Walk into the room in breathless anticipation. Yet another four
hours' quality time with thirty or so TVs, each of them showing some
variant of the same goddamn boring Captured Hellbeast channel.
Vampires, mostly, out cold or starving, with the occasional bizarre
demon thrown in just to liven things up.
"Hey, David, shift's over and there's no... Hi, Riley. What're you
doing here? I didn't think you had idiot-box duty until tomorrow."
"Huh? Uh, I don't, but..." and he gestures toward the largest
screen, usually reserved for whichever demon secretes the most
interesting body fluid or produces the most interesting snore -- or,
if the bosses have been around, merely the most dangerous specimen.
Instead, we have a teenage girl. Going by her appearance, a high
"That the new hostile? Christ, she looks like she could cheerlead
for the country! I thought vampires usually went for the slutty
type. Not that the two are all *that* far apart... You alright?"
He isn't. The look on his face tells me that. And he's looking at
the screen... wistfully? Finn likes a bloodsucker?
"You go with her or something?"
"Was this before, or...?"
"Before what? Wh-- She's not a vampire, Mike. Does... did freshman
Psych with Walsh and me. Got a pulse, got a temperature, got a
complexion, and she's kept them for the last eight hours."
"So we captured her because..."
"Not many humans -- hell, not many vampires -- can take out two of
Sunnydale's finest with a broken branch, or dodge one of Ewell's
taser darts at twenty yards, or break a tranq gun in half with their
"Shit. So what is she?"
"From all the tests so far, human. We'll find out more when she
wakes up, but they put enough in her to sink a vampire for a day and
a night. God only knows how long until she comes to."
At that point, she yawns, stretches, pulls herself up as if she was
in her bedroom rather than a demon confinement cell, and has her
first encounter with the "glass" wall. She jumps. Riley gabbles.
"She should have been out for longer... should have hit the other
wall when she... *can't*... be human..."
"Hello? Anyone there?"
The freak speaks.
The freak looks around for another few seconds, shrugs, then
shoulder-charges the glass.
And breaks through.
PART ONE: DOUBLE-PAGE TABLOID SPREAD
TUESDAY, GILES'S APARTMENT
"So, Giles! What's the latest threat to life as we know it? It had
better be big, and we're talking end-of-the-world here, 'cause
there's this big party on in --"
"'Ello, Slayer. 'Ello, Willow."
"'Ello yourself, Spike. Where's Giles? He called us about patrol,
kinda insistent on the 'hurry' part now that Xander's got that job
at the gas station."
"Ah, Buffy, Willow, there you are... You know that vampire activity
is, ah... increasing again, despite the, ah... best efforts of our,
ah... stormtrooper friends, and, ah..."
"Spit it out, Giles. Do we get to go to the party with the frat
boys, or the party with the undead? Not that there's much
difference..." She pauses. "You're sending out Spike instead of me?
I know those 'Kiss the Librarian' mugs do wonders for the vampire
"Not... exactly, Buffy..."
"Try 'with' rather than 'instead', luv."
"Explain, Giles. I know you like British punk, but do you have to
send me out with one? Besides, hasn't he been de-clawed? *And* those
commando guys will be after him..."
"And we can't trust him! You remember what happened last time you
untied him? He ran off to the college and hit Buffy and asked her to
marry him and then I... ooh."
Considering how pale she is, it's amazing how Willow can go so red
"First of all, he can't harm *living things*. That definition
doesn't extend to other vampires, apparently... and it certainly
doesn't include my living room floor. As for the other risks, I'm
afraid that circumstances are serious enough for me to consider it."
Pulls a piece of paper from under a book on his desk, begins to read
"'And on the twelfth night of Dravien's Blooding, the Mouth of Hell
will be as--'"
"A prophecy? Impending doom for all mankind? Why, Giles, you
shouldn't have! We haven't had one of those in two years! Why
couldn't those idiots ever stay off the mushrooms?!"
"Buffy, please, this is serious. 'The Mouth of Hell will be as
"As dust? Doesn't that mean nothing? Doesn't that mean it's
destroyed? Doesn't that mean that Sunnydale isn't demon paradise
anymore? Isn't that a good thing?"
"*As* I was saying, Willow, 'The Mouth of Hell will be as dust when
compared to the horror of that which will be called...'"
"Will be called what?"
"I don't know. Apparently Prachetius, the man who came up with all
of this, only foresaw the name written down. There's a colour plate
of the writing in here," he said, grabbing the book and opening it
in front of Willow, "but I've compared it with every ancient or
mystical text known to man, and I haven't been able to find anything
that remotely resembles i--"
"That... looks kinda like Cyrillic."
"It's Cyrillic. It's written in Cyrillic script. If you allow for a
little... Okay, okay, don't look at me like that. It should be easy
enough to transliterate, I know a few sites."
"Willow, you do know we're at Giles's, don't you? Notable lack of
"I know, but a decent encyclopaedia'll have it."
"Great! Research Girl saves the day yet again!" Turns to Giles. "Can
we go party now?"
"Well, no. You see, the other seventy-five lines of the prophecy
I've translated dealt with the means of bringing about this...
horror. In rather more detail than was necessary."
Maybe it's just the starting point, but Giles can do a far better
imitation of a beetroot than Willow can. Buffy tries unsuccessfully
to stifle a giggle.
"OK, Giles. What's the tagline to Worse than the Hellmouth: The
"What? Oh. Well... here we are... 'Two score hellions to drink the
blood, two score hellions to make it flow.' Before you ask, that
means -- I think -- that they need forty vampires or other small
demons to participate in the ritual, and forty more to stand guard."
"I've never been able to figure out what it is with us demons and
our rituals. It just gives the local White Hats more time to turn up
and ruin the party."
"Thank you, Spike. When I want your opinion I'll ask for it."
"What's this big ritual horror Hell thingy supposed to do, anyway?"
"I've no idea. I'm only halfway through translating this damn
prophecy, and I only have a rough idea when this Twelfth Night is
supposed to occur -- sometime between yesterday and two weeks from
tomorrow, as far as I can tell. But the threat of eighty vampires
converging on a town this size is terrifying enough. If even half go
"So obviously either you're counting wrong or this Cyrillic terror
of yours is a dud. Eighty vamps are a hard thing not to notice,
Giles. A few of them can lie low, but that just means the rest need
to bring more food home. I've been patrolling every morning and
night for the last week! A lot of guys have asked me to move on, but
none of them have had fangs. Hell, no trace of those Area 51 types
"First, we probably aren't just talking vampires here. They're just
the most common breed of demon, and the easiest to press into
service. Second, look at this."
The Missing Persons section. Sunnydale was probably the only small
town in the world to have a double-page tabloid spread in the local
paper dedicated to "Have you seen this lost boy/girl/drummer/army
battalion" ads. Most of these were followed up a month or so later
in the even larger Obituaries section, but the important part was to
never give up hope that someone in the town would start a gang and
get it addicted to PCP so that there would be some tiny chance that
the coroner's report was true.
Even so, it had been cut in half in recent weeks as the Ascension
fiasco, the Scooby Gang, and rumours of the Initiative (all that
worry about the one escapee and it never occurred to them that they
might have captured a telepathic demon) combined to virtually wipe
out the appeal of the Hellmouth to your average off-the-street
bloodsucker, almost nullifying the body count.
This week's count was somewhat overshadowed by the two large
articles screaming out the "tragic and mysterious disappearance" of
three unusually large buses -- one containing a small jamboree's
worth of scout groups and the other two minor-league baseball teams
-- within two days of each other.
"Look -- the same bus company. All they'd have to do is misinform a
couple of drivers. If they eat as much as we give Spike, and don't
mind a few rats between meals, there'll be enough to keep a
*hundred* vampires going, at full strength, for a fortnight."
MEANWHILE, NEAR WHAT THE VAMPIRES CALL "THE RANCH"...
The fucking idiots.
The stupid, clueless, muscles-where-the-brain-should-be idiots. To
think I first joined them thinking that they were the only vampires
in the world to have two brain cells to bash together. How naive.
The moment the local do-gooders find out where we're going to hold
this goddamn ritual we're all history. If they don't notice the
missing busloads first.
I have to admit that pulling this one off was always going to be a
tough ask, considering the requirements -- one night of the decade,
a holy place still in active use by humans, eighty vampires in the
one area, all on the Hellmouth. The secret red-eye flight to get all
the necessary bloodsuckers in was an absolute masterstroke. The
extra twenty vampires are a necessary evil in a town with one of the
strongest and longest-lived Slayers on record and some mysterious
X-Files-meets-cosmetics-company demon hunters trying to make up in
technology and attitude for what they lack in common sense. But they
wouldn't need any of this effort and risk if they'd just chosen a
different fucking ritual.
And you can't food-and-shelter a hundred demons without somebody
picking up on it. The only way to take care of the former is to
misdirect a few buses and hope that no-one notices, and the latter
has its own problems. Sure, "The Ranch" is physically big enough to
host a hundred vampires and their food supplies, but vamps are
naturally about as co-operative as Coyote and Road Runner during a
dynamite shortage. It's impossible to stop your minions from
fighting and stealing without the immediate threat of death, and the
failure to enforce said threat had taken out fifteen or so of the
And then some of the food disappeared. No-one owned up to it, of
course, and no-one looks any better fed than usual, but no-one wants
to face up to the very real possibility that they may have escaped.
Another thing about these idiots -- they can't seem to see humans as
anything more than circus animals, anything more than entertainment
and food, when they're frequently a lot smarter than their captors.
Then again, there are things growing on old dead tree stumps that
are smarter than your average vampire. Unfortunately, these tree
stumps have big weapons, so I have to follow their orders, at least
for the time being.
The idea was simple: knock out a few humans, dump the bodies in the
van provided, come back when you've got a dozen or so. Three
alcoholics later, I'm left standing near the middle of what passes
for a bad part of this town holding a tranq gun with two
even-stupider-than-usual fledglings, and incidentally am perfect
Slayer bait. And I've got a bastard of a headache that only gets
worse as we go further into town. I try to remember the last time I
had one this bad, suppress a scream when I do, and then excuse
myself from the dumb-as-hell duo to the top of a nearby building
with some binoculars. Watching them lounge around with all the
subtlety of a nuclear war, I think about using my tranqs on them and
saving the Slayer some effort. Then I swing my field of vision to
the right, see an unmistakable -- even from legend -- blonde head,
and decide not to waste my ammo.
The blonde head strides up to the two fledges, briefly exchanges
some no-doubt-witty repartee I'm glad I can't hear, removes her
jacket, makes short but showy work of the duo, and moves on. Without
her jacket. I follow her with the binoculars well over the horizon,
pull on some leather gloves, and decide to have a look at the
Slayer's taste in fashion.
A few stakes, a few crosses (hence the gloves), and a purse
containing more stakes, makeup and a compact mirror, and an address
book. Have a quick flick through, see a few names you wouldn't
expect a teenager to want to remember. Pause. Well, why shouldn't I?
Get in the van, drive to a payphone, dial a number.
"Hello, Rupert Giles speaking."
MEANWHILE, ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN...
