I don't own it. SorryAuthor's Note:
I have a question for my readers. New City, Same Enemy has necessitated the creation of a number of original characters. Of all of them, which do you like the most? Include his name in a review. Whoever wins will get some additional screen time over the next few chapters.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 20: Knock, KnockDiocletian's Hideout
“Ah, Amy Madison.” Diocletian said cooly, as his apprentice finally entered the warehouse that was his home in Chicago. “It is about time that you got back here, isn't it? Given that the Oracle Securities' boat that you used to get off of Demonreach arrived in port eleven hours ago. Where have you been?”
“I don't think its really your business, Diocletian.” Amy said. “I'm here now, and since you never order me around before noon anyway, it doesn't really matter. What are you, my mother?” Amy knew she was playing with fire by refusing to answer Diocletian's question, but there was the principle involved. She was, in every meaningful way, Diocletian's slave, something that she hated immensely. When she had given him her true name, she knew she was surrendering power, autonomy to him, but she didn't really realize what that mean, in practice. She hadn't realized just how much control she would be giving him. And so, every chance she got, she resisted him, his orders. “It was a personal matter, and irrelevant to my apprenticeship to you.”
“I think I will be the judge of the relevance of whatever you're trying to hide from me. The very fact that you're hiding it tells me that I should no it.”
“There's nothing sinister about it, Diocletian. Its just nothing to do with you.” Amy replied. And that, unfortunately, was true. She would've loved to be doing something sinister, something that involved plotting against Diocletian, but the only person that posed any real threat to her master to was Harry Dresden, and he was a Warden. The last thing she needed was to get anywhere near a Warden of the White Council, even one with a reputation as...colorful, as the one that Dresden had. If she though Oracle Securities had even a chance of killing Diocletian, she'd have considered selling him out to them, given their affiliation with Dresden and the White Council, thanks to Marcone's generally friendly attitude to that organization.
“Tell me, Amy Madison. What were doing?” He infused his words with power, magic, and Amy tensed, as the magic ran through her as he used her true name.
“I was with a Black Court Vampire, known by the name Gregory of Arles.” She said, hoping he wouldn't ask more. The more wasn't his business, after all.
It wasn't enough for him, “What were you doing with my old friend
, Gregory?” Of course, in actuality, Diocletian and the Black Courtier were only friends in the sense that cats and dogs were friends. “Look in my eyes.” She looked into his eyes, and he didn't soulgaze her, but rather just entered her mind, adding yet another violation of the laws of magic to his impressively long roster of similar such sins.So...she and Gregory are sleeping together. I admit, I never took Amy to be a necrophiliac. I thought that was only the Slayer...what was her name? Bunny Sumter? Something like that, anyway.
He shrugged. Sooner or later he'd have to put a stop to that, but not necessarily right now. His apprentice sleeping with an old enemy was not the best of ideas, and if Gregory ever decided to turn her, well, then he'd lose control of her, because she'd have changed so much he'd need her true name all over again.
Not something he was planning on happening. “Well, you need to understand, Amy, that nothing is not my business. Information of all types is my affair, and there is no information you will ever have the right to keep from me. So, that brings us to an entirely different topic of discussion.” He paused, “Namely, your betrayal.”
“What the hell are you talking about.” Sure, the idea of betraying Diocletian was one she harbored hops for, but then, he already knew that. She hadn't made any acts to act on those impulses yet, mostly because she couldn't find a way to make them work.”I haven't betrayed you at all.” Yet.
“You came back from Demonreach on an Oracle Securities Boat, and Jacinta Drake is dead. What do you expect me to think, Amy Madison? Explain to me how working with the enemy and in contravention to my orders isn't betrayal.”
“I had no Choice! Azhelmenek was loose and the Oracle Securities boat was the only viable way to get off the island without taking the Master of the Dark Scourge with me. And he killed Jacinta, I didn't kill her.
“So, rather than a traitor, you're incompetent spellcaster.” Diocletian replied cooly. “You know, you're not making a very good case for keeping you alive. I've less patience with incompetence than I do with betrayal.”
“I'm not incompetent!” Amy snapped at her 'master'. “I've proven my skill with magic on your behalf numerous times in the last year.”
