A Memorable Halloween
As usual, I don’t own anything. Joss, Mutant Enemy, Tite Kubo, and some other people own the pretty toys. I’m just playing with them and will return them unharmed. Do not sue me, as I have nothing worth taking.
Warning!! Multiple crossovers ahead! YAHF! Possible character death (the bunnies are undecided as of yet; when they finish mulling it over I’ll tell you one way or the other)! Also, Dawn was born Buffy’s sister in this timeline, she wasn’t created later, but she is still the Key. The crossover timelines are also rather tangled. I refer you to Vathara's fic Upon A Fiery Steed for the version of Duo Maxwell that is appearing in this fic. The idea caught my attention and I have been unable to keep the bunnies away from it.
This is, essentially the prologue to a bigger series. If enough people like it I’ll continue to post. If the damn rabbits keep biting my shins I will continue to post. This fic is, however, merely a sideshow and We Few still has my main attention so don’t expect regular updates. Now, on with the fic!
A Memorable Halloween
Xander passed through Ethan’s Costume Shop, watching in his peripheral vision as Buffy and Willow spoke to the owner about a frilly old-fashioned dress. Probably wants to get it to impress Deadboy,
Xander reflected irritably. Why can’t she see that anything between them will end badly? Hello! Vampire and Vampire
SlayerHowever, Xander’s impending bad mood was irretrievably shattered by a voice from behind him.
“Can I help you there?” a precise, suitably stuffy and superior British-accented voice asked from just behind him. Xander tried to whirl around in midair and nearly ended up on the floor before he caught his balance on a costume rack.
“Good God! Don’t do that! Especially in this town!” Xander reprimanded the Brit before glancing reflexively at the costume rack he was holding. He almost turned back to talk to the owner some more, but something about one of the costumes caught his eye. Looking at it more closely he saw that it was a futuristic version of a priest’s robes. They were black with subtly off-white trim and bands of gold at the wrists and throat and on the belt. A golden cross on a gold necklace hung in a separate bag along with a revolver, a pair of glasses, and a slightly longer than shoulder-length silver wig. Most people wouldn’t have recognized the costume. Xander, as an Anime freak got it right away.
That could have been the end of it, right then and there. Xander sees cool costume, Xander recognizes and admires costume, Xander decides costume is out of his price range and picks up a gun to go with his soldier fatigues. Sadly, it was not to be. Instead of immediately turning back to the owner of the place, the founding Scooby looked over at Buffy and Willow, still fawning over the dress and reached a snap decision. She likes vamps? Fine. I can do Vamp, and I can do one that isn’t restricted to a liquid diet and darkness. This’ll be worth it even if I have to dip into my road trip funds!
Now Xander turned to look at Ethan who was, surprisingly, giving him a look of sympathy. “Having trouble attracting a certain person’s attention?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Xander responded, “She only goes for a certain type, and I’m not it. How much for this one here?” Xander asks as he grabs the priest’s robes off of the shelf.
Ethan smiles at him slightly. “Normally I’d charge forty dollars plus a security deposit,” at Xander’s wince he continues. “But I think that I can make you a deal tonight. Give me ten as a security deposit and tell anyone who asks about it that you got it from me.” At Xander’s surprised and somewhat suspicious look Ethan elaborates, “We might be portrayed as all stiff upper lip on this side of the pond, but we’re not completely without empathy. Besides, if I was out to make money, do you really think that I’d be selling costumes?” Xander accepted the explanation and paid the ten bucks quite willingly totally missing the fact that two sets of eyes had carefully noted the entire exchange.
Dawn was absolutely disgusted with her sister. A princess dress? What was she, six? Or were the bleach’s effects on her brain beginning to escalate? She was making a fool of herself for a vampire when she had Xander, who was one of the nicest, cutest guys ever, right there ready for the taking. Not, of course, that she was complaining about that last part. After all, that just gave her a chance to steal him out from under her stupid sister’s nose.
So when it came time to pick out her costume there was only one in the entire store that would suffice. Getting it to fit would require enlisting her mother’s help, but that would be well worth the cost. She smiled widely as a black robe that almost completely matched the one Xander had chosen disappeared into a plastic bag. No silly vapid female for her; she would go as a fellow warrior against the darkness. She might not have her sister’s looks yet, but she had other ways of attracting attention and she was willing to use all of them in her quest to become Mrs. Dawn Harris.
Amy Madison was starting to feel angry. This is the last time I do a reading before I make a decision.
She swore to herself. Why the hell does my future depend on following Xander’s ‘path’?
She wondered for the tenth time as she watched him buy a priest’s outfit.What the? Am I supposed to go as a nun?
But then she remembered the wig and the gun. So, not just a generic priest. Now where have I seen that-
her thoughts cut off abruptly. Anime. I have to dress up as someone from an anime show?
Not only was this annoying, but it was now threatening what little social life that she still had. Okay, who from the whole anime freak show looks normal enough to be unremarkable?
