I do not own the Dresden Files, or Angel the Series. I own my laptop, some books, and drawer full of computer games. Sue me if you want in on that. But its not worth your time. Really.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 24: Final ScoreThe White Room, Wolfram and Hart Chicago
7:54 am, June 18th, 2003
“The situation in Chicago does not develop at the pace we were promised.” The words came from what appeared to be Lilah. The Emissary of the Chicago White room liked to take the form of whoever it was it was talking to. “Oracle Securities has only strengthened its position, Dresden has not be neutralized, and the underworld remains unstable. How do you account for these failures? The Senior Partners are not pleased.”
Lilah held her composure. Compared to Angel, or the Beast, the Emissary was small change. The threat of the Senior Partner's displeasure wasn't something to be taken lightly either, but Lilah was always prepared for backlash from them. Had been for years. The only question was would her insurance policy protect her. Fortunately, she'd never had to answer that question once and for all, and she was confident she could talk herself out of a need to use it this time as well.
“Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is not Angel, and Oracle Securities is not Angel Investigations, and expecting the one to resemble the other, or expecting the same kind of mostly free hand here that we had in Los Angeles us not only a false conceit, but possibly a deadly one as well. Oracles Securities, as part of the umbrella organization under the authority of Baron Marcone, in his role as a Freeholding Lord under the Accords, cannot just be eliminated out of hand. Which is probably the only resemblance between the threats posed by Angel and Oracle Securities – with the Accords filling the role of prophecy as the constraint on the Firm's options, in this case.”
She paused for a moment, then proceeded to the next point. “The geopolitical landscape of the supernatural world, as it were, has changed. While Wolfram and Hart, in terms of power in this dimension, has never been a superpower on the level of the White Council or the Vampire Courts, in the circles it moves in, the Firm has been the dominant force. With the recent activation of hundreds, if not thousands of Slayers worldwide, the rise of Baron Marcone, and the formation of an actively militant, non-governmental human organization – that is also covered by the Accords, the entire strategic calculus of the mid-ranked and lesser powers, such as Wolfram and Hart and Marcone's little empire has changed. And for that matter, I can guarantee you that, regardless of any dislike Wesley Wyndam-Pryce might have for Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles – which is both very real and quite intense – we will see Oracle Securities become an organization that the new Watcher/Slayer organization will use as official cover to operate under the protection of the Accords. To one degree or another.”
“Is there a point to all of this, Miss Morgan? Because this seems to me to be directionless rambling. Are you trying to fast-talk your way into confusing me?”
“Not in the least, Mini-Me.” Lilah snarked in reply. “If you'll let me finish, I can get to my point.” She glared at the Emissary. “So...will you let me finish?” The Emissary nodded regally. Lilah just rolled her eyes.
“Now, I wasn't the one that decided to pursue a course of action that was essentially everything but
open warfare between Wolfram and Hart Chicago and Oracle Securities. That was the decision of my predecessor in this position, Marcus Lott. And you – well, the Senior Partners, anyway – clearly thought he was doing something
wrong, or you wouldn't have brought me in here to replace him. It was Marcus Lott who decided to bring in Gregory of Arles, and it was he who had the absolutely brilliant
idea to bring in an obsessive, power-mad, uncontrollable psychopath like Diocletian in as a counter-weight to Dresden. The failure of both forces to perform as advertised is the failure not of my tenure, but of Mr. Lott's time here.” No need to bring up the whole....deal, with the Red Court.
“And, while it is true that my emphasis on a more subtle, 'Cold War-style' approach towards Oracle Securities and Harry Dresden has decreased revenues by allowing Dresden and Wyndam-Pryce to focus more on countering our more...mundane enterprises, that same stance has actually increased overall profits because it has driven expenses downward as well.”
“Money is hardly the only thing that matters to the Senior Partners, Miss Morgan. Indeed, it is merely a means to an end. What other successes of your time here can you point to?”
