Chain of Command
Chain of Command
Xander yawned, as the Green Lantern read him the riot act. 'Man, this guy is a bigger control freak than Buffy at her worst. Still better than Snyder though.'
"And another thing, Members of the League do their best to prevent wars, not start them!"
"So," Xander asked, calmly, enjoying pushing GL's buttons far too much.
"SO?! Do you have any idea what kind of sanctions can be levied against you, as a Member of the League, for promoting genocide?" The veins over John's temples throbbed vividly, making Xander wonder if he'd ever heard of decaf.
"And again, I should care why?" The Sunnydaler knew he really shouldn't be trying to see how far he could push him, but this guy's tone just rubbed him the wrong way.
Etrigan smirked, his normal expression, and watched with amusement as a member of one of the galaxy's foremost police force seemed on the verge of having a coronary. This was the most fun he'd had since the black plague swept through Europe.
"I can have you assigned to rescuing kittens for the next decade," GL yelled, trying to impress upon the rookie how serious the consequences of his actions could be. Even if he didn't believe Etrigan would slaughter a planet, joking about genocide was still an indicator that he needed to be taken to task, while he could still be reached.
"Won't," Xander smirked.
"As one of the founders I have the right and responsibility to ensure that everyone in the league is of high moral character. So, yes I can easily have you assigned to duties that I feel would help you learn the error of your ways!"
"Not gonna do it," he drawled out.
"You'll do what I order you to do," John Stewart yelled, trying to see if military style discipline would reach the kid.
"Wouldn't be prudent at this juncture," Xander said in his best George Bush Sr. voice, which wasn't very good and wasn't a reference anyone local would know anyway.
The Green Lantern actually turned purple, eclipsing his normally dark skin tone, as he closed his eyes and clenched his fists, trying to control his temper. He didn't know who the new guy was, and with the number of heroes joining that was really no surprise, but if couldn't get him to face reality and see that there were consequences to his actions, people could get hurt in the future and he didn't want to see the kid go through that kind of pain.
Xander tapped J'onn on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, "Take my place. I need to talk to demon guy and Zatanna."
The Martian's head was still throbbing from the psychic backlash of trying to calm Xander and Etrigan, so anything he could do to reduce the noise level was extremely welcome. Shifting into a copy of Xander, he quickly stepped into his place while Xander moved behind the other two leaguers and drew their attention.
John took a deep breath and centered himself before opening his eyes and examining the rookie again. Apparently something he'd said had made a difference, because the kid looked like he was pained about what he'd said. It was a good place to start. Placing a hand on the kid's shoulder, John relaxed a bit and began to speak, "I know what it's like to be mad at the world and want to make those that spread pain and misery pay, by spreading it right back to them, but if we fall to their level then all we do is continue the cycle. The world isn't fair and I'd be the last one to try and claim it is, but we can make it fair. Working together we can make our little corner of the galaxy fair and just..."
J'onn listened intently to John. He'd never heard this level of passion from him before, it was intriguing how his mind worked and he had to admit it was a compelling speech; he'd have to find a way to slip it into their first movie.
Xander held up his axe. "I keep losing and breaking weapons. You would not believe the bad luck I have with these things, but this is my favorite axe and I was wondering if you knew of a way to use mojo to prevent it."
Zatanna stared at him shocked. "You're ignoring Green Lantern to talk about your axe? He is one of the founders of the league. He wasn't lying about that and as a Green Lantern he is one of the best people to help you learn how to fit in with the league. Sure, he's a little gruff, but he is a caring soul with a firm moral stance that can really help you find your way as a superhero."
Xander blinked, wondering what she was talking about. "I'm not a superhero."
"Your fight with Etrigan, brief though it was, showed superhuman abilities."
"Nope, just maxed out human ones and the side effect makes me eat pigs," Xander explained.
"It makes you eat like a pig?"
