Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and Cordyfan. The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.# Greek:
^Who cares?^ Ancient Egyptian:
»Who’s that?« Latin:
~Who’s who?~ Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?% Please read and review! In a half-forgotten dream 2
“Canary Wharf? Isn't that a business district? There would be a lot of people who could notice things. Don't something like a hundred thousand people work there? Wouldn't it be risky?” Buffy looked at the map, her eyes calculating.
Willow smiled the slow broad smile she had when Buffy showed her intelligence. The Slayer would have made a study of London, assessing risks and dangers, locations and areas, before being willing to settle her 'Minis' in the city that had once housed the Council. She had known about the Demon of Queen's Mere after all, even if she had not known what the creature was.
Willow had a more than sneaking suspicion that Buffy knew far more about demons and their culture than she let on. Though she might not have liked doing it, the Slayer was intelligent enough to do her own research.
Willow turned her attention back to the conversation.
“Yeah, that worked really well back in Sunnydale. No Slayer, the good little office-bound wage slaves are not goin' to notice nuthin',” Spike declared.
“As a matter of fact it wouldn't surprise me if quite a few of them would be glad to help Ol' Green Eyes murder and torture if he promises them a promotion. Most of them are bankers and lawyers.”
George smirked. “I seem to recall a certain William Llewellyn Pratt was reading for the Bar after getting Firsts in Law and English at Oxford...”
Spike let out a surprised cough. “How'dya know that?”
George smirked. “It's a matter of public record, William.”
Buffy looked at Spike with a gleam in her eye. “So you're a vampire and a lawyer? Man, you really must have been an evil Big Bad.”
Spike perked up a bit at that. “Yeah, okay, that's true. But anyway, Fu has a flair for the dramatic the size of Lady Liberty's torch. He's got melodrama written all over his soul.”
“Stupid?” Buffy was taking mental notes.
Spike shook his head decisively. “He has a few major blind spots. He can never believe that his underlings might betray him. And he tends to overelaborate plots, with so many failsafes they get in the way of the efficient execution of the plan. But he is a genius, and from what I know both magically and scientifically. A bit like Red, really, but with tons more experience.”
“Oh, that really makes me feel better, thanks Spike,” Willow glared.
“In talents, not temperament, Red,” Spike solaced her. “Fu will never hesitate to kill, though he does tend to use dramatic ways to do so. He doesn’t believe in innocence, just in possible threats and usefulness. He’ll kidnap and kill a baby as soon as torutre a priest if he feels he has to. But he does keep his word and he has a sense of honour. Rather warped, but it’s there.”
“Can we beat him with the people we have?” Buffy asked bluntly.
Spike hesitated. “We should warn the others before we go in. And we should be careful.”
Willow nodded. “Wise in any case. Madam Cholet? I need to gather some items from each of your missing relatives. Can we do that now?”
Madam Cholet shook her head. “I’ll have Alderney do it, dear. I want to go over this spell with you rather carefully. I don’t want anything to suddenly crop up and turn nasty.”
Willow nodded. “True. Buff? Do you want to stay?”
Buffy pointed at the trolley. “There’s tea and scones. I’m staying right here and talking to Great-grand Uncle Bulgaria and see if he has any embarrassing stories on Spike.”
Bulgaria smiled. “Well, I might have one or two anecdotes I heard on the grapevine…”
George leaned forward to listen. Spike groaned.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS Limehouse, London
Buffy was strolling along the Thames, her eyes far ahead and her mind on other things than her surroundings. At least, that was how it would appear to anyone looking at her or tracking her.
Fu Manchu had in the past used supernatural henchmen and it wasn’t inconceivable he was using them now. If he was, Buffy tended to attract demons like honey did flies.
One would stumble upon her, attack, and be beaten up until it confessed to everything. One memorable demon in Sunnydale had confessed to the fact that he, not his brother, had stolen the blood-meal cookies that his mother had made for his father’s return from hunting fifty-odd years before. It was really rather embarrassing how many demons did that.
