a one-girl army (part 2)
Stumbling backwards after his friends and everyone else, Andrew stared wide-eyed through the camera viewfinder at the surrounding chaos.
This was unreal!
Pausing along the open brick wall of a cosmetics boutique to get better footage, he tried to track a writhing tentacle of white-red energy as it snaked erratically back and forth, leaving scorched streaks across the tiled floor and causing people to dive out of the way as best they could. One guy wasn’t fast enough, and just steps from the shelter of an electronics store, he was caught up from behind by the sweeping tendril of flame.
Andrew tried to shout in warning, but only a pathetic squeak made it past his lips. He wanted to move, wanted to do something -anything
- but all he could do was press himself flat against the wall as blistering energy enveloped the screaming man. Then the scream cut off, the energy swept on, and a charred, skeletal corpse toppled to the floor.
Andrew shrunk against the wall, his body rigid and trembling, and watched as the ropes of energy danced, lashed and struck out, immolating hapless people as they cowered or ran for cover. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Could barley even breathe. As if in a daze, he slowly turned, shakily taking in the growing number of smouldering bodies strewn across the plaza.
Cruel, booming laughter echoed from somewhere above, and Andrew looked higher, lifting the camera again and zooming in on the blue monster at the railing. Its hands were ablaze with white light from the streams of energy, but even beyond the glare, Andrew could see its fang-filled mouth twisted in a macabre smile, its eyes glistening like black pools.
He was still zoomed in on the monster when a blazing-white tentacle of energy whipped right by the camera, close enough to make him jerk back from the heat. Instantly the sense of numb terror washed into adrenalin, and with a gasp Andrew threw himself sidelong in an attempt to get away. He stumbled to his knees, only to be pulled upright again by a strong grip on his arm that yanked him back into the stream of fleeing shoppers. And then he was stumbling backwards again, people pushing and running past. Twisting forward to keep from tripping, Andrew saw his brother pulling him through the crowd.
“…the hell is wrong with you!?” Tucker shouted back at him over the screams. “We have to get out of here-”
That was when a shrill pop-hiss!
pierced through the cacophony of noise, and Andrew heard and felt a rush of hot air as something streaked past overhead.
The deafening blast that rocked the mall a moment later shattered surrounding glass windows, threw flaming debris everywhere and slammed Andrew, Tucker and everyone around them hard to the floor. *
The explosion was way bigger than Buffy thought it would be.
Where just seconds before the Judge had stood casting his mojo with an idiot grin, there was now a giant gaping crater stretching across the wall, filled with crackling fire and billowing black smoke.
The platform itself was completely gone.
The twin flights of stairs leading down to the plaza were a mangled, twisted heap of dilapidated metal, and with their fiery collapse the bulk of the vampires on their way towards the shoppers had instantly gone up in dust.
But even as flame and ashen smoke continued to pour forth from the fresh destruction, Buffy could see that the fight wasn’t over just yet. A good number of vamps had made it out of the radius of the collapse, and now they were starting to get back to their feet along with the scores of shoppers who had been thrown down by the rocket’s impact.
“Time to follow your leader, assholes,” she muttered grimly, hefting the spent launcher from her shoulder and dropping it to the floor. Quickly bringing up the crossbow and pulling a short arrow from the quiver at her hip, Buffy cocked the weapon’s cable back and slotted the arrow into place with familiar ease. Stepping in between the dazed and groaning shoppers sprawled all around, the slayer quickly made her way towards the closest vampire she could see.*
“Hey! Pick on someone your own age!”Plunk-shtch!
Amid the resumed pandemonium of people running for their lives, yet another wooden shaft leapt from her crossbow and flew across the plaza, this time solidly burying itself in the chest of a vampire who had caught hold of an elderly lady and her yapping Chihuahua.
Watching it crumble into dust and tattered clothing as she loaded up another arrow, Buffy frowned, absently noting that that
particular phrase probably wasn’t the greatest to use on the eternally damned. Judging by the molasses-slow rate he was dissolving at, the vamp probably had the senior beat by a couple of decades at least.
Well whatever. She’d work on her wit later.
Scanning the mall for her next target, Buffy turned around, only to release the arrow right through the throat of the vampire rushing her from behind.
Skidding to an abrupt halt with a gurgle of surprise, the vampire clawed comically at his neck as blood bubbled up and spilled down his obligatorily tacky jean jacket.
One clean stake-thrust later, and he was just more dust swirling in Buffy’s wake as she threw herself against the next vampire, and then the next; stake-plunging and knife-slashing in furious tandem.
And still it seemed like there were too many.
To her left four more hulking vamps were advancing on a group of guys she vaguely recognized from school. Across to her right, a woman gave a muffled scream as a leering vampire held her down, sucking hungrily at her exposed neck.
