See Chapter One for Disclaimer
Author's Note: Gee, could this story get
Umm.... Actually, yes. Yes it could. Grit your teeth, people, the violence knob is now set at ten. (Eleven comes later. Twelve comes after that.) It's my belief that the violence and gore are in service to the story I'm telling, hopefully you'll agree with me... and give Faith a chance to show you what's on the other side of all this. "Sir, I don't think you understand what I'm saying.
No matter what Chief Hulsemann says, this isn't some gang from L.A. getting their kicks by driving to Sunnydale and cutting some people up.
I've been a cop for twelve years, and I know that Sunnydale has some strange things walking around after dark. I know you don't want to panic the civilians, and I also know you're the one who authorized the funding for more officers patrolling the suburbs after nightfall.
But sir, there have been a number of incidents in the last two weeks; cases where people have been literally cut to pieces, or beaten to death inside their own homes. Added to that, there was that historian who was looking through the old county records who somehow locked himself in his car with all his research notes and set fire to it, and the old priest who killed himself by jumping off the top of his church's bell tower. I was called to the scene of that last one, sir, and I'm telling you that an old man like that couldn't have made that kind of distance. Hell; his body was nearly a hundred feet away from the base of the building! If I didn't know better, I'd almost think somebody threw him off of the top; but that would take somebody who was awfully strong. And right after that there were those phone calls from his friend at the Vatican, in Rome, asking what it was he'd wanted to talk about….
Sir, there's something new in town, something that doesn't care about locked doors or holy ground. My boss won't call in the FBI, even though this kind of thing is way out of our league. I'm going over his head and asking you to do it. And if you won't take action on this, then I'll do it myself; my career -and this town's reputation-- be damned. Someone has to act, or this thing will keep on killing."
--Officer Alvaro Delrey
In his personal report to Mayor Richard Wilkins III
March 24, 1999
Sunnydale Police Officer Alvaro Delrey's body was pulled from the La Mirada River this morning following a seven-hour search by City Rescue divers. Officer Delrey's car plunged off of the South Inez bridge and into the river last night at approximately 11:45 pm. Witnesses reported that the vehicle was swerving erratically as it approached the bridge, and one onlooker insists that there was a passenger in the car with Delrey, possibly a woman. At this point, however, no second body has been recovered, and there is no clue as to who the other victim might be, or why the officer lost control of his car.
The County Coroner's report lists blunt trauma from the car's impact with the river, as well as drowning, as the cause of death. In his words: "Officer Delrey was likely unconscious and dying even before the vehicle filled with water. He was not wearing his seatbelt, and the number of bone fractures, especially in his skull and chest was simply incredible. He certainly never would have been able to swim to shore, even had he been able to escape the sinking car."
The identity of the possible second victim remains unknown. Anyone with information regarding this individual is instructed to contact the Sunnydale Police department as soon as possible.
--Article taken from the Sunnydale Daily Chronicle
March 25, 1999
She was spiraling downwards, faster and faster; and she didn't care. Not when she was here, doing this to them, hearing them scream as she broke them, cut them, punished them and everyone like them for what they'd done to her just by-"
Someone yelled, but she forgot it as soon as it happened, lost in the anticipation of what she was going to do to the three on the stairs. They had been running down to help their friends, but once they got a good look at what she had done to the others, they'd pulled up short in a hurry. Taking a stand on the landing halfway up, they all raised pistols and took aim.
She could have used the knife; she had already discovered two new aspects of its wonderful shielding power. For one thing, it could completely block bullets, if she concentrated hard on making the barrier dense enough; and two, it could create more than a single plane of energy at once. A few moments ago she had needed something to block the gunfire from two of her foes, and instead of just one of the five-sided barriers, she had gotten three, joined along the sides into a larger shield that protected her from both angles. The downside of this was the energy it required to work. Making the barrier dense enough to deflect bullets instead of just slowing them took more of the weapon's power reserves, and extending the area it covered cost even more. Of course, there was a lot of energy in the knife right now, thanks to her adventures last night, but she didn't want to waste it.
So when the three fresh ones started shooting at her, she went to her old tricks. Diving behind one of the couches took her out of the line of fire for a few seconds, and she used them to hunt through the clothes of the dead man who was lying there. There was literally nothing on him but the change in his pockets, and even she couldn't kill someone with a handful of pennies and dimes.
At least, she didn't think so; she'd never gotten around to trying that one. A pair of bullets punched through the back of the couch right over her head, and she cursed. It looked like the only way to go here was to….
