Chapter Twenty-Two: That Which is Left Behind
The first time Buffy ever had to travel through a sewer she had been tracking a vampire with her Watcher Merrik. It had only been her second week of being the new Slayer, and he thought it was time that she become accustomed to the lovely smell that you could only find in dank sewer pipes. She hadn’t gotten ten feet from the manhole before she was coughing up her dinner onto a pricy pair of shoes she had only bought a few days before. Merrik had not been amused. It wasn’t exactly like Buffy had been thrilled about it either.
The sewer system on Caprica wasn’t much different from that of the one used on Earth. The tunnels were a little taller and were mostly lined with brick instead of cement, but that smell…that was still the same.
And don’t even get her started about the rats.
Buffy kicked one out her way and into a cannel that was flowing with something she was sure she didn’t want to know about. It squeaked with all the righteousness that a rat could before she heard it scurry up onto the other walkway and disappear into the darkness. Flicking her flashlight from side to side, she made sure that there weren’t any others around before turning her attention to the back of Ben’s now dark head.
“Have I mentioned lately how much I love traveling with you?” she asked as she resisted the urge to scratch her head. Stupid, cheap hair dye. It seemed to Buffy that with the office building that that woman had been working in, she could have afford a better brand.
“Not in the past six blocks,” Ben replied dryly.
He stopped at the base of a ladder and turned his own flashlight up towards the top of a dark hole. Buffy squinted upwards and tried to make out any light that might have seeped through the manhole cover, but it was either there were no street lights around it or they had all been destroyed during the attack. Ben’s light passed over a series of numbers that were carved into a small plaque on the wall.
“This is it,” he said. “If I remember right, this should put us about a block and half west of the museum.”
“Oh, goody,” Buffy said and adjusted the strap of her backpack. “What do you think the odds are that we’ll be able to get there and not have play hide and seek with a bunch of walking trashcans?”
“With our luck? About as much chance as you not kicking that rat off your foot.”
Gasping in a way that was far too girlie for her taste, Buffy reacted before she even looked down to see if he were telling the truth. Her foot kicked out and another rat went squeaking through the air in a perfect arch. For a moment, she had a weird vision of it passing through a goalpost and an announcer yelling ‘touchdown!’ to a screaming crowd.
“I hate rats,” Buffy muttered to herself.
Putting away his flashlight, Ben then grabbed hold of one of the bars and lifted his weight onto it to test it’s strength. When it didn’t buckle, he began to climb. After he was far enough up, Buffy followed.
“Just don’t kill too many of them,” Ben said from above.
Buffy frowned. “Why?”
Something that sounded like a cross between a chuckle and a snort echoed in the darkness.
“What do you think we’ll be eating once the food finally runs out?”
There was a picture of Buffy on her father’s desk. In it Buffy was dressed in a one-piece bathing suit with a towel tied around her waist as she sat on their home’s dock. Even though it was a little overexposed, it was easy to tell Buffy was smirking more than smiling at the camera as she half turned to face whoever was taking the picture. Dawn recognized it as the one that she had snapped the year before during Colonial Day, though how her father had managed to get a copy, she didn‘t know.
She wasn’t exactly sure when it had showed up, but Dawn had first noticed it when she got back from the infirmary a few days before. Well, notice probably wasn’t the best word. Found would be better, considering that he kind of had it hidden beneath a couple of folders and papers that had yet to be filed away. Hey, she was stuck in his room with nothing to do but listen to her Player for the thousandth time or draw. He should have expected a little snooping on her part.
She wasn’t snooping today, though. A few hours ago, there had been an accident on the deck. Dawn wasn’t really sure what happened, only that it was something that was freak and that people were killed. She’d seen a brief glimpse of the deck and the chaos that was left behind before Lee spotted her and ordered a marine to take her back to her father’s quarters. Of course, she hadn’t been happy, but at least she knew her dad, Lee, and Starbuck were all alive.
Her dad had come back a little while ago. Even though he had showered and changed his clothes, Dawn could still smell the trace scent of smoke and blood on him as he passed her and went to his desk. She sat down in one of the chairs in front of it and watched as his hand hovered briefly over the folders that hid Buffy’s picture before he sat down and picked up another one instead.
