Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Doc Savage characters are the property of their original owners.
it with heroes, anyway?* mentally grumbled Spike to himself, as he leaned against a handy tree. *Do those interfering sods ever have the common courtesy to show up right at the start of some proper villain’s plans, pull the plug on everything then, and give this poor bloke just a sound thumping before he puts all his time and trouble into some decent wickedness? Not bleedin’ likely. It’s as if they’ve got some sort of damn sixth sense about it. None of them ever fail to arrive at the most dramatic moment, demolishing any fiendish machine in sight -- which probably took years
of working his fingers to the bone to build -- and for the climax, sending some misunderstood chap to their unwelcomed demise. Simply because their so-called foe might want to kill maybe a couple of thousand people, at the most. Where’s the harm in that?*
Self-righteously nodding firmly several times, the vampire then sent an exasperated glower across the night-time forested valley way, way back in the hills of Appalachia, to where the ruins of an evil mastermind’s schemes continued to smolder. There, about several hundred yards away against the side of the steep hill matching Spike’s own location, a line of very sullen prisoners were coming out of a large cave lit up by numerous car headlights from the vehicles parked to face this natural aperture. Watched over by numerous state police, all who were holding their rifles ready for trouble, a few of the minions took quick, hopeful looks around, seeking for any sign of their fearless leader.
A suddenly sardonic Spike, observing this latest example of humanity’s optimism even during situations when they should’ve really known better, sniggered inwardly. *Sorry, you lot, but he sensibly legged it a few minutes before it went totally balls-up with the arrival of those six blokes.*
An English demon then thoughtfully eyed the small group by the side of the cave deeply occupied in discussions with each other and the higher-ranking authorities dealing with tonight’s crackdown. *Never saw ‘em before, but at least I know now who to avoid in the future. Big gloomy bloke, squat strongman who probably got nicknamed ‘Ape’ right from birth, long drink of water, somebody who’s as pale as me, the one with a tailor I’d have wanted back when I was breathing, and him,
Spike naturally meant the tallest man there, standing in the clearing before the cave where he and his band of adventurers had invaded several minutes ago to break the reign of supernatural terror this rural county’s inhabitants had suffered for the past month. It’d taken some brisk fighting, but they’d won, as usual. Also customary had been the revelation that all the strange events taking place during then had been instigated by some mad scientist surreptitiously using his eccentric devices, which except for a few minor details resulted in a perfectly ordinary explanation. All to the disgruntlement of the watcher on the other side of the valley.
Spike had been idly passing through nearby the wooded region several weeks ago, bored stiff but still doing his usual atrocities, until the vampire had heard a rumor through the demon grapevine there’d been something odd going on around this neighborhood. Distracted enough to investigate, the former human had quickly discovered, with a combination of mild amusement intermixed with exasperated annoyance, that the news of unholy fiends running amok around the place merely happened to be someone’s scam. About to wander off, a sudden whim of malicious mischief changed Spike’s mind, and he’d started to anonymously join in, making it appear as if the recent terrified stories among the local populace were indeed true. It’d been rather amusing, picking off the occasional underling and innocent bystander, until everyone
was convinced, despite it being the modern times of 1938, that evil spirits were on the loose in the hills.
*Well, obviously,* Spike smirked to himself. His happy mood quickly changed to wryness, as this demon acknowledge it was now time to toddle off since there was nothing further to do here. Spike shrugged in casual acceptance, with his shoulder brushing against a branch of the tree he was next to, making this bough slightly sway in the calm night air.
Across the valley, Doc Savaged snapped his head around, to stare directly at what had caught this impressively muscled man’s attention from the corner of his eye. Seeing what their leader had done, the others reacted almost as quickly. Renny, Monk, Long Tom, Johnny, and Ham simultaneously pulled from their holsters the handguns they carried, and they all aimed these advanced weapons at the tree-covered hillside nearly a thousand feet away.
There, a fearful monster was intensely grateful his unliving body didn’t need to breathe, and it could also remain as still as an actual corpse. He’d seen
what those automatic pistols now pointing at him from so far away could do. They had incredible range, not to mention rapidly firing some kind of explosive bullet which went off when they struck their target with a devastating detonation equal to a full-sized hand grenade for every single round.
Spike didn’t move a muscle, until several moments later, when the man with bronze skin seemingly looking him right in the eye turned away. His mouth opened in orders unheard by the vampire, but obeyed by his friends, who put away their guns. Only when he was sure this wasn’t some sort of trick did Spike warily edge backwards until he put the nearby tree completely between himself and the astounding bloke in the distance, who had to be some kind of superhuman.
