Like a clock whose hands are sweeping Warning: Minor character death This story contains references (again) to HM Queen, Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The primary setting is Buffy, with crossovers to the Wombles (mentioned only) and six other copyrighted settings. (And another mentioned only). I claim ownership of none of these and humbly apologize to any who are offended. Please bear in mind I write mostly for my own amusement. So multiple crossovers with classics of children’s’ literature. This is the second installment in this series, very few Wombles but I wanted this one out of the way to lay some ground work and firmly establish my AU. Many thanks to RebeccaAshling for the recommendation. *Sentences like this* Denote thoughts
. Full disclaimer at the end of the story
Buffy Summers was sleeping, her breathing even and her face peaceful. She had been sleeping for twelve hours and showed no immediate sign of waking up. As far as the redhead in bed with her could piece together it was her first meaningful sleep in days, and possibly her first peaceful sleep in years. She herself had been run less ragged than the Slayer but she’d still had an emotional time. She snuggled down again in Buffy’s warmth and went back to sleep. The last thing she saw was Mr. Gordo sitting on Buffy’s nightstand.
When she woke up three hours later Buffy’s hand had moved to Willow’s breast and her thumb was resting on her nipple. Buffy’s leg was trapping hers. Willow found the Slayer’s face in repose to be endearingly cute. But she had to go to the bathroom and she wriggled out from under her hopefully girlfriend-to-be and went into the bathroom. She washed, dressed and headed back into the bedroom, expecting Buffy to wake up. Instead the blonde was still sleeping, Willow’s pillow firmly clasped in her arms. Willow stifled a giggle and placed the Teresa
shirt next to Buffy’s face. Buffy’s slight frown disappeared and one small, fine boned hand dragged the shirt closer, taking a deep breath before settling back into sleep. Willow blinked.
*Wow…she really must’ve been exhausted.* She smiled indulgently and went to the kitchen to find something to eat.
Ten minutes later she had thrown out a small amount of greens, two one liter packs of milk that smelled of socks, and had quarantined for later study a box of cornflakes left by a previous inhabitant that had been colonized by something she first thought was demon but turned out to be a rather intriguing purple fungus. The only other food related items she’d found in the apartment was a box of solidified powdered cacao and three apples.
She’d had one of the apples and decided to go shopping. She had no shopping bag…not even in her own apartment and most of the shops she frequented would be closed. She sighed; penning a quick note to Buffy and putting it on the table she left the apartment and the building, walked down the street to the Council offices and absentmindedly greeted the Slayer on guard in the Foyer.
She took the stairs and went into her temporary office. With her departure from Rio and residence in London the Department of Wicca was in uproar. She was officially its head but had left most of the day to day running to her subordinates before, since administering the South American office took most of her time. Now that Vi was running things down there she had time to work on training Council Wicca and on dealing with the Covens. In her firm opinion those needed shaking up too.
She entered her office and sat at her desk. She thought it likely that they’d eat out or order in tonight. She didn’t feel like cooking anyway if she was honest. She felt like cuddling and hugging and kissing and maybe a bit of petting, but not cooking. She picked up a report on her desk and blinked.
Reports of a large chrono-flux magical explosion in the East End, but that would take a lot of research. And if it involved time travel she’d need to investigate that herself and she would need a back up Slayer. She smiled. Something else drew her attention…yes, that might interest Buffy and get them away from the inquisitiveness of their friends. Scotland was not her favourite place in November, and the Castle school they kept there for Slayer training was nearby but they did need to renegotiate anyway and having two Council members go there and not the Old Council’s annoying legal representative, it would show things had changed, show their good will. She sighed. That would’ve to wait, if someone was messing with time.
She rose and marched to Giles’ office. She went into the ante room and Meredith waved her on. If he had no appointments the inner circle was allowed to walk in on Giles whenever they wanted to. It kept him from brooding and allowed them to get him out to lunch.
Giles was reading a report marked Petrograd. “Willow!” He rose. “You look…rested. Dawn told me you waited up for Buffy?” He sounded anxious.
“Yup. She’s still sleeping. Giles, we’ve had a Chrono flux and if someone’s time traveled or something’s been displaced, I need to be there, and I need a Slayer as back up.”
He nodded, understanding immediately. “Of course. Who do you want? Kelly and Uma are both good, and remember you can always call in a strike team if needed.”
Giles sighed and took of his glasses. “Buffy wants to go to Petrograd…”
“Send Uma and a load of newbies, Olga and Natalya are more than up for some extra training and it will help them clear the streets and those pesky subway tunnels if they have larger teams. Buffy is good, but she’s only one person.”
“I can’t order Buffy, Willow, she’s the co-Chairman…I can ask her but I fear she will refuse.”
“I doubt it. We had talk yesterday Giles, and we worked out a lot of things. I’ll ask her, if you have no objection.” She hesitated. “And we both need a bit of spending money. Neither of our apartments is all that well furnished…”
Giles perked up. “You’re thinking of staying? And she is as well?”
“I think making London our base is quite likely. I like it here and I can probably convince Buffy. She’s been very lonely Giles.” She said the last bit sadly.
Giles winced. “I know; I didn’t help with that. God I’m a pratt.”
“Just a bit of one.” Willow smiled whimsically. “So…money?”
Giles glared at her. “No. You both receive an active executive salary; with field bonus and neither of you spend much. I furnished my own apartment, so can you.”
Willow snapped her fingers. “Drat.” Then she winked again and smiled. “Worth a try!” Giles sighed.
“Well can we have the Insleyfarne job after? Just to get away for a bit?”
Giles gave her a look. “You are volunteering to go to Scotland? In November?”
Willow shivered. “Yeah I know…but you have to admit, Insleyfarne?”
Giles smiled. “I suppose it would be an excellent gesture of good faith. Very well.”
