TITLE: New Guard
AUTHOR: Methos (methos )
DISCLAIMER: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon; Superman and all DCU characters belong to their respective... Ok, easier just to say this is going to be quite a big multicross, so just count anything you recognise as belonging to someone else ok? Nothing is mine, only the extremely twisted idea…
Halloween had always been one of Jack's favourite holidays, he remembered the times he was out trick or treating with Charlie, going around the neighbourhood for candy, the streets filled with happy children in costumes, all trying to outdo each other with their bags filled with sugary treats.
Even now he could remember Charlie's face lighting up whenever Halloween got close, ever since they'd started trick or treating Charlie had always worn the same costume, a miniature flight suit that was supposed to have been from a child's Top Gun costume, they'd modified it together, using one of Jack's own name tags across the chest though. It was the only night when Jack went out of the house without his dog tags on, and that was only because Charlie always had them draped around his neck proudly, a big grin on his face whenever anyone asked him who he was dressed as.
Ever since Charlie had died though, Halloween just reminded him of everything he'd lost, in the past it had always been one of his favourite holidays, now it was just another reminder of the family that had been destroyed by his old service side arm. With the recent incident involving the alien crystals imitating Charlie, the memories, both painful and good, were closer to the surface than ever before.
So this year, much like any other, he was sat alone in his house, the TV was playing soundlessly in front of him, muted so not to bother him, while he sat back in the couch, a beer in one hand and a photo of Charlie in the other. Just like last year he'd been invited to Halloween parties, one with General Hammond and his family, the other with Captain Carter down the other side of town. He'd declined both, he was happy just in the quiet, sitting down and thinking, lost in his memories.
Putting the photo of Charlie back on the side table for a moment he finished off the beer in his hand, dropping the empty bottle down into the small trash basket that was kept there for paperwork or empty envelopes. Standing up to move around to the kitchen to fetch another beer the sight that greeted him flicked across his eyes so quickly that it didn't even register at first, he'd taken another two steps before his brain caught up with what he had thought he'd seen, causing him to slowly back step and turn back to face the television.
"That's new." He said to himself as he grabbed the remote from the couch and flicked the volume back on. Idly wondering to himself why the TV was actually tuned in to CNN, he was sure it had been on ESPN or something.
"We have here exclusive live footage of the test flight of the new Colson passenger carrier, its maiden flight from Westchester to Colorado broken tragically short when three of its four engines suffered catastrophic failure mid-flight."
Jack raised his eyebrow at that, the engineer in him knew how rare it was for one engine to fail mid-flight, for three out of four to fail in the air, not during tests or take off, meant that something had definitely gone FUBAR up there.
"The story is not the engine failure however," The news woman reported. "The Colson carrier was preparing to make an emergency landing at LaGuardia Airport's eastern runway when the plane righted itself without explanation."
Jack snorted at this as the screen behind the anchor woman expanded to show in grainy detail what was being filmed. "Oh for Christ's sake." He laughed the picture now showing was the one that had caught his attention in the first place.
"This footage was taken by am amateur plane enthusiast several minutes ago outside of Pelham Bay Park, as you can see, there is clearly a man underneath the fuselage of the plane, and he appears to be carrying the disabled craft down towards LaGuardia, however it is still unknown at this time who this mystery hero is, or how he is doing what he appears to be doing."
"It's a publicity stunt for crying out loud," Jack snorted as he shook his head in amusement, ignoring the TV now as he continued into the kitchen to fetch another beer.
"If you look closely however, this mysterious hero appears to be wearing a Superman costume, in a manner re-enacting Superman's first appearance in the comics where he saved a passenger plane from crashing into downtown Metropolis."
"Gee, there's a shocker," Jack laughed as he returned to the living room with the beer, cracking the lid off easily before taking a mouthful. He had to admit though, it was a pretty good publicity stunt, the footage actually looked genuine, not some special effects or badly done stich together. Shaking his head he flicked the channel over to Sky News, amused when a variation on the picture was being shown there.
