FIC: Aug í00 MC 29 A Change Of Direction (1/?)
"Itís not enough."
Faith looked up from her well-thumbed copy of ĎBlack Belt Magazineí and towards where her man was sat behind their hotel roomís desk, his brow furrowed as he stared at his lap-top. "Whatís not enough hon?" she queried as she rose sinuously off the bed and stalked over to her manís side. She tossed back her hair as she stepped behind Xander and began to massage his shoulders. Faith scowled as she noted just how much tension there was in her manís body. "Talk to me."
Xanderís eyes stayed stubbornly fixed on the computer screen before him. "Iíve been going through the notes; the Brotherhood has eleven teams and two hundred and forty-six members."
"Pretty impressive, babe," Faith kissed Xís neck, her lips just brushing the heavy muscle. "And thatís without taking into account our supplies and intelligence operations."
"No, no," Xander shook his head. "Itís nothing like enough. Not for whatís coming."
Faithís brow furrowed. Neither Xander nor Mithras claimed to know what was coming or when it would get here, X she believed but she couldnít help but wonder how much Mithras knew, just that it was bad, real bad. "Weíve got other back-up, remember. Prof X, Doc Strange, Blade, and the Charmed Ones all said theyíd come to the party."
"Itís not enough," Xander repeated with another shake of his head. "We need more."
"Yeah, but we can get more," leaning over her man, she tapped at the laptop screen. "Itís all in there isnít it? All the notes and shit, Stark sent you on independent demon hunters. Over two thousand groups spread all over the world, nearly fifty thousand people in total," the number of people actually involved in their secret war made her head swim, "theyíre our recruits. Theyíre the people we need."
"Fine," instead of being encouraged, Xanderís shoulders slumped even further. "And what happens then? We enlist them, and they die too."
Damn, this was a hell of downer her man was on. Right now she had an almost unquenchable urge to find the roomís Gideon bible and start quoting inspirational passages at him.
Except then sheíd probably join him on top of the hotel ready to jump.
"Itíll work out," she soothed.
"How can you be sure?"
Faith was rocked by the desperation in her manís eyes when he finally turned his head to look at her. Hiding it well, she forced a smirk. "íCause youíre my man, and I trust you to do the right thing. Now," she firmly closed the laptop and winked, "itís time I got you to forget about this shit for a while. And its time we had a little fun."
Finally the ghost of a smile. "And what do you have in mind?"
Faith smirked as she started to unbutton her shirt. "Three hours Ďtil check-out, right?"
"Oh yeah," her smirk widened as Xander looked towards the bed, rose, and picked her up. "So there is."
* * *
He pulled up outside the shadow-cloaked hotel, brow furrowed as he re-considered his decision for perhaps the hundredth time during the short ten minute journey from his hotel to this, rather more exclusive, one. Heíd been following his prey for months now, watching as he sought to get a read on their strengths and weaknesses.
And in the process heíd fallen in love.
Not with either of the women, although both were gorgeous enough, if in highly different ways. Rather heíd fallen in love with their ideals and beliefs, the way they fought against seemingly insurmountable odds again and again to help those without the ability to defend themselves. Somehow theyíd awakened a sense of honour in him heíd thought long-dead, killed off by a combination of expediency and cynicism. From being employed to kill them, he now wanted to help them, to return to being the man heíd once been.
"Damn you and your conscience," a chuckle escaped his mouth as he reached for the door handle.
He froze as he noticed a shadowy figure climbing a fire escape opposite the hotel, a tell-tale holdall over his shoulder. His eyes narrowed. If what he thought was happening was happening, he was more than a little insulted, his employers sending another man to do his job? Yes, heíd defected, but they didnít, couldnít, know that.
He waited for a second, taking a cigarette and calmly lighting it as he considered his options. His opponent was of reasonable ability. Heíd picked the right position for a sniper attack, but had been less than discreet about getting into position and had only given his immediate area a cursory check-out.
That the killer was after the trio heíd come to meet was unquestionable. Him being here was just too much of a coincidence. The question was what to do about it. He shook his head as he stubbed out his cigarette. No, that wasnít the question at all. He had to do something. The world needed these kids too much to entertain just turning a blind eye.
Realising that he might be made by the sniper if he just got out of his car and headed directly towards the assassin, he started his engine and drove off at a sedate pace, ignoring every nerve that was screaming at him to gun the engine and get into position fast.
* * *
"Why do we have to leave at night?" Faith groused. She didnít mind going out Slaying or partying, but travelling? If you werenít fighting or dancing, you should be sleeping.
"Because," Xander grinned at her complaints. Faith was relieved to see some of the light had returned to her honeyís eyes. She smirked slightly, but after three hours locking bodies with her, sheíd be chipper too.
Xanderís grin widened as they stepped out of the hotelís lit foyer, the cold night an unwelcome contrast to the hotelís heated interior, the street moderately busy with people heading either home or out for the night. "Just because."
"Asshole." Faith shook her head and winked at sis. "You know, thereís times when I wonder why I donít bat for your team."
Tara smiled back at her. "I wonder that myself."
"Emmeline Pankhurst has a lot to answer for," Xander shook his head as he stepped towards their car.
Faith raised an eyebrow. "I thought the only girl you dated before me was Queen C?"
Xander looked at her. "Joke. I do read some of that stuff you tell me to. Home Ed sucks."
"Oh boy," Tara muttered. "Another domestic, what fun."
Faith grinned at her sister. "Wise -," her mouth tightened as she caught a glint on one of the rooftops opposite. "X! Down!" Acting on instinct she dived for Tara, grabbing the surprised witch around the waist and bundling her to the uncompromisingly hard sidewalk. "SHIT!" Faith cursed as a glass pane in the foyer behind them exploded, showering them with glass. Ignoring the pain, she looked over her shoulder, eyes searching for her man. "X!"
Her boyfriend peeked his head up from behind a limo to their right. "What was that?" her boyfriend exclaimed, his voice straining to be heard over the terrified screams of passer-bys fleeing for their lives. Which was dumb as shit, someone starts firing you dive behind the nearest steel object and pray like hell they havenít got armour-piercing rounds. Not even Slayers could out-run bullets.
Faith risked a finger pointing over the carís bonnet. And winced and ducked back down when the windscreen exploded. "Sniper on the news building opposite."
"We have to be the target," Xander decided.
"Hell of a coincidence if it isnít," Faith looked over her shoulder. "Think we can make the hotel?"
"Too risky," Xander shook his head. "And we canít shoot back, not at this range, none of us have the skill."
