Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Warning: objects in the viewscreen may be stranger than they appear. 1000 words. (twistedshorts LJ Challenge #2).
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Spoilers: Jossverse through "Not Fade Away"; sometime before the Enterprise-D was destroyed.
Feedback: It's the coin of the realm.
Notes: I should have been working on my web archive or my WIP's, but I spotted this challenge, and found myself facing down a plot attack bunny. Big teeth, those bunnies have.
"Captain, sensors are detecting an anomaly four thousand kilometers off the port bow. It does not match the profile of any known anomaly in the computer records, and it is producing unusual frequencies of energy radiation."
Picard frowned slightly and straightened in his chair, tugging at the hem of his tunic. It was not exactly a surprise that the ship had once again managed to encounter an unusual phenomenon, but the system they were currently investigating had previously appeared completely innocuous. Surprises of this nature were seldom pleasant.
"On screen, Mr. Data."
Data's fingers moved over the ops panel, and a section of starscape appeared on the forward view screen. Centered in the image was a strange, greenish circular formation that seemed to shimmer around the edges. In front of the anomaly, more than a dozen objects appeared to drift aimlessly in the airless void, each about one-third to one-half as long as the anomaly's diameter.
Data continued to narrate as he manipulated the panel, extracting more data from the sensors. "The anomaly is approximately five meters in diameter, and seems to be the source of the objects floating before it; several more have appeared since the anomaly was detected. The energy readings within the anomaly are fluctuating rapidly; it appears to be unstable."
"Some kind of wormhole, perhaps?" Riker asked from his chair at Picard's right.
"The structure of the anomaly does not match any wormhole phenomena on record," Data replied negatively.
Picard's frown deepened. "Mr. Data, increase magnification please. Can we identify those objects?"
"Scanning now, sir." The green light given off by the circular anomaly expanded briefly to fill most of the screen, then vanished unexpectedly, leaving only the cloud of objects behind: objects which, upon closer examination, appeared distressingly familiar in shape.
"The anomaly has vanished, sir," Data commented, unnecessarily. "The objects that remain appear to be humanoid corpses, from at least three distinct, unknown species."
"Did the vacuum kill them, or were they already dead when they came through?" Riker asked.
"Unknown," Data replied. "All of the corpses have been affected by explosive decompression, and the external sensors are not configured for detailed biological scans of that nature. An autopsy will be necessary to determine the cause of death."
Picard sighed and reached to tap his combadge. Beverly was not going to thank him for this, but they could not abandon this mystery without a thorough investigation.
In the year since the collapse of Sunnydale, Dawn had found herself considering many things she had had neither the time nor the interest to investigate while living under the constant threat of the Hellmouth and the emotional aftermath of her mother's and sister's deaths. Namely, what exactly was a human-shaped Key good for now that its main purpose was gone?
She'd gone to Willow with her questions, as Giles still tended to behave with fatherly protectiveness toward her and raising the subject with Buffy would be ... well, it wouldn't be pretty. Especially given the direction of her queries:
"If it's the flow of blood that causes a portal to open, why aren't I making things disappear all the time? I have a heartbeat, you know, and circulation. And if it's blood flowing out of me that causes it, why aren't I cracking the universe apart every time I get a paper cut or a nosebleed? And if it's stopping the flow that closes the portal, why couldn't we have just put a bandage around me? Why did Buffy have to die?"
The difference, Willow had told her, lay in the ritual preparation, and the intent. Most especially the intent.
Life had gotten pretty interesting after that.
Unfortunately, the ability to prick her finger and cause inter-dimensional doorways to appear turned out to be not nearly as useful as it sounded. For one, they had no way of knowing what would be on the other side; Dawn had no idea how to "target" them. And for two, supposing someone stepped through and survived it, how on earth would they get back? They hadn't had any luck with the little camera-bearing robotic probes Willow made for the experiments; there was no point in trying it with people.
Fortunately, the things they were facing tonight weren't people.
Dawn jabbed her ring finger with the straight pin she always carried now -- her index and middle fingers were already too sore to keep using them, but she had eight other fingers where those came from -- and flung the resulting blood drop toward the oncoming demonic mob. None of her portals ever lasted very long, but at ten to thirty demons per portal she was taking out more of them than the slayers and Angel's crew combined. Plus, she could do it from a safe distance -- from up on the roof of the Hyperion -- and she could never run out of ammo as long as she was still breathing.
Good thing, too. She had no idea what Angel had been thinking, pissing off a demon powerful enough to send this kind of army after them. If it hadn't been for Buffy's vision and her portals, he and his crew would all be dead by now; as it was, he'd already lost everyone except Spike and a blue girl Dawn didn't know that was fighting as hard as the slayers. What kind of strategy was that?
Irritably, she jabbed at her finger again, then snapped her hand down toward the horde. Another vertical pool of energy spread in mid-air in the middle of the attacking forces, swallowing everything that came into contact with it before shimmering and fading away, leaving twenty fewer demons to fight.
Dawn spared a quick thought for whatever universe had been unfortunate enough to receive them, hoping she hadn't just put a lot of innocents in danger, then banished it from her mind and switched to the next finger. All she cared about right now was that they were gone, and they weren't coming back.