Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Old Factory – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘Vahrall Demons. Haven’t seen one of them in a while’ Xander said quietly. ‘Guess all the Hellmouth activity has attracted them’ he theorised, turning to Spike and pulling his night-vision goggles up onto his forehead. ‘Now remember Spike if they want to jump into a hole don’t do them a great big favour and chuck them in instead’ he told the vampire.
Spike frowned. ‘Almost start one
bleeding apocalypse by accident’ he began, ‘and they’ll be throwing it back in your face for eternity’ he complained. ‘Vahrall’s you say? First thing I ever got to beat up after Riley’s boys stuck that chip in me bonce’ he remembered fondly, it had been a great relief to be able to hit something again.
‘I miss that chip’ Xander responded sadly. ‘It was always good for a cheap laugh watching you clutch your head in agony. Happy days’ he said with a sigh.
Spike ignored him. ‘How many?’ he asked.
Xander pulled the goggles back down. ‘Three’ he replied, looking around the pile of debris. ‘Always three there are, no more no less… no wait there’s four’ he added correcting himself.
‘Right’ Spike said, turning back to the group of potentials with them. ‘We’ve got four Vahrall Demons in there. They’re strong and fast and they’re a lot less into self-preservation than your average vampire so don’t think that just because you’ve got the bastards outnumbered they’ll be trying to run away because we’ve seen these things try to martyr themselves for the cause before’ he told them.
‘What’s the cause?’ Caridad asked. The potential was carrying a large mace and was rolling it in her hands nervously.
Xander pulled the goggles up again and faced her. In his opinion she was always worth looking at, he just wished she was older or maybe that he was a bit less wrapped up in Anya still. ‘Opening the Hellmouth and ending the world’ he replied. ‘We think that’s a step outside the acceptable boundaries of religious practices even here in the freedom loving USA’ he added.
‘How do you kill them?’ Vi asked.
‘Blunt force trauma, edged weapons, nothing unusual’ Spike told the girls. ‘They’re pretty run-of-the-mill as demons go, just remember they’re still a lot tougher than any of you yet’ he cautioned.
‘I don’t know if I’m ready for this’ Natasha the new girl said. ‘I know you guys have been doing this a while but…’
‘Oh yeah we’re like hardened demon fighters’ Rona interrupted her with a slightly sarcastic tone. ‘We’ve been at this a few weeks at most and we’re no stronger or meaner than you are. You’ll be fine okay’ she said, trying to sound reassuring.
Xander smiled. The potentials were like their own little support group sometimes.
‘Excuse me for interrupting the female bonding’ Spike interjected. ‘But haven’t you got some skulls to cave in?’ he asked sardonically.
‘You’ll help if we need it right?’ Natasha checked, still worried about the situation.
Spike nodded. ‘Yell for help and I’ll be down there chewing on Vahrall neck before you can say “Liverpool lose at home to Man U again”.’
The English girls’ mouth dropped open. ‘I might have guessed you’d be a United fan after all those years without a soul’ she snapped back.
Spike grinned, now there’s the flash of spirit she needed he thought.
As they watched the potentials move through the factory to sneak up on the demons Xander raised his M16A2 rifle and got ready to fire if needed. He could have just gunned down the Vahralls himself but the girls needed the practice and it would have made a heck of a noise. The Cops were still making statements about tracking down the “kids” who had set off “excessively loud fireworks” the night that Wesley and his friend Gunn had been trying out the grenade-launcher.
Spike vamped out next to him to gain the benefit of the better night vision he got when he did so. Xander couldn’t help but flinch slightly but he didn’t really think he was in any danger, Spike hadn’t demonstrated himself to be a threat since Principal Wood inadvertently removed his trigger “programming”.
Anyhow having a crucifix and a stake in your pockets and a loaded assault rifle in your hands was damn comforting Xander decided, watching with professional interest and making mental notes to talk through with the girls afterwards as the potentials leaped to attack the unsuspecting demons.Summers Residence – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘Getting busy out there’ Faith declared, yawning and dropping into a chair that Giles had just vacated, heading to get himself a cup of tea. ‘Ran into half a dozen vampires and a pair of Fyarl’s before midnight last night and it got busy after that’ she told Buffy before taking a bite of the cereal bar that was her breakfast. ‘If I didn’t know better I’d think there was an apocalypse coming’ she mumbled between bites.
