12. The time has come for you to choose
You'd better get it right
Berlin girls with sharp white teeth
Are waiting in the night
But you oughta really get some
It surely can't be hard
There's always trouble waiting
When you leave your own back yard
And underneath the city
The alligators sing
About how the puppets cannot dance
Since someone cut the strings
Run and get the morphine
For God's sake make it brief
Lost Johnny's out there
Looking for relief.*
*: ‘Lost Johnny’, Hawkwind.The Finn Residence.
Sitting on the floor of Buffy’s bedroom, Willow stared at the barricaded door and listened to the *BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!* of Faith’s shotgun going off down stairs. As soon as Faith stopped firing there’d be an answering burst of automatic fire and sometimes a loud sharp bang. Faith had told her enough about combat for Willow to know those were grenades going off. However, after every burst of firing or loud bang Faith’s shotgun would start up again…so far.
Clutching the gun, that Faith had given her, in both hands, Willow realised just how heavy it was, she felt sure that she’d never be able to lift it and point it at anyone if they got passed Faith. Those words echoed through her mind, ‘got passed Faith’. If anyone got passed the woman she loved, Willow knew that that would mean just one thing, Faith would be dead. Faith would die rather than let the ninjas up stairs. Faith would die having never learnt the truth about the people who she was trying to protect. To Willow that felt so unfair, another burst of firing made her jump; waiting while she listened to her pounding heart Willow waited for Faith to shoot back. The oddly comforting sound of Faith’s shotgun never came only more automatic fire that seemed to make the house tremble.
“Oh goddess,” Willow moaned miserably, Faith was down probably killed while she, the most powerful witch in the world sat there and did nothing. “Here…” Willow pressed her revolver into Buffy’s hand.
“Will?” Buffy watched round eyed as Willow stood up, “Willow what are you doing?”
“Stay here with Giles,” Willow looked across the room to where Giles crouched behind the barricade by the door, “Giles, don’t let them take Buffy…”
“Of course,” Giles nodded his head, “where are you going?” he asked already suspecting the answer.
“To help Faith,” Willow replied just before she vanished.0=0=0=0
Reappearing at the top of the stairs, Willow crouched down, just at the moment there was no firing going on but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t start up again at any moment. Looking over the edge of the stairs, Willow saw the death and destruction that had been inflicted on Buffy’s nice, new house; Willow couldn’t help thinking that Buffy was going to be majorly pissed when she saw the mess.
Just inside the front door lay the bodies of five or six ninjas their blood staining the bullet pocked walls and forming into thick black pools on the wooden floor. Taking a deep breath, Willow started to creep down the stairs; before she’d left the relative safety of Buffy’s bedroom she’d felt all brave and full of determination. Now she felt like she really needed to go to the bathroom. Trying to stifle these feelings of fear and trepidation, Willow continued down the stairs until she was standing in the hall.
Looking to her left and then to her right, Willow saw that Buffy’s house had indeed been reduced to a war-zone like she’d seen on the TV news. Buffy would never be able to clean this up, she’d have to move back on post after all. The thought made Willow laugh, she clamped her hand over her mouth to stop her near hysterical laughter from escaping and getting her shot. Okay, Willow took a deep breath, time to find Faith.0=0=0=0
Sitting on the floor of the downstairs bathroom, Faith slapped the last full magazine for her shotgun into the weapon. She’d gone through the hundred rounds she normally carried at a prodigious rate now she only had ten rounds left, she clicked the selector to ‘single shot’. Pulling her M-23 pistol, she checked that it was loaded and ready to go. However she only had three magazines for the pistol, thirty-six rounds in all. Her best bet was to take a weapon off one of the ninjas before she ran out of shells for her shotgun.
Getting quietly to her feet, Faith stepped over to the half open door and stared out into the hall. Nothing moved, but she could hear footsteps sneaking about from the direction of the kitchen. Slipping through the open door, Faith made her way swiftly and silently to the kitchen. The door had been blown off its hinges earlier in the battle; once again Faith wondered where the cops and the army were, surely they should be here by now? Adjusting her grip on her shotgun, Faith took a deep breath before bursting into the kitchen. Her eyes registered the first ninja as he stood warily in the centre of the kitchen. Pulling her trigger, Faith felt the AS2 buck in her hand as the weapon boomed and its buckshot blasted the guy off his feet and hurled him across the room. Altering her point of aim a little Faith gunned down a second ninja as he came through the door.
