FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (1/?)
The candles lining the basement’s walls flickered as he entered, the grey-cowled men rising from their knees as he entered, the air thick with anticipation. "And so it begins," intoned the cowled figure stood at the far end of the basement. "Ever since the time of Empedocles, we the Order named in his honour have fought against the forces of darkness, using the science of god to fight Satan’s dark forces. Many are the brilliant who have served in Empedocles’ name, bravely staunching the tide of darkness. And today, we add another to that honoured roll." The cowled figure’s eyes dropped to him as he knelt before him. "Reveal your face to your soon to be brothers." After a second he obeyed, cowl falling back. "Do you promise to hold the secrets of the Order in your heart, and never to reveal them to another?"
He licked his suddenly dry lips before speaking. "I do," he replied, his voice cracking.
"Do you promise to use the gifts of science to aid your fellow man in his fights against the darkness?"
How his life had changed since his colleagues’ clandestine approach less than
a season ago. "I do."
"Do you promise to respect the Order’s rules and the Order’s Superiors?"
This one caused him a second of hesitation, he was never one for respecting authority or rules, but finally he nodded. "I do."
"Then," he noted the other members of the Order had joined him in throwing their cowls down, "I welcome you to our Order and demand its members call Isaac Newton, brother!"
"Brother!" the Order members roared. "Brother!"
The cry was still echoing around the basement as the group’s leader grabbed him by his elbows and pulled him to his feet. "I don’t doubt the serving wenches have our banquet ready. Come brother, it is time to toast your induction!"
"You understand of course," Christian Huygens, the Dutch genius, spoke, "that
what we do here is of utmost importance."
Isaac nodded. "Of course."
"No," Gottfried Leibniz shook his head. "Don’t just say ‘of course’. The interests of this group and its membership take priority over any petty national or international squabbles."
"Just so!" Samuel von Pufendorf boomed. "After all, what matters the battles of men if demons rule our world?"
"Yes," Isaac nodded slowly, the importance of the elite group he’d just been inducted into gradually dawning on him. This wasn’t just a secret society formed for drinking and the swapping of ideas, this was a defence against the unholy forces that blighted the world.
"And if you’re contacted by a group calling themselves the Council of Watchers, you’ve never heard of us," Bernard Lamy warned.
Isaac’s brow furrowed. "The Council Of Watchers?"
Leibniz shook his head before shoving a fresh goblet of wine before him, some of the red fluid sloshing out of the cup and onto the table. "A foul unchristian group, who meddle in the dark arts and claim to do so to protect mankind," Lamy replied. "They create a warrior using the dark arts and use-."
"But this is a meal to celebrate a new member to our august order," Leibniz added. "All this talk can wait until the morrow."
Isaac nodded, his usual forthrightness blunted by his imposing company and his position as relative novice in their company. "Tomorrow then."
* * *
Newton gasped and wheezed as he struggled through London’s crowded, fog-ridden streets. A man of his advanced years shouldn’t be out at this time of night, alone and unaided by his usual comforts and assisting servants. However the Order’s business was more important than any concerns such as luxuries or comforts.
Or even lives.
Everything, even his knighthood paled into insignificance next to the Order he’d loyally served for almost the past half-century. The things he’d done, the experiments he’d been a part of, and the horrors he’d seen. As a member of the Order he’d helped save the world several times and banish numerous demons.
Now though it was at an end. The Council had discovered his involvement with the Order and poisoned him, even now the foul chemicals crept through his system, slowly but steadily polluting his blood-.
"By my lord!" He doubled up, face greying, pain shooting through his stomach. The will that had seen him through academic in-fighting, long months of fruitless experimentation, and most of all battles with the ungodly allowed him to straighten and walk on.
He had to get home, to finish his geometric equations. Without them the Order would be unable to permanently seal the dimensional walls against the minor powers or those who would seek to summons them. His formulas would mean that only the monsters already in this dimension would be able to threaten God’s children.
Newton laughed, the pain racing through him briefly replaced by ecstasy. Forget his laws of motion, this would be his greatest if unknown legacy. Let those who think to call him heretic make their bombastic pronouncements. He would stand before his lord’s judgement, secure in the knowledge he had always done his master’s work.
Newton’s eyes blurred as he reached the front door, hand shaky as he unlocked it, and stumbled inside, body beginning to shake, sweat pouring off him. "My lord," he muttered, "grant me the strength to finish this night’s work, then I will stand before you a happy man."
His legs increasingly shaky, he made his way into his office and slumped into his chair before grabbing a quill and a piece of parchment. He cursed as his clumsy hands knocked over an ink pot before hurriedly grabbing his spare, opening it, and beginning to write.
He gasped as, some time later, blood dripped onto the parchment. "No," he raised a hand to his nose, wincing at the blood dripping from it. Grimacing, he continued to write. Some time later he reached for his lamp, realising it had gone dark.
Then he realised the sun was in fact rising, its beams streaming in through his windows to bathe his face in warmth. And yet a growing darkness had begun to envelop him, his breath growing shallower, and limbs weaker. "No." His last thought before passing out was a tortured mental shout. Why hadn’t his lord granted him the time to finish the formulas?
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (2/?)
The corpse looked deflated but small wonder, its blood drenched the walls and its organs and intestines were scattered across the room, there was practically nothing left inside him. Wild covered his mouth, the stench of pain and death almost making him, a hardened detective of over a decade’s service, vomit as he backed out of the room. "Jesus Christ."
"Ha," the officer beside him chuckled dourly, "I’m thinkin’ Jesus was out
when this happened."
"Yeah, you might have a point." Wild chuckled at the officer’s gallows humour, typical of police forces the world over. "Why did you call me over?"
"Apart from the fact it looks like we’ve got a butcher who makes Jack the Ripper look like a slightly enthusiastic barber?" the officer shook his head, eyes serious again. "I’m bettin’ he was tortured before he was killed too." The officer paused and shook his head again. "Twenty five years on the force and I never saw anything even close to this bad and I hope I never see anything like it again." The man paused again. "I hear you’re a member of some group that deals with the occult and weird stuff." Wild stared at the officer waiting for him to continue. "Any way, you need to have a look at him, weird stuff’s been painted on his chest."
"Weird stuff?" Wild pressed for clarification.
"I don’t know," the officer chuckled self-consciously, "my kids are into that
dungeons and dragons crap, the games, comics, movies, the whole thing. It sorta
looks like the marks a wizard makes."
"Okay," Wild stared at the officer, his curiosity growing. The markings might
be some old tattoo, the markings of a crazed murderer who had nothing to do with
anything occult except in his mind, or some legitimate threat. "Have you called
it in yet?" The officer shook his head. "Do so, I’ll," Wild steeled himself, "go
back in and have a look."
The officer nodded before reaching down and pulling out his radio. Meanwhile Wild strode into the death-drenched room, eyes determinedly fixed on the corpse slumped in the office chair. Latex gloves covering his hands, he pulled the victim’s ubuttoned shirt back and grunted, the stench and sight threatening to overwhelm him.
The unfortunate victim had had his torso sliced open from groin to throat, the skin flapping slightly, but before that grievous injury had occurred, the man’s chest had been painted with a seven pronged pentagram, the outside painted the darkest black and the two spokes diagonally criss-crossing it painted sickly yellow. Quelling his distaste, Wild pushed the skin together and photographed the tattoo with his digital camera. Rising, he saw the murder victim’s rolodex on the crowded desk. Temptation tugged at him as looked up to see the cop who’d alerted him stood in the doorway, his back to him as he spoke into his radio. "What the hell," he muttered as he grabbed the rolodex and stuffed it into his pocket before striding to the doorway and nodding at the guard. "Have you called it in?"
"Yeah," the officer nodded. "Is it something that interests you?"
Wild grimaced. "It might be. Thanks for calling me, I better get out of here before the others get here."
* * *
"Was the call real or bogus, boss?"
"I’m not sure," Jack Wild replied as he entered his branch’s office to find
his bespectacled second-in-command in his customary position sat in front of his
laptop. He took the memory card out of his camera and tossed it onto the desk.
"Have a look of the photos on this."
"Sure boss," the man snatched up the memory card and slid into the side of his laptop. Wild looked around the shadowy office lined with shelves stacked full of occult books and wondered at just how much his life had changed in such a short time. Before meeting the Quartet, his night-life had largely consisted of bars and stake-outs. Now he utilised highly different stakes in his night-life as he led his unit on vampire hunts. But this felt different, this wasn’t some random vampire or low-level demon, this was something heavy.
"Oh god, this is gross." His second-in-command whispered.
"I know," Wild peered over his subordinate’s shoulder. "Whoever did this was a either a complete nutjob or in an occult cult." Wild blinked, occult cult, that just sounded weird. "I want to know which."
"Okay," calculation replaced revulsion in his second’s eyes. "I’ll load up the image-recognition software while you get me the computer CDs on occult symbolism."
"Sure." Wild strode over to the bookcase on the back wall, reached under the third of the five shelves and pressed a switch secreted there. The shelf hissed as it rose six inches, revealing the gleaming safe and the numeric keypad built into the wall. Wild quickly tapped in the six digit code, the date he’d first met the Quartet, and waited for the safe door to slide aside before reaching in and taking the discs out. "Here," he walked back and placed them on the desk beside the laptop.
"Thanks," his subordinate didn’t look up from his computer screen as he opened up the disc box and rummaged through the CDs until he found the one he wanted and slid it into the open CD drive. "This’ll take some time.
"I’ll wait." Wild summonsed the patience he’d always utilised during stakeouts as he sunk into a seat to the right of the computer desk.
"Oh crap," his second in command groaned some time later.
