Placeholder

A post-industrial fantasy story

Chapter the First

Not a dark and stormy night

It was not, in fact, a dark and stormy night, much to the consternation of a certain nefarious group of individuals wearing ominous robes in the basement of the (Placeholder) Community Center, (All parties welcome! See Sharlene to register a room for your group or event today!) As was to be expected there were various mystic and arcane symbols spread liberally about the room – some of them were even real – seemingly scattered randomly without rhyme or reason. Along with the aforementioned robes the atmosphere had a very "we are meddling in affairs beyond the ken of mortal men" kind of vibe that all really legitimate evil mystic cults tried to cultivate.

"The paper said a big thunderstorm was supposed to happen tonight. They're usually pretty accurate," said one of the lower ranking members to a man in a much more expensive looking robe, most likely the leader (probably called "High One" or some such).

"Well," the probable High one replied. "It's not actually a requirement of the ritual, it's just recommended, so we should be fine." He cleared his throat loudly. "Did everyone hear that? We are proceeding with the ritual. Prepare the human sacrifices!"

Attention moved to said sacrifices, whose protests and struggles against their bonds took on a renewed vigor. The most-likely High One was quite pleased with the group of vacationing college students his followers had managed to abduct. They were all conventionally attractive, ethnically diverse young people of both genders. (Worshiping an eldritch horror beyond the comprehension of mortal man didn't necessarily mean that one wouldn't support ethnic and gender diversity.) The sacrifices were manhandled up onto the sacrificial alter (i.e. some folding tables wrapped in gold foil with arcane sigil drawn on them with silver magic marker) and secured with some off-brand zip ties.

"Is all in readiness?"

The congregation acknowledged that yes, it probably was.

"Okay then, just like we practiced, a-one, a-two, a-three!"

The cultists began to chant ominously, the purported High One was pleased. It sounded very authentic, especially considering he had gotten it off of 4chan. He paused for a moment, enjoying the atmosphere, before producing a ceremonial dagger he had purchased off Amazon for nearly $150 (the handle was shaped like a dragon with (fake) jewels for the eyes!).

"Oh Great Hastur," the former Performing Arts major turned self-styled High One intoned, sliding the capital letters neatly into place. "We Your Unworthy Disciples Give Unto You These Sacrifices That You Might Prevail Against the Dread C'thulu And Awaken the Great Old Ones From Their—AAARRRGGH!"

The High One screamed like a little girl as his wrist was cut to the bone by a streak of light from out of nowhere. He dropped the dagger in panic (and because the tendons in his wrist had been severed) and his head swiveled wildly around in search of the attacker so he could sic his goons on them. What he found, hovering mere inches from his face, was a seven inch (17.78-cm) tall woman with sparkling dragonfly wings, carrying a fourteen inch (35.56-cm) long razor sword. She winked at him, then made a rude gesture and flitted away.

"Alright ladies and gentlemen," boomed a deep resounding voice. "This is a raid! The Magic Regulation Bureau charges you with attempt of a non-sanctioned ritual to a known hostile entity!" The speaker was a rather large burly gentleman in a nondescript gray business suit under a long trench coat.

The cultists made to attack the interloper, before noticing at least a dozen more of the small flying women, all of them armed with a mix of razor swords and long, thin, very sharp-looking spikes. They had the cultists surrounded, and looked eager for a reason to use their weapons. After a quick discussion amongst themselves, the cultists all raised their hands and surrendered. Having secured the scene, the mysterious man and his gang of winged women withdrew so that local law enforcement could arrest the offenders while emergency medical personnel saw to the Not-Really-That-High-After-All One.


Later that evening at (Placeholder Inn), the same enormous man entered followed by a glittery trail of tiny women. It was a popular haunt for off-duty law enforcement operatives and the like, and the man, Solomon Grimes, was a regular. He was, as you may have gathered from the prologue, an agent of the Magic Regulation Bureau, an international extra-governmental agency tasked with monitoring and regulating the use of magic by groups and individuals in order to make sure no one did anything really stupid, like summon an army of horrors to take over the world, or really corrupt like using charm spells to make everyone buy Beta-max video recorders. It covered rather a wide breadth of duties.

Solomon, as has previously been noted, was quite a large man, built like a professional wrestler. Quite muscular and nearly as wide as he was tall he cut an intimidating figure. His face was rather unremarkable but pleasant, in an open, honest way. He worn his brown hair cropped very short so he wouldn't have to waste time fiddling with it and had a persistent five o'clock shadow no matter when he had last shaved. The Agent made his way up to the bar and grabbed the attention of the owner, a female Drow known only as "The Owner".