“Good, we’ll tack on a little R&R. Maybe do a little shopping in Edinburgh…”
Giles smile widened. “I thought you might. No work ethic you young people, always gallivanting off…”
Willow stuck out her tongue at him. “Well I’ll go wake Buffy then. See you later.” She left, humming leaving Giles to look after her thoughtfully. She packed some files and journals into a metal document case, filled in a requisition to deliver a number of older journals from the Deep archives to Buffy’s flat and went home, carrying the case. She grabbed a handful of menus for take out from the front desk where they were kept for use by the Slayers if the kitchen munchies did not appeal to their after slaying hungries.
She walked into Buffy’s apartment to see the blonde bent over, rummaging through the vegetable drawer, her pert panty clad derriere in the air and her sun bronzed back bare except for her tank top. She looked up at Willow and then down again. “I know I had celery…”
Willow grinned, this scene was familiar from their times in Sunnydale. “Had being the operative word…Another few hours and it might have started walking…”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Ugh…I wasn’t gone that long…” She looked anxious. “Was I?”
“Giles says you weren’t home for five days before we came to look for you.”
Buffy ran a hand through her hair. “Oh…I suppose that I did warrant the intervention.”
“We were worried.” Willow hesitated before setting the suitcase down, putting her hands on Buffy’s hips, pulling her close, kissing her full on the lips and whispering in her face. “Hello honey, I’m home…”
Buffy reacted by grabbing her and fiercely kissing her back. Willow was pressed against the wall and felt Buffy’s tongue start to explore while her hands roamed over Willow’s back and sides, including the occasional soft squeeze on her buttocks. After a bit she pulled away and Buffy looked contrite.
“I’m sorry, I’m going too fast, but I’ve wanted to do that for so long…” Willow gently silenced her with a soft kiss.
“No prob, except that Slayer’s have better breath control than witches.” She took a deep breath. “B-but…” She saw Buffy’s face fall and hurried on. “Kennedy and I fell into bed and Tara and I went very slow and I’d like something in the middle for us?” She looked at Buffy. “I-If you don’t mind?”
Buffy relaxed, pressing against Willow lightly and kissed her lips. “Perfectly awesome.” She frowned. “I do still get to kiss you?”
Willow giggled and licked her lips. “Oh yeah.”
Buffy leaned in to kiss her again when her stomach grumbled loudly. Buffy blushed. “Errr…maybe food first…”
Willow grinned, pecking Buffy’s lips again while reaching for her phone. “We’re getting take out, you get to pick. I’ll pay. Menus in my suitcase.” Buffy smiled, opening the case. She quickly jotted down a number of meals and Willow gave her a look. Buffy shrugged.
“I wasn’t eating very well while I wasn’t sleeping…I can pay…”
Willow glared. “Oh no, I know exactly why you’re ordering this much, this is a ‘Buffy forgot to eat for at least three days binge’, and you know what we agreed upon when that last happened.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah Wills, but Tara wouldn’t let you spank me ‘cause of girlfriend privileges…”Her eyes widened and she swallowed. “You wouldn’t!”
“Watch me.” Willow flipped open her phone and ordered the food while Buffy edged away from her. After placing the order Willow closed on Buffy. Buffy backed away.
“Willow…” She eyed the red head worriedly and her voice was plaintive.
“Buffy…ground rules…we take care of each other. If we neglect the basics, we talk…if we neglect the basics again…we’re talking reckoning. Okay?”
Buffy blinked. “You said we?”
Willow swallowed. “I-I need to be reminded about…” She waved a hand. “Not doing everything by magic…keeping grounded. Not using magic for stupid, selfish things. And when I’m studying and researching and stuff, to eat as well. And going to bed.”
Buffy glanced at her. “Didn’t Kennedy do that?”
“No…s-she stopped pretty soon. She thought the magic was cool…”
“I see. Agreed.” Willow extended a hand and Buffy shook it. Buffy suddenly looked uncomfortable. “So…ummm…you gonna do that now?”
Willow blinked. “Do what?”
Willow looked at Buffy, still dressed in panties and tank top squirming slightly under her gaze. “Buffy…that was a joke.”
“Oh. Ok then.”
Willow gave her hopefully really soon to be actual girlfriend a thoughtful look. Kennedy had been quite…physical and domineering and a little too forceful on occasion. From what she knew about Buffy’s preferences, mostly from late night confessions of dreams and boys in bedroom sleepovers and later in their dorm rooms she wanted someone gentle, who could be forceful when necessary, ‘put on her resolve face’ as Buffy had put it then, with an uncharacteristically serious expression. *Oookaay…that was before Tara and after Oz…she was hitting on me big time, hints broad enough to hit a barn door and I was being Miss Oblivious… *
Buffy had risen and picked up her camping bag. “I’ll take a quick shower and change.” She walked into the bedroom and Willow followed. Buffy looked back. “Want to wash my back again?”
“It was a joke then, Buffy, but you’ve not been taking care of yourself young lady, I see way too many ribs and I can’t have that now you are mine.”
Buffy dropped the bag with a clatter and flushed. “Yours?”
“Mine.” Willow closed the bedroom door and locked it. *One thing Sunnydale taught me, you never can have too much privacy…*
Willow sat on the bed and looked at Buffy. “I think you know what comes next…”
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Dawn knocked on the door to her sister’s apartment. She’d given Willow her key the day before, and she was worried. Neither Buffy nor Willow had talked to her or texted or anything since then. Dawn knew she was curious, that she took curiosity to a whole new level. And she knew it, and she knew it got her into trouble but she just had to know. And she even had an excuse, The Building was off limits to those not living there or explicitly invited and that included food delivery boys.
So Dawn was now carrying no less then three bags of take out. Large bags. Enough for a Slayer who hadn’t eaten in three days. There was no answer so she put a bag down and tried the door. It was open and she walked in.
