Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Night Court characters are the property of their original owners.
“Are you quite sure
he’s not a demon?”
That doubtful question had come from Rupert Giles while he was discreetly leaning over to whisper his inquiry into the ear of the young woman seated next to him. At the same time, the Englishman continued to warily eye the object of his study. Beyond in the far right corner of a large room, an enormous man with his head shaved completely bare was standing there. Dressed in some sort of blue uniform, that being benevolently watched over his kingdom, which at this moment included a former Watcher and his current Slayer sitting at the back of a New York City courtroom.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, Vi then hissed back, “Yes! That’s Bull Shannon, the bailiff. The Night Court
tv series always showed him to be pretty odd, but he’s human.” Pausing to think it over, Vi amended, “More or less.”
His brow wrinkling in confusion, Giles demanded, “What the devil does that mean?”
Vi slouched down in her seat, shrugging as she answered. “The whole gang up there in front are a bunch of really offbeat people, just like the style of my favorite tv sitcom I watched in reruns. Bull is kind of slow on the uptake but he’s a sweetheart with some unexpected surprises hidden under that mutant look. The rest of them--” (Vi nodded at the small group clustered around the judge’s desk at the other side of the room) “--have their own quirks. Harry Stone, the judge, likes practical jokes, Mel Torme the singer, and everything from fifty years ago. Dan Fielding, the prosecutor in the expensive suit, is an arrogant womanizer. The public defender, Christine Sullivan, is a bit uptight and naïve. Last of them is Mac Robinson, the court clerk, who tries to be the voice of sanity, without much luck.”
Hearing all this, Giles cast a frankly dubious gaze around at their dingy surroundings, which they’d entered a few minutes earlier, after having a meal in the nearby cafeteria. He and his game partner were at the moment seated in the room’s rear half filled with about a dozen hard wooden benches. Around the pair from another dimension, these benches were presently occupied by a variety of New York denizens, ranging from the upper class to the homeless. All of these other people surely had their own reasons for being here well after midnight. A few yards ahead, a low railing divided their area from an open spot further on surrounded by several tables and the judge’s desk set against the far wall.
The Director of the New Council (whose entire staff had just been shanghaied into also playing Willow’s blasted scavenger hunt today) pensively observed that latter piece of furniture. Resting on the tabletop was their latest challenge, a small wooden hammer known as a gavel, which they were supposed to filch tonight. Apparently Vi was a devotee of the American television show they’d been transported into, and a certain witch had in turn decided her friend would truly enjoy a visit here. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, mind you, except Willow Rosenberg had also decreed they needed to collect that specific souvenir to continue competing in their ridiculous party game.
This little bit of thievery was unfortunately going to be quite difficult to accomplish, seeing how the gavel had just now been picked up by the judge while he rapped it once on his desk to confirm his latest decision. A minor fine and time served had been given to the miscreant standing before the desk, who seemed rather pleased by this sentence. Scurrying off to pay what he owed, that accused party was amiably watched by the fresh-faced senior law court official in his black robes (who, in Giles’ judgment, looked remarkably young for his job).
Harry Stone now called out with great good cheer to the court clerk at his own table next to the judge, “Okay, Mac, who’s our next wonderful contestant?”
In response, this burly black man wearing a sweater vest expectantly held up a folder. Clearly amused, Mac Robinson grinned, “I think you’ll like this one, Judge. We’ve got, as written here, ‘unidentified male extra in a sword-and-sandal movie.’ From what the file says, he got picked up by the cops earlier tonight a few blocks from here, wandering around the streets. He didn’t resist arrest, but the guy’s still charged with refusing to cooperate with the authorities. That’s because he didn’t say a single word anyone could understand during his stay in the lockup.”
Looking intrigued, Harry turned his head to affably order, “All right, Bull, wheel him in.”
Nodding back, with reflections from the overhead lights flashing off his bald pate, the addressed bailiff turned to make a ‘come-on’ motion with one hand. This gesture was directed at the open doorway in the right side of the courtroom’s far wall. It appeared the accused parties for tonight’s session were waiting in another room beyond for their cases to be called. This soon resulted in the entrance of two new persons into the courtroom.
