A Touch Of Earth - Chapter 1
It wasn't being thrown through the window per se that had given Spike the idea, but the memory of the shock and humiliation did nothing to quell the worm of thought when his plan began to occur to him over the next few days - days when he saw small snickers around the lips of the watcher when he looked at him, days when Harris did robot impressions, followed by a mime of something small and helpless flying through the air. All this humiliation was only compounded by genuine amazement that he had not known: he had not sensed anything else but a vibrant young woman, smelling of blood and sex, and feeling warm and soft. No, the real inspiration for the idea had come a few nights later when, once more, he'd tried to explain himself to Buffy. Once more, the new, odd-looking fucker hovered around her, his medicinal smell almost overpowering Spike's acute senses.
He'd accosted her as she'd gone to the bar for drinks. She'd glared and pulled away from his outstretched hand. 'What do you WANT? Can't you see I'm on a date here?'
'Slayer. This is not a date. He is a research project: an interesting specimen - nothing more. You can do so much better.'
'You, I suppose.' Her pause had been perfect. 'At least I can still tell when they're real, Spike. Now. Either leave me alone or leave town.'
She'd meant it. He could see it in her eyes. She wasn't playing 'I love you really, and if you keep on at me, I'll capitulate one day.' She wasn't going to come to his crypt with him that night. The disappointment of something he had lived in his head, more real than reality, threatened to unman him in front of her. He managed to save that for later when hot, bitter tears of self-hatred, confusion and rejection streamed down his face as he lay on his bed in the dark. It was only then that her words came back to him, masked as they had been by his focus on her look. 'At least I can still tell when they're real.'
So, humiliation, some not inconsiderable physical pain (he was still finding small shards of glass in his skin), awe at the flawless technology, and now her vaunting boast: all these elements came together as he lay in the dark, and began to form themselves into a plan. His tears stopped flowing; he was too busy thinking it all through. Could it possibly work? A small smile played around his lips. Then a deep frown creased his face followed by a pout, and then another smile.
The next evening, he found Warren - not hard, but then Spike rarely found anything hard when he was motivated enough.
Warren answered the door and backed off, alarmed when he recognised his visitor. 'You can't come in.'
As the words left his mouth, an older, feminine voice called out from further in the house, 'Who is it, Hon? Ask them in.'
Spike grinned, tested the invite and found it sound. He sauntered past Warren and made mock fangs at his pale expression. 'You know who and what I am, I see.'
Warren nodded, swallowing nervously. 'What do you want? I'm leaving town tonight.'
Spike wandered around, looking at things. He knew it was disconcerting the boy. He glanced up and said slyly, 'Being driven out, more like.'
He smiled to himself at the small flash of anger that suddenly warmed Warren's pale, anxious face and nodded. 'You're a clever boy, Warren. But the Bitch didn't appreciate it, did she? Lot of things our Slayer don't appreciate. Me though? I know real talent when I see….'
Warren did not appear to be falling for the flattery. Spike sighed, rolled his eyes and said coldly, 'I'm placing an order.'
Despite his better intentions, and glancing at his suitcase as if to confirm that he did have better ones, Warren raised an eyebrow. 'I'm not cheap. You've seen what I can do.'
Spike nodded. 'Do you count revenge as suitable payment? See, this ain't for me. It's for a mutual acquaintance of ours who thinks she's better than us. How did it feel, Warren, having her look at you as if you'd been shagging a sheep?'
Warren bit his lip, but then smiled unpleasantly. 'So… we give her a sheep of her own? What? Male-model type? College hottie? What does she go for?'
Spike laughed, pleased with Warren's quick understanding. He fished in his pocket and flicked over a small white card. He waited until Warren had had a chance to read the address, then said, 'Go look at the exterior; the… programming I'll fill you in on later.'
Warren didn't look up. 'You can call it a personality. It's closer to one than most people I know have.'
Spike grinned and patted him on the shoulder as he left. 'We'll get along just nicely. I'll be back Saturday with the… personality. Take a good long look, yeah?'
Warren nodded and continued to stare thoughtfully at the card.
Spike spent a surprisingly difficult few days. He'd planned to just describe the key features he wanted, but now he'd begun to think that the plan might actually come to fruition, he began to hesitate and change his mind, going over small details, discarding them, and selecting others that he had initially thought unimportant.
