Chapter Three: Go Down, Moses
The man could smell death and garbage. As much as the enhanced senses helped in his work, they also had their share of drawbacks. Being able to track something down like a dog also meant that he could smell just about each and every thing in that alleyway. Both alive and not so alive.
Turning around, he grinned as he saw the two figures at the foot of the alley. They were a mix of sizes, one larger than even him and the other small, but still heavily built. From the way that they smelled, not so much the deathly sweet scent of a corpse, but rather the dried dusty texture of the undead, he could tell that they weren’t exactly normal. Of course, normal was a foregone conclusion in Sunnydale, especially at night. Which included himself, he supposed.
Still, he had to know what he was getting himself into, and despite the various creatures and beasts he had encountered in the various battlefields he had found himself in, he had never actually been on a Hellmouth.
The smaller one sniffed the air, his face shifting as he did. His grin revealed sharp teeth and his eyes glowed yellow. “Breakfast.”
Klein said nothing, just stepping back further into the alley as the two men, now vampires, approached. As the smaller one darted forward, going for his neck, Klein shifted to his right, almost blurring as he kicked the back of the vampire’s knee.
The small demon fell to his knee, pain shooting through his joints at the impact, surprised by the speed of the attack. He growled and turned, attempting to rise to his feet. The last thing the vampire saw was a trio of blades glinting off the streetlight as it flashed towards its head.
Klein pulled his arm back and stared at the other vampire, the one on his knees before him crumbling to dust.
The large vampire roared, and ran forward, his arms outstretched in order to grab the man that had just killed his partner. While there was little real love for the other vampire, they had had the closest thing to a friendship between two vampires possible for over a hundred years.
Klein circled to the left, the outstretched hands of the demon rushing by his face. Clawing upwards, he spun around as he cut off the vampire’s arms up to the elbow. While the demon reacted to the pain, the super soldier stabbed into the vampire’s back, twisting as he broke his victim’s spinal cord. The demon, finding that its legs no longer worked, fell hard onto the concrete pavement.
“You son of a bitch!” the vampire yelled out, struggling to turn over using its ruined arms, blood flowing out of them and staining the concrete ground. He didn’t know what the hell the man that they had picked as their meal was, but he knew that it was a hell of a lot more dangerous than them. Still, there was no way that he’d go done begging.
Klein moved to the side of the alley and kicked out at a pallet that was resting against the wall. It splintered easily, and he picked up large piece. Moving over towards the demon, Klein thrust downward, the stake only slightly slowed down as it splintered through flesh and rib. It dusted soon afterwards, taking the chunk of wood with it. The super soldier stood up again and surveyed the alleyway that looked nearly untouched, no evidence of the demons remaining, but for some spilled blood that was rapidly mixing with the other unknown fluids on the ground.
Klein turned around and walked out, dusting off his hands and putting them in his pockets. The Mandarin had been mostly correct he supposed. The Hellmouth did attract all sorts of dangerous demons and beasts. But, the most dangerous of them all had waited until now to visit.
He merely grinned. “Enjoy your stay, indeed.”
“What do you think Kirby?”Amadeus asked, stroking his chin as he leaned back in his chair, his feet propped up on his bed. He looked from the television set that was on the local network affiliate to his puppy that was currently occupied with eating from a paper plate. He wasn’t supposed to have pets in the motel room, but from the looks of the place, that probably wasn’t the only improper thing that had been done in there.
The puppy looked up from his food, tongue wagging at it looked at its master in response to its name. Not seeing anything to do, Kirby turned back to his food, chomping down happily.
Amadeus smiled briefly and looked back to the laptop that was on his thighs. It was a cheap model, and all he could afford from the money that he had managed to pull from the wallets he had found in the locker room back at the SHIELD facility. He felt a little bad about that, but he promised himself that he would pay them back one day. “Yeah, it looks a little thin. Very thin.”
After he had had some time to think about it, he knew that anything that he had pulled from the Excello database in Utah could have been another trap. After all, Utah itself had ended up being a trap. While SHIELD had been the ones that had pulled him out of that mess, he knew that he couldn’t fully trust them, not yet at least. He had managed to hack his way into a number of their systems, their personnel files a wealth of information. It was filled with typical government men, and more. Former soldiers and transfers from other agencies, it was probably just a typical federal agency, only with better skilled men. Which didn’t bode well for him, not to mention the fact that he couldn’t figure out which organization Agent Sexton worked for. If people wanted him, alive or dead, for his extraordinary brain, there was no reason why the government wouldn’t be one of those parties.
He still wasn’t sure exactly what he was. He had always been smart. He had always been something of an outcast, his intellect setting him apart from other kids. Still he had had friends, usually other outcasts, smarter than the rest. RPG’s and books had been an escape, allowing him to follow and create all new worlds filled with incredible adventures. They had all been filled with their share of danger and harrowing action. He supposed he was in his own real life adventure now, only it wasn’t so fun. And he didn’t exactly have a rule book to refer to.
Such was his life though, Amadeus thought, his eyes glazing over a little bit as he stared at the computer screen.
“Well now, what’s this,” Amadeus muttered, as the computer finished running the regression. He pulled up a couple of other graphs as well, the data confirming what he had just calculated. The death rate and number of missing persons case were extraordinarily high given the population and reported crime rates for the town. Not to mention that the number of cemeteries in the town was way too high given the population demographics. He looked at Kirby again, the puppy opening its jaws wide with a small yip. “That kind of murder rate…looks like somebody’s expecting me to be another unsolved murder.”
Amadeus stretched his arms and sighed, putting his laptop onto the nightstand next to him. He had been up all day and half the night, looking for answers and the search had made him tired and hungry. He got up and pulled the sheets on the bed back, plopping onto it as he kicked off his sneakers. The hungry part could wait till later.
“What do we have here?” the demon said, eyes darting back and forth as he took in the odd assemblage of demons and vampires in the underground chamber. The smell of raw sewage and chemicals burned at his nose, but he ignored it. The stench of the demon was more than enough to annoy him. They were likely dozens of feet underground, and had walked through almost a mile of sewer to get to the chamber. Ulik had tracked the group down for the trio, even if it had not been the most expedient of routes. Still, one never complained to a troll. Not if he wanted to keep his limbs.
“Looks like a bunch of vermin holed up in the sewers,” Scratch noted, sniffing his nose in displeasure. He only hoped that nothing had stained his suit, even if he could clean it easily with his magic. He was much more used to sophisticated battles against sorcerers and the like, though he was paid enough to not complain about it.
“Who the hell are you?” A large demon with curved horns growled, approaching the interlopers. Dim lights from above buzzed as he examined them. His hands were covered in blood, the ceremonial knife still in them. “You dare interrupt the ritual?”
Ulik simply smiled, sniffing at the blood. It was the fresh blood of a human, and he could tell that it was young. He was not impressed at the scents of the rest however. They were a mix of vampires and lower demons, years of living in the shadow of the humans had caused even the most pure of demons to lose their spirit. Even the Scourge, despite their belief in demonic purity, was pathetic, taking on the hate rituals of their most hated of foes. Too many humans had forgotten their violent and primal natures, and all too many demons it would seem.
“The mayor sends his regards,” Mr. Scratch said, raising his arms and bending his fingers. He looked at the motley crew, not a lick of real magical power among them. It was almost unfortunate.
“Wait, what?” the horned demon asked, looking at the three in a whole new light. He furrowed his heavy brow in confusion. “You work for him?
“Mr. Blackout, if you would,” the sorcerer said, his smile growing as the buzzing of lights increased in intensity.
“What are you-” the lead demon tried to get out, taking a few steps back.
Blackout merely concentrated, feeling the power absorbed into his center. “With pleasure.”