"Excuse me, Milady," he hailed her politely. It was always a good idea to treat Drow with the utmost respect (and to use capital letters wherever applicable); they took offense easily and bore long grudges. The Owner acknowledged him with what he recognized as a friendly smile, but what many others might interpret as a vaguely threatening display of her pointed, shark-like teeth.

"Ah, Agent Grimes, what can we get you this fine evening?" she said in the odd, clipped accent of her people.

"Is the kitchen still open, fair mistress?"

"Indeed it is, good sir. What may our fine staff prepare for you?" She leaned forward, skillfully displaying the obligatory cleavage; as a Drow she had a certain reputation to live up to. He appreciated her professionalism.

"I had heard you've started serving a Lobster bisque?"

"An excellent choice sir, and to drink?"

"I'll have a beer, and also some hard cider for..." he gestured to the entourage of tiny ladies fluttering about his head and shoulders.

The Drow gave a genuinely amused smile. "I shall see what we can do, Agent. Please have a seat."

He slid into a nearby booth. It was too late for the dinner crowd, but not yet late enough for the graveyard shift, so the place was fairly empty. Soon the Owner appeared with his food and drink, as well as twelve thimble-sized mugs of cider. She gave a subtle laugh as the fairies swirled around her with high pitched cheers of gratitude; he would have to leave her a generous tip later.

"Good work tonight girls," he said to the pixies while they were still sober enough to remember it. He took a sip of his beer and regarded his miniature companions fondly. All of them resembled an attractive human female in her early twenties, with large iridescent dragonfly wings protruding from their backs, though that was where the similarities ended; their hairstyles, coloring, and mode of dress were all over the map. They chattered rapidly amongst themselves in their high pitched buzzing language that was much too fast for him to follow. Fairies were able to learn to understand the spoken languages of other races rather quickly, and written languages over time (in theory they could text, but no one has yet created a keyboard small enough for them to use in the field), but their own language remained a mystery. As they consumed more alcohol they became more raucous as they argued and chased each other around the booth.

Officially Grimes was listed as their animal trainer, but his charges were clearly more than that. Long considered vermin, it was only in the last hundred years or so that fairies had been thought worthy of serious academic study, when it had been discovered that they functioned similarly, though not exactly, like a hive mind, possessing a form of collective intelligence. An individual was just that, an individual. But the more of them were gathered in one place, the smarter each individual became. (Rather the opposite of humans.) Some form of telepathy was suspected to be at the root of it. Larger wild colonies, consisting of up to a hundred thousand or more, were theorized to be able to calculate with the speed of bleeding edge super computers, though at the moment there was no way to confirm it. Wild fairies, being somewhat larger (up to 12 inches, 30.48-cm) and much more aggressive than their more civilized kindred, guarded their territory rather viciously, which was why most of the world's old growth forests – the natural habitat of fairies and jealously protected by them – remained unexplored.

Solomon's tame colony was around 230-350 fairies, making it about as smart as a bright teenager, (though much less melodramatic.)

Just as he was about to start in on his food, he was interrupted by a friendly, "Solomon!"

And a slightly more than friendly hug from an enthusiastic calico by the name of Cassandra Sockstealer-Takesnaps. A 25-year-old rookie agent, the anthro cat-woman had worked under the more experienced Grimes for the better part of a year. They had quickly developed a very close bond. In fact, they were just short of being physically intimate, but everyone, themselves included, knew it was only a matter of time (there was a betting pool among their fellow agents). Solomon couldn't help but give her an appreciative once over. She had a dancer's build with long slender limbs and a compact core, with delicate almost childlike features that made her look innocent even when she very clearly wasn't. Her lithe form was covered in soft brilliant white fur, besmirched randomly with black and ginger splotches. She affectionately rubbed her cheek against Solomon's and shamelessly insinuated herself onto his lap, tail flicking playfully against his leg, with a typically feline disregard for personal space. Not exactly small at a conservative 5'10" she was still greatly overshadowed by his massive 6'7" frame,

"Ooo! What's this?" she wondered, regarding his dinner.

"Mine."

Cassie gave him the sad kitten eyes.

You could almost hear the man fold (it was a kind of 'whump' noise.)

"Lobster bisque. Would you like a taste?" he offered reluctantly.

"I would be delighted!" she squealed joyously, lifting the spoon to her lips and giving a little shudder of delight. "Mmm! So good!" she trilled, then had another bite, and another and-

"Hey! Leave some for me!" Solomon protested.

