FIC: MC Taking A Chance (1/9)
"Whoo hoo!" Faith black-flipped onto their car bonnet and started to jump and down, shaking the vehicle. "New Orleans! Party time!"
Xander cast his girl-friend a pained glance. "Faith, we’re here on business, not to have fun."
Faith pouted before cart wheeling off the car and to the ground. "New Orleans plus Faith equals party-time."
Xander shook his head. His girl-friend was a lot of things – sexy, funny, good-hearted, and smart. She was also a hell of a lot of work. "Afterwards okay?" he bargained.
Faith’s pout instantly turned to a dazzling dimpled smile. "Promise?" he nodded. "Wicked!" Faith’s eyes turned businesslike as she looked towards their Wiccan companion. "So, what’s the 411 on this Madam Jessica big sis?"
* * *
Chance looked up from locking his office up, noting the trio of Jamaicans and two Latinos surrounding him, noting the evil-looking tattoos he saw on the muscled forearms of two of them. Seeing as he was locking up the office with his name hanging over it, it was pointless to deny it. He nodded. "I am."
One of the men, a huge dreadlocked black with the physique of a power lifter, stepped forward until they were only inches apart. "You be sticking your nose into where it doesn’t belong." The man declared, his English heavily accented. "Madam Jessica not be pleased with you."
"Madam Jessica?" he attempted a confused look even as his heart dropped. "Sorry, I don’t know the la-."
He was an interrupted by an overhand right powering at his head. Even as he deftly leaned away from the punch, he caught a foot in the small of the back. Wincing slightly at the bruising pain, he stumbled towards the quintet’s leader.
The towering black threw a wild haymaker that he ducked beneath while at the same time shooting a right heel at an on-rushing attacker. His blow smashed into his would-be assailant’s knee with splintering impact, dropping the wailing Jamaican to the ground. Straightening, he grunted when another of his assailants caught him with a hook to the body. Shaking off the pain, he slammed a knee into the hood’s groin.
The moment the thug doubled up, Chance grabbed him around the scruff of his neck and by his elbow before flipping him onto his back. The hood attempted to straighten, only for Chance to drive his heel into his forehead, smacking the back of his head into the concrete. "Two down," he intoned.
A hand fell on his shoulder, squeezing hard enough to bruise. He instantly responded by grabbing his rival’s forearm and shot out a side-kick at his assailant’s stomach. The man grabbed his foot. Chance reacted by leaping into the air. The moment his body was parallel with the ground, he smashed a heel kick into his opponent’s chest, propelling the man into one of the thugs he’d previously knocked down, sending both men crashing in a heap.
A fist smashed into the back of his head, knocking him forward. Shaking the shock of the blow off, he sidestepped a sweating Latino’s overhead right before stepping into his rival and butting him in the face. The hood let out a howl before collapsing to his knees, his face a bloody mask.
"Bringing a gun to a fist-fight," hearing the sound of snapping bone behind him, he spun around, "so not cool!" His eyes widened at the sight of a curvy brunette with coal-black eyes, flanked by a beefy youth and quiet looking honey-blonde, a revolver in her hand and a mocking gleam in her eyes. "Hiya hon."
* * *
Faith looked around, hungrily taking in the plantation houses, gaudily-dressed people passing by and the sounds of Dixieland jazz drifting out of bohemian coffee houses. Man, she smirked, this place was wicked cool. "So," she sniffed in the smells. Oh yeah, she was getting some Cajun food before she left. "What’s the 411 on this Madam Jessica big sis?"
"Madam Jessica is considered to the US’ foremost voodoo priestess-."
"Say what?" Faith squinted at Tara. "Ain’t voodoo just like hocus pocus?"
"No," he big sis shook her head. "Voodoo is actually a derivative of some of the world’s oldest religions since the beginning of human civilisations in Africa." Faith fought back a giggle at Xander’s rolling eyes. Tara could be a Watcher, the way she lectured sometimes. "It was spread through the world by the slave trade."
"What are Madam Jessica’s powers?" Xander asked.
"White voodoo practitioners heal or advise people. They do nature, love, purification, and celebration spells. Black voodoo practitioners like Jessica raise the dead, curse people, and generally rule their subjects by fear."
Faith shrugged casually, that didn’t sound so bad. "We’ve kicked the ass of worse," she commented.
"Faith," she glanced at a suddenly stern-faced Xander. "There was a Slayer here in ’59, she came up against Madam Jessica. Madam Jessica’s still here."
"Oh crap," she breathed before forcing a grin. "But she didn’t have ya two backing her in a throw-down did she?"
Xander grinned back at her. "No she didn’t."
"Makes all the difference." Tara confirmed with a smile. The Wicca’s smile slipped as she glanced down a side-street. "What’s going on there?"
* * *
Xander glanced into the alley, his eyes narrowing at the sight of a short, lithely-muscled man tearing through the five thugs surrounding him, the Cajun’s pony-tail snapping in the night air. Whoever he was, he was good, very good. "Human?" he muttered.
Tara nodded. "They all are."
Xander opened his mouth to issue some orders. Before he had time to speak, Faith cried out. "A gun!"
* * *
The moment she saw the hand-gun, Faith was charging through the alley and towards the gunman, instinct taking over. She didn’t know who the white hats in the fight were or even if there were any, but the moment Tar had said they were all human she’d seen the gun, the decision had been made for her.
By the time she reached the gunman he was straightening his arm and aiming his weapon. "Bringing a gun to a fist-fight," she grabbed the man’s wrist and yanked his arm back, bringing her knee up into the man’s elbow, forcing the bone to snap. "So not cool!" Even as the man screamed and his weapon dropped, clattering to the ground, Faith pulled him round to face her, slamming her forehead into his face. The man’s eyes rolled back. Releasing her grip, she allowed the unconscious man to slump to the ground. She smirked at the sound of her honey and her sis running up to flank her even as the man she’d rescued spun around to face them. "Hiya hon."
FIC: MC Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (2/9)
Chance glanced down at the revolver lying on the cobblestoned ground and then at the three teenagers. Judging the distance to the weapon too far to cover, he forced himself to take a relaxed stance. "Hello," he said, careful to keep his tone casual.
The male of the trio glance at the blonde while the brunette continued to smirk cockily at him. After a few seconds the blonde nodded. "He reads well," the blonde glanced down at the thugs’ bodies, her eyes widening. "They carry the mark of Madam Jessica!"
* * *
Xander glanced at the New Mexican out of the corner of his eye, unwilling to yet take his eyes off the unshaven mystery man. "The mark of Madam Jessica?" he queried.
"See the serpent tattoo on that man’s forearm?" his friend asked. Trusting Faith to keep her eye on the stranger, he crouched over the crumpled man at his feet and quickly examined him. Sure enough the drawing of a hooded cobra was wrapped around one of the Latino’s thickly muscled forearms, its yellow eyes seeming to malignantly gleam at them. Resisting the urge to shudder he looked up at Tara for an explanation. "That means he’s amongst Madam’s Jessica’s favoured servants," the Wicca said.
"Lucky him," he took a second to take in Tara’s words before staring at the stranger, noting his easy confidence despite being at a disadvantage. "Who are you? And what’s your beef with Madam Jessica?"
