Willow shook her head as she woke up. Ow. Headache. Don’t shake again. She stood, slowly, and tried to get her bearings. She was in downtown Sunnydale (As much as anything in Sunnydale could
be considered downtown.), Angel was unconscious, Buffy was standing to her general right, and they were in front of the smoking ruins of several buildings.
Willow looked again. Yep. Two or three buildings had been devastated. The two on either side of the ruins had suffered major damage as well, although it looked more or less fixable.
“What happened here?” She wondered aloud.
Buffy’s head whipped around, as though she had only just become aware of Willow’s presence. “Willow?” She was at the redhead’s side in an instant, wrapping her up in a bear hug. “You’re alright! I was so worried that you’d gotten blown up, or something!”
Xander’s voice could be heard, although Willow had trouble spotting him. “Calm down, Buff. If you survived, and Willow was farther away than you were, chances are she’s just fine.”
Willow nodded absently. “What he said. Not that I’m not happy to be alive, or anything… Say, what happened to the stores, there? It looks like they met the business end of the Power Suit’s rocket launcher.” Willow shook her head again. Where had that
Buffy let go of her friend, and turned to face the smoldering buildings. “I’m pretty sure I did that. With… Um… One of these.” She pulled something off her belt. “Whatever this thing is-” Plasma grenade.
Her mind supplied. “Er… A plasma grenade, it blew shit up but good.”
Willow looked scandalized. “Buffy! Language! You should damn well know better than to swear! Only sailors and assholes are allowed to swear!”
Xander snorted. “Well, which are you then, Wills? You just said a couple decent ones, there. And since I know you get seasick easily…”
Willow looked around for Xander so she could smack him, until she realized he was right. “Oh… Um, oops? Say, where are you? You’ve never been this good at hiding before.”
“Well… I’m not hiding.” He sounded a bit scared now. “I’m… To be honest, I’m not sure where I am. I’m seeing streams of digital information, all in binary code, and I can actually read it, for some reason. I can see everything Buffy’s seeing, via her Heads Up Display. But, I think the strangest thing of all, is that I know what binary code is, and I used ‘via’ in a sentence.”
Willow nodded in agreement, before she realized she had an HUD of her own. “Say, can you see what I’m seeing? I’ve got a display on my visor.” She did a double take. “Hey! How can my visor have a display! It’s supposed to be plastic!”
Buffy shook her head. “I have no idea. I’m not sure how late it is-”
“1:23 AM, Pacific Standard Time.” Xander informed them.
“… Right. I think we need to go to Giles. As in, right now. We’ll try the library first, then go to his apartment. My house is on the way, so we’ll pick Cordelia up as well.” She paused, and looked over at Angel. “One of us is going to have to carry him.”
Xander broke in. “Well, I’d do it, mostly because it’d embarrass him, but I’m a bit out of reach. I know, somehow, that Buffy’s suit and cybernetic enhancements give her enough strength to carry about 50 of Angel, what with her Slayer strength and all. At the same time, the scanners in Buffy’s suit tell me that Willow’s suit gives her Slayer level strength.” He shuddered. “I’m becoming smart. This is beyond freaky.”
“You were always smart, Xander!” Willow protested.
“Not like this, I wasn’t. We’re talking major level smarts here, Wills. I can access any computer on Earth, as long as it’s connected to the internet. Anything I actively access is recorded in my memory, and I can tell you right now, it’s in no danger of being filled up any time soon.”
Buffy cut them off. “Enough! There’s time for this once we find Giles. I want to figure this out, and fast.” She bent down, and began carrying Angel fireman-style. “Let’s get going. Sooner we start, the sooner we’re there.”
As it happened, Giles was still in the library. He and Jenny had fortified the doors, and were still trying to discover what had happened. The fortifications, however, weren’t much compared to Buffy’s right hook. The doors blew open with a BANG, and she walked into the room, depositing Angel on the table.
Giles was, needless to say, a bit surprised. “I say! What’s the meaning of this?!”
Buffy reached up, and removed her helmet. “Hey there, Watcher mine.”
“Oh, dear lord.” The sound of glasses being polished was soon heard.
“You don’t know the half of it.” Willow informed him as she came into the room, Cordy trailing behind her. “Whatever happened last night, it was big. I know I’m not exactly knowledgeable when it comes to magic, but…”
Giles nodded quickly. “No, I believe you’re right. Tell me everything, starting from wherever you believe is the beginning.”
The girls filled him in on everything, starting from when they bought the costumes, and ending when they woke up. When they’d finished, Giles looked ready to kill someone.
“Bloody Ethan Rayne!” He snarled. “Just didn’t know when to quit! Always pushing the damned limits!”
Cordy decided to defuse the situation. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, he’s dead.” It might have been wiser for her to stay quiet.
