Electro-swing had never appealed to Agent Quinn MacAllister, but it's what she and her partner were stuck listening to in the car— unlike Crowley and Aziraphale, tapes in their car didn't transmogrify into Best of Queen when left unattended. They turned into tapes by bands she had never heard of- Caravan Palace, Whitney, Goldfish. She swore that the music professor at Wright State had cursed their vehicle during that botched exorcism in the student union.
Life in the UIU had never been glamorous— mostly paperwork and looking into alligators in the sewers— but this felt like a brand new low for her. Darnell- her partner- had easily seen worse, but even he was groaning at the prospect.
"Let me get this straight," he grumbled, undoing the cap on a bottle of chilled coffee. "These people dress up in hot, sweaty mascot costumes, to hang around with people who dress up in equally hot and sweaty mascot costumes?"
"And there are apparently enough of them to warrant multiple conventions, nationwide," Quinn affirmed. The tape had started its next track— In the end, you're just a friend, we'll take it day by day— "But, I think it's mostly harmless."
"So, why are we being called out here?"
Quinn's fingers drummed the steering wheel as she passed a sign that said "Indiana— Five Miles". "Because the director thought that we did an inadequate job on the last assignment."
"Not our fault that Ohio University has more ghosts than students," Darnell sipped at his drink. "Shit, we should be getting medals, not assignments to…"A look of near-sickness crossed his face. "I really don't want to say it."
"Assignments to furry conventions," Quinn rolled her eyes. "It's just a bunch of kids and nerds. Worst we're going to see is a guy who holds onto a Lion King dakimakuras a little tight—"
"Dakiwhat," Darnell spat, nearly choking on his coffee. "What the fuck is that?"
Quinn decided not to tell him, for two reasons: 1) to spare him from the horror, and 2) in order to see the reaction on his face when he did figure it out.
"Mac, I'm fucking serious," Darnell insisted as they stopped at the toll booth on the way into Indiana. "What the fuck is a dakithing?"
Quinn had to hold back a laugh as the chorus to the song came in.
When they went into the hotel, a slightly muscular man wearing a pair of cat-ear shaped headphones and a casual set of clothes looked them up and down. "Can I see your badges?"
Quinn raised a brow, and then her badge, before her partner did the same. "How did you know we were FBI?"
"FB- oh." He looked crestfallen, waving his hands around. "No, no, see, people have badges for their furso— characters so we don't have to call each other by real names. I thought you were here for the convention." He gave a series of several awkward laughs. "Um, yeah, you guys are set up in the Richard Griffin Room, second floor."
"Thanks," Darnell said, putting his badge away and starting to the elevator. "I thought you said that it was just kids here?"
"I mean, people have to grow out of it. Why?"
"That guy had a wedding band, and I think I saw some gray hairs." He massaged his wrist. "Remind me to ask if the drinks here are free for us."
"Noted," Quinn said, pressing the button on the elevator. When it came to the ground floor, out stepped a large wolf, with dark black fur and deep, red eyes, looking at Quinn as if it was about to tear her throat out.
Quinn recoiled, her heart going into her throat, skin going clammy. She went for her gun in a holster located under her jacket— but Darnell put a hand on her wrist. "What the fuck."
"Quinn, calm down," Darnell grinned. "It's a costume."
She got a second look at the wolf, and realized that the eyes were plastic and the tail was slightly dangling. The size of the limbs were the biggest giveaway— wolves had far thinner legs than this, and this thing looked big enough to hold a person. Following it out of the elevator were several others, all on two feet instead of four- a white cat with a star design over one eye, eyes red and purple; a blue wolf of some kind, cloth horns coming from his head; a fox with… noticeable assets, and a flirtatious look permanently plastered on her face. Quinn was transfixed on the wolf. "…how do you see out of that?"
"Poorly," the wolf responded, before walking off with its friends elsewhere.
Quinn jumped into the elevator and hammered the button for the second floor, her face gone white. Darnell joined her, a hand over his mouth as he tried not to laugh. "Shut. Up."
"Jesus Christ, though!" Darnell laughed as the elevator began to go up. "Your face, Mac!" He laughed into his hand and leaned against the wall of the elevator.
"Who the fuck makes a costume like that?!" Quinn gesticulated.
