Buffy stretched carefully under Jack’s watchful gaze, twisting her body one way then another. She was completely relaxed – other than the odd twinge, there was no sign of the horrendous injuries she had sustained. She’d been mostly healed for two days now, but still tired, so she had been willing to allow Jack to dictate her movements, but she was about ready to climb the cave walls she was so full of pent up energy now.
She finished the last stance of the Lee style Tai Chi form “Drive the Tiger Away’ and returned to the neutral stance before turning to face Jack. “Satisfied?” she asked, and Jack nodded, a highly impressed and somewhat shocked expression on his face.
“No pain?” he asked quickly, and she shook her head.
“Nothing. Some minor stiffness, but that’s all. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to do some exploring.” She grinned at him before crossing to where her things were stored, still in the ‘medical’ area. She opened the chest and, choosing to leave the scythe where it was, armed herself with several daggers, all the modern hunting type, as well as a couple of throwing stars. She reset the locks on the box before standing, settling the knives in their sheaths at various places on her body.
She turned back to find Jack staring at her and shaking his head slightly. “I can’t see them,” he explained when she raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “I saw were you put each and every one of those, and I have an extensive knowledge of human anatomy which with what you’re wearing should allow me to spot those, but I can’t.”
“I’m just very good at what I do. I read an explanation once that seemed to cover it – Slayers put out a certain aura of innocence. It makes us good predators. You don’t expect to see Snow White packing, so you don’t. See you later, Jack. I’ll bring you back a present.” She grinned at him, giving a small salute, then slipped out of the caves before he could come up with another excuse to keep her there.
She moved through the forest carefully, heading in the direction she had had Jack explain to her carefully. She didn’t know if there would be any signs left, but she had to check. Claire was her friend; she would do her best to find her, to save her.
She found the rocks that Jack had described, the ones where he had fought Ethan, then climbed and found the cut vine where he’d saved Charlie from hanging.
Now the real work began. She hadn’t been idle in her time spent recovering; rather she had set herself to the peaceful and relaxing task of learning the jungle as it sounded, smelled, and felt. Now she settled herself in a lotus position on a large stone at the edge of the clearing and started to slow her breathing, stretching out her senses to see what she could find.
The rain had washed away all traces of all five of those who had been here a week ago, the only smells those of animals and plants and all visible signs had been washed out, probably right as they were made.
A sudden rustling and grunting startled her out of her meditation. She opened her eyes slowly, listening harder as she identified the sounds of a boar, a large male by the noise it was making. Boar meat had been scarce lately; everyone had been complaining about it.
Since she couldn’t find anything at this place, she already knew she was going to have to go to Plan B – a detailed exploration of the jungle, dividing it up to be sure that she looked everywhere. So, for now…she might as well do something to enhance the diets of the others.
She stood, drawing a hunting knife from its sheath against the small of her back. She slipped to the side, coming around to flank the beast, crouching and moving as soundlessly as was Slayerly possible.
She came up on the animal to find it sharpening its tusks on the trunk of one of the large forest trees. The size and depth of the gouges easily persuaded her that she did not want to tangle with this animal’s front end, so she quickly surveyed it. With the instinctive knowledge of a Slayer, she could see the easiest path to a kill from her current position would be to jump on the animal’s back and, simultaneously, sever its spinal cord at the base of the skull.
Thought matched deed, and moments later the boar collapsed beneath her. She glanced upwards, then jumped and pulled down a long, thick vine. Once she had enough, she cut it, then threw it back up over a low, sturdy branch. She tied one end around the boar’s rear legs and pulled it up until it was hanging above the ground, just high enough for her to slit the throat for the blood to flow out, then, standing carefully aside, to slit open its belly and ribcage, allowing the offal to fall out. She finished cleaning the cavity, removed the head which was simply unnecessary weight, then, taking hold of the carcass with one hand, cut the vine with the knife held in the other and lifted the boar away from the bloody mess of her butchery.
