Part 1 - Reactions and Visitors
"Sorry, Giles. Are you all right?"
"Nothing a good chiropractor couldn't put right. And don't apologize for doing what I taught you. If you couldn't take me
"I know, I know, the vamps would have me for lunch. Don't worry, I've got it covered."
"Worrying is part of my job, Buffy. I'm not likely to stop any time soon. Anyway, I think that's enough practice for today," Giles said as he stripped off his protective gear. "Something has come up I think we should talk about."
"This isn't going to be about Angel again, is it? Because if it is ..."
Giles sighed and shook his head. "I think I've already made my feelings on that issue quite clear," he said sadly as he led Buffy into his office. "If you choose to ignore me, there really isn't a lot I can do, is there?"
"Right," she said, quickly squelching the slight feeling of guilt these little confrontations inevitably generated. "So what's the problem."
"Not a problem, exactly," he answered, sitting down behind his cluttered desk. "I'd just like your opinion on something." He opened a drawer and pulled out the tabloid Ms. Calendar had given him that morning, open to page eight.
Buffy cringed. She had expected this ever since the rumors about the article started circulating this morning. "I didn't say anything, I swear!" she protested, "And neither did Willow or Xander."
"I know that. In fact, that's what I told Ms. Calendar when she showed me the article this morning and Principal Snyder when he came in here this afternoon demanding an explanation."
"Principal Snyder?!?" Of all the people they didn't
need knowing about their little club, he was at the top of the list.
"Oh, they were just the first. Mr. Johnston, Mrs. Edelson and Ms. Torelli all came by. They were much more polite than the little dictator, but their question was the same; `What do you know about the article?' I must say I'm rather disappointed that so many of my colleagues actually admit to reading such trash."
"Do you think they really know something, or are they just fishing?"
"The latter, I think. Apparently news of my academic credentials have made the rounds, and thus I've become the resident expert on strange occurrences. It might even be rather flattering if it wasn't so blasted inconvenient."
"You know," Buffy mused, "this might not be a totally bad thing. I mean, we can't be everywhere in Sunnydale all the time, and if people come to you with reports of weird stuff, we can check it out and take care of it if we have to." Warming to the idea, she didn't notice Giles' growing agitation. "You could make it semi-official. Principal Snyder would probably be very pleased if you volunteered to look into these matters for him. He might even allow you to recruit a few students as research assistants, to be rewarded with academic credit. He would demand it be done discretely, of course, but at least he would be working with us rather than against us."
"Now just wait one minute!" objected Giles loudly. "My training was not
designed to make me into some sort of psychic investigator, even by proxy. Do you think for one second that he would let me set up an amateur X-Files without trying to out-Skinner Skinner by demanding detailed reports every step of the way? Let alone risk his career by putting students in the line of fire? And that would be exactly how he'd see it; too many students have died or disappeared this year for him to take any sort of risk. Even suggesting the idea to him would be painting big WATCH US CLOSELY!
signs on our backs. Particularly after that article."
Seeing Buffy's hurt expression as he torpedoed her idea, he softened his tone. "Please understand, waiting here passively for people to bring me tips is one thing; it in no way obligates me to take any action, provide an explanation or even make a comment. Already we are under far too much scrutiny; recently I've noticed that certain conversations tend to halt when I enter the staff room. Frankly, I'm amazed that your mother hasn't come storming in here demanding an explanation of our association."
"Uh, well," she said uncomfortably, "she has
been curious about why I'm spending so much time here with Xander and Willow. I told her we were helping you with a research project comparing the study habits of British and American teenagers. If she knew we were here alone she would probably freak."
"Well then," a familiar voice sounded from the door, startling them both, "it's a good thing we both showed up now, isn't it? Just to preserve the proprieties, you understand." Pleased that he had managed to surprise them for once, Xander walked in, with Willow following behind. "I hope we didn't interrupt anything ... interesting?"
"Just the side effects of the latest triumph of yellow journalism," Giles responded dryly, "The orgy is scheduled for next week."
