Ship of the Line: Pioneer’s DawnAuthors Note: This story is a response to Zaion’s ship of the line challenge on Twisting the Hellmouth. I’ve been playing with a few different ideas on how to respond ever since the challenge was first posted but decided that this was probably my best option.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters that I am about to mangle around with for my own purposes and make no profit from their use. So please no one sue me.
The being known as Janus frowned as he stood over his viewing pool watching events playing out in the mortal world. While his kind had little influence on the events taking place in the mortal realms these days, the result of a decree by the Creator brought about after they’d abused their powers one too many times, they could still look in on them. Which was precisely what he was doing now.
And he really
didn’t like what he was seeing.
The Powers That Be and the Ascended were really making a mess of things; the Powers especially with that ridiculous idea they had for a balance between the forces of good and evil. The latter with their complete lack of interest in anything that went on with those they regarded as ‘lower’ beings, too afraid to act less they become as addicted to power as their Ori cousins had. Being the Roman god of time as well as doorways and change he could see which way things were going for the people of Earth under both their stewardship.
It wasn’t good.
The Powers had their mortal champions locked in an endless battle against the supernatural, a battle that if things didn’t change soon could have very dire consequences. He could already see the destruction of The Seed of Wonder and with it the temporary end of all forms of magic on the horizon – the tau lines were clear that that was a very probable future – which would be a bad thing. Though their rational minds didn’t yet understand or accept it humans needed magic if they were to one day reach their full potential as a species and rise beyond simple ascension to energy beings – a potential his kind had nurtured since before the second iteration of the human race began recording time.
Thinking about it he wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the Powers plan as they’d long hated humanities potential for magic – a potential the Alterans before them had never had – as it could eventually lead to them – and their precious balance – being rendered basically redundant. Plus the end of magic – at least for awhile as the Seed of Wonder would eventually regenerate itself – would let them do away with those other higher beings like the Elders, the Angels of Destiny and the Avatars who they saw as competitors, allowing the Powers to become even more powerful and domineering over the future of humanities destiny.
And if that wasn’t bad enough the faction of humans known as Americans had reopened a door that would have been better left closed. Now they were out amid the stars far sooner than they ever should have been, facing threats that they weren’t yet ready or even properly equipped to fight. Though they did not know it yet the Goa’uld System Lords were a minor threat compared to some of the things that prowled the universe. Any one of which could wipe out all life on Earth with no effort at all. While there were some who wanted to close the Stargate – though for hardly altruistic reasons as the true motivations of people like Senator Kinsey were an open book to him – it was already too late for that.
He was already aware that the System Lord Apophis was gathering his finest Jaffa army on two warships with which to attack and reconquer Earth. While he could see they’d repel the assault this time, and eventually make a peaceful contact with the powerful but steadily fading Asgard gaining a measure of protection against the egotistical, megalomaniacal parasites, it would only be a short term respite. Eventually they’d clash first with the Ori and then other higher dimensional threats and without magic, or some other advantage, they would ultimately fall no matter how hard they fought.
The problem was what he could do about it. How could he shake things up and hopefully make the events to come turn out differently? There wasn’t much; like all the Old Gods he had little ability to affect the mortal world at all anymore. Certainly he couldn’t just change things at his whim in the way he and the others had once been able to, which he had to admit had gone to their heads more than once and in the end prompted the Creator to step in and issue the decree to stop there interference.
It presented him with quite the conundrum.
After a couple of minutes thought a possible solution occurred to him. The Creators Edict wasn’t absolute; the Creator hadn’t been so cruel as to cut him and the others off entirely from the mortal realms, there was a way he could intervene. The fact that doing so could cause those over officious Powers That Be to have the celestial equivalent of a heart attack would just be, to borrow a delightful mortal phrase, icing on the cake.
His solution was simple.
In just under four hours – as humans reckoned time – it would be All Hallows Eve. Janus was fully aware that one of his few remaining mortal followers had travelled to the most active Hellmouth on Earth; his intent to cause chaos on Halloween night using enchanted costumes. Ethan Rayne had been a useful servant in the past, even if he did like the chaotic aspects of his power more than any of the other divine magic’s that he could command. And now he would use that to his advantage as it would be easy to hijack Ethan’s spell and repurpose at least part of it to accomplish his goal. He would have to be careful of course and make the change look to be a natural side effect of the chaos magic, so the Powers wouldn’t be able to scream fowl, but it was doable. The repurposing of the spell would hurt Ethan a bit but that would be a small price to pay, and besides it would let him teach the chaos mage an important lesson, the lesson that he was primarily a god of change with chaos being only a small part of his aspect.
