Claimer: I own what has to be the smallest fraction of Inuyasha possible. So small I can't remember it. Heh, oh well. Moving on.
Summary: Meet Dr. Kagome Higurashi. She works in a recently developed portion of the Shroud Companies called "Metaphysical Understandings". What she does is analyze and report the supernatural things she's given, such as old Japanese Ofudas, Taro Cards, Crystal Balls and so on. And then she was assigned to the biggest discovery of the company: a demon-like creature recently uncovered in a deathlike sleep from under the surface of the Old World.
Chapter One : The Creature from the Old World
Kagome loved her dreams. There she could become part of what she now tried so hard to understand and categorize. She danced with the mythical fairies, created beautiful butterflies and flowers with a single thought, and time and again she met the perfect man.
But she could never really see him. She knew little things about him: he was taller than her, and let his hair grow longer than she's ever seen. His hands had white nails, more often than not pointed like an animal's claws. His body and face were so completely covered in shadows that she could never see his face or his clothes - if there were any.
It didn't stop her from having great experiences with him. Whenever nightfall came in her dreams, they would point out the stars of old, and he would name the constellations. She didn't know them. The stars were mapped and followed now, not drawn upon.
He whispered to her, always. Though in dreams one truly could not feel, she knew she was feeling his breath whenever he whispered in her ear. But why would he speak so quietly? She asked him this time, why, and he whispered to her that he was afraid, scared that if he talked any louder, it would prove this all to be false; make it a dream.
And he wanted it to be real, for the both of them. He kissed her after telling her that. But then this horrid sound interrupted the dream and the birds took flight. She didn't understand what it was.
This time, when she looked at him, she could see his eyes, golden in color; captivating. And he whispered, "You have to go. That's your phone."
"I don't want to," she said, grasping his hands. "I want to stay here with you."
He shook his head. "I will see you tomorrow night. You know that."
He was already fading, the trees, the sky, the very ground; her dream was ending. She was waking up.
"I don't want to wait that long," she protested. "I want -"
He cut her off before she could finish, leaning forward and kissing her again. She grabbed his shoulders and clung, wanting desperately for the dream to last, to continue this dream. But then her eyes opened and all she saw was the cold metal walls of her room.
She sat up with a frustrated growl. "Dammit, I lost it again!" She sighed, trying to remember what woke her up.
The phone was still ringing and now she heard it. "Alright, alright, alright!" she snapped, picking up the small metal phone. "Yes? Dr. Higurashi here."
"Kagome, you won't believe what we found," a female voice said quickly.
"Yuka?" she asked.
"Yes! We just found this man, but he's not a man at all. He's incredible!"
"The Yeti, I suppose."
"No, even better! He's so gorgeous - oops, I have to keep my voice down," she added, quieting. "The board members are calling everyone in. We're going to attend a meeting and then they're going to assign one of us, maybe two, to this guy. You're at the top of the list!"
Kagome gasped and stared at the wall in front of her. This could be the thing she was waiting for! The thing that gets her on her feet, above simple research and her dream job in On-Field Management! "I'll be there in twenty minutes," she promised.
"Kagome! Twenty minutes! It takes thirty five to get here!"
"Twenty minutes," she repeated.
"You'll be breaking the speed limit," Yuka warned.
"Twenty minutes of reckless driving is worth it. See you in twenty."
"Stop speaking Italian." She hung up there, on Yuka's laughter.
She moved as fast as could, starting with getting up - and she tripped on her blankets and hit the floor. Her mood, too good to be broken, made her laugh at the clumsy mistake, and she took up her standard researching clothes. It amounted to a black T-shirt (Old World style) and tight black jeans, which happens to be a type of fabric no longer made in this World. It was an antique that her grandmother owned.
She was in such a rush, she almost forgot her boots, the type issued to all researchers. They wouldn't let you in the building without the right type of shoes for your position. Frankly, Kagome hated them, but they were made specifically for researchers so she was left with no choice.
Outside of her home was a small, simple area of rare trees and grass, one of the preserves. This block had eight houses, two-story apiece, given to employees of Shroud. Almost everywhere else, however, were hundred-story apartments, compacted as much as legally possible for single inhabitants.
At the moment half of her house was rented out to a woman named Eri, a girl she was fast becoming friends with. Eri always slept in because her job was loose; she was called in when needed and paid the same daily charges. It was a nice schedule but never paid overtime.
Kagome got into her vehicle, a standard AirCar with a double feature to allow driving on pavement - which no one really did anymore, since most of the ground levels were covered in mixed types of pollution.