"Remind me to reserve a ticket," chuckled Willow as she wandered over to the desk. Seeing the tabloid, she sobered. "Are we in trouble?"
Giles removed his glasses and rubbed eyes. "This morning I would have said no, but now ... it appears that seeing the story in print has the effect of reviving suppressed memories. Not that anyone actually believes them yet, but they are starting to wonder exactly what did
happen. What disturbs me most is the timing."
"What do you mean?" asked Xander, puzzled.
"None of the events described here can really be classified as news ... the latest one is well over a month old. Why wait until now?"
"It was probably snail-mailed by the anonymous contributor," said Willow. "A lot of these things are submitted on spec by respected professionals who discover things no one else will print. If the piece is accepted, they use a stock nom-de-plume from the paper's list of `stringers' to protect the author's identity. Except for celebrity gossip which has to stay ahead of ET and HARD COPY, none of these exposes actually has to be current -- in fact, the added `research' time can increase their credibility."
Xander looked at his friend suspiciously. "And you know this ... how?" he asked.
Willow smiled mysteriously. "Let's just say my family has a small interest in such things, and leave it at that. A girl has to have a few
A few miles outside of Sunnydale, the quiet night was shattered by an abrupt explosion of sound as a sleek black shape roared down a deserted road at two-hundred fifty miles per hour. As it approached the town, the strange machine slowed down, changing shape as it did so, so that when reached the edge of town it had acquired both the legal speed limit and the shape of a black 1986 Ford LTD. The driver turned to his passenger (who was a little green around the gills) and said, "You know, I hardly ever get to open her up all the way."
Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Elle replied, "Next time you do, there had better be an Arquillian battle cruiser on our tail!" When Jay had promised to show her what the red button could do once they got to California, she had thought he was just stalling her. Now she understood; there was no way you could let anyone see what this car could do. "Geez, if we could have driven straight through we might have been here an hour ago."
"Yeah," laughed Jay, "and I would have had a coronary half way here! The red button can only be taken in small doses. Maybe a jet jock or an astronaut could take that kind of speed for ten hours, but I can't. I'm just a ..."
"... street cop," finished Elle for him. "Yeah, I know. Still, when you think about it, we are
astronauts now, aren't we?"
"If want to be technical about it," he shrugged, "I guess a suborbital flit from New York to L.A. does
count since we did
leave the atmosphere. To me it was just a fast commuter flight."
"Oh, I'm counting it all right. Jay, the next time I call this a `regular job' remind me of this, will you."
Jay nodded cheerfully. "Okay. Now where is this school we're supposed to meet our contact at?"
"Let's see." Elle took out her pocket GPS mapbook (which was slated to hit the market sometime next year) that doubled as a tracking device for registered alien residents. On the device's LCD screen a detailed street map of Sunnydale appeared, with their position noted as a blinking white dot. As Elle keyed in the target's name, a red line appeared marking the most efficient route between them and the school.
They were only a few blocks away, and were there in a couple of minutes. As the turned into the faculty parking lot where they were to meet their contact, their headlights illuminated a chilling tableau; a body in a floral print dress was lying on the ground next to a beat up old Chevy, with a man in a tweed coat bending over her apparently attempting to help. About ten feet away from them, a blond teenage girl holding a sharp stick was fighting with a tall bearded man with long greasy hair and a strangely deformed face. Just as Jay stopped the car, the fight ended as the tall man leaped at the girl and disappeared in a cloud of dust. So much for `a piece of cake'
thought Elle wryly as they got out of the car.
Ignoring the new arrivals, the girl raced over the man and the prone woman and asked, "Giles, is she ..."
"She's alive, but just barely," said `Giles', relieved but also a bit dismayed. "There's something very strange here though."
Elle, realizing that this was probably their contact, rushed forward saying, "Make way, we're doctors!" The two made way instinctively, and Elle and Jay got their first clear look at the third figure.
When Elle turned to her partner to as his advice, she was stunned to see a look of absolute horror on his face. With a barely audible, "God no! It can't be!" his eyes rolled back in his head and he keeled over in a dead faint.