“How many?” Dawn asked quietly.
Sliding his glasses into place, he read something in the folder but didn’t look up at her.
“Dad?” she tried again.
“Eleven on the deck,” he finally said. “Two more when they got to the infirmary.”
Thirteen. They had lost thirteen people, and from what she saw, they all looked like they had been pilots.
“Frak me,” Dawn muttered more to herself than to anyone. She was staring off into some undefined point in space, but she still noticed her father glance at her as she said that. Before he could scold her for her language (which, all things considered, would be kind of weird), Dawn asked, “They…they were all pilots. Weren‘t they?”
Her father nodded.
She fought the urge to cruse again. It wasn’t enough that the Cylons were out to kill them. Apparently, Galactica was too.
“There’s going to be a memorial tomorrow at eleven hundred hours. I expect you to be there.”
Dawn blinked. “Well, yeah. Of course.”
Again, he nodded and turned his focus back to the folder.
Sitting back a little bit more in the chair, Dawn drew up her leg and wrapped her arm around it as she watched him. Thirteen pilots were dead. Thirteen of their people, with no one to replace them. She felt bad for them. They survived a nuclear apocalypse only to be killed in some stupid accident. That just didn’t seem right. She felt bad for Lee and the others too because that meant that they had even less people than before.
She felt worst of all because of the thought that was niggling in the back of her mind that she was doing her best to ignore.
They needed pilots, now. They needed pilots, and she…she wanted to fly.
Dawn ignored the thought and the guilt that bubbled up with the selfish thought.
Her father frowned at whatever he read in the file and reached for another: the one that hid Buffy’s picture underneath. He stopped once he saw it, the file hanging in the air. Dawn thought that she must have put it back in the wrong spot because her dad obviously wasn’t expecting to see it there, face up, with Buffy smirking up at him in that was just so her: very amused, slightly exasperated, and with still something faintly threatening all in one.
The confused frown turned sad as her father put down the file and picked up the photograph. It was the first time that Dawn had seen him actually look at one that had her sister in it since this whole thing began. She knew that at some point he had, else it wouldn’t have been hiding there under his files in the first place; but he must have made sure she was either asleep or off in the infirmary.
Her dad was kind of private about his grief. Dawn remembered when Zak died. Her mother had sobbed uncontrollably and even slipped into hysterics before and after the funeral, but her mom had always been the most open with her feelings. Lee had held up pretty well until the night before when Dawn had seen him curled up on the Pyramid court, with his hands wrapped over his head, and his body shaking with force of his sobs. Dawn never said anything about what she saw, and Lee never said if he had seen her as well. She’d even seen Kara cry right after it happened. Not her father, though. He soldiered on, just as he had always had, which had angered Lee and their mother (and Dawn, too, if she were honest). He was, however, not the only one.
Buffy was like their father in that way. At least since the accident, anyway. Before then, she had been just as emotional as their mother about a lot of things. Then it was just like she found her inner Colonial soldier and could cut off her emotions. No crying. No grieving. Just constant business. Planning the memorial. Contacting family and friends. Making sure that Carolanne wasn’t alone and didn’t drink herself into oblivion or asking if Lee or Dawn or Kara or anyone who walked through the door needed anything, really.
It had bugged the frak out of Dawn.
Buffy had been close to Zak. Dawn remembered when they were teenagers and would gang up to do something horrible to Lee, like putting blue hair dye in his shampoo or the time they washed every white piece of clothing he had with Zak’s tomato red gym shorts. When Buffy went off to the Academy, Zak had shown her all the best hangouts and parties where. Even after the accident, Zak had somehow managed to get to Buffy and become her friend (because she didn’t seem to hold that familiar bond with anyone beyond Dawn herself). So when he died and she just wouldn’t cry or seemingly grieve, it had just seemed wrong to Dawn. She thought that maybe she really was a cold hearted bitch like so many people said she was.
Until the night Dawn woke up to hear music blaring from Buffy room and the soft, muffled cries that underlined it. It had been a few nights after the funeral and late. Carolanne had already drunk herself to sleep, so the noise wouldn’t have woken her. The family joke was that Dawn slept like the dead, so Buffy probably thought she wouldn’t have awoken either, but Dawn had. And so had Lee.
