Standard disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all such related things, © Mutant Enemy and many other people with big scary lawyers. We're borrowing them without permission, but you said you were done with 'em, so we're hoping you won't mind so much. Stories, images, characters you don't recognize, those are all by 4Paws. Yes, we'll take the blame.

Setting: Set in the continuation-verse, which picks up about three months after the end of "Chosen". So, spoilers for pretty much everything, including any "episodes" in this series that have come before it.

Notes: Here we go with my most ambitious 'fic project ... well, ever, basically. A virtual continuation of a show with a whole heck of a lot more story to tell. Since deciding to do this project I've discovered that there are, in fact, many Season 8's ... but this is the only one with the Jet Wolf Seal of Involvement, so that guarantees freshness. Or something.

Episodes are posted to weekly, at 8pm EST on Tuesdays, all pretty and HTML'd with graphics and oo! Credits. We have credits, too. Eps will appear the following Friday or Saturday on So if you don't want to wait all that extra time (and really, how could you?), the site is the way to go.

(15 July 2004)


The Chosen: A Buffy Virtual Continuation

Episode 11: "Hard Day's Night"
Story by: Jet Wolf & Ultrace
Written by: Ultrace
Additional Material by: Jet Wolf

Act Four

The Boss rubbed his hands together joyfully, and the sound of a rough surface being sanded filled the air. On the ground, the burlap sack continued to squirm, a pupae waiting to release its contents to the wonder of all.

"Good work, Thompson," the Boss smiled approvingly. "How'd you manage to do it?"

The demon beamed at the praise. "Easy pickings. Caught her by surprise. She was going down this alleyway and I struck from behind, like a Xenian Viper. She never saw what hit her."

"Excellent use of stealth tactics, then," congratulated the Boss, clapping excitedly. "Whatever it takes to get the job done." He gestured to two well-built demons nearby. "Open it up."

They knelt next to the captive and tugged on the sack ever so slowly, almost unreasonably so, as if to prolong and savor the moment. Or, quite possibly, out of fear of what would be revealed and what might happen to the unfortunate soulless who had done the revealing when the Slayer emerged. As the bag was pulled back enough to reveal legs, the prisoner lashed out with a savage kick, but it easily missed any target. Startled, the demons yanked the sack free and hurriedly moved out of range.

The figure inside was female, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. A hood covered her head, obscuring any features. With the sack removed, she struggled to her hands and knees, but then remained still, not attacking or making any sudden moves.

"Oh, I've seen Steve Irwin do this," one of the demons observed in a knowing voice. "Wrap a towel or something around an animal's head and it gets all docile and stuff."

"Well, let's see what we can do about that," the Boss chuckled. He looked at Thompson admiringly. "Gotta say, beautiful touch with the hood. I just love the suspense." Gesturing to the girl, he added to the demon, "Go ahead and pull it off—you've earned it."

Thompson moved behind the girl and swiftly removed the hood with a dramatic flourish. The Boss had prepared his most evil grin to meet her, but it now faded into confusion and then great dissatisfaction.

"This...is not the Dark Slayer," he calmly observed as his eye began to twitch.

Thompson initially appeared as though he didn't understand the words, then comprehension blossomed in his tiny demon brain. "It's not?" he queried, moving around to the front of the girl to get a better look.

"No, it is not," the Boss snarled, his fingers curling into a fist that shook at his side. "It looks nothing like her."

"Well, it kinda does," Thompson responded, lamely attempting to salvage a shred of dignity.

The Boss, having been all geared up for violent Slayer death, was not handling his disappointment well at all. Taking it out on Thompson was obviously his preferred method of coping. "No, it doesn't! Look at this!" he yelled.

A printout of Faith from the presentation a few days earlier hung on the wall, a lasting symbol of hatred and goals to be achieved. The Boss tore it down in one fluid motion and stormed back to the nervous demon. He pointed at the frozen and ferocious Slayer's face. "Look at it! This hair is clearly chestnut! This hair—" he indicated the girl, "—is raw sienna. These eyes?" He waved the paper in the demon's face. "Mahogany! Those eyes?" He jabbed a clawed finger at the terrified girl again. "Emerald! They're not even the same base color!"

"Well, it was really dark..." Thompson began, his gaze shifting first right then left as he tried to think up a plausible excuse and largely failed.

Still fuming, the Boss retorted, "Yes, nighttime tends to be that way!"

