See Chapter One for Disclaimer Even I have to admit that Faith isn't completely mad, not utterly evil.
Too bad, because if she were then our job would be a lot easier, for then only the truly stupid would be willing to follow her, and we all know that isn't the case.
No, if she were all the way gone then she wouldn't be able to hide it for long. Instead, we have this twisted Slayer, who on many levels seems to actually believe that she is doing the right thing, even as she commits acts of unforgivable brutality. She believe us to be the villians, gentlemen, and herself to be the hero.
It is this girl, this beautiful, passionate, hopelessly deluded girl, who has brought the world to the very brink of destruction. We have to stop her, and quickly, or we face the end of everything.
National Security Advisor to the President of the United States
November 14, 2009
Taryuu stepped from his car and straightened his suit jacket. This section of street looked much like any other; run down, reeking of neglect and hopelessness. The few people visible seemed to be homeless types, or addicts, or both. Two of his soldiers stepped from the car to flank him, while the driver took the vehicle around back. Staying alert for possible trouble, the group walked across to the entrance of the building. Five stories tall and fronted with drab brown stone, it had gone through several different incarnations during its long existence. First built as a hotel back in the twenties, at various times it had been a school for privileged children, a health club, a hotel again, and most recently, a brothel. Of late even that function had ended, and it had been empty of all but a few vagrants when the Thousand Year Storm had arrived in town. Now it served as a regional headquarters. When the area surrounding it was brought under the clan's control, it would house both soldiers and the men who would direct their activities. For the moment, only a relative handful of their people were based here. It was a group of those men who had, under Taryuu's orders, been observing the place of business owned by a troublesome shopkeeper, a woman who was known to associate with a young man who had himself been seen in the company of the girl, Faith. A little over an hour ago, Taryuu had received word from them that they had acquired a hostage.
As he entered the building, he was met by one of the clan's soldiers who was assigned here. The man bowed deeply before the Storm's underboss.
He nodded in return.
"You have the girl, the companion of this 'Alex'?"
"Yes. She is being held on the fourth floor. Would you like to see her?" The man was all but beaming with pride at what he and his fellows had accomplished, but it was perfectly normal that he do so. Taryuu started towards the elevators.
"I would indeed." Of course he had been here before; he himself had chosen this location as a future headquarters, and he knew the layout well. As the soldier hurried to keep pace with him, Taryuu spoke in an aside to one of his aides. "Call the sorcerer, Nagasu, and inform him that he have a possible subject for him." The man nodded and reached for the cellular phone inside his jacket, but the soldier who had met him at the door cleared his throat hesitantly.
"Taryuu-san, that won't be necessary." The older man stopped even as he reached for the button that would summon the elevator. Regarding the man impassively, he waited. "Because… Nagasu is already here. He arrived soon after I called you with the news of her capture."
Taryuu nodded slowly.
"I see." Yet again, he was faced with the existence of informants within the clan who cared nothing for the proper order of things. This situation was clearly within his area of authority; and it was he who should decide if and when the other underbosses should be consulted. Only lord Akamori himself should know more than he, but that seldom seemed to be the reality, of late. With an assurance he most certainly did not feel, he pressed the button. A moment later, the doors parted, and the group stepped inside the ancient elevator.
When the doors opened again, they were greeted by the sound of a woman screaming. Taryuu did not run; that would have lessened his dignity. He did, however, move with long, swift strides, down the hall and to the doorway from which the sound was emanating.
Looking within, he saw a scene that sickened him. Five of the soldiers assigned here were gathered around the girl, holding her in place on an old mattress that lay in the center of the floor. One of the men had his trousers down around his knees, and was raping the girl even as she thrashed and fought with weary desperation. Taryuu had the distinct impression that this had been going on for some while; the girl's shrieks were raspy, as if forced through a voice long since gone raw with screaming. When he stepped closer, he could see that her wide eyes held little awareness, only a hopeless desire to escape the torment being visited upon her.
