Disclaimer: I do not own Honor Harrington and her related universe, nor do I own BtVS. I make no money of these stories. In fact, I lose homework time and that's about it.
This story starts during the book "Echoes of Honor" by David Weber. It has no corresponding BtVS timeline, except to say that it is much, much later. I borrowed some dialogue from the book, but I did so innocently. DEMONS OF HADESAn Honor Harrington Fanfiction
Bringing the binoculars to her face, Honor Harrington surveyed Camp Inferno. It felt odd, bringing them up to a face that only had one eye with her only hand – the other arm amputated just below the shoulder to save her life. She had tried to come to terms with her current physical disabilities, and five T-months of living on Hades with what felt like only half a functioning body had certainly forced her to learn to get by with what she had. Occasionally the thought of how much easier this would have been with both eyes and both arms took her thoughts towards darker corners of her mind.
“Bleeeeeek.” Nimitz, her telepathic six-armed feline companion, was slowly making his way on a branch just above her head. He had been injured during their capture by the Peeps, and he too would have to have work done on him to return his body to full functionality. Still, she could feel his joy at being out in the trees (his species were called Treecats, after all), and his disapproval at her dark turn of thought. She shook her head to clear it. Nimitz was right - she was here, now, and once she was back in Manticoran space there’d be doctors to take care of her arm and eye. She had to concentrate on her plans now – finding enough trustworthy bodies to arm with the weapons on her two shuttles, overthrow the Peep garrison on Hades, somehow commandeer some ships to make her way back to Manticore with as many former prisoners as she could manage.
She returned her attention to the camp, noting the fifteen meter clearing around it where the local vegetation had been removed, the primitive looking huts surround a central water tank, and the ceramacrete landing pad nearly a kilometre away. If she was a Peep she’d have listening devices hidden throughout the camp, and spies.
Beside her, Carson Clinkscales was idly swatting at what passed for mosquitoes on Hades. “What do you think, My Lady?”
“I think it’s hotter here than any place should be except a fusion bottle or a sun.”
“About the camp. How many prisoners?”
“I’d guess around six or seven hundred. It was very kind of the Peeps to put all the people I want to meet in one place like this.”
Nimitz bleeked his amusement. Camp Inferno was the closest prison camp to equator on this god forsaken planet, so temperatures were worse here than any other camp on the planet. They had filled this camp with the worst troublemakers and dissidents, giving Honor the perfect opportunity to recruit for her upcoming prison planet riot and eventual breakout.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead with a rag. “We’ll watch them for a few days to get an idea of the regular schedule, and then pick one or two for first contact.”
The brightest of Hades’ three suns was setting, coloring the sky with streaks of orange and purple. It never really cooled down much here by the equator, but it was least hot when the primary sun set. The jungles would come alive now, the wildlife that otherwise hid spending what time it needed out looking for food or prey.
She brought the binoculars back to her eyes and watched as a crew of five prisoners of Camp Inferno lit torches around the camp. Another crew was dragging a body away from the camp, along a corridor of now lit torches. Carefully, Honor zoomed in on the body and let out a breath when she realized it wasn’t human but rather some sort of large indigenous animal. She wondered why they had gone to the trouble of killing it, since all the indigenous plants and animals were inedible to humans. The crew moving the body had reached the end of the torch-lit path. Honor watched them put the body on a sort of crude stone pedestal, bow formally to the trees around them, and then begin their trek back to the camp. Maybe, Honor mused to herself,they’ve invented their own religious ceremonies? Anything was possible
They watched the camp for another week but the schedule remained unchanged. During the day crews went out around the camp, clearing what neared to be cleared, collecting materials for whatever it was they were up to, and Honor even saw some take what seemed to be long pleasure walks. Every night the torches were lit (Fritz Montoya had suggested that the fuel was some form of fermented plant life, probably equally inedible as everything else on this planet, but still good fuel), and every night some five prisoners took a large animal caught during the day to the stone pedestal, bowed to the trees, and went back to Inferno for the night.
