Fallout and Field Trips
A/N A large part of this chapter is based on the Lovecraft story, “The Lurking Fear”. I have modified some of the particulars of the story a very little bit, but the gist is there. As always, I have no proprietary claims on the works of HP Lovecraft or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those of you that have read and reviewed my story; I hope you continue to enjoy it.
FALLOUT AND FIELD TRIPS
STAR GATE COMMAND
It had been a week since she and Daniel had returned from Miskatonic, and Sam was still freaked out. Freaked out to the point where she couldn’t even begin to write the report about what had been discovered about the objects that they had gone there for. Freaked out because she had somehow created a portal from the University to Australia using only the corner of a room and a Sharpie marker; something Harris had insisted was simple physics. Freaked because all the axioms, formula’s, laws and equations that had formed the foundation of her learning, and in effect her own personal foundation; lay in ruins. Reaved to rubble in an afternoon by someone who was just providing her proof; proof that she had insisted on in point of fact. Sam closed hr eyes and silently wished she had just taken the man’s word for everything.
A voice cut into her silent recriminations, “any progress Carter?” Sam didn’t bother looking up, she knew what she’d see, Jack O’Neill leaning against her doorframe with a wise ass smirk on his face; pleased with catching her off guard.
“Not really sir, I get started but then it all kind of gets strange and I try and start over but it really doesn’t help.”
“So what was so strange, all the magic and hocus pocus and batteries powered by souls?”
“Actually no sir, I didn’t have a problem with; well, not much of one that is.”
“So what did you have a big problem with?”
“Well, when I asked Harris how the girl came out of the ceiling and he answered that it was simple physics. Then later he had me draw some lines in a corner with a marker and it somehow created a portal to Australia. And it was all physics, there was no magic, heck I drew the lines, I even picked a different corner from the one he suggested; just in case. But like I said it was physics, and I have no idea how it worked. I’ve been working on it a week and I still have no idea,” Sam finished with obvious exasperation in her voice.
“Did you ask?”
“Yeah, I did; but that was one of the few things he wouldn’t answer.”
“You think he was lying?”
“No sir I don’t and that’s what’s got me in a bind, I know its physics but I can’t figure it out.”
“I guess I’m not understanding the problem Carter.”
Sam thought for a moment. “OK, here’s a thought for you,” she started, “let’s say you’re a hockey player in somewhere remote, like Iceland. You get pretty good and soon you’re the best hockey player there. Pretty soon you kind of expect to be better than everyone else; you expect the awards and accolades. Then one day someone tells you about the NHL, and you find a lot of players that could clean your clock; and in that instant you go from being the top dog to finding out that you’re not even playing in the big leagues.”
Jack looked at her a moment, then to her anger he burst out laughing, “you’re jealous.”
“I am not,” she shot back but as his laughter increased she just sighed. “OK well maybe I am.” She thought some more, “heck, I’d even go so far as to say I’m scared of these people.”
This sobered Jack up fast, “scared how?”
“These people are comfortable with things that I can’t even begin to understand and that’s just the physics; when you figure that the transport thing is pretty basic for then then you’ve got to wonder what other tricks do they have up their sleeves and pretty soon it’s a scary thought.”
“You think we ought to take a look at ‘em, maybe shake em up with a government investigation or something like that?”
“No sir, I don’t think that would accomplish anything except pissing them off; quite frankly they don’t strike me as people that are afraid of the Air Force, the Government or the Goa’uld.”
“Sounds like my kind of people,” he got up and walked towards the door. “But from what you and Daniel have told me, I hope they’re on our side when the crap hits the fan.”
“You and me both sir,” Sam muttered and turned back to her blank screen.
