Title: Shadowed Halloween
Email: malaskor[at]t-online . de
Copyright: August/September 2004
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own Buffy and all associated characters; Shadowrun and Earthdawn belong to FASA, Wizkids and FANPRO. I'm only borrowing the settings and some of the characters to have some fun, not to make money (as if anyone would pay me money for this. J )
Spoilers: Only if you don't know the Halloween episode, other than that none.
Category: Crossover, action and hopefully I manage to insert some humor but don't hold your breath too long
Summary: It's just another Halloween on the Hellmouth… a.k.a. Xander gets a different costume.
Feedback: Yes! It is craved like food and absolutely necessary for me to get better so take a moment to write me a few words.
Distribution: Xanderzone, Twisting the Hellmouth and maybe FF.net, all others please ask first, I'll probably say go ahead but it would be nice to know beforehand where my story ends up.
Author's Note: This story is the result of a plot bunny that has been annoying me for over one year, now I have finally begun to put it down into words and promptly got blocked - so I hope that this little piece will help me unblock myself.
AN 2: This story was helped into existence by the album "Monsterican Dream" by LORDI
AN 3: This story is dedicated to Nigel D. Findley, the creator of the character I abducted for this crossover. He left this world too soon (in 1995).
//….// = thoughts
"…." = dialogue
Looking through the costumes at Ethan's Xander found an interesting set, a pair of black gloves that would reach up to his shoulders and would give them an obviously artificial look by showing a mixture of armor plating and unnaturally smooth skin in between as well as the impression of mechanical joints which were most noticeable at the fingers.
//Cool. Now I know what I'll go as, much better than just a soldier. Hmm, the rifle is out now, but I think there was a pistol that I can afford and that fits the costume.//
Fifteen minutes later he was finished with his Halloween shopping and left the store with Buffy and Willow still in there. He would meet them in the evening when they were to collect the little munchkins.
A strange feeling of dizziness overcame him and suddenly he wasn't anymore where he was supposed to be. He suddenly stood in the middle of a sub-urban paradise that simply couldn't exist in Seattle. The sky was too dark and no skyscraper or arcology was to be seen.
All around him he could hear screams and glass breaking, but no Lone Star patrol cruiser or yellowjacket was to be seen or heard, not even the wail of activated Panic-Buttons. Quickly he checked himself to see what he had to work with. A short mental command stared the self check routines in his cyberware and after a few moments all systems came back with an 'all clear'. Inside his trusty, armored jacket he found, as expected, a dicote coated knife and his new Ares Predator III and five reserve magazines as well as three certified credsticks and one programmed with his current cover SIN (System Identification Number).
//Seems as if I should pack some more gear the next time if I can't even go meeting my crew at the pub without something happening. It's not as if I was in the Barrens to expect bigger troubles to prepare for than gangers.// he thought, his eyes roving across the street in front of him. Then he was torn from his thoughts be a girl's voice calling out behind him.
"Xander, Xander. Wait up," the scantily clad redhead yelled while running hard towards him - though her voice carried no sign of exertion.
//She must be pretty cybered-up.// shot through the 'runner's mind just before he answered, "I don't know any Xander. My name is Argent. And from the way it sounds around here, you should seek a hideout quickly and hope the best for that Xander."
"Oh no, not you too Xander," the girl moaned.
"Sorry girl, but I'm not Xander and I really don't like to repeat myself very much," Argent growled.
Willow, fearing that the altered Xander would go away quickly responded, "Wait, let me explain. You see it is Halloween and people dressed up for that and then they turned into their costumes and Xander dressed as you." In fact her response became quicker and quicker until Argent had trouble with keeping the words apart as they spilled from her mouth.
"I see," Argent replied a bit dubiously and added under his breath, "I wish Hawk was here to check that out." Louder he continued, "I'm not sure how to ask, but as what did you dress?"
Under his gaze Willow turned a deep read that nearly put her hair to shame at that question. Defensively she answered, "A ghost. Here, see?"
With that she moved her hand through a lamppost and through Argent's body - or maybe we should better say Xander's body under different management - to illustrate her point.
