FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (1/?)
He whistled a typically carefree tone as he strode down the darkened street, his spirits as usual high. And why shouldn’t they be? He paused and glanced both ways before crossing over the silent road, his feet slapping on the wet tarmac beneath. His business empire was expanding apace, he planned to open another half dozen franchises across the world this year, and his friends. He smiled softly, well suffice to say he wasn’t alone any more.
His heart skipped a beat as he noticed a shadow just ahead shift unnaturally. His breath caught as he started to back up, heart tightening in his ass. Then the man stepped out of the shadows, muscles bristling in his t-shirt. He reached into his Armani jacket, pulled out his cell and pulled out his phone, quickly pulled up a number of the nearest contact, turned on his heel and started back the way he’d come, his pace becoming faster and faster as he hurried away. "Answer, answer, like the Supremes said ‘Don’t Keep Me Hanging On’," he muttered as he listened to the phone’s rings and rings.
"Hello," his heart leapt at the voice, "this is Brill, if I know you leave a message," then sank at the realisation it was the machine, "if not, I’m not buying."
"Brill, I need help, and I need it fast. There’s a man with a tattoo of some sort of beast on his arm, looks like some sort of a big cat, not just one of them, but all of the-." Lorne gasped as something hard crashed into the back of his head. Senses reeling and vision blurring, he stumbled around to face his attacker, saw the wrench swinging at him, then fell when it crashed into his forehead.
* * *
Brill grumbled as he rolled out of bed and stretched. After years of retirement he still hadn’t got used to wakening at a set hour. Snatching his cell off the top beside his bed, he turned it on to check if there were any urgent messages to be dealt with. "Lorne?" he grunted, sleepy eyes widening. He’d met the horned demon on a handful of occasions and of course they’d exchanged numbers in the unlikely event that their paths should cross while working for the Brotherhood, but they’d never actually phoned one another.
Brill called up the message and listened with an increasing horror. "Oh hell," he grunted, temporarily forgoing his shower to quickly call the office. "Yeah, put me through to Security."
"Yeah, it’s Brill, I need a GPS trace on a Brotherhood phone, suspected abduction," he rattled off the number.
"Password?" Schofield queried.
He heard the click of keys being pressed. "It’s uploading now, sir."
"Great, get a trace on it, and then send a team of our men to secure it, once you have it, call me back, this is top priority." He hung up without waiting for assent, secure in the knowledge that his people were more than competent. Which left him one more onerous duty. Brill shook his head and sighed as he dialled a number, the kid was gonna love this.
* * *
Intercontinental Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Sun flooded into the ground floor restaurant through the gaps in the outside palm trees, illuminating everything there, including the demure decoration and colourful flower arrangements on each table. Including the flower arrangement that Xander was peering over to the man sat opposite.
The man had bushy black hair and a full beard, together with brown eyes that returned his gaze with a hawkish stare, his guest was dressed in largely traditional desert combat uniform, although the scimitar sheathed on his left side was far from ordinary. However as ordinary as the tanned, powerfully-built man might look, he was far from that, he was the third in a sacred line, the Arabian Knight.
According to Xander’s files, the Scimitar was in fact an energy weapon capable of shooting bolts of considerable over long distances and the uniform his companion wore made him to all intents and purposes impervious to injury. Stark had advised him against making contact, but he had to try and expand the Brotherhood into the Middle East, he’d already tried and failed to get a group going in Israel when Sabra had turned him down, but the Arabian Knight had to accept. "So you see Navid," Xander smiled as he finished up his presentation, "the Brotherhood is really needed, and it’s criminal how un-protected the Middle East is. You could be the man to change all that."
"Your words have a ring of truth to them," Navid nodded before sighing. "And your attempts to protect all are truly commendable. However I am not the man for this job, I cannot in all conscience work for someone of such different beliefs and customs as my own."
Xander felt his chance slipping away. "How different are we really when compared to vampires and demons?"
Navid smiled wryly. "Questions of philosophy are not my speciality and should be perhaps directed towards the holy men."
"Oh come on we’re not that different, surely we can-."
"Compromise?" Navid shook his head. "You have already admitted that your companions are three women, I cannot consort with such-."
"To be fair, I technically only consort with one myself," Xander shook his head. "I tend to find harems over-rated."
Navid ignored his comment. "My faith will not allow me to take orders from women or fight alongside those fornicate, drink, and indulge in other sacrilegious acts-."
"Navid," Xander gritted his teeth, "I just need one Muslim on board to encourage others."
"I will not encourage my brothers into unwise behaviour," Navid replied, his eyes suddenly narrowing. "Who is that?"
"Xan, we got trouble!" Xander groaned inwardly as he glanced at his denim-clad girl-friend rushing through the restaurant, her full mane tied back in a pony-tail. Quite conservative for her, and sans make-up as a concession to local costumes, still his bellowing girl-friend drew more than a few disapproving eyes from the men sat around the restaurant. He did so hope this wouldn’t end up with him having to spend his billions bribing his way out of the country.
"As I said," his guest rose with a nod and a disapproving look at Faith who returned his gaze with scorching interest, "thank you for your concern, but I rather think we are too different to work well together. I bid you farewell."
"Strike two." Xander gritted his teeth as the Arabian Knight stalked out. He’d have to hope he did better with Egypt’s Magar The Mystic was more receptive. "Thanks for that Faith," he turned and scowled at his girl-friend. "You totally torpedoed my meeting." Not that it had been going that well beforehand. "I said-."
"Screw your meeting!" Xander groaned inwardly. That’s right Judge, she chose to add profanity to the other charges. "Lorne’s gone missing!"
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (2/?)
Xander forgot about the restaurant, the staring eyes, everything but Faith’s words. "What do you mean, gone?" he grated.
"Sir, she is not wearing appropriate-."
"That’ll be the least of your worries if you don’t back off," Xander warned the hovering waiter, his eyes fixed on his girl-friend. "Faith?"
"Brill just rang, Lorne left an interrupted message on his cell’s answer
machine, when they tracked the GPS down, no Lorne."
Xander let out an inhuman growl that sent the waiter scurrying for cover. He was part fearful for their missing friend and part blazing with rage at the thought of someone daring to strike at the Brotherhood so brazenly. "Is Brill still on the line?"
Faith nodded. "Tar’s talking to him."
Xander started towards the reception area’s elevator. "Come on!"
* * *
"Is he still on the line?"
Tara almost started at Xander’s growl and the chill darkness in his eyes. It
was times like this that the facade of the amiable goof she’d met three short
years ago disappeared, revealing the fearsome warrior god underneath. "Y….yes."
"Thanks," Xander took the proffered cell and grunted into it. "Brill, what you got?" Xander listened to what the analyst said. "How come he didn’t have security?" Xander groaned at the answer. "Jesus, Brill. When we get him back, ‘no’ won’t be an option, especially when he’s not in LA." Xander scowled. "We’ll be on our way back, I want you working on this around the clock." Xander paused. "Don’t tell me what you’re gonna do, just do it."
"Jeez Xan," Faith commented from the door. "We’re all pissed Lorne’s gone missin’, but it ain’t Brill’s fault." Faith shook her head. "I can’t believe I’m defendin’ the ol’ coot."
Xander ignored Faith to look towards Tara. "I’ll ring up the airport and change our flights, can you ring Magar and give him our apologies, and get him to reschedule."
"What if he won’t?" Kennedy asked.
"Then he won’t," Xander replied. "Lorne’s one of us, and you don’t take one of us without the rest of us coming down on you like the wrath of god."
* * *
California, The Next Day
The sun beat down on them, failing to warmth the chill inside her as Faith and her companions strode up the path that led to the A-Team Industries. Lorne gone, she waited impatiently as Xander went through the expected security precautions, the demon had always managed to make her smile and laugh, no matter the mood she’d been in. Regardless of his species, she’d not had many friends better than him.
If someone had hurt him, Faith’s brow furrowed and eyes narrowed, the wrath of Xander’s afore-mentioned god would be getting’ off easy next what she’d do.
The door hissed open, the bullet-proof glass door sliding to the side, allowing them access to the brightly-lit and spacious reception area, their feet clicking on the wood-panelled floor. They were barely through the entrance when they were met by a smartly-dressed black man in his late thirties with a slight goatee, tightly-curled hair, and intense, serious brown eyes. The suit failed to hide the man’s athletic build or suppress the air of danger surrounding its wearer. "Robert Hawkins sir," the man stuck his hand out, "Brill sent me down so you didn’t have to wait for someone to bring you in."
Xander nodded as he shook the man’s hand and followed him towards the glass-walled elevator. "You weren’t here last time we came were you?"
"No sir," Hawkins shook his head. "I’m former CIA, Lyle and the Colonel hired
me when he expanded security for the building."
"Oh yes?" Xander raised an eyebrow as they entered the elevator with their guide.
"Yeah," Hawkins nodded, "the Colonel made the decision to add a two man patrol in The Upper Level itself, increasing the numbers needed by eight. He’s of the firm opinion we can’t have too much security."
"He’s right," Xander grunted. "How do you like working for me?"
"The salary’s double what I was making, the benefits are better, and I get to go home most nights," Hawkins smiled wryly. "On balance I like it."
"Miss the action though?" Faith added.
Hawkins smiled ruefully and nodded. "Yes Ma’am."
Faith’s lips quirked up at the thought of a man an easy fifteen years older than her calling her ‘ma’am’. "Yeah, it’s a buzz alright."