“Keeping the bulk of Oracle Securities' attention and resources tied in Chicago and the surrounding area.”
“Elaborate.” The Emissary demanded.
“Oracle Securities was created by Marcone to counter Wolfram and Hart specifically, yes but if Wolfram and Hart was to pack up and leave Chicago, Marcone would hardly disband it. His criminal empire is centered here, yes, but his financial interests, legal and otherwise, spread from beyond just this city. And Wyndam-Pryce won't just let the resource Oracle Securities presents go to waste in terms of countering us elsewhere. As long as Wolfram and Hart Chicago remains in operation and a semi-active threat, however, Wyndam-Pryce and Marcone will be forced to keep most of their resources invested in figuring out what we're up to here, countering us, and having a reserve in case we try anything big. Rather than interfering with our operations in, say the strategically more important cities of Los Angeles and Cleveland. Or helping the new Slayer/Watcher Organization more broadly.”
The Emissary scowled. It didn't like being proven wrong. “And what about your...sexual liaisons with Wyndam-Pryce?”
“I know my contract inside and out. Who I choose to sleep with – indeed, all aspects of my private life – are of no concern to you, the firm or the Senior Partners, unless they interfere with my ability to do my job.”
“Are you trying to tell me that sleeping with the leader of your primary opposition has no bearing on your ability to do your job?” The Emissary narrowed its eyes skeptically.
“Actually, I am. Its pretty much sex between us. Oh, I won't deny I have a certain fondness for the man, and I suspect he feels something similar – though we'll never admit it to eachother – but it really doesn't have a bearing on the conflict between our respective organizations. I mean, I won't kill him if a better option presents itself, but I wouldn't hesitate to kill or betray him if that was the most efficient option available. And he wouldn't hesitate to do the same to me.”
She paused, cocking her head as a thought occurred to her. “Though...come to think of it, my...let's call it a relationship for lack of a better word – with Wesley also serves as fairly good insurance against things going 'nuclear' here in Chicago.”
“Elaborate.” The Emissary demanded once again.
“You do know that I have a job to do, right, Mini-Me? I can't really stand around explaining myself to you all day.” She made a show of checking her watch.
The Emissary wasn't impressed. “Elaborate.” It insisted.
“Good to see that expansive vocabulary working out for you.” Lilah snarked once more. “Alright, I'll humor you. Wesley and I are familiar with the way we each think. I know how he thinks, he knows how I think. And the thing that would be most likely to cause things to go 'nuclear' here in Chicago is fear, combined with uncertainty as to how far the other side is willing to go. And then the desire to get rid of them before they go as far as a fevered, paranoid imagination might incline you to think the other side will go. But Wesley knows how far I'm willing to go, and I know how far he's willing to go. We understand the wavelength the other is on.” She looked at her watch again, “Now, I really do have a meeting to get to.” Without waiting for 'permission', Lilah turned and stepped into the elevator, leaving the White Room.Oracle Securities, Wesley's Office
11:03 am, June 18th, 2003
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Dresden.” Wesley said, gesturing to the chair on the other side of his desk. “Please, sit.”
Harry Dresden pulled the chair in question out a bit, to give his legs more room, and sat. “Not a problem. Fortunately, things have been...unusually quiet recently. And, now that I've just said that, all hell is going to break loose.”
Wesley smiled a little at that. “I'm familiar with the concept. Would you care to knock on wood?” He gestured towards his desk.
Harry shook his head. “No. With my luck, it will just make things worse. But, anyway, you guys have helped me before, I've helped you, so I don't have much problem coming over to talk. What do you need?”
“Actually, its more in the way of what you need. I understand you've been developing new applications of your spells, new methods to fight Diocletian with, since they will be spells he hasn't seen from you before, and thus he won't know how to counter them?”
