Chapter One – Fallout
No Fate: The Collected Data Files – Volume OneChapter One – FalloutThursday 31st October 1996Ethan’s Costume Shoppe, Sunnydale, CA
The bell rang as the shop’s door was pushed open, and Rupert Giles immediately recoiled from the overwhelming acidic tang in the air.“Ewww…
what’s that smell, Giles?” Buffy piped up from behind him, still clad in her noblewoman’s period costume.
“Yeah, it stinks like the chem lab did last week when Harmony messed up her experiment,” Willow chipped in from behind the Slayer.
“That would be chaos magic,” said Giles, fumbling in his pocket for a handkerchief and clasping it over his mouth and nose as he cautiously made his way inside. “E-Ethan’s sp-spell must have used a great deal of it… b-but to produce a-a scent of this, ah, magnitude… astonishingly vast quantities of magic that must have been used… I-I’ve never heard of a case like this before—”
“Ethan?” Giles followed the weak whisper, picking his way past racks and a till to the shop’s poky little back room, then recoiled in horror.
The man inside was ancient and wizened, his flesh pale and parchment-thin. Each shuddering breath he drew rasped noisily, as if it might be his last. He lay in a foetal position on the floor, surrounded by magical paraphernalia. With agonising slothfulness, he struggled to raise his head, and his gaze met Giles’s.
“H-hello… Ripper…” he wheezed.
The Watcher’s jaw dropped. “Ethan,” he whispered. “Good god, man, what have you done?”
Ethan’s lips parted in a crazy grin, and blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. “I… made a little mistake…” he said.
“Giles? Who’s there – hang on, who’s the old guy?” Buffy asked, following along behind him. “Uh – do we need an ambulance here or something?”
Ethan forced his cracked lips into a wry grin. “P-perhaps… a hearse might be more… appropriate,
Slayer,” he wheezed.
“Buffy, please take Willow and wait outside,” Giles said, his voice icy calm and authoritative.
“Buffy… please, just go,” Giles quietly repeated himself.
“It’s… quite alright, Slayer…” Ethan smirked up at them. “I’ve got… no more magic left… nor much time… Ripper will be… perfectly safe… alone with me.”
“Please, Buffy, Willow, just go and… make sure nothing disturbs us.”
Buffy stared up at her Watcher for a long moment, then looked away and nodded. “C’mon, Will,” she said quietly.
“How do I reverse the spell, Ethan?” Giles asked as the bell rang, signalling that both girls had left the shop. “Dammit, Ethan, a boy’s life is at stake here! A close friend of my Slayer, no less! How do I undo the spell?”
Slowly, Ethan shook his head, breath rasping noisily. “Too late, Ripper… Janus… the statue of Janus…”
Looking around, Giles’s gaze fell upon a scattering of shards. “Were they the statue, Ethan?” he asked, turning back to the chaos mage. “The shards – were they the statue?”
“Yes… breaking… the statue… would have broken the spell… i-if it had worked… as I pl-planned…” Ethan mumbled. “B-but… the spell went wrong… used too much magic… drained the statue… broke
it… then the spell drained me… my magic, my life… drained me…”
Cold dread stabbed deeply into Giles’s gut. “What happened here, Ethan?” he asked.
“The spell… it went out of control… all the magic went… to just one costume,” Ethan panted. “Just one…”
“What did it do, Ethan? What did the spell do to Xander?”
“It w-was supposed to be… just a little chaos… a h-harmless… little joke… Turn people… into their costumes… for just one night… No harm done… Wouldn’t have hurt anyone, Ripper, I swear…
B-But… it went wrong… did so much more…”
“You changed Xander into his costume?”
Ethan shook his head. “Th-that was… the plan… but it all went so wrong,
Ripper… One costume was changed… changed completely…
and… h-he’s gone now.”
Giles glowered down at the mage. “Are you saying Xander’s dead?” he growled, allowing his old Ripper-ish instincts to surface once more. “Because if you are, then—”
“No, no, no, not… not dead,
Ripper… at least, I don’t think
he is… I said he’s gone…
Th-the spell… s-sent him somewhere… and somewhen…
else. U-used up so m-much magic… used up me…”
Why would that happen?”
“Heh… the nature of the beast, dear Ripper…” Ethan chuckled, a sickly and liquid sound. “Chaos… it’s so very
“Where is Xander now, Ethan?”
“Don’t… don’t know… far away… in space and time,
Ripper… space and time… A-and he’s not ‘Xander’… not anymore…”
“He… became his costume?” Giles said hesitantly.
Ethan nodded. “The boy with the Slayer… Bought a… jacket… and a shotgun – a prop… a prop from a film…”
“Which film, Ethan?”
The chaos mage shook his head. “Ca-ca-can’t ‘member… far too much magic… too much power… more than the spell sh-should have needed…”
“What might that have done to him, Ethan? How would the magic affect the transformation?”
“Do-don’t know… Ripper… it c-could be… permanent… or the spell could have… w-worn off already… o-or he might have been… consumed
b-by his costume… I really
d-don’t know…” Ethan closed his eyes. “I-I feel so… tired,
R-Ripper… so very tired…”
Giles crouched beside the wizened man. “Is there anything that I can… do for you?” the Watcher asked.
Ethan slowly opened his eyes and shook his head. “N-nothing, Ripper… e-except… maybe…”
Giles leaned closer to his one-time friend. “Yes?”
Ethan gave a wicked grin. “Spit in Travers’s eye sometime, Ripper… that bastard’s got it coming.”
Giles chuckled. “This is true.”
Ethan erupted into a wheezy little laugh that quickly turned into a coughing fit. “R-R-R-Ripper…” he fought to get out, suddenly looking deathly serious, “I… did something else, Ripper… D-didn’t mean to… I sensed it through the magic… before it sent him away…”
“What did you do, Ethan?” Giles asked gently.
“A… a doorway,” Ethan gasped, his eyes slipping shut. “The spell… it opened a doorway…”
Giles’s blood ran cold. “What sort of doorway, Ethan?” he demanded.
“I-It’s sm-small… for now…” Ethan mumbled, so quietly that Giles had to lean forward and place his ear directly over the dying mage’s lips to hear his final whisper: “B-but… it will grow, Ripper… It will grow…”
Giles sat back, slumping against the wall, and stared at his former friend. First seconds, then minutes, ticked by in silence, as the Watcher stared at the lifeless and strangely peaceful features of the dead mage.
The corner of his eye stung; Giles ignored it. A solitary tear began to lazily course its way down his cheek. His vision blurred; reflexively, Giles removed his spectacles and began to polish them with his handkerchief. He consciously knew his misty eyesight had nothing to do with the cleanliness of his spectacles, but he drew a small measure of comfort from the familiar action.
Eventually, Giles pocketed his handkerchief and donned his spectacles once more, then cleared his throat. Slowly, sadly, he reached over, and with a tenderness that surprised him, he closed Ethan’s dead staring eyes.
I don’t own anything related to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, the Terminator franchise, the Stargate franchise, 'The West Wing', the 'Space Captain Smith' trilogy, the Alien franchise, the Tomb Raider franchise, the novel 'Secret Fire', 'The Untouchables' or the television series 'NCIS'.