Not mine etc. This is just for fun.
heals all things. Or does it?
Giles put his
head in his hands and leant his elbows on the cluttered desk.
Bills - some
of them red - lay scattered about amongst faxes and printed copies of emails
that reported worrying occurrences of strange paranormal events and
that taking responsibility for the new slayers was not going to be an easy
task, but looking after the needs of all the new slayers, was stretching his
finances to an alarming degree. Added to this there were an increasing number
of distractions that were taking up far too much of his time. Giles was so
caught up in his musings that he failed to hear the soft knock on his office
door, and only when the knock became a sharp rap did he bring his attention
back to the present moment.
"Uh...Come in". Giles
shuffled the papers, trying to get his paperwork into some semblance of order.
Buffy came in, and perched herself on the corner of the large old desk.
taken a call about another weirdness. Somewhere called Salsbry. I tried to look
it up on the map, but couldn't find it."
despite his worries. "Salsbry - spelt Salisbury. It's about 50 miles from here.
Big medieval cathedral".
"Stupid English spellings - why do you have to make life difficult?"
"Indeed. May I
just say Arkensas?"
shrugged, knowing that she was on a hiding to nothing in this sort of
conversation with her ex-Watcher. "Anyway. Weirdness abounds. Headless monks or
something. I mean, I know that England is all old and haunted, but isn't this
getting a bit on the excessive side?"
"It is." Giles
pointed to the faxes and emails. "These all need looking at too, but I just
don't have the time - or resources".
noticed the bills peeking out from underneath the other papers. She was a very
different girl from how she had been a few years before. Buffy knew all too
well what it felt like to juggle bills with never enough money to cover all the
bases. She'd never asked how Giles afforded the upkeep of his house, or how he
managed to feed and pay for the running costs of the slayers, she'd assumed
that the Watcher's council paid him. Now she wasn't so sure.
"Can I do
anything to help?" Even as she offered, Buffy wondered exactly what she could
do. Money was tight for everyone.
and rubbed his forehead. "Thank you, Buffy. But we'll manage somehow." He tried
to smile reassuringly, but Buffy could see the lines of worry weren't
disappearing any time soon.
"So I think
Giles is a bit short of money, and I don't know what I can do to help him. This
is all being made worse with all these reports of strange paranormal events. I
think that Giles believes the new slayers have got something to do with it, but
he hasn't got the time to spend researching it."
Buffy went to wash
out her empty coffee cup in Angel's tiny kitchenette, glad to unburden herself
to someone who would listen and understand. The vampire was leaning against the
drainer and obligingly moved to let Buffy get to the sink.
"I guess that
I should look for a job, but I don't even know if I can work in England. And in
any case, what would I do? There seems to be a big shortage of hamburger
flipping places in and around Westbury, and somehow my brief CV as a school
counsellor in a high school in a disappeared town in California doesn't sound
that great over here." Buffy finished rinsing her cup, and noticed that Angel
seemed miles away.
I guess you don't need to hear me whining about things that must seem pretty
unimportant after everything you've been through."
down at her. "No, I was just thinking." All this talk of finances and resources
had cast his mind back to the early days of Angel Investigations. The memories
were bitter sweet. Doyle and Cordelia - and then Wesley. He remembered his
reluctance to turn his mission to help the helpless into a paying concern,
ignoring the fact that Doyle and Cordelia had to keep body and soul together as
well as helping him. Angel's throat tightened as he remembered Cordelia's
insistence on charging clients, and Doyle's convincing arguments about people
being able to move on with their lives instead of being beholden to some dark
mysterious stranger. The faces of his three dead friends were painfully clear
in his mind's eye.
shook himself, and returned his attention to Buffy. "I'm sure Giles is more
than capable of looking after things. After all, he did have the magic shop and
turned that into quite a successful business."
" I think that Anya was the reason that the magic shop made money - I'm not so
sure that training as a Watcher, and then a librarian really equipped Giles to
be Entrepreneur of the year. Still, I guess you're right. Still, it doesn't
make me feel a whole lot better being yet another drain on his resources."
disagreed. "He couldn't manage the slayers on his own, Buffy. You're doing an
excellent job with them - don't forget that."
Angel seemed to know the right thing to say to make her feel better, and Buffy
decided to put her concerns for Giles to one side for the moment.
This time the
bills would have to wait. Giles put the phone down, having had another very
disturbing conversation. He shrugged into his tweed jacket and hunted out the
keys to his Freelander. He passed Martha Fletcher n his way down the stairs.
"Can you let
Buffy and the girls know that I've had to go to RAF Boscombe Down. I've no idea
when I'll be back". He disappeared out of the door leaving Martha to wonder once more at the loss of
her previously peaceful tenure.
Down is only a few miles from Westbury, and most people know it as the home of
the Southampton University Air Squadron. What is less well known is that it
also houses the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment arm of the
Royal Air Force.