The task of figuring out a costume was made more difficult than strictly necessary by her general lack of knowledge where anime was concerned, but . . .
Amy blinks, remembering one of Jonathan’s manga that she’d read a couple of years before her mother had taken over her body and broken off their friendship. It had been the third or was it fourth
issue of Bleach. She remembered it because it had been right at the beginning of her Wicca phase and she’d been intrigued by the girl, Ruika? Rukia? and her soul reaper magic. Amy smiled. She also didn’t have a dumb costume or embarrassing prop that she carried around. So all that she’d need . . . Black hair dye and a schoolgirl’s uniform. Oh, and a cell phone.
Then a problem occurred to her. Need something in case Commandant Snyder gets on my case about not having a costume.
She frowned in consternation for a moment before she noticed what appeared to be a skeletal bat on a wand. She seemed to remember a flying device from one of the later manga that looked a lot like it. A little glue and this’ll be just like the one the cat had.
That wouldn’t be too hard at all.
She quickly grabbed what she needed off of the shelves around her and made her way to the checkout, noticing Buffy’s little sister walking out the door with a costume similar to Xander’s. She idly wondered who she was going as before deciding it didn’t really matter and heading back to her house to get everything ready for escorting the rugrats.
Xander adjusted the holster under his left arm for the third time in as many minutes as he approached the door of the Summers’ home. Well, here goes.
He reaches out and knocks on the door, plastering fake smile number two on his face. What he sees when the door opens momentarily freezes him solid. “Lady Elizabeth,” he greets he with a graceful, courtly bow, “it is good to see that you are well.”
Buffy immediately reached to check his temperature, and not entirely as a joke. “Are you alright, Xander?”
“Who is this Xander you speak of milady? I am Father Abel Nightroad, and I am pleased to meet you again,” Xander smiled at a grinning Buffy.
“Nice acting Xand,” She said as she let him in. “So who’s Father Nightroad?”
Xander decided to tease her just a little bit more, “Why, milady, I suppose it’s no surprise that you don’t remember me. I am after all, only a lowly priest.”
Buffy mock glared at him. “Come on Xander, who-” she began before a thumping on the stairs distracted her. Buffy began to frown as her sister stepped into view then stopped abruptly and blinked, quickly looking back and forth between Xander and Dawn. “I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that you two have a common theme?” She asked.
Dawn’s only reply was, “Positive,” a small grin leaking past her serious mask as Xander laughed out loud behind her.
“Nice one Dawnie! How’d you get your mom to let you stay up late enough to watch that?” Xander asked the younger Summers woman with a grin.
“Didn’t. You see, there’s this thing on the VCR called a record button . . .” she trailed off grinning.
Buffy just shook her head, exasperated. There was no stopping them when they got in one of these moods. The creak of the stairs alerted Buffy to the descending form of her best friend. “Oh, guys just wait until you see-” she cut off and hit herself on the forehead as Willow appeared.
“Mighty fine boo you got there Wills” Xander said with a small smile for the poor slayer. Trying to get Willow to dress sexy was like trying to order back the tide. Failure was inevitable.
(A/N We all know what happened, there’s no point going over it again, so in the interest of sparing you the entire Halloween episode, I’m moving right along.)
Father Abel Nightroad opened his eyes and pushed himself up off of the pavement. That, in and of itself, was not unusual. He seemed to be forever falling down or tripping over something, mostly as an effort to seem harmless and non-threatening. And somehow, despite the fact that, with a little time and effort, he could destroy an entire city, he managed to pull it off. This time, however, the mask slips. As he looks around, he realizes that he cannot identify his surroundings.
The architecture looks stuck between that of his own time and what humanity had built pre-Armageddon. He could have happily stood and studied the buildings in front of him for the rest of the night, lost in decades of memories, if he hadn’t heard a voice behind him.
“Father Nightroad?” a low-pitched female voice asks. He turns his head and smiles politely.
“Yes young lady? What can I do for y-?”
Before he can finish his sentence, the girl, by appearance a very attractive woman perhaps seventeen years of age with waist-length brown hair incongruously wearing a priest’s robes, has blurred into motion and Abel finds himself looking down the barrels of a pair of 12.9mm pistols. “Voice print not recognized. Answer, what have you done with Father Nightroad?”
Abel Nightroad, currently in possession of the body of one Alexander Harris, blinks behind his glasses. “Father Tres?”
The girl cocks her pistols. “That is not an accepted response. Answer, What have you done with Father Nightroad?”No doubt that’s him- er –her?
“Tres, have you looked at yourself yet?” Abel asks gently.
Tres frowned slightly at the apparent Non Sequitor
before automatically looking down. What he/she saw clearly startled him/her. For several moments Father Nightroad could almost see Tres’s wheels spinning. After several seconds he looked back up quickly. “Authenticate, Victor-Alpha-Golf-niner-seven-two-four,” the mechanical priest demanded. It was probably one of the three most obscure codes in existence. Fortunately for him, Father Nightroad had memorized all of them years ago.