Damn, I love this car. Well-sealed and shaded windows, air
conditioning, cigarette lighter, and a sound system so good I can
hardly hear myself sing along. Which is all good, particularly the
o/~ Oh won't you please take me home? o/~
Synth break, then Axl fires up a riff... what I'd give to play
a gig with him. Sure, I can't play an instrument to save my life,
o/~ I'm just a' urchin, livin' under the street o/~
Mexico was getting boring. Trouble with the locals is, half an hour
after eating you can do with another one, and after a week of that
there's no-one left to eviscerate and you have to go on to the next
o/~ I'm a hard case, that's tough to beat o/~
So I figured I'd go check out the City of Angels.
o/~ I'm your charity case, so buy me somethin' to eat o/~
Maybe try find the Slayer's ex, see if he's everything the grapevine
makes him out to be.
o/~ I'll pay you at another time... o/~
Besides, border guards make a good midday snack.
o/~ ... take it to the end of the line o/~
Slam on the brakes with the break, and get out the map. I don't
know any Sunnydale.
o/~ Rags to riches or so they say o/~
Oh, wait, that Hellmouth thing. Freak called Luke invited me down
for some Harvest a few years back. I told him thanks, but it's not
o/~ Ya gotta keep pushin' for the fortune and the fame o/~
Guess it didn't work, either, if the amount of town left's anything
to go by. Roll back, take another look at the sign.
o/~ It's all a gamble, when it's just a game o/~
Grin, move the car just right, pull out and twist the cigarette
o/~ Ya treat it like a capital crime... o/~
The right headlamp pulls down, and a jet of flame bursts out, slowly
moving from left to right, incinerating the sign. Not that they'll
miss something that hideous. Just doing my duty to the community.
Sure, it reeks of James Bond, but who cares when it's so much fun?
o/~ ... everybody's doin' their time! o/~
Drive on, to an all-night gas station, grab a bite to eat. Cute kid.
I like this one. Leave him not *quite* dead outside the hospital.
Y'know, let the Slayer know I'm here.
o/~ Take me down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and
the girls are pretty... o/~
PART TWO: THE KIND OF POLICE
The roads of Sunnydale at night. The lights are on, but most people
are at home, asleep, and staying that way. They may all have the
town's unique brand of amnesia, but that doesn't mean they aren't
afraid of all those bizarre gangs out there.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. A few are awake for
their own mysterious reasons, trying to rehabilitate the region's
many PCP addicts being one of the most common. Apparently studies of
the occult are of considerable help here, though it is never
explained why. For most college students, the definition of "home"
can be extended to anywhere on or nearby campus; for the town's
youth in general, the Bronze is a lot more fun than sitting at home
moping over the mysterious death of half their relatives by barbecue
And then, of course, there's the young vampire in the gleaming black
sports car screeching to a halt outside the hospital and dumping a
MEANWHILE, JUST AROUND THE CORNER...
"Well, that was a waste of time."
"Look, Forrest, we'll go on patrolling every night until we find the
"Why? He's neutered, can't harm a living thing to save his unlife.
And his friends, what few there are, aren't getting any more
cautious, so I personally think he's dust and bones. Didn't you see
what happened to those vamps Third Div starved?"
"I don't want to kn--"
Something barrels past.
"What the hell was that?"
"Black car, didn't get the make, license number UQT-985. He was all
over the road, a door was open, God only knows how fast he was
going. Two feet further to the right and you'd be dead, Riley."
"Thanks for that vote of confidence, Graham. No point in tracking
it, it'll be halfway to the high school already. Anyway, it's a job
for the kind of police who don't have to worry about bloodsucking
demons on a nightly basis."
Turn a corner.
There's a kid sprawled out on the footpath, looking badly injured,
unconscious, and bloodless as a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Drained for
sure. Rush over, and against all odds, he has a pulse. The
hospital's easily within sight, but nobody seems to be doing
anything on that end.
"What do we do, sir?"
"I'm not sure... do we have a guy inside the hospital?"
"We do -- in bed with a broken leg."
"OK, then, we'll do the John Wayne thing."
Riley and Graham change into casuals, pick up the body, and drag it
and themselves into the emergency room.
FROM THE CAR
Shit! What in the hell were those three doing out here at this hour?
Guess I'll need to put on the spare 'plates. Lucky for them I've fed
The trouble with new towns is finding a place to spend the day.
Normally I'd just find some local to board with, but I haven't seen
a single damn vampire anywhere around here. The idiots I nearly
sideswiped didn't have quick enough reflexes. Either the Mouth of
Hell is heavily overrated, the Slayer and whatever weird help she
has now heavily underrated, or the regional Master takes the whole
living-underground thing a little too close to heart. Probably all
of the above. Guess I'll have to settle for some abandoned basement.
"So, a hundred vampires are hidden somewhere, feeding off busloads
of Babe Ruth wannabes and working on some untranslated horror which
could start at any moment. Therefore, you want Spike to patrol with
me. Am I missing something? Fifty-to-one odds don't offer a much
better chance of survival than a hundred to one, so I don't see what
good Bleachboy is."
"I never said you had to patrol side by side. I merely suggested
that you two go out and thoroughly search a different half of the
town. If and when you find anything, you report back here and we'll
see where we go from there."
"And... you think we can set Spike loose? I mean, it's not as if he
actually remembered much about those commando guys, but he knows
that after we did the truth spell there was no reason..."
"Yes, I do. Buffy, Spike, go out that door, one of you turns left,
the other right, run or call back if you find anything. Willow, I
take it you can stay and research?"
"I think so."
"Good, I'll just see if I can find--"
"This?" said Willow, holding up volume three of Giles' newest
"Actually, I think you'll want the fourth volume."
Surprise, surprise, I've been all over town (the town to the left of
Giles's front door, anyway) and not one single evil hellbeast. Not
even a human. I double back along Springhead Avenue, back toward
Giles's, and wonder how the hell I didn't notice these two fine male
bloodsuckers sharing a cigarette under the street lights. They're
obviously rookies. Don't they know that anything that smokes in this
town is automatically doomed? Besides, vampires who don't learn why
they're called creatures of *shadow* don't last longer than a month.
"Hi! Great night, isn't it?"
They just snigger. Why is it that whenever I go to the trouble of
making up a really good one-liner, they just stare blankly, but when
I don't they laugh their heads off at their own private jokes? Then
one of them goes game.
"Wow, thanks! I always prefer a vampire who doesn't beat around the
bush with all that witty banter, pick up line, want to see the world
Discard jacket, dust both demons and stroll on trying to think of a
decent pun to say next time. Still, if they keep coming at this rate
I'll never need to use it.
I've walked more than a mile before I realise I've forgotten
something. But vampires that young and stupid wouldn't know anything
about any big ritual, even if they were involved.
GILES'S APARTMENT, HALF AN HOUR LATER
"How's it going?"
"Not very well. The man used quite a lot of poetic licence to avoid
discussing the topic at hand. Something about thundering rodents on
a trader's wagon. And the name is very little help. The 'Rachull',
"'R-a-ch-u-l-l', according to this. Not very impressive, is it?"
Back to the books. The phone rings.
"Hello, Rupert Giles speaking."
"Hello, Mr Giles. Uh, Buffy dropped her jacket and I was wondering
"Why would you call m-- Who are you?"
"Who am I? *What* am I? I believe the technical term is vampire,
although 'vicious bloodsucking fiend' is an accepted regional
"So give me one reason why I shouldn't hang up on you."
"Well, let's see, perhaps those pesky Rites of Rachull that are due
to be performed Saturday night? I can give you the whos, whats,
wheres, whys and wherefores."
"And, what, may I ask, do you want in return?"
"Well, your Slayer agreeing not to put a wood shaft through any
vital organs would be a good start. Look, I'm here, I'm smart, I can
fight, I have information, and I've got no immediate interest in
bringing about the apocalypse."
"Do you honestly expect me to trust you?"
"No, but I don't trust you either, so we're even. Now, unless your
Slayer comes looking for her lost clothing, we'll have to arrange a
meeting. Let's see... midnight tomorrow, Christ that's cliched but
never mind, abandoned warehouse off Townsend Street. I'll wear the
jacket. Bring rope, tranquilizers, crosses, garlic, holy water,
whatever you like, long as you can still ask me questions after. See
Hangs up. Giles is speechless.
"What was that about?"
"Well... Someone... I... It'll have to wait until Buffy gets back,
FROM THE CAR
Slow down... this looks all right. I'm sick of driving anyway, and I
do need some rest. Stop, get out, have a look around. Perfect. Go
back to get what little stuff I have, and find another vampire there
waiting for me, hands in pockets, cigarette in mouth, hair blonde
through an obvious dye-job. Standing next to my car door like he was
waiting for his girlfriend before a date. What the hell?
"'Ello. Like to tell me what you're doin' 'ere?" he says.
Has a British -- London? -- accent, too.
"Could ask you the same question."
"That one was old when me mum was born. So's this one: I asked
"That's my car you're in front of."
"I'll be right through its window and out the other side, with a
baseball bat, if you don't answer the bloody question."
And then I'll be right through your heart with the broken bat, but
still... "I'm looking for a place where I don't turn to ash come
morning. But now you've turned up, I guess I don't have to worry, do
"Try to follow or mess with me and you'll be ash long before bloody
sunrise. It's been a while since I had a decent fight."
"No aspirations to help your fellow vamp?"
"Nope. Now, why're you looking for room and board in the first
"New in town."
"Right. Some free advice, luv: get the hell out of here quick. If
the Slayer doesn't get you, a bunch of X-Files types will, and
believe you me it's better being staked slowly through the arse with
a garlic-soaked crucifix than it is meeting those bastards."
"Is a good description of what they put you through, yes. Leave town
before you have to find out."
"That a threat?"
"No, it's a warning. They don't go in for threats, or warnings
either. First thing you'll notice is a bloody taser dart up your
armpit. Hurts like hell, but luckily it doesn't last long 'cause the
next thing you get's a tranq. Then, when you wake up, they knock you
out again and get really creative with the scalpels and the
injections. If you're lucky you'll come out with one less fang than
you started with."
"You aren't telling me anything I haven't heard before, with a
little less detail. Just how can you know all this bullshit and
still be standing here? And why should I run off if you haven't?"
"First, same way you know about it, obviously. They caught an Abaira
demon early on. Second, well... You look like a young one, kid. You
don't deserve to get dusted or experimented on, least not 'til
you've got a decent body count to your name. Now," he snaps, pulling
out a stake and tossing it from hand to hand, "I suggest you get in
that fine set of wheels of yours and have a drive. I hear New
Orleans is nice at this time of year."
Think of it, but I really can't be bothered fighting this guy. Too
damn tired. That place back past the mall looked alright. Blondie
steps aside as I walk to my car, opens the door, bows and gestures
like some half-drunk British git trying to imitate a lift attendant,
which is probably what he is. Fists clench again but I hear the
mattress calling. Have to deal with this one tomorrow night. Should
GILES'S APARTMENT, A FEW HOURS LATER
"Hey, Giles, Willow! Any luck with our prophesied terror? Found a
few vamps, but they didn't have much to sa-- whoa, what's happened?"
"Wish I could tell you, pet, but Old Watchful here won't give
"I was just waiting for everyone to arrive back here so I don't have
to explain this more than once."
"Well, er... Buffy, where's your jacket?"
"My jacket? What's that go-- Oh, shit. I must have dropped it when I
took out those..."
"Someone... called me a few hours ago, to say that she had found it.
She also... mentioned that she... could help us... with the...
prophecy. She said that... they would be performed... Saturday
night. She wanted to meet us tomorrow night... in a warehouse."
"So what's the bad?"
"She's a... vampire."
Buffy and Spike share an uneasy look.
"So? You were expecting help from Spike earlier, weren't you?"
"Yes, but... Spike... we know Spike, know what he will and won't do
if he gets out, know what he can and can't do if he gets out, know
what *we* can do if he gets out."
