Part 6: Turning
"Are we in Los Angeles yet?"
The school bus drove through the desert towards their goal. The sun was beaming down outside, but despite the lack of necro-tempered glass, Angel was in no danger of getting insta-tanned into oblivion; it was obvious that nobody had washed these windows in a long time.
"Are we in Los Angeles yet?"
Of course, he was seriously contemplating staking himself if Homer didn't shut up, but at least he would dust with a slight Springfield tan.
"Are we in -"
"NO. Do you see what's out there? That's a desert. Los Angeles is a big city. When we get there, you'll know."
"Oh." Homer laughed, embarrassed. "Of course."
The rest of the gang were spread out throughout the bus, preparing for their assault on Wolfram & Hart. Bart sat in the back, using his "Li'l Bastard's Forgery Kit" to make Wolfram & Hart ID cards for all of them, while Lisa, Fred and Wesley were going over the details of their big plan to defeat Mr Burns. Lorne, who had spent all night in Moe's Tavern taking song requests, slept the sleep of the truly exhausted and somewhat sore-of-throat.
Sitting further up front to avoid car sickness, Gunn had been roped into taking care of Maggie while Marge made sandwiches for everyone. It was a sight to behold, as the former street thug turned ultra-professional lawyer played peek-a-boo with the cute little baby without giving a rat's ass about what anyone else thought. "Wheeere's Maggie? Theeere's Maggie! Hey, I got your nose! Yes I do!" The infant chuckled along happily before Otto's truly dreadful singing interrupted them and made her start crying.
"I'm not saying that I'm better than you, I'm better than you, I'm better than yooooooou!" The bus driver was headbanging over the steering wheel, eyes closed, singing along to the faint sound of cymbals and guitars seeping from his headphones. A few seats back, Lorne woke up with a scream.
"Ey, YO! Otto!" Gunn shook his shoulder, causing the bus to lurch violently across three lanes. "Eyes on the road!"
"Oh. Sorry, dude. It's just a kick-ass song, you know?" Otto stopped singing and straightened the bus out, almost winding up in the ditch before getting back into his own lane and flooring it.
"So..." Homer peered out the window at the passing desert. "Are we in Los Angeles yet?"
Eve checked her reflection in the mirror, practising her superior-and-evil look. It was time to put a stop to this. Having Mr Burns take over Wolfram & Hart had proven to be a huge mistake, and the senior partners were on her every day to do something about him. As if that wasn't enough, with Angel leaving town for parts unknown, her and Lindsey's plan was also in danger of being put on indefinite hiatus. They needed to take the bull by the horns (even though there were no literal horns to grab this time, which for a law firm catering to demons was a welcome change) and restore order.
As she headed for her showdown with Burns, she noticed Spike and Smithers at the secretary's desk, chatting like two old friends. Excellent. Having Spike recorporealized was step 1 in the plan, and Lindsey should be along any minute now with the package that would turn him back into a vampire. She pushed open the doors to the CEO's office. "Mr Burns, we need to talk."
"Oh, you again." The old man looked up at her. "You really are very annoying, you know. Now what do you want?"
"It's not about what I want. It's about the senior partners. They are very unhappy with your performance so far; you were hired to run a law firm, and so far you've managed to kill half our client base and alienate the other half to the point where we're fending off more lawsuits for breach of contract than we're winning. Also -"
"Yes, yes, yes." He interrupted her with an impatient wave of his hand. "All in good time. First, would you mind taking a step to the left?"
She smiled, as smug as smug can be. "Mr Burns, I'm an immortal child of the Senior Partners, and as such have access to a lot of information – including the architecture of this office. Your slapstick trapdoors may fool hapless Irish vampires, but they won't work on me."
"Oh really? Then I guess I'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way." Burns slowly got to his feet, picked up a ruler from his desk and brandished it threateningly as he walked over to her. "I'll give you the thrashing of a lifetime! Take that!" The weak blow barely ruffled Eve's chic pantsuit, but left Burns panting with exhaustion. "Had... enough?"
Eve shook her head in pity. "This really is pathetic. I'm afraid you leave me no choice; I'm going to recommend to the senior partners that they relieve you of your duties as CEO immediately. I'd tell you to pack, but... where you're going, I'm afraid it wouldn't do you any good." She turned and walked out of the office.
Burns tottered after her, furious. They both came out into the lobby just as the elevator doors closed on a figure in a UPS uniform, and saw Smithers and Spike both looking curiously at the newly-delivered package sitting on the desk.
