"It's not," Faith said, as they picked themselves up off the ground. She winced in pain, as she moved. "Tell me those vampires' leader isn't… actually… a…"
"It's not a Bringer," Buffy agreed. "Not like those… eyeless… black-robed, twisty-sworded…" Buffy shuddered, then amended, "Not like with the First. I mean — it can't be. You know that."
Faith nodded. "Those Bringers always seemed
like minion material. Not really cut out to be…" She hissed, as she felt something give in her ankle. "…head honcho."
Buffy tried to keep her own pain to herself, as she felt everything inside of her lurch and judder and creak in ways she thought it probably wasn't supposed to. As she tried to ignore the flair of fire running through her side and back, everywhere the vampires had struck her.
"Those vampires could have killed us in two seconds," Buffy said. "They wanted us alive. They wanted us to tell the others."
"About someone calling himself 'the Bringer'," said Faith.
"The Bringer of Death
," Buffy corrected.
"Still got the word 'Bringer' in it," Faith said. She gave a grim laugh. "Guess this means they're not aliens."
"Well, they know about the Slayer," said Faith, "they know about the First, and they know about the Bringers. They've been around since at least 2003. Probably longer."
Damn. Faith was right.
"Whoever this leader of theirs is, he's smart," Faith continued. "Smart enough to name himself something that would scare the shit out of us. He knows how the Slayer's trained. He knows how we're going to fight. He knows when we're waiting for vampires and when we're not expecting them."
"He can use science and lenses to his advantage," Buffy muttered.
"This isn't an alien, Buffy," Faith said. "This is someone intelligent. Someone who knows about Slayers, intimately. Who knows the ins and outs of Torchwood, UNIT — everything. Someone who knows enough to use a name he knew would cause a panic back at our school."
Buffy hadn't even thought about the school. "All the students are going to flip if they hear about this," she said. "'Bringer of Death.' They'll think the First's come back, again. We can't tell them."
"Better they hear it from us," said Faith. She hissed in pain, as she eased herself away from the wall and tried to stumble forwards. "Those vamps are going to make sure that every single person in our school knows about this, one way or another. And if you and I aren't around to reassure them it's not
the First or the Bringers, we'll wind up defenseless."
"So what do you suggest we tell them, then?" Buffy asked.
"The truth," said Faith.
"Okay, great," said Buffy. "We just get on the loudspeaker and tell everyone that there's a group of super smart vampires around who are immune to sunlight and can't be staked or decapitated — led by someone calling himself the Bringer of Death (who isn't a Bringer, by the way) — and they're aiming for not just the complete destruction of the Slayer line, but the complete destruction of the world. Yeah. That's not going to start a panic at all."
Faith grunted. "Point taken."
She glanced down at the murdered body by their feet. Arlene. Such a young kid, the only survivor of the previous attack, and now she was dead.
"We'll fix this," Buffy promised. "Before anyone needs to know about the 'Bringer' thing."
"We better," said Faith.--000--
Spike glanced back at the demon that had led him here. Just to make sure it hadn't been lying, or this wasn't some trick. "You sure?"
"Does it look like I want these creeps to wipe out the human race?" the demon snapped. "That's my food supply they're talking about destroying."
Spike gave the demon a very long, cold stare, then dropped the matter, and went inside the abandoned house.
If Spike hadn't been a vampire, he'd have gagged at the smell. It was the thick stench of death, of horror and blood and bodies. He tried the lights. Nothing. Probably smashed in, like everything else, here. Spike switched on a torch, and shone the light around.
Just like he'd thought.
Every single surface had been smashed through, plaster from the ceiling fallen in, fixtures ripped out of their sockets, shelving tossed aside.
"They knew it was hidden somewhere in here," the demon informed Spike. "They just didn't know where."
"Yeah, I can see that," Spike muttered. He stepped forwards, across fallen and smashed up furniture, torn-apart couches and fragments of books. Then into the next room, where he found…
"Mutilated," Spike said, examining them. He knelt down. "Tortured for information, looks like. Guess they didn't know anything."
