Author's Notes: My first TTGL fic. Check my profile for accompanying fanart, and the URL of my journal, where sometimes I post rough drafts of my crap.
"Crew of the Chouginga Dai-Gurren docking in Hangar 3A. I repeat, Chouginga Dai-Gurren crew docking--"
The welcoming party stumbled backwards as one. The hangar doors had been violently impacted from the other side. They opened with a shudder, and a rather rattled Attenborough spilled forward. Wild-eyed, with a torn uniform and cracked glasses, the gunner scrambled to his feet and plastered himself against a wall defensively.
"H-he's gone crazy!"
It soon became clear who 'he' was.
The new captain of the Chouginga Dai-Gurren was stalking towards them. His inhumanly large hands were balled into fists, and the one feline eye they could see was gleaming with fury and deadly intent. Viral zeroed in on the cowering Attenborough. Faster than any of the humans could react, the beastman grabbed hold of the scrawny gunner's uniform collar and lifted him several feet off the ground.
"You will fire only when I directly and explicitly order you to, monkey," Viral's snarl exposed rows of serrated fangs, "If you get an itchy trigger-finger on my command again, I will remove it."
Rossiu's voice rang against the metal halls of the hangar, and everyone parted to make way for the Supreme Commander. Viral's ear barely twitched in acknowledgment. He made no move to relinquish his trembling prey.
"Captain," Rossiu repeated with a thin-lipped glower, "Regardless of rank, you have no right to manhandle your fellow crew mates."
The small crowd that had gathered around them started to give the Commander and the Captain a wide berth. Rossiu's handlers and the crewmen of the Chouginga both watched with cautious but curious silence.
The tension between the Supreme Commander and Viral had been obvious from the day Simon had left the two alone, but only in recent months had the beastman gotten this... unmanageable.
"I know you heard me, Viral," Rossiu's voice tightened, "Set Lt. Attenborough down."
Viral snorted dismissively and let go. Attenborough dropped, but quickly rebounded to his feet and fled beyond Viral's reach.
"He repeatedly disobeyed a direct order," Viral squared his shoulders and folded his arms. It was no accident that this pose accentuated the several inches of height he had over Rossiu. "Since words are obviously insufficient I decided to try another approach."
"Do I need to remind you, Captain, that this is not Genome's military? That kind of behavior won't be tolerated from anyone in my government, much less a former fugitive!"
"No need to remind me of that, Commander," Viral returned the snarled title, "It's painfully obvious to me that you are no Lord Genome."
Rossiu bristled. He intruded the beastman's personal space and dropped his voice to a more private volume.
"Listen to me, beastman -- I believe wholeheartedly that you deserve nothing more than to be back in that filthy prison I put you in the first time around. The only reason I have not -- the only reason that you have the position that you have -- is at Simon's behest."
It was hard to keep a steady gaze into that cold golden orb. Something deep in Rossiu's instincts was convinced that the thing behind that eye could spring and devour him at any moment, and begged him to get away.
Viral's head slowly cocked to the side, and his snarl stretched into a bemused grin. He lowered his head to be level with the shorter human.
"What a coincidence," he hissed, "That's the same thing that keeps me from ripping out that pale throat of yours."
The growling, raspy edge of the beastman's otherwise silky voice made the hair on the back of the Commander's neck stand up. Still, he managed to gather his steely reserves and focus.
"If you're such a master of self-control, why are you lashing out at your underlings so easily lately?"
Viral's slightly pointed ears perked. Rossiu could tell he had ignited the beastman's rage from the way his lips twitched, fluttering over the interlocking rows of fangs. But the point must have hit home, because Viral soon pursed his lips closed and pulled back, narrowing his eyes.
"Needless to say, I'm not your biggest fan, Captain," Rossiu continued warily, "But if even I can tell that something's wrong with your behavior, maybe it's worth looking into."
