She was running. The deafening roar of the minigun almost burst her ear drums. She leap frogged across the console, hoping it would provide some temporary cover. She landed hard on the other side. Bullets came ripping through the machine, hitting the wall behind her. Then it happened. Someone entered her. No. A collective of someones, merged into a single entity. She was no longer a cheerleader from LA or an unemployed librarian or a young boy who liked comic books or the young girl who was taken from her tribe and turned into something scary and freakish ... she was all of these things.
She heard Adam say, “You can not last much longer.”
There was smoke all around her. All of the voices inside her rose up and said, “We can. We are forever.”
The echoing roar of the minigun resumed, but this time, she was not afraid. The bullets pulled at the air in front of her, as if it had turned elastic, stopping long before they reached her.
When Adam came for her, she was ready. His arms moved as though they were trying to swim through tar. She rolled her torso around his punches with ease. It was like they were experiencing time at different speeds. She jumped into the air and found herself to be almost weightless. She kicked him several times before landing softly on her feet again. It was a rush. She realised that this state may not be sustainable, so she decided to move for the kill. She plunged her arm into Adam's violated hybrid flesh and pulled out his battery – the embarrassing truth of his supposed power.
Then something happened and she felt herself fainting. Riley came running into the room to catch her. She feel … to the floor … through the floor. When her head cleared, Buffy opened her eyes to find that she was sitting in front of Xander and Giles. Xander was rubbing his temples. Giles appeared to be asleep. His glasses were askew and a line of drool extended from his slack jawed mouth.
“I think I need a glass of scotch followed by a very long nap,” Xander said.
“That was incredible,” Buffy said. “The power … I have never felt anything like it.”
“Um … yes … it was indeed quite the experience,” Xander said.
Buffy turned towards the sound of some rattle behind them. Riley was coming into the room, leading a blonde girl in front of him. The girl seemed to be trying to pull herself free. “I get that you are happy, Riley, but perhaps we shouldn't celebrate until we are all safe,” the girl said. Once the pair were clear of the smoke, Buffy was shocked to realise that the girl looked exactly like herself.
“You're all all right,” Riley said, looking around the room and letting go of the girl's shoulders.
The girl had noticed Buffy and was now looking back at her with exactly the same expression of utter shock that Buffy imagined she herself had on her own face.
“You … you look like me,” Buffy said. She turned to look at Xander and then Riley. Neither of them looked like they understood what she was talking about.
“It seemed dire for a while,” Riley said and once again put his hands on the strange girl's shoulders. “I am just so happy you all made it.” He leaned forward and planted a kiss on the strange girl's cheek.
“I told you to stop,” the strange girl said. She shook herself loose, turned around and gave Riley a push that sent him flying. He landed on his back and hit his head against the wall.
Buffy leapt to her feet, but her legs were stiff from sitting cross legged, so she stumbled and almost fell. “Riley,” she said. “That is not … I don't know who that is.”
The strange girl frowned at Buffy and turned towards Xander. “Have you seen Buffy?” she asked him. “Did she come back?”
Xander tilted his head and looked at her as though she was speaking to him in a foreign language.
“What do you mean have you seen Buffy?” Buffy said to the strange girl. “I am … we … you should know … Buffy.”
Xander stood up. “Are you two feeling all right?” he asked Buffy and the girl. He walked over to Riley and helped him sit up. Riley was bleeding from the back of his head. “You pushed him pretty hard, Buffy,” Xander said. “We should take him to the ER.”
“I am the real Buffy,” Buffy said.
The strange girl turned and stared at her again. Seeing herself stand before her like this gave Buffy the wiggins. It was like looking at a mirror and suddenly seeing her reflection start to move of its own accord. The strange girl looked away from Buffy and moved her attention to herself. She traced her hands along her clothes, eventually moving to her head and putting her fingers through her hair. “I … I have curls,” she said. She pulled her hair forward to where she could see it. “Blonde curls!?”
Buffy was struck by a sudden realisation. She looked down and noticed she was wearing a white and pink shirt that she did not recognise as her own. There was something odd about her hands, too. It was like they were smaller and paler.
Xander was still cradling Riley in his lap. “Help me get him up, Buffy,” he said.
The strange girl turned to look across her shoulder, as if she expected a third Buffy to be standing behind her. She looked back at Buffy. “Am I Buffy?” she asked.
“Yes,” Buffy said. “But who am I?”
“You're me,” the strange girl said.
Xander and a dazzled Riley followed their conversation with looks of confused impatience.
“Willow?” Buffy asked, looking deep into the strange girl's eyes, hoping to see a glimpse of her friend in there, which would have given her some reassurance.
