Ashley Parker stared at the picture in her hand. She couldn’t believe her mom had been right about Bret. That was way more annoying than Bret’s behaviour.
Ashley stopped to think about that for a second and wondered if her priorities were a little screwed up, but no, she expected a certain level of horn-dog behaviour from Bret – love him or not he was still a teenage boy and really she could appreciate that about him most of the time.
Which wasn’t to say that he hadn’t deserved the tasering, and she allowed herself to snicker again, the look on his face and … but that kind of brought her back to her mom being right again, and damn, she kind of hated it when that happened – especially when she was still feeling guilty about making that comment about her mom’s job in the morning and not becoming a ‘trailer-trash’ sheriff herself.
She’d known that that was way out of line even as it had come out of her mouth. She blamed her recent lack of sleep for that bitchy little comment – she was actually really proud of her mom, especially how she’d coped once her deadbeat dad had disappeared on them, but she’d been so tired lately.
For the last month or so she’d been having the weirdest dreams – dreams of a cave and men with Halloween masks on and girls dying! So much blood and death and… that had been interspersed with dreams of spiders – big honkin’ freaky spiders. Ashley shook her head, trying to clear the dreams out of her head.
Then a few days ago she’d heard a voice, or maybe felt a voice, which sounded weird to her but seemed more accurate, asking her if she was ready to be strong! She’d felt her own acceptance even as she’d wondered what the hell was going on. She was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with her, mentally that was, ‘cause honestly she felt pretty great physically – if she could stop breaking things!
In the last few days she’d snapped the handle off her bedroom door, the bathroom door, smashed two alarm clocks and even managed to tear her wooden desk chair apart. It was getting more than a little ridiculous and was impacting on her allowance. Her mom had been understanding about the bathroom doorknob, muttering that it must have been old but had been slightly less than understanding about her bedroom doorknob and after that Ashley had kind of hidden the alarm clocks and chair, using her own money to replace the clocks and she was still figuring out what do with the chair – it was kind of balanced in an upright position but anything more than a strong breeze and the damn thing was likely collapse into a pile of kindling.
At this rate she wouldn’t be able to afford those new boots she’d had her eye on, ‘stylish, yet affordable’ only counted if you hadn’t had to spend your whole allowance on replacing household furnishings.
Ashley shivered slightly as the breeze touched her shoulder, she hadn’t realised she’d left her window open. She half turned to check her window and caught a glimpse of the massive spider crawling through it into her bedroom and for a heartbeat wondered if she was still in one of her nightmares. The scream ripped out of her throat, almost involuntarily and adrenaline surged through her, her body moving even before her brain registered that this wasn’t a dream.
She spun up and away from her bed, distancing herself from her bed and the spider – damn - spiders now – coming in through her window. What the hell!
She knocked into the chair, which predictably enough left her grabbing on to bits of wood, realising that honestly that was probably the closest thing she could get as a weapon but seemed REALLY flimsy in the face of the two giant spiders now facing off against her across her room.
She flicked a glance to her side but didn’t think she’d make it to through her door, and honestly the hallway offered only dubious safety at the moment.
Her mom’s ‘friend’ Chris barrelled into her room – okay yeah screaming would probably have that effect – followed by her little brother… and then got a little too busy fending off a hairy-legged monstrosity to pay close attention, but while she was jabbing and spinning away from one spider the other reared back and caught Chris in its webbing, and cocooned him on the ceiling.
The spider in front of her reared, obviously to do the same to her – and she could hear her mom in the doorway as she cocked her shot gun – her mom kicked ass seriously!
She took advantage of the spider’s exposed belly to slam her wooden chair leg down and through and eww – spider oozy stuff – that’s so disgusting! – As her mom took the shot and blew chunks of spider and, yep, more oozy stuff - into her room and across her bed.
Yep! Best. Mom. Ever.
It took surprisingly little time to free Chris from the cocoon on the ceiling – and her little brother’s idea of nail varnish remover actually seemed to work… okay, should probably listen to him more often.