Giles drew up
to the gatehouse and gave his name and passed over his passport for
identification purposes. The uniformed guard saluted and raised the barrier for
Giles to proceed up to the main car parking area. He parked up and made his way
into the rather dusty and well-worn reception area.
you for coming so promptly". Alistair Cornwell was a heavy-set, florid-faced
man in his early fifties. Normally a genial and relaxed person, despite his
status as a scientist of some international repute, Giles could see that his
old college friend was unnaturally anxious - even scared.
Alistair. I'm pleased to see you - but judging by your call, I'm guessing that
you didn't just want to catch up on old times."
his head. "No. It's your...specialist knowledge that I've need of right now." He
led Giles into a small private room. "I need your absolute promise that you
won't breathe a word of anything I'm about to tell you."
I'm still bound by the strictures of the Official Secrets Act in any case".
gestured for Giles to sit down. He remained standing, however, too agitated to
sit down. "You know about our experimental activities here."
"One of our projects
is the development of a contra weapon to ASRAAM. ASRAAM is one of our state of
the art air-to-air missiles. It's a fire and forget weapon and leading edge in
weapons technology. Unfortunately, we sell it to regimes all over the world, so
now we're looking at the development of neutralising weapons."
Alistair Cornwell had a long and well publicised history of researching and
developing this type of technology. He'd been a fierce pacifist in his youth,
and had turned that pacifism into practical use in the laboratory and test
ranges. Now he was as important to the military and airforce as any of their
Cornwell took out a large handkerchief and
wiped the faint sheen of sweat that had appeared on his forehead. "As I say,
ASRAAM is the very latest weapon in our repertoire. The fact is...it's
stolen, you mean?" Giles asked.
Cornwell sighed heavily. " I wish it were
stolen. I'd be able to cope with something like that. No, I mean it's
disappeared, vanished, popped out of existence. And not just the test missile. All the equipment and technology that
relate to the development of ASRAAM has disappeared too. The lab it was in is
completely changed. One moment it was all there...the next - gone. Every single thing
that was connected to the project has gone."
back in his chair and studied the scientist closely. "And you think that
something supernatural has caused this disappearance?"
nodded reluctantly. "I do - but Rupert, this is not all of it". He looked down
at his hands for a moment. "Nobody else seems to think anything strange has
happened at all."
"What do you
everyone I've spoken to about this looks at me as though I've gone mad. They
say that there is no ASRAAM development project, let alone a contra project."
Giles stood up
and walked over to the window, peering out of its dirty panes and over to where
his car was parked. He turned back to face the other man. "Tell me about it
from the beginning."
Giles was back
in his office, with Buffy sitting on the sofa opposite his desk. To his
annoyance - which he could disguise from Buffy, but not from Angel - Buffy had
insisted that Angel accompany her to this meeting. Angel was now standing
quietly in the shadowy corner of the office, looking as though he was just
about to melt into the woodpanelling of the room. His unnatural stillness just
served as yet another reminder to Giles of Angel's predatory nature. Ignoring
Angel as best he could, Giles outlined the details of his visit to Boscombe
Down that afternoon.
fidgeting a bit. " But if everyone else doesn't know anything about this
project, only Mr Cromwell, isn't it most likely that he's had some kind of a
Giles corrected automatically. "Well, I thought that was the obvious solution
too, but something he said made me think again. Alistair was in the lab with
the project team when the event happened. He said that they had been testing
out a new detonating mechanism, and something went wrong. He remembers an
explosion, and being thrown back against the wall. But then he said that he
somehow went through the wall - and
straight into the identical lab. But all the lab staff were dead - the
explosion had killed them all. Before he could do anything, he was somehow
picked up again and sucked back through the wall and back into the lab. But
this time the lab was full of different equipment and different staff - who
were all working normally. There was no sign of an explosion, and nobody seemed
to think it peculiar - or even notice - that Alistair had disappeared for a
second and then come back. He's no idea what to think, but he's certain that it
happened to him. I've known Alistair Cornwell for over thirty years and he's
not the sort of man to have brain storms. I'm inclined to believe him until
another explanation comes along." Giles paused. "However, I have no idea how to
even think about beginning to help him."
over to the overflowing desk, and picked up one of the many faxes. "Well, I
suppose until something else like it happens, we'll have to stick to ichor
running down walls".
else like it happened again. Only this time nobody except Angel knew about it.
gradually getting his strength back - at least physically - and had taken to
quietly slipping out of the garage flat in the small hours of the morning to
work out using the slayers' gym equipment. Angel had done his best to keep to
human hours, but it was always difficult for him, and since his return all he
wanted to do during day time was lose himself in exhausted sleep. Even so, his
rest was troubled by harrowing dreams and painful memories. Working weakened
muscles took his mind off things, at least for a short time. The night hours
also brought a small measure of relief to the vampire's preternatural senses in
other ways. The presence of a houseful of nubile slayers activated instincts
that were hard to control. Fight, Flight, Feed...Angel refused to even let
himself think about the fourth F. At least when the girls were all asleep,
their hormones settled down to more bearable levels.