Even as he opened his mouth to order the men to stop, a hand fell upon his shoulder. He whirled, wondering how someone had approached him without his notice, even amidst this horror. In truth, no one had, for there was no one within arm's reach of him. Across the room, the sorcerer Nagasu smiled coldly, and strode forward.
"Good morning, Taryuu." Nagasu was an older man, over fifty years of age and of slender build. Beside Taryuu he appeared as a fox beside a wolf. However, those who discounted him because of his appearance tended to regret it sooner, rather than later. Taryuu nodded reluctantly.
"Better for some than others." Another breathless, despairing cry, trailing off into gut-wrenching sobs came from behind him, and his face hardened. "Is that your doing?"
Nagasu nodded, his eyes shining with unholy glee.
"It is indeed! She is truly the perfect subject for my plan to deal with the Spirit Warrior!"
Taryuu's eyes narrowed.
"I fail to see how your crude torture of this child will bring us any closer to containing this 'Faith'. Unless you have some explanation, I will put an end to this here and now."
The sorcerer's smile remained in place, though perhaps it grew a bit colder.
"I do not think that you will, Lord Taryuu. I have already consulted with our master, and he approves of my actions here. Of course, you may confirm this, if you wish."
The larger man kept his face a mask of stone.
"I will do just that." He grated. He gestured again to his subordinate, who quickly dialed a number into his cell phone. "In the meantime, perhaps you could enlighten me as to just why this--" A gesture took in the continued obscenity which was taking place only a few steps away. "-is necessary?"
The sorcerer's smile turned smug.
"Of course. I am always willing to teach the ignorant." Ignoring Taryuu's scowl, he rubbed his hands together as he stared at the huddle of figures in the center of the room. "As I said before, this child is perfect for our needs. I knew as soon as I saw her. She is damaged, her will weakened by the trials she has faced, and yet she possesses a core of strength which maintains her life even through this added torture we are heaping upon her." He glanced over at the glowering Taryuu. "Can you not feel the anguish and pain blazing from her? I can, and this is only the overflow. You will note that both the girl and our men are within a mystical diagram we have drawn upon the floor. This is serving to focus the energy generated by her suffering, channeling it to the plane where one of my demonic patrons makes his home."
The former enforcer nearly took an involuntary step back, but curbed the movement in time.
"A demon?" The word left a foul taste in his mouth, as did this entire situation.
"Indeed! The girl's pain is my offering to that being, and it also serves to weaken her in preparation for what awaits her. With my patron's powers added to my own, we will we be able to quickly bend her mind to serving us. Then she will return to her friends, and with her help we will lure the Spirit Warrior Faith into a trap of my devising!"
Taryuu shuddered and looked away. It offended him on every possible level to subject a helpless girl to this torture, but what the sorcerer intended was infinitely worse. To strip the wretched child before him of what little was left to her; her very self, and turn her into some sort of puppet….
At that moment, his aide handed him the phone. The resultant conversation was short and to the point: Since physical means failed to eliminate the danger posed by the spirit warrior Faith, then magic would have its chance at her. His lieutenant's reservations meant little to Lord Akamori beside the possibility of successfully controlling their foe.
Striving to retain his calm, as well as quell his hatred for both the sorcerer and his methods, Taryuu looked back to the man in the robes.
"You will perform your… work, here?"
Nagasu shot him a knowing grin. He was quite aware of the other man's feelings, and took great pleasure in his own importance to the clan.
"Yes. After all, there are many who would be uneasy at the thought of such a rite being undertaken in the citadel itself." He half-turned, gesturing around at the perimeter of the room, where one of his assistants was pacing slowly along one wall, waving a stick of incense in the air and chanting softly. "We are preparing this space for the ritual. Even as the girl's pain and terror soak into every particle of the room, we are shielding it, creating barriers which will prevent any stray energies from affecting our work. Once we are prepared, the actual spell should take little time at all."
Taryuu felt a chill pass through him.
"And your trap? I suppose you intend this same process for the girl, this 'Faith'?"
That earned an approving nod from the sorcerer.