They were expecting it when Faith burst into view. They were not expecting it when she raised a corpse with both hands, took two hops like a shot-putter, and hurled the body at them. Even a hardened killer could be forgiven for freezing for a moment as a dead man tumbled through the air towards him, and one of the Yakuza did freeze, his eyes wide. The other two dove to the side, but he was smashed backwards when the body struck him, the impact driving him into the marble steps with bone-shattering force. His two comrades looked at him in disbelief before climbing back to their feet, only to stare in horror as Faith landed lightly in front of them.
"Faith! Help us!"
Someone was still shouting, but she didn't care. The sounds of tearing flesh and despairing screams were so much more… exciting.
* * * * *
Alex had fought before, but only when he hadn't been able to avoid it. The thing was, this was looking pretty unavoidable. Scott had been the first to react, raising his stolen gun and pulling down the trigger. Unfortunately for him, nothing had happened. With a look of shock, he'd looked down and fumbled with it frantically, but at that point the two men facing them had gotten over their surprise and lunged forward. Scott was still in bad shape from his misadventures the day before and he went down in a hurry with his opponent on top of him. They grappled with each other, both struggling to gain possession of the gun.
Alex met his man with a roundhouse punch, but his larger foe blocked most of it with a raised arm. Stepping in, he then delivered a blow of his own that rocked the younger man back on his heels. Ow. Well, that didn't work.
Things got a little blurry after that. His opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced than he, Alex's only chance was to get crazy on him, hit him as hard and often as possible, and hope to get in a lucky shot. It didn't seem to be working very well; the Yakuza soldier actually grinned at him as he absorbed a series of punches to the gut and side. With a rock-hard fist, he backhanded his smaller foe into the counter that ran along the back wall of the lobby. Alex blinked, trying to clear his suddenly dim vision. Not good, I'm getting my ass kicked.
Scott was screaming her name, but there was no sign that she'd heard. It was up to the two of them to get through this. When the man came at him again, Alex snapped a kick into his stomach, bracing his back against the counter and using every ounce of strength in his body. His opponent actually staggered backwards, looking a little surprised. Trying to follow up, the younger man drove forward, swinging wildly. He landed a couple of good ones, but then the other man recovered enough to start hammering back at him, and a feeling of hopelessness washed through him. I can't do it. I don't do this, I'm not good enough to beat this guy.
Over on the floor, Scott was in trouble too. His foe was slamming the hand that held the gun into the floor, over and over. Alex's friend wouldn't be able to hold onto it much longer. Another scream from out in the lobby made him grimace, right before another punch sent him stumbling to one side. The only person on my side who can fight is insane; when she does finally get over here, it'll probably be to finish us off along with these goons.
He tried again, wading into the man, punching him, trying to trip him… it didn't work. He was still getting it worse than he was giving. A cut above his eye was bleeding, and the blood trickling down his face kept obscuring his vision. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay on his feet. Kelly.
He felt something inside him clench, and he tossed his head, trying to get rid of the blood dripping from his brow. I don't care about me, but someone has to get her out. I can't lose; if I do, then there's no one to help her.
He was back in front of the Yakuza soldier, with no memory of crossing the intervening distance. He swung his fists as fast as he could, ignoring the strikes the other man landed in return. Alex didn't care what happened to him, didn't care about the pain that tried to make him lie down and give up. He just kept pounding.
It still wasn't enough. The larger man buried a fist deep in Alex's stomach, folding him forward, then landed a punishing blow across his jaw. He spun to the floor, near where Scott and his man were still wrestling for the gun. Blinking, trying to force air back into his lungs, Alex stared down at the marble floor tiles. He felt his foe step up behind him, and he turned his head enough to see the other man shaking his head slowly.
"Not… not bad. But you're out of it."
He leaned down, reaching, and Alex turned back, just as Scott lost his contest. With one final smash, the other Yakuza tore the gun from the prone man's grasp, but it slipped through his hands as well, spinning across the slick floor and coming to rest against Alex. Without pausing to think, he snatched at the weapon, swinging it up and behind him with the last of his waning strength. It struck his man across the side of his face, and the crunch of bone was transmitted all the way up the younger man's arm. The Yakuza fell limply to the floor, and did not move. Scott's opponent lunged to his feet, but Alex swung the gun back to point at him. A button under his index finger depressed with a click, and even though his lips were cut and bleeding, he managed to smile.
"Found the safety. Don't move." The man slowly raised his hands, and Alex pulled himself to a sitting position. "Scott, you okay?"
His friend levered himself upright with a groan.
Gunshots sounded from somewhere above them. A quick look showed Faith was nowhere in sight.
"Damn it." Alex was surprised he could still feel concern for the dark-haired girl. "She's going to hunt down every one of them; unless they manage to kill her first." Scott managed to climb to his feet, and he gave Alex a hand up. Staring at the goon, he pointed up at the ceiling. "You've got my girl here, somewhere. What floor?"
Licking his lips nervously, glancing out at the scene of bloody carnage that filled the lobby, he finally found his voice.
