Everyone pitched in to search, but according to Buffy the best and only usable weapon in the mansion wasn't even found in the house. It was an axe Alex found in the woodshed outside. There were plenty of guns in the house thanks to Charles's late stepfather, but Buffy had refused to touch them.
"I really, really don't like those things. They make more trouble than they're worth," she said.
Charles had never liked them himself, and now of course...well, his opinion was about the same as hers, but perhaps more vehement.
He had never blamed Moira for what had happened to him, and he couldn't bring himself to place all of the blame for losing the use of his legs on Erik, so what other option was there? It was much more within his nature to hate an object than a person.
So now, they were all in Charles's office, contemplating the axe Alex had brought in while Buffy deliberated on whether or not it was sufficient to go after the creature with. The demon. The...Kaltar demon. Whatever it was. God, this was all so strange.
Buffy hefted it and winced. Charles was relatively certain it was because of how off-balance the thing was. It was old. "It's definitely not made for battle," she said. "It sure is sturdy, though. It'll have to do; I can't let this demon run loose for any longer than I have to. And the time in which I have to is now over."
"Are you sure your leg's healed enough?" Hank asked.
"Enough," she agreed. "I think I'm healing a little faster even than I usually do, actually. Maybe it's the extra boost of energy."
"Beg pardon?" Charles asked. The idea didn't seem completely out of the blue somehow, and he supposed he must have skimmed over whatever she was talking about when she'd allowed him into her mind the night before. However, he didn't remember the details.
Just then something small and bright dashed across the floor and up Buffy's leg. Buffy didn't scream, but Hank, Alex, and Sean shouted.
"What the hell—!"
Buffy did jump, and twisted her head to look at her left shoulder, where what looked like a strangely-shaped metallic insect came to rest.
"What on earth...?" Charles began.
"Bug!" Buffy was saying, setting down the axe. "You're okay."
"Of course. Not needed after battle and beginning of healing process. Merely went into temporary dormant state."
"You could have warned me. I was worried. Why I was worried about a machine bug, I'll never know, but I guess you're just kind of cute."
It didn't seem to know what to say to that. It shifted its position on her shoulder, and after another moment of hesitation it skittered down her arm, prompting her to hold that hand up flat so it had somewhere convenient to stop. "Commencing search for Kaltar demon?"
"That's the plan. And for future reference, your name is Bug."
"Serial number is 348345—"
She cut it off. "Your name is Bug."
It stopped, and paused for a moment. "Very well."
Charles finally managed to say something else. "Uhm...Buffy, what...?"
She blinked and looked at him, as if just now remembering that he and the others were there. "Sorry. This is Bug. He's uhm...well, he's the little robot bug from the future who warned me and my friends about the demon before it attacked, actually. I know that sounds crazy."
Now he remembered seeing something about it, in her mind. "No, I uhm...I remember, a bit. I saw it."
"In my head?"
"You didn't tell us that part," Sean complained.
"I didn't exactly remember then," Charles answered defensively. "It wasn't a detail I had any particular reason to focus on."
"Excuse, excuses," Alex smirked.
Hank was edging closer to Buffy, peering in fascination at the thing perched on her hand. "So it's a machine? From just how far in the future are we talking about?"
"2892," Bug answered. "Also, not entirely machine—blend of robotics and magic."
"Magic?" Hank questioned.
Buffy shrugged. "It comes with the whole demon/vampire/vampire slayer territory."
"Huh..." Curiously, he held out his own blue hand to the little robot. "May I...?" Buffy didn't object, and Bug jumped onto his hand. Hank grinned.
Charles drew his chair closer, also curious. "How is a blend of mechanics and magic even possible? Assuming I accept the existence of magic. I am still having a bit of trouble with all of this."
"It's okay. I don't think anybody gets over it right away. And the machine with magic thing is still new on me, too. But I do think the energy boost he gave me helped jump-start my healing."
"That it correct."
Buffy held out her hand beside Hank's, and Bug returned to her. She brought the little robot up and closer to her face. "What else can you do? Before we go up against this Kaltar it'd be nice to know how much you can help. Any weapons, or are you just the messenger?"