"Well, let me say that, you are by far the prettiest ghost I have seen," Argent commented, deepening Willow's flush even further. //Interesting… a ghost and she can still flush…//
Then his thoughts were interrupted by a horde of little monsters charging at them from further down the road. At once his wired reflexes kicked in and his gun almost seemed to jump into his right hand, the glinting metal in a compelling contrast to the matte black color of his cyberarms. At once the smartgun link in his had connected with his predator and a crosshairs appeared in his field of vision, first it was black, then as it came to rest on the first of the charging mini-demons it turned red. He caressed the trigger and a slug left the barrel, moving at high speed towards the little creature. With a last moment's twist it managed to evade a deadly hit by the bullet, it buried itself in the possessed child's shoulder instead of the heart.
In the same moment as the bullet entered the shoulder Argent heard Willow scream loudly, "NO! Don't shoot them they are just children that were possessed by their costumes."
"All of them?" the shadowrunner asked already calculating where to shoot next should it be necessary. The data feedback from his gun already interfaced with the tactical computer that was also connected to his smart-link and highlighted the little pseudo demons in yellow as potential danger that had to be spared as long as possible.
"Those yes. But in Sunnydale are also real demons and vampires," Willow explained while the possessed children ran away from the deadly gun in Argent's hand.
"Which strain of the HMHVV(1) are we talking about Vampire or Nosferatu? And do we have to worry about wendigos?"
"What?" Willows less than detailed answer was a study in confusion. "Strain of what? There are just vampires, you know demon possessed corpses that suck your blood and dust when you stake them?"
"All right, different sort of vampire than what I know obviously. Are they supposed to be at room temperature like in the old stories or something like that? And what powers do they have, any talent for magic or enhanced physical capabilities? And are there any further weaknesses besides staking?"
"Well, yes they are dead, right? So unless they just fed they are as cold or as warm as it is. Powers, I'm not the best one to ask, Giles could explain it all much better. But I know for sure that they are all several times stronger and quicker than humans, some can probably use magic. The Master could control persons, but he is dead, I mean really dead-dead, now. Weaknesses, besides staking would be sunlight and fire that burn them to ashes and beheading. Holy water and crosses burn them like acid, yes that should cover all the important stuff. But we shouldn't be seeing any of them. Giles mentioned that they usually stay inside during Halloween, something about it being too strange for them or something like that."
"I see they are really different to the ones I know."
After her quick summary on the vampires that usually plagued the town a thought crossed Willow's mind, //Buffy, she should be able to help. We get to Giles and when he has found out what is going on and how to reverse it, Buffy's going to kick those guilty for this so hard in their asses that the will leave Sunnydale on a ballistic flight curve.//
As soon as her mental ramble had passed Willow said to Xander, no to Argent she reminded herself, "Come on we have to find Buffy and then get to Giles. He will know how to get things back to normal again."
"Who is that Buffy that we have to find her?"
"She's our friend and besides that she is the Slayer that means she is gifted with the strength and abilities needed to fight the vampires and win as you well know Xander… ehm, I guess not with you not being Xander at the moment," Willow continued a bit embarrassed that she had made that error in regards to what Xander's possessor would know. "In short it means that she can beat nearly any vampire to the ground and stake it without breaking a sweat. And with a bit more work the rest of them."
"Ah, a physical adept, I see. Do you know where we are most likely to find her?"
"Yes, I think so. She wanted to take her group over to Mrs. Halconen's house when I saw her last. That's half a block that way," Willow replied, pointing towards the south.
"All right, let's get moving then," Argent said, ordered, as he turned into the indicated direction and walked off with the smoothness of a panther.
Behind him Willow-the-ghost blushed brightly as she admired his movements and physique, it seemed to her as if the possessed Xander was more filled out than she was used to, and she knew quite well how Xander looked like when he was walking. After another moment of admiring him, Willow shook off all naughty thoughts that had risen - and those were several - and hastened to catch up with her best friend.
A few minutes later Argent stopped in surprise, not even a dozen meters away a brunette girl in a Victorian dress was scrambling away from a car that just passed them on the street while screaming loudly.
"Ahh… Demon! Demon…!"
Behind him he heard the ghostly Willow curse, "Damn it, it got Buffy too."
Seeing that her curse had attracted Xander's attention she blushed again. //What's up with me? Normally I don't blush all the time around Xander and now I'm beginning to curse too. I must be affected by what's happening even more than I thought. Or is it the way that it affected Xander that is affecting me?//
Out loud she called, "Buffy, over here! Come to us."
Buffy's frantic retreat from the car had taken her already half the way towards Xander and Willow had they stayed in place. As that was not the case Buffy stumbled and collided with Xander as she turned around to see who had called her buy this boorish version of her name - or better said her costume's name. Before she could fall to the ground Xander had caught her with surprising speed and agility, meanwhile the car continued on down the street.
