An Excerpt from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Paleo by Yvonne Navarro


Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Paleo

(An Excerpt)

Paleo



       "So," Daniel interrupted. "You've got the egg, and I've got the journal. Let's try it."

       "What?"

       Daniel grinned at him. "I said, let's try it."

       "Try what?"

       "The ritual." Daniel took the journal out of Kevin's hand and flipped forward a few pages. "There's a formula in here that the man who wrote this journal-- a professor who at the time was a well-respected paleontologist in his fifties-- claims will bring certain kinds of fossilized animals back to life. Your Timimus egg falls right into the category that's supposed to work. Are you game?"

       Kevin just sat there, unable to believe what he was hearing. A spell? Like in... what? Witchcraft or something, maybe a game? But whatever you wanted to call it, that this was the next step was written all over Daniel's face. There was a whole bunch Kevin wanted to say right now, and high on the list was ‘Are you out of your mind?', but he didn't dare. He'd heard stories about small towns and how sometimes they did things... well, differently. But spells?

       No matter what he thought, he had to go along-- every instinct he had told him that if he didn't, any future he might have had with the Sunnydale Museum of Natural History was finished, strangled before it had a chance to take its first breath. Unless he wanted the rest of the school year to feel like an eternity, he didn't dare refuse.

       Kevin cleared his throat. "A-all right."

       "Excellent," Daniel said, beaming. When Kevin didn't do anything else, Daniel gave him a patient smile. "The egg?"

       "Oh-- yeah." Kevin reached down and plucked it from the box, running his fingers over the rough surface a final time before reluctantly handing it to the older guy.

       "Great." Daniel stopped and looked around the meager space that served as his office, then looked at Kevin. A rueful smile played across his lips. "Look, I know you think I'm nuts. If I didn't know people who've lived in this town all their lives and would swear to it, I'd think I was as nuts as a bag of pistachios. But trust me-- stranger stuff has happened here, and what have we got to lose anyway? We'll give it just that one try, and if it doesn't work, we'll just swear never to tell anyone else how we were totally stupid enough to do it in the first place. It's just words, and you'll be right there the entire time-- it's not like I'm going to saw the egg open or destroy it. Okay?"

       Unwillingly, Daniel nodded. He still thought this was the craziest thing he'd ever heard of next to that guy he'd read about who'd attached hundreds of helium balloons to his lawn chair, then ended up floating out over the ocean before the Air Force got him down. But even that idiot had actually gotten himself and his supply of beer off the ground. On the other hand, what could mumbling a few words actually hurt-- which, by the way, he wasn't going to do. When it came right down to it, Daniel could have the honor, and ultimate embarrassment, of that.

       Daniel's gaze swept the area again and he stood, still cradling the Timimus egg. "Let's get out of here," he suggested. "It's too much like doing an experiment in a forgotten storeroom. Grab the journal and we'll go over to the lab." He laughed a little. "That way, we'll have access to stuff we might need."

       "All right," Kevin said. He followed Daniel out of the room and pulled the door shut behind them, his nerves jangling. Was he in trouble here? Even Mr. Regis's words of warning hadn't prepared Kevin for this. No matter what Daniel said about it just being a lark, it was really obvious that the other guy wanted to believe this was going to work, that they could mutter a spell or a charm or whatever over a nearly solid piece of rock and it would come to life. That was bad enough, but how was he going to react when nothing happened-- would he freak out, or just accept it and laugh about the whole thing? Well, they would both soon find out.

       "We'll use the anthropology lab," Daniel said. "Follow me."

       Kevin did as he was instructed, wishing he could think about anything but this ridiculous mission. There suddenly seemed to be so much to appreciate in this small museum-- mummies, a pre-Columbian culture section, and he'd caught a glimpse of a marvelous-looking insect "zoo" on the other side of one of the rotundas-- but even as he saw it on the way, his gaze slipped over everything and barely registered it. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be... this wasn't even remotely normal.