"Why?" Darnell snickered, his face starting to hurt from the grin he was giving. "Do you want one for yourself?"
"I want them put on a watchlist."
"Tell me what a Dakuramen is, and I'll see about it."
Quinn rolled her eyes and stepped out of the elevator the instant it dinged onto the second floor. There were a pair of goons by the door to the Richard Griffin room that she recognized as Agent Chalk and Agent Cheese. They looked like they could be twins— same haircut, same unamused face, same blue eyes, same earpieces, same suit. They were unrelated, but Quinn knew them— old partners from an art crime task force.
"Don't antagonize," Darnell said, walking out of the elevator and towards the agents. He got out his badge and displayed it, Quinn doing much of the same.
Chalk looked them over, and smirked at Quinn. "Big Mac," he said. "on the Short Bus, with the Little Leagues."
"Can it, Chalk," she snapped.
"Or what?" He grinned. "You'll wave sage at me? Hold a cross up in my direction? File paperwork?"
"Mmm, no." Quinn replied, pursing her lips. "Well, yes on the last one. I'll just report you to the head of operations here for unprofessional conduct. Christ, man, you're almost forty. Get a life."
Chalk went as pale as his namesake, and opened the door to them. Inside, she heard someone whose voice sounded like seniority gesticulating to a crowd of assembled agents.
"…one sicko poured chlorine into the hotel, so now, yes, we have to be here every year
for the foreseeable future." The speaker was one Agent Herschel Beauregard— Quinn also recognized him. Head of an anti-terrorist task force, which wasn't good. "I would like to remind all agents to avoid unnecessary contact with the civilians, convention-goers or not. Should one approach you, do not acknowledge them. Making physical contact with you can be considered assaulting an FBI agent, should it come to that—"
The closing of the door alerted Beauregard to the entrance of the UIU agents. The entire task force looked at them, silent, before a snicker came out from the back. Beauregard laughed, "And Mulder and Scully are here, all the way from Ohio!"
Quinn crossed her arms with a strained smirk— Beauregard was in the know about the anomalous world, so a few jabs could be forgiven. A few. "Congratulations. You are the one-millionth person to make that joke. You win my eternal scorn."
"I haven't won that already, Agent MacAllister? As I was saying," he turned to face the rest of the agents, expression once more growing stern. "If you have inclinations that correspond to those attending the convention, please, do that on your own time. Right now, you're on assignment." He adjusted his glasses. "One last thing— we're going to be working with a security firm for the duration of this. Gasleck Security Solutions going to be taking up residence next door in the Martin Knight room…"
Quinn turned to Darnell, and frowned. "Gasleck? That's…"
"Skippers." He turned away, letting out a soft "Fuck."
"At least they're not using SCP in every damn front organization anymore," Quinn put her head in her hands and moaned. "How long did that take them? Ninety years before someone started connecting the dots?"
"This one's worse, though. Look up what 'Gasleck' means in German."
Quinn would later do this, and, for only the fifth time this year, would regret the choices in her life that led her to this career.
After the briefing had ended, the two agents were greeted by a petite woman with slightly tanned skin and red hair. She was wearing a suit with sleeves that looked like they were too long— Quinn could see scar tissue coming out from underneath them when she shook hands. The woman smiled behind her glasses as she led them to a table. "Our usual liaison is indisposed— he's stuck in a bare room with an open door."
"Same thing happened to one of our teams," Darnell said. "I'm Agent Christman, this is Agent MacAllister."
"Dr. Katherine Sinclair, Occult Studies." She pulled the chair out and sat down opposite them. "What do you know of the occult?"
Quinn looked at Darnell— the look of concentration on his face showed that he was digging in his brain. "We've confiscated the odd grimoire or two. Neither of us can do anything described in them, but he's pretty good on the details."
Dr. Sinclair nodded and placed a folder on the table, opening it up to a photograph of a cat— or something cat-like, standing on two legs. Its entire body was covered in swirling designs of blue woad, its whole form hunched over, and its eyes were black pits. The photograph itself was in a forest, dense, and the foliage seemed to be glowing. It took a while for Quinn to pick this out, but there were eyes in every dark corner of the picture.
"What do you make of this?" Dr. Sinclair asked.