Willow had complained that on both the dates Buffy had taken her, a demon had interrupted. Admittedly one had wanted both their autographs, but still. Buffy was a demon magnet. Though in a different way from Xander. Except two of her four serious relationships had been with vampires, one with a semi-cyborg manipulated US Ranger and her current one was with Willow. Who was possibly the world’s most powerful witch, who’d tried to destroy the world. *Crap. I’m more like Xander than I thought…*
There was a roar and a rather scruffy looking vampire jumped out, his clothing, once an expensive business suit, now smudged with the dirt of his grave and apparently some time ‘living’ rough.
Two kicks in strategic places and the vamp was down. Buffy sighed and dragged him away. A van stopped and Buffy threw the still groaning vampire into the back. As the doors hadn’t been opened yet, it flattened the vamp’s nose and the demon screamed. The doors were opened and this time when Buffy threw the thing inside it was dragged further by Spike and George.
Buffy looked over her shoulder. “I’m going back to my stroll. Let me know if any of these idiots actually have any information, will ya?”
Spike grinned at her and leaned over the vamp. “That was both incredibly dumb and a disgrace to all vampires. My name’s Spike. I can do amazing things with the most ordinary of household items.”
The vampire whimpered and Buffy rolled her eyes and left. She might be good at forcing vampires to tell what she needed, but Spike enjoyed getting the information out of them a little too much still.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS Womble Burrow, Hyde Park
“Well, we caught three vampires. None of them are in the employ of Fu Manchu, but all of them did notice a lot of activity around the tube station. Demonic activity. So we think he has a hideout somewhere near,” Willow was tapping the map in Bulgaria’s room.
“He would have had an excellent opportunity to carve out considerable spaces while all this was being built.”
“What sort of size are we talking about, Will? Initiative sized? Bigger? Smaller?” Buffy studied the map.
Willow looked at Spike. “You fought him before, what sort of base does he prefer?”
Spike looked up from cleaning his black lacquered nails and at the map. “Depends on his purpose. Back in the old days in China he had a big, luxurious place to show his might to the others. Then when he was active in Britain, he had smaller, dingier places, hidden and camouflaged.”
He folded his knife up and casually would have thrust it into his pocket, but George intercepted his hand, took the knife, unfolded it and started to clean it.
Spike looked slightly embarrassed and oddly pleased and then focussed back on the discussion ignoring the amused expressions on the other faces. “I think he's probably made it as big as possible. He likes technological experimentation, and that takes space these days. Real progress is mostly made by concerted and concentrated experimentation in well-equipped labs.”
Buffy blinked. “Wow. Where did you get all that from?”
George smiled. “Anne. She's quite vocal on the subject. Dad said the same thing, too. I imagine space requirements have only increased since then?”
She looked at Willow, who nodded.
“Yeah. So, technology. This guy is no technophobe, so he’ll have computers and gadgets and electronic security as well as magical defences. The space will be big. Hmmm, I wonder...” she turned to her laptop and starting tapping away.
“Aha!” she pointed at the screen. “There were major problems with building the subway tunnel-”
“Tube,” George corrected with a grin.
“Subway tunnel,” Willow continued blithely. “They drilled far more than they planned due to soil and conditions. There are also reports of them hitting old basements and dock areas.”
Bulgaria nodded. 'Ah, yes, old docks. But they wouldn’t go nearly as deep as the tunnels.”
“They wouldn't, but they would affect the drilling. Hmmm, he would want easy access, but nothing the public could wander into...” Willow tapped away again, humming slightly.
George looked at the machine as the redhead worked, her eyes sad.
Buffy grinned at her. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you up to snuff on computers soon, George. And you too, Miss Knight. We have computer classes to get the Slayers from less developed countries, or strict upbringings, up to scratch.”
Willow chuckled, not looking up. “One of these days we'll even get Giles to actually go to one, too. You know he only turns the laptop on because it has that picture of Jenny, right?”
Buffy winced. Willow froze and then shot up out of her seat and was hugging the blonde Slayer, muttering fiercely. “It wasn't your fault, Buffy! It wasn't your fault!”
