Garcia's mind was finally at rest. The searing pain caused by the flood of images was gone replaced by a sense of familiarity He was back in his Fathers Study but with more pictures and more dust.
"Where are we?" He asked the blind woman who claimed to be his Granddaughter. A wild idea seeing as Garcia was barely in his teens, "Is this really the Lovelace Hacienda?"
"Not where Grandfather When -- YOU are lying on the floor of the Church of Violence some twenty five years in the past." The Young Woman explained, "You're dreaming of me and me...I am having one of several dreams that make my life a living hell. If it weren’t for the strategic advantages the images occasionally provide I would wish to be just as blind in mind as I am in body."
"So you are like Manuela. You can see what Other Slayers see and hear?"
"My power is greater than Manuela's but it is essentially the same. Compensation I suppose for my inability to see though my own eyes."
“And you are my granddaughter. Wouldn’t that mean that I...”
"Several times,” Grace smiled with gentle amusement. “The Lovelace family is very large."
"That wasn't what I wanted to ask?" Garcia snapped his face flushing in embarrassment.
"Are you sure? Walking in on you and Grandma accidentally was one of the few times in my life I was glad that I can't see." Grace smiled ruefully. Garcia had to wonder if the young woman could see his face, "Even the blind can see you're untouched in more ways than one.” She said with a grin, “That's a refreshing change. Fine I won’t spoil the surprise."
“SO the things I saw Xander Harris and Mister Rock and the others. The people who died and things going wrong all of that was...”
“...Images of one possible future or at least possible for you. It has, I’m sorry to say became my reality. Xander Harris and Rock Okajima tried to end the wars and conflicts. They tried to take out all the enemies that plot against the Slayers and Watchers By the time they realized the mistake they had made it was too late.“
“But Mister Okajima is a good man and Xander Harris risked his life to save me and others. “
“That is what Corruption really is; the sickening of men’s souls. The decay of the spirit until everything falls into chaos. By living near The Corrupter everyday by soaking in its aura eating food and drinking water tinted by its presence, they were having their desire to protect the world distorted. Eventually they became everything they had started out to fight against... my hope is to change all that.”
“You want me to kill the Old One?”
“You are the only one who can. You are the only one who can use the Lovelace weapon to its full potential.”
“But Roberta has the weapon and besides she is much …”
"Remember something else," Grace snapped as she cut him off, "Auntie Roberta is like family but you are family and that will make all the difference."
“But she can … kill she’s a warrior. I’m not …”
“Yes you are. Grandfather, believe me I know better then you how scared you are. You told me of this day and of how frightened everyone was. That was why they accepted the help of the Old One allowed it to become a part of life in Roanapur, but that was wrong; so very, very, wrong.”
“Fine I will tell Roberta to …”
“No, Grandfather you have to stop that. Auntie was driven to despair and insanity because you begged her to revenge the death of Diego Lovelace my father and your son. You tried to deny what she was and distance yourself from the responsibility of taking care of her as Great Grandfather Diego did. But when your hatred and despair became too great, you ordered her to destroy the cartels you blamed for Father’s death. She accomplished the goal but it cost her everything and you spent the rest of your days in bitter regret for your actions.”
“No I don't believe you. I would never do that to Roberta."
"Look in your heart Grandfather. Threaten something that someone holds dear or worse take it away and even the noblest man will become a beast. That dark seed is what the Corrupted plays upon. It took years to wear you down but it happened. "
“Fine," The boy sighed, "Tell me what I am supposed to do with this weapon of yours."
"The weapon is the key you said that it could destroy the Corrupted but the time to do it was long past I wondered for a long time what you meant; now I know. The Corrupted was linked to its alter in the sanctum by the blood pact of our ancestor.”
"That was why it wanted my blood, my blood and Manuela's."
Grace nodded, "The Blood of the Thirteenth and a Slayer bound the Corrupted to the sanctum and the altar in particular. That's why you and Manuela were able to release it at least partially. It is still bound to its altar in the sanctum. Once the altar is gone its only link will be its host. Destroy that host and you will disrupt the Old One for a time."
"But if the weapon could destroy a god I would have thought you d be doing it instead of talking to me
"You're right it can’t destroy a god. An Old One's aura is too powerful. The weapon is only really effective against lesser demons or those touched by demonic influence."
