A Mystery Crossover story
by Jonathan Rosebaugh
The hunter took a moment to recheck his surroundings. Infrared lasers, invisible to humans, pierced the corridors at irregular intervals and heights, absent only in the area immediately surrounding the security key panel, halfway down along one wall. Beyond the doors controlled by that key panel lay the treasured objects he was seeking. He laughed to himself; this wasn't even a challenge. Of course, the humans on this world hadn't learned to secure things against him yet.
His mind reached out. No humans were nearby, not even a security guard. There was a strange sensation located somewhere within the building, but it did not taste like either a human or any creature from his homeworld. It was very strange, almost blending in with the background noise.
He let the back of his mind keep working on it, and continued onward. A leap, a twist, a rebound, and a mad scrabble for a clawhold and he was at the security panel. Keeping both his true-feet and hand-feet firmly clutching the wall, he reached out with a true-hand and tapped the combination he'd memorized during the tour earlier that day. Being so closely associated with a trusted human had MANY advantages, he thought to himself as he proceeded to move stealthily down a cross-corridor, confident now that almost all of the security system had been deactivated. A few fail-safe functions remained, but they would not be able to incriminate him.
She was unsure of her surroundings — she'd never been here before — but she could sense her prey ahead. She could always sense their presence, if she were close enough. She walked down a hallway and back, triangulating the location. There! She jumped up onto a ledge, right underneath an observation window. Her goal lay in there! She probed at the edges for a bit, her other senses stretching out. There was a security system active, so she couldn't break in without getting caught. She nudged up against the window and quickly phased through.
It took a moment for her to recover. Ordinary glass was no problem, but this stuff had all sorts of elements in it, making it much denser. All of a sudden, her senses felt the security system shut off. She stretched her mind wide. Feeling a presence, she quickly dove for cover. As she focused her attention on the mind-flare, she brought some of the lesser-used functions of her brain online. Being a genetically engineered creature had many advantages, she thought to herself, not least of which was the ability to reprogram her senses. That, of course, was a recent addition; her creator, as always, hungered for experimental subjects and was happy to give them benefits in exchange for their services.
The flare came into focus as she switched operating modes, narrowing her mind-sense ever closer onto the narrow channel which the mind-flare used. It became a gentle glow. Automatic analysis systems returned their verdict: 99% probability of intelligence, 76.9% probability of being able to use language, 2.6% probability that it could use mental powers to be a threat to her. It also wasn't human, nor was it any of the other species she had ever been near. She sent an inquiry pulse.
He almost fell over when the itch resolved itself into a mind-glow stronger than anything he'd ever seen off his homeworld. The glow of his mate was bright, since she had the ability of a mind-singer, had she not abandoned that path, but this stranger was brighter still. Was it a new security system, designed to protect against him? No, his human would never allow that. Besides, the humans were barely able to use their own mind-senses, much less build artificial ones. He fixed his attention on his mind-sense and probed.
A flood of gestalts coursed into his brain. It was not unlike his early attempts to communicate with his human, but he could tell that there was so much more potential here. He sifted through the gestalts, looking at shades of meaning, trying to identify what the sender had intended.
It was difficult. He compared it to the challenge he had with German that time he was in the Andermani Empire with his human. It was even worse, though, in this case. German merely had a confusedly different word order. This was barely words at all.
<I am called Laughs Brightly,> he sent back. <Where are you?>
Language! Words! Her analytic systems made quick work of the incoming signal. Whatever it was, was sending in English, a fact that made her very grateful. She did have enough computing power available to unravel nearly any language, given a large enough sample size, but it was rather tiring to use all that power in her current form, and the sample sizes required tended to be horrendous, anyway.
<My name is Water-spirit Lord-of-Demons. I call myself Lady of the Hunt. I'm in here.> She sent Laughs Brightly a mental map of the area, with her position marked.
The reply came back. <I'm coming. Stand ready, Lady-Huntress.> She stood and readied her systems for combat. A life form entered the scan range of her infrared sensors, coming up fast on her from behind. She turned and backed off somewhat to give Laughs Brightly some room. A face poked out of the foliage above her, then tumbled down gracefully to the floor.
<Greetings, Lady-Huntress,> he said. He didn't look like any species she'd ever seen before either. Six legs, a tail, and the most curious face. The face looked like a cross between a cat and a human, though mostly cat. He had a strange sort of pack tied between his forelegs and midlegs. Another was buckled onto the back of the first. <What are you?> he asked, the overtonal nuances showing her quick flashes of all the known species in his experience. There weren't very many of them, she noticed, with far less variety than in her home universe.
<I am a cabbit.> She sent data along with this simple statement. Small, dual-gendered, high fuel efficiency, love of carrots.
<I am one of the People. The humans call me a treecat.> Dangerous, mysterious, long-lived, love of celery. She marveled at the similarities and even more at the differences. This treecat creature was so like herself, and he hadn't even been engineered. Granted, he didn't have the ability to cross light-years, but even so, such kinship was astonishing. <And what is it that you hunt, Skilled Lady?>
Skilled Lady laughed in his mind. The laugh rang like the steel wind-chimes he'd loved at Honor's house on Sphinx. "Miya!" An image formed of golden purity, ripe for harvesting from the nurturing ground. He remembered the stream of data he'd picked through moments before, thought for a moment over the layout, and turned and hopped into the tree again. <Follow me, Hunter of Delicacies.> Nimitz saw her mind-glow follow him, so he led on, out of the decorative trees and into the greenhouse proper. He led her to the carrot section and stopped. <Behold your prey, Skilled Lady.> He unbuckled the second pack and opened it, explaining to her what he intended to do.
Ryo-ohki hopped joyously back to her landing point, her backpack now full of carrots. Outside the domes, away from anyplace a human would willingly come without good reason, she transformed. Her swift form lifted off with barely a sound. Once out of the star system, she danced an intricate pattern, firing certain weapons. The gravity patterns resulting from this attracted the attention of Washuu's computers. They bent the universe, and she was home.
Disclaimer: Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki belongs to Hitoshi Okuda, AIC/ Pioneer LDC, and Viz Communications. Nimitz the Treecat is from the Honor Harrington novels, which belong to David M. Weber and Baen Publishing Company.
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