Under Pressure - 11
~ Back Forest, Thursday, 7:27 pm~
Asher shoved another bolt of power at El Lobo, sending him to his knees. The two vampires were bloody, but Asher clearly had the upper hand. “I can destroy you.” Asher gloated, building up one more ball of energy, hopefully the last.
“I do not doubt it any more.” El Lobo staggered back, his motions taking him closer and closer to his animals to call. “But can you destroy me faster than I destroy the blonde one? What about that cute redhead? One thought from me and she will be destroyed.” El Lobo backed up, Asher following him. “We are at an impasse, are we not?” El Lobo said just as the vampires stepped into the clearing. There, Walsh, Willow, and Spike had been corralled into a tight ring by the snarling dogs.
“How do you propose we resolve this predicament?” Asher tried not to let anything show on his face.
“Bloody hell, not you again, you bloody twat; always getting in the way of a nice piece of vengeance.” Spike tried to jump over the ring of dogs to tackle El Lobo, but the older vampire flung out his hand and Spike fell, feeling as though his throat was being ripped out by a vicious wolf.
Asher sent a wave of his own strength to Spike, hoping their shared ancestry would allow them to share power as he had once done with Jean-Claude. El Lobo roared. “No interference! If you move, I will order the dogs to kill them!”
“So we are indeed at an impasse.” Asher admitted. “If you move, I will kill you. If I move, you will order them dead.”
“You have finally grasped the concept, Señor Asher. It is the weakness of your line to always let others lay claim to your honor, and for that you will never have the Hellmouth.” El Lobo snarled.
Willow used the grandstanding as a distraction to levitate a branch directly behind the beast master’s protégé. As she sensed the dialogue coming to an end, she decided it was time to make her move. “Um, I’m still a bit fuzzy on this.” Willow spoke up, as she aligned the makeshift stake- a difficult task considering she couldn’t see El Lobo’s back. “I get what happens if Asher moves, or Spike moves, but what if I move? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, my leg is beginning to cramp.”
“You? You are only a little girl! What do you think you can do?” El Lobo laughed.
With a flick of her wrist, the branch rammed through the vampire’s chest. “Oh, that, for starters.”
El Lobo clutched his chest and fell to the ground. The dogs howled in anguish. “Uh oh. He’s not all dusty.” Willow whimpered. However, her aim had been true; El Lobo was in fact dying. His muscles began to shrivel and his skin dried out as though sixty years of decay were happening in sixty seconds.
“He was a master.” Asher muttered, staring at the skeletal remains. “Your magic killed a master.”
The dogs, sensing their master was dead began to leave their posts, confused, looking around as if their prey had vanished without a scent. Walsh saw this as her big opportunity and started running for the forest edge. The dogs sensed the chase they had been promised was finally on, and pursued her even faster than Spike could follow. As she reached the edge of the clearing, a Doberman jumped on her back and knocked her to the ground. She screamed but was quickly drowned out by the braying of beagles.
“I said not to run in front of dogs, but did she listen? Oh no, not the brilliant Dr. Walsh.”
“Spike! We have to save her! I can’t just let a person get eaten by wild dogs, and you! You need her to do surgery, come on!”
“I’m sorry mademoiselle, but it is too late. “ Asher grabbed Willow around the waist to keep her from hobbling over to the dog pack. They watched the circle tighten as the screaming stopped. “Come on, let us leave before they decide they are still hungry.”
~Quarantine Tent, Thursday, 7:30 pm~
“The C4s are all set sir.” The Beta captain handed the explosives’ remote to Riley.
Riley held the switch but didn’t flip the control. “Why aren’t you setting it?” Dr. Jones said, taking off the helmet of his biohazard suit. I’ve given you my scientific opinion. The infection is in both buildings. Nothing short of a scorched earth will make those areas safe for humans.”
“It’s not time yet.” Riley answered, keeping his eyes peeled on the front door of Lowell House.
“The longer you wait the more likely the pestilence will spread.” The doctor argued. “It was hard enough evacuating just the two buildings.”