The light disappeared completely, nobody moving for a second as if in disbelief in what had just happened. Nobody could see, or at least, nobody that was not affected by the seeing spell that Mr. Scratch had just cast. It was a massacre after that, and the demons that tried to escape soon found themselves brought down by claws and the impact of hundreds of pounds of troll flesh and metal. Energy bolts flashed through the black, burning their way into existence, offering up a few terrifying glimpses of death coming to all.
The sounds were the worst to the horned demon that found itself quickly brought down with a broken leg. It knew that its lower leg was shattered, a punch from the rock troll’s metal banded hand snapping it nearly in two. He could hear screams and moans, that were all too quickly snuffed out. And the snarling of the troll, the laugh of the human magician.
The lights slowly came back, red tinted this time, as blood dripped down from the bare bulbs. The light started to heat up the fluid, mixing with the sewage and even heavier stench of death. The horned demon looked around, seeing the dead eyes of his fellow initiates. The lucky ones had them still in their heads, on their bodies or not. The rest were lying on the ground, other body parts strewn about as well. It tried to pull itself away, but its shattered leg prevented it from getting away. The demon felt itself press up against the wall, as it scampered back, and knew that there was no way out.
Scratch strode forward, kneeling down over the fallen demon. The two others flanked him, moving closer as well. “Well now, isn’t this a shame.”
Ulik smiled a lopsided grin, its sharp fangs breaking through its lips. Reaching over, it grasped one of the fallen demon’s horns in a large hand and twisted, breaking it off with a crunch.
The demon yelled in pain as it felt the horn break, the base where it connected to his head ripped and bleeding at the rough treatment. It could barely see straight anymore and just caught the large yellowish troll put his horn into a pouch. “Damn you!”
Scratch just bent lower. “Shhhh.”
“Why?” the demon could just get out, feeling itself bleed from multiple wounds. He gathered up enough strength to scream once last time, “we work for the mayor!”
“Shhhh.” Scratch raised a palm, drawing power into it. The hand glowed with arcane magic as the sorcerer whispered an incantation, laying it upon the demon’s chest. It burned, and the sizzle of flesh soon sounded in the air. The demon screamed and writhed in agony, but the wizard paid it no mind. Leaning in closer, he inhaled the smell of burnt meat and smiled more widely. “In the name of Lord Dormammu.”
“What?” The now broken horned demon managed to get out, feeling the nerve endings in his body burn out. He almost felt cold.
“Send Zom our regards. In hell.” Scratch continued, pushing harder.
The demon breathed its last, acrid smoke rising from its mouth as its lungs started to burn. The release was a blessing from the agony that its death had been.
Wesley walked into the warehouse, looking around with some curiosity at the articles of furniture in the large room. It was clear that someone lived there, at least some of the time, and from the look of some of the extraneous items, members of the group most likely spent a not insignificant amount of time there.
“You’re going out tonight?” Wesley asked, approaching the young man that sat at the table at one end of the warehouse. He had managed to convince Buffy to take him there, though it was closer to repeatedly asking until she gave in. At least she was staying outside as he had requested.
Xander didn’t say anything for a moment, concentrating on reassembling the gun that he had in his hand. After he had finished, he slipped in a magazine and set the safety on, slipping it into his shoulder rig. He turned around in his chair to face the Watcher. Considering, he waved a hand at the chair on the other side. “Yeah.”
Wesley took the invitation and moved to the chair, sitting down. “I felt that we should discuss what happened last week. With Gwendolyn Post.”
Xander nodded, without looking up.
“You executed her,” Wesley stated bluntly, folding his arms over his chest as he settled in. He knew that Xander would be something of a challenge. The boy was an outsider, not accustomed to Council structure and therefore could not be expected to follow instructions. That wasn’t to say that he couldn’t be convinced that the Watchers should be the ones in charge there, given the vast amount of knowledge and experience that they could bring to bear. It was their duty and their right, after all.
Xander looked up and stared at him in wonderment. “Yeah, you were there too.”
“I am not unsympathetic to your reasons for doing so, but it is not our purview to simply kill everything that comes our way,” Wesley said, leaning forward as he uncrossed his arms and placed them on the table. “Such decisions are not yours to make.”
“Amy took that blast full on, without her, we’d all be dead. You included. And there was no way that she was going to keep that shield up forever anyway,” Xander replied, looking the Watcher in the eye. He wasn’t about to be lectured, not by the new guy at any rate. “What did you want me to do? Try to talk her down?”
“As the Slayers are under the direction of the Watchers, so to were you when you decided to join the hunt.” Wesley returned the look without squirming. From the situation that he had observed, it was important that he establish his authority as early as possible. Any show of weakness would undermine him when he gave commands to the Slayers. They could not be allowed to be influenced by such rebellion. And the boy had proven that he was more than willing to be rebellious. “You should only have acted with my direction.”
“Your direction? Xander echoed, raising his eyebrows. “Your decision?”
Wesley nodded firmly. “Yes.”
“You’re the one that told us that she was kicked out of the Council for…what was it?” Xander asked, attempting to keep a mocking tone from his voice.
“Misuses of dark power,” Wesley replied.
“Right, so you had a Watcher, with whatever Watcher training that you guys get, who had some magical power and was going all dark side with it. Am I right so far?” Xander asked, leaning back in his chair. He could tell that Wesley was challenging him, and that the Watcher might even have wanted to do it in private in case he lost. He had to admit that the new Watcher wasn’t completely without his merits, intelligence, or book smarts, for one. But his lack of experience, and lack of acknowledgment of that lack of experience was the biggest concern.
“Indeed,” Wesley said in acknowledgment.
Xander shook his head. “And you let her walk away. You started this mess. So don’t come here criticizing me about cleaning up your mess.”
“We showed her mercy, in hopes that she would learn from her mistakes,” Wesley said, defending himself and the Council, though he missed the hypocrisy of that statement in relation to the demons and supernatural creatures that the Slayers acted as executioners upon. “Mercy that you were surely lacking. When does it end for you? For what slight do you consider letting someone live. You are an outlaw. Unbound by law and tradition.”
Xander just looked at him, and then nodded. He supposed that he could see the point, and what he had said soon after the evil Watcher’s death could have been construed as being heartless. He supposed that it had been, in its way. He had had little compunction in sparing the Watcher’s life. She did, after all, toss a lightning bolt their way. There was little mercy shown there. “You haven’t been around for very long, and I suppose I didn’t exactly tell everybody, but here goes. A man killed, brutally, one of the closest things I ever had to a father. He did it in front of me. And I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop him. I met up with again, sometime later, and I could have killed him. It would have been so easy. But, I didn’t. I didn’t, because I saw that he was on his way to changing.”
“What’s your point?” Wesley asked.
“There’s a difference, between someone that wants to change, and someone that you want to change.” Xander looked at the other equipment that was on the table, reaching out to pick up a knife, his fingers finding the holes in the handle. He looked up at the Watcher and spoke, “that’s usually a body count, by the way.”
“And you get to decide that,” Wesley asked, staring at the knife’s sharp edge.
“See this knife?” Xander asked, holding up the blade, the overhead lights glinting off of the points of the makeshift brass knuckles that formed the handle. “Mark 1 trench knife, stamped 1918. This one in particular has seen two previous owners and has taken the lives of thirty-two German soldiers along the Western Front and over a dozen Nazis, in well, an unofficial capacity.”
Wesley watched as Xander sheathed the knife in a holder at his belt. “I don’t follow.”
“I remember when it was passed. Maguire, a kid from the wrong side of Brooklyn, spitting blood cause he got the bad side of a machine gun blast during a charge.” Xander put his hand to his ear as if he could still hear the shouts of the living and the dying. “I still remember that whistle. Nobody wanted it to come, but they knew it always would. Then you picked yourself up out of the mud, and ran, hoping to God that you wouldn’t get cut down between one trench and the next. And God knows how many men died for fifty feet that was passed back and forth a hundred times.”