As the fruitless hours wore on, he became more and more confused as he lost sight of his original aim. He knew he was doing it, but the more he tried to get back on track - revenge on Buffy - the more he slid seductively off into other trains of thought. At last, with a huge exasperated sigh, he pulled out some paper and a pen, and tried to get methodical. He made a list with headings: First Encounter; Early Years; Later; Now. That was good. It was something. It was a start. First Encounter, he filled in quite easily. Early Years were even easier. Pleased at his progress, he went out for a drink. Drunk, he completed Later - which had been the heading he was dreading. Now, only Now remained, and that was still a bummer. He paced. He drank some more. He cursed and broke a few things. He went out again and killed a few other things, and that seemed to settle his stomach, because when he got back, he jotted down all his thoughts about Now, and then folded the paper and stuffed it in an envelope. He wrote "Warren" in big, bold letters on the front, but then thought this was a bit too girlie so took out the list and just stuffed it casually in his pocket.
Saturday, he was waiting in his crypt for the sun to set far too early - rather belying the casualness he hoped to achieve with the loosely folded note. Warren answered the door. 'Oh, you. I was kinda hoping you'd get another hobby.'
'Nah, this one's too much fun. So, did you get a good look?'
Warren nodded nervously. 'You didn't tell me it was a vampire.'
Spike looked surprised. 'That matter?'
'Well, no, not in some ways, I guess. Easier to not have to get the temperature so accurate, and I won't have to worry about the smell….'
'Hey! You sayin' we smell?'
'On the contrary. You are neutral… robotic?'
'Fuck you. So… good then?'
'But I can't do the….' Warren made a 'grr' motion with his hands and screwed up his face.
Spike pouted. 'Why not?'
Warren looked bemused. 'Do you have any conception of the technology behind just making the…?'
'Spare me the Spockisms, Nerd. Yes or no. Can you do it?'
Spike huffed. 'Well, there ya go then.' He nonchalantly handed over his precious list and wandered over to the fireplace to stare into imaginary flames. The silence was painful; it dug into him worse than the small shards of glass he'd had such trouble removing. At last, there was a small 'Uh huh.'
Spike whirled around. 'You said personality. That's what I've given you.'
'You've given me a very long list of… memories.'
'This….' Warren waved the piece of paper dismissively. 'This is just a list of your memories.'
'Look - Wanker - what the fuck is a personality?'
'Go on. Explain it to me. No, I'll explain it to you, shall I? It's what we are in other people's thoughts.'
'No, it isn't.' Warren wrinkled his brow, not sure why he was having this conversation with a vampire. 'It's how we are… intrinsically. Nothing to do with other people.'
'Crap. That's talking just like a kid, Geek. Can you do this?'
'Sure. I guess. But….' Warren glanced down at the paper once more. 'Some of this is just plain… weird.'
Spike actually flushed - he knew exactly which parts Warren was staring at so intently. 'It's all part of the master plan, see?'
'Well, I can see how it would piss the Slayer off, yeah.'
'Well, there ya go then. How long?'
'Jeez. A couple of months?'
'One week. I'll be back on Saturday.'
Spike grinned. 'Or I tell the two main protagonists what you were planning. You've seen them both now. Fancy that?'
Warren paled even more. 'I'll tell them it was all your idea.'
'Sure you will. But, Bunny, you're forgetting something really, really important….' Spike headed for the door. 'I actually get off on pain. Now. One week. If you're real, real good, they'll be something in it for you as well.'
He sauntered out and took himself to the Bronze for a celebratory drink. He hadn't felt this good in ages.
He went out of town for the week, thinking it better not to have another run-in with Buffy. Not only did he want to keep his hatred pure - seeing her in the flesh tended to mix resentment with other more complex emotions - he didn't want to remind her that he was supposed to be gone permanently. Let her fuck her little doctor for a few days - tenderise her a bit for what was coming. So, Spike visited some old hangouts and slept a lot, trying not to think about the creation gradually being constructed back in Sunnydale.
Saturday arrived. Spike went to the house. He was let in. Warren looked pleased with himself, but nervous at the same time. Spike nodded at him. Well? Warren raised his eyebrows and flicked them toward a deeply shadowed area of the room. Spike sniffed, bent to light a cigarette then looked. He coughed slightly on the smoke. 'Where's 'is bleedin' clothes?'
Warren looked at him. 'You're the damn client. You're supposed to provide them….' He trailed off, for he saw Spike wasn't listening to him. The vampire had crossed the room and was standing in front of the robot, staring at it as if mesmerised by the eyes of a giant King Cobra.
Spike actually sensed that he might be swaying slightly, so stopped and took another drag of his cigarette. It was perfect. It was perfect in all its glorious flesh - other than the section covered by the inadequate towel Warren had draped around its waist. He sensed the boy coming up behind him, but ignored the creator to marvel at the creation. He began again at the top, letting his eyes drift in awe from left to right.
'Don't get it wet.'
Spike jumped. 'What? What the bleedin' hell point is it, if it can't get wet?'
'The hair, Spike, the hair. That look took me three frigging hours. If it gets wet, it's your responsibility to do again.'
