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Alternate Histories: Bloody Rage

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Summary: Complete AU, Dark. Third part new, 4th part is old third chapter

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anime > OtherFallenDruidFR18418,996043,2091 Nov 0412 Dec 04No

Chapter 2

Alternate Histories: Bloody Rage
FallenDruid

Disclaimer: Not mine. It's Joss's. May Epileptic Caffeine Hamsters
plague him. Any resemblance to other characters, real or fictitious, is
simply in your imagination. And no, I didn't ask first.

A/N: Mild crossover, stole some concepts from other fics (Allyn 'Ayonge-Chan'
'Bloodfist'; CarrotGlace 'Permanent') and amped it.

Chapter the Second (beta v0.1.5)




"'And Hell itself will come to town.'" Luke grabs Buffy and growls. He lifts her
by the throat and throws her towards the sarcophagus. Buffy flips over in a
front layout and lands in it next to a skeleton, and lets out a quick scream,
but then remains silent, only breathing. She can't see or hear Luke. She slowly
starts to get up. Suddenly Luke jumps up and into the coffin. "Amen!" He says,
smiling widely.

He moves in to bite Buffy.

Only to be greeted by a size twelve nike, as Alex kicks him in the chest,
knocking him out of the coffin and into the wall of the mausoleum, where he
vanishes. Alex falls to the ground, unable to recover from the kick. Buffy
pops her head up over the coffin and looks around. Seeing nothing, she jumps
out and looks down at Alex. "Are you all right?"

Shadows play across Alex's face as he struggles to his feet. "No." His arms
hang limply, and in entirely the wrong manner, at his side. "He escaped."
Dark shadows cloak his face, shifting wildly.

"Come on, we have to go." Buffy says, pulling Alex away from the hole in the
wall where Luke disappeared. Alex blurred, and the only reason Buffy didn't
get hit is because his arm was shattered. She backs up. "Cordy. We have to go
get Cordy. And the other kid."

"Cordy..." He says, an odd expression on his face. "Yes..." Most of the
shadows fade from his face, and the ones that remain move much slower.
"Have...to find Cordy..."

***
Scene: Exterior cemetary, Cordy vs Vamps
***

"Mongrels!" Cordy snarls, as she kicks the minion in the chest, hurtling him
a good 20 feet straight back into a headstone, nearly shattering it. She turns
to Darla. "You thought this one would be easy prey!" Blood drips from a couple
of gashes over her forehead, leaving an oddly tinted trail down her cheeks.
"You were wrong." She says coldly, stalking slowly towards Darla.

Darla smiles almost nervously. "Ah, well, perhaps another time then," she
says, casting about for a way to make a quiet exit, stage left. "I am terribly
sorry for the inconvenience..." She pauses as she catches a glimpse of one of
her minions, deep in a blood rage after healing the horrific injuries inflicted
upon him. "Bye now!" She calls out gaily. And quickly exits, stage left,
even as the hapless vamp goes for Cordy's throat from her back.

Cordy turns, lightning fast, one hand catching the vamp by the throat even as
her eyes glow a dark, malevolent violet. She screams in rage as the vamp dusts
in her hand, almost seming to melt towards her. "Coward." She says,
scornfully, letting the ashes of the vampire drift out of her outstretched hand.


"Cordy!" Alex shouts as he and Buffy run up to her. He looks at her, the
shadows deepening on his face. "I will have blood for this." He whispers,
moving to embrace her.

Cordy stops him before he can get his arms up. "Fool." She rests her
forehead against his as she loosely draps her arms over his shoulder. "Your
arms are shattered."

Buffy watches them for a moment, feeling uncomfortable in their presence. She
looks around, looking for the other boy. "Guys? Where's the other kid? We
need to find him and get out of here."

"The kid?" Cordy murmurs oddly. "oh...Oh! Red! Shit....I guess that bitch
took him..." She backs away from Alex slightly, looking him in the face. "Are
you...uh...calmed?"

"Yes..." He whispers. "I think I'd really like to go to the hospital now. I
hear they have good drugs. Yourself?"

"You know they don't like me." Cordy grins self-consciously.

Buffy looks around a moment, but can't seem to find that dark presence she'd
felt earlier...it was still around, undoubtedly, but masked by the interference
around this town. "We need to go. You want me to carry him?" Buffy asks,
indicating Alex.

Cordy's head snaps around quickly, and Buffy could almost swear that she
growled for a moment. "No." Her voice is cold, and over enunciated. "Follow
me." And just as quickly back to normal. She picks up Alex in the standard
'hero rescues helpless maiden' form. "Let's go. It's not far."

"My hero..." Alex says, in a dreamy falsetto.

Cordy snorts, "Jackass."


***
Scene: The Library
***

The globe up on the stack level is spinning. Giles stops it with a finger
while he lectures and makes his way down to where Buffy, Cordy, and Alex are
at the study table. "This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to
popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons
walked the Earth. They made it their home, their... their Hell. But in time
they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals,
for, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks,
certain creatures..."

"And vampires." Buffy says, drily.

"Okay, this is where I have a problem. See, because we're talking about
vampires. We're having a *talk* with vampires in it."

"No. No, those weren't vampires, those were just guys in thundering need of a
facial. Or maybe they had rabies. It could have been rabies. A-and that guy
turning to dust? Just a trick of light." Buffy looks Cordy and Alex in the
eyes. "That's exactly what I said the first time I saw a vampire. Well, after
I was done with the screaming part."

"Yeah, well, I can understand that."

"Vampires?" Cordy asks.

