The Hunting Party
Chapter 10. The Hunting Party
Sunday, 23rd November, 5:00 PM PST, Sunnydale, California.
Karen insisted on coming to the Reach warehouse tonight to see her men off to battle. Roary and I drove to Reach together in Roary’s pickup truck after making a stop at their temporary locker armory. She drove over with Simon and Shalomar in her Toyota Corolla.
The two on duty guards Mike and Terry were disappointed that they had lost the raffle for this shift and had to stay behind. But they sent ice chests with the others. Besides this was going to be their first time seeing their boss in his armored suit.
Roary gave Karen and the children a quick tour of the Reach’s warehouse complex as I began suiting up. They returned just as I finished putting on all of my armor except my helmet.
Standing next to my old pickup truck still parked up inside the warehouse I paused and looked at the guards. “Ok guys almost show time. All radio traffic will be on the headset radios tonight. Keep your hands off the transmit button please. The plan is that Roary will drive me to my insertion point and retrieve me from where ever I exit tonight. But there is a chance that I may return to grating A-2 over there. Do not remove the trucks from the gratings unless you get the all clear from me. Are we clear.”
Mike and Terry both chimed in, “Yes, Mr. Harris. No moving trucks until you radio all clear.”
Turning to Karen and the kids, “The radio headset that Roary gave you will allow you to listen in tonight until you get home. Just call Cortana and she will pipe the game into the house for all of you to listen in.”
Karen now holding Roary’s arm in trepidation. “This is just a game for you?”
I looked at her and said, “No Karen. This is no game for me but I am the super-predator down there. They just don’t know it yet. Remember do not touch me after I put on this helmet. You won’t like it if you do.”
Shalomar was clutching Karen leg with one arm and holding her brothers hand with her other. Her and his eyes only held wonder and resolve.
I dogged down my helmet and began my system checks. Finally stepping away from everyone I initialized my shields. Lightning began playing down my armor as the air ionized around me.
Karen, Mike and Terry all expressed shock at seeing a working force shield pop into existence.
Roary turned to them and said, “Awesome isn’t it. Right out of science fiction and they can’t touch him without getting the crap shocked out them. I made the mistake of trying to touch it the first time I saw it and my whole arm went numb. Xander said it was on a low setting then.” Poking Karen he said to her, “Don’t worry about Xander tonight honey. He might come back bruised a bit but he’ll be ok the next day.”
Karen, curiosity on her face, made a motion to step forward her arm outstretching to touch the strengthening shields and Roary quickly stopped her. Pulling her back Roary said, “Weren’t you listening honey? Don’t touch him now unless you want to be zapped across the room and your hair all frizzy.”
She stopped and realized what her automatic curiosity almost did to her. Karen looked down at the children expecting fear or something because Xander standing there was becoming more terrifying by the second as she thought of it. She realized that both kids were watching him closely without fear or second thoughts.
Finally I spoke. My voice came over the building internal public address speakers and the radio sets. “Ok Roary all systems are green and I’m ready to go.”
I walked to the loading dock edge, deactivated my shield and jumped down climbing into the back of the pickup truck. Next to the four weapons cases I laid down for the trip through town.
Roary handed the kids and Karen down to Mike and Terry. Quickly kissing and hugging Karen he got in and drove off heading west.
Shalomar spoke for the first time since they had arrived at the warehouse. “Vengeance will be his tonight!” With that she squeezed Karen’s hand and her brothers. Breaking free from them she jumped into Karen’s car and said, “We’ll be safe tonight.” Beckoning them both to hurry.
Karen thanked the guards and they left for home. Thinking back to their pleasant afternoon shopping and meeting Sophia. Who was so nice and very happy to see Simon and Shalomar. Pleasant until they got home and Roary showed her the weapons in the house just in case a demon came calling. She was frightened for herself and the children now. Roary and Xander knew what they were doing. Roary had been a soldier once. They both were soldiers and now out to kill the demons of the night before they got to her doorstep. She resolved in her heart to defend the doorstep and these innocent kids.
After parking her car in the garage; the kids and her entered the house through the utility rooms. As they walked the lights began turning on and what she had thought was a house intercom came on. She hadn’t noticed the ceiling flush-mounted speakers. There was one speaker every ten feet or so. She didn’t see the covert hallway cameras.
Cortana’s voice called to them, “Welcome home Karen. Are you excited about tonight’s entertainment? The newcomer Alex as Vengeance in one corner versus the entire nest of Tyrhrocks in the other corner!” The muted sound of applause in the background.
Walking towards the kitchen and family room Karen in exasperation said to the air, “Not you too? This isn’t a game Cortana!” The kids laughed at her, running down the hall ahead of her.
Cortana came back laughing, “This is the greatest contest of all Karen and you have very safe seats at this game. This is the game of war, combat, life and death. Tonight I am Alex’s Valkyrie of battle and he is - the shadow of death.”
Just then Cortana paused and said to her and the children, “They have arrived at the insertion point and I will be bringing their radio to you now live. Oh and you have a guest walking up to the front door right now. Willow will be joining you for this evening.” With that she went silent.
The TVs snapped on in the kitchen and family room. Cortana appeared and called to Karen as she let Willow into the house. “This might be a good night for popcorn!”