"You’ve found something?" Wild leaned forward, peering at the computer screen.
"Yeah," his second in command nodded, expression grave. "It appears this scientist, whoever he was, was also a fighter against evil."
"How do you figure?" Wild queried with a raised eyebrow. The portly, pasty-skinned academic hadn’t seemed to be the swash-buckling adventurer sort to him.
His second glanced at him and then back at the screen. "Because the pentagram painted on his chest is supposed to stop the spirit of the person wearing it from ascending into heaven as their rightful reward for acts of bravery. It’s the mark of victims of The Pyramid Of Darkness, a cult of various demons who believe the Old Ones should be welcomed back in this dimension. If they’re here and killing people it means their victims are somehow in the way of them achieving their goals."
"Not good at all." Wild felt the rolodex inside his pocket. Suddenly all the names in there had become not only potential suspects but potential victims. "I’ll call Harris," he decided. He hated to feel like the wet behind ears rookie but he couldn’t afford ego when the world was at stake.
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (3/?)
Wellington, New Zealand
Faith grinned as she leaned back in the jeep as they drove through Wellington’s outskirts, her eyes closed as the sun’s beams bathed her and the cool breeze tickled her face and ran through her long mane. They might be here on business, a recruitment drive but really, this weather and air was to die for. This was the ever livin’ life.
Her silent heaven was broken by the sound of Xander’s phone ringing. "Reality blows," Faith muttered as she reluctantly opened her eyes. "Yeah," she grabbed the cell, "I’ll get it." Flicking the phone open, her eyes widening at caller Id of ‘Chicago’. "Yo, Wild Man, what’s happening?"
"Hello Faith," the former detective greeted, "it is Faith I’m talking to?"
"Yeah," she drawled, "ya just struck real lucky. Ya got have got Boytoy, Sis, or the brat, but ya got me instead. What’s the sitch?"
"An Chicagoan academic was murdered last night," the former detective and head of the Illinois Mithras Branch replied, "to judge from some tattooing done on his torso done post-mortem the murder was committed by a demonic cult bent on bringing on the return of the Old Ones."
"That sucks." Faith sighed. "What’s the cult called?"
"The Pyramid of Darkness," Wild replied.
"Sounds warm and welcoming," Faith replied, "kinda like yar weather." It appeared their vacation was over before it began. From sunny New Zealand back to windswept Chicago, this really blew. "Send all the details to us at our email account. We’re on our way." Faith hung up and looked towards her lover. "Back to the airport, stud-. I know, I know," she replied to Tara and Kennedy’s groans in the backseat, "I don’t like it anymore than ya do, but we’ve got a crisis in Chicago."
"Major?" Xander queried as he looked for a road turning.
"Sounds medium-major," Faith replied. "If ya give sis the laptop Wild’s sending her an email."
* * *
Dr. Lilly Sinclair stared blankly at the bubbling experiment before her, the usually busy lab deserted by this late hour. It appeared as if she’d been working in slow-motion the entire day, but then that was hardly unexpected. Lilly sighed as she looked towards the paper stuffed in the steel bin
She’d thrown it out, but she’d still spent all day musing on its shocking headline. The academic hideously slain had been a friend of hers, more than a friend, a co-conspirator, and if he was dead, they could be coming for her. Given her friend’s demise it was a selfish thought, but an unavoidable one. After all humans were self-aware creatures and as such, always concerned with their own preservation.
The sad thing was her friend had called her up just seventy-two hours earlier, excitedly stating that he was closing in on finishing Newton’s work. Perhaps he was just one academic trying to impress a winsome colleague, but if he wasn’t, he could have changed the world for the better. Sighing slightly, she took hold of the ether bottle and removed its lid.
Her eyes narrowed at the sound of someone in the shadowy corridor outside. It couldn’t be the caretaker, he’d been through this area an hour ago. Placing the bottle of ether back on the table, she took off her safety goggles and stepped towards the door.
And stumbled backwards, legs rubbery when the lab’s prefabricated wall exploded inwards and a massive, spindly-limbed, twin-horned creature in the shape of a praying mantis but the size of a pony crashed through. "Oh my god!" Lilly gasped as she grabbed for her desk for balance, her hand crashing into a test tube rack, knocking it and its contents to the ground. Lilly shot the shattered glass a shocked look and then looked back towards the advancing nightmare. A desperate idea flared. Lilly snatched up her still burning Bunsen burner and directed it towards the monster before grabbing the open ether bottle, and flinging its contents into the path of the flame.
The flame erupted, engulfing the advancing demon in fire. The stench of the burning flesh and the beast’s high-pitched screams filled the air as Lilly spun on her heel and headed for the door behind her, her elbow flying up to crash into the glass cabinet containing the fire axe fastened to the wall beside the door.
Ripping the axe out of the of glass cabinet and kicking off her shoes so that she could run faster, she fled through the darkened lab next door, swinging wildly at any shadow where she thought something might lurk. Then she burst through into the corridor and starting running for the exit, her heart hammering. She had to get out of here.
She moaned with relief as she burst out of the lab and into the darkened car park, her legs almost buckling under her. A humanoid shape in a hooded cape leapt out of the shadows at her, Lilly swung her axe up, the handle crashing into the man’s throat. The indefinable creature stumbled back into the shadows, gurgling for air.
Lilly gasped as she hurried for her car, free hand searching through her lab-coat’s pockets for her keys as she shot frightened looks around. "Oh thank god," she gasped as she reached her car, unlocked it, and dived inside its comforting environs. She was nearly safe, now she had to think of a cover story to tell the police.
* * *
"I’ve done some research on the Pyramid of Darkness," Tara blushed as she
briefed the crowded room, she hated public speaking. Then her heart soared at an
encouraging look from Kennedy. "They’re a very serious cult."
"How serious?" queried one of Wild’s men.
"According to what I’ve found," Tara turned to her overhead projector and turned it on, the projector transferring the information on her connected laptop screen onto the white-board. "The Pyramid Of Darkness have made several unsuccessful attempts to re-open the world to demonic invasion-."
"Unsuccessful?" another of Wild’s men spoke up as he looked around his friends. "Doesn’t that sound more incompetent than dangerous?"
"Think again," Tara warned, her confidence growing as she was challenged. "Although each of their attempts have failed, they’ve had devastating consequences. The most famous was in 79 AD when they caused Mount Vesuvius to erupt, completely destroying the Roman city of Pompeii. On 20th May 526 they caused an earthquake in Antioch, Syria, which cost a quarter of a million people their lives. Yet another earthquake caused by their spells cost over a million people their lives across the eastern mediterrian. However the worst of their attempts happened seventy-seven thousand years ago, at Lake Toba where they managed to erupt a super-volcano, reducing the world’s population from sixty million to less than ten thousand." A shocked murmur ran through the room. "At the least their attempt here will cost thousands and millions their lives."
"No," Xander interrupted with a shake of his head. "They’re not going to get to make an attempt. We’re going to stop them and nobody or nothing’s going to stop us."
* * *
O’Hare International Airport
Planes roared constantly overhead as Draco strode through the disembarkment lounge, flanked by two tall, lean-faced men with olive skins and of middle eastern descent. Draco glared down at the hook jutting out of the end of his left arm, screwed there to replace his severed hand. Harris had maimed him, but with the assistance of these two master swordsmen he’d hired, and a third they’d meet here, he would finally end him.
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (4/?)
"What’s the plan Jack?" Xander asked after the briefing finished.
The cop coughed, probably self-conscious about having his boss here. Heh, imagine how he felt having to boss around dozens, no now it was hundreds, of men and women both older and more experienced than he was. He might have the skills of a warrior god, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling he was just a copy. And he still had to recruit more, travel the world finding those worthy enough, or stupid enough, to join his battle.
Duty and responsibility really blew.
"As Tara," Wild glanced at the witch, "said there’s not a lot of information on the Pyramid Of Darkness, so we don’t know how to track them down. However we’ve got the first victim’s rolodex, so once we get a report of someone on the list is attacked, we might start to get a pattern as to who they’re trying to kill."
"So we’re waiting for someone to be attacked?"
Wild grimaced and nodded at Faith’s query. "Yeah." The former detective looked towards him. "All we can do is wait."
Xander pursed his lips; one of his many failings was a lack of patience. "No
let’s not wait, how about you tell us about your operation here?"
Wild nodded. "Okay, I’ve got my main team of fifteen working in Chicago; we patrol in two groups of six with three people always here to take any emergency calls from our outpost units. Our outpost units are two nine man units, one in Springfield covering the west of the state and one based in Marion covering the south. They’re on constant stand-by to come here if needed."
"And the Chameleon suits how are they coming along?" Xander queried, taking this his first opportunity to see how his new suits were working.
Wild half-smiled. "Mixed results. They’re handy at evading the police and the
public, but even with the invisibility, demons and vampires can still sense us,
but the suit’s armour really helps."
"Good," Xander forced a smile. Yeah, he hadn’t thought about a vampire’s enhanced senses when incorporating them into the units, but extra-light armour didn’t exactly suck. He opened his mouth to ask another question when the door opened and one of Wild’s subordinates ran in.
"Boss," the short, chubby man’s eyes flitted from Wild to him and back to the former detective, "there’s scuttlebutt on the police radio about a Ms. Lilly Sinclair being attacked at her lab last night. She claims it was just thieves looking for drugs or stuff they could sell, but it might be more."
"Right," Wild turned to the rolodex sat on the desk and began flipping through it. "Here," he pulled out a sheet, "I’ve got her address. Apparently she’s a theoretical physicist."
"Okay," Xander looked around, "Faith and Kennedy you stay here, Tara, you’re with me and Wild."
