Tyger navigated his way from the veritable war-zone that was his desk, through the office area that had been claimed by 9th Squad, and prepared to make his way towards the motor pool. The condition of his desk was mostly due to the fact that pretty much anything that ended up there tended to remain there. After all, he spent so little time near his desk; it just ended up more cluttered than anything else. He looked over his shoulder towards his desk and shrugged. He would have to make a mental note to see about having his work space moved to the motor pool. That's where he spent most of his time anyway.
He was about to turn and continue on his way, when he heard something. His keen feline ears shifted to pick up the sound before he actually moved. Tyger stepped silently to follow the sounds that he was hearing, his curiosity invoked. And here I thought I was alone. When in all actuality, Jama was here. Now this is a little odd. Tyger mused to himself as he inched closer, to get a better idea of just what it was that Jama was doing....
Ninth Squad's pint-sized magical powerhouse was sitting cross-legged on the floor, chanting as she stared fixedly at the floating form of her kris. Tyger suppressed a wince at that, his chest still smarted from where Dr. Sudra Kamang had sent a much larger version of the blade slamming into him. Jama's knife was far smaller though, but no less deadly, if Hemelshot's comments about her using it to cut through chain link fencing as it was soft butter were true.
The kris spun slowly as it hung there, suspended between her open hands. Tyger's skin prickled and his fur started to rise, causing his ears and tail to twitch. He wasn't sure what she was doing, but it he knew it wasn't natural. But then, just about anything Jama did wasn't natural.
Tyger just stood there watching the display from Jama for several long moments. One hand reflexively went to his chest as he watched the kris, as if it were a snake that was about ready to attack him. "Jama...," he muttered under his breath. just loud enough for her to hear him, he hoped, but not so loud as to really disturb her, "...what in the bloody hell are you doing?"
It should be noted that Tyger had taken the time to place part of the office wall between himself and the floating knife. The last thing he wanted was for that blade to suddenly lash out at him and give him a repeat performance of what happened in the steam tunnels.
"Calling upon the hantu who dwells within the kris," Jama replied never taking her eyes off of the rotating blade.
"Ahh..." Tyger said with a nod, as if that explained everything and it made as much sense as telling him how his Maser worked. "I didn't know your knife-thingy had a hamtaro in it..."
"Hantu," Jama repeated. "It means..." she paused and looked thoughtful, "Spirit would be the right word, I think."
Jama nodded. "Everything has a spirit in it. Some helpful and some harmful. I can call upon hantu to aid me if needed. It will protect me from harm, and if I wish, strike my enemies down."
Tyger blinked at the explanation. Cautiously he took a step around the wall, still monitoring the floating blade as he did so. "I see..." He situated himself to where he could watch the levitating knife, but not to where he was anywhere near the business end of the S-curved blade. "So... you have little things living in your knife. And... you talk to them? Do they talk back?"
"Of course." The knife dropped out of the air, Jama grabbing the hilt scant seconds before the blade buried itself in the floor. "If I call them, they respond."
"So... they do whatever you say then? Or is it sort of you speak, they may listen to you?" Tyger scratched the back of his head for a moment. "Do you guys get into arguments with each other? I mean, you act like there is more than one in there."
"In the kris?" Jama held the knife up and examined the wavy edge. "There is only the one hantu in here. But there are hantu all around us. In the air, the earth, the water... everywhere. And since I know the proper words, they listen when I call to them." She paused and gave Tyger a quick smile. "Usually."
Tyger blinked a couple of times. "Usually? You mean that you guys do have arguments from time to time?" He shook his head slightly. "That's just... strange." He paused for a moment and looked to Jama again, raising a brow. "You said that those hamtaros are everywhere... does that mean that there are some living in my baby?"
"Your baby?" Now it was time for Jama to raise a brow. "Oh... you mean your armor?"
Tyger gave a nod. "Yeah. The Blue Steel means the world to me. It's prolly the only thing that keeps me sane," he finished with a bit of a laugh.
