As offices went it was… adequate. It had all the requirements of a working office—desk, chair, lights, and so on, but it was desperately in need of renovation. The furniture was all old hand-me-downs that probably dated back to the Cataclysm, if not before. The computer, while sufficient for the job requirements, was about ten years overdue for replacement (well, maybe five.) The overhead light occasionally went into seizure-inducing spasms of flickering while the environmental systems were in such a state that it was invariably not warm enough in winter and not cool enough in summer. And, of course, being in the basement depths of the precinct house meant the place smelt faintly of damp and mildew.


Someone had once told Claire that way back in the year 2000 the rise of the ubiquitous desktop computer had resulted in the prediction of the ‘paperless office.’ Apparently no one had bothered to tell the APD. Even today, in the heady year of 2132, case files produced an absurd amount of paper. There were transcripts of interviews, AARs, handwritten notes, crudely-drawn maps, photos, and other bits and pieces. And all of it needed to be stored, which is why her… ‘office’ was covered in boxes of sheet plastic, each of which held numerous clear plastic document envelopes, with each envelope containing the complete files for a particular criminal case.

“officer claire?”

Her job was simple. Take a box of case files, remove a document envelope, open it, and place everything inside on the scanner for archiving. Then repack the envelope, set inside another box (marked for shipment to archives), wash, rinse, repeat. Not the most exciting job in the world, which is why—to be honest—she’d ended up with it. Human cops, ‘real’ cops, had more important things to do, like—Claire glanced at the report she was getting ready to place in the scanner—investigate the stabbing death of one Leroy Brown in a barroom brawl. Oh well, at least she had her muffins and a decent cup of coffee.

“Officer Claire?”

Claire glanced up from the monitor to see a the buckle of a white belt in front of her. There was also a cross-draw holster for a decidedly non-APD issue pistol (an energy weapon from the looks of it) as well as a second holster for one of the largest handguns she’d ever seen. Looking up, her eyes widened at the blue with gold trim of an XSWAT-issue field jacket. Her gaze traveled up, and up, to find the jacket’s owner looking down at her with a slightly bemused (yet kindly) expression. “Oh my.”

Captain Chrysine, XSWAT, flicked her ears slightly in response to Claire’s awed reaction. She wasn’t that famous, was she? Granted, she was one of the highest-ranking Clades in XSWAT, and a nationally-ranked pool player, but still… Maybe Claire was mistaking her for someone else? Perhaps that was it.

Keeping one hand securely behind her back, she lifted a datapad with the other. “Officer Claire?” she repeated. “I am pleased to inform you that XSWAT has received and accepted your application.”

"OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod!" Claire could hardly contain her excitement. "Your tail is so FLUFFY! How do you do that?" She had practically leaped across her desk and was petting Chrysine's bushy white tail before she knew what had come over her.

"I'm SORRY! I'm so so SO sorry! I don't know what I was thinking," Claire scolded herself then grabbed the plate of muffins from her desk, offering it to her guest. "Where are my manners? Muffin?"

Chrysine’s ears twitched in reply as she flicked her tail back into place and then pressed it up against her legs. Once, long ago, she would been totally dumbfounded by this display, but the world had seen fit to gift her with a teen-aged daughter, and such rapid-fire exhibitions of seemingly non-sensical emotions were becoming old hat by now.

“No thank you, I...” *sniff* “Are those lemon-poppy?”

"Of course! It's Wednesday. I made them fresh this morning." Claire's triangular ears stood up from atop her mess of brownish red hair as she beamed with pride. She sat down on the edge of her desk as her brain decided to get back on track.

"And you said you're from XSWAT? OhmyGod! My application! I'm in? Seriously? No joke?" She stood up again.

Perhaps she should have brought Angie along. To act as an interpreter. Chrysine took a bite from the muffin she’d picked up—my oh my, scatter-brained or not, the woman could bake—swallowed than nodded. “Yes. The Director has granted you probationary status as an XSWAT officer. As you have already graduated from the APD academy, you will be fast-tracked through the XSWAT academy, and when you graduate, you will be inducted as a full XSWAT officer.” Chrysine finished the muffin in a few more bites, then cocked her head. “If you wish, we can discuss this further, over lunch.”