With her mom in the other room getting Deputy Pete to bring every gun in existence – or at least those he could get his hands on – to their place. And then her mom’s ‘friend’ Chris, making plans in the living room, as she and her brother finished getting ready with Harlan’s regular ‘aliens are anal probing town pets’ broadcast on the radio in the background, and was it her imagination or was her hearing getting better? And okay she should probably drop the mental quote marks around ‘friend’, if not for the aborted rescue attempt in her room then because of, from what she’d gathered, his willingness to listen to her little brother before anyone else. He actually seemed pretty cool for an old guy.
Then her brother was telling her about the escapees from the spider farm and toxic waste really? What was this a bad 50’s science fiction movie? Uh, she was so not doing any obligatory blonde damsel-in-distress moments!
Deputy Pete blew into the driveway, and she heard (and felt in her gut – which was something she was not willing to spend a lot of time thinking about at the moment) something hit the roof of their house.
“I don’t think that’s Pete…” but her brother was already out of the bathroom. She took another quick look around, but there wasn’t anything that made an especially good weapon.
She still had the Taser her mom, had given her in her bag but she’d rather not get into close enough quarters with these spider things for that to be effective and she kind of doubted at the moment if her mom would be willing to give her a gun… okay she would totally have to improvise…
In the living room she could hear her brother convincing her mother to try and warn the townspeople about the spiders using Harlan’s radio equipment, and nodded to herself as she moved to join them.
These things were wicked strong, quick and she knew from Biology class that lots of spiders could move quicker and further than you’d expect, some of them could jump totally scary distances – if people weren’t warned they’d be totally massacred.
As it was though she didn’t think a mass exodus of town would work, the access routes to town were pretty restricted by the same mountains that made phone reception here so crappy - people would just be forced into bottlenecks that would make happy spider hunting time… if these things were nocturnal as her brother suggested and hunted at night (and she still wasn’t totally buying the toxic waste angle), well their best chance may be to hunker down somewhere as secure as possible overnight and then get the hell out of Dodge the next day; which of course left the problem of finding somewhere secure enough to survive the night… crud!
As they moved toward the squad car sitting in the driveway and … dammit she knew that thudding sound she’d heard on the roof wasn’t anything Deputy Pete was doing… her mom and Chris shot at the spiders as they jumped at them from the roof of the house as she and her brother raced for the hopeful safety of the back seat of the squad car. Her brother tripped and she watched as, in almost slow motion, he began to fall, without pausing and without thinking she scooped him up, literally carrying him the rest of the distance and diving with him in through the now open back door of the car.
She scooped her brother out of harm’s way and placed him in the middle of the back seat and herself at the far window – she figured Chris would end up on the other end which would make her brother covered on both sides, and huh she had no idea she was so acrobatic.
Turning to face front and a gaping Deputy Pete, and eww did he have spider-goo on his head? She flicked her gaze up and noticed the bullet holes in the roof of the car, testimony that Deputy Pete had gotten at least one of the monsters… wow okay Pete was probably a little more kick-ass than she’d ever given him credit for.
At Harlan’s trailer, they listened to her mom try and convince the townspeople that this wasn’t part of Harlan’s regular conspiracy theory broadcast and to make their way to the almost abandoned mall – concrete walls, steel doors – her mom was majorly smart!
Could have done without the honkin’ giant tarantula attacking the trailer though and she’d been unable to move. Oh not literally, but she knew that realistically no matter how much she wanted to attack the thing, she’d leave her little brother vulnerable by doing so, and draw its attention to him as well – so she’d stomped on her instinct and kept still and quiet – listened as her brother warned her mother in the trailer about the coming monster over the police radio.
The drive to the mall had been more than awful – the spiders literally seemed to come out of nowhere to grab innocent townspeople, and all the time unable to follow her instincts which screamed at her to get out of the car, and attack! attack! attack!
But she KNEW to do so would achieve nothing, with no weapons and overwhelming numbers against her. If she managed to save someone, well, they still wouldn’t be safe because if a spider went down there seemed to be multitudes to take its place. She knew her brother had estimated a couple of hundred spiders at the spider farm but she had a feeling the damn things had bred!
At the mall she’d again literally carried her brother in, grabbed him, when her mom had told them both to get inside. Then turned to watch as Chris worked to get the steel front door down and her mom continued to fight on outside, buying time for as many people as possible to make it in, held off the spiders until they’d come like a wave and her mom had literally rolled under the steel as it had come down with a clang – a too flimsy barrier between them and the monsters on the outside.