"Probably. Although hantu normally dwell in natural things, or objects to which they have been called."
Tyger seemed relieved at Jama's answer. "I see. It's just as well, I couldn't talk to them anyway. Not that I would know what to say to one of those... things," He stopped calling them 'hamtaros' because he had the feeling that Jama may start to lose patience with him. She could tell he seemed to grasp the concept, though the names, or at least their pronunciation, seemed to elude him.
"So, these things... you talk to them, and they do stuff. Stuff that you tell them to do... and that's how you do your magic thing?"
"Pretty much." Jama slipped the kris back into its sheath, much to Tyger's relief. "But you have to ask properly, or they may become offended and refuse to work with you."
"I see...." Tyger's tail ticked back and forth momentarily. "So they don't always listen or behave themselves." He scratched the back of his head once more. "That's kinda strange. Is that how you guys work magic where you're from?"
"That's how all magic works." Jama stood up and straitened her coat. "Shaman, priests, sorcerers; we all call upon various spirits and totems in order to cast spells. I call upon the spirits of the natural world, while a Hermetic magician borrows the power of the Celestial Angels, and medicine men assume the form of their totem animal. All magic is a bargain, between the magician and the forces she calls upon. Which is why I have this," Jama pointed to the sprawling shrine that sat in the corner of her desk. Made up of numerous small shelves, it was laden with a whole menagerie of statuettes, symbols, and icons. Tyger readily identified a cross, a Star of David, and a few other items, but most were a mystery. "This is where I place offerings to the hantu, to keep them happy and on good terms with me."
Tyger blinked as he began to take in the full expanse of her desk with its menagerie of icons, symbols and other such devices that were arranged there. "So... magic doesn't work like it does in comics and movies then...." A bit of a frown etched itself upon his features. "That kinda sucks. Oh well... at least mecha do...."
"No, it doesn't." Jama smiled, "I can't just wave a wand and make things appear. But even stage magic has its roots in more serious disciplines. Abracadabra may be the name of a demon, after all."
Tyger inched over to look at some of the items on Jama's desk, seeking a closer inspection, but not sure if it was all right to pick them up. After all, disturbing the spirits was a bad thing, right? That's what anime, comics, movies and video games told him: don't fuck with spirits! And pissing them off is a really bad idea too. "Alright. I'll bite. How do these things make the spirits happy? I mean, they are religious juju stuff, right? I mean, I can understand Nathan liking some of these... but hamtaros? Aren't they where you're from? I wouldn't think that one from your hometown would be too happy with a cross."
Jama shrugged. "Most of Indonesia is Muslim, but there are Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Animists as well. And aren't Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, and Brahma all different names for the same being? Does not Nathan say God is everywhere? Belief in one does not preclude belief in another."
It was Tyger's turn to shrug in reply now. "I wouldn't know Jama, I'm an atheist. I find it very difficult to legitimize a being that supposedly is all knowing, all forgiving, and yet has a bunch of silly rules to make sure you get into heaven. On top of that, supposedly only this being can create life. If that is the case, would you care to explain to me why I am standing in front of you right now? After all, I'm a clade. A being made by human hands. If God is the only one who can instill life in something, how is it possible that I am here?"
Jama raised her hands up, palms out, in a gesture of mock surrender. "Alchemists have grown homunculi, Kabbalists have made golems, and Frankenstein had his monster. Man has made life in his image before, now he uses science instead of magic."
Tyger quickly chose to change the subject at this point. He wasn't exactly sure how religiously inclined Jama was, but he really did not want to make her uncomfortable or upset her. As patient and tolerant as Carpenter was, Tyger seemed to sense something when he informed Carpenter of his beliefs, as if he were upset, saddened and confused all at the same time. "What's it like to have a home Jama? I mean, you don't come from Angelus, I know this. But what I don't know is what it's like to have a place to call home or any family for that matter. You seem to be pretty close to your grandfather."
