Lap Dog

Summary: Blue's twisted remix of the episode 'The Beast'. It's a dog's life for Meterand when he ends up in the body of a slightly less imposing host than a German Shepard.

Rating: PG

Spoilers: "The Beast", of course. Spoilers for the pilot. Minor spoilers for "Area 51".

Author's Note: Mahalo to Kameka for Betaing :)

Disclaimer: I don't own them, but, hey, just as soon as that deal with Zin goes through...

Feedback is better than Fek-Maln and good, bad, or ugly, it is always welcomed and much appreciated. Otherwise, how do I know what I'm doing right and wrong?

Chapter 1

Lana shifted uncomfortably under Zin's scrutiny. Less than two days into his stay on Earth and already she was becoming the bearer of bad tidings. Very bad tidings. It could not possibly bode well for their future on this mud-ball.

"Not enough humans on the train?" Zin repeated quietly, blinking as he tried to process what the girl was getting at. The picture she was laying down between the lines was not a pretty one, not when exposure to this planet's atmosphere was fatal to all but in-tact life-forces. "I see, Lana."

"Now, as I stated, we did manage to get most of the excess life-forces into containment before they could die, but... there was a..." She shifted again, staring at her feet and needing a drink in a very bad way. "There was a... a small problem with Meterand."

"How small?" Zin demanded, rising. Meterand was one of his most loyal followers. Except for that thing with Zin's wife...

About five pounds. Lana fought the urge to laugh at that stray thought. She had been torn between laughing, screaming, and hiding from Zin since hearing the news.

"What has happened, Lana?" Zin demanded gently. "And how much is it going to cost me to fix?"

She closed her eyes. "Uh, we may still be a little away from... having the capacity to... fix it," she managed, biting her tongue hard enough to draw blood rather than risking laughter at the idea of 'fixing' Meterand. "But we're getting there."

"What has happened?" he repeated, scowling at her uncharacteristic evasiveness.

"Meterand... somehow, he... as one of the last through the worm-hole, he has... ended up in an... extremely unsuitable host." 

Zin frowned at her uncharacteristic evasiveness. "What? His host is sick? Injured?"

"His host is not human," she whispered, wincing against a blow that never came. When she opened her eyes and looked up again, he was staring at her with wide eyes and a confused expression.

"Not human?" Zin repeated quietly. "There is other intelligent life on this planet? Why was I not made aware of this, my dear?" he asked gently.

Lana shifted uneasily at that calm, quiet tone. She had known Zin long enough to know that there was nothing calm about him at present.

"There is no other intelligent life on this planet, sir. Meterand's host is a member of a sub-sentient slave species."

"An animal?" Zin demanded, glaring at her. Behind him, a 50-gallon salt-water aquarium shattered. "Which sort? A pack animal? A hunting animal?" He demanded the clarification without paying the least attention to the several thousand dollars worth of fish drowning in the open air on his office floor.

"A..." Lana cleared her throat. "A house pet, sir. Humans keep animals as pets, sir. For companionship..."  she explained uneasily, making a mental note to get the aquarium replaced and the carpet shampooed.

"I see. And have your people retrieved him?"

"They have, sir." Lana bobbed her head nervously a few times. Here it came, the inevitable request.

"I'd like to see him."

"I'll... have him brought in," she murmured, turning and opening the door. "Can we get him in here?" she shouted into the hall.

"Can he be expected to be of any use to us, Lana?" Zin sighed as they waited.

"Um..." Lana hesitated. "It is not... completely inconceivable..." She cleared her throat at the look Zin was giving her. "His intelligence remains intact, according to our doctors, and he is aware of what has happened. His allegiances remain unaltered..."

"So he remembers us?"
"I'd have to say so based on the fact that the first thing he did when he saw me was to bite me, sir," Lana assured him, nodding uneasily and displaying her fingers, still seeping a small amount of blood. She did not mention that Meterand had spent the rest of the morning sleeping comfortably in the lap of Zin's current mistress. Some things never did change, it seemed. "A police report on his host's disappearance has already been filed. The dog... apparently it had some material worth. As a species, they are valued for their bloodlines as well as the companionship they offer and the host's bloodline was impeccable." Smiling faintly, she added in a low voice, "Which gives Meterand a better pedigree than he ever could have hoped to claim otherwise..."

"Lana!" Zin chuckled, shaking his head. "How can you be in such a mood at a time such as this?"