George and Emma looked at the couple in surprise. Spike caught their eyes and mouthed 'later' at them.
After a minute or two the Slayer and the witch broke apart, with a light, if lingering kiss, and then Willow returned to her laptop.
“So, what are you looking at, Willow?” Emma asked.
“I'm in the London Tube database for work orders and matching them to access doors,” Willow replied absently. “You see, if there are doors that exist but are never used-”
“That would mean they are used for different purposes, that work orders are guided away from them!” Emma exclaimed. “Are work orders public these days?”
Buffy sniggered as Willow ducked down behind her screen, a very slight flush on her cheeks.
“N-not exactly. I, ummm... Its called hacking and-“ Willow looked up slightly and saw Emma's amused expression.
She scowled. “And you know all this because Giles told you, right? You’re just teasing?”
Emma nodded. “I do want you to teach me how to do that, though. Hack, I mean. It would be very useful and there was really very little need for it back when I was an active agent. What I knew about computers is hopelessly dated.”
Willow grinned. “That I can do. Tell you what, Andrew normally teaches Computer Science, but I think that George would drop-kick him out of the window for sharing her Council file and he'd probably faint whenever he sees you, so I'll teach you myself. Oh, and Spike too.”
Spike snorted. “No need, Red. I know how to use a computer.”
“You do?” Willow was surprised.
“Yeah. Got a couple of training sessions from Her Majesty’s Secret Service and I've kept up with it. Not all of us are as tech illiterate as The Incredible Brooder, who thinks a phonograph is a tad modern.”
Buffy glared at him. “I'd kick your butt for that, if it weren't so true. You can help George, then.”
Spike looked at George, her dark curls like the halo of a fallen angel and grinned. “It will be my pleasure to introduce her to the secret places of the internet.”
Willow looked up from her screen again and pinned the vamp with a look. “No.”
“Ah, but Red, everybody knows that the internet is for-” Spike began with a leer and a snigger.
“William, is this something that would shock my Mum?” George asked.
Spike pursed his lips. “Shock? I don’t think anything can actually shock your Mum. And she's got loads of adopted grandsons. So I doubt she's completely unaware of the fact that the internet is rather, errr, full of, errr...” He swallowed and grinned weakly. “Porn.”
“Porn?” George blinked. “As in pornographic material? They have pictures of that?” she asked, her voice rising in shock. “In public? Where children might see them?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. *Oh, great, here we get the whole indecency thing again. And this is even worse than a shampoo commercial. And it took us hours to talk her down from that and Baroness Kirrin had to tell her even she wasn't shocked by it anymore.*
“I'm afraid so. But don't worry, I'm sure Willow barely knows such things exist, right, Will?”
Willow, who had been smirking at Spike’s growing discomfort, let out a small, mouse-like squeak and burrowed down behind her laptop. “Work orders, work orders...”
Spike looked at Buffy, who winked at him. The vampire shook his head and turned to placate the time-displaced Slayer at his side.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS The Building, Apartment of Willow and Buffy
“Okay, so can you remember what this Foo Dog guy wanted you to gather and deliver to him?” Buffy asked, pen poised over paper.
Spike grinned. “Remind me to tell him all those little names you have for him, it will annoy him greatly.”
He chewed his toothpick, his other hand playing with George's long, shapely fingers. “Lemme see... Hmm, the minds of Seven Sages...”
“Huh?” Buffy asked. “How were you supposed to get those?”
“Cut open their brainpans and dig them out with a spoon?” Spike snarked. “ How should I know, after he gave me the order I spent all my time finding a way to get Dru and Darla back.”
He closed his eyes, to jog his memory. “Ummm, Eleven feathers from the wings of a messenger from the Gods,”
“And that is supposed to mean?” Buffy asked after scritching down the words.
“Ducks, but a special kind,” Spike explained. “Now stop interrupting me and keep your questions for later. Hmmm... The fingers and hands of ten great thieves of land and honour.”