"Lunch?" Claire pondered on this for a moment. Her striped tail waved frantically back and forth as she thought of a good place for food. "Sure! I know a good noodle place down on Fourth. They have some awesome dumplings. I just need to file this one case away really fast like. Direct violation of Penal code 1.13 Section 9. Takes two seconds to process unless it's involved in a political assassination in which case it's a section 12. Or a cop killer, which would be a 1.14 Section 2." Her fingers danced across the keyboard the entire time she was rambling, and sure enough, everything was as it should be in less than a minute flat. "Yayness! All done. Can we take your car? I don't have one at the moment."

Chrysine blinked. It was like talking to Captain Tyger when he was in one of his ‘moods.’ The young Clade changed subjects (and emotional states) at the drop of a hat. “Yes, Officer Claire, we will be taking my patrol spinner. Do you know the address of where you wish to go?”

"Ping Shen's House of Noodles. 7510 Fourth Avenue." Claire grabbed her hat (a replica of an American Civil War-era kepi) from the rack near the door as they departed. Placing it on her head with one hand, she locked the door behind them with the other. "Do you ever watch Lace & Steel? There was a fighter on there a long time ago that had hair just like yours."

“Yes, well... as a Fox-Class Combat Clade I have many sisters and… ah... we all tend to look somewhat like.”

* * * * *

“OhmyGod! Is THAT your car? It’s so cool!”

Chrysine paused in the act of hitting the remote locks to glance at the other Clade. Claire was standing on the sidewalk looking at the XSWAT regulation patrol spinner (a vehicle based off the classic Stozwind design of the last decade) with an expression Chrysine could only quantify as “squee” (those with drama queen-capable teenaged daughters rapidly became an expert on the subject.) Feeling a tad pleased with herself (there were a few APD officers giving the vehicle appraising looks as well) she ran a gloved hand along the roof. “Well, it is not my car, but it is a standard-issue patrol spinner for officers capable of working alone or in pairs.” She turned to look at Claire directly. “They are also issued to high-ranking officers, such as myself, when we require a personal transport in order to conduct XSWAT business.”

"Sweeeet! It's all bright and shiny! Not like the patrol spinners here. They're all banged up and dirty." Claire blushed suddenly and her ears went flat against her head as her tail wrapped around one leg. "Uh... not that I had anything to do with that."

Oh, I see. “I am sure you did not.” Chrysine hit the button that opened the gull-wing doors, “But do not worry, I am driving and this vehicle is well-armored.”

Claire started to worry as she climbed into the spinner. First impressions mean a lot and she'd probably goofed up quite a bit in a short time. That thought faded quickly when she reminded herself that first impressions don't mean everything and they were still going to lunch. Nevertheless, she was quiet for most of the trip.

* * * * *

Ping Shen's had long been a favorite hangout for APD officers due to its proximity to the precinct and the quality of its food. The fact that it was open twenty-four hours a day also helped. A pair of Shishi Lion statues stood watch on either side of the door, which had oriental patterns across the top and bottom of the glass. "Here we are!" Claire pointed out. "What'cha think?"

“Is the food as good as the decor?”

"Absitively posolutely! I would stay away from the Six-Demon Sauce, though. It's spicy." Claire accompanied this with an expression that Chrysine could only translate as "yick."

“Well... as spicy as Cajun? Years ago, when I was just a rookie, Lieutenant Brogan took me out to lunch to a Cajun restaurant. The food there was quite spicy... but I found it rather tasty.” Angie also swore it was hot enough to stunt her growth, but that was Angie.

"It's really spicy. It burnt my tongue. I asked what was in it and the guy said it was full of wind and fire and that sort of thing. I kinda wonder how they get wind into a sauce anyways. I mean, I'm not an expert on spices, but… oh." Claire caught herself rambling again and started to look apologetic as she opened the restaurant's door for Chrysine. "I'm sorry. After you."

The interior continued the Asian theme with welcoming statues of various gods, a lucky cat waving come hither, wall scrolls, faux-bamboo screens, and holographic views of the Chinese landscape. A true feast for the eyes, not to mention the taste buds if the smells were any indication. Chrysine felt her stomach respond, despite the rather delicious lemon-poppy muffin she had just eaten. She debated trying the Six-Demon Sauce, but decided not to risk her luck. This place might just make their food the way they did it in the old country, meaning hot sauces were, well, hot.

As the two Clades waited to be seated, a pair of APD's finest were just about to leave. They sauntered over to Claire in the same manner that frat boys approach a keg of beer. Or a freshman. One was taller with grayish hair and a solid chin. The other was a bit on the stocky side. Claire just smiled politely as they got closer.

