Slight Chance of Rayne
Hermione was sleeping, slumped over a chronicle with her chin on her chest. Exhaustion had overtaken her finally, and her fretting and fuming over being excluded from the latest Surgat encounter had gnawed her emotions tremendously. She blinked awake and saw drool on her blouse, and realized she had been completely buttoned by fatigue.
A hard voice spoke and she looked up without moving. Toothpick and the smaller guy shoved Alex around with a gun. Tara had her hands up.
"No need for that, hotsy totsy," the smaller guy smirked.
Hermione eased herself under the table. If she could get to the sales counter undetected, she could reach –"
"You," smaller guy called. "Frumpy broad, don't think I don't see you. Stand up, show me your hands."
Hermione climbed sheepishly to her feet.
She held them out. Toothpick walked over and touched her up and down with his humongously large mitts. When he squeezed her breast Hermione slapped his hand away.
"Don't be fresh," she scolded. "You wouldn't wish your mother to know of your crude behavior, would you?"
Toothpick shook his head. "No, I wouldn't want that." His voice was high-pitched and nasal, with a familiar ring to it.
"He sounds like Michael Jackson," Tara said to Alex. Alex giggled.
Toothpick's cheeks burned. "Enough of that," he snapped. "Tell us where that bleach-blonde chick is, the one who drove that Firebird outside.
"Why you laughing?" he shouted.
The three couldn't help themselves. The incongruity of the familiar voice issuing from such a great big hulk of a man filled them with mirth. Their titters broke into guffaws, and they were momentarily lost in laughter.
"I told you to keep quiet," smaller guy said.
Toothpick noticed the door leading to the back room. He pointed at it and smaller guy said, "What's back there?"
"A … a st-storeroom," Alex managed.
"Go check it, Tooth."
"No," Hermione shot quickly. "There's a demon encounter in that room, and anyone who enters will be in danger."
Toothpick and smaller guy laughed. "Now it's our turn to crack up," smaller guy sneered. "Toothpick, open it."
The big man went for the door. Hermione opened her mouth, then shut it. What was the use?
Anya was going through pronunciations with Rayne. "Say en-cone-ay tray, vie-pore-ol-ow."
Enconetre viporuulao," he said.
Surgat shook his head no.
The door opened and Toothpick peeked in. Surgat snapped to life. His hand darted out and clutched Toothpick by his oversized head. He yanked the big man to him, with Toothpick screaming and hiccupping in shocked terror.
"Who's that?" Anya demanded. "It sounds like Michael Jackson."
Surgat gargled for a moment, then spat a huge glob into Toothpick's face. He rubbed it in with his paw, then threw his prisoner at the open door. Toothpick slammed against the door jamb and tumbled to the floor.
Smaller guy reached in and pulled Toothpick out by his arm. From the doorway he aimed his pistol at Surgat and fired off three rounds. Surgat took them in the neck, the forehead and the mouth. The rogue demon smacked his lips and rubbed his belly mockingly.
"What the hell?" smaller guy exclaimed. He pulled the door shut.
Alex whacked him behind the ear with a 19th century Sese wood statue of a Nigerian Ibo. Smaller guy dropped like a sack of rice.
"Good shot," Hermione blessed her.
Tara picked up the pistol and handed it to Alex. "What are we going to do with him?" She pointed to Toothpick, who lay gasping for air and clawing at the gooey spittle covering his face.
Hermione took off her sweater and knelt beside him, wiping away the mess. "We should check the, um … "
"Pulse?" Tara offered.
"The Chronicles," she finished. "Check the Chronicles to find any reports of this. There has to be a reason Surgat didn't kill this, this Toothpick fellow. Find out what mischief he could visit on someone by applying his sputum."
With the goo wiped off, Toothpick still failed to gain sufficient breath. In fact, his breathing stopped completely. He went limp.
"He's not breathing," Tara observed. "Willow?"
Alex got down next to them. "I know CPR."
"No," Hermione grabbed Alex's arm. "No skin-to-skin contact. That could spread whatever Surgat has infected him with."
