A Meeting of Predators
“Claws and Fangs” by Shadow Master aka Ryley Breen
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the copyrighted material shown herein. They belong to their original creators and associated companies. I am making no money off of this at all. I write for my own enjoyment as well as the enjoyment of those who choose to read my works. So therefore not only would a lawsuit be unnecessary but if one was thrown at me the cost of the trial would vastly outweigh any potential gain.
Note: While I will do my best to keep things as close to canon as possible I will be making some changes. Therefore if any of you who read this are vastly opposed to any deviation from canon I would recommend you stop right here. In terms of timeline this would happen about a month after Xander leaves on his cross country road trip and unlike in canon he actually gets past Oxnard. In the Marvel Universe this would happen about a month before M-Day and go from there. For the purposes of the fanfic though instead of being in San Francisco when M-Day occurs she’ll be in NYC. I do this because I don’t want to be caught writing up filler to make up for the space of time between the start of this fanfic and the events depicted in the New X-Men comics. As for the rest…well let’s just say that I think it’s a good idea and I’ve decided to go with it.
Claws and Fangs
Downtown, New York City, A Month and a Half After Graduation, Afternoon
~Well I’m halfway through my roadtrip.~ Xander thought as he took in the busy city street and sidewalks all around him, ~I think I’ll stay here awhile and take in the sights before heading back to California.~
It had been a helluva trip so far, bits of normalness mixed with the odd bit of demon slaying, and it was only half over. Still, he’d picked a decent place to stop for a short time, given that NYC was pretty much the superhero capital of America. You pretty much couldn’t go a week without seeing a superhero doing something, be it simply patrolling or throwing down with the super-villain of the week. He’d already spotted Spider-Man web-swinging around town and knew that that wouldn’t be the end of it by far. He’d already checked into a decent hotel and now was just strolling about the city taking in the sights and doing whatever caught his interest. That didn’t mean though that he was completely oblivious to the dangers of this city like the muggers and criminal elements that loved to target oblivious tourists. He had two daggers on spring-loaded mechanisms strapped to his forearms and both would pop into his hands in the blink of an eye. Then there was his Rambo knife tucked beneath his belt against his back concealed beneath both his shirt and his coat so that a local cop wouldn’t spot it. While he knew that against a gun blades wouldn’t be much of a threat, he knew the memories he’d inherited from Soldier Boy would make up for any disadvantage he might be at. Unlike what he’d claimed when he’d shown up at the Summers home, the fatigues he had worn hadn’t been of a private but rather a Green Beret. He’d had the beret itself tucked into the back of his pants because he’d been worried about how Larry would react if he walked into the school wearing it. Sure, Green Beret’s were considered to be damn good but the beret was not exactly manly on its own, thus held the potential of being bullying material. Thanks to him keeping it on him rather that tossing it he now had a wealth of military knowledge inside his head and half the moves of a Green Beret in his head. As for the other half, he occasionally had flashes of it inside his head but, for the most part, the remainder of the training had been reduced to muscle memory. In certain situations his body would move of its own volition and it usually took him five to ten seconds before he realized that his arms or his legs were doing something that his brain hadn’t commanded them to do. Sometimes it was useful in that it allowed him to dodge or strike a hair faster than conscious thought would allow but other times it left him in awkward spots with the gang. Fortunately he managed to weasel his way out of those spots with a goofy excuse and a joke but, after one close call, he made an effort to exert more control over himself.
Still, it’d give him an edge over the punks and low lives of this city.
He was just walking across a crosswalk when another supernatural inheritance made itself known, although this one was decidedly unwelcome for the most part. As he passed the halfway mark the remnants of the hyena started laughing in his head, but this was not the laugh of a predator who’d spotted its prey. It was the laugh of an animal in the presence of a more deadly predator that need only look in the Hyena’s direction to make it shit itself. It had him freeze on the spot and immediately look for what was causing his inner annoyance to raise such a commotion inside his head. Looking about, he could see no one other than the usual flow of people but he knew better than to take things at face value, so he looked for the slightest thing that stood out. Sadly he had only a few seconds before the ‘you can walk now’ lights on the metal post changed to ‘do not walk unless you want to get run over’ and he had to get off the road. In those seconds he had he let his eyes and his other senses sweep over the people before dumping the information into his custom-made Sunnydale processor. Nada. Whatever his inner hyena had sensed was so well hidden that it could only be detected on a primal level like a scent on the wind or a sixth sense feeling that lets you know you’re being watched without giving away the location of the watcher. It was impossible to pin down to precise point or person making identifying the source of the remnants’ fear impossible for him to do in so short a time. So he put the entire incident out of his mind and resumed taking in the Big Apple and all it had to offer him.
At least he tried to do that.
Every single time he saw a crowd of people crossing the street, he recalled what his other had sensed and it made him wonder. It made him wonder what was such a dangerous being doing in this city and whether he should be doing something about it. To cause another predator to feel fear it had to be pretty nasty indeed even if hyenas weren’t exactly the fiercest predator out there. It wasn’t a conventional predator either to blend in so well with the sheep walking down the street that no one noticed what he/she/it really was inside. Was it/she/he just passing through or up to no good? Probably. Hopefully. Otherwise his inner white knight was going to start acting up. After all, while no one was in any immediate or visible danger there was no guarantee it’d stay that way and, if he just let this slide, he’d feel guilty if something happened afterwards. He cursed himself as this train of thought had woken up the knight within him and now that that had happened, it was pretty much a given that his time in New York would be spent looking for this superior predator. He’d look at least until he ascertained whether or not this predator was the easily provoked kind that killed at the drop of the hat or someone who had something keeping them respectable. If it turned out to be the latter, he’d jot down it/her/his stats and contact Giles to see if he knew anything. Should the former be the case, though, he’d have to do something about her/him/it and that could mean anything from killing it to drawing enough attention to it to get a superhero to take it out. Either way, the superior predator would be dealt with and he could get back to enjoying his road trip without the cloud of ‘I let it happen when I could have stopped it’ hanging over his head.
~Sometimes I just wish I could kill this White Knight complex I have!~ He thought as he walked back towards his hotel to gear up, ~Life would be so much simpler with it attracting flies!~
He sensed me.
No one else had seen anything out of the ordinary about her.
This intrigued her.
She had been trained by the best The Facility had to offer to be able to blend in perfectly with her surroundings so as to be invisible to her target and the target’s guards. In all the time that she’d been in the field, not once had anyone been able to perceive who or what she truly was. Not even the fabled Captain America had been able to see her for what she was until after he’d seen the blood.
Was this young man different?
She had to find out.
NYC, That Night, Central Park, Xander’s P.O.V
~Well I’ve managed to stop three muggings and one robbery but not one of them set off my inner Hyena like earlier today.~ He thought as he strolled through the park, keeping his eyes open, ~Makes me wonder if I really felt it or if I’m just going about this all wrong.~
It had been his original line of logic that since there’d been no mysterious deaths during the day that he could attach to his target, then it was possible he/she/it was nocturnal when it came to hunting habits. Therefore he’d geared up with a variety of hunting gear, ranging from vamp dusting tools to a tranq gun in case of werewolf. Once the sun went down, he’d left the hotel and wandered around town in a basic search pattern centered around areas that provided a nice selection of prey but also some secluded places to do wet work. That was why he was in Central Park, potentially the most dangerous place to be after dark, since it provided many places for muggers and murderers to do their work in peace. If there was anyplace in the city where the predator he’d stumbled across would go to do its thing, it’d be right here at night. He’d stopped by a few other places where he thought he might hit paydirt but this had been the primary possibility, so he’d chosen to work his way up to it. After all, he’d been wrong before so better to check all the little places and find out he was wrong then miss something crucial. Still, he was here now and, aside from a few situations where he’d been forced to make a citizen’s arrest without filing a report with the police, he’d made zero progress. This was his last stop of the night and, if he didn’t find anything here, he’d have to completely rethink his M.O and start fresh looking someplace else. Part of him wanted to just call it quits at the end of the night and just enjoy his vacation like he’d originally planned but his sense of duty to the good fight wouldn’t let him. Not until he had truly exhausted every avenue of approach to his current situation and then some.
He really hated himself sometimes.