‘Don’t talk with your mouth full’ Buffy told her. Faith was spraying little bits of grain onto the carpet and it had only just been vacuumed. ‘How was it over across town?’ Buffy asked Xander who was himself drinking another cup of coffee having eaten at home before heading over to Buffy’s for their daily late morning conference.
‘Vahrall Demons, only the four but they made the girls work for the win’ Xander replied. ‘Spike got all nostalgic and ended up pounding on one for old times sake after it got a decent kick in on Rona’ he continued. ‘She’s alright but a bit bruised so she’s sitting out training today’ he told her.
Buffy nodded in agreement. They didn’t have the quick healing of full-blown slayers so they had to be a lot more careful not to aggravate injuries. ‘I got a phonecall from Angel’ she said. ‘He and his team found a nest of Durslar Beasts out by the packing plant and cleared them out.’
‘Durslars?’ Faith asked curiously. ‘New one on me’ she said.
‘They eat the heads of human babies’ Giles told her, returning with his tea and slightly miffed that Faith had stolen his chair. ‘Vile creatures’ he said with distaste.
I feel better that Wesley tried out one of those phosphorus grenades on them’ Buffy said coldly. There were some things that deserved a far
more painful demise than a sword, club or axe could deliver and an incendiary bomb fitted the bill nicely she thought.
Faith nodded. ‘Way to go Wes’ she agreed before taking the final bite of her breakfast and chewing it slowly.
‘How did Illyria get on with Connor?’ Giles asked. The previous night was the first they had tried them patrolling together alone after Illyria complained that everyone else just slowed her down.
‘He sniffs ‘em out then she snuffs ‘em out’ Faith told him after swallowing. ‘Ran into the kid this morning and he looked pleased with himself so I guess they scored a few points.’
Giles sipped his tea. ‘Hard to believe that despite our ongoing mass culling of the local demon fraternity it seems there’s more every night. I can only surmise that the Firsts’ influence is attracting them here en-masse’ he reasoned.
‘It’s May’ Willow pointed out, looking up from the book of spells she had been engrossed in until now. ‘Everything always falls apart in May’ she said with certainty.
‘Well all I can say is, if the town keeps getting worse at this rate everyone is going to move out because even the normal
people are going to notice pretty soon that this burg is going to hell in a handbasket’ Faith opined.
Buffy frowned. ‘Illyria said to me yesterday this happened last time but over a longer period. This has been a lot more sudden’ she said. ‘I just can’t see why the First has suddenly got so much more out-of-town muscle coming in keeping us occupied.’
‘Maybe it didn’t need to last time?’ Willow suggested. ‘Bringers and Turok-Han were plenty and they’ve got to be more reliable’ she opined. ‘Half these new demons hate each others' clans almost as much as they hate us’ she noted.
‘Can’t you pick up on anything Will?’ Buffy asked.
The witch shrugged. ‘The general vibes in this town are getting darker and darker but nothing that would explain why we’ve suddenly become the must-see holiday destination for every demon in North America’ she said.
‘I know we’ve been playing the waiting game but come on Buff isn’t it time we rolled out the big guns and slayerised the girls?’ Xander asked. ‘We’ll have well over two dozen ready by the end of the week and most of them with training and a bit of experience’ he said. ‘We open up the seal, give the First’s Army a monumental asskicking, close the hellmouth forever and then go see a movie. I’ll even pay for the popcorn’ he offered.
‘There are thousands
of Turok-Han under that Seal’ Buffy pointed out, ‘and Illyria still hasn’t told us where that Amulet comes into things, other than we need Spike to wear it because he did last time’ she added.
