Jinx halted in front of the dumpster and tapped its side. “This will do nicely,” he said, “except that perhaps we ought to break up the robot into pieces before we throw it in. If it looks like a human body it might attract too much attention.” He heard a thud behind him, a choked grunt, and a noise of crunching and snapping. “Good work,” he said, and turned around. His eyes widened and he took a hasty step back.
April was standing up. One of the demon minions lay at her feet. Its body lay chest down but its head had been twisted through a hundred and eighty degrees and sightless eyes stared at the sky. The other minion struggled feebly in April’s grasp, clawing ineffectually at the steel and plastic hand that was crushing its throat, its greenish skin turning blue as its breath was shut off.
“You – you were – Glorificus broke you!” Jinx exclaimed. He stepped back again and collided with the dumpster.
“I exaggerated the extent of the damage so that she would not continue to inflict further damage,” April explained. “A shut down and restart was sufficient to restore full functionality.” The demon in her grip went limp and she tossed it over Jinx’s head into the dumpster. “I am still operating in combat mode.”
Jinx pulled a short curved dagger from his belt. “You cannot defy Glorificus!” he shouted, and lunged at April. Jinx was a much more skillful fighter than the lower-ranking minions and he managed to get past April’s parry. The blade made contact with April’s torso, penetrated for about an inch, and then struck a section of hard fiberglass plating and stopped. April seized Jinx’s arm, twisted, and squeezed. She brought her other hand around to wrench the dagger from his grip and then plunged it into the side of Jinx’s neck. He jerked and flopped down to hang limply in her grasp.
April lifted Jinx’s body to throw it into the dumpster and then hesitated. Jinx might be exaggerating the extent of the damage so that she would not continue to inflict further damage. She took hold of the knife again and used it to saw off Jinx’s head. She lobbed head, body, and the remaining dead minion into the dumpster and paused to think.
Her prime directive was protect_boyfriend.fld and the god Glory was hurting Spike. It was her duty to return to the apartment and save Spike. Unfortunately Glory was extremely strong. April did not have much data on which to work but on the basis of the last blow that the bitch had struck April estimated Glory’s strength as at least twice her own. It had shattered one of her protective fiberglass plates and left her motherboard vulnerable to damage. A second such blow would cause April to experience a genuine catastrophic failure.
April considered courses of action. There were really only two possible ways of following her prime directive. She could return immediately to the apartment of the horrible creature who was hurting Spike and try to rescue him; or she could try to get others to assist in the rescue. Buffy was also very strong. Buffy had a secondary designation as ‘the Slayer’. To slay means to kill, murder, assassinate, eliminate, butcher, or exterminate; a logical deduction from that appellation was therefore that Buffy’s combat mode was highly efficient. This meant that a rescue mission that included Buffy had a significantly greater probability of success than if April attempted it on her own.
Against that was the time factor. The bitch/god Glory would be continuing to inflict further damage upon Spike even as April was traveling to 1630 Revello Drive to collect Buffy and return. It was a dilemma. The miniature motors mounted in April’s forehead activated and pulled down her eyebrows into a lower position. The solution to the dilemma presented itself and the eyebrows returned to their default state. The directive protect_boyfriend.fld required her to protect
her boyfriend, not to attempt to protect him and fail, and therefore she should act to maximize her chances of success. She took a GPS fix to determine her current position, compared it with the co-ordinates of 1630 Revello Drive, calculated a course and then set off. - - - - -
“Isn’t that the robot?” Xander pointed across the park to where a brunette figure in a little black dress was trotting across the grass.
Buffy’s gaze followed his pointing finger. “Good call, Xander. Hey! April!” She waved a hand. The robot halted, turned her head, and then changed course to aim at the Scoobies.
Xander grinned. “Well, that’s a relief. We can call off the cavalry and go home.”
“W-what about Spike?” Tara reminded him.