Pulling out her chair, Jama dropped into it, resting her chin in her hands. "Yes, my grandfather taught me most everything I know. He's, well, he's my grandfather, you know? Kind, caring, intimidating, and scary all at the same time. He's the one who gave me this kris and set up my invitation to join XSWAT. My mom and dad... well, neither of them are sorcerers, so its a little hard to explain to them what I do, but they know I have an important job here...." She paused and gave Tyger an appraising glance. "Are you sure you want to hear this? It's not very interesting."
After Jama pulled dropped into her chair, Tyger acquired one for himself and answered her question with a bit of a nod as he slipped into his own. "Yeah. It may not be very interesting to you. But at least you have family. You grew up with folks." Tyger looked down for a moment, as if trying to choose the proper words. "Me? The earliest memories I have consist of me being drug aboard a ship several years ago, so I never got a chance to. I mean, I was a lot younger back then, and I grew up that way, but because as soon as I was able to walk on my own after being dredged from the sea, I was fighting to keep my skin. Not much room for a childhood, family or anything like that. So yeah... I find it interesting, and no... I don't know anything about grandfathers or how they're supposed to be."
Jama sat quietly for a moment, digesting Tyger's comments. "All I know, really, is my own. I mean, he's a lot older and me, and a lot smarter. He knows all about spirits, and sorcery, and all that. As for me, Bali's not very large, and we lived near the ocean, so I spent a lot of time on the beach and in the water. Surfing, swimming, having fun...." Jama looked a little wistful at her words, "Not that there's much time for that here."
Tyger had to smile a little at some of what Jama had to say. "Well, I may not know much about grandfathers, family or stuff like that, and I'm pretty sure that Bali is a lot larger than a Cruiser. And even if it's not, I know quite a bit about spending time in the water." Tyger offered Jama a bit of a smile. "Don't get like that, maybe after things calm down a little Sarge will let us go do some of that stuff. Who knows? Maybe he will let us try that weekend get-together thing again, but instead of having it in Nathan's back yard, we can go to the seaside or something and have some fun."
"You think so? The last one didn't work out so well, what with the emergency call and all."
Tyger shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows? I'm not an esper, but I really find it hard to believe that there would be some sort of emergency any chance we had to kick back and relax. I think that last time was just one of those days."
Tyger grinned now. "Maybe you could have your spirit friends make it so we don't get called in the next time we all try to do something together."
"Ahh..." Jama looked a bit nonplussed by the suggestion. "I don't think it will be that easy, Tyger."
"Hey, I dunno about any of that stuff, it was just a suggestion," Tyger replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "In fact, I don't know much about anything that lies outside the realm of military hardware, mecha, and stuff like that...."
"Don't worry, I don't know much about guns, mecha, and miltech either, so I guess that makes us even."
"Yeah, that's true I guess...." Tyger's voice trailed off for a moment or two and then he looked back to Jama. "I guess that's why we're good at what we do... and this whole XSWAT thing... well... some of us are better at it than others at any rate."
"No one person can know, or do, everything, Tyger. I may know a hundred spells, but I still can't pilot an armor."
Tyger grinned to her at this point. "No, you're right, you can't. but that doesn't mean that you also can't learn how to either. I'm not saying you should, merely that the possibility is there." He looked down just slightly. "But no matter how well I can pilot the Blue Steel... or any mecha for that matter, doesn't mean that I'm a good cop though...."
"Am I a 'good cop'?" Jama asked.
Tyger looked at Jama and nodded. "Yeah. Well... you're better than I am at any rate."
"Really?" Jama looked thoughtful. "What makes a good cop?"
Tyger shrugged his shoulders just a bit. "No idea." He paused for a moment and suddenly continued, "Basically defending the people, protecting them from whatever may be out there trying to hurt them, even protecting them from themselves if necessary." Tyger thought about his own words for a few moments and shook his head slightly. "But a good cop also doesn't get themselves put on trial either."
