Prologue: Gods in the Machine
Any recognizable characters in this story are not owned by the author and are the properties of their creators and/or other corporations. These include Marvel Comics, Mutant Enemy, DC Comics and with brief glimpses of the works of Neil Gaiman and others.THANK YOU:
Massive thanks to DeepBlueJoy and Greywizard for consenting to Beta this work. If not for them, this would be illegible.SUMMARY:
YAHF. Nearly fifteen years distant from the core of the BTVS realities it's Halloween again, but with a different world there are different choices and different results.A/N:
My original intent was to complete this in it's entirety before I began to post, however with the possibility of my needing to discontinue my internet again approaching, I have decided to put this and the firs chapter forward for viewing. Please enjoy.
SYMBOL OF HOPE
October 16, 1997
420B East Main St.
On the Pacific coast of the United States there was a small town. Near the center of that town there was a small shop. In the back room of that shop there was a god.
Janus was of two minds about what he saw as he watched, unseen and intangible, the mortal sorcerer bustle around the small costume shop that was due to open the next day.
Of course, Janus was always of two minds about everything.
Looking around at mass produced fright masks and basic theatrical make-up interspersed with pockets of intricately crafted and detailed costumes – some of which were of characters from movies and novels that hadn't even been created yet – the deity found himself overjoyed that a building had, after centuries, once again been dedicated to his worship. At the same time he was deeply frustrated that the mortal that had done the dedication seemed completely uninterested the the portion of his divine portfolio that dealt with portals and doorways -- With advancing in life -- With evolving --With -- With...
He wasn't some -- Some -- One trick pony like Mars! Janus was a Hearth Deity for God's sake!
Taking a deep breath that was both calming and unnecessary, he reflected that half of the reason that he was feeling the irritation was the approaching date. October 31, 1997.
The date had passed nearly fifteen years earlier in the core of realities where the Powers That Be hold sway. There had been a certain amount of Chaos that night, but there had been very little in the way of long lasting effects. Sure, a distracted student had done better than expected on a language exam and a young man had remembered enough to be able to bluff his way past a sleep-deprived guard, but in the grand scheme of things the alteration in the march of events had been negligible.
On the other hand, for some reason, that Halloween had caused a near infinite number of tangents from the core reality. Many, by the machinations of slightly different aspects of himself. Janus found himself excited by the possibilities, but he was unsure how turning a young mortal into a self-righteous jack-ass, or doing the same to that young mortal's friends was in any way offering a new beginning, or evolution. Not that it happened every time, but it did occur with startling regularity.
Janus was not
fond of the term 'startling regularity'.
The the ripping of Time/Space announcing the appearance of a portal and the arrival of a higher being 'behind' him pulled the god of portals and chaos from his considerations and caused two of his four eyebrows to rise.
“Metatron. That's a new appearance for you. Did you loose a bet, or is the visage of homely, middle-aged, mortals the new fashion?” He asked while giving the Archangel an appraising look without bothering to turn around.
Unfazed, The Voice of God circled around to Janus' forward face, passing unnoticed through the shop's proprietor in the process. “You know perfectly well I don't gamble,” He answered in a velvety, if unamused voice. “This is the form of a mortal who will be portraying me in a movie in a few years and I thought I would 'try it on for size' as it were,” Metatron paused briefly look down at himself. “True, he isn't the most hansom human, but you must admit he does have a truly magnificent voice.”
“Be that as it may,” the Archangel rambled on. “I'm not here for a private fashion show. I'm here on business.”
“What bu...” Janus began to ask before he was interrupted the truly irritating buzzing at the back door of the shop. For a brief second the god, half whimsically, wondered if the sound meant if someone was about to receive a 'version of the home game' before he refocused on the angel that continued to circle around him and then began to follow the mortal shop-keeper into the back. As The Voice of God moved through the doorway separating the public portions of the shop and the back, storage area Janus' eyes widened, then narrowed in irritation before he followed his companion through the portal.
“What business?” He finally continued. “This Halloween, barring outside interference, has occurred countless time without variation. Why would He be concerned with what happens this time?”
Partially distracted by the opening of the shop's delivery door, Metatron failed to notice the second look of irritation that crossed the Roman deity's faces as the mortal ushered in a courier wheeling a large, cardboard, garment box.
“Must I truly explain?” The Archangel frowned as he turned from the mortals and the delivery. “Very well. The distance from the core of realities and the fact that this universe is intersected with another group of realities has made the likelihood of differing consequences almost certain. The Lord is concerned about the effect the memories of this Halloween's events will have on the children,”
Seeing the two unconvinced expressions on the faces of Janus before him, The Voice of God raised a hand and began counting off on the fingers.
“A potential Slayer. A fairly powerful precognitive. A child that can manifest the nightmares of others...”
At this he stopped counting and fluttered his hand in a dismissive gesture.
“...Not to mention, only He knows, how many mutants that will discover their powers in the next few years. I shudder to think what the effect of having the memories of attacking and in some cases EATING their playmates could have on those children of power.”
