Disclaimer: BtVS, AtS and the Dresden Files are still not mine. I make no money off of this, and more's the pity. Any character you recognize is not mine. Any you don't is mine.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 4: Complications
“This....” Marcus Lott began, tossing a file lightly on the long table in the conference room. “This is an...unforeseen development. It presents an unanticipated complication to our operations here.” The graying pudgy man looked over the assembled lawyers of Wolfram and Hart Chicago's Special Projects Division. As usual, one of those lawyers was considering, the old fat bastard was stating the obvious. It was times like these that Richard Carlise was amazed his boss could pull his pants on in the morning, because all available evidence suggested he didn't have two brain cells to rub together.
Of course, he couldn't let his scorn show on his face. Lott had the authority to order his death. Had that authority over everyone in the room, except for the dead man from the L.A. office standing in the corner of the room. Even if he hadn't been higher ranked than Lott, he was still perfectly safe. The rest of the young up and comers who made up the Special Projects Division here in Chicago weren't so lucky. So he kept his expression neutral. Not that he'd be able to notice if I did let it show.
“It doesn't change the overall project.” Holland Manners interjected from the corner. “The instructions from the Senior Partners were very precise: None of the majors players here in Chicago are to be given sufficient provocation under the Accords as to allow a war. Any war would be global in scope, but be caused by a local situation. If any of you give sufficient provocation to anyone, expect the Senior Partners to see to it that your head is offered up on a platter to the offended party as apology. Right now, securing control of any and all unaffiliated groups and players here in Chicago. Either they will work for Wolfram and Hart or they will be expendable. Marcone's status on the Accords is the same as ours, even if his is unprecedented.”
Lott was distinctly unhappy at being upstaged by Manners. That the Senior Partners had given more real authority to a man who had been killed a vampire he was responsible for resurrecting, rather than to the person who theoretically should have that authority had to burn. His expression still neutral, Carlise hoped the stress gave Lott a heart attack. Carlise didn't actually have to worry about Manners, though. And Lott was hopeless. Of all the other lawyers in the room, only the tall blonde sitting across from him was actually a threat. The damn bitch-
“Richard,” Lott's words – he'd been going on about 'the plan' for the past few minutes as Carlise internalized - finally interrupted his thoughts, “Have you made any progress?”
“I have. Gregory of Arles has agreed to move to Chicago with his followers. He should be here within a week. However, Despite numerous offers and enticements, Mavra has patently refused to come back to Chicago – I can only assume Dresden's assault on her nest a few years back has made her wary of the city. We still haven't managed to locate Drusilla, and it seems William the Bloody has gone and gotten himself a soul.” After the deaths of Lothos, The Master and Kakistos, there were only so many Black Court vampires in the United States – or the entire Western Hemisphere, for that matter, since the Red Court tended to keep Black Court out of their territory in Latin America - that possessed significant followings and power, or the reputations to put together a good-sized following. Mavra, 'Spike' and Drusilla had all been on that list, but it seemed Spike would no longer be on it. Gregory of Arles, coming up on his 900th birthday soon, on the other hand, had agreed, moving from his nest on the Cleveland Hellmouth – No, I'm not interested in taking on the Slayer, thank you very much – to Chicago. Unlike some Master Vampires, Gregory just liked to kill. Which made him perfect for the job of helping Wolfram and Hart seize control of Undertown.
“Two Vampires with souls now?” The blonde woman interjected, “One was an interesting curiosity. Now its a two, and a trope. Make it three and we'll have a cliché on our hands.”
“Clever, Denna.” Carlise replied. “And how is your little project going? Getting us magical muscle to help us handle Dresden can't be easy.”
“Actually, Richard, Diocletian has agreed to come to Chicago with his apprentice and keep Dresden off our backs.”
“Diocletian? The man is insane. His choice of name alone should tell you that. He's just as likely to turn on us as kill Dresden.”
“And Gregory of Arles is any more stable?” Denna Frost sniped back.