The elevator came to a halt, the doors sliding open, and their guide led them through the felt-carpeted corridor, ignoring the curious stares their passage garnered them from staff-members they passed by, until they reached a steel elevator guarded by a couple of suited guards. Hawkins nodded at the men before pressing his palm into the scanner on the wall to the elevator’s left and speaking into the intercom above the scanner, the doors sliding soundlessly open.
In moments they were striding into the conference room where they’d met all the lawyers, only this time the only people in it were Brill and Colonel Tom Ryan. "Thanks Robert," the Colonel nodded at the African-American, "you can go now."
The black man nodded before backing out of the room and closing the door behind him. Brill rose, a worried look on his face. "It’s good to see you kids, it’s just a pity about the circumstances."
"About the circumstances," Xander broke in. "What have we got on Lorne’s disappearance?"
Brill and the Colonel exchanged worried looks. "Our archivists are investigating the tattoo, no leads as yet though," Brill admitted.
Xander’s scowl deepened. "Tara, take the Eternal Archive and the computer, and go and help them, Kennedy go with her." The moment the door shut behind the two lesbians, Xander spoke again. "And?"
"I’ve appropriated the DVDs from the club," the Colonel paused. "Sir, this is a demon, is it really worth all this-."
"What the fuck!" Faith reluctantly quietened after a look from Xander.
"Colonel," Xander’s eyes zeroed in on the Colonel. "Would you give up on searching for a man under your control?"
The former solider stiffened under Xander’s gaze. "No sir!"
"There’s your answer," Xander looked towards Brill. "Each of us will take a computer," Xander pulled them out of the Always Pocket and passed them around, "and watch a night’s recording on fast-forward, if you see anything shout."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (3/?)
"Wow," Kennedy muttered as she and Tara hurried down to the library, "I’m glad to be out of there!"
"I know," Tara nodded. "It’s bad enough when one of them’s in a mood, but when it’s both…."
"Thermo-nuclear!" Kennedy finished for her girl-friend.
* * *
"Whoa!" Faith rubbed at her eyes as she paused the DVD and peered at the grainy footage. "I’ve got somethin’, maybe."
"What is it?" In an instant Xander was peering over her shoulder and staring at the screen.
"Fang’s there look!" Faith pointed to the figure lurking by the bar, a typically Angel-like glare on his face during all the festivities. "What if he’s lost his soul again?"
"Doesn’t tie into the tattoo though," Xander pointed out before glancing to Lyle. "According to Gunn, Buffy hasn’t been up to Sunnydale to see him?"
Brill shook his head. "There’s no mention."
"If he got a happy he didn’t get it from her then," Xander murmured.
"They go to the bar regularly, a couple of times a week at least, it’s where they wind down according to Lorne," Brill commented.
"That’s Fang relaxed?" Faith snorted. "Guy would need an enema to remove the stick up his ass."
"Okay." Xander rubbed at his forehead. "It was a good thought, but no dice, Faith."
"Five by five," Faith sighed as she turned the footage back on.
Fifty minutes later, Faith was replacing her DVD when Colonel Ryan let out a growl. "I have something."
A moment later and all three of them were huddled around the Colonel’s screen, peering at a table of five black men, two looking like businessmen, but the other three screaming ‘thug’ if anyone ever did. One of the ‘businessmen’, a tall, thin man with a pointed beard leaned forward and muttered something into the ear of the biggest of the three thugs. The man nodded, turned to the man sat on his right, and threw a thunderous right that ended with the punch stopping inches away from the target’s face, and the would-be attacker falling on his ass, a dazed expression on his face.
"They’re testing the protection spells." Faith muttered, the Colonel and
Xander nodded, Brill looked at her for clarification. "If someone was plannin’
on snatchin’ Lorne, but had heard rumours about there bein’ mystical defences,
they’d want to see how well they worked."
"Hence the fight," Brill scowled. "Actually I had them on the disc that I’d just finished watching-."
"Any of them sing?" Xander queried.
"’Course," Faith grinned at the others’ puzzled looks, revelling at her very personal knowledge of how boy-toy’s mind worked. "If they sang, Lorne would have pre-warnin’ of what they were plannin’, and would have warned somebody, and not left the club."
"This looks like a good lead," Xander decided. "Brill can you take some stills of this footage and run some facial recognition packages on them?"
Brill nodded. "If they’re in my databases I’ll find them, it’ll take time
though, even with parameters input."
"At this point I’m just gonna nod and pretend I knew what you were saying," Xander looked towards the Colonel and her. "We’ll keep looking for footage on them, shout out if you see them interacting with any other guests, singing, or doing anything weird."
Faith forced back a groan as she sat back down and forced herself to concentrate on the footage. She was real tired of watchin’ other people have fun and not having any herself. "Xan," Faith looked up thirty minutes later, "I’ve kinda found them again."
"Yeah?" This time Xander didn’t get up, just looked across the table.
"Yeah, they were in last Friday, two hours, none of them sang, just drank and not much of that even, not enough to get wasted," she reported.
"It’s beginning to sound like they were casing the joint," commented Ryan.
Xander nodded, his face contorting in a scowl. "Doesn’t it just."
* * *
Brill sighed as he made his way into his personal office and began scanning the photos into his computer. His computer was state-of-the-art, beyond state of the art actually, with 32 GB of RAM, 3.33 GHZ processor, and a 128 MB broadband connection, but even so, they had hacks into every major law enforcement, intelligence, and military database in the world. This could take a long time.
"Lucky I hadn’t made any exciting dinner plans," he grunted with a hoarse laugh before typing in his parameters, limiting the search to black men aged between twenty-five and fifty, then sat back and waited.
* * *
"Oh," Kennedy raised a tentative hand, her heart sinking as she looked down at the image before her and read the text beneath. "I think I’ve found something."
"Really?" Tara’s head shot up, her girl-friend leaping up and rushing over, long skirt swishing around her as Carsen and Corso followed in her wake. "Well done! That’s great!"
"No," Kennedy pushed the book over to her girl-friend, "not really."
"Oh no," Tara gasped. "We’ll have to check this before we tell Xander."
Kennedy shook her head. "Heck the mood he’s in, forget about the ‘we’, you’re telling him."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (4/?)
The sound of airplanes flying overhead filled his ears as the vehicle he was in shuddered to a halt. He tried to cry out, but was foiled by the gag in his mouth, instead he contented himself with struggling vainly against the chains restraining his hands and feet. His blood-red eyes widened when the top came off the crate he was trapped in, light flooding in to bathe him in gold. His brief hope of salvation died, heart falling when he recognised several of the brown faces that peered in at him as being involved in his capture.
"The empath demon," the bearded man nodded. "Our master will be most happy. Have him shipped out of here and to the temple. It will be time soon." Lorne recoiled as the lid slammed back down, cloaking him in darkness once again.
* * *
"Okay, I’ve got something."
Xander twirled around in his seat, stopping when he was facing Brill. "Please
"I’ve managed to identify three of the five men." Brill laid a photo of one of the businessmen on the desk, a tall, lean man with hawkish features, a pointed beard, and hard grey eyes. "This is Colonel Nelson Oarkon, a Colonel in Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency, their equivalent to the CIA."
"Heavy," Faith muttered.
"This is," Brill laid another picture down on the table they were all sat around. This one was of the mammoth man who’d tested the club’s defences, a slab-shouldered man in his late-thirties with a flattened nose, bald head, and cold grey eyes. "Tau ‘The Tank’ Olome. He’s a former professional boxer and national heavyweight champion with a record of nineteen wins, fifteen by KO, and three losses. He’s also a chief enforcer with ‘the Street Money’, Lagos’ premier gang, specialising in extortion, loan-sharking, and unlicensed gambling, with sidelines in drug-dealing and prostitution. Tau’s wanted for more than a dozen murders in the past five years. This is," Brill pulled out another photo, this of a slighter man with shifty eyes and a scar that ran from his left ear to his mouth, "Ebo Obey, another member of ‘the Street Money’." Brill paused. "The other two aren’t in any records, or at least," Brill hesitated, "when the first three came up as from Nigeria, I narrowed the search parameters to Nigeria, if they’re from outside there, I wouldn’t know."
"So our path definitely leads to Nigeria," Colonel Ryan commented.
"Yeah," Xander’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. "But the other businessman, why would a powerful man like Oarkon and a big-time thug like Tank be deferring to him?"
"My best guess would be he’s some sort of diplomat," the Colonel replied.
"Nah," Faith shook her head. "Sure that explains Oarkon, but not Tank."
"It wouldn’t be the first time a government has utilised blackmail and the talents of its less savoury citizens to complete a black op," the Colonel replied.
"Maybe it wouldn’t, but that’s not going on here."
* * *
Tara blushed when every eye turned to her. Shaking it off, she hurried into the conference room and sat down. "So what is goin’ on sis?" Faith queried.
"Kennedy found a picture of a tattoo something like what Lorne tried to describe," Tara passed the heavy leather-bound book to Xander who looked at then passed the book on. "It’s the insignia of a cult called ‘Laude Il Ferus Bestia’, basically ‘Praise The Fierce Beast’. They’re a cult of primal worshippers going back centuries who worship the African big cats, the leopard, lion, and cheetah. They value prowess in battle, physical strength, and virility."
"So what you’re sayin’ is they’re men," Faith drawled.
"No," Tara shook her head. "There’s far more to them than just that."
