FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon
What Is Modern Day Israel, 1192
“Be of staunch heart men,” Richard Lionheart’s voice boomed out as he led his Crusaders into the once thriving township, “I have the weapon to defeat our enemy.” The sun beat down relentlessly on his group of warriors, their horses neighing nervously as if sensing the horror they were to face. The hairs prickled on the back of his neck as he looked left and right, noting the empty houses and quiet, sand-swept streets, deserted even of the corpses he’d expected.
It had all begun but a week ago, his men and he had been at prayer when they’d been visited by the priest and entreated to aid him and his companions in the destruction of a demon. An amazing task to be sure, but was even more amazing had been the priest’s companions, a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Iman. At first he’d been inclined to chase the priest off and execute his companions, but then the priest had mentioned the name of the village the demon was supposed to have destroyed, Tellmendina, a village he’d sent a score strong patrol to secure but a few days ago, and had not heard back from them.
He’d planned to set out that moment, but the priest had calmed his impatience by telling that mere ordinary steel could not destroy this demon, a dagger of god was needed, a weapon of ‘virgin steel’ first individually blessed by each of the three holy men in turn, and then finally blessed by all of them together. It had sounded fantastic and his customary impatience had curdled his belly and ground his teeth down but the warrior’s instinct that until now had never failed him persuaded him to wait.
And now they were here, with no sign
either of the village’s occupants, nor his men in sight. “Do you smell that?”
He glanced at his second-in-command, the Knight Templar’s grizzled features pale
beneath his tan. “The blood, can’t you smell the blood? Something foul has
“Indeed it has,” a voice that sounded human yet rumbled like a hunting dog’s agreed. “A foulness beyond compare.”
Lionheart’s breath chilled as he peered at the monstrosity before him. The man was tall, with broad shoulders and a warrior’s chest that stretched his grey robe, a healthy tan covering him, his brown hair was streaked with grey on its edges, and his eyes deep and black, seeming to vibrate with intelligence from either side of his hooked nose. Yet for all his apparent normality, Lionheart somehow knew this stranger was no ordinary man, perhaps he was one of these mages the Watchers Council had mentioned to him. “Who are you?” he demanded, voice suddenly hoarse with the moment’s grave import. “I am Richard the Lionheart and I demand to know your name!”
“I am Asbeel,” the stranger threw his head back and cackled when the priest to Richard’s right suddenly moaned. “Good there are those who remember and tremble at my name. Long I have searched for a way out of the hell your god cast us into, and finally I have found it.” The demon looked down and sniffed. “I am cocooned in this sack of flesh and bone, but I will learn to forebear, better this than the hell I have suffered.”
“I will send you back to this hell,”
Lionheart promised, eyes narrowing as he stared at the men. “Sir. Andrew, take
this miscreant’s head as your trophy.”
The Father let out a piteous cry even as one of Lionheart’s knights, a stolid man who had served long and loyally, burst out of the patrol, his charging horse throwing up sand as its hooves pounded the ground, the knight’s lance pointed unerringly at the smirking man’s chest. Then at the last second, the man sidestepped, his hand shooting out to arm’s length to snatch a hold of the lance’s end.
“Sweet Jesu!” Lionheart gasped, the world seeming to slow as Asbeel casually yanked his arm overhead, effortlessly pitching Sir Andrew from his saddle and flinging the hapless knight from his saddle and over the nearest house’s roof, chain-mail and all.
“Only you can stand against him,” this came not from the priest but the bearded Rabbi, his grey eyes frightened. “Only the wielder of the dagger of God can defeat such a monster and imprison his soul.”
Lionheart glanced at the Catholic priest, his heart sinking at the man’s furtive nod. “So be it,” he growled as he clambered from his saddle, grabbed his shield off his nervously-shuffling horse’s back. Every step towards the smirking creature seemed to take a lifetime and yet be gone in an instance. “Your time on this planet has been and gone monster,” he declared, his tone low and controlled.
“You are of the conqueror’s line,” Asbeel laughed suddenly. “I smell his mark upon you, your death will be a glorious, terrible thing.”
Before he had chance to ask who ‘the conqueror’s line’ was, the creature sprang forward, its pace terrible to observe and shot out a right. “Sweet Jesu!” Richard brought his kite shield up in time to block the beast’s attack, but his legs almost buckled beneath him with the blow’s impact, pain travelling up his shield arm to his shoulder. His eyes widened when he realised the blow had managed to dent his shield in much the same way as a powerfully-swung war-hammer might.
Before he had time to process this terrible information, his opponent was attacking again, shooting out a casually thrown backhand that he barely managed to duck under but still caught the top of his helmet, knocking it from his head. “Has the line fallen so far!” Asbeel let out a contemptuous roar, eyes sparkling with dark mischief. “Has the line of legends come to this! You are nothing but an insect!”
“Kill me if you can!” Lionheart gritted his teeth, rage beginning to replace his awe. “But do not think to taunt me!”
“If I can?” Asbeel laughed as he raced in, his hand contemptuously knocking Lionheart’s sword away and out of his hand even as he tried to stab him in the face. “If I can?” Richard gurgled helplessly when the demon grabbed him around his throat and effortlessly lifted him from the ground. “Your death will be anything I wis-, uggggh.” The demon looked up at him, disbelief etched deep on his face as Lionheart sunk the blessed dagger he’d secreted on his belt deep into the creature’s chest.
“It seems,” Lionheart grunted as the demon fell against him, his heavier than expected to weight knocking them both to the ground, dust billowing everywhere as Asbeel laid on top of him, “this insect still has some bite!” After a moment of silence, Richard let out a bellow, head turning towards the watching men. “Soldiers, you have legs and arms do you not? Free me from this predicament, he is unnaturally heavy!”
“By all that’s holy!” the Catholic priest gasped as he was helped to his feet. “You did it!”
“Your faith in me is most touching,”
Richard dryly rejoined. “That dagger is a most powerful weapon to stop such a
creature. It will be a mighty weapon in Christendom’s defence.”
”NO!” he looked up from bending over to retrieve the knife, hand reaching for its hilt. The Rabbi’s eyes were filled with terror as he shook his head. “Beggin’ your pardon, sire, but removing the knife will undo the creature’s death, allowing the spirit to escape the corpse and infect another one of us.”
Richard scowled as he looked towards the
priest. “Is this true?” he barked. Richard sighed at the priest’s nod. “Then
how do we dispose of this godless abomination?”
”We bury it in the deepest hole we can dig,” the priest replied, “the dagger remaining in its side.”
“There is an old tomb site a half a day’s ride from here,” his second commented. “That would make the perfect hiding place.”
“An admirable idea,” Richard commented. “I’ll leave some of the men to bury Sir. Andrew, the rest will come with us to this tomb of yours.” Richard glanced towards the priest. “What do you suppose he meant when he said I was of the conqueror’s line?”
The priest shook his head. “I have no idea, sire.”
“Ummm,” Richard grunted, deciding it was a riddle worthy of further consideration. He looked towards the three holy men. “Thank you for your efforts here, but can you do one more task for me?”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (2/?)
Abbas watched hungrily as his men
worked, hand stroking at his goatee, his glance occasionally shifting to the
setting sun. “Come boys,” he growled as they dug at the tomb’s entrance,
removing centuries of sand. “Get it open.”
He and his men roamed the Middle East, tomb raiding and selling whatever they found to interested parties – collectors, the Illumanti, Wolfram & Hart, amongst others. This find though, his senses just tingled at the thought of what hid under here.
“We’ve got to the door!”
He raced forward at Noor’s shout, squatting over the wooden door set oddly in the sandy ground, its frame made of stone. His eyes squinted as he read the writings embossed on the door, his many years as a relic hunter meaning he could easily recognise and read the four different languages scrawled there – Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, and English. The date though made his eyebrows rise. How was it possible that the Jews, Muslims, and Christians were working together at the time of the Third Crusade?
Telling himself that such questions could only be answered by what was inside, he reached for his crowbar only to turn when Rafi grabbed his hand. “This is supposed to be a tomb of a Roman noble, how is it there’s Jewish, Arabic, and English on it from twelve hundred years later than we expected warning danger?”
Abbas shook his head at the disquiet in his brother’s eyes. “The answer to your questions lie within.”
“Perhaps we should-.”
“There are five of us, all armed with guns, what danger can there be that the five of us can’t deal with!” Noor snapped from behind, the eldest of his group bristling with impatience. “Here!” Abbas shoved the crowbar into his hand. “Let’s get on with it.”
The wooden bar across the door splintered easily under his assault, then Noor grabbed the door’s rusted iron handle and yanked it open. “By Allah!” he reared back at the stale air that burst out of the underground cavern, nose wrinkling in distaste, then looked around. “A torch!” he growled. “I need a torch.” He nodded when Maalik shoved a torch in his hand. “Hanif, Rafi, get your guns ready,” he peered down into the dark hole, his torchlight leading the way, displaying the stone steps with all their centuries of accumulated dust, “Noor, Maalik, stay here.”
Ignoring Noor’s muttered grumbles, he
started down the steps, the thick dust scuffling underfoot. Finally they
reached the bottom and found themselves in a small cavern, seemingly occupied
only by the cairn in its centre, and the powerfully built man laid on top of
”Is this all there is?” Hanif groused. “A corpse?”
“A corpse preserved for nine centuries!” Rafi pointed out in an awed whisper. “How is that possible?”
“Who cares?” Hanif grunted. “Maybe the knife’s worth something.” His companion reached out for the knife.
”No!” Abbas let out a shocked cry as he finished translating the writing on the cave’s walls. “Don’t touch-.” His voice croaked off when Hanif yanked the knife clear, his blood chilling. “You fool, you’ve doomed us -.” His voice trailed off once again when black smoke billowed out of the suddenly contorting corpse and into Hanif, the shaking relic hunter seeming to briefly grow and expand before deflating back to his own size.
“Life how sweet it tastes.” Abbas’ blood chilled at Hanif’s mocking smile, even as he opened his mouth to order Rafi to shoot, Rafi’s gun barked twice, both shots hitting Hanif in the chest, staggering but not felling the man. “My turn.” Abbas turned to run as Hanif shot Rafi in the head, brains splattering the cavern’s wall. “Oh don’t go.”
