Arden © Hikaru Katayamma. Yin, Tiffany, Comfort, Leonard, Wally, The Watering Hole © John Robey. Story © Hikaru Katayamma


Yin's Identity Crisis
By Hikaru Katayamma
& John 'The Gneech' Robey

Panda Interrupted

A tall, albino human sat behind a desk equipped with a large computer display, keyboard and holo-sensory input pad. His hair was cropped in a short, military style crew cut that neatly framed his face. He watched words on the screen appear as he continued his vocal dictation.

"…Preliminary investigation into the death of Dr. Humphry Tunnely, aka Dr. Zap, reveals that there are no organic traces to indicate that he was, in fact, killed at the time of his lab's destruction.

"As the council knows, the close proximity of Mhar to Prism makes accurate accounting of interdimensional reality portals virtually impossible. The fact that Prism is an anchor point for the Forerunner gateway network of pandimensional transit conduits makes this event all the more significant. Unlike the Nexus, which is a dynamic gateway system, the Forerunner's network is a static system that we cannot monitor without exposing our presence.

He reached over to a table that sat next to the desk and picked up a drink which was sitting on a coaster. He took a quick sip and placed the drink back on the table. "On my own personal authority, I have ordered fifty class three recon/scout drones to search all possible junctions along the Forerunner network and verify that Dr. Tunnely didn't somehow escape into the conduit network. I have also allocated one hundred type three recon/scout drones to begin an expanding audit of all non-Forerunner access realities to ensure that he has not escaped to a reality that has not already been contaminated by Forerunner reality storms.

"Should Dr. Tunnely be located somewhere within the Forerunner network, I recommend that he simply be monitored to ensure that he doesn't find a way to escape the network and cause havoc in non-contaminated realities.

"If Dr. Tunnely is discovered to have entered a reality that is outside the Forerunner network, then I propose that he immediately be removed and held for processing to determine his final disposition.

"I can not stress strongly enough the danger that lies in Dr. Tunnely discovering the existence of the Nexus, or worse, returning with that information to his home world. The current guardians of the Forerunner network must not discover the existence of the Nexus at this time.

"I shall personally monitor the progress of the recon drones to ensure that this situation is properly handled. I strongly recommend that the council keep this situation under wraps and not to release any information about it or assign any other operators to the case."

Again, the human took a drink from the glass, this time draining the contents of the tumbler before setting it back on the table. "Ahh…" he sighed, relishing the taste of the alcohol. "Sign, seal, encode and transmit the documents to the council as well as to the archives for me, please, Mychelle."

A feminine voice responded from an indeterminate point in the air. "How would you like that signed? As a scout or as a member of the council?"

Arden sighed again and frowned. "Sign it with my ID as a scout, but use council encryption and routing ID when sending it." He then stood, picked up his glass, then walked out the door towards the kitchen.

The voice followed him as he left the room. "You asked me to remind you that you have an appointment with one Yin Panda in D17113 in approximately one hour local time."

Arden, having reached the kitchen, dumped the ice out in the sink and began to rinse out the glass. "All right. Send a class one probe from my personal stock and have it do a 'locate and track' on her, please." After wiping the glass off with a towel, he placed it in the drying rack and began to dry his hands. "Also scan my logs from the last visit and download the bioform information for my last visit into my BDA. I'll want to show up in the same form I was in the last time I was there."

"Information downloaded," the disembodied voice said. "Isn't that contrary to regulations regarding repeated visits to a class four dimension?"

Arden tossed the wet towel over towards the recycling chute and watched as it dropped in. "Normally, yes. However as this is not an official visit, official rules don't apply."

"I don't see how that can be," the voice replied slowly. "Regulations are quite clear on the subject."

He chuckled and shook his head. "I am an unlimited class scout and that gives me clearance to override that regulation as I deem fit during extended research missions."

"I don't quite think that the founders had a scout going on a date in mind when they made that rule," Mychelle stated in a scolding voice.

Arden gave a loud bark of laughter at that. "I know for a fact that they didn't have that in mind," he replied as he walked back towards the fresher. "However I have never been one to let such trivialities stop me in the past."

