The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
Heading through the remains of Nebraska I looked out over the corn. The thing that got to me mostly was the silence. No other cars except for ours. No planes, no farm machinery. Just the wind rushing through the fields.
I was pumping fuel to top off the RV when Gordon walked over, "Not with a bang, but with a whimper..."
"The end of the world."
"It hasn't ended yet. That's why Kendra and I can do what we can do. Our purpose is to save the world and keep humanity alive as long as we can."
He scratched his chin, "I got put on ice as a contingency plan. Some guy in a suit said that the right man at the right time could make all the difference in the world. Said I was the right man."
"Then he locked you in another dimension?"
"Pretty much...I now know more about extra-dimensional travel then any man alive. That suit of mine was recording all kinds of data and it never got wiped. I am fairly certain that it will come in useful," he wasn't wearing his suit at the moment, just jeans, a t-shirt that advertised MIT that he had found in some torn open luggage and that he insisted on keeping, and a pair of military combat boots.
"To help stop the end of the world?"
"I hope so...I mean I live here too."
"Gordon, you believe in magic now right?"
"With all the empirical evidence I'd be an idiot not to. I mean there's only so much you can explain away as weird physics. Will has been showing me what she can do and I've been trying to measure the quantum effects. I think I mentioned the HEV was set up for weird energy scans?"
"Well some of the energies match the output of the Xen teleportation spheres. It's a new kind of event horizon. I'd ask Willow to co-author the paper, but peer review is probably going to be sketchy for a while," he said that with a wry grin. "Anyway, I think I may have some ideas on how she does what she does....Willow I mean. The breaking of multiple natural laws makes me nervous. I like to know how things work."
"Well we're gonna need people like you to fix stuff, and people like me to keep people like you safe. Those gargs probably weren't the only things that are loose. No humans means no human armies with lots of weapons. There are a lot of creatures that would take the chance."
"To conquer what's left of humanity? The Nilhalanth would but I kind of killed him...burt where there's one evil demonic giant space baby, I'm sure there are more."
"What else could be coming through...from Xen right?"
He nodded,"Yeah, Xen. Headcrabs definitely. They like sand and deserts. Bullsquids and Houndeyes like water and dark places...they'll stay close to wherever they appear...the Vortigaunts though...Those guys will be really dangerous. Especially the brutes. They're smart and tool users. What can we expect from your rogues gallery?"
"Vampires were affected by Trips same as humans. A lot of demons were too," I finished pumping and started coiling up the hose.
"I'm guessing that Captain Trips was slightly mystical?"
I nodded, "Of course it was. The dreams gave that away."
"I haven't had the dreams..."
"I was on ice the entire run of Captain Trips. Not only that, but the HEV filters my blood every twenty minutes using tech that had to have come from somewhere else."
"So you never caught the disease..."
He shook his head, "And the way you guys are talking, there are lines being drawn. I wasn't supposed to be alive...I'm a free agent."
"But we could be carriers?"
"I'm not sick and from what I understand it hits hard. I think that the power that drove it and made it so deadly was finite. Once it served its purpose it just faded away," He helped me move the pump into the back of the pickup. "Running something like that would burn a lot of energy I'd guess. Why use more than you have to...I mean evil is just as lazy as everybody else right?"
"And you were as isolated as it's possible to be...wow."
"I don't think this Flagg guy can affect me. I'm not supposed to be here after all. He could try to kill me physically of course...but dreams and manipulation. I really don't think so."
"Buffy! Dr. Freeman! We're getting ready to go!" Giles was calling for us. Ken had pickup shift today, so I climbed into the RV after Gordon. We shut the door and we were off again.
Riding along, Gordon and Willow continued to work on the sciencey bits of magic while I told Giles and Spike about what he had said.
"Strictly speaking Buffy, without the ritual we managed to put together ,the only survivors of this party should have been Kendra, Mr. Macdonald, and yourself," Giles said after a few minutes
"Yeah, but you had the flu. Gordon never did. That's why he's disconnected from the dreaming."
