DISCLAIMER: I do not own characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Skyland, and no profit is earned.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Storyseeker for beta-reading this. As usual, if you have any comments or preferences, please don’t be shy. RandR.
AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE
It had been a very long two days. Faith was tired and Xander was dragging, but they managed to return to the village with their prisoner alive and intact despite the temptation the wannabe super-villain, as Xander called him, had provided.
“I’ll be glad when this job is done,” Xander sighed as they stopped for a rest just outside the village that had hired them. Their prisoner had been coming into the village, hurting people and taking things with impunity thanks to his bizarre solar powered magic.
Actually, Xander wasn’t sure it was magic. Might be psychic power of some sort, after all only some of the people of this odd world had the power, but it was dependent on sunlight as a power source. Mutants? He gave up trying to classify it and settled for calling it annoying.
“Me too,” Faith nodded. “This place is just weird. I didn’t finish high school and I know this place is impossible.” She sighed and stood up. “Let’s get on with it. The sooner we deliver this loser, the sooner a portal will open.”
They stood to continue their journey and Xander glanced up. “Whoa!”
“What?” Faith asked, following his gaze. “Huh. That’s new. Some kind of ship?”
“Looks like a flying skyscraper,” Xander opined. “How can something like that even get off the ground?” Faith didn’t have a chance to answer as their prisoner, who had been lying quietly on the ground, carefully bound and wrapped in a blanket to deny him the sunlight he seemed to draw strength from, rolled away from them. He gathered himself as best he could and began to move along the ground in the manner of an inchworm. The two demon hunters just watched him for a moment.
“Wow,” Faith chuckled. “He really wants to avoid that flying building.”
“Looks that way,” Xander agreed. Then something occurred to him, and he grew serious. “What do you suppose frightens a guy like this?”
“Good question,” Faith frowned. The keen paranoia the two had developed from their time in Sunnydale had been refined by their dimension hopping, and it was suddenly telling them there could be trouble ahead.
“He’s moving at a good clip for a worm,” Xander observed. Faith rolled her eyes. “Why don’t I go scout the village and see what’s up with the weird ship? You can fetch him along.”
“Gee, thanks,” Faith muttered as Xander made his escape. She got to her feet and went to retrieve the wriggling magician or whatever he was.
“You left us with little choice, commander,” the leader of the village was saying when Xander approached the ship. The man was surrounded by robots and facing off with a bald man in a white uniform. The commander, as he’d been addressed seemed to have a permanent glower. “For over two months we’ve been asking for help to deal with these raiders, but we’ve been ignored. Withholding the water tax was our last option.”
“Local law enforcement is your responsibility,” the commander informed him.
“If this were an ordinary man, I’d agree, but he isn’t. That makes him your responsibility. He’s an ex-guardian. We’ve tried to deal with him. Our last effort at resistance ended with five injured and two dead. He also destroyed one of our water tanks just for spite.”
The commander suddenly looked more interested. “Indeed.” He looked angrier than before, which Xander considered quite a feat. “This man will be dealt with, but you will pay your tax immediately and a penalty for daring to lecture me on my responsibility!”
“Of course, commander; my apologies.” He gestured to two of his people. “These men will show your…troops to the tanks.” The two men he pointed to led three of the robots off toward the town’s water storage facilities.
“Where can I find this renegade?” the commander asked.
“I-I’m not sure, commander,” the village leader admitted. “Two days ago we hired two bounty hunters to try to bring him in. We followed the trail they left to what was apparently his hideout, but it was a wreck and there was no sign of anyone. We haven’t heard from them and… we can only assume they are dead and the renegade has relocated.”
“You sent bounty hunters? What foolishness! You should have waited for the assistance you requested.”
“That sounds like a long wait for a ship that won’t come,” Xander said stepping forward. “You said yourself, ‘commander’, that the only reason you’re here is to get your water.”
“Who dares?” the man rounded on him.
“Oh, and we’ve got your renegade. It wasn’t easy, but we finally brought the solar powered freak down.”
This surprised the man enough that he momentarily forgot his anger. “Indeed? Where is he?”
“Right here,” Faith answered, coming up behind Xander and dumping her carefully wrapped burden at the commander’s feet, eliciting a pained grunt from her package. “I’m guessin’ you’re the guy I give him to.”
The commander bent down and placed a glowing hand on the blanket the raider was wrapped in. A moment later, he drew back, a look of surprise on his face. “You captured this
man by yourselves?”
The demon hunters nodded. Xander glanced at the village leader. “His men took off when we drove him out of his hidey-hole. Not so much a gang as a flock of vultures picking over what he left behind. I doubt they’ll give you any trouble.” The man nodded his thanks.
“Impressive,” the commander admitted. “I have been seeking Mr. Avery for some time.” He glanced at the village leader.
“We did identify him in the reports we sent, commander,” the man said. “Is he important to you?”
The commander didn’t answer. Instead, he turned toward his ship. “Diwan!”
A bald woman in what looked like a black bodysuit came down the ramp. “Yes, commander?”
“Have there been any reports of the runaway, Avery received by our agents in the last two months?”
The woman looked surprised. “Not to my knowledge, commander. I can do a comprehensive search, though.”
“Do it. Then find out why those reports were not forwarded directly to me. It seems, though, that these bounty hunters have saved us the trouble of finding him.”
The woman looked Xander and Faith over disdainfully. “They caught Avery?”
“Yes, and I believe such talented individuals could be of use to us.” He faced the two demon hunters. “How would you like steady employment hunting down fugitives? I know of several who have taken refuge in the fringe territories. If you can handle someone as dangerous as Avery, most of those on our books would give you no trouble.”
Xander and Faith both shook their heads without bothering to glance at each other. “Thanks, but no,” Xander spoke for them. “We’ve got our own business to be about. We agreed to help the village while we were waiting, but we’ve got to be moving on.”
“More important than bringing criminals such as this to justice?” the commander asked in what was probably him sweetest, most persuasive tone. If Xander had had hackles they would have made a run for it without him.
“We should be on our way,” Faith said without answering the man directly.
“The skills you’ve displayed could be of great use to us,” the woman addressed as Diwan spoke up. “You really should consider it. You’ll be well compensated if you agree and are successful,” her tone grew menacing, “and refusal will have consequences.”
This time, the two demon hunters did look at each other, and missed the commander shooting Diwan an irritated look. “Let me get this straight,” Xander said slowly, addressing the woman. “You’re threatening to throw us in prison or something if we don’t go out to these fringes and hunt people for you? Fringes where we could disappear ourselves if we took a notion to?” He glanced at the commander. “She’s not the sharpest blade in your armoury, is she?”
“Indeed, not,” the commander agreed much to Diwan’s carefully hidden displeasure. “You may ignore her threats, but I would like you to at least hear me out. I can be very generous to those who are successful in their work.”
As he finished making his offer, Xander spotted something over the man’s shoulder and he glanced at Faith. She nodded, indicating she’d seen it too.
“Okay, commander,” Faith agreed. “No harm in hearing you out.”
“Thank you,” the man attempted to seem ingratiating and stepped aside gesturing to the ramp of his ship. The two nodded their thanks and walked up the ramp and through the portal that had opened silently behind the commander.