"Yeah," she agreed gruffly. "Whatís the plan then?" Xanderís only answer was silence. "Great."
* * *
"How did I miss?" Kurt Warner shook his head as he peered down the sight, amazed at the Slayerís supernatural ability to sense his presence. But it wouldnít matter, not this time. He smiled as Harris was foolish enough to risk a look over his cover. "Third time lucky."
"Not for you," a deep voice announced behind him. Heart pumping, he started to roll over swinging his rifle up to shoot at the unexpected intruder, gravel biting into his back even as he grimly accepted his inevitable death. The last thing he saw was the bullet that smashed into his right eye, snapping his head back as it exploded with life-ending agony.
FIC: Aug í00 MC 29 A Change Of Direction (2/?)
Silenced automatic still pointed at the crumpled sniper, he stepped towards the man and dropped to one knee, reaching out to take a pulse. His eyes widened as he noticed something. "Isnít that interesting," he murmured under his breath. It appeared that heíd been wrong; it wasnít his employers who sent this man after all. Taking the evidence, he glanced around, noting the sound of approaching sirens, rose, and hurried back into the darkness.
* * *
Faithís heart hadnít stopped pounding since the shooting begun. The sniper hadnít shot for a while and she could hear the sound of fast-approaching sirens, but she wasnít dumb enough to stick her pretty little head out to find out if he was still around. "You can get up now," she looked up to see a tall man in his early forties with cold blue eyes and black hair leant against the hotel wall, an unlit cigarette hanging jauntily from his mouth. "Iíve dealt with him."
Faithís eyes caught a tell-tale glint in the manís left hand. "Tekran!" Faith surged to her feet.
"Back off, Faith," the man drew a silenced automatic and pointed it at her with an expert sureness that halted her in her tracks. "I want to help you, but Iím not that desperate to do so Iíd let you kill me. And Harris, if you make a move to draw anything out of that Always Pocket, and Iíll start firing. Iím fast, and I donít miss. I killed the Terakan assassin across the road." The assassin threw the ring to the pavement by Xís feet. "Tara," the manís eyes didnít shift from her, "I know you can tell if Iím lying-."
The manís calm voice overrode the witchís attempted question. "I want you to read me and tell Xander and Faith if you believe me or not. I work for a shadow government organisation who hired me some time ago to kill you. Their leaders believe that you could become a threat to their aims. However Iíve been following you for some time and Iíve decided Iíd rather be on your side than against you."
"íCause youíre scared?" Faith scoffed.
Beside her Xander groaned. "Thatís right, Faith," her man muttered, "piss off the man pointing a gun at you."
The self-proclaimed killerís eyes turned scornful. "Slayer, you didnít even hear me coming until too late. If I wanted you dead, youíd have bullet holes where your pretty little eyes used to be. No," the assassin paused, looking almost embarrassed. "Iíve been watching you for a long time. Iím convinced Iíd rather be working for you than those opposing you, your motives are more," the assassinís voice trailed off momentarily. "Are more palatable. Tara," the manís voice softened a touch, but then sis, brown-noser she was, never pissed anyone off, "what do you read?"
"H..heís got a grey aura, but heís telling the truth, he does want to help."
* * *
Xanderí eyes narrowed as he noted the manís slight flinch at Taraís appraisal. A grey aura, but it appeared that that was something their mysterious rescuer wanted to change. And if he was telling the truth he could be an asset. "Okay but who are you?" he demanded.
The assassin shook his head. "You know better than that, Harris. Iíll answer your questions but not here, the police will be here in less than two minutes. Your carís blown, mineís just round the corner."
"Okay," Xander nodded, all too aware that the man was right. "Lead the way."
The man stared hard at Faith for a second before nodding, sliding his gun into his shoulder holster, and turning. "This way. And keep her on a leash, Harris."
"Yeah, sis," Faith drawled although her eyes burnt with more than a little anger, "keep a hold on that temper of yours. No wonder people wanna shoot us."
* * *
He stared across at the trio sat opposite him in a small cafť a discreet twenty minutes from The Cornhusker, their booth lit by a low-hanging larva lamp. Up close, Faith was even more beautiful than her photos and long-range surveillance suggested, while Tara carried with her an air of gentle kindness. Harris, though, he had to resist the urge to shudder at what he saw there. He supposed that the average man in the street would pass the kid and not give him a second look, but to someone like him, the boy had a look in his eyes that you normally didnít get until youíd spent twenty years in Special Forces. Scary.
"So," it was the boy himself, "who are you?"
"Nameís Preston Lennox," he smiled as the witch started to tap at her laptop. "Forget it, Tara. Iím so far off the books, you wonít even find a trace."
"You donít mind if we check, do you?" challenged Faith.
Prestonís smile widened, he had to admit he liked the Slayerís prickliness. Plus him responding with smiles was just pissing her off more. "Check all you like," he conceded. "By the way, has anyone told you youíre cute when youíre angry?"
The Slayerís eyes widened, her companions chuckled. Even as the brunette beautyís mouth opened, Xander hurriedly broke in. "And who were you working for? Who wants us dead?"
Once again he had to withhold a shudder at the coldness in the younger manís voice. He stubbed out his cigarette in the silver ashtray, taking the second to gather himself. "Like I said, I do off-the-books jobs for government agencies, multinationals, and shadow groups."
"Youíre an assassin," Faith said.
Preston shrugged, hiding the hurt that the look of disgust from a young woman whose skills heíd come to admire caused him. "Thatís about it," he agreed. "In November of last year I was hired to kill you two," he looked towards Xander and then Faith. "It seemed your actions had put certain noses out of joint. It took a while, but I caught up with you in March, in Montgomery, when you had that run-in with the vaticanís hired gun." He hid a smile at the trioís shock at just how long heíd been trailing them. "Told you I was good," he smugly gloated as before taking a sip of his steaming coffee.
"So whoís after us?" Faith pressed.
"Yeah," he turned serious again, carefully placing the cup back on its coaster. "The man who hired me is called Cancer Man, his real name is CGB Spender and he works for a group called the Syndicate, doing all their dirty work for them."
"The Syndicate," Faith interrupted, eyes narrowed, "theyíre like the mob, right?"
"No, not in this case," he shook his head. "Theyíre an organisation involved in hiding the fact weíve been contacted by aliens."
"Aliens?" Xander snorted. "I didnít realise Iíd walked onto the Star Wars set."
"Xander," Tara interrupted. "Heís not lying."
"What!" Xander glanced at the witch then back at him. "RÖ.right, okay, sorry for you know."