Willow was standing inside the kitchen when she saw Cortana on screen and gawped at her. Cortana smiled and imitated her silly look but also crossing her eyes. The kids started giggling and Cortana went serious. “Welcome Willow to the Alex and Roary’s Tyrhrock demon fight night. For your viewing pleasure tonight I will be bringing you as best that I can, Alex’s audio and video feed. Sit back, enjoy the hunt and don’t bite your nails.”
Simon turned and asked, “What’s popcorn?”
Sunday, 23rd November, 6:00 PM PST, Sunnydale, California.
Three miles west of the center of town Roary pulled up to the last manhole that they knew of just before the Arroyo de Drágón County Park. I climbed down and both Roary and I began to unlock the weapons cases.
Roary removed the Barrett M82A1 semi-auto rifle chambered for the .50 caliber Browning cartridge and began setting it up and uncasing the ammo magazines.
I strapped on my Kukri and Bowie knives; two Katana swords and my two Springfield Armory Omega semi-auto .45’s. Then I slung my Remington Tactical SP-1100 semi-auto 12 gauge shot gun and fastened on my extra ammo pouch. Topping off my grenade loops with my remaining four grenades.
I turned and Roary handed me the .50 BMG magazines and remaining ammo pouch. I hefted the loaded Barrett rifle. Radioing Roary, “I like this gun it’s suitable for killing elephants, armored personnel carriers and Tyrhrocks.” Roary was grinning.
With that I stepped to the drain grating. Breaking the padlock on top I lifted it and dropped down. The 500 pound grating slamming shut behind me.
I hit the sandy floor twenty feet below the road above and initialized my shields. Radioing Roary I said, “I’m down and 5 by 5. All systems still green. My motion detectors show no movement so far. Preceding northwest up this side tunnel that is under the original Drágón creek bed. The tunnel is the same as all the ones under the city, ten foot in diameter. This tunnel should pass under the county park up ahead. Roary, I will radio check you when I get there.”
Roary replied, “10-4 Alex and Richard Harney’s van just went by me heading for the park. Good hunting Spartan-1. Razor-2 out.” With that Roary jumped into his pickup and gunned it heading up the canyon mouth to the park. His own guns in a case behind his seat.
I was walking at a normal human pace going uphill. A slight incline heading up into the mountain range. Getting into a walking rhythm, I securely neuronetted Cortana so no else could hear. “Why did the city run a tunnel like this heading into the mountains and paralleling a millennia old creek bed? Concrete drain pipe is expensive. Especially pipe that is more than the normal three or four feet across variety. The cost of a single pipe doubles for every 2 feet in diameter. The Mayor and City Council had to sign off on paying for this? -- Unless the Mayor and City Council were demons or under the spell of a demon? That is the only thing that makes since. Cortana we will need to keep a better eye on the Mayor to start.”
“I agree Alex but tonight you have Karen and Willow also listening in and watching your video feed with the kids. So watch your language.”
I was now eight hundred meters from the park and my sensors alerted to my first detection.
Talking for the benefit of my radio audience I began. “I have my first movement ahead. It’s not large like the last Tyrhrock.” I did not slow my pace but slung my Barrett and brought my shotgun to hand - racking one round of a solid belted deer slug. “I’m changing weapons for this target. The fifty isn’t necessary. Whatever it is, now knows I’m in the tunnel and has stopped.”
Slowing at one hundred meters from the target, I could now get a look at this first demon of the evening. “It appears to be a small Tyrhrock about six or seven hundred pounds worth.” The creature opened its mouth, snorted trying to scent me and hissed at me just as I stopped at fifty meters. “I’m taking a shot now.” The slug cored straight through and blew its spinal column across the tunnel sand. The kinematics of the slug almost cart-wheeled the dragon. It hit the sand jerking in spasmodic death throws. Blood pouring out its life from its mouth and the six inch wide gaping hole between its shoulder blades. “Target is down and dying. I will give it a moment to bleed out so it won’t try to bite or claw at me as I step past it.”
I stood for one minute scanning for new threats. “The blood scent should bring more.” Nothing yet so I hitched my climbers rope around the body of the Tyrhrock and began dragging it to the park. There had to be an access grating up there. “Moving the carcass to the Park. Roary I will need someone to drop some Cyalume sticks to guide me.”
Roary came online, “Check Alex but I think we can do better.”
Finally I could see bright light shining down from the grating ahead. Richard must have set up his work lights.
“I am fifty meters from the grating and I’ve got a new target detection. Multiple targets coming at a run, 28 mph. Not bad for hungry lizards.”
Dropping the rope I prepared the shotgun again. Refreshing the magazine with another solid slug instead of one of my limited High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) specials. The round up in the chamber was already one of my HEI specials. At four hundred meters I could clearly see them on infrared. They were hot blooded and rushing for a feeding frenzy. “This looks like a small herd of dragons. The smallest might be 150 pounds but the four largest are all over 500 pounds. The lights do not seem to bother them. I will begin shooting at 100 meters - in 3, 2, 1, firing.”
