The roads of Sunnydale at night. The lights are on, but most people are at home, asleep, and staying that way. They may all have the town's unique brand of amnesia, but that doesn't mean they aren't afraid of all those bizarre gangs out there.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. A few are awake for their own mysterious reasons, trying to rehabilitate the region's many PCP addicts being one of the most common. Apparently studies of the occult are of considerable help here, though it is never explained why. For most college students, the definition of "home" can be extended to anywhere on or nearby campus; for the town's youth in general, the Bronze is a lot more fun than sitting at home moping over the mysterious death of half their relatives by barbecue fork anaemia.
And then, of course, there's the young vampire in the gleaming black sports car screeching to a halt outside the hospital and dumping a body there.
"Well, that was a waste of time."
"Look, Forrest, we'll go on patrolling every night until we find the hostile."
"Why? He's neutered, can't harm a living thing to save his unlife. And his friends, what few there are, aren't getting any more cautious, so I personally think he's dust and bones. Didn't you see what happened to those vamps Third Div starved?"
"I don't want to kn--"
Something barrels past.
"What the hell was that?"
"Black car, didn't get the make, license number UQT-985. He was all over the road, a door was open, God knows how fast he was going. Two feet further to the right and you'd be dead, Riley."
"Thanks for that vote of confidence, Graham. No point in tracking it, it'll be halfway to the high school already. Anyway, it's a job for the kind of police who don't have to worry about bloodsucking demons on a nightly basis."
Turn a corner.
There's a kid sprawled out on the footpath, looking badly injured, unconscious, and bloodless as a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Drained for sure. Rush over, and against all odds, he has a pulse. The hospital's easily within sight, but nobody seems to be doing anything on that end.
"What do we do, sir?"
"I'm not sure... do we have a guy inside the hospital?"
"We do -- in bed with a broken leg."
"OK, then, we'll do the John Wayne thing."
Riley and Graham change into casuals, pick up the body, and drag it and themselves into the emergency room.
Shit! What in the hell were those three doing out here at this hour? Guess I'll need to put on the spare 'plates. Lucky for them I've fed already...
The trouble with new towns is finding a place to spend the day. Normally I'd just find some local to board with, but I haven't seen a single damn vampire anywhere around here. The idiots I nearly sideswiped didn't have the reflexes. Either the Mouth of Hell is heavily overrated, the Slayer and whatever weird help she has now heavily underrated, or the regional Master takes the whole living-underground thing a little too close to heart. Probably all of the above. Guess I'll have to settle for some abandoned basement. Fucking hell.
"So, a hundred vampires are hidden somewhere, feeding off busloads of Babe Ruth wannabes and working on some untranslated horror which could start at any moment. Therefore, you want Spike to patrol with me. Am I missing something? Fifty-to-one odds don't offer a much better chance of survival than a hundred to one, so I don't see what good Bleachboy is."
"I never said you had to patrol side by side. I merely suggested that you two go out and thoroughly search a different half of the town. If and when you find anything, you report back here and we'll see where we go from there."
"And... you think we can set Spike loose? I mean, it's not as if he actually remembered much about those commando guys, but he knows that after we did the truth spell there was no reason..."
"Yes, I do. Buffy, Spike, go out that door, one of you turns left, the other right, run or call back if you find anything. Willow, I take it you can stay and research?"
"I think so."
"Good, I'll just see if I can find--"
"This?" said Willow, holding up volume three of Giles' newest encyclopaedia.
"Actually, I think you'll want the fourth volume."
Surprise, surprise, I've been all over town (the town to the left of Giles's front door, anyway) and not one single evil hellbeast. Not even a human. I double back along Springhead Avenue, back toward Giles's, and wonder how the hell I didn't notice these two fine male bloodsuckers sharing a cigarette under the street lights. They're obviously rookies. Don't they know that anything that smokes in this town is automatically doomed? Besides, vampires who don't learn why they're called creatures of shadow don't last longer than a month.
"Hi! Great night, isn't it?"
They just snigger. Why is it that whenever I go to the trouble of making up a really good one-liner, they just stare blankly, but when I don't they laugh their heads off at their own private jokes? Then one of them goes game.
"Wow, thanks! I always prefer a vampire who doesn't beat around the bush with all that witty banter, pick up line, want to see the world crap."
Discard jacket, dust both demons and stroll on trying to think of a decent pun to say next time. Still, if they keep coming at this rate I'll never need to use it.
I've walked more than a mile before I realise I've forgotten something. But vampires that young and stupid wouldn't know anything about any big ritual, even if they were involved.
"How's it going?"
"Not very well. The man used quite a lot of poetic licence to avoid discussing the topic at hand. Something about thundering rodents on a trader's wagon. And the name is very little help. The 'Rachull', you say?"
"'R-a-ch-u-l-l', according to this. Not very impressive, is it?"
Back to the books. The phone rings.
"Hello, Rupert Giles speaking."
"Hello, Mr Giles. Uh, Buffy dropped her jacket and I was wondering if..."
