Xander looked the mansion over from his vantage point beside Sara and Lara. He could tell that a huge battle was underway inside. Clearly Max had been spot on in his information, one of the other interested parties had finally made a move to claim the artifact.
"This is not going to be as easy as we thought," Lara pointed out as she checked her pistols. "We have no idea who is attacking the cult and what kind of weapons they might have," she added with a shake of her head.
"True, but I'm guessing the vampires who attempted to kill us might have belonged to this group, so I would suggest you use that ammo you used to kill those vampires so effectively," Xander responded, wishing he had some of that ammo himself, but all he had was a regular magnum.
"We can't wait," Sara told them as she looked over the mansion entrance closely. "We can use the battle as a distraction to get into the vault room and get the artifact before whoever is after it wins this fight," she suggested.
Both Xander and Lara nodded their heads in agreement and headed for the side wall that ran around the mansion. They would slip in that way and avoid the guards they had seen near the main entrance. Still they all knew this was not going to be easy.
Faith headed straight for the mansion where the artifact everyone wanted was. She had gotten the location from one of the Mayor's contacts and she just knew that would be where she would find Xander and his new friends. She paused as she looked around. For the last twenty minutes she had the feeling that someone was following her, but she had not been able to spot anyone. She glanced upwards, but again saw no one. Shaking her head she continued her run towards the mansion.
The assassin shook its head at how easy it was to stay out of the Slayer's view. He would have expected more from her, considering the things she had done since turning against the light. She had been the right hand of the Mayor. She should know some tricks to check her surroundings without relying on her own senses. Then again maybe the Mayor had not bothered to teach her such things considering he planned to kill her in time. That would make sense.
He watched as his second entered the room clearly with news on how the assault on the cult was going, taking a look at his face made him think things might actually be going well.
"Master our strike force has struck and while we surprised them, the cult is putting up a strong resistance," Vincent reported after coming to a halt in front of his desk. "It is slowing our progress towards the vault," he admitted.
"Any sign of the champions?" he inquired.
"They have not been sighted my Lord," Vincent answered. "The team we had following them has lost sight of them, so we do not know where they are," he told him.
Vincent shivered as his Master let out a growl of anger, and he guessed those who had failed in their mission would suffer their Master's displeasure.
"Find them, they must not get the artifact before we do," he ordered as he stood up and then he added. "Tell them if they fail again they die," he warned.
"Yes my Lord," Vincent replied with a slight bow before. Then he turned and left the room to carry out his orders.
Shaking his head as Vincent left he swore if the champions got the artifact before he did, then all who took part in the assault would be punished for failing him. He wanted that artifact so he could gain far more power than he already had. He also wanted it so he could remove the Mayor and become Master of the Hellmouth.
The Mayor looked up as one of his underlings entered with some news to report. He transformed himself back into his human form as he noted this underling was one of the few humans who had been willing to serve him.
"My Lord we have word from the assassin, he has reached New York and is close on Faith's heels," the underling informed him. "The contact you had in place has also gotten in contact and has stated a fight has broken out between a cult and another faction over an artifact of great power," he continued. "He also believes that this is where Faith will find Alexander Harris who has been sighted with two women," he finished.
"They must be the two from the prophecy," the Mayor growled in response. "Send word to the assassin should Faith fail in her task he is to kill all four," he ordered. "Should he manage it, I will raise the price to one million for the contract," he added.
"Of course sir," the underling nodded in agreement. "We've shored up the defenses around the town sir, just in case Harris and his friends should slip through our net," he reported.
"Good, the boy and his friends must not get back into Sunnydale, is that clear?" the Mayor commanded with a hard glare at his underling who paled and nodded so fast it was a surprise his head didn't come off.
It was that kind of fear the Mayor loved to see on those who he ruled, it was also one of the reasons he had not opened the Hellmouth yet. He did not want to lose the power to command such fear, which he knew he would once the Hellmouth was open and hell was unleashed on Earth.
Xander lashed out with a side kick at the vampire as it tried to jump him from a tree. He had sensed it coming quite easily, having honed his senses with a little help from what was left over from the Hyena spirit that had possessed him. He had trained hard to ensure he would survive as long as possible and he had a few magical tricks up his sleeve as well. The vampire quickly got back to his feet and went for him again, before he could reach him Lara unloaded two bullets into his heart and the vampire quickly dusted. Xander really wanted to know how she had gotten her hands on such ammo. He could use some of it.