It was Spring Break at Miskatonic, the green SUV was heading west on highway 84 and had just crossed over from Connecticut into New York State when the driver, Xander Harris, cast a surreptitious glance over at the curvy brunette sitting next to him. She was dressed simply, blue jeans and a flannel button down, no make up and her hair was in a simple pony-tail; very different from her look when they had first met. Still, in his eyes, she was the epitome of beauty. There were times when he felt like the other shoe was about to drop and all of the good things in his life; the job, the friends, Faith, were going to turn sour but he was beginning to actually believe that these good times might last. He stole another glance and took the opportunity to marvel again at the fact that they were together. He hadn’t really had much to do with her during the battle with the first and even less afterwards. Then when he had been sent to Cleveland she and Robin had hit a bad patch and the two of them had just clicked. It hadn’t always been easy, very little with Faith was, but they had been there for each other time and again until they were best friends. Robin hadn’t cared for it one bit, but by the time Faith was ready to listen to him again, there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The addition of Dawn to the mix hadn’t diminished their friendship at all, in fact; while running Cleveland, the three of them had seemed to morph into a single being, finishing each others sentences and knowing what the other was thinking. It reminded Xander of his early life with Willow and Jesse, only with a bit more maturity; well maybe a little. Xander smiled again and turned his attention back to the road.
Faith smiled to herself as she looked out the window, she’d caught Xander checking her out a time or two and that was fine with her. The clothes were a new thing for her, and she was still getting used to the look, but it was pretty apparent that Xander didn’t mind it. It wasn’t anything anyone had suggested, she just figured if she was gonna teach, she might want to look a bit more . . . . . respectable. Faith snorted a laugh, like she had ever expected to be doing something like teaching; hell she hadn’t expected to live past twenty, let alone have a job or someone to love her. She stole a glance at Xander and smiled. He had been there when she and Wood had really hit the shits. At first it surprised her that Harris had been the one to find her and find out how she was doing, it wasn’t like she’d ever given him a reason to give a shit about her. But after she’d gotten to know him better, well it seemed logical that he’d come looking, after all that’s what he did; he kept slayers sane in an insane situation. So they’d started talking and pretty soon they were covering shit that Faith had never thought she’d share with anyone else. To be fair, Harris had been through some pretty hairy shit himself while he was growing up; that’s when it hit her, he’d known that. All those years ago in that grubby hotel room he’d had a pretty good idea what her life had been like, that was the connection that he’d been talking about; and she’d gone on about wanting another taste and then nearly killing the guy. Then and there she’d vowed to make it up to him, not that she’d ever told him that, cause some things she still kept to herself; she was Faith after all, and a girl had to have a few secrets. So they’d gotten to hanging together, and then Pip added herself to the mix and for the first time Faith knew what it was to have friends, and it scared her. Friends had always meant weakness, someone the bad guys could use to hurt you. Her first instinct had been to pull away, but somehow she’d ignored that instinct and let herself become immersed in Xander and Dawn’s friendship; and it was the smartest move she’d ever made. Cause that led to where she was now, driving down the road with the man she loved; not that she’d told him that yet, she was waiting till the time was perfect, but she had an idea that he already knew that she did. She didn’t know where they were going, Xander had said it was a secret, but she figured it was time he dropped dime on what was up. “So where we off to X?”
“A place near Lefferts Corners in the Catskill mountains of New York.”
“What, its freakin spring break and we’re stayin north?”
“For Christ’s sake why, with Dawn and Wolfie off to Hawaii, I was hopin we’d at least go somewhere warm, like Florida.” She wriggled her way across the front seat and husked in his ear, “don’t you want ta see me in a bikini there Xander,” she asked, her voice dropping an octave.
“A big yes on the last one, and as much as I’d love to see you dominate the mud wrestling competition on a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video; we’re gonna check out something Giles asked me to look into.”
Faith sighed heavily and sat back in her seat; she knew Xander and knew that he still felt guilty about leaving the Watchers. That’s why he took every job Giles sent his way. She admired his priorities, but also promised herself that she’d have a ‘vigorous discussion’ with the head watcher about taking too much advantage of the situation. “OK so what’s the story on Bum-fuck New York or where-ever the hell it is we’re going. It’s gotta be weird for Giles to put you on it, but not definitely demon or we’d have slayer back-up.”