"Makes sense, Cordy." Alex says, offhandedly. He carefully sets his casted
arms on the table. "We've been fighting these guys for a long time, but they
never seem to run out of people, or even get seriously wounded in a fight."

"What guys?" Buffy asks.

"Ah, well...the police reports call them 'gang members on PCP.' I've known
that was bullshit for years, but I just figured they were whacked out mutants
or government cyborgs or something. Besides...it...explains some other
things." Alex very carefully does not look at Cordy. "So vampires are demons?"

"The books tell the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed
their blood. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon's soul. He
bit another, and another, and so they walk the Earth, feeding... Killing some,
mixing their blood with others to make more of their kind. Waiting for the
animals to die out, and the old ones to return." Cordy stands up abruptly,
pacing around the room as Giles finishes talking.

***
Scene Change: The Master's Lair
***

Luke forces Red down the slope to the floor below. The Master approaches. "Is
this for me?" He asks, fingers tapping each other.

"An offering, Master." Luke grunts.

"He's a good one! His blood is pure!" simpers Darla.

"You've tasted it." The master replies, coldly. Darla looks down in shame.
"I'm your...faithful dog. You bring me scraps."

"I, I didn't mean it..."

"I have waited. For three score years I have waited. While you come and go I
am stuck here, here in this house of...worship!" His mouth twists as he spits
the last word, gesturing around himself. "My ascension is almost at hand. Pray
that when it comes... (takes Darla by the neck) I'm in a better mood."

"Master, forgive me! We had more offerings, but there was trouble. Three
powerful fighters!"

"And there was a girl. She fought well and she knew of our breed. It is
possible that she may be..."

"A Slayer! Have you any proof?"

"Only that she fought me, and yet lives."

"Hmm, very nearly proof enough. I can't remember the last time that happened."

"1843. Madrid. A Sakkiken Warrior." He says, a grimace of either pain or
digust on his face.

"She mustn't be allowed to interfere with the Harvest!"

"I would never let that happen!"

"Don't worry about it. I believe she'll come to us. We have something she
wants." Luke smiles at Red. "If she is a Slayer, and this boy lives, she'll try
to save him."

"I thought you nothing more than a meal, boy." He moves behind Red and takes
his neck. "Congratulations. You've just been upgraded. To bait."

"But Master! What about the others?"

"I saw only one other...the whelp." Luke says, consideringly. "He, too, was
strong. But his arms are shattered. He will not fight again."

"There was a third. Another girl." Darla says. "She knew nothing of us, yet
she fought three of us to a standstill."

***
Scene Change: The library
***

"And that would be a what, exactly?" Alex asks.

"For as long as there have been vampires, there's been the Slayer. One girl in
all the world, a Chosen One-"

"He loves doing this part." Buffy says in an aside.

"Alright. The Slayer hunts vampires, Buffy is a Slayer, don't tell anyone.
Well, I think that's all the vampire information you need."

"Except for one thing: how do you kill them?"

*You* don't, *I* do." the Slayer says forcefully, eyes flashing.

"I can't stand by and-

"This is *my* responsibility. That kid is my responsibility...I let him get
taken."

"That's not true, and you know it, *Slayer.*"

"If you hadn't shown up they might have taken me, too." Cordy says, quietly.
"That..would not have been pleasant for them."

"Huh?" Buffy asks, a confused expression on her face.

"Ah, blondes..." Cordy snarks. "Alex is...not wise to annoy."

"And them taking Red annoys me...them taking Cordy would piss me off. I've
fought to long and hard-" Alex cuts off as Cordy rests a hand on his shoulder.
He subsides.

Buffy looks at the two of them oddly, then shrugs and turns to Giles. "This
big guy, Luke. He talked about an offering to the Master. Now, I don't know
what or who, but if they weren't just feeding then Jesse may still be alive.
I'm gonna find him."

"Uh, this may be the dumb question, but are you going alone?" Cordy asks.

"Of course." Buffy replies. "Neither one of you have the training-"

Alex stands up, only just remembering not to slam his hands on the table.
"That's enough!" He shouts. "I've not fought in the shadows of this damn city
for the last four years to be cut out now!"

"I am the Slayer!" Buffy says intensely. "This is my calling, my destiny,
it's what I *am*! You-"

"Silence." Cordy's quiet voice cuts through the air like a two by four to the
head. "You have no idea what we...he...has sacrificed. I've fought with him
since I was thirteen years old. The police were no help. Adults were no help.
They told me to leave it to the cops. To the," she spits the word out,
"professionals. The weekly obits in this town covered a full newspaper page
when Alex started. When I joined, they were three quarters of a page. Now,
they're half a page. Don't try to tell me...us...to leave it to the
professionals. That doesn't work."

"The, uh..." Giles clears his throat. "The three local boys?"

Alex looks up, eyes dark. "Dead. They had been flayed, their ribs
removed...when we found them, we could see their hearts beating. I...gave them
mercy."

Giles takes his glasses off, and pinches the bridge of his nose. "It isn't
easy...it never is. For what it's worth...you did the right thing."

"I pray it was...and that it never will be." Alex says, quietly, looking down
at the suface of the table. Cordelia walks up behind him and drapes her arms
over him.

"In other words," she says, "You will accept our help, and include us in the
planning, or we'll go along anyways."

"And what exactly can you do?" Buffy asks, diffidently.

"I...well, you've seen it for yourself. I fought three of those vampires to a
standstill." Cordy says, not moving from her position.

Alex looks up slowly, eyes full of dark memories, old beyond his time. "I am
a Sakkiken Warrior."