Giles sat down, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Cordelia. Silence. Even if Ethan was an arse, he was a human being. I wouldn’t wish death on any living being. Besides that, now I have no way of knowing how he did this! Which leaves very
little chance of reversing it.”
Willow paled behind her faceplate. “You mean… I’m stuck like this?! How am I supposed to live like this?! Besides the fact that I can’t bath, or go to the bathroom in this thing, I can’t exactly walk around in public like this!”
“Calm down, Wills.” Xander interjected. “I’ve played enough Metroid to know that the suit comes off. It’s part of the special ending in every game. Samus removes the suit if you beat the game fast enough, or with a high enough score.” He cursed softly. “If I could just get to you…” And very suddenly, he appeared.
This earned a shriek from the heretofore silent Miss Calendar, and looks of surprise from everyone else, Xander included. “Uh… Yeah. Okay. I can work with that.”
He turned to Willow, and touched her armor experimentally. He didn’t vanish. “Cool. Now, let’s see what I can do.” He reached around her helmet, finding a catch-release. It came off with a slight hiss. “That’s a start. I don’t suppose you’ve got your own AI to deal with this stuff, do ya?”
Willow shook her head. “Not as far as I can tell. Although…” She grabbed the helmet, and put it back on. She pressed a few buttons on her arm cannon. At first, nothing happened. Then, a glow emanated from the power suit. In seconds, Willow was standing in a blue skin-tight number, with only the cannon remaining from her armor. It came off easily.
No one noticed Buffy drooling at the sight of Willow in her current state. ’Whoa… She’s
gorgeous! I just wanna take her, and throw her on the table…’
She shook herself. ’Stop that! What’s wrong with you? This is Willow we’re talking about! Besides the fact that she’s a
girl, she’s your best friend! Just don’t go there!’
Buffy realized that Giles was looking at her, and had apparently been asking her something. “What?”
“I said, can you do something similar with your armor?”
She shook her head. “No, although I know how to remove it. It needs servicing once in a while, and this ‘John’ knew how to do it.” She removed the bulk of the armor, standing in a leotard similar to Willow’s. Although, Buffy’s was admittedly bulkier, with secondary pieces of armor. Not to mention black.
Giles nodded. “Right. Well, at least you can go about your daily lives until we can figure out how to fix this.”
Xander frowned. “I don’t know about that, G-Man. I mean, I know I didn’t react the same way to Willow’s armor as I did to Buffy’s, but that’s not a guarantee that other cybernetics won’t absorb me, or whatever the hell happened.” He walked over to one of the computers. “I mean, what if I just put my hand on the monitor here-” Xander was cut off as he put action to his words, blinking out of existence.
From the speakers attached to the monitor, Xander’s voice came out crisp and clear. “Son of a bitch.
Once Xander managed to get himself back into a corporeal body, the group began making plans. Since Willow’s parents were out of the state (if not the country) 364 days a year, on average, it was decided to store the new armor there until something permanent could be found.
Since it was still night out, Buffy and Willow both donned their armor, and headed for the redhead’s home. Xander, in an effort to become better acquainted with Buffy’s armor, reinserted himself into the AI computer.
“Seriously, I can do whatever I want in here!” He exclaimed as they walked down the street. “I’ve got access to the Internet, the stock market, which by the way is incredibly
easy to predict. With a little capital, I could be a millionaire over-night.”
Buffy rolled her eyes beneath her helmet. “And what good would that do us, exactly? Xander with money. You’d probably buy out whoever makes Twinkies just so you’d never run out.”
“Interstate Bakeries Corporation, and no I would not!” He huffed indignantly. “In case you’ve forgotten, you and Willow have suits of armor that no one knows how to service. I think having a little R&D in that respect would be helpful. After a while, the fine mechanics will start to break down.”
“He’s got a point.” Willow broke in. “I know enough about the Power Suit to service it a little, and the bio-technologies in it will keep almost everything else running, but you’re not so lucky. You’ll need a way to replace broken parts, and stuff.”
Buffy conceded the point with a nod. “Okay, fine. And just what ‘capital’ do you suggest we use? I’m flat broke, and I don’t think I can convince mom to part with enough.”
“Actually, I wouldn’t need much more than twenty bucks. It’ll be a little slow going, and I’ll probably miss a little school, but I can do it.”
Willow scowled… well, not exactly at him. More in the general direction of Buffy’s neck, where the AI port was. “You’re not missing school, Xander! Not now that you can actually do well in it.”
The smug smile he was wearing came through in his tone. “Ah, but that’s exactly it! I can
do well in school. Well enough that missing the next day or two won’t kill me. In fact, I can study all I want while I’m building our income. My ability to multi-task is through the roof, ya know.”
With a sigh, Willow let it drop. Dammit. He was smart enough to argue with her now. They got to her home quickly, and both girls set about getting out of their armor. “Say, Xander. Shouldn’t you get out of the armor now? I mean, can you exist if she’s not wearing it?” He didn’t answer. “Xander?”