For the next two hours he strolled from one end of the park to the other, hoping to catch some sort of break in his search but in the end all he had to show for his efforts was fatigue. He was about to call it a night and head back to his hotel room when a female scream cut through the night, reaching his ears like lightning. Before he even realized what he was doing he was running towards the spot where his mind had deduced the scream had come from. He cursed himself and his White Knight complex for always getting him into trouble, especially the variety of trouble that usually required a Slayer to be on hand for. Less than two minutes later he arrived at the source of the scream and the sight before him made him wish he wasn’t human. It wasn’t because he wanted power or anything but rather because of the sight before him making him sick to his stomach as well as disgusted that ^these^ were some of the people the Scoobies saved with each averted apocalypse. Before him were six thugs dressed half in gang colors and half in suits that you’d expect the higher class mob members to wear. However, what they were doing definitely put them in the gutter because at the moment they were half beating and half raping some poor woman in such a way so as to ensure the lady would need years of therapy just to be able to function. Triggering the devices strapped to his forearms, he seamlessly caught the knives in his hands before charging forward intent on ending this filthy act that was occurring before him.
He hadn’t yet decided whether or not he’d end the lives of the filth in front of him.
Contrary to the ‘we do not hurt/kill humans’ M.O of the Scooby gang, he knew that there existed exceptions to every rule and he was making this case his exception. As soon as he got within range of the punks, he strategically slashed or thrust with his blades to force them away from the young woman. He could hear them growling, yelling and threatening him but he didn’t pay them any mind. There was nothing that these pieces of filth had to say to him that he wanted to hear except perhaps their cries of pain. With that in mind he began to deal with the half assed counterattack the six attempted to put into motion and timed his moves accordingly. With a slight leaning of his body, he evaded a punch from one punk while moving forward to get inside the man’s guard to deliver a slash to the guy’s hip. Once his blade finished cutting, though, he immediately moved on to the next gang member, confident that the damage he’d done had taken his first foe out of the fight for a short time. This one tried to do a side-kick but all that earned the bandana-wearing fool was a stabbing blade into his thigh that went in one side and out the other. He almost lost one of his knives with that move, given how deep it was in and what the asshole did next, but he managed to yank it out before it was too late. With two enemies taken care of within twenty seconds, the remaining four pieces of filth were a little more cautious about approaching him. With his initial anger at the evil act lessening a bit, his more thoughtful side rose up and thanked any god or goddess listening that these guys didn’t have guns on them. While his time fighting demons with the gang and his lingering Green Beret memories gave him an advantage, he didn’t think he was good enough to handle firearms just yet. Either these guys hadn’t brought guns with them or hadn’t thought to use them yet, but in either case he knew he had to end this fight soon. It would only be a matter of time before the superior numbers overwhelmed him or one of them got smart enough to use the woman still-quivering on the ground as a hostage.
“Not so easy when there’s somebody who can fight back, is it fellas?” He asked, putting as much confidence into his voice as possible real or not, “Howsabout we all call it a night? You go back to your crib, this lady goes to the hospital and I get back to my summer vacation. What do ya say?”
“Fuck you! We’re gonna kick your sorry ass then we’re gonna cut up this bitch extra nasty ‘cause of you!” yelled punk number one, who had one hand applying pressure to his wound, “Get ready for a world of hurt motherfucker!!”
~Now would be a great time for some superhero to show up. Any time now fellas!~ He thought as the seconds ticked by without spandex wearing reinforcements swooping in to save his sorry ass, ~Figures. Never a hero around when you need one!~
Then matters got worse as another figure walked into the secluded clearing where he was and instantly he knew he was cursed with luck that Murphy could only have saved especially for him. Dressed in threads similar to the punks was something not human, obscenely muscled and looking like he was very annoyed at the moment. Whether it was a demon or a mutant or something else entirely, he didn’t know, but he did know that it could not be good news for him in the least. Seven feet tall with thick scaly skin and Batman-like curved spikes sticking out of its forearms made for a pretty intimidating sight. Then, of course, came the razor sharp teeth that belong in the jaws of a shark and you had him cursing his White Knight complex in every language he knew.
“Wha’s takin’ youse guys so long?” The demon/mutant/whatever asked, sounding like he’d rather be someplace else, “Haven’ you finish’d teachin’ dis bitch her lesson yet?”
“We were just finishin’ when this jerk-off showed up tryin’ to be a hero!” Replied thug one trying to sound like he had everything in hand but with fear underneath for those that could hear it, “Just give us five, Big T, and we’ll have it all wrapped up nice!”
“Dis mouse is why you ain’ done yet?!” Big T asked incredulously, pointing in the his direction, “He’s prob’ly one a those wannabe gangbuster types tryin’ to act all big an’ bad! He’s nothin’!”
“But Big T, he—“ spoke the thug on the ground wrapping his bandana around the wound in his thigh.
“SHUT YER HOLE!! I’m through waitin’ fer you guys to clean dis mess up!” Big T yelled back at the gangbanger, “Stand back an’ watch how a real gangsta takes care of business!”
With those words the curved spikes that up until then had only stuck out about an inch from the creature’s forearm, grew to something more approaching five inches from root to tip.
~Like he didn’t look deadly enough before.~ He thought as he tried to figure out a way out of this mess without abandoning the woman on the ground behind him or dying.
Willing as much if his inner Green Beret to the surface and tapping partially into the alpha hyena, he prepared himself for what would probably be the toughest fight he’d ever been in. He had no back-up, no idea what Big T was and just had close quarters melee weapons on him that would force him to get closer to the mountain of muscle then he’d like. Nevertheless, he put one of his blades into a reverse grip while strengthening his hold on the other, since he had a feeling he did not want to lose one of his weapons in this fight. It was a good thing he got everything in order when he did because the demon/mutant/whatever went on the offensive, clearly preparing to pierce his admittedly scarred skin with his spikes. Waiting until the last moment, he used the knife he had in the reverse grip position to deflect the curved spikes away from his body while using the other to strike.
Too bad no one told him that this demon/mutant/whatever had skin like kevlar.
Despite putting half his strength behind the slash, he barely left a mark as the two of them passed and he most certainly did not draw any of Big T’s blood. Bringing himself around, he barely had time to bring both of his blades up to keep himself from getting skewered by the gang leader right in the chest. It was then that he got a good idea of the gangsta’s true strength and it was almost more than he could handle as his arms began to tremble a bit under the strain of holding the spikes back. Still, his own private training sessions and his Halloween inherited memories he was able to hold his ground for the most part, but he doubted that he’d be able to last long. He was proven right when Big T managed to lock up his blades in between the spikes and then, with twice the strength the demon had shown thus far, flung his arms to the sides taking the blades with them. He was shocked at this turn of events and that reaction nearly brought about his end but, thankfully, his body was able to do what his mind was temporarily incapable of. When the demon brought his spikes back towards him, he was able to leap backwards a bit but the deadly curved bone formations still missed him by centimeters. He was also unable to stay on his feet, resulting in him falling to the ground beside the woman who had curled up into a ball to hide from the situation around her.
He didn’t blame her ‘cause he’d wanted to hide from the truth right now as well.
Kept from that option, he did the only thing he could and quickly got to his feet before pulling his Rambo knife from its sheath and holding it out in front of himself in a defensive position.
“Still got some fight in ya, eh?” Big T asked before his movements took on a more casual pattern to them, “Good! Too many of my fights lately have been wimps. Cryin’ for their mommies after their toys get taken away. But you won’t do dat, will ya? You’ll fight right up ‘til the end like a real man!”
~Great! He’s enjoying himself!~ He thought as he sized up his options or rather his lack of options.
While of a different style than the blades that just got ruined, his Rambo knife was still a blade and so it was dependant on three things to do its job. It depended on his innate strength to apply the necessary pressure when the blow was struck. It depended on the quality of the blade, both in terms of how much pressure it could withstand as well as the sharpness of its edge. Last it depended on hitting Big T in just the right spot to do the most damage while not exposing himself to a fatal quantity of danger. In terms of the first, he figured he’d have to bide his time until an opportunity showed itself for him to grip his knife with both hands and slam it down into Big T. Doing it one handed didn’t even break the skin so either a double handed overhand stab or bottom up thrust was needed to do any respectable amount of damage. As far as the second part was concerned, he knew the knife was military issue and was designed to be ideal for Green Berets worldwide. The only problem was that they were designed with the idea that they’d be used on humans or inanimate objects. He sincerely doubted that anyone had been thinking about Big T when they’d made it, so it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not it’d be able to hold together long enough to do its job. The last part was even more out there since he had no idea what Big T was never mind where the big guy’s soft spots were located.
In short, his chances pretty much existed between slim and none at the moment.