"I wish! No, it makes me eat live animals. My resistance to injury may be pretty good and even I'll admit I heal really quick, but it's all human traits pushed past their limits. Using it can cause me physical damage that has to be healed, so no cape for this guy."
"Even just as a human you have a place in the league. Batman is 'just' human and look at what he's accomplished."
"I'm not a hero, I'm a killer," Xander said seriously, having come to terms with the reality of his situation, thanks in part to the number of things that had been done to his mind recently, including the Hyena's dispassionate view on anything that didn't impact the pack's survival and the Soldier's stark realism about life and battle.
"Just because you've killed doesn't mean you can't be a hero," Zatanna said seriously, thinking of a disreputable friend or two, thought they probably wouldn't admit to the label of hero either.
The demon hunter shook his head. "Heroes are bright and shining examples of what humanity aspires to be. I am an animal; I kill to protect the pack. I will kill and never think twice about it, because I know that sometimes it's needed. You are in a war and for every murderous villain you let live; you doom dozens of civilians to death, sometimes in slow and painful manners. I'm not saying your way is wrong, but I am saying my way isn't either. You use your humanity to better mankind; I use my animal nature to protect its existence."
Etrigan smirked. It was rare that he'd meet a human with his head on straight.
Zatanna was at a loss for words. What could she say to that?
"My opponents have been mostly demons so far and the few human ones have offed themselves without me having to lend a hand, but demons are sentient beings, most of them anyway, and killing them is really not all that different morally than killing humans. Well, except for vampires. Undead of any form are just spirits animating corpses and should be put down, but that's another matter. I don't kill everything supernatural, for instance, there are a few species of demon that aren't evil and deserve a chance. I haven't met them, but I've read about them."
"That's a... interesting viewpoint. How did you end up in the league if your views are the opposite of our goals?"
"I'm not in the league, well except physically. I'm just here to do some recruiting, but enough about that, let's get back to the axe. I'm going to be using it to kill tons of demons and probably the occasional human, in a vain attempt to keep humans on top of the food chain. Do you know of any spells that would help with what I do and would you mind casting them?"
Zatanna shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. She really hated to be put on the spot like this, but if she helped him she'd be an accessory, morally, to what he did with that axe and she really wasn't in agreement with his moral stance, even if she couldn't see a way to argue with it at the moment.
The demon prince nodded. "I know of what you seek, but it has limitations of which we will speak. No blood of mine can it shed, but other demons will keep it fed. Red of blade, but not from rust, a blade that only you can trust. Never will you lose or break it, but neither can you ever forsake it. From now until the end of time, sharing strength, soul, and mind."
"That sounds like it costs a staggering amount of magic to cast. Why would you help a demon hunter kill your people," the league mage questioned, stunned at what Etrigan had offered.
Etrigan ignored her question, intent on Xander's response.
Xander only knew about rune weapons from D&D and while this sounded similar, the differences were obvious. There were a couple of downsides, like the fact that it couldn't kill Etrigan, but he wasn't likely to need to kill him, so that was unimportant. It'd be an extension of himself that he'd never be able to get rid of, even if he retired, but then demon hunters don't retire, they just die, so scratch that off the list too. Sounded like he would be the only one who could wield it, but that was a good thing, as it was probably the perfect weapon to kill him, being part of him. Best to make sure he was reading things right.
"So it'd be soul bound to me and unable to harm you, as you are the binder, but good for killing everything else but me, of course as the boundie and the only one who could wield it properly. Can't be lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed, but I can't set it aside and retire either. I'm guessing it'll be sharing head space with me and urge me to seek out and slay demons, right," Xander summed up.
"Quick you are to see both sides, plusses and minuses that demons hide. Unbreakable, except to you, break it and your life is through, but if it's your weapon you choose to spike, all I can say is Retributive Strike!"
"Ohhh," Xander grinned. "Sounds like a great deal, what's the cost?"
"The cost is the pain of the making and then the lives you'll be taking."
"It's not going to devour souls, is it?"