Buffy was sitting cross legged on the couch, wearing tight grey training pants and a loose black sweater, her feet were bare and a pile of old Watcher Journals were on the coffee table in front of her with one lying open on her ankles, her elbows were resting on her knees. Willow was on the opposite side of the low table, sitting on a seat cushion, her lap top in front of her and a menacing scowl on her face.
“Was every Head of the Council for the past fifty years a poop-headed idiot?”
Buffy grinned. “Well now, what has your knickers in a twist? You never swear.”
“Just the way they write about people…Heya Dawn. Is that our food? And if so, why are you carrying it?”
“Delivery only comes to the foyer, and I thought you might prefer me to bring it rather than Ellen, who looked hungry.”
“And you were being nosy.” Buffy gave her an arch look. “Help me set the table.” She rose to collect plates and silverware.
“So what’re you looking at?”
“Events to do with time in the East India Docks. Reports of a repetitive and increasingly stronger Chrono-flux made by the London Coven.” Willow replied absent minded. “We’re trying to locate any occurrences in the past to see if it is a something from the past or the future, if it’s stationary or not and stuff like that.”
Dan nodded. “Anyone dealing with time is heavy. So you’re going in yourself?
“Yeah, I already put in an order for a Resikhian Urn from stores in case it’s a Granok demon.” Her face fell at the memory of what the last time shifting Granok demon had done. Buffy’s shoulders stiffened.
“Why’s Buffy helping?”
“I prefer her to read the material as well, we’re going in together and she is much better at research than she will admit to.” She winked at Buffy who stuck out her tongue.
Buffy handed Dawn two plates. Dawn looked down at them, then up at Buffy, her eyes wet. “You want me to leave?”
“Don’t you have plans for…err with
Dawn nodded. “We’re ordering pizza and were going to watch a movie on DVD…Buffy…we haven’t had a Scoobie research party in a long time…” She looked pleadingly at her sister who looked at Willow. Willow gave Buffy a hopeful look and a very slight nod. Buffy smiled. “Then why don’t we make it a real Scoobie party and crash on Giles?”
She picked up the take out and nodded at Dawn. “Help Willow with the books won’t you? I’ll just get this over to Giles’ and have him set the table and then I’ll come help carry.”
She walked out and knocked on Giles’ door. It was opened after a moment by her Watcher in a pair of jeans and an old cable knit sweater.
“Buffy? I-Is something wrong?” He asked worriedly.
“Nopes. We’re having a good ol’ Scoobie research party, and that means we invade your personal space.” Buffy grinned up at him.
“We are?” Giles lifted an amused eyebrow.
“Yep. So why don’t you set the table. You got any soda; I totally forgot to order any?” Buffy airily replied.
Giles smiled shyly. “I’ve kept my fridge stocked, yes. I-I’ve been hoping…” Buffy suddenly realized that Giles had been lonely too. He’d bonded with all of them and they’d flown the nest, only landing occasionally, and now they were all here together. Her grin broadened into a smile.
“So, move! The Curry’s getting cold.”
He smiled and moved, but did not invite her in. She entered and he led her through the small hall into his living room.
She hadn’t been in the apartment yet and she looked around as soon as Giles stepped aside. She chuckled. It was filled with books. She could see his private study as well, with a laptop on it. She sobered. There was a picture of Jenny and Giles, sitting under a tree in Sunnydale Park as a background. She winced. Giles followed her gaze. He gave her an affectionate shoulder hug.
“We’ve all suffered to keep the world safe Buffy. Sometimes all we can do is the best we can, and it may not always be enough. We are who we are.”
He led her to his dining table, quickly clearing of the papers. Buffy noticed a long list.
Giles sighed. “A list of Slayers…Slayers that were betrayed by the Watchers. How long they served…How and where they died…and why.”
Buffy put her bags of food on the table. “Oh.” She looked at the papers on the table and saw something that drew her interest. “And this one?”
Giles took off his glasses. “A list of ordinary people who fought with the Slayers who were also betrayed… Some of them while saving the world…because the Council would not share its power or relinquish its control.” Giles replied with shame in his voice.
Buffy ran a hand down the second list, just taking in the names…then it hit a location.
“Giles…what happened in the East India Docks…it just says unknown woman?”
Giles looked at the entry. “Ah, yes…I don’t know…”
“Then we have to find out…if it involved magic…did Willow mention the Chrono flux?”
“Yes, yes she did. That’s in the East India Docks? I’ll check my references…”
“Plates first. I need to eat.” Buffy’s stomach grumbled. Giles grinned.
“Of course.” He set the table quickly, removing bottles of soda from the fridge as well as pitchers of water and milk, which he drank with Curry. He also pulled out salad and Buffy winced. Giles was turning into a health freak in his old age. *Salad at a Scoobie party…good grief.*
Xander appeared carrying two pizza boxes and four tubs of Ben&Jerry’s as well as Dawn’s favourite sweater. Buffy smiled at that, the thoughtless kindness that was Xander, he knew Dawn got cold while researching and had brought the sweater. He didn’t need to think about it, he’d seen it, assimilated it and now acted upon it. Dawn and Willow followed him in; Dawn grinned at Buffy, put her books down, grabbed the ice-cream and ran it to the freezer.
“Will, there’s an event in the East India docks, not a slayer, unknown woman. 1977.”
“Right. I’ll get to it, after dinner.” She gave Buffy a meaningful look; the slayer nodded quickly, a slight flush on her face.
“Of course.” They unpacked the food and settled in to eat, discussing the possible repercussions of the meeting with the Wombles. Dawn had found a reference to a ‘Wellington’ in her deceased predecessor’s files but hadn’t gotten round to contacting all the people in them yet, apparently he was a specialist on early London and the development of urban sprawls as well as some of the more nature oriented demons. Dawn had assumed he was human and was now rather hoping to meet him.
