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.Summers Residence – Sunnydale – May 2003
Willow was sat on the edge of Buffy’s bed holding her hand. ‘I tried a locator spell but Vail must have blocked me somehow’ she told her. ‘He’s good’ she said, ‘well in the evil sense of the word’ she added, ‘I put a lot of juice into the spell and it would have burned through anything he put up if he didn’t have plenty of power himself.’
‘I watched him put Illyria on her knees’ Buffy replied, shifting uncomfortably in the bed, she was still very sore from her beating at the hands of Glory. ‘The last time I saw firepower like that…’ she continued, then paused awkwardly.
‘Was when I went off the rails’ Willow interrupted, looking away with a mildly insecure expression on her face.
Buffy squeezed her friends’ hand. ‘It’s alright Will’ she reassured her. ‘You’re not that person anymore, even with the magicks.’
Willow took a breath. ‘Buffy the activation spell with the scythe took enormous power but there wasn’t violence or hostility there to cloud the issue’ she responded. ‘It’s just not the same’ she continued. ‘If I have to fight Vail it’ll tap raw emotions not just power, I’m human, hurt me, or hurt my friends and I get angry, the difference is I won’t start throwing punches, I’ll be throwing… less tangible things’ she said. ‘It’s all about power and control’ she said, with a slight smile as she remembered Xander's Hammer analogy, ‘I might need to sacrifice some control to get the power to beat him’ she warned.
The slayer sighed. ‘Willow nobody is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do’ she let her know.
Willow looked Buffy in the eyes. ‘Glory nearly killed you’ she said. ‘She’ll kill any one of us, she’ll kill Dawn
’ she said for emphasis. ‘We need Illyria to bring her down and to do that we need Vail off her back’ she pointed out. ‘I’m the only one who can go up against a Mage that powerful, Giles has some ability even without the borrowed power and I’ve been sensing things off Wesley since he came back that make me think he’s still developing a lot of innate potential, but neither of them would stand a chance’ she said bluntly. ‘I don’t want to do it’ she said, ‘It’s my duty
to do it’ Willow told Buffy with a clear unwavering voice.
‘I’d pull you in for a hug but it would hurt’ Buffy told her with a smile. ‘But you didn’t go far enough with the healing spell’ she joked.
‘Hey I knitted all those broken bones back together what more do you want?’ she asked. ‘I had to try and fix all those other busted up Slayers too you know, I’m not freaking Gandalf despite the occasional hair colour. You’re a slayer you can heal the bruises just fine on your own.’
‘You could have put my tooth back’ Buffy said, indicating the gap in her lower front teeth. ‘I look like a hockey player’ she complained.
Willow rolled her eyes. ‘Well if you’d remembered to keep it I might have been able too’ she replied. ‘What do you want me to do? Find another girl and knock one of hers out to put back in your jaw?’ she asked sardonically.
Buffy thought about that one. ‘I suppose if we did that to one of the newbies it would make me look kinda like an evil tyrant’ she said sadly. ‘But if you do
go all black haired, veiny and evil yourself could you maybe remember to go with that plan?’ she requested in jest.
‘Go to a dentist’ Willow told her, shaking her head.
Buffy grimaced. ‘I don’t want to deal with anyone that
evil’ she replied.Motel - Five Miles Southeast of Sunnydale – May 2003
Glory could have kicked open the door easily enough but it was less harsh on her accommodation to get the mercenary standing outside to unlock it now that Ben was gone. She yelled at him to open the damn door and he did with alacrity, saluted her and followed the HellGod to Vail’s room where the next mercenary on guard outside the warlock's room opened it for her.
‘You’re looking better I see’ Vail greeted her without a trace of concern for her appearance.
‘I look like I fell out of an airliner and landed on my face’ Glory replied.
Vail nodded. ‘As I said you do
look better’ he said sarcastically. ‘The description I would have used right after your clash with the Old One would have been the same except for you would have fallen from the plane into a swimming pool full of broken glass’ he told her. ‘You just don’t resemble raw hamburger quite as much now.’