“Oh, crap, I forgot.” Xander grimaced. “At least now we don’t have to get into any fistfights with the bitch-queen from Hell. We can shut his mouth with crossbows from a distance.”
Buffy bit her lip. “Only as a last resort,” she said, and she moved off to meet the robot.- - - - -
“We have no wooden stakes, ultimately delectable one,” Murk reported, “but we have located a broom handle. Alas, it is taking Dreg rather a long time to sharpen it into the form of a stake.”
Glory rolled her eyes. “It didn’t occur to you that I can do it in about five seconds?”
“Of course we are aware of your awe-inspiring capabilities, your supremacy,” Murk said, “but it is not fitting that you should soil your fair hands with such a menial task. Why have minions and sharpen your own stakes?”
“Aw, that’s sweet,” said Glory, “but I’m getting bored here.” She smacked Spike across the face with teeth-jarring force and he sagged in her grasp. “And I’m hungry. Where the frikkin’ hell is Jinx with that brain?”
“I think I can hear footsteps approaching,” Murk said. “He will –“
He was interrupted by the door being thrown open with great force. April advanced through the doorway and glared at Glory. “Get away from him you bitch!”
“Hey, it’s the robot,” Glory said. “Looks like you weren’t as broken as I thought. I’ll have to be more thorough this time.”
April seized the nearest minion and hurled him at Glory, who parried with the nearest thing to hand; Spike. The impact tore Spike from Glory’s grasp and both minion and vampire fell to the floor. April advanced into the room and Buffy followed close behind her.
“Oh, you’ve brought the Slayer,” Glory remarked. She kicked Spike out of her way and poised herself in an approximation of a combat stance.
Murk aimed a kick at Buffy. A lesser minion attempted to punch April. Buffy caught Murk’s leg with her left hand and brought her right elbow down on his knee. Bone snapped, Murk screamed, and Buffy flipped him across the room. April spun on her heel and delivered a perfect roundhouse kick to the face of the minion attacking her. The scabby demon was knocked across the room and collapsed in the fireplace.
Buffy’s eyebrows rose. “Nice move.”
“Warren liked to watch Walker, Texas Ranger
,” April explained. “I watched it too.” She bent down to grab Spike, who had crawled out from under the unconscious demon, and pulled him back away from Glory.
“Bloody marvelous, pet,” Spike mumbled through smashed and bloody lips. He clambered to his feet with April’s assistance. Xander and Giles came into the room behind Buffy. Both of them were holding loaded crossbows. Willow and Tara followed in their wake. Anya appeared in the doorway, holding a crossbow, but did not enter the room.
“How dare you intrude upon the divinely beautiful Glorificus!” Dreg shouted, descending a flight of stairs at the side of the room. He was holding a broomstick with one end crudely carved into a sharp point.
“Hey, Dreg, give me the…” Glory began.
Xander and Giles fired their crossbows. Dreg collapsed, two quarrels embedded in his chest, and tumbled down the stairs.
“Oh, crap,” Glory groaned. “I’ll have to do this the messy way.”
Buffy drew her sword and slashed at Glory’s neck. The hell-goddess caught the blade mid-stroke and twisted it out of Buffy’s hand. At her feet the unconscious minion groaned and stirred.
“Hey, thanks,” said Glory. “I can use this to cut the vampire’s head off. Much neater than twisting it off with my hands.” She reversed the weapon, took hold of the hilt, and slashed at Spike. April pulled him out of the way but suffered a cut across the left shoulder in the process. Steel grated on metal and April’s shoulder joint jammed in a horizontal position.
Buffy ducked under a second swing of the sword, kicked Glory in the stomach, and managed to knock her back a couple of steps. A demon minion came up behind her and Buffy rammed an elbow into its chest. The demon staggered back and she finished it off with a kick to the jaw. “Get out of here!” Buffy ordered her companions. “Will, Tara, go for it.” She joined April in supporting Spike and they began to drag him toward the door.
