CHAPTER FIFTEEN: FOUR YEARS AGO
Giles saw Michael run out of the room after Angel, but knew he wasn’t fast enough to catch up to the techno-slayer before he reached the hallway—he just had to hope that Angel had managed to escape and hide somewhere. Giles quickly stuffed his pockets with stakes and a cross, just in case more vampires happened to show up, and rushed towards the riddled door. As long as this Michael thinks I’m on his side, Angel and I have an advantage, he thought.
Just as he reached the double doors and pushed them open, everything went dark. The power is out an accident or? A generator somewhere distant kicked in, and the hallway was lit by the eerie glow of “Exit” signs and emergency lights. He heard muddled voices and a door slam somewhere in the distance. He thought about running for the exit, but decided against it. If Angel is still alive, he might need me.
Giles walked slowly along a hallway in the direction of the gymnasium. He cautiously stepped across an open area where two hallways intersected, when suddenly his face was illuminated by flashlights.
“There he is!” he heard a voice shout, and then the rumble of automatic weapons. Wooden projectiles began bouncing off the floor and walls all around him—it looked like the rifles lost much of their accuracy and power when fired at anything more than twenty or thirty feet away. Giles caught just a glimpse of his attackers and sprinted down the corridor—they were dressed exactly like Michael. He panicked and choose hallways at random.
Again, the darkness and silence pooled around him. Have I lost them—or are they still after me? And why are they firing at me anyway? Maybe they thought I was Angel. He realized that he must be near the cafeteria as he edged along carefully, his back to a row of lockers. He heard another door slam in the distance, and then a slow creaking noise quite nearby. One of the lockers! Giles realized, just before a hand covered his mouth from behind.
Giles, although a Watcher and not a Slayer, was still trained to defend himself. He thrust his elbow straight back, catching his attacker in the stomach, doubling him over. Giles turned and was about to bring his fists down on his assailant’s head when he realized who it was.
“Angel!” he whispered, perhaps too loudly. “Oh dear. I’m dreadfully sorry. I thought you were—“
“Never mind,” Angel croaked, still holding his stomach. “We can’t talk here. Follow me.” Angel limped along as he led Giles to a small closet he had found earlier in one of the classrooms, screened from the hallway by a bookshelf. It was dusty inside, obviously unused for quite some time.
“He’s still out there?” Angel whispered.
“Not just him—I think he’s part of a group. They’re all after you Angel, each equipped with those weapons.” Why doesn’t the Council equip a Slayer with such equipment? Giles wondered idly to himself. “But I think if we reach the cafeteria, which should be just around the corner, we can use the doors there to escape.”
“No,” Angel said. “I don’t think we can run. They’ll keep hounding me until they’ve caught me, and who knows how many people will be hurt along the way. I don’t know why they’re after me, and I don’t want to kill them, but I will if I have to.”
“The one in the library told me his name is Michael Tintsman. He thinks you killed his family several
“That’s absurd,” Angel said. “Listen.”
They heard a door slam, and then a few moments later another door slammed. The slamming was moving closer to them.
“He’s going from room to room, checking each one. He’s headed our way,” Angel said grimly. His neck was still sore from where the vampire had bitten him earlier, and his leg ached from where the dart had embedded itself in his calf. His body would heal these wounds faster than a human’s could, but they still hurt.
“We have to think of something. He and the others won’t stop until you’re dead,” Giles whispered. “But maybe . . . do you know where the science lab is?” he said, his face lit with inspiration.
* * *
Angel opened the door to the high school’s basement as quietly as he could. He remembered that it wasn’t that many months ago he had rescued Giles, Xander, and Willow from the boiler room when it was filling with toxic gases. He felt sorry for the kids attending Sunnydale High. Centered right on top of the Hellmouth itself, it seemed that pretty much anything that could go wrong did go wrong, and Sunnydale High students usually suffered the brunt of it.
Tonight, of course, he was entering the basement for a rather different purpose. Giles had told him that there were two main doors to the basement, one on the west side of the school and one on the east side. By entering the basement through the west door, and coming out the east door, he could traverse almost the entire length of the high school without setting foot on the floor above, and thus, presumably, avoid the vampire-hunters that were after him.
The plan seemed to be working out well. Angel crossed almost half of the basement without hearing the slightest thing. Even in the complete darkness, his eyes allowed him to make out shapes nearby, and so far he was the only thing moving.
As he drew closer to the far side, he could see the other door sitting at the top of a set of stairs. A very faint light shone through cracks in the door-frame. He reached the bottom stair just when the east door started to open. He rolled out of the way, and pressed his back against the side of the stairs. Looking up, he could see that two of the vampire-hunters were coming down the stairs, both armed like Giles had said. Something about one of them seemed familiar however. He certainly wasn’t Michael, but . . . then something clicked, and Angel realized it was one of the vampires he had fought just a few hours ago at the warehouse district.
