Chapter 14: Rescue
                “For an Orange Island, it sure is black.” Branwyn grimaced at Shikarou’s words. He grinned as he summoned a light, revealing Devon and Hatsumi standing nearby. “Where are we and what is the local time?”
                “It’s 1:30 in the morning and we’re a couple of kilometers outside of Burlest, a town on one of the northeastern islands.” Devon’s eyes glinted in the night. “I’ve already tried querying Lamya’s ID chip, but it’s out of range.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Try one more time.”
                Devon shrugged and activated his pokedex once more. “Nothing.”
                Aggie was waiting. I have the code and am accessing the satellite. There is a response 1500 kilometers to the east, in the town of Coed. Infiltrating Coed web. Pokeball serial numbers verified, names and types verified. The four pokegirls associated with Lamya Harris are at the Coed pokegirl center. Police records indicate that Lamya Harris is being held at the CPD headquarters on Lion street.
                Shikarou lifted his pokedex and pulled up the entry on the Demon-Goddess. He nodded and put it away. “Lamya and her pokegirls appear to be in the town of Coed, which is located 1500 kilometers east of here. If nothing else, I’m fairly sure that the pokegirls are at the Coed pokegirl center.”
                Devon sagged with relief. “How do we get there?”
                Shikarou released Pythia. “Feel up to a trip like the one you did when we rescued Faelan?”
                She grinned and rubbed her nose against his cheek. “Of course I do. This time I won’t have Ruiling slowing me down.” She pulled a small handheld from her belt pouch. “Will I get to use this?”
                “Aye. There’s a satellite overhead, so you’ll have realtime course data on your flight path.”
                The G-Spliced’s grin widened, razor teeth glinting in the light spell. “Excellent. How far do I have to go?”
                “Fifteen hundred kilometers and should take you less than four hours.”
                She flicked her ears. “I’ll try to set a new speed record. Time me.”
                Devon frowned. “Can I send Paulette along?” He didn’t see Pythia’s look of disappointment when Shikarou nodded. “Thanks.”
                Why do I have to babysit? She’s only going to slow me down.
                Shikarou gave her a slight frown. This is his problem and he’s asked for our help. We need to work with him, not against him. Besides, she’s slightly higher in level than you and may be able to keep up.
                Pythia whined very quietly. Shikarou reached out and plucked lightly on a whisker, making her sneeze.
                Devon released his Neo Iczel. “Paulette, this is Pythia and you already know Shikarou.” She inclined her head briefly. “You and Pythia are going to fly to a town called Coed and teleport back here for transport. We’re pretty sure that’s where Lamya is being held.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “Pythia is in charge of this little expedition, understand.”
                Paulette looked about as happy as Pythia had. “Yes, husband.”
                Can I start calling you husband? Pythia gave Shikarou a wink.
                Drop it. She gave him another grin. “All right, Pythia has a tracking device that will keep you on track. If you fly for four and a half hours and don’t find Coed, return here.”
                Paulette glanced at Devon and then nodded to Shikarou. “Yes, sir.”
                “Pythia, same rules as before. No side trips, avoid contact.”
                “Yes, my lord.” Pythia lifted off slowly. “Paulette?” The Neo-Iczel joined her and after a moment of orientation, they sped east.
                Shikarou started releasing pokegirls. “Branwyn, set up camp. Lorelei, Yushiko, you have overwatch. Circe, Elizabeth, perimeter security.”
                He glanced at Devon. “We need to talk, but let your pokegirls out first.”
                Devon gave him a puzzled look but released Kathryn, Bellona, Ming Die, and Siobhan. “Ladies, this is my friend Shikarou and he’s helping to find and rescue Lamya and the others.” He frowned. “Shikarou wanted me to release you for some reason, so what is it?”
                “Without trying to cause problems, we need a leader. We can’t both be in charge.”
                Devon frowned and nodded slowly. “Do you want it to be us or should we involve pokegirls?”
                “It’s going to be like that, huh? Pokegirls aren’t going to be in charge, so it should be just us.”
                Devon smiled. “Do you how to use a sword?”
                “Then swords it is.”
                Shikarou nodded and looked up. “Yushiko, I need two bokken.”  The Armsmistress wheeled in midair and circled back to camp, dismissing her wings as she landed and slipping off her backpack. She pulled two bokken from it and handed them to Shikarou.
                He held them out for Devon to inspect. “Take whichever one you want, unless you want to do this with steel.”
                Hatsumi stirred. “Master, Hatsumi thinks this is a grave mistake.”
                Devon didn’t look up from the swords. “Quiet, Hatsumi. Shikarou is right, there can be only one leader of this expedition and neither one of us is willing to just give in.”
                Branwyn shook her head. “Lorelei, get down here. Elizabeth, Circe, reduce the perimeter. You’ll only drift inward anyway when the fight starts. Devon and Shikarou are going to use bokken to decide who the leader is on this little outing. Lorelei, fetch Candace.” The descending Sphinx vanished as she teleported.
                Elizabeth raced into camp and skidded to a halt next to Branwyn while Circe joined the group with a little more decorum. She glanced at the alpha. “I take it there’s not going to be a pokegirl battle?”
                “Shikarou wants to keep this short.”
                Siobhan bristled. “Devon is pretty good with a sword himself.”
                Hatsumi stirred. “Master is not good enough to beat the kami. No mortal is good enough to beat a kami.”
                The Nogitsune looked shocked. “You’re on their side.”
                “Hatsumi is not happy that Hatsumi speaks the truth. Nonetheless, it is the truth.”
                Lorelei appeared again and Candace stepped away from her to look at Shikarou. “Why did you need me?”
                He sighed slightly. “Devon and I are about to have a duel to decide who’s going to be in charge of this little mission and I wanted you around in case things got out of hand. Thank you for coming.”
                Candace nodded. “Are we looking at any near fatalities?”
                “I’m hoping to avoid that.”
                Devon was starting to get slightly annoyed. “This one,” he announced as he lifted a bokken.
                Shikarou took the other weapon and nodded. “Are you sure you want to do this? We could just talk this out.”
                Devon’s eyes narrowed. “Yes.” He fell into a high guard position. “Ready?”
                Shikarou deliberately slipped into a low guard position to invite attack. “I am.” A low growl began to sound as he gave voice to all of the frustration of the day, first having to leave the Blue League competition and now this stupidity.
                Suddenly Hatsumi was standing between them, facing Shikarou. “Lord kami, please do not kill Hatsumi’s master.”
                Shikarou blinked and the growl stopped. He took a deep breath and nodded. “Sorry. You’re right, this isn’t his fault.”
                Hatsumi visibly relaxed. “Thank you, lord kami.” She stepped out of the way.
                Devon’s eyes blazed. “Are you two quite done?”
                The kami nodded. “Why don’t you have Siobhan officiate?”
                “Why her?”
                “She really wants you to win, so she’s unlikely to be biased towards me.”
                Devon’s eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted. “You don’t think I have a chance, do you? Well my Armsmistress says I’m a natural and I’ve been keeping up with my practice since she left.”
                “That’s good, Devon. However, I’m a natural too and I’ve been using a sword since I was six years old. That gives me a good two centuries of experience on you, but you just might get lucky.”
                Now it was Devon’s turn to growl. “Siobhan! You’re the judge.”
                The Nogitsune grinned. “All right! This Tamer battle is single elimination, one Tamer with no time limit.” Branwyn sighed quietly and shook her head. “Begin!”
                The opponents faced each other in silence, weapons ready as they reached out with their ki. Shikarou’s eyes began to glow as his energy gathered. Minutes slowly passed in silence and Devon growled and attacked with a perfect overhead cut.
                Shikarou touched the point of his sword to Devon’s as it descended, changing the direction of the blow to slide harmlessly past and hit the human four times in the blink of an eye. Devon flew several meters to crash into a tree as Yushiko gasped.
                Branwyn cocked an eyebrow at the Armsmistress as Devon struggled to his feet. “I’ve never seen him move that fast before,” she explained, “without the use of a haste spell.”
                Devon went into a ready position again and advanced. Shikarou sighed. He’d hoped the young man would stay down. So be it. The armor had protected him before, but there were ways around that and he didn’t want to draw this out. He only hoped Devon wouldn’t be too mad afterwards.