“How could you rem-” Wesley asked, breaking off as he saw that Xander seemed lost in thought.
“I used to be the funny one,” Xander said, looking out, his eyes suddenly snapping to the Watcher. “You think I kill too easily?”
Wesley just nodded after a moment.
“Maybe I do, I suppose it’s something to think about.” Xander shrugged, leaning back again. “People die. More than they should. In trenches, in streets, in graveyards. The people there, they put a hell of a lot less into thinking about whether or not they should kill. All that dying and all that killing, and twenty years later it starts up all over again. Cause there wasn’t enough, or because there was too much. I don’t know. It’s no answer, but if the alternative is having one of my friends getting killed because somebody wanted a glove that shoots lightning, I know what my choice is.”
Wesley didn’t say anything for a moment, thinking about what Xander had said. He had to admit that there was some merit there. Still… “That knife…that war. The triggering event was one man, deciding that it was necessary to kill another.”
Xander grinned slowly. “Well, how about that.”
Amadeus stood still, ignoring that wind that was whipping past him as he stood on top of the three story building. From his vantage point, his binoculars gave him a clear view of the target. He had already done the usual checking, even going so far as to check the local library for past newspapers. Microfiche evidently was not dead. “Well, isn’t that unexpected.”
Dropping the binoculars, the teenage boy sighed, thinking about where he had escaped from not too long ago. He had been asked to help on the identities of the men that had tried to kill him, not all of them having been caught clearly on whatever cameras that SHIELD had in place. Reaching into his pocket and pulling out a makeshift PDA, the super-genius flipped through the file photos that he had lifted from the government agency. The pictures matched, and he would not be likely to forget the bald headed leader.
“A trap then, Kirby,” Amadeus said into his coat, as he put the PDA back into his pocket. His mind was already going into overdrive as he thought about the best method for achieving his goal. “But, like Master Mind Excello used to say, the first step in escaping a trap is knowing that it’s there.”
Amadeus looked up into the sky as his stomach started to gurgle. It was already starting to get dark, though dinner time was hours away. Thinking at his best always made him hungry, likely a result of the energy he burned in using his fall capabilities. “C’mon Kirby, gotta feed the brain. And we’ve got some shopping to do tonight.”
If he had to say that there was one thing that was affecting him the most, it would have to be the smell. Demons weren’t necessarily the cleanliest bunch at the best of times, and being surrounded by their entrails and ripped apart corpses didn’t exactly add to the atmosphere. Couple that with the smell of sewage and Xander felt that he would need to take about a dozen showers to get the stench of it all off of his body.
He wondered how exactly Willy had come by this piece of information, though he imagined that there were all sorts of demons that dwelled in the sewers. Xander started to walk around, taking a few random pictures as he ventured closer to what could only be described as a makeshift altar. Some sort of old barrel served as a table, stained crimson and brown with blood, though not all of it was dried yet. Dark bits denoted that it was more than just fluid that caked the thing, likely from the bowl that had rather unceremoniously fallen off of the barrel.
“What’s this now,” Xander said, bending down at the overturned bowl. He reached to his belt and pulled his knife, pushing it into the minute gap between the ground and the bowl, flipping it onto its base. Some of the blood inside moved, still liquid in the cool air and dank conditions. Despite it, the carvings and color of the ornate bowl could still be made out. “Well, isn’t that interesting.”
Sniffing, Xander wiped the tip of his knife off and sheathed it. He didn’t want to think about exactly whose blood was in that bowl, pushing the thought out of his mind. He had more important things to do. And think about for that matter, having elected to take on this job alone. Buffy and the others were out on their nightly patrol, doing what it was that they did best. He supposed that Wesley was probably with them, which was one more thing that he wanted to avoid for the moment. As much as he may not have wanted to admit, Wesley had said some things that bore thinking about. And he tended to do that best on his own.
Taking his camera out, he knew that Giles and the other Watchers would most likely want pictures of the scene. It wasn’t something that they normally did, but Willy’s descriptions of grisly aftermaths had gotten them all a little curious. He moved around the room as well, flipping over some of the corpses in order to capture how they had been killed, and to better allow for the identification of species.
“Hmm,” Xander said, stepping back to the mouth of the chamber as he looked at the fallen bodies. It had been a massacre, and it did not seem like the demons in the room had managed to take down any of their killers. That didn’t give him any happy thoughts at all.
Amadeus held his breath, trying to keep his hands steady as he soldered the microchip onto the circuit board. He had been able to work out the design in his head, being able to fully contextualize it in three dimensions. Of course, realizing that design in the real world was easier said than done. Working the last bit of solder into place, he removed the soldering iron and exhaled. He wiped his brow off as he placed the iron back into its stand, taking a look at his work. It had taken a day to get the whole thing done, though he had been glad to have something to think about besides the circumstances that brought him to that place.
Smiling, Amadeus closed the plastic casing around the completed board, snapping it into place.
“Well, that’s finished.” Amadeus reached over to pick up the sandwich he had purchased, taking a large bite and chewing loudly. As he sat back, his mind wandered to his family, seeing the blast in his head. One of the curses of his intellect was that he remembered things completely. He could still see the house explode, feel the heat and air move. And he could still remember feeling the same emotions that he had gone through as he watched his family die.
Feeling something nudge his foot, Amadeus looked down and smiled sadly. He picked up Kirby, propping the puppy up onto his lap. The coyote stretched out, standing on its hind legs as it licked at its friend’s face. Amadeus laughed as the pup’s rough tongue tickled his face. “Thanks, boy.”
The puppy barked a few times, settling down onto Amadeus’ lap, enjoying itself as the boy started to pet its fur.
“That’s a good boy,” Amadeus said, stroking the puppy and scratching its head. He looked to the blinds of the window that looked out over the parking lot of the motel that he was staying at. The sun was still bright in the sky, and from his estimation that would be the best time for his activities. He suspected that some of the people that were looking for him were out and about, looking for information from local proprietors. He remembered what he had seen back in Utah however, and hopefully would be able to see them before they saw him. “Time to go to work.”
Wesley placed a blown up picture of one of the photos that had been taken of the giant demon that had been slain in the sewers onto the projector. He had spent a rather lengthy amount of time trying to identify the thing, the damage done to it hindering easy identification. Even with the help of three other Watchers, it had not been so easy. “This is Lurconis, a demon lord from what I can gather. Its name means glutton, and every thirty year a tribute is made to it by its followers.”
“I guess somebody didn’t want to pay up,” Buffy noted, staring at the corpse of the giant snake. It didn’t look any less disgusting in photos.
“Yes, indeed. While it does not have the power of an Old One, a demon lord is still quite formidable,” Wesley said, fumbling a little as he changed pictures. The new one showed a bit more detail, revealing the exact damage that had been done to the thing. “It would have required a great deal of strength and ability to bring this demon down. From the evidence, I would surmise that there were at least three of them. One with a sharp weapon of some sort, perhaps claws, biological or not, as shown by these slashing wounds.”
Wesley used a laser pointer to highlight the area that he was talking about on the screen. He shifted and changed photos again, this time of its upper chest and head. “And as you can see here, there is evidence of bruising that would be consistent with blunt force trauma, though it would take a very strong individual to accomplish this. From the outline, I suspect a weapon not unlike brass knuckles was used. And here, electrical burns consistent with some sort of lightning or electrical discharge. I would imagine that it would have been magically induced.”
He glanced at Xander for a moment, before turning back to the image.
