Where You Lead - 2
~ Giles’ Residence, Sunday, 2:30 a.m.~
“I must say as your watcher, I don’t approve of this practice.” Giles stared down at the man draped across his living room sofa.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit him so hard.” Buffy looked worried.
“I understand, but kidnapping is a capital offence.”
“It’s not exactly kidnapping.” She looked up at her watcher, who was still scowling in disapproval. “He was following me. He and someone else were waiting at Willy’s, as if they knew I’d be there. They followed me out, and when they split, I just attacked the first one I could isolate. I’m pretty sure he’s the bad guy.”
“Are you sure? He looks quite a bit like the psychology TA that Willow pointed out to me a few weeks back, the one you’ve been mooning over for the past few weeks.” Giles raised a single eyebrow in question.
“Well, yeah, this is Riley, and I think he’s cute and all, but really, Giles. If this was a ‘I want to take him down and have my wicked way with him’ sort of deal, why would I take him to your house? Can we say major ick?!”
“Ahem, well, yes, there is that.” Giles squeezed his eyes shut in hopeful denial. “So why do you think he is a suspect, other than the fact that he was following you home from a bar?”
“Well, several reasons.” Buffy straightened up, trying to sound as mature as possible. Willow was always much better at the mature arguments. “First, he and his friend shouldn’t have been at Willy’s in the first place because he was supposed to follow his other friend to the hospital. Second, Willy said that he had been raided by army guys earlier looking for a Hostile 17. Third, Riley had a walkie-talkie that went off when I was knocking him out, and the voice sounded very military. Therefore, I think my TA is part of a conspiracy army group that abducted Willow, you know, like an X-Files thing.”
Giles opened his mouth to protest but wasn’t quite sure what to say. He was saved from making a comment as Riley chose that moment to groan in pain. Slowly the boy opened his eyes. “Buffy?”
“Riley?” Buffy looked down at her TA, not quite sure what to do now that he was awake.
“Wow, a dream within a dream, that’s pretty nifty.” He looked lovingly at the girl, obviously unaware of his surroundings.
“Unless your dreams normally include tweedy English librarians too, this isn’t a dream.” Buffy smiled down on him.
“Huh?” Riley quickly sat up, clutching his head as he saw a few stars. “Holy cow.” He muttered, catching sight of Giles for the first time. “Where am I? What is this?”
“Relax, you’re safe for now. We just have a few questions like, who are you really?” She scowled.
Riley frowned. He was not going to bow under pressure. He was not about to let himself be interrogated by a freshman when there was a loose hostile and possible captive. “I’m leaving.”
“Now we can do this the easy way,” Buffy interrupted his standing, “or the hard way.” Feeling a slight nudge, Riley glanced down to see a wooden stake aiming straight for his groin. Giles, watching his slayer’s action, gulped nervously in sympathy for the boy. “Now, I know you were following me. I know you and your friends are hiding something. I know you know something about who took Willow. Start talking.”
“Look, it’s kinda hard to explain.”
“Try.” Buffy said, nudging her stake forward a bit.
Riley swallowed nervously, sinking back into the couch. “Okay. This town you live in. It’s not quite right. It’s …”
“… the mouth of Hell, yada yada yada. Been there done that. Who has Willow?”
Riley’s eyes widened at the girl’s brazen remarks. “Graham said it was Hostile 17.”
“What’s Hostile 17?”
“I guess you could say a vampire?”
“But I thought we had ruled out vamps.” Buffy frowned.
“Only because the boy was missing any punctures, there was no blood on the scene, and the crutches were too high up; I suppose it’s entirely possible for it to still be a vampire…” Giles frowned in thought. Were there any vampires in the area that fit the profile?
“So why would a vampire call himself Hostile 17?” Buffy asked, almost more to herself than Riley.
“We number them as we catch them. Hostile 17 escaped a few days ago, and we haven’t found him since.
