Angel the Series, and the Dresden Files are not mine.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 12: Brachen SiegeBrachen Clan Cavern
8: 02 am
“I cannot thank you enough, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, for agreeing to protect my clan from the forces of Wolfram and Hart. When they seek to get rid of you, they are no less relentless than the Scourge.” The leader of the clan, a Brachen by the name of Julius, told Wesley. They had been set up, waiting for an attack for just under two days, but the scouts – Little Folk that Wesley had bribed with pizza, after a suggestion from Harry Dresden – had just come back with word that there were demons gathering at the far end of all three tunnels. They didn't seem aware that Oracle Securities was involved, or at least not that they were as dug in and prepared as they were, but Wesley couldn't be sure.
Wesley, Abigail and the rest of their little magical assault team was waiting inside the cavern that the Brachen Clan had taken refuge in, while Mark was out overseeing the set up in the central cavern. The plan was to wait for the Demons start throwing themselves – figuratively or literally – against the defenses in all three tunnels and let them chew lead for a while before Wesley and Abigail took the team – via the surface – into position to attack Wolfram and Hart's command post, wherever it was. The trick then, was figuring out from where in Undertown the enemy was leading the operation.
“Any impediment to Wolfram and Hart is good enough reason to help.” Wesley said in reply.
“And you seem like perfectly decent people – well, demons, anyway,” Abigail corrected herself. “We're not going to just sit by and let the bad guys kill you and/or push you around when we can do something about it.” She turned to Wesley. “Though until we can figure out where Wolfram and Hart is leading this from, our hands are somewhat tied.”
Wesley nodded, “True.” Unlike some people, Wesley had no particular physical tick when he thought. After a few moments, he considered, “I think out best bet would be some kind of soul-detection spell, or something. We have a rough idea of where the enemy demons are gathering, and thus the lawyers have to be somewhere behind one of those areas, but close enough to keep a watch and issue order changes. I'm almost certain that anyone Wolfram and Hart would choose to serve as their direct agent in this wouldn't be of high enough rank to have signed away their soul, just yet, which means that they should be the only souls in the area, apart from us, barring a variety of unlikely circumstances.
“I'll talk to Anna. I think she knows a spell that we can make do the job for us.” Abigail said.Left Tunnel, Heavy Machine Gun Emplacement
“See any of the demons that need specialized tactics?” One of the mercenaries said to the one next to him, who was busy scoping out the massing group of demons at the far end of the tunnel.
The mercenary in question lowered his night-vision binoculars. “Doesn't look like it. A whole bunch of those really nasty buggers, the ones with that thick exoskeleton armor, though.”
The first mercenary made a face, “Bah. Those fuckers who reflect standard rounds, you mean?”
The second nodded. “Yea. But we don't need to worry about that too much.” He patted the Heavy Machine Gun almost affectionately. “The ammo we'll fire from this one should be more than capable of punching through their armor.”Center Tunnel, Defensive Emplacement
“That is a hell of a lot of Fyarl Demons.” Mark noted, looked out over the massed demons. He turned to Petrovich, “You didn't happen to bring along any silver bullets, did you? Could save us some ammo.”
Petrovich shook his head. “I did not expect to be fighting werewolves. If I had...” The he shrugged, “Besides, a bullet is a bullet is a bullet. The Fyarls aren't clumped together enough to make it so that we could target just them with the silver bullets, and not have them go into the others as well.”
“Meh.” Mark double-checked his ammunition. “What are they waiting for?”
“A signal, I would assume.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “Obviously, but what are the hell-lawyers waiting for?”
“Maybe they just want to let us stew. They have to know we're here, waiting for them. They may have lots of soldiers, but hiring and then throwing soldiers away gets expensive. The question is, how stupid do they think we are?”
“So what? We could just have a stand-off, every sits here for the rest of the day?” Mark shook his head. “I've been reading some of Wesley's books – the ones in English, anyway – and the fact is that several of the demon breeds I see out there are impatient little fuckers. They're here to fight, so they'll fight.”
“I bet you ten dollars we don't end up fighting.”