“So it’s a good thing then?” Scott asked, mildly puzzled. He had started to go to the odd meeting of what Xander had called the Scoobies, in order to support his girlfriend. He still felt out of place, given that he wasn’t much use in anything but the occasional research party. But, he felt that he should at least know what was going on in town. Especially given that his girlfriend was mixed up in it. “I mean, a demon lord, that sounds pretty bad.”
“Yes, but the more important matter is who or what exactly killed it,” Wesley said, looking at the teenage boy. It was worrying that the lead Slayer not only had a boyfriend, but had a boyfriend that was involved with Buffy’s nightly activities. Measures would have to be taken to ensure that he did not interfere with her responsibilities, more so given what was to come in the approaching months. He supposed that pertained to a number of the others in the group as well.
Xander nodded in agreement, rather impressed by Wesley’s breakdown of the situation. Despite whatever tactical or strategic or even leadership lackings the Watcher might have, when it came down to coming up with explanations on how something had happened, Wesley was actually pretty good. “It means that there’s a new player in town. One with some pretty powerful muscle backing him up.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a canister of film. Placing it on the table, he pushed it to where Wesley was standing. “I got this from that thing in the sewers. You may want to develop that. It was pretty bad.”
The damage dealt in the latest massacre appeared to be consistent with that done to Lurconis. Another ritual or tribute interrupted, though this time it would seem that only the followers were killed. All of this done, twice, without anybody being the wiser. No evidence except the remains. Which meant that they were not only making their presence felt, but apparently they were able to do it without attracting unwanted attention to exactly who it was doing the attacking. Quiet and professional, until it was time to go loud.
“Indeed,” Giles noted, frowning. He looked at the supernaturally gifted among them; those that put their lives on their lives on an almost daily basis. “We will have to take much greater care in patrolling. It would be a disaster if any of you were to be caught unawares by whoever is responsible.”
Xander frowned as his stomach rumbled; Vi had gone out to get food for the group.
Amadeus felt the front of his jacket unconsciously, noting the absence of his puppy with a sense of loss. He had grown quite fond of the little coyote, working through his grief by caring for the also orphaned creature. He supposed that he found comfort in their similarities as kindred spirits. Whatever may happen to him in the future, he knew that he would make whoever was responsible pay for what they had done.
Shifting his attention back onto the job at hand, the super-genius put the ear-plugs into his ears. It was about to hurt, a lot, but it had to be done. Reaching into his pocket, he took out the device he had made, glancing around the side of the building that he was on. He supposed that it was good luck that the strike team that had been sent to get him was staying at a motel, which indicated that Excello did not have an active facility for them to work out of.
With a quick breath, Amadeus turned the device on, wincing as the sonic emitter did its work, the sound coming from not only the device itself, but being beamed to every speaker nearby. While it played hell on his ears and sense of balance, it would prove even worse for somebody with enhanced hearing. Thank goodness that the SHIELD scientists had been able to find out so much about the men that had attacked him.
He rounded the corner, hearing the screams and moans of the people in the motel that were affected by his attack. He felt sorry for them, but there would be no permanent harm done as a result. Finding, the right door, Amadeus reached into his the front pocket of his messenger bag and pulled out a small glass jar, taking careful aim as he swayed a little. He threw it against the wooden door and watched as the pink fluid splashed up against the wood and started to bubble. He waited three seconds, and then leapt through, the pink fluid having turned to hardened porous foam in the air, transforming the door into something much more easily passed through than hard wood.
Smiling in grim satisfaction at the heavily muscled men rolling around in pain as they clutched their ears, Amadeus set about his work quickly. He scanned around the room, looking for anything of use, taking cell phones and any paperwork that he could find, shoving it into his bag. He walked over to a small desk against the far wall and smiled wider, picking up the laptop and shoving it into his bag as well. He made sure to put the flap back down; if there were any transmitters that might give away his location once he left, the special coating he had put on the bag would prevent that.
Looking around to make sure that there was nothing else of interest, Amadeus noticed the gun on the dresser and walked towards it. He picked it up, looking at the two men that were still grimacing in pain. He pointed it at one of them, noticing that neither were the bald man, but hesitated, unable to pull the trigger.
His eyes started to well up, and he clenched his teeth, as his finger wouldn’t work right. “Damn it.”
Intellectually he knew that it wouldn’t do any good, their healing factors able to keep them from dying from a simple gunshot wound. In his heart, he knew that it would make him feel better, even if it would eat at his soul.
The choice was taken from him as he heard the device in his pocket start to beep, an indication that the emitter would soon run out of power. He dropped the gun, turning around and heading out of the hole that he had made in the door.
He ran down the outdoor hallway and headed down the staircase, though it wasn’t long before the device stopped beeping, the power fully depleted. He heard men start to run after him as he ran down the street, passing by people that had previously been affected by his invention. His bag was heavy on his shoulder and his chest burned as he ran, the sun hot on his back. He missed his scooter, the machine likely still lying somewhere in the deserts of Utah. Or back at SHIELD perhaps, and he made sure to note that for future consideration.
Glancing over his shoulder, he noticed that the men he had ambushed had drawn guns, firing in his direction. They didn’t seem to be all that concerned about staying incognito now, nor the welfare of the innocent people on the street. The benefit of it was that they scattered quickly though, the chaos giving him more cover.
Time seemed to slow as he glanced back to calculate the path of the bullets, noticing their trajectories, velocities and ballistic paths as they stopped in material or ricocheted off of metal. He was about to duck to his left, when a stray bullet entered into his calculations, its ultimate journey ending about fifty feet beyond the heart of a girl that had just walked out of a sandwich shop carrying a few large bags.
Amadeus veered to his right instead, colliding with the girl and pretty much slamming her up against the brick wall of the shop. The bag he was carrying hit him hard on the back and he coughed hard.
“Hey!” Vi shouted, yelling at the boy that had just shoved her, and was taking off again. She ran after him, the bags of food forgotten on the ground as she chased after him. It didn’t take long for her to catch up to the Asian boy, following him into a blind alley. She had noticed the gunshots, knowing that they had been fired at the teenager who, upon wild recollection, had pushed her out of the way of the gunfire.
“No no no no,” Amadeus repeated rapidly as he came up to the dead end. He had had to change his path, meaning that he had missed his clear exit. Turning around he came face to face with the girl that he had saved. She didn’t look happy, or even angry at him. He moved towards her quickly, almost shouting, “you need to go.”
Vi was about to respond when another man entered the alley, carrying a gun. He raised it to fire, but Vi was faster, kicking it out of his hands.
Amadeus was stunned as the redheaded girl disarmed and then flipped the gunman onto his back. It wouldn’t last long though, the man likely still somewhat off as a result of the acoustic attack from minutes before. He rushed forward, grabbing the girl by the hand.
“Hey,” Vi said, as she was dragged away from the gunman.
“We don’t have time for that, it’s not going to work,” Amadeus said, urging the girl to run. He glanced behind him as the man started to get up, eyes widening as the blades erupted from the man’s hands. He heard sirens as the police rushed to the scene, and turned back looking the girl in the eyes. “Trust me.”
Vi merely nodded, running even faster with the boy.
Clint moaned, leaning back against the alley wall, his head throbbing in pain. He could tell that the rest of his men had been equally affected by whatever the boy had done. Admittedly he didn’t see any evidence that it was Amadeus at fault, but given that he was the only one that wasn’t affected by whatever had caused the debilitating headache, it seemed likely. “You okay?”
Agent Coulson nodded, the movement causing even more pain to stab through his head. “Yes. Did you see where they went?”
Shaking his head, which proved to be a mistake, Clint dragged himself up to his feet, moving his way towards the front of the alleyway, scanning back and forth. There were others in similar states, but there was no evidence of the boy that had brought him to town, or of the men that they had been monitoring in preparation for an attack. There would be no point now at any rate, given that if there were any of those guys left, they would assuredly be preparing for an attack.