Once it was away from the mess she laid it on the ground and stopped to think for a moment. she had to come up with a way to bring this animal, which definitely weighed more than she did, back to camp, without looking completely out of place.
She quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be completely possible, but she could at least make it look slightly believable. She quickly cut more vines, as well as several stout branches slightly longer than the boar’s body, and she created a sort of sledge that she transferred the bulky carcass to, tying it down, then looped the stout vine she had solidly attached to the length of each slide around her shoulders, and headed back off to camp, towing it.
Ten minutes into her trek, she was glad she had taken the precaution as she sensed a human’s approach, and moments later Locke stepped out of the jungle to her right, frowning at her.
“That’s quite the catch,” the hunter offered, stepping around her and raising an eyebrow at the size of the boar. “Impressive.”
“Thanks,” offered Buffy, no emotional inflection whatsoever in her voice. She moved to go around Locke, who moved to block her path once more. “Would you mind? I want to get this back to camp in time to cook it for dinner.”
“We need to talk,” Locke told her firmly.
“About what?” demanded Buffy, not bothering to turn on the valley girl charm – it was harder to carry off when you were still covered in blood and towing a couple of hundred kilos of dead animal.
“You’ve been sent here for a purpose,” Locke declared.
Without waiting to hear anything more, Buffy dropped the vine and grabbed the man, pinning him to the trunk of one of the forest giants that surrounded them, one hand around his throat, the other around the wrist of his left hand, which was holding a large hunting knife, lifting the older man a couple of inches off the ground.
“Let’s get one thing clear, buddy,” she growled, bearing her teeth slightly, “I don’t take orders from anybody. I’ve both been there and done that with destiny, and let me tell you, it’s bullcrap. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have lived past the age of sixteen. In my experience, destiny is just someone or something’s attempts to screw you over, and even if it seems to be going well the results generally aren’t what you wanted. So pull your head out of your ass, or until you do, stay the hell out of my way.”
She dropped him, ignoring his gasps for breath, picked the vines back up, and set back out towards the caves at a fast pace, not wanting to give him the opportunity to catch up with her.
She was back in the caves in twenty minutes. Jack and Kate were both there, talking quietly as they washed clothes in the small pool that had been separated out for such things, a pool that was set slightly below the pool for drinking water, which drained away down a separate ditch, along with the shower water.
“Hey guys, who’s responsible for cooking around here? I’ll kill and clean, but I draw the line at cooking it…and frankly I haven’t a clue how to do so.” Buffy called across the clearing, making them both jump. Their eyes widened as they saw what she had brought, and Jack looked Buffy up and down worriedly, checking for injuries. “I’m fine, Jack. Got lucky with this guy, he must have already been hurt before I came across him, just put him out of his misery,” she quickly fabricated. “His face was pretty badly torn up, one of his tusks was missing.”
“Well, the guys who do the cooking are down at the beach, I’ll walk down and let them know, take the next lot of water down as well.” Kate stood, hung her last t-shirt over a nearby branch, then grabbed a nearby backpack and started filling it with water. Jack stood and came over to get a proper look at Buffy’s kill, also trying to examine her surreptitiously, not entirely willing to take her words at face value.
“I’m fine, Jack,” Buffy told him, smiling at his attempt at subtlety. She laid the sledge down and stretched out her stiff arms, Jack’s eyes tracking her movements and watching for any hint of strain. “There was no sign,” she added, her volume dropping and her tone becoming far more serious. “I’ll start an organized search tomorrow morning.”
Jack briefly considered objecting, but opted not to. “You might want to have a shower before anyone else gets here and sees you looking like an extra from ‘Carrie’,” he suggested with a wry grin, and Buffy, glancing back down at herself, groaned and nodded, grabbing a couple of things from her bag, a towel and some clean clothes, before heading into the cave that was set up as a bathroom.