”AAAAAAAH!” Abbas screamed and fell as pain erupted in his back, pitching him to the ground.
“What a wondrous weapon.” He panted and moaned helplessly at his tormenter’s approach. “Humanity has the most fascinating toys. Still,” he felt a hand grab at his hair and yank his head up, “sometimes one likes to get his hands dirty.”
* * *
Asbeel chuckled as he twisted the man’s head, tearing it off his shoulders and dropping it to the ground. It had been so long since he’d felt the blood of an opponent, too long. His eyes narrowed at the sound of approaching footsteps and rose from his crouched position. Ah yes, he turned off his torch, the others.
The moment the others came into view, he fired, a pair of shots going through their hearts while they were still trying to work out what was happening. He chuckled as he strode through the cavern and up the steps, pausing at the top to savour the sun’s rays on his face.
He stopped again as he started towards the jeep, brow furrowing in concern. He had the weapon that killed him in his hand, but he sensed that somewhere in the world, another one existed. Another weapon created just in case he ever escaped his prison.
All he had to do now was find it.
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (3/?)
Solomon Zond crouched down and looked around the deserted camp. “The attack originated from here?”
Vincent nodded. “The attacks started
four villages away and tracked way back to here.” His friend paused before
continuing. “There’s nothing methodical about these attacks, just one man who
slaughters what he wants, and then just leaves, not bothering about witnesses.
It’s just mad blood-lust.”
Solomon took in his friend’s words before rising. “We’ll need to put on haz-mat suits,” he decided. His friend looked at him. “If he is insane, perhaps it’s because he was infected by a spore of some sort. Either way, I don’t think it would be wise to go in there without taking every precaution.”
The ghost of a smile flickered over Vincent’s face. “You’ll get no argument from me.” The South African paused. “Shall we?”
Ten minutes later and they were climbing into the dusty cavern, the light from their head-gear’s torches lighting the way, every step seeming to take an eternity. Then his torch caught the side of something, and he turned back, eyes widening as he realised a decapitated head was staring unblinkingly at him. “Watch it.”
He looked over his shoulder at his friend, realising in his shock he’d stepped back into him. “Sorry,” he mumbled before pointing at the head.
“Um,” was Vincent’s only comment. “There’s three bodies here.”
“Four,” he corrected, pointing to the corpse lying on the tomb.
“According to the documents in the tent, there was four of our grave robbers,” Vincent observed.
”Then if the fourth isn’t around the back, whoever’s missing must be our murderer-.” His voice trailed off when he noticed the writings on the wall.
“Solomon, what is it?”
He started at his friend’s voice then looked towards him, Vincent rearing back at the light in his eyes. “This isn’t a viral infection, not according to these writings!”
“Why what does it -,” Vincent broke off as he caught sight of a part of the wall with English scrawled over it. “That’s impossible! It can’t be true!”
“Unless the missing corpse is at the back of the cave it’s the only theory we’ve got. And it’s not exactly the first time we’ve run across something that’s contrary to conventional understanding of the world,” Solomon pointed out.
“This is in a whole different league,”
Vincent complained as he walked around the back of the cavern, vainly searching
for what Solomon instinctively knew he wouldn’t find. “Hell. Nothing here.”
Vincent looked towards him. “Couldn’t those spores you mentioned be
hallucinogenics? That could explain the writing.”
”Perhaps, but that wouldn’t explain the missing man and the hole in the corpse’s side, his remarkably well-preserved condition, and the absent knife.”
Vincent grimaced. “Then what do you
intend to do?”
”I assume you’ve heard of Lady Lara Croft?” Vincent nodded at his question, an unsurprising answer, there were few in their unique profession as famous as the swashbuckling English noblewoman. “She’s got more expertise dealing with the occult and I’ve been hearing a few interesting rumours about her over the last couple of years I’d love a pretext to quiz her on. Looks like this gave me the pretext.” Vincent grinned suddenly. “What?”
“Nothing,” Vincent gave him a look of unconvincing innocence. “I was just thinking, I’m sure they’ll be grateful their deaths weren’t in vain.”
* * *
The traffic and chatter from passer-bys roared in his ears and the sun blazed down on Asbeel’s head as he made his way through the busy street market, his mood souring further with each step he took. The human pestilence had truly taken grip of this world in the eons since he and his ilk had walked upon it. Too many years had passed since they ruled to judge from the scum that now populated it.
Asbeel flashed a smile. At least that meant there were plenty of the vermin for him to kill.
Asbeel bit back the bile that threatened to vomit forth as he stopped and turned to face his destination across the road, a white-washed, pointed-roofed building with a roofed entrance behind half a dozen worn steps, flowers adorning its entrance. It was a place of worship, a synagogue for these people, such places had the power to hurt lesser demons, vampires and the ilk. It wasn’t the religion itself that did it, but the faith and hope such places generated that nauseated his ilk.
However he was no mere lesser demon.
Steeling himself, he started across the road, dipping his head in feigned respect as he started up the steps, noting the two sub-machine gun-wielding Israelis stood either side of the door.
The moment he reached the top of the stairs he moved, snapping a left into one of the men’s throat, laughing manically as his punch tore through flesh and bone. Even as the man fell he was gliding into the attack on the other one, snatching his gun from his hand unfired, grabbing him beneath his chin, and yanking his head back until it tore off in a bloody fountain.
Asbeel laughed as a single kick ripped the double doors off their hinges and sent them thundering to the ground. The bearded Rabbi stood at the front spun to face him, fear contorting his face. “Demonspawn, this is a house of-.” The man’s voice trailed off, ruddy flesh greying as Asbeel strode inside.
”You were saying?” Asbeel purred, his eyes hardening. “Now, you have something of mine, and you’re going to-.” The man started to run, but he’d barely got a half dozen paces when Asbeel tripped him, knocking him to the ground. “A holy man,” he sniffed disdainfully, remembering his imprisonment. “Normally I’d take my time to handle such as you, but unfortunately that isn’t,” he drove his hand down hard on the man’s wrinkled hand, shattering bone, ligaments, and muscle, “a luxury I have. I could sense the handle and pommel because they were close by, but not the blade, where is it?”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (4/?)
Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv
“Lady Croft,” a tanned athletic man in his mid-forties stepped out of melee, “I’m a friend of Dr. Zond-.”
“Vincent?” the man nodded as she passed him her attaché case, an ever-vigilant Hillary bringing up the rear. “I trust you have a car ready?”
“Ready and waiting,” the very efficient
South African replied. “Please, follow me.”
In bare minutes they were motoring through the city in chauffeured opulence, only coming to a final smooth halt outside one of Tel Aviv’s finest hotels, the Isrotel Tower,
a 29 floor skyscraper that dominated the city’s skyline.
“I trust you haven’t booked one of the higher floors,” Lara murmured as their guide eschewed waiting for the elevator at the lobby’s rear, in favour of hurrying to the stairwell to its left.
“We’re only on the fourteenth floor,” Vincent rejoined.
”Only, he says,” Hillary plaintively moaned.
“Lara!” Solomon Zond rose at their entry and hurried to greet them, kissing her gently on the cheek and shaking Hillary’s hand. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“A tea would be most invigorating right now,” she concurred with a smile.
“A cold soda of any description would be heaven,” Hillary added before glaring at Vincent. “Especially after those stairs.”
”I’ll get on it,” Vincent picked up the phone and rang room service, giving a series of clipped, no-nonsense commands. Clearly a man used to being obeyed.
While Vincent did that, Solomon gestured towards the luxurious looking furnishings. “Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you,” Lara smoothed her fashionable skirt as she sat. “You called me here at great urgency and with more than a little vagueness. Would you care to explain why?”
After a second Zond plunged into a story that had her heart sinking further with every sentence. Finally she spun to face Hillary. “Hillary, get a connection with Bryce and see if he can hack into the Vatican records relating to the date in question.” She turned back to her host. “Not that I doubt your word of course-.”
“But this could be the ravings of
religious zealots or easily fooled locals,” Solomon nodded. “I quite
”Thank you,” she smiled thinly. “Please continue.”
Her fellow tomb raider finished his story, then they waited in uncomfortable silence for Hillary.
“I’ve got those Vatican files,” Hillary commented, “or at least Bryce has hacked them. It’s quite troubling.”
“How so?” Lara peered over her friend and servant’s shoulder, eyes narrowing as she read the information on the screen. It was as Hillary had so elegantly under-stated troubling. While the beast wasn’t named as it was in the cavern, the entry did confirm that the former king of England had led a force into battle against a monster, slaying it with a ‘weapon of faith’ as they put it in the notes. Then the creature had been buried at co-ordinates which when converted to modern measurements matched the co-ordinates Zond had given her. Then to guard against the monster arising again, Richard I had ordered a second weapon be made, split into three, and a third be given to each faith to guard. “Yes, very troubling,” Lara bit her bottom lip before straightening and pulling out her cell. “However I know just who to call.” Hillary groaned and buried his head in his hands. “Chin up, man!”
“She calls me Jeeves,” her friend shook his head. “Life isn’t fair.”
* * *
The pommel burnt a hole in his pocket, but he couldn’t destroy the weapon, not until it was assembled, and he was at the house of worship of the third priest. Then he could destroy the second dagger and end the threat to him. Then he could make this unknowing world tremble before him.
He stopped, eyes narrowing as he noted the Iman leaving the mosque, one of his bodyguards behind him, the other in front. Asbeel glanced left and right before crossing, his head bobbing down in feigning deference, his hands held out in apparent supplication. The three men slowed at his approach, the first of the three stepping towards him, irritation flickering in his grey eyes. “The Iman does-, ugghh!” Blood spewed from the man’s open mouth when Asbeel’s fist crashed into his chest with enough force to splinter his rib-cage and propel shards into his heart.
Even as the man fell, his tortured wheezes music in Asbeel’s ears as he glided past the stunned priest, a gentle elbow to the side of the head, knocking the holy man over. And then Asbeel was in front of the last of his challengers, the body-guard’s hurriedly drawn automatic coming up. “Unlikely,” Asbeel grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted, the bone snapping like a twig, the man’s inarticulate scream lost in his punch to the man’s throat.