Dawn had found him standing in the hall in his sleeping pants and t-shirt, leaning against the wall and listening as Buffy quietly sobbed. Dawn knew he’d wanted to go inside and comfort his little sister like he had when they were kids, but he wouldn’t be welcomed. Dawn wouldn’t have been either, and they both knew it. So when he saw Dawn, he had turned to her and sighed. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he said, “Go back to bed.” He then kissed her on the forehead and resumed his visual. She remembered wondering what they were going to do when he left to go back to Fleet and how lucky she and Buffy were to have him as their brother.
Now Buffy was dead like so many other and there was nothing left of her but the few pictures they had. No one would even remember her.
“We should put her picture up.”
Dawn hadn’t even realized she had said that aloud until her father looked up at her.
“What?” he asked.
She pressed her lips. It was a nervous habit she had picked up from her sister.
“Buffy,” Dawn said nodding her head towards the photograph that sat between them. “We should put it up with the others in the Memorial Hall. Mom’s, too.”
Over the space of several heartbeats, her father just stared at her. His face never changed from the careful neutral position he had shifted it to when she had made her statement, but Dawn knew him well enough to know that he was deep in thought. What, however, she wasn’t overly sure.
He continued to stare at her.
She blinked at him.
Then, it was over.
“No,” he said deftly before turning back to his folders. It was said in that tone of finality that Dawn usually associated with the Commander giving orders. He had made his decision. No further discussion was needed or welcomed.
Slumping back in her chair, Dawn did the smart thing and didn’t argue. Not now, anyway. However, if he thought this was the end of it, he severely underestimated that stubborn streak that she had inherited from him.
That last vestiges of darkness were just starting to lighten the sky by the time Buffy and Ben were running up the broken stairs that lead up to the massive building. Like most of the other places in Delphi, the museum itself looked to be in okay shape structurally from the outside. A few walls were cracked, and it looked like the glass dome had fallen in on itself; but she didn’t see anything that appeared to be an immediate danger to them. Ben, who seemed to have made himself their unofficial team leader for this little mission, lead the way inside.
From the way everyone talked about it, the Delphi Museum was kind of like the Louvre or the Smithsonian back on Earth. It had massive amounts of art from all over the Colonies, which were painted by people Buffy had never heard of, but they were all considered great master pieces.
It also housed a whole bunch of historical artifacts that were important to, you know, history. Some of them were even proven to have been brought over by the original colonist when they left Cold-bolt or whatever the name of that stinking planet was.
Giles would have loved this place: Wesley, too.
That should pretty much sum up Buffy’s own opinion of it.
Sure, she’d seen a few pictures of some of the items in her Colonial History book from collage, but the desire to go see them in person had never taken hold of her. Even as many times as she had visited Delphi when Zak was alive, she just hadn’t seen the point of it when there was so much shopping she could be doing instead.
Besides, Buffy wasn’t even that sure she could get into the place anyway since Lee, Mr. “I never do anything wrong and follow the rules all the time even when it’s really, really annoying”, had somehow managed to get himself banned from the place. Mostly, she didn’t care about not “remembering” her past here, but Buffy seriously wished she could remember how that happened. Zak had promised to tell her when he had let that juicy little bit of information slip, but he never got the chance. If Dawn knew, she wasn’t letting go of that blackmail gem until she could use it for the most evil of purposes. Lee, of course, was going to stay as tight lip about as he could.
Not that any of that really mattered anymore. Nothing from before really did if she thought about it, but Buffy forced herself not too.
As much fuss as Ben had made about sneaking across town and all of the Cylons that he was positive they were going to have to fight their way through, the area around the Delphi Museum had been really kind of dead. Not just in a post-apocalyptic type way, either. They had careful snuck from one shadowy alleyway, stoop, and corner to another for more than half an hour as they tried their best to avoid any detection. The only problem was, as Buffy quickly found out, there was no one to detect them: not a single roaming red eye, no bitchy beauty queen bots, nothing.
Even though it was a good thing, Buffy could really only focus on one aspect of this sudden stroke of luck. With no Cylons running around to spot them, it meant that Ben had basically forced her to dye her hair for no reason.