Everyone was so vulnerable. Helpless. Just like Willow and Xander were last night, being beaten and mauled by Spike-
A hollow rage welled up inside her at the sickening thought, and Buffy hurled her stake with blind precision into the offending vampire’s back as she launched herself leftwards in a forward-roll; coming up just in time to push the teens behind her as the first vamp attacked.
“I’ll take that, thank you,” She snarled, catching his fist and ripping it the wrong way at the wrist before driving the knife up under his chin. Forcefully twisting it down through flesh and bone, Buffy decapitated the vampire in an eruption of blood and dust.
Tightening her grip on the slick blade and sliding a second stake from her leg-strap, the slayer sunk low in a defensive crouch, shielding the students from their would-be killers. Behind her she could already hear them scrambling back. Buffy hoped they would stay alive long enough to escape.
Shifting her stance as the remaining three vamps spread out and stalked forward, Buffy grit her teeth, eyes narrowing in violent anticipation.
“Come on, boys. Let’s see how fast you can die.” *
Groggily pushing himself upright, Lenny rubbed his eyes in a bid to clear his swimming vision before gingerly blinking them open.
Squinting through the haze of grey-black smoke that was slowly drifting everywhere, the vampire painfully got to his feet.
And then for a beat, just gawked up at the smouldering crap-heap that had replaced the crowded platform he last remembered standing on.
His face broke into a wide grin of realization at what it signified. The Judge had been destroyed!
“Hah! Not so invincible after all, eh?” he hissed softly at the scorched, craterous wreckage.
Served the blue bastard right, getting done in like that. Dave would have been happy to see it.
Spitting out a cracked tooth, Lenny caught sight of a blackened human corpse lying nearby. A sharp tremor of hunger shook the vampire’s body; he hadn’t fed properly in nearly two nights. It had all been ‘Lenny drive us here, Lenny pick up those guys, Lenny this, Lenny that.’
Bullshit minion work was all he ever did since the Master’s death.
Come to think of it, bullshit minion work was all he’d ever done before then too.
Closing his eyes with a grimace, the former cabbie shed his human visage, taking a deep sniff at the sulphury air for any scent of the living or undead. Mmnn…
There were still humans around. Vampires too. He would have to hurry if he wanted to catch himself any fresh prey-
His amber eyes snapped open as a big, dark-bearded vampire jogged past with a string of badly grazed fledglings in tow. Coming to a halt, the hefty vampire motioned forward with the huge sledgehammer clutched in hand.
“Hey you, come help! The slayer’s this way, we’re gonna finish her off!” Dammit.
Anywhere near the slayer was the exact last
place Lenny wanted to be. What was the point anyways? Finish her off? He doubted this sorry bunch would do the trick.
His lip twitched in a faint sneer as he smugly eyed the rag-tag survivors. Nobody had made it off the platform unscathed. One vamp looked like she’d barely survived the explosion; her whole right side was burned and blotchy, a mangled arm dangling uselessly at her side.
Great. Almost seventy battle-hardened vamps, most brought in from out of town, and the only survivors were a dozen half-dusted fledges.
Lenny sighed. Was a warm jugular-vein pulsing with wet life, laying somewhere dark and quiet just too much to ask for-
“Hurry it up, you fuckin’ waste of fangs! There ain’t many of our guys left!”
With a nervous nod and one last yearning glance at the charred corpse, Lenny scrambled forward, following the burly vampire and the others through the sulphury haze. *
Easily evading another wide swing from the crowbar-wielding vamp, Buffy spun, elbowing his tall friend square in the chest hard enough that she felt something crack
as he crumpled to the floor. Dodging the raking claws of a third with a quick handspring backwards, Buffy lead the gang of growling, fang-snapping vampires after her in a dance of near-fatal blows, barely-averted skewerings, and trailing swirls of dust.
In a way, this was actually good; by focusing on her, the vamps were giving a chance for the last of the fleeing shoppers to escape.
Not to mention that this violent dust-up was really
helping release all that pent up frustration, guilt, and aggression going on. Seriously,
she thought as she caught the momentum of a charging vampire with a sudden pivot, sending him careening painfully into a wide cement column a few feet away, who needs a therapist anyways?*
Lenny spotted the slayer, still some meters away, just in time to see her snap a vampire’s head almost completely off with a powerful kick, spinning and fending off another attacker before the first had even dusted.
The fledglings around him drew to a faltering halt, the smell of fear suddenly wafting around them thicker than the hazy smoke.
Lenny wasn’t all that confident his own scent was any weaker.
“Move it, you useless grave-rot! She can’t take us all at once!” the bearded vamp growled, shaking his sledgehammer impatiently. Roughly grabbing a fledgling around the collar, he threw the hapless minion before him and proceeded to viciously shove and kick everyone within reach, driving the weary group towards the quickly deteriorating fight up ahead.
