Tiny. But Fierce!
Not mine. End of Story.Author's Note:
I blame NaNoWriMo for this updating speed. I really should be working on my History 353 paper, but I've been writing instead. Hope you're all grateful. ;) Don't expect this speed in the future, though do feel free to hope for it.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 10: Tiny. But Fierce!
“NASA is confirming for us today that the recent so-called 'rain of fire' that fell over L.A. two days ago is in fact the result of a meteor breaking up in the atmosphere and raining debris all over the Los Angeles Basin. They are urging citizens not to panic, as this was a freak occurrence with no possibility of a repeat. President Bush has issued a statement saying disaster relief funds have been authorized to help repair damages suffered during the event. Back to you Bob.” Wesley muted the TV in his office as Mark walked in.
“Breaking up meteor?” Mark's tone was unbelieving, “Do you agree with them?”
Wesley shook his head. “Whatever really did happen, I highly doubt NASA has any idea what it was. It was probably just the start the latest garden-variety apocalypse. “ He said casually. He hadn't personally been involved in halting apocalypses on the scale of Buffy Summers and her friends, but the mere knowledge of the frequency with which apocalypses 'happened' and the fact that the world still turned despite them left him feeling wholly unimpressed by the entire concept. 'Ho hum, the world is ending again'
“Garden variety apocalypse?” Mark snorted, then his eyes narrowed, “You're not kidding.”
“Indeed I am not.” Wesley replied. “You'd be astonished and possibly horrified to learn just how often the world 'ends'. From my understanding of events here in Chicago, he's saved the world twice, possibly three times from apocalypses and near-apocalypses. In Sunnydale alone, there have been at least seven concerted attempts at ending the world through a variety of methods, and numerous more incompetent attempts. At least the last time I spoke to Rupert Giles, which was admittedly, a few months ago. The number of demons, warlocks and other supernatural entities that want and actively work towards the end of the world is far from insignificant. Fortunately, most of them are as incompetent as the would-be government overthrowing militias you have all over the place here. Only colonials like you would have so many of them – and so well armed too – and yet have them all be incapable of anything more than well...nothing.”
Mark chuckled at the latter part, but slumped down in the chair on the other side of Wesley's desk, rubbing at his temple sighing deeply. “So what? All the serious attempts at apocalypse happen where there are people nearby who can stop them?”
“So it would seem. The Powers that Be would likely take credit for that., but what they actually caused and didn't cause is going to be forever unclear, since they rely on decidedly unhelpful and vague visions and intermediaries.” He nodded to the file folder in Mark's hand. “The latest reports from the Undertown patrols?” Wesley was still nursing several fractured ribs, and had been unable to patrol because of them.
“Yea, plus some. We haven't seen hide nor hair of the Black Court since what went down in the Heslrec building, but there have been some recent 'grave robberies' that look to me more like vamps digging their way out of their graves.” He handed Wesley several news articles on the recent rash of 'grave robberies'. Wesley looked them over as Mark continued. “The demons we've been going up against have been more organized though. Still using swords and claws, but definitely working with precision and discipline.” He handed over a series of sketches. “Some of the new breeds we've been coming up against. Anything special about them?”
Wesley looked them over. “Nothing particularly special. Standard slice and dice, though a thorough riddling with bullet holes can accomplish the same. A variety of footsoldier and mercenary demons. Wolfram and Hart's really starting to make its play for Undertown now.” He leafed through the rest of the pages in the file. “I think a biweekly circular would be a good idea, as well as some sort of manual on the various demons we've been encountering. Most are pretty simple kills, but there's always exceptions.”
“Not the worst Idea I've ever heard.” Mark replied. “But how are we going to go forward with the new playing field in Undertown?”
“Well, I've been gathering contacts throughout the demon and demon-friendly community recently. Found some demons and demon clans that are both non-hostile to humans – unless attacked first or the like – and don't fancy living under Wolfram and Hart's thumb. Its time to stop just patrolling Undertown and start establishing a permanent presence there. Offer protection to those who aren't thrilled about the Senior Partners moving in. Anything less will just give them too much freedom of action.”