“You failed in the ritual, even after I gave you careful step-by-step instructions!” Diocletian countered. “What else could that be but incompetence?” He almost spat that last word.
“The ritual didn't fail because of anything of my doing. I was interrupted and distracted. You know how fragile the threads of the ritual are.”
“You were distracted by what!?
“By the monumentally staggering stupidity of Jacinta Drake!”
“She's a idiot of then highest order, I agree I'm afraid I'm going to need more elaboration that that.” Diocletian said harshly.
“She let the Watcher, Wyndam-Pryce into her presence and then let him live, rather than instantly killing him! I wasn't watching, so I have no idea why. Then, somehow, he managed to get a hold of the firearm of one of Jacinta's men and shot it at me. I deflected the bullet with ease, but the act of doing so took just enough of my focus, my control, away from the spell for just long enough to let it slip out of my grasp. If the bullet had hit me, the same effect would've occurred.” She took a breath, “Drake decided that rather than blaming her own idiocy, she was going to blame me, and tried to kill me. Fortunately, she failed miserably, and Azhelmenek decided that she would make a tasty meal. I did the only thing that was left available to me and hitched a ride with Oracle Securities. I highly doubt dying needlessly there would've served you any.” She finished. Then a thought occurred to her, and she smirked, though she knew she was going to pay for this. “And, while we're on the subject of incompetence and related character flaws, let's talk about your cowardice. Your inability to attack Harry Dresden again speaks volumes about the fact that you're terrified of him. Terrified of his power. You are a spineless, weak, coward Diocletian.”
The old man laughed sadistically. “Insolence, Amy, will not get you anywhere. Or at least, not anywhere you want to be.” He thrust out a hand and barked several words in Latin. His eyes glowed, and Amy threw her head back, a scream ripping from her throat as she felt pain she never would've been able to imagine before meeting Diocletian. Diocletian laughed with almost childlike glee at her scream. “Do it again!” He cast the spell once more, and Amy screamed again, every nerve ending in her body feeling like it had been set aflame.I'll kill him for this. I promise you Diocletian. One way or another I'm going to make you pay for everything. I'll rip your soul from your body, steal your secrets and destroy whatever is left of you. You will pay, you will die, and then I'll kill that bitch Willow.Wesley's Apartment
10:15 pm; May 25th, 2003
Wesley opened the door to his apartment, fighting the urge to yawn, and collapse on his couch and fall asleep immediately. The month and change since the Battle on Demonreach had been nothing but minor crisis after minor crisis. The disaster at Demonreach had convinced Lilah that Wolfram and Hart Chicago needed to step on the gas, to pull out all – well, nearly all – the stops. They'd stepped up their activities across the board, not just in Chicago but throughout northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois. More cases, more witness intimidation, more attempts to take control of crime both mortal and supernatural, more of everything, falling only just barely short of open warfare with 'Baron' Marcone. It was running Oracle Securities ragged. And unfortunately, while they worked with Harry Dresden as much as they could, the times they were able to pool their resources was growing uncomfortably small.
Diocletian was half the problem. He'd spread the word across the supernatural underworld that whoever brought him the head of Harry Blackstone Dresden would get secrets untold as reward, power enough to perform all kinds of dark feats...that promise has brought a steady stream of demons, warlocks, demonic cultists and would-be-powers from across the spectrum to Dresden's doorstep. So far, none of them were really powerful enough to stop Harry, and two green Wardens had been assigned to Chicago and its environs to take advantage of the training opportunity posed by so many weak warlocks drawn by the promise of power. Between them, the two were managing to cull the herd, and Dresden was serving almost as a magnet for the low-level warlocks and demon cultists that proved the most common thing the Wardens dealt with, before the Red Court War.
To make things even worse though, a group of 'rogue' Red Court Vampires had decided that they were going to add themselves to the mix of the supernatural stew that was Chicago.
Led by one Baron Fernando Zaragoza, these Red Courtiers claimed that the peace treaty the Red King had signed between the White Council and the Red Court did not serve the interests of the race of Red Court Vampires, and that the Red King didn't have the authority to control them anyway. Moreover since the interests of their race were no longer being served by their king, the were taking matters into their own hands, and personally targeting the wizards of the White Council. And for whatever reason, Harry Dresden was going to be first on the list.