Darnell looked over the picture, and picked it up, before placing it on the table once again. After wracking his brain for some seconds, he started speaking. "Creature is similar to the one found in UIU case file 1973-45, Codename: "Wait Til Martin Comes"."
"Two dozen teenagers found dismembered on a retreat in the Ozarks, with the sole survivor, One Nathan Proctor, claiming to have seen a hulking cat tearing them apart, covered in blue paint. Single photograph was taken, depicting the entity as it fled the scene. Proctor was allegedly spared because they had brought their own cats to the retreat with them."
"Occult symbology was found corresponding to a Celtic demi-deity known as— am I allowed to speak its name?"
"It's not a very powerful one," Sinclair nodded, her expression growing more surprised by the second. Her eyes were starting to protrude from behind her glasses.
"Corresponding to a Celtic demi-deity known as Irusan Cat Sidhe. Also known as the King of Cats, Monarch of Familiars, Lord of Pucas…"
Quinn held up her hand. "That's enough." Turning back to Sinclair, she said, "I've heard him go on for hours about a cursed Bowie knife."
Sinclair folded her hands, and looked at Darnell with no small measure of admiration. "That's one hell of a memory you have there."
"Anyway. Irusan," Quinn looked over the photograph. "I take it that's what we're here for? A literal cat god among a sea of people in animals?"
"It could be worse," sighed Sinclair, her face betraying a nasty memory coming to mind. "One year, Bast decided to crash Anthrocon. She's a god of cats and fertility. There were—"
"Stopping you right there," Quinn held up her hands, before the conversation got to the point where she was begging for brain bleach and anti-vomiting agents. "So, where is this Irusan? And what does he want here?"
"What does any obscure god want? Worshipers, sacraments… sacrifices." Katherine rubbed her arms, her eyes flitting down a bit of scar tissue that appeared to have an "I" branded on it. "Gods like him are starting to go extinct— the only reason he's really around anymore is because he was in a video game. Not even joking."
"So, basically," Quinn thought aloud, "the objective here is: find the god, find those who worship him, neutralize both. Preferably before the civilians downstairs find out that cats have more than one way to skin them."
Both Darnell and Katherine's palms met their foreheads; the former had a bit more force behind it. They groaned, and Katherine muttered something about "fucking pear trees".
"You get one," Darnell sighed, hand sliding down his face.
Half an hour later, the two FBI agents and the mage were on the convention floor, surrounded by synthetic fur and overly-excitable nerds. In the background, there was techno music playing, with lyrics including 'They just want to'("What the fuck does that word mean?" Darnell asked.) me with their bad dragon ("You don't want to know," Sinclair replied.)'
"Furries have no taste in music," Quinn's shoulders sank as she let out a soft groan. "Christ, fucking techno. Hear one song, you hear them—"
"HUGS!" exclaimed a blue-and-white tiger, popping out from the crowd in front of Quinn. She just flashed her FBI badge at him, as well as a stern look, before he melted back into the crowd.
"In addition to being cursed with being followed around by bad music," Quinn grumbled, putting her badge away and rubbing her head with the other hand, "I'm being accosted by people who think they're animals. Great."
"You know," Darnell mentioned, looking at an artist's table with some degree of curiosity, "I originally was going for a cultural anthropology degree. If these guys were around back in the day, I would've had one hell of a thesis."
"They've been around since the 80's or so," Katherine explained as she took out a small wooden rod. "The internet has just made them more prominent."
Quinn just gave her an incredulous look. "That some kind of magic thing? It's not going to turn us into newts, is it?"
"Even if it did, you'd get better," she shrugged, bringing it into both hands. "And no, it doesn't. This thing is designed to do one thing, and one thing only." She took the rod in her hands, and with a sharp crack, broke it in two. "And that is set off every fire alarm in about three-hundred yards."
At the instant the wood split, the fire alarm went off, and a confused horde of convention-goers made their way to the nearest exits. "All right," Sinclair said. "Look for anyone who isn't leaving, or who is reluctant to leave."
"Oddly specific… magic thing." Darnell frowned. "Do you need to use it a lot?"
"…we're the Foundation. You should know the answer by now." She nodded and looked around the convention hall. "Eyes peeled."
"Never understood where that expression came from," Quinn said, before her eyes darted to a man at the back of the hall, retreating into a ballroom. "Hey, Darnell."
