Holy Robots, Batman!
"I'm sorry, but you really can't help this time either," Giles said patiently. This young man was quite persistent and nothing was getting him out of the way. This present mystical problem wasn't something that a normal person could deal with and he wasn't sure why the boy couldn't get that point. "Take the night off, Xander. Have fun, relax, rest. Go to a movie, you've been saying you wanted to," he offered, giving him an impatient look.
"Why can't I help?" he asked. "It's not like I don't contribute."
"Yes, but this time it's a magic event. You can't help with that," he said, starting to sound impatient to his own ears. "I'm sorry, you simply don't have the skills for this. Now, take the night off and go play or something. You're still a young child and shouldn't have to worry about such things." He turned the boy around and gave him a light push. "Go. Now."
"Fine." He left, looking dejected.
The Watcher felt miserable for doing it to the boy again but he had no choice. A normal person was of no use and would only end up being hurt in this case. A small voice in the back of his head reminded him of all the boy had done but he still didn't do magic. They needed magical people tonight. That's why Buffy and Willow were coming. The little voice reminded him that Buffy wasn't magical either, but he pushed that thought aside. She could guard them while they worked on the spell. He went back to his office to finish cataloging, making sure he knew what he was doing tonight.
Xander sat on his couch, watching cartoons. The all-night cartoon channel had been his savior against boredom in the past and it was again tonight. Wednesdays were boring. The theater was only open on the weekends and the Bronze was dead tonight too. He flipped around a bit, then came back to Batman Beyond, sighing in displeasure at the cranky Batman guy. Sure, he was old but that was well beyond the Batman he was used to. A commercial came on for a home education system and he grimaced, getting up to get a snack. When he came back, it was the end of an ad for one of those 'get your degree so you can earn more money' commercials you saw all the time. That was a bit more interesting. He was looking for something to do so he could make a decent wage when he graduated. He almost called them, but something made him pause. Gunsmithing wasn't the most popular job. He decided to get information on how to do the electronics stuff. He was good with that and if it came with the equipment he'd be set. The operator on the other side was cheerful and friendly, taking down his information for him. He hung up feeling like something small had been accomplished and sat down to watch this new Batman series. He didn't understand the kid. He'd be thrilled to be Batboy, or whatever they were calling him.
Xander got his packet a few days later and sat down to read it on his bed, reading over the course lists first. It was a pretty thorough bit he decided. Or at least it had a lot of classes that seemed to teach different stuff. The materials list was impressive and he noticed it was included in his tuition. That was nice of them. His tuition made him wince but they said that financial aid was available for those who qualified and since he qualified for school lunch he probably qualified for this too. He read over the letter and it seemed pretty straightforward. Did he like to invent and work on electronic cars and things? Yeah, he had toyed around with them in the past. Did he like to like to make lots of money? Well, yeah, who didn't. He could do that in this field. He decided to start the paperwork, fudging about his age a bit so there wouldn't be a problem with him being under eighteen. He hoped no one would check. It wasn't that far off. He wasn't carded in most of the places he went so he guessed he looked old enough. And if not, he could do this in a few months. For the box marked 'did you graduate high school' he checked the one 'within the last year'. A good enough lie and he doubted they'd be checking that. He put everything into the envelope and found a stamp, sending it out in the mail on his way to school. He saw the girls but they were snubbing at the moment, for some reason he wasn't sure of. They were being girls again and he wasn't one so he was excluded. It was days like these when he missed Jessie the most. He went to his locker to get things for his upcoming classes and then went to the lounge to get a soda.
When the bell rang, he went to class by himself, still watching for the girls. They were acting odd. They weren't acting like Buffy and Willow, they were acting like some odd Buffy and Willow robots. He wondered if he'd get to learn about robotics from the classes. He saw Buffy sneak a piece of candybar and suddenly understood. They were being *girls*, not just girls. Okay, he could understand the no-Xander thing this morning then. He didn't like dealing with them when they needed the little white pills at all. That reminded him, he probably should stock up on some candy by the time school ran out. It was always safer when they were in these sort of moods. Him having a candybar had kept him whole a few times when Buffy needed to spar to get some attention off herself for doing dumb things. She had quietly slunk off to nibble on the chocolate instead of trying to beat him or Giles up. He wondered if Giles had learned the secret to candy and chocolate yet. Surely they had taught that at the Watcher's school. The teacher called his name so he looked at her. "Yes, ma'am?"
"What is the answer to the problem I just put up." She pointed behind her. There were two problems. "Well?"
"The one on the left is three and the one on the right is negative three?" he guessed.
"Thank you. Now do the one I just put up."
He heard the snickers and looked at the other one on the board. "Um, five point 2? That doesn't come out evenly."
She looked at it, then at him. "Close. Anyone else?"
"Five point two five?" Willow said.
"Thank you. Next time work it out on paper first, Mr. Harris."
"Sorry, ma'am." He wasn't but it made her feel better. Not too bad for a guess. He glanced at Willow and noticed she had chocolate on her lips and grimaced. A double *girl* thing going on then. Wonderful! Not!