"Hey, why do you wanna me to stay behind," Faith queried.
Xander grinned. "You’ve heard of the gentle touch, Faith? You don’t have it."
Faith smirked, dimples deepening in her cheeks. "Not what ya said last night." The man who’d just ran in let out a strangled gasp. "What?" Faith glanced towards the man. "Gotta somethin’ stuck in your throat, dude?"
Xander shook his head before glancing at Wild. "Can we get out of here, please?"
"Things were just getting interesting," murmured Tara.
Xander glared at the witch before looking back at the messenger. "Can you get me the police reports before we split, I’d like to read them on the way over?"
"Does that count as homework, Xan?" Faith snarked.
* * *
The former cop drove them to a well cared-for block of apartments in one of Chicago’s mid-rent suburbs. The five storey block looked to date back to the 1930s and had a quaintly old-fashioned glass-foyer. "That’s her place."
"Okay," Xander nodded. "You’re the man with the experience dealing with witnesses you lead the way."
Wild nodded as he climbed out of the car. "No problem." Xander followed Wild up the path, Tara trailing behind. Wild strode through the foyer.
"Hey!" the receptionist, a small willowy blonde with cool grey eyes partially concealed with horn-rimmed spectacles, let out a shout and started out from behind her rounded mahogany desk. "You can’t just barge in here."
"Yes I can," Wild flashed a card at the woman as he continued heading towards the elevators at the far end of the reception area. "Chicago Police Department. We need to ask one of your tenants some questions."
"Oh yes, officer." The receptionist stepped back, attitude going from persistent bulldog to compliant poodle in a second.
Xander raised an eyebrow as they stepped into the dimly-lit elevator. "I thought you weren’t a police officer anymore?"
"I’m not." Wild palmed the card holder with a wry smile as Tara pulled the rattling elevator door shut behind them. "Toy one, you can buy them in a store for a couple of bucks. Flash them quickly, walk like you’re a cop, and no-one questions you."
Xander chuckled as the elevator began moving. "That is so cool," he commented. "I’ll have to get myself one of them."
Tara shook her head. "You’re such a kid," the smiling witch reproved.
"Guilty as charged," Xander replied as the elevator came to a shuddering halt. He grinned at Tara’s soft laugh as the elevator opened and they walked out into a red carpeted and walled hallway. Xander allowed Wild to take the lead again, relying on the cop’s greater experience.
"3B, 3C," Wild stopped at the third doorway and knocked, "this is it."
After a minute the grey door swung open several inches, a door chain barring
the way and the scared eyes of a pretty brunette in her early thirties staring
suspiciously out. "Yes?"
"Hello," Jack flashed the woman a smile, but not the badge. "I assume you’re Ms. Lilly Sinclair?"
"I am," the woman cautiously confirmed, "look I had a long night-."
"I’m aware of that," Wild’s smile didn’t shift an inch, his tone soft and soothing. "In fact it’s that we’re here to talk to you about. We understand you were involved in an incident at the lab you worked at?"
"Who are you?" the woman’s eyes turned from cautious to furtive. "I’ve already given statements to the police."
Jack smiled. "You said the attack was just thugs, but-."
"They weren’t just anything!" the woman’s voice rose several octaves. "They were -." She shook her head. "Unless you’ve authority to be here, go I’m going to bed!"
The woman started to shut the door but not before Wild threw a business card in. "If you need help call us."
"Why didn’t you show her the badge?" Xander muttered as they started back to the hallway.
"The woman was scared, too scared not to want a long look at my badge," Jack
replied as they reached the elevator doors. "Once she realised it was fake, it’d
be that much harder to get her trust."
"Yeah," Xander pursed his lips as he pressed the elevator button, "I suppose that makes sense."
* * *
"Oh god," Lilly’s legs were slightly shaky as she bent down behind the couch to pick up the business card that had fallen there. She didn’t know who the strangers were, and she didn’t care, she just wanted to be left alone. Oh god, she had to thi-.
"Aaaaah!" she screamed as her rear window shattered inward, three of the giant praying mantis-like beasts charging through, golden eyes glaring at them. "Help!"
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (5/?)
Xander stepped towards the opening door. "What’s our next-."
"That answers that!" Tara cried out as she spun around.
"Yeah," Xander agreed as he led the charge down the hallway, pulling two Desert Eagles out of the Always Pocket, "Tara can you-." The door crashed open about three seconds before they reached it. "Thanks!" Xander barrelled through the open door, eyes widening at the chaos that greeted him. "Wow, they look like the Shadows from Babylon 5, cool!"
Glass lay everywhere, in part from the window and in part from the over-turned coffee table. The scientist was crouched behind the couch, shaking wildly as a trio of Praying-Mantis like monsters advanced on her.
Xander’s guns came up, their booms and arid gunsmoke filling the room as his rounds tore through the left of the three demons, Wild doing the same to the one on the right. A green mucus sprayed the walls behind the two demons as they flew back and crashed into the walls.
Xander started to turn towards the last of the three. "Oh shit!" his eyes widened as the third of the creatures let out a high-pitched caw as it leapt over the couch and crashed into him, knocking him onto his back.
The thing’s fetid breath assailed him as its teeth gnashed together, drooling salvia dripping onto him . Xander ignored the creature’s barbed claws tearing at his clothes to bring his knees up into his chest and kick out, feet firmly crashing into the beast’s underbelly. The creature let out a shocked screech as it flew off him, Xander sitting up and shooting his two guns into the beast, the monster imploding in mid-flight.
"Ha!" Xander laughed as the demon crashed to the floor, body briefly thrashing in its death thores. "Take that John Sheridan! Anything you can do, I can do!"
"You dork." Tara sighed. "You’re just lucky Faith isn’t here."
"You’re our leader?" Wild gasped. "We’re doomed."
* * *
"What is going on?" Lilly shrieked, her carefully-held together defences collapsing under this second attack.
In an instant the female of the trio was helping her to her feet. "We hope you could help us with that," the woman soothed.
"But maybe later," the older of the two men commented, "police will be on their way."
"Yes," Lilly gathered herself as they stumbled out into the hallway, "but we
best not use the lift, the stairwell leads out into an alley at the rear"
"Lead the way," the older of the two men ordered.
Lilly nodded, talking as she did so, heading to the stairwell at the opposite end of the corridor to the elevator. "I’m a member of The Order Of Empedocles-."
"Empedocles?" queried the younger of the two men.
"He was a Greek philosopher," the trio’s female replied as they reached the stairwell door before turning and smiling apologetically at her. "Sorry, go on."
"He formed The Order Of Empedocles after encountering and defeating a demon," Lilly continued as they started down the steps. "The Order has continued for twenty-five hundred years, using science to combat the supernatural. We’ve had Avicenna, Alexander von Humboldt, Pliny the Elder, William of Ockham, Robert Boyle, Aristotle, Blaise Pascal, and many others amongst our members."
"And Dr. Marcus Clark was one of you?" asked the honey-blonde as they started
down the stairwell, feet echoing on the steps.
"Yes," Dr. Lilly Sinclair nodded. "There’s only one other member of the Order in Chicago. I’ve," she took a shaky breath, "been trying to get in touch with him, but there’s no answer."
"Okay," the younger of the two men nodded, "we’ll have to go to his-."
"Oh god!" Lilly screamed, eyes widening as she saw a trio of the praying mantis creatures scurrying up the stairs two sets beneath them.
"Duck!" Lilly gasped as the trio’s woman grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her down as the younger man pulled out a grenade and dropped it over the stairwell railing before leaping back. The stairwell shuddered as flames shot up, the creatures’ screams drowned out by the explosion’s boom.
Moments later and they were rushing past the torn-apart monsters, scorch-marks streaking the wall, the things’ remains making the steps slippery underfoot, and their pungent stench making Lilly dry-heave. Then they were bursting out of the building. "I’ll go back for the car later," the older man commented. "The important thing is to get away from here."
"No," Lilly shook her head. "The important thing is getting to my friend’s house."
The younger man of the two sighed. "She’s right. Dr. Sinclair, lead the way."
* * *
Xander eased the front door open, wincing slightly at its altogether too loud sounding creak. Then he and Lilly were creeping through into a homely looking narrow hallway, the others left behind in the car they’d ‘acquired’ in case they needed to make a fast getaway.
"Stay behind me," Xander ordered in a whisper as he reached a slightly ajar door. Xander took a breath as he pushed the door open. He choked back a gasp at the sight that greeted him, body parts lay strewn across the blood-soaked lounge. "I’m guessing he’s a seventy something black man?"
"Yes, what’s happ-."
"No," Xander quietly but firmly shut the door before the woman could look in, before turning to face her. "You don’t need to see that." The scientist let out a choked gasp. "There, there," Xander put an uncomfortable arm around the woman’s shoulder, he was just grateful Faith wasn’t anywhere near-by to go thermo-nuclear.
After a second he started to guide the woman towards the door. "Look," Xander began talking as he opened the door, "there must be a specific reason the Pyramid are attacking members in this city."
Lilly stared at him for a second before nodding. "Four years ago we discovered that an ‘essence’ is left in the air after a significant evil supernatural event, and not just after either, this agent begins to build up several hours before. We’ve been working on a method of building it. Two months ago we finished the prototype, the Mulus Tactilis. It only works within city limits so far, but we did hope to expand it to state and maybe nation-wide."
Xander realised the pyramid must be frightened this instrument would be able
to predict where they had an event planned. "Okay," Xander decided as he guided
Lilly to the car, "these people will take you to our base-."
"T…the monsters-." Lilly said as he eased her into the back-seat.
"We’ve got plenty of trained men to protect you," Wild interjected.