The moment the man fell away, Asbeel spun to face the crawling away Iman, stepped towards him and drove his heel down on the man’s lower back. “Allah!” The rest of the man’s pained scream was lost in the sound of his spine shattering, his body slumping onto the ground.
“Now that I have your attention,” Asbeel grabbed the man by his collar and lifted his limp body up, “where’s your part of the dagger?”
* * *
“Okay,” Xander listened as Lady Croft
finished her recitation, the gang having just got off a plane from Hamburg where
they’d been meeting with the former Agent Zero and rushed from the airport to
Tel Aviv’s top hotel to meet with the English adventurer. “And so who’s this
“He’s bad news,” this came from Tara rather than Lady Croft. “He’s one of the Fallen, one of the Angels who followed Lucifer into open rebellion against God.”
”Oh goody,” Faith groaned.
“Okay,” Xander took a moment to gather his thoughts, “so we need to track him down and stop him from destroying this ‘dagger of god’, right?” Lady Croft nodded. “What was the identity of the man he took possession of?”
“Give me a sec,” Xander waited more or less patiently while the Englishwoman rifled through her notes, “here it is. Hanif Bojinka, an Egyptian Arab in his late twenties, here are the details.”
Xander glanced at the sheet of paper the aristocrat had passed him. “Tara, I want you to see if there’s any kind of trail for a Hanif Bojinka in the local area, in the last 72 hours. Ken,” Xander looked towards the potential and threw her the Eternal Archive, “you’re on research mode. See if there’s any other way of beating these things without a dagger.”
“What do I do?” Faith demanded.
“Wicked,” Faith crossed her arms, “I love playin’ to my strengths.”
The next hour or so passed with painful slowness as Croft and Kennedy researched, and Tara hacked. “Oh! Oh!” Every eye turned to the witch.
”Bee stung ya, Tar?” Faith lazily enquired.
“No,” Tara flushed briefly before continuing. “A Hanif Bojinka boarded a plane flying Tel Aviv to Istanbul, less than an hour after the death of a prominent rabbi in the city that the police are writing off as terrorist related. However, three hours after he arrived in Istanbul, there was another murder, and an hour ago he boarded a plane to Houston.”
There was a moment’s silence, inevitably broken by Faith. “Looks like we’re goin’ back to the good ol US of A then.”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (5/?)
“That was most enjoyable.”
‘Daisy Bloom’ nodded fearfully, her eyes fixed on the rattish-faced, slightly-built Arab sat on the bed. “Sure was,” she lied as she picked up her lycra pink dress and started pulling it back on. She’d been working the streets for five years, ever since she’d run away from her lousy family at the age of fifteen. Since then, she’d done some real sick shit, the sort of stuff that was illegal in several states and should be illegal in the rest, but none of it had turned her stomach as the simple one-on-one act of screwing him. He’d been powerful, brutal, and unceasing, wearing her out, making her ache like no lover had done before.
She should have listened to her inner alarm clock when the man had come onto her in the bar. Her skin had crawled at his lizard-like eyes and heart twisted at a single purr from him, but her pimp didn’t like her turnin’ business down, and so that was that.
Biggest mistake, like ever.
“Where are you going?” She paused in
bending to pick her leather purse up off the worn carpet. The purse like the
rest of her gear was an imitation of course, her man liked his girls looking
good but costing cheap. The Arab rose, a predatory smile on his thin lips as he
flung the stained sheets aside, the music from the next room blaring through the
wafer-thin walls. “You haven’t had your payment yet.”
“Oh,” Daisy’s breath caught as the man
stalked around her, eying her like a fox watching a chicken. No not a fox,
something far more savage. She looked up at the man, a nervous smile tugging at
her lips. He had her so off-balance, she’d forgotten about money. “Well
“Yes how to pay you.”
”Owww!” she screamed as the man grabbed her long hair and yanked her head back. She shot out a wild slap but screamed again when he grabbed her hand and squeezed until her fingers burst under the vice-like pressure.
The Arab chuckled darkly. “I’m sure I’ll think of something.”
* * *
Jack Caine yawned as he peered through his car window, a steady drizzle obscuring his view of the dealer he was waiting to arrive and start dealing, half-heartedly sipping at the protein shake he’d mixed before coming on duty.
Caine sighed and leaned back in his car seat, briefly looking up at the ceiling before returning his unenthused gaze towards the street corner. He was a twenty year veteran of the Houston police force, a cop who’d been on the fast track until his unconventional outlook and style had gotten him messed up with the Feds and completely derailed his career.
Thirteen years and he was sat outside on a shitty night, watching for low-level busts instead of doing some real-.
“What the fuck!” he jumped in his seat, head banging against the ceiling when a naked, bloody body smashed into his car’s hood, protesting steam hissing up from his car’s engine as he grabbed his radio. Even as he stammered out a shocked message, he stared disbelieving at the corpse laid on his hood.
That the person, a female was about all he could get from the corpse’s mangled condition, was dead was beyond doubt, he decided as he climbed out of his car, hand dipping instinctively under his denim jacket to draw his gun. The woman had been slit open from throat to crotch, her skin flapping like an open handbag. Her limbs, slender petite limbs, had been twisted into unnatural positions, almost certainly all were dislocated and then broken, and her face. “Jesus,” Caine gagged, twenty years on the force hadn’t prepared him for this. Her face had been almost peeled off, leaving nothing but a bloody ruin.
Shaking off his disgust, he looked up at the building the woman had been flung from, a four storey boarding house that dated back to the 1930s. A snarl escaped his lips as he took in a shattered window on the third floor and raced into the building’s threadbare lobby, and rushed towards the stairwell, ignoring the receptionist’s weakly-shouted protests.
The stairwell door gave way before a single determined kick and then he was in the dimly lit stairwell, its dank stench, peeling wallpaper, and evidence of mould, testimony to the owners’ disinterest in the place. He took the stairs three at a time, his breathing easy despite being in his mid-forties. He burst through onto the third floor, the door splintering as he crashed shoulder-first into it. He once again noted the building’s drab interior and started towards the room he estimated the body had fallen from, already he could hear the approaching sirens of his back-up nearing.
And then the room door burst open.
The man who stepped out to face him was a short, scrawny Arab with bad teeth and a maniacal smile to match, eyes glittering an almost yellow. The man’s smile could have consumed the sun with its malevolent radiance. “I do hope that whore didn’t damage your car,” the man’s accompanying laugh sent an icy finger up and down his back. “I’ll have to take it off her tip!”
Caine had his gun out and pointing at the man in an instant. “Freeze mother-fucker!” Despite his gun he’d never felt so insecure, not even when he’d faced Talec.
The man smiled serenely and raised his
hands, palms up. “This time is so deliciously decadent, I can smell the
civilisation’s decay. It will be my pleasure to hasten its destruction.”
”Get against the wall,” he growled, conscious of the sweat forming on his forehead.
”Oh I don’t think so.”
Caine’s eyes widened when the Arab covered the twenty-five feet separating them at such speed that he only managed to pull the trigger when the Arab was about five feet away. The gun’s boom filled his ears, the .44 slamming into the Arab’s upper right chest. His eyes bulged when the stranger staggered back a step then leapt forward, covering the remaining distance between them at a blur, and catching him with a left uppercut that lifted him off his feet and flung him into and through one of the corridor’s wafer-thin walls.
“Ugh,” he grunted as he hit the ground, the sound of the room’s TV and its occupants’ shocked cries filling his ears, the dust from the wrecked wall coating his lungs.
“I think,” he tried and failed to rise when the small Arab came to a stop by his feet, a mocking sneer stretching across the man’s narrow features, “I’ll be leaving now.”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (6/?)
“Jesus Jack! You were supposed to be on surveillance for Christ’s sake! Way to blow your goddamn cover!”
“What was I supposed to do?” Jack snapped then winced, the ice-pack he was holding to his neck, easing but not eliminating the crushing pain there. It had been a short but terror-filled minute or so waiting for the feeling to return to his limbs, his attacker’s shockingly powerful blow having somehow temporarily turned off his nerves. “The fucker threw a girl out onto my car hood for Christ’s sake!”
“Yeah,” the captain’s eyes skittered
over the mutilated corpse and then back to him, the ashen-faced paramedics
having rather obviously declared death and loaded the remains into a body-bag.
“You realise your car’s a crime scene now don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Caine glanced over the scene, a number of patrol cars parked up, their flashing lights illuminating the night, and their occupants’ muttered conversation filling the air as the patrolmen loitered in groups, casting the occasional look in his direction. His call for assistance had been answered promptly, but not quite quick enough for the bastard to be apprehended. No, he was out there, not watching them from the shadows, he wasn’t the type, he enjoyed himself at the kill. No, he’d be looking for his next kill, to relive that moment again.
Caine’s gaze returned to his Captain, a bearded Greek with broad shoulders and a thick chest, but barely tall enough to reach the Department’s height requirements. “He was like Talec,” he muttered in a whisper.
Shock filled the Captain’s eyes. “No, no.” The Captain shook his head. “I don’t need to fuckin’ hear this shit!”
Caine carried on regardless. “He was as close to me as you are now when I shot him. And all he freakin’ did was stumble. He wasn’t human!”
“Drugs these days,” the Captain shook his head.
”There was no blood! It wasn’t drugs!” Caine snapped back. “He was too cool, too focussed. It was like,” Caine scowled as his hackles rose at his reluctant admission, “it was like he was toying with me.”
“Maybe he’s one of these nuts who don’t feel pain, some sorta freak or somethin’,” the Captain shrugged. “You gave us a good description and we’ve already gotta an APB out on him. His ID was probably fake, but we’ll find-.”
“No way,” Caine winced when pain shot
through his neck as he shook his head. “I’m not back-seating on this asshole.
I’ve gotta get him.” He ignored the captain’s shaking head to continue on. “I
let him get away, if he hurts anyone else it’s on me, I can’t-.”
“It ain’t on you, ah screw it,” the
Captain turned and let out a yell. “Starr, I’m riding with you.” The Captain
turned back to him, his hand dipping into his raincoat to pull out a set of
keys. “You’ve already screwed up one car, don’t make it two.”
”Thanks Captain.” Caine dipped his head respectfully.
”Just get the hell outta here.”