Harry nodded. “That's true. Well, I haven't been developing them for a while now, actually, because they're all pretty much developed. Diocletian just hasn't shown his face anywhere.” He smiled a little. “Its almost refreshing to be the guy that's being hidden from, rather than the guy that's doing the hiding.” He chuckled hollowly at that. “I have too much experience with that.”
“Well, finding Diocletian shouldn't be too much of a problem. We know his location.” Wesley said, reaching over to a notepad.
“How? I've been trying to find him for months.”
“Well, we didn't actually find
him, so much as someone told us what hole he is hiding in.” Wesley said, going through the notepad quickly, looking for a specific page. “His apprentice called. Apparently, she's not interested in being his slave in all but name anymore.” He leaned over to his computer and typed something into his computer, then clicked the mouse a few times. “I've gotten into the habit of recording every phone call I make or receive.”
“Paranoia isn't exactly an endearing character trait.” Harry said. “Not that I don't have a healthy dose of it myself, these days.”
“Paranoia is such a dirty word.” Wesley replied. He clicked the mouse one more time.
“Wyndam-Pryce. Who is this?” Wesley's voice came out of the computer.
“Not important.” Came a female voice, as if from the other end of the a phone call. “I have information for you.”
“I'm not interested in any information unless I know who it is coming from, and how you got it – I have to verify accuracy. Are you with Wolfram and Hart?”
There was a dark, hollow chuckle on the other end of the line. “I wish. Probably be more fun than what I am stuck into. You've probably heard my name – I'm not giving it to you. Hell, we met too, on the island.”
“Diocletian's apprentice. Amy Madison.” Wesley said softly. “What do you want?”
“I want out.” Amy said. “I want Diocletian dead before he kills me for kicks.”
“Shouldn't you be calling Harry Dresden with this, then? Oracle Securities is good, but we're not that good.”
“Dresden alone won't be able to handle Diocletian. You're going to back him up. And more importantly, I have absolutely no interest in being taken in or killed by the Wardens. I want to make a deal. Diocletian's location for your promise of safe passage out of Chicago.”
“I try to avoid making deals with evil witches, Miss Madison.”
“Spare me the self-righteousness.” Amy replied flatly. “Do you want to know where Diocletian is hiding, or do you want things in Chicago to stay completely fucked up because of his machinations?”
There was a long pause, as if Wesley was thinking, then, “Fine. I'll make sure you can get out of there once Diocletian is dead. I'll even have a train ticket for you, out of the city.”
“I don't believe you. Swear it.”
“Hell no.” Wesley replied cooly. “I try to avoid making promises. Hazard of my line of work. You're just going to have to trust me.”
“And why should I do that?”
“Because I'm you're only way out. You need Diocletian dead, and since you aren't going to contact Dresden for this deal direct, I'm your best option.”
Now it was Amy's turn to pause. “Fine.” She gave an address. An abandoned apartment building, set to be demolished eventually, when the city got around to it. “He spends all his time there.” The recording ended with Wesley hanging up.
“That's....a little too convenient.” Harry said. “Screams trap with some nice blinking lights to go with it.”
“True.” Wesley said. “But you've never been one to avoid walking into a trap, from what I've heard.”
Harry scoffed a little, rubbing the back of his neck. “Hell's Bells. No, I haven't been one for avoiding traps. More just go in and unload on the bad guys. And usually get my ass kicked the first go around. Still, I'd rather not go through the whole 'getting my ass kicked' part, if I can avoid it.”
“I think we can manage that.” Wesley said. “We will go in to help, though if this is a trap, then he'll expect that. But we also have something that Diocletian will completely not expect.” He pulled out his cell and dialed a number, then held it up to his ear. “Abigail? Could you send Spike up? I'd like to speak with him.”
“Because I still have an exorcist on speed dial. Because I'm perfectly prepared to get on a plane, fly overseas throw the amulet into the Atlantic Ocean along the way, and let him be stuck there for all eternity.” Whoever was on the other end of the line said something, and Wesley sighed. “Tell him that he should come up because if he helps me deal with an evil warlock, I'll call Buffy and let her know he's still in the realm of the...somewhat extant....Excellent. Alright.” He hung up.