Now Angel was
bench pressing weights in the darkened and empty room that had once been a
drawing room and now was filled with various pieces of gym equipment. But
unbeknown to him, Angel was not the only one awake and prowling around the old
wondering for the thousandth time why she had agreed to come to England and
stay with her fellow slayers in this godforsaken part of the world. Her home
city of Sydney was a far cry from the cold dampness of Wiltshire. She had only
been in England for a day and was already missing her friends, the sun and the
vibrant nightlife. She sighed and looked over at the clock on her bedside table
in the tightly packed bedroom that was now a dormitory. Three am. It was no
good, her body clock was all to hell what with the jet lag and everything. She
got up and decided to get something to eat. As she crept down the stairs
towards the kitchen she stopped, a strange tingling running up and down her
Was this the
vampire sense which that girl Buffy was telling her about? But surely there
were no vampires here - they'd have to be crazy to come near a whole house
filled with slayers, wouldn't they? Still - best to be on the safe side. Sadie
quietly opened one of the hall table drawers where she remembered someone
telling her that a stake would be kept. Stakes lay about in virtually every
drawer in the house.
and smelled the slayer before she entered the room. He got up from the bench
press and sank back into the shadows, hoping that whichever of the girls it was
hadn't developed her slayer senses yet. Then he saw his discarded shirt lying
over the handlebars of one of the exercise cycles. Angel reached out to grab
the shirt at the same time as Sadie burst into the gym, flicking the lights on
as she did so. This simple action would have won the fight for her, as Angel's
sensitive eyes were blinded by the sudden glare and he flinched away from it blinking
and shielding his face. But whatever Sadie had been expecting to be in the
room, it wasn't a half-naked man.
And then she saw his face and screamed.
weakened by his recent traumas and both startled and hurt by the sudden glare
of light - had momentarily gone into game face. His demonic visage was gone
almost as soon as it had surfaced, but Sadie had seen the glint of fangs. And
then her slayer instincts kicked in. Still screaming, she launched herself at
Angel, stake held high.
There was a sudden,
sharp POP and Angel found himself tumbling backwards through the previously
solid wood panelling of the gym. He landed on his back and tried to fend off
the furious slayer and the rapidly descending stake that was aimed directly at
his heart. POP! Angel was suddenly back in the gym, and standing in the doorway
was a young girl, looking at him uncertainly.
"Uh, Hi" she
said. "I'm sorry to disturb you - I thought everyone would be asleep."
Angel blinked and
looked behind him at the wall he had just fallen through. Twice.
"Um, Hi. No....I
couldn't sleep. Thought I'd work out a bit."
"Oh. OK. I'm
sorry - I've just arrived from Australia. I'm Sadie. Are you a friend of Mr
Giles?" Sadie smiled a little uncertainly.
couldn't think of anything to say to the girl, his senses were confusing him so
much. Fortunately for him, Sadie was embarrassed to have walked in on such a
gorgeous man, while she was dressed in tatty pyjamas, fluffy slippers and with
total bed hair, and she was keen to beat a hasty retreat. She smiled shyly and
closed the door behind her.
after her. The girl who had screamed and launched herself at him was a slayer.
He had no doubt in his mind about that. If he hadn't seen the girl arrive at
the house, he could smell the unmistakeable scent of her supernatural powers.
But the girl who stood so uncertainly in the doorway was just that. A girl. A
normal, everyday, none supernaturally powerful girl.
And the next
morning there were 19 normal, everyday, none supernaturally powerful girls. And
only one slayer. Buffy.
from his shaded window in his flat. The girls wandered in and out of the house
and several times he saw both Giles and Buffy chatting to one or two of them.
Everything seemed normal. Except that it wasn't.
A soft knock
on the door made Angel look up. Buffy's blonde head peeped through the gap.
"Hi, you're awake. Can I come in?"
Would you like some coffee? Or tea?"
"It's scary, but I think that I prefer tea these days. Old fashioned PG tips to
boot, none of your fancy Earl Greys or Darjeelings. Giles will convert me yet."
Angel put the
kettle on, and quietly got the tea things ready, giving himself time to broach
the subject of the change in the slayers - ex-slayers.
ever, was super-sensitive to his moods. "You look like the weight of the world
is weighing even more heavily than usual today. Anything you want to talk
two cups of tea over to the small table, and sat down opposite Buffy.
remember a conversation that Giles had with you and I a couple of weeks ago
about a vanishing experimental weapon at RAF Boscombe Down?"
Buffy's blank look
was discouraging. Angel ploughed on. "Giles' old friend is the Chief research
scientist at the station. Alistair
Cornwell. Don't you remember, you got his name wrong and Giles corrected you?"
expression started to betray concern. "Angel, are you feeling OK? I don't
remember any conversation of the sort, and my memory isn't that bad. Are you
sure you're not confusing it with something you might have dreamed?" Buffy had
sat by Angel's bedside often enough recently and had seen and heard for herself
the vividness of some of Angel's nightmares.
"OK, this is
going to be harder than I thought" Angel said. "Buffy - do you know that the
girls don't have slayer powers anymore?"