"After a brief review of your personal record I must concur. There are an astonishing number of reprimands and suspensions in your personal folder." If an AI could sound impressed, Mychelle managed it. "As you wish, Arden. I will monitor the progress of the drone and download the relevant data to your PDA."

"Thank you, Mychelle," Arden said as he stripped off his clothes. A quick shower and he'd be ready to face the universe, or at least Yin, as the case may be.

= = = =

Yin walked into The Watering Hole, sat down at the bar and heavily leaned her head on both hands, uttering a painful sigh. A kangaroo came over to her, wiping his hands on a towel.

"Hey, Yin. You don't look so good. Can I get you something?"

Yin groaned and looked up at him. "Hi, Wally. I have a splitting headache," she mumbled. "Give me something that will either kill it or me."

Wally chuckled, got out a glass and poured some green liquor into it. "Isn't it a little early for you to be nursing a hangover?"

She took a gulp of the drink and choked on it. For a second she fought for a breath against the aftertaste of the alcohol. "Good lord, Wally. Are you trying to kill me?" She squinted up at the kangaroo in a halfhearted attempt at a glare.

He gave her a sly smile along with a small chuckle. "You said you wanted something that will either cure you or kill you. That's it."

Yin groaned and shook her head. "Some day, one of your jokes is going to bite you in the tail."

Wally frowned. "Don't get your fur all in a twist."

The panda let out another groan. "Sorry about that. My head is killing me."

"Yah, well. You better lighten up if you don't want to scare off that bear of yours," Wally said as he turned to serve someone else.

"Bear?" Yin said, her head popping up. "What bear?" she asked, but it was too late. Wally was busy taking an order from a small group of zebras that had wandered in.

"I wonder what he's talking about,"Yin thought to herself. She picked up the glass to take another drink, but thought better of it and sat the glass back down. She sat there for a little bit trying to figure out not only what Wally was talking about, but also why she was even there. For the life of her she couldn't even remember having walked to the bar.

Yin left the bar and turned left toward the house that she and Tiffany rented, and ran head on into a large polar bear. "Hey," she complained. For a moment she wanted to say something more, but changed her mind.

"Hey, Yin," the large bear said amiably.. "How you doing?"

The panda stopped and squinted up at the bear. "Do I know you?" she asked confused.

The bear paused for a second. "We met last week in the bar. Don't you remember?"

Yin shook her head, immediately regretting the feeling of the sudden motion. "No, I don't. Now if you'll excuse me," she said curtly, pushing him aside to continue walking, "I need to get home. My head is killing me."

The polar bear watched for a second as Yin stumbled towards her house, a worried look crossing his face. He then turned and walked to the alley next to The Watering Hole and turned down it.

Yin, after walking several yards, suddenly stopped. She had just remembered what Wally had said about her meeting a bear. "What if he was the bear?" She turned just in time to see him step into the alleyway. "Hey! Wait!" Yin yelled as she ran back towards The Watering Hole

Reaching the alleyway, she turned and skidded to a stop. The alley was deserted. The only exit for the alley was a back door into The Watering Hole at the far end. Other than some garbage cans, the alley was completely empty.

"Now where could he have gone?" Yin asked absentmindedly as she slowly walked down the alley, looking for the bear. Finally reaching the far end, she checked the door to The Watering Hole and found it locked.

If he hadn't gone into the bar, then just where had he gone? Her head continued to throb incessantly.

= = = = =

"Mychelle!" Arden yelled as he stormed into his office.

A concerned sounding disembodied voice answered. "Yes, Arden? Is there a problem?"

The tall human dropped into the chair and activated the display. "Damn right there is. Do you still have a probe following Yin?"

"Yes, Arden. What is the nature of the problem?"

"Something's up with Yinwrong," he said while activating several utilities on his console. "Run a bio analysis on her and compare it with the data from my BDA."

"One moment please." The wait seemed interminable as Arden scowled at the data he was pulling up on his screen. "Analysis complete. Would you like a detailed breakdown or just a summary?"

"Just give me a summary," he growled.

A small list appeared on the screen. "It would appear that Yin is suffering from a class two neurological trauma caused by a type seven neuralizer."