Turning around, the vampire next scrambled up the hill, making sure he remained shielded from view at all times. Going over the ridge and then downhill, Spike next started sprinting through the forest with all the demonic speed he could muster. It wasn’t until he’d put at least a couple miles behind himself that Spike slowed down and began to feel a bit relieved. *That was too bloody close,* the creature of the night shakily thought. *Best to keep traveling on until, oh, the next state over, for preference.*
Enthusiastically agreeing with this decision, Spike continued trotting ahead at a steady, ground-covering lope, until he soon broke out from under the trees into a moonlit meadow. Looking ahead, the startled vampire abruptly halted in his tracks at seeing something truly peculiar several yards further ahead, perched atop a small boulder at the other end of the grassy field. Even with his superb night vision, the demon wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking at. It seemed to be some sort of small man, or perhaps even a child, completely naked but covered from head to toe with thick, rusty-colored hair as it sat unmoving on its rock.
Warily approaching, Spike blinked as the strange being stirred, shifting around to face him. Now that he was closer, the blond demon now observed in his complete bafflement some sort of bizarre ape or monkey in a region which it shouldn’t have possibly existed. The little primate then bared its yellow teeth in what could be nothing but an angry snarl at the vampire, who in turn glared back. In a scratchy voice, the unusual anthropoid chattered several short barks of utter contempt.
“Same to you, you little perisher!” snapped an irritiated Spike. An evil glint began glowing in his eyes, as the vampire began to casually edge nearer. He was decidedly in the mood for a little bloodshed, and here was something close at hand to take his bad temper out--
Making one more step forward, Spike didn’t react in time to the rush of the small animal which had been crouching down to hide in a little hollow of the grassy ground. Sharp tusks slashed at his left ankle, putting a deep wound in the undead flesh there which instantly healed, though a panicked Spike flinching away from the unexpected pain fell over onto his side, slamming down on the meadow floor, while instantly roaring, “WHAT THE HELL-- OWWW!!”
That last yelp of agony from Spike had come right after the sound of rock bouncing off bone, when the ape perched on its boulder had expertly thrown at him with skull-cracking force a golfball sized pebble previously hidden in its clenched right palm. Shaking his head until the pain disappeared, an immense wave of fury overcame Spike, who then bellowed, “I’M GONNA TEAR YOU INTO PIECES!”
Leaping to his feet, the enraged vampire rushed at the now-abandoned boulder, and Spike kept on running past this after two fleeing beasts, with the sprinting ape now at the side of some sort of galloping…pig?
Spike was too mad to care about this, as he chased the pair of animals into the forest ahead. These creatures split up upon reaching the treeline, with the ape speedily clambering up the nearest woody trunk, and the pig disappearing into the underbrush. Skidding to a stop in front of the tree the ape had gone up, Spike glared into the leaves above, not seeing--
Another ambush had just come from the pig, who’d quietly crept from out of a bush to the side, and then attacked the demon from behind, nearly hamstringing Spike, who had no time to appreciate the fitness of that specific verb. Instead, he wheeled around just at the right point to save his Achilles tendons from being severed, and then he bent over to grab at the hindquarters of the dodging pig which had frantically turned around almost in its own length at the failure of this attack. Spike’s fingers were just about to catch the skinny hog, until a very thick and heavy branch hurled from above smashed against the back of Spike’s head, shattering into numerous splinters.
Now well into a berserker rage, Spike turned and leapt with all the demonic strength his legs possessed, sailing upwards high into the tree. Clutching at the nearest woody limb at the apex of his leap, the vampire saw the ape scuttling along a springy branch and using it as a swing to jump into another neighboring tree. A powerful thrust of his arms sent Spike along after, and he reached out to grab another branch of the newest field of battle. However, this fragile bough then ripped completely away from the tree. Spike had enough time falling helplessly face-first towards the ground to consider the difference between an ape which weighed probably fifty pounds or so, and another biped more than twice as heavy as his ancestral cousin.
It went on like that for the next several minutes, with Spike unable to catch either of the tormenting beasts. He could’ve effectively dealt with one at a time, but the ape and the pig flawlessly worked together. Whenever the vampire turned his attention to a single animal, the other made their own attack or got away to try again. Infuriated shouts, loud chattering, and powerful grunts continued to ring throughout the forest, until all three antagonists burst out of the treeline once more.
This odd trio found beyond themselves a short stretch of bare, level ground which abruptly ended in a ten-foot plunge onto a county graveled road cut into the rocky hillside. The road builders hadn’t bothered with such effete measures as a guardrail on the other side of the lane, despite there being a much longer and nearly vertical steep drop a hundred feet further down into the valley to the creek directly below. All this was realized in a shared flash of understanding, but it didn’t stop the ape and the pig from running straight at the upper edge and then jumping off. All while being pursued by Spike now so totally lost in his bloodlust that the demon followed right after his prey, leaping after without any hesitation whatsoever.
At the same moment when everyone was in the start of their descent, the ape casually reached out with a lanky arm and snagged a protruding rock just below the upper edge of the road’s inside wall. Jerked to a halt, this mysterious primate reached out with his other hand, and it grabbed one of the falling pig’s enormous ears, with the only reaction made by this hog being a loud, pained squeal as the porker also stopped in his drop onto the road.