* * *
”So he’s the guy that had the run-in with the demon?” Faith asked as she peered through the window of their rental parked just across the street and down the road from the incident. The man in question was a towering blond with wide shoulders, an athletic build, and glacial blue eyes. She could almost go for him if she wasn’t already fixed up and he wasn’t a cop.
“That’s the one,” Xander confirmed, her
stud having just returned from doing his seamlessly blending in thing.
“Apparently Asbeel’s still using the same ID.”
”What had he done?” Tara asked.
Even in the car’s half-light, Faith saw
her honey’s face darken. “He butchered a hooker and then threw her mutilated
corpse out of the third floor window and onto Detective Caine’s car.”
”Jesus,” Faith grunted. That sounded hardcore.
“I would recommend tailing the detective,” Lara said in her clipped English accent.
“Tailing the ‘tec?” Faith snorted. “What’s the point, boy-toy got his clock cleaned!”
“He seems the determined sort, not the sort to let Asbeel escape,” Lara replied, her tone infuriatingly unruffled as usual. “And he has resources available to him in Houston that we don’t, contacts and the like. That would be our best bet until Bryce manages to come through with something from the Vatican.”
Xander grunted before letting the handbrake off. “It’s not like we have any other leads.”
* * *
Hillary paced the hotel room floor, he was in a grand suite at the Hotel Derek, but the suite’s combination of urban sophistication and quiet luxury was lost on him as he worried about his friend and partner. “Come on Bryce,” he grumbled. “What’s keep-.”
His eyes shot to his lap-top sat on the black and white chequered coffee table. “Finally!” he muttered before racing over and turning the IM on. Seconds later he had the address, seconds after that he had the phone in his hand.
* * *
“Excellent Hillary,” Lara nodded as she finished writing the address down, tearing it off her pad, and passing it to Xander, “thank you, and be sure to thank Bryce for me. You were both as exemplary as always.”
“That the address?” Faith growled from the car’s rear, the sultry beauty practically bouncing on her seat in impatience.
“Indeed,” Lara gritted her teeth as she held on when Xander yanked on the wheel, turning them into an U-Turn that took them across three lanes of loudly-protesting traffic.
”Wicked,” grunted the curvy Bostonian. “’Cause followin’ this cop from bar to bar was really beginin’ to bore the hell outta me.”
* * *
Caine’s eyes narrowed as he noted the dark-windowed SUV he’d noticed following him three blocks ago suddenly pull across three lanes of traffic and head away in the opposite direction, apparently impervious and uncaring to all the screeching brakes and horns.
Deciding on a whim to find out just which of his enemies had sent them after him, he yanked on his wheel, tyres spinning as he repeated the mystery car’s highly illegal manoeuvre. After all, it wasn’t like his search for the Arab was going anywhere fast.
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (7/?)
Asbeel hummed happily to himself as he made his way through Houston’s night-time but still bustlingly busy streets, this part of the world far chillier than the one he’d come from. But far, far warmer than where he’d been before.
He chuckled, his various appetites had been at least temporarily sated, now it was time to get on with his mission. Then he could return to enjoying this world and bathing himself in its delicious decadence.
He stopped and looked up at the building to his right, a humble, worn-down church in one of Houston’s rougher suburbs. The perfect hiding place for such a powerful occult artefact.
“Hey man!” Asbeel looked to the left, irritation filling him at the three skin-heads running across the street towards him. “We don’t need your type here! Fucking Rag-Head!”
Asbeel concealed a smile when the trio surrounded him. Mangy dogs thought they had a rabbit when in fact they’d snared a dragon. “Please sirs I have money-. HA!” He interrupted his begging with a mocking laugh. “Insects!” His foot came up, his toes catching the thug before him between the legs, the man crumpling under the blow’s impact and into a front facelock that Asbeel twisted brutally, the man’s neck snapping resoundingly.
Even as the corpse dropped to the ground, Asbeel swung his leg back and into a back-heel kick that caved in the face of the thug stood behind him, then glided on to the third, laughing slightly as the thug swung a bike-chain at his head. The gang member’s eyes bulged when he grabbed the chain and tore it from his attacker’s grasp. “Oh?” Asbeel smiled. “Is this yours?” He slammed the chain into the man’s mouth, teeth and blood flying as the man’s head snapped back, eyes glassing over as he hit him again. “Have it back.”
Asbeel stepped over the now deathly silent criminals, their blood soaking the pavement underneath their unmoving bodies, and headed towards the church, his customary distaste for such a building unimportant next to the excitement of finally getting his hands on the weapon. The door flew open at his shove, it hadn’t even been locked, such naive faith with which to shield one with it.
Inside it was serenely silent, a serenity he intended obliterating. A mirthless laugh bubbled up from between his lips as he saw the bald, cassocked man stood in front of the altar. What an insult to the creator it would be for him to leave one of his preachers dead on his object of worship.
The Father turned to him, a bemused look on his face. It was strange for him who had looked upon the face of the Creator to be entertained by the expressions on these pitiful meat monkeys’ features, but looking at their pain, fear, and confusion was almost as entertaining as listening and smelling it. “Can I help you, son?”
Asbeel smiled as he approached the waiting man. “I certainly hope so.” The priest nodded as if encouraging him to continue. “You can,” he reached out, snatched a hold of the man’s throat, and lifted him off the floor, for a moment he enjoyed the man’s gurgles and futile clawing at his arm before continuing, “tell me where the blade is.” He savoured the priest’s shock for a second before shaking him. “Come now!” he snapped. “Your ending will be painful, but if you speak, it will at least be quick!”
* * *
“There’s the church!” Faith jabbed a finger through the gap between Lara and Xander, at the shadowed building.
”So it is,” Lara raised a perfectly-manicured eyebrow as Xander pulled the car to a halt. “It appears to judge from the corpses on the road Asbeel has beaten us here.”
”If it wasn’t for bad luck,” Xander kept his eyes on the church as they climbed out, “I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
“As your girl-friend, can I say hey!” Faith protested. “It sure as hell wasn’t your good looks and charm, you’d have to have them, that got ya me!”
Xander half-smiled. “Faith, you, me,
and Tara are going to attack Asbeel. Ken, you and Lara get the priest out of
there and run.”
”But what about-.”
“Just run, Ken,” Xander’s tone hardened.
* * *
“No one dies here tonight.” Asbeel grunted as a bullet crashed into his shoulder. “Well except you.”
“Ha!” he flung the gurgling priest into the pulpit, the man crashing into it and falling to the ground, before turning to face his attackers, eyes widening at what he saw. A curvaceous brunette, very beautiful by human standards but most interestingly carrying a primal spirit within her, a witch, and a powerful one at that, and another one of HIS line. “Will you ever stop plaguing me?”
* * *
“God, I hope not,” Xander hid his confusion over the demon’s seeming recognition of him behind flippancy. “Who wants a boring life? Kennedy, you and Lara get the priest out of here.”
Asbeel shook his head. “I’m afraid myself and the Father still have business.”
“Not anymore you don’t,” Faith and Tara stepped between the demon and the injured priest, Kennedy and Lara running around the back of them to help the priest.
Dark joy sparkled in the demon’s eyes. “So heroic, so futile.”
“Kennedy!” Xander roared as he hefted his shotgun. “Move!”
* * *
“Do you have the blade?” Lara said in her usual unruffled voice as they half-carried the dazed priest out of his church.
”No, no,” the priest dabbed at a cut on his head. “Not here.” The priest winced, lined face creasing in pain. “And it wouldn’t matter if I did, the whole weapon has to be assembled for it to be of use.”
“Oh bloody hell,” Lara cursed before
looking at the priest. “Sorry Father.”
“Under the circumstances, most understandable.”
“Do you have the prayer used to bless the knives?” Kennedy snapped.
Lara nodded. “Yes, on my laptop, but-.”
“Come on!” Kennedy grimaced as she looked back at the church, the chaotic sounds of battle clearly audible. “We need to get out of here!” She hated to leave Tara behind, but she hadn’t got the sort of firepower required for this sort of fight. “I’ve got an idea!”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (8/?)
“What is going on here!”
“My friends are risking their lives to
save yours,” Kennedy shoved the man into the back of the car, “now shut up and
let us help them!” Kennedy glanced at the Englishwoman. “Virgin steel, right?
It has to be a new knife, right?”
“Give me the laptop,” Kennedy jumped in
the backseat beside the priest, stilling his grumbles with a warning glare,
“I’ll explain on the way.”
Lara sighed. ”Very well.”
* * *
”So you are this time’s defenders,” Asbeel’s smile hollowed Xander’s stomach. “Good, I did wonder if this world had any challenges left for one such as I.”
“Oh you’ll find there’s plenty challenge right here,” Faith caustically commented.
”I don’t doubt you have the spirit,” Asbeel leered at his girl-friend, “but do you have the strength?”
Xander faked a yawn. “Grand-standing, do you bad guys-.” His shotgun came up as the demon leapt at him, taking a fireball off Tara without comment or apparent effect. His rounds thudded into the demon’s torso, but its momentary shudders were the only evidence his attack had connected.
And then he was ducking under a straight right while driving his shotgun’s butt into the creature’s gut, once again to no effect. Then the demon snatched at his hair. “Owww!” Xander kicked uselessly at the monster, his foot bouncing off its stomach. Then the creature lifted him to arms length and flung him away from him with a contemptuous flick of his wrist. “Ohhhhh!” Xander let out a helpless wail as he sailed over half several pews en-route to crashing into and sliding limply down the wall, his breath coming in tortured wheezes as he watched the continuing battle.
* * *
Caine growled in frustration as he looked left and right, having lost the SUV two blocks away, it had to be around here somewhere-. Suddenly his eyes alighted on the very vehicle parked suspiciously close to a trio of skin-head corpses on the kerb outside a church. He blinked as gun-fire erupted, seemingly from within the church. Pulling up until his was nose to bumper with the SUV, he leapt out of his car, cranked open the trunk, and pulled out his shotgun strapped to its top, ramming in a handful of shells.
This time he was going in prepared.
* * *
“Oh bloody hell!” Lara cursed as she slowed at the hardware shop. “It’s closed!”
“Doesn’t matter!” Kennedy passed the English noblewoman the laptop. “I want you to find the nearest churches of two different faiths or denominations.”
