"Nice you see you again Arthur."
Arthur smiled as he stepped off the ramp Max had extended and shook the man's hand.
"Nice to see you again Lucian."
Lucian leaned around and waved at Max. "Nice you see you too, Max. You keeping him out of trouble."
There was an audible groan from the giant woodlouse and they both laughed.
"Come on, come inside. We have some work to do and need to get you up to speed."
Arthur followed Lucian off of the landing area and towards the fleshy building ahead of them. It'd been a long time since he'd been here but it looked justthe same as always. The nerve centre for the Demon Elimination Task Force, so they'd called themselves. The place was kept pretty secretive, for obvious reasons and though they worked quite closely with the Mendelian government they were technically beholden to no-one. The base appeared to be a disused airbase from the outside with a few research building in place. Ostensibly, the cover story was that they were a research station working on new genetics techniques, which was true to a degree. However, below ground was where the real work took place.
They reached the building but it had no door to speak of, instead Arthur and Lucian just walked into it, it's surface yielding like a sponge and then slowly enveloping them like the immune system enveloped a bacteria or virus. It pulled them inside and they felt themselves being pulled down through undulating flesh for a few minutes until they were deposited into a corridor lit by photophores.
"That took longer than I remember it. You deepen the entry point?"
"Yeah, had a nasty event a few years back that needed dealing with. Wouldn't have happened if the descent had been longer so we extended it another three hundred meters. The eggheads say that increases the probability the descent can digest any unauthorised, to matter the constitution or construction, by the time they reach the bottom to five nines."
Arthur whistled. "99.99999% effectiveness. Nice."
They headed down the corridor and into a meeting room, several other were waiting. A large, broad-shoulder woman came over and picked Arthur up like a toy, hugging him with her powerful arms.
"Long time no see, darling."
"Claire, hi." Arthur grunted, barely able to breathe due to Claire's breasts crushing his diaphram. "Can't breathe."
"Ha! You're looking a lot more male than I remember. Get board with being a woman?" Claire said, putting him down.
"I could say the same about you. Geez Claire, you'd make a bear full inadequate!"
That elicited a lot of warm-hearted laughs from the table.
"Shut it, toothpick. Needed to beef up for this new batch of uglies. A whole lot in one place does not a happy girl make. I wasn't going to go in their without some big guns." Claire grinned, flexing her massive muscles.
Arther looked on and nodded approvingly. "And I wanted a change. I'm meant to be retired, new life, new body."
"Retired my ass." a gruff voice called from the meeting table. "Are you two too busy screwing each other in your minds or do you think you could come over here and say high to the rest of us?"
Arthur laughed. "Alright, alright. Hi Matt."
Matt sat back in his chair and cracked his knuckles, then scratched his dark brown beard with a hairy hand. "Welcome back. Let me introduce you to the others."
Matt indicated a woman with feline features, pointed cat ears, cats eyes and claws and covered in a thin down of pale blue-grey fur. "This here lovely is Felicity, she's a recent addition to the team."
Felicity gave a mock salute and smiled.
"And this fine gentleman over here bares no introduction." Matt said turning and indicating a tall, thin man in victorian dress.
Arthur looked puzzled.
"Hello Arthur, I'm Gerald."
"Gerald, do I know you from somewhere?" Arthur asked, thinking. Then it suddenly came to him. "Gerald! That Gerald? The founder? Why, it's an honour sir, a real honour!"
Laughs passed around the table but settled down at Geralds gesturing. "I've been meaning to meet with you for a while, it's almost criminal we've never crossed paths before. I should have met you when I recruited you into our group, but I've been somewhat... indisposed. Both been busy doing other things I guess. Tell me, you looking after Max well?"
"Yes, Max and I have been looking after each other for a while now, we're fast friends."
"That's good to hear. Remind me to say hello to him when we're done here."
"Right, to business. Arthur, you're one of our best interrogators, you've just got a knack for it that no-one else has been able to match, that's why you're here. We've got some prisoners we need you to get some information from. We've tried all the standard tricks but these uglies are a tough bunch, some heavy hitters. Lucian wouldn't have asked you back if we didn't think it was necessary."
"I understand. So what's the angle?"
"Well, I'll start from the beginning."
"Nice you see you again Arthur."