“What was all that?” Harry asked.
“You heard about what happened to Sunnydale?” Wesley asked.
“Yea.” He'd asked Bob what the hell could do a thing like that. The knowledge spirit had told him that somehow, someone had destroyed the Hellmouth that Sunnydale sat on – best explanation, anyway. “Someone destroyed the Hellmouth.”
“Buffy Summers and company.”
“One of many now, actually. You have to have heard the rumors.”
Harry nodded. “So they're true? Hundreds of supercharged demon-killers all over the world?” The question is, Harry, is that good, or bad?
The wizard asked himself.
“Indeed. Well, the Hellmouth was destroyed through the use of this.” He opened a drawer and took out the amulet. “Worn around the neck of the vampire known alternately as 'Spike' or 'William the Bloody' who apparently decided to make like his grand-sire and get himself a soul-”
“Oi!” Spike shouted, walking through the wall. Wesley smirked. “How many times to I have to say it? My soul's got nothing to do with the magnificent poof's!”
“You are such
an easy and predictable target.” Wesley replied cooly. “Spike, meet Harry Dresden. Harry Dresden, meet Spike. Spike is now, for reasons I don't understand, something resembling a ghost, but your friend Mort says he isn't any kind of ghost he's ever encountered before. Plus, he can interact with the world a whole lot easier than most ghosts. Spike, could you demonstrate for Mr. Dresden?”
“With pleasure.” Spike said with a vicious smirk. Without warning, he charged across the room and punched Wesley in the face, hard. Wesley's head snapped back, his hand flying up to his face, touching the bruise forming there. “Walked right into that one, mate.” Spike said with a gleeful smile.
“That threat of an exorcism still holds, Spike.” Wesley said.
“Not until I help you get rid of this warlock you mentioned. So, let's get to it. Sooner he's in the ground, the sooner you call Buffy and the sooner Red makes me into a real boy again.” He rubbed his hands together. “So, who we killing?”Diocletian's Warehouse
3:13 pm, June 18th, 2003
“What, Harry Blackstone Dresden. No Warden Sword? You're not even wearing the cloak. How are you supposed to be the harbinger of the White Council's justice if you don't even look the part?”
Harry looked down at his enchanted duster, then back up at the cloaked and hooded warlock. “What can I say? I've always preferred black to grey. And apparently, I'm not trustworthy enough to get one of those neat swords.”
“Then how do you propose to defeat me without violating the first law? A gun?” He laughed darkly, mockingly.
“It crossed by mind. True, I can't just shoot you right now, but there's nothing in the First Law about using magic to take you to death's door, and then just walking up and shooting you in the face.”
“You're quite confident of your abilities.” Diocletian said. “And with no justification.”
“You've spent the last few months hiding from me, ever since I used my force rings on you and scared you into this little hidey-hole of yours.”
“Time well spent, preparing. And then Amy Madison gave my location to Oracle Securities. And through them, to you. I'd say you fell into my trap, but the thirty or so armed mortals outside the building gives the lie to that. Do you really think they'll stop me, once I've killed you?”
“They're just here to keep you from running away again. At least on foot, anyway. You could always take a hop, skip and a jump through the Nevernever.”
“And leave you undefeated? No. I'll leave Chicago when I have your head to decorate my mantle.”
“It would probably clash with your décor.” Harry quipped back. “Look, I like trading words with the bad guys, but haven't you ever watched Doctor Who? Or read the Evil Overlord List? Never give the good guy time to just chatter on and on and on.”
“And why is that, Harry Blackstone Dresden?”
“Because.” Harry watched as Spike stepped out of the wall behind Diocletian. “It gives the good guys time to think of a plan. Or put one into place.” Spike struck out at the back of Diocletian's head with his fist. The fist connected, but only made Diocletian stagger forward a moment. He spun around.