“They’re gone,” Clint said slowly, blinking his eyes as he adjusted. He looked behind him, glad that the rest of his men were gathering themselves together. At the very least, they had not attracted any attention when they had gone down, meaning that their less than authorized presence in Sunnydale was still undetected.
He tapped his radio, triggering the channel for the rest of the men on the team. “This is Hawkeye, does anybody have eyes on the tangos?”
Clint waited in silence as he heard their various, and rather groggy reports. Nobody had any more answers than he did. Shaking his head in frustration, his shoulder still aching a little from the previous battle, he turned to face Coulson. “We need to go back and report.”
The mayor sniffed and tried to actively avoid noticing the rock troll eat, instead concentrating on the only remotely sane member of the three. He had been forced to find them accommodations in a less than reputable part of town, relying on money and fear to make the proprietor keep his mouth shut and eyes turned the other way. “It seems that you have taken care of that other pesky little problem.”
“Yes, Dormammu wouldn’t like for another demonic uprising to interfere in the plans that he has for you,” Mr. Scratch said, picking up a napkin and wiping his mouth with it. He looked up at the mayor with a smile. “However, there are other matters to discuss. Rumor has it that the town has attracted its share of protectors. More than one Slayer it would seem. Along with a rumored masked warrior that’s been running around. Whatever have you been doing in your time here?”
“I can’t control who decides to settle here, especially given that I have had to maintain it as a demon-friendly environment,” the mayor retorted pleasantly. He had to stomach much during the City Council meetings, and this was rapidly approaching the annoyance level of those. “Those individuals are not our concern however. As long as you keep being discrete, and removing our mutual enemies, then we have nothing to worry about from the Slayers and her ilk.
“You want us to kill the Slayer?” Ulik said, tearing off a large chunk of chicken straight off of the bone with his large rough teeth. He had been mostly ignoring the conversation, the only relevant part having to do with potentially killing something.
“No,” the mayor declared, looking at the troll coldly. Evidently the troll was not as knowledgeable on the Hellmouth’s current circumstances than his employer, nor particularly well gifted in listening. “That would attract too much attention from her friends. Instead, I have had something else in mind.”
“What would that be?” Blackout asked from a ratty couch in the connected main room. He didn’t bother to turn around, instead concentrating on a fly that was currently crawling over a water stain on the wall. At least, he thought it was a water stain.
“Yes, well my upcoming Ascension will need to be planned perfectly. And given the increasing number of white hats, I need you to ensure that nothing else comes up that may interfere,” Mayor Wilkins explained, concentrating on the human sorcerer. “It would not benefit any of us if the Slayers became too interested in what other happenings are occurring in town.
The troll looked at the man in confusion. “What do you want us to do?”
The mayor merely smiled. Two birds with one stone came to mind. “It has come to my attention that a certain necromancer has been resurrecting people in town. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but the people that he is resurrecting are…not the sort of people that we like in town. It’s the sort of thing that draws undue attention.”
“I believe that we can remove that problem,” Mr. Scratch said, smiling that evil smile of his. “It will be no trouble at all.”
“We should be fine,” Amadeus said, peeking out the window of his motel room. He stepped back, letting the blinds slip back into place. Once again he was glad about the information that he had obtained, having been able to use deer scent to cover their tracks. “We lost them a while ago. They won’t be able to find us here.”
“Who were they?” Vi asked, taking a seat on one of the beds. She looked around, noticing the computer on the nightstand and the various bits of technology and components spread out in the room. She also noticed a paper plate on the floor, with the oily remains of ground meat on it.
Amadeus didn’t reply, moving over to the table and pushing some of the clutter away. He reached over to the dresser and picked up a souped-up RF detector, a large battery pack duct taped to the back of it. Taking off his bag, he placed it on the table and turned to face the girl. “I’m pretty sure that they work for the people that killed my family. They’re trying to kill me.”
“Why?” Vi asked, noticing the pensive look on the boy’s face as he spoke about his family. It was gone quickly though, as he went about running the machine in his hand over the contents of his bag. “What’s your name?”
Amadeus ran a methodical search to ensure that there were no transmitters in the devices that he had taken from the strike team. “Amadeus. Is my name.”
“I’m Vi,” the potential said, standing up and moving closer to the boy. He was bent over the things that he had been carrying, taking apart the cell phones and removing their SIM cards. He left the broken open phones as they were. “Why are they after you?”
Amadeus didn’t say anything for a moment, looking for a card reader and picking it up, along with the SIM cards. He carried them over to the laptop on the nightstand, plugging the reader in and booting up the computer as he sat down on the bed. “Cause I’m the seventh smartest person on the planet.”
“Really?” Vi asked, looking at him with some disbelief. He didn’t look like much, or at least, what she would have thought the seventh smartest person on the planet would look like. “Who told you that?”
Amadeus turned to her, mouth open, but nothing came out. He looked at her, and then frowned, realizing the absurdity of the claim. “Soap company contest.”
He turned away, not wanting to see her look at him. He activated the card reader and slipped in the first SIM card, running it through a diagnostic to ensure that there was nothing potentially damaging on the chip. He typed away on his computer, glancing over at the girl as he spoke, “I…I guess I should say thank you. For saving my life.”
“You’re welcome,” Vi said smiling a little, wondering what to make of the boy. She could tell that he was in pain, but wasn’t sure exactly what to do. The closest example of a boy that age that she knew well was Xander, and he was hardly the typical example of a teenager. She was about to try to say something else, when she heard a somewhat familiar noise behind her.
“Hey, boy,” Amadeus said, standing up and moving towards the bathroom that his puppy had just padded out of. He picked up the coyote and scratched its head, smiling as the puppy barked softly in happiness. He moved back to the bed and sat down, placing the puppy on his lap.
“Aww,” Vi said, as she caught sight of the little canine. She moved closer to the bed and sat down beside the boy. “What’s his name?”
“Kirby,” Amadeus said, feeling the closeness of the girl that was sitting so close to him. He forced himself to ignore it though. Kirby squirmed a little in his lap, getting out and moving onto the girl. He nudged her with his snout, and flipped onto his back.
Vi smiled as she rubbed the little puppy’s belly, the coyote wagging his tail rapidly. She looked back towards the boy, who was pulling out the card from the reader and inserting in another. “We should call the police.”
Amadeus shook his head, exhaling in a hiss as he found nothing of use on the SIM card. No numbers saved, and it looked like there was some programming there that prevented them from keeping numbers when dialed. He glanced over at the girl as he worked on his computer. “The police in this town are corrupt. Can’t be trusted.”
“What are you talking about?” Vi asked.
Amadeus stopped and turned to her. “I ran a statistical analysis on the crime rate for Sunnydale. There is no way that it could possibly be this high without people noticing. Unless there was a systematic cover-up and disinformation campaign to keep people in the dark. Logically speaking, the police would have to be in on it. At least, at the command levels. And, I would suspect, rather influential people in local government.”
“I have friends who can…” Vi trailed off, not knowing exactly what to do. She still had little idea of what was going on. Still, they were expecting her back. “I should call them.”
Amadeus just watched as she stood up, Kirby jumping down from her lap. He bit his lip as he thought, wondering exactly what he should do. It wasn’t like he could keep her there, but he wasn’t sure that it was safe if she just left. The people that had attacked him had likely gotten a good look at her. “Don’t tell them where you are.”
Vi stopped before she hit the talk button on her cell phone, lowering her phone and turning around to face Amadeus. “Why?”
“They could be looking for me, and I don’t want attract people to this location,” Amadeus explained. He frowned, thinking that maybe things would have been better if he had stayed at SHIELD. They might not be trustworthy, but it was better than being alone. Still, he believed that it was his mission alone to find out what had happened, and find justice for his family. “You probably should stay here too. They probably got a good look at you, so they might be looking for you too. I’m sorry.”
