New Moon Dance
Chapter 15. New Moon Dance
Saturday, 13 Dec. 1997, 10:30 AM, Sunnydale California. New Moon tonight.
40th Day after first purchase of the Warehouses.
The kitchen table was full this morning for a late breakfast. Buffy, Kendra, Willow, Roary, Karen and I all sat there eating. Karen had made enough to feed the slayers. The slayers were now wolfing their second foot tall stack of real Maple Syrup soaked pancakes. Both of them between mouthfuls were excitedly regaling Willow and Karen with their last night adventures. Both were so... bubbly.
Buffy finally filled her bottomless pit. She pushed back from the table and exclaimed, “Last night was so… totally the best. Twenty-six vampires and two demons in one night. I’ve never slayed that many vamps before in one night. Heck in one week.”
Kendra nodded her head with a happy smile of remembrance, “Me too. I slayed twenty-five vampires and three demons. It was so… right. I too have never slayed so many in one night or in one week.”
Both Slayers looked at me and in unison said, “Can we do that again?”
I put my head down into my hands, “God help me… I’ve created two monsters.”
Willow giggled and put her arm around me and said facetiously, “It’s ok dear, they mean well.”
I asked Roary, “Do you feel like being a chauffeur for two crazed Slayer girls for two or three nights per week?”
Roary looked at me and then Karen, who smiled at him and said, “It’s your job now you know?”
Roary looked at Karen, then the Slayers and finally me, “I’ve been shanghaied by bloodthirsty women.”
I looked around the table and settled on Roary, with Willow still draped on me, “Tell me about it?” Smiling now I pulled a warm giggling Willow onto my lap.
Karen kissed Roary’s cheek. Kendra blushed and Buffy said indignantly, “Puul-ease, No embarrassing smoochies in front of the children!” While she was holding up her hand in front of Kendra’s face who was now laughing and dodging.
This was good. I thought it a minor miracle when Willow sat them on the same side of the table this morning and they didn’t complain. Now... they were teasing each other instead of viciously snarking and hand-to-hand combat.
Willow planted a kiss on my cheek and said, “You’re losing control of this meeting dear, back to business.” Willow was not only smart but she was a good meeting executive.
Reluctantly Willow slide off my lap and made a show of getting back into her chair while whistling loudly at Buffy and Kendra. Which stopped them cold.
I commed Cortana, “Are you ready for show time?”
Cortana replied, “I’m always ready. But are you?”
I sighed, “Ready as ever when it comes to Slayers.”
With that all of the telephones in the house began ringing on their own and the two televisions visible from the Kitchen table both came on and cycled to an empty channel. I placed the kitchen telephone on the table and set it to speaker phone. From all of the ceiling PA/Intercom speakers, the TV’s and the telephone came the music of Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. While Cortana put on her flashy Valkyrie arriving show.
Buffy and Kendra sat frozen in awe, their mouths open with the start of a smile. After Cortana had removed her helmet shaking out her golden hair, she stopped and looked around. “Welcome Slayers to the party, I am Cortana – Valkyrie and Shield Maiden to my War Captain, Alexander.” With a smiling wink in the direction of Roary and myself she said, “For your information you two men have been outnumbered by bloodthirsty women for a long time, get over it.” Karen and Willow both started laughing. Looking to her left at Buffy and Kendra she said, “What!? No questions from you two gawkers?”
Buffy and Kendra’s jaws snapped shut and Buffy was the first to say, “Who!? What are you?”
Cortana crossed her arms and gave Buffy a look of adult frustration with an errant child, “Alexander didn’t tell me that you’re also slow. I – will – speak – slower – this – time. My – name – is – Cortana – and – I – am – a – Valkyrie.”
Kendra put her hands over her face trying desperately to hide her laughter at Buffy’s expense. Buffy went all indigent and stood up. “I am not slow! I am just… startled… and at a loss for words.” Turning quickly towards me, “What is this Xander?!”
I shrugged my shoulders. My hand about Willow’s under the table. Willow squeezed my hand in support. “Remember Halloween? Cortana was also left behind and she is with me. Please, listen to her.”
Cortana coughed on screen, smiled a dazzling smile and said, “Did you two Slayers enjoy last night?”
Buffy and Kendra both nodded yes, obviously confused.
Cortana then said, “Be nice to me because I run, what Alex calls snitch central. I also attempt to monitor and report on all demon activity in Sunnydale. I can provide a level of situational awareness that is informational and actionable.”
Seeing a look of confusion on both Slayers faces she paused and explained further to children. “I can tell you where the demons are, how many and the best way to attack them before they know that you are there.”
Buffy exclaimed, “Oh! That’s so way cool. Do you like to shop for shoes and clothes?”
Cortana’s face transitioned between stunned to gleeful, “At times I regret that I am not corporeal Buffy. I would love to shop for clothing…” She turned slightly on screen towards me showing off her figure and with sadness said, “I would like… also to be able to touch, to feel Alex… but I’m not sure that Willow would share you with me in that way.”
Willow squeezed my hand and piped up to Cortana, “Buffy wanted a threesome next year, so why not you also?” She just blurted that out without thinking. It surprised me enough for my Spartan heart to skip a beat in shock.
Buffy spit her orange juice out and started coughing. Kendra began turning dark pink and blurted out to Buffy, “You tramp! You would have two boyfriends? Two lovers…” With that she covered her face realizing what she had just imagined. Roary and Karen started laughing.
Cortana also began laughing onscreen, “Only that I could…”
After a few moments of laughter Cortana got down to business. “May I bring your attention to the screen.” Cortana brought up a satellite view of Cerro Los Agonia mountain and began zooming down onto a cluster of trees at the mouth of one lonely arroyo above a walking trail. “This is your target today. The cross that Willy alleged is inside this cluster of trees.” Cortana brought up a schematic of city drain tunnel construction. “Here is a large manhole access which corresponds to what Willy alleged. Please note how the tunnels precede from this point exactly as he described.” Backing out the view a little, Cortana came on screen like a weather reporter. “You will disembark here at the end of Carnage Road and you will walk over this ridge here and uphill until you arrive at the manhole. You will enter and egress at this point. I would recommend that Roary be rear guard up top with a machine gun for fire superiority if required.”
Buffy exclaimed looking quickly at me, “A machine gun!? Where did you get a machine gun?”
I looked at her and tilted my head smiling in all innocence, “Same place where I get the hand grenades.”
Buffy gave me and then Roary – a are you both insane look.
Cortana then looked at me, “Daylight or not, if you’re going into the tunnels you are wearing your armor. Aren’t you?”
I looked at both Slayers, “Today is a day for revelations, I guess.” Looking back at Cortana on screen and the small hidden cameras behind and above the TV. “Armor it is today and tonight.” Turning back to the Slayers, I slid a new cell telephone with an accessories box containing a sports ear loop and boom microphone for silent hands free operation, three extra batteries and other accessories across the table to Kendra. I told her, “This phone is paid up for the next two years. You can talk to Cortana or Buffy or Giles anytime and the numbers are on the speed dial. Come back before the account closes and I’ll give you a brand new phone.”
Looking at Buffy I said, “You need to keep your cell phone charged and on - so that Cortana can alert you if necessary. Cortana can help you big time. You can just talk to her if you want. But you really need to keep the batteries charged.”
Standing up I said to them all while standing near the TV monitor, back to the mission briefing. “Today we are going to recon Spikes location for sacrificing Angel and that is all. But if we run into trouble we will withdraw fighting. Remember the real show is tonight and we have to be in position at 9:00 PM. The new moon will hit zenith for us at a few minutes after midnight so we may have to wait for Spike and his gang to show up. Karen and Willow, I’m going to ask that you two drive the Dodge van today and tonight for the Slayers. Roary will drive me with his truck. When we have Angel we will withdraw to the vehicles. I will be point on ingress and tail gunner on our withdrawal. Buffy you will take Angel to his apartment; there should be some blood packets in his refrigerator for him to heal with. Any questions?”
Kendra raised her hand like she was back in school. “Who gets to kill Spike and Drusilla?”
Buffy said with venom, “He’s all mine.”
I raised my eyebrows, “No Buffy! You go for Angel. Focus on rescuing Angel. Kendra can keep Spike busy until Angel is out of their clutches. Now, having said that, I won’t kill him. That is up to you Slayers. I will kill everything else that gets in our way.”
Buffy and Kendra both looked happy and then confused. In harmony they said, “How?”
I smiled and said, “You’ll see. But it is time to gear up and prepare for our hike and recon.”
Karen asked, “What kind of weapons should Willow and I have?”
“You two will bring your VBG cans, crossbows and a shotgun each loaded for demons if you want them. But you two get to stay with the vehicles until we return.”
Karen looked at Willow, “I don’t think we’ll need a shotgun? Not until we get gun safety trained and learn to shoot them in a safe environment.”
