Thank you everyone for your advice. After looking over my options computer-wise, it simply boiled down to what I'm comfortable working with (Linux was out); what I could afford (there went Apple); and the fact that as much I'd love a high-performance car, I really only need a Saturn.
After rebate, even cheaper. Once I threw on the three-year in-service warranty, I came in only $50 over my ceiling. Not bad. Plus, I made my last HP run for 6 years, despite the fact it ran on Windows ME. I figure with this little puppy, I can go at least 7 years.
Don't laugh. The computer's already paid for. In cash. It killed me breaking open the "computer fund," especially since I didn't put any money in it this month, but the computer's mine free and clear, as is the warranty, and the external hard drive I used to rescue my music library and story documents.
Sorry. I'm strangely proud of this fact.
Plus, the software is pretty much optimized for what I use the computer for (hellloooooo jukebox!). It handles multimedia amazingly well. And can I just say how happy I am that I can now use i-Tunes? If only for its MP3 library abilities. I managed to find most of my Water Hold Me Down Soundtrack (I'm missing four songs, but I own all of the missing songs on disc, so it's not a big deal) as well as create a "bonus disc" of alternate takes of songs in the soundtrack. Wheee!
Then again, with this hard drive size, I could probably rip all 1500 CDs to my computer and still have plenty of room left over. I'm too lazy to do it, but I could if I wanted to.
*does happy dance*
Needless to say, what with the computer issues this week, I'm just a leeeetle behind on finishing The Acme Heartbreak Repair Kit. I'm also not really helping myself here, either. I obsessively poured over maps of Rome to find out where Buffy's apartment was located and I was researcing Great Lakes region in Africa for Xander's part of the story. Hopefully, the heavy research is over. We're soon heading for the left turn to Albuquerque.
I'm prepared. I'm chillin' to Weird Al right now.
For all previous parts, go here.
The universe is made up of some hard-and-fast rules.
This is a hard-and-fast rule of the universe.
However, all rules have a loophole than can be exploited.
This is also a hard-and-fast rule of the universe.
These loopholes exist because they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
This is just a simple truth.
For example, “Vampires do not have souls.”
Except when they do because someone or something gave them one.
Or, “All vampires will turn to dust when they stand in sunlight.”
Unless they’re wearing the Gem of Amara or are standing behind necro-tempered windows.
See? Loopholes that prove the rule to be true.
Allarek was currently wrestling with these hard-and-fast rules of the universe.
A vengeance demon cannot grant a second wish to a client until the first wish is finished.
Unless D’Hoffryn says she can grant wishes two and three while wish one is in play.
However, D’Hoffryn would only allow her to that for Andrew. Everyone else could only get one at time, despite the fact that she had all this power thrumming through her body. If she tried to extend her newfound freedom beyond Andrew, D’Hoffryn would kill her himself. Since her death would not be brought about by He-Who-Everyone-Was-Afraid-Of-Naming, D’Hoffryn wouldn’t suffer any penalty.
It didn’t help the Allarek suspected D’Hoffryn would be more than willing to kill her if she tried it and that he just might get another volunteer for this mission if he did. The promise of temporary boost in power might spur another vengeance demon to volunteer to take on Harris if Allarek suddenly ceased to exist.
Vengeance demons, as a general rule, were very competitive; always jostling to become D’Hoffryn’s favorite. Anyanka had that crown for more than 500 years because she didn’t play politics. She couldn’t care less about who was number one in D’Hoffryn’s book because she loved what she did too much to care about anything else. Paradoxically, that’s why she was D’Hoffryn’s favorite before she got too cocky and lost her pendant the first time.
It was one of those hard-and-fast rules. D’Hoffryn always liked watching his demons fight for his favor, except when they didn’t because they were too busy shedding blood and sowing misery for him.
When Anyanka lost her powers the first time, however, the struggle for D’Hoffryn’s favor began again in earnest. D’Hoffryn enjoyed renewed spectacle so much that he left Anyanka twisting in the wind when she asked to be reinstated the first time. Allarek wondered if D’Hoffryn would ever admit that he made a mistake in letting Anyanka sweat it out. Somewhere between losing her powers the first time and then giving them up a second time, Anyanka had become too human to be of any use to anyone.
Whether D’Hoffryn was willing to admit that he messed up or not, Allarek was stuck living with the fallout. Competition for D’Hoffryn’s favor was so bad that she knew that every vengeance demon knew by now that D’Hoffryn had allowed her to have the power of three vengeance demons.
She also figured that at least some of her peers were going to try to sneak in and steal the kill and credit right out from under her nose. She had to make sure that none of the others could find Harris.
For whatever reason, vengeance demons couldn’t track Harris using their demonic powers. Oh, they did just fine before he got to Egypt while they plotted the first attack against him. Yet, during his time in Cairo, he simply blipped off the vengeance radar. The only way he could be tracked was by using human means. Since everyone around him could be tracked, finding him wasn’t as hard as it could’ve been, but it was still difficult to pinpoint his exact location.
If that wasn’t murky enough, what happened after he had been found was even murkier. A vengeance demon would report in that she had found him and was going to bring the full power of the wish to bear on his human body. Next thing anyone knew, the vengeance demon had somehow gotten herself reverted to human form and killed. Since dead vengeance demons can’t talk, no one could figure out what went wrong.
Where others saw a problem, Allarek saw an opportunity. She knew she could turn the vengeance blank around Harris to her advantage. She could make sure he remained her quarry and her quarry alone by leading her peers to believe that he was still somewhere in Africa. It took some doing, but she managed to get someone—the best friend of a travel agent in Addis Ababa whose secret had been betrayed by the travel agent—to wish that all records of all passengers leaving from the airport would disappear and the cause would be traced to her friend’s computer terminal.
