“If you get separated from Illyria, don’t wander off,” Mr Angel instructed William. “Stay where you are. Wait for her to find you. Whatever you do don’t leave with anyone else.”
William pouted. “Please. I am a grown man. You treat me as if I were a child.”
“You’re out of your element. Okay, nine out of ten people you come across will be perfectly decent. The tenth will cut your throat for a dollar. And you just don’t have the knowledge and the experience to know which is which.”
“I am fully competent,” William insisted. “Is not Illyria also a stranger in this world? Surely her knowledge is not so much greater than mine.”
“True,” Mr Angel admitted, “but knives break on her skin and she’s strong enough to punch holes through a brick wall. I don’t have to worry about her, just about anybody dumb enough to try to take advantage of her. I worry about you, William.”
William had been standing up very straight but now he allowed his shoulders to slump. “I know, and I am grateful, but I must confess that I am at a loss to know why you are so concerned. You act as if we are friends. Truly, I would value your friendship, but I have done nothing to earn it. I am not Spike.”
“I know, but…” Mr Angel sighed. “Spike wasn’t my friend. Not really. We argued, we fought, we annoyed each other, we tried to kill each other – he even had me tortured once. I did things to him that were nearly as bad – hell, they were as bad. But when it came right down to it we stood together. We were family. Now he’s gone and you’re all that I have left of him. I owe it to him to take care of you.”
William hesitated, uncertain of how to reply. Illyria did not give him time to collect his thoughts.
“We waste time,” she said. “I shall go now. Come, or not. I care little.”
“You might as well go,” Mr Angel advised William. “I’ve arranged for some cleaners to come over this afternoon, so this place isn’t going to be a haven of tranquillity. And the convention will probably be about as good an introduction to the twenty-first century as you’re likely to get.”
Illyria’s forehead seemed to be set in a permanent frown. She stalked through the convention centre glaring at the demonstration stands. “This is inefficient,” she grumbled. “They display games that cannot be purchased. One must seek out human females with insufficient clothing in order to find games that are available. This makes no sense. I have seen Halo 2 and it is good. I want it now, not in November.”
William trailed along in her wake. He understood perhaps half of what was going on, at most, but he was enjoying himself nonetheless. His parents had told him about their visit to the Great Exhibition in 1851, and he supposed that their experiences must have been in some ways similar, but there were sights and costumes here the like of which they could never have imagined. Even at the displays of the savage Hottentots they would not have been confronted with so much exposed female skin.
He had already observed that the residents of Los Angeles wore clothing that would have been regarded as shockingly immodest in the London of his own time. Customs and mores had changed over a century and a quarter, and the people dressed in a manner suitable for the warm weather. The young women termed ‘Booth Babes’, however, wore costumes that went far beyond anything that he had seen thus far. Had they appeared at the Great Exhibition they would have inspired attacks of the vapours and bouts of apoplexy far and wide. Their very, ahem, belly buttons were exposed!
At first William struggled to avert his eyes, blushing at the sight, but it did not take him long to become accustomed to the display. Their faces were far less interesting than their bodies, being fixed in false smiles, and he realised that they were merely employed to charm young men into buying the ‘games’. From then on it became easy to ignore them, recognising that they were merely a part of the sellers’ presentation, like the patter of hucksters selling patent medicines.
Illyria was far more interesting. Her manner was brusque, and her moods seemed to alternate only between disdain and annoyance, and yet he found that he enjoyed her company. He wondered if it would be possible to make her smile. She was the focus of many other admiring eyes besides his. On several occasions, when William lagged far enough behind her that it was not apparent that they were together, young men approached her and attempted to engage her in conversation. She rebuffed most of them in no uncertain terms. Only on one occasion did a young man meet with a rather different reception.
William’s attention was caught by a remarkable display. On a large screen a battle from the ancient world was being re-enacted by figures drawn in remarkable detail. The battle of Asculum, William thought, as the Roman legions were organised into lines of hastati, principes, and triarii, and their opponents were pike phalanxes such as had made up the army of Pyrrhus. William had read of this battle in Plutarch’s ‘Lives’, and in the chronicles of Livy, and he smiled at this sign that the Classics were still studied even in this age. He stood still, marvelling at the wonders that he saw portrayed on the screen, and he did not notice that Illyria had continued on her way without waiting for him.
