FIC: MC 36 May ’01 Downfall (1/?)
“Oh come on baby,” Xander gulped as Faith threw aside their silken sheets to reveal her curvy nakedness, lustrous locks billowing beneath her. “Wouldn’t you rather get back in bed with me?”
“Gash, ah, ooh, um.” Xander babbled and drooled in roughly equal measure before gaining a little balance. “Of course I would, you’re like you and I’m me.”
“Damn, it’s like being romanced by George Clooney,” Faith needled.
Xander ignored his girl-friend’s wholly unjustified sniping. “But we’ve got to get some grocery shopping.”
Faith glided into the lotus position, irritation flickering in his girl-friend’s pool-like eyes. “If you used the Always Pocket to keep everything in…”
Xander sighed at yet another round of a long-running argument. “If I shoved everything into the Always Pocket and I was missing or injured, what would you and the others do? Besides doing normal stuff like shopping is -.”
“Boring,” Faith yawned theatrically.
“Nice,” he continued. “And keeps us connected with those we’re supposed to protect.”
“Whatever,” Faith belched, broke wind, scratched her butt, and slumped back into the bed, legs sprawled apart. Very lady-like. “Well whenever you’re ready, I’ll be waitin’.” His girl-friend leered. “I suppose you’ll need a rest before round 2.”
Xander shook his head. “You’re the one who needs to stay in bed while I’m out shopping,” he responded before darting for the door, escaping a few steps before a playfully thrown pillow.
* * *
“Surely that’s the last of the shopping?” Xander complained as he shoved the sixth of their plastic bags into their rental’s filled to bursting trunk. The parking lot was only half-full, their tactic of arriving early to avoid any possible rush working perfectly. “There can’t be any more, it isn’t physically possible!”
“Ahhhh,” Kennedy looked up from an embrace with Tara, her head previously buried in the witch’s neck. “Is Xander poo missing his Faithy-kins?”
Embarrassment robbed his answering glare of any heat. “Tara, I thought you were meant to be training that woman of yours?”
Tara grinned before leaning into the younger girl. “I think she’s just perfect the way she is.”
“Two hot lesbians making out and I feel nothing but the over-whelming urge to vomit,” Xander shook his head and sighed ruefully. “What has happened to the innocent, childlike world I grew up in?”
Tara giggled before sobering. “I think we’ve got everything,” the witch confirmed.
“Great,” Xander beamed. “Let’s head back then.”
“Guess someone’s got their second wind,” Kennedy muttered.
“Why do all you girls have an opinion on my sexual stamina?” Xander plaintively complained.
Tara beamed. “Girls gossip.”
Xander groaned. “I need some guy friends.”
* * *
Kennedy purred as she nestled against her girl-friend on the rental’s back seat. It seemed as if a haze had been lifted from her eyes in recent months. Before escaping the Council’s clutches she’d been little more than a brain-washed slave, thoughtlessly parroting their doctrine.
But now she was a member of a group that did real, concrete good. She was dating the most wonderful woman in the world and working with a man who contradicted all her theories about the male of the species. Of course there was also Faith, but no situation was perfect.
* * *
Sgt. Solomon Cohen, formerly of Shin Beth, sighted his rifle on the approaching car.
As a former sniper working in the dangerously disputed land of the West Bank, he was ideally suited for the task in hand. He waited until the car was on a naturally made bridge over a gully before squeezing the trigger.
A soft pft and a wisp of smoke was the only immediate evidence that he’d discharged his weapon. A half-second later though and his target swerved, its right tyre exploding, and the car pitching hood-first into the gully’s left side. A smile on his face, Solomon spoke into his mouthpiece. “Secondary target compromised, primary target is a go.”
* * *
Faith sighed as she slid her charcoal-grey sweats on. Her earlier bliss had evaporated in the face of a new day’s grim reality. Ever since Xander had distracted Haima, she’d been consumed with dread thoughts of just who was in charge of her man – Xander or Mithras.
Her lips parted in a scowl. Warrior god or no warrior god, her Xander was the one she loved. If Mithras made a play to take over her man, he’d have to get past her too.
Faith began her Tai Chi, using the ancient Oriental martial art to calm her as her Watcher had once taught her. After a few minutes, previously tight muscles were relaxed and her breathing even. Then she stopped, her eyes shooting open as an icy finger crawled down the nape of her neck.
Her eyes flickered left and right, warrior’s instinct telling her she needed a weapon to battle the yet undefined danger. “Shit!” she hissed, blood burning with a potent mixture of fear, anger, and desperation as she realised there was nothing at all to hand.
Suddenly the bedroom’s door exploded inwards, forcing Faith to dive to the thick carpet to avoid the flying wood. At the same time the window exploded, glass shards showering the dimly-lit room and a grey cone-shaped canister crashed onto the ground, emitting a green-pea gas with a hiss.
Gas-mask wearing men stormed in through the open door. Leaping up, Faith caught the unfortunate first with a jumping side-thrust kick to the chest; the force of her attack folding the intruder in two and flinging him back out through the destroyed doorway.
Faith’s hand shot out as she landed in a foot-apart crouch. Her fingers grabbed a hold of the ivory bedside lamp, ripping it from its wall connection as she flung it.
Her makeshift projectile smashed into the face of one of two men clambering through the shattered window. The man screamed as he fell back out of the window. Blood still surging with adrenalin, Faith charged at the other man.
“Hell!” Faith cursed as her legs turned to jelly, taking her to her knees. Her teeth parted in a grimace as she realised the gas was some sort of knock out gas. Faith forced herself upright, reaching up to block the man’s downward strike on her forearm, She shuddered as the blow thundered through her, the blow having a far greater than normal effect. The intruder snapped off a rib-bruising kick that left Faith doubled up and wheezing, pained tears blurring her vision. She dimly heard the sound of footsteps behind her and then a baton crashed into the back of her head, plunging her into darkness.
* * *
Jim Sladden, formerly a paratrooper
Colonel, stared down disdainfully at the crumpled body at his militarily
polished boots. Temporarily stripped of her powers by his gas canister, the
Slayer was naught but an average albeit astonishingly attractive teen. Sladden
turned to the men swarming into the room. “Put the manacles on her before she
awakens,” he ordered. He watched with clinical dispassion as his men
efficiently securely the battered beauty before speaking into his radio
mouthpiece, a smug note entering his voice. “Primary target acquired.”
After a second his earpiece crackled into life. “Bring the little bitch in.”
FIC MC 36 May ’01 Downfall (2/?)
“What the-!” Xander saw the flash of a gun-shot out of the corner of his eye. Before he had time to react the steering wheel flipped out of his hands, the car screeching nose first into a gully, the impact jarring every bone in his body.
Xander twisted around to face the two girls clinging to one another on the back seat, gun-fire sounding around them. “Out of the car now!”
Kennedy nodded before kicking the far door open. “Come on, Tar!”
The moment Xander had scrabbled out of the car and hit the gravelled ground shoulder-first, Kennedy was screaming in his ear. “What are we going to do?”
Xander scowled at the potential. “I’m open to ideas? Any thoughts?”
* * *
Sladden crouched astride of the flattened Slayer before beckoning a second man forward. The man hurried forward and opened an attaché case secured to him via a handcuff chained to his left wrist and the case’s leather handle. The man pulled out a long syringe. Sladden nodded before grabbing and yanking the teen’s long hair. Sladden ignored the teen’s unconscious groan at her rough treatment, pulling her head up, and forcing her silky locks off her creamy white neck. “Inject, now.” Sladden smiled as the needle entered the girl’s swan-like neck. The Cruicatmen drugs would give them a solid 24 hours to transport the yank back home. Then he and his team would be two million quid richer,
* * *
Cohen peered down at the bullet-peppered car, conscious of his need to pin down but not kill its occupants. His finger gently squeezed the trigger, intending to put another bullet in the 4 * 4’s grille.
And then the left side of his head exploded in pain. He felt blood trickling down his face as he rolled to face his attacker. The air rushed from his body when Harris smashed a foot into his body.
Tears streaming down his face, he attempted to aim his rifle at the younger man only for the Californian to snatch his gun from him and drive the butt into his face, teeth erupting in a bloody shower.
