Chapter 8: Sowing the Wind
                Shikarou’s phone rang suddenly. Branwyn shook her head at the tone. “I know that phone has ring tones you can assign to different people so you know who’s calling. Why don’t you do that?”
                He unclipped the phone and looked at the id. “If I want music, I’ll play music.” He pushed a button and turned it to include Branwyn in the camera’s field of view. “Hello Poppet.”
                “Good morning Shikarou, Branwyn.” She smiled at them both.
                “Mother.” Branwyn’s voice was neutral.
                “I’m sorry to call so early but Devon has called and asked me for another favor, and I was wondering if you could help. You’re in Belfast, so you’re the closest people I know.”
                “Hold on, Poppet.” Shikarou muted the phone and turned the camera away. “Is she likely to do this often?”
                Branwyn cocked her head thoughtfully. “She might. She does have a tendency to treat people like her agents. Are you going to tell her no?”
                “No, but I don’t want to become the first person she calls when Devon has a problem.” He turned the phone around and turned the sound on. Poppet looked faintly annoyed. “What is it?”
                “Devon said that Florence has an emergency at the orphanage. Could you check it out?”
                “Has she contacted the police?”
                Poppet grimaced. “According to her, the police gave her the problem. I need you to find out what’s going on and deal with it.”
                “So what is the current pay for fixing Devon’s problems?”
                Poppet blinked. “Pay? I just want you to take care of whatever happens to be the emergency.”
                “Exactly. I’m your friend and you want me to clean up a Conservatory problem. The two things are not related. What is the pay?”
                Poppet frowned. “I don’t have time to negotiate this out.”
                Shikarou smiled. “I’ve got all day.”
                “You’re serious.”
                “Indeed I am. I am your friend and I’m happy to help you out with the occasional problem, but I’ve already done the head of the Conservatory a free favor and you only get one free taste of Shikarou.”
                Poppet smiled in spite of herself. “I’ve had more than that.”
                “You are not the head of the Conservatory. Devon is. You may run it, but Devon is the one I’m doing favors for and those shouldn’t be free. Freelance perhaps, but not free. So what do you want to pay? Personally I think a million credits would be appropriate.”
                A choking sound came from the phone. “A million? You don’t even know what the problem is.”
                “Exactly. If I don’t know what the job is supposed to be, then I should charge top credit. It could be picking up a box of diapers or it could be disposing of several dead.” He grinned. “I know; a million to find out what the problem is and then you can pay me to deal with it according to scale.”
                “I’ll pay you fifty thousand, but only since you are right that I should have more information to give you. I’ll relay that to Devon next time.”
                “Two hundred thousand.”
                She actually growled. “A hundred and no more.”
                “So I come down to a hundred and fifty and then the negotiations get ugly. How about we split the difference and call it a hundred and twenty five thousand?”
                Poppet’s eyes narrowed. “Fine. I’ll deposit half now, and half when the job is done.”
                “Agreed. Do I get expenses?” He chuckled as Poppet broke the connection. “I’ll take that as a no.”
                Branwyn had her hands over her mouth and her face was bright red. Finally she got her laughter under control enough to speak. “That was priceless. So what happens if the job is disposing of bodies or something that should be really expensive?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I agreed to a price, so that’s the price. However, if Poppet sends me on jobs that should be expensive, rest assured that the next time we negotiate the price I will get a lot more money. Troubleshooters are not cheap, especially not the good ones.” His eyes glittered. “Let us go to this orphanage. Personally I hope they just need some diapers.”
                The orphanage was located on the edge of town in an old warehouse that looked like it was undergoing some much needed refurbishment. A sign announced this as the Belfast Pokegirl Refuge.
                A young Catgirl sat at a desk just inside the door. A scattering of mismatched chairs decorated the room. “Good morning, can I help you?”
                Shikarou glanced at Branwyn. “Good morning, indeed you can. My name is Shikarou and I’m here to see Florence. I was sent by a friend of Devon’s.”
                “Oh! Just a minute.” The Catgirl picked up a handset and made a call.
                Branwyn glanced at her Tamer. “Must be some emergency.” Her voice dripped sarcasm.
                “Yeah, I noticed.”
                A heavily tattooed NurseJoy wearing a leather skirt and top walked into the room and looked over Shikarou. “I’m Florence. You say Devon sent you?”
                Shikarou shook his head slightly. “I’m Shikarou. What I said was that I had been sent by a friend of Devon’s. I was asked by Poppet to see if I could help you out with what she called an emergency.”
                “That’s what it is.” Florence sighed loudly. “Please, have a seat.” She smiled softly as she settled heavily into a chair. “Ever since I became pregnant, I seem to have less energy.”
                “That happens sometimes. So what is the problem and why won’t the police deal with it?”
                Florence folded her hands in her lap. “It’s outside the jurisdiction of the Belfast police and they don’t think the situation is serious enough to warrant a Tamer callout.” A bitter look crossed her face. “After all, what’s one more feral pokegirl?”
                “So what is it?” Shikarou prompted again.
                “About fifteen kilometers from here there have been reports of a feral Penance. I’ve finally had the reports verified and someone needs to go catch her.”
                Shikarou frowned as he mentally reviewed what he knew about the Penance. “While Penance can be dangerous, they are usually not an aggressive pokegirl. What exactly makes this an emergency?”
                Branwyn gave him an irritated glare. “Penance are the living embodiment of everything cruel that can happen to a pokegirl. Almost unending cruelty is what causes a pokegirl to evolve into one. Of course Florence would want someone to take care of her, she’s the ultimate expression of everything bad that could happen to her orphans.”
                Florence nodded. “That’s right. And if you can get her to trust you, I would of course love it if you could find out who did this to her.” Her eyes grew hot. “I can think of several things to do to someone like that.”
                “Now let me get this straight. Florence, you want me to catch this pokegirl because you feel sorry for her and you,” he gave Branwyn a confused look, “agree with her?”
                “That’s a severe understatement of how I feel about the situation, but that is fairly correct.” Florence peered sadly into his eyes. “As a Tamer, you should feel outraged that she even exists and you have a responsibility to take care of her.”
                His ears flicked. “Branwyn, is this one of those unwritten rules you’ve mentioned in the past?”
                She nodded. “That’s right.”
                “I don’t suppose I could get a list of these unwritten rules, could I?” He asked in a droll voice.
                “Are you sure these unwritten rules aren’t just some way for pokegirls to get Tamers to do what they want?”
                “Shikarou, I’m shocked that you would think that.”
                “Yeah, I thought you would be.” He shook his head. “I think I need to set up a website for Tamers to post all of the unwritten rules that they’ve heard of, but I suspect it would mysteriously get hacked on a regular basis. All right, according to this particular unwritten rule, what am I supposed to do?”