The Gallic-featured man chuckled. "Are you not the guests here?" the man asked in a Cajun accent. "Perhaps you should be answering my questions?" he suggested.
Xander smiled. "We have you out-numbered," he pointed out.
The pony-tailed man glanced down at the crumpled bodies. "So did they. And yet…"
"Hey asshole!" Faith growled. "How about I kick your ass all on my own-."
Xander sighed as he clamped a hand on his girl-friend’s slender shoulder. "Try and play nice," he muttered before raising his voice and turning his attention back to the now smiling man. "We did just help you. And it seems we’re interested in the same person."
"Yeah," the Cajun stared evenly at them for a few seconds before shrugging. "Follow me." The pony-tailed man turned and strode off without bothering to check if they were following.
Faith and Tara turned to him, their expressions questioning. He shrugged. "You heard the man, follow him."
Their guide led them into a smoky, care-worn jazz bar just off Bourbon Street, a simple but clean place. "Nice place," Faith commented in a tone that clearly indicated her complete boredom. After slapping a twenty dollar bill down on the counter, Faith grabbed a whiskey bottle and four glasses from the bartender before swaggering to their table in the shadows, placing the glasses on the table, and expertly pouring the bottle’s contents into them before turning her chair round and sitting down, her back facing the wall. "Who are ya?" his girl-friend demanded in her husky rasp.
"My name’s Chance Boudreaux," the Cajun replied. "Yours?"
"Alex Carter, Eloise Haversham, and Faith Spenser," Xander replied, nodding to each of his companions in turn. "You’ve got some good moves," he took a careful sip of his whiskey. It was strong, had a real kick. "Where did you learn them?"
"Marine Recon," the pony-tailed man replied. "What’s your interest in Madam Jessica?"
Xander shook his head. "You first?"
The older man stared at him for a long while before smiling and nodding. "Fine. I’m a private investigator." The man reached into his pocket and threw an ID across the table for him to check out. "Madam Jessica’s name keeps coming up in relation to missing kids. I suspect her of running some sort of cult."
"She’s a voodoo priestess," Xander groaned at his girl-friend’s bluntness. "Ease him in slowly why don’t you?" he muttered.
Chance stared at Faith for a second before laughing and shaking his head. "Suddenly I’m having flashbacks to watching Scooby Doo." The Cajun started to rise only for Tara to magically flip over her glass, holding its contents inside. The Cajun’s mouth opened and closed several times before he slumped back in his seat. Finally he managed to speak. "How did you do that?" the PI croaked.
Xander stared at Tara as she lowered the glass. "You’ve been taking tact lessons off Faith," he shot his girl-friend an accusatory glance, "again haven’t you?"
"Hey! I resemble that remark!"
Ignoring his girl-friend’s cheerful protest, he turned back to the still wide-eyed private investigator. "Short story is Eloise," he gestured towards Tara who flipped the glass back over and lowered it back to the table, "is a witch. Faith’s a Slayer." Seeing the older man’s mouth open, he hurried on. "A girl mystically empowered to fight demons and vampires."
"Vampires?" the private investigator croaked. "But that’s," the gumshoe glanced at the glass Tara had levitated before shaking his head. "What’s your deal with Madam Jessica?"
"She runs all the gangs in New Orleans according to a contact," he explained, Lorne having supplied the information. "Uses her powers to subdue the locals. Those who don’t give in to her get cursed. She runs extortion, illegal gambling, drugs, and prostitution rackets. In addition, she does black voodoo."
Chance winced. "I knew from what I’ve found out that she’s a major player in the local underworld, but this…" The Cajun glanced at the glass and shook his head again. "What do you intend to do about her?"
"You know where she lives?" Xander queried.
Chance shook his head. "No idea. But I think I know how to find her."
"Good enough." Xander nodded. "Then that’s what we’ll do."
"And when we find her?" Chance asked, the grim look on his face suggesting he already knew the answer.
It was Faith who replied, her cheerful expression turning serious. "We kill her."
FIC: MC 14 Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (3/?)
Billy ‘The Bull’ Banks dropped his spent cigarette on the wet ground and stomped it out. He looked up at the grubby four storey building behind him and leered. Two hours and his shift would be over. Then he could go in and enjoy himself, perhaps that pretty little Creole who had just arrived.
His planning was interrupted by an indistinct sound in the shadows. Eyes narrowing, he stepped into the darkness. "Who’s there?" he growled as he reached into his inner pocket for the brass knuckles he kept there.
A strong arm was suddenly around his neck, cutting off his oxygen. He opened his mouth to shout but a hand covered it, muffling his exclamation. Then the hand around his mouth twisted, snapping his neck.
* * *
Chance dragged the limp corpse to the side of the building, concealing it beneath some rubbish bags. As he finished he heard a noise behind him. He straightened and turned to see Alex and the young man’s two gorgeous companions approaching. "All done?"
Chance nodded. "He’s been dealt with."
"Great," Alex smiled at him. "We’ve dealt with the two guards at the back." The younger man’s face lost its humour, turning serious. "Are you ready?"
Chance glanced up at the looming four storey building before scowling. "I still don’t think this is right," he protested. "We should not be sending two girls into a whor-."
"You think I can’t handle myself?" Faith interrupted with eyebrow raised. "You get the whole Slayer deal right?"
"And I have to go," Eloise added. "I’m doing a spell so that his enforcers don’t think to stop us."
"A jedi mind trick," added Alex.
Faith glared good-naturedly at the youth. "My boy-friend’s a fucking dork." The raven-haired Bostonian shook her head. "Jesus Christ."
* * *
Faith resisted the urge to shudder as she entered the whorehouse, the peeling wallpaper, threadbare carpet, stench of booze and stale sex, and sounds of grunting couplings coming from the rooms off the corridor only adding to the general depressive air. If not for being Called….
"It’ll be fine."
Faith grinned at Tara’s whisper and the witch’s reassuring squeeze of her elbow. "Damn straight," she retorted. "We kick ass," she glared at a middle-aged john who’d just exited one of the rooms and was now leering at them. It was a shame that Tara’s spell only stopped the brothel’s enforcers from frisking them for weapons and not the patrons from noticing them. "Fuck off," she snarled.
Fortunately her warning was enough to make fatso pale and send him scurrying away. Satisfied that the jackass wouldn’t be returning, Faith continued with her sister to the top floor. She smirked at the two leering guards outside the ornate door. "We’re here to see Mr. Watts."
One of the men, a thick-chested Latino with a pony-tail and a squint grinned at his shorter, bald companion. "Lucky Monty," he commented. "Maybe we’ll get a taste later."
Faith forced her smirk to stay in place. "Never know ya luck." God, she hoped Xan ripped him apart. The man laughed raucously before opening the door, allowing them into the room beyond.
"Nice," Faith nodded. The room was sumptuously decorated in pastel wallpaper and a gleaming chandelier hung down from the flawlessly white ceiling. The room was dominated by a huge four-postered bed, more than capable of taking half a dozen bodies. Suddenly the door in the far wall swung open.
The man who entered was fat, grotesquely so, bald, with glinting, piggy green eyes that lit up when they rested on her and Tar. The man rolled his tongue over his thick lips as he approached them, chins wobbling and sausage-like fingers running through his non-existent hair. "You two pretties here to audition?"
"Oh yeah," Faith swayed her way over to the man. And slammed a foot in the pimp’s groin. "Audition as your torturer."