"Smithers!" The old man gestured after Eve. "Apprehend her! We need to... oh, what's this? A package for me?" He cocked his head and walked towards the desk.
Spike tried to interfere, but of course Burns just walked right through him. "Hey, 'ang on, Gramps. That package is addressed to yours truly, and -"
"Balderdash! If it's sent to my office, it must be mine. Yoink!" Burns took the package from Smithers and tore it open.
Eve spun around, her face white with fear. "NO! Don't -"
But too late. A bright flash blinded everyone, and as Burns looked up again, his skin had gone considerably paler but his eyes burned with energy. "Well, wasn't that... interesting," he chuckled.
"That wasn't... you weren't supposed to... that was Spike's!" Eve shook her head in disbelief. "Do you know what you've done?"
"To be perfectly honest, no, but whatever it was it certainly did the trick. Why, I haven't felt this strong since I shot down the Hindenburg! Just look at this!" With next to no effort, Burns lifted the reception desk, Smithers and all, and tossed it halfway across the lobby. Then he turned back to Eve with a vicious grin. "Advantage... Burns." His eyes flashed yellow as he vamped out.
The school bus came to a screeching halt in front of the Wolfram & Hart office. Angel turned to the others. "So, everything ready?"
Nods all around.
"Fred, Wesley, you got everything?"
"Lemme just check the numbers once more..." Fred glanced at her notes. "Yup. This oughta do it." She picked up the bag of equipment they had assembled and handed it to Wesley.
"Right then." Angel looked at everyone. "Now, we all know what to do. The ID cards should get us up to the executive floor, and after that Wes and Fred get to take care of Mr Burns with that... what did you call it?"
Fred looked at Wesley and Lisa, who shrugged. "I think we're still on 'thingamajig'. Either that or 'Deburnsinator®'."
Angel nodded, slightly perplexed at how Fred managed to pronounce the ®. "What does it do, exactly?"
"Oh, you'll see," Lisa beamed.
"OK," Angel shrugged. "Now, hopefully there won't be much in the way of a fight, but if there is, Simpsons – hang back and try not to get in the way. OK?"
"Oh, I think I can handle myself in a fight," Homer chuckled. "Did I ever tell you about the time I fought the world heavyweight champion?"
Angel had realized that arguing with Homer served very little purpose. "I'm sure you can, which is why I need you to be the second front and back us up from a distance. OK?" He put his hand on the door handle. "Let's do this."
They ran for the entrance – Angel covering his head with his leather coat – just as a man in UPS uniform left the building. Homer ran right into him and sent him sprawling on the floor. Bart and Lisa took one look at his tattoos and long, unkempt hair and jumped back in horror.
"AAAAAAH! SIDESHOW BOB!"
"What did you call me?" Lindsey McDonald sat up and brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Sure, I need a haircut, but..."
"Why you little...!" Angel pounced on Lindsey, wrapping his hands around his throat. "I'll teach you to stay away from LA!"
Gunn managed to drag Angel off Lindsey before he choked him to death, and Wesley held him down instead. "What are you doing here, Lindsey?"
"What's it look like?" The Texan coughed and indicated his brown uniform. "Took me years to work myself up from the mailroom, and since I can't use my law degree anymore... Guy's gotta make a living, right?"
"Sure." Gunn wasn't convinced. "Because we all know how carrying other peoples' mail always indicates peaceful sanity."
While the others interrogated Lindsey, Fred leaned down and whispered to Lisa. "Who's Sideshow Bob?"
"He's Bart's arch-nemesis. He's tried to kill him a dozen times or so. Who's that guy?"
"He's Angel's... um... he's a lawyer."
Just as everyone was getting ready to beat Lindsey up just to be on the safe side, the whole building was lit up by a blinding white flash. Everybody stumbled back, blinking. "What was..." Angel noticed Lindsey's smug grin. "You had something to do with this, didn't you?"
"Oh, you just wait, buddy; you're about to get a big surprise!" Laughing, Lindsey tore free and ran out into the street just as those with very good hearing could hear a window shatter high above and a scream coming closer and closer. Lindsey only made it a few steps before Eve, having been tossed out the 30th-storey window by Burns, landed right on him.