"Giles, when and where do we meet?"
"Midnight tomorrow... at the old warehouse, near Townsend Street."
"So we show up well before sunset, deck the house with boughs of
garlic, stick a cross on the door, whatever, or just wait there with
a tranq gun. Relax, Giles. If she wants to help, great, if she
doesn't, she's dust."
PART THREE: DOWN TO THE USUAL STANDARD
Yeah, what? Yes, that's my kid, you know where the little brat is?
Oh. Shit. Yes. Thankyou. I'll just... call a few of his friends, and
I'll be... right over. Yes. Thankyou. Goodbye.
Hello, Willow Rosenberg speaking. Oh, hi, Mrs Harris! What's up?
What? No. No way. That's... that's horrible! Will he be all right?
Okay. Thanks. Bye.
Hello, Rupert Giles speaking. Good morning, Willow. What's the
problem? Oh. My God. Are you certain? No, you can't just catch
anaemia... Does Buffy know? Of course. I'll be there as soon as
"Well, he came in about eleven last night. God only knows what
happened... had a couple of gashes here and there, couple of marks
on his neck, and not enough blood left to survive more than half an
hour. It's lucky he got in when he did."
"Ah... do you know who brought him in here?
"The attendant said it was a couple of 'nice-looking young men.'
They didn't stay to give any details, though."
Willow comes in.
"How is he?"
"Well, they were going to take me out back and do the merciful
thing, but they couldn't afford to waste the bullet."
"Xander! You're okay?"
"The doctor said that he got off remarkably lightly. Once they had
the transfusion in, he was more or less all right. They still want
him to stay for a couple of days, for observation, but his jokes are
down to their usual standard, so I don't think we have too much to
"Hey! I'm the injured party here! Have some sympathy, dammit!"
"And since we so *obviously* don't have anything to worry about, you
can tell us exactly what happened, please, Xander."
"I don't know... I was just sitting there, first customer in an hour
or so came in, grew fangs, and bit me. It's kind of hard to remember
anything more, being unconscious and all."
"Male or female?"
"Not our friend at the warehouse, then."
"Long story... which we'll tell later. What did this vampire look
"Well, I only saw his game face, so... Dark brown hair, black
jacket, tall, easily six foot, and a bit on the thin side. Heard...
some kind of loud music coming from his car. Another black thing."
"Did he say anything?"
"No, just walked up to the counter, growled, dragged me over and
sank his teeth in. Not the talkative type."
"And that's all you can remember?"
"Well, at least we know he probably picked you because you were
convenient, and not because you're a friend of the Slayer.
Nevertheless, I'll tell Buffy and Spike to keep an eye out for him
"Buffy *and* Spike?"
"So, tall, thin, dark brown hair, shiny new black car, and a black
jacket... like every soddin' male vampire known to man."
"That'd be the bloke I ran into last night, then."
"And you did what?"
"Had a nice chat. Dropped the hint that he might want to leave
"He drove off. Don't know how far."
"May I enquire as to why you didn't attack him?"
"Look, Watcher -- ex-Watcher -- I haven't had a proper fight in more
than three bloody weeks. I'm out of form. I could've taken out a
fledgling or two, but not that bastard."
Buffy pulls out a sharpened wooden crucifix.
"Can I go 'train' with him, Giles?"
"Very funny, Buffy. We want him available for the meeting tonight."
"Awww... can't I just stake him a little?"
WAREHOUSE OFF TOWNSEND STREET
The building is huge. And now has more crosses in it than the
Sistine Chapel, hung with wreaths so you can hardly see the cloves
"This is why I hate Christmas. That and all the bloody happy-joy
elves. Mind you, it's not a bad decorating job for twenty minutes'
"It might be twenty minutes for you, Spike, but the rest of us have
been at it for an hour, and we're getting tired."
"Not my fault I burn easily."
The Slayer tries to stifle a giggle and fails miserably.
"Yes, but you'd think in that outfit you'd be just too *cool* to
He's dressed in his usual jacket and trousers, plus heavy welding
gloves, large heavy boots, a hood, a cap, and sunglasses, all in
"Oh, c'mon, it's not *that* bad."
It hadn't helped much, and he'd had to be careful where he put his
face until sunset came anyway.
"You look like the guy from U2 would after getting dipped in a tar
The door opens.
"Really? I was thinking more Brian Molko myself."
Slayerettes pause as one and take stock of the new arrival. And her
"And you would be...?"
"You can call me Naomi." Goes back to human. "Nice to see you're
here so early. If you hadn't been, I'd have waited here for you with
And "Naomi" produces a large, impressive-looking automatic rifle, puts it down and kicks it across the floor.
"I've got no time for idiots."
"Very well. Put down any other weaponry you may have and come in."
Out comes a stake and a few ammo clips.
"Let's see... you've already cancelled my invite -- quite a
difficult trick for an abandoned building, especially since you
didn't know my name. And there's some kind of vampire containment
spell, judging by those garlic wreaths you've got hanging up. I'd
love to find out how you managed to exempt Billy here. And... is
that motherwort? A truth spell! *Very* nice. I wouldn't expect
anything less from the people I intend to work with."
"We'll see about that. Since you know so much about the black arts,
I'm sure you know what we want you to do."
"Yeah yeah, yada yada, I swear it's truth, on my mother. That should
do, gimme the sage."
"Actually, that little rhyme was unnecessary. We've done all the
required... ceremony, and all you need to do is wear this."
Buffy gets up and ties a pendant around Naomi's neck. Smells of
"Now. The Rites of Rachull. As you said on the phone, the whos,
whats, wheres, whys and wherefores. Take your time."
Pulls out a tape recorder and presses a button.
"All right. Sit down, 'cause this is a long story. I went to Seattle
around '95, and joined up with one of the local Masters because he
seemed to be a fairly intelligent guy. Then he took a walk in the
sun, and one of his minions took over. Bloke named Patrick O'Meara.
Heard of him?"
Chorus of shaken heads.
"Complete dickhead. Decided that having hell on earth would be a
good idea, you know, kill half the humans and leave the rest in
eternal torment. Found the ideal way to get it, too. The Rites of
Rachull. See, after that goes down, all the vampires get proper
demon bodies and don't need human blood anymore. *And* whoever leads
the ritual gets to be king of it all. Rachull knew what he was doing
when he wrote it up."
She pauses. Giles nods.
"He wanted the world to collapse into a... diabolical heap, and was
smart enough to try and make sure he'd finish on top of it. But this
meant the requirements for the spell, were, basically, hellish. You
need eighty minor demons in the real world chanting in about six
different languages at the same time in a church or whatever still
in active use, near a Hellmouth. It has to be on the twelfth night
after the Blooding of *some* bigwig demon, and you only get one of
those every decade if you're lucky. Only a dozen actual human
sacrifices, though, and only in the days beforeha--"
"Only twelve. I *am* a vampire, remember, and besides, a lot of less
powerful rituals need twenty or more."
"And when exactly is this Twelfth Night?"
"Didn't Rupert say, Slayer? I could have sworn I told him on the
phone. Midnight Saturday. They're almost as original as I am."
"Mr Giles, thank you... Naomi. Will you go on?"
"It all goes down in St Jude's on Davidson Terrace. Fitting -- the
patron saint of hopeless causes. They're already down to eighty-five
vampires, eighty-four now I've defected."
"Well, either you guys take me in, or I get out of town. They're
probably out there looking for me as we speak. They find, and well,
I don't think I need to tell you."
"So why're you taking this risk... Naomi?"
"Like I told you before, I don't have time for idiots. The thought
of Pat O'Meara ruling hell for all eternity lacks appeal. So does
the thought of any other vampire. I don't really like watching
humans get tortured. I don't *dis*like it, but there's other things
I like to do with my time. And then I heard a rumour about Spikey
here switching sides over Acathla..."
If this scene had occurred in a diner of any kind, Spike would have
been having a drink (possibly a milkshake) at this point, and would
have spluttered said drink all over the table when the speaker made
his or her point. If he didn't have a drink, he would have made some
ridiculous-sounding snort. However, Spike, being a vampire, had no
desire to drink frothy flavoured milk, and didn't even have the
breath to do a decent snort. Nevertheless, the sound he made, a kind
of low-pitched squeal, *was* appropriately ridiculous, and everyone
else in the room reacted accordingly.
After the laughter died down, Naomi attempted to continue.
"Anyway, I got sent out with a couple of fledges to get more food.
Perfect targets for the Slayer here. I sensed you coming, hid,
watched you take them out -- a little too fancy, by the way, if
they'd been any older you might've had some trouble -- and noticed
you'd left your jacket there. Went down, had a look, and Buffy's
probably the only girl in the country with her ex-librarian's home
phone number in her address book. So I dialled it. Rest is history.
Questions? Comments? Death threats?"
"*Sensed* me coming?"
"For 'sensed' read 'got a huge fucking headache.' Whenever a Slayer
comes within half a mile of me, I can barely stand up straight.
Happened when I was human, too, I used to go to school with one.
Didn't find out what she was 'til it was too late, of course --"
"Please... don't." The current incumbent's uncomfortable at the
mention of other Slayers, and who could blame her?
"-- sorry, Buffy. Anyway, Pat called it a gift, I call it a pain in
the, well, head. Thankfully, a straight Panadol gets rid of the
worst of it."
"Any ideas on stopping them?"
"That's your job. I wouldn't mind seeing a large quantity of holy
water between the eyes of Patrick O'Meara, but that's got nothing to
do with the Rites."
"If it's not too obvious an idea, maybe we could take a look at the
church? St Judas, you said?"
"St Jude's -- Judas would make a funny saint -- and yes, it is too
obvious. They have guards posted, twenty-four hours. In balaclavas
as well as bodysuits. With mobile phones. If they don't make it back
to the Ranch, well, there are other churches in Sunnydale."
"I thought this O'Meara guy was stupid."
"He is. One of his childer's childer came up with the idea.
Disappeared out hunting Monday night."
"News to me."
"Presumably the commando group got him. Is this really relevant?
Naomi, is there any way we can stop the ritual with magic?"
"Not that I know of."
"So do you have any ideas?"
"Well, running won't do you any good, so..."
"How many guards and how long are their shifts?"
THURSDAY EVENING, ST JUDE'S CHURCH
"All clear, master. Call you back in half an hour."
Vampires tend to get tired during the day, apparently out of respect
for tradition more than anything else. It takes an experienced
vampire and a lot of caffeinated blood to get around it. And of
course Master O'Meara didn't have that kind of blood or that kind of
experienced vampire to waste. So a pair of underfed fledglings were
on guard duty, as a token measure to comfort the other minions and
as a warning in case of major attack. They certainly didn't stand a
chance of fighting one off. Especially during the day.
And they were already half-asleep when the tranquilizers hit.
OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
"Success." Looks at his watch. "The guards should be waking up in
about... ten minutes."
"Right around sunset."
"Guess I should wake up Spike and patrol."
Walk round the corner. The bombs have been placed. Twenty minutes to
midnight on Saturday, eighty vampires get fatal or debilitating sore
throats. Garlic bombs... immature but effective.
"I heard about those commando guys using tasers and electrified
walls and things to keep demons in, and I looked up some stuff.
They... used to wear these in thunder rituals, and apparently they
actually got struck by *lightning* and survived!"
A thin bracelet with a large, dull-looking gemstone... smelling
heavily of lavender. Buffy puts it on.