Cassie raised the spoon to his lips. "Open wide!" she said with a grin. He replied with a grumpy, annoyed expression, but none the less let her feed him.

"Mmm!" His eyebrows rose in surprise, it was very good. He abruptly shoved the girl out of his lap. She landed on her back with an indignant squawk in the empty seat next to him with her legs still laying across his lap. "You could just get your own," he suggested at her pout.

"But I want yours!" she replied, proving that a cat is still a cat, no matter what shape it takes.

He, in an incredible display of maturity, stuck his tongue out at her and proceeded to finish off the bowl whilst making exaggerated "Mmm!" noises. Some of the more daring and less sober of the fairies flew up to poke at the triangular cat ears that peeked out from under Cassie's short mop of tangled white hair, which flicked in annoyance. (The ears, not the hair. That would be weird.)

Cassie pulled herself into a cross-legged position and glared at him, absently licking the back of her hand and smoothing her facial fur in another unmistakably feline gesture. Pointedly ignoring the smirk on his face, she continued the initial grooming impulse by fastidiously straightening her rumpled suit and readjusting her definitely-too-short miniskirt, flicking her ears again in a vain attempt to dislodge the raucous hangers-on who had decided that her head was the optimal vantage point from which to view the proceedings.

"So how did the raid go?" she asked once she had gotten bored with being mad.

"Ugh." He made a put upon face. "Almost a complete waste of time – bunch of those wannabe Cult of Hastur clowns. The sigils weren't even aligned properly, probably got the ritual off of the internet. Best case scenario nothing would have happened. Worst case, they would have sucked the entire county into the void. Fucking amateurs." He took a pull of his beer. "Still, we rescued some college students and the fairies followed orders and didn't shred anyone. So it went alright."

Cassie, who had only wanted to break the silence and wasn't that interested, quickly changed the subject. "So...um...could I ask you a favor?"

"I'm not lending you any money."

"No, it's nothing like that...it's...kind of personal."

"Oh?"

"Could I stay with you for a while?" When Grimes raised an eyebrow at her, she quickly elaborated. "My family keeps pushing me to find a mate and join a harem and it's getting to be too much. They don't understand that I want to focus on my career. I don't even know that I want kids yet. Or at all, for that matter! I just need some space to think."

"Well, I guess it's alright. Just let me clear it with Matoko first." Solomon took out his phone and opened the messenger app.

FairyWrangler: Hey, know you're busy but have a situation here.

9TailsGoddess: S'up So-chan? (Kiss emoji) Are you missing your Koto-chan?

FairyWrangler: Always, but Cassie's having some family issues and wants to stay with us for... a while?

9Tailsgoddess: Well, it's about time she moved out. Kitty-chan needs to spread her wings! Have new experiences, a three-way (What's the French term? Ménage a trois!) for example. (Wink emoji)

FairyWrangler: Down girl, don't get ahead of yourself.

9TailsGoddess: I know, play it by ear and see what develops; you're too timid So-chan. Plane is taking off, gotta go! See you tomorrow, have fun with sexy kitty-chan! (x3 kiss emoji)

"Yeah, she's cool with it."

"Really?" Cassie questioned, nervously biting her lip. The subject of Solomon's wife made Cassie rather nervous. While she had grown up in a typical feline household – that is to say with one male and several females (like lions!) – she was regretfully aware that humans were traditionally monogamous.

"'Koto really likes you," Solomon sighed. They'd been over this several times. "If she didn't we wouldn't be having this discussion." He downplayed exactly how much Makoto liked his junior agent. It would ruin the surprise.

"Well, okay, if you say so." Her musings were interrupted by her growling stomach, much to the amusement of the fairies perched in her hair.

0-0

Cassie did eventually buy her own bisque.

0-0

Once they had paid and left the Inn, Cassie spoke up.

"So should I, like follow you or what?"

"Oh, right, you haven't seen the new place yet, have you? We just moved in over the weekend."

"No, I remember you talking about it though. Sounded nice. Is it around here someplace?"

Solomon grinned in anticipation. He loved showing off his toys. "In a matter of speaking…" he replied cryptically.

Now where had she parked… ah, there she was! He spotted her sporty three-wheeler next to his van. It had been one of her first big purchases since joining the bureau. He paused to admire the reverse trike. Two wheels in front, one in the back, with an enclosed cockpit where the driver sat, and a seat for a single, rather small passenger behind the driver's seat. It was red of course, lightly built to emphasize handling and brisk acceleration over pure speed. It was quite a fun little runabout. He'd considered getting one for a while, but he needed a bit more room in a vehicle. With that thought he turned his attention to his custom van. Originally a short wheelbase design for deliveries in crowded cites, Solomon had lowered it and flared the fenders to give it a low, muscular stance, painted it a uniform matte gray, and blacked out all the windows. The result was rather sinister looking.