"Oh, my hero! Thank you for rescuing me. This is all so horrible. All these demons… What is happened? Where are my attendants?"
"We don't have time for that now. There are still too many hostiles in the area. We have to get to a safe place," Argent said, to Willow he continued, "Do you know such a place where we can secure a defensive position?"
"Sure, Buffy's house is not far from here. We can get there within ten minutes if we walk normally."
"Good. Let's move out."
"You would follow the lead of such a low born tramp? Don't you have a sense of standing?" demanded Lady Buffy in a shocked and indignant voice.
"We don't have time for your feelings towards so called lowborn people. If you don't want to get to a safe place you are welcome to stay here and wait for the next thing that wants to eat you to come along."
"No," gasped Buffy, "you can't do that."
"Wait, I will come along. I'm sure that my father will reward you well when he returns and finds me sound and safe."
"Good, then let's get going," Argent said a bit gruffly, while inwardly being very relieved that she hadn't called his bluff. Sometimes a strict codex of honor could really be annoying, but in the long run it always paid up.
About ten minutes later they arrived at Buffy's home while at the same time evading the few possessed children that were along the way.
As soon as they were all in the possessed Xander began to evaluate the home for defensibility, for that he inspected every room and checked all the windows for accessibility from the outside. The rooms upstairs he locked where a key was present, the few others he barricaded shut with chairs under the door handles. While it wouldn't provide too much of a stop to a real determined intruder it would be enough to alert him to them, and probably delay them long enough for him to react appropriately.
On the ground floor he proceeded the same way with the notable difference that he also moved obstacles in front of the windows to slow down anyone attempting to enter that way.
//Too bad that there are so many large windows here, and not even low rating bulletproof glass was used. It wouldn't have been that difficult to turn a house of this kind defendable if it were just a bit more like how it would be in my Seattle. No use to wail about this, I'll simply have to make due with what we have here.//
He had barely finished with the most basic barricades when they all heard a woman screaming outside the house. They all reacted to it in very different ways, "Lady" Buffy cowered into the corner furthest from the door, and Argent had his gun out so quickly that it seemed to have sprung from its holster to his hand then he cautiously moved over to the door. Willow on the other hand reacted different again, in a way that she would never be able to react in normally; she stuck her head through the wall next to the door, to see what was going on, on the outside.
On the other side of the wall Cordelia was running from a furry creature. It swiped at her back with a long, clawed arm and caught the back of her costume, ripping a long gash in it but never nicking her skin.
Willow quickly pulled her head back inside and yelled to Xander, "It's Cordelia and something's trying to eat her. But I'm not sure if it's a costume or a real Hellmouth spawn."
Upon hearing this confirmation of the need for action Argent threw the door open and jumped out, gun leading. As soon as the smart gun link confirmed his aim as a good firing solution he caressed the trigger sending a slug into the outer tight of the currently leading leg. With a loud yelp of pain the creature lost his balance and fell hard to the ground.
"Girl, come in here! Quick!" he ordered Cordelia in the barking tone of a drill sergeant.
Quickly the both youths retreated into the Summers' family home, while the pseudo-werewolf limped away from the building, whimpering with each step.
Once they were inside Willow and Buffy crowded around the two returning youths, or maybe better said they approached the two and when Buffy saw how Cordelia was dressed she stopped at once and kept a suitable distance as befitting a noble lady. It simply wouldn't do to be associated with so many low born trollops, no matter how desperate the situation that threw them together in this house.
At once Willow began to speak with Cordelia, "You are Cordelia and not some catgirl and we are your friends, well sort of friends with you insulting us even when we rescue you and then we return the favor and insult you and…."
Willow's babble was interrupted by an annoyed snort from the brunette, "What's your damage? And what's up with the town? Do you have your fingers in that?"
"What's your damage? I know who I am and who you dweebs are. And again, what's going on here? Oh and what's up with the hooker dress?"
"All the children are possessed by their costumes, well most of them anyway. And while it isn't your business I'll have you know that I dressed as a ghost, that dress was Buffy's idea."
Cordelia had already left that train of thought and with a help of a mirror she was now examining the damage to her costume. "Oh, damn. I'll never get the money back from Partytown. Why did Jo-Jo the dog faced boy have to hunt me, couldn't he choose someone who had earned it?"
