FIC: 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (1/?)
"Dr. Cooper, please come in."
Valerie smiled as Starkís butler opened the door of the rented mansion on the outskirts of Washington. It was just before nine at night, their agreed meeting-time, but their meeting-place was a little strange.
"Valerie," Tony strode into the hallway and kissed her cheek as the butler
took her coat. "How do you manage to stay radiant after such a long day?"
"Always the flatterer," Valerie laughed as her companion escorted through into the houseís dining area, the polished-floor room dominated by the long table stood at its centre, the chandelier swinging above illuminating the table, and the crackling fireplace to the left cloaking the room in a comfortable warmth. "Not that Iím complaining, but why are we meeting here," Valerie smiled gratefully as the man pulled out a chair for her to sit on, "rather than your place or mine?"
"Iím afraid I might be being watched. In any case I didnít want anyone to record us meeting. Starkís smile immediately disappeared, replaced instantly by a scowl.
Valerie stared at her companion, surprised by his sobering tone. "This sounds serious."
"I had a visit the other day from a Mrs. Sarah-Jane Smith."
"The English free-lance reporter?" Valerie queried.
"Youíve met her?" Stark looked briefly surprised.
"No, but I know of her. My job does unfortunately bring me into contact with conspiracy theorists," Valerie half-smiled. "Sometimes, they even get things right. It behoves me to keep an eye on the most active and persistent of them. Ms. Smith certainly falls into that category."
Starkís mouth opened then closed as the butler brought in their starters, a
slice each of melon. The moment the butler had disappeared, her host spoke.
"Sheís certainly a resourceful reporter, was asking me some very probing
questions about the Mithras Brotherhood."
"Ah," Valerie felt her appetite evaporate. In Washington there never was such a thing as a free meal. Placing her fork carefully down, she stared probingly at the billionaire. "And what do you want me to do about it?"
"Use your influence to revoke her visa to be here," Stark replied.
"That would be unwise and pointless," she argued with a shake of the head.
"It would only inflame her suspicions. And with these days of the world wide
web, she could easily access documents and interview people from her house."
"I have my ways of controlling the world wide web, or at least monitoring one specific personís use of it," Tony replied. "At least then Iíd know just what she was looking at. Iím not going to let her endanger or get in the way of the Brotherhoodís work."
Valerie shook her head. "Iím sorry Tony, I canít do that. It would be an abuse of my position and power, not to mention counter-productive."
"Yes," Tonyís expression was untroubled, giving no hint to his true thoughts, "perhaps youíre right." The billionaire genius glanced down at his plate. "This melon is divine isnít it?"
"Absolutely," Valerie stared listlessly at the proffered fruit, concern filling her. Just what lengths would her friend go to protect Ďhis childrení?
* * *
FBI Missing Persons, New York
"Rona Charles," Jack Malone pointed at the photo of a fierce-looking dread-locked black girl stuck to the officeís whiteboard. "Kidnapped from the Bronx eight months ago."
"Vivian Rollins," Jack Malone pointed at the photo of a shy-looking red-head. "Kidnapped from New Jersey six months ago.
"Colleen Gibbs," Jack Malone pointed at the photo of a petite, pretty brunette. "Kidnapped from Miami five months ago."
"And lastly, Shannon Logan," Jack Malone pointed at the photo of a tough-looking brunette. "Kidnapped from Minnesota three months ago." Jack paused. "Apart from their gender and general age Ė all mid to late teen females, what do they have in common?"
Viv looked up from her inspection of the files. "Seems to be," his subordinate said in her distinctive drawl, "the only thing linking the four girls was the method of their kidnapping, snipers with tranquiliser darts who knocked them out and black-tinted windowed vans who spirited them away."
Sam half-smiled. "A little theatrical."
"Hereís something else," Danny looked up from his inspection, eyes slightly bemused. "All four girls had court-appointed guardians, all middle-aged men who were either English or educated in English universities."
Jack nodded. That was just another thing that stunk about the case. "And thereís been eight more snatches with the same sort of victims and snatch method throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific, according to Interpol, all since May last year."
Danny and Martin exchanged surprised looks. "Whatís so special about these girls?" queried Danny.
"If we knew that, weíd be a giant step closer finding them or at least solving this case," Jack acerbically retorted.
Danny accepted the reprimand with a half-smile. "So are we thinking cult?"
"No," Jack shook his head. "It doesnít smell like a cult, the snatches have all been too precise, and itís not like a cult to snatch people without any prior attachment to them."
"So what do you want, Jack?" Vivian asked.
What he wanted, what he ached for, was to return these families to their home. "I want us to go through everything the local police dug up on these girls and cross-reference it to see if thereís a link," Jack paused. "Thereís got to be something, an on-line club they all belonged to, a boy band theyíre all interested in."
"How about the guardians?" Danny asked. "I canít see an interview for any of them."
Jack scowled. "Yeah, they each left the country before they could be questioned. They all redefine the word untouchable."
"This keeps getting weirder," Sam commented.
Jack nodded before looking over his shoulder to the four photographs staring back at him. Ultimately, all the oddness didnít matter, just getting these kids back. "I want background checks, not only on the kids, but the guardians, their families. Find out why their families signed their children over. At least two of them came from outwardly stable families."
"Weíre going to add up a lot of air miles on this one," Martin commented.
"Just do it."
FIC: 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (2/?)
Brill Lyle groaned as he made his way back to his hotel room, feet aching after a day stood glad-handing the heads of the major arms-procurement companies and defence ministers of various friendly nations, talking about A-Team Industriesí military products. He was realistic enough to know his strengths and weaknesses, he was a grouchy man, ill-suited to a meet and greet, except no-one else in the company was equipped to do this. He was the public face of the company, and the only one with the ability to side-step probing questions as to where the company had come from and just who the companyís owners were.
At least it was all over now, and with several important contracts snapped up. Tens of millions of dollars of business done in a weekend. Even he couldnít help but smile at that.
Turning on the light, he strode into his simple yet luxurious hotel room. "Those damn kids," he shook his head as he closed the door. It was amazing how his life had changed since Xander and Faith had first been sent to him by Stark. From hiding as a recluse to a becoming a multi-millionaire in charge of one of the nationís fastest-rising companies in just fewer than three years was quite a change.
Heíd barely begun to slide his jacket off when his phone rang. "Just great," he groused as he sat on his bed and pulled out his cell, the triple-encrypted phone practically immune to eavesdropping. At least technological eavesdropping, he was never quite sure how such encryptions would affect a witch.
Frankly, this new world-view that Xander and Faith had opened him up to made his mind boggle.
"Hello," he spoke into the phone.
"Hi, Brill, itís me."
Brill smiled as he recognised the voice his former student and now fellow-runner and shareholder in A-Team Industries. "Hi, Angela."
"How did the show go?" the world-renowned hacker asked.
"I managed to sell the Stretcher-Droid and the VR-training platforms to several governments," he reported, a pride growing. Before heíd always been a behind the scenes guy, designing equipment that other people sold, but now heíd actually gone up front and been a success. "In addition, the US. Government gave us a proprietary contract for the radar warper. The only thing that didnít sell was the ĎChameleoní. Apparently the cost was considered prohibitive."
"And you were worried you wouldnít be able to pull it off," Angela laughed softly. "I told you you could charm their wallets open."
"Oh yes," he grumbled half-heartedly, "because thatís what Iím known for, my courtly manners and charismatic charm."
"Okay then," Angela laughed again. "Maybe it was the products after all. When will you be back?"
"Iím popping in to meet with Tony Stark tomorrow, so probably the day after," he replied. "Iíll be sending Ryan back with the prototypes tomorrow though."
"Hoping to do some business?" Angela queried.
"Not quite no," Brill smiled. Heíd have to see his old friend, to thank him for introducing the impetus that had stopped him hiding and started him living again. "Itís the payment of an old debt."
Angela chuckled. "Be enigmatic then."
"Howís business?" Brill asked as he struggled to take his shoes off while continuing to talk.
"Everythingís fine," Angela replied. "I hate having to be away from the computer and running the company, but everythingís fine."
"Good," Brill nodded. "Then Iíll see you soon."
"Bye," Angela hung up as he did.
Heíd barely poured himself a scotch when the phone rang again. After a quick sip he picked the phone up. "Hello?"
"Itís Ryan sir." Brillís eyes widened as the tautness in the former Special Forces Colonelís voice. Something was wrong. "Thereís been a break-in at the factory."
"Ah hell," he grunted. He imagined the kid would be less than happy. "Whatís gone?"
"The Chameleon," the former soldier replied.
Brill closed his eyes and groaned. Better and better, ĎThe Chameleoní was an aptly named battle-suit, a bullet-proof costume with the ability to change colour and blend into its surroundings, and capable of shielding its wearer in both high and low temperatures.
In other words, it would be a terroristís wet dream. "You find out what you can," Brill looked at his watch, "Iíll phone Xander."
* * *
Xander picked up his phone on the fourth ring, having checked the caller ID first. "Brill, how did the arms show go?"
"It was a roaring success, something in the region of eighty-five million dollarsí worth of business done," the electronics wizard reported. "Where are you?"
"Montreal, they were having a little problem with a trickster demon, but itís sorted," Xander grimaced. "Unfortunately Quebecers are sorta territorial, so we wonít be setting up a group here, at least not yet." Xander paused. "But you didnít ring up to see where we are, whatís the problem?"
"We had a piece of equipment stolen from the warehouse where we were stockpiling our exhibits."
"What?" Xander roared. "How did anyone even know what we were sending to the show?"
"Um," Brill sounded chagrined but Xander was past caring. "As one of the showís exhibitors we were required to send out catalogues to all attending governments. It must have been an inside job."
"Great, just great," Xander bared his teeth in thought. "Okay, tell me what was stolen." He listened in disbelief as the inventor explained The Chameleon. "Sounds impressive, how much has it cost us?"
"Thirty-five million dollars in development, each suit will cost a quarter of a million to make."
"Okay," Xander sat down, his legs suddenly weak beneath him. Thirty-five million dollars down the drain? Crapola. "Do you think this was aimed at us specifically?"
"You mean is it a lure to trap you?" Xander sensed rather than saw the elderly electronics wizardís headshake. "Unlikely, your involvement with A-Team Industries is a well-hidden secret. Indeed, just who owns A-Team Industries was one of the conventionís hot topics."
"Iíve gotta ask, and donít think for a second Iím blaming you, but if this tech was as high-spec as you say," Xander shook his head, thirty-five million, "why wasnít it better guarded?"
"Ryan decided that the A-Team Industriesí base should take priority, so he brought a skeleton crew with him. Besides the convention organisers provided their own security at the warehouses anyway."
"Okay, you realise Iím going to have go and drag Faith out of the bar?" Xander groaned. "Weíll be with you in a few hours, use the time to find out whoís good enough to steal it, whoíd be interested in buying it and has the resources to make it, and who might know something about the robbery."
FIC: 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (3/?)
"Hello Xander," Brillís feet shuffled nervously on the airfieldís tarmac. "Iím sorry about-."
"Forget it," Xander shook his head. "These things happen." He wasnít about to drag a man over the coals whoíd loyally aided him for close on three years. "Have you got the information?"
"Yes," Brill looked relieved as he fell in beside him and began to walk them towards the waiting limousine. "This job is high-end and specialist work, most heist teams go in for banks or museums, you need special team with the right contacts to do this."
Xander nodded. "Makes sense," he smiled at the chauffer opening the limo doors, "company money, Brill?" The electronics wizard flushed. "Iím joking," he soothed. "You were saying?"
Brill shot him an uncertain look before nodding and climbing into the car, the door slamming shut behind them, cocooning them in comfortable warmth. "Angelaís been hacking all night into Interpol, FBI, and NATO sites, apparently thereís only about half-a-dozen teams worldwide specialising in military or high-tech industrial robberies. Two teams are currently in prison, one in America and the other in China. The other four are unaccounted for."
"Okay," Xander nodded. "And who could be after the suit?"
"Leaving aside the potential rouge nations who might be interested and working through a third party to give them plausible deniability," Brill scowled at the possibility, "the illegal arms market is like a piranha school, especially at the top. Thereís only a handful of people with the funds, nerve, and resources to pull this off. But the smart moneyís on Jans Zware."
"Ya gotta have more to give us than Brill?" Faith drawled.
Brill shot Faith an irritated look before looking back at him. "Jans, as his name suggested, is Dutch. In the early 80s he was a rising star in Interpol until his mysterious resignation. He next turned up two years later, arming terrorists on both sides of the sectarian divide in Ireland. Heís also supplied Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, ETA, Klu Kux Klan, and numerous other terrorist groups as well as supplying forces in the Sierra Leone Civil War, the Chechen conflicts, and the Kosovo Conflicts. However his most profitable clients are rogue nations such as Iran, Libya, and Iraq."
"Shit," Faith spat, "is there no-one he wonít deal with?"
"Heís known for his strong stomach," Brill dryly retorted. "Heís extremely ruthless, several competitors and the occasional informant always turn up, at least parts of them do. Heís well-protected too, heís a client of Wolfram & Hart," Xander groaned as his head began to throb, something would have to be done about them, "and his personal security force numbers around twenty, all hired from Europeís elite forces. And those guys arenít like our own, when they call someone elite; itís for a damn good reason."
"Okay," Xander nodded. Complication upon complication. "And how about that information broker I asked for?"
"Dagan Hakam," Brill promptly replied. "An information-broker par excellence apparently, has his dirty little mitts everywhere in this city, literally hundreds of people on his payroll, scurrying around for information they can sell to him, so he can use it either for favours or sell it for even more money."
"Sounds like a prince," Faith commented disdainfully.
"Be warned though Xander," Brill continued to look at him, "you donít want him interested in you, he has a way of scurrying out secrets."
"Heíd be foolish enough to try," Xander glanced at the girls. "You three stay at the hotel, Iíll take Colonel Ryan with me."
* * *
Dawn had risen by the time Ryan pulled his rental to a halt outside of a colonial-looking house that if he had to guess dated back to the cityís early days. "Nice place," muttered his companion, "must have set the owner back a couple of mil. Being in the dirt business must really pay."
