Part IV


A melee involving nine vampires (one ensouled), a Slayer, six Starfleet officers (including one half-Vulcan), a Watcher, and two members of the Scooby Gang is bound to be chaotic, and this one did not confound those expectations.

One of the vampires made a beeline for the three "helpless" women, only to find the tall brunette was seriously nasty in hand to hand, and the other two were quite active with crosses and holy water, generally making his life miserable. After a few moments of grim battle, a splash of holy water in his eyes blinded him, and he had little time to reflect before a stake entered his heart, causing him to burst into dust.

Another vamp went for Tyler and Xander, and both men picked up some scratches as they fended off their stronger opponent for a while as they sized him up. After about a minute of trading blows, Tyler risked a sweep, and managed to knock the vamp on his ass. Xander was ready with the stake, and another vamp was dust.

Two vampires went for Giles, Boyce and Spock, and Boyce stepped back, trying to find openings to use the holy water he had to maximum effect while Spock and Giles engaged the vampires. Giles' combat skills had grown rusty from disuse over the last few years, but training with Buffy had given him his edge back, and his opponent was ill-prepared for a human opponent to put up such a ferocious fight. After about ninety seconds, it dropped its guard for an instant, and Giles slammed the stake home, dusting it instantly.

Spock's opponent was more formidable: he was a century and a half old vampire who had come to Sunnydale upon hearing that the Master would soon rise again. . .he liked the idea of working for the vampire who would finally rid the Earth of the pathetic infestation that was humanity. He was puzzled at the appearance of the being that faced him: had a demon turned traitor and allied with the Slayer, as Angelus had? Its strength was unquestionable: more than once the vampire found itself being forced back by superior strength. Still, it didn't wield a stake, and the vampire was feeling cocky when abruptly the creature made a lightning fast attack, and the vampire felt its neck snapping as it dropped to the ground. The injury would have healed with time, but time was seriously lacking as Spock drew the stake out from his belt and drove it into the vampire's heart, ending its existence.

Andrew and Doug went after Angel: they knew that if the Master heard that they had ended the existence of this arch-traitor who had killed the Master's favorite, they would be greatly rewarded. They were dismayed to find that Angel's reputation as a fighter had, if anything, been understated. The ensouled vampire didn't use any fancy moves: he just relentlessly pummeled the two hapless vampires for long moments, then abruptly pulled out a stake. At this point, Andrew bolted. He had enjoyed life in Sunnydale, but he decided-as he heard Doug's dying scream as Angel's stake rammed home-that living in the Master's shadow wasn't worth all of this crap.

Buffy found herself facing Davidson, and wasn't having an easy time of it. The Starfleet self-defense tactics that had proved inadequate against the vampires that had turned him were far more effective when backed with vampiric strength and toughness, and Buffy was not familiar with them. However, the Slayer still had the edge on strength and speed, and the end result was that both combatants were getting in good shots on each other. After about two minutes, Buffy had seen Davidson's entire arsenal of moves, and she had no problem blocking a straight right, grabbing the extended arm thus exposed, and throwing Davidson on his back, followed by a perfect staking. Smiling with satisfaction, she looked around to see that the others were finished with their opponents, except for Pike, who was chasing down the fleeing Brennan. Cursing, she tore off after the Enterprise's captain, hoping that she wouldn't be too late to save him.

Pike had caught Brennan about a quarter mile away from the rest of the group with a flying tackle, sending the former security guard and the captain sprawling. Brennan recovered first, and tried to rip Pike's throat out, but was thwarted at the last second by Pike regaining his feet with a nice roll and flip. The two of them began slugging it out, and Pike, as before, was dismayed at the strength and toughness that the transformation had granted to his former security officer; however, he was ready for it this time, and he managed to get a few shots in that staggered Brennan before the vampire recovered and began a counter-offensive.

Brennan was angry at the foiling of his plans, and was not hesitant to let Pike know it: "You self-righteous bastard! Always so smug and superior when you're on board the Enterprise. . .too good to mingle with your crew. . .it's about time someone gave you what you've got coming to you!"

Pike raised an eyebrow at the outburst, and noted that Brennan was carelessly leaving an opening in his defenses. He pretended not to notice it as he replied to the angry vampire, "You know, Brennan, if I'd have heard you say that last week, I would have scheduled a meeting where you could air your grievances without disrupting discipline." Abruptly, he struck through the opening with a combination, knocking Brennan down and only giving the vampire a second to utter a gargled scream before Pike staked him. Staring down sadly at the dust, he concluded, "Unfortunately, you're not my problem any more." Shaking his head at the waste of it all and thinking of the letters he would be sending to Brennan and Davidson's families, he got up, turned and saw Buffy watching him with a compassionate look on her face. He smiled wearily and asked, "How long have you been there?"

The Slayer returned the smile and replied, "Long enough to catch the end and make sure he didn't get lucky." The compassionate look returned as she commented, "I'm sorry, Captain Pike. . .it never gets any easier, does it?"

Pike looked at the young woman and was forcefully reminded that this was someone who had seen people she knew die, only to return as monsters that she was duty-bound to destroy. If anyone understood the burden he had assumed, she would. He looked over at her and replied, "No, Buffy, it doesn't. . .but you learn from things like this, and you go on with life the best you can." He smiled reassuringly at her and suggested, "Let's get back. . .the others will worry about us."