His vision eventually cleared to reveal the American stood glaring down at him, his own rifle unsettlingly pointed at his knees. “Magicians can create illusions of people,” the American explained. “And that’s what you’ve been shooting at for the last ten minutes.” The young man paused. “So how about you tell us who you’re working for?”
Cohen tried but failed to swallow the ball of fear stuck in his throat. There was nothing but cold, implacable death in the youth’s dark eyes. “T…..the Council.”
Cohen didn’t think it was possible but the youth’s eyes chilled even more. “I’m guessing there’s another team taking down Faith?” Tongue lodged firmly in his throat, Cohen managed a nod. “Thanks for the information.”
* * *
“Noooooo!” Tara’s eyes widened in horror as she saw Xander’s finger whiten as he squeezed the rifle trigger. The front of the sniper’s face exploded in a red mist.
After a second Xander dropped the dead man’s rifle and turned to them, face as cold and unforgiving as stone. “It’s about seven miles to the house. We’ll have to make tracks.”
Tara was unable to tear her eyes away from the faceless corpse. “Y…you murdered him.”
“No,” Xander shook his head. “I tied up a loose end.” Xander stepped past her, the conversation clearly over, at least in his mind. “Come on.”
* * *
“This isn’t right boss. She’s no dangerous crim; damn she’s not much older than my grand-daughter!”
“I know,” Airport Security Chief Vaughan nodded at his thickly-built subordinate’s comment, “but their papers are…” Finally he tore his eyes away from the battered, unconscious child sat guarded in their outer office and to the grizzled veteran sat opposite him. “Their papers are completely in order, as are their diplomatic passports. We have to expedite their departure.”
Clancy scowled, the furrows on his junior’s forehead deepening to canyons. “Don’t make it right though.”
“No,” Vaughan nodded as he rose to walk
out and talk to his most unwelcome guests, a bitter taste in his mouth. Before
getting his current post, he’d spent almost two decades in the US. Rangers. As
a result he’d learnt to recognise military personnel and whatever the men’s
papers said, they were definitely that. The whole situation stunk worse than
week old dead fish. “But we have to do it.”
* * *
Sladden turned off his radio, disquiet marring his previous elation. Cohen wasn’t answering his radio, acknowledging his withdrawal orders. More than likely that meant Harris had somehow managed to get his hands on the Israeli former special forces operative.
Sladden shrugged. Unbeknownst to HaH
the Jewish sharpshooter, Sladden had always considered him an acceptable loss. They’d, he glanced towards the slumped Slayer, achieved their prime objective, that was the important thing.
The moment the formalities were over with the sour-faced airport cop and his scowling deputy, they’d hurried across the asphalt airfield and onto the luxury charted ten seater jet. He glanced again bat the captive. “Shoot her full of tranquilisers. I want a quiet flight home.”
* * *
“FAITH!” Xander had run the seven miles in just under a hour. Now his lungs were heaving, snatching desperately for any air, heart pumping like a manic drum, and legs burning.
All that was forgotten at the sight of the cottage with its door hanging off and window to their bedroom shattered. “FAITH!” Xander somehow picked up his exhausted legs for one last sprint, hoping with little hope that Faith had somehow escaped the attack.
Barrelling through the front door, he hurried into their bedroom only finding a shattered lamp, glass littering the floor, and an empty gas canister. But no Faith. “Bastards!”
Before he knew what he was doing, he had hold of the dressing table chair, the one Faith sat on while checking her make-up, and was swinging it. The ceiling light was first to go, the bulb hit across the room like a baseball hit by Sosa. Then it was the painting hung on the wall, sent cart-wheeling through the window. Finally it was the chair itself, repeatedly smashed against the wall until it was nothing but splinters. Flinging the now firewood to the carpet, he moved onto the rest of the house, larva rather than blood pumping through his veins.
“Wow, we’re really not going to get our deposit back are we?”
Xander’s head around, the look on his face making the potential take an instinctive backwards step. In the ten minutes it had taken the girls to catch up, he’d kicked in doors, ripped cupboards, phones and sinks off walls, shoved over the cooker, and smashed windows. “You think this is funny?” he grated through gritted teeth.
Tara stepped between him and the tiny brunette. “Xander,” the witch’s face was pale, reflecting the fear he wouldn’t allow himself, “what are we going to do?”
“We’re going to England,” Xander replied. And he was going to make the Watchers an endangered species.
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (3/?)
“The projections for this fiscal year -.” Tony Stark broke off when his red telephone started to ring. Knowing full well what that meant, his board rose as one on the third ring. By the sixth ring, the boardroom door was closing behind the last of the executives.
The moment the door clicked shut, Stark snatched up the phone. “Hello?”
“I need a chartered jet and fast.”
Stark shivered at the bleakness in the caller’s barely recognisable voice. “Xander, what’s wrong?”
“The Council,” the youth’s previously emotionless voice briefly cracked, revealing an almost bottomless pit of fear and pain. “They took Faith.”
Tony’s heart twisted at the youth’s pronouncement. “I’ll get a jet to you as fast as possible,” he promised. “Now where are you?” He quickly scribbled down the youth’s location. “I’ll have a jet with you in two hours.” He hesitated before continuing. “Bring that girl back safe, son.”
“I will. Thanks.”
* * *
“Is it true?”
Travers quelled his disgruntlement at having his office barged into, choosing instead to nod at his uninvited guest. “We’ve got her; she’s on her way here, Roger.”
The junior Watcher smiled and straightened the tie of his Saville Row suit before speaking. “And you remember our deal?” The older man’s eyes glinted with malicious intent. “That little bitch disgraced my family. You said she was mine. Family honour demands it!”
Travers secretly thought that ego rather than honour had rather more to do with Roger’s eagerness to get his hands on the Slayer. Not that he cared either way. “And so she is.” It was an effort but Travers managed to meet Pryce’s bubbling with insanity gaze. “But she has to stay alive. She’s no use to our plans dead.”
“I know, I know,” Whyndham-Pryce sniffed.
”I mean it Roger,” Travers injected a note of steel into his voice. “Think of the greater good. Yes, the Council is outstandingly wealthy, but this Harris yobbo has twenty times our money. And then there’s his other resources.”
After a second the older man nodded grudgingly. “But afterwards?”
“Roger old boy,” Travers smiled. “I gave you my word. The little tramp’s yours. Why you can even pull the trigger yourself.”
* * *
Tara stared at Xander’s stone like face. Three hours had passed since their plane had taken off. In that time Xander hadn’t spoken or even moved a muscle. He’d just sat staring straight ahead, eyes boring into the luckily empty red leather seat opposite.
Tara forced herself to look away, glancing towards Kennedy. Taking strength from her girl-friend’s presence, she turned back to Xander. Her breath caught for a second before she managed to speak, her voice quavering slightly. “X…Xander this could be an opportunity.”
Xander started, almost as if her voice had brought him out of a coma. After a second his eyes zeroed in on her like a sniper’s scope. “What?”
Tara wilted inwardly at Xander’s snap. Kennedy gave her arm a reassuring squeeze. “Y…you want to make the Mithras Brotherhood international. There’s plenty of independent British demon hunters listed in the CDs Mr. Stark gave us. Maybe we can organise an UK -.”
“You think Faith’s kidnapping is an opportunity?” Xander interrupted, voice colder than ice.
“Tara didn’t mean it like that!” Kennedy leapt to her defence. “It’s just that she thinks everyone deserves to be defended and you can bet the Council doesn’t do much to defend the English!”
“The English?” Xander laughed, the harsh sound cutting through her like a knife. “You think I give a damn about them?” The madman wearing her friend’s face leaned forward, hands gripping his knees. “If they’ve hurt a single hair on her head, there might not be an England left after I’ve finished with them!”
* * *
MI6 Offices, London
“Miss Moneypenny,” the intercom on the immaculately attired secretary’s desk crackled into life, M’s cultured tones losing none of their command, “please send 007 through.”
“As always a pleasure, Moneypenny,” Bond flashed the personal assistant a winning smile before striding past her desk and through the black polished doors the secretary diligently guarded.