"Exactly. First, though, we must subdue the will of this girl. In fact, my examination of her a short time ago revealed that there is already a connection between the two of them. It may be that Faith has already touched this child with her own spirit, though for what purpose I know not. In any case, our mastery of this one will bring us the other, and the resonance between them should mean that having one under our control will make the other that much easier to bind. Once that has been accomplished, we will have a powerful warrior under our control, and the Thousand Year Storm will be seen by all as having not only ended a potential threat, but actually adding an enemy's strength to our own!"
Taryuu fought back the gorge that threatened to rise in his throat. A clean death was a warrior's fate, and not to be feared. This, though… the horror of being imprisoned within your own mind, of having your very body stolen from you, to be used like a puppet by your enemies….
"How long will it take you to prepare?" He was distantly amazed at how normal his voice sounded. If only there had been another way. Unfortunately, Taryuu had already been given his chances, and failed. It was unlikely that he would be given another. Nagasu seemed almost to be reading his thoughts; he chuckled softly.
"Not so very long. Two or three hours more of this, and then we will be ready to begin the casting. I will need some implements from my sanctum; my other assistants will bring them later."
The girl screamed again, fainter this time, and Taryuu turned away rather than let the sorcerer see his face. With a curt gesture for his aides to follow, he left the room. He had intended to stay and observe the ritual, but he couldn't remain in the room while this was going on. As he headed back down the hallway, her cries followed him. Hours of that ahead of her, and instead of peace awaiting her at the end, there will only be that twisted little man, eager to violate her mind, perhaps her very soul,, even as her body is being violated now. Better for her if she had died the day she was born.
Past the elevators and at the far end of the hall were a series of rooms set aside as the offices that would be occupied by the regional boss, once the area became a part of the Clan's territory. This would be as good a place as any to wait. As he gestured for his soldiers to close the door behind them, he found himself thinking again about the old stories, and how the brave hero would risk all to destroy the evil villains. If he had been uncertain before about who were the villains of this particular story, he had now been given the answer.
* * * * *
They had been searching for hours, and as far as Alex could tell, they were no closer to finding Kelly than when they had started. She was nowhere near Sylvia's shop, that much was certain. Early on, they had found someone who said he'd seen a young girl fitting her description, stumbling along the sidewalk. Unfortunately, he hadn't seen where she had gone. A short time after that, the three of them had split up. Scott had gone to recruit the help of the few contacts he had left, while Alex had started a systematic search of places he and Kelly had frequented. Faith had slunk away, mumbling something about finding someone who 'knew the what', or words to that effect. He didn't really care what she did at this point, so long as she was helping.
Eventually, he and Scott met up again at a small parking lot that was nestled in between a fast-food place and an abandoned church. Even before Alex could ask, his friend was shaking his head.
"Sorry man, nobody's seen her."
Alex tried to remain calm, but it was hard. Kelly had barely been able to make it to the bathroom when he'd seen her last; there was no way she could have walked any great distance. Something had happened to her, he knew it.
"You checked with all her old friends? Places she used to hang before she met me?" As hard as he tried to keep his voice level and reasonable, it still came out sounding like an accusation. Scott seemed to understand.
"Yeah, I did." He dropped a hand on Alex's shoulder, squeezing it hard. "Take it easy. There's no reason for anyone to hurt her; we'll find her." He was about to reply when he heard someone call out.
They turned to see Faith trotting towards them, dodging between cars to cross the street. She slowed to a walk, then stopped just in front of Alex.
"I know where she is." Her voice was weary, and there were dark smudges under her eyes that he hadn't noticed earlier. It was all he could do to keep from grabbing and shaking her.
"Where?! Tell me where she is!"
She took a step back, gesturing over her shoulder with a thumb.
"Those Storm guys have her, in a building a few blocks over. I'll take you there."
Alex stared at her, a morbid curiosity momentarily overcoming his need to find his missing girl.
"How exactly did you find all this out?"
She tossed her head, her eyes flicking to his face and then away.
"I figured if we hadn't found her yet then somebody else might have found her first. Wasn't too hard to guess who that could be, so I tracked down a couple of them to… ask."
He nodded slowly.
"Did they live through it?"