"Thatís fine," he smiled. Heíd expected a reaction and had been banking on Tara to verify his story. "The thing is, theyíve made certain deals with aliens and they really wouldnít someone like you, with your resources to decide to stick his nose in and interfere with them."
"Deals? What deals?" Faith queried.
"I donít know the details," he shrugged. "Just that they see you as a possible future threat and want you dead. What I do know," he reached into his jacket, pulled out a CD and slid it across the table, "is on there."
"Whatís on it?" Xander glanced down but didnít take the disc.
"Names of the people who run the organisation, their bank account details, business dealings," he replied. "That sort of thing."
"Lot of compromising information," Harris commented.
"I like to know who Iím dealing with," Preston replied.
"I can see why that would be smart," Xander replied.
"Screw this," Faith broke in impatiently. "What are we gonna do about the Order?"
"Well," Preston smiled. "To be fair you have interfered in their operations in Frisco, Vegas, and Florida." The teens stared at him. His smile widened. "I told you, I make it my business to know who Iím hunting."
"Weíve gotta do something, X," Faith continued. "Itís bad enough expecting the Council around every corner without having to worry about these fuckers!"
"I know," Xander sighed. "But we donít exactly know where their base is."
"I do," he smiled at the kidsí reaction. "They tried to hire me once, I wasnít interested, but I found out enough. And if you give me Nevada to run for you, Iíll take you there."
There was a pause. Xander looked towards Tara. She nodded. "Deal."
FIC: MC 29 Aug í00 A Change Of Direction (3/?)
"You want my gun?" Preston looked around the airport distastefully. He hated being without his gun, he felt somehow naked.
"Weíre going on a plane, a privately charted jet, but still, I donít have diplomatic immunity-."
"I could get Angela to look into hacking us some," Tara timidly suggested.
Xander broke off from his explanation to glance towards the witch, eyebrow raising. "Good idea," he praised. "Look into it when we get back. But make sure itís some obscure but English-speaking country."
Xander chuckled at the witchís wry grin. "That works. Now," the teen turned back to him, "gun, please."
He hesitated. "Awwww, is the gunman Ďfraid Iíll kick his ass without his gun," scoffed the Slayer.
Preston looked towards the Slayer. "Iím capable of defending myself without a gun," he bluffed.
The brunette beauty shot him a shit-eating grin. "Iíve got eight black belts, super-strength, super-speed, and super-healing, what about ya?"
He was grateful when jets roaring over-head precluded him having to reply. When the jets had gone, Xander spoke, his tone amused. "Faith, stop picking on the shadow government assassin."
The raven-haired Bostonianís full lips pursed together in a pout. "Aw, X, you spoil all my fun."
"Of course I do, itís one of my lifeís pleasures," the youth turned to him out-stretched. "Gun."
Preston looked left and right. Satisfied there were no eyes, human or electronic watching him, he quickly palmed the gun into the youthís hand who in turn smoothly slid it into the Always Pocket. "Thanks," the youth duplicated his earlier sweeping gaze around. "Now, letís get on the plane."
Preston nodded approvingly as he entered the plane. Heíd been in all types of planes in his life Ė army transports, stealth planes during a mission over Colombia in í87, normal passenger planes, heíd once faked the suicide of a Chinese double-agent on one, and of course private jets. But private jets were definitely the way to go.
The jet was a six seater. Its floor was carpeted in a tasteful creamy white and two rows of black leather seats were positioned opposite one another, a gleaming table between them, a long couch behind them, and an immaculately varnished drinks cabinet behind.
An air stewardess appeared from the back of the plane, her golden locks, sky-blue eyes, and curvy body more than capable of gracing any swimsuit magazine. "Ladies, gentlemen," the womanís ruby lips parted in a gleaming smile, "thank you for flying Primus Air. Iím Camryn, your stewardess for the flight, if you need anything, donít hesitate to call."
"Eyes off, X," Faith growled. The stewardessí smile turned uncertain at the Slayerís grunt and she quickly disappeared behind the discreet curtain at the back of the plane.
The man gulped and smiled weakly before turning to him. "What can you tell me about the Orderís Hq?"
"Itís a fortress by the name of Schloss Freiheit. Itís situated in the southern state of Bavaria, at the bottom of the Alps, close to the Austrian border," Preston began. "The Order have had various bases over the centuries, but theyíve been there since the Thirty Years war in the seventeenth century, a war they started."
"Are they like powerful in Germany?" Faith asked. "Will we be going up against their government too?"
Preston blinked, surprised that the seemingly fists-first beauty could come up with such an astute question. Even as he opened his mouth to answer, the curtain rustled and the stewardess walked out, her practiced smile back in place. "Would anyone like a drink?"
Preston was pleased when the kids joined him in abstaining. To his mind a drinking operative was an impinged operative. Once the curvy blonde had retreated, he sought to answer the coal-eyed Slayerís question. "Not in the way, you mean, Faith. Theyíre mostly content to carry out their business discreetly, preferring accumulating money to direct power. But the one time they did influence German policy was during the Second World War. During the late thirties, the Nazis displaced all the old aristocratic families, taking their castles away from them and giving them to high-ranking party members. No-one bothered the Order."
"Shit," Faith breathed. "The Nazis were frightened of them."
"Scared of them?" Preston shrugged. "I suspect they knew they could defeat the Order in a straight fight, but were worried what the damage the Order would do to the command before they took them down."
"Well thatís so comforting," Xander drawled. "And the castle itself? What do you know about it?"
"They use trainees as guards," Preston relayed what little they knew. "The leader of the Order lives underground, and never leaves the castle. Theyíve also got magical defences."
"Wicked cool," Faith grunted. "Sounds like a regular party. Whatís the plan, X?"
Xander pursed his lips together. "Iíll decide that when we get there."
* * *
"Well," Xander struggled for words to describe the building he was staring at through his binoculars, "itís big."
"Gee, X," Faith scoffed beside him, "ya think?"
Xander ignored his girl-friendís baiting to continue inspecting the monolith some six hundred metres away. The castle was blanketed in the shadows cast by the Alps surrounding it, giving it a menacing air it scarcely needed. The castleís walls were constructed out of huge blocks of grey granite, any one of them would be close to impossible for even Faith to lift without help, and its walls stood perhaps thirty feet high. In each of the castleís four corners there was a huge, round tower, their pointed turrets piercing the stormy sky above. The only entrance in appeared to be through a guarded portcullis at the front.
All in all, not exactly Disneyland.
"How are going to do this Xander?" Tara whispered.
Xander glanced towards the witch. "Can you knock out their magical defences from here?" After a second the mage nodded. "Good," he looked at Preston. "What electronic surveillance do they have?"
