Design Features

Part One

Things were not at all running to plan: no sign of the new weapon Blake was so keen to investigate (read: steal or destroy), no mention of any such thing on the base’s computers and now at least a dozen guards were after Avon, who had been forced to split from Blake and Vila, and was now trying to reach the outside of the building. Just his luck: not only did the guards seem to be gaining on him but all the corridors looked equally white and featureless. There was a T-junction up ahead. He started debating which way to go, then spotted an open doorway to his left. He dived through it as the closest guard got off a shot at where his head had been seconds earlier. He rolled towards the structure in the centre of the room, there was a bright blue flash followed by a feeling of disorientation and he landed on his knees in a dark alleyway, ripping one trouser leg and irrevocably scuffing both boots.

It should still have been day outside the base but the street where he had landed was illuminated by moonlight. None of the buildings looked familiar, either for the base or as examples of the architecture elsewhere on the planet. More like pre-atomic Earth, in fact. A voice sneered out an instruction.

"Stay right where you are: I’ve got you covered."

Avon looked up, wondering if everyone was out to get him today. Long, black leather coat, heavy black ankle boots, black trousers: could be local law-enforcement, but could equally be local criminal element. The man took a step forward.

"Hang on, you’re human, aren’t you? Where did you come from, then? Still got you covered, mind."

With what exactly? The man had no weapon that Avon could see but maybe he had comrades further up the street. "Well now, I would seem to be as confused by events as you are. Where exactly is here?"

"Sunnydale; the Hellmouth; Demon Central. Take your pick."

"Never heard of it."

"Well you’re not from round here are you? Are you going to get up? Gets a little tedious talking down to you all the time." The man held his hand out; Avon took it- it felt almost unnaturally cold- and pulled himself up. He looked straight into ageless blue eyes, then took in slicked-back, bleached-blond hair not to mention a set of impressive cheekbones and decided that, while his luck might finally be changing, there were a few priorities to get in the correct order first.

"And Sunnydale would be located?" They were still standing closer to each other than might be considered proper but it seemed that neither was going to be the first to back down.

"California, USA, Earth, twenty-first century, need I go on?"

"Time travel?" Avon mused. That was unlikely but not outside the realms of possibility.

"Figured you’d come a long way. Any more like you likely to be turning up?"

"I couldn’t possibly say." Knowing Blake, if he realised what had happened to Avon, then he’d come rushing after, leaving them both stuck here. Assuming that the Federation’s device worked again. Avon was trying to make his mind up whether or not that would be a good thing when there was a blue shimmer behind him and a black-clad figure materialised somewhat more upright than he had done. Avon drew his gun and shot the trooper before he had a chance to fire a shot of his own.

"Nicely done," said the other man, "you wait here while I dispose of the body." He dragged the trooper off somewhere, while Avon leaned against the nearest wall and tried to compose himself, then returned a few minutes later lighting a cigarette. "Right, you, the sun’ll be up soon, we’d better get back to my place." Disturbingly that was the best offer Avon had had in weeks.

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A Pink Dormouse Production

"You live in a burial site?" Avon asked incredulously. He was also little unsure what he was expected to do with the sharpened piece of wood he had been given. Spike had tried to give him a brief explanation of the socio-economic history of Sunnydale on their way through the town to one of its numerous cemeteries but little of what he had said had made sense.

"Rent’s low- non-existent to be honest- and I’ve rigged up free cable." Spike pushed the door of the mausoleum open and led the way inside. The interior was dry and hardly smelt musty at all. Candles of various shapes and sizes were dotted on every available surface to provide more illumination than was likely to come in through the unglazed, grated windows. In the centre of the room was an open (and empty) stone tomb and by the far wall a slab had been removed to reveal a hole in the floor.

"Downstairs," said Spike dropping through the hole into a larger space dug out of the earth. The tree roots snaking down the walls were in stark contrast to the four-poster bed and other decorative furnishings. Spike sat down on a couch, which had evidently seen better days, and turned on the primitive vis-screen set in a faux-wood casing. Avon sat on the bed to pull his boots off.

"Nice... place you’ve got here."

"Like I said, it’s cheap. Not too many visitors either. You want anything?"

Avon would have had a witty answer if he had stayed awake long enough to make it.

*******

Avon was woken by voices arguing above him and tried to remember where he was. Not the Liberator, he had room to stretch in all directions and the bedding was made of a softer fabric than he was used to. The cover and pillows seemed to be stuffed with feathers like... no, not there either. He opened his eyes to see the contrast of earth walls and velvet drapes. Spike’s home, Spike’s bed in fact and one of the voices arguing upstairs had to be Spike. Someone (Spike?) had removed his clothes for him and left them folded on a chair. He wondered whether he should ask where his host had slept. The discussions above seemed to be drawing to a close.

