Up to Something
Disclaimer: The Dresdenverse and the Buffyverse are not mine. Anything you recognize is not mine. All characters, plots and concepts seen in this fic that are not from the Dresdenverse or the Buffyverse are mine.
Author's Note: To be perfectly honest, I'm not at all sure how well I got Harry Dresden's character in this. If I botched it, tell me (and maybe even shoot some advice my way in the review too, please).
Thanks for the reviews everyone.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 3: Up to Something
"Marcone's up to something." Sergeant Karrin Murphy said with finality as she entered the office of one Harry Dresden, Wizard Private Eye.
"He's a criminal scumbag. He's always up to something." Harry commented. "Although given that you're coming to me about it tells me its more than just his usual run of the mill crime." Harry was, if it was at all possible, more exhausted than usual. The recent truce in the Red Court-White Council War, in theory, should have been a bit of a respite. But between his Warden duties, setting up and dealing with the new Paranet, consulting for SI and his regular Private Investigation work...the newly arrived Wolfram and Hart had not made things any easier.
"He's got some kind of new private security company. They just bought a building yesterday. Oracle Securities. I think it has more to do with his new position as...Freeholding Lord, right? I still don't like that."
"Neither do I. But Marcone was the best of the available options, and at least he has a stake in keeping things calm around here, paranormally speaking."
"Yea. I agreed at the time, but still, makes him even harder to deal with. I'm a police officer first and foremost, and its my job to uphold the law." She sighed. "But anyway, the new CEO of the company is what bothers me. A Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. British national. Until four years he worked for the International Watchers Council." Harry's eyebrows went up at that. "You know the name? Yea. I looked into them. Screamed involvement in the supernatural. What are they?"
"A group of minor practitioners and clued-in straights that have been mucking around in the supernatural for...well, I'm not sure exactly how long. I'd have to ask Bob. They've never signed the Accords, and they've been, basically, at war with all three Vampire Courts their entire existence. They also deal with areas where the boundary between the Nevernever and our world are particularly thin. They call them Hellmouths. They have access to Archive that rival the White Council's and they they tend to focus the most the Black Court too. They've got some kind of superwoman at their disposal, called 'The Slayer' – Opinion's not exactly sure what she is, but she's at least five times as strong and fast as a normal human, and probably more. Most things that come up against her either try and kill her for the status it brings, or run screaming if they know its her. There's always another Slayer when one dies. My teacher told me he thinks its some kind of power that transfers on the death of its previous holder based on bloodlines or something like that. Not parent to child like the Archive – average life expectancy for a given slayer is about a year, I've heard. I've never actually dealt with them much. Can't imagine why one of them would be working for Marcone though."
"Well, this Wyndam-Pryce hasn't worked for the Council in four years." She shrugged. "I'm sure what exactly he's doing will turn up. I've noticed things don't tend to just sit when it comes to you."
"Thanks for that. Now you've gone and jinxed me." Which reminded him. "I talked to Bob about Wolfram and Hart."
"What did he have to say?"
"Well, he didn't know anything about the Law Firm itself, but he did have something to say about a trio of supercharged demons called 'The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart'. They're beyond old, and on par with a Faerie Queen, all three of them together. Fortunately for all of us, they can't do much directly to anyone who doesn't work for them. They're bad news. Bob really doesn't like talking about them. All anyone knows for sure is that they're always trying to increase their own power and influence by increasing the power and influence of whatever mortal front organization they're using. Supposedly they were behind the Spanish Inquisition, among other things. And...to make things even more fun, they're signatories of the Unseelie Accords as well. Well, Wolfram and Hart is, anyway." He looked down at the notes he'd made from his conversation with Bob, to see if he'd missed any of the high notes.
"I'll ask around, see if anyone know anything about this Wyndam-Pryce character." Harry added. "Maybe even pay a visit to his offices. I get the red carpet treatment at every place Marcone owns, after all."
"Only because it extends the lifespan of the buildings." Murphy replied. "Buildings you're in tend to catch fire."
"Hey! Not every fire in a building I'm in is my fault!"
It had been a week since his arrival in Chicago, and three days since Oracle Securities had moved into its new offices. At Marcone's Order, Ms. Gard had already set up wards, and Wesley intended to see to it more were added as soon as possible. Wolfram and Hart may not have wizards of White Council level at easy disposal – at least not without risking the ire of the Wardens, and while the Senior Partners no doubt cared not a whit for the 'Laws of Magic', a full-scale Warden assault would profit no one. The recent elimination of so many Wardens during the recent war might change things, and Wesley believed in being prepared.