"Really? Thanks, Will. Just hope I won't need to find out if it
"Same. Anyway... bye, Buffy... Have fun!"
Another joyless night of slaying... until I see a familiar-looking
van. With four unconscious humans dumped inside. And, down the
street, the things that knocked them out. Only two this time -- they
really are running out of extras. Run up and say hi.
"Hey, guys, you getting some food for the party Saturday night?"
Vampire on the left decides to show his appreciation by growing
fangs. Shrug my shoulders, pull out a stake, and all of a sudden
there's ash on my jacket. Vampire on the right gets angry and kicks
the weapon out of my hand. Catch it with the other and move on.
Punch at my head, duck, punch his stomach, he dodges. Recover,
exchange roundhouse kicks --
"Do you bloodsuckers get martial arts training in the coffin or
-- headbutt, duck, punch, block, kick, roll, knock the vampire's
legs out from under him, recover, pin him to the ground. Decide to
check on that Naomi girl.
"I hear your bosses are putting on a light show on Saturday night.
Care to tell me about it?"
He growls. Obviously not. Shove stake in his face, emphasizing
pointy woodenness. Vampires can be so dense sometimes.
"You sure you haven't got anything to say?"
Growls again. Well, more of a snarl this time.
"Oh well. Your loss."
Pull up slightly, aim stake, dust in the grass. Too easy. Wander off
wondering what happens if they do run low enough on vampires, when
there's a thud against my lower back, a slight ache and that 'pip'
sound you get when you take off nylon. Pull the thing out -- *now*
there's pain -- rack my brains, then realize. So this is what a
taser dart looks like. Turn to the source. Not much to see.
"Well, hello to you guys, too! That really wasn't polite, you know?
Now, if you want to talk like good little boys, there's this really
nice all-night diner a few blocks that way..."
Someone shows himself. Usual khaki and kevlar. Walks up, stops all
of twenty-five yards away, and fires one of two guns at me. I
sidestep without flinching. While he's busy acting shocked, I close
the gap. "How can I put this?"
Grab his other gun -- looks impressively evil, but I'm fairly sure
it's just tranquilizers -- find a suitable place on the barrel, grip
with both hands.
Throw the two useless halves away.
"Any comments, or are you just going to stand there looking like an
idiot? All kevlarred up and no place to go, it's tragic! Like I
said, if you want to talk, there's this nice diner up the road. If
not, I'll knock you out and leave a sharp note for your bosses. I
don't kill humans--"
Another thud into my side. Suddenly get sleepy. Remember that that
other gun held tranqs. Damn. At least I know where I'll wake up.
Open eyes quickly. Flash of white, probably a wall. No surprises.
Close my eyes again, decide what to do. I don't think a person of
my... abilities isn't going to get too much time alone after being
confirmed awake. An idea forms.
Wake up and stretch, exaggerating the morning ritual. Idly wonder
what kind of coffee you'd get here. See the one transparent wall,
check to see if it's the same kind of "glass" as Spike said. It is,
but I guess that bracelet of Willow's is working better than she
thought. Jump a little to show willing. See if anybody's listening.
"Hello? Anyone there?"
Wonder what they think of the voice of the freak. Give them another
Guess they aren't playing. Stand back, do my best to look
nonchalant, shrug my shoulders. Charge the electric wall. It breaks
with a pretty tinkling noise. I don't get cut *at all* but there's
no time to thank anyone for lucky breaks like that, with the hall
guard raising his gun. Duck and roll, use the same move I did on
the vampire earlier. Has the same result. Grab his gun, snap it, and
run on. Around a corner, another guard. Firing tasers. Giles is
right, all this hi-techiness is killing off basic human
communication -- he doesn't know I don't conduct electricity and
doesn't have any other guns.
Run past him, the occasional dull "thuck" and "pip" letting me know
he's wasted another dart. Into another hall -- this one's as big as
a hangar -- with guards pouring in, but still using tasers. Dash for
the rapidly closing security door and drop to a roll for that
classic Indiana Jones moment. Works great until my back hits
something solid... apparently it was closing more rapidly than I
thought. Look up at the commandos approaching. One of them lifts his
gun. It's not a taser this time.
PART FOUR: EAST MEANS
Look around desperately. The commando fires. I roll, dodging. Keep
on rolling, away from the door -- and towards another wall. A bullet
lands inches from my head. Half-roll, half-run-while-ducking into a
group of the guards, knocking them over. A gun lands in my hands.
Fire into the air. Bad idea. Whatever this thing has for a bullet,
it ricochets. Not all of the stormtrooper types are wearing anything
on their heads. I dodge anything coming my way, aimed or not, break
the gun in two (getting to be a habit) and throw one of the pieces
into the melee of guards. It hits one of them where a helmet should
be, but that only seems to make his friends angrier. One of them
forgets his gun and lunges at me. I back into the wall, which turns
out to have an opening. The lift the guards came out of. Slam my
hand in the narrow gap, push the doors open a lot faster than they
closed, and slip in. Reach desperately for the "door close" button,
press it and then the button for the highest floor. The lift obeys.
Pause for breath, and now that I can think, I'm amazed that it all
worked. Go past two floors with no trouble. Come to think of it, the
button panel looks like something hastily adapted from a hotel...
"Intruder detected. Lethal countermeasures engaged."
... or not. Wait for the spikes to descend, but all there is is gas,
coming out of a grille near the floor. What's the deal with Slayers
and poison gas? I can probably take more of it than they'd expect,
but... I get a mouthful of the stuff and don't hesitate. The
"emergency open doors" button works as well, leaving me stuck
between floors. Climb out onto the higher one and meet about six
stormtroopers. Grab one, knock his gun down, use him as a shield. He
takes some kind of bullet. I pray it wasn't lead. Hold him close and
retreat back to the lift.
Climb up above it, on top of the chamber. There are no doors at all
above the floor I just ran from... but the walls where they should
be look pretty thin. Drop the poor man who's shielding me into the
lift and punch through the thin boarding. Pull desperately at the
hole, ripping open a large enough gap for me to climb through... and
I'm free. Knuckles are bleeding, there's at least six taser darts
poking out of various areas, but no guards here, yet. The first
thing I see is a small window. With sunlight streaming through. It
must be past noon.
Dash to look out, and it's on the ground floor. Open it and land
smoothly... I can even shut it from outside. Honestly, you'd think
this town had never joined the nineties. It's easier to get out of
than my room at home. Walk calmly but quickly back to Stevenson,
then realize that's the stupidest thing I can do if they're based on
campus. Lose all concept of calmness as I run to Giles's. Luckily
it's close to the college -- it has to be for us to meet there. But
I've had too much luck today.
Thundering on the door.
"Buffy! Where have you been? Willow said you didn't..."
"Giles [pant] those commando guys [pant] saw me dust [pant] a couple
of vampires, and [pant] captured me."
"And you... how did you... escape? Never mind, that's not important,
the question is what do we do now?"
"She's in danger... they're based on campus, they'll know where I
live, where she lives..."
"Oh... my... I'll call the university. Try and warn her..."
UC SUNNYDALE FRONT OFFICE
The phone rang and rang and eventually rang out.
"Damn. Hey Steve, you going through McEwan?"
"Yeah, got a parcel for one of Walsh's many and varied TAs, why?"
"Phone message. Tell 'em it's urgent. Here's the details."
The professor marched back into the hall.
"Willow Rosenberg, please go to the front office. You have an urgent
Willow, looking even more worried than she had when she came into
the lecture, walked quickly out the door.
She enters the front office.
"Excuse me... I'm Willow Rosenberg... there was a phone call for
"Ah... yes... through here."
Goes through a door into a smaller office. Some anonymous adult is
sitting there, scowling. He calms visibly seeing Willow.
Phone rings back on the secretary's desk.
"It's about your roommate, Buffy Summers?"
"What about her?"
"We have reason to believe that she has bee--"
The door opens.
"I'm sorry about this, Dr Markerton... there's *another* urgent call
for Miss Rosenberg. In my office... Willow?"
She gets up, looking grateful. Through the door quickly and grabs
the handset in something like desperation.
"Willow? It's Giles. Buffy was captured by the, ah... commandos--"
"No way! Is she all right?"
"Fine, as far as I can tell, she's just a little tired, but she's
worried that you could be in danger."
"Well, actually, someone just asked me about her..."
"Oh. Oh... Willow, we have to get you out of there... Where are your
"San Diego, for some kind of conference, but I..."
"Right. Ah... Willow... say... Your mother has been in a car
accident there, and is currently in... ah... St Edward's Hospital
with quite serious injuries. Go to your room, pack for a couple of
nights away along with any magic equipment that we may need... and
some clothes for Buffy... I'll call a taxi, it will take you here,
go out and wait for it. Have you got all that?"
"Yes... yes... oh... thank you. Goodbye."
She hangs up, looking downright terrified.
He looks less than pleased.
"I have to go. My mother... she's been in a car accident."
Some anonymous office, notable only for its location in the
supposedly non-existent sub-basements of Lowell House. Two people
are having... let's be diplomatic here... a full and frank exchange
of views, or at least as full and frank as is possible with a
"So you're telling me that first Buffy Summers escapes, and then
just when we're about to question her roommate, that roommate gets a
sudden phone call to say her mother's in hospital out of town? Why
does that strike me as untrue?"
"The same reason it strikes me, I'd assume, Walsh. But there wasn't
much I could do. Stand in the way of a grieving child? Not a subtle
"Never mind. We'll get this girl. Quite frankly, from the agents'
reports, I'm not sure if she's too much of a threat to us."
"Are these the same reports that said she looks human but can break
a taser gun in half bare-handed?"
"Yes, and the same reports in which she didn't attack unless
attacked first or confined, and the same ones where she was heard
saying she, quote, doesn't kill humans, which seems to have proved
"Did you see what she did to Agent Richards? If those had been real
"All I've said is that she's not as much of a threat as, say,
"But she doesn't -- can't -- have your implant. We should still put
out a search for her."
"Of course. Using whatever means necessary."
Markerton grimaced, to hide a smile. He knew what *that* meant.
"Nevertheless, if this Summers girl has the slightest shred of
intelligence, she'll have gone into hiding. We can't risk too many
daytime patrols, so we'll have every man and woman we have out
searching tonight. But there's no way we can find her if she's not
"I know. I'm hoping we won't need to. You see, one of our new
recruits goes out with a girl who graduated with our friend Buffy.
Says she and Miss Rosenberg were, and presumably are, friends
A picture appeared on the computer screen.
"... one Alexander L. Harris. He still lives with his mother, but is
currently in hospital with what the field agents like to call
"He got drained?"
"Apparently, but not completely. A couple of our guys found him when
he still had a pulse, brought him in. They've pumped him full of
haemoglobin and want to release him... tomorrow morning. But I'd
rather not bring his parents into this."
"Not a problem."
"This is Buffy and Willow. We're not in right now, so please leave a
Slam the phone down. Shit. Who else can I call, who else can I
call... That Giles guy. Where's his number?
HALLWAY, INITIATIVE HQ
"Look, And. You said to me she was killing vampires with a piece of
wood. You knew I liked her. Why didn't you try talking to her?"
"We did. We sent out Ewell. I've told you this before. She grabbed
his tranq gun and broke it in half. And then... you saw her escape."
"In the same situation, wouldn't you? Besides, she was *killing*
"Yeah, OK, she was, but we thought--"
"*Killing* vampires, Agent Nicholson? This *wasn't* in your report.
Perhaps you'd like to come into my office and tell me a little more
"Hello? My God. Right... We'll be over there as soon as possible."
