Out to the Black
Notes: What impelled me to write this particular crossover, I don't know. Could have been encountering the Master himself. Joss = a lovely, lovely man. That, plus seeing Serenity and having a friend noting the similarities between certain characters...
Well, whatever it was, I'm entirely playing in Joss Whedon's worlds. All I've done is scramble them around a bit. If I owned them... oh, I would be a happy, happy bunny, but alas, I am stuck with just dabbling :P
The emptiness of space spread out as far as the eye could see, the velvety darkness spotted with bright spots of starlight, flickering beyond the vessel currently coasting towards the stationary ship.
“Is all power down?”
“Made sure of it.” In the pilot’s seat, the young man turned and glanced up at the ship’s captain. “You mind if I make myself scarce when we hit?”
The captain smiled, then sipped his steaming cup of tea. “You know you needn’t ask,” he replied. “I had best go and see to the girls. After all, you know how excitable they can get.”
“Wish ‘em luck from me,” the pilot called over his shoulder, as the captain turned and descended the narrow staircase in the dim emergency lighting. With the engines powered down entirely, only the life-support functions continued, ensuring there was dim light and thin air enough to survive.
By rights, in a ship that was floating - all but dead in space - motionless and dark in the gloom, it should have been silent. Propriety dictated that eerie silence should pervade every corridor.
“Hey! You got the shotgun last time!”
Ducking under a doorway, Giles shook his head with an affectionate smile.
Making his way down a long, narrow corridor, his shoes rattling on the grating of the floor, he descended another low staircase into the main chamber of the ship, where three young women were sharing out an impressive weapon collection.
Each of them was wearing a skin-tight bodysuit as a shield against radiation, all of them slung with belts and straps on thighs and calves, stocked with a miscellany of more interesting looking gadgets.
“Dare I ask why you’re fighting already?”
“No biggie,” the smallest of the three replied. She was a deceptively dainty-looking blonde, who was presently armed with what looked like a welding gun and a long, deadly-looking knife. “Faith was just trying to take my favourite toy.”
“B, you got your hands full already,” the youngest retorted, slipping a large and equally unpleasant knife into her belt, then reaching up to twist her dark hair into a knot. “And I wanna use it.”
“Now, children, share and share alike,” Rupert Giles sighed the sigh of a person who has witnessed the same argument on an almost weekly basis for a very long time. “I think you have plenty of weapons to choose from.”
“Dey like ta fight, Sir,” the third murmured. She was squatting down by the wall, sharpening a blade with a small whetstone. Brown eyes flicked up to the Captain and she smiled slightly. “Dey tink it makes dem fight dem better.”
“B makes it too easy,” the girl called Faith said, swinging the shotgun up with a grin.
“Wai!” the blonde exclaimed indignantly. “Everyone says I’m nice!”
Even the darker girl squatting on the floor looked up at that. “Shi ma?”
Faith’s grin was splitting her face. “Everyone bein’ that drunk guy in that bar on Scepter’s second moon, right?”
The blonde shrugged. “He counted!”
“Ladies, please,” Giles raised a hand to silence them. “Oz says we should have company in several moments, so perhaps you would be kind enough to get ready? I’m just rather attached to my life.”
Slipping her blade into a pouch on her belt, the blonde smiled sweetly. “Have we ever let you down, Captain?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“Well, G,” Faith noted dryly. She pulled the tight hood over her hair, sealing it in place and reaching down for her radiation mask “You ain’t dead yet, so we must be doin’ somethin’ right.”
Giles’ lips pressed together. “I shan’t hold my breath,” he said after a moment of dignified silence. A shrill whistle from the cabin made him glance back, then nod. “It looks like we have guests. Try not to take too long.”
“We’ll be done before you finish your tea,” the blonde’s smile was colder now.
“And be careful, Buffy,” Giles added, pointing a finger at her. “I would find it very tiresome if I had to find a replacement first mate as aggravating as you.”
The girl straightened, her expression suddenly as serious as his. “We’ll do what we do, Giles,” she said firmly. Behind her, there was the heavy nudge of another ship’s airlock connecting with theirs. “Kendra?” The quietest of the trio unfolded from the floor. “Faith?”
“Ready when you are, blondie.”
The three young women moved towards the hatchway, opening it with a chilly hiss. Beyond, darkness gaped greedily at them, a far away sizzling and crackling filling the air. Faith dropped through first, followed by Kendra.
Buffy threw a last grin at Giles. “Fang xin,” she said, then disappeared into the darkness on the other side of the doorway.
Lowering his cup of tea, Giles gazed after her. “I always do,” he murmured.
