Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Sammy’s Diner – Sunnydale – April 2003
‘It’s got to be magicks’ Dawn stated, ‘there’s just no way that anyone with your figure can possibly eat like that’ she told the woman sat across from her who looked up from her plate in amusement but still kept working on the hash-browns.
Gunn nodded. ‘We’ve been saying that for years’ he agreed. ‘It’s just freaky and we’re the kind of people that know freaky when we see it’ he said. ‘Just never agree to split a restaurant bill equally, everyone else just ends up subsidising Fred’ he told the teenager.
Pushing away her own plate Cordelia shook her head sadly. ‘Someone definitely lucked out on the metabolic lottery’ she told Fred, giving up on her own breakfast. The pancakes looked and tasted so good but she couldn’t eat any more without guilty feeling and a lot of exercise afterwards.
Fred swallowed. ‘You say that, but do you know how hungry I was on Pylea?’ she asked rhetorically, reaching for her cup of coffee. ‘You not going to finish those?’ she asked Cordy, indicating her abandoned stack of pancakes.
‘Go right ahead’ Cordelia told her, as Fred stabbed one with her fork and transferred it onto her own plate.
‘Thinking of lotteries’ Cordelia continued. ‘Did someone remember to get this weeks?’ she asked Dawn. ‘It’s your turn to win’ she reminded her.
‘Xander got them a few days ago’ Dawn replied. ‘They’re being guarded just a bit
more carefully than the potentials’ she joked.
Connor was the only one still eating except from Fred. He shovelled bacon and eggs into his mouth with considerable relish, and only paused to take an occasional swig of orange juice. His own metabolism was extremely different from the human norm, or his vampire parents for that matter, and he needed to keep his strength up if they were going to be fighting demons.
With a resigned sigh Wesley was checking his wallet. Along with Dawn and Connor he had, as he feared, arrived a touch late and was being stuck with the bill. Trying to keep Fred fuelled was bad enough but Connor too meant that things were pricy. If they weren’t lottery millionaires he would have been rather peeved about it.
‘So how have you found Illyria?’ Fred asked Dawn.
The teenager looked thoughtful. ‘Imperious, condescending to the point of obnoxiousness sometimes, unbelievably powerful, too well informed for comfort… and pretty’ she tagged on, ‘very pretty’ Dawn added for the benefit of Fred who of course looked exactly like her except for the differences in colouration.
Fred laughed. ‘But do you think I should get blue streaks in my hair?’ she asked.
Wesley quickly shook his head. ‘Too confusing’ he interjected quickly. ‘If you looked exactly
the same we’d have to make you wear nametags’ he said. ‘I’m not asking for a scientific opinion on portals then having to put up with a lecture about how inferior our species is instead’ he declared.
‘Or if nametags are out we could
tattoo numbers on their foreheads instead’ Dawn suggested then frowned. ‘Could we get a needle that would tattoo Illyria?’ she wondered aloud. ‘Sharp, pointy metals things always come off second best from what Buffy says.’
‘I’ll stick to my normal hair colour’ Fred told everyone. ‘It seems like less bother all round’ she added with a sweet smile that had everyone else smiling. Fred really was sweet and kind and basically all-round pleasant, with a strong moral centre to go with it, plus the brains of course. Wesley couldn’t help but think her presence brightened up the room and he knew Gunn still thought likewise.
Wesley looked at his watch. ‘I’ve got a few hours before I need to get over to Buffy’s’ he told everyone. ‘Are we going shopping then?’ he asked.
‘You bet your Limey ass we’re going shopping’ Cordy replied. ‘Think you can help me improve Connor’s look?’ she asked Dawn.
Dawn looked the teenager over. ‘Couldn’t be hard’ she replied.
Connor scowled then his expression shifted to one of mild concern at the look of frightening avarice developing on Cordelia’s face. ‘Are you sure she’s not still possessed?’ he asked Wesley nervously.
‘Only by a severe case of unrequited consumerism that has laid dormant because of insufficient funds for the last few years’ Wesley told him. ‘It takes perfect bliss to bring out your fathers dark side’ he told the boy. ‘With Cordelia it’s a credit card and a virtually unlimited budget’ he shook his head sadly. ‘Those poor shop assistants don’t know what’s coming’ he said sadly.
‘Someone should have made a prophecy’ Dawn said playing along. ‘And lo in the third year of the third millennium a great terror will arise to the west….’
Cordelia fixed the girl with a glare. ‘So you don’t want anything yourself?’ she asked coldly.
Dawn quickly looked down at the table. ‘I’ll be good’ she said, holding back a grin.
‘You shopping too Wes?’ Gunn asked.