"Small basic cutting lasers, holographic projectors, and anti-gravity capability. No weapons."
"Wait, you can fly?" A small whine emanated from the little robot, and it levitated above Buffy's hand for a moment before landing again. "Nice..."
"Good lord," Charles commented.
"Tell me about it. Wait, what about other magic? Is energy all you can give me, or can you do spells yourself?"
"Programmed to aid Slayer and adapt to situations. Can perform some magical tasks."
"What about a locator spell? It'd save us the looking for this thing."
"Negative. Time shift would interfere with results."
Buffy frowned. "But...Willow could do it accurately if she were here, couldn't she?"
"Then why can't you?" She paused. "Does it have something to do with the fact that you're part machine and not a real witch?"
Charles was completely lost. Even after seeing the basics of Buffy's life in her mind, the idea of magic, of all of it...it was still overwhelming.
"Affirmative. Some spells adversely affected by this, and by time shift."
"Great..." Buffy looked back to to Hank now. "I guess we're still on our own with the tracking thing." She glanced back at the robot once more. "You, though, are still coming with."
"Of course. Can provide energy support." With that Bug crawled back up her arm, jumped onto her jacket, and then into her pocket. It was the same jacket she'd arrived in, though she was wearing Raven's clothes under it.
Charles wished she had come back just once—to get her things, to make sure he was all right, to give them a chance at a better goodbye...but she hadn't. He chose to believe it was only to make the sudden separation easier to bear.
Buffy was picking up the axe again, and Hank look ready to go too. "We'd better get going, then. I guess we start where he went into the woods. As big as he is it shouldn't be too hard to find him. I hope."
"You're probably right, and I should be able to smell him long before we—"
"Wait," Charles said suddenly. Even he wasn't sure why, until he admitted to himself that he wanted to do something more useful. He knew of at least one way that he could, though he wasn't fond of the idea. "Before you leave, I want to try something."
They all looked at him.
"This thing's mind...it's so different, I should be able to find it from a greater distance than others. Of course, it may also turn out that I actually have a shorter range for it, but I won't know until I try to locate it. I want to try."
Buffy was already shaking her head. "Charles, I don't think you really understand the demon concept. That thing's mind is evil. It would be too dangerous for you to—"
"I don't plan to go entirely into its mind, Buffy. I only mean to locate it. I'll just need to touch it, barely. If I don't even do that I may still be able to get a general direction. That much should not be dangerous."
"And what if it is?" Hank asked.
"Going out there after it is dangerous for the two of you; should I tell you that you can't do it?"
Buffy hesitated, but then she let out a breath and conceded. "Okay. But be careful."
"But—" Hank protested.
Alex shrugged. "You heard him. Let the man try."
"It'd give you a better starting point," Sean said uncertainly.
"Precisely," Charles nodded, more firmly.
"Like I said, just be careful," Buffy repeated.
Hank nodded in agreement, though he still didn't look happy. For the record, Buffy did not look thrilled, but Charles knew she understood that anything he might gain from trying could definitely be used. He nodded back at them both, and brought his fingers to his temple to focus.
He felt the pull of something strange and out of place immediately. It took some time, but he determined a direction. He should have stopped there—it was a direction; it was something—but as much as he was wary of that mind, he wanted to do something to help more than that. He wanted something better. So Charles drew closer, and he felt resistance immediately, as if the demon knew he was trying to find it. As strange and different as the thing's mind was, it was also very strong, and more aware to tampering than a regular human mind was—more aware than many mutants, even.
He fought closer, and he felt the strain. He was relatively certain he was making a face. The demon had more mental prowess than the average non-telepath, yes, but it was still technically not a telepath. He could do this. More than likely it was only the difference in construct causing most of the problem now. If he could only get closer, read into it more, learn how this new sort of mind operated...
Much of him still didn't want to—was almost afraid of the thing, as awful as it felt even from a distance—but it was the only way he could help. He had to. He was nearly there. For now if he could only skim the surface and pull out immediately, at least, he could learn more precisely where the beast was. Another moment and—
Charles shouted. He jerked against the back of his chair, both hands moving automatically to clasp his head as a sharp jolt of pain suddenly stabbed through it. He hadn't felt anything like it since the day he'd managed to control Sebastian Shaw. It had hurt, for just a moment, when he'd first taken control, because Shaw was so strong. He'd cried out; Moira had asked him if he was all right...