“But what’s his name? We can’t get any info from Willy without a name.”
“We don’t give them names.” Riley answered.
“Well duh. What does he call himself?”
“They are hostile subterrestrials, they do not deserve a name.”
“Hostile subterrestrials… H.S.T.s?” Giles thought back slowly. “Aha! Five H.S.T.s, not Achestis; therefore, your friend and Willow were attacked by five vampires, including this number seventeen, and Willow was taken.”
“Who’s we?” Buffy asked, eyeing her TA suspiciously, ignoring Giles’ mutterings of potential texts on vampire ritual sacrifices.
“I can’t tell you.” Riley frowned.
“What are you?”
“I…” Riley faltered. This situation was completely out of control. He’d already said enough to get court martialed. And yet, he could see Buffy knew he was holding out on her. “I can’t tell you.”
“I knew it.” Buffy sat wearily down on the sofa, covering her face with her hands. “Just once I thought I could find a normal guy, someone dependable and nice. What do I find? Secret identity guy with a messed up agenda who abducts my friend…”
“I didn’t take Willow!” Riley yelled.
“Well then, who did?” Buffy said in a quiet whisper.
“If Graham says Hostile 17, then it was Hostile 17. We’ve got every team out looking. We’ll find them.”
“Before or after she’s dead?” Buffy’s voice wavered.
“I don’t know.” Buffy glanced up at the sorrowful expression on Riley’s face, as if he suspected she was already dead. Without another word, Buffy ran for the bathroom; the door slammed and a frustrated yell could be heard throughout the empty house.
“Willow is very important to us.” Giles spoke carefully. He wished he could be in there crying with his slayer, but as long as there was an outside chance she was alive, he’d have to stay strong for Willow.
“If there’s anything I could do, I would.”
“Have you actually seen Hostile 17, such that you could identify a picture of him?” Giles asked after a thoughtful pause.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him a couple of times.” Riley shrugged.
“Ah, then there may be some hope.” Giles frowned. “Let’s see, where was that pile… ah yes here.” Giles moved over to his desk, where a large stack of books were piled up. “I’ve been trying to dig up information on the vampires currently in Sunnydale. Granted, there is no documentation on most fledglings, but I do have information on four or five masters that are rumored to be in or near the area. Is this one it?” Giles handed a book to Riley.
“No, that’s not it at all.” Riley put the book down. He couldn’t help but wonder if this man was crazy, showing him a picture from a colorplate of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
“How about this one?” Riley quickly shook his head, setting down the archaic text.
“This one?” Giles handed Riley a picture of Asher, accompanied by his human servant. As Riley shook his head, Giles let out a sigh of relief. He was not sure Buffy would have been up to tackling the Council vampire.
“Either of those?” Giles handed Riley a family portrait taken in the early 1900s with Angel and Spike standing over the stately Drusilla and poised Darla. Riley squinted at the picture, so Giles added. “The one on the left looks considerably different now that he has cut most of his hair and bleached it blonde; well, at least it was blonde last year. However, his facial features are quite distinct and include a scar over one eye that was obtained during the Boxer Rebellion.”
“That’s him.” Riley exhaled. How was it possible that this man had a picture of Hostile 17 in his living room?
“Ah yes, William the Bloody. He is a devious one, and quite familiar with these parts. Unfortunately, he knows Willow’s face too well, as this is the second, or is it third, time he has tried to capture her. Wait, her first kidnapping was by Mayor Wilkins, so this must be the second by Spike.” Giles made a restless clucking sound. “Well that solves some problems, but it does bring up some interesting questions. What are you and your associates doing trying to contain such a killer?”
“You heard me.” Giles glared at the young man.
“With all due respect, sir, I am not permitted to discuss this matter with you.”
“Is that so?” Giles was doing his best to rein in the inner Ripper. “I take it then, you are part of the government.” Riley kept his jaw firmly set, refusing to confirm or deny it, but his blushing was as much a confession as anything he could say. “Dear lord, do you people have any clue of the forces you are messing with?”