Arden stared at the data on the screen for a moment, slack-jawed. "Oh, man. This can't be right."

"I'm sorry, Arden. I have double checked the data and run a second bioscan. It would appear that she has been hit with a neuralizer designed for a different class of species. I estimate that there is a 88% chance that the unit was effective in erasing the subject's memory while potentially causing damage."

"That would explain the bad attitude." The man rubbed the bridge of his nose while he counted slowly to ten. "All right, Mychelle. Check the Nexus database and find out if any formal contact has been made with that dimension, and if so, see if any technology was exchanged."

For a few minutes there was complete silence, broken only by the rhythmic tapping of Arden's fingers as he waited. "I currently show no official contact has been made with that dimension; however, there is a report that indicates the possibility of contact by person or persons unknown. The report indicates that traces of non-localized technologies were detected during a scouting event approximately fourteen years ago, localized time line."

Arden let out a long sight. "OK. I want you to download all information you have on what happened to Yin as well as any corrective measures you know about."

He stood and walked to a locked closet door. Pressing his hand on the panel next to the door unlocked it. Inside was odd looking armor, which he began to remove from its position on the rack. "I also want you to send another half dozen class one probes to D17113. Make sure all probes in that continuum are running under full stealth mode. Have them scout for non-local-based technologies."

"Program running," the voice acknowledged then paused. "Umm. Arden?. What is that?"

Arden removed his clothing then began slipping into the armor. "This is class AAA scout combat armor. It's used when doing reconnaissance runs into potentially hostile dimensions. Last time I had this out was during the war between the Briqq and the D'Ch'ung."

"I don't show that equipment in the Nexus database. Please explain the inconsistency."

Arden finished pulling on the last glove before picking up the helmet. "That's because this kind of technology is severely restricted. Only council members have access to that section of the database, and it takes a special access code to even pull up that portion of the index." Arden slipped on the helmet as he left the office and walked back to his normal departure point.

The voice followed him closely. "Won't you be a bit conspicuous in that outfit?"

"Nope," he responded as he inserted the PDA and BDA into specialized slots designed to interface them directly with the armor. "The armor will camouflage itself as part of the bioadaptation process."

Arden stopped as he was typing something out on a pad resembling his PDA, which was built into the arm of his suit. "Mychelle, I want you to put all data concerning Yin and today's activities under my personal lock. You are not permitted to discuss it with anyone unless they can provide you with a council override."

"Acknowledged and locked," the voice replied mechanically. "You didn't have to do that, Arden. I wouldn't talk about your business."

"I know, but it doesn't hurt to be a bit paranoid. Monitor my progress, and if you lose my tracking signal wait eight hours local time for reallocation. If you are unable to reacquire my location and status, forward my logs to Counselor Migliaccio."

With that last order, Arden touched a button on his wrist and vanished.

= = = =

Tiffany was in the kitchen, drying off the dishes, when she heard the front door open. "Yin? Is that you?" she called out as she walked out of the kitchen, drying her hands. She saw Yin leaning heavily against the wall at the base of the stairs, holding her head. "Hey! Are you OK?"

Yin looked up from rubbing her temples and nodded. "Yah, Tiff. I just have a splitting headache. I'm going to take some meadowsweet and lie down for a nap."

Tiffany nodded and helped her friend up the stairs. "You go ahead and lie down. I'll get you some water." She watched Yin for a moment before returning down stairs. Just as she reached the bottom, there was a knock at the front door. Opening it, Tiffany saw a large red fox dressed in a black trench coat and fedora hat.

"I hope I'm not disturbing you," he said in a cheerful voice, noticing the dishtowel that Tiffany held.

The tall tigress smiled. "Not at all. I was just doing dishes. How may I help you?"

"I'm Special Detective Arden and I need to ask a few questions." He flipped open a leather wallet and showed the contents to Tiffany. As she looked down at the object, a bright green light flashed, stunning her. He quickly stepped into the house and closed the door behind him.

"All right, Tiffany, listen closely," he instructed. "There was nobody at the door. You're going to return to the kitchen and finish drying the dishes. Once that's done you will go about your regular business without ever remembering I was here."