Stumbling forward but jockeying to avoid being pushed towards the very front, Lenny licked his fangs, eyes darting wildly around for the nearest exit.
This had gone far enough.
Just ahead, the slayer turned from her final kill to face them, looking somehow both wild and eerily composed at the same time. Slipping into a fighting stance, she raised both arms out front, a crimson-coated stake gripped tightly in each hand. Stained streaks of blood and soot crisscrossed her grey tank-top, rising and falling in time with her sharp, ragged breath.
Her bright green eyes were hard as any demon’s as they met the approaching group.
Calculating. Weighing. Sizing everyone up.
It was damn unsettling, Lenny thought, for such predatory eyes to belong on such a small, delicate form.
Almost as unsettling as her too-human scent, beckoning for him to come and quench his thirst...and he was so very thirsty-
Pushing the urge down with a forceful shake of his head, Lenny slowed his pace, letting other vampires behind him shoulder past.
Yeah right. If she was human, then old Spike himself was a goddamned werewolf.
Lingering in place as the rest of the fledglings pushed by, Lenny watched with morbid fascination as the first few vampires at the front finally passed the point of no return, rushing the slayer in a desperate wave of claws, fists and fangs.
Breaking like a reluctant dam, everyone else swarmed in behind, and then the slayer totally disappeared from view beneath the onslaught.
For a brief, hopeful moment, Lenny thought it actually might work.
Plume after plume of black dust shot up from the jostling throng, so rapidly that Lenny could barely follow the succession. Soon enough the vampires furthest in were clawing to escape, now trapped by those pressing in from behind. As the slayer steadily weaved her way through the now panicked and fear-frenzied mob, Lenny could only watch, his mouth slightly agape, as the useless fledglings continued to violently evaporate under the furious blur of stakes.
Lenny turned and then stiffened as the bearded vamp stepped up beside him, his eyes locked excitedly on the scene of slaughter. A thin smile curled his lips as his fingers tightened around the sledgehammer’s wooden neck. He seemed pretty much oblivious to Lenny’s presence.
For which the smaller vampire was incredibly grateful.
After standing there and muttering vehemently under his breath for an agonizingly long pause, the vampire finally strode on forward, his yellow eyes burning on the slayer as she punched, plunged and dusted her way through the last few fledglings, breezily insulting them all the while.
Lenny swallowed dryly in relief, unsure of which of the two he hoped more would die. With any luck they would both do each other in, and ether way it would probably be a long and drawn out fight-
A flicker of gold movement from across the mall caught the vampire’s eye, and he jerked his head around just in time to see a blonde-haired wisp of a little girl disappear into a stairwell.
For a split second Lenny stared after the door as it slowly closed, thirst boiling back up within him. This time he didn’t even bother trying to push it back down.a warm jugular-vein pulsing with wet life, laying somewhere dark and quiet…
Grinning triumphantly, Lenny hungrily ran his tongue over his fangs, and without even looking back at the verbal banter between the slayer and vampire, tore off towards the stairwell with a growl. *
Rising to her feet as the final vamp crumbled beneath her, Buffy heavily coughed away the accompanying cloud of dust. Yikes, it was no wonder slayers died so young! Even if she somehow ended up surviving all the actual vampire slaying, just inhaling their stupid remains every night was probably giving her some serious lung cancer to look forward to.
The faint echo of footfalls filled the momentary silence, and Buffy glanced warily over her shoulder and across the mall to see a small figure running frantically along the far line of stores. It was a little girl.
Turning around to get a better look, Buffy’s attention was quickly diverted to the approaching giant of a vampire, all decked out in black leather and hefting a hammer.
A really, really big
Suppressing a tired groan as he closed the distance towards her, Buffy steadied her breath, forcing herself back into fighting stance with a grimace. Her arms were starting to ache, and the stakes were beginning to feel a bit like lead in her hands.
The vampire stopped short just out of punching range and flashed a mean, yellow-fanged leer, the corners of his mouth flecking with foam. He kind of looked like an uglier, beefier version of the Master’s henchman Luke, but with a matted beard.
Goss on top of Gross.
“I’m gonna drain you dry, bitch!” Luke 2.0 growled with way too much excitement.
“Yeah sure, you and everybody else floating around tonight. Come on, can’t you people ever think up any new material?”
But even as she spoke, Buffy was looking past him, her eyes flicking critically along the now vacant row of stores. The girl. Where was the girl??
That was when she saw the lone, skinny vampire dashing madly towards a far door at the wall’s far end. Buffy’s eyes widened in horrible realization.
But big, ugly and bearded right in front of her must not have appreciated her comeback, and he chose that exact moment to lunge forward with an angry roar, hammer raised high.