Virtually Indistinguishable from Science
Inspiration here was originally Thewander's "When Xander Joined the Pack". It seemed like a crossing of worlds that had so much potential, and when the author of that story said that that story was a one-shot with nothing else planned to follow, I found myself playing around with my own take on how to bring the two worlds together in a different way and direction.
Disclaimer: Buffy belongs to Joss Wheldon, the Pack belongs to Wen Spencer. No infringement is intended in their use here. I'm just playing with the characters a bit.
Time frame: final season of Buffy and before the Ukiah Oregon series
*around a phrase* indicates telepathic thoughts.
Virtually Indistinguishable from Science
"I'm starting to think this is all one big wild goose chase." Collin said as he picked her way along the trail that led through the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. "I know we have to check every lead we have, every rumor we hear, but what have we found so far?"
"A rumor of a giant lizard that was cut in half and that should have died instantly. But the pieces of it fused themselves back together and the creature returned to life. Which if it really happened and isn't some sort of drug-induced acid trip means we've potentially got an Ontongard roaming free out here. And if that's the case, it's got a straight shot to Los Angeles from here, and LA is one of the most transient cities in the world. It could infect God knows how many people there before anyone even started to notice the bodies." Hellena said. It wasn't like she really wanted to be there either. First, she and Bear were stuck chasing down rumors with one of Degas' Gets, and she considered that crowd to be barely tolerable under the best circumstances. Second, even though it was now early fall, it was still hot enough to fry eggs on the rocky outcroppings along the trail, and she still had to wear a coat that was long enough to cover up her gun holsters. Given enough time, she could probably come up with reasons three through ten as well why she wanted to be somewhere else. But Rennie wanted her and Bear out here, so they were here.
"So just how much more time do we spend here before calling it a bad drug trip for real?" Bear said. "By all accounts, what the other hikers saw was along this trail but we haven't seen anything, haven't smelled anything, haven't seen signs that either Ontongard or Pack have ever been in this part of California."
Hellena remembered the maps of the area, both trail and topographical. A few miles further, and the trail would go past the last of the cities in the area and deep into wilderness. Hex's Gets would go towards cities. They always did.
"We're about a quarter mile from the trail spur that takes you down into Sunnydale. If we don't pick up anything by then, we turn around, go back to the trailhead where we left our bikes, and then ride into Sunnydale to check that town out, make sure that Hex hasn't decided to try infecting an entire city of forty thousand people." The idea seemed to satisfy Bear and Collin well enough, and the three Pack members worked their way to the trail spur, turned around, and had made it about a mile back when Bear paused and sniffed the air.
"Someone coming up from behind us. Male, human, and he's not sprinting, but he's trying to cover ground at a faster than walking pace." Bear said.
Hellena and Collin nodded as they moved along, picking up on the man's progress as well. They had seen a handful of other hikers along the trail, and had exchanged nods and polite words with the other people. It was a public wilderness, and the general public had been enjoying their hike unaware of the ongoing war between Pack and Ontongard. If Rennie were here, he would remind her that the hikers and hunters and bird watchers were the ones they were fighting for. Once more, she wished that he was here. Bear was a friend, but Rennie was more than that; love when she had thought she had lost the ability to love altogether.
The man was closing the gap with them, now close enough that she could pick up the faintest smell of fear on him. He hid it well, but it was still there.
"Hey up ahead there. Gotta talk to you." the man called and the three Pack members turned to face him. He was tallish, and rather solidly built with shaggy brown hair and brown eyes. His pace and breathing rate suggested he was reasonably fit. He wore jeans and a fading black t-shirt and would have been utterly unremarkable if it hadn't been for the battle axe strapped across his back.
*Bear, Collin* Hellena thought.
*We see it too* Bear thought back, shifting around so it was easy for him to go for his own guns if need be.
"Talk to us about what?" Hellena said.
"Look, I know you seem to be big tough biker guy and babe types. But it's really not safe here right now. I mean really not safe. If you're going to be big tough bikers who like to go smell the wildflowers, there's a really nice wildflower trail I can point you to in Ventura."
"We can take care of ourselves." Collin said, shifting his body in order to flash a gun at the man.
"You probably think you can but," he paused. "Look, you're too close to Sunnydale here. Have you ever heard of Sunnydale before?"
"Can't say I have. We're visiting from Pennsylvania" Hellena said.
