“Thank you for shopping Burbank Buy More!”
Morgan Grimes doubted he could be heard above the throng of people crowding around the Nerd Herd desk. After the initial wave of customers clamoring to buy the StarLite cell phone, they all moved over to the store’s tech help desk where he was currently stationed, greeting people. Even though the whole store was a front for their spy business, it still needed to be kept up and he was still the manager and needed to make an appearance.
Beside him was the leader of the Nerd Herd, his best friend Chuck, who was patiently explaining the new features of the phone to a customer. However, the co-workers next to him, Lester and Jeff, were currently showing off the phone's durability by smashing it against Jeff's head. Repeatedly.
Morgan was doing his best to ignore them, and the hunger beginning to gnaw at his psyche. He'd have to head to their base under the store, they called it Castle, to get some blood soon. Standing out in near sunlight was really starting to take it's toll, not to mention being bombarded with scents and emotions from so many people was making him super anxious, and hungry.
After greeting probably his thousandth customer of the day, despite being barely after 1pm, his phone rang. He looked down and saw it was Shawn Spencer. Quickly excusing himself and earning a puzzled look from Chuck, he moved to the enclosed entertainment system room for some privacy.
“Hey there bud.” Morgan greeted his blood brother.
“Morgan. I really need to talk to you.”
As much as Morgan liked talking to Shawn, they were completely swamped, and he was sure that Shawn would understand. “Not the best time. We’re getting slammed here and I don’t exactly have a ton of privacy right now.” His eyes flicked to a family bringing their young children into the room to look around, and one of them definitely needed to be changed.
“Are you still selling the phones?”
Rolling his eyes Morgan groaned. Shawn must have seen Gus' new phone and wanted one for himself. “You really should have gotten here with Gus this morning. We’re almost sold out…” A very loud growl came through the phone. “Whoa! Chill dude we’ll probably get more if you want one that badly!”
“That’s not the point! You need to stop selling those phones right now! It's the camera, man! We don’t show up on it. It’s like we’re invisible or something.”
Alarmed by his intensity, it took a moment for Shawn's words to register and Morgan scoffed in disbelief. He then nervously eyed the family in the room with him. It really wasn't the place to get into this kind of discussion. He turned his back and walked nonchalantly out of the room before ducking quickly into his office before replying. “Invisible? Like, “vampires don’t have a reflection” invisible?”
“Yes. Exactly that.”
He couldn’t believe it. Josef had told him that with the age of digital photography vampires luckily didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Much to their relief. With social media, if vampires didn’t show up in mirrors or film, there’d be no hiding at all…
Then, suddenly, it dawned on him why Shawn was so upset. One picture could completely ruin them, let alone thousands of pictures. “Dude?! Do you know how many of those things we sold today!? How many of these people are still walking around the store with them?”
“They’re still in the store!?” Shawn exclaimed excitedly, “Get them! As many as you can! Say they’re defective, anything! Just don’t let them leave with those phones!”
Morgan bit his lip, he knew exactly what he needed to do, but didn’t know how much help it would be if millions of stores around the world were selling the cell phones too. “What about Mick and Josef, what did they say?”
“Lassie is dealing with them. Just please hurry. I’ll give you a call later.”
Hanging up, Morgan sprinted out of the office and straight to the store PA system. He knew just what to do.
Years ago, even before Morgan started working at the Buy More, there had been a simple word that was supposed to non-descript and innocent sounding as not to cause a panic in the customers if something were to go wrong. It had since evolved into a word that no one was to speak, ever, lest it cause a berserker frenzy among the employees leading to store wide chaos. It was only ever used in the direst of circumstances, when lives were on the line.
Times like this.
Morgan took a deep breath, and steeled himself for the inevitable backlash he’d get from Chuck and Casey, who he hadn’t warned. “Hello! Everyone! May I have your attention please!?”
Those who knew him best narrowed their eyes, figuring he was up to something. Others looked to him as their fearless leader, ready to do his bidding at a moment's notice. Though the Buy More employees were a fickle bunch, he'd earned their respect more than once. From that respect he gained a trove of loyal, yet sometimes hopelessly lazy, followers.
"Buy More employees... PINEAPPLE!"
Mick leaned back in his office chair, sipping a cup of blood and watching the news. It had been a busy couple of months case wise and he was enjoying the lull between cases. Truth be told he'd had more excitement in the last year than he'd wanted, but it all seemed to turn out alright, for the most part.
He was just about to go see how Josef was doing when his phone rang. Seeing it was Carlton Lassiter, he answered it quickly. "St. John."
"St. John, we have trouble."
