Chapter 3. Settling in
A/N: I’m using trongod’s idea to integrate Faith in the Scoobies - there was no working for the mayor, she was always one of the good guys. I also intend to make this progress slowly - I prefer the stories where the action happens for a reason. Plus, I need time to figure out what comes next.
The rest of the crew had been a bit incredulous at first, but fortunately she had taken the newspaper when she left Giles and Buffy. People tended to be somewhat fatalistic in this job anyway; their life expectancy every time they got sent in battle was usually measured in minutes. At least they weren’t dead. (She willfully ignored the inner voice saying "yet.")
The vampire business, on the other hand, was not accepted so easily. She couldn’t blame them; she wasn’t so sure herself of what she had seen. Fortunately, Giles had agreed to another meeting, where he was going to explain the situation. She would have to give him more details about her own crew, but that was ok, she didn’t expect five people and a construction robot to be able to thrive on their own - they needed local help. Not to mention that, if there was indeed a danger to civilians, well - protecting civilians was their job, wasn’t it? Pesky details like being on the other side of the galaxy and in the wrong year didn’t count.
In the meantime, some planning was required.
"How many resources do you have available," Frank asked the SCV AI. It was nowhere near as smart as the dropship AI, but that was fine - its job was mostly mining, with the ability to construct a few predefined buildings.
"530 minerals and 150 gas," replied the SCV.
"Ok," said Frank, "that will be enough to build a command center and even make a few minor repairs, but we definitely need to find at least a source of minerals, fast. We can’t even afford supply depots for now, we have to keep enough for the command center, or long-term we’re useless. Also, we’re going to need a hiding place - we’re risking the government of this place finding out about us if we’re still here come daylight. I know it’s not the UED, but I doubt they’re going to hear about technology from the 26th century and ignore it. Medevac, let’s take a trip around and see if we can find some mountains."
It didn’t take them more than a few minutes of flying to spot a nice valley in a nearby mountain range - the SCV tools could cut trees even better than minerals, though it didn’t get anything useful out of it. For now, however, they decided to just park under the trees for the night.
Light didn’t catch them very rested - the medevac was meant for transport to a battlefield, not comfort. Frank started to allocate tasks; you never let a soldier idle for too much or they started to complain.
"Eva, go and meet this civilian Giles, we need to know what the situation is. Me and the boys are going to start to look for a more permanent place to settle down; hopefully we can find a source of minerals in the area. I don’t expect to find gas too, but vespene is not that important right now."
After Eva left, Frank had Jimmy and Handsome scout for wild animals or other threats, while he and Luther, the fourth marine, took the medevac and started looking around for the all-important blue crystals. He made sure to tell Jimmy and Handsome not to use their weapons unless it was a life-or-death situation - killing animals didn’t count there, as their hydraulics could easily kill a bear by punching him. He didn’t want anyone else to know they were here, not until he got a better feel for the local conditions.
Eva’s trip back to Sunnydale took a couple of hours - the mountains were hard to navigate, and the suit energy ran out quite often if she used it to help herself to a higher than normal speed. Ghosts weren’t meant to run like marines, after all, they were meant to sneak and snipe, or call down nukes on enemy positions. Fortunately, running was less energy-hungry than cloaking, so once she got to the roads she settled into a nice ten miles an hour jogging speed.
She had to leave her rifle behind, unfortunately, since she was told that the civilians would surely notify the authorities if they saw someone with a huge rifle in public. She hated doing that, but they needed more information and traveling so far cloaked was not really an option.
She first spotted the blonde girl, Buffy, sitting in the campus where they were supposed to meet together with a few other youngsters. (Even though Eva was only 27 years old, she considered most civilians less experienced than her and therefore dismissed them. It wasn’t intentional, but she could not respect someone who didn’t kill his share of the Zerg hordes.) Giles was sitting on a nearby bench, reading something - the strange device on his nose appeared to allow him to see well. She feared to think what the medical science was like in this age; maybe the medevac could help with that.
Buffy had also seen her, and pointed her out to her friends. Eva used the time it took her to reach the group to study them. Buffy was tiny - she would have assumed her to be a child, barely a teen, if she hadn’t seen her fight last night. Her experience in martial arts was amazing, and had obviously not come easily.
There were three more girls in the group - a brunette, a redhead and another blonde - and a young man. The blonde seemed to be a bit withdrawn - probably shy, Eva decided.
"Hello Buffy, Mr. Giles," Eva said when she got close enough.
"Good day, Miss Eva," replied Giles, at the same time that Buffy replied with a cheerful "Hi!". "
"Everyone, this is Eva," Buffy continued. "Eva, meet Faith, Willow, Tara, and this is Xander."
"Hey, yo, hi." everyone except for the shy blonde waved at her.
"Eva," the redhead - Willow - said - "is it true you’re from the future? The 26th century? Do you have advanced technology with you? History books? Do you have a database? Can I see it? I’m curious about..."
"Breathe, Willow," Buffy interrupted her. "You didn’t have any coffee, did you?" she continued.
"No, no coffee, but Buffy this is exciting! The future!" Willow replied.
