The Final Tale
I don't own Angel the Series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Dresden Files. Story, end of.Tales from Oracle Securities
Chapter 11: The Final TaleOracle Securities Safehouse
12:51 am, July 16th, 2003
“Yep.” Harry dropped the Sight from his eyes. “They died of fright. Its all over them. A direct psychic attack onto their brain, overloading with fear, and poof. They scream, and they die. Five seconds of life, at most.”
Murphy looked over at him. “The fetches didn't kill like this – they left marks. So...some other kind of phobophage, then?”
Harry shook his head as he stood up from the crouch he'd held over Petrovich's body. “No. It wasn't any kind of phobophage that did this. Phobophages eat fear. There has to be some fear to attract them in the first place, and then they come. And they don't make their victims feel fear in some kind of direct attack. They induce it more indirectly – like the fetches taking on the forms of horror film monsters. This was something different.”
“So where does that leave things? Something
killed my men! So what the hell was it?”
“Mark, phobophages are not the only things that kill with.” Harry explained. “Granted, I can't think of anything specifically off the top of my head-” He paused.
“What? Something occur to you?”
“The Malvora White Court Vampires are phobophages...and they can create fear in a direct psychic attack...” Harry shook his head slowly, looking at Petrovich's and Hans' bodies a moment. “But I don't think a White Court Vampire did this.”
“I could tell you that much. Say whatever you want about the White Court, when you fill them with lead, they die.” Mark leaned down to pick up Petrovich's AR-15, lying inches from the writhed hand. “He fired...” He pulled out the magazine, “All thirty rounds. I don't see any bullet holes in these walls, so he didn't miss – and it wasn't some kind of...ghosty thing that the bullets just passed through. They went in to whatever it was...and it kept coming.”
“And the White Court wouldn't need to come in through punching a hole in from the Nevernever. Definitely some kind of demon.”
“But you don't know what kind? Then what the hell are we still doing here? We know who sent them!”
“No, Mark, we don't.” Murphy cut in. “See, there's this thing cops do – its called investigating. Trying to figure out who's guilty of what through the facts. Means, motive, opportunity, guilty until proven innocent – you know, that sort of thing. And sure, Wolfram and Hart had a reason to want the witness dead, but they're not this stupid.”
“Who the hell else would be behind it?”
“I don't know, but we're not going to find out by jumping to conclusions and walking down the street challenging Lilah Morgan to a duel!”Lilah's Office, Wolfram and Hart Chicago
1:57 am, July 16th, 2003
“That's everyone here, then?”
“Everyone, even the janitorial staff.” Denna double-checked the file in her hands. “No, wait. David Bennett Jr. in accounting isn't here.” She closed the file folder a moment and spoke, “David Bennett Jr.” She opened the folder again to show the man in question's employee file. “Which would be because he's in the Chicago Branch's class C-5 punishment dimension.” She looked at Lilah. “Class C-5...that's the one where they cut your heart out over and over again?”
“And there's a gibbet there too.” Lilah agreed. “What did he do? I can't say the name sounds all that familiar.”
“He misfiled some tax paperwork and cost the firm,” she turned the page in the file. “Seventeen Million Dollars. He's due another five weeks in punishment before they let him out.”
“Well, at least we know one
person who didn't do it.” Lilah was glad her minder from the Senior Partners had gone into her private rooms a floor below to 'commune' with the Senior Partners, given this latest development.
Well, hopefully not, but Lilah didn't have high hopes. If Wesley was in town, he might be able to forestall the inevitable, but now that he was gone....
In the last almost two hours, Lilah had come to a number of conclusions about what had happened. While she was going to check everyone in the firm – the telepaths were already being pulled out of isolation to scan everyone, one by one – she was pretty sure it wasn't someone here, not someone in Wolfram and Hart.
There were only a few people at Wolfram and Hart Chicago with the rank, connections or power to pull off something like this, apart from her. Only a few of those would have the balls to pull something like this, given Lilah's standing policies. And of those, none of them were stupid enough to try this
particular tactic. The only one she'd put serious consideration one was Denna – she was ambitious enough to try something like this as a sort of double-bluff to take the job, but she'd ruled her effective second in command out too.
Denna was the logical successor to Lilah, if something happened to see the CEO's chair empty suddenly. But she was by no means guaranteed. The Senior Partners might put Iris directly in charge, the way Marcus Hamilton had taken over the LA branch personally. Or they'd bring someone else from another branch in. Or let the local power structure fight itself out.