"None when I was here." The assassin shook his head. "They disdain modern technology, relying on magic and muscle to guard the place."
"Thatís good," Xander nodded. "How long ago was that?"
Lennox shrugged. "Four Ė five years."
Xander nodded again. "They still have the same leader?"
"As far as Iím aware," Preston said.
"Right," Xander pursed his lips. Chances were they hadnít changed then. They really needed more information before attacking, but heíd decided to gamble on the element of surprise. "Just before dawn, me, Faith, and Preston are going to approach the castle -."
"Why then?" Faith interrupted.
Preston answered before him. "Guards are tired, starting to relax, itís nearly the end of their shift. Smart, Xander."
Embarrassed by the veteranís praise, Xander hurriedly continued on. "Tara will stay here, casting a masking spell so weíre not spotted, and dealing with the castleís magical defences. Weíll scale the wall," Faith groaned, "then split up, you and Preston planting plastic explosives throughout the castle, and me going after the head honcho. Then we get out, and come back here, blow the place and go."
Preston stared doubtfully at him. "Well, it has the advantage of being simple."
Xander forewent the urge to explain plans had to be simple for Faithís sake. These days he liked to live dangerously, but he wasnít keen on sticking his head into a lionís mouth. Even he had limits.
"Dawnís nearly ten hours away," Faith exclaimed. "What are we gonna do to then?"
"We wait," Preston said for him.
"Waiting sucks," Faith complained.
FIC: MC 29 Aug í00 A Change Of Direction (4/?)
Faith peered into the reddening sky. "Be dawn soon."
Xander hid a grin. It was only the eighth time in the past hour that Faith had hissed the comment, but this time his impatient girl-friend was right. Xander looked towards Tara. "Tara?"
"Ready," the witch replied, her eyes closed as she sat in the Lotus position, the only hint of the exertion she was under, the sweat beading down her forehead. "But I can only hold the spells for ten minutes, so you have to be in by then."
Xander nodded. "K, on my mark, then." He, Faith, and Preston rose to their feet. "Now."
The moment they burst from cover, Faith took a predictable lead, spurting ahead of them as if shot from a gun. "Wow," Preston panted as he ran alongside him some way behind the racing brunette. "She can motor."
"We kept her waiting," Xander explained between gasps. "Faithís always more energised when sheís impatient."
"Part of being a Slayer?" Preston asked.
Xander chuckled and shook his head. "Part of being Faith."
Upon reaching the bottom of the castle, Xander pulled a grapple gun out of the Always Pocket, flinging it to the bouncing on the spot brunette. "Youíre up, Faith. Clear the way," he whispered.
Faithís eyes sparkled in anticipation as she snatched the gun out of mid-air. "On it," she promised before smoothly turning and shooting the grapple gun. Despite the Bostonian beautyís seeming lack of aim the grapple flew true, gliding into the air like a bird to hook an embrasure between two merlons. His girlís lithe muscles strained as she tugged on the grappleís cable before nodding smugly. "Itís fixed."
"Great," Xander whispered. "But hurry, we donít have much time."
* * *
"Nag, nag, nag, gets more like a Watcher every day," Faith muttered as she started up the wall, a combination of Slayer balance and power, and the line allowing her to run up the wall, a smirk tugging at her lips as the government assassinís whispered shock floated up to her ears.
She pressed her body to the wall as she reached the top, not wanting to be seen by any possible patrolling guard. Eyes closed, Faith concentrated, listening intently for any nearing sound. Her blood began to pound at the sound of approaching feet. When she judged they were in range, she moved.
Hands tugging on the cable, she spun her body around and pushed off, flying feet-first over the wall. All she saw was a glimpse of a shocked manís eyes widening and his mouth opening in a cry for help. Then her feet were around his neck and twisting, his neck snapping with a sickening crack, and the man falling soundlessly onto the dusty battlement.
Fighting down the bile rising in her throat, Faith glanced left and right, eyes squinting in the half-light. Satisfied that her incursion hadnít been noticed, she peered back over the embrasure and tugged on the cable. A half-second later and she received a tug back in reply. Faith smirked, knowing, although she couldnít see, that her man was grinning up at her.
Taking a hold on the cable, she started to pull on it, pulling it over-arm almost as if in a tug-of-war contest. In just a few moments her man was beside her, a grin on his face. A few more after that, and sheíd also pulled Preston up the wall, the assassin bug-eyed at her power. She guessed experiencing Slayer power first hand was way different to watching from a distance.
"Well done, Faith." Xander winked at her before turning serious. "Hereís the plastic," Xander passed her and Preston four charges each in addition to their weapons. "You know where to plant those. Iíll meet you both at the portcullis in one hour."
"Just make sure youíre there, ya dig?" Faith said, a familiar tightness in her chest. Every time they went into action she got scared, not for herself, but her man and her sis.
"Iíll be there," Xander promised with a smile before turning away and leading them to some steps leading down into the castle.
And then their luck ran out.
Faithís head snapped up at the shout. In the same second she caught sight of the guard standing diagonally above them on the battlements to their left she was drawing her knife and flinging it at him. The knife thudded into his throat, dropping him to the ground, blood streaming from his convulsing body. "X!" Faith looked towards her wide-eyed boyfriend. "Split!"
* * *
Xander nodded as he took off, charging down the steps and starting across the stone paved courtyard. Heíd barely taken six steps when a guardhouse door to his right some thirty feet away crashed open and a Cyclops stepped out, huge sword in hand. Not breaking step Xander drew a hand grenade and flung it at the monsterís feet.
The Cyclops looked down, its toothy mouth opening in a puzzled snarl. And then the grenade exploded, tearing the monster into bloody fragments and collapsing the small stone building behind him.
Another four steps and a three-mouth Starezch lurched up in front of him. Its head disintegrated into a mass of blood and bone from a shot from his hastily drawn Desert Eagle. Taking a moment, he glanced over his shoulder to see that Faith and Preston had disappeared into the castleís inner corridors.
Looking forward again, he saw a pair of towering Mohras flanking the doors of a long, cylinder shaped bunker directly ahead. At his approach, the Mohra drew their swords and sprang to meet him. Knowing the way to slay them, his gun came up and shot the jewel in the centre of the one to his right.
Light erupted from the broken stone, and the demon fell onto his back. "Well that was-." Xanderís eyes widened when a sword slash sliced the muzzle off his gun. He looked up to see a huge hand flying towards his face. "Oh -."
