Making the Quota Summary:
Cordelia never met Angel in LA and things aren’t going well for her. Pairings:
None at present Disclaimer:
I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel or Private Benjamin Notes:
Loosely set very early in the 4th season of BtVS/Angel 1st season. I was looking for an unlikely crossover and this came to mind. A one-shot for now – please let me know if you think it should be continued (Muse permitting). Sunnydale, The Bronze
“First year college sucks!” Todd Bennington grumbled to no one in particular, taking a long pull from his illicit beer.
At least his fake ID allowed the eighteen year-old to deaden the pain slightly.
“Wanna talk about it?” a slightly older girl, perhaps in her mind-twenties, asked from a neighbouring barstool.
“What’s to talk about? A psycho roomie, fascist professors, no fricking money... And worst of all, I haven’t had a date since High School!” Todd looked hopefully at the not unattractive blonde beside him.
She really was something, he decided. Perhaps six foot tall, hair halfway down her back, extraordinarily pretty and with attractive dark-green eyes. Inevitably, his mind began to conjure ways to persuade her into the sack. After all, she’d opened the conversation, not him.
The woman laughed lightly and shook her head. “Don’t look at me. I’m not on the market right now! But you wanna talk about it? Name’s Tanya.”
Hopes dashed before they’d even been raised, Todd glared sourly at the couples around them, all so pathetically in love, the poor fools. Until someone got bored.
“Todd. Hell, why not talk to you about it? No one else wants to listen. It all started with her...”
“Cordelia Chase. She dumped me like a used Kleenex and popped my heart like a grape. And to make things worse, next thing she’s dating that geek-boy loser, Xander Harris! I haven’t even had a sniff of a date since... Like she put some kinda curse on me!”
Cordelia Chase’s Apartment, Los Angeles – three weeks later
As usual, there was only one message on Cordelia’s answer-phone. It was her agent and, again as usual, the news wasn’t good. In fact, it was much worse than normal.
“Hi Cordelia. Mike here – nothing much happening right now. We’ll call if there’s an opening and....” the voice paused and there was a sigh on the other end of the line.
“I have to be truthful here, Cordelia. We’ve five hundred girls on our books and... I don’t know how to say this, but... The last three advertising agencies “suggested” quite strongly that we shouldn’t send you for another audition. You’re a nice kid – and I don’t like to do this – but perhaps you’d be better off in another line of work. Sorry...” the message abruptly ended.
Cordelia felt like hurling the phone through the TV set, but was painfully aware she couldn’t afford the repair bill. In fact, right now she was wondering where next month’s rent was coming from. Actually, she resented paying scarce dollars for this two-room, roach-ridden dump, but even Queen C had a basic need for a roof and four walls. She shuddered at the “alternative” arrangement her sleazy, overweight landlord had suggested one day. Cordelia decided she’d rather sleep on a park bench than go down that route.
On top of the imminent rent crisis, the brunette was also starving – almost literally. Mainly living on finger food snatched from buffets at celebrity parties and the occasional tin of soup, Cordelia was losing weight fast and feeling increasingly weak.
Now, just when things felt as though they couldn’t get any worse, her agent had voiced what she was secretly beginning to feel herself. She just wasn’t cutting it as an actress, not even for secondary parts in tacky commercials which were her only route into the acting profession. As long as that slim hope had remained a possibility, Cordelia had been willing to accept her living conditions. Now, however, she had to rethink everything.
Abruptly, she grabbed her jacket and headed for the door, unwilling to spend another minute in the seedy apartment. The diner on the corner sold passable burgers – if the alleged meat contents weren’t examined too closely - and if she wasn’t going to faint from hunger, Cordelia decided she needed something solid in her growling stomach. The cost of one pathetic burger might be the difference between a place to stay and eviction, but she was rapidly heading for the past caring stage.
With an effort, Cordelia reminded herself that she couldn’t allow herself to give up. After facing the worst Sunnyhell had to throw at her, she could deal with a little adversity – even if the change in her fortunes had been dramatic. In short order, the brunette had gone from Sunnydale High’s richest and most popular girl, to Xander Harris’ cast-off and the unwanted daughter of a fugitive from the IRS. Part of her wanted to blame Buffy and the Scoobies. After all, before her bottle-blonde nemesis arrived in Sunnydale, Cordelia’s life had been one of carefree – and danger-free – popularity, power and wealth. However, that wasn't really fair. Amazingly enough, Buffy and her had actually become something approaching friends over the Summer vacation and she knew her father’s greed was to blame for her current predicament and no one else.