The shorter of the two, Mauser, spoke first. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Claire 404 from down in the basement. They finally let the dog out of it's cage, I see."

"And look, she's got a friend. Aren't you going to introduce us?" the other said in as slimy a tone as was possible.

Smiling the whole time, Claire turned to Chrysine. "This is Officers Mauser and Harris. They work upstairs from me. They usually..."

"And it's another Clade." Harris interrupted. "They'll give any fleabag a badge these days."

"Any luck finding that last name of yours down in all that trash in the basement?" Mauser added.

Unnoticed by either of the two officers (or Claire for that matter), Chrysine twitched just slightly as her ears went flat. Those in the know, those who actually paid attention to Clades and their body language knew there was one universal trait among them—ears down along the skull were a sure sign of being angry and upset (or, at least, unhappy.) Inwardly, Chrysine had to marvel at how blind the two men were. Their dislike of Clades were such they seemed totally oblivious to her XSWAT uniform, although she strongly suspected they’d have something to say about that as well, once it dawned on them. Well, she would let that side if it happened. On the other hand, if their slurs mentioned the Director….

Coughing politely into a closed fist, Chrysine drew herself up to her full height (which was considerable.) “Ahem. ‘Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom’,” she quoted as she extended an open hand. “Please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Captain Chrysine Winterfox, Extra-Special Weapons and Tactics.” She left her arm extended, fully expecting it to be ignored.

"Captain, eh? Only in XSWAT would they give a fleabag that kind of rank," Harris chided.

Mauser cast a quick glance to the outstretched hand before looking the Clade in the eye. (Quite the feat to be sure for someone his height.) He shook her hand. "So you're in XSWAT? I'm impressed. I'm sure no other division on the PLANET has caused as much collateral damage to what they’re supposed to protect than you jokes. And Jesus you're tall. I'll bet that dinky little Director of yours has to stand on a chair to make sure her pet can hear her when she orders you a...rou... nd....”

Claire’s ears perked at the tone in Mauser’s voice. It seemed to have gone up a few octaves for no real reason. Was it something he ate? Captain Chrysine (oops... Captain Winterfox) was just standing there, a smile on her face, still shaking Mauser’s hand, certainly she couldn’t be the cause, could she?

“You must be new here.” Chrysine kept her tone of her voice pleasant, a far cry from some Clades she knew. If Captain Tyger had been standing in her place you could have picked up Officers Harris and Mauser with a sponge. Then again, she was slowly increasing the pressure she was putting on Mauser’s hand. A joke was she? A fleabag? It was obvious these two knew nothing of XSWAT. Of Epsilon Sector and the Grinder, back when things were bad. Of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Of dead APD and XSWAT officers, tortured and mutilated so a madman could remake the universe in his image. Of the pain Director Renuka and Lieutenant Brogan had endured to make the world a better place. Of... she swallowed and tried to push memories a decade old to the back of her mind. Besides, Mauser was looking rather pale while Harris seemed confused.

“‘Prejudice is the child of ignorance’,” she quoted, giving Claire a glance before turning back to the two men. “I suggest if that is how you two officers truly feel, you might want to reconsider who you voice such opinions to. There are some in XSWAT who are not as tolerant and forgiving as I.”

“My... my... hand?” Sweat was starting to appear in Mauser’s brow as Harris asked “You alright buddy?”

“She... my... hand....”

“Oh, I am terribly sorry.” Chrysine let go. Mauser snatched his hand back so fast it was a mere blur. “Officer Mauser, are you okay? You look pale.”

Harris grabbed the whimpering Mauser by the collar and shuffled him out the door. "You were dumb enough to give her your hand, peckerhead. C'mon, let's get out of here."

"They are very not-nice. I hope he's okay." Claire mused as the pair left. "He must be sick. I'll send him a muffin."

Shorty after, they were ushered to a booth near the front window by the hostess, a small Chinese lady in black formal wear. The menus were exquisitely designed in keeping with the decor. Claire looked hers over and decided she was going to have the dumplings and a glass of water. She really couldn't afford much at the moment.

Chrysine looked at her menu and tried to relax. ‘Pet’ indeed. Those two were a disgrace to humanity in general and the APD in particular. She had not heard such vitriol in a long time, not since the early days of her adoption of Angie. Then again, some of her fellow Clades had been just as verbally cruel. Oh well, as the saying went, you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. And sooner or later, Harris and Mauser would discover her comments had not been idle threats. There were officers in XSWAT who would have taken great delight in beating those two within an inch of their lives.