“Charlie-Tango-Sierra-one-one-five-niner,” he responded.
“Authentication valid. Identity provisionally established as Father Abel Nightroad, callsign ‘Crusnik’” Tres acknowledged, lowering his guns.
However, before either priest could try to sort anything else out, they were interrupted by a scream down the street. They glance at each other and nod, and Abel Nightroad and Tres Iqus take off down the road, guns at the ready. One to defend, one to destroy. Two priests at opposite ends of the spectrum of life; an unlikelier pair of friends were unimaginable. Android and Vampire. Sword and Shield of the faith. You and me against the world. When do we attack?
Rukia Kuchiki pushed herself up from the porch on which she’d been laying and shook her head in confusion that almost immediately turned into amazement as she looked inward. My Kidō has returned? she asked aloud. Then she blinked in confusion This isn’t my gigai! Am I . . . human? the soul reaper wondered aloud. A growl from behind her caught her attention and she whirled around to see a yellow-eyed demi? with fangs and a seriously lumpy forehead looking at her hungrily. Belatedly she realized that not only was he speaking in a language that was not Japanese, but that she could understand it perfectly.
“. . . for a snack,” he’d finished with a sick grin. Rukia knew that grin. She certainly ought to, she’d seen it on Hollow’s masks often enough. So when the creature charged at her she calmly vaulted over it and used its head as an ad hoc springboard. Path of Destruction Four: Pale Lightning! she cried as she pointed her right hand at the possible demi’s head. The bolt of white lightning that shot out of her finger was powerful enough to disintegrate the strange being instantly as well as blow a plate sized hole in the ground a meter deep behind it. I really do have my powers back,
she thought with a grin. She opened up her cell phone to check for any hollow sightings and to call R and D to try and figure out why she was in a human’s body, but what she found surprised her. No service! she yelled in shock. There isn’t anywhere on Earth or in the Soul Society where this thing doesn’t work!
A shocking thought hit her consciousness. Then I’m apparently not on Earth.
For the first time she really looked around and discovered yet another surprise. Nothing was in Japanese! Yet she could read it effortlessly. She just happened to glance at the window beside her as she was thinking and jumped back yet again. This isn’t even my face!
Rukia pondered the problem for a few moments, staring. She’s not even Asian!
But she quickly had other problems.
Apparently the demi, creature, whatever! had friends. Four of them had apparently noticed their comrade’s death and came around the side of the house and immediately rushed to attack her. Ruler, the mask of blood and flesh, all things of the Universe that fly; she chanted as they ran towards her. that which names all! she vaulted off of their leader’s head the same way as before using its own momentum to throw herself high into the air. In the name of Truth and Temperance, dig you claws into the wall of sinless dreams but lightly! Path of Destruction Thirty-Three: Pale Fire Crash! She concluded as a ball of blue flames flew from her left palm and struck the ground right in the middle of the group. When the smoke cleared, all that was left was a charred patch of pavement. By this time, however, people and monsters were spilling into the area in droves. Rukia knew instinctively that there were simply too many to defeat with spells alone and, for a moment, wished for her zanpakutō. Almost immediately she felt her kidō reach out and twist. The results were unplesant and not so unplesant alternately. The unplesant part was that she really felt like emptying her stomach. The plesant part was that she was wearing her shihakushō and zanpakutō.
Without hesitation, she drew the living blade and struck at the closest creature. Glowing blue blood sprayed from the dog-faced demon’s now severed right arm. It stared, aparently befuddled at the missing apendage for a moment before Rukia’s sword decapitated it, parting the armored flesh and bone as though it was paper. Rukia, never one to stand on the defensive, charged into the closest group of creatures and began a deadly dance, her speed and the preturnaturally sharp edge of her zanpakutō more than a match for the fangs and claws of the enemy. For several moments the surprise of her charge seemed to make her invulnerable. A dozen creatures fell in thirty seconds decapitated, eviscerated, missing limbs, or, in the case of one persistent enemy, all three. However, the weight of numbers was against her and more and more of the creatures simply passed her to chase the fleeing humans. That was unacceptable; however, there seemed little that she could do about it.
Finally, distracted by her attempt to discern a way to hold the creatures’ attention, Rukia made a mistake. Her left foot slipped on a piece of newspaper and she fell to the ground and a beast with a goatlike head and clawed hands and feet slapped her zanpakutō out of her hand. A blast of pale lightning reduced it and another creature behind it to smoking corpses, but she knew that the tide had turned against her. She used a binding spell on one and destroyed the next to approach with more pale lightning, but she knew that she simply didn’t have the power to keep it up. Three more demons went the way of the dinosaurs before she finally missed one. A creature with an apelike body and a pair of demonic horns pounced at her from her left as she lay prone having just finished binding another beast. She caught a glimpse of orange eyes and slavering jaws out of her peripheral vision and the words of Binding Spell One began to pour over her lips, even though she knew it was too late. Regret seared her, I’m sorry Ichigo, I won’t be able to make ammends for hurting you.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the razor sharp teeth inched closer to her throat even as she began the command that would keep one more dark being out of the fight and perhaps save one last life. She was ready to die. She expected it. Death was an old friend to her. She’d dealt it often enough and seen it dealt to and by others; it held no fear for her. Every time she left on a call, she ran the risk of not coming back.