Oh, he was going to pay for that. Her revenge would be swift, without mercy, and when he least expected it. Yeah, she didn’t know what it was going to be just yet, but Buffy got the distinct feeling that his hair would be involved. It was only right, after all, since he messed up hers.
“Oh, wow, you were so right about this place being crawling with Cylons,” Buffy said as they walked across the entrance.
Ben frowned back at her but ignored the comment.
“The main lobby is this way,” he said instead. “Once we get there, we’re going to have to head through the Ancient Colonial History section and then through the personnel exit there. There’s a stairwell there that leads down to the basement. The shelter is going to be hidden behind a cabinet, but to open it we‘re going to have tilt back a shelf that‘s going to be nearby. It won‘t open otherwise.”
“Right. Tilt a shelf, get the meds, and then hightail it out of here,” Buffy said. “Sounds easy enough.”
They traveled in silence through the building. Debris from the broken parts of the building littered the floor, which made it a little bit more difficult for them, but it didn’t really slow down either one of them. The Ancient Colonial History hall wasn’t that far from the main lobby, and it looked as if it had taken a good bit of damage.
Part of the floor from the second floor had partially collapsed down onto the first floor and was resting at a haphazard angle. Buffy could see bits of destroyed exhibits underneath the concrete, but there was a rather large one that had not yet been destroyed. The moment the rest of the floor caved in it would be gone, but for now it was relatively safe. She squinted at it as broken water line continuous rained down onto the debris and splashed onto them while they tried to pass by.
“I hope no one was under that when it fell,” Ben said more to himself than her as they etched around the broken floor.
Being crushed to death in a museum? Yeah, Buffy had to agree there were better ways to go, and she wasn’t particularly itching to go out that way. Of course, if she did die that way, at least she would finally be able to prove that going someplace educational really will kill you someday.
It was slow moving the further they went into the hall. With it still being early morning, there wasn’t much light, and there was more than one large crack in the flooring or ceiling threatening to fall in on them.
Making their way through the Ancient Colonial History section took them longer than Buffy had thought was necessary. If it had just been her, she probably would have crawled her way through as quickly as she could. Hey, if something did fall, she had her Slayer strength and speed to rely on, right? But it wasn’t just her, and Ben didn’t have superpowers. So, slower she went.
Still, she got the distinct impression that Ben felt pretty much the same way. He was being more careful because of her: the same as she was being for him. It was kind of sweet, in an archaic sort of way.
They had just passed a display of super old documents that claimed to be the original Constitution for Caprica when Ben stopped in front of a door with a “Do Not Enter” sign on the front.
“Here,” he said as he kicked a few pieces out of the way.
The door itself, which apparently could only be opened with a card, hung slightly opened, which put both of them on edge. Drawing their sidearms, he and Buffy had them at the ready when Ben grabbed the door handle. It slid open easily enough, and they both found themselves pointing their weapons into solid blackness. When nothing emerged from inside (an no telltale whirling gears sounds came at them), Buffy let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding and lowered her weapon.
Tucking her gun away and grabbing her flashlight, Buffy asked, “Where the entrance again?”
“Behind a cabinet on the far wall,” Ben said as he followed her. “We have to find the shelf first.”
Buffy stopped halfway down the stairs, which allowed her to shine her flashlight out into the room. The beam bounced off the tops of metal shelf after metal shelf of items that had been tucked away down there, but it didn’t reach far enough to be able to see the other side of the room.
Apparently there was one little thing that Ben had forgotten to mention. This wasn’t a basement. This was a warehouse.
Moving her light over the massive area, Buffy asked, “Um, Ben, you don’t happen to remember exactly which shelf, do you?”
Buffy sighed. “Yeah, that’s what I though.”
Ben groaned as he swung his flashlight’s light from one side to the other. Row upon row of metal shelving stood before him in what seemed to be lines longer than what his and Buffy’s flashlights beams could reach. There were no windows down here, so the darkness pressed in from all side making it impossible to see where the walls were, let alone finding the far one. It was like dropping someone in the middle of space and telling them to find their way home.
Frak. How could he have forgotten how massive this place was?