Willow snorted in annoyance, "You really have a strange set of priorities, as if your safety deposit is more important than not ending up as dog food."
On the outside the group of possessed and normal Sunnydalers could hear the chaos unfolding, screams and breaking glass could be heard just as readily as laughter and running feet. In fact practically everything but police or rescue service sirens could be heard. Combined with the bickering between Cordelia and Willow he came close to loosing his patience. He didn't like not to be in control of his situation, at least he didn't when there wasn't the serious firepower of his team around to back him up. It was time that they became more proactive, by sitting on their collective asses there was never going to be a chance at getting in control of what was happening. Intel was needed and any backup they could get their hands on.
"Willow, you said earlier that you knew someone who should be able to help us, correct?"
"Yes, Giles. He should know what is going on and how to stop it. And if he doesn't, he probably has it in one of his books."
"Good. You have the best chances to get to him quickly so you have to go. We'll stay here as long as we can keep this position. If we need to retreat we will try to reach that high school you mentioned, but for now it is better we stay here where I can keep a better eye on these two," Argent ordered, Willow nodded in agreement and quickly ran through the wall towards Sunnydale High.
"Hey, who died and made you king, dweebo?" asked Cordelia. "Xander, are you even listening to me?"
"You haven't been listening before, have you? I'm not this Xander, I may be in his body, but I'm definitely not him. You can call me Argent. And as to why I'm giving here the orders, I'm the best qualified to see you through this alive. I have survived several tours in the Desert Wars and more even more years in the Shadows. If you have a better qualification, go ahead and give me a better alternative to my plan. But if all you know about is fashion and how to snipe at people with words you better follow my lead if you want to survive this," his patience finally had run thin. Still fuming and not feeling any better from blowing up in this way he strode off upstairs to check the surrounding area from a higher vantage point, leaving Cordelia behind with Lady Buffy while she gave a good impression of a fish on dry land at the dismissal she had just suffered from her possessed high school nemesis. In fact Argent felt rather bad about this loss of self-control, usually he was much more controlled and calm, even under stress and in bad situations.
By the time he returned to the ground floor he saw an unknown dark haired male in the room with the two girls, Buffy kept her distance from him while Cordelia seemed to be in the process of trying to chat him up.
"Who are you?" he asked the man
"Angel," the vampire answered, having already gathered from the happenings outside what probably had happened with all the costumed youths, though he was unsure about the cause. "It is good that you have barricaded the house, outside is total chaos. The only good point is that nearly no real demons are out tonight."
Argent nodded in acceptance of the other man's introduction and report and answered in a no-nonsense tone, "I'm Argent"
Before they could continue their talk the windows both on the front and backside of the house were broken and a small horde of mini demons tried to invade the house.
At once Argent and Angel jumped into the fray knocking out Mini-demons with powerful fists while trying to keep them away from the girls, but a pair managed to slip past them. Cordelia managed to take one out with a well aimed kick between the legs and the other one with a pan over the head. While the first one writhed on the ground in agony she looked around for Buffy but couldn't see her anywhere.
"Buffy? Buffy, where are you? Why aren't you kicking their butt? Buffy!?" when it became obvious that Buffy was nowhere around she called to the two fighters, "Hey guys, Buffy is gone!"
Upon hearing that Argent and Angel sped up even more, dispatching possessed children left and right. Much to Angel's surprise Xander - //No, Argent...!// he reminded himself - easily managed to keep up with him and the punches of his matte black fists seemed to be as devastating as the souled vampires, if not more so. Soon all intruders were knocked out or had fled.
"We have to find Buffy," Angel stated. "As a noblewoman she won't have a snowball's chance in hell should she get in trouble."
"Just great," groused Cordelia, "Couldn't she have chosen a useful costume, like a superhero? But noooo… it had to be the one costume that turned her into a worse airhead than Harmony! With her you can at least talk about fashion."
Outside the window, in the shadows of a few bushes Spike grinned manically.
"That's just neat."
Rubbing his hands together he hurried off to gather some play buddies to have some fun with nabbing his third Slayer.
After a moment she hissed towards Argent, "Don't you dare to repeat a word of this to anyone, Harris."
