A time and place
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.# Once more, I do not own Buffy, Fu Manchu, the Famour Five or the Wombles in any way or form. If you enjoy the story, please let me know. In a half forgotten dream Chapter 3 A time and place
It was Heidi who first saw and felt the vampires coming from the upper floors of what was supposed to be an empty office building. She tapped Spike on the shoulder and pointed. Spike nodded and drove the car up to the door. Millie had released the catches holding her chair and was out of the car in seconds, followed by Heidi and George and Spike themselves, the three other Slayers bringing up the rear.
A perfectly timed kick by Spike and George struck the doors and the bolts of the locks were torn from the hardened glass. Heidi was inside, crossbow in hand and the Vampires, stunned by the sudden appearance of an enemy, were struck by seven crossbow bolts, taking out five and leaving two hissing and writhing against the blessed wooden shafts.
The Slayers dropped their bows and charged at a curt gesture from George. Sword at the ready, stake in the other, they engaged the enemy.
Timothy gestured at the door and a wave of cold air struck the waiting group.
“Defences are down, so are the alarms. Willow was quite thorough,” he noted with admiration in his voice.
Giles nodded in approval. “Good. Then we're going in. Katie, Bebe, take the van.”
Bebe nodded and took up the front position.
Katie shot Giles a glare. “If I get demon slime on my shoes you are going to get me new ones, aren't you?”
Then she realised just who she had been addressing so familiarly and flushed, and took a few hurried strides to catch up with Bebe.
Giles suppressed a grin.
Emma, next to him gave him an indulgent smile. “Brings back memories of the old days, Rupert?”
“I must admit I, ah, sometimes miss Buffy's more innocent days, yes,” Giles admitted.
“Yes. We need to talk about that later,” Emma told him.
Giles gave her a wary look. Her tone of voice boded ill. “Very well.”
There was a scream and then an indignant yell from Katie. “Bebe! That one was mine!”
Giles sighed. “Some things about younger, more innocent Slayers I do not miss.”
“They find enjoyment where they can. It's still hardly a safe occupation, Giles,” Emma told him with reproof in her voice.
“You had a choice. They didn't, whether chosen or called by the Scythe. If the so called Powers-That-Be wanted to have stuffy adult males with a deep and great sense of responsibility perform this duty they would have called upon them. But considering the mess they
made of this? I think I understand why the Powers chose to continue the Slayer line.”
Giles almost winced at the stress put on the word 'they', knowing quite well that the more Emma heard about his handling of Buffy in the previous years, the less pleased she became.
He gestured at the door. “Shall we go in before their enthusiasm leads them into trouble?”
Emma nodded. “Let's shall,” she winked at the three slayers in the rearguard and cautiously entered the door.
Giles sighed. He wasn't sure what was worse, Emma rubbing off on Buffy or Buffy on Emma.
Buffy could feel her senses tingling, despite the fact that they had been blunted years ago by her long residence on the Hellmouth. Willow had promised to look into it, her newfound rapport with Buffy and her ever growing understanding of the Slayer Line giving her an insight in the powers of a Slayer unrivalled by anyone in history. But until Willow managed that, she was still, compared to other slayers, deaf and blind and unable to smell.
The fact that her senses were tingling meant that there was something of great power present to set them off. A quick look over her shoulder revealed that Willow was looking skittish, her eyes darting from side to side, her tongue darting out to moisten her lips in nervousness. She was clearly being affected by the weird vibes of the place.
The junior Slayers she had selected were looking about unhappily, as if looking for the thing that came from the darkness to eat their faces.
So far the group had faced seven Oni, fourteen Vampires and two Fyarl. Marie had a shallow cut on her arm and Cherry-Lynn had taken a vampire's kick hard in the ribs in a moment of carelessness. She winced each time when Buffy looked at her, very sure that when they emerged from the Devil Doctor's lair that she would get a talking to.
Buffy did nothing to abuse her of the notion. It had
been careless and if Cherry-Lynn internalised the lesson before she let Xander at her, all the better.