With that Xander was up and out of the car, striding up the front doorís four steps with an athleteís easy grace. The young man banged on the finely-varnished door, wood shuddering under each blow.
After six such knocks, the door swung open a crack to reveal a short but powerfully-built figure with flinty eyes and shiny bald eyes. "Business hours are between nine-thirty and four-thirty, and the boss donít see anyone without an appointment," rasped the obvious hired thug before closing the door.
"I donít have time for this," growled the youth before knocking again. The moment the door began to re-open, Xander slammed his shoulder into the door, knocking it open.
The force of Xanderís entry sent the thug stumbling backwards. Heíd barely begun to right himself when Xander entered, a spinning back fist smacking into the side of the manís face and knocking him into and through the hallway table. The man had barely gotten to his knees before Xander had snatched his left arm and twisted it up his back. "I get it, I really do," Xander whispered in the manís ear, "youíre a bad man, and you work for a badder man. Well buddy, Iím a far badder man than either of you, and Iím not in the mood to deal with flunkies." The man whimpered again as Xander twisted his wrist back until his fingers were almost touching his forearm. "Now be a good flunky and tell me where your boss is?"
"Upstairs," the man half-gasped, half-wept, "door opposite the stairs."
"Good flunky, now get out of here because if you give me any trouble, Iíll break the arm, understand?" the man nodded. "Good." Xander released the hold and started upstairs.
Ryan blinked before following the youth, shocked by his display of
ruthlessness. Xander Harrisí reputation didnít appear to be over-blown at all.
Xander flung the door open and strode in. The master bedroom was dominated by the four-postered bed. The man sat in the bed was fat with corpulent lips, jowly cheeks, wispy grey hair, and beady black eyes. "Well," lisped the fat man, "that was quite a commotion. I was given to understand that Jack was quite the tough man when I hired him."
"He might be," Xander smiled darkly, almost as if he was enjoying this, "Iím just better than most." Xander threw a wad of notes onto the manís lap. "Ten thousand dollars. I want some information, and I understand youíre the man to ask."
"Politicians with mistresses, judges with bribes, perverted priests, and businessman with faked resumes, I know all the secrets," the man forced an uneasy smile. "Might I ask who has just broken into my room?"
"Sure, you can ask." Xander grinned at the information broker. "How about you tell me about the docks robbery last night?"
"Oh, youíre something to do with A-Team Industries?" the fat man smiled. "Thereís a business shrouded in mystery, I donít suppose youíd be willing to share what you know? I could quadruple what you just offered -."
"I wouldnít," Xander stared stonily at the older man. "Now how about we talk?"
"As you wish," the Jew nodded. "Get me that laptop off the top." Xander silently passed the laptop over. "Itís triple-encrypted in addition to this padlock and the password. Of course the real treasures, the proof are kept elsewhere, should a client pay me enough to take their enemyís dirty laundry off them." The man talked as he typed. "Ah, it appears the men hired to do this job were Oliver Bartís crew-."
"Know em," Xander interrupted. "Who are they selling to?"
"A Mr. Zware, the sale goes down in Holland tomorrow," the information-broker looked up, fear lurking in the back of his beady eyes. "Iím afraid I donít know exactly where."
"Okay," Xander nodded after a second. "Itís a start. Come on letís go." He turned away from the portly information broker.
"I will keep looking into A-Team Industries," the Jew warned. "Thereís some secrets just juicy to resist."
Xander turned back to the fat man. "If youíre wise you wonít look. Thereís some secrets too terrifying to know."
A\N: Ozama thanks for the help in the description of the red-light district. Your expertise really helped. -;)
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (4/?)
"Whoa," Amsterdam took Faithís breath away as she peered out of the carís window and looked upon the city built on waterways, "whoever thought it was a good idea to build a city on water must have been on crack." The city seemed almost like a human body, the canals criss-crossing it like veins carrying blood to its precious organs. And yet despite the cityís weirdness it seemed to work, the multitude of canals dividing the city into districts, somehow giving each one a small town air. Every time they freaking turned a corner, they were either driving alongside a canal filled with canal boats, speed boats, cruise ships or even cargo ships, or driving over a bridge. "How many canals are there?"
"One hundred and sixty-five," her sister and queen of the nerds quickly spoke up, "more than Venice! In the early part of the 17th Century, the city council put together a plan calling for four main half-circles of canals, as well as inter-locking canals along the sides, and other canals for transportation."
"Yeah," Faithís breath was also taken by the differing people, the Dutch tolerance leading to a population spanning almost every race and sexual persuasion. Including some real weirdos to judge from some of the streets theyíd passed through.
"Itís a real place for stag parties and working gals," Xander commented. "The government generally turn a blind eye to anything that helps tourism. I canít wait to go exploring."
"Yeah-," Faithís eyes snapped towards Xander, hardening as they did so. "Say what?"
"Just checking that you were listening," Xander winked at her. "Like I could ever want another girl."
"Why spend when you can save the money?" Kennedy rhetorically asked.
"Yeah-," Faithís eyes snapped towards the potential, "whatís that supposed to mean?"
"Only that only people not in a loving sexually fulfilling relationship would think about using a lady of the night."
The potentialís face was a picture of innocence, but Faith didnít believe her for one second. Faithís mouth opened and then she thought better of it. Shaking her head, she turned back to Xander. "Getting this suit backís a pretty big deal right?"
"Oh yeah," Xander nodded, face suddenly grave as he navigated them through a narrow alley with a cobble-stoned floor and an arch above the entrance and exit. "This thing would be the boon for a saboteur or thief, we have to get it back before this creep sells it to a terrorist organisation or rogue state."
"íKay," Faith nodded. "So whatís the plan?"
Xander grimaced as he pulled the car around a corner and drew it to a halt just opposite and to the left of a three-storey white-bricked house with flower-pots dangling down from the two balconies flanking its varnished until it gleamed door. The typically Dutch house was completed with a distinctive stepped gabled roof. "This is Zwareís residence," Xander announced. "Either the thieves are going to have to come here, or heís going to have to leave to meet them. When that happens weíll either intercept the thieves or follow Zware to them. I also had Brill get Angela to set something up for Zware." Faith groaned. "What?" her boyfriend demanded.
"I hate waitiní," she mournfully replied.
"Oh yeah," Xander nodded thoughtfully. "I forgot you werenít known for your patience."
"Funny fucker," Faith lapsed into a brooding silence. The minutes dragged into hours as the day slowly turned to night, stretching dark fingers across the Dutch city.
"Oh action," Xander straightened in his slouched position as the door to the house they were watching opened and two men started down the half a dozen steps that led to the pavement.
"Big guy," Faith commented. The first of the two men was an easy six-six with the build to match, his clothes were custom-made but completely failed to match his gargantuan bulk. Dread-locks hung down to the Samoanís impossibly wide shoulders and dead, grey eyes stared out of his teak-coloured, stone-like square face. "Looks like he missed on a career of modelling, but who is he?"
"Sonny Anoki," Xander replied. "The Samoan Storm, a black belt in Judo and Aikido, wanted in Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia, for questioning in a number of deaths in unlicensed fighting. Been our targetís bodyguard for over two years."
"Nice," Faith nodded towards the lithely-built, swarthy-skinned man beside Sonny, his slicked-back black hair gleaming in the street light, the light also reflecting off the steel briefcase cuffed to his right wrist, "and him?"
"Thatís Armado Ouro," Xander replied as he watched the man get in a car, "Zwareís number two. Faith, you and Tara get out and watch the house." Xander looked towards Kennedy. "We best tail them. Any movement from Zware, phone us."
* * *
"How come youíre dragging me with you?" Kennedy queried as their car pulled away from the kerb.
"Because youíre such engaging company," Xander snarked.
"Funny, funny," Kennedy retorted.
"No offence, but youíre the weakest of us all," Xander replied, eyes fixed on the sports car ahead as it zipped in and out of traffic with scant regard for traffic lights. "Iíd have left you behind with Faith, but a cat-fight in the middle of Amsterdam while entertaining, wouldnít exactly have been discreet would it?"
"Guess not," Kennedy sunk back in her seat, embarrassed by the slight rebuke in Xanderís reply.
Soon their prey was leading them out of the cityís more prosperous areas and into the altogether seedier red light district. The buildings were as a rule tall and thin, crowding together as they over-looked the tree-lined canals. By now the districtís debauchery was in full flow, the glow of the fluorescent red lights above many windows obvious, many of the girls sat in the windows somehow wearing underwear that made them MORE naked than if theyíd been sat there nude. "Keep your eyes on the road, Xander," Kennedy reproved.
"Yeah," the warrior god flushed, "sorry."
As well as brothels, there were sex shops, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, bars, and adult theatres. The night-life was jam-packed, no shortage of stimuli to engage its patrons. In addition to the red lights and signs in the windows, there was a wealth of young men employed by the numerous establishments to be vocal advertisements, bellowing out the best and sleaziest opportunities as their car drove past.
"Please god," Kennedy muttered, "they canít be going to a brothel."
"Maybe a strip club, thatíd be okay wouldnít it?" Xander queried.
"You donít tell Tara, I wonít tell Faith," Kennedy bargained.
"What happens in De Wallen stays in De Wallen," Xander replied.
"Works for me," Kennedy retorted.
Finally the car pulled up in front of a tatty looking cafť, Xander pulling in six cars down. "Thatís a relief," Xander said as they watched the two men stride into the cafe. "I didnít want to go into a strip club."
"All those naked, glistening, gyrating women?" Kennedy shook her head. "Iíd have hated it too."
Xander grinned suddenly. "Now weíve lied to each other, letís follow them in."
"Sure." The night air was surprisingly chill after their carís warmth, but
all that was forgotten as they entered the cafť. "Whoa," Kennedy muttered as she
walked into the musty-aired cafť, squinting in the half-light at the
mini-skirted waitresses hurrying from table to table with orders balanced
expertly on their small round trays, "contact high."
"Yeah," Xander muttered as he sat, his eyes fixed on the giant Samoan and his companion sat towards the back, "remember cannabis is legal over here."
One of the waitresses, a pretty black girl, strode over to them. "What do you
want?" she asked. "Weíve got six different types of-."
"Just," Xander dropped some crinkled notes on the girlís tray, "two coffees will be fine."
"No drugs?" the girlís long eyelashes fluttered uncertainly.
"No drugs," Kennedy confirmed.
Once the woman had brought them their drinks, they sat in companionable silence, drinking them until Kennedy stiffened. "Whatís wrong?"
Kennedy didnít take her eyes off the door. "The man who was supposed to have stolen the Chameleon just walked in."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (5/?)
"Whatís the plan?"
Xander forced himself not to react when the thief and his two companions walked past. "We wait until the exchange is made, then follow Ouro outside and snatch the Chameleon back."
"Right," the potential nodded slowly. "Youíre taking the big guy, right?"
"Yep," Xander nodded. He had an elephant tranquiliser lined up especially for the job. He kept a discreet eye on the men, tensing slightly as Bart passed a black sports bag across the rounded table and received Ouroís steel briefcase in return, the thief looking inside it and nodding. He tensed as the group began to rise as one. "Get ready-."
"Interpol!" A portly man to the left of the group rose, hand dipping inside his jacket for a gun, others scattered around the cafť rising, their eyes focussed on the quintet. "Nobody move!"
"Why me?" Xander groaned. "Why can nothing ever be simple?"
"Other than your girl-friend you mean? What are we going to do?" Kennedy hissed.
Xander shook his head as he passed the potential the car keys. "When the trouble starts head for the car, Iíll meet you there." Kennedyís mouth opened. "For once, donít argue," Xander reproved before rising.
One of the men began to turn towards him. "Stay seated please sir," the man was a thin reedy figure with an unhealthily yellow skin-tone.
"You donít want to take them prisoner," Xander intoned. "You want to release them." The man stared blankly at him, his out-stretched revolver not shifting an inch. Xander sighed. "Why do Jedi mind tricks never work for me?" Xander grabbed the law enforcement agentís out-stretched gun hand at the wrist before the man could react and twisted, the man flipping into the air and over the counter. Another Interpol agent lunged at him, but Xander back-pedalled out of his charge, the manís momentum and Xanderí carefully placed foot sending him crashing headfirst into the wall.
And it went downhill from that point on.
Sonny Anoki grabbed the nearest of the Interpol agents and threw him through the cafťís back door before bundling his charge towards the doorway. "Thatís one way to make an exit," Xander mused as he ducked a right from another of the Interpol agent, the screams of the shocked customers filling his ears. Rising, he rammed his forehead into the law enforcement agentís face, the agent crumpling out of his path.
A hand grabbed his shoulder from behind, Xander kicked out, his heel crashing into something soft, the hand dropping from his shoulder even as he butt-slid over the table that Ouro had been sat at. Even as he was doing that, an Interpol agent lunged at Anoki only to fall away when he caught a wince-inducing elbow to the throat and a bone-shattering side kick to the knee. "Tackling him is going to be so much fun," Xander mused as he moved through the now resembling a wild west saloon cafť, pulling his head down into his shoulders as a beer bottle flew in his direction.
And then he was through the doorway and into the darkened corridor beyond, its paltry lighting a flickering bulb swinging from a lampshade above. Xander started down the dusty corridor, hurrying to the far exit, the door still swinging in the slight night breeze.
A fist crashed into the side of his head the moment he stepped out of the corridor and into the alley beyond, the bludgeoning blow almost buckling his knees as he fell against the near wall. "You go sir," the massive Samoan took off his jacket, revealing his turtleneck pullover-stretching barrel chest and tree-trunk arms. "Iíll deal with this."
"Oh goody," Xander muttered as he pushed off the wall and lunged at the Pan Pacific Islander.
"Shit!" He gasped as the Samoan grabbed his arm at the wrist and bicep, twisted and bent at the waist and flung him into the alleyís trash cans, garbage and Xander spilling onto the concrete.
Xander snatched at the Samoanís foot when he attempted a stomp, grabbing and blocking it inches from his face before kicking at the powerful bodyguardís hamstring before he could pull away. "Fuck!" the Islander stumbled forward, hands coming up to prevent him crashing face-first into the wall.