“He's a Black Court Vampire. He's not supposed to be stable, but what he is is a predictable. Diocletian is as mad as a hatter, and has the long-term planning skill of Hitler and the megalomania to match.” Which is to say he had no long-term planning skill. Invading Russia? Really? Even Wolfram and Hart had shied away from taking Hitler on as a client, though several members of his inner circle had been clients, and been defended by Wolfram and Hart lawyers at Nuremberg. “Dresden will eat him for lunch.”
“He's managed to evade the Wardens for the better part of 80 years, and has numerous contacts and allies in the Nevernever and some of the nearer Hell Dimensions. I'll remind you he's also managed to come out on top in fights with both Donald Morgan and Anastasia Luccio-”
“Managing to escape with his tail between his legs is not the same thing as coming out on top.” Carlise interrupted. “Dresden has repeatedly shown that he is capable of taking on enemies far above his-”
“Enough!” Lott actually slammed his fist on the table. “Dresden's opposition was already anticipated and planned for. Diocletian will keep Dresden off our backs, either by killing him or distracting him. Even if Dresden manages to defeat Diocletian, the whole process should distract him enough and keep him off balance enough for us to solidify our position in Undertown, at which point he won't be able to dislodge us, and operations can proceed apace. Recruiting is our primary objective. The Cleveland office has also begun efforts to recruit on both sides of the Hellmouth, and sending the fruits of those efforts onto here. Chicago will belong to Wolfram and Hart, and thus, the Senior Partners.”Wow.
Carlise thought, not entirely sarcastically, the fat bastard actually managed to have some steel in his spine when he said that. It won't last though.
Paperwork. The Watchers Council had thrived on the stuff, and these days, in the small, private corners of his mind that still held a bit of whimsy, he was of the belief that somewhere in the halls of the Council Headquarters in London there was a place where paperwork actually bred. It would certainly explain how there was also so much of it, even when there had only been one Slayer.
Oracle Securities, though while generating infinitely less paperwork than the Council ever did, was still creating more of it than Wesley was willing to deal with. Fortunately, there were clerks for most of the mundane stuff, but the fact remained that setting up an enterprise the size and scope of Oracle Securities could not be done without extensive groundwork, and much of it couldn't just be fobbed off on others. He was creating an army here – albeit a small one – and he had to establish tactical doctrine, training – the mercenaries he had to work with were hardened veterans yes, but not many of them had the slightest idea how to use a sword or any other close combat weapon except for their fists or maybe a combat knife – equipment profiles, command structure.
On that last one, Wesley was aided by the fact that of the mercenaries he had working for him, most of them had tended to gravitate to one Mark Farrel as their leader. If you passed the former U.S. Marine in the street, you'd not think much of him, assuming he was out of uniform. But after spending just a few minutes in his company, and watching him at the firing range set up in the building's basement, Wesley had a healthy respect for his cold, deadly ability. Not only was he good at the job, but he was very willing and able to kill 'those damned unholy abominations'. Mark Farrel was a man who took his religion and his god very seriously, even before he'd discovered the existence of vampires, demons, and the rest. Wesley almost envied his conviction and faith. At the end of the day, he didn't. That the old pagan gods existed was undeniable, even if most of them were dormant, and the existence of the Judeo-Christian God was also not actually in doubt, in Wesley's mind, but the details were something Wesley – and a great many Watchers – hadn't really accepted. Like a great many Watchers, he hovered somewhere around a sort of agnostic deism. If there was a 'God' in the Judeo-Christian sense, then he was incompetent, malevolent or of limited power like every other of the old gods.
“I like the ammunition mix you have going – hollow points and tracers, with regular bullets – but what the hell is with swords and stakes? This isn't the renfair. Its the modern era, and we're not wizards, so we don't have to worry about technology breaking on us.”
