Previous parts are here
Spoilers for Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Marcus L. Rowland
"Okay," said Xander, as they drove towards West Wallaby Street in the Range Rover, "Vi and Robin and I will will go in together. We've all got our phones. Giles, you stay out of it, ready to come in as our backup."
"Are you quite sure?" said Giles. "I still haven't been able to identify that demonic slime, for all you know it could be waiting to pounce."
"It didn't look very mobile," said Vi. "If we stay out of the line of fire we ought to be okay."
"But nothing," said Vi. "You don't think I can hack it with two scoobies to help me?"
"Of course you can. But I might be more alert to any... ah... mystical attack."
"I really don't think we need worry," said Xander. "I get the impression he's more into weird science than magic."
"All right," said Giles. "But don't say I didn't warn you. And be on your guard, we know that there's a vampire somewhere in the area."
"We're nearly there," said Vi. "Better drop us before we reach the house, if you stop outside he'll wonder why you didn't come in with us."
"Good point... I know, there's a car park at the pub at the end of the road, I'll wait there for you."
"Well spotted," said Xander.
"The neon sign gives it away," Robin said drily. Giles reversed into one of the parking spaces and said "You'd better hurry or you'll be late. And be careful!"
As they walked off Giles thought for a moment, then locked the Range Rover and went into the pub. The parking was for customers only, and according to their sign the pub sold a reasonable range of real ales. There was nothing like arguing with a stubborn Slayer to make him thirsty, and he was prepared to brave the horrors of karaoke if there was a chance of a good drink.
* * * * *
"You already know Robin Wood, of course," said Xander. "And this is my girlfriend Vi." He crossed his fingers behind his back, and hoped that Dawn would never find out. She had a tendency to throw things when she was upset. Behind him Gromit noticed the fingers and made a mental note. He'd already recognized Vi's scent as one of the intruders, now he just had to work out a way of telling Wallace without the visitors noticing.
"Pleased to meet you, lass," said Wallace, offering a handful of thick fingers for shaking. Vi gently squeezed them, trying to keep the force down to normal human levels. "My word, that's a strong grip you have."
"I work out," said Vi. "Sorry, hope I didn't hurt you."
"It's quite all right." said Wallace, rubbing his fingers. "No harm done. Would you like some tea before we get down to business?"
"That'd be nice," said Xander. Wallace led them into the parlour.
"That's an interesting style of painting," said Robin, looking at the pictures on the wall and wondering why they all had round glass eyes.
"It's one of my other businesses," said Wallace. "Humane pest control. The portraits show our customers, the eyes light up if any pests are detected on their premises. Rabbits, moles, that sort of thing. Not much happening right now, but in the spring it's non-stop calls." There was a soft whistle from the kitchen. "Kettle's boiling, Gromit lad. Let's have a nice pot of tea and some cheese and crackers. And biscuits if we've got them."
Gromit went out, and Xander said "He's pretty smart, isn't he?"
"Gromit? I suppose so, yes."
"I was wondering what breed he is," said Robin.
"I really couldn't say. He's.. well, a bit of a mixture, I think."
Xander tried to remember if there were any demons that liked to breed with dogs. He could only think of Hell Hounds, and Gromit wasn't really like that. More like Snoopy. He'd have to ask Giles.
Gromit came back in with the tray, 'accidentally' knocking Vi's big shoulder bag over as he passed her chair. The contents spilled onto the floor; some cosmetics and a cross, three sharp wooden stakes, a bottle of holy water and a compact crossbow.
"Terribly sorry," Wallace said as Vi stuffed them back into her bag, "he isn't usually this clumsy. Was that a crossbow?"
"Uh... um, yeah, I'm going to target practice after I finish here. It's part of my martial arts training."
"Oh... Won't that be a bit difficult in the dark?"
"It's an indoor range."
"Right-ho. Shall I be mother?" As they looked at him, a little puzzled, he added "Oh... right, Americans. I meant, shall I pour the tea?"
"Yes please," said Vi.
"Right-ho." He poured the tea and added milk - Vi preferred lemon, but there didn't seem to be one around so she didn't stop him - and handed cups to everyone, including Gromit. Gromit sipped at his cup, remembering what he'd seen in Vi's bag. Could she know that Wallace had once been a were-rabbit?
* * * * *
"Busy tonight," said Giles, sipping a passable pint of Old Peculiar.
"Aye," said the barman. "It's t'karaoke. Get singers from miles around."
"You don't sound too keen."
"Happen I'm a music lover. Gets the customers in but..."
"When does it start?"
"Seven," the barman said unenthusiastically. "You going to sing?"
"Not karaoke. I'm more a guitar man."
"Electric or acoustic?"
"Blues, folk, or rock?"
"A little of everything."
"Well, why don't you come to our talent night, first Monday of the month? There's a prize for t'best player."
"I'll bear it in mind."
There was a small howl of feedback, and an amplified voice said "Welcome to karaoke night at t' Queen's Head." Giles looked around the crowded bar, and noticed a skinny youth in a sequinned jacket standing on a small stage in a corner of the bar, next to a karaoke machine. "Now then, now then, who's going to be the first to sing? We've got a yard of ale for the best performance."
There was a pause, then a pink-sleeved hand appeared from the crowd and a somehow familiar voice said "Me! Pick me!" The accent sounded American.
"Come on up, love," said the compere. "And you would be...?"
"Hi everyone!" shrieked the girl, hopping onto the stage. She was a curvaceous but vapid-looking blonde, wearing a pink dress and a cardigan with a unicorn pattern. "I'm...." There was another screech of feedback, drowning her voice, and the compere hastily adjusted the controls of the sound system.
"Right, love," said the compere, "What did you want to sing?"