Mick took a moment to lament on the fact that his quiet days never really turned out to be all that quiet. "What's wrong? Is it Shawn?"
Josef and Mick had gone out of their way to make sure that someone was keeping an eye on Shawn at all times. He'd been inches from going feral, and despite the fact that Josef decided to let him go home, they were keeping very close tabs on him.
"No, it's not Spencer..." Carlton paused, "Well it is Spencer, but not like that."
"Okay, what is that supposed to mean?"
"You heard of those new phones they've been advertizing all over for the last two weeks, Starshine or something hippy sounding like that."
"You mean StarLite?" He'd heard of the phones. Beth expressed interest in them, and Mick had half thought about seeing if Josef could use his connections to get her one early.
"They don't show us, St. John. Camera, video, nothing! It's like we aren't there."
Mick stood up from his desk and immediately turned on the news, searching for any proof that this was true and that their secret was out. A small voice in his head told him it was too soon, the phones had just come out that day, but even an inkling of their secret in the media was cause for alarm. "Are you sure? It isn't Shawn playing a joke is it?"
"They're just as stumped as I am. Spencer and Guster came rushing in the precinct making a scene and somehow those idiots got one of those phones. We don't show up in picture or video. How is this possible?"
Of course a detective would immediately want to know the how, why and the who, but Mick didn't have it. Silver in the photographic process and silver backed mirrors were the only reason that vampires historically cast no reflection. There was no reason a modern phone could cause that. Maybe he'd have to see if Josef could get his hands on one after all.
"I don't know either. Digital photography doesn’t use silver… I’ll call Josef and we'll try to figure something out. Meantime, keep your ears open, we can't have a panic. Human or otherwise." If human's panicked it would be bad for vampires, but if vampires panicked it would only make matters worse.
"Just tell everyone to be careful. Spencer is talking to Grimes right now and squaring things away on that end." There was a pause before Carlton asked, "Is there any way to halt their distribution? Some kind of emergency plan that vampires have in case something like this happened?"
Mick thought of the cleaners, but even their operation was too small. Their only purpose was really to deal with the vampire population if things got out of hand. There weren't enough to deal with all the humans. Even if they called in all their human contacts there wouldn't be enough people to stop it. The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became, but he didn't want to worry the detective. Not yet anyway.
"I'll see what I can do. Josef might be able to call in some favors and at least stop some stores from selling any more."
"Good. I'm going to see what Grimes and the other tech-nerds said. Maybe they have some good news."
"Good plan. I'll call you later." Mick said, and hung up before dialing again right away. He really should have been calling Josef, but he needed Beth. He could already feel the panic setting in. Coraline had told him about the vampire purges in the French Revolution, and saw the terror on her face as she recounted the mercilessness of the humans as they executed vampire after vampire.
"Beth!" He tried to keep the shaking out of his voice. "I need you to come home. Something's happened. We're about to be outed."
"We?" She asked, obviously thinking he meant them as a couple.
“I’ll be there in two minutes.” Beth answered before hanging up. Despite the situation, his girlfriend's reply brought a smile to his face. He knew there was a reason he loved her.
As Shawn peeked around the corner, listening in on Carlton's conversation with Mick, he tried not to be angry that him going feral again was the first thing that came to their minds. He knew the others were still skittish about him, no matter how many times he'd told them that he was okay, or how many times he had to tell himself that he was okay. Hearing it out loud though, really put a damper on his already stressed out mood.
Once Carlton was off the phone, he came around the corner, acting as if he'd just arrived. "Lassie, did Mick know anything about what's going on?"
With a small scowl, Carlton shook his head. "No. St. John had no idea about the phones. He mentioned something about silver but it isn’t used in photography anymore. There would be no reason a digital camera wouldn't be able to get our pictures."
Filing that information away for later he asked, "Is he going to talk to Josef then?"
"Yeah, he's going to see if Kostan can do something to stop them."
The older vampire did have a lot of business connections. He might even be able to put a dent in the distribution. "Ditto with Morgan. He can't do much, but he can stop people from leaving the store with them."
Carlton pursed his lips and nodded, understanding. An awkward silence hung in the air between them until Juliet headed back over with Felicity and Karen wasn't far behind her, obviously having heard about the news. "Mr. Spencer, O'Hara just informed me about the phones. Is there anything I can do?"
Shawn thought about it. Unfortunately it wasn't illegal to have the phones, so she couldn't arrest the owners... but she could keep an eye on them. "Chief, can you get a list from the stores in the area that sold these? Maybe we could, I dunno, watch them or something?" There really wasn't much they could do at that point, but maybe surveillance would keep his mind occupied.