She stopped avoiding his gaze and looked at him, with those haunted eyes of hers.
"What do you think?" She asked softly.
"Did you have fun?" He said, his voice harsh. She turned away, looking down so that her hair spilled forward to hide her face. Too late; he'd caught a glimpse of the torment that had flickered across her features. Good. She deserves to hurt, after what she's done.
Scott was looking at him, and there was absolutely no expression at all on his face.
"My car's over there. I'll drive, she can point the way."
* * * * *
When they turned the corner, Faith indicated the tall brownstone structure.
Peering through the car windshield, Alex stared at the building, as if willing it strongly enough might let him see through the walls to where Kelly was being held.
"You're sure?" It came out as an accusation, and she flinched.
"Pretty sure. The guy I was… asking, didn't sound like he was lying about it."
Alex nodded, but all his attention was still on the Storm stronghold. It was just a building, big, but not a fortress like their main headquarters was said to be. Pointing, he looked over at Scott.
"Park over there."
The other man obeyed, and a moment later he turned the engine off. The three of them sat, looking at where two men were loitering casually near the building's entrance. Alex turned in his seat and addressed Faith.
"There are only two out front. Take them out, and the two of us will come in right behind you."
He felt Scott's surprise from beside him, but he stayed focused on the girl in the backseat. She looked at him with sullen disbelief.
"'Take them out'? What are you, commando-guy now?"
He found himself gritting his teeth so hard that his jaw ached.
"No, I'm not." He grated. "What I am, is the person who is going in there to save someone he loves. There are two men right there who are going to try and stop me, and some more inside who will too. Now I'd consider it a favor-" He stressed the word, turning it into biting sarcasm. "If you would get off of your ass and go kill them."
She licked her lips nervously, shooting a look out the window to where the men stood.
"I-I… don't think I should do that, Alex."
He narrowed his eyes, wondering why she was suddenly balking.
"Why not? I thought you liked doing that. It's what you live for, isn't it? Murdering people?"
She winced again.
"No. I fight, I don't… I don't."
This was taking too long; Kelly was in there, with those bastards who had killed all of Scott's people. If they were willing to do that, what else were they capable of? He didn't have time to listen to Faith talk about how she'd never wanted to hurt anyone. She had hurt people, lots of them; and he needed her to do it again.
"What don't you do, kill people? Sure you do; that's all you've done since you got here. Well, here's your chance to do it in a good cause. There they are, up and at 'em, killer!"
That certainly woke her up in a hurry.
a killer! I'm the… I'm a Slayer." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself, more than him, but he wasn't buying it.
"Yeah, well, I've seen you take out a lot more people than monsters, so don't tell me you don't know how. And remember that she wouldn't be in there if it weren't for you. Now go. Or did you want to add Kelly to that list of people who're dead because of you?"
She was shaking her head frantically, her eyes wide.
"No, I don't want that!" She closed her eyes, pressing her fists to her temples. "I'm afraid that-" She took a breath, then spoke slowly and carefully, as if she were having trouble forming the words, or the thoughts behind them. "-that if I have to fight in there, then I might…" Another breath. "I might not be able to… control myself."
"You mean like last night." He said, his voice flat. Faith nodded, her eyes still closed.
"Yes." She whispered. "I need to go, now. I'm meeting someone; he's probably wondering where I am…."
From beside him, Scott spoke.
"Listen, man. I know you're freaking, but this is something the cops could handle. We can call 'em up, tell them these guys kidnapped her, and let them take care of the goons for us." Alex looked at him, and the other man raised his hands in a gesture meant to placate. "Come on, Alex! What good would you and I be in there? Do you even have a gun?"
Alex looked away, back to the building looming silently across the street.
"I can't trust the police; you said it yourself, they're on the take. And I might not have a gun, but I have her." He indicated the rear seat with a jerk of his head. "She's all the weapon I need."
Opening his door, Alex stepped out onto the street. A moment later he had the rear door open, and was dragging Faith out to join him.
"Come on, Slayer." He aimed her towards the building and gave her a push. "Go do what you're best at."
* * * * *