I have brought the time line of B:tVS forward by nine years (from fall 1997/spring 1998 to fall 2006/spring 2007) for a reason: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was not available in the USA until 2005 if I recall correctly. It is not reasonable to have Buffy deliberately dress up on Halloween as a character from a work of fiction that she could not possibly have encountered for another eight years.Disclaimer:
BtVS is the property of Joss Whedon. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is based on the manga by Shirow Masamune but belongs to Production I.G. Only the plot of this fic and any original characters introduced within this work are my intellectual property. This work is not created for the purpose(s) of profit, and no unintentional monetary gains will be accepted.Chapter One:
Buffy had fully intended to purchase the noble-woman costume in order to gain Angel's attention. However, she had not expected Ethan's to stock a costume she actually liked: a perfect reproduction of Major Motoko Kusanagi's usual off-duty outfit; a skin-tight top of lavender latex, low-riding charcoal gray leather pants, a matching leather jacket—it even came with red contact lenses and a purple wig.
Although she would never admit it, Buffy had developed quite the obsession with cyberpunk in general and Ghost in the Shell in particular over the previous summer. She'd been tormented by Snider, mocked by Cordelia and her minions, and tossed in a loony bin simply for telling her parents the truth as she had seen it with her own two eyes. She new exactly how petty and narrow-minded humans generally were. And she had to fight for them. Every night, she had to wade through the blood and ashes of vampires and worse, risking her own life, all for the sake of beings who's existence she could barely tolerate. Is it really so surprising that she had sought solace in jealous fantasies of cold, unfeeling software agents? She was trapped in hell, and she wanted the pain to stop. She didn't want to be human.
And so Buffy all but threw her money at Ethan Rayne, and ran from the shop with barely suppressed hysterical giggles at the prospect of being able to pretend to be something other than fully human for a few hours.
La Casa del Summers had seen better days. The walls were riddled with bullets; every surface splattered with blood; corpses of trick-or-treators strew about the house. And some who weren't corpses; bleeding, broken bodies with twisted limbs and protruding bone fragments. But the worst part of the mess was the screaming. The Major had stopped killing her attackers once she had realized they were children, but she had not been above snapping a few limbs in self-defense.
And so Buffy was standing in the middle of a house filled with dead and mutilated children, covered in blood. And she remembered everything. Reaching behind her head, the cyborg that had been the Slayer felt for the data ports embedded on the back of her neck. After a brief moment of consideration, she picked up the phone and dialed three digits.
“Hello?” she sobbed in a voice completely unlike her own, “I need an ambulance at 1630 Revello Drive—my God, the children!”
“What happened, Ma'am?”
“I was just walking home, and I heard gunshots and screaming . . . thek-k-kidsareeverywhereandth-there'sblood. . .”
“Stay where you are, we're sending help.”
“Okay. . .” Buffy sniffled before hanging up and calmly walking out of the house, vacant blood-red eyes gleaming in the night.
I am going to die,
Buffy thought to herself. It is only a matter of time. Without maintenance, this body has a designed operational lifespan of six months. After that, it will degrade rapidly. If I'm very lucky, I have a year beyond that before something critical fails—and this is all assuming I somehow avoid being injured in combat.
I'm kinda dead already. . . and not just in that old 'I am doomed' way. DNA—life—is just information in the end. I am not the Major or Buffy, even if I am a synthesis of everything the were. I am. . . their daughter, I guess,
she muses with that rare species of bitterness that accepts, even welcomes, poor circumstances rather than rail futilely against them.
“I should have a name of my own, I suppose,” she finishes with a quirk of her lips. “But what's in a name?”
The cyborg has a few loose ends to cut off at a certain warehouse; a name will have to wait. With a flash of red and green light, like chroma keyed footage around a white silhouette, her therm-optics activate, rendering her almost perfectly invisible.
Sunnydale's Warehouse district was not a place she tended patrol, back when she was still Buffy Summers. She had raided it more than a few times, typically with backup of some form or another, but the sheer number of vampire nests tended to deter casual patrolling. Tonight however, things were different. She Ghosted past a few chattering fledglings, fighting down the urge to slay them on the spot. She was certain she could do so silently, but she needed stealth for the moment, and if her previous lives had taught her anything, it was a healthy respect for Murphy's Law. Besides she had bigger fish to fry. There would be time for the small fry later.