With a nod Argent acknowledged her vague threat, but that was as far as he would concern himself with it. While he didn't care much for the way Cordelia acted he could understand the need for keeping up one's reputation and a small part of his mind wondered how she would cope with running the shadows of Seattle, or maybe she would be an exec for one of the megacorps. Yes, that he could easily see, she had all the bearings of one and would thrive in those surroundings´. While in the shadows the chances were much higher for her to find a quick and violent end with this kind of behavior - but if she could keep it up and survive… what a runner she could make. With a small shake of his head he banished the ramblings of that small part of his mind and concentrated on the task at hand, to find the missing Buffy Summers.
Giles looked around the quiet library in appreciation of the collected knowledge that could be found here, from the mundane books necessary for a high school library to the Council's and his own, private collections of books about the occult and magical. Hundreds of books that contained some of the rarest information but also common knowledge, and they were all entrusted into his care. With a sigh of contentment he went to his office to see if the water was finally boiling, he felt a distinct craving for a freshly brewed Earl Grey and now he was about to sate it, while enjoying a newly arrived book about the demons and magics of Yucatan.
When he returned from his office Giles carried a tray with a steaming pot of tea and a fine porcelain cup - much finer than the one he usually used when the school was on or the Scoobies were around for a research session and the danger for it to be destroyed was always lurking in the background.
"Hey, Giles!" Willow yelled as she ran through the outer library wall opposite to Giles.
Startled by the yell and even more so by the sudden and unusual entry of the young hacker, Giles let the tray fall to the ground with a shout of surprise. Spilling the hot tea in the process and soaking his trousers in an especially painful way as the hot tea hit mostly his left, inner tight. The yell of surprise was now followed by an even more heartfelt one of pain. Cursing loudly he turned around and stalked back to his office to retrieve his reserve pants, or better said the training pants he kept there for training with Buffy. Willow was left standing in the library, looking helplessly at the mess she had unintentionally caused.
Giles quickly changed and returned to the table where Willow was waiting for him. Before she could say anything he already spoke.
"Now, what was so important that you ran through the wall yelling for me?" as Giles posed that question a peculiar expression settled on his face and one could practically see the gears turning in his head and reaching a 'does not compute' result. "One moment, let me get back to that… How could you walk through the wall?"
"Well the two things are connected with each other. See, all the kids were turned into their costumes and, well, I was dressed as a ghost. And voila, here I am instant ghost with all the advantages like walking through wall and no one being able to hit me," a bit more sadly she added, "and all the disadvantages too, I can't even use a light switch or grab a cup of coffee."
"Oh dear, that's not good," Giles commented, when a thought hit him, "Willow I'm sorry to ask, but I couldn't help but wonder what kind of ghost you went as?" While asking this a slight blush of embarrassment managed to come to his cheeks.
"What? Oh that that is what I got for listening to Buffy's come as you aren't propaganda. I didn't feel comfortable with that and put my ghost costume over what you see. But then again this isn't al that bad, you should have seen Cordy, she went as a cat girl in one of those skintight bodysuits with a tail."
"Oh my, and she turned into a feline?"
"No, no. She's still Cordelia, just in a cat-costume," Willow answered.
"So not all costumed people have been turned into their assumed personas, right?"
"Now that you mention it, no, not all but most of them."
"There has to be a connecting factor between the costumes that changed their wearers and those that didn't. Can you shed any light on this?"
"Well, they are mostly the typical costumes, you know like demons and vampires or pirates, and a few superheroes and such."
"Do you know where some of them got those costumes? It would be much easier to see if we can finish that change if we knew whether the changed costumes come all from the same source or if that didn't matter."
"Hmmm… I think you are right, Giles. Cordelia got her costume at Party Town while we got it from that new store with the special prices. What was it called again? Nathan's or Ethan's… I'm not sure."
"Ethan's!" Giles exclaimed, then he muttered under his breath, "I should have guessed." Out loud he addressed Willow, "All right I'll see that the spell gets lifted as soon as possible. You go to the others and see to it that they stay at a safe place until I have finished my part."
"Okay, Giles," Willow nodded and hastened through the wall. Back on her way to the Summers' home.
When she had left the room Giles face began to show his full rage and with a truly evil gleam in his eyes he muttered with a steadily stronger growing accent, "Ethan, you better hope that the spell is over with none of my charges hurt and you are gone before I get to you, or there will be hell to pay."
"Are you sure that she went this way?" Argent asked Angel who had taken the lead of the search when they reached a major crossroads.
"No, I'm not. But it's the most logical choice. All the other streets we have passed so far have been more or less full of possessed children. And I doubt that Buffy went anywhere near them in her state," Angel half growled at the question.