Moving back up the narrow hallway, which was barely big enough to accommodate all of the crew when they gathered there, he sat down on the lowest of the gridded steps and withdrew his pistol from the holster on his right hip, laying it on his knees.
Then, eyes on the open doorway, he took another sip of his tea.
Further up the ship, in the hall lined with the knot of crew bunks, he heard the door of Oz and Willow’s room close and recognised the familiar rattle of the electronic bolts clattering into place.
A faint smile crossed his lips.
They knew it was unnecessary, but it had become part of the luck ritual, which the three girls seemed to favour. Oz and Willow would be locked in their bunk, he would be perched on the steps drinking tea and the...
No, not girls. Not at the moment.
At the moment, they were performing the task they had been trained, genetically and mentally adapted and advanced for.
They were the Slayers.
A hideous howl from the darkness beyond stirred him from his reverie. He thumbed the safety on the pistol off, then closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of the glass of camomile tea he was presently enjoying.
Heavy footsteps were growing closer and he sighed.
Obviously, their enemies weren’t aware of the ritual; he had to be down to the last drop of his still-warm tea before anyone stepped back on board.
He was far from surprised when a hideously mutilated man scrambled through the doorway; lids pulled back from blood-shot eyes, cheeks gashed down to the bone and a body that was little more than scarred skin and bones.
“Good afternoon,” he said conversationally. The Reaver leapt. The gun recoiled in Giles’ hand, the crack of fire resounding off the walls, and his assailant jerked back, landing heavily on the floor with a gurgled cry.
Rising, leisurely, he approached the fallen Reaver and gazed down at it, sipping his tea. It was writhing, twitching convulsively, and gagging, blood rippling from the unpleasant hole in its throat.
“Hun dan.” The captain slowly brought the gun up, sighting down the barrel. The expression on his face could only be described as chilling. The second retort of his gun was louder than the first and the Reaver went limp.
With his foot, he gave the limp body a push back through the open doorway, then returned to his step. Sitting, he placed his gun down beside him and swirled his tea in the glass, watching the doorway again.****
“Here’s to us!” Faith raised a glass of thick, oil-cultured wine. “Best damn fighting force in the ‘Verse!”
“That’s us!” Buffy’s mug rose.
Settled on a cushion in the narrow hallway, legs folded before her, Kendra looked from one to the other. “You have both been injured,” she noted, her hands cupped around her own drink.
“Hardly anythin’!” Faith exclaimed. “Nothin’ a medkit couldn’t fix.”
“Ruin the party, why don’t you?” Buffy added, not even glancing at the raw gash that was now marring her forearm. “We wiped out the whole raiding party, so I say we’ve got a win.”
“Kendra does have a point,” Giles interrupted seriously. “After all, next time, it might not be so minor.”
Rolling her eyes, the blonde toed her boots off, leaning back comfortably against the cushions that had been hauled out of the sleeping quarters. “We’ll worry about that next time, k?” she said. “How about you just let us enjoy the badassness of us?”
“Gotta give it to them,” Oz added. “They did a good job. That was a big ship.”
“See!” the blonde said happily. “Even Oz is party-man today. C’mon, Giles...”
The captain gave her a brief, reprimanding look that broke into a small smile. “I suppose I can delay the lecture for a few hours,” he said. “After all, it is much more entertaining when you are all hungover.”
Faith snorted in amusement. “And we figured the Reavers were the big evil in the ‘verse. They never met the Captain.”
At the top of the staircase, leading up to the dorm corridor, a voice cut over Giles’ response. “Got room for a small one?”
“Hey!” Buffy saluted with her mug. “Look at the Willster! Out of the cortex, huh?”
The red-haired woman trotted down the steps, carefully stepping over Giles, who was seated at the bottom, and squeezed herself in between Oz and Kendra, snagging his cup and taking a sip of it.
Unlike the Slayers, who were dressed in casual combat gear, the hacker favoured a scruffy jumpsuit for comfort. Her hair was short, sticking in every direction, with the lenses of her monitor mask visible amid the shocking red.
“A hacker’s day is never done,” she said, shuddering after she swallowed. “There’s a new wave out on the cortex now, Captain. Needed to ask you about it, since you’re alliance-knowing-guy.”
“What type?” he asked, lowering his drink to survey her. It wasn’t often that the hacker came to him with queries, her own family positioned high in ‘proper’ society.
“The kind you know about,” Willow replied significantly, staring at him.
He felt more than heard the responses of his three girls. A quick glance showed him Faith’s expression of bitter anger, Buffy’s hands tightening around her glass and Kendra’s eyes dropping away to stare at a rivet by her knee.