It's not till the sixth warehouse that she finds what she's looking for. Spike's there along with a female vampire she doesn't recognize. Spike is trying to comfort her as she babbles about broken clockwork dolls, spirits and ghosts. For a moment the being who had once been Buffy Summers and Major Kusanagi, and now was neither, listened, trying to make sense of the insane Vampiress (What did Spike call her? Drew?) and her babble.
It doesn't really matter though. She has her mission. She doesn't need to understand vampires to kill them. A 5.56 mm High Explosive Delayed-Fuse (HEDF or “Head-Eff”) round slams into Spikes neck, dusting him a fraction of a second after impact. After all, it hardly matters whether a target is decapitated with bullets, a sword, or a rusty butter knife—headless is headless. The female's head is similarly parted from her shoulders. The minions, thoroughly panicked, are easily dispatched. If she hadn't had to reload, the mousy one with glasses wouldn't have escaped. As it is, Dalton's ravings about invisible witches with lightning bolts would contribute towards the noticeable drop in Sunnydale's mortality rate over the next few weeks.
The library is quiet at night. Rupert Giles is worried, Buffy hasn't checked in, and though Xander and Willow had both come by earlier, neither had seen Buffy all night- Buffy had said something about surprising them with her costume and had told them she would meet them at the school. Then everything had gone straight to hell. Damn Ethan. Damn fool invoking Janus on the Hellmouth. Who knows what could have happened--which was been the point of course. Smarmy git's always loved chaos.
“Hey Giles,” Came from behind him, a very familiar voice. He spun around to see Buffy slinking out of the Shadows. He still wasn't sure what he thought about Buffy and Angel's.... relationship, but damn it of all his behavior to pick up on, did she have to pick the one guaranteed to give him a heart attack?
“Buffy, its good to see you. I was worried when you didn't check in- Dear Lord, are you all right.” Blood was caked over what he assumed was her costume, though he wasn't sure how she had convinced Joyce to allow her to wear it- it was positively indecent. The purple hair and red eyes worried him for a moment but it was Halloween, and he pushed the thought aside. While a slayer was resilient they were hardly immortal and Buffy could be quite stubborn about medical treatment.
“It's not mine. The blood.” He blinked. Vampires tended to leave nothing but ash behind, and while there were several demons that bled red blood, it appeared to be human. And that could mean....
“Did you run into any of the transformed trick-or-treators?” He asked, dread creeping into his voice.
“I was one. Just tell me who did this Giles.” Her voice is flat and dead in a way it hadn't been since the she had first learned of the prophecy foretelling her certain death.
“How many?” He didn't want to know. But duty demanded that he ask, and that he record. That had been the duty of every Watcher since the dawn of time. To make record of what their slayer had wrought.
“Too many. Who cast the spell Giles. I need to know.” Flat. Calm. So very calm. Buffy had never been that calm. But looking into dead red eyes he wasn't sure this was Buffy.Ethan what have you done?
It is so very simple, to kill. To obliterate a human being, to expunge everything they ever were or could have become from the universe.
Such are the thoughts of Major Summers, as she has taken to thinking of herself, as she looks down into the bloody chasm which had been the left half of Ethan Rayne's head before she had administered a 5.56 mm HEDF lobotomy. At least he was easy to find. Didn't even use an alias when he checked in--his name was right there for all to see in the hotel computer records. Poetic justice, that: he caused so much mayhem in life, but he made his death so very. . . convenient.
She is thankful that her gun has not reverted to its former status as a toy—the ballistics are untraceable, and the ammunition is caseless so there is no brass to police in the rundown hotel room. Unfortunately, unless she can somehow cobble together inferior substitutes from technology two decades less advanced than the bullets' origins, the rounds are irreplaceable.
“Probably should have just snapped his neck. Oh well, too late now.”
Angel is out for blood.
Literally, his stocks are almost out. That was normally not a cause for concern; He has a business arrangement with a local butcher for excess animal blood. The man is aware of the nature of Sunnydale “nightlife” and paranoid to a fault. It is probably the only reason he is still alive; Angel is sure that he is not the butcher's only after hours customer, and other vampires tend to be considerably less friendly than him. Tonight however, he is sold out.