What had caught Honor’s attention was that at a random time during the darkness the animal disappeared. During the night-watches she left instructions for someone to keep an eye on the pedestal, and every night the animal vanished and no one noticed when or why. There had been discussion that had devolved into outlandish theories before Honor had put a stop to it – Chief Petty Officer Gianna Ascher had suggested that it might be sentient aliens, less benevolent than the tree cats, while Lieutenant Sanko had suggested mutants. When someone mentioned genetically engineered life-forms Honor had finally contributed a short “We don’t know, we’ll watch until we find out.” Still, the watching had yielded nothing aside from more mystery. It comforted no one that there was something big enough to move and eat one of those carcasses, yet fast enough to not get spotted, out in the jungle with them.
She waited a week before giving the order to move closer to the camp. Honor’s people were fairly confident about the camp schedules and how far out the prisoners came out into the jungle, and there was nothing more to be gained on watching the camp from afar. They left the shuttle where it was with a team of 4 in case they needed an emergency pick up, while Honor and the eight of her people left to set up camp closer to Inferno.
Honor sat on the tree root that had become her chair, pointedly ignoring the waves of disapproval coming from her personal arms-man, Andrew LaFollet, while listening to Nimitz purr in her lap. LaFollet stood behind her, his hands aggressively on his pulser rifle. Andrew had of course wanted Honor not to be involved with the first meeting at all – too risky, he claimed. Still, Honor knew the best way to win trust was to be upfront about whom you were and what you wanted, so when the two people from Camp Inferno she had ordered brought to her arrived, they would meet the person in charge.
She felt their fear and helpless fury before she saw them – a man and woman walking in front of Jasper Mayhew. Mayhew had his pulser rifle pointed towards the ground away from his ‘guests’. In Mayhew’s belt she saw knife sheaths that she thought he must have confiscated. When they crested the hill enough to make out Honor and LaFollet she felt curiosity and a bit of uncertainty from them, as if what they had thought was happening had fallen away to reveal something else totally unexpected.
As they came even closer they noticed Nimitz, and the little curiosity she’d been feeling flared brighter. When they were three meters away they stopped, surveying Nimitz, Honor and LaFollet, the humans in their sweat stained Peep uniforms.
“What the hell is this supposed to be, then? If its information you want we won’t tell you a thing.” The woman spoke with an odd accent.
“We aren’t Peeps. I’m Commodore Honor Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Navy, this is Nimitz, and behind me with is Andrew LaFollet of the Grayson Marine Corps. We escaped a Statesec ship in orbit almost a year ago – you probably saw the fireworks. We’ve been working on some things since then, and since there’s no official entry for Camp Inferno we never knew about it until now.”
The woman considered what Honor had said, while the short, bald man beside her watched LaFollet’s pulser. “You know, I think you may even be who you say. Some of the newer prisoners from Manticore have mentioned a Harrington. We never heard that you’d been captured.”
“I was supposed to get a very public execution once we landed. One of my people pretended to defect, then arranged some chaos, a ride out of the ship, and for the ship to explode as we left so that they couldn’t see that we’d escaped.”
“How’d he do that?”
“He demonstrated what happens when a pinnace brings up its wedge inside of a boat bay. We made planetfall while the explosion blinded any nearby sensors.”
“And you’ve been here a year? How do you know the peeps haven’t been looking for you?”
“Because we’ve been checking their mail.”
“Checking their ma...you have a shuttle! And that’s where you got the uniforms, and the weapons!”
Honor nodded. “Those we didn’t bring with us from the escape, yes.”
“And now you’re looking for man-power. Has to be. You got a shuttle full of weapons but you need bodies. So you heard about Camp Inferno on the Peeps communication network, and you knew this would be the best place to find people willing to give everything just to shoot some Peeps.”
Honor nodded again. She was certainly quick.
“Well I will be dipped in shit!” The woman stepped forward offering her hand to Honor. Through Nimitz, Honor could feel the wild delight running through her mind. “My name’s Harriet Benson, this is Henri Dessouix. Back two lifetimes ago, I was a captain in the Pegasus System Navy, and Henri here was a lieutenant in the Gaston Marines. I’ve been stuck on this miserable ball of dirt for something like sixty five T-years, and I have never been more delighted to make someone’s acquaintance in my life!”
Jesus Ramirez, the most senior officer in Camp Inferno, sat across from Honor Harrington, and for the first time since his home-world of San Martin fell to invaders, felt hope.
“I think your plan is solid. Is there anything I can do to help, aside from setting things up in the camp?”