The larger of the beasts were in the front and the HEI shell hit it in the chest. The detonation was at the spinal column. Spall of meat, bone and thermite spattered the snouts and eyes of the beasts directly behind the leader. I fired rapidly, my eight rounds out in three seconds and all hitting a different Tyrhrock dragon. At their speed they only covered ten meters in three seconds, before the tunnel was slick with meat and blood. Some of the smaller dragons tripped and went down tumbling over and some under their larger pack mates. Only two of the smaller ones managed to hop over their dying pack. I dropped the shotgun and it swung on its carry lanyard. I pulled the two .45’s and began shooting when the two dragons were at 50 meters. Both were directly under the lighted grating and both went down after each took a second bullet. Blowing blood from their collapsing lungs they struggled and snapped their jaws at me. I strode forward holstering one sidearm and reloading my shotgun with nothing but the solid slugs.
Approaching the two smaller dragons, three other smaller ones had finally disentangled themselves from the pile and began to cannibalistically feed. I shot each one once. After reloading my shotgun and handguns I pulled one Katana and piffed both of the lung shot dragons closest to me. Driving the blade into their brains and twisting they both finally were still.
“Ok guys I’ve just shot thirteen Tyrhrock dragons for more than two tons of carcass. The blood seems to draw them like piranhas. Wait a minute and I will come up and toss the grating back. Afterwards you will need to drag them out of here but be sure to dump all blood and offal back down here.”
Roary came on the channel, “Repeat Spartan-1. Did you say thirteen Tyrhrock dragons down?”
I went back to my first dragon and picking up the rope brought it back into the light. “Yes, Roary just think of all the butchery work you guys get to do now.”
I had a good idea! “Butchery work… Cortana that’s a good idea. Please call one of those mobile butchers that the ranchers use. Offer the one who says yes, an extra incentive to get out here and lend a hand to Richard Harney. Richard! Did you copy that? Can you use an extra professional hand?”
Richard came back and said, “We’ve got plenty of extra hands up here but I could sure use an extra lift and a professional butcher to keep this assembly line going so that we are not here until dawn. ... Do you want to be here until dawn?”
No I don’t want to be here until dawn and the longer the guys are up top surrounded by blood means the greater probability that a Tyrhrock will attack them up there. I radioed back. “No I don’t think anyone wants to be here any longer than we have to? These mountains are 90 square miles of rugged and this is probably just the local pack. Which means we have forty-eight packs or more to go. Ok Cortana can you find us some Pro help? ”
Cortana overrode the channel, “I have a butcher online right now. We are haggling over the price and he wants a share of the meat. I haven’t told him it is dragon flesh yet.” She was laughing wickedly.
Roary came on, “Do you think there’s that many Tyrhrock packs?”
I came back dryly. “I think we’ll be lucky if that’s all there is. Who knows? Maybe there are other demon monsters here that even the Tyrhrocks are afraid of?”
Roary snarked at me. “Xander... that is truly a depressing thought. One really big enemy at a time, please.”
I was just about to go up the service ladder when there was a gunshot from above. Jake shot off the lock and the heavy steel grating was pulled back by a chain attached to a pickup tow bar. Jake and Leroy peeked down the shaft at me. Followed by Jimmy Montero and then Roary. Soon the entire gang was looking down at the dead dragons at my feet. That is… when they stopped eye-balling me.
The new guys who worked for Jimmy were staring, uttering prayers to the Almighty and crossing themselves. Prayers to the Big Guy were always welcome.
Just then a heavy rope with a clevis hook on it came down to hoist up the first carcass. I worked fast and in less than fifteen minutes all thirteen were up to the surface.
Jimmy peered back down and told me, “Well Mr. Harris my boys drove to Bakersfield, San Jose, Gilroy and as far south as Los Angeles. Yup! We got us 5,000 brass .50 cal cartridges, primers and Barnes bullets – plus 2,000 live rounds. To beat all we got from one of our special friends 250 rounds of Match Grade Mk 211 Raufoss. Please don’t ask where or who we got it from.”
I started laughing, “Well done. I just hope that that next batch of dragons are as easy to kill. But if they aren’t I’ll be using it all on them.”
Jimmy then said, “Don’t go hogging’ all the shooting Mr. Harris. Some of us are ex-special forces, all veterans and we own some big guns. We can hold a perimeter.”
I replied, “I’ll bet you can but don’t be all eager for now. The beasts are using these tunnels to get around but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be on the surface either. If you have any dogs up there put them out on your perimeter to give you some warning.”
Jimmy said not worried a bit, “You’re right we could have some action up here. There is a reason that local people don’t go camping in these mountains and most that do don’t come back. We’ll take care of the perimeter up here. You watch for those beasties down there and if you need some extra shooters… well don’t worry about a lack of volunteers.”
I got serious quickly. “Ok I have detected another hostile approaching and this one is large. I’m going to withdraw about fifty meters down tunnel. Any of the beasts that make it into the light are all yours.”
Roary and the crew hurriedly began assembling their weapons and prepping. Most had shotguns, AR-15’s, two had AR-10’s, one an M-14 and one even had a World War II Browning BAR. Roary still had Xander’s German MG3 machine gun in its transit case in the back bed of his pickup along with 3,000 rounds on belts for just in case. Roary left it there opting for his Remington 1100 shotgun.
I ran down tunnel and turned to face this new dragon or dragon pack. “Ok people listen up we have some new business coming. The target is moving as fast as the first group but my sensors report that this is a larger more solid mass.” When the target was two hundred meters out my optics were able to resolve that this was one large Tyrhrock dragon. Its body was horizontal in the tunnel as it ran. The body touched the roof and side walls of the tunnel. It was big. Its tail probably helping it to maintain that posture as a counter-balance.