This has never happened before. He has to go to Willy's and he is charging triple his usual rate. He pays, grudgingly, for enough blood to get him through the next few days, but at the same time he can't help but wonder who – or what – has everyone so terrified that they will buy blood rather than hunt. He's heard the rumors about an invisible witch that shoots lightning, but that seems pretty unlikely even on the hellmouth. It isn't like people leave gloves that shoot lightning lying around and he is pretty sure there is no such thing as a cloak of invisibility.
Something he probably needs to talk to Giles about. The watcher has been under observation by the Sunnydale Police ever since Halloween, and he doesn't want to cast further suspicion on him.
Halloween. He hasn't seen or heard from Buffy since then, which is worrying. He is checking the usual haunts, going to the Bronze every night, but he has seen no sign of her. He doubts she is dead – someone would have taken credit for killing the Slayer. But he is worried she has skipped town. Buffy isn't typically one to back away from a fight, but if what he suspects has happened...he isn't sure how Buffy would react to having blood on her hands, even if she hadn't been the one driving her body at time.
He blinks as he notices the three fledglings who have been creeping up on him during his introspection (it was not brooding). He would have sighed if he still had need of his lungs. He is not in the mood to deal with three punks right now.
All three have their game faces on as they step out into the open. He tunes them out as they posture. Vampires mugging another vampire for blood is honestly a first for him, though he isn't sure they realize he isn't breathing. Considering he is walking alone, at night, in Sunnydale, carrying blood, that says a great deal about their intelligence.
The fledgling on the left rushes forward first. Angel palms a stake and drives it into his heart, dusting him, bringing the one to the right up short halfway through his charge. The middle one, apparently the leader is reaching inside his jacket-
It feels like a murderously hard punch to the gut. Then the pistol rings out twice more, missing thankfully this time. He felt his face shift as he does his best to push away the pain as he lunges at the closer of the two, putting him between him and the gunmen, who, judging by the screams of his fellow, is not particularly concerned by friendly fire. He refrains from staking the screaming fledgling, instead choosing to bodily throw him at the gunman who is fumbling with his gun trying to reload.
The two never connect as the Gunman crumbles to dust, gun clattering to the ground, his compatriot following a second later as the newcomer bends down to stake him. And then a very familiar voice speaks.
“I heard gunshots and came as quick as I could- Angel?”
Thirty minutes later, they are back in Angel's apartment. He is walking normally by the time they stroll through his front door – while bullets might hurt like hell, they were hardly lethal to a vampire. He is more worried about his companion, who is currently examining the pistol she has taken from the fledgling.
“I wonder where a fledgling would get one of these. It's a Colt Single Action Army and either and original or an excellent replica. Ivory grips, engraved barrel; It's a collectors item probably worth a few thousand at the very least. Not the sort of thing you'd expect a fledgling to carry. Not very practical either; can only reload one bullet at a time and no one besides enthusiasts use this caliber. Even with all that fumbling and he only managed to get one bullet into the cylinder.” She carefully rotates the cylinder to put the cartridge in the bottom chamber and hands the gun butt first to Angel. “Ever handle one of these before?”
“Yeah. Been a while. Though I never would have guessed you were a gun enthusiast Buffy.” He accepts the pistol, checking the cylinder.
“I knew a guy who really liked revolvers. Hated automatics, always worried about them jamming. He talked about them sometimes.”
“I'm sure he did.” He carefully rotates the cylinder into position and brings the gun to bear on the thing wearing Buffy's face. “Now what are you, and what have you done to Buffy”
The Not-Buffy stills, “What gave me away?”
“The face might be right, and the hair you could pass of as a dye job, but Buffy hated guns. And more importantly, she had a heartbeat.”
“For the record, Buffy did not really mind guns so much as she minded getting shot at. But I can see how the lack of a heartbeat might cause an issue,” she replies, inwardly cursing at her failure to recall just how good vampiric senses are, I should know better than to make such a rookie mistake, for fuck's sake!
“Just a bit. Now where is she, if you've hurt her...”