Roary and I both smiled. Karen is much smarter than she looked. I said, “Good choice. Gun safety and range training first.”
Turning to Roary I tipped my head quickly, “Ladies the house is yours now, we will meet in one hour at Reach Industries. Roary and I are going to go fetch weapons and suit up at Reach.”
Saturday, 13 Dec. 1997, 12:30 PM, Sunnydale California
Roary and I arrived at Reach first and Roary drove his pickup inside. The back bed was full of our weapons, ammo cases, one box containing eight hand grenades and four field expedient party favors.
I planned on leaving behind inside the tunnel to the caverns four booby traps courtesy of two of our new Army veteran friends. Basically four former twenty pound propane tanks containing a five pound mixture of gasoline, acetone and then over-pressurized with twenty pounds of propane. The outside of the tanks were wrapped in det cord under Duck Tape with a chemical delayed fuze on the det cord initiator and with thermite pack to act as the incendiary. Four now forty pound Fuel Air Explosive (FAE) canisters for incinerating masses of vampires.
Roary and I began loading and checking weapons on a shop table. Then we went in the back and began changing our street clothes for tactical gear.
I was just adjusting my environmental skin suit and lower armor when the ladies drove up the ramp and into the warehouse parking area.
Roary tossed the Dodge Ram van keys to Karen while he finished inserting gear into his vest pockets.
Roary directed all of the ladies to the table off to his side. On it were tactical radios with silent headsets. Roary mounted them on all of the ladies upper back vest shoulder pouches and went through a radio check and instructional procedure with them. With Cortana talking to them once their radios were on.
Twenty minutes later Willow brought them back to the new warehouse armory and vaults area where my Mjolnir armor was now kept. Coming around the corner Willow said loudly, “Damn! I was hoping to catch him buck naked.” Giggling she motioned for the others to follow her.
Karen, Buffy and Kendra came around the wall and saw me putting on the last of my armor. Karen and Willow had seen this before but it still awed them. Buffy and Kendra were completely awe struck. I said nothing as I continued with Roary helping with some of the final parts. Finally I picked up my helmet and dogged it down. I radioed everyone a greeting and continued going through my systems checks. Talking out loud for their benefit as I ran down my checklist.
Roary told the Slayers to stay back because they both were getting to close as I was preparing to initialize my shields. My armors chameleon skin began to change pattern just before the field snapped on. Lightening played down my armor for three seconds.
The combination of the energy shield field hazing everything behind it and the chameleon patterns moving about as if alive gave the Mjolnir armor a fuzzy living exoskeleton appearance. Not something that others would associate with regular human manufactured armors and appliqués.
Entranced with curiosity Buffy’s hands were out in front of her as she approached the armored behemoth that I had transformed into. Roary and Karen were talking with Willow when Karen nudged Roary and said, “She’s just as curious as I was.” I was pre-occupied with watching Willow and my suit instrument readings. I didn’t see Buffy coming towards me until it was too late.
Roary jumped forward to grab Buffy too late. She touched the shield field. There was a loud snap and Buffy was thrown back into Kendra knocking them both down. Smoke from burnt hair was coming off her gloved hands and arms. Kendra pushed her off and scrambled up. Buffy was laying on the floor all slack jawed and her eyes were unfocused. After about ten heartbeats, she tried to lever herself up and failed miserably.
Kendra looked at me in my shimmering armor and back to Buffy. She smiled and started laughing at Buffy. Buffy could only garble, “Oowrgh-arkel-barfet-arrgghhr.” Buffy tried to roll over to push herself up and finally she was able to shakily rise. Her hair still charged and frizzy; she stood up unsteadily and started to fall over. Kendra and Roary grabbed her before she hit the cement floor. They levered her up onto a chair and Willow ran to the employee kitchen refrigerator to grab a cold bottle of Gatorade for Buffy. When she returned Buffy was still sitting down and her head was in her hands. She greedily drank the entire bottle.
I radioed them, “My system checks are all green. I am go for launch. Sorry about the shock Buffy but if it is any consolation you only touched it at 50% charge point.”
Buffy shook her head and started patting down her frizzed hair. “Wow! That really hurt! …” Examining her nails to see if she had broken them she paused. A stunned look crossed her face. “Xander! – Oh My God!! Your him! The V-guy that all the vamps are terrified of!”
Kendra looked at Buffy and back to me three times in quick succession. Understanding crossing her face. She turned her entire body towards me fingering her sword pommel. I could see her face. She was grimly considering her options. Finally she asked the question, “You are human and you are also… Vengeance?”
Roary said to her smirking, “Welcome to American high technology, kiddo. The sci-fi Hollywood movies have squat on Alex. In that suit he can kill T-Rex dinosaurs, vamps, Vos and smash modern battle tanks.” Pointing Buffy and Kendra to the kill-board wall to their right he said, “See the guards are all betting on how many he can kill each time he suits up.”
Buffy exclaimed in excited awe, “My God, Xander… Really!! This is just so mondo weirdsville.” She stopped and crossed her arms giving me the patented Buffy pout. “Christmas is coming… When do I get one?”
Kendra said quietly, “I was sent here to find a great demon named Vengeance. An Old One that isn’t like an Old One… The Watchers Council searches for you in their libraries.”
She was still fingering her sword and her knife. I wondered how the enchanted weapons would behave against my shields. Would they bounce off or slice through. I didn’t want to find out right now.
I radioed them, “Well Buffy, right now this is the only one I have and you may have to wait a long time. But we will have lots of goodies for you Slayers between now and then. For you Kendra, please do not tell the Watchers Council who I really am. I don’t think they would like the competition and I don’t want to be placed in the position of fighting demons and them at the same time. Are you good with that Kendra?”
Kendra nodded grimacing and waving her hand at me. “We’ll have to talk about this… later.” I just knew that she wanted to beat on me for a bit for fooling her but I could see the conflict on her face. She really liked Cortana and their girls nights out. I really hoped that our ‘conversation’ would not turn into a Slayers version of an athletic workout. Although getting physical with Kendra might be a great wrestling match... down boy. Simmer down. Get back to business. Think of only the mission.
I turned off my shields and radioed as I began walking to the car park, “Ladies you get the Van and I get to ride lying down in the back bed of Roary’s truck.”
Saturday, 13 Dec. 1997, 1:05 PM, Sunnydale California
Circular cul de sac at the end of Carnage Road.
I jumped out of the pickup bed and stretched. Looking around Highway 101 was 100 yards away to the south and a large house was fifty yards away to the East along Carnage Road.
Roary and I began arming up as the ladies van drove up and they began dismounting.
I neuronetted Cortana, “Hey Cortana, we’ve arrived at the debarkation point. Can you intercept the local 911 calls while we are out here? We’re visible from the highway and one house. Someone may call in about us and we do not need a frightened Sunnydale police presence getting in the way.
There was a pause and then Cortana replied, “Roger that Alex. I have just intercepted one call from the house near you. I’ve soothed her. Right now you are a Police and Federal training exercise.”
When the ladies were all prepared I radioed them all. “I will lead off, our initial target is the stone cross which should be about 2,100 feet over that low ridge. It may be hidden by the foliage so keep a sharp eye out for it.”
With that I waved at Willow before turning, picking up my party favors and striding off over the low grasslands, wild ice plant, Lemon trees and California Bay Laurel. Roary kissed and waved goodbye to Karen.
Ten minutes later the Slayers with their Katanas were clearing away the low bushes from around the cross and then the manhole access.
We all gathered at the frontage of the white and gray patterned granite monument with a three foot tall cross atop which faced East. The sun angle cast perfect shadows on the sixty-nine year old inscription making the reading easier.
Here lies the last mortal resting place of
Charles Dexter Ward
Marinus Bicknell Willett, M.D.
29 August 1928
Deos lux requiescat in pace.
- Augurium Sidus Attendo -
Hominem et Vindex ex divum arma sic caedes moneo ulciscor.
Erected by Howard Lovecraft in honor of friends and their deeds, 10 March 1929.
I scanned the cross to see if it held any hidden surprises, like a reliquary but it did not. But the stone was not marble or local stone. The monument was a single chiseled piece of stone not two or three pieces assembled. It looked like it weighed well over one ton. There were the bones of two men side by side six feet beneath the ground at the eastern foot of the cross. I uploaded my scans to Cortana and she came back three seconds later.
Cortana spoke on the common channel so all could hear it. “This is a mystery Alex. Your scans indicate that this Granite stone was quarried from Glass Mountain north of a small town called Bishop in California’s upper Mojave desert. This stone is a long way from home and especially long way given the state of roads in 1928. Freeways did not exist then and most roads were dirt or gravel. Not even counting the cost of fashioning it and transporting it safely what today on modern roads would be 340 miles. This granite is some of the hardest natural stone outside of a precious gem stone. Unlike the more traditional and softer marble used on headstones which lasts only a few hundred years under natural weathering – this stone will be here and readable for at least five thousand years.”