"I’ll be there, don’t you worry," Spike was saying. "And as for you, bugger off. I’ll pass the message on, okay." The conversation obviously at an end, he came down the stairs.

"Get ready: Slayer wants to see us."

"Slayer?" asked Avon.

"Yeah, human female, about yea tall," Spike indicated with his hand, "goes by the name of Buffy. She wants to talk to me about some things that have been happening in the town, and her friends might know how to get you back to where you come from. Oh and this turned up for you." He handed Avon a roll of thick paper and sat on the end of the bed.

"Well now..." said Avon, as he read the letter. "Who’s Bill and why does he want me to be his Co-Vice-president of Research and Development?"

"Anomovic Demon," said Spike, "owns a big software company. Giles should have more information at the shop: you can read it while I’m talking to the Scoobies."

Another reference to demons: surely belief in such things died out at the beginning of the technological age. Avon decided to save his questions for saner people.

"...We’ll find you some new clothes on the way to the Magic Box." Spike continued.

"New clothes?"

"Well what you’ve got to wear was hardly the height of fashion before it got all ripped and scuffed landing in that alley. Might as well put it back on for now: we can take the back way to the mall." Spike moved over to the couch and flicked through a magazine while Avon got dressed.

*******

"Here we are: Sunnydale Mall. Nice and empty for that high speed shopping experience." Spike paused at the tunnel exit; "of course coming at this time has the added advantage of not having to pay for stuff." Avon had spotted some form of primitive computer terminal set into a wall and was investigating. "That’s an ATM, mate. You need a card and a PIN to get money out of it." Avon pulled out a laserprobe, made a few adjustments to the console and a large wad of paper currency shot out of the machine. "Impressive. Now let’s go shopping."

The locks were simple enough that Vila would probably have claimed them to be beneath his talents. Even the alarms took no more than a few seconds to disable.

Avon took some of Spike’s advice on fashion but still ended up looking ‘like a bloody goth’ (whatever that was). Derogatory comments from anyone who spent half an hour deliberating over the relative merits of two brands of black nail varnish were best ignored. Avon liked his new big black boots: they looked like they could survive anything, and whilst the black leather jacket might be a little heavyweight for Southern California it did have three inside pockets. Passing a pharmacy counter he slipped a few useful sundries into one just in case he had need of any later (no point expecting his host to provide everything).

*******

The Magic Box was a store selling books and curios. Other than candles, Avon recognised the purpose of few of the items on display. He leaned on the shop counter, at the end farthest from the group sitting around a table. Spike took up position slightly nearer to the others and lit a cigarette, ignoring the reproving looks they gave him.

With the exception of Spike and their leader, Giles, the group’s members were all young adults, barely more than children by some people’s standards. The blonde girl who seemed to be second in command was obviously the one Spike called Slayer. Another girl and the boy next to her seemed to be a couple by the way they sat close together, bickering occasionally.

"Good, you’re here at last, Spike," said Giles polishing his eyeglasses. "Now, I’ve explained the problem to Oz," he indicated a boy with black-dyed hair, "and he thinks he can help us track down these werewolves or whatever they are."

"Werewolves don’t tend to form packs," added Oz helpfully. "Could be you’re dealing with something else."

"Thank you," said Giles, a trifle irritated at being interrupted. "Now I suggest you split up and patrol while I stay here and research." He finally noticed Avon’s presence, "What is he doing here? Spike?"

"Blaming me for everything? Okay, I admit I brought Avon here with me but we need you to figure out how to get him back where he came from."

"Did I say I wanted to go back?" said Avon, walking around the shop.

"Giles! He’s touching the cash register!" the girl who was not Buffy complained, "don’t let him handle the money." Avon stepped away from the device and picked up a book.

"Not that either." Giles came over and took it off him. "Try this one, there’s a very interesting chapter on werewolves. Let me know if you find anything relevant." Avon flicked through the leather-bound book, which contained highly detailed information on all manner of mythical beings, complete with hand-drawn illustrations. He dutifully read the chapter on werewolves, then looked up various other words he had heard in conversations that evening.

Eventually Giles set his own book aside.

"I think I’ve found something here. We must tell the others." Avon looked up.

"Does that mean I can go back to the mall?" Spike had dragged him to the Magic Box before he had had a chance to break into any computer stores.

"No, it does not," said Giles. "It means that you can accompany me in going to find them. And when we’ve dealt with the present situation, we can come back here and figure out what to do about yours."

 

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