The first to come into sight was another bailiff, a stocky, tough-looking black woman now possessing a very deadpan face. Perhaps due to the prisoner she was escorting, who just happened to be a Roman legionary dressed in his archaic uniform perhaps two millennia out of date.
Seemingly paying no attention to the other occupants of the courtroom, who were one and all staring in disbelief at him, a squat fireplug of a man with tanned, leathery features beneath a grizzled, close-cropped hairstyle marched into the room. Keeping a metal helmet with a horsehair crest nestled in the crook of a strongly-muscled arm by his armored upper garment, this mid-forties man stepped forward in a cloth tunic over short pants, and yes, sandals. He was guided by the female bailiff into standing in front of the judge’s desk. Where Harry waited with sparkling eyes, truly eager to hear the start of this
For once sharing identical expressions of total resignation, Dan Fielding and Christine Sullivan took their places at the sides of their newest legal case. Both wearily waited for what was sure to come, and it indeed didn’t take too long. Doing an extremely awful Tony Curtis impression, Harry now declared, “I am Spartacus!”
Among the loud groans of the audience in the back of the courtroom over that badly-delivered line from a classic Kubrick film, Giles hastily sat up on his spectator’s bench. He gazed with sheer shock at the unmoving Roman soldier, who hadn’t reacted at all to anything. Unlike a specific Briton now disbelievingly muttering under his breath, “Dear Lord!”
This of course caused a worried Vi to ask in a matching low, alarmed tone, “What’s wrong, Giles?”
Giles yanked a handkerchief from his tweed suit pocket and took off his eyeglasses to begin energetically polishing these. Near-sightedly peering towards the Roman soldier, he answered Vi, “That man there, he’s practically glowing from temporal magic! I recognize the spell, and he can’t possibly be anything but a real time-traveler from the distant past!”
The Slayer’s jaw dropped in astonishment, but then she frowned at Giles replacing his glasses after unexpectedly identifying something from their supernatural world. Vi cautiously said, “Uh, boss, Night Court,
the tv show we’re in, it had plenty of weird people appearing here in the courtroom, but I don’t remember anyone from Roman times. There could be an easier explanation, like he’s just some sort of nut. That
happened often enough on the show.”
Giles firmly shook his head. He told his doubtful companion, “Even if the magic wasn’t there -- which it definitely is -- that man’s costume is picture perfect down to the very last detail. Every bit of the cloth, leather, and metalwork he’s wearing is newly handmade, far beyond what any historical re-enactor today is capable of making or acquiring, even from a museum!”
“Okay,” grudgingly said Vi, “So, he’s here because of magic. How come you know that?”
The New Council Director looked sad for a few seconds. He eventually answered the young woman, “In my younger days, I dabbled in magic with some friends. It ended badly, making me cease and desist from using it again except when absolutely necessary. However, I’m still familiar with many spells, enough to help that man there return to his proper time. It has to be done right away, however. At least we’re fortunate in what we just heard, that the mystical portal which this soldier came through has to be nearby.”
A goggling Vi had to spend a moment to absorb this, right before protesting, “We just came here to sneak off with a gavel! How do we stage a jailbreak in the next two minutes?”
Up at the judge’s bench, things were proceeding in their own proper fashion. Christine was finishing her report with a doleful, “--and my assigned client wouldn’t even speak to me when I visited him in the cells. Without any kind of cooperation, I can’t defend him to the best of my ability. I move for a psychiatric evaluation to see if he’s fit to plead.”
Harry’s intent gaze switched to a bored Dan idly examining his fingernails while waiting for his turn to speak. “Mr. Prosecutor?”
Shrugging with supreme disdain, this tall lawyer informed the court, “Bellevue was happy enough to confirm they have on hand any number of Napoleons, not to mention Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and lots of other crazies who think they’re from out of the history books. There’s no record of Julius Caesar or Nero escaping tonight from their custody, though. If it’ll get him out of here, I’m fine with the evaluation.”
Nodding in agreement, Harry still suggested, “Before then, let’s see if we can work things out on our own.” Harry then looked directly at the man in the Roman uniform phlegmatically staring back at him, and the judge appealed, “Sir, would you like to say something? It’d be a really good idea to clear this all up for us here and now.”
