Taggart in the Combat Room
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was created by Joss Whedon. Eureka, by Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia.
This is going to be connected but independent one-shots concerning Taggart's experiences at the Unbroken Academy as the “ambassador” from Eureka. And a note: I don't follow “Season 8” continuity, otherwise known as Joss's fanfiction. The Slayers set up shop in Warren, Maryland (a town currently under the Loch Raven Reservoir in our universe; when they tried that in this universe, the local Hellmouth intervened). The Cleveland Hellmouth was dying, and has since died. There are groups of Slayers and Watchers scattered around the world; the Unbroken Academy is the training school, but the administration is pointedly decentralized, given what happened to most of the administrators of the Travers-led Watchers' Council.
X X X X X
Taggart said, “Thanks, everyone!” jovially as he entered the Unbroken Academy's combat room. “Appreciate the lesson!” And he meant it. He was in good shape for a man of his age – he ate mostly wholesome foods and on days when he wasn’t scouring the wilderness for some rare animal (or, occasionally, plant – sure, his specialty was animal biology but to be a true man of the wild you had to know a lot about plants, too) or in a laboratory, he kept himself fit – but he didn’t belong on the same pitch with these girls. He’d known that going in, of course – anyone who could beat the lovely Ms. Lupo in a fight was no one to be trifled with – but Taggart was a man of action. You could learn some things by watching, but some things, you needed to learn by doing.
So when the slayers invited him to slug it out with one of them, even knowing he’d get soundly beaten, he didn’t hesitate in saying yes. His opponent had been a young woman named Hilary, a hair over a meter and a half tall, weighing maybe 47 kilos, black hair, maybe 16 years old. If you saw a photograph of her, you’d have seen a short, young woman, who didn’t look particularly dangerous. But when you saw her walk – heck, when you saw anyone here the Academy walk except for that bloke Andrew – you knew they were dangerous. Not thought they were dangerous; they moved like the hunters they were.
He had no problem with fighting back, either. He’d never mistreat a woman, but if you had to fight, you had to fight.
There was a crowd. Guess a lot of these people wanted to see how well he could take a beating. He didn’t take it personally, though. They’d clearly done something like this before, maybe when they were sizing up the new Slayers to see what they knew and what they’d need to learn.
“Any rules?” he asked.
Mr. Giles said, “Begin when I say begin. Stop when I or one of the other Slayers says stop. Nothing potentially lethal and we would prefer to avoid breaking limbs.”
“Good to know. Hard to run through the forest with a busted foot,” he said. “I’m ready whenever you—“
“Begin,” Mr. Giles said.
Trying to catch him by surprise. Clever fellow. Hilary didn’t immediately leap to the attack, instead shifting her weight back and forth, either waiting for an opening she was perfectly capable of making herself, or seeing whether he’d attack first.
He wasn’t about to do that; the fight would be over in seconds, and while he had no hopes of winning he was hoping to not be immediately clobbered. So he was going to make Hilary come to him.
The crowd started to boo good-naturedly; Faith said, from somewhere behind him, “Yo! You gonna fight, or you gonna dance?”
A few seconds later, Hilary threw herself forward, aiming a sweep kick at Taggart’s front ankle. It wasn’t there; years of tracking and being tracked by predators of all sorts had left him with the ability to sense when one was going to strike. The way she shifted her weight showed that she was about to make a move.
Even knowing that, though, he barely got his ankle out of the way in time. He had no time for a counterattack, but backed up a few feet and took off his jacket. Hilary, in the meantime, was up and poised for another strike. It was pure poetry. And just think – Hilary was one of the less experienced ones.
He threw his jacket at her and rushed as she batted it aside with one hand. She was slightly startled – enough so that he managed to get in a good, hard shove – but as she fell backwards, she kicked him in his left knee.
That was going to leave a mark. And maybe need surgery. He took a couple of involuntary steps back and saw Hilary tumble to the mat, roll to her feet, and charge at him in one motion.
There was nothing for him to predict, here; there was also no way he could avoid it. In shape he may well have been, but he would have had to be Bruce Lee to even stand a chance of dodging. She punched him in the face, pulling the blow slightly at the last minute.