With the basics of a plan now in mind Janus waved a hand over the surface of the viewing pool, causing the image to change to show both Ethan Rayne’s little shop and everything around it. Now who to use, he thought gazing thoughtfully at the throng of young humans coming and going from the shop, determining just who he would use to hopefully change upcoming events for the better.
After a few moments of searching he spotted them.
One of the two current vampire slayers, Buffy Summers, the still unknowing witch Willow Rosenberg (he quickly made a mental note to have a word with the Elders about her, see if they could assign a whitelighter to assist her in learning magic properly as the girl was a powerhouse, and thus potentially the founding member of an entirely new magical bloodline, though she didn’t know it yet) and his current favourite mortal, Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris. Perfect, he thought smiling with both his faces at Alexander. That young man had been quite the topic of conversation amongst the various pantheons since the moment he’d successfully defied prophecy. Since then he’d kept a very close eye on him and directly intervened on his behalf when the Powers had wanted to punish him for disrupting their plans and thwarting one of their prophecies. In so doing by the ancient laws that bound celestial beings of all kinds, laws laid down by the Creator at the very beginning of the universe itself, he’d claimed him as a champion. And he was perfect for his purposes.Now just a few things to arrange,
he thought as he extended a small tendril of power to adjust some events that were to take place inside Ethan’s shop. The first change he made was making the noble woman dress the Slayer would have been originally drawn to subtly undesirable to her. At the same time he made someone else get the last toy gun in the shop which would force his champion to find something else, something that he would be really able to work with. With a final little tweak he pulled back and watched to see what happened next.
~~//~~Ethan’s Costume Shop
Sunnydale, That Same Time
Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris resisted, just, the impulse to swear as he noticed that all the toy guns had vanished from the shelves. There went his plan for a two dollar costume using Uncle Rory’s old army combat fatigues. Just my luck,
he thought with a sigh.
“Something wrong, Xander,” Buffy asked looking over at her best male friend.
“It’s nothing, Buff,” Xander answered, “it was just I was hoping to get away with not having to spend a lot as I already had a costume lined up for tonight. All I needed was one bit from here but now…”
“…it’s gone,” Buffy finished for him prompting an affirming nod.
“Yup now I have to find something else,” Xander replied.
“Hmm well thanks to that troll, Snyder I also need to find something,” Buffy commented, “maybe we can have a look together. And maybe together we can both convince Willow to wear something other than a ghost costume.”
Xander snorted. “Buffy we’re more likely to get pigs to fly than succeed in that,” he pointed out, “both myself and Jesse – rest his soul – tried for years but in the end we ended up giving up.”
Buffy inwardly winced when Xander mentioned his lost friend. She still felt guilty that she hadn’t been able to prevent Jesse being turned as it was her own damned fault. She’d been so busy trying to escape her destiny as a Slayer at the time that she’d failed him, failed Willow and failed Xander who’d been forced to drive a stake into the heart of the monster who’d worn his friends face. Despite the blond-bimbo mask she sometimes wore she knew Xander was – to this day – haunted by Jesse’s fate. And that it was one the things that drove him to fight the darkness, so no one else would know that pain, even though he had nothing really in the way of formal combat training.
Which now she thought about it she should really do something about. She made a mental note to have a word with Giles about it later, see if she and the Watcher couldn’t come up with some sort of training regime for Xander and Willow. After all it would tear her apart if one of them were to be killed due to lack of training or worse turned, forcing her to slay them. So far they’d been lucky but no luck could last forever. She mentally kicked herself for what now seemed like such an obvious, and unforgiveable, oversight on her part. Xander and Willow would get some training even if she had to train them herself.
A hand suddenly waving in front of her face brought her out of her thoughts and she jumped. “Sorry I was miles away,” she admitted smiling sheepishly at Xander.
“Anything we need to be worried about?”
Realising that he was worried that she’d just had one of her Slayer Dreams/Visions warning of some new big bad on the horizon she was quick to reassure him. “Nah I just realised something though we’ll talk about it later,” she said firmly wanting to talk to Giles before she broke the idea of training with Xander and Willow. “So Willow won’t wear anything other than a ghost costume?”
“Nope though if you want to try your welcome to,” Xander answered, “hell you might have more luck with her than we ever did since you’re a girl as well.”
“I’ll go have a word with her,” Buffy decided. “Will you be alright searching for a costume?”