                Devon struck. Shikarou broke his right arm at the elbow. Joints on armor had to be less well protected or else the joint wouldn’t work.
                Devon went white and screamed. The body knew that joints were important and tended to tell you slightly more emphatically than when other parts of the body were injured.
                Shikarou’s blow crumpled Devon’s helm and smashed him to the ground to lie unmoving. Blood oozed from his ears and eyes. Shikarou looked up at Siobhan and waited.
                “YOU BASTARD!” She charged, only to be brought down by Hatsumi. She struggled to get free, snarling curses. Ming Die looked down at Devon. My Tamer is unable to battle. The match goes to Shikarou.
                Shikarou dropped the bokken on the ground. “Candace, take care of him.” He looked over at Kathryn. “I’ll discuss this later with him, but I want you to know that I want him to work with me if possible. If not, I’ll issue orders instead.” He glanced at Siobhan and Hatsumi. “Put her up for the time being, I don’t want to hurt anyone else if I don’t have to.” He cocked his head. “Should I be concerned about you and his harem?”
                The Ladyien shook her head. “Ye beat him fairly, and I ken what the fight was about. Unless me husband orders it, ye won’t have na trouble with us.” She sighed as she knelt down next to Devon and looked for Siobhan’s pokeball. “Will he be all right?”
                “Yes,” from Candace from where she was looking Devon over. “His injuries are relatively minor and he’s responding well.” She looked up at Shikarou. “I’ve fixed the arm and the concussion. I don’t know when he’ll wake up, but if it’s longer than an hour I need to know.”
                “All right. How’s the Moonflower, by the bye? I’d have thought she’d have been released by now.”
                The NurseJoy chuckled. “She has, days ago, but she won’t leave. She likes the food and I think she wants a Tamer. Silly feral. She’s harmless except she won’t let anyone cut the lawn.” She stood slowly. “I need to get back to the clinic, we’ve got our second visiting Tamer and he managed to fall between the ferry and the pier.” An amused smile appeared. “The pier needs some work, by the way, but you’ll be happy to know it now has a lot fewer splinters in it. I gave his Domina some tweezers and alcohol and I need to check on them.” Branwyn winced.
                Kathryn looked at the Nogitsune’s now full pokeball and tucked it back into Devon’s belt. “Even though we should only be here a few hours we need to be setting up camp.” She straightened up. “Bellona, Hatsumi, set up the tent. Ming Die, you’ve got Devon and I’ll work on dinner.”
                Branwyn smiled. “If you don’t mind a little crowding, you can stay in our tent and we’ll have more than enough dinner for everyone.”
                Kathryn gave Shikarou a glance. He smiled. “Hey, don’t look at me. Branwyn made the offer, as is her right. I wouldn’t give her the authority to do that and then countermand it without a very good reason. You are welcome to eat and stay with us.”
                She nodded once. “I’d like to take ye up on that offer, but do ye think that little tent will hold us all? Devon likes to have his harem out most of the time.”
                Branwyn stroked her hair with an amused smile. “That’s right; you never went into our tent at Stroak’s. Let me show you what we’ve got.”
                Shikarou looked down at the unconscious Devon. “Hatsumi, watch over him please. Oh, and Yushiko, would you do me the favor of fixing his helmet?”
                The Demon-Goddess blinked in surprise. “Hai.”
                Yushiko smiled. “I’ll take care of it right away.”
                “Circe, Ming Die, let’s take a walk.”
                He received a tightbeam message from Ming Die. Bellona is his beta.
                He glanced at Hatsumi. “Kathryn is busy, does he have a beta?”
                “I am,” Bellona answered.
                “Come with us.” She nodded.
                Nicely done.
                The four of them moved away from camp and into the darkness. When they were comfortably away, Shikarou leaned against a tree and turned to Ming Die and Bellona.
                “Can he work with me after that?”
                I believe that he will work better with you after this. You have demonstrated that you are the superior combatant without being needlessly cruel. He will respect that.
                “Good. I intend to use him as my lieutenant in charge of his harem. I don’t know their strengths or weaknesses and I don’t have time to learn them, so I’ll give him orders and leave him to decide how to carry them out.”
                That should work well. He has a great deal of initiative and will function well in that kind of situation.
                “Bellona, what’s your opinion?” He smiled when she looked surprised. “You are his beta and that makes you his adjutant, so how is he likely to respond?”
                 She frowned. “That’s not how it works in our harem; I function more as his confidant and as a trainer.”
                “I still want your opinion.”
                “I think Ming Die is right, if he’s not too mad at you he should do well as a lieutenant.”
                “Is he likely to let his anger cloud his judgment?”
                She smiled ruefully. “He’s Devon, that’s what he does initially. Later he relies on reason, but his first response is usually anger. He should come around.”
                “He’d better, he asked me for help.”
                “May I ask a question?”
                He smiled. “Everyone else does, so go right ahead.”
                “Why not let him be in charge? Why was the fight necessary?”
                “Devon demanded that fight.” Circe sounded amused. “Shikarou was willing to work it out in some other manner, but Devon insisted on that battle.”
                “I guess you’re right.” The DragonQueen frowned at Shikarou. “If he hadn’t wanted the fight, how would you have resolved this?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I don’t have to be in charge as long as Devon understands that he knows my harem as little as I know his. I’d either have let him be my commander or done something like rock-paper-scissors.” Bellona stared at him in disbelief. His voice hardened. “However, Devon set the conditions and he lost the battle. I am in charge and that isn’t likely to change.”
                He made a foolish decision and now he must pay the price.
                “I suppose that’s one way to look at it, but I’m not going to be that hard on him. I just didn’t want to argue with him when the wheels come off and they always seem to do so at the worst possible time.”
                “Will there be any special demands?” Bellona was watching him intently.
                “Like taming requests? No.”
                Circe chuckled. “Shikarou doesn’t do rape and to him taming an unwilling non-feral pokegirl is just that. Besides, if he gets that horny for someone in your harem he could always have Fumiko take on their appearance.”
                Bellona started and Shikarou gave his Alaka-Wham a disgusted look. “That’s sick,” the two of them said almost in unison and then they stared at each other. Bellona smiled while Shikarou started chuckling.
                He pushed away from the tree. “I’ll talk to Devon when he’s conscious, but I’d appreciate it if you both would help me by quietly telling him what I plan and encouraging him not be so pissed that he takes his toys and goes off on his own. He asked me into this game and now that I’m here, I would really not appreciate any other players. Besides, we can work better together then at cross purposes.”
                Bellona glanced at Ming Die and then nodded. “We’ll do what we can.”
                “I should be very angry with you.” Devon gave him a sour look as he rotated his arm. “You broke my arm and ruined my helmet. The arm is fine but the helmet I can’t get fixed and it was a gift from Tess.”
                Yushiko grinned and presented the repaired helm. “You mean this?”
                Devon stared. “How?” He pointed his pokedex at her suddenly and she smiled and posed prettily. He checked the pokedex and read her again before putting it away with a frown and accepting the helmet from her. “You don’t look anything like an Armsmistress.”
                “My kami let me look like I did before I thresholded.” She smiled.
                “You mean he’s like your god?” Devon stared at Shikarou, who looked faintly embarrassed.
                “There is no like. He is my god and my family’s god.” There was a note of pride in her voice. Shikarou looked more uncomfortable.
                “Yushiko has some odd ideas about me. I am kami, but I never asked for worshippers.” He sighed. “Yet now that I have them, I can’t ask them to stop either. Thank you Yushiko.”
                She smiled and bowed. “Yes, my lord.” Scarlet wings shimmered into existence and she took to the air.
                Devon watched her go. “I miss Tess.” He glanced at Shikarou. “Please don’t tell anyone I said that.”
                Shikarou gave him a sad smile. “We have our favorites and they know it, even if they never say anything about it. I’ll never tell anyone about it unless you give me permission.” He settled down at the picnic table he’d created. “If it’s possible, we’ll get them back.” He fixed Devon with an even look. “It’ll be easier if we work together instead of at cross purposes.”
                “Now you sound like Bellona.” Devon dropped onto the other bench. “Can I have a beer?”
