John Hampton, the station manager for KSAQ 37, hung up the phone and sighed.
“Well, what did they say?” the program director, Ronald Brody, asked.
“Its not being broadcast by the FCC, they said it’s probably a bunch of film students playing a prank and accidentally hit one of their backup frequencies.”
“That’s good and bad,” Ronald said thoughtfully, as he watched a studio full of professionals laugh like children as they watched a zombie step on a rake and knock itself down for the third time in a row.
“How do you figure?” John asked.
“We'll need to put in a delay, so we can bleep or cut sections on the fly, and it’s been a while since anyone has done that with a live broadcast here.”
“You're suggesting we continue broadcasting it?” John asked incredulously.
Ronald smirked. “Suggest hell, I'm demanding it – we've had three sponsors threaten to pull their business until I explained that we really had nothing to do with it but almost all the rest have been clamoring to get their products connected to the program. You wouldn't believe the offers I've received.”
“But we don't have any legal rights to the broadcast.”
“Doesn't matter, it’s coming in on our equipment and possession is nine tenths of the law. We can drop a couple of mil on the kids and have them sign contracts later.”
“A couple of mil?” John's eyes bugged out in disbelief.
“I told you, the offers are unbelievable! We do this and we'll be swimming in it,” Ronald promised.
John began to smile. “And as the only channel carrying it we'll be the most watched channel EVER!”
“Hell no! Are you nuts?! If we cut the feed the big three would kill us, and I'm not talking figuratively. No, we insist they air one of our commercials for every fourteen of theirs and a 3% share of their advertising revenues for the broadcast. Cutting the networks out is suicide, but we can lean on them a little.” Ronald grinned.
* * *
Stanley's Mart hadn't been doing so well, much like Stanley himself; his ex-wife had destroyed half his sign and he hadn't had the time or money to get it fixed. He'd opened the store thinking that the only thing Sunnydale lacked was a good all purpose store, open 24 hours a day and as the only one in town he could really clean up.
Needless to say he'd been wrong and the decision to open the store in Sunnydale had cost him five night shift workers, a large sum of money, and his marriage.
It also cost a fair bit of his sanity.
Xander pointed to the damaged sign on the top of the roof. “Shop S'mart, sounds like an omen to me.”
Dawn giggled. “Well let’s hope they have boomsticks in housewares.”
As they entered the store, they both instantly knew something was wrong.
“Is maniacal laughter over the PA system a bad sign?” Dawn asked.
“Yes, maniacal laughter is always a bad sign,” Xander assured her.
“Just checking, so where do you think the shotguns are?”
The laughter cut off like someone had flipped a switch. “Shotguns are on aisle 12 in the Sporting Goods section,” the PA announced before the laughter started back up.
“Ok, I'm a little freaked out,” Xander admitted. “But not enough to shop elsewhere.”
The two cautiously crept down the aisle but didn't see anyone and made it to Sporting Goods without a problem.
“I don't know what's creepier, the laughter or the fact that he pauses to make announcements like nothing's wrong.”
“I know, I've never thought I'd hear a sale on soda sound so sinister.”
“Say that five times fast,” Dawn muttered as Xander went behind the counter to remove a couple of shotguns.
“That, that, that, that, that!” the PA system announced before the laughter resumed.
“Thanks,” Dawn said slowly.
“Don't mention it,” the voice replied.
Xander loaded the two guns and handed one to Dawn. “We just need to pay for these and get some extra ammo and we'll be good.”
The voice gave Xander instructions on how to ring up his purchases and while Dawn was waiting for him to finish a really spooked young man came around the corner with a broom and a dustpan.
Dawn aimed for the center of his chest as Xander had instructed and fired, causing him to vanish in a burst of ash and throwing her back against the counter three feet away.
Xander quickly hopped over the counter and helped her to her feet, checking to make sure she was ok, before he unloaded and returned one of the shotguns to the case. “I think we need something lighter for you.”
“Ya think?” Dawn drawled sarcastically.
“Yeah,” Xander replied absently as he looked through the cases for something with less of a kick.
Dawn put the safety on and placed the shotgun on the counter.
“Cleanup on aisle 12!” she announced.
The PA system went quiet for a moment before the voice responded, “You won’t trick me that easily!”
Dawn rolled her eyes before using the broom and dustpan the vamp had conveniently dropped to clean up his ashes.
“How'd you know it was a vampire anyway?” Xander asked as he placed a couple of pistols on the counter and searched for some holsters.
“The floors are really shiny,” Dawn pointed out. “So it was easy to tell he didn't have a reflection, and why are you so calm about it?”
“I trust you,” Xander replied. “If you shoot someone I'm going to assume they deserved it, until proven otherwise, plus I saw the lack of reflection too, but I also saw you had the situation in hand.”
“If you knew he was a vamp by the lack of reflection, how come you asked how I knew?” Dawn asked.
“Because there were two ways to notice he was a vampire, the right way and the Buffy way. I wanted to make sure you used the right way.”
