PROLOGUE: JINGLE BELLS ...
Robin started speaking as soon as Giles picked up the phone. “I tracked it down, and I was right - it was headed for Cleveland. I need at least one slayer, and I need her here fast.”
“Um ... who is this?”
Exasperated, Robin rested his head against the storefront window, then jerked back - the frosted glass was so cold it made his skin hurt. But he couldn’t retreat to the car, where his cell phone had no signal. “It’s me, Robin Wood. I found our little egg laying demon hen, but it’s already gotten to a nesting place. I’ve got a plan, but I’ll need an ambulance and a crew.”
“Oh - yes, of course. Sorry, it’s been rather hectic here. You found it so soon?”
“It wasn’t easy. Willow and Kennedy are still on standby, right? If they leave right now -”
“I’m sorry, Robin, they ran into a problem in Connecticut. Willow was very vague, but I take it they crashed somehow, and Kennedy broke her leg.”
“She - is she all right? What happened?”
Robin heard a rustling sound, and realized Giles was cleaning his glasses. “She’s healing, and apparently not in any danger. But whenever I ask Willow for details, she starts giggling. It’s very disconcerting.”
Robin suspected he knew what activity had led to the injury, but he had a feeling Giles would rather not know. “Well, you’ll probably be glad to get a few of the other slayers out of HQ for awhile.”
"Unfortunately, the slayers who have been cleared for field work are all unavailable. There’s ... um ... a bit of a bug going around.”
“You’re kidding. Isn’t Faith there?”
“Actually, she’s the one who brought the bug in. Rona, Vi, Chao-Ahn, they’re all going to need at least a full day of recovery.”
Clapping a hand over his bald head, Robin looked toward the old brick building across the parking lot. “Unbelievable. Giles, this thing is going to start laying its eggs, and then those eggs are going to hatch before we can get ahold of one. That means not only will my mission fail, but a lot of people are going to die.”
“I know, I know. I’ll get the most experienced people available, and send them to you right away. Just try to keep a handle on things until nightfall.”
“Right.” There was nothing that could be done. The demon wouldn’t lay until after dark, according to Giles’ research, and the eggs wouldn’t hatch for another day or two after. That gave them time, but Robin shivered and tried to shake off the feeling that things were going seriously wrong already, and the dangerous work hadn’t yet begun.
“Robin,” Giles said after a moment, “remember how important this is. The eggs and their mother are dangerous, yes. But obtaining at least one egg whole is absolutely critical to our mission. The life of one of our own is at stake.”
“Yeah.” Robin rang off and, shivering, climbed back into the car. It was littered with fast food wrappers and scattered paperwork, and even with the heat turned on full, he felt chilled to the bone. He’d trained since childhood as a warrior, prepared to battle evil to avenge his mother’s death. Later he’d been leader of an entire high school, responsible for dozens of employees and hundreds of students. Granted, it was on a hellmouth ... but now he’d ended up in another city with a hellmouth, without a battle to fight, without a comfortable chair and central heating, just ... watching. Well. He was a watcher now, after all.
He glanced at his watch, knowing he had to remain alert and make a plan for when help arrived. “Nightfall.” It was 9 a.m.
Next: The Batmobile Has Lost a Wheel ...