"They weren't here when he hid it," the demon agreed. "The humans didn't even know anything was hidden."
"That Worthing kid knew," Spike pointed out. He turned on the demon. "Might have been able to tell us where it was, if you hadn't killed him."
"I was hungry!" the demon protested.
Spike turned away. He'd beat the demon up later. Right now, he had more important things to do.
"Any idea what it looks like?" he asked, skimming his flashlight along the floorboards. "I mean, is it a gem, or a charm, or a…?" Spike stopped, as his flashlight caught the corner of a bundle of newspapers. Except… there was something about them. Something drawing Spike towards them. As if… he knew… deep down inside…
"No idea," said the demon. "Just that it was really powerful, and the skinny guy in the trainers wanted to make sure it wound up in the right hands."
Spike picked up the bundle, examining the handwriting on the outside. The hastily scribbled words — for Angel the Vampire — and the hurried note underneath."Angel—
In a bit of trouble. Not sure how bad it'll get. Wear this at all times, just in case.
Spike felt a horrible sense of dread in the pit of his stomach, as he tore at the side of the package. Reached inside. Brought out the object.
"Oh, bloody hell!" Spike shouted.--000--
Angel looked between the two. "Exactly the same."
"Damn right it is," said Spike, around a cigarette. He took it out from between his lips, and exhaled. "Could have told you that before."
Angel picked up the one they already had. "Except this one looks more beat up. Older." He turned to the one Spike had just found, in the apartment. Touched the two of them together, creating a huge spark.
Everyone in the room flinched back.
"So it's not just a copy," said Angel. "They're exactly the same. The same object. But this one…" raising up the object Spike had just found, "…is at a younger point in its own time stream."
Joanna sighed. "I hate time travel."--000--
Buffy knew she was in for it the moment she walked into the Slayer Institute to discover the same exact message graffitied onto the walls. The same phrase, over and over again:The Bringer of Death is here. And every one of you shall die.
"Huh," said Faith, the moment she saw it. She crossed her arms. "Guess that not-telling thing didn't last too long."
Buffy turned, and began racing towards her office. "We've got to stop a panic," she said.
She turned three corners, darting as fast as she could go, and only paused in her run when she discovered the group of people standing just outside her office door. Glaring at her.
"Did you know about this?" Willow demanded.
Buffy and Faith looked at each other.
were the one who wanted to keep it a secret," Faith reminded Buffy.
Everyone nearby gave irritated groans.
"Look, Buff, you know we're with you all the way," Xander put in. "But we really, really hate it when you keep secrets like this from us."
"I didn't want to cause a panic!" Buffy insisted.
"Yeah, because all the graffiti is definitely avoiding a panic," Dawn said. "Buffy, the whole school's in an uproar. There's no way you're going to get anything done. Ever."
"I'll talk to them," Buffy said. "They trust me."
"They trust you enough to stay somewhere safe," said Dawn. "Not enough to fight back."
Willow muttered something about them all coming down with a sudden case of 'moral objections' to getting themselves into danger.
Buffy gritted her teeth. She'd fought tooth and nail against that stupid section of the Slayer Constitution. The one that gave others a way to weasel out of things if they didn't feel like it. Just claim you were morally against an action, and suddenly, no more obligation to follow orders!
Buffy had known. An army wasn't a democracy. Couldn't be. Ever.
"We're never going to solve this," said Dawn.
"We will," Buffy corrected, "with information." She crossed her arms. "All of you. Go out and find every book you can on vampires, and start doing serious research. I want to know who the Bringer of Death is, what he's up to, and how he's going to destroy the human race. And make sure—"
That was when Dawn's cell phone rang.
Dawn picked it up, listened, then handed it over to Buffy. "Angel," she said.
Buffy grabbed the phone from Dawn, and held it against her ear. "Not a good time, Angel," she said.
"Not a good time for either of us," Angel agreed. "But trust me. You want to see this."
"Just… come down to LA," Angel said. "It's something you have to see in person."