Xander scratched around his eye. He had been subconsciously doing that ever since Illyria told them he’d originally had it gouged out by Caleb. ‘That’s what all the hardware’s for’ he responded. ‘We tenderise them with fire and high-explosives for a while before we make our move’ he said. ‘Oh come on I can’t be the only one who wants to yell “Fire in the hole” and drop a grenade through the open seal?’ he asked. ‘Wesley says he knows how to make cheap homemade napalm too, we can pour a tanker load of the stuff in there then set it all off at once when we’ve got a big group of them bunched up under the seal. If nothing else it’ll make them scared of going anywhere near it.’
Buffy looked at him. ‘And who’s idea was that
originally?’ she asked.
Xander quickly looked to Giles who took off his glasses and started cleaning them. ‘We had a brain-storming session’ the watcher replied non-committally. ‘Trying to think outside the box now we have greater resources’ he said.
‘Hey if you think that’s
wild’ Xander continued, ‘Fred’s building a big dual chainsaw contraption that will dice anything that gets past the girls and tries to get up through the seal once you go down there’ he said. ‘It’ll be like Turok-Han in a blender’ he explained, grinning. ‘Just make sure our people who stay topside turn it off before you try to leave yourself’ he warned seriously. ‘It won’t be too discriminating on what it chops up.’
Buffy crossed her arms. ‘Any other secret weapons nobody has bothered telling me about?’ she asked with an edge to her voice. She was feeling out of the loop and didn't like it.
‘The Guardian is enchanting some swords for us’ Giles told her. ‘They won’t be anything like as effective as the scythe itself, but they’ll be more effective against vampires than normal weapons so she says.’
‘I sorted that out’ Faith admitted. ‘Her and Giles don’t seem to get on’ she explained.
Buffy turned to her. ‘You too?’ she exclaimed. ‘Is this like a secret coup?’ she asked over-dramatically.
‘You just seemed so busy we just thought we could save you having to deal with a few things yourself personally’ Willow told her. ‘I kinda helped with the sword enchantment’ the witch admitted. ‘She had the spells and I had the power to speed up the process.’
‘Usurped’ Buffy said. ‘My authority has been usurped!’ the slayer claimed.
‘Think of it as a transition from the principle of Divine Right of Kings to Constitutional Monarchy’ Giles told her. ‘We remain your obedient Councillors and Ministers but we’ve helped out with the day-to-day running of the Kingdom.’
‘That analogy sounds very
British’ Buffy replied, narrowing her eyes.
Giles looked thoughtful. ‘Be grateful it wasn’t French instead because there might have been a guillotine involved at some point’ he joked. ‘Honestly Buffy, we still all regard you as the rightful Monarch’ he said chuckling. ‘Good Queen Buff as it were’ he added, eyes twinkling.
‘And if you’re giving out titles Your Buffyness, “Sir Xander of the Sunny Dale” would look great
on my business cards’ Xander told her, dropping to one knee and bowing his head.
Buffy looked down at him. ‘I need a better class of subjects’ she said eventually. ‘Is there a catalogue for those I could look through? I’m looking for something in the sycophantic line’ she announced.Wolfram and Hart Building – Los Angeles - May 2003
‘Just like old times Holland’ Lilah said to her former boss as they strode down the corridor.
a touch of déjà vu in the air tonight’ Manners agreed. ‘Nice to be working with you again by the way’ he added graciously. ‘Reassuring to know that when the Senior Partners want a job done properly they know who to turn to isn’t it?’
Lilah nodded. ‘Of course there is the advantage that seeing as how we’re both dead we’re less of a burden on the payroll’ she observed.
The former, and indeed Late, Head of Special Projects smiled. ‘I missed that wry sense of humour, it’s a pity we were reassigned to different holding dimensions, my colleagues at my current offices are really quite dull’ he told her.
‘Mine was as bad’ Lilah responded sympathetically. ‘This may be a temporary assignment but frankly LA is looking close to paradise’ she continued. ‘I’m hoping that the lead I’ve taken in assisting The First in its struggles with our mutual enemies will result in my position here becoming permanent, or at least extended’ she said as they continued to walk along at a brisk pace through the labyrinth of tunnels deep below the tower. Even the dungeon was above them now. ‘From what I hear, our incentives for freelancers to head to Sunnydale has been remarkably successful, we’re even having transferees in from the Cleveland district according to our branch there’ she said.
