Part 4 - Plans are made
The Master's Lair, 1540 h PDTWell, if that place looked like a madman's treasure room, this one looks like a tomb,
Xena thought as she came to the top of the stairs. She turned to look at the cross guarding the entrance and shuddered in horror. Or a torture chamber,
she amended mentally, remembering all too well her close encounter with this particular method of execution.
Giles saw her expression and correctly (if incompletely) recognizing the reason for it, hastened to explain. "As bizarre as this must seem to you, that cross is recognized as a holy symbol by nearly a third of the people in the world today, and is successfully used to repel the forces of darkness. And before you ask, we do not worship death, but rather the triumph of faith over it. It reminds us of the teachings and the sacrifice made by a man who many believe to be the son of the one true God, and his resurrection on the third day after his execution on the cross."
"What of our gods?" asked Joxer, who was deeply disturbed by this news. "Does anyone still worship them?"
"Not publicly I'm afraid, although the stories of them and of your times are an integral part of our language and culture. Greece is traditionally considered the cradle of western civilization, and..." Noticing the glazed expression on the others faces, Giles quickly concluded, "Suffice it to say, while your world may be gone, it is definitely
not forgotten. As to your gods, if they are still around they are keeping a very low profile."
"With Callisto on the loose, you can bet that won't last long," Xena said grimly. "She's not the kind to fade discretely out of sight."
"I don't care what you say," Gabrielle said as she gazed around the chamber, "there is no way you are going to get me to believe that this is a holy place. It feels ... evil!"
"Good call," said a voice from the shadows. "This place is a desecrated temple, used for decades by the most evil of creatures as a headquarters for his schemes. The Master (as he called himself) enjoyed the irony of using a holy symbol to protect his treasures from his ambitious underlings, since only he was strong enough to even briefly resist its power."
The speaker stepped into the light, and Gabrielle gasped in surprise (and pleasure). Before her was the most handsome man she had ever seen. He must be one of the newer gods,
she thought, because he's much too good looking to be mortal.
There was something about him that reminded her very strongly of Xena, something she found extremely attractive. Seeing that their hosts apparently knew this fellow and weren't afraid of him, she impulsively stepped forward and said, "Hi, I'm Gabrielle. And you are?"
"Call me Angel," he replied with a smile, somewhat bemused at Gabrielle's boldness. Astutely noticing his beloved's less than enthusiastic reaction to his response, he added, "It's easy to see the origins of Buffy's beauty and courage."
"Nice save," murmured Xander, unwillingly impressed by the vampire's quick thinking. Apparently Buffy thought so too, for with a slight nod and a smile she quietly went to the task of closing the door to the treasure room.
"Not really," Willow commented wryly. "Buffy might have bought it, but I don't think Xena's too pleased."
This analysis was borne out by the warrior princess' rigid stance and grim expression (both of which were mirrored, if less obviously, by Joxer). Turning abruptly to Giles, she asked, "Now that the social amenities are out of the way, where do we go from here?"
Thinking quickly, Giles answered, "As you can see, fashions have changed substantially in the last three thousand years. If you went above as you are, you would attract all sorts of unwanted attention. Still, we can't stay here. It's only a matter of time before the Master's minions return here to attempt to salvage something
from last night's defeat."
"They can stay at my place," Angel offered. "It's not too far, I don't have any parents or nosy neighbors to worry about, and we don't have to go above ground to get there. It is
a bit small, but it would make a good base of operations, at least to start with."
"Excellent idea!" approved Giles, "I was about to suggest it myself. It's really the only practical solution."
Since no one disagreed they set out, and within half an hour arrived at Angel's basement apartment. The trip was uneventful, and Giles (in his role as host to the visitors) spent the time attempting to prepare them for their upcoming contact with the technology of the modern world. He tried very hard to keep the explanations as general and low tech as possible, concentrating on how things appeared and what they did. How successful he was remained problematical; while Gabrielle asked quite a few questions and seemed to understand most of the answers, both Xena and Joxer remained silent. Xena's only comment came after Giles explained electricity as tamed lightning; "No wonder Zeus retired!"
