XSWAT HQ is one hundred stories in height, and in her ten years as Director, Jamadigni Renuka has managed to visit them all. Some floors she sees only once a year, during Inspection Week, when she walks the building to check on how things are, Others she sees day in and day out, and some.... some she tries to visit as sparingly as possible.
The elevator doors open with a low hiss and a muted ding. The hallway beyond is empty, quiet, and almost sterile in its whiteness. Jama’s boots echo, disturbing the silence with the harsh sound of heels on tile. Corporal Cadbury follows, padding his way along in virtual silence. The Director smoothes her coat as she makes her way down the hall, stopping at a sealed door to flash her badge to the reader.
The door opens with a far louder hiss then the closing elevators. There’s a sudden out-rush of air lifting Jama’s long tresses for a moment. As for Cadbury, he simply blinks and goes around his master’s ankles.
Inside the floor is padded, the walls a soothing shade of pale blue. The lighting is recessed, soft, and seemingly natural. A long counter runs to the left, a desk to the right. A Clade stands behind the counter, and like most of her kind is tall, svelte, and perfectly shaped. Her long fall of rich black hair is tied back into a curled pony-tail, while the light gray of her jumpsuit contracts sharply with the glossy purple-black of soft downy fur that covers her body.
Jama nods, “Sanura.”
The Clade takes the proffered ID and runs it through the scanner. Tawney-yellow eyes flick down to the floor where Cadbury waits expectantly. The Clade’s tail sways from side to side and for a few moments the Maine Coon bats at it with his paws.
The ritual over, Sanura returns the ID card while Cadbury noses at the next door, waiting. Jama looks over to the desk. The officer behind stands, long blond hair framing a face that seems far too young for the uniform. “Director.” He doesn’t salute—no one does in this room, besides, doing so would only draw attention to the empty sleeve of his jacket.
“Marcum,” the Director nods. “How are they?”
Marcum closes his eyes and a slight pressure wave wafts through the room, rippling Cadbury’s fur. Sanura places a finger on an errant sheet of paper and waits. “They’re all okay,” he says at last. There’s a pause and then, “Logan wants to see you.”
“And Cadbury wants to see him.”
At the the inner door opens and Cadbury slips inside, Jama following. The hallway is wide, carpeted, with padded walls and more soft indirect lights. The doors to either side are windowed, some are bright, some dark. Monitors beep quietly under nameplates.
With a click and a whirr one door slides open and Jama steps into the room beyond. There’s a faint smell of sweat mixed with the sharp tang of drawing markers. A man sits on a low bed, rocking back and forth, singing tonelessly at a barely audible volume. Hands in his lap, he stares unseeingly with pale yellow-green eyes. Long locks of dark hair, shot through with strands of gray and white hang across his face and down past his shoulders. Around him are scattered sheets of paper, on which are curious drawings.
“Hello Logan,” Jama says, sitting next to him. The man’s rocking continues, but his song changes slightly. One hand caresses the warm brown skin of her face, brushes at her hair, grips her shoulder. “I brought Cadbury.”
On cue her cat leaps into the man’s lap. Both hands now burrow themselves in the thick fur and lift the massive Maine Coon up, so Logan can press his face close, to smell, taste, and even hear. For his part, Cadbury stoically endures the indignity and even looks a bit pleased once the examination is over petting begins.
As Logan sings to Cadbury, rocking all the while, Jama picks up one of the sheets of paper, peeled from an art pad. A butterfly has been drawn on it in intricate detail, each leg, eye, wing rendered in a mixture of blues and grays, giving the impression the insect is made of brilliant chrome. One edge of the sheet has been torn—Jama suspect it’s been chewed on, and the resulting ragged edge colored black, then red, orange, and finally yellow.
A second sheet is far more abstract. Bright red musical notes march across the page, which has been folded in two, both halves a mirror image of each other. The Director studies the drawings intently, placing one down and lifting another. This one is simple, a splash of red issues from a black circle and spreads across most of the white paper. A fourth has fine jagged black lines stitched across its surface, while a fifth shows a shadowy black mass inside of an XSWAT field jacket.
A quick glance shows Cadbury purring happily as Logan scratches the cat’s belly. Jama selects another drawing, from an older pile. Some she understands, some are clearly identifiable, but others? Only Logan knows. These’s the Yamaguchi-gumi mon. A badge for a police force she’s never heard of. A page of nothing but lines of letters and numbers set in what looks like a pattern, but it defies analysis. A long cylindrical space station. The last one shows a flat disc floating in the middle of a blue expanse. On one side of the disk rises a writhing two-headed snakey-bodied black dragon, on the other a singled-headed Chinese dragon, claws curled and fanged mouth agape. Between them is a single pearl, the potential prize for the obvious battle to come.
It is some time before the Director leaves the room.