Chapter 6Disclaimer: Kailey and Stephanie are mine; everyone else belongs to CBS or to Joss Whedon and co.
Note: This takes place in AU BtVS season 8.
“Everyone,” Dan spoke as Mac, Jo and others gathered in Mac’s office, “This is Stephanie, from Animal Control.”
“Hmm,” Danny looked with a definite interest at the newcomer. With her short haircut and weather-worn looks, Stephanie didn’t look exactly like a typical citizen of NYC. “Nice to meet you?”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Stephanie replied curtly. “Look, I’m not exactly surprised to be here, what with two lethal animal attacks, but why? I really should be back on the street-“
“We need to consult one of you, and I guess detective Flack decided that you’re the woman for the job,” Mac said, diplomatically. “Look, can you just give us a remote estimate as what this creature might be, and how big?” With almost stage-magician flair he produced the cast of the first print that the CSI had secured in the museum.
Stephanie stared, and stared, and stared. After seven minutes or so when it became obvious that she wasn’t going to talk, Dan broke the silence instead.”Um, Steph, are you going to speak any time today?”
“Dan, shut up,” Stephanie said flatly. “I’m thinking. This isn’t a prank, is it?”
“No,” Mac said, equally flat. “It’s not. What is it?”
“Not a mammal,” Stephanie said firmly. “The shape is wrong. Most animals are digitigrade – walk only on their toes or hooves. This clearly isn’t the case here.”
“Yes, but some of the animals are plantigrade – walk on the whole foot,” Mac spoke up to everyone’s surprise. “What, it’s not exactly hard-to-get information.”
“True,” Stephanie nodded, unaffected by Mac’s comment the slightest, “but such animals have toes of more or less similar length, while here it’s not the case.”
“So, crocodile or alligator, then?” Danny asked. “I mean, these are the biggest reptiles-“
“The biggest reptiles with legs,” Stephanie said hardly, “are Australian and African crocodiles. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case here – these are aquatic reptiles, they got webbed feet and short claws. This cast seems to have long claws and no sign of webbing between the toes.”
“So, what does this leave us with?” Jo asked.
For the first time during their encounter, Stephanie seemed to be less than completely self-confident. “The only modern land-dwelling reptile big enough to leave such footprints” she emphasized the latter two words, “Is the Komodo dragon. But I would rather believe that a mutant alligator has emerged from the sewers than that one such animal is walking the city’s streets – somebody would’ve saw and notified us before long. By ‘us’ I mean Animal Control-“
“We got it, thanks,” Danny said quickly. “So, you don’t believe that a Komodo dragon-“
“All we know,” Stephanie said firmly, “that lately the strays and lost pets that we’ve been called to deal with are acting edgier than the usual. Cats tend to stick to higher ground – trees and the like, while dogs are found in packs. Something is out there, and it’s making stray animals very nervous, but what it is, no one can be certain of.”
“Well, thank you for your information,” Mac said firmly. “If there’s anything else-“
“Yes, your cast is flawed – lizards have five fingers, not four.”
“Yes, we’re aware of that. Anything else?”
“No,” Stephanie said, shaking her head. “Dan, I’ll see you around.”
With these words, she had left.
“Well,” Jo said, as she turned to the others, “where does this leave us?”
“With the papers that Lindsay and I have found in Ruth Limo’s desk, that’s where,” Danny replied. "I think the two of us got something to show you as well."* * *
“You know,” Courtney spoke up as she and the others beheld the world from the Astral plane, I heard that the city’s a concrete jungle, but that’s ridiculous... right?”
Courtney’s exclamation was caused by the fact that she and the others were standing on a huge branch of a gargantuan tree, and all around them grew the trees of equally great size. What was most remarkable about these trees, however, was the fact that they appeared to be made of steel and stone, concrete and glass – not of organic materials.
In addition, these gargantuan trees seemed to be inhabited as well by stick people that appeared to be walking around them with no goal in particular, by animal (or animalistic?) beings that moved around with a greater sense of direction, and a notable minority of entities that were neither, but-
“You know,” Genevieve said slowly on a completely different topic, “you, and me, and Faith we’ve got a really similar colour scheme, black and white. Fancy that.”
“We’re Vampire Slayers all,” Faith replied instead, “so of course our spiritual selves got certain similarities?”
“But what about our medium, or mystic, or whatever? She looks similar to us as well, only more brownish-red,” Genevieve wasn’t backing down.
“Let’s worry about it later – you’re embarrassing her,” Faith replied, and shifted to face Kailey. “So, uh, you want to show us something?”
“Well,” Kailey took a deep breath and shifted further away from Genevieve. “You must understand, that that’s Oz’s influence – well, his lycanthropy’s. Without it, this place looks quite different.”
“That’s quite understandable,” Giles said, kindly. “But, anyways?”
“Well, the first time I have noticed it, per say, it was – there!” Kailey thrust her arm in one direc-tion, and, instinctively, everyone else looked there as well.
“Oh my,” was all that Genevieve said.
“In the name of Merlin,” echoed Giles.
“So that’s why I was so afraid,” Kailey finished.
The reason for these statements was seemingly asleep at the moment on one of the huge branches – an equally huge lizard, seven or eight meters in length and of a rather massive built. Though it was considerably smaller than one of the trees that ‘grew’ in this astral world, it was also quite a bit bigger than any of the living creatures – including the three Slayers and Oz – and its greyish-black hide was much more vibrant in colour as well.
“Faith, Kailey, Oz,” Giles said in a no-nonsense tone of voice. “We must leave – immediately.”
“You know what it is?” Faith replied, as everyone began to comply with Giles’s order without too much arguing (unlike the usual).
“Yes,” Giles said in a rather miserably-sounding tone of voice. “A remnant of the Dreamtime.”To be continued...