Author's Notes: By the time you read this, I'll have been working on this for some time. My college schedule simply does not allow time for as much writing as I would like. That reality came to me the other day when I totally bombed one of my tests. I'm going to have to haul ass to salvage my grade. So it seems I can only devote less than an hour a day to my writing until things improve. And with all of my various projects in the works, it's going to be a while before I get around to finishing any one of them. Hell, Singin' Hound Lounge probably won't get done until the summer, despite the fact that I planned to finish it in the next couple of months.
As I've said before, I have too damn many projects and not enough time or energy to work them all in.
Dawn of a New Age
Chapter 9- Reunion
Kagome pulled her car up to a modest townhouse in the suburbs. This was the address that Miroku had provided. Still... Kagome had no idea what they were going to accomplish tonight. She didn't even know where they were going to start. But it was still better than sitting around waiting for the Project to find them. She glanced over at Inuyasha and Shippo as she parked the car at the curb. "We're here."
Inuyasha nodded once and stepped out of the car, his ears pinned down by a black cap with a silver dragon stitched onto the front. "So this is where the lech lives, eh?" he thought out loud.
"Please, Inuyasha," Kagome pleaded. "Try to keep your temper in check." What she really meant was "don't be an asshole," but she disliked using profanity and talking like that to him would probably just irritate him more.
He grunted once and walked behind Kagome to the front door, quietly fuming as Shippo sat on his head.
Kagome knocked on the front door and was greeted moments later by Miroku. "Ah, you're here. Sango phoned in a moment ago to say she'll be arriving in a few minutes. Until then, make yourselves at home."
The group wandered into the living room. It was furnished with a strong Far Eastern theme to the decor, and the walls featured photographs of Miroku in a myriad of places with just as many different people. Kagome took a seat on the sofa and tried to relax.
Shippo jumped off of Inuyasha's head and onto her lap, surveying the living room with great curiosity. Inuyasha on the other hand just stood in the middle of the room as he took off the cap and let his ears twitch while Miroku glided off into the kitchen.
"Inuyasha," Kagome urged, "please don't be like this. Sit down." She realized an instant too late that she had made a mistake.
There was a yelp, a crash, a surprised gasp, and a nervous laugh. All within three seconds. Inuyasha was sprawled out facedown on the carpeted floor, grumbling out what sounded like, "Son of a bitch."
"What... just happened?" Miroku asked cautiously as he came out to investigate. He must have seen the whole thing, judging by the look on his face.
"Well," Kagome started as a blush crept up her neck, "I'm not sure why, but every time I say the word... s-i-t Inuyasha sort of... falls." Oh yeah, that was an ingenious explanation.
Shippo's face split into an impish grin and he hopped down in front of Inuyasha who was just starting to pick himself up. "Sit!" he shouted in his squeaky voice.
His expression immediately fell as Inuyasha just scowled. "Uh oh."
A quick bop on the head, and the fox Moreau was cowering in Kagome's lap. "Nice try, brat," Inuyasha scoffed as he got back on his feet. "But it doesn't work that way."
As much as Kagome wanted to scold Inuyasha for hitting Shippo, she had to admit that he kind of deserved that one. Kicking someone when they were down was just plain cruel. "You never did tell me how that works, Inuyasha."
Inuyasha heaved a sigh and collapsed more than sat into an armchair. "It's called a VST. Verbal Subjugation Trigger... They implant a command word in my brain. The first person that says it, my mind is keyed to their voice. Whenever they say the magic word, my back and leg muscles spasm so that I basically throw myself into the ground and then my whole body goes limp so I can't get back up for a few seconds."
"Like an extremely powerful post-hypnotic suggestion," Miroku observed.
"What he said," Inuyasha deadpanned. "I managed to work past several VSTs at the Project. Not many others could. They must have implanted the new one while I was out. Kagome was the first one to say the word, so now it's tied to her."
"An interesting word choice," Miroku mused. "Painful, effective, and humiliating all at once. Three abuses in one neat little package. The ACLU would have a field day with this alone."
"The who?" Inuyasha asked with his brows furrowed.
"Never mind," Miroku answered dismissively. "You realize of course that once Sango arrives, you're going to have to tell us everything."
Inuyasha said nothing. He just folded his arms over his chest and stared at the floor. Kagome didn't need to read his aura to know that he wasn't looking forward to this. If the things he had told her already were any indication, then being in the Project must have been a living nightmare.
They waited all of five minutes before Sango arrived and took a seat beside Kagome. "Good, you're all here. Now, I contacted Miroku earlier today and got everything he knows about the Project. But we need more information." She then leveled a steely gaze at Inuyasha.
The Moreau shifted uncomfortably under her stare and looked to Kagome as if asking for guidance. All she could do was bite her lip.