"We have cameras on the ground at LaGuardia Airport waiting to find out who this mystery hero is. Is this a publicity stunt for the new plane, or possibly for a new movie, our correspondent with Colson could only say that the mysterious 'Superman' was nothing to do with them and that they truly feared for the people on board the passenger carrier before he turned up."
"Hell, might even see this movie for myself." Jack snorted as he sat back down on the couch, actually amused at the amount of effort that had gone into this publicity stunt, getting multiple news channels and a big company like Colson Industries, a company that actually had Air Force contacts, to cooperate with the stunt must have been hell for the movie company, he hadn't even heard they were doing another Superman movie, but then he hadn't exactly been keeping up with movie news or anything lately.
"The 'Superman' and the disabled passenger carrier are now approaching LaGuardia Airport; we go now to Jennifer Jenson on site." The man at the Sky News desk announced before the picture flicked over to a cute redhead who was stood outside a large airport with various emergency vehicles behind her and a crowd of people in the background.
"Thank you Todd, it is still unclear what caused the malfunction on board the Colson premier carrier, what is known is that three of the engines suffered a catastrophic failure nearly an hour after take-off. The passenger carrier took off from Westchester Airport earlier this evening on its maiden voyage towards Colorado, shortly after take-off the engines suffered failure just north of New Rochelle the plane mysteriously righted itself and seemed to by flying itself towards LaGuardia Airport. It was not until we received footage and images from various sources that we could confirm that the plane had indeed been saved by this mysterious 'Superman' who appears to be carrying the plane safely towards the airport for landing."
Jack just grinned to himself as he took another mouthful from the beer, this was actually better than he had thought it was going to be, he hadn't thought any movie studio would have gone through this much trouble just to promote a movie, it was a Superman movie however, and movie studios were getting more and more ambitious with their promotional campaigns. He shook his head in amusement when the phone rang, so he tore his attention away from the television for a moment to answer it.
"Yello?" He answered with a smile on his lips.
"Colonel O'Neill," General Hammond's voice came over the line.
"General," Jack smiled. "Happy Halloween, how goes the party?"
"Good, thank you Jack. Are you watching the news?" General Hammond asked over the phone.
"Yeah, just caught it," Jack laughed back. "Pretty good stunt, even looks real, smoking engines and everything. Can't wait to see who they've cast for the Superman guy, can't make it out from here."
"It's no stunt Colonel," General Hammond said, his tone wiping the smile clean off Jack's face in seconds. "Doctor Jackson is on board that flight, he was heading back from a conference in New York."
"Is he alright?" Jack asked, the news about the stunt now in the back of his mind as he worried about his friend.
"It appears so; we managed to contact the passenger carrier on the emergency frequency. There are a few casualties on board, sprained ankles and the like, nothing serious." General Hammond explained. "We have a flight ready to take you to LaGuardia; Major Carter is already on route."
"Sir?" Jack shook his head to clear his thoughts for a moment. "Are you trying to tell me this Superman is real?"
"It appears that way Colonel, I've been fielding calls from the President and Joint Chiefs for the past twenty minutes, and they all want answers. Is he one of ours, if not, where did he come from?" General Hammond sighed in exasperation over the line. "Get out there; we have security at the airport already with orders to detain him for questioning."
"Leaving now sir." Jack said sharply over the line as he put the beer down and hung up the phone, grabbing his keys quickly from the table as he stood up and thanked whatever god was out there that he'd only had one beer.
Taking one last glance at the television as he was getting his boots on he shook his head, the screen was now replaying the fuzzy video of the man holding up the plane, it was zoomed in an enhanced now he still too fuzzy and shaky for him to make out any detail on the man's face or costume, the colours of the costume did seem to point out that whoever this guy was, he was wearing a Superman costume.