By Buffy's calculations they had advanced below the Thames now. Walking under the river always made her skin itch. All it would take to get rid of the cream of the Slayers' Council was for someone to open a door connecting to the river. She shivered as the sense of evil and oppression increased again. But it didn't feel like a demon. It felt familiar somehow...
Buffy took a deep breath and tried to push her senses out. *You can do this, Summers. C'mon you gotta keep your girl and the kiddies safe.*
A wave of evil, pain, fear. loathing, hit her and she almost stumbled. She winced. She suddenly realised what the feeling reminded her off. She gestured at Heidi, who took point, allowing Buffy to fall back next to Willow. “Will? I'm getting a really bad Initiative vibe.”
Willow's eyes widened. “Oh. Oh, yes. That would fit.”
“Mad scientist?” Buffy asked resigned.
“Mad scientist with magical powers. Sorry Buffy,” Willow shrugged apologetically.
“Think we need another Enjoining Spell?” Buffy sounded unhappy.
“I don't know. We have no idea what Fu has been working on, or what he can do. And what resources he has,” Willow gestured at the well lit tunnel. “Though looking at this he's probably got a lot of them.”
“Just peachy,” Buffy muttered. “I think we need to go that way, if we want to go straight to the heart of Darkness.”
“We're not in Africa, Buff. This is London,” Willow teased.
Buffy sighed. “Great. I had to pick the girl with the love of Lit.”
“And teasing her girlfriend, don't forget teasing her girlfriend, “Willow pointed out helpfully.
Buffy glared. “You're lucky we're down here. Otherwise you'd sooooo get tickled.”
There was a giggle from Marie. Buffy raised an eyebrow at the young French slayer's back and then marched up to take point again. “This way. And get ready, this is going to be bad.”
Giles watched as Emma split-kicked two vampires at the same time, thrusting them back at two Slayers who dealt with them quickly. Emma landed behind Bebe, who had run up to cover her.
“I'd almost think you'd choreographed this, if I didn't know that the vampires would hardly have joined in practicing,” he told Bebe.
Bebe glowed. “Thank you, Director Giles. Ms. Knight has been training us in team work.”
“Most successfully. I shall certainly compliment her later,” Giles smiled.
“I'm sure she'll be delighted to be complimented, sir,” Bebe replied deadpan.
Giles sighed, trying to ignore the sniggers from Katie and Timothy. *It's always the quiet ones. I wonder if she's been talking to Willow?*
Buffy sliced the lock of the great steel door with the Scythe. The metal pinged, white hot with the friction of the blade passing through. She pushed the door open with the point of the Scythe and then stepped in.
“Willow? Get in here. Heidi? Keep the others out there and stand watch,” Buffy commanded after her first cursory examination.
Willow entered diffidently. Buffy's voice was cold and flat and boded little good. She stepped into the room and almost vomited.
“Goddess...” she whispered.
“Any idea of what he's doing? And what we can do?” Buffy's voice was hard and a lesser weapon than the Scythe would have snapped in her hands from the sheer pressure.
Willow swallowed. Then she went over to a computer and tapped away. After a few minutes she looked up. “It has to do with how Wombles procreate. He's trying to splice it into demons. Breed Wombles with Polgara demons.”
Buffy groaned. “Great. I feel as if Maggie Walsh will step out of one of these doors any second now,”
Just as she spoke a door opened. To Willow it seemed Buffy went from stationary to blur of movement without a pause. Then the man who had come in was pressed against the wall, the Scythe at his throat. He was tall and elegant and looked tremendously surprised.
“How did you get in here? Who are you people? Have you damaged the experiment?” He demanded in a high, American accented voice.
Buffy looked around the room. Fourteen Wombles hung in vats or were strapped to beds, unconscious. Drips, cables, tubes and wires were strung to and from them. Glass bottles contained various body parts of Polgara demons. A TV screen showed a set of holding pens in which the big male Polgara were being held, pacing up and down and beating the walls in an attempt to escape. Smaller pens held pregnant females. Small cages of brass inlaid with runes held keening, weeping young, hybrids of Wombles and Polgara.