“Ethan Rayne invoked the Roman God of Beginnings on Halloween two weeks ago. It turned people into their costumes. Then the Spell ended and everyone turned back,” She pauses for a moment, “Except for me. My body did not revert. And while I remember being Buffy Summers before the spell I also remember being the Major. I know those memories are only in my head, but that does not make them any less real to me. We are the sum of our own choices, and our memories are the record of those choices. In a very real sense, Buffy Summers died that night. I may carry her memories but my personality is different, must be different for all that I have experienced, regardless of how 'true' those memories are. I am a composite of the two personalities; In a certain sense Buffy could be considered my mother.” She ponders what to say for a moment before continuing, “For what little it is worth I am sorry. I had hoped you would not have to know. Buffy loved you, as much as a teenager is capable of loving anyone. She would not have wanted you to be hurt.”
“Where's Ethan Rayne.”
“The morgue by now. The Police may be incompetent around here, but the coroner's office is nothing if not efficient,” He's taking this better than I thought. . . perhaps too well. Wonder if he's planning something, “Can I have that gun back? I could use a few grand, and I can probably get around six, easy, by pawning it.”
“Do I want to know?”
“Hey, flak jackets aren't something you can skimp on. This body's mostly mechanical-no ability to heal itself, and an auto-shop isn't exactly going to cut it for repairs. I need some extra protection if I'm going to live to the ripe old age of thirty-two,” And to miraculously build a tech base at least fifteen years ahead of the rest of the world in the next eighteen months. Not gonna happen. Five, ten maybe- fifteen? Less than a snowball's chance in hell, 'cause after all the innermost circle is supposed to be frozen according to Dante, so a snowball could survive if it was moved through the outer ones fast enough.
Willow likes school. It is something she is good at, the best practically, and she never has to really worry about failing, though she has worried about getting bad grades (anything lower than an A) in the past. It's funny how learning about vampires and demons puts things in perspective.
So her parents had not been surprised at all when she had told them she was going to be staying late at school for a library study session with Xander. She has been hoping to use the computer to have a look at the police files on Buffy, something she refuses to do on her home computer, but is quite happy to do on a school computer, especially with Snyder's Password she has managed to requisition last month. As long as she makes sure it looks like a remote access she will be fine. It is all probably for nothing – she doubts the Sunnydale Police are capable of doing anything more complex than Googling, but she really doesn't want to end up on the FBI's list.
That would be bad.
Of course she really can't do that with Officer Bob looking over her shoulder. He is there 'for their own protection' which she believes about as far as she can throw him. Which considering he looks like a stereotypical fat rent-a-cop and she isn't Buffy, really isn't far.
Xander is doing his best to annoy him, and Giles is sitting in the corner reading a book, pretending the campus Cop isn't there. She is working on her history homework (she has to get it done at some point) and occasionally looking up things on the one computer Giles permits in his library. He's really been paranoid after the Moloch thing, but it is the 21st century. She really likes books and all, but computers are useful.
She is shaken out of her reverie by Officer Bob slamming the door shut behind him, saying something about patrolling the campus. Apparently the Xander-speak has been to much for him.
“Is he going to be okay? I mean I don't want him looking over my shoulder but what if he runs into a vampire. I mean we don't want him to die, do we?”
Giles sighs as he strides over to the table. “No we don't. As difficult as they may be making things the police are not the enemy. Now have either of you heard from Buffy?”
Xander responds first, “Nothing. Haven't seen her at the Bronze though Deadboy was there a few times. He hadn't seen her and I kept getting this funny feeling I was being followed. Might have been the squad car two blocks back. Or the Plainclothes guys. You'd think detectives wouldn't suck so much at the subtle.”
“I've been checking online but I haven't seen her on any IM clients and I haven't gotten any emails.” Willow pauses for a moment before adding tentatively, “I was going to try to look at the police files for Buffy. It's kind of risky but I got Snyder's password last month and I think I can make it look like he's doing it from outside the school.”
“If you think you can do that with out being caught then do so Willow.”
It takes about an hour to bypass the SPD's protection as, interestingly enough, one of the few areas they aren't complete morons about is computer security. She is sweating with worry towards the end, worried that Officer Bob will return from his rounds.