There was a scream of pain and a thud outside. Grace looked panicked
“Trust your instincts just remember Grandfather, you were given an important gift but it was one you were not meant to hold. You must be willing to surrender that gift."
The door behind Grace started shaking and buckling eventually breaking apart. A lurching figure stepped though the doorway.
“Seer, your last defence has fallen. You are defeated.” The figure said in the deep voice Garcia remembered. This was the Corrupted though the body it was using was different now from what it had been.
"I think it is you who are defeated” the blind woman said confidently "Goodbye Grandfather I look forward to meeting you again."
"Yes you will soon be reunited with your grandfather"
"I wasn’t speaking to the Dead but to the living. Your plotting has backfired upon you. You have sent me the means of your destruction."
"The Corrupted looked up and Garcia can see its face. The face of Alexander Harris but everything about Xander was long dead. It was The Old One within his corpse.
"No Little Master,” The Old One screamed in frustrated anger, “You cannot be here. I won't let you win."
"Yes I can!" Garcia snarled in resolution and in the end that was what it took to break him free of his dreams. He felt a wrenching pull like being yanked from behind. His last sight was The Corrupted taking hold of the woman who claimed to be his granddaughter her scream was loud though if it was one of joy or pain the young boy could not tell.
Garcia awoke on the floor. His frenzied senses immediately told him that Fabiola was at his side "I can stop it Fabiola." The little boy ranted, "I can save us all but I need help I need that gun. That old one that that Roberta took from the house. “
"Master Garcia," Fabiola explained like she thought he was crazy "Roberta is in the midst of battle and the place it is wired to explode I have never seen so many bombs.”
"Fabiola I know how this sounds, I've dragged you halfway round the world put us in the middle of a war zone made you kill to avoid being killed and now you confronting demons and monsters we all wanted to think are nothing but dreams ...But Roberta is out there and I can save us I know how. Please trust me just a little longer."
The Young Maid sighed then cursed with a passion that would make her brethren in the barrio blush. Then she displayed her weapons gripping her auto pistols with grim resolve. “Stay with me and do not leave my side unless I say otherwise.” She ordered with a surprising amount of steel in her voice.
Together the two of them dashed up the stairs and through the Church. They met Eda and Revy along the way. Everyone was celebrating their triumph over the zombies. What few that remained were being hunted down.
“We have to get to Roberta, we can end this." Garcia said excitedly
"Bzzzzt, too late squirt" Revy said confidently, "that god thing just kicked some ass and took the tattooed bitch as well I’m going to call this one a win for the home team."
"It’s dangerous you have to believe me." The young Boy insisted.
"It’s been under the church all this time and not a peep kid.” Eda assured him, “I'm thinking we're gonna be just fine.”
Garcia saw he had to convince them and looked at Revy his father had always taught him that the secret to getting though to people who won’t hear you was to find the thing they cared about. There was only one thing for which this terrible and violent woman cared.
"Where is Mister Okajima? You don't understand how dangerous that thing is. It wants to hurt anyone it considers good. It wanted me but if it can’t get to me it will find another. Someone it can drag down and destroy like it wanted to do to me.”
“What are you talking about Kid, what do you know.” Revy asked suspiciously.
“Its wants … likes goodness it tried to get to me I think it would have possessed me if it could. I guess it has Manuela. But if it needs another it would find a good and decent soul that it can break down.”
“Are you sure about this kid?” Eda asked doubtfully.
“I am,” Revy, agreed, “I think he might be onto something.”
“We have to get out of here anyway,” Fabiola insisted, “This place is wired to explode.”
Eda hushed her with a fierce wave of her hand, “Hey keep it down kid that’s nothing for you to worry about OK?”
Revy twitched her head around, her tongue slid out of her mouth. Her face pinching in disgust at a foul taste that she alone could pick up. "Holy Christ, I can taste it too. The whole damn place is primed. How the hell you manage to keep this a secret Eda?”
“Hey Two Hands, we all got secrets.”
"Well this one is a danger." THe Mini-maid complained, "The bombs are active."
"I know that kid" Eda soothed "look...maybe we should get everyone moving. "
"Stay " Fabiola snapped at her master like he was a disobedient puppy. Then she and Eda and Revy began herding every one outside Revy taking pot shots at stragglers. Well over their heads anyway but she came damn close.