“You dare to lay a hand on me
, vampire?!” He thrust out his hand, fire forming in it. “Burn in the hellfire your demon comes from!” Brimstone tainted the air as fire flew out of the warlock's outstretched hand, hitting Spike dead on, right in the chest.
And passing right through him, leaving him completely unharmed.
“Boo!” He said, punching out at Diocletian again. Moving surprisingly quick for a man of his age, the warlock sidestepped the punch.
“It will take more than a simple ghost to defeat me!” Well, shit Harry. That didn't quite go as planned.
Diocletian turned away from Spike for a second, thrusting out his other hand. A ball of hellfire a foot wide flew from his hand, growing to that size halfway through the trajectory. Harry started moving, bringing up his shield on instinct, even as it occurred to him he hadn't done anything to change his shield spell since the last time he'd faced Diocletian. Hells Bells.
Harry was not, at the end of the day, much for praying. And not for the first time, he found himself wishing he had Micheal Carpenter's unshakeable faith. The hellfire hit the shield...
And didn't pass through. The shield was glowing white. “What the-” Harry exclaimed. He'd never seen that before in his life. The hellfire dissipated across the shield. The white glow...it felt...almost like when he'd used Hellfire those few times, when Lash had been in his head. But...it also felt...cleaner, somehow. Purer.
” Whatever the hell Harry had just used, he realized, Diocletian knew full well what it was.
Before Diocletian could throw another spell, he dropped the shield. “Ventas Fuego!
” Brandishing his blasting rod, the wind started to pick up. Slowly, at fist.
“I've seen this trick before!” Diocletian shouted at Dresden over the rising winds. “Don't you have anything new?”
“You didn't listen to what I had to say, did you?” Harry called back. “Ventas! Ventas! Ventas Fuego!
” The wind picked up even more...and then, the fire. As if riding on the wind itself, the flames appeared from seemingly nowhere, but started to fly around the room...taking the form of huge bats – Bob had been quite proud of that little addition – as they flew around the room, drawing ever closer to Diocletian. The warlock wasn't going down without a fight. Water flew from his hand, hitting the bats, but each time one was extinguished, Harry called another mass of flame. The energy he was calling on to pull this off was draining. He'd have to end this soon, somehow. The rings...the fire rings. Of course...
Raising his left hand, each finger had a copper ring, replacing, for the moment, the silver force rings he usually wore. He'd nearly forgotten about them...slipped them on as he was leaving his lab after preparing for this...the same principle as his force rings...but with fire. Focusing on the power within them, he immediately released the power.
A sheet of flame formed as the fire blasted out, driving across the distance towards Diocletian like the front-shovel of a snowplow truck. It hit him, his robes catching fire, though not as much as that fire would make it seem. The last few bats left – Harry had stopped reconjuring them – flew at Diocletian, adding to the flames. Diocletian threw them off – and Spike came at him again, delivering punch after punch.
The warlock's magic was strong, yes, but it had a finite limit. Harry stood, a little shaky on his feet, and pulled out his gun. Large caliber, yes, but well fitted to his size. And great for putting a hole big enough to notice in things. He leveled the weapon, dropping his blasting rod to hold it with both hands.
“Too late, Dresden.” Diocletian laughed. Harry felt the power rising. Death Curse. Immediately, he started to shoot. Diocletian shouted something, exactly as the shot fired, crashing into his face – the Warlock was already dead.
“What did he say?” Harry demanded of Spike. The ghost-vampire with a soul shrugged.
“Something, some other language. Didn't catch much of it anyway. Why? What's it matter?”
“Because it was his Death Curse.”Author's Note:
Probably a somewhat anticlimactic ending to Diocletian, I'll admit. But fight scenes, even magical ones, are not my forte, and Diocletian's power came from knowing spells and secrets. Not from raw power.
Anyway, there's just one chapter left: The Epilogue.