“I behaved badly,” she said abruptly. “Officer Claire, please accept my apologizes for what just happened.”

Claire looked up from her menu in a manner that was akin to dogs looking at helicopters. "What do you mean?"

“I allowed my temper to control my emotions.” She inclined her head in the general direction of the APD station house. “And in doing so, I nearly broke Officer Mauser’s hand.”

Claire shrugged her shoulders. "You didn't, though. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes." She seemed to pause mid-thought. "That's 205 megapascals, at least. Golly! You sure are strong."

Chrysine blinked. The young Clade seemed to be amazingly clueless… or forgiving. She wondered if Clare was cut out for XSWAT, seeing as even these days, the force dealt quite a bit of supernatural unpleasantness. Well, perhaps service would act as a crucible and either make—or break—Claire. Chrysine sincerely hoped it was the former, she would feel almost personally responsible otherwise. Then a thought struck her, “Megapascals?”

"Yup! It takes about 29732.73623465 psi to break the human hand. That's a lot of pressure. You must work out or something to get that strong." Claire seemed in awe of Chrysine. Nobody in APD could do anything nearly as cool as that.

“Uhm… Combat-Class Clades are built for strength and power,” Chrysine answered in a carefully neutral tone. “Do you… do you know what you were designed for?”

The smaller Clade looked seriously embarrassed. "I... uh... I mean... no," she stuttered, visibly shrinking into her seat. The cold fact remained that she had very few memories beyond working in the Angelus Police Department. Everything before that was a blur that came back as half-remembered nightmares. "Officer Woo tells me that information was lost due to documentation error. That's why they put me in APD."

Chrysine, who unlike certain APD officers was very well-versed in Clade body language, decided it was time to change the subject. “So, have you decided on what you want to eat?

"Ah, I think I'm just gonna have some water and a dumpling. I'm a bit short on cash right now." Slightly less embarrassed now, Claire's ears were still pressed firmly into her hair.

“Officer Claire,” Chrysine replied in a gentle (and slightly surprised tone of voice), “lunch is on XSWAT today.”

"You mean I could get two!?"

“Get as many as you wish.”

Claire perked right up. She scoured the menu quickly before the waiter approached the table to take their order. Very politely she asked for the Moo Goo Gai Pan and some Oolong tea, before she turned to the XSWAT officer. "What're you getting Captain Winterfox?"

I have no idea. Glancing back at the menu, Chrysine decided on an old standby. “Kung Pao Shrimp with extra spring onions please. And tea is fine.”

After the waiter collected the menus and left, Chrysine laid her arms on the table, hands clasped together. “Office Claire, I think it is time we get down to business. As I mentioned before, your time spent in the APD means you will not need to take the full suite of XSWAT academy classes. Your classes on civil codes will be more of refresher courses. What you will concentrate on instead is instruction in paranormal threats and how to deal with them. Is that clear?”

Claire scratched at an itch behind her right ear, further disrupting her terminally erratic hair. "I understand. Training is fun, though. You learn all kinds of neat things. XSWAT deals with all kinds of nasty stuff, doesn't it? Does XSWAT use standard firearms for that kinda stuff?"

“To answer your first question, yes we do. There are still Entities to deal with, as well as the cybernetically-augmented, espers, the magically active, and other supernatural threats.” Chrysine paused and took a sip of her tea. “As for sidearms, we use the C-65 variable yield maser pistol for most situations, although officers are allowed to carry specialized sidearms if they so desire.”

"They do? Awesome! What kind of side arm do you carry?" Chrysine could see the excitement growing in Claire's eyes. Squee was imminent.

“As I said, a C65. And due to my strength, a Remington Earthshaker.”

And then came the 'squee'. "An Earthshaker!? Really? That's a 15mm cannon! Three-round capacity, and tell me you use 700 grain bullets! OhmyGod! That's a muzzle velocity of over a thousand meters a second! You don't use recoil comp of any kind do you? Of course not, considering how strong you are. What was I thinking? That's so awesomtacular!"