Xander got his first kit from the classes a few weeks later, which made him smile and made his parent curious. "Comic stuff," he told her. She let out a bitter snort and walked off. He took it up to his room, unpacking it to read over the lessons. This wasn't that hard. He could easily do this. He set out things, starting on his first project. This was graded on him applying each lesson in a project. As the class progressed, he'd have more and more complex projects. So by the end of this class he was going to be doing a small radio. He read the first few lessons and put in the resistors and capacitors in the right spots. He reread it before he soldered, he had to switch the resistors around. Then he soldered it and sent it back in the specially marked envelope. He knew his father took a peek at it as he walked past but he didn't care. His old man wouldn't bother him about it since it wasn't costing anything at the moment.
So the next day when he was pulled out of class by the cops it was a shock to him. "What's up?" he asked, looking from the principal, to the cops, then back. "I've been good all week."
"Sir, your parents reported bomb making components in your room," one of the cops said.
Xander burst out laughing, sitting down in a chair. "I'm taking one of those 'learn and earn more money' electronics classes, like you see off the tv," he said between laughs.
"If I may ask why, sir?" that same cop asked.
"Because this school doesn't prepare you to do anything," Xander said honestly, getting comfortable in one of the chairs. "I just started my first class. I sent in my first project today."
"We've got it at the station, sir."
"But it's got to go back to the school."
"Yes, that's why we came to talk to you, since there were no explosives in that package."
"I don't think they're going to teach me how to do that while they're teaching me how to repair tvs, radios, and computers, guys."
"Do you have information on your classes, Mr. Harris?" the other cop asked.
"Yeah, in my room. Drive me there and I'll show you."
"Why didn't your parents know?" the principal demanded.
"For the same reason you don't have a clue who I am," Xander said bitterly. "Can we go before I get tainted by the evil glare?"
"Sure," the cop agreed, letting him walk out on his own, no handcuffs yet. "How long have you had these classes?"
"This was my first one. I just got the packet yesterday and I sat down to work on my first project. You do it in projects then you mail the projects back to be graded. I've got a chatroom address for the teacher if I get stuck. It's not too bad. Better than Vocational school, which we don't have one of here. Hopefully I can use it to at least get an apprenticeship position. This town's got nothing for jobs if all you did was graduate high school."
"True," the cop driving agreed. They pulled up outside his house and Xander led the way inside. "Gee, I start something to teach me how to make money by doing a decent job I can do for the next fifty years and you complain," he said bitterly as he walked past his parents. He walked into his room and grabbed the stuff off his desk, handing it over. "My packet o'information. My projects were in an old shoe box."
"We have that as well, sir." The cops read it together, then handed it back. "You might want to share that with your parents."
"That would be great, if they gave a damn." He shrugged at their odd looks. "They don't care. They did this so they could get me out of the house, nothing else."
"Fine, sir. We'll bring back your classwork later tonight."
"Thanks. Any idea where I can get more solder? There wasn't much in that first package and I used too much probably."
"Radio Shack," the second cop noted. "I do radio cars."
"Thanks," Xander said with a bright grin. "Can I legitimately skip for the rest of the day?"
"Probably," the first cop agreed. "I agree, you won't get a job out of that high school. At least you're looking out for your future. We'll get it from evidence and bring it back."
"Thanks." He walked them to the door and looked at his parents. "Nice try. I'm impressed."
"Is that costing anything?" his father demanded.
"Fine. Whatever. Just don't blow us up."
"By fixing radios and tvs?" He stared at his mother, who sniffed and got up, heading back to the kitchen. "Don't worry, it's even postage paid return envelopes," he called after her. "And it's a job I can do until I get arthritis, not until my back gives out like yours, dad. Job security starting at an average of ten dollars an hour, depending on what part of the country I end up in."
"Fine. It's better than you following me into the plant," he decided. "If you have the fingers for it." Xander held up his more slender, longer fingers. "Fine. It's a decent enough field. Go for it, son. It's actually something I can be proud of. Just don't blow us up." He got up to get himself another beer. "Don't you have homework to do?"
"They're bringing me back my stuff and I've got to wait for my first assignment to be sent back first. That way the teacher can correct any problems, like me using too much solder."
"Fine. Anything extra you take out of your allowance."
"Fine." He hadn't expected anything different. He went back up to his room to read the pamphlets for his next project. It was a bit more advanced and it introduced a new component. Yeah, he could do this.
The next day Xander got many funny looks when he came back to the school. So he stood up on a table. "I'm taking an electronics class through the mail in case any of you were wondering why I was talked to by the cops. My parents over-reacted." He got down and headed inside, going for his locker. He felt someone tap his shoulder and looked at the principal. "What?"
"You're doing what?"
"An electronics class. Like learning how to fix computers and tvs? Those neat things that you spend mucho money to fix?"
"I just buy a new one," he snorted.
"Yes, but not everyone pulls in the big bucks like you, Principal Snyder. Oh, but then again LA's first year teachers get paid more than you from what I hear." The principal glared at him so he smiled sweetly. "Or so I heard at that nice job fair you had brought in last year." He stomped off. He saw Willow and Buffy coming up the hall and went back to selecting notebooks and things, putting things into his bag. "I've got to head to Radio Shack after class. Wanna go with?"
"No thanks, not my sort of components," Willow said cheerfully. "What's it like?"
"What's what like? My class?"
"Class?" Buffy asked, looking confused. "I thought you were arrested."