‘There’s a bookshop, a sporting goods department and an arcade to hide in’ Wesley replied. ‘I’m going, I’m just not planning to risk getting between Cordelia and anything she thinks she wants to buy’ he said intelligently.
‘Hey I earned this’ Cordelia responded. ‘Years of mind-splitting visions and migraines, last seasons fashions and washing demon goo out of my hair’ she said, ‘this
is my reward for all that’ she stated with certainty of belief. ‘The Powers-That-Be may have stiffed me, but the Power-That’s-Blue has righted that
wrong as far as I’m concerned’ she declared.
‘Sounds almost noble’ Wesley commented quietly with a wry smile on his face.
Cordelia ignored the sarcasm, it was going to be too good a day to spoil it squirting maple syrup over an ex-watcher.Crawford Street Mansion – Sunnydale – April 2003
There were just too many on the team now for everyone to even fit in a meeting at Buffy’s house so everyone had gathered in the main hall at the mansion. Buffy introduced everyone and had started up on a motivational speech when to everyone’s relief Illyria arrived late and had to be introduced formally to Connor and Cordelia both of whose brief encounters with the God-King had mainly consisted of being knocked unconscious. Angel had added that, as Angelus, his own introduction to Illyria had been very similar so it was almost like an initiation.
‘So that’s the basic plan’ Buffy continued her talk. ‘We spend the next couple of weeks gathering up the remaining potentials we can easily get here, Willow does the spell, we turn all the girls into fully-fledged Slayers and we kick the First’s ass’ she told the group.
‘Why not change us now?’ Kennedy wanted to know.
‘If we do that some of the potentials that would otherwise come here for protection might decide to go it alone’ Buffy replied. ‘We need them here and we want them part of our group not freelance if at all possible.’
‘I don’t know about the others’ Rona said. ‘But I’d feel happier if I had the power to look after myself’ she told Buffy. ‘At the moment I just feel like a useless target’ she explained with a lot of the potentials nodding in agreement.
‘If things get bad we’ll do the spell early’ Buffy reassured her. ‘But at the moment we’ve got the initiative and all the big guns’ she said indicating Illyria, Faith the two ensouled vampires and Connor, but also thinking about the contents of the crates that several of the girls were using as improvised seating.
Xander was leaning against a wall. ‘You know the First is going to be coming up with a surprise of his own’ he pointed out. ‘It’s arrogant but not completely stupid as far as I can see.’
‘Almost all of its best troops are stuck under the seal’ Angel responded. ‘It’s got Bringers but based on the updates I’ve been getting from Wes over the phone, and what I’ve heard since I arrived, those are getting thin on the ground in this town’ he said. ‘I heard that a few more of them were knocked out of the game last night for that matter’ he added looking at the potentials several of whom were smiling. ‘Good work by the way’ he told them.
‘They ain’t so tough’ one of the potentials, a recent arrival, noted. ‘They used to scare me but now I just hate them’ she said coldly. Most of the girls felt likewise although despise might be closer than hate for some. The Harbingers deserved nothing better than extermination and they were going to get everything that was owed them.
‘Continuing Xanders point I hope we’re not starting to underestimate the enemy or overestimate ourselves’ Robin Wood commented. ‘This is
the apocalypse we’re talking about’ he reminded everyone.
‘We are getting slightly blasé about those now I suppose’ Wesley responded. ‘Comes with the territory and the enormous amount of firepower we’re bringing to this one’ he said, pointing to the weapons arrayed on a nearby table. ‘We don’t want to fight, but by jingo if we do, we’ve got the spells, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the money too’ he said, paraphrasing an old tune.
Illyria looked around the room. ‘You were successful in the original timeline with a fraction of these resources’ she told them. ‘My presence alone tilts the scales heavily in your favour’ she said confidently.
‘So powerful and yet so
modest’ Cordelia quipped sarcastically.
The God-King turned to her. ‘So weak and yet so quick to provoke’ she responded. ‘Not a combination of traits that lead to a long life, even by human standards’ she observed.
‘Now see here Smurfette…’ Cordelia began before Angel managed to indicate she should drop it. It wasn’t like Illyria would admit defeat if she lost a verbal exchange anyhow, and at worst she might decide to throw you through a wall.
‘So what are we gonna do in the meantime?’ Gunn wanted to know. If they were going to spend the next few weeks sitting on their ass he’d prefer to go back to LA and dust some vamps or maybe help Anne out at the shelter.
Buffy looked at the potentials. ‘For you training, training and more training’ she told them. ‘For the rest Giles and Wesley think that as the First recovers from recent setbacks its presence will draw half the demons in California to town as the end nears’ she said. ‘The hellmouth has always attracted them in droves and its broadcasting with a lot more wattage these days so we’ll have our hands full stopping the new arrivals from snacking on the townsfolk.’