Still, much as he didn’t want to, he had to agree with the demons prediction of how things would go in the end. While a sane person might make a run for it he knew he couldn’t just leave the traumatized woman to whatever fate these filth could conceive of after he’d left. He’d committed himself to rescuing her and making sure she got back to where she belonged safe and sound. He would see it through to the end.
Even if that end did turn out to be his own.
It was then that some higher being must have taken pity on him because, before he or Big T could make a move, the sound of metal scraping up against metal caught everyone’s attention. Everyone wanted to know what had produced that sound and fortunately for them they didn’t have long to wait because seconds later a whirlwind of steel entered the clearing. All he caught personally was a mass of long black hair, black leather with golden trim and sharp metal that reflected all the light in the area. Seconds later the mass came to a halt to reveal a young woman who looked to be about his own age with green eyes and metal claws sticking out of her hands and feet. The reason for her coming to a stop became clear a few moments later when Big T dropped to the ground in six separate pieces, black blood spraying all over the place. She took no notice of anyone at first, apparently surveying the area for further enemies, but when she turned to face those still in the secluded clearing everyone froze wondering what the she-devil would do next. Her eyes settled on him first, taking his measure apparently, before moving onto the few punks that hadn’t bolted the second they’d seen their leader fall. Eye contact though proved to be incentive enough for the creeps to decide that it was in their best interest to be someplace else ^immediately^. Running off like a bunch of scalded dogs, soon the only people in the clearing was him, the traumatized victim and the mysterious femme fatale that had taken apart Big T in five seconds flat.
He only took a moment to take stock of her before he decided he’d go with his gut and hope that it was right when it told him it was safe to sheath his Rambo knife. This was apparently a good move since she mirrored his actions somewhat as the two or two and a half foot blades withdrew from whence they came. The ones on her hands apparently had come from within her very hands, piercing the skin on their way out, but as he watched he saw the slits the edged pieces of metal had made heal completely in seconds. As for the ones that came from her boots he had a sneaking suspicion that the same could be said of them making him wonder who this girl was. He was about to ask her who she was when a particularly loud whimper came from the redhead on the ground and he knew where his priorities truly lay. Taking off his jacket he approached her slowly, knowing that rapid movement of any kind would only scare the victim, and once he was close enough he did his best to wrap it around her. She put up a fight at first, probably thinking that he was one of those punks, but he whispered calming words to her in an effort to reassure her that it was over. Eventually the battered woman calmed down enough that he knew she wouldn’t fight him anymore and so he lifted her up in his arms just in case she couldn’t stand on her own.
Turning to his beautiful rescuer he could see that she was thinking about something but what that something was he had no clue about. Her face was a mask of neutrality, not indicating anything, but when he looked into her eyes he could tell that she was confused about something. For a moment he considered simply doing nothing but he supposed in return for saving his bacon the least he could do was answer a question if he could.
“What’s bothering ya?” he asked turning halfway towards her.
“It’s not human. The one with the spikes on his arms.” She replied in a voice that seemed so alien coming from the mouth of a teenage girl.
It wasn’t that it sounded funny or anything but rather that it didn’t have the qualities he’d expect from a mall crawling, gossip sharing and fashion obsessed teenage girl. She spoke more like…like a lifelong soldier who’d spend more time in the field on missions than spending time off duty with friends and family. It bothered him quite a bit that there was someone his own apparent age who was completely lacking the qualities the epitomized what it meant to be a teenager. Still, it’d probably be best to focus on the task at hand rather than deal with what would likely be a bunch of personal questions he had no right to ask someone he’d just met. First, though, he’d clear up the question that was apparently on her mind at the moment before making a minor request of her.
“Then I guess that means it’s either a demon or a mutant.” He said looking down at the remains of Big T that now looked like in belonged in Hell’s abattoir.
“It is not a mutant. Even mutants smell partially like humans even if their mutation changes their physical appearance.” Blade Sister stated, looking at him right in the eye as she spoke.
“Demon it is, then. Don’t recognize the species but whatever it was it is dead now,” he said filing away Big T’s appearance so he could tell G-Man about it once he got back home. “Could you do me a favor and pick up my knives? Big T tossed them over next to those bushes and I’d rather not leave anything for the local P.D to find when they finally decide to show up.”
With only a nod in response he watched her locate each blade, wipe them clean of both blood and prints using one of the few clean pieces of cloth from Big T’s clothes before finally handing them back to him. The movements had been perfect as though she’d done that sort of thing many times before and did not really have to think about it consciously in order to do it anymore. It caused yet another question about the young woman before him to pop up on his mental list but feeling the woman in his arm shudder once more he knew questions would have to wait.
“Let’s get this lady to the hospital.” He said turning back to where he believed the closest park exit was, “We can make with the twenty questions we probably have about each other after.”
A nod was all he received in reply, making him wonder if this person was somehow related to Oz with how little she spoke most of the time.
Joe’s Diner, NYC, An Hour and a Half Later
If Xander’s explanation turned out to be the truth then there were beings of this world that matched the descriptions of creatures that had, up until now, been thought to be religious metaphors. During her missions for The Facility, she had encountered many strange people whose scent was not human in the least but, since ascertaining what they were was not a part of her mission parameters, she paid this anomaly no further attention. Now, though, it would seem that she would have to re-examine all she knew about these beings and learn more if she was to be prepared to fight them in the future. She would not seek them out but, if they were as abundant as Xander claimed, they were then the likelihood that she’d never see one again was nonexistent. With this in mind she began to ask him questions about demons and the most effective means of dealing with each breed, thus developing a mental file on each of them. While it was clear that Xander was not an expert on demons, his descriptions showed signs of firsthand experience in dealing with them and that sort of information often proved invaluable.
With her enhanced senses she could also pick up other, more personal, things about him that told her much about the young man sitting across from her. The way he praised the actions of his fellow demon hunters told her there was a strong bond between them and him. His minimizing of his own contributions spoke either of significant humility or an inferiority complex that caused him to speak in a self-depreciating manner when describing his actions. His descriptions of the various demons he’d faced alongside his friends indicated a difficult occupation and indicated that he had to possess some useful qualities of his own in order to survive as long as he had. All this she learned from the physical body language he employed as well as how he spoke and she filed this data away without any omissions. By the time he was finished answering the majority of her questions, she had a workable understanding of the most common demonic species that would allow her to deal with them should she encounter them.
However she would need to experience the requirements of demon hunting firsthand in order to truly understand this new level of the world she lived in. Secondary information was useful in an advisory capacity but nothing was superior to data obtained by actually experiencing a situation firsthand. She would have to hunt these demons herself, each breed described to her by Xander, and use each encounter to formulate her own strategies for dealing with each species.
For the immediate future though she would need a guide.
“Will you show me how to fight these demons?” she asked Xander while he took a sip of his drink.
Her inquiry apparently came as quite a shock to him since the soda he was drinking reversed directions resulting in what Megan had told her was called a ‘spit take’.
She didn’t see what was so funny about it.
One Month Later, Hell’s Kitchen, Nighttime, Xander’s P.O.V
~It doesn’t show often but I think I’m making some kind of progress with Laura.~ He thought as they waited in an alley across from a bar that was frequented by the demon lieutenants of several supernatural mob bosses.
It had been a month since he’d reluctantly agreed to show her he ropes when it came to hunting demons and, aside from a few money issues, he hadn’t regretted a moment of it. While far from being the demon expert that Giles was, he had the good fortune (or misfortune, depending on which end of the stake you were on) of being a Sunnydale boy born and raised. With Sunnyhell being ^the^ place to be for demons, just about every breed took a crack at it sooner or later and that meant that the Scoobies had encountered most of them. That meant that so far he’d only had to make two long distance calls to the G-Man to get the 411 on a demon, after which the former Watcher had informed him of a reliable local source of occult knowledge. While he’d never seen the guy face to face, Stephen was definitely in the same league as Giles when it came to knowing what the things with the horns sticking out of their heads were and how to slay them. Together with his own info, he’d pretty much managed to do a passable job at teaching Laura what she’d need to know if she even got on a demon’s bad side. However their actions of late had attracted the attention of the demon bosses themselves and, while he didn’t think the head honchos had pieced together the ‘who’ part yet, they’d definitely put out some feelers.
That was the reason behind tonight’s little raid on the lieutenants.