After dinner they cleared up, loading the dishwasher and freezing the few leftovers.
Willow sat at the table started investigating police files on her laptop while Dawn curled into Xander on the couch with a pile of Journals and Xander trawled the old newspaper archives and Giles read up on demons that manipulated time. Buffy studied the records on the place.
It was Xander who found the first clue. “Building destroyed in East India Docks, Times
of 9th of November 1977. One likely victim, Ms. Emma Genevieve Knight, divorced daughter of the industrialist Sir John Knight. Apparently she was checking the place out as an investment opportunity and did not realize it was quite so rundown.”
Giles nodded. “The area fell into decay after the War, before even; the docks were just too small to handle modern shipping. They were used by the military in World War 2 to build Mulberry harbours and…” Buffy sighed as Giles fell into a historical ramble.
“Willow, you look in on the military side of things, any odd occurrences. Xander, can you see if you can find more about this building collapse? Dawn, you got anything yet? Otherwise I’d like you to help Will.”
They nodded, Dawn getting out her own laptop. Buffy’s actual research might not be the best, but she’d developed an uncanny ability to direct others. Giles thought it might be part of the Slayer package.
They worked for a bit longer and then Willow’s tapping fingers fell silent. She looked up at Giles, eyes wide. “Ummm…Giles…they don’t hand out George Crosses just to anybody, do they?”
Giles returned her look over his glasses. “Not usually no. It’s rather rarer, percentage wise, than the American Medal of Honour.”
“Oh…so this Ms. Knight receiving one posthumously and secretly, that’s significant, right?”
“Secretly…Willow, where are you reading this?” Giles asked anxiously.
“MI-5.” Willow smirked. “They really have lousy security on their older files you know.”
“Oh dear. Willow, kindly stop your hacking into the British secret service, I need to make a call…”
Giles rose and went into his office, closing the door. The Scoobies exchanged glances. It very rarely happened that Giles did not to make calls in front of them, which meant that it was probably one of the Council’s secret contacts with the government. He came out again a few minutes later, blinking and looking quite pale.
“We’re expecting a visitor. Err…could you all do me a favour and help me clean up around here a little?”
Buffy laughed. “God Giles, who’s coming over, the Queen?”
“No, Her Majesty does not make house calls without an appointment.”
“So who is?”
“A General Lord Steed of Beresford.” He started carrying books into his study, clearing spaces that had not been book free since he moved in to the apartment. “There are dust rags in the kitchen and can someone run a wet cloth over the mantle?”
The younger Scoobies exchanged looks. “Errr…Giles? Major freak out time here…”
“Buffy…this is an old fashioned British general, I really rather do not want him to comment on the state of my apartment.”
Willow looked at Buffy. Dawn looked at Xander. And then they all started laughing.
Giles glared. “It’s not funny!” He stalked into the kitchen and came out with a pile of rags. “Start cleaning. The younger Scoobies sighed but complied.
Twenty minutes later Ellen, the young Slayer on door guard duty called to announce the arrival of Mr. Steed and was told to let him up. Five minutes later the doorbell rang and Giles hastened to open the door. A dapper old gentleman in a stroller suit with a bowler hat and an umbrella with a whangee handle. His face was lined and he wore a short beard and moustache cut close to his face. His grey eyes twinkled. He waited for Giles to step aside and then entered. He took one look around the room and grinned.
“Looks like Eton on inspection day.”
Giles flushed. “Harrow actually…”
Steed chuckled. “Indeed. We never insisted on too much spick and span while we were fighting across the beaches, so I’m not going to make your life more difficult at this stage in my life.” He took in the younger persons present with a mustering look. “Now are you going to introduce me to those lovely young ladies?” His gaze rested on Xander’s eyepatch and he nodded at the young man. “And gentleman.”
He gazed at each of the Scoobies thoughtfully as they were introduced. “Now it’s not often that I get called in the evening for some sort of emergency, with an old Harrovian and a group of hardened veterans not yet thirty, so if anyone would like to explain this to me?”
Giles gestured at the most comfortable armchair. “If you please would take a seat Lord Steed. Would you care for refreshment?”
“Just Mr. Steed please, Mr. Giles. And tea please.” The older man sat with slight stiffness. Giles poured him a cup of tea in a good china cup and sat down opposite. The Scoobies settled around the room.
“Mr. Steed…” Giles took a sip of tea to fortify himself. “At this time there’s a chrono flux occurring at a location on the former East India Docks…One of my associates discovered that a lady was given a George Cross for services to the nation…posthumously…that to our minds is a bit too much of a coincidence.”
Steed stiffened. “That information is highly classified. Before we continue this conversation I want to know who and what you are. I might be here at the behest of the Prime Minister but I’m no longer in active service and therefore not bound to obey the government’s orders beyond the duties of a citizen.”
“Of course…We are all employed by an institution called the New International Watcher’s council…”
Steed stiffened and his eyes blaze. He half rose from his seat. Giles quickly spoke. “Mr. Steed…the organization you obviously know about is no more…the explosion which I’m sure you know about destroyed the Old headquarters building took out the Old Council leadership. We…” He gestured around the room “are the new leadership.”
Steed looked around the room with new interest. “And how is the New different from the Old?”
Buffy stood up. “We run things now.”
Steed lifted an eyebrow. “Highly encouraging no doubt. And the rest of business is as usual?”
Buffy picked up Giles’ fireplace poker and bent it into pretzel. Giles scowled. “Dammit Buffy! That was hand forged.”
“Also ugly, I mean really Giles, what happened to good taste?“ Buffy threw the metal pretzel casually on the hearthstone.
“It was gift. From my aunt Theodora.” Giles said stiffly.
“Good grief. Did she hate you?”