"Stand By Me."
"Right then, love." He pressed the button to start the tune playing, and in a moment the girl began to butcher the song.
Giles winced, and tried to remember why the girl looked so familiar. Someone he'd met in California? It'd come to him eventually.
* * * * *
"...So you see," said Wallace, "the only problem now is miniaturisation. I had to build the prototype big to get all the components in, but at that size it's obviously not going to be much good for everyday use." His voice echoed through the cavernous cellar under the house.
Xander turned his head, moving carefully because a pad of electrodes was pasted to his forehead. Behind him the giant model eye moved left and right in its gimbals. "This is awesome. Just seeing with two eyes again is weird, but this... It's kinda like having extra extra powerful 3D glasses. But I've gotta agree, it's kinda bulky. How long do you think it'd take to get a small one made?"
"Oh, I can get the size down easily," said Wallace, "it's keeping it small that's the problem."
"With my miniaturising ray," said Wallace, gesturing towards a device that looked like a crystalline spotlight. "A couple of minutes at mark seven ought to get it down to the right size, but the trouble is that things don't stay small..."
"Wait a minute," said Xander. "You've got a miniaturising ray? Like Fantastic Voyage?"
"Film with Raquel Welch. They miniaturise a submarine and go inside someone's brain to operate from the inside."
"Now there's an idea." He stroked his chin and looked thoughtful. "Hmmm... we could fit a periscope to t'rocket, maybe add some propellers. D'you think we have the power, Gromit lad?" Gromit shook his head. "I'd really love to try it," said Wallace, "but we'll just have to settle for miniaturising the eye for now."
Gromit moved around to the ray machine and pulled on dark goggles, tossing more pairs to the Americans and Wallace, who said "You'd better disconnect the eye while we're shrinking it, we can attach the electrodes again afterwards."
Gromit pulled levers and twisted knobs on an elaborate console that looked like something out of a 1950s B-movie. Out of the corner of his eye Robin noticed something moving on a shelf, and glanced round to see several mice, all apparently watching in fascination. Wallace said "Glasses everyone!" A moment later the ray machine began to glow with green light. Robin watched for a second, then glanced back at the shelf. The mice were still there, but now they were wearing dark glasses. He shrugged, and turned back to watch the eye.
Sparkling with green light, the eye was slowly getting smaller. From beach ball down to football... to grapefruit... baseball... After a couple of minutes it was about the same size as the artificial eye Xander sometimes used, and Gromit flicked more switches to turn the ray off.
"Give it a try," said Wallace. "You'll have to use it externally for now, much too risky putting it in."
"How come?" asked Xander, picking up the eye from its miniaturised cradle and fixing the tiny electrodes back on his forehead.
"It isn't stable," said Wallace, "might stay that size for hours, but sometimes it's only a couple of minutes, then it snaps back pretty quickly."
"And I really don't want it splitting my head open when it grows.... hey, it still works." Xander held the eye on its now-short cable, and turned it around until it was looking backwards over his shoulder. "That's weird." The lens of the eye zoomed out then back again. "Really weird."
"But is it good?" asked Vi.
"It's beautiful," said Xander.
"That's remarkable," said Robin. "Do you think that developing a more permanent effect would be difficult?"
"Might be a little expensive. It needs lots of power, and I'm running a little short of that Kansas meteor rock... I could probably get it stable for a day or so for a couple of hundred pounds. Keeping it that size for good would be a lot more difficult. What do you think, Gromit lad?" Gromit shrugged.
"How about five thousand?"
"Five... thousand?" Wallace sat down hard.
"Might as well do it right," said Robin. "Five thousand to begin with, to get Xander taken care of, then we'll talk about mass production."
"Can we afford it?" asked Xander.
"We won't have to pay for it," said Robin, "there's that computer guy in Los Angeles, Angel's friend, he'll fund it as a charity project."
"Nabbit," said Xander. "Right. He's loaded."
There was a loud "ping" and the eye grew a little.
"Better get it back in the cradle," said Wallace, "before it's too heavy to lift."
* * * * *
There was an odd mouldy smell, but the singing from the stage was so bad that Giles barely noticed it. The blonde was on her third song, and didn't show any signs of stopping - or improving. He decided to finish his drink and get out fast, before his ears were permanently damaged.
A ragged-looking man in a bulky overcoat pushed through the crowd and asked for a half-pint of guinness, then sat next to Giles watching the singer. He said "That's beautiful..."
"The beer?" asked Giles.
"Oh. Right." Giles looked around, wondering if the man was on drugs, then realised something. The stranger wasn't reflected in the mirrors behind the bar.
"Beer's no good any more, but that voice..."
"Excuse me," said Giles. "I've just remembered I need to make a phone call." He drained the last of his pint and went outside, pulling out his cell phone and speed-dialing Vi's number.
* * * * *
Gromit looked around the room. For the moment all three of the visitors were standing around the eye, watching it grow, while Wallace was at his drawing board writing equations. Right then... He cracked his knuckles, turned back to the control panel, set everything to maximum, and turned on the power. The ray glowed again, much brighter, and Xander, Robin, and Vi began to shrink.
"I can't move," said Xander, "feels like I'm paralyzed." His voice was high-pitched.
"Me neither," said Vi, her voice barely audible.
There was a shrill cheep from Robin.
"What are you doing, Gromit lad?" said Wallace, covering his eyes.
When they were a couple of inches tall Gromit snapped off the power. Before anyone could move he sprung forward with a wire-mesh cheese dish cover, clapped it down over the visitors, and put a heavy book on top.
"Gromit lad, what have you done?"
On the floor, outside the area affected by the ray, the phone in Vi's bag began to ring.
Yep, I'm evil...
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