“There are always things we wish could happen, but I don’t think we’re going to get a better break.”
Ramirez crossed his fingers over each other. “What about sabotage? Or decapitating the enemy command structure?”
“We’d be risking showing our hand too early. I don’t want to put them on guard, and I don’t want to risk anyone getting captured before the actual attack.”
“What if there was another way? A way to strike at the Peep command structure, but also to make sure no one was caught, and there was no warning.”
Honor fixed her eyes to his, wondering about the excited thoughtfulness she could feel through her link to Nimitz.
“Do you remember how you asked me earlier about the animal we catch and put outside the camp every night?”
Honor didn’t quite follow, but nodded.
“It’s an offering, but not a religious one. There is a...being on this planet. We prisoners tend to refer to it as ‘The Shadow in the Dark’. It sounds hokey, I suppose, if you haven’t lived here and seen what we’ve seen. The Peeps know it’s out there too. When they first started dumping people here they tried to use ships and soldiers to catch it. They never caught anything, although they did manage to lose a lot of soldiers to ‘accidents’ in the jungle.”
“So this thing is real?”
“Oh, yes. I can tell you conclusively, not only is the Shadow real, and she’s quite intelligent. Ethical, even, in her own way.”
“I’ve met her, once. Sort of talked, you could say. I don’t know if she’s a shape shifter or human, but she looks like a blond woman...maybe twenty t-years old, pre-prolong. The peeps were starving a camp into submission, and apparently she didn’t like it. Peeps started dying. At first they thought it was prisoners doing the killing, and things got worse for the camps, but even after Camp Charon was locked down people were dying. In their rooms, on the base grounds, even on the shuttles they use to drop food to us prisoners. They put one in the air for a drop, and then on the way back to base it disappeared. Later they found the damn thing landed somewhere in the jungle with no one on board and blood all over the place. They got scared enough to drop food at the camp they were starving, and the killings stopped.”
“That’s quite a story. How’d you meet her?”
“After they started dropping food to the starvation camp again, I stayed by the animal we put out there every night. It took a week, but one night she just walked out of the jungle.”
“How did you know it was her?”
“It’s hard to describe. There was this...savageness.”
“Did she say anything?”
“I wouldn’t say we chatted, but she knows how to talk.”
“So you think she’d help us? And that she’d be of use?”
“From what I can tell she has no love for the Peeps, and she was willing to start killing them when they starved a camp. And if she’s dangerous enough to start killing Peeps at will in their own home, then she’s dangerous enough to help us. We just need to convince her to help.”
“It’s a long shot, but you’ve been on this planet longer than I. I don’t think my armsmen will let me be anywhere away from them, and I doubt this Shadow would be happy around pulsers.”
“No, likely not. I’ll start camping out again. Tell your people to stay away. She took an animal last night, so she’s in the area.”
He only had to wait two days. On the third night she appeared. He hadn’t notice her approach. One minute he was sitting alone, and the next she was beside him. She didn’t say anything, either; she just sat beside him on the ground, absolutely still, staring at the jungle.
“Good evening, Summer.”
She grunted in return.
“I need your help. We need your help.”
Summer was looking at him from the corner of her eyes, and he could see them also flick back towards the jungle.
“We’re going to attack the Blacklegs and take control of this planet.”
Summer turned to look at him now, her head tilted sideways. Then, with a sniff, she turned away. “There are strangers.” Her voice seemed almost rusty from being unused.
“Yes. They were supposed to be prisoners, like us, but they escaped from the ship that brought them here. They have weapons, and shuttles.”
She grunted again. “Dangerous.”
“I know. That’s why we need your help.”
“Only one of me."
“Yes, but you can move in places we can’t infiltrate – within Camp Charon. You can create confusion and distract them before we land armed prisoners into the compound and start the real attack.”
She sniffed, drawing in air and looking at the jungle around them, then at Camp Inferno. “When you leave this planet, take me with you.”
Ramirez nodded. “Of course.”
She looked into his eyes, judging the sincerity of his words. “Then tell me what you want me to do. Tomorrow I will meet the one armed woman and her guards here, at midday.”
Ramirez nodded. “Her name is Honor Harrington. I’ll tell her.”
It was only then he realized he was talking to air; she was gone.