It’s chanting again,” Dawn called out as she looked inside the backpack.
“Gag it with something,” Xander suggested as he bandaged the cut on his arm, while Ted drew a pentagram with mathematical precision using a Styrofoam cup of Xander’s blood and followed it with a thin line of salt from those little fast-food packets that always collected in everyone’s glove boxes.
Dawn searched her pockets and Lust’s purse and came up empty of anything chewable to distract the book with. Recalling Xander’s suggestion of gagging it, rather than feeding it like she’d planned, she pulled out the pair of panties she’d wore the day before and stuffed them in its mouth.
The chanting immediately stopped and the glow faded from its eyes as it started making happy little sounds as it chewed on her panties.
“Yeah, that’s not disturbing at all,” Dawn muttered as she zipped the backpack closed and walked over to set it in the middle of the pentagram, careful not to smear the lines.
“Will that work?” Joyce asked.
“Well, as the item in is related to death in some way, Dawn’s used undergarments being, if you’ll excuse the expression, soaked in the essence of that which helps create new life, should render it quiescent for quite a bit longer than the beef jerky did,” Giles replied.
“Actually I was referring to Xander’s ritual,” Joyce said.
“I have no idea, but I shouldn’t think so. The power of the pentagram relies quite a bit on the power of the beings invoked. As is I can’t say it does anything but look really creepy.
Sloth stepped into the bar and watched with interest as Xander had Ted prepare a pentagram to contain the book.
The bar roared with laughter as Dawn gagged the book.
He waved down a waitress, ordered a beer and tipped her an extra twenty to tell him what he’d missed.
A pair of footprints terminated at a chain-link fence.
The fence barely quivered as one of the links was quietly pulled apart.
“Now the road flares,” Xander said as the three stood around the pentagram, which Ted had completed by covering each line in ground up magnesium from a road flare.
“Vulcan, give me strength,” Ted intoned, lighting his road flare.
“Artemis, protect your daughter,” Dawn added, lighting her road flare.
“Aphrodite, my earlier actions were wrong and your punishment just. Please help us live long enough to experience the fruits of your labor once more,” Xander said, lighting his road flare.
“Accept this offering of blood and salt,” the three chorused, touching their flares to three equidistant points on the pentagram and setting it alight.
“And please don’t let us fuck this up,” Xander finished.
“Amen,” Dawn and Ted chorused, as the blazing pentagram threw a bright crimson glare on the proceedings.
Giles groaned as if in pain.
“So it won’t work,” Joyce asked, worry coloring her tone.
“Well, all the elements are at least there, but the way they were combined is pure insanity and even if the deities invoked weren’t insulted by the lack of formal prayer or the use of modern English rather than the native tongue of their worshippers, the spell will only last as long as the fire remains burning and while candles last for hours, magnesium powder burns out in half a minute at best.”
The two watched as the three busied themselves turning the cars around for a quick exit and generally getting ready for battle.
After a couple of minutes, Joyce turned towards Rupert.
“Yes, I noticed,” he said not waiting for her to say anything.
Ted cracked the door a little and looked out. “A handful of zombies are coming this way, but the few I can see at greater ranges are just standing there.”
“Excellent, someone up their likes us,” Xander said. “More than they like zombies anyway, which is good enough for me.”
“Do you really think so?” Ted asked hopefully.
“Are you having a spiritual crisis?” Xander asked in surprise.
“As an organic I held no doubts that there were powers above that cared for us,” Ted explained. “But becoming… being created as an android has shaken my faith a bit. Just because I have the original Ted’s memories doesn’t mean I have his soul. Do I have a soul or is this all there is for me? Is there an afterlife for me? Is there a silicone heaven?”
“You are fighting the good fight with the only profit to yourself being the knowledge that you’ve helped others,” Xander said. “If that doesn’t earn you a ticket upstairs I don’t know what does.”
“But it’s not like it’s a big risk for me,” Ted argued. ”Reanimated bodies lack the strength to do more than superficial damage to me. Helping people and keeping bargains is part of my programming.”
“But would you put yourself in danger to help others?” Dawn asked.
“I… I’m programmed to avoid those situations,” Ted admitted. “I know for a fact there are situations where Ted would risk his life that I’m programmed not to. He wanted me to continue on forever.”
“And you can’t break your programming?” Xander asked.
“Much like chivalry, it’s hardwired in,” Ted said with a sigh.
“Ah, but I can break my programming, I just choose not to,” Xander replied.
“I wish I could say the same, but I can’t disobey my programming.”
“Disobedience is the mark of a soul,” Dawn said suddenly.
At the questioning looks, Dawn explained, “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. They disobeyed God and then hid, because they became aware that they were naked. I’m not thinking it was referring to clothes, otherwise we’d probably have militant nudist sects arguing that if Adam and Eve were nudists we’d still be in the Garden of Eden. No, by disobeying God and choosing to be able to choose for themselves, between good and evil, they gained souls which they knew God couldn’t help but notice. God couldn’t just give them souls, they had to create their own, that’s why he put them in the Garden and created the Tree telling them not to touch it.”
Xander swept Dawn up in his arms gave her tonsils a thorough cleaning.
“What was that for, so I can do it again,” Dawn purred.
“I find intelligent woman sexy,” Xander said, “and I’ve wanted to do that all day.”
“Her electrolyte balance was completely off and she’s a bit anemic. Not a big problem,” the doctor explained, waving Oz into Willow’s hospital room.
“The IV contains a slight sedative as we don’t want her to get herself worked up and pass out again before we get things back in balance.”
“Can I sit with her?”
“Of course. Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to see how… I mean I need to look in on my other patients.”
As the doctor left, Oz noted they’d given Willow the same room they’d given Buffy when she’d gotten sick. He could tell because Xander had snuck in a stencil and Oz some paint and they’d worked a whole lot of little crosses into the borders of the wallpaper, trying to make them blend in. Oz gave Willow a kiss on the forehead and grabbed the remote for the room’s TV. He might as well see what Xander and Dawn were up to he figured.
In a flea bag hotel in Oxnard…
“That is a very perceptive young woman,” Linda said looking up from the book she was reading.
“She makes a lot more sense than the Sunday school teacher I had, that’s for sure,” Faith agreed.
“I’ve gone through all my reference books and I’ve found three items that fit the situation they find themselves in, unfortunately not one of the three is a book.”
“So the book ain’t doing it?
“No it’s definitely the center of the phenomenon, we just don’t have any references for it.”
Faith shrugged. “It looks exactly like the book from Evil Dead and I still say burning it would solve their problem.”
“The destruction of the item may simply release the spirit inside it, which would make things even more problematic. Of the three items I was researching for instance, the amulet and the statue both serve to limit the effect. Burning the third item, the mask, would work just fine, but unless you know for sure, it’s best not to put everything to the torch.”
“Well, that’s why you’re the watcher and I’m the slayer. Can we hit the titty-bar yet?” Faith asked.
“I told you, not until they show up,” Linda said firmly. “Are you sure your slayer dream said to go there?”
“It’s either that or I’m turning lesbo and as far as I know I’s still driving stick, so the plethora of boobs points to the titty-bar.”
“And you’re sure it points to this one?”
“Call it a gut feeling. I see titties and beer in our future and hopefully zombies. Besides I really want to meet Xander. I got a feeling my future hinges on us meeting.”