"Good lord." Giles starts, and begins polishing his glasses. "I...the
council records indicate that that sept had been wiped out centuries ago.
If...if you don't mind my asking, what rank are you?"

"I am Confirmed Third." Alex says, shadows swirling to life on his face. "And
your Council's records are very nearly right. There are only a very few
Sakkiken left in the world, possibly less than a hundred. Most are in the
backwaters of China and Japan."

"Uhm..what exactly does that mean?" Buffy asks.

Giles slips his glasses back on his face and enters lecture mode. "We know
very little of the Sakkiken Family, only that they were formed very long ago,
possibly even before the Watcher's Council. Unfortunately, Sakkiken warriors
are human...and as such, embrace the full cycle of the human condition. Most
are powerful, dark warriors, selling their art for money, or power. Some fight
simply for the thrill and danger inherent in combat. Fortunately, the Sakkiken
Family is rife with infighting...most of the powerful, experienced warriors are
killed off by newer members in an attempt to increase their standing in the
family."

"Yes, but what does the ranking mean?" Buffy asks, exasperatedly.

Giles looks to Alex, but the youth simply grins darkly back at him, the
shadows swirling red across his face. "Unfortunately, I don't know much about
the ranking system. What we do know is that there are only seven ranks...and
the lowest rank is a One." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "As I recall, a
Confirmed Third is the second highest rank available."

"Impressive." Alex says. "There must have been a traitor among the Family
for you to get such information."

Giles shrugs. "Yes, well...What information we have is very old. Uhm...A
Confirmed Third is reputed to be nearly unbeatable in single combat. Even
Slayers have fallen before the Sakkiken. Their only known weakness is that
they have no magic..at least, no Sakkiken Warrior has ever been reported to be
capable of magic."

"I don't know about unbeatable...Cordy here did pretty good against me once
upon a time."

Cordy blushes. "That was a fluke circumstance, and you know it, Alex Harris!"

"Look, I don't mean to belittle you, but you weren't exactly much help last
night." Buffy says.

"I was holding back. Trying to find what you were made of. I truly hope you
were sandbagging, because from where I was standing, you were getting your ass
kicked."

She flushes dark red. "You...you!"

"That is quite enough." The cool, sharp toned comment from Giles silenced the
squabble immediately. "We are all on the same side here. A true Sakkiken
would be of immense assistance to us in any fight, as would anyone who recieves
a compliment on their fighting prowess from said warrior." Giles nods to
Cordy, who blushes slightly again. "At the same time, it would be wise not to
dismiss the capabilities of a capable Slayer-Watcher team." Alex nods once
from where he sits. "Now, let us get back to the matter at hand, shall we? Do
you have idea idea where they would take the boy?"

"I looked around, but soon's they got clear of the graveyard, they could have
just, voom!" The slayer says.

"They can fly?" is the question from Alex.

"They can drive."

"Oh." Alex falls silent, a vacant expression on his face as he plays back his
memories from the night before.

"I don't remember hearing a car." Cordy says, a pensive frown on her face.

"Let's take an enormous intuitive leap, shall we, and say they went
underground." Giles says, drily.

"Vampires really jam on sewer systems. You can get anywhere in the entire town
without catching any rays. But I didn't see any access around there."

"Well, there's an electrical tunnel that runs under the whole town, isn't
there?" Cordy asks.

"If we had a diagnostic of the tunnel system it might indicate a, a meeting
place, it would, uh... I suppose we could go to the building commission..."

"We *so* don't have time."

"Wait...that big dude...where'd he come from?" Alex asks, quietly, eyes
flickering underneath his closed lids as if he was watching a highspeed
playback.

"He came from behind me. I was facing the entrance, he came from behind me,
and he didn't follow me out. The access to the tunnels is in the mausoleum! The
girl must have doubled back with Jesse after I got out! God! I am so mentally
challenged!" Buffy says in a tone of deep frustration, bopping herself in the
head.

"So what's the plan? You and Cordy saddle up, right?" The rest of the room
looks at him. "What? I'm not completely stupid. With two busted wings, I'm a
liability, not an asset."

She sighs. "Right, well, I'm going. Cordy, you don't have to come."

"Buffy, I'm not anxious to go into a dark place full of monsters. But I can
help. It...feels good to strike back at the darkness. A strange sense of
closure, almost."

"Alright, you can come."

Cordy smirks. "It's not an option. I am coming."

"Cordy..." Alex says.

"Yeah?"

"Doo her."

"You sure, Alex?"

"Yeah. It...might help."

"Uh..." Buffy says, as Cordy turns and heads for her backpack. "This isn't
some freaky gang initiation thing where I get ritually scarified, or have to
eat a twinkie in one bite, or something, cause I got to tell you, I'm so not
into that kind of thing..."

"Not so much, but the twinkie thing is a good idea...have to consider that
one." Alex says, then pretends to be deep in thought.

Cordy approaches her, one hand closed tightly about something. She grabs one
of Buffy's closed hands, forces it open, and then presses the item concealed in
her hand into Buffy's. Cordy closes Buffy's hand again. "Wear it...or not. It
can save you a lot of trouble. Or it can create some. It's up to you."

Buffy nods, and then opens her hand. "..." She says, staring at it
openmouthed. She looks up at Alex and Cordy blankly. They look back at her
serenely. She glances at their backpacks, then at the item in her hand.

"Welcome." Alex says.

"To the Scooby Gang." Cordy finishes.

"...you're making me Daphne?" She says, holding the keychain figurine out.
"Hey, does this make you Velma?" She points at Cordy.