This man fell over backwards leaving the doorway clear for the third ninja to stick his Uzi SMG around the doorframe and fire a long burst into the room. Faith returned fire her shotgun blasts biting great chunks out of the wall. The ninja stopped firing as did Faith, was the guy by the door dead? If he was she could go in grab the other guy’s Uzi and ammo and hightail it out of here. If he wasn’t she could end up dead and that wouldn’t help anyone but the ninjas. Deciding to fire a couple of rounds into where she was sure the ninja was hiding, Faith froze in place as she heard the *clink, hiss, clunk* of someone pulling the pin from a grenade and throwing it into the room to land in the middle of the kitchen.
“CRAP!” Faith hurled herself backwards as the grenade rolled across the floor towards her.*BANG!*
Went the grenade as it exploded and sprayed the room with razor sharp shrapnel.
Flying through the air, Faith eventually landed on her back in the little corridor between the kitchen and the dinning room. She lay there stunned; her ears were ringing and she was unable to get up; she could feel something wet trickling down her face and she really hoped it was water. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear it of the fog that clouded her mind, Faith looked up and through blurred eyes saw the black clad figure of a ninja coming through the ruined door towards her. For a second Faith wondered where her shotgun was, realising she must have dropped it, her hand went for her sidearm. In an instant the pistol was up and centred on the guy’s chest. Pulling the trigger twice she saw the big .45 rounds hit the ninja and knock him off his feet.
Her head clearer now, Faith pushed herself up and started to crawl towards the downed man. So intent was she on taking the man’s Uzi that Faith didn’t hear the second grenade until it landed on the floor behind her.
Faith felt herself being hurled into the wall as sharp pieces of metal punched into her body. Slammed against the wall she slid to the floor leaving a wide smear of blood behind her. Forcing her eyes to stay open just a little longer, Faith managed to lift her pistol and pull the trigger as the grenadier burst through the doorway. The man jerked and fell like a puppet that’d had its strings cut. Watching the man fall she wondered if she’d made the right choices in her life and wished she had some morphine. Shaking her head once more, this time to rid it of these weird thoughts that seemed to be filling her head, Faith was just in time to hear another grenade land.
“Oh fuck…” she sighed as the grenade exploded and darkness closed in around her.0=0=0=0
Hiding under what remained of the dinning room table, Willow was aware of the smell of gunsmoke in the air, burning wood and smouldering electricity cables and…oh yes the roar of gunfire from the kitchen, obviously Faith was still kicking ass and taking names. Yep, she told herself, Buffy was going to be really
pissed when she saw what the ninjas had done to her house. It was as these thoughts passed through her mind that Willow started to sense something else, something magical…but not in a good Walt Disney cartoon sorta way.
Sticking her head up out of cover a little like a Meerkat watching for danger, Willow felt the magical energy crackle against her skin and make her hair stand up on end. Turning around slowly looking for the source of all this energy, Willow hardly noticed the sound of a grenade going off from the direction of the kitchen. There hanging in the air in the middle of the dinning room was a little circle of black surrounded by blue flames. Someone, Willow told herself, was trying to open a magic portal, no doubt to allow reinforcements to appear inside the house. This, Willow told herself, was something she could deal with.
Getting to her feet, Willow watched as the portal grew rapidly larger, three foot, four foot, five foot and she could just see movement in the blackness within the circle of flame. A terrific bang came from behind her and she stumbled forward as the first of the black ninjas stepped from the now fully opened portal and pointed his weapon at her.
Feeling the magic fill her body, Willow lifted her hand and sent a blast of pure magical force towards the man with the gun and the portal. The ninja screamed horribly as his body was ripped apart and his blood and flesh splattered across the floor, walls, ceiling and Willow. Hardly slowed by the body of the ninja the near solid blast of magical energy hit the portal. Almost at once the blue flames turned to smoky orange and started to flicker. Even as Willow vaguely registered the sounds of gunfire and explosions behind her, the portal started to warp and twist in on itself. The sound of agonised screams came from inside the portal for a moment and then the portal closed with all the finality of a tome door slamming shut.0=0=0=0
Sitting in the rear seat of the Land Rover Discovery that she used as a command vehicle, Amy watched the images in her screeing bowl. Things were not going as well as she’d hoped, in fact things were going really
badly. It appeared that Buffy had a slayer who wasn’t worried about using guns and killing people, two weaknesses of the slayers that she’d hoped to exploit. Casualties in the ranks of the Knights and their Squires had been horrific. The portal that was supposed to let her Kill Team and Medical Team in behind the defenders had been closed killing the men who were in the portal on route to the house. The time had come to call an end to the mission. It was a ‘fail’ and there was no point pouring in more good men only to have them killed. Amy was a realist she’d have to chalk this one up to experience and give the client back his money. Okay, she shrugged, so she wouldn’t be going to Hawaii this year.