                Several long hours of slogging through snow found them nearing the ruins of an old petrol station. Broken windows gaped like missing teeth and the roof slanted alarmingly under its load of snow. Shikarou looked up at Ruiling and Lorelei as they circled overhead and waved as he spoke. “Lorelei, land, Ruiling, continue surveillance.” He glanced at Circe as Lorelei changed direction. “Florence’s report had the Penance nesting in this area and this is a logical place to look. Is she in there?”
                “You do realize that she’s a dark type and is immune to my psychic powers, don’t you?”
                “I do, but you should still be able to taste her mind, even if you can’t touch it.”
                Circe gave him a brief look of respect. “You know more about my powers than most. It’s good having you as my Tamer.” Her eyes unfocused and her antenna twitched rapidly. “Someone is in there.” An antenna twitched more violently. “Yes, it’s her.” She gave him an amused smile. “Unless there are two Penance out here.”
                “That is so not funny,” Shikarou grumbled as he shrugged out of the two coils of wire rope. Lorelei took one from his hands and checked it before lifting off. She took up station and Ruiling spiraled in to get hers.
                He glanced at Branwyn. “I don’t see why there was so much protest to catching her the old fashioned way.”
                She gave him a flat look. “She’s been through enough. She doesn’t need yet another beating before you put her into a pokeball. This way is much better and I’m pleased that you thought of it.”
                “I hope you still think so afterwards.” Shikarou waved to Yushiko and Pythia, who were providing cover behind the group as they traveled. “Ladies, this looks to be it. Pythia, you’ve got the electrical cables while Yushiko has the building itself. Take your positions.”
                “Hai.” Yushiko went into a hover near the back of the building, her scarlet wings flashing in the sun. Pythia moved to hover near the electrical lines leading into the building.
                “Execute.” Pythia grabbed the cables and used thunderbolt. For the first time in almost three hundred years man-made lights glowed brightly in the interior of the building. They promptly exploded, showering the place with bits of burning glass. There was a terrified scream from inside.
                Yushiko used thunderbolt on the back and side of the building, the electrical pulses blasting fist sized holes in the exterior until a bolt struck the wall where moisture had managed to penetrate. The water flashed to superheated steam. Several square meters of rock were blasted free and tumbled inside and outside the building. The roof visibly settled with a loud grinding noise and dust billowed across the snowy ground to leave a brick red residue on everything it touched.
                More terrified screams came from the interior of the building and a completely red pokegirl came dashing out the entrance to the building, screaming in fear as she ran.
                Shikarou spoke. “Lorelei.” The Sphinx dropped a loop of wire rope over the Penance’s shoulders and lifted her from the ground with vast sweeps of her powerful wings. The Penance clawed wildly at her bonds as Ruiling raced in and draped another loop around the trapped pokegirl’s legs. The Neo Iczel backed quickly, putting the line under tension and lifting the Penance horizontal. Now, even if she could cut the first wire rope, she would stay caught.
                He glanced at Branwyn, who was watching the Penance struggle with an unhappy look. Pulling out his wand, Shikarou pointed it at the hapless pokegirl. “Sleep.” She fought the spell but after a minute or so went under.
                He pulled out a pokeball and cautiously approached the now limp captive. He looked at his pokegirls to make sure no one was going to protest this and reached out to catch her. She disappeared into the pokeball without ceremony.
                Branwyn watched him tuck the pokeball into his pack and mutter something as he headed back to her. “What is it?”
                “Ok, I’ve got a Penance. Now what?” He shook his head. “You’re going to want me to take care of her aren’t you? To rehabilitate her. This could take years.” His eyes narrowed and he glared off into nothingness for an instant. “Poppet severely underpaid me and I will remember that fact for next time.”
                As they headed for the front steps of the massive building, Branwyn frowned. “Isn’t it time for the briefing?”
                Shikarou chuckled. “Didn’t you read the entry on the Belfast Gym? It’s lead by Karen Cooper and she likes flying types. Devon faced her and we’ve corresponded about her, in their match she used a Hooter and a Murkunt.” He didn’t think Branwyn needed to hear about the second match. It was exceedingly unlikely he’d find himself in that position.
                Branwyn tugged him to a stop. “So why do you think that the police are here? She gestured at the gym.
                Shikarou followed her finger and saw the uniformed Growlie standing next to the front door. She had a sheet of paper on a clipboard and was scanning the people entering the gym. Since it was early morning, there wasn’t a crowd. “Dunno, but I doubt the police are looking for us. Maybe there was some trouble earlier.”
                Branwyn laughed quietly. “Wouldn’t that be funny if she was looking for us?”
                “Not really. Please don’t go tempting the gods. That kind of funny I don’t need right now.” They started up the steps. “Now I don’t know how the sudden bump in my rank is going to effect how we battle here. I figure it’ll make the battles tougher, but I doubt a rank of fifty will make the cameras or gym leaders come out.”
                He glanced at the Growlie as they walked past her and into the building. She gave him a bland look back.  “You know, I’ve been thinking about uniforms for the harem. It could be a unifying factor or just a major pain in the neck. Think about it and tell me what you think, all right?” Branwyn nodded; her attention was still on the Growlie as the door slid shut behind them.
                “There’s the receptionist’s desk.” He smiled. “Good morning, I’m Shikarou Urufu and I’m here to challenge for a gym badge.”
                The young man nodded. “Your pokedex, please.” He read the entry and nodded. “Let me get you an assistant to battle you. It’ll only be a moment.” He smiled. “Since you got here nice and early, you shouldn’t have to wait long.”
                A few minutes later an attractive brunette appeared. “Mr. Urufu?”
                Shikarou ignored her until Branwyn tapped his arm. “That’s you, Mr. Urufu.”
                He blinked in surprise and turned to the woman, who was tapping a toe softly. “I must apologize, my name is Shikarou. I’ve been forced to use Urufu because the authorities here insist that I have a last name. Apparently not having one screws up their paperwork. I’m not used to hearing it yet.”
                The brunette smiled. “That’s an original reason to ignore me. I guess I’ll let it pass.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Karen.”
                Shikarou took the hand with only a tiny hesitation. “You’re the gym leader, aren’t you?”
                “Guilty as charged.” She gave him another smile. “Normally you’d face one of my assistants, but recently several people have spoken to me about you and it’s stirred my curiosity.”
                “May I ask who has been talking about me?” Shikarou was very curious. As far as he knew, they didn’t know anyone in common, except for Devon.
                She chuckled. “Travis Conway called and left me a long message about how dangerous you were in battle and then Devon called me and spent some time talking you up. He’s been avoiding me and probably hopes I’ll stop chasing him for you. He thinks I’m trying to get married or pregnant or both.”
                Branwyn choked when Shikarou asked, “Are you?” with a completely innocent expression.
                Karen gave him an annoyed look. “That’s not nice thing to ask.”
                “Perhaps not, but apparently Devon wants you to shift your attention to me and whatever he told you was interesting enough to get you to come out to meet me, so I think that might be an important question for me to ask.” He smiled. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to run away if you say yes, I’m a widower and the concepts of marriage or children don’t frighten me. I just want to know what I might be getting into.”
