FIC: MC 23 Jun ’00 No Defence (1/2)
"Van Winden! Pfaffmann! My shoes aren’t clean again!"
"Sorry sir!" his Dutch servant hurried into his bedroom and quickly set about cleaning them.
"Bloody foreigners," Travers shook his head before taking a calming breath. It was another foreigner who concerned right now. A far more substantial one, one who if not brought down could end his reign. But if dealt with in the proper manner, Travers smiled, could make his Chairmanship of the Council the most revered for centuries.
"Here you are, sir!"
Travers snatched his shoes off his portly servant. After a glance down at them, he nodded. "They’ll do," he grunted. There’d been nothing wrong with them the first time, but one had to keep the lower-classes on ones’ toes. Otherwise, he took another breath, one ended up with situations like today’s, and what a bloody mess that was. Turning his attention back to his servants, he smiled maliciously. "I believe the toilets in the locker rooms need cleaning." His smile widened at the foreigners’ crest-fallen faces. "Now, what are you waiting for?" he demanded. "Get to it!"
Once he’d put his shoes on, he rose and walked over to his quarters’ oval-shaped walled mirror. After checking his tie was perfectly straight, he shrugged on his suit’s black jacket, and headed out of the door.
Striding through the vaunted corridors of the Council’s headquarters, he encountered a few of his underlings scurrying around. For a privileged and powerful few, he returned their respectful nods with acknowledging nods, most he ignored, accepting their deference as his just due.
Eventually he turned a corner and found himself in a long passageway with a looming, hand-crafted oaken door guarded by a pair of strapping special operatives at the far end. As he neared the entrance, the men saluted and the one on the right pulled the door open. Travers nodded before walking through.
A deep voice rang out upon his entrance. "Court is in session! Chairman Travers presiding, all rise!"
Travers took a moment to look around his new surroundings. He was stood at the front of a flag-stoned hall, its bare granite walls somehow adding to the vast chamber’s grandeur. The other four members of the Forum, the Council’s ruling body, were already there as he knew they’d be, he always made sure he was last to arrive, and stood on a raised stone podium behind a varnished mahogany table. The rest of the hall was empty save for the Speaker stood beside a desk to the right of the podium, his pad sat on the desk, ready to take notes, and a bespectacled man so grey he made John Major seem charismatic stood at a desk some ten paces in front of the podium. But when it came to the execution of sentence, oh the bleachers to the left and right of the hall would be filled with witnesses to the inexorablity of Council justice.
Travers marched up the steps leading up the podium, and moved to the central seat. After a nod at his fellow Watchers, he spoke, his voice echoing around the large chamber. "Sit." Once everyone had sat, he looked towards the man sat at the desk before them. "Arbitrator Mitchell, present your case."
* * *
Even as his car skidded to a halt on the car park, gravel flying and tyres screeching, he was flinging the door open. The moment the car had stopped, he leapt out, and slammed its door shut, eschewing taking the keys out of the ignition in favour of speed. Taking a breath, he glanced towards the looming 14th century castle, heart tightening with dread. He swore he’d never come here again, but duty and the love of a young man he was proud to call ‘son’ drove him here. If his source hadn’t informed him he’d never have know about this until too late. Remembering the folder of papers on his front seat, he reached back into his hired car, grabbed it, and hurried towards the towering building.
Making his way towards the thug stood outside the building, his expression held carefully casual, belying his thundering heart. He had to be in time, he’d made too many mistakes in the past, this could be his last, his only, chance to rectify them.
As expected the guard stepped into his path. "Your pass, sir?"
"My pass?" Putting on a practiced befuddled expression, he stepped towards the man. "Oh dear, I was so late I forgot to clip it on, but it’s in my inside pocket. If you just hold these, I’ll get it out."
The moment the sentry’s hands instinctively reached for and took his folder, he moved, driving his forehead into the man’s nose. Even as the custodian’s nose shattered, blood spilling down his face, he jabbed his fingers into the man’s larynx.
The guard collapsed to his knees, breath coming in desperate wheezes. He put the man out of his misery with a pinpoint kick to the jaw.
The moment the brutalised guard’s head hit the ground, he was moving. Grabbing the unconscious man under his arms, he dragged him under a hedgerow, hogtied him with some cables out of the boot of the car, and stuffed his hankie in the unfortunate man’s mouth. "Be grateful it’s clean," he muttered before rushing back to pick up his folder and hurrying inside.