It had taken only a short time for Wesley to decide what a good cover for the organization would be. He'd toyed with the idea of a detective agency, but tossed the idea out soon after. The idea behind this organization Marcone was having him set up was principally to serve as Marcone's direct agency in the supernatural world of Chicago, and principally to oppose Wolfram and Hart. Angel Investigations, as much as it occasionally got distracted by the larger enemy, – in a sort of being unable to see the trees for the forest syndrome - was about helping people, on the smaller scale. A noble endeavor, but not the principle behind Oracle Securities. A private security firm, on the other hand, was convenient enough cover and suited to the task at hand. The name had been simple enough. Wesley may not be a Champion of the Powers that Be – but opposing Wolfram and Hart was clearly something the Powers were interested in, and Oracles, their servants, had been laid low by an agent of the Senior Partners.
Right now, most of what Wesley had to work with in terms of personnel were, as Marcone had said, mercenaries, all clued-in to the supernatural. There were other personnel – a few of Marcone's lawyers, for example, which had been a must, considering the enemy they were going to be fighting was just as adept at hiding behind legal technicalities and spin doctor lawyers as the best of organized crime. It was that fact that Wesley had had in mind when he decided to devote some resources to tracking down Lindsey McDonald. While the former Wolfram and Lawyer was not, as it were, an unambiguously – or even close to it – good person, neither, really was Wesley, or most of the people who were joining this little project. But McDonald had left Wolfram and Hart, and the Senior Partners didn't like the idea of their employees thinking they could just quit, so sooner or later they'd be going after him. From what Angel had told him about the circumstances leading up to his second – and final – departure from the firm, Lindsey really had reached a breaking point in his toleration of Wolfram and Hart and its practices. It was worth giving the man a call, anyway, if Wesley could figure out what number to call.
Minor talents and some of the focused practitioners out there in supernatural Chicago were also people he was looking to hire. None could offer both the breadth and depth of a White Council Wizard, but those were not particularly available for hire. In this he was limited by avoiding known breakers of the Seven Laws, but he was more than willing to consider – not that he'd yet approached anyone just yet – people who were distrusted by the White Council. There would be a place at Oracle Securities for anyone who could do the job, and people who had few other options and a desire to do some overall good – or just make money doing overall good – were people to look for. Wesley himself, was, he considered, a perfect example of the truth of that. A chance to do good was what he still had, even if in a different way than before.
He was interrupted from his reflections by the phone on his desk buzzing loudly, then the voice of one of the guards at the door spoke, "Mr. Wyndam-Pryce. Harry Dresden is here to see you." Recognizing that man was probably the first rule of survival in supernatural Chicago.
"Let him in and send him up to my office." Wesley replied without hesitation. Marcone had left specific instructions to give Dresden 'the red carpet treatment' whenever he showed up, and after looking into some of the Warden's exploits, Wesley considered that order only slightly overkill – it certainly did seem to extend the lifespan of the building in question.
It took a few minutes – Dresden would be unable to use the elevator, as his magic would short the entire contraption out – but the door to his office was opened and Dresden was let in. Wesley nodded to the guard who had opened the door. "You can wait outside. I believe I'll be quite safe with Mr. Dresden." The guard nodded and closed the door behind him. "Please, sit." Wesley said, indicating the chair on the other side of his desk. The wizard did so.
"How does a Watcher end up working for a man like Marcone?" Straight to the point.
"Would you like the long version or the short version?" Wesley asked. "I can give you either or, but I believe more at issue here is the presence of Wolfram and Hart in Chicago."
"You're familiar with them?"
"Quite. It was that familiarity that led Marcone to hire me for this position. I've been engaged in combating them for just under four years now, though I was doing it in Los Angeles."
"Did you come here just because Marcone waved his money under your nose?"
"Mr. Dresden, if I was interested just in the money, I would have taken up Wolfram and Hart's offer to join them. One of their number was particularly aggressive in attempting to recruit me. No. The group I had been working with in Los Angeles and I had a...falling out. The details of which I do not wish to give you. Needless to say, when Marcone gave the call, I was available. Los Angeles was and is my former compatriots' city." Then he added, "I'm not at all interested in doing a soulgaze with you, to establish trust or for any other reason. You soulgazed Marcone, and that is why you trust him. I work for him. If that is not enough for you, we'll have to get by that."