So it was perhaps understandable that she was surprised when the beast that had been mere moments away from tearing out her throat abruptly reversed direction with a centimeter wide hole in its chest. The retort of the handgun, the sound finally overtaking the bullet, prompted her back into motion. The last words of the binding spell flowed from her lips and a small green skinned monster fell to the ground, its arms tied into a pretzel behind its back. It was joined moments later by five others, the victims of her as yet unseen assistant.
Taking advantage of her enemies’ surprise, she kicked herself back to her feet, and, reached around behind her back. She had no idea why she’d done it, but at the same time, she knew precisely why. Her left hand grabbed the wand firmly and a single word passed her lips. Fly!
To say that Duo Maxwell was not having a bad night would have been the understatement of the year, possibly of the decade. He had no idea where he was or what, by the Kami, the things that were chasing him were. He’d taken half a dozen of them down with his handgun, but they’d just stood the hell back up moments later. After taking gunshot wounds to the heart and lungs. He had no idea what the snakes had been doing to these people, but he doubted that even Shi no Yami could keep him safe for long if he was infected by whatever biological agent was working on them.
Duo, despite his years, was a very competent soldier. His path was clear. He went directly into what their new allies on Earth call E and E mode. Escape and Evade. Which was really hard since the damned things could aparently track him by scent! Taking to the roofs, however, seemed to throw them off a bit.
Then it happened. He had to notice the girl surrounded by a veritable army of the things. Duo’s innate need to help people took over from there. Of course, this time he could make the excuse that he just wanted her to tell him how to kill the kami damned things and then make them stay dead, seeing as how there were something on the order of a dozen and a half bodies lying on the ground around her prone form. That could’a been fine. Shoot some bad guys, meet a pretty girl. But then she grew a big frickin’ Dragon’s Wing
from her left arm and shot fourty frickin’ yards
into the air before he could blink. He had to admit, though, that her Japanese was court-perfect. Of course what she was saying was something else altogether.
Ruler, the mask of blood and flesh. All things of the Universe that fly; that which names all! Inferno and Pandemonium, the sea barrier surges, march on to the south! Path of Destruction Thirty-One: Red Flame Cannon! as she finished, a baseball-sized globe of red fire shot from her hight hand and impacted right in the middle of the mob of maybe-reavers.What the hell is this girl? A Dragon on steroids? Has that bastard Yu been doing gene splicing again? I thought he was too far gone to senility for that kinda stuff!
But before Duo can voice any of his questions, the girl rather abruptly dives toward the now clearing smoke, the wind from her wing helping dispell it, and grabs something from the ground. Suddenly, the wing shinks and disappears again while the lady begins to kill the few creatures that survived the fireball with the sword that she had recovered from the ground. Duo sighed, Damn, I never could resist a pretty face.
He thinks as he jumps off of the third story roof and activates the Black Knife, forming it into a pair of batlike wings to slow his fall while pulling a long black piece of metal off of his back that had, before the spell, been an ordinary plastic staff. Duo had aimed his fall perfectly so that he would end up just behind one of the mutated beasts. When he was about six feet above the ground, he activated and swung the thermal scythe. Even as Duo hit the ground, the beast fell to the pavement in pieces from where the glowing green blade had bisected it from right shoulder to groin.
From there things devolved into a general melee for several moments and Duo lost sight of the mysterious girl as he took the head off of another one with his scythe as he dived under the dark wave. From then on, Duo only caught glimpses as time seemed almost to slow. To an outside observer, the Gundam pilot would almost seem to be surrounded by a glowing green shield. The Scythe in his hands moving too fast for the human eye to follow as legs and arms dropped to the ground, followed closely by the bodies of the creatures they had originally belonged to.
After what seemed like an hour, but had, in fact been only a pair of minutes, the creatures had had enough, and leaving the corpses of three dozen of their allies lying in a rough circle around the two combatants. After making sure that the beasts were actually retreating, Duo turned to examine his impromptu partner.
She’d be on the tall side for his own planet, but from what he knew of earth, she’d be just about average height. Assuming, of course, that they really were on Earth like he presumed. Her hair was short and pitch black like Heero’s but her facial structure was much closer to his own Celtic heritage than the Asian that her hair and language suggested. Her clothes weren’t any help either. The robe she was wearing was black and looked like silk, though the way that it had resisted the beasts’ claws would seem to rule out that idea. Some sort of synthetic fiber? Again that would seem to point to earth. The blade that she had used was easily a match for Wufei’s, and considering the armor the perhaps-reavers had been wearing/extruded was quite possibly better.