“OK, but it’s a long one.”
“Well, from the sound of it, we’ve got time.”
“True, well this one goes back to before the Revolutionary War, when New York had been settled by the Dutch and was actually called New Amsterdam. When the Brits moved in, the Dutch moved out and headed for the hills, literally. The families would settle down in the less accessible parts of the state to discourage the British authorities from screwin with em.”
“Well this one family named Martense settled on a place called ‘Tempest Mountain’. It was called that because apparently it attracts a lot of lightning. I checked with some geologists at the school and they say that there’s a high concentration of Nickel and Iron in the rock, and that’s why it acts like a lightning rod. Anyway, they holed up in their mansion and basically hid from the world.”
“And inbred like crazy.”
“Enough to make a hillbilly jealous, and that’s when the shit turned weird. They became weird, almost less human; only coming out in the storms, staying out of the sun, stuff like that. And no one saw many of em. That’s when the killings started. Homes in local villages would collapse for no reason, and not all of the occupants would be found, or if they were found they wouldn’t all be there if you know what I mean.”
“Could they be Ghouls or something like that?”
“I thought that, but Pickman says ‘no’.”
Faith shuddered at the memory of meeting the head of the Ghoul colony as Xander continued. “It was a family here and a family there, not too often and spread out so it never really attracted any attention. Then in the twenties, an entire village was destroyed and people took notice. One was an amateur investigator with a love of the weird. He was the one that noticed that all of the attacks centered around the Martense place on Tempest Mountain, so he went to check it out. He went up to spend the night in the place cause he found it abandoned, but that night both the men he went with were killed and the stuff he said he saw,” here Xander paused, “well, it wasn’t pretty. So he backs off a little and that’s when he sees it, there are these lines in the ground, like mole burrows radiating out from the mansion and he realizes that the whole lot of them were living underground.”
“So what happened?”
“He left, came back a week later with a lot of men and a lot of dynamite and blew it the fuck up.”
“Sounds like your kind of guy.”
“So we’re just going to check the place out?”
“No, unfortunately that’s not the end of the story. You see, with the danger gone, well the area kind of bloomed. You had a lot of rich people from New York City building summer homes out here, and where you had rich people, well you needed caretakers and caterers and that kind of thing, so the area got a lot more crowded. There were still disappearances, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been before, nothing too shocking just the occasional missing person; same as everywhere else.”
“So what changed?”
“This, a month ago,” Xander said as he handed her a folder. In it were newspaper accounts of a collapsed house, dead parents and missing children. Faith was almost sick after reading the coroner’s reports mention of teeth marks on the bodies.
“So you think they didn’t get em all the first time?”
“And we’re gonna clean it up?”
“Got it in one.”
“We got dynamite?”
“No, but we’ve got enough C4 to put a tank into orbit plus a few other party favors I think you’ll like.”
Faith glance nervously at the back of the SUV, “just drive real careful.”
Xander shot her a warm smile, “always.”
Lefferts Corners wasn’t what Xander had expected; he’d been expecting a small town of about 1500 people, not the 7500 or so that were there. He looked around as he went to check in the local hotel. The place looked like a normal small town, the kind that hadn’t yet been found by Wal-Mart or Starbucks; it wasn’t quite Mayberry, but it was within shouting distance of it. As he came back out, chuckling at a bad joke the manager had told him, he noticed Faith’s eyes were wide. Concerned he hurried over, “what’s up babe?”
“There’s somethin wrong here, seriously wrong. I haven’t felt like this since we were last in Cleveland; it’s . . . ,” she trailed off.
“In ‘Lord of the Rings’ where Treebeard talks about how some of the Darkness was never lifted from the forest, you remember that part?”
“Well this place feels like that, like there’s something ancient here, something that doesn’t really do anything but corrupt whatever’s near it.” She shuddered. “I’ll be damn glad when we leave.”