His glass clinked quietly as he placed it on the floor. “Details?”
Reaching up, Willow flipped the lenses over her eyes, information scrolling across the tiny screens, the girl only ever using the highest quality equipment.
“A warrant had been issued on secure levels for a fugitive girl,” the hacker spoke, as if reading by rote. “Tam, River. Seventeen years old. Subject to medical assessment, the subject is considered highly dangerous and mentally unstable.”
“One of us?” Kendra was the one to speak out, her head down.
Giles shook his head, his brow creased. “I don’t remember the name,” he said. “But there were a lot of children brought in and our department was divided up into more specialised areas.”
“Yeah,” Faith’s voice was uncharacteristically rough. “I never saw you guys when we were in there. Didn’t meet you ‘til we all found G.”
Giles’ expression revealed nothing. He turned his attention back to Willow. “Is there anything else you can tell us about this, Willow?”
The red head nodded. “Right now, they’re keeping it totally internal,” she said. “I figure they don’t wanna get anyone from outside, especially if she’s like Buffy, Faith and Kendra.”
“Could be kinda hard to explain how a tiny chick with a head full of crazy can take down a whole lot of armed guards with one hand,” Faith gritted out angrily, then went rigid. “Red, when’d’this chick break out?”
Willow’s eyes flicked through the information she was receiving, fingertips moving briskly on the tiny control stick she held in one hand. “A day or two ago, at most,” she replied. “They really don’t wanna be embarrassed by this one.”
“A day or two?”
There was a quiet sound as Buffy placed her mug down. “Faith.”
“Don’t you ‘Faith’ me, B,” the younger girl’s voice was shaking. “They’re still doin’ it! They were gonna kill us all cos of what they done to us and they’re still doin’ the same ruttin’ thing!”
“Getting angry won’t help.”
“Chi ni de!” Faith snapped viciously. “You feel the same, B! You tell me you feel different and you’re a gorram liar!”
Giles, his glasses turning over in his hands, looked at her. “Faith, we’re all angry.”
“To hell with you, Captain,” Faith snarled. “You’re the one that helped ‘em! We wouldn’t be here right now, if it wasn’t for you and your guys!”
A quick look and a shake of the head from Buffy nudged Giles back where he sat, as the blonde spoke, “Faith, we don’t need to fight about this.”
“You gonna tell me it don’t matter to you if they’re pumpin’ other kids full of crazy things to make their own private teen-army?” Faith retorted, her expression tight and her hands shaking.
Buffy held up a hand. “Sure it matters,” she said softly. “But we can’t do anything about it right now.”
Faith stared at her. “Even if there are a thousand more of them, you’re just gonna sit here and wait for them to mess us again?” she demanded. “B, when we tried to get ourselves out, they killed everyone in my group except me and two others! They killed hundreds of us! And now, you’re gonna let...”
“I’m not going to let them do anything,” Buffy’s voice was cool, firm. “But getting ourselves killed...”
“Who said we’d get killed, B? Maybe if you got sloppy...”
“Nimen dou bizui!” The two Slayers jerked, startled by Kendra raising her voice, the quietest of the three staring at them both. “Faith, Buffy is right. We can’t help dem as we would like to, not yet. But we can find de ones dat are left. De ones like us. If we get to dem first, den maybe we can start fightin’ back.”
The dark-haired Slayer snatched up Buffy’s abandoned drink and downed the strong liquor in a single gulp. “It just pisses me the hell off,” she choked out. “They figure the Reavers are bad, but what the hell does it make them?”
The storm weathered, Buffy poured Faith another glass, then squeezed her shoulder sympathetically. “At least we know we can kick their asses when the time comes, huh?” she murmured.
“Don’t know where we could hide the newbie when we find her, though,” Faith mumbled. “Not like we even have room to fit a midget in here.”
“Uh, guys...?” Willow waved her empty hand abruptly, her eyes still watching screed of information. “I don’t think this little sweetie was quite up for your training. She got picked out from a school when she was thirteen, because she is the uber-smart.”
“And we all know we weren’t picked for brains,” Buffy said with a weak smile at Faith.
“Screw brains,” Faith replied, her words starting to slur slightly. “Good-looks all the way for us.”
“You know it, Meimei,” Buffy placed a stabilising arm around the dark-haired girl, then nodded at Willow. “Anything else, Will?”
“Uh... yuh-huh. She’s been there for nearly four years... huh...” Falling silent, the only sound over the steady hum of the engine was the rattling click of her control pad between her fingers. “Wow...”