"I saw it," he said. His pistol came out of its holster, and he ran to the doors.
Sinclair and Quinn followed after, Quinn's own holster emptying into her hand, and the safety on her pistol going off with a click. Sinclair, for her part, was producing from her coat a large, metal ring that was in the shape of an all-too-familiar symbol— two circles, with three lines pointing towards the center. "Seriously?" Quinn chided.
"It's a phylactery," she shrugged. "Not our fault the people in R&D are vain."
The two agents kicked open the doors to the ballroom, and inside, found a dozen people. They were all clad in grey, tabby-colored robes, and they were all chanting an incantation in an ancient tongue that none of them could, or wanted to, understand. "F'im fey Irusan, F'im fey Cat Sidhe, F'im Fey Irusan, F'im dh'fey ra…"
They were grouped around an enormous, slumbering calico, with an inflatable pool next to it serving as a bowl of milk. The calico had blue whorls of woad painted onto its fur, and smelled heavily of catnip, dead mice, and self-confidence. It slumbered, still, gaining power from those around it.
Quinn frowned, and held up her badge. "FBI. You know what that stands for?" The figures turned to look at her. "It stands for 'anyone who doesn't want to die a virgin, leave now'." Three of the figures got up and fled; Quinn saw, to her chagrin, that they were wearing the visages of foxes and wolves and tigers underneath. "Anyone who's not a virgin and has something left to live for, you get out too." Six more left, leaving only three figures, who Quinn couldn't help but pity. "Fucking millennials."
Sinclair stepped in, pulling out another rod. She shook her head, bit her thumb, and rubbed blood on the stick, before throwing it into the air with a cry of "Nathair athrú bata!"
In mid-air, it changed into a boa constrictor the size of a car, and landed with a thud next to the remaining cultists, who fled the room, their robes being shed and exposing their costumes. Darnell just gave Katherine a mystified look, eyebrow raised at an almost painful angle."Was that—"
"Yup. There's an entire school of magical theory based around that, believe it or not."
"Anyway," Quinn grumbled, taking cautious steps around the snake and the cat; the former had begun to revert into a rod. She inspected its face, and found that the cat had two sets of eyes, and what appeared to be an extra mouth in its forehead. "…if I was an idiot, I'd say we euthanize it."
"Dealt with gods before?" Sinclair asked.
"…there was this one time back home." Quinn's shoulders dipped, and her voice wilted. "Never again."
"I read the incident report," Sinclair replied, her mood briefly somber. "Let's get this over with." She came close to the cat, phylactery in hand, and pressed it up against the god's forehead. She began singing softly, in Gaelic, a siren's song that the agents had to actively resist listening to.
Unfortunately, it wasn't very effective against the cat. It came awake, and batted the doctor away, the phylactery still attached to its forehead, the spell incomplete. Sinclair landed against the wall with a sickening crack, and lay still.
"Shit!" the two agents cursed, the syllable leaping off their mouths in synchrony. They drew their weapons, and fired into the cat's hide, watching as the fur just absorbed the bullets.
The cat rose to two feet, and laughed, running out the room, its form changing and shrinking as it did. Its face became more plush-looking, its eyes duller, and its fur took on the texture of plastic fiber.
"…well, fuck," Quinn said. She ran towards Sinclair, who was on the ground, nursing her arm.
"Fuck," she winced, standing up. "I think it's broken. And doing magic with a broken arm is not a good idea- interrupts the flow of energy, and— nevermind."
Quinn took off her jacket and fashioned a sling for the doctor. "It got away. It could be anywhere in the hotel by now."
"Son of a bitch," Sinclair said as she stumbled towards the door, Darnell coming over to heft her up. "I'll be fine, I just need to see a doctor. You two have to contain it. God help us."
"How?" Quinn asked. "It looks just like any one else here, now."
"…there's a song, or rather, a cadence, that's linked to the binding spell. I can sing you it, and maybe you two can come up with something. I don't suppose- ow!" She winced as she went over the threshold of the ballroom, foot catching on some raised carpet, "That you two are any good at karaoke?"
"Couldn't we find the song somewhere?" Quinn asked; fire trucks were beginning to surround the convention center, and firemen were coming in. Quinn lifted up her badge, as Darnell gave some bullshit explanation about Sinclair being trampled by the crush. "Or one like it? The lyrics don't matter, it's just the cadence, yeah?