When she finally finishes transferring the files from the lead detective's hard drive she cuts the connection physically. One can't be to careful after all. She opens the first photo from the folder labeled CRIME_SCENE and almost immediately loses her lunch.
It is a charnel house. There is blood everywhere, on the furniture, the walls, and the bodies...tiny broken bodies of children who will never play again. The bodies are splayed about like broken puppets, often with large holes in them.
“Buffy did..... that” Xander is the first to break the silence.
“It wasn't her though, right? It was the spell. That wasn't her. That couldn't have been her....”
“It wasn't her,” Giles is firm, refusing to allow his doubts into his voice or expression. “But it will be impossible to convince the police of that. What's more worrying is how zealously the police are pursuing the matter. The Sunnydale police tend to drop these sort of things quickly and label them the works of Gangs on PCP. Maybe it's a Detective desperate to close a case properly. But if it isn't...We always assumed the Sunnydale Police were simply incompetent, but if there is a conspiracy in the Police or even higher up, then this isn't going away anytime soon.”
Mayor Wilkins considers recent developments. On the one hand, the Slayer has apparently killed a good number of children—she is most like very emotionally fragile, possibly to the point of recruitability. On the other hand, according to the ballistics report on Ethan Rayne, the warlock responsible for the Halloween Massacre, was killed by the same gun that was used at the Summers residence, meaning the Slayer still hates the bad guys and might actually have wised up enough to be threat to him. An ordinary Slayer wouldn't kill the mayor as he is still technically human, but Buffy very well might.
“Alan, tell the police to wind down their investigation. I want to take a wait and see approach with Miss Summers for the moment,” no sense harassing her too much, not without a better idea of how she'll react,
the hundred and fifty year old politician concludes as he hangs up his phone.
Major Summers is going to be very busy for the next few weeks. She needs to find a base of operations, set up safe houses, and arrange to leave town in case law enforcement gets too close. Sunnydale's police may be utter fuckwits,
she muses rolling her eyes, but eventually outside talent could get involved. I am not going to rely on the Sunnydale Effect to extend to non-supernatural violence and weirdness. Down that road is an ironic death of the kind that should only happen to people who are
As she leaps over the fence surrounding the old CRD laboratory complex, her lips thin. Although the sheep-like behavior of people in this town is far too convenient for the demons to be a coincidence. This whole place reeks of a data manipulation scheme just like Gota might have put together. Magic has to be at least as good for fucking with people's heads as cybernetics. At least whoever's in charge will probably try to keep the Feds away for as long as possible for fear of discovery. Of course, they'll also be putting out a contract on my life sooner rather than later with my luck.
There is no warning. One moment four figures sit watching a small TV; the next the three remaining stare in shock as their one-time leader's ashes settle to the floor. The next eldest, a door to door salesman who had made the mistake of staying of staying out a bit too late in June of '88, is the first to react, instinctively shifting to his game face and snarling as he searches for their attacker. He manages to catch a glimmer of something out of the corner of his eye, and spins around just in time to see the machete coming to decapitate him. It is instinct that brings his arm into the path of the machete, desperate to ward off his second and final death.
He is partially successful. As his left hand falls to the ground, the path of the blade is diverted just enough that it “only” opens his throat. He falls to the floor gurgling blood, incapacitated by pain. On almost any other creature it would be lethal. As a vampire, he would likely survive so long as he was given blood regularly during his recovery, though he would unlikely to ever speak again.
The entire point is rendered moot as his two fledglings, sired only 6 months ago, turn and flee, deciding discretion is the better part of valor. A thrown stake catches each of them in the back, and they, too dissolve into dust.
She is standing above him now, looking at him. He tries to gurgle out a plea for mercy but what comes out is completely unintelligible. For a moment he is seized by the hope that somehow, for some reason she is going to spare him.
Then the boot comes down and finishes the work the blade began.
CRD Labs has seen better days. The power is off, and the lobby has been thoroughly looted and the only light comes from the the TV lying on the floor, blaring the reruns of some insipid late time TV. A portable generator chugging away in corner is the only source of power, and judging by the way it sounds it is nearly out of fuel. The vampires that had made their home here– strictly bottom feeders -are dust in the wind.