Xander looked at her for a moment, “we could leave in the morning if you want?”
Faith looked up into his eye and realized he was serious, he was willing to pack it in on her word, and it was a word she was tempted to give, but she also knew that if they left then the killings would continue. “Nah, we’ll at least check it out first, then we’ll figure out what we need to do; cool?”
He gave her a warm smile, “that sounds like a plan, now what do you say we get unpacked here and see what culinary delights this town has to offer,” he gestured grandly towards the now blinking traffic light.
Faith just giggled at the jester in front of her and stepping out of the vehicle said, “lead on lackey,” while patting him on the head. “I expect nothing less than a four star establishment,” she concluded with a smirk and a flourish.
The Rip Van Winkle café might not be a four star establishment, but the food was still pretty darn good. ‘It’s amazing how good stuff tastes when you start out with everything fresh,’ Xander thought. Afterwards he and Faith decided to go for a walk around town; he was pleasantly surprised when she reached over and took his hand. This was something that Faith ‘of the past’ would have dismissed as being way too girly, but it was something that Faith ‘now’ really liked.
She looked around, there was something here that was setting her ‘weird-o-meter’ off, but she couldn’t figure out what it was, heck she couldn’t even localize it because it seemed to be everywhere. She looked over at the tall man next to her and leaned her head onto his shoulder for a moment. Faith could honestly say that there was no one on Earth she’d rather be with. She pulled back a bit without letting his hand go, “so X, now that we’re here can you get a bit more specific with the plan?”
Xander sat down on a bench and pulled Faith down with him, “sure Faith,” he replied, pulling out a small map and spread it out. “I’ve plotted the murders and disappearances since 1950 or so and just like before it seems to center on Tempest Mountain. Now the last time the guy that dealt with it said you could see evidence of the underground tunnels from Maple Hill, so we’re gonna check that out first. And if it’s what I think . . . . .”
“We’re gonna blow it again?”
“Nope, sorry but I don’t want to have to keep doing this; so if the problem is under Tempest Mountain then we’re gonna go in, see how many there are then take em out. The ‘blow em up’ option is a solid plan B if it looks like it would be suicidal to do em by hand.”
Faith thought about what he’d just said, “you sure X, that sounds kinda dicey.”
“You’re right, it could get ugly real quick, but I wanna take care of this once and for all and that means getting every one of these things and that means hands on.” Then he gave a rather wolfish smile, “besides, I think it’s time someone introduced those things to some of the wonders of modern life.” Then his gaze softened, “and you don’t think I’d seriously risk you getting hurt do you?”
Faith blushed, it was true that Xander would never knowingly put her in danger, but he might discount the danger to himself. “No, but you might have some dumb-shit notion that as long as I’m OK that you don’t matter. And if that’s the case then I’m gonna kick your ass so hard you’ll part your hair when you fart,” she shot a hard glance at him.
He grinned at her, “no unnecessary risks, I promise.” Then he leaned in and whispered in her ear, “I plan on us being in each other’s lives for a long time to come.”
“Good plan,” she murmured back.
THE NEXT MORNING
The view from Maple Hill was spectacular or would have been if there had been any leaves on the trees or flowers in the meadows; but for spotting unusual features on the ground it was ideal. A quick survey confirmed that the creatures were still centered under Tempest Mountain. Walking back to their SUV, Faith asked the obvious question, “so when and how do we hit these suckers?”
“Well, from what I’ve read, the storms somehow set these things off, so I’m thinking we wait til we get a clear day then hit em early and keep going til every last one is dead.”
Faith looked a little surprised at the intensity in Xander’s voice, usually she was all fired up and he was Mr. Calm Cool and Collected, but something about all this obviously had him riled. “What’s the sitch X, you sound like you’ve got a real hate on for these things, that ain’t like you?”
Xander looked at her for a second then back at the mountain and sighed, “you think we should back off?”
“Nah, I’m just wonderin where the tude’s coming from.”
