As they careened through the outer fringes of Kabinka, Natasha felt herself begin to lose her grip. First she was focused on shooting another armored car that had appeared in their path, with Buffy physically rotating the broken turret so she could aim. Then she felt like she was a complete failure.
Her finger slipped off the trigger and she began to weep.
"Tasha! Tasha!" Buffy was yelling at her, why? She was not worth worrying about, especially by a hero like Buffy. She slumped in the gunner's saddle and thought about the faces of all those who had died at Kar-Dathra's Gate. They had wanted to reward her for those deaths! They had had more of their lives to look forward to and yet she was the one allowed to live! Why?
Natasha's body was wracked with sobs.
"Al! We have a serious problem!" Buffy called out.
"Don't I sodding know it! No support, no decent intelligence, no chance in hell. We're all going to die! Well then, we're going to take some of those bloody bastards with us! Sergeant Rawat, prepare to ram! No quarter! Don't let them take you alive! Starshyna Plekhanova why have you stopped firing? I could have you court-martialed for cowardice!"
"Oh crap...Diane, Ganesh...How are you two feeling?"
"Really annoyed," Diane replied. "My manicure is shot and the world is about to explode."
"Are you like resistant to mental manipulation?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, I'm a null remember? Ganesh has gone catatonic, so I'm driving this bus. What's happening in the back?"
"Natasha's having a full-bore existential crisis and Al has gone all Queeg on on us. I think the madness wave has arrived."
"Great," Diane sighed, "Can you get up and take Al's position? The vision blocks on this thing are kinda screwy at the moment and I can't really see where I'm going. Even screaming; Right! Left! and Aaagh! would be an improvement."
"On it!" Buffy bodily hauled Al out of the hatch and tied him to a bench before taking his place, "What I wouldn't give for some Valium for these guys..." she muttered. "Sorry Al."
"I'll have you hanged for this insubordination! You're a civilian! You shouldn't even be bloody here!"
"I'll turn myself in later...Other-me! Right!"
The car skidded around a truck that had just run through a building. Diane slid the heavy vehicle into a shuddering turn and crushed the side of a ramshackle building to avoid the collision.
"How far away is the kaboom?" she yelled up at Buffy. The Slayer turned, covering her normal eye with the patch to prevent it from being blinded. Her good eye saw...things moving in the intense blue-green glow behind her. "Not far enough. How far away are we from the escapey-ness?"
"Too far probably...actually it's just ahead."
"Left then RIGHT!" Buffy yelled as a tank suddenly appeared and its turret began tracking. Diane jinked the armored car as a shell screamed past the hull.
"Was that a tank?"
"Yeah...they were far gone enough that Glory has control now."
"Evil-me, you maybe didn't mention she could do that! So she's Miss Psycho-Puppet Commander too?"
"Sort of. She can give them goals like; Build a giant tower, or kill the Slayer and her friends."
"So everybody that's affected is under her orders..." Diane asked
"Yeah, pretty much...oh no..."
Natasha grabbed Buffy and flung her out of the Commander's hatch.
"Why you not let me die? I deserve to die and you not let me!"
Diane skidded the car to a halt, the WTA VTOL was up ahead rotors turning slowly, "Other-me! get Al and Ganesh aboard! I'll handle Tasha!"
Natasha jumped out of the hatch and landed with a smooth roll to her feet. Her hook hovering beside her.
"You die then I die. World balance returned."
Buffy kipped up and drew the red metal rod forming it into a staff, "Never an uber-witch when you need one...Tasha it's okay. I'm your friend. Pchelka remember?"
The tall soldier looked at the short woman in the ghastly blue-green light. All color had basically been washed away and the shadows had razor sharp edges.
"Pchelka..Yes...annoying insect," she launched her hook. The impact as Buffy blocked caused a huge clang and the Slayer was knocked sliding back.
"Owwww, that stung!" Buffy shook her hand in pain. "I always forget just how much force you can do."
The hook had returned and Natasha stood calmly...resignedly...accepting that this would be her last battle. Buffy rolled in under a hook slash and swung for the legs. Natasha, using her hook as a balance bar, leaped up and came down behind the Slayer and tried for a stab. Buffy blocked that one as well. She was faster than Natasha and physically stronger as well...once the telekinesis was excepted of course.
Getting to her feet, Buffy launched into a barrage of rapid stabs and swings using the staff and her feet. Natasha was pushed onto the defensive by the raw speed and variety of the attacks. As her last swing came in, Natasha placed her palm against the staff and shoved
. The will enhanced push tore the weapon out of Buffy's hands, but the Slayer didn't miss a beat and continued with her assault.
"You must die then I may die..." Natasha said flatly.
"I really don't think so Tasha. I like living and I like you. Also I've already died more than I should've. Don't need the miles either," Buffy faked a swing, then back-flipped to where the staff had landed before it had reverted into the short metal rod, "And that's better. So you ready to leave?"
"I not go. I stay with your corpse."
"Look, supernaturally induced depression is no reason to go all self-destructive. Believe me I know," she swung and managed to get a trip through Natasha's guard. The soldier shoulder rolled however, and was back on her feet almost instantly, "Can't we talk this out? Maybe over hot chocolate and a rom-com? I mean hello, incoming destruction imminent?"
Natasha kept the hook as a blocking tool and drew her pistol, firing at the Slayer. Buffy was already moving as soon as she saw the hand dipping towards the holster.
"Guns are so not cool! I hate being shot!" She leaped high in the air and was behind Natasha before the first round left the barrel. The hook blocked the takedown move but not the kidney punch. Natasha grunted and stumbled. Her armor vest may have soaked a lot of the force though what got through still hurt.
She drew her breath in a tight hiss, as the annoying little bee spun away from her next few shots. It was getting harder to think, harder to focus. The waves of guilt were starting to build and to crash upon her conscious mind in such force that she could barely stand let alone move. Her hook crashed to the ground and she felt herself collapsing as well. Then she felt as if she was flying. Being lifted and moving so quickly and smoothly. There was the smell of machinery and ozone and protocols and a loud roar as the ground leapt away from them.
Then a wall of blue-green light surrounded her and she lost consciousness.
"Yes Pchelka?" she murmured.
"How are you feeling?"
"That makes sense. Sorry I hit you so hard."
"Body fine. Head hurt."
"Ooo. Here's some water," Buffy slipped a straw between Natasha's lips. The cool liquid felt heavenly.
"Kinda missing along with a good chunk of the FAS. More than a little deja vu-ish for me, but at least this time I got to ride on the inside."
"No clue...Whoops! Al's coming round. You rest now Tasha."
"Yes Tasha," came the groan. "Are we dead?"
"Nyet. It only feels like it."
"I bloody hate gods."
"Agreed..." with that Natasha fell asleep.