"No, I'm taking an electronics class in my spare time and my parents freaked," he admitted. "You know, why would I want to do something so I got a *good* job after leaving here? If I live that long." He slammed his locker door to look at them. "Anything else?" They shook their heads. "Good. I'll be back for the research of the moment after I run out to get solder."
"Fine, Xander," Willow agreed. "It's not a horrible thing this time, just more vamps."
"Sure, Wills." He walked off, heading to grab a soda before class. They were obviously still having girl moments and not understanding his reasons. That was fine, he'd show them something spectacular when he was done. He ignored the little voice that said they'd probably never care. He hated that little voice and he ignored it whenever he could.
Xander's next class started a few weeks after the first and this one was more involved. It had some mechanical parts as well as electronics. It also had a bit more theory so he found himself asking more questions during his time on the computer at school. The teacher was mostly patient with him but a few times he did all-but hear the sigh in his words as he repeated a sentence now and then. But it was going so well and he passed it with good grades so he moved on. His third one was even better, it had little robots and microchips. It was really fascinating and he could get to love this stuff. He felt really geeky but it was a great feeling. The girls were still giving him odd looks but he didn't care. Only two more months and he'd be gone for the summer on his road trip. Of course, he had to get past graduation first. So he was using this one as stress relief. The little robots were cool and neat so he got a few good laughs out of them running into his bed or desk, and his parents gave him odd looks for laughing. Even when he brought one of the bigger ones downstairs to help with the cleaning. It was very handy and pushed the vacuum very nicely after he had put an extended arm on it. His mother had given him the oddest look yet but he didn't care. He was having harmless fun.
It was while he was on his roadtrip that the fun started to wear off. He had a few new lessons to do and was doing it while he was broke down and working his way through his other job. Stripping. Yay. Not. He hated it with everything in him and his robots became his haven of sanity. Then again, it gave him something to chat with the customers about. A few of them had looked interested but this one guy kept coming back to talk to him about them. He was getting a creepy feeling and approached one of the bouncers about him but he'd been a long-time client and no one had even protested him doing things before so they ignored him. So he let the guy buy him drinks but he was very careful to never do a private dance with him and never, ever did he do a hot tub with him. Not that the guy had asked or anything but he made sure that he never got a reputation for doing those things so the guy wouldn't hear how good he was and want to try him. Then one day, the strangest thing yet happened. The guy was in buying him drinks and Xander noticed his arm was bleeding. "You need a bandage change," he said quietly, nodding at the injury. "Want me to hunt one up?"
"No, I'm fine," he said gently. "Thank you for your concern."
"I've had to do a few in my day," Xander said with a wry grin for him. "It's not that hard on that area. I can just get you some paper towels if you want. You're ruining your suit."
"No, I'm fine, Alex," he promised, smiling at him. "So, how's your class going?"
"Well enough. I got stuck on my latest one. It's a little fetcher robot but it won't fetch on vocal commands. I'm working to troubleshoot right now by going back over all the instructions to make sure I didn't miss one." He sipped his rum and coke delicately. It was a real drink, not one of the fake ones he got. He had to be a bit looser to get up onto the stage, otherwise he'd freeze. "Do you work with robots? You always seem so interested."
"You might say that," he agreed happily. "I actually make equipment for a group of people who believe that they're super heros." Xander's glass hit the table and he nodded, smirking at him. "They pay pretty good. They don't care what I do or anything like that, just as long as what they want done works and that I offer the good guys the new ideas first."
"Wow. How many people do this?"
"A few," he admitted. "Actually, I run a shop just outside of LA heading toward your town. It's a small thing out of my basement. Me and another guy work in there. Want to come over sometime?"
"Um... we're not really supposed to accept offers like that," Xander offered. "I can bring some of my stuff to show you if you want. I'm not at the creating stage yet, but I'm good at following directions. Except for this new robot. I almost think it's the chip somehow." He sipped his drink, needing the liquor now. This guy was his sort of odd, but there was still something off about him. "There are people who run around being super heros for real?"
"Sure there are. There's a nice group in LA on both sides of the fence."
"Hmm, Angel's going to love that," he said dryly, smirking at him. "One of my friend's exes just moved to LA to work. He hates strange stuff, used to give my comic books horrible looks."
"Some people are like that," he agreed gently. "Are we talking tall, dark, and brooding Angel? Like the vampire in the detective agency?" Xander spluttered, letting the older guy pat him on the back. "We've run into him before, and you're right, he did glare and frown at us, called us immature idiots and said that you'd love us."
"That guy is so going to get staked," he muttered. His customer laughed and he shrugged. "I wanted to in the past, now I want to more. So, can we meet to look at my robots?"
"Sure, Alex. I'd like that." He pulled out his wallet and handed over a card. "Here you go. You call me later tonight. I'm going to head home and it looks like the boss wants you to go dance. Have a nice night and happy tips." He smiled as he got up and headed out.
Xander was getting up and heading for the changing room when he heard the explosion, so he was one of the first outside. "No!" he moaned, grabbing an extinguisher off the wall to go help. It couldn't be him. The guy was going to offer him a real job. The fire department got there and he hoped it was someone else. He'd have to call later just in case. He felt someone walk up behind him when they grabbed his arm and pulled him back inside. "I think that's the guy I was just sitting with," he told his boss.