Giles rolled his eyes. He turned to Steed. “I apologize for my Slayer’s habit of destroying my property and talking about it in a derogatory manner. What Buffy meant was that the New Council is dedicated to the support of the Slayers and those they protect. And that we’ve left the old narrow-minded focus of the Council behind as well.”
“So if a woman gave her life to save most of London, you’d not send a scathing letter to the Ministry to complain about her overstepping the boundaries of the Treaty of Canute?” Steed asked sharply.
“Cnut. It’s the Treaty of Elizabeth II now.” Dawn spoke absentmindedly. Then her face blanched. “Xander…Ms. Knight, what was her name when she was married?”
Xander looked confused. “Peel, her husband was Peter Peel.”
Dawn and Giles swallowed. “The Mrs. Peel clause…”
Steed looked from the one to the other. “Mrs. Peel clause?” Dawn rose and got a thin folder from Giles’ book case; she rifled through it and handed it to Steed with slightly trembling hands. She quoted from memory.
“At all times will the Council respect the servants of the Crown and aid them in their just pursuit of the safety of the nation and its citizens and act towards them with the same courtesy and respect they themselves expect to be treated with. When a matter of the Unknown must be addressed the Council will have purview, in all other cases the Crown.
At such times when the boundaries of the Known and the Unknown are unclear, the Council and the servants of the Crown will cooperate fully to solve the matter swiftly and safely. At no time will either the Crown’s servants or the members of the Council willfully endanger the others by withholding information, prevarication, action or inaction.”
Dawn exchanged another look with Giles. “She…” she indicated the small painted portrait of the Queen Giles had kept on his wall since his first meeting with the monarch, “She dictated that one herself. And when we signed it…she put her finger on that one and she said, “That one’s for you Mrs. Peel.”
Steed ran his finger across the signature and the paragraph, his eyes suspiciously moist. “I always thought Her Majesty had a soft spot for Emma…”
He sat up straight. “Very well then. The story starts with the disappearance of two noted nuclear physicists in late October of 1977…”
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John Steed looked at the phone and sighed. When Sir Rodney Phelps had gone missing he’d sent out Gambit and Purdey, only for both of them ending up hospitalized, beaten by a man who was apparently a lot stronger than a man had a right to be.
When Charles James Turto went missing he’d gone investigating himself and found a trace to a place he’d never imagined he’d be back: Kirrin.
The very notion that someone might try to kidnap the reclusive Quentin Kirrin from his island lab had the Ministry in upheaval. Whatever the bitter old scientist was working on had the potential of changing the balance of power, or so he was told. But Quentin Kirrin had designed the containment units for all Britain’s functioning Nuclear power plants and his atomic pile designs were praised throughout the world.
And with the temporary, thank the lord, disability of his associates, Steed needed back up. And there was only one person in the world that he’d trust to have his back in this one. He just needed the courage to pick up the phone. He took a breath and dialed. Her sweet, well remembered voice answered on the third ring. He just had to remember that she was no longer Mrs. Peel, and didn’t like to be reminded that she once had been.
“Emma Knight, good afternoon.”
“Ms. Knight, this is Steed. I fear that we are…needed.”
“Well…you do know how to get a girl’s attention. How bad is it?”
“Very bad. Phelps and Turto missing, and I think they’re after Kirrin.”
“I’ll be right over.”
He sat waiting in his flat until he heard her once so familiar knock. He opened the door for her and there she was. A little older, a few laughter lines around her eyes, yet some sadness as well. He cursed Peter Peel for putting those on her face twice now.
“Steed, you are looking well.”
“For a man my age you mean?”
“Like fine wine, certain men only improve with age…”
“Yet like Grand Imperial Tokay some women only become sweeter with time…”
She smiled at him. ”Flatterer. Now what is this about?”
“I’m not sure, but three of our top scientists are involved. Phelps, Turto and Kirrin. I understand from the Kirrin Corporation that Dr. Kirrin is working on a better way to deal with nuclear waste, something to do with isotope binding and electron readjustment, they sent a small brief for you to look at.”
Ms. Knight blinked. “That seems unusually open for them; the Corporation is secretive to the point of paranoia.”
“The Kirrin family, they have no reason to trust us. But someone is threatening Dr. Kirrin and they are fiercely protective of their own.”
“I see. Will their lack of trust impair our investigation?”
“I don’t know. I suggest we head to Kirrin and find out.”
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Kirrin was a lovely little seaside village on the border of Cornwall and Hampshire. The little church was thirteenth century in its basic architecture and the houses and farms were well kept. A large complex of building stood on the outskirts but it was quite unlike any factory or research facility that Emma Knight had ever seen. The buildings were of a mock Tudor appearance; they stood in park like grounds and seemed to have stood there for centuries. There were even thatched cottages used for heaven’s sake. Her father would not have approved, but to Emma it was strangely comforting that the Kirrins cared enough about the appearance of the village that they would keep it so beautiful.
The old fashioned gate in the old stone wall opened automatically and they drove through in her car. She had insisted on it, her Lotus was after all, faster than anything Steed drove.
A tall, powerful man with black hair, slightly graying at the temples stood at the top of a set of stairs that led up to a large manor house. She stopped in front of it and he walked down.
“Ms. Knight? Sir John Steed? I’m Richard Kirrin. Most people call me Dick.”
Emma gave Steed a cool and amusing glance at his slight wince of the mention of his knighthood. They followed the man into the building and he led them to a large corner office. He rang a bell and a secretary brought in tea, with two extra cups. A minute or so later a beautiful blonde woman slightly older than Emma and a tall, broad-shouldered and rather distinguished looking blond man behind her. Emma had to blink to tear her eyes away from him; he was rather… lovely to look at.
“My sister Anne, in charge of security and personnel and my elder brother Julian, our General Director. I’m in charge of sales and public relations.”
