FIC: A Halloween Universe (11/?)
Giles gasped as he stepped out of the ring and onto another planet, immediately grateful for his dual hearts. The world’s steamy heat hit you like a physical thing, hard enough to take a less fit person to their knees.
The planet they were on was a jungle, all you could see for as far as the eye could see was green. Massive trees were dotted throughout the plains, leading to thick leafy canopy overhead making it impossible for either of the planet’s presumed two suns to make an appearance. “Any humans who evolved here would be gold at the distance races,” Xander commented.
“Indeed.” Giles agreed with a nod. This was his fourth visit off-planet and given the increasing proficiency of the off-world teams with the rings, he unfortunately couldn’t justify continuing going off-world. As exciting exploration could be, he couldn’t continue avoiding his other duties and his designing.
With this in mind, Giles stepped back and just watched as Jonathan checked the DHD before turning towards Riley. “What do you suggest?”
The former soldier glanced back at him for a second before continuing. “Well there’s no sign of tracks here, if there are locals they don’t live close to the ring-.”
“Which would make sense if whoever built or uses the network is hostile, anybody living close is likely going to incur their wrath.” Jonathan reddened at Riley’s glare. “Sorry.”
“But if there are natives, I figure we’ll need an egg-head to communicate with them, even with the Universal Translators,” Riley continued. “So I figure we leave our homing device here, hidden under a bush or something, split into two groups, and go investigate.“
Giles nodded. “How do you want to split it?”
Riley shrugged. “I’ll take Jonathan, Willow, and Cordy, and head east for eight miles. If we see any sign of life we’ll investigate further. Otherwise we’ll just take the mineral readings and head back.”
Giles nodded. “Very well, keep in contact if you need anything, I’ll take Xander and Jenny and head west for the same distance.” Giles looked towards his girl-friend who was stalking around the darkened clearing, a bemused expression on her tanned features. “Jenny? Are you alright?”
“I’m not sure.” Jenny shook her head. “No, it’s nothing. I thought we were being watched, but there’s no-one around. I think this place just has a bad aura.”
“Encouraging,” Xander wise-cracked. “You definitely win the award for the most motivating teacher.”
“Nevertheless,” Giles looked around. “Stay close.”
Riley dabbed at the sweat as he crouched down, his eyes fixed on the bleached bones at his feet. Finally Jonathan broke the tense silence. “Whatever that is or was, it wasn’t human.” The shorter youth leaned in, gaze intent. “But whatever, this thing didn’t die of natural causes.” Jonathan poked at the skeleton with a twig. “Look at the ribcage, it’s collapsed on the left side, and there’s a chip in the skull. This creature had been through the wars.”
“No,” Riley disagreed, “not a war, otherwise where’s the damage to the surrounding area, the other corpses, the bomb damage? This wasn’t a war.” An icy finger worked its way down his spine, chilling him despite the heat. “It was a hunt.”
Willow let out a gasp. “A hunt by who?”
Silence was the only answer Riley could give.
The huge statues stood eighteen feet and were arranged in two columns sixty feet apart. They were elaborately sculpted but partially obscured by the yellow-green leaved vines that had grown up over time and wrapped themselves around the icons. “Fascinating,” Giles peered up at the first statue sat up upon a three foot pedestal. Everything from the solitary eye perched above its curved-down beak, to its four arms ending in lobster-like claws, and three-toed feet screamed alien.
“I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” Xander grunted as he took a swig of his canteen.
“Indeed,” Giles agreed. “And we also know that whatever and wherever this world’s population is now, it was once inhabited.”
“Somebody had to put these statues here,” Jenny concurred then paused. “But what happened to them? Where are they now?”
“Ecological disaster, war, they could have run out of some essential mineral they required to survive and left, or we simply might not have found them yet.” Giles’ eyes narrowed. “Except….”
“What ya thinkin’ ‘bout Shaggy?”
Giles glared at Xander. “I’m thinking that such a display of statues would be somewhere public and near where people would live. A local park or a museum perhaps. And if that’s the case, why haven’t they been tended for in such a long time?” Giles’ eyebrow danced as Xander dropped to all fours. “What are you doing?”
“Trying out your theory,” Xander started crawling around, “I’m looking for the path leading to the statues.”
“Good idea,” Jenny tilted her head to one side, lips pursing. “Wait, there’s something here-.” Suddenly the Romany Jedi spun around, her lightsabre leaping up into her hand to slice through a discus-shaped item with serrated edges, the two halves dropping into the high grass.
But flung from where?
Riley’s foreboding only grew as they continued through the thick jungle, the tropical forest’s unnatural quiet weighing down heavy on him. He started, eyes widening when his earpiece crackled into life, then laughed inwardly when he realised it had to be one of the other team.