"What do you mean, anymore? They're only Potential Slayers. You know that. None
of them have slayer powers, and only one of them will - when, if, Faith is
....well, you know."
silent. This was even more confusing, it was as though they'd somehow gone back
date is it?"
her head for a second and then decided to humour Angel. "It's the 17th
you're wigging me out here. 2003. What? Angel, what's wrong?"
If Angel could
have paled, then he would have at this moment. As it was, his appalled
expression alerted Buffy instead. Angel's tone was bleak. "I've no idea what's
going on - but whatever it is - I think it's going backwards."
hesitant about talking to Giles about her conversation with Angel. Not only
because she was concerned about Angel's mental state, but also because any
mention of Angel with Giles resulted in the Englishman's jaw tightening. Still,
she had promised Angel that she would do this for him.
"Giles, I know
it sounds crazy, but Angel is convinced that somehow time is moving backwards.
He's adamant that the Potentials were - are - will be - well, ought to be
actual Slayers." Buffy trailed off, waiting for Giles' response. It came, a
reasonable, logical and quietly loathing filled list of reasons that Angel must
be once again unstable and quite possibly dangerous. She interrupted the flow.
"Giles - Angel
says that recently you had a telephone call from RAF Boscombe Down requesting
you to investigate a strange occurrence there. He says that the call was from
Alistair Cornwell, someone you have known for over thirty years. Do you know
his spectacles up his nose. "Well, yes. Alistair and I go back a very long way.
But how..." he stopped.
"Exactly. How would
Angel know anything about this Alistair Cornwell? You've certainly never
mentioned his name to me, and let's face it, it's pretty unlikely that you
would have spoken to Angel about him, right?"
Giles had to
admit the truth of this.
Giles' brow furrowing, and started to believe that perhaps Angel wasn't
unbalanced after all - well, no more than could be expected in any case. She
pressed her advantage. "Will you talk to him? Please, Giles. If there is
something weird going on, don't you think we should at least try to find out
what it is?"
You'd better tell Angel to come down later." Giles said heavily.
Buffy said, and glanced at the door of Giles' office. It opened and Angel slid
into the room, every line of his long body a study of apology.
"I knew you'd
want to talk to him, so I just speeded up things a bit." Buffy said lightly,
ignoring Giles' annoyed glare at her.
" A portal".
Angel had had time to think about his experience and compare it with what Giles
had said about the scientist's similar one.
Both Buffy and
Giles looked questioningly at him.
"There was a
moment - just a few seconds - that I wasn't here, in this dimension, something
happened that sucked me through into what looked like a parallel universe to
this one. Then, when I got sucked back through to here, I was able to notice
the change. If I'd not gone through the portal, then chances are I'd not have
realised anything was happening either. What bothers me now is, are changes
still happening, and how would we know?"
"And if that's
true - where is it going to end, and how do we even begin to stop it?" Giles
hesitated for a moment and then said "There are people who can sense the
presence of portals. They can sort of tune in to the echoes of the last portal
that opened and track where the next one is likely to occur." He forestalled
Giles' question. "I - we - had some experience of portals, quite a few
was turning over what Angel had just told them. "Would the coven be able to
help us, Giles?"
But we'd need to get them all over here to the room where Angel says this
his head. "No, that's probably not necessary. I've been through the portal - a
Portal Sensitive would be able to track the echoes from me."
"And it would
be a lot easier and quicker to take Angel to the coven rather than bussing them
all out here" Buffy said.
"I'll have to
call them to make sure they'll agree to this. After all, they're white witches...."
Giles left the sentence hanging in the air, but both Buffy and Angel knew that
his reception in a witches' coven would hardly be welcomed, soul or no soul.
The meeting at
the coven had been a less uncomfortable experience than any of them expected.
The witches had been forewarned that Giles would be bringing the souled vampire
with him to meet the Portal sensitives,
and although the welcome was not gushing, it was not hostile either,
much to Giles' surprise, and not a little resentment. Angel, as ever, had betrayed no emotion as he waited for
permission to enter the coven, but Buffy sensed his nervousness nonetheless,
and despite her best efforts, couldn't quell the rush of protective feelings
towards him. She had reached out and caught hold of one of his large hands in
hers and given it a comforting squeeze. Surprised, and pleased, Angel had
what seemed an age, the coven doors were opened to them, and Angel was formally
There were no
fewer than four Portal Sensitives, and between them they were able to confirm
absolutely that Angel had, indeed, been sucked through a portal very recently.
"His aura -
and what a strange aura it is - has residual energy left over from the portal."
The oldest Sensitive commented.
"Then you can
track other potential portal openings to this dimension?" asked Giles.
a woman apparently in her late sixties looked appraisingly at Angel. "I could -
but I could also make it possible for this creature to track them also, and
given that I no longer wish to leave the coven, this might be the best solution
slightly at the witch's use of the term ‘creature' to describe Angel, but
Angel's warning look made her keep her mouth shut.
"In any case.
If what he says is true, and time is running backwards, then the vampire may be
the best choice to help it to stop." The Sensitive turned her steady grey-eyed
gaze onto Angel. "How old are you, vampire?"
old, Ma'am." Angel said politely.