Without changing his somber expression the slightest, the prisoner lifted up his right hand in a distinct salute, and barked, “Ave, praetor urbanus! Marcus Livius Quintillus, optio centuriae, Legio Octava Augusta!”
There was a brief silence throughout the courtroom after this unintelligible statement. It was at last broken by Dan acidly commenting, “Well, that was helpful.”
Harry sent towards his sarcastic friend and co-worker a genuinely annoyed glance. In the middle of this, the judge blinked in sudden surprise at seeing one of the spectators in the rear area abruptly get to his feet from his bench and wave for attention. Next came an earnest call for attention in a definite posh English accent, “Excuse me, your honor! May I approach?”
While every one else there (save for an unruffled legionary) stared in their own astonishment at this interruption, Harry guardedly replied, “Maybe. Who are you, please, and why should I let you do that?”
“Ah, quite,” agreed the dignified man in the tweed suit. He went on, “I’m Professor Rupert Giles from the British Museum in London, on vacation here. This is my American niece, Violet Day, who’s been showing me around this city.”
After this last statement, the professor gestured at the young woman still in her seat by him, presently gawking up in sheer disbelief at her self-styled relative. Ignoring this reaction, the Englishman instead next pointed at the prisoner still between Dan and Christine, while declaring, “I’m an authority on ancient languages. Only a minute ago, that person identified himself as the second-in-command of one hundred troops belonging to the Eighth Augustan Legion, all in perfectly fluent Latin.”
Absently tapping his chin with the gavel he’d just picked up, Harry then came to a sudden decision, as seen by him impulsively waving this small hammer in a summoning gesture. This was accompanied by the judge consenting, “Okay, come on up, and let’s see if you can talk to him.”
Brightening at this permission, the professor bustled forward, trailed along after by his young niece, who still appeared rather stunned by the recent events. A minute later, Miss Day was at one side of the small group clustered in front of the judge, as the museum scholar impeccably carried on an incomprehensible conversation with the Roman soldier. This other mature man had at first looked very startled, and then quite relieved at being able to speak with someone he could finally understand. A flood of words had come from the soldier, with Giles clearly following every sentence.
However, Harry’s patience finally ran out after while of listening to nothing but meaningless jabber. Firmly clearing his throat to break into the middle of the gabfest, the judge informed this visiting professor and everyone else turning to look at him, “Sir, we don’t have all night. Have you learned anything useful?”
“Yes, indeed,” happily replied Professor Giles. “It’ll make a fine tale for my colleagues-- Ahem. Well, this is Mark Harrison, a former Latin teacher at several exclusive private schools here. He’s now retired and does theatrical acting as a hobby. Mr. Harrison recently learned of a new play looking for an actor to undertake the role of a Roman soldier around the time of Christ being magically sent by an evil sorcerer into the far future, which is the present day for us. The rest of the play deals with how Optio Quintillus tries to adjust to his new life in modern times. Before trying out for the play, this man decided to prepare for the role in the most realistic manner possible. Resolving to never break character, he dressed up as you see him now, the perfect legionnaire, and then went out in public to experience what would next happen.”
Vi regarded her boss with real admiration. That had to be the best instance she’d ever heard of in making up a cover story on the spot, while combining both absolute truth and complete baloney. Glancing around, the Slayer had to stifle a grin at also seeing the accepting faces of the Night Court
cast. To be fair, those guys on that television comedy had been told far stranger stories which had actually turned out to be true. Now, if they’d just keep buying the whole thing…
“Is Mr. Harrison ready now for the curtain to fall on his performance?” hinted Harry, who was sternly staring at the expressionless prisoner. “Because I don’t think he really wants to suffer for his art. Regardless of the reasons for it, he wasted the authorities’ time. That is
a crime, however minor. So, here’s the deal, Mr. Harrison. Continue with this playacting, and you head back to jail. Or you can admit it’s over, accept a fine, plus promise not to do it again, and you can go. Yes or no?”
Out of the corner of his mouth, Professor Giles uttered a short, pungent phrase in Latin.