While he had been looking over her, she had been examining him and had apparently found him adequate. Pardon me, she asked in Japanese with a head-bob that was almost a bow, would you happen to know where we are? I find myself in this place with no idea how I came to be here.
I don’t know either. Never seen this place before, he replied in the same language. Then, trying to feel her out continued, I’ve also never seen anybody that could grow a wing from her arm either, he added flatly with a cocked eyebrow.
For a moment she froze before she loosened up again. And I have never encountered someone with wings of shadow on his back. What are you? she demanded, trying to change the subject.
I could ask you the same question, Duo replied, heat in his voice. A scream, the volume lowered by the distance interrupted the impending argument. Duo ground his teeth for a moment before speaking again. Look, whatever issues we have with each other can wait. I am not willing to stand by and let these bastards kill innocent people. So a truce, at least until all of this is over. Whadda ya’ say?
The other warrior nodded in affirmation. I am no more willing than you to see any innocents die. I am Kuchiki Rukia she added with the exquisite formality of the traditional tongue.
Duo decided to forgo the usual polite phrases and head straight to the point. After all, he was a gaijin. He could get away with it. Good to meet you Rukia, I’m Duo Maxwell. I run, I hide, but I never lie, he said with one of his trademark manic grins. Now I don’t suppose you know where we should start? he asked, eyebrow cocked.
Rukia frowned and appeared to concentrate before opening her eyes and answering his question. There are two locations of spiritual power in this town. One is immense, but appears to be sealed, the other is smaller and more active. That is probably the one that is drawing these creatures here. If we were to neutralize it, the things it has called would probably be banished as well. This way, she concluded before leading a very confused Duo behing her.Oh well. One thing’s for certain, I’m definitely not going to get bored.
Father Nightroad discharged his weapon for the fourth time in as many blocks and ducked to the side to reload the revolver from his diminishing amunition supplies. He never carried many rounds at the best of times, and he’d had less than forty on him at the beginning of the fight. After the last half-hour he was down to the six in his gun and one full reload. This wouldn’t have bothered him much, except for the fact that even Tres’s shots were less than totally effective. He was targeting hearts, brain stems, and cervical vertebra, but only half of what he hit stayed down.
The sheer number of vampires and what appeared to be demons was staggering. He didn’t want to unleash the Crusnik here, but circumstances seemed to be leaving him little choice. He was, in fact, moments away from activating his nanomachines and creating a truly improbable amount of havok when the dozen creatures that had been trying to swarm Tres under were suddenly attacked from behind. Words were yelled in a language that Abel didn’t know and a beam of white energy vaporized a vampire and blew a foot-wide hole in a second demon before expending the last of its energy on a second demon, this time only blasting halfway through its mass. This beam was immediately followed by a pair of teenagers smashing into the backs of the remaining demons and vampires with a sword and a glowing green-bladed scythe. And what they hit did stay down.
The one wearing black and what looked like an old fashioned priest’s collar yelled over the melee, “Go for decapitations! That’s the only way to kill most of them with guns!” Tres didn’t bother to question him about the source of his information, he simply adjusted his aim and sent a pair of bullets into a demon’s neck. The head popped off like the cork from a bottle of champaigne, and it too stayed down. Between the four of them, the six remaining demons stood no chance at all.
Once the demons were down though, Tres obviously decided that it was time for explainations. His/Her mechanical reactions controlled by a positronic energy-state brain that had been nearly science fiction at the height of Human technology Pre-Armageddon had his/her guns pointed at the pair before the last corpse hit the ground. This was not truly surprising to either priest. The fact that the youth with the scythe had a 9mm pistol pointed at Tres was somewhat more interesting.
Tres was used to being faster and more precise than what he fought against, and his/her surprise was obvious to someone who knew him, even in a female body. It was an effect of that surprise that the youth spoke first. “So what are you? Can’t be a Jaffa, they don’t let their women fight. So, are you some sort of new genetic engineering project?” he demanded imperiously a manic grin hovering on his lips.
Tres, as usual, did not respond well to demands. “Your lungs would be scattered over an area of approximately five cubic meters if I were to pull the triggers on these weapons. You are in no position to make demands,” he/she commented in his/her usual cybernetic monotone.
“And my gun could put a bullet through your hindbrain longways. Not even a reaver could recover from that. I, on the other hand, can have new lungs courtesy of Shi no Yami after about three hours, and the seventeen or eighteen percent of each lung that would still be functioning can keep me alive for that long,” he said with certainty.
A certainty which was shattered moments later. “My cranial armor is composed of 1.475 centemeter thick TitanSteel. A bullet of that calibur could not harm me,” the assured alto stated.
