FIC: July ’99 Bright Lights, Bad City (1/?)
“Monsignor!” Jack Crow kicked the door open as he stormed into the office. He was pissed and didn’t give a shit who knew it. He didn’t appreciate being thrown in a plane and flown half-way across the world when he’d been days from catching up to a three centuries old vampire he’d been tracking for three months. All that work down the shitter. After a several hour plane journey to the Vatican from Georgia to stew, he was well and truly hacked off. “You better have a damn good reason for calling me here!”
Crow had to give the priest credit; he was a ballsy old fuck. Although he winced at Jack’s language, he appeared otherwise unmoved by his anger. “Oh, I assure you I do.” The priest nodded towards the empty chair on Jack’s side of the desk. “Please sit down.”
“Sure,” Crow inspected the priest as he complied with his request. Monsignor Pedro Alvez was a short tubby man with ruddy cheeks and shoulder length silver-grey hair. He was a pain in the ass, but he was one of the good guys, one of the few that supported the hunting program and had the enlightened approach of wanting it extending to include the assistance of friendly supernatural such as non-hostile demons and Wiccas. Only trouble was were the reactionaries who wanted anything supernatural dead – weres, wiccas, hell all families with someone magical in them just to stop the spread. If things went that way, his ass was out of there. No way he was making war on innocents. “What’s so damn important?”
Alvez cast him an irritated glance. “Take your feet off my desk.” He shrugged and obeyed. The priest passed him a pair of photographs. “These two youths have come to our attention.”
Crow’s eyes widened at the stunning brunette. “She could come to my attention any time,” he leered. “Who the hell is she, some street hooker who’s been turned? Shame, a waste of a real nice piece of pus-.”
“Please,” the priest interrupted. “No more profanity. Now is most certainly not the time. She’s the Slayer.”
“Whoa, I thought we had a twelve century long treaty with those limeys? They don’t shi-,” seeing the glint in the priest’s eyes, he changed what he’d been about to say, “interfere in our business. We stay out of theirs?”
“True,” Alvez nodded. “However we have rather been overtaken by events.”
Crow listened in growing amazement as the holy man told him all about Mithras. “You have got to be shitting me!” he finally exploded.
”I am far from ‘shitting’ you,” the Monsignor shook his head. “And it is imperative that the Church get their hands on him before anyone else.”
“He’s big news then?”
The Spaniard chuckled, his face dour. “Big news? By now, the Watchers’ Council, Wolfram & Hart, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, the Americans, the Brits, the French, German, Israelis, Saudis, Chinese, and Japanese are all looking for him.” Jack swallowed. “We have to be the ones. The future prosperity of the Church rests on his shoulders.”
Jack nodded, uneasy to note there was no mention of the world in the priest’s words.
* * *
“Faith,” Xander knocked on the Slayer’s hotel door. “Can I come in?”
“Sure hon -.”
“I’ve got a -,” Xander stopped half-way into the room, stymied by the alluring sight of a topless Faith squatted on the hotel bed searching through her clothes. “Shit!” Cheeks flaming, Xander back-heeled the door shut and turned to face it. “Damn it Faith! You’re almost naked!”
“I can see why Mithras chose you,” Faith’s tone was infuriatingly cheerful. “You’re so damn smart. What’s your prob Xman? Seen me naked before remember?”
Xander’s blush intensified, he was hardly likely to forget. “Faith! You said you were ready!”
“No I didn’t,” the Bostonian corrected. “I said you could come in. What did you want?”
“What?” With a shake of his head Xander forced his mind back on track. “A few objects came with the account.” Reaching into his jacket’s inside pocket he pulled out a gold chain and threw it over his shoulder. “That’s for you.”
“A chain?” the east coast Slayer sounded doubtful. “Thanks but I don’t do jewellery.”
“Faith, can I turn round?”
He turned to face the Slayer only to find Faith now sat on the bed – still topless. An innocent look on her face, she lifted up two pairs of different coloured bras. “Black or red?”
”Damn it!” he spun back round to face the wall, all too conscious of the Slayer’s snickering. He was so out of his league here. “You’re really enjoying this aren’t you?”
“Yep,” Faith freely admitted. He heard some rustling and then the east coast native spoke again. “Dressed now.” Xander counted to three before turning and finding to his relief that this time the brunette had quickly dressed in a sleeveless black muscle vest and a pair of skin-tight jeans. “Jeez X,” the Slayer winked. “Most guys would love to see me in the raw.”
“I know. And I do. Kinda distracting though,” he squirmed under the combination of the Slayer’s mocking eyes and her throaty laugh before continuing. “It’s not just a chain,” he explained. “It’s The Chain Of Concealment; it protects its wearer from magical traces. I figure it’ll protect you from the Council seers searching for you
“Oh wicked!” the brunette flashed him her world-class dimples before hurriedly putting the chain on. “Thanks X. What other shit you get?”
“This,” unable to resist the temptation to show off, he muttered a quick spell under his breath and put out his had. A half-second later a heavy, leather-bound book appeared in his previously empty hand.
“Fuck!” Faith’s eyes widened. “You a mage now X?”
“Not really no,” he shook his head. “All it is a spell that only somebody of my lineage can do.” Seeing the Slayer’s bemused expression he continued. “A mage created The Always Pocket, a container of infinite size capable of holding the owner’s entire belongings in it, totally immune to theft, and that could only be opened by one of Mithras’ bloodline. All I do is say an object and it’s there.”
“Holy shit!” Faith blinked. “So if you asked for your shotgun it’s there?”
”Yeah, but I have to put the gun in myself and make sure it’s armed beforehand. Also it can only contain things that I can fit in my hand and carry. I couldn’t pull out a car for example.”
“Still, it sounds handy.” Faith pointed towards the book. “Anything special about that?”
“What was your favourite book as a kid?”
Faith shrugged her face suddenly pensive. “Ma didn’t hold with books. Books were a waste of money that she’d rather spend on smokes and getting high.”
Xander hated the wistfulness on his friend’s face. “You must have read something when you were a kid at school?” he prompted gently.
Suddenly the east coast native’s face brightened. “Yeah, I loved Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.”
“Oh really?” Xander furrowed his forehead in puzzlement. “That’s amazing.”
“Uh?” Faith looked confused.
“’Cause the first time I saw you in the Bronze, I said to Cordy, she looks like Oompah-Loompah.”
Faith flipped him the bird and glowered. “Bite me Harris.”
“So lady-like too,” Xander passed the book to the Bostonian and sat down beside her. “Open the book and say the title.”
The Slayer obeyed. “Holy shit!” Faith’s head switched between him and the book like a spectator at a Grand Slam final, her eyes filled with wonder as the text and pictures of ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’ appeared on the previously blank pages before her. “How in the hell?”
“This book is the Eternal Archive. You mention the title of any human book, ever written and its taken from the archive to here in the reader’s language. Only written by human though, it can’t handle demonic translations.”
“Whoa,” Faith looked impressed before grinning impishly. “Used it to look at classic Playboys yet Xan?
“There’s a thought,” he grinned back at the Slayer before producing an unremarkable looking gold ring.
”Why Xander,” Faith fluttered her eyelashes at him and pouted. “An engagement ring? But aren’t you being forward?”
Rolling his eyes at the Slayer’s little girl act, he pulled away when the brunette made to take the ring from him. “Sorry Faith, this is ‘The Ring Of Truth’, useless to you or me, but you said Tara was an aura reader right?”
Xander wondered at the vaguely uncomfortable look that flickered across Faith’s face at the mention of Tara’s aura-reading. Shaking it off, he continued. “If an aura-reader wears this they can tell if someone is lying, it heats up apparently.”
“Wicked cool. What else you got?”
“This is The All-Seeing Eye,” he passed his friend an old-fashioned spyglass. “You say the name of a person you know or a place you’ve been and it’ll show you what’s happening to the person or at the place. It’s got limitations, you can’t communicate with the person and you have to have actually met them-.”
“Whoa, give me that!” The Slayer snatched the spy-glass out of his hand and put it to her eye. “Alonna Gunn.” After a second the brunette let out a whoop. “You go girl! My girl is gonna get her some tonight! Which reminds me,” his friend winked at him. “When I’m in the shower this stays with me.” The east coast native laughed at his flaming cheeks before turning serious. “You got some wicked shit here bud.”
“But what?” her voice unusually soft, his friend nudged with the point of the elbow. “Talk bud. A problem shared and all that crap.”
“Oh, how eloquently put,” he sniffed in his best Giles tone.
Faith giggled. “Damn you do a good G, Xman. But don’t change the subject, what’s the sitch?”
“I’m meant to run this mighty organisation but how?” he shrugged helplessly. “I mean I’ve got all this money but I can’t do shit without walking into a bank and making a deposit that’ll probably set the Watchers, all intel agencies, and every damn occult organisation in the world coming after me.”
“Hey,” Faith ruffled his hair. “You’ll figure it out. Where are we heading next?” Faith beamed when he told her. “Oh fucking A! I’ve always wanted to go there!”
Xander groaned. Somehow he thought he’d made a very big mistake.
FIC: July ’99 Bright Lights, Bad City (2/?)
“Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin',
And your one-armed bandits crashin'
All those hopes down the drain.
Viva Las Vegas turnin' day into nighttime,”
“I..s she always like this?” Tara whispered in disbelief as she gazed over her shoulder at the Slayer stood dancing and singing on the back seat of the car as they sped through donwntown Las Vegas, a blissful expression on the sultry beauty’s face.
It was, Tara admitted silently, a captivating sight. The Bostonian was dressed only in black shorts that were little more than a belt and a matching tied top that both displayed her ridged abdominals and emphasised her perfectly pert breasts. Tara congratulated herself on her good taste for falling for the east coast native. Although the singing could be a lot better.
Xander chuckled. “Usually. I try to limit her caffeine intake otherwise she’s even worse. Faith, you know singing one of the King’s classics so badly could be considered disrespectful to the dead.”
Faith broke off from her singing. “He’s not dead.”
“I know I’m going to regret this,” Xander sighed. “He’s not?”
”Nope,” Faith shook her head, the motion making her hair bounce delightfully. Oh god, thought Tara, even the way her hair moves turns me on, I’m doomed. “Word is he’s a vamp working the night shift at a Memphis 7 – 11, and feeding on the customers. I was thinking of making a side-trip when I left Boston but never got the chance. Man, staking the King-.“
“As opposed to being staked by him,” Xander muttered beside her. Tara giggled at her companion’s raised eyebrow.
”Man, that would have been the bomb!” the Slayer continued, ignoring Xander’s interruption as if it had never happened.
”Thank you and welcome to Faith’s surreal world,” Xander intoned.
“Jesus Xand!” Faith let out a gleeful whoop before dropping down onto the back seat, smirking. “Take a chill pill! This is Vegas, THE PARTY TOWN!”
