FIC: All Change At Halloween (20/?)
“Good day, Merrick.”
Merrick glanced away from the third pint he’d been mid-way through drinking to look towards the partially-shaven man inspecting him. It took him a few seconds to marry this rather dangerous-looking individual with the nerdy paragon of nepotism he’d had the profound displeasure to lecture around a decade earlier. “Wesley?” his forehead creased. “Pryce? Is that you?”
The man’s answering smirk confirmed that he’d more or less just had his mind read. “Nice pub,” Wesley glanced around the wood-panelled, traditionally rustic British pub.
Merrick sighed wearily. “My charges are all teenagers and it’s one night a week. One night.”
“Oh it wasn’t a criticism,” Wesley smiled. “Good lord, I know how wearying teenage girls can be. Four on your own?” The younger man shuddered. “No, I’m here to make you an offer.”
“Oh?” His drink now forgotten, Merrick turned to face his fellow country-man.
“You’re aware of course of our break from the Council?” Wesley queried.
Merrick chuckled. “I’m aware that people could be expelled from the Council for just talking to you.”
“Ah, Travers and his edicts,” Wesley shook his head. “We’re modernising the Council, building alliances with other demon-hunting organisations and individuals. In the past 48 hours we have launched a series of attacks against the Council. It has now been if not obliterated, at least crippled. We want you, your texts, your Potentials. We have more than enough room.”
“And should any of my girls be Chosen?”
Wesley smirked. “We’re very happy with the Slayer we have now, given our powers we have no intention of parting with her anytime soon.”
Merrick pursed his lips then nodded. Given all the rumours he’d heard about this new organisation’s achievements and powers, it would only be prudent to ally himself and his charges with the Sunnydale operation.
“So this is Devon, huh?” Faith’s nose wrinkled as she glanced around the hedgerowed, cobble-stoned village set in a valley of rolling green hills. “Seems-.”
“Rustic?” Xander guessed.
Faith shot her boyfriend a grin. “I was gonna go as dull as hell, but hey.” Faith blurred over the road to help an elderly woman who’d just dropped her shopping bag, then in seconds was back by her boy-friend’s side. “When the only action a girl can get is helping some old dear with her dropped shopping, Jesus.” Faith glanced up at her boyfriend. “So this Watcher?”
“According to Giles he’s a protégé-.”
“Dull and gettin’ duller,” Faith smirked.
“Maybe so, but he’s also a Watcher in favour of modernisation,” Xander replied, “so according to Wood’s plan we should try to recruit him.”
“Yeah,” Faith’s nose wrinkled, “what do ya feel ‘bout Wood’s plan for dealing with the Council?”
“Well,” Xander stopped and turned to face her, his expression serious, “it’s a three-strand operation, take out their black ops unit, their funds, and their best Watchers, without any of those three, they’re gonna struggle to operate for sure. It’s cleaner than running an assassination campaign against a bunch of old men, although that’s always an option if they don’t back off.”
“Yeah,” Faith nodded, “so we might as well make the pitch then.”
Xander nodded then glanced across the street. “That’s the museum he works at.”
“Let’s do this thing,” Faith replied.
Wood stared up at the imposing house he’d grown up in, all the old feelings flooding back. “There was a surveillance team watching from across the road, but we’ve dealt with them.”
Wood started as Charles’ voice crackled through his earpiece, jolting him back to the present day. “Roger,” he tersely replied before hurrying across the road and up the four steps that led to the front door.
A sharp rap on the door and fifteen seconds later the door swung open to reveal a grey-haired and moustached, line-faced man in his mid-fifties, still ramrod-straight despite his years. The man’s eyes widened, a smile flickering into life then disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. “Robin,” the older man nodded, “it’s been a while.”
“Five years,” Wood admitted.
“And you joined the Council,” the older man commented, “and then defected to these rebels. I trust this isn’t a social call?”
“No sir,” Wood shuffled his feet as he peered at his mother’s Watcher and the closest he’d ever had to a father-figure, “we’re expanding our operation, taking in Watchers we feel would be better served working with us.”
“And you thought of me?” Bernard Crowley half-smiled. “I’m flattered?”
“You were more than just a Watcher to my mother,” Wood replied. “And we want to be more than just Watchers to our charges too.”
“The Council might be reluctant to let me just go,” Crowley stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“They had a team watching you,” Wood admitted. “We dealt with them.”
“Ah your powered humans,” Crowley nodded. “Please, come in, son.”
“You really have a lovely home.”