The office beyond was long and studiously imposing. The wall to Bond’s left and right were filled with shelf after shelf of books, all leather-bound and either first or rare editions of the classics while the wall behind the room’s large desk was adorned by a pair of Turner prints. “M,” Bond nodded at the greying lady sat in the leather executive seat behind the desk, “you’re looking especially radiant today.”
“Um,” the one lady in the world immune to his charm looked singularly unimpressed. “I haven’t time for your nonsense. We have a problem.”
“Oh?” James sat down in the chair opposite his superior, ignoring the fact he hadn’t been invited. “And what might that be?” he idly asked.
“Your associate Alexander Harris is coming here.” Bond raised an eyebrow at that bombshell. “He intends to slaughter the Watchers’ Council.”
“Oh really?” Eyes narrowing, Bond leaned forward “And what provoked this little tantrum?”
M hesitated momentarily, a pause so slight that only someone who knew the steely woman like he did would notice it. “The Council have apprehended Faith Spenser.” Bond’s eyes hardened, temper rising. “I’ve organised Viridis Private Airport to be flooded with Special Branch officers. You are to use these officers to apprehend Harris before he does any damage.”
Bond sat back in his seat. “Maybe you’d be better suited to let Xander have his head.”
M’s eyes hardened, “I don’t make
requests or discuss my orders,” the MI6 head frostily reminded, “I issue my
orders and I demand that they’re carried out.”
Defeated, Bond nodded grimly. “Yes, ma’am.”
* * *
“Whoa,” Faith groaned as she awoke. “That Tequila had a hell of a kick.” Another groan escaped her as she forced her eyes to focus. “Oh crap.” The sight of the cramped, poorly lit cell with its granite walls, straw-strewn paved floor, and metal-grilled, medieval like entrance made it all come rushing back. The attack on their rented house, the airport where she’d almost woken up, and the barely remembered flight.
But none of that told her who’d kidnapped her. Or, her heart twisted, if the same people had Xand and the others. Or if they were dead. Heart racing, Faith struggled at the harsh hemp rope binding her to her chair, but found to her horror that they didn’t snap. Her strength had somehow disappeared.
“Well, well, well.” Faith stiffened at the voice outside the cell. The poncey accent told her all she didn’t want to know about her captors. Every Watcher she’d ever met talked like that. The Council had her.
Swallowing her fear, Faith chuckled, the
sound echoing back at her. “Love the hotel,” she feigned an unconcerned look
around her drab surroundings, “but I asked for a room with a sea view.”
“Oh you’re quite the comedian, Miss Spenser,” Faith heard the tell-tale jingle of a key unlocking the cell door. Then the door creaked open and a short, portly man in his late sixties stepped into the cell. “But I have to wonder if you’ll be laughing in a few minutes?”
“If you’re the cabaret, kinda doubt it,” Faith responded.
The elderly man laughed, the amusement
not coming close to reaching his somehow inhuman eyes. “Quite the little
spitfire aren’t you?” the Englishman commented as he removed his expensive
looking jacket and waistcoat before unbuttoning and rolling his white shirt
sleeves up, revealing surprisingly thick forearms. “But I quite understand
your confusion. I haven’t introduced myself. Most remiss of me.” The Watcher
paused for effect. “My name’s Roger Whyndham-Pryce.”
Oh crap. Faith would have thrown up but for her stomach being completely empty. “Wes’ dad.”
It was a statement rather than a question but the Englishman nodded a confirmation nevertheless. “Quite so. Obviously I don’t see your failings as completely your own fault. Obviously,” Faith bit her bottom lip as the Englishman snatched hold of her hair and yanked her head up, “Wesley failed to teach you about respect. A short-coming of my son’s I plan to rectify.”
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (4/?)
“That was more than a little disappointing,” Roger commented as he wiped his hands clean on a towel before sinking his battered appendages into an ice bucket.
There would be no such respite for the Spenser bitch. He’d been very thorough in her disciplining. Stepping forward, he grabbed the yank slag’s hair and pulled her head back.
A pleased smile twisted his face as he inspected the damage he’d wrought. His clubbing blows had closed both of the bitch’s eyes, flattened her nose, sliced open both her lips, and opened a cut on her forehead, the blood dripping down turning her pummelled features into a crimson mask. And he’d not stopped there, his feet had cracked three ribs and stamped the fingers on both hands into misshapen lumps.
But, his smile changed to a scowl, the little scrubber hadn’t begged at all. The most he’d got was the occasional gasp or grunt. Still, he spat on the barely conscious girl before sauntering out of the cell, the door clanging shut behind him, he was well-versed in ‘interrogation’. Everyone had a breaking point. It was merely finding it; with some it was some sort of psychological torture, others it was a specific body part, others it was a type of pain, and with some it was just a matter of time.
“Your beating is just the first rung on the ladder of pain my dear,” he muttered as he left the underground jail. “And one way or another we’ll climb it together.”
* * *
“We are now beginning our descent,” the pilot informed them over the plane’s intercom, “we will be landing at Vidris Private Airport in approximately ten minutes.”
For the first time since their ‘discussion’, Xander shifted in his seat. His fists and jaw unclenched but his shoulders remained bunched and aura stayed dangerous, bubbling with barely repressed rage. “When we land we’re heading straight for The Council Keep.”
Kennedy shook her head. “Maybe we should think about -.”
“Think about what?” Xander’s interrupting tone was glacial. “What’s there to think about?” Xander chuckled humourlessly. “Maybe you think we should think about if Faith’s worth the risk-.”
“Hey!” Kennedy’s own temper flared into life. “I never said anything of the -.”
“Kennedy’s just worried and so am I,” Tara interrupted, “that we give ourselves the best chance of rescuing Faith. If we just charge in-.”
“If they’ve hurt her, I’ll kill them all,” Xander interrupted.
* * *
Vidris Private Airport
“The men are all in position, Commander.”
“Excellent,” Bond lied before swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth. He’d done some pretty unpalatable things for Queen and country, but this ranked up there with the worst. “Remember your orders. There’ll be three targets, two women and one male, all in their late teens\early twenties. They’re to be considered extremely dangerous, but not to be hurt in any way.”
“Sir, those orders are a little contradictory,” his subordinate complained.
“ But they come from the top,” Bond commented. “And they will be obeyed. Let’s move.”
* * *
Whyndham-Pryce didn’t turn at the sound of his office door opening, continuing to pour a celebratory glass of his finest malt whiskey. He still didn’t turn when the intruder spoke. “I’ve inspected your handiwork. You did quite a number on the bloody bint.”
After pouring a second glass, he turned and offered it to his fellow country-man. “I didn’t you realise you had feelings for the scrubber.”
Travers took the proffered glass with a curt nod. “Feelings for that piece of trash?” his superior laughed. “She’s the daughter of a whore, born to screw. She’s a colonial who refuses to acknowledge the rule of her betters. She’s a Slayer, born to die.” The head Watcher shook his head. “But at the proper time, when it benefits us. I don’t want any accidents before that. Am I understood?”
After a second Roger nodded acquiescence. “As you wish. But afterwards?”
“Then,” Travers smiled, “as I said the little slapper’s death can be as quick or as slow as you wish to make it.” Travers raised his glass. “Cheers?”
The clink of their glasses confirmed the current Slayer’s fate. “Cheers.”
* * *
Vidirs Private Airport
Xander stared around the orderly terminal, its cleanliness and efficiency mocking every major airport throughout the world. “Xander.”
“What?” his head snapped towards the
honey-blonde witch tugging on his sleeve. “If this is another request for me to
“No!” the witch who’d taken an involuntary back-step at his tone shook his head. “Don’t you see there’s too many airport staff here? This is a trap!”
Xander’s eyes widened as he looked around. There were too many cleaners mopping or sweeping already clean areas. Too many check-in staff stood idly behind closed desks. Too many baggage handlers not carrying any luggage. And all with the same hard look that policemen or soldiers had in common.
Cursing himself as every type of fool,
Xander reached into the Always Pocket. And stopped as he felt cold hard steel
nuzzling against his neck. “I’d rather you didn’t old boy.”