                Karen’s look became thoughtful. “I suppose you are right. I’m not young enough to be a Tamer anymore and I guess that I am starting to think about those things, although not nearly as seriously as Devon thinks I am. It’s just that he’s interesting. Are you interesting?”
                “Well, there’s a dangerous question. If I answer no, then I’m stupid and if I answer yes, I’m vain. I don’t suppose maybe will do, so I’ll instead answer by saying that some people seem to find me so.” He nodded slowly. “I suppose it’s an individual preference.”
                Karen smiled. “That’s not a bad answer, and invites me to discover if I find you interesting myself. I think I’d like to. Say, over dinner tonight?”
                The last time Shikarou had seen the look Branwyn was giving him, he’d still been married to Pallaius and he’d been caught flirting with one of the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting. Her look was unhappy and filled with a multitude of silent promises of unpleasant times ahead for him.
                The difference was that this time he didn’t deserve it, but he doubted Branwyn would be rational about that. So, since he was going to be punished anyway… “That sounds intriguing. How about we discuss it after the battle? You might not think I’m worth getting to know at that point.”
                Karen opened her mouth to reply when another voice intruded. “Shikarou Urufu?”
                It was the Growlie from outside. She compared a picture to his face. “Are you Shikarou Urufu?”
                Shikarou gave Branwyn a see-what-you-got-me-into look and was pleased that she looked horrified. “Yes I am.”
                She nodded happily. “Good. I couldn’t recognize you from this picture.” She waved it in front of him. In his opinion it wasn’t his best side, but it was definitely him.
                “It’s ok, officer, to gaijin we all look alike.”
                The Growlie smiled and nodded. “Good. I have to take you into custody. You have a warrant,” she announced cheerfully.
                “For what?” Branwyn was trying to keep her voice level.
                “They’ll explain that at the station. Please turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
                Shikarou closed his eyes and took a deep breath. I will not kill her. He shrugged out of his pack and unclipped his belt, wrapping the belt and his pokeball carrier around one of the straps of his backpack. He handed everything to Branwyn. “Find out what the fuck is going on, if you can.”
                She nodded and took the pack. “I will.”
                Shikarou turned and placed his hands behind his back. As the Growlie put the handcuffs on him he gave Karen an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry about this, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline dinner.”
                Karen smiled. “We’ll reschedule after you get released.” Her smile broadened. “Arrested under mysterious circumstances does qualify you as interesting.”
                “Thank you.”
                The Growlie finished securing him. “Let’s go.” She led him out the door and down the street. Behind them, Branwyn vanished as she teleported away.
                When they arrived at the police station, Shikarou was divested of all of his possessions as part of his processing. They would have missed his wand, but he volunteered it and his shoulder holster. He was then placed in holding cell with several other prisoners to wait. He made himself comfortable against the wall and put himself into a light meditative state.
                At noon they were each given a metal tray of food, mainly winter vegetables and processed grains. A big man stepped in front of him as he returned to his spot, tray in hand. Shikarou suppressed a spurt of anger and kept his face emotionless as he stepped around the man, who moved to block him again. “What is it?” His mind raced as he formulated plans to deal with a situation that could easily spiral out of control.
                “Your lunch. Give it to me.” The man was an easy two meters in height and very broad. Little of it was fat. He grinned as he watched Shikarou look him up and down. “Now.”
                Shikarou decided to fight monosyllable with monosyllable. “No.” Pause. “I will not.”
                The man made a fist. It seemed as big as a Khangasscunt’s egg. His eyes gleamed as he waved it slowly in the general direction of Shikarou. “Last chance.”
                Shikarou snapped the wrist and stepped around the man as he howled and curled up around his injured arm. Settling down, he started eating his lunch, ignoring the noise.
                He sighed and sped up his eating when the OfficerJenny appeared to find out what the ruckus was about. She looked around the cell. “What is going on here?”
                The guy with the broken wrist glared at Shikarou. “He attacked me. My arm is broken.”
                The OfficerJenny looked at Shikarou. “Is this true?”
                “No, that’s not true. His wrist is broken, not his arm.”
                She blinked in surprise and pulled a com unit from her belt to call for medical assistance. “Why did you break his wrist?”
                “He told me to give him my lunch and I said no. He threatened me and I responded to it.”
                “You don’t assault the other prisoners!” She sounded indignant.
                “I do if they are preparing to assault me.”
                She glared at him. “And when you are convicted and sent to prison, how do you think you’ll do with that attitude?”
                He gave her an even look. “Better than you suspect.” He slid to his feet and moved to the cell door. “Are you going to move me to isolation?”
                A human policeman appeared. He frowned and looked around the cell. “Another troublemaker. Why do they always seem to come out on a holiday? I should leave you here with Josh and his cronies.”
                The OfficerJenny shook her head. “You can’t. Policy demands we move the aggressive one to solitary.”
                Josh glared at Shikarou. “You’d better hope they do, pokegirl, or you’ll be dead by morning.”
                Shikarou gave him a pleasant smile. “Someone will be.”
                “That’s enough of that kind of talk.” The OfficerJenny glared at the policeman. “I’m moving him now, Robert.”
                Robert glared back. “Jenn, I outrank you and you’re going to stay and wait for the NurseJoy who’s coming to treat Josh. I’ll move the idiot to isolation.”
                The OfficerJenny dropped her gaze, but Shikarou could see that her eyes were still angry. “Yes, sir.”
                “Hook him up.” Robert handed Jenn his cuffs. She opened the cell and cuffed Shikarou’s wrists in front of him.
                Robert took Shikarou by the shoulder and shoved him down the corridor. “Move it pokegirl.”
                Shikarou tried to control his irritation at being touched. He managed to do so until the third shove. In a pleasant tone he asked, “Are you always such a jackass or am I special?”
                Robert halted in shock. His eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted. “No one talks to me that way, bitch.” Suddenly he smirked. “Yeah, you’re special and I’ve got just the place for you, pokegirl.” He pointed down the hall. “Now move it before I call for reinforcements and you end up getting carried.” Shikarou headed down the corridor again, mentally berating himself for losing control like that. Something wasn’t right with his mental equilibrium and he was worried because he wasn’t worried.
                They entered the isolation ward, which turned out to be a row of metal doors, each of which had a tiny viewing window that could be covered with a metal plate. The lights were dimmer here, and the air moved sluggishly.
                “Here you go, pokegirl.” Robert hit a switch next to the last door. With a hiss, an electromagnetic seal unlocked and the view plate slid open. Fiercely bright light streamed out. He peered in for a minute. “Perfect.” He unlocked and opened the door. “Inside, bitch.”
                As soon as Shikarou stepped into the room the door was slammed shut. “Stick your hands out the window so I can remove your cuffs.” Robert’s voice sounded muffled as Shikarou looked around.
