Buffy danced. The dance of her life. Faster and faster, she twirled and ducked and spun and kicked. Higher and higher, she leaped and reached and pulled like she had never done before in her life. Graceful and beautiful, she jumped and pirouetted. Her high kicks were the stuff to make any judge weep. No more beautiful a sight had ever been seen than Buffy dancing.
Buffy danced. The dance of her life. Faster and faster, she twirled and ducked and spun and parried. Skills that were the stuff of dreams drove twin swords in a whirlwind of steel that licked and kissed, tasted and stroked over and over. Her weaving blades formed patterns that were the stuff to make any judge weep. No more beautiful a sight had ever been seen than Buffy dancing.
Buffy danced. And death followed after.
Ten minutes earlier
Buffy swiftly dug into her duffel, pulling out her sheathed short swords, which she quickly strapped on, one over each shoulder so that the pommels hung easily at her sides for a quick cross draw. Stakes went up sleeves and into cargo pockets on her outer thighs. Knives were strapped on the outside of each thigh within easy reach. She slipped brass knuckles into her hip pockets. It would do, although she was heading into chaos and wished for some of the light and flexible body armor similar to what they'd studied in Military Science class.
She shook her head. There was no point in wishing for something that she didn't have. Eyes hard and alert, Buffy gave herself a quick once over. Her greens were sufficient for clothing. Her steel-toed boots would protect her feet when she had to kick or jump. Her swords were her first line of offense with the knives and stakes for back up. The brass knuckles were good for ten to fifteen strikes before they became too deformed to be effective. But for that time, they protected her knuckles, allowing her to strike much harder, blows that could shatter bones and chitin and tear flesh.
That was it. Buffy was as ready as she was going to get. She headed out of the cell and down the hall, listening to the dull roar of sound that had significantly increased in just the five minutes she'd armed herself. Additionally, gunfire was now intermixed with the screams and roars as assault rifles in fully automatic mode poured out fire. The assault rifles of the defenders might actually turn out to be her biggest problem, Buffy thought absently as she ran down the long corridor. She was fast enough to dodge out of the line of sight of most weapons, moving quicker than the bearer could accurately adjust their aim, but she wasn't bullet-proof. Nor could she dodge bullets already fired. All it took was one weapon she didn't see or one more than she could twist out of line of sight and she was toast. The last thing Buffy wanted to experience was a high velocity military round tearing through her.
Then all worries about being shot faded from her mind as she ran into her first opposition. Three strange creatures who looked like nothing more than skin over bones hovered over the body of a dead scientist, devouring him. The living skeletons noticed her only seconds after she noticed them. One raised his head from where it was buried in the torn open abdomen of the man, face covered in blood as it chewed on some particular choice morsel of viscera. Sniffing the air, it immediately turned its head towards Buffy. That was when she saw it had no eyes, instead blank skin where they would be on a person. The other two followed the first almost immediately and all three rose to their feet with eerie synchronicity.
Buffy never slowed as she approached the trio. Leaping to her left, she kicked off the wall and somersaulted over the creatures, swords flashing as she decapitated two of them. She landed just a few feet past the falling bodies and spun around. The third squatted, then leaped at her, only to be opened at the crotch and throat by twin slashes. It too fell, landing across its fellows.
Buffy paused only a second, listening to the now louder screams and cries, before taking off. She processed the fight she'd just finished while simultaneously looking for additional threats. They'd been B'heanar demons. Low level demons that were mostly scavengers. No match for the Slayer and not really even for a determined person. Hunger and anger at being imprisoned had most likely driven them to attack and kill the man. If that is, it had even been them that killed him. They might have just taken advantage of an easy meal. They had been easily defeated and Buffy had to remind herself that this might be the easiest battle she was going to have down here. It was only going to get tougher from here on out.
“Let's go, people!” Captain Jeremy Seaburn shouted as he rallied SG-14 out of one of the Humvees that they had commandeered from the local Army base. He was trying to make sure that his team stayed sharp and did not suffer from comparison to SG-1, who he noted disgustedly, were already halfway up the walk from their Humvee, moving in a loose grouping, with Teal'c taking lead. Now that was teamwork, he thought.
