“Look, I can help you.” Hardison’s voice was rising in panic. “Just tell me what stores you see.”
Parker looked around. “Nearest intersection has a… Cobalt jewelry and a Costello ice cream. Big fountain thing. No skylight.”
“Cobalt, Costello. Check. Man that’s a big mall. It’s almost like… well, okay. Elliot?”
“Sec.” Elliot had taken advantage of the situation to bash the man’s head into the floor twice. He gave the guy one more heavy thunk. “Yo. One down. No cameras, no mirrors… here comes another one. Parker?”
“Ready.” She was smiling. Of course she was.
“So,” Hardison mused over their earpieces, “is this why the mall is empty, or is someone trying to send us a message? Are we getting too close?”
Elliot slammed his fist into their attacker’s jaw while Parker swept low and kicked his legs out from under him. He went down, and three more came around the corner.
“Too close?” Elliot punctuated his complaint with a roundhouse kick. “We haven’t gotten anywhere yet. You’ve been watching too much TV again, man.”
“These guys are strong,” Parker commented idly. She was around one’s neck, thighs around his throat.
“Parker, you hang upside down from buildings by your fingers,” Hardison pointed out. “I’ve got the infrared, but I think it’s broken. Man, what kind of mall has infrared security?”
“You know, this is why Sunnydale doesn’t have any visitors.” A perky voice complained from the sidelines. “We get some nice scruffy, scary-looking men and bam, someone attacks them.”
“Scruffy?” Elliot snarled. “Who’re you calling scruffy?”
“Who’re you calling a man?” Parker countered. “Man, does this man need to breathe, or what?”
“Probably not.” A blonde girl stepped out of the shadows. “And they’re not very friendly, are they?”
“Perfectly,” Elliot punched one attacker in the solar plexus, “Fine.”
“Ooh, you’re something, but you’re out of your league here, soldier boy.” She bounced into the fray with a spin kick, shoving the third attacker away from Elliot.
“I’ve got this,” he grunted. “…and don’t…” He twisted the man’s arm until it broke, “call me that.”
“He’s not a soldier,” Parker offered cheerfully. She hadn’t managed to asphyxiate her target, but neither had he managed to get her off of him. “He’s with us.”
The newcomer didn’t even raise an eyebrow at the apparent non sequitur. “You’re good, both of you. But these things don’t breathe and they don’t fall down.” She punctuated the last by shoving a large wooden stick through the ribcage of one of the attackers. “Unless you know how to hit them. “
The assailant fell apart in a cloud of ash. The woman twisted around, repeating the move with the second attacker. She looked up as Parker whistled; she was holding out her hand. “Gimme?”
“Don’t miss.” The new girl tossed the piece of wood to Parker in a low underhand toss; Parker caught it, bent over backwards, and shoved it through her target’s back while she flipped off of him. He vanished in a puff as she landed.
“That was fun! Do you get to do that all the time around here?”
“P… Alisha,” Eliot snarled. He turned his glare on the newcomer before Parker could even blink. “What the hell were they and who the hell are you.”
“Also thank you,” Parker offered. “What?” She looked between the two of them staring at her. “N… Mr. Boss says we ought to be polite, and… Mrs. Boss agrees.”
“Who am I? I think a better question is ‘who are you and what are you doing here?’”
Elliot sighed. “Shoulda sent someone else,” he grumbled, mostly to Hardison. “Right. Thank you.” He looked at the stick still in Parker’s hand, and the small piles of ash on the ground. “What falls apart like that? I’ve fought some weirder people, and some even weirder shit, but nothing that falls apart like that.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No.” Elliot didn’t so much answer as snarl it. “We’re from Boston.”
“Buffy, where did you go, there’s shoes to be bought…”
“Buffy, help, Cordelia is trying to make me have an opinion!”
Cordelia and Xander skidded to a stop as they reached Buffy and the two strangers.
“Oh, ick.” Cordelia frowned. “Did you find more of your freaky little friends? Is this the new Kendra? Because seriously, one of you is enough.” Cordelia wrinkled her nose.
“I can still take back the offer for shoes, you know.” Buffy turned her attention to the strangers. “You’re not from around here, you fight like pros… who are you?”
The blonde woman — blonde acrobat, Buffy thought, although next Slayer was not a bad guess — waved cheerfully. “We’re here to join the youth group!”
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