Xander rolled up to his feet in the time it took for the Samoan had chance to recover his balance. The Pacific Islander grinned at him before charging in with a bulk-defying speed, Xander ducked a right haymaker, but caught an elbow to the side of his head that almost caved his skull in. His punch to the giantís ribs bounced discouragingly off and then the Judo expert grabbed two handfuls of his shirt and threw him cart wheeling into the wall, his head bouncing off the unyielding bricks.
The Samoan charged in, Xanderís thrust kick to his upper thigh not slowing him one iota. Xander twisted away from a straight right cross that would have shattered his face, driving a leaping knee into the Pacific Islanderís chest that at least knocked the walking mountain back a step. Xander followed up his momentary advantage by grabbing the giant around the waist and attempting a suplex only for the Samoan to drive an elbow into his trapeziums muscle.
Xander grunted as pain shot down his arm, helpless to avoid his grip loosening and the giant bodyguard wrapping his massive arm around his neck and starting to squeeze. Xander saw black dots in front of his eyes as he gurgled desperately, kicking out so that his feet made contact with the wall opposite. The moment his heels were braced against the wall, Xander pushed off, the momentum sending them both crashing to the ground.
Never the best place to be with a Judo and Akido expert who out-weighs you by a good hundred pounds.
The Samoan rolled up onto one knee beside him, instantly grabbing Xanderís left arm at the wrist and armpit, yanking it up and twisting his forearm back. "Shit!" Xander roared as pain shot through his elbow, ignoring the pain long enough to drive a knee into the side of the Islander. Anoki grunted, his gargantuan frame shuddering under the impact, his grip on Xanderís arm loosening enough for him to drag it free, the arm already throbbing from the rough treatment.
Seeing a trash can lid just to his right, Xander snatched it up and slammed it into the side of his rivalís head, blood bursting out of the giantís head, gushing like a faucet. "Shit!" Xander grunted as the giantís blood splattered him, rolling away and clambering to his feet at roughly the same second as his blood-streaked opponent.
The Samoan smiled, apparently unaffected by the blood gushing from him, before coming in with a left hook that Xander ducked under only to be grabbed by his shoulder and pants crotch, lifted into the air and swung at the alley wall.
Once again Xanderís feet were his saviours, his legs kicking out so they hit the wall first and shoving off before the rest of him could make contact, knocking the Samoan off-balance and into the wall behind them. Xander hit the ground on his ass before the still standing Samoan. Xander managed to swing away from an attempted knee to the face even as the monster hit him with a downward right to the top of the head. Ignoring the pain Xander wrapped an arm around the bodyguardís meaty thigh and twisted at the waist. Caught off balance, the mastodon swayed slightly before falling forward and over Xander, hitting the ground on his hands and knees.
Xander spun around, making his feet as the Samoan made his knees. Xander hit the massive Samoan with a side thrust kick to the back of the head before the Pacific Islander had chance to regain his feet, knocking the Samoan face-first into the wall. Before the dazed bodyguard had chance to react, Xander grabbed his head under the chin and twisted, neck cracking with a sickening snap.
Xander slumped against the wall opposite, eyes fixed on the dead man. His body ached all over and his head thumped like crazy, but heíd won. He glanced down the alley. The Interpol agents would be out here before long, and he couldnít afford to be caught here.
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (6/?)
Kennedyís fingers drummed an impatiently worried cadence on the carís dashboard as she awaited Xanderís return. Faith had phoned twice since sheíd gotten to the car, but she hadnít picked up, not wanting to have to tell the over-protective and volatile Slayer theyíd split up. She let out a horrified gasp as she saw the man limping through the crowd, the right side of his face and jaw both swollen and right arm hanging limply at his side. After winding down the window she let out a horrified hiss. "What happened to you?"
Xander shot her a pained smile. "That Samoan giant happened to me," he replied.
"Why didnít you pull a gun on him?" Kennedy paused as something occurred. "Or given his size, a rocket launcher?"
Xander shook his head. "I had to know that I could beat him hand to hand."
"Men," Kennedy shook her head in disgust, "youíre all idiots, just get in."
Xander obeyed with a pained grimace. "You know sometimes, you sound just like
" Look I know youíre all banged up and everything, but donít take it out on me!" Kennedy shot Xander a horrified look. "Thereís no need to be nasty about it!" Kennedy dropped her cell into her companionís lap. "Your girl-friend rang twice, for godís sake ring her back, you know she gets tetchy if you keep her waiting."
"Like every woman Iíve ever met." Xander gulped at her glare. "Iím dialling, Iím dialling."
* * *
"Thatís the number two guy," Faith muttered as they watched the house from the window table of the cafť just across the street. "But whereís the Samoan and Xan and Ken-." Faith stopped as her cell rang. "Wicked cool." Flipping it open, she spoke into it. "Yo lover, I phoned ya twice, where the fuck ya been at?"
"Um, Zwareís men stopped at a cafť. The moment Bart and his gang arrived the place was raided by Interpol, Ouro escaped with the suit."
"Heís back here," Faith informed her boy-friend. "But ya got away free?"
"Interpol never laid a glove on us."
"Kay," Faithís nose wrinkled, there was a note of evasion in her loverís voice. "So yaíre cominí back here?"
"Should be there in five minutes," Xander replied. "Tell Tara to have that program ready."
"Cool, see ya then," she replied before hanging up.
"Are they alright?" Tara asked as she hung up.
Faith shrugged. "Assholeís lying Ďbout somethiní, my bullshit meterís ringing
like a fuckiní church bell."
Tara stared at her. "TÖthatís colourful."
Faith supped at her coffee before smirking at her best bud. "Thatís me. Xan said to tell you to get that program ready. Whatever that means?"
"Oh right," Tara opened up the lap-top and started typing. "Itís a surprise that Xander had Angela put together for Zware if things came down to a confrontation."
"Right," Faith stared curiously at first the lap-top and then her best friend. "What sorta surprise?"
Tara grinned impishly. "I donít know Faith. Itís a surprise."
Faith smirked. "Jeez, whose a funny bitch?"
"Thatíd be me," Taraís grin widened.
"Yeah," Faith stared impatiently at her watch, her good humour dissipating as she wondered what had happened to her man.
"Theyíre here," Tara whispered.
"Yeah," Faith threw some crumpled notes on the table before rising and hurrying out of the cafť. Her eyes widened as the car pulled up and Xander started to climb out, his face swollen and bruised. "What the hell happened to you?"
"That Samoan," Kennedy replied before her man could. "The idiot thought he
could take him on hand to hand."
"No-one likes a rat," Xander shot the potential an irritated look. "And I
"Yeah?" Faith arched an eyebrow. "Is this where you tell me I should see the other guy?"
"Youíd have to go to the morgue," Xander looked across at Tara. "Can I have the lap-top?"
"Sure," the witch passed Xander the lap-top, the resurrected warrior god immediately sliding it into the Always Pocket.
"Whatís the plan?" Faith queried.
"Iím the plan." Faith groaned when Xander pulled out a pizza box. "Hey, they eat pizza in Holland too," Xander defended.
"That ainít why Iím groaniní," Faith shook her head. "This is the lamest plan Iíve ever seen."
"It always works," Xander grinned. "You wait here, Iíll just be a minute."
Faith shook her head as Xander started across the road. "All men are idiots!"
Kennedy nodded. "Yeah, thatís what I said."
Faith glared at the potential. "I hate it when we agree."
"How do you think I feel?"
* * *
Xander knocked on the door. The moment the door began to inch open revealing a tall, shaven-headed man whose custom-made suit completely failed to conceal his thuggish nature. The hired hood shook his head and began to shut the door.
"Sorry," Xander shouldered the door open before butting the man in the face, his nose cracking, and kneeing him in the belly, "but we have a no returns policy." The hood grunted as he doubled up, Xanderís karate chop to the back of the neck speeding his descent.
The hallway was long and plushly decorated, a thick red carpet underfoot and its crimson walls adorned with guns dating back over the past few hundred years. Clearly weapons werenít just Zwareís profession, they were his life.
A door swung open, Xander shooting the gun man rushing through it in the leg, blood water falling out of the wound. "Iíd get that seen to," Xander advised as he stepped over the downed man and into the room beyond. "Jans Zware," Xander smiled at the rat-faced man sat behind the desk that dominated the room before shooting a warning look at Armando Ouro sat at the deskís other side, nearest him. "You even twitch Iíll put a bullet through your head."
"Do you have any idea who-."
Xander interrupted the gun-runnerís rant with a yawn. "Do you have any idea how many times Iíve heard that?" he rhetorically asked. "And sometimes from people who unlike you were actually scary." Xanderís smile disappeared. "Notice that big Samoan missing from your life? You wonít be seeing him soon." Zwareís jaw dropped. "Well not unless you employ a medium or necromancer." Xander paused for a second. "You stole from me. Normally Iím a people person, but I donít like you at all."
"I donít have any idea what youíre talking about!" Zware blustered.
"Jeez, your lines arenít exactly the most original," Xander spun to face the door as it crashed open, knee-capping the two men charging through it before swinging back to face his hostages. "One more person comes through that door and I might lose my patience and put one through your groin."
Zware paled before picking up his deskís phone. "Leave us alone," he ordered, voice trembling, "we are not to be disturbed."
"Thanks," Xander nodded before placing the laptop Tara had given him on the desk. "Do you recognise those account numbers?"
Zware gulped as he looked at the computer screen. "My accounts in Lichtenstein, the Cayman Islands, and Venezuela! Theyíre empty," Zware glared at him, "one hundred and seventy million gone!"
"But not the fifty million you have in Switzerland, thatís safe for now," Xander smiled. "The other money," Xander smiled, "letís just say Amnesty International had a heck of windfall five minutes ago."
"Whatís the deal?" Zware snarled through his gritted teeth. "I give you your suit back and you give me my money back?"
"No, that moneyís gone. Call it poetic justice for all the misery youíve caused." Xander smiled at the stunned gun runner. "The deal is you give me the suit back and never steal from A-Team Industries again. In exchange I donít spend the next month first bankrupting you, then getting you finally arrested for all your crimes, and then making every moment of your life a pain-filled misery."
Zware stared at him before nodding, eyes angry. "Take the damn suit and get out."
Xander grinned. "Pleasure doing business with you." He chuckled softly. "Howís that for a clichť?"
A/N: The numeric discrepancy between part 1 and 7 are deliberate. Interpol isnít infallible.
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (7/?)
Lorne couldnít stop grinning as he looked around his new and very tastefully decorated and furnished club, its patrons equally immaculately attired. Oh yes, he was in Italy, the land of high fashion and hot models, or in other words, pig heaven. Not that there werenít drawbacks Ė Italian taxi drivers were every bit as insane as their reputations, and the males were incredibly bad-tempered.
But only when you looked at their women or beat them at their soccer. When you invaded their country these hot blooded studs were nowhere to be seen.
"Volare, oh oh
Cantare, oh oh oh oh
Let's fly way up to the clouds
Away from the maddening crowds."
Lorne grimaced as a chubby Dekla climbed on the stage and began singing. And that was another thing with Italy, it seemed like the entire nation were Dean Martin impersonators. "And letís face it," he murmured, "no body does Dino like Dino."
"Oh dear," his good mood dissipated as he realised just what the demon was singing. "This isnít good at all," he grimaced as he placed his Sea Breeze down and hurried into the back room, glad-handing the occasional celeb and VIP he saw on his route. The moment he reached the back he slammed the door shut and started dialling. "That damn kid, why did he have to get me a conscience?"
* * *
Ilona Costa Bianchi swallowed nervously, sweat beading on her forehead as she awaited the start of her meeting. She looked around her platial office even as she busied herself re-stacking the folders sheíd already stacked five times while waiting for her guest. He was late, but didnít get impatient with the Black Thorns, you merely awaited their pleasure and were grateful and fearful of their attendance when they deemed you worthy of it.
Bianchi grimaced, the bitter helplessness almost choking. For all the riches, power, and influence her position as the head of Wolfram & Hartís Rome offices, she was nothing next to the Black Thorns.
She stiffened in her chair as the air before her seemed to ripple and Izzerial, a tall thin figure who resembled the biblical portrait of the devil, stepped out of it, the stench of brimstone as always accompanying him. "Hello, Ilona, as charmed always."
"The pleasure is all mine," Bianchi ignored her skin-crawling as she allowed the demon to take her hand and kiss it, his lips as dry as the desert. "Iím sure your journey has fatigued you," she commented. "Would you like a drink or something to eat?"
Izzerial smiled briefly before sitting in the seat across the desk and folding his legs. "I like to hunt my own food," the demon chillingly replied. "But Iím here for business not pleasure."
"Of course," Illona nodded quickly. Drug dealers, gun runners, dark mages, vampires, and dictators, she dealt with them all with ease, but a Black Thorn turned her blood to ice.
Izzerial smiled again. By contrast her guest was hugely enjoying her discomfort. "Now, how is the Eliminator program coming along?"
Illona glanced down at the folders in her in-tray, grateful that sheíd
guessed what would be her superiorís priority. Flipping open the file, she
quickly scanned its contents before looking up at the demon. "Weíve now got
fourteen subjects in -."
"I didnít ask you how many we have, Iím already aware of that. I asked you how they were doing."
"Sorry." Illona flinched despite the softness of her superiorís tone. "The contractor reports that given the restrictions placed on him the brain-washing is taking more time than expected. Heís having to used Deklas for their halloucengic properties."
"We expected that," Izzerial interrupted. "All the subjectsí bloodlines have a number of qualities in common including a strongly independent mind. The contractor has time, but he must deliver the subjects by 1st June next year and no later."
"Itís been impressed on him," Illona replied. "Heís been told that for the amount of money heís being paid no excuses will be accepted."
"Good," Izzerial nodded before tapping on the desk. "Who was to be given this operation was a source of some discussion. We couldnít risk leaving it in North America, there was too much chance the Watcher or the vampire might discover it, besides we have another related side project going on there." Izzerial looked towards her, impaling her with his eyes. "This is very important to us, when the Mass Calling occurs weíll be momentarily at a considerable disadvantage, this little forces will be a bulwark ensuring the Slayer army donít derail our plans."