Anne Kirrin was a beautiful woman but there was a hard edge to her. A look in her eye that told Ms. Knight and Steed she’d seen more and been through more than a woman her age should have. Much like Emma herself, and Steed. “You sent a message that a credible threat against our uncle existed. You informed us that Dr. Phelps and Dr Turto are missing. So we provided you with an outline of the research Dr. Kirrin is coordinating. Do you have any leads?”
Steed glanced sideways at Ms. Knight. “It involves…your cousin’s calling.”
Julian Kirrin took a slow sip of his tea. Dick looked down at the floor. Anne seemed ready to fly into a rage.
“That explains the three attempted burglaries. Have you contacted them
?” The last word was spoken by Anne Kirrin with utter contempt and hate.
“They have contacted me, two of my associates were injured and as usual we have been warned off from interfering in the Unknown. But they don’t consider anything to do with technology to be of importance. They are very firmly stuck in the 13th century. “
Julian snorted. “Sounds familiar.”
Ms. Knight spoke. “From what I could glean from your very skillfully worded report, Dr. Kirrin is working on a containment unit for a nuclear reaction that is much smaller than a full size one, one able to fit into, say a car…and that his work on isotopes and re-use, storage and atomic waste is connected with that.”
Dick gave her an interested glance. “Not many people would be able to glean even that. Hs chocolate brown eyes locked on hers and she felt another wiggle. * Damn annoying intelligent good looking Kirrin men!*
Anne looked thoughtful, and then snapped her fingers. “Dr. Emma Genevieve Knight, PhDs from Oxford in organic chemistry and Nuclear physics. You received both of them when you were twenty one. MA in English history, a First, at Cambridge and another MA in inorganic chemistry from MIT… Uncle Quentin asked me to hire you, but you’d accepted a different offer. She looked pointedly at Steed who coughed deprecatingly.
Emma smiled disarmingly. “Quite right. I usually go by Ms. Knight. I’m correct then?”
“Essentially, yes. As you can understand there are many parties would love to get their hands on the research or the prototype, or Uncle Quentin.”
Steed pursed his lips. “And where is Dr. Kirrin?”
Anne grinned at Dick and Julian. “Well, three Dr. Kirrins are right here…but Dr. Quentin Kirrin has gone to London to look at some supplies.” She gave the visitors a sad look. “He does that sometimes…to look at other things as well.”
Steed nodded. “East India Docks…”
The door opened and Richard Kirrin’s secretary entered. “Dr. Kirrin…” All three Kirrins looked up at her and she almost rolled her eyes, something a well trained secretary never did. The three Kirrins looked a touch embarrassed. “Dr. Richard
Kirrin, your uncle left in a van, not his car, and Dr. Aster says he took prototype A.”
The Kirrins exchanged worried glances. “Thank you Jane.” The secretary nodded.
“Do you think…”
“It’s impossible to get the power…but the A prototype…”
“He’d need a conduit and somebody to do the magic…”
‘It’d be very risky…if something else where there…You know that two objects in phased space time would cause a violent disruption. It would level the building…At the very least…”
“Dammit Julian, you know he’d do anything, anything to get George back and have Aunt Fanny smiling again…”
Steed and Knight exchanged another look. Steed looked worried. Very worried. “Excuse me, but could you tell me what you think Dr. Quentin
Kirrin is planning?
Julian ran a hand through his neat blond hair. “W-When George…after it happened we spent a lot of time looking for…”
Anne interrupted him. “He’d probably say vengeance, but I still think Justice is better. At any rate we found and punished all those we held responsible for George’s death…And while doing so we gained a considerable amount of magical knowledge and artifacts.”
Emma Knight opened her mouth and Steed put a hand on her arm. “Magic is real. Trust me on this.” She gave him a look that clearly indicated the conversation was not over by a long shot, but didn’t interrupt.
“One thing we found was a book that detailed a Granok Demon called Sahjhan, who is called the Timeshifter. Uncle Quentin became obsessed with contacting him and changing history, getting George back.”
Dick interrupted. “And we think he succeeded in finding the Demon. But the Demon lacked the power. It obviously takes a great deal of power to affect time in such a significant way. And he wanted payment, obviously, and Uncle Quentin wouldn’t sell his soul, or anybody else’s, he knows George would never speak to him again if he brought her back like that.”
Julian groaned. “He’s been quietly working at this for years; he needed a power source that the demon could carry. The demon can travel in time, so it can use the generator in the past to affect the future,”
Anne got a far away look on her face. “Hmmm. Interesting. I wonder if we can state it in triple-formulaic Einsteinian equations…” All three Kirrins suddenly developed thoughtful looks and Anne even started scribbling on a notepad.
Steed coughed. “I beg your pardon.” The three Kirrins started and then looked somewhat sheepish. Julian spoke.
“Our apologies. Mr. Steed, you know where our Uncle is going, and why…” He took a very deep breath. “The problem is the prototype is dangerously unstable, and it is loaded with uranium, and the containment unit, if it malfunctions when turned fully on…”
Steed blanched. “An atomic bomb in London’s East End.”
“Yes. We’d have to check how much atomic material Uncle Quentin took from the isotope vault, but with the advances in nuclear technology. The MoD has been on Uncle Quentin’s case for years to redesign our Atomic arsenal.” The three siblings exchanged amused glances. “Never going to happen of course. But we do know that with the improved fission reaction chamber. The power would be sufficient to level everything in a ten to twenty mile radius.” Dick was on the phone as Julian spoke, ordering an inventory of the vault.
“We can’t let that happen. But why does he need his colleagues?”
“We hope it is for technical assistance.” Dick said quietly.
Steed winced. “But you fear it’s for a worse reason…”
Ms. Knight rolled her eyes. “Neither, both of them have the knowledge to shut it down safely and both worked from Greater London…I’d bet good money that their sudden disappearance is merely to keep them out of the way. Quentin Kirrin is a pacifist and always will be and he’d never kill a fellow human being. Snark at them, yes, kill no.”