She shuddered as she saw the torturously extended belly on one of the Womble females. “Gross, sick, evil.”
She turned her gaze back upon the man, then looked through the door. From the other monitors on the security desk she could see that the passage beyond let to the room with the Polgara.
“We need Madam Cholet. We need Doctors. And you and I need to have a talk,” Buffy had addressed the first sentences at Willow, the last at the man in the lab coat. “What's your name?”
The man sniffed. “I do not need to tell you my name, woman.”
Buffy smiled. “Possibly not. Willow? We need Spike in here.”
The man lifted an eyebrow. “Spike? What is spike?”
“Who is Spike. He can do amazing things to you with the most ordinary of household implements,” Buffy told him cheerfully. “Childe of Drusilla, Grandchilde of Angelus, Master of the Line of Aurelius.”
“And this is supposed to mean something to me?” the man asked airily.
“It depends on how well versed you are in the supernatural,” Willow shrugged. “How long did that vamp last the other day, Buff?”
“The one he told he was a master of doing 'amazing things with ordinary household items?' Buffy made an air quote with her hands, ignoring both the Scythe and the man in the white coat she held, swinging them both up and down.
“Yeah, that one. Do you remember?” Willow asked.
“Well, he was a vampire. So a human wouldn't last as long,” Buffy pointed out.
“I think he uses different techniques on humans,” Willow shrugged. “We’ll find out fast enough, George says they're on their way. Killed a few dozen zombies and found an entrance through the basement of a part-empty office building.”
“No casualties?” Buffy asked anxiously.
Willow winced. “Heidi got punched in her breast.”
Buffy winced as well. “Ouch. Oh well. I'll just tie this fellow up. Think you can do something with these computers?” she gestured at the terminals.
“I'll take a look,” Willow smirked as Buffy stuffed the man in a metal cabinet and then used the Scythe to cut a hole in the door at the height of his face with four swift slices.
The man let out a little squeal at the first slice and was screaming by the fourth. Buffy gave him a cold look. “Oh, stop it, I’m just letting some air in.”
“You seem quite experienced at stuffing nerds into lockers, Buff. Anything you want to tell me?” Willow teased.
Buffy lifted an eyebrow at the redheaded witch and then slammed the cabinet, hard, with the butt of the Scythe. The man inside whimpered.
“I learn through observation? Lots of jocks wanted to make an impression on lil' ol' me by showing me their trophies.”
Willow shook her head in mock-dismay. “I fear I lack the inclination to stuff anyone in lockers. You’ll have to do without such display of alpha-male stupidity I fear.”
Buffy shrugged. “Don't worry, I can supply all the Alpha-maleness we need,” she winked.
Willow huffed. “Men!” and smiled.
Buffy looked around the room and then back at Willow, her face serious again. “Think we can bring the Juniors in here? It's pretty gruesome.”
Willow looked at one of the drugged-up Wombles tied to a sloping bed. “They'll have to get used to things like this eventually.”
“True. Okay, do you want to set a ward or two?” Buffy twirled the Scythe and the man in the locker whimpered.
Willow thought for a second and then shook her head. “It might just alert him. So far it's clear he's as over-confident as Spike said he is. He hasn't set alarms up internally, his patrol system is pathetic and his underlings don't function as an organization but as individuals trying to make a good impression on the boss. Just about everything a villain can do wrong in his secret base, really. But setting a ward gives a-a ‘ping’ on the local Aether, so if he's here, he'd probably notice.”
“Hmm, well, don't you think that with all the noise we've been making that he might not be here?” Buffy walked to the door and looked out. “Girls? Get in here.”
The three younger Slayers filed in, looked around and paled. Cherry-Lynn hurried to a metal wastepaper basket and threw up.