Xander pulled his arm free. "He was offering me a *real* job, one where I didn't have to strip." He stomped off, heading to pack up for the night. "I'm off," he called as he walked past him. "Fire me for all I care." His boss glared at him but he didn't care. He was the best looking guy at this small club. He was also the best built guy at that club. When he got back to his room he sat down on the bed to call the guy. "Hey, Dwayne, it's Alex. I'm hoping that the car exploding outside the club wasn't yours. I'm free whenever you want to look at the robots. Thanks man, call me back here if you've got caller id or I'll try again tomorrow." He hung up and turned on the tv, using the cartoon channel to once again take his mind off his problems. He did get up to work on his robot after another 'earn a degree' commercial, replacing the chip in it with one for another project. "Fetch me a towel." It rolled off, going to do that for him. He grinned and sat down, watching as it worked its way around the room to find a towel. "Left," he called. "The fabric thing." It picked it up and brought it back to him, waiting patiently while he wiped himself down. "Put it back." It did so, tossing it back in the corner like he had earlier that morning. "Sleep." It went to sleep, partially in the corner and hidden in case the manager came by to snoop some more. One of his other ones had disappeared after such a snooping.
Xander hadn't heard from Dwayne in a few weeks so he gave up, figuring he was the one who had been blown up. He got a call back to work a few days after walking off and went back, making the same miserable wages, but it was enough to live off of and save some up so he could leave. He finally left after one last paycheck, going back to his rented room to pack up the remaining robots, having shipped most of them off to be graded, and packed up his car, taking back his deposit on the room on the way out. He decided to head for LA first since it was closer. Dwayne's card was on his visor and he decided to stop by there, just in case he hadn't died, and found the place had been burned a while back. There was still tape on it but it didn't look like it had been a recent fire. Grass was growing again around the house so it had probably been burned the same day that he had been blown up. He decided to do something brash and got out, going over to look at the wreckage.
A neighbor came out onto her porch to stare at him. "He died a few weeks back, didn't you hear?"
"I was at the club when his car exploded," he told her. She nodded once. "I, um, came to pay my respects. He was a really nice guy."
"Sure. You go ahead. That's not something you need watched for." She went back inside and watched him through her window.
Xander stepped closer, ducking under the tape to look around the living room. It was exactly how Dwayne had described it. He decided he was being morbid and left, heading to LA for the night, but something drew him back late that night, making him head back into the house. He had parked farther away and had come in from the alley so the neighbor wouldn't stare at him, and now he was wandering around with a small penlight. It was the sound of the floor that stopped him. Hollow. He stepped back and it creaked, but still hollow. He took another step back and it was solid, like a floor should sound. He got down to look at the floor, finding a loose board, and under it he found an aluminum plate. He shined his penlight around and saw a corner up ahead so he headed that way, ending up in a closet. In the closet was a switch, which he turned. It opened a door and he walked down the stairs, still shining his penlight around. He saw a dead body and stopped to stare, but the other things in the room stunned him. "Wow," he breathed, then he choked on the dust. He hurried back up to close the door so no one would see it if they came in and turned on the lights, heading down to check for windows that someone could see outside. Nothing like that so he was safe. He looked around the room. It was what he imagined Batman's workshop to be like. Gadgets, equipment, a suit in the making. He froze when he heard footsteps, sneaking back up to turn off the lights then back down to hide in a darker corner. He felt something behind him move so he opened the panel and found himself in a store closet, using it to hide in. The door opened and he looked out the crack he left the door open, holding in his sneeze when the other guy did.
"Get the rest of the stuff."
"Why are we doing this? None of us wanted it so it was only fair of him to sell it to the other side."
"He worked for the light, he can't work for both sides," the first man said coldly. He paused and glanced around. "We're not alone."
"Yes we are, you're just paranoid," the second man complained. He started to gather up things and carry them up the stairs. "I hope his chosen one is just as good."
"I hope so too." The man glared at the closet, taking a step toward them but then something in the outer room creaked and he hurried up to leave.
Xander waited until he heard their car take off to come out and look inside the closet. It had bolts of dark fabric. He looked around the room again, frowning at the things that had been taken. The suit. A few of the gadgets. Nothing else. A few of the things were more interesting to him, but then again he didn't run around in spandex bodysuits either. He came further into the room and heard the stairs creak, turning to face the first man and his gun. "Shoot me and that nosy neighbor will gladly call the cops on you," he said dryly, holding up his hands.
"Who are you and which side do you work on?"
"I'm Alex, Dwayne met me in Oxnard. We were talking about my electronics class and my robots. I was supposed to show him some of them. I was there the day someone blew him up." The man gasped so he looked at the body on the table. "He brought him up one day, told me his name was Dwight, they were brothers." He looked at him again. "As for which side do I work on? I work in Sunnydale to keep the populace alive from the bad things. You tell me," he sneered.
"You're one of us?"
"But you said...."
Xander snorted. "If you knew anything about Sunnydale you'd know what I meant. I work for a higher purpose than being a good guy. I save lives."
"You work with that blonde we were watching," he said flatly.
"I'm Xander, I'm her normal guy and backup fighter."
"Fine. Then you're worthy to know these two. Why are you here?"
"I was checking to make sure they weren't still alive and hiding. I was going to offer them a chance to come to Sunnydale to hide. We're great at hiding things. By the way, how did you like Angel?"
"You know Angel?"