       "Here we are," Daniel said. "Our grand experiment is about to begin." The older guy was keeping his tone light, no doubt because he could see how uncomfortable Kevin was. Maybe, Kevin thought suddenly, the whole thing was a test, one of those mess-with-your-mind things that prospective employers occasionally pulled to see how well you followed directions, or whether you were creative and could problem solve on your own. He wasn't quite sure what arena reading incantations over dinosaur eggs would fall under, but that would explain quite a bit. The question was, of course, just what was the right answer?

       The room Daniel led him into was a lot bigger and more brightly lit than Daniel's mini "office." Long, stainless steel lab tables lined the walls beneath shelves holding books and supplies, computers and the dozens of software manuals that were interspersed among the clutter. At least in here there was room to breathe and a person could turn around without smacking his nose on the wall behind himself. Daniel led him to one of the larger tables in the center of the room and found a cleared space on one end. The young paleontologist set the egg on its surface and for a moment the two of them just stood there, staring first at it, then at the journal Kevin still held.

       After a second, Kevin placed it next to the egg. "What, uh, do you think we need besides this?" he asked Daniel.

       Daniel shrugged. "Well... a cage, maybe, to hold the baby Timimus when it hatches. Sometimes they do the monkey thing here so they've got a few tucked away. Hold on a sec-- I'll get one."

       Kevin nodded and watched while Daniel strode to one of the larger cabinets and dug around in it until he found something suitable. He couldn't help notice that Daniel had said not if it hatches, but when-- no sir, no lack of confidence there.

       "Here we go." As Daniel came back with a small, wire cage, Kevin thought he sounded absurdly cheerful, more like he was announcing the date for the next paleontology dig than preparing for something like this. What a mess-- he'd wanted so badly to be here, and now all Kevin could think about was getting the heck out of here and going home.

       After a moment's contemplation, Daniel carefully picked up the Timimus egg and placed it inside the cage, then snapped the door shut. "Okay," he said. "I guess I'll read the words now." Daniel laughed suddenly, but Kevin thought he could hear nervousness and something else that he couldn't identify in the sound-- hope, no doubt. It looked to him like Daniel was trying really hard to seem normal, as though on the surface this were all a hoax and any minute now he'd admit that it was some sort of rite of passage that each newbie at the museum had to endure. But Kevin just wasn't buying it, and seeing the way Daniel's hand shook as he picked up Professor Nuriel's journal and opened it to the right page just hammered that home.

       Around them, the museum was quiet, nearly empty. If there were security guards, it was still early enough for them not to bother with making rounds, so not a sound slipped through the duct work or was carried up on the drafts flowing along the wide staircases. Holding his breath despite himself, Kevin found he was leaning forward and mentally following along with the words in the journal as Daniel carefully read them out loud.

       "Hear this call, spirits of Ladonithia," Daniel intoned. His voice was raspy, a real giveaway that he had a serious case of the jitters. "Awaken and return from your abyss to this frozen host, first of four, to then combine, and grant to he who resurrects you, a single wish fulfilled."

       Kevin hadn't caught the contents of the incantation earlier, and even as the final words came out of Daniel's mouth, his eyebrows raised. ‘First of four, to then combine'-- what did that mean? And a wish fulfilled-- was that what this was all about? Greed, or something like it?

       He turned his head toward Daniel's, but before he could say what was on his mind, a small, sharp sound rippled through the otherwise silent room.

       The sound of an egg cracking.

* * *


Published by Pocket Books -- September, 2000
ISBN 0-7434-0034-8
Please order this book through your local
independent bookseller. Our favorite is
Dusty Stacks Bookstore.

 

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All text copyright © 2001-2004 by Yvonne Navarro and Pocket Books. Don't be naughty-- no reprinting or use in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the starving author. We mean it. We know lots of lawyers. And we ain't afraid to use them.