"Yes, Willow, but please keep it down," said Giles, "we don’t want that to become public knowledge. Ok, Miss Eva, assuming that what you told us is true - and I have no reason to doubt it right now - what can we do to help?"
"You could start by explaining what is going on around here," Eva suggested. "In the light of day, this looks like a normal town, albeit less technologically advanced than I’m used to. In truth, I haven’t had that much contact with civilians since even before the second war began, but I’m assuming what I’m seeing is normal. What happened last night, then?"
"Ah. Well... the world is older than you know," Giles started, accompanied by the groans of everyone else.
Vampires. Demons. Magic. Even robots, which was really weird, given the technology she could see around her. Eva thought she was pretty hardened by the war, but this was new. The myths were real - "except for leprechauns", Buffy insisted. Oh, and Buffy and Faith were superheroes. The good news was that they had a purpose again - protect the civilians from the evil hordes. Ok, so their knowledge of the best counters was useless here, but they were soldiers, they were going to catch up. She’d have to reconsider her opinion of the "civilians" though, they might have been fighting something almost as bad as the Zerg.
"Here’s the situation from our point of view," Eva said. "We’re just a few soldiers. We’re not historians, doctors, engineers, anything like that. We want to help, it’s what we do, but four marines and a ghost are a pitiful force, especially as you said," she nodded to Giles, "that some of these... demons... can’t be killed with guns. Though I’d like to test their response to a ghost delivering a psionic-charged blow, but that’s for later. However, and this is important, we were lucky - the medevac we were in also contained a space construction vehicle, which can be used to rebuild our tech base. The drawback is that we need a special type of mineral for even the most basic construction, and advanced buildings and units also require vespene gas. My colleagues are looking for them in the mountains north of here; if we can find them, that would be great; if not, we’re all there is."
"If you can give me some samples," Willow said, "I can try and analyze them to see if there are any similar substances in geological studies in the area."
"Good idea," replied Eva, "we’re going to have to figure out a way to do that."
"What is this medevac you’re talking about," asked Xander.
"We were in a dropship - a flying transport that can fit several troops. It has a small remote healing ability."
"Healing? That could come in handy after patrols," said Faith.
"Yes, well, we will have to see how it compares with Slayer healing," said Giles, "and if it is even compatible with your biology."
"That can also be arranged," replied Eva. "I don’t think there should be any problem with it - the medevac is compatible with both human and alien biology and it can heal up a marine from almost dead to full health in a few minutes. It does use up energy like there’s no tomorrow, and it can only heal one person at a time, but it’s saved my bacon more than once."
"Ok," she continued, "enough about us. It’s going to take us a while to get settled in, for one thing we really need to build some supply structures, but that will have to wait. What about you? Is there anything we can help you with right this instant? Medical attention, fighting some powerful - and I can’t believe I’m saying this - demon?"
"No, you missed the last one we fought," said Buffy. "That is actually unfortunate - he was a combination of human, demon and robot, so I’m guessing your technology would have been effective there."
"Yes," said Eva sarcastically, "an EMP can ruin your whole day. Ok, so nothing bad on the horizon?"
"Not at the moment," said Giles. "The Hellmouth appears to be giving us a respite; we only have to deal with the usual vampires for now."
"If you can call Dracula usual," said Buffy. "Or Harmony," she added, giggling.
"The Dracula?" asked Eva. "He is real?"
"Yes, although Spike insists he’s just got good PR," said Buffy.
"Spike?" asked Eva.
"Ah... he is a vampire who has been... neutered, for lack of a better word, by a government research facility. He has a chip in his brain that prevents him from harming humans, though he has no problem harming demons, and thus he has been fighting on our side - mostly," said Giles.
"Interesting," said Eva. "Ok," she continued, "I need to go and see what the guys did with the place we found. Can we set up another meeting in a less public place next time?"
"I have just bought a local shop," said Giles. "We can use that - it has a back room if we meet during the day, when customers are present."
"That’s settled then. I must leave now. It was nice meeting every one of you," Eva nodded to the group. "Mr. Giles, if you can give me directions to your shop I can meet you there two days from now?" she asked.
Frank was happy. He was ecstatic, even. Despite a common misconception, minerals weren’t that rare, it was just they were uneconomical to mine normally, given the rich bases that could be found on the planets in the Koprulu sector. In any case, they had found minerals - very few, probably no more than a few hundred total, and gathering them was going to be a bitch, but - minerals! They could start building now.
They hadn’t found gas yet, but you can’t have everything, and he was sure they will eventually. At least there was enough gas in their reserves for another medevac, in case something happened to this one. The future was bright - and that was not even taking into account the complete absence of Zerg units anywhere on this planet. This was practically heaven.
A spot in the forest for the command center had been cleared, and the SCV had already started to build a command center. It was slow work, it was going to take a few days, but the command center contained the main database with all the building plans and the upgrade tech. Without being forced to fight right away, they could take it slow and get every upgrade known to man. Frank was already salivating at the thought of a fleet of heavily upgraded battlecruisers. Come to think of it, "Admiral Frank" sounded nice.