Part III - the calm before the storm...
See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.
On AO3: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1995981/chapters/4324434
On TTH: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-30429/MarcusRowland+London+Calling.htm
Marcus L. Rowland
“The police have found the car used in the robbery,” said Giles. “Ethan abandoned it in the short-stay parking area at Westfield shopping centre yesterday evening. That’s only a couple of miles from the shop. The car-park operators were going to clamp it but they noticed that it had been hot-wired and called the police. When they searched it they found the hammer and one of the missing pieces.”
“It’s definitely Ethan?” asked Dawn.
“There’s security camera footage,” said Giles. “Unfortunately it simply shows him waving at the camera then leaving. There are four underground stations and a dozen or so bus stops in easy walking distance, and we don’t have the time or resources to check his movements from there. He could be anywhere in the country by now.”
“He won’t be,” said Buffy. “He probably knows you’re here, and he couldn’t resist a chance to show off again. Waving at the camera? Who else would even recognize him?”
“What about the police?” asked Dawn.
“They’re looking for him, of course, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope. As far as they’re concerned he’s simply someone who stole some statues, not a murderer or a terrorist.”
“With Ethan that may just be a matter of time,” said Buffy. Giles winced but didn’t argue.
“Which of the pieces did they find?” asked Dawn.
“The altar tablet. The others are still missing.”
“That makes sense, it’s probably the least useful for invoking the gods. And that marble slab looked heavy, he wouldn’t want to carry it unnecessarily.”
“I’ve got the coven seers scrying for magical hotspots,” said Giles, “but there are always a few around London so it can be a little tricky. Some of the known sites like the British Library’s Black Vault, our own secure storage, and the pedestrian crossing in Abbey Road put out so much power that it’s difficult to detect the new ones.”
“I get the vault and the storage, but Abbey Road?” asked Buffy.
“Every year thousands of people travel thousands of miles to visit Abbey Road and have their pictures taken on the crossing the Beatles used. People have been injured in the process, a few have been killed, though fortunately nobody has died on the crossing itself. If you think of it as a pilgrimage and an act of worship, even sacrifice, it should be obvious that it’s a location with considerable magical significance. Fortunately Ethan doesn’t seem to have stolen anything that might easily be used to manipulate that reservoir of power; if he’d stolen a bust of Apollo, for example, or anything else related to music, I would be seriously worried.”
“Graceland is like that too,” said Dawn, “though in that cult the major act of worship is Elvis impersonation.”
“I think we’re straying from the point,” said Giles. “The coven will continue to monitor London for magical activity, but the only new activity they’ve detected in the last couple of days are weather spells, and that’s probably just people wanting nice weather for the bank holiday weekend.”
“Can you get a location on that?” asked Buffy.
“Not really; spells for good weather affect a huge area, they have to interact with the natural climate and weather cycle. It’s not as localised a spell as summoning a quick hail-storm or a thunderbolt, so it’s much harder to home in on the source.”
“I’ll bet he is planning something for the holiday,” said Buffy. “It’s kinda like Labor Day, isn’t it? Anything happening on Monday that he might target?”
“Most of the political protests were yesterday,” said Giles. “Didn’t you notice?”
“That was why we had so much trouble with the traffic,” said Dawn, “Big political march in the West End and Whitehall.”
“So what about Monday?” asked Buffy. “Any big football games, baseball, anything like that?”
“Baseball?” Giles said incredulously. “I hardly think so. And it’s too early for cricket. But the the Football League play-off finals are at Wembley Stadium over the weekend.”
“We need to cover that.”
“We have slayers in place for all three days; large crowds of football fans tend to attract our undead friends, especially after the pubs close. But you make a good point, I’ll arrange for magical cover too.”
“Wait a minute,” said Dawn. “Anything going on that involves horses?”
“There’s racing on Saturday and Monday, but I don’t think anything particularly close to London,” said Giles. “Why horses?”
“Oooh! I know, I know!”
“The Greek guy… the guy with the trident…”
“Yeah, him. Doesn’t he have a thing for horses?”
Giles gaped at her. “How on earth did you know that?”
“I saw a Percy Jackson film on the plane, he had cool sea-horsey-monstery things.”
“Hippokampos, I’d imagine. Yes, you’re quite right. Poseidon was the god of the sea, and for some reason horses. There’s also a similar connection with Neptune, though less strong.”
“So are there any races?” asked Dawn.
“Well, Kempton Park is the closest racecourse to central London, I think,” said Giles. “But that’s nearly twenty miles out. I know that’s not a lot by American standards, but on British roads on a bank holiday weekend it might take an hour or more to get there.”