Diana Dormer leapt up from her lounger as a tall, exotically beautiful brunette strode into her rear garden, short yet nevertheless dangerous-looking youth lurking behind her. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Jenny Calendar,” the brunette glanced at her companion, “this is Jonathan Levinson.” The brunette passed her a letter. “Please pardon our intrusion, but hopefully that’ll explain our reasons for being here.”
Diana glanced down at the letter, then back up at the woman, her jaw dropping open as she read the intricately-scripted letter, and recognised the penmanship as belonging to Rupert Giles, a former classmate of hers at the Watchers Academy. “You want me to join your organisation?”
“You, your library, and of course your potentials, of which I believe you have Spain, Portugal, and Greece’s girls?” Jenny replied.
“Yes, five girls,” Diana nodded slowly. It had long been her consideration that the Council was growing more obsolete by the year, unable to deal with the demands of a changing world. She’d been unsure just quite how to approach the Council as regards implementing changes knowing just how resistant to modernisation the likes of the Forum were, but now it appeared that was no longer a problem she had to worry about. “I’m in.”
Zabuto rose out of his chair and strode through his apartment to the front door, eyes widening as he flung it open to recognise one of the two men stood outside his house. “Rupert Giles! It’s been a long time!”
“It has,” the younger man offered him his hand.
“And what brings you and your companion here?” Zabuto asked as he shook the Englishman’s hand while shooting curious looks at the younger man’s shorter and seedier-looking companion.
“This is Francis Doyle,” the pair stepped uninvited into his house, “you’ve probably heard about what’s occurred in Sunnydale?”
“Rupert,” Zabuto smiled wryly at his one-time student, “as always you and your little Sunnydale operation are all us Watchers talk about. I’m very aware of just what you’ve been up to.”
“And are you aware of what’s happened to your Council?”
Zabuto looked towards the obvious Irishman. “I’ve heard rumours.”
“Well I can confirm the Watchers Council is now defunct,” Zabuto noted that Giles’ voice held more than a note of glee. “And we’re here to offer you, as a moderate Watcher, a position with our new organisation.”
“In Sunnydale?” Zabuto queried.
“That’s where the action is,” Doyle agreed.
“I have all of the Caribbean’s potentials stationed with me,” Zabuto commented.
“Three girls, there’s more than enough room for you all,” Giles responded.
Zabuto stared at the younger man. For close to two decades he’d been growing more and more aware of an increasing contingent of modernisers in the Council. While he didn’t agree with all their goals, he’d been in favour of the Watchers being more active in the actual Slaying and of course the abolition of the barbaric 18th birthday test. Finally he nodded. “It’ll take me a few days to pack, organise a fligh-.”
“Ach,” the Irishman interrupted, “if I’m hearin’ a yes, just phone me, I’ll organise your transport.”
“You’re a pilot?”
The Irishman flashed him a cocksure smile. “Ach no, I’m a teleporter.”
Zabuto was left mouth agape when the younger man demonstrated his power by teleporting him and Giles away.
Glory’s brow furrowed as she completed the summonsing spell, the fire burning before her flaring emerald, gusts of grey smoke billowing up, the smoke arid and bitter, enveloped by the shadows cast by the Balkans hills to their rear. A few seconds later and a powerfully-built figure close to seven feet in height flickered into being at the other side of the fire. He had shoulder-length black hair that contrasted sharply with his ashen grey skin and ice-cold milky-white eyes, vivid vertical scars marring already unforgiving features. “You are Sahjhan, leader of the Granoks?”
The apparition nodded, nostrils flaring. “What’s left of them, anyway.”
“And what would you give to be corporeal again?” Glory queried.
Interest flickered in the demon’s dead eyes, but instead of answering her query, he posed one of his own. “Who are you?”
Glory preened slightly. “I am Glorificus, a hell goddess.”
“And if you made my people corporeal again, what would you want in return?”
“I want to return home,” even mentioning her goal caused a deep hunger to consume her. “You would serve as my troops, fighting anyone who got in my way. And then after I opened the Hellmouth and returned home, you would be free to go your own way.”
“And who are they?” The Granok nodded towards her companions.
Glory looked towards the cowled figure standing to her right and the elderly-looking man to her left. “They are Vocah and Doc, my magisters.”
“Huh, huh.” The Granok looked towards the last member of their group, a towering eight footer who appeared to be made out of red rock with ram’s horns jutting out of the sides of its head, adding almost another foot to its height. “And whose the walking mountain?”
Glory smirked. “This is the Beast, my bodyguard.”
“And when do we move on the Hellmouth?” her new recruit demanded.
“The Granoks will serve as my knights,” Glory replied. “But I’ve yet to recruit the rest of my army.”
