I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel, or Young Justice. I'm merely playing in their sandbox.NIMROD 2.0 – Chapter 1 Emergency Reboot Engaged… Internal Chronometer: Y2009:M10:D31:H21:M17:S48 Initialising Diagnostics… CPU… Primary… Secondary… Tertiary… Complete: No Errors Detected. Memory… Primary… Secondary… Tertiary… Complete: New Data Detected… Reconciling… Complete. Sensors… Tactile… Olfactory… Visual… Acoustic… Biological… Complete: No Errors Detected. Combat Frame… Complete: No Errors Detected. Internal Systems… Temporal Displacement System… Spatial Displacement System… Self-Repair System… Force-field Generator… Active Camouflage… Electromagnetic Field Generator… Complete: No Errors Detected. Weapon Systems… Repulsors… Mutant Countermeasures… Complete: No Errors Detected. Diagnostics Complete. Internal Chronometer: Y2009:M10:D31:H21:M17:S50 Initialising Systems…
Xander came online to the sound of children screaming and monsters laughing. Instinct honed from a year of frontline combat took over, and he leapt to his feet. What he did not expect were the complex strings of physics equations that rushed through his mind, telling his body how to move to achieve his goal. He went from lying prostrate on his back, to standing on the balls of his feet poised for action, all in less than a second.
He froze in place, eyes wide as they swept the damaged store. He could see everything
, from the chaotic field of exotic extra-dimensional energy permeating the immediate area, right down to the residual thermal signature leading out the back door. He was standing in the back room of Ethan’s Costumes. A few feet away sat a table set up as an altar, with a shattered bust lying in pieces on the floor.
Without conscious thought, Xander scanned the pieces – clay, kaolin, quartz, feldspar… earthenware ceramics
– and reassembled them in his mind – Two-faced male, young and old, roman styling… Janus, Roman Trickster Deity.
A quick scan of the altar identified a dozen ritual implements and ingredients. Conclusion based on current evidence: Ethan or an associate thereof, is a mystical practitioner who cast a spell derived from the power of the extra-dimensional being known as Janus. Given existing data pertaining to the being Janus, the spell was likely chaotic in nature.
Xander paused in his thoughts. I should not be able to do that. I should not be able to do any of this. What did this spell
do to me!?
He tried to remember what happened, only to be inundated with precisely catalogued memory files. Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H10:M34:37 The hallway are decorated for Halloween – orange and black streamers, pumpkin cut-outs, fake spider webs – and the students are moving to and from class. He rounds a corner, his girls a step ahead, and they all spot the newest addition to the student lounge immediately – a long table, signs that say ‘VOLUNTEERS ARE WINNERS’ and “SAFE AND SANE HALLOWEEN,’ student council members with clipboards and sign-up sheets. Principle Snyder is stalking around, making Xander wince internally. The short man grabs a passing girl and pushes a clipboard into her arms. “You’re volunteering,” he tells her mercilessly. They continue on towards the couches.
“Snyder must be in charge of the volunteer safety program for Halloween this year,” Willow says. He lets out an amused huff. “Note his interesting take on the ‘Volunteer’ concept.”
“What’s the deal?” Buffy asks.
“A bunch of little kids need people to take them trick-or-treating,” he explains. “Sign up and get your very own pack of sugar hyped runts for the night.” Bufy cringes and he can sympathise with her. The prospect isn’t a pleasant one.
“Yikes,” she says, “I think I’ll stick with vampires—” She is cut off by a hand falling on her shoulder. They all look up into Snyder’s maliciously stoic face and a small part of him wants to curl up and die.
“Ms Summers,” the little man announces. “Just the juvenile delinquent I’ve been looking for.”
“Halloween must be a big night for you,” he cuts her off. “Tossing eggs. keying cars. Bobbing for apples. One pathetic cry for help after another. Well, not this year, missy.” Snyder uses his hand on her shoulder to guide her, and by extension him and Willow, over to the table. Buffy catches on immediately.
“Gosh, I’d love to volunteer, but I recently developed… carpal tunnel syndrome and, tragically, I can no longer hold a flashlight—” Snyder hands her a pen, halter her midsentence. He knew it was a useless attempt, but he still gives her points for originality.
“The program starts at four and the children have to be home by six thirty,” Snyder tells her, before turning to him and Willow. He hands them both pens too.
The memory ends and a new one begins. Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H14:M17:20 The store is new, but the premises are not. Everything is musty and run down. The shelves are old and in need of repair, the mismatched racks clearly second hand, and the bargain pins are simply boxes wrapped in coloured paper. He doesn’t want to be there, moving through the displays. He doesn’t want to spend even a portion of his limited funds on a costume. He doesn’t want a costume, period. His objective is clear; find the cheapest thing possible. Originally, that meant a plastic gun from one of the bargain bins, but that fell through when he saw a little boy – blond hair, blue eyes, ten years old and genuinely happy – eyeing the same thing. So he keeps searching. He eventually finds a small display by the counter – Dozens of stickers and patches, various colours and shapes, N7 from Mass Effect, Cybran Nation from Supreme Commander, Arc Reactor from Iron Man. His eyes fall on a ‘MY NAME IS’ tag sitting beside an inverted magenta triangle, and he grins. Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H15:M38:52
“I told you that costumes are mandatory, Mr Harris,” Snyder glares at him when he shows up at the school.
