All About Spike
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Things Present Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee

Part 34 - Step by Step

To Maeve, the twenty-first century felt as if she had been shipwrecked on a particularly strange island, like Gulliver in `Gulliver's Travels'. She was neither smaller nor larger than the people who lived in this shiny and confusing world, nonetheless she was never able to fully shirk the knowledge that she did not belong here.

To begin with, half of what these young people were saying didn't even sound like English. So many unknown words, so many references to things and events she had no way of understanding. Whenever Dawn or Willow opened their mouths to say something it left Maeve confused. When they spoke of bugs did they really mean insects that were trained to listen to other people's conversations?

The only people Maeve felt comfortable with were Anya, who was outspoken but precise and, to a lesser degree, Mr. Giles, who sounded very much like home, but who was also a Watcher. She wondered if he had subjected HIS Slayer to the Cruciamentum, too. Maeve absentmindedly touched her throat where the vampire in the sealed house had bitten her and was momentarily startled to find that this body was as scarred as hers.

"Come on, Maeve, don't be shy," Anya said. Her cheer sounded slightly forced. "There was this film Xander made me watch, about two young men travelling through time in a phone booth. That film features several suitable pastimes for time travellers, and I intend to introduce you to each and every one of them. We already had ice cream and pizza, modern music..." (Maeve winced.) "...and aerobics, now it's time for the next step."

"I am not certain I can do this."

"You're a Slayer, Maeve. Slayers have this weird habit of being able to do anything."

"Not this."

Anya passed a towel over the dressing room door.

"I can not go outside wearing only this!" Maeve exclaimed in horror. "I have never even shown my l... legs back home."

"Well, technically, these are not your legs, so you can show them off safely. Think of how liberating and educational this will be," Anya said and dragged the shy Slayer out of the changing room. "Consider wearing a bikini in public the first step on your road to sexual emancipation."

Anya pointed at the tubes and slides that formed a colorful spaghetti under a clear blue summer sky. There were lots and lots of *ohdeartheyarealmostnaked* people in *ohdearohdearohdear* flimsy swimming wear, showing off their suntanned skin, squealing and whooping as they cannoned down the waterslides.

*I think I am going to faint...*

"Come on, it will be exciting!" Anya exclaimed.

*Or not.*

Maeve adjusted the towel to cover as much as humanly possible. "Is it possible for my life to become even more exciting?"

***

"Man, this is dull," Warren complained, chewing on a piece of cold pizza. He swiveled round in his black leather chair taking in the debris of almost twenty hours of solid spying. There were candy wrappers, McDonalds leftovers, paper cups, pizza boxes and soda cans. "What a snooze fest. I'd rather watch paint dry..."

Andrew and Jonathan nodded. Ever since yesterday afternoon they had taken turns drooling over Cordelia Chase and watching the Scoobies (and what kind of stupid name was that?) go about their boring daily chores: Homework, laundry, dishes, school, classes, sleeping. How dire!

Keeping an eye on the Slayer's friends was easy. There were cameras at all of their usual haunts like Revello Drive, Harris's apartment and the Magic Box. Okay, so the surveillance wasn't complete. There was no way the cameras could cover all eventualities. For instance, yesterday, Giles had wandered off. They had used the van to keep tabs on him, but they had no clue what he had wanted in that hotel. Not good. Worse, for about two hours or so, most of their targets had been conspicuously absent. But when they returned everything seemed normal. According to the conversations the microphones picked up, the Scoobies had taken the girl-from-the-past-that-lived-in-Buffy's-body out for ice cream and a movie. Afterwards that Angel guy had gotten into an argument with Giles and he and his arrogant bitch had stormed out and left for L.A. It was a shame really, because Cordelia Chase was a stunner. It would have been nice to get some more footage of her, maybe wrapped in nothing but a skimpy little towel ... *We should have put a camera in the shower.*

Warren savored the fantasy for a moment.

"Well, I can't believe the girl still hasn't managed to steal that spellbook for us," Andrew said with a pout. "I mean how difficult can it be to steal one stupid book?"

Warren tossed the rest of his pizza slice back into the box. Why eat cold pizza when you had enough money to order a fresh one? He wiped his hands on a tissue before addressing his foot soldiers: "Gentlemen, let me share with you a universal truth." He paused, then said slowly, as if imparting great wisdom: "Women. Are. Dumb. Unable to think for themselves. Believe me, I've built robots that were smarter than the average woman."

Andrew giggled, but as usual Jonathan doubted their leader's words. "You're not serious?" the little wimp asked uncertainly. "What about our history teacher, Mrs. Green? Or Miss Calendar, she was smart. I really liked her computer courses..." Jonathan looked at Andrew for support but he had no intention of contradicting Warren. He folded his arms in front of his chest and frowned, letting Jonathan know that his lack of loyalty did not go unnoticed.