The heavy blast doors, something that would be an extravagance in any city that isn't Sunnydale, remain shut however. This does not particularly bother the once Slayer-they will help with defense and also help keep light from giving away her presence. The way to Lab 02 remains open, and though the lab is in almost as much a disarray as the lobby, it has not yet been stripped of everything of value. Spools of wire and cable are strewn about the floor, along with several broken monitors and what looks like a soldering iron has been jammed into the wall.
It will do.
While the Universal Serial Bus had survived well into the 21st century as a data port standard, the advent of cheap fiber optics and the creation of the Universal Optical Data Bus in 2017 had limited its use to cheap low level peripherals. The rush to adopt the new standard had been somewhat akin to a stampede as people rushed to upgrade to fiber optics. Still, there were enough old USB devices floating around that the designers of her body had included an auxiliary data port capable of linking to USB, Firewire and half dozen other obsolescent data ports with the appropriate cable. Which she does not have, of course.
It is a long night. She has only vague memories of how to solder, and the plug that fits into the back of her neck has to be bent into shape by hand with a degree of precision nigh on impossible for anyone without motor control software that was state of the art by the standards of 2031. It is boring, tedious, frustrating and absolutely essential work.
And as the sun rises, she plunges into the Net for the first time since her rebirth on Halloween.. . . Fucking Hell! That shouldn't be possible.
Deep within the internet, there is a cluster of Southern Californian servers. Nothing unusual on cursory inspection. But embedded within the exchange of ordinary data packets are seemingly random bits of nonsense code. Individually, completely worthless; void of meaning. But assembled in groups on a computer, and they spontaneously compile into a vast range of software.
This is beyond a simple modular virus, this is a modular operating system, spread across hundreds of machines and millions of square kilometers. While the code itself is nothing compared to that available in 2030, it is complex beyond what any merely human agency of this era can create.
Only a cyborg, an AI, or a group composed of some number one or both of them could possibly have created such software.
It is fifteen past midnight, and Rupert Giles is staring at a half empty tumbler. Peterson had given him the scotch when he had been promoted to field watcher, told him there would be days when he would need it. He had taken it of course- it was damn fine scotch- but he had never imagined anything like this. Snyder would raise merry hell if he found out he'd been keeping alcohol in the library, but at the moment he hardly cares.
It has been a week since Halloween and he has not seen Buffy since she had slipped into the library blood splattered and unrelenting in her demand for Ethan's name. He had given it to her, perhaps against his better judgment. She had been different. Harder. He had never seen that sort of cold fury in his Slayer before.
And then the next morning the police came. They had found his name and address in Ethan's room, and they had wanted him to identify the body. His head was simply gone, spread out across the floor. The Mark of Eyghon had remained intact though. He had confirmed Ethan's name, then lied through his teeth when they asked if he knew anyone who might have motive to kill him.
Buffy had killed Ethan. It really should not surprise him. She had given every impression that she was intending to murder him. But on some level he hadn't thought she had been capable of it. The Buffy Summers he had known would never have killed another human being, no matter the provocation.
And now she is wanted for murder. While the police have yet to connect her to the Ethan's death, with her mother out of town she is the prime suspect for the slain trick or treaters at the Summers home. It seems whatever possessed her had realized that the possessed children were children, and towards the end she had shot to maim instead of kill. The survivors had given the police a description of Buffy.
The sharp clanging of metal on metal brings him out of his reverie. He pulls a cross out of the desk drawer and hurriedly unfolds and cocks a small bow-pistol before heading out to the main library, flipping on the light switch as he enters.
“Don't-” He is cut off as a figure slaps the crossbow out of his hand and pushes a pistol into his face. A half second later the the pistol is pulled back and he gets a good look at his attacker. It takes him a second to recognize her.
“Buffy?” Her hair is dyed black and cut short and her attire is considerably more practical than what she typically wears, black jeans and a dark navy vest- Is that Kevlar?
over a plain gray T-shirt. He can see stakes sticking out of several pockets as she holsters the pistol in the small of her back.
“Sorry Giles. Thought you were a cop for a second there.” She smiles and for a moment Giles can almost believe that nothing has changed, that they can go back to the old familiar byplay. It passes as a horrifying thought occurs to him. He tosses the cross to her.