"Do you want to be a good cop, Tyger?"
"I would like to think I did..." Tyger supported his chin in the palm of his hand. "... but I'm more concerned 'bout helping people by any means necessary... which leads to all sorts of problems." Tyger shrugged his shoulders a little. "Guess I wasn't built to follow the book...."
He then stopped and looked at Jama and raised a brow. "Now hold on a second. We're supposed to be talking about you and your juju magic hamtaro guys... not my own shortcomings."
"Ahh... okay." Jama glanced at her desk and the shrine dominating it. "What else did you want to know?"
Tyger looked down just slightly. "I'm sorry Jama. I didn't mean to cut you off. I just would like get to know my teammate a little better. I don't think its fair for me to talk about myself, when you already know all that there is to know about me."
He grew silent for a moment and then looked to her. "What is it like? To have these spirit things that you can talk to. Are they like friends that you can get advice from?"
"No..." Jama shook her head. "It's more one of a one-way conversation. We don't exactly like talk like we are know. I mean, I can ask them to do things and then pay them for their services."
Tyger canted his head slightly, the fact that the subject change went that smoothly was a bit of a surprise to him. "So, you just talk to them and hope that they hear you, then you ask them for stuff and hope that they do it?" he scratched his head. "That's kinda like how it is with my baby... unless the Argus gets all screwy. I tell her to do stuff and she just does it. But she doesn't ask for or want anything in kind though." Tyger raised an eyebrow as he continued. "And how in the hell do you pay one of those guys for doing stuff? It's not like they have an account at the bank or anything. What would they want?"
Grinning, Jama turned and pointed at the shrine. "Beer, sake, rice, tobacco, incense." As she listed off offerings, she indicted a variety of bowls, cups, and other vessels. "All sort of luxuries. For some reason, a lot of them like strong drink."
Tyger's mouth opened just slightly with that silly look someone gets when told something that obviously makes absolutely no sense at all. "W-what?" Tyger stammered before continuing in a more coherent tone. "You mean to tell me that these spirits that do cool stuff for you, but never speak to you... like to drink and smoke?"
"Pretty much. I try to stay away from the ones that like blood."
Tyger unconsciously massaged the center of his chest. "Kinda like that crazy doctor we wasted?"
"Yes." Jama shook her head. "As I said before, death magic grants instant power, but at great cost."
Tyger massaged his chest once more. "You don't need to tell me twice. As much shit as I've been through, I can't think of a single instance where I've taken a hit like that. The docs kept telling me how I should be dead and that I'm lucky to be alive."
"I just wish I could have stopped him sooner."
Tyger shifted a bit and leaned over Jama's desk, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You did the best that you could with what you had to work with at the time. You've got your magic and your little hamtaros that do neat stuff for you, but you aren't Supergirl. Just like I'm a clade and I have my baby, but under it all, I'm just a regular guy."
Tyger smiled a little. "That guy spat some sort of curse just before he knifed me. The fact that he aimed that curse at me instead of you, or anyone else... well, that's a good thing. Because, to be honest, I don't think anyone else would have survived a hit like that. The fact that we all walked out of that alive and breathing says a lot about us as a team Jama... and the last time I checked, that's how teamwork works."
"Thanks, Tyger," Jama wiped at her eyes and gave him a weak smile.
Tyger gave his own smile in return "Don't mention it." He grinned as he sat down. "Seriously, don't mention it. I don't want anyone thinking I've gone soft or anything like that." Of course he was only joking around with that remark. He was hoping to invoke a bit of laughter from the young officer. "We're the 9th Squad, and we have to look after each other. If we don't, nobody else will. You all are the closest thing I've ever had to anything remotely close to a family, so I have to take care of you all."
"I think we all need to look out for each other."
Tyger gave a nod. "Yeah, we do. We're all part of the same crew here, so yeah... we should watch each other's backs."