Jeremy hurried up the walk behind them, to find that Teal'c had already broken the door down to the building in front of them. It left him feeling vaguely uneasy, as technically, they were on an illegal mission, Air Force Special Ops not being allowed to operate on US soil except in the event of a Foothold event, a situation where almost anything went. Breaking down doors without knocking probably wasn't the best way to stay under the radar, but if it was an illegal NID facility, no civilians were going to be complaining.
Not that he would have said anything to Colonel O'Neill in any event. The colonel had been like a man possessed since they'd caught the C-130 out of Peterson. His eyes were like scalpels, dissecting everything around him, looking for any hint of imperfection or unprofessionalism. Jeremy had served in the Gulf War as an Army Ranger. He had seen and done things all over the world, some he was proud of and others, less so. But you don't see and do the things he had done if you were easily intimidated. But he wasn't afraid to admit that right now, O'Neill scared the crap outta him.
You occasionally met others like the Colonel out in the world. They were always where the fires were hottest, where the hammer met the anvil and glowing metal flowed like water. If you weren't careful, you could end up a casualty of any sitrep where they were involved. Colonel O'Neill had always seemed different to him, more caring, more human
, than the others. Still, you didn't get a rep like his without breaking some eggs. And now, Jeremy could see where he'd gotten that selfsame rep, the internal darkness leaking out past whatever barriers had concealed it before.
After observing the colonel's attitude on the plane ride over, Jeremy was worried that if they ran into an enemy, he was going to zero him immediately, then ask questions later. The stress he was under had to be incredible. Many people crumbled under that level of stress, imploding. Somehow, Jeremy doubted O'Neill was going to crumble. Or, rather, if he did, the result was going to be a body count to rival the embassy bombing in Tanzania last year.
To prevent an explosion, the colonel needed support. He had his team with him, which had to be a tremendous relief. But he need others to help. Like SG-14. And an out of place Army Ranger. It had been an intricate ballet that had led Jeremy to the Stargate Command from the 6th Ranger Battalion. But here he had found a home. And he considered the people around him family. O'Neill could be the scary uncle. But he was still family. And one thing that Captain jeremy Seaburn knew was how to take care of was family. So he would do his best as would his team until the mission was accomplished. With that, he followed his second in command through the door.
Jack followed Teal'c into the house, aware of Carter and Daniel at his heels, and Seaburn and his group coming up fast behind them. His eyes kept up a constant scan, searching for threats.
As everyone arrived, he tersely said, “All right, people, this is a front for a subterranean base. Standard NID layout. We need to find the elevator or the stairs. Based on NID standard SOP, if we find the elevator, the stairs will be located ninety degrees clockwise and six meters away. The opposite for the stairs. However, we will be taking the stairs down because the elevator will be trapped assuming it is not in lockdown mode. Let's go!”
Everyone around him began searching and predictably, it was Carter who located the elevator behind a large mirrored panel. Jack walked six long steps forward and to the right, stopping in front of what appeared to be wooden paneling on the wall. Carefully, he felt around the panel until he located a pressure point which allowed the panel to swing out. Behind it was a heavy door made out of steel and looking formidable.
Jack stepped back and gestured to Sergeant Yankowski, a demo specialist with SG-14, who promptly began setting C-4 charges over and around the lock and both hinges and quickly shaped them. He nodded approvingly as Yankowski set radio controlled detonators into each of the small blocks, syncing them with the detonator in his hand.
Everyone retreated around a corner in the house and Yankowski flipped the toggle. There was a hard WHUMP!
followed by silence. Jack moved out to the hallway and waving away the dust, stared at the door, which surprisingly was still up. Other than the complete destruction of the paneling surrounding the door, there was no sign of any damage to the door itself. From looking into the destruction of the area surrounding the door, it was obvious that the door was a disguised vault door, more than six inches thick.
