A/N Sorry I've been gone so long. Real life has kept me jumping. As always, I have no proprietary claims on BTVS, Stargate or the works of H P Lovecraft; darn it.
Oz looked worriedly over at Dawn. There had been nothing but tense silence from her since they had escaped from Miskatonic; and silence was not something Dawn did on a regular basis.
Oz had been in his office at Lovecraft Hall when Xander’s call had come. Dawn had been in hers watching movies with Clem; Oz thought that they were going through the entire Disney Animation collection but he might be wrong. He had no more hung up the phone and yelled when the screams had started. Oz had no idea what kind of protections were in place at the University and quite frankly he didn’t want to know; but they were clearly doing their job. He dismissed that line of thinking as currently irrelevant and turned to finish the diagram that was their escape route. He was just finishing up the corner when Dawn and Clem came bursting in. It was clear from Dawn’s face that she was barely holding it together. Clem looked a little better, but even the floppy skinned demon looked a little pale.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Oz said as calmly as he could. He turned to Clem, “Once we go through, erase the lines and then get out of here and find somewhere to hide.”
“No problem,” Clem replied, hiding was something he was used to and he was pretty good at it.
Dawn just gave Clem a tense hug and whispered, “Be careful,” before she walked a little stiff leggedly to the corner and disappeared.
“Thanks,” Oz said and followed her.
Clem quickly destroyed the design and then made for a nearby utility closet. There were several tunnels from there that he had been working on.
The two had traveled to Denver house and within minutes they were in a car headed for Colorado Springs and the SGC. OZ knew that Xander had made arrangements with General Hammond to relocate Dawn off-world. It seemed workable enough but the whole concept of traveling to other worlds still gave Oz a bit of a wiggins. He’d tried to get Dawn to open up a bit, but she had steadfastly remained silent since they’d gotten in the car. He hadn’t been around for the entire Glory episode the first time around but several long talks with both Buffy and Willow had given him a pretty clear idea of what had happened and how Dawn had reacted to it all. He knew also that silence from a woman was not a good thing. “I wonder what kind of world we’ll end up on,” he asked, breaking the silence yet again; hoping that this would get Dawn talking.
“I hate this,” Dawn finally muttered.
“Which this do you mean?” Oz asked.
“The running and hiding this,” Dawn shot back. “Every time something threatens me the only answer seems to be, ‘Let’s hide Dawn until whatever it is goes away’, like I’m some sort of helpless damsel in distress;” she huffed.
“I understand,” Oz replied. “And if this was a usual situation you would be on the front lines. But in this case you are what they’re after, so if there is a way to deny them access to you, then that’s the best course of action.” Oz paused, “Not the most satisfying but the best.”
“I know,” Dawn replied, leaning over against Oz. “But being a target of every idiot that wants to turn me into ‘Doorway Dawn’ and release their oppressed brethren or something like that gets old after a while.”
“I’m sure,” Oz sighed, “and I’m sorry that it has to be like this.”
Dawn didn’t say anything but she did snuggle up a bit tighter to the werewolf/philosopher. Oz noted, with a slight smile, that the silence wasn’t nearly as tense.
When they came bursting out of Xander’s office, the three of them were faced with about twenty people milling around in the hallway. They ranged from the fully formed scabby dwarf like those that had served Glory to normal looking human. Collectively, they all looked as though they’d gone a few rounds with Evander Holyfield after calling him a sissy; evidence of the wards that they had been forced to come through.
They immediately attacked the intruders; Xander using the flat of his ax, Faith just needed her fists and feet while Willow had some sort of force coming from her fists, she likened it to a bludgeoning spell from Harry Potter. They made short work of the intruders and then got busy while waiting for the police to pick up the remnants of Glory’s minions. Well pick up most of them. The most human of the lot was hidden in the hopes that she might yield up some much needed information when interrogated later. They all felt bad about taking the law into their own hands but this was Dawn they were talking about and that made it personal and that fact served to give them the resolve to do what was needed.
While Faith was hiding the prisoner and Willow was looking for what happened to Oz and Dawn, Xander made yet another phone call.
“General Hammond, this is Dr. Harris.”
“I wish that it were better circumstances General, but we have a major situation here.”
“Sorry sir, but it looks like the third option is the one we’re going to have to exercise.”
