Disclaimer: Smallville and Clark Kent and Buffy and the gang are all owned by others, including Joss Whedon and DC comics.
“It appears that you were correct,” Giles said as he read quickly through the last of the files laid out before him, “Forty three cases in the last twelve years and only one is clearly a case of a misidentified demonic species.”
“They caught a demon?” Willow asked.
“Ano-Movik demons are similar enough to human that they sometimes share human disorders of the mind. “The one in question was released two years ago and now apparently lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.”
“Are you sure none of them are demons?”
“The Watcher’s council may not be everything I’d hoped, but they have teams of expert vivisectionists. Most demon species have anomalous organs or other signs they aren’t exactly what they seem.”
Willow frowned. The idea of Watchers sending teams out to cut up demon bodies was disturbing.
Of course, she’d learned long ago the secret about the Watchers that Buffy had never bothered to learn. Most watchers were not assigned slayers, or even potential slayers.
Most watchers were researchers and archivists. They were librarians.
They were the ones who had written the books in the library, the men who recorded prophecies and made sure a record was kept of the weaknesses of the various demon species.
“None of these men have any of those signs, then,” Willow asked.
Giles shook his head, and then scowled slightly. “Some of these men are treatable. They could have been released years ago but they were judged too dangerous to leave.”
If the men who ran this place discovered what Willow could do, they’d undoubtedly try to lock her up as well. She glanced nervously down the hallway
“How many are here, then?” Willow asked. “Of the ones with power?”
“Thirty five,” Giles said quietly. “Although there are three cases I’ll have to examine further to make an accurate determination.
”Any of them of possible help against Glory?” Willow closed the door softly as she heard footsteps down the hall.
“Fire starters, shape changers, masters of electricity and magnetism…these files read like some of Xander’s comic books. Any of them would be of at least some use in the fight, if only to slow Glory down.”
“Assuming they’re not crazier than Faith after a three day bender.”
“Dark. All dark,” Tara said quietly.
“It’ll be fine,” Willow told her, patting her arm. “We’ll be out in the light soon enough.”
She gestured and murmured a few words, and the psychiatrist lying on the couch began to stir.
“Did I fall asleep?” he asked. “I’m sorry. This never happens. I’ve been having disturbing dreams lately and…were we going to go on a tour?”
Slipping the files back into place, Giles took a deep breath and said, “Let’s go.”
The halls were clean and sterile; institutional grays and blues were contrasted with bare concrete walls to create an atmosphere that was alternately grim and soothing.
The place reminded Willow of a prison as much as anything and she was beginning to regret bringing Tara. Tara had always been the sensitive one, and even with her mind scrambled, she retained her ability to see auras.
She’d seen that Dawn was the Key, and she could see the darkness within these creatures. The thought that Tara herself might end up someplace like this was more than Willow could bear.
“I’d write my congressman about this place if I was a citizen,” Giles murmured angrily. “Some of these men have been here for years.”
After the third patient, Giles had been convinced.
These men were people, and they were all being heavily sedated. Some had been this way for years.
“Is this what you do to all your patients?” Giles asked angrily.
The doctor looked up at them and shook his head. “Only the meteor infected. We receive extra funding to keep them locked up. Ordinary schizophrenics we stabilize and then put back on the street.”
“And suicidal individuals?”
“Much the same, unless they are infected.” The doctor shook his head, as though his mind was clearing. “These men are dangerous. They’d just as soon kill you as look at you.”
The sound of a plane overhead startled Willow a little.
The doctor scowled. “Allowing the Luthors to put a private airstrip nearby was a mistake. It upsets the patients.”
They were passing a large Plexiglas wall inside of which was a cafeteria where many of the more mobile patients were gathered eating.
At the sound of the airplane they had all looked up, almost in unison. Only the orderlies seemed undisturbed. If the planes were that distracting, then the doctor had every right to complain.
Tara tugged at her arm, and it took Willow a moment to realize that she was speaking.
“It’s time.” Tara said. “It’s time.”
“We’re almost done,” Willow murmured. “We’ll be out of here in a moment.”
There had been a time when she’d hung on every soft spoken word Tara had spoken. It was getting easier and easier now to ignore her, and Willow felt a moment of guilt.
“It’s time,” Tara said, and this time her voice seemed to resonate.
“Good lord,” Giles said.
The chant had been taken up by the inmates, all of whom were staring in the direction the sound of the planes engine had come from.
“It’s time,” Tara said as she punched Willow in the face.
As Willow staggered back in shock, the Plexiglas window behind them exploded. After that, everything went blurry.
The lights were flickering on and off, and the air was filled with smoke. A popping noise sounded in the distance, along with the sounds of recurring thuds.
Willow found herself being carried, her face against Giles shoulder.
“Tara,” she asked. “Where’s Tara?”
“Gone with the others,” Giles said. “I owe the doctor a posthumous apology. The meteor-infected clearly are dangerous.”
He staggered a moment and then said, “Can you walk?”
Willow nodded, even though it hurt her neck. Her entire back burned and felt slick and wet.