                Shikarou nodded and created two beers. Devon took a deep gulp of his and held it in two hands as he looked into the darkness for a minute before pulling his attention back to the present. “Lamya was my first pokegirl. There were two of them, her and a Mini-Top that I named Maeve.” Another drink of beer. “I lost Maeve and then I let Lamya leave.” He sighed. “To compound my stupidity, I loaned Lamya my Armsmistress, Tess, to be her alpha and Dima, my Baleena. Tess was my third pokegirl and in many ways, my favorite.” His fingers squeezed the mug hard. “I had a good reason for it, but God it hurt.”
                “I hoped Tess could keep Lamya from getting entangled with someone else and bring her back to me. I never imagined that I could lose both of them.” He gave Shikarou a questioning look. “How could I be so stupid?”
                “Love makes us do things that turn out to be in hindsight less than intelligent.” Shikarou sipped at the beer. “I’ve done it. Hell, I’m still doing it and I’m older than the Blue League. And you know that once you get them back, you’ll probably do more silly things for them.” He shrugged. “I’m sure they do the same thing for you.” A brief smile. “Would a recent example of my own stupidity make you feel better?”
                Devon brightened. “Yeah, it would. If a god can screw up, that would make me accept my own failings.”
                Shikarou winced. “Thanks. Anyway, I had a Dark Kitsune for a while. Kiyoko’s previous Tamer had been killed by one of Godwin’s men and she appeared to be happy with me. Then we ran across her previous Tamer. It turned out that she hadn’t been killed and when Kiyoko wanted to go with her, I let her.” He shrugged. “I was and still am very fond of her and I thought we had connected in a way that only Branwyn and Circe had achieved at that time.” His eyes narrowed and his ears half flattened. “I was wrong, at least about her feelings for me.”
                He drained is mug in one long swallow. “It always hurts us because we care and because we care we let them hurt us because they think it’s best for them. And we’ll go ahead and do it next time too.”
                Devon shook his head. “That was supposed to make me feel better? Heaven forbid you try to make me feel worse.”
                “You love Tess and you love Lamya. Asking me for help may not have been wise insomuch as your self esteem is concerned, but I will increase your chances of getting them back.” He smiled mirthlessly. “Hopefully without making us both wanted criminals in the Orange League.”
                Devon shrugged. “If that’s what it takes, then so be it. I would die for them.”
                “That would be a pretty stupid thing do to.” Shikarou snapped in a tone of pure acid.
                Devon started. “What?” His voice rose in anger.
                “What would dying for them accomplish? Would it help them? No. I’ll tell you what it would do. It would leave your harem alone. It would shatter the women that you call wives and leave them helpless and in the clutches of strangers who would probably treat them a damned sight worse than you do.” Shikarou’s voice dropped to a low snarl. “Get this straight, human: You cannot save everyone and giving up your life for one only means you fail in your responsibilities to the others who depend on you. Think before you act, Devon, or your wives will pay the price for your stupidity.”
                “You may have to let someone die someday to save the rest. That is the price of being the man in charge and although we would give anything to avoid letting them die, sometimes we have to. If you lay down your life instead, you have failed all of them and don’t you ever forget that.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly and continued in a more reasonable tone. “If someone has to die to save your harem, let it be the other guy. Don’t die for them; kill for them so that you may live to take care of them.”
                Devon glared at Shikarou for a minute. They both jumped when the glass in his hands shattered and beer poured over the tabletop and the both of them. Blood began to drip from his fingers.
                Shikarou sighed. “I’m sorry I made you angry,” he began, but Devon interrupted.
                “No, you are right. I wasn’t thinking.” He took off his shirt and wrapped his hands in it. “I don’t like what you said, but there is some truth in there, unpalatable as it might be.” He glanced over at Shikarou. “So, did I ruin your pants?”
                “Good.” He dropped his hands into his lap. “I’ll follow your orders. So, how do we rescue them?”
                Shikarou nodded. “Good question. We can’t go charging in until we have more information.”
                “And then?”
                “Most likely we’ll still go charging in.” He gave a slim smile. “That’s what we do.”
                In Shikarou’s opinion, breakfast reminded him of the circus. There was a lot of activity that seemed pointless to an outsider, but when everything was finished, two harems and their Tamers were fed, including any with special needs.
                After returning everyone except the two alphas and guards, those being Hatsumi for Devon and Elizabeth for Shikarou, the two Tamers sat down for a quick conference.
                “The first thing we need to do is get in to see Lamya.” Shikarou glanced at the sun. “I need to hear her tell me that she isn’t guilty so I can be truthful to Dorothea. I’m not sure that she will be especially useful, but having her out will lend a certain authority to anything we do since few would believe that a man with a Seraph could be an evildoer.”
                Devon had started to bristle and then relaxed as Shikarou finished his explanation. “All right, you said she was at the Lion street police department. Ok, I did some research before getting a nap and Lion street is where the police headquarters is. Will that be a problem?”
                “That should actually help. We’re less likely to be noticed at a large building, there’s likely to be much more traffic. However, just to be on the safe side, we’ll show up right around lunch time. Civil servants are usually fairly protective of their lunches; it’s often the only free time they get.”
                Branwyn gave him a look. “Broken into many police stations, have you?”
                Shikarou gave her a lofty look. “The whole idea is to avoid breaking into anything. We’re going to ask to see her.”
                “And they’ll just let us?” Devon shook his head. “That’s unlikely.”
                “It just depends on how you ask.”
                “Follow my lead and just stay quiet.” Shikarou muttered to himself briefly and then nodded. “Let’s go.” They moved through the steady stream of people exiting the building and to the main desk. The Catgirl there gave them an unhappy look as Shikarou smiled. “We’re here to see a prisoner. Lamya Harris.”
                She eyed them briefly and pushed a button on her desk. A man in a police uniform came out. “What is it, Kitty?”
                “They’re here to see Lamya Harris.”
                The policeman shook his head. “All right. Have they signed in?”
                Kitty nodded. “Yeah.”
                “Follow me.” The policeman turned and opened the door, completely missing the look of undisguised loathing the Catgirl gave him. “Inside.”
                They followed the policeman back to the holding cells, small rooms with no tiny windows. He fished out a ring of keys and unlocked the door. “Just scream when you want out.” Chuckling at his own joke he pulled the door open.
                Shikarou was the first inside and put his finger to his lips to warn Lamya to silence as Devon stepped in. As soon as the door shut she was in his arms. “Devon!”
                Shikarou leaned over to Branwyn as he tried to ignore the wet reunion going on not very far away. “Did you see the receptionist? Have any idea what that was about?”
                The Unicorn grinned. “Kitty is a generic name for a cat type pokegirl and is probably not her name. Using it usually denotes contempt for the pokegirl since she obviously isn’t important enough for him to bother learning her name.” She frowned. “So what just happened?”
                “It’s a spell which makes the people around you see what makes sense to them in order to accomplish your goal. We probably appeared as family members or lawyers. It also made the Catgirl believe that we’d already signed in.”
                Branwyn’s eyes widened. “That’s some spell. Will you teach it to me?”
                “It’s hard to master and requires iron concentration, especially with so many psychic pokegirls around. I’ll think about it, but we cannot stay long.” He wiped sweat off his forehead. “Devon.”
                Harris looked up. “Yes.”
                “We can’t stay long.”
                “Alright. Lamya, this is Shikarou and he has to ask you some questions. Don’t be offended, he has to ask them. Just answer them.”
                Shikarou watched her pull herself together. “Ok. What is it?”
                “You have been accused of murdering a man. The charge is pretty vague about how you killed him, but it hints that you used one of your pokegirls. Did you kill this man?”
                She shook her head slowly. “No.”
                “Did you order one of your pokegirls to kill him?”
                “No, I didn’t.”
                “Did you order anyone to kill this man?”
                She gave him an angry look. “NO.”
                “Do you know who did kill him?”
                She sighed. “No. He was already dead when we found him. It was pretty gruesome; he’d been mauled pretty badly. Morgan was checking him for life signs when a woman saw us and started screaming. I decided that it would be best if we stayed around to answer questions and help.” Her eyes hardened. “I never thought they would arrest us. They think Morgan killed him and I ordered it.” She looked into Shikarou’s eyes. “I didn’t.”
                “I know.” Branwyn let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and Devon almost went limp. “Now we have to prove it.”
                Lamya frowned. “That’s going to be hard, since they know I’m a pokegirl, they’re kind of predisposed to believe I’m lying about the murder.”
                “What do their psychic pokegirls say?”