Xander’s already boiling blood rose a few extra degrees. “Bond,” he growled.
“The one, the only,” the infuriatingly unruffled secret agent replied.
“You know what the Council have done to Faith?” he growled.
“I know,” the secret agent’s voice chilled. “But orders are orders.”
“Maybe you want that on your gravestone,” Xander suggested.
“No, Xander,” Tara hissed. “Look how many of them there are. This wouldn’t be smart. We should wait for our chance.”
Xander swivelled his eyes around, noting the ring of bodies closing on them. A long breath escaped him as he realised there was no way to fight and win this battle. And that meant he’d never get to rescue Faith. Fighting the urge to turn the airport into a charnel house, he nodded. “You’ve got us. But Bond, don’t think I’ll ever forget this.”
* * *
MI6 Offices, London
“James has arrived with the prisoners, Ma’am.”
M glanced at the intercom. After a calming breath, one didn’t often get to meet a supernatural legend in the making, she spoke. “Send them in, Moneypenny.”
The young man who entered had the face of a joker turned warrior. In his walk, his eyes, and the set of his jaw, M saw something she was sure her predecessors had seen in Bond 20 – 30 years ago. An outwardly-flippant young man who would nevertheless shake the foundations of heaven or raid to protect his beliefs or the people he cared about.
The two women with him were attractive enough but uninteresting, unless one considered their rapidly growing files., Together, they added a new level of danger to their already formidable companion.
“Getting rid of our escort was a big mistake,” the young man began before she had chance to speak. Because if you think he,” Harris gestured dismissively towards the secret agent stood behind him and his companions, “can stop us from taking you hostage and exchanging you for Faith you really haven’t been paying attention to your intel briefs.”
“Young man, you are wrong on some many points.” M chuckled, genuinely amused by the youth’s heartfelt outburst. “Firstly, I think you’ll find 007 is rather more formidable than you give him credit for.” Although she’d not want to gamble her life on the difference. “Secondly, if you think the Council care about me, you’re sadly mistaken. And thirdly,” her eyes hardened, “we are not your enemy. Far from it.”
Those rare occasions when morality twinned with expediency were pleasurable indeed.
FIC MC 36 May ’01 Downfall (5/?)
Sebastian Tittlewood’s nose wrinkled in disdain as he stared up at the building towering before him as he pulled up in its sprawling car park filled with a combination of flashy sports cars and vintage models. The house itself was a four-storey mock Tudor mansion with a stepped, pillared entrance, painstakingly white walls, and huge windows. Everything about the house said, no screamed, cash.
“But certainly nothing about class,” Tittlewood muttered as he slid out of his MG.
Even his host’s public persona spoke of crass commercialism. An agent for several Premiership footballers as well as a number of models, soap actors, and ‘singers’, the house’s owner was known, even notorious, in London’s upper circles for his wild, outlandish parties and a minor celebrity to the nation at large thanks to his guest appearances on various radio shows and TV chat shows., What was rather less known was the man’s grasping ownership of a string of sweat shops and slum flats from which the cigar-chomping impresario garnered a goodly portion of his seven figure a year earnings.
However tonight was the night the flamboyant businessman got his long overdue comeuppance. Tittlewood had it on very good authority that the agent not only kept five million pounds in bearer bonds but also papers detailing his double life in a hidden safe in his study. By the end of the evening he thoroughly intended to have both the documents and the bearer bonds in his possession. Once that was accomplished it would be a simple step to ensure the incriminating papers ended up in the hands of Fleet Street’s finest. And then one of London’s premier dealers in human misery would be utterly ruined.
Tittlewood started to whistle as he approached the garish mansion. Inside he was filled with the elation that always filled him when he was about to destroy some evil-doer who thought they were above the law. Well the entertainments agent might be, but no man could escape his justice.
Or maybe he could.
Tittlewood’s pace slowed when a pair of suited men stepped out from the pillars lining the marble stepped entrance. His experienced eye instantly recognised the pair as policemen. “Mr. Templer.”
“Ah,” Sebastian shot the two men a practiced smile, heart sinking as he sensed a third man walking across the floodlit car park towards them. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken, the name’s Tittlewood, not Templer. Sebastian Tittlewood to be exact,” he displayed his engraved invitation with an extravagant flourish, “my party invite attests.”
The two undercover policemen looked singularly unimpressed. “Please, Mr. Templer, let’s dispense with the games,” the taller of the two men, a man with a face that would be better suited for a funeral director, replied, “we’re well aware of who you are. And we’re not here to arrest you.”
“Really?” Intrigued despite his instinctive caution, Templer raised an eyebrow. “And why is this man you’ve mistaken me for so important?”
The two police officers exchanged perturbed looks. “We’re not exactly certain.” Templer turned to face the man behind him, a tall, jowly-faced man with deep-set grey eyes. “Except,” the man produced a brown envelope and pulled out a glossy colour photograph of a strikingly beautiful brunette, “it involves saving her life and perhaps getting you a pardon.”
“A lady in distress?” Templer smiled. “No Englishman gentleman could resist a lady in distress.”
* * *
An Underground Car Park, Cardiff
Frank Martin moved unerringly through the dimly car park, his confident footsteps echoing through the building. He stopped, brow furrowing as hairs prickled up the back of his neck. He slowed, eyes glancing left and right, searching the gloomy underground area for the source of trepidation. A scowl split his face in two as he failed to spot the intruders, meaning either he was wrong or they were very very good.
Frank Martin stood, feet apart, as he relaxed himself for whatever was to come. “You might as well come out,” he growled. “I know you’re there.”
“I never could get one over you, sir.”
Martin half-smiled as he recognised the voice. “Garvie?”
Martin shook his head at the shaven-headed man who’d just stepped out of the shadows. “It isn’t sir any longer,” he reminded his former sergeant. “It hasn’t been in a long while.”
“You dragged me out of that fire fight in Sierra Leone,” his former subordinate countered. “It’ll always be sir to me.”
Martin acknowledged the compliment with a nod. “What do you want sergeant?” Martin glanced around at the half a dozen SAS troopers surrounding him. “I try to avoid jobs that’d anger HM’s government.”
Garvie stared evenly at him. “We’re not here to arrest you,” the Special Forces sergeant retorted. “The government needs your help in an off the books operation.”
“Not interested,” Martin shook his head. He’d done enough of them in his time to have no wish to be involved to do another of the petty, self-interested operations.
“This one’s different,” Garvie argued. “It’s not about protecting a British company’s interests or propping up a foreign dictatorship. This is about saving a girl.”
“Oh yeah?” Martin raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Who is she? A MP’s daughter?”
“No MP’s daughter,” Garvie shook his head. “She’s a bloody yank. For some reason she’s very important to the world in general.”
Martin stared at his former NCO. “I’m listening.”
Garvie smiled. “That’s all I know.”
Just enough to hook a line. Now it was down to him to decide if he wanted to take the bait. After a second he nodded. “No promises but I’ll listen.”
* * *
A Brighton Gymnasium
Eric Hawke smiled as he looked around his deserted gymnasium. Just half an hour ago and the fitness centre had been filled with the sound of clanging weights and grunting men and women, and the musky smell of sweat.
Another successful day at Hawke’s Energy, but now his fitness emporium was closed and it was time for him to train. After dimming the lights he began gliding through a complicated kata that incorporated all the martial arts he was master of.
An hour later and he’d finished. Perspiration dripping off him and gym vest sticking, he started towards the shower.
And stopped at the sound of something scratching at the front door. Face settling into a scowl, Hawke started towards the door. Whoever was breaking into his place was making the biggest mistake of their lives.
He was half-way across the gym when the door swung open. Instantly he stopped and crouched behind a lat machine. Torch light flooded the gym as a trio of slab-shouldered silhouettes entered. “Hawke,” a voice boomed out. “We’re Special Branch.” The man unbuttoned and opened his jacket, revealing his ominously full shoulder holster, pulled out an ID and shone his light on it, proving his identity. “We’re not here to cause any trouble. MI6 needs your help-.”