"He used to date the blonde."
"Oh." He sighed and sat down again. "Fine. You do know that he left you some stuff?" Xander shook his head. "He did. He left most of his workshop to you, kid. There's not many crafters and he said you'd be one of them."
"Then why are you stealing it?"
"He was making those things for me...us."
"Fine. I can have everything else?" The man nodded. "Do we have a handy delivery guy and a truck? I've only got an old car and my trunk's full of my own robots."
"I can get it there. Where to?" Xander found some paper and a working pen, writing down his mother's address and phone number. "There?"
"That's my parent's. I'll probably be there for a few days when I come back. I'd still have to find a place to live. If not, the second number can get a message to me. I work with him and he's the blonde's helper."
"Very well. We'll pack it up and bring it to you." He looked at the closet. "Do you want the clothes?"
"Whatever you guys don't need. I don't do spandex, I'm not that secure in my manhood," he said honestly. The man nodded, smirking at him. "Now, we should leave and someone should bury Dwight."
"If we move him, the rest of the lab will go up. He's on top of the destruct switch."
Xander turned to look at the box, pulling down a screwdriver and a soldering iron, which did work. Apparently they had some generator or something down here. He severed the wires on the explosive and looked at him. "There's a backup but it's under the table and I'm not that fond of the dead." He handed over the screwdriver. "Thank you for telling me."
"You're welcome, Alex wasn't it?" He nodded. "Who are you really?"
"Alex." He walked past him, heading back up to his cars so he could go back to his room. He decided not to go bother Angel tonight like he had planned and just head home. He could use the extra money anyway. By the time he got home, his parents were both home. "I'm back," he shouted as he walked in.
"Your next class stuff is downstairs," his mother said, looking him over. "You look well."
"I spent all summer working to fix that piece of junk you made me buy off Uncle Rory," he said bitterly. "I'll start looking for a place to live tomorrow if that's okay?"
"Fine, take the basement. You've got a week or you start to pay rent."
"Fine," Xander agreed, heading down there. Once he had dropped his bag he came back up the stairs. "I'm expecting a call from a classmate about a project we're working on together. Or he may just drop it by. Go ahead and have him drop it off downstairs and I'll sort it out that night."
"Is it something profitable?" his father asked.
"I can probably make a few grand if we get it to work when we sell it," he admitted. His father grunted so he went back downstairs, knowing the greed would keep his new things intact for a while longer.
Xander came home from his first day of finding a job, any job, and found that his father was holding up a note for him. "What's that?"
"They said there's more stuff than can go down there. They sent it here."
"Thanks." Xander took the note and read it on his way downstairs. It was a fairly safe spot and apparently the stuff had come with some money. He dropped his stuff and headed out the other door, heading to look at the new stuff. The note had been right, there was a lot of stuff. Some bolts of fabric, some machines, a few equipment cabinets, and three really big work benches. He found a box on top of one of the work benches and pulled out the plans to look them over. Nothing was really hard or above his capabilities but it wasn't stuff he'd done before. One of them confused him. How would you make something to guard a suit against a laser without it becoming a mirror? He shrugged it off and pulled out the first one he wanted to try, happily whistling while he worked. He found a copy of the lease and read it over. This place was really expensive so he'd have to find somewhere more suitable within a few months.
Xander was approached a few weeks later at his fake job, nodding the guy outside. "What?"
"Did you get anything in the box done?" he asked hopefully.
"Everything but the laser shiny stuff," he admitted. The guy's face fell. "Sorry, I found a fabric with some stuff to help but it's got a blind spot and it doesn't work in the dark." He glanced around. "You can come by tonight. I get off in a few hours."
"Fine. Thank you." He left him there and Xander went back to work making fries and tasty cones. At least until his boss pulled him back to the office to make sure he wasn't selling drugs out of the Slop Stop. At which point he got off very early and went to test that fabric again.
"But why can't it work against lasers?"
"Dude, lasers are focused light. Wear something more reflective," he said dryly. He held up the fabric in question. "It's got small bits of silver woven in so it's reflective under the right circumstances but it's not fully reflective and it doesn't work in the dark. Your choice, man. I'm not suggestion you walk around as a mirror, but how many people actually *have* lasers to use on you?"
"Only one," he admitted, "and he's from another city."
"Then why worry about it?"
"Because it's a measure of success."
"Okay then." Xander looked at him. "Dude, I work with someone with super strength. Worry about your present enemies, not your coworkers in other cities. Unless you think they're going to turn bad?" The man slowly shook his head. "Then don't worry about him. Worry about the guys who're going to be coming for you. They're strong, fast, and a few fly, right?" He nodded, looking patient. "Then work on things that'll work against them. Things to negate their strength or their ability to fly. Things like a gravity expander," he said, holding it up. "Which was in the box." The man snatched it and petted it gently. "From what I can tell, you're supposed to put it on him and it'll force him down, and then you can capture him however, netting would probably work best," he said thoughtfully. The man nodded so Xander held out a hand, getting it shook. "The last time I knew, Dwayne said that you guys were paying him."
"We've got a tab."
"No, you *had* a tab," Xander pointed out, leaning against the table. "I can't do that, guys. I can't afford to buy you guys parts on my pitiful salary."