"A-and her back was turned..."

All eyes were on him now, and the Boss' anger was only slightly more intense than the pressure on Thompson to justify the mistake. Eternal shame was going to be unavoidable unless he was able to turn this around quickly.

"Plus, you know humans. They all look the same." His tone dripped with derision for humans and all their ilk, trying desperately to redirect scorn from himself to the species in question.

Several of the gathered demons looked at each other and nodded, conceding this statement as true. The Boss, however, was not to be dissuaded. "'All look the same'?" He shoved the picture into the girl's hands. Stuck in a near-paralyzed stupor, the girl seemed even more confused than before at the rapidly deteriorating situation. The Boss loomed over her. "Tell me, does that look like you? Does it?!" he demanded of the girl.

"I—Uh—Geh—" she stammered.

"I didn't think so!" he declared victoriously. "Even the trembling human thing agrees with me! I'm bitterly disappointed, Thompson. You've taken me away from important work, raised my hopes and then dashed them upon the cruel rocks of life. Even worse, I lost a bet and owe Norg ten bucks." Gritting his many teeth together, the Boss narrowed his gaze furiously at Thompson. "I hate losing."

A demon behind the Boss snickered. "This is just like that time when he thought he had the witch."

Thompson thrust his finger over the Boss' shoulder at the offender. "Shut up, Williams! I did have the witch! She must've used some...witchery-type magic or something!"

"To turn herself into a guy?" mocked Williams with an evil smirk.

The other demons had merely been observing the exchange, but at the retort they erupted into laughter. Thompson's skin changed to a bright reddish-purple hue as his anger rose. Everyone's attention sufficiently diverted, no one noticed the girl scampering away for her life, the printout still clutched in her hands.

The horde had gradually backed away from Williams and Thompson, forming a loose circle around them. The atmosphere was growing tense, and violence was inevitable. Standing back with his arms crossed, the Boss appeared perfectly fine with watching things unfold for the moment.

"He was dressed like a woman," Thompson shot back. "How was I supposed to know?"

Williams waved his hand dismissively at Thompson. "You just suck man. Admit it and move on with whatever passes for your life."

"Oh, big talk from the guy who got scared off by two of little Summers' school friends."

Apparently, this struck a nerve. Williams' eyes suddenly flared a brilliant green, and he jumped from words to action. Springing forward, he assailed Thompson with a savage barrage of clawed attacks. In return, Thompson balled his fists and bared his fangs.

The ferocity and sounds of combat were akin to watching two jungle cats battle for mates and territory, but it was destined to be short-lived; the Boss quickly gestured to several of the other demons who stepped in to break up the fight.

"Okay, time out, both of you. Stop acting like children."

"He started it," they both protested in unison. "Did not!" they shouted simultaneously at the other.

"And I'm ending it. Let it go. Let bygones be bygones. Remember, we're on the same side here." Before he could spout any more clichés, the Boss jerked his thumb over his shoulder, indicating the discarded burlap sack and smiled. "It's not as if Thompson came back empty-handed, at least we can enjoy this little—"

He turned to the empty space formerly occupied by their captive. "—girl who is no longer here," the Boss concluded without missing a beat. His smile dissolved for the second time in several minutes as he scanned the surrounding area. Frowning, he turned to his assembled demonic cadre. "Where did she go?"

-=-=-=-

Panting, the girl raced down the darkened streets in a near-blind panic, occasionally stealing a glance over her shoulder to see if she was being pursued. So intent in what may be behind her, she had no chance of stopping when a figure stepped from around the corner, directly in front her.

The two collided, and the escapee bounced, as though having run into something solid and unmovable. She tumbled to the ground, her fall only slightly cushioned by the snow. The figure assumed an immediate defensive stance, but relaxed almost as soon as it saw who had "attacked."

"Damn!" Faith exclaimed as she knelt next to the girl. "You okay?"

Still gasping for breath, the girl regarded Faith for several seconds. She blinked at the Slayer, her eyes reflecting a mixture of confusion and residual fear.

Faith squinted at the girl's head, concerned. "Crap, you get a concussion? I'll never hear the end of it if you did."

"I-It's you!" the girl finally managed to get out.

Faith nodded cautiously. "Yeah, usually."