Father Nightroad then did what he was best known in the AX for doing. He stepped in as mediator. Automatically falling into the role of peacemaker, he also slipped on his ‘I’m harmless’ mask. “Now, now, Tres, there’s no need for those at the moment,” he said, giving the priest a significant look. He turned back to the two unknowns with Fake Smile number Six on his face. “You must understand why Tres is suspicious though. We’ve found ourselves in an unfamiliar situation where our usual weapons are less than effective, and then two people who we don’t know, one dressed like an old-fashoned priest, give us our opponents’ weaknesses on the proverbial silver platter. Our luck usually isn’t this good, and Tres is suspicious by nature,” he finished with an apologetic smile. Both gun wielders looked at each other for a moment and something unspoken went between them before they both tucked their guns away. “Now I don’t suppose that you know any more of what’s happened here that you’ve told us already?” Father Nightroad asked without much hope for an answer. What he actually got surprised him.
The so far silent girl spoke up hesitantly. “That way,” she said as she pointed down the street. “The epicenter is there. I can sense,” she broke of and frowned as if looking for the right words, “a . . . taint there. Active and small, but chaotic in nature. The cause lies there,” She concluded more firmly.
Abel was astonished and also slightly afraid. He had learned long ago that the only thing worse than a mission gone straight to hell was one where everything was going just right. Murphy always seemed to jump in when he was least expected. This made the former Lieutenant Colonel extremely nervous. He was, in short, waiting for the other shoe to drop and hoping it didn’t turn out to be a steel-toed boot. Or an anvil.
Tres Iqus was a very confused Cyborg. That was the first problem and an even greater one than the fact that he aparently had a female body. His series were Androids; they had no organic components. Yet his positronic neural pathways were interlaced flawlessly with the body’s organic equipment, and every now and again, he could almost see flashes of that other mind and access those memories that it contained.
As soon as Abel had drawn his attention to the fact that something was very wrong with his situation, Tres had run a full systems scan; what he had found was disconcerting. He had perfectly normal human bones, except for the fact that they were aparently coated in the peculiar alloy of Titanium and Steel that had been used as armoring over his more vital components. He did not have sufficient data to determine what that would do to a human’s systems, but he doubted that cutting it off from its only way to replenish its blood supply would be advantageous. That could have spelled disaster for the cybernetic body that he now inhabited, except for the fact that his self-repair systems had aparently transferred over as well. His scan of them had taken almost a full second; the changes in them were rather drastic. The human body’s entire lymphatic system appeared to have been removed in favor of a vast nanorepair network. Anywhere the human body traditionally had lymph nodes, his new body had nanorepair glands and massive compressed storage vacuoles containing things from mercury, iron, and arsenic to chyle and fatty acids. The nanorepair glands also appeared to function in the place of the normal immune system. If it were to be deactivated, his body would die shorly because its immune system had been irretrievably compromised by the nanites. Some of the other things his new body could do would bear thinking upon, but none were quite so drastic as these.
Tres activated his sensory enhancement protocols as the four of them began to move out. Switching between thermal and light gathering modes as he scanned the street for more hostiles. However, to his surprise, all of the demonic creatures that they had been fighting appeared to have melted into the woodwork. The closer they came to the shop, the more eerie the silence became. Every small motion seemed like an attack, and the Cybernetic priest suddenly found himself nervous for the first time in, well, his entire existence. That was what gave it away. “Some spell hides this place,” Tres said, his female voice loud and startling in the unnatural silence. “Very subtle,” he added in his ususal monotone, “none would go this way willingly,” Abel nodded beside him, aparently catching on.
“You could only find this place if you already knew where it was!” he exclaimed as a great weight appeared to dissolve off of all their backs as the effects of the spell were negated by their realization of the truth of the matter. Abel turned to the black-haired girl. “How much farther is this place?” he inquired as they again took of, this time more quickly and with more confidence.
Ethan Rayne had a large smile plastered on his face as he began cleaning his shop up in preperation for moving to somewhere where a majority of the inhabitants wouldn’t gladly fillet him. After all, it wasn’t often that he had the opportunity to create such powerful chaos. Only on a Hellmouth.
he thought, amused. Tomorrow none of them will remember a thing. I can’t believe how much they can simply supress what they don’t want to remember.
However, all of his happy thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his front door being kicked down. Damn. I didn’t think that old Ripper would be here this soon.
He grimaced as he grabbed the .308 special he’d had stashed for this very eventuality. He wandered out the door into the front part of the store, “Hello Rippe- wait, who the hell are y-?” he managed to get out before a black-haired girl with subtly Asian features and a boy with a long brown braid attacked him, the boy taking the gun out of his hand with a well-placed chop, while the girl tripped him and began to speak in Japanese, one of the languages that he had never bothered to learn. He was surprised when his arms, aparently of their own volition, wrenched themselves uncomfortably behind his back. One of the two priests who had hung back stepped forward. Ethan didn’t recognize her, but she looked almost like the girl who’d bought the costume. She was most probably an older sister.
“Answer, are you the cause of this disturbance tonight?” she asked in a voice that seemed unsuited to her frame, an alto, low and husky, where one would expect a light soprano.
“Why yes I am. Brilliant isn’t it? The very embodiment of ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” he smiled darkly at her, but it was the other who spoke.
“Be careful what you wish for? What do you mean?” the other priest asked.