"Yeah right, Superman's real, what next, the all-powerful Oz?" Jack muttered to himself as he grabbed his jacket from the back of the door and headed out without turning the television off, intent on finding out exactly what was going on here.
"Carter," Jack nodded over as he sat down in the back of the private jet the Air Force had managed to get the use of to get them out to New York in the shortest time possible.
"Sir, I've managed to enhance the video sent to the news networks, it was taken by a Mr Gibbons outside of Williamsbridge, no records of him working with the news networks or movie studios." Carter explained as the jet began to taxi down towards the main runway.
"And we're sure this isn't a publicity stunt?" Jack asked, raising his eyebrow in hope.
"I'm afraid not sir," Carter smiled wryly back at him. "As you can see, I enhanced the screen shots as much as I could; the footage isn't great to begin with."
"I saw," Jack nodded as he looked at the photos Carter had laid out on the table between them. "It just seems like the better of two options here."
"Sir?" Carter asked, wondering what he exactly meant.
"Well, either it's a publicity stunt for a new Superman movie, which would be cool, or we've got a comic book hero out there capable of flying a downed passenger carrier across country to the nearest airport." Jack shook his head in amusement. "And to tell you the truth, I'm not sure which I prefer at this moment. Unless you want to tell General Hammond that Superman's real and is catching planes for us now?"
"I'll leave that to you sir." Carter smiled back. "What I can tell you is… Sir, do we have to call him Superman?"
"He's wearing the costume," Jack shrugged, tapping his finger on the enhanced photo where the 'S' shield was easily visible on the man's chest, if a bit blurry from being zoomed in so much. "And he's saving a bunch of people, Daniel included, you tell me what we're supposed to call him."
"Ok, Superman then," Carter frowned as the name left her lips. "Well, it appears this Superman is real, or as real as I can ascertain from the footage. There is no possible way for the place to remain in the air, not with only one functioning engine, by all rights the plane should have crashed somewhere around Mamaroneck sir."
"Only it didn't," Jack commented as the jet started to take off, forcing him back into the back of his seat lightly. "Superman caught it, and I never thought I'd hear myself say those words seriously."
"Sir," Carter smiled back at him. "The Colson carrier weighs upwards of one hundred and eighty one thousand kilograms empty, taking into account passengers, fuel and luggage, possibly close to three hundred thousand kilos."
"Heavy," Jack nodded in agreement.
"Extremely sir, the Colson carrier has been built to replace the Boing seven four seven, it's the largest commercial flight plane ever built." Carter explained. "To lift something that heavy, well, the strain on the body must be enormous sir."
"And we'll just ignore the fact that he appears to be flying under his own power shall we?" Jack smirked over the table.
"I… I can't explain that sir, it goes against all laws of physics known to man." Carter said after a minute. "Men can't fly, not under their own power anyway, and lifting that much weight while flying, his upper body strength and flight capabilities must be astronomical."
"Ok, so we've got flying and super strength, what do you bet he's got the rest of the package as well?" Jack mused to himself.
"Sir?" Carter asked, pausing from where she was flicking over the footage again on her laptop to see if there was something she'd missed.
"You know, the rest of Superman's powers." Jack waved his hand idly.
"Sorry sir, I was never really a comic's fan growing up." Carter shrugged.
"You have to get out more," Jack groused with a smirk. "Flying, super strength, heat vision, super speed, x-ray vision, invulnerability, you know, those things that make him Superman."
"Yes sir," Carter rolled her eyes in humour at the Colonel. "Without tests or seeing these powers in action, I couldn't tell you if he had those powers or not, though seeing as we already have what looks to be proof of two out of the six, I'd say it's a good bet sir."
"Well best settle in, it's about three hours and some change to New York, hope the security boys there can hold him until we get there." Jack grinned as he tried to imagine airport security trying to stop Superman from leaving if he wanted to.
"Mike, Mike, Mike…" James rambled quickly as he practically ran into the Deputy Mayor's office.