Buffy began, “I don’t get it? The top line of Latin I understand. It means ‘Rest in Peace under the light of God.’ But the rest of it… I think it is talking about you Xander? How can it be talking about you from what… 70 years ago? It says, ‘Attention to this prophecy from the stars.’ The next line says, ‘One human, Vengeance, he comes from beyond the sky bringing war of slaughter upon the monstrous demons.’ ” Buffy fell silent thinking and retranslating the Latin hoping for a mistake.
Seconds went by and Cortana said, “Buffy’s translation is essentially correct. This is even more mysterious because the name Howard Lovecraft is the name of a horror fiction book author from that time period. According to his many biographies he never traveled to California and these two names are supposed to be fictional characters from one of his horror stories that was not published until well after his death.”
I then spoke, “Regardless his biography is obviously wrong. He was here and this monument was an expensive undertaking. People do not spend money like this on a whim. This was a debt of honor he felt he owed to these two men, who clearly are not fictional because their bones are resting down there below the monument. The rest of it… I can’t explain. But we can assume that the three of them in 1928 went down into the original tunnels and two of them did not survive. Both skeletons have claw marks and bone damage created before they died. Those injuries most likely killed them. It is obvious that Mr. Lovecraft carried his friends here and buried them deep enough so that animals or demons did not disturb them.”
Kendra asked me, “How can you be so certain that they are down there?”
I said while stepping respectfully around the cross, “My sensor scans can see them.”
As I walked to the large rectangular steel manhole cover the others stood in front of the cross discussing it’s mystery. I bent down and noted that the heavy cover did not have a lock on it. I lifted the cover, metal on rusted metal screeching. I pushed it over to its hinged stops. For Cortana I initiated a Nav pulse.
I radioed them without taking my eyes from the tunnel below, “Time to lock and load. Roary you set up with you MG covering the tunnel below. Radio us if you see anything get past below you. Keep two cans of VBG ready to go.”
“Roger that Xander.” Roary said with determination.
“Ok, ladies let me make one thing perfectly clear. When we are returning to this entrance you cannot let panic drive you. I will be marking the tunnel with reflective paint and dropping Cyalume sticks. When you get to the Cyalume sticks you must radio Roary that you are coming… otherwise he may fill you full of holes and slayer healing or no – he will kill you. Friendly fire is not friendly and bullets are not friendly. Do you read me loud and clear on this?”
Buffy and Kendra were standing next to me looking down into the cool darkness. Both looked at me, then at Roary who was securing his German MG3 to a pedestal stand.
Kendra answered somberly, “Yes.”
Buffy stated flatly, “This is really good advice Xander. Warn Roary. Don’t get killed by Roary which would be a bummer.”
“Second tip is after we are down there, at some point I am going to re-initialize my shields. Don’t get near me or touch me when they are on. I can’t turn them on until we drop off these party favors. Electric fields and explosives do not go well together. Also don’t be alarmed if I change my audible voice to my ‘Vengeance voice’ for our demon audience.”
Buffy asked snarkily while fingering her sword, “Are you done? I want to see this place before the sun goes down?”
I chided Buffy. “Buffy this is supposed to be a stealthy reconnaissance not a smash and bash party. We go slow and if we encounter any opposition we have to be swift and silent. No playing with your demons.”
Buffy looked disappointed. She elbowed Kendra and said, “He’s no fun.”
With my party favors in my left hand I dropped onto the sand covered floor of the tunnel 18 feet below and moved off to the side scanning both directions. The Slayers dropped to the floor behind me. Twenty yards ahead to the west was a crossing tunnel going north to the Mountain and south back towards Sunnydale. I spray painted the tunnel walls under the manhole with my navigation numbering and then began numbering the tunnel crossing corners as HK19. I initiated another Nav Pulse for this crossing. Putting away my spray cans I dropped a line of four green Cyalume sticks into the sand and glued two to each wall of the tunnel leading to the manhole. Walking past the manhole I did the same but with orange Cyalume sticks on the eastside of the manhole to visually indicate that we had past our exit point. If the tunnel was full of smoke and my suit inoperative from damage these lights would be our only indicator for survival. I hoped that Murphy wouldn’t bite us too badly today.
Turning to the Slayers I radioed them and swept my hands at the green Cyalume sticks, “This is your halt-point for notifying Roary that you are coming. You must stop here and do not proceed until he gives you the all clear.” Motioning for them both to stay at the halt point I stepped into the intersection.
Now standing in the center of the tunnel four-way crossing I scanned more thoroughly in all directions again. There was brief movement 600 feet to the north, too small to be a threat, another rat most likely. The tunnel curved to the west and descended so my sensors field-of-view was limited. There was a slow breeze in the tunnel north towards the mountain. I concluded that there had to be air vents on the mountain. Maybe offering an alternate way out, if the mission went to hell. I continued my scans. Six hundred feet to the west the tunnel ran straight and slightly downhill from my current position. I radioed the team, “You know the city limits ends right where I am standing. The city drain tunnels run north and west outside the city limits… The mayor and his minions have been busy boys.”
Buffy said in whisper over her radio mic, “So what if they ran tunnels outside the city limits?”
I chided her like a school teacher, “Think Buffy, what city runs tunnels to places that they don’t have jurisdiction over? What city runs tunnels into mountains? Especially running nice and convenient tunnels into areas known to be infested with vampires and demons? What does that tell you about Mayor Wilkins?”
Buffy sucked in a lungful of air, “Mayor Wilkins and I are going to have a Slaying party.”
I looked back at her, “Cortana and I, strongly suspect that he is a demon but right now we have no solid proof. No slaying the Mayor. We know he is a bad guy but we don’t want the demons replacing him with someone we have to start over with. So again - no slaying the Mayor. We’ll get to him eventually, when he becomes a direct threat but for now he is aiding the demons but not a direct threat to any of us.”
“Double-dog damn, Xander. You are definitely a party pooper.” Buffy grumbled.
“You ladies stay here. I am going to go north and drop two of these party favors. I should be back in ten minutes so sit tight and no sightseeing while I am gone.” I began fast walking north.
At the six hundred foot mark the tunnel did in fact turn northwest and ran straight along the mountain spine descending for another 214 feet. The concrete drain tunnel pipe also stopped at this point. The tunnel beyond had been rough hewn from the rock of the mountain but the floor was smooth and carefully cut. Broad hewn steps leading down. I spray painted the concrete pipe walls and marked the spot with a Nav pulse to Cortana. The tunnel beyond expanded in size while descending deeper underground. My sensors could detect a lot of movement another eight hundred feet down cavern. The far wall of the large cavern beyond this tunnel was 1,400 feet distant. I had an epiphany. I removed a roll of fishing line that I had purchased for something like this. I had thought to use it as a trip wire for my detonator but now it was going to be a spider’s web. At the center of my web at the end of the concrete tunnel was going to be a party favor dead center in the tunnel. I hooked up a dual detonator on the party favor. One a radio detonator with a five second delay and the other a five second delay spring detonator attached to the spider web of fishing line. Just in case something large ran into the web of fishing line. When I was finished I retreated south up tunnel and set the next party favor down in the sand also with a dual detonator. This time the radio detonator only had a zero second delay.
Walking back to the Slayers I told them what I had done. “The tunnel is a shotgun barrel. If I command detonate the one booby trap the overpressure wave will launch the second bomb down into the far cavern beyond. I calculated that it would detonate just about where the tunnel enters the main cavern for a very rude surprise.”
Buffy looked north and then south and quipped, “Isn’t this also a shotgun barrel aimed at us?”
“Good observation Buffy and the answer is - yes. When I hit the detonator for the closest bomb to the north we want to be past the Cyalume sticks to be safe from flying debris.” I said approvingly.
Kendra looked north and said, “If vampires are following us will they be killed?”
I was happy that both girls were thinking things through now. “Very good question, Kendra. The answer is yes, but only if they are standing inside or very near that intersection. At first they will be roasted on the blast of super-heated wind and then the debris in that wind will flail them into very small chunks.”
Kendra smiled a toothy smile, “I like this trap, just so long as I am not standing out there when you set it off.”
“No worries there. You two should be going up the manhole ladder when I detonate them. Let’s just hope that demons don’t set them off prematurely by having a parade.” I was hoping that Colonel Murphy would not bugger up this booby trap.
I picked up my last two party favors and we headed west down tunnel.
Six hundred feet to the west we encountered the next crossing tunnel. Again our tunnel continued on west but leveling off. To the south the tunnel was descending slightly towards Sunnydale and there was no movement. To the north the tunnel was ascending but with two targets 400 feet away and moving towards them.
I pulsed a Nav beacon for geo-reference and painted this crossing as IK19.
I radioed the Slayers while carefully setting down the party favors and pulling my newly enchanted sword. “Girls, we have company coming. Two targets and at their rate they will be here in three minutes. I will be the distraction. You two set up on the edge of the intersection with your crossbows. When I turn on my head lights, shoot them.”