Satisfied that his instructions had taken, the fox made his way upstairs towards Yin's room. The door was standing open. Quietly he stepped in, holding the wallet out in front of him. He stopped next to the bed. "Yin," he said softly.

"Huh?" the panda grunted as she looked up, just in time to see a flash of green light.

The fox put the billfold away and pulled out a silver handled object that he pressed to her throat. A slight hiss could be heard from the device. He put it away and pulled out a palm-sized computer.

"Status, Mychelle," he said after activating the device.

"The nanites are on line and running true," the computer's voice replied from the device. "I estimate that they should have the damage repaired in four to six hours."

The fox nodded. "Excellent. Once that's done, have them setup a polarity field in her optics to prevent this from happening again."

"Program loaded and running," the computer replied. "You may return at your leisure."

He deactivated the small computer and turned his attention to Yin, who was staring into space as if in a trance. "All right, Yin, I want you to listen very closely," he stated in a quiet yet firm voice. "After returning home, you lay down for a nap. Nobody disturbed your sleep. You will not remember my visit at all. When you awaken you will feel refreshed and have no pain. You will continue on with your normal business as if nothing happened. Now, close your eyes and go to sleep."

The fox continued to watch for a minute, making sure that Yin had closed her eyes and fallen asleep as per his instructions. He then stood, opened the computer, touched a point on his arm and disappeared with a small clap of displaced air.

= = = = =

Yin woke up, took a deep breath and stretched her arms. The pain in her head was gone for the most part, though things looked a little fuzzy. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and blinked a few times before objects came into focus. Sitting up on the side of the bed, she stretched and yawned again. Glancing at the clock, she blinked then looked at the window. Streams of light were just barely filtering their way in with the first rays of morning.

"Wow, I sure had a good night's rest," she said with another yawn. She climbed out of bed and ran a paw through her head fur as she made her way downstairs. As the panda made her way toward the kitchen she saw that Tiffany was still asleep. She opened the refrigerator and reached in, bypassing the large container of bamboo shoots. Instead, she grabbed a cup of yogurt and a small container of apple juice. On her way to the table she paused long enough to grab a spoon.

The chair made a soft scraping sound as it was pulled back from the table., and Yin sat down and leaned back into its embrace, relaxing. She popped open the top of the yogurt and hungrily scooped a spoonful into her mouth, enjoying the taste, quickly following it with another.

"'Morning, Yin," a bleary eyed Tiffany said as she came into the kitchen. "You're up early. Feeling any better?"

"Much better, thanks," the panda replied as she opened the apple juice. Starting with a sip, she found herself emptying half the bottle.. "How are you doing this morning?" Yin asked after coming up for air.

Tiffany already had the door to the refrigerator open and was rummaging around inside. "Not bad," she said, removing a covered dish from the appliance. "Some food and a quick shower should get me all geared up for the beach today. Are you going to come and join us?"

Yin finished off the apple juice and closed the container. "I don't think so. I had a really weird dream last night and I want to go talk to Crystal about it. I hope she can help me analyze it."

The tigress sat down at the table and uncovered a plate of leftover London broil that she had for dinner last night. Using her claws, she snagged a strip of meat and popped it into her mouth, savoring the flavor. As she swallowed she noticed that Yin had a strange look on her face. "Hey, Yin. Are you all right?"

As Tiffany watched, Yin suddenly stood up, knocking over her chair and bolted from the room. Before Tiffany could get around the table, she heard the faint sounds of Yin retching into the first floor bathroom toilet. That was when she noticed what the panda had been eating. Tiffany momentarily rolled her eyes to the heavens before making her way over to the bathroom. She leaned against the doorframe and scowled down on the panda. "What in the world did you think you were doing, eating my yogurt?"

Yin shook her head as she flushed the toilet. "I don't know. I just remembered that I really liked yogurt, especially with nuts." For a second the panda sat and stared at the swirling waters. "But that's silly. I can't eat that stuff. I wonder where that came from?."

The tigress chuckled. This wasn't the first time Yin had had pulled some bonehead maneuver, though it was the first to involve food. She went back into the kitchen and tossed out the containers that Yin had eaten from. "How in the world did that girl come up with those ideas?"

