Chapter One of this story is here.
Buffy has hunted demons before. She's seen her share of killing and death. But when she crosses through a portal to confront her nightmare, she discovers that this time, it's not just another big bad to fight. Not just a battle. This time, it's war.
Rating R. This chapter: 1561 words.
Chapter Four: It's Game Time
Buffy winces as the door shakes to another blow, then looks around at the other survivors, speaks hurriedly.
"We have to get to the landing pad, or whatever. Is there a way out past Medical?"
"Not any more." That's Ripley, looking grim. "Burke went that way. He's sealed the door."
"You let him go? How's he going to survive on his own?"
"Fuck him. He can take his chances. Maybe the aliens will recognise a kindred spirit."
"We can't--" Buffy bites back her response. They've lost one man already, a second has chosen to desert; keeping the rest alive has to be her first priority now. She counts heads - is everyone else here? Two marines - plus the Lieutenant, who's leaning against the bulkhead grey and shaky. He'd been woken from quickheal sleep just half an hour earlier, and is barely able to walk, let alone fight. Herself and Ripley. And Newt. Four effective fighters left, two non-combatants. She is not going to let anyone else get killed. She promises herself that.
Okay, Buffy, that's very noble and dramatic of you. Now let's come up with some sort of plan, because there's rather too many of these things to fight them all. There must be another way out of this corridor?
"Is there another way out of this corridor?"
"Yes! This way! Quickly!" Newt's voice pipes up, and she's fiddling with one of the ventilation grilles that line the walls. Buffy smiles her approval, quickly gestures for the others to help her.
Just as she does, there's a high-pitched screech of metal, and the pressure door starts to bend inwards. Something even heavier slams against it then, and Buffy watches it buckle. Three screws pop out of the hinges, and shiny black talons squeeze into the gap and start wrenching it wider.
The ventilation duct is narrow, but just big enough for all of them. Buffy is going to guard the rear, but Vasquez waves her past.
"Still got three grenades, chica. They come after us..." she swipes her hand across her throat expressively. Buffy gives her a smile of approval, then goes to help Lieutenant Gorman, who's stumbling and might slow them all down.
Newt is charging ahead, her voice drifting back to the adults who are struggling through the narrow tunnels, and Ripley cautions her to wait for them. Then they're deafened again by a pair of explosions, and the muffled sound of Vasquez's rifle firing on full automatic behind them.
Don't look now, we're being followed.
They pick up the pace. But the twisting tunnels seem endless. Vasquez fires off her third and last grenade, and the blast shakes the walls of the duct. And there's a scream - from up ahead, not behind them. What? Buffy's rushing forward to see what's the trouble, leaving Gorman to make his own way; she can hear Ripley shouting something. More gunfire from back the way she came...
And then the firing stops dead. Vasquez? Buffy's torn... but silence is more ominous than shouting, and she knows what's coming up behind them. She retraces her steps.
Gorman's not where she left him, and she can hear something now; a pistol firing, the sound weak and reedy compared to the full-on roar of a pulse rifle. Ammo. She must be out of ammo. Buffy grips the Scythe more firmly, hurries around the corner.
Sees them both, huddled together at a crossroads in the ductwork. Vasquez's leg is stretched out straight in front of her, next to the bloody corpse of one of the monsters, and there's a smell of charred cloth and roasted flesh in the air. And beyond them...
The demons. A huge one in the lead, creeping slowly down the duct towards the two helpless humans, and at least a dozen more behind it. Gorman's got something in his hand, and Buffy gasps as she recognises a grenade, realises what he's planning to do.
Grabs it out of his hand before he can push the plunger.
"Not the worst plan... but I've got a better one. Get out of here!"
"So crawl! Help carry each other! Just go!" She looks down at the grenade in her hand, frowns. "Um, but first tell me how this works?"
And she turns to face the advancing demons. Hefts the Scythe. And smiles.
They're animals. Everyone keeps saying that. But as Buffy stands there confidently waiting, something passes between them. Perhaps it's recognition.