Manners smiled again. ‘Yes the Sunnydale Hellmouth is starting to teem with what most would consider the undesirable element’ he agreed. ‘The slayer and her allies must be run ragged trying to keep ahead of the game while the First rallies its troops’ he said. ‘Of course if it looks like our “ally” is getting too strong we’ll immediately sell him down the river as per company policy’ he added matter-of-factly.
‘Naturally’ Lilah replied. ‘We can’t have every dark entity in the world thinking it can end it’ she agreed. ‘That’s our
prerogative’ she declared, towing the company line.
‘The Senior Partners are, of course, in complete accordance’ Holland Manners told her. ‘If it wasn’t for the new player we would have let the slayer handle the issue and kept well out of it, but as things are, we are
having to get our hands dirtier than I would like’ he noted sadly. ‘I do so dislike having to use brute force. It’s so uncivilised’ he said regretfully.
Lilah stopped to check her pager which had bleeped. It wasn’t anything important so she put it away and carried on. ‘To be honest when I heard that we were having to deal with a rogue Demon God playing for the other side I was more than slightly incredulous of the report’ Lilah admitted. ‘But if the Senior Partners take the threat seriously it must be treated with urgency’ she said.
‘The appearance of Illyria does seem to have taken the people at the top somewhat aback’ Manners replied. ‘It’s a bad memory that was supposed to have been safely suppressed but it, or perhaps I should say “she” given her current form, could be a fearsome thorn in our sides’ he told her. ‘Although not what she once was, she is certainly more than a match for any other denizen of this realm and although we could overwhelm her with sheer numbers, the losses the Corporation would take would be entirely unacceptable. The bottom line is that we need to recruit outside help to deal with her before she
decides to deal with us
’ he told Lilah seriously.
‘It’s a pity Lindsey isn’t here too it would be a real trip down memory lane’ Lilah observed as she pushed open the double doors into the temple chamber. They walked in together and paused just inside, letting the doors swing closed behind them.
‘Five are without Soul’ the High Priest read from the scroll.
‘Yet they live’ the nearby Dark Monks chanted.
Holland dropped his head into his hands. ‘I knew I should have stayed for dessert at lunch and got here five minutes later’ he moaned.
Lilah nodded in agreement looking at the large ornate box in the centre of the room with the five vampires chained to it struggled to break free. ‘All we need now is for Angel to appear and cut off someone’s hand’ she said.
‘Five are without Sun’ the High Priest read.
‘Yet they live’ the monks chanted in response as Lilah moved her hand, one index finger outstretched, in a spiral motion trying to get them to hurry up.
‘Five are dead’
‘Yet they live’
Lilah tapped on her watch. The High Priest saw her and sighed. Damn Lawyers had no sense of ritual or occasion he thought, getting to the Latin text.
‘Et illi quinque sacrificum est et illi que est mortuus vivet’ the priest read.
‘Nearly there’ Holland said gratefully. ‘And no Angel that’s a big plus’ he added, directing the comment to Lilah who was in clear agreement.
‘Dum vita et mors non duas res sed unas sunt. In tenebris lux est, in luge tenebrae sunt. Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge!’ the priest declared.
The five chained vampires seemed to explode into a whirlwind of dust that span around the box and eventually entered it. The flash of light that followed was exactly the same as when they had resurrected Darla all those years before.
Manners rubbed his neck just thinking about it. Damn unreliable self-serving vampires he thought, waving the monks forward to lift the lid from the box. ‘Ironic how it’s the slayer that made this possible in a way’ he said. ‘We could have never obtained somebody of this calibre normally, they just wouldn’t be willing to demean themselves to work for the Firm even if we had the power to bring them here to this world, which we don’t.’
‘Can’t just magic up someone who can stand up to a God at whim’ Lilah agreed. Illyria was far too powerful for anything remotely
mortal to handle.
‘True enough’ Manners concurred. ‘But resurrecting a dead human being isn’t anywhere near as tricky’ he said looking down into the box, the monks having removed the lid.
‘Hello Ben’ he began warmly. ‘We’re hoping we could have a word with your sister’ he added with a friendly smile to the shivering naked man looking up at him from the box.