Kendra asked in a whisper as she moved to the farside of the tunnel wall facing north and checking her crossbow. “I can’t see them or… feel them… how are you able to see them?”
Buffy cut-in, “Ya, V – what she said but I also want to know what are they?”
I took up a position dead center in the southside of the intersection and faced the approaching demons as motionless as a statue. “Remember Slayers high-technology sensors and a lot of them. I can detect motion and scan across the spectrum. Our approaching demon prey are not vampires because their body heat is about six degrees warmer than a human. They are bipedal but have bone-horn type parts of their body which reflects radar waves well. They are not carrying any weapons made of metal which would show up on my sensors like a beacon. But they are wearing some form of leather short pants with lots of pockets.”
Buffy radioed, “Damn you are scary if you can see all of that. When do you think they will see us?”
I replied, “They maybe able to see in the Infra-Red spectra so they won’t be able to see me until they are twenty or thirty feet away but you two should move back out of their sight line. When I turn on my lights, step out and shoot them. I will keep the lights on a low intensity setting so as not to blind you but for them I will turn up the IR light which will blind them.”
The Slayers stepped into the side tunnels quietly and crouched low waiting. Their prey approaching on soft sole feet but with clawed toes - that made a distinctive double thump-click sound with each step closer. The Slayers were keyed up and not very patient normally but they were trying hard not to fidget as the seconds of waiting counted down. Finally I whispered to them on the radio a countdown, “Fifty feet – forty feet – thirty feet – twenty-five feet - they are slowing down. I think they can sort of see me but they’re not sure what I am as yet. They’ve stopped.”
Even the Slayers could hear the two demons discussing me in their harsh language.
I commed Cortana, “Sis, mission will be Red in four seconds.”
I radioed on the Fleet channel, “Three – two – one – Go!” I turned on my lights. Both demons put their clawed hands up to cover their four red eyes, just as the Slayers jumped into the tunnel crossbows raised. Two soft thunks and both Ghenar demons had arrows sticking out of their chests. They clawed at the arrows briefly but mouths open only trying to draw a breath through the pain. They started to turn to flee and both Slayers were on them with their swords out.
Kendra sliced the right leg off her demon before he made two steps. The demon fell against the tunnel wall his hot neon reddish-orange blood splashing the concrete. Her next blow returning from its arc now bit deep into the demons upper body where the neck joined the chest. She pulled her sword free from the bone with ease and then chopped down severing his head. The head hit the tunnel wall, more orange blood splashing the walls and sand.
Buffy had jumped high and drove her sword through her demons upper chest as she fell on him knocking him down into the sand. Her arrow was now sticking out the demons back. Buffy with one foot on his back split his head like a melon with her sword. His horns helping to guide the sword for a better bite. She slowed her sword stroke and stopped at the arrow in his spine. His hot blood splashing across the sand.
Buffy exclaimed between breaths, “Look at his brains. They’re bright green.” Turning back to me while I strode up to them now carrying my party favors again. She said with enthusiasm, “I really like this sword Xander… it’s sooo sharp. Really makes a girl happy.”
Kendra grinned also pleased with their quick kills. From arrow shot to gloating over the kill was only four seconds.
I went to one knee and pulled the arrows out of each demon and picked up the shattered pieces. “Girls, we can’t leave evidence behind to indicate that Slayers were here. For now we leave the bodies but I will come back after we recon the church and move these bodies. You ready to go.”
Buffy responded now in full Slayer mode, “Born ready V.”
Kendra followed in my wake and said, “I’m Good.”
I commed Cortana again with a sitrep, “Two hostile targets down, back to condition Yellow and continueing with mission.”
Four hundred feet beyond the intersection the concrete tunnel stopped. The hewn cavern tunnel beyond opened up to a 20 foot tall arched doorway and five broad step stairs fanning down to the landing in front of the heavy wooden doors. The walls of this tunnel and open entrance were carved with intricate reliefs of monsters doing monstrous things. Beyond the arched doorway was a cavern cathedral thirty feet to the roof with stone arches intricately but monstrously carved. A thin ray of light came down from a hole in the ceiling and the light seemed to be directed at a stone carved alter. Demon carvings from visions of hell adorned the walls and ceiling. Wooden pews and benches arranged in rows. A hideous sermon pulpit made from human bones and skulls. Behind the pulpit a large ancient bellows organ on a raised stone ledge were against the north wall. This cavern was 120 feet north-to-south and fifty feet wide. Behind the pulpit two arched doors were visible leading north on either side. My sensors detected no other occupants or motion down the four side alcoves and north running tunnels.
I turned on my lights and strode down the center aisle. I radioed, “Buffy take the left side. Kendra to the right. Check all of those little alcoves and shadows. If you see anything at all sing out.”
Standing at the altar, I commed Cortana, “Hey Cortana, We’re at the demon church and it is truly a demon’s church to worship hell gods.”
Cortana said all business, “Give me a Nav pulse to DF you. -- Good pulse, I have you fixed as map reference IK21.”
I noted to her, “I’m going to set my last two party favors and then we will withdraw but I will need to come back this way with some serious demolition ordnance to destroy this place.”
Cortana asked, “That bad?”
With real disgust in my voice, “Yes, that bad. I’m standing in front of a stone sacrificial alter that is covered in dried human blood and this is only one of five. This hell church is still being used.”
Cortana dryly commented, “If I remember correctly… you objected to my ordering all of those Russian and American aerial 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs.”
I chuckled, “You win again. I was wrong and you were right. You done gloating?”
Cortana laughed at me, “Not for the next few years at least.”
I chuckled back at her ribbing, “I thought so. You’re never going to let me forget. Just so you know. I should kiss you for ordering the Russian munitions.”
Cortana obviously pleased with his tone, “Promises, promises…”
I said, “You never know in Sunnydale Cortana. We have magic here you know.”
Cortana paused, “It’s why we are here and I do forget to factor that into our plans.”
I replied quickly, “Got to go. I’ve still the tunnel to the north to check and the party favors to plant. Spartan 1 out.”
I stepped up onto the raised area where the pulpit was. I set the party favors down and began carefully checking the organ and then scanned down the north tunnels. Walking north beyond the demonic cathedral I found that the two arched tunnels joined again forty feet north. There was a carved room between the two tunnels full of leg and wrist manacles, chains and iron rings floor to ceiling. It even had a raised circular fire pit in the center.
I radioed the Slayers my location and told them, “I’m standing in a room that must be for prisoners. Those alters in the church must be for living sacrifices of victims.” Soon Buffy and Kendra joined me and looked at the gothic scene dungeon room, bloody stains and all.
I went north a short distance. The cavern was hewn like the one to the east. It increased in size and was descending to a larger space eight hundred feet to the north.
I turned looking back. I turned my lights on to their brightest setting to get a better video. The walls around and above the two tunnels into the cathedral and above the dungeon room was intricately carved with demonic gargoyle style statues in terraced rows rising to the ceiling.
I decided then where to put my party favors. Radioing the Slayers I told them.
Five minutes later one party favor was installed - tied to a demonic statue sixteen feet off the floor and opposite one of the doors to the dungeon room. I had placed only a radio detonator on it and synchronized the other detonator with it.
The last one went into the cavern just above the church’s southern entrance door where we first entered. I had set both detonators to blow simultaneously which would create a wall of 3,623 degree Fahrenheit fiery furnace air that would meet in the middle of the demons church. The supersonic blast wave would also meet there smashing everything to ashen dust. The flames cleansing and scouring even the very stones of whatever filth remained.
The Slayers stopped to guard the tunnel at the tunnel crossing south of the demon church. I stopped where the Ghenar demons lay, their bodies still warm. I picked up the bodies on my sword like fish on a stick and I retreated running back to the demon church. I dropped both of them and the one demons head thirty yards past the dungeon room. I hoped that whatever lived in the great cavern to the north would snack on the bodies before Spike returned.
I jogged back to the Slayers and we headed back towards the manhole and Roary. We were fortunate to not encounter any more demons on our return to the Cyalume line. I faced back the way we had come.
Buffy radioed Roary when I hand signaled her to raise him. “Hey Roary, this is Buffy and we would like to come up. Is that OK with you?”
Roary chuckling over his mic, “You’re clear to come up.”
Buffy went up the ladder and when she got to the top, she stopped. She was facing the deadly barrel end of Roary’s MG3. Roary moved the barrel bore off her face to the side saying to her, “You can’t be too careful around these parts.”
Buffy let out a lung full of air and shook her head. “You are sick! That’s the first time today that I was scared.” She climbed out and motioned for Kendra calling down, “All clear now. He didn’t shoot me.”
Roary with a smile finished her sentence with, “Yet!”