“This may get interesting. This dragon is maybe larger than 28 feet in length? I can’t detect past it so it could be a lone wolf or just at the front of a line. I’m going to back up another fifty meters to buy some shooting time. My first shot will be when it passes the light. I will rely upon you guys to kill anything that is in trail because you had better. This one may block the tunnel down here and the next group will try to come up to the surface.”
I brought the Barrett up to my shoulder. I had one ten round magazine loaded and twelve loaded magazines on my Mjolnir’s tactical pockets.”
This dragon ran under the lighted areas without even looking up. I wondered if they saw in infrared or a combination of wave lengths. The cross hairs settled on its throat where it met its breast bone. “Firing now!”
The Barrett spat death at 2,800 feet per second and 700 grains (45 grams) of flesh tearing mass. Designed to penetrate six inches of modern laminated armor steel the Tyrhrock was big but not steel armored. The three rounds fired tore a hole all the way through the dragon. The bullets entered just under the beasts throat, passed though all of its soft tissue organs turning them into guacamole. Finally shattering its pelvis, lower spine and exited just above the tail. The bullets were deformed but still had over 800 feet per second of velocity and killed the next dragons in the line behind their big Mamma.
The area under the lights became a milling mass of a dozen smaller dragons ranging again from 400 to 800 pounds. Like blood enraged wild hogs they were snapping and clawing at each other. Confused by their Mother nearly blocking the tunnel they presented a perfect firing opportunity for Roary and the hunters. Fifteen men stood around an eight by ten foot hole viewing a tunnel of hellish monsters and gleefully fired into the moving swarm of hated dragon flesh.
It was a firing squad. In less than twenty seconds Roary bellowed, “Cease fire – cease fire!”
The walls of the tunnel were slick with dragon blood and the air with the smell of cordite.
I was starring at the face of a true dragon. Its head was almost one meter wide and over 2 meters from snout to back of its skull. Its carcass nearly filled the ten foot diameter tunnel and this one had to be longer than my first Tyrhrock. I dropped the Barrett’s magazine and slapped in a fresh mag. Stooping I picked up my brass. Brass is expensive but can be reloaded. Pulling three fresh rounds from my spare pouch I topped out the used magazine and inserted it into a tactical mag pouch.
I had to crawl over the dragon to see the tunnel beyond. My scans were clear of threats. Radioing all, “Guys it’s a slaughter house down here. Hold your fire I’m walking to the lighted area.”
Standing amongst the twitching dragon corpses, I looked up. “Not bad at all. You guys got the entire pack of dragons. Drop a rope and we’ll get them up and out. I don’t know how or even if we can get the big one up.”
Richard Harney came on, “Mr. Harris is the big one the same size as last time or larger?”
“Right now it is at least ten feet longer and more than four tons. This is definitely a big Mamma dragon.”
It took fifteen minutes to clear the smaller dragons from the tunnel for processing up on the surface. I was having a bit of trouble dragging the Mamma beast back to the lift area but I finally made it.
Richard looking down at what he could see of it and exclaimed, “There is no way my winch can lift that beast. We need a construction crane! I will have to process it down there.”
I radioed up, “Ok I will set up on the edge of the light and keep anymore from getting to this carcass.”
A pair of headlights came down the back road to the park and a four and a half ton reefer truck pulled up. Their professional butcher had arrived. Getting out of his truck Glen Clayborn introduced himself to Roary and Richard. They walked him around the corner of Richard’s panel van to see his nights work. His eyes locked on and never left the line of Tyrhrock dragons that were lined up like fish at a market.
Roary and Richard gave him the short version of what was happening and swore him to secrecy. They didn’t need the idiot hippies of the Sierra Club up here demanding endangered species protections for vampires, demons and dragons.
Richard punched him in the arm finally breaking his eyes free from the stack of dead dragons. Richard smiled at him and said, “What are you waiting for? They taste just like chicken!” Walking off laughing loudly at Glen’s reaction.
Glen was a master butcher. With everyone helping his tables and equipment was all set up in 10 minutes. Working with Richard to preserve the skins and bones for taxidermy and display they both got an assembly line going.
Three hours later all of the smaller ones were butchered and packed away in the reefer truck for final processing and wrapping the next day.
I called to them, “It’s still all clear down here. Everyone can come down now to get a good look at the beast but I think it will have to be skinned and boned right where it is.”
Down in the tunnel Glen was looking at the giant dragon. “Holy Moses! You got that right. It would take a crane to lift that monster. We’ll just have to process it where it is.”
They all came down still armed but Montero, Leroy and I stood guard. They down tunnel and me up tunnel as the rest set up a rat line to pass tools and huge chunks of boneless cuts back up.
I secure comm’d Cortana. “Hey Cortana, please make a note that we need to order a crane that can lift at least 12 tons.”
Cortana came back, “On my shopping list, Alex.
Finally at two in the morning they were done and no more Tyrhrocks had shown up. I was the last in the tunnel. Climbing out they dropped the grating down and used a one inch bolt to secure it closed. I turned off my shields as I climbed out of the tunnel so as not to hurt anyone.