The fat ass’ eyes rolled back, a croak escaped his mouth before he pitched forward, crashing to the floor like a pole-axed bull. "Call the guys Tar," Faith instructed as she stepped over the man-mountain and began to cheerfully kick and stomp him. Man, she was having wicked fun.
All too soon, the doors crashed open and Xander and Chance hurried in. "Has he talked yet?" Xander demanded.
Faith glanced over his shoulder and winked. "Don’t know," she stomped on the whoremaster’s right hand, breaking fingers. "Haven’t asked." Grabbing the whimpering pimp’s nose, she twisted it, breaking blood and sending blood fountaining out. "Just having some fun. Breaking the ice." She chuckled. "And a few bones."
* * *
"Faith," Xander stepped forward, grabbed the Bostonian around her tiny waist, lifted her off the floor, and carried her away from the sobbing whoremaster. He more than understood her issues with Watts and his like, but it didn’t exactly help matters. "I thought we’d decided that we’d wait until after he refused to talk before you persuaded him."
"Yeah, but I kinda figured I’d move straight to the ‘persuasion’ part of the interrogation," Faith glared down at the crumpled body. "If fuck-face doesn’t talk can I continue?"
"You can," Xander crouched down by the whimpering pimp. "Now," he began, turning his attention to the battered man. He supposed there were some bones that Faith hadn’t broken in her attack, there had to be. "Sorry about Faith, but she has issues." He leaned in conspiratorially, whispering into the man’s ear. "Where’s Madam Jessica?"
Watts shook his head. "N….no," the crook gurgled through battered lips, teeth falling onto the wood panelled floor as he did so. "She’d kill me."
"You think I won’t!" Faith yelled from behind.
"She has a point," Xander sighed. "When my Faith starts, she doesn’t stop." The pimp looked up at the Slayer behind him, swollen eyes widening in terror. In seconds the whoremaster had babbled out an address and directions. Xander nodded. "Thanks. Now," he glanced over his shoulder to the others. "What are we going to do with him? We can’t just leave him here. He’ll be on the phone to Voodoo Hoodoo the moment we leave here."
"I wouldn’t!" Watts screamed. "Not a word!"
"Sorry Monty, you don’t get a vote," Xander replied, his eyes fixed on his friends.
"I vote we cut the fat fuck’s throat," Faith snarled. Their prisoner whimpered.
"We could tie him up and leave him in the back of the car," Chance suggested between understandably nervous glances at the East Coast teen.
"He’s gonna bleed all over the place," Faith protested. "Let’s just kill the bastard."
The pimp moaned at Faith’s blood-thirsty suggestion. Xander nodded. "I’m going with the rather less homicidal suggestion." He turned towards their prisoner. "Sorry about this," he said before crashing a right into the man’s jaw.
FIC: MC 14 Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (4/?)
"You have got to be jerking my chain!"
"Nope," Xander replied at his girl-friend’s infuriated whisper. "I am not joking." He secretly agreed with Faith’s dismay. This did not look good, especially through his night-vision binoculars.
Watts’ directions had led them into the steaming Louisiana swamps and to a palatial plantation house surrounded by an outer fence and then a moat filled by alligators. The only apparent route across the moat was via a domed bridge patrolled by a trio of rifle-toting sentries locked behind a padlocked gate to protect them from the alligators prowling the swamp between the fence and the moat. "Any smart ideas how we’re supposed to get across to the house?" Faith demanded.
"Watts said there’s an underground sewer running under the moat and to the house," Chance reminded the Bostonian.
"Yeah, that’s wicked Frenchie," Faith scoffed. "But what about them?"
Xander’s blood chilled as he looked through binoculars and saw the tailed reptiles of a primeval age, the glint in their emotionless eyes, and their jagged teeth. "That’s what we’ve got you for," he replied, forcing a light note into his voice.
"You expect me to fight all them?" Faith hissed, her tone disbelieving.
"No," Xander winked at his girl-friend. "I was thinking you could run around and they could chase you."
"Masterstroke," Tara commented. "One of your best plans ever."
Faith glared at both him and the Wicca. "You’re both a laugh a minute, you know?"
"We try," Tara retorted. Xander just chuckled.
* * *
Sweat trickling down his body, causing his clothes to stick to him, Chance followed the kids into the priestess’ compound. He shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t believe he was doing this, hunting a Voodoo priestess with a trio of kids.
And what a trio. There was Faith, the devastating beautiful but exceptionally foul-mouthed brunette with apparent super powers. Eloise, a timid but pretty blonde who claimed to be a witch. And Alex, just what the boy was, he had no idea.
His ruminations were interrupted by something coming at him from his left. His mouth dried when he turned his head to see a huge alligator, surging towards him, its tail powering its charge and its eyes and teeth gleaming in the darkness. Chance attempted to leap to safety, but for perhaps the first time in his life he found himself frozen in fear, unable to move.
A weight suddenly slammed into his back, knocking him face-first to the muddy ground. Looking up, he saw the lithe figure of Faith stood between him and the reptile, sword in hand. Even as Chance opened his mouth to shout at the Slayer, tell her to get out of the way, the alligator loomed up over her.
The girl darted beneath the reptile, her sword flashing upwards to rip through the monster’s under-belly. The creature’s mouth opened in shock, displaying its teeth in all their terrifying glory. Before the beast could re-attempt its attack, the Bostonian leapt into the air, twisting into mid-air to land on the rearing creature’s back. The girl wrapped her tiny hands around the monster’s neck and twisted. A wince-inducing crack resonated through the night and the beast flopped down, its corpse hitting the ground with a thud.
Chance stared at the east coast native as she leapt off the dead alligator. "Y..you killed it."
Faith smirked and winked at him. "What do ya think? I’m the Slayer."
"So I guess that story about you gator wrestling wasn’t just hype," Alex commented.
"Did you ever doubt?" Faith turned to Alex. "Say," the Bostonian kicked the corpse before looking up at her boyfriend, her expression speculative. "This could make a couple of wicked pairs of boots for me and El."
"Faith," Alex sighed long-sufferingly. "We really don’t have the time."
The Slayer pouted. "You’re no fun."
* * *
Xander smiled as he pushed aside the undergrowth concealing the underground tunnel entrance. "Got it!" he exclaimed as he pulled a pair of bolt-cutters out of the Always Pocket and used them to snap the grille’s padlock. The grille flipped open with a screech.
"Just great." He glanced over his shoulder to see his girl-friend wrinkling her nose in distaste, her full lips pouting. "The sewers? Again, oh man."
"You prefer we swim the moat?" Xander asked. "The moat filled with alligators?"
Faith glared at him. "Whoever told ya ya were funny?"
"Yeah," Faith shrugged. "I lie a lot." The Slayer sighed and rolled her eyes. "Let’s get this done."
"As madam wished," Xander bowed theatrically.
"If we were going what madam wished, we’d be bumping and grinding in a club," Faith muttered.
Five minutes later and Xander had to silently admit that Faith had a point. Sloshing around in knee-deep, mid-thigh on the girls’, foul-smelling sewage in a tunnel that was only illuminated by their torches was no sane person’s idea of fun. Or even an insane person’s.
His heart leapt when he saw a ray of light in the distance. "Who-fucking-ray!"