William’s mouth dropped open as awe overcame him. The figures marched and manoeuvred as if they were living men. Wonder of wonders! To control such forces must be the dream of any boy; tin soldiers upon the floor were as nothing to this. He was overcome with desire to experience the game at first hand. Could he prevail upon Illyria to purchase this ‘Rome: Total War’? No, he could make the purchase himself rather than being dependent upon her. He made his way to the front of the demonstration stall and then saw a poster bearing the dread words ‘Available September’. He could now understand Illyria’s frustration, although he did not adopt a similar scowl, and he turned away disappointed. At that point he realised that Illyria was no longer with him and he scanned the crowds for the exotic woman. She had not gone very far, much to his relief, and he spotted her almost at once.
She was not alone. A young man had approached and was walking parallel to Illyria, smiling at her, and trying to catch her attention. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, and handsome, and his apparel was as exotic as Illyria’s own. He was clad in a long leather coat, not dissimilar to the one that William still wore, but it had shining metal plates set into it at the shoulders. His hair was long and of a strange silvery hue. “Hey, I’m Sephiroth,” the young man introduced himself, when it became apparent that Illyria was not going to speak first. “I don’t recognise your costume. Wanna tell me about yourself?”
Illyria’s head rotated towards him. “You appear to be a superior physical specimen,” she declared. She halted in her tracks and the man followed suit. “It is possible that copulation with you might alleviate the feelings of loss that I am experiencing since the death of Wesley,” she went on. “Remove your clothing so that I might assess your suitability.”
“Huh?” The man called Sephiroth opened his eyes very wide. “What did you say?”
Illyria’s head oscillated from side to side like a snake preparing to strike. “Your hair is artificial,” she stated. “Are your other parts genuine?”
“I don’t get the reference,” the man said. “What game are you from?”
“I am Illyria, the God-King,” she announced. “You may worship me.”
Sephiroth’s brow furrowed. “Still don’t recognise it.”
“I tire of this,” Illyria said. “Depart from my presence, miserable human.” She turned her back on the man and strode away. A couple of bystanders in the area laughed and a flush of colour appeared on Sephiroth’s cheeks.
The man raised his arm and peered at a watch that he wore on a band about his wrist. “Hey, look at the time,” he said. “The ‘Devil May Cry 3’ presentation is due. I’d better rush.” He departed with as much dignity as he could muster.
William permitted himself a brief smile at the man’s discomfiture and then hastened after Illyria. He caught her up within moments and engaged in a brief conversation about ‘Rome: Total War’.
“It would have been of no use to you even had you been able to purchase it,” Illyria pointed out. “It is not an X-Box game.”
William’s brow furrowed. He had no idea what she meant. “An X-Box game?” he echoed.
“The machines are of various types,” Illyria explained. “Each type has its own games and cannot use games from another model. Some machines serve no purpose other than entertainment. Others can also carry out practical functions such as storing data and producing documents. The half-breed Harmony used such machines in her duties for Angel. There is such a machine at the Hyperion but it is not suitable for playing games.” She tilted her head to one side and her mouth became a tight line. “That is inefficient,” she decided. “I shall purchase a replacement that combines both functions. And I shall purchase ‘Call of Duty’.”
It was late in the afternoon, and William was beginning to feel somewhat footsore, when they were approached by a second young man wearing a long coat. This one was not a superior physical specimen; he was no taller than William, slim of build almost to the point of being frail, and he had lank hair that flopped over his forehead. He showed no interest in Illyria but made directly for William. A huge smile spread across his face. “Spike!” he exclaimed. “Spike! It’s you! You made it. I thought you were dead. I heard about what happened at Wolfram and Hart and I was so worried. You’re safe. I’m so glad! Hey, I have to tell Buffy.”
“I beg your pardon?” William said. “You have the advantage of me. Are we acquainted?”
“Uh, sorry,” the man said. “I thought you were somebody I know. You look really like him.” His eyes narrowed. “You even have the scar on the eyebrow. Spike? It is you. What are you playing at? You can’t fool me.”
Illyria glared at the man. “The shell knows you,” she said. “Betrayer. You pretended friendship with Angel and then turned against him. You deserted Spike when he was badly injured. Leave William alone.”
“I don’t know you,” the stranger told Illyria. “Hey, I never deserted Spike. I tried my best but I couldn’t fight a Slayer so I went for help. Spike’s my friend. Okay, I don’t care about Angel, but I wouldn’t let Spike down.” He returned his attention to William. “Spike? Have you lost your memory or something? It’s me. Andrew. Don’t you know me?”
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. ANGEL ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The ANGEL trademark is used without express permission from Fox. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.