His amusement quickly died when he realised just what Giles was saying. “This is a hunting ground! We’re under attack!”
Even as the words finished, a humanoid appeared out of nowhere ahead of him. The creature towered over him by an easy foot with wide shoulders and a narrow waist in spite of the apparent armour it wore. Dreadlocks hung out of the back of its head and insect-like mandibles hung out of the front of its face, just beneath its mask.
Even as he took it all in he was moving, leaping forward, his shield held in front of it. The monster grunted as he parried its scimitar swung, the beast taking a step back in apparent surprise that he could block its attack. Suddenly he spied a spear-like staff in its other hand and nimbly sidestepped the creature’s thrust, then stamping on its staff near the head to pin the weapon to the ground then jamming his shield’s rim into the beast’s neck.
The monster grunted, lengthy dreadlocks jumping as its head snapped back. But then it was thrusting its blade at his head.
“Not happenin’.” Cordy was between him and his assailant, her own blade snaking up to parry the alien’s away. The alien stepped back, its glowing red eyes shooting from Cordy to him and back again before lunging forward, seeking barrel past them both.
Except Cordy went left and he went right, then as one sprang back at the alien, closing on it like a crocodile’s jaws. Riley glided under the alien’s swinging arm, the shield he’d gotten as part of his Halloween costume swinging up to jam into the alien’s armpit.
The alien’s roar shook the trees as it instinctively twisted at the waist to face him, leaving it open to a knee to the back from Cordy. The monster roared again, twisted to face the cheerleader then backhand slashed at her with his scimitar, forcing the cheerleader to bend low and retreat.
The alien swung back at him, swinging up his arm and shooting a red laser out of a gauntlet on his arm. Riley gulped as he swung up his shield, deflecting the blast into a tree behind the alien, the laser scything through it like a chainsaw on ‘roids.
The alien leapt at him again, its scimitar slicing down even as it shot out a rear heel kick that Cory just barely sidestepped. Sparks flew as Riley parried the beast’s attack, marvelling at the monster’s combination of breath-taking speed and gymnastic agility despite its immense size.
Riley pulled his head down under the shield as the alien pulled a type of shuriken out from somewhere and flung it at him, the weapon boomeranging back to their adversary’s waiting hand. Except Cordy stepped up to the alien’s side and brought her katana slicing down, taking his hand at mid-forearm, blood vomiting from the wound.
Even as the alien threw its head back to scream its pain, Riley dropped his shield, reached up to grab a hold of the alien behind its head, hands digging deep into its dreadlocks and pulled it down, fast and hard, hitting it with repeated knees to the face while viciously twisting the monster’s head from side to side. The moment the monster was limp in his hands, he flung it aside, and looked towards his companions.
“What the hell was that?” Jonathan demanded.
“I don’t know, but I do know we’re retreating back to the ring and fast!” Riley replied before speaking into his mouthpiece. “Giles! We’re retreating!”
“A wise decision!” Giles retorted even as he ducked behind a felled tree trunk, one of the attackers materialising on a tree branch some fifteen feet in the air, its gauntlet swinging down to point at him.
And then an already viscera-drenched Xander was leaping into the air, crashing shoulder-first into the surprised alien, wrapping his arms around the beast, bundling it off the tree, and plummeting to the ground.
“Oh bollocks!” Giles cursed as he heard a near-by bush rustle, twisting around in a crouch; he saw another of the towering aliens launch itself out of the darkness at him.
Giles had barely time to reflect that he might not have the amazing physical prowess of Xander or Jenny’s Jedi training, but he had in an earlier reincarnation spent several decades training in the various martial arts. In short, he had moves this alien hadn’t even dreamed of, and a physiology far beyond human.
The creature came in fast and hard, swinging one of those serrated edged discs in tandem with its swinging dreadlocks. Giles waited until the last second to duck beneath the otherwise decapitating slash then rose the moment the creature’s arm had passed by, grabbing the creature’s arm at the wrist and elbow and hoped like hell the monster wasn’t double-jointed.
The monster threw its head back and howled as he jammed the creature’s elbow towards its body while simultaneously swinging on its wrist, yanking it out. Yet even as the monster’s arm snapped it swung across its body with the other arm, the twin blades jutting from its wrist attempting to punch a pair of holes through his skull.
Giles leaned back at the waist, the twin blades to sliding just above his face even as he hooked a foot behind the creature’s calf and yanked his leg back towards himself. The monster stumbled backwards allowing Giles the opportunity to plant a heel in its thick, wide chest and kick. The monster fell into a tree, the branches shaking with the impact as the alien pushed off and lunged back at him, its injured arm hanging limply but the twin blades of its intact limb slicing mazy patterns in the humid air.