He glanced at Buffy from the corner of his eyes. A hard from was on her face, almost as if she thought scowling at the darkness would somehow make it go away. When it didn’t retreat, Ben knew that a snide comment was on its way, so he decided to cut her off before she had a chance to vocalize it.
“Would you look at this stuff,” he said as he moved closer to the first shelf. He held his light stead on one particular items as if he did find it fascinating. Any other day he wouldn’t have cared much something that just looked like a really old, cracked pot; but if it distracted Buffy from killing him, he didn’t care.
“It smells like Giles’ basement,” Buffy said as her flashlight passed over several artifacts until came to rest on what looked to be a mummified hand in a glass case. “Looks like it, too.”
Ben snorted. “He must have been an interesting fellow.”
“You have no idea,” Buffy muttered before following the self further on.
Ben moved to the next aisle and walked between the lines of shelves. This one had some old types of weapons lined along it. Some where laying inside of containers with small tags marking them, while others locked inside glass boxes with massive locks on them. Ben was pretty sure those were airtight.
Even though he knew this stuff we well-guarded, the cop in him couldn’t help but think that leaving these things out like this wasn’t the smarted idea. If someone left that door opened, or if one of the night janitors decided to grab and stuff it into his pocket, no one would be the wiser for at least a few hours, if not days; and some of this stuff was priceless.
Swinging his flashlight back and forth, he looked from one shelf to the next. One held some short, sharp daggers. Another, old firearms. There were even few mean looking swords further along the first. He couldn’t remember a time really when those would have been needed, but history really wasn’t his strong suit. It must have been not long after the Exodus from Kobol, when humanity reverted back into a Dark Age.
The fleeting thought that perhaps some of this stuff might be useful had barely taken hold of him when the shelf to his right shook slightly. Ben jumped from surprise, before being thankful that it was dark, and no was around to see him. There were those nerves of steel that a homicide detective needed, which probably explained why he worked vice and burglary for so long.
A few feet ahead of him, a beam of light shone across the floor like a flashlight had been dropped.
Panic welded in him. “Buffy!”
“What?” her annoyed voice answered from the other side of the self.
She was just picking up the flashlight when he shined his through open space to look at her on the other side. Buffy squinted back at him.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked.
“Seeing if these shelves were bolted down or not,” she replied. “They are, unfortunately.”
Now he was lost. “Why?”
Rolling her eyes like a teenager, she said, “You said that we have to tip that shelf, right? Well, if we just knocked this one over, then it would be all domino effect. If this is the right row, the trigger gets tripped, and then it’s ‘hello meds that will keep us from dying.’”
Shrugging slight, Buffy held her light a little bit higher and began to look at bit more at the items around them.
“If not,” she said, “there’s always the next aisle.”
Ben resisted the urge to sigh and pinch the bridge of his nose. Admittedly, it was probably a pretty good plan, but there were a few obvious flaws. For one, though Buffy did seem to be much stronger than she appeared to be (he had several theories as to why, everything from her training to be a bodybuilder to possible government experimentation in hopes of creating a super soldier (she was obvious ex-military)), he doubted that even both of them together would be able to push over one of these shelves. Not with as many heavy, protective containers lining them.
There was also the fact that he was the other side of the one she was testing, though he was pretty sure she would have at least waited until he came from between them before really trying. He hoped, anyway.
The biggest problem, however, was this. “You do realize the kind of noise that would have made would have alerted every Cylon within a ten block radius that we were here, right?”
Buffy had disappeared somewhere into the darkness further ahead. However, Ben could swear he heard her pause mid-whatever it was she was doing and square those shoulders back like she always did when she realized that she hadn’t actually thought something all the way through. It was also kind of sad that he hadn’t even known her that long and knew that she did that.
“What Cylons?” she asked instead of answering. “This place wasn’t exactly a hub like you thought it would be.”
Shaking his head, Ben went back to looking at the things around him.
“There out there,” he said, picking up one of the short swords that hadn’t been locked away and holding it up so he could get a better look at it. He squinted at it but could barely make out his own reflection in the highly polished metal. Ben added softly, “Probably closer than you think.”
The words had barely escaped his lips when he saw a shadow move in the reflection from the blade. Ben didn’t get a chance to find out what it was, though, before he felt something heavy and hard hit him in the side of the head. The last thought that he had before he fell completely into darkness was that he really needed to start watching his back more carefully.