Buffy stepped away from the manhole, stretched and begun dusting herself. Kendra scrambled out. Buffy turned to face the van and radioed Karen and Willow. “Karen! Willow! Buffy team Slayage here. We’re out of the musty dusty tunnels now and be back in twenty minutes. B’ Out.”
Both Karen and Willow then flooded the channel asking questions. I came up and shut the manholes heavy steel doors. I went over to Roary and helped him pack the MG3, ammo and tripod back into its carry duffel bags. With the girls still hogging the channel I turned on my audio speakers for Roary. “Razor 2, mission was a success and we were down only 80 minutes. I’ll carry the two duffels and you can carry the MG3. We’ll make good time going back.”
Roary said, “Don’t mind if you do Spartan 1.” With a broad smile they set off. Buffy, Kendra, Karen and Willow were talking so much the Slayer girls were distracted walking and trailing further behind Roary and I.
Roary and I made it back to the vehicles first. The Slayers were in sight across the meadow but a few minutes before they arrived.
Roary told Karen, “Follow us back to Reach honey. The slayers have to clean their weapons and we’ll debrief there.”
Saturday, 13 Dec. 1997, 7:00 PM, Sunnydale California, Xander and Roary’s home.
New Moon night. 40th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse.
I rapped the dinner table with my soup spoon as Cortana came on screen behind me with her now usual ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ theme music.
I began the combat mission brief. “In two hours we will be on station in that demon church. We know what it looks like and we know the entrances and exits. We retrace our steps. Tonight I need you two Slayers to stay together in the second right-hand-side alcove. I suspect that Spike will conduct his ritual at the central podium alter or one of the wooden posts on either side. So when they arrive you will be closest to them. Remember your roles and stay focused on our mission. I will occupy the first alcove on the Left-hand-side and will be at the back of Spikes gang after they are all in. - The mission is Angel’s recovery. Killing vamps is not the mission so cool it with the retribution vibes.”
Buffy sunk down in her chair grousing, “Xander, You are such a party pooper.”
I turned to Cortana onscreen, “Cortana, has Willy been a good boy?”
Cortana smiled for her audience, “I’ve had him under 24 hour intense surveillance and he has been a very good boy, for a sleaze. I did learn something interesting about him though. He hosts nightly poker games in those two backrooms of his. The games are strictly illegal but he does tailor the games for his customers. Not all of the games have cash or jewelry as table stakes. The one tonight will be using live kittens and cats as the gamblers currency.”
Willow was the first to blurt out, “What would they want with live kittens?”
Cortana flashed an animation behind her showing a large demon eating cats one after the other. She smacked her lips loudly and said, “Yum-yum! For those creatures who prefer live food and get tired of rats and humans… Seems cats and especially kittens are a delicacy for many of the carnivorous demons. Hence they are a valuable commodity for a Poker Game.”
All of the ladies at the table all had the same reaction. “That is so gross!” “Yeww!”
I rapped the table to order again, “Ok, same as this afternoon. Roary and I, will meet you ladies at Reach One. The only difference is we have to wait until Spike shows up with Angel which might be three or four hours. Karen and Willow, only change this time is that you two withdraw in the van to a safer area. Like the Foothill Plaza shopping center which is only one mile away. They have some restaurants that you can wait at in comfort until we radio for you.” I looked around the table, “Any questions?”
My eyes went from one to another. No one spoke. “Let’s get going then. The house belongs to you ladies now.”
Roary and I headed for the front door.
Saturday, 13 Dec. 1997, 8:45 PM, Sunnydale California.
New Moon night under Cerro Los Agonia Mountain.
We all walked in silence under the dark sky. Puffy clouds here and there obscured the stars. The western sky was growing lighter in anticipation of the moon’s full rise above the horizon. Ten minutes and we were back at the cross.
I kneeled and helped Roary set up the MG3 on its pedestal before checking the manhole lid for tampering since I had previously closed it. Finding no evidence of tampering I oiled the hinges with the can of spray lube that I had brought this time. I lifted the lid and laid it back without all of the screeching metal like last time. Dropping four activated Cyalume sticks down the hole I dropped into the darkness.
Crouching in the sand I now as Vengeance stood slowly and dropped more orange and green Cyalume sticks in their places. I advanced twenty feet down tunnel. Engaging my shields I stood statue still. Scanning both directions of the tunnel east and west, I waited until my sensors all reported negative approaching threats. Although there was some intermittent activity up at the second crossing, the targets appeared to be going along the north-south tunnel. I radioed the Slayers, “All clear. Come on down.”
Kendra dropped first, she stepped out of the way just as Buffy dropped to the sand. Both Slayers were keyed up and ready for a hunt. Their heads moved like hunting falcons looking and listening down the darkened tunnel.
When my shields hit peak I warned them again about touching me and stepped forward into the intersection. Now scanning with full power north-to-south as well as continuing my east-west scans.
Again there was a slow movement to the north. Almost a reflection off the walls from targets deeper into the caverns beyond. Dismissing these targets as not an immediate threat I motioned for the Slayers to follow me and I started fast walking towards the second intersection.
A feeling of foreboding fell upon me, thinking that this time for once Spike may be early. The targets at the intersection were firming up as vampires in ones and small groups streaming north towards the demons church.
I radioed the Slayers and Roary, “Looks like the church will be full tonight and looks like they are starting their service early. I have lots of targets at the intersection. We may have to fight our way all the way to the church. So this will be Plan B. Roary, plan on a hot extraction and exfill; and from this point on kill anything in the tunnel before you. Ladies, I will run ahead and knock them down killing as I go. Those I do not kill are yours so keep moving and stay behind me.”
Buffy answered, “More for me!” Kendra answered, “Good for me!”
With that I began sprinting down tunnel to the intersection. I commed Cortanan, “Sitrep! Going Red in three seconds.”
I pulled both of my swords and hit the four vampires that had just stepped into the intersection at 70 mph. I cut the heads off two but the other two were only cut in half. It took me thirty yards to brake to a stop and then by the time I had returned the Slayers were there finishing off the two half vampires and killing two new vamps who had arrived. When I stepped into the north tunnel entrance a group of vamps were returning to fight what they thought was a single slayer. They found me as Vengeance blocking their way. The front row stopped and a pile developed behind them crushing in confusion.
I selected my Vengeance voice for my audio and turned it up. I let out a low growl at first. Then said, “Very good Vampires! Meet death!”
Fear and then panic ran through the demon throng. With the first rank trying to move backwards and the rear ranks trying to move forward. They were pressed together to move quickly. With that I sprang forward. My blades weaving solid figure eights in front of me. I was a mowing machine for vampires and a cloud of dust billowed in my wake and flowed in front of me. Ten and then twenty vampires fell at my feet crippled in writhing chunks but still undead with the dust of the truly dead filling the tunnel.
Buffy snarked as she and Kendra put scarfs up over their faces. “Damn V, leave something other than stumpies for us! I love what you’re doing but the dust is getting everywhere back here and ... this is like killing bugs.”
Kendra snarked back as she cut the head off another crippled vampire, “I do not mind killing evil vampire bugs!”
The girls jogged north behind Vengeance now running down fleeing vampires.
Finally I came to the demon church’s main entrance portico and eight large Ghenar brutes blocked the way. The great wooden doors behind them solidly shut. A dust cloud flowed past my feet as I radioed the Slayers behind me. “Eight Ghenar demons at the entrance. Ready your crossbows.”
Seconds passed as the uneasy Ghenar watched a silent and unmoving Vengeance. Finally one of them spoke to his fellows giving voice to all of their thoughts, “Where’re the vampires that went back? Must be the Old One just as others said?”
Then both Slayers stepped out from behind me, one on each side. Their crossbows at their shoulders. The quarrels leapt into the eye sockets of their targets with a meaty chunk and a spray of demon blood. Both demons with broadhead points sticking eight inches out of the backs of their skulls fell over like cut trees. The others watched stupefied for two heartbeats and then I was on them. I killed the center four in front of the door with a flash of blades so fast they had barely time to move their own weapons to defend themselves. I feared that we had no time left. The Slayers fell upon the remaining two in a very short battle. Their blades cutting right through their wooden war clubs and slashing open their chests from neck to groin. Brightly colored neon reddish-orange demon blood and entrails splashed wetly on the cavern floor as each Slayer then took their heads cleanly.
I tore the great wooden beam doors off their hinges and threw them off to the side to shatter on the far wall.
Standing in the archway I could see all the way to the front dais. I said over the radio, “We’re late and it’s a full house tonight! Angel’s here.”
The church was full of vampires with Drusilla and Angel tied belly-to-belly together on the left hand sacrificial alter. A demon played the organ and another two demons manned the great bellows. Spike at the front finished his words from a book and plunged an ornate knife through Drusilla and Angels right hands that were lashed together onto one of the heavy wooden pillars. The knife pinned their hands to the pillar. A strange colored lightening seemed to come down from the skylight above and strike Drusilla and Angel. The lightening played across both of them. Both Slayers now stepped out from behind me as I took one step forward into the church and roared, “Time to die demons!”