Spike chuckled and continued his slow appraisal of the robot. 'Why's it just standing here? Where's all the stuff I wanted?'
Spike didn't like ah's, and he particularly didn't like the tone of that one. He turned slowly. Warren backed off. 'Go on, I'm listening… consider this expression avid encouragement.'
'See, it was too much. Too much conflict. Have you seen that Star Trek episode where Kirk…?' Warren trailed off that tact when he saw Spike's expression. 'It's just a robot, Spike. It was all contradictory. It was too much for one personality….'
Spike waved his hand angrily. 'Crap, crap, crap. I told ya… it was all real. That's how 'e is.'
'I don't believe you. Anyway. That's immaterial. I couldn't do it. Well, not exactly as you wanted anyhow.' He turned and gathered up a small handful of plastic boxes and showed them to Spike. 'Chips.'
'Programming then. I split them up and did them like this. See… each trait, each personality you wanted, on a separate chip. You choose and insert.'
'Choose and insert.'
Warren didn't like the cool repetition and began to fidget, then suddenly snatched one chip off the pile and headed toward the robot. He lifted one arm, peeled off a flap of skin and inserted the small box.
The eyes opened.
Spike took a step back and swore. Warren smiled. 'Don't worry; this is just his move about chip. He won't speak but you can tell him what to do, where to go… it's the very basic level.'
Spike pouted. 'It'll move if I tell it to?'
'Jeez. Just tell him to sit down or something.'
Spike pouted again - that small movement of his lips covering the feeling that something profound was about to pass over them that might change his unlife forever. 'Sit down.'
'Look at him when you speak to him, or call him by name.'
Spike gritted his teeth and raised his eyes to green flecked ones. 'Sit down.'
It did, and Spike heaved a sigh of relief. 'Get some clothes for it.'
'Something of yours. It'll fit okay 'til I can get it sorted out.'
Warren looked doubtful. 'I've some sweats….'
Dressed, the robot looked less and more like the original. It was spooky, and Spike avoided looking at it at all.
More animated now that he sensed the vampire was satisfied and that he was about to go, Warren snatched up the other chips and thrust them at Spike. Spike, with his 'Don't push your luck, Nerd' look, took them and began to look them over. His brow creased as he read scribbled writing on each box. 'And just what the fuck is… "Jeez, weird or what?" supposed to mean?'
Warren paled and snatched back one of the chips. 'Okay, you've got the work in progress boxes. Shit. I meant to write out other….'
'Whoa, let 'em go. I'm fascinated.' Giving Warren a look, Spike continued to read the titles. '"Could drink with this guy." Uh huh. "Fucking vampires." "Don't even wanna go here, Sicko."' Spike flushed once more and hastily thrust the chips deep into his duster pocket. Warren had not missed the look.
'I didn't really know where to go with that one. Had to buy some magazines…. Not sure it's what you wanted…. Downloaded some movies off the Net… jeez, ya know? You said use my imagination. Couldn't… too….'
'Okay, I get the picture. Shut up, 'k? Slayer'll love it.'
Warren chuckled. 'She's gonna freak.'
'Good. Now. Show me again; where'd the insertion go?' Given the subject of their previous conversation, they both did well not to blush, and Spike only mumbled, 'Where do I put the bloody chips in?'
Warren showed him once more, and Spike nodded wisely, as if he understood anything about the technology he was leaving with. 'What if it don't want a new chip?'
Spike didn't want to expand on this thought too much, but added, 'It's not always going to be amenable.'
'Ah, no. He's got an off switch.'
Spike choked slightly once more, but couldn't help the grin that spread slowly over his face. He wished someone had said that a couple of hundred years ago. Warren dutifully showed him a small nub at the base of the robot's skull.
Warren looked astounded. 'You really don't watch Star Trek, do you?'
Spike didn't dignify this with a reply, but told the robot to stand up.
Warren suddenly grinned. 'So… you said something in it for me?'
Spike, ordering the robot out through the door, clicked his fingers and returned. He came right up to Warren. 'Silly me. Yeah, course. Your reward?' He smirked. 'You get to live long and prosper.'
He spun on his heel and left, still chuckling over the nerd's face. The robot was nowhere in sight.
Spike swore and began to look frantically around. He'd just said walk straight on, so where the fuck was the stupid fuck? A screech of tyres rather answered his question, and Spike rushed down the steps to the road to find the robot standing quite impervious to the tirade of abuse being thrown at it by a man in a pick-up truck.
When the man saw Spike, he swore at him too, reversed the truck and drove around them both, honking his horn. Spike grabbed the robot's arm. 'You stupid fuck! Just follow me, yeah?'
Mumbling to himself, feeling the small boxes in his pocket, and wondering what on the Hellmouth he'd gone and done, Spike took Angel back to his crypt.