“Not interested.” The three men spun to face him, as they’d talked he’d stalked silently to their left. “I’m retired. When I needed help tracking down my brother’s killers you weren’t exactly co-operative.”
The leader of the group, a shaven-headed fireplug with marksman’s eyes nodded. “I wouldn’t know anything about that, Hawke. But this is about a young woman.” The Special Branch officer passed him an envelope.
Eyes still fixed on the trio; Hawke opened the envelope and pulled out a glossy photograph of a hauntingly beautiful teen. “She doesn’t look like your typical secret agent.”
The special branch agent shrugged. “We’re not exactly in the loop, Hawke. All we know is she’s an agent of a friendly foreign power assisting our government who’s been kidnapped by a subversive domestic organisation. If you want to know more you’ll have to come with us.”
Hawke glanced at the photograph again before reluctantly nodding. If it was a man in trouble he’d be able to turn away, but a woman got his inner knight going. “Okay.”
* * *
A Security Agency, Sheffield
Neil Byrne looked up as his office door crashed open and a quartet of suited heavies strode in, followed by his flustered-looking secretary. “I’m sorry, Mr. Byrne-.”
“It’s alright, Miss Stafford,” he directed a cold smile towards the four suits. “It isn’t your job to throw out undesirables. It’s mine. You can go.” The moment the office door clicked shut behind his personal assistant, he spoke again, his temper making his Yorkshire accent even thicker than normal. “You’ve already scared my secretary. Why don’t you buggers sod off before I give you a lesson in not fighting above your weight?”
“We’re with MI6.” The lead heavy, a tall goateed man with thinning pepper-grey hair dropped a photograph on his cluttered desk. “M said to say she’s calling in her debt.”
Byrne raised an eyebrow. In ’97 M had ordered a politically inexpedient operation to rescue him when an infiltration of a Rotterdam drugs dealer had done awry. “That’s a pretty big marker to be calling in,” he commented. “I hope she knows what she’s doing.”
“M usually does.”
Byrne chuckled. There was no answer to that.
* * *
“Lady Croft, MI6 are here to see you.”
Lara didn’t look up from her inspection of a 4th century manuscript. “Hillary, be a dear and send those plonkers away with a flea in their ear.”
“I’d rather you saw them, Lady Croft.”
Her butler’s comment made her look up. “Really,” she raised a finely mascaraed eyebrow. “And I thought after that wild goose chase in Iran last year, I’d,” she put special emphasis on the ‘I’d’, “decided that we weren’t taking any more work on for HM?”
“This one’s different.” Her friend and employee seemed unaffected by her frosty tone.
“Oh.” This time she raised BOTH eyebrows. “Do tell?”
“The Council have got their filthy hands on Miss. Spenser.”
“Ah,” Lara nodded before rising. “”That is different. Send the men in.”
“Yes, Lady Croft.” The butler hesitated. She looked inquiringly at him. “Lady Croft, I’d be obliged if you allowed me to accompany you. Miss Spenser has many a rough edge but she also has a heart and a spirit I found surpassed by only one other lady of my acquaintance.”
Lara smiled slowly. “And who would this remarkable lady be?”
Her very English butler reddened. “You, mi’lady.”
“That was the correct answer,” Lara’s smile momentarily widened before disappearing completely. “Grab everything we’ll need. We leave immediately.”
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (6/?)
Faith coughed up blood as she awoke. Vision blurred from repeated blows to the head, she looked up at her tormentor. “This is how you,” she flinched as a fresh wave of pain crashed over her, “get your kicks, English? Beating up women?”
“Not normally,” the stuffed shirt appeared unruffled by her insults. “But is appears your mother was remiss when it came to disciplining you -.”
Faith laughed through the pain. “And there was me thinking ya were one of my mom’s old tricks. Ya clearly don’t have a fuckin’ clue.”
“So,” the man carefully and slowly removed his leather belt, folding it over in his hand, “I’ve decided to take you in hand.”
* * *
Whyndham-Pryce stared down dispassionately at the naked Slayer. He supposed most men would have been aroused in his position. He merely felt disgusted that the powers that be would be so foolish as to pick such a tramp as their champion.
Yes, the harlot had spirit and heart – she’d not cried once as he’d strapped her until she’d passed out. But her disrespect for her betters and disloyalty to the Council was appalling.
Still, he crouched down and grabbed a handful of the teen’s silken locks and yanked her head back, she had a certain ghetto intelligence. He had little doubt she’d be capable of learning a little respect before the end.
* * *
“What is that supposed to mean?” Xander demanded, confusion replacing anger as his over-ridding emotion.
“Kabul 1904, Budapest 1930, Berlin 1945, Havana 1968,” M’s eyes chilled, “and Bangkok 1990. On all five occasions the Council blundered into MI6 operations, arrogantly costing the lives of HM’s assets or agents. In ’68, a fellow Oxford graduate friend of mine was slain, given up to Castro’s secret police in exchange for a potential that wasn’t even Called. In 1990, a source and a personal protégé of mine was compromised and killed by the Chinese secret police when the Council’s blunderings caused our honey trap for a high ranking Chinese government official to be uncovered. The counter intelligence chief shook her head, the fire in her eyes belying her matronly appearance. “The Council and its high handedness have caused too much trouble. Whereas,” the greying woman’s eyes softened, “Miss Spenser has, despite her torrid upbringing, done nothing but try and help people. In the end there is little choice to make.”
“So MI6 are going to help us?” Tara asked a split-second before Xander could.
“No,” M shook her head. “At least not officially. That would go against British government policy. However,” the grand-motherly looking woman’s smile was steely, “I have recruited a number of Britain’s most dangerous free-lancers to assist you.” The greying woman’s smile disappeared. “However one major problem remains. Our records indicate that the Council’s magical defences are perhaps only bettered by Wolfram and Hart’s. Only Watchers or those invited by a Watcher can enter without setting off their security system. I understand Miss MacClay is a witch of some considerable ability, but I doubt that she will be able to breach their defences.”
“Then it is fortunate indeed that the Sorcerer Supreme is available to assist.”
* * *
Doctor Strange hid a smile at the shocked looks on the room’s occupants’ faces at his arrival in a flash of light. The suited man at the back of the group was first to react, spinning around and drawing an automatic from inside his jacket with startling speed.
Strange’s inward smile grew at the suited stranger’s astonishment when he turned the man’s gun into a poesy. Normally he didn’t indulge in such theatrics but he didn’t have time for long-winded explanations. “Greetings, Tara, Xander. I am glad to see you both again, I only wish it was under better circumstances. Kennedy,” he directed his gaze towards the youngest member of the group, “it is an honour to meet you.”
The hard-eyed greying woman sat behind the office’s polished deck rose. “I would assume you are Doctor Stephen Strange?”
He half-bowed at the waist. “Your files are extensive and your mind perceptive.”
“And you will help against the Council?”
Strange looked towards an ill-looking Xander, the young man looked out on his feet. “Once the Council stood for all that is good – justice, honour, courage, compassion. But now it is a collection of venal old men intent only on feathering their own nests. While Faith had aided me on more than one occasion. It was an easy choice to make.” He decided not to give voice to his theory that the world was doomed without the current Slayer.
“Wonderful.” The older woman’s eyes softened a touch. And then hardened again. “Perhaps you’d like to meet the rest of your companions?”
Xander nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
* * *
Frank Martin stiffened when the waiting room door opened. Since his arrival there’d been a whispered offer of tea or coffee which he’d brusquely declined and a stream of other people joining him in the blandly featureless room. None of whom he recognised, except for a type – soldiers or adventurers.
The group now entering were an entirely different kettle of fish. The first woman through the door had the look of a time-serving civil servant, unless you took note of her purposeful eyes, the second woman looked like a flower child transported three decades into the future, and the third looked like a model but moved like an athlete.
The first of the three men through the door was the youngest, and but for his relative youth could have been a special forces veteran. The second looked like a spiv, but his presence in this most secret and private of places probably meant he was an agent. But the third, Martin resisted the urge to shake his head, dressed in the garish outfit of a stage magician. What Paul Daniels was doing here, Martin had no idea.