"If that's the case I guess we will have to part here. There are at three ways she could have continued on from here."
"If you think I'm going on alone you have another thing coming," Cordelia interjected. "I'm coming with you, Xa… I mean Argent."
"All right, I see no big problem with that. We'll select the two most likely ways she could have taken," Argent replied. "As a see it you should go straight on Angel and we two turn to the right here. As far as I can see the left leads to a cemetery and I doubt that she would go there in her current state of mind, correct?"
Reluctantly Angel nodded and agreed with Argent's plan.
Argent and Cordelia's way led them through the business district towards the main street. A few minutes later they passed a hunting gear and weapon supply store that had obviously been broken in already and the electricity seemed to be down at that place. As he saw that the runner decided to enter the store himself and avail himself to some additional gear that should help them in case of trouble.
"You can't just go in there and grab whatever you like," Cordelia complained as she correctly guessed his intent.
"Why not? This shop has already been robbed and the insurance companies won't care if there are one or two more weapons missing. And we might well need them to survive this experience."
"Okay," grumbled Cordelia as she gave in to his logic.
Inside chaos reigned. The weapon displays were broken, clothes racks were thrown around, in short all was thrown around or was haphazardly piled up in a few, higher heaps. The first priority of his search was for bullets of the fitting caliber for his Ares Predator and thankfully he found several boxes of full metal jacket bullets of the right caliber. Then he started to sift quickly through the weapons strewn across the room. Many of them in general and the rifles in particular were damaged enough to render them useless or at least dangerous to their wielder.
After investing some effort into the search he found a well preserved Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun and a couple SIG-Sauer P229 and enough buckshot and .40SW bullets to start a small war.
//Daisho, as Derek would say…// Argent thought as he considered the shotgun in combination with his Ares Predator, the SPAS-12 to clear a room or take down larger groups and the heavy pistol for the precision work, remembering the comment the private investigator made during their first run together before entering the Yamatetsu's ISP complex. And now, the SIG as an additional backup to complete the analogy.
"Can you use a gun?" Argent asked.
"A bit, not quite competition level but I have learned enough at the country club to hit consistently the 5-ring or better."
"That should be god enough for an emergency. Here take those," Argent said, handing Cordelia the remaining two SIGs. "Each has 12 rounds in the magazine. And among all the pistols I can find here these are the best, extremely reliable and highly accurate. If you can aim straight you shouldn't have any problems with this one."
Then he gave her a box of bullets and a reserve magazine for each weapon. While Cordelia was busy with loading her magazines Argent searched for and found two bags to carry their ammo reserves and his backup SIG. Then he helped Cordelia with the loading of the magazines which sped the process up considerably, soon they were ready to go on with their search for Lady Buffy.
From a side alley the cheerleader and shadowrunner heard a female scream of panic and distress.
"Drek!" Argent cursed and took off towards the dark alley, switching on the lowlight amplification of his cybereyes.
What he saw in the darkness made bile rise in his throat, a pirate was in the process of ripping the clothes of a blonde girl, his goal pretty much obvious.
"Let her go," he ordered in his best command voice.
"'Ey matey. Wanna join the fun?"
"Wrong answer," Argent growled and shot him in the shoulder. The impact in the shoulder joint threw the pirate backwards onto the ground. As soon as she was free of the pirate's grip the blonde scrambled from the alley and vanished down the street. Argent and Cordelia continued down the alley towards the next larger street, but not before Cordelia gave the possessed pirate another souvenir in form of a well aimed kick in the crotch. While they continued on Argent thought to himself, //That felt much more satisfying than it should have, strange…//
Giles cursed loudly as he looked at the white smoke and steam mix that rose from below the hood. Of all the times his trusty car had to choose this night to blow the cooler.
//This is simply not my night. All right walking it is now.//
With this thought he retrieved his basic vampire defense kit, consisting of a stake, a cross and two small bottles of holy water, from the car and set off towards Ethan's walking as quickly as possible without starting to run.
"Angel, Angel, wait for me," called Willow when she spotted the ensouled vampire stalking through the town on his search for Buffy. When she had caught up with him the redheaded ghost asked, "Where is everybody gone to? Has something happened?"
Angel snarled n frustration before he answered Willow's question much calmer than he felt, "We had a group of the possessed children attacking Buffy's home and while Xander and I held them off Buffy decided that it was best to flee from the house. We are now searching for her. Xander should be a few blocks over that way with Cordelia."