"Just that?" Colonel Ryan snorted. "I like that."
"What does this have to do with Lorne?" queried Xander.
"I’m not sure but I think they’ve found a Primal Spirit," Tara replied.
"A what?" asked the Colonel, his eyebrows raising in a show of apparent disbelief.
"Aye, um," Tara faltered in the wake of the former soldier’s scepticism then stiffened her shoulders and met his gaze full on. "An incorporeal demon that grants strength, durability, and general athleticism to any of its worshippers who sufficiently please it."
The Colonel’s eyebrow remained raised. "Sounds like a good roid dealer."
"You don’t have to believe me," Tara said through clenched teeth, "just believe this is what the cult members believe."
"Fair enough," the Colonel raised his hands in supplication.
"Now Lorne’s an incredibly powerful demon-."
Faith snorted. "Incredibly stylish and wicked pipes on him, but powerful?"
"His empathic power is awesome," Tara replied. "What they’re attempting to do is somehow tap into Lorne’s empathic power and use him to drain the primal completely, amplify the amount of power seeping from the primal. Instead of getting what the primal deems appropriate, they’re going to siphon off his entire power into as many of his followers they can use."
"Whoa," Xander’s brow furrowed. "And how many people could one of these primals fuel?"
"You’ve got to remember these demons have enormous power reserves, it’s just there lack of a physical power that prevents them from committing carnage on a grand scale," Tara replied. "It could easily make a hundred or so people three to four times stronger than normal, or maybe three dozen into fighters to match Faith."
"Nah," Faith shook her head, "I’m incomparable."
"That’s for sure," Brill commented with a dry look at the Slayer. "I figure thirty Slayer-equal cult members could make a hell of a mess in a country that’s already teetering on the edge of an abyss."
"Yeah," Xander nodded slowly before turning to Faith, "hey hon, we’ve been here four hours, why don’t you and the others go and get something to eat?"
"You sure hon?" Faith’s brow furrowed.
"Yeah," Xander nodded. "Just don’t forget to bring me something back. Preferably in a wrapper and filled with chocolate."
Faith shrugged. "Sure stud," Faith rose and walked out, Tara and Kennedy following behind.
* * *
Colonel Ryan spoke as the door clicked shut behind the girls. "Even a small number of moderately enhanced soldiers could make a hell of an impact in a country as disorganised as Nigeria."
"I know. That’s why we’ll be going after these cultists even if Lorne wasn’t one of us," Xander paused, jaw clenching. "I’ve seen TV programs about the problems in Nigeria, and I don’t care if it’s sexist, I know how powerful Faith and Tara are, but neither of them would be able to do much against a hundred machete-wielding thugs out of their minds on drugs. We’re going to need help on this."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (5/?)
Brill broke the silence that followed his pronouncement with a shake of his head. "I wasn’t aware we had any assets in Nigeria or anywhere in Africa at all?"
"We don’t," Xander grimaced, it rankled to think of all the countries that still didn’t have the Mithras Brotherhood protecting, but he could only do so much. "But I was thinking we might have some operatives that have combat experience or contacts in Nigeria or Africa, or just because of their colour of their skin fit in there." Xander scowled as another thought occurred. "Preferably people who have other team leaders helping them run their teams."
"I’ve seen action in Angola, Somalia, and Sierra Leone," Ryan interrupted. "Nothing in Nigeria though."
"Are you volunteering?" Xander queried with a look at the Colonel.
"It certainly sounds like it," Ryan smiled wryly. "I’ve not actually seen you in action so it should be educational if nothing else."
"Gee, thanks," Xander half-smiled.
"What about Gunn?" Brill queried. "He’s black, he’s worked with you before, you know him."
"Good thought," Xander shook his head, "but he’s also too close to Angel, he’s the only branch that has to actively hide its identity in the wider demon community. If he goes missing, especially so soon after Lorne, Deadboy’ll start asking questions that might track back to -," his brow furrowed at Ryan’s shake of his head, "what?"
"No, you’re not wrong, it makes sense, it’s just to hear you talk about vampires."
"Just wait ‘til you see Faith out-bench a power-lifter three times her size
or Tara conjure a fireball," Xander commented before continuing. "Brill could
"Already inputting parameters kid," the craggy former intelligence analyst replied. "Results comin’ up now."
"What have you got?"
"John Creasy, he ran ops throughout many of France’s old colonies – Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, and Algeria."
"No," Xander shook his head, "he’s practically running France on his own, I don’t want to leave control of a country to someone I haven’t met yet."
Brill grunted. "Okay, how about this. Frank Martin? During his time in the SAS, he worked in Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Somalia."
"Martin?" Ryan grunted. "Medium height guy, with a shaven head and a real thick, powerful body, talks like he’s got gravel in his throat?" Xander nodded. "I’ve worked with him on joint US-UK missions, he’s a guy you want on your side if possible."
"Okay, he’s in," Xander nodded.
"How about James Dunn?" Brill queried. "No actual experience in the area, his area of expertise was the Middle East, rather than Africa itself, but he’s a former Gunnery Sergeant?"
Xander grimaced as he struggled to decide. On the one hand, they needed someone who could blend in more than they could, on the other, Dunn’s Ohio branch had only recently been established. Telling himself that Michael and Matildha could handle it, he nodded. "Yeah, works for me." Xander blinked as a thought occurred. "And put Hawk on this list to be contacted as well, he’s practically Faith’s uncle, he’ll wanna be here for this."
Brill nodded. "Is that it? There’s a couple of more names that you might be interested in?"
"That’s it," Xander shook his head. "There’s no need to over-complicate everything." Xander looked to Brill. "Can you get in contact with the others, tell them they have twenty-four hours to get here and then we set off for Lagos." Xander rubbed at his eyes. "I want you to run a wider search on the two still unidentified faces, and every scrap of information you can get me on those you’ve already identified."
"Sure kid," Brill scribbled down a note. "I’ll set the computer to get searching then I’ll have a break," the Intelligence officer smirked, "if that’s okay by you?"
"My reputation as a slave-driver precedes me," Xander replied. "But yeah."
"I’ll get to making those calls, then when I’ve done, I’ll take one myself," Ryan decided.
* * *
Spenser racked the three hundred and fifty pound weight, sweat steaming down him as he sat up and glared at his best buddy who’d just entered wearing not his expected training sweats, but a resplendent snake-skin jacket and matching pants. "Can’t wait to see what happens to them when you get sweat on ‘em."
"And good day to you," Hawk shot him a smirk. "I won’t be training today-."
"You slack much more, and you won’t be able to see your feet under that belly you’re workin’ on," Spenser fired back.
"Ah man, you’re jealous," Hawk grinned. "Just got off the phone with one of the big bosses. They want my help on a mission."
"Why did they call you and not me?" The moment the words were out of his mouth, he realised how childish they sounded, but didn’t much care, he prized his time with his niece and revelled in her accomplishments.
Hawk smirked. "Where we goin’ they need a brother who’ll blend in Whitey."
* * *
"You’ll have to run this place on your own, just got a call from the boss, they need someone with Africa experience quick-sharp."
Byrne glared at the former SAS operative stood smirking in their office’s doorway. "From Scotland in the middle of winter to Africa, you lucky bugger."
"Hey, the boss calls, I obey."
"You wouldn’t be looking that bloody smug if he’d ordered you to Siberia, I bloody guarantee it," Byrne grumbled. He might be from windy Sheffield, but it was nought compared to sodding Scotland in the winter!
* * *
Dunn glanced away from the cell he’d just hung up and the young mage sat
opposite him. "I’m going on a trip," he licked his lips. "That was Colonel Ryan
on behalf of Xander, he needs me to join a group going to Africa to rescue a
kidnapped Brotherhood member. I didn’t get many details, just my flight and
Michael swallowed. "So Matildha and I are in charge?"
Dunn nodded as he rose, already planning what he needed to pack. "You’ll do fine," he absent-mindedly comforted.
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (6/?)
Faith whistled as she peered out of the window as they descended under Lagos’ smog-cloud, the number of skyscrapers in the cosmopolitan city surprising her. The sun blazed down on the metal bastions of commerce, the entire city giving off an almost blinding gleam.
As their plane began to descend for landing, Faith turned back to Xander. "What’s the plan, stud?"
"First of we’re gonna go to the Eko hotel on Victoria Island and getting our rentals, then we’re going to sleep until nightime, then we’re going over to," Xander glanced at his notepad, "Lagos Island, that’s where The Street Money have their bases, then we’re gonna run a surveillance until we can catch sight of Olome or Obey, then grab one of them and make them talk."
"Make them?" Faith raised an eyebrow.
"Let me worry about that," Xander evaded.
Faith shrugged. These bastards had taken one of her friends, she didn’t much care what happened to them, but worried about the dark path that Xander’s occasional ruthlessness might lead him down.
* * *
Faith’s eyes were constantly moving as she and Xander strode hand in hand down one of Lagos’ busy and noise-filled streets, taking in the raucous laughter coming out of cafes, the smells emanating from brightly lit restaurants, and the pop music blasting out of gaudily decorated night-clubs. "Scarf for the pretty lady, sir!" Not to mention the persistent vendors from the occasional still open market stall. She could almost be a co-ed on vacation.
Well except for the kidnapped bud and the two cars and one couple trailing them.