“Thank you for all agreeing to come here,” the oldest of the three women said, “it is most appreciated. What you are about to hear here is classified beyond Top Secret and unknown to you all bar Lady Croft.” Martin raised an eyebrow, he knew he’d seen the statuesque beauty before. The woman paused again before continuing. “The young woman you’re to rescue is not merely a woman.”
“I’d say,” drawled the dandy of their group. “a more delectable doxy I’ve rarely seen.”
The young man who’d just entered growled warningly. The middle-aged woman chose to show her disapproval with a frosty glance. “Please, Mr. Templer. This is hardly the time for levity.”
The dandy bowed his head. “I apologise my good lady. You are of course correct. No-body’s life is a joking matter. Pray, continue.”
“Thank you,” the matronly woman nodded. “As I was saying, Faith Spenser is no ordinary American teen. She is her generation’s Vampire Slayer.”
The room exploded into noise, varying incredulous curses filling the air. And then nothing, a shroud of silence settling over the crowded room. Martin’s eyes widened in horror and his jaw fell open when he realised he could no longer speak. Then a rich, full baritone rang out. “My apologies,” he turned towards the flamboyantly dressed and to judge from his tone well-educated American, “but I felt a demonstration of magic would hasten matters. I am Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. In its infancy the world was ruled by the Old Ones, a race of fearsomely powerful demons, until a warrior called Mithras began an uprising. After a war lasting many years and costing tens of millions their lives, Mithras was victorious and on his death ascended to godhood.” The mage glanced towards the youngest of his male companions. “His spirit now inhabits his last ancestor. Some centuries after Mithras and his fellow heroes had died out, demons began to regain a foothold. The a group of wise men crated The Slayer Line, a succession of supernaturally powered females to fight the demons. Miss Spenser is the latest and amongst the greatest of their number. However,” the occultist’s face stiffened, “the organisation that are supposed to guide and help the Slayer are instead hunting her down.” The sorcerer’s eyes could have frozen rivers. “I have strode future’s paths. In many of them, Slayer Spenser is integral to this world’s survival. I will not allow her death.”
“Okay,” a thick Yorkshire brogue broke the silence, “say we believe this bollocks, what’s the plan?”
Martin blinked as a 3D image of an Edwardian mansion appeared levitating in the centre of the room. “Lady Croft, her butler, Hillary, and Simon Templar under the guise of being Lady Croft’s driver will drive up to the front entrance to demand Faith’s release.” The greying Englishwoman explained. “Their approach will inevitably trigger the Council’s defences thus re-assuring the Council that they work. The moment the defences are re-set to stand by, Doctor Strange will turn them off. Then Neil Bryne, Eric Hawke, and Frank Martin will strike at the mansion’s left side. At the same time, Xander,” the middle-aged woman glanced towards the youngest man, “will invade the manor from the rear, stealing into the underground dungeons to rescue the target. These folders,” the intelligence chief passed them all folders, “contain information about the Council defences – conventional, magical, and manpower. Any questions?”
“Just one,” Martin was relieved to find his voice had returned. “What are the orders regarding anyone we find in the mansion?”
It was the young man who replied. “Kill them all.”
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (7/?)
“Come on you dozy buggers!” he muttered as he yanked up his jacket sleeve and glanced at first his watch, trying and failing to will it to reverse several hours, and then at the altogether too long queue waiting to have their passports checked before disembarking into the motherland. Why was it taking so bloody long? Every minute was a minute he didn’t have. And more importantly, a minute the person he’d come to aid didn’t have.
His brow furrowed. The long trans-Atlantic flight had given him altogether too long to think about just what sort of an ordeal the person he’d come to aid would more than likely be enduring. Suffice to say he hadn’t the stomach for the in-flight meal.
* * *
“Bloody hell, look at the pins and arse on that!” Ron leered.
“Ha,” Ted retorted. “I’d too busy looking at those gravity-defying bristols!”
“Quiet the pair of you,” Bill snapped. He might well share his subordinates’ opinion of the approaching woman’s assets, but he was far too smart to voice it. For all he knew she might be the daughter of a senior Watcher, a Watcher in training, or a witch who’d been mistakenly omitted from the Council defences. Making lecherous comments about and in earshot of any one of them could kill a career stone dead.
The moment the Amazonian brunette reached the entrance, shadowed by a long-faced man of average height, Bill stepped forward and spoke, his tone held carefully respectful. “Ma’am your arrival set off our alarms. Sorry to ask but who are you and why are you here?”
The brunette drew herself up to her full imposing height, eyes like blue ice. “I am Lady Lara Croft. I understand you are holding a friend of mine against her will. I demand to see Faith Spenser immediately.”
Bill fought back a groan as he looked towards his subordinates. This was a pain in the arse and no mistake. Lady Croft was a consultant in good standing with the Council. But on the other hand Spenser was a rogue Slayer. “Beggin’ your pardon ma’am,” Bill fought off the urge to doff a non-existent cap, “but Council business is Council business. I’ll have to insist you leave.”
* * *
“Oh god, oh god, it hurts so much, please don’t do it again.”
Whyndam-Pryce smirked as he stared at the teen manacled spread-eagled against the cell’s far wall. It had taken a while and some considerable effort but he’d finally found the yank’s breaking point.
He looked down at the hammer in his hands. Four strikes, shattering the arrogant bitch’s elbows and knees, and she’d started squalling like a new-born. Now all that was left was to decide just how to kill her.
History noted so many differing and innovative methods of killing. He would have to give the matter considerable thought.
* * *
Doctor Strange opened his eyes. “It’s done,” he announced. “The Council’s mystical defences have been removed.” He looked towards his companions. “Tara, alert the others.”
“You’re sure,” demanded Tara’s new girl-friend, her eyes worried and tone strident. “If you’re wrong-.”
“My dear,” he interrupted, tone frosty. “I do not make mistakes about magic.” He shook his head. Teenagers!
* * *
The moment Hillary heard Tara’s voice in his head he was moving. His forehead collided with the nearest guard’s face, shattering the unlucky man’s nose, spewing crimson down his face. Before the man had chance to register or express his pain, Hillary finished him with a brutal straight right to the throat.
Turning, he saw Lady Croft had already dealt with the other two ruffians and that Templer was hurriedly rummaging through the car boot’ false bottom for the weapons hidden there. In seconds the Saint was by their side, passing a trio of Beretta 93Rs in shoulder holsters around. “Remember,” Hillary realised with a jolt that he’d never seen a grimmer look on his mistress’ face, “anyone you see whom you don’t recognise is to be considered hostile. Understand?”
“Understand.” Hillary nodded even as he fixed a lump of C4 to the mansion’s three hundred year old but perfectly preserved double doors. They could simply search the three unconscious guards for keys, but this made for a rather greater diversion. “Step back.” The moment he and his companions had reached a safe distance, he pressed the detonator.
The ground trembled underfoot as the doors exploded inwards, showering the palatial hallway’s carpet like carelessly dropped firewood. “Good gracious,” Templer commented, “I do believe we’ve woken the entire neighbourhood.”
“That’s fine,” Lady Croft pulled back the safety of her polished black automatic, “if anyone asks, we’ll tell them we’re pest control come to do an extermination.”
“Jolly good idea,” Hillary muttered as he started towards the building.
* * *
Bryne forced himself to remain motionless as he waited for the explosion that would signal the start of their part of the mission. Even as he waited, his mind reeled under the changes his world-view had recently undergone.
As part of their briefing folders, they’d received profiles on their fellow team members. While Martin, Templer, and Hawke’s records were impressive, the others were jaw-dropping. Faith Spenser was a much feared warrior that had been hunting mythical beasts since childhood. Xander Harris, who even before he left school was hardly average, but since leaving school had apparently been possessed by the spirit of earth’s greatest ever hero. Doc Strange, the world’s most powerful magician; And Tara MaClay, budding witch.
In the process of re-paying a debt, he’d blundered into an insane world. But now he was here, he found he wouldn’t change it back to the hum-drum world he’d been inhabiting. All the moral ambiguities that had existed for the best part of two decades were gone. Now he was doing what he’d originally joined up to do, to protect those unable to protect themselves. Somewhere along the way that dream had become corrupted, but now he had a chance to return to it.
