To Our Own
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Angel tried to ignore how fiercely Buffy struggled to pry her wrist from his grip, as well as her endless cries for help. He also took great care to pull her forward as gently as he could, even though it caused them to lag behind Giles and the Chase girl. The four of them were following Willow to the shop where the possessed Sunnydale residents bought their cursed costumes.
Buffy had bought and worn one of said costumes to impress Angel. A dress that turned her from a powerhouse into a screechy, haughty disagreeable young woman. Worst still, the cumbersome thing kept tripping her up whenever Angel tried to have her move faster than a light jog.
"Release me, you vile creature!" Buffy screamed.
Angel winced. Buffy wasn't herself, but hearing her say those words struck a very dark cord in him. He'd grown accustomed to Buffy treating him like a human, but there was a not so deeply hidden part of him that feared one day she would stop.
"Am I the only one freaked we haven't seen anybody around?" the Chase girl asked.
Angel was "freaked" as the Chase girl put it. When he first went looking for Buffy it was utter chaos all over town. The possessed ran wild, attacking indiscriminately—even each other. The snarls, growls, and screaming that filled Sunnydale's streets had been an unending cacophony of violence and mayhem. Now, it was unnaturally silent; and they hadn't seen a single being, human nor beast, since they departed the school's library.
More worrying was the number of empty vehicles idling on the streets with broken windows and doors seemingly ripped from their frames. What unnerved Angel most was he didn't see or smell blood. Whatever overtook their passengers had done so quickly enough to prevent serious bodily harm.
"I'm certain everything is fine. We should hurry to Ethan's," Giles said.
After Willow mentioned the place where she bought her ghost costume was called Ethan's Costume Shop, Giles had become single-minded about going there. Giles fretting over Buffy's hapless state suddenly transformed from worry to anger. Even now, Angel could still sense Giles's rage.
"We're almost there," Willow announced.
The lights were out in the shop and a closed sign hung on the door. There was nothing outwardly ominous about the shop, yet Angel felt dread tingling up his spine. Even possessed, Buffy sensed the wrongness emanating from the shop. She'd stopped resisting Angel's grasp and all but bolted herself to his back, and peeked at Ethan's from behind his shoulder.
"Wait here," Willow said. "I'll see if anyone's inside."
"Willow, wait," Giles said before the girl ghosted through the front door.
Giles stepped forward and opened the door freely.
"Huh, wonder if it's a trap," the Chase girl remarked.
"You all wait here," Giles said.
Angel could hear the dangerous tone in Giles's voice, and once again wondered why this Ethan person had Giles so on edge.
"Yeah, I'm not staying out here!" The Chase girl exclaimed.
"Cordelia's right," Willow said. "I don't think it's safe to stand in the open. It was like a riot earlier." Willow glanced at the dark storefronts that should have been open for business, and the empty sidewalks that should be crowded with pedestrians. "Something really bad must be happening to make everything this quiet."
Before Giles could reply Buffy suddenly began screaming. Angel turned around and saw what caused her erupt into hysterics: fifty yards back the way they came, people of various ages, shapes, and sizes were quietly filling the sidewalks and street. Slowly, but surely, marching towards the group.
Whatever they were, they were like no demons Angel had ever seen before.
Angel saw most of the intruders wore ripped clothes that exposed chalky skin and inky black veins. A number of them had black scale-like protrusions on their faces and limbs, while others seemed to be wearing gloves made of dark gray or black metal. A few wore gimp suits covered in wires and rubber tubing, and had their arms wrapped in black casts with whirring and clicking tools attached where their hands should be.
The gimp suited ones also appeared to have one of their eyes covered by monocle-like lenses that glowed with red or amber light. Half of them had a laser beam pointer attached to one of their temples, or over one of their ears. The beams that could been seen were all aimed at the group. Angel looked down and saw several red and green colored dots held steady on his chest.
"Oh my god!" Willow exclaimed.
"Are those…?" Cordelia's question trailed away as her expression morphed from one of recognition to pure horror.
"What?" Angel asked. "Are what?"
Buffy continued to scream.
"Quickly, everyone inside!" Giles said.
Willow ran passed Giles and phased through the store's front window. Once they were all inside Giles slammed the door closed behind them and turned the deadbolt locks. Naked mannequins, racks of unsold monster masks, and scraps of leftover costumes on the shelves surrounded them, all of which added to the innate eeriness the shop exuded.
Buffy pushed away from Angel and hurried away from the door. She buried her hands in her hair, and in a frenzy clawed at her scalp until Angel was afraid she'd draw blood.
"We are doomed! You brigands have delivered me to my death!" Buffy cried out in despair.
"Those windows, and that door that is also mostly window, won't keep them out," Cordelia said, her voice empty of the rude confidence she usually projected when she spoke.
"What the hell are 'them'?" Angel asked.
"Borg," Willow answered flatly.
Incredulous, Angel said, "Those things are Swedish?"
Willow didn't reply. Instead she seemed to stare unseeingly through one of the storefront's windows. Angel was surprised, and a bit disappointed, to see Willow appear to go into shock. Willow had often faced vampires and demons at Buffy's side, and he thought she was made of sterner stuff.
Besides, the creatures about to overrun them posed no danger to her ghost form.
When it was clear Willow wouldn't respond, Cordelia spoke up.
"They're The Borg. From Star Trek."
Angel had no idea what a Star Trek was, and Cordelia must have noticed his lost expression and began to explain.
"They're like half machine and half whatever they assimilate." Angel heard Cordelia's heart begin to pound faster as she continued. "If they're real, like really real," her voiced cracked, "and there are enough of them..."
Cordelia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Angel sensed all her fear responses decrease dramatically. It was impressive how swiftly she took control of her emotions.
When she opened her eyes again she said in a steadier voice, "They can assimilate Sunnydale's entire population in hours."
Angel looked at Willow. He thought understood why she shut down now. Those Borg creatures were an apocalypse waiting to happen if they weren't stopped!
Reading the expression Angel gave Willow, Cordelia said, "That's not why she's upset."
Giles chose that moment to storm the back area of the shop. Angel started to follow but hesitated when he saw Buffy tucked into the corner she'd claimed next to one of the shelves. She clutched her hands and quietly recited the Lord's Prayer over and over.
When the machines came she would be completely helpless.
Angel had to protect her.
"Stay here. I'll go with Giles," Cordelia said without a hint of derision in her voice. Then she walked up to Willow and got in the girl's face.
"Hey, you wanna sleep? Do it after we save damn world, okay?"
Willow blinked and flinched when she saw how closely Cordelia was standing.
"C'mon," Cordelia ordered.
She swept through the curtains Giles had gone through, and Willow followed closely behind. Angel could only hear snippets of what was said, but he overheard enough to know they found Ethan Rayne. Not long after Willow confirmed Ethan sold them their costumes the Borg began their assault on the costume shop.