Spike wasn’t so lucky, with the vampire trying one quick, unsuccessful swipe in mid-air at the dangling pair of animals, until he passed them in his own descent. A hasty twist of his body resulted in Spike landing easily on his feet in the middle of the road. As he stood there glaring up at the two beasts looking down at him, this demon was just about to jump back up there in the very next second--HOOOONK!
Spike whirled around to look straight into a pair of bright automobile headlights only a few yards away, and barreling with reckless velocity by someone who’d previously planned for everything concerning his getaway, except for an undead Englishman now directly in his speeding car’s path!
Shortly after sunrise the next day, Renny walked away from the charred wreck of the car crumpled up against a projecting rock portion of the hillside. Looking gloomier than usual, which actually meant he was in a mood of quiet satisfaction, this brawny civil engineer joined his leader and the rest of their group examining something in the road. When Doc and the others glanced up, they saw being held out in this man’s enormous right hand an ornate cloth mask with a Roman numeral ‘I’ embroidered in gold thread on the upper face of this disguise. In a deep bass voice, Renny confirmed, “The body back there’s exactly who you said he’d be, Doc. Mayor Ferguson himself, who died trying to escape. What’d he do, lose control of his car?”
Doc Savage looked back down at the impressions upon the surface of the road that one of the most skilled trackers in the world could read as easily as a child’s primer, and the Man of Bronze thoughtfully shook his head. “Not at first, Renny. From what I can see, the driver instantly stepped on the brake pedal as hard as possible, and then he hit something.”
Squatting on his haunches, Doc carefully picked out a tiny piece of metal from the various debris laying upon the scuffed road surface, and he held this up for it to sparkle in the morning sunlight. The other five men now heard from him, “This is part of the radiator. The collison from whatever was struck happened so violently it broke off this car part, and then it caused the mayor responsible for us coming here to no longer be able to keep his vehicle on the road. It slewed off to the side, and as you can see, it was eventually brought to a fatal halt.” Straightening up, Doc nodded up ahead at the scorched ruins of the automobile where two county seat employees from the coroner’s department were gingerly removing a burned corpse.
Johnny spoke up then, asking what the others were thinking, “So, what’d the mayor hit, anyway? Some kind of animal? A deer, maybe? There’s lots of them around in the hills here.”
“Possibly,” Doc Savage allowed. However, this giant of a man now had a rare flicker of uncertainty cross over his deeply-tanned face, as he ruefully confessed to his associates, “What’s odd is that I can’t find any traces of it on the road. No hairs, blood drops, that kind of thing. Strangest of all, there’s no likelihood this animal survived to drag itself away, so where’s the body?”
At that, all the others looked around at the bare road, until their gazes stopped at the far edge where a very steep drop-off began. Without a single word being spoken, everyone strolled over there until they were staring down a rocky precipice to the thick bushes lining the small creek far below. Eyeing this concealing foliage, Long Tom irascibly grunted, “Don’t see where it landed after getting punched off here by the car, and I’m not going to climb down to search for something that’s already got to be stone-cold dead. Our job’s over and done with, so let’s get out of this place right now and head back to New York.”
“Hey!” instantly protested Monk in his squeaky voice, as both he and Ham together glared in a rare show of unanimity at the pasty-faced electrical genius. “We’re like blazes leaving, not until our pets show up!”
As if these very words had been a signal, a loud chattering sound intermixed with ear-piercing squeals now came from above the group standing on the road. Their heads turning as one, the six men looked up to see peering over the edge of the upper slope the head of a small ape bearing a truly incredible resemblance to a now-grinning member of their company, and also the quivering pink snout of a rangy pig with ears the size of a lady’s overstuffed purse.
Doc Savage’s face was as solemn as usual, but he had an actual faint twinkle of amusement in his golden eyes when he then suggested, “Monk, Ham, there’s a path down to the road a hundred yards behind us. Tell Habeas Corpus and Chemistry to meet us there, and we’ll pick them up on the way back to town.”
Giving an eye-rolling Long Tom equally identical smirks, the supremely skilled chemist and one of America’s finest lawyers waved their hands in intricate gestures. Above their masters, the carefully-trained animals adopted during the group’s previous exploits immediately obeyed. Right after the highly intelligent beasts moved off to be gathered up, the Man of Bronze and his band of brothers went to find their car, all while two of these adventurers momentarily set aside their lifelong feud to indignantly chide a third, who was giving as good as he got.
Down in the creek thicket, someone who’d completely buried himself in the soggy ground against the sun’s blistering rays while he waited for his undead body to heal up from his multiple broken bones continued to listen to the voices high above until they finally faded away. After a great deal of consideration, Spike the vampire now bitterly mumbled through the mud covering his face, “Blimey, and I thought heroes were bad! Sidekicks are worse!