"I don't think trust is the exact word I would use." Dresden said. "He's a criminal scumbag, and nothing will ever change that. I respect him, to a degree, and certainly respect that he has principles, and that he has helped myself and my friends on several occasions."
"I hope at the very least we can be allies, Mr. Dresden. It will be a great deal easier to handle Wolfram and Hart if you are not hostile to Oracle Securities."
"We'll see." Dresden said. "What can you tell me about Wolfram and Hart? What I can expect with them in town. I could only find good details on the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart and their past projects, rather than this law firm."
"Well, expect a large number of Black Court vampires to move into Chicago. Where Wolfram and Hart go, Black Court tend to follow. Either as clients in the case of the more powerful ones, or as cheap muscle in the case of the young ones. I suspect that will be biggest thing we will have to be concerned about in terms of direct enemies, this early in the game. Witness intimidation – or extermination -, using a variety of dark curses and demonic magics against opposition lawyers is a favorite tactic as well. If you find yourself helping someone who is being targeted by Wolfram and Hart, your best tactic is to never let that person out of your sight."
Dresden grimaced visibly at the mention of Black Court vampires. "I take it the Slayer can't come by to deal with them."
"I'm not with the Council in any form, and of the two Slayers – yes, they are two now, but that is neither here nor there – one is in prison in Los Angeles, and the other is busy, I would presume, with whatever the Sunnydale Hellmouth is throwing at her this year."
"Do you have any idea how many Black Court they'll bring?"
"A few of the older ones and their extended followings. I read about how you dealt with Mavra and her nest, and as impressive as it was, a full frontal assault on the nest is not the best option, as many deaths as it may prevent in the civilian populace."
"Being one of the Good Guys means not letting innocent people die."
"Mr. Dresden, war is not a question of 'good guys, as you say, versus 'bad guys'. At best, its good versus evil on the larger scale, but if you try to save everyone, no one will be saved. Wolfram and Hart is not only global, but trans-dimensional as well. They own at least two hell dimensions just for their own failed employees, and they have branches in many more. Combating them is a long term endeavor and much akin, I think, to trench warfare."
"Do you know how they get along with the Nickelheads?" At Wesley's blank look, Dresden supplied, "The Denarians."
It took Wesley a few moments to remember exactly who Dresden had been referring to, even with the proper name. The Denarians had not been studied extensively by the Council, and the main reason was that their leader, a Nicodemus Archelone, tended to destroy any archives that contained records of him every century or so. He did that to Church records, after all. "From what little I know about the Denarians, they do not necessarily get along, but nor do they spend much time at odds with eachother. The Fallen and the Senior Partners are both similar in age, but they have radically different origins, as I understand it." Wesley paused, "I was wondering, incidentally, if you could help me."
"Depends on what kind of help you're looking for. I have a two day minimum."
"My financing comes entirely from Marcone. I thought you were too good to take his money. And at the moment, I'm just looking for some information."
"Undertown. Wolfram and Hart is well known name in the Demon community – just displaying their card is enough to keep most creatures away, to avoid risking the firm's attention. They will, I think, seek to establish firm control of any and all unaffiliated demons and inhabitants of Undertown that they can. And in general flood the place with their own minions. Cleaning out Undertown, I expect, will be a primary first step for Oracle Securities, though it may be the only step, depending on how things go."
"Well, Undertown is worse than the Labyrinth. If you're going to go down there, you'll need to make sure to bring a whole lot of thread. And swords." Dresden said. "As useful as guns can be, there are some pretty cramped quarters down there, and having a backup weapon is never a bad idea." Dresden didn't necessarily trust this guy. But Wolfram and Hart were unambiguously the bad guys in this equation, and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce seemed quite determined to see the demon lawyers brought down. It was much like, the wizard considered, the situation that lad led Harry to bring Marcone in, when he went into the Deeps. He proceeded to tell him more about Undertown and its inhabitants.
Marcone was up to something, this Wolfram and Hart was up to something, the Black Council was still out there, up to something without a doubt. The Red King wasn't going to just sit back and relax while the truce held. And people didn't act with the conviction Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was showing for money. So he had other motives.So what? Do I need to be up to something to keep up?
Author's Note: Mostly the story will focus more on Wesley and Oracle Securities, but occasionally there will be other Dresden-focused sections, as well as scenes inside W&H Chicago. Wesley and Dresden will, of course, be teaming up several times in this fic, which if it happened in reality, would be so much badass awesomeness in one place the universe would probably explode.