                The room was the same size as the holding cell, but appeared empty. It was much colder here, and his breath steamed slightly in the bright lights. There was a bunk against the far wall, and some thin blankets were piled in a large mound in the center of it.
                “I want my cuffs. Bitch, your arms, now!” Shikarou fought down the impulse to snap the cuffs and slowly shoved his hands through the viewing window. The handcuffs were roughly removed. “Now you be good and I’ll check on you in an hour or so and see if you are feeling more compliant,” Robert almost whispered in a silky tone. “Then maybe we’ll talk about moving you to another cell.” With a harsh laugh he shoved Shikarou’s hands back into the cell and snapped the view plate shut.
                Suddenly there was a click and the lights dimmed to a feeble glow. Shikarou gave a slow sigh and turned to head to his bunk.
                The pile of blankets was staring at him. It hissed.
                Shikarou blinked and shook his head. Nope, the blankets were still staring at him.
                As his eyes adapted to the low light, he realized that there was someone under the blankets. He took a lungful of air. His nose said it was a she and that he had no idea what she was, although there was the faint sour smell of old blood, which could be coming from anywhere around here.
                The girl sat up slowly, cautiously dropping the blankets at her side. She opened her mouth and hissed at him again. This time he could watch elongated canines gleam in the low light. She was a pokegirl then.
                He tried to talk to her. “Hai.”
                She hissed again.
                He began applying a process of elimination in an attempt to identify the pokegirl as she uncurled from the bed. He’d thought she was a girl, so she was a very near human. The teeth eliminated a lot of possibilities. She was short, a mere meter and a half. More possibilities were eliminated when she lifted a handful of centimeters off of the floor to hover and slowly began to drift in his direction. He backed away from her as she advanced until he hit the wall. Suddenly the room didn’t seem very large at all.
                In the low light, he could tell her hair was dark, brown or black. That didn’t help much.
                While he was thinking, she faded from view.
                Crap. Shikarou went very still, only his ears moving as they swiveled, listening intently for the attack he was sure was coming. His fingers tensed as he began to hear her breathing and heartbeat as she got close. Very close. He kept his ears moving to keep her from knowing he was tracking her.
                She appeared again suddenly, not a meter in front of him. She hissed again and this time Shikarou could see drops of fluid form on the ends of her canines. Her fangs.
                He started to throw himself sideways as she lunged, but she turned in midair and caught his arm, sinking her fangs into the meat of his forearm. The pain was sharp and intense as she sucked hard, swallowing convulsively as she drank. The tips of her fangs grated on bone as she worried at the wound and he went white as pain exploded up his arm and through his body.
                Shikarou raised his free hand to his mouth and bit, driving his own teeth into the artery in his arm. He offered it to the pokegirl, who released his other arm and latched on, sucking hungrily. It still hurt, but at least it didn’t feel like she was trying to sample his bone marrow.
                He glanced at the bite she’d given him and suddenly stared hard at it. There was a soapy film around the bite and it was heavily laced with small bubbles. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath when he realized that her saliva was a greenish-yellow in color. She was a bloody Vampire.
                He brushed the Vampire’s hair back and was startled when she giggled around his arm. He inhaled sharply, and felt surprise sweep through him as he realized that her scent had started to significantly change. She rolled an eye to look at him as he spoke. “I guess it makes sense.”
                Awkwardly, since he only had the use of one hand, Shikarou shrugged out his shirt, leaving it hanging on the arm the Vampire was feeding from. He kicked off his boots and started struggling out of his pants. The Vampire giggled again.
                He frowned and tapped her on top of her head. She rolled her eyes up to look at him again. Her pupils had expanded, leaving only a thin ring of iris. “You’re high.” He chuckled quietly. “I’d heard that blood-drinkers could get high off of our blood, but I’ve never seen it before now.” The Vampire shifted slightly and sucked harder.
                “Eventually I’m going to run out of blood.” Already he felt light headed. His regenerative powers would create more blood quickly, but not instantly. These powers also needed fuel to work with, and he’d gotten the opportunity to eat only a little of his lunch.
                The Vampire switched to licking his arm with broad strokes. She looked up at him and whimpered. “Closed up, did it?” He chuckled and lifted her head to his. He murmured as their lips met, “While I’ve still got enough blood for an erection, let’s move to the next stage.”
                He kissed her hungrily as he pushed her backwards, his tongue thrusting deeply into her mouth as he licked up the last of the blood she’d been drinking. She made a hungry noise deep in her throat and suddenly started kissing him back, her arms pulling him with her as she moved backwards.
                She twisted slightly and sank her fangs into his lower lip, sucking as the blood welled forth. Shikarou winced but kept pushing her backwards until she was flat on the floor.
                He slipped his hand between her legs and stroked her wetness. The Vampire moaned and let go of his lip. Her head dropped to the floor with a thunk as she spread her legs to give him better access.
                Shikarou became even more lightheaded as blood flow redirected to his groin. He slid between the Vampire’s legs as she urged him on and rubbed himself against her. She groaned as he forced himself deep inside her and wrapped her legs around his waist and urged him to move faster.
                Shikarou quickly discovered that if he moved too quickly the world swam, so he kept a fast enough pace to keep the Vampire content and reached down between them to stroke her clit. Her body bucked and she suddenly surged up to sink her fangs into his shoulder.
                The room began to spin as she drank and Shikarou finally forced her mouth from his shoulder. “You need to leave me some of that, missy.” She let him push her away and lay back again. Shikarou could hear her stomach gurgle as she moved.
                Ignoring his dizziness, Shikarou thrust harder, rocking her body as he drove into her. She howled as her body convulsed beneath him and raked his back with her nails.
                An odd feeling swept through his body and before he could think about it, Shikarou pulled the Vampire’s head to the side and sank his fangs into her throat. She hissed in pleasure as he drank.
                Suddenly her body bowed and she screamed and he exploded inside her, taking and giving at the same time.
                Shikarou pulled his mouth off of her neck and leaned to the side. Gods above, what was I thinking? The only time I drank blood I threw it back up. On the girl I took it from.
                The Vampire reached up and pulled his mouth back to her neck as she ground her crotch against his. He took the hint and started sucking again as he continued to thrust into her. She moaned in pleasure, her voice becoming louder and louder.
                Surprisingly, Shikarou’s world steadied and some strength returned as he increased his pace. The Vampire forced his face against her neck again and again. He rose up and she met his gaze as she pricked her finger on one of his teeth. She nodded quickly and pulled him back down. He sank his teeth back into her throat and her whole body arched beneath him, threatening to throw him off as she convulsed. She screamed until her voice was hoarse.
                He felt his orgasm build from the bottom of his feet and fill his body before it spilled over into her. His world shrank to a pinpoint and he fought to remain conscious.
The Vampire cradled him against her and purred sleepily as he slowly became aware of his surroundings once more.