Buffy nodded. “Do that if you have to, but don't forget that the bastard who's ultimately responsible for this is out there somewhere. Cherry-Lynn, Claudia, stand watch. Not too much chatter and keep an eye out. No grandstanding, if someone comes in, try and despatch him but also give an alarm. Gulia, stay with Willow, I’m gonna find out what's behind these other doors.”
The youngsters, still pale, nodded and took up station. Buffy hesitated by the door to the rooms that held the Polgara and some of the hybrid offspirng. She shook her head. She'd wait to face them until she had more back up. Polgara were nasty and tough and she'd rather kill them from a distance too. Their purpley-red blood was a bitch to wash out. And it tended to splatter.
She'd leave that experience to some of the younger Slayers. It would do them no harm. She could think of one or two cocky ones who might actually benefit from a layer of Polgara blood. She’d hand them the Scythe and let them dispel the notion that she won battles solely by its power themselves. She smiled a little in anticipation.
Buffy opened another door and went inside. There was a line of cages filled with monkeys, and another with chimpanzees. She sighed. Willow would have to check them out before they could be evacuated. She knew her girlfriend and killing the poor things was not an option, Willow would be in a blue funk for days if the monkeys died. The door opposite was a sterile lab room filled with various types of equipment that looked way too much like what Maggie Walsh had used in hers.
A third door led to a passage with several operating theatres that made Buffy shiver. Far too many instruments seemed to be more useful for torture than surgery.
A large aquarium filled most of the next room, and in it swam three humanoid things with shark-like fins and long, elongated faces with mouths set with far too many teeth. Buffy frowned. They looked remarkably similar to the Sunnydale swim-team after their transformation. Another thing for Willow to check.
It would be really nice if they could just destroy the entire base with massive amounts of explosives, but Giles had pointed out that might do considerable damage to the buildings and Tube tunnels above.
The next room was like cabinet of horrors and curiosities. Human skeletons with overlong arms, an enormous skeleton lying stretched out down the middle of the room, the bones of its fingers as thick as Buffy's forearm. A skeleton she recognized as belonging to an ancient vampire, whose bones, like the Master's, had resisted disintegration. A stuffed Polgara demon, a huge book case, its shelves lined with double rows of jars, each filled with preserved specimens of demonic arms, hands, feet, claws, heads. Some of the claws seemed to move in their thick-walled containers and Buffy loathed the sight of them.
She saw a startled looking stuffed Faun and wondered if Queen Susan would know the funeral rites for one. Perfectly formed tiny skeletons, no bigger than Buffy's small hand, their own hands and feet and heads just a touch too large for their bodies.
The rubbery ended tentacle rather too similar to the Beast that had appeared when the Master had opened the Hellmouth. Spider demons, fox demons, frog demons, dog-demons, cat demons and demonic birds.
Buffy froze for a second at the display of a young girl. It was a literal display, her organs in jars, her skin carefully removed and mounted on the wall, a case showing her weapons. There were pictures showing her alive, Two other displays next to hers showed two more dissected girls, one, by the pictures taken, had been alive when Fu Manchu had captured her.
The Scythe seemed to writhe in Buffy's grip. Buffy swallowed heavily and she touched the three displays.
“You will be avenged, my sisters,” she vowed softly. “The son of a bitch will pay.”
She turned from the room of horrors and went into the next, which turned out to be a vast, vaulted and plushly upholstered library.
“Giles will hafta see this,” Buffy muttered, still cold and angry from what she'd found in the previous room.
The last room in the set was a small chamber, barely bigger than a closet. There was a cage in the corner and in the cage something naked and filthy cowered and whimpered. Buffy took a step closer and her eyes widened in disbelieving recognition. The thing in the cage screamed.
When George had stumbled Spike had been at her side in seconds. She looked up in exasperation. “Willow wants us, they found something and they need you to threaten someone. And they've found the Wombles.”