                She made a face. “Would you believe that Coed doesn’t have any? A town of over two thousand residents and not one psychic pokegirl in the lot. They’re illegal here. Tamer’s have to check their psychic pokegirls at the town limits and they don’t get them back until they leave.”
                Devon groaned. “Any idea why?”
                “Some psychic pokegirls took over the town about a hundred years ago and turned everyone into puppets until some Tamers with Dark type pokegirls came along and freed them.” Lamya made a disgusted noise. “A century ago and they still have that stupid law.”
                “We have to go.” Shikarou winced at Lamya’s expression.
                Devon grabbed her and held her tight. “I’m not leaving the Orange Islands without you.” He stared into her eyes. “We’ll get through this.” She nodded slowly; hope starting to glow in her eyes. “You just stay strong.”
                Shikarou went to the window and yelled. “Officer, we’re ready to go.” An OfficerJenny showed up and unlocked the door before leading them out.
                Once a couple of blocks away from the police station Shikarou looked at the others and sighed. “This is going to be more difficult than I thought, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”
                Devon shook his head. “I don’t see how to fix this. What are you going to do?”
                “I need to think about that for a bit, but I’ve already got some ideas percolating. Meanwhile, tonight we’ll get her harem out of lockup.” He grinned. “That I already know how to do.” He looked at Branwyn. “I’m going to need you to borrow Faelan’s PLC badge tonight. I need to see it before I make one of my own.”
                She blinked. “You are going to impersonate a member of the PLC?”
                “Would you rather I kill a building full of policemen? Once I start I can’t leave any witnesses.” Devon blinked in shock at his words and Hatsumi grinned.
                Branwyn took a moment to digest his words and slowly nodded. “Well, we can’t have that. I’ll get it tonight.” She frowned. “I don’t think they’re going to turn her over to you, the PLC won’t have any jurisdiction in a case like this.”
                “Who cares? I’m not going to try to take Lamya that way. Instead we’ll have to do this the hard way.” He sighed. “And Dorothea will help, along with you. More than likely we’re going to have to solve the murder. The PLC badge will get us access to the evidence, especially if Dorothea starts up with the whole miscarriage of justice thing that celestial pokegirls are famous for.” He grinned. “After I order Dorothea to order me to come here and solve this crime I’ll be able to tell them that’s exactly what happened.” The grin widened. “And no good cop would want me wandering around by myself trying to solve it. After all, best case scenario, I screw things up and get Lamya released on some technicality.”
                Devon frowned. “Best case? What’s the worst case scenario?”
                “I solve the case without them, steal the glory and make them look dumber than shit.”
                Devon stared at him as Hatsumi dissolved in peals of laughter.
                Devon gave Shikarou an odd look as he released Hatsumi. “Why are we here?”
                “We’re going to rescue Lamya’s harem.”
                Shikarou opened the door. “Yes. Inside.” A shadow loomed in the doorway and he smiled. “Hello, Molly.”
                The Denmother smiled back. “Get inside before you’re seen.” Once the door was shut she gave Shikarou a quick kiss before turning to a stunned Devon. “Hello, Devon.”
                “Uh, hi.” He glanced at Shikarou. “I know you killed Dugal, but it never occurred to me to ask what happened to Molly.”
                Molly gave him a neutral look. “Typical.” She turned to Shikarou. “The power is online and everything is warming up. It should be about ten minutes before we are ready to receive, even if I don’t know what.”
                “We’ll be receiving four pokeballs.” Shikarou dusted off a counter and hopped up on it as Hatsumi drifted over to stand near Branwyn. “All right, we are here in Lairg to rescue, um, yeah, rescue is a good word, rescue Lamya’s harem.”
                He sighed. “Devon, I need your oath to secrecy. You will not reveal anything that I tell you or you see tonight.”
                Devon nodded. “Done. If it’ll get them freed, you have my oath.”
                “All right. First of all, I have an AI.”
                Devon shrugged. “So do I. It’s in my PDA.”
                Shikarou smiled coldly. “No, that is barely an expert system. I have an AI, one from home and it can run circles around VideoGirls without them even knowing she’s there. Her name is Aggie and she’s as much a person as you and I. She’ll work with me for some time to come and when her service is up, I will free her.”
                “Nothing is better than a VideoGirl,” Devon protested.
                The monitor on the wall flickered and changed, showing an attractive girl with milk white skin, green hair and red eyes. She smiled. “I am. You see, Devon, VideoGirls operate in the nanosecond range, fairly good, but not well enough to deal with me. I function in the zeptosecond range, which is over two times faster than they do. They have a better chance of catching a cold in cyberspace then they do of even noticing that I am there.”
                “Aggie is modest, too.”
                She grinned at Shikarou. “I am only being accurate. May I explain what is going to happen?”
                “Be my guest.”
                Aggie winked at him. “Thank you. Pokegirl centers have to respond to requests for any spare pokegirls that they have on hand from other centers in their region. This allows them to adopt out pokegirls that have spent too long in a Tamer’s account without being taken care of.” Branwyn scowled at the thought. “Coed has over two dozen pokegirls that are awaiting a Tamer, but all of them are considered unsuitable for a beginning Tamer so they haven’t been shipped to a Ranch. I am going to generate a fictitious request from a pokegirl center on the other side of the Orange Islands for four of their adoptable pokegirls, however they will be rerouted to this pokegirl center.”
                “They will send the first four pokeballs in the transport queue, which I have the data on and have swapped with the data on Lamya’s harem so they will be sent instead.”
                “Pokeballs work by converting a pokegirl into a form of bio-energy while long term storage is slightly different. The pokeball itself is converted into energy, allowing for the potential mass storage of an infinite number of pokegirls in one storage facility, limited only by the processing power and memory of the computer handling the storage facility.”
                “There is no way to check if the data on a pokeball is accurate, short of taking out of storage and scanning it with a handheld scanner, so by switching the data labels, their records will indicate that the correct pokegirls will be sent.”
                “I will also re-label four pokeballs in the station that is supposed to receive them to indicate that they did arrive. There will be some confusion when they open those pokeballs up, but I’ve selected four relatively harmless pokegirls for this and there will only be confusion and not screaming and running and dying.” She smirked.
                “Often the programs that send out the request for a transfer are automated and it just so happens that the station that is supposed to receive these pokegirls has such a system and I’ve introduced a miscount into their database that would generate such a request.”
                “The only thing left will be that when Lamya is released, she will be given the four pokeballs that are supposed to hold her pokegirls, however they won’t. Instead they will hold four pokegirls selected by me.” She grinned. “And I’m not telling what they are, except that none of them are feral and all of them are eligible for adoption; anything more will have to be a surprise for you organic types.” She winked at Shikarou. “All done.”
                Shikarou smiled at Aggie as she dissolved away. “The reason we are here is because the pokegirl center here in Lairg was shut down for lack of use and its equipment mothballed in place.” He glanced at Branwyn. “We’ve been trying to figure out how to get the Blue League to give it to us for use at Caomh Sith, but we really don’t have a use for it right now.” He grinned. “I just don’t like the thought of all of those millions of credits of equipment being just outside my grasp.”
                “Anyway, Molly is here because she knows how to operate the transfer system and she’s loyal to me personally.” The Denmother grinned and nodded. “The power system still works, so in,” he glanced at Molly, who held up two fingers, “two minutes, we’ll carry out the perfect theft.”
                Devon was speechless for a moment, but Shikarou knew it was too good to last. “Do you realize that with this you could steal any pokegirl, anywhere, as long as she’s in storage?”
                “Yeah. I also figure that the leagues would put me on some kind of wanted list if they had the slightest inkling I could do this.” Shikarou scratched his chin thoughtfully. “But they don’t and no one is going to tell them. Besides, they can’t even prove that Aggie exists since they can’t catch her.”
                Molly cleared her throat softly. “My lord, Aggie’s doing it, we have four pokeballs inbound and the catch system is functioning perfectly.”
                The tension in the room ratcheted upwards several notches until Molly checked the control board and grinned at her Tamer. “Four full pokeballs in storage and ready for retrieval.” She turned back to the control panel. “We have one Armsmistress, one Baleena, one Cheshire and one Valkyrie.”
                Devon looked surprised. “Lamya must have evolved her Slicer into the Valkyrie.”
                Shikarou hopped off the counter. “Molly, let’s have the Armsmistress out first.”
