The Ball is in the Red Court
Go ahead, sue me. Take a share of the three-hundred some dollars I have to my name. But I don't own Dresden Files or Angel the Series, and I am making no profit.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 22: The Ball is in the Red CourtUndertown, Chicago
9:57 am, May 26th, 2003
“Allow me to make one thing clear, Miss Lehane.” Mark said tersely, as he dropped back in the group to speak to her. “I don't like you.”
“Gee, Mark, you know how to make a girl feel wanted.” Faith said. “Glad you're so honest though. Now, tell me, why should I give a shit?””
“I don't like you.” He repeated, barreling forward as if she hadn't spoken. “I don't like you, I don't trust you, and if I even think
that there is a slight possibility that you're even considering
doing anything to Wesley, I'll kill you in a heartbeat.”
“A, I'm not going to do anything to Wes. I'm not the person I was three years ago, and even if I was, I have other things to do than hurt Wes. Hell, at this point, I'd much rather fuck him. If he'd been like this when he'd been my Watcher, I don't think I'd have gone evil. Would've been too interested in getting in his pants faster than you could say jail bait.” Then she looked pointedly at the former Marine. “And you may be tough and all, but, Slayer here.”
“Of course you could. You could beat the crap out of me and probably not break a sweat. A Slayer can outfight any normal human. Issue is...even a Slayer can't outfight a bullet. Especially not one right in the brain.”
“I don't really like death threats.” Faith replied, hand tightening around the hilt of the sword Wesley had loaned her.
“It wasn't a threat, Miss Lehane. It was a promise, and a warning. You don't make any moves to hurt my boss, or make me think you're going to hurt him, and I'm sure we'll get along just fine.”
“I don't much like promises to kill me either-”
“Shut the fuck up, both of you,” Wesley said from the front of the line. Faith, being herself, was about to make a smart remark back when she felt it. That all too familiar...sense of wrongness
, like...there never was any way she'd ever been able to describe it...maybe I really should look into that 'elocution and expanding my horizons' shit,
she pondered, laughing it away mentally moments later. But there were demons, or vampires coming. And a lot of them. Well, really, they didn't feel like demons...but they didn't feel like vampires either. Not quite. Close, but no cigar. Has to be those Red Court Vamps Wes said we're down here to kill.
“Wes...?” She called up front. “There's something coming. A lot of somethings. They don't feel like demons. Or vampires. Not the kind I know, anyway.”
“Has to be Red Court.” Wesley confirmed if for her. He stopped moving, holding up a hand to indicate to the rest to stop as well. They all did. “Looks like we have company. Everyone, get ready.” Faith watched as Wesley and his team got ready with an experienced, smooth, almost mechanical efficiency. Wesley snapped his wrist and the collapsible sword extended from his sleeve, and into his hand. He gave it an almost instinctual test swing in front of him. But he didn't leave his other hand unused either. He pulled a pistol from his coat pocket and, with a practiced ease she still – even with his very visible improvements – had amazing difficulty reconciling with Wesley, even the Wesley-with-a-spine that she'd strapped to a chair and tortured, prepped it one handed, safety off.
Mark, like the rest of the gun-toting “private security” types that apparently made up the majority of Oracle Securities combat forces overall, and the majority – by far – of this team too. Each of them, at this point, had swords over their backs as well, but the fact that they immediately went for their guns – and seemed a lot more comfortable with them than the swords – suggested they probably were only going to be using them as weapons of last resort. Despite the fairly cramped quarters of the tunnel they were in, each one of them was arming their automatic weapons. Each of them also had shotguns and at least one pistol, bringing perhaps new meaning to the word 'overkill'.
Then again, Abigail had told her last night, when she had asked about Mark Farrel, that the former marine had once told her, apparently quoting someone else “There is no 'overkill'. There is only 'open fire' and 'I need to reload'”. Which, for all its gung-ho absurdity, was a philosophy Faith found herself thinking that she could get completely behind. Speaking of Abigail...