Richard Harney called all of the hunters and myself around. He unrolled one of the smaller dragon skins across a picnic table. He also had a head, clawed reptilian hand and foot. He began, “A good taxidermist studies many kinds of animals both to display them naturally but also to learn from them. The best hunters learn their preys habits and vulnerabilities. This animal or demon or dragon is a pure carnivore that more closely resembles a line of Therapoda dinosaurs found in the early Cretaceous period about 100-125 million years ago. You might note that the Tyrannosaurus Rex is the most famous of Therapodas. Our Tyrhrock dragons here are similar to some of the known Therapoda but also uniquely different. Most of these great lizards had only three toes on their feet and three claws on their fore-limbs. Very similar to raptor birds today. But our beast here has five fingered clawed hands and five clawed toes more like a crocodilian today. But unlike a crocodile these beasts are bipedal and fast runners like the Therapoda dinosaurs. Our Tyrhrock arms and claws are long like a prehistoric Dromaeosauridae raptor. You know like the movie depiction of Velociraptors in the movie ‘Jurassic Park’.” Lots of heads were nodding now. Some in understanding.
He continued, “Our beasts head and mouth here is full of teeth more like the large carnivorous dinosaurs and completely unlike a crocodile. Notice the straight line of the jaw and the straight line of teeth. Looking at the skin here we have from all of the specimens tonight a mix of colorations but notice the horned ridges from behind the eyes to the tip of the tale? This is very much like depictions of ancient crocodiles. Also the tail is flattened and powerful like a crocodiles which might suggest that these beasts can swim. But here is something interesting. Notice the fine overlapping scales on this hide? I am going to slash this with my knife and watch what happens.” Taking out a nice straight green river blade he slashed hard at the skin laying on the table. The blade made not a mark on the skin. “You will notice that this finely sharpened knife is now - not so sharp. This skin is like medieval chain mail and the scales are as hard as steel. But this skin can be punctured by this knife if I stab straight into it. Which is also how medieval soldiers with chain mail had to be killed. So this beasts skin is a natural defense against slashing edged weapons but not against spears, arrows and a blade thrust straight into them. This matches what we know about legends of brave knights killing medieval dragons. Modern bullets will puncture their hide but getting close enough to use a sword or axe will put you into their teeth and claws. We also now know that these beasts can outrun an Olympic sprinter so running away just makes for an easier meal. Which makes those knights of old a pretty brave lot.”
Jimmy spoke up, “Are you saying that this is some kind of dinosaur that the paleontologists have not discovered?”
Richard nodded his head, “Yup! Pretty much that is what I am saying. This beast would pass for a dragon right out of the fairy tale books and our dinosaur scientists haven’t found a fossilized version of this one yet.”
Jimmy spoke up again, “Maybe we should invite a paleontologist along on a hunt and see if he is lunch meat or a hunter?” Everyone laughed at that image of a college professor type being chomped in half.
I then spoke up through my audio speakers, “Richard can you get one hide out to Jimmy’s gun range and with Jimmy test out various bullets. I know that .45 ACP bullet will penetrate their hide at 50 meters, the solid shotgun slugs at 100 meters and naturally the .50 cal. But we need some test experience with 5.56 mm and 9 mm, since those two rounds are the most common. I will let you guys work it out but I need a solid test report on what works and at how far. Then we need to get the word out to the human police, ranch hands and armed security guards.”
All of the security guards and Jimmy’s people volunteered to participate in shooting up the hide.
I stopped the excited chatter, “Gentlemen. Glen’s meat packing fees will be on me. Richard, I will take care of your fees but everyone here tonight gets a skin for the wall and some sort of trophy mounting. All of you will need to contact Richard and work out what you want vice what he can do.”
All of the men around the table expressed their gratitude to me and I shook my helmeted head no. “If it wasn’t for Jake and Leroy here I wouldn’t have learned about Jimmy’s anti-vampire bullets and your anti-vampire mace formulae. I am grateful that all you guys are in this fight and I am grateful that you have allowed us into your circle. Roary and I are a little new to this fight but I come with some obvious advantages here.” At that I thumped my Mjolnir armor and all of them laughed with me. I continued, “With your help I intend to use my fortune and weapons to make vampires and all of the human eating demons extinct. That means no live specimens for a zoo. We all know what the harebrained eco-freaks, animal lovers and foolish demon lovers would do. I wouldn’t mind the fact that the demons and dragons would promptly eat them but I do mind the vampires making more vampires part. We can’t have that.”
I raised my armored fist into the air, “Brothers in arms.... My course is set. A war... to their extinction!”
With Jimmy leading - they all solemnly raised whatever they had been drinking and cheered, “To Extinction!”
After doing some calculations Glen came back to the group and announced that the larger Tyrhrock dragon had been live at least 8 Tons and that everyman there would each be receiving 470 pounds of boneless Dragon cuts in three days at his place after 3:00 PM.
I motioned for them to stay together, gather round for a post mission briefing.
“Hey guys I would like to thank you all again for coming along on this little hunting expedition and for providing support. I really appreciate it. If any are up to it I will be doing this again soon. We didn’t make it into the mountains to find their nests. So I am proposing a once a month hunting safari similar to this one until we cut their numbers down. I would like Jimmy Montero to be our coordinator for these expeditions. His family once owned this entire mountain range and lost a lot of ranch hands to these monsters. So I think it is fitting that we hold a little family BBQ out at his ranges picnic area. Naturally at his convenience. Roary and I will bring the beer and drinks. While there we will raise a glass and remember all of the humans killed by the Tyrhrock Dragons of the Montana De Diablos. – Then we will raise a toast again to our mission. Our war to kill them all!”
