Holding the black smoke back, Dawn waited until they had all reached the first floor landing before dropping her hand. The smoke swirled about the hall like a living thing but it never came further up the staircase than the second or third step. In fact, after reaching a sort of high tide the smoke started to eddy and drift to the lowest points in the house.0=0=0=0
The sky had begun to lighten as the sun crept over the rooftops to illuminate this strange new world. Dawn and her companions had stayed up after the gas attack and watched from a front room window as the black smoke slowly stopped moving and finally settled to the ground. It left a thick black blanket over everything softening the outlines of the people and animals it had caught in its smothering embrace.
The smoke in the hallway had been the first to settle and turn to what looked like fine coal dust. They had carefully gone downstairs to investigate. Fearful that their movements might stir up the dust into its airborne form they crouched on the last clear step and carefully stirred the dust with the tip of Herbert’s umbrella. Nothing happen, moving warily Herbert stepped down onto the dust. Again nothing happened, the dust didn’t rise up to engulf and asphyxiate him, it just lay there, black and evil. Eventually, after deciding it was safe, he went and surveyed the rest of the house.
Coming back to where Dawn and Amy waited on the stairs he reported that the smoke had got in through the joints of the window frames. The drawing room was full of black dust but generally the smoke had only just begun to seep under doors before it began to settle. There were only small patches of floor covered with the stuff in the affected rooms. Even the basement kitchen wasn’t too badly damaged, however, he expressed the opinion that if they were to try and sweep up the dust they’d better be careful not to brush too energetically for fear of causing the dust to go airborne again.0=0=0=0
Later that morning, watching out of the window with Herbert (Amy having gone up stairs to dress) Dawn cursed the Martians and all their works.
“You know, Herbert,” she said from between gritted teeth, “you know what really makes me pissed at these Martians?”
“Um, not as such,” Herbert cast Dawn a wary glance, “but I imagine I can guess.”
“The thing that really makes me so angry,” Dawn’s eyes fell on a shape that was so obviously that of a child lying under a blanket of black, “is the freaking bastards aren’t even that advanced!”
“Well, I wouldn’t have said that,” Herbert tried to sound calming, he didn’t really want the obviously annoyed witch beside him to really lose her temper, “they seem pretty advanced to me.”
“That’s my point,” Dawn sighed heavily taking control of her anger again, “from my point of view; as evil highly advanced monsters from outer space these guys are a joke!”
“But…!” Herbert started to splutter but was cut off by Dawn.
“They’ve not even got proper space ships…”
“Space ships?” Herbert looked at Dawn and frowned.
“No!” Dawn glanced at Herbert and explained a little, “What they’ve got are just like big bombs, they can’t take off again.”
“No, indeed,” replied Herbert meekly, “I’d not considered that.”
“We’ve got tanks and planes and missiles that can shoot hundreds of little bombs out of them,” Dawn imagined a hundred different ways that a modern army would defeat the Martians. “That missile I brought back and killed that Martian with?”
“Hmm, yes?” Herbert swallowed hard, what a terrible world Dawn seemed to come from.
“Yeah, well that was nothing,” Dawn grinned evilly, “and this black smoke…HA!”
The sound of her laugh filled Herbert with dread and made him step away from her.
“We have gas that’ll kill you so quickly you don’t even know there’s anything wrong until you die!” Dawn caught the burst of diabolical laughter before it exploded from her mouth, she looked at Herbert’s frightened face and smiled apologetically, “Sorry…but it just makes me so angry…I have issues.”
“Issues?” Herbert replied breathing a little more easily now Dawn appeared to have got control of herself again.
“Yeah,” Dawn nodded, “I need to see someone about it.”
“Indeed,” agreed Herbert.
“So,” Dawn’s face lightened and she looked her usual happy smiling self again, “what do we do now?”0=0=0=0Crankie Manor, 2012.
“She wasn’t angry!?” it would have been hard for Willow to look more surprised.
“No,” Kennedy sat down on the garden bench next to her, “that was the scary part…of course telling her in front of the kids and in a public place probably helped,” Kennedy gave a thin lipped smile. “She couldn’t actually scream or yell without drawing attention to herself…she just went very quiet,” she sighed regretfully. “It got so awkward I had to cut the trip short and bring everyone home early…and the kids had been enjoying themselves so much.”
“Never mind, sweetie,” Willow laid her hand on Kennedy’s, “we’ll take them out tomorrow or something to make up for it.”
“So,” smiling Kennedy settled back on the bench, “that thing in the bottle what was it?”
“Yeah, that,” a puzzled frown crossed Willow’s face for a moment, “it took so long to analyse it because it’s so old. But, we can safely say it’s not demonic, but we can also say it’s not of this Earth.”
