- Like Mice in a Cornfield – Chapter I of 5 by Denny
- Like Mice in a Cornfield by Denny – Chapter 2
- Like Mice in a Cornfield by Denny – Chapter 3
- Like Mice in a Cornfield by Denny – Chapter 4
“Like Mice in a Cornfield” by Denny
A stake twisted in his chest. Sparks flew from his nostrils, his eyes and his soul, severing his heart from his mind, his love from his dreams. He shot upright in the bed and didn’t know where he was.
Spike walked into the Culver City Police Station a little after seven o’clock in the evening and headed straight for his desk. A stack of crime film lay piled on top of it and he rifled through them. Of course, he couldn’t keep his eyes from checking out the front entrance. He was waiting for her to walk in, needing her to walk in.
“Spike!” He shot to his feet. Rupert? No, it wasn’t Giles. It was Captain Thomas.
“Get in here!” The voice shouted.
Spike walked past a group of officers on his way to the Captain’s office. He didn’t need to knock before entering. “Did you hear we got a lead on a demon selling fresh water?”
“Yeah, I heard that.” Captain Thomas didn’t raise his baldhead from the papers he was staring at on top of his desk. “I also heard about you refusing to work with a partner.”
He looked at Spike on that last word.
“Captain, she’s not the girl she seems to be.”
Captain Thomas stared up at him, deep creases in his brow. “Well, whatever you mean by that, it doesn’t matter. She’s your partner. Period.”
Spike walked out of the office and immediately collided with a small, perky blonde vampire with smiling hazel eyes.
“Sorry Lieutenant didn’t mean to bump into you like that,” she said smugly.
“I’m sure you had no other choice,” Spike responded flatly. “Follow me. We’ve got an assignment and we need to get on it.” He pushed by her and marched toward his cubicle. “We’re after a demon by the name of Horace Cross.” He said over her shoulder. “He’s a dealer, manufactures and sells fresh water on the black market.”
Spike could hear Vampire Buffy’s footsteps dragging behind him. “You know about demons right? They don’t mingle with humans or vampires. A group of them went into the water business a few decades back and got good at it.” He was not feeling Buffy’s presence and spun around. “Are you going to keep up or what?”
“Yes, Spike.” She jogged to his side.
He continued. “The demons were doing a good job cutting into the profits of some of the legitimate water manufacturers but Cross’s recipe started killing customers.”
Buffy stepped into his cube. “What did the Captain give you on Cross?”
“He has a man in Cross’s crew who got us a list of his customers,” he answered.
“You said they call him King, right? King Cross.” Buffy sat on the edge of his desk. “I know that name. Didn’t you two have a run-in?”
“You could say that.” He wasn’t going to give her any more information.
She seemed to get his drift, and didn’t press it. She just hopped off the desk. “That information the Captain gave you, we should get it on a jump drive and upload it into the supercomputer’s search engine.” She faced him. “It will tell us who’s next in line for a delivery within minutes.”
The streets were a blistering sea of mud, wind and broken rock, day or night. But when the dim light that constituted daylight vanished, the weather became truly nasty business. Spike steered his jeep carefully over the wet, broken streets before driving up onto a large slab of concrete behind the Planetarium.
“Let me do the talking here, Buffy.” Opening the jeep door, Spike eased from behind the steering wheel. “The officer on duty is not the type to suffer a newbie.” Standing next to the jeep, he pulled his collar up around her neck. It wasn’t raining. But the wind had picked up to practically gale force levels, and was turning debris into shrapnel.
Buffy slammed the door shut on the passenger side, a hand over her face, shielding her eyes. “And don’t worry about me. I can handle myself.”
Spike could only hope Buffy wouldn’t screw up in front of Officer Grant and piss her off. He didn’t want to spend any more time here than necessary.
They arrived at the main gate of the rear entrance, checking in with the security guard, a stubby little vampire clearly relishing the chance to wear a uniform. He studied their identification, inserting their ID chip into the decoder over and over, as if one or both had broken. Finally, he turned a knob on the monitor and Spike’s image came up on the screen.
“Okay, your appointment is confirmed. You can go in.” He stepped aside, pressed a button and the twelve-foot steel double doors parted, revealing the central rotunda of the Planetarium’s first floor lobby. They walked down a short corridor into the main hall.
“Get in line,” Officer Grant said over a loudspeaker.