“Abort the mission,” Amy told the Knight sitting in the front passenger seat, “tell everyone to fall back to the primary extraction point and return to base.”
Amy was just about to tell her driver to get them out of Grandview when she happened to look out of the window to her left. Smiling Amy shook her head, men were just so predictable. Oh well, she thought, perhaps the day could end on a high note.0=0=0=0
Sheltering in the shadow of a house, Xander listened as the sound of gunfire slowly faded to nothing. Unable to stop himself he found himself giggling at the thought that in a few more minutes’ time Buffy Summers would be his. He clutched the heavy, old magic book to his chest and stroked its smooth leather cover imagining all the time that it was Buffy’s skin and very soon he’d be caressing her soft, warm flesh for real.
The book spoke to him, it told him that in just a few more minutes he’d have everything he desired and he’d be holding Buffy in his arms. Very soon he’d run up to Buffy’s house, he’d act like he’d narrowly escaped death at the hands of the black ninjas. He’d find Buffy and save her life, he’d sit by her hospital bed and comfort her as she realised that everyone she’d ever loved (except him of course) had been killed, murdered by Amy’s black assassins.
Once Buffy realised that Xander was her last true friend and it had been him who’d saved her and comforted her when she’d most needed it. Buffy would fall into his arms and Xander would get what he’d always wanted from the day he’d first seen her and they’d live happily ever after.0=0=0=0
Climbing out of the Land Rover, Amy grabbed her shoulder bag and checked the contents.
“Hey, guys,” she called to her knights, “just seen an old friend, I won’t be long.”
Walking over towards Harris, Amy wondered why the loser was here. But, of course, Amy smiled at her own foolishness; Harris was here to gloat as she always knew he would be.
“Amy!?” Xander turned sharply to confront the witch as she drew closer, “Is it over? How soon should I wait before I go rescue Buffy?”
Noticing how Harris stood hunched up around the big, old book he was carrying, Amy scowled. What was wrong with this picture? Because some thing was really wrong here. Okay, Xander Harris was a loser, she’d realised that shortly after he’d had her cast that love spell. But now he reminded her of that character out of Lord of the Rings, the one always going on about ‘his precious’, some thing was way off here.
Reaching out with her magics she felt the malicious presence that was the book, it was powerful but not as powerful as she was. Lashing out at the book with her mind she felt it recoil away from her like a dog that had been hit over the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
“What are you doing!?” Xander hugged his book more tightly and Amy felt the book try to increase its hold over Xander.
The sight of Amy’s knights starting to pull back from Buffy’s house caught Xander’s attention, he pointed to the running men as they took their wounded and as many of their dead with them as they could.
“Is everyone dead? Is Buffy alone now?” Xander looked excitedly at Amy waiting for her answer, “Is she mine now?” he held the book out to Amy, “If she is you can have this book as a bonus…it’s full of magic stuff.”
Obviously the book recognised Amy as a more powerful being and wanted to transfer itself to her care.
“Erm,” Amy’s hand went into her bag and felt the cold metal and plastic of the machine pistol as her fingers caressed it lovingly, “not so much.”
“What!?” Xander yelled, “What do you mean, ‘not so much’ I paid you good money for them all to die so no one could stop me from having her!”
“Let me get this straight,” Amy replied calmly, “you hired me and my guys to do all this just so you could screw Buffy’s ass off, right?”
“Well,” Xander giggled insanely, “I wouldn’t have put it exactly like that, but yeah I did.”
“That’s cool,” Amy hauled the machine pistol from out of her bag and pointed it at Xander’s head.
“W-WHAT THE HELL!” Xander cried as she stepped back from the witch with the gun.