"What I need is for you tell me how to get my hands on the plans for the Mulus Tactilis," Xander continued.
"I don’t even know who you are!" Lilly protested.
"I’ll explain on the way," Tara soothed.
Lilly stared at him for a long second before nodding. "Okay." Xander listened as she talked.
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (6//?)
Xander whistled casually as he strode into the featureless three storey building, coming to a atop at the reception desk. He forced himself to relax as he noted the unavoidable CCTV cameras peering down at him from opposite corners of the room. The building was a discreet security deposit business without the advertising of larger, more established businesses. "Hi," Xander smiled at the receptionist as he pushed the key through the grille in the bullet-proof screen. "I’ve got a key for Vault 4C."
"Thank you sir," the dark-skinned elfin-featured receptionist shot him a practiced smile. "And the code?"
"Eight, twelve, sixty-eight." Xander replied.
"Thank you sir." The door to the left hissed as it slid open. "Please, take your key with our compliments. Put it in the lock of the elevator, it’ll make sure the elevator takes you to the right vault."
"Thank you," Xander strode into the pristinely white elevator. The moment the door slid shut behind him, he placed the key in the lock and turned. The elevator rose silently, then stopped, the wall opposite sliding away to reveal a surgically-clean room. Xander walked into the room and tapped into a key-pad to the right.
Xander sighed as he pulled out the plain brass key and bard-coded, laminated card inside the now open safe. "Windy City Health, next," he muttered.
* * *
The moment the door slammed shut, Lilly spun to face the mystery woman. "Right!" she demanded as the car started up. "Who are you people?"
The other woman smiled soothingly. "You obviously already know about demons and vampires, so I don’t need to give you that part of the talk." The honey-blonde paused. "My name is Tara McLay."
"Oh my god!" Lilly gasped as a giddy realisation swamped over her. "Not the Tara? The witch of the Mithras Quartet! Oh wow! That must have been Xander! Is it true he’s part-god? He didn’t look godly! You’ve met Blade and Doctor Strange haven’t you?" she babbled as questions poured out of her. "You killed Dracula didn’t you? And defeated a Chaos Lord? " She paused, finally registering the dazed look on her companion’s face. "Oh sorry," she shrugged self-consciously, a flush rising in her cheeks, "it’s just not often you meet a living legend."
It was now the younger woman’s turn to blush. "Y…you seem to know a lot about us."
Lilly laughed. "The Order’s made up of scientists, mostly males. Male scientists are almost uniformly nerds," Lilly explained with a weak smile. "And nerds are almost always fascinated by tales of warrior babes. And three at once? Why it practically has them debating the possibility of heaven." Lilly’s smile broadened slightly. "In-between bouts of massive drooling." Lilly paused momentarily. "He will be alright won’t he?"
"Xander?" Tara paused than smiled. "He’ll be fine, he always is."
* * *
Xander stared up at the four storey gymnasium, the sun gleaming off the club’s glass walls. A blue sign arced over the glass door, Xander pushed the door open, moving into the dimly-lit foyer. Xander ran the card he’d picked up at the security deposit business through the card reader. The door hissed as it slid open, light spilling in from the brightly-lit, spacious foyer.
The foyer was filled with autographed and framed pictures of body-builders, martial artists, and fitness competitors, a juice bar at the far right side and a reception desk to his left.
"Hello, sir." A blonde with the spandexed body of a fitness model beamed at her from under her orange sun tan. "Welcome to Windy City Health," she greeted as she took his ten dollars. The area behind the reception desk was stacked with shelves filled with an assortment of protein and creatine powders, amino acid bottles, and energy drinks. "We have an aerobics class starting in one of our four exercise studios in ten minutes. For just an extra twenty-."
"Do I look like I do aerobics?" Xander raised an eyebrow. "I mean I believe in a woman’s manifest right to wear spandex, but seriously me in the stuff?"
The woman blanched at his joke but recovered quickly. "According to my
screen, one of our masseuses will be free in five minutes-."
Xander raised a hand to cut off the woman’s spiel. "Just a workout," he lied. "Maybe a sauna later, but just the gym."
"Very well," the woman nodded uncertainly before rallying quickly. "We run extensive step aerobics, spinning, Pilates, and training in no less than three martial arts disciplines. In addition we have a number of personal trainers on staff for a very reasonable price."
"That’s alright," Xander smiled. "I know one end of a barbell from the
"Well here’s a leaflet detailing our services," the woman pushed a leaflet into his hand. "And don’t forget we have a juice bar for all your energy-replenishing needs."
"I’ll bear that in mind," Xander promised as he hurried away from the reception area, eyes looking around for the signs directing him to the gym, pounding guitar music piping through the gym’s speakers. "Geez," he muttered as he strode through the gym, ducking in and out of the lycra warriors, "I’ve met less-pressure double-glazing salesmen."
Soon Xander was jogging up the second set of stairs and then making his way down the hallway and into the communal locker room between the women and men’s changing rooms. The locker room was filled with rows of grey lockers. Xander walked to the leftmost row and strode down to the lockers nearest the glass wall. The sun’s glow blanketed him as he crouched down at the bottom locker, pulled out his key, and unfastened the locker, pulling the door open. Xander’s eyes narrowed as he looked inside the long-stay locker to find a black telescope-like object and a DVD. Taking both objects, he placed them in the Always Pocket stood and turned.
He groaned at the quartet stood at the far end of the lockers. "Draco."
"Harris," Draco smirked. "Thanks to your efforts I’m no longer quite the warrior I was," Draco raised his hook, "but I’ll see you dead nonetheless."
"You should be thanking me." Xander smiled at the Immortal. "You do realise with that thing you’ll never have any problems picking your nose?"
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (7//?)
"Well it’s always good to have goals." Xander stared warily at the three vicious looking swordsmen. "I don’t suppose you gentlemen would consider triple what he paid you to kill him?"
Draco chuckled. "These are men of honour and I have considerable resources."
"Not as much as I have," Xander risked a glance out of the window, grinning slightly at what he saw. Ah screw it, it had always looked so cool in the movies.
His elbow swung back, crashing through the window. "I’d love to stay and talk, but things to do," he apologised before stepping through the shattered window.
"Ahhhhh!" Xander’s heart thumped as he fell, eyes fixed on the rapidly approaching dumpster. Xander shuddered as he hit it, the cardboard boxes and empty plastic protein bottles softening the impact, but not doing anything to soften the putrid stench of the slightly-off fruit the juice bar had thrown out. Xander spat out a peeled orange skin as he started climbing out of the dumper, glancing up to see a furious-looking Draco pulling his men back from the shattered window. "They never mention the smell in the movies," Xander mused as he dropped to the tarmac and dusted himself off as he ran towards the street where he’d parked his car, people scattering out of his path. "Yeah, sorry about the smell!"
* * *
Faith glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time since Tar had returned without Xander. Then glanced towards where Tara was happily chatting to Lilly. "Tell me," she drawled, partly to take away the disquiet that was building inside her, "are they as boring as they sound?"
"Worse," Kennedy nodded mournfully.
"Nothing worse than two geeks babbling," Faith muttered, she’d gotten into readin’, even recently found an unguessed passion for history, ‘specially comparing recorded history to ‘actual’ history, but techno-babble just didn’t float her boat. Her nose wrinkled. "Jesus, what is that smell?"
"That would be me," Faith spun in her seat, a grin tugging at her lips at Xander’s voice.
Her eyes widened as her boy-friend’s bedraggled state, some unsightly liquid staining his jeans, his shirt’s collar torn, and a mucky streak across his face. "What the fuck happened to you?"
"Draco happened," Xander replied.
"That son of a bitch," Faith snarled, her good humour taking a definite down-turn. "I know he’s a freakin’ Immortal, but he’s gettin’ to be a real pain in the ass. First he killed Nostradamus-."
"He did what!" exclaimed Lilly, the scientist’s eyes wide with excitement. "Not the prophet! That’s impossible!"
"’Kay," Faith nodded sagely. "If ya like." Then she looked back towards Xander. "Then the fucker sets that Hass demon on us, ya blow his fucking hand off, and he still comes after us!"
"A Hass demon?" Lilly looked like she was reeling. "An Immortal? And a legendary prophet!"
"Our lives can be hectic," the brat said in the world’s biggest ever understatement.
"Ya killed him though?" Faith pressed.
Xander shook his head. "Jumped out of a window and into a dumpster," her boy-friend grinned goofily. "Man, it was cool!"
Faith rubbed at her head, sometimes Xan made her head throb. "You had a chance to kill him and ran?"
Xander’s face sobered. "I figured getting the Mulus Tactilis was a little more important."
‘"Kay," Faith conceded the point, "see yar point."
"Did you get it?" Lilly queried, her dark eyes excited. "Where is it?"
"Here," Xander pulled a telescope looking thing and a CD that he passed to the scientist.
"Oh wow," Lilly’s eyes widened as she stared. "That was the Always Pocket wasn’t it?" Xander nodded. "That is so," the physicist shook her head, "so amazing. Have you ever wondered if The Always Pocket works on a strictly magical, biometric, or scientific basis?"
"Yeah," Xander nodded, a dry smile tugging at her boy-friend’s lips. "I think about it all the time. Sometimes I even lose sleep over it."
"I thought it was Faith who made you lose sleep?" snarked Kennedy.
Lilly blushed but recovered quickly. "I need a laptop with a 512mb graphics card, 200 meg free on the hard drive, and at least 2 gigabyte RAM. Oh, and an USB line."
Xander looked blankly at the witch. Tara smiled. "My machine will work fine."
"Cool." Xander looked towards Lilly. "Do you want to set your program up?"