“Sorry, Wills. I was on the net.” His voice came from her laptop. “Turns out, I can travel pretty easily. With the internet, I can exist totally independent from the armor, or any other computer. Of course, if I want to do this…” He appeared next to Willow’s desk. “I need an active modem.”
Both leotard-clad girls smiled at him. “Pretty cool, Xand. Now, leave.” Buffy nodded toward the door. “We have to get changed.”
Xander smirked at them. “You do realize that the MJOLNIR armor has internal and external sensors, right? You two don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.”
This remark got the customary smack on the arm from Buffy, but Willow’s reaction was unexpected. She grabbed him by the arm, twisted him around into a choke-hold, and… escorted
him from the room. Once the door was closed, Willow turned around to see Buffy wearing a shocked/impressed look on her face. “What?”
“You… You… You just tossed Xander out!”
Willow nodded. “Yeah.” Her eyes widened. “Yeah! I did! I mean, go me! I did it!” Her face fell. “Oh, I hope he’s okay! I didn’t mean to hurt him becausehe’smyfriendandIonlywantedtomakeapoint-”
Willow took a deep breath.
“I’m sure he’s okay.” Buffy assured her. “He’s tough, and… I think he’s made of digital code now. Can you hurt digital code?”
Willow could only shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe if you gave him a virus, or something. Of course, that’s assuming an AI doesn’t have some kind of immune system. Oh! It’d be kinda like an adaptive anti-virus program! I bet he has one! That’d be so cool! And if we could figure out how to reproduce it…”
Buffy just smiled as Willow went into full babble mode. ’She’s so cute like that… GAH! What did I say, brain?! Stop doing that! Think about… Cordelia! Yeah, she’s not cute at all! She’s just gorgeous with those incredible knockers, and a magnificent ass… AH! NO! I am NOT thinking that way about Cordelia! Why am I thinking about this at all?!’
“Say, aren’t you going to get out of that leotard?”
Buffy nearly jumped out of her skin. “What?!”
“The leotard.” Willow repeated. “It’s got to be uncomfortable. I’ve got some clothes here that should fit you, so…”
Buffy’s heart rate began to resemble something normal. “Oh. Right.” She pulled at a few zippers on the arms, legs, and body of the outfit, and pulled it off. What she saw next, shocked her. There were computer ports all over her body, placed where certain pieces of her armor could get to them. “Oh… Oh, my…”
Willow looked up from her closet. “What is it, Buffy?” She caught sight of the new additions. “Whoa.”
“Whoa?” Buffy repeated. “Whoa?! What the hell are these things?! I’ve got freakin’ computer parts hanging off of me!” Tears began to well up in her eyes. “What do I do with them?! I can’t go out in public like this! They’re all over! I can’t hide them!” She collapsed on the spot, sobbing openly.
Willow gathered her friend up in her arms. “Shhhh. It’s gonna be okay, Buffy. I promise.” She began stroking the blonde’s hair. “We’ll figure something out, okay? Don’t worry about it.” Even while she comforted the Slayer, a part of her mind marveled at what was going on. ’When did I become the emotionally secure one? Shouldn’t it be
me breaking down right about now?’
She looked at the ports. Buffy was right. They were too numerous to hide easily. She’d have to wear long sleeve shirts for the rest of her life, and shorts were a thing of the past. Sighing, she pulled Buffy to her feet. “Come on, Buff. You’ve gotta get dressed. Xander will be knocking on the door any minute. You don’t want him to see you naked, do you?”
That shocked Buffy back to reality. “Uh… Right. Dressed. I can do that.” She grabbed a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt, slipping them on. They weren’t a perfect fit, but they were close. She sat down on Willow’s bed. “Sorry about that… I didn’t mean to get all weepy.”
Willow sat down next to her, and pulled her into a sideways hug. “It’s okay, Buff. I understand. You don’t have to be strong after all this.”
“No, that’s just it! The little port things I could handle, but I’m also-” She cut herself off. No way was she bringing up her sudden bi-curious thoughts, or whatever they were.
“Also what, Buffy?” Willow asked, concerned.
“Uh… Don’t worry about it.” She was about to get up and go home, when she suddenly felt very tired. “Listen, do you think I could grab your couch tonight? I don’t think I’m up to walking home.”
Willow smiled at her. “Aw, don’t worry about it, Buff! You can sleep in here, I won’t mind.”
Buffy gulped. “Oh, you don’t have to…”
“Besides, it’ll be nice to have someone else in the house.”
The look on Willow’s face was heartbreaking. Buffy nearly let out a whimper. ’Crap. I’m dead. I’m so dead.’
AN: I looked all over, and I couldn't find any information on what Master Chief's body looks like without the armor, so I had to wing it.