"No, no, you're the one they were talking about!" the girl blurted in near hysteria. "There-there were these monsters, and they took me and they were talking about some sleigh in the dark, and—"

Faith held up her hands in calming gesture. "Whoa, slow down. Try breathing. Hear it helps."

Accepting assistance, the girl got to her feet and took a few deep breaths while constantly checking to see if something terrifying was bearing down on her from behind. Assured at least for the moment that she was relatively safe, she tried again. "Some monster things grabbed me, threw something over my head, stuffed me in a bag... They took me somewhere..." She strained to recall the details. "Bright, lots of lights but no windows. Cheap carpet. Smelled like floor wax and paper. They—they kept talking about some sort of 'dark sleigh' or something and how they had it. But one of them said I was wrong."

Faith's expression showed that she was following along, but just barely.

"Then one of them grabbed this picture and said it was who they were looking for. It's you."

Faith took the offered sheet and examined it. She tilted her head to the side, narrowing her eyes as she studied it carefully, then a pleased grin appeared. "Check me out, I'm popular. An' badass too, lookit that kick," she added with admiration.

The girl didn't seem particularly impressed by Faith's on-paper kung fu exploits; still a bit nervous, she stole yet another glance over her shoulder.

"But how'd they ever mistake you for me?" the Slayer wondered, eyeing the girl. "You're at least three inches taller, and I wouldn't be caught dead with that hair." The girl was too frazzled to take much notice of the implied insult, and Faith returned to studying the exaggerated depiction of herself, turning the printout this way and that.

"They started arguing and I ran away, but..." the girl trailed off. "Can-can you help me?"

Faith snapped back to full attention. "Yeah, no problem." Scanning the area, Faith doubled checked; it was deserted, no sign that the girl was in any immediate or continuing danger now she had made her escape. "Okay, first step is to get you home safe. Don't worry about those guys. They were probably... Uhh, college pranks."

The girl wasn't sure she had heard correctly. "College pranks?" she repeated disbelievingly.

"Yeah," Faith confirmed a little too quickly. "Too much learnin', does somethin' to your brain, you know?" She made wild gestures at her head. "Makes it snap."

The Slayer added an assuring nod to this explanation. It wasn't particularly convincing, but doubtless made as much sense to the girl as anything else she had experienced, so when Faith began moving down the street, she followed without hesitation. That Faith's footsteps made almost no noise in the snow compared with her own loud crunching was lost on the girl.

"Thank you," she said sincerely.

"Hey, no prob, livens up the evening," Faith shrugged.

A thought began to occur to the girl, and she frowned slightly. "Why aren't you freaked out by any of this?"

"Oh, I got experience with... College kids. And hey." The printout was proudly displayed. "Just found out I got a fan club. Can't wait to meet 'em."

-=-=-=-

The halls of Slayer Central were comparatively chaos-free, given the usual standards. Considering the time of night, it was likely that most girls were out on patrols, though several were chatting amiably in the recreational room, watching television or catching a quick game of pool.

Kelly stood in the hallway, leaning back against a single closed door. Nearby stood her fellow Slayer Lynn, towering a good five inches over the other girl, but neither seeming to feel any advantage from that height difference.

"So, he was hitting on you?" boggled Lynn with an intrigued expression.

Screwing her face in disdain, Kelly shuddered. "I think so. I dunno. It was creepy, though. I mean, they never train us on how to actually talk to demons, y'know? You don't see Faith all—" she straightened her posture and pantomimed pointing to a nonexistent chalkboard, "—'if the demon wants t'know what you're doin' that night, tell 'em you ain't down with that.'"

A suggestive grin crept over Lynn's lips. "Is he cute?"

Kelly regarded her companion with disbelief, jaw hanging agape for a scant few seconds before snapping shut. "You're scary, Lynn."

"What?" the other Slayer protested. "I'm just asking."

"No, he's not cute. He's a demon. He looks like a demon. A three foot tall bundle of leathery skin in a nice suit. I know guys in the Math Club with more going for them."

Lynn held up her hands in defense. "Fine, fine, 'scuse me all to heck, geez."

Kelly was having trouble letting it go; she shook her head a little. "'Is he cute?'" she muttered with an undisguised sneer in her voice.

Faith, rapidly approaching from the far end of the hall, had a determined look in her eye that caused both girls to stand a little straighter, as though at attention. When she was within earshot, the Senior Slayer demanded, "Where's Kennedy?"

