"Most important rules for driving are: always follow your instincts, watch out for weird alien creatures… and don't follow anything the GPS tells you to do, because it's evil and it wants to kill you." — the Doctor to Buffy, in Sunnydale, 1999
"Are you certain you're not the Jones family's long-lost relative or something?" said Alison, racing through the streets of Cardiff with Buffy, during one of her university holidays. "Because this isn't just 'being friendly', anymore. This seems a lot more like they feel they owe you something."
Buffy shook her head. "What could they possibly owe me?" Darted out, lunging at the googly-eyed alien, trying to pin him down to the ground. "I mean, I didn't even know them before that Saxon debacle."
The monster struggled in Buffy's hands, and Buffy adjusted her grip, as Alison fiddled about with the energy weapon she'd gotten from Torchwood.
"Maybe Martha's been talking about you," Alison proposed.
"That could be it," Buffy mused. Squinted, as Alison held up the gun. "I'd use setting three."
Alison frowned. "Not two?"
"Not with biology like this," said Buffy. She grunted, as she forced the creature down, again. "This guy's built like a steam engine."
Alison adjusted the gun, looking down the sights.
"Loosen your left arm a bit — no recoil on an energy weapon," Buffy reminded her.
The creature shrieked, then slumped in place, stunned by the pulse from the weapon.
Alison raced over, gave Buffy a hand and helped her to her feet.
"Sorry, it's hard getting used to the guns," Alison admitted. "I'd never fired one in my life before Torchwood, and…"
"The Torchwood ones are all different than normal ones anyways," Buffy agreed. Sighed, as she worked her way around the creature, grabbing it by the arms. "Yeah, trust me. I had the exact same thing when I first started doing work for them."
"That why you usually fight with a sword?" Alison asked, stifling a laugh, as she grabbed the creature by the legs and helped Buffy haul it into the Torchwood Van.
They tossed it into the boot.
And Buffy shot Alison a warning look. "Hey. Don't diss the sword."
Alison glanced down at the clock on her iPhone, and swore under her breath. "I gotta get going back to London," she said, tucking the phone back into her pocket. "My parents want me home for dinner."
Buffy snatched a look back at Alison's car. Slamming the boot of the Torchwood van closed. "You got ATMOS on that thing?"
Alison nodded, as they made their way over.
"Martha's been looking into that ATMOS stuff," Buffy muttered. She opened the door to Alison's car, squinted at the dashboard. "She says it's suspicious."
"Comes with a GPS and no carbon emissions," said Alison, with a shrug. "I can't complain."
Buffy shifted her gaze to the built-in GPS. Narrowed her eyes at it.
Then, with a Slayer-powered punch, smashed it in.
"Hey!" shouted Alison. "What are you…?!"
Buffy spun around to face Alison. "Friend of mine, a while back, said those things were evil," she told her. "And I believe him. Don't use the GPS."
Buffy might have believed the warning.
But, turned out, Alison's parents didn't.
"We bought that car so you could commute to your internship at Cardiff!" Dad shouted. "Not so you could smash up the GPS!"
"I've been hearing some rumors," Alison replied. "About ATMOS and whatnot. I'm not sure it's safe, Dad."
"Nonsense!" Dad retorted. "That's just your typical university-style radicalism, turning everything into some conspiracy theory. ATMOS is perfectly safe. All the cars have it, these days! And I'm not making an exception, just because—"
"It does help the environment, Alison," Mum cut in. "You have to see that."
Alison shrugged. "Someone at work told me it might be dangerous. And I trust her."
A dark look passed across Dad's face. "Her? You mean Mrs. Summers? The American?!"
"There's nothing wrong with being an American," Alison said.
"It does seem a little odd that you've been hanging around Mrs. Summers so much, even while her daughter's off traveling," said Mum. She folded her hands on the kitchen countertop. "I've always thought there was something a bit odd about that woman."
Alison stared down at the carpet, a small smile tugging at her lips. "You don't know the half of it."
"…but basically, Dad said he doesn't want me hanging about you, anymore," Alison panted, as she raced after Buffy, on the streets of London. It was nearly five in the morning, the landscape still dark around them. "Which just proves that my parents are both mad. And I should just keep doing my own thing, without needing to seek their approval."