"They're holding her on the fourth floor. End of the hall."
Lowering the gun's muzzle slightly, he pulled the trigger. The weapon bucked a lot more than he'd expected; instead of just the man's knees, the bullets also ripped into his left thigh, spraying bright red blood across the wall directly behind him. The man shrieked and collapsed, and Scott took a step away.
"Wow." He looked at Alex with new respect. "I didn't know you had that in you."
The young man shook his head sadly as he pressed the elevator buttons again. The doors slid aside and he stepped in, his friend close behind.
"I didn't, until now."
* * * * *
Taryuu strode through the doorway, his eyes taking in the changes that had been wrought. The captive girl lay alone now, in the center of the simple design painted on the hardwood floor. Her clothes were torn and bloodied, and she lay nearly motionless as several… somethings, moved around and around her body. They were barely visible to his merely mundane eyes; small areas of rippling distortion, an unexplainable dimming of the room's light. It almost looked as if several sourceless, hungry shadows were sliding over her like starving beings that anticipated being very shortly. Only the faint, silent shudders that still wracked the girl's body indicated that she remained alive. Her wide, staring eyes were fixed on something only she could see, and the man looked away, his jaw clenched tight. Nagasu stood off to one side, conferring with his assistant, and Taryuu moved to face him.
"You may have been too busy-" He stressed the word into sarcasm. "-To notice, but we've heard gunfire from below."
That certainly got the Sorcerer's attention.
Taryuu shook his head impatiently.
"No, they've been well-paid to keep their distance. This is something else." He glanced at where the girl lay. "Possibly even the spirit warrior you were preparing the trap for."
Nagasu stared at him in consternation.
"She's here?" He glanced back at where his implements lay on a silk cloth, then back at the younger, larger man. "We are not ready, the girl's mind is not under our control, the trap is not yet set!"
A grim smile crossed Taryuu's lips.
"Perhaps you would care to explain this to her when she arrives; I'm sure you could convince her to come back at a more convenient time."
The situation was really too serious for humor, even humor at the Sorcerer's expense. He had only three of his soldiers on this floor, the others had all gone below some time ago. The only way down would take them through whatever battle was taking place below, and he had heard too many reports of this 'Faith's' prowess to believe they stood a chance of making it with so few. There had to be another way….
"Fire escape." He turned to face the men he left in the hallway. "Where is the fire escape?"
One of them turned, and opened his mouth to reply, only to go down in a hail of gunfire. His companion ducked through the doorway into the room, and took a position by the door, staring warily back out into the hallway. Taryuu scowled at the body. Two left, now, plus himself, a Sorcerer, and his apprentice. He looked at the older man.
"If there is a way for your powers to aid us, then use it now."
Nagasu stared at him venomously, but reluctantly nodded.
"Battle magick is too draining, and I am not prepared for this confrontation. However, I may be able to save at least the two of us…." Raising his long-fingered hands, he made an intricate gesture.
* * * * *
"Now what?" Scott demanded.
Alex didn't know how to answer. The two of them had gotten lucky; when the elevator doors opened, there hadn't been anyone guarding them. Peeking out into the hall, they had spotted the two Yakuza down at the far end, and Alex had been able to get one of them before either could react. Now, though, the survivor had taken cover, and was just waiting for them to expose themselves to his fire. Kelly was probably in the room with him, but there was no way they could get all the way down there without getting shot.
"How many bullets you got left in that thing?" Scott asked.
"I don't know. Probably not many." Alex wanted to scream in frustration. They were so close!
A hollow booming sound made them both jump, and they peered around the corner. One of the doors between them and the end of the hall had been thrown open, and a battered and bloodied man staggered through it. He turned right, towards where his fellows were holed up, and just as one of the Yakuza soldiers down there leaned around the corner, Faith bounded into view, pursuing the wounded man. The soldier shouted, raising his weapon and triggering a burst towards the Slayer that instead tore into his unfortunate comrade. Even as the bloody man fell, Faith was sprinting forward. The soldier ducked back inside the room, and an incredulous Alex watched as the dark haired girl stopped long enough to drive her knife into the fallen man's neck, finishing what the bullets had started. With a giggle that sounded incongruously innocent and childlike, she raised the red-streaming blade to her lips and licked at it delicately as she stood and strolled around the corner and into the room.
Sounds of gunfire followed, with screaming close behind. A moment passed by, then came a crash that shook the hallway, and a single, echoing shot. Then there was only silence. Alex looked at Scott, who looked back with wide eyes. Together, they crept down the hallway. As they neared the door at the end, they could faintly hear a man's sobbing. Fearful of what he might see, Alex stepped around the corner.