Xander stopped by a closed boutique and peered into its darkened window as he casually raised his arm, began scratching at his neck, and spoke into his receiver\watch, an invention of Brill’s. "Anything?" Xander scowled at the answer. "No sign of them? At all?" Xander continued to scowl as he answered. "If he’s their boss, he’ll have to know something. We’ll have to play fast and loose. A plan?" Xander grinned wolfishly at her. "Yeah, I’ve got a plan."
* * *
Dunn scowled as he entered the brightly lit restaurant. Its walls, carpet, and ceiling were all the same tango orange, and waiters flittered from table to table, ably serving the partioned booths that were all illuminated by candlelight flickering from the three-pronged silver candlestick holders. "Man, I should be wearing a red shirt for this."
His companion shot him a puzzled look. "Say what?"
Dunn shook his head as they started through the busy restaurant. "You know, the red-shirted security officer in Star Trek who always died?"
Hawk shot him a scornful look. "Do I look like I had a problem gettin’ girls?"
"Hey!" Dunn protested, affronted by the implied insult.
"Anyhow, shut up, you know everything’s scoped," the older man muttered as he casually put his hand in the chest of an approaching waiter and shoved him into a table, the table’s contents and the waiter falling to the ground. "We create a disturbance tryin’ to see the big man, the big man exits through the rear, Martin and the Colonel scoop him up, Xan and Faith are already in here if we need help. The witch and her gal are outside making sure they don’t get any reinforcements. Easy."
"You hope," Dunn shook his head as he straight-armed a waiter in the chest, sending him crashing into a desert trolley that fell on top of him, a particularly tasty trifle landing on his head. It was his experience that hasty plans usually a bunch of fuckin’ holes in them.
"Hope springs eternal, kinda like my looks." Hawk ‘s right arm dipped into his jacket to pull out a pistol that could double as a cannon while his left elbow caught another waiter in the chin and knocked him to the floor. The restaurant’s ambience was utterly shattered when Hawk raised his gun overhead and put a shell through the ceiling. "Where’s the big man? We want the big man! We want our money!"
* * *
Sunny ‘The Big Man’ Fashek’ jumped in his seat at the gun’s roar from the floor beneath. He swatted the naked prostitute off his knee and to the ground as he leapt up with a speed that belied his bulk. Even as he did so, the door burst open and his three body-guards ran in, the stench of the pot they’d been enjoying in the other room wafting in as their vanguard. "What is it!" he roared, golden fillings gleaming in his open mouth, chins wobbling in outrage. "Who-."
"Two bloody bastards, shooting up the place," growled one of his men.
"Let the security deal with this, I’m leaving," he decided as he pulled on his custom-made jacket. "But I want these bastards alive so I can teach them some respect."
"Right you are Big Man," one of his men agreed, "out the back?"
"Yeah," he agreed as they headed into the upper level’s narrow corridor, the flickering light adding to the unreality of whatever was happening. "Whoever’s doing this, I’m gonna tear their fucking lungs out!" he screamed as they reached the upper-level’s outer-door.
The door swung open and then they were on the outer-landing leading to the fire-escape, the guard stationed there muttering a confused question to one of his men. "He joins us!" Big Man pointed a chubby finger at the guard. As far as he was concerned, the more men he had with him, the better. The fire escape rattled under them as they clambered down it, sweat pooling beneath his pits and the unexpected shock. And then they reached the ground. "Get the car! Get the car!"
* * *
"They’re in the alley," Martin muttered into his mouthpiece.
"I see them," the Colonel replied from his rooftop three streets away. "Targeting."
One of the men stepped away from the others and towards the end of the alley where Martin was hidden. Then his head exploded like a melon, his body spinning like a top before crumpling to the ground.
Two more of the men were dead before they had chance to react, and the third had barely gotten his gun out before he toppled over, all four men prey to head shots. The Colonel could shoot. Big Man looked around, eyes wide with terror and started running or rather waddling right towards him, which save him from chasing after him, not that it would have been much of a race.
The moment Big Man drew level, Martin stepped out of the shadows and fired his tranquiliser gun. The dart impaled itself in the folds of Big Man’s neck, the fat man’s legs glazing over as the A-Teams Industries designed narcotic that mimicked the appearance of drunkenness but acted immediately took effect. Martin leapt out of the shadows, yanked the dart out of Big Man’s neck, and steadied him as he almost fell face-first to the ground.
"Target acquired," Martin cursed inwardly at the flabby man’s awesome bulk as he helped him out of the alley and to their waiting car, "call in the others and tell them to get out of there."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (7/?)
"This is wrong!" Tara hissed as she stared at the shadow-enveloped garage Xander and the others had broken into and taken their hostage. "We can’t just torture him!"
"Look," Faith tried for a patient tone, "Lorne’s missin’, he’s one of us."
"That doesn’t excuse what they’re going to do!" Tara hissed.
"Sweetie," Kennedy’s tone was placating, "you said yourself that if these cultists did what they’re planning, it could plunge Nigeria into full-blown civil war."
"Yes," Tara shook her head, "but he’s not one of the cultists! He just knows some of them!"
"Jeez, Tar’," Faith forced her own temper under control. "It ain’t like this guy’s the Pope or somethin’. He’s a dope dealer, a pimp, an extortionist, and a loan shark!"
"And does that mean we should sink down to his level?" Faith shrank back at Tara’s suddenly furious gaze. "It’s not right!"
* * *
Big Man groaned as he awoke, his eyes flickering open to a panic-inducing darkness. Ignoring his pounding headache, he swung his head left and right, trying and failing to remove whatever was on his head while at the same time straining at the ropes fastening his arms behind him and to the chair, and tried to kick his legs loose of the ropes tying his ankles to the chair’s legs.
"Our guest’s back with us, how nice." He heard a young voice, an American. "Someone take his hood off."
He grunted as the hood was pulled off, eyes tearing at the unaccustomed light. He bit down the fear building up in the pit of his stomach at the five ski-masked men surrounding him and forced a sneer. "You know who you mess with fuckers?" he snarled. "I cut your mothers up and feed them to my dogs while you watch, I kill your friends, your brothers, but you, you’ll take-," he grunted, head snapping to the right and blood flying from his mouth when one of the masked quintet hit him square in the jaw.
"Thanks for that," the young American nodded to the puncher who stepped back. "Bad guy clichés are so passé these days." Big Man’s stomach twisted and hollowed when the group’s apparent leader laid a trio of photos he recognised and one he didn’t on the table before him. "What’s going to happen here isn’t a negotiation, you’re going to tell us what we want to know and then we’ll leave." The man paused, an ominous silence brewing. "Otherwise things are going to go very badly for you." Another pause and then the man pointed down at the trio of photos he did recognise. "Who are they?"
"I’m going to kill you!" Big Man spat at the man.
The American laughed. "Pal, you’re in kindergarten, and this is grown-up time. You’re so out of your league this isn’t funny." The man shrugged when he continued to glare at him. "You wanna show us what a big tough guy you are? Fair enough." Sweat began beading down his forehead as he watched the youth start laying a collection of knives, pliers, and hammers on the desk. "Knees or elbows first?" the man asked as he lifted one of the hammers.
"Wait! Wait! Wait!" Big Man screamed. He couldn’t believe how quickly his world had come crashing down. Just hours ago he had been one of Lagos’ powers, a man feared by all. And now here he was, his body-guards dead and him tied up and terrorised by a mysterious group of men. "I’ll tell you!" The sweat soaked down him as he babbled out the names, adding to the possible garage’s oily stench. "But I don’t know the other man, never seen him!"
"Okay," the group’s apparent leader pocketed the mystery man’s photo, "let’s
say I believe you about him. What about the other three, what are they working
"I don’t know," he mumbled. "I don’t know!" he screamed as the man picked up a set of evil-looking pliers. "I swear! I swear!"
"Convince us," growled a voice so deep and bass as to give Barry White an inferiority complex.
"Tank and his boys were always good workers," he babbled, his gaze bobbing around the men. "But they were always a little weird-."
"How so?" asked the leader.
"Stuck together, had the same tattoos, belonged to this weird cult-."
"Called?" the man interrupted.
"I don’t know," he shook his head, god he wished he knew now. Anything to please the man with the instruments of torture and the willingness to use them. "They were a weird bunch, into worshipping the big cats, loved them for their power." As a man who appreciated power he could understand that, but wasting time worshipping a strength you couldn’t harness for yourself? What was the point of that? "But they disappeared two months ago-."
"And you just let them go?" Bass-Voice snorted derisively. "The only way out of one your sorta gangs is feet-first."
"Normally that’s true," Big Man nodded. "But this group might be crazies, but man they got contacts everywhere, police, military, government. I figure they don’t mess with me, I can take the hit of losin’ some of my men, even some of my best."
"Not buying it," the group’s leader picked up a switch-blade, the ‘skint’ of
the blade erupting out, chilling his blood, "convince me."
"How, how, how?" he screamed, eyes bulging as he began foaming at his mouth.
"A man in your position knows things. When you realised your men were involved, you’ll have investigated this cult before deciding not to move," the group’s leader replied.
"Yeah, yeah, sure," he nodded his head, the helpless unreality of his situation crashing over him. "I know stuff, ask me whatever you wanna know."
"Why did these three men leave you?"
"Six nights from now, there’s some ceremony, meant to give them power or some bullshit," he replied, his breathing for the moment easing.
The hooded men exchanged looks. "Where?" He babbled out a general area. "Thanks."