He walked around to the rear doors. Cassie was looking at him with her head inquisitively cocked to one side. He opened the doors and climbed inside. A moment later an electric whirring filled the air as the entire rear section clam-shelled out, nearly doubling the size of the opening, and a ramp was lowered to the ground. She cautiously ascended it and had a peek inside.

"It's bigger on the inside?" she asked redundantly, as she could see that it led, inexplicably, to the entrance a large garage. Along one side were three parking spaces, one occupied by a vintage coupe she recognized as belonging to Makoto.

"Well, not really," Solomon explained. "This isn't the inside of the van, it's a pocket dimension. The actual back of the van is full of magic-tech equipment to keep all of this running. Pull your car in and I'll give you the tour."

"You mean there's more?"

"Oh yes, quite a bit."

Cassie quickly drove in and parked, retrieving her overnight bags from the vehicle's storage compartment.

"You were very sure of yourself," Solomon noted, indicating her luggage.

"Well, you're not exactly a hard sell. And who could say no to this?" she struck an alluring pose and almost immediately regretted it. Luckily her blush was hidden under her fur.

"Good point," he replied without seeming to think anything of it.

He closed the rear door before motioning for her to follow him to a sliding door at the other end of the garage. Before entering, he stopped first at a miniature railway station situated to the side of the door and herded his drunken charges onto the waiting tram. They cheered and waved goodbye as it left the station to return to the colony in his basement. He turned his attention back to the door, opening it to reveal the front seats of the van. They were aftermarket sport seats meant to hold the body stable during tight turns.

Cassie eyed them dubiously. "Uh..."

"Buckle up," Solomon suggested as he strapped himself in. "The Owner doesn't like people staying in the lot overnight."

As soon as she was secure, he inserted his key and pressed the red start button, lighting up the dashboard. With her sensitive ears Cassie detected a low electric hum from somewhere in the back.

"That's a low charge perpetual lightning rune. It powers the 200 kilowatt motors in each of the wheels as well as providing electricity to the living quarters. It's all self-contained." Solomon explained proudly as he reversed out of his space and exited the lot with an obnoxious burnout.

0-0

After a rather... exciting drive, the van pulled into the employee parking garage of the local branch of the MRB. Cassie slowly released the death grip she had on the armrests, hoping Solomon wouldn't notice the deep claw marks.

She'd had no idea he was such an... enthusiastic driver.

"Are you okay?" said speed freak asked her, somewhat contritely.

She swallowed and gave him a look.

"Should I give you a minute." Cassie nodded her head at him. "Sorry, I don't get many chances to open her up, and the road was empty...I'll just..." He left the cabin and went into the back to wait.

When she stopped shaking Cassie unbuckled herself and stood up, after taking a second to smooth down her puffed up fur she followed him into the garage. Solomon was waiting next to another sliding door in the wall opposite the parking spaces. She retrieved her bags and went over to him.

"So you said something about a tour..?"

"Yeah," he replied. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine," she replied coldly, obviously still mad. "Get on with it."

Knowing better than to argue he slid open the door, which led to a small cloakroom. Hangers hung on hooks in rows on the walls above shoe cubbies lining the floor.

"No shoes in the house." Cassandra didn't know why he said this, she didn't wear shoes. They cost too much, were supremely uncomfortable and inevitably got clawed to pieces. He hung up his coat and slipped his wingtips into the appropriate cubby. "Go ahead and make yourself comfortable."

Cassie grinned to herself, deciding she was going to get some of her own back. She waited until he was done and had turned to her before sensuously slipping out of her blazer and slowly undoing her tie. Her hands went to her skirt, tugging it down with an exaggerated wriggling motion. A flash of red panties was just visible from beneath the fall of her shirt, which she slowly unbuttoned, divesting herself of it with an enticing flourish. Normally she didn't wear a bra, her breasts being rather too modest to require one. But in deference to the fact that she was going to be a house-guest, and that going around topless might paint her in an undesirable light, she had compromised and worn a black tube top underneath her shirt today. That, and those minimalist red panties, was all she left on.

"You told me to get comfortable," was her reply to his shocked expression. "You have no idea how uncomfortable clothes are when you have fur."

"Uh, yeah, I do recall you saying something like that now that you mention it," he eventually replied after a few moments of quietly appreciating her slim physique, something he never tired of doing.