Well, perhaps it was mainly her father’s fault. On the other hand, it had to be acknowledged that her own naivety – in actually believing she could turn into a Hollywood starlet overnight – might have had a teensy weensy part to play. But only slightly, Cordelia decided, kicking a can along the rain-dampened sidewalk.
There was no use crying over spilt milk, she decided. She’d made her bed when she boarded the bus for LA and now it was time to lie in it – or at least try to make it more comfortable.
Cordelia squared her shoulders. Queen C might be down on her luck, but she’d be back. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, but soon. First, she had to find a job – any job. She'd had quite a good job in Sunnydale, before that damned town took it all away from her again. The chances of finding anything similar around here were unfortunately close to zero. In this neighbourhood, a job meant either working as a “name-tag girl” in a corner store or diner, or on the assembly-line in a local factory. Neither remotely appealed to her, but this was an emergency. Perhaps later, she could find something better in another part of LA. Feeling slightly more optimistic, Cordelia set about her task.
Freddy’s Burger Island, Los Angeles – later the same day
Five long hours later, tired and footsore, she was utterly dejected.
“Every night I turn on the news and some talking head says we’re in the middle of an unprecedented boom. Work and opportunity for everyone – ‘cept me,” she mumbled, cradling a lukewarm mug of coffee.
Her companion nodded sympathetically. Linda was the only person Cordelia knew in this neighbourhood and then only a little. The two women met in this diner from time to time, the brunette always trying to eke out a single coffee for as long as possible. Linda – she didn’t even know the woman’s second name – was short, dumpy and bespectacled, with mousy-brown hair and pronounced rabbit teeth. In High School, she would have been ignored and/or ridiculed by the Cordettes, but now she was the one individual Cordelia could almost call a friend.
“Boom for everyone and bust for Cordy... I just don’t believe that every store and grease-joint in a ten block radius is fully staffed. Or that they don’t need someone to pack stuff into boxes at the factory. And one guy suggested I could make good money on the streets. Is there something about me that screams “hooker”? Maybe I should have left the “Get It Here" placard at home!” Cordelia fumed, unusually coarse, as Linda practically choked on her donut.
The latter hastened to reassure her. “Of course not – he was just being a jerk. But if things are so bad here, why don’t you go back home to – uh – Sunnydell?”
She couldn’t quite remember the name of Cordelia’s hometown, only that it was practically a taboo subject in conversation.
“That’s Sunnydale. And you have to be kidding! D’you have any idea what it’s like back there? There’s no one there for me. And I spent my life trying to get out of that town,” Cordelia replied, jaw set tightly.
The operative words were, in fact, “out of that town alive” and she knew she was lucky to have escaped with her skin – her very soul – intact. Staying longer than necessary in Sunnydale was, in Cordelia’s opinion, akin to having a death wish.
Besides, quite apart from the fact that her parents were no longer in Sunnydale – they were probably living the high life in Rio with the money hidden from the clutches of the IRS – the employment prospects were almost certainly no better. She'd been lucky over the Summer vacation, but luck like that didn't strike twice, not in Sunnyhell. More importantly, there was no way in Hell she’d crawl back home with her tail between her legs, admitting her failure to the Scooby Gang and, as likely as not, forced to beg Xander for a corner of his parent’s basement.
“Uh, uh! No way! Not in a million years! Never!”
“I guess that just leaves the benefit queue,” Linda offered.
Cordelia fought off an urge to snatch her friend’s half-eaten donut and devour it in a single bite. “Thanks, but do I look like handout girl? Any other ideas? Maybe something a tad less down-and-out?”
“For someone who doesn’t have many options, you can be a real snob, Cordelia. But I might have one idea... You won’t like it, though!” Linda pointed out.
“If you’re gonna say, there’s good money to be made down the docks, I’ll pop you on the snout,” Cordelia warned, eyes narrowing. “But otherwise... I’m all ears.”
“You could try the Army recruiting office on the next block.”