This was much like that, but still different, and on top of that much worse.
"Get out of there!"
Thankfully, this also only lasted a moment. But he lost contact.
"I-I...I am out," he managed after a moment.
"Are you okay?" Hank demanded worriedly.
"Charles?" Buffy was asking. Sean and Alex were echoing her.
"I am all right, really. It was just..." He scowled. "I'm not sure, actually. I think it sensed me coming close and...well, I think it may have attacked me."
"It can do that?" Buffy questioned.
"Or its mind is so alien that attempting to actually touch it had such an adverse effect."
"I told you—"
Hank snorted. "Adverse effect? That looked like a little more than an adverse effect. Are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine, Hank, thank you." He let out a breath and paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He'd been so close; he just hadn't been prepared. If he went in more stealthily, more carefully, perhaps he could get what he needed unnoticed. "All I have is a general direction. Now, I was almost there. If I tried again—"
"I don't think so."
"It is not up to you, Hank," Charles shot back sharply. Could he do nothing anymore?
Buffy cut in. "Charles, a direction is plenty," she said quickly. "It's more than we had a few minutes ago. We can start where he disappeared and head that way; it'll save us a lot of ducking and weaving trying to follow his path. Thank you."
She meant it, and when Charles broke off from glaring at Hank to look her in the eyes he saw it as well as sensed it. She was thankful, and she didn't want him getting into a fight with his friends over anything related to helping her. He knew there was more to what she trying to do in diffusing the argument, but that part was harder to face.
It was hard to admit to himself that a young women he'd only met last night could already read him so easily, without any telepathic ability. She seemed to already know how he felt—how much he hated being less useful than he used to be.
True, being in a wheelchair didn't change the strength of his mutant abilities, but...it did affect the versatility in some ways. Now he could only try to locate the creature from here; if he could walk he would simply have gone with them, tracked it in the field. Maybe he wasn't much of a fighter himself, but he would have been able to follow it, and lead Buffy and Hank straight to it. For that matter, if he could walk they would all have gone. There would be no need for Sean and Alex to stay here to protect him. It felt awful.
Of course Buffy didn't know all of that, specifically, but he knew that somehow she understood that he was frustrated. She was trying to make him feel better.
Charles swallowed, and nodded a bit in acknowledgment. "It's gone north," he told her.
"Thanks," she said again, and she smiled at him. She didn't move to go until he'd smiled back. It was weak, but it was there. That was something. He felt her hand on his shoulder briefly, before she was gone.
Hank looked back at him guiltily, but Charles waved him on. "Go. I'll stay with you as far as I can." Hank nodded, and he followed Buffy.
"Charles?" Sean asked, once they were gone.
"You good, man?" Alex added.
"Fine," he answered shortly, and sighed. He moved around his desk to the windows, and watched Buffy and Hank make their way down the hill out back. "I'll uhm...I'll need to concentrate to stay with them once they're out of sight, so if you don't mind..."
They got the message, and they left.
"Are you sure you don't want a weapon? Something?" Buffy asked as they reached the woods.
Hank shrugged. "I don't really need them anymore," he said, glancing down at his claws.
"I know; it's just this thing is pretty big, and its skin is kinda tough. The last thing I want is for any of you to get hurt because of me."
"I'll be fine."
They reached the spot where the Kaltar had vanished, and there was a relatively clear path. Buffy glanced up at the sun, but it was too close to the middle of the day to really determine which way north was. The sun was directly overhead. "Okay, and north from here is...?" Hank pointed in the direction the path was headed, and Buffy nodded. "Okay then."
The path did deviate from north at times, but they kept on in the same direction and the trail of broken branches and crushed shrubbery always reappeared. Knowing it would did indeed save some time. Which brought Buffy back to Charles, and wondering what had happened there.
"On the way out I heard Charles say he'd stay with us as long as he could. What does that mean, exactly?"
"He's keeping tabs on our location through one of us—probably me."
"But that's it?"
Hank looked at her strangely. "Yeah, I guess."