She set it to manual, took it to the air and started a course to Shroud Company Main, the main building which is where she worked. The computer voice said, "You are going thirty kilometers above regulated speed. Discontinue or a Police Patrol will be sent to analyze your behavior."
"Not this time, sorry," she said. She pressed three buttons and the computer was turned off. Smiling, she said, "Sayonara."
She didn't make it in twenty minutes. It took twenty-two minutes. Yuka and Ayumi, two of her colleagues, were waiting for her.
"Two minutes late," Yuka teased.
"Thirteen minutes early," Ayumi argued. "They set up the meeting in this room, Kagome. Let's go."
"Avanti," Yuka said.
"Cut it out, Yuka," both girls said.
They all laughed but stopped before they entered the room. A large circular table was set up in the center, surrounded by chairs. The girls took their seats beside one another and Kagome counted.
"Forty-seven," she said. "Forty-seven of us, vying for this job."
"Yeah, but your chance is higher than the rest of them," Yuka said.
"You are the most qualified, and have made the mot progress out of all of us," Ayumi agreed.
"Still, it seems like a long shot," Kagome told them.
In the center of the table was a hole, wide enough for six people to stand in. All the tables were like this now. The board members sat at their own desks in private locations, which is rumored to change for each board meeting, and their images are uploaded into tiny squares which are then places in holders at the inner edge of the table. Their forms are shown in the empty space in the center of the table, usually standing but today sitting.
They all faced outward and were onlooking a particular set of researchers under their management. For Kagome's group of Metaphysical Understandings, their manager was Mr. Horace Bell. He created their subject and hand-picked the team. He was looking straight at her and smiling.
"Many of you know this already," Mr. Bell began, "but we just uncovered what appears to be a man from the wreckage of the Old World. His metaphysical qualities are entwined with his entire being, inseparable. We've analyzed him already and found nothing out of the ordinary; no spells, no upgrades, no potions, nothing that would signify that he wasn't born this way."
"Which, as you all know, is an impossibility," Mr. Charange went on. "His qualities are in his very DNA. To better understand where he came form, we will have to have one of you research every extent of him."
"But first you must know what he is capable of," Mr. Bell continued. "His strength was measured at being able to lift at least seventeen pgs with his arms alone."
Kagome gasped, as many of the researchers did at this point. That was just about equal to six tons in the Old World's weighting system! Seventeen pgs is the limit for the strength analyzers, too; no wonder he said "at least".
"This strength also doubles as being able to tear apart triple-reinforced titanium."
She was getting scared now. All this was impossible! Nothing they had could tear apart cold titanium at that level! They would have to heat it first, make it pliable, and that took nearly seven hundred degrees Celsius. What was this guy made of?
"The rest of his body shows the equal strength proportion of every average man. His back in nearly three times as strong as his arms, and his legs are twice that. We measured his legs and concluded that he could take a standing jump of more than thirty facts. Each of his fingers has pure white animalistic claws that seem to be unbreakable, even with a diamond drill. He could use those to slash through double-reinforced titanium with little problem."
"This guy can't be for real!" one of the doctors said, standing. "That's humanly, and even mechanically, impossible!"
Half of the people present nodded or worded their assent.
"Remain seated," Mr. Juronobi said. "We have not finished."
"Continue, Mr. Bell," Mr. Gagrin said.
"Thank you. Now, we have found that he has elongated canines. Atop his head are a set of dog-or-cat-like ears. His hair is white, and his eyes are gold. He is taller than the average woman, but not average height for a man."
"Now what we need," Mr. Juronobi continued, "is a researcher who is qualified to be his analyzer, reporter, and caretaker. You may walk out of this room now if you are too afraid or feel you could not handle him."
She should have gotten up. She should have stood and left with the rest of the researchers. But she stayed seated, and in the end, only she, Ayumi and two other doctors she'd never met remained seated.
Mr. Bell nodded at her. "You are at the top of our list, Dr. Higurashi. You're on the team."
"Team?" she repeated.
"Yes. The four of you will work together in better understanding this man. He has already been relocated to a lab on the ninety-sixth floor. All four of you are to report there now and sign to fully accept this project. It will cancel the rest of your responsibilities until such time as we are convinced we know everything about this man and decide what to do with him."
"Dismissed," all six men said in unison, and their cubes flickered and turned off, their images going with it.
The four remaining researchers stood and began a trek to the nearest auto-elevator.
"What did I get myself into?" Ayumi whined.