"Then it has
to be you. You haven't changed in all that time, and so even now will be
unaffected by this phenomenon. Your friends, and all of us, however, are
probably getting younger even as we speak. We just don't realise it."
Buffy were stunned by this revelation, but Angel seemed to have already known.
Buffy wondered if he'd already noticed any changes in her or Giles. Was she
really getting younger? She resolved to ask him on the drive home.
In the event,
she wasn't able to. The spell that allowed Angel to become a Portal Sensitive
was a powerful one. Cast over a human, there would have been no side effects,
but the Portal magic that was imbued to Angel clashed and rebounded against the
magic that animated him, leaving him sick and nauseous for a few hours, until
both magics re-aligned themselves within his frame. Buffy felt so sorry for
him, as he sat alone - eyes screwed tightly shut - in the back seat of Giles' landrover. She kept turning round
throughout the journey to check on him. Giles noticed this, and somewhere
inside him a deep sense of something inevitable began to form. Buffy and Angel.
Angel and Buffy. All he knew was that Angel had the capacity to hurt the girl
he regarded almost as a daughter more than any other being, supernatural or
otherwise. He would keep a close eye on things.
Magic is a
dangerous thing - and even in the most experienced of hands it can behave in an
unpredictable fashion. Especially when one form of magic blends with another
form of magic.
It turned out
that the effect of the spell on Angel was far more reaching than simply making
him feel ill. Not only did he become sensitive and able to track the specific
portals to the parallel universe, but each time a portal opened - no matter
where it was in relation to where Angel was - he was sucked through it and then
disgorged again, exactly as had happened the first time, except that now Angel
would suddenly find himself in a science lab, or a board room, or - one bizarre
occasion - in outer space. The moment in the parallel universe was fleeting -
and after the instant in space, Angel was particularly glad of that - and then
he was back in Westbury. And each time he was popped back into this universe,
he saw the changes that had happened as time moved backwards.
At first the
changes were small. Giles' car transformed into earlier and earlier models of
the Freelander. Buffy's BMW mini disappeared entirely to be replaced by a
nondescript small Ford. Various pieces of modern technology got bulkier, or
disappeared completely as time moved back before the date they had been
But it was the
changes in the people around Angel that disturbed him most profoundly. The
Potentials, as he'd got used to calling them, were now very young girls, most
of them no more than nine or ten years old. Giles looked exactly the same as
when Angel had first met him. And Buffy was sweet sixteen. Still with her
slayer powers at the moment, and Buffy as she was when Angel had first seen
her, long blonde hair, flawless skin, blossoming figure. It conjured up
unwilling thoughts which Angel immediately clamped down.
The worst of
it all, though, was the loneliness. Angel was used to feeling lonely - it was
pretty much his default setting after all - but this was an entirely new form
of loneliness. He'd realised after the second time of blinking out of this
universe and into the parallel universe and then back again, that he'd have to
come up with some method of proof to Buffy and Giles that something was going
on, as each time he returned he'd had to go through the entire torturous
process of trying to explain the whole time running backwards thing. To be the
sole individual aware of the changes taking place around him was a
responsibility that Angel would have cheerfully given up. Except that he knew
that it wouldn't be very long before Buffy would lose her powers, get younger
and younger - and finally she just wouldn't be there any more. He had to do
something and soon.
taken to carrying a daily newspaper on him at all times. For some inexplicable
reason anything that was on his person would re-appear with him - also
unchanged. It was his sole evidence to Buffy and Giles that there was something
out of the ordinary going on. At least Giles had agreed to research everything
he could lay his hands on regarding time displacement and continuums - even if
Angel could only take advantage of this research in the interim periods between
time leaps. At least as far as he could make out, time seemed to move forward
normally in between the paranormal events, it was just each event that caused
time to move backwards, sometimes by quite a small period - almost unnoticeable
- and sometimes by a few years in one go.
But no matter
how hard Giles looked, and the materials he passed on to Angel - nothing gave
even a glimmer of what might be the reason for or cause of the phenomenon.
stir crazy in this place. Can't we go somewhere with a bit of nightlife?" Buffy
whined, tossing her hair.
at the girl. "Is that all you think about these days? Going out clubbing?
Anyway, you're too young to be going out on your own."
prettily. "Pleeease. Angel could take me. I'd be safe with him."
at all sure about this idea, in his opinion, a sixteen year old girl - Slayer
or not - being chaperoned by a vampire - albeit a souled one - wasn't his idea
of safety. Still, Buffy had been nagging him relentlessly, and what with her,
and the management of a whole crop of pre-teen potential slayers, Giles was
willing to agree to Buffy having a night out accompanied by Angel.
may go out. But I will insist that you are back before midnight, and as Angel
will be the one driving you, I will ensure that he knows his responsibility
entirely sure that a night in Reading, escorting a teenage Buffy was going to
be one of his favourite occupations, but he could see that Giles was almost at
the end of his tether with the gaggle of females that surrounded him, and
agreed to take Buffy off his hands for an evening.
unwanted memories and feelings that Buffy in her teenage incarnation created in
him, Angel was missing the older, wiser - and yes - sadder young woman that Buffy
had become in her early twenties. This Buffy was full of energy, beautiful in
her youth and innocence, but sometimes came across as a complete airhead,
obsessed with her looks and clothes and things like shopping. No wonder she was
so bored in the depths of rural Westbury. Reading was going to seem like a
complete metropolis in comparison.