"Good point. I'll have a check cut for you. Can we test it?" Xander nodded, shrugging a bit. The guy whistled, bringing someone trotting in. "Fly, let's see if Dwayne's device works. What's the on switch?"
"I'd guess the red one," Xander said, pointing at the only button. "His notes said to put it on the middle of the back." The older guy nodded and hurried over to toss it onto the other man's back, wincing when the pin stuck and the other guy fell. "Was that from the pain of the pin or the weight?"
"Weight," he said weakly. "Pain." His cohort turned it off, releasing him. "Can we figure out somehow to stick it to their backs without the pins?" he asked once he was back in order.
"Double sided tape? That sticky gum that you use to stick posters on the wall?" Xander suggested with a shrug. "That depends on the surface that you're sticking it on. For something slick, I'd use duct tape personally."
"That's a bit mundane."
"Dude, the best thing to stop a flying person is either a crossbow bolt or a bullet," Xander pointed out gently. "Maybe a net if they're *really* slow. I'm all for practical matters. It helps around here." He heard someone scream and sighed, picking up his crossbow to go out and stake the vampire. He saw the other hero being eaten so he shot the vampire and waved as it dusted. "You might want to get him some blood," he noted, watching as they walked out to gather their friends. "Payment is expected by next week or I'm never working for you again," he called as they left. He went back to work, finding something new and neat to create. Dwayne had been trying to make C3P0.
A few weeks later Xander looked up as the hero showed up at his next job, shaking his head. "I still haven't been paid for the last one," he noted, continuing to mop. "I can't afford to create if I can't afford to buy components."
"We need two more of those really quickly."
"And I repeat, I don't have the materials to create it and I can't spare the cash out of my pocket. I'm not wealthy." He rewet the mop and wrung it out, going onto a new section of floor. "You want, you need, but I need to be paid because the rent on the warehouse needs to be paid."
"But we need them today!" he said anxiously.
Xander looked at him. "Do you think I can pull them out of my ass?" The man looked stunned. "It takes a good few days to build them. If you need it, then you've got to call in advance. I can't afford to have some of them lying around."
"Good point." He glanced around. "I've got my personal checkbook. How much do they cost to make?"
"About six hundred each and the main microchip is really expensive and hard to find." He glanced around. "Now, I can cannibalize a robot to make you *one* but I'd still have to run to Radio Shack for a few things."
"I can do one," he offered, starting to bounce a bit.
"And I'm getting paid for the other when?"
"Six weeks?" he asked hopefully. Xander stared him down. "Dwayne was easier to work with," he spat.
"Dwayne was wealthy from selling something to the military, I'm not. As you can see, or else I'd be doing something else with my spare time," he said, waving a hand around the store he was in. "I've still got to pay rent, buy materials, and pay rent on the storehouse."
"Good point," he said miserably. He went out to his car and came back with a check. "For the first one. I can get the others to pay for a second one if you can get us a third one by this weekend."
"If I can get that chip, I can do that, but it's got to come from Texas."
"Fine," he agreed happily, handing it over. "Thank you, Alex." He jogged back to his car but Xander was holding up something so he ran back to get the power cord so the first one could be charged. He jogged back to his car and called on the way home, telling them of the deal he had made.
Xander stuck the check in his pocket and finished his mopping, taking his lunch to run to Radio Shack. He'd have to work most of the night, even after patrolling.
Xander looked up as Spike was led into his basement, grunting in displeasure. "Tie him up, I've got stuff I've got to do tonight."
"Xander, you must keep a close eye on him," Giles chided.
"Wonderful, but I've still got to work tonight," Xander said impatiently. "So just tie his unhappy, dead butt up in the chair and I'll get to him when I get back." He grabbed his bag and headed out, going to the warehouse. He still had some stuff to move to the new location, and then he could move his apartment. He looked around his warehouse, noticing how clean it was. Only the three tables and one machine to move. He went out to his car, carrying the first thing. Fortunately the tables folded up compactly enough to fit into his back seat one at a time. On his second trip to pick up stuff, he found someone in his former workspace. "And you are?"
"I am Tiberion."
"Yay. I'm Alex, what do you want?"
"I want you to repair my suit."
"Dude, I do robots and things, not suits."
"It is an electrical problem," he said, holding out the material.
"You do know that they killed Dwayne and Dwight because they worked for both sides?" The man nodded. "What makes you think I want to do that?"
"I can actually pay you up front."
"That's a pretty motivating factor," he agreed, looking at the torn spot. "It'll need all new pathways."
"I realize that. Can you?"
"Probably but it'll take me a few days."
"That's fine. It's my backup suit. I had it at the laundry and the dryer fried it."
"Sure. How much did they usually charge?"
"One hundred fifty dollars per hour."
"Good to know." He accepted the cash, nodding at him. "I'm moving right now. Give me until Sunday night? I'll meet you at Double Meat Palace?"
"If you wish. Or you could have until Wednesday."
"Even better, just in case," Xander agreed. "Thanks for this."
"It is not a problem." He nodded politely and left, heading back to his car.
Xander tucked the suit into his bag and the cash into his pocket, intending to pay the rent ahead of time this month. It wouldn't be a hard repair. He had the stuff to do it at the new place. He'd just have to match up the sections.
He got back late that night and found Spike watching his tv and untied. "Feel better now?"