“Hey, you bring my vampire back!” Glory growled. She advanced once more and then saw the two witches raising their hands. Glory reversed her course and back-pedaled across the room at lightning speed even as Willow and Tara threw handfuls of powder over the space that she had just occupied. The glittering dust settled instead upon the semi-conscious demon minion who had been used as a missile by April.
” Willow called, clapping her hands. Glory had successfully evaded the spell’s components and only her minion was teleported a mile sideways and two thousand feet into the air.
“Missed me, girlies,” Glory gloated. “Hey, I still owe you from the last time. Thanks for reminding me.” The two girls didn’t waste time in exchanging banter with the hell-goddess. They simply turned and ran. Xander and Giles fired another crossbow bolt each, hitting a pair of minions who were closing on Willow and Tara, and then joined the girls in flight. Anya fired from the doorway, wounding one of the robed demons in the arm, and then fled.
Glory took a moment to glance around at her remaining minions. There weren’t many left standing. Two had perished during the capture of the robot and the vampire, Jinx and his two fellows had failed to return from their trip to dispose of the robot and were probably dead, and now the Slayer and her little friends had killed Dreg, seriously injured Murk, and incapacitated or killed five of the subordinate minions. Only Gronx and two lesser minions were uninjured. Too few to be able to achieve anything against the Slayer.
Glory crossed the room to where Murk lay clutching his knee and groaning. She passed her hand over him and restored him to health.
“Thank you, most splendiferous and merciful Glorificus,” Murk said, and scrambled to his feet.
“Yeah, whatever,” Glory said. She clutched at her head and grimaced. “Round up the boys and get after them. Grab me a prisoner for brain-sucking. I’m going to kill me a vampire and smash that robot into itsy-bitsy pieces.” She healed another injured minion and considered raising Dreg. No, that would take too much energy. He’d just have to stay dead for now. She hefted the sword and set off in pursuit of the fleeing Slayer and party.- - - - -
The elevator reached the bottom, the doors opened, and they spilled out into the lobby. Xander rubbed his chest where April’s arm had been sticking into him in the crowded compartment. “Okay, we got Spike, but if we take him outside he catches fire,” he pointed out, “which kinda makes the whole rescue thing a waste of time.”
“My car is only a hundred yards away,” Giles said. “If we can get him that far…”
Buffy gritted her teeth. “I didn’t think to pick up his blanket from the crypt. Oops.”
“Curtains!” Willow exclaimed, pointing across the lobby to where red curtains hung at the windows. “We can use a curtain.”
“Good thinking, Will,” Buffy praised, and took a few steps in that direction.
“You came for me,” Spike croaked out. “Didn’t think you would.”
“Don’t expect us to make a habit of it, bleach boy,” Xander said. He took Buffy’s place supporting Spike and helping him walk. His jaw dropped as he saw Glory coming down the stairs with several of her minions following at her heels.
“You’re not going to…” Glory began, and then she staggered and clutched at her head. “No! Not now, you stupid…”
Suddenly Glory wasn’t there any longer. In her place was a young man with dark brown hair and a center parting. He was wearing a turquoise mini-dress and high-heeled shoes. He tottered, lost his balance, and fell down the last few stairs to land in a heap on the lobby floor. A sword fell from his hand and clattered across the floor.
“Ben?” Buffy exclaimed. “What are you doing here? Are you okay? And hey, what’s with the dress?” She ran forward to help Ben to his feet and to protect him from the robed demon figures on the stairs. She snatched up the sword, recognized it as her own, and brandished it menacingly at the minions of Glory. They turned around and fled back up the stairs.
“Bloody hell! The bitch turned into a bloke!” Spike drew himself up to his full height, wincing as he did so, and stared at the man.
“Where did Glory go?” Xander wondered. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“Isn’t that young man one of the medical staff from the hospital?” said Giles. “I must say that I am rather surprised at his, ah, cross-dressing proclivities.”