"Yes sir," Illonaís eyes dropped, unable to meet Izzerialís gaze and face the
terrible consequences of possible failure. Swallowing the fear down deep, she
forced her gaze up. "Our Hunter Units have uncovered the whereabouts of five
more potentials without escorts, either because they werenít discovered or their
parents refused to turn them over, or their Watchers fled after the massace. In
addition, weíve discovered another three with Watchers. Weíll begin extraction
"Excellent," Izzerialís smile was terrible to behold, "I knew we could rely on you."
* * *
"Yo Xand!" Faith peeked her head into the bedroom. "Are ya gonna hurry or what? This club is supposed to banginí."
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Youíre in the bathroom, I canít exactly get in can I?"
"Ya can if ya jump in the shower with me." Faithís full lips tugged up in a
suggestive smirk. "Saves the environment and is wicked fun at the same time."
"Sold," Xander grinned. "Iíll just ring Brill and tell him-."
Faith pouted playfully. "Youíd rather talk to the old guy than play with nubile young me? Priorities are twisted, boy."
Xander was saved from having to defend his quite possibly warped priorities by the ringing of his phone. After shooting his girl-friend an apologetic grin, he picked up the phone. "Yo, Xanderís house of sexual frustration."
"Sorry to rain on your parade, but Iíve got a problem for you."
"Lorne?" Xander stared at the phone, disturbed by the usually jocular nightclub ownerís lack of banter. "Whatís up?"
"Whatís up is someone is stock-piling potentials in Rome," the demon tersely retorted.
"Oh," Xanderís brow furrowed. "Iíd say that was the Councilís problem and not mine."
"Well youíd be wrong," the demon replied.
"Oh?" Xanderís eyes narrowed at Lorneís accusatory tone. "Whyís that?"
"Because oh mighty leader itís all your fault."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (8/?)
Xanderís eyes narrowed. He was rapidly tiring of the demonís tone. "Do you want to elaborate?"
"Oh you were warned," he sensed rather than saw the demonís head-shake, "about the consequences of going Manson on the Council but you didnít care."
"Damn right I didnít care!" he hissed, eyes glancing towards the bathroomís closed door. "They were beating my girl to death!"
"Thatís as may be, but without the Council to protect them, the potentials
have become easy prey," the demon replied. "Thereís magic in every potential,
the sort of magic that can be used to fuel spells. So some-oneís been
stock-piling them in Rome."
"Who? For what?" Xander demanded.
"I donít know who. As for the what, thereís several possible reasons, none of them especially savoury."
"Okay," Xander paused before beginning to sing.
"No, no!" Lorne snapped.
"I donít sound that bad!" Xander defensively replied.
"Oh donít," the demon snapped, "Iím not Cowelling you. I canít read you."
"Why not?" Xander demanded.
"Because, I canít see you over the telephone can I?" the demon patiently explained. "Itís magic, I have to be in the same room!"
"Okay," Xander grimaced. "Weíll be there tomorrow."
"Tomorrow Iím scheduled to be in my Melbourne clu-."
"Cancel," Xander snapped. "Donít forget who got you started."
"You mean who threatened to stand outside my club and kill all my customers as they entered unless I worked for you?"
"You say potato I say potato," Xander retorted. "Weíll be there tomorrow."
"Xan," Faith groaned as she peeked through the bathroom door and saw the expression on his face. "Shitís happened?"
"Shitís happened," Xander woefully complained. "Weíre going to have blow off the club."
"Fuck!" Faith grimaced then grinned. "But weíve still got time for a shower, right?"
"Oh yeah," Xander returned his loverís grin with one of his own, "weíve still got time for a shower."
Faith opened the door and let her towel fall to the floor. "Well what are ya waitiní for?"
* * *
"Holy shit," Faith muttered as they drove through Roma Antica, the entire area dominated by the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but also filled with crumbling temples, villas, and arches, it was history before her very eyes. The rest of the city was equally awe-inspiring, Renaissance churches, palaces, and fountains pristine in their elaborate beauty.
There were reminders of modern life throughout the historical monuments, transport zipping more or less sanely through the cityís crowded streets, present-day pizzerias, trendy wine bars, as yet closed nightclubs, and thoroughly with-it shops. Shaking her head, Faith looked towards Xander. "Where we stayiní stud?"
Xander smiled as he started up a steep hill, sliced in half by a wide
staircase. "Weíre staying at the Hassler-Villa Medici at the top of the Spanish
Faithís eyes widened as she saw the hotel. "Very cool."
The stylishly late nineteenth century building was a sun-kissed yellow, a towering spire just before its front, of two roofed towers, an adjoined building to the right having a golden sign on it. The views had to be magic. "My girl likes to go first-class."
Faith smirked at Xanderís comment. "That she does," she replied.
"While you book yourself in, Iíll go and see Lorne," Xander ended their protests with a raised hand. "We canít exactly see Lorne there can we? And you might as well as get a rest while I sing-."
"Youíre singing?" Faith couldnít help the note of horror that entered her voice. "Why didnít you say? Let me out of the car now!"
"Very funny," Xander reddened.
"Whose joking?" Kennedy commented from the carís rear. "Iíve heard you wailing when youíre at it, never pretty."
"By Hectare," Tara nodded, "terrifying."
"Sometimes I forget who pays the bills around here," Xander grumbled.
* * *
Lorne stiffened as the Ďkidí entered his bar. Although was that ever a misnomer, Harris was a kid no longer. Every time he met the boy he sensed he was getting harder, the idealistic young man heíd first met and liked so much was being hollowed out by the warrior possessing. There was still good there and a lot of it, honour, strength, and loyalty too, but compassion, not so much.
Even the inebriated demons in his club sensed it, instinctively giving the young warrior a wide berth and respectful looks as he strode through it. Alone too, yet even without the Slayer and the witch to back him, none of the demons even thought about tackling him.
Even without taking into account the protective spells surrounding his club that was wise, very wise. If he was in Vegas heíd have lain good odds that thereíd be no ambush waiting for this young man when he left the club.
Xander stopped in front of him, eyes hard. Here was a side of the boy that had always been there, the determination to help, whether heíd been born with it or his fatherís fists had beaten it into him, Lorne had no idea. "Lorne," the boy greeted. "Long time no see, how many clubs is it now?"
"Twenty-two, as I said it was my Melbourne opening tonight," Lorne sipped at his Sea Breeze, the drink somehow having lost its taste as he suddenly remembered some of the harsh things heíd said over the phone. It seemed all demons, good or bad, struggled with Xanderís presence.
"Well good luck with that," Xander looked towards the barman. "Coke will be fine for me." The youth returned his eyes to him. "Wanna bawl me out some more?"
Lorne swallowed. Heíd never been a brave demon, and this kid was enough to send the Groosalugg himself whimpering into a corner. "What you did," he swallowed again, his garrulity was always getting him into trouble, "was out of proportion." The boyís eyes narrowed. "The leadership had to be culled," Lorne shuddered at the thought, "they were corrupt, but the establishment was required to guide the Slayer Line."
"You donít get it, Lorne." Suddenly the menace surrounding the youth seemed to dissipate, the youth shook his head. "They kept on coming, sending extraction teams, assassins, thereís only so many cheeks you can turn, you know." The young manís eyes briefly fired. "I wonít let anyone hurt my girl."
"Of course not," Lorne decided to change the subject, "and how is my songbird?"
"Sheís just fine," Xanderís sudden smile could have illuminated his club for a month. "So are the others." The youthís smile disappeared. "What should I sing?"
Lorne steeled himself. Heíd never read anyone quite like Xander, the feedback would put him on a three day bender to wash out his head. "Whatever you want."
"Okay," Xander took a breath before starting to sing ĎA Boy Named Sueí.
"Oh lordy," Lorne muttered as Harrisí aura hit him, teeth rattling with the impact. "Enough!" he raised a hand in supplication. "Enough!"
"What did you see?"
"You need to," Lorne eschewed his usual genteel sup of his Sea Breeze in favour of gulping it down, his throat suddenly dry from shock. "You need to go and see Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, and you need to do it fast."
"Fast?" Xander raised an eyebrow. "Whyís that?"
Lorne stared steadily at the youth. "Because if you donít get there, and get there fast," Lorne said. "Sheís about as dead as you can get."
A\N: In case anyone was thinking of asking, my version of the Contessa ainít a skrull.
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (9/?)
Tyres screeched as Xander spun around a corner, ignoring the protesting blares of vehicles speeding toward him. Teeth gritted, he stood on the accelerator, sending his car racing down the cobbles, even as sweat beaded down his forehead as he weaved through Romeís winding streets with an abandon not even the most excitable Italian cab driver could manage.
Every second counted, Lorne said.
Xander yanked on the wheel, the car jumping slightly as he crashed into the wall, leaving a wing mirror in the cobbles behind. "Shit!" Xanderís eyes widened when a portly man stepped into the road before him, head buried in a newspaper. Heart racing, Xander yanked to the wheel to the right, jumping the kerb and scooting around the oblivious man, the right side of his car screeching against the wall, paint and sparks flying off in roughly equal measures.
Xander yanked the car back off the pavement, jumping slightly as the car crashed back to the cobbles. "The suspension is going to be seriously screwed," he muttered as he continued on, the car speeding under an arched entranceway. His stomach took a dip as they flew off the top of a hill, then his back sorely needed a chiropractorís help when the car crashed down some twenty-five along.
Biting his bottom lip against the impact, Xander dragged the screeching car outside a pale-blue fiat, nodded towards a pair of girls who could be fashion models as he roared past them in an open-top convertible, then yanked the car wheel back hard as a lorry roared towards him with horn blaring. "Italian roads," he eyed the speedometer that was passing 110 kph, "gotta love Ďem."
* * *
Valentina smiled slightly as she looked around the dingy warehouse. It was in one of the cityís less palatable areas, an area that a young lady would be unwise to travel alone.
But not many young ladies had the skills she had.
She rose off her seat as the buildingís doors swung open, letting into it not only a flicker of light, but the smell of the Tibor. "Ricci!" Valentina smiled as she recognised the short, balding figure shambling into the warehouse as one of her most trusted informants. She had informants in every city and level of society, creating a network that kept her intimately informed with what was going on throughout her beloved motherland. "I trust you have found-."
Her voice trailed off as she realised something. Even in the warehouseís drab half-light, she could see her informantís eyes had an unnatural glaze to them. "Ricci, are you drunk?" she queried, it seemed unlikely, the dock worker was a rarity, sheíd never seen him with so much as a bottle in his hand.
"Oh no my dear, heís just high on life."
Valentina swung around to face a tall, sharp-featured man with slicked back hair and sneering grey eyes. "Tullio Eterno I assume?"
"Why, you have been a busy little bee." The man smirked. "Finding one of my names, not my real one but still not an accomplishment to be sniffed at."
"A compliment from the likes of you," Valentina sniffed. "I think Iíll pass."
"Are you really sure you want to pass," the manís smile widened. "Are you really sure?"
Valentia swayed slightly, suddenly giddy. There was something almost hypnotic about the manís smile gleam. "Yes," with a mighty effort, she righted herself, "Iím sure."
Valentina grinned at the manís pout. He obviously wasnít used to being defied. "Thatís a shame, it really is," the playboy sighed.
"Whatís a shame is your trade in your girls into slavery," Valentina snapped.
"Ha!" The manís roman nose flared in a snort. "Whatever rumours youíve heard, I donít muddy hands in such mundane matters." The man paused. "I donít suppose youíre the sort whoíll take a bribe?" The man shook his head before she had chance to reply in the nugatory. "Of course not, youíre former-SHIELD, they donít take bribes." The man shook his head and sighed. "Such a waste." The playboy looked around as eight thick-set, unshaven men stepped out of the shadows and surrounded her. "Gentlemen, beat the Contessa to death, strip her of any identification, and dump her body in the river, make sure sheís weighed down." Eterno shook his head. "What a waste."
And then just like that he disappeared in a flash.
The men lunged at her, Valentina catching the first in with a back-heel kick while gracefully pirouetting out of the way of another charging in at her, an elbow to his lower back sending him crashing into some crates. Eight to one werenít odds she particularly liked, but there wasnít much she could do but at least give one or two of her attackers painful reminders of her before going down.
She ducked anotherís right cross, driving a finger jab into her assailantís armpit, the manís swarthy face creasing in pain as he stumbled to the side. Another lunged in, bent over like a crab as he attempted a waist lock that she blocked with a knee to the chest.
A hand grabbed her flowing mane, yanking her head back and sending lancing pain through her scalp. Her elbow reared up and back, catching her assailant in the throat, the man falling to the dusty floor with a gurgle, but before she could move another man tackled her around the waist, flinging her to the ground.
* * *
"Lorne," Xander shook his head as he speeded towards the warehouse, "if youíre wrong this is going to be really embarrassing."
The car hit the warehouseís wooden doors at approaching 130 kph, wooden splintering and flying everywhere, as did the two men he mowed into before screeching to a halt, one flying over his roof to land on the trunk, the other cart-wheeling into the wall to the left.
Xander jumped out, grabbed the nearest man by his dirty shirt collar and brought him face down on the hood of his SUV. The man grunted before sliding limply to the ground, his nose spread across his face.
Another man came in fast, leading in with a leaping thrust kick that Xander swayed away from before straightening and hitting his airborne attacker with an elbow to the crotch. The man croaked and greyed before slumping to the ground, his thrashings ended by the kick to the head.
Xander grunted as another man grabbed him from behind in a bear-hug, his attackerís thick arms enveloping Xanderís chest. The man started to lift Xander up only to stumble backwards and release his grip when Xander drove the back of his head into his face.
Xander spun around to face his assailant, just in time to catch a hard right to the jaw. Bloodís bitter taste in his mouth, he leaned back out of the way of a follow-up left, grabbing the man and pulling him towards Xander and a kick to his left knee that shattered bone. The man croaked as he fell, right into Xanderís knee, blood spurting out from his broken nose.
Xander spun around to help the woman with the last of the men only to find sheíd already dealt with them, the woman turning him. Xander swallowed and reddened as he registered the Italianís full curves, only accentuated by her figure-hugging, zipped just above the cleavage black cat-suit. The womanís full mane danced around her shoulders, her dark eyes full of seductive promise and full, red lips parted in a knowing smirk.