Tara glanced at the sights around them. Faith had a point. Vegas was a gaudy kaleidoscope of brightly illuminated hotels, casinos, nightclubs, restaurants, strip joints, and wedding chapels laid out in every direction, as far as the eye could see. Even as she looked around, fireworks exploded, illuminations flickered, and strobe lights flashed. “W…where are we going?” she asked tentatively.
“The Land of The Elite Hotel,” Xander replied. “It’s a great place. Apparently all the acts are top-line tribute acts of deceased or defunct acts-.”
”Yes Faith, and no you can’t beat him up to see if he’s a vampire.”
Xander ignored Faith’s muttering choosing to direct the conversation to her. “And all the front staff are famous look-alikes.”
Tara blinked, it did sound amazing. “W…what’s the job?”
“No job,” Xander glanced over his shoulder to Faith. “Just a little r & r, the last month has been hell. We deserve a chance to relax.”
Tara didn’t miss Xander’s worried look to the brunette and translated it as yet another conspiracy to ‘loosen her up’. Tara hid a sigh, she knew her friends meant well but she was just fine the way she was.
* * *
”Holy shit,” Faith breathed in awe, her eyes widening at the sight before her as she peered through the gap between the two front seats. “We’re staying here?”
”Yep,” Xander confirmed.
For a moment Faith’s brain closed down, mesmerised by the sight before her. The hotel reached up into the cloudless sky, a towering thirty plus stories of gleaming steel and glass. Above the golden arched doorway there was a six foot tall neon sigh, each letter of the word ‘Elite’ illuminated in a different colour. She’d been in plenty of hotels in her time – either to rob ‘em or ‘cause a guy had offered a bed for the night, but nothing like this. Suddenly she chuckled. “You really need to get a new car.”
Xander shot her a quizzical look. “Why?”
Faiith grinned as she nodded towards the hotel car lot filled with Mercs, BMWs, Lexuses, and other high-end vehicles. “Look around dumbass, this shit-heap kinda sticks out.” She roared with laughter at Xander’s injured expression.
* * *
Tara’s breath caught as she stared around the inside of ‘The Land Of The Elite’ hotel. Flamboyance and excess were the byword here, fortunes could be won and lost, lives changed forever on the roll of a die, the spin of a wheel, or a turn of a card.
The plush red carpet beneath their feet was so thick and fluffy it felt like walking on air. The huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling gleamed with light reflected from the roaming spotlights. Showgirls and security moved through the massed patrons while up ahead there were a dozen or more rows of slot machines, flanked by a pair of gracefully arching waterfalls. Just beyond the slot machines were the gaming tables – roulette wheels, blackjack, and poker amongst many others, milling crowds surrounding them, all eager for their chance at riches. At the far end of the casino, just past the dining area, there was a raised stage where a Beatles tribute act were flawlessly performing the Fab Four’s greatest hits.
“Wicked!” Tara glanced at Faith, noting with amusement that the brunette was jumping up and down on the spot, her eyes wide with excitement. “I’ve seen Bruce Lee and John Wayne! Look!” the supernatural warrior pointed at statuesque blonde show-girl. “There’s Marilyn Monroe!”
Tara looked towards a grinning Xander. “S…she knows they’re all look-alikes right?” she whispered.
“With Faith, you can never be quite sure,” Xander muttered in reply.
Apparently they weren’t quiet enough because the Bostonian shot them a playful glower. “It’s called getting in the mood,” Faith retorted. “You two killjoys might want to try it some time. What ya doing first Xan?”
Xander nodded towards the gaming tables. “I feel the call of the roulette table.”
“Cool,” Faith nodded before turning to her. “What ya doing?” She shrugged, feeling dowdy and insignificant in the midst of all the grandeur. The younger girl linked arms with her and grinned. “I feel like blowing some money on the slots. Wanna come with?” she nodded, her friend’s grin widened. “Wicked! See ya later Xman!”
* * *
Xander hid a smile as he watched Faith drag Tara towards the slot machines. To his surprise the two of them had bonded well. But then again maybe it wasn’t that much of a surprise. For all of Faith’s exuberance and Tara’s shyness, his two girls shared one very important thing – kind hearts that had been dreadfully hurt.
His smile broadened as he turned back towards the gaming tables. “Oh yeah,” he muttered. “Viva Las Vegas.” As he moved towards the gambling area, he bumped into a thick-set man. “Oh sorry,” he smiled apologetically.
* * *
Nick’s eyes widened as he recognised the man coming through the exclusive back entrance to take up his booking at one of ‘The Land Of The Elite’s’ $ 250,000 a week ‘Discretion Suites’, so called because of the complete 100% privacy afforded to the celebrity no matter their profile.
And profiles didn’t get much higher than the man entering right now. Front and business page news, chat show guest, and friend to umpteen past and present globe leaders, as well as one of the world’s ten richest men. Even if the multi-billionaire businessman didn’t come here twice a year, he’d have recognised him straight away. “H….hello sir,” he stuttered.
The moustached man smiled. “Please, call me Tony.”
“Sorry si-, Tony,” he amended quickly. Noting the man’s assistants hurrying in with the man’s bags he continued. “Would you like me to get some boys to take up your luggage for you?”
“That’d be great thanks.”
* * *
Wolfgang stared irritably at the goofily-smiling young man who’d bumped into him. Quelling the urge to punch the yankee brat’s grin off his face, he nodded curtly. “Not a problem,” he looked over his shoulder to his companions. “Come on boys.” Without another word, he shouldered past the young man and walked off.
* * *
Xander glared after the men as they stormed through the bustling gambling pits. “Well that was rude,” he muttered. Shrugging it off he started towards the pits then stopped and scratched thoughtfully at his chin. There was something about the men that seemed familiar. His mouth dropped as realisation hit. “Oh shit,” he muttered. He had to find the girls and fast.
* * *
Faith grinned as the slot machine paid out. “Jackpot!” she crowed. Thirty dollars in ten dollar tokens for a max $ 250 payout. Not bad by anyone’s standards. She glanced at her companion on the stool beside her. “You having fun Tar?” the Wicca nodded meekly. Faith stared with concern at the honey-blonde. In the days since they’d rescued the witch, she’d begun to like Tara a hell of a lot. The older girl was so kind and gentle, just being around her just soothed Faith, and like X she didn’t look down on her like B and her cronies did. She just hated how shy her friend was. But no matter what, she’d resolved to make her big sis more confident.
Her train of thought was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. “You might wanna take that damn paw off me ‘less you wanna lose it,” she growled.
”Faith, we’ve got trouble.”
Recognising her would-be boytoy’s voice she glanced over her shoulder and grinned. “What’s up X?” she demanded with a wink. “Lost all your money already?”
Her grin died at Xander’s terse reply. “’Fraid not,” her friend paused. “The Order are in the Casino.”
Faith paled. “Oh fuck.” Looked like the holiday was over.
FIC: July ’99 Bright Lights, Bad City (3/?)
“W..who’s the Order?”
“Order of Taraka, ancient order of supernatural assassins,” Faith explained as they hurried towards the four men heading to the executive elevator placed to the right of the stage. “How you recognise them Xan?”
“When they came after Buffy, she killed one and took a trophy-.”
“Ugh,” Faith grimaced. “Can you say gross?”
Xander either didn’t hear or, more likely, ignored her muttered comment. “A brass ring. According to the G-Man, all the Order assassins wear them. I saw one on the hand of a guy I bumped into a couple of minutes ago.”
”Ah shit.” Faith scowled. All she wanted was a few days to kick back, but no, the Powers had to stick their noses in. “Any idea who the target is Xman?”
“Nope,” Xander replied, his eyes fixed on the suited men’s backs.
Faith’s scowl deepened, ‘course not, ‘cause that would make it too easy. “What’s the plan then?”
She was surprised when Xander looped an arm around her shoulders and did the same with Tara. “Just follow my lead.”
A few seconds later and they were at the elevator. The quartet’s leader stared at Xander, his glare suspicious. Xander grinned at the man, leered at first her and then Tara. “Amazing what you can pick up here,” Xander winked.
Apparently satisfied, the leader turned to his men and began talking in a foreign language. Finally the doors slid open. “About damn time!” Xander whooped, acting for all the world like some rich kid with too much money and not enough sense. “I’ve got an itch that these honeys are going to scratch?”
Faith hid a grin at the horrified look on Tara’s face as they entered the elevator and moved to the back. She watched as the lead assassin pressed a floor button on the lift panel. Instantly she turned to Xander and ran her tongue up his neck before whispering in his ear. “Top floor X, number 30. And if the hooker and the client’s one of your fantasies,” she chuckled at Xander’s slight reddening.
“What floor please?” one of the assassins asked, his voice heavily accented.
“Thirty,” Xander replied before stroking her hair. “Always wanted to do it on a balcony.”
“Little bit of the wildman eh?” Faith grinned, not at all fazed by her companion’s reply. “How about a limo, never done it one of them – you Tar?” She giggled at the Wicca’s deepening blush only to turn serious as the door opened. Playtime was over.
* * *
“Your last bag is in your room sir,”
Tony smiled before pulling out his wallet and passing each of the four porters a hundred dollar bill each. “Thank you, most helpful,” he praised. Once the door had closed behind the last of the porters, he looked around his palatial rooms.
He really looked forward to his twice a year vacations at the ‘Land Of The Elite’. Unlike other corporate hot-shots who used their down-time to party with high class hookers and ingest huge amounts of booze and drugs, his idea of a good time was to write some new games software which he published under a pseudonym, the profits going to charity.
Hearing a knock at the door, he started towards his door only to be intercepted by his head of security. “I’ll get it.”
* * *
Halfway up the corridor Xander stopped by a door, his eyes fixed discreetly on the departing suits’ backs. “This is our room girls,” he laughed. “Hope you’ve got some energy because I wanna go ALL night!” Grabbing Faith around the waist he pulled her into an embrace under the pretence of kissing her, instead whispering in her ear. “You get anything off them. Vamps? Demons?”
The Bostonian shook her head. “Nope, but there’s something off about them.”
He nodded before turning to Tara. “What about you? You get anything?”
The pale-faced Wicca shrugged. “T..their auras aren’t good.”
Well that wasn’t exactly a surprise, they were assassins and not escapees from the Vienna Boys’ Choir after all. “Okay,” he glanced across at Faith and then up at the now empty corridor. “Let’s follow them.”
* * *
”Who is it?” Jim demanded.
“Complimentary champagne for Mr. Stark,” came the reply from the other side of the door.
Jim looked over his shoulder to him for guidance. Tony nodded. “Let him in.” Jim stepped towards the door then crumpled as the door flew off its hinges and hit the bulky African-American square in the face, knocking him to the floor. Tony paled at the mountainous beast filled the doorway, its snarls deafening. “Oh crap.”
* * *
“Oh crap,” Faith groaned as she risked a glance around the corridor to the assassins. “Not good.”
“What is it Faith?” Xander demanded.
