. Yes, I’ve got a treecat here, down, breathing. There’s another vic, presumed associate of the treecat, down, breathing, pretty beat up. No sign of assailants or bystanders. Waiting for transport for both vics. We’re need to keep the two vics together. Out.” Maybe that would keep the brass happy, or at least quiet while they tried to find the applicable contingency plan.
Maybe I’d get lucky and nobody had planned for this contingency. Fuck knows I hadn’t.
Since I apparently had a couple minutes of waiting for the medics to arrive, I decided it couldn’t hurt to take a look around. Dimly lit mall walkway, check. No sign of any living thing but our vics, check. Blood on the wall above the ‘cat, check. I took a sample, stepped back and got some imagery of the scene. Routine procedure, check. Maybe the ‘cat had been thrown into the wall somehow? Frustrating mystery? Check and mate.
Deciding that I couldn’t ignore the victim of whatever happened any longer, I knelt next to the treecat and hoped I didn’t look half as clueless as I felt. My limited first-aid training did not cover treecats, but at least I could tell that it was breathing. There was a bloody knot on its head, and it looked like that was where most of the blood was coming from. Were treecat head-wounds as bloody as people’s? Err, humans’? Until right then I’d hardly even fantasized about meeting a treecat in-person, let alone professionally, but there I was, staring at a unconscious sentient alien crime victim, and I was pretty damn sure that one of those adjectives was going to ruin my night. As it turned out, that thought was just unbridled optimism.
I didn’t have too much time for introspection before the medics got there – apparently central sent the building medics as a stop-gap before the pros got here for the treecat. Two of the medics stopped with vic-one, starting on him immediately. A third sped over to me with a big grav-assist carry-all; she opened it up and started working on the ‘cat, talking through her headset to someone I hoped had a clue about treecat first-aid. After that, it was hardly a moment before she was sliding a board under the ‘cat and then securing it onto the carry-all, and we were off.
Elevator to the nearest garage, where we met a grav-ambulance just as it landed; we were on board and away before I had a chance to even get the names of the medics we’d just left behind. I called that in, and central said they had people already there for debriefing.
One of the medics in the ambulance poked at the guy a bit before checking the IV bag that the tower medics had set up; looked like a bag of blood that was already mostly gone; they must have been pushing the blood into him pretty good. I hadn’t noticed much blood at the scene, but it wasn’t real well lit and I’d been focused on the ‘cat. I looked over at New-girl. She was stoic enough, a good sign: if people think the police are freaking out, they will too.
Once we got to University-Landing, they put the ‘cat and the human in adjacent treatment spaces. I’ve become a master at delegating responsibility, especially when said responsibility is less than half-conscious and in the middle of a swarm of doctors, nurses, and technology, so I had New-girl question the human victim while I kept an eye on the treecat in its – and I needed to find out its sex quickly – in its much quieter treatment space. Apparently they’d decided all it needed was a couple stitches, antibiotics, and a couple weeks of rest: moderate-to-severe concussion, minor contusions, and a couple bruised ribs, or the alien equivalent. I’m still not sure how much they were dumbing things down for me.
Once they gave me a report, the hospital staff gave me the guy’s stuff to go through. He still had his personal electronics and a wedding ring, so I figured the muggers had been scared off, or run out of time beating on the guy, or something, before they could finish the robbery. I can be so naïve sometimes.
“Hey, boss,” New-girl walked over, calling for my attention. “Vic-one’s awake, sort of.”
“He’s talking, well, mumbling. I asked him what happened, and he sort of answered.”
“Sort of?” Déjà vu
strikes fast on nights like this.
“Well, it didn’t all make sense, really.”
Oh, I hoped it was the head wound and not drugs. Did treecats even hang out with druggies? Wait. Focus, detective. “Well, what did make sense, then?” I asked. And if New-girl hadn’t made sense this time, I don’t think she’d have survived the conversation.
“He said, he was still a bit out of it, but he said: ‘Attacked. Two of them. Grabbed me from behind, bit me.’”
?” I asked incredulously. Oh, this could not be good.
“Bit, boss. So, then he says: ‘They surprised Porthos.’ I figure Porthos is the ‘cat.”
I rocked my head back and forth, thinking. “Makes sense. Aren’t they supposed to be psychic or some shit?”
“I guess, but how do you surprise a psychic ‘cat?” New-girl shrugged. “Then he says ‘she saved me. They hit Porthos, and she saved us.’”
“I’m no college-boy, but I don’t think anyone – thing? Fuck. Even I know that Porthos is not a girl’s name, is what I mean. We got the call, so we already knew someone had at least seen this go down. So now we know it was a she and that the she got involved.” I thought for a bit. “Let’s work on the theory that this unknown female is on the side of the angels for now.”
“Works for me, boss. Now, the rest is where I think he went a bit out of it.”
“All right, kid. Hit me.”
Her eyebrow went up with the kid comment, and she shot me a pretty dirty look. I thought her dirty look needed more practice than her cussing. “So he says, and he’s all choppy, about to pass out again, the doc says he’s still really hypovolemic. . .”
I knew right then what the guy said. I knew
, and it was not good at all. I should have walked away, dropped my badge and pulser on the floor and stowed away on some freighter bound for anywhere but here and, well, done anything but stand there and listen.
“He says their faces were wrong, they had yellow animal eyes and bumpy foreheads, and, get this, fangs