"Then can I ask you something? And he won't know I talked to you about it?"
"As far as I know...why?"
Buffy shrugged as they walked. "If you don't mind my asking...I was wondering how long he'd been like that."
Hank snorted. "What, stubborn? I think he was born that way."
"That's not what I mean."
"I didn't think so..."
"It hasn't been long, has it?"
Hank shook his head. "It's only been a few months. If he's been upset or had trouble adjusting he hasn't really talked to us about it. I know it can't be easy for him, but he's just like that, I guess. It's hard for me to say; none of us knew him for more than a few weeks before it happened."
Buffy made a face. "God, that's awful." Her hunch had been right. She knew he couldn't have been paralyzed for long, because she knew that look—the one that said he wasn't able to do as much as he otherwise could have, and he hated it. He was nowhere near used to the idea. She'd seen that look many times last year, on Giles's face, when she'd started college and stopped going to him for training. She knew now that he'd felt useless and unneeded, and it hadn't been easy for him. She was more than glad that that was all sorted out now.
"What happened?" she asked.
"The short story is that he ended up with a bullet in his back. The long story...is a long story, and I'll let Charles tell you himself if he wants to you to know any of it.
Hank only shrugged, and they continued in silence. Buffy wasn't sure how long they walked, following the trail, but eventually it came out of the woods and they lost it.
"Crap...have to looks for footprints..."
"Don't need to. I can smell it, remember? Straight ahead." Hank took the lead, but he stopped shortly after when they reached a stretch of train tracks cutting through the countryside. "Damnit."
He stepped over the tracks and sniffed, and let out a frustrated grunt. "Scent's gone. He must have hopped a train."
"Did you see that thing? Do you really think it could have done that?"
"It wasn't that slow; it could have easily hopped a freight train, and it probably would have fit in a mostly empty boxcar."
"Damnit..." Buffy echoed.
"What happened to it-won't-go-far?"
"I didn't think it would! It's supposed to kill me; I thought it would stay close and strike whenever it had a chance. Warrior-types like that are usually pretty low-intelligence and single-minded. Apparently this is one of the smarter ones, and it deserves a whole lot more credit than I gave it. It's getting away—giving itself time to make a better plan than crash-in-and-crush-the-life-out-of-everybody. Though to your credit, I bet the powers you guys have is at least part of the reason it decided to play it this way." She scowled. "Or it could be the only reason. God knows I wasn't much of a challenge for it the first go-round."
Buffy huffed in anger and spun to head back the way they had come, muttering to herself. "I really do not need this right now. It should be find the demon, kill it, and go home. Not that I know how I'm getting home...how am I getting home?"
At that Bug crawled out of her pocket and skittered up to her shoulder. "Have sufficient energy and technology to create one time portal. Possibility of your being transported with the Kaltar during battle prepared for." "You know, you could have told me that before."
"You did not ask before."
Well that was a load off her mind...but she still had to take care of this demon first, before it screwed with the timeline. If it hadn't already. Since she was trapped here with it, she hoped she'd know if it did.
After a few more minutes Hank caught up to her, seeing as she'd stormed off. Buffy had a feeling he could more than easily have kept up with her from the beginning, but that he'd been giving her space.
"Charles knows we're headed back," he commented after another moment or so.
Buffy glanced back in the direction of where they'd lost the Kaltar's trail, but kept walking. "Is there a way we can find out where those tracks go?"
"I'm sure it wouldn't be hard, but Charles is the one who grew up here. He's already working on it, actually. He said he should have maps there at home."
"Good...maybe a map'll give us more of an idea of where he may have gotten off besides checking every station for signs of carnage."
Hank winced. "That thing is pretty damn sturdy; it could probably just jump off anywhere. Checking stations wouldn't be enough."
This was going to be a pain in the ass, wasn't it? And as nice as these new friends were, all Buffy wanted was to be home—to make sure Giles was all right and the timeline was as it should be. She just wanted to be there to protect her sister like she was supposed to. She wanted Glory gone and she wanted her mother back.
But no. Instead she was here, in 1963, hunting a demon that wanted to kill her, and she couldn't go anywhere until it was dead. If she did there might not be anything to go back to.