The plan, such as it was, was centered on hitting the second in commands hard and permanently while leaving evidence behind to suggest one of the human crime bosses was behind it all. With a little luck and some weird colored water that Stephen had gotten to them indirectly, it’d be enough to cloud the issue of ‘who did it’ enough that neither he nor Laura would have to worry about repercussions. While some might have thought that it had been her idea to hit the second seat demon mob boy’s, it had actually been his. He did it because he didn’t want to make his new girl’s life any worse than it already had been.
It had been something he’d tried to ask her about each night they’d gotten together so he could teach her about the things that went bump in the night. He’d been so interested in learning more about who she was, what precisely she was and how she could do the things she did.
He almost wished he’d never asked in the first place.
Apparently she was both a mutant as well as a clone that had been created by this shadow organization called ‘The Facility’, whose business was creating weapons for their own benefit. Nothing was taboo for them. It did not matter if their materials came from the scum of the Earth or from the most innocent and precious of things, all that mattered was whether or not a viable weapon could be both produced as well as controlled in the end. Laura was not exactly forthcoming with the details of it all, he had to ask specific questions if he wanted them, but what she did tell him chilled him to the bone. They isolated her from all human contact save that of her surrogate mother, Sarah Kinney. They trained her every day in the skills and tools that she would be using until she could be considered a master in each of them. They exposed her to painful and potentially fatal radiation just to force her x-gene to become active at a younger age then it usually did. They even used brutal and inhuman methods to condition her to go into a berserker killing rage whenever her enhanced sense of smell detected a specific scent. They had her kill one of her teachers and her own mother using this method.
All of this before she was fifteen years old.
That was the reason why she didn’t act like a normal teenage girl. She was trained to be a weapon almost from the moment she was old enough to comprehend what she was being told by her creators. No playing with dolls. No friends her own age. Nothing that could establish a sense of self or gain attributes that could cause her to turn against them. It both sickened and horrified him that any human being could do such terrible things! Right there and then he made the decision that once they dealt with the demon lieutenants that he’d do everything he could to help her become who she would have been had she been allowed to grow up the right way. A young woman with a life comprised of limitless possibilities and potential. He was already working on an argument that would make it impossible for her to rationally refuse his invitation to return to Sunnydale with him. At the moment it was layered with the offer of more extensive knowledge of the demons and the supernatural along with chance to do some real good. Not the most convincing argument so far, something he knew she’d take full advantage of, but he was still confident that by tomorrow it’d be air tight.
“The last one has arrived.” Laura said, pointing to the demon wearing a suit that looked almost human save for the tail sticking out from beneath its trench coat.
“Good. We wait until they force out the civilians inside and put up the closed sign.” He said as he went over his gear, “Once inside, get in close as quickly as you can and start taking them out. I’ll cover you and keep the mages distracted.”
Once again all he got for his efforts was a nod of acceptance but he chose to take this as a sign that she trusted his judgment rather than the simple fact she’d been trained to respond to orders this way. Using the local snitch network coupled with what info Stephen passed along through his messenger, Wong, they had a decent idea of who they were up against but that didn’t rule out surprises. In fact, Wong had passed along that his employer strongly recommended that they not attempt a direct confrontation with the lieutenants. Not a completely unsound position, considering that second in commands were usually not much weaker than their bosses in terms of power, but they were going ahead with the mission anyways. It was his hope that by taking these boys by surprise, they could wipe out the most of them before a counterattack could be formulated and then take care of the rest with a little bait and switch moves. Not the most complex plan but, as his memories told him, it was the plan with the most pieces that had the best chance of going FUBAR on the battlefield. Keeping things simple yet effective would ensure that as few things as possible could go wrong.
With a click his equipment inspection came to an end. Three knives hidden on his person, a Desert Eagle chambered for a .357 round he’d come up with somewhere over the past month in a shoulder holster beneath his armpit, extra magazines for it under the other armpit, a Colt M1911 on his hip, a snub nose revolver strapped to his ankle and pockets with arcane baubles that could come in handy. All his guns were loaded with a mix of armor piercing rounds and hollow points with holy symbols inscribed into them using his own unique method before being soaked for a couple of hours in holy water. That would cover most mainstream demon weaknesses and, at the very least, would tear up the lieutenants enough to give Laura time to get in close. Given how quickly she’d cut Big T apart, he knew she’d have little trouble crossing the distance between the door and her targets. Those targets numbered ten in total with three of them being mages of some skill and the rest preferring the up close and personal method of dealing with people they didn’t like. It was a little lopsided for Claw Girl but he’d do his best to back her up no matter what happened.
Two minutes later the owner of the bar locked the door, closed the blinds and put up the ‘CLOSED’ sign in the window, letting them know that the time to strike was now. Pulling out Eagle, he and his partner of the night advanced towards the entrance while keeping an eye out for lookouts. Considering just whom those in attendance were, it was almost a certainty that they had people on the look out as a precaution. Hopefully, though, their rapid approach to their point of entry would minimize the chances of their prey setting up a solid defense before the bullets started flying.
The second they were near the door Laura popped the claws in her hands, cut through the lock on the door and shoved it open so as to allow her to proceed further. Coming in behind her he brought up his gun and, once the targets came into view, he started pulling the trigger in a slow, methodical fashion. Much to his satisfaction he noticed that, as he was proceeding to the area behind the bar for cover, his custom rounds were performing admirably. Whether it was the holy symbols or the hours soaking in holy water that did it, the bullets were blowing past the seat of the pants barriers that the mages were able to bring up on a moment’s notice. With mystical defenses useless his assault was inflicting serious damage to the demons, including the ones that didn’t drop right away after being hit. Those that survived a hollow point or an armor piercing round to their bodies still experienced considerable pain as the holy attributes caused their wounds to burn fiercely. In the end, his incoming fire did its job in distracting the mages and some of the demon lieutenants from doing anything to impede or block Laura’s advancing on their positions. Once she actually got close enough to strike at them, well, it made the guys behind horror movie special effects look like children by comparison. Blood sprayed, penetration was accomplished and more than a few heads went flying as the mutant girl used her blades to their full potential. Between the two of them they kept the demons from putting anything more than the most rudimentary defenses up and that was proving to be less than adequate for the non-humans.
In the space of ten minutes all the demon lieutenants were dead, leaving him breathing rapidly as the adrenaline high worked its way through his body. Keeping his eyes moving for any sign of trouble, he eventually concluded that the fight was over with and that there were no more incoming hostiles to deal with. Looking to Laura, he could see that she too had come to that conclusion since she retracted her claws into her body and seemed to change to an at ease stance. Checking his ammo, he could see that he still had one mag for his Desert Eagle and the rest of his firearms fully stocked. This almost made him worry that something might be up because he’d originally projected that he’d wind up being down to his snub nosed revolver before all the fighting ended. It implied a vast overestimation of his targets’ abilities to have this much firepower still available but without any evidence to imply something fishy was up, he wrote it off as overconfidence on the lieutenants’ parts.
With phase one completed he began to set things up for phase two, which consisted of him first setting things up for an arcane EMP to be sent out which would obliterate any mystical or metaphysical traces that they’d been there. By placing gems in precise locations about the bar, it only took a little chanting and some burning of ingredients to make it work ensuring that attempts to learn what really happened here would be hazy at best. Once that was done, he placed a large jewel embedded in a silver stand in the center of the room and, after pressing the symbols engraved in the jewel in a certain order, signaled his partner that it was time to go. The jewel would embed the image of a local human crime lord and his more recognizable stooges raiding the place and killing off the lieutenants. It’d been the trickiest part of their plan but, with a little creative thinking and the arcane equivalent of Hollywood special effects, he was confident that it would stand up to scrutiny with any errors being written off as background noise. All in all it was as good as any plan he had come up with and had gone better than he had thought it had any right to.
When headlights suddenly switched on to blind him and he heard the sounds of guns being cocked, he realized that that should have been his first clue that something would go wrong.
“Well done you two! For a pair of out of towners you managed to pull that off quite nicely.” Came a gravelly voice from the center of the collection of headlights, “While I’ll miss Johnny T and his excellent cooking, the trade off is well worth it.”
Bringing his hand up in an attempt to block at least some of the light blinding, him he gradually made out the form of a humanoid wearing an expensive suit. There were other less defined ones further back but he couldn’t make them out as well from where he was.
“Me and the other members of demonic organized crime have been brainstorming for months trying to come up with a way to declare war on the human underworld without success.” Mr. Gravel said casually before putting a cigar in his mouth and lighting it, “Due to certain binding arrangements made by our predecessors, we were magically forbidden to instigate hostilities with mob bosses like Wilson Fisk or Silvermane. Of course they would not engage in hostilities with us either because of the edge our unique abilities give us over their forces. It was supposed to be the perfect deal between the two groups.