Lara’s eyes widened. “Oh bloody hell, you mean to re-create the spell!”
”That’s exactly what I mean to do, we’ll just have to hope it works.” Kennedy climbed out of the car, hurried to the trunk, and pulled a wrench out of the tool-box. She hefted the weighty tool and nodded approvingly. “That should do it,” she decided before turning her face away from the glass window and driving the tool into it. “Damn!” she cursed when the glass didn’t break but tried again. When it didn’t crack a second time, she went for a third attempt. “Yes!” she gloated as the glass shattered. Now all she had to do was find a knife and get out of here.
* * *
Asbeel spun to face the two women, laughing slightly as the witch hit him with a second fireball. “Girl,” he sneered as he leapt forward, the witch’s expression blanching at her attack’s failure, “I have suffered the fires of hell,” his backhand sent the bothersome bitch flying into the alter rail, wrapping her around it. “Your paltry flames are like spring’s first sun beams next to them!”
“You like hell so much?” the primal beauty charged forward. “I’m gonna send you right back there!”
* * *
Lara screeched to a halt, shooting her head over her shoulder to Kennedy. “We’re here, but it’s a Sikh temple, not a mosque or a synagogue.”
“It should be alright, the prayer makes no mention of a specific faith, only three faiths of the ‘one God’.” Kennedy turned to the priest. “Are you finished?” The father nodded dazedly. “Great,” Kennedy snatched the carving knife off the priest. “I’ll only be a minute!”
* * *
Even as she raced into the attack, Faith was thinking fast. The way the demon had mowed down Xan and Tar wasn’t good, wasn’t good at all.
At the last moment she feinted to the right, thrusting her sword at the demon’s chest. “Damn!” she grunted as pain reverberated down her sword arm, the weapon’s blade warping as it thudded against her opponent’s chest.
Shock dulled her reflexes long enough for an elbow to crash into the back of her head, almost buckling her knees. “Such profanity from a servant of the Lord,” the demon mused as she blinked her eyes clear, the monster thankfully not pressing his advantage, “and such lewd beauty. How strange.”
Lewd beauty? Half the time these days she wasn’t sure if she was being complimented or insulted. Faith forced her vision to focus and rolled her neck from side to side as she took a boxing stance, the still silence of her two companions telling her they were both out cold at the very least.
At the very least? Faith forced away the fear gnawing at her as she managed a cocksure smirk and beckoned her opponent on. “Bring it.”
“Oh I will,” the demon purred before diving towards her, arms hooking down in what appeared to be an attempted takedown. Her knee came up, catching the demon on his jaw with enough force to snap a normal man’s neck. Unfortunately her attack seemed to have as much effect on Asbeel as a gnat biting an elephant on the ass.
Faith gasped as the demon grabbed her around the waist and rather than wrestling her to the ground, flung her head-first at the wall. “Shit!” Faith twisted in mid-air, contorting herself so that her feet hit the wall first, her knees bending as she reversed her momentum and flew back at her opponent. Asbeel laughed as he grabbed her cowboy boot and flung her at the stone font towards the back of the church.
”Oh for fuck’s sake!” Faith cursed as she snatched hold of one of the font’s brass handles to arrest her flight, her shoulder straining with the effort as she dropped in a crouch.
”Impressive acrobatics,” Asbeel purred as he strode towards her, boots clicking on the polished wooden floor. “I assume you’re the Slayer I’ve been hearing so much about.”
“Yeah.” Faith waited until the demon was near enough, then scooped her hand into the font and splashed holy water at the demon. “I got plenty of tricks.”
”Ha!” the demon smiled as the water hit his face. “A nice thought, but your religions have no effect on me.”
”Great,” Faith muttered as she ducked beneath a swinging right, relieved that the demon didn’t appear to have much in the way of fighting skill. “Shit!” Blood burst from her right eye when the demon caught her with a jarring left hook that almost had her knees buckling.
Faith reeled backwards, just away from another right. Course you didn’t exactly have to know how to fight when your punches made Kakistos look like a pussy. Faith leaned away from the demon’s attempted thrust kick, grabbed his ankle, and drove her palm down at its unprotected knee, even as she pulled her head down and under a left hook to the jaw.
The demon grunted as her blow connected, the impact jarring her wrist and elbow as Asbeel pulled his leg loose and stumbled backwards. Faith leapt forward, eager to press her advantage.
And then the world exploded in pain, blood roaring in her ears, when Asbeel drove his ‘injured’ leg up into her crotch. Suddenly breathing was impossible, Faith fell backwards and against the font, barely able to move, sheer willpower keeping her upright. She blocked a left on her forearm, even slammed a futile hook into the demon’s torso, then crumpled under a backhand to the jaw that took her from her feet, and flung her into a trio of chairs set to the font’s left. Her head reeling, Faith grabbed one of the chairs and flung it at the demon, the chair hitting the demon on the head, splintering to firewood, but having literally no effect on him.
“Now,” Asbeel smiled as he strode over to her, Faith gasping as she tried and failed to get her legs to work, “let us renew your acquaintance with pain.”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (9/?)
“Here’s our last one!” Kennedy reported as she shoved the weakly-protesting Baptist preacher into the back of the car together with the Catholic Father and the Hindu priest. “You!” she glared at the Catholic Father as she climbed back into the car beside Lara Croft. “Explain everything and get him to say the prayer, then do the group one together.”
“Back to the church?” Lara asked as she pulled the car away from the kerb.
Kennedy nodded before closing her eyes and muttering a silent prayer. God, Tara had to be alright.
* * *
“Jesus,” Faith groaned as she tried to crawl away on her elbows, her leather-panted ass squeaking on the polished wooden floor beneath her as she watched the advancing demon, the pain in her crotch making her blood pound and her stomach constantly shake as if readying her to puke.
“Your false prophet will not help you.”
”Maybe I can.” Faith blinked as shotgun blasts roared through the air, punishing her ears, the advancing demon staggering but staying upright.
The demon looked to his left, to a man she couldn’t see thanks to the wall blocking her view. “You are quite the irritant.” And then suddenly the demon was moving, past her and onto the attacker. Then the pain became too much, and she passed out, gratefully sinking into darkness.
* * *
Caine’s eyes bulged as the ‘thing’ turned his attention from his unseen victim and to him, his shells apparently have literally no effect. He pulled the trigger again the blast catching the ‘man’ full in the face as he charged in, then his adversary’s impossibly strong fingers were around the gun barrel, wrenching it from his hands with humiliating ease. Even as the man flung the shotgun to the left, he ignored Caine’s kick to his knee with a chortle, grabbed him around the throat, steel cable-like fingers instantly cutting off his air. The man smirked as he flung him into the opposite wall, head cracking hard on the unforgiving concrete, his body bouncing off the wall and onto a rickety wooden table filled with prayer books and bibles, the table predictably splintering under his weight and pitching him to the floor.
“Ohhhh,” Caine groaned as he pulled himself up to a seated position, propped against the wall, the table’s debris surrounding and covering him. He blinked and shook his head, ignoring the pain as he waited for his vision to clear. He didn’t know how long he’d been out, but the thing was long gone.
Pulling himself up to his feet took a lot more effort than he was used to, covering him in a coat of sweat. Then he staggered through into the church to investigate just what his attacker had been after.
Caine gasped at the bedlam he found in the church. A man lay motionless against the left wall, while a woman lay at the front, by the altar, and another woman, a devastatingly-beautiful but battered brunette dressed like a biker babe was sat crumpled against the back wall, pews and chairs scattered everywhere. Caine grimaced, maybe one of these people could answer some questions about just what his attacker was. That thought uppermost in his mind, he stepped towards the biker babe, hand reaching down for his cuffs.
“You don’t really want to pull out those cuffs do you?” He stiffened at the gun in his lower back, eyebrow raising at the woman’s voice. “I’m sure Faith would appreciate the bondage, but she usually likes Xander to do the cuffing.”
“What is going on here?” he demanded in a frustrated growl, hands reluctantly rising.
”You’re the cop aren’t you?” the voice queried. After a second he nodded. “You might as well just leave, leave this to the experts.”
“Your friends don’t look that expert to me,” he commented, his foot firmly entering his mouth.
”Yeah, but I wasn’t with them,” the girl cockily replied.
Despite himself he couldn’t help but smile slightly at her comment. “Jesus,” Caine glanced towards the wakening girl in front of him, noting her ashen features and haggard look, “that bastard-.” Suddenly her dark eyes focused on him. “Hey Ken, if you’re tryin’ out for the hetro Olympics, here’s a tip, usually guys don’t like it if you hold a gun on them.” The girl’s full lips pulled up into a dimpled smile. “Course if they’re really kinky….”
“Funny Faith,” ‘Ken’ replied. “Can you hold this gun on this guy and do an explanation while I waken Xander and Tara?”
“Sure,” Faith’s smile turned to a grimace accompanied with a hiss. “I’m gonna need Tar’s help, Ken. I think that bastard busted me up inside.”
”Okay,” a tiny brunette twisted around him and passed a .32 to the taller brunette. For a moment Caine considered using the opportunity to take the gun, but resisted, the two women didn’t seem hostile just cautious. This could be one of the times where you got more with sugar than with shit.
”Where the hell did you go anyway?” Faith asked as she pointed the gun at him.
“Replacing the ‘weapon of god’.”
”Ah,” Faith nodded, “good idea. Only,” he noted a slight glassiness to the brunette’s eyes, “get Tar before I pass out again.”
Caine watched the other brunette rush to the front of the church before turning back to Faith. “So you were going to explain what is happening here?”
The beauty shot him a tired smirk before wiping at the sweat on her forehead. “Kay, I get stuck with the Watcher bs. The world is far, far older than people believe and it wasn’t originally a paradise….”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (10/?)
Caine listened dazedly as Faith gave him her explanation. “You’ve mad!”
“Yeah, ‘cause people who can take
shotguns in the face and keep motoring are every day-,” Faith winced then
groaned. “Oh Jesus, fuck that hurts.”
”Xander,” a battered looking blonde walked up to them, her face worried, “Faith’s going to need some privacy, you and this detective carry her through into the room by the left of the front entrance.”