“The Buffy way?” Dawn asked.
“Yeah, if it’s out of fashion it’s a vampire. I can't tell you how many times I had to stop her from staking a member of the chess club last year.”
“Just a bit. Buffy doesn't stake until she's sure it’s a vampire, but I've had to keep her from going after the Sunnydale nerds and geeks quite a few times.”
“No, what’s insane is how often her method works. Once she knew who the local geeks were she was batting close to a thousand with her method.”
“So why do you want me to go by the right way if the Buffy way works so well?”
“Because it only works that well for Buffy and the right way is safer for people like us.”
Dawn smiled, happy to have Xander classifying her in the same category as himself.
“Cool, so what did you get me?”
“I have a pair of .22 target pistols. Not a lot of stopping power even with the Long Rifle shells, but better range than a shotgun so a bit of a tradeoff.”
Dawn nodded and examined the pistols while Xander outfitted her with holsters and a machete.
Xander strapped on a back holster for his shotgun, and smiled as he recognized what look Dawn had been going for. “Ready Laura?”
“If you are, Ash.” Dawn grinned.
Xander caught sight of himself in one of the store mirrors and laughed. He had to admit between the shotgun and the gauntlet he did bear a certain resemblance to the man. “Groovy.”
The maniacal laughter continued unabated as Xander finished counting out the right amount of cash and made change.
“Doesn't he ever take a breath?” Dawn asked.
“It’s on a loop,” Xander replied.
“He continually plays maniacal laughter on a loop?” Dawn asked in disbelief as they headed for the door.
“I imagine it saves a lot of wear and tear on the vocal cords,” he replied.
“Thank you! Come again!” the PA announced as they stepped out the door.
“I'd guess so. Do we need a chainsaw?” Dawn asked, thinking of the Evil Dead movies.
Xander shook his head. “Great for flesh wounds, but to really cut through limbs or decapitate things with a chainsaw you need steady continuous pressure. Most things get tossed aside with a little surface damage unless they're rooted to the ground, so it’s not all that effective.”
He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “If you want really effective limb hewing, stick to edged weapons. Axes are best, but they take a lot of strength and room to swing and tire you out quickly. Machetes are ok, but since they're so light weight you need to hack at the same limb a couple of times to cut through it and boy doesn't this make me sound like a serial killer.”
Dawn appropriated one of his hands. “Only to someone who doesn't know what you do.”
Dawn was rewarded with a smile that removed any chill she might have felt from the night air.
“So, what’s the plan, boss man?”
“We need wheels. The longer we stay in a populated area the greater the chance some poor civie is going to get hurt. If I hadn't run into so many zombies...” Xander stopped as half a dozen zombies lurched out of the darkness ahead of them.
Xander fired with a two second pause between each shot as he carefully checked his aim, dropping a row of headless zombies like ducks in a shooting gallery.
“You forgot one,” Dawn said, pointing to the zombie furthest back whose face had been partially flayed by shotgun pellets from Xander shooting all the zombies around it.
“Nope, that one is yours,” he added cheerfully.
“Mine?” Dawn squeaked, hoping she had misheard as they were both a little deafened by the shotgun blasts.
Xander nodded and reloaded his shotgun, wondering if he should have gotten a bandoleer for extra shells, but decided it wasn't important since the store hadn't had any anyway.
Dawn shakily drew a pistol and clicked off the safety, before putting a round in the center of the zombie's chest – knocking it back a step but not accomplishing much else.
“You'll need a head shot to stop it,” Xander pointed out helpfully. “And why are you so nervous? The vamp in the store was a lot more dangerous than a zombie.”
“It was brightly lit in the store and I had a shotgun. Here in the streets it’s a lot darker and I just know I'm going to miss. It’s going to fly away and that stupid dog is going to pop up and laugh at me!”
Xander pulled Dawn back half a dozen steps while trying to figure out what she was talking about.
Dawn giggled nervously. “Sorry – Duck Hunt flashback.”
Xander laughed and stepped up behind her, helping her aim and giving instructions and tips while she calmed down then blew out the back of the zombie's head with a couple of well placed shots.
Dawn's grin held a lot more than just satisfaction of a job well done.
Xander of course missed it completely.
* * *
“Girl's got it bad.” Faith chuckled as they watched the broadcast from the plane, Linda having used a few mild glamours to get them on some Hollywood bigwig's jet.
“I'm sure she's just excited at taking out her first zombie. Sure they're easily handled as individuals, but taking one out with just a small pistol is impressive,” Linda replied.
Onscreen Xander bent over to pick up his backpack and Dawn smacked her hand as it reached for his rear.
“Then again, I could be wrong,” Linda admitted.
* * *
Joyce buried her face in her hands as the bar roared with catcalls and whistles.
“Alas poor Xander, I knew him well,” Giles toasted the screen.AN: Thank godogma for the typing, because if it was just me doing it you wouldn’t get more than an update every couple of months!