Buffy came out of the bathroom, looking refreshed aside from the red eyes. “So what do we do, Giles?” She looked at her TA warily.
“How much did you hear?” Giles asked, also keeping his eyes fixed on Riley.
“Um, not much.” Buffy admitted. “So I guess we need to find this Hostile 17 vamp?”
“Well, that is both easier and harder now. Riley informs me that Hostile 17 is in fact a vampire we have dealt with before, so at least we have a history to look into. It also means that we have a fairly good chance of coming out on top when we do find him.”
“What?” Giles glanced up at Buffy, distractedly.
“You sound like there’s some bad news you don’t want to tell me. From where I stand, it can’t get much worse.”
“The vampire in question is Spike.”
“Well.” Buffy took a deep breath and sat down. “Okay, not the best of news.”
“But at least we know his mode of operation.” Giles offered.
“Oh really? Other than chaos what is Spike’s mode of operation?” Buffy shot back. “I mean, a hundred years hanging around Drusilla did nothing for that vamp’s sanity. You remember what happened last time? He kidnapped Willow to do a love spell, only to abandon her when he decided to torture Drusilla instead. Ooh and what about the feast of St. Vigeous? ‘No Buffy, Parent-Teacher Night will be fine, no vampire in its right mind would attack before St. Vigeous.’” Buffy parodied her watcher.
“You have a point, but that is not going to get Willow back. It is quite possible he is holding her like he did last time. We should check his old haunts.”
Buffy closed her eyes, trying to control her temper. If only she could channel it to better uses, like staking Spike. Looking back up at her watcher, she decided it was time to get to business. “Okay, so I’ll take the factory and school. You can try the cemeteries. Should we get Xander to recon the mansion, just in case?”
“Wait! What are two talking about? Civilians should not be handling this sort of operation!” Riley stood up thoroughly confused.
The two just stared at the student blindly. “Look, G.I. Joe, we’ve been living in this town far longer than you. We know what we’re doing.”
“Ah, but what are we going to do with you?” Giles’ eyes took on a Ripper-like gleam that Buffy recognized but Riley was blissfully unaware of.
“Tie him up?” Buffy asked.
“Hey now! That’s kidnapping, which is a federal crime.” Riley replied, glancing between the two not liking the look on either of their faces. “Besides, we’re both after the same goal. We both want to get Willow back.”
“If you wanted to get Willow back so badly, then why were you following me?”
“Well, you took off from the ambulance like a bat out of hell, of course I’m going to want to follow you. And it’s not like my instincts were wrong, you do know what Hostile 17 is.”
“Look, I don’t know who you are, or who you’re working for. Obviously you’re not who you told me you are. Is Riley even your name? So, I can’t just let you go back to wherever, knowing who we are. How would I know that you wouldn’t come after me next? Maybe you are after me, and the person you were with is waiting outside right now to ambush us. I don’t know.” Buffy frantically ranted.
“Look, Buffy. My name is Riley. I haven’t lied to you, I just have a side I can’t talk to you about, but evidently that’s mutual.” Riley commented bitterly, looking around at all the demonology texts and weapons that littered Giles’ living room. “But that’s where trust comes in. I’m a good guy, and deep down you know that. Trust me, and I’ll get my group to find 17.”
“Quite frankly I don’t trust you, even if Buffy does. You’re coming with us.” Giles announced. Buffy gave her watcher a sharp glare. “It’s really the only way. We don’t trust you to rescue Willow, and if we allowed you to contact your organization you’d be more likely to interfere and badly botch this up. If you are really the honest person you say you are, you’ll help us look.”
Riley couldn’t find any counterargument that didn’t involve divulging information on the Initiative so he was forced to agree. “Alright, where to now?”
“What do you think? Where you lead, I will follow.” Giles deferred to his slayer, knowing her gut instincts were generally good.