“Dr. Osborn will be with her.” Xander paused, “I did fill you in on his condition; didn’t I sir?”
“Entirely correct.” He paused again as he heard Willow’s voice getting closer. She was speaking to someone, but it wasn’t until he heard a muttered reply that he realized it was Clem. Soon drowning that out was the sound of several people approaching; the Police had arrived and Xander needed to get off the phone. “I’m sorry General but the Police are here and I need to speak with them.”
“I will, and thank you for what you’re doing.”
“Goodbye sir,” Xander said as he hung up the phone and turned to face the first officer that had entered his office. “Hello officer,” he said. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”
Dealing with the Arkham police wasn’t like dealing with the Sunnydale constabulary but when you’re a professor at an institution that’s older than the town it’s located in, you get cut a lot of slack. The Police had taken statements from both himself and Faith; who had shown up soon after the police had arrived. During the questioning, he had floated the theory that as the head of Arcane Studies, some Ultra-Religious loonies might have gotten it in their heads that he was teaching devil worship or some such nonsense and had taken it upon themselves to shut the department down. He had backed it up with the print outs of a couple of E-mails that he had received from some on-line whack jobs and the story was sold. The injuries and deaths were ‘clearly’ due to some sort of disagreement amongst themselves as to how to proceed once they had broken in.
The police had bought it and had left after Xander and the others had promised to keep in touch and they had promised to pass on any information that came his way. And with that; dealing with the authorities was over. Xander turned to Faith with a feral smile on his face. “Now let’s get some real answers,” he growled out. The smile that lit Faith’s face matched his own.
Marcella Winston came too with the taste of something bitter in her mouth. She reflexively swallowed and then opened her eyes. Immediately she wished that she hadn’t. The room she was in was dark but not black. Shadows played along the walls and thickened in the corners. The only thing that she could see clearly was some sort of blade that was about an inch in front of her face. “What is your name?” a voice boomed out.
“Marcella,” she replied without thinking.
“Why did you come here?” the voice asked.
“To capture the key,” she again replied without thinking.
“Has Glory returned?” the voice asked yet another question.
“In a way,” she again replied quickly.
“What do you mean?” the voice now sounded angrier than it had before.
“Her spirit is caught in the ring,” she said. “We cannot free it without enough power and her glorious essence will need a new shell.”
“And the key can give you both,” the voice said, not questioning for once. It was this lapse that gave Marcella time to think. She’d realized that she had been captured and those who were guarding the key were even now interrogating her. Marcella was horrified at the amount of information that she’d already given them but vowed that she would give no more. Taking the time that her interrogators were talking amongst themselves, she loosened the false tooth in her mouth and bit down hard on it. She felt hands on her body, lifting her up but she knew that it was too late; she could already feel her body shutting down. She vaguely saw a face in front of her saying something, but it was meaningless now. She gave a smirk of triumph and murmured, “Hail Glory,” as she died.
“God damn it,” Xander screamed as he dropped the body. “I can’t believe that we forgot to check for stuff like that.”
“Not your fault X,” Faith said quietly. “We all dropped the ball.”
“We’re not used to dealing with fanatics Xander,” Willow added. “That’s a whole different mind set from demons and vampires and that kind of thing.”
“I know, but what happened at the building should have warned us about what to expect.” Xander turned away, angered at his lapse. He turned back, “Willow, track her down as best you can, let’s see if her movements or expenses can tell us anything. Faith,” he said, turning to his fiancé. “Let the Undertaker know what’s gone on and cancel Oz’s and Dawn’s classes.” He turned back to the cooling body.
“And you, Xander?” Willow asked.
“I’ll deal with the body,” he replied quietly.
“X, I can . . . ,” Faith started; but Xander cut her off.
“Thanks Faith, but it’s my responsibility.” He gave her a wan smile and turned back once more to take care of Marcella’s body.
Oz gave a tense smile as they got closer to Cheyenne Mountain. Ever since the tension had been broken and Dawn was behaving more like her old self, she had been speculating about the possibilities of combining her “Key” essence with the technology of the Stargate. It kind of reminded him of when he and Willow were first dating and she would deliver a monologue on some aspect of Comic Book Physics that might be duplicated in the real world. Then, as now; he simply listened and marveled at the depth and flexibility of her mind.