Fifteen men and one young Spartan, all with solemn assent agreed but quieter than the first time. “To extinction!” Each man in the circle responded for his service. “Ooh-Rah!” “Hoo-Rah!” “Semper Fi!” “Hell Yah!”
Monday, 24th November, 3:30 AM PST, Sunnydale California.
Roary and I crept into the house to find Karen and Willow asleep in the family room on the couches. The TV screens had been off - but blinked on and Cortana soundlessly made a shushing gesture and she turned off the TVs just as quick. We found the kids asleep in their beds.
As I prepared for bed I wondered what Willows parents would think of me? I also wondered if Willow was going to rip into me tomorrow for taking such risks with the dragons. But at least she got to watch the fight from my viewpoint for once.
Monday, 24th November, 7:00 AM PST, Sunnydale California.
I came sluggishly out of a wonderful dream of Willow and me… To find a living dream on my bed bending over me. Her natural feminine odor filled my nose and mind. She was awakening me. Her hair tenting around my face as she was preparing to kiss me again. Now fully awake my arms went around her and pulled her close and tight against my chest.
Willow kissed me again in a way that only a true lover would. Slow, delicate and lingering. My mind was washing away from her scent, her lips and loving embrace. John’s memories rushed up on me and I had to beat them back. Willow wasn’t Parisa or Kelly.
Finally she raised her head and reluctantly said to me, “It’s Monday and we both have school today. I have to go home to get cleaned up and dressed for school. Can you take me home?”
My brain slowly returned to Earth. Holding her tighter until she giggled, a gestalt of John’s and my life experiences clicked inside me. I looked into her beautiful hazel eyes. Of all the beautiful and alluring girls, women that I was attracted to, well… only four actually. Jenny was too old for me really and she was sweet on Giles. Buffy had Angel and a distant untouchable Cordellia would not even acknowledge my existence in the hallway. Cordelia was hot and when her rat pack wasn’t looking she did eye me up. I wondered what my future life would be like without Willow?
Sighing I said softly to her, “As you wish.” Reaching up and pushing her hair out of her eyes I cupped her neck and head and pulled her down until our lips were almost touching. I slowly and teasingly said, “Give me five minutes and I will take you home. Ok?”
She hit me playfully, broke free sitting up and stepping to my door she turned, “You are a horrible tease.” Then she smiled wickedly, pouted and began unbuttoning her red blouse until she had exposed part of her red lacy bra. She stopped and shimmied her shoulders at me, her breasts swaying. Too soon she stopped her show, blew me a kiss, turned and closed the door.
Exhausted as I was, I was stunned speechless. My mouth hanging open. I was really aroused now. I put my pillow over my face, saying a few choice words into it.
Then got out of bed to dress quickly.
Tuesday, 25th November, 11:00 AM PST, Sunnydale California.
I had just completed my CLEP for History of the United States I and had a half hour before the lunch break began so I walked to the library. My next CLEP was History of the United States II that afternoon after lunch period. Dodging quickly to avoid Principal Snyder, Cortana’s school watcher agent was becoming indispensable to me, I went to the library at first for just someplace to be and during my brief journey decided that I needed to talk to Giles more. I needed to talk to someone outside of my family.
Entering the library I ran up the steps to Giles office in the back, knowing that he would be there thanks to the mini-Cortana surveilling the school. Dropping my book bag, I flopped into one of Giles office chairs and closed my eyes. Giles had turned from his desk, picked up his hot tea and asked, “How was your CLEP exam this morning?
I exhaled deeply and cracked my eyes. “I aced it Dr. Giles. No worries about it or the one coming up next.”
Giles eyebrows went up and he considered Xander’s behavior. “Ok, What’s wrong Xander? You look troubled and it isn’t academic or school related?”
I was clasping and unclasping my hands in anxiety. I finally spoke in trepidation. “I have a problem Giles… It’s me… It’s Willow and I… I know that she loves me and that she wants to sleep with me… I want to… And I think that I am in love with her. I don’t mean puppy love or a teenage crush.”
Giles was honored to have... Alexander confide in him but he was perplexed. “Xander have you and Willow had conjugal... sexual relations? Is that what this is about?”
Alarmed I blurted out, “No! No – No! We haven’t yet… But I… I have been thinking a lot about her lately. You know that I have the memories of the soldier from the future. Which means that I am sixteen going on seventy. He, John had children with two different women in his life across the years.”
Giles astounded asked, “You have his memories and not just dreams?”
I looked at him sheepishly, “Yes, the dreams and the memories. But the memories are like watching a Television show whereas the dreams are Technicolor wrap-around widescreen and very high fidelity.”
Giles thinking hard said, “So these dreams and memories are integrating themselves into your life and now you have a decision to make that is in conflict with your morals or American culture?”