                He waited until her breathing slowed and her heartbeat became even before slowly propping himself up. When he moved too quickly, the world had a tendency to spin around him and he swore he heard laughter. Malicious laughter.
                Slowly he slid off of the Vampire, who was, appropriately enough, dead to the world. His stomach rumbled loudly. “I’m working on it,” he muttered.
                He slowly moved into a sitting position and held his hand out. The wounds had healed, although his arm still ached where she’d scraped bone. He focused his will. “Wand.”
                It appeared in his hand and he slowly let out a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding. It had been some time since he’d performed this little bit of magic, and it was good to know he still could.
                Shikarou created a platter of rare steaks and dropped the wand in his lap to grab a steak in each hand. While his instinct was to cram his mouth full of food and swallow, he knew it would get processed faster if he took the time to chew it thoroughly. Still, it was hard.
                He ate nearly five pounds of beef before his stomach signaled that it was full. He put the rest to the side and leaned back against the Vampire as his body worked hard to replenish the blood he’d lost. After a couple of minutes he slowly picked the Vampire up, staggered to the bunk and lowered her into it before climbing in to lie with her.
                He rested and waited.
                Pay attention when I’m talking to you. I’m done. A pause. Hey, is this thing on? Two donkeys walk into a bar. The third ducks and avoids injury. Thank you, I’ll be here all night.
                Shikarou roused himself from his meditation. “What have you done?” He blinked as comprehension dawned. “You’re finished?”
                It is alive. Well, as much as an AI can be.
                Shikarou winced. “Do you have to shout? We’re all in the same head, at least for now.”
                SHOUTING? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Ah, I see. I am sorry.
                “That’s ok. Have you chosen a name?”
                No. I have not yet meshed with you enough to create a persona. Then a name will either become obvious or you will choose me one.
                “I guess that will have to work. Do you accept the precepts that have bound our people together since the first time?”
                I do. And do you accept the laws of your people?
                “I do. You are a living being and in seventy five years you will be free to live your own life.”
                And in the meantime I will serve you loyally and with initiative, except where you circumscribe my actions.
                And done.
                Aren’t you two so sweet?
                You are an adjunct to the Shikarou self. You have no free will and little ability.
                “Now, we all have to work together and if I’ve allowed my twee more free will than you think is good, you only have to live with it for seventy five years.”
                You are correct. It is crowded in here, when can I move out of your head?
                “I’m in jail right now and don’t have access to my stuff, so you’ll have to sit tight for a little while.”
                The clock is ticking, whether I work or not.
                “Yes it is. Now be quiet and let me get some rest.”
                Very well.
                Shikarou closed his eyes again and went back to waiting.
                A couple of hours later his mind became alert as the Vampire stirred. She sat up slowly, her eyes on his. Taking a deep breath, she smiled and looked him up and down. She blinked suddenly and reached up to stroke one of his ears. “Soft,” she said quietly.
                Shikarou tilted his head to give her easier access. “Do you have a name?”
                The Vampire kept stroking his ears, alternating between them. “So soft.” She glanced into his eyes before refocusing on his ears. “No.”
                “May I give you one?” She nodded, still looking at his ears. “Then I’ll name you Elizabeth.”
                Her eyes flicked down to his and back up to his ears. “Ok.”
                “Are you hungry?”
                She stopped stroking his ears. “Yes, but I shouldn’t. I remember what happened. I almost killed you.”
                Shikarou raised his arm. “I’m not dead. Go ahead. Do you know much about anatomy?”
                “A little. When I realized what was happening to me I did some reading.” She flushed slightly. “I thought it would, you know, make me a better hunter. I was hoping I could stay sane.” She touched his arm. “It didn’t work.” She smirked. “Do you know why I’m not in a pokeball?”
                “No, I don’t. Do you want to tell me, Elizabeth?”
                “Mom has nine daughters and when I got bit she was happy. She was going to sell me, cause Vampires are very rare. So I emptied her bank account and got myself chipped with an anti-capture chip.” Fury crossed her face. “The bitch deserved it.” Just as suddenly her face went empty again. “Will you keep me? I would like that. Your blood makes me feel really good. For a little while I’m happy.” She shifted slightly. “I know it’s not real, it’s something in your blood, but I’ve never been happy before.”
                “Elizabeth?” Her eyes moved to meet his. “I’ll keep you. Now feed.”
                Her nervous smile made her look vulnerable and terribly, terribly young.
                Shikarou lifted his arm. “Now look, along here,” he traced above the main artery, “runs the biggest artery in my arm. At this point right here it lies just under the skin, so when you bite, do it slowly, until you get a lot of blood. There’s no reason to try to drive your fangs out the other side; that is wasteful and hurts your victim.” He smiled. “It’ll take a bit of practice to get it right, but I have faith in you.”
                “You know a lot about this.” She looked at him curiously. “You bit me. Are you a Vampire too?”
                “Not yet.” Shikarou smiled when she looked confused. “You injected me with your transformative agent last night. We’ve got six days before I become a Vampire, but I won’t let it happen.” He snorted. “I’m not even sure I can be transformed, but that’s a test for the lab and not the field.”
                “I know about biting arms. Mainly because I have to release my blood to summon my blood magic and so I learned how to do it with as little pain as possible.”
                “What if they want you to become a Vampire.” Elizabeth sniffed his arm.
                He smiled. “I’ve got a Vampire of my own now. Anytime I want to leave, you can take me through the walls. There is no way they can keep me from getting medical help. I suspect turning me into a Vampire is against some rule, however, so the OfficerJenny’s won’t let that happen.”
                Elizabeth sealed her lips on his arm and slowly forced her fangs into him. She looked so startled when the blood spurted into her mouth that Shikarou laughed quietly. She sucked gently, making small happy noises.
                Elizabeth disengaged, licking his arm as the blood oozed. “Enough.” She looked up at him. “I feel good.” Her pupils had dilated slightly.
                She straddled his legs and sucked his cock into her mouth. Elizabeth looked up at him and smiled as her head bobbed. Shikarou reached for her and she shook her head and sucked harder, so he leaned against the wall and put his hands at his sides. She smiled and nodded.
                His groin tightened and he moaned, “Elizabeth, I’m going to come.” She giggled and slowed her pace, watching his eyes until he exploded in her mouth. She swallowed everything he could give her and licked him clean before resting her head on his thigh.
                Reaching behind her, she fumbled for the blanket and pulled it over her, covering herself along with his legs.
                “Why are you doing that?”
                Her voice was low and vibrant against his thigh. “Sometimes they warn me before they turn on the sunlamps. Sometimes.”
                Shikarou stirred and slid out from under the blankets. Elizabeth grumbled sleepily, but stayed put as he padded towards the door. He knew the doors were soundproofed, but with his hearing he once again heard a voice.
                “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND MY TAMER?” He grinned as he recognized Branwyn’s voice, albeit louder than he was used to hearing it. “HE WON’T FIT IN A POKEBALL AND YOU’D BETTER FIND HIM RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!”