Xander raised an eyebrow at Faith’s grunt. Sometimes his girl-friend’s grumpiness was challenging. Shrugging it off, he led the others to the light and found a handful of worn steps climbing out of the sewage and leading to a grille the match of the one at the other end of the tunnel. "Come on gang," he ordered before starting up the steps.
His eyes widened as he entered the corridor above, its brush torch illuminated walls decorated with lavish murals of various African animals. Suddenly a quintet of spear-wielding dull-eyed zombies appeared in the passageway in front of them. Xander glanced over his shoulder to see another five loin-clothed zombies behind them. "Looks like we’re screwed."
* * *
Once they’d relinquished their weapons to their captors, Xander and the others were escorted to a candlelit underground chamber. At the far end of the velvet carpeted room filled with strange smelling essences and swirling mists there was an ebony skinned woman. S could only be Madam Jessica.
The voodoo priestess was tall, maybe a couple of inches under six feet, with an athletic physique and smooth, flawless coffee-coloured skin. Jet-black ringlets rested on the beauty’s muscular shoulders while her only concessions to decency were a gold-plated bikini top that encased her ample breasts and a small black silk loin-cloth covering her groin. "I wonder if Faith would wear that for me."
His words were just murmured but gained him an elbow in the ribs. "After making me walk through that sewer, not fucking likely," Faith growled.
Xander winced. "Just a thought."
The priestess’ exquisitely curved lips parted in a smirk. "I see my guests have arrived."
"Hey!" Faith called out. "You’re like eighty? Gotta love your skin, what’s your treatment?"
Xander groaned, now she was exchanging beauty tips with their enemies? He shook his head. "Focus Faith," he muttered. "Evil queen of New Orleans remember?"
"I bathe in the blood of virgins," the priestess replied, her tone lofty.
Faith winced. "You might want to give the south side of Boston a miss then. You’ll have skin like one of your gators in weeks."
"ENOUGH!" The priestess rose off her bleached bone throne, her coal-black eyes flaming dangerously. "My future plans are no concern of yours girl!" The voodoo expert smirked. "For you no longer have one."
FIC: MC 14 Taking A Chance (5/?)
Madam Jessica glared down from her throne at the four intruders stupid enough to invade her inner sanctum and set off her magical alarms. They’d learn the foolishness of their actions. Chuckling to herself, she inspected the invaders.
The blonde, she was a witch, she could sense the power rolling off her. With training and experience, the young girl would be more than a match for her. It was an effort but she managed to push that annoying thought to the back of her mind, comforting herself that once she’d siphoned the little bitch’s power off she’d be reduced to babbling idiocy.
The striking brunette. Now that girl could make her a small fortune in one of her upper-class brothels catering to men of power with ‘unusual’ tastes. Unfortunately she was a Slayer. She’d have to be killed immediately.
The two men. Jessica licked her lips. Now they were a pair of prizes and no mistake. Neither were magical in any way she could detect, but both had the look of strong, capable men. Just the sort she enjoyed. She’d keep them.
Finally she stood. "Kill the brunette," she ordered. Her underlings started forward. Then the younger of the two men grinned.
* * *
"Sorry," Xander began to pull weapons out of The Always Pocket. His plan of allowing them to be captured so they could be brought directly to the voodoo priestess rather than having to fight their way through masses of demons had worked perfectly. Now it was time to put stage 2 into operation. "She’s a pain," he threw Faith her favourite axe. "But I’m kinda attached." He threw Chance his automatic. "Can’t let you kill her. Wouldn’t be right." Finally he drew his Desert Eagle and blew the head off the nearest approaching zombie spearman.
* * *
"You’re gonna pay for that boy-toy," Faith muttered as she plucked the axe out of the air and allowed the momentum of Xan’s throw to carry her into a swing into the head of the nearest zombie. Even as the zombie dropped soundlessly to the ground another took its place, thrusting at her with its spear.
Faith grinned wickedly as she darted around the attack. "Big spear ya got there. Ya know what they say about the size of a zombie’s spear relating to the size of his-," her taunt was interrupted by a second thrust that tore through her jacket sleeve, narrowly missing piercing her arm. "SHIT!" Grabbing the shaft of the weapon with her free hand, she yanked her attacker towards her, swinging her ax up to meet her rival’s throat.
The blow smoothly decapitated the zombie, sending its head flying off its shoulders and its body plummeting to the ground. Another zombie lunged at her, she leaned sideways, out of the way of its shuffling attack. The re-animated corpse stumbled forward. She struck with a kick to the back of its knee that sent the monster crashing to the ground. Before it had time to recover, Faith brought her axe down through the back of its neck. "Next!"
* * *
Tara winced as Madam Jessica’s full power crashed into her. Her knees almost buckled beneath her, but she gamely held onto consciousness. Aware that if she fell her companions would inevitably follow, she gritted her teeth and pushed back. Soon sweat was pouring down her face, her limbs shaking as if afflicted by a terrible palsy, and red dots appeared before her eyes.
* * *
Jessica smirked even as she wiped away the sweat beading down her forehead. Her men and even their reinforcements had been annihilated by the Slayer and her male companions. But that scarcely mattered.
The Wicca had reserves of hidden strength that the poor girl herself had no idea of. If the blonde had known how to use her powers and had the experience to use them, Jessica knew the girl would have beaten her already. But she didn’t. Her smile widened as she sensed her victory was at hand. "I win."
"No," she heard a Cajun voice to her right. Turning, she saw the gaping muzzle of an automatic staring back at her. "We do."
* * *
Chance grimaced as he pulled the trigger and watched as the priestess’ head exploded in a spray of flesh, bone, and viscera. He’d killed plenty of men in his time, but never a woman before.
Reminding himself that Madam Jessica had enslaved and murdered people for far longer than he’d been alive, he turned to likewise see the zombie army who’d crowded into the vast chamber slumping to the ground. A glassy-eyed Tara also stumbled, falling to the ground, only to be caught by a concern-looking Faith. Xander also hurried over to the duo. The three teens talked amongst themselves for a few seconds before Xander glanced at him. "Shall we get out of here?"
"Good idea," he promptly agreed. The quicker the better in his opinion. "We can go back to my place."
He inwardly groaned when Faith fluttered her long eyelashes at him. "Why Mr. Boudreaux I’m flattered truly," Faith cooed unconvincingly. "But I’m an involved woman. Although," the Slayer glared at her boyfriend, "after that pain comment there might be a vacancy."
"In that case," he offered the Bostonian the crook of his arm, "may I accompany you to my home, mon amour?"
"Well hot damn!" Faith flashed him a world-class set of dimples before taking his offered arm and grinning at her boyfriend. "A man who knows how to treat a lady!"
Xander grinned. "If I was dating-."
"Thin ice, Harris. Thin ice."
* * *
"So that’s the deal." Xander took an expectant breath. "I’m running a global demon-fighting organisation," he laughed self-consciously. It sounded even dumber when he said it like that. "And I need people to run detached units for me. With all the different cultures in New Orleans it’s a real melting pot for demons and the like. I’m building an army for a battle in four and a half years. I’d like you to run New Orleans for me," he smiled as Tar passed him a print-out. "Thanks Tara." He directed his gaze back at the private investigator. "I’ve got here the details of a trio of local hunting teams, a mage, and two occultists who check out as okay and could be useful, as well as my armourer and electronics expert. There’s also an one hundred and fifty million dollar trust fun," Chance let out a croak, "the annual interest of which is yours to use to run the group."