“I’ll be fine go speak to Willow,” Xander replied, gaining a nod from the Slayer before she wandered off in search of the quiet, meek redhead. Xander watched her wistfully, wishing he could have her as a girlfriend, even after what she’d done to him at the Bronze. But she was with Angel now, a thought that made him shiver in distaste. What Buffy saw in Angel he really didn’t know, after all cursed with a human soul or not the man wasn’t really a man but a vampire and always would be. I do wish she’d stake his ass and be done with it,
he thought, but now she carries on a relationship with the walking corpse. Which just proves one thing, girls are weird.
Putting Buffy’s distasteful relationship with Angel out of his mind he turned to the serious purpose of finding a suitable costume for tomorrow night. He began looking through the various costumes on offer. There were a few costumes from DC comics present but unfortunately none of them were in his size which was a pity as it would have been cool to dress up as Batman, Superman or even Green Lantern for the night. With a sigh of resignation he moved on to the next rack of costumes.
There was no help here either. All the costumes were of the traditional Halloween variety, all ghosts, ghouls, witches, werewolves and vampires. While he might have considered wearing one of them in the past, now that he knew the truth of the supernatural world he wasn’t about to touch any of them. Not even with a ten foot barge pole – even though a few looked to be in his size. So he moved on again.
And immediately paused for a moment in shock as he saw the contents of the next rack. The costumes were from a certain anime series he, Willow and Jesse used to watch when they’d been kids. Some of the costumes looked a bit newer, a bit more with a modern take but they were clearly all Robotech costumes. Grinning slightly he began looking through them, searching for one that was both for a male and in his size. One particular costume caught his eye and he carefully lifted it out, it was a white and red officers uniform with a high collared black jacket-like cloak over the top. He immediately recognised it as the uniform Rick Hunter had been wearing as one of the senior officers attached to the SDF3 for the Pioneer mission in the aborted Robotech II: Sentinels series. A small bag was attached containing a large black wig and a few other accessories including a replica of a SAL-9 Laser Pistol.Whoa who ever put this together obviously paid a lot of attention to detail. Which means its probably out of range of what I can afford,
he thought before checking the price tag. And freezing in shock before checking again to make sure he wasn’t imagining things. The entire get up was only fifteen dollars well within the range of what he could afford. A smug grin appeared on his face as he decided then and there that this would be his costume tonight.
“Found something Xander,” Buffy suddenly asked from behind him, making him yelp slightly in surprise before spinning around to find Buffy and a dejected looking Willow standing there. Neither of whom had costumes yet.
“Don’t do that,” he replied, giving the blond haired Slayer a death glare for trying to give him a heart attack. Buffy winced and mouthed ‘sorry’ back, so he let her off the hook this time at least. “And yeah I have,” he added holding up the uniform for his two female friends to see.
“No way,” Willow exclaimed eyes widening as she recognised the uniform even though she hadn’t quite been as into Robotech as Xander and Jesse had been. “I didn’t realise they did Robotech costumes for Halloween.”
“Ugh what’s Robotech,” Buffy asked and winced at the scandalised looks she got back off Xander and Willow.
After a few moments of stunned silence that she didn’t know Xander decided to enlighten her. “Robotech was a 80’s anime Buffy,” he explained, “in which three different generations of people fought off repeated waves of alien invaders all after a special ultra-clean power source called protoculture.”
“Oh,” Buffy replied. “Well it’s a very nice uniform, Xander. I’m glad one of us is having luck finding something to wear, nothing I’ve seen so far really catches my interest.”
“They don’t have any ghost costumes, Xander,” Willow griped to her oldest friend – and not so secret crush.
Xander chuckled. “Well then,” he said a slight smirk appearing on his face even as he mentally thanked whoever was in charge for making sure Willow wouldn’t be able to dress up as a ghost this time. “Looks like you won’t be able to dress up as a ghost for a change, Wills. There are plenty of other costumes in this rack why don’t you guys take a look?”
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” Buffy admitted, “come on Willow.”
“Alright,” Willow replied, still deeply unhappy about having to find something else to wear instead of her traditional ghost costume. Still if she had to wear a costume it would be nice if it was from one of hers, Xander’s and Jesse’s favourite childhood shows. It would be a nice way to honour Jesse, who’d been gone nearly a year now, and maybe, just maybe, it would get Xander to notice her more as a woman.
“Great,” Xander answered. “I’ll go pay for this then meet you girls outside, deal?”