"Okay." In seconds the scientist had the telescope attached to the computer. "So far, it’s limited in its application, it can only detect major events, only in a city’s radius, and only one – two hours in the future." Lilly pointed at the screen which now showed a map of Chicago. "Major activity will show up as a blue light pre-happening, and a black light during."
"What if it ain’t Chicago?" Xander looked towards Faith. The Slayer beauty shrugged, ebony eyes worried. "Stands to reason this cult might not have all the information about this machine, they might think it can show events worldwide, and are just killin’ ya to stop their plan from bein’ found out."
"Oh," Lilly stared at the sultry brunette, "I hadn’t thought of that."
"My head, not just a hat-rest," Faith winked at the scientist.
"My guess is if they’re so urgently attacking you right now, they must be planning something soon and locally," Tara put in.
"We can only use what we’ve got," Xander put in.
"I’ve set up an alarm which will send a beep to my pager if anything happens," Lilly said.
"While you wait for that," Xander looked towards Faith, "you and I are tracking Draco down."
"Kicking ass and takin’ names!" Faith smirked. "Now ya’re talkin’ my language!"
* * *
Faith fought back a yawn as Wild talked into his cell. This wasn’t exactly what she’d figured when Xander had talked about going after Draco. Instead of kicking open doors and beating up low-life informants for information, they were waiting for Wild’s team to find where Draco was staying.
"Right," Wild nodded, "great thanks. Now get your tails back here and make sure you’re not seen." Wild turned to face them, a smirk on his face. "An armourer we use who lives on Roosevelt Road reports delivering a quartet of swords to a man answering Draco’s description at the Four Seasons."
"That’s more like it!" Faith beamed.
"Good," Xander looked more sober. "Thanks for your help, Wild. Faith and I will take it from here."
Wild shook his head. "Damn it, Xander. I can have twenty men there in less than an hour."
"This one’s kinda personal," Xander rose, a grim look on his face. Wild’s mouth opened even as his eyes narrowed. "I want you to ready your men, if something comes up with Lilly’s scanner, I want them ready. Come on," Xander looked at her, "this bastard tried to break us up, he tried to ruin us. I want to make him pay."
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (8//?)
"Holy shit," Faith craned her neck as she peered up at the looming skyscraper, implacable in the Chicago skyline. "This place is tall."
"Yeah," Xander nodded as he looked around. "This is the Magnificent Mile. It contains a mixture of upscale stores, resteraunts, financial services companies and hotels catering almost exclusively to affulent tourists and locals. And as for this," Xander joined her in looking up, "this is 90 North Michigan Avenue, the hotel is on the 30th to 46th floors."
"Fuck," Faith shook her head. "If the elevator is out I’m going to be seriously pissed."
Xander grinned at her. "You’re forgetting that when people are this rich, they tend not to have walk stairs."
"Yeah," Faith nodded. "And the damn things won’t break down for the rich."
"Come on," Xander started through the skyscraper’s entrance. "If anyone asks, I’ll just tell them I bought you from an Arab sheik."
"Heh," Faith glared at her boyfriend, "I was figuring my cover story would be you’re my bit of rough gigolo." Faith grimaced as she noticed something. "There’s a lot of CCTVs here, Xan."
Xander nodded. "I see them, but it can’t be helped. We know Draco is here, so we have to hit him now."
"Five by five," Faith affected a casual swagger as they strolled across the lobby and towards the sweeping stairs at the back. All around was gleaming French deco in a creamy finish with gleaming chandeliers dangling from the arched ceiling and palm trees lining the walls. "Like I said, better be a lift."
"Lazy little Slayer aren’t you?" sniped Xander.
Faith raised an eyebrow. "Hey ya wanna fight after walking up forty flights of steps?"
"Point," Xander conceded before nodding towards the left of the stairs. "They’re over there."
* * *
The moment they were in the elevator, Faith took her leather jacket and threw it over the CCTV camera. Xander looked towards her and licked his lips. "I kinda think we should concentrate on the job in hand, but okay."
"Mind out of the gutter, Harris." Faith shook her head. "Jeez, talk ‘bout one track. I wanna Berretta and a sword."
"Oh," Faith chuckled at her boy-friend’s flush. "Good idea." Xander hurriedly passed her the requested weapons. "There you go."
"Thanks." Faith grabbed her leather jacket and hurriedly put it on as the elevator came to a halt. She peeked out as the elevator’s doors glided soundlessly open. "Rooms eight and ten right?"
"Yeah," Xander started down the corridor, eyes shooting left and right.
"I’ll take room eight," Faith said.
"Cool," Xander took a breath. "They had better have got the rooms right."
"This could get embarrassing otherwise," Faith commented.
"Oh yeah," Xander agreed.
"Like more embarrassing when you cast a love spell. Or when we first had sex. Or-."
"Faith," Xander shook his head. "Shut up."
"Jeez, you just know how to make me moist with your sweet-talkin’," Faith stopped. "These are the rooms."
"Yeah," Xander stepped in front of his door. "On three."
"One, two, three!" Faith’s foot splintered into the door, the door crashing to the floor.
The two men laid on the room’s pair of beds began to leap up, their swords seemingly jumping into their hands. The silenced phuft of her Berretta echoed twice, her two rounds splattering into the nearest swordsman’s chest, blood blossoming as he slumped back on the bed.
And then the other man was charging her, teeth bared in a grimace as his sword slashed the air. Faith quickly holstered her gun while pulling her short sword up. Their swords clanged together as Faith pushed forward on her front foot, muscles writhing as she forced the man back.
The man responded with a counter-lunge that Faith slid inside before slashing at her rival with a back-handed swipe that her enemy ducked under. Faith swayed away from an up-swinging thrust, her knee coming up into the man’s crotch.
The swordsman grunted as he started to double up, Faith’s sword flashed down to rip through the back of his neck and take his head off his shoulders. Blood showered out of the man’s neck, spraying the wall opposite. Faith climbed over the twitching corpse as she headed back through the door. "Shit!" Faith cursed at the sound of the sirens going off.
* * *
The moment he was through the door, Xander shot the first of the two men square in the head, the shot blowing the back of the man’s head off, splattering his brains against the wall. Even as the man slumped against the wall, Draco was on him, sword flashing at his head while his hook uppercutted at his jaw. Xander leaned away from both while simultaneously kicking at the Immortal’s legs. The Immortal stumbled backwards then came back in, Xander catching him with a half-leap kick that knocked the centuries-old warrior back and over a table before rolling back up in time to block Xander’s attempt at a decapitation.
Draco leapt up, crashing a shoulder into Xander, the slighter man spinning off him and attempting a cross-body swing that Xander parried while delivered a stunning hook to the jaw. Draco stumbled backwards, eyes glazing slightly as he instinctively leaned away and under another sword slash.
"Ahh!" Xander grunted as pain blazed across his chest as Draco slashed his hook across his belly. Ignoring the hurt, Xander crashed into the man, knocking him into the wall before grabbing the man’s hair and shoving him to the ground.
The immortal rolled away from Xander, flashing his sword as he blocked Xander’s attack. The immortal grunted as he caught a kick in the belly, doubling him up.
And then Xander’s blade flashed down, taking the immortal assassin’s head off through the back of his neck Lightning flashed out of the decapitated corpse’s severed neck, energy crackling in the air. Xander spun around as the door swung open, relaxing slightly until he noticed the worry in Faith’s dark eyes. "What’s up?"
"Can’t you hear those goddamn alarms?" Faith growled. "The pigs are on their way!"
"Damn," Xander looked around, a wild idea striking me. "Help me tie the bedsheets together, we’ll swing down-."
"Do I look like maid service?" Faith snapped.
"There’s an image-," Xander muttered.
"Focus Harris!" His girl-friend snapped. "Get one of your grappling hooks and tie it around the bed’s leg."
"Oh," Xander pulled out a hook, feeling foolish for having forgotten about the Always Pocket. "Good point."
Faith paused, worry filling her eyes. "No way that’s gonna get us to the ground."
"It doesn’t have to," Xander winked. "Just four floors down."
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (9//?)
"Four floors?" Faith stared at Xander. "Are you fuckin’ crazy?"
"Probably," Faith didn’t like Xander’s grin at all. "Tie this for me." Xander threw her his grappling hook. Faith crouched down by the side of the bed nearest the window and quickly tied the grappling hook around one of the bed legs.
While she was doing that, her boyfriend shot at the window, the toughened glass cracking but not breaking. Then he shot again, the window exploding outwards.
"Jesus!" Faith gasped as the wind grabbed her, its howling deafening and its gusting force almost dragging her from her feet.
"Here," Xander beckoned to her as he tied the rope around his waist. "Grab a hold."
"Anywhere in particular?" Faith queried as she hurried over, grabbing Xander around the waist in a bear hug. "For the record this is not a good ideaaaaaaaaa!"
Faith’s comment was lost in her scream as Xander leapt out of the window. The wind gusted around them as they plummeted, then the rope pulled tight, pulling them back up like puppets. Then they crashed into a hotel window, Xander kicking off as he pulled out his gun and fired.
BANG! The window cracked but didn’t break, even when they crashed back into it, Faith kicking hard at it. The moment they were the maximum distance from the window, Xander fired again.
The window imploded in a shower of glass, leaving them free to swing in and land on their knees in the thirty-sixth floor hotel room. Faith immediately released her grip on Xander’s waist. "Now we’re inside, now what?"
Xander grinned at her. "Now we’re four floors lower than we were."
Faith shook her head, Xander’s logic was unassailable. And then her boy-friend let out a gasp and suddenly started sliding towards the window. "What the fuck!"