“Yes,” the strange girl said. “I am Willow … or at least, I'm supposed to be … I think.”
“Can you two girls please calm down and come help me,” Xander said. He now had Riley's arm around his shoulder. Riley did not look as though he would be able to rise on his own.
Buffy looked at him. “Do I have red hair?” she asked.
“You're hair is fine, Willow,” Xander said to Buffy. Then he turned to the strange girl. “Buffy, can you please come help me get Riley on his feet?”
Just then, Giles woke from his sleep with a loud snort. He sat up and squinted at the rest of them. “How cool was that,” he exclaimed. “We really kicked that demon cyborg thing's ass.” He coughed to clear his throat. “Man, my throat is all hoarse,” he said.
“It could be worse,” the strange girl who Buffy could now clearly tell was Willow said. “At least you're still you.” It was uncanny seeing and hearing her body do such a perfect impression of Willow. “I mean, you didn't wake up with tits or anything.”
“Bloody hell,” Xander said. He dropped Riley, who once again hit the wall behind him.
“I know,” Willow said. “It's pretty freaky.” Then she noticed Riley. “Oh god! I didn't mean to push him like that.”
Buffy ran over to Riley and knelt down beside him. “How are you feeling?” she asked. He looked at her and smiled bravely. She put her arm behind his back and tried to get him to his feet, but he was awfully heavy.
“Maybe you should let Buffy help me,” Riley mumbled. He looked as though his eyes were about to roll back into his head.
“Something is clearly very wrong here,” Xander said.
“Don't look at me, Mister,” Willow said. “This was his idea,” she said and pointed Giles, who was still squinting glass-less-ly up at the rest of them.
"Buffy,” Xander said. “That is not me.”
“I am not Buffy,” Willow said. “I am Willow.”
“What the hell are you two talking about?” Giles said. He tried to stand up, but without his glasses, he seemed to be having some difficulty. He struggled for a while, before falling back on his ass.
“So you're Willow,” Xander said and pointed at the girl who looked like Buffy. “Then I guess that is Buffy,” he said and pointed at Buffy. “And I am lying over there,” he said and pointed at Giles, “then I am probably Xander.”
“What are you talking about?” Giles said. He managed to get on his feet, blinking furiously. “And who is that speaking?”
“I am confused,” Willow said. Her fingers were absent-mindedly twirling Buffy's long locks.
“The spell we cast,” Xander said. “I should have known something like this could happen.” He put his hand to his head as if he was trying to take off invisible glasses, before he realised they weren't there. “We combined our essences into one collective consciousness, but when the spell ended, we were all put back into the wrong body.”
Giles put his hand on his stomach. “I have a pot belly,” he said, “and I'm blind.”
“Oh my god … Xander,” Willow said and put her palms to her cheeks. “You're Giles!?”
“Stop overreacting,” Xander said. He knelt down, picked up the missing glasses and placed them on Giles's nose for him.
The scream Giles made when he saw Xander, believing that he himself was Xander, but which he was able to see with the help of his glasses that he was not, was worse than anything Buffy had heard uttered by any vampire or demon.
“This is … horrible,” Xander-as-Giles said once he calmed down, feeling his face with his hands … and discovering it was not his face at all.
“I understand it must be a shock waking up in an older man's body,” Giles-as-Xander said in the British accent Buffy hadn't noticed until now. “I can assure you, however, that I am not any more happy about this than you are.”
Xander-as-Giles put his hand on his forehead. “I have no hair,” he screamed.
“You have hair, Xander,” Giles yelled at him. “Just not a fringe.”
“Hey guys,” Buffy-as-Willow said. “Riley just fell asleep. I think he is seriously hurt.” She was resting his head in her lap, having given up on trying to lift him.
“If that even is Riley,” Willow-as-Buffy said. “He could be someone else. We don't know.”
“He tried to kiss you, Will,” Buffy said. “I am pretty sure he is Riley.”
“Why would Riley kiss me?” Willow said, before hitting herself on the head with her palm. “Of course, dummy. He thought you were Buffy.”
Buffy frowned. “But I am Buffy. Ain't I?”
Willow shook her hands. “No, no!” she said. “I mean, he thought you were still you in your own body.”
“Don't make this more complicated than it has to be, Willow,” Giles-as Xander said.
“At least I'm happy you've realised you don't like boys any more,” Buffy said to Willow. “Otherwise, I might get jealous.” She gave Willow a smile to let her know she was joking.
Willow did a double take. “Right,” she said eventually. “Boys and their big bulgy muscles and sharp jaw-lines. Total bleah!”
“Okey, guys, we need to get out of her,” Buffy said, “and we need to take Riley with us. Willow, I need you to carry him for me.”