Etrigan shrugged. "If you'd like some you could try it, but not unless it's a normal part of your diet. Is there some unspeakable horror, involved in the story of how you were born?"
Xander scratched his chin. "No more than usual on the Hellmouth."
"Then consuming souls is not its power, unless you have the urge for souls to devour."
Xander was about to respond when someone tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around to find one really pissed off Green Lantern and a Martian who had dropped his form and was hastily scribbling down notes.
"Yes, can I help you?"
The Green Lantern just ground his teeth together, before deciding he was too angry to deal with Xander rationally and stomped off.
"OK, bye bye nice lady," Xander said in a childlike voice.
Etrigan snickered, while Zatanna just stared at him like he was insane.
J'onn broke the silence while handing Xander a notepad, "You have to read this. GL's speech is pure gold."
The demon hunter read through it and began to grin. "Wow. Ok, I'm impressed. That guy's a paladin if there ever was one. Have Conner get this speech from Ramirez while training him and let's crank up the religious tones by having the only holy ground be one's blessed by religions that don't encourage the shedding of blood by their followers. It'll shift the fight scenes from Catholic churches to Buddhist shrines, but it should also make people conscious of how unholy it is for religious leaders to encourage killing in the name of god."
"You encourage wars and now you're encouraging peaceful religious beliefs," Zatanna questioned, wondering what was going on.
Xander nodded. "I encourage the destruction of evil and peaceful co-existence of people with different religious beliefs. Too many senseless wars have been started by religious leaders with god complexes. I want to sneak into popular culture the idea that shedding other people's blood in the name of your god is not holy. You contain evil, I destroy it if I can, that's the difference between us."
"But genocide..." Zatanna mumbled before moving on to actual events. "And you haven't even apologized to Etrigan for trying to gut him!" She really didn't see how a walking contradiction like Xander could exist.
The demon hunter turned to Etrigan and bowed slightly, "I humbly apologize for not gutting you, but we are on the same side at the moment and I will always consider you to be a significant threat that needs to be put down by whatever means necessary."
Etrigan's cheeks turned a deeper shade of yellow and he almost looked bashful for a second. "I don't know what I've done to earn such mistrust, but it's enough to make me blush."
"You are a demon lord of no small renown, I'd be a fool to trust you or underestimate your power or what level of treachery you could reach."
"Enough of the flattery that you speak, let's get back to the weapon you want to protect the meek," The demon announced, looking quite pleased with himself.
Zatanna just stared at them, speechless, as the trio walked off.
"The spell we shall use belonged to my half-human brother, never did I think I'd cast it for another, but the weapon he made was of quite some caliber..."
The League mage just stared, wondering if perhaps she was the one who needed some time off.
"Down in front," Wesley called out, causing Faith to hit the deck, as the blue demon in front of her developed a bad case of exploding head.
"Watch it! You almost got me with that thing," Faith muttered wiping blue gunk off her pants. "That's why I wear leather, it's easier to get demon gunk off if and black means that unless the blood glows, we got no stains," she continued cheerfully.
"I believe Gr'a'nor have glow-in-the-dark blood, actually. It just takes a couple of minutes exposure to air before it becomes active," the young watcher said mildly, reloading the shotgun he was carrying.
"How come that thing isn't making with the loud boom noises," Buffy asked, walking beside Faith.
"Because… I cast a silence spell on it."
"You're a witch," Faith asked, surprised again at something Wesley had said or done this night.
"No, but all watchers learn how to cast silence on a small area of their choosing and the smaller the area the better it works, so… instant silencer."
"Part of watchers training is spellcasting," Buffy questioned, curious about what Wesley knew.
"Yes, but this spell was taught to me by my dorm mate. Apparently the bird I was with was a bit loud, so he taught me to cast it. It lasts at least six hours, so you rarely have to cast it twice," Wesley took a slug from the flask he was carrying.
"Bird? You had a loud pet," Faith asked.
"It's British slang for girl," he explained before blowing the head off a vampire that wasn't even looking in their direction, as it cut through the graveyard.