I was now thinking again, “Something like that Giles. I am thinking very seriously that I want to marry Willow after we graduate and are both eighteen years old. I have come to the realization that she and I belong together. John’s memories and experiences have sharpened my knowledge of who I am and my future goals. We have grown up together and she was never far from me in my earliest memories. Always there… We talk a lot, she’s funny, very smart and we have been good friends for ten years. We argue and make up. We debate and laugh together. She… Lately I have been far more aware of her presence, her friendship and companionship. I… want to move our relationship past just friendship but I am… concerned about the consequences. The conflict as you put it correctly is that – She doesn’t want to wait that long and I don’t think I can either.”
Giles now confused but glad at the direction of Xander’s thoughts asked, “Xander, you are talking about the possibility of sexual relations and marriage. Marriage is a lifetime commitment together. Good times and bad times; with children and growing old. I think you are also talking about sex. Maybe even just casual sex. I think that you are confused in that adult couples having sexual relations does not automatically mean that you must get married. Although until the last forty years and the availability of modern birth control; I will admit that was the general rule.”
I looked at Giles in resignation. “Remember the super-soldier with the 26th Century medicine inside me?”
“Yes, what of it?” said Giles with a little confusion.
“Giles the medicine of that era was genetic and molecular engineering. When given to fleet naval personnel means that I will be extraordinarily healthy, stronger and faster by today’s standards for a... very long time.”
“How long?” Asked Giles with dawning awareness and trepidation.
“Try maybe 600 years or so.”
“Oh! My word…” Giles began polishing his glasses as his brain went into overtime.
I needed to share my fear. My anxiety for what could be. “The Medicine was genetic engineering Giles. It is like engineered viruses and realy small molecular machines called nanites. It is permanent and some of it is communicable.”
Giles sat up straighter and was alarmed, “Communicable! Xander, is this dangerous for Willow or anyone else?”
I calmed myself as I tried to calm him. “No! No, it is not dangerous but it means that the more skin-to-skin contact that I have with Willow and the more… fluids that we exchange… The faster my nanites will colonize her and extend her life also.”
Giles was confused again, “So what does this have to do with marriage and sex?”
In exasperation, “Giles, this is like the young, hormonal and horny days for me and for her. I am extra healthy and extra fertile… If we get really physical… if we go all the way with sex she is going to be having my baby. This package of medicines was to help at new colony worlds. To keep people disease free and it also helps sustain a high birth rate. My conflict is that I really want to have sex with her and marry Willow - but I don’t think she or I can wait for two years for either.”
Giles looked at me with frustration and spoke slowly. “You have considered using contraceptives haven’t you?”
“Giles you don’t understand. The nanites will do everything to make the male and female extra-healthy and very fertile. That means changing, repairing, inerting, destroying anything that gets in the way of perfect health and… nature. Other than celibacy which I do not think I can do… The only contraception methods that might work temporarily are barrier methods such as condoms and a diaphragm. But that assumes that both partners want to practice birth control. … I don’t know how Willow will react when I tell her that if she keeps dating me that she may live a whole lot longer than she planned and that she could very well be pregnant a lot of that time. -- We’ve not talked about children, parenting and having our own family.”
Giles pursed his lips and looked at Alex. “In England children graduate from school at sixteen and are for the most part treated as adults. Many get married young and start families. It is highly commendable for you to already be thinking of marriage with Willow as a loving and responsible commitment. - You are fully aware that you have a very high chance of impregnating any woman that you have sex with. - I assume that the only woman you wish to sleep with is Willow. Therefore your conflict is only one of timing since you believe that both you and she will consummate your love well before - your planned date.”
Pausing for a minute of reflection Giles continued, “Once many years ago I had a chance for love, marriage and a family… I thought the timing was never right… Which means that I never asked her… Until a demon killed her and took away all my chances.”
I was stunned by this revelation about Giles past. Pain was clearly etched across his face. I never knew? None of the Scoobies know this. My heart thumped with sincere regrets and sympathy at his loss. “I am so sorry Giles. I didn’t know.”
The pain left his face. He ruefully smiled at me.
Giles sighed and looked up at Xander. “You are just annoyed over a time disconnect between what you had planned and what reality will offer you. That is your conflict and it is a very minor one. I am happy Xander that you are thinking responsibly about your future and also for Willow. Don’t worry about what others may think or about whether you are eighteen or not. I believe that you thinking very hard about doing the right thing with the woman that loves you is very mature. So do what is right and just.” With that Giles stood up and moved off to get another hot pot of tea going.
Turning back to a still thinking Xander he said, “Now off with you. Or you will miss your lunch period.”
After Xander had gone Giles sat down again and commented out loud to himself, “Alexander and Willow married for six hundred years…. I’d bet a months’ pay she kills him before they hit one hundred years together.” Chuckling at that vision he turned back to sorting the Cardex.
Wednesday, 26th November, 4:00 PM PST, Sunnydale California.
The Day before Thanksgiving Day holiday.
This had been a good week for me. Monday morning Willow had wakened me from sleep with a kiss. Her face and natural feminine scent imprinted on my mind all day and week.
I had completed six CLEP exams this week. Two a day hadn’t been bad and impressed the school administration staff that proctored my exams. Principal Snyder had a permanent scowl on his face this week. Or maybe it was constipation. Especially when he saw me which was getting rarer each day thanks to Cortana’s mini-bots.