” He sighed, holding up a hand. “Yea, yea. I know, I know, but still, rubs me the wrong way. At least I don't have to be the one to sell it to Marcone.”
Wesley shrugged. “Its part of the larger effort, and Mr. Marcone appointed me in charge of that effort. At some point, I have to make judgment calls, and doing this is going to be vital to the wider effort. Besides, there's a lot of money in the underground demon community. I'm sure there are parts of it that Marcone would love to get his hands into, and having a reputation for helping demons who aren't anti-human – or at least don't go around slaughtering whatever humans they can get their hands on - would give him the kind of reputation to make that possible. I've also been considering another idea on how to accomplish something along the same lines, and improve cash flow. Though I know you won't like it.”
“Oh?” Wesley didn't look up from the file – he could hear Mark's raised eyebrow in his tone alone.
“Ghouls. We contact them after battles/skirmishes and let them have free reign on the demon bodies we leave behind. Charge a small price for the service, of course, but it would be a pleasant refresher to prevent them from going after humans, or people's pets, et cetera.”
“You're right, I don't like it.”
“Well, all we need to do is give a show of force to the local ghoul clans, and then point out this wonderful new source of food. As long as we're fighting Wolfram and Hart forces down there, we're not likely to run out of bodies, after all. Hopefully it should motivate some, anyway, to not join up with Wolfram and Hart. Ghouls aren't evil necessarily, they're just...hungry. And decidedly unpleasant.”
“It might just drive some of them into Evil Incorporated's open arms.” Mark countered.
“Every command decision, in politics, diplomacy, war and economics, as well as every other field, contains inherent risks for action and inaction.” Wesley replied.
“True enough.” He sighed, “Well, its your call, at the end of the day.”
“I may be in charge, but Its not as if I can get away with being a tyrant. Any and/or all of you can quit, after all, at any time. You're not draftees.” Then, “Besides, while I may be one of the foremost experts on the supernatural on this side of the Mississippi not already employed by Wolfram and Hart, I'm not a general of any sort. And the troops, as it were, are more following you than me. You're my second in command for a reason.” The phone on his desk beeped.
“Mr. Wyndam-Pryce. There's a Sergeant Karrin Murphy down here, wanting to speak with you.”
“Is she on duty?” There was no reply for a moment, then:
“She says she's not here for any sort of official investigation or the like. She just wants to talk.”
“That doesn't exactly answer my question. Tell her that for the foreseeable future, unless she has a warrant, she or anyone else with the Chicago Police Department are not welcome on the premises of Oracle Securities. If she wants to talk, tell her that I'll talk to her when she's off duty at a neutral location. Say...McAnally's.”
Nothing again for a moment, then “She says she'll be there in two hours.” Wesley looked at the clock, and was actually surprised to see that it was seven-thirteen already.
“Tell her I'll be there.” The Clerk on the ground floor hung up.
“Playing with fire, Wesley.” Mark commented. “You don't just blow of Karrin Murphy like that. She may be short, but-”
“She's tough, right? She's not any taller than Buffy Summers. I'm familiar with the concept of short women with the ability to beat me up.” Or strap me to a chair and torture me...
“I'm just not prepared to be at her beck and call, or at the beck and call of the Chicago Police Department. I'm not Harry Dresden, and I'm not a consultant. I'm the CEO of Oracle Securities, and the principle owner of this company is a man who the police believe is the leader of the Outfit. They make no attempt to hide their – false – belief.” Wesley managed to keep his face straight as he said that with ease. Lying had never been the difficulty – though Lorne had spotted the lie when he'd hummed all those months ago, at the Hyperion – not that there was any surprise there. No, detecting lies – specifically Justine's – had been the hard part. He wondered if he would have been able to get away with Connor, had he just shot Justine. Could he have evaded Angel forever, protect him from killing his son? – not that that would have ever happened to begin with...He left off that train of thought as quickly as he could. He'd think himself into insanity if he kept it up.