Looking amused, Oz nuzzled her shoulder. “Baby, you’re doing it again.”
“Wha? Oh!” Blushing, the girl grinned sheepishly. “Sorry. Kinda forgot...”
“That we were here, yes, we know,” Giles said with a long-suffering chuckle. “You do do that rather frequently, when you grace us with your presence..”
Willow stuck her tongue out, then clicked several times.
“I know the Tams,” she said, frowning. “Not the girl, but I know the family... kind of a their-mom-know-someone-who-is-a-friend-of-my-dad’s-business-partner deal.” Her frown deepened. “Huh. Giles, I thought you said that when they did their... stuff, they found people with no parents or any family.”
“Usually, that was the case,” the captain nodded.
Buffy nodded. “They got me from a care home on Triton.”
“Picked me up after my folks were killed on Hermes Two, way out by Melinda and Apollo,” Faith mumbled, staring into the bottom of her half-empty glass. “Thought I’d got lucky.” She watched as the blonde filled her glass again. “Ha. Lucky. Right.”
“This girlie...” Willow chewed on her lip, squinting slightly, then flipped her visual mask up. “She had the whole package; mom, dad, brother, little kitty cat. Looks like her brother busted her out.”
“Go brother!” Faith exclaimed. “Stick it to the government!”
“Not so much with the sticking,” Willow said, sipping from Oz’s cup. “Kind of more the smash and grab and run away very fast and lose all your money and possessions and probably be caught and killed very quickly.”
“That’s what I love about you, Will,” Buffy said, carefully propping Faith against the pillows, where the dark-haired Slayer started humming under her breath, eyes slightly glassy. “You’re always so upbeat.”
Willow shook her head. “You didn’t see the shiny toys they’ve put out after these kids,” she said. “And he was a way-classy doctor on Capital City. He’s used to having money and support. Now, he’s on his own with a kid who is probably way worse than you guys.” She shrugged apologetically at presenting such a bleak picture. “Unless they get real lucky and hitch a ride with someone to the middle of nowhere, they’ll be caught quicker than a cold.”
“Den we should find dem both and help dem,” Kendra said with quiet authority. The tawny-skinned girl seldom spoke, but when she did, it was certainly worth listening to. “Before someone else does.”
Willow nodded. “I kinda guessed you’d wanna,” she said with a knowing smile. “I put a marker on the files, so any time any word comes in, we’ll be first to know.”
“Good...” Giles nodded pensively. “Good.”
Snuggling against Oz, letting him drink from the glass she was still holding, Willow looked around. “So, we done here? No more creepy bad guys to kill?”
“Unless you have any more information about sightings of further Reaver vessels in this area,” Giles replied, smiling when Willow enthusiastically shook her head. “I think we’re ready to head back to Nephthys for a brief respite. I have no doubt we have something that requires repair.”
“Goodie!” Willow beamed. “I have some new components to pick up!”
“That’s my baby,” Oz kissed her temple. “Always thinking of the next upgrade.”
“And I think we’ll need to get some more of that weird wine that Xan makes,” Buffy added, giving the drowsy Faith a gentle prod. “If it knocks her out so easily, we’ll need to buy his whole stock.”
“Shcrew you,” Faith grumbled, tipping sideways into the pillows.
Kendra, though, was watching Giles. “I tink I know why de Captain wants to go to Nephthys,” she noted, eyes glimmering. A warning look was sent her way. “I know he probably tinks it will be good for us, but...”
“G?” Faith’s voice was muffled through the pillows. “You got a... thing... nuther reason?”
“Ulterior motive, Faith?” Oz offered.
“Yeah... s’the one. Tear rear motive?”
“Tear rear mo...” Buffy’s eyes widened. “Giles, you are a bad, bad man!”
The captain pointed at her. “I didn’t make the decision to come out this close to Nepthys! That was your decision.”
“But you’re taking advantage! You said there was a lot of activity out here! Way more than usual, you said! We’d better deal with it, you said!”
Giles shifted uncomfortably. “It was your decision,” he repeated, rising. “And if you don’t mind, I think I shall go and check distance from the ports.”
“Gorram...” Buffy shook her head, chuckling as he walked up the steps, deliberately ignoring her with every step.
“So, are you going to be mean or are you going to tell us what we missed?” Willow inquired, cocking her head.
Buffy grinned. “What do they grow on Nephthys that Giles is kinda addicted to?” she inquired.
Willow stared at her, as Oz muted a snicker behind his hand. “He brought us all the way out here,” she said incredulously. “Way out into the middle of the black, just because he wanted to get some tea?”
The blonde Slayer laughed. "That's our Giles."