Cortana and I had our covert school surveillance system mostly all rigged up now to track Snyder wherever he was. Dead zones in our surveillance were being corrected by myself at night as I installed extra security audio microphones and cameras for Cortana. There was still a few dead zones in the surveillance but in time I would get those filled in. Cortana had created a small watcher program to automatically report Snyder’s position so that I could avoid him. I called it a mini-Cortana with some amusement but it wasn’t self-aware. Situational awareness over your adversary was priceless. Plus it was also helping us to keep track of all the people I and Cortana cared about.
Walking towards the parking lot I spotted Buffy and Willow standing together as usual on the grass waiting for me to drive them home. Buffy always looked cheer leader good. Willow was today an extra-scrumptious vision. She was wearing a pink frilly blouse with a royal blue pleated skirt, a gold necklace and a wonderful smile. She was dressing up. Dressing up for me.
As I walked up to them Buffy turned towards me, smiled and grabbed my arm pulling me closer. “Have you two noticed that Giles and Jenny seem to be… more than friends lately?”
Willow said with a knowing smirk, “They had a date Sunday night and I think Jenny has the hungries for Giles.”
Buffy with mock shock, her hand over her mouth but a twinkle in her eye said, “Oh my god! The Giles holding hands and slobbering on the poor Miss Calendar. The horror… the horror.” Buffy and Willow started giggling.
I laughed with Buffy, “Oh you are exaggerating… more than a bit. Giles is old school British. He will be holding hands but no slobbering or drooling or … I should shut up now.”
Buffy and Willow both looking at me aghast and then broke up laughing at my embarrassment. Buffy grabbed one elbow and Willow the other as they escorted me to my car. As I fished for my keys Buffy said to both of them, “I am going to be helping my Mom make a Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow. Can I impose on you both to come and have dinner with us?”
I already knew that Karen had begun preparations for a large Thanksgiving day lunch. This would be Simon and Shalomar’s first Thanksgiving day meal. Karen had pulled out the stops. She had already threatened Roary and I with dire consequences if either of us entered her kitchen space or sampled the pastries before lunch. I looked at Willow and asked her, “Is this ok with you?” She nodded yes and seized my arm. In jest I said, “You do realize that this will be a date chaperoned by Buffy?”
Willow gasped in mock shock gripping my arm tighter. Both Willow and Buffy began laughing at me.
Turning back to Buffy I said channeling Dan Akryod from the movie ‘Cone Heads’. “I be honored earthling. Must consume mass quantities of avian flesh.”
Buffy hit me on the shoulder with an evil smirk.
Willow said, “I will have to check with my parents but I would like to very much.”
Cortana whispered to me, “Alex, Willow hasn’t said anything but her parents boarded a plane last Sunday morning for a Caribbean cruise psychiatry and psychology conference. She has been home alone since then and will be alone over this holiday. Her parents will not return until next Sunday afternoon.”
Neuronetting back, “Thank you Cortana. I will talk to Willow later.”
Buffy now all smiles said coyly wrapping around me and wrinkling her nose at Willow. “Xander can you take us to some place with lots of chocolate?”
I rolled my eyes at her and then Willow. “Ice cream and chocolate at Brahms or just chocolate like the Hillsdale Chocolate Factory on Marsh Avenue?”
Now Willow playing along with Buffy had wrapped her arms around me on my right side and both girls were giggling. In perfect harmony both stated, “Both! Chocolate overdose!!”
Wednesday, 26th November, 6:00 PM PST, Sunnydale California.
The Day before Thanksgiving Day holiday.
After their chocolate dosage I dropped Buffy off at her house and then convinced Willow to stay the holiday at my house. She was reluctant to be home alone and readily agreed. She was going to have a Thanksgiving lunch with the Harris’s and then go over with me to the Summer’s for dinner. I was happy that she was going to be here in my home with me but also unsure of myself. I was hoping this would work out but her parents shouldn’t have left her home alone for a week.
We stopped at Willow’s house. She packed her luggage bag for a few days. I learned that Willow home alone for a week was not unusual. They did this three or four times each year. They went off on a professional speaking tour, conference or cruise. They left her. A week at a time. I could see that she loved and loathed her parents for this. They were barely parents. Mine weren’t much better. For the past four years my parents had began drinking more and more. My Dad when he got drunk was mean. They were trying. My parents hadn’t been drunk in the past two weeks. Maybe it was the change in me?
Soon we were standing in the entrance hallway of my home as Simon chased Shalomar around them like small whirling dervishes. Shalomar shrieking and laughing at her brother and Simon proclaiming her imminent death.
I marveled at the orphan’s adaptability and current happiness. I knew the scars would not heal for a long time. Since my room was across the hall from theirs, I heard Simon sobbing in his sleep a few times. Crying out for his lost parents. If John’s memories were anything to judge by then children were more resilient than adults. The Covenant left a lot of orphans since children were the first to be evacuated from a planet.
But for now Willow was also amazed and happy to see them so… energetic. She knew some of their experience and how they got here that first night when she watched my Tyrhrock hunt.
Showing Willow to the second guest bedroom across the hall next to Simon’s and Shalomar’s. I went to clean up a little for Karen’s dinner. The girls had smeared chocolate on my shirt and face while making lip-smacking noises. Willow and Buffy were incorrigible teases.
Saying a little prayer to God to give me strength especially with Willow so close.