“Ahh…” Chrsyine tried to digest Claire’s sudden mood switches. She seemed oblivious to some things but highly knowledgeable about others. Almost like an… idiot savant. Yes, of course. I need to speak to the Director about this. Well, perhaps not the Director herself, but certainly someone in Human Resources about Clades with nearly encyclopedic knowledge of certain subjects. “Yes, Officer Claire, I do use standard-issue full-metal-jacket 700 grain rounds. For maximum stopping power against cyberdroids, APEX Suits, EXO Suits, and vehicles.” She paused and thought for a moment, “Have you been issued a sidearm by the APD?”

"Issued? Uh. Not exactly. They let me bring my own in." She pulled out an AMT Hardballer, a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, with a stainless steel finish. She then proceeded to eject the magazine and the chambered round before spinning the gun on her finger until she was holding it by the barrel. She did this fast enough to make any gun-nut blush. Then she placed it on the table before her with the handle facing Chrysine and the barrel facing the window. The word 'Sugar' was engraved on the grip.

Normally this would cause a stir, but the staff at Ping Chen's were used to Angelus' Finest showing off their toys during lunch breaks. Reaching into another holster, she did the same thing to an identical piece with a crimson finish. The engraving on this one read 'Spice.'

"Officer Woo gave them to me as a present for winning the shooting competition at last year's picnic." Jennifer Woo, the dispatch officer at Precinct 16 was Claire's best friend on the force. Probably because they both spent all their time there instead of out on patrol. That and the fact that Jenny loved Claire's muffins.

“I see.” Chrysine stared at the rather antique-looking firearm for a moment before reaching down to unholster her maser. “This is a C-65 variable yield maser. It is very useful for dealing with certain supernatural threats.” She then unsnapped the strap on the other holster and slowly produced a massive revolver in stainless steel. “And this my Remington Earthshaker.” She set it on the table with a clunk. Like Claire’s pistols, this one was engraved as well, with Ultima Ratio Regum inscribed into the bottom of the barrel shroud.

Claire's eyes got wide as she took in the sight of the Earthshaker. It was hard to tell if her brain had stopped functioning or if she was busy calculating something. Finally she broke the silence after what seemed a good minute. "Ultima... Ratio.... Regum? What does that mean?"

“It is Latin and translates to ‘The Last Argument of Kings.’ It is a metaphor for the declaration of war and a reminder that my weapons should be drawn only when no other option presents itself.” Chrysine picked up her C65 and replaced it in its holster then picked up the Earthshaker. “Once you join XSWAT we can see about letting you experiment with different weapons at the range. Officer Thornhallow, if I recall, carried two C65 masers.”

"'All war represents a failure of diplomacy'," Claire looked up while she remembered the quote, as if somehow it were sitting on her forehead. She then put away her own guns. "Officer Thornhallow? Are they a nice person, like you?"

“She…” Chrysine thought back to the time she had spent with ‘Didi.’ In some ways she had been much like Claire, full of enthusiasm, but tempered it with moments of irritability and outrage. Still, she had treated Chrysine as just another officer, except for a few curious questions on the subject of tails and how one kept them clean. “She was a good officer, but is no longer in XSWAT. She responded to an even higher calling.”

"And XSWAT is full of people like that?" Claire's head cocked to the side. The waiter arrived with their food, and placed it before them before scurrying off to another table. Claire put her hands together and closed her eyes, then she gave a quick prayer of thanks before digging in. "Mauser said something about the Director? Is she nice too?"

Aquaculture shrimp, hydroponic scallions, peanuts, peppers, and spicy sauce. Chrysine had to bring Angie here for dinner some time. She savored a mouthful before replying. “Director Renuka has always been pleasant in her dealings with me. But I understand she can be quite stern if needed and it is common wisdom you do not want to make her angry.” She scooped up another forkful (she’d never gotten the hang of chopsticks, no matter how many times Angie had tried to teach her) and chewed thoughtfully. “Officer Claire, may I ask why you wish to join XSWAT?”

Claire ceased stuffing her mouth with snow peas and swallowed before speaking. Talking with your mouth full is not-polite. "I just want to help. The world of full of things that are not-nice, and I... I can't do much about it just filing things in a basement. I want to be out there doing stuff that matters."

Chrysine smiled. “A noble sentiment. And the opinions of Officers Harris and Mauser aside, much of what XSWAT does matters a great deal. We are the first line of defense against the supernatural here in Angelus and it is not a responsibility to take lightly.”

"I can do it. I know I can." Claire said as defiantly as she could, which to be honest wasn't much. "I won't let you down. Just ask Officer Woo. She'll tell you."