“Oh nothing much,” she swallowed as the door at the far end of the corridor gave way under a shove from the leading assassin. “Just four werewolves who can control the change. That’s all.”
* * *
“As long as it’s nothing much,” Xander commented as he pulled his shotgun out of thin air. “Need anything Faith?”
“Reassurance that we’re not going into a bitch of a battle to rescue some asshole caught up in a drugs war would be nice,” Faith grunted. “Failing that, a short sword would be cool.”
“Here,” he passed Faith the requested weapon before scowling. Faith had a point, after all who else but drug barons and organised crime-lords could afford hotel suites like these? “Look on the bright side,” he joked, “could be Elvis looking to splash out some of his hidden millions.”
“Yeah!” Faith beamed. “Think he’ll give me his autograph!”
“Dangle him off his balcony and I’m sure he’ll be persuaded.”
Faith chuckled. “So how we going to play this Xman?”
Xander grimaced, he hated being the plan guy, the one who was in the spotlight, had to make the decisions. After taking a second to think he spoke. “As we haven’t got any silver we’ll go for decapitation. Remember you can be clawed by them, but if they bite you, you’re one of them. Tar, you stay back.”
* * *
For a half second Tony stared in disbelief at the sight before him. The shaggy beast standing growling in his hotel doorway was easily seven foot in height with the build to match and fangs that chilled his blood. Even worse were the trio of matching monsters behind it.
Gathering his wits, he lunged forward, grabbed hold of his head of security and friend, and pulled him out from beneath the door. “Thanks,” Jim slurred, his eyes glassy. “Any idea how we’re going to get out of this?”
“The question had occurred.” Tony stared up at the advancing werewolf, noticing with horror its gleaming green eyes. “Haven’t got a clue,” he admitted. If he had his suit this wouldn’t be a problem but now….
An abrupt boom split the air in two and the trailing werewolf hit the floor, screaming in agony. “Lucky the cavalry’s arrived then,” drawled a shotgun-toting boy in his late teens.
“Damn it X,” a curvy brunette carrying a sword appeared beside the male, her eyes dancing. “Can’t you stop punning?”
The male shrugged. “It’s what I do.”
“Yeah, I’m amazed you’d keep doing something you’re so bad at,” the brunette shot back.
Finally Tony found his voice. “You two kids, get out of here!”
The raven-haired beauty raised a mascaraed eyebrow. “But then who’s going to save your sorry asses?”
Suddenly the werewolves regained their focus and charged his two would-be rescuers. The duo instantly responded, the girl by charging to meet them, the male by shooting off his shotgun again, knocking another werewolf to his knees before pulling a sword out of nowhere. The lead werewolf attempted to take brunette’s head off with a claw swipe that the female slid beneath before thrusting her blade deep into her rival’s chest. The beast responded with an ear-splitting roar and a backhanded slap to the side of the girl’s head, knocking her across the room and into the wall.
To his surprise, the girl jumped up with a laugh. “That the best you got wolfie?” the brunette taunted with a cynical smile. “Gotta say I’m disappointed. All that size but no power, story of my life.”
His eyes widened as the sultry teen launched herself into a room-crossing spin-kick that connected with her opponent’s face, sending blood flying and his head snapping backwards. He realised she had to be a mutant, a strong one too, he’d have to contact Xavier about her. Realising the fight was continuing, he turned his attention back to watching it unfold.
The female landed on her feet, once again moving under the creature’s slashing claws before jumping up inside the lupine’s guard, ripping her sword out of its chest, and decapitating it with a single blow.
Meanwhile, the male had moved into action, his technique less flashy but apparently just as effective. One of the werewolves charged him but the kid sidestepped at the last second, snapping out a heel kick to the monster’s knee, sending him stumbling. Before the beast had a chance to regain its balance, the youth’s sword tore its head from its shoulders, a torrent of blood spurting out.
The third werewolf jumped at the girl’s back but was rocked by Jim sending two rounds into it. The brunette directed a wink Jim’s way before spinning round to slam a foot into the beast’s gut before somersaulting over it and, upon her landing, slamming an elbow in the monster’s lower back. The lupine howled in pain as the two combatants spun to face one another.
The monster swung a paw that the raven-haired beauty stepped inside before smashing an uppercut into the werewolf’s jaw. The were’s head snapped back, before it could recover the girl thrust her sword through the beast’s meaty left thigh.
The creature screamed in agony, grabbed the girl by her hair, and flung her across the room to hit the far wall. “Ah fuck!” the girl let out a pained yell before rolling to her feet to meet the on-rushing werewolf. Tony’s eyes bulged as he watched the curvy brunette sidestep a claw-swipe that tore furrows into the wall before she grabbed hold of the sword still sticking out of the were’s leg and twisted. The beast bellowed, blood jetting out of the wound, before falling forward to smash its head into the wall. Before the dazed beast had chance to regain its senses, the girl had her sword back in her hand, slicing down to take its head.
Stark’s stomach clenched as the first beast the male had shot charged on the slight girl. His horror turned to shock when the brunette spun around and grinned. “Thanks X!” The were was just inches from her when she reached out, grabbed two handfuls of chest hair, and dropped back-first to the floor, bringing her attacker with her, and slammed her feet into the were’s stomach, sending it flying over through, through the glass doors, and over the balcony.
“Right!” after a few seconds he found his voice. After a dazed look around his devastated hotel room he continued. “Thanks for the help but anybody want to explain what’s happening here?”
FIC: Bright Lights, Bad City (4/9)
Faith glared at the middle-aged suit stood before her and her friends. Save a guy’s ass and what do you get? Thanks? Fuck no, just suspicion. “Hey shit head!” Out of the corner of her eye she saw and wondered at Xan’s wince. “We just saved your carcass, so cut the damn attitude or else I might just remember you’re a drug dealer and pitch your sorry ass out of the window. You know?”
“A drug dealer?” the black beefcake laughed.
“Faith,” Xander’s voice was strangled, as if he was struggling to get the words out. “That’s Tony Stark.”
“Yeah?” Faith didn’t take her eyes off the now grinning middle-aged man. She’d like to see how funny he thought it was being slapped around by a pissed off Slayer. “So?”
“D….don’t you know who he is?” This came from Tara.
For the first time Faith started to realise something was wrong. “Some mobster?”
“Mobster?” The man began to chuckle. Instantly Faith’s thermo-nuclear temper flare. No fucker laughed at her.
She started forward only to stop at Xan’s hand on her shoulder, restraining her. “Don’t you watch Letterman or The Tonight Show?”
Faith shot Xander a scornful look. “What do you think?”
Xander grinned. “Tony Stark is the chairman and owner of Stark Industries, sort of the armament industries’ equivalent to Microsoft. He’s been on the cover of Newsweek and Time, a ton of other mags too.”
Oh shit, Faith winced inwardly. “So not a mobster?”
Stark chuckled before turning businesslike. “And now I’ve been introduced how about you?”
Xander and her exchanged looks. The inventor nodded. “Very well,” Tony turned to the well-built African-American beside him. “Jim, take them to the Stark vill-.”
“Whoa,” Xander interrupted. “You’re not taking us anywhere.”
”Young man,” the industry leader fixed her friend with a rock-steady stare. “In a few minutes the police will be here. It would be best for you if you’re not.”
”Tara,” Xander didn’t shift his own gaze from the entrepreneur stood across from them. “Can we trust him?”
”H….he has a good aura,” the witch replied from behind them.
“Okay,” Xander’s posture relaxed slightly. “What’s the plan?”
Stark paused for a few seconds before replying. “Quite simple, my company owns a villa that I loan to senior executives and company employees as a reward for good work. I prefer the privacy of this suite, but apparently security has been breached.” Faith blinked when the wealthy man shrugged, he was ice-cool. The villa is currently empty so Jim will take you out there to hide. When the police arrive I’ll tell them these gentlemen,” the businessman glanced down at the corpses, “Burst in together with three mask-wearing lunatics, fought, and this was the result. I was just an innocent and much frightened bystander.”
“That’s weak,” Faith commented with a shake of her head. “Not even the cops are dumb enough to fall for that.”
“They won’t have a choice,” Stark shrugged again. “There’s a complete lack of forensics linking me to the crime and no contradictory witnesses. Throw in my battery of very highly-paid and exceptionally-skilled lawyers and influential friends breathing down their necks and they won’t have a choice. Which reminds me,” the businessman turned to the thickly-muscled black, “ring my lawyers from the car and the Mayor and the Governor when you reach the villa.”
The security head nodded. “How about the Secretary Of Defence?”
“Good idea Jim,” the businessman beamed. “Now hadn’t you best be off?”
Faith allowed herself to be herded out of the hotel and down the back stairwell, but inwardly she was fuming. If she’d have been found in a room with a ton of bodies, the pigs would be threatening her, telling her all sort of shit would happen to her, trying to scare a confession out. But a rich guy – then its kid gloves all the way. It might be helping her for once but she still didn’t like it. “Long live America,” she muttered.
* * *
Xander groaned and looked up at the knock on the door of his temporary bedroom. To be honest he was far from comfortable with Stark’s solution to their situation but it wasn’t like he could come up with a better one and Tara said he was trustworthy. “Hello?”
“C..can I come in?”
“Give me a second.” Rolling out of the bed he hurriedly dressed. “Come in.” After a second the door swung open and the witch walked in, looking even more nervous than usual. “Hi Tara,” he smiled in an attempt to relax the shy magic-user. “What’s up?”
For a long while the honey-blonde just stared at him. “L…last night, when we fought those werewolves you didn’t let me help. Don’t you trust me?”
Xander hid a wince at the hurt in the New Mexican’s liquid eyes. “Tara,” he struggled for the words to explain himself. “Tara I do trust you. It’s just a leader doesn’t go into action with an unknown quantity at their back.”
His explanation instead of soothing the witch only increased her pained expression. “Y…you don’t trust me.”
“No,” he shook his head. “I do trust you. It’s just I don’t know the limits of your powers. I might ask you do something that you can usually do no problem but you fail under pressure. Or I might ask you to do something and you think you can do it, but you can’t. I know Faith’s strengths and weaknesses, but you’ve only been with us a couple of weeks.” Seeing Tara’s eyes were still clouded by doubt he tried again. “If I didn’t trust you I wouldn’t be letting you travel with us. In no time you’ll be knee deep in demon corpses I promise.” Tara blinked. Xander grinned sheepishly. “Oops, that sounded better in my head.”
Tara giggled. “I…I bet.”
”So we okay?” he beamed when the witch nodded. “Great.” He looked up in irritation when the bedroom door swung open. “Faith, do you ever knock?”
“Fuck no,” the east coast native flashed them both her dazzling smile. “You knock it gives people time to get their clothes on.” Faith’s grin turned Cheshire-like at Tara’s splutter. “Feeling guilty Tar?”
The Witch looked down at the ground. “N…no.”