She catches it, a confused expression playing across her face for a second before it clicks. “Really Giles, I'm not a vampire. If I was I would have shot you. Or gone for your neck.” She looks a bit annoyed at the test.
“I'm sorry dear girl, but I had to be sure. I haven't seen you for a week. And you of all people should know how much vampires like playing with their food.”
“Didn't you tell me last year that slayers can't be turned?”
“I told you Slayers were resistant to turning. I may have overstated it a bit but I told you what you needed to hear. And we're getting off topic. Where have you been? Your mother's worried sick as are Willow and Xander. As was I, truth be told.”
“Around. I came by day before yesterday, but the cops were still watching all of you. They still are, though the one out front seems to be asleep on the job.” She notes the concern on Giles face, “Not my doing. He's just lazy. As for what I've been doing, lets just say I've been cleaning house. Got rid of Spike and some insane vampire girl that was with him. Drew or something. Took care of a bunch of minions as well.”
“You killed Spike? Good job. The female might have been his sire Drusilla, another of the Scourge of Europe. If that's so, very good job. That would leave only Angel and he's hardly a threat to us at present.” Giles pauses, sighing, “But that's not what we need to talk about.”
“You want to talk about Ethan.” The humor is gone, her tone flat.
“I want to talk about Ethan.” He sighs, continuing, “A Slayer isn't suppose to kill humans Buffy. What Ethan did was unforgivable. Monstrous. I don't mourn his death. But you shouldn't have killed him in cold blood.”
“Would you have preferred I tossed him a weapon before shooting him? Given him a sporting chance?”
“No, that's not what I mean. A slayer... a slayer has certain instincts against harming humans. Its part of the Slayer line, something old. Slayers rarely react well to killing humans and a few break completely. As your watcher I should have been the one to bear the burden.”
“You don't need to worry about me Giles. I'm not going to go crazy and start killing people. I'll keep hunting vampires, and I'll keep killing monsters. Even the ones walking around in human skin. If I have the power to stop them then I will.”
He winces at the last part, “Buffy, the Slayer is not supposed to get involved in human affairs. You can't go around playing vigilante. People will notice. Even the Sunnydale Police's blindness only goes so far. And what's more there's the council. Technically I should have informed the council that there had been an incident. I haven't and don't plan to, but the council has people everywhere, and if they decide you've gone rogue they'll send in the wet-works teams. Trained mercenaries, ex-special forces, to either capture or kill you.”
“I'll keep that in mind, Giles” She turns to leave. He reaches out and grabs her shoulder.
“Buffy, let us help you. You're not alone here.”
She takes his hand gently in hers, sliding it off her shoulder. She held it for a moment, smiling wanly, before letting go. “Aren't I?” Then she seems to almost glide out the door, disappearing into the night. “By the way, Giles, you may want to take a closer look at the mayor.”
Willow is currently partaking of that most ancient of teenage past times: angsting. Unlike the vast majority of said activity's practitioners, Ms. Rosenburg actually has good cause to worry. Her best friend has been missing for a week, and is implicated in eight counts of murder in the first degree, and nearly two dozen felonial assault and batteries. All of them on pre-pubescent children, no less!
Needless to say, said friend's tapping upon her bedroom window takes her somewhat by surprise, resulting in an utterance remarkably similar to the squeal a rabbit emits immediately prior to death.
The chaos-spawned cyborg doesn't miss a beat before replying. Benefits of a computer assisted auditory cortex, and all of that rot. “Around. Taking out the. . . trash, let's call them. I have a warrant out for my arrest and I'm less recognizable this way. In theory, anyway—since you didn't have any trouble seeing who I am, I guess it kinda needs a little bit of workage. And yes, this is a 5.56mm Seburo M-9 Automatic—a nice souvenir from Halloween.”
“Oh, um. . . you didn't change back, huh?” stammers Willow as she tries and fails to slowly and unobtrusively back away.
“Nah, I'm back. I just got to keep all the toys: the gun, the Major's training and memories, more computing power than you'll find on the campus of M.I.T. wired directly into my brain,” Willow's eyes threaten to pop out of her skull at this revelation. She emits several choking noises as well.