The music faltered and all of the vampires turned in their pews to look at me as I strode forward down the stone floor. Their chanting halted, they rose as one.
I radioed instructions, “Both of you into the right hand alcove now! There are too many in this room for you.” As I drew two grenades and pulled the safeties off. Buffy’s eyes went wide then she sprinted for the alcove and screamed, “Kendra, run! He’s crazy!!”
Spike yelled from the front, “Kill them all!”
Kendra was hot on Buffy’s heels as the vampires began to react. A dozen surged to block the Slayers way as I tossed each grenade into the middle of the pews on either side.
Vampires tried to mob me and hit my shield shocking them back into stunned silence. I pulled my Remington shotgun to the fore with my right hand and bought the slayers some space by blasting rows of vampires to my right. The silver and incendiary pellets passing through more than one vampire before stopping but everything they touched began dying.
Flaming vampires and dust began swirling as the shotgun fired eight rounds in three seconds and was out. I had no time to reload so I dropped it on its lanyard and pulled my .45 handgun. My left hand was slicing down vampires and beheading those shocked on the floor. My handgun fired three rounds and then two great blasts half a second apart knocked down most of the vampires. My shields flared but only went down 10%. Half of the congregation was now scraps popping into dust or on fire.
Buffy and Kendra were back-to-back fighting inside the alcove. Kendra was clearing the vamps already inside and Buffy was blocking the doorway. Then the two grenades went off in a double thunderclap. Buffy only saw a double flash of light and then was thrown into the alcove wall by the pressure wave. The vampires outside the alcove were down and most were on fire. The vampires were so close packed trying to get at the Slayers that the fire spread from vamp to vamp.
The alcove cleared of enemies, Kendra breathing hard went to block the door as Buffy gasping for air stood up.
Buffy could see past Kendra and the church was now well lit from vampires burning to death. She spotted Spike at the front and then Angel. She turned to look at where Kendra was staring transfixed. Vengeance was in the center of the church like a mount of fire. Burning vampires and flaming dust was a miniature tornado all around him as he spun. The wooden pews and benches were all on fire. A gun in one hand flashed rapidly and with every shot two or three vampires died. His other held a sword that split one large vampire from head to crotch in one stroke. His blade then flashing almost too fast for even the Slayers to see to decapitate three others. He was the heart of a swirling cyclone that flared with fire and every heartbeat took him one step closer to the front.
I fired head shots until the gun was empty and with the close quarters the bullets managed to blast apart more than one head with each shot. I holstered the gun and swapped the sword to my right hand and drew my other .45 with my left. One second later the gun was up and barking death.
Buffy grabbed Kendra’s arm and shook her. Over the raging inferno of sound she shouted, “We have a mission! V can handle himself! Let’s go!”
The Slayers came out of the alcove and cut down the vampires that were still dazed from the blasts. They ran up the side wall aisle only to encounter a dozen vamps who had been sheltered in the second alcove. Buffy was possessed with grim resolve and pissed off. The dozen delayed them only ten seconds and then she was at the dais.
The demons who had manned the organ were now gone. Spike stood alone.
After Spike had yelled to his congregation to kill them all and then picked himself off the ground after two blinding blasts. He strode the raised dais speaking out loud to himself as he watched the unfolding carnage. “This is breaking the sodding rules! I’m in a sodding church. I’m not drunk and now I’m looking at - not one but two Slayers! How did that freakin’ happen? Both of them are now slaying with long honking sharp swords. Those two birds are cutting through vampires like two crazed Energizer Bunnies. What in the hells is happening? They even showed up with Vengeance! He’s the ultimate party crasher. Oh shit! Now they’re chopping down the vampires that are the only thing standing between them and me. Time to run!”
Turning Spike jumped to Drusilla and Angel and jerked the ceremonial knife out spearing their hands to the timber and cut the ropes binding them belly-to-belly. “Sorry, dear, we gotta go. Hope that was enough.” Throwing Drusilla over his shoulder he charged for the nearest northern exit as Kendra and Buffy leapt up onto the main dais.
Buffy ran to Angel and cut the bonds that still held him to the post. Kendra ran to pursue Spike and Drusilla. Angel collapsed unconscious into Buffy.
Vengeance still in the fight with only two dozen vampires remaining had witnessed Spikes exit and yelled into the comm, “Kendra stop! Remember the bombs.”
Now with two swords in hand Vengeance cut down the remaining vampires as Buffy and Kendra retreated towards him with Angel. Kendra fell on the last two vampires from behind and cut them down with one stroke.
One alcove still had some vampires in it that were just standing and watching Vengeance and the Slayers as they retreated. I said over the radio as I retreated backwards towards the entrance door. “Whatever their reason for sitting out this fight I don’t care. In five minutes they will be dead when I trigger my party favors.”
Kendra was leading the way and I ordered her to stop at the church door entrance. No creature was following them to attack but my sensors could range far down the northern tunnels and there was a lot of movement coming their way. I began reloading all of my guns as I turned and passed by Buffy who now had Angel in a fireman’s carry.
Reloading my shotgun there were eight vampires across the foyer of the entrance between where the cavern was carved to where the concrete drain tunnel began. Kendra had been facing them off and now when they caught sight of Vengeance they quailed. I had only loaded six shotgun rounds but none escaped. Six were killed outright before they got twenty feet and the remaining two took ricochets. They went down crippled but not dead as I radioed Kendra, “What are you waiting for? Finish them and let’s get going before their reinforcements arrive.”
Kendra needed no more urging and she sprang across the distance running up the steps into the tunnel and killed them like a hungry Tigress.
I finished up reloading my shotgun again as Buffy ran infront of me. I radioed them, “Run faster ladies. We have lots of company coming so as soon as you make the intersection, turn and don’t stop. I’ll trigger the first bombs as soon as you are clear.”
Kendra at a Slayer run was dealing death to the lone vampires that were in the tube as they headed south. Most of them were running away, just not running fast enough.
Kendra was ambushed at the intersection by sixteen demons. If she had been alone she might have been overwhelmed by the combination of vampires and demons but even carrying Angel, Buffy with a sword was still deadly and she fell upon their rear.
Then I arrived at the intersection and finished the fight with my .45 handguns. Turning I then began shooting the vampires that were down the east, south and west tunnels to the intersection.
The second that I fired down the east tunnel turning three vampires into flaming dust. I yelled to Kendra and Buffy, “Our tunnel out is clear. Run!” Kendra jumped forward and began to run east with Buffy following. The booming reports of my guns behind them as I fired on Vampires too far off for them to see or sense.
I stepped into the east tunnel and stopped ten meters in. As I swapped magazines for my handguns I called up my demolition menu and keyed up the arming sequence for all four party favors. I began to run east as I command detonated bombs three and four inside the demon church.
Spike had taken Drusilla into the prison dungeon room. Setting her down, he hoped that one of those pesky slayers would follow him so that he could kill them. Picking up a chain and manacle to use a weapon, he waited.
One minute later and no Slayer to fight, Spike said, “Oh sodding luck… The demon city is awake and coming.” Spike heard the calls and hooting yells of a hundred assorted demons who were now running towards the church for a fight and a meal.
Just then a dozen vampire elders came into the prison room from either side. They all paused on hearing the coming horde. They stood blocking the doorway to afraid to go out. Coming from the north a horde of demons and from the south was Vengeance.
They waited and the horde mostly swept past the rooms doors and into the destruction of the dusty church.
The brute leaders of the demons came back and bending down demanded answers of the vampires.
Spike was at the center wall of the room with Drusilla when the leader of the vampire observers related what had happened.
The demon, Khazakt, rumbled, “Vengeance again, you say… and now two Slayers with Him?! I say you lie!”
Just then there was a loud bang and in an instant two things happened. Khazakt was missing most of his head and spine. In its place was a large piece of twisted metal glowing red hot. The other was that the entire great cavern room was filled with a dense white cloud of vapor. So dense that you could not see your elbow.
The cloud of explosive fuel twenty milliseconds later ignited to 3,623 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed all of the oxygen in the room creating a near vacuum at its core but the explosion was moving outwards at almost Mach 5 compressing the air at its frontage to a density greater than stone.
The demon horde was just more fuel for the liquid fuel air explosive mix. Those not flashed as fuel themselves were small boats on a Tsunami wave of superheated air. They became a thin layer of greasy reddish-orange on the walls until that too flashed to steam and then combusted.
The shockwave propagated north and south from each FAE bomb. The cathedral stone supports of the church cracked, crushed and fell when the two titanic shock waves struck them. The very stone was sterilized clean. The human bone edifices and ornaments were crushed to powder. The prison room doors were choked with demon bodies burnt to crispy bacon and the stone roof collapsed.