His eyes widened as the man raised a silenced automatic, the black silencer matching the snub automatic’s dark finish. "We had a deal, you can’t-."
"A deal?" the man shook his head. "I don’t deal with scum, I exterminate it. This is for all the kids you’ve addicted to drugs, the girls you’ve pimped out, the shop owners you’ve intimidated," the young man pronounced as he raised a silenced pistol.
"I’ve got money!" Big Man shrieked as he shook his head, unable to look towards the pistol. "I can pay-."
"Friend, I could buy your whole operation with a day’s interest." Big Man screamed as the young man pulled on his trigger.
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (8/?)
"Okay," the garage’s door swung up and Xander and his companions strode out.
"We’ve got our information, we need-."
"What have you done with him?" Tara demanded.
"Who?" Xander glanced over his shoulder at the garage and then back at her. "He’s dead."
"You executed him?" Tara hissed.
"He knew where we were going to be heading," Xander replied, storm clouds seeming to gather on his brow. "I wasn’t about to take a risk with our lives. Better him than us."
"You haven’t got the right -."
Xander glowered at her. "You know what gives me the right-."
Xander was on a roll, angrily waving away a suddenly worried-looking Faith’s attempt at an intervention. "The people of the world who can’t protect themselves give me the right. The creatures of the night that prey on them give me the right. But most of all, the actions of men like Big Man give me the right. If it’s a choice between the life of scum like Big Man or protecting my team, well that’s not even a choice."
Tara realised this conversation was like an avalanche, unstoppable and gaining momentum with every second. "Killing can’t ever come easy-."
"Easy?" Xander shook his head. "Killing’s never easy but I’m not going to have nightmares over ending the life of a piece of scum like Big Man. I’d rather kill a thousand evil men than let one innocent child die, as long as the blood on my hands isn’t from innocents, I’ll live with it." Xander turned away from her.
"How does that make you any better than him?"
The moment she said the words, she regretted them, but it was too late. Xander spun to face her, a cold rage etched across his features. "It makes me better because I don’t take advantage of innocents. Because of me killing that scumbag, a few people who might have otherwise fallen into his clutches get a second chance. And I’m okay with that." Xander turned away from her again.
Tara opened her mouth again, but before she could speak, Faith was between her, a terrible chill in her best friend’s normally warm eyes. "You’ve said your piece," Faith grated. "That’s enough."
"Hawk, you and Frank are with me and Faith, Colonel, you take Dunn, Tar, and Ken back to the hot-."
"Shit," Faith’s head snapped to the left. "Cars comin’, plenty of them."
"Okay," Xander pulled out his car keys. "Change of plan, head for the back up meeting place outside the city."
* * *
The moment she was in the warm car, Faith turned to Xander sat beside her.
"Tar didn’t mean that stuff, she just worries-."
"I’ve gotta concentrate on driving," Xander said, his face slightly less welcoming than stone.
"Kay," Faith sat back in the passenger seat, she could take a hint.
"Girl’s an idealist is all," Hawk drawled from the back seat, "can’t fault her for that." Faith shot her Uncle’s best friend a warning look.
"We could swap cars," Xander muttered as he powered out of the street lined
on either side with garages, and yanked the car into a narrow alley, then hit
reverse as another car’s headlights flooded the passageway with light, tyres
screeching as Xander peered over his shoulder. "Faith, you’ve better
night-vision than me, tell me if there’s anything in the way!"
"On it!" The seat-belt still snug against her, Faith rolled up onto her knees and twisted around so that her torso was pressed against the SUV’s leather-upholstery. "Nothin’, keep goin’," she reported.
The tyre and engine’s screech filled the car as Xander powered the car backwards, juddering slightly as it went over the notoriously uneven tarmac. "We’re reachin’ the-," Faith made a grab for the door handle as they flew rear-first out of the alley and into the on-going traffic, "end of our lives!"
Faith threw her hands over her eyes as horns blared, lights flashed, and brakes squealed as Xan pulled the car around with a counter-clockwise yank on the wheel, sparks seeming to spurt up from the tyres. Her eyes widened as they sped away, the sports car comin’ out of the alley just behind them crashing side-on into the cab of an unforgiving eighteen-wheeler, the canary-yellow car flattening like tin-foil.
Then two more matching cars flew out of the road-end, their engines buzzing like angry bumble bees. "Two more-," Faith grimaced as a third joined the others, "three more, Xan!"
"Damn," Xander muttered, "they really wanted Big Man back didn’t they?"
"No accountin’ for taste, hell I even tolerate the babe’s uncle," Hawk bantered before turning serious. "How ‘bout you give us some guns so we can even the odds?"
"Give me a sec," Xander instructed as he yanked the car across two lanes of traffic, wheels squealing behind them as he tucked in in front of another hulking truck, concealing them from the chasing trio, then passed her a pair of Uzis that she threw into the back for Martin and Hawk. "When I pull out again, you’ve got your surprise."
"It’ll be a regular party," Hawk philosophised as he used the sub-machine gun’s butt to knock the window out, the night air gusting through the previously warm car, "like with cake and shit."
"Have fun," Xander jammed down on the accelerator, coaxing just a few more MPH out of the loudly protesting engine. Then, the moment the pursuing cars appeared in their side-mirrors, Xander yanked on the wheel, forcing the car back out into the central lane.
Faith raptly watched as her uncle leaned out of the window and shot at the car to their left, the bullets sparking on the car’s hood. "I’m gonna pull off at the next turn-off," Xander declared before yanking the wheel to the right. The car twisted like a quarterback avoiding a tackle, then powered side-on across two lanes, Martin taking this opportunity to half-dive through his window and spray off a torrent of bullets that smashed into the nearest of their pursuers’ window, the car spinning around and into the path of a hulking SUV.
The car crunched then flipped onto its roof, spinning like a top as Xander dived down the turn-off, all the other cars braking loudly to avoid a pile-on. "Are they still coming?" Xander queried as they sped down the dimly-lit road.
"Yeah," Faith tersely replied.
"You two got fresh magazines in?" Xander asked.
"Yeah," came the simultaneous growl from the back.
"Get ready," Xander replied, "I’m about to do something really stupid." Xander paused for a second. "Hold on." Steam came off the tyres when Xander yanked on the wheel and without slowing, pulled the squealing automobile around in an impossibly tight U-turn, the car jumping as it powered forward at its pursuers.
Before either car had chance to register the sudden change in circumstances, Hawk and Martin were hanging out of their windows and shooting, their bullets illuminating the night sky en-route to hitting the on-rushing cars. The windscreen of the car to the right exploded, the car swerving to the left to avoid more of the barrage while the front tyre of the left car blew out, sending it on a crash collision with the other car. Both cars collided head-on, drivers pitching out to hit the ground, their bodies lying motionless as steam hissed from under their crumpled hoods.
"Let’s get out of here," Faith said as they drove past the two burning wrecks, and pulled into a side-alley.
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (9/?)
Faith wiped her forearm across her face, sweat beading down her and clothes sticking to her in the heavy humidity as she stared at the rainforest ahead of them, a sea of thick, impregnable green that seemed never-ending. "Lorne’s in here?" Xander nodded at her question. "Well shit," she snarked, "I hope he ain’t playin’ possum, ‘cause we’ll never see him in this shit."
"We’ve got the name of a cave where the cultists meet for their ceremonies," Xander said. "It’s a good bet that he’s there." Xander looked towards the Colonel. "Colonel, you’ve got the most jungle experience, will you take point with me?"
"Sure," the Colonel grunted, "but we should alternate point, fresh eyes are key."
"I’ll bear that in mind," Xander promised as he readied his pack, each of them having a pack of essentials in case somethin’ happened to Xander and he couldn’t access the Always Pocket. "Faith, I want you and Dunn at the rear." Xander half-smiled as he glanced towards Hawk, "if you’re at the rear, Hawk can’t be watching your rear."
"Damn kid," Hawk flashed a smile, "you’re wise to all my tricks."
Xander half-smiled before glancing around. "Everyone got their hiking boots on?" Everyone nodded. "Okay, let’s go."
"Do I wanna know just how many miles this is?" Faith sighed at Xander’s head-shake. "Yeah, that’s what I figured."
* * *
The journey through the thick jungle was the sort of trek that drained a person both physically and mentally. The unfettered trees had grown to gargantuan heights and their thick foliage combined to block out the sun, making the rainforest itself almost as dark as night, with only the occasional ray of sunlight managing to break through. As a result, every rustle in the surrounding lush undergrowth had Xander turning and reaching for a gun to deal with the expected lion or leopard that was never actually there.
The heat only added to the discomfort, hitting with an almost physical intensity with every step. Soon their clothes were clinging to their bodies like a second skin as sweat poured down them.
"’Kay," Faith moaned from the rear some three hours into the trek, although it felt more like three days, "this much green just ain’t natural."
"I hear you babe," rumbled Hawk, his voice sounding like the slow beginnings of an avalanche, "what I wouldn’t do for my neighbourhood crack den on the corner right now."
Xander raised an eyebrow. From the sound of things, familiarity didn’t breed
contempt after all. "Xander," Tara whispered from behind him, "will we make it
Xander grimaced at the query, the same question hanging heavy on his mind for some time. He glanced down needlessly at the mile-meter on his watch, already knowing the answer. "It’ll be tight," he finally replied. "It’ll be tight."
* * *
"We’ll stay here tonight!" Xander called.