"Sunnydale is, forget Detroit, Atlanta, Washington D.C., or East St.Louis, Sunnydale has the highest murder and suspicous death rate in the entire country. Seriously bad shit happens here, and sometimes guns aren't enough to stop it."
"But a battle axe is?" Bear said.
"In some cases, it works a lot better than trying to shoot a creature whose hide is as thick as what I'm after is."
"Thick hide? Are you after some kind of lizard?" Hellena said.
"As a matter of fact, yes. There was a guy who was into raising, um, komodo dragons for personal protection. He thought he could keep them in his yard so the gangs on PCP wouldn't keep trying to break into his house. But the dragons got loose, and now I'm stuck up here trying to chase one of them down."
*Giant, hard to kill lizards, and a man who seems to know what's going on and who is lying through his teeth about it* Bear thought.
*We stick with with him until we figure out what the deal is. Just because you don't smell Ontongard on him doesn't mean there isn't a connection* Hellena thought.
"Boy, I'm a hunter myself. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a permit to hunt or kill one of those dragons? I feel like you shouldn't be the one who got to have all the fun." Collin said.
"No, you don't have to." the man said.
"But we do." Hellena said, giving him her best smile as she extended a hand toward him. "I'm Hellena and this is Bear, and this is Collin."
"Xander." the man said, politely shaking the hands offered to him. It was clear he didn't like them accompaning him. But what seemed odd was that even though he had no guns and they did, he seemed more afraid for them than afraid of them. "Look, they're tricky beasts, and I've had a crash course in becoming an expert on them in the past couple of days, so if I say do something, you need to do it, or we could all end up dead. Understood?"
"Understood." she said, shooting a look toward Bear and Collin. She didn't know what was going on with Xander, but she did know that a confrontation now was not what they needed.
"Okay, the girls are mopping up the main nest of them, and I got sent to chase down the adult male that we know got away." he said, pulling what looked like a giant fish scale out of his pocket. As he frowned at the scale, it began to glow slightly.
*It's like no technology I've seen or remembered* Collin thought.
*Us either* Hellena replied.
"Okay, the mojo says we head northeast from here. Hope those boots of yours are made for walking as well as riding."
Within a few hundred feet, Xander was veering from the trail and into the brush. At first, it was rough and overgrown terrain, but before too long, they had easily picked up the trail of the alleged komodo dragon they were following. The footprints and tail markings were obvious in the dry soil, and the creature was big enough to break its own trail.
"It's about fifty yards ahead of us." Hellena said as a clump of shoulder high bushes faded into a clearing with only scattered vegetation.
"How do you know that?" Xander said.
"I can smell it." she said. There was no way she could miss it. Whatever he was chasing was surely not Ontongard and was just as surely not of Earth. Was it possible that another alien race besides the Ontongard had discovered the Earth?
*It's a big planet, and whatever is up there is like nothing I've ever sensed either* Bear thought.
"If you say so." he shrugged. "Fifty yards straight from here, or am I going for an angle. With these things, you really do want surprise on your side."
"About two o'clock from where you're standing. Behind the biggish shrub with the reddish purple berries."
"I see it. Okay, now I'm so not into that death by friendly fire thing, so please don't shoot me when we go in." he said, pulling the axe from his back. "I'll take to the right here. You lay down some covering fire once you see it. Aim for the torso. Even though bullets can't kill it, they can definitely slow it down. Then once it's hopefully all nice an non-mobile, I can move in, and seperate the heads from the body."
"Heads, plural?" she said, not sure she was hearing him correctly.
"Yeah. Heads, plural. Look, I probably shouldn't have lied to you, but you wouldn't have believed the truth before, and then the people with guns insisted on tagging along. But what's out there isn't exactly a komodo dragon."
"We figured as much. It doesn't smell like one." Collin said. "So what is it?"
"A what?" she said.
"Wyvern. You know, near-mythical magical creature. Almost immortal as well, unless you behead all three of its heads with a blade covered in silver." he said, tapping the silvered edge of his axe. "And they're nasty creatures who are not supposed to be in California for all the usual invasive species are bad reasons, I mean Willow gave me the rundown on that when she did a term paper on zebra mussels last year and all, so we get to kill this one. Now I hear the rustling the the bushes that says it heard us, so it's time for us to go. And please don't yell at my war cry. I've been working hard at it so I don't sound like a girly girl."