"…you have that app that lets you find music based on singing?"
"Darnell does." They limped past the firemen, and Quinn nodded at her partner, who produced the phone and the app in question. "Sing it."
Sinclair hummed a few bars into the microphone, and within seconds, the phone chimed and brought up a song. "What is it?"
"…Quinn," he said, bringing up the phone, "You're not gonna like this."
It took half a minute for Quinn to realize what she was seeing. It was an electro-swing song. One that she was fairly sure she had on a cassette in her car. "…I hate the way the universe works."
"Join the club," Sinclair laughed, before gasping and wincing in pain. "At least you don't have to live with it every day."
"Can't believe we're doing this," Quinn said as she came down the elevator that evening. "Going to a rave full of people in-" she hesitated on the term- "fursuits to catch a cat god, all because a magician broke her arm."
"The skippers have tech that's going to repair her arm within the hour," Darnell replied with a soft roll of his shoulders. "I agree that it's dumb we have to do this, but it's either this, or the death of hundreds of people."
"Right," Quinn said, passing by a poster that stated a band that was coming to play at the convention had had their act cancelled; a brief glance showed it was the same band that played the song that was going to trap the cat. "…this could all have been avoided so easily."
"Anyway. Let's do this." They walked through the hall, and at the ballroom doors, they were stopped.
"Room's full," said a tubby man wearing what was clearly a rent-a-cop suit. "Fire code and all that, sorry."
"FBI," Quinn said as the two agents brought up their badges. "There is a dangerous person of interest in there."
"Well," the guard said, his mouth splitting into a Cheshire Chelsea grin. "This charade can be dropped, then. Master Irusan will not be stopped. His bacchanal shall-"
Three seconds later, Darnell was wiping nose blood off of his fist, and Quinn was cuffing the "guard". "We might be too late," Darnell said. "We gotta get in there."
"Agreed," she said, opening the door. "Didn't even bother to lock it."
"…they really don't need to," Darnell said, eyes wide as he looked over the crowd. In the center, surrounded by enamored men and women, stood Irusan, still having assumed the form of a simple human being in an animal costume. People around him waved to the rhythm of its cat song, which was only broken, briefly, by the entrance of the agents.
WELL, it said in a booming, mental voice. COME TO WORSHIP? TO FIGHT? OR TO CONTAIN?
"…we come to arrest," Quinn frowned. "By the power invested in me by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I say: hit it, boys."
The speakers in the room blared to life, blasting Lone Digger by Caravan Palace. "It's the twenty-first century," Quinn yelled over the music. "We had our tech guys rig it up hours ago. They just needed our signal to confirm you were here."
The cat god looked around in something that could be approximated to horror with its blank, plastic eyes, and it held its head, the phylactery still stuck to it. It looked like it was being sucked in, before it let out a command directed at its followers, heard by Quinn and Darnell like a headache: DESTROY.
Instantly, one-hundred people began throwing themselves at the speakers, and the agents. Darnell went down thanks to a tackle from a particularly strong… Quinn didn't know what that was. A hyrax? She managed to dart through the crowd, and come up to Irusan, who was starting to shrink.
BITCH, it screamed. I WILL SMITE YOU AND YOUR KIND FROM EXISTENCE. FELINES WILL FOREVER SHUN AND ATTACK YOU.
"I'm more of a dog person anyway" Quinn snarked. "And besides, to do that, you need power. The most power you'll be having soon are the lights in your cell."
The cat's form changed, and with a loud roar, the music cut out, the lights flicked, and Quinn felt the unmistakable surge of an EMP on her skin. Standing before her was a much smaller version of the abominable cat she had found earlier in the day, its twin maws gaping. This is a rave. Let's fucking dance.
"Darnell!" Quinn called. "He pulsed the music! Get it back up!"
"Trying!" He said, shoving his way through a crowd (pack?) of wolves.
Quinn, for her part, took out her gun and aimed it, point-blank, at the cat. She fired, and the cat's head recoiled, only to slowly slide back forward, bullet in his teeth. "…that is so fucking cliche. Couldn't you have at least had a hole in your head?"