The ghoul Alberto was not among the crowd of monsters who were obliterated by the flurry of the Old Ones attack or the systematic hunting down by the Slayers afterward. He watched as the three ladies shoved and cursed people out the door of the church and toward the main gates.
Alberto smiled and headed toward the child he saw lurking near the church door The FARC commander steamrollered in, eager to kill his target. He was shocked however when he was viciously clothes lined.
Roberta stepped out of the smoke of war. She leveled the mini-gun she still held and pulled the trigger. The bullets screamed across the short span chewing Alberto to shreds. As the force of her attack pushed him back he would stumble across body parts that he would use to try and heal himself but the hail of mini-gun fire continued until at last she exhausted the belt of ammunition.
"Come Mad Dog, lets you and I finished what we started.”
"So all that remains of the once brave FARC commander is a freak who hunts children." Roberta snarled, "This Cowardly attack and the threat to take the Young Master have cleared my mind and focused me."
"You should have taken my offer of power." The Zombie commander snarled as rushed her, teeth bared seeking her throat and blood.
"You think becoming a walking mockery of a man is power." Roberta snapped as she raised her powerful rifle and shotgun and shot at him with both sometimes one at a time, sometimes at the same time. She shot him again and again over and over.
Alberto felt his body being torn up by the shots that finally dropped him to the ground.
"I'll be back," he slurred he face destroyed by a gunshot, "I'll hunt you and that filthy brat till the sun dies and see you both dead."
Roberta stood up. Picking up a discarded gas canister. She tossed the canister though the air shooting it with the shotgun as it passed over Alberto thoroughly soaking him in fuel. She then produced a lighter "They can only bring you back if they have something to resurrect." The Bloodhound said with a cold smile. She flicked the lighter to life and tossed it on to his animated corpse. The heat of the explosion washed across her face, the warmth cleansing and burning the last of her madness away.
She knew now this was what she was always meant to be doing. Protecting Garcia and his allies from all that threatened them. She looked into the heat and saw across the way Master Diego his arm curled around a woman whose picture Roberta recalled from the man's private Study. This must be his beloved Wife they were together at last. Both waved to her and saluted her.
"On my honour Master Diego, I will see that he becomes all that you believed he could be. With my last breath I will protect him and guide him." She whispered.
She noticed finally that Fabiola and Garcia were standing off to one side. They had watched her final judgment. Once they were sure the area was safe, they started forward, producing a burst of incomprehensible babble.
It took most of Roberta’s awesome processing ability but she worked out the important bits Garcia had a means of defeating the Old One and needed her help and Fabiola had noticed that the Church of Violence was wired to blow up which might be part of the larger plan.
“Fine,” she said “Fabiola you are with me. We must get the Young Master to the others so that he can tell them of what he has learned. She shouldered her shotgun and rifle and started forward with Fabiola at her side together the two Lovelace Maids were mercilessly efficient.
Buffy's fury was obvious to everyone. The Argument with Balalaika combined with everything else to bring The Slayer's blood to a boil. The air surrounding her was fairly crackling with the electricity of her desire to be defiantly confrontational.
Xander cleared his throat loudly. I'm sure I'm putting a dent in what would be a very lively wagering about who would win if you and the Captain ever threw down but ... if the bad guys have just gone bye bye doesn't that mean we have won. "
Indeed people were emerging from the church to poke at the remains of the zombie army. One by one cheers and shouts of joy could be heard.
The crowds began moving toward the gate. With Yolanda loudly reminding any who had rented weapons from her of the stiff penalties she charged for late return.
"Indeed, Craftsman," The Corrupted said, addressing Xander, "Our victory was a temporary one. The forces of the Wolf, Ram and Hart will rally in time. They will make another attempt to take this place for their own."
"I do not intend to stand idly by while that happens." Balalaika growled, "Comrade Sergeant be so kind as to restrain General Sheu Yen I would not want him getting lost." she snapped into her radio. Boris reported that they already had the man in hand and would look after him.
"Russian, you will gather your forces,” The Corrupted said imperiously, "prepare them for battle, I see now that I will have to resume my place in this world."
"Indeed, and whom are you planning that I fight." Balalaika asked coldly,
"More importantly the fight is over the bad guys have been blown away." Buffy snapped, "how about you let Manuela go now"
Not until my enemies have been crushed and are being driven before me their forces laid waste to, and their forms displayed for my amusement."
