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.Shadow Valley Vineyards – May 2003
They pulled the hood off the mercenary's head and he was instantly dazzled by the lamp directed straight in his eyes. It was just like every clichéd interrogation scene from an unoriginal movie, he thought, he was tied to a chair in a dark room blinded by a spotlight. If it wasn’t for the gag in his mouth he would have called them amateurs, as it was he inwardly smiled despite the headache.
‘Well he’s awake anyhow’ a British accented voice noted. ‘Pity, I was looking forward to throwing a bucket of water over him’ it said.
The mercenary laughed behind the gag, like he thought they were just acting out things they’d seen in the movies. He just hoped they weren’t going to start playing “Stuck in the middle with you” by Stealers Wheel, not that having his ear cut off would make him talk but he didn’t want to have to get one of those Wolfram and Hart supplied replacement parts. He might end up with an evil ear that liked folk music or something.
A figure stepped into the light and knelt down in front of him looking the mercenary straight in the eyes. ‘We could give you the easy way or hard way speech but I’ll give Wolfram and Hart the credit for hiring half-way competent people so we both know it’s going to be the hard way’ the man said. The mercenary recognised him as being the vampire Angel, he’d read the company file on the guy, he was supposed to be a real bad-ass according to the lawyer types in charge but what did the desk-jockeys know about that stuff?
The vampire tied something around his thigh above the knee and pulled it tight, this was original anyway, the mercenary thought, as the vampire got up and took a pace back.
A metallic scraping noise off to the side caught the mercs’ attention. It was really quiet, wherever they were, and the place seemed to echo magnifying any sounds. He turned his head to the side as another figure stepped into view. It was another man, this one he recognised as being that Limey that the boss used to screw, Wyndham-Pryce he recalled. He also recognised what he was holding in his hands and now knew what the scraping sound was as the British guy continued to slowly screw a silencer into place on an automatic pistol.
‘This is to get your attention’ the Brit told the mercenary and shot him in the kneecap. The tourniquet Angel had put on him would prevent him going into shock through blood loss but to say it hurt would be an understatement of the reality. The mercenary screamed in agony behind his gag.
‘Take the pain you pussy’ Angel told the mercenary after letting him writhe for a minute or so. ‘Like the man said, that was just so we knew we had your undivided attention and so you knew we weren’t full of shit when we told you what was going to happen’ he explained.
The mercenary fought down his pain and glared at both of them chewing on his gag as the Brit moved in to whisper in his ear. ‘If I was you I’d be worried about what the smell of that blood running down your leg is doing to my friend there’ he said, nodding towards Angel. ‘He might not usually eat people these days but vampires off the human blood are like alcoholics, they’re never really free of it and if he did decide to take a couple of pints none of us
think you’re worth saving’ he said flatly. ‘Right’ he continued loudly, standing up. ‘Let’s take off that gag and get down to business’ he said brightly, leaning down to untie the cloth and removing it from the mercenary's mouth.
‘Fuck you’ the mercenary swore.
‘We considered something along those lines but nobody felt like that
kind of torture, and psychological takes too long, so it’s mainly just going to be good old fashioned pain’ Wyndham-Pryce responded in an all too matter-of-fact tone. ‘Answer the questions and we won’t break out the electrodes and broken glass’ he promised.
The mercenary spat at him but instead of the punch he expected in return Wesley kicked him in the knee instead. The pain, which had subsided after the initial gunshot, surged again and the mercenary screamed out loud this time, his cry of agony echoing on forever.
‘Christ Wesley’ Angel said sharply but received a look from the Englishman that stopped him going further. It wasn't so much “Good Cop, Bad Cop” as “Bad Cop, Psycho Cop”.