“Just kidding,” the Bostonian winked at the timid sorceress before turning serious. “Stark’s back.”
Xander stood. “Let’s go.”
* * *
Tony inspected the young trio as they strode into the lounge, using his decades of business acumen to judge his rescuers. The boy was a tall, good-looking kid with friendly brown eyes that were belied both by his air of capability and studied, efficient way of moving.
And then there was the ravishing brunette. At first glance she seemed little more than a street walker with her tight, skimpy clothing and overdone make-up. But even without seeing her in furious action, he wouldn’t have failed to notice her predatory grace and the way her doe-like eyes constantly moved, always searching for any sign of danger.
He turned his attention to the trio’s final member, the honey-blonde with gentle eyes and baggy, new-age clothing. She was perhaps the most normal of the three. But even in her he sensed untapped potential and reserve.
“How did it go with the LVPD?” the young man asked, his tone polite but his eyes intense.
Tony smiled. “They tried to play hardball until my lawyers arrived. But with no witnesses or evidence to contradict my story they didn’t have anything to hold me on. Now the question is who are you? And,” he glanced towards the sultry beauty, “what is she? A mutant?” he guessed.
“Me, a mutie?” the girl looked offended. “Do you seriously think a babe as hot as me could be a mutie?”
“You’d be surprised,” he muttered before raising his voice. “So what are you?”
The young man and the brunette exchanged a long stare that was broken by their companion’s stutter. “W…we can trust him.”
“Okay,” the male nodded. “This world is ancient and contrary to popular mythology it did not begin as a paradise. The first humans walked the earth ten million years ago. But demons have been here far, far longer. Within a matter of a few decades of their arrival, the human race was completely enslaved. Eventually they were defeated and made way for mortal animals, for man. All that remains in this dimension of the old ones are shadows of their power.” The boy’s face looked haunted, as if he had lived these terrible times himself. “I was possessed by the leader of the army that defeated the Old Ones five million years ago a few weeks ago,” Tony blinked at that. “Faith’s a supernatural warrior, a Vampire Slayer, the girl chosen by the Powers That Be to hunt demons, and Tara is a witch.”
Once the brown-haired youth had finished speaking, Tony stared at him. “I guess that makes sense.”
“Wait!” the raven-haired beauty, Xander had called Faith looked stunned. “You’re just going to believe him?”
“Why not?” Tony smiled. “I’ve seen you in action. And I’m not unaware of the Slayer legend and of the existence of vampires.” He decided to throw in a little titbit of information to reassure them of his good intentions. “Besides, I have supplied Blade with equipment in the past.”
”No way!” Faith’s eyes widened. “You’re buds with Blade?”
“I know him,” he corrected, hiding a smile at the girl’s wide-eyed enthusiasm.
“Excuse me,” Xander interrupted. “Who’s Blade?”
“He’s a bad-ass vamp hunter,” Faith supplied. “Been in the biz for almost three decades!”
“That’s impressive,” Xander agreed before turning towards his two friends. “Shall we go?”
“Hold on,” Tony exchanged a quick glance with Jim. His best friend nodded. “We still haven’t covered how I repay you?”
FIC: Bright Lights, Bad City (5/9)
“Re-pay us?” Tony watched the three kids exchange glances. “Um, Mr. Stark,” Xander sounded and looked embarrassed, “this is sort of what we do. We don’t do it for some reward -.”
“Although is you could manufacture a better dress sense for Xander that would be a wicked cool bonus.”
Tony bit back a chuckle at the irritated look Xander shot at an unrepentant Faith. “Like I was saying before I was interrupted, we don’t do this for a reward.”
“Young man,” Stark put a severe note into his voice. “I don’t believe in leaving debts unpaid. There must be something I can do for you, money perhaps?”
The possessed youth smiled bitterly. “I’ve got plenty of money thanks, can’t touch it though.”
“Why is that?” Jim asked from his position lent against the wall.
Xander glanced at the powerfully-built black before returning his gaze to him. “Mithras set up an account with an inter-dimensional banking system. There’s over thirty billion dollars in it but I can’t touch it without setting off alarms across the world alerting the Watchers and probably the world’s intelligence services.”
And probably every major crime cartel in the world for that matter he mentally added before speaking. “Excuse me, the Watchers?”
“Oh you know about the Slayers but not the Watchers’ Council of England? Terribly bad form old stick,” Faith broke in, her parody of an English accent the worst he’d ever heard. “They’re the SOBs who are supposed to ‘guide’ Slayers, make sure they’re looked after.” The lithe beauty’s face hardened and her voice turned serious. “Instead the rat bastards stick you in a shithole hotel and on your eighteenth birthday take away your powers and throw you in with a Master vampire to test your ‘worthiness’.” By now the husky-voiced girl’s eyes had narrowed to slits.
“And how do you know about this test?” Tony asked, his tone neutral even as he fumed at this Council’s barbarity. “You don’t look old enough to have undergone this test and I doubt this Council would alert you to its existence.”
“The other Slayer’s eighteen months older than me. They tested her in November last year. When Xan asked me if I wanted to come with him, I decided to go with my bud.”
“Excuse me,” Jim interrupted. “But didn’t you,” his friend and employee nodded towards Xander, “say there was only one Slayer at any one time.”
Xander reddened and opened his mouth, but Faith beat him to it. “May ’97, stupid bitch got herself drowned. X resuscitated her, started a second line of Slayers.” The lithe teen grinned. “Think the other Slayer came back brain damaged though.”
“This Mithras comes in handy then,” Jim commented.
Again Xander opened his mouth to reply and again Faith beat him to it. “Oh he wasn’t possessed then,” she replied, “he just did it ‘cause he’s ballsy like that.”
Tony hid a grin behind a yawn. Suddenly things were a lot clearer. The Slayer might be the group’s muscle but she obviously idolised and adored her oblivious male companion. “I’m very tired after spending all night in the police headquarters. How about I take a nap and we’ll discuss how to get you access to your money?”
After a second Xander nodded. “Sure.”
* * *
Tony exchanged a bemused smile with Jim as they listened to the trio’s good-natured bickering and watching both Faith and Xander eat made him very glad indeed he was billionaire. It was with great reluctance he interrupted their good-humoured conversation. “Now,” he began, “as I see it we have two problems-.”
He ignored Faith’s muttered comment. “First the sheer amount of money at your disposal and the fact that using your own names to open or use any accounts would alert those after you to your whereabouts. Agreed?”
“Sounds about right,” Xander agreed, his tone cautious.
“Therefore I’d suggest this. First of all you three change your names, I’ll supply all the necessary documentation-.”
“How?” Xander asked.
“Because of some of the enemies I’ve made corporate opponents, hostile nations, and crime cartels, it behoves me to have a counter-espionage department, part of which produces false identification for my agents. I can have new identification for all three of you within forty-eight hours.”
Xander and Faith exchanged glances but it was Tara who spoke first. “W…why would I have to change my name, surely they’d only be looking for Faith and Xander?”
“Yes,” Tim spoke up from his position by him at the table. “But the Council could have tracked Xander and Faith to your place. And if your name starts showing up on credit card transactions and travel manifests they might try and track you to see if you know something.”
“Okay,” the Wicca nodded.
“I’d advise a full set of papers – passports, social security IDs, and birth certificates. The question is in what names?” Jim continued. Tony was content to sit back and allow his head of security to deal with this. His own personal experience aside, he didn’t have Jim’s experience of false identities. “I’d suggest keeping your names close to your original ones, they’re easier to remember that way.”
Xander nodded. “I’ll be Alex Carter, Carter’s my mother’s maiden name.”
Tara was next. “Eloise was my mother’s name and Lewisham her maiden name.”
“I’ll be Faith Spenser.” Tony turned to the brunette. Admittedly he didn’t know her well, but to his eyes she looked unusually wistful. “That’s my real name.”
Xander turned to the Slayer, his expression surprised. “I thought it was Faith Hart?”
The beautiful brunette shook her head. “Nah, my uncle’s a real bad-ass, a Boston PI. When I was five he found out about what my mom was doing and started a custody battle,” the girl chuckled but Tony could hear the pain in the sound. “When I overheard Ma fighting with Uncle Spense I thought they were talking about a custard earring. But my Ma’s pimp had plans for me and Ma was one of his best earners so he grabbed us both, set us up in another part of the city and gave us new id. But my real name’s Faith Spenser.”
It was a long time before the uncomfortable silence that followed Faith’s tale was broken. “Now the question of what do about the money. Putting thirty billion through even my company’s accounts would cause a ripple. So I suggest you siphon it to your chosen accounts at six billion a year.”
Xander looked bemused. “Sounds good,” the youth agreed.
“Now the question remains,” Tony smiled. “How do you want to split the money?”
* * *
Xander swallowed. Everything about this terrified him – his new skills, saving the world, leading an army, and handling mind-boggling amounts of money. But apparently he was the only choice. “You’ll do wicked Xman.”
He smiled at Faith’s whisper in his ear. After taking a few seconds to gather his thoughts he began. “Okay, I’ll need-.”
“Give me a second.” Mr Stark flipped the lid open on his lap before smiling at him. “Go on son.”
“I’ll want four billion a year to go into an account called Protector Enterprises, that’ll be the Brotherhood’s business account for insurance, training, salaries, and armament costs.”
“If you want I could organise administration for the accounts,” Tony offered.
“That’d be good yeah,” Xander nodded before continuing. “I’d also like a billion a year into White Knight Organisation, a fund for my group’s personal use. And half a billion split equally into four separate accounts under my name,” he had to stop from shaking his head at the figures. “And quarter of a billion each split equally into two accounts for Faith and Tara.”
It was several seconds before the hearing returned to his ears following Faith and Tara’s protesting screams. “You can’t Xan,” a shocked Faith objected. “It’s your money.”
“And if anything happens to me I want to make sure you and Tara are okay.”
He was rocked by the fierceness in his friend’s eyes. “Nothing’s happening to you Harris,” Faith retorted. “Nothing!” Tara squeezed Faith’s shoulder and whispered something into the Bostonian’s ear. After a second the supernatural warrior nodded reluctantly. “Fine, we’ll take your damn money but nothing’s happening to you, got it?”
Xander swallowed. “Got it,” he meekly replied. He never thought he’d meet someone so unwilling to be given a large fortune. He heard Tony chuckle. Turning he smiled ruefully at the older man. “Women-, ow!” he rubbed his arm where the sultry brunette had just punched him. “That hurt,” he glared at the Slayer.
“Good,” Faith smiled sweetly at the inventor. “Please go on Mr. Stark.”
Xander watched the billionaire businessman raise a hand to his mouth, perhaps to hide a smile before continuing. “In addition I’ll also supply you with a laptop and several CDs of occult data I’ve collated over the years.”
“Occult data?” Xander queried.
“Yes, there’s the location of demon hunters, data on demon species, information on magical objects, histories and activities of major occult players, magic rituals, and spell recipes.”