Vi just nodded, somewhat in sympathy, but she raised her arm again and put the call through.
“What?” Xander said loudly into his cell phone, standing up with a rather loud clatter as his chair was pushed back. He ignored the startled looks thrown in his direction as he listened to Vi break down what had just happened. “Are you okay?”
“What is it?” Giles asked, wondering what had shaken the boy so.
Xander ignored the question, concentrating on what was being said instead. “Okay. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“What is it?” Wesley repeated Giles’ previous question.
Xander looked at both of the Watchers, as he finished the call and put the phone back into his pocket. He grabbed his bag as he fished around for his car keys. “Someone was attacked earlier, Vi got caught up in it and they’re hiding out in his motel room. I’m picking them up. The rest of you should stay here, check the news. It was pretty public.”
“Vampires?” Wesley asked, confused as to why there would be such a public attack. He mentally kicked himself as he remembered that night had just fallen.
Xander shook his head, heading towards the door. “No, guns and general mayhem.”
“Wait,” Wesley called out, holding up a hand to stop the boy from leaving half-cocked. “I am in charge here, and we need to devise a plan.”
Xander forced himself to stop and turned. He looked at the people in the room, finding it odd that it had come to that. It hadn’t been the first time, and it likely wouldn’t be the last, but he was the guy that had stood in front of an ocean of men. He had let them break upon him and he did not waver. There was no coming back from that. “Amy, you’re with me. The rest of you should stay here. I don’t want any of you caught in the crossfire. Sorry, Wes.”
“We can help,” Kendra said, louder than she usually would have been. She had become accustomed to life on the Hellmouth, and in many ways, of how quiet it had become. There were so many protectors that most demons and vampires did not do things as rashly as they once did. There would always be those that were reckless or wished to challenge them, but their combined strength was enough to defeat it. That had only at times included Xander, the teenage boy keeping himself apart from them. But, they were Slayers, and it was their duty to do so.
Buffy and Willow nodded in agreement to Kendra’s statement, various vocalizations indicating that in case their expressions weren’t enough of an indication.
“No, this isn’t something you’ve been trained to deal with, Kendra.” Xander glanced over as Amy came to stand by his side. He looked back at Kendra and mouthed an apology to her.
Kendra nodded, knowing that she had been more focused on fighting the supernatural than anything else. While Xander’s presence had helped to cause her to think for herself, she could see the merit of his statement.
Xander turned to leave, though stopped as he heard Wesley slam a fist onto the table. It was becoming a familiar sound.
“I am in charge here,” Wesley stated defiantly, waiting for the boy to turn around. It seemed that they had not come to an agreement earlier in the week. “And we will stay here until I have devised a plan.”
Xander just looked at the Watcher, challenge evident on his face. He knew that there was at least a little strength in the Watcher, though little of it showed through.
“Xander, go,” Giles said, stepping forward as he looked at the other Watcher with disapproval. “Quickly now.”
“Bring her back safe,” Nancy said, glaring at Wesley as well.
“I will.” Xander nodded his thanks and headed out the door, hearing the Watchers star to argue back and forth.
“I understand,” the redheaded woman said into her cell phone, putting it down onto the desk and setting it onto speaker as she slipped on Kevlar body armor. She strapped it tightly against her body, the armor a familiar weight on her body. “How is he?”
“Clint’s fine,” the voice from the other side said, clearly hiding some amount of amusement in his voice. “You read the file?”
Natasha slipped on a belt, tightening it, and making sure that the thigh holster was secured against her leg. Picking up long gun-metal cylinders that appeared to be made of thin tubes stuck together, she slipped them onto her wrists, tightening them. Though her firearm was much more effective in killing things, they could be so noisy at times. “Da. I know what to expect. Do you know where they have come from?”
“No,” Director Fury said simply. He was following Clint’s actions real-time, though it had yet to yield any significant results. “Remember, use them to find the boy. I don’t want a firefight in the middle of town.”
“Of course,” Natasha said, walking over to the desk and picking the phone up. She closed it and slipped it into a pocket, smiling wickedly as she looked at herself in the mirror.
As if the Black Widow heeded to warnings not to take the lives of men.
“What did you think you were doing,” Wesley asked, turning to face Giles, the door to the library still swaying a little. He had told the Slayers and potentials, and their assorted friends to leave, under the auspices of being safer at home. They had left with some reluctance, which disturbed him, as it was was a result of what Xander had said. Still, he accepted it for the moment, wanting to discuss matters in private with the other Watchers.
Giles just glared at the man, crossing his arms over his chest. “I have given you a great deal of latitude over the last few weeks. But, you need to remember that I am still in charge here. You are here to assist me, as the Council dictated.”
Wesley sputtered, staring at the man.
“Wesley,” Nancy broke in, not wanting things to erupt. She could see that their disagreements had already had their effect in front of the others, and she was glad that they were doing this in private at least. “You haven’t been here very long, but you need to understand. Xander is very independent, and the more you push him now…the more he will rebel. He is much more capable than you may realize.”
Wesley looked away from Giles, turning to the other Watcher. “Be that as it may, authority must be maintained. If the Council is to serve as guardian to the Slayer, and by extension the potentials, then we cannot allow one of their peers to operate as a negative influence on them. If they decide that it is okay for them not to listen to us, then we run the very real risk of having a Slayer rebel against us. A rogue Slayer is one of the most dangerous things there are, as our history has shown. Need I remind any of you of that?”
He looked around the room, wanting to emphasize his point. As a Watcher, he was not coming at this simply to enforce his will, or enforce politics alone. The history of their order was not without rebellion and bloodshed. On the Slayer’s part as well as on the Watchers’. Tradition existed for an important reason, even more so because of the importance of their work.
“Wesley has a point,” Diana said, sighing.
Nancy turned to the other potential Watcher, clearly surprised. “Diana!”
“I’m sorry,” Diana said, shrugging at her fellow Watcher. She knew that the other woman was concerned for her charge, but in the matter of governance, emotion had to be left out of the equation. “But, Wesley is right. I have seen firsthand how rebellious a potential can be, and that is only the typical teenager acting out phase. Heaven forbid it comes to pass, but if Faith were to become Slayer, those influences that she has had in regards to her independence could easily lead her down the wrong path.”
“And so she should be what Kendra was?” Nancy asked, shaking her head. “I have kept my mouth shut, but I have grave concerns. Vi has told me of Kendra’s upbringing and how limited her exposure to the outside world has been. If anything, Xander’s influence has been a positive one in her life. That type of life…that should not be the one that we want for the potentials. Or the Slayers.”
“I think that you have become too emotionally involved in your potential’s life,” Wesley remarked, looking at Nancy. “You serve a purpose in her life, but you need to be ready to accept that if she is Called, she will serve as Slayer, with all the dangers that are involved.”
“I think the point that you are missing,” Giles broke in, “is that Buffy’s unconventional nature and independence have been some of her greatest strengths. Her success as Slayer has come through the relationships that she has, including the one with Xander. Wesley, we are not saying that tradition should not be respected, but the evidence speaks for itself.”
“Perhaps,” Wesley said, acknowledging something of the point. “However, and the point that none of you can assert differently about, is that the Watchers must be respected. As independent as we may or may not want them to be, our authority must still be maintained, or else they will fall into chaos. Can any of you deny that?”
He looked around at the other three Watchers, none being able to directly refute the point.
“Exactly,” Wesley said a little smugly, glad that they were finally listening to reason.
Nancy sighed, looking up at him. “Vi is as much a daughter to me as someone of my own blood could possibly be. And if she were to become a Slayer, I have no doubt that she would serve with honor, despite whatever relationships she may have that you disapprove of. And, if we can’t trust the Slayer, the best of us, then what hope do we have for the rest of humanity?”