“Thanks,” Ben gasped out, as Buffy sheathed her sword and then helped him up. “I’m okay, I think.” He glanced around the lobby. “I was, uh, that mad woman was keeping me prisoner. She took my clothes. These were all I could find when I made my escape.”
“He’s lying to us,” April declared. “The bitch Glory changed into that man.”
“She changed his clothing, yes,” Giles said.
Spike stared at him. “Are you sodding well blind again? Glory bloody transformed into him. They’re the same person.”
“You can’t seriously be suggesting that there is any connection between them other than his being another one of her victims,” said Giles.
“Can’t get any more bloody connected than being the same person,” Spike growled.
“We should all get out of here quickly, before Glory comes back,” Willow urged. “I’ll get a curtain for Spike.”
“I see why you wore the dress,” Buffy said, “but hey, the shoes were totally a bad choice. You wouldn’t have fallen if you’d gone barefoot.”
“He was wearing the sodding shoes when he was Glory, you blonde nit!” Spike shouted. “Ben is Glory. Glory is Ben.”
“Calm down, Spike,” Xander said. “You’re raving.”
Spike slumped against Xander’s and April’s supporting arms. “Oh, I get it. It’s a sodding forgetting spell, innit? Anyone who sees the change can’t bloody remember it. S’ppose it doesn’t work on vampires, and I’m immune, but with this sodding chip in my head I can’t do anything about it. Bugger.”
April released her hold on Spike and strode across the lobby floor. “Glory is Ben,” she said to Buffy. “You are helping the horrible creature who hurt Spike.”
“Yeah, we have to get both of them away from here before Glory comes back,” Buffy said. “Hey, a curtain might be less conspicuous than that dress.”
“I am required to use minimum necessary force against humans,” April said, “but humans cannot change their shape. He is not human. He is the bitch god Glory.”
“What are you talking about?” Buffy frowned at April. “This is Ben. He’s an intern at the hospital. I met him when Mom was ill.”
April drew back her uninjured right arm, straightened her fingers, and delivered a chop to the side of Ben’s neck with every ounce of the power that her motors could provide. Ben dropped as if he had been shot.
“You hurt a human!” Buffy lashed a back-fist blow into April’s face and sent her flying across the lobby. April crashed into the wall and slid down it to the floor. “Ben! Are you all right?” Buffy bent down to examine Ben and saw that his neck was bent at an unnatural angle. “Willow! Tara! Help him!”
“What did you hit April for, you dozy cow?” Spike growled. He freed himself from Xander and lurched awkwardly toward the robot. She was slumped against the wall and completely motionless.
Giles and Tara rushed to where Ben lay. Willow had been in the middle of taking down a curtain and became entangled in it as she turned to follow suit. Giles reached the young man and dropped to his knees beside Ben. He touched his fingers to the pulse point at the side of Ben’s neck, waited for a few seconds, and shook his head. “I’m afraid he’s dead,” Giles reported. “His neck is broken. He must have…” He faltered. “Wait a minute! He… Glory changed into this man. I – why didn’t I realize?” His mouth dropped open. “Good Lord! He is Glory.”
Buffy’s mouth hung open to match Giles’. “Ben… Glory turned into Ben,” she said slowly. “I don’t get it. Ben – Glory was Ben?”
“It would seem so,” Giles said. “Somehow we just ignored the transformation. A spell? Spike said something…”
“Was a bloody forgetting spell,” Spike repeated, from where he was crouched beside April’s still form. “I bloody saw her change, and so did April, but you buggers forgot about it right off. The git dying must have broken the spell.”
“So that’s why…” Buffy said, looking at April. “Oh. I thought she was attacking a human. I’m sorry.”
“Does this mean that Glory is dead too?” Anya put in.
“I believe so, yes,” Giles said. “The hell-gods who exiled her from her dimension must have trapped her within a human body. When that body died…”
“…then so did Glory,” Buffy finished for him. “Glory’s dead. Glory’s dead. We’re saved.”