And perhaps it's fear.
No, that's impossible. What would a pure instinctive killing machine like these possibly fear? But the demons aren't advancing any closer. They're just watching her.
Buffy listens as the sound of the two marines making their slow way down the tunnel recedes.
And then turns and runs. The demons are after her immediately, their squealing war-cries loud in her ears. She's ducking low, thankful for once in her life that she's so petite as she hurries through the narrow tunnel...
...the narrow side-tunnel, that is. Leading in a different direction, away from the route the rest of the group took. The monsters are close behind her, their claws rattling loudly on the metal floor and walls. She looks around desperately, searching for some way to escape -- then leaps high in the air.
The front-running demon swipes its claws through the place she was in, then looks around in confusion at the disappearance of its prey. Turns its blank eyes upwards, to see the narrow shaft in the ceiling, and Buffy's face peering over the edge at the top. It hisses in greedy anticipation.
Then looks down in confusion at the small, rounded object that just landed at its feet.
Yellow mist and blackened shreds of flesh are all that's left of the demon, and the half dozen that were just behind it. And as their acid blood pools on the floor of the passage the metal creaks and groans, and then the entire structure of the ductwork gives way, plunging all the pursuing demon army down into the depths of the complex. Buffy blinks in surprise, then grins to herself. That went well.
At least something did. By the time she works her way around to rejoin the others, she discovers the reason for the earlier shouting: Newt's gone. Slipped and fell, down through a section of the ducting none of the adults can fit through. Ripley is almost frantic, insisting she's still alive, that they have to rescue her. Buffy can't argue with that, but they've got two casualties now to take care of. And Ripley's in no mood to compromise; she's going after Newt herself, her tone of voice so fiercely protective of the girl that Buffy is unable to muster a single objection. So she ends up helping Vasquez and Gorman up out of the tunnel while Hicks volunteers to go with Ripley to rescue the final survivor.
The outside air is just as cold as she remembers; in fact, worse now that it's night-time. At least the rain has stopped, but there's a gale blowing just to make up for that. They huddle together on the roof, and Buffy catches sight of the one member of the marine team she hasn't met yet, the one bringing the dropship down. Bishop seems inhumanly calm as he stands in the screaming wind, delicate hands manipulating the controls as a huge, black vulture-like flying craft swoops down towards them and settles gently in to a landing.
It's impressive stuff, straight out of a science fiction film - Buffy wishes for a moment she'd brought a camera, because Xander would love to see this. Bishop gives her a curious look as he notices her and the other two marines, but he doesn't say anything except to warn her to mind her head as the dropship's ladder extends from its hatch.
They've just helped Vasquez and Gorman on board and settled them safely into their seats when she sees Ripley and Hicks stumbling towards them. Hicks is wounded, and they're alone; their rescue mission must have failed. And according to Bishop, there's now precisely twenty-six minutes until the whole place goes up in a thermonuclear explosion. Time to leave.
"We're not leaving."
We're not? But as the dropship takes off Ripley explains. There's still a chance - a small chance – that the girl is still alive. If they hurry, they can get her back.
Buffy watches the older woman as she grimly takes down weapons from the racking. Assembling an arsenal. She takes in her air of firmly suppressed fear overlaid with iron-hard determination. Comes to a decision.
"Leave it to me. I'll get her back."
"I made a promise." Ripley's voice brooks no arguments. She slaps a magazine into her pulse rifle, watches the counter tick up to '95'. Buffy recognises stubbornness as great as her own; concedes the point.
"Okay. But I'm coming with you."
"No sense risking another life. If I'm not back in twenty minutes--"
"It'll be because we're both dead." Buffy glares at her, holding her eyes in challenge, and after a moment Ripley smiles in resignation and, perhaps, a hint of gratitude.
"Your choice, honey. Better take a gun."
"I don't--" Buffy hesitates, then shrugs. Who knows what they're about to face? "Sure."
And then she smiles. "Ooh! Are those grenades?!"
Continue to Chapter Five: "They Don't Kill You."