Kennedy moaned in relief at Xander’s call, easing the backpack off that their leader had very sensibly they all carry in case some injury should befall him. Sensible but very heavy.
The moment her backpack hit the ground, even the bag itself soaked with her sweat, Kennedy crouched beside it and dragged her army issue canteen out of it, her cracked lips moistening at the thought of some valuable fluids. Throwing her head back, she tore its top off and allowed its treasured fluids to gush down her throat, replenishing her.
"Here!" Xander threw her a couple of energy drinks. "Drink them and give me your water canteen to fill up before morning."
Kennedy nodded as she scooped up the Lucozades and eagerly gulped down half of one bottle, while keeping the rest for later. As she replaced the bottle’s top, she glanced around their makeshift camp. It was a landing positioned in the looming shadow of a hill they were half-way up a looming shadow that afforded little in the way of relief from the ever-present, draining heat. Already Xander and the others were starting to put up their tents.
Kennedy sighed as she rose, aching muscles protesting. She supposed she should show willing and help.
* * *
Ryan’s keen eyes constantly searching the night around him, only his iron discipline keeping him awake. It was just past one in the morning, but even so, the jungle was still alive with noise, the rustling of trees and leaves, the growls of animals, and chirping of birds.
It had been more than a few years since he’d been out on the field, and he was grateful for Xander’s Always-Pocket making the trek easier than it might otherwise have been. Still, he was still unsure what to make of his employer. He’d primarily taken his current job because of the money and the limitations he saw in the US. military. He believed in his country and his men, but doubted the willingness of their political masters to fund them. Let somebody else write a letter to the parents of boys who might otherwise be living if they’d been equipped with the best money could buy.
Still, working in the private sector, however well remunerated, rankled. That certain ‘strangeness’ existed was of no doubt, he’d seen too much on missions to far-off lands to dismiss such things out of hand, but the thought of some boy without any military training running the army fighting such things-.
Ryan shook his head. Still, he’d followed the orders of many a man he’d had no doubts to their competence in the past, at least with Xander there was that element of doubt, and the reports he’d read of his missions were interesting at leas-.
Ryan lifted his Mossberg, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. He rose from his seated position, leaning forward as he peered into the night. That voice had seemed somehow closer than the others.
"Trouble!" His world froze, the solitary word that escaped his lips coming out more a croak than the planned roar, but his finger pulling on the trigger was more than enough warning.
The things that loped out of the surrounding shadows were thickly muscled, the muscularity of the beast rather than the human. Nothing but dark hair covered their tanned bodies, the creatures all hunched over as if standing upright was evolutionarily beyond them. Their knuckles hung past their knees, their hands the size of baseball mitts. Their high foreheads were deeply creased, and their heavy jowls hung down while their brutish, almost human eyes, struggled for an intelligence that was several millennia beyond them.
All that Ryan saw as his blast illuminated the stygian night, his shotgun shooting a blazing trail that only ended when it crashed into the first of the monsters’ chest, blood crimsoning out as the thing fell, sprawling down the hill, its companions leaping over its howling body and continuing their charge unabated.
And then the fight was on.
FIC: MC 63 The Beast In Us (10/?)
Xander shot awake at the roar of Ryan’s shotgun, his own weapon flying into his hands at the sound. "I swear," Faith grunted as she jumped up beside him, his girl-friend clad only in her panties and T-shirt and brandishing her favoured matching short swords, "if this is just a ploy to see me in my skimpies-."
"Yes," Xander snarked as he started out of the camp, the desperate sounds of chaotic fighting already reaching his ears, "I planned this entire mission just so everyone could see you half-, whhhaaa!" Xander reeled back when an antediluvian horror poked its not-quite human face through the tent’s entrance.
A column of fire shot out from his weapon’s muzzle as Xander’s finger tugged instinctively on his shotgun’s trigger. The creature’s face exploded in a crimson spray, its inarticulate grunts filling the dank air as it fell away.
"Jesus," Faith’s voice trembled, "what the fuck was that?"
"Haven’t you heard?" Xander queried as he ducked out of the tent. "My ploy to
get everyone a perv at your goodies. Just be grateful you weren’t wearing that
hot pink shirt with ‘NYMPH’ across your chest, Hawk would have had a ball
telling your uncle about that."
"Funny fucker," Faith groused as she followed him out.
"I amuse myself," Xander kept his gaze firmly averted as he clambered over the beast’s still twitching corpse.
"Good, ‘cause you amuse fuck all else."
Xander ignored his girl-friend’s caustic comeback as he swung his gun left and right, heart thundering as he sought out another of the beasts attacking their camp, the darkness making it difficult to distinguish human from beast. And then suddenly another burst out of the darkness, its heavy fingers clenching and unclenching as it sought to crush the very air between him and it. Then his gun’s boom joined that of the others’, his rounds exploding against its face even as Tara shrieked something inarticulate and the air magically blazed, illuminating the chaotic camp and the desperate battles raging throughout it.
Xander sensed a looming presence coming at him from his left and spun to face it. "I gotcha back!" Faith leapt between him and the monster, the Slayer’s eyes blazing with the eager fire that was part the primal spirit possessing her and part the street fighter she’d always been.
Xander spun to his right, gasping as an open-handed slap sent him spinning to the ground, nothing but blind instinct rolling him away from a stomp that would have shattered his spin. His head still ringing and vision blurred from the blow’s heavy impact, Xander rolled onto his front and tried and failed to focus on the Always Pocket, and dragging a weapon out.
Despite his best efforts the Always Pocket remained just out of reach, and then a pair of strong hands grabbed him around his head, their grip inescapably tight, and wrenched him to his feet. "Aaaaah," he groaned as the monster began twisting his head. Pain exploded in his protesting neck muscles filling him with the dread certainty that if he didn’t focus this monster would tear his head from his shoulders.
Xander moaned with relief when a Desert Eagle materialised in his hand, his finger tugging gratefully on the trigger. His wrist bucked with the recoil, but that was nothing compared with the injured monster’s reaction. Its howls filled his ears as bullet after bullet impacted with its prodigious belly, its guts and blood spilling out as it shook him, swinging him violently by his head, his entire world swimming around him, only grim determination keeping him conscious.
Then finally, the beast’s bowed legs buckled beneath him, sending him falling into Xander, its sweaty, matted scent filling his nostrils as the two of them crashed to the ground. Xander shook his head, closed and re-opened his eyes, impatiently waiting for the world to stop spinning around him, then put his hands on the creature’s chest and pushed, heaving the three hundred pound plus monster off him before shakily staggering to his feet. Xander looked around, relief filling him when he saw the others had managed to fight the strange savages off, their corpses littering the ground and blood drenching the once-green grass.
Then realisation hit and an altogether different emotion took its place. "Hey," he croaked, his throat dry with fear, "where’s Faith?"
* * *
Faith’s breath hitched as she dived into the attack, fear, rage, and adrenalin filling her. What the fuck where these things anyway, she wondered as she ducked under a pathetically clumsy haymaker and thrust upwards, her left blade powering up and through the rolls that made up the creature’s flabby neck. Blood spewed from its mouth even as its left hand grabbed her locks and yanked her head back, Slayer muscles protesting as the creature attempted to tear her head off. Her neck ached as she pushed back against her attacker, her foot lodged in its rounded gut and the blade in its throat twisting as she struggled desperately to worsen its injury, its blood spraying her face and hair.
Finally the creature’s thick digits loosened, eyes rolling back in its head as it fell away. Faith spun to face another demon coming in from her left, dancing in-between its thudding fists while slashing left and right with her blades, swords’ sharp tips digging deep into the monster’s barrel chest.
A bull-like roar erupted from her adversary’s chest, the massive beast covering the distance separating her at a run. Faith’s eyes flicked to the right, the moment the creature began to move that way she went left, her right blade flicking up to take its head, a bloody geyser spurting from its severed neck, splattering her face and shirt.
Then something grabbed her by her panties and neck and lifted her up. "Oh crap!" Faith screamed as she was flung airborne, blind in the stygian darkness. The wind whistled around her as she fell, the battle’s roar receding in the distance.
Then she hit the ground with a thud, pain reverberating through her right shoulder and arm, then she was rolling, the rough ground scraping on her scantily clad body, her head cracking against stones and branches on her chaotic journey. Teeth gritted in pain, Faith swung out wildly, desperately clutching for something to hold onto, but her grasping fingers found nothing but mud and grass.
Faith’s chest pounded as her descent appeared to level off, her momentum slowing. Even as she began panting in exhausted relief, her body seemingly one big bruise, the ground disappeared under her, pitching her down a dead drop, the ground hidden by inky darkness.
FIC: MC 63 The Beast In Us (11/?)
Xander glanced around wildly as he began stomping around the darkened camp, his eyes shooting everywhere as he searched for his lover. "Where the hell is she?" he growled, a coldness filling his belly. If one of those monsters had grabbed his girl-friend and dragged her off, he’d slaughter every last one of them and bathe in their blood when he’d finished.
‘Course, a smile briefly tugged at his lips, Faith was hardly Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC. In fact she was about as far away from your helpless, screaming maiden as you could get.
Still, Xander’s breath hitched and caught, that didn’t explain where the hell she was.
"She’s got her GPS tracker on hasn’t she?"
"Sorry?" Xander looked towards Kennedy.
"The GPS wrist-watches you gave us all before we started on this trek," Tara spoke up for her girl-friend. "Faith was still wearing hers?"