Glory wanted to rip him into little chunks but she had enough sense not to. ‘What happened to the slayers?’ she asked.
Vail snorted. ‘If I told you that the First didn’t
go through with its part of the plan would you be surprised?’ he asked rhetorically.
‘That rotten, ancient, backstabbing, lying, incorporeal prick’ Glory seethed. ‘What did it do?’ she asked.
Vail took a seat, he was hooked up to his stand holding the part medical, part magical elixirs that fed into his veins. ‘The Portal that the Senior partners forced past the seal brought some three hundred or so Turok-Han out’ he said. ‘The First sent perhaps sixty into action and kept the rest back. The slayers slaughtered them and I don't believe they lost a single one of their own.’
Glory growled. ‘He could have at least sent half of them, made it look
like he was trying’ she said.
Vail shrugged. ‘The First expects Wolfram and Hart to dissolve the alliance as soon as it’s in our interests’ he said. ‘We aren’t going to let him open the seal any more than the slayers would, so the only Turok-Han he’ll have available out here are the ones we gave him. He probably thought he’d sent enough to do some damage but he underestimated his foe as much as you did yours. He was counting on that diversionary attack on the Guardian's Temple to split the slayer forces but when it didn’t his gamble on only sending a handful of his best into action came up short.’
The HellGod crossed her arms and began tapping her foot in annoyance. ‘What happened with the diversion?’
‘Shot to pieces by two ordinary humans with automatic weapons’ Vail replied. ‘Absolute waste of resources for zero benefit’ he said. ‘If it had been a Wolfram and Hart operation the shareholders would have had the project leader immolated.’
‘So basically you’re saying we got royally shafted on all counts?’ Glory said. ‘Well that’s just peachy’ she muttered. ‘Shot to pieces? Well looks like he decided to go ahead literally with that crack I made about him taking a knife to a gunfight back in LA’ she said. ‘If he actually had a neck I could wring I’d…’
‘Mea culpa’ the First said, flashing into view, taking the form of Caleb again. ‘I threw the dice and forgot to rig them’ he continued, with Glory glaring at him seething with rage, she hadn’t done any better in reality but at least she tried to do what she said she would, the First hadn’t even done that.
Vail narrowed his eyes at both of them. ‘The only people actually doing their jobs in this have been the forces of the Wolf, Ram and Hart’ he stated flatly. ‘If both of you don’t put your egos away and start treating the enemy with some respect we are going to get our asses handed to us next time as well’ he said. ‘We’ve already thrown away the element of surprise and not only have we not caused any damage, they’re battle-hardened and out for our blood.’
‘I guess we need a plan B’ the First said. ‘We could always open the seal…’ he began then clammed up seeing the expressions on the faces of both Glory and Vail. ‘Only saying’ the First added.
Vail meshed his spindly fingers in front of him on his lap. ‘I am going to request more support in terms of warrior demons and we’ll solve this by brute force’ he said. ‘It lack finesse but we’ll just overwhelm them in a frontal attack’ he said. ‘A frontal attack I expect to see a large
number of Turok-Han leading’ he said.
‘What about Illyria?’ the First asked.
‘I need a weapon’ Glory told them. ‘Something sharp and unbreakable’ she said.
Vail frowned. ‘I’ll check with the Senior Partners but it might take a couple of days to rustle up something “unbreakable”.’
breakable will… break’ Glory pointed out. ‘I’ll be swinging it really hard against something really tough and I don’t want to be left holding a broken sword or something when Old, Blue and Bitchy starts trying to ruin my good looks again’ she stated seriously.
The First gave her a disparaging look. ‘You might have thought about that before
you fought Illyria the first time’ he observed.
Glory snarled. ‘And like you did so well in your
part of the operation’ she replied dismissively. ‘I guess you really are the First
Evil’ she continued, ‘because you sure don’t seem to have evolved very much compared to the rest of us’ she declared.