“Huh?” Kennedy raised an eyebrow at her partner.
“Because it’s been in a state of preservation for so long only the most basic DNA threads are still…um visible?” Willow was finding it hard to put this over, it wasn’t really her field, “Whatever, enough was left over to be pretty certain it’s no Earthly creature.”
“Could be,” agreed Willow, she glanced back at the house, “I wonder how Giles is getting on?”0=0=0=0
“How could you Giles?” Buffy paced across the table and equipment littered library, she was close to tears, “How could you lie to me like that?”
“Because Dawn said specifically not to let you interfere,” Giles sighed frustrated at what had been happening.
The entire ‘misdirection’ plan he’d worked out with Willow was doomed to failure from the start, he’d soon realised that. Buffy would find out one way or another and react badly…he realised that now and regretted not being open and honest about what was going on from the start. After all what could Buffy do? Without Willow and himself she couldn’t have opened a portal into the past and led a slayer task force back to rescue her sister. What was worse, no ‘worse’ was probably the wrong word, Dawn was apparently in no danger and would be back under her own steam. It just seemed to be taking so long and holding out false hope to Buffy had been ill advised to say the least.
“Giles,” Buffy dashed a tear away from her eye, “I think it best if you took some vacation, right now…a couple of weeks at least, I’ll see you when you come back.”
“I…if you think that’s best…” began Giles but Buffy had already turned on her heel and walked out of the library.0=0=0=0
“Oh dear, here comes trouble,” Kennedy watched as Buffy walked across the lawn towards her and Willow, she didn’t like the look on Buffy’s face.
Coming to a halt in front of the two women, Buffy took a moment to calm herself before speaking.
“Kennedy,” she looked at the younger slayer her face giving away nothing, “I want you to know that this is nothing personal; I know you were only doing what Giles and Willow asked you to…and after all it was you who had to break the news to me. My two, so-called friends…”
Willow made a little whimpering sound in her throat.
“…hadn’t got the guts to face me.” Buffy turned her eyes onto Willow, “I think it best that you leave, Willow, I’ll call you when I think I can face you again.”
“But Buffy?” Willow was close to tears as she looked up into Buffy’s hard face, “I thought it was for the best, I…”
“Yes you always think it’s ‘for the best’,” Buffy’s voice was flint hard.
Buffy turned to Kennedy once more.
“Any time you want to bring Tara and Anna to visit William,” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, “you’re more than welcome…but leave it a couple of weeks, please.”
“Sure…” was all Kennedy had time to say before Buffy turned and walked back to the manor, instead she turned to Willow and said, “Now that didn’t go so well, did it?”0=0=0=0A Demonic Dimension not so far away.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” thundered Lord Hasseldorf* as he strode through a crowd of his minions.
The Demon Lord was confused and angry. Angry because aliens had invaded the past of the planet he was set on taking under his control. Confused because said aliens shouldn’t even exist; plus their presence was tearing apart the forever-cursed-slayer-whore Buffy Summers’ organisation. Which normally he’d be quite pleased about, but, the same bitch-slut-filth-woman’s obnoxious and vile slayers and witches appeared to be the only people with any chance of stopping this alien invasion.
“What have you found out?” he demanded of Sumquifvic-hiss, a rather bookish demon who was heading up Hasseldorf’s investigation into what was happening in Earth’s past.
“Um, well, er,” Sumquifvic-hiss cowered away from his lord, “nothing new, my lord.
“NOTHING!?” screamed the twelve foot high demon lord, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN NOTHING?” he killed several lesser demons with a swipe of his great talon tipped hand, it appeared to calm him a little. “‘Nothing’, isn’t good enough,” he said in a quiet, menacing voice.
“Well, my lord,” Sumquifvic-hiss replied apologetically, “as I’ve explained these Martians shouldn’t even exist. Mars has always been a desolate place incapable of sustaining life, at least as far as our records go back.”
Hasseldorf turned intense red burning eyes on the demon.
“How far back do our records go?” he asked quietly.
“About a million years, my lord,” if anything his master’s new and more measured approach to problem solving was much more frightening than if he’d been going around disembowelling people hither and yon…as was his usual approach to problem resolution.
“So we have no records pre-one million years ago?”
“No. my lord.”
“And there appears to be time travel involved in all this?”
“So it would appear, my lord.”
“Why do I have to think up everything myself?” Hasseldorf smiled, but not in a nice way.
“My lord?” trembled Sumquifvic-hiss waiting for the hammer to fall.
“Well,” Hasseldorf put a friendly arm around Sumquifvic-hiss’ shoulder, “it seems obvious to me that someone has been playing around with the timeline. Maybe it was these Martians, perhaps it was some damn fool human playing with things he doesn’t understand.”