“This debate will not be settled tonight,” Giles inserted, knowing that the situation was much more complex than either side was saying. He was the only one actually serving as field Watcher to a Slayer after all.
“Very well,” Wesley said, taking a seat at the table. They had other matters to research after all. The pictures that had been taken indicated that they could have a very serious threat brewing. “But-“
“Wesley, whatever point you may have,” Giles said, looking the other Watcher in the eye as he sat at the table. “Do not undermine my authority again.”
“That’s all you have?” Amy asked, turning her head to look at Xander. She felt nervous, but a little amped by the promise of action as well. More than that, she still felt a little tingly from what had happened to her before.
Xander just slipped the magazine back into his handgun and slipped it into his belt after he made sure that the safety was on. He looked back at her. “I have an extra mag. That and a knife. I don’t think stakes are going to be very helpful right now. You know what to do?”
Amy nodded, breathing deeply to calm herself. “Keep a lookout and make sure that I’m ready with a spell.”
“Yeah,” Xander said, looking out the windshield of the SUV. It was dark, and he couldn’t detect much, but he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. He turned to smile at her in encouragement though. “You can do this. I know you can do this.”
“Thanks,” Amy said, smiling back.
Xander opened the car door as he dialed his cell phone. It only took one ring for the call to be answered. “We’re here. Head down.”
Closing the phone and slipping it into a pocket, Xander stepped away from the car, keeping his hand close to his belt. He couldn’t see much, the streetlights poor and ill-maintained. Glancing up, he watched as Vi and the Asian boy that she had mentioned walked down the steps from the second floor of the motel. It didn’t take long for them to reach him, having attempted to park the car as closely to the room as possible.
“Xander this is Amadeus,” Vi said, as they reached the car.
Xander opened the rear door, ushering them into it. “Introductions later. Sorry. We need to-“
“Xander!” Amy shouted, raising her hands and projecting outwards. A fraction of a second the explosions occurred, lighting them up in swaths of yellow and red and orange flame.
Xander squinted as the flash of explosions occurred, completely enveloping them. It was almost beautiful, to be able to see the heart of fire. It didn’t last long though, and he could see through fading flames that men were approaching and taking up cover positions. He pulled his weapon out, looking over at the witch over the hood of the car. “You okay?”
“Xander…I don’t…” Amy trailed off, she swayed, her head and hands dropping. The shield crackled and faded a little, and she could hear the reports of gunfire as she struggled to keep the shield up.
Xander returned fire, his bullets causing bursts of shrapnel as they exploded like miniature bombs against cars and asphalt. He looked into the car to make sure that the two inside were still okay. “Stay down.”
Amy breathed heavily as felt her power start to burn. She looked up, leaning against the car, as she struggled to keep her magic up. The witch could see that Xander was firing back as best he could, though what that could do against people that had some type of advanced healing power was an open question. “Xander.”
Xander turned to look as he ejected the magazine from his gun, slipping a new one in. It was the only one. “You okay?”
He just looked on as she screamed, her arms flailing and her hair blown upward as if by an unfelt wind. He could see her eyes turn towards her, complete white and glowing with energy, crackling as bits of electricity leaked from their sides.
“Tauo freim!” Amy screamed out in an unearthly tone. Her hands expelled lightning bolts, huge and bright streaks of electricity that arced their way forward, digging great gouts out of the parking lot and hitting a number of their attackers straight on.
She could feel herself walking forward, pouring more and more power out of her palms. She could hear sporadic bursts of gunfire back at them, but paid them no heed.
Xander shook the surprise off quickly, looking at what remained of the force attacking them. Some were down and unmoving, though he didn’t know if that meant that they were dead. Looking towards Amy, he noticed her grow unsteady, and then start to drop.
He rushed toward her, catching her before she could hit the ground. “Are you okay.”
Amy’s eyes fluttered, then looked up at him. “Yeah.”
Xander ducked his head as a burst of gunfire was sent his way, though the other side evidently cautious given what they had just received. He returned fire, forcing one of the ones carrying a grenade launcher to duck out of the way. The shield wouldn’t last for long at this rate. “Can you drive?”
“Yes.” Amy nodded weakly. “But-“
“You need to get them out of here,” Xander declared, his tone brooking no argument. “I’ll hold them off until you can get away. You’re in no shape for this. Just make sure that nobody’s following you.”
Amy just nodded reluctantly and got into the car, starting up the engine. She pulled out, having to go through a bush and over a curb as she did so.
Xander didn’t bother to watch them leave, crouching and taking cover behind the wreckage of a van instead. There were supposed to be twelve in the team, according to what Vi had relayed, and that roughly matched with the number of men that had attacked them in the parking lot. There were a number less now, either injured or dead.
He peeked through it, aiming carefully and fired a few rounds towards the remaining men. He saw one bullet impact hard against one of the attackers, blowing his head up. That was one less for certain. Unfortunately, before he could be glad about it, the slide locked back on his gun.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Xander muttered as he dropped the gun, thinking as quickly as he could. Standing up carefully, he leapt over the burning car. Yelling as loud as he could, he strode forward. “Come at me!”
Bullet whizzed by, and the ones that were close to hitting him, Xander just swatted, his glowing hands blazing fiery paths through the sky.
Natasha waited patiently as she saw the SUV drive off. What she had just seen was astounding, but was not something she had time to think about. The gunfight that had just been waged, and was still going on, was the important matter. The boy was keeping the strike team down, his quick arrival disrupting the team’s plans. They had been caught off-guard and the boy and his magical partner had been able to hold them off, allowing the target time to escape.
So she stayed, on the rooftop of the building next to the motel. She had fired a number of times, the report of her weapons disappearing in the general roar of battle, and saved the life of the so-called Iron Fist a couple of times. It was an odd name that the locals had taken to calling the super-powered individual, but from the looks of it, it was apt.
Ejecting the magazine from her MP5, she reloaded and moved closer to the edge of the rooftop.
“What the hell is that?” Garner asked, his eyes easily picking up the crazy teenage boy swatting their bullets out of his way as if they were flies. He looked around, feeling the sweat trickle down his face as he noticed that a number of the men in the team were dead. Fully dead; their advanced healing capabilities could not heal a blown-off head.
Klein didn’t say anything, holstering his weapon instead. He clenched his fists, feeling his claws pop through the skin between his knuckles. It burned as it always did. He looked at the other man in his team, the only one left combat capable for the moment. “Forget the guns. We have to do this the old-fashioned way.”
Garner grunted, but did as he was told, unsheathing his blades as well. They stepped out carefully, moving behind cover. Their enemy may not be using a gun, but that didn’t mean that it was time to be sloppy.
“That’s the way it’s going to be?” Xander asked, as he watched the men come within fight range. His eyes were drawn to the blades that seemed to be coming out of their hands, the fire and streetlights glinting off of them. He reached behind his back and pulled his own blade, his fingers finding the brass holes of the finger guard in a reverse grip. “Fine. Let’s do this.”
Garner attacked first, slashing with his blades. It would have taken off the boy’s head, had he still been there to take the strike. Instead, the blow cut through the frame of a car, bits of metal falling and bouncing on the asphalt.
Xander spun around, noting how easily the man’s blades went through the car. Pulling his chi into his hands, he felt his knife come to life, as if an extension of his own body. “That’s how it’s going to be?”
The Iron Fist noticed with some happiness as the man that had just attacked him widened his eyes at the glowing knife he had in his hands. He swiped it at him in a quick blow, the man having to step back to avoid it.