In other words she looked just like Faith would in a decade from now.
Xanderís blush deepened as he remembered his girl-friend. "Hi, Iím-."
The woman blanched slightly, a hand flying up to touch her mouth as her pool-like eyes grew saucer-sized. "Youíre him, youíre Mithras!"
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (10/?)
"And we havenít even been introduced yet," Xander muttered as a deep wariness filled him. Normally he had to explain things to people, they didnít normally know him beforehand, not unless they were involved in the occult world and specifically searching for him and his companions. Which meant she might be trouble whatever Lorne said. "And you know me how, Contessa?"
The beautiful socialite smiled brilliantly at him while also side-kicking a groaning man in the face. "I think we should go somewhere else to talk?"
"Sure," Xander glanced over his shoulder at his SUV and winced, the hood and
roof were both hideously dented, the front windscreen cracked, the right wing
mirror gone and the right side scratched, not to mention the smoke coming up
from under the hood, "another rental gone." Xander turned back to the smirking
woman, I donít suppose-."
"My sports car is parked behind the next warehouse." The Contessa looked up at the sound of sirens. "Perhaps we should hurry?"
"Perhaps we should," Xander nodded before following the woman out of the warehouse, across the darkened dock, and towards a sleekly-lined custom-made grey two-seater parked by a warehouse. The moment they were in the warehouseís shadows, Xander grabbed the womanís shoulder and spun her around, a Desert Eagle swinging up to point at her trim belly. "Perhaps you should tell me how you know about me?"
The womanís eyebrows rose at his gun. "We donít have time -."
"Make time." The womanís protestations ended with the click of his safetyís removal. "I donít take people to meet my girls unless I know I can trust them."
"The rumours say youíre a hard man," the woman mused before nodding. "Very well, the answer is simple. I used to work for SHIELD-."
"You know Nick Fury?" Xander gasped. "Wow, that is so cool!" Remembering
himself he nodded. "Go on."
The woman half-smiled at his reaction. "And over the years Iíve built up a
substantial network of my own throughout Europe as well as Italy, youíre quite a
notorious man, Iíve been looking for you for a while."
"Why?" his suspicion returned three-fold.
"Someone who until today I only suspected of being supernatural has been
kidnapping young girls from -."
"Okay, Taraís going to have to read you," Xander interrupted. It sounded too coincidental to be true, but the aura-reading Wicca was the one to ask.
Besides Tara would enjoy staring at the Contessa almost as much as he did so. Maybe more.
The contessaís eyes widened. "Read me-."
Xander palmed the gun into the Always Pocket. "I thought you said we were in a hurry? Drive woman!"
The Italian glared at him. "You are a most annoying man!"
"Yeah," Xander sighed. "I get that a lot."
* * *
Faith looked up as the hotel room door swung open. Sheíd been wearing a hole into the carpet for the past two hours waiting for her guy to get back. "Xan!" Her eyes narrowed to slits as she noted the cat-suited babe accompanying her man. "Whoís that?"
"Oh goobly-doobly," Faithís Slayer hearing allowed her to pick up Xanderís muttered curse. "Blame Lorne, he sent me to rescue her."
"Faith!" the Italian stepped towards her and stuck out a hand, "Contessa Valentina de la Fontaine," the woman purred, "a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Iíve heard so much about you."
"And yet," Faith reluctantly took the womanís hand and shook it, "Iíve heard so little about you."
"Thatís hardly surprising." The woman smiled disarmingly. "Iím hardly a celebrity to match with that of The Mithras Quartet."
"Okay," Faith looked towards Xander, "loose lips sink ships and shit ya know?"
Xander waved at her. "She knew already, can you get Tara and Kenendy, we need to talk."
Faith scowled at the thought of having to leave the Italian on the own with her man, but nodded. "Sure," stalking out, she strode down the corridor and into the next room without knocking, "you two, stop making out," she snapped to the duo entwined on the stylish couch, "Xanís back. Come on."
"Well seeing as you asked so nicely," Kennedy snarked.
"Donít start," Faith warned as she spun around and strode back out. She hated this jealousy shit, the way seeing Xander with any new gal, Ďspecially a hot one, sent her hormones into overdrive. Sheíd never been that way with guys in the past, but then they hadnít been a tenth of her Xander and sheíd never cared a shit about any of them. "Fuck it," she whispered as she strode back into her room.
Xander looked towards her when she re-entered, Kennedy and Tara trailing behind. "Contessa, if you will."
"Of course," the Contessa looked towards Tara. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Tara, I understand we have mutual friends in common, Stephen Strange for one. Em, I was just telling Xander, that I know of him because as a former SHIELD agent Iíve assembled my own intelligence network throughout Europe. Iíve been looking for him, for all of you, because a man in Rome is running a white slavery trade in young girls-."
"Thatíll be the potentials," Kennedy interjected.
"Potentials?" The Italianís eyes zeroed in on Kennedy.
Kennedy looked at Xander for guidance. Faith spoke before either of them could speak. "Girls with the potential to replace me as the Slayer on my death," Faith glanced towards Tara. "She on the level?"
Her best friend nodded shyly. "Yes." The witch looked towards the Contessa. "Who is the man in charge of this operation?"
"Ah," the Italianís nose wrinkled, "his name is Tullio Eterno, but heís more commonly known as the Immortal and until I met him today, I wasnít sure he even existed. Everyone whoís anyone in Italyís political, business, policing, or judicial circles know of him even if the vast majority of them are afraid to admit it."
"Who is he?" Xander pressed.
"No-one knows," the Contessa replied. "Thereís mention of him by the Vatican intelligence service over six centuries ago and in my countryís intelligence service histories about four hundred and fifty years ago," Faith whistled, "but if heís the same person I donít know."
"Or if heís even a person?" Xander passed Tara the lap-top. "Tara, see if heís a vampire."
Faith looked towards the Italian. "Anything else about the man? His businesses, his homes?"
"Nothing," the Contessa laughed softly. "Itís almost as if heís a ghost."
"Maybe he is," Tara spoke up, "because heís certainly not a vampire. At least not one under my records. Italyís bereft of notable vampires."
"Maybe heís the reason why," Faith guessed.
"Not a bad guess," Xander mused before directing a look towards the former SHIELD agent. "What have you done to track this Immortal down?"
"Everything," Valentina shook her head. "Questioned underworld figures, checked corrupt lawyers, searched through company ownership records, nothing. The man either has a hundred aliases or using some sort of magic to hide himself."
"Damn," Xander scowled. "We have to find those girls and fast!"
"Fast, why?" queried Tara
"We donít know a thing about what the Immortal plans to do with these girls or what schedule heís working to," Xander scowled. "We have to move fast."
"Easy," Faith smirked, the plan was so simple, "we lo-jack Kennedy."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (11/?)
Taraís eyes shot towards her girl-friend, widening in horror as she did so. "What do you mean?" she gasped before shaking her head. "Oh no, no way."
"Itíll be fine," Faith seemed unworried by her ire. "We low-jack the brat, set her up in a local hostel or rented house, then wait Ďtil sheís snatched, track the kidnappers down, and kick their asses."
"And rescue me," Kennedy commented.
"If we have to," Faith smirked.
"No, no, no," Tara shook her head. "This is a very bad idea. They might
"Ah," Faith shrugged. "Cut her hair-."
"You will not!" Kennedy snapped.
"Dye it then," Faith continued unabated, "maybe put her a pair of clear-glass spectacles on, dress her like a goth, whole different brat. ĎCourse," Faithís nose wrinkled, "sheíll need a different passport and shit, but youíve," the Slayer looked towards Xander, "still got all those spares so that shouldnít be a problem."
"The plan has the virtue of simplicity," mused the very glamorous Contessa.
"Well itís a Faith plan, it has to be," Kennedy snarked.
Faith eyeballed Kennedy as Tara continued to shake her head. "No, no, no," she spluttered as she tried to think of excuses why Faithís plan wouldnít work. "That might still take too long, they might not find out about Kennedy for a while."
"While my underworld contacts have been less than helpful at uncovering the Immortal, they would be useful at getting the word about a new potential out," the Contessa put in.
"Where will we get the bug from?" Tara tried desperately to throw obstacles in the way of Faithís hare-brained scheme.
"I carry around plenty," Xander interjected. Everyone looked at him, Xander
grinned. "What, I have a wild girl-friend, Iíve gotta keep track of her
Faith chortled and shot Xander the bird. "Bite me, Harris."
"BÖbut the Immortalís a mage," Tara scurried desperately, "he might have a way of blocking a bug or something."
"Youíve always said that tech doesnít mesh well with magic," Kennedy pointed out.
Tara glared at her girl-friend, it was Kennedy she was trying to help here.
"Faithís right, you do have a big mouth."
"Oooh," Faith snarked, "cat-fight!"
"Why can you say that and I canít?" Xander wheedled.
"íCause stud, when ya say it, itís seedy, when I do itís hot as hell," Faith
"I canít believe Iím hearing this," the Contessa shook her head. "All the stories," she shook her head again, "I never believed you were so-." The Italianís voice trailed off.
"So good-looking, so talented, so gutsy," Faith probably erroneously finished for the Italian. "Humbling ainít it?" Faith looked towards Kennedy. "What about it brat, you got the stones for it?"
Tara groaned at Kennedyís flashing eyes, her best friend had needled her girl-friend into doing something very stupid. "You bet I have!" Kennedy snapped.
"Wicked cool," Faith smirked.
* * *
"You canít do this!" Tara snapped as the door closed behind them, Kennedy having gone back to their room to collect a few things.
"Who says I canít!" Kennedyís eyes darkened still further as she glared at Tara. "I can handle myself!"
"Iím not saying you canít," Tara fought for calm as she vainly tried to
reason with her head-strong partner. "I just donít want you taking any risks."
"Sweetie," Kennedy threw back her head and laughed, "wake up! Our entire life is built on risk! Crazy car chases, gun-battles, snarling demons, fist fights in back-alleys! Thatís all we do, risk!"
"I meant unnecessary risk," Tara clarified. "If Iím not there to protect you-."
The moment the words were out of her mouth Tara realised her mistake. "Protect me?" Kennedyís eyes flashed indignantly. "Iím not some shrinking violet! I might not be a Slayer or an all-powerful witch-."
"All powerful is an exaggeration."
Taraís muttered comment went unnoticed under Kennedyís rant. "But I trained for years before I met any of you and Iíve been with you all through everything youíve been through in the past year! And you say I canít handle myself!"
"Fine," Tara threw up her hands in dismay. "If this is what you want, do it!"
* * *
"The bug is in your locket and has a range of ten miles. Wherever you are, we wonít be anywhere near that far behind."
"And definitely not down-wind."
Xander glared at his girl-friend. He was feeling bad enough about agreeing to Faithís plan without her snarking. Faithís plan was however the best they could come up with.
Kennedy nodded. The usually fashionably dressed potential looked a heck of a lot different in her black cargo pants, black leather boots, and torn across the belly ĎSisters Of Mercyí T-shirt. But what really sold the outfit was the thickly-applied paling white make-up, thick-framed glasses, and nose-stud through her right nostril.
When Kennedy went for a costume, she really went for it.
"Iíll be fine," Kennedy replied. "The Contessa has put out information about me?"
"Iíll go check," Faith rose and strode out.
* * *
"Hey, Contessa," Faith strode up to the Italian on an empty public balcony two floors up, "Xander sent me to check up on you."
"Iíve made the calls with the untraceable phone he gave me." The Italian socialite paused and looked towards her. "He is a very fortunate man."
"Yeah," Faith nodded as she fell in beside the jet-setter, "heís rolling in
"Rolling in it?" the Contessa laughed softly. "Oh the money, no I didnít mean that." Faith arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "I meant to have such a beautiful and infamous heroine as yourself devoted to him. Heís very fortunate."
"Yeah," Faith stalked after the taller woman, "I guess he is."
"But of course a woman such as ourselves should never let a man forget his
luck to land such a catch," the Italian continued. "He might have landed us, but
that doesnít mean he shouldnít be made to work to keep us."
"Made to work?" Faith had difficulty keeping up.
"So beautiful and yet so unaware of her power over her man," the Contessa chuckled softly.
"Hey, I ainít no vestal virgin!" Faith protested.
"Iím sure youíre not, but we should talk about the subtler side to
seduction," the Contessa replied, a smile playing on her curved lips.
"Hey, always williní to learn."
* * *
"Go my dear," he patted the fashion model on her perfectly-formed behind. "Iíll join you in a minute. He smiled as he watched the naked beauty slink into his bedroom. Life was good when you were the Immortal. Turning away, he forced his attention to the ringing phone. "Yes?"
"Iíd thank you to watch your tone," rasped the woman on the other end of the
phone. "Especially when youíre working for us."
"And where else would you get the results Iíve promised you?" the Immortal
countered, lips pursing as he recognised the voice of the one woman his charm
had failed to woo.
"Promised but not delivered," the head of W&Hís Rome branch countered. "Our agents have uncovered a potential right here in town. I trust you can be relied on to take her yourself?"
The Immortal lifted a pen. "Just give me the details."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (12/?)
"You donít have to-."
"Yes," Kennedy forced a smile as she interrupted her girl-friend as she started out of the car, "I do."
"You donít," Xander put his hand on her shoulder.
"I do," she repeated before climbing out of the car and into one of Romeís less salubrious suburbs. . To be completely honest, she was utterly terrified at the prospect of working solo, but as much as she enjoyed being a part of a group, she had to prove to herself that she could function on her own without Xanderís reputation, Taraís sorcery, and Faithís powers backing her every step of the way.
Kennedy took a breath as she started through the crowded street, the sights, sounds, and scents of every-day Italy filling her. Finally she reached the small, barely-standing bungalow Xander had rented for her, two streets from where theyíd dropped her. Walking inside, she turned the light on, holding her breath until it came on, illuminating her dank surroundings.
Kennedy pulled out the passport Faith had shoved in her hand just before leaving, anxious to see what her new identity was. "Rosemary OíDonnell," Kennedy shook her head as she glared at the document as if it and not her nemesis was responsible for her unfortunate appellation. "Very funny, Faith."