And while Denna had been hard at work building a network of allies and people who owed her favors that was already serving her well in interdepartmental conflict, Lilah could tell that Denna didn't have a secure enough base in even her own department, let alone the entire firm, to have a guaranteed shot at the top job. Too many of Richard Carlise's people were still in place, for all their their patron had been handed off to Gregory of Arles' as a chew toy. Three more months and she'll have them quitting, fired, reassigned or dead.
But that was three months, not now. So Denna probably wasn't behind it.
Still meant it could be from within the firm – one of the other CEOs trying to trip her up. Except...
While that idea worked in the theory, the Senior Partners had very firm opinions about the different branches playing on each other' turfs. Lilah doubted that they'd keep their silence in place so much that they wouldn't make their views known once again if one of the other CEOs was behind this, given its ramifications for the firm at large.
She could be wrong, that much was certainly possible. But everything she knew was telling her something quite loudly: Someone outside the firm did it. Someone wanted a war between Wolfram and Hart and Oracle securities.Which is probably why they chose now to do it. With Wesley out of town working on whatever the hell it is that he's up to, all that's running the shop is Lindsey, and good as he is, I don't think Lindsey can reign Mark Farrel in.
Wesley might not have been able to reign Mark in either, but he at least would probably have been able to reign most of Mark's men in. Lindsey wouldn't have a prayer at getting them to go against their leader if he went on the warpath.
Wolfram and Hart, as an free-holding lord signatory to the Unseelie Accords, was stuck operating under the rules of the Accords when it dealt with other signatories. The Firm, as Lilah understood, has signed on mostly as a cover on its flank while it continued to dominate the minor-league world, acting on its more long-term plans, rather than playing at supernatural power politics here on Earth. Out there, in the Nevernever, they were big players, especially counting the various demonic legions and warlords under their command.
But here...things were more constrained.And if I'm running the store when war comes to the firm when the Senior Partners don't want it...
it added a sense of urgency to resolving this problem.
Lilah picked up her phone the moment it rang. “Lindsey.”
“If that was supposed to impress me, keep in mind that I do know what caller-ID is.” Lindsey drawled dryly over the line.
“Lindsey, I'm not sure if anything could impress you. You need a sense of wonder in your life.”
“You? Lilah, you made Holland Manners look like a wide-eyed idealist.”
“You should see the minder the Senior Partners set on me.”
“Oh, so the Senior Partners finally crawled out of wherever they've been hiding?”
“Just long enough to throw one of their kids at me as a babysitter. They're running scared from something.” Lilah gestured from Denna to the door. “Hold on for a moment, will you?” She lowered the phone and spoke to her second. “And tell Iris I want her up here. Now.” Back to the phone. “Alright, so what have you figured out?”Lindsey's Office, Oracle Securities
2:05 am, July 16th, 2003
“I don't really think I need to tell you. Or should.” Lindsey point out cooly. “We're on opposite sides, reasonable conversation notwithstanding. Even if you weren't behind this – and I think that's pretty likely – someone else at Wolfram and Hart probably is. And since you still haven't served their head up on a sacrificial platter...”
“Can it Lindsey. First of all, if it was someone here, then knowing what you know about it will help me figure out who did it. Except for the fact that no one here did do it.”
Lindsey twirled a knife in his free hand as he listened to Lilah. It was amusing, in a way, how things had turned out in recent months. Once again, he and Lilah were playing against eachother. Just now they really were on opposite teams – and the stakes were higher. But it was the fight that Lindsey liked. The game. He really didn't care, at the end of the day, about good, or evil. Sure, helping rather than hurting gave a bit of the warm fuzzies, but really...
Lindsey wasn't a good guy. He had no problem with that. He hadn't left Wolfram and Hart, when he'd finally left it, out of idealism. Cynicism beats out goodness every day of the week.
He'd just grown tired of the rat race, the absurdity of it all. But the game...playing the game was fun. And there was something to be said for tweaking the firm's nose.
“And you can be sure of that how? The telepaths can't have finished their work this quickly.”
“No, they haven't. But use that brain of yours for a moment. Your people in the firm have told you enough about the players here for you to know the shape of the power structure. You know as well as I do that there are only so many people with the power, connections or abilities to pull something like this off without it getting kicked up the line to other people. Which would be the death of that idea in a heartbeat. And of those people, how many of them are ballsy enough to do it? For that matter, how many are stupid enough to try something like this? And by my math, no one matches all three of those criteria.”
“You make a convincing argument. Have you ever thought about going into practicing law?” Lindsey quipped.
“Lindsey, we don't have time for this.”