The only sound in the hallway was Jack's exclamation, “Fercryingoutloud!”
Graham grunted in pain as he accidentally banged his injured arm while firing a full three second burst at the thing trying to climb their improvised barricade. His grunt turned to satisfaction as the rounds blew the thing's head apart. He was less satisfied when it took another burst from Forrest that stitched up and down the creature's torso to put it down for good.
He ducked as something whizzed by his head and he just had time to register it as a human arm, when he had to reload again, Forrest taking over and burning an entire clip. Graham slammed the new clip in, jumped up, and laid down a hail of fire. He, too, burned the entire clip as he and three of the five men around poured fire into what he quickly ID'd as a Fyarl demon. It still didn't put the damn thing down, and Graham couldn't help remembering that Notty had said it took a silver weapon to kill one. At least this one was highly discouraged and fled the scene for greener pastures. Or bloodier ones.
Graham could hardly believe that in less than fifteen minutes what had been a highly efficient, smoothly functioning base had turned into a war zone resembling something in Kosovo or southwest Baghdad. Bodies lay everywhere, both friend and foe, as a fine dusting of ash hung in the air both from all of the vampires that had been dusted as well as the explosives and automatic weapons used by the defenders. It mixed in with the blood and other fluids that coated the floor, turning it into a disgusting quagmire.
He'd been injured almost immediately as he had been standing facing the hallway to the cells as all of the electronic locks had disengaged all at once. Graham had taken one look, horrified as a guard walking down the hallway was swarmed under and literally torn apart, and had unloaded with the blaster that Warren had 'tweaked' for him, leaving trail of white lightning that had immediately hammered four of the escapees into the ground. Unfortunately, that left only about two hundred more that had taken exception to the lone human standing in their way. He had run for cover, but had been hit with a piece of yellow exoskeleton resembling a knife that one of the charging demons had stopped and thrown.
Graham had stumbled under a table and working as quickly as possible, bound his wound, while several nonhuman legs ran by. By the time the first curious face (which had contained a mouth with at least a couple of hundred teeth) had followed the blood trail to where he hid, Graham was ready, having dialed up the output of his blaster, and had blown the thing halfway across the room, where it lay twitching and steaming.
He'd rolled out and tried to make his way to the armory. So many people were already down, both agents and scientists, that it had sickened him. Graham had gotten lucky as he hit the hallway to the armory, finding that Forrest had gotten there first and had rallied nearly a dozen men and were fighting back from behind a barricade made up ofheavy computer desks that had been turned on their side.
That was five minutes ago. Since then, they had survived three waves of attackers that had each cost them two men. Now, from thirteen, they were reduced to six effectives. And had actually burned through almost half their ammo store, which was currently low because of a late shipment. Hundreds upon hundreds of casings littered the ground around them, testament to how much fire they were putting out. Graham had already melted the barrel of two M16's through prolonged fire, putting more than twenty clips through each in just a handful of minutes. The 5.56x45mm round simply did not have the stopping power needed to kill most of their opponents so saturation fire was necessary to have any chance.
If they could have gotten a M249 SAW set up, it might have made a difference, but the only two they had were both nonfunctional, their firing pins missing. Graham didn't have to be a genius to realize that Cain was most likely behind both their ammo shortage as well as the disabled M249's. It made a situation already SNAFU'd that much worse.
Additionally, only he and Forrest had upgraded blasters courtesy of Warren, and while the older model blasters stopped some opponents, against others, they were highly ineffective. At least they were useful against vampires and had already stopped at least two dozen when bullets had only slowed them down. A blaster left them twitching on the ground, easy meat for a quick staking, although to do so they'd had to leave the shelter of their barricade. It was what had cost them the majority of their casualties.
Graham blinked furiously. For a second, he could have sworn he's seen a small figure cartwheel through the air behind
the demons rallying for another charge. Whatever it was, something
had happened to distract the demons about to attack them, as half of the creatures facing them turned to chase something else. Predictably, the other half charged them and he was up to his eyeballs in flying casings as he and the others around him laid down a storm of steel-jacketed lead.