"She took her patrol group to check out a tip from that Norg thing," Kelly supplied helpfully.

"Norg's around, huh?" asked Faith, a little surprised, but apparently pleased. Kelly nodded and jerked her thumb behind her. Casting a side glance at the door, the Senior Slayer smirked. "An' here I just got word that he had a little bet with some fans of mine. Ain't that convenient?"

With an evil grin a mile wide, she reached for the knob.

-=-=-=-

Norg continued to admire the functionality of his temporary prison. Or perhaps he was contemplating the deeper mysteries of life. He may have simply been wondering when Kennedy was going to get back. Regardless of his inner musings, he was sitting quietly in his chair when Faith entered the room. He flashed his best smile, which she didn't return.

"Mith Faith."

With no fanfare whatsoever, she strode to the demon and grabbed him by the throat. Within a heartbeat, he found himself hoisted against the wall. It wasn't a favorable position for any demon, much less one of his size.

"Ath alwayth, a pleathure," he choked politely. "Pleathe don't kill me."

"Tell me what I wanna know an' that ain't gonna be a problem."

Norg tried to use Faith's wrist to ease the pressure on his neck, but failed miserably. Seeing little other option, he acquiesced. "Thoundth like a deal to me."

"Heard somethin' kinda interesting tonight," began Faith conversationally. "Got a bunch'a people who wanna meet me. Which is five by five, cuz I suddenly got a jones to meet them too." She cocked her head to the side. "Thing is, I dunno where they are, an' I ain't real big with the detective thing. But luckily, I hear they know you. Which is good, cuz that means you know them too. Get me?"

Norg attempted to nod, but found the going difficult due to his neck's lack of accessibility. The Junior Slayers, tentative at first, had settled a respectable distance away that still afforded them a good view of the action, and watched the master work.

Faith seemed satisfied with Norg's attempted agreement. "Now, I could sit here an' ask you questions, get answers, figure it all out myself. But I ain't that patient. Instead, I'm gonna ask just one question."

Gasping for breath, Norg managed to retain his composure. "I can rethpect effithenthy," he coughed.

"Now who's this bet with, an' where do I find 'em?" Considering her words, the Slayer shrugged. "Guess that's two questions. But hopefully you don't mind."

Gears turned in the tiny demon's mind as he squirmed under the force of the Slayer's grip. After a few long moments, he arrived at an answer. "I don't gamble, ath a matter of profethionalithm."

Faith maintained a fake politeness which was entirely intimidating. "I'm sorry, that's incorrect," she responded, pulling Norg away from the wall just a little and slamming him back against it. The little demon's eyes threatened to burst from their sockets. "Try again," suggested the Slayer, managing to make it sound much more like a command. "This time, try t'remember that thing about me killin' you."

Norg's second answer came much more quickly. "The Bosth! I have a bet with the Bosth!" he croaked.

Relaxing her grip, Faith allowed Norg to drop to the ground. He landed solidly, and his first act of newfound freedom was to vigorously rub his throat.

"Who's the Boss?" demanded Faith.

"I always thought it was Tony Danza," Lynn whispered to Kelly, who nodded her agreement.

"He runth our corporation," Norg confessed.

Faith crossed her arms, a subtle indicator that while she was no longer squeezing the very life out of him, that situation could easily be remedied. "Corporation?"

"Thort of a demon union."

Kelly couldn't restrain her surprise. "Demons have a union?"

"Do WE have a union?" Lynn questioned immediately after.

Faith ignored them. "What's this bet?"

"It'th part of our lateth morale-boothting inthentive program. Our memberth are competing to thee who can cauthe the motht damage to the Thlayerth or their friendth. I bet the Bosth that the first capture wouldn't actually be a Thlayer at all." He couldn't help adding in a slightly smug tone, "Thoundth like I won."

"Doing good so far. Bonus round. Where is he?"

Norg appeared disinclined to answer, but Faith, arms still crossed, balled one of her fists, cracking knuckles in the process. The demon's reluctance vanished. "The headquarterth ith downtown, at the bathement entranthe under the bar at Fourth and Porter," Norg was only too happy to report.

Faith smiled her special fakely-sweet smile. "Thanks. Nice doin' business."

She headed for the door, stopping only when a confused Kelly asked, "Wait, what if he's lying?"