"No." Cordy shifts uncomfortably, looking at Alex, who's finding something of
great interest on one of his casts. "Velma's...someone else. I'm Daphne, too.
See?" She flips her backpack around, and hanging off of one side is a Daphne
figurine.

"So is he Fred?" Buffy asks, pointing at Alex.

"No, he's Shaggy."

"She always liked him better." Alex mumbles, a wistful smile on his face.

"Who?" Buffy asks.

"Come on, let's go." Cordy says quickly, grabbing Buffy by the arm and
dragging her out the door. Behind them they can hear Giles talking to Alex.

"Perhaps you could help me. I've been researching this Harvest affair. It
seems to be some sort of preordained massacre. Rivers of blood, Hell on Earth,
quite charmless. I'm a bit fuzzy, however, on the details. It may be that you
can help me wrest some information from that dread machine." He pauses a
moment. "That was a bit, um, British, wasn't it? Can you help me on the 'net?"

Faintly, the two could hear Alex's response. "No...that was always someone
elses thing..."

Once out of earshot of the library, Cordy stops abruptly. "Okay, I'm not
gonna hurt you this time, 'cuz you didn't know and he didn't seem to take it
badly. But never mention her again, okay?"

"Who?" Buffy asks. "Velma? But wh-"

Cordy interrupts her. "She's dead." She looks Buffy in the eyes for a long
moment. "She's dead and he blames himself. Now never mention it again, okay."

"But-" Cordy's hand slams through a locker. "Okay, point taken."

"Excuse me. I...have to go to the powder room. I'll meet you at the side
entrance, okay?" Cordy says, tightly, before walking off.

"Geeze..." Buffy mutters. "These guys are wound a bit tight." She considers
a moment. "Not that I can really blame them."

***
Scene change: Exterior School, side gate
***

"And where do we think we're going?" Mr. Flutie asks, moments before freedom
is reached.

"We?" Buffy asks, turning to face him. "I... Me..." She's clearly somewhat
flustered.

"We're not leaving school grounds, are we?"

"No! No, I'm... just admiring the fence. You know, this is quality fence work."

"Because if we were leaving schools grounds on our second day at a new school,
after getting kicked out of our old school for delinquent behavior... Do you
see where I'm going with this?"

"Mr. Giles..."

"What?"

He asked me to get a book for him. Uh, from the store, 'cause I have a free
period, and I'm a big reader. Did it mention that in my transcripts?"

"Mr. Giles?"

"Ask him."

He swings the gate closed. "Well, maybe that's how they do things in
*Britain*, they've got that royal family and all kinds of problems," He locks
it shut. "but here at Sunnydale nobody leaves campus while school's in session.
Are we clear?"

"We're clear."

"That's the Buffy Summers I want in my school. Sensible girl with her feet on
the ground!" She turns around, preperatory to pretending to go back to school.
The little Daphne figurine swings freely on her backpack. "Wait!" He says,
approaching her. "Where did you get that?"

"Get what?"

"That...figurine."

"Cordy gave it to me. Why?"

"Hmm? Oh, no reason, no reason at all." He casually unlocks the gate, and
pockets the lock. "I expect you'll be back in class soon, Miss Summers?" He
walks off casually, hands behind his back.

"O...kay." Buffy shrugs, and walks out the gate. She turns and waits for
Cordy.

She doesn't have to wait long.

"Ready?" Cordy asks, as she strolls up.

***
Scene Change: Mausoleum
***

Buffy opens the door to the mausoleum, carefully scanning around. Satisfied
that no one's there, she walks down the steps to the floor. She hears a rat
behind her and twists to look toward the sound. She continues and finds the
tunnel access. It's locked with a chain. She lifts the lock. Angel appears
behind her. Buffy elbows him sharply in the stomach. "I don't suppose you've
got a key on you, Cryptic Guy?"

"That hurt..." He wheezes.

"My heart bleeds."

"I can see that." He says, recovering his 'breath.' "They don't like me
dropping in."

Buffy faces him. "Why not?"

"They really don't like me."

"Now how could that possibly be, Vampire?"

"I knew you'd figure out this entryway sooner or later. Actually, I thought it
was gonna be a *little* sooner."

"Sorry you had to wait." She takes adeep, calming breath. "Okay. Look, if
you're gonna be popping up with this Cryptic Wise Vamp act on a regular basis,
can you at least tell me your name?"

"Angel."

"Angel. Right."

She turns to the tunnel entrance.

He sighs. "Your watcher will know me better as...Angelus."

Buffy cocks an eyebrow. "Huh. Kind of a funny name for a vamp." She turns
back to the lock.

"Don't... go down there."

"Deal with my going."

"You shouldn't be putting yourself at risk. Tonight is the Harvest. Unless you
can prevent it, the Master walks."

"Well, if this Harvest thing is such a suckfest, why don't *you* stop it?"

"'Cause I'm afraid." She looks at him for a moment and then spins around
quickly, kicking open the doors to the tunnel. She turns back to him. "They'll
be expecting you."

"I've got a friend down there. Or at least a potential friend. Do you know
what it's like to have a friend?" He lowers his eyes as a look of sadness fills
them. She snorts. "Vampires. All the same."

They look at each other a moment longer. Cordy walks down the stairs. "I
swear, this wind is...oh, hi Angel."

He nods his head. "Cordy."

"Wait...you two know each other?" Buffy asks, incredulous.

"Oh, sure. We met at this underground pit fight type thingy. Which reminds
me, how's your shoulder?"

He grins. "All better."

"You gonna join this party?"

Buffy snorts. "Little chicken."