Still, he wondered, what had he seen?
Buffy was breathing furiously as she had just survived another attack, this time by five Lingas demons, whose most notable features were two mouths and an appearance resembling rotting flesh. And they stank. But she had killed four and was about to chase down the fifth that was slowly dragging itself away when a realization hit her. She was going to fail unless she changed her tactics.
There was no way she could continue fighting these constant battles and make it to where she was needed in time. Each fight sapped her energy, but far more importantly, took time, even if only a minute or two. She'd surivived five of these fights so far, but she had only just now arrived at the cell block that she'd heard discussed, beyond which was a large open space that she could just see. And from the amount of noise coming from that area, most of the occupants of the cells were out there now. Although at least someone was putting up a fight as she'd heard a number of assault rifles, most probably M16's, firing fully auto.
If she got caught up in dozens of battles out there, she would never make it on time, assuming she made it at all. It was likely she would be pulled down and killed as she was attacked from all directions by a multitude of demons. Not even Slayers were proof against mass attacks while surrounded.
So she needed a new strategy. And it wasn't something she had planned for. But another thing she'd learned in Military Science class that no plan survived contact with the enemy and sometimes the best thing they had going for them was the initiative of a well-trained officer making the best decision they could with the resources and knowledge they had. So that was what Buffy was going to have to do. Make a decision.
With a hard smile on her face, Buffy knew exactly what she needed to do. It wasn't going to be pretty, and it could get her killed, but it was the only chance that she had. So taking a couple of deep breaths, Buffy ran
out of the hallway and out into middle of the killing field.
“Yankowski, how long is it going to take you to take that door down?” Jack asked, aware of the tension in his voice, but unable to do anything about it.
The sergeant hesitated, then said, “Sir, let me give it to you straight. That door isn't going to be brought down by anything I'm carrying. You need at least five kilos of C-4 to take it down and there's no guarantee the shockwave won't take down the building. I'm sorry, sir, but I wasn't expecting anything like this when I requisitioned the explosives and detonators. Otherwise, I would have brought thermite or that orange crap we found on PX-2213”
jack bit down on the impulse to attack the bearer of bad news. “It's okay, sergeant.” Now all he could think of was what might be happening beneath them. If the door to the staircase was out, their only other choices were the emergency exit or the elevator. Since they didn't have a clue to where the emergency exit was, since they were designed with a randomization factor that prevented someone from being able to too easily locate them, that only left the elevator, which was likely boobytrapped to hell and back.
Jack turned in relief to Carter who had that “I've found something” note in her voice. Moving to her side, he looked at what she'd discovered, noting that she had gotten the doors to the elevator shaft open with the elevator itself nowhere in sight. “Sir, the elevator is locked down, but it has been moved to the second floor of the building. That leaves the elevator shaft as a valid point of entry. And look at this.”
Carter pointed to three heavy ropes that were tied to fixed points in the elevator shaft. “Someone has already used this as an ingress method. I checked the shaft visually. No one was there. That means they are already inside the Initiative.”
Daniel spoke up at that point. “Someone who was carrying this.” He held up a hand axe that was nothing like a modern one which was primarily a tool, but instead was purely a weapon with both the front and back faces sharpened and with a beak for stabbing with. All of this while only being sixteen inches long. “I pulled this out of the wall by the back door, which was also kicked down by the way.”
Confused, Carter looked at jack. “What do you think it means, sir?”
Jack shook his head. “There's no time for this. It sounds like they could use our help. All right, people, we're using the elevator shaft as point of ingress. Get ropes out and let's rappel down. I want everyone down, locked, and loaded in five.”
With that, the conversation cut off, and his teams worked silently and efficiently. Ropes were taken from packs and tied off. Klemheist knots were tied around carabiners to make rappelling easier. Then Teal'c and Yankowski were moving over the side and heading down with the others lining up behind them.