The demon city first knew that something went wrong when there was a sharp bounce of an earthquake from the direction of the church. Then they heard the rumbling roar from the mouth of the tunnel that went towards the ancient church. The explosions boom echoed across the giant cave and then a belch of hot 100 mph wind spat forth flinging charred bodies and body parts. The smoke and smell of burnt flesh flowed like a heavy ground fog from the tunnel.
Only one who went that way returned alive. The only rumor that swept the city was from the lone scout sent back to report before the explosion. Vengeance had been there and slayed over two hundred vampires before the demon city guardians arrived. Now they were all gone, presumed slaughtered in Vengeance’s fiery wrath. The heat from the tunnel was oven hot preventing the scout from returning. Fear by word of mouth began to sweep the city.
I was now ninty meters to the east of the tunnel and gaining speed when the blasts earthquake hit the tunnel. In places the concrete cracked but held. I ran faster. Behind me, my sensors told all. The blast wave swept past the intersection scouring the north south running tunnel clean of demons. My heat sensors swept upwards.
Kendra was nearing their first intersection, previously marked HK19 by V, when three vampires stepped into the intersection and barred their teeth. Kendra yelled a war cry and raised her sword.
All three vamps turned and fled east. Roary’s machine gun firing incendiary bullets cut them down into swirling fiery dust.
Kendra reaching the green Cyalume line first and fell to her knees gasping for air. Buffy arrived a few seconds behind her. Kendra stood and commed Roary, “Thank you, for killing those vampires Mr. Harris. We are clear for now and would like to come up?”
Roary radioed them, “Hurry on up! I’m clear up here for now but I think I may need you girls. Whatever you did, you woke up the mountain.”
On the word mountain, Kendra poked her head up and scrambled out of the manhole. Five seconds later came Buffy with Angel. Kendra bent down and pulled Angel off of Buffy to the surface where she laid him down. Buffy crawled out.
Roary asked looking down the manhole, “Where’s Spartan One?!”
Buffy looked at him with tired eyes, “Who?”
Roary exclaimed, “Spartan One is Alex. Alex as in Vengeance?!”
Kendra said, “He was maybe thirty seconds behind us. When he triggered the bomb.”
Just then my voice came over the headsets, “Spartan One clear. Prepare for second detonation. Are we clear topside Razor Two?”
Just then it seemed a second larger earthquake rolled over them. Almost bouncing Roary into the manhole. Roary yelled, “Clear! Get up here now, you damn fool kid!”
Then a second explosion caused another smaller quake.
On the eastern edge of the demon city of Agonia stood a lone guard at his post at the mouth of the tunnel of Feasting. He was facing the city and his two large night enhanced eyes were looking down across the terraced houses and streets. Far below were many fluorescent pools of water and a small connecting stream. Above the pools were many a fine dwellings and the road making four switchbacks up to the mouth of the tunnel of Feasting. Just then another small quake rippled the ground and then a small thing looking like a bucket came flying out of the tunnel over his head on the breath of a hot 110 mph gust of wind. He was knocked down against the boundary wall his fur singed. Just as it passed over him and at the first line of rooftops it exploded in a flashing clap of thunder and a white cloud formed around it in the cities eternal twilight. In the blink of an eye the white cloud flashed into a bright blue fireball and the demons two eyes were burnt from their sockets.
The flash of light for the first time cast stark shadows across the entire cavern. All eyes turned to the blinding light and the tunnel of Feasting. The blast wave smashing into the tops of roofs and passing through windows to reverberate around inside. The thunderclap even in a cavern this large was magnified such that it cracked stone, timbers, pottery, glassware and adobe. All of the inhabitants’ ears were turned into broken bleeding mush. The heat of the blast caught exposed hair, clothing and wood on fire for a distance of 300 meter radius from the detonation point.
The east side of the demon city was burning in fifty places and demons weren’t known for their fire fighting ability.
I came up fast, jumped up and landed heavily. I turned quickly and slammed the manhole lid up and down. Turning on my suit lights I asked Roary to pull the twelve inch steel rebar rod from the MG3’s ammo duffel bag. I inserted the rod into the manholes lock holes and twisted the metal, locking them shut.
Looking at Roary and the tripod base I noted the pile of brass. I radioed, “Looks like you had some business tonight?”
Roary smiled as he pulled the cartridge belt from the action. “Yup! Got me some stragglers.”
I helped him pack up and when I stood I stopped. My sensors showed multiple targets on the mountain above them descending. Eight enemy so far coming for them and more behind those.
I Radioed my team, “Ok, everyone - seems we woke up the demons and we have some above us and they’re coming down the mountain. Pack it up fast and we are out of here. Same as before Kendra stay in the lead but uphill of Buffy and Angel. Roary you keep one hundred rounds on the MG and stay with Buffy. I will follow and stay uphill above Kendra. Now go.”
Switching channels I called, “Cortana we have a hot extraction here, Angel is Red-2, do you have any IR cameras on the mountain? Also can you get Karen and Willow here pronto?”
Cortana replied all business, “Yes multiple Infra-Red cameras. I’m speaking to Karen and Willow now and they are heading for the Van. They should be at Roary’s truck in three minutes.”
“What can you see on the mountain?” I asked as I ran uphill to the meadow above the tree filled arroyo that hid the manhole. Not slowing I pulled my .45’s and fired four bullets. Four demons fell without most of their heads. One was still flopping about as I ran up to it, my sword split the body open and I flicked off the head with finality.
Cortana came back as I was shooting, “I have hot smoke coming from what must be vent holes on the west and the eastside’s of the mountain ridge. I also have thirty-three targets marked as hostile on the mountain. There are now twelve above you on the mountain and six of those are already moving downwards towards the targets marked as Kendra, Buffy and Roary. You need to move.”
“Displacing now.” I ran east on one of the mountains many scenic walking trails that paralleled the path that Buffy’s party was taking but uphill from them. I came over one small rise to see two demons that carried what looked like eight foot long African Asagi style spears. I drew and fired before either could jump downhill out of sight. They fell after the explosive bullets blew open their chests. As I ran by I blew their heads off with coup de grace shots without slowing down.
Cortana was giving the team a running dialog on where each demon was in relationship to them and distances.
I used my sensors to home in on my demon prey. Shooting them down, for those too far away across open meadows to be worth chasing and for those that I could close with along my route I used my sword.
I finally hit my dog leg point and began moving downhill towards the rendezvous point. I was now behind the three surviving demons that had made it past my line. It was a race downhill for a kill. The demons wanted three humans. I wanted three demons cold as dry ice.
Three hundred meters away and below me through the trees, I saw the van pull up and around facing away from the mountain. The back doors opened and Willow was there at the doors with her crossbow. I was running downhill as fast as I could go while dodging in and out of Oak trees and crushing my way through thickets. Thirty seconds later Kendra reached the circular turn around first but true to her warrior duty she stopped forty feet away and closer to the mountain. She stood as guard between the van and the demons.
I was still to far away and uphill.
Buffy carrying Angel ran up to the van and jumped in. Roary was straggling behind carrying a 24 pound machine gun with 15 pounds of ammo; in addition to his normal kit.
Three demons broke from the tree line seven seconds apart and thirty yards apart in distance. Kendra faced the first demon that was coming at her across the low meadow at a fast run. The demon leapt at her with a metal studded war club in its two raised hands. She side stepped and her sword flashed in the street light. The demons arms and half of his head to behind his ears came off. Neon orange blood spraying as his body crashed into a crumpled roll. The body spasmed and flopped across the pavement spraying his blood with each beat of his oversized heart.
Willow shot the body through the chest with an arrow. The poisons and blessed silver chloride reacting badly with the demons blood. The demon corpse was thrashing more violently now and it was boiling from the inside out.
Buffy jumped out of the van and rushed to shield Willow just as the second demon arrived at Kendra. This one tried to leap past her roaring like a lion but she managed to cut one leg off as he sailed past. Her blow imparted a right counter-clockwise rotation to his body and he flailed his arms in attempt to land on his one good leg.
He hit the ground off balance and now falling to his left good leg not eight feet from Willow and Buffy. Willow was still cocking her crossbow and her eyes went wide as the demon landed off kilter on his one leg. Buffy did a two step rush forward and met him as he landed. Her sword swept from a low left to right across the snarling demons body. His left arm fell off spinning high and away as he pitched sideways. His war howl choked in his throat full of blood as his chest spilt open on impact with the ground. His lungs burst from his hewn chest and splashed hot neon orange across Buffy’s feet and lower legs. The spinning arm scattering blood smacked the vans oversized mirror startling Karen severely.
Karen startled, jumped in her car seat and screamed in fright.
The third and last demon had run straight for Roary. This demon also jumped high into the sky aiming to pounce a lone human still thirty yards from the vehicle barrier. The MG3 spat a tongue of fire and went BRRRRRRR! The machine gun fire tracked the jumping demon like a rising duck in flight, intersected his body in flight and stayed there. The demon’s aerial progress seemed to slow and halt. The demon struck the ground a wet meaty bag twelve feet from Roary’s feet. Hot blood and guts splashed across the ground.