"Whoever is after the artifact definitely has demonic connections," Sara noted as she glanced back at them. "Watch your backs," she cautioned as she moved to press on.
"How the hell did you know it was there?" Lara inquired as she moved closer to Xander.
"I have good senses," was all Xander would say before he pushed forward, away from Lara who frowned but refrained from trying to get more from him for now.
Sara's sudden burst of speed took them both by surprise, but they quickly realized she was on the attack. Two humans who had to be cultist were both recovering from her sudden strike. Xander went to help her, but Lara pulled him back and shook her head when he glanced back at her. Turning back he watched as Sara nailed one of the guards with a wicked palm strike that seemed to shatter the man's nose. The second tried to nail her with a right fist which she easily blocked with her elbow and then kicked him in the gut and followed it up with an elbow to the back of his head. The man collapsed in a heap. Xander had to admit he was impressed. She was almost as fast as a Slayer.
"We have to move fast," Sara told them as they moved up to the side entrance the two cultists had been guarding. "I don't think these cultists will be able to hold out much longer. We have to get to that vault before the others do," she added.
"Let's wake up one of these fuckers and get him to tell us where the vault is then," Xander suggested. "Might be helpful just in case it has some defenses and a code to open it," he added at their looks.
"Good idea, it might make it easier for us to get there first," Lara agreed as she moved to one of the cultists and began to shake him awake so she could question him.
Sara and Xander moved to cover her back as she threatened the man with one of her pistols. The man was clearly afraid as he kept stammering as he tried to answer her. Xander spun around as a vampire came charging out of the side door. He had no time to raise his magnum and was knocked backwards as it collided with him. He quickly spun them around and managed to kick the thing off him, climbing back to his feet he pulled one of his stakes from his belt and prepared for a fight.
The vampire charged again and Xander quickly countered the strikes and waited for a chance to get his own in. Sara was about to help out when another vampire appeared from the darkness. She quickly activated the Witchblade and struck. The blades barbs ripped the vampire into pieces before it could even get close, dusting it in seconds. Sara spun back to check that Lara was ok and noted she was still questioning the cultist, however she could tell by her alert presence she was keeping an eye out. Xander did his best to take the kick to his side, it hurt but he'd had worse in the last three years. The vampire went for a claw strike allowing Xander to duck under his swing and ram his elbow into the vampire's throat, this stunned the vampire and forced it backwards and Xander quickly took the advantage and staked it before it could recover.
"You know you are very quick for a normal human?" Sara couldn't help but note as he moved to her side.
"I haven't been normal since I met Buffy," Xander responded with a jaded snort. "I've been possessed twice in my lifetime, once by a Hyena spirit and the second by the spirit of a soldier who had hundreds of missions under his belt," he told her. "After what happened in Sunnydale I found a warlock to help me regain some of the improvements of both those possessions after I learned part of them still resided inside me," he explained.
"What kind of improvements?" Sara inquired with interest as Lara seemed to finally get the answers she wanted from the cultist as she knocked him back out with the butt of her pistol and rejoined them to hear his response.
"My senses are about five times human norm and my speed and strength has been augmented although I have no idea by how much," Xander informed them both. "That all came from the Hyena, from the soldier I gained a lot of hand to hand skills as well as my memories of how to handle most firearms," he continued. "Thanks to this, as well as constant training, I have managed to stay alive on my own for three years. Hopefully if I ever come face to face with Faith I will live long enough to kill her," he told them blankly before he turned and moved to enter the mansion.
Sara and Lara remained only for as long as it took them to exchange a surprised look before they followed him, both thinking over what he had told them about himself. However a far more important fact in Sara's mind was Xander's wish to actually face a Slayer one on one, even with his advantages it was a slim chance he would survive such a confrontation. She could understand why he wanted to face this Faith. She had betrayed everything being the Slayer stood for. She had helped murder his friends. Still he should know better than to want to fight her one on one, even for her with the Witchblade it would be a difficult fight. Slayers were designed for such fights with things much tougher than the average vampire, their speed, strength and skill was hyped up to their maximum potential so they could do their job.