Cassie tried to be magnanimous but was unable to help feeling a little smug; she put a lot of effort into maintaining her athletic aesthetic. Moments like this made it worth it.

"Milady." Solomon opened the door and made an elaborate gesture, urging the feline to enter.

"Thank you, kind sir," she replied with what was probably meant to be a curtsy; courtly manners had not been a particularly high priority in her household, and she most definitely wasn't wearing a skirt. She gave an indignant squawk as he gave her passing posterior a sharp smack. Her dirty look was met by a libidinous grin and a playful grab at her tail, which she deftly avoided with typical cat like grace. She sent him a warning growl from the back of her throat – she wasn't in the mood right now, so back off.

Taking the hint Solomon resumed the tour. "This is the main living area," he continued as if nothing had happened. Cassie took it in. It was a large loft apartment with a high ceiling and a second floor balcony extending halfway over the ground floor.

"Here's the TV." He pointed out a modest home theater set up in front of an old but well preserved and excessively comfy looking couch. "Back there is the kitchen," he indicated a minimal kitchenette at the near rear corner. "Neither of us is much for cooking," he explained as they traveled towards the stairs at the far end of the room. The plush carpet felt warm and inviting on Cassie's bare feet. "That's Makoto's office," he pointed out halfway to the stairs. "It's not a good idea to bother her when she's working, so don't go in there. Next to that is a half bath. The main one is upstairs. Down there is the fairy colony," he said when they arrived at the staircase. "Do NOT, under ANY circumstances go down there." His face and voice were deathly serious. "They do not like ANYONE near the colony. Even I'm not allowed down there without an explicit request. Is that 100% clear?"

Cassie, who with typical cat logic had decided that it would be really fun to go down into the basement and watch the cute fairies, gave a non-committal grunt.

Solomon wasn't having that. "They are VERY paranoid about the safety of the colony." At that moment Cassie noticed several fairies sizing her up. Their revealing French maid uniforms and comically large cleaning implements did little to assuage her building concern. 'We are watching you out-lander.' they seemed to imply. Solomon continued, "They know you're with me, so there's a good chance you won't suffer anything permanent, but it will be extremely unpleasant. There are credible stories of intruders being tormented for weeks at a time and I won't be able to help you. Do you understand?"

The catgirl was wide-eyed in shock. Were they really that dangerous?

"Y-yessir!" she squeaked thoroughly chastised.

"Okay then," Solomon nodded. "I'm not trying to scare you, but it's very important. Other than that one thing they're actually quite helpful." The fairy maids had gone back to doing their jobs in a whimsical manner. "Er...I don't know why they dress like that," he explained awkwardly. "Anyway," he mounted the stairs, "up here are the bedrooms." They climbed up to the balcony. On one side was a railing looking out over the lower floor, on the other was three doors. He indicated the furthest door. "That's where Makoto and I sleep."

"Uh, Where is she anyway? I saw her car and kind of assumed she'd be here." The calico was obviously uneasy.

"She's out of town on business. I'm supposed to pick her up at the airport early tomorrow morning," he reassured. "She's very excited to see you again. That's the main bathroom," he indicated the middle door. "That's where the shower is. Makoto insisted on getting one that doubled as a Jacuzzi, and it's pretty nice, I have to admit." He gestured to the near door. "And this is your room. Now if you'll pardon me, I do have to get up early so I'm going to bed. You can stay up if you want to and watch TV or whatever." Solomon yawned and started towards his room.

"I think I'll turn in as well," Cassie returned with a yawn of her own, suddenly tired.

After the two wished each other goodnight, the feline agent opened the door and regarded her new sleeping quarters. It was a bit of a surprise to see that when he had said it was 'her' room, he had meant it literally. The carpet was even more plush than in the rest of the apartment and there was a floor-to-ceiling scratching\climbing post leading to a queen-sized padded hammock piled with cozy-looking blankets and fluffy pillows. It was all very inviting. It appeared she wasn't the only one who was very sure of themselves!

After discarding her remaining garments she went to the post and stretched her long arms up as high as they would reach before hooking her claws into the material and giving a sharp tug to test her grip. Finding it sufficient she dug in with her opposite foot and climbed up into the hammock. She cocooned herself into warm ball of blankets and was soon asleep.


Hi There! This is my first original fiction! So please bear with me as I muddle my way along. Not real sure where I want to go so suggestions are welcome as are comments and constructive criticism, Frankly I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on the story.

Oh and if you're wondering about the whole "Placeholder" thing, it's kind of an in-joke on how I can never think of names for things.

Thank you for reading!