Chance dazedly stared at him for a long second before nodding. "I’ll do it."
* * *
Gwen shook her head as she hurried away from the bar, the grating chords of country music still reverberating in her ears. Desperate for what little human closeness her condition would allow she’d left the crappy hotel she was staying in to search out the local bar. "Square dancing, Stetsons, and sawdust," she shook her head. "Not this girl’s idea of fun."
"What is cutie?"
She halted as two of the lantern-jawed good ol’ boys from the bar stepped out of the shadows to block the way ahead. "No offence gentlemen, but you aren’t my type."
"Oh," one of the cowboys, a bearded fat guy maybe twenty years her senior, turned to the other. "She thinks she’s better than us."
"No, just not in the mood."
"Looks like lady needs some persuading," She tensed at the sound of footsteps behind her. "Classy lady like that, walking around like she’s got a bad smell under her nose."
Four now, she was in big trouble. "Look boys," she tried for a calm tone but wasn’t entirely sure she succeeded. "I just want to go back to my hotel."
"Sorry girl, can’t let you do that."
Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she drove her head back into her attacker’s face before spinning around and slamming her forearm into the cowboy’s throat causing the man to gasp and fall. Another grabbed her around the waist. She responded with a stamp to his foot, driving the steel-covered heel into his softer cowboy boot. "Fuck!" The moment the man loosened his grip, she pulled away. "You’re going no-where bitch!" She screamed as the man grabbed and yanked her hair. Spinning around she caught the man with a backfist that split his lip open and snapped his head back.
Despite the blood dripping down his face, her attacker still had enough to return her backhand with interest. Stars appearing in front of her eyes, she fell to her knees. "Let’s see if she looks as good out of those clothes."
Panic grabbed her as the men did, their fingers ripping at her clothing. She flailed out desperately, her right hand smashing into her nearest attacker’s groin.
Sparks flew from her hand, enveloping the thug in electricity, flinging him into the far wall. Gwen’s eyes widened as she realised her hand become ungloved during the fight. "No," she croaked. Conscious that the remaining trio had stumbled away in horror, she struggled to her feet, and ran off into the night.
FIC: MC Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (6/?)
"Jeez," Faith glanced around their surroundings, her coal-black hair bouncing as she moved. "All these pick-ups, good ol’ boys, and wooden shacks. It looks like the Dukes Of Hazzard set. Say," Faith glanced at Tara, her eyes growing speculative. "Tar, it was kinda like that where you came from right?"
Xander hid a chuckle as he glanced into the rear view mirror to his two companions to see Tara glaring suspiciously at an altogether too innocent-looking Faith. Like him, the Wicca clearly suspected a put-down coming. "That’s right," the Wicca slowly replied.
"I was just thinking," Faith shook her head. "Nah, it’s stupid."
"What is?" Now Xander had to bite his bottom lip from laughing at the dangerous note in Tara’s voice. This was going to be good, he just knew it.
"Well, maybe that’s why you’re a lesbian." Faith scratched at her nose. "All those country boys were more interested in their cattle than women, maybe -."
"Why you!" Eyes wide with outrage, the Wicca jumped at the laughing Slayer.
Xander laughed and shook his head. Faith’s method of teasing the New Mexican out of her shell was unusual but effective. Slowly but surely the shy Wiccan was becoming more confident. Which was good, he hated to think of the life that had made his friend so withdrawn.
His mood darkened when he thought of the demon they were hunting. "Tara?"
The Wicca turned from playfully pummelling his girl-friend. "Xander," his friend grinned at him. "I’m busy disciplining Faith."
"Now there’s an image," Xander chuckled before again turning serious. "About the demon?"
Tara joined him in turning serious. "It doesn’t make sense," the witch began. "According to the police reports, the demon posing as a human tempted the men outside and then killed one of them before running off."
"Demons kill a guy. We kill the demons. What’s the prob?" Faith put in.
"Problem is there aren’t any electricity demons indigenous to Amer-."
"Say what?" It was Faith again, a bemused expression on her sultry face.
"Native to," Xander explained. "Go on Tara."
"And even the electricity demons there are can’t shape-shift," the New Mexican finished.
Xander groaned. "Never simple is it?"
"It gets worse." Tara warned.
"Of course it does," Xander sighed. "What else?"
"According to the police reports Angela hacked into, search parties set off after the demon first thing yesterday morning."
Visions of a massacre flashed before his eyes. "Great just great." And they’d got a two day start. And it wasn’t like he was experienced at forest tracking. He had Mithras’ memories but he’d never actually put the skills into practice. They were so screwed.
Unless…. He turned back to Tara as he parked outside the bar that reports said the victim had been drinking in before being turned into ash, the seeds of an idea germinating in his head. "Could you do a locater spell on it?"
Tara shook her head. "No. I’ve either got to have met it or have something belonging to it to do a spell."
Xander grimaced. "That’s it then-."
"Not necessarily," Tara interrupted. "According to the police reports Angela emailed me, there’s a black glove from the demon in the police’s evidence locker."
Faith groaned. "Looks like I’m up then."
* * *
"Thank gawd for small-town America," Faith muttered as she forced the police station’s rear window. After a quick look to reassure herself the alley was empty, X had wanted to come with her, but she liked doing these jobs solo, she climbed through the portal, the small opening no obstacle for someone with a Slayer’s agility and flexibility.
Once inside, she found herself in a narrow corridor. Glancing around, she saw three signs. The one to the left said ‘Sheriff’s Office’, the one to the right said ‘Cells’, and the one pointing straight ahead claimed to lead to the toilets and evidence room. Deciding she really didn’t need to cause a jail riot or walk into a room filled with cops, she crept straight ahead, her skin prickling. "I always figured I’d be breaking out of jail, not in," she muttered. Finally she reached and eased open the door at the end of the corridor. Swallowing slightly, she peeked inside to see a small room filled with cabinets and two doors on the right-side wall that were obviously the toilet doors.
Forcing her nerves down deep she hurried over to the evidence drawers. Pulling out her wallet she quickly read the case number. Squinting in the half-light, she quickly rummaged through the drawers, searching for the file. "Got it!" she hissed.
Her triumphant grin slipped at the sound of a toilet flushing and a door opening behind her. "What the-."
"Shit!" Dropping the parcelled glove, Faith spun around to see a pot-bellied, balding cop exiting one of the toilets. Even as the open-mouthed officer’s hand dropped to his holster, Faith leapt over the table. Landing in front of the man, she smiled. "Sorry about this," she apologised before smashing a palm strike into the cop’s jaw as she grabbed his gun-arm, holding it fast.
The police officer’s eyes rolled back and his legs buckled under him, dropping him like a stone. Catching the cop inches from the ground, she eased him down. "Shit," she muttered as she pulled the man’s cuffs out of his belt. "Even in my bad-ass days I spent my time running from cops not beating them up." Once she’d secured the man’s hands behind his back, she lifted him onto her shoulder and carried him back into the cubicle, nose wrinkling at the smell, before dumping him on the seat. "See ya."
* * *
Xander drummed his fingers on the saloon table, his eyes fixed on the bar’s entrance. "She’ll be fine Xander."