The thud was loud in the darkness. For a heartbeat and half, Buffy stood perfectly still and waited for Ben to start curse himself for being clumsy. Unsurprisingly, it never came, and Buffy knew someone else was there.
Some much for it being an empty museum.
Killing her flashlight, Buffy grabbed onto the well-bolted down shelf and climbed to the top as quickly and quietly as she could. People had a habit of not thinking to look up, so it gave her the advantage of surprise (because whoever it was, was obviously on the other side with Ben). Plus, she could literally get the drop on them if she needed too.
Looking down, she could see Ben sprawled out on the ground. His flashlight had rolled a few feet in front of him, so it left him in mostly in shadows. Thankfully, she could still see the rise and fall of his coat. It might be good for keeping warm, but it sure stuck out in the darkness. Which kind of render dying their hair a moot point.
She was still so going to kick his butt for that.
Next to him were two people who were bathed in a dull green light. The tall guy with a wicked-looking gun stood over Ben, while a woman with red-hair that green couldn’t even hide pulled Ben over onto his back to check him out. Each one had what looked like a glow stick around their necks, which cast just enough light for them to see; however, it was so light and muted that they wouldn’t otherwise be noticed. Crap. How did she miss that when they came in?
Frowning, Buffy squinted out into the darkness. After giving her eyes a few minutes to adjust, she found three other areas of light, greenish light moving about.
Double crap. Giles would drop her in sewers in the middle of the night and make her find her way back to the shop if he found out she made such a stupid, rookie mistake. Or, at least, sigh and polish his glasses a lot while scolding her, anyway. Either way was a Bad Buffy move.
Well, at least Ben had decided to do his impression of Giles on the right aisle. That looked like some good old fashion weaponry that she could really get behind.
Satisfied with what she found, the woman looked up at the tall guy and nodded her head. Ben was okay, aside from the whole unconscious thing.
Nodding, the man whispered, “Stay with him. I’ll find the other one.”
That sounded like her cue.
Jumping off the top of the shelf, she landed soft as a cat. Ben’s flashlight was lying a few feet from her, illuminating a bit of her but leaving her mostly in shadow. Still, she put on her brightest smile as the pair raised their weapons at her.
“Looking for me?” Buffy asked brightly.
Buffy didn’t know if they would shoot first, but she figured that they might stall a bit since they hadn’t shot Ben. Deciding to take advantage of this, Buffy dove and tucked herself to do a roll. As she flew forward, she grabbed the flashlight, and using her moment from the roll, threw it at the woman. It knocked her off balance, and both she and her gun went flying backwards.
Buffy heard the man’s surprise yelp and the tale-tell sound of a gun being ready to fire. Before he had a chance, though, she jumped to her feet and did a spin kick. His weapon was knocked easily from his grasp and clattered loudly to the floor. Dropping to the ground again, she kicked his feet out from under him. He landed a little more heavily than his gun did.
Reaching over to the shelf, Buffy grabbed the handle of what she hoped was a sharp sword. It wasn’t kind of hard to tell in the dark, but it looked wicked enough to her in the green light from the guys glow stick. Before he even had a chance to get up, she was over him with it pointed at his chest.
“You know, I’ve had a really crappy couple of weeks. Cylons. The end of the world. Dying my hair. I could have really done without having to deal looters.”
“We’re not looters,” he snapped.
A gun cocking drew Buffy attention away from him. The woman was now on her feet with weapon drawn on Buffy. There was that weary, unsure look in her eyes though. She wasn’t a killer. Just a scared human.
Even still, Buffy was really kind of annoyed by this.
“Really?” Buffy asked. “I just took you out with a flashlight. What do you think I can do with a sword?”
“If that’s who I think it is, I’m guessing a lot.”
Buffy head snapped up at that voice. Standing a few feet away from stood a familiar figure. Even though she hadn’t known him that well, a grin still began to spread over Buffy’s face.
“Frakking hell,” Abe said. “What took you so long?”
AN: Disclaimer and summary is with the prologue.
Um, yeah. Sorry about the long, long, long wait. I know that's really annoying, but be sure this story isn't dead yet. And please excuse the typos.