"Oh." Angel scratched his head. "Well, that was... ironic." They all watched for a few seconds as the two super-powered villains lay there in a heap on the sidewalk, moaning in pain. Deciding that Lindsey and Eve didn't seem like a threat at the moment, the gang made their way towards the elevator.
There's something about sappy elevator muzak that just heightens the pre-battle tension. Especially when there's a fat nuclear technician standing right next to you humming along. So when the elevator doors opened again, the Angel gang thought they were ready for anything.
They were horribly, disastrously wrong.
The executive floor was a horrible bloodbath. Smithers lay unconscious in front of the elevator among the remains of his desk, and any Wolfram & Hart employees who hadn't managed to get away lay drained at the feet of Mr Burns. Spike was standing next to him, too hopping mad to concentrate enough to punch him, so he settled for yelling a quite impressive list of profanities. Marge immediately covered Bart and Lisa's ears.
As the elevator doors opened with a bright ding, Burns slowly turned towards the gang, blood staining his jaw, and grinned through his fangs. "Aaaaaah. Fresh victims for my ever-growing army of the undead."
Angel looked at the grim tableau, his eyes narrowing. "Spike, please tell me you didn't do this."
"'Course I didn't bloody do this!" Spike was still furious, trying impotently to hit Burns. "This dried-up old geezer stole my recorporealization!"
"Um..." Wesley turned to Fred. "He's... a vampire."
"Remind me... does that in any way interfere with our carefully researched plan for dealing with him?"
Fred offered a sheepish grin. "Only in the sense of ruining it completely...?"
"I thought as much." Wesley sighed and tossed the bag with the now-useless Deburnsinator® aside, scattering weapons all over the elevator. "Right then, new plan: slay him!"
As the Angel gang charged the lone vampire, the Simpsons hung back in the elevator as promised (though in Homer's case, it was more because the word "slay" had gotten "Jingle Bells" stuck in his head and he needed to concentrate on humming). This proved to be a very bad idea. Relishing this new feeling of strength and agility, Burns easily took our heroes by surprise; a quick roundhouse kick to the throat took Gunn down, followed by a leg sweep that knocked Angel off-balance and sent him tumbling into Wesley, and a quick punch that laid Fred out cold. The momentum carried him forward towards the elevator, trapping the Simpsons in there with him. He grabbed the terrified Lisa and bared his fangs, grinning at Angel who had barely had time to get up. "Another step and the girl gets it." Seeing everyone hesitate, he chuckled. "Well, it's been fun, but I'm off to dinner. Toodles!" Burns hit the "down" button and the doors shut, leaving the defenseless Simpsons family to the most evil of vampires.
Almost. At the very last second, the doors were blocked by a piece of wood. They dinged open again, and Burns lifted his mouth from Lisa's neck and shot an exasperated look at Waylon Smithers, who held the door open with one of the broken-off legs of his desk. "Oh. You."
"Yes, sir. Me." Smithers got to his feet and looked his boss in the eye. "Please, you must listen to me, for everything we've been through... You can't do this."
"Oh, so I can't, can't I?"
"No... Monty. I know you're not this evil at heart. It's not to late to turn back."
"Actually -" Angel tried to get a word in edgewise, possibly about the effects of losing one's soul and how that relates to evilness levels, but never got to finish.
"Well... Waylon... That's certainly something to think about." Burns' eyes narrowed. "I've thought about it. You're fired." He delivered a bone-crushing kick to Smithers' chest, sending his faithful servant flying into the lobby and leaving no one to stop him. "Eeexcellent." Once again he reached for the "down" button...
...and froze in mid-movement. His grip on Lisa slackened, and he slowly turned around to look behind him, revealing a crossbow arrow sticking out of his back. "Oh. You again. I guess I should have known." It took him longer than most vampires to turn into dust – dustiness had, after all, been more or less his natural state for decades – but once he was a neat little pile on the floor, everyone could see Maggie standing there with a small crossbow, sucking on her pacifier.
As Marge dropped down next to Lisa to give her a big hug and check for bitemarks, Homer raised his arms in a triumphant "WOOHOO!" and Spike ghosted over to where Smithers was lying. "Waylon! Are you OK? Someone get a doctor!"
Smithers didn't seem to be long for this world. Burns had crushed most of his ribs, and he was coughing up blood. "It's... OK, Spike. I... I was never... much good... on my own... anyway. Thanks... for everything." He held his hand up, and Spike managed to concentrate enough to hold it.
Just then the door swung open and Wolfram & Hart's best doctor entered, waving happily and announcing in a Mexican accent: "Hi, everybody!"
Everybody – including Smithers - smiled at him and answered. "HI, DOCTOR NICK!"
Doctor Nick leaned down over the fading Smithers. "Hmmm. This is not looking good. I think the best thing to do in a case like this is to simply give up."
Behind them, Homer was watching with a confused look on his face. "I don't get it. How come he's dying? Nobody ever dies in Springfield. Well, except for Flanderses's wife, and that saxophone guy and maybe Dr Marvin Monroe, but..."
"That's it!" Wesley ran over to the elevator, picking up the Deburnsinator®, which had been constructed out of Dr Frink's portable crack generator. "If we send you all back to Springfield right now, he might still make it. Everybody, gather around Mr Smithers."
There was time for a few short goodbyes. Lisa gave Fred a tearful hug, Bart high-fived Gunn, and Spike and Smithers whispered something private. Then the Simpsons lined up around Smithers, Wesley activated the Deburnsinator® and they slowly started fading over into their own dimension. The last thing the gang saw of the Simpsons was Homer suddenly looking at Angel, frowning and yelling: "Hey, wait a minute! You guys promised you'd fix my TV!"
When they were gone, Angel drew a deep sigh of relief. "Right, guys. I guess we're back in business. Let's start cleaning this place up... oh, and someone get me some donuts. I've got this strange craving."
Over the next few weeks, the situation returned to normal in the Wolfram & Hart building. The senior partners still weren't happy with Angel's performance, but considering the alternatives, they'd decided to give him another chance. Spike was moody as hell, both over his continued ghostiness and for something else he wouldn't discuss, but he got to take it all out on Angel; after hanging out with Homer Simpson for 48 hours, Angel found Spike's incessant needling rather refreshing. And since Otto had been left behind in the rush he now had his own personal chauffeur, which didn't hurt either.
Burns' brief reign had had one positive outcome, though, as Wesley explained to Angel.
"His customer care programme left something to be desired, to say the least. As far as I can tell, he had many of the city's most important demon rulers either wiped out or tied up in litigation for the next ten years or so."
"Well, we're the ones they're suing, so I really don't see how that's a good thing, Wes."
"Let me finish. My sources indicate that he may have done us a huge favour. Some of these demons were involved with something called the Circle of the Black Thorn, and apparently, they were planning something very big. Possibly the apocalypse."
"So when Burns wiped them out..."
"...he probably didn't avert the apocalypse for all time, but at least he delayed it."
Gunn snorted, not quite believing it. "Yeah, well, far as I know all the crap in the universe usually balances out. If he stopped an apocalypse here, there's probably another one somewhere e-"
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Everyone looked up at the person who had suddenly walked into the room; an overweight man in his early 40s, dressed in what was most likely the only suit he owned. "Uh, excuse me? Which one of you guys is Angel?"
Angel tentatively raised his hand.
"Ah, phew. I was afraid I was in the wrong office again. Man, those guys in the black magic department really didn't like being interrupted. Good thing I told them I work for you, huh?" The man walked in and shook Angel's hand. "Really pleased to meet you. I'm Peter Griffin, your new liaison to the senior partners. Wow, can I get an office like this one too?"
In another dimension, the Wolf, Ram and Hart snickered evilly. They might not be able to get rid of him, but they'd be blessed if they were going to make it easy for him.
It was a team effort, really. With Burns gone and Smithers still convalescing in the hospital, the employees of the Springfield powerplant took matters into their own hands and put the plant back in working condition. After two weeks of surprisingly hard work – the plant had been pretty much ready to fall apart even before Burns shut it down – it was ready to be reopened. The whole town turned out for the ceremony, and to thank the man who had saved the town from monsters by allowing him to push the button that would boot up the nuclear reactor.
After all, he had been the safety inspector at the plant for years, what could possibly go wrong?
Homer waved to the cheering crowd. "Thank you! Thank you! I hereby declare the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant reopened!" He turned towards the small panel that had been installed on the podium, more for show than anything else, and took a deep breath. "OK, Homer, you can do this. Remember your training." He hit the button and was immediately greeted by a friendly-sounding recorded message, blasting its message out for all of Springfield to hear.
"Warning. Core meltdown imminent. You have... ten... minutes to vacate state. Have a nice day!"
The crowd grew silent and glared at Homer, who really only had one thing to say.