"What happened, Giles?"
"Xander... I didn't get many details but... he's taken a turn for
the worse. She... wants us to come and see him."
"I think we can."
"Well... we can say Buffy's in bed... with 'flu or something... to
Xander's mother, I mean. You and me go there, Giles... and you know
how Spike had to hide out until sunset? He didn't notice anyone
coming after him until nearly nine o'clock. I don't think they have
many people out in the day. Besides, Giles, if he's sick, I have to
The boy was in Room E12. Where surviving vampire victims nearly
always wound up, for some reason. He'd had a lot of good interviews
in that ward. One thing about partial drains was that they were easy
to talk to and talked easily. The best kind.
Get in the museum-piece Citro'n, belts on and drive off.
"Willow, could you tell me *exactly* what happened before I called
"Well, I'd been really worried about Buffy... I was at a Psych
lecture... Professor Walsh came in and said there was a phone call
for me. She told me to go to the front office, and they put me in
this... smaller office, with this guy, and he said something about
Buffy. Then the secretary came in and said there was another phone
call, and that was yours."
"Right... so presumably 'this guy' works for the... commandos. Do
you remember his face? His name?"
"Average height, average weight, black hair, brown eyes, British
accent, kinda like yours... I think. The secretary called him...
"Good. We'll have to... find a way to ask him a few questions."
"And now, Mr Harris, you're going to tell me all you know about
Make it to the hospital, dash down anonymous hallways... except for
the last one. Willow stops Giles, takes him round a corner.
"That's the guy. Outside the door, muttering to himself... That's
A nurse turns into said hallway and starts chatting with another.
"Damn... I went to Oxford with the bastard. Best if he doesn't know
you're with me. Go up and talk to him. I doubt he'll do whatever
he's planning if there's people around to see, and right now there's
you and at least two nurses."
Willow nods, with some reluctance. Goes back around the corner.
"Hello, Dr... Markerton?"
"Hello... Miss Rosenberg! Surprise to see you."
"I heard Xander had... gotten worse and I had to see him. And you?"
"What? Oh. I'm an old friend of his mother and..."
"Oh, his mother just left five minutes ago. Didn't you see her?"
"No, I can't say I did. A pity. So, how are you... may I call you
"Of course. I'm fine, I guess, but I'm really worried about Xander.
And Buffy." Tone goes harsh. "You wouldn't happen to know what
happened to *Buffy*, would you? Buffy Summers? Blonde girl, quite
petite? 'Cause I have *absolutely no* idea."
Storms into the ward as if to dare the "doctor" to try something. He
leaves, going as fast as he can back to his car without arousing
suspicion. Looks at his mobile. One missed call. Dials the number
"And you. Gimme Walsh. Secure channel. Thanks."
"Hello, Markerton. Any luck in the hospital?"
"None at all. The roommate ran into me outside the ward and
all but dared me to try something. She knows something, she made it
obvious, but there was very little I could do with witnesses."
"Well, we may not have so much to worry about after all. Agent
Nicholson's here. Apparently he was in a bit of a hurry when he
wrote his report and didn't quite say all he wanted to. Nicholson?
Come and tell Dr Markerton here *everything* you told me."
Giles walks in.
"He seems to have left. How is Xander?"
"Rarin' to go."
"What about... Your mother said..."
He points to the other bed. Yesterday, it contained a man sleeping
deeply. Now it's empty.
"I'm OK. The guy who was there... was taken out about two hours ago.
If Buffy needs to visit the morgue, she can say hi from me."
"What do you think, Giles? Some kind of demon?"
"Yes, and quite an ancient one. It doesn't require a Hellmouth or
ritual to survive, it can appear anywhere and frequently does, has
been responsible for many of the great tragedies of history..."
"Whoa... not one I'd bring home to mother then. What's it called?"
"I suspect you'd bring it anyway. It's human error."
"Giles, nothing personal, but shut up. I am the only person in this
room qualified to make a joke that bad. Anyway, where's Buffy?"
"Look, Walsh. She may well have been killing vampires, she may well
be on our side, she could have put a stake through the heart of
Hostile 17 for all we know. On the other hand, *for all we know,*
she could be bringing on Armageddon. We still need to at the very
least question this girl, if not capture her."
"I'm not denying that. But like you said, she'll be hiding. Assuming
she can feed like a normal human, and sticks to crowded areas, we
probably won't ever capture her. The best chance we have is to try
and find her and see what we can get out of her voluntarily. Trouble
is, Rosenberg was our last lead. I talked to our recruit's
girlfriend again and she gave me a few more names. They used to hang
out in the library a lot, apparently. One, Cordelia Chase, has been
in LA since last summer and doesn't know a thing. One I believe is
Daniel Osbourne, who *was* Willow's boyfriend until he vanished off
the face of the earth about a month ago. The last's known only as
Anya. There's nearly fifty Anyas, Andreas, Annas, and Angelas in
Sunnydale and not one of them fits the description. Any bright
"What about the librarian?"
"Are you kidding? These are teenagers, Dr Markerton."
"Teenagers who apparently kill demons for something to do when the
TV's on the blink?"
"I get your point. I'll look him up."
GILES'S FRONT DOOR
Very few people manage to remain calm with five armed policemen at
their door. So everyone was surprised when the man who answered
payed no mind to the officers and instead looked suspiciously at
the man in the suit with them.
"Hello... Dr Markerton, is it?"
"Yes. Rupert Giles, I believe. I'd like to ask you a few questions
about one Buffy Summers. Do you know her?"
"What if I don't?"
"I may have to jog your memory."
"Well, now that you mention it, there was a girl by that name, when
I was librarian at the old high school. Blonde, short, quite pretty
in a cheerleader sort of way. Smart girl -- didn't study nearly
enough, and still got some highly impressive scores. I understand
she decided to stay close to home for college, though. Couldn't tell
you any more."
"... you've got everywhere from here out to Crawford, Argyle Place
and St Michael's cemetery. Remember, tasers won't work on this girl,
but there still could be vamps. I shouldn't need to tell you this,
but find out what your target is before wasting ammo on it."
GILES'S FRONT DOOR
"Are you quite certain? I'm in a hurry, Mr Giles, and if you have
*any* information on this girl we really are interested in hearing
it. Where is she?"
"In her dormitory, I would assume. Far be it from me to suggest what
else a young woman might be doing at this hour. Why are you asking
"She... has been associated with an act of vandalism committed on
the university campus earlier today."
"Really? I'm surprised it hasn't been on the news, then. And
considering this town's horrifying death rate, I can't help
wondering why such a great police presence has been devoted to
"Well, yes. The death rate. Primarily caused by an unnaturally large
incidence of anaemia in Sunnydale."
"Yes, it's quite unheard of, isn't it? If you didn't know better,
you'd think that the town was infested with vampires!"
FROM THE CAR
Drive out of town to have a look at my work, and find that the pile
of ash and molten metal has been neatly cleaned up and replaced with
something even more hideous than the original sign. Damn. Don't
these people appreciate public service? Turn around, drive past, and
drop what looks like a cigarette butt out the window. Lands neatly
near the supports. Perfect. They're in for a surprise come morning.
"Another waste of time. If this girl has half a brain, she'll be
hiding somewhere, not waiting for us to trip over her. Does she have
half a brain, Riley?"
"She... well... I guess..."
"All that time with her and you don't *know?*"
"I *thought* I knew her, Forrest. I thought I knew a person who..."
"... couldn't break one of these in two with her hands?"
"But she does have half a brain."
"As far as anyone knows..."
"So she won't be anywhere we can find her. This is going to be one
hell of a boring night."
"So boring we might just find some ordinary, run-of-the-mill
bloodsuckers. Like the two on the other side of the park. The two
which are just escaping now they've seen our guns."
The vampires in question are running off, across a road and down a
narrow alley at the far end of the park.
"Split and block?"
"Of course. Forrest goes west, I'll go east, Graham takes this end.
GILES'S FRONT DOOR
"I know, I know... from what I've seen in the hospitals, little kids
dying from it, you almost *wish* it was something like that.
Something you could stop or catch easily. Like Miss Summers, if
you'd excuse my bluntness. May we come in?"
"I'd be glad to have you. Tea?"
Dr Markerton leads the way. The policemen follow, and Giles blocks
their way past the front room.
"I'd be obliged if your friends stay in here, though. Unless they
have a search warrant, of course."
ALLEY OFF HARTMAN CRESCENT
East means along Hartman Crescent, through a little, unnamed street
and out into the back of one of the countless cemeteries in this
town. East means a slightly longer run than the other two routes
involved in blocking off the many vamps who do the park run.
The park had been a popular spot for vamps to hunt. The park had
been a popular place for Initiative hunters to find them, and run
after them down the same long, dark, narrow street. Some young
agents who knew the area well managed to split up and take the
vampire at the first crossroads up the road. One chased, one went
west, one went east, met at the crossroads and closed in on the
vampire. The cluttered alley -- covered in aging rubbish and
oddly-placed dumpsters -- nullified any advantage vampire speed may
It cut down a lot on human speed, too, if you hadn't been trained.
Riley had been, but even then, running this fast, he occasionally
tripped. And rolled, silently, back to his feet. Or in this case, he
rolled silently back upright and got picked up, and slammed against
a wall with a hand over his mouth. Silently.
"Kevlar armour. Very impressive, flexible yet tough, fancy name to
please the masses. The trouble with kevlar is, it stops bullets..."
A blade cut into the agent's back.
"... but not knives."
PART FIVE: A LITTLE DEEPER
"Let go of him and put the knife down! I'll shoot!"
One doesn't. The other does. The offending vampire falls down,
tranquillized. He joins his counterpart on the ground.
"That's two of them, ready for tagging. Not bad, seeing as Finn
wasn't around to help. Where is he, anyway?"
BACK IN THE ALLEY
"So, kid, y'out hunting vampires? Just nod."
He nods. Leg lashes into my kneecap. I hardly notice.
"That's not very nice."
Let the knife go a little deeper and twist it. He tries to scream.
Then I pull it out, turn the knife around, pop out the needle and
stab him with that instead. He nods dumbly for a few seconds, then
goes limp. Tranqs are a wonderful thing. A stab in an alley is worth
a full-scale torture scene at home, and you can never have both.
Go over him for a radio. Find one on his belt, remove entire belt
and gently place behind a dumpster. Never know what they'll put into
one of those things. Haul his body over my shoulder and stroll to
MEANWHILE, BACK AT "THE RANCH"...
Master O'Meara was enraged.
And why not? Ten vampires had killed each other through infighting,
five more had been killed by him as punishment for the other ten,
and eight had disappeared out hunting -- including three of his best
Enraged, to him, it has to be said, was not the same as angry. When
he was just angry he'd torture and dust a few fledglings for
relaxation, but if he did that now, he... well, he'd have even
*less* chance of having the vampire numbers needed to perform the
Rites. The lack of this release, in combination with the fact that
the ritual he'd spent the last four years working toward was now
likely to go to Romania (vampire slang meaning to stuff up or, if an
exclamation, go away. Your average demon would enjoy going to hell,
but who wants to see what new tortures the Gypsies have come up
with?) had put him in such a bad mood his minions did their best to
Out of the few who did return from hunting, however, one particular
minion had drawn the short straw. O'Meara didn't like bad news, but
didn't like shooting the messenger either... nailing them to a cross
facing west, getting behind a shaded window and watching them burn
up over a period from sunrise to nearly midday (instead of the more
or less instant incineration you get when they faced east) was far
"Your second-in-command... the one who disappeared out hunting a few
nights ago? We've found her."