Instead of Abigail as their magical support, another one of the magic-guys working underneath her, named David Cross. Apparently he was really good with creating fireballs, and just creating and controlling fire in general. Which, against vampires, would be quite useful, she had to admit. Wesley, Mark and Abigail had decided, it seemed, that bringing their leader, and the guy in charger of all their 'soldiers' – as it were – was putting enough eggs inside one basket, that bringing the head of their magical unit wasn't a good idea. Hence David, instead of Abigail.
David, it seemed, was the only person who wasn't getting ready. Even Faith was almost reflexively twirling a stake in her hand, even though she knew that the sword Wes had loaned her was going to be a hell of a lot more useful. Well, at least according to Wes, and he was all she had to go on, as to how to kill these 'Red Court' Vampires.
“Which direction are they coming-” Wesley's question answered itself before he could finish it, as black, rubbery, bat-like monstrosities charged down the tunnel towards them. Faith couldn't get a clear count from her position in the line. “David.” Wesley said tersely, as they drew closer, shrieking wordless, but nonetheless noisy, war-cries.
“Yea?” The pyromancer replied, deceptively calm in his tone – even as he felt panic, a level of panic he hadn't felt on Demonreach, rising within him. Vampires always terrified him more, even than more powerful demons. Though given his experiences growing up on the Cleveland Hellmouth, that was hardly surprising. “What?” Economy of words continued to rule his speech, even – especially – at times like this.
“A wall of fire between our guests and us would be rather nice. They don't seem to be that happy to see us traipsing around their backyards.” What the hell are you doing, Wes?
David thought to himself. Practicing your long-atrophied skill of British understatement?
Still, David obeyed without hesitation. Demonreach, and the time since, had taught him to respect the Englishman's tactical skills. And to question the man's sanity, but it was hard not to question that.
The pyromancer flung his hands forward, chanting, and a small wall of fire formed between them and the onrushing vampires. In fact, 'wall' was hardly even close to the right word. It was barely an inch tall!
“What the hell
David?” Wesley exclaimed. “That's way too fucking small!” Wesley paused in his admonishment to rapidly empty his pistol into the onrushing Red Courtiers. Not a single one fell, and indeed, they didn't hear any of the characteristic loud, keening screeches Red Court Vampires made when they were suffering any meaningful amount of pain while in their true forms. Damn,
Wesley thought angrily. Worth a fucking try I guess...and every little bit counts, at the end of the day.
He returned back to the thread of 'conversation' with David. “They'll fucking jump right over it. Hell! They'll walk
right over it!” As he spoke, Wesley dropped the empty firearm in his left hand, not bothering to reload it.
“That's kind of the point.” David replied calmly, one hand still outstretched towards the “wall of fire”.
“What the- Are you out of your god-damned mind? Are you insane?!”
“Kind of rich for you
to be asking me
that, don't you think, boss?” David shot back. So much for my usual economy of words.
David thought wryly to himself. “Look!” The vampires were drawing nearer, one leaping ahead of the rest of the pack, leaping towards them directly, leaping towards the wall..leaping – over
David pulled his hand backwards so that it was by his ear, and without any other warning, the “wall” rose up with an almost-roar to cover an entire, albeit thin, slice of the tunnel, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. The vampire, caught in a sheet of flame that hadn't been been there just a moment before, began to get toasted virtually instantly. Now they did hear that keening screech they'd been expecting, and the charred, ruined body of the vampire fell out of the 'wall' and rolled a few feet to land nearly at Wesley's feet. It wasn't moving – much – but the former watcher wasn't included to take chances, and he darted forward smoothly, cutting his sword into the creature's barely definable neck, just underneath its equally barely definable head. Thick, gooey ichor spewed a little from the sudden gash, then fell in pace to just flowing out, its speed and consistency reminiscent of molasses.
“David, down!” Wesley barked the order, pointing towards the ground in an entirely unnecessary gesture. The fire-sheet continued to block the path ahead
“What-” David began, but Wesley cut him off.