“Wow,” Xander’s eyes widened. Some of the information would doubtless be duplicated in The Eternal Archive, but some of it….. “Thanks.”
The businessman smiled. “The least I can do for the young people who saved my life. All this will take a few days to organise but feel free to make this villa your home.”
* * *
Tony stopped at Xander’s door, unusually hesitant. The youth seemed close to cracking under the enormous duty bestowed on him. The teen seemed competent enough, and his heart was obviously a good one having fought evil for the past three years. But something, probably his family, had knocked the boy’s self-belief. “Time to put it back,” he muttered before raising his voice. “Xander, can I come in?”
After a second there came a reply. “Door’s open!”
Taking that as a yes, he opened the door and strode in. The teen was sat on the chair beside his bed, staring listlessly out of the window. Tony decided to start with a light tone. “I’m surprised you didn’t go shopping with the girls, Faith mentioned something about needing someone to carry their bags for them.”
Xander snorted. “Slayer strength and she expects me to carry her shopping? Typical.”
“Tell me about the organisation you’re planning?” Tony prompted.
His companion’s eyes turned wary. “Why?”
“Because I’ve got a fair amount of experience in organisational management,” he replied calmly. “And I’d like to help. Maybe you could bounce ideas off me?”
“Like what organisational structure are you planning?”
Xander squinted in concentration. “I figure myself and the girls sort of act like a mobile recruiting and command centre setting up units in as many of the major population centres as possible. Wherever we find someone capable of leading a team. That way each area has its own protection.”
“A fine idea,” Tony nodded as the youth trailed off into a self-conscious silence. A little rough, but workable and it was better that the youth discover his flaws himself rather than have him constantly correct him. “And what will your organisation’s primary objective be?”
Xander leant forward, his eyes flickering with interest. “What do you mean?”
“Is your priority killing demons or saving lives?”
The lack of hesitation in the teen’s answer pleased him. He wasn’t a glory-hunter, that was good, it was his experience glory-hunters got people killed. “What kind of people do you intend to recruit as your group leaders?”
This time the young man did pause until, after a few seconds squinting in thought, he spoke. “My first choice would be reputable demon hunters. I’m gonna spend some time looking over those CDs you promised me,” Xander paused again. “After that I guess ex cops or soldiers who know about the supernatural.”
”Good choices,” he nodded his approval. “And what about the composition of the teams?”
“I figured that these group leaders will take the cream from the local hunting teams. Sort of merge them together.”
“Excellent, although in addition to the muscle I’d suggest having your team leaders attempt to recruit a mage, an occultist, and a doctor, or failing that a number of paramedics, to their teams.” The young man nodded thoughtfully at his comment. “How do you intend to fund these teams?”
“I was figuring setting each of them up with a $ 150,000,000 dollar trust fund and giving them the annual interest to work with.”
Tony hid a smile at how animated his companion was becoming. Just a little push was all that was needed. “I’ll help with the details if you want,” he volunteered. “How do you intend to gather intelligence?”
“I was going to have each team find their own contacts, in the police or demon community.”
”That’s a start,” Tony replied. “But you need to think bigger. You need an electronics surveillance network keeping an eye on governments and other organisations who might be interested in you. And you also need a national human, or in this case, demonic intelligence network to watch for major new players or possible apocalypse threats.”
“Okay,” Xander nodded slowly, his eyes widening.
”You’ll also need an arms dealer, someone who supply arms throughout the nation and quickly.”
Xander began to pale. “T…this is a hell of a lot.”
Stark smiled. “Don’t worry son, I’ve got a few contacts who should come in handy.”
FIC: Bright Lights Bad City (6/9)
“Thanks for everything Mr. Stark.”
Tony hid a groan at Xander’s ‘Mr. Stark’. Despite his continued insistence over the past five days that the kids should call him ‘Tony’, both Xander and Tara continued to call him ‘Mr. Stark’. Faith on the other hand had gleefully renamed him ‘Ton’. “It’s the least I could do for the young people who saved my life,” he replied with a smile. “Now if you need anything, advice, help, anything at all you’ve got my private number. Good luck and look after those girls won’t you?”
Xander nodded. “I will sir.”
“They’ve got a hard road ahead of them.”
Tony broke from watching the trio drive off to look at his grim-faced head of security. “Life isn’t fair sometimes,” he replied sourly. “Giving such a burden to three kids.”
“But we’ll help them?” his best friend pressed.
He nodded. “Any way we can Jim, any way we can.”
* * *
“Damn,” Faith groaned as she fidgeted in the back seat of the car and watched Xander talk to the SUV salesman in the dealership. “A SUV, what a waste of all that money! Why can’t we get three matching Harleys? I mean,” her eyes glinted at the thought. “How cool would it be? Us three driving down the interstate. And,” she gently elbowed her sis in the ribs, “it’s a long time since I had something throbbing between my legs. And a girl gets an urge, you know?”
Faith cast the Wicca a curious glance. For some reason she sounded even more nervous than usual. “You a virgin Tar?” she asked.
After a second, the witch nodded. “Yes,” the New Mexican swallowed, “and I prefer girls.”
“Oh,” Faith’s eyes widened as the pieces of a half-formed jigsaw fell into place. “Ah right.” All the times Tara had started blushing when she’d seen her half or fully naked or when she’d jokingly flirted with her hadn’t been wholly because the honey blonde was shy. “And you like me, right?” The wicca nodded, her eyes looking anywhere than at her.
Damn. She’d experimented with carpet-munching a couple of times during her street days but had never developed a yen for it, preferring men. Faith risked a sideways glance at her by now heavily blushing companion. Normally when approached by a guy or girl she wasn’t interested in, which only happened about five times a day, she replied with a brusque no – or a ‘fuck off’ if she was in a foul mood. But she couldn’t hurt her big sis’ feelings like that. “Uh, I’m wicked flattered,” she stumbled over the words with none of her customary confidence. “But I don’t swing that way. But if I did you’d be the first girl I’d look up. Besides,” she shrugged and reddened. “As you already know I kinda dig Xman.”
“But we’re still cool?” the witch nodded. “Great.” The car fell into an uneasy silence.
* * *
“Hi girls,” Xander’s brow furrowed as he climbed back into his old car, noting the tense atmosphere. Normally his two companions would be chatting away, whispering behind their hands as they planned some terrible practical joke on him, not sat in an uncomfortable quiet. “I bought a SUV, be a few days before it’s ready though.”
“How come X?” the question was asked as if expected and not with any real interest.
“I’ve asked for some modifications – bullet-proof tyres and windows, a reinforced frame, and tinted glass. Normally it takes 2 – 3 weeks to get such work done, but I mentioned the words ‘triple the price’, and it should be ready in 2 – 3 days. Could have had it all for free though,” he waited for the expected question. When it didn’t come he continued. “Salesman wanted to do a swap – you two for the car, but I said I couldn’t do that to a helpful man like him.” Xander grimaced when his joke didn’t result in the expected slap or even a sarcastic comment. Something was definitely wrong. “Halliwells next,” he declared. When he got there he’d have to talk it out with Faith.
* * *
It was closing on six in the evening when they pulled up outside the Charmed Ones’ mansion. “Tara, you go straight up. Faith and I will bring our bags in.” Once the Wicca had exited the car, he turned and looked over his shoulder to the Slayer sat on the backseat. “What’s the problem between you and Tara?”
“Nuthing,” Faith shrugged, her face reddening.
The east coast native squirmed under his hard tone. “Fine,” the brunette swallowed. “We were talking while you were in the shop and it turns out, it turns out she’s gay and she likes me!”
“So?” Xander resisted the temptation to head butt the car roof. As if his life wasn’t complicated enough. “You trust her not to try anything?”
“Course I do!” Faith looked offended. “Tar would never do nothing to hurt me!”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“It’s all the times I talked to her about guys and danced around half-naked in front of her, she could have said something. It’s like she didn’t trust me!”
”Faith, I doubt it that’s at all. You know how shy Tara is, it probably took her a lot of courage to confess to you. And now she’ll be hurt by the way you reacted.”
His friend’s face fell. “Aw fuck!” In a flash the Slayer was out of the car and charging up the drive. “Hey Tar, wait up!” The witch turned, Faith looped an arm around the older girl’s shoulders. “I was thinking, Frisco’s the gay capital of the US right? How about me and you hit some gay clubs? I get to dance with some guys who actually know how to dress and maybe get you fixed up with some hottie? Subject to my approval of course?”
Xander grinned to himself. “Tact and subtlety thy name is Faith.” But it was a start. His face turned serious. “Time to make the sales pitch.”
* * *
Faith listened from the sofa as Xander brought the Halliwells up to date with what happened in Vegas and made the offer to make the witches head of the Frisco Brotherhood unit. Once she’d finished, the Halliwells and Leo exchanged glances. Finally Prue spoke. “Thanks for the offer Xander, it’s very generous. And we’ll advise you in any way we can.” Faith’s eyes widened. No way, they were going to turn the Xman down? “But we can’t possibly accep-.”
“WHAT!” she exploded. “He’s offered you one hundred and fifty million bucks!”
“Faith,” Xander’s interrupted. “Calm down.”
She ignored her friend. “I mean with that much cash you could -.”
”FAITH!” she jumped at Xander’s shout. He never shouted at her. “Outside now!” Before she had chance to refuse, Xander had her by the elbow, dragging her out of the house.
“Damn it X!” Once outside she pulled loose of her friend’s grip and glared up defiantly at him. “Weren’t you listening in there?” she jabbed a furious finger at the shadowy house. “You offered them a ton of green and those ungrateful asses turned you down!” Now she turned her scorching gaze up a notch. “And when I stand up for you, you-.”
“Be. Quiet.” She shut up instantly at the anger in Xander’s eyes and voice. “First of all those ‘ungrateful asses’ have saved my life twice in the last month.” Faith reddened at the reminder. “Secondly,” Xander continued, his tone calming. “I didn’t expect them to accept, they have their own mission. It’s just a bonus that they said they’d advise.”
“Well why did you ask them then?” Faith demanded. Fuck, this was confusing.
“Because there was a chance that they might say yes. And even if they didn’t,” Xander shrugged, “I’m going to try and set up a group here, it would be rude not to notify them of that.” Faith nodded, she guessed that made sense. “When we go back into there I want you to apologise.”
Faith’s eyes widened. “Apol-,” she sighed at Xander’s glare. Her shoulders slumped as she meekly nodded. “Sure.” Xander was getting way too into this General shit.
* * *
Upon re-entering the lounge Faith took a breath, conscious that everyone’s eyes were on her and hating to be forced into an apology. Growing up had taught her people who said sorry got stomped on. “Sorry for before,” she muttered. “I kinda have this habit for letting my mouth run away with me and I said a bunch of stuff I shouldn’t.” She scowled at Xander. “Happy?”
Her anger melted at Xander’s answering grin. “It’ll do.”