He found himself flat on his back on the mat. Hilary came over, took a blunted stake out of her pocket – they didn't allow sharpened ones in here for obvious reasons – And began to bring the stake down towards his chest.
No such thing as cheating? Fair warning. While Hilary was drawing the stake, Taggart reached into his pocket for something he kept on hand for emergencies. Emergencies involving animals with a good sense of smell, at any rate.
As the stake came down towards his chest, he took a small spray can – non-aerosol, of course, do you think he wanted to do he poor environment any more damage? – and sprayed it towards her face.
Not pepper spray; a little formula of his own devising, based on the greatest essential oil of all – eucalyptus. Hilary’s momentum carried her forward, but the spray in her face made her cough, and the stake ended up hitting him in the shoulder as she tripped over him, landing on the mat, sneezing her head off.
Taggart rolled over and scrambled to his feet. “What was that?” Hilary said angrily, choking.
“A gentleman never tells,” Taggart said.
Eyes watering, Hilary came at him at top speed, but the coughing and sniffling she was still doing reduced her effectiveness somewhat. Taggart managed to dodge her first rush, and dove out of the way of the second, but the third was unavoidable. After slamming him against the wall and punching him in the stomach, she put the stake against his heart and said, “You cheated.” Then she pressed the stake hard enough that it was going to leave a mark on his chest.
After a few seconds, Giles said “Enough.” She pressed for another half second, then threw the stake to the mat and let him down. “Are you all right?”
“I’m – Hilary started.
“I was addressing Mr. Taggart,” Giles said sternly.
“A few bumps and bruises,” Taggart said cheerfully. “Nothing I haven’t had before.”
“The cut beneath your eye looks a bit nasty,” he said. “You may wish to visit the infirmary.”
“Now, what was in that spray you used?”
“A simple blend of eucalyptus oil and a couple of ingredients to help the oil atomize. Nothing that’ll cause any permanent harm, but handy when I need to throw an animal off my trail, or defend myself. They’ll sneeze and cough while I head for the high country. Doesn’t work so well on birds, though.” He tapped his nose. “Very poor sense of smell.”
“Thank you. Hilary, are you allergic to eucalyptus?”
“No, but –“
“Thank you. I believe the infirmary should have medicines that should alleviate your symptoms.”
Hilary, clearly upset, said, “He cheated!”
Taggart shrugged and said, “I did ask if there were any rules. Didn’t hear anything in them about not using my spray. Never go anywhere without it.” He patted his pocket. “You never know when you might run across a pack of jackals.”
“He’s right,” Faith said, hopping down from the window ledge she was sitting on. “Nothing stoppin’ a vamp from getting clever and then boom! He’s got a nice plate of Slayer sushi. And there’re a shitload of demons who use chemicals like that. You gotta be ready. It’s what I’ve been tryin’ to teach you.”
“Fine,” she said irritably, and stormed out of the room.
“I do wish we’d known you had your device, though,” Giles said. “There was the chance she could have been allergic.”
“I apologize for that,” Taggart said. “So, how’d I do?”
“Not bad,” Faith said. “’course, you do know that up against someone experienced you’d’ve gotten you clock cleaned, right?”
“Quite likely. Of course, if this were a real fight, once I sprayed Ms. Kunkel in the face I’d have been running away as fast as these legs of mine could carry me.”
“It doesn’t bother you?” Faith said. “That you got beaten up by a girl?” She seemed to be deliberately prodding him.
“Why should it? The toughest person I’ve known is a woman.”
Faith nodded. “Okay. Good answer.”
“So,” Taggart said. “Two questions. The first is whether I’ve done well enough to maybe do some fieldwork towards figuring out how to track vampires? Be a big help to you folks.”
Faith and Giles looked at each other and finally Faith said, “What’s the first thing you do when you see a vampire?”
“Depends. Am I by myself or is one of the Slayers nearby?”
“Let’s go with both,” Faith said.
“By myself: Run. Unless they’re attacking someone, of course. And with a slayer nearby? Yell. Then run. I may be adventurous, but I’m hardly stupid. Vampires are dangerous. I’ve fought bears and crocs, but I’ve very rarely done so when I had another choice.”
“Okay. Good enough,” Faith said. “And your second question?”
“Where’s the infirmary, exactly?”