Roary stood there panting, fingering the MG trigger as he stepped forward to survey his dying enemy but his hundred rounds were gone, the gun empty. The demon had half his lower face blown off with bullets and his body was pulverized with bullet holes. The demon was a deflating hairy steaming sewer filled balloon.
Pulling his .45 Roary blew the demons skull apart and with it his brains across the grass.
Standing there shaking Roary grew aware again that Cortana was whispering calm to all, that the threat was now past and the remaining demons on the Mountain were staying where they were.
Ten seconds later I braked to a halt and deactivated my shields. Approaching Roary slowly - seeing on him the post-combat adrenaline rush let down. I gently put my armored hands on his shoulders and said, “Good job, Razor Two. I saw the whole thing. You missed him with only six bullets, which shows that you haven’t lost your combat skills.”
Roary took another huge breath, “If… If he hadn’t jumped… I don’t think I could’ve hit him, even with 1,000 rounds per minute.”
I said with firm conviction, “Nonsense. You would have smeared him. I saw the pile of vampire dust and clothes under your shooting position tonight. Vampires are faster and you got them.” I slowly took the heavy machine gun from his trembling hands.
Together we began walking towards the van as Buffy and Willow reassured Karen after her sudden surprise encounter with a demon arm. Buffy was using the clawed hand to scratch the dirt out of her Vibram boot sole and talking about her latest new high heels. The view and her non-stop fashion trivia was so incongruous that Karen and Willow burst out laughing. Leaving Buffy confused but happy that Karen was no longer crying in fear and worry.
Then Roary stepped into view and kissed Karen through the window. She nearly mauled him unconscious so tight was her hug. At least that was what he claimed while smiling like a silly boy who just got milk and cookies.
Cortana broke in over the common radio channel, “Your frightened neighbor on this street and I have just had another intercepted 911 call. What a gullible rube she and her husband are. I told them that law enforcement, as in you, just fought a pitched battle with drug crazed biker gang members who were attacking hikers and campers on the Mountain. You should be leaving shortly…. Before the real Sunnydale demon police squad show up to see who has been killing their friends.”
I laughed and replied, “Good advice Cortana, let’s pack up and leave.” As I walked to the back of the van; I checked up on Angel who was still unconscious. Angel was alive but for a vampire severely malnourished and dehydrated with obvious wounds from prolonged physical torture.
The girls piled into the van with Kendra the last. She backed in still scanning the meadows and Mountain looking for enemies. I noted that she was a serious trooper to the end of the mission. I closed the vans doors and Roary patted Karen’s door signaling them to leave.
I commed Cortana, “The vans pulling away Cortana and heading for Angels pad. Can you order up a pile of food for Buffy and have it delivered to Angels. She is going to be hungry and I don’t think Angel has human food in his refrigerator.”
Cortana came back, “Time hack is now 22:10 PM Alex. I’m already ordering her three extra-large pizza’s and one bag of their jumbo chocolate chip cookies from Mike’s Italian Restaurant plus four triple burgers extra large fries with a large Chocolate Milkshake from Ron’s Burger Barn. The lot will all be delivered in thirty minutes and I will keep the food going to her until she leaves his house.”
“Thanks Cortana you are a gem.”
Cortana smirked while giggling, “With perfect facets and no flaws.”
I strode over to the one mostly intact demon corpse on the pavement. Drawing my sword I cleaved its body just below the shoulders. Hefting the demon by its head, turning to Roary at the truck door I said, “A trophy for the wall.”
Laying in the back bed of the pickup truck, I laughed as Roary drove away heading back to Reach. “I’ll ask the rest if they want to eat out tonight or order in? I don’t think Karen will be up to cooking a dinner for a Slayer and a Spartan at this hour.”
Cortana laughed uproariously for a few seconds, “I think you are correct. Karen is regaling the girls with what she is planning to do to Roary tonight in the shower and… afterwards. Buffy and Willow are kidding Kendra unmercifully. Which means that Kendra is turning dark-pink again, if that is possible. I believe Buffy and Willow are taking notes. Which also means that you are walking into a Willow sized mantrap tonight.”
I muttered to Cortana and the stars overhead, “God help me, that girl is dangerous!”
Cortana way to gleeful, “Enjoy!”
Sunday, 14 Dec. 1997, 1:00 PM, Sunnydale California
41th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse
I had called for a Scooby Team lunch after Sunday religious services. Roary, Karen, Kendra, Buffy, Giles, Jenny, Willow and I were all sitting at a booth in Chili’s Restaurant having a pleasant lunch and conversation. Our previous nights mission completely successful. They were luxuriating in a good job well done. Even though we had to resort to Plan B. Today’s a victory celebration.
Buffy told them about Angel’s recovering condition but that she had gone through every blood bag in Angel’s refrigerator and was considering draining a unit off of herself.
Both Giles and I said in a duet, “No Buffy!” Then I continued, “No need. Remember we have a friend named, Cortana. She’s a miracle worker.”
Buffy looked at me confused as I pulled my cell telephone and called Cortana. “Hey Cortana, can you obtain more blood for Angel?”
Cortana replied, “Yes, I can get anything and you know it. It so happens that I know who and where Angel gets his blood supply from and… they deliver. Tell Buffy that a dozen more units of fresh O negative will be on Angles doorstep at 4 PM. She’ll have to sign for the delivery.”
Surrounded by friends I had a happy warming smile, “Thanks Cortana. Out.” I relayed the good news to Buffy and reminded her that she should talk to Cortana more.
Still, sitting there with my friends, smiling, I couldn’t help it. I kept replaying the entire mission in my mind. Von Clauswitz, a famous German General said that no plan survives first contact. Even in the 26th Century John had memories of lessons on him and studying him. Clauswitz was right again. We overcame. We adapted. More than that we made our own luck. Those party favors bought us time and completely disrupted our enemies counter-attack. I wondered, how many did we really kill? I had my HUD count for myself, Buffy and Kendra. How many did we really get?
So we were lucky this time. I was happy for it.
Sunday, 14 Dec. 1997, 1:00 PM, Sunnydale California
Cerro Los Agonia (summit elev 1,278 feet Above Sea Level), 300 feet beneath the surface in the dungeon ruins.
Most of the demon militia guard had died stacked tight in the vestibule around the dungeon room. The vampires that had blocked the dungeon doors from the demons were now ash. Part of the dungeon’s roof had collapsed along with parts of the tunnels. All the fallen stone would be cleared eventually.
Demons of many different kinds were picking and clawing their way through the still hot stone of the Demon Church of Agony and tunnel. Some demon families were there to recover family or clan owned weapons and artifacts. Fights broke out and blood was spilled over pillage claims. Most were there to recover something edible from the charred corpses. Some large demons were chewing and crunching their fill on the spot.
Finally the last charred corpse was dragged from the former dungeon room. A pile of gravel and stone against the wall moved. A clawed hand came forth and a body began rising from the debris. One of the demons hoping for a quick fresh meat meal rushed in with a mace held high. The survivor turned and sprang upon the Ghenar clutching it’s raised arm and face. Drusilla’s open mouth wide plunged onto its neck and sucked greedily as the Ghenar faltered. Staggering the Ghenar demon weakly tried to pull her off with his one free hand but she swatted his head hard enough to daze him further. He staggered to his knees, his dark blue color now pale blue. Drusilla stepped away still holding him tight smacking her lips, no longer sick and weak but in full vampiric health. “Well, you weren’t as good tasting as a human but you’ll do.”
The Ghenar demon was still on his knees swaying unsteadily. Lack of blood making thought difficult and unable to stand. Turning Drusilla began moving boulders and rock out of the way. Throwing them at other demons that were about to enter the ruined dungeon room. Finally she uncovered a coat and an arm. Moving more debris aside she finally pulled an unconscious Spike from their temporary grave. Holding him in her lap she stroked his forehead and cooed to him to waken. She had a nice meal for him. After a few minutes Drusilla gently laid him down and stood.
The Ghenar demon still had a few pints of blood still in his body. “If Spikey dearest can’t come to you then… you can come to Spikey.” With that Drusilla grabbed the Ghenar by the throat and drug him towards Spike. She then latched onto the Ghenar’s neck again and sucked a pint. Turning she kissed Spike and let the blood flow into his mouth. In this manner she finished draining the stupid Ghenar. Tossing his empty body out of the dungeon room where he piled up against the far cavern wall amongst the debris.
Drusilla stood and picked up Spike. Cradling him she walked out of the dungeon room as her former meal was being drug off by three other demons who then began fighting over the meat. The other demons stepped away from her. She radiated vampiric strength and evil.
Drusilla turned and stepping over boulders and debris walked into the fire cleansed demon church and continued south towards their home, crypt home.