“So, The Lord, what? Wants me not to empower the spell?” The god asked
“And leave The Slayer and her friends completely unprepared for when Gachnar rises in two years? Of course He wants you to empower the spell. Just make sure none of the children keep the memories of the night,” Metatron snapped.
A look of consideration crossed both of Janus' faces as he contemplated the problem, while the mortal sorcerer and the courier completed the paperwork for the delivery.
“I'll have to work on this,” The god of portals stated before he popped away in a flash of light.
The mortal shop-keeper stood for a moment in the open doorway as he watched the delivery van drive away completely unaware when the courier stepped past him back into the building.
The courier and 'Metatron' looked at each other for a second before their forms began to shift. The courier shrank, his skin turning a pure, onyx black as he lost a few inches in height and several inches in bulk. His workman's clothes changing into a casual, brown suit, with bow tie, as he flashed a smile that gleamed to rival the glint of light reflected from his smooth scalp.
The Archangel's transformation was no less dramatic. His shoulders broadened as his rigid posture stooped forward, the features of his face became sharper and more feral, his hair lightened and tangled until it was a light brown, mop atop his head and his finely tailored suit faded to be replaced by a basic pair of jeans and a t-shirt that simply read 'Bite Me' in bold letters.
After the transformations completed, the smaller, black man raised his hands in a soft, appreciative hand clap.
“Nicely done, Coyote,” He said with a large grin. “I didn't think he would buy the act, but that was a fine performance.”
As Coyote grandly bowed in acknowledgment of the praise a glint of mischief sparked in the smaller being's eyes.
“As a matter of fact,” The black man continued. “I'm tempted let you borrow Lion's balls as a reward.”
The feral god let out a bark of laughter and shook his head.
“Oh, I don't think so, Anansi. I'll pass, thanks,” Coyote laughed. “I still remember what happened to Monkey when you let him borrow them and I don't think being mauled by Lion will be any more fun for me.”
Anansi smirked and shrugged in acceptance of the other god's refusal.
“So, why all of this, then?” The Spider god asked, gesturing around to the back room ending at the mortal who was cutting open the garment box he had brought. “This would be a good time to create an avatar, I would think,” He guessed.
“No,” Coyote grimaced sourly. “No, thanks to mortal popular culture, it will be at least another generation before I can have any avatar that is anything other than a mute that tends to get caught up in their own over planed and under thought out schemes.
Anansi laughed merrily as he stepped into the front of the shop. “Good, good. It's good to see that your smarter than Raven. All of her avatars always ending up pale and broody. I'm surprised that she's not fluttering around the vampire champion that lives in this town.”
Twelve hours earlier
1360 Revello Drive
A large, black bird perched upon the open window of Buffy Summers bedroom and whispered into the blonde slayer's mind.
“Angel is so handsome. Angel is so mature,” Raven projected.
Raven was tired of all of her avatars moping around. The Vampire with a Soul was a perfect candidate to be her representative on the mortal plane, but the constant brooding needed to stop. Honestly, Raven thought, he just needed to get laid.
“Oh, Angel is such a hottie
To be fair, not being an omniscient being, Raven had no idea about the curse, or the escape clause.
Twelve hours later
420B East Main St.
Coyote watched with mild interest as the god of stories and spiders weaved an insubstantial web over a barrel of fake swords, plastic tridents and toy guns.
“So,” he chuckled, picking up the conversation. “I see you're taking this opportunity to create a new avatar for yourself.”
“Not hardly,” Anansi snorted as he finished his casting. “It's a repulsion charm. Hyena has been laughing too much lately.
“Hyena laughs all of the time.”
The Spider snorted again. “For the last year The Great Spotted Giggler has been laughing about how, in a few years, when his Chosen goes to Africa, he will become the most powerful avatar in this reality.”
The small, black being began to wave his arms in agitation not caring that his shadow showed six spindly, flailing limbs and not two.
“And they all feel the need to prove themselves against MY Chosen! I mean, I can understand that mortal, Kraven, because Lion still holds a grudge, but I've never done anything that bad to the others.”
“What about that time you...”
Anansi waved him off as he began to regain his composure.
“That was mostly Rabbit. Besides, Rhino is too stupid to remember that far back.”
The snap of something being broken drew the two deities' attention back to the storage room where they watched as the mortal destroyed the second of a pair of beautifully crafted wings and shoved them, along with an equally mangled plastic mace, into a trash bag along with several other desecrated costumes.
“Well, that's certainly chaotic,” Anansi commented idly.
“Not hardly,” Coyote retorted angrily.
At his companion's quizzical look the more feral being motioned to the clear plastic bag.
“The golden helmet represents a spell caster, the wings and mace is a character who can disrupt magic, the colorful swimsuit is a being created by, and raised to fight, magic and the black body-suits are a handful of detectives who could discover this little mage's game,” Coyote growled. “Oh, you're going to pay for that little mortal.”