Almost as if on cue, Officer Jennifer Woo of the APD was being seated a few tables over from where they sat. The small dark-haired Asian woman waved politely at Claire as she sat down. Claire waved back like an excited five year old. "Jenny!"

Seeing that Claire had company for once in her life, Officer Woo decided it was time to investigate. She walked over to where the two Clades were seated. "Hey Claire! How are you today? Who's your new frie… nd...?" Between the XSWAT uniform and the word 'Winterfox' on the nameplate, Jenny had stopped mid-thought. She gave a quick salute and then extended her hand. "Captain Winterfox. It's an honor to meet you. I've heard stories of your exploits. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"

Returning the salute Chrysine accepted Officer Woo’s hand. “I am here to tell Officer Claire she has been accepted to XSWAT Academy.”

Jenny stopped dead again. "Really? I'm... I'm amazed. I didn't think she'd ever get promoted. Congratulations, Sweetie!" She playfully rubbed Claire's head, eliciting giggles from the Clade. "XSWAT, huh? Guess that means no more muffins for me, huh?"

"Dawww—I'd be sure to send you some." Claire blushed a little.

“Please, Officer Woo, will you join us?” Chrysine nudged a chair away from the table and gestured to it.

"Of course. I'd be delighted." she said, taking the offered chair. Jenny wasn't going to pass up a good opportunity to meet with a decorated officer of some renown.

* * * * *

"....and the whole thing spilled right in Harris' lap!" Jenny’s retelling of Precinct 16's last annual picnic was always a favorite of Claire's. It was also the last time Claire was allowed to touch the punch bowl.

Once she stopped giggling, Claire looked at her watch. "Aww. I need to be getting back soon. 'scuse me while go get myself cleaned up. Be right back!" And with that she scurried off to the Ladies’ Room.

“Officer Woo,” Chrysine asked quietly as she watched Claire make her way across the restaurant, “why did you say you never thought Officer Claire would be promoted?”

"Hmm? Oh that? Well, to be blunt, she's a perfect file clerk. And don't take that the wrong way. She'll make a damn fine officer." Jenny leaned back in her chair and pointed towards the door. "The trouble is some of those asshole higher-ups wouldn't give her the chance she needed. If they put her on patrol, they'd have to put someone else down in the basement, and no one could keep that wreck in order as good as Claire.

"And if you think the BS stops there, there are rumors that some of her requests for transfer were sabotaged. Just rumors, but still." Jenny took another sip of her tea and then sat straight up in her seat. "She won't let you down Captain. She just needs the chance to prove herself. To them, but mostly to herself I think."

“Thank you, Officer Woo,” Chrysine said with slight nod. “Perhaps then it will do her good to have a mentor when she joins the Academy. To show she is not alone and has the support of her fellow officers.” She nodded again, as if coming to a decision. “I will help her as much as I can, as Lieutenant Brogan helped me when I was still new to XSWAT. Will that sit well with you, Officer Woo?”

That sits very well with me. I think it'll do her some good." Jenny smiled at the large Clade. Across the room, Claire emerged from the bathroom and started to make her way back to the table "And one more thing. Keep her safe. She means a lot to me."

“I will do my best. But…” and here Chrysine shook her head, as if to dispel a bad memory. “XSWAT is a dangerous line of work and there are no guaranties.”

"I know. It's the thought that counts." And with that Officer Woo stood and gave Chrysine another quick salute. "I guess you two need to get going. A pleasure meeting you Captain."

“And you. And if you ever need anything, you may reach me at the XSWAT tower.” Chrysine returned Woo’s salute and watched her head over to the register. “Hello, Officer Claire. All ready to return?”

"Yup!" Claire put her hat back on head and waved goodbye at Officer Woo. "I wonder if Captain Earle is gonna be not-happy that I'm leaving?"

* * * * *

Captain George Earle had been in charge at Precinct 16 for nearly a decade now. He was very much accustomed to having things run the way he wanted. Having someone circumvent his authority and have themselves moved from where he put them was not something he took lightly. From the sound of things, Claire's resignation was not putting him in a good mood.

The door to his office rattled occasionally and his bellowing could be heard, albeit quite muffled, from where Chrysine sat outside in the hallway. Her ears flicked back and forth occasionally, a sure sign of her discomfort. To be honest, she did not think much of those who commanded and communicated by yelling. Sergeant Montizano and Lieutenant Brogan had never yelled at her in order to get their point across. In fact, Lieutenant Brogan had made an effort to simply talk to her, especially when she was feeling the pressure of the CRASH Team’s mission. She felt she should go in there and say something… but in situations like this XSWAT had no authority over the APD.