”Jeez, I can walk-,” the ‘Slayer’ gulped at the blonde’s fierce stare. “Or maybe I can’t.”
“If you don’t mind,” a dark-haired, solidly-built youth maybe twenty years his junior stepped up to the curvy brunette’s right.
After a second Caine nodded. Whatever the truth of the Slayer’s words, she and the others didn’t set off his cop instincts as the wrong-doers in this matter. “Sure.” The two of them squatted either side of the leather-clad beauty, slid their arms under her shoulders and knees, and lifted.
“Fuck,” the Slayer arched in their arms, eyes screwing shut. “Delicate cargo here, boys.”
“A moment ago you could walk,” the blonde scolded. “Kennedy get the door.”
In moments they were in a dimly lit room
with a desk, chair, and a couch, its walls filled with books on theology and
ethics. After they’d lowered the surprisingly tiny Slayer down onto the couch,
the witch spoke. “Thanks guys,” Tara said, “now if you’ll just give us some
“Sure,” Xander shot the injured brunette a look that said it all about the pair’s closeness, “you’ll be alright?”
”You know me,” the Slayer smiled wearily, “I’ll be five by five.”
* * *
Tara spoke the moment the door shut
behind the others. “Get those pants off so I can look at the damage.”
Faith smirked despite the throbbing pain that had spread from her crotch to her belly. “You’ve wanted to say that for so looooong.”
“Not funny,” Tara scolded.
“I thought it was.” Faith muttered as she unbuckled her pants and started pulling them off. At least that was the idea, the moment she lifted her left leg, the throbbing pain turned into a volcano engulfing both her lower limbs. “OH FUCK! OH FUCK!” She bit down on her bottom lip with enough force to draw blood.
“Okay,” Tara closed her eyes, “let me take care of them.”
Faith gasped as her pants disappeared and then re-appeared folded on the cluttered desk. “Jeez, I bet Kennedy loves that trick.”
“Not funny,” Tara repeated as she stared down at Faith’s crotch. “Oh not good.”
“What?” Faith queried, her chest tight even as she joked. “I’m not lookin’ fat or anythin’?”
“You have a pelvis broken in three places, a tear to the uterus ligament, dislocated left hip, and internal bleeding and injuries to your womb.” Tara pulled out her cell. “I’ll have to call Leo.”
* * *
Caine glanced towards the door at the girl’s screams and then back at his companions. “You’re going to have to do better than this to convince me about all this.”
“No,” Xander shook his head, his face tense. “I don’t have to convince you of anything. You can either believe us or not, I haven’t the time or inclination to care.”
Caine’s hands balled into fists. “Maybe I should just arrest you all right now?”
The look Xander shot him made him feel as if someone had just walked over his grave. “Maybe you should try,” the ‘boy’ said. “I’ve got a few issues I need to work out.”
”Oh boy,” Kennedy stepped between the two of them, the diminutive brunette shaking her head disapprovingly, “all the testosterone in the air would turn me gay if I wasn’t a lesbian already!” The brunette looked up at Xander. “Show him the Always Pocket, maybe that’ll convince him.”
The young man bared his teeth then started pulling a variety of guns, tools, and clothes out of mid-air, until soon there was a waist-high pile of equipment in front of him.
“Okay,” Caine nodded slowly. “Let’s say I’m convinced.”
”Well I know I’ll sleep better tonight,” Xander snarked.
Even as his jaw clenched at the youth’s surliness, Kennedy spoke. “Cool it Xander, it’s not the detective’s fault Faith got hurt, and Tara will soon have her fixed up.”
“Yeah,” Xander half-nodded, “sorry.”
* * *
“Right,” Faith swallowed her fear down deep. Leo would heal her in a -. “Jeez!” She started when the WhiteLighter orbed in. “Give a girl a chance to put some pants on!” She joked as the angel coloured and turned away.
”I need your help,” Tara hurriedly said. “Asbeel-.”
“The Old One?” Leo paled, his eyes shooting from her to Tara. “He’s here!”
“I won’t be if you don’t heal me!” Faith growled.
“He’s enclosed in a human body so he’s far from his full power-.”
“Could have fooled me,” Faith grunted. “Kicks like an elephant on roids.”
“And we do have a weapon of god to deal with him,” Tara added.
”We do?” Faith looked towards her friend, her pain momentarily if not forgotten at least ebbing under a wave of interest.
Tara beamed proudly. “Kennedy rounded up a trio of priests and had them bless a knife.”
“Go the brat,” Faith looked at the angel. “Now how about some healing hands?” she winked saucily. “And if there’s any inappropriate touchin’, I won’t mind. You should have seen how quickly Tar got my pants off.”
“Ha, ha,” Tara grunted as the reddening angel crouched down in between her legs and held his hands about eight inches over her crotch.
Faith moaned as a golden light seeped out from the angel’s hands, a healing warmth filling her. After a minute or so the angel rose. “You’re healed now,” he told her.
”Man, that felt so good, bet Piper has you on speed-dial.” Faith grinned at the angel’s returning blush. “Yeah,” Faith nodded agreeably. “I can tell. You do good work, Wings. Thanks.” Faith nodded at Tara as her sis passed her leather pants. By the time she’d dragged them on, Leo had disappeared. “Let’s go for round two with that bastard.” Faith’s forehead creased at Tara’s wince. “You hurt too? You should have asked Leo to-.”
”We’re in a house of worship, Faith,” Tara reprimanded. “Please, try and stop the swearing.”
“Me with a clean mouth?” Faith winked. “Now that wouldn’t be me would it?”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (11/?)
The beauty who slinked out of the vestry moved with a predatory grace that seemed almost primal in its nature. “Are you alright Faith?”
The brunette’s face lit up at Xander’s
concern. “Leo fixed me right up, stud,” she replied as she threw her arms
around the young man’s shoulders and kissed him on the cheek before looking
curiously towards him. “What’s the heat still doin’ here?”
“I want to help,” Caine replied for himself.
”Huh, huh,” the brunette’s eyes turned sceptical before turning back to her boy-friend and muttering something in his ear.
”Thought about it, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” the youth cryptically replied.
”Wicked,” Faith looked towards Kennedy, “Tar said you have somethin’ for me?”
”Yeah,” the smaller brunette handed the Slayer a carving knife.
Faith looked down at the knife and then at the Potential. ”I was gonna say kudos for creatin’ one, but a carving knife, seriously?”
“Hey!” the smaller brunette glanced at him and then back at the Slayer. “I couldn’t use any of ours, it had to be new! I had to break into a hardware store to get that!”
“Fair nuff,” the Slayer conceded with a nod before glancing towards Xander. “So how we gonna do this?”
“Tracking Asbeel down won’t be a problem, we’ve got his priest and now another weapon, he’ll come looking for us,” Xander commented. “Tara I want use to utilise long-range attacks on him, give Faith a chance to get in close. Kennedy, Caine,” Caine caught the mini-uzi Xander threw him, “you’re with me on guard duty of the priests.”
Caine nodded numbly, surprised by which the ease the youth appeared to throw orders around. In seconds they were marching out of the church and down its steps to meet a pneumatically beautiful brunette with an air of class about her. “Well Faith,” the woman purred, her clipped accent identifying her as upper-class English, as she looked towards him, “you do seem to collect the strapping ones.”
”It’s a skill,” the Slayer lazily drawled before looking towards the car’s backseat, “your talent seems to be more towards collecting the wrinkly ones.”
“Ha, ha,” there was a flash of teeth and then the brunette sobered. “What’s the plan?”
Xander’s mouth opened. “Oh no!” Kennedy interrupted him before he had chance to speak. “Asbeel must have sensed the weapon and doubled back!” The potential pointed to the road’s near-end. “He’s back!”
Caine’s blood chilled, but Xander
appeared calm itself. “Change of plan,” the youth announced before looking
towards the apparent Englishwoman, “Lara, we need to get your holy men into the
church and fast. Faith, you and Tara are up.”
* * *
Her eyes fixed on the approaching figure, Faith swallowed the fear down deep. She doubted she’d ever been hit close to as heavy as Asbeel hit before, but the difference this time was the knife. She glanced down at the carving knife, a spark igniting in her head. ”Give me a shotgun and sword.” Xander looked towards her. “Decoys, I’m betting he won’t be able to tell exactly how close the weapon is.”
“Okay,” Faith took the passed over weapons, “good luck.”
”See you in a minute,” she replied before glancing to a taut-faced Tara. “Stay behind me and get his attention.”
“How about this.”
Faith blinked as a multi-coloured
firework display of angels exploded before the Old One’s eyes, forcing him to
rear back, teeth bared in surprise. “It’ll do for a start, keep hitting him
until it’s hand to hand, then come in to check on me after it’s all done. I go
down, you high-tail into the church-.”
”Like that’s gonna happen.”
Faith smirked at her best friend’s mutter before starting into the road, sneakers slapping against the tarmac. “It’s times like this, I realise Xander has a point ‘bout what a pain in the ass you are,” she snarked before sobering, raising her shotgun and starting to fire, its boom shattering the silent night.
Each of her shots hit home, causing the demon to stagger before righting. But despite her bullets it came on, shoulders bunching and jaw clenched. The moment her shotgun emptied, she threw it aside and leapt forward, dancing under a straight right to kick the demon in its gut and dance back out again.
The thing seemed worriedly untroubled by her attack. “I’ll gut you like a fish!”
“Money talks,” she pulled her head down under a swinging left, blocked a kick to her belly on her crossed forearms, then danced out again, “bullshit walks!”
“Insolent bitch!” The demon snarled before throwing a hook she blocked on her already aching forearm. “Your words mean nothing!”
“You like that?” she cockily queried as she leapt up into the air, brought her knees up into her gut and kicked out, her feet cannoning into the demon’s chest as she backflipped into her crouch. “I gotta a ton of them.”
“Such as?” The demon growled as he tried a roundhouse kick she ducked under.
“Don’t hunt,” Faith shot out a right that connected with the demon’s crotch with depressingly little effect before springing out of her crotch, “what you can’t kill!” She sidestepped the demon’s headlong charge, dropping to one knee as she thrust her knife up and into the monster’s left armpit, even as his elbow cracked into the side of her head, knocking her face-down into the tarmac.