Vail looked at her with a new respect. He wished he’d
thought up that line, maybe there was hope for the HellGod after all he wondered.Crawford Street Mansion – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘Willow tried the locator spell twice but no go’ Giles reported. ‘I think the idea of taking the war back to them just isn’t feasible given that we don’t know where they actually are’ he said.
Faith scratched her arm, it had been badly bruised by a Turok-Han and now her slayer healing was at work it itched like crazy. ‘This Vail guy must be seriously hard-core to block Red, I’ve seen her in action’ she observed.
her in action’ Giles commented, ‘and I agree. Cyvus Vail is likely a severe threat.’
‘When they go toe-to-toe Willow will own him’ Kennedy stated confidently.
‘Just because she owns you
doesn’t mean that’s universally applicable’ Faith retorted with a grin.
Kennedy threw her a look. ‘Willow doesn’t own me’ she said.
‘You two really should be careful what you say in bed because some of the things you’ve been overheard saying to each other when you get… carried away… just don’t bear that out’ Faith replied with a smirk. ‘I’ve already had a couple of requests from girls living over at Buffy’s to move in over here because you’re so damn loud’ she announced.
Kennedy blushed but tried hard to fight it. She wasn’t at all embarrassed by her relationship with Willow but she didn’t like to think people could overhear them.
‘Don’t sweat it kid’ Faith told her. ‘I’m only jealous you’re getting some and I ain’t’ she said, turning back to Giles who gave her a look of concern. ‘No I’m not going to suggest anything I wasn’t in prison that
long’ she told the watcher with a wink.
Andrew had been pouring over the map spread out across a large table in the centre of the room. ‘We could set up a search pattern and go looking for them’ he said. ‘It might take a few days but…’
‘Found them’ Gunn declared, walking in. ‘Motel a few miles from here, Connor is keeping an eye on them, he’s good at the not being seen.’
Everyone turned to look at him and Fred who was half a step behind. ‘You found them?’ Giles said. ‘How did you do that?’ he wanted to know.
Gunn looked around smugly. ‘You do realise we’re like a Detective Agency right?’ he asked. ‘This is what we do for a living. We “detect”.’
Fred laughed. ‘Illyria mentioned that they were using one of their Black Hummer four-wheel-drives and those things just drink gas, so we started about thirty miles down the coast on the main route from LA and asked at Gas Stations until we got a result’ she explained.
‘You don’t see as many of those things here as you do back in LA’ Gunn added. ‘And people notice them there too, they’re hard to miss’ he explained. ‘Once we found out where they’d been buying gas we asked around nearby and a bartender told us about a few military looking guys that were staying at a motel. We scouted the place out, well Connor did, and we came out trumps.’
‘And apparently the rest of us are idiots’ Giles said, groaning that he
didn’t think of that.
‘Connor said to tell you that you rely on magic too much’ Fred said. ‘Sometimes you need to think inside
the box like normal people’ she joked.
‘Then let’s get out there’ Kennedy said. ‘I’ll get the girls’ she said, reaching for a sword.
‘Get a grip’ Faith told her. ‘We go in we go in prepared’ she said. ‘Question is day or night?’
‘Daytime we don’t get Angel or Spike, but we don’t know if they’ve got Turok-Han in there or if so how many’ Giles said. ‘I think just after dawn would be best so we get the maximum daylight hours to work with. We’ll have to clear it with Buffy though’ he reminded them.
Faith looked at her watch. ‘Well if we’re going to attack at dawn like an old western we need to sort out who we’re taking and those that are get a few hours sleep so they’re fresh and ready to go’ she said. ‘I’ll go talk to Buffy and Willow and can somebody track down Illyria, this is going to be her party.’
‘I’ll do that’ Gunn said. ‘I know where she is she asked me to pick her up there later anyhow’ he told her. ‘Angel’s not going to like being left out though.’
‘Someone has to hold the fort’ Faith replied.