Angel shakes his head. "I like fighting...but I like living, too.
Darla...Luke...the Master. None of them are average. When you hit the tunnels,
head east towards the school. That's where you're likely to find them. I'm
sorry I can't offer more help."

"You gonna wish us luck, big guy?" Cordy asks, punching him on the shoulder.

He winces theatrically, then sobers instantly. "I would if I could...but it's
a suicide mission. Even with Alex and you along for the ride, I'd have doubts."

Cordy and Buffy look at Angel for a long moment. Finally, Buffy turns and
walks into the tunnel. "Well..." Cordy says. "See you around." She walks
into the tunnel as well.

A few moments pass. "Good luck." Angel whispers, before concealing himself in
the sarcophogi and going back to sleep.


***
Scene: Sewer tunnels
***

Cordy walks down the stairs, just behind Buffy. She glances around casually.
"Do you see anything?"

"No." Buffy considers, and then starts down the tunnel again.

"Okay, just so we're clear on this, how exactly do we go about the vampire
slaying? Just with the crosses, garlic, stake through the heart deal?"

"Not so much with the garlic or the stake. Weaker vamps you can take with a
stake, but some of the tougher ones you have to use a wooden Cross through the
heart."

"You, uh, wouldn't happen to have any Crosses I could borrow? 'Cuz I didn't
exactly come prepared for vampires today."

"Good thinking." Buffy says, as she hands Cordy a nice sized cross.

"Out of curiousity, can you see much down here?"

"Yeah." Buffy says absently, attempting to 'hone' and find some vamps to
kill. "I think it's part of the package. How 'bout you?"

"I have really good night vision ever since...well, ever since I was thirteen,
I guess." Cordy says, thinking. "I can see pretty well down here. So, what
else?"

"What else what?"

"For vampire slayage."

"Oh, fire, beheading, sunlight, holy water, the usual."

"You've done some beheading in your time?"

"Oh, yeah. There was this time I was pinned down by this guy that played left
tackle for varsity... Well, at least he used to before he was a vampire...
Anyway, he had this really, really thick neck, and all I had was a little tiny
Exact-O knife..."

"Heh."

"You're not loving this story."

"No, actually, I find it oddly comforting. Always good to know that one's
allies are more determined to stay alive than their opponent is...uhm...to stay
undead, I guess."

"Hm." Buffy says, noncommittally.

Minutes pass as the two walk through the electrical tunnel.

"They're close." Buffy whispers.

"How can you tell?" Cordy asks, equally quietly.

"No more rats. There's too much...interference around...I can't feel them."

Cordy steps ahead, leaving Buffy slightly behind as she spots Red on the
ground. "Red!"

Buffy moves up somewhat, still looking around carefully. One hand slides up
her jacket surreptitiously.

Red jumps up. "Red!" Cordy calls.

"C-cordy?" He says. "W-what are you doing here?"

"Uhm...I came to rescue you? Never mind that! Are you okay?"

"I am not okay, on an *epic* scale." He says emphatically. For emphasis, he
kicks one leg, revealing thick iron chains. "We gotta get outta here!"

"It's cool, we're here."

"Hold on..." Buffy breaks the shackles with a powerful kick.

"Do you think anyone heard that?" Cordy asks. They see shadows moving on the
walls. "Never mind, stupid question." And they start to run down the tunnel.
Vampires charge around the corner behind them, in hot pursuit.

"They knew you were gonna come. They said that I...I was the bait." Red pants.

"Oh, great, now you tell us." Cordy snarls.

They round a corner and are met by vampires.

"Oops!"

"Oh, no, no, no, no!"

"Do you know another way out?" Buffy asks.

"No! I was kinda unconscious the whole time!" They run. At another
intersection they see glowing eyes to their right.

Red veers left, away from the vamps, into a small chamber.

"I don't think this is the way out!" Buffy yells.

"There's too many of them. We'll never be able to fight through them.

"I got an idea." Red's eyes gleam maniacally in the darkness. "You can die!"

"Red, what the hell are you saying?"

"I feel good, Cordy! I feel strong! I'm connected, to, to everything!"

Buffy draws her gun.

"I, I can hear the worms in the earth!"

"That's a plus." Cordy says.

"I know what the Master wants. I'll serve his purpose. That means you die. And
I feed."

Buffy shoots him in the head. Cordy stands in shock as traces of blood and
grey matter slide down the nearby wall. Some blood splattered over her. The
slayer turns, face an expressionless mask, and opens fire down the corridor.
"Get the door!" She yells, as a couple vamps get their legs blown out from
underneath them.

Cordy, shaken, moves to comply. "R-right." She prys at the door, barely
getting it to move, as Buffy's gun locks its slide back on an empty clip. She
grabs the door with one hand and pulls on it. With their combined strength,
the door squeals loudly and closes, even as the vampiric hordes reach the door.
One vamp's arm gets cut off from the impact.

"Well, that was exhilarating." She says, ejecting the clip and sliding a
fresh one home. "We need to get out of here!"

"You killed him!" Cordy shouts.

Buffy's eyes are like chips of diamond. "Yes, I did. He had been ghouled.
He would have done his best to kill the both of us, and then gloried in riping
out our intestines and eating them. He was an innocent high school boy, and I
shot his brains out." She sighs. "It sucks. It rteally, really sucks." The
vamps outside succeed in battering down a corner of the door, and Buffy places
her gun in the small triangle and fires blindly through it. "But my mission
has never changed. Search and Destroy." She changes clips again. "Last clip."
She scans the room quickly, and then grabs Cordy by the chin. "Pull yourself
together! If we don't get out of here' we're gonna be *dead*!"