Turning, he kicked out at the other one, the bald one, that was coming up behind him. He seemed to flow, his movements as liquid, as he blocked and attacked and counterattacked. Turning back around, he used his left hand to deflect the wrist of a slash sent his way, following it up with a punch. The pointed brass spikes on the trench knife gouged pits into the man’s face, the blade of the knife ripping open his check as well.
It wasn’t without cost though, as he felt knives rake across his back, scoring tears through his skin. Xander reversed, ignoring the pain, and drew his knife across his body at the bald man. He had to lean back, almost doubling over, as he avoided a slash. Getting back into it, Xander slashed his knife forward, feeling it catch on the other man’s crossed blades. The glow of his blade lit up both of their faces, the bald man’s eyes seeming to reflect the glow as a lion’s would.
“Who the hell are you?” Xander growled, pushing against the bald man’s claws, needing to use his other hand just to keep up the force. He just watched as the man grinned. Feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, he dropped his left hand and punched the man in the stomach, diving and rolling to his left just as a trio of blades swiped the air where his neck was.
He spun around, watching as the two circled him. The one that he had punched and slashed just smiled, the wounds on his face closing in on themselves and healing. Xander gulped as he thought quickly on what to do.
“Now what, boy?” Garner asked mockingly, his lips curled in a cruel smile. The bruise that was forming from the punch he had taken was already healed. He had to admit though, the teenager had skills. And some type of power. Not that either would mean much against them.
“Now, I see if your healing factor will save you from bleeding out,” Xander spat out, rushing forward. He lashed out with a kick, forcing man back. Spinning around, he dodged, feeling the claws of the bald man slash him in the side. Completing his spin, he thrust his fist out, catching his attacker in the neck with the heavy butt of his knife.
Xander didn’t bother to follow him as he fell, rotating off of his foot and spinning into a leaping kick, catching the first attacker in the head. He pressed the attack, catching hold of the man’s wrists as he tried to slash at him.
Thrusting forward, Xander broke the man’s nose with his head, feeling the man try to fall back. “Brooklyn head butt. Learned that from a friend.”
“Son of a bitch,” Garner said, blood streaming from his nose. He yanked his hands up, trying to free them, but felt the boy let go, overcompensating.
Xander twisted around again, jabbing out with his knife in a fake to keep the bald man from trying anything as he regained his feet, then whirled around, slashing quickly. The knife blade flew through the air with a whistle, only feeling the slightest resistance as it cut through muscle tissue. He crouched and leapt up, twisting as he landed lightly on the other side of the man, kicking out at his knees. Reaching back, he thrust the knife edge of his left hand forward at the man’s neck in a Burning dove chop, forcing the slit neck to open even more.
Gurgling was all the sound that came out of Garner’s mouth now.
“Impressive,” Klein said, smiling grimly at the sight of his own man fall to the ground. It was not what he wanted, of course, and even he wasn’t sure if such injuries would kill his man, but he had to admit that it was a well-executed attack. Of course, such an attack could not be left unchallenged.
He leapt forward, claws extended, almost growling in animalistic fury at the destruction wrought upon his team. He managed to dive under a slash of the knife, kicking out and catching the boy in the mouth with the heel of his boot.
Xander’s head snapped back as he took the hit. He swiped his knife forward, feeling the bald man slide past it, claws sliding up his upper chest towards his shoulder. He adjusted, his knife held out in front of him as he moved laterally. The other man slashed towards him, and he swiped his knife across, feeling it catch the bald man’s arm as he slipped past his side.
It wasn’t quite enough though, and claws erupted through Xander’s sides, narrowly avoiding any major arteries, causing him to scream in pain. Clenching his teeth, Xander twisted, feeling the claws slice through muscle as he reached back and slammed the heavy butt of his trench knife down onto the other man’s skull. He felt the reverberation through his hand and back up his arm, the claws in his torso slipping out.
Xander twisted as he fell, managing to stay on his knees as he stopped. The other man had fallen as well, stunned by the attack. He stared the bald man in the face, feeling blood drip from the six slits in his sides.
Klein reached back and slashed downwards, the six tips of his claws flashing in the night as he thrust out to end the life of the boy that had proven to be more than just a nuisance.
Xander lifted his left arm up, screaming as he took all six blades in his forearm. He caught them, then slashed out with his right hand, the knife slitting the bald man’s throat, blood spurting out as the carotid artery was sliced. The sharp claws pulled out of his arm, up though through the top, splashes of blood splattering the ground as they went. Grasping his arm, Xander could feel his blood seep through his hand, not being able to clench the arm very tightly with his right hand because of the spaced finger holes of his knife.
Dragging himself forward, Xander pulled himself up reaching back with what remained of his strength, pulling more of his chi into the blade of his knife, causing it to glow brighter. He slammed it down hard through the bald man’s eye, the strength of the blow too much for the man’s head.
Coughing, Xander got to his feet and swayed forward, blood and other matter dripping off of his face. He managed to make it to a clear spot of the parking lot, before slumping down to his knees, exhausted. He forced as much of his chi as he could through his body, attempting to heal his wounds, or at least keep them from killing him.
Hearing a sound behind him, Xander twisted and fell onto his back as he saw one of the men from the strike team approach. It wasn’t one of the two that he had fought blade to blade, this one probably needing that long to heal, given the blood smeared on his face and the damage done to his body armor.
Smith grinned, pulling up the submachine gun that he had found, pulling back the charging handle and aiming it at the man that had held them off. He smiled even more widely as his finger moved to the trigger.
Xander dropped the knife from his fingers, sliding it forward and grasping the knife’s tip, when he heard a not so faint sound, like a zipper opening up. Spurts of blood erupted from the man in front of him, impacts causing his body to shake as armor piercing bullets hit him in the chest, neck, and ultimately head. The would-be killer dropped down, head opened up by the gunfire.
Turning his head, which was pretty much all he could do, Xander saw a figure on the roof of the motel. Something that he hadn’t noticed previously. Wavy red hair reflected the natural and artificial light, and he could tell that it was a woman. Her face was obscured in shadow though. He just grinned and chuckled. “You couldn’t have done that earlier?”
The figure said nothing, merely turning and fading away, the vibrant color of her hair the last thing to disappear.
Xander just sighed, hearing sirens approach, police finally coming. He struggled to his feet, still clutching his arm, as he turned to rush off, only stopping to grab his fallen gun and sheath his knife.
Natasha smiled a little as she thought about the teenage boy, or Iron Fist, she should probably start thinking of him as. It seemed that that strike team wasn’t the only one with enhanced healing powers, given the injuries that he had sustained. Not to mention his rather skillful abilities. She imagined that he could give her a run for her money in the hand to hand department as well.
Pulling the cell phone from her pocket, Natasha dialed Nick’s number, her smile falling as she remembered what had happened to Amadeus. Still, at least he was safe, and through tailing the Iron Fist through the night, she knew where the target was hiding out. “Nick, it’s me. I know where the boy is.”
“Good,” Nick said brusquely, reading over the JARVIS-generated real-time transcription of the local PD response to what had happened in Sunnydale. From the sounds of it, not all of the men had been killed, the bodies being taken. He would have to send in a team of his own to secure the blood evidence that remained, but that was easy enough with his clearances. “You did good.”
“He’s protected though,” Natasha continued, slipping out of her body armor. “I don’t imagine that you could snatch him easily. Unless you want me to do it.”
Nick turned to look at the phone, considering. “No. I think this will require a more delicate touch. We need him to want to come in.”
“Alright,” Natasha said, slipping off her t-shirt. The motel room was cool, but it was something she was used to. All she wanted now was a long hot shower. One of the simpler pleasures that work for the Red Room had denied her.
“Is there anything else?” Nick asked.
Natasha bit her lip for a moment as she remembered all of what she had seen. “There is another one that you should know about.”
Author’s Note: A few posters I mocked up for this story:
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