* * *
"Yes, sir." The hall’s dusty silence was broken by the scrape of the Arbitrator’s chair sliding backwards as he stood. "We’re here to try Faith Hart aka Faith Spenser, for the crimes of dereliction of duty and gross endangerment of all human life by desertion of her post as Slayer." The man paused and glanced down at his notes before continuing. "On 17th June 1999, the Slayer deserted her positing in Sunnydale."
"Was she kidnapped?" Travers asked the question for form’s sake.
"No sir," the prosecutor shook his head. "She left of her own free will with one Alexander Lavelle Harris."
"Was she magically coerced? Under a spell of some kind?"
Again the prosecutor shook his head. "No sir. There is no evidence to support that theory. Our records indicate that not only does Mr. Harris not have any magical ability, his family bloodline has been traced back five generations since we were alerted of his involvement with the Summers girl and there is no record of any type of magical ability within his family."
"Was she fleeing a danger that perhaps forced her away from her position?" Travers pressed.
"No," the prosecutor looked down at his notes. "In fact, Slayer Hart had just assisted Slayer Summers in defeating the local demonic overlord. It was a time of relative peace."
"Has she been involved in any criminal activity or wrong-doing since leaving Sunnydale?"
Travers glanced to his right, surprised and irritated by Lady Haversham’s, the leader of the local coven and their representive on the Council, interruption. After a second, he looked towards the nervously waiting prosecutor and nodded grumpily. "There has been no record of her being involved in any crime," the man admitted.
"Except," he put in, "the crime of running away from her duty, and endangering us all. It’s clear that Slayer Hart is both uncaring and unappreciative of the power bestowed on her," his tone grew heavy, positively doom-laden. "We of the Council have an onerous duty, that of supervising the Slayer. Might I remind, you, this young lady turned 18 two months ago. If only," he sighed, "she was here to face our justice face to face-."
"Has any contact been made to bring her in?"
Again he hid his disgruntlement at the witch’s interruption. "She and her companions manage to stay ahead of our special operations’ team." Returning to the subject in hand, he continued. "I would prefer she was here to face the charges in person, but she isn’t, and a year has passed, more than enough time for her to change her mind and face up to her responsibilities. What is your verdict? Roger?"
"Guilty!" Travers hid a smirk at Whyndham-Pryce’s instant and unsurprising reply. Ever since the treacherous bitch had humiliated his closest friend’s son, his second-in-command had been looking for revenge.
"Not," the elderly lady stared unflinchingly at him. "Guilty."
Travers nodded, unsurprised by the white witch’s unwillingness to do what had to be done. They never had the stomach for life’s harsh realities. He turned to the third member of the Forum, the chief archivist. "Your verdict, Mr. Crais?"
After a second, the thin man replied in a quavering voice. "Guilty."
There was the barest hesitation, but then he’d always known that Samuel was less than approving of the trial. If it was up to him, the thickly-built African would never have been allowed onto the Forum, but centuries of tradition demanded that the Watcher of the most recently deceased Slayer be given a seat on the Forum until the next Slayer died. And if nothing else this liberal was preferable to bloody Rupert Giles, he was sure to be a bloody nightmare whenever his promotion happened . Finally the big man spoke, deep voice reverberating with emotion. "Guilty."
"As Chairman, I also have to come in with a guilty plea." Travers nodded in satisfaction. Things hadn’t gone exactly as he’d preferred, but well enough. "In that case, I will pronounce sentence. Miss Hart, for the crime of desertion and dereliction of duty, will be executed by the Council on her capture."
There was thud as the door at the far end of the hall flew open and a guard stumbled in, followed by a wild-eyed figure. "NOT BLOODY LIKELY!"
"Ah," Travers raised an eyebrow at the intruder. "Rupert, what a pleasant surprise."
FIC: MC 23 Jun ’00 No Defence (2/2)
Giles stared around the room, blowing onto his bruised knuckles as he spoke. "I demand a chance to make a defence for the Slayer Hart!"
"The case has already been heard, Mr. Giles!" Whyndham-Pryce interrupted, rising to his feet beside him.
