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Summary: A response to Jinni's five song challenge- Asher is sent by the council to investigate reports of military activity near the Hellmouth

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Willow-Centered > Pairing: AsherdulcineaFR1855165,32913100123,4992 May 043 Sep 06Yes

Under Pressure - 9

~ The Initiative, Thursday, 6:00 p.m. ~

“Alright Miller, we’ve got all the scientists rounded up.” Gates informed the current base leader. “You ready for them?”

“Honestly? No. But, they deserve to know why Walsh is locked up and why the base is going to be shut down as soon as the Pentagon folk show-up.” Graham straightened his beret, having given up on the civilian dress code as soon as the Pentagon representative called him to say the inquiry board was on their way. “I wish Riley were here, so that he’d get stuck with this.”

“You might get your wish.” Agent Brown said, handing a headset to Graham. “Agent Finn is on line 1.”

“Are you tracing this?” Forrest asked as Graham picked up the phone. The agent nodded silently.

“Miller speaking.”

“Thank goodness. I was getting worried that Zeta would leave me on hold ‘til they traced this. Look, you’re in trouble.”

“You’re telling me.” Graham muttered.

“No, you need to take this seriously. Walsh doesn’t know what she’s done.”

“Oh, I think she has a damn good idea about what she’s done. We’ve got her in a holding cell until the Pentagon folks get here. We Alphas can still take care of business even with you on

“A holding cell? What are you talking about?”

“Walsh killing McNamara- isn’t that the emergency you’re calling about?”

“Walsh killed McNamara? Holy...” Graham didn’t know that ol’ Iowan farm boy had such strong language in him.

“So I take it there’s another problem?” Graham finally cut off the swearing.

“You could say that. We managed to get a hold of her most recent lab results. The H.S.T. last examined in exam room 2 managed to infect the building with Yersinia pestis. You’ve got a mutant strain of the bubonic plague loose, and its beginning to spread.”

“What? You can’t be serious!”

“After all we’ve seen, it’s not that surprising. You’ve already noticed the symptoms, and you said yourself the building was falling apart.”

“Yeah, but what does that have to do with the plague?”

“Have you noticed any paint bubbling? Perhaps ruptured spots oozing pus?”

“Well, there was that unknown oozing stuff in exam 2, but I...”

“Don’t let anyone touch it!”

“Sir, we’ve tried to trace the call. It’s coming from a cell phone.” An agent interrupted their conversation loudly enough for Riley to hear.

“Look, I’m on my way. We should be there in five minutes top. We need to start evacuating people ASAP.”

“Could this day get any worse?”

“Oh it will, trust me.” Riley hung up.

“Great, just great.” Graham sighed. Best case scenario, maybe Riley had gone nuts and they could lock him up too. Worst case scenario, everyone was about to die a very ugly, puss-filled death. “Agent Lee, have any of your men reported paint bubbling, perhaps seeping a cloudy fluid?” It couldn’t hurt to disprove Riley’s theory before having to address the scientists.

“Yes sir, we’ve have several reports on the lower levels, but we figured there’s no point in repainting if the humidity is off; the bubble will just come back.”

“Now, think carefully, were any of those bubbles around before yesterday morning?”

“No, we just started seeing the bubbles today, a little after the cameras started messing up. Of course, unusual humidity could cause both problems.”

“Or Finn is right, and we have a major contamination problem. Can you get the most recent files from Walsh’s molecular lab computer?” Miller just couldn’t believe they had the plague loose here and now.

“Hey Miller? The scientists are getting restless.” Forrest warned from the doorway of the conference room. As the soldiers had discovered, herding scientists was a bit like herding cats, and it was even harder to keep them somewhere if they weren’t given any explanation for the detention.

“Here’s the file.” The agent scooted his chair back so Graham could peer at the screen over his shoulder.

“Damn, I hate it when Riley’s right.” Graham stepped out of the command central office and entered the conference room the scientists were being held in.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for being so patient. We have a bit of a situation, so it’s important that everyone stay calm and keep your heads about you.”

“Where’s Walsh? Why isn’t she the one addressing us?” One of the scientists barked out.

Graham ignored the question. “We have a major biocontainment issue right now. We’ll need to evacuate the science labs indefinitely. I want you to go fetch any personal items from your office, shut down any current equipment you have working, and then evacuate to the Lowell House entrance as quickly as possible. Zeta unit will be assisting you with your evacuation. I want you all at the front door in one hour. We’ll let you know more as the situation develops. You’re dismissed. Dr. Jones, please hang back for a minute.”

“The scientist watched his colleagues file out. “What’s this about?”

“We’ve got a possible outbreak of plague centered on exam room 2. I need you to prep our men on how to suit up and contain this problem.”

“Shouldn’t Walsh be doing this?”