With an exasperated sigh, Karen said, "Besides being highly illegal and an invasion of privacy, I don't think we even have the man power to do that right now. I'm sorry." Shawn's face fell. So much for keeping occupied. "What I can do, is watch Felicity for you tonight if you need to go anywhere to discuss things." She reached out to the baby and took her expertly into her own arms. "Kyle loves having her over."
The chief had her own baby boy shortly after Juliet, and the two children got along well. Shawn was grateful for the offer. "Yeah, that would work. We have a lot to talk about." He began to wonder how he'd tell his dad. The old man would probably find a way to blame him for this too though.
"Alright then. You can drop her off in a few hours." She gave both Shawn and Juliet a reassuring smile as she put Felicity in his arms. "Until then, I believe my detectives still have some work to do."
With a determined nod Carlton went back to his desk, but Shawn doubted he'd be getting any work done. If the vibes he was getting were any indicator anyway. Frustration and anger were the big ones, but there was also worry and fear.
"Shawn?" Juliet waved her hand in front of his face. "Are you alright?"
Blinking, Shawn looked at Juliet, and he didn't need to feel her worry and fear, he could see it plainly on her face. "Sorry Jules, I'm fine. Just tired."
She pursed her lips like she didn't believe him, but she nodded anyway. "Well, maybe we could get some rest tonight with Felicity gone, it's been a while since it was just the two of us."
Shawn leaned in and kissed her forehead. "You can be Vivian Ward from Pretty Woman, and I can draw you a nice hot bath..."
Juliet blushed, but played coy and gave her daughter a peck on the cheek before joining her partner at their desks. He waited until she was gone before turning and heading for the exit. He growled low, frustrated at his lack of ability to do anything about the situation. "Hurry up and wait, eh Doodlebug?" Felicity merely smiled and cocked her head, blissfully ignorant of how much danger they were all in.
I'll just have to wait and see what Gus heard from Coraline.
He followed his friends lavender scent trail that led out the front door, easily spotting the blue car near the rebuilt hedges that separated the front parking lot and the main building. He quickly put on his sunglasses and headed for the shaded area. "Buddy! Any news?"
"No. She didn't answer." Gus sounded worried, but Shawn figured she could still be asleep. It was barely afternoon, and unless she had any appointments, she would most likely be held up in her freezer. "How long do you think before people figure it out?"
"The question is, how long before most of the other vampires figure it out."
"C'mon man. If vampires found out that they could be found out with just a picture, what do you think most of them would do to protect their secret? Even the cleaners, they'd want to get rid of any witnesses."
Gus scoffed in disbelief. "Shawn, that would only make things worse."
"Worse is only the beginning Gus." Holding Felicity in on arm and snatching the phone away from Gus with the other, he flipped it over and examined the camera. Shawn thought back to Carlton's statement about what caused vampires to not be seen. His sneaking suspicions were confirmed when a small silver glint caught his eye when the camera reflected the sun back into his eyes. He blinked and moved the phone away, "I think the lens they used in this is silver."
"Lemme see!" Gus snatched the phone back, and after looking for himself, decided the best thing to do was research it. "There's gotta be something about this on the website."
"Don't you think it's a little weird to be looking up a phone on the phone itself?"
"Shut up, Shawn." After a moment, Gus found it. "Listen to this: The Starlite cell phone has an innovative camera lens that takes clarity to a whole new level. The world's smallest digital single lens reflex camera makes your video and pictures come alive. Oh my God, you were right! It's literally a miniature, silver mirror!"
"Aaaaannnd things just got worse." Shawn hung his head. "How can this be happening?"
Gus put away the phone, still shaking his head. "Look Shawn, things will cool down. I mean, what are the chances that someone is going to catch a vampire on film anyway?"
Shawn understood Gus' need to explain things, but the problem was that his buddy hadn't really seen any vampires besides their little group. Despite the aftermath of his forced fledglings, Gus still naively considered their race to be more like Mick, Coraline, and Josef. Even Lance, despite being a complete psychopath, kept things in their own circle; Secret and unseen by the human world.
What Gus didn't know, and what Shawn's own fight with his instincts had taught him, is that given the right opportunity some vampires would tear down any social norms and plunge things into complete chaos just to be able to hunt humans as they see fit. Their secrecy wasn't just protection for them, it gave them rules to govern and control.
The only question was, after being exposed, who would strike first; Concerned humans, or a rogue out for a good time?
Shawn pursed his lips and pointed to the phone. "I'd say the chances are pretty good if we found out about it within the first three minutes. Things are about to get bad buddy, really bad."