She grimaced as she stood.
“She left with the others,” Giles said. “They didn’t seem inclined to hurt her and you were injured.”
“We need to get out of here and find her!” Willow said.
“I’ve been trying to find an exit,” Giles said. “Half of them are on fire.”
At the sound of distant thudding, Giles grimaced. “Apparently the most dangerous of the mutants were placed in thicker restraints. Some of them are escaping only now. I think that groups of the more normal patients are still wandering around trying to get through the thicker doors.”
“I can get us through the fire,” Willow said. “I don’t think I want to meet any of the most dangerous ones.”
As they turned the corner they saw several bodies on the floor. Willow winced as she realized that most of them were dressed in hospital scrubs.
The door at the end of the hall exploded off its hinges and came flying toward them. Only a quick gesture by Willow stopped Giles from being decapitated as she deflected the metal door off its course and into the wall beside them.
Standing at the end of the hall was Clark Kent, and he had murder in his eye.
As he strode toward them, Willow spoke. “Thicken.”
The air around him thickened as it had for Glory and he suddenly came to a halt. She could feel pressure as he attempted to move forward. Whereas the magic had just slid around Glory somehow, he simply pushed, matching brute force to magic and she could feel the sweat beginning to bead on her forehead.
“We aren’t your enemy,” Giles called out grimly.
“You could fool me,” he said. “You did all this!”
“Giles,” Willow said. “I can’t hold him.”
Willow allowed the barrier to fall and Clark Kent stumbled forward. His eyes widened a moment before he was struck in the chest by a lightning bolt.
The bolt came from above Willow’s head, and she fell to the ground as Giles pushed her down, covering her with his body.
Standing at the head of the crowd was a young skinhead, his head shaved and tattoos prominent on his arms.
“It’s time,” he said. Unlike the vacant stare of the more normal patient’s behind him, this one had a malevolent sort of intelligence in his eyes. He grinned and launched another lightning bolt.
A moment later Clark Kent blurred, as they’d once seen Glory do.
The carnage that followed was horrific, even if no one died.
Tara stumbled and almost ran into the woman in front of her. She moaned incoherently for a moment. Where was Willow?
The others stopped unexpectedly, and Tara did as well. She knew something was coming for them, for the growing group that was gathering around her.
The sound of an engine nearby made them all turn their heads in unison.
“It’s time,” one woman murmured, and the others took up the cry. Tara found herself chanting along with the others.
The bus that pulled up in front of them was unexpected. The door slid open and a gaunt older man in the same institutional outfit as they stared impassively down at them.
“It’s time,” he said.
Tara stumbled aboard, ignoring the burning smell of the bodies that were already in the seats. She found a seat and shoved the blackened meat in the seat onto the floor. Around her, the others were doing the same. They filed into their seats and then sat silently, waiting.
The bus driver looked back at them and then his face split into a smile. There was something unpleasant about that smile. He snapped his fingers and flames rose to envelop his hand.
“It’s time to make them pay,” he said as the doors to the bus slid shut.
Stumbling out of the smoke and flames, Willow searched the parking lot for their rental car. A Kia, it was at the far edge of the lot, and she stumbled as she tried to bear Giles’s weight.
He'd been more injured than she'd thought and the trickle of blood that was coming from his forehead bothered her less than the glassy look in his eyes.
There had been a stream of others behind them, mostly patients, but now the parking lot was empty.
After seeing what Clark Kent was capable of, Willow didn't want to have to face him. They needed to get away sooner, rather than later. The sound of sirens in the air was as much a blessing as it was a hindrance. If they didn't get out before the police arrived, they'd have to answer questions she didn't care to answer.
However, Clark Kent undoubtedly wanted to remain undiscovered, and the arrival of the sirens meant the confrontation between them was likely going to be delayed.
Giles groaned, and as they approached the vehicle, Willow held out her hand and murmured under her breath. The lock clicked and both doors swung open.
She pushed Giles into his seat and shut the door, then ran around to the other side.
The sight of several figures emerging from the smoke made her heart race, and a moment later Willow jammed the keys she'd pulled from Giles’s pocket into the ignition.
Turning the key, she tensed until she heard the sound of the engine coming to life. She pushed the gear shift into gear and grimaced as the car jerked into motion. As she hit the accelerator, she found herself fighting tears.
They’d come all this way, only for her to end up losing Tara again. She’d promised to protect her, and now she had no idea where Tara was, or if she was all right.
The thought of Clark Kent doing to Tara what he’d done to those inmates made her blood boil. The thought of Tara in the hands of Glory terrified her.
As the fire began to dwindle in her rear view mirror, Willow reflected that they weren’t going to be able to split up any more. Glory was clearly in town.
Worse, the mutant army Willow had thought of using against Glory now belonged to Glory.
Instead of facing Glory and her minions, they were now going to face almost forty beings with superhuman powers.
Coming to Smallville was looking to have been a big mistake.
Willow could only hope that it wasn’t the last one they ever made.