“Better check if there’s any races there.”
Dawn got out her iPad and ran a quick search. “No races, but there is an event there on Monday, their ‘Bank Holiday Family Fun Day.’ Pony rides and games and a petting zoo and so forth.”
“Ethan likes to target kids,” said Buffy. “Remember wacky Halloween fun time?”
“Definitely worth checking,” said Giles. “Well done, both of you, it’s good to see that a knowledge of popular culture isn’t entirely useless.”
“Not to mention my degree,” said Dawn.
“Yes, yes. Now, we need to see if there are any other connections between all of the gods Ethan stole and events over the next few days. For example, with Liber and Ceres in the mix we’d better check if there are any wine or beer festivals on over the weekend. For Diana, I don’t believe that there are any hunts in and around London, but what about archery contests, that sort of thing…?”
“What is this show anyway?” asked Jane, watching the BBC crew prepare for the next shot. “I wasn’t really listening properly when you and Darcy explained it.”
“Blue Peter?” said Ian. “It’s a magazine show for kids. It’s the oldest children’s TV show in the world, been on the BBC since the nineteen-fifties. Over the years everyone’s been on it; the Queen, Madonna, Johnny Storm, Doctor Who.”
“Which one?” asked Jane.
“Most of them from Hartnell onwards,” said Darcy. “Most of the monsters too. And they raise a ton of money for charity, a couple of million a year. You remember the YouTube clip I showed you, the black and white TV show with the baby elephant? That’s Blue Peter.”
“Quiet please, everyone,” said the first assistant director. One of the crew showed a clapper board to the camera, and the director said “Take seven! Action!”
The young Asian presenter smiled at the camera and said “We’re here at London Zoo tonight to see their latest exhibit; their first animal from another world, which somehow found its way to Earth when the Dark Elves invaded Greenwich. And we’re very lucky to be joined by none other than Prince Thor of Asgard, who’s going to tell us all about it.” She turned to Thor, who was in his Asgardian armour, and added “Prince Thor, welcome to Blue Peter.”
“Thank you, it is good to be here.”
“Prince Thor, we’re really not sure what to call this creature. What can you tell us about it?”
Thor gestured towards a huge steel-barred cage behind them, where a slate-grey creature, about twenty feet long with powerful legs, scaly skin, and a barbed tail was gnawing a tyre. “It is a creature of Jotunheim, the realm of the Jotun, the frost giants. I do not know what the frost giants call them; they are a little like the bilgesnipe of my realm, but larger. They are very dangerous when they are fully grown.”
“Fully grown? How big do they get?”
“At least three times this size. This is a mere infant.”
“Wow! Imagine that. What’s it like where they live?”
“It is a land of ice and snow. These creatures hunt in the wilderness. Often they bury themselves in the ice and sleep for many months, until they feel vibrations as something ventures close. Then they break free of the ice and attack.”
“What do they eat?”
“They eat other beasts like themselves, and anything else that is worth the effort of hunting. Often Jotun, or so it is said. The giants send their young warriors to hunt them; those that survive are considered adults.”
“That sounds very dangerous,” said the presenter.
“It is a harsh world, the Jotun must be harsh to survive.”
Behind them the creature spat out chunks of tyre and roared loudly, then hurled itself at the bars. There was a deafening clang.
“If he’s going to get as big as you say, won’t that cage be too small?”
“When it is fully grown no cage could hold it. It cannot remain on Midgard, and I have sent a message to Asgard, asking that they negotiate its return to Jotunheim.”
“Will that happen soon?”
“I am still waiting to hear. Asgard and Jotunheim recently warred, so it will probably take some time and diplomacy. And the Jotun may not want it back!”
“Now, our viewers have sent in hundreds of questions for you, we picked three that seemed especially interesting. First, from Alicia Cummings of Luton: ‘What is your hammer made of?’”
“That is a good question.” Thor raised Mjolnir, and it glinted dully under the lights. “It is Uru, the Dwarven metal, forged from the hearts of suns. My Lady Jane tells me that those learned in your sciences believe that it is a mixture of strange matter and neutronium, but I know little of such matters. It is responsive to my will, and may only be lifted by those who are truly worthy to wield it.”
“Our next question comes from Kim Roberts of Newcastle: ‘Will you be joining the Avengers again?”
“Another good question! There would need to be good reason for us to assemble again, another threat to this world, but yes, should the need arise I will be there.”
“Finally, Mark Jones of Wigan asks: ‘What do you like best about Earth?’”