"Admittedly, sir, I was initially as angry and as concerned as you are." Then she had actually seen Meterand's new host. "But you have always taught me that one must... learn to put situations into their proper perspective," she added, biting her lower lip to keep from smiling. There was a soft tap on the door. "He always was a most satisfactory lap-dog," she pointed out gravely, opening the door and accepting Meterand from a runner who obviously just wanted to be able to... run. Holding him tightly and making sure his teeth were nowhere near any exposed skin this time, she turned to face Zin. "Uh... Doctor Zin, your bodyguard's new host."

Zin stared with wide eyes at the growling fur-ball that Lana was holding in front of her, at arm's length from her chest. He was suddenly much better able to see what the girl found amusing in the current situation.

"Meterand, my friend?" he asked uncertainly. The creature tilted its head at him and nodded. "Ah." Zin nodded faintly, clearing his throat. "You say this creature is called a dog?" he asked Lana.

She nodded faintly. "Yes. Canis familiaris is the scientific term, but it's much more commonly just called a dog. The species 'dog' is broken down into literally hundreds of different forms which come in so many different shapes and sizes that many are hardly recognizable as members of the same species," she explained, placing Meterand on the floor. He snarled at her once, snapped at her ankle, and then went to sit next to Zin when he saw that she had changed into steel-tipped boots. The top of his head barely reached Zin's ankle. "This one is called a Pomeranian, I'm told. I, uh... I have his papers here," she muttered, pulling them out of an inside pocket in her suit and passing them to Zin with a barely-suppressed smile. "Wonderful pedigree, as I said. I've done some study on this subspecies and they cannot be expected to exceed about eight pounds. Based on its parentage, this one will probably be closer to six at full growth," she added quietly. "Uh... if it weren't stolen, we could make a lot of money..." She cleared her throat. "Putting him out to stud..."

Meterand snarled at her as Zin did his best not to laugh. He knew he should not encourage the girl who was clearly enjoying herself far too much at Meterand's expense, but it was rather amusing.

"I'd learn to be more civil to Lana if I were you, my friend," Zin advised Meterand gently. "You no longer have the size-advantage you once did..."

Ironic given the way that Meterand had once been able to frighten the girl simply by glaring and baring his teeth. Doubly ironic given that Lana's human host was more than two inches shy of five feet tall.

Meterand just glared at him.

"Well, I'm sorry, but you don't," Zin said, shrugging. Served Meterand right for having once taken pleasure in intimidating the child. "Lana... learning how to transfer life-forces to new bodies has just become your division's top priority, obviously," he told her.

"I will convey this to them," Lana assured him, bowing. "But many people are already curious as to what has become of Meterand," she added quietly.

"You will tell them nothing. Only that he is alive and well, if currently occupied elsewhere."

"Yes, sir." She paused and cleared her throat before adding with a faint smile, "I believe he's... due for another... walkie, sir."

"Walkie?" Zin repeated, frowning in confusion. At his feet, Meterand made a disgusted noise and hid his face in his paws as Lana struggled not to laugh too much through her explanation.

***

Mel walked into the war-room to find Cole staring quizzically at a black and white picture of a Pomeranian.

"Hey, thinking of getting a pet?" she asked, leaning over his shoulder for a better look at the picture.

"Pet?" he repeated, regarding her quizzically.

"Uh, yeah. You were looking at the dog, so I thought maybe you wanted one as a pet." Mel nodded and considered for a moment before explaining, "Humans keep animals like dogs as pets, companions."

"Oh." Cole considered this for a moment before shaking his head. "No, Mel. I do not wish to pet a dog."

Mel smiled and shook her head. "You don't want a dog for a pet," she corrected him gently. "Petting a dog is different."

"Different how?"

"Uh, petting an animal is... a way of touching it."

"Show me?" he requested.

Mel colored faintly at the string of mental images evoked by Cole asking her to teach him how to pet. She was fairly certain that he did in fact understand the concept of 'petting' after that time in the bathtub, even if he did not entirely understand that he understood. Thinking about the way his hands felt on her throat, it occurred to her that he actually did have a fairly advanced grasp of the concept, after all. At about that time, it also occurred to her that this was a very dangerous line of thought.

Smiling uneasily and clearing her throat, she assured him, "Next time we see a dog I will definitely show you how to pet it..."

Cole continued to regard her quizzically. "Mel?"

"Yeah?"

"Why has your face changed color?"

Mel giggled and covered her mouth with her hand, embarrassed. "Ah, never mind, Cole," she suggested after taking a moment to recover. Shaking her head, she nodded towards the picture of the dog again. "What's with Fluffy?"

"Fluffy?" he repeated, frowning.

"Random, generic dog name. Never mind, Cole. Why are you looking at pictures of dogs?" she clarified, nodding to the other pictures scattered across his desk. All of them were Pomeranians, she realized, picking one up and scrutinizing it. "Very nice dogs," she noted quietly after a moment, putting the picture down. "I don't think we could afford this one even if you did want a pet."