Spike leaned over and prodded Willow. “Restrain your girlfriend, witch, she's driving me insane.”
Willow looked uncertain. “But it isn't Thursday and anyway it's her turn to restrain me.”
Dawn, in the corner, sniggered. Spike grinned at the redhead. “Nice one, Red. But really, Buffy, I’m trying to think here.”
George looked at Dawn, then Willow and Buffy.
“When will someone tell me what is so funny about being restrained?” she asked plaintively.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS CanaryWharf Tube Station
It had taken Willow less than twenty minutes to filter out several different access points that might lead to Fu Manchu's lair. Besides the two in the Tube tunnels, there were several sewer accesses that looked promising.
In total, there were eleven possible access points that Willow had located and now they were down at what Willow considered to be the likely main access to see if there were mystical as well as electronic alarms. The witch had a suitcase with equipment and a shoulder bag with spell components and three floppy notebooks and seemed to be in her element.
Buffy smiled a little as her girlfriend handed out scanners and gauges and measures. She reminded everybody not to take off the little charmed bracelets that would keep them from appearing on film or electronic surveillance and the amulets that would prevent them from setting off mystical alarms.
To be absolutely sure, Buffy had called in every Slayer from the Building and several of the advanced trainees from Scotland. There were enough of them, and of Willow's Wiccans, to cover all the suspected escape routes. Xander and Dawn were coordinating from the Mobile Command Centre, which in this case was a smelly, rusty old van with some computers and some radio equipment. The actual Mobile Command Centre had been hit by a Polgara demon two days earlier and was undergoing repairs. Xander was in it because he'd been in the MCC when it was hit and he was still bruised all over.
Giles was in charge of one of the less important Tube exits, having lost the draw and Buffy and Willow, wearing the baggy and unflattering uniforms of maintenance personnel of the Tube were in front of what seemed to be the most promising entrance, backed by a group of Junior Slayers.
Willow nodded in satisfaction as she finished her latest incantation. “I think we're in the right place. Minor wards and avoidance and repellent charms. Enough to drive away most maintenance people, but not someone really determined or who knows what they're looking for.”
Buffy grinned hopefully. “So we go in?”
Willow smirked and drew a short sword. “We go in and kick some butt and save some Wombles.”
******** Sewer Entrance #3
Andrew took a deep breath and immediately regretted it. Whenever he was dungeon-mastering he always made sure to lay great stress on the sliminess and the smell of any tunnels that his players were using. If they had to use the sewer system he threw rats, cockroaches, giant spiders and whatever else he could conceive at them, making the occasional remark about the fact the hideous stench would render a lot of their equipment unsuitable for public use and that they would stink for days or weeks as the ethereal oils penetrated their skin and hair. He also cackled evilly whenever he rolled on the 'Terrible and disfiguring diseases table'.
Right now he understood in a deep and, dare he say it, visceral manner, what he had only been talking about. The Sunnydale sewer systems had been constructed with travel in mind. Demons used it to go from A to B in an orderly manner, and most demons preferred not to get sewage on their feet. Hence walkways and dry tunnels had been plentiful.
Here in London the primary reason for the existence of the sewers was not travel. It was transport. The transport of vast, nay near unimaginable quantities of human waste. There were no walkways. There were a few handholds and ledges. But the maintenance men who worked to keep Greater London's aging sewer system in some semblance of working order, quite a feat considering the fact it had been constructed by dozens of different companies over a period of more than a century and a half, were expected to wear protective gear and wade
So Andrew was wading, in the middle of a group of junior Slayers, who were complaining about all the things that were floating by and that Andrew was desperately trying not to look at, and the fact that it smelled, and wondering about the rats and if they could catch a horrible and disfiguring disease. *Oh Please, oh please, oh please let this be over soon,*
Andrew begged whatever god or power might be listening.
Rupert Giles was gritting his teeth. He had used his seniority and position to place himself in the group that would make the second assault from the Tube. There had been a lot of looks and giggles and sniggers about abuse of privilege, but he had slogged through enough sewers to last him a lifetime to ignore the complaints about the fact he had finagled the cushy job. It was only now that he realised the sniggers had nothing to do with the location. It had to do with his teammates. Or, one specific teammate.