"In a kangaroo court?" the rebel Watcher shot the older Englishman a withering glare. "Let the world marvel at the justness of Council judgment," the younger man scoffed.
"I for one," interrupted Lady Haversham, "would like to hear anything Mr. Giles, the only one in this room who has actually met the girl in question, had to say."
"As would I," rumbled Zabuto.
Giles nodded gratefully at the duo while awaiting the
Chairman’s reply with baited breath. After a moment, Travers spoke. "Mr. Giles’
entry into these halls was most unorthodox, but given that he is now here-."
"Please, Roger," the head Watcher’s tone was polite, but his eyes wintry, "don’t interrupt. I trust you’re ready to present your case, now, Rupert?"
Giles blinked. He hadn’t really expected to be allowed to present his case but had thought honour-bound to make the effort. Now that it appeared he would, he was caught off balance. Gathering himself, he spoke. "Ten minutes to put my notes in order?" he bargained.
After a second the elderly Watcher nodded. "But not a moment longer."
* * *
"Quentin," Whyndham-Pryce hissed in his ear. "You can’t be serious," his best friend continued. "You can’t be seriously entertaining this intrusion-."
"I can and will," Quentin fixed his deputy with a glare. "Have patience, Roger. Remember who is chairman here." He returned his gaze to the invader in their midst. "And what evidence do you intend to offer, Rupert?"
The junior Watcher didn’t look up from sorting through his papers. "I intend to offer into evidence a number of mitigating factors including Faith’s past, her previous exceptional record, and the colossal mistakes made by the Council, both by myself, but also the appointment of Wesley -."
"Now see here!" Roger’s protesting boom echoed around the hall.
"Patience, Roger," he warned. "Whenever you’re ready, Rupert."
* * *
"Faith Spenser, was born sometime in Apr ’82. Her mother’s family having disowned her for getting pregnant, they were forced to move to one of Boston’s less salubrious areas." Less salubrious, bile rose in Giles’ throat, that was an understatement. When Xander and Faith had run away, he’d tracked down Faith’s origins in the hope they’d retreated to Faith’s home. What he found had sickened him. There was no way Faith would ever return there. "Her mother was a whore and a drug user, Faith has a record not only of truancy but also numerous unexplained hospital admittances."
"Should toughen the girl up. No wonder she’s so classless."
Giles glared at Whyndham-Pryce before continuing. "In April ’96, around her fourteenth birthday, Faith’s mother’s pimp decided she needed introducing to the family business and raped and beat her. We know this because later that same time night, her mother and her mother’s pimp were murdered, and DNA of Faith’s was found." He paused, sadistically relishing the shocked silence. "Would that toughen her up, Roger?"
"Please, Rupert," Travers reproved. "You are only here on my sufferance. A little respect for the Council Forum."
Not trusting himself to respond, he just nodded. "In Jun of ’97, Watcher Covington found her in Juvenile Hall," Roger snorted, Giles turned to Travers. "Chairman Travers, if I’m to treat the Forum with respect, surely the Forum members should have to treat these proceedings similarly?"
After a second, Travers nodded. "Very well, Rupert. Roger, please."
"Thank you," he nodded. "After the death of Kendra Zabuto, Faith was Called. For a while, things went well and the Slayer was a complete success. Then, in late August, she ran afoul of Kaktosis," the Forum shifted uncomfortably in their seats at the mention of the monstrous legend, "and her Watcher, the first adult she’d ever been able to rely on was tortured and murdered, emotionally and physically shattering the Slayer."
There was silence as he picked up his notes. "Faith’s arrival in Sunnydale was strained. Although the girl tried to make friends, Slayer Summers’ nature is not a sharing one, and she immediately felt threatened by the prettier more personable girl." He paused for a second, a tightness constricting his heart. "On my own part, I stupidly neglected the girl, caught up with my own concerns – the death of my lover, the return of my Slayer, and her hiding the return of Angelus from us. I offer into evidence, photographs of the hotel that I shamefully allowed Faith to stay at, the lowest of the low, a place inhabited by junkies and transients. I only recently found she made the rent by conducting hazardous solo raids of vampire dens."
"Despite this however, Faith assisted us in defeating both the Sisterhood Of Jhe and Mayor Wilkins in addition to eventually killing Kaktosis, showing that she is a highly effective Slayer. And now," he rose his head to look at the Forum, "we come to the reason why she fled."