“The factory is the closest. We’ll run by there first.” Buffy said, going over to the weapons chest.
“What the heck are you?” Riley wondered, watching the naïve blonde freshman from his psych class swing a crossbow across her back as though she’d been doing it for years.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell. That’s the policy you guys go by, isn’t it?” Buffy replied, pocketing several stakes. Giles coughed slightly to hide his chuckle as Riley’s face turned red. “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.”
~ The Initiative, Sunday 3:00 am~
Forrest followed Walsh into the debriefing room where Beta team was already seated around the conference table. Sitting in the back, sporting a black eye and several bandages, was Graham. “Alright Beta team, we have a situation that needs to be fixed immediately. Two civilians and one of ours were taken. One civilian was taken at approximately 2300 hours last night. Agent Miller’s account says that the culprit was the escaped Hostile 17, working together with at least five H.S.T.s. Agent Finn was trailing our lead, and at approximately 0200 hours this morning, both he and his trail were reported missing. Both of the civilians are females, approximately twenty years of age, around five feet tall. Their files will be available after this briefing. You are to search this town thoroughly in search of the civilians, Agent Finn, or Hostile 17, all of which should be brought back to containment. Remember, it’s daylight, so try to blend in with the civilians better. Any questions?” Beta team as a whole shook their heads and eagerly left the briefing room, not wanting to draw any more attention from Dr. Walsh.
“Now, what to do about you two?” Dr. Walsh turned to face Graham and Forrest. “You’re lucky to be out of quarantine Miller.”
“I think Miller and I should be assisting Beta team with the search. After all, we can recognize Summers and Rosenberg by sight.”
“But evidently you can’t follow them.” Maggie Walsh gave Forrest a stern glare. “At least we’d be better than Beta team.” Forrest mumbled.
“What was that, soldier?”
“With all due respect, ma’am, Beta team doesn’t have the ability to find these three and the longer they’re out there, the more likely our targets will be contaminated before we reach them. We can’t afford to lose Finn because of another Beta error.”
“When Finn and I were trailing Summers, we went to Willy’s. The bartender there told Summers that he was raided by some agents who claimed they were ATF, but obviously weren’t, and he reported to Summers that they were looking for a Hostile 17. That was Beta’s raid, right?” Forrest answered.
“But why would Summers go there anyway?” Walsh wondered out loud.
“Ma’am, if I can add a thought. Hostile 17 had been fitted with a behavior modification chip, right? If that were the case, how was he able to take Rosenberg? She would have to be willing to be taken right?” Graham asked the question that had been bugging him all day.
“So in other words, you think Summers and Rosenberg are working with 17 to somehow capture our units?” Walsh conjectured.
“It would be a possibility. It might explain how the natives survive in this area; if they have worked out arrangements with the H.S.T.s, that could explain their willingness to cover up the presence of H.S.T.s.” Forrest eagerly clung to that idea. How else would Riley be taken down?
“Do you feel you are fit for recon, Agent Miller?”
“Yes ma’am.” Graham eyed Forrest carefully. Something had seriously upset his friend about all this, something that he wasn’t telling Walsh.
“Alright, I want you two to look as well. Maintain radio contact with base and Beta unit, and don’t engage in combat if you can avoid it. If you see any of the targets, call in Beta for clean up. You’re dismissed.” Walsh barked out her orders.
“So where do we start?” Graham turned to Forrest.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” Forrest muttered as they watched Beta divide the Sunnydale map into quadrants.
“I say we check out their dorm room. What do you say?”
“I’ll go anywhere you tell me to; after all, you’re in charge when Finn is MIA.”
“Excellent.” Graham smirked, rubbing his hands together like Dr. Claw.
“What was it they say; it’s always the quiet ones?” Forrest looked at his friend with an amused smirk.
“You know it.” Graham winked and went straight for the weapons locker.