Buffy ran faster than she'd ever run before. Faster than a vampire. Faster than a demon. After all, she
was the thing that hunted the hunters, their
boogeyman. Even as she ran, preternaturally sharp eyes had spotted her destination, Room 314. Then she had no time for sight seeing as she literally ran right over a demon, leaping it, while slashing viciously with her left short sword.
That was her modus operandi. Never stopping, not even slowing, Buffy ran past and over demons, killing where she easily could, maiming if a kill was denied her, or if nothing else, slashing the demon. Anything that was in her path. She took a vampire's head as it fed from the corpse of a young soldier, dusting it. She disembowed a lurking Ghenar demon, his spilled intestines having an almost opalescent sheen. A thought flashed through her mind that at least she wouldn't have to clean up the corpse.
Not that it was that easy. The floor was covered in a mix of vamp dust, human blood, and stranger fluids that had leaked from the corpses of dozens of men and demons making the footing precarious. Buffy actually nearly fell at one point when her sword stuck momentarily in the skull of the vampire she had nearly cleaved in half. She caught herself on the knuckles of one hand as she used it to keep herself upright, dragging it through the disgusting muck, which she repugnantly flicked off her hand as she stood upright once more, never having stopped moving; her knees never having stopped pumping. The sword still in her hand, freed when the vamp dusted.
And she'd begun to pick up a train of demons. At first, just a couple, loping along behind her. By the time she was almost all the way across, there were ten or so following her, demons who had given up on the easy kills or were hunting for something in particular. Any slowdown and they were going to be all over her. That was when she hit the big group.
Buffy had seen them as she approached her destination. A large cluster of fifty or more demons trying to push into a corridor that lead to a room that Buffy suspected might be the armory based upon the amount of fire coming from inside. That same rate of fire confirmed survivors. Survivors who might not be much longer if they had to face all of those demons. It was two doors over from the room she was going into. If she was careful, most of the demons would never even know she was there, their attention so focused on their prey. But the men trapped there were fellow soldiers, serving their country. A vision of Forrest Gates' face momentarily entered her mind. That was when Buffy made a decision that she knew would likely cost her her life.
Buffy hit the back of the cluster of demons like a wrecking ball, swords cleaving their way through their ranks. In as many seconds, she had killed or maimed eight demons, her swords slashing into vulnerable tendons and soft flesh. Then she took off again. But she had lost her momentum. Even as she hit the door of 314, Buffy was fighting off two demons at the same time while three more were swiping at her. She took more damage in that double handful of seconds than she had up to that point, although mostly still only minor cuts and bruises. She had to get away from them, clear some space to set herself. Spinning, she put her back to the doorway of the corridor containing room 314. Buffy used her swords to cleave a space around her sending a couple of grasping hands flying, then was through the door, slamming it shut behind it. It took a couple of seconds to drag out a dagger from one of her sheaths and drive it in under the door, jamming it shut. Almost absently, she noted the loss of a weapon.
Not that the door was going to stay shut more than a few seconds as it immediately started to bulge, hinges groaning in protest. All it would take is one demon getting leverage and it was history. Buffy didn't stand around waiting. There, at the other end of the corridor, three demons were trying to force another door, someone on the other side managing to keep it closed, although just barely.
Buffy headed that way as fast as she could. She didn't recognize two of the three demons, although the one closest to her was a Bather'al. Nasty thing injected you with venom from a stinger, liquefied your insides, then sucked them out like a spider. She took it out first, since she knew how to kill it, driving one sword into the Bather'al's spine, and using the other to cut off its stinger. That caused enough shock to its system to kill it and it collapsed bonelessly at her feet.
That brought her to the attention of the other two. One was larger than the other and apparently used brute force as its main weapon as it had been the one pushing at the door. The other was small, barely larger than Buffy, and fast
, easily dodging the blow she swung at it. She slashed at it to drive it back a few feet to give her breathing room, then spun and thrust her sword right under the chin of the other demon, all the way until it grated on the inside of the thing's skull, then pulled it back out.