“Oh I see, my lord,” Sumquifvic-hiss winced as his master’s talons sank into his shoulder.
“Now,” Hasseldorf released the lesser demon, “why don’t you run along and check that out, eh?”
“Of course, my lord,” Sumquifvic-hiss took several paces away from his lord, “right away, my lord.”
“I shall be pissing napalm on the damned if you want me,” Hasseldorf started to walk away, but stopped after a few steps and looked back over his shoulder, “And Sumquifvic-hiss, you know the penalty for failure, don’t you?”
“Stoppage of pay?” Sumquifvic-hiss asked hopefully.
Hasseldorf said nothing, he just smiled evilly and walked off down a side passage, leaving the lesser demon to contemplate the consequences of failure.0=0=0=0London, 1898.
Walking through the deserted silent streets of London, Dawn, Amy and Herbert wondered where all the people had gone.
“They can’t all be dead,” Herbert’s voice was unnaturally loud in the silence.
“Per’aps they’re ‘idin’?” suggested Amy.
“What I want to know is, where are the Martians?” Dawn stopped and turned a full three-hundred and sixty degrees, not a single Martian was in sight.
“Wot if we go up a church tower or sumfing,” Amy piped up, “we could see over the roof tops then.”
“Good idea that girl!” cheered Herbert, “I think there’s a church with a good tall spire a couple of streets over,” he pointed more or less west from the route they’d been taking.
They changed direction at the next junction and walked along in silence, the only sound their footsteps on the road.0=0=0=0
They’d found that the black smoke had stopped a mere fifty feet further along the street from Herbert’s house. Evidence seemed to suggest that had they been just fifty yards the other way the black smoke would have filled the house up to the first floor.
Nowhere was the smoke’s residue more than a couple of inches deep, it was like walking on soft black snow and like snow it hid the shapes of the bodies that lay underneath it. Dawn found that by not looking at these little lumps and bumps too closely she could fool herself that they were just that; lumps and bumps and not dead people.
Of course Herbert had to look, he’d partially uncovered a couple of bodies to find their mouths and nostrils packed with the black dust. One body he’d scrapped at the dust with a penknife to find the dust had gone right down the unfortunate man’s throat. Even he gave up, having seen enough, after the second body. Amy just prowled about in that way that Dawn had seen slayers do when there was danger near. The teenager didn’t seem to be put-out or overly upset by the death all around her, she was no doubt dealing with things in her own inimitable slayer way.0=0=0=0“ALOOOOO!”
The sound came from all around, Dawn covered her ears as she ran for the cover of a stairway leading down into the basement of a large house.“ALOOOOO!”
The noise came again louder than anything Dawn had heard short of an open air rock concert, Amy and Herbert joined her on the stairway.
“What the devil!?” cried Herbert.
The sound of a building being demolished came to their ears, they all looked in the direction of the crash of falling masonry and shattering glass.
“LOOK!” gasped Herbert as he pointed un-necessarily, a Martian war machine stepped through the rumble and dust of the ruin it had just made.
The hood containing the Martian controller swung from side to side, it lifted the canister holding the heat gun high as if expecting to be attacked. It came to a halt in a small square containing a garden like many in this area. It lowered its heat gun, then after looking around for a moment more moved to the other end of the gardens closest to where the human party hid.“ALOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
it called again, this time it was answered by several more distant calls.
Seemingly satisfied the Martian turned away and walked off down a road smashing to match wood a couple of abandoned carriages that stood in its way.
“I think we better hide in here for a while,” Herbert jerked his head towards the basement door.
Without any prompting Amy kicked the door open and they all rushed into the darkened interior, they were in the servant’s hall of a big house, or so Dawn assumed.
“ALOOOOO!” The sound came again a lot further away this time, the answering calls seemed more distant too.
“I suppose we better make ourselves comfortable,” Herbert pulled out a chair from under a long table, “Amy, see if you can make some tea please.”
The girl was just heading to where the kitchen should be when the world exploded around them. The roof came crashing in and the room filled up with choking dust as the loudest sound that Dawn had ever heard seemed to slam her into the floor like a giant’s hand. She screamed as the world turned black around her.
Lord Hasseldorf, for thems that don’t know, is the big bad that has been plaguing the Slayers from about half way through my ‘Seattle Slayers’ series of stories. He is destined to rule the world starting 100 years after the death of the last slayer (Buffy). He can be ‘killed’ but he always comes back. He can only be killed permanently by ‘the son of the slayer’. Whether this is Buffy’s son or the son of any slayer is open to debate and doesn’t really concern us here. Needless to say, Hasseldorf is not pleased with the Martians.