As they drove
along the road through Newbury towards Reading, something stirred in Angel's
brain. Something nagging at him. Then he saw a road sign and slammed on the
squeaked. "Warning would have been good".
said. "I just need to check something." He drove Giles' Landrover Discovery
(Angel had noticed this big change as time moved back before the Freelander was
launched), down dark country lanes. Buffy caught sight of the village road sign
as they sped past it.
Angel, where the hell are we going?"
answer her, but pulled up outside a large, open drive that led to a huge
complex of factory and office buildings. He climbed out of the car, Buffy
following his lead, and still completely bemused.
No fences. No security. No protestors."
"Angel - have
you been on something?"
down at Buffy's puzzled face. "No, Buffy. This is Aldermaston. It's one of the
most famous - or infamous, depending on your point of view - sites in the UK.
Aldermaston is the site where the UK makes all its nuclear warheads. It's
Britain's bomb factory."
at the complex. "Doesn't look like a bomb factory to me. Not that I know what a
bomb factory would look like. But shouldn't we not be able to just walk up to
it? I mean, it doesn't look very ‘Keep out of here, or else' does it?"
Angel said grimly. "This is - was - one of the most secure sites in England."
He turned back to Buffy. "Sorry, Buffy - we're going to have to go back to
Westbury. I need to see Giles."
"So, let me
get this right. You think that whatever is causing these so called leaps back
in time, is doing it because they are eliminating anything that could be used
in any way to cause conflict or damage?"
"That's right. I tried making notes of all the changes that I noticed each time
I was sucked through a portal, but the notes kept disappearing after each time
leap backwards. Fortunately, I have a very good memory." Too good, Angel thought. But
at least now it's coming in useful for something other than for torturing
"I'd list all
the things that have disappeared from the face of the earth, but as you
wouldn't have heard of them yet, it's a bit of a pointless exercise. Suffice to
say, the world has less weaponry in it than it did have - and other forms of
technology that could be used in a warlike situation - like telecommunications
and the internet - have either disappeared entirely, or will do soon."
this over for a minute. "But you said that the Potentials should actually be
Slayers - and they're quite obviously young, ordinary girls. Why would this
phenomenon affect them?"
his head. "It could just be the fact that time is jumping backwards - they've
been robbed of their powers just by chronological factors - or it could be
because whatever is causing these time shifts saw the slayers as potential
threats. I don't know." Angel suspected it was something else entirely. Why
would a portal have opened just as Sadie was going to attack him? However, he
didn't want to alarm or antagonise Giles with his suspicion that the mysterious
time jumps were systematically removing anything that could be perceived as
having warlike potential, and that included the slayers.
heavily. "Angel. You have to realise that this is a huge leap of faith for me,
and I'm not sure that I can make the jump. I mean, everything is completely
normal as far as I'm concerned, then you keep turning up telling me that the
world isn't like it should be - and that I'm not ageing, but getting younger,
and that the girls should all be in their late teens, and that everyone carries
around mobile phones that can take pictures and shoot video - and which can be
carried in your pocket. You have to admit - it's stretching the imagination
more than a bit."
to agree with him, and then POP. For a fraction more than the blink of an eye,
Angel found himself watching Saddam Hussein launching war on Iran over oil
rights. Then, POP. He was back in Giles' office.
the date?" The words died on his lips as Giles looked up at him.
"Who the Hell
are you, and what are you doing in my house?"
at the young man - only a year or so older than Angel himself appeared to be.
Then he heard the wail of a newborn baby.
prided himself on his control, but he felt perilously close to panic at this
moment. It had taken all his powers of persuasion to convince a 29 year old
Rupert Giles not to throw him out of the house. Giles had been so startled by
Angel's sudden appearance in the room, that his watcher training had abandoned
him, and he hadn't yet identified Angel as a vampire, although Angel knew that
it wouldn't take long for Giles to regain enough composure to realise that his
visitor was, in fact, undead.
shown Giles the newspaper he was carrying, with the 1996 date clearly marked,
and had quickly tried to explain where he was from, and how he knew Giles.
Seeing the watcher looking entirely unconvinced, Angel searched his memory for
something that would lend weight to his words.
"The baby I
just heard crying, is it a little girl?"
"Is it Buffy?"
"How do you
know her name - nobody else knows about her except her parents and the
Watcher's council". Giles' alarmed tone betrayed him. Angel thought quickly.
Somehow these time leaps were altering history in all sorts of ways. It was as though
people and places remained static, which was why they hadn't all been spirited
back to Sunnydale as the clock moved backwards. This meant a whole new history
was being re-written after each leap, though how and why were way beyond his
potential Slayer, right? Buffy Anne Summers. I know her, and you. But in my
timeline you are in your fifties, and Buffy is 23. And the most remarkable
Slayer in history. If we are to allow her to have that future back, then you
must listen to me".