‘Listen up’ Wesley told the mercenary, once he stopped crying out, ‘I’ve been exactly where you are now, except for the fact I was being tortured for fun not information’ he declared. ‘You are
going to talk’ he stated. ‘Everyone breaks in the end and I’m more than enough of an arsehole to keep going until you do’ he said honestly. ‘You’re just the hired help, we’ve got no major beef with you’ he assured the man. ‘Spill everything you know and we’ll let you limp back to LA with a story to tell about how much we had to do in order to make you talk.’
‘Eat me’ the mercenary hissed.
Wesley grinned. ‘Well I was going to leave that option until last but if you insist’ he said. ‘Glory it’s feeding time’ he declared loudly.
‘So what’s it like being pet food?’ Angel asked. ‘It’s pretty handy the way my boy took you alive’ he said. ‘They just don’t make good quality HellGod Kibble these days’ he said regretfully.
‘Oh shit’ the mercenary exclaimed as the blond entered his view. ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ he demanded to know. ‘You’re on our side’ he said. ‘We, I, looked after you’ he reminded Glory.
Wesley shrugged. ‘After your close encounter of the blunt heavy kind our god beat your god and made Glory here her bitch’ he said. ‘Isn’t that right Glorificus?’ he asked sarcastically.
‘Look do I get to eat this guy's brains or not?’ the HellGod asked in an annoyed tone before turning to address the mercenary. ‘I’m sort of sorry about this, you guys were great, but I’m like starving and they won’t let me eat anyone else’ she told him apologetically.
‘You can’t let her do that to me?’ the mercenary protested to Angel, weirdly the vampire seemed more reasonable than the boss's human ex.
Angel snorted. ‘Are you kidding?’ he asked. ‘We already know from her you’ve been feeding her innocent people for weeks, it’s not like you don’t deserve it’ he said. ‘Now talk or she chows down.’
The merc grimaced. ‘What do you want to know?’ he gave in.
‘Shit’ Glory swore. ‘You were right’ she told Angel. ‘He is
a pussy’ she declared angrily. ‘Haven’t you got any backbone?’ she asked the mercenary.
‘That’s enough’ Wesley responded sternly to the HellGod then turned back to the mercenary. ‘We know pretty much the whole story already, Glory was more in the loop than a grunt like you, but do you know if Wolfram and Hart have a backup team that was going to come in guns blazing if Plan A failed?’
The mercenary shook his head. ‘Not the companies’ style’ he replied. ‘They’ll hire more demons, or summon them maybe, but my guess is they’ll give up on the operation and try something else. I’ve been with them nearly ten years, I know’ he said.
‘They do prefer hands-off’ Angel agreed. ‘They won’t throw good money after bad and we know The First screwed them so they won’t have a problem screwing him right back. He that fights and runs away lives to fight another day’ he quoted. ‘They’re in it for the long haul.’
Wesley couldn’t help but agree as well. Wolfram and Hart weren’t set up for a war, they could raise an army if they needed one but it wasn’t their normal modus operandi, they were schemers and plotters not conquerors. They had warriors when needed but that didn’t mean they were ready for outright war, they’d exhaust the other avenues first before throwing themselves fully into the fight.
‘Buffy had a question for him’ Angel remembered. ‘What did you do with the people you fed to Glory?’ he asked the mercenary. ‘We’ve checked the psych wards everywhere around here and we’re not finding any of them, just ordinary
insane people’ he said. If they could locate those Glory had fed from Buffy had hoped they might be able to restore their sanity, as they had done for Tara before.
The mercenaries’ left eye twitched involuntarily. ‘We shipped them back to LA’ he replied. ‘Didn’t want you getting a heads-up about blondie there’ he said.
‘Okay so that was clearly bullshit’ Angel responded immediately. ‘You pick up on body language after a couple of hundred years watching people and you can’t lie for shit’ he told him.
‘They’re in LA’ the mercenary insisted nervously.
Wesley drew a knife from a sheath on his belt and held it to catch the light. ‘Think I won’t
cut you up?’ he asked coldly.