"R-right..." Cordy says, dazedly, and then looks around the room herself.
Glancing up, she sees a small grate in the ceiling. "There!" She calls,
pointing. She leaps on top of a barrel and begins to pry the grate open. The
vampires twist and bend the corner down further. Cordy rips the grate out of
the ceiling, dropping it to the floor.

"Go!" Buffy yells, taking a weaver stance and aiming carefully through the
gap. She fires one shot, and the lead vamp falls back with a .45 lobotomy.
Cordy jumps up into the ventilation duct. A vampire starts to struggle through
the bent corner of the door. He reaches in and pulls the latch open as Buffy
shoots him in the head as well. The door begins to open under the press of
bodys as Buffy jumps to the grate as well. The two crawl quickly through the
duct work, with Buffy firing the occasional shot to 'discourage' any pursuit.
Cordy finds a ladder up to a manhole and starts climbing the rungs. Buffy
follows. Cordy pushes open the manhole cover and climbs out into daylight. She
turns to help Buffy out, and they tumble backward to the ground.

***
Scene Change: Master's lair.
***

"She escaped? She walks free when I should be drinking her heart's blood right
now? Careless..." The Master says.

"Master, we had her trapped!" The child vampire declares.

"Oh, are you going to make excuses?"

The young one remains silent.

"You are all weak. It has been too long since you have faced a dedicated,
talented Slayer. Huh. It is no matter to me. She will not stop the Harvest.
Just means there'll be someone worth killing... when I reach the surface. Is
Luke ready?"

"He waits."

"It's time. Bring him to me." The boy turns to go get Luke. "Ah, Colin..." He
turns back. "You failed me. Tell me you're sorry.

"I'm sorry!"

"There. That wasn't so bad, was it? Hold on..." He stabs his finger into
Colin's face. "You've got something in your eye."

Luke approaches the Master and kneels before him. As the Master offers his
hand, Luke takes it and kisses it reverently. He releases it and the Master
turns it over to offer the underside of his wrist. Darla is watching and
smiles. Luke opens the cuff of the Master's sleeve and pulls it back. He takes
The Master's hand again, and sinks his fangs into the wrist above it and drinks
of the blood. He releases the hand, and the Master takes it back.

"My blood is your blood. My soul is your soul." The Master intones.

"My body is your instrument."

The Master steps down to Luke and begins to draw a three-pointed star on
Luke's forehead with the blood still flowing from his wrist. "On this... most
hallowed night... we are as one. Luke is the Vessel!" Darla's smile widens.
"Every soul he takes will feed me. And their souls will grant me the strength
to free myself. Tonight I shall walk the Earth, and the stars themselves will
hide!"


***
Scene: The library
***

Alex is looking at one of Giles' volumes. He's about to attempt to turn the
page when he hears the door open and looks up to see Cordy and Buffy come in.
"Did you find Red?" he asks.

"Yeah." Cordy says.

"Was he dead?"

"Worse." Buffy sits at the end of the table. "I'm sorry, Alex. We were too
late. And they were waiting for us."

"He's dead now. Slay-girl here shot him." Cordy violently kicks a waste basket.

Buffy turns to Cordy and starts to explain. "Look, I told you he'd been
ghouled-"

"You still shot him!" Cordy yells.

Giles intrudes. "If...if what Buffy says is true, then she likely had no
choice, Cordelia. A ghoul is gifted with some vampiric strengthes, and will do
anything its master commands it to."

"I don't like vampires. I'm gonna take a stand and say they're not good."
Cordy mutters, as she falls into a seat.

"Red's dead?" Alex murmers. "He was the first Scrappy..."

Buffy turns to Giles. "So, Giles! Got anything that can make this day any worse?

He goes over to the whiteboard and puts down his pen. "How about the end of
the world?" He says, drily.

"Knew I could count on you." the Slayer mutters.

"This is what we know. Some sixty years ago, a very old, very powerful vampire
came to this shore, not just to feed."

"He came 'cause this town's a mystical locus." Buffy says.

"Yes. The Spanish who first settled here called it 'Boca del Infierno'.
Roughly translated, 'Hellmouth'. It's a sort of, um, portal between this
reality and another. This vampire hopes to open it."

"Bring the demons back."

"End of the world." Alex swears suddenly. "Shit! And I'm stuck in these
damned casts."

"Fortunately, there was an earthquake that swallowed half the town, and him,
too. You see, opening dimensional portals is a tricky business. Odds are he got
himself stuck, rather like a, uh, cork in a bottle.

"And this Harvest thing is to get him out." Alex says.

"It comes once in a century, on this night. The Master can draw power from one
of his minions while it feeds. Enough power to break free and open the portal.
The minion is called the Vessel, and he bears this symbol." He draws a three-
pointed star on the whiteboard.

"So, I dust anyone sporting that symbol, and no Harvest." Buffy says.

"Simply put, yes."

"Any idea where this little get-together is being held?" Cordy asks.

"There, there are a number of possibilities."

"They're goin' to the Bronze." Alex comments, assuredly.

"Makes sense..." Cordy adds.

"Come on. All those tasty young morsels all over the place?"

Giles grabs his coat and starts out of the library. The others begin to
follow. "Then we should get there. The sun will be down before long."

"I gotta make a stop. Won't take long." Buffy says.

"What for?"

"Supplies."

***
Scene change: Buffy's room
***

Buffy goes to her closet and pulls out her weapons chest as her mother walks
into the room. "Buffy?" She asks.

"Mom!"

"You're going out?"

"I have to." She opens the chest.