“I said down! Do it! Now!” What really sold David on following those orders wasn't so much the urgency or the voice of command in them, but the fact that Wesley too was diving to the ground. David was on the cold stone a second later. “Open fire!” Wesley shouted, his order possessed of much less dignity than it could have been, given his position nearly face down on the ground. The four mercenaries behind them opened fire with their weapons, the air above them crackling as the dozens and dozens of small, imperceptibly fast flew past them, through the fire, and into the massed vampires behind them. Each bullet currently being fired would do even less than the shots he'd fired from his pistol, but there were so many of them. Accuracy didn't matter, with these guns or even individual bullets. Putting enough lead into the air to turn your enemy into pencil, on the other hand...
More keening shrieks, though none with quite the intensity Wesley might hope for. In pain, yes, but the bullets weren't killing any. The hail of bullets slowed, then stopped as the mercenaries ejected empty clips and began to reload quickly.
“How much longer can you keep that up David?” Wesley asked the other man, noticing the obvious strain on the man's face.
“Maybe...maybe another minute or two. Under normal circumstances, a lot longer, but if you want me to be even marginally effective in the main fight, I can't give you anything more.”
“Bring it down as soon as they've emptied these clips and reloaded a fresh set.” Wesley ordered, as the four began to fire anew. More screeches, still, though, no sounds intense enough to suggest that they were dying. Bugger.
Wesley took the time he had, however, to reach into his coat and withdraw a fresh clip for his pistol. He grabbed the empty gun, ejected the old clip, and slammed the new one home, just as mercenaries second 'volley' ended, and they began to reload. “Bring it down....” Wesley began, scrambling to his feet... “Now!
” David, now also on his feet, complied, and the vampires surged forward, the ones in the back leaping over their brethren to get to the fight, others climbing onto the walls and ceiling to bypass the front ranks. One leapt at Wesley, who bent over, letting the creature sail right past him.
He didn't bother to see where it landed, emptying his clip again, this time into one vampire, but the one he had 'dodged' landed in front of Faith, who by this point was more than ready to get into the fight. The vampire hissed at her, striking out with a clawed hand, but it wasn't expecting Slayer speed or strength. Faith caught the claw on her sword, the bony protrusions scraping across the tempered steel like nails across a chalkboard. With her other hand, Faith flipped the stake, point first, and drove it straight into the creature's face, catching it right in the eye, and indeed, driving right into its brain. It didn't even have a chance to screech, falling over dead, just in time for another to drop down in front of her from the ceiling.
Faith didn't wait for this one to actually do anything. She brought the sword down and around, slicing it deep into the vampire's abdomen, though not all the way through. It was those costly seconds as she removed the sword, slowed by the thick goop that was the vampire's blood, that cost her. The vampire, squirming on the blade, lashed out madly with one claw, scoring into her left upper arm.
Faith recoiled back, hissing in pain, staggering a bit, though fortunately she managed to bring her sword with her. It wasn't a very deep cut, nor that bad of one, at the end of the day, or even in a spot worth worrying about – too much. Her Slayer Healing would have that dealt with in a matter of hours, unless she started suffering worse injuries. But still- fuck that shit hurt!
Her hiss must've caught attention, because even as she pulled the sword bag to stab the vampire, she saw, out of the corner of her eye, Mark spin around, raising a shotgun. With one pull of the trigger, the back of the vampire's head was filled with lead and it staggered forward. Faith stabbed it in the face, using her foot to wrench her weapon free of the body, blood continuing to spill all over her, the floor, the walls. By this point, indeed, blood both human and Red Courtier was starting to make the entire floor of the tunnel slick and slippery, keeping a solid purchase on the floor would only grow harder.