“But I am wearing my costume,” he grins at the short man. “See?” he taps the chest of the form fitting white tee. In the centre of his chest is the inverted magenta triangle from earlier. A few inches away, above his left collar bone is a tag that reads, ‘MY NAME IS NIMROD.’ The last word is scrawled in heavy black marker.
“I’m a shape-shifting mutant-hunting super-sentinel from the future,” he explains, taking a deep pleasure in Snyder’s rapidly reddening features. “I just happen to look like Xander Harris because Xander Harris is a student, and if I want to blend in with students I should look like one.”
“You… you…” Snyder splutters in barely restrained rage.
“Are these my kids?” he cuts the man off brightly as he gestures to the small group of kids watching on in amusement. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “Great, I better introduce myself.” Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H18:M07:44
System Error: Temporal and Spatial Coordinates do not conform to previous values. Nimrod froze mid-step as his internal systems attempted to reconcile his new situation.
Initialising Diagnostics… Diagnostics complete: No Damage or Errors Detected. Current Status: Active Camouflage, Form Designation: Xander Harris.
No Mutant Signatures Detected. Moving on to Secondary Objectives.
Scanning for Threats to Human Signatures.
Exotic Extra-Dimensional Energy Waveform Detected… Analysing… Analysis Complete: Exotic Extra-Dimensional Energy Waveform consistent with previously recorded phenomena designated ‘Magic.’
Non-Human Signatures Detected… Analysing… Analysis Complete: Several signatures bare similarities to Extra-Dimensional Entities designated ‘Demons.’ Threat Level: Variable.
Updating Objectives… Update Complete. Proceeding to Armed Response. Nimrod exploded into motion. His fists glow as the integrated repulsor cannons within them charge. His targeting reticule, superimposed over his conventional visual feed, hones in on a tall, furred creature menacing a screaming child. He raised his fist and fires. The repulsor beam throws the creature a several metres, where it comes to a stop in a smoking heap. His sensors confirm that the creature is still alive, but no longer poses a threat. He strides forward and pulls the child behind him. The child – blue eyes, short blond hair, homemade wizard costume – doesn’t resist, merely clings to his leg in fright.
“Stay beside me,” he orders, his voice monotone. The child nods. Nimrod notes the tears running down the child’s face, and recognises the boy’s distress. Protocol dictates that emotions are irrelevant, but another part of him, the matrix of code he wrote during his time with Jaime Rodriguez, tells him that the boy’s distress is important. He awkwardly pats the boy’s head. “It’s okay,” he says, modulating his voice to convey comfort. “You’re safe with me.” Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H18:M16:S12
“Xander!” a red-head female shouts to him. Nimrod doesn’t recognise either her, visually or vocally, but she approaches him and his charge quickly. Her body language suggests that she is afraid, panicked and confused, but recognises Nimrod’s camouflaged form. When she reaches them, his sensors become confused.
Sensor Error: Concurrent Human and Extra-Dimensional Signature Detected… Analysing… Analysis Complete. His sensors tell him that the girl is human, but that the EEDE Waveform has altered her quantum signature. She now resembles the ED Entity designated ‘Ghosts.’ Her threat level is negligible, so he doesn’t engage active countermeasures. Instead, he moves so that he is between her and the boy.
“Identify yourself,” he orders, his voice once again monotone.
“Xander, it’s Willow!” the girl says, panic evident in every movement. He consults his databanks, but comes up with nothing. He has never met a red-head designated ‘Willow,’ in any timeline.
“I don’t know any Willow,” he tells her. A roar draws his attention to a non-human – deformed brow, yellow eyes, overdeveloped canine teeth. He charges one of his repulsors and fires. The girl screams in shock, but Nimrod ignores her. The creature is staggered by the shot, but remains upright. Nimrod pauses for a microsecond, then fires again, this time at a higher energy setting, and new target. The beam neatly bisects the creature’s neck, and the body turns to dust. “Interesting,” he states, then updates his database. When he turns back to the girl, she is hugging herself, eyes wide and face bleached of colour. She’s staring at him as if seeing him for the first time. “You’re not Xander,” she stutters. He considers this. His form and cover are that of Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris, but it is clear to him that this girl believes he is someone else. He slowly shakes his head. “No.”
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” she begins to chant, drawing back from him. The boy is clearly stressed by the display, because he presses even closer to Xander’s side. He automatically moves his arm over the boy’s shoulder in a protective gesture. He pauses for a microsecond, analysing the gesture that came without consideration. It was an emotional response; one he had not intended, nor could he explain.
“Okay,” the girl, Willow, says, breaking him from hi self-analysis. “This is going to sound crazy, but you need to believe me. Whoever you think you are, you’re not really them. Your name is Xander and you dressed as Nimrod. And… now you are Nimrod—” Nimrod processes her statement and begins analysing the probability of her being correct in less than a second. He can clearly detect a foreign waveform consistent with ‘Magic’ permeating the area. Willow is clearly human, yet presents all the characteristics of the Extra-Dimensional Entities designated ‘Ghosts’ by uneducated humans. He, himself, appeared without warning or explanation. He immediately turned his sensors inwards.