“I assume you’re happy with the science department?” Wesley queried.
Wood smiled as he settled into his seat at the weekly meeting. “The new recruits are settling in nicely, the combination of their genius, their memories, and the memories of people who were possessed by people from advanced cultures are bearing fruit. We could always do with more funds though.”
“Given that we ravaged the Council bank accounts this week, I think we can spare oh half of what we stole,” Giles chuckled.
“That’ll do,” Wood nodded. Given that he’d put several of his patents onto the open market and Joy had done the same with some software applications she’d written, they should soon have tens of millions rolling in. And until then, the Council money would keep them ticking over.
“The Watchers Council is now officially crippled,” Wes’ report had a note of glee in it. Not that Wood blamed him, Wes and his father had issues, but then given the dark rumours that swirled around the man, any decent man would have a problem with him.
“They still have several dozen Watchers and somewhere in the region of fifty Potentials,” Giles warned.
“Yes, but their financing has been crippled, their black ops wing decimated, and we have the Slayer, and given her own enhancements, and the assistance we can give her, Faith should survive for far longer than normal,” Wesley shook his head. “They’re going to have to literally start from scratch, and those who remain don’t have the will or the wherewithal to do so.”
“I think the question should be do is what we do about the remains?” Jenny queried. “As Rupert said, some of the Watchers have Potentials in their care, others have dangerous artefacts or books. If our enemies got their hands on them we might have problems.”
“Yes, I’d considered that,” Giles nodded. “That’s why I intend to offer an open invitation for any surviving Watchers to join us here.”
“That would be letting vipers into the pit!” snorted Wes with a shake of his head. “Travers, my father, Sirk, you can’t be-.”
“Oh no not at all,” Giles shook his head.
Wesley peered across the table at Giles, eyes narrowed. “Then what exactly?”
“Thanks to your rather daring raid on the Council Headquarters we now have a full record of not only where Watchers are stationed, but what their duties and responsibilities are, and who were Travers loyalists and who weren’t.”
“So you’re suggesting we only approach the ones Travers disapproved of?” Wood nodded in approval. “That might work. Although I’d also recommend selected raids on those Travers loyalists who harbour dangerous artefacts.”
“Have you looked over the list and decided how many invitations you might send out?” Jenny asked.
“Twenty more Watchers of which a dozen have the care of a total of twenty-eight Potentials,” Giles replied.
“Which brings us to another problem,” Wood put in. “Thanks to our raids on the Council, we already have a number of Potentials -.”
“Thanks to the palace you built, we more than have room,” Jenny chuckled.
“Oh yes, that’s not the problem.” Wood smiled. “Well it’s not so much a problem as an opportunity. With a little bit of luck we’ll have close to three dozen Potentials here, an opportunity to train Potentials properly. We have the equipment, the funding, and the personnel.”
Giles’ brow furrowed, his lips pursed in thought. “And who do you suggest as trainer?”
“I did consider Rondell, however as skilled as he undoubtedly is at martial arts, he is more use working in our science department,” Wood replied. “I’m reluctant to move anyone permanently from our active roster, so I’d like to split the training between Jesse who as you recall went as Captain America or Scott as Wolverine. Both are absolute masters of the martial arts. As such, they’ll have a great deal to teach them.”
“An interesting idea, however I don’t think you go far enough.”
“Oh,” Wood looked towards Wes, “pray tell?”
“I think the five girls who went as Faith should be included in at least some of the classes to improve their skills and strategic thinking,” Wesley replied. “After all, it’s long been a weakness of Slayers that their skills are instinctive rather than strategically learnt, meaning they react rather more than they actually think.”
“It’s an interesting idea,” Giles nodded. “However, given the Slayer’s actual nature, they couldn’t be full-time students, they’d still have to patrol.”
“With the formation of the science department and the use of Jesse and Scott as purely tutors, we’re losing patrollers,” Jenny warned.
“We still have far more bodies and far more powerful bodies than we have ever thought we’d have,” Wood pointed out. “And in the long term, I hope to expand our organisation considerably.”
“Here’s an idea of my own,” Giles shot Wood a curious look. “There’s a number of very knowledgeable individuals, Bobby Singer comes to mind, who might not have a Watcher’s formal training, but have a great deal of real-world experience to call upon. Such people could be invited to join us, either here, or have us set up more extensive units near where they live for assistance.”
“Interesting ideas, however I’m rather more interested in Robin’s mooted expansion plans?” Wesley shot the African-American an inquisitive look.
Wood smiled mysteriously. “I have a few ideas, once they’re firmer in my mind, we’ll talk some more.”