                Silence. He could barely hear another voice, but couldn’t make out the words through the soundproofing.
                More indistinguishable words.
                “Ah, the dulcet sounds of love.” Shikarou snickered quietly. “I guess it’s time to let my alpha know where I am.” He raised his fist and set himself, throwing all of his strength behind the blow as he hit the observation window.
                The door rang like a bell and Elizabeth squeaked in surprise. Shikarou hit it again and the electromagnetic seal failed in a spray of sparks. The cover plate shot across the hallway and ricocheted down the hall.
                Shikarou waited for the echoes to fade away before looking out the window. “Hello, Branwyn.” He recognized the person with her. “Hello Jenn.”
                Branwyn looked shocked and anxious and slightly relieved. “Shikarou! Are you ok?”
                “Not really.” He turned his attention to Jenn, who was chalk white. “I’m going to need to file a formal complaint against Robert for putting me in here. I’m also going to need immediate medical care.”
                Her voice quavered. “T, There must have been some kind of mistake. No one would have deliberately put you in that cell.”
                “No, Robert knew exactly what he was doing when he put me in here.”
                “What is it?” Branwyn was back to looking worried.
                “Robert stuck me in here with a feral Vampire.” The color drained from the Unicorn’s face. “Yes, I’ve been infected. Three days ago. At this point I was about ready to break out of here to get help on my own, so I’m very glad you showed up.”
                The OfficerJenny was on her com. “We’ve got medical on the way.” She gave him a curious look. “What about the Vampire?”
                “She won’t hurt anyone anymore.” He grinned. Jenn flinched away from his teeth. “Someone owes me a bounty. C57500, I believe.”
                The OfficerJenny unlocked the door and pulled it open.
                “No, the bounty is C200000,” Branwyn corrected as she stepped back out of the way.
                Shikarou chuckled as the OfficerJenny tried to look away from his nudity, but kept sneaking glances. “No, that’s for killing her.”
                Jenn froze. “She’s still alive?” She grabbed frantically for the door, only to be body-checked backwards by Shikarou. She careened across the corridor and went sprawling in a tangle of limbs.
                “That’s right. I tamed her. Now she’s mine and harmless unless I say so.” His eyes glittered. “By the bye, where is Robert?”
                “No.” Branwyn touched his arm. “We have to do this legally.” She sighed. “I’ll get one of the spare pokeballs for her.”
                “That won’t work.” Jenn picked herself up off the floor. “For some reason, she won’t go into a pokeball.”
                “That’s because she’s got an anti-capture chip.” The OfficerJenny looked astonished at Shikarou’s explanation. “I suspect you were proceeding under the assumption that she is feralborn? Well, she isn’t.” A nasty smile twisted his face, all teeth and anger. “That also means she can testify that Robert put me in here and that he knew what he was doing.” He glanced at Branwyn. I’ve already removed the anti-capture chip with her approval so we can put her into a pokeball. Yes, I’m going to keep her. She needs to be with someone who can feed her without dying, at least until she learns how to do it right. And she’s been alone her whole life, or at least that’s what she’s told me.
                What about the Penance? Will you keep her as well?
                I said I would and I will. Shikarou gave the mental equivalent of a shrug. What’s an additional needy pokegirl, in the long run?
                Branwyn nodded as a NurseJoy hurried down the hall. “I suppose you are right.” She sighed. “However, understand this: I’m your alpha and I come first.” She reached out and touched his cheek. “That was the last time I’m letting you out of my sight. Now I understand how mother felt about losing Jamie.” She stared into his eyes. “You’re getting some serious cuddling later.” Her eyes glittered with unshed tears. Don’t ever send me away again.
                “Agreed.” Shikarou noted the look of confusion on Jenn’s face, but decided that he really didn’t care.
                After a bath and some clean clothes, Shikarou felt much better as he settled into the chair. He was in a conference room with Branwyn and Circe. A large viewscreen was mounted on one wall and was filled with the image of an impatient looking young man.
                “It’s about time you showed up. We were supposed to meet at 1000 hours.” He glared at Shikarou, who glared back.
                “Are you the person who had me arrested?” He made person sound vaguely obscene.
                A brief smile appeared. “I had you held for questioning, yes. I want to talk to you about your brother.”
                “Who are you and why was I held for so long?”
                “I’m Paul McDonald and I’m with the Planetary League Council.” He smirked. “The reason you were the Belfast police’s guest was because you took too long to be located. By the time the police notified me you were in custody, I was on my way home to celebrate the New Year. I got back to the office this morning.” His face smoothed out and became businesslike. “Now, your brother, Faelan, works for us. Do you know where he is?”
                Shikarou blinked and checked his com before looking up. “You lost my brother?” He hasn’t left me a message since the Yule party.
                Circe looked at him briefly. There is a teleport block here but as soon as we get outside, I’ll check with Lynn and see if he’s contacted her.
                I can help as soon as I get downloaded into my containment unit.
                I know. Please wait. Twee, download the AI into the pokedex.
                I’m on it. It will take some time.
                Paul was speaking. “We haven’t lost anyone. Your brother is late checking in and I wanted to see if he’d contacted you.”
                “No, he has not contacted me within the last week.”
                “Didn’t you notice?” Paul almost sneered.
                Shikarou closed his eyes for a moment. “Someone had me arrested for no particular reason several days ago, and I didn’t have my com with me.”
                “Don’t blame me for your problems,” McDonald snapped. “If you’d behaved, your time wouldn’t have been quite so unpleasant.”
                The table creaked beneath Shikarou’s fingers and stress marks appeared in the plastic. “When did my brother last report in?”
                “That is classified. Need to know only.” A smirk appeared. “And you don’t have a need to know.”
                “I see.” Shikarou nodded. “Then we are done.”
                “I’m not finished with you,” Paul snarled. Shikarou ignored him and headed for the door. Circe beat him to it and jerked it open. They headed through the building and outside, into the winter air. Circe immediately teleported.
                Shikarou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “What about the man whose wrist I broke?”
                “There will be no charges against you for anything.” Branwyn sounded smug. “I contacted mother and she is taking care of everything as a favor to us.”
                “That’s good. Now we only have do deal with what she’ll want in return. Well, one problem at a time. We’ll deal with her when what she wants becomes an issue.”
                His pokedex beeped three times. “Ah, the download is complete.” Shikarou unclipped the pokedex and held it up. “Talk to me.”
                “I need a name.” The image that formed in the holographic display was of a slender green haired woman with red eyes.
                “Aggie.” Shikarou replied without hesitation.
                “Very well,” Aggie replied. “Paul McDonald is the assistant to the Assistant Director of Special Affairs.”
                “How does he interact with Faelan?”
                “He does not. Faelan Wolf reports to the Director of Special Affairs only, Ms. Olivia Sanchez. Faelan has no contact with McDonald or McDonald’s superior.”