The mercenary took a breath. ‘After she did the finger in the head thing, and they went nuts, we drove them out a few miles and we…’ he paused.
‘You killed them and buried the bodies’ Wesley finished for him.
‘Yeah’ the merc admitted. ‘We did it quick and painless though’ he added quickly. ‘We’re professionals.’
Angel looked at the man tied to the chair then to Wesley who nodded. ‘Glory he’s all yours’ he told her, shaking his head in disgust. These Wolfram and Hart scumbags were actually human, with souls and everything he considered. Give me a decent soulless demon any day, he thought, at least they had some
excuse for what they did.
‘Oh God no’ the mercenary implored, struggling against his bonds.
‘I’ll take him out and get rid of him afterwards’ Wesley told Angel as Glory moved towards her meal. ‘It might be painful though’ he continued darkly, glaring at the panicking mercenary. ‘I’m just an amateur’ he said.Summers Residence – Sunnydale – May 2003
The way she cringed slightly before speaking said it all. ‘So how are you feeling Willow?’ Dawn asked, passing her a mug of soup which Kennedy had asked her to make, apparently Willow didn’t think she could chew too well at the moment.
‘Like I was slugged by a god’ Willow replied with a slur. It looked like a fair proportion of her face was one big bruise on the left side. How she’d got away with all her teeth and an unbroken jaw was a miracle. Illyria threw the best sucker-punch on the planet.
Kennedy looked upset. ‘Want me to hit her back?’ she asked.
Willow shook her head but regretted the movement. ‘You’d just hurt your knuckles’ she replied, taking Kennedy’s hand in her free one and giving it a squeeze, she would have kissed her if it wouldn’t have hurt like hell. Willow had been right on the precipice, she had enjoyed hurting Vail and having him escape had left the witch mightily pissed-off. If Illyria hadn’t pulled the plug by knocking her unconscious she was scared to imagine what might have happened. Her face regretted the God-King's somewhat direct solution but she had to admit, it got the job done.
‘Maybe she wanted someone else around the same colour as she is?’ Dawn joked, indicating the bruising. ‘It’s not you though, it clashes with the hair’ she added.
Willow chuckled and instantly regretted that too. ‘Can I have more painkillers yet?’ she asked hopefully.
‘Not for another two hours’ Kennedy replied, checking her watch, she had been fussing over Willow since she came to, and had been watching over her with concern in the hours before that.
‘Crap’ Willow responded dejectedly.
‘Drugs are bad M’Kay?’ Dawn told her with a giggle.
Willow glared at her. ‘Total
crap’ she replied coldly. ‘Where’s Glory?’ she asked after taking a sip of her soup.
‘Over at Angel’s place’ Dawn replied. ‘She and Illyria are staying there now. Buffy didn’t want her anywhere near either of us.’
Kennedy frowned. ‘We should scythe that Hellgod Bitch’ she opined. ‘Too dangerous to have her around’ she continued. ‘It’s like keeping a pet tiger in your bedroom.’
‘Illyria likes her new toy’ Dawn said. ‘I think it’s kinda fun to play with too’ she added with a grin. ‘Yanking her chain is more fun than should be legal.’
‘Dangerous’ Willow warned, keeping her answers short was less painful.
‘I like to live life on the edge sometimes’ Dawn replied, continuing to grin.
Willow looked her in the eye. ‘Like the edge of the platform on that tower?’ she asked.
That wiped the smile off Dawn’s face, she shuddered thinking about it. She had nearly died up on that thing, Buffy had
died, and that was Glory’s doing. ‘Well what can we do about it?’ she asked. ‘Illyria doesn’t seem to be the easily swayed type and it’s not like we’ve got any hold over her’ she said.
‘We’ve got three dozen slayers and the scythe’ Kennedy pointed out. ‘She’s not that
tough’ she stated.