And he couldn’t remember feeling more alive.
* * *
Xander was moving the moment Tara’s voice sounded in his head. Cloaked by the early evening’s shadows, he darted from cover and towards the building’s rear. Drawing an automatic and firing at a run, his shells smashed into the back door’s ivory handle.
His heel smashed into the heavy door, formidable wood giving way before his rage. He’d barely taken a trio of steps into the corridor beyond when it as plunged into darkness.
Instead of hesitating or retreating, he continued on, relying on his other senses to guide him. Hearing a door opening to his right, he twisted at the waist and fired at the two silhouettes stood there.
Silenced gunfire illuminated the darkness and the sound of bodies crashing to the plushly carpeted ground shattered the silence. Xander didn’t spare the corpses a second glance as he clambered over them. He was here to get his girl.
And to bring hell to anyone who’d hurt her.
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (8/9)
“Bloody hell!” Travers’ hands snatched hold of his chair’s leather-bound arms until his knuckles whitened. Heart thumping, he looked around, wondering what had awoken him from his slumber.
Then realisation crashed over him, chilling him to the bone. The Harris whelp had somehow managed to breach their secure bastion. “But how?” he mumbled. MaClay was reputedly one of the world’s most promising witches, but the Council had several covens securing their defences. A second even more horrifying revelation hit him, Harris and the others had help. “Who would dare?”
* * *
Lara dived to the left, hitting the ground in a sideways roll even as bullets peppered the ocean-blue wall behind her. At the same time, Hillary and Templer peeked up from behind the bullet-torn sofa they were hiding behind and put round after round into the two n the hallway’s sweeping double-stairwell.
“Thanks lads,” Lara leapt up with the athletic ease of an Olympic gymnast. “According to the maps that M showed us, access to the basement is through the doorway between the two stairwells. I think it would perhaps be prudent to get to Miss Spenser before Xander does.”
* * *
Frank Martin heel-kicked the Council thug in his inner left knee. A pained grimace on his face, his rival fell forward and onto his elbow.
The Council guard’s face disappeared in a red mist as he slumped against the wall. Before the thug had chance to make even a half-hearted attempt at retaliation, Martin’s heel thudded into his ruined face, smashing the back of his opponent’s head against and knocking him to the ground. Satisfied the man was out cold, Martin looked around.
He nodded in grudging admiration. Judging from the four other bodies littering the ground, Bryne and Hawke certainly lived up to their records.
“These Council buggers are right southern softies aren’t they?” Bryne commented before looking towards him and grinned. “Oh what am I saying? I’m with two right now.”
“Yorkshire men, never saw a sheep they didn’t like,” Martin grunted. “Let’s keep moving. According to the map we’re nearly at the basement entrance.”
* * *
After a nervous breath for his girl-friend’s welfare, Xander put on a pair of infra-red goggles before opening the basement door with a well-aimed kick. A shot rang out, brick shards exploded out of the wall to his left, ripping open a gash on his cheek. Ignoring the pain and viscera dripping down the side of his face, Xander flung himself towards the far wall, his gunfire illuminating the darkness. He saw a silhouette snap back at the waist and slump to the ground.
Far from sure that his victim was the only guard, Xander stood back pressed against the right wall, clinging to the shadows. He crept along the darkness shrouded corridor, eyes searching desperately for any sign of his lover.
His heart stopped and stomach hollowed as he caught sight of a bloodied and battered figure manacled in the shape of x against a cell wall opposite. Bile rose in his throat as he shot the lock off the cell door and kicked it open.
His beautiful girl was gone. Her face was bludgeoned beyond recognition, her torso welted, cut, burnt, and bruised, and her lithe limbs broken. “Faith,” he whispered. Tears blurring his eyes, he stepped towards the brutalised teen.
Only to spin on his heel at a footfall in the cell’s shadows behind him. Cursing himself as every type of fool for not checking his back, he melted into the darkness.
Seeing a small figure, he punched out, rage fuelling his attack. His attack thudded home, cracking satisfactorily against bone. His opponent let out a grunt and slumped against the wall. Xander placed a foot against the man’s throat, pinning him to the ground as he drew a torch and shone its light onto his captive’s face.
He stiffened as he recognised the man from his perusal of Council files. “Roger Whyndham-Pryce,” he growled. Putting his Desert Eagle away, he drew a smaller calibre .32 automatic. “Someone gets shot by a Desert Eagle; they’re usually out cold a half-second later. No real pain. This little baby though,” he placed the gun’s snub muzzle against the Watcher’s left knee, “you’re going to feel it.” The bone exploded, the air filled with the stench of arid gunsmoke, blood, and the man’s screams. “Remember it.” Next was the man’s left elbow. “Learn from it.” Next went the Watcher’s right foot. “Except,” he stuck the gun’s muzzle under the Watcher’s double chin, “unlike you I haven’t the stomach for this sort of work.” His finger squeezed the trigger. The shell smashed into the man’s jaw, a split-second later and the man’s brains exited his skull, splattering the wall behind.
Eyes fixed on the corpse, Xander rose. “Xander.”
He spun around to see Lara and the others stood by the cell door, the noblewoman’s face ashen, the others grim as they looked between Whyndham-Pryce’s handiwork and his. Xander rose out of his crouch. “Get Faith to the doctor, fast. I’ve got some business to take care of.”
“X…Xander,” there was a rare stutter n Lara’s voice, “don’t you think-.”
“Cover her with this,” Xander pulled a silk sheet out of The Always Pocket and tossed it to Lara. “Faith always like the feel of silk. And get out of here fast.”
* * *
Travers shivered as he ran, breath coming in chest-searing gulps, sweat streaming down him as he cast furtive glances left and right. All around him was carnage. Corpses of Watchers and security personnel littered the passageways, their blood staining the carpets and bullet holes scarring the wood-panelled walls. There was even the occasional fire, where the odd grenade had ignited, burning up priceless antique furniture.
He was clambering around one such fire when a door to his left crashed open. He attempted to turn to face the interloper. “Noooo!” he cursed as he fell over his clumsily weary feet, crashing into the fire on his back. “Ahhhh!” Tears sprang to his eyes as he rolled out of the fire and onto the blood-soaked carpet. He looked up at the blurred intruder. “H…help.”
“Not likely.” A foot smashed into his mouth, teeth flying out. “You see I just found my girl-friend in one of your cells.” Travers felt his bladder loosen with the realisation of just who the man standing over him was. “The incarnation of the Council has ended.” A foot stamped on his right hand, pain blazing through his fingers as they broke. “And part of it being over is taking out the trash.” He sobbed as a liquid was poured over him, paraffin’s familiar stench filling his nostrils. He opened his mouth to beg but nothing came out. Instead his ears echoed to the sound of a lighter igniting. He screamed wordlessly as the lighter was dropped, igniting him from head to foot. “Consider yourself fired.”
* * *
Xander threw up as he exited the mansion, sick splattering the gravel. Wiping the vomit from his mouth with the back of his hand, he continued on his way before turning to face the headquarters. Even at a distance he could see fires flickering through various windows. Pulling out his detonator, he pressed the red button. “Ashes to ashes.”
The force of the explosion flung him onto his back. The house shook under the eight charges he placed around it; windows shattering under the impact as the mansion erupted in flames, smoke billowing into the night sky together with a number of roof tiles. “Dust to dust.”
FIC MC May ’01 Downfall (9/9)
London, MI6 HQ
“Bloody hell!” her unexpected and unwelcome guest erupted. “I insist you allow me to see her! She is after all my responsibility!”
”I’d thank you to moderate your tone,” M stiffly reprimanded. “I’m not one of your callow American teens to be berated and spoken down to.”
“Yes,” her chagrined guest dropped his
gaze. “Still Faith is my responsibility. And Xander-.”
”Today Xander Harris has to our knowledge personally massacred approximately ten Watchers and numerous Council security personnel. Not to mention orchestrated the destruction of your headquarters,” M interrupted. Her former student paled. “Xander is feeling rather less than charitable to the Council at this moment in time.”