Ashley listened as the so-called adults argued and tried to blame each other – and wow Bret’s step-dad was a total douche, how the hell could an invasion of giant spiders be her mother’s fault? She heard Chris quiet everyone down and tell them to listen to her brother… hmm they hunted by vibration, noise and scent. The plan to contact the authorities by using the tower on the roof to boost the phone signal, and really she hoped they came up with a better story to tell 911 rather than giant-freakin’-spiders ‘cause that would for sure not go over well.
Everyone split to get weapons and her mom told her to find shelter in the back with her brother. First though she dragged him off to the pharmacy with ‘going-out-of-business’ sale signs on the closed and locked roller door. Ashley looked at her brother and held a finger in front of her mouth to indicate ‘quiet’, she reached down and pulled up – breaking the lock and forcing open the door.
Her brother’s mouth dropped a little, she figured he’d been too freaked out and distracted by giant spiders the couple of times she’d literally carried him to safety to actually register her strength before. And then, wonder of wonders, he nodded at her without asking a million questions and moved toward the shelves to grab bottles of what she could only assume was really crappy scent – seriously, she could smell it from here, who’d wear that stuff? She also moved further in to bolster her own supplies.
Her brother hurried off to give Chris and Harlan scent bottles to take on their mission to the roof, and everyone gathered at the front of the mall, with their makeshift weapons, behind her mom and Pete, to wait for the spiders to begin their assault on the front doors. Ashley visually tracked Wade as he disappeared into one of the back rooms of the mall, and could hear him lock it behind him – okay that couldn’t be good.
Ashley signalled to her mom and then grabbed her brother and hustled him away, following Wade. She figured douche or not the guy had strong survival skills and their best bet was probably to figure out where he was headed – if there was a safe route out of here, having built the damn mall he’d know it for sure!
Ashley grabbed the doorknob and wiggled, yep, locked. Then remembered her experience with her bedroom and bathroom doorknobs and kept turning it until she heard the handle and lock mechanism give a satisfying crunch. Excellent!
Gunfire started at the front of the mall then, and she could feel, oh she could FEEL the spiders surging in, breaking through.
Ashley took a breath and kept hold of her brother, moved further into the room – she flicked her eyes toward the back wall with what she knew would be another locked door and knew, just knew, that it let out into the mines, where the spiders had come out from to hunt the town. She shivered, but knew that there probably weren’t any better options – any minute people were going to start trickling in here, retreating away from the flood of spiders at the front. No matter how many they took out there were always more and more to take their place and falling back was the only option.
Her mom and Chris were the last in through the door – her mom blocked it behind her and Ashley looked around and noted all the faces that hadn’t made it – including Pete. She swallowed hard, she may not have always exactly looked up to him but the guy had worked with her mom for years and… god, okay.
It was then that she felt the vibrations on the other side of the back wall and realised that something was coming toward them – not more spiders though… machinery. She grabbed her brother again, cut off his faint protest at the man-handling and moved him away as loader crashed through the locked door. Bret stumbled out of the machine, just as more spiders, probably attracted by the noise and vibrations from the machine and the crash, came up behind him.
Her mom opened fire, just as she let loose with a can of hairspray from her bag and a lighter. Her mom got one of the spiders but Ashley’s homemade flamethrower took out two more, screaming as they died, and wow – way more effective than she would have thought.
The shock on her mom’s face gave away fairly quickly to a proud grin and then her mom took the lead through the now wrecked wall and into the mines, hopefully to safety.
Ashley had found herself walking beside Chris for a little while, the more she was exposed to his company the more she was inclined to like him, especially when he’d congratulated her on her flamethrower but warned her about the pockets of methane gas in the mines. Way more of chance for a big boom than she was comfortable with – so she guessed that she’d have to figure something else out if she had to while they were in the mines.
By the time they were, Ashley estimated, about halfway out of the mine, they’d lost one more of their number to the spiders, found Bret’s dirt bike - which he insisted on bringing along because of the number of times today it had already save his life, and then found Bret’s step-dad Wade – cocooned with a number of other bodies.
