Toil and Trouble
Garnerbot was getting damned tired of seeing the black sedan in his rearview mirror. He sped by the police station, noting with satisfaction that a number of uniformed cops lounged around their cars with coffee cups in hand. The cars roared past at criminal speed, but the cops merely yelled at them.
"Lazy jerks," Garnerbot murmured.
Next, he tried the streetlight dodge, lurching to a stop at a green. He ignored the sedan's horn blasts, and when the light turned amber he gunned the engine, peeling out at the stroke of red. He laughed as the sedan got jammed up by cross traffic.
On the other side of town he pulled into the Doublemeat Palace drive-thru for a victory bite. The squawky box muffled out an incoherent greeting, then "Woodjoo lyktoootry our whifflegrooooblox?"
"Give me a cheeseburger and coffee, that'll be it."Click, whirr, shhhh. Bloshblek fries with that?"
"Just the burger and coffee, " he answered gruffly.
Fffffffzzzzzchk. Would you crrrrrffrr anything else to drink?"
The muscles in Garnerbot's jaw tightened. "Just the burger and coffee, pal."
"Wooodjulek crrreeeeammmm errr shhhhigrrr clllk.
Garnerbot mumbled an imprecation and drove to the window.
The attendant smiled vacuously at him. "Wooodjulek crreeeeammmm errr shhhhigrrr sir?"
"No," Garnerbot snapped. "I'll take the coffee black - like your future."The teenage wunderkind blinked, then responded, "There's no call for that sort of language, sir.""English is all I know, son. It's a simple order, like 'Use the potty when you poo-poo.' Am I getting through to you?"
The youth glanced at the cash register. "Five-fifty-two," he said dourly.
Garnerbot handed him a ten, and the kid checked the register to see what change to give. As he handed it back he said, "Can you please pull around to the front and someone will bring it to you shortly?"Garnerbot angrily caught the kid's wrist. "If I wanted to wait all day I'd have gone to IHOP. This is a drive-thru, and I'm going to drive through, capisce?"
The black sedan pulled in behind him.
Garnerbot released the attendant's wrist. "Keep the change," he said and floored it.
"I already gave you the change," the youth griped.
This is one sticky tail, Garnerbot mused. It would take a smart move, a Rockford move, to shake this guy. Earlier he had seen a promising setup at U.C. Sunnydale, so he raced there. The sedan kept pace, and he slowed a little to lull the driver. When they came parallel to a Permit Only parking lot he accelerated. He cranked a fast right that left smoking rubber arcs on the asphalt, and ran up the curb next to the exit driveway. A huge sign blared CAUTION! DO NOT ENTER SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE. Garnerbot gritted his teeth as the curb banged the undercarriage, hoping the other guy was too intent on the chase to notice the sign. Sure enough, the sedan squealed around the turn and up the driveway. The row of spikes blew out all four tires, and Garnerbot grinned and threw them a wave. He turned for the next exit, grimacing at the way the engine knocked now. He headed for the Magic Box at low speed. When he parked and turned off the engine, the Firebird bucked like a bull before dying. He shook his head and pocketed the brand new key he had made at the locksmith's.
A vampire leapt on him from the dark. Garnerbot staggered a little, then tried to get a grip on his attacker. The vamp lowered his face to Garnerbot's neck and sank his fangs in.
Garnerbot gave a strangled yell. "Help, me," he cried. "Becker, Bart, Beau. Beth, Hilts, somebody." He tried poking the vampire in the eye.
The door to the Magic Box opened and Alex came out holding a stake. The vampire recoiled in disgust and backed away, spitting and slapping at his tongue. He shot a poison glare at Garnerbot.
"What are you?" he hissed. "You're not human."
Garnerbot clamped a hand to his neck. "Look who's talking."
The vampire ran across the street and ducked between buildings.
Inside, Alex and Tara surveyed the wound. "There's, like, a little blue arc of electricity flashing every few seconds," Alex said incredulously. "I don't know anything about robots, but it doesn't look good."
"Damn." Garnerbot straightened his tie. "Well, to get repaired and recharged, I have to go see a man in a basement." He handed Alex the key to the Firebird. "Give this to Buddy, and tell him it's fifty grand or nothing."
He headed for the door.
"Wait," Tara said.
"Yeah wait," Alex seconded. "You can … tell Buddy yourself. He's in the back room."
Garnerbot paused. "Okay, it'll have to be quick."
"Well," Alex fidgeted. "He's actually in a demon session right now, but you know what, keep the car. It's yours. Buddy doesn't want it anymore."
Garnerbot headed out again. "It's in worse shape than I am right now. But I'll be back."
"This is bad," Tara said when he was gone. She held out her hand. "I'll drop it somewhere."Alex shook his head. "Kendra said they're tracking it, and I don't want to risk you."
Tara smiled and looked away. She was unsure of her position with Willow lately. She wasn't sure what Willow's position was with Willow. She was happy Willow hadn't called her bluff and sent her out in that death car.
Alex made his decision. "I'll just drive it down the street a ways and walk back."