"Xander I hope you are not really thinking of taking on a Slayer head on?" Sara finally asked him as Lara led them to the vault even as they did their best to avoid getting caught in anymore fights.
"Actually I'm dead serious Sara," Xander responded without looking back at her. He did however understand her shock at his intention.
"But it is suicide even with the enhancements you have," Sara told him with a frustrated shake of her head at the fact he seemed to ignore the danger that came with his intent.
"Maybe," Xander responded after a brief silence. "But Faith helped take everything I cared about. She murdered a couple of my friends and she did it with a smile on her face," he told her. His face was deadly serious as he looked at her, his eyes looked dead to Sara. The scar over his left eye seemed to be inflamed, and she wondered if Faith had given it to him during that last fateful battle.
"I understand how you feel Xander, I do," Sara told him. "But how does dying in an attempt to kill her help you avenge them?" she asked.
"I don't intend to die. I've been training hard for three long years Sara. I've fought against vampires and demons and even the odd human, I'm as good as I'm ever going to get," Xander shot back. "Faith I doubt has had much to challenge her in those three years. She is probably rusty and I am betting she will underestimate me and only see the boy I used to be and not the man I'm now," he explained.
Sara frowned a little at his response because what he said actually made sense to her. If Sunnydale was locked down as tight as Xander seemed to think, it was likely Faith had little to truly challenge her. She was probably over confident as well after three years on top, but if she had done very little fighting and had nothing to really push her then it may just give Xander a much needed edge that could help him survive a fight with Faith.
"Look out," Lara's sudden shout of warning came just in time for Xander and Sara to drop into combat ready stances as they came across the vault access area.
Five cultists and a bunch of vampires were fighting it out for control of the vault. Some of the vampires had spotted them and were now rushing towards them, intent on killing them.
(Outside Kyle Mansion)
Faith sat in a tree overlooking the mansion she had been directed to by the Mayor's source. The whole area looked like a damn warzone. Something that made her recall the last battle for Sunnydale in detailed memory, finding Xander in the middle of all this was not going to be easy she conceded with a shake of her head. She could see various dead bodies all over the place and more importantly she could sense multiple vampires all over the mansion. She would have to be careful how she approached the mansion, finally she spotted a side entrance and with a smirk jumped from the tree onto the mansion's wall and quickly flipped off it to the ground. She moved quickly into the mansion with only a quick glance back. It was that quick glance instead of a more careful look that ensured she missed the shadow of the assassin that was following her.
The assassin waited only a few moments before following Faith inside the mansion. He was on full alert due to the battle that was still raging all around him. This may aide him in taking Faith out. Her Slayer senses must be going berserk with so many vampires close by. She might not notice him sneaking up on her. He was hoping to get a clear shot on both her and Harris should they encounter one another. It would be the perfect shot to get both in one go. He could then go at any friends Harris might have with him. The Mayor had been sure he would be with two others and if he could get all four then he would get a huge bonus. That along with the money for each of the targets would ensure he could retire for a few years. He almost smiled at the thought and then he shook his head as he forced himself to remember he was part of the war against the remaining Templar Order. So until they were destroyed he could never retire, but still the money would ensure he could live comfortably when he was not on assignment.
The Mayor glared down at the subjugated forms of Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles as he contemplated what to do should Alexander Harris make it back to Sunnydale. He wasn't fool enough to not believe in luck aiding Harris in surviving both Faith and the assassin. It had aided him in escaping not only that final battle that should have claimed his life, but had helped him escape Sunnydale as well. With a dark look in his eyes he decided he could use Summers and Giles against their friend, in their current state they barely remembered they were friends with the boy.
‘Yes, they will be the perfect way to kill the boy should he make it back here,' he thought darkly.
He would have to prepare both for such a meeting. Their minds would need further indoctrination to ensure they carried out his way. Turning away he headed back to his office to prepare some other plans as well. He still had time to prepare Summers and Giles after all it was only a small chance Harris would get lucky and survive.
Buffy's glazed eyes watched her Master leave before she put her head back down and tried to get back to sleep, yet in the back of her mind, cut off from her conscious thoughts, the real personality of Buffy Summers screamed for release and revenge.