With a sudden movement the more feral deity crouched, unseen, less than an inch from the mortals face, brushed his forehead with insubstantial fingers and spoke with the voice of Pronouncement.
“Ethan Rayne, in a few years' time your 'fun' will cost you your freedom and then, maybe, others will force you to cast this spell of unrestrained change the way for which it was intended.”
Ethan shuddered from a sudden chill as he stood and lifted the bag to carry it to the dumpster behind his shop.
“That was kind of harsh. Don't you think?” The Spider asked after a moment of silence.
Coyote let out a rush of air. “For this to work we need the costumes in the box you brought.”
“Only The Creator can just make memories go away,” The other deity explained, shaking off his momentary frustration. “for Janus to do it, he'll have to move the memories from the children and place them in the minds of people more able to handle the burden.”
“No mortal mind can handle that many thoughts.”
“Very true. So Janus will have to convert those memories into pure power,” Coyote smiled taping a stylized shield on one of the costumes. “And the only personas in this shop who can contain that much power are in this box.”
“And the reason that he wouldn't just spread that power around to all of the costumes?”
Coyote barked a laugh of malicious joy. “Because, my many legged friend, turning all of those children permanently into demons would make The Creator very, very angry.”
Anansi shrugged with a smirk “In that case...” Then turned to the box and began casting insubstantial webs over its remaining contents.
“What is that?” Coyote asked.
“You, me, The Creator, people in a random dimension reading fiction about this reality, everyone, knows who's going to end up wearing these costumes. And, honestly, the only way that the boy will be able to convince his friends to wear them is if he can tell a convincing story. That's my job.”
When he finished his casting The Spider turned to his companion with a sharp nod, planting his fist on his waist in a dramatic pose.
“My work here is done,” He intoned with mock gravitas.
He held the pose for a second then straightened his suit, brushing off non-existent lint.
“But now I have to go. I'm late,” Anansi smiled up at the other god with a twinkle in his eye. “I've got a date with a high-tittie woman.”
With that he was gone.
'Coyote' watched, unseen and intangible, as the mortal sorcerer bustle around the small costume shop that was due to open the next day. He watched the insignificant creature for a moment in silence then his form shifted for the second time that day. He straightened and grew taller and thinner. His shirt and jeans faded and mutated into a set of intricate, green armor, it's matching cape billowing in a non-existent breeze as long horns arose gracefully from his helmet and stretched out above and behind his head
“Anansi: Always a tool,” Loki sneered magnificently. “But today a useful tool.”
With a melodramatic spin, The Father of Monsters suddenly turned, his cape dramatically billowing behind him, and thrust forth his hand sending a ball of brilliant red energy into the box of costumes.
Stepping forward he lovingly caressed the 'S' that adorned the chest of one of the costumes.
“Dear, dear, brother,” He crooned. “Always looking for a challenge. Don't worry. With a little aggression and malice, I can give you the last challenge you will ever want.”
With a malicious snort, he slashed his hand forward he tore the fabric of time and space. Stepping through, he left the mortal plain.
The shop was still for several minutes. The silence broken only by the quiet shuffling of the proprietor adjusting his stock to make room for the costumes he had just received.
Janus arrived, stepping from the doorway separating the two halves of the shop as though he had just moved from one room to another instead of transporting himself between dimensions. He was, almost literally, beside himself in fury.
“Chaos and portals
,” The face on the back of his head fumed. “Chaos and PORTALS
. How hard is that to remember? And that...That self-important numb-nuts and that insect traipse back and forth through doorways in a building dedicated to ME and think I won't know every thing they say and every thought in their empty little heads?”
“Actually,” The forward face stated calmly. “Spiders are arachnids.”
“Who cares! That's it. I'm not empowering the spell!” Janus' aspect of the past grumbled.
“Of course, I'm going to empower the spell,” Janus' forward face disagreed as he stepped up to the box that had been the center of the other two deities attention. “What better way to get revenge than to give them everything they want and take away everything they hope for.”
With that he plunged his hand into the box. Both faces grimaced with effort as he strained with all of his divine Will
to pull free what he had grasped. With a final surge of strength, Janus stumbled back from the garment box triumphantly holding a ball of bright, red energy. The Roman god studied the energy for a moment and then with a sneer of contempt, clenched his fist and dispersed it.
“So what about Spider?”
One of Janus' shoulders lifted in a shrug. “In time the boy and The Spider's avatar will meet and, as always happens, they will fight. The boy will smear the avatar like a bug.”
“I thought spiders were arachnids?”
The two faced deity spend a second to look around the shop one more time then let out of sigh of resignation and turned to walk through the door.
“No time to stand around. I've got a lot of work to do. Big day coming.”
In his haste he failed to notice the faded, red spark that drifted through the door into the main part of the shop.
In a corner of the ceiling there was a small web. In the center of the web was a small spider. On the face of the spider there was a smile.
“I so love a good story.”