Now all she had to do was wait to be kidnapped.
* * *
"The first thing to learn about seduction is pacing yourself."
"Yeah?" Faith looked around Via Condotti, towering buildings on either side, the network of streets at the foot of The Spanish Steps filled with designer shops where the shop assistants were uniformly smug and the price tags noticeably absent. "I tend to just fling Xander on the bed and get to it."
"Oh no, oh no," the Italian whoíd dragged her out of the hotel and into the activity she loathed most, shopping, shook her head disapprovingly, "you are a beautiful young woman, but you are not making the most of the gifts God has given you!"
Faith shot the socialite an eyebrow-arched look. "Meaning?" she demanded.
"Meaning," the socialite grabbed her hand and started pulling her towards a brightly lit shop front, "lingerie!"
Faith shrugged as the Italian pulled her into the brightly lit shop with rows upon rows of babydolls, basques, bustiers, corsets, g-strings, garters, negligees, panties, stockings, suspenders made in a number of materials and designed in either lurid or tasteful styles. "Might be worth a look."
"Oh yes, oh yes," the Italian smiled as a fashion model-wannabe rushed over to her, the Contessa obviously one of their better-known customers, "hello Alicia, I would like you to take a look at my friend and tell me what you think you can sell her."
Faith raised an eyebrow as the woman pulled her leather jacket off and started measuring her. "Yeah," she snorted, she felt like the mannequin, "donít mind me."
* * *
"We shouldnít have let her do this."
Xander rolled his eyes at Taraís continued worrying. "We couldnít have
stopped her," Xander softly pointed out, "you know how head-strong your
girl-friend is." Encouraged by Taraís choked laugh, he continued. "Besides, it
was her decision-."
"It was not!" Taraís pale face snapped towards him, an uncustomary ferocity burning in her eyes. "You were in that room! You heard Faith bait Kennedy into this!" Xander slouched down in his seat, unable to deny Taraís accusation. "Well if anything happens to her, I wonít forgive her for baiting her into it and I wonít forgive you for letting this happen!"
An uneasy silence followed Taraís outburst.
* * *
Kennedy looked at her watch, a heavy weight pressing down on her chest. It had only been an hour, but it had seemed so much longer, every minute seeming to creep by. It was hard work, waiting to be kidnapped.
Finally she sighed and rose, walking out of the house in her greasy black jeans and ripped concert T-shirt and past the car that Xander had parked up in observation. She made her way through the suburbís still crowded streets and stopped at a roadside cafť, ordering a lattť and sitting in the now breezy outside.
She stiffened in her chair as she saw a black-tinted van pulling up across the street, that had to mean the kidnappers were about ready to strike. Kennedyís heart hammered as she forced herself to outwardly relax.
Before it was the minutes that eeked by, now it was the seconds that passed with inexorable slowness as sweat beaded on her forehead.
She gasped as the cafťís rear entrance crashed open and a trio of ski-mask wearing men began striding through the darkened cafť, heedlessly shoving the panicked patrons and staff out of the way. Legs suddenly shaking, Kennedy rose and quickly spoke into her GPS-locket that also doubled as a receiver. "Theyíre hitting me now."
Kennedy turned to run, faking a stumble over her steel chair as the trio crashed out of the entrance, the one in the centre raising his tranquiliser gun and shooting her in the neck. "Aaah." Kennedy gasped as the dart entered her neck, her vision instantly blurring and legs folding under her.
Kennedy had barely hit the ground when the other two thick-set thugs were lifting her up under her armpits and carrying her to their waiting van, its rear doors flinging open to greet her. Her head lurched as they threw her in the back, spinning uncontrollably.
Kennedyís stomach hollowed as she heard the chief of her captorsí speak just before she passed out. "You know the orders," the man growled in thickly accented Italian, "strip her of anything personal or identifying, then get her into the uniform, sheís not a person anymore, sheís a weapon."
Oh no, she dazedly thought as darkness beckoned and her locket was torn from her, that wasnít in the plan at all.
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (13/?)
"Now weíve done make-up and lingerie," Valentina shot her companion an appraising look, "it is time to invest in some evening dresses for you."
"Um, not that my credit card couldnít afford them, but I already own plenty of dresses."
Valentina smirked at the American beauty. "You might own evening dresses, but one has to learn how to wear them." She looped arms with her surprised companion. "Come, this way."
"Yeah, I gue-." The Slayer looked down when her phone buzzed. "Fuck, gotta get that."
The young beautyís head bobbed down, her hand reaching into her denimís pocket. "Yeah, Xan?" The Americanís full lips rearranged themselves into a scowl, her beautiful features taking on a haunted expression. "Shit, weíll be right with ya."
"Is there anything wrong?"
"Yeah." Faith glanced towards her, guilt in her dark eyes. "Kenís been snatched but they dumped the lo-jack and we have no idea where she is."
* * *
"Hey," Faith hurried into their bedroom. "We got here as soon-." SMACK! Faith stepped when Tara leapt up and slapped her across the face. "Jesus, sis!"
"How could you!" Tara screamed, tears glistening in her eyes as she stuck her face in Faithís. "You always have to push her donít you? Are you happy now! Is this what you wanted?"
"Whoa, whoa," Faith stepped away from the angry witch, hands raised in supplication and blood burning. The slap hadnít hurt, but still, Tar had no right to lay one on her. "Just chill-."
"Chill!" Tara advanced on her. "Kennedy could be dead now! And I love her! But you didnít like her, so you just had to-."
"Hey!" Faith snapped, her own temper going from barely under control to thermo-nuclear in just a few seconds. "So I donít like her, donít mean I wanna have her dead! And Ďnother thing-."
"Faith, Tara," Xander took his life into his own hands by stepping between the two of them, "all this screaming isnít achieving anything but giving me a headache. If weíre to help Kennedy, we need a plan."
"Iíve an idea," Faith broke off from glaring at Tara to look towards Xander.
"Oh great," Tara grunted, "another one. The last one worked out so well."
"Listen!" Faith snapped, eyes glittering, "do ya wanna hear this or not?"
"I do," Xander quickly interjected.
"You mentioned Lorne read some sort of demon that told him all about this shit," Faith suggested. "Maybe they have more information to give if asked nicely." Faith smirked. "Or asked nastily, whatever it takes."
"Yeah," Xander nodded, her loverís brow creasing in thought. "Tara," Xander passed the witch a laptop. "Research Deklas. Iíll phone Lorne ask him if he knows where the clan hides out. And Contessa, can you ask your contacts?"
"What do I do?" Faith queried.
Tara scowled at her as she sat back, the steel-grey laptop already opened. "Havenít you done enough?"
Faithís mouth opened then clamped back down, lips arranging themselves into a forced smile. Sis was just upset, was all.
* * *
Kennedy groaned, her head swimming as she raised it off the cold damp floor.
"Sheís awake!" gasped a voice.
"Iíve got eyes Amanda," snapped another voice, its loudness grating on her like distortion off hi-fi speakers.
"Please," Kennedy winced as she forced herself up into a seating position, eyes blinking as she forced them to focus, "donít shout."
The first thing she noticed, was her uniform, a black and grey jumpsuit, the second was her companions, a dozen or so girls of around the same age and wearing the same outfit as her, the third was their surroundings, a dank and dark stone-walled cell. Kennedy grimaced as she looked around and recalled losing her locket. "Looks like itís up to me to get us out of here," she muttered.
"Escape?" A black girl with dreadlocks shook her head. "We canít escape, thereís no escape!"
"Yeah?" Kennedy rose and eyeballed the dreadlocked girl. "That was before, but now Iím here!"
* * *
"Okay, thanks, Lorne," Xander hung up his cell and looked around, "weíve got an address. Tara, any information?"
"Deklas," Faith noted how Tara was studiously avoiding meeting her gaze, "are largely sedentary and nocturnal demons without much fighting skill. They do have one power though that they use to defend themselves against an attacker. They secrete a scent that can cause a variety of emotions in their attacker including fear, nausea, lethargy, and others."
"How we gonna grab one without getting zapped?" Faith queried.
Xander smiled tightly. "We pull an Odysseus."
"A what now?" Faith queried with a furrowed brow.
"Um, in Homerís Odyssey he relates that the Greek sailor and hero, Odysseus was curious just what the Sirens sounded like, so, on Cicreís advice, he had his sailors plug their ears with besswax before tying him to the mast and ordering his men to leave him tied to the mast, no matter how much he would beg. When Odysseus heard the sirensí song he ordered the sailors to untie him but they stuck to their orders. When they had passed out of earshot, Odysseus demonstrated with his frowns to be released." Xander explained. "If we still beeswax up our noses, that should stop the Deklas from infecting us."
"I didnít know youíd read the classics," Tara softly commented.
"Eh, no," Xander flushed slightly, "I watched a HBO TV-movie a few years ago." Faith snorted.
"It might work," the Contessa commented. "And while weíre there, we should ask why theyíre involved in this scheme."
"Sounds like a plan," Faith agreed. "Letís get a move on."
* * *
"You want to do the Ďsheís ill gagí?" The girl whoíd identified herself as Rona shook her head. "Thatís really clichť!"
"Itís clichť for one very good reason," Kennedy hissed. "Because it works!" Kennedy laid down on her side. "Tell them Iím choking!"
Rona shook her head as she stood. "If only," the African-American muttered.
"Hey!" Kennedy hissed. "I heard that."
"Shut up," Rona warned. "Iím knocking." The blackís fist slammed repeatedly into the stout door. "Help! Help! The new girl, sheís choking!"
After a few seconds a panel slid open in the door. "Whatís the noise?" grunted a deep bass voice.
Rona blanched at the gruff voice but recovered quickly. "The new girl, sheís having some sort of reaction to the drug, sheís convulsing," Rona looked over her shoulder towards her and gasped, "sheís making gurgling noises."
"Damn," Kennedy heard the sound of a bolt being pulled back and then the door swung open, light from the outer corridor spilling in, "you girls back against the wall."
Kennedy thrashed on the floor, dust billowing up from beneath her as the hefty six footer with a mini-uzi entered, dark eyes shooting left and right as he approached her. "Against the walls or Iíll put a cap in your ass-, ugh!" The man gasped when Kennedy locked her ankles around his left ankle and twisted, bone shattering with a sickening crack, the man pitching forward. "Fuck! My leg!" Kennedy rolled out of the way of the falling man, and then back towards the guard, driving a vicious elbow into the side of his head. The man grunted as she connected, her second assault giving her time on top of the dazed man. Before heíd chance to react sheíd planted her knees in his upper back and wrapped an arm around his neck, pulling her arm up with her other hand. Kennedy grimaced as the man tensed and tried to push up, only to gasp when his injured leg forced him back down, the manís struggles weakening as she choked him out.
"Wow," gasped the red-head, "that was so cool!"
"Like watching Cynthia Rothrock," agreed the tiny brunette know as Colleen.
Kennedy beamed inwardly at the praise as she rose, Rona rushing forward to help her search the man for keys. You didnít train with the Slayer and the worldís most dangerous human warrior and not learn a few things. "Come on," she exhorted. "We have to get out of here."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (14/?)
"Come on, come on," Kennedy exhorted as she led her companions out into the outer corridor, the corridor lit by flickering fluorescent lighting. "Damn," Kennedy groaned as she noticed the ceilingís CCTV cameras. "Come on, hurry before they see us!"
The group continued down the narrow passageway, their bare feet slapping against the hard cold floor. Kennedyís heart dropped when a door ahead spun open and a trio of heavily-built men started out. "Back the other way!"
"Thereís others behind us!" Amanda squeaked from the rear of their group.
"Great," Kennedy muttered before looking towards Rona, "charge the first one." The black looked at her as if she was nuts. "Just do it!" she hissed, "do you want to get out of here or not?"
"I really, really, hate you!" the black yelled before leaping forward, the head guardís hand sweeping up to backhand her into the wall.
"Yeah," Kennedy muttered as she darted forward the moment the manís arm swung out, leaping shoulder-first into the manís chest, "I get that a lot!" The man grunted and stumbled backwards then fell when she stuck her foot between and behind his legs. Kennedy leapt over the man the moment he crashed to the ground, then gasped when one of the two remaining guards pressed a taser into her belly. "Aaaaaah!" she screeched as electricity coursed through her, rattling her teeth and pitching her still shaking body to the ground.
"The rest of you, back to your cells. And thereíll be no supper for you tonight. Not her though," the chief guard pointed his taser at her, "take her to the Nightmare Room."
* * *
"Is that the Dekla?" Xander pointed at a short chubby demon a grey skin and three yellow eyes, the gills on both sides of its neck where it unleashed its various defensive scents from.
Tara nodded. "See the ridge of bone running across its forehead?" the witch continued before he had chance to speak. "That means itís the tribeís henchman."
"Better and better," Xander muttered before looking around. They were in an isolated part of Rome, a deceptively ordinary looking suburb relatively cut-off from the rest of the busy city. "Faith, I want you on sweep-up duty, make sure weíre not interrupted by anyone else," Xander looked towards the Contessa, "Contessa, come with me. Tara, youíre on communications. Come on."
* * *
Kennedy lay limply in her captorsí grips as they dragged her through their underground baseís tight passageways, her barely conscious body unable to resist thanks to the shock her nervous system had received, every inch of her cramping. "How long did the boss say she had to go into the hole?"
"Full day." The duo stopped at a door, one of them releasing his grip on Kennedyís limp body as he unlocked the door before grabbing her shoulder again, and pulling her inside, dumping her on the floor.
"Whoa, a full day?" the other commented as they backed to the door. "Thatíll fuck her up bad, none of them have done more than a couple of hours before."
"She shouldnít have tried to lead an escape then," the second man replied as they stepped outside, the door slamming shut behind them.
Kennedy stared up blankly at the ceiling, still unable even to turn her head. Then her neck began to loosen and she began to look around. And then started to scream and scream, and scream.
* * *
Geruch backed into the darkened alleyís shadows as two humans entered the alley exit ahead of him, their arms wrapped around each other in easy familiarity. To further ensure they didnít sense him, he sent out a lustful scent from his gills.