"I didn't hear you come in last night."

"I was really quiet." She says, as she pulls a box of .45 frangible cartidges
out, and begins to reload her clips.

"It's happening again, isn't it? I got a call from your new principal. Says
you missed some classes today, but they were excused?"

"Today was a bad day. Fortunately, the principal's pretty cool."

"We haven't finished unpacking, and I'm getting calls from the principal."

"But it was a good call!" Buffy protested.

"Honey, no call from the prinicipal about missing classes is a good call.
Three clips, Buffy? I't's not even night time yet."

"Today was a really bad day."

"Is it important?"

Buffy stops loading, and looks at her mother. Unshed tears shine brightly in
her eyes. "It's always important, Mom. Tonight is...gonna be bad if I screw up."

"Is...do you need me to get out of town?"

"It's too late for that, Mom. There won't be anywhere to run."

"Is...it that bad?"

"Yes." Buffy scrubs her eyes roughly. "Worse, even."

"Buffy...when you get back in, wake me. Let me know, okay?"

"Sure, mom." She smiles at her. Joyce leaves the room, pulling the door
closed behind her. Finishing the clip reloading, she secrets two of them in her
jacket, and loads the third into her gun. Holstering it, she goes back to the
chest, pausing only to put the ammo away. Stakes, crosses, garlic, bottles of
holy water, and various and sundry sharp pointy objects fill the rest of the
trunk. She pulls a couple bottles of holy water and a gladius out and puts them
in her sports bag. Taking a wickedly pointed, smoothly finished stake out, she
conceals it in her jacket sleeve. She closes the chest, zips the bag closed,
grabs the bag, and exits her room though the door. On the way out of the
house, she pauses to hug her mother. "See you soon." And leaves.

"Good luck, Buffy." Her mother whispers. "Come back to me."


***
Scene: The bronze, exterior
***

Darla comes out of the shadows in a bouncy walk. She turns around and walks
backward while other vampires come into the light behind her. She turns back
again and approaches the doorman. They're all sporting their game faces.

"Need ID." The doorman grunts. He looks up as the vamps brush by him. "Hey!
Nobody gets inside until I get some sorta-"

Luke shifts to vamp mode, and growls in the doorman's face. "Get inside!" The
vampires come in, pushing the doorman in with them. The last one shuts the door
and stands guard. One of the vampires makes his way to the upper level. Another
one finds the main power switch and shuts it off. The people start complaining
and wondering what happened. Luke gets up on the stage."Ladies and Gentlemen!
There is no cause for alarm. Actually, there is cause for alarm. It just won't
do any good." There are screams from the crowd as they see Luke's face. He
laughs cruelly. "This is a glorious night! It is also the last one any of you
shall ever see. Bring me the first."

A vampire brings the doorman to Luke. "What do you guys want, man, huh? You
want money? Man, what's wrong with your faces?"

Luke grabs him by the throat. He wraps his other arm around the doorman's
head. "Watch me, people. Fear is like an elixir. It's almost like blood." He
bites the doorman and feeds on him. The doorman screams. Cut to the Master in
his lair. He raises his head as he feels the first of the souls that will be
taken for him. Cut to Luke. He drops the doorman's body. "Next!" He calls out.

***
Scene: Bronze, exterior
***

The team arrives running. Buffy tries the door. "It's locked!"

"We're too late!" Giles cries.

"Dammit!" Buffy yells.

Cordy looks the door up and down. "Damn...I don't think I can knock that
down. Buffy?"

"No, not that thing. Um...You guys try the back entrance, and I'll find my own
way."

"Right. Come on." Giles says, heading for the back of the Bronze.

"Uh, wait! Guys! Here!" Buffy says, handing Cordy her bag. "Get the exit
cleared and the people out."

Giles grins wickedly, unsheathing an antique English broadsword and an old
John Walch Navy revolver. Cordy opens the bag and pulls out the Gladius after
a moment or two of rummaging. "I believe that we'll manage, Buffy." Giles
says, a wicked smile on his face. Giles and Cordy run around to the back, where
Cordy tries to open the door. It's deadbolted.

"No joy!" She says. "Give me a moment."

"We have to get in there, now!"

***
Scene Change: Bronze, Interior
***

"Almost free!" The master's voice floats, imperceptible to all but Luke. He's
draining a girl. "Give me moooooore!" He finishes the girl and drops her body.

Darla grabs Aura, and hauls her up to the stage.

A slight shattering noise goes unheard as Buffy breaks a skylight, and crawls
into the Bronze.

"I can feel the Master's strength growing!" Buffy sees Luke on the stage. "I
feel him rising. Every soul brings him closer! I need another!" he shouts.

"The Vessel." Buffy whispers to herself. The vampire on the upper level sees
Buffy and growls. She looks over at him.

"Tonight is his ascension. Tonight will be history at its end! Yours is a
glorious sacrifice! Degradation most holy." He stops, looking over the
audience. He seems surprised that there is no response. "What? No volunteers?!"

Darla brings him Aura. "Here's a pretty one." She says, caressing Aura's neck.

Aura screams when she sees Luke up close. He caresses her face. He's about to
bite her when Buffy kicks the vampire down from above them. Luke watches him
land with a thud. A pained, mewling whine emanates from the pile of Vampire.
Buffy approaches the railing.

"Oh, I'm sorry, were you in the middle of something?" Buffy asks, a bored
look on her face.

"You!" Luke snarls.

"You didn't think I'd miss this. Did you?"

"I hoped you'd come."