The backhand lifted him off the ground and sent him cart wheeling into a wall. Head pounding, he shook his eyes clear in time to see a sword slashing down at him. "Shit!" Hitting the ground, he forward rolled away from the blow, sparks flying as the blade crashed into the wall where his head had been. "That is not friendly!" he complained as he climbed onto one knee.
The Mohra started to spin around to face him only to catch a bullet from his newly drawn Desert Eagle. Blood vomited from the ruined joint as the demon fell to one knee even as Xander rose. The monster turned its disbelieving gaze towards him even as he levelled his pistol and fired. The gun bucked, the round smashed into its forehead, exploding the jewel in the centre of its forehead.
Xander turned and hurried back to the bunker. Eyes flitting left and right, he quickly slammed a charge on the chamberís imposing stone door. Seeing a trio of four-armed clawed demons charging him from his right, their gills expelling a gas he knew to be noxious, he turned and ran in the opposite direction, head turned to watch the fleet-footed monsters gaining on him.
And pressed the detonator the moment they were level with the door.
The ground beneath him shook as the door disappeared in a gust of flame that engulfed the three demons, turning them to ash. "Wow," Xander muttered as he gingerly approached the still smouldering doorway. "Maybe I used too much charge."
Stepping inside, he started down a twelve step stairwell. "Yep," he muttered as he looked around with a sense of increasing foreboding. "Definitely not Disneyland."
* * *
Faithís foot smashed the door open with the first kick, the doorway flying off its hinges to land half-way down the hallway. "This way!" Faith roared in an effort to be heard over the sound of her companion firing round after round into their demonic pursuers. "X," she muttered under her breath. "Your plans suck."
FIC: MC 29 Aug í00 A Change Of Direction (5/?)
Xander looked left and right, and then up. The chamber he found himself in was huge, with a ceiling far higher than any sort of logic or physics said it could be. "Kinda like the TARDIS," he commented under his breath.
Not that the roof really concerned him right at the moment, there were other far more pressing worries. The hall was lined with pillars that ran from the stone-paved floor up to the ceiling that had been sculpted into varying demons.
But none of the cuddly species.
The cavernous room was clearly lit by some supernatural means because although Xander couldnít see even a candle, the entire chamber was bathed in an eerie yellow glow. The light while useful in illuminating his way also shone light on the walls, the walls covered with the skins of humans and demons killed by the Order over the years. "Jeez," Xander mumbled as he set off towards the back of the chamber. "Those guys from ĎChanging Roomsí have a lot to answer for."
Despite his quip, Xander felt an anger begin to boil deep inside him. This barbaric cruelty had gone on for far too long. If the Council were too coward to deal with it, then it looked like it was up to him.
* * *
"Theyíre gaining, Faith!"
"Yeah, yeah! Tell me something I didnít know!" Faith snarked back at the assassin racing behind her. "For an assassin you sure are panicky. And if you spent more time shooting them and less staring at my ass, maybe they wouldnít be gaininí!"
"The day I start taking orders from a brat less than half my age is the day I give this shit up!" the assassin snapped back. "And for your information, seen better!"
"As if! In here!" Faith shook her head as she shouldered a door open and shot a demon rising from the roomís couch through the heart. It was just gonna be one of those days.
* * *
Xander wiped the sweat from his forehead before continuing his work on the lock on the imposing wooden door heíd found at the end of the chamber. It was a complicated lock, and he had considered just blowing it but decided against it for fear of triggering any possible booby trap. Which of course he could still do by messing up his lock-picking.
His heart skipped a beat when a click, deafening in the otherwise silent room, sounded only to breath again when the door swung open. He began to straighten.
Only to throw himself to the left side at the sound of a heavy footfall to his right. Hitting the ground on his shoulder, he rolled up to his feet and spun to face whoever had sneaked up on him from behind. "Oh," his eyes widened in disbelief. "This is not good. Iíve seen horror movies with this, it never ends well."
* * *
"Iím running out of ammo!" Preston bellowed from behind her.
"Here," Faith flung the hired killer her guns and ammo. "Take mine." The assassin opened his mouth in protest, she drew her sword and battle-ax and smirked. "Really donít need them."
"Okay," the man nodded grudgingly before stepping past her. "But I take point."
"Macho bullshit," Faith muttered under her breath before smiling with all the sincerity of Clinton under oath, "sure honey, take the lead. And after we get home Iíll get on with cooking your dinner, sweetie."
Lennox shot her a bemused look before shaking his head. "Kids, today. No respect."
* * *
Xander glanced from one opponent to the other and back again. The demons both stood approximately five and a half feet tall with broad, bull-like physiques covered in a leathery orange skin. Their hugely muscled arms and legs ended in claws and a curved horn jutting out of their face from between two grey eyes finished any remote chances they had of competing in the Miss World.
Although based on the German girls heíd seen, maybe they could still win a Miss GermanyÖ.
"Say, guys," Xander forced a smile as he backed away from the two ponderously advancing monsters, "werenít you pillars of stone just a few-," his voice trailed off as he saw the rubble on the ground behind the demons. "Yep," he sighed. "Thatís what I thought. Now itís obvious youíve been here a while. How about instead of this all violence nonsense, me and you two hip guys go out on the town. Have a few brewskis, dance with a few girls?"
Xander winced at one of the monstersí bellows. "So, thatís a no then?" he hazarded to guess as the two beasts stampeded towards him.
Deciding he didnít have time to pull out and aim a gun, Xander yanked out his broadsword, the blade swinging up in an elegant sweep that ended a third of the way in the left monsterís neck.
Xanderís eyes widened when although a greeny goo that could only be viscera spurted out of the monsterís neck and its pained roar shook the chamber, the demon didnít go down. Ducking under a haymaker and stepping to one side to ensure the wounded monster stayed between him and the other demon, Xander drew a battle-ax from the Always Pocket and jumped back into the battle.
* * *
Preston shook his head as he hurried towards the corridor corner. The stuff heíd seen the Slayer do in the past frantic thirty minutes was mind-blowing, almost as mind-blowing as the monsters that now swarmed around them. Ideally he figured taking a castle this size would need at least two special forces squads, but then the special forces boys werenít exactly equipped to-.
"Back!" he gasped when the Slayerís impossibly strong hand grabbed his shoulder and yanked him back just as he was about to reach the opening. His head snapped towards the Slayer, instinct making the hand she placed over his mouth unnecessary. Whatever had caused her to pull him back would be a good reason.
Suddenly the Slayer released the grip over his mouth and leapt past him into the air, leaping feet first to crash into the face of a burly man just as he turned the corner. Preston winced at the blow, he was sure that it was more than enough to break the manís neck.