Cliches are all I have left! The cat yowled in her mind, the voice having grown weaker. She felt scratch marks appear on her arm, and saw blood start to seep through her sleeve. My stories are burnt! I only exist because of a me-damned video game!
Meanwhile, another yowl, another cut, YOU get to exist without needing your story to be told. Humans are the only self-sufficient sapient beings on this planet. How is that fair?!
"You want a story?" Quinn asked, dodging a swipe of his claw. "Fine. Once upon a time, there was a very grumpy cat named Irusan. It- fuck!" she dove underneath its jaws as Irusan snapped at her. "It decided to trash a convention of nerds that tried to dress up like animals—" A gunshot to his side was followed by her crying out, "Darnell what is taking so long?
"I got fucking bitten by five people!" he yelled back, delivering a punch to a foam-covered coyote head.
Quinn was grabbed by a massive paw, and bit the cat's hand to get away from it. She was surprised that blood was drawn, and even more surprised when it was dropped. She continued talking as the cat's hand healed. "It decided to trash a convention just for the sake of getting new worshipers, making my life, my partner's life, the Skipper's lives, and the lives of everyone here miserable in the process." She weaved her way behind him, and said, "Then, one day, he got neutered by an FBI agent." Quinn punctuated this by making the lowest blow one could on anything male— a swift, upward kick between the legs. All this got her was a sore foot. "…mmmmmoooother fuuuuucker."
Points for effort, Irusan grinned, his head turning around one-hundred eighty degrees, followed by the rest of his body. Now, animal companions mine, rend them limb from limb, and you will receive your reward!
Quinn was grabbed from either side by cartoon-faced animal-dressed psychopaths, who began pulling at her arms. She didn't quite think that expression was going to be so literal. Then, something came to mind, one last, desperate thing. "…you really want to get my blood on your fur?"
The people pulling against her stopped their efforts, paused for thought, and let her go. "Hell no," one of them, a rather graceful looking border collie, said. "I paid a grand for the head alone."
Irusan looked perplexed by this. DESTROY! he commanded, once more. The furries just stood there, looking at him, then at their costumes, then at Quinn.
Agent MacAllister grinned. "Nothing comes between a nerd and their cosplay."
"I got it up!" Darnell yelled, and with an audible clack of a key, and the music started blaring from where it stopped, the near-indecipherable, mondegreen-filled chorus.
With a final howl, the cat's began to sink into the symbol, and finally, in a puff of dislogic, vanished into the metal ring entirely. Quinn grinned as it rattled on the floor, clapping her hands… which then turned into a frown. "…and in five…"
Foundation agents stormed the ballroom, two of them throwing Quinn and Darnell a gas mask each, before they flooded the room with a brain-wiping drug and knockout agent. The furries around them fell to the ground, some of their heads cushioned by the foam around them, others not so much.
Quinn and Darnell exited the room, only to find Sinclair waiting for them, her arm mended. "Okay, I have to ask," Quinn said. "Why is it you call us on these things? We're not well-equipped, we can't shoot fireballs out of our noses, and I've not touched an assault rifle in six months."
"On these assignments?" Sinclair looked sheepish. "Quite frankly, Agent MacAllister, when it comes to containing an anomaly in a crowded, civilian setting… the Foundation doesn't have the best track record of minimizing casualties. I think the only causalities in this hotel are going to be the bedsheets."
"…I'm done," Quinn peeled off her mask. "Do we have to stay here for the duration? Because I would take chasing down a currency-eater in Cincinnati any day over this."
"You're stuck here," Sinclair affirmed, "But the drinks are free."
"Thank god," both the agents said at the same time. "You gonna come drink with us?" Darnell asked.
"I have to contain the phylactery, make sure the task force doesn't stomp anyone to death, and then… I have plans." Her eyes glanced downward at the ground on the last statement. "Well. Good job, you two. Pats on the backs, gold stars, et cetera."
"Right," Quinn said. "Whatever. I hope they have really fucking good mojitos here…"
The conversation turned to alcohol as Quinn and Darnell left the room. Sinclair, for her part, produced the panel schedule from her pocket and looked it over. The convention wasn't over yet- there was still the panel on selachian anatomy, another on fursuit building, a guest speaker, free STD testing, a screening of Zootopia— "…wait," she looked at the fourth event and rubbed her head. "Well, at least they're being careful."