Ethan was again surprised. “You mean you got here without figuring it out?” he laughed out loud. “All of you are nothing but the costumes these bodies wore for amusement on All Hallows Eve. Every person became what they dressed as.”
The brown-braided boy stared down at him, anger written all over his face, “You mean that all those creatures we killed were nothing but transformed children!
” He yelled as he grabbed Ethan by his lapels and dragged him up into the air.Oh bugger,
was Ethan’s only thought before the boy propelled him at a truly incredible velocity into the ground. Ethan gave a cut off scream as one of his wrists snapped as it hit the unyielding floor. He gasped as the youth, purple eyes flaring lightly put weight on his balls with one reinforced boot.
“I will ask you only once, and then I will start breaking body parts. How do we stop this?”
Ethan looked into the boy’s eyes and saw nothing but a long and painful death. “The bust of Janus, break it,” he gasped out before the boot could press down any harder. Before he had even completed his sentence, however, the female priest had already put a pair of rounds from her pistols into the green glowing statue.
Gravity is a function of physical rules. When a coin drops from the top of a building, it is affected by gravity. It speeds up at a rate of almost ten meters per second per second. The study of these rules is called Physics and details how the physical world reacts to stimuli.
In the same way, magic has Metaphysical rules. One of them, is that combining magic results in Bad Things. Amy Madison, by casting a simple binding spell so close to the focus of the spell that empowered her magic, had already set changes into motion. Perhaps she would have retained some of Rukia’s magic, perhaps her zanpakutō would have remained. With Chaos it is impossible to know what would have happened. Dawn’s case, however, was somewhat different. Even if the night had ended and the spell had faded for everyone else, Dawn would have been changed irrevocably by the interaction of the Chaos magic with her own mysticl nature. Though the relatively weak magic of a human wizard could not alter her nature as the Key of Dagon, it did make her physical form easier to shape. This was made evident by the fact that Dawn, who had begun the night as a relatively short twelve year old was now five feet and nine inches tall with the frame of a generously, though not spectacularly endowed seventeen year old.
However, all of these interactions were minor compared to the infringement of the rule that followed. A pair of magical bullets, created by chaos, struck and destroyed the focus of the spell that created them. This was Not Good in an epic way. When the bullets destroyed the magical focus, it set up a causality feedback loop. The bullets couldn’t have destroyed the focus because they didn’t exist, but they must exist because they destroyed the focus. There were only three possible responses to this action according to Metaphysics and reality diverged down three paths to follow them.
First, the field created by the causal disturbance attempting to repair itself could have passed the critical point at which it was no longer able to contain the paradigm shift that had created it. The field, by this time streaching as far as Los Angeles, was polarized at the moment of collapse into the magical equivatent of Matter and Anti-Matter. The gigaton range detonation caused by the matter energy conversion approxamately 1.759 seconds after the bullets impacted cracked the planet open like an overripe melon.
Second, the imbalance could have been corrected by erasing the entire night and everything that had happened. In short, the bullets didn’t exist because the spell was never cast, a twelve hour period lasting from sundown to about dawn the next day was simply missing from everyone’s memories in the greater Sunnydale area as the Metaphysical laws patched over the gaping hole left in reality by the healing temporal continuum. And though Buffy and Giles attempts to uncover what had happened that Halloween are somewhat amusing, they are not the focus of this story.
Finally, the imbalance could have been corrected by going in the other direction. This is what happened in branch universe three. Instead of obliterating the entire night, it was brought into sharp relief for those closest to ground zero. Because the bullets destroyed the bust, they had to exist.
Xander groaned and sat up, holding his head and automatically adjusting his glasses. I’ve been hit by bullets that hurt less than that!
This caused a sudden cessation of all mental function. I’ve never been shot.
flashed through his mind even as he heard a groan from behind him.
A woman’s voice spoke up, “Ugh, I feel like I just got run over by a horse,” she said as she sat up and winced yet again. “Correction. A team of horses. And a wagon. Maybe a pair of oxen or two,” She looked down at herself and was almost instantly on her feet. “What the hell!” she screamed as she took in the changes.
Xander, his eyes as wide as hers swallowed as tremulously asked, “Dawnie?” She looked up at him and Xander’s hackles immediately jumped to attention, “Um, Dawn . . .” he said scooting back away from her on the ground as she advanced with a wide grin on her face. Which vanished as her eyes flew wide and she spun in a circle looking for something.
“Where are you? How dare you sa-” she cut off as her eyes, if possible got even wider and she fainted dead away. Xander reached up to pull of his silver wig as he went to her only to stop halfway. The wig refused to move, and trying to take it off was actively painful.
“Well shit,” he said as he pulled his ponytail around and examined it. “I think this definitely counts as the other shoe.”
He’d only just finished elevating Dawn’s feet when he heard the other two people in the shop stirring. Jonathan and Amy both came back to consciousness at roughly the same time.