Cordelia practically yelled. “Are you kidding? First off, not a morning person – 5am starts? Don’t think so! Second, I don’t look good in green. Off the peg practically brings me out in hives, without wearing that military crap. And have you seen the boots? Then there’s the part where I hate guns – and being shot at pretty much ranks top on things I like to avoid.”
With visions of crawling through a swamp, carrying an oversized pack and toting an M16, Cordelia shuddered. She’d sat through more than one war movie with Xander, as excruciating payback for extended shopping trips, and was certain the reality could only be ten times worse.
Linda wasn’t about to give up so easily. “I’ve a friend, six years back she was down on her luck like you are now. She enlisted for a few years. Nothing hard – office stuff, driving officers around – wasn’t so bad. When she came out, they paid her college fees, gave her a nice medical package.”
Cordelia shook her head firmly. “So not gonna happen!”
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t try to help. Three square meals a day and a roof over your head. Discipline’s not so tough after Basic Training and you did well in school. They’ll probably promote you pretty quickly... Right now, you could do much worse, Cordelia,” Linda looked her friend straight in the eye.
United States Army Recruiting Office, Los Angeles – next day
Sergeant Granite Rock winced as his CO chewed him out over the phone. It was becoming a regular habit. The Captain seemed to think it was his personal fault no one wanted to join the Army. And when Captain Judy Benjamin had a bug up her ass about something, she tended to blame her recruiting sergeants. It was almost as if she had a personal score to settle.
The Sergeant certainly lived up to his name, resembling an escapee from Mount Rushmore. His close-cropped head was as angular as a building block, with arms and legs like tree trunks. An immaculate dress uniform included two full rows of medal ribbons and he looked every inch the career soldier. But he was still afraid of Captain Benjamin.
“This is your final warning, Sergeant! And I’m serious! This is the third month you’ve failed to meet recruiting targets. Which means I’m getting my butt kicked by my CO. Well, let me remind you that shit travels downwards – in your direction! If you don’t make quota this month, I promise you won’t be serving out your last year of service behind a comfortable desk... Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the Sergeant answered obediently.
“I’ll be checking in at the end of the day. You’d better have signed up the first dumb or desperate schmuck to cross the threshold, or I’ll be posting you somewhere. Right now, I’m seriously thinking Greenland,” his CO growled threateningly.
“Yes, Captain Benjamin, ma’am,” he practically saluted the telephone.
Rock knew he had to pull a rabbit out of the hat, or his ass was toast. Or frozen in this case. It was time, he decided, to try some unethical practices – or just plain lie. The previous generation of recruiters, after all, had a reputation for prevaricating, distorting the truth and outright lying in order to fill their books. Over the last two decades, standards had been tightened, but with any luck he’d be collecting his pension long before anyone looked too closely at the methods.
The next potential recruit, he decided, would be schmoozed like they’d never been schmoozed before. They’d be like putty in his hands.
Outside the office, Cordelia hesitated. Joining the Army had never crossed her mind up to the previous evening, but Linda had been strangely persistent - even convincing - and the arguments began to make sense. Her friend had ensured she went home with a full stomach and a lot to think about. Cordelia had to admit that she had few options left and at least this way, if she could tolerate a few years of bad clothes and being ordered around, college and a decent career might be back in the frame again. At the very least, she decided, it wouldn’t do any harm to hear what the recruiter had to say.
As she tentatively stepped inside, Sergeant Rock rose from behind his desk. This well-dressed young woman, he immediately decided, wasn’t a potential recruit. She looked more like a model, one that hadn’t been eating properly for a while. Probably she was looking for directions and the Sergeant knew all too well this wasn’t the best of areas to be lost. He supposed it was time to do his knight in shining armour impersonation. After all, Captain Benjamin would probably have his head on a platter if a defenceless young woman was mugged in the vicinity of the office.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked in his most gallant tones.
“I want to enquire about joining the Army,” Cordelia replied, completely out of her normal environment, but sounding surprisingly confident.
“Really? If you’d like to take a seat, ma’am...” Rock offered, as his day suddenly began to look up.
“I’m Sergeant Granite Rock,” he held out his hand.
Cordelia raised a sceptical eyebrow as she shook hands. “For real? Parents hate you or something?”