"Sounds like a plan," Buffy replied her voice heavy with sarcasm, "well if your going to be grooving to the lamentation of their women and all I guess you wont be needing that altar thingy so is it OK I told Xander to destroy it?"
"Have a care Slayer do not ruse my anger your kind will be needed in the new order but you specifically may do well to measure your tone."
"No its OK not a problem at all. I can just jet downstairs and set a few charges and bobs your uncle -- as Giles would say.... why does Giles say that?"
Giles rubbed his glasses tiredly, "It's an English thing If I explain it to you will you promise to never, ever use the term publicly ever again?"
"You will not harm my altar Craftsman."
"Why, why are you so hot to hold onto the remains of place that where you were imprisoned for so long."
"I'll tell you why" Garcia answered them Fabiola and Roberta at his side. "He needs it. He’s been able to manifest but that required the blood of two people who had sealed the chamber; one slayer and one of the knights who sealed the altar. Manuela's blood and my blood unsealed the chamber. But until he fully manifests, has full control of his body, the corrupted won't want to surrender its only means to escape death assuming that body is damaged..."
Buffy was catching on. "That's why he's so hot to start fighting the bad guys so badly if your people fight they will die and the despair will feed it make it stronger "
"You meant for me to learn the secret to free you but instead my mind skipped forward. I saw what this place will become if you are allowed to stay here and grow fat off the corruption of this city. “
”Clever boy but you lack the ability or the will to defeat me and my power is growing every second.”
”Actually I do have the ability to defeat you. You don't recognize it since Roberta had it modified but it should still work like it used to.”
”The Lovelace rifle?"
The Old One laughed “Those pathetic weapon was never meant to conquer my kind I’m too powerful demonic by blows like Vampires and their ilk are the only things that would fall to such a weapon as that. You dare to defy me Boy. Maybe you need to see why I was once worshipped as a God The Corrupted stretching out its hand pointing at one person or another causing them to explode. “I offered you a place at the right hand of a god but if you prefer oblivion..."
Suddenly the Old One was rocked by a gun blast. "Who dares?” it screamed in pain.
Roberta stood in its pathway firing first from her shotgun and then from The Lovelace Rifle. As the Old One was rocked by blast after blast Roberta quickly abandoned the shotgun I favor of pumping round after round from the Antique Rifle.
"Push him into the church," Xander shouted at the fighters, "get him into the Church!"
Roberta nodded, Buffy swept in and lashed out with her scythe. She made sure to aim at the part of the Corrupted that Roberta had shot at and together the two women started making headway. The God tried to unleash a shout but Roberta would shot at its mouth silencing it and Buffy would follow up the shot with a slash or swipe.
The Corrupted would reach for Buffy only to have her hand struck by weapon fire or slashed at by the ancient Scythe. Little by little, step, by step, the two warriors ere forcing the Old One back, forcing it to retreat, wounding it. Finally the Old One collapsed on the steps of the church Of Violence and Buffy grabbed the Demon hurling it though the doors with all the finesse of a bouncer launching an uncooperative rummy. She pulled the doors and dashed away
"Time for Option B Xander … tell me you got an Option B." Buffy demanded when she rejoined the group.
"Don't you know it babe." he turned to Yolanda "Anytime you’re ready, Grandma."
"You'd be lucky if I was your grandmother." the old woman snapped and pulled a radio detonator from the depth of her cloak. She switched on the thing and took a long look at her beloved Church. "Ah well I was planning on redecorating anyway." she sighed bitterly as she pressed a switch.
A massive explosion tore the church apart. It seemed to start from the depths of the church and worked its way outward consuming the building floor by floor and then blooming outward to consume the grounds themselves everything beyond the gates leading in to the church was blasted straight into the air in a fireball with a massive thudding sound. The blast would be easily visible from anywhere on the island. Xander suspected the blast could have been visible from space. It was so all encompassing yet for all its violence it was extremely focused. With subsequent blasts blowing back toward the center. When the violent blasts subsided, there was a crater the Church of Violence once stood.
As the smoke cleared Buffy was coughing dust and smoke from her lungs while cursing. "Jesus Christ Xander, I said Option B not Fat-Man And Little Boy."