‘If some of us are holding the fort, and the rest are attacking at dawn are we supposed to be the Cavalry or the Indians?’ Gunn asked. ‘I’m just asking because Denzel looked bitchin in a blue uniform in the film Glory and I could pull that off easy.’
‘Yeah but the Glory we’re concerned with is looking at a bitch-slapping from Blue’ Faith replied. ‘And you’d just be confusing things.’Motel - Five Miles Southeast of Sunnydale – May 2003
Willow picked up on a detection spell as they approached and countered it. The spell had been designed to warn Vail of approaching humans in case the Slayers came looking. Unfortunately it was just a bit too specific as Connor wasn’t quite human enough to have been picked up on his radar.
The motel was bordered on two sides by woodland with about a hundred yards of clearance between the edge of the treeline and the nearest building. Xander moved in first, he found he had decent field craft skills as well as his M16-stripping and rocket-launcher stealing abilities and he quietly made his way through the trees towards Connor who would have been tricky to find if Xander hadn’t been carrying his trusty rifle with an Infra Red sight on top. The teenagers location practically glowed in infra-red, he actually seemed to run slightly hotter if anything than a normal human, the complete reverse of his vampire parentage.
Xander knelt down beside Connor who was watching the motel through a small set of binoculars enhancing his already superior vision. ‘What they got?’ he asked in a whisper.
‘I counted six of the guys in black that Wolfram Hart uses, they all carry automatic weapons’ Connor replied. ‘But only two are awake and they’re watching TV in the Motel Office, they patrol the perimeter every half hour or so taking turns.’
‘Glory and Vail?’ Xander asked.
‘The two rooms there and there’ Connor told him, pointing. ‘I watched the soldier guys drag a girl into Glory’s room before night fell and they carried her back out looking half dead a few minutes later and drove her away.’
Xander spat on the ground. ‘That was her dinner’ he said. ‘She eats the energy out of your brain’ he explained. ‘Like a zombie with good table manners’ he said. ‘I’ll watch from here you head back 500 yards that way and tell them everything you know’ he told Connor. ‘You might run into Wesley he’s going to set up some fire support’ he advised.
‘Fire support?’ Connor asked.
‘We’ve got grenade launchers’ Xander said. ‘Might as well fire grenades out of them sometimes’ he replied with a vicious grin.
Just before dawn rose the senior of the two Wolfram and Hart mercenaries on the nightshift yawned and went off on his patrol. It was a total waste of time but he was professional enough not to completely ignore his job. He left his colleague watching the end of a god-awful B-Movie in what had been the Motel Managers office out front before the firm hired out the whole place.
It wasn’t a bad job this one, the mercenary thought, certainly less messy so far that the normal wet-work they got involved in. They were getting a bonus, Glory was good to look at, but not of course touch, and with the whole motel they each got their own room.
The mercenary was counting his blessings when a blunt object impacted on the back of his skull and he keeled over unconscious as Connor snuck up on him and smacked him on the head with a club, not quite hard enough to smash his skull but he would have concussion and the mother of all headaches when he woke up. Assuming they let him wake up, they weren’t entirely agreed on that point.
Wesley was a lot more direct. After getting a signal from Connor he simply walked into the Managers Office and shot the other mercenary in the back of the head with a silenced pistol as he sat watching the film, his back to the door eating a bag of chips. The thing that really disturbed him on a certain level was that he actually managed to notice what the film was the guy was watching more than he seemed to register any emotion at blowing his brains over the television screen. Sometimes Wesley even surprised himself on how far he'd fallen.
‘You’re on’ he said into his radio and trotted back to his position just by the treeline just before the main event was due to start.
Connor made his way around the motel and pulled a grenade from his gear satchel. It was a stun grenade, flash and bang not flame and fury like the phosphorus incendiary ones he’d used against the Turok-Han, and he pulled the pin just as a group of slayers emerged from the darkness to do likewise.
The three slayers and Connor simply pitched the grenades through the windows of the four remaining mercenaries and ran like hell.