“Yeah, and you clocked the lady who saved us a hard one in the kisser,” Spike grumbled. He lifted April’s head and stared into her eyes. “You all right, luv?” She was completely unresponsive and Spike turned to glare at Buffy. “Bloody hell, you’ve done her more bloody damage than Glory did.”
“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I just saw her attacking a human and I reacted.”
“We should get out of here before somebody calls the cops,” Xander suggested. “Somebody probably saw us coming in here. We could be in big trouble. This guy is human and nobody’s gonna believe any story about him also being a goddess from hell.”
“I am sure that the Sunnydale police force will take everything at face value and decide that he simply fell down the stairs, presumably because of the high heels,” Giles said. “That is exactly what occurred, after all, and the broken neck could easily have happened in the fall. I agree, however, that we should depart without delay.”- - - - -
“That should do it,” Willow said. “I’ll start her up and we’ll find out if everything’s fixed.”
“Bloody hope so,” Spike grumbled.
Buffy pouted. “Hey, I said I was sorry.”
“S’ppose it’s not your fault,” Spike conceded. He leaned back in his chair and held an ice pack against his cheek where one of Glory’s blows had split his flesh open to the bone.
“I do hope she is all right,” Joyce said. “She’s such a help around the house, and so sweet-natured too.”
“Yeah, well, I hope she’s still sweet-natured to me after I sucker-punched her,” Buffy said.
April’s eyes moved. Her eyelids closed and then opened again. Her right arm twitched. “The system has recovered from an unexpected shutdown,” she said. Her head turned. “Power level at twenty-eight per cent. Why did you hit me?”
“I’m sorry, April,” Buffy said. “I made a mistake, okay? I won’t do it again.”
“In that case there is no need for me to use the minimum necessary force to prevent a recurrence,” April said. She moved her left arm. “The functionality of my damaged limb has been restored,” she said. “That is a good thing.”
“You can thank Xander for that,” Willow said. “He put it back in shape.”
“Thank you, Xander,” April said.
“It wasn’t hard,” Xander said, “for I am Fix-it Man.”
“I repaired where you had a broken connector,” Willow added, pouting slightly, “and reseated one of your processors.”
“Thank you,” April said. “I do not know your name.”
“Thank you, Willow,” April said, with exactly the same inflections as when she had thanked Xander.
“Hey, no big,” said Willow. “Buffy broke you, so she should have fixed you, but Buffy and fixing things? Not mixy.”
“I’m more the breaky kind of person,” Buffy admitted.
“Yeah, right,” said Spike, “but if you start singing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ I’m biting you, chip or no chip.”
Buffy rolled her eyes but made no comment.
“We beat the bad guys,” Xander said, “and hey, we’re all back in one piece now. I say we party.”- - - - -
Buffy caught up with Spike at the bar. April was involved in a conversation with Anya, and Buffy really didn’t want to hear what they were talking about; some of the hand gestures looked distinctly obscene and she thought she’d heard the dreaded word ‘orgasms’. “Hey,” Buffy said. “Spike.”
“Well, you got my name right,” Spike said. “You after a beer, Slayer? Or one of those girly drinks?”
“I’ll stick to coke,” Buffy said. “Uh, Spike, April says you told her you’d rather die than let Glory find out who the Key was.”
“Well, yeah,” Spike said. “Couldn’t let anything happen to the little Bit, could I?” He took a swig from his beer bottle.
“Thanks,” Buffy told him. “It means a lot. I won’t forget it.”
Spike lowered the bottle. “And I won’t forget you lot coming to get me out of there, either,” he said. “You forgiven me for the chains thing?”
“Pretty much,” Buffy said. “Holding out under torture for Dawn’s sake has earned you a clean slate, I guess, but there had so better not be anything like that happen again.”
“Don’t worry, Slayer,” Spike said, “I’m not a complete idiot. Know when I’m not wanted. Won’t be any repetition.” He jerked his head in the direction of the table where April sat with Anya and an embarrassed-looking Xander. “I’ll stick with robot girl.”