Amy didn’t explain she just fired. Watching as the muzzle flash reached for Harris she saw her rounds hit his chest and work their way up to his head. Blown off his feet, Xander flew through the air as the book went in the opposite direction well out of harm’s way. As Xander’s lifeless body fell to the ground, Amy lowered her weapon before walking over to where Xander lay. Looking down at his corpse she shrugged. If Xander had really wanted to bring the slayer down he’d have just told the Feds all about what Buffy and her friends had done in Sunnydale.
“And that’s what you get for trying to blackmail me in school,” Amy told the dead man.
Turning away from Harris’ body, Amy walked over to where the book lay in the grass, she bent down and picked up the big leather bound book, she could feel the magic it contained even through the thick cover. It pricked at her mind like sharp needles trying to find a way passed her defences. Batting the book’s attempt to control her to one side she smiled serenely.
“Now what have we got here?” she asked herself as she turned away from the body and walked swiftly back to her vehicle; climbing inside she pulled the door closed, “Drive,” she ordered her driver.
Okay, this mission was a failure and casualties had been heavy. But the knights would recover and there would be other missions and now she had this really interesting book. Opening the cover, as the Range Rover sped through the streets of Grandview, Amy studied the writing on the first page. Recognising it as classical Greek, she’d have to get her interpreters to translate it. The few words she could pick out (if you were a witch you had to have a nodding acquaintance with several ancient languages), she could tell this was a book that held real power, Harris probably hadn’t realised how much. Which was probably why he’d let it take him over like that.
The books power wasn’t directed, the book itself wasn’t sentient it just wanted to give its power to whoever held it. This was fine by Amy, but unlike Harris she would be the books master or maybe even its mistress, Closing the cover Amy sat back in her seat, perhaps she wouldn’t retire just yet; maybe she’d just take a holiday in Hawaii while the knights recovered their strength. At least now, with Harris dead, she wouldn’t have to give back those diamonds.0=0=0=0
Pushing herself to her feet Willow stumbled as she tried to take a step. Her hand went to her head in an attempt to stop it spinning. Feeling something wet on her face, she pulled back her hand and looked at it; it was covered in blood.
“Oh goddess,” Willow moaned as she leant against the wall to stop herself from falling down.
Although her ears felt like they’d been stuffed full of cotton wool so she couldn’t hear the bells that were sounding in her head, Willow couldn’t hear any gunfire or explosions either. Careful not to look too closely at the bits of body that lay everywhere she walked unsteadily to the window. The sight of police cars, army jeeps and ambulances greeted her eyes as they pulled up in the street outside. Almost immediately soldiers and policemen jumped from their vehicles and started running towards the house.
“Better late than never,” Willow muttered despondently as the remains of the front door was kicked open and heavy boots sounded on the floor of the hall.
“U-S-A FRIENDLIES!” Willow cried loudly as she put her hands up; Faith had told her she should do this if she was ever in a similar situation, it was only then that she realised Faith hadn’t reappeared.
Surely if all the ninja guys were gone or dead Faith would be with here by now. A soldier burst into the room and pointed his rifle at her. He seemed to recognise her and lowered his weapon slightly.
“Ms Rosenberg?” he called as he came towards her, “Are you alright?”
“Y-yes,” Willow nodded, “Find Faith…I mean Chief Lehane she’s down here somewhere and probably wounded.”
“Oh it!” The soldier turned away and grabbed a couple of his buddies to help him look for Faith.
Slowly Willow sank to the floor, she must have blacked out for a second or two because the next thing she remembered was seeing a paramedic kneeling beside her, it was the same guy who’d checked out Buffy when the first ninjas had tried to kidnap them.
“Hi Miss Rosenberg,” Jim Clancy smiled as he shone a light in Willow’s eyes, “how are you feeling?”
“Oh…” Willow smiled weakly, “…just dandy y’know…I get blown up almost everyday…where’s Faith?”
“They’re looking for her,” Jim replied as he started to wipe blood off Willow’s face as he looked for wounds.
“HEY!” Willow called as she saw a couple of soldiers start to work their way up the stairs, “Mrs Finn’s in the master bedroom with Mr Giles, you better be careful coz they’re both armed…”
“Roger that Ma’am,” called one of the soldiers.
Willow turned her attention back to Jim, “Where’s Faith? Have they found her yet?”0=0=0=0