“The Alphas are still in there.”
“What? That’s impossible. I thought you called all men out.” The Beta captain wasn’t sure what was the biggest shock of the day, finding out base Commander Walsh was a murderer, finding out his home base for the last six months was about to be blown up to avoid the plague, or finding out that the Alphas had disobeyed a direct order from their beloved captain, Finn. Anyway he looked at it, today was a very bad day.
“They were down at sublevel three, escorting Walsh out of the building and handling any stray H.S.T. threats. They must have missed the signal at that depth.”
“What do you mean stray H.S.T. threats?” Dr. Jones glanced at his colleagues nervously.
“I mean that as soon as the electricity failed in the containment area all the H.S.T.s could break out, and trust me, we don’t call them hostiles for nothing. Now, if that’s all, please join the other scientists in quarantine.”
“With all due respect, sir, I believe the Major is telling you to stand down and back up.” The Beta captain led Dr. Jones away from Riley and then returned to his post. “I hate to admit it, but Jones has a point, sir. The bubbles were spreading. If we don’t act now…”
“I’m not leaving my team behind.”
“I know, but you have to do something.”
“How far apart did you place the C4s at the Delta Zeta Kappa house?”
“Every twenty feet sir, like you ordered.”
“Could I detonate one without setting off the chain?”
“I need something better than perhaps. Will I be risking the Alphas by setting of the Delta Zeta Kappa explosives?”
“No.” The Beta captain answered, praying to God he was right on that.
“Alright. I want your men at a safe distance from the blast on the far side of the Zeta Kaps House. I want half your team with flame throwers and the other half with the fire hose. As soon as I blast I want you to cover any unscorched areas with the flame throwers, especially if you see any unexplainable paint bubbles. Hopefully, Alpha will be out by the time it takes for us to finish the Delta Zeta Kappa house.”
“Request permission for another team to ride back up.” The Beta captain answered, knowing that taking down a fraternity hall in the middle of a college campus, even one as oblivious as UC Sunnydale, would attract the wrong sort of attention.
“Fine. You’ve got Gamma team as well. Get them into hazard suits and prepped to go.” Riley gave the order then repeated it into the radio for the Gamma captain to hear. “Alright, Alphas, I’ve bought you as much time as possible. It’s time for you to pull back.”
~ The Initative, Thursday, 7:35 pm~
“I’m taking it, that’s a bad sign?” Buffy asked as the sounds of the explosions echoed through the building.
“Not yet.” Miller insisted, as the group made it up the last flight of stairs.
“Oh, okay. Because to me, that sounds like they’re blowing the place up.”
“No, that’s the building next door. If it was this building, it would sound a lot sharper.”
A large thud rattled the inside of the metal stairwell. “Like that?”
“No.” This time it was Angel’s turn to respond. “That was the demons breaking through the
stairwell door. Move it, now!”
“Fine, be that way.” Buffy grinned.
~Back Forest, Thursday, 7:36 pm~
“Holy mackerel!” Willow exclaimed as the explosion rocked the ground under their feet.
“Holy mackerel? Who the hell says that anymore?” Spike muttered.
“I do… I mean, did… I mean… oh shut up, Spike!” Willow yelled over the sound of another explosion. She leaned into Asher to keep from falling over as the ground shook through another explosion.
“That is odd.” Asher muttered, stopping for Willow to get her balance again.
“Oh, don’t you start! It’s not that weird a saying. I’m sure both of my parents have used that phrase before…”
“That is not what I mean.” Asher tilted his head. “The explosions are coming from the wrong direction. The compound is that way, but the explosions are from over there.” Asher pointed just to the right of the direction they were heading.
“Oh, that’s not surprising.” Willow said, as soon as she got her bearings. “The infected fraternity is on that side of the compound. Maybe they’re starting from the outside of the infection and working inward to prevent accidentally spreading the germs?”
“That is possible. We will just have to take a different route around the building I suppose.”