The group of four vampires had two orders. The first was to go to a
certain back-street address, where they would find another vampire
known to *them* as Cathy Preston, and attempt to persuade her, by
whatever means necessary, to rejoin their cause. The second was to
safely turn any humans they ran into on the way. After hastily
trading blood with two representatives of Sunnydale's ever-shrinking
homeless population, they came to the address, smashed a window and
The explosion that followed was heard a block away. That block was
more or less uninhabited, but the thought was there.
The suit and the sergeant have a quick, whispered conversation.
"Very well, Mr Giles."
Giles stands aside to let the doctor in.
FROM THE CAR
Drive back to the basement I'm calling home. Lay the body on the
floor and play with a few toys. Pack everything away and put on some
suitable music. The body wakes up, sees me and realises there's
probably no point in screaming.
"So, mother's little stormtrooper is awake. You feel alright?"
"If I say I do, will you say that you'll soon fix that?"
"Something like that, yeah."
"Then I guess I should tell you to do your worst, break out the
chainsaw and the wire waistcoat and the free set of steak knives
because you'll never get anything out of me, so you might as well
have fun trying."
"Name, rank and serial number, hey? Damn. Well, door's open." I
point. "If y'ever wanna chat, just give us a call. Be glad to talk
"Not funny. Where's the trap?"
"I'm serious. No traps. You want to leave, you go."
He gets up, look of disbelief with just that little bit of fear
firmly planted on his face, and walks cautiously towards the door.
As he steps out, I reach over to the CD player and turn the volume
Soldier boy screams and falls to the ground, whimpering and
"Look, if you didn't like the music, y'only had to say."
Markerton stands around and while pretending to admire the decor in
Giles's front room, casually places something in an inconspicuous
part of it.
"White or black?"
"Didn't I say? Black, one sugar."
The tea comes out. The two Britons sit down and begin talking.
"I take it this is being recorded?"
"Well, I somehow doubt that little bauble you put beside the
bookshelf is there for decoration."
"Ah... yes... well..."
"May I?" Picks up said bauble, rolls it around in his hand. "Very
nice. May I ask what is so worrisome about Miss Summers that
necessitates all this effort?"
Drag the body back to where it was.
"If you're gonna have another fit like that, I'd better make sure
you're safe. You could hurt yourself."
Bring out the chains.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"I mean, I somehow doubt so much expense and manpower would be put
into catching someone who had merely given the university an
unauthorised paint job. Let's see, we have four uniformed officers
at the front door in addition to yourself. We have a listening
device which looks more like something out of Mission Impossible
than an American small-town police force. We have someone with a
university degree -- at Oxford, no less -- in ancient history and
demonology working for that small-town police force. Do you take me
for a fool, Dr Markerton? It's obvious that this is a lot more than
just small crime for small police."
"Now, do you want to take up that offer?" Smug.
"What in the hell did you do to me?" Terrified. Perfect.
"Well, it involves an James-Bond-fan vampire, a copy of 1984, a
small radio receiver and a large amount of medical equipment. I
don't know the exact details, but the bottom line is, you *really*
don't want me turning up the stereo."
"Oh, God... What's wrong with..."
"... the chainsaw and the wire waistcoat and the free set of steak
knives? Nothing. A little messier, I guess, but that's half the fun.
Good with an audience, really impresses the fledglings. But, fact
is, we *don't* have an audience and this is so much more efficient
if I just want information. Besides, torture's like any other kind
of entertainment -- a lot better with a soundtrack."
And I make the music a little louder to prove it. Soldier boy makes
his own contribution.
"I feel you are jumping to conclusions, Mr Giles. The X-Files is not
a documentary series. Even if there was a 'big police' force and
this was a 'big crime', I would hardly be at liberty to tell you
"Then neither am I. Good day to you."
The door slams and the teas remain untouched.
"Feel like talking now? We'll start the old-fashioned way: name,
rank, serial number."
"Riley Finn. Special Agent. 75329, but we call them ID codes. That's
all you're getting."
Turn up the volume.
"Good scream. I was worried this'd be getting a little repetitive,
but... I guess not."
"OK, Buffy, Willow, he's gone."
"How did it go?"
"As well as could be expected. Neither of us knows more about each
other than we did before but we're both far more suspicious than
before. It's very difficult to trust a man who's tried to put a bug
on your bookcase."
"Get me Walsh. Secure channel. Good. Thanks."
"How did it go?"
"Badly. From what I'd remembered from Oxford the man was a
world-hating, apathetic punk. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that he
was an *observant and intelligent* world-hating, apathetic punk. He
asked for a search warrant we didn't have, didn't tell me anything
about our hostile, and made a point of saying he thought there was
something bigger involved than the story we gave him. Which was
bloody obvious with a second's thought, but you were counting on the
fact that, like the stuffy English librarian he behaves like, he
wouldn't be able to *think* with half a dozen armed police at his
door. Not only did he think, he knew his rights. I told you he'd
dealt with them before. And he noticed me putting in one of the
bugs. He didn't spot the other one, though."
"At least something went to plan."
"Is anyone actually *listening* to it?"
"Of course. I've got Adam Smith on it instead of TAing for
"Why don't you and I tune in? He'll be going over the place with a
Walsh's second phone beeps. Urgent call on line seven.
"That'd be Smith calling to say Giles has found and destroyed it, I
Turns on the speaker.
"What is it?"
"We've lost Agent Finn."
Followed by an urgent call on line eight announcing that both
signals have been lost from the house of suspect R. Giles.
"Oldest trick in the bloody book... Goodbye, Dr Markerton."
He pauses for a second to admire the technological marvel, and steps
"OK, Buffy, Willow, he's gone."
The screams die down.
"Thank you very much, Mr Finn. You've been very informative. And I
never let people who help me go off without payment."
Turns off and unplugs the stereo, then pulls out a screwdriver,
opens up the case, and messes around for a few seconds. A small
piece of what looks like some kind of computer circuitry is removed.
He tosses it into a bin, smiles at his captive, then closes the case
and takes out the CD, giving it to Riley. Who looks at the vampire
"Don't you like it? I guess I wouldn't either, in your shoes... All
right." Goes game. "Let's do lunch."
JOYCE, SATURDAY MORNING
"Mr Giles? Is my daughter all right? Oh, thank God. Yes, I guess I
should... Call me if anything happens."
Hang up and reluctantly get in the car to go to the gallery.
Thinking... I hope she'll be all right, I *know* she'll be all
right... She'll be fine... I've just missed my turning. Where's the
next intersection... Oh, God, no.
"Mr Giles? I've found... Someone's been bitten... No, I don't know
who it is, it looks like some kind of army uniform... I hope it
isn't... What's that? Yes I do, for the gallery... OK... thanks... I
Presses the hook and calls for an ambulance. Gives details, hangs
up, makes another call, to say she'll be late for work, and goes to
her car. She takes out a bag, removes an instant camera, and calmly
and methodically takes three pictures of the victim. She puts the
camera and developing photos back in the bag, and replaces the bag
in the car, then goes to have a closer look at the unconscious body.
When the doctors arrive and she drives off, it's not to the gallery.
"Buffy! Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Just like all those times you asked on the phone.
We'll find a way out of this, don't worry. Have you got the photos?"
"Yes, of course... here they are..."
Buffy sees them.
"Oh my God..."
"Dr Markerton? We've found Agent Finn."
"I suppose we should be thankful for small graces. Where was he?
"Nearly drained in an alley off Larson Avenue. Someone called an
ambulance. The interesting part is, the woman who called the
ambulance is one Joyce Summers."
"Any relation to our escaped hostile?"
"Her mother. Her *mother*. We have talked to her, haven't we?"
Pause. "*Tell* me we've interrogated her. Tell me we've at least
called her. Tell me we haven't been that bloody stupid!"
"Buffy, are you all right?"
"Yeah... but that's..."
"Riley. The guy you wanted to..."
"Oh. What are we going to do?"
"I guess we should go and see how he's doing..."
"See what he knows."
"Giles! That's not... For Buffy..."
... is in tears.
"I know, but we have to..."
"Giles. Let me do it. Please."
"Buffy... are you sure?"
"No luck with the mother?"
"So what do you suggest we do?"
"You? Nothing. Go and get some sleep. I'm going to check on Riley."
HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM
There was, of course, only one nurse at the desk this early in the
morning. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the large amount of
human traffic the hospital carried, visiting hours, conditions and
security were quite lax. That said, this probably had something to
do with the fact that security guards are usually failed police
officers, and you had to be pretty stupid to be that in Sunnydale's
legendary hear-no-evil-see-no-evil-speak-no-evil PD.
It boiled down to the fact that you could reasonably expect to be
able to be at any patient's bedside at eight o'clock in the morning.
So, needless to say, Professor Walsh was rather angry when she was
told she couldn't see her beloved TA. She wasn't worried about the
old man in the corner, but didn't notice the blonde student of hers
who had slipped in behind her and heard most of the argument. If she
had, she wouldn't have pulled out her badge in a last-ditch effort
to get let through.
"Yes I do, and it doesn't matter if you're with the Men in Black, I
still can't let you see Mr Finn. By the doctor's report, the man
hadn't slept for at least forty-eight hours, and he'd been through
some kind of serious widespread physical and mental trauma in the
last twelve. *Nobody* is to be permitted..."
Sighing in frustration, Walsh turned around quickly and saw her
"Professor Walsh. I didn't know you were a police officer. But then,
I didn't know that Riley was in the army, either."
"That's right. You don't sound happy to see me. Was my last essay
really that bad?"
"Buffy Summers. Do you know how many people... how much
trouble... how much damage..."
"No, but I'll bet you want to tell me. In that cafe around the
corner, like the civilized people I'm sure we both are. After all,
we don't want to make a scene."
"No, of course not. All right. Which cafe's this?"
But (there's always a but) as she followed Buffy out of the
hospital, she reached into her bag and drew a small handgun.
PART SIX: CIVILIZED
Professor Walsh was a remarkably good shot for an educator, but then
again, not every educator actively seeks out demons for a hobby.
Then again, this being Sunnydale, these people were formed such a
large minority group that they could wield considerable political
power in Sunnydale if only they could (first) get together, and
(second) not live in a town still governed by the minions of a man
who had auctioned off his soul to the highest-bidding demon. They
certainly wouldn't stand a chance of ever getting anyone elected if
one of the most powerful group of hunters killed the one of the
second-most powerful, as was about to happen here.
Walsh aimed, started to squeeze the trigger, paused, undid the
safety catch, and then fired.
If such a fact could be advertised, making the gun that killed a
Slayer would be quite an income boost for the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, this weapon didn't kill the Slayer, although any
weapon that could be fired with the end of the barrel bent parallel
to the grip without self-destructing certainly deserved all the
sales it could get.
Buffy pulled on the still scalding-hot gun barrel, roundarmed it
into a convenient nearby bin and walked on.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT "THE RANCH"...
"You're telling me we have *sixty-seven* vampires left."
"Well then. What time's sunset?"
Sit down, order coffees, and... sit down. Caffeine arrives. Nobody
speaks until it's half gone. This is getting boring. I'm getting
worried. Remember what Giles said, it'll be easier to try on Walsh
"You want to go first?"
"Look, I'm not going to hurt you. Are you going to hurt me?"
"I'm sorry about your gun."
"What *are* you?"
"Human, last time I checked, anyway. Got the hospital records and
birth certificate to prove it."