His eyes widened when the man not only stayed on his feet but attempted a side-kick that the just landed Slayer blocked on her forearm before crashing a right hook into his jaw that knocked him into the wall. The man stumbled towards the Slayer. Her hand arched up with a wooden spike in her hand only for her to twist at the waist and fling the implement into a man racing towards her.
The manís eyes widened in shock and then he exploded in dust. "Vampire," Preston muttered in realisation.
The Slayer was rushed by the first vampire only to smash an elbow in his jaw, turn sideways on, grab his wrist, bend and the waist and fling him to the ground with an ease Royce Gracie would have been proud of. Snatching a stake from her belt, she slammed it home and leapt to her feet in time to swing her stake up into a third demonís heart as he charged her.
"I can sense vampires a way off," the Slayer tersely explained as she spun around to face him. "Youíd have been in a shit-load of trouble if youíd run into them."
"Yeah," he replied dazedly. Not that he was going to argue with the coal-eyed beauty. Bad things tended to happen to those that made that mistake.
* * *
"Great," Xander brought the ax up between the demonís legs, and slicing to the right, taking its leg off at the knee, even as he dragged his sword out of its neck. "Why is it never easy?" Swinging his sword in the opposite direction as before, he tore into the beastís neck from the other side, finally decapitating him in a shower of blood.
Seeing the other charging him through a visceral mist, Xander leapt to meet him, blocking the monsterís claw-swipe on the flat of his axe, the air filling with a terrible screeching sound like a key being dragged down a car, before thrusting at him with the point of his sword. The monsterís fanged mouth parted in a lipless smile before raking at him with his other claw. Xander darted backwards only to stumble over the corpse behind him.
Hitting the ground on his shoulder, he quickly rolled away from another claw-swipe, sparks flying when the claw smashed into the ground. The monster grunted as it tried and failed to drag the claw out of the ground. Xander grinned as he rose. "Oh dear," he swung his axe down from above the monsterís neck and the sword up from below, the two weapons meeting in the centre, the decapitated monster falling to the ground, its blood splattering the stone pavings. "Quite a welcoming committee," he commented as he stepped through the doorway.
"But of course," boomed a voice so deep Barry White would have been envious, "there has to be a welcoming committee for you. After all, Mithras, you formed the Order."
FIC: MC 29 Aug í00 A Change Of Direction (6/7)
"Thanks for the welcoming committee, Bud and Lou always made me laugh," Xander glanced around the strangely shaped room of eight different length wood-panelled walls put together in some weird almost octagon shape. Xanderís skin prickled. There was something strangely familiar about the roomís shape. Shaking the uneasy feeling off, he looked towards the roomís sole occupant.
In the centre of the room, sat upon a gold throne stood on a rounded stone dais was a hulking eight-foot figure with a pair of foot-long shining bullís horns sticking out of its forehead, glowing red eyes, and a snout-like nose. "And just for your information, not Mithras, Xander," he added. "And Mithras did not form the Order."
The Minotaurís booming laugh shook the room. "Is that so? I seem to recall that history says otherwise."
"No," Xanderís anger began to over-ride his caution. Mithras had made mistakes, but heíd always tried to do the right thing. Stepping away from the door and towards the monster, sword and axe still in hand, he shook his head. "Thatís a lie. Mithras started a cadre of assassins who worked in groups of three to take out powerful demons, sure. He figured it would cut down on the amount of wars heíd have to involve his subjects in after defeating the Old Ones. But he never figured that you bastards," noting the anger in his voice, Xander calmed himself, "that it would be corrupted into what it is today, the supernatural worldís version of Murder Inc. But it ends today!"
"In that case," Xander swallowed slightly when the monster rose. If anything his estimation of the creature standing had been on the low side, the thing looked closer to nine rather than eight feet tall. "I think it is time we ended this."
"Fine by me," Xander attempted to pull a shotgun out of the Always Pocket, nothing. He tried again, the same thing, nothing.
"Oh yes," the Minotaurís head tilted mockingly to one side. "Did I forget to mention that this is a Cold Room?"
* * *
"Last charge, set! Hit the deck!"
"Wicked cool!" Faith dropped face-first to the ground. A half-second later and a shotgun blast filled the air. A fat, green-scaled, three-eyed, four-armed furball screamed as it was lifted off the ground and flung backwards, a hole blown in its head. "Thanks!" Faith leapt up and glanced over her shoulder to look at the assassin.
"No problem," the hired killer smiled wearily, blood staining the left side of his face, his Kevlar vest cracked in several places, and his left sleeve torn off, long scratch marks down his arm. "Entrance now?"
"Yeah!" she agreed in a holler before adding a soulful whisper. "Be okay, baby."
* * *
Cold Room. Xanderís stomach tightened. Of course, that was Mithras had remembered. The warrior god had once been trapped in a room very like this in his own lifetime.
"Yes," the Minotaur rumbled, teeth flashing in a mocking sneer. "A Cold Room, a magical dead area. The Orderís rulers had this constructed centuries ago to ensure that no magical attack could be made on its rulers. Any one wishing to kill the Order head would have to do so face to face. And thatís why you canít reach your Always Pocket."
Xander lifted his axe and sword. "Iíve still got these," he defiantly declared.
The Minotaur stared down at him. "Yes, you have. A situation Iíll have rectify."
The monster charged him, moving at an impossible speed for one so large, fists swinging. Xander grunted as he blocked one downward haymaker on his axe, the impact of the blow shuddering down his arm, almost enough to dislocate his shoulder. There was simply no way he could compete with the monsterís awesome power for any length of time.
Thinking desperately, Xander feinted a step back, then, as the monster continued its remorseless advance, stepped forward, and swung his axe up. "Oh thatís not good!" he hollered when the minotaur snatched hold of his axeís shaft and flung it to the ground before attempting a backhand that he barely managed to duck under, the heavy blow bludgeoning the stank air above him.
As he straightened his sword slashed out, tearing a furrow across the monsterís broad chest. "AHHHH!" the beast reared back before throwing a straight right that Xander leaned away from but still caught enough of to be lifted off his feet and flung to the far end of the chamber. He watched through blurred eyes as the minotaur approached, blood dripping down his torso. "You know," the beast rumbled. "The kill that got me named successor prime was of a Slayer. Iím sure your Slayer will scream just as much."
Xander licked his lips. He had one chance, just one. "Somehow," he growled as he lifted his sword, "I doubt that."
* * *
"Damn it!" Preston threw his shotgun away and pulled out his Desert Eagle. Six magazines, that wouldnít last. He stared at the demons charging them. "Where is he?"