“Fine.”Wolfram and Hart Forward Operations Center
“Marcus Lott was an idiot.” Lilah said, folding her arms in front of her. “I'm not sure how he managed to get put in charge of the Special Projects Division here, but its certainly a good thing that he got removed from his position as soon as he did. If this plan of his had gone through, we'd be on the verge of war with Marcone, and quite possibly with the White Court, and, if we were monumentally unlucky, the White Council too.” She looked pointedly at Denna Frost and Richard Carlise. “Wolfram and Hart values initiative as much as it does anything else. So the most important question I have for the both of you before I decide what your futures with the firm looks like is this: Lott was an idiot, and you both knew it as much as I do. So why didn't you kill him?”
Denna and Richard didn't have much of an answer for that. Both had considered Lott a virtual nonentity, and that was entirely true. Almost all their plotting had been spent on the other, as the principal threat to their own advancement. Lilah, if she had been a more physically expressive person, might have facepalmed. “This
is the latest crop of lawyers, the best and the brightest we can get? Either more lawyers are developing consciences, or the bar has been lowered for graduating Law School.”
“How exactly would this have gotten us a war? Our forces and Marcone's have been fighting each other across Undertown for a month now.” Denna interjected. “This is just an extension of that on a larger scale.”
“Its that very extension that's the problem.” Lilah replied cooly. “Skirmishes are things that both sides can sweep under the rug, especially when in at least half of those instances we've had plausible deniability – or at least close enough for government work – on the issue of having anything to do with them. But a full-scale frontal attack on a clan of demons that expressly went to Oracle Securities for protection – and that now has that protection – is a provocation that cannot be ignored. The Senior Partners would not have let it go to a war – their standing orders on that subject remain the same – but they would've handed the heads of the three of you over to Marcone, as well as some concessions to keep the peace. And concessions are never good for the firm.”
“So what are we going to do? Call the entire thing off? That's
going to look good.” Richard snapped.
“Actually, that's exactly what we're going to do.”Center Tunnel, Defensive Emplacement
8: 20 am
“Okay, now I know something's wrong.” Mark said, watching the mass of demons part. And not for some bigger, stronger demon, or anything like that. It was a runty little demon, the size of what – a lawn gnome? And was that a white flag
it was holding? “I think they want to surrender.” He lowered the binoculars and shouted, “Look, I'm all for you surrendering to us, but I was kind of hoping to kill some of you fuckers before we got to that point. Could you do me a favor and come back in about an hour, or something?”
The tiny demon actually took out a megaphone -sized to be small enough that it could use the thing without falling over – and spoke through it. Its high-pitched voice screeched through it and echoed around the tunnel. “Wolfram and Hart would let to negotiate this particular conflict of interest to a close. Send Wesley Wyndam-Pryce through to talk.” There was a pause, then, “You can send as many people as want with him. Killing him is not on the agenda.”
Petrovich looked at Mark. “I think you owe me ten dollars.”
Mark frowned at his friend's deadpan tone. “Jackass.” He spoke into his radio. “Wesley?”
“Yes? Is something wrong?”
“I'm not sure if wrong is the proper term, but completely unexpected and out of left-field, yes.”
“I've been in the colonies too long.” Wesley said, playing up his native accent, rather than the more softened one he'd acquired in the five years he'd been in the United States. “I actually understood what you meant with that phrase.” He sighed. “Next thing you know I'll be pouring my tea into the cup when there's no milk in it yet.” That last part was muttered, then, “So what is this unexpected thing?”
“They want to negotiate?”
“And you haven't killed any of them yet?”
“No. Its kind of annoying. Sent some demon the size of a lawn gnome in with a white flag and a tiny megaphone to deliver the message too.”
There was a pause, then, “That demon – its more a construct, actually, if its what I think it is. It serves as mouthpiece for the person controlling it, so they can talk directly through it without exposing themselves. Well, tell them they can come through.”
“Not going to be that simple. They want you to come to them.”
“And why on earth should I do that.”
“Well, they did say that you could take whoever you wanted with you. And that killing you was not on their to-do list.”
“That's still no reason for me to go to them. They're the ones who want to do the negotiating, not the other way around. I need a reason if they really want me to come to them.”
Mark lowered the radio and shouted back at the demon...construct...thing. “Wesley needs a reason for him to go to you.”