“T…that’s as maybe,” her former student retorted after a stunned second. “But Faith is nevertheless still my responsibility.”
“And if,” she fixed the middle-aged man with her sternest glare, “you’d treated her like that before perhaps this could have been avoided.” M sighed and shook her head at the greying man’s stubborn expression. “As you wish, but on your head be it.”
* * *
Strange was never the most tactile of men but he quelled his distaste to place a reassuring hand on the young man’s shoulder. “I’ve put Faith in a healing coma,” he soothed. “When she comes around, her injuries will be healed. HerH HHHHHHHHHHH
Her physical injuries.”
The young man’s gaze didn’t shift from his girl-friend laid in the bed. It was hard to believe the battered child was one of the world’s defenders. Or, Strange glanced towards the pale-faced young man stood beside him, that the youth had cold-bloodedly ripped her brutalisers apart.
“W…what about her other injuries?”
Strange looked behind him to the teary-eyed honey-blonde stood there. “There are some mysteries that not even I can fully conquer,” he admitted ruefully. “But Faith has an indomitable spirit and the love of her friends. Hopefully that will-.”
“Oh my god!”
* * *
Giles stumbled into the hospital room that M had guided him to, legs rubbery from the shock of just what his brethren had done. Mouth dry, he stepped towards the young woman’s bed.
“You won’t hurt her.”
* * *
Out of the corner of his eye, Xander saw Giles step towards his girl and something bestial roared inside him. He was part of this? Bad enough that Giles had failed Faith when he needed her the most, but now he was in London when she was tortured. “You won’t hurt her.”
* * *
Giles glanced towards the speaker. It took a second glance to belatedly recognise the dark-eyed powerhouse as Xander. Before he had chance to speak, to greet the young man he regarded as his son, pain exploded through his arm. “You won’t hurt her.”
He looked down in disbelief at hand, Xander having grabbed two finger and savagely bent them back until they’d broken. His mouth opened in a scream that turned into a croak when the young man caught him with a knife-edge to the throat and a head butt to the nose, shattering bone.
“You won’t hurt her.” Eyes colder than death itself, Xander grabbed two handfuls of his jacket and threw him out of the room and into the wall behind. He struggled to keep his feet as Xander advanced.
* * *
“Calm down lad-, ugh-.” Xander caught Bryne with an elbow to the chest as he advanced on his target, the last Watcher. He’d been unable to stop the others hurting his girl but this one wouldn’t get the chance.
His foot caught the Englishman full between the legs. The middle-aged man fell wheezing to his knees. Xander raised a fist.
Hawke grabbed his arm from behind. Xander bent forward at the waist and twisted, flinging the man on top of Giles. Dropping into a crouch, he grabbed handful of the Watcher’s hair, lifted his head, and drove him face-first into the ground. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he readied himself for another attack. “Sleep.”
* * *
“O…..ohhhh,” Xander groaned as he awoke, his head feeling something like his dad’s would have after a weekend spent drinking. “What happened?”
“You young man,” Xander vaguely realised that Doctor Strange sounded disapproving, “lost your temper. Went berserk to the extent that I had to use rather more than my usual willpower to subdue. Hence the unavoidable but much deserved headache.”
Xander ignored the reproach in the magician’s voice, having heard it in adults’ voices his entire life. “Faith?”
“You would know for yourself that she is recovering nicely if you were by her side as you should be, rather than having to be tethered like a wild animal.”
Xander heard little of the sorcerer’s reply after ‘recovering nicely’. “She’s going to be alright?” his voice cracked.
Strange’s face softened. “Eventually my boy, eventually. If you wish we can go and see her.”
“Of course I want to.” Xander struggled to his feet, noting Strange’s forgiveness didn’t extend to giving him a hand. Ignoring his shaky legs, he followed the sorcerer out into the outside corridor.
“Despite your outburst Bryne, Templer, Hawke, and Martin have all met with Tara and agreed to set up an English branch of the Brotherhood.”
“Oh.” Surprised, Xander glanced towards the magician. “I’d have thought the Council wouldn’t tolerate independent demon hunters. Especially in the UK.”
“There aren’t any in Southern England,” Strange admitted. “But the Council are\were territorial, considering anything out of the South as unimportant. As a result there are number of towns in Wales, Scotland, the midlands, and the north with demon-hunting groups.”
“Right.” All thoughts of Brotherhood expansion fled as he entered Faith’s room to find her laid on her bed surrounded by their friends and new team-mates. “Faith!”
His girl-friend raised her pale face and shot him a wavering smile. “Hey lover.”
“Hey yourself.” Xander grinned. It was going to take time, but everything was going to be alright.
* * *
“O…ooooh.” Giles groaned as he awoke, body aching. He attempted to rise off the bed he found himself in but his body betrayed him, forcing him back onto the bed. “What happened?”
“As I predicted,” he groaned as M’s voice crashed through his throbbing skull like a manically played drum, “Xander reacted negatively to your presence.”
“I’m surprised you have to ask,” his Oxford elective tutor reproved. “You saw what the Council did to Faith. You are a part of the Council-.”
“I wasn’t a part of that!” Giles roared then wished as he hadn’t as pain thundered through his head. “Oh god,” he croaked.
“No, of course not,” M seemed indifferent to his suffering. “But you are a Watcher and you were in London at the precise time-.”
“What?” he gaped, chill horror twisting his guts. “Xander can’t think-.”
“At that particular point in time young Mr. Harris was doing precious little thinking. He’d just seen his injured girl-friend, saw a perceived threat, and reacted.” M paused. “If not for Doctor Strange’s intervention, we’d undoubtedly be having this conversation through a medium.”
“What?” Giles felt a cold hand take grip of his heart. “Xander wouldn’t-.”
M’s laugh cut through his already frayed nerves. “The Xander you knew is long dead. This Xander is amongst the most dangerous ‘normal’ humans walking the face of this earth, and with resources to hand that none of those who would call themselves his equal only could dream of…”
“But I would never countenance….” Giles’ voice trailed off, unable to say the words.
“I know Rupert,” M’s voice softened a touch. “I did attempt to intercede on your behalf, but to be frank Xander had little interest in hearing anything any Watcher would have to say. He did however,” the MI6 head hesitated before reaching into her jacket pocket and pulling out a sealed envelope, “write you a letter.” M dropped it onto the left side of his bed, by his uninjured hand. “If you need anything, ring the buzzer.”
“Thank you,” Giles muttered as the door clicked shut behind the master spy. He stared at the brown envelope for a seeming eternity, building up the nerve to open it. On several occasions he picked it up only for it to drop to the bed through nerveless fingers.
“Scared of a letter?” he reproved. “Pull yourself together man.” Picking up the letter, he started to open it, struggling under the handicap of only having one, sweat-palmed hand currently available to him.
Finally the letter fell open, revealing lines written in Xander’s familiar scrawl. After taking a rattling breath, he started to read.
M tells me you weren’t involved in Faith’s capture. You’re a Watcher, so I know where your loyalties lie. After all, you took a willing part in Buff’s Cruciatmen, didn’t you?” Giles closed his eyes, wounded by the bitter memory. “And you actually cared about her, although not as much as being a Watcher.”
“Damn it, son,” Giles croaked. “I helped her.”
“And next to Buff, Faith’s nothing to you.” Giles shook his head. How little did Xander know him? Did he really think he’d been a willing party to the cold-blooded torture and murder of anybody, least of all a child? “But for the sake of the past, you get a pass. This time.”
He paused to take in the letter’s unpalatable contents as it began a new paragraph. “Oh and by the way, M tells me you’re the senior Watcher now.” Giles’ mouth dried. There had been over a dozen Watchers senior in rank to him. Had. “Congratulations. You’ve an opportunity now, a chance to re-build the Council into something worthwhile, to be proud of. Something closer to what it once. Don’t fail. And don’t come after Faith again, because if you come after my family. Well I’m sure you can join the dots. Xander.”
Giles didn’t realise his shaking shoulders was accompanied by sobs until the first tear hit the paper, smudging the words.
Return To The Mithras Chronicles