Author: Kirk Baldridge
She was taken back to the Facility, where she expected to have a long and probably loud sit-down with Director Giles, after which she would be escorted off the premises and told never to return. Instead she learned that Giles had left for England and that until further notice Wesley would be in charge of the Facility. Somehow she was no less nervous as she sat in the waiting room of his office.
X came in. "Hey, B. Nice outfit."
Buffy glanced down at herself. She'd forgotten she was still wearing the costume. "Thanks. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but it was better than a hospital gown."
X nodded. "Tell you what. When you're done with Wes come by and see me. I'll make you a real one. I'll design it to your exact specifications, so don't worry."
"I will. Assuming I still have a job."
"Why wouldn't you?"
"Well, I broke out of the lockdown, assaulted Facility personnel... man, is the Doc okay?"
"She's a little miffed at you, but yeah."
Buffy sighed. "Malice and Hellion got away, because of me, and to top it all off, I let maybe the most powerful, potentially dangerous Super I have ever seen just go free."
"Yeah. Faith told me about her. Any idea where she comes from?"
Buffy nodded. "It's complicated. I'll explain it to you later."
"Cool." X's watch beeped. "Oh man. I forgot, I've got an experiment running. Gotta fly."
"See you." Buffy looked around. Not surprisingly the room had no decorations of any kind and flat colors. Very professional, or anal as her friend Ford would have called it. The longer she waited the more uneasy she became, and she found herself wondering if that wasn't exactly the point. She stood up, and was about to start pacing when the office door opened. She turned.
Wesley was adjusting his glasses. "Ah, Ms. Summers." He stepped aside and gestured. "Do come in." She did so and he closed the door behind her. "Have a seat if you would." He walked behind his desk but did not sit. "How do you feel? Any more problems with your powers?"
"Not so far. I think I just needed the rest."
"Look, Wesley, I know I..."
"Mr. Pryce, if you please. I think, under the circumstances, a little formality is in order."
Buffy nodded. "Sure. Mr. Pryce, I know you're probably mad."
"On the contrary. Your easy evacuation has demonstrated to me some of the Facility's key weak points. That, in addition to the rather disturbing information provided by Faith concerning the shape-shifter Hellion has led to an immediate overhaul of our entire security system. Mr. Giles left town so abruptly to personally see to the hiring of a new Chief of security." Wesley checked a clipboard. "A Mr...Riley Finn. He's supposed to be an expert, and I trust he will make the Facility ship-shape in no time." Now he did sit down. "On the other hand I am, I think you'll agree, understandably concerned over the lack pertinent information, in regard to the whereabouts of Willow and Tara. I find it totally unacceptable that our two most powerful operatives are missing in action Ms. Summers, and no one seems to be to tell me why!"
"I'm not sure you'd believe me if I did," said Buffy.
Wesley steepled his fingers in front of his face. "Try me."
"All right. They two of them were fused into a single being with powers beyond description."
"I see." Wesley sighed. "You're right. I don't believe you. However, since taking this position I have seen far too many bizarre things to simply dismiss your claims outright. Write up your report, and bring it to me first thing in the morning. Hopefully Willow and Tara will have returned by then."
Buffy nodded. "Yes... uhh, sir." She got up and left the office, breathing a sigh of relief outside.
Then, the alarms started, and a woman's voice came over the loudspeaker. "Unrecognized, airborne superhuman approaching Facility. Amazon, Firehawk, report to the roof!"
"Man," said the blonde. "Can't I ever catch a break?" She headed for the elevator. On the plus, she realized as she got in they had used her chosen name. It was official now. "I'm Firehawk."
"Hold the elevator!" Faith shoved her hand in and the doors reopened for the brunette. "Thanks, B." She had on a pair of really tight shorts, and an even tighter tube top. "Who do you think it is?"
"Looks like we're about to find out." The elevator doors opened.
A figure pulsing with energy was hovering there, a foot or so above the rooftop, arms crossed and red-streaked blonde hair whipping in the wind. She cocked her head and smiled.
"You?" Faith clenched her fists and spoke through her teeth. "Who are you, lady?"
Buffy saw that Ultra was now wearing a costume; red with yellow trim, and a star-burst design on the chest. She even had a cape fluttering around behind her. "Nice look."
"Thank you." Ultra came in for a landing. "I gathered from my memories that nudity was not appropriate in most public venues, so I crafted this outfit from one I saw in an advertisement on the... television, I believe it's called. I must admit though, I find it somewhat binding. Why must your clothing be so tight?"
"It distracts people," said Buffy. "That's sometimes useful in a fight."
Faith, tired of being ignored, stopped toward the taller Super. "Listen lady, I want answers!"
Ultra held up her hand. "Silence!" A faint glow passed over Faith, and the brunette found herself unable to move anything but her eyes. "Testy, this one. It is a good thing she is so effective."
"I think she's still worn out from being held captive for so long. That'd put anyone on edge."
"I know the feeling." Ultra gestured, and Faith was able to move again. "You should know, I have no desire to do battle with you, young lady. But if you insist, I will oblige."
"B? Who the hell is she?"
"That's, uhh, kinda complicated. Why don't you show her? That is what you came for?"
Ultra nodded. "Yes." Her glow intensified. "Until next time, my friends." It got so bright they almost had to turn away, but in the center of the swirling energy they saw two distinct figures taking shape. When the light faded the stranger was gone, and in her place stood Willow and Tara.
Faith blinked. "Whoa."