“She’s unavailable right now.”

“What about Angleman? He knows about this kind of stuff. I’m just a geneticist.”

“You’ve got biohazard training. Here’s your chance to put it to use.” Graham turned to the head of Beta unit. “Agent, you’ve got Jones. Your team will follow his instructions for treating the outbreak, starting in exam room 2.”

Graham barely had time to hear the “Yes, sir.” before he was dragged out to the hallway by Forrest. “What the hell is going on? You were supposed to hold them for questioning.”

“What would be the point? We know it was Walsh.”

“She could have accomplices. Murder is serious business.”

“Yeah, I thought that too, before I knew Walsh let the plague loose on the base. We need to get everyone out of here.”

“Are you kidding? If there’s a disease affecting people, we need them in quarantine, not evacuated.”

“But it’s not affecting people, as far as I can tell. It’s affecting the building. If we don’t evacuate it might spread to the people.”

“I still think we need to keep these guys in quarantine. What if one of them is already infected? They could spread it to the entire town.”

“Shit, I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe we can help.” Graham had never been happier to hear Riley’s voice.

“Graham, Forrest, you’ve met Buffy, and this is Angel.” Riley went for introductions as the safest route for starting the conversation.

“With all due respect, Finn, sir, what the hell do you think you’re doing bringing civilians down here?” Forrest glared at Buffy.

“They’re here to help. We’ve got some folks outside ready to help too.”

“We don’t need help. Miller has it under control.”

“If this is under control, I’d hate to see what chaos looks like.” Angel muttered.

Riley knew he could spend all night arguing, but when it came down to it, McNamara had never decommissioned him, so he still outranked every other person on the base. “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do. Miller, you’re going to be running point for the Alphas, and I’ll take over base direction. Which teams have you deployed where?”

As Graham filled Riley in on the standing orders, Buffy leaned over to whisper to Angel. “Is it just me, or do they all look a bit high strung?” While Buffy expected a group of soldiers to be ready for action, these guys seemed to be in a constant state of flexing their muscles and none of them blinked for anything.

Angel took a whiff of the air. “It’s the sickness- the same thing Riley had- but it’s just beginning for all of them. Another day, and they’ll be wrecks.”

“All of them?” Buffy glanced at the multitude of soldiers milling about like a nest of worker ants.

“One thing I gotta say for Walsh, she’s thorough when setting up experiments.” Angel muttered under his breath.

Somehow Riley had gotten a hold of a radio and was issuing out commands left and right. “Gamma, set up a quarantine tent at 200 meters from the Lowell face. Eta, watch the doors to make sure everyone stays in the Lowell section until quarantine is ready. Zeta, continue with the evacuation. Beta, report on your inspections of the lower levels.”

Buffy watched the hectic scene of soldiers for another minute before speaking up. “Okay, I’m
going to go let Giles know that we’ll need an industrial strength purging spell. You stay with Riley, got it?”

“Wait, Buffy, that’s a very bad idea.” Angel started to say, but Buffy had already disappeared into the crowd. Angel sighed. Now he had no choice but to follow her instructions.

“Where’s Buffy?” Riley finally had a moment to look around.

“She went outside to tell Giles something. She’ll be right back.”

“Great, I don’t have time to babysit you.” Riley muttered as the lights flickered.

“I don’t need a babysitter. I’m here to save your ass.”

“Yeah, right you’re supposed to...”

“Is it supposed to do that?” Angel asked as the wall of camera monitors behind them flickered.

“Iota, I need a report.” Riley barked into his radio.

“We don’t know what it is, but it’s been doing that all day.” The tinny voice reported back.
“By any chance, are the cells you’re keeping the demons in also electric?” Angel was getting a sinking suspicion about this whole mission. Getting Walsh out of the highly secured facility might end up being the easiest of his challenges.

“Maybe, why do you ask?” Graham wasn’t sure just what sort of civilian Riley had brought down with him. Was anything confidential?

“So you’re saying at any of these power breaks, everything you’ve got in those cells downstairs could break out? It’s going to be a blood bath.” Angel had only a few minutes to flip through the files Giles had organized that afternoon, but it was enough to know that the Initiative was playing with forces it couldn’t control.

“Well, I’m doing my best to get the people out of here.”

“Yeah, you’re moving them to a quarantine tent across the street. Brilliant. So when the demons come pouring out of the building there’s an all you can eat buffet waiting for them.”

“What the hell do you want me to do?” Riley snapped.

“When Buffy gets back, she and I and one of your squads will go down there and get rid of any dangerous demons. We’ll let the weak ones out the back and as soon as we give the all clear, I want you to blow up this and the building next door.”

“No, I’m not letting you take Buffy down there. It’s too dangerous. I won’t lose her.”