"There's nothing wrong with me!" Viral asserted quickly, fangs and claws out and on display in an instant. Rossiu did not respond, letting the silence weigh heavily on the unusually defensive beastman.
"Then you'll have no problem visiting the nurse for a full physical exam. We need to keep track of any kind of mental or physical distress comes over our space-faring crews so we know how to keep them safe. If you won't do it for my orders, do it for the well-being of your crew."
Viral stared to argue, but Rossiu held up his hand sharply.
"This isn't up for discussion. Go now, before I have you escorted there by security."
Those fangs glistened again as Viral's face contorted into an awful inhuman snarl, but he still turned and stormed down the corridor, in the direction of the capitol's medical wing.
Viral paced around the examination room. The nurse had suggested in a small and trembling voice that he wait for the only physician qualified to examine beastmen. He would have left immediately if he had not heard the nurse click the lock on the door after she left.
Every minute that passed in idle silence tempted him to break the door down. At least it would distract him from Rossiu's observation.
Even the humans, imperceptive and dull-sensed as they were, were starting to notice.
For the past few months, an inexplicable slow-burn had been festering deep within him. It was mild at first, but as time went on it spread. It made his claws itch. It put a snarl in his voice even when he didn't intend one. He was starting to feel like a caged beast whenever he was inside, whether it on the deck of a massive star ship or here in this small, windowless examination room.
Granted, with his DNA being a genetic cocktail of dangerous predators, such behavior was almost expected of him. This was not a notion he liked to encourage, though. While he enjoyed a good fight or hunt, he preferred to think of himself as a reasonable, honorable creature far above the violent, unhygienic, and far more bestial mutants he had commanded back in the day.
Unfortunately, Rossiu was right. It was not like him to resort to violence against his subordinates. Thymilph had taught him better than that. The old ape who he had served under for so long had always lead through sheer intimidation and force of presence and personality. If you needed to resort to real aggression, you had failed.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about this needling, itching desire that made him so disagreeable as of late was that he had no idea what it was for. It was almost like he was constantly hoped up on adrenaline for a battle that never came.
Maybe he just couldn't adjust to peaceful life. After all, he was created to be a solider, and these sojourns into space were merely exploratory. He hadn't gotten into a ganmen in ages...
"Oh goodness," a familiar voice taunted, "I'm afraid your condition is chronic. There's no cure for being handsome!"
Viral bristled, jolted out of his thoughts. He turned sharply and saw Leeron leaning against the doorway. The flamboyant mechanic winked at him and smiled.
"I thought they were sending a doctor," Viral narrowed his eyes. This strange male never ceased to confuse and disturb him.
"Dear, I'm the head of the science department. We're still missing a lot of important data about your race. And we need to find out if you have some kind of terrible space sickness!" Leeron sauntered over, hooking a stethoscope around his neck, "Besides, you scare everyone else. Only I know you're really just an overgrown kitten."
Viral started to protest, but Leeron fearlessly reached over and tickled the almost imperceptible gills on the back of the beastman's neck, hidden by his mane of unruly long hair. Startled, Viral froze, and found himself relaxing into the feathery touch despite himself. His gills, fully functional though rarely used, were extremely sensitive and he didn't think anyone beyond Lord Genome knew they existed. He sat down on the examination table obediently when Leeron nudged him.
"See?" Leeron smiled impishly at the beastman who could do nothing but glare and swallow his purr, "Now, strip."
Viral jerked away from the mechanic at that suggestion, wide-eyed and appalled. Leeron just laughed, twirling the end of the stethoscope. "This isn't going to work through your shirt. That's all that needs to come off. I mean, unless you want to go the full monty..."
Viral narrowed his eyes, but internally he bitterly acknowledged that fighting wasn't going to get him out of here any quicker. He growled and peeled off his uniform top, shaking his hair free.
"Oh my," Leeron blinked in surprise, tilting his head as he looked over the beastman's chest. "I was the one who did your initial physical, wasn't I?"
