The explosion of glass shattered the peaceful nighttime silence as a metal trashcan flew through the storefront window. Fragments rained down on the carefully constructed display of VCRs and DVD players that had been arranged there in a hopeful attempt to appeal to passers-by. Suspended over the front window was a neon sign declaring the store to be "Clarke Electronics". The warm glow illuminated the street for a brief moment before it was pelted by palm-sized rocks that destroyed the bright letters. A burst of sparks danced across the sky, continuing to erupt at sporadic intervals from the jagged remains.
Cackling with laughter, two girls stepped forward. The first, clearly the elder at about 17 years, had short-cropped brown hair streaked with platinum blonde. Her clothes, black from head-to-toe, enhanced her pale complexion. She lashed out at the sharp remnants of the glass window with her foot, safely encased in an army boot, and grinned with vicious pleasure as she decimated the shards.
Next to her, focusing on the other side, was second girl who looked to be perhaps 14. Her clothing was much brighter, verging even on tacky as it was clearly assembled haphazardly with little regard for color coordination. The only thing more shocking than her outfit was her hair. It was impossible to tell what color it might naturally have been underneath the rainbow of random streaks. The whole effect was disconcerting and not particularly attractive, but appearing on the cover of Vogue was clearly not a primary concern. Instead, the girl was focused entirely on using the lid of the trashcan as a shield, driving it into the remaining glass, sending the pieces falling to join the others that coated the equipment.
The opening now considered to be relatively safe, Rainbow carelessly threw the lid to one side where it clattered noisily onto the sidewalk while her companion leapt inside. Rainbow followed suit, and four more girls, all of similar ages, soon joined them.
Like toddlers given free reign in a candy store, the group ran from display to display, stuffing their pockets with cell phones, portable CD players, or whatever else could fit. A small Asian girl hurriedly distributed over-sized duffel bags to several of her cohorts, who proceeded to tear into the boxes for DVD players, liberate the contents and shove them with minimal care into the bags.
A tiny girl with straight, shoulder-length hair the color of raven's feathers broke away from the feeding frenzy and contemplated the row of television sets that lined one wall. She tilted her head to one side, no expression visible on her angelic features, until she reached into her bulging pocket and pulled out one of the cell phones, not caring to notice as two more fell out and bounced on the carpet. She tightened her fist around the brightly colored plastic, then cocked her arm back and hurled it with all her strength into the nearest picture tube.
The screen shattered under the impact, exposing its innards, and delight spread across Raven's features. She laughed, a deceptively innocent sound, and reached for another phone, repeating the action.
The sounds of destruction attracted the others, and soon their bags had been abandoned. Several joined in with hurling anything they could find at the fragile television sets, while others derived more enjoyment out of throwing DVD players to the ground and then stomping on the thin plastic casing until it caved in, revealing the delicate mechanisms that were promptly crushed under their heels.
The devastation may very well have lasted long into the next morning had a sharp whistle not ripped through the store, causing each girl's head to jerk away from her fun and stare out of the obliterated front window.
Stepping into view, Faith took in the scene with an impassive expression. Her hair was darker and cut shorter, about shoulder-length, and her face showed none of the hardness earned by years in prison and even more years of being a Slayer. This Faith was tempered only by the harshness of her own life. Traces of baby-fat still clung to her features, making them rounder and softer, although her eyes seemed deceptively old for her 15 years.
The marauders remained stock still, their gazes locked on Faith. None moved a muscle, seeming to wait in unison for some unknown signal. Faith surveyed the damage, paying little heed to the dangerous sparks floating around her from the death spasms of the neon lights overhead. Finally, her face split into a grin that boded far more malice than joy. She hoisted a gasoline canister, presenting it with both hands as her muscles strained under the weight.
"Torch it," she ordered.
With those words, she chucked the canister into the store, where it landed with a sloshing thud and was immediately set upon by the tall blonde. The other girls whooped their delight and, with parting shots to whatever happened to be at hand, grabbed the partially filled duffel bags and clambered out of the window onto the street, standing slightly behind Faith.
The back walls glistened as they were coated with the gasoline, the blonde flinging and pouring it with abandon wherever her eyes fell. As though she were impatient to get things underway, she simply allowed the canister to drop and, gigging with anticipation, she turned to the other girl. A cigarette dangled from Rainbow's lips, and she raised a match. Scratching it across her jagged thumbnail, it flared to life, and she touched it to the end of her cigarette, inhaling the smoke deep into her lungs.
With a final giggle, the blonde ran for the window, as Rainbow nonchalantly tossed the still-burning match into the growing pool of gasoline, backing toward the window in a manner that suggested she was not in any kind of hurry.
The match landed solidly in the puddle, and immediately set the pool ablaze. The flames were intense and quickly fed from the surrounding fuel, lapping up the walls and consuming everything in its path. Black plastic casings bubbled and warped under the blistering heat as the fire reached the displays along the back wall, unrelenting and unstoppable in its raging destruction.
Safely outside, the girls cheered, laughed and danced in the flickering light of their creation. Only Faith stood apart, not having moved an inch, staring at the inferno with intent but curiously detached interest. Her face was an unreadable mask that basked in the orange glow.
Older now, and aged in a way that only experience can mould, Faith's expression was eerily identical to that she had worn so long ago. The store had obviously changed some from that night, but was at its heart the same. Even upon close examination there would be no way of knowing that it had once been utterly destroyed from the inside. Even the sign had been replaced; it still read "Clarke Electronics", but the lettering used was more modern and clearly hoped to be more attractive in its appeal to the average consumer. The VCRs and DVD players once stacked so neatly in the window had been replaced with rows of televisions, screens pointing out toward the street and tuned to CNN or some equally homogenized news channel.
Faith paid no attention any of this, simply staring at the whole, unmarred glass surface and seeing something only in her mind's eye.