"You do get why they're worried, though, right?" Buffy said. "I mean, you disappeared for a whole month after your first day at Torchwood."
She slid to a halt, at an abandoned intersection. Held up her hand.
Alison paused. Listening.
Then spun on her heels, pointing to the right. Towards the non-terrestrial noises. "That way!"
"You're learning," Buffy commended, following her. "Keep this up, and I'll show you how to disarm and attack monsters with a garden shovel."
"That come up often?" Alison called back.
"Maybe once a week," Buffy replied, with a shrug. "Always good to have a fallback, in case monsters show up when you're not around Torchwood guns."
They almost caught the alien.
Until Dad turned up.
Pulled up alongside them, in his car, and honked the horn at Alison. "What do you think you're doing, young lady?" Dad demanded, sticking his head out the window. "It's five in the bloody morning, Alison. Get in the car, and I'm taking you—!"
"Well, I work odd hours," Alison cut in, easily. Crossed her arms and grinned at him. "I don't choose when the aliens come out, you know."
Dad glared at Buffy, hands tightening on the steering wheel. "I said I didn't want you around that woman," he snapped. "And I meant it. Not even if you—"
"And you're going to nip down to Oxford and check, every so often, just to make sure?" Alison challenged. She sighed. "Give it a rest, Dad. I'm old enough to make my own decisions."
"Decisions like destroying your car?" Dad said. He unbuckled his seatbelt, and tried to turn off the ignition. "That's it. If you're not getting in, I'm dragging you—"
But instead of the ignition cutting out, the GPS flickered on.
"Drive straight," the GPS voice reported.
Dad snapped his head around. "What…?"
Then, without Dad doing anything at all, the car zoomed forwards. Accelerating as it raced along the streets, and zipped out of sight.
"Dad!" Alison screamed, trying to get after it. The car… had done that all by itself! Alison was sure of it. The GPS had chimed in, and the car had just…!
A sudden blur of motion zoomed by Alison, as Buffy began to sprint.
"I'll get him!" Buffy shouted behind her.
And then was gone.
Buffy raced forwards, fast as she possibly could, down the London streets. Hearing the skid of tires and smelling burning breaks, as Alison's Dad frantically tried to get the car under control. No way she'd ever catch up with it — better cut it off.
She zipped down a back-alley, flipping over a fence and darting across two different backyards, before climbing up the fire escape of an apartment building.
Pausing, at the roof's edge, till just the right moment, when she saw the accelerating car zooming down the street, just coming into view. Buffy raced forwards, launching herself off the rooftop, twisting in midair, as the wind raced through her hair.
The thud reverberated through her whole body, as Buffy smacked against the top of the car.
Clutched for purchase, nearly toppling off the side as the car continued to race ahead. She seized the edges, crawling across the top, teeth gritted.
Then punched through the sunroof.
Shattered glass went everywhere, as the sounds of the GPS echoed through the car. Commanding the vehicle to move, Alison's dad frantically trying to shift gears or pump the breaks or do anything to get the car to stop.
He seemed terrified.
"Mr. Korjensky!" Buffy shouted, over the sound of the wind and the GPS. She reached a hand down through the sunroof. "Give me your hand!"
Alison's dad stared at her. Breathing heavily. "What…? But I don't…!"
"Hand!" Buffy shouted. "Now!"
But Alison's dad was too scared to let go of the steering wheel.
The GPS reported a right turn, and the car swung violently to the right, nearly flinging Buffy off the top. She grabbed for the first thing she could to steady herself — the edge of the sunroof — and hissed as glass cut into her hands.
No time for that.
With a deep breath, digging her heels into the side window for purchase, she vaulted herself through the sunroof and into the car. Grabbing Mr. Korjensky beneath his arms, and jerking him out of his seat.
"The car!" he was shouting. "It's moving by itself! It's—!"
"I noticed!" Buffy snapped. Tried to open the doors, but they were all locked. Right. Windshield it was, then. She contorted around, to kick out the front windshield, then yanked Mr. Korjenksy with her, as they slid along the hood.
"Go straight," the GPS chimed.
As the car zipped right for the wall of an enormous office building, looming right in front of them.