“Sadly times have changed and those currently in charge of the demonic criminal underworld are no longer satisfied with the way things are. We want more and, thanks to your little fight just now, we have all the excuse we need to get things started.” Mr. Gravel explained as he tapped some ashes off the end of his cigar, “With the methods you used to cover your tracks in place, no one will see us as being in the wrong when we start hitting our human counterparts and claiming new territory. In fact, there’s only two loose ends that need to be tied up in order to make the entire situation perfect.”
It didn’t take a genius to see what the guy meant but he’d be damned if he was going to let this guy have his way. Slipping a hand into his coat pocket, slowly, he grabbed a hold of the one ace he had that might destabilize the current situation in a way that would favor him and his partner. Using his other hand to grab their attention, he threw it out into the street and watched it shatter to emit a pulse of arcane energy. It didn’t have much range, only twenty feet or so, but it would mess with the senses of any demon it hit disorienting them for a couple of seconds. Grabbing Laura’s hand, he made for the nearest alleyway in an effort to put some distance between them and the demon mob bosses since fighting them would be suicide. However it was soon proven that while the demons weren’t exactly seeing straight, they could still use their weapons somewhat but with diminished skill. This was the case as some idiot amongst them fired off a potent fire spell just as they cleared the front of the bar, setting off an alcohol-fueled explosion that almost obliterated the front of the building. As it was he was quite glad that the blast had gone out the front, for the most part, rather than in all directions since the alleyway he and Laura were currently in was the one between the bar and some restaurant.
When a blast of lightning streaked past his shoulder, singing his arm though he immediately chose to revise their escape plan since narrow alleys left little room to dodge incoming fire. Pointing towards a fire escape, he was right behind his partner as she began climbing for the roof of the restaurant. They had just reached the roof when a secondary explosion erupted from the bar, tearing a hole in the roof and filling it with fire that he could feel even though he was a good fifteen feet above it. He was about to point out their escape route when a hail of gunfire filled the air and burned its way through both his body as well as his partner’s. It had been the one thing he hadn’t been planning on when going for the roof escape and it had just cost them both. It had been a rule of his that the majority of demons didn’t use guns or bombs or the like. Whether it was some sort of macho demon rule or the fact that claws and spells were better, he didn’t know. However it had been his belief that with only spells and close quarters combat to worry about, dense clouds of incoming lead wouldn’t be in the picture. He’d been wrong and now it was going to cost both him and Laura their lives.
The force of the rounds that had hit him had knocked him off balance and, given that he was on the edge of the roof, there was only one thing that could happen.
He fell off the restaurant roof and into the newly created skylight created by the fire, bathing him in fire until the sudden stop provided by the floor of the place halted his descent forcefully. His mind was awash with pain, making coherent thought difficult but there were two things he could be certain of at that moment.
He was going to die and so was Laura if she did what his gut told him she’d do once her body patched itself together.
Restaurant Rooftop, One Minute Later, Laura’s P.O.V
Motor control and higher brain functions recovered.
Getting to her feet, she assessed the situation while keeping in mind that there were likely still hostiles in the area that needed to be dealt with.
Xander was not here. Based on her last recollection before her cognitive functions became damaged, she knew he had been hit at least four times in the torso by bullets of an unknown type. Considering the status as baseline Homo Sapiens, his wounds from those bullets would be significant, but not necessarily immediately fatal. If she got him to a hospital ASAP there was at least a sixty-seven percent chance he’d survive.
That was when she remembered that he’d fallen backwards off the edge of the roof.
Keeping low, she moved to the edge of the roof and peered over it to see the gaping hole in the roof of the bar where their mission had both begun and ended. Seeing no sign of him on the rapidly deteriorating bar rooftop, nor in the alley below, she was forced to conclude that he had fallen through the hole into the inferno that engulfed the ground floor of the building. The probability of a normal human surviving the bullet wounds, the fall and then the fire were less than five percent.
He was dead.
At first it had been her chosen course of action to withdraw from the current location, since there was nothing to be gained through continued conflict. She had minimal armaments and was outnumbered at least ten to one with a variety of weapons being used against her, some of which she had insufficient understanding of. The odds of her defeating them all were slim. However, just as she took the first step to vacate the area, something within her compelled her to rethink her position. Someone whom she’d just spent the last month learning from had been slain, killed by the demonic mobsters and used to instigate a mob war that would harm countless others.
Shouldn’t she avenge his death? Prevent the war from happening?
~Negative. Avenging Xander’s death would serve no purpose. He would still be dead regardless of what action I take.~ She thought to herself as her training warred against the unidentified feeling inside of her, slaying those demons present would also prove useless. ~If the mob demons did indeed arrange for this to happen, killing those present would do little to nullify the momentum started here tonight.~
Despite this line of logic, the feeling that compelled her to throw herself at those responsible for her month-long mentor’s death remained and even began to grow in strength. Soon her claws were out and she resigned herself to her new mission.
Kill every demon within a three block radius of the bar.
Inside the Burning Building That Was Once a Bar, Two Minutes Later,
The Space Between Seconds, Another’s P.O.V
“Well, well, well! This is quite the little predicament you’ve gotten yourself into, Mr. Harris.” Spoke a figure dressed in robes as he walked amidst the frozen flames around him, “Shot, bones broken and now having the dubious pleasure of being both buried as well as burned alive. Luckily I have an alternative arrangement I wish to propose to you.”
~Who the hell are you?!~ Alexander LaVelle Harris asked from his prone position on the floor of with a voice that sounded oddly hollow, ~And why does my voice sound so funny?!~
“My name is Lord D’Hoffryn, ruler of all Vengeance Demons, and as to the question of your ‘voice’, you aren’t really speaking. It would seem in the fall from the rooftop you broke quite a few bones your jaw included.” D’Hoffryn replied as he willed a Lay-Z Boy recliner into existence before sitting down on it, “I’ve temporarily given you the ability to converse with me telepathically in order to compensate for this little problem. If not for my intervention, I’d imagine you’d die in this inferno with no one knowing you were still clinging to life, such as it is.”
~So what do you want? Here to have a last laugh at my expense or something?~ Harris inquired, rightfully suspicious of a demon Lord paying him a visit.
“On the contrary, Mr. Harris! I have come to offer you a deal that should prove to be mutually beneficial to the both of us. Now, as you may have learned from Rupert Giles, it is the calling of my followers and I do grant the wishes of all seeking vengeance upon someone or something that they have a grievance against.” He explained, willing a goblet of blood into his right hand, “Now, contrary to what you may have been told, we do not service the entire planet. With over six billion inhabitants of various races and creeds, we’d be run ragged trying to keep up with all the demands for our services. Fortunately there exist those amongst my subordinates that have an affinity for being able to foretell the future and we use this to pick and choose who we will visit. We look at the big picture, so to speak.
“It was during one of these glimpses into the future that I discovered a particularly troubling future in which you and my wayward daughter, Anyanka, become romantically involved. Naturally I had no intention initially of letting her stay human forever. Her forced mortality was merely meant to teach her to be more careful with the important things,” he said with the utmost sincerity in his voice. “Once that lesson was learned, I would welcome her back into the fold and matters would proceed as they have for the last millennia. However, according to the visions I viewed, her involvement with you tied her to her humanity to the point where, nine times out of ten, she rejected my offer to make her a Vengeance Demon once again. This was a problem.
“I spent months trying to conceive of a way to prevent this intertwining of fates from occurring with no success… until recently. It was when little Laura Kinney entered your life.” He said with some amusement when he thought of the mortal’s previous ‘dating history’, “It was then that I spied a possible divergence point from which a new future, one where you do not become involved with Anyanka, could be born with the right nudge at the right moment. That moment is now. The deal will be thus Mr. Harris:
“I will grant you powers of your own that will not only prove useful in your fight against the more malicious members of demonkind but also aid you in rehabilitating Ms. Kenney into a fine member of society. I can even arrange it so that continued exposure to your unique soul will have a gradual effect in breaking down the conditioning her creators forced on her,” he said, leaving out the few ‘quirks’ he would insert during the transformation. “In return you will no longer reside in Sunnydale and only be permitted to return there for emergencies or the holidays. A rather fair arrangement if I do say so myself.”