"What if they need you, what if something happens?"
"I'll run, then. Be back in half a shake."Alex made sure Tara locked the door after her. A Ford Fairmont wheezed up next to the Firebird and he had to wait. The passenger door flew open and dinged the Firebird. He almost protested but remembered it didn't matter. Toothpick slowly unstuffed his bulk from the car and stood up. The driver came up and gave a nod.
"Sorry for the dent, Mac."
"That's okay," Alex replied.
Toothpick stuck a fresh stick in his face. He grinned around it as the smaller guy stuck a gun barrel in Alex's ear.
Spike swam languorously on her back, picking out constellations in the clear sky. The water was calm, and its temperature matched Spike's, making her feel comfortably enfolded in its warmth.
She smiled at the stars and wondered what it would be like, chundering to ash. How far had she come? Peering into the darkness revealed nothing. Her vampire's facility for seeing in the dark seemed completely impaired.
Some nearby splashing caused a chill to travel down Spike's spine. It could be a tuna, a flying fish, or a whale. Could be anything really, but Spike knew in her bones it was a shark. She stopped in place and watched, and presently a fin broke water a few yards away. Everything seemed frozen in time as she watched that nightmare fin churn toward her in the moonlight.
Here it is, she realized vaguely, exactly what I expected. No sense fighting it. She asked for it, and here was death in the form of nature's best killing machine to deliver it.
A shudder shook her as she anticipated the impact of the jaws, gaping and gnashing with its multiple rows of sawlike teeth. They would slice through her flesh and bone with ease, turning her to chum. She would die now without a fight.
Not bloody likely. Her body tensed as she prepared to battle it. Just a stupid fish, after all, instinct and no brains, like a Faryl Demon. A fighting grin bared Spike's teeth and she felt her face vamp out. The degraded lymph that served as blood for her kind raced along in her sludgy veins, her undead adrenal gland infusing her muscles with their demonic power.
The fin submerged. Abruptly a wave smacked her in the face as the fin's owner breached the ocean surface. It leaped over Spike's head and knifed gracefully back to the water, then reappeared to laugh in her face.
"You fluttering sod," Spike cursed in relief. The dolphin rode its tail and chittered as though communicating with him.
"What d'you want, smiley?" Spike reached out to pet it and the dolphin ducked so that her hand connected with its dorsal fin.
Spike gripped it. The dolphin towed her along, working its powerful tail to cut a foamy swath in their wake. Wherever the creature intended to take her, they were going to make good time. Spike knew in her bones they were headed for shore, but this time she knew her bones were right. These docile creatures were known for helping people in distress. Spike considered the option of letting go, of rebuffing the happy little bloke and dying on schedule. But nah, she figured, fate was fate, might as well play the cards she was dealt.
She would return to Buffy, whatever form or identity that Buffy was. Man or woman regardless, she would always be in trouble. If Spike had to fight the big bads with flopping tits and menstrual cramps, so be it. What kind of man would let a little thing like being a woman interfere with his being a man?
Singing a little nautical ditty inside her head, Spike let the dolphin take her home, kicking and stroking a bit to help them along.
Surgat regarded his summoners silently, his massive chest rising and falling with each measured breath. Half of his latest, luckless partner was still attached to him. He removed the remains and dropped them onto the floor before them.
Anya jabbed Rayne's ribs hard enough to draw a cry. "Talk with conviction, he's not listening."
Buddy tightened his grip on the back of Rayne's neck. "I can hurt you too," he whispered to Rayne.
Rayne closed his eyes and gathered his blankets more tightly around him. "I-I reverse m-my spell, and renounce my curse," he piped shrilly.
Surgat stared at him malevolently but said nothing.
"I don't see why we can't wait," Rayne slobbered to Anya. "What's the hurry?"
Buddy thumped his kidney and Rayne grunted.
"I m-mean it, Surgat," he stammered. "You are bound by the Principles, and you must do what –"
Surgat cut loose a throaty shriek, which gave them all gooseflesh. "You are bound as well. No more mister nice-guy. I do nothing without proper commands, so torture me all you please."
Anya snorted. "He's bluffing. Make him hurt enough and he'll comply."
Rayne turned a fearful visage to her. "I won't. I-I c-c-can't bear violence any more. Please … don't make me."
Buddy let out a frustrated groan. "What are the correct phrases, anyway?"
Anya hefted her book. "They're in here somewhere, and unless Rayne grows a pair and motivates this demon, we've gotta waste time going through it."
"I'll make him hurt," Buddy countered. "Hey Fatso, slug yourself and … and smell your own stink."
Surgat ignored him.
Anya looked hopelessly at Buddy. "I already told you he'll only listen to Rayne." She opened the book and rested it on Rayne's back. "I'll find the right verbiage. Let's see, cancelling, cancelling … here, spell reversals. Let me read."
Surgat favored Rayne with a knowing leer. He bucked his hips meaningfully and pointed at him, them licked his finger and touched it to his sizable posterior. The finger sizzled. Surgat winked.