“Many things! Pop tarts, coffee, pizza, cat videos, your ingenious machines, and the Avengers. But most of all my beloved Lady Jane!”
“That’s awesome! Now, before you go, we like to give all our guests a Blue Peter badge. The usual one is blue, to show that you’ve been on the show, but there’s a special badge that we only give to guests who have shown unusual courage. Prince Thor, please accept this gold Blue Peter badge from everyone on the show, as thanks for your defence of London and New York.”
“It is my honour to accept!” Thor took the badge, seemed slightly at a loss as to how to fix it to his costume, then pinned it to his cloak just above the left shoulder clasp. “I will treasure it!”
“Thank you, Prince Thor of Asgard.”
“And cut!” shouted the director. “Thanks, Prince Thor, that looked really good, I don’t think we’ll need to do another take, we can cut that together with some of the animal shots we got earlier.”
An assistant removed a small radio microphone that had been concealed under a fold of Thor’s cloak, and said “Someone should be sending you a Blue Peter identity card to go with the badge, you can use it for free entry to Alton Towers and a couple of hundred other sites around the UK.”
“When will you be showing the interview?” asked Darcy.
“Probably next weekend, Sunday the eleventh at noon. I’ll email you once we’ve finalised the episode.”
Thor concentrated for a moment, and his armour vanished, replaced by the street clothing he preferred for everyday wear. Somehow the badge was pinned to the shoulder of his t-shirt.
As they walked back to Jane’s car Thor shifted the badge to his chest, and said “I do not think this badge is real gold, perhaps they have been deceived.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Ian. “It’s symbolic. Wear it with pride, they don’t give them out very often. Everyone in Britain knows what it means.”
“Okay,” said Buffy, “we’ve got all adult slayers in Britain on yellow alert from now until Tuesday morning. The youngsters are on alert too in the London area, and everyone’s been sent pictures. If they see him they’re to track and report, not engage. And emphasise that everyone needs to pace themselves and get enough rest, and keep an eye open for anything odd that doesn’t seem to be related to this; for all we know Ethan is setting up some sort of diversion to distract us from something else, maybe a big bad, the way he did with the band candy. If he is we’ll have to up the alert level. Agreed?”
“Are you sure yellow alert is sufficient?” asked Giles. “I do think everyone should be taking this seriously.”
“Definitely. We have no real reason to think he’s working for anyone else, and on his own Ethan’s not an apocalypse-level threat, he’s… help me out here, Dawn.”
“He’s not like Loki or even Doctor Doom, he’s like that guy that keeps trying to kill Spiderman. Green something… Green Goblin, that’s it. Dangerous and a nuisance, but not high on the world-endage stakes.”
“I bow to your superior knowledge of the tabloids,” said Giles. “I suppose you’re right. He hasn’t really had time to catch up with old contacts, and most of them are long gone anyway. And it’s not as if we’re on a Hellmouth here, the closest is the one in Bergen, he’d find it difficult to do anything truly apocalyptic.”
“Best case,” said Buffy, “Ethan tries a spell and we detect it early, we find the site and catch him before it does much damage, fadeout to happy ending. Worst case, people are hurt or die first, which isn’t my favourite scenario. But knowing Ethan he’ll try to be funny before he’s lethal.”
“Then we’d better be very sure we reach him fast. I think we have that covered, so why don’t we all try to get an early night? It’s going to be a long weekend.”
“Okay,” said Ian, “I’m heading back to the boat. See you all tomorrow. You probably don’t want to come by car, parking is a pain there over the holiday, but if you take any Hammersmith train from Farringdon and get off at Paddington, the exit from that part of the station is on the canal side. Give me a call when you leave and I’ll be waiting for you at the station.”
“I’ll come down with you,” said Darcy, “you can give me a lift to the pub, give these two a bit of privacy.”
“It’s only a couple of hundred yards,” said Ian.
“Still limping, remember?”
“Okay… right, the pub.”
“Don’t wait up for me, Jane,” said Darcy, “I’ve got my key, see you in the morning.”
“Do you think Darcy and Ian know that we know they’re sleeping together?” Jane asked once they’d gone.
“If all that they do is sleep,” said Thor, “then why would they hide it?”
“You remember what I told you about euphemisms?”
“I remember most things,” said Thor, starting to unbutton her blouse. “Perhaps we should be ‘sleeping together’ too.”
“Mmmm… works for me.”
He picked her up and carried her into her bedroom.
And, because I could...
And the Blue Peter elephant incident:
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