Wesley highly doubted – as did just about everyone from the Senior Council on down to the lowest-level observer of supernatural politics – that Baron Zaragoza was acting entirely on his own, without any prompting whatsoever from the Red King or someone close to him. It was an obvious attempt to continue the war without continuing the war, and end-run the Accords. And thanks to the highly legalistic and literal nature of the document, it was working very well.
And to make matters even worse, for every Red Courtier that Dresden or Oracle Securities took down, the vampires captured and turned another innocent to replenish their numbers. The problem was, they didn't seem to be feeding off of people in the area, so where exactly they were getting their food supply – unlike Black Court vampires, who could feed on animal blood, even if they hated the taste – vampires of the Red Court couldn't feed on the blood of animals at all. Only human blood could do it for them, under no circumstances would anything else do.
In fact, the huge influx of demons, warlocks, demon cultists and the like into Chicago was destabilizing the extremely fragile supernatural 'ecosystem' – as it were – of the city and its environs, and this had manifested itself in a rash of unsolved murders and disappearances that had police across the region baffled.
Marcone was, predictably, not pleased by the way events were going, and frankly, neither was Wesley. But he knew that if they could eliminate the threat posed by Diocletian and by the Red Court, things would start to stabilize. Wolfram and Hart was posturing and finding its place in the context of the Windy City. It was, essentially, attempting to mark its territory. Once it was fully settled in to Chicago, he suspected they'd be less overly aggressive, as even in L.A. they weren't usually this bad. The Senior Partners liked stability, overall, or they'd have marching on Earth with their armies.
Wesley sat down on his couch, one hand rubbing at his eyes. He turned on the television, which was already tuned to news. Unsurprisingly, the story that was dominating the news was still the collapse of Sunnydale into a sinkhole five days earlier.
Wesley knew the cause had to be something supernatural. And the word out there was not only that Sunnydale the city had collapse into the sinkhole, but that the Hellmouth was entirely gone as well. Something had destroyed one of the greatest magnets for evil in the world, and one of the greatest threats to the survival of humanity, and the planet.
Despite himself, Wesley felt a bit of impersonal gratitude towards Buffy – it had to be her, since only she could achieve something so beneficial and destructive at the same time. It was almost a hallmark of Miss Summers and the way she did things. He wouldn't tell the girl under any circumstances, but...for once, she'd actually done good work. She'd done good for mankind, for the world.
“...experts are still at a loss to explain what happened in to Sunnydale. President Bush has called on Congress to create a relief fund for the survivors of Sunnydale, and the creation of a Federal Commission to examine what exactly happened.”
Wesley pressed the mute button. “So the United States Federal Government can come up with an workable cover story, you mean.” He muttered at the television. He was about to unmute it when he heard a knock on his door. Wesley stood, the familiar weight of his collapsible sword still around his wrist. He made a habit to never open his door unarmed. If it was someone from Oracle Securities, they'd call him. These days, the only person who actually visited him at his home was Lilah. Greeting her unarmed was not conducive to long term health.
He walked over to the door and opened it, fully expecting Lilah. “Hello-”
It wasn't Lilah. “Faith...” Of all the people he expected to knock on his door, the 'dark slayer' was not one of them. She looked little different than she did than when she had tortured him. Less psychotic, perhaps, and a little gaunter, like she'd been through hell and back – which given that something big had obviously happened in Sunnydale, might well be true. But the first thing he saw when he saw her was not her...but the young woman slicing into him with shards of broken glass.
“Hey Wes-” Wesley cut her off with a flick of his wrist, the collapsible sword extending towards her. Unsurprisingly, Faith managed to dodge back, avoiding the attack. “What the hell Wes?”
“Give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you.” Wesley said cooly.
“Wes, I'm a Slayer.” Faith said. “If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead...” Her voice trailed off a little as she saw the gun that Wesley had leveled in her face. “Okay, what the fuck are you doing, Wes? We're on the same side!”
“I wasn't aware that I had joined the side of evil, Faith. And last time I checked, tying someone to a chair and torturing them wasn't exactly indicative of being on their side. You're wanted fugitive, Faith.”