*****

They met up again in the library, after searching the crypt when the vampires had holed up to make sure no futuristic technology-no matter how impaired by the local environment-had been left; apparently, Brennan and Davidson had been carrying their phasers and communicators with them and they had been dusted along with the vampires themselves. . .fortunate.

Tyler walked over to Xander, noticing that he was watching Buffy speak to Mr. Spock. He nudged the teenager and asked, "So, are you gonna ask her or not?"

Xander turned to Tyler and gave him an exasperated look before replying, "Yeah. . .I guess I will. . just need to find the right moment. We've got a school dance coming up. . .maybe then."

Tyler nodded and grinned, commenting, "That's the spirit. . .think positively." He grimaced and elaborated, "Besides. . .a little good cheer couldn't hurt you living here." He extended his hand, and Xander shook it firmly before the helmsman turned away and walked over to where Boyce was talking to Giles.

Buffy was shaking her head as she told Spock. "I've got this weird music in my head. . .sounds kind of like a harp, but different. Something from your hit parade?"

Spock took a moment to decipher her question, then had to restrain himself from smiling as he replied, "A Vulcan harp. . .if you concentrate, you can probably visualize it." He watched as she closed her eyes for a moment, then nodded at him to continue. "Some random exchange of information tends to occur during a meld. . .the conscious effects should be temporary, though the information will remain in your memory indefinitely." He paused, considering whether to ask the question that had arisen as he pondered the memories he had acquired from Buffy. Curiosity won out, and he asked, "Miss Summers, what is a Nerf Herder?"

Pike turned at the sudden burst of laughter from Buffy, then turned back to Angel, who commented, "It's good to see her in a good mood. . .this life is hard for her."

Pike nodded and noted the desolate look on his face. He replied, "And being separated from her is hard on you."

Angel flinched, and looked over at Pike, who elaborated, "Angel, I didn't get to be a starship captain by being dense. . .and I heard some of the others talking. They're worried about how Buffy is handling it. . .and by the look on your face you're not taking it much better."

Angel nodded and replied, "We just have to. . .there are too many things that can go wrong. . .we can't allow ourselves to pursue it."

Pike nodded and responded, "You're right, of course. . .duty can be a difficult taskmaster. But even if you and Buffy can't be together, these people are your friends, and you should seek their help in dealing with this, just as Buffy does. Sitting alone in darkness and brooding doesn't help. . .and I should know. I've been a better captain since I learned to relax a little among a few of my officers, and you will be better equipped to seek your redemption if you learn to rely on your friends." He extended his hand to the vampire and concluded, "Good luck." Angel shook the extended hand, then turned and vanished into the stacks.

Number One was chatting with Willow when Pike caught her eye and nodded. Number One smiled slightly at Willow and explained, "Time to go." The surviving members of the Enterprise landing party gathered in the center of the library, and Pike opened his communicator and ordered, "Enterprise, stand by to beam up six on my command."

Buffy walked up to Pike and commented, "I guess this is it. . .other than the whole 'vampires from the future threatening to really make my life difficult' thing, it was nice to meet you. . .and thanks for what you said. . .it meant a lot to me."

Pike smiled and replied, "It was nothing you didn't fully deserve, Buffy. . .good fortune to you and yours. . .now, step back a bit. . .transporters can be tricky if you're too close to the effect."

Buffy nodded and stepped back as Pike spoke into his communicator: "Energize." The six persons were engulfed by a shimmering light that emitted a loud whine, and they slowly faded out of existence, leaving the spot empty. There was silence for a long moment, then Xander felt moved to comment, "Cool. . .can we get one of those?"

Buffy looked over at him and smiled, replying, "Not yet. . .but give us a few hundred years, and who knows?" She walked to the library window and looked out at the stars, searching for a faint spark of light that she knew she would not find, though the fact that it was out there was giving her a feeling of warmth that she had not felt in a long time.


*****

The transition back to their own universe had been as uncomfortable as their exit from it, but they had the comfort of knowing that they were going home. When the process had been completed, Pike turned to the bridge Engineering station and commented, "Send my compliments to the department for a job well done. . .and, once again, good job at holding down the fort while we were gone, Lieutenant Scott."

The engineer nodded and smiled at Pike, then went about his tasks while Spock moved over to the captain and commented quietly, "Captain, this phenomenon seems to be long-term in nature. . .we can seed the area with warning buoys, but it will remain a potential hazard. . .not to mention the danger posed by the creatures living within."

Pike nodded and replied, "I know, Spock. . .I'm going to send a private communiqué to Starfleet with our mission logs, seeking guidance. In the meantime, no one who doesn't already know about this is to be told about what we found down there." He frowned, his thoughts focused on the brave group of people they had met so recently, and commented, "Hopefully, by the time Starfleet has occasion to have further contact with that universe, Buffy. . .or her successors. . .will have made it a safer place for us. . .and for them." Spock saw the grim look on his captain's face and nodded before returning to his duties.

Uncaring of the concerns of her master, the Enterprise left behind the space phenomenon, speeding away to its next mission.



AUTHOR'S FINAL NOTE: Hope you all enjoyed this. . .I'll probably do a sequel in a little while, set in fourth season BTVS and during the time frame of Star Trek TOS.



As always, comments are welcomed and desired