Willow had been sitting quietly in one corner. She was still nervous about what would happen when she tried the spell on the scythe and it was nagging at her. Sure Illyria said it would go fine but that was in a parallel universe and besides which she could
be lying right? ‘I can feel the darkness growing’ she told the group, speaking up suddenly. ‘It’s getting harder not to listen to it’ the witch added apprehensively.
‘You’ll be fine Will’ Xander told her with a reassuring smile. ‘You’re stronger than K-EVIL FM any day’ he said.
‘And don’t worry if you go all black-eyed and homicidal again because we’ve got Illyria around now to beat you into a bloody pulp if you do’ Anya added brightly.
Willow looked at her. ‘Thank you that makes me feel so
much better’ she replied sarcastically.
The sarcasm bounced off Anya like swords off Illyria. She just took Willow’s reply seriously and smiled back at her in response.
Buffy took a breath and wondering if she was doing the right thing she handed the floor to Andrew of all people who beamed and unrolled a large map on the floor with coloured lines drawn all over it. ‘I’ve drawn up a patrolling rota and divided the town into quadrants’ he explained. ‘We will have four teams running nightly to cover the whole of Sunnydale and keep those nasty Bringers, Demons and Vampyres at bay’ he announced. ‘The area with the most graveyards and therefore the highest likely vampyre quotient’ he said, pronouncing vampire like someone from a 1930’s horror film, ‘will be designated the Delta Quadrant with the other four logically being Alpha, Beta and Gamma’ he told them. ‘Delta Quadrant will be patrolled by Team Voyager under the command of…’
‘Kathryn Janeway’ Xander interrupted before anyone else. ‘I’m guessing the Alpha Quadrant has Team “Enterprise” right?’ he asked with Andrew nodding in the affirmative.
Buffy winced. ‘Okay we are so
not using those names’ she told Andrew. ‘It’s quadrants numbers one to four and no team names’ she said.
Andrew pouted. ‘But I was going to put Illyria on your team’ he replied. ‘It would be just like having Seven-Of-Nine…’
‘No’ Buffy cut him off sternly.
Gunn looked at Principal Wood. ‘So which of us do you think was going to get codenamed “Sisko”?’ he asked.
Wood shrugged. The world was definitely doomed he thought despondently.Graveyard – Sunnydale – April 2003
‘Why do I
have to do this?’ Fred wanted to know, whispering into her hidden microphone.
Cordelia’s voice replied in her earpiece, the words slightly distorted by static. ‘You really are all neck
’ she told her. ‘If vampires had skin magazines you’d make the front cover easy
’ she said.
‘Well why can’t Illyria do it?’ Fred whispered. ‘At least the fangs would break on her neck’ she pointed out.
‘She’s across town
’ Cordelia replied. ‘This is the part with the least cemeteries
‘Well how many darn graveyards can a town this size have anyway?’ Fred wanted to know.
’ Cordelia replied on the radio, ‘if you’re only counting the big ones
Fred blinked then carefully ignored the approaching footsteps behind her as she continued on her way following a short-cut footpath that cut across the cemetery. She hated being used as bait and it was definitely Cordy’s turn next, and why couldn’t vampires prefer eating guys anyhow, she wondered? It was clearly sexism.
‘Out late aren’t we?’ a voice asked her from very close in. Fred span to find herself looking at a man in his early twenties with two more nearby.
‘Taking the short-cut home’ Fred explained nervously.
‘Maybe we should escort you there’ another of the three suggested. ‘This is a dangerous town after dark.’
Fred nodded. ‘I’ve heard that’ she replied. ‘I’m new here myself.’
‘Texas right’ the first stranger asked. ‘I like Tex-Mex food’ he said and then vamped out.
‘I like it too but you’ve got something on your shirt’ Fred told him, surprisingly unflustered by the fangs.
The vampire looked down. There was a bright green dot playing across his chest, it moved until it was directly over his heart.
‘What the…’ the vampire said before a very loud bang echoed across the graveyard and something slammed into his chest from nowhere, moving almost too fast to see. Already flying backwards with the impact he turned to dust in an instant with his two companions looking on in horror.
‘Dangerous after dark’ Fred agreed. ‘The night vision goggles and the laser sights work really well though’ she told them. ‘You can run if you like but you’ll just be tired when we catch you’ she said.
They didn’t take the advice and turned and ran. One only made it ten yards before a teenage boy pounced on him, smashed him to the ground and began pounding his fists into the vampires body.