“It’s for real, I’m afraid. My father had a strange sense of humour,” Rock smiled tolerantly, immediately classing this would-be recruit as the sort of smart-ass who’d be eaten alive, probably raw, by her first Drill Sergeant.
“Cordelia Chase,” she introduced herself.
“So... Why don’t you tell me about yourself, Miss Chase? And why you might be considering the Army as a career?”
Twenty minutes later, the Sergeant was pretty sure he had this one in the bag. One of tens of thousands of hopefuls who came to LA every year, hoping to make it big in Hollywood, Cordelia had found herself without a safety net. Few failed acting wannabes made their way into his office, especially women. As a species, he generally had little time for actors, real or would-be. This one, however, was refreshingly honest, admitting that she only wanted to join the Army for the college benefits afterwards. That wasn’t unusual within any of the services and her High School record was better than most he saw. In changed circumstances, he knew Cordelia could have walked into half-a-dozen top-notch colleges. In his experience, she certainly wasn’t the type who normally tried to enlist.
There was something odd about her, too. The eyes seemed much older and more experienced than her eighteen years. They were the eyes of someone who’d seen a lifetime’s worth of horrifying things and too much death and destruction and he’d seen the look in many a veteran. Which didn’t explain why an eighteen year-old cheerleader from southern California should look that way.
Right now, none of that mattered. A healthy – if probably slightly malnourished – young recruit had landed in his lap, so to speak, and he was going to make the most of it.
“The modern Army, Miss Chase, has bases all over the world and endless opportunities for travel, exciting work and recreation,” Rock shamelessly brandished a large photograph of a marina crammed with yachts.
“This is Hawaii. Or you might prefer Europe?” he held up another poster, this one of an alpine ski resort.
“You’re at a crossroads in life, Miss Chase, looking for a new direction. The United States Army can provide you with that, a chance to excel and be part of something bigger. And with your school record - assuming an above-average performance in basic training - you could easily be recommended for officer training,” he gestured towards her High School certificate, scorched around the edges from a gas explosion during the graduation ceremony.
Rock had the strange feeling that much more effort should be required with this one. By rights, she ought to be too intelligent to accept at face-value half of what he was claiming. Nevertheless, she was happily absorbing every line of bullshit. He certainly wasn’t about to complain. Medical and physical fitness examinations, background check and basic intelligence tests would be administered as quickly as possible over the next few weeks and then one former cheerleader would be shipped off to basic training. She wouldn’t know what hit her – and yachts weren’t on the agenda – but the Sergeant didn’t feel even slightly guilty at the deception. On the contrary, he had a warm, fuzzy feeling. No Greenland posting for Sergeant Granite Rock, or not this month, at any rate.
An hour later, a smiling Linda watched, unseen, from the roof of a building opposite, as Cordelia and Sergeant Rock shook hands at the recruiting office entrance. Clearly, Cordelia had just enlisted, or at least set the process in motion. Her work done, “Linda” morphed into “Tanya”, then into a frightening creature with a deeply-veined face.
With a flash of light, a demonic-looking bearded, four-horned being materialised alongside.
“Back on quota, Tanika, I see,” D’Hoffryn observed dryly.
“A somewhat tame response to the Wish, especially at three weeks from Wish to Vengeance. Too little blood and suffering for my taste. But inventive. And a fitting target for vengeance – Cordelia Chase, after all, was partly responsible for Anyanka losing her powers,” he assessed semi-approvingly.
Tanika, Vengeance Demon for Scorned Men, acknowledged the presence of the master of her Order and Lord of Arashmahaar with a half-hearted bow.
“The boy only asked for limited vengeance. Unlike Anyanka and Halfrek, I don’t need to start revolutions or carry out flashy eviscerations to do my job,” she responded stiffly.
“Besides, this one was easy. She was already in trouble – all it took was the idea, then a little spell to convince her. Right now, Cordelia is convinced she’ll be the perfect little soldier. But it’ll wear off a few weeks into her training – when it’s too late to go back!” Tanika explained.
“Of course, I’ll visit the little princess, just to explain what’s happened and why...” she smiled.
“I do have a slight problem,” D’Hoffryn said slowly. “In granting the Wish in this form, you’ve actually helped the woman. I find that slightly disturbing.”
Tanika shrugged. “Believe me, she won’t ever see this as help. Not when the spell fades.