"That’s about all she had on, seesh," Kennedy grinned briefly before sobering and continuing. "We can use that to track where she’s gone."
"Of course," Xander’s spirits rose, the desperation that had engulfed him replaced by faint hope. "You guys start packing up, I’ll set up the tracker."
"Making us retrace our footsteps," Kennedy shook her head. "Typical."
* * *
"Ooooh," Faith groaned as she blinked her way to consciousness, the blurred redness gradually clearing and sharpening to reveal she’d ended up in some bracken god knows where, "I hope someone got the number of the bus that hit me." Faith cursed again as she forced herself to move and sit up, pain shooting through her back and shoulders, head swimming. While it felt like every part of her was bruised or welted, she didn’t sense any breaks or serious lacerations, maybe a sprained left ankle, but that’d heal in a few hours.
The bigger problem was where the hell she was. Ignoring the pain, Faith had gotten used to its companionship at a very early age, she rose and looked around. To judge from the sun struggling vainly to break through the blocking tree-tops, some hours had passed since the fight. Faith glanced at her wrist and heaved a sigh of relief when she saw that the GPS wrist device was still in place. She didn’t have to rush off and find the others, they’d come to her. "Oh rescue me Xander," she mock cooed, "sweep me up in your big, strong arms!"
Faith chuckled, her spirits rising at her mocking. Then fell as she considered the possibility that her honey and their friends might have been incapacitated by the attack. "Nah," Faith shook her head. From what she’d seen of the fight, the gang had been handling the ‘Man-Apes’ pretty handily.
‘Course if there’d been a second wave, they could have well been screwed.
"Shit," Faith shook her head, wincing slightly at the momentary pain that caused, "if they’re gone, you are fucked girl. Lucky you look good in a bikini, ‘cause you’ll end up bein’ Sheena of the Jungle for damn sure."
Hearing the sound of gently sloshing water, Faith began hobbling rather than striding to her left. She smiled slightly at the oval-shaped pool, the water seeming to gleam. Suddenly conscious of all the filth and sweat covering her, Faith limped to the water and pulled her top off before crouching down and reaching into the water, cupping her hands together and splashing her face, moaning softly at the water’s cool feel. "Not as good as an ice-cold JD, but not bad, not bad at all," she commented.
Several minutes later, she’d stripped, washed, and reluctantly put her dirty clothes back on. Then the hairs on the back of her neck sprang up, instinct sending her spinning around as fast as her injured leg would allow. "Xan-." Hope that the sensed intruders were Xander and the others died when she was confronted with the sight of a tall, powerfully built black clad in nothing but a loin-cloth and sandals stood around fifty paces back. "Hey," Faith’s eyes narrowed, had the asshole been watching her while she cleaned? Forcing her temper under control Faith managed a smile. "Sorry to bother ya, I’ll be gettin’." Suddenly the man burst into a charge at her.
"Oh you have got to be fuck-." Faith gasped as the racing man leapt into the air and began to change, his legs joining together as one then changing into a tail, his face lengthening and morphing into what could only be described as a crocodile’s snout, complete with glinting teeth . Weariness and shock combined to slow her reflexes enough to allow the now fully formed crocodile to crash into her and knock them both into the water behind.
Faith gasped as the water splashed into her mouth, the weight of the were-crocodile forcing her under the water. Her eyes bulged at the creature’s toothy maw dived at her, only a quickly thrown and water-slowed hook to the snout knocking it off the balance. Faith realised she had to finish the fight fast, her condition not allowing for a lengthy brawl, even if she could fight for long under water.
The fight was further complicated by, Faith yanked her head out of the way of the creature’s snout, the fact she couldn’t to be bitten even once if she wanted to stay more or less human, as well as the major handicap she didn’t have a freakin’ weapon.
Well, Faith grinned, ‘cept the fact she was a weapon. Seeing the were diving at her again, Faith feinted to the right, then dived to the left, sliding around the beast even as it attempted to turn to intercept her, and leapt on its back, legs wrapped around its scaly belly, and one arm wrapping around its neck.
A neck she yanked back powerfully on while placing her other hand on the back of the crocodile’s head and pushing it forward with equal force. The crocodile bucked, desperately trying to fling her from its back, but then went limp, head twisting at an unnatural angle. Faith warily released the creature’s corpse, wanting to hold on for a few more seconds to be sure, but her need for oxygen out-weighed all over concerns.
"Winner and still -." Faith coughed as she burst back to the surface, lungs
heaving as she fought for air, her voice trailing off as her dark eyes fell on
the pool’s far end. "Ah crap!" Faith moaned as she saw the natives charging
towards the far shore, their forms morphing as they leapt for water. She’d led
the type of life that meant few things frightened her, but the thought of being
torn to pieces by a pack of crocodiles just about froze her blood. Her heart
pounding, Faith turned back to near shore and started swimming as fast as she
could to hopefully safer ground, her heart thumping at the wild splashing that
filled her ears. "Don’t look back," she muttered repeatedly. "Just concentrate
on goin’ forward. Don’t look back."
Faith was half-way there, her already-aching shoulders tiring from the vigorous workout, and the crushing knowledge the creatures’ splashing seemed to be getting closer when the air was filled with the sound of firing guns, the sky above suddenly ablaze with red. Faith grinned as Xander and the others came into view on the shore she was heading for, their guns reigning death down on her pursuers, turning the pool into a lake of red.
"Hey lover," Faith winked as she clambered out of the water, soaked clothes sticking to her. "What the hell took you so long?"
"No shame," Kennedy shook her head and sighed. "No shame at all."
"Always people trying to kill her," Tara added. "You’d think she’d learn, become more of a people person."
FIC: MC 63 The Beast In Us (12/?)
"You realise we lost half a day’s travel because of you?"
Faith grinned at her jibing sis. "You’ll lose a lot more if you don’t heal my ankle," Faith commented as the witch rubbed some liniment or other into it. "And get my foot up your ass if you don’t hurry."
Xander strode over. "We’ve finished killing the weres off," Xander shuddered. "I had to stop Kennedy from skinning one and making herself a handbag."
"Your ankle’s done." Tara declared before looking up at Xander. "How are my crocodile pants coming?"
"Ah the innocence of youth," Xander shook his head. "Then lesbians had an allure, now they just frighten me."
* * *
"Damn," Faith wrinkled her nose, "have you crapped yourself, X?"
"Funny, Faith, real funny." Xander had to admit, this place stunk. They’d been walking for hours, trudging back up the hill Faith had taken a nose dive off, and down the other side, only to find themselves confronted by a marsh.
The fetid wetlands seemed to go on for quite some distance, a thick mist rising up from the rippling, green waters obscuring the swamp’s hopefully near far shore. What shrubbery there was lay thick and low, unhealthy plants with a sort of palsy-yellow to them. But as uninviting as the place looked, what was far worse was wet sourness sticking to the back of his throat, clogging it up until it almost felt you were breathing through a straw.
"You know, most gals get Paris or Madrid. My boy-friend, he takes me to the swamps," Faith groused. "I guess I’m just special."
"Special Ed, maybe." Xander gulped at Faith’s glare. After all these years he should really remember just how good Slayer hearing was.
"Listen to you two gives me so much confidence," growled Hawk. "Lucky I’m indestructible. Are we going?"
"We’re going," Xander grimaced as he stepped into the swamp, the muddy ground under water squelching. Fortunately the water only came up to the knee, but that was enough to make him shiver with distaste.
"Eyes open everyone," Ryan growled. "We wanna move fast, but not dumb. Keep your eyes moving."
"Yeah, yeah," Faith growled. "I’m more worried about catchin’ somethin’ from this filthy shit, than some monster."
"Water should be worried about catching something from you," Kennedy chuckled.
The group descended into a gloomy silence not helped by the heavy desolation of their surroundings, the only sound the squelching of the mud underfoot, and the rippling of the water as they made their way through.
"Hey," Dunn called from the back after about twenty minutes, everyone drawing to a stop at his voice, the mist so thick that Xander couldn’t see the former-solder from his position at the head of their procession, "I think I saw somethi-." The black man broke off and chuckled, a nervous timbre in his normally assured voice. "My mistake, it was just a log-, ohhh!"
"Xander!" Faith cried as the African-American’s words were drowned out by an inhuman screech and a splash. "Somethin’s got Double D, axe now!" Faith plucked the double-bladed axe he threw her out of the air, the wooden shaft slapping against her palm. "For fuck’s sake," Faith yelled as she raced to the rear of their group with her usual inhuman grace, seemingly not hindered at all by the sludge surrounding them, "keep your gun in your holster, you’ll more than likely shoot me in this crap!"
And then just like that she was gone from view.
* * *
"You really owe me Dunn." Faith groaned as she glanced down at the dirty water that Dunn had been dragged into, clearly the water much be deeper there to conceal an attacker in it. Faith held her breath and dived forward.
Instinct had her twisting to the left before she’d even hit the water, a tree-branch thick, muddy grey tendril shooting out of the murky waters to impale the air where she’d be stood. And then she was diving deep, eyes widening at what she saw.
A few scant feet off the path they’d been walking, the path fell away into a thirty or so foot deep pit, in the floor of which lived a bygone nightmare. Surrounded by a swarming tentacles, two of which held Dunn, there was a bulbous, wart-covered head with a single glaring eye that cut through the darkness like a lighthouse’s light, and a cavernous mouth filled with a selection of teeth that would do a wood-chipper proud.