He tore his glance away from the doorway and to his friend sat across from him, smiling weakly. "I know," he said. "Can’t help worrying though."
"I know." Tara grinned. "You wouldn’t be Xander if you didn’t worry about Faith."
"Yeah." Anxious to take his mind off his girl-friend’s predicament, he looked around their surroundings. From the mingled scent of tobacco and whiskey in the air, the mounted heads of animals and the western memorabilia on the walls, the C&W music blasting out of the jukebox, and the bar’s clientele of mostly cowboys, it was a typical southern bar. He grinned as a familiar figure sauntered into the bar, drawing the majority of the bar’s male patrons’ stares to her before she swaggered over to him and Tara. "Faith!" His smile disappeared as he noticed his girl-friend’s tense expression. "What’s up?"
"Ran into a pig," the Bostonian muttered. "Had to knock him out. Got the glove though."
Xander exchanged worried looks with Tara as they both rose. "Better get out of here then," he commented. "We’ve got some news of our own. Seems the four guys weren’t exactly white as the driven snow. All had records for small-time crime, bar fights, domestic abuse, that sort of thing."
"Oh crap," Faith groaned. "Best catch this damn thing before the hunting party does then." Faith smirked. "Just thought of something." Xander looked quizzically at the Bostonian. "See the look on these guys’ faces when I came in?" Xander glowered, oh yeah he’d noticed. "Seems all these cowboys are all interested in cattle."
"Or maybe they couldn’t tell the difference?" Tara suggested.
FIC: MC 14 Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (7/9)
Gwen let out a strangled sob as she stumbled through the leafy Tennessee wilderness. Her usual composure was shot, first by accidental killing of her would-be attacker, then by her unfamiliar surroundings, and finally by her two days without sleep, food, and water.
She licked her cracked lips, vainly searching for any moisture she could find there. Legs trembling, she continued on, conscious that her pursuers were only an hour or so behind. Her heart stopped at a sound in the undergrowth. Reassuring herself it had to be some animal or other, there was no way her trackers could have got around her, she started back on her way.
A powerfully-built man leapt out from behind the bush to her right. Before she had time to react, the man swung a thick branch into her head, the makeshift weapon crashing into her skull.
* * *
Xander watched as the demon soundlessly dropped to the dirt-packed ground. He crouched down over her. Even in her bedraggled condition, her beauty was obvious. No wonder the men had been enchanted out of the bar by her. "Oh goddess."
He glanced behind him to see a pale-faced Tara coming out of the shadows with Faith by her side. "Geez Tara," he grinned, "Don’t tell me you’re crushing on the demon?"
Tara glared at him. "No I’m not Mr. Praying-Mantis. Besides, she’s not a demon she’s got an aura."
Xander shook his head, although Lorne could sense auras on demons Tara couldn’t, meaning she had to be human. "Explains the hotness – owww!" he rubbed his ear where Faith had yanked and twisted it. "What was that for?"
"You know what," Faith glared at him before turning to Tara. "You sure big sis?"
The Wicca nodded.
Xander sighed. "I better wake her then." He leaned down to shake the unconscious woman’s shoulder.
"Don’t!" Faith grabbed his wrist. He glanced quizzically at his girl-friend. "We don’t know how she turned that guy to ash. Maybe just touching her can set her off."
"Oh good point," Xander felt foolish. He smiled gratefully at his girl-friend. "What should we do then?"
"Let me wake her up," his girl-friend pulled out a bottle and poured some water onto the woman’s face. Faith glanced at him and Tara. "Be ready," she ordered.
* * *
Gwen spluttered as something wet hit her in the face. Forcing her eyes open, she looked up through blurred eyes to see a beautiful brunette standing over her, a mocking grin on her face, and a half-full bottle of water in her hand. She made to wipe some of the liquid off her face. "Don’t."
She froze at the grim voice. Fighting back the wooziness, she turned her head to the side and swallowed when she registered the cold-eyed teen brandishing a shotgun, its muzzle pointed at her. "Just relax," she said. "I can explain."
"Oh yeah?" the youth gestured with his shotgun. "Then talk. But make it fast."
* * *
Xander glanced at Tara. "Well?"
"She’s telling the truth," Tara confirmed.
"Great," he groaned. And once again fate was throwing obstacles in their path. Collecting himself he began to bark out orders. "Get up Gwen."
The brunette started to her feet only to yelp and fall back down, dust billowing up. "I can’t," the young woman gasped. "My ankle’s sprained."
Xander looked up to the darkening sky above, the towering redwoods overhead partially obscuring the view, muttering curses under his breath. "Of course it is," he sighed. "Faith, pick her up. You’ll have to carry her-."
"Nooo!" Panic entered Gwen’s eyes at Faith’s approach. "If you touch me I could electrocute you."
"Ah hell." Xander slowly counted to ten.
"What if we covered you in a blanket," Tara suggested.
"Hooray," Xander nodded as he pulled a blanket out of The Always Pocket. Seeing Gwen’s eyes widen and her mouth, he shook his head. "No time." He glanced towards Faith. "You and Tara get her back to the car, I’ll hold them off."
"Xan," Faith protested.
"Please Faith," he sighed. "Don’t argue. I’m having a really bad day as it is."
* * *
Sheriff Dawson led his men through the forest, his practiced eye telling him that his party were closing on their quarry. He stopped and wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. Two days of clambering through the wilderness had left him exhausted and filthy.
And in a very, very bad mood. He couldn’t wait until this was over and he could go home to his nice soft bed. "I’m too old for this," he muttered. Comforting himself that it was only six months to his retirement, he turned to tell his four men they were closing on their suspect.
His mouth dropped open when he found his companions had somehow disappeared into the undergrowth. Skin prickling, he stepped down the path, his hand dropping to his gun.
"Don’t." He froze at the click of a gun by his ear. "Raise your hands." He obeyed, a hand reached around him to unfasten his holster and take his gun. "Sorry about this. I just wanted to talk, and your deputies would have only got in the way. You can turn around now."
His eyes widened when he turned to find his assailant was just a teen. A powerfully built kid, but still just a child. "You’re making a big mistake!" he blustered.
"I do that a lot." The kid appeared unfazed. "Actually you’re the one making a mistake. You see those men outside the bar were trying to rape that girl."
Dawson stared at the youth before groaning. Given what he knew of the four men involved, he was more than inclined to believe the boy. "Bring her in and we’ll sort this out."
"Sorry sir, we can’t do that," the youth apologised. "Kinda on a schedule."
"I’m warning you."
The youth ignored him. "Your men are back there, tied up but unharmed." The kid took the magazine out of his gun, threw the weapon back to him, and the magazine into the far bushes. "Good to have met you," his attacker melted back into the undergrowth.
* * *
Stark looked up at the distinctive ring of his private line, a line that less than a dozen people had the number. He picked the phone up. "Hello, Tony Stark?"
"Hi Mr. Stark, it’s Xander."
"Hi Xander," he beamed at the young man’s voice. "What’s the problem?"
"Does there have to be a problem?"
He chuckled at the boy’s bantering tone. "There usually is," he dryly replied.
The young man chuckled. "Fair enough." He listen to the youth’s tale. "Question is what do I do with her now?"