Wade at least was alive, Ashley could feel that all the cocoons close to her contained dead bodies, although she wasn’t sure how and she knew that it was only those close to her because the oppressive feeling generated by the spiders behind them making it difficult to feel anything further away. It didn’t surprise her when Chris decided to stay and search to see if he could find his Aunt Gladys before he followed them. It did surprise her a little when he’d smashed one of the light globes and put a matchbook into the holder. She easily convinced Bret to leave his bike for Chris, and hopefully his aunt, to make their escape. She so totally had him trained.
They made it to the little set of wooden sheds out of the mine and her mom started the search for fuel to get the generator started to let them light up the mines. They just needed a spark to get it started – and it was then that Ashley remembered the Taser in her bag with the hairspray and leftover bits of wooden chair she’d been carrying around.
Her mom grabbed the Taser and started the generator, and the lights at the entry way to the mine began to glow. Ashley could feel her mom next to her literally hold her breath and stare at the mine – and she could feel the rumble in the ground as the surge of electricity deeper in the mine lit the matches, and the flame caused the pocket of methane explode, flame spread from pockets of gas along tunnels. And then the dirt bike roared – raced ahead of the flames and a giant- giant-OMG-how-big-was-that-thing-spider, to get to safety and the open air.
Ashley felt her mom’s fingers dig into her arm for a second as the bike made it to the mine opening, just ahead of both the flames and the spider – the spider was caught and pulled down under the roar of the flames - but Chris and a second figure clinging behind him hurtled out on the bike, flew through the air and went down with the bike but enough to beat the fire that had chased them.
As the emergency vehicles pulled up lights flashing and sirens whirring, Ashley couldn’t believe it as Pete and Harlan arrived with them. They were both alive and still arguing over giant spiders from space versus giant spiders mutated by toxic waste.
But, she thought, as she wound her arm around her brother’s neck and pulled him in to lean against her as she in turn leant back against Bret, and watched her mom plant a big kiss on Chris, all things considered, the night was ending up way better than she’d expected.
Buffy Summers pulled her rental car over to the side of the road and on to the shoulder at the ‘Welcome to Prosperity, Arizona’ road sign. She pulled the road map out of the centre console and opened the door so she could have a look and stretch. The GPS unit had died a natural death, well natural for electronic devices that annoyed her anyway, yesterday.
But wow, look at her from California to Arizona and no vehicular incidents along the way, that thing with the cactus yesterday totally didn’t count… so ‘huh’ to all the Scooby jokes over the years about her driving.
Hmm, she wasn’t much further away from her destination, the directions she’d gotten from Wolfram & Hart indicated that while the sheriff lived on the other side of town once she hit Prosperity proper, the sheriff’s station was almost dead centre to the town, although honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of town.
It sounded like a nice little place, Prosperity Arizona. Yep she’d definitely made the right call in volunteering to come and check out a possible new slayer called as part of the mass activation and honest-to-goddess at least it got her away from the rest of the group for the moment.
The whole group at the Hyperion was involved in a whole angst-drama thing at the moment and she’d been desperate for a break. Scoobies, plus new slayers with new powers, the people they’d lost, Angel’s gang now the head honchos of Wolfram & Hart…as they tried to sort out where to go from here, what the hell to do about the Council, money… uh…not to mention how to cope with new and old personalities and…
When Willow had tried out a spell she’d found to track slayers and the first one she’d picked up had been here in Arizona, Buffy had grabbed the chance to get a little distance and still do something useful.
She’d spoken to Angel, and with Wolfram & Hart resources - and really not getting started on Angel as the new boss-man there, she’d figure that one out later - had arranged this little trip and. she flicked her gaze to the other side of the car where Charles Gunn was doing his own stretching, included company, which had been much more fun than she’d expected.
Gunn, definitely not a Chuck or a Charlie, had even been relaxed with her driving most of the way – and his stories of teaching himself to drive by stealing cars when he’d been younger probably went a fair way to explain his lack of nerves or anxiety, she’d managed to make it this far without getting into a police chase after all. So final stretch; meet the Sheriff; and see if they could interest her daughter in getting some training for her new slayer abilities.
Really, how hard could it be?