”Shit,” Faith grunted as she hit tarmac, her top lip and forehead above her right eye splitting on impact. “Shit.” She rolled over onto her side then grinned, her pain forgotten next to the sight of Asbeel’s unmoving corpse, the knife jutting out of its armpit. She kipped up as Tara rushed over. “Score another one for the good guys.”
Now there was only a question of what to do with the corpse.
* * *
Two hours later she found herself and the others on a boat of a friend of Caine, the cop having taken over as skipper as dawn threatened to break over the Houston Channel. Asbeel had been stuffed into a safe, the safe locked with a combination Xander had made while blindfolded, then the iron-grey safe had been further secured with half a dozen padlocked chains, then put into a still larger safe weighed down with rocks.
As solutions went, it was an imperfect one, but it was an imperfect world. “Everyone stand back,” Faith warned as she muscled the safe up to the boat’s edge, sweat beading down her brow, every sinew straining as she wedged the wheelbarrow against the boat’s side and started leveraging the safe over the edge. Finally the safe was wobbling, and then falling, an almighty splash soaking her. Faith grinned at Xander as she threw her head back and shook her hair, water flying off her drenched mane. “As usual you lose the wet T-shirt competition, stud.”
”When you get drenched, I always win,” Xander grinned back at her before hurrying over to Caine. “Look, you’ve got nerve if you went after Asbeel twice, and well Tara checked you out on our computer. Do you want to join us?”
Caine shot them all a considering look before answering. “Where are you staying?”
Xander hesitated before answering. “Hotel Derek.”
“I know it,” Caine replied as he turned the boat back to the port, the engine’s purring motor filling the air. “I’ll meet you there at nine tonight in the dining room.”
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (12/?)
Faith glanced impatiently at her watch before looking across the table at him. “I got ten past, what time ya got?”
Xander forced a patient smile. “Give him time, he’ll be here.”
Faith shook her head and scowled, arms
crossing. “Can’t remember the last time a guy was late to meet with me.”
Kennedy shot him a sadistic smirk that had him readying for a dive for cover. ”Don’t you remember that time in Detroit when Xand-,” the potential’s expression changed as she peered over his left shoulder, “oh boy maybe we should have gotten a bigger table.”
“What?” Xander peered over his shoulder to see Caine striding into the brightly-lit dining room at the head of nine strangers aged between the mid-twenties to their early-thirties, the one exception being in his early forties.
“Shit,” Faith growled out. “Figure it’s a trap?”
“No,” Xander answered slowly as he readied the Always Pocket, just in case. “Not after last night, Caine knows what we’re into. If he was trying to arrest us, there’d be SWAT all over this place.”
“Cool,” he sensed Faith half-relaxing.
Caine stopped before their table.
“Sorry I’m late, I had to make a few phone calls.”
“And you brought friends, how nice.” Xander sarcastically commented.
Caine smiled slightly as he glanced at the chair they’d left empty for him. “May I?” Xander nodded. “Thanks.” The cop sat down. “I’ve been a policeman for over twenty years, I can’t just turn away from that, but a state the size of Texas needs an unit.” He glanced towards his cowboy regalia wearing companions who’d just taken the table next to them. “These are the Lone Star Loyalists,” Xander raised an eyebrow and heard Faith snort at the name. “Yeah, I know,” Caine smirked slightly before continuing. “But they’re Texas’ premiere bounty hunters. Just the sort of people whose skills and experiences make them perfect for this job.”
“And the name?” Kennedy queried.
“It comes from the fact we’re all descendants of notorious Texas gunmen,” replied the oldest of the group, a craggy-featured man with plenty of stubble and a lazy left eye, “I’m Lou Vermillion, great-grandson of Texas Jack Vermillion.”
“I’m Slick Thompson,” a sharp-featured youth with sandy-brown hair parted down the middle and confident blue eyes spoke up, “descendant of Ben Thompson.”
“Tyrone and Tyrell Allison,” commented one of a pair of hulking identical twins, “descendants of Clay Allison.”
“Camille Fisher,” added a sun-kissed athletic woman with curly brown hair, “great-great-grand-daughter of King Fisher.”
”King Fisher? Seriously?” Faith muttered.
”Quite a famous gun-fighter,” Tara muttered back.
“Brad Longley,” said a tall, wide-shouldered man with intense black eyes, “Bill Longley’s descendant.”
“I’m Cheryl McMasters,” a curvy short brunette looked towards the short man sat beside him, “this is my brother Chuck, we’re related to Marshal Sherman McMasters.”
“I’m Kerry Short,” said another brunette, this one taller with passionate grey eyes, “relative of Luke Short.”
Lou Vermillion continued. “Some of us started off as a Wild West revival outfit about twelve years ago, but when our overheads got too much, we moved into the bounty hunting business here in Texas and the neighbouring states.”
“And who leads this unit?” Xander queried.
Caine glanced over his shoulder and towards the dining room’s entrance. “That’d be the man.”
The man who entered was huge, not tall, about his height actually, but easily packing an extra forty fat-free pounds on his frame, his biceps bulging like basketballs under his XXXL T-shirt and his neck disappearing into his shoulders. The man himself was blue-eyed and square-jawed, what little hair there was on his face all cut into a triangle-shaped beard and none of it on his head. All in all, an intimidating man. “Pleased to meet you son,” the man growled in a voice so deep as to give Barry White an inferiority complex before grabbing his head and pumping it in a grip that had him worrying for his fingers.
“This is Jack Conrad,” Caine started to introduce. “A friend of mine-.”
”That’s a lie,” Tara interrupted. “What is your name?”
Everyone looked at the bald-headed powerhouse who shrugged. “Jack Riley, former Delta Force.”
”Whoa,” Xander looked towards Tara. The witch nodded. Xander had to admit he was impressed, as elite forces went you didn’t get much more elite than Delta Force. “So you’re interested in doing this?”
”Let’s just say,” the man dropped into a chair, the furniture creaking under his weight, “I’m tired of taking the government’s money, my contract’s up but I don’t fancy signing up again. Ain’t the action, it’s-,” the soldier shrugged, “a man gets tired of travelling you know?”
”Oh hell yes,” Faith muttered.
“But I want to know what I’m setting up and getting into,” the Delta Force operative continued after a smirk at Faith.
“Okay then,” Xander looked towards Tara who was busy receiving a remote hack from Angela. After a minute his friend nodded. ““You get the interest off a hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund to spend as you wish – wages, health insurance, arms and ammunition, equipment, a base, whatever you deem necessary. You can access our intelligence network, arms, communications, and equipment suppliers. In return we supply protocols that any group that works for us adheres to. A set of rules, no harming innocents, no charging for your help, that sorta thing. But the big thing is there’s an apocalypse coming, a potential world-ender, and I want all units to be there.”
“Can I see these protocols?” The man blinked when he pulled a print-out of the Always Pocket. “Magic?”
”Of a sort,” he replied.
”Neat trick,” Jack glanced down at the information, eyes skirting over the print, then he turned over the second page, and then the third before looking up. “I can work with this.”
”Great!” Xander beamed.
”What are my resources?” Jack queried.
Xander looked towards Tara. “Tara, you’re record-gal.”
“One day, you’re going to have to learn how to use a computer,” Tara reprimanded with a smile before opening up the CD drive and putting a CD in the computer. After a minute she started tapping at the laptop’s keyboard then looked up at the imposing man. “Houston has three teams of eight demon hunters, Dallas has two teams of ten, San Antonio has three teams of six demon hunters, Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Arlington each have a team of seven. Dallas and Houston both have sizable white magic covens.”
”Right,” Jack nodded before looking towards him. “Size Texas is, we’re gonna have to split our group into two, one doin’ east, one doin’ west.”
”It’s up to you,” Xander replied. “You’re the boss now.”
“Damn straight.” Jack smirked and stuck out his hand. Xander winced as he took the man-mountain’s hand again and prayed for the use of his fingers afterwards, the things he did to save the world.
FIC: MC: 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (13/14)
Faith turned to Xander the moment she closed the door of their suite behind them. “You figure Jack Riley’s gonna turn out okay?”
Xander shrugged. “We’ll have to see I suppose, Tara read him as okay, so there’s that.” Xander’s brow furrowed as he pouted thoughtfully. “The question is where to go next to try and get some recruits? I’ve been looking at plugging some holes in the Middle East or South America, maybe bolstering our Asian presence-.”
“No here’s the real question,” Faith placed her hand in the centre of Xander’s chest and pushed him into the wall. “Are you gonna shut up about the Mithras Brotherhood and get down to,” Faith grinned, “servicing my needs?”
Xander half-grinned right back at her.
“You’re the one who wanted to talk ‘bout the Brotherhood.”
”Yeah, but that was ‘fore I remembered how borin’ you are when you start off ‘bout it.” Faith grabbed the back of Xander’s head and pulled him down towards her as she stepped on tip-toes. “Now shut up and kiss me.”
* * *
Faith’s eyes shot open, Slayer instinct awakening her for some unknown reason. The hairs on the back of her neck sprang upright as she peered uncertainly around their darkened bedroom, the only sound, Xander’s admittedly avalanche-like snore. Faith raised her head off her man’s chest and knelt upright, uncertainty clouding her eyes as she reached out to shake Xander awake.
A feat that was only marginally easier than wakening the non-vampiriac dead.
Her head snapped to the door when it burst open, and a towering, square-jawed, buzz-cat muscleman in fatigues charged in. Instinct took over as she powered up from the bed and into a leaping thrust kick. “Man,” she growled, “did you pick the wrong hotel room to rob!”
Her heel crashed into the man’s vault-sized chest, yet despite the impact he didn’t fall, only stumbled back a step, and still managed to swing a hammering haymaker into her lower thigh that knocked her into the wall. Faith landed in a crouch, ducked another haymaker that chipped the plaster of the wall behind her, then leapt up into a second leaping thrust-kick, this one to the man’s face that snapped his head to the side, but still didn’t down him.
“Jesus!” Faith grunted while she blocked another left hook on her right forearm and a knee aimed at her crotch on her left forearm, the impact of both blocks resounding through her limbs. Shrugging off both blows, Faith swung a karate chop up and into the soldier’s neck.