Perhaps there is something unnaturally wrong about this precinct? She made a mental note to contact some of the more supernaturally-sensitive members of the force she new and ask them to look around. It might be people like Earle, Harris, and Mauser were the result of a tainted spirit haunting the halls. That might explain it. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, making sure to sit as calmly as possible, one leg crossed over the other, hands clasped in her lap, head slightly bowed. It looked almost like she was asleep, but if anyone asked, she would say she was meditating (which was nigh-on to the truth.)

I must remember to give Officer Claire one of my cards. Even in this day and age, business cards were still in use. Most people simply transmitted electronic ones from PDA to PDA, but Chrysine, like many XSWAT officers, carried physical ones, made from thin plastic. They tended to be more memorable and some people went to great lengths to try and get an XSWAT officer’s card. Supposedly, a genuine copy of the Director’s card went for quite a bit on the Net (as Angie had discovered to her great delight.)

Around the corner could be heard a painfully familiar voice. "... and that's when that XSWAT goon decided to get rough. My hand got injured in the scuffle, but I took it like a champ." Harris was the first to come around the corner, one hand placed firmly over his face as Mauser explained to another officer why he had ice on his own hand. They were in for a surprise when the hall in front of the Captain's office came in to view.

"Jesus! That's her!" Mauser exclaimed, trying very badly to keep from alerting the apparently sleeping Clade.

"Keep it down you joke. You want to wake her?" Harris scolded. The officer accompanying them merely laughed and went on his way.

Ears twitching, Chrysine sighed. Ah yes, ‘the fearsome word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.’ Or in this case, the banality of the small minded. Opening her eyes, she glanced over at the two officers from under a fall of snow-white bangs, then stood, smoothing out her long coat as she did so (a gesture she’d unknowingly borrowed from the Director.) “Officers, if I may, I wish to apologize for my earlier behavior. It was unbecoming of me.”

"What is this? Some kind of trick?" It was obvious Mauser was still shaken from their earlier encounter.

“No, Officer Mauser, it is not a trick. As an XSWAT Captain and a mother I should set a better example, both for myself and others. Words such as yours have not riled me in some time but they brought up some rather unpleasant memories of my first year on the force. When I patrolled the neighborhood once known as ‘the Grinder’.”

"C'mon Arty, don't let this furball blow smoke up your ass," Harris interjected. "She's probably here to start some shit with the Captain.”

Inwardly Chrysine sighed. “As you wish.” She sat back down, doing her best to ignore Captain Earle’s ranting.

"That's right. We have enough of 'em running around as is. We don't need 'em breeding." Harris paused for second and then shrugged. "Unless of course she adopted."

Mauser had to laugh at that idea. "That's gotta be some unlucky kid, having a farm animal for a parent."

That is enough of that. She stood up again, ears flat against her skull. “Mauser. You may say what you wish about myself, Clades, or even XSWAT itself, but you will not say anything about my daughter. Do. You. Under. Stand?”

A look of absolute terror crossed Mauser's face. For a second, Chrysine could swear she heard the screaming of a little girl. As the stocky officer tore off down the hallway, Chrysine realized the high pitched squeal came from Mauser.

As he watched his friend beat feet, it dawned on Harris that the source of Mauser's inspiration to suddenly try Track and Field was standing right behind him. Harris turned slowly to see the Clade towering over him. He turned once more in the direction Mauser had fled, and then back to the irate XSWAT officer. "I think now would be a good time to go get some coffee. I'll just be going now." Putting on his best 'please don't kill me' smile, Harris bolted to catch up with his buddy.

And that is that. It struck Chrysine that life in XSWAT, as dangerous as it was from time to time, could only be an improvement for Officer Claire.

The door to the captain's office opened with a creak and out stepped Claire, ears flat against her skull and wringing her tail like a damp dishcloth. "He was really really not-happy." Closing the door behind her, she gave a weak smile. "On the plus side he gave me the rest of the day off. All I gotta do is clean out my desk, first."

I rest my case. “Officer Claire, if you wish, I can help you clean out your desk, then take you over to XSWAT HQ for your first tour.” And have her meet Angie, which should brighten up both of their days.

Claire gave a bow to Chrysine just like Jenny said they do in some Asian countries. "Thank you."