‘How many slayers are you willing to lose to overpower an ally
?’ Dawn asked rhetorically. ‘And I like
Illyria, she grows on you after you get used to the attitude and the superiority complex. She’s even borderline nice
sometimes’ she said.
‘Wesley’ Willow spoke up again. ‘Just work on Wesley, Illyria listens to him.’
‘She’s got a crush on him’ Kennedy said, ‘which is weird because she actually could
crush him pretty easily.’
‘He’d better hope she doesn’t get carried away during sex’ Dawn remarked then grinned at the expression on Willow’s face. ‘Yeah like we haven’t heard you two lose control’ she added with a wink.
The intact half of Willow’s face blushed but she ignored Dawn’s comments otherwise. ‘We get Wesley to work on her. That’s the best way’ she stated.
‘I’ll talk to Buffy when she gets back from Angel’s, get her to do it’ Dawn said. ‘Maybe Giles too, him and Wes, they’ve got the watcher, “duty” thing. It might help’ she suggested.
Kennedy looked to Willow. ‘While we’re on the subject I’m not sure about Wesley’ she said. ‘He’s… well he’s really…’
‘Borderline sociopathic?’ Willow offered, Kennedy nodding in the afirmative. ‘He does put out that vibe a little sometimes’ she agreed.
Dawn smiled knowingly. ‘It’s affected’ she told them, ‘the attitude, the look and everything, he plays it up’ she continued. ‘I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone but we’ve talked about it’ she said.
‘When we went to the motel he walked up to one off those Wolfram and Hart guys and just shot him in the back of the head, I mean just shot him. No warning, no nothing and he didn’t look bothered by doing it at all’ Kennedy told Dawn, miming a pistol shot with her hand. ‘It was just the easiest way to get rid of him.’
Dawn sniffed. ‘They are
the bad guys’ she pointed out.
‘They’re called the “bad guys” because they do things like walk up to people just watching TV and blow their brains over the screen’ Kennedy retorted. ‘It’s not exactly typical good guy behaviour’ she said, ‘unless I’ve really been watching the wrong films.’
‘Have you heard what they were doing to the people after they fed them to Glory?’ Dawn asked coldly. ‘He got what he deserved, no scratch that, it was quicker
than he deserved’ she stated. ‘Him and the other one’ she added.
Kennedy looked away. ‘You’ve heard that Nietzsche quote that Andrew throws about to try and sound deep that if you fight monsters you should make sure not to become them right?’ she asked. ‘Well guess what I’m not sure of sometimes.’
‘We’re winning’ Dawn responded. ‘And we’re not losing people we would have lost if Illyria and Wesley and the others hadn’t turned up’ she said. ‘We’re winning so hard we’ve got the forces of evil so scared of us they formed an alliance to fight back, it was a crappy alliance but they did it’ she said.
‘We’re sailing uncharted waters Dawn’ Willow responded. ‘All those game metaphors Illyria makes, well to her it is
just a game and just because she’s looking after the pawns now that doesn’t mean she won’t sacrifice a piece later.’
Dawn sighed. ‘If we’re mixing
metaphors we’re sailing those uncharted waters in a Carrier Battle Group and as for the game we took their Queen already and we’re three moves from checkmate’ she replied. ‘I’m with you on Glory, the “Queen” needs to end up like Marie Antoinette’ she said, acting out having her her head on a block and using a hand to simulate a guillotine blade, ‘but as for Illyria and Wesley I’m thinking of three words; ends, justifies and means’ she continued. ‘You were willing to let your control go to beat Vail’ she pointed out, ‘use a little bit of evil against itself right?’
‘Two wrongs don’t make a right Dawn’ Willow replied.
Dawn resisted the urge to quip that while that was true two Wrights did however make an airplane like she usually would to anyone saying that, and instead she shrugged. ‘I think we’ll have to agree to disagree’ she said.
Willow looked at her sadly then turned to Kennedy. ‘Painkillers?’ she asked again hopefully, the talking had not helped the pain in her jaw.