"Inuyasha," Sango said in a commanding tone that very clearly made the young man tense, "I need you to tell me everything you know from the perspective of a Moreau. I need to know what you and the others are capable of. I need to know what training and mental conditioning they were given. I need you to explain any and all agendas Tanaka might have had that you even had a suspicion of. Everything."
Inuyasha closed his eyes, and his aura gave off a mixture of anguish, rage, reluctance, and frustration. But there was also a grim determination in his face that you didn't need psionic powers to see. Kagome leaned across the short distance between the couch and the armchair and wrapped her hand around his. Without opening his eyes, Inuyasha closed his hand to press her slender fingers against his palm. "We're only given names for convenience," he finally growled out. "We have a codename and a serial number. That's it."
Kagome never once let go of his hand as he began explaining the indoctrination process. It was like a twisted parody of boarding school; training the Moreaus from the moment they could walk and talk on how to become unfeeling and focused yet perfectly loyal killers. Some bought it hook, line, and sinker. Others just stayed in line because they had nowhere else to go. And if ever they did resist, the VST would subdue them long enough to be restrained and they would be taken away for either torture or execution, depending on how much trouble they caused. The only ones who had ever successfully fought back and lived long enough to escape had apparently made their way to the Kabori ranch. A place which now lay in ruins.
Moreaus were trained in combat, guerilla fighting, multiple languages, terrorist tactics, infiltration, espionage... In short, everything they would need to become ideal international mercenaries. Naraku managed to evade inspections by keeping the indoctrination and espionage training a secret. Whenever the higher-ups came for a visit, there was always a happy face put on everything, and only the most loyal and intelligent of the Moreaus were allowed to speak with anyone. As far as anyone outside the Project knew, these bizarre hybrids were of average intelligence at best and were receiving basic military and para-military training.
It was the perfect set-up. Supersoldiers for hire from a madman who owed allegiance to no country at all. He would sell weapons to your enemy and life insurance policies to you without a second thought. Which meant everyone would be trying to outbid one another for use of the Moreaus in their agendas. And if any of these creatures were ever exposed, their lips were sealed. Besides, what government would want the world to know that they were directly involved in this obviously illegal business? And anyone who did have the courage to try and bring this to light... Tanaka had them dealt with. It was only by sheer dumb luck that the CIA found out what he was up to, but that wasn't enough.
As Inuyasha finished his explanation, everyone was silent. "Anything else?" he mumbled after a moment.
"Anything you can tell us about Tanaka," Sango answered frankly.
"Short list," Inuyasha drawled. "Bastard loved to torment me but he never actually told me anything."
Sango sighed in mild frustration and rubbed her temples. "Perhaps you could give us some insight into his motivations. What's the whole purpose of turning Project: Moreau into a mercenary service? Money, power, or is it just an excuse to keep his work going?"
Inuyasha paused to think about his answer. "I remember once he was talking to some of us. The scientists had us strapped down and were testing us again. And Naraku was talking about how... how we were going to remake the world."
"Remake the world?" Miroku questioned. "What did he mean by that?"
Inuyasha shook his head lightly. "I don't know." His voice was barely above a whisper.
The room was deathly silent for a minute as everyone processed this new information. Kagome felt a chill deep inside of her as she turned over Inuyasha's descriptions in her head. The more she learned, the more she came to wish everything in her life would go back to normal. But that brought about the thought that Inuyasha wouldn't be in her life. And that was something she just couldn't imagine anymore. It was strange how fast she had become so attached to him. She didn't want to let him go, didn't want him to be alone.
Shippo pulled her quickly from her musings. "So what do we do now?" he asked impatiently.
"We need to figure out a course of action," Sango declared in an authoritative voice. "I can't risk exposing Inuyasha and Shippo to my superiors, though. Not yet. But we need some way to keep tabs on Project: Moreau until I can get you two amnesty."
"Finding leads is going to be difficult, though," Miroku added. "Even with as many contacts as I have, digging up information is going to be difficult at best. Most likely nigh impossible."
"What about the two who attacked my home?" Shippo piped in. "Why don't we follow where they were heading?"
Kagome looked down at the fox Moreau in surprise. It was a long shot of an idea, but it was something to go on. "Maybe. Inuyasha, do you think you could find the place you stopped them at?"
Inuyasha frowned and lowered his head slightly. "Yeah, but the scent trail will be pretty weak by the time we get there, if there's even enough left for me to track."
"Right now we don't have anything better," Miroku remarked.
"Miroku's right," Sango acquiesced. "Kagome, I want you and Inuyasha to take me to the site of the Kabori ranch and from there we'll try to follow whatever trail we can get."
"Well... I have work tomorrow," Kagome nervously began.
"Then Inuyasha and I will go ourselves," Sango cut in. "If possible, I'd like to keep your involvement in this to a minimum. You're still technically a civilian."