“Deal,” Buffy and Willow agreed, speaking almost in unison. Xander grinned back before heading over with his costume to pay while his two fellow Scoobies resumed their search for costumes. Maybe,
Xander thought as he arrived at the back of checkout queue, despite Snyder’s best efforts tonight won’t be so bad after all.
A Short Time Later
“So where are you meeting, Angel?”
Buffy smiled slightly at Willow’s question even as she finished putting the final touches on the costume she’d acquired from Ethan’s. Like Xander and Willow she’d been able to acquire the costume from the stock of Robotech costumes and, while she had no real idea just who the character Admiral Lisa Hayes was, she had to admit it looked good on her.
“Here after trick-or-treating moms going to be out so we’ll have the house to ourselves,” she replied before looking at the bathroom door. “Okay, Willow come on out. You can’t hide in their all night.”
“O…okay but promise you won’t laugh?” Willow stammered back, her voice thick with nerves at being seen wearing what she was wearing. Buffy resisted, just, the impulse to roll her eyes not for the first time wondering just how Willow hoped to get Xander to notice her developing womanhood if she was nervous about appearing in anything remotely sexy.
“I promise,” she assured the red head.
Slowly, nervously, the door opened and Willow – her very demeanour screaming meek, little mouse instead of the attractive woman she was maturing into – stepped out. She was dressed in a near strapless pale sky blue dress that hung down from an equally light blue chocker she wore around her neck. The dress hugged the contours of her body and showed off well the willowy figure was really starting to develop. The dress was open at the sides from her feet to just below her hips, showing surprisingly well proportioned legs. A translucent white silk mesh worn over her shoulders, white stiletto shoes and elbow length white gloves completed the ensemble. On her head in place of her normal red hair, Willow – like Buffy herself – was wearing a wig, though hers was black unlike the hazel brown of the one she was wearing – that framed her face and cascaded over her shoulders. Wow,
Buffy thought, she dresses up nice. This Lynn Minmei character obviously knew how to dress to impress. Now if only I could convince her to dress up like this more often, she’d be giving Cordelia a run for her money in the attracting boys department.
“Wow,” she said with a smile. “Willow you look a dish.”
Willow frowned. “No I don’t I look terrible,” she replied looking down. “I wish they’d had a ghost costume I could have worn.”
Buffy sighed. “Willow…” she started to admonish her friend for being so negative about her own appearance, but before any sound could emerge from her lips the doorbell sounded. “That will be, Xander. Cheer up, Wills you’ll be fine. Trust me you’ll blow, Xander away.”
With that she turned and started to head downstairs to let their Xander-shaped friend in. Willow sighed and watched the Slayer leave, filling out the Sentinel’s era uniform she was wearing very well indeed. She wished she could believe Buffy that this get up would really blow Xander away, and get him to notice her as a woman, but she wasn’t at all sure that it would. But since Ethan’s had lacked ghost costumes, the rack where they would have been having been empty indicating they’d probably already been sold out, she had no choice but to wear this get up. Mentally she tried to picture herself more as Minmei – as Minmei had been her favourite character in the Macross Saga though there had been a few times when she’d despaired at Minmei’s seeming ignorance of Rick’s attraction to her – than as herself. After all as Buffy had pointed out earlier Halloween was about pretending to be someone else.
It helped somewhat.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs Buffy sighed to herself. She so wished Willow wasn’t so negative about her appearance all the time, wasn’t so lacking in self-confidence. Though the latter was hardly a new thing for Willow, at least according to Xander, as despite her very high intelligence – or possibly because of it – Willow had lacked self-confidence for years. Though Xander had also said she’d gotten better recently, ever since they started helping her with her calling. Maybe the training I’ll give them both will help,
she thought making another mental note to discuss the issue of getting her friends some defence training with Giles later.
Reaching the door she pushed those thoughts aside for now and opened it to let Xander in. “Admiral Hunter reporting for duty,” Xander joked as he came in, prompting Buffy to blink as she saw him actually in the uniform he’d picked up. She had to admit he looked good in it, better than good in fact he looked well… hot in uniform. Though where had he acquired blue tinted contact lenses? She didn’t remember seeing any in the accessory pack that came with the uniform. “Whoa, Buffy you look good,” Xander commented. “You pull off Lisa well.”
Buffy smiled. “Why thank you kind sir,” she replied smirking as she shut the door. “Now just wait till you see, Willow,” she added moving to the base of the stairs. “Come on, Willow come down.”
“B…but,” Willow yelled back.
“Wills if you don’t come down we’re going to be late,” Buffy shot back, “you want Snyder to give us detention for a month?”