“Pity that frat had to go. They always let their parties get out of hand.” Spike smiled fondly.
The trio changed course to pass around the Initiative on the left, staying in the forest as much as possible. Spike navigated as Asher lent a helping hand to Willow, still missing her crutches. She cringed as another explosion went off, closer than the other ones. “You’d think they’d set them all off at once.”
“Perhaps they are waiting for Madame Walsh to emerge?” Asher offered.
“Oh. Well then someone will have to tell them that she’s no longer going to be emerging.” Willow answered. She was going to continue, but Spike held up his hand for them to stop. The bushes were particularly dense at this point, so Willow assumed the vampire was having trouble navigating without risking an unfortunate splinter.
“We’re at the edge of the forest. The military has set up an emergency post about 200 meters in that direction.” Spike announced.
“Great! So we can go tell Riley about Walsh.”
“I do not think so.” Asher rubbed Willow’s back as if to console her.
“They need to know!”
“I am not arguing that point. I just believe that this is not the job for either Monsieur Spike or myself. It will have to be up to you.”
“What? You mean…?”
“You’re free to go.” Asher dropped his hands to his side, resisting the urge to hold on to his redhead.
Willow turned in confusion to Spike. “I guess. You did what you said you would. You got us access to the doctors with the chip. Yeah, you’re free… but if I ever hear that you’ve been telling people William the Bloody let you go, I’ll make you wish you only had a broken leg. You hear?”
“Thanks, Spike.” Spike froze as Willow hugged him quickly and then turned into the bushes. “So is this it?” Willow turned back to gaze on Asher.
Asher bit back his initial response and settled for, “That is your decision. You know where you can find us.”
“Okay, well, good luck?” Willow ducked through the bushes and emerged on the other side, blinking at the brightness of the street lamps on Fraternity Row.
“Hold fire! Civilian in perimeter!” A voice called out from a tent set up across the street. Willow turned to face the voices. “Willow?” A more familiar voice called out.
“Riley?” Willow waved towards the tents.
“Patel, go offer the lady some assistance. Bring her directly to me.” Riley ordered, ignoring
the curious looks from his subordinates.
Willow found herself being practically carried across the yard towards the command center. “Riley!” Willow was so relieved to see a familiar face.
“Willow! I’m so glad to see you’re okay! Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes I am.” Willow replied, sinking into the fold out chair one of the soldiers provided for her.
“Are… ahem, they… with you?”
“They left. They said I was free to go.” Willow said. “But there’s something I have to tell you.”
“It’s about Professor Walsh. I don’t know how to say this.”
“It’s alright Willow, just say whatever you need to say. If they were responsible for her death…”
“It’s not that. It’s just… She was eaten by dogs.” Willow shook her head, as if in disbelief herself. “It was awful! She came running out of the back, just like we’d thought, but there was this other vampire who could call dogs. We took care of him, but Walsh tried to run away, and the dogs chased her. Oh goddess, it was awful.” Willow ducked her head, knowing that the army men wouldn’t be impressed by her crying, but she didn’t really care what they had thought. Tonight had been one of the worst nights of her life. “Where’s everybody else?”
“Mr. Giles sent the others to get some supplies to make a cleansing antidote for everyone. I’m afraid a lot of us are going to be going through the withdrawl sickness, and I don’t think you can handle curing all of us.”
“Yeah, you were an armful, no offense.”
“What about Buffy and Angel? Weren’t they going to stay with you?”
“They’re still inside with my team.”
“What?!” They were supposed to get Dr. Walsh and kill any truly hostile demons in there…Oh no! They’re never going to find Walsh.”
“I’m just hoping they find the exit. I’m afraid we lost radio contact when the main base power supply went out.”
“Oh no.” Willow turned to face the building door, in expectation. “You’re not going to blow them up, are you?”
“I’m doing everything I can to avoid their current location. I feel horrible enough as it is, hearing my good friends screaming ‘let me out’ down the radio line.” Riley admitted.
“Buffy’s strong; she’ll make it out, and Angel’s got to give them a big advantage over whatever they’re running into down there.” Willow offered.