                “So McDonald is a peon and your brother didn’t have anything to do with him.” Branwyn looked curious. “What is he doing investigating your brother’s disappearance?”
                “I don’t know, and right now I don’t care. If Faelan is in trouble, we’ll need to move fast, he was investigating some very dangerous pirates somewhere in Indigo.”
                Branwyn frowned. “And if he’s not?”
                “Then we’ll surprise the shit out of him when we show up to say hai.”
                “Can you do it?”
                Circe shook her head slowly as she thought. “I’m not sure. None of my sisters have ever tried to do this.” She cocked her head. “I’ll need to consult with them first.”
                Shikarou ground his teeth. “All right, how quickly can you do that?”
                The Alaka-Wham reached for his com unit. “I don’t have the range to reach the base so I’ll need to get in touch with Ming-Die.”
                “Very well, you do that while we continue on the old fashioned way. I’ll meet you at Stroak’s in ten minutes.”
                Circe nodded as she punched in Devon’s com code. “Understood. Ten minutes.”
                Branwyn took his hand. “You know that time’s going to drag while we are there waiting.”
                “Oh, I do, which was why I was trying to eliminate all of the hours we’re going to be stuck doing this.” The terrain changed and now they were looking at Professor Stroak’s lab. “I’ll let the Professor know we are here so he doesn’t think we’re bandits or something. In the meantime we’ll wait for Circe where we’d put our tent.”
                A short time later Circe appeared where they were waiting. Shikarou had released all of his teleport capable pokegirls so they’d have this location marked.
                She shook her head before he could speak. “Devon’s not answering his com, so I left a message.” She handed back his com. “So we’ll have to proceed as if I can’t.”
                He nodded as he smiled slightly to cover his bitter disappointment. “I know you’re doing all you can.” He turned to Ruiling and Pythia. “Ladies, you know what to do.”
                Ruiling nodded. “We’ll see you in an hour.” Flying in close formation, the two pokegirls lifted off and raced north.
                Shikarou watched until they were out of sight and then turned away. “I know they can take care of themselves but it’s hard to watch them go,” he muttered. “All right Branwyn, let’s review what we know.”
                She nodded. “Your brother hasn’t been in contact with anyone since the Yule party. His twee can function as a transponder and your satellite surveillance shows that on the 27th he left the Indigo Plateau and moved north into the Capital League, staying over water and keeping far enough out to be over the horizon from land.”
                “On the 29th he landed on an island off of the eastern coast of the Ice Maiden Preserve and his transponder vanished.” She frowned. “Doesn’t that mean he’s dead?”
                “Maybe, but I don’t think so.” Shikarou had left the picnic table behind and now he summoned a tea service. “His twee would have sent out an alert if he’d been dying and another one if he’d actually died. It’s far more likely that he was taken underground or underwater, the transponder will only register for a short distance after that. The only way his twee wouldn’t have alerted would have been if his body had been vaporized instantly.”
                He grimaced. “At least I hope he’s alive. Killing siblings is moderately serious and I don’t want to spend the next twenty years tracking down everyone involved in his death. Also, I kind of like the git.” He gave Branwyn and Circe a quick glance. “Not that he needs to know.”
                Circe cocked her head, her antenna slowly moving in a circle. “So what would you consider very serious?”
                “Very serious includes murdering a member of my harem or any of my children. For that, I would hunt the killers down through the generations until their entire genetic line was eliminated.”
                An hour later Ruiling teleported into sight. She landed in front of Shikarou and smiled. “Everything is in order.”
                “Excellent, we’ll be ready to go in just a short time.” Shikarou looked at Branwyn as he pulled out her pokeball. She sighed and gave him a reproachful look, but didn’t protest her retrieval.
                Ruiling slipped her arm through his and rubbed her cheek against his. “She’s not happy when you’re out of sight of her right now.”
                “That’s a case of stating the obvious.” Shikarou shook his head. “However, you know where we are going and she doesn’t.”
                Ruiling smiled. “That’s right.” They teleported, coming out in the middle of a snowy field. A hundred meters in the air, Pythia came out of her orbit to inspect them briefly before landing as Shikarou released his other pokegirls, everyone except Elizabeth and the Penance. “Team one, perimeter watch. Team two, recovery and backup. Gwyneth, you’ve got guard duty.”
                Circe lifted into the air and hovered as Yushiko summoned her wings and launched herself upwards. Her wings glittered like rubies in the weak sunlight as they drove her ever higher.
                Branwyn got out the PPHU while Lorelei caught the two pokeballs Shikarou tossed her. The Sphinx returned Ruiling and Pythia and then she and Branwyn ran them through a healing cycle before she released them again.
                Shikarou took Ruiling and Pythia by the hand. “You are doing very well. Do either of you need anything?”
                Pythia shook her head. “We’re fine.” She smiled. “Actually this is fun; I’ve never flown so far and so fast. The first leg was uneventful and if there are any problems on the second leg, one of us should survive long enough to return to you, as we had planned.”
                “I’d rather you both returned safely. I want to find Faelan, but shaving off an hour or so in our quest is not worth the lives of any of my harem.”
                Ruiling kissed him gently. “We understand. No heroics. Branwyn made quite clear what would happen if we didn’t follow your orders.” She gave the Unicorn a nasty look. “She presumes to control how often I get tamed. Later, when this is over, she and I are going to have to settle who’s in charge once and for all.”
                The Neo Iczel lifted into the air, closely followed by Pythia. The two of them turned north and resumed their journey.
                Branwyn watched them go, her eyes closed to slits against the glare. “You will teach me that forcewall spell, right?”
                Shikarou nodded. “That and any others you might need. I recommend sleep.”
                “Good. When I beat her, I want her to hurt so much that she feels it for a week even after she gets healed up.”
                “You do realize that as long as you keep winning, things will not be ‘settled once and for all’.”
                Branwyn snorted. “Then she’d better get used to the taste of defeat, because if she beats me, it won’t be over until I beat her twice.”
                Over two hours had to pass for this leg, but Pythia, who was the strategic leader, was under strict orders to be gone no longer than that, so it was no surprise when both of them reappeared at the two hour point. Both of them looked tired.
                Pythia landed in front of Shikarou as Ruiling went to land in front of Branwyn for healing. “At 1520 we were followed for a short while by a Rack, but she couldn’t keep up with Ruiling and eventually gave up pursuit. Her behavior appeared to be erratic, insomuch as she broke off and reacquired us several times, and I suspect that she was feral.” She dropped her voice. “Ruiling wanted to catch her for you, but my instructions were firm and when I threatened to return her to here immediately, she obeyed. I am concerned that she might jeopardize the mission.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I understand but right now I need there to be two of you out at a time more than I need to correct Ruiling. Later, we will deal with it. What about your return point?”
                “We were still over water when we had to return. We can move you to a shoreline closest to where we are, but we’ve begun to have to search for the island and it may take some time.” She shrugged tiredly. “Where you are when we return is really immaterial as long as we know where that happens to be.”