"That sounds kinda sexist. Why don't they have a slang term for a guy in Britland," Buffy snorted.
"They do. We're called blokes."
"OK, that's kinda of the weird. Girls get a nickname of an animal and men get a meaningless word," Buffy shrugged.
"Well... if it ain't bloke, don't fix it," Faith suggested with a snicker.
Wesley chuckled. "That one's going in my watcher's diary, but I'm claiming I said it!"
"Hey, why do you get all the funny lines," Faith demanded.
"Because I'm going to be the one paying for your new pants," he replied, cheerfully.
"Why..." Faith looked down at her glowing pants, "Dammit! I liked these!"
"So, I'll get you two pairs," he shrugged.
"Why are you so..." Faith trailed off.
"Unstuffy," Buffy suggested with a shrug.
"That would be the alcohol," Wesley grinned.
"You're drinking while on the job," the blond slayer said flatly.
"Yes, I am drinking heavily," Wesley confirmed and took another hit off his flask, just as a figure sprang out of the bushes at him.
The two slayers spun around to help him, but he simply flicked his right thumb and breathed out, causing a massive fireball to hit the figure, who then rolled around on the ground screaming, trying to put himself out.
"Hmmm, a mugger. I didn't think any sane humans would be out at night in this town," he commented mildly.
"Now that had to be some kind of super vampire battle spell," Buffy exclaimed as she nudged the panting figure on the ground with her foot.
"Nope, that was a pipe lighting spell and some Everclear," Wesley said proudly.
The lightly singed figure climbed to his feet after grabbing a briefcase from the ground. "I work in the mayor's office and I need your help!"
"You had Everclear and you didn't share," Faith shouted, offended.
"You didn't ask," Wesley shrugged off the implied criticism.
"You, wait one," Buffy commanded the guy with the briefcase. "And you, why are you drinking?"
"Because after hearing how close the world has come to going to Hell, I decided I was taking things way too seriously. You either have the gods on your side or we are all really, seriously, buggered. Either way I might as well relax and enjoy myself a bit."
"I...I...We need to get back to the library. Giles will know what to do." Buffy stormed off as Wesley just shrugged and followed with the other two in tow, both of which begged for a hit off his flask.
Zatanna stared in horror, as the demon prince completed his spell. She didn't know why anyone would go through this much pain for a weapon.
The bare metal walls of the empty ten by ten room were coated with frost from the backlash of the spell Etrigan had invoked. They'd chosen this room because of its durability and lack of anything breakable or indeed anything at all, but even the titanium alloy that made up the walls, floor, and ceiling were showing signs of rust, something that should have been impossible, due to the corruptive nature of a demon lord's power.
Xander leaned against the wall as Etrigan ripped the axe out of guts and flipped it around to extinguish the flames on the other side by embedding it in his chest once more. He waved off J'onn as he tried to help him. Sure he felt like hell. Hell, he felt like someone had just embedded a flaming axe in his torso, twice, which was rather fitting because he had just had that happen to him. It was only the blood bound word of a demon prince and his own willing compliance with the insane requirements for the spell that kept J'onn and Zatanna from interfering.
Xander felt quite a bit better than he expected to, as the demon handed him his axe. Sure he felt a trifle cold and he could see some goth chick in the corner giving him the eye and blushing, but really he expected to feel much worse. Reaching into the gaping hole, that really shouldn't be, in his chest, he smeared his hands with blood and coated it from the base of the handle to the tip of each blade and tried to remember what he was suppose to do. It had something to do with the naming of something. He idly scratched the side of his head with his axe, which now looked like something an extra in 'Conan: The Barbarian' would wield, while his life's blood began to pool at his feet.
Clutching the axe to his chest he suddenly remembered what he was suppose to do and held the axe out with a shaking hand and said in an absentminded way, "I name thee Bob!"