* * *
"The bed!" Xander gasped as the rope pulled tight around his waist, threatening to crack his ribs. "It’s fallen out of the window!" He braced his feet on the window sill, arm muscles writhing and sweat beading down his forehead as he clung to the rope and fought to stay in the skyscraper. The rope burnt like acid poured onto his fingers as he clung to it, but he didn’t dare to ease his grip. "You need to cut the rope!" he gasped, breath coming in desperate pants like an almost finished marathon runner.
"Fuck!" Faith exclaimed, his girl-friend’s husky voice as close to panic as he’d ever heard it. "Cut it with what, Xan?"
Xander felt dots appear in front of his eyes as he pulled a K-Bar out of the Always Pocket. "This."
"Thanks," Faith scooped the knife up as it fell to the carpet, one effortless swing slicing the rope in two.
"Oh god!" Xander grunted as he hit the ground, taking his first breath in an apparent eternity. "I really need to think my plans out more," he muttered as he unfastened what remained of the constraining rope that he was sure would have either sent him falling to his death or cut him in two in just a few more seconds.
"Tell me about it." Faith peered out of the window and shook her head. "Jesus," his girl-friend laconically commented. "That’s gonna make a mess of some poor bastard’s Merc." Faith turned to him and helped him to his feet. "What next, oh sage leader?"
"Women," Xander muttered, "isn’t there one of them who isn’t sarcastic?"
"Men, isn’t there one of them who’s incompetent?" Faith retorted. "Well?"
We’re four floors lower than where every one will be heading," Xander replied. "We’ll just walk out."
"Easy as that?" Faith commented as she strode to the door and peeked out.
"Well maybe not-."
"Ah screw your plan," Faith interrupted. "I gotta new one."
* * *
"Where’s my room!" Xander weaved down the corridor, knocking over a table pressed against the wall. "I want my room!" Xander stopped in front of the barrel-chested cop and his shorter, slimmer partner before burping and leaning against the wall. "I wanna ask you a question!"
"I’m sorry sir," the biggest cop couldn’t help but smirk. "But we don’t know where your room is. And you have to leave the hotel right now."
"That wasn’t the question," Xander grinned suddenly as his girl-friend appeared around the back of the distracted cops. "My question was," he winced when Faith grabbed and cracked the pair’s heads together, the two cops slumping into his girl-friend’s arms, "Ibuprofen or Asprin?"
"Quit with the quips, asshat." Faith shot him a world-weary look. "Help me get them in the closet across the corridor."
"Sure," Xander hurried across the passageway, kicked the door open, and hurried back, grabbing the two unconscious patrolmen by their legs and helped his girl-friend carry them into the closet, slamming the door shut behind them. "This idea was pretty good Faith," Xander complimented his girl-friend. "No-one’s going to check two police officers walking out of the hotel."
"Thanks," Faith grinned at his praise before winking. "Hey just ‘cause we’re in a closet don’t mean ya’ve got licence to let your hands roam, I ain’t Queen C," Faith snarked as she began changing into the smaller cop’s outfit. "’Spite rumours to contrary, this gal’s got some standards."
"You know," Xander flushed red, "whoever told you that you’re funny was lying."
"Xan?" Faith looked at him and smirked.
"Yeah?" Xander hurriedly fastened the outfit.
"Let’s keep the outfits for later."
"Late-." Xander’s blush deepened as realisation hit. "Yeah, good idea."
"But first," Faith took a breath before peeking out, relieved that although the corridors was now awash with people, they were all too panicked to notice them exiting the closet. "We gotta get out of here."
"We’ll have to take the stairs." Faith groaned. "You know for a Slayer you’re surprisingly lazy."
"Screw you Harris," she retorted.
"Later and in that outfit definitely." Xander continued without missing a beat. "But if we get in the elevator and turn off the power, we’re screwed."
"Point," Faith groaned again before sighing and putting on her aviators. "Come on."
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (10/13)
Tara rose as Xander and Faith hurried in through the base’s front entrance. "You’re all over the TV!"
"Did they get my best side?" Faith cockily queried as she and Xander sunk into two of the lounge’s comfy seats, the Brotherhood’s local members staring at the duo with predictable awe.
"Ha," Kennedy taunted even as she rose and made her way over to the coffee machine to make the newly-arrived duo a drink, "in your case it’s not your best side, it’s your least offensive side."
"Bite me, brat," Faith flipped Tara’s girl-friend the bird.
"Good to see you made it," Wild greeted as he walked in, "but you’d have had a lot harder time getting out of there if someone like myself had been running the crackdown."
Faith smirked at the cop. "If it makes you sleep better at night, keep tellin’ yourself that."
Wild’s mouth opened as a naggingly persistent beeping began. Everyone looked
towards a paling Lilly. "It’s the Malus, something must be happening."
Xander rose, ignoring his still aching ribs. "Let’s see where…"
* * *
"Ah!" Lilly exclaimed as she sat down and peered at the screen. "It appears the centre of the disturbance is at Lincoln Park."
"Oh no, oh no." Everyone turned to a suddenly pale Tara.
Xander groaned. "That expression and a double ‘oh no’, is never good, let’s hear it, Tara?"
Tara looked around the crowded room before looking back at him. "I was
reading a travel guide on the plane over here. It said before Lincoln Park was
built, it was the burial place for around four thousand Confederate prisoners of
war who died at Camp Douglas, near the stockyards. The prisoners held there in
1862-65 died largely as a result of the terrible conditions of hunger, disease
and privation existing at the camp." The witch finished and stared expectantly
Xander shrugged, not understanding the point the witch was driving at. "So?"
"So," Tara looked impatient at him for not following her train of thought, but hey he was employed to do the heavy lifting, she was the thinker, "such a place where so many people who died in such a terrible way were buried is likely to be a dam of physic pain and anger-."
"Just the sorta stuff dark art mages could use to power such a complex spell." Faith winked at his surprised look. "Hey, I read too, and not just the funny pages."
"Leaving aside that disturbing revelation," he looked at his girl-friend and grinned, "actually both of them, let’s look at the map."
"The disturbance appears to be dead centre," Lilly reported as she stared at the screen.
"Yeah," Xander mused. "Okay, there’s some sort of river about one hundred and fifty metres to the north," he looked towards Wild, "Jack, how many men have you got here?"
The former cop grimaced. "My fifteen, and six have come in from the outpost units, I’ve left the others fast in case of fall-out."
Twenty-one then. Xander nodded as he formulated a plan. "Okay, then let’s use the water to our advantage. Tara’s you’re our mage, whatever it takes we want you to disrupt the spell or ritual for as long as possible, you’ll be on the north at the far side of the river." Xander looked towards Kennedy. "You’ll be with her, together with Wild’s five best archers, keep demons off Tara. Having the water between you and the demons should make it harder for them to get to you."
"Unless there’s demons in the water."
Xander grimaced at Kennedy’s comment. "Faith’s right, you are depressing." Xander ignored the potential’s muttered protest to look towards Wild. "I want you and your second to split the rest of your men into two groups of eight and come in from the east and west, just melee weapons, no guns or bows, Faith and I are going to be coming in from the south, so I’d prefer not to be shot."
"Me too," Faith drawled, "girl gets wicked pissed when that happens. Friendly fire my ass."
An amused murmur rippled through the previously tense room. Xander shot his girl-friend an appreciative look, receiving a wink in return. "Your job is to just occupy the demons, pull them away from the mages, Faith and I will kill them."
"We haven’t any idea what demons we’ll be facing?"
Xander shook his head at one of the locals’ query. "’Fraid not," he replied, "nor what they’re doing." He paused. "Any more questions?"
When no-one spoke, Wild rose. "Okay everyone, grab your weapons, we’re leaving in ten."
"We’ll come at the enemy from four different directions, so everyone travel in their assigned groups." Xander paused. "When Tara’s in position, she’ll signal us. And then I’ll give the word for the attack to begin. Let’s move people!"
* * *
"Oh no," he groaned as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Calming himself, he cast a scrying spell, his heart jumping at the almost immediate results he got. He had hoped that the spell would show him he was mistaken, instead it showed that the problem was even worse than he’d thought.
"Do you sense it?" he asked as he began picking up selecting items from his desk and shoving them into his sports bags, his question echoing around the apparently deserted office.
"Of course I do," the cluttered office’s only other inhabitant replied as he materialised through the wall, eyes widening at what he saw. "What’s the plan-, oh you can’t be serious?"
He smirked up at his best friend and former childhood tutor. "When am I not?"
The white-haired, blue-eyed ghost was of medium height and build with a wrinkled face. The middle-aged spirit sniffed, his flowery cravat tied neatly around his wrinkled neck and hanky in his suit’s pinstriped chest pocket adding to his general air of prissiness. "Oh yes, let’s not flee to Cancun or somewhere exotic, let’s stay here and die horribly. How wise." The ghost shook his head. "Well you don’t need to think I’m coming with you!"
"Wanna bet?" His ghost uttered an inarticulate protest as he snatched up his sigiled, glowing skull and dropped it into his sports bag before pulling on his duster, snatching up his hockey stick, and heading towards the door.
"Well you needn’t be so rough about it!" huffed the ghost.
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (11/13)
The car journey through the city was hushed and tension-filled, neither of them speaking as Xander negotiated through the Windy City’s streets. Parking up outside the park, Xander looked around, heart thumping.
"It’s about three quarters of a mile walk to where the ceremony is ain’t it?"
"Yeah." Faith groaned at Xander’s reply. "You know for a healthy Slayer in the prime of her life, you’re surprisingly lazy sometimes."