"I-I see...Is he worried that he might catch it?"
"No...No he's not. He seems to think that since the purpose of the flu was to reduce humanity to a manageable level, now that that's accomplished, why bother wasting the juice to keep it active?"
"That makes sense," Spike said thoughtfully as we stared at the back of Gordon's head. "Now how can we use it t'our advantage?"
The dreams came again at night. This time I was in the cornfield again, the dark woman splashed with white paint next to me.
"Are you Sineya?" I asked while pointing at her.
She nodded and tapped her chest,"Sineya," then she pointed at me.
I nodded and smiled. She smiled back, her teeth brilliantly white. Then she gripped my hand and pulled me down to a crouch.
There was a vibration in the ground as if something slow and massive was moving hidden by the thick stalks of corn. I could hear the crackling as whatever it was stepped on last year's dried leaves. I could feel death back there. Older than the Master and infinitely more cruel.
Sineya took my hand and led me at a crouch away from the sounds. The edge of the cornfield was close and soon we were on the dirt road. The thing was still moving and searching and I could see the tallest stalks bend as it passed by them.
"Hello?" there was a woman's voice behind me. I spun and saw a girl about my age but a little taller, wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt.
I raised a finder to my lips and made a 'shushing' move before pointing at the field. She caught on quick and moving quietly walked over to the pair of us.
"Who are you?" she asked. "And where are you? In the real world I mean."
"I'm Buffy and this is Sineya. I'm in Nebraska and Sineya...well she's special. Who and where are you?
"Tara and right now I'm in Iowa. Do you know why we're sharing a dream?"
"Not a clue. Just that Flagg likes to screw with me by dragging me in and scaring the crap out of me."
"Flagg? The Dark Man?"
I nodded, "Randall Flagg, poster boy for evil. I take it you've met?"
"I saw him...in a dream. I spied out using some old ways. Looking for a safe path past his traps. He wasn't happy."
"If you annoyed Flagg, I want you to be my friend," I whispered. "Look he'll be showing up around here soon. You'd better hide before he does."
"You're not scared to face him?"
"I'm terrified. Thing is he doesn't have to know that," she ducked down behind the edge of the berm and into the culvert beside the road when I heard the tok-tok-tok of Flagg's boots.
"Hiya Randy!" I waved at him.
He stopped dead his face went blank then a Grinch like evil smile formed, "Well hi there Annie. Fancy meeting you and your oh so chatty companion all the way out here. Who'd a thunk it?"
"Well you brought me here. To feed me to your pet monster maybe?" I hooked a thumb at the cornfield.
Flagg shook his head sadly, "As foolish as a newborn. Maybe I should throw you back there to have a quick chat huh? There's nothing back there but the wind missy. Go take a look."
"Maybe later...What'd you want to say to me?"
"I'm setting up shop in Vegas. A city needs citizens and we're looking for the best. From what I hear, that'd be you."
"Who'd you hear that from? I don't think we tolerate the same kinds of people."
"Well now, that would be giving up a confidence. I'm like one of those ace reporter types. Keep my sources secret you understand," he pulled out a clasp knife and started cleaning his nails. "Good pay, interesting work...24 hour shoppin' malls...You can think on it. I'll be around," he turned and I listened to his boots fading into the night, "And Annie there are a limited number of positions available...Trust me when I say you do not want to miss out..."
Tara slipped out of the culvert and walked up to me and Sineya, "You're the best?"
"He seems to think so," I said, "I'm not so sure. I'll see you in Nebraska Tara."
"I'm looking forward to it!"
There was a snap and I was sitting bolt upright in the gently swaying RV. I walked up to the cab and saw Dru and Spike. Spike had been teaching Dru how to drive. Gordon was driving the pickup.
"Th'little blonde witch was there. The Dark Man, he doesn't like her, no not one teeny tiny bit."
"Yeah Dru, her name's Tara...she's a witch?"
Dru nodded, "An'she's traveling with a dead man!"
"Really? I didn't see them."
"A vampire luv?" Spike asked.
"Oh no silly... a crow."