Anne gave the younger woman a look. “You’ve met him. He snarked at you.”
Ms. Knight flushed. “He did wonder why a fourteen year old was auditing his special lectures at Oxford…”
Anne looked at her brothers and all had to look away from the agent, hiding smiles. Emma flushed a bright red and whispered something about the powder room, sending a pleading look to Anne. Who grinned maliciously, which sent Emma scurrying off.
Steed looked his question. “Might I inquire what that was about?”
Anne chuckled wickedly. “Uncle Quentin complained mightily during that Lecture series about that bratty fourteen year old. Aunt Fanny kept saying it was just a teenage crush.” Her smile faltered. “That was before George…when she still smiled.”
Steed nodded. “Ms. Knight and Quentin Kirrin?” He rubbed the back of his head. “Dear me.”
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS
Steed spent most of the journey back to London explaining about his encounters with magic and the supernatural, or the unknown as those in the know sometimes called it. Ms. Knight was skeptical but willing to accept. He gave her a quick rundown on the most common demons and their weaknesses, not that he knew much. The Council of Watchers took care of most supernatural threats. Ms. Knight had inquired why they weren’t doing so now. The answer as far as Steed was able to gather, was that there was no threat now, and even if it might develop, they were close enough to act. Ms. Knight had looked rather peeved at that.
The East India Docks were not the sort of place where Steed went for fun these days. The buildings were mostly abandoned and the dock facilities only used for the Channel Island run and the repair of shallow draught boats. But he had Mrs. Peel…Ms. Knight with him. And despite everything, she was his other half out in the field. Whatever was between them was more than friendship…yet it never could be more than what it was now. He knew that. Some days, and many nights, he wished it were otherwise…but neither of them was right in that way for the other. They crept along the wall of the building, one that had once housed the headquarters of the Officer in charge of the Mulberry harbour construction. A large van with the Kirrin Corporation logo on it stood outside.
Then the vampire stepped out and everything went to hell. His hair was blonde and he dressed in a long leather coat with what the Americans called a muscle T underneath. He was smoking a cigarette and smirking.
“’Ullo pet.” He extended a hand and Ms. Knight stumbled towards him. “’M Spike. You’re pretty. Dru’s gonna love you.”
Steed beaded his gun on him and the vamp waved his hand. He looked young but Steed could feel the power of the Vampire’s mind. This was Master, a hardened killer. Steed saw the sweat on Ms. Knight’s forehead and felt it on his own. The gun trembled, the barrel moving away from its target.
“So…what’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?” The vamp took a drag of his cigarette and leered at Ms. Knight.
“Stopping an atomic explosion in the building behind you.” There was a quaver in her voice but otherwise she was as cool as ever. The vampire blinked.
He looked at Steed. “And you?”
“Bloody hell. They gonna blow up London? There’s pubs ‘ere I like!” He seemed to think. “Right. ‘ere’s me offer: I help you deal with this mess and then we all walk away. No snipin’, back bitin’ or neck bitin’” He smiled grimly. “Deal?” Steed felt the pressure on his mind disappear.
Steed lowered his gun further. The Vampire could have killed them and fled, the fact it hadn’t was…surprising. “Who are you?”
“Tol’ ya, ‘m Spike. He gave Steed another look and grinned. “You’re John Steed. I knew your da’ served with him in the Big One.”
“Can’t let ol’ Blighty down, ya kno’. May not like everthin’ about it, but it was ‘ome.” He dragged at his cigarette. “Went by Mr. Frasier back then.”
“Agent William Pratt Frasier?
“Ah. You ‘eard of me then.” The vamp looked slightly proud.
Steed nodded. “That was good work you did in Peenemünde in the Last One too. I thought they killed you…?”
“Got special ‘bilities mate. They wanted to know what made us, vamps, tick.” He chuckled dryly. “Wasn’t much fun, but better than the ol’ sunlight walk.” He threw the cigarette down and scuffed it out, then picked up the stub. Steed looked a question at the act. The vamp shrugged and looked strangely sad.
“George hated cigs…she was a good un’ George…It’s the anniversary ya ‘kno’. Come ‘ere every bloomin’ year if I’m in England. Kept ‘er word, did George, an’ she could ‘ave dusted me.”
Steed exchanged an incredulous look with Ms. Knight. “You come here to remember a Slayer?”
The vampire gave him a tired look. His accent changed as he spoke, becoming upper class and highly educated. “Sometimes…a good enemy is the best possible friend. I respected George. She was honest, I liked her. She shouldn’t have died the way she did.” He shrugged. “An’ she was a scrappy lil’ fighter too! Now let’s go save London Town!”
Spike drew a rough map in the sand and pointed out the salient features of the building. “’S an old warehouse, right? Got a great big loading bay up front, an’ the walkway overlookin’ it with the office ‘angin’ above. Can get into t’ office from the back or the front. Demon ‘ll be up front, iffin the old man wants George back, cause tha’s where she went down.” Steed looked at Spike as he talked about the fallen Slayer and wondered again what strange bond had existed between them. Spike looked at the two of them to see if they understood and then led them away.
The three of them went forward, the vampire in front. He moved like a greased snake. Steed was very glad he was, for this battle at least, on their side. He also knew the building. There was a hole in a post by the back door he led them to on which his fingers rested and there was a discolouration on the stones as of an old fire. Spike led them inside and pointed at the stairs. “ ‘S vamps in here, I can sense ‘m. Older one too, not as old as me, but dangerous enough for the likes o’ you…five or six, so be careful.” He straightened his long leather coat and settled it on his shoulders. “Right then…the vamps‘re most likely minion types…hired help.” He glanced around and then grasped the wooden stair rail, easily ripping part of it loose and breaking it into six pieces. “’Ere, stakes.” He threw two at Steed and Ms. Knight each. The agents caught them reflexively.