"James, cut it out, I already told you, nobody leaves until we catch up on the week's paperwork. There's someone coming in on Monday, now I know this is cutting in to your Friday night boat racing or whatever it is you do, but it needs to be done." Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty explained, for what felt like the sixth time tonight as he looked up from his desk.
"It's not that," James nodded quickly. "You've gotta come see this."
"Is Stuart playing mini golf with real eggs again?" Mike asked as he stood up, actually happy to take a break from the paperwork that had been slowly piling up on his desk all night. "Because I told him, if he tries that again I wouldn't be held responsible…"
"No, no, just…" James trailed off as he led the way out of the office, back into the main area where everyone was stood in the middle of the floor looking up at the TV that was normally there for them to keep track of The Mayor's appearances and catch any problems as they happen. "Just watch." James explained as he stepped aside so Mike could work his way through to watch the TV as well.
"What is this?" Mike asked with a frown, wondering what had everyone captivated on the TV, even Stuart and Stacey were there, watching without their usual bickering, which meant whatever was on was probably more interesting than work, which wasn't actually hard given the repetitive nature of the paperwork they were all meant to be doing. "Come on guys, we need to catch up with this. This isn't movie night, it's…"
"Shhh!" Nikki hissed out, nodding up to the TV set to turn Mike's attention back to that instead of where he was looking at them.
"It's Fox news Nikki," Mike said dismissively. "Not exactly known for its favourable words about our favourite mayor or the…" He trailed off as he actually caught what the reporter on the screen was saying.
"Continuing our live coverage from LaGuardia Airport now, where the damaged Colson carrier is approaching from over the East River." The News Lady explained as the camera panned away from her and to the skyline where the city lights of the South Bronx were easily visible on the other side of the river, but the sight that had everyone's attention was the plane that seemed to be flying at an impossibly slow speed across the river, three of its engines on fire and lighting up the plane well enough in the night for it to be perfectly visible in the black sky. "As you can see, there are rescue crews on the ground preparing for what would seem to be one of the largest disasters this airport has ever witnessed, though we are still receiving reports that the unnamed hero is working to help the Colson carrier approach for a safe landing."
"This is live?" Mike asked, wide eyed at the sight on the TV screen.
"It's on every channel," Nikki explained. "Something went wrong after take-off…"
"The plane is on fire, I can safely say that something went pretty wrong," Mike commented as he continued watching the TV footage.
"Anyway, that's not the story, not the big one anyway," Nikki continued. "There's some guy out there, helping to land the plane."
"The traffic controller?" Mike asked curiously.
"Not unless he wears blue spandex and a red cape," Stacey said with a nod. "Check it out." She explained, nodding back up to the TV screen.
"As you can see, the man under the fuselage of the carrier itself appears to be wearing the costume known world-wide as the character Superman," The reporter continued as the video feed switched to a blurred and grainy image, obviously taken by an enthusiast with a zoom lens on his home camera. "What is easily recognisable in the distinctive logo and design of the costume, though we currently have no explanation for how he is capable of performing this heroic act."
"Superman?" Mike asked, raising his eyebrows. "Superman is landing that plane for us?"
"He's flying over New York with a plane bigger than a house on his back," Stacey said with a shrug. "You want to call him something different?"
"Well, no, but… Superman?" Mike asked in disbelief.
"I'm right there with you buddy," Stuart said with a nod. "But the cameras don't lie, well they do, but not these ones."
"Stuart, men can't fly, they certainly can't lift planes and carry them across my city." Mike explained. "And there certainly wouldn't be a Superman flying around New York without us knowing about it."
"Think about it Mike," James nodded along. "Maybe this is where he wants to make his home, you know, Superman has Metropolis, this Superman has New York."
"James, that is quite possibly the stupidest…" Mike trailed off as the News Broadcaster interrupted from the TV behind them.