“If that’s how you’re thinking, she’s already lost to you.”

“What right do you have to say that?”

“I don’t have any right to say anything about it, but I know what Buffy would say.” The men were too busy staring each other down to notice the perky blonde joining them.

“What would I say?”

“Buffy, what did Giles say?”

“The spell Willow used can’t be easily super-sized, so he’s going to his place with Xander and
Anya to find a better spell. We can’t let anyone leave quarantine until he’s gotten back. So what did I miss? What would I say?”

“Angel wants you and a team to go down to the containment cells and take care of anything down there before the power shuts off completely.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me.”
Riley winced. “Great, Miller, you’re going to take Alpha to go clear out the cells. Buffy and Angel have your back.”

“You’ve got a strange mixture of baddies down there. Do your men know what to do with them?” Buffy asked, mentally running through the multitude of weapons she had managed to tuck into her clothes before they left.

“Of course we know what to do with them; we put them down there to begin with.” Graham retorted.

“Yeah, but that’s fazers set to stun stuff. We need to take the dangerous ones out once and for all. Can they hack it?”

“Buffy, my Alphas are the best this country has to offer. Not only do I trust them to hack it, I trust them to bring you back in one piece.”

Buffy snorted. “I’m not the one you should be worried about. Alright boys, who’s with me for sublevel three?”

~ The Back Forest, Thursday, 6:45 p.m.~

“I don’t know, maybe I should have gone with Buffy through the front? Do you really think anyone is going to use the back exit? Maybe there’s another back exit that Riley didn’t tell us about? What if we miss any demons and they go on to hurt people?” Willow said from the tree stump she was sitting on.

“Relax, ma chaton, your thoughts travel too fast.” Asher rested his hands on her shoulders, calming Willow through his gentle touch.

“Ooh, I just know this isn’t going to work. What if we’re not in the right place?”

“We are following the plan and staying exactly where you suggested, and I have no doubt that it will work, for you are very intelligent, ma petite informaticien.” Already, Asher could hear the building next door begin evacuating. “Your friend Monsieur Finn shall be eliminating the contagion any minute now.”

They waited in silence for a few minutes as if expecting the sound of the Initiative’s bombs exploding to fall on cue. “It’s not working. Oh god, Asher, what if this doesn’t work and somebody catches the plague and dies and then someone else gets it from them? What if the whole town gets the plague? What if the Hellmouth gets the plague?”

“Mon dieu, perish the thought.” Asher struggled to keep a straight face. Willow’s panic only served to remind him how very young Willow was. “Shh, listen.”

Willow tilted her head to hear any distant sounds, but there was only the quiet chirping of crickets and the occasional owl hoot. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Precisely. The forest is not alarmed; there is no cause for you to be either. The night is young. There will be plenty of time to listen for explosions later. Just enjoy the calm breeze coming in from the sea and relax to the chorus of the nocturnal insects.”

“You’re sure the plan will work?” Willow tried to keep her pessimistic edge, but found herself swaying more towards Asher’s mood the more he spoke.

“I am.” Asher whispered in her ear, enjoying the shiver that ran down her back.

“Yeah, well, I’m not. This is boring. Where is everybody?” Spike broke the couple’s flirting by choosing that moment to whine. “Do you still have that phone on you?”

“Whom do you need to speak with?”

“I wanna call the watcher.” Spike figured that Giles would be the most likely to know why the preliminary explosions hadn’t fired yet, and while Giles normally wouldn’t cooperate with Spike, the vampires did still have Willow as a hostage of sorts.

“It won’t do you any good. Giles doesn’t answer his phone during crises.” Willow said, trying to cross her legs and getting frustrated by her cast. “He says it’s too distracting.”

“Well then what good is carrying one?” Spike kicked at the tree stump Willow was perched on and was rewarded by a twinge at the back of his head. “I wasn’t even aiming at the chit!” He tried appealing to a higher power.

Willow studied the vampire that had been vexing her friends for several years now. On one hand, she sort of felt sorry for him, but on the other hand, she couldn’t wait to get rid of him. “Oh, Spike, I just realized something. There’s a remote sensing camera about fifty feet that way. It’s probably contaminated. You should go set it on fire while there’s still time.”

“You’re just now remembering security cameras? You’re going to get us all zapped!”

“Spike, please?” Willow begged. Spike growled, but trudged into the thick underbrush. Willow breathed a sigh of relief.

“I do not remember seeing another camera on your map.” Asher sat down next to the redhead.

“Oops?” Willow blushed.

Asher picked up one of her hands, enjoying the sensation of her pulse against her wrist. “There are no cameras, are there?”

“Is it really bad of me that I just wanted some alone time with you?”

“No, not bad at all.” Asher leaned in for a kiss.