As Angel had predicted, it was indeed a bit crowded with eight people standing around, but after a little jostling for position everyone found a comfortable position to sit or stand. There was a brief moment of silence, as everyone waited for someone else to continue the discussion.
Surprisingly it was Joxer started the discussion. "What about clothes?" he asked. "We can't just sit around waiting for Callisto to come for us! Not that she wouldn't, but I'd rather that we
choose the ground for that battle."
Giles rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Either Angel or Xander might have something for you, and I think that some of Buffy's clothes will probably fit Gabrielle." Giles turned to Xena, and frowned slightly. "You, however, present a bit of a problem. The few ladies of my acquaintance are not quite so ..."
"Large?" supplied Gabrielle helpfully.
"I was going to use the term 'statuesque'," countered Giles, "but under the circumstances it seemed slightly less than diplomatic."
As the meanings in the statement filtered through the translation spell, Xena started, then with a raised eyebrow and a small smile replied, "As your friend said earlier, good call." A bit more seriously she continued. "If it's a matter of finances, I did not come unprepared. I do hope that gold and silver still have some
value." She unhooked a leather pouch from her belt, and poured out a small handful of coins.
With a slight hesitation Giles carefully picked one of the coins from Xena's hand, and examined it as best he could in the dim light. "I've seen drawings and photographs of coins like this," he said with a tremble in his voice, "but I never dreamed I would ever see one in person, much less hold one. Outside of this room, there can't be more than a dozen like it left in the whole world." Reverently he gave it back to Xena.
"That means it's worth a lot of money, right?" Xander asked.
"A similar coin was sold in London five years ago for more than two million American dollars. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), because of their excellent condition nobody would ever believe these coins were anything except modern replicas, worth only a few hundred dollars for their metal content alone." Seeing the other's disappointment, he quickly added, "This actually works for
us. The proceeds should be more than enough for our purposes, and we won't draw nearly the attention we would trying to dispose of a world class antiquity."
Buffy spoke up. "Sounds like a trip to the mall is in order. My mom set aside some of her out-of-style clothes to be donated to charity. I'm sure I saw an oversize sweatshirt and jogging pants which Xena can wear while we're shopping."
"I take it," said Xena, "this mall is some sort of public market?"
Buffy nodded. "An indoor market, with dozens of self-contained shops under one roof. Including, I believe," she said looking pointedly at Giles, "a jeweler who buys precious metals."
"Good," Xena said, ignoring the incredulous looks of the others, "A market is always the best place to get a feel for what's going on in a new town." Plus I'll find out just how much freedom your friends are willing to give us,
she thought. While she was fairly certain she had aligned herself with the right side, there was something odd about this Angel person that she didn't entirely trust.
"I hope you're not planning to leave me behind," said Gabrielle, "because I tell you right now it's not going to happen."
"Double for me," added Joxer, "After all, we're a team, right? Why should you have all the fun?"
About to object, Giles suddenly realized that it might be a good thing to have his guests' first exposure to the modern world in a controlled environment like a mall. "I'll agree on two conditions. First, each of you will be accompanied by your respective descendant at all times, who will act as your guide and advisor. Believe me, based on my brief experiences with this American institution, you will need all the help you can get." It seemed like as reasonable precaution to Xena, so she nodded, and the others followed suit. "And second, you must leave your largest weapons here. I'm afraid that not only would swords and a fighting staff draw unwanted attention, they are also quite illegal to carry in public."
"Small weapons are permitted then?" Xena asked, reluctantly drawing her sword and laying it on the coffee table.
"Actually, no," admitted Buffy, "but if you're discrete about hiding them, there shouldn't be a problem. I know I've never had any. Just try to look harmless."
"No problem, I can do that." Noticing the skeptical looks directed her way, Xena blurted, "What?!? You don't believe me?"