"Yup, sure do. You still doing that electronics stuff?" He nodded, tossing something into the microwave for dinner. "Ever think about working for us?"
"No. I don't like vampires. I want to kill vampires. As far as I'm concerned you're a walking pile of dust." He looked around the basement. "If you want to help, I'm moving this weekend. So don't get too comfy unless you *really* want to live here all alone?" Spike shuddered. "Didn't think so." The microwave beeped so he pulled out his chimichanga and sat down to eat it. "What did you think you needed?"
"Something to fix the chip?" he asked hopefully.
"I can already do that, notice I'm not," he said before taking a bite, then he smirked at his roommate-under-duress. "Anything else?"
"Something to take on the slayer?"
"While I'm a bit peeved at her at the moment, I'm not going to kill her for you, Spike."
"Fine," he said, setting into his corner and pouting at the screen. "You're not fun."
"No I'm not fun. I'm not meant to be fun. I'm meant to be mean and nasty, not fun. At least not to vampires." Someone tapped on the door and he sighed, getting up to get it. "What?"
"You *dare* help them!"
"One, I'm seeing what Dwayne did with those, or actually what Dwight did, since there's no plans available. Two, he actually *pays* me to do that. Upfront even. Three, it's his suit. I'm fixing a pathway. I'm not making him neat new weapons. I'm keeping his heating system working." The man's face fell. "You wanna pout, you've got yourself to blame. I'm a practical guy. I live in a world where bad things happen and I get to help fix them. Including ending up in the hospital. By the way, you still owe me about two hundred bucks." He wiggled his fingers and closed the door, heading back to his dinner. "Thank you for not licking it," he said, sitting down to eat it.
"Who said I didn't?" Spike sneered.
"Who said I cared?" Xander snorted, continuing to eat. "There's no blood on it, I don't care." He finished it off and went to get a soda. "I've got class work to do so back into the chair, Spike. Before I have the robot pinch you again." Spike hurried back to the chair, that little thing pinched hard! Xander sat down with his latest class project, reading the plans like a pro now. It was neat stuff. "I'm doing a batarang," he said in awe once he figured it out. So he went and got one he had already constructed, making sure it fit the plans. He had to put in a less powerful CO2 cartridge so it'd fire with less speed but it was fine otherwise. He did have to change off the logo'd housing but that was something he was used to. That got sent back in the next package and then two more were stuff he'd already done so he did those as well. "My teacher this class is a comic book geek," he said fondly, smirking at Spike. "So far I've built six of Batman's weapons and one of Iron Man's." He settled in to pack his tapes and then went to bed, hoping that he wouldn't be killed during the night. He got up and set up a sentry robot, then went back to bed.
Spike glared at the robot with the motion detector. "You'll get me if I go to the loo, won't you?" he said in disgust. It beeped and turned to face him so he quit speaking. Harris was all too good with those things and he didn't want to wake everyone this time with the alarm. His father had nearly killed them both.
Tiberion tried on his suit, smiling at the smooth seams the boy had put into the repairs. "This is very nice. Thank you, Alex. Do I owe you more?"
"I did one more repair than necessary. I found one that wasn't working but hadn't been ripped." The man gave him a horrified look before touching the button that fired his rocket boosters, but they worked. He turned them off before they scorched the floor. Next he tried the thing he hated to use, the cooling system. It was very thorough. He was chilled and blue within moments. "I also put in a thermostat. It's on your breast and it attaches to both the heating and air conditioning," Xander said patiently. The man turned it down and smiled at him. "The only thing that still doesn't work is the collar sensor. I don't know why it doesn't work though."
"I pulled out half the wires when it annoyed me," he admitted. "It beeps all the time."
"Oh, okay. I can deal with that. I won't bother that one. You only owe me for an extra hour." The man paid in cash and left, putting on an overcoat. Xander walked him out, making sure he had made it to his car and got it started and moving before he got eaten. Then he went to order himself a pizza. When someone knocked he thought it was them. "Hold on!"
"It's just me," Willow called.
He sighed as he let her in. "I'm getting food, hungry?"
"No, I came to see why that odd guy was here."
"He was having me fix his super hero costume," he said honestly, weathering her laughter. "Think I'm kidding?" He smiled at the pizza guy as he came up, tipping him. "Tell her LA has a super hero group."
"They do, they were on the news for fouling up a hostage situation recently," he agreed, vamping out. Xander gave him a long look. "Fine, don't be afraid."
"Dude, they made me room with Spike," Xander snorted.
"Never mind, you've seen more scary things than me. Tip?"
"I put a few bucks extra in there," Xander assured him, slamming the door in his face. He looked at Willow. "Still think I'm kidding?"
"Yes," she said with a smirk.
He put his pizza on the counter and went into the back room, bringing out the new suit he was working on. She blinked a few times then sat down in the middle of the floor. "It's a paying job," he admitted. "Not well paying since the good guys don't like to pay me, but paying sometimes. Plus I get to use some of my training." He put it back and closed that door, putting on the padlock but not locking it. Then he took his pizza to the couch and put in a video, settling in to eat. "Needed anything else?"
"Is that for your class?" she asked finally.
"No, I don't have anything like that. The robot behind the counter is but it's the pinchy one." She looked and then squealed, backing away as it tried to get her. "Down, puppy." It went to sleep. "Warned you," he said with a grin. "I just sold two of those to a security company as a trial."