~The Initative, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.~

Riley wished he could be following Buffy and Angel down to the holding cells, but he knew with the General gone and Walsh out of commission, he was the only one left to direct traffic. “Gamma, how’s the quarantine tent coming?”

“We’re nearly completed.”

“As soon as it’s ready, I want you to give me the all clear.” Riley glanced at the chaos around him. While the scientists had done remarkably well at moving out of the compound, everyone was currently confined in the Lowell house facade until the quarantine location could be established. The delay was not so much constructing the large white tent in the lawn across the street, but rather keeping out the undergraduates who though the tent was for a party.

“Eta, report on to the testing next door.” Riley called out. He was making a point of continuously cycling through all the units, just in case any got into trouble before they could call in.

“Sir, we’re definitely getting signs of pustules forming.” The Eta captain reported.

“Alright, I want you to evacuate the frat and establish a hundred foot perimeter. You’ve got an hour to get everyone out of there.”

“Finn, Pentagon on line one.” The Iota member currently on dispatcher duty called out.

Riley excused himself from the chaos of the Lowell commons room and ducked into his dorm room. “Agent Finn reporting, sir.”

“Where the hell have you been, Major?” Riley recognized the voice of the general who had overseen his special ops training.

“I’ve been trailing two hostiles on Walsh’s orders, sir. I returned as soon as I found out things were going south on base.”

“And what happened to the two hostiles you were trailing?”

“That’s a longer story than I have time to go into right now, sir.”

“Oh really? What’s the rush? Miller reported that Walsh had been taken into custody and was just awaiting the inquiry board. Our flight is still half an hour from landing. You’ve got time.”

“Sir, one of the hostiles brought the bubonic plague onto base. Currently the building is showing signs of severe contagion, as is a building of civilians next door. No one is currently showing symptoms, but it’s touch and go.”

“What? How is that even possible?”

“I don’t know sir, but the walls are leaking pus that tests positive for plague. I’m trying to evacuate the base while keeping all the personnel in quarantine. I can’t attest to what the situation will be when the inquiry board shows up, but it’s looking bad.”

“I have a feeling I’m going to be spending a long time reading over this incidence report.” The general grumbled. “The inquiry board should be at your position within the hour.”

“Yes, sir, understood.” Riley was ready to hang up on the general when one of the Iotas knocked on his door. “Agent Finn, the elevators are down and Agent Conner says we can’t get it running again without popping one of those paint bubbles.”

“I see. I guess everyone will just have to take the stairs then. We will not be rupturing any bubbles we don’t have to. How many people are still down there?”

“The Alphas, Betas, Dr. Jones, and all the hostiles, sir.”

“Well Finn, sounds like you have your hands full. Should I requisition a med team from Fort Irwin?” General Rice said, indicating he had heard the Iota’s report.

“Would they be cleared about hostiles before hand?”

“No, that’s not need to know. They can contain the plague though.”

“Thank you, sir. Perhaps when the inquiry board arrives, they can make a decision on calling in reinforcements.” Personally, Riley thought more soldiers, even ones with medical training would just confuse the issue, and he had no idea how the general planned to explain a plague epidemic in Southern California without also explaining to presence of several rampaging H.S.T.s. Luckily, the general hung up before Riley got the nerve to bring that up.

“This is Kappa One, reporting in.” The captain setting up quarantine called into his radio, thankful not to have to use the handle Walsh assigned them.

“How’s quarantine?” Riley answered.

“It’s set, sir. You can send them over.”

“Alright, I need you to maintain the perimeter of the quarantine. Remember, it’s still night, and there are still hostiles out there.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Zetas, you’re clear for a go.” Riley directed the base security team to start the final clearance of Lowell House. As they cleared out of the halls, Riley said a silent prayer that if God would only get him through the next 24 hours, he would go to church every Sunday for the rest of his life.

“Okay, Finn.” The Delta captain interrupted his thoughts. “Where did you want us to put all these explosives?”

~The Initiative, Thursday, 7:17 p.m.~

“Mother?” A static voice came over the intercom of the holding cells.

“Adam?” Dr. Walsh took a break from trying to bite through the cable ties.

“Mother, something is wrong. Everything feels wrong.”

“I know.” Dr. Walsh tried to sound caring. In truth she was a bit worried that whatever was causing malfunctions in the building had spread to her creation, but there was no point voicing that doubt out loud. “Are you still able to interface with the building computer?”

“Yes, I... yes, I... yes, I can.”

“If you open the door to my cell, I’ll come find you and make things better.”

“Hurry, mother. Every...thing...hurts.” Adam’s voice dropped in pitch as the gate came up for Walsh’s cell. She ducked under it and ran for the emergency exit. It broke her heart, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to save Adam and herself, and right then, she knew what her priorities were.
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