"But Giles –"
"No," Hermione barked. "It's unfortunate, but it can't be helped."
Alex jumped up and went to the table. "You had the Surgat Chronicles here?"
"What about him?" Tara asked, indicating the smaller guy.
Hermione got up and went to the sales counter. "We'll tie him to a chair." She retrieved a thick roll of duct tape, as well as her two-shot derringer pistol, which she stuck discretely into her brassiere.
Tara reached out a hand to Toothpick, whose face was rapidly turning blue from cyanosis. She stopped herself and moved regretfully away.
"We could have used Angel just now," Hermione remarked, manhandling smaller guy into a chair.
Alex glanced up from the chronicle. "He must still be looking for Spike."
Hermione removed the wallet from the smaller guy's inside jacket pocket. "Let's see who he is," she murmured, flipping it open. "Nevada driver's license. Hmm, his name happens to be Guy Smalls.
"How utterly appropriate."
Spike turned off her motorcycle and walked it into her crypt. Angel was there waiting.
"Hello Cyclops, been playing on your tricycle?"
"What're you doin' here, you totterin' bint?"
"Waiting for you, gender-bender."
Spike wheeled the bike to the rear of the crypt, concealing it behind a sarcophagus.
"Well, here I am, you poofter. Say your piece then mince on back to L.A. where you belong."
He shook his head. "Uh-uh, Spikette. Buffy thinks you're needed at the Magic Box, so you're going. Now."
"You should have said so." Spike went for the door.
"Time is a factor, so we'll take your bike."
Spike put her hands on her hips. "What do you mean 'we,' white man?"
"We're both needed. You've wasted so much time doing – hey, where have you been, anyway? You look like you've been dipped in cat piss."
Spike retrieved the bike and headed for the door. "You can run alongside," she said. "Grab hold of the seat bar for momentum, but keep your slimy little mitts off my bum."
"Nuh-uh, Queen-For-A-Day. I drive, and you'll sit in back like a good little biker mama."
Spike hopped on. "Keep talking while I leave." She inserted her key and kick started the bike.
"Dammit," Angel growled, and got on behind her.
Spike recoiled. "Sit back farther, you masher. Keep mister teenieweenie to yourself."
"You're the one who wanted me rubbing up behind you."
Spike drove the motorcycle toward the street. "Don't hold me around the waist," she yelled back.
"Where do I hang on then?"
Angel reached for them, and immediately Spike accelerated, popping a wheelie. Angel fell off, landing flat on his back then rolling in the grass. Spike revved up and shifted gears, jamming his two-finger salute in farewell. Angel cursed explosively.
Garnerbot sat on Warren's video gaming couch and let the power cable recharge him. He had affected a repair of the neck gash by accessing the self-maintenance manual that Warren himself had put in Garnerbot's hard drive. He sighed contentedly. Soon he would be ready to return to the lovely Hermione.
Warren trundled down the stairs and stopped short. "What? You're back. Great. I've been looking for you everywhere, man. I thought I'd have to make me a whole other proto. Hey, what's with the patch?"
Garnerbot touched the brand new synthskin on his neck. "Nice job, huh? Had to do the delicate work in a mirror, too. I kept some of the micro-tools, might need that for lock picking."
"Uh-huh," Warren replied, nodding nonchalantly. He moved to the TV stand and snatched up his custom-made universal remote. Pointing at Garnerbot, he thumbed the WIPE MEMORY button.
"There," he said, setting down the remote. "Now, let's get that face off." He foraged in his tool box for a razor knife and approached Garnerbot. The robot's face was blank. Warren felt for the subtle facial seam and lifted the razor to it.
Garnerbot snatched his hand and shoved it away. "So that's what you'd do to me, eh? Drop it."
Warren yowled and dropped the razor knife under pressure of Garnerbot's grip.
"I wiped your memory. You're supposed to do my bidding."
Garnerbot tssked. "The remote's function is in my hard drive, genius. I just took out the batteries, now I'm going to do my bidding."
"Hey," Warren protested, flushing pinkly, "I made you, and I'm your boss. Your primary function is to serve me. I'm like … your father, for crying out loud."