                Devon paled slightly and then nodded.
                Under Molly’s instructions, the release tray glowed and a pokeball appeared. She picked it up and released a tall redhead in armor who was wearing a claymore. She came out facing Shikarou and her eyes narrowed. “My name is Tess,” she announced in a flat voice, “and I already have a Tamer. I will not go willingly to your bed.” Her hand went to the hilt of her sword.
                Shikarou shook his head slowly. “I know I’m not your Tamer.” He motioned behind her to Devon. “He is.”
                She scowled. “It doesn’t matter. Whoever he is, he’s not my Tamer.”
                A smile. “Are you sure?”
                Tess froze. Slowly she turned around and stared at her Tamer. “DEVON!” She threw herself into his arms and promptly knocked him to the floor, where she refused to let go as she cried into his neck and he fought to breathe.
                Shikarou watched them for a minute and turned to Molly. “Get the rest of them out of storage but don’t release them and power the system back down. Aggie will reset the run hours log and erase the records of the transfer.” She nodded and got to work.
                Shikarou watched his guests eat dinner with a pensive expression. Due to the sheer number of people, he’d created a second dinner table in the living area of the tent for the other harem. Helen, who really enjoyed her domestic role as housekeeper, was thrilled to be able to cook for more people and the tables were lined with food. Devon, Tess and Dima made a little group of their own while Kathryn watched with an amused look as she rode herd over the rest of her Tamer’s harem. The Cheshire, Morgan and the Valkyrie, Xifeng were huddled together in a corner, watching the group with obvious envy and no little concern.
                Finally he growled low in the back of his throat. “If he’s not going to do anything about it, then it’s up to us.”
                Branwyn frowned. “What was that?”
                “I would like you to invite them,” he pointed with his chin at the Cheshire and the Valkyrie, “to dine with us. They appear to have been abandoned by their alpha and Devon shows no interest in taking care of them.” He shook his head. “We’re not adopting them; they’ll go back to Lamya when she’s freed.”
                Branwyn gave him a startled look. “I should have thought of that myself. Sorry.” She hopped to her feet and went over to talk to the pokegirls, who looked extremely grateful at her words and quickly joined Shikarou’s harem at their table.
                Branwyn settled down in her spot. “Good call. They hadn’t even eaten.” She grimaced. “I should have been paying more attention.”
                “Hey, we’re a team, we cover for each other. Do make sure they have somewhere to sleep, if you would.”
                She nodded. “I will. So what’s next?”
                He smiled. “Dorothea. If I can convince her that this is a worthy cause, the railroading of an innocent pokegirl and all, I’ll have a very vocal non-psychic pokegirl on my side, one the police will notice. If I can’t she’ll still be there, just more quietly.”
                After the meal was over, Shikarou caught the Seraph’s eye and motioned her over. “Yes, my lord?”
                “Let’s go to the arena.”
                Once there they settled down on a bench and he stared off into the trees for a moment before turning to her.
                “I need your help and while I considered trying to manipulate you to get that help, I’d rather just tell you what is going on and let you decide.”
                She nodded slowly. “My lord, I am pleased that thou respect me such that thou would let me make mine own decision, but in truth I am thy pokegirl to command.”
                He smiled slightly. “Thank you, but no, you have a higher calling and we both know it. Someday it’s going to conflict with what I want to do and what I want you to do, but we’ll deal with it when it happens.”
                “My lord, what vexes thee?”
                “I have spoken with Lamya and she told me that she was not involved in the death that she’s been charged with and neither was her harem. You know I cannot lie, but I haven’t told you that I can also detect lies in others and she’s telling the truth.”
                Dorothea looked startled. “That is a wonderful gift, my lord and will be of great benefit in our battles with evil.”
                He smiled. “Only if they stop to talk. Now, the police believe she is guilty and the community has a ban on psychic pokegirls so they cannot ascertain the truth the easy way, so it is unlikely that they will pursue the investigation any further unless we force them to. While one pokegirl being wrongly convicted is bad enough, in my opinion, it also shows a laziness of thought that has probably resulted in such events happening in the past and indicates that they will continue to occur in the future.”
                “In addition, it means that the killer is still free to kill again.”
                Dorothea nodded. “If we can stop this miscarriage of justice, my lord, then we should do so with all dispatch.”
                “That’s my opinion as well. We will need to take into consideration that even with your presence, the police are unlikely to be willing to consider further investigative work on a case they believe is solved if I tell them they are wrong, so I’m considering a bit of subterfuge to give me the moral authority to prod them into action and I’ll need your help to do this.”
                “My lord, we are as one mind in this. I will do as thou command.”
                “Excellent. What I’m going to do is impersonate an officer of the Planetary League Council. While I won’t have the jurisdiction to investigate the case as a PLC officer, the police will understand if I’m being harassed by my Seraph to find the real killer and will be sympathetic to another policeman in his plight.”
                She frowned in thought. “But thou cannot lie, so thou cannot tell them that.”
                “If you tell me that you know Lamya isn’t guilty and demand that I involve myself in finding the killer, then it won’t be a lie when I tell it to the police, now will it?”
                Dorothea stared at him for a long time before a shy smile appeared. “That is very crafty of thee, my lord.”
                He winked. “Thank you, I try. Will you do it?”
                She gave him a broad smile. “My lord, it has come to mine attention that in the town of Coed a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place. A pokegirl stands wrongly accused of being involved in the murder of a person and that the police are unwilling to continue investigating as they are filled with surety in their false position. It falls upon us to correct this injustice and I charge thee with assisting mine efforts. It is the very soul of law that is in peril, my lord, and if thou must break some minor laws of man in order to correct this terrible injustice then I charge thee to do so.”
                Shikarou considered her words. “You did that very well. I think that should cover almost everything and we’ll take care of what little remains before we go hunting criminals and lazy cops.”
                Dorothea hugged him in glee.
                “So why did you have everyone in your harem call you Patrick Hayden?” Devon asked curiously.
                “I can’t lie, so I had to create some truths.” Shikarou settled the balmoral more firmly on his head. “I hate hats. They crush my ears and make everything sound muffled.”
                Devon grinned. “It looks smart on you, especially since you cut your hair.” He was a blonde now, courtesy of a spell Shikarou had taught Branwyn.
                Shikarou now sported close cropped hair, which changed his face completely while the balmoral hid his ears and drew attention away from his face. Dorothea touched his cheek. “My lord, it will grow back, will it not?”
                “Yes, I’ll have to keep cutting it or it’ll grow back overnight.”
                “Good, thou a handsome man and thy hair is very beautiful.” She blushed suddenly.
                “Why thank you. Are you ready for your part?”
                She gave him a determined look. “It is not a part, my lord, there is a grave issue here and the sloth of the Coed police department must be corrected.”
                “That’s the spirit.” He adjusted the balmoral once again. “Let’s do this.” They headed down the street in the direction of the police station.
                The Catgirl obviously didn’t recognize him. “How can I help you?”
                Shikarou produced his badge. “I need to speak to whoever is the liaison with the Planetary League Council.”
                She stared at it and then at him. “Uh, just a minute.” Picking up the phone, she continued to eye him as she dialed. A quick conversation and she turned back to him. “Someone will be right out, major.”
                “Thank you.”
                A few minutes later a sergeant came out. “Major Hayden?”
                Shikarou smiled. “That’s what they call me.” Devon blinked as he suddenly got the answer to his earlier question.
                “Yes, sir. We don’t have a liaison with the PLC, so the chief wants to talk to you. This way, please.”
                The three of them followed the sergeant to a lift which deposited them on the fourth floor. He led them to a nicely apportioned office and turned them over to the chief’s secretary. She smiled. “The chief will be with you in just a moment, please have a seat.”
                After about ten minutes, Devon leaned over. “How long are we going to wait?” he whispered.
                “Good question. Dorothea, want to be offended at the delay?”
                The Seraph bobbed her head once and gave him a quick grin. “Watch me.” She jumped to her feet and gave the secretary a haughty stare. “How long is the chief going to make Justice wait?” She asked in a loud voice as she placed her palms flat on the side of the desk. “Or is the hospitality of the Coed police to the Arm of Good nothing more than a myth?” You could actually hear the capitals in her speech. “Thine sloth has already condemned the Innocent; must thou delay in correcting the Error in which thou finds thyself?” Wood splintered beneath her fingers in a series of loud cracks as she slowly clenched her hands.