Sensor Error: Concurrent Human and Nimrod signatures.
“If your theory is correct,” Nimrod cuts the girl off, “why did we change, while he did not?” He indicates the child beside him.
“I don’t know,” the girl says, distressed. “Maybe… maybe it’s something to do with the costumes. Your costume is homemade, right?” She addresses the boy, who nods warily. “Right, so, so maybe only certain costumes got hit. We got ours from Ethan’s.”
“Ethan’s,” he acknowledges, already accessing the wireless networks in the area. His primary objective at the moment is the preservation of human life. Terminating this phenomenon at the source is the most expedient way of achieving this objective. He finds the address in moments.
“Go with her,” he tells the boy, pushing him towards the girl. “I will deal with this.”
“What, no, Xander!” Willow protests.
“I will deal with the situation,” he says again. “Take him to a safe location.”
“But—” He doesn’t give her the chance to continue. He engages the repulsor’s in his hands and feet, and rockets into the air. Memory Log – Timestamp Y2009:M10:D31:H18:M19:S06 The store is dark, but his visual sensors are unhindered. There is a faint glow coming from the back room, so he strides forward. The door is blocked by a black curtain that he quickly sweeps aside. The room is empty save for a few boxes and a ceremonial altar. His database lacks the information required to identify everything present, so he accesses the wireless networks again. A few seconds later, and he has everything. Coupled with the strong extra-dimensional emanations his sensors are detecting, he concludes that this is the origin of the waveform. His visual sensors detect no one, so he activates his biological sensors. A single signature – human, but distorted, characteristics reminiscent of the EEDE Waveform – hiding in the shadows behind him. He turns to face them.
“Identify yourself,” he orders. A man steps forward – average height, slight build, dark hair and eyes, casual but tense body language – and smiles. “I have to admit,” he says casually, eyes flicking from Nimrod’s face, to the nametag he wore, and back, “of all the I expected to come looking, you were nowhere on the list.” Together with everything else, the statement is all the confirmation he needs. “You are responsible for these transformations.”
“I am,” the man grins.
“Why?” he asks. There is no logical objective he can discern. The transformations are violent, chaotic; they do not lend themselves to any rational plan. It has potential for distraction, but with the instigator remaining at the sight of the event, he rules that option out.
“Why?” the man asks. His body language changes – arrogance, excitement, slight signs of hysteria. “Why not? It’s genius – the very embodiment of ‘Be careful what you wish for.’” He does not understand, but that is irrelevant. This man has admitted his actions. He is responsible. Nimrod’s objective is clear. “Your actions cause harm to civilians,” he says, charging his repulsors. “You will reverse the transformation or you will be designated hostile and terminated.” The man scoffs. “Oh, you would know all about causing harm to civilians, wouldn’t you, Nimrod? How many of the mutants you butchered were civilians?” Nimrod pauses for a microsecond as he processes the man’s words. During his time with Jaime, he had come to realise that his actions were in error. As such, he developed the empathy matrix to help him reassess his own directives. That same matrix allowed him to feel a minor approximation of human emotions. Guilt. That was what he was feeling right now. He felt guilty that he had taken lives that were not necessary for the completion of his prime directive.
“Irrelevant,” he says, both to himself and to the man. His… emotions, were secondary to the mission. “Reverse the transformation.” The man snorted. “Go to hell.” He fires. The repulsor beam is broad, and only powerful enough to slam the man against the far wall. The man cries out at the impact, and falls. He attempts to stand, but another blast keeps him down.
“Reverse the transformation,” he repeats.
“Never!” the man snarls, then cries out as Nimrod fires again.
“These beams are purely concussive,” he informed the man. “If I narrow the focus, they will attain cutting power. Reverse the transformation, or I will remove your limbs.”
“I’ll bleed out!” the man coughed wetly. Clearly the last beam broke several ribs.
“The beam will cauterise the wounds,” he states. The man looks up into his face. Others have done the same, perhaps in some vain plea for mercy. Empathy matrix or not, Nimrod is a machine. There is no mercy in him. The man’s expression shifts. He recognises that he will not be able to bargain, or threaten his way out of this situation. His only recourse is to relent.
“The bust,” the man gives in. “Destroy the bust.” He turns in place and raises his hand. The repulsor lens contracts, narrowing the beam to maximise its cutting power. The beam blasts the bust into a hundred pieces. His sensors scream in alarm, and the only thought Nimrod manages in the 0.3 seconds before shutting down is
‘Warning! System Err…’
The memory cuts off.
His internal chronometer reads Y2009:M10:D31:H21:M18:S12 and he shouldn’t even have an internal chronometer!
Xander lets himself collapse back down. He ends up sitting cross-legged amidst the ruined bust, eyes wide, but unseeing. This can’t be happening
, he told himself repeatedly. This
cannot be happening
…To Be Continued...