Before Riley could respond, there was a rustle, and one of the Kappa agents approached him. “Sir, there’s a British man here who insists he needs to talk to you.”
“Send him in.”
“Send him in!” Riley ordered.
“Yes sir.” The agent solemnly opened the back tent flap and ushered Giles in.
“Hello, Riley. We’ve got the necessary supplies to create the withdrawl potion. Just show us where to set up.”
“Agent Finn, what is he talking about?” The Kappa captain stared at the newcomer uneasily. He knew he’d seen the man before, and recently at that. “Hey, wait a minute, isn’t this the man that Walsh…”
“Yes, he is.” Finn cut off the captain. “Walsh was holding him prisoner because he knew too much, but he’s definitely on our side.”
As Riley was dealing with his own people, Giles noticed who else had found her way to the army tent. “Willow! Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I had a little tussle with some bushes back there, and well, I took out a master vampire, yay me, but other than that, it’s all good.” She said, brushing another leaf out of her hair with her fingers.
“A master vampire?”
“Where are your companions? Are they still looking for Dr. Walsh?”
“Nope, we found her.” Willow looked positively ill about that, and before Giles could ask, she added, “Long story.”
“It isn’t what you think.”
“It wasn’t Spike or Asher. If anything, it was Dr. Walsh’s fault, sort of like a Disney movie.”
“What?!” Giles eyed his former student in complete disbelief.
“Well, in Disney movies, the villain is always brought down by their own actions, because it
would be morally ambiguous if the heroes were also murderers.”
“I see.” Giles nodded, thinking once again that the Rosenbergs should never have been allowed to raise children. “And what about your captors?”
“Well, Spike and Asher just left. They said that I did all they needed me to do, and so I was free to go.”
“Really? I never thought there would be any honor among that pair. What about Buffy?”
“She’s still inside. The power went out, and we think they got trapped in with all the other H.S.T.s.” Riley admitted.
“Dear god! Are you going to send a team to help them?”
“I trusted you to take care of Buffy. You swore you would be able to do this.” Giles seethed, and Riley got a peek as to why the demons of Sunnydale found this man intimidating.
“I know that, and I’m giving them as much time as I can to get out, but I can’t send any more men in. It was hard enough evacuating the facility in the first place. If we send in more men, there’s no guarantee that they’d even find the Alphas. Believe me, I’m worried about them too, but I can’t risk other men’s lives like that.”
Riley’s radio blared to life. “Betas reporting. The frat house is toast. Do we start on Lowell now?”
Everyone looked at Riley expectantly. He turned to Giles, “You know that there’s a highly infectious plague contaminating the walls. Every moment we let it go…”
“What’s that?” Willow said, pointing to the front door of Lowell House that had just been flung off its hinges.
“It’s them!” Giles grinned. “And the men are yelling something. Low It Tut?” The group watched as the Alphas were being practically dragged out of the building by Buffy and Angel.”
“I think they’re saying…”
“BLOW IT UP!” Buffy’s voice came loud and clear across the parking lot.
“Alright, Beta, you’re clear to begin. Set them all at once.” Riley yelled his instructions into the radio. He rushed to the edge of the tent just as Buffy, Angel, and the Alphas arrived. “Oh thank god, you’re okay!” He immediately picked up Buffy and twirled her around. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again! When I call retreat, don’t say five more minutes.”
“Hey! We’re safe.” Buffy shrugged it off. “But seriously, there are demons on our six, so maybe you should hurry up with the big boom?”
Even as Buffy said this, the explosions set around the Initiative headquarters all went off in a large KABOOM!
“Wow. That’s actually kinda pretty.” Buffy muttered as everyone in the quarantine tents watched the building that had been so important to them, go up in flames. “It reminds me of something.”
“The Death Star explosion? Mission Impossible? Terminator?” Riley offered, thinking that the only explosions he’d ever seen of that size had been in the movies.
“Graduation.” Buffy and Willow replied with giggles.