Upon learning that Willow and Tara were back, Wesley insisted they immediately come to his office and give a full report on their recent activities. Their response was to pronounce they would indeed come to see him, in the morning, after they'd had a good night's sleep.
After what happened on the roof Buffy thought she was going to have to explain the Ultra situation to Faith, not that she really understood all of it herself, but the brunette took it all in-stride and said she'd seen stranger things in her time. She was too tired to care anyway.
Buffy understood. Her body hurt in places she'd never realized existed, and as she wandered into her own room she debated taking a shower before turning in. Somewhere between the front and bathroom doors her body sent a message to her mind calling for a cease-fire. The blonde woke up sprawled out on her floor, her clothes half-off, and a glance at the clock told her it was already past noon.
"Damn. I've never slept ten hours before." Now she did take a shower, and emerged from the bathroom to hear a beeping from the computer indicating she had a message. From X.
"Hey, Buff. Hope you're alive to hear this. I got something for you. Whenever you're ready, come down and see me so I can give it to you, okay?. Later."
The blonde smiled. "Huh." She had the feeling X was getting a crush on her. That was okay. He was awfully cute and she had certainly dated far less intelligent, interesting men in her time. If X really was interested in her she'd seriously consider reciprocating, especially since under these current circumstances it wasn't like she was going to have a lot of other opportunities to meet men.
Down in X's lab Buffy found that he was not alone. Faith was there, along with Willow and Tara. "Hey guys. Did you sleep all right?"
"Like a log," said Faith. "All the digging really took it out of me."
"I would think so. You were shifting around tons of stone and steel like it was Styrofoam."
Faith shrugged her shoulders and flexed her arms for good measure.
"What about you guys?" Buffy said to Willow and Tara. "Been to see Wesley yet?"
The redhead nodded. "Yeah. We explained, he shouted, we left. English muffin gets these delusions of grandeur every time Giles goes out of town."
"But he believes you, right? 'cause when I tried to tell him about Ultra, he practically laughed in my face. Come to think of it, does he laugh? Does he ever even crack a smile?"
"Once in a while," Tara replied. "When something comes in under budget." She put an arm around Willow. "He's actually kind of psyched. He wants to see Ultra in action soon, and he's also arranging some tests to find out how much our personal powers have increased."
"Have they? Are you any stronger?" Buffy asked. "You look the same."
Willow smiled, energy filling her eyes. "Looks can be deceiving."
"It's really incredible," said Tara. "Kind of hard to describe."
X clapped his hands to draw attention back to himself. "We're all very excited, and I'm sure everyone'll lined up next time you work out but I actually asked you three down here for a specific reason. I wanted you to be Buffy's witnesses..." A metal box on a chord lowered from the ceiling. "...to her coronation." All four women gave him an impressively similar, withering glare, and he sighed. "What? So only you Supers can be melodramatic? Give me a break. Buffy, if you'll step inside, your new costume awaits."
"You made one?" the blonde asked. "I never gave you any specs."
"I saw the outfit you were wearing and I made some guesses about what you were looking for. If there's any part if it you don't like let me know, and I'll change it."
Buffy nodded. "Okay." She opened the door of the box, which she realized was nearly the size of a small closet, and peered inside. "Whoa. This is cool." She went it and closed the door behind her.
"Hey X, since when are you a fashion designer?" Faith asked.
"I wanted to do something special for her," X replied, staring at the box.
Faith arched an eyebrow at Willow and Tara, who nodded and smiled. "Uh huh."
"What?" X got a feeling they were talking about him without saying anything again. He hated when they did that, but so far he'd never found a technological way around it.
"Nothing. You just give her whatever she needs."
A few minutes later Buffy emerged, like an insect from its chrysalis. As X had said her costume was similar to the one she had cobbled together on her own; a bodysuit that covered her from neck to toe, but with what seemed to be armor-like plates, albeit not metal, in certain key places like the shoulder and back. It was primarily orange with red trim, and the stylized image of a flaming bird with its wings spread woven into its chest. She wore boots and gloves, also red, and was carrying a thin piece of red material in her hands.
"What do you think?" X asked.
"It's incredible," said Buffy. "What's it made of? The material is so light. I wouldn't think anything so tight could be so comfortable either, but I can breathe and move. You made this yourself?"
X nodded. "Let's see. In order...my own personal creation, omni-cloth. It's the same reactive material as in Will and Tara's costumes. Amazon doesn't really wear one. But in your case it weren't burn either from your fire or an outside source and it's comfortable because it's actually porous. It lets your skin breathe and lets sweat out while keeping you dry even if it rains. Also, stains won't stick to it. Lastly no, I didn't make it personally. I couldn't sew to save my life. I did, however, design the machine that created the pattern and did the actual construction." X put a hand on her shoulder. "These are not just decorative, by the way. They can stand up to a great deal of stress, this material is stronger than kevlar in case you're curious."
Buffy embraced him, and his face turned bright red. Tara stifled a laugh. "This is great. Thank you!"
"No prob. Glad to help."
"I'm gonna have a workout," said Faith. "Anybody wanna come with?"
X shook his head. "Sorry. I get a hernia just looking at the bar you use to lift."
"Oh, you are such a man." Faith shook her head. "Will? Tara?"
"Sure," said the blonde. Willow nodded.
Faith turned. "What about you, blondie? You ever think about bulking up those little arms of yours?"
"Hey!" Buffy then looked at her arms, at Faith's, and back again. "Yeah, okay."
"All right. Let's jet."
X watched them go and shook his head. "Man, I love this job."