Since Jeanekanna was now scrubbed out, the secret of Alexander Harris’s true location rested with just D’Hoffryn and her. She knew she wasn’t going to talk because she wanted to claim the kill for herself. She was less sure about D’Hoffryn. She wouldn’t put it past the boss to send someone else to Rome so there’d be two vengeance demons working to exterminate Harris. On the other hand, two vengeance demons also meant an increased chance of failure. Given that D’Hoffryn had only one chance to escape his stupidity, he might not want to risk losing everything by sending someone to mess up Allarek’s carefully constructed mousetrap.
Since she didn’t know what D’Hoffryn’s plans really were, Allarek decided her best bet was to assume she was working without a shadow.
While the politics of her situation were uncertain, that wasn’t her real problem. The hard-and-fast rule that really was currently the bane of her existence was this one: whenever a potential client called, a vengeance demon had to answer. The only way out of it was if D’Hoffryn was willing to waive the requirement and miss the opportunity to feed on the misery, chaos, and bloodshed caused by a wish.
Allarek miserably stared into her glass of wine and pushed the long dark hair that went with her human disguise out of her face.
She argued for the waiver. She begged to be let out of her regular duties of exacting vengeance on behalf of people who’d been betrayed by their friends. D’Hoffryn was too damn greedy to agree to it, in Allerek’s humble opinion. She should’ve known better than to try and argue the case.
Every drop of blood, every shed tear, every moment of destruction caused by a wish fed into D’Hoffryn and increased his power. As an incentive for his vengeance demons, D’Hoffryn allowed his girls to keep a piece of the completed wish’s power for themselves. Allarek was modern enough to call D’Hoffryn’s “incentive plan” what it was: a pyramid scheme. Vengeance demons could increase their own power step by step based on the number and kind of wishes they granted, but D’Hoffryn had all those wishes feeding into him all the time from multiple demons. This was how D’Hoffryn went from a minor trickster god for the Neanderthals to the head of his very own demon clan and a secure place in demonic middle management.
Before he started obsessing about Anyanka, Allarek was pretty sure D’Hoffryn was no more than a century or two away from getting his own corner office in the Lower Depths. Once he got there, he’d be one of the big boys, a real powerbroker in the evil elite. This obsession with Harris had seriously set him back. It’d be awhile before he could recover from the loss of a dozen vengeance demons.
Not only did Allarek have to take down Alexander Harris, she had to do it in between her normal routine of granting wishes, all because D’Hoffryn wanted to get a head start on rebuilding his power base before the threat to that base was even eliminated. The situation sucked, especially since two tables over there was a guy brooding on the fact that he found out his business partner had been dipping into the business’s bank account.
Crap. If she wasn’t talking to Andrew when the potential client got up and left, she’d have to follow him and find a way to talk to him so he’d make a wish. Crap. Crap. Crap.
Allarek glanced at her watch and let out a despairing sigh. Andrew usually dropped by this café on Friday nights when Buffy was busy with her “men friends,” as Andrew put it. Allarek befriended him in her guise as a lonely American exchange student studying art history and had even managed to get him on a schedule where they’d meet here and chat.
He was a half-hour late. She had hoped he’d swing by with Harris so she could see how Andrew and Harris interacted. She had planned to look for an opening that played to her expertise in righting the wrongs between friends, since according to Andrew he and Harris were very close. It was beginning to look like she was waiting for an introduction in vain.
Allarek glumly sipped her wine.
Maybe she should just go over to her potential client and get him to wish, that way she would have something to show for her night.
Just as she was about to do just that, Andrew ran by her on his way to the plaza. She hopped out of her seat and chased after him.
“Andrew! Andrew!” she called at the top of her lungs.
Andrew skidded to halt and looked around. When he spotted Allarek, his expression collapsed into disappointment.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked as she drew up to him.
“Oh. Hey, Ally. Unh, I’m looking for someone. A guest of Buffy’s. There was this fight and she took off. Buffy needs to find her before she gets into trouble. She doesn’t know the city at all,” Andrew said in a rush as his eyes scanned the square. “You haven’t seen a young woman about this high with long dark hair, have you?
Allarek, aka Ally McBeal to Andrew, made a show of looking at the crowd. “That’s not a lot to go on.”
“Yeah. It’s really not. And I know what she looks like,” Andrew looked out over the plaza with a despairing air. “We’re screwed.”
“We?” Allarek asked with all the sympathy she could muster.
“Me.” Andrew seemed to wilt.
“Why don’t you sit down and relax,” Ally said as she placed a comforting hand on Andrew’s shoulder. “You’re looking so flustered right now, something tells me that she could trip over you and you wouldn’t find her.”
“Oh, I’d find her all right, because she’d be yelling at me.” Andrew shook his head. “I have to go. Rain check on a coffee?”
Allarek did her best to hide her disappointment. “Great!” She smiled. “How about tomorrow night?”
“Maybe. I dunno. I’ll have to call,” Andrew said has he peered into the crowd.
“Leave a message if you don’t get me on my cell. If I don’t answer it’s because I’m working.”
“Right. Later.” Then Andrew dove into the crowd.
Damn, damn, damn, Allarek thought. It was a disappointing first try, but there was no need to panic. She had time.
With a deep sigh she returned to her table. As she sat down, she felt that her potential client hadn’t moved from his spot. She picked up her glass and finished her wine with a gulp. She might as well grant a wish while she was here.