“The value of utility of modern technology and weapons is not in doubt. I agree with you. Guns are extremely useful in fighting demons and vampires, but they are not the be all end all of combat with them. Most species of demon will go down if you shoot it enough times, but not all will, and Black Court Vampires will only die from regular bullets if you shoot them so much their entire body falls apart or you blow their head off. Moreover, swords and stakes never run out of ammunition, and most of what we'll be fighting is faster than human. A gun does you no good if you don't get a chance to use it before a demon sinks its claws into you. Preparedness is not a bad thing. For Black Court, I've found that shooting them in the kneecaps and then staking them when the fall over is a highly effective tactic.” He paused as an idea occurred to him. “Speaking of which, we need some white phosphorous grenades. There are very few demons – or lawyers – that enjoy being set on fire. It is a nearly universal cleanser, in that respect. You wouldn't happen to know anyone who could supply those, along with any other similar products we may need?”
Mark considered. “I know a few. But white phosphorous? That's a little too much legal heat, don't you think?”
“Maybe. Certainly more than we're working with here, but there are a number of times during my time in Los Angeles when having sufficient firepower would have been a very good thing. But it does merit bringing to the attention of Marcone. I imagine this would be one of things I should bring to him. Grenades – and particularly white phosphorous – being particularly...untidy.” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out two pistols, which he slid into holsters at his waist, before standing and opening the weapons cabinet behind the desk. He pondered the assortment of axes, swords, knives and crossbows before settling on a sword and buckling it – still in its sheath – to his belt as well.
“Yes. You as well. Put a team together – no more than five others. Wolfram and Hart will not have had much time to get their forces into Undertown, which means that we can get a feel for the lay of the land before things get started. What kinds of demons live where in Undertown, where the good portals to the Nevernever are, the clan and territory boundaries and disputes. That sort of thing.”
“These Hell Dimensions you mentioned. Where do they fit into all this?” Mark asked, as he followed Wesley out of the room. “I mean, I get that the Nevernever is some kind of parallel world thing – that White Court guy, Thomas Raith took us into The Deeps through there, but I admit the specifics are a bit beyond me.”
“The Nevernever is the inter-dimensional highway, as it were. It connects to all the various other dimensions. 'Hell Dimension' is a catch all term for all the dimensions that aren't Earth, or one of the realms of Faerie. Its not necessarily an entirely accurate term – Pylea certainly isn't that bad in of itself, when considered objectively – but it is the term used.”
“Pylea?” As they walked towards the elevator Mark pointed at five of the mercenaries they passed and gestured for them to follow him.
“Charming little place, in its own way. The forests are quite spectacular, but the locals leave something to be desired. Unpleasant at best, they call humans 'cows' and use them as manual labor and food.”
“Is that all we are to these things? Food?”
“Not to all of them. Seventy-odd percent of them though, yes, probably. The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart probably don't consider us food such much as convenient tools, and I think we'd give some of the Old Ones indigestion, though I'd rather not test that.” The elevator reached the bottom and the six of them went into one of the unmarked black vans sitting in the parking lot. “Its a simple enough mission. We'll go in, kill some demons, capture a few, and come back to base. Assuming you're all as good as Marcone claimed, we should be back by the end of the day, and all of us alive and well.”
They drove to a nearby and – importantly - currently empty and unused warehouse. Beneath the building was an old and theoretically – though not anymore, if it ever was - blocked up subway access that served as an entrance to Undertown. Wesley had considered setting up Oracle Securities here, to make getting down into Undertown even easier, but he figured the massive back door into the headquarters was probably a bad idea. It might do to buy the building, to make sure it did stay empty though.
Whatever the ultimate fate of the building was or wasn't going to be, they were in Undertown within fifteen minutes of leaving HQ.
“Petrovich, take point.” Farrel said to one of them. The pale Russian nodded and flipped a pair of night-vision goggles down over his eyes and headed first down the abandoned subway tunnel. Everyone else but Wesley followed suit. Wesley just cast a small spell to give himself the same effect. His dabbling could do that to himself, but he didn't really have the technique, power or control to do it others. And doing to others somewhat skirted the edges of the Second Law. What he was essentially doing was giving himself owlesque sight, and while it technically wasn't a violation, he didn't think the Wardens would see it that way, and it didn't do to get in the habit of doing what Wardens might call Lawbreaking, even if they weren't likely in the least to catch you – this time.