"Don't look at me, I was just using the tools at hand. The actual bombing was all Yolanda's doing?"
The old woman smiled as she explained, "I live in a city with criminals and psychos with whom I do business on a regular basis. It would be foolish of me not to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
"Mutually assured destruction," Chang laughed with dawning realization, "if we ever invaded the church or tried to take her out she'd blow the whole place. Not bad Yolanda, not bad at all. I had no idea you had it in you."
Yolanda smiled, or at least her mouth did there was nothing at all pleasant in the old woman’s single cold gaze. "No need to make a production out of it I just skimmed an order here or there and planted charges throughout the church grounds."
"... And you knew about this Harris," Balalaika asked with cold suspicion, her estimation of the man was growing at the same time as her determination to keep a very close eye on him in the future.
"I found out by accident and Yolanda can be very scary and persuasive when she wants.” Xander shrugged as he answered, “Easily scary as you Captain."
Buffy couldn’t hold back the smug look that crossed her face. "Our entire plan hinged on trusting an Old One and if there is one thing I’ve learned in ten years of fighting these kinds of things is that you can't trust them. They always find a way to screw you over always. It’s just the way they are. I figured it was best to have a back-up option be available and Xander assured me he would have one ready."
Balalaika gave a curt nod. "Well it seems to have been effective can we call this situation dealt with?" she asked.
"I doubt it. I mean that was big blast and all but, Old ones are tough really, really tough and I doubt this one is going to die just like that and be all accommodating."
"Its still alive under all that?” Chang asked.
Xander replied with a bitter cackle, ”…a few tons of masonry foundation and earth, oh yeah that will only have slowed it down. We might want to start making an Option-C sooner rather then later."
”Maybe the kid’s magic gun can do the job.” Buffy asked
Willow held out her hand “May I see your gun Ms. Roberta?”
Roberta handed firearm over and Willow took it gingerly looking at intensely
"What is it Will?" Xander asked.
”You didn't use this during your fight with Buffy did you?” The Witch asked.
“No of course not, Miss Summers was not responsible for Master Lovelace's death at best she was just intent on protecting someone I did blame. There was no need to use such a thing on her. It would not have been just."
"What’s the deal Willis." Xander asked.
"This weapon disrupts demon energy. Even a glancing hit would damage even a full-blooded demon. A slayer might lose their abilities for a time. A direct shot to a critical hit area and...."
Xander looked at Roberta. "Thank God for your sense of drama. What I don’t get is why she was able to use the weapon like this at all don’t they make this stuff so only family members can use it?"
Garcia answered ”Roberta is family in every way that matters to me." He said with pride.
Willow nodded, "...Which is good enough for the powers that be. Since in Garcia's mind she's family, she gets to use the weapon. Maybe not at full strength but as you can see she makes up for it in other ways."
The shattered Earth trembled and the pile of rubble began to shift. The Old One was forcing its way back to the surface.
"Xander where are we on that Option-C?" Buffy asked.
"My ears are still ringing from Option B. If you got something, now would be the time for it. He turned to Balalaika and Chang “I’d order your people to pull back. When that thing comes out it will be pissed. Buffy’s Scythe and That Magic Gun are the only things we have that will even make a dent in it.”
Balalaika nodded and ordered a retreat but neither she nor Chang seemed inclined to back off.
Roberta and Buffy slowly approached the crater. The pile of rubble shifted and slowly and a hand emerged. The Corrupted felt around and then pushed the many rocks and debris off itself standing at Manuela’s full height,
”You dare oppose me? You, a slayer, my kind bled the blood that wrote every word on every page of the story of this pathetic world and you think to destroy me?”
”duh, you and your kind were banished from this world." Buffy insisted, "You’d have joined them if you hadn’t been imprisoned here."
”No not imprisoned, I honestly had no more taste for chaos I wanted torpor. But the girl reached out to me. Her suffering, the decay of her soul was so sweet I had to taste it again and again. When she gave herself so willingly to me, and I finally felt the air and the earth again as I had once before I could not give it up. I won't give it up. I will have my kingdom again and young Garcia will be my new vessel in his body I will go forth and conquer this world. Garcia come to me."
"Young master remain where it is safe. I will deal with this ...thing.“ Roberta called to Garcia who was drifting closer.