“No, no – you
don't have time for this.” Lindsey closed his fingers around the knife's handle. “If this all ends up on my head for getting Oracle Securities into a war Marcone doesn't want, the worst that happens to me is I get fired. And maybe a broken kneecap. If Wesley's having a particularly bad day, I might even dead, but that's a worst case scenario.” He threw the knife into the painted target on his wall, the thud carrying through the phone.”
“On the other hand, if this goes south and we find ourselves having a little war, death is the best case scenario for you, and then things work their way down. What do you think you'll end up in they're really pissed off? A Class D-12 Punishment Dimension, maybe?”
“There's no such thing as a Class D-12. They stop at D-7.”
“That's what the official story is. But you've heard the rumors, same as I have.”
“There isn't a Class D-12. And if you get fired, the Senior Partners will have free game on you.”
“I kept out of their claws for nearly two years before signing on with Wes and company. I think I can keep on doing that if I get fired. Try again.”
“Lindsey, it wasn't someone in the firm. It was someone outside – someone who wants us to be fighting eachother. And do you really think whoever it is is going to stop at just one war here in Chicago? They've got something planned, and its bound up on whatever it is that has the Senior Partners and the White Council and god knows who else running scared. The only reason you and I aren't
running scared is because we don't know enough to be scared yet.”
“Until I've got someone I can give Mark, he's going to keep fixating on you and the entire firm. I'm not looking for a war Lilah, but he certainly doesn't give a crap if we end up in one, the mood he's worked himself into.”
“Throw him a bone. Have him take out one of our safehouses, and all our people there. You know where enough of them are.”
“Except the very fact that you're offering it is proof that you know it won't hurt you all that much.”
“Of course it won't. But it won't be a big enough deal that I'll have to respond in any meaningful way. Maybe rattle a few sabers, but that's about it. On the other hand, it will give Mr. Farrel something to fixate on. I want peace, you want peace. My bosses want peace. And so do yours. So let's have it. A sit-down talk. My side, your side, and some kind of arbiter. A meeting on neutral ground as laid out in the Accords, to settle differences and maintain the peace.”
“There's only one arbiter I can think of that would be acceptable to both sides.” Lindsey noted. “Think she'll agree?”
“She's the Archive. Being a neutral Arbiter is what she does.”
“Then make the arrangements. And I suppose I'll see you then.” Lindsey dropped the phone onto the receiver as he stood up. Walking over to a file cabinet, he opened a drawer and pulled out a file without even looking at the labels. The only pause he made on his way out of his office was to pull the knife from the wall.Lobby, Oracle Securities
2:23 am, July 16th, 2003
Lindsey dropped a thick file on the front desk, right in front of Mark.
“What's this supposed to be?” Mark grabbed the file.
“Your options. You want to hit Wolfram and Hart? That's all the intelligence we've managed to get on every safehouse, stockpile and hideout they have, in Chicago, near Chicago and in Undertown. Locations, layouts, defenses, troop numbers, the works. Pick Three and take them out. Then I want you to shut up and fall in line. There is almost no chance Wolfram and Hart did this. But until we know for sure, all responses are proportional. You hit these places you hurt them, but not enough to guarantee a full scale war.”
“If Wolfram and Hart didn't do it, then who did?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, Mark. But you've got your marching orders. Hit them, hurt them, and get with the program.”
“And what is the program?”
“Peace talks. A neutral arbiter will be coming, and we're going to have a cold war style summit.”
“You want to talk with them? Even if they didn't – they're evil. Hellspawn.”
“Lilah's as human as you or me, and when it comes down to morality, I'm pretty gray. And you're a mercenary, so don't go trying to take the moral high ground either.”
Mark opened his mouth to respond then closed it, looking back down at the file. “The story of working at Oracle Securities, isn't it?”Author's Note:
Yes, that is indeed the end of Tales from Oracle Securities. This story has always been intended to bridge the gap between New City, Same Enemy, and where I envisioned the second major work in the Maelstrom series starting, and that's the purpose its served. I will be getting to the next fic in this series eventually, but I can't tell you when. There's a number of smaller-scale ideas I'd like to take a look at working on for a while, so it might be a few months before the next fic comes out. Unfortunately, I also can't give you a title to look out for. I've debated the title for a while, and none of the options I've come up with sound all that good to me, so I'm still working on that front. But it'll be by me, and it will be in the Dresden Files crossover area, so I'm sure you'll all notice it when you see it, especially since the summary will say its the sequel of this fic.
I'd like to thank all those who have reviewed this fic, or added it to their alerts, favorited it, and so forth. You guys are the reason I keep writing. So thank you.