Wesley shrugged, “I'll meet her, and we'll talk. We have mutual areas of concern when it comes to preventing harm coming to the people of Chicago from the supernatural side of things, but she has the downside of an unbelieving bureaucracy hampering her efforts. At the end of the day, she's never going to be able to handle things as well as someone not attached to law enforcement would. Unless she ends up signing onto one of the supernatural fighting task forces the United States government has.”
“We have those? Damn. If I'd known back in '97, I might have signed on with them.”
“Every industrialized nation has something. Even England, despite the fact the Watchers' Council is based there, has one. They have varying degrees of success. Generally a combination of special forces and members of nation law enforcement agencies. If I recall correctly, the primary one here in the US is technically a branch of the FBI, to give it the mandate to act here in US borders. The Watchers Council-United States Treaty of 1911 does grant the Council final authority over Hellmouths and certain other aspects. Unfortunately, the whole thing is so classified that another group of military, intelligence and political officials set up their own demon-fighting task force that ended up botching the job in Sunnydale terribly, as I understand it. They went in uninformed and half-cocked, and paid in blood.”
“Speaking of uninformed, well, not actually speaking of it at all, did Baldwin give you an estimation of how long until the body armor and Kevlar arrive?”
“It should be a few days yet.” Wesley stood up, holding a hand to his ribs gently. “If I'm going to go meet with Sergeant Murphy in a little under two hours, I need to get some other things done first. Did Abigail go home yet?”
“First of all, she hasn't 'gone home' at any point. She's set herself up in one of the empty offices on the third floor. She sleeps there. Frankly, not sure if she has a 'home' to go to at the moment. She'd only been in Chicago for two days when we saved her in that warehouse, and she's been living here for the past two weeks.”
“I recall authorizing an employment contract which gave her a $75,000 a year salary as well as an additional $10,000 up front. I'm pretty sure she can afford an apartment.”
“We've got so much empty space here, why not let her use it? I get the feeling she feels safer behind the wards Gard and that other chick from Monoc set up anyway. Charge her rent if it bothers you that much.”
“It doesn't bother me. I was just wondering if something hadn't gone through with her salary or something of the sort. Anyway, I wanted to talk to her.”
“Well, she was down in the training room practicing her knife-throwing about half an hour ago. Said she was working on how much magic she would need to put behind each throw to get the knives into some of the demons that come with their own body armor.”
“Not the worst idea I've ever heard of.” Wesley headed out of the office and a short elevator ride down to the basement later, he was in the training room. Sure enough, Abigail was there, with an impressive selection of knives and daggers arrayed on a small fold-up table next to her. As he was walking in, he saw her throw another dagger at a sheet of steel on the far wall. She murmured something as it flew, the dagger stuck into the steel, going through it and into the wooden wall behind almost to the hilt.
“How much steel is that?” Wesley asked. Abigail almost jumped out of her skin, and the ex-Watcher found himself thankful that she wasn't holding a weapon at that exact moment.
“Jesus Christ! Don't do that!” She held a hand to her chest a moment. “When I'm practicing I get really into it. Don't really notice anything else.”
Wesley nodded. “I understand that. But if you though I
was startling, you should meet my previous employer.”
“Good at sneaking up on people?”
“And he was fond of doing it, I think. More than once it was remarked that he should wear a bell.” He nodded at the steel again. “How much?”
“Three and a half inches. Took about the maximum I can safely put into a single spell to do it though, and I don't think that dagger is going to be useable again with some significant sharpening, but then, I'm not exactly short on that front.” She indicated the fold-up table with a smirk.
“I noticed. Collect them, do you?”
“When I was in Cleveland, I made my living selling the possessions of whatever demons and vampires I killed, but if they had any knives or daggers, I kept those.”