Etrigan howled with laughter as Xander fell over, unconscious. He'd almost stop for a moment and then he'd mutter' Bob' and start laughing again.
Xander came to, with two very worried leaguers examining him. He giggled, a bit light headed from the lack of blood and slightly ticklish from Zatanna's gentle probbings. "A little lower and to the left," he voiced, causing the mage to jump back and blush at where her hands had wandered.
J'onn helped him to his feet, simply asking, "Was it worth it?" Not in a sarcastic tone, as most others would in the same situation, but rather curiously, as humans still surprised him at times.
"I'll have to say yes, though I don't think I'll be doing anything remotely similar in the near future, without a lethal level of alcohol being involved anyway..." he trailed off, scratching as his chest, which no longer had a hole big enough to stuff his school books in.
"What's with him," he asked, pointing at the demon that was pounding the floor and laughing like a loon.
J'onn, who was helping keep him on his rather shaky feet, replied, "I believe he found the name of your axe to be rather humorous."
Xander grinned, showing all his canines, and held his axe up. "Yes, because after all, what demon would fear an axe named Bob? It's not like it can actually hurt them."
Etrigan stopped laughing like a switch had been thrown. "Sending you home can not wait, Zatanna where is lurking Dr. Fate?"
"I believe he's in his quarters meditating," she said, receiving a nod from the demon who vanished in a burst of foul smelling smoke that Xander found strangely familiar and disturbingly arousing.
"Think it was something I said," Xander said, snickering to himself.
"I don't think he realized you had named it while delirious. The little speech you just gave made it sound like it was... Ohhhh," J'ohh trailed off and began to laugh.
"Thanks to some fast thinking and typical demon paranoia, I now have a very anxious demon mage working on getting me home. If you can't dazzle then with brilliance..."
"...baffle them with bullshit," J'onn finished, morphing into a copy of Xander once more.
"Good thing he isn't a telepath," Zatanna mumbled, finally getting the joke and a little worried about her teammate being unhealthily influenced, by the blood covered figure.
"I could go for some lunch," Xander announced. "I'm feeling a bit hollow for some reason."
The Martian Manhunter laughed and Zatanna felt a cold chill run down her spine, her worries seeming more justified by the second, as the two nearly identical figures chuckled.
Outside in the hall, where the others couldn’t see him, Etrigan snickered. He appreciated a good joke, besides he really did want to get that kid home and out of his hair. His mind went in too many directions to feel safe around.
"You broke the new watcher already," Cordy exclaimed, as she watched Wesley polish his shotgun and share a drink with some guy with no eyebrows.
"Not exactly," Buffy mumbled.
"Yes, exactly," Faith confirmed. "But it was more of a group effort. Apparently hearing about how close the world has come to total fuckin' oblivion, because B likes to have a cold one every now and again has left him feeling a bit less brit-like."
"Nah," Wesley corrected her. "Well... not entirely. It's also the fact that the elder slayer with the bad bleach job is completely dismissive of the help of anyone who isn't the slayer. She seems to think she's better than anyone else."
The younger watcher started laughing, "I'm just winding you up. You do have a bit of an attitude problem, but it's more passive aggressive for the most part. I think the fact that you prefer vamps to humans calls for some heavy medication, but I completely understand you not wanting Xander around. From the sound of things, if you left him and your stiff sweetie with a number two pencil in a room alone together, you'd have to vacuum the room later and I know how American teens hate doing chores. I almost forgot your brilliant demonstration of how Xander was useless in battle because he couldn't out arm wrestle you, when you grabbed him by surprise, as he never expected a friend whom he trusted would assault him in that way. I'm sure Miss Chase here is a champion arm wrestler and Miss Rosenberg has a wiry strength that just completely outclasses the slayer spirit, Bravo!"
Buffy winced. That really hadn't been one of her better moments.
"Well enough about that, who's up for Vegas, my treat?"
Giles just blinked and stood stunned as Cordelia and Faith followed Wesley out the door, calling back that they'd be back Monday morning.