~If all you want is to make sure me and Anya don’t start dating, then why don’t you just leave me to die here?~ Harris asked with suspicion as well as a theory, ~I can’t very well date her if I’m dead.~
~Damn! The boy’s smarter than I gave him credit for!~ He thought before replying, “Quite right, Mr. Harris, but that leads me to what my precogs informed me about concerning the adventures your little ‘Scooby gang’ would experience in the coming years. You and your friends would rack up quite an impressive kill record and save the world quite a few times. Contrary to what you might think, this is a good thing for me. Compared to demons, humans are complete artists when it comes to extracting their proverbial pound of flesh from their hated foes. I am quite fond of the human race.
“So, while killing you would be the most immediate solution to my dilemma, it would also cause problems by destabilizing your little band of White Hats possibly beyond hope of recovery,” he said, finishing his cover story for why he had chosen not to go for the jugular.
~Fine, but here’s a counter offer: I get to come, go or reside in Sunnydale for as long as I like and in return I act like a complete jerk around Anya to the point where she’ll hate men more than she ever did before.~ Harris stated with confidence in his counter offer, ~What do you say to that?~
It wasn’t what he’d originally planned but, at the same time, there were some pluses for him that went beyond simply getting Anyanka back. If Harris remained true to his word, almost a certainty considering how his mind worked, then by the time he took Anya back into the fold she would be primed to bring down unheard of pain upon her chosen targets. The patron demon of scorned women would be back and reaching heights she’d never before achieved in his employ, a possibility that had him smiling internally as he imagined the terrors to come. However there was also a negative side to things that he was a bit concerned over. He had made several assurances to various members of Sunnydale’s demonic demographic that the White Knight of the Scooby gang would cease to be a constant fixture in their small town. While most feared the Slayer, there were those more intelligent members of the unholy community who knew which member of the White Hats was the true linchpin that kept everything stable. With him only coming around every once and a while, the friction would naturally build amongst the Slayer’s merry band, reducing their effectiveness in combating the darkness of their homeland. While this wouldn’t affect their yearly averting of apocalypses, it would allow the more restrained members of the town to go about their business with little concern. If he took Harris’ offer, those he’d assured would be somewhat put out with him and could cause some trouble for him down the line.
~Oh well! I’ll just insert some compulsions to make him less inclined to permanently reside in Sunnydale long term.~ He thought with a mental shrug, ~Taking into account his devotion to restoring the humanity of the clone, it’s unlikely that he’ll stray far from her side. Add to that those forces targeting the young lady and I have no doubt he’ll have his plate quite full.~
“I accept your terms, Mr. Harris.” He said standing up from his chair and willing away his goblet, “Therefore, with the terms established, it’s time to get started. PREPARE YOURSELF!!”
With that the magic began to flow and the body of Alexander LaVelle Harris rose from the ground as though gravity had ceased to be an issue. Within moments the mortal was inside a nearly invisible sphere of crimson energy, bolts of scarlet lightning raining down upon the boy’s body, healing his numerous wounds. He would need to be in top condition, after all, if he was to survive the transformation to come and any lingering injuries would only make things harder. Not that he particularly cared if he made the mortal’s life a little harder but, since it might affect how the human came out of the change to come, he decided to be compassionate in this respect. Once the healing had reached its logical endpoint, he decided to peer into Mr. Harris and see what there was to work with in the hopes he’d get some inspiration. He didn’t really have any specific ideas of what powers to give the boy, although there were the basic enhancements he gave all his subordinates. Lingering traces of the primal Hyena, a fragment of the Slayer essence, memories belonging to a branch of America’s armed forces and a few other bits no doubt picked up just by living on the Hellmouth. All in all it was a diverse group of ingredients that could be quite useful with a little boosting here and there to make things more interesting. However it was when he tapped into the boy’s soul to get a read on who Harris was in a past life that things got really interesting. A Japanese hitokiri, a young man passed over for a secret government project and something he had not expected from about two and a half centuries ago.
It turned out that Harris had lived a centuries long life as a powerful youkai who lived in Japan.
Not just any youkai, though, but one that he knew all too well through a miserable little boot licker of a youkai who he’d lost a bet to back during the American Civil War. According to the terms of the wager, he’d bet that the American patriots would fall to their British overlords inside of five years. If he’d won that bet he would legally be able to claim the valuables entrusted to the little fool but, if he lost the bet, he would have to be bound by blood pact to perform any task requested. Needless to say he had been less than pleased when the war went on past his five year prediction. In retrospect, though, it could have been a great deal worse. The request turned out to be a vow to use all available resources to locate the soul of the youkai’s fallen Lord and restore that noble to his former state. When asked why, he didn’t do this himself the little demon said that he could trust no one in his homeland for all of them would be unable to resist perverting the wager for their own benefit.
Only an outsider could be given the least bit of trust and even then the blood pact would ensure that betrayal would cost him everything.
That was the beginning of his labor and it had not been an easy one at all. For years he used all the resources that could be counted on to find one reincarnated soul amongst ^billions^ and for years he received only failure as a reward for his efforts. Nevertheless, the terms of his blood pact required that he never cease his search or refrain from pursuing any lead that presented itself, no matter how slim it might have been. It had become a tiresome task that caused him to relish the moments when he had to wait for a certain test or spell to be prepared before he could resume looking.
Now his search was over.
With that in mind he summoned the talisman that the little toadie had given him that was said to be crucial for the full restoration to be achieved. With the linchpin in place, he began to chant the words that would finally allow him to bid farewell to the blood pact that had caused his fellow demon Lord’s to laugh at him behind his back. As a glow came over the moon-shaped sapphire that hung in the air before him he began to channel the power required to ensure that the ritual would succeed in its entirety. When the light from the talisman changed from merely being a glow to being as bright as the sun, a pipe-sized column of light shot out from it and struck Harris in the chest.
This was the beginning of the screams as the magic at work began to transform the human into something quite different.
He ignored it, though, since it was requiring more and more of his own concentration to keep the entire operation on track as well as operating at peak efficiency. It was as he began to see cracks in the mortal boy’s skin that he knew things were drawing to a close but he maintained his focus on what needed to be done. Soon the cracks became tears and the tears evolved into gaping holes with glowing pale white skin peeking through them for those with the eyes to see. Then, in an explosion that came from within the paper-like skin, what remained exploded off like leaves in a hurricane revealing a form quite different then before. Still pale skinned the form now floating before him had the physique of an award winning sprinter with purple slash marks at the joints to mach those that rested on the cheeks of the young man’s head. Long silver-white hair cascaded down his back, replacing the formerly dark brown locks that the former human had possessed when it all began and fingernails that used to be too weak to do more than scratch could now rend steel asunder. With a slight pulse the energy from the talisman shifted and matter in the surrounding area was turned into energy before converging on the subject of the ceremony. Piece by piece clothing began to take form starting with flat pointed, ankle-high black boots before Sashinuki Hakama began to materialize up each leg. Next came the kimono of a mostly white color but with a red honeycomb and flower crest placed at the collar as well as at the end of each sleeve. Armor was quickly formed above the waist in the form of a Chinese cuirass that had a spike pauldron over the left shoulder while a white pelt of some kind covered the right shoulder. Finally, as the final article of clothing came into being, a golden sash with purple wave like patterns adorning the edges solidified.
It was then that a pulse unlike any that had come before it occurred that signaled that the true finale of the ceremony was about to begin.
With a draining of energy that he’d almost been unprepared for, a portal formed just in front of the talisman that possessed a diameter of two feet. While not impossible for a living being to come through, the objects that passed through the event horizon were no living beings in the traditional sense of the word. First came a sheathed katana with purple leather wrapped around the hilt and a reddish brown hilt guard that had an air about it that almost felt like it should reject demonic energy. Next came another katana with battered brown leather wrappings around the hilt and a golden circular guard with the rest of the sword concealed in its black sheath. The final object to appear was a nodachi sword with crimson leather wrappings around the hilt, a golden guard with a black sheath concealing the blade. All three weapons had an aura of power about them and, when he considered the one whom his betting adversary once served, he knew instantly the names of the swords. For a moment he was tempted to abort the ritual and make an attempt to claim the three legendary weapons for himself but his more rational side convinced him not to. No doubt Jakken had anticipated that course of action and had in place a countermeasure that could kill even someone such as him. With a regretful sigh he accepted that he would have to allow these treasures to pass him by.
For now, anyway.
Once the transformation was complete and the wager was confirmed by the toad youkai as being fulfilled, then he could pursue the three swords as he saw fit.