"Oh, they can learn things," Warren said dismissively. He pointed at the periscope screen that showed his mom kneeling in a flowerbed. "This one knows how to garden, cook meals, mix drinks and keep the house clean, but other than that she's never had an independent thought in her head, not in all her life."

Jonathan and Andrew watched in silence as Mrs. Meers dug a little hole and planted some kind of flower. The disparaging way Warren was talking about his own mother gave Andrew a thrill. He almost expected some higher power to strike his friend down with lightning. Oh yes, they really were evil!

"It's true, they could probably teach a chimpanzee to do that," he giggled.

Jonathan looked at him as if he were an alien from another planet.

"You see," Warren continued, "Women don't really think, they just pretend to. They have a number of automatic responses. If a guy looks just right, or drives the right car or if he's rolling in money, then they want him for a mate. It's instinctual."

Andrew nodded slowly. "Yeah, right, nest building and so on, right?"

"Exactamundo," Warren agreed. He gave Andrew a we-are-comrades-in-arms kind of pat on the back that made the boy grin. "Men, on the other hand, are able to plan, strive and invent. We think, gentlemen, therefore we rule."

"What about Willow?" Jonathan blurted out, motioning toward one of the monitors where the red-haired witch could be seen folding laundry in the Summers' dining room. "She's pretty clever. Her SAT scores were really awesome. She could have picked any college she wanted."

"Yeah, but she's still stuck in Sunnydale, isn't she?" Warren grinned and gave his Captain Kirk command chair a spin. "Quod erat demonstrandum."

*Stuck? So are we,* Jonathan thought. *Stuck in your mom's basement.* But for once he had the presence of mind to keep his treasonous thoughts to himself. Instead he pointed at the monitor screen before him. "She's got it," he exclaimed.

"Where?"

"Let me see."

The three super-villains crowded around the monitor. It showed Buffy's sister rifling through Mr. Giles's bag of books then furtively shoving one of them into her backpack. Moments later the oblivious ex-librarian returned to the table carrying a cup of tea in one hand and holding an open book in the other.

"You're right," Warren said, "She's got it. What did I tell you? Women are dumb. They take the path of least resistance. There's your proof."

Andrew nodded. "Just like you said."

"Yeah," Jonathan said, without great enthusiasm.

Warren pulled his team mates into a practiced huddle, heads stuck together, arms locked. "Time for the next step in our evil master plan. Put the glamour spell back on, my friend," he said to Jonathan. And then: "Andrew, get your didgeridoo. And then we'll go. When the girl leaves for the meeting point we'll follow her with the van. At the next opportunity, we'll grab her. She won't even know what hit her."

They stacked their hands in the middle of their little triangle, and then - one, two, three - raised them in the air. "Crime!"

***

Giles returned to the table just moments after Dawn had taken the book. He gave her an imperceptible nod as he placed his tea on the table. That was Dawn's cue.

"Giles, I'm gonna go down to the coffee shop to get a muffin and do some homework. Do you want me to bring you back anything?"

"No, thank you, Dawn," he answered looking at the fifteen-year-old. "How long will you be?"

"Not too long," she gave him a meaningful glance and headed for the door with her backpack slung over her shoulder.

Although Giles was certain his plan would go smoothly, Dawn was getting increasingly nervous as she made her way across the street and onto the sidewalk. Something wasn't right. That weird Principal-looking-guy had made her extremely uneasy. She couldn't pinpoint the origin of her fear but she knew, in her gut, that this was going to go bad. *I wish Buffy were here.*

Halfway to the rendezvous point, Dawn saw an old woman struggling to pick up a bag of groceries she had dropped. *Just ignore her and get to where you're going. The sooner you get there, the sooner this will be over with.* But she just couldn't heed her own advice.

She hurried to help the woman, bending down to scoop up her *candy bars?* food items and *beer?* put them back into the brown paper bag.

Suddenly, in her peripheral vision, she noticed a big black van careen around the corner. It hit the curb of the sidewalk she was on and swerved back into the road. It was almost upon her. *Oh no!* Dawn dropped the beer bottle she was holding and took off at a run. She heard someone yell, "Grab her, you idiot!" But she didn't turn around. *This is so not part of the plan.* She could hear the vehicle gaining on her.

With the screech of tires and the smell of burnt rubber invading her senses, the van was abruptly in front of her. It had driven up onto the sidewalk, cutting off her escape. The old woman was behind her shoving her toward the open maw in the side of the black van. She screamed. Hands reached out toward her and yanked her into the menacing vehicle where a dark pillowcase was promptly pulled over her head.

"Welcome to your worst nightmare," she heard someone whisper threateningly.


Continued in Part 35 - Going Places

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