Although answering the Junior, every ounce of Faith's attention was directed to Norg, who squirmed uncomfortably under her penetrating glare. "He better hope he ain't, 'cuz I'm locking him in this room, and if he is lyin', then I'm gonna come back and make him wish he hadn't."

With that, the three Slayers exited the room. True to her word, Faith closed the wooden door behind her, and a highly audible click informed Norg that he was once again a prisoner. Unlike with Kennedy's departure, however, his expression registered nothing but relief, as though the emptiness of the room were a comfort following this latest encounter

He allowed himself to flop backward, lying on the cold tile floor as he breathed a sigh of relief. "Interrogated by the Dark Thlayer and thurvived! What a thtory for the netht offithe party!"

On the other side of the door, Faith wasted no time in turning to the other two girls. "I'll grab the weapons. You two split up and get a half-dozen girls each. We meet by the main doors in ten minutes."

-=-=-=-

Fifteen Slayers strode through the darkened streets, each well outfitted: some carried daggers, some had swords, and others clutched crossbows. Most carried a combination of the three. They moved in a wedge formation, the girls fanning out on equal sides behind Faith, who was calling out instructions as they moved.

"Okay, accordin' to the girl-not-me, she saw ten or twenty demons in here," Faith reported without checking over her shoulder, assuming everyone was following and paying close attention. "Could be more. But they won't be expectin' us. Surprise'll give us the advantage. Still, be careful."

She passed an alleyway, where a formidable-looking demon with a snake's head and taloned hands was loitering. It glanced at Faith and its serpentine features pulled back into a smile, the forked tongue slithering along scaled lips in anticipation of a meal. No sooner had it taken the first step toward the street than another row of Slayers passed by, and then another. It examined the group intently, even holding up its hand to do some quick calculations on its fingers before reaching a definite conclusion. Slowly and quietly, so as to not draw any attention, it withdrew into the shadows and out of sight.

"Game plan," Faith continued. "We bust in, take down everything that ain't human. You fight in pairs, an' if you get in a jam, you yell. We stick to the entrance 'til we see if we gotta back out for breathing room. Questions?"

None came, and the march continued in silence. The girls were all business; there was no chattering, no indication that this was anything less than a life-or-death situation. Their faces were set in grim, determined expressions.

"Score," noted Faith as they turned a corner and spotted the described building. It appeared innocent enough at a casual glance—the outside looked like nothing more than "The Broken Bottle" bar. Closer inspection, however, revealed that the large figure standing at the side door was not the bouncer he initially appeared to be. Instead, he was a burly demon, seven foot tall and not lightly built. He had just lit a cigarette and was holding it with his prehensile tongue. Taking a long drag, he settled back against the wall with closed eyes and a satisfied smile. Lazily, he opened his eyes again, and for the first time, his gaze settled on the small army of Slayers steadily approaching.

While he was well-endowed in the muscle and sinew department, he didn't seem particularly gifted, intellectually speaking. Even so, comprehension slowly dawned as he resolved the facts of the scene before him. His tongue involuntarily relaxed its grip, and the cigarette dropped to the ground.

The Slayers and the demon were now fully aware of each other, but while the former were approaching casually, if determinedly, the latter seemed paralyzed with indecision. Finally, common sense kicked in and he moved to open the basement door and make a run for it.

"Deborah, Paige, Kelly," was all Faith said.

The three girls raised their crossbows and each unleashed a single bolt with a unison of twangs. It was a harbinger of doom for the unlucky demon. As the missiles embedded themselves in his back, he crumpled to the ground without opportunity to even turn the handle.

"Nice job," Faith complimented, continuing the advance. "Reload."

-=-=-=-

Currently performing the important task of keeping the seat in his office warm, the Boss pulled back the lever on a small device in front of him. A sphere tied to the object was launched in an arc through the air, colliding with a plastic barrier rather than sailing through its hooped target. It ricocheted lamely to the side. The orb seemed to want very much to keep going, but was tethered in place, and so simply sat ineffectually on the desktop after a few half-hearted bounces. Reclaiming it, the Boss placed it back on the lever with care and tried again. Several times. In each instance, the ball failed to perform its sacred duty.

The Boss frowned and, although alone in his office, glanced around briefly to make sure he wouldn't be spotted. Quickly snatching the tiny basketball replica, he manually dropped it into the plastic basket. A series of primitive beeps ensued, and the Boss waved his hands in the air, cheering for himself. After a brief moment of this, all jubilation vanished, and his shoulders slumped.