A smile spread across Willow's lips. “Can I really do that?” she asked. “Do I have super powers now?”
“Calm down, Wonder Woman,” Buffy said. “It is only temporary. I hope.”
Willow squatted down besides Riley and put her arms beneath him and lifted him up. “It is like carrying a little baby,” she said and shook Riley's unconscious body.
“Watch you back,” Buffy said. “You're not invulnerable.”
“Right,” Willow said. “As if I haven't seen you survive all sorts of stuff.” She made a quick turn, but lost her balance half-way and toppled over, landing on her back with Riley's limp body on top of her.
Buffy looked down at her. “You may be strong,” she said, “but you still need to take care carrying someone heavier than you.”
Willow sighed. "This may all take some getting used to."
Somewhere else in the complex, Spike was waking up. He had been hit on the head by some beastie or other. The place was mostly deserted, except for the stinking corpses of bullet-ripped demons and the thorn off limbs and plucked torsos of unlucky soldier boys. Further down the corridor, he heard someone whimpering. He smelled the freshness of the whimperer's blood – human and alive. Neat.
Spike made his way over. The bumps on his forehead pushed themselves out. It was the colonel. He lay pinned beneath the body of some unidentifiable creature-thing. The colonel barked at him, telling Spike to stay away. Spike smiled and licked his fangs, then he plunged forward to plant them on the colonel's neck.
Pain! Spike pulled back and held his temples. His head was ringing, as all his neurons fired at once. When Spike came to, he could smell that the colonel had expired. Most vampires frowned upon feeding off corpses. Feeding was supposed to be about the rush of the kill as much as the sustenance. But the blood was still warm, and Spike was hungry. Delicious human blood. He crawled over to the colonel and bit into his throat. It was nice to have something else than pig. Nice? Bloody amazing, more like.
Once he was sated, Spike found his way back to the main hall of the complex. He caught a glimpse of the Scoobies exiting towards the surface. Buffy was carrying her soldier boy lover in her arms. Was it too much to hope for that that pounce was dead?
Spike waited until he was sure that they were far ahead of him, before following after. No matter what it took, he would have his revenge on them. He would find some way to beat the chip and then he would suck the juices right from the slayer's thorn out brain stem.
Meanwhile, Graham and the two surviving members of his team were driving quickly down a road leading out of Sunnydale. Suddenly, a woman appeared on the road before them. Graham hit the brakes, but it was too late. When the car had come to a halt, Graham could not see her anywhere. One of the other soldiers pointed his torch out the window.
“I did not see her,” Graham said.
“We should check on her, then get the hell out of her,” one of the other soldiers said.
Graham exited the car. There were some blood on the hood. The woman was still nowhere to be seen. He took out his torch and pointed it towards the forest and discovered her lying just off the road. Her frail body was oddly contorted, as if she had broken every one of her bones.
“Call 911,” Graham instructed his fellow soldiers.
“We can call from the car,” one of the soldier answered. “We need to move, Graham.”
“Are you insane?” Graham walked over to where the woman lay. He squatted down beside her and held his fingers to her throat. No pulse. “She's dead,” he said.
“Then we go,” his friends said to him.
“You go,” Graham said. “I … I need to stay with her.”
One of the soldiers came up to him. “Graham, we will be court-marshalled if we fail to show up for debriefing or get ourselves compromised.”
Graham was about to say that he did not care, when the woman suddenly opened her eyes and sat up. “Oh my,” Graham exclaimed. “Are you all right, ma'am?”
“I'm spinning,” the woman said.
“You should lay down, ma'am,” Graham said.
The woman looked at him. Her shining eyes were positively bulging out of their sockets. “You are a very pretty boy,” she said.
“Oh no,” Graham heard one of his fellow soldier's say from behind him. “This does not look good.”
Graham ignored him. “What is your name, ma'am?” he said.
“My prince,” the woman said. “I am looking for my little prince.” Her head slowly rotated back and forth atop her long neck. “Is he here?” Her catlike eyes scanned the forest around them.
Graham turned towards the other soldiers. “Have anyone called 991, yet?” Then he felt a sharp pain. The woman had grabbed him and sunk her teeth into his earlobe. He jabbed her in the gut with his elbow and managed to shake himself free. He rolled onto his back in the grass. In moments, the woman had leapt astride him. A piece of bleeding flesh lay between her sharp teeth.
“Don't fret, kitten,” she cooed at him, letting the piece-of-ear fall from her mouth. “Mommy will take the pain away.”
The other soldiers ran to the car for their guns, but before they could make it, Graham felt sharp fangs tear up the arteries leading to his brain … and very soon, the light of his life went out.