For a few moments there was silence, and Buffy began to fear that Willow would indeed chicken out of coming down, then Willow appeared at the top to the stairs and slightly unsteady in her stiletto shoes began descending. Buffy watched cautiously, knowing this was Willow’s first time in stiletto’s and knowing from her own experience that it was easy to fall in them, at least till you got used to wearing them.
The moment Willow reached the bottom of the stairs Xander blinked. Wow, Willow is getting hot,
he thought, not that I’ll ever date her, would be too much like trying to date a sister.
He of course recognised the outfit as being the one Lynn Minmei had worn during Robotech II: The Sentinels when she’d attended the wedding of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. “Wow Willow you look great,” he said smiling.
Willow blushed slightly. “Ugh thanks, Xander,” she replied, inwardly dancing in victory as she saw the look that briefly came into his eyes. Eyes that she suddenly noticed were not their normal colour. “You don’t look so bad yourself. But what’s with the blue eyes contacts?”
“Yup, the shop owner had them behind the counter for two dollars so I snapped them up. Think it really makes me look the part don’t you?”
“It does,” Willow agreed. “But we should get going.”
“True we don’t want to give the troll an excuse to chuck us all in detention,” Xander agreed. “Though what he’s got against the three of us I really don’t know.”
“Wish I knew,” Buffy agreed as she picked up her house keys from a side table and slipped them into the pocket of her uniform, “maybe he’s just mean. Come on times a wasting.”
Xander and Willow both nodded in agreement. Being closest to the door Xander opened it and gestured for the girls to go first, then he followed them out making sure to close the door behind him. Then without further comment the three friends began making their way towards Sunnydale High School to pick up their charges for the evening.
~~//~~Back of Ethan’s Shop
Two Hours Later
Ethan Rayne smiled as he observed dusk give way to the deep darkness of a moonless night. After all his preparation it was time to begin the complex incantations that would summon the power of Janus and allow chaos to reign over Sunnydale. Quickly he closed the curtains over the back window and began carefully lighting the black candles around the room and the idol of Janus.
Once that was accomplished he knelt before the shrine and produced a small athame, the double edged steel knife engraved with a variety of mystical symbols, from his pocket and held the blade between his hands. Calmly he pressed both palms against the blades razor-sharp edges, wincing lightly at the slight stabs of pain it send shooting up his arms. Allowing the ceremonial knife to fall to the floor he gazed at his bleeding palms; the cuts were not that serious, certainly they were nothing a simple healing spell couldn't cure later, before getting started on the first part of the ritual to call upon the power of Janus.
"The world that denies thee, thou inhabit," he chanted dabbing the blood in his left hand with his right middle finger before drawing a line of blood over his right eyelid, "the peace that ignores thee, thou corrupt," he repeated the process with his left middle finger, right hand and left eyelid before drawing a bloody cross on his forehead, "chaos I remain, as ever, thy faithful, degenerate son."
In front of him the idol began to glow a soft green and the features on the side facing him changed into that of a monstrous male figure. He had succeeded in gaining the attention of his patron god. With a mounting sense of ecstasy he began the most important part of the ritual, the weaving of the spell.
"Janus, evoco vestram animam,” the Latin incantation rolling easily off his tongue. “Exaudi meam causam. Carpe noctem pro consilio vestro. Veni, appare et nobis monstra quod est infinita potestas. Persona se corpum et sanguium commutandum est. Vestra sancta praesentia concrescet viscera. Janus! Sume noctem!"
The soft glow of the idol brightened and pulsed, before bursting outwards in a rippling wave of energy that rapidly swept over Sunnydale. As it touched those wearing the tainted costumes they're very existence changed and twisted. Ethan smiled maliciously as he felt the magic surge through him and sensed the spell beginning to do its work.
“Showtime,” he muttered softly before gasping as pain suddenly blossomed in his chest. The magic from the idol was still surging through him, going on for far longer than he had anticipated. He could feel it starting to drain his own store of magical power, a store built up over all his years of faithful service to chaos. Ugh something’s not right did I make a mistake in the incantation or something,
he thought doubling over as the sensation manifested as intense pain similar to that caused by a heart attack.
His vision began to grey out at the edges and, realising he needed to stop the spell now before whatever mistake he’d made in the casting killed him, he tried to reach out to knock the idol of Janus off its plinth and out of the ring. An act which would destroy the idol and cause the spell to collapse unable to sustain itself without a focus. But before he could do so the pain ceased and exhausted he fell over backwards, the world going dark as consciousness fled his body.