“Marine-boy! Behind you!” Faith shouted at Mark. The soldier around to face the vampire behind him, but only to receive a full body blow to the chest that sent him sprawling back on the ground several feet. Still, keeping ahold of his gun, Mark pumped the shotgun, then fired again, right into the main body mass. The vampire kept coming, but now Faith was returning the favor Mark had given her. She was too far to use even the sword's length against the vampire, but it wasn't that long of a range either. She held sword by its handle, as if holding the middle of a javelin, and threw, the force of the through carrying the heavy blade right through the creature's stomach, the point carrying through to the other end. It screeched, adding yet another noise to a small, packed area of tunnel already filled with the sound of screeches, screams, yells, incoherent war-cries, coherent curses and shouts and gunfire.
Faith went to Mark as the vampire collapsed to the ground and offered a hand to the man. She pulled him to his feet, the back of his shirt now soaked with a combination of human and vampire blood, seeping through onto his skin. “You gonna live, marine-boy?” Faith asked, a smile on her face. Despite all the carnage and death, despite her own injury...this battle was, like the Battle inside the Hellmouth had been, for that matter, exhilarating. Neck deep in a fight like this, covering the floor in the blood and bodies of dead vampires and demons...this was what she was born for she felt, what it was to be a Slayer. God Dammit! but I love being a Slayer!
“Oh, I'll live.” Mark said. He didn't think anything was broken, though if he'd cracked a rib or two, he wouldn't be too terribly surprised. Still, it was, perhaps, a little amazing what adrenaline will do to a man in the middle of a fight. “How about you?” He asked, nodding at her arm.
Faith scoffed. “I'll live. Hell, in a few hours it will be-” Her voice cut off as she felt...more...her senses were on near-overload with so many vampires in amongst them...but she felt more...and not coming from the front of the line. “Fuck! There's more coming from behind us!” Without waiting for Mark's reaction to that news, she pulled her sword from the dead vampire, leapt onto the spot where the tunnel wall was diagonal, connecting the mostly flat wall with the mostly flat floor, and running along it for about two feet. With a grunt, Faith crouched back at that point for a second, starting to slip down the wall a few centimeters...then, with a yell, Faith propelled herself forward, landing at the back of the line as another mass of Red Courtiers, again, wearing their true forms, came around the corner into view.
Faiths stood between the vampires and the fight behind her, blood dripping slowly off of her sword, adding an almost menacing effect to her stance. She held the blade in a reversed grip, the bottom of the hilt a few inches away from her neck and the blade extending out in front of her. She wasn't going to be fighting quite alone, though. Two of the mercenaries turned as she jumped past them and immediately began emptying their pistols into the advancing enemies. Once the weapons were empty, the mercenaries did the next logical thing and just lobbed them into the vampires as if they were so much useless metal. None fell...the two mercenaries pulled up their shotguns.
“Your sword!” Faith said to one of them. “Give it to me!” The man hesitated only for a second, then retrieved the weapon and tossed it at Faith, who caught the spinning hilt with her free hand. As if throwing a knife, she spun it into the vampires and it hit one, a steel wheel of death scything through one, then into another, clattering to the ground with one of its victims.
Faith was right on the heels of the projectile, holding the sword with both hands as she swung it wildly, ignoring her own guard, cutting into one, two, three Red Courtiers, then back around, driving right into the mass. She hissed as she was cut across her back by a rake from a vampire's claw, now surrounded, as shotguns blasted into the vampires, a few fragments sailing by her head.
Faith was almost beyond purely rational thought. The heat of battle...the spirit of the First Slayer, that lived in all Slayers, stretching back to first slayer to come after that girl in prehistoric Africa...and continued to live now, in each and every Slayer created by Willow's spell...it had almost possessed her...it wasn't in control of her, in any real sense, but recklessness, the call of battle had taken control of her, much like it it had down in the Hellmouth...
She grabbed the second sword, wrenching it free from the corpse of the vampire it had been embedded in. With a sword in each hand, she began almost a whirlwind of death, slicing into vampire after vampire, not always killing, but always wounding enough to elicit a screech. Despite that, Faith was not immune to receiving injury herself. Slice after slice of the claws went into her, each one almost nothing worth bothering about at all, even a few hardly of any concern...but soon she had a dozen, then even more, blood, both the black ichor of the Red Courtiers and the red of her own life's essence, stained her completely, so it was impossible, really, to tell if she actually had clothes underneath the blood...and still, there were more Red Courtiers...ever more.