"Really? When was the last time you checked?"
"Every morning. Can't be too careful in this town. Whole lotta
strange stuff out there. I mean, there's these weird army guys, go
out every night dressed like storm troopers, and sometimes you find
one in the street the next morning with nary a drop of blood left in
their bodies. And then the professor who they're supposed to be
TAing for takes a few hours to 'check their condition', even though
she barely noticed when one of her other assistants had *cancer*
treatment. Oh, and the nurse makes a comment about the Men In Black
when she sees your badge. What are *you*?"
"A psychology professor. You haven't got enough evidence to sway a
"No, professor, *you* don't. Oh wait, you do, but if you go public
about me you'll give me even more evidence to go public about you. I
don't think all that talk about people... trouble... damage earlier
was about global overpopulation. And I doubt that gun of yours was
for skeet shooting. Of course, your second job doesn't really let
you go public, does it?"
Walsh looks resigned.
"How much do you know about my second job?"
"I know that you're out there hunting whatever weirdness appears in
this town with enough technology to make ET *run* home. And you
don't seem to like competition. But, since you're not actively
trying to destroy the world, I think I can forgive you for the whole
knocking-me-out-and-locking-me-up thing. Speaking of which, there's
a group of vamps out trying to do the destroy-the-world thing
tonight, and some help'd be nice in case the garlic bombs don't
"Help? How do I know you're not leading us into a trap? How do I
know what you are?"
"Professor Walsh, I was out for a good eight hours and at least two
of your guys saw me in action before that. Don't tell me you didn't
run any tests."
"Yes, and they told us you were a human who worked out a lot. No
drugs, no sub-terrestrial, no evidence of you doing anything any
normal health-conscious freshman wouldn't do. But apparent immunity
to taser darts and the ability to break the gun that fired them in
two with minimal effort hardly supports that, does it?"
"Well, when you started this whole demon hunting business, what did
you do for reference?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do you know which demon you've just captured? How do you know
it, I dunno, can't turn into a puddle of battery acid and melt the
guard? Or," I smirk, "just be strong enough to smash the glass and
run for it?"
"We have tests for virtually everything, and if we don't we're
working on them. For example -- you may not have noticed it -- we
predicted some kind of occult explosion at the high school around
Graduation last year. I would assume that's what the explosion in
the library was -- the one that killed the old mayor?"
"Really? No, I didn't notice it. I guess I was too busy helping the
rest of the school fight off the sixty-foot-long demonic snake that
mayor had turned into!"
I can't believe they didn't pick that. Or maybe they did and want to
find out how much I know... shake myself out of it.
"So, anything else you might have spotted? A slight change in
temperature when the fire demons' old nest blew up in summer? A bit
of a shake during the '97 earthquake?"
"We weren't here in '97."
"Whatever. In all this time, what is the worst thing you've seen?
The worst thing you had to stop?"
"There was a lairful of about two dozen vampires, over the summer...
You don't look impressed."
"Try four apocalypses and one Ascension."
"*Apocalypses?* Four? Ascension?"
"Human turns into demon. About three people in town left alive
afterwards unless a volcano erupts at the right time. Or about a ton
of assorted explosives... There's your occult explosion, bits of
roast mayor raining down on the assembled twelfth graders."
"Very funny. But you still haven't answered the question."
Do my worst Giles imitation.
"Honestly, kids today. Too much time in front of a computer screen
and not nearly enough with their nose in a good book. Ever heard of
a Vampire Slayer?"
Normally, Walsh's cup would now be a sorry pile of shattered china
swimming in milky coffee on the floor. Fortunately, spending even
the briefest of periods in what you might call the "real" Sunnydale
meant you didn't startle easily, and in any case the coffee was
still on the table where Walsh had put it down partway through
"occult explosion". But she *was* surprised. She did read the
occasional piece of demonic literature -- for entertainment. Like
the texts from the destroyed lair's small library, which had
contained some oblique references to something called a Slayer,
"... in 1594! When's your 400th birthday, Buffy?"
"In 400 years. Well, actually not that many, but you get the idea...
a Slayer is just a normal human being until the last one dies. Only
then does she gain the ability to refashion shotguns at will."
"And I'm sure Sam Colt would have been fascinated, but what use is all
"A weak vampire's, what, three times as strong as a human? No point
fighting them if you can't hold them off."
"So, it's all for hunting vampires. But why? How long? Who's
"You know what? I can't explain this that well, I'll take you to a
guy who can later. What about you? What's your excuse?"
"I can't just let this drop. You've just told me you've stopped the
world from ending four times over the last few years. I need to know
about you before you can know about me."
"Look, professor. If I wanted to shoot you, kill you, capture you,
whatever, I could have done it when you tried to. If it was safe for
you to do it, why wouldn't it be safe for me? Besides, if your
agents have functioning eyes they should know that I *was* killing
vampires. I'm guessing that's what you do too. We should be working
together, so the least we can do is trust each other."
"All right, but I can't tell you everything."
"Just tell me enough."
"I work for an organization dedicated, if you'd forgive me the
cliche, to saving the world. Saving it from anything hostile that
the... conventional armed forces would be unable to deal with..."
"Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a
Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the
vampires... What? I'm quite aware of what it sounds like, but you
really must take it seriously, professor."
SUNSET, BACK AT, YES, YOU GUESSED IT, "THE RANCH"...
"Hello, Cathy... or is it Naomi you'll be calling yourself now?
Interesting new ID."
"You think? Photographer did such a good job I let him live."
"Nice job with the bombs last night, too. Ironic that you should run
into a few of my men so soon after going to so much trouble to kill
them. And what an explosion it was. Whatever happened to this
subtlety you always insisted on? You see, I seem to have forgotten
about it as well."
The tactic was crude, but it was basically the only one left to
them. And it took advantage of what had been their main weakness --
their huge numbers. After all, if the world's going to end in six
hours, who cares if a few people get to leave before the rush?
Essentially, every vampire was out on the town, hunting, and every
unfortunate person who was in the way of one of them was forced to
exchange blood. Thankfully, the amount of people on the streets was
relatively small for a town of its size -- most people were still
terrified of the barbecue-fork-wielding anaemia-spreading PCP
addicts. And "The Ranch" was a fair distance from the university
campus, the Bronze, the larger bars and pretty much anywhere else in
town where there might have been a substantial night life. A few
suitable rituals and they rose less than an hour after dying in the
first place, and got told to recruit more, then go to a certain
church on Davidson Terrace.
The body count was huge, especially when the bodies got back up and
bit you when you were trying to count them. And those out trying to
destroy the bodies were having a bad night...
"Carver to base, Carver to base. Agent Lee has been drained and his
body been taken by a large group of hostiles, repeat, Agent Lee has
FROM THE CAR
Drive along, still reminiscing about last night's stormtrooper.
Military training in a victim always makes torture just that little
bit more enjoyable. More conscience for them to wrestle with, and
the squirming usually becomes visual. Speaking of stormtroopers, one
of them looks to have gotten a little too close to the things
they're supposed to be killing. An X-Files fledgling... why didn't I think of that? Apart from what my tools do to the blood, anyway...
Another vampire -- and shit, there are a lot out hunting tonight --
is walking a step or two ahead. Obviously sired commando boy, or
sired *someone* in the last night as their first minion. You can tell by the look on his face. Smug as fuck. Pull over for a chat.
"Hey. What are you doing?"
"Could ask the same question, but that's boring, so here's something
else: why're so many of us out tonight?"
"What, you don't know about the Rites?"
"Base to all teams. Base to all teams. Agent Lee has been turned,
repeat, Agent Lee has been turned. Last seen with known unrestrained
hostile 24 outside Jefferson Road. If sighted, attempt to follow
hostiles keeping maximum reliable tracking distance *at all times.*
First sign of trouble, pull out *immediately.*"
"Fuck. Tonight? You serious?"
"Dravien's Blooding. Eighty vampires chanting at St Jude's, 'cept
O'Meara only had sixty-seven. You wanna come?"
"O'Meara? You mean Patrick? Used to live in Seattle?"
*That* fucking stupid, domineering idiot. Reason why I left the
place. Well, him and the weather.
"You bet. You joining us," he snarls, going game, "or are you gonna
go to hell with the humans?"
"Ewell to base. Ewell to base. Turned agent has been sighted, with
KU 24. Hostiles have stopped to talk with third unknown vampire in a
large black sports car, pulled over on Westerburg Lane. Model
unknown, license plate UAQ-457. Awaiting further instructio-- What
in the hell...?"
Hold gaze with the angry young vampire. Look at my options. Serve
under O'Meara in the new hell, or slowly dissolve under whatever new
tricks Satan's torturers have come up with? Like there's a choice.
Two throwing knives come out of my belt, into my hand and through
the chests of the two vampires. Sift through the piles of dust until
I find the wooden weapons, get back in the car, and drive off. Where
was that church again? No-one's ending the world unless I get a
WILLOW & BUFFY'S DORM
"Oh, Willow. Sorry... I didn't mean to wake you."
"Nah, it's OK."
"I couldn't sleep. Think I'll go patrol, check on that church."
"But Professor Walsh..."
"Gave me some papers to say I'm a good little girl. Don't worry,
Wills. I'll be fine. And I'll be wearing that bracelet of yours."
DON'T WORRY, THIS IS THE LAST OF "THE RANCH"
"Master, will we have... enough?"
"We have seventy-eight already, and the night, as they say, is
young. The Rites will proceed on schedule. Have you had any luck
with... what's she calling herself now? Nomie?"
"Naomi, and no. She swears she 'just had to get away for a few
"A pity. I shall have to visit her sometime tomorrow. See how she's
settling into her lakeside resort. On the lake of fire!"
The minion laughed with his master. O'Meara thought his jokes were
hilarious and had a tendency to torture those who didn't agree.
Besides, you don't anger someone who's likely to be more powerful
than Satan in a few hours.
Okay, so there are a lot of vampires in town tonight. Probably
having one last hunt for old time's sake. If this keeps up, I might
need those Initiative guys' help.
There are a lot of them out here too, come to think of it. Grin, tap
one (alone, that's odd) on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but I... oh, shit."
"Don't worry, I'm a good guy. Well, person. Check these out."
Hand him the papers Walsh gave me.
"Oh. I see. Fascinating. Is it fun?"
Ignore the question.
"Wanna tell me what's going on?"
"For some reason there's a hell of a lot more vamps--"
"I know that. Wanna tell me why? There a pattern or something?"
"Uh... they all seem to be heading toward the one area... on
Williams Drive, or possibly the intersection of Williams and--"
"Yeah. How'd you guess?"
"They're demons, they've decided to live out the unreliable prophecy
of some Ancient Roman guy who spent too much time on the funny red
mushrooms. You know, bring on Armageddon, hell on earth, lakes of
"So what's so special about Davidson Terrace?"
"The Church of St Jude."
"St Jude's? I knew there was something funny about that place. My
brother works for the town council, had to clear it out. Apparently
someone had broke in and put *garlic bombs* in there."
PART SEVEN: MOVING FORWARD
"They did. I mean, garlic stinkbombs, what kind of idiot would put
"The kind of idiot that's trying to avert the apocalypse. Vampires,
garlic, get it?"
"Oh... Oh shit..."
CHURCH OF ST JUDE
"A beautiful sight."