He gasped as the young man spun away from the woman, strode across the dirty alley and kicked his legs from underneath him. Geruch grunted as he hit the unforgiving concrete on his side, the young manís foot slamming down hard on his neck before he had chance to even try recovering his senses. "My nameís Xander Harris," the young man introduced himself, "but you probably know me better as Mithras." Geruch let out a piteous moan as the young man of fast-becoming legend drew and pointed a sizable automatic at his head. "So with that in mind, you better answer my questions and fast." Geruch let out some fear scent only for the young man to smile. "Where have you been taking the scents that youíve been selling to the Immortal?"
Geruch swallowed at the mention of the mysterious Italian whose network had tendrils in every aspect of Italian society, mundane or otherwise. Telling himself that however fearsome Mithras was, heíd only be here temporarily, the Immortalís presence was, well eternal, Geruch prepared himself to lie. "IÖI donít know-, aaaaah!" Blood spewed from his mouth when the youth crashed the gun butt into his jaw.
"Would it help," the young man crouched before him, a cold look in his eyes, "if I told you that the Immortal has only recently kidnapped a friend of mine, and there isnít anything I wouldnít do, any length I wouldnít go to to ensure her safety. And seeing as I know youíre involved, let me tell you I have no compunction about blowing a few holes in you."
"IÖif you kill me, youíll never find out anything," Geruch stuttered.
The young man smiled before pressing the automaticís muzzle to Geruchís knee. "Who said anything about killing you?"
"Wait! Wait!" Geruch squealed. "We take them to a place in the Appian Catacombs."
"Iím waiting?" Xander nodded as he listened to Geruch clumsily give directions. "Good. And why are your scents so important to the Immortal?"
"I donít know," Geruch sobbed as the young man took the safety off. "Iím telling the truth! We take the scents to the Immortalís men in jars, theyíre using them to brain-wash their prisoners in some way."
"Makes sense," the slender woman spoke for the first time. "Maybe by stock-piling potentials, theyíre hoping to increase their chances of having a trained Slayer should," the woman hesitated, "should anything happen to Faith?"
"And maybe, theyíre planning on making a play for my girl themselves." Geruch wouldnít have thought it possible for the young manís face to darken still further but it did. "Iíll have to teach the Immortal the error of his ways." Xander looked down at him. "If I ever see or hear of your people doing something like this again, Iíll hunt down every last one of you." Xander looked towards his companion. "Letís get out of here."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (15/?)
Kennedy thrashed and writhed on the cold cell floor, her body jerking as the monsters ripped and tore at her, blood spraying everywhere as their mighty claws and vicious teeth ripped at her, shredding her. Then the wounds healed and the butchery began again. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
* * *
Faithís skin crawled as she clambered into the darkened catacombs, her pencil torch illuminating the dusty mausoleums silently surrounding them. "Itís interesting how you find both pagan and Christian tombs together," mused the Contessa in a whisper as they crept through the creepy underground, "it suggest a tolerance that we do not have today."
"Yeah," Faith shot the Italian jet-setter a sardonic look, "I bet the Christians thanked them a whole lot for their tolerance when they fed Ďem to the lions."
"Will you two shut up!" snapped Tara, eyes shooting left and right, "we need to be quiet, we donít want to alert the guards!"
Faithís eyes narrowed. She knew the bratís absence was worrying her sis, and sheíd given her some slack, but that was fast running out. Xander nudged her as she opened her mouth to retort. She looked up to see her boy-friend shaking his head and clamped her mouth shut.
The group continued on in a hushed silence, passing between centuries-old tombs before coming to a halt at the edge of the last tomb, a stretch of twenty or so feet separating them from the two machine-gun wielding guards stood at the mouth of an arched-entrance. "Thatís the passageway, just where the demon said," the Contessa commented.
"Kinda pointing out the obvious arenít you?" Faith looked towards Xander. "We could take them out from here, but thatíd risk an alarm being set off."
Xander nodded. "Tara, fade us out."
The witch nodded, her brow furrowing. "You can go. But be stealthy, they
canít see you, but they will be able to hear you."
"íKay," Faith stared doubtfully at the witch. She didnít feel any different, but if Tar said sheíd done it, sheíd done it. "Iíll take the one on the left."
"Sure." Xander nodded before sinking into the darkness.
Faith took a breath when she stepped out beyond the tomb. When neither guard straightened from his slouch against the wall, she continued on her way, the tension easing from her frame, Xander sauntering alongside her. Suddenly she had the mad urge to stick her tongue out and flash the men opposite, but somehow she managed to resist it.
Xander reached the men just seconds before her, kneeing his man in the gut and karate chopping him to the back of his neck as he doubled up. Faith grabbed hers as he started to turn to face his fallen companion, wrapping her arm around his neck and choking him out in a few brutal seconds. "Spellís gone."
Faith spun to face Tara, brow furrowing. "How come I could see Xander and he, me?" Faith asked as they hurried through the tunnelsí entrance, grimacing slightly at the CCTV cameras there.
Tara shot her a disgusted look. "You were working together, of course you had to be able to see one another."
"Oh yeah," Faith nodded thoughtfully, "hadnít thought of it like that."
"Of course you hadnít," Tara snapped.
Xanderís hand clamping over her mouth prevented her angry retort. "Letís get moving before help comes."
* * *
"Yes my dear," the Immortal murmured to the entranced beauty, his hand gently tousling her auburn locks as they spilled out onto her creamy-white shoulders, "I have never met such-." He looked away at the distracting ring of his mobile. Smothering an unuttered curse beneath a smile, he picked his cell off his bedside. "Hello."
"Sir," the man at the other end appeared to verbally start at his snap. "The tunnels are under attack! Three women and a man!"
"Three women and a man," Eternoís heart chilled. It couldnít be, the Mithras
Quartet? "Iím on my way."
* * *
Xander ducked his head around the corner. A trio of guards were stood by the prisonersí cell, their hands stuffed in their pockets. This should be -.
"Spoke too soon." Xander groaned as a pair of guards rushed around the corner at the far end of the corridor, the others straightening at their arrival.
"I throw in a couple of flash-bangs, you slaughter them with a mini-gun?" his increasingly cold-blooded girl-friend suggested.
"Yeah," Xander muttered as he passed the flash-bangs over. This wasnít the time to get fancy, in the corridorís tight confines, the men wouldnít have a chance, but theyíd picked their job, the kidnapping and imprisonment of innocent girls. It was an ugly world made even uglier by their actions. "On three. One, two, three!"
As he shouted the Ďthreeí, Faith flung the grenades down the corridor, falling to the ground by the quintetís feet. There was a split-second as the quintet looked down at the cone-shaped projectiles. And then the grenades exploded, filling the narrow passageway with light and sound. His own ears thumping and eyes watering slightly even at a distance of twenty feet, Xander pulled out and pointed his mini-gun, finger pressing on the trigger, the gun jumping in his grip, shoulder reverberating with the rapidly-repeated blowback.
By the time the flash and noise had dissipated, all five men were lying on the ground, the ground beneath them slicked with blood, their bodies torn apart, and their eyes staring lifelessly up at the ceiling. Xander felt bile rise in his throat at the carnage heíd inflicted. Sometimes, his world was a very merciless place.
"Come on," Faith hurried down the corridor, a single kick from his girl-friend flinging the door open. "Shit!" Faith cursed as she peered inside the inky room. "No brat." Faith gestured towards the girls. "Move!" Faith grabbed the first girl out of the cell, a dreadlocked black. "Whereís Ken?"
The girl blanched at Faithís tone. "They took her to the Nightmare Room."
"Sounds cosy," Faith growled. "You take me there."
"NÖno," the black shook her head.
"Werenít a request," Faith snapped before looking at him. "Iíll get the brat, you get the rest out."
Xander hesitated then nodded, now wasnít the time to be arguing. "Good luck."
He threw his girl-friend a Berretta.
Faith winked. "Right back at ya."
* * *
"Is that is?" Faith nodded at the black girlís frightened nod. "So you go in there and you have like nightmares?" Rona nodded again. "íKay." She looked at the guard sat in the chair beside the door and shook her head. After the slaughter at the other prison she didnít have the heart for another massacre right now. "Here, take this." She passed the gun to her companion. "Anything goes wrong, put a cap in his ass."
"I donít know how to shoot," Rona whispered as she stared with horror at the gun.
"Just point and squeeze, ainít brain surgery." Faith burst from the shadows, legs flowing and arms spinning as she sprinted towards the man. Sheíd covered ten metres, a third of the way, before he registered her presence, another ten by the time heíd stood, the moment he reached for his gun she left her feet and dived head-first at him. The top of her head cracked into his face, shattering his jaw, and sending teeth and blood flying, the man falling back into his seat, the wooden chair collapsing beneath him as he hit the
"Oww," Faith rubbed her head as she stood. That hurt more than sheíd imagined, but it had had the expected effect. A single kick sent the door flying. Faith wrinkled as she peered in to find Kennedy lying at the far end of the darkened room, tears streaking her cheeks, eyes wild and unfocussed, and drool running down her mouth as she screamed continually. "Wow, are you having a bad make-up day."
Faith started into the room. And then it hit her, a wave of unadulterated terror that took her legs from under, the swarthy face of her momís pimp appearing before her, laughing as he discussed with Kaktosis and Roger Whyndham-Pryce to break her. "Noooooo!"
* * *
Xander ignored his worry about his girl-friend as he pushed his companions out of the tunnels, theyíd left the Immortalís compound behind but were still in the eerie catacombs. "Mr. Harris," a voice purred out of the darkness. "Your actions here have cost me a considerable amount of money, but there is a considerable fortune on your head, ten million at last count."
"The Immortal?" Xander queried as he turned to face the speaker, conscious that Tara and the Contessa were getting the girls further and further away. The sharp-featured man smiled and nodded. "You want to collect, all you have to do is take my head."
FIC: MC 51 Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (16/?)
Faith stared down fearfully at the three men surrounding her as she hung naked from the ceiling, her body lathered in sweat and filled with a sickening combination of fear and pain. Her eyes were unable to pull away from the poker that Marco was currently heating up in the furnace.
"Thank you my good man," the air sizzled as Roger took the poker from her momís old pimp, held it up in the air and stepped towards her, a vicious grin on his bearded face. "This is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me." The Englishman thrust the poker at her, ramming its heated point through her left hip, soft flesh ripping before it.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" She screamed as pain blazed through her leg, her limb weakly thrashing, the chains jangling with her swinging. The wound cauterised the moment the red-hot poker was pulled out, her nose filling with the sick stench of her own burning flesh. "Oh god, oh god, oh god."
"She seems to have little pain tolerance."
"Yes," Roger Whyndhm-Pryce nodded at Kaktosisí boomed comment, "sheís quite pathetic for a Slayer. Now, pass me that bike chain, Iíll see what I can do to her ribs."
Slayer? Faithís eyes slowly opened, something pulling her away from her torturous ordeal. Thatís right, she wasnít a victim, she was the Slayer, and this wasnít real.
Faith took a shuddering breath as she realised she was still clothed, but lying in a foetal ball in the middle of the cell. Looking around, she saw Kennedy hadnít moved from the position when sheíd last seen her. "Crap," Faith muttered as she forced herself up to her feet, head reeling as she forced the hallucinatory images away. More than anything she wanted to run, but she had to get to Kennedy.
* * *
"So youíre the Immortal?" Xander stared at the immaculately suited man. "I assume youíre not a vampire?"
"No, nothing so mundane," the brilliance of the manís smile cut through the darkness. "I was a nobleman in the early thirteenth century and as was my right I squired a young lady. Unfortunately her father was a rather powerful mage who protested the deflowering of his daughter and cursed me to immortality."
"You seem to be doing alright off it," Xander commented as he drew his own short sword, a twin to the one the Immortal carried.
"Iíve lived for centuries, won and lost half a dozen fortunes, studied the fighting arts of Africa, Europe, and the Orient," the Immortal obliquely replied. "Iíve studied the mystic arts with the druids of England, the Voodoo witch-doctors, the North American shamen, and the Romany gypsies. Iíve made and broken kings-."
"Yeah," Xander continued to circle the man, "and what were your plans for the potentials?"
"I assume because youíre here youíve found about the Delkasí involvement?" The Immortal preened at his curt nod. "I was given a contract to tame these potentials. It was simple system, built on three rooms. The normal room where they were usually kept which constantly had scents pumped into it that sapped their willpower. The Nightmare Room is where I sent any girl who disobeyed me, the scents of fear and pain were pumped into that room. Any girl who showed signs of becoming more obedient was placed in The Pleasure Palace for a few hours to encourage further good behaviour."
Xander struggled to hold onto his temper. Not only had this bastard done this monstrously vile thing, he was actually smug about it. "So youíre immortal." Xander affected a yawn. "Did you win all your fights by talking until your opponents died of old age?"
"No," the Immortal shook his head, his spare hand coming up and throwing something in Xanderís face, "I cheat!"
* * *
Sweat streaked down Faithís face, stinging her eyes as she swayed towards Kennedyís convulsing body, forcing away the terror clawing at her. She was the mother-fuckiní Slayer, she didnít give into shit like that.
An angry snarl escaped her lips as she took hold of the trembling girlís shoulder, receiving a backhand across the mouth for her trouble. "Fuck," she grunted as bloodís salty taste filled her mouth. Telling herself the anger she felt was caused by the drugs being pumped into the room, she roughly grabbed the struggling potential and flung her over her shoulder.
The walk out was even harder than the walk in, her shaking legs almost buckling under on a number of occasions, but finally she made it, slumping against the outer wall as she gulped in air. "Jesus," she looked towards Rona, Kennedy sobbing and mewling over her shoulder, "letís get out of this fuckiní madhouse."
* * *
"Haaaa!" Xander wailed as his eyes seemed to erupt in fire, water streaming from them. Blind instinct saw him fling himself to the ground, the sound of the Immortalís sword swishing through the air above telling him heíd made the right move. Xander blinked furiously, trying to clear his eyes of whatever had been thrown in them.