"Be glad you weren't at the top of the list," Kagome hissed at her. "That's a lot of pressure to stay seated."
The other two researchers were a man and woman. Once on the auto-elevator, they introduced themselves.
"My name is Miroku Minokira," the man said, offering his hand.
"Don't trust him," the woman said. "And watch your rear end."
Kagome and Ayumi took a step back.
"Stop doing that, Sango," Miroku said to the woman.
She smirked. "My name is Sango Minokira, Miroku's wife. He keeps telling me he's behaved now but I don't believe it."
"Konnichiwa," Kagome said, shaking Sango's hand.
She looked impressed. "You know a language of the Old World."
Kagome grinned. "Yeah. My mother taught it to me. My Grandmother spoke it before the Fall."
"I see. And you are?" Sango asked, turning to Ayumi.
"Ayumi Fitsunara," Ayumi said. "I overlook what our archaeologists find and determine whether it's worth investigating or not."
"I'm the Director of Human Resources," Sango said.
"What's that?" Kagome asked.
"She tells everyone what to do when they're stuck," Miroku said quickly. "Human Resources just improve what we already have and try to find new things to help us out."
"So what do you do?"
"Nothing, really. Researcher of Digital Anomalies." He shook his head. "It's ridiculous. I'm actually looking forward to meeting this 'man'. It'll be a nice break."
"And what do you do?" Sango asked Kagome.
"Researcher of Metaphysical Understandings. Basically I take something they give me, analyze it, report about it, then poke and prod it as they order me to."
"A step above what I do," Miroku laughed.
The auto-elevator stopped and said, "Ninety-sixth floor, High-Security Research level."
"Oh, that's promising," Sango said flatly as they exited. "Anybody ever been this high before?"
"Only in my AirCar," Kagome said. She went up to the window and looked down. "That is one hell of a long way down."
On the wall beside her, a small strip of metal beeped. "Dr. Kagome Higurashi. Fined twenty-five Sets for one swear." It spat out a slip of paper and Ayumi laughed as Kagome grabbed it.
"Twenty-five Sets for one swear. Whoever made this rule was an ass."
It beeped again. "Dr. Ayumi Fitsunara. Fined ten Sets for improper use of language." It spit out another piece of paper and this time Sango and Miroku laughed, too.
"Okay, so anybody know which door we're going to?" Kagome asked as they started walking again.
They stopped before a huge door with a number pad and red-and-yellow warning lights.
"That one?" Miroku asked.
"Anybody else have a bad feeling about this?" Ayumi said, moving closer to Kagome.
"Probably," Sango half-answered.
Six guards, all in full armor plated uniform, stood off to the side. One of them came forward and spoke in highly-trained tones.
"Room A-1 on level Ninety-Three, High-Security Research. State your names and positions."
They all did so.
"State your orders."
"Research of a recently discovered man," Kagome said.
"Highly dangerous specifications," Miroku added. "Orders directly from the Six."
"We were notified of your arrival," the guard said. Another guard came up beside him, holding a clip board. "Sign to be admitted."
In turn, each of them pressed their thumbs into the digitized pad and it beeped after each had been recorded and said their names. The second guard hooked up the pad to the door and punched a code into the number pad. The red-and-yellow lights began blinking and a tiny door slid up.
Out of the small rectangular space four cards were issued. The guard took them and handed them out, then stepped back with the first guard and waited.
Sango stuck her card in the small slot beside the number pad and it blinked and said, "Dr. Sango Minokira. Party?"
Sango pushed the number 'three'.
"Admitted," the computer voice said, and the door slid open.
Then entered and took in the way this research room sized up with the rest. It was bigger, big enough to hold eight researchers doing their own things all at once. Six desks, four tables, and in front of them, against the far wall, a prison.
It wasn't quite as tall as the ceiling, maybe a half a fact short. It was wide enough to fit their prisoner with his arms spread out, which is exactly what he was doing. It was hard to see through the security field, a bright green - but translucent - type of curved door. It was heated to eight hundred degrees Celsius but maintained so as to not increase the temperature on either side.
"Well, let's take a look at him," Sango said.
They walked across the room and Sango slid her card into the number pad beside the field. The field wavered and shut down, the green sliding both up and down -- split horizaontally in the middle -- to reveal Him.
He was seated in a chair made specifically for dangerous prisoners. It was a soft chair to keep them comfortable, but lined with reinforced titanium so they could not break it. Their arms were held out with their hands below their hearts so blood flow wasn't a problem. Their legs held up a bit so it was more like a recliner than a chair. They usually came with straps around wrists, ankles, thighs and arms and one around the neck.