Spike grabbed Buffy by the sleeve of her jacket. “Wait here.”
“There’s nobody here but us,” Buffy said, not too quietly.
“Just wait,” Spike repeated.
The ground level of the Planetarium was an enormous space. Had to be the size of a small sports arena from back in the day, Spike figured. Buffy was right though. It was empty. No other people, human or vampire, except for the two of them and Beatrice. A large square woman with steel-colored hair hanging limply to her shoulders, she sat in a swivel chair in a glass encased command center. Her attention diverted by the control panel, she appeared to be fingering it at vampire speed, as it stretched out in front of her.
Politely, Spike pretended to search the empty hall. “Officer Grant, we have an appointment,” he began. “We were scheduled to meet with you to run some data on a fresh water dealer.”
Beatrice tugged the sleeves of her crisp uniform shirt over thick forearms. “No talking until it’s your turn.”
Buffy jabbed Spike in the shoulder, and he turned. She gave him a what-the-fuck glare. Then she plastered a broad grin on her face and sauntered toward Beatrice’s island fortress.
Spike took hold of her jacket sleeve as she passed by and pulled her to his side. “Let’s grab a seat in the waiting area.” He smiled toward Beatrice. But Buffy eased her arm out of Spike’s grasp and kept moving forward.
“Ma’am,” she said to Beatrice. “The air cooling system’s regulator has stalled.”
“The large fan in the generator is spinning instead of looping.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Beatrice’s fangs cut her upper lip as she stared at Buffy. “Have you lost your mind? There’s nothing wrong here. My computer is operating perfectly, as usual.”
“If you’d be quiet and listen, you’d hear it.” Buffy raised her hand as if to shush her.
Spike groaned inwardly. Beatrice was going to beat the arrogance out of Buffy.
“I don’t hear shit,” Beatrice said.
“Close your mouth and listen,” Buffy responded.
That tore it. Spike took a step back, waiting for Beatrice to break through the glass barrier and rip a chunk of flesh out of Buffy’s neck.
Buffy raised her hand and pointed to the control panel. “This is the Gray Matter XL20 supercomputer created by Dr. Daniel Gray of Ohio for the old Department of Energy back in 2052.” She licked her lips. “It has a twin pack benchmark performance of 72,000 teraflops.”
Beatrice’s eyes widened. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“It makes a trillion calculations every nanosecond.” She raised a hand and cupped her right ear.
Beatrice narrowed her eyes, her attention on the massive keyboard. Spike strained, trying to differentiate between the creaking noises of an old building from the pings and murmurs of a supercomputer. Then his ears found a small gurgle-and he pushed away from the wall, walking up next to Buffy.
Beatrice’s expression had changed from annoyance to recognition. “You talking about that tiny clunking sound?” She spoke firmly, her eyes shifting from Buffy to the end of the hallway to the dashboard in front of her.
“It’s an easy fix, Beatrice.” Buffy had walked up to the enclosed chamber, her palms on the glass, a finger pointing. “That lever, there. Pull it all the way down.”
“Oh, I understand.” Beatrice’s hands moved busily over the keyboards. “That will shift the big iron to interface with that small cluster of parallel processors automatically eliminating the ramp up from quadratic equations within the mainframe structure.”
“Exactly, and the repositioning of those processors will react in such a way as to recoil instead of spin.”
Whatever they were talking about at least Beatrice looked happy, Spike thought. Taking Buffy’s lead, she pasted a smile on her face and joined the mutual admiration, as cheerfully as she could. Ten minutes later, she and Buffy were back in the jeep with the address of a man named Dr. Xander Harris.
All the way to the jeep, Spike didn’t react. He wasn’t going to let a name make him insane. He’d get to the bottom of it. Later. “Where’d you learn so much about computers?” Spike turned the key in the ignition.
“You should ask me why my hearing is better than yours.”
“No, I should ask you why the doctor’s name is Xander Harris!” Spike was shouting, but he couldn’t stop himself.
“So what?” Buffy glared at him. “It’s a guy, a vampire doctor guy, and he’s our lead.”
Spike paused. She had a point and the name “Xander” hadn’t made her flinch, not a bit. “Okay.” He pushed down on the gas pedal hard and the tires skidded over the concrete. He gripped the wheel and gained control before heading toward Beverly Hills.
to be continued…
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/276399.html