"We now have word, the Colson carrier, carried by the mysterious hero, is approaching now for landing." The reporter explained, the camera angle shifting to zoom in on the carrier itself, the fires and smoke coming from the large engines showing the scope of the disaster far better than any words could. "It's obvious from what we can see here that there would have been no way for the carrier to stay airborne without the help of this hero." The reporter continued as the camera angle shifted down to try and get a better shot of the undercarriage of the plane, though with the carrier's angle of descent it was hard to make out anything but a small blue and red object on the undercarriage.
"Paul, get the police on the line, I want them out there now to help contain this thing." Mike ordered, jumping straight into business mode. "Stuart, get on the line to LaGuardia. I want to know exactly what happened out there, flight plans, explanations, everything." He explained as everyone turned to him. "This is all over the news now, and by tomorrow we're going to have reporters everywhere wanting our take on this disaster and this hero guy, whatever his story is."
He paused, looking around the room to where people were already heading towards their phones ready to get on with the tasks he'd issued. "Stacie, get the Mayor in here, he's out at the Country Club tonight. We'll want him on site to be briefed with whatever this turns out to be. Nikki, with me." He explained, turning to head back to his office to grab his coat.
"What are we doing?" Nikki asked, following Mike into his office and grabbing her coat from the coat stand on the way.
"We're going to meet Superman." Mike said as he grabbed his coat, turning a one-eighty and heading back out the door in quick strides.
"Good lord," Giles breathed out as he all but ran into the back on the costume store. Following Willow's clues to finding Ethan's store hadn't really been hard, the entire stunt stank of Ethan Rayne, but he hadn't actually expected to find the man there waiting for him.
It wasn't just the fact he was waiting for him either, it was the look on his face. Expectation along with a tired and weary face, one much older than he had any right to be. He simply smiled and nodded, like anyone would towards an old friend as Giles walked in. "Ripper," He coughed before continuing. "It's been too long."
"Ethan?" Giles asked, slowing his pace and pausing by the entrance to the back room, the shock at seeing his old friend worn and withered now shifting the anger he'd felt at the entire night's fiasco.
"Afraid so," Ethan nodded. "Couldn't be sure you'd make it, not this time around any…" He trailed off as a violent cough interrupted him.
"Ethan, what have you done?" Giles asked, worry taking over. It was one thing to be angry about tonight's events, but the frail man in front of him definitely wasn't who he'd been expecting to face.
"What had to be done," Ethan said with a nod, using his sleeve to cover his mouth as another coughing fit took over. "Hadn't… expected it to happen so soon though."
"So soon?" Giles asked, noting the blood that was on Ethan's sleeve as he brought his arm away. "Ethan, what have you done?" He asked again.
"Saving the world," Ethan said with a wry smile before coughing again, his body shaking before he closed his eyes and forced it back under control. "If you'd believe that."
"I don't," Giles shook his head. "Who's choice Ethan?"
"Xander's," Ethan said with a weary smile. "This was his plan all along."
"Xander wanted this?" Giles asked in disbelief. "I find that hard…"
"Not your Xander," Ethan shook his head, interrupting Giles' argument. "He doesn't even know what's going on, or what's coming."
"What's coming?" Giles asked with a frown, seeing the urgency on Ethan's face. "Ethan, tell me." He asked again when Ethan started coughing violently, his knees buckling as he sank to the floor.
"Next year," Ethan said as the coughing subsided. "That's when they come."
"Come?" Giles asked, kneeling down to check on Ethan, using a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe away some of the blood from the older man's lips. "You're… you're not from…"
"This time?" Ethan nodded in confirmation. "Temporal relocation, high cost but it was the only way." He explained.
"High cost?" Giles glared over. "Magic dealing with time travel isn't just dangerous you fool, the repercussions to the body alone are…"
"Hadn't expected it to be so painful," Ethan said with a wince as he tried to sit up straight. "Under... under the table." He explained with a nod, gesturing to a table on the far side of the room.