“And there’s one little touch I need to add...” she touched her pendant.
"How appropriate!" D'Hoffryn nodded approvingly.
Tanika might not be one of the more hardcore Vengeance Demons in terms of inflicting outright pain and suffering, but she had a well-developed sense of irony. While D'Hoffryn might have preferred a more bloody solution, he certainly couldn't fault his favourite for her inventiveness. The humbling of Cordelia Chase would, he reflected, be interesting to watch for the next few months.
Rock hadn’t been slow to call Captain Benjamin with his news. Maybe she’d stop riding his ass for a few days. Cordelia Chase might not have been officially accepted yet, but he was pretty sure she’d clear the various hurdles. The Sergeant had been in the job long enough to know who’d pass and who didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell.
Sure enough, his CO sounded almost pleased. “Not even lunchtime yet, Sergeant. Shows what you can do when you’ve suitable – ah – incentive. I’ll provisionally put her down for Fort McGregor, just outside Sunnydale California.”
“She’s a Sunnydale native, ma’am. Isn’t that against policy?” Rock pointed out.
“Not as such,” the Captain responded. “Besides, Fort McGregor has a freakishly high mortality rate – just like Sunnydale itself. Recruits fall onto barbecue forks, or bayonets, or suffer neck ruptures, or are killed by wild animals with weird regularity. If she’s from that creepy town and has lived to eighteen, it means she’s a survivor...”
“That was just added gravy,” Tanika snickered with evil satisfaction, as D’Hoffryn looked quizzically at her.
“So what was the original Wish?”
Sunnydale, The Bronze – three weeks earlier
It hadn’t cost Tanika too much to bring Todd Bennington to the Wish stage. He had no head for even a few weak beers. A cheap date, she thought ironically.
“Don’t you wish something really horrible would happen to the bitch?” the Vengeance Demon pressed gently.
“Not really horrible... And not permanent... I don’t hate Cordy, but if there’s justice in the world, there ought to be some sort of penalty,” Todd slurred slightly.
“Such as?” Tanika asked eagerly.
Her assignment for the night focused slightly uneven pupils on the demon.
“I dunno... She was always so high and mighty and obsessed with appearance and money. Yeah, she deserves a crap job for just a few years, where she’s at the bottom of the ladder, forced to wear really bad clothes, paid shit wages and yelled at by everyone.”
Tanika was vaguely disappointed. Spurned guys usually opted for disfiguring skin conditions, a curse of old maid-hood, or recurrent crabs and STDs as vengeance. Cordelia Chase was getting off lightly. Of course, she’d only dated this idiot for a week and Tanika was rapidly beginning to see why her prospective victim had dumped him.
In any case, the Vengeance Demon was now obligated to carry out the terms of the Wish, albeit with her own interpretation.
“Granted,” she sighed, now thoroughly bored.
Sunnydale, the basement, Harris House – eight months later
Xander Harris was surprised to receive a letter stamped Fort McGregor. He couldn’t recall knowing anyone in the military, let alone based at the local training unit. Puzzled, he tore open the envelope and sixty seconds later, his jaw hit the floor with a thump. Then he began to laugh hysterically.
“What’s the matter?” Anya tried to read the letter from over his shoulder.
“Oh God! Poor Queen C!” Xander wasn’t so much laughing at his ex, as at her situation.
If there was one person he could never in a million years visualise in uniform, it was Cordelia. Wiping his eyes, he handed the letter to his former Vengeance Demon girlfriend. Dear Xander I’m about to complete my basic training at Fort McGregor. And for the record, I still hate you with a fiery passion. If you’re wondering why I’m in the Army, just ask Anya about a Vengeance Demon called Tanika. It’s all the bitch’s fault that I’m here – and headed for the 82nd Airborne in six weeks. Airborne! Just as a headquarters clerk, but still a Goddamned paratrooper! I swear to God, if I ever meet Tanika again, I’ll be testing how a Vengeance Demon can survive an anti-tank rocket at point-blank range. With all this training, I know how to do that now. On general principles, next time I see your ex-demon girlfriend, I’ll shove my combat boot so far up her fucking ass, she’ll be able to taste leather. Love and kisses Cordelia p.s. I still owe you one for the prom dress.