The recharging was complete. Garnerbot unplugged, then gathered up the recharger and cord to take with him. "My dad's named Rocky. He's a short, stocky retired truck driver. You, on the other hand, are a snot-nosed, acne-faced kid with delusions of adequacy. I'm going back to my fiancé now, so toodles."
"You can't go," Warren blurted. "You're not a real man. You know it, you're a robot."
Garnerbot turned back to him. "Look at this face, this lean but muscular physique. Do I look like a robot to you? I'm in demand in Hollywood. I'm rich and getting richer, and you wish you could control me. But I'm part Cherokee, and any man who tries to make me his slave is getting scalped."
As he walked up the basement stairs, Warren hastily put fresh batteries in the remote. He ran upstairs after Garnerbot and repeatedly stabbed the WIPE button. "Return to the basement," he called.
Garnerbot looked back and smiled. "I did more to it than just take out the batteries, stupid. Don't believe everything you're told." He shook his head and laughed, striding rapidly into the dark night.
Vince Scarpino sipped straight scotch then set his glass in its holder.
"This is like, luxury," one of the torpedoes commented.
"That's right, Gino," Vince nodded. "Enjoy it."
"I'll enjoy taking a piss," Gianni complained.
"You shouldn't've drank so much," Vince said. "I toldja take it easy while we're on the job."
"I can hold my liquor."
"Then cross your legs and hold it. We're almost there anyway. Angie, how far from the car?"
The passenger up front stared at an electronic map mounted on the dash. "A little under eight miles."
"Great. So sit quiet."
"I hope there's a can there."
Minutes later the three dark sedans convoyed down the street to stop in front of the Magic Box.
Vince fastened the top button of his shirt and adjusted his tie. "Any answer from Guy?"
"Still straight to voice mail."
The men got out, leaving a driver to watch the cars. Eleven men strode to the store, one waddling with his knees together.
Within, Hermione stood with her ear to the back door, trying to hear what was going on with Surgat.
"Giles," Alex said.
Hermione ignored him.
"Giles. Hermione, you'd better look at this. He held up the chronicle, but Hermione kept focus on the door.
"What?" she turned around.
"It says Surgat can turn a living being into a Golem – a walking dead, with his mucus. So apparently that Toothpick guy can rise up any minute."
Tara poked Alex with an elbow. "He's doing it right now."
At Hermione's feet Toothpick opened his eyes and let rip a chilling, primal scream. He sat up, and Hermione backed away. His eyes were ringed with black, his lips purple. He lumbered to his feet awkwardly and fixed them with crazy, red-tinged eyes.
"Weapons," Hermione said urgently.
The door kicked open and Gianni ran in with the others stalking behind him.
"Bathroom," he gnashed. "Where's the john?" His eyes fell on the Surgat's newly minted Golem.
"Toothpick, what the hell happened to you?"
With an eager moan Toothpick sprang at Gianni.
Surgat was pleased with himself.
"You should check on your friend," he sneered. "You may not like what you find."
"You know who that was?" Anya asked Buddy.
"Never saw him before."
Anya prodded Rayne, who had dropped to the floor during the distraction. "Get up, Rayne."
"No, no, no" he squealed, rocking himself.
Buddy kicked him.
"No," Rayne insisted, writhing.
"He shouldn't do that," Anya cautioned.
Too late. Surgat whipped around the room, freed by the partial erasure of the pentagram. He caromed off walls, ricocheted off furniture. Light bulbs flared then blew, and the stench that filled the room was uniquely unbearable. The demon fell on the protective circle from every angle, trying to get his claws on the three huddled within.
Buddy hauled Rayne up, resisting his efforts to crumple back down. The blankets dropped, leaving him stark naked. Rayne held his hands over his face, muffling his baby-like weeping.
Anya pulled out her extra bag of powders and sand. "Good thing I have th—"
Rayne spastically flung out an arm and knocked the bag from her hand. It landed a foot outside the circle.
"Well, that's nice," Anya said insularly. She sat down and hugged her knees.
"We're all going to die."