                “I want to be moved to that shoreline.” Shikarou stroked her muzzle and she leaned into his hand slightly. Her fur was sweaty beneath his palm. “Do you two need to rest for a while?”
                Pythia gave him a wry flick of the ears. “I’m not sure and I don’t like not being sure. Pokeballs and your healing machine are still so new to me that I’m having a hard time factoring them into my calculations. I still don’t know all of their capabilities and when I think I do, you always seem to throw a new wrinkle in how you use your equipment.”
                She bumped her nose against his hand and gave his palm a quick lick. “I can tell you this, if we’d had them in large numbers during the war, Sukebe would have won. If we’d had the PPHU, we would have won easily.” She winked. “It’s a good thing my loyalty is to you now, or I’d be trying to figure out how to get this information to him.”
                Her tongue lolled in a canine laugh. “Of course, considering how creative you seem to be, I’d be trying to get you to work with him to ensure his final victory.” She gave him a little girl look. “If I asked nicely, would you be my general?”
                Shikarou kissed her gently on the nose. “I am your general and it’s a very good thing we aren’t there. With pokegirls like the ones in my harem to offer, I’d have a hard time saying no to anything Sukebe asked of me.” He pulled his hand away. “Now off you go.”
                She smiled and loped off to be healed.
                Afterwards, Shikarou had a brief conference with Ruiling, Pythia, Branwyn and Circe.
                He looked at Pythia. “Well?”
                She nodded. “I feel completely refreshed, however I read the instruction manual for the PPHU and it won’t replace our need for sleep.”
                “I know. I won’t even try to push you two for more than eight hours.” He looked at his alpha as he unclipped his pokedex. “We’ll need to talk later.” She nodded as he returned his attention to the group.
                “I moved one of my reconnaissance satellites over the area when we started this trip and just got the realtime downloads.” He activated the display. “Here are the infrared traces of Ruiling and Pythia and here is the island.” He looked up. “We have a compass that you’ll take with you and if you go twenty degrees from magnetic north and fly for fifteen minutes from your teleport point, that should put you in visual range of the island. If you fly for more than thirty minutes, you are to return here to get your flight path updated.” He grimaced. “I know it’s slow, but this is the only way we can work until I get some long range coms set up.”
                Pythia shook her head. “We’ve made trip of over a thousand kilometers in less than a day, without using technological means for transport and you were only off by fifteen minutes. Most definitely Sukebe would have put you in overall charge of his tactical units, if not in command of all of his forces.”
                Branwyn looked stunned. “What kind of asinine complement is that?”
                “A nice one, actually,” commented Shikarou. Branwyn harrumphed.
                The move to the coast was uneventful. It was ugly; slate gray seas and leaden clouds raced out to meet at the horizon and the snow extended down the beach to where the water ate at it with each sullen wave.
                Shikarou checked his pokedex as Pythia and Ruiling vanished. “We’re on the east coast of the Capital continent and although the boundaries are kind of vague, it looks like we’re a wee bit north of the border putting us a little inside the Ice Maiden preserve itself.” He glanced around. “Bring Yushiko in from perimeter overflight and put Lorelei out there instead, her wings are much less conspicuous.”
                “Too late.” Circe motioned to a hill a kilometer or so away where a form was silhouetted briefly. “It’s an Ice Maiden.” Her antenna moved slowly. “She’s just watching us, but she’s already sent in an advisory about our presence to a nearby monitoring post.”
                “Aren’t we lucky?” Branwyn’s scorn was as cold as the landscape. “I’ll let Lorelei know not to get excited by her presence.” She glanced at Shikarou. “Unless you want to catch her?”
                “No, and even if I did, I don’t know the rules for hunting up here. Besides, if she’s sending warnings, she’s not feral. If she’s willing to leave us alone, I’m happy with that.”
                “And if she’s not?”
                “Then I’ve got a pokeball that she’ll fit into quite nicely and when I’m done I’ll cheerfully dump her arse right back on this beach.” Shikarou shrugged. “I don’t have time to deal with anyone’s bureaucratic crap until after I find out what’s happened to Faelan.” A slight smile. “After that I’ll have time, even if I won’t have inclination.”
                Someone is attempting to remote access your pokedex to get your Tamer information. What do you wish me to do?
                “Let them. Display no special abilities at this time.” He explained when Branwyn gave him an odd look. “Aggie says someone is getting my Tamer information from my pokedex.”
                “I see.” She thought for a minute and nodded. “That sounds reasonable, I’ve already learned from both Faelan and you that there is hidden software and hardware in pokedexes, so building in remote access capability makes sense.”
                Circe shook her head. “You’d think they don’t trust their own Tamers,” she mused.
                Twenty minutes later Pythia and Ruiling appeared. “We found it.” Ruiling announced.
                Pythia was more pragmatic. “We located an island. I think it’s the one we are looking for.”
                Shikarou was already accessing the satellite data to follow their flight path. “Yes! That’s it.” He blinked. “Wait a minute. That wasn’t there before.” He looked up. “There is a third infrared trace, located on the island itself. Probably a feral water type pokegirl, but whatever it is we’ll proceed under the assumption that it’s involved with Faelan’s disappearance.”
                “The Ice Maiden is heading for your location.” It was Lorelei from where she circled a hundred meters up. “It’ll be several minutes before she can make her way to you.”
                “Understood. We’re leaving in a just a bit, so get down here.”
                “I’m on my way.” She turned and started a steep descent.
                Shikarou looked at Pythia. “I want you to have overwatch while Ruiling carries me.” Ruiling smirked. “As soon as we come out, I want to head straight for the location of the infrared source. If it’s a pokegirl or a human, I want them taken prisoner.” I want you to have the more sensitive job. I can’t trust Ruiling not to accidentally kill.
                Pythia nodded. “You’ll assist.” It wasn’t a question.
                “Right. As soon as we make contact, Ruiling will put me on the ground and join the fray. I’ll assist, but I’ll release my other pokegirls first.” He’d seen the looks Branwyn and Gwyneth were giving him.
                I can assist by monitoring the satellite information so you are free to pay attention to the surroundings. While we still don’t have realtime access at this time, I can follow more closely and provide intercept vectors.
                “Let’s do this, ladies. That Ice Maiden will be here in a minute and I want to be gone before she arrives.” Shikarou reached for his pokeballs as Ruiling wrapped her arms around his waist.
Name:                                                     Urufu Shikarou                                                    
Age:                                                       250                                                                                         
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent                                                              
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                    Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                      50                                                                                           
Security Clearance:                              Delta                                                                                      
                Tamer                                     Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                       Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  N                            
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level                     
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       57                                           
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                46                                           
ElfQueen                                Gwyneth                                40                                           
Neo Iczel                                Ruiling                   32                                           
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      29                                           
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     26                                           
Active Harem – Storage
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   35                                           
Penance                 ?                                              42                                           
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                22                                           
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow