The guard immediately straightened to his full height as the muscles in his neck and shoulders tensed in response to the unexpected voice that issued behind him. He froze as his mind processed the introduction of a new player in the scene.
Dawn looked up at his shocked face as her own face reflected her own panic. She had planned to obtain the keys from the guard and be on the hunt for Spike within the hour. Now, it was all in danger and beyond that, the question of her fate in the kitchen was also now hanging in the balance. Her mind flooded the dire possible outcomes that her discovery in the yard at this time of night would bring. Her eyes pleaded with the rather homely young man standing in front of her in the mere seconds after they had been caught in the yard. To her surprise, the guard in a sudden show of chivalry, swept her behind him as he spun to address the source of the voice.
Dr. Ebens stood there with his hand on the door as he frowned with displeasure at finding the yard occupied at this time. His fingers tightening on the doorknob till the nails turned white as the pressure displaced the blood. The doctor had been trying maintain a polished exterior over his flustered reserve as he oversaw the tour for the unexpected yet extremely important visitors while they waited for the director to become available. This discovery of inappropriate conduct of the staff at this time and this place sent his control into near upheaval. Would the indignities never cease? A snarl pulled at his upper lip as he fought to keep his appearance as a dignified professional.
Turning back to address the parties on the other side of the door, he smoothly announced before firmly shutting the door.
"Would you excuse me for a few moments, please? There is a matter that I must deal with directly." He coolly stated with a subservient smile.
At the sound of the door settling into the frame, Dr Ebens whirled about and marched forward toward the open-mouthed guard who was standing in the moonlit yard, rather awkwardly. Bunching his hands into fists, the doctor's voice struck like a snake as he glared at the object of his ire.
"What exactly are you doing here at this time of night?" the doctor seethed through his teeth.
"I…I was…" The guard stammered as he felt Dawn's body huddling behind him.
"You're not alone." The doctor arched his neck to view beyond the guard's body. "Who is with you?"
Dawn pressed herself closer the guard, knowing if she should be found out, all her planning would become fruitless. She bunched her hands together at the base of the young man's back as she held her breath. In response, the guard began to back away from his agitated superior.
"No. I am out here by myself." The guard answered, not quite convincingly.
"There is no conceivable way that my eyes are deceiving me. I believe you are concealing a young woman behind you. You will both be immediately dismissed from employment for such coarse behavior. We have a standard for decent behavior that you two are sorely lacking. You might as well bring her forward and let her accept her punishment." The doctor's voice carried a note of self-righteous hysteria. "There is no room at this institute for loose women. I will see her placed on the sidewalk with the rest of her ilk this very evening."
The guard had been consistently backing away from the doctor as he shook his head in denial to the doctor's vitriolic diatribe. As a matter of course, Dawn found herself almost at the large heavy door to the kitchen. Realizing that the young man had purposefully walked her back to the door, her thoughts lightened toward the homely guard. With an insistent blind push from his hand, Dawn spun and opened the door to the kitchen, instantly disappearing within.
Once the door was firmly shut, Dawn ducked into the scullery to hide. She crouched down, pressing her back against a small cupboard as she waited for the door to be flung open and the kitchen roused. She could just imagine the unrestrained furor of the doctor in the kitchen in the middle of the night rivaling that of the Salem witch trials. Dawn paused as she congratulated herself on the historical reference. Maybe, she had picked up more in her history classes, than she thought. Shaking her head and bringing her attention back to the matter at hand, Dawn waited and waited for her fate to be sealed in the next moment.
As the seconds began to multiply, Dawn began to comprehend that the guard had somehow managed a way to allow her to evade the outraged doctor and his threats of moral backlash. She was safe. She sighed in relief as she relaxed back against the distressed and peeling wood of the cabinet. For a fleeting moment, a concerned thought flew through her mind about the guard and his welfare. She felt bad that he would be unemployed as of this evening while sparing her the same injustice. Looking about, she hoped that he would find a better situation somewhere else in this hell dimension.
In the dim light of the kitchen scullery, Dawn looked down at her hands that were still bunched in her lap. One in particular drew her attention. She brought it even to her heart as she opened her hand to see her hard won prize: a battered and pitted iron key.
It was hard for the director's underlings to tell if he was pleased since he had not acknowledged the patient as he continued to stare into the darkness. The room was alight with nervousness as the lesser ranked doctors retreated back toward their original places to allow the attendants to pull an unresponsive Spike none too gently from the basket, and forcefully drag him toward their location for inspection. Totally senseless, Spike hung boneless with his head dangling by two attendants, each grasping an arm as they kept his upper body off the floor. They had only traveled a few yards when a quick hand gesture from one of the doctors caused a bucket of cold water to be dashed over Spike's head. The freezing water caused no reaction from Spike. His body remained motionless as the water created small icy rivulets down his body to pool on the stone floor beneath him. The director watched the scene with the cool nonchalance of a spectator at an opera as Spike was brought forward.