Leo smiled at her. “No offence taken Faith. We all know how emotionally involved you are in your group’s venture. But we do know of a very good independent who could be interested.”
”Really?” Faith heard the note of barely suppressed excitement in her bud’s voice. “Who?”
* * *
“You Jack Burton?”
Jack looked over his shoulder to see well-built male in his late teens, early twenties, a pretty but timid-looking blonde, and a smoky-eyed brunette bombshell. He finished loading the crate onto the back of the lorry before turning to face the intruders, noting that apart from the interlopers he was alone, the loading bay empty of other workers. “Who wants to know?”
”Someone who wants to hire you,” the male retorted.
Jack blinked. Whatever he’d expected it wasn’t that. “For what?”
Before replying the young man glanced at the shy girl. After a second she nodded. “G…good aura.”
“Thanks Tara,” the youth beamed at the blonde before turning back to him. “I understand you hunt the supernatural.”
Oh great, Jack cursed inwardly. “Are you kids crazy? Ain’t no such thing,” he bluffed.
“What about Lo Pan?”
Jack felt the wind leave his sails at the mention of his old nemesis. Either these kids were assassins sent by one of his enemies or some sort of weird groupies. “Okay, I’ll bite. Who are you?” he listened with increasing incredulity as the boy explained about supernatural girls called Slayer and a possession by a god called Mithras. “You’re nuts!”
“Faith!” his eyes widened as the boy flung a knife at the sultry beauty’s head and, without shifting her gaze from him, she snatched it out of the air with an effortless ease that made him gape.
“Okay,” Burton swallowed. “I’m convinced. What do you want from me?”
The young man took a breath. “As I mentioned something big is coming, I’ll need an army to lead it. Based on what I’ve heard and Tara,” the youth nodded towards the timid looking blonde, “sees I want you to lead the Brotherhood’s Frisco branch, get together the local fighters and mages.”
Jack blinked. This conversation kept getting weirder. “I’m honoured General,” he replied glibly. “But how in the hell am I meant to run this organisation?”
“How about with the annual interest of a hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund? You interested?”
Burton’s head swam at the amount of money mentioned. That could really help him, improve his life. More importantly, he could really make a difference, not just kill the occasional vampire he ran into. He nodded. “Let’s talk details.”
A/N: A present from Sweatshop Boy. Two cameos. Humiliating enough?
FIC: Bright Lights, Bad City (7/9)
Brandon ‘Brandi’ West whistled as a SUV parked up on the side of the road beside him and his partner James ‘Jamie’ Books. “Did you see the rack on that babe?” he muttered to his companion.
“I saw it.”
Brandon ground his teeth together at his companion’s unenthusiastic expression. Two months ago and his best friend had been a happy go lucky guy. Then six weeks ago, everything had changed. They’d picked up a beautiful but ditzy blonde by the name of Harmony Kendall for what they’d thought had been a threesome.
Instead she’d turned them into vampires. At least that was the plan. Something had gone wrong with the change and they’d received none of a vampire’s strength but all of their weaknesses and desires. Their sire had blamed them, but privately he thought the ditz had fouled up. Disgusted by her failure, she’d left them.
After a few humiliating attempts to feed had seen them both beaten up, he’d hit upon a plan to get them fed. They’d started working the night as transvestite hookers, picking up kinky guys, and killing them as they slept afterwards. But he hated fishnets and high heels.
But now, he licked his heavily-rouged lips at the curvy brunette’s approach. “Fifty bucks and you can do anything you want,” he bargained.
The raven-haired beauty’s full mouth parted in a shit-eating grin. “Guys! I told ya Xan, give me the ten-spot.”
Brandon watched with confusion as the girl’s grumbling companion passed her a ten dollar note. “Aren’t you interested?” he demanded. He wanted to taste the brunette’s blood.
His fantasies were interrupted by the blood-curdling sight of the brunette drawing a stake. “Sorry hon,” she winked seductively. “Wrong Slayer. I tend to stake vampires not be staked by them.”
Slayer? His mouth opened to ask what a Slayer was only to burst into dust when the ‘Slayer’ thrust her stake into his heart.
* * *
Faith could barely keep from laughing as she looked down at the ashes at her feet. Transvestite vampire hookers, what the hell was up with that? She chuckled as she turned to Xander. “That wasn’t challenging at all.”
“Not enough to get you hungry or horny?”
Remembering what she’d said at their first meeting Faith threw back her head and laughed throatily. “Well I kinda got an itch Xan,” she nudged her companion with a well-rounded hip. “Interested?”
Xander reddened but managed a grin. “Kinda public isn’t it?” he shot back.
Faith winked. “Adds to the fun, shall we get back to Tara?”
Xander nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
* * *
Gunn smiled at his two friends and nodded politely at their blond companion. “Faith, Xander.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Yo! Sis!”
A second later, and the girls’ dormitory door swung open on creaky hinges and Alonna stormed out, her expression pissed. “I’m trying to -,” his sister’s voice trailed off as she registered the presence of their guests. “Faith!” A grin now splitting her face in two, Alonna rushed over to the brunette and flung her arms around the supernatural warrior’s shoulders. “Good to see you.”
“And you,” Faith pulled out of his sister’s embrace and patted the blonde on the shoulder. “This is my big sis, Tara. She’s a witch.”
“Hi Tara,” the blonde blushed at her sister’s friendly greeting. “You both wanna come through?”
Faith glanced at Xander? “That cool with you X?”
Gunn’s eyes narrowed. He’d noted a subtle change in the group dynamic. The first time he’d met Faith and Xander, the Slayer had been the leader. Now the balance of power appeared to have shifted.
He realised Xander was speaking. “Sorry,” he apologised with a shrug. “I missed that.”
The younger man chuckled. “No problem, I was always getting thrown out of class for not listening. I said, is there anywhere we can go to talk in private?”
“Sure,” Gunn nodded towards the eating area. At this time, just before patrol there’d be nobody in there. “In here.” Once they’d both sat down, he turned to the other youth. “Do you want a drink or anything?”
“I’m fine thanks,” the young man hesitated. “Running this group on a budget must be tough?”
After a second Gunn nodded. “That’s one word for it,” he admitted. Food, clothing, shelter, the police, - sometimes it seemed as if the creatures of the night were the least of his problems.
“What if I could change all that?”
Gunn chuckled. “Your lottery numbers come up Xander?”
Xander grinned. “Humour me. If you had your money, how many of your gang would stay in the fight through choice.”
Gunn drummed his fingers on the wooden crate serving as a makeshift table positioned between them for a few seconds before replying. “Me, Alonna. Maybe three others.”
“Damn,” Xander grimaced. “I was hoping for more. Are there any other groups in the city?”
Gunn nodded, hiding his disappointment at being discarded behind an expressionless face. “I know of two groups about the same size, heard rumours of a third.”
“How would you like to lead them all?”
“Me?” Gunn was elated that he wasn’t being pushed aside but at the same time confused by the turn of the conversation was taking. “Why would they do that?”
“Because given the resources I can put at your disposal they wouldn’t be able to say no,” Xander replied.
“Okay,” Gunn felt his short patience begin to erode at Xander’s vague hints. “You mind telling me what this is all about?”
After a second Xander nodded. “Sure.” Gunn’s eyes widened as his companion talked, telling him a tale about a time long ago when demons had ruled the earth, deity possession, a multi-billion fortune, and a coming war. Finally the teen finished. “I’m willing to set up a hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund for you and Alonna to finance your operation to protect LA in return for your loyalty. Are you in?”
For a long moment Gunn stared open-mouthed at the younger man. Him, a school drop-out at the age of 14, running a multi-million dollar organisation? Finally he managed to croak out a question. “Why me?”
“I’ve asked myself that question a few times over the past two weeks believe me.” Xander chuckled dryly before turning serious. “Because I’ve seen you in action, how you lead, and care for your people. That’s what I want in my people. You in?”
After a second he nodded. “I’m in.”
“Great!” his friend enthused. “Let’s grab the girls and go celebrate.” His friend winked. “I know just the place.”
* * *
“So I said ‘Mary only Shirley Bassey could sing that and sad to say you’re no Shirley!” Lorne beamed at his audience’s laughter. He loved smoozing people, entertaining them. His grin died when he caught sight of the quintet of humans making their way into his club. “Oh crap.” His night had just plunged downhill.
* * *
“A demon club,” Gunn hissed at his companion. “You brought us to a demon hang-out! Are you nuts?”
“Waell boy,” Xander drawled in the worse cracker accent he’d ever heard. “We don’t much like coloured folks here, there’s a bar for your sort down the street.” Gunn bristled as Xander continued to talk, his voice returning to normal. “There’s plenty of demons who are good, want nothing more than to be left in peace. Wiping them all out is just as bad as what the Klu Klux Klan wants to do to African-Americans or Hitler wanted to do to the Jews. Besides this is a good place to pick up inform-.”
“Why hello there folks,” Gunn blinked as a green demon walked up to them wearing an alarmingly red suit and one of the widest grins he’d ever seen. “Xander, I didn’t expect to see you so soon again -.”
“Or ever,” Xander commented, his tone dry. His friend turned to a puzzled looking Faith. “Faith, explain how the club works. Lorne and I are going for a talk.”
“We are?” the demon spluttered.
“We are,” Xander confirmed before grabbing hold of the demon’s elbow and leading him into the back.
* * *
Lorne swallowed. He didn’t need to be an aura-reader to sense that the human pacing his bachelor pad floor was extremely annoyed. Finally the man turned to face him. “You knew this was going to happen didn’t you? That’s why you were so damn eager to get us out of the club that night!”
Lorne decided to hedge his bets. “I saw you fighting a lot of battles.”
The young man shook his head. “Damn it Lorne, I could have been prepared. You owe me. And I’m going to collect.” Lorne groaned. This was going to be bad.
His brow furrowed when the newly possessed youth passed him a cheque for $125,000,000. “Well say,” he decided to joke to cover his puzzlement. “If this is what I get for annoying you, have you heard me singing Vanilla Ice?”
Xander’s stoic expression didn’t crack an inch. “I’m giving you that money to start nine clubs like this one in Dallas, Vegas, Phoniex, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, New York, and Washington. You get to keep any and all profit, but you act as an information source for me,” Lorne’s heart sank. “Not the minor stuff, just new big-time players, major threats, that sort of thing.”
“Oh no, no way San Jose.” He shook his head to emphasise the point. “There’s more chance of Michael Jackson turning black.”
“Okay,” the youth shrugged. “I understand. In that case I’ll spend the next few days stood outside your club, just me and my broadsword. It’ll be hell for business.”
Lorne felt the green drain from his face. “I’ll do it.”
“Great.” The man’s mouth parted in the goofy grin that reminded Lorne his guest was still just a teenager. “Shall we go back through to the others?”
“I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.”