As the ceremony reached its conclusion, fatigue began to rear its ugly head within him and it would take more than a little effort to teleport himself back to Arashmahaar if he didn’t stop soon. There were two things that he chose to do on a whim and that, unknown to him, would come back to haunt him.
The first was to plant a spell on the former human that would increase the ^positive^ effects he’d have on certain types of females with one in particular being targeted.
The second was a single sentence:
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Sesshomaru.”
Inside the Inferno of the Bar, Ten Seconds Later, Xander’s P.O.V
~Welcome back to the land of the living Sesshomaru.~
That was the sentence that snapped the world back into place around him and with the world came everything that was a part of it, including the flames that danced all around him. However, instead of being worried about being burned, he was stunned by how little heat he actually felt coming from the inferno all around him. With this much fire all around him he’d have thought that he’d be sweating up a storm or something but it felt no worse than being in the car with the heat on. Even when he extended his right hand so that it was closer to the nearest flame, he only felt a minor increase in heat rather than something painful. Breathing in through his nose, he nearly lost the ability to think because of how much sharper the smell of smoke and burning debris smelled to him now. It amazed him how long it took for him to notice, considering how potent his sense of smell was now, and he wondered why he wasn’t choking on the black cloud rising into to the ceiling. With all of it floating about, he should be so overcome by it that he should be on his hands and knees trying to draw in as much clean air as possible. Instead the smoke only caused him mild discomfort. He would have thought further on the changes he had undergone but when the sound of an explosion filled the air he instantly remembered the situation.
The assassination of the lieutenants belonging to the NYC demon crime families.
The revelation that it had all been arranged by the demon mob bosses to use as an excuse to declare war on the human crime families.
He and Laura had tried to escape when the demon representative and his men tried to silence the two of them so no one would find out the truth.
The automatic gunfire biting into both of their bodies.
Him falling backwards off the edge of the roof and into the flame ridden bar below, fearing how Laura would react to his seemingly imminent demise.
That last thought alone was all it took for him to run for the front of the front of the building and leap through the window to the street beyond. This turned out to be a wise thing to do because, just as he landed, the bar behind him collapsed, leaving nothing but a burning pile of rubble behind. Rising to his feet, he could see that the surrounding neighborhood had been turned into a war zone with damage to buildings in every direction. Some damage was no doubt was caused by explosives but there were also signs of bullet impacts and black magic as well. It didn’t take him long to find out where the fighting was taking place but what he saw shocked him greatly simply because he’d never seen anything like it before. Standing in the street, surrounded by demons, was Laura with her claws popped and an almost feral look on her face as she tried to keep all her foes in sight. The thing that shocked him though was the damage she had taken so far, despite her healing ability and the fact that she was still on her feet. During the course of his efforts to teach her how to handle certain demons, there had been a few occasions where she’d been stabbed or burned before performing the killing blow. At first he had wanted to get out the first aid kit but, before he could even voice this course of action, he was treated to the surreal sight of her wounds healing in a matter of minutes with nary a blemish to show for it. Now, though, she was covered in blood, some of it probably her own, and her clothes were barely in patches large enough to preserve her modesty or keep her from being charged with indecent exposure. His surprisingly sharp eyes could see that cuts did exist on her body from blades but, for some reason, they weren’t closing as fast as he thought they should. The few times a demon had somehow managed to draw blood from her with its claws, the lacerations had closed up as quickly as her other wounds had. So unless he was missing something, these cuts should have been healing much faster than his eyes were showing him.
~Whatever!~ He thought as he dashed towards her intent on backing her up, ~I can figure out that part ^after^ we finish showing these assholes what their internal organs look like!~
However, so fast were his movements that he pretty much had to slam on the brakes a second or three after he started moving, causing him to skid to his partner’s side just as the demons took notice of him.
“Who the hell are you?” asked the representative demon who looked a little roughed up but otherwise unharmed.
“Your death if you do not leave immediately.” He replied in a dangerous tone in the hopes of intimidating the enemies arrayed around him and Laura.
“Listen, asswipe, I don’t know what you think you are doing but no foreign demon is going to get in my way!” yelled the representative demon, whose hair began to move with a mind of its own. “I’m going to become the Kingpin of the demonic crime syndicate and no one’s going to trip me up this early in the game!”
Deciding these guys needed a visual aide of what would happen to them if they didn’t vamoose as soon as possible, he chose to take the representative’s words as being a way of volunteering. Lunging forward with a single burst of speed, he slammed his right fist into the guys face with the intention of sending him flying into the wall of one of the buildings. As it turned out, he only half accomplished what he set out to do because, while he did send the demon tough guy flying, it was ^through^ the building rather than up ^against^ it. Judging from the way the sound of shattering stone lasted for longer than a second, it was likely that the demon went through several walls before being stopped by something. A bit surprising since it meant that Mr. Big Talk had to pretty damn tough as most people put through walls like that would splatter pretty quickly. He quickly wiped the look of surprise off his face, though, because otherwise the rest of the demons might think the punch was a fluke or that he was an amateur. Neither possibility would inspire fear in them or convince them that they should call it a night.
It was then that he noticed two of the demons were trembling with fear and slowly stepping backwards with the intent of sneaking off unnoticed. Both of them froze when his eyes fell upon them and, if it was even possible, the fear went even further up the scale to someplace closer to the breaking point. A fairly painful scent reached his nose and, as foul as it was, he had a sneaking suspicion that one of the demons just did what a spineless human would have done when scared out of their minds: lose control of the demon equivalent of a bladder.
“H-he’s back! J-j-j-just like dad said,” stuttered one of the demons, whose fear must have dipped enough to allow him to speak. “Gone for two hundred years! Now h-h-he’s ^back!^”
“What’re you yammering about, fool?” asked one of the other demons who sounded almost completely sure of himself, “Who’s back? Who is this guy?!”
“S-S-Sesh-Sesshomaru! L-Lord Sesshomaru!” replied the trembling demon whose legs finally gave out on him.
“Who?!” asked the demon angrily before noticing that some of the other demons were beginning to show signs of increased fear as well.
“The Tai Inu-Youkai of the West! The son of the great Dog General of Japan!” Replied another demon, who appeared to be playing his own mental version of ‘anywhere but here’. “It took a power strong enough to almost wipe Japan off the map to kill him but even then they said he would someday return to reclaim his throne! I never believed in it but…”
“You idiots! Don’t you see what this guy’s doin’?” asked the confident demon with growing anger, “He’s trickin’ ya somehow! Probably had some human witch or warlock cast some spells on him. Maybe he’s even a sorcerer himself! Now stop acting like a bunch of hatchlings and kill those two! We got a job to do!”
“Nuh uh! You want to get yourself pounded by a Youkai Lord, go right ahead!” spoke a demon who was about to turn around and walk away, “Me? I plan on living! See Ya!”
“Coward! I’ll show you how tough this guy is,” snarled the confident demon before charging forward with the intent of tearing ‘Sesshomaru’ limb from limb.
It was almost strange seeing the demon approach because while he knew in the back of his mind that the monster was moving pretty fast it looked like someone had hit the slow motion button on everything but him. Due to this fact he had no trouble evading the demon’s attacks and, when the time came, he struck with such speed that the momentum of his blow caused his fist to pierce the demon’s chest and exit out the thing’s back. The world seemed to snap back into normal time then, just in time to hear the now impaled creature’s final gurgle before dying, and seeing what he’d done, he immediately pulled his arm out of the demon. It was disgusting to have his entire right arm covered in demon blood right up to the elbow and he just knew it was going to take quite a bit to wash it off. He’d heard Buffy complain enough about how hard it was to clean off the blood and guts from the latest demon she slew. Now he knew precisely how she felt and hoped he could find a shower or something soon because otherwise he’d have a harder time scrubbing it off later. Looking back up and around to the demons still present, he could see that his unintended impalement had only served to further their fear of him. Deciding that prolonging this fight with abilities he didn’t fully understand and, thus, couldn’t control precisely would be a bad idea, he decided to build on this ‘Lord Sesshomaru’ identity they’d slapped on him.
“Are there any others who would dare attack us?” he asked in a way that would clearly indicate he was speaking royally in reference to himself, “Then leave us and inform your masters to abandon this idea of starting a mob war between the humans and themselves. This Sesshomaru will not support such a dishonorable tactic, nor permit it to proceed. GO!”