Cole considered her words. "The creature is valuable?"

"Yeah." Mel nodded. "I have some friends, work with Poms, Pomeranians... twelve hundred is not even a little unreasonable for one this nice. With the right papers, it'd be even more."

Cole considered this for a moment. "They have value beyond the companionship they provide, Mel?" he asked. "Why?"

"Uh..." She paused. "I'm honestly not sure everything that goes into it. Certain traits are just more desirable than others, I guess..." She shrugged.

"They are intelligent?"

"Uh... sort of. Not as intelligent as humans, but... smart as animals go."

Cole nodded faintly. "How intelligent? Intelligent enough to learn how to perform simple tasks?"

Mel shrugged. "Depends on what you define as a simple task."

"Crossing a room while crawling on its belly under a laser-grid motion-detector six inches from ground level while carrying a small pack of explosives in its mouth, then placing the explosives in a specific location, setting a timer, and crawling away, all without triggering a fairly sophisticated human alarm system," he explained, putting more words together in that one sentence than she was used to hearing from him in an average day.

And not a single grammatical error as far as Mel could tell. She was impressed. He was learning...

Mel stared at him with wide eyes for a moment before shaking her head, as much to clear it as anything. Not only was hearing that much from Cole all at once surprising, but the meaning behind the words, once she digested them, was interested in themselves. She had seen some smart dogs in her time, and some impressive tricks, but actually setting a timer? Knowing to allow itself enough time to get out of the range of the explosion? Evading motion-detectors? Knowing where the laser-grid was and being able to cross a whole room without tripping it once?

"No, Cole. Last time I checked that is not part of the curriculum at your average obedience-school."

"Oh." Cole nodded thoughtfully, frowning.

"What's going on, anyway?" she asked when no further explanation seemed forthcoming.

"This dog has been involved in a number of burglaries at banks and one at a museum in the past several weeks, Mel," he explained.

"Using that... method you described?" Mel asked with wide eyes.

No wonder poor Vic had been so distracted lately...

Cole nodded. "It is capable of evading a security system where a human could not. Once it has done so, it disables the system, allowing people to come in and take what they want without setting off the alarms." He gestured to one of his monitors, tapping commands into his keyboard and calling up a piece of security-camera footage. "There, Mel," he told her, pointing to a small blur in one corner of the image.

As Cole magnified that portion of the picture, Mel decided that it would probably be better not to ask where and how he had gotten the footage. She settled for, "What does this have to do with the fugitives."

He smiled curiously up at her. "How did you know it had to do with the fugitives, Mel?" he asked.

She smiled slyly. "Feminine intuition, Cole."

"Oh." He nodded faintly, returning his attention to the security-camera footage. "A dog matching the description of this one was stolen from the train yards the day the fugitives came."

"Strange." Mel frowned, watching the footage over his shoulder as the dog used its nose to type a combination into a key-pad on the charge. "Very strange," she amended, frowning and shaking her head. "You think they're training dogs to help them?" she asked.

Why dogs, though? Accepting that particular use of an animal in a burglary, she could have thought of better animals to carry it off, smarter ones. Monkeys, maybe, or some kind of lemur... Something with an opposable thumb at the very least.

"I don't know, Mel." He frowned thoughtfully at the footage. "I have never seen a tactic such as this from any of the fugitives."

"Then how do you know they're involved?" she asked.

He smiled faintly up at her. "Masculine intuition, Mel?"

She chuckled and shook her head. "Okay, Cole... So what's our next step?"

"I must find out more about these creatures. If they are normally incapable of this level of behavior, the fugitives may have found a way to modify its brain, make it smarter. You said that you have friends who work with them?"

"Yeah." Mel nodded faintly. "Assuming they aren't out of town... I'll call them."

"Thank you, Mel." Cole smiled and nodded at her.

"What's been stolen, anyway?" Mel asked, pausing at the door.

"They took money at the banks, Mel. No one knows what was stolen from the museum or even if anything is missing yet."

"Oh. So... the museum was pretty recent, I'm guessing?"

He nodded. "It happened this morning, Mel. The storage rooms were... like they were searching for something. But nothing is where it should be, so they not yet sure what is no longer there."

"What kind of stuff was in the storage room?" Mel asked, thinking about what was valuable at a museum. "Paintings?"

He shook his head faintly. "The police-scanner called them... 'antiquities', ancient artifacts. But they were not more specific."

She nodded faintly. "I'll call David," she said over her shoulder as she left the room.