Coming of the Scooby Army
Ch 22 - The Day Before Doomsday
Dawn happily and giddily tapped her foot under the table, suffused with happiness. It was Thursday! The following day would be the last for summer school and by tomorrow evening, she’d be in a spa with Cordelia, who was like a whiz when it came to fashion and make up and knowing the best places to eat and shop and get pampered.
On her right, Kevin gave her a grin as well, “You are just a bit too happy to be leaving tomorrow.”
“Sorry,” she laughed, “But you just have no idea….”
They were in the high school library with the rest of her small class. Their summer session teacher was sitting in a corner near the door, obviously bored. She kept glancing at the clock in between reading pages of her gothic romance paperback. She’d decided that today would be ‘library day’ in order to give the kids a last chance to finish up their term papers - or so the excuse was; Dawn suspected she just wanted to avoid anymore work, but didn’t want to get in trouble with Ms. Portlynn.
Kevin, technically, shouldn’t even have been there. He didn’t have summer school and wasn’t part of the class. But he wasn’t the only ‘research assistant’ present, as there were at least six extra people in the room. Their teacher was beyond the point of caring, however, as long as they all at least put in the appearance of working on their papers.
Dawn’s had been finished the night before, so she and Kevin were basically doing a read through and looking for spelling and grammar errors. Partially, anyway. Mostly, they were just flirting and making plans for when she returned from her weekend away.
Upstairs at the Summers’ house, in Willow and Tara’s room, the red head had two suitcases opened and half full of clothing. She had stopped packing however and now kneeled on the floor. In front of her splayed in a semi-circle around her were five candles. In the center was one of slate grey, made of beeswax. Two more were to the right and left of this one, also lit, but black and made of soy. Each candle had a single black stone in front of them, and in front of all of this was incense, smoldering. The tableau was completed by a Tarot card - ‘The Hierophant’ - chosen to represent the woman sitting downstairs in the kitchen at this moment.
Willow chanted softly, eyes focused solely upon this card. Under the bed, Ms. Kitty Fantastico could just be heard growling softly at the magical mist emanating from Willow. From the Habitrail, Amy could be heard squeaking and rustling. She was sitting on her haunches, nose pointed straight up toward the top of the cage where she waved it back and forth, scenting the air.
As Willow felt herself reaching the point of no return, where the spell would need to be released or interrupted, she picked up the other Tarot card she’d laid within reach nearby. She placed this new card, ‘The Moon’ over the old and quickly flipped both over so that their faces were now hidden.
Accompanied by a small snap in the air, she whispered, “My will be done, so mote it be”….
In the kitchen, sitting at the island with coffee between them, sat Tara, Dawn’s social worker and the newly restored Buffy robot. Tara couldn’t keep from chewing at her lower lip, as her eyes darted between the other two with her.
“So, as you can see, Dawn could clearly benefit from some sort of mild intervention,” Golda Sinclair shared with ‘Buffy’. “I’m not suggesting psychological help per se, Dawn appears to be very well adjusted for the most part. I’m only saying that once a week, she should have the opportunity to speak with someone in confidence - a councilor who’s discretion she can be confident in and where she can speak freely about anything that may be bothering her.”
“Yes. I see that,” Buffybot grinned widely. “But, she can tell me anything! We’re sisters!”
“W-well, I’m sure she appreciates that. But sometimes, children in Dawn’s position, being cared for by a sister in place of a parent can feel… stifled, in expressing their true opinions - perhaps because they’re afraid to be a quote-burden-unquote. A councilor would allow her to express things she may feel guilty about saying aloud to family.”
“What do you think,” Buffybot frowned as if in thought as she turned to Tara beside her.
She was just feeling a sense of relief that the robot’s responses seemed relatively normal, when she very suddenly stopped frowning and grinned maniacally instead.
“W-w-well, of course, we want to help Dawnie in any way necessary,” Tara said, directing her comment at Golda. “If you believe Dawn may need this, we’ll cooperate.”
“I like Dawn! I think she’s a very sweet girl. I want to help her, because she’s my sister,” the Buffybot exclaimed enthusiastically.
“Uh. Yes, yes, of course,” Ms. Sinclair responded. The girl was weird and she was beginning to wonder if scheduling a random drug test might not be a good idea. “Uh, moving on, I wanted to bring up your father. I understand that since the divorce, he’s appeared less and less in Dawn’s life - such a shame, but a very common story these days, I’m afraid. What I wished to know is if there is a current address for him and I noted that in the financial forms I had you fill out, there is no mention of child support….”
“I’ve never met my father,” Buffy chirpily said, causing Tara to choke on her sip of coffee.
The robot slapped her back, aggressively, leaving what was sure to be a bruise.
Tara managed to sputter, “She means that we haven’t seen him in a long while. He’s uh, he works overseas… a new life….”
“Hank Summers is irresponsible,” Buffybot frowned deeply, sounding slightly angry. A split second later and she grinned beamingly again, “Thankfully we have Giles!”