= = = =

Yin sat across form a large orangutan who was loaded down with jewelry, most of it crystalline in nature. "I don't know. I've been having these weird dreams lately. You know, the kind where you lose all your fur, only it's more than that. I was a completely different species. It was really freaky."

"Wow," Crystal replied, shoving a fork full of fruit salad into her mouth. "That is freaky," the orangutan mumbled through a full mouth before swallowing. "Is there anything else you remember from the dream?"

The panda pondered her thoughts for a second. "There was a polar bear. He wore a blue shirt, red shorts and glasses," she said slowly, taking time to remember the details. "I remember seeing him eating somewhere familiar, but I can't place it."

"This bear," Crystal said, waving her fork for emphasis. "Other than dinner, did he have anything else to do with your dream?"

Yin paused and said,. "You know, I think he had something to do with the no-fur part of the dream, but I can't remember exactly what."

"And you don't know this guy from anywhere else?" Crystal asked before shoveling another load of fruit into her mouth.

"I'm not sure," Yin said, shaking her head. "He seems so familiar, but I just can't remember ever having met him before." She leaned her muzzle on her right paw in thought. "I think that's what's really bothering me. I know this guy from somewhere, but I can't remember when. I just hate having this unsettling feeling!"

"Hhmmm. I don't know. It sounds to me like you ate something that didn't agree with you last night, and it let you know the hard way." Crystal put the fork down in the empty bowl and shoved it away. "What did you have for dinner?"

Yin's jaw dropped as she realized something. "I don't know. I can't remember what happened last night."

The orangutan scowled. "How about breakfast. What did you have for lunch?"

The panda shook her head rapidly. "I don't know. I can't remember anything about yesterday. In fact," she said, trying to think straight. "I can't remember anything that happened to me recently."

Crystal took Yin's paw and gave it a squeeze. "Its going to be OK, girl. Don't worry. Just tell me what the last thing you do remember doing clearly."

Yin's eyes darted to and fro as she tried to piece together the past few days. "The last thing I really remember was talking to Leonard at The Watering Hole on Friday night."

"Don't sweat it," Crystal said, trying to reassure her friend. "I suggest that you go talk to Leonard and ask him what he remembers. Maybe he'll have some idea what happened. He might have some clues that will help you remember the rest."

Yin nodded and stuck her fork into the bamboo shoots that sat untouched in front of her. She had eaten them all her life and yet, for reasons unknown, they seemed tasteless and bland.

After lunch she'd head over to The Watering Hole and talk to Leonard. Maybe he could shed some light on the subject.

= = = = =

Having run her morning errands, Tiffany was just about to turn the knob on the front door when it suddenly swung open. On the other side stood Yin on her way out. "Hey, Yin. Where are you going?" Tiffany asked as she stepped in.

Yin stood in the doorway for a second to answer. "I'm heading over to The Watering Hole."

Tiffany glanced at her watch and saw it was only one in the afternoon. "Isn't it a little early to go off drinking?" she asked as she put her shopping bags on the floor.

"I need to ask Leonard about something," Yin stated with a small smile.

Tiff rolled her eyes to the heavens again. "And just what enlightenment will you get from god's gift to women?"

Yin gave a little scowl at Tiffany's attitude, but nothing more. "I wanted to ask him about a polar bear."

"Oh, you mean Arden?" Tiffany asked as she dug out some magazines and put them on the coffee table.

"Arden?" Yin asked, absentmindedly closing the door.

"Yah," the tigress grunted as she organized the magazines. "That was the guy you went to meet at the bar last night, right?" She stood and opened up another bag, taking out a doily that she then placed under some flowers on the TV. "You've been talking about your date with him all week," she continued, oblivious to the stunned look on Yin's face.

"Kind of funny how I met him, huh?" Yin prompted, hoping that Tiffany would be her usual talkative self.

"Tell me about it," she said, waving a paw at Yin before placing another matching doily under a lamp by the chair. "First you find some conspiracy fanatic like yourself at the bar. Then you find his wallet after dinner and try to convince me that he's some kind of alien from another dimension." She laughed and shook her head. "Sometimes I don't know about you, girl. You come up with some of the most bizarre stuff."