Spike nodded. “Can you find them? Can she tell you how to get there? ”
George listened for a second, then got a look of concentration on her face as she replied and finally shook her head. “Willow says the place is a maze further on as well. She says to grab a likely looking vamp and get him to lead us to the Labs.”
“What if none of them know where to find the labs?” Spike asked.
George grinned at him. “At least you'll have had some fun. Come on, let's try this way first.”
They located a vamp easily. Spike made it talk easily as well. Regrettably it didn't know the location of the Labs, as it had been selected for its size, not its intelligence. Another vamp was dragged up by Heidi and Millie and Spike had a short, very sharp conversation with it. The directions this one provided were rather confused but eventually allowed the group to locate a set of stairs that at least took them down to the right level.
Andrew was quite sure that he'd been assigned to his current mission because Buffy hated him. He was wet, cold, smelly, sticky and covered in more effluent than he ever wanted to think about ever again.
His Slayers were quite cheerful, having been provided with various remedies against the smell and having been assured that Willow had methods to remove the scent that would cling to them. Andrew had been given cold cream and been told that he wasn't a front line fighter and that any magic expended upon cleansing him would be his own.
Andrew didn't know the spell in question. And no doubt Willow would be too busy to teach him any time soon. And Timothy had told him that if Andrew came within ten feet, he'd see if he could follow in Willow's footsteps and change the Watcher into a rat.
“It wasn't like I wanted to destroy his limited edition gold helmet Bobba Fett,” Andrew muttered, still wincing at the horror of the scratch that had appeared upon the formerly pristine figurine.
Beth waved an arm and Andrew, startled from his thoughts, hurried up. Beth was sensitive to wards and Willow intended to train her in the basics of magic, if at all possible. Buffy was capable of magic, but Willow wasn't sure if all Slayers were.
However Beth wasn't trained yet and that meant that every time she sensed something Andrew was brought forward to identify it. And the sewers were warded to the hilt.
Andrew had groaned abysmally when the door that he'd hoped led into the base instead led into the vile, stinking tunnel system they were currently exploring.
Various discarded experiments, dozens of famished vampires, ghouls, various types of demons and apparently millions of gallons of mucous, slime, excrement, urine, tidal scum and corpses. Andrew was certain that every missing person in all of Britain had been dumped into the maze.
And Andrew was quite sure Fu Manchu hadn't wanted to let anything get out anymore than he wanted people straying in. It was going to take Andrew and his team quite some time to clear it, if they didn't get any help.
Beth pointed and Andrew bit back a rare swearword. The large sigil was carved directly into the concrete and half submerged in the green-brown liquid that covered the bottom of most of the pipes and tunnels that made up the maze. He glared at Beth, who smiled at him angelically through the thin layer of scum on her face.
Andrew sighed and gave in to the inevitable, kneeling in the muck to fell below the surface to make sure if the glyph was 'Ong' or “Ongi'. He felt the extra little squiggle that made it an 'Ongi' and began the incantation that would permanently break the enchantment. Ongi caused darkness and Ong caused weakness. If it had been Ong he'd have been so weak by now he'd be unable to keep himself from drowning. It would have affected him from several yards away, too. That had been the primary reason he'd dared kneel and touch the thing. It being Ongi also explained the weakness of the lights Willow had enchanted to work even in magical darkness.
Andrew took a deep breath and started the counter-spell. Beth looked on closely and listened as well. The other four Slayers in his team took up guarding positions. It wouldn't do to be surprised while the group's mage was busy after all.
George saw the two vampires who were discussing how to attack the Slayers in the Labs quite some time after first hearing them. It took a conscious effort on her part to suppress her enhanced senses and when she really tried she could literally hear a pin drop two rooms away.
So she also knew that there were twenty-four vampires in the group, two patrols of twelve, that Dr. Fu Manchu was not in the base but up north, trying to form an allegiance with some supernatural colony in Scotland, and that the rooms Buffy and her party were in had only one exit or entrance.
One of the vampire leaders suggested just sealing it until the invaders starved. Charging in would only get them all killed.