Soon, though; a frown crossed Oz’s face. Something was wrong, he could hear the wolf in his head telling him to be careful despite the fact that they were approaching a safe haven. Dawn soon picked up on his mood shift and asked her boyfriend what was up?
“Bad feelings,” was all he said but it instantly put her on high alert.
Oz slowed the car way down once the front gate was in sight and surveyed the scene as he approached. There were three guards, two outside and one in the little building. For the two that were outside, their uniforms showed all of the proper insignia and unit markers that Xander had told him to look for. Yet despite all this he was nearly ready to turn the car around and run. He had no idea why, but it was what his instincts were screaming at him to do. With a shake of his head he dismissed these thoughts as simply ‘Initiative’ flashbacks and drove up to the gate, where he lowered his window. “Dr. Osborne and Miss Summers to see General Hammond,” he said as the guard approached. The guard didn’t say anything but his hand slowly drifted towards his waist and his eyes flicked to his partner’s in a moment of silent conversation.
Now Oz’s instincts were screaming at him, so without hesitation, he slammed the car’s door into the guard, stunning the man. Another loud ‘Chunk’ a moment later told him that Dawn had done the same thing but then he heard her leave the car. This killed off his plan to just drive away and so he slammed his door yet again into the guard on his side, letting part of the wolf out due to the threat to his mate. The guard had dropped to his knees from the first hit and the second hit put him down for the count. The third guard had stopped in front of the car and was aiming something at Dawn, who was preoccupied with kicking the guard that she’d slammed with her door into the next time zone.
The third guard fired, Dawn screamed, and Oz let the wolf take over completely. A burning rage fueled his transformation as he tore the seat belt holding him down into pieces as his legs curled up under him and then he pushed. He hit the windshield like a diver cutting into the water, tearing through it completely. Safety glass just hadn’t been engineered with an enraged werewolf in mind. Rear claws digging into the hood, he pushed once more with his fore claws extended and tore the third guard’s throat out as he sailed past. He spun as he landed, unerringly facing the last guard. But even as he sprang at the man, he knew that he was too late. The last guard was standing over Dawn’s still twitching body, his service pistol out and aimed directly at Oz. As the werewolf sprang, the guard opened up; pulling the trigger as fast as he could. At such a short distance, it was impossible for the man to miss.
The force of the shells hitting his body knocked him backwards and he sprawled out on his back, trying to hold on to his consciousness. The bullets were not silver, and therefore couldn’t kill him, but the collected trauma was too much and despite his tremendous will and rage, he blacked out.
George Hammond was not looking forward to what was going to happen later today. He was going to allow an unauthorized person to leave the planet via the Stargate. The situation itself didn’t cause him a lot of grief, he believed that it was the right thing to do; no, what was worrying him was what would happen when some Pentagon weenie learned about it. He knew that despite everything, he couldn’t keep it under the rug forever and the Pentagon was full of generals who’d managed to sluff off every hard decision they’d ever had to make but were more than willing to Monday Morning Quarterback some other officer to death.
He was still musing over the myriad of high ranking fools that he had to deal with when his phone rang.
“Sir, its Lieutenant Negly.”
George remembered that Negly was one of the MP’s. “What’s the problem Lieutenant?”
“Sir, we’ve had an incident at the front gate.”
“What exactly happened?”
“It appears that the guards engaged a possible intruder, Sir. One of the men is dead, one injured and one missing.”
“And the intruder?”
“According to his ID, he’s Daniel Osbourne. A professor of Philosophy from somewhere called Miskatonic. Perkins is the injured guard and Cho is dead, I have no idea where Marsden is.”
“And his companion?” The general asked. “He was traveling here with a Miss Summers.”
“Sir, there’s just Mr. Osbourne. And he’s in bad shape sir.”
“What do you mean Negly?”
“He’s alive, but it looks like he took at least five rounds in the chest and abdomen and a couple of creases in the arms and one on the left side of his head.”
“Okay Lieutenant; get Osbourne and Perkins down to the infirmary as fast as you can, bring Cho’s body as well.” Then he remembered what Harris had told him about Osbourne. “One thing Negly, treat and fluids from Osbourne’s body like a level three bio hazard, be especially careful with his blood."
“Crap,” he heard the MP mutter. “Very well sir; we’ll be there in less than five minutes.”