"Heíll be -." Faith joined him in hitting the ground when
the portcullis exploded inwards. "SHIT! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!"
"That would be me."
* * *
The minotaurís smirk faltered when he drove his blade over his head and backwards. The point of his sword smashed into the wall behind him, wood splintering. His face enraged, the minotaur lunged at him, huge hands bunched into fists. Releasing his grip on his sword, Xander rolled away from the monster, left foot kicking out to smash into its knee.
"Ahhh!" A look of fury contorting its bull-like face, the monster snatched hold of him by the throat and lifted him into the air.
Xander forced a smile despite the choking grip around his neck. "Guess," he gurgled, "who got his mojo back."
The Minotaurís eyes widened as he drew a shotgun from the Always Pocket, jammed the muzzle to the monsterís face and pulled the trigger twice.
The shot smashed into the beastís face, taking the top of its head off and showering the walls to the left and right in its viscera. Xander hit the ground with a thud before struggling back to his feet, the partially decapitated demon lying at his feet. He looked behind him, grinning at the shattered wood pane that had broken the Cold Room and allowed the magic in. Without that, heíd be deader than Deadboyís personality.
Groaning at the pain coursing through his body, he stumbled out of the room, feet dragging.
* * *
Faith looked up, eyes widening in surprise. "Sis! What the hell!"
Tara smiled serenely back at her. "Got my second wind." Taraís face sobered. "Xanderís coming."
"Yeah," Faith jumped to her feet, ready to go to her honeyís rescue only to relax when it seemed the assassins had suddenly backed off, their stomach for the fight suddenly gone. In seconds Xander stumbled up to them. "You look like shit, hon."
Xander raised an eyebrow. "You try fighting an eight foot minotaur." Faith smirked. "Oh," her boyfriend shook his head. "Never mind. Charges set?" Faith nodded. "Letís go."
They left the castle at a run. When theyíd reached their cover, Xander pulled out the detonator and threw it to Preston. "You do the honours."
Faith glanced over her shoulder as the assassin pressed down. A sound something like a god clapping his hands boomed out, the ground underfoot shuddered, huge chunks of masonry flew into the air as fires erupted in the castle. "Guess thatís the order done with then."
* * *
"Thatís the details of the trust fund," the witch yawned, Preston noticed the girl looked worn out, however magic worked, sheíd clearly done too much, drawn on too much power during her exertions on their raid. "And here," the girl passed him a collection of CDs and a laptop, "is information about demons etc, the CDs only work on that laptop and its encrypted so only one of us can use or contact you through it." Preston nodded approvingly. Good operation security. "Thereís also information on two ten men groups in Vegas, one eight man group in Henderson, and a five man team in Reno who currently hunt demons in Nevada. We usually advise team leaders to contact and select their troops from them. Thereís also information about our supply network and group protocols."
"Sounds good," Preston shoved the CDs in his inside pocket and the laptop under his arm and rose from the airport waiting lounge, the TV in the background covering in graphic detail the mysterious destruction of a castle at the bottom of the alps just a few hours ago. His eyes skirted the busy area in a customary search for any danger. Satisfied there was no threat, he returned his gaze to the three teenagers. "Xander, can I have a word in private?"
"Gee," Faith scoffed. "I thought it was women who had to go to the can together."
"Yeah," Xander ignored the Slayerís taunting to walk over to the bar. Once there, the youth turned to him. "Whatís up? Second thoughts?"
"No," he shook his head. If anything the horrors heíd seen in the castle had only strengthened his resolve. "I just wondered what you were going to do about the Syndicate?"
The young manís eyes turned to stone. "Donít worry, theyíll be dealt with."
FIC: MC 29 Aug í00 A Change Of Direction (7/7)
"But man," Faith complained. "Why canít we go with you?"
"Iím going to the Smithsonian Institution," Xander lied. Seeing Taraís mouth open behind his girl-friend, Xander shot her a warning glance.
"The what?" Faithís chocolate-brown orbs filled with confusion.
"The Smithsonian Institution," Xander forced a note of enthusiasm into his voice. "The Smithsonian Institution was established in 1846 with funds left to the United States by John Smithson. The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institution and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government. With most of its facilities located here, 19 museums and seven research centres, and 142 million items in its collections. You can come too, itíll be fun!" About as much fun as having his eye poked out. "Itís big so itíll take until tomorrow to see everything."
Faith stared at him for a second. "Just for the record you were a lot more fun before Mithras. Me in a museum," Faith shuddered, a look of horror on her beautiful face. "God no. This is time off, you all. Clubs, shops, bars, clubs, bowling alleys, more clubs." Faith shook her head again. "Come on, sis. Letís blow this place before we catch whatever X has got."
"IÖIíll just be a minute," Taraís eyes didnít move from him. "I want to ask Xander to pick up some stuff for me while heís there. Iíll meet you in the lobby."
"Iím travelling with nerds! Me! Jesus!" Faith shook her head in disgust before slamming the door shut behind her.
The moment the door shut behind Faith, Tara was advancing on him. "WÖwhy are you lying to Faith!" Tara demanded, the angry gleam in her eyes making him back off. "IÖif youíre cheating on her, ooooooh, mister!"
Xander almost had to laugh when the witch ran out of words. "No," he shook his head. "Itís that Syndicate that Preston told us about. The man who tried to set us up lives less than an hour from here, Iím going to deal with him tonight."
"Y..you shouldnít do it on your own," Taraís soft eyes filled with alarm. "We should come-."
He placed a finger on the witchís mouth, silencing her. "I donít want you to see what I do."
"Xander," Tara looked troubled. "Donít do anything thatíll taint your soul. Faith loves you the way you are -."
"Yeah," Xander snorted. "It sounded like it."
Tara continued on over him. "You canít turn yourself into something like them, you canít!"
"I wonít." Xander replied.
"Promise?" Tara stared at him as he nodded. "Then I guess Iíll cover for you."
"Thanks, Tar," Xander kissed the witch on the forehead. "Keep her out of trouble, okay?"
"Oh thatís fine," the witch complained. "You go and take on the international conspiracy and leave me to do the hard work!"
Xander chuckled. "Thatís what men do."
Tara mock-glared at him. "Donít I know it."
* * *
Uptown Washington, 22:30 Hours.
"This is weird," James muttered to his companion as he looked around the groundsí walled perimeter. "I mean, weíre Secret Service for Christís sake! What are we doing guarding some civilian nobody?"