"Why would you call m-- Who are you?"
"Who am I? What am I? I believe the technical term is vampire, although 'vicious bloodsucking fiend' is an accepted regional variant."
"So give me one reason why I shouldn't hang up on you."
"Well, let's see, perhaps those pesky Rites of Rachull that are due to be performed Saturday night? I can give you the whos, whats, wheres, whys and wherefores."
"And, what, may I ask, do you want in return?"
"Well, your Slayer agreeing not to put a wood shaft through any vital organs would be a good start. Look, I'm here, I'm smart, I can fight, I have information, and I've got no immediate interest in bringing about the apocalypse."
"Do you honestly expect me to trust you?"
"No, but I don't trust you either, so we're even. Now, unless your Slayer comes looking for her lost clothing, we'll have to arrange a meeting. Let's see... midnight tomorrow, Christ that's cliched but never mind, abandoned warehouse off Townsend Street. I'll wear the jacket. Bring rope, tranquillisers, crosses, garlic, holy water, whatever you like, long as you can still ask me questions after. See ya!"
Hangs up. Giles is speechless.
"What was that about?"
"Well... Someone... I... It'll have to wait until Buffy gets back, Willow."
Slow down... this looks all right. I'm sick of driving anyway, and I do need some rest. Stop, get out, have a look around. Perfect. Go back to get what little stuff I have, and find another vampire there waiting for me, hands in pockets, cigarette in mouth, hair blonde through an obvious dye-job. Standing next to my car door like he was waiting for his girlfriend before a date. What the hell?
"'Ello. Like to tell me what you're doin' 'ere?" he says.
Has a British -- London? -- accent, too.
"Could ask you the same question."
"That one was old when me mum was born. So's this one: I asked first."
"That's my car you're in front of."
"I'll be right through its window and out the other side, with a baseball bat, if you don't answer the bloody question."
And then I'll be right through your heart with the broken bat, but still... "I'm looking for a place where I don't turn to ash come morning. But now you've turned up, I guess I don't have to worry, do I?"
"Try to follow or mess with me and you'll be ash long before bloody sunrise. It's been a while since I had a decent fight."
"No aspirations to help your fellow vamp?"
"Nope. Now, why're you looking for room and board in the first place?"
"New in town."
"Right. Some free advice, luv: get the hell out of here quick. If the Slayer doesn't get you, a bunch of X-Files types will, and believe you me it's better being staked slowly through the arse with a garlic-soaked crucifix than it is meeting those bastards."
"Is a good description of what they put you through, yes. Leave town before you have to find out."
"That a threat?"
"No, it's a warning. They don't go in for threats, or warnings either. First thing you'll notice is a bloody taser dart up your armpit. Hurts like hell, but luckily it doesn't last long 'cause the next thing you get's a tranq. Then, when you wake up, they knock you out again and get really creative with the scalpels and the injections. If you're lucky you'll come out with one less fang than you started with."
"You aren't telling me anything I haven't heard before, with a little less detail. Just how can you know all this bullshit and still be standing here? And why should I run off if you haven't?"
"First, same way you know about it, obviously. They caught an Abaira demon early on. Second, well... You look like a young one, kid. You don't deserve to get dusted or experimented on, least not 'til you've got a decent body count to your name. Now," he snaps, pulling out a stake and tossing it from hand to hand, "I suggest you get in that fine set of wheels of yours and have a drive. I hear New Orleans is nice at this time of year."
Think of it, but I really can't be bothered fighting this guy. Too damn tired. That place back past the mall looked alright. Blondie steps aside as I walk to my car, opens the door, bows and gestures like some half-drunk British git trying to imitate a lift attendant, which is probably what he is. Fists clench again but I hear the mattress calling. Have to deal with this one tomorrow night. Should be fun.
"Hey, Giles, Willow! Any luck with our prophesied terror? Found a few vamps, but they didn't have much to sa-- whoa, what's happened?"
"Wish I could tell you, pet, but Old Watchful here won't give anything away."
"I was just waiting for everyone to arrive back here so I don't have to explain this more than once."
"Well, er... Buffy, where's your jacket?"
"My jacket? What's that go-- Oh, shit. I must have dropped it when I took out those..."
"Someone... called me a few hours ago, to say that she had found it. She also... mentioned that she... could help us... with the... prophecy. She said that... they would be performed... Saturday night. She wanted to meet us tomorrow night... in a warehouse."
"So what's the bad?"
"She's a... vampire."
Buffy and Spike share an uneasy look.
"So? You were expecting help from Spike earlier, weren't you?"
"Yes, but... Spike... we know Spike, know what he will and won't do if he gets out, know what he can and can't do if he gets out, know what we can do if he gets out."
"Giles, when and where do we meet?"
"Midnight tomorrow... at the old warehouse, near Townsend Street."
"So we show up well before sunset, deck the house with boughs of garlic, stick a cross on the door, whatever, or just wait there with a tranq gun. Relax, Giles. If she wants to help, great, if she doesn't, she's dust."