It was not the recommended way to be woken up, especially when before their ears stopped ringing and the mercenaries stumbled out of bed and grabbed boots and weapons, someone blew up the two Hummers parked outside with a grenade launcher.
It was Gunn firing the launcher, he’d called heads when he and Wes flipped a coin for it.
The first merc that stumbled outside got shot at as did the next and they threw themselves back inside their rooms. Xander was having fun with his M16A2 but he did note that the crappy Russian infra-red gunsight flared out if he pointed it too close to the burning four wheel drives. Oh well the sun was coming up now and he wouldn’t need it he realised.
‘You are totally outnumbered and outgunned by people who don’t give a shit if you live or die’ a female voice bellowed. ‘Throw out your arms and surrender, we aren’t after you, we want the Warlock and the Blond Hellbitch’ it declared.
‘Fuck you’ one of the mercs yelled back and stuck his MP5 sub machinegun out of his door, firing a burst randomly.
The grenade launcher fired again and blew his motel room to bits. As a counter-argument it was very strident.
‘Last chance’ the voice shouted again. ‘We’re only interested in saving the ammunition, don’t go thinking we’re screwing around here’ it assured them. ‘Just throw out your guns and get walking to town and we’ll leave you be’ it said.
One of the mercenaries complied and threw his weapons out as did his compatriots soon after. They were only the hired help, it wasn’t worth dying for.
Glory stepped outside and watched the mercenaries walking away with their hands up. ‘After this is over I’ll kill you myself’ she vowed. ‘Alright you’ve got me come and take me’ she yelled defiantly. ‘Vail you in this?’ she asked.
‘I am here HellGod’ the warlock replied, he was unconnected to his usual life-support, using his magic to sustain him instead. ‘I have cast wards and protection spells that will repel their weapons’ he told her, stepping out from his own room. ‘There is power nearby’ he said. ‘The witch is coming’ he added.
‘Not just the witch’ Illyria declared, stepping out to face them.
Wesley looked at her standing in the courtyard. She looked bloody magnificent and he’d also just found out why Gunn had been complaining about the damage that had been done to the shocks on his pickup. ‘Xander’ he said into his radio. ‘What the hell is Illyria carrying?’ he asked.
‘It’s a sword
’ Xander replied on his headset.
‘No its not’ Wesley responded. ‘It looks like a bloody girder.’
‘Okay. So technically we took an A992 Grade I-Beam, cut it up and sharpened it with an angle-grinder
’ Xander admitted. ‘She wanted something a bit heftier
’ he explained.
‘It’s got to be a yard longer than she is tall’ Wesley pointed out. ‘The thing must weigh over half a ton’ he said, watching Illyria handle it like a two-handed broadsword as she squared off with Glory.
‘Hey you should have seen the expression on the Guardian when we asked her to cast those weapon enchanting spells on it
’ Xander replied, laughing.
Glory looked at Illyria and her “sword”. ‘I’m not happy over here’ she told Vail as seriously as she could.
Vail extended a hand and generated a fireball ready to throw. ‘If you think I’m any happier’ he replied. ‘You are badly mistaken’ he continued, turning to face the young red-haired woman who was walking towards him. ‘Introductions My Dear’ he said. ‘I’m Cyvus Vail’ he said, and launched the fireball.
The ball of fire shot towards the woman who raised her hand and it exploded right in front of her against a translucent shield of energy she cast with a single word. She lowered her hand and looked right at him. ‘Willow Rosenberg’ she replied with a smile which shifted into a sneer as she rose from the ground and lightning began to flash around her. ‘I think we have business’ she told him.
Vail extended his arms and lightning flashed between his hands as he rose from the ground himself. She was right, they did have business and it was time to go to work.
Glory looked for a weapon and ripped a 12 foot high metal flagpole out of the ground in the centre of the courtyard to use as a staff. Illyria eyed it contemptuously and raised her sword in a mocking salute with a scornful expression on her face.
‘Has anyone bought popcorn
?’ Xander asked. ‘Because this is going to be good