"With Cordelia? You left him alone with this skank at a time where he doesn't know what a snake she can be?"
"Excuse me if I thought searching for Buffy was more important than leaving those two together. And besides that, it seemed as if they got quite well along together."
"Oh no, I have to keep Xander safe from her corrupting influence," exclaimed Willow and hurried off through a stand of trees in the direction Angel had indicated before, leaving the Irish born undead to search for Buffy on his own.
Spike led a group of five vampires and a single waskarent flesheater through the mostly empty street when he spotted Xander and Cordelia at the far end of the block.
"Now if that isn't the Slayer's whelp and the cheerleader. They come as if someone had ordered take-out. Let's get them boys, we're gonna have a little appetizer before we get to bag us the Slayer."
With this order the group surged forward towards the searching duo.
Argent spotted the small horde before they even started to run towards them. Just to be certain that they were no source of danger, or better said vampires, he switched to infrared. The false-color overlay at once identified the group as non-humans with six of them a good 15°C too cold and the last one about 25°C too hot to be human and still survive.
"We are getting visitors. Do you recognize any of them?" Argent inquired
"Only the bleach blonde, he and those five are definitely vampires. There is no mask around that looks like the real deal, like they do. No idea on that red guy," Cordelia quickly replied as an unnatural calm overcame her.
The cheerleader readied her SIG while Argent brought up the shotgun to take out as many vampires as possible before they came into melee range. With a slight twinge he regretted that it had no smart-link, while he knew that he could still hit his targets without much of a problem his efficiency was slightly lessened.
For a moment it was eerily quiet, and then the silence was destroyed by the rapport of Argents semi-automatic shotgun being triggered twice in rapid succession. In answer to it came loud screams from two of the charging vampires that were stopped dead in their tracks by the impact of the cloud of buckshot that tore into their torsos.
Cordelia's SIG barked as a counterpoint to the shotgun and again a vampire went down, only this time not from hits to the upper torso or even head. Cordelia had aimed lower and hit the vampire twice in the right hip and once in the crotch. That hit pattern proved to be enough to keep even one of the most fearsome predators of cities worldwide on the ground for good - at least for now.
Argent's next shot tore away most of the flesheater's neck, killing it instantly, and from the look of its claws it was a good thing that it couldn't put them to use.
Cordelia continued shooting where it hurt the most while slowly retreating at the same time. Argent on the other hand held the position and picked off another, painfully wounded, minion.
Seeing how the attack didn't play out as it was supposed to Spike quickly veered of course, only narrowly avoiding a blast from the shotgun, the remaining minion that still had any mobility left ran after Spike and overtook him. His speed betrayed a lot of training in running before he was vamped. Argent sent a last shot after the fleeing vampire with his Predator, now that he had full use of his smart-link again the shot sat perfectly in the target, the expanding bullet he had still in the magazine ripped through flesh and joint, effectively amputating the right arm at the elbow. Before he could shoot again Spike had vanished in the Sunnydale sewers.
The immediate danger gone, they went to the task of killing the incapacitated vampires. To keep them from leaving they put bullets from their SIGs into the vampires' heads and then used a fence post that Argent ripped from the ground as an improvised stake. Soon there were only a few heaps of dust and a strangely shimmering puddle where the vampires and the demon had died.
At the same time Buffy looked at her white knight with adoration in her eyes. Sir Jonathon Levinson, a noble paladin, had found her and kept her safe from the demons that populated the night. With his glowing, magic sword and the might of his faith he kept all evil at bay that dared to approach them. Lesser undead crumbled to dust when faced with the purity of his powers and demons fled from the light he shed in the night.
In her mind Lady Buffy already pictured the wedding her father was surely going to organize to reward this noble warrior for his protection of the only heir of the Summers' estate.
At the same time Giles arrived at Ethan's. Without hesitation he kicked the flimsy door in and strode threw the remains that just barely remained hanging from the hinges. The room behind the door was close to striped bare; nearly all costumes had found someone to wear them. With the exception of a sliver of light coming from below a closed door it was completely dark inside.
Determined to get the spell dispelled as quick as possible he strode towards the door, shoving a few cloths racks out of his way, causing one of them to topple over. But by now the violent self of his youth, Ripper, was visiting and he didn't care. When he opened the illuminated door he saw Ethan in a comfortable recliner with a crystal globe in front of him that displayed various scenes from around town. The chaos mage was completely captivated by the display and showed no sign that he had even noticed Giles' entrance.