Kagome nodded once. "I understand." Though deep down, she hated the idea of having to leave Inuyasha, if only for a couple of hours.
"What can I do?" Shippo asked with the tone of a child who desperately wanted to help. But what could they possibly do that wouldn't put him in danger?
Kagome got an idea and smiled down at the Moreau child in her lap. "I'll need you to guard my apartment while I'm at work in case any other Moreaus come sneaking around." Leave him with a few rules, and he probably wouldn't ask too many questions or get into any trouble.
Shippo smiled proudly and puffed out his chest, obviously pleased at being trusted with such a task.
"I'll see what I can do about finding some information on Tanaka before he defected to the US," Miroku added. "With any luck, there might be some clue left over."
Sango nodded once and stood up. "I believe that's all we're going to get done tonight until we have more leads. Kagome, I'll be at your apartment tomorrow morning at 6:30 to pick up Inuyasha."
Kagome nodded once and stood up, holding Shippo in her arms. "I'll print out the directions for you." Even though she trusted Inuyasha, she couldn't help but shake an uneasy feeling. Like something very bad was about to happen very soon.
Inuyasha sulked the whole time on the way to the destroyed ranch. He still had his doubts about this Sango woman. Of course, he never trusted easy to begin with, so it wasn't like this was unusual. The two of them didn't say a word the whole trip. Inuyasha didn't even make an attempt to turn on the radio. He imagined that this is what Purgatory must have felt like.
At last, the trip ended and they found themselves at the ruined home of the Moreau renegades. Inuyasha couldn't help but scowl at the sight of all the graves again. He put a hand to his shoulder in memory of the battle. Kagome thought he was still injured, and he only still wore the bandages under his shirt to keep her quiet. In reality, his wound was almost completely healed. In another two days there wouldn't even be a scar. He had told her fast he could heal, but the damn girl just wouldn't listen and kept insisting on helping him.
Inuyasha lightly shook his head to clear it and stalked toward the opposite edge of the field where the forest resumed. Sango quietly followed behind him, surveying the damage around them with a stoic expression on her face. "Two Moreaus did all of this?" she thought aloud. Even Inuyasha could tell it was a rhetorical question.
As they reached the edge of the forest, Inuyasha sniffed the air to try and pick up on the fading scent trail. He found it, but there was something new. There was another scent approaching. One he knew too well. "Get back to the car!" Inuyasha barked at Sango. Too late.
A tall figure erupted from the forest in a blur of white and landed behind them. Inuyasha and Sango pivoted to face the newcomer, and the former let out a tense growl. "Sesshoumaru."
Sesshoumaru stood just a few inches shy of seven feet. He wore a white body suit with a silver-grey trench coat. His long, furry white tail wrapped once around his waist, came out the slit back of the coat, and draped over his left shoulder. His silver hair was the same as Inuyasha's, hanging down to almost his ankles. His eyes were also the same golden color, but like his face were cold and composed. Somewhere in the last fifty years, it seemed Sesshoumaru had found some way to permanently scar himself, as his face now sported tattoos of two red streaks on each cheek and a blue crescent moon on his forehead. Other than those markings, though... he hadn't aged much at all. When he spoke, his voice was devoid of emotion and carried the chilling tone of one who no longer cared for the distinction between right and wrong. "Welcome back to the living, Inuyasha."
Author's Notes: Shorter than I originally intended, but I think this works better as a cliffhanger. Probably not one of my better efforts, but the more things I can say I have done, the better. At least for now.
Don't expect another update for a while. Midterms are this week, and then I have spring break.
Scherezade7: Fight scenes are hard to choreograph, especially in prose. It bugs me how few people even try anymore, though. They just kind of lightly breeze over it or describe it in a choppy, half-assed way. Anyway, more action coming next chapter. Let's see if I can do that while also preserving some essential elements to Sesshoumaru's personality.
shaid: I've been experimenting with more mature elements in my writing lately. It just feels like a natural evolution.
Divine-Red-Crayon: On the upshot, I've got a shot at an internship with Pittsburgh Filmmakers this summer. I might even get a chance to meet George Romero.
Father Malvado: At least you're honest about it. My brother is somewhat in denial of his geekitude.
Mimiko: I figure Sango to be the type who, even without all of her trauma, is borderlining on multiple personality disorder. She tries so hard to be stoic and straight-laced, but she's much more complex than she wants anyone to believe. I think I've finally figured out how to portray that, and it's good to see her interaction with Miroku in the last chapter came across so convincing.
Izayoi: As I said before, I wanted to try a different approach to the characters this time around, put them in roles that are appropriate but unexpected. And I figured since Sango is a demonslayer, what kind of modern job would that be like. Federal agent, there you go. Serve and protect.