“Oh bugger,” Giles muttered, sweat trickling down his face as he backed off. Perhaps he’d over-estimated his ability to take on one of these nightmarish beasts.
And then a cold anger, the sort of rage that blistered his Ripperish moods of the past into insignificance, engulfed him. The monster charged him, its movements suddenly seeming in slow-motion, every move easy to predict.
And almost as easy to counter.
Giles moved effortlessly, gliding left then right, then right again, then feinting left but staying right, his movements like a cobra’s hypnotic dance. And then he struck, feinting a lunge at the beast’s uninjured arm before in fact grabbing a hold of its injured arm at the biceps and dropping to his knees. The moment Giles’ weight popped the alien’s arm out of its joint he released his grip, rolled forward, kicked out his left leg, heel thudding into the beast’s horse-thick hamstring.
The monster spun to face him, its speed and balance amazing for such a bulky beast. Giles’ eyes widened as the creature swung up its gauntlet, twin lasers shooting out to crash into a tree to Giles’ left as he rolled away from its searing power, the tree crashing to the ground, the surrounding area shaking with the impact. Giles sprang up before the monster could correct his aim, a stone in hand that he swung into the side of the monster’s head knocking it back a step.
And into a slicing strike from Jenny, her light sabre slicing through the creature’s neck from the rear. Giles shot his girl-friend a weary look. “Thank you dear, that was most appreciated.”
“What are these things?” Xander demanded, the young man soaked from head to feet in gore.
“All I’m willing to commit myself to is that they’re bloody formidable, I don’t know if we’ve stumbled into a holy place, a war zone, or a hunt-.”
“A hunt?” Jenny queried.
“Their stealth and apparent invisibility suggests they’ve been tracking us,” Giles tersely explained, his gaze scanning the surrounding dense undergrowth for any more of their attackers. Then despairing of spying the monstrous beasts, he looked towards his companions. “What’s important is getting out of here with our skins largely intact.”
“Largely intact?” Xander queried.
“Oh,” Giles grinned, “I’m not that attached to yours.”
“GILES!” Riley fired his Glock under his shield, his eyes widening as the creature continued its charge seemingly unimpeded by the half a magazine he’d emptied into it. Only to then explode into an inferno thanks to one of the extremely nasty traps designed, engineered, and built by their science department. “Get your ass here!”
Behind him, Cordy and Jonathan fought back to back, the one-time Psylocke and former Batman combining with surprising seamlessness while behind them and by the DHD there crouched Willow, the alabaster-skinned witch shooting fireballs at any monster that appeared. Willow was by far their most effective weapon against their attackers. Riley just wondered just how she would last, already her hair was matted to her with sweat and her eyes becoming glassy.
“Yes, my boy,” Riley’s gaze spun right when a figure erupted from the undergrowth, only to relax as he recognised the sweat-steeped figure racing out as Giles, Jenny and Xander coming out just behind him, the duo standing back to back, “we’re here. Willow,” the Englishman directed his gaze towards the witch, “if you’d be so kind, dial our way home.”
Robson raised an eyebrow as the ring wooshed into life. He glanced at Angel, the formerly notorious vampire currently in charge of ring room security. “They’re home early aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” the Irishman nodded. “Right codes though-“
“Good lord,” Robson gasped, the reason for Angel’s sudden trailing off immediately apparent as the exploration team stumbled through the shimmering portal covered in grime, dirt, and blood, a drained-looking Willow supported by Xander.
Giles held up a hand. “Close the bloody thing!” Giles nodded gratefully as Robson hurriedly obeyed. “Thank you old bean. And while you’re at it, lock that planet out of the computer, we’re never going back.”
“What happened?” Angel queried.
“What happened is we ran into a predatory culture with advanced weaponry who for whatever reason had absolutely no reason in diplomacy or indeed in anything but carnage,” Giles replied. “Bloody plonkers.”
“It’s a shame though,” Jenny shook her head as she strode down the walkway.
“I beg your pardon?” Giles glanced towards his girl-friend.
“I sensed something,” Jenny’s eyebrows arched upwards. “One of those creatures had potential.”
“To be a Jedi?” Giles shook his head at Jenny’s slight nod. “Nevertheless that planet is just too dangerous. Lock it out of the dialling machine.”
Wesley sighed wearily as he watched his target. At times like this it was difficult to prevent disappointment from filling him. Eyal Lavin was a man of great potential, filled with chrasima, intelligence, and wit, but also a great anger that meant for all his aptitude he was unsuitable to be a Jedi.
With a shake of his head, Wesley turned away and melted into the busy bazar, his cloak shielding him from much of its dust.