The optio reluctantly nodded once, and then he rapped his clenched fist against his breastplate, both deeds a clear indication of this man’s acquiescence. Rising his eyes to the ceiling in exasperation over ham actors and their grand gestures, Harry nevertheless hit the desktop with his gavel, dismissing the case with his usual words, “Fifty bucks and time served! Next one, Mac!”
Among the bustle of the court staff, Giles led his new companion, plus Vi trailing along after, over to where the black woman in the bailiff’s uniform was sardonically eyeing them all advancing her way. The New Council Director politely requested, “Ma’am, Mr. Harrison would like his vitis back. It’s part of his borrowed costume, and has to be returned with it.”
Roz Russell asked suspiciously, “His what?”
“Er,” Giles groped for the proper description. “A short wooden stick like a cane or baton.”
The bailiff’s frowning face smoothed out in recognition. She nodded, “The club, gotcha.” At that point, this woman sent a cold glance at the supposed soldier among the trio still staying in character by acting if he had no idea what was going on, to then grouchily inform them all, “You do
know Laurence Olivier with you, he’s damn lucky? If he’d pulled that out when the cops collared him, Mr. Thespian could’ve been charged with possible assault with a deadly weapon against an officer in the course of his duties.”
“It isn’t exactly a weapon,” Professor Giles stiffly informed the scornful court official. “The vitis symbolizes a centurion’s authority, in addition to being used in disciplinary proceedings. A British Army officer’s swagger stick is a direct descendent of this distinction of rank.”
Roz shrugged in her evident disinterest, “Yeah, whatever. Go to the payment section three floors down with your money ready. Pay the fine there, and then take the receipt for this with the record of the dismissed case to the evidence locker in the basement. After checking to see if everything’s okay, the people there will return his property. Now if you don’t mind, I need to get back to my job.” With those last dismissive words, the bailiff turned and went off with a firm stride towards the prisoner waiting area.
A somewhat nonplussed Giles hesitated a moment, before he started towards the courtroom rear doors, waving for Vi and the Roman soldier to accompany him. Both did so, with the latter time-traveling man remaining as composed as he’d been throughout everything else in the last few minutes. On the other hand, Vi was watching with a decidedly wary gaze their newest companion walking ahead of her. She waited until they were out of the courtroom and in the main corridor currently deserted save for their small group.
Calling out to Giles in front leading them to the elevator, Vi inquired, “Hey, boss, was what you said back there true? I mean, the evil sorcerer and everything--”
“Absolutely, Vi,” returned Giles over his shoulder. He further added, “I also managed to convince Optio Quintillus during our private talk that I knew how to restore him to his proper home by my own magic. But we need everything he brought here in the first place, which is why we’re collecting his vitis. After that, it should be easy enough to find the portal and return him to the past through this.”
Vi gave an accepting shrug. If the Director of the New Council was convinced things would work out so straightforwardly, who was she to worry about anything? Still, there was something which continued to bother her. Thoughtfully eyeing the straight back of the man marching after her boss, the Slayer pointed out, “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth and all, but why isn’t this guy from thousands of years ago freaking out? I don’t think he woke up this morning feeling perfectly fine with taking a quick trip into the future!”
Stopping before the elevator at the end of the corridor, to then press the wall button to summon this, Giles turned to approvingly examine the matter-of-fact soldier standing easily in the passageway. Looking into his game partner’s curious face, the Englishman explained, “Vi, for centuries, the Roman army was the best-trained and most disciplined military force on earth. It follows that this army had to have noncommissioned soldiers who were something special. Or to put it like this, officers are there to get killed, but it’s the sergeants
who run things. Quintillus is a twenty-year veteran of one of the toughest fighting units in history. A little thing like being sent by magic into a totally strange place wasn’t going to faze him all that much.”
Regarding their relaxed companion with genuine respect, Vi nodded in approval at meeting another true warrior. Feeling a great deal better, the Slayer then wryly told Giles just as the elevator door opened, “Looks like we’ll have time to get back here and steal the gavel, even if that seems pretty tame now. Although, at least we had a real Night Court
moment, seeing for ourselves it’s a television show where anything
at all can happen there!”