"Ethan, put an end to this spell at once," Giles ordered the totally engrossed Janus worshipper.
After a moment of surprise Ethan greeted him, "Ripper! Come on in, sit down and watch the fun. It's a great show. In some parts I'm a bit disappointed, but the chaos… The chaos makes it all perfect again."
"Ethan, I won't ask that nicely again if I have to repeat myself. Stop the spell at once!"
"But you haven't said please, Ripper" teased Ethan.
"That's it." Giles had reached the end of his patience and grabbed Ethan with both hands at the shoulder and roughly pulled him from the recliner. As soon as the chaos mage stood, somewhat unsteadily, on his own feet Giles let go of him and rammed his fists with brutal jabs into Ethan's stomach, just below the solar plexus. Ethan sank to the floor, his breath wheezing out in a groan of pain.
"Now that wasn't nice. Did you forget all the etiquette courses your mother sent you to?" rasped Ethan from his position on the ground between ragged gasps as he tried to catch his breath again.
With a hand around Ethan's throat Giles pulled the man up from the ground and pinned him against a wall.
"How can the spell be ended?" demanded Ripper from his former friend while slowly tightening his hold on his throat, his voice deathly calm.
Seeing that Giles wouldn't let go and slowly getting desperate to breathe again Ethan feebly gestured towards a table in the far corner of the room. When Giles let go a bit from pressing his throat shut Ethan gulped down as much air as possible and rasped, "The statue, break Janus' statue. That will break the spell."
Giles punched him soundly in the faced and then let the chaos mage slide down the wall while he strode over to the statue. As he took it in his hand Giles could feel the energies that flowed through it and were focused into the maintenance of the spell. Indeed, without the focus the spell would unravel quickly, probably within a few seconds of breaking the statue the whole town should be free from its influence.
With all his might Giles threw the bust against the wall where it shattered into a million pieces. For a short moment it seemed as if that was all that would happen but then came a flare of light and sound that was so intense that Giles was both blinded and deaf to the world for several minutes. Then his sight slowly returned to him, first it was only outlines that he could recognize and the high pitched noise that had settled in his ears was an additional distraction, but that too passed soon until he had once again full command over his senses.
By then Ethan had vanished, leaving Giles alone in the costume shop.
The next morning found Xander taking care of his new guns in the quiet of his room. No sound, but those of the improvised cleaning tools on the gun and the occasional metal on metal sound when he changed his grip on the weapons, broke the silence. When he was finished he stowed the weapons and ammunition away in several different hiding places in his room and the cellar. After that he gave his room one last inspection and was satisfied with what he saw. The room was tidied up and the bed was made to military standards. As there was nothing left to do he went off to school.
He was about halfway to the high school when the autopilot he had been acting on since waking up at 5 a.m. was switched off and all the memories of the last night came rushing back to him. But it wasn't just these memories that rushed him, it was also a lifetime of memories of one of the best and most famous shadowrunners of Seattle and on top of that the awareness that the cyberware that had once been partially represented by his costume hadn't reverted back to normal. It was still very much real and fully functional. Dazed by these insights he hurried up his steps and hastened towards the Sunnydale High Library.
"Giles, we may have a big problem," Xander yelled in place of a greeting as he stormed into the library.
Startled the British librarian nearly let his tea pot fall to the ground; luckily it was as good as empty so he didn't spill any of the tea on himself or the books on the table.
"Was that really necessary, Xander? What is so bloody important that you can't come in here calmly when I'm trying to savor a nice cup of morning tea?" Giles asked while turning towards Xander. "Oh my dear, what happened with your arms?"
"That," replied Xander, "would be part of the big problem. The character I went as yesterday had a voluntary limb replacement and got these instead." To illustrate his point he gesticulated with his new, matte black arms. "And that isn't all that remains, Argent had a variety of other cyberware installed and I got it all and it is still working. And as the final prize I now have a second set of memories floating through my head."
Giles sat down heavily at the desk and started to polish his glasses, already thinking about what that could mean for his other charges.
Currently no sequel planned
(1): HMHVV = Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus
Gun information gathered from world (dot) guns (dot) ru
(this strange version of spelling the link was chosen due to fanfiction (dot) net practice of removing links from fics, often with a big part of the story (at least in my experience))
The Ares Predator II is a heavy pistol from the Shadowrun universe