"A simple potion, taught to me by a Japanese mage." Xander grunted as the Immortal crashed a foot into his ribs, knocking him on his back. "A trick they taught to the Ninjas," Xander hissed as pain blazed through his scalp, the Immortal dragging him up to his knees. "Most disappointing," the Immortal commented, Xander ignoring his pain as he tried to focus on his assailantís voice. "I was led to believe you were far more formid-, ugh!"
"Didnít I just tell you," Xander thrust up with a dagger heíd just pulled out of the Always Pocket, "you talk too much?" He grimaced slightly as he felt the dagger shudder home, heard the manís shocked gurgle, and felt something he knew to be blood splatter his face. Swallowing his queasiness down deep, he dragged his dagger across the shaking manís throat, shuddering slightly at the knife slid out of flesh and sliced nothing but dank air.
"Ahhhhhh," the Italian gurgled and then there was a thud as his corpse hit the ground.
Xander gritted his teeth as he looked around, his vision nothing but a swirling blur. He forced his terror under control. Heíd just have to wait for Faith to turn up.
But what if she-. A low moan escaped him at the thought of his girl-friend being hurt and his own helplessness. Oh god, this was a mess. The seconds ticked by, Xander clawing around as he struggled to find the nearest tomb to pull himself up on, fear plastering him in sweat.
"What the fuck happened to ya?"
Xander grinned as he looked over his shoulder in the direction of his girlís voice. "The Immortal threw something in my eyes that blinded me."
"Bastard," Xander heard the sound of his girl kicking something, he presumed it was the Italianís severed head against one of the crypts, "Immortal, but not invulnerable hey? Fuck you! Hey Ron, ya help Xan up and guide him out, Iím kinda got my hands full with Ken."
"What?" Xander looked around, cursing his eyes again. "Whatís wrong with her?"
"Letís just say the Nightmare Room is a real trip," Faith let out a ragged chuckle. "Sheíll be five by five though. And so will you once Taraís seen ya."
FIC: 51: Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (17/18)
"What we gonna do about the gals?" Faith muttered as Tara rubbed some lotion in his eyes to make him see again. "And if you say take them with us, Iím gettingí ya one of those tags so I know where ya are at all times."
Xander grinned at his girl-friend. "Feeling insecure are you?"
"Iíll be feeliní yar balls rip off from yar body," Faith briefly glared at him before turning serious. "Seriously?"
"Yeah," Xander nodded. "Iíve thought of it." Xander turned to the potentials, the girls coming to a stuttered halt, awe in their eyes. Xander coughed, uncomfortable with their admiration. "Do any of you girls have families to go home to?" Eight of the girls tentatively raised hands. "Good, weíll organise some plane tickets home for you," Xander smiled, "anyone ever flown first-class before?" He grinned at the girlsí faces before looking towards the others. "Youíve nowhere to go?"
Rona looked at her companions before shaking her head. "No."
"Okay," Xander groaned inwardly. He didnít like to do this, it left them way too exposed, but neither could they handle a bunch of under-age teens trailing behind them. "Iíll send you all to the head Watcher in California-."
"Hey!" Faith spoke up from behind him. "Can we send Ken with them?"
"No!" Tara snapped.
"Never mind," Faith sighed, "just a thought."
* * *
"I trust the youngsters have been dealt with?"
"Yeah," Xander nodded as he looked around the extravagantly decorated and furnished restaurant, because it was a lot less distracting than looking at the leather cat-suited beauty reclining cat-like on the sofa opposite them. The restaurant was supposedly the most exclusive place in the city, but the contessa had got them a reservation no problem. Perks of being old royalty he supposed.
Not that there was anything old about her.
"Excellent, please order, anythingís magnificent," the contessa smiled.
"It certainly smells it," Kennedy agreed as she snatched up one of the leather-bound menu.
"Iíll have pizza," Faith shrugged.
Xander licked his lips. "Contessa-."
"Please," the Italianís full lips parted in a smile, "Xander, please call me Val. After all weíre all friends here arenít we?"
"Sure," Faith did one of those barely tamed growls that always had him looking for the nearest exit.
Val by contrast appeared not to have noticed it. "But I apologise for interrupting, please go on."
"Yeah," Xander was as usual flustered in the presence of beauty. His girls
didnít count, well not really, heíd gotten used to them years ago. Wait, he
winced inwardly, if Faith ever knew heíd just thought thatÖ. Xander shuddered
again. Realising his companions were staring strangely at him, he cleared his
throat. "Youíre a woman of great skill-."
"Why Xander," the Italianís smile widened as she purred, "how nice of you to notice."
Xander shrank deeper in his seat at Faithís growl. His life and women were an endless nightmare. Nevertheless he persevered. "As a former SHIELD agent of high-ranking-."
"My," the Contessaís smile was more appraising, "you have done your homework."
"Youíve got a lot of experience in fields that are valuable to the Brotherhood Ė combat, tactics, strategy, leadership, and espionage," Xander continued gamely on. "I was wondering if youíd be interested in leading a team. In addition to a one hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund, we offer back-up, arms and tech support, as well as intel."
"Why," the Contessa chuckled, "I thought youíd never ask. If Italyís available, Iíll take it."
"Well if Iíd have gotten a word in edgeways, Iíd have offered it," Xander muttered before raising his voice. "Tara?"
Tara looked at her lap-top. "Thereís two teams of eight in the Campaina region, three teams of seven in the Lazio region, three groups of ten in Lombardy, two teams of seven in Piedmont, and Apulia and Tuscany each have two groups of eight."
"Thank you dear," the contessa took the printouts as she supped thoughtfully at her wine. "Thatís more than enough for a start." The Italian looked up. "Now, to eat. I recommend-."
* * *
Giles looked up at a knock at the door. After a quick glance through the window to check it was still sunlight, he hurried to the door, opening it to find a quintet of young girls stood on his doorstep. "Hello," he politely greeted, "can I help you?"
"Yeah," the groupís apparent leader, a dread-locked black aged around sixteen, glanced at a piece of paper and then at him, "are you Rupert Giles?"
"I am," he confirmed, "and you are?"
"Weíre potentials," the African-American said, "we were kidnapped and being imprisoned by an Italian occultist." Gilesí mouth opened and shut but no sound came out. "We were rescued by The Mithras Quartet, Mr. Harris paid for our tickets over here."
Oh dear lord, his life had gotten somewhat more complicated. Giles took a moment to steady himself before speaking. "Very well," he forced a welcoming smile. "Please, come in."
* * *
"So that concludes the demonstration," Brill said. "The suit has chips
running through it that Ďseeí its surroundings and adjust its colouring
accordingly. In addition, the suit can take a blast from a shotgun at a range of
ten feet and is very resistant to both heat and cold. However too much damage to
the suit will cause some or all of the camouflage chips to stop working, still
itís the lightest and most effective body armour in existence today. There were
other features we were trying to incorporate into it, but they were either too
costly or would add too much to the bulk."
Xander looked at the suit laid out on the desk before him. "How much is it?"
"It costs two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars an unit to make, thatís why the government walked away," Brill replied.
"Start mass-producing them," Xander decided. The inventor looked at him, surprised. "Iíll pay three hundred thousand dollars per unit."
"How many do you want making?" queried Brill.
Xander took a breath. "Enough so we can suit up every member of the Brotherhood." Nothing was too good, too expensive, for his people.
* * *
Illona gasped as a portal opened in her office. Sheíd been dreading this for the past few days. "Sir," sweat beaded at the demonís forbidding expression, "Iím sorry-, ugh."
"No excuses." Suddenly Izzerial had his hand around her neck, the feel of his leathery skin almost as terrifying as the look in his eyes. "We needed those girls, they were essential to our plans." The demon lifted her out of her seat and started to drag her towards the simmering portal, its blackness somehow darker than midnight. "But weíll have an eternity to discuss your failings."
FIC: 51: Mar í02 Responsibilities & Consequences (18/18)
Community General Hospital
"Whoís this officer you want us to meet?" Xander asked as their group strode through the hospitalís automated glass door.
"Heís a friend," Kate flushed slightly, "well ex boy-friend actually. Heís really capable, ex marine Recon, detective lieutenant of homicide, a ton of commendations and citations. Heíll be a great fit for the group."
Faith kept her mouth shut and her hands in her pockets as she slouched into the brightly lit hospital. Her nose wrinkled, a chill hand sliding up her back at the familiar antiseptic stench and the memories it brought back. Sheíd had plenty of hospital visits as a kid, dislocated shoulder, cracked ribs, that sorta thing.
Yeah, sheíd been a real Ďclumsyí child.
"Why do you think heíll want to work for us?" Tara queried inbetween shooting her worried looks.
"We helped him with a case recently, it was a black arts mage committing murders to fuel a blood ritual, Steve thought he was a loon of course until we filled him in," Kate paused. "He said heíd be interested in being his own boss but still being able to help people. He hates red tape."
The quintet entered an elevator, Faith uncomfortably close to the cop. You didnít grow up in her neighbourhood or spend time on the streets without gaining a real disdain for the 5-0. When the doors opened, she hurried out of the elevator.
Only to leap back when a white-coated, white moustached man flew past on a foot-scooter. "Sorry!" The man looked over his shoulder and beamed at her. "Must dash!"
Faith stared disbelievingly after the geriatric madman. "Who was that crazy fucker?"
"My father," Faith looked up at the amused voice. Its owner was a tall, sandy-haired man with his hair parted down the middle, a lantern jaw, and a solid physique that belied his pushing fifty age. "I assume from Kateís description youíre Faith."
"Yeah," Faith dazedly took the manís hand and shook it. "Ya better get your pop before they catch up with him. I figure they donít like people impersonating doctors."
"They donít." The man chuckled. "Actually heís Chief Of Internal Medicine."
"Ya donít say," Faith replied. "Those medical degrees must be easier to get than I thought."
Xander slapped his head and groaned while the man chuckled. "Iím Steve Sloan," the man looked towards the rest of her group. "Itís good to see you again Kate."
"And you," the blonde replied.
Steve nodded. "If you come with me, Iíll take you to the doctorís lounge."
Faith looked to her right when she heard a crash in the distance. "Was that-?"
"My dad, yes."
"Ah," Faith nodded. "If heís chief of internal medicine he must be eccentric." Sloan stared at her. "Well if youíre like that and rich, youíre eccentric. If youíre like that and poor, bat-shit loco."
"Oh," Xander groaned, his smile becoming strained, "this lounge?"
* * *
Steve smiled as he led his friend and her young companions into the doctorís lounge. This Faith was an undeniably beautiful young woman, but he also saw a lot in her that heíd seen in a lot of street kids, plenty of attitude to hide the fear and lack of love. Good kids really, but lacking that something, the guidance, to keep themselves on the straight and narrow.
Except this girl had somehow managed to not only escape that fate, but become a hero. It gave him hope for the rest, it really did.
"You understand," he looked towards Xander who was talking, "while we appreciate you wanting to join the Brotherhood, thereís already a team in LA and Frisco. Unless youíre willing to move thereís nothing for you."
"Kate," Steve looked towards his ex, "explained about this Hellmouth thing, how itís a magnet for demons, vampires, and black arts mages. If thatís so, surely California, considering both its size and the attraction to creatures of the night should have as much of protection as possible."
"I canít argue with that," Xander replied. "But Gunn has L.A. pretty much under control and Burtonís got Frisco chained down." Xander grinned and looked at Kate. "Unless theyíre both exaggerating on their reports for brownie points with the boss!"
"What about San Diego?" Steve queried. "Thereís over two and half million people in San Diego County. I think they would appreciate some help."
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Iím sure they would, but youíd have to move down there."
Steve licked his lips, momentarily hesitating. Telling himself it wasnít that far from his dad, he nodded. "Thatís alright, I need a fresh start."
Xander glanced towards Tara who nodded slightly. "Okay then," the youth turned back to him, "what resources do we have in -."
The door crashed open and his father rushed in. "Sorry Steve!" his father called as he rushed over to the lockers at the far side of the room, "Iíll only be a minute, then Iíll leave you in peace."
"Thatís fine, dad," Steve wryly replied. "Whatís the problem?"
"Jesse couldnít make it today, rounds," his father spun around, a feather boa around his neck, a red nose on his nose, and a very suspicious daffodil, it had to shoot water, in his jacket pocket, "and the children always like me to have an assistant while I do my tricks." His father looked at Steveís companions. "Iím sure one of you young ladies would love to help some children?"
"What?" Faith gasped as the doctor grabbed her as the one sat nearest and started pulling her to her feet. "Youíve got to be-." The Slayer shook her head, eyes bemused. "Like I said," Faith muttered as his father started dragging her to the door, "íeccentricí."
* * *
Simmons licked his lips as he entered the darkened conference room, conscious of the tension in the air. Heíd barely sat when FBI spoke. "You lost the Chameleon suit. Weíd expended a considerable amount of money, resources, effort, and time trying to get a hold of that."
Simmons hid a grimace at the reproach in the board memberís voice. "Weíre fully covered, we used double-blinds, independent contractors, thereís no way to trace this back to us."
"Thatís not what he asked." No reproach in DODís voice, just sheer anger. "He wants to know what youíre going to do about this botch of an operation?"
"Going to do?" Simmons did so hope that didnít mean what he thought it meant.
"About the Mithras Brotherhood!" Simmonsí heart sank at CIAís bark. Oh the bloody fools. "This is twice theyíve gotten in our way!"
Simmons shook his head. "We should be just grateful they havenít realised that we exist, theyíre a sleeping tiger we do not want to awaken!"
"You forget who we are," scolded DOD. "Weíre in charge of all this countryís unconventional warfare, the weapons that the government is too lofty to use!"
Simmons nodded slowly. That at least was true. The NID had been secretly set up in the late 30s when Hitlerís research into the occult had been discovered. Since then theyíd been running black ops in the fields of the paranormal, magical, cybernetic, biological, and extra-terrestrial (although Roswell aside, thatíd been a complete disaster). All told, they ran and provided funding for the Millennium Group, Unisol, the Initiative, Weapon X, and The Shop amongst other projects from behind the scenes. Not even the people Ďrunningí these projects knew who they really worked for. "I suppose thatís a possibility."
"Look into it," DOD ordered.
The Mithras Chronicles