Slowly, quietly, they made their way through the tunnel, when they heard the sound of thumping up ahead. Petrovich turned back and gestured to Wesley. Whatever it was up there, the Russian didn't recognize it – which wasn't that surprising.
There were three creatures there, Wesley saw. Tall, muscled and with curling horns like a ram. He couldn't see the color of their skin, but he knew it would be a light brown. Fyarl Demons. They looked to fighting – eachother. Sparring, really, given that the third one seemed to be laughing and commenting dumbly from the snatches of words he caught. Of course Wesley was fluent in Fyarl.
“What are they?” Petrovich whispered, and Wesley gestured him to join the rest of the group back a small bit. When they were both back, Wesley answered.
“Fyarl Demons. Demonic foot soldiers. They're all over the Nevernever. Fighting wars on behalf of whoever can bully them into fighting, or pay them. None too bright, but strong and tough. Perfect warrior breed. Oh, and don't let them sneeze on you.”
“Sneeze on me?” Mark cocked an eyebrow, “What, am I going to catch from them?”
“Their Mucus hardens on contact with open air, and acts as a paralytic agent on anyone who it touches. Its a devil to get off, though once its off the Paralysis wears off over a bit of time. If any of you happen to have silver on hand, keep it in reserve – Silver is poison to them. Otherwise, riddling it full of lead works well enough.”
“I didn't expect to be facing fucking werewolves.” One of the other mercs noted as they moved closer to the Fyarl to begin firing.
“Silver is actually quite useful on a number – small number – of particularly vicious or difficult to kill demons. I'd suggest keeping a single magazine of silver-tipped bullets on hand, at the very least for dealing with Fyarl. And silver bullets – unless their ancestral – only work on one particular breed of werewolf, actually.” He paused. “We need to capture one alive.”
“Why? So you can harvest its snot?”
“Actually, to interrogate it. Fyarl are rarely seen without a master or employer of some kind. If one dies or no longer needs their services, then they'll find another. I'd like to know who or what these ones are working for.” The Fyarl, finally, it seemed, had noticed them, and were turning towards them. “Feel free to open fire any time now.” Wesley commented, as the three demons charged towards them. Wesley pulled his pistols out and began to open fire with both, and the mercenaries opened fire with their automatic weapons – though they weren't on full auto. The sound of the shots echoed quite a bit in the enclosed space, and the Fyarl did keep coming, but by the time they arrived, only one of them had. One of the others had fallen to its knees, and while not dead, was incapacitated enough to be easily dispatchable, and the other had simply died after enough hits. Wesley dropped his pistols and drew his sword, parrying a swing from his fists with his blade, his sword cutting deep into its arm and throwing off its aim. Wesley pulled the sword back, dripping black blood, and then held it at the Fyarl's throat.
“Yield.” He told it in Fyarl. The demon said nothing. Wesley pressed the point harder, “If you attempt to use your mucus against me, this sword will be puncturing your throat and severing your spinal column before it paralyzes me.” The deadly tone in his voice was clear even to the dim-witted demon. It talked, though it didn't have much to say that was useful. Still, Wesley waited until it was done talking, then thrust the blade through its neck and pulling it out sideways, severing the demon's head for good measure.
“Well, what did it say?” Mark asked.
“It says it was sent here by a sorcerer. It doesn't know the sorcerer’s name, True or otherwise, but he did demand to be called 'Your Excellency'. Apparently, said sorcerer will be coming to Chicago soon. Which is certainly not something we need. Complications.”
Author's Note: Diocletian is entirely my character. He's a Lawbreaking Sorcerer who goes by the name Diocletian so as to avoid allowing anyone to know his True Name. His apprentice, on the other hand, is a canon character from BtVS, AtS or The Dresden Files. I won't say who, but feel free to guess in a review.