“Anya’s new best friend,” Buffy remarked.
“Bloody hell, that means I’ll have to be friends with the whelp,” Spike groaned. “Oh, well, s’ppose it’s worth it.”
“Really?” Buffy raised her eyebrows. “No, don’t explain, I so don’t want to know.”
“’S not what you’re thinking, Slayer,” Spike told her. “Well, yeah, that side of things is bloody good, but I was thinking more of something more important than sex.”
“More important than sex?” Buffy’s eyebrows rose higher. “She doesn’t have blood, so, not that.”
“She wants to share my interests,” Spike explained, “which means I can teach her about football. Real
football, not the rugby in sodding armor that you Yanks call football even though you play it with your hands. Never could understand that. Anyway, should be able to get her to appreciate Man U. Even Dru never really got football.”
“And I’ll never get the English,” said Buffy. “You’re dating the robot so you can teach her about soccer?”
Spike rocked the beer bottle back and forth on the bar. “That’s one reason.” He focused the gaze of his intense blue eyes on Buffy. “Still in love with you, Slayer. Not going to pretend otherwise. You’re still in my gut, in my blood. April’s just a substitute. But as substitutes go she’s not half bad.”
“Apart from her being a robot,” said Buffy.
“So?” Spike shrugged. “I’m dead. Can’t really object to her not getting born the usual way.”
Buffy turned and looked at April. “She’s definitely getting on well with Anya. I don’t know how Warren did it but she seems to have a mind of her own.”
“She does that,” Spike agreed. “Maybe it’s something to do with the Hellmouth. Either that Warren bloke is a bloody genius or else a bit of magic has crept in there somehow.”
“Or both,” said Buffy. “Hey, I think she wants you.”
Spike ran his tongue over his teeth. “Well, yeah, ‘course she does,” he said. “See you around, Slayer.” He left the bar to join April and was promptly dragged off onto the dance floor.
Buffy screwed up one eye and gazed at the ceiling with the other. “Hmm. Maybe Warren could make a boyfriend robot for me – nope. With my luck I’d probably end up with Ted Mark 2.”- - - - -
Spike lit the candles and then watched appreciatively as April took off her dress. “We’ll have to go a bit careful, love, and give any hugs a miss,” he warned her. “Couple of my ribs are still cracked, there’s a hole in my tummy, and the hell-bitch ran a hot iron over my chest a few times. It’ll hurt like buggery if we go at it the usual way.”
“I would not want you to experience negative feedback during sex,” April agreed. “If we use positions_04.gfd, 06.gfd, or 11.gfd to 17.gfd inclusive you could keep the injured areas clear of my body.” Her eyelashes fluttered. “I am not supposed to allow positions_04a.gfd until after we have dated for two weeks but you are an injured hero and so it might be permissible.”
Spike swallowed. “We’ll see how it goes, pet.” He unbuttoned his shirt and cast it aside.
“The celebration of the defeat of the hell-god Glory was enjoyable,” April continued, as she unfastened her bra. “I conversed with Anya. She told me about how I can earn money and then exchange it for goods and services. I would be able to purchase new clothes. The garment that Glory first wore was interesting. I shall obtain a similar one. Of course I will look better in it than she did.”
“Not bloody wrong there,” Spike agreed, sitting down and unfastening his boots. “Right smart bit of talent you are, love.”
“I will also purchase or make gifts for you,” April went on. “I could knit you a sweater but you do not wear sweaters.” She slipped her panties down over her hips. “I shall therefore obtain the materials to make a present appropriate to your interests.” She kicked off her shoes, climbed onto the bed, and got down on all fours.
“Oh?” Spike divested himself of his jeans and stood erect. “Like what, pet?”
“You show little interest in monorails,” April said, bending her arms so that her face touched the pillow and her ass stuck up high, “and so I shall make you a Manchester United that runs on magnets.”