With that, Xander headed off to the right at a trot. Hellena glanced at Bear, who shrugged as he drew his guns.
"I guess we follow him."
As Xander approached the beast's resting spot, he picked up a rock and aimed it at the bush. It connected with something more than brush, and the beast bolted from its resting space.
"It really does have three heads" Collin said as he drew and fired his own guns at the beast. Bear and Hellena quickly joined in the shooting at the impossible animal- a blue three headed dragon about the size of the tiger. Bullets tore past scales and into internal organs, and in a handful of seconds, the creature went still.
"Hold your fire. Hold your fire." Xander yelled, the gunshots echoing in all their ears. "Time for the clean-up crew, which would be me."
The four quickly approached the ground where the now immobile creature lay. Xander brought the axe down on the first neck, severing head from body in a gush of greenish yellow ichor.
"Where are the other head?" Xander said.
"There's a long neck connecting head from body. I think that we're going to have to roll the beast, and see if the heads are trapped underneath the body." Collin said.
"Okay, it would probably be easiest if you and Bear each grabbed a left side limb and rolled it over onto it's back. Hellena and I will be ready for head severing duty once you get it rolled."
The two men nodded, reholstering weapons and then each grabbing a leg.
"On three." Collin said. "One, two, three."
They easily rolled the wyvern.
"There!" Hellena said, quickly locating the second head. She emptied a clip into it, decapitating it with a string of bullets.
"That's not enough. The parts can still reconnect to the whole until silver severs the connection." Xander said as he added his own chop to the second neck. "Now where's the third head?"
"Give us a second, and we'll roll it all the way over." Collin said.
"Wait, I need to reload here." Hellena said, grabbing another clip from the holster. Before she could snap the clip into her gun, what looked like a snake charged from underneath the wyvern's body opposite where Xander stood. The wyvern's head reared up, using its snakelike neck to get itself into position, and it bit down hard into Collin's thigh.
"Damn, see what I mean about severed by silver?" Xander swore as he lunged across the wyvern's body to take aim at the head. "And quicker when they aren't dragging their bodies around with them too."
His first swing at the neck missed, but it was enough to draw the beast away from Collin. It lunged at Xander, who swung and finally connected with part of the neck just as the head bit into the strange man's calf. As promised, both head and neck twitched once and then fell to the ground once the silver blade went through the spinal cord.
"Stupid magical creatures who won't just die when you cut their heads off." Xander said. "Damn, damn, damn!" he screamed, his voice filled with pain as he crumpled to the ground.
"Xander, what's happening?" she asked.
"Their bites are poisonous." he gasped. "Hospital doesn't carry an antidote, not even Sunnydale General, where you'd think they'd know about it. But there's a card in my wallet. Call Buffy Summers. Hurts bad now, but I can hold out until you get me to her."
He doubled over, and screamed in pain again.
"Collin, it bit you too."
"My body's clearing the poison now. Damn alien blood seems to be good for something." His face was drawn in pain. Unlike Xander, he would live, but it would take some time before he was back to normal. "Might be worth a try to save him."
"We can't." she said, dreading where the conversation was going. Xander lay on the ground, and had drawn himself into a small ball, arms wrapped around his knees.
"We don't have a choice." Collin said. "We need to know what he knows, and we can't find that out if he's dead."
"Condition he's in right now, the odds are maybe ten to one that he survives it." Bear said.
"Which are better odds than what he's got right now. The poison in his system, it could take him a week to die and he'll spend most of it in pain like that. Even if he doesn't survive it, our way might be kinder."
She looked at Xander, who had stopped screaming in favor of whimpering, but was still oblivious to everything else around him. As much as she hated to admit it, Collin was right. The Pack needed to know what Xander knew, and they didn't know if he would get back to the point where he could pass that knowledge on before he died. And it was going to have to be her. Collin was still fighting the poison; Bear had too many of other peoples' memories floating around in his head. She holstered her gun, walked across the small clearing, and slung Xander over her shoulder.
"Everything's back at the campsite where we left the bikes. We need to get him there before I can try. Can you walk, Collin?" she said.
"Out of here, definitely."
"You two go on ahead then while I take care of burning the corpse. I'll keep ahold of his axe just in case it wakes up again." Bear said. The wyvern may not be Ontongard, but old habits and safety precautions died hard.
"Be careful." she said, starting to move down the trail as she half prayed that they didn't run into any more hikers on the way back.