Faith contented herself with flipping him the bird as they strode through the cloaked in darkness park. The park was surprisingly empty, almost as if the thuggish gangs that usually congregated in such a place had somehow sensed what was occurring and wisely decided somewhere else was the place to be.
If only they had the option.
The park had a lot of amenities, as evidenced by the two baseball courts, three tennis courts, golf course, and harbour they passed by. In the distance he even briefly picked up the growling of a lion that he profoundly hoped was locked up in the park zoo.
However touristy the rest of the park was, its least effective selling point was definitely the demonic convention they found beside a medium-sized river. The demons were surrounding a quintet of cowled mages standing at the points of a pentagram and chanting at the sizable sphere of greenish-light glowing in the pentangle’s centre. The demons were many and varied, a number of the Shadow-like creatures as well as half a dozen or so vamped-out vamps, some Lubbers, some Carnyss demons, a few Fyarls, and even a couple of trolls.
"Okay," Xander licked his lips as he peered over a bush and inspected their foes, "what weaponry do you want?"
"Looking at all those SOBs, I wanna the biggest fuckin’ canon you’ve got," Faith commented, "but seeing as you said no guns, my double-bladed axe, sword, and bandolier of stakes will do."
Xander nodded as he passed out the weapons, his girl-friend immediately placing them around her svelte person. At the same time, Xander dialled Wild up. "Are your men in position?"
"Yeah," the cop whispered back.
"Great, then attack, we’ll follow you in in a minute."
"Okay." The phone clicked off, there was a momentary silence, and then Wild’s troops erupted out of the undergrowth about one hundred and fifty metres to the demons’ east, his second’s men doing the same from the other side. There was a moment of shocked silence, and then most of the demons split and charged to meet the onrushing humans.
"So far, so good." Xander looked towards his girl-friend. "Remember, we have to-."
"Kill at least one of the mages," Faith waspishly interrupted. "I know, I know. Jeez, not a ‘tard!"
"On that note," Xander rose, filling his hands with a short sword and a buckler, "let’s go."
* * *
"Thought you’d never say the word!" Faith snarled as she leapt up, hurdling the chest-high bush they’d been hiding behind in an effortless bound, then landing and charging into battle.
A troll came at her, its huge stone hammer swinging down in an attempt to flatten her head. Faith slid outside the blow, her hair jumping as the hammer whafted past. And then she was driving her elbow into the creature’s hip, knocking the hulking Troll off balance, forcing him to twist at the waist to face her, swinging his mighty weapon as he did so.
Faith dropped into a squat, allowing the huge hammer to swing harmlessly overhead as she hacked at the monster’s left leg. "Haaaaa!" the troll’s snaggle-toothed mouth opened in a shocked roar as her axe sliced deep into its leg. "Little girl bite!"
"Fuck no!" Faith side-stepped another downward swing, her sword this time swinging out to slice open the beast’s right leg. "Wouldn’t want to risk the rabies!" Both his legs gone, the monster let out a pained bellow and toppled like a giant redwood, Faith stepping past it and slicing down with her sword, taking the demon’s head in a spray of blood. "Next please."
* * *
Xander groaned as one of the Shadow-like demons skittered towards him, just watching it move made his slightly queasy, the way it seemed to half-crawl, half-run. And then it leapt into the air, talons pointing towards him. Xander lunged between its legs, sword thrusting up to impale its belly, twisting the blade as it slid through its ebony skin.
"Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" the beast’s shrill scream was almost enough to make his ears bleed.
"Ohhh gross!" Xander almost gagged as the demon’s foul stench filled his nostrils, his shield only just brought in time to prevent the demon’s blood from soaking him as he stepped out behind the beast, its body crashing lifelessly to the ground behind him.
A snarling, growling vampire lunged at him from his right, Xander swung his shield across his body at shoulder height, the vampire crashing face-first into it, its head knocked back just as Xander’s sword swept in front of his shield, slicing through its neck. "How do you like that, overbite?" Xander muttered as he continued on his way, every footstep taking him closer to his ultimate goal.
* * *
"Okay, I want a triangle around Tara, anything vaguely inhuman-looking comes at us, turn it into a pin-cushion. Remember, we need to stall for enough time to give Xander and Faith a chance to permanently end this ritual before it sucks the entire world into hell."
Tara tuned out her sometimes strident-sounding girl-friend as she steeled
herself to engage in battle with the mages fuelling the evil spell. She reached
out, forcing away the tentativeness that was her instinct, striking with
confidence. Tara’s mind reeled as she came into contact and struggled for
control of the ritual. It wasn’t the ritual’s power that almost sent her to her
knees, although that was almost enough to crack her like a nut. It was the
darker than black dripping from the ritual like an angry poison, soiling every
thought and emotion she’d ever had. "I…I can’t fight it," she whispered, her
heart quailing at the thought of failing those she loved but unable to face the
monstrous evil alone.
"Then let me help."
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (12/13)
Tara gasped at the sudden voice. She had a sense of a tall, lanky man with two day old stubble and wearing a knee-length duster. His eyes were strong yet kind and his brown hair receding into a widow’s peak. The man looked to be in his early forties and for some reason was carrying a hockey stick in one hand and a battered brown sports bag in the other. "Who are you?"
The man flashed her a smile that was filled with warmth. "I think we’re too busy saving the world to bother with introductions right now?"
Tara coloured slightly. "Yeah, of course."
* * *
Wild gasped as he crashed to the ground, rolling away from a horned demon’s stomp, his own kick to the knees hard enough to shatter a human’s kneecaps, but only staggering his adversary.
Still, that at least gave him the chance to leap up, duck under an axe-swing and deliver a kick to the gut that discouragingly bounced off the creature’s tough hide. And then he was back-pedalling again, his rival’s axe hewing the air between them.
Then he darted forward, years of martial arts training allowing him to see an opening someone else might well have missed, his sword lancing up and through the beast’s left eye, a greasy ichor bursting everywhere as the creature let out a piteous roar and fell to the ground.
Wild took a second to inspect the battlefield, what he saw taking his breath away.
Harris was indomitable, moving through the massed ranks of the enemy with a sort of brutal efficiency. The Slayer though was something else entirely, impossibly beautiful yet terrifyingly deadly, she glided with an effortless grace that would make the world’s finest acrobats and gymnasts feel clumsy by comparison.
* * *
"Shit!" Faith howled as pain lanced through her forearm, blood streaking from a slash from her hulking six foot odd crew-cutted opponent.
The black vampire flashed her a malicious grin before leaping at her. Faith grunted as he caught her with a fast overhand right to the forehead, the blow snapping her head back. Then air gusted out of her as her adversary hooked to her ribs.
The demon grinned down at her. "Mid-West and Chicago Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion from ’55 – ’57," the vampire grinned.
"Good for ya," Faith smirked suddenly, "Slayer ’98 to long after I’ve dusted your ass."
The demon’s smirk changed to a scowl as he vamped out and lunged at her, leading with a left jab that Faith ducked under. Only to grunt as a right hook bounced off her head. Ignoring the pain, she turned her slight stagger into a stomp to the demon’s left knee.
"Oww!" The vampire stumbled forward a step, a pain looked in his eyes, then fell backwards when Faith leapt up and planted both knees in his thick chest, the sudden reversal of momentum sending him crashing to his knees. As Faith landed she shot off a spin-kick to the skull that landed a half-second before the demon managed to get his hands up in a boxer’s guard, the force of her assault knocking him on his ass.
"Told ya." A grin on her face, Faith stepped towards the vampire. "Shit!" she cursed as she was forced to twist at the waist to meet another attacker, snatching the vampire by its elbows, then twisting and bending, depositing the demon back to the ground. Ignoring the demon’s retaliatory knee to the chest as she bent over him, she drove a stake into its heart.
She sensed the boxer’s approach a split-second before his right crashed into her temple, her pulling her head back only slightly negating the blow’s impact and the number of stars she saw. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she straightened, blocking a left on her right arm and bending her head out of the way of another right. Then the demon grabbed her hair and began yanking her head back, revealing her vulnerable neck.
So she punted his balls up from between his legs to somewhere in his throat. "Shit!" the demon croaked as he doubled up, easy prey for a stake to the back.
"Pulling my hair?" Faith shook her head in disgust. "What are ya, creature of the night or a ten year old girl?"
* * *
A Fyral grabbed Xander by the shoulder, its fingers digging deep into his muscle as it began lifting him off the ground. Xander’s boot flashed out, kicking the demon in the gut even as his axe came up, his sword still stuck in the second of the shadows he’d slain, and tearing through the top half of the demon’s head. "Aaaaah!" the demon let out a scream and threw Xander into the air before slumping to the ground.
"Owww," Xander grunted as he hit the ground and rolled up, his already bruised and taped ribs protesting. Xander smirked as he realised that at least the throw had gotten him considerably nearer to the mages.
The moment he looked towards the mages, the nearest spun to face him, its features hidden under its shadowy cowl. And then the world’s evil crashed over Xander, a thousand images sending him to his knees, vomit rising in his throat and tears misting in his eyes.
A corrupt politician getting a kickback from a special interest group. A greedy businessman hiring leg-breakers to break a strike. A slumlord hiring thugs to make sure residents kept their mouths shut. Crimelords planning the import and export of millions of dollars worth of drugs.
And the petty evils crashed over him too. A wife quaking at the sound of her husband’s key in the door. A school bully asserting his muscular authority. A chauvinistic boss promoting his cronies over those more deserving.
So much evil pouring into him that he felt his insides shrivel and his grasp on sanity falter. And then Faith leapt between him and the attacking mage, her right arm wrapping around the sorcerer’s neck as she drove the wizard backwards and towards the glowing light he’d been protecting even as she flew past him to land on the other side of the pentagram.