                Devon stared openmouthed as the secretary gobbled in shock and Shikarou fought a grin.
                The secretary’s phone buzzed and she grabbed it up like it was her salvation. “Yes sir. No sir. Yes sir. At once sir.” She hung up the phone and looked past the Seraph to Shikarou. “Major, Chief Bradley will see you now.”
                Shikarou stood. “Thank you. Dorothea.” The Seraph moved to open the door for him and Devon.
                Chief Adolfo Bradley stood and extended his hand. “Major Hayden.” Shikarou took it and then the he and Devon took the indicated seats as Dorothea stood next to her Tamer. “To what do I owe the honor of your visit?”
                Shikarou smiled gently. “First of all, Chief Bradley, I would like you to send me the bill for the repairs to your secretary’s desk. Sometimes Dorothea becomes a little exuberant.” He shrugged. “I’ve had no choice but to become accustomed to it.”
                Bradley smiled. “Think nothing of it.” He glanced at the Seraph and couldn’t suppress a slight shudder. “I take it your pokegirl is the reason you are here?”
                “That’s right. I don’t have any official jurisdiction in what I’m going to ask you to let me be involved in, just,” he stressed the word just, “a Seraph who tells me that there is a grave injustice here that we can correct.” He smiled easily. “I’m not here in any official capacity, just as another man who wants to see the bad guys get theirs.” His smiled slipped a bit and a slightly harried expression appeared. “A man with a portable conscience who charged me with this job.”
                “What injustice are you talking about?”
                “I understand that you have a Lamya Harris under arrest for murder. Dorothea here tells me that she’s innocent and that the real killer is still at large.”
                Bradley frowned. “The evidence is pretty damning. She owns the pokegirl that did the actual killing under her orders and they were found with the body and literally dripping with its blood.”
                Dorothea glared. “Did thou find any who had witnessed this murder taking place? Did thou have a psychic pokegirl investigate her mind?”
                “Ah, well, it’s illegal to own psychic pokegirls here.” Bradley replied delicately. “Right or wrong, it’s the law.” His tone said he didn’t like it either. “So we have to do our investigations in more mundane ways and while we don’t have any witnesses, the man was mauled to death by a pokegirl. We’re confident her Cheshire was the killer.”
                Shikarou touched Dorothea’s arm as she started to speak. “Chief, you aren’t going to convince Dorothea with a conversation, so I’d like to look over the evidence, if you don’t mind. If we find anything, I’ll let you know.” He sighed and Devon saw an expression of “help me out” flash across his face.
                The chief gave him a sympathetic look. “This is very irregular, but we want to be accommodating to our Celestial pokegirls. I must have someone monitor everything, you understand.”
                “I want you to, Chief.” Shikarou glanced at Dorothea. “If you would assign me a liaison that would help immensely to facilitate things, and please understand, while Dorothea is convinced that there is a mistake being made, I am not here to make your department look unprofessional in any way. I’m just here to correct it and I have no problem if my name never appears in any official reports.”
                Shikarou could almost see the chief’s mind work. If Shikarou found nothing, then his department would be vindicated by a Celestial and if he did find something wrong, the chief could claim credit for correcting the problem. He couldn’t lose.
                “So, major, who’s your associate?”
                Shikarou smiled. “This is Jamie.” A slight smile. “He’s my lieutenant.” Devon nodded politely.
                The chief nodded back. “What were you doing before you came here?”
                “Would you believe I was in the Blue League, chasing some suspected terrorists?” His eyes flicked in Dorothea’s direction. “This came up rather suddenly.”
                Bradley nodded and made the decision. “Where do you want to start?” Devon relaxed slightly.
                “If you still have the body, I’d like to start there.”
                Chief Bradley nodded. “I’ll set you up with Sergeant Dobson. He’ll coordinate your investigation and report directly to me.”
                A short while later found the three of them in the morgue, which was located as they often were, in the basement. Sergeant Dobson turned out to be a stocky man with a strong heritage of aboriginal stock. He grinned, his teeth glinting whitely in his swarthy face. “You want to see the body, is it? Have you ever seen one before?”
                “Yes and yes.”
                “Suit yourself.” The sergeant opened the refrigerator and wheeled out a shrouded form. “There weren’t no autopsy, the cause of death was pretty obvious.”
                He uncovered the body with a flourish of the sheet. It was still covered in dried blood and other things and huge wounds gaped in the torso. One limb had been shredded and a foot was missing. Devon paled slightly. He’d seen bodies in the field, even killed some of them, but it was different here in this clinical setting. Dorothea watched impassively.
                Shikarou glanced at the sergeant. “May I?”
                “My orders are to let you do as you wish, so long as you don’t start cooking bits of him.” The sergeant grinned at his own joke. “There are gloves over there.”
                “Thanks but they interfere with my sense of touch.” Shikarou started with a visual inspection at the body’s head and working downwards. “You said there was no autopsy, was the body examined at all?”
                “We took some photos and gathered some physical evidence; hairs, some fluid scrapings and we measured the wounds. I was part of the team that did it.”
                Shikarou nodded without ceasing his examination. “I’ll want to see that evidence later.” He glanced at the wounds and continued on, stopping at the crotch. He cocked his head and frowned slightly. “Did you get a sample of the semen?”
                “Semen?” Dobson looked surprised. “I don’t remember any semen.”
                Shikarou glanced up. “If you’ll look, you’ll see that this man ejaculated not too long before he died. His semen was still wet enough to mix with the blood when he was killed.” His nose told him that the ejaculation had probably been the result of intercourse; he smelled a female as well.
                Dobson got a magnifying glass and peered at the man’s penis. “I’ll be damned.” He gave Shikarou his first look of respect. “You’ve got good eyes.”
                “Thank you.” He continued his examination to the feet and then easily flipped the body over to continue.
                Dobson whistled. “You’re a strong one, bodies are hard to move.”
                Shikarou sighed. “He’s been raped; see where the blood came from the anus instead of flowing into the buttocks?” Dobson whistled again and nodded.
                He turned the body over again and moved to the torso, examining the wounds closely. “Whatever attacked him was strong; the cuts go through the ribs. The weapons were sharp too, the bones aren’t splintered or shattered. So, someone strong and quick with sharp knives or claws.” He slid his hand into the largest cut and felt around. Devon turned green and looked away, as did the sergeant. Dorothea just watched.
                “The killer had reach, the cuts are very deep. Wait a minute, what’s this?” Shikarou pulled out the end of a talon, black in color and almost a centimeter long. “Well now, a broken piece of claw.” He examined it closely. “It’s hollow, a claw sheathe. Most likely from a cat type, but a little large for a Cheshire.” He offered it up for the sergeant to look at. “See how it’s broken and not torn at the root, it’s from a larger claw than a Cheshire has.”
                Dobson nodded. “I’ll get an evidence bag.” He stepped out of the room for a moment.
                While he was gone Devon gave Shikarou a slightly ill look. “How can you do that?”
                “Back when I was a monster hunter I often had to examine kills for information on the killer.” He smiled mirthlessly. “At least this one hasn’t started to liquefy. There was one I had to run through a strainer because my prey shed teeth while killing.”
                Devon turned green again.
                The sergeant came back with some evidence bags and the claw tip was duly cataloged and bagged.
                Finally Shikarou was done and was washing up while the sergeant finished documenting the new evidence. “Can you get out all of the evidence and set up somewhere so I can take a look at it?”
                Dobson nodded. “I’ll take care of it.” He looked at the clock. “Major, will you be eating lunch first?”
                “Yes.” Shikarou looked at Devon. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
                During lunch Shikarou nodded. “I can understand that you aren’t hungry, but you need to eat.” He smiled. “The worst is over, Jamie, possibly except for some photographs.”
                Dorothea nodded. “Thou should eat, Master Jamie. Thy body needs fuel no matter what thy mind may think.” She glanced at Shikarou’s hamburger. “And thou should not eat so much meat.”
                Shikarou gave her a pleasant smile. “That is enough.”
                She blinked at the reprimand and nodded slowly. “Yes, my lord.”
                Devon picked at his sandwich. “So what do you think killed that guy?”