"You said Xander chose this?" Giles asked, glancing over at the rucksack that was under the table but wanting an explanation first. "Chose this for what? What did he, you, do?"
"The end of the world," Ethan explained. "Never really believed in any of that anyway, more fool me." He explained as he crouched on the floor. "The bag, there's a note from Xander, my Xander not the Slayer's friend." He explained. "He sent the costume to himself, a way to stop all this from happening."
"Stop what? The apocalypse?" Giles asked in disbelief.
"The invasion," Ethan said with a grimace. "Aliens, know it's not your usual fight Ripper, but it's not as if we have a choice here."
"Aliens?" Giles frowned, inwardly wondering what sort of joke Ethan was trying to pull here.
"They came," Ethan nodded, adjusting himself against the pillar he was leaning against for more comfort. "We… we couldn't stop them." He explained before starting to cough again, nodding in thanks when Giles handed him the bloody handkerchief from before. "They invaded, bombed everything. London, Manchester, even New York and Washington. All gone."
"Ethan I hardly think…" Giles trailed off as Ethan shook his head violently.
"No!" Ethan interrupted. "No one thought Ripper, that's the point! No one really believed it was happening. They came, bombed our little planet from orbit. Blew up our cities and landed armies." He explained, the ghostly look of memories on his face enough to convince Giles that what he was saying was true. "Three years we survived, your two Slayers fought them. The witch too, he watched them both die with the aliens using some sort of alien staffs." He explained as he wiped away some more blood from his mouth and nose. "We didn't stand a chance."
"Two…" He started before shaking that thought away for the moment. "If what you're saying is true…" Giles trailed off, horrified at the picture Ethan was painting of the near future. "How can we…"
"Xander figured it out," Ethan said with a nod. "Earth was defenceless, armies were cut down, and missiles that couldn't even scratch their shields." He explained as he tried to stand up again, using the pedestal to leverage himself up before Giles helped him gently. "We needed to change it, change everything." He explained.
"How…" Giles trailed off in thought as he helped Ethan stand fully. "The costumes."
"Xander's," Ethan nodded in agreement. "We argued for days about it. I thought an army of characters from science fiction shows and movies could help. Giving them weapons, abilities that could defend the Earth from the aliens."
"And Xander?" Giles asked, the magnitude of tonight's events hitting him like a brick wall as he realized what Ethan was trying to do here.
"We needed an army, but he..." He explained as he broke off in another coughing fit.
"What… what did you do?" Giles all but demanded as he tried to understand what Ethan had done here.
"The bag," Ethan nodded again, over to where the rucksack was still under the desk. "It… it explains everything." He said as he started coughing again, coughing up blood into his sleeve and then over the floor as he collapsed down to his knees where he knocked over the pedestal to the side of him, the bust on the top falling to the floor and smashing against the tiled ground.
"I'll call for help," Giles said urgently, looking around the room for a phone he could call an ambulance with. "Ethan, just…"
"There's so much," Ethan said softly as he wiped the blood from his lips, staring over at the smashed bust on the floor and hoping that the possession had had enough time to take over his body properly. The spell they'd worked on required a minimum of three hours, and even counting on the time for Ripper's interruption, it was still close. "Seven months, the…" He trailed off as he started coughing again, his aged and frail body not able to keep up with the urgency in his mind and what needed to be done. "The bag, a diary… dates…" He said in-between coughing fits as he lay against the pedestal in the centre of the room. "Help him become…" He wheezed out, trailing off as his eyes closed.
"Ethan!" Giles shouted, flicking his eyes between the holdall Ethan had been pointing at before reaching out hesitantly to check the older man's pulse, letting out the breath he'd been holding as he felt the weak, but steady, throb under his fingers. "What have you done?" He whispered as he looked around the room before focusing back on Ethan and sitting down next to him while he slept.