“Africa,” Xander replied and fell silent.
Mentally Faith raised her eyebrows at that; Africa was the one subject between them where Xander wasn’t in full share mode. That’s not to say he wouldn’t talk about his year there, he was great with the slapstick stories and the garbled language stories, but he never talked about anything serious that had happened. She knew from the few whispered stories and rumors that were out there that there had been some fairly horrific situations. But whenever those stories were mentioned, Xander just shut down and refused to talk; sometimes for days. If her time in prison had taught her nothing else, it had taught her that when it came to bad stuff, sooner or later you had to talk; ‘maybe it was his time,’ she thought. “You wanna expand on that answer a bit?”
Xander looked over at Faith, the expression on her face was simple concern, not morbid curiosity; and that was good. He’d been holding back some of the things that had happened in his year in Africa since he’d left there; even going so far as to refusing to comment on some of the rumors. He hadn’t even confided in Giles about the horrors he’d witnessed or worse, perpetrated during his tenure as a Field Watcher. He knew it was a barrier between Faith and himself, but it was one he was reluctant to breach; not because he didn’t trust her but because he wasn’t sure if he could deal with all of her possible reactions. If she reacted with disgust or turned away from him, well he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to recover. Guiltily he remembered that Faith had trusted him enough to tell him about her childhood, about what she’d done in prison and on the streets to survive. She trusted him, she’d opened herself up to him, how could he not do the same. He closed his eye and leaped, “it’s not pretty.”
Inside he mind Faith was doing a little victory dance; he was willing to talk to her about what had happened, he was willing to reveal himself totally to her; in a nutshell, he trusted her. Now all she had to do was be worthy of that trust. “Hey, between growing up and prison I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all.”
He raised a skeptical eyebrow at her and gave a little smile that held no mirth, “I doubt you’ve ever heard anything like this, but OK.” He looked away and his eye closed, “I’d been over there about three months. I started out in South Africa and worked north from there, through Botswana and Zambia and into Tanzania. I’d found eight slayers by then, four had gone on to the training camp in Egypt, two had decided to stay where they were and two were with me, Makala and Sedani. We were headed to this village to check out a rumor about some super powered girl, when we came across a group that was out hunting what they said was a child snatching demon. Well being who we were, we offered to help and they let us come along. After a bit we split up and it was right after that that Sedani found their trail. We were able to track them back to their lair, but it wasn’t a demon, or even demons.” He sighed, “it was this tribe of ……..well, I suppose they started off as human, but they sure didn’t look it anymore. It was obvious they’d been isolated for some time, add into the mix the fact that they were cannibals and well, decision made.”
“There weren’t many of em, so it was pretty simple for me and the girls to subdue em and tie em up. Then I sent them away with our guide to find the other party and let em know what we’d found. While they were gone I found one of em that understood Swahili, at least well enough for us to understand each other. I asked him why they’d taken the children. He answered that the children tasted better; that was all. I just stood there, I mean I couldn’t believe what he’d just said, the kids tasted better so that’s what they went after, someone’s son or daughter and they just looked at them as livestock.” Xander fell silent for a moment, getting his composure back. “So I was just standing there and it hit me, they were just like vampires. A vampire doesn’t care about the feelings or the life of whatever or whoever it’s after, it just wants to eat; and that’s how these things were, they were hungry and it didn’t even occur to them that dinner might not want to be eaten.” He stopped again, breathing hard from holding his emotions in check.
Finally Faith asked, “So what did ya do?”
“I killed them all,” he murmured. “I pulled out my automatic and executed anything that looked to be over six years old. One by one, a single shot to the forehead and on to the next. I herded up the few that I’d left alive, then burned the damned place to the ground,” he snorted. “Afterwards I got very drunk.”
“I didn’t think you touched the stuff,” she asked surprised. Actually the question was a delaying tactic. She couldn’t believe what X had just told her, executed an entire village of cannibals; SHIT, that was heavy duty.