When Hank and Buffy returned it was nearly dark, and Charles had several maps spread out over his desk, studying them carefully though he didn't know exactly what he was looking for. Some of them had the tracks on them and some didn't, and he was going back and forth between them all, trying to make sense of what the creature might be thinking and where it might be going.
"What have you got?" Buffy asked when she came back in.
Charles shook his head. "These maps cover the state and I have one or two that cover the surrounding states, but none of the maps of the entire country that I have include the railroads. I should think we'd hope it won't go that far, but..." He looked up at her. "Where would it go? It may want to be farther away for now, to lay low for a bit, but you don't think it's running away, do you?"
"Definitely not," Buffy confirmed. "It's not the type. Demons in general usually aren't the type. They're rather butt-headed."
"I see. And uhm...your plan is really to kill it outright?" he questioned. He would have asked earlier, under normal circumstance, but he'd been a bit upset before she and Hank had left.
"I don't have a choice."
"You're sure? I know I know almost nothing about any of this...but there have been so many you've...and I just wonder if it's the only option. Are they really nothing more than creatures? This one is clearly intelligent. And it can speak. I saw that much for myself when it spoke to you on the lawn before it disappeared last night." He paused. "I'm sorry to spring this on you now. I meant to say something earlier, but earlier I was..."
"I know," she said gently.
Buffy found the chair nearest the desk and perched on the arm, seeming to gather her thoughts before she spoke. "Maybe it can speak, and...it is more than a beast, maybe it's even a someone, sort of...but it's not a person. It was never human. It's a thing from another dimension entirely, and it means no one any good. It's evil. Granted, there are demons who live on earth in my decade who are peaceful, but usually it's because they've interbred with humans, or their species spent a long time a long time ago changing and evolving and deciding not to kill and enslave humans anymore. They didn't become that way all at once. Others just find it easier to coexist if they're not snatching us off the streets. But if a demon isn't clearly peaceful, or at the very least indifferent, then it's a safe bet it's evil. You can't trap evil, or try to reform it...you have to get rid of it. I will never kill a human being—my job is to protect humans; even the stupid ones—but I will never hesitate to kill a demon if I know it's a danger to anyone."
She shrugged. "It's like...if you were attacked by a bear, or a shark, or a wolf. Sure, they deserve to live too, but if it's you or it you're gonna choose yourself, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Charles frowned. "Bears and sharks and wolves are animals. These...demons, as you call them, are sentient beings."
"Actually, there are species that aren't. Some of them really are just big dumb animals. Not all of them are self-aware. The ones that are...well the animal analogy is the simple version. The more complicated version is that, like I said...they're evil. Okay, so that's actually simple too, the good and evil thing...but it's not so simple to people who don't necessarily believe in it." She let out a breath. "The thing is, if I don't kill demons—if I don't stop the ones that are evil for good—then they'll take over. They'll make the Earth a living hell, and I can't let that happen. That's why there is a Slayer. It is us or them."
Charles studied her for a moment, taking his time to absorb all of that. He knew she was completely serious, and the enormity of it all—of her world—was hitting him anew.
"There will be trouble if we don't find this creature, won't there?"
She nodded curtly. "Big trouble. It may be here and now, or it may only show itself in how screwed-up the timeline gets in the future, or it could be both. But there will most definitely be trouble if we don't stop this thing. For good."
"Then...we have no choice?"
"None. Or I don't. You don't have to help me; it's my calling, not yours."
Charles was quiet for a moment, looking at her. "Of course we'll help," he said finally. "I know I will, anyhow. However, I think the others will still feel the same."
"Thank you." Buffy smiled. "You know, there probably aren't that many people who would be handling this as well as you are."
"What? Having a girl from forty years in the future drop into their backyard and tell them that demons and vampires and magic are real—along with a real demon to prove it? Oh, I'm sure anyone would find it incredibly simple."
They both laughed, and Charles glanced back down at the maps. "Anyhow...what sort of place do you think it might go?"
Buffy shook her head helplessly as she stood to come around and look at the maps herself. "I really, really don't know. This is the first of its kind I've seen, and I don't know how it thinks. I wouldn't know where to even begin. It might want to find more woods farther away to get lost in, or somewhere rocky it might find a cave, or it might just be pissed off and decide to get off in the first bigger city it comes across and cause some random damage."