And indeed it was. There were more than one hundred vampires out
there, over thirty newly-sired, and despite the wide range of ages
and... er... weights available on Sunnydale streets even at night,
most of the females present were young and excessively thin, to the
extent that young and excessively thin (or fat) males tended to
think of them when... never mind. The fact of the matter was that it
went against the very grain of a vampire's unbeing to turn someone
that would look out of place on the cover of a dodgy British men's
"Now, my servants, the chants you will... chant are written on the
walls. Anyone who gets them wrong will be dipped in a vat of crushed
"You got a cellphone?"
"Yeah, but I can only--"
"What are you waiting for?"
"I can only call for backup on my radio."
"Great! I get phone, I call my help, you get radio, you call your
"I can't let civilians--"
"*I'm not a civilian.*"
CHURCH OF ST JUDE -- 11:30 P.M.
Wooden walls covered in eldritch graffiti which looked impressively
evil and terrifying but actually translated to the diabolical
equivalent of a Lost Cat poster. One large pentagram, painted on the
floor in black. Seven smaller ones surround it, in goat's blood
fresh from the Sunnydale slaughterhouse -- probably the only one in
the country to make more out of sales of the animals' bodily fluids
(to both demons and humans who *want* to be demons) than their
actual meat. Forty marks encircle it all, places for the "guard
vampires" to look on.
The pews which used to be here are either piled up outside or piles
of kindling in the middle of the smaller pentagrams, ready for
burning in the ritual. And in pride of place in the central star,
there is the church's normal pulpit, hastily removed from the stage,
with demonic sigils mortal man is not meant to wot of (so they how,
why, when and where them instead) roughly carved on every visible
part. The standard Bible is replaced with a spell book decorated
similarly but with far more ancient and less stylised symbols.
O'Meara, of course, had his entire part of the ritual memorised,
making the book useless except for show. It's currently open to an
obscure and specific incantation designed to prevent a minor German
sub-species of aurochs from interrupting ritual bonfires.
CORNER OF DAVIDSON TERRACE AND EDWARD STREET -- 11:35 P.M.
Not every Initiative agent was at the corner. Their bosses, contrary
to popular belief, *weren't* stupid and had their normal numbers
guarding the main base, as well as a few plain-clothes agents
scouting out the church. But it was a sight to strike paranoia in
the hearts of X-Files fans everywhere anyway.
Serious-looking men in black suits and sunglasses talked in low
tones on mobile phones until they realized they were standing a
metre away from each other, and switched to two-way radios. Guns
were unloaded off the backs of trucks to khaki-uniformed
footsoldiers wearing dodgy night vision goggles, who tried their
best to keep their abused eyes away from the street lights. Hum-vees
rumbled up and down the street, without ever actually stopping,
slowing down, or otherwise indicating they were of any use
whatsoever to the congregation waiting to attack the church.
Meanwhile, the townspeople woke up and staggered to their windows to
see what all the fuss was about. They sighed in relief when they
realized it was only a military presence large enough to put the
entire state under martial law, rather than something *worrying*,
like a teenager.
Such a teenager was currently loading a crossbow, praying that Giles, Willow and Spike back at the former's apartment could
research their way out of yet another apocalypse. She's leaning back
against a truck full of standard-issue M16s and ordinary lead
ammunition -- used on the grounds that while bullets indeed couldn't
kill vampires, not many could complete a complex ritual with their
left thighbone in several hundred pieces. Of course, that crossbow,
used wisely, would be just as effective as a chorus of the
INSIDE THE CHURCH -- 11:40 P.M.
The Vampire Master and soon-to-be Supreme Ruler of All Hell Patrick
O'Meara swore as he tried missed the nail with the
magically-enhanced hammer yet *again* and hit his thumb, any
advantage vampire healing may have presented being compensated for
by vampire strength. He couldn't believe it -- of the twenty-five or
so mostly newly-sired minions he had that weren't preparing for the
Rites, not *one* had the faintest idea of basic handymanning. No
matter how powerful you became, if you wanted something done
properly, or in this case, done at all, you *still* had to do it
And it had been done properly, or at least impressively, which, when
it came to keeping minions under control, was the important thing.
And O'Meara had so much practice keeping minions under control that
the habits had became deeply ingrained.
You can just tell it's going to backfire, can't you?
OUTSIDE THE CHURCH -- 11:45 P.M.
The Initiative troops got into position and waited. And waited. And
waited. Buffy marched up to Professor Walsh, frustrated, and asked
what they were waiting for, the world was ending in fifteen minutes.
Walsh replied that the doors were sealed with *something* which
bullets couldn't pierce, and Colonel Newsome wouldn't let them
borrow the rocket launcher after what had happened last time
(involving a slime demon, a small quantity of explosives and a pack
of cards). The Slayer nodded, smiled, ran over to the doorway like
an eager schoolgirl and pulled the handle.
The entire doorframe was torn from the wall in a cascade of
splinters and rot. Using the momentum to do a few unsteady
pirouettes away from the gaping hole, she flung the doors toward the
road, where they smashed into the gutter, flipped up around the
kerb, and crushed a picket fence.
Inside, Master O'Meara looked out at the countless glittering gun
barrels pointing at him and his servants, and smiled.
A voice shouted "Fire!"
The roar of the gunfire lasted about three seconds, the time it took
for the people causing it to realize that something was going wrong.
Essentially, the bullets weren't actually hitting the targets, or
even the far wall, but stopping and floating in the air, completely
motionless, at the threshold.
"You like? One of Rachull's little tricks. Stops unwanted
interruptions to his rituals. No human or projectile fired by one
can get in, much like a vampire without an invitation." Pauses to
take stock of the attackers. "So these are the few... score good men
protecting the mortal plane from all that is unholy? A pity. All
this technology and you can't stop Armageddon... I remember the old
days back when all it took was an angry Slayer and a crossbow or two
to save the world. And people complain about progress..." Pauses
"Isn't anyone going to say 'you'll never get away with this'?"
Someone did, an Initiative agent at that, but he did it very quietly
and in any case he wasn't talking to O'Meara. He was talking to the
vampire who'd just got out of some flashy black sports car and put
tranquilliser darts into him and his two companions. This wasn't
what he'd expected when he'd been ordered to guard the church's back
entrance. The vampire slipped in and prepared himself.
INSIDE THE CHURCH -- 11:55 P.M.
The Rites were ready to start. Each vampire was in position, one on
each point of the pentagrams, forty on the guarding positions marked
in a circle surrounding it all, and the remaining twenty-five or so
lounging around waiting for the show -- nearly all between the
circle and the stage, since the cloud of bullets and hole in the
wall on the other side were unsettling even to a vampire.
O'Meara stepped up to the pulpit, raised his hands to curse the
heavens, drew in a breath, and spoke the first syllable. The sound
resonated clearly and suitably terribly, throughout the church and
the street. As he reached the second line, the first pentagram lit
its fire, and began to chant. He continued, the pentagrams lighting
up like cigarettes, one for each new line of verse. Three, four,
five, six, seven... As the final fire was lit, pistol fire filled
the air along with the screams of seven of the vampires sitting near
the stage slowly turning to dust.
The bloodsucker in the black jacket (not made of leather -- what's
the point of wearing something that's both black and shiny?) stepped
off the stage, put a new clip in his gun, smiled, and put on his
worst Irish accent.
"Hi, Pat. Amazing what happens if you soak a bullet in holy water
for long enough, eh?"
O'Meara just roared in impotent fury.
"Nice choice of ritual. Rachull was really smart for a sorcerer.
Apart from the surprising lack of geological issues for a
world-ending ritual, the beauty of his stuff is, you can stop the
chanting for a minute or so and start where you left off without
making any difference. Bring in another guy to lead the ritual in
tandem, if you want. And if you don't want to do that with me, I'll
kill you. Still got about, oh, thirty seconds to decide."
A grimace and a reluctant "come here" gesture.
"What I like to hear."
And the new vampire strode through a gap between pentagrams, aimed
his gun at O'Meara's lower back and fired.
The agents waited outside, not really believing that the world was
about to come to an end, what with the lack of earthquakes and rains
of fire and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It didn't help that they had
trouble seeing the action through the cloud of lead at the door. But
they heard the gun shots all right, and managed to spot the leading
vampire turn to dust. A cheer erupted, dying down the moment a new
vampire stepped up to the pulpit and recommenced the chant.
Unsurprisingly, none of them had any magical training whatsoever,
and so had no idea of the multidimensional turmoil inside the
The usurper had studied Rachull hard, first in university demonology
and then as a fledgling under a breakaway group from the Order of
Aurelius. He'd hated every minute, and, like anything he felt so
passionate about, still remembered most of the details. And
Rachull's penchant for long, complex, demanding, but above all
*powerful* rites and spells had only been exceeded by one for
ensuring that those rites could be completed no matter what may
happen to the casters. So it *was* possible to stop the chanting for
sixty seconds or more, add a second leader or even replace the
original one without affecting the outcome. In theory.
Unfortunately, another little-documented effect of his work was that
if a caster got *killed* at any time, any and all effects of his
casting would gradually vanish. So the bloody pentagrams so deeply
and magically emblazoned on the floor began to get scuffed; the
mystically-lit fires in the middle of the stars flickered and died;
and the anti-invitation spell gradually depleted.
In other words, the force that was preventing the cloud of bullets
at the door from moving forward faded away.
They moved forward.
A few minutes later, the humans massed outside cautiously set foot
in the church.
Even allowing for the fact that the things in here were, without
exception, malevolent bloodsucking demons, it's still anything but a
pretty sight. Bullets can't kill vampires, but they can do one hell
of a lot of damage. If one goes through a vital organ, it takes
months to fully heal. Thankfully, not many of the vampires would
have to worry about this, since the soldiers are following Buffy's
lead in grabbing the nearest unburnt piece of kindling and staking
the nearest undead, even if it does take two agents to hold one down
and the third three or four tries to find the heart.
One of them decides to comment.
"Hey, look, they've got one chained up."
The Slayer looks up from the plume of dusty ash behind the pulpit.
Sees a female with her legs locked together and to the wall,
unconscious and badly wounded -- and not one caused by bullets.
"Oh, shit... Naomi..."
"You *know* her *name?*"
"How do you think I knew where to go? She wanted to defect... I
guess they found out."
"You sound awful sympathetic..."
"Look, if it wasn't for her we'd all be boiling in O'Meara's special
version of Hell right now. You don't just kill someone like that.
Don't let her go, but, I dunno, sedate her, V-chip her if you want,
wake her up sometime tomorrow and let us talk to her."
"Didn't Walsh say? I do have people helping me out."
Moves onto the next vamp and stakes it rhythmically.
SUNDAY MORNING -- SUNNYDALE HOSPITAL
"Riley. Are you all right?"
"I think I'll survive."
"Has Walsh told you..."
"Told me what?"
"Well, put it this way. She's told me."
"Yeah. I was kinda hoping for a normal guy, but I've lived in this
town for three years. Should know better by now."
[the vampire smiles]
"I am a normal guy."
[pulls out a screwdriver]
"Who hunts demons? Not that I can talk..."
She leans over for a kiss.
[starts to unscrew Riley's left eyeball]
"I'm sorry about the shock, miss. I'm not sure you should have been
let in at all, but..."
"Spare me, doctor. What's going on?"
"Sorry. he's been through a lot of pain, physical trauma, and
judging from his behaviour he may have been subjected to some kind
"OK, great, what can *I* do?"
"If you'd just let me finish -- this behaviour is consistent with a recent period of *serious* trauma or abuse."
"Oh, shit... all... Friday night... the-- the torture... That's... probably..."
"In that case, it's a miracle he was even coherent."