“Yes, I see Mr. Giles on a lot of your responses,” Golda said, looking over her forms. These, naturally, had largely been filled out by Giles himself on Buffy’s behalf. “He appears to have played a major role in the family. I’m disappointed he returned to England before I could have an in-depth conversation with him.”
“Giles went to England,” Buffybot repeated, still grinning. “He does that.”
“I’m afraid it couldn’t be helped,” Tara quickly intervened. “There was a, uh, family emergency.”
“Yes. But, can I ask when we expect him back for an interview,” Golda continued.
“I’m afraid I don’t know,” Tara admitted with obvious reluctance. “His family issue is… severe and, um, may take some time to sort out. But, he’s really come through for us anyway! Even with this hardship, he’s made sure that Buffy and Dawn are capable of looking after themselves.”
“Right, I see he’s arranged for this stipend from something called ‘The Council’… all very mysterious,” Golda gave one of her fake laughs that Tara recognized by now as exactly that… fake. “I can’t seem to locate much information about them.”
Buffybot opened her mouth to respond, causing Tara to quickly kick her artificial leg and a bit too loudly rush over her, “They’re an exclusive British social club! It’s all, uh, very old world and traditional and, uh, exclusive.”
“The Council are run by jerks,” Buffybot shared.
Willow! Did you have to include that, Tara worriedly thought.
“They act snobby and are always trying to control everyone. I’m glad I quit! Although, I have information that I’ve rejoined, but not the reasons why - Tara?”
“Uh! Uh… I-I th-think that Giles had to have you, um, officially be a member… uh… for the stipend. H-he must have, uh, taken care of that for you…,” Tara stammered. She hated when her stutter returned like this - she knew it always made her seem evasive and nervous and that was the last thing she wanted to seem in front of Ms. Sinclair, but having Buffybot interact with people was always a risk, no matter how many times Willow tried to update her databases to contend with people outside of the Scoobies.
Which, at least she hasn’t mispronounced Giles’ name, brought up Slaying or vampires or referred to her databases, yet, so I should count myself lucky, she thought. She wished that Golda would wrap this up and leave.
At that moment, Golda herself felt a wave of slight dizziness pass through her. She reached up and rubbed her forehead, trying to ignore the slight nausea she felt.
“Uh,” she started, rubbing at her eyes now, “Uh, I wanted to discuss this gentleman living here, too. I’m not comfortable with Dawn returning to the house with someone who calls themselves ‘Spike’ here, especially when he seems so… well… uh, he has a certain ‘quality’ I’m not comfortable with having a young teen girl around.”
“Spike protects Dawn,” Buffybot grinned widely. “He takes my place when I have to recharge….”
“… her mental batteries,” Tara nearly screamed, before she caught herself in the nick of time enough to lower her voice… a bit…, “Uh, when she turns in to sleep. Sh-she and Spike, uh, both watch out for Dawnie… and we do, too. I mean we… we… all do… watch out for Dawn.”
“Hmmm…,” Golda squeezed her eyes tightly. “Well, I wanted my, uh, my… my concern, uh noted. I’m… I, uh, there was something else… it’s escaped my mind, now.”
“Ms. Sinclair? Your pupils are dilating strangely,” Buffybot commented.
“Ms. Sinclair? Are you alright,” Tara added at nearly the same time.
“I-I think so. I’m just… feeling off today. I’m sorry, it’s been a very tiring week,” she smiled apologetically. “I can’t seem to focus. Uh, where were we… oh, right! I noticed the front and back doors sitting in the hallway, are they to be installed sometime soon?”
“Oh yes,” Tara assured her. “We’ve received a report from the inspector and thankfully the damage has been mostly cosmetic. Xander is working this week at a site, he’s in construction remember? And he’s coming over this weekend to install them. He’s also ordered a new front window, which we’re expecting in about a week or so. I’m hoping to get the painting done by next weekend… I’m afraid this weekend, I have a funeral out of town.”
“I see. Well, this is good news. Th-there was something… something…,” Golda glanced through her notes, but appeared to be having trouble with finding what she’d been looking for. In fact, she seemed to be getting more distracted as they went on. Tara noted a light sheen of perspiration on her forehead now.
“Your heart rate has increased,” Buffybot shared. “I am also detecting moisture along your upper lip and on your forehead….”
“Y-you… how did you know my heart is beating faster?”
“First aid training,” Tara interceded again, before Buffybot could respond. “She’s, uh, she’s had first aid training… uh, military first aid… from Riley… her, uh, her boyfriend. Um, ex-boyfriend… or, uh… he’s on duty, now….”
“Riley is nice! He should come back,” Buffybot grinned.
“Th-this is new,” Golda said. “I, uh, I don’t have…, uh… is it possible to complete this interview later. I’m afraid I’m not feeling very well. I-I uh, I can’t seem to focus… I’m so sorry.”