“Right. You shoot from upstairs, I’ll go in below.”
Steed looked at him. “Six vampires?”
“Look mate…they’re wimps ok? No match for Spike. Now less talk an’ more action.” He stood waiting by the door to the warehouse part as Steed and Ms. Knight climbed the stairs to the upper landing. Once he was sure they’d be through the door to the walkway soon after him he kicked the door heavily and broke its hinges and lock, sending it flying into the space beyond.
“’Ullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo? What’s all this then?” The vampire’s mock cheery voice rang out loudly in the age old cry of the Bobby. Steed and Ms. Knight grinned in spite of themselves and ran onto the landing overlooking the dusty warehouse.
Six vampires stood around a grey, heavy looking piece of equipment, heavily covered with Atomic warning markers. It was about four feet high and somehow managed to look menacing. A mains power cable was attached to it and an elderly man was tinkering with the settings and looked up disturbed. A large red crystal was set on the top and a strangely pale and scarred being had both its hands lying on top of it, a thin silver line forming between it and the machine.
A strange shimmering portal was forming, about three feet of the ground and the demon snarled.
“Kill the interlopers!”
The vamps moved, two jumping onto the walkway. Spike grimaced. They’d been too dumb to set a guard at the upper level. Sometimes he was ashamed to be a vampire, they were so stupid. * F‘ing disgrace to the bloody species.*
He charged, taking on the nearest vamp first. “Think you can handle Spike mate?” The almost fledge roared at him and fell with his neck broken when Spike kicked him hard in the chin. He’d stake him later. “Pathetic.”
The master vamp moved on to his next victim.
Steed had shot the vampire facing him three times in the neck and once in the head, then moved in to stake it. He noted Ms. Knight had copied his move. The vamps were down to three, including their leader. Spike was moving in on the leader who backed away, realizing he was outclassed. Spike grinned and feinted to the left, grabbing one of the minions and casually rammed a stake into its heart. The vamp’s eyes bulged for a second until it fell into dust. Spike grinned.
Suddenly there was a flicker of light and a large blue demon fell through the portal. It rolled and came to its feet, roaring. It stood at least eight feet tall, covered in overlapping scales, its legs a light blue colour and the shade of blue darkening as it went up the body, the head being a deep royal blue. Huge golden claws protruded from its hands and feet. With a three rows of spiky horns set around its head it looked like it wore a bony triple crown. Its eyes were a deep golden colour and its long serrated fangs gnashed. It looked around, seeing Ms. Knight and a long, red tongue set with tiny teeth came out of its mouth in a leer and hissed.
“Bugger! An Akrothos! Steed! Get the lady out of ‘ere! NOW!!!”
The blue demon jumped up and grabbed the bottom of the walkway. Its weight was apparently great since the walkway, rotten from the damp of the docks and the long neglect started to collapse.
The scarred demon grinned. “There you have it Dr. Kirrin, your daughter’s nemesis… And yours.” It laughed vilely. The old man by the machine kept adjusting the dials.
Steed called down holding on to the trembling railing. “Dr. Kirrin! You must stop!”
The transparent demon grinned. “He can’t hear you my dear fellow. He’s in a time and place all of his own. Working for me.”
The blond vampire had killed the last of his opponents and was now moving to the blue demon. “Dammit woman! Run!”
Emma Knight looked at the blue demon and fired her remaining two bullets point blank into its eyes. Two nictating membranes covered them faster than her eyes could follow and the bullets bounced off. The Demon leered and its red tongue licked at her ankle, leaving a thin trail of blood from its sharp edges.
Emma shuddered and backed away, reloading her gun. The demon swung and the walkway creaked, it swung again and with a shuddering motion and a loud groaning creak of old metal and wood the structure fell down. The vampire had thrown itself free as had Steed but Ms. Knight had grabbed for the railing in an attempt for leverage, but the metal one had been replaced in that section by a wooden one for a length of about eight feet and the rotten wood gave way beneath her hand, unbalancing her even further.
She landed heavily, her gun dropping and skittering away. The blue demon rose from the detritus, grinning and unhurt. Steed cursed as he saw a seam open in the scales of the groin region. He suddenly realized why the vampire had wanted Ms. Knight moved out. The Demon reached the fallen woman just as Steed opened fire.
The blue scaled thing did not even react, merely grabbing the bloody ankle and flipping it aside, spreading Ms. Knight’s legs. The prone woman kicked out at the opening in the groin and the demon roared in pain and anger. It shook its head and the horny protrusions from its head flew out like porcupine quills. One struck Steed in the shoulder, another Spike full in the chest. Ms. Knight was grazed by one on her arm. Steed felt his blood flowing out of the wound faster than it ought to. He saw Ms. Knight, saw her noticing the arterial bleed and heard her shout at the vampire. The vampire staggered to its feet and ran to Steed, grabbing him by the shoulder, cutting of the flow of blood with a deft but very hard grip on the artery. He heard the vampire protest at something and then he saw that Ms. Knight had rolled…rolled into the machine that was not in the same time and place.
She was writhing in agony and vibrations seemed to pour of her and the machine. She held onto the floor, forcing herself to hold her position despite the pain. Quentin Kirrin stood looking at her, dazed and the scarred pale thing was trying to remove the red crystal from the top of the atomic device. Kirrin moved, and Spike lifted up Steed, the three men exiting the building immediately. Kirrin took a book sized machine from his pocket and pointed it inside. There was beeping noise and the old scientist suddenly looked even older.
“The micro container will not explode.”
“Well ain’t that just fine and dandy! Let’s move there’s gonna be an Akrothos on our tail in a few!”
Steed’s last memory before blacking out was the slow and agonizing collapse of the old warehouse.