The other one pointed out that would probably cause a great deal of damage to the experiments and the collection and the Doctor would kill them anyway.
The arrival of three Fyarl, seven Oni and half a dozen Polgara gave the hesitant vampire more confidence that they could carry the day and they prepared to break down the barricade the Slayers had erected and storm inside.
It wasn't even a bad plan. It was just a pity George had heard the entirety of the planning session and had reported all of the preparations to Willow. The witch had sniggered and set up a quick defence line, sent a call out to Giles and Ms. Knight to ask where they were, and had requested that George and Spike lead their unit to assault the invading force from the rear. George had split her group so she could actually attack from two sides, one side led by Spike, one by her.
She resolutely ignored all the giggles uttered by the junior slayers, who expected them to meet in the middle with a great big romantic kiss. Apparently her outburst at the After Battle Party about Spike’s kiss in the Casarua’s cave had made rather a big impression. But she absolutely refused to 'put on another show', as Millie put it.
She just hoped that William would be of the same mind when they did meet on the field of battle. There was no denying that he was more than a bit of an extrovert.
George sent her query at Willow. %Ready?%
The answer came immediately. %All ready, you may proceed.%
George thought that Willow's mental voice was distracted. She wondered what was wrong. Since battle was about to be joined it was unlikely that Willow's supreme distraction was actually distracting her. Buffy and Willow kept work and fun quite separate. Most of the time.
George drew her sword, one of a set of two that Spike had given her, checked that she had enough stakes, looked at her small command and got the nod that meant they were all ready, once again surreptitiously checked if they had enough stakes, waited for Willow's relayed command and then charged.
Spike had checked the stakes of his Slayers and made sure they had enough. He also made sure all of them saw him counting his own three times, so they knew it wasn't just them he was double checking.
Heidi nodded and Spike led the attack.
A three pronged assault was not what the opposing force was expecting. The ferocity of Buffy's group surprised George a bit, most of her Slayers were a bit on the timid side. For Slayers. But now they were slashing and staking and beheading with gusto and cold anger. The vampires, Oni and Fyarl really didn't have a chance.
The Polgara were slightly more difficult. A trained Slayer could certainly take one in one-on-one combat. George had done so herself. She also knew that if at all possible Buffy preferred the big demons to be taken down by groups. Well coordinated group attacks were less likely to result in Slayer injuries.
But they were still stronger than almost any vamp and much larger than most Slayers, with vastly superior reach and those unpleasant skewers. Which carried poison more often than not.
George blocked a skewer before it could smash into, probably even through, Millie's head. The younger Slayer had been so absorbed in her fight with the vamp she'd chosen that she had lost track of her surroundings, a fatal enough mistake in a completely mobile Slayer and sheer folly and suicide for the Wheelchair bound Millie. George blocked another attack and then Spike was attacking the Polgara's rear. Confused, the demon tried to skewer Spike, only to have the skewer chopped in half by Spike using a heavy navy cutlass.
An indignant howl came from the Polgara and George took the opportunity afforded by its momentary distraction to drive her sword into the base of its spine and further up the spinal cord.
The Polgara made a soft, surprised gurgling noise and collapsed. Spike grinned at George and gave her a quick peck on the lips before moving on.
“Ooohhh, how romantic,” Millie teased.
George gave the girl a scowl and Millie smirked back. Then George threw a stake that took a vampire who was about to break the other girl's neck straight in the heart.
Millie winced at George's angry expression and quickly wheeled away.
A few minutes later it was all over. The counter-invasion force was destroyed and the junior Slayers stood panting while the older ones quickly checked themselves and those under their command for injuries. George strode towards the wheelchair and Millie cowered.
“We will talk later, Oldcastle,” she told the girl.
Millie nodded meekly. “Yes, Ma'am.” she whispered. “Sorry, Ma'am.”
George then walked to join Spike, who was standing just inside the room, arms dangling, and cutlass hanging point down to the floor.
Inside was a scene of medical horror.