"Yes," Viral hissed hatefully. As if he could forget.
"Maybe my memory just isn't what it used to be, but for the life of me I can't recall this being there before," Leeron set the tip of his pen on a tuft of golden hair sprouting between the beastman's pectoral muscles. A line of soft fuzz continued down the length of his abdomen, interrupted only by the occasional strip of thick scar tissue.
Leeron circled around Viral, raising his eyebrows at the beastman's back. "I don't remember this either."
He ran that same pen over a bristly segment of wiry yellow hair that ran along Viral's spine -- literal hackles. They rose in irritation.
"Stop prodding me and get this over with," Viral grunted.
Leeron was far too amused. "Don't tell me you grow a winter coat, that would be intolerably adorable. Are you going to turn into a big yellow fluffball?"
"No!" Viral snapped, "I don't know why that's there!"
"So it just grew in all of the sudden?"
Viral nodded sharply.
"Intriguing," Leeron scribbled some notes onto a clipboard, then stuck the stethoscope to Viral's chest. "Have any other weird symptoms you've kept to yourself?"
Viral tightened and set his jaw. None that he was going to tell anyone about.
Leeron continued his examination, hmming thoughtfully the entire time, collecting tissue samples and occasionally noting something on his clipboard. The fact that the normally chatty mechanic was so quiet was slightly offsetting.
"Well," he finally spoke up, "You seem to be the picture of health. How do you feel?"
"Fine! I don't even know why I'm here!"
"Yes, yes, the big manly man never feels anything, you're quite macho," Leeron sighed, "Now, how about the truth?"
Viral's lip twitched, but he closed his eyes and searched for a way to quantify what had been bothering him for so many weeks.
"I have too much... too much energy. There's this humming in my head. I want to use my claws on something. I want to tear off Rossiu's head."
"Oh, honey, we all get that one," Leeon smirked as he added this to his notes. "Do continue."
"My patience is not what it used to be. I want to fight with everyone I see. Everything's too peaceful here. Living amongst humans is so boring. With beastmen, everything was a power struggle. We communicated with our teeth and fists and snarls. That's how we established rank. But humans refuse to express anger. Everything has to be agreeable and professional," Viral muttered, echoing words from some of the lectures Rossiu had given him in the past.
"It's hard to adjust to civilian life after being a solider for so long, isn't it?" Leeron frowned sympathetically, "Even us humans feel that way sometimes. I think that's why Simon left the way he did."
"He had the right idea," Viral shook his head. "I don't want to be a stupid violent brute. I see certain humans and even other beastmen sometimes and I just want to... I don't know. It's indescribable. It's maddening."
"Want to what?"
Leeron's quizzical brow implored him to continue.
"I don't know how else to explain it. It's like I want to attack them, but I'm not angry. I don't wish to harm them. I just want to smell them, especially the females..."
"...uh huh. You've never had this little problem before?"
"No, never. I never especially noticed what someone looked like unless I was fighting them, and then it was only to see if they were broadcasting their next move. But now... I find myself staring for no reason. Like they were prey. It makes it difficult to concentrate on anything."
The extended silence that followed was irritating enough that Viral stood up and pulled his shirt back on, prepared to leave.
Leeron sighed and patted his shoulder. "I have some theories, but it'll take a while for the test results to get back, so let's not worry about it till then. In the meantime..."
He scrawled out some text on a piece of paper, then stuck the note to Viral's chest. "I prescribe a vacation."
"You know. Take a break. Go off someplace fun and kick back. Get rid of some of that stress. Whatever floats your boat." Leeron smiled and opened the door for the tall blond, waving him off. "If Rossiu has a fit about it, just send him to me."
Viral furrowed his brow uncertainly. He was no less confused than he had been earlier, but one of those vacations sounded awfully tempting.
The beastman grunted and made no move to return Leeron's cheerful wave as he stalked out of the examination room.