Giles gaped at
Angel, but after a second motioned him to continue.
explained the whole phenomenon of time running backwards, gradually eliminating
everything that could conceivably be used for evil and warlike purposes he thought
wryly that he was becoming quite polished in his explanation. After all, he'd
repeated it time and again. This time was more difficult, as for the first
time, Giles had no clue who Angel was, but by the end of his account the
watcher was won over enough to be searching out some dusty research volumes.
"Here, let me
help." Angel quickly reached up and selected half a dozen books which he'd
already seen Giles poring over several time leaps previously. Angel didn't hold
out much hope from the books, as they'd not revealed anything so far, despite
Giles' best efforts.
As he put the
books down on the desk, Angel noticed a brand new book, its jacket still
glossy, peeping out from under some papers. "World Peace - a machine for the
elimination of War: The attainable dream". He picked it up. Giles smiled
slightly at his strange visitor's apparent curiosity.
been published. I think he's mad to expose himself to public ridicule, but
Alistair's a good friend of mine, and he's been obsessed with the idea of the
ultimate weapon for peace ever since I first met him at college."
to the flyleaf. ‘I know you think I'm
crazy now - but keep this book, Rupert - it really is an attainable dream!
Alistair Cornwell 1980.'
Cornwell..." Angel snapped the book shut. "Giles - We need to speak with Alistair
at Angel's sudden animation in startled surprise.
Cornwell - in the timeline that we should be in, he's an eminent research
scientist. He specialises in the field of contra - weapons development at
Boscombe Down. These time leaps - they all started with him. We have to see
already flicking through his telephone book, mind racing madly. "You mean -
you're trying to tell me - Alistair made his machine after all?"
"I think so.
But if he has, then it's not working the way he expected it to - and if I'm
right, then he's our only hope of stopping this thing. If we can't...."
machine will just keep on rolling back time until every single thing that is
capable of war and strife will cease to exist." Giles paled at the thought.
"Eventually every living creature that is capable of predation will just
disappear. The world will be empty of life."
The drive to
Alistair Cornwell's home was a tense one. Not only because of the gravity of
the situation, but Angel had had to reveal the fact of his vampirism to Giles
before they set off. It was either that or demonstrate it through bursting into
flames as he walked through the sunlight to the car.
reacted exactly as Angel had feared he would, by grabbing a stake from a drawer
and hurling himself upon the vampire. Angel easily evaded Giles' attack, and
had no option but to catch the watcher and restrain him - hand over Giles'
mouth - while he urgently tried to reassure the struggling man that he was in
gypsy curse and the fact of his ensoulment was no easy task for Angel as Giles
wriggled helplessly in his iron grasp. Not least because Angel had avoided such
close proximity to any human since his recovery, and Giles' fear, the heat of
his body, and the pounding of blood under Angel's fingers was making his fangs
lengthen and his willpower waver, even as he urgently promised Giles that he
meant no harm to him.
for Angel - and Giles - the Watcher stopped struggling and listened to Angel's
earnest pleading. He relaxed slightly and Angel almost pushed him away, so
anxious was he to put some distance between them. Something in Angel's dark
eyes convinced Giles that the vampire was telling the truth - mind bendingly
far-fetched as it all seemed - and with a recklessness that he had tried to
bury deep inside him, Giles decided to let this rollercoaster ride of madness
play out. It still hadn't made for an easy journey. The hairs on the back of
Giles' neck prickled uncomfortably as he drove them expertly down country roads
towards the outskirts of Bath where Cornwell lived, and Angel, sheltering under
a thick car blanket in the back seat just hoped that another portal wouldn't
open before he'd had a chance to meet with the author of the book.
Cornwell listened to his friend Rupert Giles while glancing nervously at the
tall, unnaturally still stranger who accompanied him.
"And you are
trying to say that you are from the future?" he asked Angel.
pushed the young scientist's book across the table that separated them.
"All I know,
is that where I started from, you are an eminent scientist specialising in
developing contra-weapons. What I want to know is - are you developing
something along the lines of the thesis that you present in this book?"
looked down at his own hands and saw that they were shaking slightly. The
silence grew between the three men.
it. "Alistair. We have to know if you are working on anything like the machine
that Angel thinks might be causing the time displacement he's experiencing."
sighed. "It's not official or anything. I mean, the research centre I work for
doesn't know anything about it. They know I've written papers on it - and now
the book - but as far as everyone is concerned it's all just theory."
there is a machine?" Giles said urgently.
really. It's all pretty much at the drawing board stage, but the principle that
you're talking about - creating specific time fluxes that make weaponry vanish
because they never existed in the first place - yes, I'm working on something
along those lines, here, at home."
"Can we see
it?" Angel asked, his quiet tone not betraying the flash of hope that ran
"I suppose -
not that there is much to see - it's all on paper at the moment." Cornwell
stood up and motioned Giles and Angel to follow him.