"That was entirely unsatisfying," he muttered, darkly glaring at the machine.

The intercom chose to buzz at that moment, and as though grateful for a distraction, the Boss punched the button. "Yes?"

Marsha's voice came through clearly. "Sir, I thought you'd like to know: the Slayers have arrived."

His expression lit up. "Somebody actually captured Slayers? Real Slayers this time?"

"Real Slayers, yes sir. But not exactly captured. Instead, it appears as though we're being invaded and everyone is being killed." Despite the severity of the situation, her voice remained calm and pleasing, the mark of an excellent secretary.

Absently, the Boss flicked the lever again, and the ball sailed gracefully into the basket. A series of congratulatory beeps spewed forth from the game, but the Boss paid no heed. His skin turned a shade or two of paler red, verging on an unhealthy salmon color. "That's a significant difference," he finally stated.

"Yes, sir, it is."

With a sigh, the Boss steepled his fingers. "Contact PR. Tell them I'm going to need a new campaign. Really fast." He glanced warily at the closed office door. "And hold all of my calls."

"Yes, sir."

He clicked off the intercom, scooped up the electronic basketball game in a protective arm, and crawled under his desk to hide.

-=-=-=-

The secretary's description had proved accurate. Only a short distance outside of the Boss' office, the Slayers were indeed killing everyone. Demons poured out of the woodwork, only to have their blood or entrails pour away as they were sliced to ribbons. In a stunningly precognitive parallel to the "Know Your Enemies" presentation, Faith was brandishing a bloodied axe against all comers, demon bodies strewn about her. Her entourage exercised their skills in pairs, with two Slayers standing on the landing of the entrance, sending crossbow bolts sailing over their allies' heads as they picked off demons one at a time. The other Slayers had opted for melee combat, and were attacking with weapons and bare fists.

A pair of demons rushed the Dark Slayer, but found her axe at the ready; it neatly lopped off the head of one and in a smooth motion, buried itself in the other's chest. This wasn't enough to bring the demon down, so Faith yanked the axe free and, spinning back in the other direction, decapitated the second as well. The speed and ease with which she dispatched anything in her path made Faith not unlike the very image of a demon herself.

There had been little doubt about the outcome from the beginning, but those demons thinking they had a chance were quickly learning otherwise. Blood of varying colors spattered the area as the battle inevitably turned in favor of the Slayers. The final blow to demon morale came as two of the junior Slayers took down a hunched, three-hundred pound mass of power with only a pair of daggers. Most of the survivors lost their nerve and broke ranks to run for their lives. Those who stood their ground were quickly mowed down. Most of the attempted escapees soon joined their fallen brethren, as daggers, bolts, swords, axes and even a stray letter opener that had been swiped from the reception area sailed through the air after them.

The massacre wasn't absolute, and a tiny handful of minions managed to scamper off through exits and into the night, but the short battle was over for all intents and purposes. The Slayers stood, victorious.

Faith surveyed her troops. "Anybody hurt?"

One of the Juniors held up a hand. "I broke a nail."

"Buy some press-ons. Anybody else?"

They all shook their heads. Satisfied, Faith turned to the wreckage, surveying the area with interest. Despite numerous stains of blue, ochre and several unidentifiable fluids, the immense bulletin board remained the dominating fixture. Six pictures, similar in design to her own but of Buffy and the others, still hung prominently. Smaller, but far more numerous, were pictures of all manner of demonkind under the "Gone But Not Forgotten" section.

"Hey, I think I remember that guy," Faith mused to herself, peering closely at the image of creature resembling a large bull, sporting a mohawk and proudly wearing a 'Horny For You' t-shirt.

"Looks like liver was on next week's potluck menu," Lynn observed from another wall hanging. "And... Kitten chow." She looked to Faith hesitantly. "They're talking about cat food, right?"

"Must be nice livin' in your world," the Senior Slayer smirked. She shook her head at the board. "Man, this is just messed up. Shame B had to miss out on this."

-=-=-=-

At that moment, Buffy was engaged in a different manner of battle. The living room television patiently scrolled a list of channels that seemed indefatigable, but her eyes were narrowed as she stared at Willow, Xander and Dawn, who were similarly glaring at her and each other.

Buffy's finger jutted out at Xander. "We are not watching 'Voyager'."