“I only broke out of prison because Angel and Buffy needed my help. They asked, and I came.”
“I find it hard to believe that Buffy would ask you for help at any point.” He replied coldly.
Faith inclined her head at that. “True. Fine. It was Angel who asked for my help. Look...Wes...I came to apologize. For what little that's worth. I want to...” Her voice trailed off a moment. “I screwed up. Big time. I want to make up for everything I did. Maybe I'll never be able to do that, but I'm going to do my best.”
“Your apology is noted and irrelevant.” Then a thought occurred to him. “But since you're here in Chicago anyway, perhaps you can be of use. We have a bit of a vampire problem, here. You a vampire slayer.” He lowered his gun. “Perhaps we can...work together, for the moment.” He holstered his firearm again. He stepped aside, lifting his arm up to retract the sword. He still didn't trust her, but he knew she'd be useful. Once she was inside, he closed the door and walked over to the small kitchen. He pointed to the far end of the living room. He could see her across the half-wall counter that divided the living room from the kitchen. But it kept her far enough away they he should have enough time to draw his gun and produce his sword, should she end up attacking him. “Over there. Let's keep some distance between us, shall we?”
“Alright Wes. So, Vampire problem.” She said, popping her neck.
“What exactly happened in Sunnydale?” He started. “All I know is what they say on the news. And the fact that the Hellmouth is apparently gone. How did you manage that?”
“I didn't do it. Spike did. He wore some crazy magical amulet. Collapsed the Hellmouth, gave his life to kill an army of Turok-Han.”
“Turok-Han?” Wesley laughed. “Those are a myth.”
“I fought them, Wes. I saw people get killed by them. So don't go telling me that they aren't real.” The intensity in her voice carried an undertone of dangerous anger.
“Alright. Go on.”
“That's about it. Some incorporeal ass called 'The First Evil' had an army of the things. Wanted to bring them out of the Hellmouth. So Buffy, I and the rest of the Slayers went in and killed them long enough for Spike to...I don't know...channel the sun or something, through the amulet.”
Wesley held up a hand. “Wait, wait, Spike? As in William the Bloody? Murderer of two Slayers?”
“He went and got himself a soul. Slept with Buffy too.”
“Didn't someone ever tell her that the object of the game was to kill them, not fuck them?”
“To be honest, I'm not sure.” Faith replied.
“And...you said slayers, earlier? As in other than you and Buffy?”
“Yea.” Faith said with a shrug. “There's more than two of us now. Whole bunch. Red used some magical 'Slayer Scythe' that Buffy found and activated every potential.”
Wesley coughed loudly, nearly choking on nothing for a moment. “Every potential?”
“Yea.” Faith said. “I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it to. So what have you been doing here in Chicago? Angel didn't go heavy in on the details about what happened between you two.”
“Its a long story I'd rather not share. I'm here working for Johnny Marcone.”
Faith recognized that name. “You're working for the mob? And you get on me about being a wanted fugitive?!”
“In the supernatural world, Marcone is an established power. I came here to oppose Wolfram and Hart. Marcone didn't like them moving into his city. I don't do anything more illegal than Angel or Buffy do in their fight. I just have more resources to work with.”
“What do you mean, 'Established power'?” Faith demanded.
“He's a signatory of the Unseelie Accords.”
“The closest analogy is the Geneva of the supernatural world, though they deal with a lot more than prisoners. The White Council of Wizards, the Red and White Courts of Vampires, the Summer and Winter Courts of Faerie, Wolfram and Hart, Marcone...if you're a major player in the Supernatural world, you sign it. Only exception is...was...the Watcher's Council.”
“It sets constraints on war-making, placing it in certain context. The Council was...uninterested in limiting itself in the fight against vampires of all three Courts.”
“What's this about Courts?”
“Oh, didn't you know?” He smirked. Of course she wouldn't know. “There are three different species of vampire.”Next Time on New City, Same Enemy: With Faith alongside them, Oracle Securities makes yet another incursion into Undertown to find the Red Courtiers, while on the surface, Diocletian finally makes his next move against Harry Dresden. And why is Lindsey headed off to the sinkhole that was once called Sunnydale?