This was all the excuse the demons needed to high tail it out of the area but he had a suspicion that that they wouldn’t be taking his message back to their superiors. In the demon world the phrase ‘do not kill the messenger’ didn’t exist and all too often those that passed on bad news lived just long enough to wish that they’d suckered someone else into delivering the message. Truthfully, those demons currently fleeing for their lives would probably catch the first ride out of town they could get their hands on and then find a hole someplace to jump inside. He waited until he was sure that they were well outside the range of any of the demon senses he was aware of before he let the noble Lord routine drop. Quite frankly it chaffed against his true nature and he was glad to be rid of it. Turning around to where Laura was so they could plan their next move, he quickly stopped moving the second he set eyes on her.
The reasons for this were twofold.
The first was that the young woman still had her claws out even though, to his knowledge, all of their enemies had left the area.
The second was that she was looking at him without the light of recognition in her eyes that let him know that she knew who he was.
It was then that the light bulb flicked on in his head and he realized that, along with his new clothes and abilities, it was quite probable that other things may have changed as well, like his face and his scent.
He was fairly certain that his voice was still the same, if a tad bit more aloof sounding, but that was probably the reason why she hadn’t immediately labeled him as a hostile/enemy just yet. He was going to have to do something pretty impressive to show her that appearances to the contrary he was still Xander Harris where it counted. Thinking long and hard, he tried to figure out what was so ‘Xander’ that there’d be no way that Laura could mistake it for anything else and thus be convinced that it really was him. In the end there was only one thing. He just hoped that she didn’t suddenly pick up the stereotypical reaction that most women had when he did something like this.
“So… you must go through a lot of clothes with all the fights you get into.” He said with a hand nervously scratching the back of his head, “It’s a good thing you’re not all that modest, isn’t it? ‘Cause I usually don’t get to see this much skin outside of a trip to the beach.”
This seemed to do the trick since, with a ‘snikt’, her blades went back into her body and she slipped out of what he’d termed her ‘I am about to turn you into confetti’ stance. He watched her step closer to him and figured that she was just going to sniff him like she sometimes did to confirm his scent after they got separated and there was a chance of being tricked. It made him a tad uncomfortable but, seeing as how Oz did it sometimes, he was willing to endure it if it meant that Laura could be convinced by it that he was who he said he was. However when she stopped just outside of the normal position that she usually used her keen sense of smell on him, he had to wonder what was going on inside that pretty little head of hers.
His answer came precisely three seconds later.
~Guess she’s picked up a lot more than I thought. ~
Two Days Later, A Small Motel Outside of New York City, Morning, Laura’s P.O.V
He was Xander and yet he wasn’t.
It was something she’d been thinking about ever since they fled the scene of the confrontation between the demon mobsters, the young man claiming to be Xander and herself. With her sharp mind she recalled everything that happened that night and everything her training told her said that Xander should have died when he fell into the hole in the bar’s roof. He received as many shots to the torso as she did and did not possesses a healing factor to handle it and the addition of a fall from such a height should have made death occur in seconds. Yet, at the same time, though, this new person did possess many of the same attributes she used to identify Xander, from his body language to a trace of his old self in his new scent. His explanation for his changes, while a bit beyond her current grasp of the supernatural, did seem plausible but she would err on the side of caution for the time being. She would wait, either for her own knowledge of the supernatural to increase or for more definitive proof of his identity to be shown, then she would make her decision as to whether or not she’d trust him. Until then she would keep the connection between the two of them strictly professional and nothing more than that.
Looking over to where he sat up against the headboard of single person bed, she saw that he was apparently in deep thought over something. He claimed that it was because of the changes his body had gone through and all of the new attributes he’d acquired in the process. Apparently his five basic senses had been increased to levels equal to or perhaps surpassing her own and, coupled with his increased speed as well as strength, it made for a rather drastic change from baseline human. Her memories supported that claim up to a point. She was somewhat disturbed though by the feelings she experienced whenever she entered close proximity to his weapons though. On the surface they looked like two katana and a nodachi but she believed that they were more than what they appeared to be on the surface. She had no rational evidence to support this… belief but she felt certain that she was right.
She was just about to go take a shower when her cell phone rang. She knew who it was, only ^he^ knew the number, and for a moment she debated whether or not to answer it. While it was still mostly under wraps, she had heard from various sources that many mutants had somehow lost their powers and had been changed into baseline humans. If the same could be said for the mutants living at the Xavier Institute, then no doubt ^he^ wanted her to go there both for her own personal safety and to help ensure the safety of those who lived there. She understood the practical side of things but she also knew that she’d be spending time with people her own age and that made her moderately uncomfortable. Since she’d been freed from The Facility, the number of really close friends she’d made could be easily counted on both hands. Megan, Debbie, Kidden, Catiana, Jade, Rachel and Kitty were the people she felt a connection to and who felt most worthy of the title ‘friend’. If she did as he wanted, she would likely have to make more friends or at least cope with a broader range of teenage behavior that she was familiar with. Add to that the fact that she was still uncomfortable dealing with people in a non-mission oriented environment and she did not want to go to a place where there’d be so many people her own age. However, as the ringing persisted, she knew that ^he^ would likely continue calling her until she answered and if by some chance she refused to, ^he^ would come looking for her.
In the end she decided that she didn’t want him to arrive here since that would lead to a possible initiating of hostilities between ^him^ and Xander. So, picking up her cell phone, she pressed the button to accept the call and placed the device against her ear. She could hear him on the other end and she knew that he could hear her as well but she could not think of anything to say beyond how she missed her friend Rachel.
“You might as well say hello, kid. I can hear you breathing.” Weapon X said in his usual rough voice.
“I miss them.” She said, knowing that he would make the connection.
“I know you do. But they aren’t there anymore.” Logan said, sounding genuinely understanding.
“She was my only friend.” She stated, referring to Jade, who was forced to leave due to her family’s criminal connections and what happened.
“I know she was, Laura.” Wolverine said compassionately. “I know she was… but she’s gone now and you being there won’t bring her back. Look, you’re breaking my heart, but I didn’t call to talk about that. You have to come back.”
“No!” she said with a bit more vehemence than she had wanted to.
Despite her efforts to become more ‘human’, more like a normal girl, she was still more weapon than young woman and this left her unprepared with the experiences that normal girls took for granted. She didn’t know how to react half the time or how to handle what she was feeling within her own body. It was one of the reasons why she traveled alone and didn’t stay in one place too long. As long as she was alone, she’d have nothing to worry about, she could cling to the safety her training gave her, and she could proceed towards humanity at her own pace.
“You and I had a deal and I kept my end of it. I didn’t tell anyone I knew you.” Weapon X said a little more firmly, “I even let you slash me across the face, something I don’t remember agreeing to, but whatever. And you—“
“I tried!” she shouted, knowing what her part of the deal was.
“No, you didn’t.” Logan shot back, thereby preventing her from going any further, “No more alien costumes, no more growling and no more BS! You have to come back and try it for real this time.”
“They’ll find me there. They found me once before.” She said, indicating that she’d only be bringing her Facility problems with her if she came to the Institute.
“You’re probably right. But do you think Weapon X will ever stop looking for me?” Wolverine asked rhetorically, pointing out that he wasn’t without complicated pasts either, “Not a chance! But that doesn’t matter now. The world just got a whole lot scarier and the kids at this school need you.”
“But—“ she said, trying to come up with some kind of counter argument that’d work.
“And more importantly, you need them!” Weapon X said, not willing to hear any sort of further protesting, “The only chance you have is here, Laura. If you don’t come back, you’re already dead. Trust me, just come—“
That was as far as she let him go before she severed the connection and threw the cell phone across the room just like she wished she could do to Logan right now. It shattered against the wall and, with a slight wince, she realized that Xander had overheard her entire conversation, both her side as well as Logan’s if his ears were that good, and would have an opinion of his own.
“So…roadtrip, huh?” he said without looking at her, “Sounds like fun. When do we leave?”
“We?” she asked, not recalling ever having inviting him nor Logan mentioning anything.
“Of course! I could tell you weren’t exactly crazy about going there so you could probably use some company.” Xander replied matter-of-factly, like there was nothing to talk about.
While she’d like to have refuted this, she had to admit that it could be useful to have someone to distract Logan and the others so they didn’t focus so much on her. Add to that the fact that he would probably wish to find a way to become human again and it was only logical that he should come to the Institute. With the technology they possessed and Dr. McCoy present, there was a better than fifty percent chance of Xander either becoming human again or at least coming to terms with his new status.
Then there was the fact that she owed him a debt for teaching her about the supernatural aspects of the world.
“We will leave at noon. Be ready.” She said as she proceeded to the bathroom to shower.