“Hi Shamrock,” Faith whispered, her usually cocksure voice filled with awe as the Slayer watched the blonde singing on the stage. “Tar’s one hell of a singer or what?”
“Indeed she is cupcake,” Lorne replied with a cheery grin that he didn’t feel. The witch’s future was as bad as the other two.
FIC: Bright Lights Bad City (8/9)
Brill Lyle looked up at the buzz of his intercom. Turning it on he barked out a gruff greeting. “Yeah?”
“Hello,” it was a man’s voice, more accurately his experienced ear picked up it was a boy, a teen who’d been brought up in the California area. “I’m looking for Ted Dutton, Mr. Stark recommended him to us.”
Ted Dutton. Brill grimaced at the mention of his maternal grandfather, the name he’d been living under since that unholy fuck-up with Dean last year. He turned on the remote surveillance camera he’d hidden in the apartment building the week he’d moved there. His impatiently waiting guests were the boy, a well-built kid, kinda like a gymnast or college wrestler, a biker chick, and a hippy girl. “Odds are they’re not government then,” he muttered before turning the intercom back on. “Name?”
“X-, Alex Carter.”
He nodded. “Wait there,” he instructed before turning the intercom off and dialling Stark’s private number.
After six rings Stark picked up. “Hello?”
“Stark,” he began. “It’s Dutton, I’m ringing to check -.”
“Don’t say anymore,” the billionaire who’d bought a number of his patents cut him off. “I sent those people to you because you’re the best independent in the surveillance business. Look after them Ted, they’re good kids.”
“But,” Brill muttered a curse as he realised the other man had hung up. He turned the intercom back on. “Come up,” he growled before unlocking the front door. While the trio were making their way up he placed his .38 special under the cushion on his couch and secured his .25 back-up in his left ankle holster.
Hearing a polite knock on his apartment’s specially reinforced door, he hurried over and unlocked its three deadbolts and one chain. Taking a breath he dragged the heavy door open. “Come in.”
He watched carefully as the three kids walked in. He couldn’t see any weapons on them but both the boy and the leather-clad goddess that was making him wish he was 18 again moved in a way that reminded him of some special forces troops he’d known in Nam. Which was strange for kids their age. “Sit down,” he ordered brusquely. Once his guests had obeyed, he sat down opposite, his hand resting on the cushion that concealed his weapon. “How do you know Tony?”
“We met Mr. Stark in Vegas.”
Brill noted the careful phrasing of the youth’s words and guessed there was something he wasn’t saying. “And what can I do for you?” he took a careful sip of his coffee, his eyes fixed on his unwelcome intruders. He just hoped that they’d realise that the fact he hadn’t bothered to offer them a drink would show them just how unwanted they were.
The young man glanced at the honey blonde. After a soul-searching glance she nodded. “He’s okay,” she whispered.
“Right,” the young man took a breath. “We need you to create and run a secure phone and computer network with the state-of-the-art encryption. I also need a full coverage of electronic security, surveillance, and counter-surveillance equipment.”
“Ha!” Brill laughed derisively. “Listen kid, what you’re asking for costs millions. You haven’t got the money.”
“Want to bet?” the young man reached towards his jacket.
“Careful,” he growled. His hand snaked under the cushion to grasp his hidden gun. “Left hand, slowly.”
The young man’s eyes drifted to the cushion and filled with understanding. Brill was impressed, the kid had made him. “Okay.”
His eyes widened when the kid threw four bundles of notes on the coffee table between them. There must have been close to forty thousand dollars lying on the table. Tearing his gaze away from the money he looked up at the youth’s intent face. “Take your damn money and go,” he ordered. Why Tony had sent them to him he had no idea. “I don’t do business with street thugs.”
“What!” the east coast teen’s coal-black eyes spat fire and her otherwise pretty mouth twisted into a sneer. “Fuck this X, we don’t need this fossil.”
“Fossil?” Brill’s never-long temper flared. “Listen girlie, I’ve been in this business since before your parents were born. But,” he jabbed an angry finger at the interlopers, “I don’t deal with your type!”
“Calm down both of you!” Brill started at the note of authority in the young man’s voice. Once both he and the girl had fallen silent the Californian continued, his tone quieter. “My friends are starting a national, possibly global,” Brill’s mouth dropped open, “organisation. But we need a secure communications network. I have the money -.”
“That’s not the problem kid,” Brill shook his head. “I don’t work for anybody without knowing their brief.”
“Okay,” the boy paused. “Brill, Faith. Stay calm.” The intruding group’s apparent leader turned to the hippy blonde and whispered something in her ear.
“Shit!” Brill’s mouth dropped open again as the cushion concealing his gun rose off the sofa. The leather-clad babe started to rise, her eyes hardening at the sight of his gun.
“Calm down!” the boy’s hand shot out to grab the girl’s shoulder, pulling her back down, the look on his face suggesting it was greater effort than one would have expected for him to restrain a girl half his size. “Mr. Dutton’s not going to use it.” The teen turned back to him, his eyes intense. “There’s a world out there that you’ve no idea about, a world of the supernatural. We’re setting up an organisation to combat it.”
Brill looked at the cushion the blonde had somehow moved. “Okay,” he returned his gaze to his three visitors. He had a feeling his life had just got a lot more complicated.
His involvement in 1960s CIA research into the paranormal left him at least open to the idea of the supernatural. “Suppose I buy that. What makes you the ones to lead this army?”
“First off, we’ve been elected. Second, El’s,” the young man nodded towards the blonde, “a witch. Faith’s a Slayer, the one girl Chosen to fight the forces of darkness. Faith,” the young man turned to the leather-clad teen, “tear those bundles in half, all four at once.” Brill’s eyes widened as the slight girl smirked, stacked the four bundles on top of one another, and then proceeded to tear the four hundred or so notes in half with an effortlessness that Humperdink would have been proud of. “Faith has super-speed, strength, endurance, senses, healing, and instinctive fighting skills the match of a Shaolin monk.”
“Yo X!” the so-called Slayer interrupted, a gleam in her eyes. “You forgot mega-hotness.”
“So I did,” the youth replied with a grin. “And I was possessed by a warrior god a couple of weeks ago.”
“Okay.” Brill’s head swam for a few seconds at what had just been said. But he had seen evidence of both girls’ abilities. Forcing his attention back on the matter on hand, he spoke. “All this talk, I can just about buy it. But what you want costs a lot of money.”
“Trust me when I say money is not a problem,” the young man chuckled wryly. “How about a three million dollars a year salary, free hand to recruit whoever you need, and an unlimited budget.” The teen’s face turned pensive. “Question is are you in?”
Brill hesitated, remembering last year’s screw-up with Dean. But Stark had recommended him to these kids, and he never could turn his back on a cause. “If you’ve got the money, I’m in. And my name’s Brill not Ted.”
“Great!” the youth beamed at him. “If you could make up four laptops and mobiles in the next 48 hours that’d be great.” The young male rose. “I’ve got a meeting to go to. Faith,” the boy smiled at the raven-haired beauty, “has a list of the security equipment I need. If you think of anything else, add it to the list.”
Once the door had closed behind the young man, Faith turned to him, her eyes eager. “What games come with these computers?” he glared at the supernatural warrior. “What?” the girl asked, her tone wounded. “What did I say?”
* * *
Yaz’s head snapped up from his desk, a scowl on his face as he regarded the kid leant against his office doorway. The only reason he didn’t reach for the pistol hidden in his bottom drawer was the intruder’s youth. No way was this brat a fed. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded. “And how did you get in here?”
The young man chuckled. “If I was you I’d hire better security.” His eyes widened as the kid dropped a trio of automatics on his desk. “And an afro styled in the American flag and all those piercings, not a good idea if you’re trying to blend in.”
Yaz stood, attempting to use his massively superior height to intimidate the intruder. “Who. The. Hell. Are. You?” he demanded through gritted teeth.
“And you also might want to dial back on the height,” the kid grinned up at him, apparently unfazed. “Although I don’t suppose there’s much you can do about that.” The teen’s expression turned serious as he dropped a sheaf of papers onto his desk. “Read those.”
Keeping one eye on the intruder, Yaz began to read the documents. His blood chilled as he realised the paper was an account of his illicit activities over the past few years. “How in the hell did you get this?”
“You’re a smart guy. Problem is you’ve pissed off a far smarter man with a hell of a lot more resources than you in Tony Stark. Trying to steal from him wasn’t a good idea. There’s only one reason that this information isn’t in the hands of the ATF.”
It took Yaz a moment to regain his composure. “What?”
“Not what, who. Jack Quinn.”
Yaz blinked at the mention of the secret agent two years ago. “What’s Quinn got to do with this?”
“Mr. Stark believes that the Stavros affair proves you have what it takes to be a force for good,” the young man hesitated. “And, given your weapons knowledge I want you to be my organisation’s armourer.”
Yaz laughed. “Sorry kid. I don’t work for teeny-boppers.”
The teen raised an eyebrow. “If I was just a teeny-bopper, do you think Mr. Stark would have anything to do with me?”
“Okay then,” Yaz nodded. Kid had a point. “Who are you?”
“Tell me Yaz,” the younger man flashed him a goofy grin. “Do you believe in magic?”
* * *
Xander waited with bated breath as the towering African-American sat back down, his expression thoughtful. The arms dealer had taken a hell of a lot of convincing, but using The Eternal Archive and The All-Seeing Eye had finally persuaded him. The question was would the weapons merchant agree to his request? “Okay. What do you want me to do? And what’s the pay?”
Xander managed to hide his elation. His fish was hooked, the only thing now was reeling him. “you’ll be supplying my group as a licensed arms dealer,” he pushed the newly issued permits that Mr. Stark had rushed through across the desk to the lanky African-American. “Pays a flat $ 5,000,000 a year for five years. But you work only for my organisation, I’ll bring you a lap-top and mobile to link you into our network. Question is, are you in?”
Suddenly Yaz grinned. “Sure am boss. Need anything yourself?”
“Sure,” he nodded and rose.
Yaz followed suit. “Follow me.” The arms merchant led him into the warehouse’s basement, the sewers beneath, and finally through a false wall in the tunnel, unlocked a vault door that led into a huge armoury. Finally the African-American turned to him, his gold fillings gleaming in the semi-light. “What do you want?”
“World peace, the end to all famine, immortality,” Xander muttered as he stared around the armoury, noting with awe the neatly stacked boxes. This was the dream of every American teen brought up on a steady diet of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Van Damme movies. Finally he managed to speak. “What have you got?”
“Mostly just small-arms.” His proud host shrugged. “But I can get most anything.”
“Okay,” Xander ordered his chaotic thoughts. “How about we start with automatics?”
The weapons merchant flipped open a hand-held computer. “I’ve got Desert Eagles, Glocks, H&K. USPs, Beretta Elites, Sig Pros, and Walther P99s.”