"Hold your breath, " Buffy told Mr. Korjensky, getting to her feet, on the hood of the car, supporting his weight in her arms.
"What the bloody hell are you…?!" Mr. Korjensky roared.
Buffy sprung from the hood of the car, just before the impact occurred. Hearing the shatter and crunch, nearby, as she and Mr. Korjensky tumbled through the air, Buffy doing her best to twist them both and use their momentum to force them to roll.
The ground still felt like a thousand daggers shoved through Buffy, all at once, when she hit it.
Gasped for air, as she shielded Mr. Korjensky from the worst of the impact, rolling across the pavement and trying to slow them both.
Mr. Korjensky cried out, in pain.
But Buffy wasn't finished, yet. She jumped up, pulling Mr. Korjensky to his feet and yanking him behind her, the two of them racing down the street just as the fuel ignited and the car burst into flames.
"It's all right, I'm a doctor," said Martha, once UNIT had arrived at the scene of the accident. She leaned down, began examining Mr. Korjensky, testing his pupil reaction with a pen-light, then moving on to some other medical-exam-type-things.
After a few minutes, Martha nodded, and stepped back.
"You're fine, Mr. Korjensky," Martha said. "A few scrapes and bruises, but nothing that won't heal given time." She glanced up at Buffy, impressed. "Don't know how you managed to do that."
Buffy shrugged. "Slayer. All part of the job."
Alison, sitting beside her dad, gave a breath of relief. Swept him into a tight hug, trying to stop herself from shaking.
"There were fifty two other cars just like this one, you know," Martha told Buffy, packing up her medical supplies. "All across the world. At exactly the same instant. All the others… ended in fatalities."
"ATMOS?" Buffy asked.
"Has to be," said Martha. "Even if none of the scientists at UNIT can work out how." She stood up straight, looking Buffy right in the eyes. "I think it's time I called in a real expert."
"Jack's team isn't bad," said Buffy. "I could go to Cardiff, see if…"
"Not them." Martha sighed. Then pulled Buffy away from the others, to talk quietly. "There are millions of cars out there, Buffy. If they've all got alien tech inside of them… I need the biggest expert of them all to deal with it. And… I need your help, too."
The biggest expert of…?
So that's how the Doctor found out about all of this.
"I don't want my family here, when he turns up," Martha said, in a whisper. She looked deep into Buffy's eyes, pleading with her to understand. "I'm sending them off on a holiday, and… I need to know they're safe. I need to know, if something happens, that someone will be around who can stop bad things from happening. Someone I can trust to…"
"You're asking me to leave," Buffy realized, "when the Doctor comes. You're asking me to… miss seeing him, again."
Martha took Buffy's hands in hers. Her face turning that much more desperate.
And Buffy remembered… last time her family had gotten caught up with the Doctor, they'd been dragged off and tortured by Saxon. For hours!
No wonder Martha was so eager to send them away, this time.
But… for Buffy to miss a chance to see the Doctor, again!
"Please," Martha begged her. "This ATMOS thing — everyone else died, Buffy. You're the only reason Mr. Korjensky survived. I… want to know you can do that for my family. If it comes up."
Buffy glanced over her shoulder at Alison and her dad.
Then closed her eyes, and took a long, deep sigh.
"Yeah," Buffy said. "I'll do it. Of course."
Buffy wasn't surprised at the GPS turning evil and trying to kill the passengers inside the car. Wasn't surprised that there might be some alien invasion going on, beneath their noses, involving cars and ATMOS. Wasn't surprised Martha would ask her to look after her family. Wasn't even surprised that Martha would want her family very far away when the Doctor showed up.
The weirdest thing, for Buffy, was that… even before Martha had told the others that Buffy was coming with them… even when none of them knew why they were going on this vacation or anything about the danger, and just thought this was recreation… Buffy got three individual phone calls. From Tish, Clive, and Francine.
All asking her to come with them on their family holiday.
"And don't give me any of that pay-your-own-way routine, again," said Francine. "You're practically family. There's no way we're going to make you pay to enjoy a nice holiday."
Maybe Alison was right, after all.
Maybe the Jones family really did feel like they owed something to Buffy.
(Question was… what?!)