“Speaking of Cleveland, that was what I was coming down to talk to you about. I was wondering if you knew anyone down there, in the know, who have useful skills that could be brought to the table here in Chicago, and who would be willing to relocate from Cleveland to take employment with us. Apart from yourself and I, we're rather thin on magical talent, except when we borrow Ms. Gard, which is only possible infrequently. And as good as you are with kinetomancy, and as strong on theory as I am, the two really don't represent the breadth and depth of magical skill needed to really push this effort. Friendship and common cause with Dresden aside-”
“We could use more?” Abigail nodded. He cocked her head in thought for a few moments. “I dunno. There wasn't much organization among those of us who fought back against the Vampires and Demons in Cleveland, at least not on a large scale. The Cleveland Hellmouth is weaker, as I understand it, which is why it didn't attract as many apocalypses as the one over in Sunnydale.” She shrugged. “Still I know a few people. Most of them are probably too focused in on what lives they may have in Cleveland to just up and leave. I followed that group of vamps here because they were leaving, but I didn't have much attaching me to Cleveland either. I know a good hex-man who'd probably be willing to come over here, maybe some others...”
She walked over to the steel plate and started to pull knives out of it/the wall behind it, as well as some that had bounced off with lesser force amounts. She did have trouble pulling the last out – in that it wouldn't come out at all. After some struggle, she gave up. “I'd have to make some calls, write a few letters – since I don't know all their numbers even if they even have cell phones or regular phones.”
“Alright.” Wesley nodded. “Get back to me on that when you can, will you?”
Wesley arrived about an hour early to the meeting with Sergeant Murphy, since he hadn't eaten dinner yet at this point, and ordered a beer and a Steak Sandwich, sitting at an empty table once both arrived. He'd busied himself reading a new occult tome he'd acquired at a local place – Bock's Ordered Books.
“Mr. Wyndam-Pryce?” The female voice made him look up from his book, and the fact that the person talking to him was no taller than Buffy Summers – and with blonde hair – suggested to him that she was Sergeant Murphy. He closed the book.
“Please, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce is my father, who hopefully we shall have no cause to ever speak of. I really would prefer to just be called Wesley. I can't seem to get the clerks at Oracle Securities to do that, however...” He indicated the chair opposite him. “Please, feel free have a seat.” Karrin Murphy sat down. “Is there a specific reason why you wanted to meet with me, or is this a more general meeting?” His tone was that of the stereotypical 'unflappably polite upper-class British' Americans had. The truth of the variety of accents in England was larger than that, of course, but then, the people of the British Isles tended to have -almost!- as narrow a view of American accents, so neither were in any position to cast stones.
“Well, there is the fact that you work for the leader of the Outfit.”
“You are aware that slander is frowned upon Sergeant Murphy? I assure you, Mr. Marcone is a perfectly legitimate businessman with numerous financial holdings. He has no connections to any crime, organized or otherwise.”
Murphy smirked a little at that. “Amazing you can say that with a straight face.”
“Leaving aside our mutually conflicting opinions of Mr. Marcone, what else can I do for you?”
“I want to know the score. What's happening here in Chicago, now that these Wolfram and Hart people have moved into my city, and and what is going
“Long version or short version?”
“Give me the short version, then give me the long version.”
“Short Version: You've got something just two steps short of total war raging beneath the streets of Chicago.” Then he leaned forward a bit in his chair and started to give her the long version.Author's Note:
I know that in the Buffyverse, the government is generally portrayed as either unhelpful, ignorant or actively hostile – sometimes all three- but I happen to have a more positive view of government, both in the particulars and in the abstract, than The Joss seems to. (If you go by the other TV Series's he's done. I find it impossible to believe that the government, with the resources and information gathering ability it has, would not
know, and that the Initiative would really be so ill-informed. Especially since the DRI when it 'recruited' Angel during WWII seemed much more supernaturally savvy. The Dresdenverse doesn't actually approach it either way, but in the Dresden Files RPG, it is suggested that the governments of the world probably have some
idea of what is going on out there, and probably have equivalents of CPD's Special Investigations Division.