Tony pursed his lips in thought. There was a solution to the kid’s problem. The question was could he trust the boy? Pushing the question aside as insulting to his friend, he spoke. "Get a pen and write this address down."
FIC: MC 14 Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (8/9)
Xander’s mouth dropped open as they pulled up and stared at the address Mr. Stark had given them, a mansion situated in one of New York’s most exclusive counties. Finally the quartet’s leader let out a gasp. "Wow, it’s -."
"Really big," Faith commented.
"I was going with palatial but yeah." Xander agreed.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Tara put in, the honey-blonde’s tone doubtful.
"The address Mr. Stark gave us was for 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center. This is it," the young man defended.
"Yeah but Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?" Faith’s tone was heavily laced with scepticism as she thumbed over her shoulder to Gwen. "I mean she ain’t no wrinklie but she’s not exactly school-age either."
"Something else is worrying me even more," Xander replied.
"Oh yeah?" the Bostonian glanced at the young man sat beside her. "Do tell."
"Well I was worrying, a classy place like this," Harris mused. "I think maybe we’ll have to smuggle you in the back."
Faith glared at Xander. "Guess who ain’t getting any tonight?"
"Oh thank god," Tara muttered. "Maybe I’ll be able catch up on some sleep."
Throughout the entire conversation, Gwen had remained silent, her normal assured shell shattered by the tumultuous events of the past few days. First the attempted rape and her accidental killing, then the nerve-wracking chase, her shocking rescue, and the amazing revelation of the existence of vampires, witches and the like had left her shaken and withdrawn. Finally she spoke. "Let’s get this over with."
* * *
Xander cast Faith a worried look at Gwen’s ragged whisper. Since her rescue the self-confessed thief had been distant, eating and drinking little, and communicating even less. The killing of her attacker had understandably shaken her to her core. "Okay then," Xander attempted for a cheery tone. "I’ll just be a minute." Jumping out of the car, he hurried over to the gleaming intercom situated on the left gate-post. After a clumsy few seconds figuring out how exactly the machinery worked, he finally managed to turn it on. "Hello?"
After a second, a gruff voice growled back at him. "Yeah?"
Taken aback by the less than fulsome welcome he’d received; it took him a couple of seconds to recover. "Uh, yeah. My name’s Alexander -," he paused; unsure as to what surname Mr. Stark had given in his introduction. "Mr. Stark gave me your address for some help. I’ve got a student for your school."
"Name?" the man at the other end of the intercom barked. At least he really hoped it was a man, only women with voices that deep were usually eastern bloc shot putters.
"Uh, she’s called Gwen Raiden."
* * *
"Well?" Logan turned to his companions. "Yeah or no?"
Hank looked up from his computer screen, a troubled look on his furred face. "One of the four is definitely a mutant. But the other three," the doctor shrugged. "I’m getting strange readings from all of them."
Logan turned at a chuckle from the study’s third companion. "More than you could ever imagine. "Please Logan, let them in."
* * *
There was a brief pause. "Follow the path round. I’ll meet you at the parking lot."
"Su-." Xander blinked as he realised the man had signed off and that the gate was sliding silently open. Shaking his head at the man’s brusqueness, he hurried back to the car.
* * *
"Holy shit," Faith muttered as Xan pulled into the mansion’s parking lot. Close up, the towering building looked even more impressive. Maybe X had a point about smuggling her in.
Pushing her self-doubt aside, she looked around, noting a short but thickly-muscled man sauntering from the building and towards them. The side-burned man had dark, almost satanic-looking eyebrows, and his face looked as if it had been chiselled from rock. Faith grinned as she took in the man’s upturned jeans, checked shirt, and dirty work-boots. "Shit," she drawled, "ain’t that cute, it’s a midget lumberjack."
"Midget?" Xander grinned at her. "You’re only a couple of inches taller than him."
"Oh Xander," she purred seductively before pouting at her now colouring boyfriend. "You know how much a difference a couple of inches can make."
"And once again you give us far too much information," Tara commented from the back of the car.
Faith looked over her shoulder. "Sorry big sis," she apologised with a smirk. Turning serious, she looked back at Xan. "We getting out?"
Her boyfriend looked at house, an apprehensive expression on his face. She totally got out how he felt, this classy place was the sort of building she’d always kinda figured that she’d be breaking into not getting the red carpet treatment at. "It’ll be cool babe," she whispered in his ear.
Finally X nodded. "Lets."
* * *
Logan hid a grin at the husky-voiced teen’s comments as he approached the SUV, his enhanced senses allowing him to eavesdrop on their conversation. He ran his eyes over the quartet as they exited the car. The raven-haired beauty had the looks of a centrefold but moved like a predator. The group’s solitary male was a powerfully-built kid, looked capable too. The shy blonde, Logan squinted, there was power there too. And the second brunette, bio-scans confirmed she was one of them but whatever she was, she looked like she’d been through hell. "Hi," he growled. "I’m Logan." He nodded towards the house. "Wanna come in?" Without waiting for an answer, he spun around and started back to the mansion.
"Again with the welcome," the leather-clad brunette grunted.
"Faith," the male muttered. "Play nice."
"Play nice?" the brunette sounded out-raged. "I haven’t put my foot up his ass yet have I?"
It was an even greater struggle to hide his grin as he led the guests through the spotlessly-professional reception area and up into the Prof’s spacious office filled with its classic antique furniture, shelves stacked with 1st editions, and his two companions.
* * *
Faith shook her head as she and the others followed Logan through the mansion, noting the kids they occasionally passed. Damn, they were lucky. She’d never admitted to anyone, not even X, but it bugged her that she hadn’t finished or even started high school. But she knew she could have done it, she was smart. And to learn in this luxury….
Their guide opened a gleaming white door. Faith stepped into the office, her eyes widened when she saw a bald, wheel chaired man. And a mammoth blue-furred demon. "Fuck!" she started forward only for the midget to block her way. She gulped when claws shot out of the man’s hand, stopping bare inches from her throat.
"Calm down girlie!"
FIC: MC 14 Jan ’00 Taking A Chance (9/9)
"Perhaps," Xavier was careful to keep his tone calm as he watched the unfolding confrontation. "Everyone should calm down. Logan, please?" After a second the faculty tutor nodded curtly and retracted his claws even as the mouth-agape brunette and her companions stared at his colleagues and friends. "Thank you. Now," he turned his attention to the shy-looking blonde. "Miss Maclay, can you tell your friends that we’re all human." The witch continued to stare at Wolverine. "Tara?" he prompted.
The teen shook her head as if clearing her head. "They’re humans," she confirmed.
The brunette glanced at Miss Maclay, her chocolate-brown eyes filled with disbelief. "You tripping sis?"
"Allow me to endeavour to explain Miss Spenser," the brunette blinked at his casual use of her name. "I’m sure you’ve seen news reports about mutants?" At the teens’ nods he continued. "My name is Professor X, this is Logan," he nodded towards the group’s guide, "and my blue friend is Dr. Henry McCoy."
"A pleasure I’m sure," Hank said, his warm tones contrasting with the room’s tense atmosphere.
"I run a school here for mutants, training them to use their powers for the betterment of all mankind," Xavier finished. "I and my people mean you no harm. I merely wish to offer Gwen a place here, a chance to learn to hone and control her powers, and to meet you three young heroes."