Giles paused to glance at his notes. "After months of waiting for her own Watcher, Wesley Whyndham-Pryce was appointed. A man who’s sole experience of Slayers came from books and who had until this point had only contributed research papers to the Council. A man with little or no field experience. A man who was solely appointed because of his father’s rank and importance."
"Now see here!"
This time he didn’t even bother to acknowledge the other man’s interruption. "It was far from Wesley’s fault, but he was completely unprepared to deal with Faith. However, even if he’d been competent, I doubt it would have mattered." He paused for dramatic effect. "Not after the Cruicatmen. We’ve never had a situation where there’s been two Slayers in the same location at any one time. Where one could see another’s Cruicatmen. When this happened, everything else, her living conditions, Buffy’s hostility, my ignoring her, and Wesley’s incompetence all faded into insignificance. It was the Cruicatmen that prompted her to flee. And no wonder," he stared up defiantly. "What sort of organisation feeds a powerless young woman to a raging vampire who is fully aware that he is getting a free shot at a hunter of his kind?"
A long silence followed his rhetorical question. "This isn’t the time to debate the Cruicatmen, Rupert," Travers scolded. "A rite of passage your own Slayer has undergone."
"As you wish," Rupert nodded. "The next question to be raised is what has the Slayer
done since fleeing? Has she simply hidden, refusing to use her powers for good? Or worse, has she used her powers for evil, fuelling her escape with robberies etc? No," he shook his head, "in fact, quite the opposite. Together with Xander Harris," he beamed proudly, "she has slew any number of demons. In Aug ’99, she helped banish the Deathless One, a peerless sorcerer of malign intentions. In February ’00, they eliminated the Voodoo priestess running New Orleans’ occult and criminal underworld. In March ’00, she vanquished Glint, a 400 year old vampire who ran much of the American deep south. And only a few weeks ago, prevented the wolf-demon Fenrir from rising in Canada. All this, and assisting in the setting up of a very effective demon-fighting organisation."
"That is what we have the Council for." Travers sighed. "Nonetheless, you have presented some compelling arguments. And as a result, I will set aside our previous judgment. Please," Travers raised a hand at Whyndham-Pryce’s opening mouth, "don’t interrupt. The death sentence for deserting her post has been lifted." Giles smiled. "However, the question of her Cruicatmen remains. She must be brought here and tested-."
"I protest!" Giles yelled. "That is sheer barbarity. The girl has proven her worth and more!"
"Your protest is noted," Travers smiled as he stood. "Meeting adjourned. Have a good flight back, Rupert."
* * *
Travers sighed as Whyndham-Pryce continued his ranting. If his subordinate didn’t watch out, he’d wear a hole in the priceless Persian rug that currently adorned the floor of Travers’ office. "How do you think Rupert found out about the trial?"
Roger spun to face him. "We have a leak!"
"Yes," he nodded. "I’m the leak."
He enjoying his friend’s stunned expression before explaining. "I wanted Giles here, I wanted to engineer the vote to go exactly the way I wanted. I knew that if he found out, he’d come here to defend her, so I leaked the information to certain likely suspects. And he came. Thus confirming my suspicions that we have a leak."
"But why turn over the original verdict?" his friend demanded. "It was a just one!"
"We kill the Slayer and her companions, and what happens?"
"Another Slayer is Called."
"No," he shook his head. "We lose the Mithras Brotherhood’s resources."
"I don’t understand."
"If we have the Slayer kidnapped, and brought here, her boyfriend will heroically, gallantly, and foolishly rush to the rescue. We capture and torture him, get every little piece of information about his organisation before killing him. And then, the resources, power, and money of the Mithras Brotherhood will be ours."
"Quite right. Low-class colonials running an organisation with that sort of power? It’s obscene." Whyndham-Pryce sniffed. "And the Cruicatmen? Will that go ahead?"
"Once the Slayer is aware of her boyfriend’s death, yes. Council justice will be served."
Roger smiled. "I don’t suppose I could choose the vampire we use out of the stocks?"
"Of course," he nodded in understanding. "After the wrong she did your family, the Slayer deserves to suffer. And after all, what are friends for?"
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