The soldier grunted, then snatched a hold of her flowing locks, and yanked her forward, and into a forearm to the face. Stars exploded in front of her eyes as she slammed her fist up and into the wrist of the hand grasping her hair, forcing it to release and allowing her to duck under a follow-up forearm while slamming a heel into the soldier’s left shin.
“Faith, get out of the way!”
Faith leapt into a cartwheel at Xander’s roar. “Shit!” She gasped when the man grabbed her ankle in his steel-cable like fingers and flung her to the ground. Faith looked up with wide eyes as the man raised his foot and came down in a stomp, unable to roll away thanks to the entrance passageway’s narrowness. Instead her hands shot up, grabbed the man boot and shoved up, muscles writhing with the effort. The man flew backwards, crashing into the canary yellow wall behind him with enough force to crack it, then Xander’s shotgun roared.
The man’s head exploded in a mist of wires, blood, and brain, toppling forward in a fall that Faith had to back-flip out of the way of.
* * *
“I wonder who sent it?” Xander ruminated as he crouched over the decapitated cyborg, its blood spilling out onto the carpet, darkening the grey fabric, and the circuits in its head sparking then dying.
“Heh, it could really be anyone, the
Vatican, Wolfram & Hart, G-Man, a terrorist group you pissed off.” Faith tilted
her head to one side, a teasing smile flickering on her ruby red lips. “You
really suck at makin’ friends you know, you should leave the diplomacy to me. I
got like the personal touch.”
Xander glared up at his partner. ”You suck, you know that don’t you?”
“Yeah, but you weren’t complainin’ ‘bout me suck-,” Faith spun to the door as it burst open, then relaxed as Tara and Kennedy ran in. “Jeez, took you long enough. I don’t think they care, Xan.”
“Well, maybe not about you,” barbed Kennedy.
“What is that-,” gasped Tara.
”Cyborg,” Xander shook his head at the witch’s opening mouth, “no not a Terminator unit, far less advanced than that. Anyway, we haven’t time for this, we need to get out of here now.”
“Back-up hotel better be five star as well,” Faith darkly warned.
Xander sighed, his head dropping. “Yes dear.”
FIC: MC 62. Jan 03 – Arch Demon (Finale/Finale)
Tara looked around as she entered the busy bar, a tentative smile playing on her lips as she ducked through its arched entrance, nodding slightly as she recognised several patrons from her previous visits to The Pax, and avoiding several others she’d been warned about. She hadn’t been here often, but when she got the time, it was always an adventure.
“Tara!” Salve Xeina waved a tentacle at
her as she weaved her way through the crowd. “Your usual?”
Even as Tara began to nod a hot fudge
sundae appeared on the bar before her. “Thanks.” She picked it up and supped
greedily at it.
”You’re welcome,” Salve leaned in with a conspiratorial smile. “Now who do you want to know a little about this time?”
Tara smiled at the demon who despite her initial reservations had become her friend and guide to this unique bar. “Is that,” she nodded towards a hulking creature she recognised from photos in the more scurrilous type of newspapers, “Hellboy?”
Salve nodded as he glanced towards the
half-demon in question. Hellboy was a tall demon made to seem squat by his
immensely powerful physique. However that was rendered unremarkable next to his
red-skin, planed-down pair of horns on his head, long tail, and club-like right
hand. “That’s him alright.”
”Wow,” Tara gasped before looking towards her friend again, “do you think he’d mind if I spoke to him?”
”A celebrity like you?” Salve smiled. “He should be honoured!”
“I think I’ll finish my drink first.” Tara reddened at her friend’s words before looking around the bar, searching for any other novelty. “Who’s that?” she half-nodded towards a friendly-looking man strangely sat on his own towards the back of the bar.
”You want to stay away from him, Tara,” Salve’s normally face darkened. ”He’s bad news, if I could ban anyone, he’d be in my top five. He’s The Trickster, one of those Chaos Lords. Bad news, but you don’t need telling that.”
”Oh,” Tara felt her stomach lurch at the name of one of their toughest enemies. Even if the bar did have some of the best spell protection in the known worlds, she wouldn’t be going anywhere near him. “And how’s business?”
”As you can see, we’re as busy as always,” Salve beamed at her.
“Good,” Tara smiled then stiffened when a hulking black dressed in a grey duster walked past her, growling something in a gravely voice. He looked human but didn’t feel it. “Who was that?”
”That’s Raze, a werewolf,” Salve replied in a mutter as he replaced her empty glass with a fresh one, “and an old one at that. He was the son of an African Sultan who was taken as a prisoner and then a slave by vampires who forced him to take a Lycan’s bite.” Salve shook his head. “A bad business.”
“Rig-,” Tara’s voice trailed off, her eyes widening as a towering, bandaged from head to toe Mummy sat down, not six seats away from her. “Who’s that?” she hissed.
“That’s N'Kantu.” Salve replied even as his tentacles deftly served several clamouring costumers before continuing with his story. “He was a tribal chief in Africa about three thousand years ago. When his people were conquered by Egyptians, he led them in a failed rebellion that ended up with him being embalmed. After three thousand years the fluid that had paralyzed him, allowing the Egyptians to mummify him while alive, wore off, restoring him to life like this.“ Salve sighed. “When he comes here, he always asks for a drink of his people, something not drunk in thousands of years. Most sad.”
* * *
Faith blinked, the sudden end to the car’s motion, suddenly wakening her. She looked around, bemused by her new surroundings, then glanced at her watch. “Shit,” she grunted in surprise as she realised it was two and a half hours since Xander had dragged her out of her very warm, very comfy hotel bed, bare minutes after dawn while smirking evilly at her impatient questions.
To bring her where exactly?
Faith’s nose wrinkled as she looked around the sweeping meadows, glittering ponds, and blooming copses under a brightening sky. “Come on,” Xander said before opening the door and leaping out.
”Yeah sure,” Faith opened her door and dropped out of the SUV and onto the slightly dewy grass underfoot, the wild grass up to the knees of her cargo-pants. “What is all this, Xan?”
Xander grinned at her, whatever the hell was happenin’, her toy-boy was getting’ way too much enjoyment out of it. “What do you think of this place?”
Faith wrinkled her nose as she looked around, somehow sensing that despite the casual way the question was asked, the answer was real important to her lover. Finally she shrugged. “It’s real pretty, kinda quiet,” she smiled softly as a deer poked its head out of the woods, stared at the unexpected visitors and then pulled back in.
“But you like it?” Xander pressed.
”What’s not to like?” Faith shrugged. “Place is clean, pretty.”
“Good, ‘cause I know it’s six months early,” Faith’s brow furrowed as she glanced at her babbling boy-friend, “but happy 21st. I bought this for you.”
“Yeah?” Faith looked around in confusion, not gettin’ her stud’s beaming excitement. “Bought what? The car?”
“No,” Xander sighed and stared patiently
at her. “The land.”
”The land?” Faith thought she was startin’ to catch on, but wasn’t quite getting’ just yet.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded, “five thousand square acres of Texas for twelve million dollars. And there’s this.”
Faith blinked at the cheque that Xander shoved into her hand. “Sixty million dollars?” Faith stared blankly at her man. “What’s this for?”
Xander stuck his hands in his pockets and his head bobbed down, chin touching his chest as his cheeks reddening. “I don’t know how long we’ve got until this big battle gets here, but I sense it’ll be soon. After that’s over, we’ll still be busy, but we won’t need to fly around quite as much as we do now, getting recruits. We’ll need a base.” Xander gulped. “We’ll need a home.”
“A….a home,” Faith’s world tilted. She’d sorta gotten used to the idea that Xan loved her, but to hear him planning a life with her sorta still shook her. Why would a great guy like him wanna a street rat like -.
“I know that’s what you want, at least I
”Only thing I want more is you,” Faith stared at her boy-friend. Blinking away the tears forming in her eyes. “We’ll need to fly over the entire place, decide where we-.”
“You,” Xander corrected. “This is your project.”
“I wanna build our home.”
”That’s booked for this afternoon, a private plane so we can take the others with us, show off.”
“’Course it is,” Faith’s dimples deepened at her boy-friend’s continued thoughtfulness. Already her head was whirling with plans. There’d have to be a basement gym, complete with indoor swimming pool, sauna, and tanning beds, a games room for Xan, its walls covered with framed copies of those rare DC comics of his and filled with vintage and modern arcade games. There’d be a cinema room, a bowling alley, and an office for Xan. A whole load of guest bed rooms for all their friends to come and stay with them, a huge function room capable of holding a hundred minimum. And there’d have to be stuff for the kids, she decided with a sudden rush there’d have to be kids at some time in her future, they’d have the biggest nursery complete with a whole load of toys, all the ones she wanted as a kid, a petting zoon, an aquarium, and an aviary.
Faith grinned as she turned back to Xander. “Thanks hon.” She reached up, took his head in her hands and pulled him down into a passionate kiss even as happy tears streaked down her high cheeks.
* * *
Holland Manners chuckled and shook his head as he finished the neatly-typed report into the Mexico debacle. However beautiful the penmanship, it couldn’t conceal the fact that the attempt to blacken the Mithras Brotherhood’s name by running a fake unit had descended into disaster. Not only was the fake unit destroyed, another real one was being built in its place.
Holland chucked again. “That boy, he has the gift for turning chicken-shit into chicken salad.” He shook his head again. “It would be admirable if it wasn’t so annoying.”
* * *
“I see your attempt to take care of
Harris ended in disaster.”
Simmons looked up at the unfamiliar voice and the haggard-faced stranger stood in the doorway. “And you are?” he challenged.
His demand was met with a thin smile. “Dennis Ryland, formerly of NTAC and NSA,” he explained. “I’m back from an extended tour of the Antarctic thanks to Harris.”
“He has that effect on people,” Simmons dryly replied.
”I feel I must warn you,” the man sat on the seat opposite Simmons, “Harris’ little group has deep hooks in the current administration,” the man smiled wryly, “as I found out to my cost.” The man paused. “However, killing Harris is short-sighted.”
”Short-sighted how?” Simmons queried when the man paused rather than clarified.
“Harris has enormous gifts, both he and the Slayer do actually, but he’s the key to the money, with him in hand the NID would have far more funds than it currently does,” Ryland paused again. “We don’t need to kill Harris, we need to take him alive.”
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