"Is that last idea enough of a possibility to be worried about it?" Charles asked anxiously. Because that would not be good at all. The general public might not know much of mutants yet, but the governments of the world certainly did. If the demon attacked a city, there would be more than enough of those who would mistake it for a mutant as he had at first. That would not help the mutant cause in the future.
Buffy thought for a moment. "I don't think so. Probably it just wants to fix its time-travel device if it can so it can escape when it's done, and figure how to get around you guys. Unfortunately I've probably given it the impression that I won't be all that hard to kill, myself, but Alex's...energy beam, or whatever, hurt it. It wasn't too fond of whatever the hell Sean does, either."
"Are you very good at science?"
"Not at all."
"Ah. Then it would be very difficult to explain exactly what Sean can do."
"It's okay. I know it's pretty damn useful; that's enough for me."
Useful. Charles gave a weak chuckle, and she turned to him quickly. He looked away, hoping she'd overlook it—he hadn't meant for it to sound that way at all—but she didn't.
"Hank told me that what happened to you was relatively recent," she said after a moment.
"You already thought so."
"So you picked up on that then."
"I did," he admitted.
Buffy nodded. "I kinda figured you had." She went to grab the chair from the other side of the desk, and sat in it after pulling it to the corner where she'd been standing. "What happened?"
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
She raised an eyebrow. "Hey, I let you rummage around in my head.
"That is true..." He paused, going back over what he remembered. "Did I tell you that I'm sorry about your mother?"
Buffy's face fell. "That's not fair. You changed the subject."
"No, no, I...I really did just want to tell you that I'm sorry. It simply hadn't been the right moment before." He winced in apology. "I'm sorry; I only picked that up because it was so much in the forefront of your mind when I was in it."
She shook her head and shrugged, but she'd looked down and wouldn't look up again yet. "It's okay; I kind of figured you'd pick up on that too. At some point at least. It's kind of the biggest thing going on right now. Besides Glory."
"Glory. Is that the larger threat you face, back in your own time? I didn't get many details on it; I was more interested in the general picture."
"Yeah. That's Glory all right. It would take another eternity to explain that one. Even I'm not sure I really understand everything going on there, so you wouldn't either if you went in for the rest of it. I just know we have to get rid of her, and we don't know how."
He really didn't know what to say to that, especially since there was nothing he could do—even if he could walk. "I'm sorry."
Buffy waved it off. "Right now all I can afford to worry about is this demon. Focus on one problem at a time to keep myself sane."
"I suppose I can understand that. It's not always something we have the luxury of doing."
She looked up finally, and smiled a bit. "I guess this being-out-of-time thing has its advantages." She sat back then, looking at him patiently, and was silent.
Charles studied her. He didn't have to wonder why she wanted to know. It wasn't morbid curiosity or a convoluted desire to know everything. It was nothing like that. Buffy Summers was simply a kind-hearted young woman who only wanted to help him, because that was what she did. She helped people. She wasn't the hero who was always in shadow, impersonal and only doing what needed to be done out of duty. No, she cared. She cared quite a lot.
But he also knew that he wasn't ready to tell her everything. He didn't know everything about her yet, either. He didn't know exactly who this Glory character was, or why she worried Buffy so much. There was much he didn't know. But he did know some things. Perhaps she was right; she should know a few things too.
"How much did Hank tell you?" he asked.
"Just that you were shot, and that it was only a few months ago."
He nodded. "It was a bullet, but I wasn't shot intentionally. I was...caught in the crossfire, I suppose you would say." He saw her open her mouth to question how he'd ended up in any sort of battle in the first place, and he simplified it as best he could. "There was a group of mutants attempting to use their powers to bring disaster to human kind, rather than aid. My friends and I had no choice but to stop them. They would have started a nuclear war."
"Oh my god." Buffy paused. "I'm sorry..."
He shrugged weakly. "I suppose I'm thankful that at least it happened doing something I believed in, rather than in some ridiculous accident." He tried to smile at that last part, but he was sure it came out looking pained. He was even more sure when Buffy reached out and took one of his hands.