Dead and dying men, but that was no surprise. The room itself, however, felt… wrong, somehow, as if someone were screaming directly into his ear, but at a pitch just beyond his hearing. That peculiar tension made the scene before him seem even worse. One of the soldiers lay on his back; eviscerated, his intestines strewn across his upper legs in a revolting, slimy mess. A younger man, wearing some sort of colorful silk robe, lay in the far corner. One of his arms and both his legs lay at odd angles, and it was he that was sobbing. One of his eyes was nothing but a bloody ruin, and he had his one good hand clamped firmly to his face. The third man was against the far wall, pressing himself back against it with all his might, trying to gain one more inch of space between himself and the girl who stood before him, knife in hand. Faith ran the blade up the center of his chest, and even with what looked like the lightest of pressure, the fabric fell to either side of that supernatural edge. With a slow, somehow sensuous movement, she turned her head and regarded Alex.
"Heya love. Found your girl for you." She used her eyes to indicate a motionless lump on the floor nearby. "There she is, safe and…." She frowned thoughtfully. "Well, she's not sound, but there she is." With a brilliant smile, she turned back to her plaything, raising the knife to the side of his face. "Alright mister badass Yakuza man, let's you and me take our time and have some fun…."
Alex had stopped listening. Slowly, he walked to where the figure lay. There was something drawn on the floor around her, but he stepped across the painted lines without thinking. Instantly, an icy shock went through him, and his vision swam as he sensed several somethings
rush past. One of them touched his cheek, ever so lightly, and the flesh there went instantly numb with cold. He convulsed involuntarily, staring around to see what it had been. Scott was looking around uneasily, even Faith had looked up from her plaything.
"I felt that." She stared at the diagram painted on the floor, her eyes strangely distant. "I've felt that before, I think. There were shadows there; and a… test I had to pass." The man she still held made an attempt to pull free, diverting her attention. With sudden fury twisting her features, she clamped her hand on his throat and began to squeeze. "No! You don't move unless I say you move, understand?" His struggles continued, and she just stared at him, preventing him from moving, from breathing. Alex looked away.
He hadn't seen any shadows, but there had definitely been something there, inside the diagram. He glanced around the room for a moment, but whatever it had been was now gone. He shook that particular concern away, kneeling down beside the girl on the floor.
It was Kelly, and she was alive. He felt his face break into a smile, and he reached out to pull her up into his arms. At his touch she went rigid, and began pushing at him with feeble, shaking hands. He didn't understand at first, but when he turned her head so that he could see her face, it came clear. Her eyes were huge, staring off into space with no sign she saw him there, and faint mewling sounds escaped her swollen lips. Her torn and bloodied clothing finally registered, and the bruises and scratches that seemed to cover every inch of her skin.
"Oh my god." He breathed.
He looked up to see Scott staring in horror. Realizing that Alex was looking at him, he turned away. Turning back to Kelly, he had to close his eyes to shut out the sight of what had been done to her. With infinite care, he gently pulled her close. She was so small, so fragile….
"Goddamn them." It was hard to speak; his throat felt like it was being squeezed shut. Besides, what was there to say? What could he possibly say to her, that everything would be okay? He could barely imagine what she'd gone through, and she'd already been through so much….
He raised his head and stared at the bloodied remains of the Yakuza soldiers. What had they been doing to her? Well, it was plain what they'd done, but why? Why punish her? She was the one innocent in all of this!
Catching Scott's gaze with his own, Alex jerked his head in summons. Instantly, the other man was there, supporting Kelly's head as they carefully lay her back down. He had to get her out of this place, but first there was something he had to do.
He reached out and picked up the submachine gun from where he had laid it on the floor. His eyes fell upon the man in the robe, cowering in the corner. The diagram painted on the floor might be something mystical, or it might not. Either way, this man had been part of what they'd done to her. He didn't feel what his arms did, he didn't even think about raising the gun, but when he pulled the trigger, the bullets slammed home just where he'd been looking. After only five shots the magazine ran dry, but it was enough. That was one piece of slime that would never hurt anyone again.
A strained laugh from behind him made Alex turn, and he saw Faith watching him. She grinned at him, then winked.
"Nice. But they last longer if you use one of these." She waggled the knife she held, showing him the trail of scarlet that decorated its edge, then turned her full attention back to her victim. He'd slid to the floor, his back still propped against the wall. He was still conscious, and he mumbled in Japanese as she moved the point of the knife towards his chest.
Alex stared at her blankly for several long seconds, then strode forward. The pressure inside him built with every step, and by the time he reached her there wasn't any fear or concern for his own life left within him. All that mattered was that he get answers. One hand dropped onto her shoulder, hauling her to her feet and turning her to face him. He just had time to see the disbelief in her dark eyes before he drove his fist into her face with all his might.
* * * * *