There was no response from the thing for a moment, then, “Tell him the following: Like, will he go straight to his car, or will he stop to warn her fist? Tell him exactly.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Fucking Christ...” He lifted the radio again. “It told me to tell you the following, exactly: Like, will he go straight to his car, or will he stop to warn her first?” The slightest intake of breath as he finished could be heard from the other end of the line.
“Interesting. I was frankly not expecting her to show up.” Wesley said after a moment, his voice completely toneless.
“Someone you know?”
“Quite well, unfortunately. Don't expect to hear the story, however. I'm coming forward.”
“Want me to go with-”
“No.” He kept going before Mark could protest. “Killing someone during negotiations is considered bad form, at best, under the Accords, and Wolfram and Hart, if they really wanted me dead that much, would find much better ways to do it. Besides, this...person is...slightly more disinclined to kill me than your average Wolfram and Hart employee.” Wolfram and Hart Forward Operations Center
8: 45 am
Wesley honestly had to say that Wolfram and Hart had managed to throw him for a loop, completely. Bringing Lilah over from L.A....he certainly wouldn't have seen it coming in a thousand years. He wondered idly if he'd have seen it coming in one thousand and one years, but chased that thought out of his head as he approached the mass of demons. The remained parted, more than enough for him to pass through with plenty of room on both sides, but he kept his focus and awareness up. He wasn't surprised, however, when he passed through unmolested.
The construct led him through the rest of the tunnel to a collection of tables, with a variety of radios and magical implements on them. Apart from the one leading him, there were no demons. Just Lilah and two other, younger, lawyers. And a dozen Wolfram and Hart security forces.
“So, Wesley, I don't think you ever actually answered my question. What was it like, when she cut your throat.”
Wesley lifted his right arm and three inches of his sword extended out of his sleeve. “And my answer remains the same. Are you terribly anxious to find out?” All the guards immediately leveled their guns at him.
Lilah smirked and made lowering motions with her hands. The guards immediately obeyed, and Lilah looked back at “Don't you know its bad form to answer a question with a question?” Then she nodded at the sword. “Nice toy. I'd ask if you were compensating, but then I know first hand that that's not true.”
“As enjoyable as the witty banter is, can we get to the point? You asked to negotiate. What exactly are we negotiating on?”
“The fact that we're going to leave the Brachen Clan alone.” Lilah said calmly. “By appealing to your protection, they've essentially made themselves part of Marcone's extended organization, and therefore attacking them is too much of a provocation for war. My predecessor was...an idiot, frankly, and didn't seem to get that. The only reason I went this far in setting it up today was just to get a face to face with you.”
“Seems a bit much.” Wesley remarked, retracting the sword. “If you wanted to talk, I'm sure you could've just arranged to have someone ambushed by vampires for my viewing pleasure.”
“Are you still hung up on that? Come on, don't tell me you didn't take at least a little enjoyment in keeping her prisoner in your closet for the entire summer.”
“Talked to her, did you?”
“Not so much talked as...extracted. I was curious to find out first hand exactly what she did to Angel, once she finally turned up.” She waved her had, as if to encompass the entire situation. “The rules of the game have changed, here in Undertown. The lines have been made, and since this will make clear to anyone inclined to that going to you for help will protect them from Wolfram and Hart for the foreseeable future, things will probably cool down, down here. That's why I arranged this. To make that clear to you. Wolfram and Hart still has more than enough forces to do what it wants, and I've no intention of being bled white. We'll be leaving you to deal with other things, for the moment. After all, Gregory of Arles isn't going to stake himself, and I'm curious to see Lindsey wearing a Gray Hat in the courtroom.” She looked pointedly at the two other lawyers. “Wolfram and Hart facilitates. We don't...create.”
“Tell me. Who is in charge of Wolfram and Hart Los Angeles Special Projects Division, since your here?” Wesley asked idly, preparing to turn around.
“No one. Operations in Los Angeles are suffering from a severe case of everyone who works there is dead now. Except for myself.”
“Please. He's too much of a white hat again to do that. No, just the latest big bad. The Senior Partners decided to let Angel and friends handle it why they reallocate resources. Like here.” Wesley turned to leave. “Be seeing you, Wesley.” She nodded to the others and they left as well. She nodded to one of the lawyers. “Have some of the demons pick everything up to go back to the offices.”