He had seen people fight in a variety of styles of clothing, from near nudity to full armour. He had sighed about Buffy's tendency to demand fashionable clothes even in combat and, though he admitted that flashing your enemy a look of your panties might confuse them, he still thought it risky to entice them and rather immodest. Faith had not been much better. He'd once complimented her on her choice of leather as attire, noting its hard-wearing and protective abilities. She'd looked at him as if he was insane and leered, telling him she wore it because it made her ass look good.
Now, with vast funds at their disposal and all the magical and technological wonders that Xander and Willow could gather and adapt, there was no reason for any Slayer not to go into combat dressed in some form of protective armour. Buffy had graduated from short skirts but still tended to jeans and a t-shirt. Most of the younger Slayers imitated her, citing her style and track record. Faith, too, had no dearth of followers of her fashion. Tight leather was quite popular, though Giles reluctantly admitted it had at least some protective capabilities.
But there was a new role model in town. And Giles was looking at her. Emma Knight had always been interested in science and chemistry and her love for those subjects had led her to study, and receive PhD’s in, both subjects. The advances in Material Chemistry and Physics had excited and exulted her, and a phone call to Kirrin Laboratories resulting in a visit and a number of made-to-measure suits for her to try and test.
The Slayers had firmly declared that armour and fashion did not mix. Emma Knight was proving them wrong. Crafted from several types of Kevlar and related artificial fibres, double woven and triple woven, intermixed and heat glued the suit fitted her like a glove, showing of her curves and figure to perfection. Her cat-like smirk showed that she was fully aware of the reactions of the young male wiccans assigned to the group, the two Junior Watchers and several of the Sapphic inclined slayers as well.
Giles was slightly better at hiding his reactions, but nevertheless he felt she knew. The main colour of the suit was black, with red accents and, to finish the look, red and black boots and a red and black windbreaker jacket.
“Well, I do hope we get some action. It would be a shame to put on this suit and not get some,” Emma told Giles in a bland voice.
Giles manfully suppressed a whimper, gesturing at his own casual attire. “Quite. I do hate putting on a cable sweater for nothing,”
“Yes, I can imagine. Steed always wore a suit and bowler hat of course,” Emma spoke, considering him carefully.
“Ah. A bowler looks ridiculous on me,” Giles managed.
“And an umbrella? I can imagine you with one quite easily,” Emma teased. “And a top hat. Or do you prefer straw with a ribbon?”
Giles tapped the tip of his sheathed broad sword on the ground.
“Not every Englishman of a certain age and class went to public school, you know,” he told her disapprovingly.
“You did. It’s in your online biography. A pity your voice wasn't any good as a child. I can see you in one of those lovely smocks, singing at King's,” she smiled sweetly.
“There is nothing wrong with my voice! My father thought I ought to use my time more productively than with singing,” Giles almost snarled, inwardly cursing Andrew whose benighted idea it had been to post biographies of the Scoobies and other Senior members of the Council on the Council's heavily firewalled Intranet.
“Nothing wrong with it? That's nice. You'll have to sing for me some time,” Emma's teeth flickered in a grin and then she moved away to check on the silently watchful and uncertain slayers.
Giles looked after her dumbfounded. Timothy stepped closer and nudged him with an elbow. “Did she just manipulate you into singing for her?”
“Oh, be a good chap and do shut up, Timothy,” Giles told the young man absentmindedly.
Timothy grinned. “Thought so.”
The three cars filled with five junior Slayers each drove randomly through the streets of Canary Wharf, their occupants on the lookout for any suspect behaviour, ready to act should Fu Manchu or any of his henchmen try and escape through some of the doors that Willow had discovered existed in the basements of the office buildings that towered over the business district.
Spike, driving one of the cars, was currently chewing on a toothpick and wondering if he could convince George, next to him in the shotgun seat inspecting a crossbow, to join him for a ride to Kirrin once all this was over.