Instead of falling, mad red eyes stared at her as if finally seeing her for the first time and it attacked. Desperately, Buffy slashed at it, opening up one of its arms, only to have the wound close nearly instantly. That was when Buffy knew she was in trouble. There were several different demons that needed 'special' weapons to kill them. Some, blessed woods of different types. Others, weapons made of 'pure' metals, like silver, or platinum. It was why Buffy still owned a knife with a very high silver content in it and others inlaid with strips of different woods. She berated herself for not having brought one or more of them, ignoring the voice of reason that told her she couldn't bring everything.
Well, there was another way of dealing with demons like this one. Special weapons might kill them more easily, but so would doing so much damage to one that it simply could no longer regenerate. How much that was, Buffy had no idea. One memorable fight had lasted hours her junior year at Sunnydale High. But she had finally done enough damage that the demon went in one instant from fighting to a the next becoming a large inert puddle of goo, its healing factor finally overwhelmed by the damage she'd dealt.
That was when claws caught Buffy in the back, the only thing saving her from a nasty wound was the sword harness taking most of the damage, although she could tell it was cut through as the sword sheaths now flapped with her every move. It was the small, faster demon again grinning at her as he hissed something in an unknown language. She swung her left sword in a vicious backhand blow which didn't connect, then ducked under a massive blow that if it had connected, would have removed her head, sending it bouncing down the hall like a well-kicked soccer ball. Buffy took a step forward, then launched herself, diving between the feet of the large demon, stabbing it twice in the groin as she slid under it. The shriek of pain from its lungs nearly deafened her.
Then Buffy had to avoid another sneak attack by the small demon as it tried to slash her legs this time, just missing with its claws. While lying on her back, she kicked out with both feet, striking it in the chest so hard that it bounced off the ceiling, before landing next to the larger demon. Eyes narrowing, Buffy made a lightning fast decision. The smaller demon needed to die without delay. Backflipping to her feet, she ran at the larger demon. As it swung at her, Buffy jumped over its arm, then kicked off its chest, doing a sideways somersault. Surprised eyes stared right into hers as her swords neatly removed the head of the smaller demon even as it was scrambling to its feet. Again Buffy narrowly missed losing her head to a massive strike from the large demon, as it simultaneously roared and kicked the falling corpse out of its way, while swinging a huge taloned hand at her.
Now it was the big demon's turn. Buffy repeated the devastating strike she had first hit the demon with, ducking then driving her left sword up under its chin and into its brain, only stopping when it scraped off the inside of its skull. She then spun the hilt of the sword, scrambling the thing's brain like a smoothie. It toppled over onto its back, a huge twitching mass. Now she only had to do one more thing to keep it out of the fight, despite the cost to her offense.
Jumping onto its chest, Buffy drew back her right foot and kicked the hilt of the sword piercing the demon's brain hard enough to drive it out the top of its skull, the sword's hilt flush against the demon's throat. She leaped off the heavily twitching body, counting another foe down. Now if she could...WHAM!
Buffy whirled around to see the door being torn apart, its hinges twisting like paper as the rest of the demons finally broke through. She could see a veritable wall of demons, with the twenty or so that had chased her reinforced by at least that many more. It was at that point, she truly knew that there was no way to win.
Always before, even when facing the crazy odds on the way here, Buffy went into each battle somehow confident that she would emerge victorious. Bruised and bloody, her spirit darkened just a little by each succeeding fight, but still unbowed and alive at the end. But never before had she faced such daunting odds. Never before was her task so seemingly impossible.
Somehow she had to stop that onslaught of demons. Somehow, she had keep the people behind her alive. And if it took her life to do so, then so be it. Despite her fatalism, Buffy could feel a curious peace falling over her. It lasted for all of two breaths, but it gave her time to smile and consider the things that were important to her. Family. Friends. The Academy. Colonel O'Neill. All of this and more flashed through her mind. Two breaths, then it was over. With a scream that was rage personified, Buffy fully unleashed the Slayer.