"Failing." James half-turned at the intruderís voice behind him only for his legs to buckle when the man jammed a fist in his lower back, paralysing him. Even as he fell, he turned his head to see his partner was already led on the ground and hog-tied, eyes blankly staring at him. How had he missed that? He opened his mouth to scream for help only to have a gag shoved in his mouth. He briefly tasted the chloroform on the rag and then everything went dark.
* * *
"Sorry about that," Xander muttered as he tied the slumbering man up and shoved him under the bush by his partner. Taking the manís gun, he quickly disarmed it. "If itís any comfort, your legs will be fine when you come round in about four hours."
Still crouched, he made his way to the front of the house, careful to avoid the sweeping surveillance cameras fitted to the garage and front of the house. Stopping by the doorís electronic lock, he shoved a cable in and quickly phoned up Angela. "Ang," he muttered to their resident computer expert. "Iím ready."
"Okay," Angela Bennett muttered back to him. Xander felt sweat beads form on his forehead as the seconds ticked away. He was sure at any moment the agentsí bodies would be discovered, it was a heck of a shock to find that Spender was protected by the Secret Service, or that their bosses would radio in for a report. "Done."
He started slightly at Angelaís whisper. "Thanks," he replied. "And this is-."
"Between you and me, I know." Angelaís voice trailed off. "Iím not real comfortable keeping this from Brill."
"I know," Xander replied as he eased the door open. "But these people are after both us and you," he crawled into the darkened kitchen.
"Yeah. Be careful."
* * *
Spender started, blinking awake. He looked around his darkened room, puzzled as to what had woken him. For a second there heíd thought there was somewhere in the room with him. Suddenly he descended into a series of hacking coughs, his body shaking with their force. Once theyíd calmed down, he leaned over to his bedside cabinet for his cigarette packet.
"Those things Iíll kill you. If I donít."
Heart racing, he lunged for the gun in his bedside cabinetís top drawer. Flinging the drawer open, he found it empty. "Ahhhh!" he screamed when the drawer was kicked shut with his hand still in it. Turning, to face the intruder he was grabbed around the throat, lifted out of his bed and slammed into the wall before being flung back onto his bed. "Harris!" he gasped as he recognised the shadowy figure. "You have no -."
"Please," he doubled up and gasped when the youth punched down, smashing a blow into his solar-plexus. "Donít threaten me." He could barely hear the youth over the blood rushing in his ears. "You think I should be scared of you?" The teen stepped back, his eyes cold even as he backhanded him across the face. "This is an exercise in terror. You think youíre an expert, but next to me, next to Mithras, youíre not out of pre-school." Spender opened his mouth. "One word and youíll spend the rest of your pain-filled life eating out of a straw." He shut his mouth, chilled by the coldness in the young manís voice. "See, weíre already communicating."
The young man paused. "My organisation, the organisation you tried to sabotage, is concerned with demonic activity, yours deals with aliens." The kid shook his head. "Let me make myself clear, I havenít got the time to interfere with what youíve got going on. But if you give me a reason, Iíll take your operation down brick by brick."
"In fact," he gasped when the youth grabbed his wrist and twisted violently, the bone dislocating with a pop, "Iíll take it apart just like Iím taking you apart. First it will be your facilities and bases, the ones in Alaska, Peru, Romania, and Fiji will all meet with terrible accidents. Then it will be the dummy corporations, the ones you use to fund the Syndicate, the ones in Luxemburg, Cayman Islands, and Lichtenstein. The IRS and half a dozen government organisations will be very interested in them. Then Iíll go after the members of the Syndicate itself. Conrad Stugholdís been a very naughty boy, siphoning money to the Nazi movement in South America, the German, British, and US. Intelligence services will be very interested in what I have on him. Lord Donald McQueen, Scottish gentleman and also a member of your group. Heís also a man with a penchant to violent sex with expensive call-girls. Antonio Scapel, Italian businessman and do-gooder, whose paid off environmental inspectors to ensure several of his factories were built. And Congressmen Butterworth, member of the Intelligence Oversights Committee, man what hasnít he done? Vote-fixing, illegal campaign funding, oh, and a nasty hit and run during his time at Oxford that left one woman dead and another crippled. Thereís more scandal on other members, but you get the point. The ones who end up merely broke and disgraced will be the lucky ones."
"Then, then with your Syndicate destroyed, Iíll come after you." Pain roared through his scalp when the teen snatched hold of his hair and yanked him off the bed until they were eye to eye. "CGB Spender, this is your life. You were born on 20th August 1940, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You were stationed at the Centre for Special Warfare in Fort Bragg. You trained Cuban nationals in the Bay Of Pigs, assisted in the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, and pulled the trigger on JFK and Martin Luther King."
Spender gasped when the kid dropped him back on the bed, eyes staring up at him in disbelief. How did he know all this? "Of course I wonít just kill you. Thatíd be too easy. You have a niece and a nephew, both accountants, youíve hidden them well, but I found Ďem. I know I donít have to tell you how easy it is to smear people, make it look like theyíve been embezzling. Then Iíll come after you. Suddenly you wonít be worth a dime, everything you own will be gone. And then," the youth smiled. "The assassin who killed both JFK and King? The papers will kill for that story. Can you imagine the publicity, youíll be more famous than Britney, man." The youthís smile disappeared. "No one will be the least surprised when you hang yourself. Or," the youth paused, "you could just back off. What do you say?"
Spender opened his mouth. And grunted when the invader shoved his gun into his mouth, the gun jarring against his fillings. "Just nod your head if we have a deal?" Eyes wide with terror, he nodded. "Good," the youth pulled the gun out. "I catch a sniff of you near me, my girls, or my operation and itís war. And Iím not Mulder, I donít care about the rules or uncovering the truth. All I care about is protecting my family and wiping my enemies from the face of earth. Are we clear?" He nodded, more scared than heíd ever been. "Good. Now, the fear of what I did might fade. But make sure my words donít. Start anything with me and you will die alone, broke, friendless, and terrified. Iíll see to it personally." The boy backed to the door, eyes fixed on him. "Bye now."
* * *
Xander sighed as he entered the hotel corridor leading to their room, the bile that had formed in his stomach ever since his encounter with Spender still sloshing about. Heíd done what needed to be done, but that didnít mean he had to like it. But it was done now.
But if Spender came back at him, it would be scorched earth all the way. A door just ahead of him opened and Tara stepped out, the witchís lips parted and her eyes filled with shock. Xander really didnít want to know what sheíd just seen. After a second she spoke. "Is itÖ" Taraís voice trailed off as she stared expectantly at him.
"Itís over," Xander confirmed, a note of finality in his voice that suggested any further questions would be most unwelcome.
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