George tended to be more at ease among her family’s ancestral holdings and he hoped that would translate into them discussing the state and nature of their relationship. And possibly get in some heavy necking.
George, making sure the crossbow was in tip-top condition, kept stealing little glances at Spike's profile. She remembered him being darker, his hair longer and curly, and was wondering if she preferred him like this or like she had first met him. She shivered slightly as she recalled how he had pressed her up against a cave wall, immobile and helpless as they had both taken refuge from the death throes of the Mazotuk demon that had for centuries been known as the Stoor Worm.
She suppressed the memory, determined that this time her old fears would not resurface. It was her fear that had given power to the Casarua. She had no desire of giving this Fu a chance to play upon them. She glanced aside again at Spike's capable hands on the steering wheel and looked away again hurriedly when she saw he was watching her from the corner of his eyes.
Millie, her wheelchair held in place by the specially designed brackets and a number of easily removed straps, grinned as she saw the veiled glances that Spike and George kept directing at each other. She winked at Heidi, who rolled her eyes. Heidi was a straightforward young woman and believed firmly in being direct, and she was getting annoyed by the slow progress in the older Slayer's romantic entanglement. Then all the occupants of the car straightened as the voice of Willow ran in their heads. %We are going in! Stand ready!%
****** Tube Tunnel, Attack route #1
Willow, sword in hand, stood in front of the maintenance door. She took a key out of her pocket, a large brass one she bought at Portobello Road market. She spoke few words in what Buffy thought was Sumerian. A glow spread over the metal door and then there was a soft hiss.
“Well, I think that bypassed his alarms, but I'm not sure,” Willow explained as she tucked away the key again and looked at the door dubiously.
“It’s open too, so need to kick it down, Buff,” she told Buffy, who was winding up for a kick with a reproving smile.
“But Willow! My entrance!” Buffy whined softly.
Willow shook her head and donned her resolve face. “No kicking down the door.”
Buffy sighed and tried the handle. It gave and the door opened without a noise. Buffy slipped inside, the Scythe in her right hand.
A terrifying yell resounded throughout the tunnel and Buffy ducked a blow before it could land. The long Chinese halberd hit the wall instead and rebounded with a shower of sparks from the white-painted concrete.
Buffy grabbed the halberd with her left hand and pulled, dragging the wielder into sight. He was about six feet tall, but much broader than a man, with bandy legs and long, simian arms. His prognathous jaw almost met his huge, hooked nose and three yellowed ivory horns protruded from his forehead. He was bright red and had dark hair tied back with a leather band.
“Oni!” Willow called out. “Very strong, might have magic and definitely nasty!”
Buffy grunted as the Oni pulled on the halberd, hoping to regain control of the weapon. She released the halberd after a final, very hard tug that brought the Oni well within reach of the Scythe and swung.
The Oni's head bounced off the wall and a spurt of dark purple blood pumped from the stump of his neck.
Buffy dodged the blood and stepped over the still twitching corpse. “Not very bright?”
Willow shrugged. “Depends on the specimen.”
Buffy nodded. “Okay, I'll keep that in mind.”
She continued down the corridor for a few more yards, until it ended in an intersection where it crossed a tunnel that ran parallel to the Subway tunnel.
“Straight on, I think,” Buffy told Willow who was walking behind her.
The five junior Slayers that she'd selected followed closely, their hands gripping their weapons anxiously. Buffy had worried about that, but Willow assured her that the anxiety was not about going in. It was about going into a fight with THE Slayer watching. That really had not made her feel all that much better. She still had problems accepting how much many of the Junior Slayers looked up at her. Even Kennedy had grudgingly admitted she was a great fighter. Though Kennedy of course had added huffily that once she had as many years of experience as Buffy did, she'd be far, far better.
Buffy shook her head and brought her attention back to the matter in hand. There were demons to kill and people to save and it was their mission to be the primary weapon. Buffy led her small group onwards and kept her senses as sharp as possible.