”You presume much hunting dog did I not already say…”
”Yeah, yeah you’re a god;" Buffy snapped, "we get it, would you just die already?”
”I was speaking Slayer, do not interrupt you betters.” The Corrupted screamed and lashed out with psychokinetic force. Buffy was picked up and hurled backward into pile of rubble that collapsed on top of her. Willow screamed Buffy’s name trying to reach her friend. Roberta fired the Rifle again but The Corrupted snatched the weapon pulling it aside. The shot only grazed the Ancient demon that punched Roberta in the stomach doubling her over.
All too quickly the Old One they had thought defeated now held Roberta close and fixed Garcia with a hateful stare. “Garcia come to me." The Corrupted hissed, the demon-god trailed fingers though Roberta's hair causing it turn silvery gray "Come to me boy or watch your beloved maid …die horribly."
the others protested but Garcia shook them all off and approached the twosome slowly. “That’s it young master …closer I promise you I will spare her and the other maid. The rest will pay for their defiance. Your servants however may continue to serve me once I am you…consider it an act of charity on my part a reward for giving me your flesh. "
Roberta looked with panic at her precious Garcia seemingly ready to sacrifice himself. ”Young Master do not, please I beg you. Please do not sacrifice yourself for me."
"I’m not doing this for you I’m doing it for Mother And Father. Soon I will be with them and we can be happy and a family. No more fighting ands gun and blood and terror just heavenly peace. "
"Yes come to me Garcia and I will grant you the peace your soul so badly craves."
Garcia reached out and The Corrupted grabbed him. Garcia took his hand and there was a sparking discharge that caused a convulsion that caused The Corrupted to release both of them with a scream
Roberta rolled clear and snatched Garcia away but The Corrupted was writhing in pain and seemed to be blurring and shaking. “What is this…who can you …what is.... you are gone. Your soul is… but how?"
Buffy finally freed herself from the rubble pile and dashed over. They watched mystified at what was happening. Willow was looking at him and then with realization cried out “That sneaky bitch …I love it.”
”Will?” Xander asked with surprising calm.
”Manuela she gave Garcia the ability to see though the eyes of a slayer. She did that by giving him a little piece of her soul.”.
”A piece of her soul?” Balalaika asked totally mystified,
“Just a little …not enough to make him a full slayer. Just enough so that he got the dreams and specifically Manuela’s ability to see through the eyes of anyone with slayer blood. “
”So when he tried to take over Garcia he had to form a connection which allowed the small sliver to hop back to where it came from.”
Willow nodded eagerly “… A part of her soul that did not submit to the Old One. Now Manuela’s mind and spirit are coming to the fore again."
As if waiting for her words as a cue, The Corrupter’s black eyes closed and Manuela's brown eyes opened "What's happening what have I done. I can feel him inside me scratching at me, clawing..."
”He used your fear and despair.” Garcia explained, sadness in his young voice, “He used it to wear you down like he tried to do to me."
The girl began to weep. "I'm so sorry I didn’t know, it hurt so much I thought ...I wanted to end I wanted it so bad I didn’t care what he wanted what he asked me to do. "
"He tricked you that's what his kind do "
"He's going to force me aside, take me over I am fighting him now but there isn’t much left to fight with.”
”You don't have to fight him you just have to hold him back for a few more seconds.” Garcia said softly and picked up the weapon that Roberta had dropped Roberta paled as she realized what his intent was.
”No young master give it to me I will....”
”No you won’t. You are like family Roberta but I AM Family. There are some responsibilities that are mine alone and it’s long past time I carried my own burden." he shouldered the weapon sighting down the barrel "May Santa Maria watch over you Manuela. Hopefully we will see each other in paradise." he pulled the trigger and the weapon barked in his hand. The girl shivered once and fell silent.
A silvery light emerged from the body pulsing as it rose into the air Willow clapped her hands around it and when they opened again in her hands a small silvery crystal.
“Is it over is the fucker gone?” Revy asked.
“Nah all that is left is this. Should be easy to hold onto we’ll need to keep it isolated otherwise. " Willow said sadly
Roberta took the weapon from his limp fingers and took him in her arms Garcia couldn’t hold it in any longer and started crying. She held him and soothed him; his sobbing was the only thing audible on that lonely hill for a long, long time.