"I'm glad you have that," she told him, squeezing a bit.
This time Charles was able to give her a smile of thanks that was more genuine. "Thank you. Perhaps I'll explain the rest at some point."
"Maybe I'll let you see the rest of this crap about Glory sometime before I go back, if you want to see it."
Buffy released his hand, and he turned back to the maps. "We'll see."
If nothing else, Charles was sure he'd be able to say he'd gained a friend from this adventure.
After pouring over the maps for a while longer, Buffy and Charles pinpointed a few spots along the tracks' route that might be ideal hiding places for a demon of the Kaltar's size. At some point Bug emerged from Buffy's pocket and crawled across the map too, helping. The little robot knew more about the behavioral tendencies of Kaltars than either Slayer or mutant did.
"Attack only when victory is certain. Angered if victory is not achieved, but patient in creating circumstances perfect for victory at a later time. Clever despite size and appearance. Does not rest until victory is achieved."
"It hardly seems that there could be a worse combination," Charles commented quietly. He'd shaken his head. "If only I could do more."
It had been decided that tomorrow they would all take a car and check the places that Buffy, Charles, and Bug had marked. The points on the map crossed the state and went into the next, following the tracks. They had cut off the examination of the maps at 250 miles down the line, because they had to stop somewhere.
Still, the trip would take two or three days with the stops to thoroughly check the appointed areas. That was why they were all going. Hank wasn't thrilled about Charles coming—especially since Charles had apparently been beating around the bush about acquiring a vehicle that could accommodate his chair. While they were gone he would have to use a regular folding wheelchair that could be carried in the trunk.
Now though, Buffy had been instructed to get some sleep. The compromise had been that if she was going to sleep, Charles had to do his best to get some as well.
When she returned to her room from showering, though, ready for bed, she found Bug awake and pacing the nightstand.
"Bug? What's up?" She sat down on the edge of the bed. "You look like something's up."
Bug stopped skittering so much, and stopped to look at her. "Charles Xavier is...damaged."
Buffy frowned, unhappy with the little robot's wording. "His legs are paralyzed. He can't walk. Why?"
"This is easily fixed in century of origin."
"That's nice, but we're not in your century of origin, and you said you can only make a time portal once, right?"
"Correct. Once after arrival in 2001 to warn you."
"Then what are you going on about?"
"Charles Xavier could be of more use in finding Kaltar demon if not damaged."
"Hey, stop saying it like that. He's not damaged goods. He's a person who does everything he can. What he can do is just a little different now. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Please refrain from argument. Only stating fact."
And why was she arguing with a machine in the first place? It didn't know what it was saying; Bug wasn't trying to sound awful. She shook her head. "Whatever. Do you have a point?"
"Only stating fact, yes?"
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Sure. Fine. Yeah, I guess he could do a little more to help us if he could walk, but that's not going to change and he's doing the best he can. I'm glad he and his friends are the ones who found us." She laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling for a moment, talking more to herself now. "I think what he wants is for people to treat him normally again—not pity him or worry about him."
She pretty much got it, because that was how she felt now, wanting things to go back to normal as much as they could. Having Giles and everyone else walking on eggshells around her and Dawn actually didn't help, and it had finally been starting to wear off before this fiasco began.
"I think Alex and Sean mostly understand, but Hank just isn't getting it..." she was saying.
Buffy looked up again, and Bug had already shut down for the night. She rolled her eyes again and got up to turn off the light.
"You are the weirdest little robot..."
Surprise of surprises, she dreamed about her mother that night, and it moved into a nightmare about not just her mother, but Giles. Both of them being gone instead of just Joyce. And then she failed to stop the Kaltar, and she and her friends followed, and with no one left to protect her Glory found Dawn—
Buffy woke up shivering, and reached to turn on the lamp on the nightstand. When she did she realized that something was wrong, and it took her a moment to wake up enough to realize that Bug was missing.
She blinked to clear her eyes. "Bug? Are you in here?" There was no sound of skittering metal legs, no digitized voice. "Bug?" she called.
Then Buffy heard a shout from down the corridor, and she had other things to worry about.