"Aaaaaah!" The mage who’d fallen into the light began screaming even as four tendrils of light shot out from the sphere to impale the other four wizards, their bodies shaking as if electrocuted before crumpling, smoke rising from the five burnt corpses, the spell’s light dissipating.
"Damn," Faith looked around at the carnage she’d caused, the remaining demons fleeing, "there’s five crispy critters."
"Yeah," Xander took a much needed breath as he rose on slightly shaky legs, "thanks for the-."
"Don’t mention it stud." Faith shot him a dimpled smile before darting to his side and allowing him to lean on her, her arm comfortingly wrapping around his waist as she steadied him. "Just pay me back in wild-monkey sex later."
"It’ll have to be much later," Xander bargained, "I’m beat."
"Been a long day," Faith’s luminous eyes hardened, "let’s see who the mystery man is with sis."
FIC: MC 53 May ’02 – The Dangers Of Alchemy (Finale/Finale)
In minutes, Faith and Xander were striding through the battle-ground, the other members of the Illinois Branch following behind. "Yo," Faith glared at her strange companion, "who the hell are ya?"
"Faith!" Tara gasped. "He just helped me stall the ritual, don’t be rude!"
"Yeah," Faith looked characteristically unabashed, "sorry ‘bout that- Jesus!" Faith jumped and fell on her ass, dark eyes bulging when a spirit suddenly appeared by the wizard’s shoulder, "who the fuck are you!"
"I’m Hrothbert of Bainbridge," the ghost appeared to be trying to crane his neck so he could peer down Faith’s top, "and I’m delighted to make your acquitance, young lady." The ghost leered down at the buxom Slayer. "Very delighted."
Xander rubbed at his throbbing head as he stared pleadingly at the stranger. If he didn’t start getting some answers soon, he’d have to shoot someone. Probably himself, a .44 was a hell of a headache-remover. "My name’s Harry," the man smiled, "Harry Dresden, wizard at large." The wizard leaned on his hockey stick as he peered around. "And I assume you’re the Mithras Brotherhood?"
"Yeah we are. Thanks for the help, Harry." Xander looked at the drawn-looking wizard and then at Tara who nodded. "I was wondering if you’d be interested in joining our Illinois team?"
"Oh yes," squawked Dresden’s ghost, his attention switching from Faith’s cleavage to Dresden. "That’s such a good idea. Endanger yourself even more. Not even these delightful young women," Bob looked towards Faith and Kennedy, although he was careful not to look towards Tara, probably fearful of her ability, "are worth that risk!"
"Shut up Bob." Dresden continued to stare at Xander.
"Oh," Bob sniffed. "Ever so charmed, I’m sure. That’s right, ignore the voice of reason!"
Faith stared warily at the ghost. "Is he always like this?"
"Oh no," Dresden shook his head and grinned, "sometimes-."
"He’s worse," Xander finished for the mage. "Well?"
Dresden shrugged. "I’m more of a loner-."
"Maybe ya shouldn’t be," Faith interrupted. "Being on yar own when there’s people who are willing to help and share the load is nothing but a fool’s game."
Dresden stared steadily at the east coast beauty before looking back towards Xander. "How about this, I consult with the Chicago branch on any magical matters they need on a case by case basis, help them with research, but stay independent?"
"If that’s what you want." Xander hid his disappointment behind a non-commital mask. To judge from what he’d just done Harry Dresden was clearly a powerful wizard and would be a powerful asset to the Brotherhood IF he agreed to join, but the Brotherhood wasn’t compulsory, volunteers only.
Dresden stared at him for a second before nodding. "It is."
"Well thank you for your assistance," Xander forced a smile, there was no need to be discourteous to someone who’d helped them so significantly.
Dresden nodded, a slight smile tugging at his lips. "A pleasure I’m sure."
* * *
Dresden shook his head as he re-entered the comforting environs of his home and office at a good deal slower rate he’d exited. "It’s been a hell of a day," he muttered.
"Your actions have angered the White Council."
Dresden turned to face the dark-skinned, immaculately-dressed man stood behind him, a disapproving look on the black’s face. Of course, around him the White Council’s Warden seldom had any other expression.
"Oh really?" Dresden shook his head. He decided to forgo pointing out the rather obvious fact that his breathing angered the White Council for fear saying that would only encourage Donald Morgan attempting to remedy that irritation. "I suppose the world ending would have better suited them?"
"Don’t be dense." Morgan shot him an irritated look. "You know full well the White Council’s position on ‘us’ intervening in the affairs of mortals. If through your actions the White Council’s existence is discovered by mortals, then your life could very well be forefit."
"Oh it will be it?" Both he and the Warden turned to face a grinning Bob. "And how do you suppose the very dangerous Brotherhood will react to the death of somebody who they consider an ally? Do you think they’ll tear Chicago apart looking for you?"
"You know," Harry mused aloud. "He’s got a point."
Morgan shook his head as he backed out of Dresden’s office. "This isn’t over," the Warden warned.
"Do me a favour and put the sign to closed on your way out," Harry asked. Yeah, a smile pulling his lips up, like he’d thought, a hell of a day.
* * *
3 Days Later
Nathan Stark watched as the two guests entered, his analytical eyes missing nothing.
The boy was tall with floppy black hair. His black denim jeans, t-shirt, and trenchcoat failed to hide his mucular build, not body-builder or powerlifter thick, but with a gymnast’s functionality. He moved well like a special forces veteran, and his brown eyes were a contradiction, both friendly yet coldly determined at the same time.
Nathan had to admit he spent rather more time examining the woman accompanying the boy. She was a smigdin under five foot six with an alluring body that was somehow something between a prize-winning centrefold’s and a world-class athlete’s. A full black mane cascaded onto the shoulders of her denim jacket while a man needed live-preservers to wade through her dark, pool-like eyes. Cavern-deep dimples flanked the temptress’ full, curved lips as she flashed an easy, assured smile. The brunette bombshell’s black gym-vest struggled to her pert, rounded chest while revealing several inches of hypnotic cleavage. The shirt was tucked into a pair of black leathers that clung to her high, bounce a quarter off it, ass and long, muscular legs.
Yeah, all things considered, he might be a man of science, but he could stare and dribble like a simpleton at her for hours.
His own companions were rather more scholarly than their guests. Not that Temperance Brennan wasn’t beautiful in her own way, but the genius anthropologist was rather more interested in her collection of bones than in collecting bedstead notches.
Larry Fleinhardt was something else entirely. A short, middle-aged man with receding brown hair and studious eyes, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist was amongst the very best in his fields.
Together the three of them made up the Trimuative, the Order Of Empedocles’ ruling board, and they were here to discuss a proposal for an alliance with the Brotherhood with its leaders "Please," Nathan smiled welcomingly at the two young legends, "take a seat." Once the two had sat, he looked towards his two companions before speaing. "Dr. Sinclair passed your offer along and I have to say it’s on the surface intriguing, however it was a little sparse on details."
"We’re not exactly fighters," Larry unneccesarily added.
"We wouldn’t expect you to be," Xander replied. "We’re thinking back-up support."
"You have a lot of enemies," Larry mused. "This could end up very dangerous for us."
"I wouldn’t worry ‘bout it." Faith’s full lips parted in a smirk. "Our enemies tend to end up dead."
"This town ain’t big enough for the both of us," Xander drawled with a grin.
"I don’t what that means?" Temperance queried, a quizzical look in her eyes.
Xander stared at the anthropologist. "You don’t know ‘The Duke’!"
Temperance shot the man a frustrated smile. "You’ll find your pop culture references are lost on me." Temperance paused before continuing. "However Larry makes a good point, we know you’ve defeated a number of formidable enemies - Order of Taraka, the Watchers’ Council, Il Lumison Legatus, and others."
"Wow," Faith glanced at Xander, "they know a lot ‘bout us."
"I always wondered what it would be like to have groupies," Xander ruminated.
"Heh," Faith chortled, "I’ve known what it was like since puberty."
"Faith," Xander groaned, "it’s not a contest."
"You’re just sayin’ that ‘cause you lost." The Slayer paused. "Again."
Temperance looked momentarily nonplussed by the duo’s banter before continuing. "Still there are other dangerous enemies still out there, the last of the Chaos Lords, and Wolfram & Hart, and who knows what else. Who knows what dangers we might be putting ourselves in by allying ourselves with you?"
"We’ve got pretty tough allies already," Xander pointed out. "Blade, Doctor Strange, and the Charmed Ones for just a few. Your addition will only strengthen us."
The Trimuative exchnaged glances before looking back at the waiting duo. "And how exactly would this deal work?" Nathan queried. "What would you want from us? And what would we get from you?"
"First of all, we’d offer protection to any of your members threatened by a supernatural enemy," Xander began.
"Ask Lil how effective we are," Faith winked.
"Secondly, you get my people to call on any time you need help stopping an apoclaypse," Xander added before continuing. "I might even be able to fund research into projects that aid us in fighting demons."
"And what do you want from us?" Nathan queried.
"First of all, help with translations when needed. Second, scientific aid with any problems we run into," Xander paused. "And access to any technology you invent."
"We’re not in this to make money for you," Larry objected.
"I’ve got enough money." Harris’ eyes flashed dangerously as he growled out a reply. "I’m talking about demon-fighting weaponry and the like so I can mass-produce it for my teams."
Nathan noted how the temperature had plummeted despite the sudden sweat
beading on his forehead. "Your offer is very tempting. Perhaps, we can draw up a
contract to formalise our agreement?"
The flash dimmed in Harris’ eyes, leaving the surface image of a friendly kid in its place. Not that he was fooled, not even slightly. "Sounds good to me."
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