"Congrats," she said, still looking kind of shocked. "I guess you're doing okay with that stuff." She shook her head quickly. "I...we've got a meeting tonight. Wanna come help research?"
"Sure," he agreed, snagging a slice of pizza as he stood up, grabbing his wallet and keys on the way out the door. "Guard," he told the robot, turning it back on and making it sit in front of the door. No one was coming in there unless they wanted to be really sorry.
Xander looked at his last class assignment for his program and smiled. He knew what this thing was, and now he knew why his hadn't been working right. He sat down with the plans and the one he had been trying to build, going over it slowly. He finally found the place where he needed a bridging wire and soldered it into place, pointing it at a nearby wall and watching as the small dart of explosive created a very pretty hole. "Oooh, strong," he hissed, shaking his head. He'd have to fix that later. But at least it hadn't been loud. None of his neighbors would complain this time. He unloaded it and put it back in its case, then went to get the stuff to make a second one for the project. Someone was pounding on his door so he opened it on the way past. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked as she stepped inside. "We never see you anymore."
"I've got one last project to do for my class," he said happily. "It shoots small darts with explosive tips." She shuddered. "Sorry, I won't share then. What's up?"
"I was wondering if you'd like to go to the mall with me."
"Couldn't find another ride?"
"Wellllllll, no," she admitted, then she grinned at him, "but you haven't helped me bra shop in a while. It's every guy friend's job to help girls try on bathing suits and tell them how hot they look."
"Sure. Give me a minute to lock some things up," he offered, going to lock up his equipment room. He came back and found Buffy gone but someone else in his living room. "Hey. You are?"
"I'm one of your teachers," he said quietly, glancing around. "You're Xander Harris." Xander nodded. "Then we need to talk. I told her it was about your classwork, she's waiting by the car." He closed the door and walked further inside. "You're in danger. The same sort that took out Dwayne and Dwight, who were my students earlier in their lives. You've got a bright future ahead of you."
"I like working with the good guys but they never pay me. I've got to be practical about some things," he complained.
"I know that but their leader isn't all that stable."
"Gee, and the suit didn't tell me that?" he quipped dryly, leaning against a nearby counter. "It's not like he's one of the ones with abilities. He's got a grudge and less reason than Batman did." He saw the wince and smirked. "Then you're the one I did the batarang for," he said happily.
The guy nodded. "You are. It came in handy, thank you."
"Welcome." He stood up again. "I realize that he's going to be a putz about some things, but I'm practical. I've been raised to be practical. I've got rent to pay and all that good stuff. Once I finish my program I'll start working in a better paying job so I can afford to do more for the good guys."
"No, that's understandable. Besides, if they're good guys, should they be doing things like burning down their suppliers?"
"Not in my mind, but he's a bit touched in the head so I don't argue with him about that."
"Good idea, kid." He smirked at him. "Ever think about leaving this town?"
"All the time but they need me."
"Actually, your friend is about to be moved to help with another battle. She's going to New York to help with all the strangeness there." He shifted some. "I want you to come work for me."
"Do I get to work in the actual Batcave or can I have my own place and just beg Alfred now and then for food?" he asked with a grin. The man looked stunned. "The only way you could have gotten actual plans for some of the things you had me create was if you had created them and since I met the comic's artist a few years ago at a convention....." His grin got a bit more smug. "I'm just happy to help you, man. Whatever you want me to do."
"Fine. No, you don't have to work out of the cave, you can work from your apartment. I've got a spare in one of my buildings, it's got a basement attached to it and you can put the machines and stuff down there. There is one clause, I am possessive."
"Hey, not an issue. As long as I can pay the rent and feed my poor self, I'm good," Xander assured him. "I don't want to be Robin. I've had enough of that while here. I'd like to retire to a non-combat position if possible, or just be a major source of backup."
"I think that's going to be possible." He walked closer. "You're sure? I am very possessive about my helpers."
"Hey, as long as you keep Superman out of my pants, I'm yours," Xander said with a smug look. The old guy snickered and shook his head. "You can't tell me he's not."
"Well, I never asked, kid, but that doesn't mean anything. Why do you think my suits went back to the older, thicker styles instead of the ones that were anatomically correct?" He held out a hand, letting Xander shake it. "We'll move you tonight, after you tell her. She'll be getting her new assignment later tonight as well and you'll be seeing her often."
"Cool. Why was I redoing one of Iron Man's weapons for him?"
"I wanted to see if you could."
"Ah. Did he like it?"
"Very much. Which is why I'm going to be possessive." He looked around. "Just this stuff?"
"Yuppers. This is all I have left from Dwayne and Dwight. Oh, but I do have some robots around. I even sold two to a security company."
"I heard. Do you still have that one that pinches? I can find a use for him."
"Sure do, it's behind you and I can build you one and program it to a remote or your voice."
"We'll do that first," he agreed smugly. "It'll liven up some meetings." He patted the boy on the arm. "Go shopping with your friend before she pouts. I'll have you moved by the time you get back." He watched the boy go and smirked. "And maybe someday you'll help Robin too. He could use you, kid. His present girlfriend's a tramp and you'd be good for him in a few areas." He pulled out his cellphone and called his people. "We're moving him. Come now." He hung up and went to learn something more about his protégé.