“I’m having a pair of Desert Eagles, they look so cool!” He coloured at his companion’s raised eyebrow. Hey, he might be the holder of a god’s skills and memories, but he was a teenager. He considered the girls, Tara wouldn’t be able to handle the recoil from a Desert Eagle, Faith on the other hand would probably handle the recoil better than him but her much smaller hands would struggle to comfortably hold the mammoth gun. “And four H&K. USPs.”
Yaz nodded. “How much ammo?”
“Five hundred Desert Eagle mags and a thousand for the USPs.”
“Damn,” Yaz whistled. “You are going to war aren’t you?”
Xander grimaced. “You have no idea.”
“What about sub-machine guns? I’ve got Mini-Uzis, Ingram MAC-105s, & H&K MP5s.”
Xander didn’t even have to think. “Six MP5s, nine hundred mags total.” It was after the world’s Special Forces sub-machine gun of choice. “What have you got in assault rifles?”
“H&K G36s and AR-105s.”
“I’ll have two H&K G36s,” Xander replied. “400 mags.” He didn’t really see Tara with an assault rifle. “Grenade launchers?”
“I only carry the H&K 699A1.” The weapons dealer shrugged. “It’s the best anyway.”
“I’ll take two. Three hundred fragmentation grenades, one hundred each of incendiary, smoke, and stun grenades.”
Yaz raised an eyebrow. “Anything else?”
“I’ll take fifty M18 Claymores, and two kilos each of C2 and C4 explosive.”
“Damn kid,” Yaz shook his head. “I hope for your sake you ain’t bullshitting me about the money. That is?”
“Just about,” he replied with a grin. “Wait. You carry Mossberg 590 specialist ammo?”
“Sure, I’ve got armour piercing,” the lanky man glanced at his hand-held for confirmation. “Incendiary, door busters, explosive, spread-shot.”
“I’ll take a hundred cartons of each plus two hundred normal.”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded. “Have you got a firing range?”
Yaz gestured towards a door to the black of the armoury. “Through there. Want to test them?”
“No,” Xander started to place his purchases in The Always Pocket. This was going to take a while. “But if I send two girls for firearms training tomorrow,” he saw interest in the weapons dealer’s eyes. “Don’t even think about it,” he warned. “Well?”
“Sure,” Yaz nodded.
Xander hid a smile. Great, he’d been looking for an excuse to get away from the girls and now he had one. If Faith found out what he was doing tomorrow she wouldn’t be happy at all.
FIC: Bright Lights Bad City (9/9)
Xander rolled his eyes, the Bostonian’s complaining was starting to really irritate after the past hour. “Faith, don’t whine. You sound like a ten year old.” He groaned at the Slayer’s protruding bottom lip . “And don’t pout, you look about fiv -,” he broke off when Faith’s expression turned to a glare. “You’re going for firearms training and that’s final.”
“Slayers have never used -.”
“Remember that night I rescued you from the Jhe demon?” Faith nodded reluctantly. His companion never liked being reminded of her less glorious moments. In that respect her and Buffy were very alike. “If you’d had a shotgun, the damn thing would have been mincemeat.”
“But even so,” Faith protested. “I’m instinctive with any weapon. I won’t need training.”
“True,” Xander conceded although secretly he believed his friend could probably do with a lesson in gun respect. “But Yaz is a little over-powering,” that was an understatement if he’d ever made one. “I don’t want him intimidating Tara. Besides, you know how reluctant she is to do this. I need you to coax her along. And I want you to drop off the computer and mobile at his place.”
“Fine,” Faith sighed theatrically. “What are you doing?”
“Drop off the network equipment at Gunn and Lorne’s places,” Xander changed the subject. “How did it go with Brill yesterday?”
“Man,” Faith scowled. “He’s a miserable bastard! Got a ton of new shit he wants to. Says he needs a warehouse, a data warehouse administrator, whatever the hell one of them is, a communications expert, and a data security specialist.”
“Hey,” Xander shrugged. “If it keeps our people safe. While you’re at Yaz’s get Tara to-.”
“Check his aura, I know,” Faith nodded.
* * *
Jonathan Kerns rose at his client’s arrival, surprised at his apparent youth. “Hello Mr. Carter. Welcome to Acker, Caulfield, and Lawson,” he offered his hand to the other man who took it. “If you’d like to take a seat.”
“Thanks,” the new client smiled before dropping into the seat opposite. “And it’s Alex not Mr. Carter.” The young man’s expression turned serious. “I need you to set up a trust fund for me.”
“Certainly,” he smiled at the younger man and picked up his pad. “Please, go on.” His smile faded as the details became clearer. “I can’t do that.”
Alex’s gaze remained steady. “Why not?”
“It’s unethical and illegal.”
“Damn it,” the client looked frustrated. “This doesn’t hurt anybody.”
”That’s as maybe,” he replied carefully, rocked by the intensity in the youth’s eyes that were suddenly the eyes of a much older, and much more dangerous, man. “However it is illegal. Perhaps a blind -.”
Carter shook his head. “She’s too proud for that. It has to be this way.”
“Might I ask why you can’t just give the woman in question the money in your name?”
His client shuddered before shaking his head. “I broke her heart. She’d never knowingly take my money, my testicles maybe.”
Jonathan stared at the youth, judging his sincerity and weighing the ethics of his profession against the benefit of helping this young man. Finally he nodded. “I’ll do it.”
* * *
“Nice shooting sugar.”
“Thanks,” Faith retorted through gritted teeth. This shooting was a breeze like she’d thought it would be. With her superhuman co-ordination, reflexes, and eyesight she’d found it effortless. The only problem was restraining herself from snapping the leering wanna-be player in two.
Tara though, she hated the ideas of guns. She had good reflexes though. Soon her sis would be a regular little Dirty Harriet. Faith pouted, she just wondered what Xan was up to.
* * *
“Hello, I represent Acker, Caulfield, and Lawson, a local law firm.” Kerns flashed the gorgeous brunette a smile. “I understand you are the maternal grand-daughter of John Ashford III?” the young woman nodded slowly. “May I come in?”
The poised beauty glanced towards the table near the door, her eyes seemingly fixed on the mirror stood there that he was reflected in. “Sure,” she nodded.
His eyes widened as he entered the apartment, noting the threadbare carpet, rotting furniture, and peeling wallpaper. No one should have to live like this, least of all an elegant princess like this. “Do you want a drink?” the teen asked. He shook his head. The girl wrinkled her nose. “Good choice, the water around here, ugh!” The woman’s face turned serious. “Look, if you’re after money I’m sor-.”
“On the contrary,” he forestalled the young woman. “I’m here to give you money.”
He gulped as the brunette’s eyes flashed. “What sort of girl do you think I am?” she demanded. “I might be a struggling actress now, but no way am I-.”
“Calm down miss,” he broke in. Carter was a brave man if he’d dated this firebrand. “Your grandfather set up a trust fund. It started paying $30,000 a month,” the girl’s mouth opened and closed without any sound coming out. “On your 18th birthday. One of the conditions of you getting the money was you moving away from your father.” The girl nodded in understanding. Obviously Carter’s information about the grandfather hating his son-in-law was correct. “So,” he produced a cheque. “Here’s a cheque for $160,000 to cover the past five months plus interest.” The girl’s eyes widened. “You get the principal, six million dollars in all, upon you receiving a degree in any subject from any US university. Until then, you will receive a monthly cheque from the bank indicated on the cheque. Now,” he opened his briefcase. “Shall we go through the fine print?”
* * *
“How did it go?” Xander asked as the young legal eagle climbed back into the car outside Cordy’s depressingly seedy apartment building.
The lawyer beamed at him. “Signed, sealed, and delivered. Miss Chase is packing as we speak.”
Xander nodded, but there was no victory in the gesture. His knowledge of the Chase family and the hatred between Cordy’s dad and her incredibly wealthy but deceased grandfather had assisted him in setting up the trust fund to help her out of the hell she was stuck in.
Didn’t stop his guilt though.
* * *
Gil looked up from his telescope, irritated by the interruption. “Yes?” he turned to inspect the interlopers into his domain.
“Hello sir.” The speaker was a tall, well-built man in his late-forties with a square jaw and boxer’s nose. “I’m Special Agent Ervin Howard of the FBI Vegas Office. This is Special Agent Fox Mulder,” the Fed gestured towards a lithely-built man in his late thirties who somehow managed to look scruffy despite his several thousand dollar suit. “And Dr. Dana Scully of the FBI.”
Gil’s eyes widened as he looked down at the diminutive but attractive red-head. He’d heard of both agents. They were legends in law-enforcement circles. “Dr. Scully,” he nodded. “I’ve read a number of your papers on forensics and pathology. I’m quite the fan.”
His fellow scientist beamed at his praise. “And I yours. Some of your papers are very enlightening.”
“Excuse me sir,” Agent Howard broke in. “We’re here about the Wolfman case.”
Gil hid a grimace at the mention of one of his least successful cases. The case at the Land Of The Elite had everything he hated – political big-hitters, flawed forensics, and contradictory witnesses. “Yes,” he pulled the folder out of his case cabinet. “It’s a bewildering case to say the least. We have the statement of Tony Stark who claims his hotel room was invaded by two gangs who fought a pitched battle leaving three dead bodies on his suite floor.”
“But him alive?”
Gil nodded at Mulder’s incredulous comment, hiding his distaste for the infamous agent. He little doubt that ‘Spooky’ Mulder had a world-class intellect, but his reputation for arrogantly demanding people believed his outlandish theories with little or no evidence irked him a scientist. “Things are further complicated by two witness accounts outside the back of the hotel who claimed a wolf fell from the room but changed to human on impact. Stark unsurprisingly says they were all humans.”
“A werewolf?” Mulder commented.
This time Gil wasn’t completely able to conceal his disdain. “Both witnesses were tested and came back positive for both drugs and drink.”
“And the forensics?” Scully broke in.
Gil smiled at the flame-haired scientist before replying. “There’s a lot of discrepancies. While there was no direct evidence to link Stark with the murders, he claims that all seven intruders were male, but we’ve found the prints of one Faith Hart,” he passed copies of the girl’s rap sheet to the two agents. “A Boston juvenile with arrests and convictions for joy-riding, pick-pocketing, and breaking n’ entering as well as being wanted for questioning about the disappearance of her guardian.”
“Perhaps she was being paid for her company,” Scully commented. “With her being under-age, Stark might have decided not to mention her presence.”
“Perhaps, but a man with his money could hire an escort from a score of agencies.” Gil shrugged. “Unless he likes them raw. Whatever the reason, we’ve been unable to find her or a second unknown person whose fingerprints we found at the scene.” He passed the duo a set of crime scene photos. “There’s also unexplained scratches on the wall.”
“What about the victims?” Mulder demanded.
”We ran their prints through every law enforcement agency in the world and came up with a match. According to the German police and Interpol all deceased four men were members of the East German STASI who have been missing presumed dead since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The only question is what were they doing in a five star Vegas hotel?”
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