Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and AVP: Alien vs. Predator belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Paul W.S. Anderson.“Buffy,” someone was screaming. “Buffy, get back—”
“The wards,” someone else screamed, “the wards are down—Willow,
“Buffy,” screaming and screaming, “Buffy, she's dead, you have to get back—”
A shattering sound, as of a million panes of glass breaking at once, and then a roar that drowned out all other screams, and fire filled her vision—
Buffy opened her eyes.
The bed was clammy. She slid out of it, to sit naked except for underwear in the center of the floor of her cabin. It took several long breaths to lower her pulse, steady her breathing, and swallow the taste of tears out of her mouth. By the time she relaxed, the sweat had dried on her skin and she was cold.
The light from the porthole was weak. She watched it whiten the walls of her cabin, glimmer off of the knife she'd laid on the pillow beside her. Her bag and her gear were black smudges against the floor, the wall.
How long had it been? More than two years, nearly...nearly three. Nearly three year since the day she'd— No.
Buffy closed her eyes, held her head in both of her hands. Don't think about it.
One year, then. One year since she'd approached Yutani's failing quantum theory division, and offered to finance their research.
It had been an act of desperation. But what could she do? This Earth had no magic. None. Nowhere. She'd spent an entire year looking for an occult underground that wasn't there. No vampires, witches, or werewolves. No Wiccans or occultists or demonologists.
Nothing. A world of science, corporations, ordinary people, and nothing, nothing, nothing.
Buffy stood up. Abruptly, the cabin was too small, too confining. Was making her throat close up as if she were suffocating. She put on her thermal bodysuit, her boots, the overlay. Took the knives she kept on her hips, left the one she wore on her back.
Outside, the arctic air against her skin was like a bite full of teeth, it was so cold. Buffy stood at the railing, staring out into the black of the South Atlantic Ocean and tried not to think.
Yutani had e-mailed her their latest progress report along with their projected budget. The report had been a long, involved read, but most of it was inescapably theoretical, decades away from any practical application. Buffy could almost hear the trepidation in the e-mail, the director's worry that she was going to lose patience at the continuing lack of actual results and pull funding. Her checks were all that kept fifteen quantum theorists employed.
Buffy had called her accountant, instructed him to pay Yutani the requested amount. He'd replied that he'd already received the first payment from Weyland Industries. Five hundred thousand, after tax, for five minutes of her time.
Then she'd gotten on a plane.
Buffy didn't look up. “Mr. Weyland.”
Weyland came to stand next to her. He looked pale, tired, and older than he was. He was still dressed, and looked as if he'd never gone to bed.
“No,” said Buffy, answering his earlier question. “Just...awake.”
The stood for a while. The night was filled with roiling water and breaking ice, the roar of the ship's engines.
When Buffy closed her eyes, she saw fire.
“I can't help but ask,” said Weyland. “Why Yutani?”
She shrugged. “Why not?”
“They're a financial drain,” he replied, without hesitation. “They've been losing money since the day they went corporate. Everyone in the field knows you're all that's keeping them afloat.” He looked at her, eyes black in the light. “I know for a fact that you've lost ten million to Yutani already. So why?” Lost.
Buffy looked away. How long had she been lost?
“You first,” she said. “This is an archaeological dig, right? And last time I checked, the British Museum doesn't put hits out on the competition.” I think.
“Standard security should be enough. So why? Why do you need me
For a while, Weyland didn't answer. He stared down at his hands, white against the black of the seawater far below them. Buffy was about to give up and go back inside when he said, in a low voice, “I don't know.”
They looked at each other. Overhead, the South Atlantic sky was filled with the stark light of countless stars.
“A feeling,” he said finally. “Just...a feeling.”
Buffy considered that. Thought about ancient structures buried beneath a thousand tons of water and ice. About universes and physics and quantum mechanics and a million different ways of losing.
Remembered the premonition, the dread, that had gripped at her spine when she'd opened the door to find Maxwell Stafford on her doorstep, check in hand.
Weyland was looking at her.
“A feeling,” said Buffy, and looked away to the south, over the water, in the direction of someplace called Bouvetoya. “Just a feeling.”
Another silence, but it was strangely not as uncomfortable as the one before had been. When she glanced at Weyland, he was gazing out in the dark, his expression light years away.
“Tomorrow,” he said softly. “Tomorrow.”
Buffy stilled. Tried to breathe. Tried to clench her teeth against a gasp.
Tried to understand the sudden, unexpected terror that stabbed through her brain.
And for the first time in nearly three years, the Slayer moved beneath her skin.