                Shikarou popped a chip into his mouth. “My nose told me that the pokegirl had sex with him before killing him and I didn’t smell any sort of poisons, so we can rule out a Toxicat. Whatever did for him was big and strong. It fucked him and then killed him, so the sex with him did not tame it, at least not quickly. Most cat types don’t eat their partners, so that begins to limit the list. The claw tip was fairly large, so the killer wasn’t a small cat, which rules out the various Catgirl evolutions until you reach Chimera.” He shrugged.  “I have a suspicion which fits the evidence we’ve seen so far and I really hope that they found fur on the victim.”
                “My lord, what pokegirl does thee suspect?”
                “The worst case scenario would be if the killer was a Panthress, and so far my luck tends to run in that direction. If they have some hairs, I’ll swipe one and have Branwyn take it to the Conservatory and have a DNA analysis run on it, but if it’s black, I’ll probably consider that fairly conclusive.”
                Devon nodded slowly. “The damage on the body would tend to indicate torture and you said that the pokegirl had sex with him before he was killed. That fits.”
                “So if it is a Panthress, what do we do? She could be long gone by now.”
                Shikarou watched him with an amused expression. “We are here to get Lamya freed. Proving it is a Panthress will do that. At that point our job is done.”
                Dorothea stirred but remained silent. Shikarou noticed. “I know we should probably stick around and help the police hunt it, but we don’t even know if they are going to want any help. We’ll cross that bridge once Lamya is free.” He glanced at Dorothea. “Is that acceptable?”
                “If it is a Panthress, thou should lead the hunt to eliminate it as it is obvious that the police are ill equipped to handle such a threat,” came her reply.
                “And if the police don’t want any help?”
                “The desires of the police in such a situation are of little import if by acting thou can save their lives.”
                He sighed. “Devon?”
                “I tend to agree with Dorothea.”
                “Wonderful.” He shook his head slowly. “I guess we are all stupid”
                Dorothea touched his arm. “We are not stupid, my lord, we are heroic.”
                He gave her a flat look. “Just how many old heroes can you name?” He nodded at her blank look. “Yeah, me too.” He levered away from the table. “Let’s go. We’ve got evidence to inspect.”
                As Pythia and Siobhan sniffed around the murder site, Shikarou reflected that there was another reason to hunt down the Panthress.
                The Coed police department wouldn’t release Lamya until it was caught.
                On the plus side their decision to send the major and his lieutenant out alone meant that they wouldn’t be stumbling over any cops and in addition they could use their harem’s full capabilities without worrying about somehow being identified.
                On the minus side, there was… Shikarou frowned. No, it seemed to be all plusses. Cool. He wriggled his ears in pleasure, glad to have them out from under that blasted hat.
                The murder had taken place a kilometer outside of Coed proper and Lamya’s pokegirls had been able to lead them straight to the murder site. After figuring out just how badly a bunch of police and forensic “experts” could contaminate the site, they’d turned Pythia and Siobhan loose to scent around in an ever widening circle.
                It took about a half hour before Siobhan caught a feline scent.
                Shikarou checked with Devon and assigned primary hunting responsibility to Pythia. The G-Spliced was far tougher and stronger than Siobhan and would therefore hopefully survive long enough for help to arrive if she was ambushed. Siobhan would follow at a six meter distance. Hatsumi and Lorelei had overwatch with Yushiko and Tess watching their backtrail. Shikarou didn’t want some misguided cat affection to cause his overwatch to hesitate in a crisis. Paulette, Branwyn, Kathryn, Dorothea, Circe and Ming Die were all out and provided a ready reserve. Paulette and Dorothea also had guard duty on their respective Tamers and would be the last into a fight.
                They followed the trail for about four hours and the sun was starting to set when Pythia reported that the scent had suddenly become much fresher.
                Shikarou turned to Devon to ask him a question when the Panthress erupted from her ambush site with a scream and leapt at Devon. Shikarou reacted almost instantly, smashing Devon to the side and putting himself directly in the path of the oncoming pokegirl. An instant later a powerful shove threw him sideways as Dorothea stepped in the Panthress’ path and lashed out with a meteor punch that crunched into her opponent’s face, sending blood flying as the Panthress staggered backwards.     
                Paulette grabbed Devon and shot upwards, getting her charge out of harms way as a second Panthress jumped Shikarou. There was a quick flurry of claws and the Panthress shrieked and leaped off the kami, blood and vitreous fluid running down her face from the eye he’d popped. Shikarou rolled to his feet with one hand over his abdomen and backed up quickly as blood began to seep around his hand. “Devon assist Dorothea. Pythia recover partner primary attack, Circe team primary defense Branwyn medic required.”
                Ming Die traded places with Paulette and the Neo Iczel dove into the melee with Dorothea, her energy blade flashing into existence as Hatsumi teleported behind the enraged Panthress and hit her with iron fist, driving her towards Dorothea, who reacted with another meteor punch, this one to the chest. The Panthress hit the Seraph with a claw attack while Dorothea used deflect to knock the attack away.
                Behind the group, Tess climbed powerfully and turned towards the combat while Yushiko pulled up into a stall as Pythia teleported in behind her and grabbed her backplate before teleporting again, this time coming out between Shikarou and his Panthress. Circe and Lorelei teleported in behind them and Branwyn appeared next to her Tamer and grabbed him by the shoulders to lift him onto her quad form. Shikarou screamed as she pulled and intestines wriggled around his hand from the hole in his gut.
                Paulette slammed through the melee, her energy blade driving deep into the Panthress’ back and she pulled up to circle back as the enemy pokegirl screamed and whirled around to fire a ki blast which took the Neo Iczel in the middle of the back, driving her off course with a yelp. Hatsumi smashed the Panthress in the face with another iron punch.
                Branwyn dropped Shikarou and shifted back to bipedal form and her hands glowed with healing energy as she knelt and pressed them over his wound. Pythia hit the Panthress with a thunder bolt as Yushiko glowed with focus energy and drew her katana before advancing while Lorelei hit the Panthress with another thunder bolt and Circe tore a tree to shreds with her telekinesis to make projectiles for use against the dark pokegirl.
                Dorothea hit her Panthress with another meteor punch and the pokegirl staggered backwards. Hatsumi grinned and used imitate to hit the Panthress with meteor punch in the back. The Panthress flew into Dorothea’s arms and the Seraph promptly wrapped her up in a bear hug attack, ratcheting up the pressure as the Panthress struggled initially to escape and finally merely to breathe.
                Yushiko slapped at her Panthress with a wing and the dark pokegirl grabbed it with one hand and grinned as her free hand began to glow as energy built in it. The Armsmistress blended cut with master blow in a tremendous overhand strike which cut the Panthress in half from crown to crotch in an explosion of blood and brains.
                Yushiko dragged the sleeve of her kimono over her eyes and advanced on the Panthress trapped in Dorothea’s grip.
                Branwyn helped Shikarou to his feet. “Yushiko.” The Armsmistress halted. “Ladies, bind her.”
                Tess landed as Shikarou’s pokegirls grabbed the Panthress in Dorothea’s arms and began tying her up. Ming Die settled to the ground with an angry Devon in her arms and Kathryn followed her down. He dropped free and glanced at Shikarou. “Are you ok?”
                “Better than usual,” came the reply. “I normally don’t get healed until the battle is long over. Good orders to your girls.”
                “Thanks.” Devon stuck out his hand. “You saved my life.”
                Shikarou took it. “My pleasure.” He grinned. “Split the bounty?”
                Devon shook his head. “You can have it if I get Lamya back.” Kathryn gave him a hard look which he shrugged off. “We don’t need it.”
                “And who is to say that ye won’t need it tomorrow?”
                “Relax,” Branwyn interjected. “We aren’t broke either and I agree we should split the bounty, if we get one.” She smiled sweetly at Shikarou. “I’m not sure that members of the PLC can collect bounties.”
                Devon brightened. “So we give them the dead one and turn the live one over to the Blue League. That way we get at least one bounty and since she’s alive, maybe we can squeeze them for more.”
                Branwyn looked thoughtful. “That might work. Shikarou?”
                “I can’t lie, so let Devon do it. He can send us our half of whatever he gets.”
                Kathryn looked happier. “Aye, we should to it. I dinna like that we had to pay so much in taxes, this way we get some of it back.”
                Devon nodded. “I’ll see to the collection of the dead Panthress.” He headed off, giving instructions to Kathryn as he did so.