“Of course,” Tara said with relief. That’ll give us time to work more on Buffy’s responses to questions. “Are you alright? Can I get you water… or call someone?”
“Oh, no, no, dear, thank you. I-I just need to, uh… to…,” Golda grabbed up her folder and the briefcase she’d carried in. “I, uh, I apologize… I… I’ll call later…,” she said as she quickly made her way out of the rear side-door.
Willow had returned to packing, nervously chewing at her lower lip. There were no traces of the paraphernalia used for her spell casting lying out, except for the scent wafting through the air. She kept glancing at the bedroom door and listening for footsteps. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Tara came into the room.
“Incense? That’s nice,” she said with a glance. The burner had been moved by Willow to one of the nightstands at the side of the bed.
“Yeah, things were kind of musty smelling in here. How did things go with that woman?” Willow quickly turned away to reach into the closet for a skirt, afraid that Tara would see or sense her nervous, rapid breathing.
“Oh, fine, I think. The robot is still having trouble with conversing with people who don’t know everything, but I think I covered. Are we just about packed? Can I help out with anything,” the blonde said, obviously distracted.
“No, no… I’m fine,” Wills returned with a small smile. “Uh, so… things went good, then?”
“Oh, sure. I mean, Ms. Sinclair suddenly had to leave… I think she may have been coming down with something.”
“Yeah. Maybe a stomach complaint, or something. I don’t mean to sound mean, but I’m glad. I was having a nervous breakdown trying to cover for Buffybot’s weirder utterances,” Tara chuckled now, before running her hand distractedly through the suitcase. “Uh, Will? I think you’ve packed enough for us to be gone a month… we’re only going to be there for the weekend.”
“It’s not that bad. A-and, I just wanted to make sure you had everything you want when we’re there. I-I know that things are going to be tough down there for you.”
“Not really… okay, that was a small lie,” Tara sighed. “But, I’m not that girl who grew up afraid of her own shadow, anymore. If Donnie thinks he’s going to bully me while I’m there, he’s really wrong this time.”
“Bully? Who’s bullying? I was talking about the funeral.”
“I’m fine, Will. Don’t worry about it,” Tara replied as she turned and left the room. She was going to have to warn Willow about Petite Crique - but not right now. She just didn’t have the energy to get into it….
Standing about twenty five miles outside of town, up the side of the Nevadas, Razor used his mystical, telescopic vision to spy on Sunnydale. Not that even he could see much from this far away, but it was good enough to pick out the shape of the town, the power and phone lines running into it and the worrisome military base just outside of its limits.
“The human didn’t mention a base,” Razor said bitterly.
“Do we abort,” his right hand man, Spar, frowned angrily at this snag.
There was a moment of silence before Razor finally growled back, “No. We’ll just have to hit the base first - maybe we’ll pick up some interesting toys while we’re there….”
“Are you sure,” Spar had lowered his voice. Razor didn’t mind being questioned by his second, in fact, he liked that somebody ‘kept him honest’ and helped him think things through. But he also wouldn’t tolerate any show of dissent in front of the others. “We usually avoid these sorts of situations and Vrlug The Pestilence made it clear when we were allowed to travel here that he didn’t want the human’s ire aroused against the Underworld. I’m pretty sure this is the sort of circumstance he meant.”
Razor shrugged with a side glare, before turning his attention back to the base, where men and vehicles traveled around like children’s toys from this distance. “We have the Hellmouth to boost our abilities. We have a missing Slayer. And, as long as we’re careful to interrupt their means of communications, we’ll have them all dead long before they can report our… different… nature. Think of the fame we’ll gather if the Slayer’s town is burned to the ground by us. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the gate will open,” he grinned at his right hand. “Who knows? We could start the downfall of humanity right here.”
Spar liked the sound of that, however unlikely it was….
Riley picked up the satellite phone in northern Alaska. His immediate superior, Colonel Ellis was out with most of the troops of the Meta-black Operations Team taking out some Ice Goblins that had been causing a problem for Barrow.
On the opposite end of the line, someone from the Pentagon greeted him by name, despite his not having given it. The voice on the other end, measured, nearly emotionless and obviously used to giving orders and having them followed ordered the teams brought back in.
“I understand Ma’am, but Colonel Ellis’ team is traveling dark - no communications. The I.G.’s have some equipment they stole and can monitor our transmissions.”
“I see,” the woman’s voice never changed inflection. “Upon his arrival, you’re all to report to Nome on the double. Leave any equipment you can’t carry, we’ll pick it up for you. You’re going to Nevada… a small town there has… experienced trouble. Your kind of trouble. You’re to investigate, track and destroy. The transport plane waiting for you will have a complete dossier waiting with the details we have. Good Luck, Lieutenant Colonel - have Ellis contact the usual channel when you’ve arrived in Nevada.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Riley returned, but the voice on the other end was already replaced with a dead line.
End Ch 22