Being much more dangerous, he was given four straps along each arm and leg, a grand total of sixteen; one around his waist, a second around his ribs, and the standard around his neck. His head was down, his body limp, and he was stark naked.
Both Kagome and Ayumi looked away.
"Oh, my," Ayumi said. "He's. . ."
"Really something," Kagome giggled.
"Straighten up, you two," Sango said. "We're not supposed to fawn all over him."
"I should certainly hope not," Miroku said.
"But then again," Sango said in teasing tones, "I wonder where he was when I was of marrying age."
The girls giggled at that but Miroku's eye twitched.
"He was buried, where he belongs," he snapped. "Now let's get this assignment over with." He turned and stalked over to the nearest desk and sat down, ordering the computer to turn on.
"I think you made him mad," Kagome said to Sango.
"Not the first time," Sango replied. "But we really should get started."
"Okay, what's first on the agenda?" Ayumi asked.
As Ayumi and Sango talked, Kagome glanced at the stranger again. It was strange, but with his head down like that, his face in shadows. . .she could almost let herself think that he inspired the man she couldn't see in her dreams. But it was a ridiculous thought. The man in her dreams didn't have furry bangs or little dog ears.
"Oh, crap," she snapped.
"What?" Ayumi said.
"I forgot to feed my dogs."
"Have Eri do it."
"What time is it?"
"She isn't up yet."
Sango laughed. "You have a roommate?"
"Rented out my house. So many rooms and just one of me, you know."
"How old are you?"
"That's pretty young for a researcher."
She shrugged. "At least this way I don't have to worry about who I'm going to get set up with. Yet."
"Both Kagome and I have three more years," Ayumi said. "Before we're given a man to marry."
"Look who I was given," Sango muttered out of the corner of her mouth. The three of them looked over at Miroku, who was angrily reading the given files. They giggled.
"Pity for you," Kagome said.
Ayumi put the security field back up and then got to work. It didn't take long to work out a schedule so none of them would work too late. Kagome, who woke up the earliest of them all, would come in at six. Ayumi would come in at ten. Sango and Miroku would come in at two. Kagome would leave again at four, Ayumi at eight, and Sango and Miroku at eleven.
The schedule would be started tomorrow.
They didn't stay long that day, in fact they all went back to their homes at five. They hadn't gotten much done, but then, they didn't have solid orders yet. They spent most of the day making notes and the rest of the time getting to know each other and their researching habits, to make the team more functional. It also kept them from having to do anything directly to Him, which kept the girls from blushing about him.
He definitely looked fit for a dead guy.
Once back home, Kagome hugged her dogs and spoke with Eri about the day's activities.
Eri seemed interested.
"So he's a dead guy?" she asked, sitting on the couch and giggling.
"As far as we know, he was in some sort of stasis," Kagome explained, crossing her legs on the floor, her dogs all laying near her. "Animals have been known to do that, but we don't know when or if he'll wake up again."
"Wow!" Eri said, clapping her hands. "It sounds so exciting! Your work must be really fun from now on, Kagome!"
"Which reminds me – why aren't you at your job?" she asked, teasingly.
"No work Tuesdays," Eri explained, patting one of the dogs as he walked by her.
Kagome laughed. "I thought it was no work sundays," she argued.
"It was," Eri agreed. "They changed it last week."
Kagome laughed. "Lucky you."
"Lucky you," Eri argued. "You've got a gorgeous romantic in your dreams and a sexy naked man at your job. Were I to switch places with you. . ." She sighed wistfully.
"Ha ha ha," Kagome replied flatly. "You don't know how frustrating it is to never be able to see his face or clothes. . . I wish I knew who he was."
"Listen, Kagome," Eri said, sliding off the couch to sit in front of her, "maybe the reason why you can't see him is because you're meant to meet him and fall in love with him first. Not that I'm an expert, but I think maybe -- if he's real -- then he can't see you, either. Which means that the two of you are meant to be and you have to trust that."
Kagome shook her head, but smiled nonetheless. "Oh, Eri, you don't know how much I wish it were true. . . But I've always had the weirdest dreams and that means I can't get hopeful about this one, just to get let down." Her female chow, Daisy, whined and nudged her shoulder, so she reached over to pet the girl affectionately.
"What do you think you'll dream of tonight?" Eri half-teased.
Kagome smiled. "A sexy shadowed man who romances me. . ."