Wesley, at the front, had no awareness of Faith's growing plight...lacking the advantage of Slayer speed and strength, Wesley was dispatching his foes with much slower speed, and he too had suffered a number of cuts, though nothing on the order of what Faith had.
“You show great skill.” The vampire he was fighting said, speaking Spanish, which was no trouble for Wesley, being both a human and living language. “You would do well as a warrior of the Red Court.”
“Perhaps.” Wesley replied in the same language. He swung his sword, only to have it get caught in the vampire's hand. “But I'd also make a poor minion, regardless of any sire-childe bond. And more importantly, I'm rather attached to my humanity.” Wesley pulled his blade away, the motion accidentally bringing his left arm into the vampire's reach....with blinding speed, it had his arm locked in a vice-grip, and then, it twisted.
Wesley fell back, only just staying on his feet, his left arm hanging uselessly by his side. With a toothy, fearsome grin, the vampire lunged at his crippled opponent, only to suffer a sword right into the gut. Wesley didn't pull it out, but rather turned it on its side, still inside the vampire
, tearing up the creature's flesh and insides even more. Then he pulled it out...by moving it to the side, out through where its waist was. The vampire fell back, and for good measure, Wesley stabbed it right in the brain, once, twice...three times, and it was no longer twitching, blood escaping from the wounds, brain matter clinging to his sword. He looked up from his latest victim to see the pace of the battle...between them, they'd managed to dispatch the primary attacking vampire force, from the front. There were still a few scattered fights going on, as Red Court and one or more mercenaries locked together in close combat. The cost, though, had been brutal. Wesley guessed, just at a glance at the bodies, that half his force – eight the men and women who he'd led into this brutal meat-grinder – had died.
Then Wesley turned completely and saw the mass of vampires in the back, and caught a tiny glimpse of his former Slayer in amongst them. “David!” He barked at the pyromancer, who had been mostly conserving his power throughout the fight, his magic to be saved for the leader of the Reds here. Wesley pointed at the vampires at the back, at Faith surrounded, covered in blood, about to be buried by the sheer weight of bodies.
Without a word, David nodded. Despite the urgency, he couldn't afford to run across the slippery ground, and indeed, had to walk with a slow carefulness that aggravated Wesley, but he knew it was the only option. Still, within a minute, the magic-user was within range of the vampires, and he formed twin fireballs in his hands, then threw them, each one catching a vampire in the back. A human might
not have died instantly from that fire, but Vampires of the Red Court – any court – were hardly human. They crumbled to the ground, charred remnants of their former selves that were dispatched with a smooth shotgun blast each. The opening created, David set to widening it, another two fireballs crashing into the enemy.
“Faith!” Wesley called. “Get out from there!” Faith, far gone as she was, knew when she was outmatched. She didn't really register the words from her former Watcher, but she did see that an opening was created, and she fought her way back towards it, escaping the mass.
With Faith out of the way, several mercenaries threw white phosphorous grenades at the Red Courtiers. All of them already wounded, the explosions of white flame, burning shards of metal...it was all that was needed. With one final series of keening screeches, the last of their Red Court attackers died.The tunnel hurt their numerical advantage, we had a Slayer...
the odds had been stacked against them, true, in some ways, but in others, not quite as much as you'd think. If it had been against this number of Black Court vampires, the fight would have been much, much harder...guns, on the other hand, when it came to Red Courtiers, actually did lasting harm of the same type it did to humans. It just took more shots.
“You going to live?” Wesley asked Faith softly, shoving the pain in his arm to the back of his mind.
“Just a scratch. Nothing to worry about. I'll heal in a few hours.” Faith replied weakly, feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Though I'll be damned if I admit that to him.