"But it's the episode where the doctor makes a hologram of this woman to save her life and falls in love with the hologram," he defended stubbornly. "It's a classic."

"Yes, and it's a classic that you can watch with an antenna. We have satellite now. We should be watching satellite-worthy things," the blonde admonished. "Like 'Sabado Gigante'."

"What?" exclaimed Dawn, gaping at her sister. "That's a Spanish show."

The Slayer blinked, clearly waiting for the point. Meanwhile, the screen cheerfully suggested any one of eleven different flavors of 'Law and Order', but no one took interest.

"Aaaaand, it's not in English?" Dawn continued. "You don't speak Spanish. You don't even know what the title means."

"I do so!" protested Buffy. "It means... Uhh... 'Big Sabado.'" She crossed her arms defiantly. "And you should be supporting my attempts to be multicultural."

"You can absorb other cultures and watch 'Iron Chef'," countered the teenager. "And hey, you might absorb how to cook while you're at it."

"Oo!" Willow interrupted, eyes fixed on the screen. "The Learning Channel has a documentary on nanotechnology put together by the British about German and Swiss researchers." She beamed at her discovery and turned to the others. "That's three times the multicultural goodness."

A far cry from the enthusiastic response she was expecting, the others looked at Willow as though she had suggested impaling themselves in the thigh with a salad fork would be a nifty way to spend the evening.

Willow rolled her eyes in disgust. "Oh, so a 'Star Trek' episode you've seen a dozen times, a very strange and incomprehensible foreign variety show, and a cooking contest with—" she glanced briefly at the onscreen guide before turning back "—conger eels is okay, but an actual learning experience? That gets me the crazy girl look?"

Xander raised his forefinger pointedly. "It's worth mentioning that 'Voyager' has the Kazon, Trabe, Ocampa, and a bunch of races I can't even pronounce without a second tongue. You wanna talk culture? And they're light years beyond nanotechnology."

The final straw having been laid upon the burdened camel's back, negotiations broke down, the four arguing voices blending to form an incoherent yet tasty babble soup. For all intents and purposes, each appeared content to keep up the fight until the others gave in or fell unconscious from exhaustion, but the satellite had other ideas.

A brief spurt of static danced across the screen. As one, four heads turned to regard it, hoping against hope that their imaginations were playing a cruel trick. A second flicker appeared, bringing jitter along with. Four expressions dissolved from irritation into a hesitant, almost begging stare, but their silent pleas availed them not. The picture quickly degenerated, resulting in complete static after a few seconds and then the dreaded 'NO SIGNAL'.

A collective groan sounded through the house. "Not again!" lamented Dawn.

Willow was grim. "You know what this means."

Buffy jerked her thumb at the ceiling. "Okay, Xander, back outside. We need our fix, so you need to fix."

Grudgingly, Xander resigned himself to his fate and dragged himself toward the door, sighing heavily. "Suddenly, I'm thinking an evening of throwing myself off the roof would be more enjoyable."

-=-=-=-

Into the decimated and vacant ruins of the once mighty and proud organization stepped the Boss. He carefully picked his way through bodies, broken tables, crumbling cubicle walls, and chunks of concrete and plaster. Everything was wreckage and rubble as far as the eye could see. Somehow, despite there having been no fires lit whatsoever, smoke wafted through the ruins, pleased to be able to provide ambiance.

From the other side of the carnage, Norg approached, either freed or escaped from captivity. Hesitantly, he approached the Boss, who was kneeling down to fish something from the debris.

"Why did they have to break our 'Best Up and Coming Force of Darkness' plaque?" the leader asked with a heavy sigh as he examined the splintered remains in his hand. "That was just harsh."

Norg happened upon an unscathed table near one side of the room. Astonished, he walked over to it. After a single touch with his finger, however, it instantly collapsed into a heap of fractured legs and splintered boards. Norg regarded it with an 'of course' expression.

"Doth our inthuranthe cover acth of Thlayer?"

The Boss shook his head. "Somehow I doubt it. Those underwriter guys are sneakier than I am."

Rising to his feet, the Boss put his hands on his hips, surveying the wreckage again. "Maybe it's time to look into a new line of business," he mused aloud before making his way toward the exit.

Following at his side, Norg considered. "Cuthtomer Thervithe, perhapth?"

A visible shiver ran through his leader's body. "Ugh, no. Even I'm not that evil."