"Be right down!" She says, merrily. She steps away from the railing and neatly
jumps down, landing on a pool table. A vampire attacks from her right. Buffy
does a front walkover off of the table, grabbing a pool cue on the way. When
she lands she thrusts it into her attacker and lets go. He falls to the ground,
comatose.

"Okay, Vessel boy." She cricks her neck. "You want blood?"

"I want yours!" He shouts, releasing Aura. "Only yours!"

Buffy shrugs. "Works for me."

She runs and cartwheels up onto the stage, drawing her gun from underneath her
jacket as she does so, and immediately empties half her clip into him. Luke
staggers into a pile of chairs. She cocks an eyebrow. "Never bring fangs to a
gun fight." With that, she begins walking forward, with every step another
bullet. One in each knee, one in each elbow, and to finish it off, one square
in the neck. "I cheat, Vampire." With that, she reaches down, grabs his skull,
and rips his head off. The surprised expression on his face remains for a
moment before it falls to dust. "Who's next?" She asks, as she ejects the
clip, and inserts a new one. The old clip hits the floor with a dull clang.

A hoarse yell, followed by a fairly loud thud, precedes the back door to the
Bronze coming off of its frame and smacking a random vamp.

"Good lord." Giles says. You can almost feel his burning desire to polish
his glasses...but he manfully resists, instead commenting only: "Hurry!" Cordy
precedes him into the Bronze, and quickly engages a vampire in combat. He
begins guiding the innocents to the back door. "Hurry up! Come on! Through this
door! Come on! This way!" He whispers.

A dull roar from the assembled vamps answers Buffy's challenge. Most of them
head directly towards her. "Hey! No fair!" She shouts, as she takes aim and
starts shooting.

Cordy sees her predicament, and quickly disarms the vampire she's
fighting...literally. "Buffy!" She calls. "Heads up!" She hefts the sword and
tosses it at the Slayer.

The impromptu projectile spears one vamp through the head. it falls not far
from her. Buffy can't resist a chuckle. "Thanks!" She calls. Grabbing the
sword from its resting place, she beheads the seriously injured vampire, then
charges into the mass of enraged, soon to be dust vampires.

"One at a time! Quickly! Quickly!" Giles yells, still guiding people out the
back, and taking occasional potshots with his revolver. He crosses to the other
side of the room in front of some stairs. Darla is standing on the steps above
him. "We're going to have to open the front as well!" He yells to Cordy. Darla
leaps onto him from behind, knocking him to the floor. He struggles around
until he can press the side of his broadsword to her face. It burns her face,
and smoke wafts up from it. She gets up and runs from the club, screaming.

Cordy charges forward, that odd purple tint back in her eyes, and bulldozes
into Buffy's fight. Vampires go flying, some badly injured by sword cuts.
Most of them flee the Bronze, heading out the front door and disappearing into
the night. Cordy looks down at Buffy, who is panting, sword still held en
gaurde. She's lost her pistol in the revolver somewhere, and is somewhat the
worse for wear. Blood stains the leather jacket liberally, and her sword hand,
and sword, are practically coated with vampiric blood. Scratch marks adorn her
face, and it looks like someone got a good claw hit on her when she extended
for a lungs, because there's a nice long gash under her jacket. Cordy holds out
her hand, and Buffy clasps it by the wrist. The two stand there a moment.
"Did good, Cordy."

"So did you, Buffy."

"She did it! I'll be damned!" Angel whispers from his hiding place behind
some crates.

"I take it that it's over." Giles says, holstering his, now empty, revolver
and sword. He begins polishing his glasses.

"Did we win?" Cordy asks.

"Well, we averted the Apocalypse. I give us points for that."

"One thing's for sure: nothing's ever gonna be the same." Cordy says, a
faraway look on her face.

***
Scene Change: Sunnydale High, Monday morning
***

Everything appears normal. Buffy is walking along, and pauses as she sees Aura
and some of her friends.

"Well, I heard it was rival gangs. You know, fighting for turf? But all I can
tell you is they were an ugly way of looking. And Buffy, like, knew them! Which
is just too weird. I mean, I don't even remember that much, but I'm telling
you, it was a freak show!"

"Oh, I wish I'd been there!"

You should have been there. It was so creepy..." Aura says, walking off.

"What exactly were you expecting?" Buffy asks, at the somewhat shellshocked
looked on Alex and Cordy's faces.

"I don't know, something. I mean, the dead rose. We should at least have an
assembly." Alex says.

"People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they
can't." Says the librarian.

"Believe me, I've seen it happen."

"Well, I'll never forget it, none of it." Is the response from Cordy.

"Good! Next time you'll be prepared."

"Next time?" Alex asks, a questioing look on his face.

Cordy stops. "Next time is why?"

"We've prevented the Master from freeing himself and opening the Mouth of
Hell. That's not to say he's going to stop trying. I'd say the fun is just
beginning."

"More vampires?"

The other three turn and face each other. "Not just vampires. The next threat
we face may be something quite different." Giles says.

"I can hardly wait!" Buffy fluffs her hair.

"We're at the center of a mystical convergence here. We may, in fact, stand
between the Earth and its total destruction."

"Well, I gotta look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of
school!"

The three students continue to class. Giles stays behind and watches them go.

"Oh, yeah, that's a plan. 'Cause lots of schools aren't on Hellmouths."

"Maybe you could I dunno, beat the football team up. They're strict about
that."

"That was so not my fault!" Alex exclaims. Cordy looks at him. "It wasn't!
Tey were bothering you!"

"I was thinking of a more subtle approach, y'know, like excessive not studying."

Giles turns to go back to his library. "The Earth is doomed!"
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