“Just a scratch?! Bloody hell, we're talking at least – at least – two dozen wounds on you. Even Slayer healing takes a few hours!”
“Look who's talking Wes,” She pointed to his broken arm, to the scratches he'd suffered. “And you don't even have any
Slayer healing working for you. Besides, we're not done yet, are we. Where are the rest? Where we headed?”
“We're not going onto anywhere!” Wesley protested. “I don't know if you've noticed, but we've suffered fifty percent casualties, and not one of us still standing is in any condition to keep fighting.”
“Did we get them all?” Faith asked, knowing the answer.
“Well...no...Baron Zaragoza is still alive.” Wesley admitted. “And there have to be at least a few more of his elite minions close around him.”
“Exactly, then.” Mark said. “We can't leave any of them alive.” His words were echoed by everyone else around the tunnel. Especially Faith, despite her accumulated injuries. “If any live, they'll just kill more people, make more Red Courtiers. They'll come back. We need to exterminate the entire nest of them.” More echoes of agreement.
Wesley didn't want to...they were in no condition, he felt...but at the same time, they were right. If they left the job done now... And he doubted they'd obey him, at this point, if he had them turn around and head home. Faith certainly wouldn't. He hissed. “Fine. Let's go.” They proceeded forward along the tunnel, even though they were entirely going blind. Wesley had no idea where Baron Zaragoza would be...
It took nearly an hour, and Wesley was quite sure they were effectively lost, but then Faith felt her senses act up again. “There's something ahead. Red Court.” She said. “Not that many...”
Wesley inhaled sharply, then nodded. He pressed ahead, and they found themselves entering a large, high-ceiling cavern. It was in theory too dark for them to see in it, but the entire cavern was dimly lit by the glow of a swirl of magical power in the center. Standing around it was five Red Court vampires...
“Your timing is rather horrible, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce.” One of them said softly. “I was about to depart this place – you've turned Chicago into a charnel house for my kind. Obviously not somewhere I should be staying.”
“Do you really think I'm just going to let you leave? After all the chaos and death you've wrought here in this city, after you've killed so many of my men...do you really think I'd let you get away with all of that?”
“What can you do to stop me? I can enter this portal before a single one of you could reach me, and none of your weapons can kill me before I make my escape. So how do you propose to prevent me from escaping?”
“Kill you? Oh, no Your Grace. Killing you is a little too quick.” Wesley stepped a pace forward. “Well, actually, it is too quick, as I said, but at the same time...I don't think I can be bothered with torturing you. At the end of the day, pond scum like you is irrelevant. Death is never too good for my opponents, and certainly not for you.”
“You still can't hurt me!” The Baron laughed. “Not enough to kill me.”
“Damn!” Faith exclaimed, chuckling. “These Red Court Vampires love to talk as much as the Black Court ones.”
“Don't compare me to those degenerate corpses!” Zaragoza replied heatedly. “I am Red Court! I am of noble lineage!”
“You're a fucking leech, a parasite.” Wesley said. “A slug is more productive to the world than you.”
The Red Courtier snared, then... “You're trying to make me angry. Make me attack you. I'm not that stupid, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce.”
“No, but as you notice, we managed to keep up your verbal diarrhea...and that let your minions know what you thought of them. You didn't mention them getting away at all, now did you? Well, it seems...they've decided to take the portal in their own hands.” Indeed, all four of the other vampires that had been standing near Zaragoza had stepped into the portal...which was closing rapidly. The Baron dove for it, desperate to escape – his right arm slipped into the shrinking rift...and it closed around his elbow, leaving him with half of an arm. He began to scream.
“Faith, you want him?” Wesley turned towards the Slayer.
“Hell yea!” Faith jumped at the vampire and picked him bodily up, hurling him into the wall, then chasing after him. She started to beat into him. Wesley heard the cries of pain and decided they were quite a pleasant sensation to the ears.
The Red Court in Chicago had been dealt with.