The second got further, but as it was looking behind to see if it was being followed it got clotheslined by an arm that was put straight across its path. The vampire did a full one-eighty off sheer momentum and hit the ground just before the arm lowered, a mechanism of some kind on the strangers wrist operated and the vampire exploded into dust as a stake was slammed into its chest.
Angel dusted himself off and went to see Connor who was still beating the other vampire with considerable enthusiasm. He would have told the boy to stop playing and finish the job but Connor looked like he was having fun and it was probably a good psychological release.
‘Good work Fred’ Angel told her walking over. ‘I liked the “you’ve got something on your shirt” line.’
‘I have my moments’ Fred replied with a smile. ‘I guess the special rounds work’ she said to Wesley who trotted up to them through the darkness wearing a pair of night-vision goggles and with one of the grenade launchers in his hands. He had added a laser sight to the weapon which helped place the high-velocity projectile in just the right place. If you didn’t get the heart the sheer impact would still knock a vampire backwards and likely off its feet, but if you’re going to do a job do it right first time.
Wesley pulled the goggles up onto his forehead. ‘A bit loud though’ he told them. ‘And the recoil was something else’ he added. ‘But the sabot worked just as predicted’ he said happily.
‘Sabot?’ Angel asked. To him it was just the French word for wooden shoe.
Wesley opened the breech and handed Angel a strange looking and very large cartridge. ‘When it’s fired the pieces there fall away leaving a stake only twenty millimetres in diameter to keep going, like the armoured-piercing dart fired by a tank’ he explained. ‘You get higher velocity and penetration than you would if you fired a full sized block of wood. The stake's got fins for accuracy, and to help stop it punching right through something, and there’s a hole drilled up the middle from the back with a metal rod added for mass and structural strength’ he continued. ‘Xander helped me with turning and drilling the wood he’s a lot handier than I am.’
‘The physics of how it works are simple but very effective’ Fred told Angel.
Angel handed back the modified grenade which Wesley rechambered. ‘Are you done yet Connor?’ he called out.
Connor pulled a stake from his pocket and dusted the vamp. ‘Next graveyard?’ he asked, walking towards the group.
‘Yes’ Angel replied. ‘This time Cordelia can be the bait, Wesley can stay in the car with Fred and Gunn can try out the grenade launcher’ he added.
A loud “hell-yeah
” on their radio earpieces indicated that Gunn was listening in. He had been in the SUV with Cordelia watching things with his own set of night-vision equipment ready to move in if needed.
‘Somebody might call the police if we keep firing something that loud at night’ Wesley cautioned. ‘It may be wise not to try it again tonight’ he advised.
‘Bite me English
’ Gunn responded in an annoyed tone.
Angel sighed. ‘We try it one more time to make sure then it’s back to crossbows’ he told his crew.
Wesley looked at the launcher. ‘It’s for the best but they’ll seem such a comedown’ he noted sadly.
‘Just as long as I get to dust at least one vamp with the big gun I’ll be happy
’ Gunn told everyone.
‘Can I try out the goggles?’ Connor asked.
Wesley immediately passed them over and the teenager put them on and looked around. ‘These are cool’ Connor said. ‘Want a go dad?’ he asked.
‘I can already see pretty well in the dark’ Angel told him. ‘Even better when I vamp out.’
‘The yellow eyes work like a cats I would think’ Fred theorised. ‘Better use of available light makes them look reflective’ she said.
As they walked back to the SUV Fred and Wesley were discussing vampire night-vision Connor was enjoying being able to see in the dark and Angel was enjoying watching his son be in a good mood for once.
A representative of Wolfram & Hart escorted by the First Evil in Buffy’s form was watching with concern from a distance, although the former had already been scared fairly witless by what it had already observed elsewhere in town. The First had been right, Illyria had returned and the very name bought back unpleasant memories even to the Senior Partners themselves. They were right at the top of the heap these days but back in the primordium age they had been relatively low on the food-chain and if the Shaper of Things still had a fraction of its powers it would not be an enemy to be taken lightly.
‘I hope the danger is self-evident’ the First told the equally incorporeal representative who appeared almost Bringer-like in a hooded cowl.
‘Indeed’ the other being replied.
‘So you will send help?’ the First asked.
The hooded creature nodded. ‘That is for the Senior Partners to decide but I will recommend we do’ it said.
The First smiled. ‘Axis of Evil?’
The representative of the Wolf, Ram and Hart turned to The First. ‘Hopefully it will do better than the Axis we allied ourselves with sixty years ago’ it commented.
‘Well you can’t always back the winner’ the First replied with a shrug, ‘but we're due one’ it said.