“Carry on Lieutenant,” Hammond said and hung up the phone. He paused for a second, processing everything and coming to some conclusions that he didn’t like. Obviously the crazies that were trying to end the world had infiltrated the SGC and he had just handed them exactly what they were looking for. After he finished informing Doctor Frazier about what was happening, he was going to have to call Harris.
Suddenly merely dealing with the Pentagon didn’t seem bad as he slowly picked up the phone and dialed.
There was an idea in his head, but it was being elusive. Xander sat back, closed his eye and mentally went over everything that he’d learned in the past few hours. There was a lot to go through but he knew that there was something there. Some small bit of knowledge which would be the key to everything so he cycled the information over and over, hoping the answer would come to him. He was in the middle of this when the phone rang.
His eye popped open and he glared balefully at the phone, but it kept on ringing, undeterred by Xander’s annoyance. Finally he picked it up.
“Hello General, did they get there alright?” Having heard the ringing of the phone, both Faith and Willow poked their heads into Xander’s office. They both saw him pale.
“Any idea yet on what happened?”
“I see,” he murmured and leaned back in his chair, closing his eye. “And Oz?”
Xander sat up abruptly. “Okay General, here’s what you need to do. Don’t take him to the infirmary, take him to a cell, close the door and lock it, and then wake him up.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s the quickest and easiest way to get him up and helping.”
“I know you don’t understand, but you will; I promise.”
“I understand General, and thank you for the call.” Gently he placed the receiver back in the phone’s cradle and then started systematically pounding it with his fist. Both Faith and Willow watched silently as Xander demolished his phone and started cursing in Klingon. He didn’t stop until the phone was rubble and his hand a bloody mess. He sat back in his chair again, letting his hand just lay there and bleed.
“What happened Xander?” Willow asked quietly.
“They got Dawn and Oz was shot,” he answered quietly.
“What do the Army guys know?” Faith asked after almost a minute of silence.
“Nothing,” Xander replied quietly, but then his voice rose. “They don’t know anything, it’s like these guys just fell out of the sky and waited there for Dawn and Oz to show up. The General doesn’t know how the guards found out when they were coming or that they were coming.”
“The bad guys would be there anyway, wouldn’t they;” Willow commented. Seeing the glances that both Xander and Faith shot her, she continued. “You said that one of the things that could power this whatever it is is at that base right? Or at least the way to get the power thingy is at the base. So the easiest way to get in is have some bad guys in the guard force to let their people in without raising alarms in case they need to get in.”
Xander just face palmed, he really was an idiot sometimes. “You’re right Wills, and I missed it,” he commented finally. He took a deep breath, “Faith, I need you to go to the mountain and make sure that Oz is okay. And once you’re sure that he is, I want you to talk to the prisoner that they’ve got. He probably doesn’t know anything; none of these bastards seem to know anything, but make sure that’s the case.”
Faith looked up; Xander’s voice had kind of drifted towards the end. He was sitting there kind of dazed, honestly Faith was wondering if he might be in the process of mentally checking out. “And take the book,” he added in that same faraway voice.
“You sure about that?” she asked. “You’re not sounding too with it at the moment.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he replied, his voice getting stronger.
“So what’s with the dazed and confused?”
“That stray thought I’ve been having finally clicked,” he replied. Then Xander turned to Willow. “I need you to help me with a search.”
“Sure,” Willow replied. “I know we’re searching for their home, so how are we going to find it?”
“You remember what the New York slayers said about that area?”
“Yeah, that nothing ever happened there,” Faith replied.
“Exactly,” Xander said. “Nothing happens there. You all know that I’ve been reading a bunch of military stuff lately and one thing was about submarines. How the subs with the nuclear missiles are so quiet that they make less noise than the ocean around them. The government found out later that the Russians could track them not by listening for them, but by listening for what wasn’t there.”
“So we look for places where there should be some demon or vampire activity, but there isn’t?” Willow asked, catching on to where Xander was going.
“Exactly,” Xander said. “We don’t look for them, we look for what should be there but isn’t. So we find them and then all of us land on them like the wrath of God,” his voice grew cold. “We don’t have time to waste,” Xander said, looking at Faith. “Right now every second counts.”
Faith just nodded and left. The damned book freaked her out, but Xander in this cold, amoral mode freaked her out more. It was a side of him that she rarely saw, but it always made an impression.