As soon as
they walked into the basement of Alistair Cornwell's home, Angel could feel a
dull energy pressing at him. Neither of his companions seemed to notice
anything out of the ordinary, but as Angel moved towards the drawing board with
its sheaves of drawings and calculations it was almost as if a giant hand was
trying to push him away. It was as if something suddenly realised the threat
that Angel posed to it. He turned to the young scientist.
"I think that
whatever you made - whatever the machine was that you designed - somehow
something supernatural is using it for its own purposes, and it wants to
protect these drawings." Angel made a sudden grab for the stack of papers.
This time it
wasn't a pop that hurled Angel through the portal, but a huge ZAP! Still
clutching the sheaf of calculations, Angel landed hard on his back in what
appeared to be a large laboratory. But this time there was no immediate sucking
back in time. He rolled up onto his feet, instinctively dropping into a
fighting crouch as he did so. Angel straightened up as he realised that nobody
was going to attack him. Or so it seemed at first glance.
In the centre
of the lab a machine about the size of a filing cabinet stood. And on top of
the machine, attached to it with wires and tubes was a beautiful child. He was
a boy, about 10 years old with the face of a cherub.
be here. I don't know why you are." The little boy turned sparkling blue eyes
onto Angel. "And you wish to destroy me. I, who only wish to bring peace to all
of the world."
tear slipped from the corner of one of his eyes. "Don't destroy me, please.
This is our chance for perfect peace. This machine - it's what I needed to have
to make this happen." His voice was soft, pleading.
struggled to understand what he was seeing. "So it's not the machine that
Cornwell designed that is making time run backwards - it's you?"
The boy nodded
sadly. "I needed the human scientist's belief in peace - his passion for it,
and his ability to make something so powerful. But the machine alone could
never have worked. It needed magic. My magic. White magic of the purest kind. I
joined with the machine - as you see. I am connected to it, my blood energises
it, its electricity feeds me. I have made it a part of me. Destroy one of us, and
both of us will die."
unbeating heart tightened in his chest. He hadn't known what he was expecting,
but this beautiful, gentle child that radiated love and a passionate desire for
peace was the last thing he had considered. Even though he knew that the
creature before him was not human - and most certainly not a human child, its
appearance was so innocent, and so vulnerable. Angel steeled himself, realising
that this appearance was probably the demon's best defence from attack.
"I'm sorry" he
murmured. "But your magic is undoing the world as we know it. You are undoing
man's capacity for war, it's true. But you're also undoing their capacity for
good as well. If you continue, soon the world will be truly peaceful - there
will be nothing left alive on it."
coursed down the boy's cheeks. "But there will be perfect peace. Surely that is
preternatural swiftness, Angel was at the machine - ripping out tubes and
wires. The demon cried out in mortal agony. Angel gritted his teeth and
continued his destruction.
don't" the little boy wept, as his blood flowed freely from the ripped out
tubes and dripped onto the floor.
In a few
moments the machine was a tangled, crumpled collection of junk. Angel stared
about him, wondering why nothing seemed to have changed. The child lay at his
feet, still weeping helplessly. Hating himself, hating the situation that had
brought him to this, hating the memories of another time and place where he had
taken the decision to prevent global peace,
Angel knelt at his side. With the suddenness of a striking snake, he
reached out and snapped the boy's neck. As soon as the demon was dead, the
glamour surrounding it disappeared, and nothing remained of the innocent child
except a slowly melting greyish lump of matter. It didn't make Angel feel any
Giles as he thoughtfully placed the telephone handset back into its cradle.
"What did he say?"
She'd heard Giles' side of the phone call to Alistair Cornwell.
wasn't as stunned about it as I would have thought he would have been. It seems
that odd things happened to him back in 1980 when he first started to develop
the concept of the ultimate contra weapon. He said that it explained quite a
lot. Anyway, he's promised to dismantle the whole lab that's been set up to
develop it experimentally, and is burning all his papers as we speak. What
worries me is even though the actual machine will never come to fruition, the
knowledge that got them this far will still exist. How can we stop that?"
shrugged. "Perhaps we don't need to. The demon, or whatever it was that Angel
killed seemed to be the thing that was making it all happen. Let's hope that
with that gone, then there isn't any danger that we'll suddenly all start
getting younger again. Shame - it'd be the perfect substitute for cosmetic
at Buffy's attempt at a joke. "How is Angel after his time portal experiences?"
He'd seen the vampire briefly after Angel had killed the demon that had caused
the time continuum phenomenon, but Angel had been reticent to the point of
rudeness and had simply told them that he'd dealt with the problem. Then he'd
retreated back to the garage flat, presumably to brood.
"I don't know.
He seemed - well, upset I suppose - guess it must have been a tough fight, and
Angel's still not at full strength.
I'll go up and see him a little later." Buffy sighed. Angel had been obviously
distressed, but as was typical of him, refused to say why. Still, apparently
things were back to normal, although as far as Buffy was concerned, nothing had
ever been abnormal. Well, no more abnormal than was usual in a house with 20
slayers, a brooding vampire with a soul, and an ex-Watcher with a pile of
emails and faxes about weird and wonderful occurrences happening all around