Tiffany walked back over with the empty bag and picked up the two remaining sacks, then paused. "You OK?" she asked a suddenly stunned Yin.

"Yah. I'll be fine," the panda replied. She then turned and slowly made her way up the stairs.

"I hope I didn't hurt her feelings," Tiffany said to herself as she watched the panda leave.

In her room, Yin sat down at her desk. "The polar bear was really an interdimensional alien named Arden?" The thought was just too much to for her to believe. Absentmindedly, Yin shuffled the papers on her desk, revealing a business card. She paused for a second and looked at it. There was the cartoon face of a polar bear on it along with the name Arden.

Using a thumb, Yin flipped the cover of the device open and examined the buttons. They still didn't make much sense, but she could figure them out in time. Having been careful not to touch any of the buttons, Yin was startled to see the lights come on just a few seconds before it vanished out from between her hands. A small business card floated down from where she had held the device and onto her stomach.

She lifted up the card and looked at it. On the face was a drawing of Arden, along with a phone number and an address.

As she looked at it, the face began to speak. "You don't seriously think I wouldn't miss my backup unit, did you?" the animated face of Arden said, laughing. "Hang on to the card. I'll give you a call if I can't make it on Saturday. Ciao."

"Oh…my….GOD!" Yin exclaimed to herself. "This is so real! There really was an alien from another dimension here." She stood and began to pace. "I'll bet my memory problems and dreams are all because of some government cover up to prevent anyone from knowing about them! This is SO cool!"

Yin stopped in her tracks as a look of horror crossed her face. "Oh no. We were supposed to meet last night. I hope they didn't catch him."

She tucked the card into her vest pocket as she darted out the room and down the stairs. The door slammed shut behind her, blocking off any question a stunned Tiffany may have had about where she was going.

Jogging to the pub, Yin arrived somewhat short of breath. Panting, she made her way into the bar and sat down on a stool. She held up a paw as Wally came over to see what she needed. "Water," she gasped between breaths.

"You all right there, Yin?" Wally asked, filling a glass with tap water for her. "Some predator chasing you or something?"

"No," she replied, gulping down the water. With a solid thump, she slammed the glass down on the bar. "Wally, do you remember me meeting up with a polar bear here?"

"Sure," the kangaroo replied, refilling the glass. "You've been talking about seeing him again all week."

Yin smiled as a spark of hope grew. "Did he come in here last night?"

Wally got a distant look as he thought about it. "I don't remember seeing him come in. He may have come in after I left though."

"Damn," she muttered to herself as she tried to think of alternatives. "Is Leonard around?"

"Nope. He had some errands to run. Won't be back until after four," the kangaroo answered, now wiping down the surface of the bar.

Yin let out a long sigh. "OK. Thanks, Wally. I appreciate it. I'll catch him later."

The roo nodded. "Not a problem, Yin. I'll let him know you were looking for him."

Wally then dumped out the glass she had been drinking from and put it in the washer.

Yin stood and made her way out of the bar. Behind her, a badger in a black suit stood and followed her out, while speaking into something he held in his paw.

Outside, Yin turned to go home and saw a tall, white wolf climb out of a black sedan. He wore dark sunglasses, a tailored black suit and black, patent leather shoes. He was definitely not the kind of person that hung out at The Watering Hole.

Yin spun around to avoid him and nearly ran into the badger. "Hey! Watch it, will you?" she sputtered nervously as she backed away from the two of them. "I don't know what you guys want, but I don't have any money."

"We don't want money," the badger replied.

Yin paused and took a close look at the pair. "Hey! I know you," she stated, looking back and forth between the two. "You did something to me and it screwed with my memory!"

The wolf leaned close to his partner and said, "I told you I didn't think it would take."

The badger shot a hard glance over at his partner before looking back at Yin. "I think it's best if you come with us for the moment, ma'am."

"Oh, no you don't," Yin screamed as she started to back away from the duo.

The badger drew a futuristic-looking silver pistol and aimed it at her. "I'm afraid you don't have any choice in the matter."

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