The small sea of doctors parted to allow the director to approach the patient. Taking grand stately steps, while tapping a finger against his lips as he considered the almost prone figure in front of him, the attention of the other doctors and attendants was centered on the director. The air was heavy and silent with only the noise of breathing from the anxious staff punctuated the air as the men waited for the pronouncement to be made on this subject.
Finally, the director bent over slightly as he grasped Spike's chin and lifted his face to peer at his condition. With a small sneer of disgust, the director dropped the vampire's chin. He quickly took a step back and motioned for another bucket of cold water be thrown at the vampire. Again, cold was hurled at the vampire, yet no different result occurred. Spike continued to hang his head as he stare ahead with unseeing eyes as the water once again dripped from his body. Dissatisfied with the state of his patient, the director's disappointment was evident to his staff. The original plan to include a second session tonight. It was apparent that once again, Mr. Pratt was not living up to expectations. In reaction, one of the doctor turned to whisper strict instructions to one of the orderlies. The attendant then nodded toward the two men holding Spike and they began to pull him away.
As the attendants approached the doorway with the vampire, another guard appeared and walked directly over to the group of doctors. He leaned forward to whisper something to one of the doctor who was on the fringe of the group. The sycophantic doctor paused in his vigorous attendance as the information soaked into his brain, then a look of interest crossed his face as he looked from the guard to the director.
Without warning, the large wooden door of Buffy's cell was crashed against the wall as it was flung open. Buffy stood stunned as she had still been worrying the splinter out of her finger under the sputtering light. She had been so involved in attempting to remove the splinter in the poor light, that she had not noticed the sounds of activity on the other side of the door. A silhouette of a large formidable looking man filled the doorway as Buffy stood frozen on the far side of the cell. Before she could even comprehend what had happened, the menacing figure pointed at her and looked briefly over his shoulder to his similar sized companion. Within an instant, they marched over to her and each grabbing an arm by the bicep, pulled her forward.
As the men began to brutally remove Buffy from the cell, her shock wore off and she began to wrestle with the men.
"Hey! Hey! What are you doing? " Buffy threatened as she tried to wrest her arms from the larger men's grasp. "Let me go! If you don't want any trouble, you better listen to me, you stupid heads!"
As much as she tried, she found that she could not even slow the men's progress in moving her out of the cell and down the wing. 'What was going on?' She asked herself. She was the Slayer. She should be able to handle a few minimum wage earning dorks. There should be no way that they should be able to treat her like this; but there seemed to be little she could do about it. This could go so wrong, she thought, maybe it already has…
Dr. Ebens opened the door from the pump yard and smoothly returned to the pair of visitors he had been leading on a tour. From the looks of him, one would never attest that sheer moments before he had been terminating the employment of one of his staff with a caustic glee. He could not believe that the young man had actually prevented him from detaining the vile little tart in the yard. The doctor realized that he would not be able to determine which girl had been the one from the multitude of grubby women in the institute's kitchen. Tomorrow, he planned to definitely meet with the Head Cook to inform her of her staff's elective night time activities.
With an ingratiating apology for the delay and a practiced smile, Dr. Ebens returned back to Giles and Tara as they stood waiting on the other side of the door.
"Now, shall we continue?" Dr. Ebens elegantly suggested as he gave a small bow and held up an arm to guide the visitors down another hallway away from the yard.
The small group traveled down a hallway that had eerily quiet quality to a normal human. The only steady sound was the occasional sputtering gas lamps that lit the hallway. Every now and again, a faint echo of human pain would bounce down the halls that only Tara could discern. The young witch glanced nervously over at Giles's back as she walked a step behind him. She tried to keep her breathing even, but the combination of the nervousness and the extremely tight corset was taxing her not only physically but mentally as well. She concentrated on keeping up with the two men, but worried that she may experience another fainting spell if they did not slow their pace soon.
Giles, on the other hand, was adapting splendidly to the situation. Dr. Ebens reminded him of some particularly odious boys he knew in school. He was well aware that their tour guide was anxious and thereby even more dangerous. He knew he had to keep in control and show no surprise or interest, if he was going to keep this doctor in hand.
The group arrived at the end of the hallway that was in a newer part of the Institute. The impressive interior bespoke of elegance as the floors shone like mirrors under their feet. The doctor turned to address Giles and Tara as they approached a large grid of metal that was serving as a gate across a large arch.
"Just beyond this gate is the Institute's scientific wing. We are testing new methods of treatment and pushing the boundaries of the mind just inside this gateway." Dr. Ebens stated proudly.
At that moment, a familiar sounding voice carried forward through the heavy gate.
"…you stupid heads!"
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