“What the hell hit me?” Amy asked as she sat up, Xander noticed that she was back in her schoolgirl outfit. She noticed Jonathan on the ground beside her and hit him lightly on the head. “Hey, wake up, baka!” she said jokingly before freezing in place her eyes wide and looking like she was seriously considering passing out again.
Jonothan merely murmured, “Go ‘way Heero, ‘m tryin t’ sleep,” before aparently remembering who he was and jerking awake, a look of panic in his eyes.
“I think that we all need to go somewhere and talk about this once Dawnie here wakes up,” Xander said with forced calm from his place beside the no-longer-twelve year old. Both of them turned and stared at her.
Jonathan, channeling Duo rather strongly asked, “That’s Buffy’s little sister? Damn, X you are one lucky bastard,” Amy immediately kicked him in the ass.
“You sexist scumbag!” and launched into Japanese to properly berate him. Xander just sat there, confused as he watched his two sorta friends whipsaw from almost totally Jonathan and Amy, to frighteningly Duo and Rukia for several minutes before they ran out of steam and all three ended up on the floor waiting in growing concern for the youngest, and oldest of them at the same time, to wake.
Dawn, meanwhile, was trapped in her own mind and not enjoying the experience.
“Let me out of here, now!” she demanded of the tall, brown-haired man in an identical copy of the priest’s robes she had worn that night.
Calmly, as he had been for the entire time she’d been here he replied, “Not yet.” When she seemed ready to go postal moments later he finally expounded, “I am attempting to reconfigure the cybernetic implants and skeletal-muscular enhancements to a more controlable level. You were not awake last time long enough to notice how much they were effecting you.”
“What do you mean?” Dawn roared back. “You’re some hallucination from tonight, or maybe a demon,” she added, concentrating before giving in to the urge to punch things and hitting the cage she was standing in again. “Let me out!”
The priest ignored her for several moments before the aura of thought and concentration around him dissipated. “Firstly, I am not a hallucination. I am Father Tres Iqus of the Vatican’s AX unit as of this moment, as the senior exsisting Deputy Enforcer of that unit in contact I am assigning myself to the Artificial Inteligence systems of Deputy Enforcer Dawn Summer, callsign Gunslinger, Cybernetic operative of the AX. My duties in that position will be as follows: the management of your implant functions until such time as you are able to use all of them, simultaneouslt, by yourself, tactical training and advising to you and the rest of your unit, chief of security for all AX digital systems, and secondary personality for AX Deputy Enforcer Dawn Summers. These orders are subject to change as needed by mission parameters,” he concluded and dispelled the cage holding Dawn, who promptly fell down in surprise.
“In answer to your accusations, I am not a hallucination or a demonic entity. I restrained you because I could not risk you damaging AX operative Crusnik, as an unintentional consequence of attempting to couple with him,” the AI somehow managed to look properly disapproving at the notion of premarital sex without ever shifting expression.
Dawn blushed beet red at the former Android’s statement, “Hey! I may not have a lot of experience as far as . . . things like that go,” she yelled, embarrassed, “but I know enough not to hurt the guy I intend to do them with.”
“Indeed?” Tres asked raising an eyebrow. “Then I assume you were intending to lower the power output of you synthetic muscle fibers before you accidentally removed one of Father Nightroad’s limbs?”
Dawn blanched at the accusation, made all the more effective because it was delivered in such a flat tone. She then paled further as what he’d said sunk in. “You mean he’s not Xander? He’s still possessed?” Dawn asked in horror.
Tres responded in his usual monotone. “Unknown. The other two children with you are displaying signs of both personalities. ‘Xander’ has done very little; however, characteristics not within Abel Nightroad’s usual behavior have made themselves subtly evident.” Dawn watched in unabating shock as a theater-sized screen appeared out of nowhere and replayed several snapshots of the previous minutes. “Father Nightroad would have displayed as much concern for the others as for you, he would not have taken the time to elevate your feet as a preventative measure until he knew that the others were not in worse condition, for example,” he said as he showed the scene from an abstract third party location on the large screen.
This shocked a part of Dawn back to life, “Um, if I, well we, were unconscious for this, then how do you know what happened, seeing as how that,” she indicated the screen, “Is not from my eyes?”
Tres looked at her and nodded almost approvingly, “You are not unconscious, I simply removed your mind from its position of control, as for the images, they are extrapolated based on data being relayed from your sensory nanites.”
Dawn just blinked at that. “Oh,” after a moment’s consideration she came to a decision, “I guess you weren’t lying about this, were you?”
Tres ignored her. The screen changed and she appeared to be looking out through her own eyes again.
Xander was the only occupant of the shop that didn’t jump when Dawn abruptly sat up, vertical to the floor. “Systems at ninety-nine point nine seven five percent functionality, updates loaded. Restarting systems and exiting control override mode. Primary personality restored,” Dawn said in the husky alto of earlier that night.
Immediately, Dawn blinked and almost fell over backwards before catching her balance and blinking at the three people staring at her. “What?” she asked in her usual tone.