Kennedy shook her head. ‘Sorry sweetheart’ she apologised.
‘Next time I go black-eyed and evilly can somebody just taser me instead?’ Willow requested seriously.Crawford Street Mansion – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘The new situation alters the tactical environment’ Illyria told the group. ‘Before we only had to be concerned with preventing them exiting the seal but now they can hit us from both sides’ she said. ‘A large force of Turok-Han, likely reinforced by a larger contingent of Harbingers, hitting our forces from both sides would be a problem’ she continued. ‘They are better placed for a two front campaign than we are, if we divide our forces on both sides of the seal we could be overwhelmed and if we neglect one or the other our situation would be even worse. We would lose control of the vital ground, which is to say the seal itself.’
‘They’d surround us’ Angel agreed, looking at the diagrams Illyria had laid out, most of which were based on the plans of the school. ‘We can’t adequately defend every possible route without pulling slayers off the expeditionary force Buffy is going to take into the Hellmouth.’
Buffy crossed her arms gingerly, she still hadn’t healed fully. ‘I’ve seen how many Turok-Han are down there, even with the extra equipment and training if we go in short we’ll be leaving people behind’ she said.
‘Unacceptable’ Illyria stated. ‘We need to emerge from this campaign with as many intact resources as possible for the next one. We will need to find another way’ she insisted.
‘No nukes’ Buffy told her quickly.
Illyria frowned. ‘Your objection to that simple, effective and entirely workable plan is well noted’ she replied. ‘I was not going to suggest it again’ she said.
Faith stretched her arms. ‘Fucking Wolfram and Hart’ she said. ‘If they hadn’t taken all those uber-vamps out by portal we wouldn’t be in this situation’ she complained bitterly wishing she had roughed up a few other lawyers when she had been there.
‘We beat them the other day’ Rona pointed out. ‘We kicked their asses’ she declared.
‘Fifty of them versus almost all of us’ Faith replied. ‘There’s, what five times as many on this side of the seal now, and thousands of them down in the hellmouth, we fight them all at once and we’ll be bloody.’
Illyria’s jaw dropped as the solution dawned on her. ‘I am unbelievably stupid sometimes’ she suddenly declared to everyone's shock. ‘It must be all the human characteristics I inherited with the shell’ she continued, instantly restoring everyone’s faith in her ego and superiority complex. ‘The Wolf, Ram and Hart forced a portal through beyond the seal’ she reminded everyone.
‘So?’ Buffy queried.
Illyria looked around. ‘To do that would take enormous energy, even the Senior Partners would have been so severely drained I would have thought it impossible but I was clearly mistaken in that belief’ she said. ‘However if they
can do it so can we
’ she declared.
‘Why would we want to bring out Turok-Han?’ Buffy asked.
‘We would not be taking things out, we would be putting them in
’ Illyria replied.
Wesley looked puzzled. ‘We can already put things into the hellmouth’ he said, ‘we just need to open the seal’ he continued. ‘In fact I’ve been preparing napalm ingredients for days in preparation for just such an action’ he noted.
‘The seal is too small and in the wrong place’ Illyria responded patiently. ‘We need to open a portal into the centre of the cavern where the Turok-Han will be massing’ she said.
Buffy looked the God-King in her glacial blue eyes. ‘What are you planning to do?’ she asked suspiciously.
‘Nothing radioactive’ Illyria assured her. ‘I will need to portal somewhere to pick them up first, and then leave my powers alone for a day or two to let the shell fully recuperate before the battle, but by the coming weekend we should be ready to go’ she said confidently.
‘I'm still not hearing details’ the slayer responded, narrowing her eyes. There was something very disturbing in the way that the God-King of the Primordium was suddenly acting, what was going on in that scheming brain underneath that blue hair, she wondered?Nellis Airforce Base – Nevada – May 2003
‘Say that again Airman. We’re missing what