                “Branwyn, Dorothea, thanks. Yushiko, good kill. Ladies, that went off, well not quite without a hitch, but you did a good job, all of you.” He shook his head. “I’ve never read about Panthresses hunting in prides; I hope this isn’t some new development.”
                Circe nodded. “They are rare enough that they shouldn’t normally meet, so I doubt it’s a problem, unless someone is deliberately making them.”
                Lorelei snorted as she shifted from her battle form. “Now there’s a lovely thought.”
                Shikarou stretched. “Much better. Pythia, Yushiko, Lorelei, find me some water, we all need baths before we go back to the police department. Branwyn, Circe, uh, whatever. Dorothea…”
                “Dorothea is with thee, my lord.” The Seraph opened the hole in his tunic and peered inside. “Thou do good work, Branwyn.”
                “All right.” Shikarou frowned. “Water, ladies, I’m covered in blood and Yushiko looks like she went swimming in it.”
                Yushiko smiled slightly. “My lord, perhaps a water pokegirl might be a good future addition to the harem.”
                He smiled back. “I’ll consider it.”
                “Well I recommend you call him and ask him to come back to the station.” Shikarou gave the poor Eva who apparently sat the desk at night a stern look.
                “I can’t, major. He’s given explicit instructions not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.”
                “I see. Only for emergencies, you said? Very well.” He smiled at the flustered pokegirl. “Thank you.”
                “Good night, major,” the Eva responded with obvious relief.
                Dorothea watched him carefully as they went back outside, to where Devon was waiting with the body. “My lord, thou has a look that does not rest well with my spirit and the knowledge that I have acquired of thee in the time we have been together. Thou do intend to follow the rules as they have been laid out, do thou not?”
                “Of course, my dear Dorothea, I intend to work well within the constraints of the system here in Coed.” The Seraph flushed with pleasure at his words, but still continued to watch him warily.
                Devon sighed. “So, we are going to have to wait until morning aren’t we? Damn it, I don’t like to think about her having to be tamed by someone there.” He scowled angrily at the thought.
                “The night is still young, Devon, and we haven’t lost yet.” Dorothea’s eyes narrowed at his jaunty tone. “I was told by the receptionist that the chief left instructions not to be disturbed unless there was an emergency.”
                “So we’re screwed.” Devon’s voice dropped to a growl.
                “No, we are not. We just need an emergency.”
                “My lord, if thou were to cause an emergency, thou most likely would find thyself in jail, not with Lamya free.”
                “While the first time I went to jail here turned out in the end to be a good thing, since it got me Elizabeth, I’m not in any hurry to go back.” He nodded to the wrapped body. “I need to borrow her.”
                Shikarou unwrapped the corpse of the Panthress and tied just enough fabric around it to hold it together before hauling it up to the police station and inside. Devon and Dorothea followed behind.
                “Do you ever feel like he’s a force of nature, like a thunderstorm?” Devon gave Dorothea a curious look. “He just kind of sweeps through and does whatever he wants.”
                “Master Jamie, it would be that he was more of a natural disaster then a force of nature.” She sighed. “Excuse me.” She dashed ahead as the screaming started.
                Shikarou had carried the corpse inside and showed it to the Eva. “Caught the Panthress,” he announced cheerily. “Where do you want me to put her?”
                Predictably, the Eva threw herself from her chair and almost battered down the security door getting through it, screaming the whole while.
                Dorothea gave him a hard look as she watched him prop the corpse against the wall. “Must thou terrorize the good citizens of this fair town?”
                “Do you think it fair that Lamya might have to spread her legs for a cop tonight when she could instead be with her Tamer?”
                The Seraph glared. “That does not affect thee.”
                “And if it were Branwyn or you?” She blinked at his words and her expression softened before she nodded grudgingly.
                Devon gave the corpse a disgusted look as he came inside. “It’s leaking on the floor.” He frowned. “Is that urine I smell?”
                “It’s not my floor, and as for the smell, I’m afraid I scared the receptionist pretty badly.”
                “Master Devon, do thou not think that these actions are unseemly?”
                He shook his head. “Not if it gets Lamya back sooner instead of later. They should have let her go just as soon as we proved it was a Panthress, only they had to play fuck-fuck games and send us out to do their job.”
                “I disagree about the game.” Shikarou watched an OfficerJenny stare through the security door at the four of them. “The police of a place like this are not equipped, either equipment wise or mentally, to hunt down a killing machine like a Panthress. That’s why we get go out on the sharp end. We know how to do it better then they do.” He nudged the corpse and watched the figure in the door jump and disappear as the body moved.  “They deal with criminals; monsters are out of their league.”
                He chuckled. “Of course, we’re not trained to handle criminals. For example, Faelan blew up a bank in Wick to catch some robbers. Nobody got hurt, but the civil authorities aren’t supposed to go around doing that, it’s hard on the civilians.”
                Dorothea looked shocked. “Master Faelan destroyed a bank? I hadn’t heard about that.”
                “I doubt Svetlana likes to talk about that one; I suspect it isn’t exactly cricket for a Celestial to go around blowing up buildings, even if the robbers had hostages.” Shikarou smiled as a police car careened up and skidded to a halt. “Nice car, maybe it belongs to the chief.”
                Chief Bradley stomped into the building. “Major Hayden, what it the meaning of this outrage?” He was almost frothing.
                “Well, chief, we got the Panthress and I wanted to get Lamya released.”
                “Why could this not wait until morning?” Chief Bradley started to regain his composure.
                “She was starting to smell.” Shikarou replied in a deadpan voice. “Besides, I have work to do and now that my Seraph is almost happy with the situation, I’d like to finish up and get back to those suspected terrorists.”
                “She’s been charged with impersonating a human. That’s a serious crime.”
                Shikarou sighed. “No, it’s not. Lots of people impersonate humans. Council members for example.” The Chief snorted in reluctant amusement. “However, if there is a fine, we’ll pay it; only let’s get this taken care of right now.” He shrugged. “I mean, since you’re already at work?”
                “How did you make major?”
                “That’s a good question.”
                Chief Bradley glared at him. “You’ll leave right after that?”
                “Within hours, minutes preferably.”
                “All right, the paperwork won’t take long.” He glanced at the body. “What about that?”
                “We PLC hero types don’t get bounties, so she’s all yours.”
                “Harumph. I’ll get her released. Why don’t you take that back outside.”
                “Very well, Chief Bradley.”
Name:                                                    Urufu Shikarou                                                   
Age:                                                        250                                                                                        
Residence:                                            Caomh Sith, Blue Continent                                                            
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                   Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                     59                                                                          
Security Clearance:                             Epsilon                                                                  
                Tamer                                    Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                      Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                            
Active Harem
Species                   Name                                     Level                     
Alaka-Wham                       Circe                                       61                                          
Milktit                                    Helen                                     54                                          
Unicorn                  Branwyn                               53                                          
ElfQueen                               Gwyneth                                48                                          
Seraph                                   Dorothea                               45                                          
Ria                                          Kebi                                        45
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko     42                                                                                          
Sphinx                                   Lorelei                                   40                                          
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                    39                                          
Vampire                                Elizabeth                               33                                          
Titto                                       Fumiko                  26                                          
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                       None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
Name:                                                    Harris, Devon Jamie                                                                                          
Age:                                                        15                                                                                          
Residence:                                            Harris Conservatory, Highland County                                         
Region:                                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                   Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                     42                                                                                          
Security Clearance:                             Theta                                                                                    
                Tamer                                    Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                      Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                                                            
Active Harem                                                                                                      
                Name                     Species                                                                                   Level     
                Ming Die                Alaka-Wham                                       Psychic                  100
                Hatsumi                Demon-Goddess (Hunter) Steel/Magic/Dark                87          
                Bellona DragonQueen                                       Dragon/Dark                        48
                Rhiannon              Dark Lady                                            Magic (Infernal) 44          
                Paulette Neo-Iczel                                               Magic                                     41          
                Kathryn Ladyien                                 Bug/Flying                            36          
                Siobhan Nogitsune                                              Dark/Magic                          35          
                Zelda                      Peekabu                                                Electric                   23          
                Tess                        Armsmistress                                        Fighting/Steel                        42
                Dima                      Baleena                                 Water                                     33
Alpha: Kathryn
Beta: Tess