“That was my first time, unfortunately it wasn’t my last. But I’ve never had any since I left and I don’t plan on it either.”
“So why’d ya do it,” Faith asked after taking a minute or two to think about what he’d said. She didn’t have to clarify what she was asking about.
He sighed, “a long time ago I had to kill my best friend; afterwards I promised myself I’d do anything I could to prevent anyone from having to go through what his parents went through. If one family doesn’t have to know the pain of losing a child because of what I did, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
“Could the cops have done anything?” She didn’t know why she was playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’ right now, hell she probably would have done the same thing that he did; never-the-less, she felt like she needed to take this one all the way.
“Over there,” another snort that was almost a laugh. “Maybe they would have put the men in what passes for jail over there, or just executed em, but that would have left the women and the older kids alive.”
“So why was that not an option?”
“Because it wasn’t what they were doing, it was their way of thinking. Like I said before it was the way a vampire thought and it …….. offended me. They weren’t about to change, so I eliminated the threat.”
“Offended you,” she asked. “What the hell do you mean by that?”
He turned to look at her, his eye blazing with passion. “I know there’s evil in this world; I’ve spent over half my life fighting it. And when a demon does bad things or tries to end the world it’s just being a demon. That doesn’t mean it gets a pass but at least it has an excuse. But humans messing up a world that doesn’t need any help is just so wrong on such a fundamental level that it sets me off. Now usually I’m in control, but these things that used to be people acting like vampires, well I just didn’t see the need for control.”
Xander finished talking and Faith just looked at him. She understood why he’d done what he’d done, and the truth was she’d probably have done the same thing. She’d always known that Xander had an edge that most people never saw, but until now she just never realized how hard that edge was. “You were still in control,” she said finally.
“How can you say that?”
“If you weren’t in control you would’ve wasted all of em and not bothered saving the kids.” She turned back to look at Tempest Mountain. “You said you wanted to hit em early on a clear day,” she gazed at the clear sky. “Any chance of a storm today?”
Xander realized that the subject of what had happened was now closed, and he was shocked at first. The he realized that Faith had only asked for an explanation, he’d provided one and now it was settled. Giving a tentative grin he said, “it’s supposed to stay nice all day; you thinking about doing a little exterminating?”
She turned back to him, a smile on her face as well. “I don’t know, you got the tools we need?”
“And a few we don’t. So you want to go hunting Ms. Lehane?”
“Absolutely Dr. Harris.”
They made two calls on their way over to Tempest Mountain. One was to Giles, explaining what was going on and what they were gonna do about it. At first he asked them to wait for a strike team from the Council, but Xander told him that they’d give it a go first, and if there were too many that they’d back off and wait for back up. Knowing that this was as good as he’d get, Giles backed off and simply told them to be careful. They also called Buffy, simply to let her know what was about to go down and to tell her where the information was if needed and to come get them if she didn’t hear back from them in twenty-four hours. Just as Faith was hanging up, they broke out into the clearing that used surround the Martense Mansion. Quickly they started exploring the mound of debris that was left over from the explosion over eighty years ago. Xander figured that the old house would have some kind of talismanic meaning for the creatures and that there would be at least one tunnel that opened in the area. It didn’t take long for him to be proven right, and an entrance was found near what would have been the main fireplace back when there was still a house. They located the opening but didn’t expose it all the way; hopefully they could achieve a bit of surprise and be able to pick off the creatures one by one. They headed back to the SUV where Xander opened up the back and started kitting himself out from the arsenal that was there. He ended up with two silenced .45’s and an MP-5, also silenced; a nice assortment of grenades and a Kukri, just in case. Faith had her usual assortment of knives as well as a broadsword and an MP-5. Both had night vision goggles, but Faith figured her own slayer enhanced vision would do well enough. They went back to the tunnel opening and in a few minutes had it large enough for Xander to fit through; then after a brief kiss for luck, Faith went in. Xander counted five and jumped in after her.