After a second, Tara spoke. "He doesn’t mean us any harm."
"Thank you Miss Maclay," Xavier beamed at the young witch. "In that case, would Miss Maclay, Spenser, and Raiden mind going with Dr. McCoy and Logan. I’d like to talk to Mr. Harris alone."
The girls glanced at their male companion as if looking for guidance. The youth stared at him for a long second before nodding. "Sure."
* * *
With the others gone from the study, Xander felt very alone and very intimidated. It wasn’t the antique furniture or the impressive array of classical literature that awed him. Rather it was the room’s other occupant.
Despite his infirmity, the wheelchair bound man pulsated with power and his eyes glowed with intelligent purpose. The bald man smiled at him. "Don’t be nervous Mr. Harris, you have nothing to fear from me or my organisation."
"Call me Xander, Mr. Harris is my -," Xander mouth dropped. "How do your know my name? How did you know the others’ names?"
"When you were waiting at the front gate we did a bio-scan to ascertain that one of your number was a mutant. In the process it also unearthed a number of interesting discrepancies about you and your other companions. To further ascertain your intentions I read your minds -.
"You did what!" Xander glowered suspiciously at the room’s other occupant.
His host appeared unruffled by his outburst. "Just generalities I assure you. Names, intentions, and motivations. What I found intrigued me to say the least. Please," the bald man gestured towards a chair, "sit down."
After a second he complied. "So your power is psionics then?" The older man nodded. "I guess you know about Mithras." Again his host nodded. Quelling his distaste at the thought of having his privacy invaded in favour of having the question that had plagued for months answered, he spoke. "Would you read me? See what Mithras’ plans are?"
"I’d be more than happy to help, Xander."
* * *
"This place is wicked cool!" Faith exclaimed as she looked around the state-of-the-art facility.
Doc. McCoy chuckled. "The Danger Room was designed -."
"Say what!" Faith snapped. The Danger Room? "Is this some trap?" Fuck, she knew it.
"No not at all, this is just the part of the facility for training mutants in the use of their powers," the scientist soothed. "I’d like to run a few tests, just to ascertain the limits of your powers."
"Uh, uh," she commented, far from convinced.
"You scared girlie?"
Faith glared at Logan. "Fuck no. Anything happens to me or Tar and X will hang you assholes by your lungs." She turned back to the blue guy. "Where do we start?"
The scientist smiled. "Please Faith, allow me."
* * *
Xavier smiled at his guest’s tense expression. "Relax Xander," he soothed. "Mithras is very powerful." Indeed the god raged at the limitations put on him by his host’s body. "But the effect of his possession is two-way." Seeing the teen’s confused expression, he continued. "While you received his experience and skills, he feels your loyalty to humankind, your sense of obligation to those who follow you, and in particular your love for your two companions."
"So he means us no harm?" he nodded. The young man’s face relaxed. "Thank god."
* * *
Tara turned from watching Faith go through the mutants’ tests at the soft voice to see herself being regarded by a crouched figure with shining yellow eyes and indigo hair, a whiff of sulphur surrounding him. The figure was covered almost entirely with indigo hair and had a three foot tail. For a moment Tara was briefly frightened by the demonic looking creature, but then, sensing no evil in the mutant, she stepped towards the figure. "Hello," she said hesitantly. "I’m Tara."
The mutant’s beaming smile ended any trepidation she might have had at about him. "They call me Nightcrawler," the mutant offered her a three finger hand, "but you can call me Kurt."
Tara smiled at the mutant’s soft voice, sensing a kindred spirit. "Pleased to meet you, Kurt," she shook the mutant’s hand.
Kurt looked away as if shy. "The pleasure is all mine."
* * *
He smiled to himself as he turned his remote viewing device on, preparing it to spy on one of the men he considered a possible threat. They were few in number, those he considered possessing the combination of will, intellect, and resources to be of concern to him. That select few included Strange, Richards, Stark, and of course Xavier.
He concentrated. The screen he was staring at cleared to reveal Xavier’s base. He moved to Xavier’s study. Finding his potential adversary talking to a young man h listened with interest to the youthful stranger’s story. "He’ll bear watching."
Turning away from the youth and his host, he moved through the mansion, inspecting it for any new potentially useful or dangerous mutant. His heart stopped when he reached the training room, the young woman he saw exercising there re-igniting feelings he’d only previously felt once before.
Where the first woman to inflame his heart had been blond and demure, this one was brunette and brash. But both had within them something, a spark, that he had to process. He listened to the woman talk, his interest growing as he learnt of her supernatural powers. "Fascinating." He reached out a finger to stroke her curvy image. "You will be mine," he promised.
Standing, he strode through his base, his minions scurrying away from him. Finally he reached a vast chamber filled with various artefacts from ancient cultures. Some were just curiosities, but others…. He smiled as he spied the object he wanted. "Slayer’s Strength," he picked up the hexagonal amulet. So his Faith was a Slayer? She’d appreciate this, the question was how to get it to his future bride. His smile widened. All it took was a little patience and ingenuity, and in time an opportunity would present itself.
* * *
"And what is your assessment of Faith?" Xavier asked.
"Girl’s good, the Slayer thing is the real deal," Logan replied. "She’s faster, stronger, and a better fighter than me. Doesn’t heal anywhere nearly as quick as me, but if it wasn’t for my exo-skeleton she’d have beaten me."
Xavier nodded. It appeared Slayers were ‘the real deal’ so to speak. "And there was nothing genetically different about her, Henry?"
The erstwhile Beast shook his head. "She’s an exceptional physical specimen-."
"I’d say," Wolverine chuckled.
Doctor McCoy ignored Logan’s interruption. "In the top 5%, a supreme natural athlete. But there are no genetic discrepancies. Nor is she using some sort of mechanics. Her powers can only be supernatural in origin."
"Fascinating, and Miss Spenser’s companions?"
"Miss Raiden has considerable power, but it’s unfocused. Miss Maclay is a level five mage with the potential to become a level six."
Xavier considered the ramifications of this news. Only Strange, Warlock, and the combined Charmed Ones had the power to defeat Miss Maclay is she reached her full potential. "And their companion is a formidable young man. But Miss Raiden is our most immediate concern," he turned back to Doctor McCoy. "Do you think she’ll join us?"
Hank nodded. "She appears to be a woman looking for a place to belong."
* * *
Xavier winced inwardly as Xander finished speaking, knowing what his answer had to be to the teen’s question, but also knowing what it might do to the youngster’s fragile confidence. "I’m afraid I’ll have to decline."
The youngster’s eyes filled with poorly-concealed disappointment. "I unders-."
"I’m afraid you don’t," he interrupted. Interjecting a stern note into his voice, he continued. "While your mission is a noble one and I have no doubts about your leadership," even if the boy himself did. "I am afraid my group’s mission lies in another direction. However we will be at your side for your final battle, I promise you that. And should you ever need us…." He smiled. "Besides it behoves my dignity not to work for a young man whose significant other refers to me as ‘Wheels’."
Xander groaned. "Professor, I’m sorry it’s-."
He waved away the youth’s apologies. "Nonsense Xander. Like Logan, Faith’s true character lies not in her words but in her deeds. And they do her immense credit." He smiled again. "I trust we part as friends?"
The younger man nodded. "I certainly hope so sir."
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