Vampires teamed up with humans to hunt other vampires? It sounded strange to his ears, but then he realized that was exactly what he and Buffy did together on occasion. Still, he knew that these vampires were soulless creatures bent on murdering him. He wondered how it all fit together as bootsteps echoed through the small basement and the pair of hunters descended to the basement floor.
Angel considered trying to sneak up the stairs and out the door, but if they heard him, he would be cut down with nothing to shield him. Instead, he followed softly behind the pair as they advanced across the room in the direction of the west door, the one he had come in through.
He waited until one of the vampires stood directly in front of the other. Carefully edging himself to a position just a few feet from the rear vampire, he leapt on top of him, his left arm wrapping around the vampire’s neck while his right hand reached for the vampire’s hand holding the rifle. Angel squeezed the vampire’s neck and hand simultaneously, causing the vampire to jerk around and fire his rifle in a wide arc all across the room.
The other vampire, although lucky enough to avoid being shot in the heart by his companion’s rifle, was burned horribly when the impact from one of the projectiles shattered the small container holding his tank of holy water. He began writhed on the floor in agony, oblivious to what was happening around him.
Angel held on for dear life as the vampire bucked like a bronco, spinning around wildly in every direction trying to shake him off. He’s incredibly strong—stronger than I am! Angel realized. There weren’t many vampires that had been alive as long as he had been, or could match his strength. What Angel didn’t know was that the exoskeleton the vampire wore increased his already-formidable strength to even greater levels.
The rifle clattered to the floor when the vampire let go of it and reached up with both hands to grasp Angel’s shoulders. With a herculean tug, he flipped Angel over his back and sent him flying into the air, only to crash into and through the east door, which shattered like a pane of glass from the force of the impact. The vampire picked up his dropped weapon and advanced up the stairs, ignoring the moans of his companion. He reached the doorway and thrust the rifle out quickly to the left and then back to the right, but it was no use— Angel was gone.
* * *
Agony jolted through Angel’s bones with every step he took. He looked like a hunchback in the corridor, bent over and using the walls for support. He had heard something “pop” in his back when the vampire had thrown him through the door--combined with the wounds he had already suffered, he knew he couldn’t take much more punishment like that. I’m close to the lab though, he thought, just a little further. I have to get the timing just perfect though.
The door to the science lab was at the end of the hall, and Angel reached it just as Michael Tintsman emerged from another doorway nearby. Angel hesitated just a moment to make sure he had been seen, and then plunged through the doorway and into the lab. This better work, he thought.
Michael yanked the door open. He raised the rifle just as he saw Angel leap at Giles. Angel’s claws and fangs were out, his face contorted into the visage only vampires wore. Giles screamed out in fright and backpedaled behind a desk as Angel rushed towards him, saliva dripping from his fangs. Michael wanted to take a shot, but he couldn’t risk hitting the librarian—the wooden bullets would kill a human just as easy as they would a vampire. Even worse, he only had a few shots left and his supply of holy water was already exhausted. If the vampire caught him weaponless . . .
Giles screamed again as Angel grabbed him roughly by the shoulders and sunk his fangs into his neck. The librarian’s hands scrabbled for any weapon he could find on the desk, knocking beakers and containers off it in his panic. Finally his hands found a wooden ruler some student had left there. Giles adroitly snapped the end off on the edge of the desk and plunged it into Angel’s chest.
From the angle, it was difficult for Michael to see exactly what happened, but he knew the result when Angel gave out a bloodcurdling scream and then fell behind the desk as a thick burst of ash and dust flew up, covering Giles and the desk top.
Michael ran over and joined Giles behind the desk. The floor left a faint ash outline of a human figure. Giles was holding a hand to his neck as blood trickled through his fingers.
“You . . . you killed him!” Michael said shocked that a librarian could destroy the creature he had been hunting for months and which had escaped him twice.
“Yes. I ah, guess I did. What a vicious creature that Angel was. It was close, wasn’t it?” Giles said, his eyelids fluttering slightly from the loss of blood. “I suppose we should be leaving then, now that it’s finally all over. And I guess you can tell your ah, friends, that Angel is finally dead,” Giles said helpfully, as he and Michael walked towards the door.
“Friends?” Michael said when they emerged into the hallway.
Giles dropped to the ground instinctively and pulled Michael down with them, as more projectiles flew right over their heads. Giles had seen a band of the vampire-hunters out of the corner of his eyes coming from the left. He glanced quickly to the right, intending to run in that direction, before realizing it was blocked as well— several of Spike’s bunch of vampires were rushing towards them.
They were trapped between two armies. And Angel’s not around to help us anymore, Giles realized.