The swamp octopus must have either been awoken from millennia-long slumber by their passing and in its ravenous hunger snatched up Dunn or had been awake all the past centuries and simply tired of living on the creatures that inhabited the swamp. Faith didn’t care much either way. All she knew was it had one of her people, and that did not happen.
Faith ignored the tendrils as they crashed into and tried to grab her, eyes fixed on her nearing target, way she figured it she’d only get one -. "Ugh!" Faith gurgled as a tentacle wrapped and grabbed her around her throat, squeezing like a python’s embrace.
Panic grabbing her as securely as the tentacle, Faith swung the axe down, only to moan in terror when another tentacle got between the axe and the octopus’ eye, her blade cutting deep, but not deep enough to go through the tentacle, and certainly not deep enough to carry on through to the monster. And then another tentacle was wrapped around her axe-arm, gripping hard enough to snap a normal human’s limb, and hard enough to immobilize hers.
The panic grew as the monster dragged her nearer, almost as if to examine its new tasty treat, baleful eye eating her up as its mouth opened and closed in excited anticipation. The moment she was near enough, Faith brought her knee up into her stomach and powered down, heel squelching down onto its single eye, the orb exploding like a dropped egg, her heel thrusting through it.
Faith screamed, bubbles exploding from her mouth as the monster went wild with pain, the tentacles holding it thrashing madly, wrenching on her neck, shoulder, and arm. And then she was loose, the axe swinging down in both hands, crashing into the monster’s head, bone and brains exploding loose as she discarded the now unneeded weapon, dived for Dunn, grabbed the limp man, and pulled him to the surface.
"This swamp," Faith gasped as she exploded back to the surface, a barely-moving Dunn in her arms, "really, really pisses me off!"
"Yeah," Hawk pulled her back up to the ledge, "looks like you had fun down there gal."
"You have a real strange definition of fun," Dunn wheezed as Xander and Ryan held him upright. "Thanks-."
"Can we do this later," Kennedy interrupted with a nervous look around. "Can
we get outta here, I think I saw something moving in the shadows."
"Agreed," Xander said after a nervous glance over to the still thrashing water, "let’s move."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (13/?)
"Oh thank god," Kennedy groaned as she clambered wearily out of the swamp, and back to firmer ground, her legs aching from trudging through the muddy swamp, her torso soaked with sweat from the stifling heat, and her lower limbs cloaked in yet fouler substances from the filthy swamp. There’d been no more incidents during the energy-sapping journey through the wetlands, and yet she was sure she’d seen shapes in the mist, just out of visual range, there one second, and gone the next.
All in all, it managed to fill her with a feeling of foreboding. "Aaaaah!" She jumped when a hand clamped down on her shoulder and spun around to face -.
"Hey," Faith smirked at her, "calm down squirt. You looked like a million miles away."
"Not funny," Kennedy shot the grinning Slayer a glare before looking towards Xander, "we’re not going any further tonight are we?"
"Just a few hundred yards-," Xander raised a hand at her, Tara, and Faith’s groans, "do you really want to make camp next to that stench?"
"Hey," Faith chortled, "I sleep next to you, I’m used to stinks."
Xander sighed. "Let’s just keep going."
* * *
"Yeah," Faith looked up at the black striding ‘side her. "What’s the what, Dunn?"
"I didn’t get the chance before but," Dunn paused then continued. "Thanks for pulling me out of that monster’s clutches."
Faith hid a smile, the big Alpha male sure had a problem thanking a lil girl barely half his size and fifteen years his junior for saving his life. Rather than needle him ‘bout it, Faith decided to be gracious and shrugged. "No big, you’re part of the team. The Brotherhood’s no different from the streets, we gotta watch one another’s back." Faith’s teeth flashed in a smile. "Well ‘cept we’re way meaner and better armed than any banditos, you dig?"
"It’s big to me," Dunn hesitated before continuing. "Creatures like that octopus are every day to you aren’t they?"
"Well not everyday," Faith pulled some sludge out of her, what she wouldn’t do or who she wouldn’t jump for a hot shower, "but it kinda goes with the territory of bein’ the Slayer."
"Right," Dunn shook his head, "I’m barely getting my head around the
"Hey you were at Cuttingswood," Faith pointed out.
"I know, but I’m still new at this game, that was only four months ago," Dunn replied.
Faith glanced up at the black, a nasty suspicion forming. "Hey," she forced
her tone to remain neutral rather than accusatory, "if you wanna out, don’t
half-ass it, just say-."
"I’m fine," Dunn interrupted with a shake of the head, "it’s just a hard world to get used to."
Faith raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t an opinion she had much sympathy with, after all, she’d only been a kid when she discovered horny older men and John Law were far from the most dangerous predators she’d have to worry ‘bout.
"We’ll make camp here," Xander called from the front.
Faith let out a relieved sigh as she looked around the small, shadowed copse, Xander had picked. It wasn’t much, but after the swamp, it felt like the freakin’ Ritz. "Harris, give me some bottles of water, a towel, and some clothes." She was finding herself a secluded spot, and showering, so what if Leo the lion got an eyeful? Seeing her boy-friend’s mouth opening and recognising the twinkle in his eye, she flipped him the bird as she hurried over and snatched the supplies off her lover. "And no, you can’t come."
* * *
Faith yawned and stretched, making sure to arch her back in such a way to push her boobs out, then grinned at Xander’s look and flush. Five years of teasin’ him like that and it still worked. Man, that trick never got old. "We turnin’ in honey?" Faith’s grin widened as her even huskier than normal voice had the expected effect on Xander.
"Um, yeah," Xander looked around, but didn’t see anyone else in the camp but her.
"Good," Faith twisted the knife, "after rescuing Dunn and fallin’ down that damn hill I’m totally wrecked, straight to sleep I think!"
"Wha-." Xander’s stunned voice trailed off as their camp descended into chuckles at his predicament.
"Uhhh," Faith cooed theatrically, "my sleepin’ bag’s gonna be warm tonight!"
"That’s just mean," Xander mournfully shook his head.
* * *
Ryan pursed his lips, alone with his thoughts as he sat the first guard of the night, the night’s shadows blanketing the camp in darkness , his only company the crackle of the fire’s leaping flames. His thoughts weren’t particularly good ones to be left with, a gnawing worry eating at his guts.
Xander and Faith were good no great warriors, they’d proven that a number of times since reaching Nigeria, but as leaders he had doubts. The Slayer had the natural charisma of a leader, but seemed too hot-tempered for the job. Harris on the other hand had seemed pretty good when they were strategising back at A-Team Industries, but when the Slayer was around, he lost his focus.
Ryan half-smiled. Mind you, she was the sorta girl that could cost a man his focus, and a few other things besides. His smile disappeared as he considered something else. The A-Team Industries’ Upper-Level acted as a central archive for every report that the Mithras Quartet and the wider Brotherhood had written, reams of reams of papers scanned into a single triple-encrypted computer before being shredded. In addition to its encryption, the computer was kept in a locked, code-worded room only a handful of people had access to, required a thumbprint from one of those self-same people to even turn on, and was constantly monitored by CCTV. He was one of the fortunate few with access to the reports, and while the Brotherhood had achieved a number of impressive feats, if what was coming was as bad as Xander appeared to think, they’d need help, more help than they currently had.
Ryan’s eyes narrowed as something indefinable disturbed his thoughts, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling instinctively. He hadn’t seen or heard a thing, but the instinct that had carried him through Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Rwanda, Senegal, Nicaragua, and other places too many to mention told him something had changed. He was half-way up, his MP5 in his hands, when it burst out of the shadows, his finger tugging automatically on the trigger, cutting the loin-clothed monstrosity in two, blood spurting out of its torso as it fell to the ground.
Bile gagged in his throat as he noted the creature’s green, thick, scale-like hide, the snake-like shape of its head, its forked-tongue dangling out of its open mouth, and its chill, inhuman eyes. "Lizard-men!" Kennedy had been right, there had been something trailing them since the swamp.
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (14/?)
"Oh hell!" Faith snapped at the soldier’s yell from outside, eyes flicking open, instantly awake as she dived for the knife she’d kept under her pillow for years and cut through the side of the tent nearest her. "One night’s sleep, is that too much to ask?"
Faith raised a hand and caught the short sword Xander threw her. "Thanks stud," She muttered before diving out of the tent, hitting the wet, dewy grass in a ball and rolling to her feet. Her eyes widened as a sort of lizard-man barrelled out of the darkness to her right, brandishing a crude hand axe overhead. Faith stepped towards her would-be assailant, bending forward slightly at the waist so that the axe hit only air, then drove her sword up and backwards, through the creature’s throat and diagonally up until it tore out of the other side, green blood spurting everywhere.
Even as the monster’s head rolled off its shoulders and the creature crumpled to the ground, Faith was leaping on, her movements inhumanly gracefully as she charged another of the lizard-men. This one thrust a stone-tipped spear at her, but she was past the spear, her free hand reaching across her body to grab and hold the weapon’s shaft as her sword thrust through the air and the lizard’s face, flesh and bone ripping under her attack.
Another lizard-man rushed out of the darkness, but Faith just stepped to her left, drove her knee up, and into its gut, doubling the beast up, easy prey to a back-handed slash through its neck.
"Oh fuck, who let Godzilla into the party? Wait, better question, who could keep him out?" Faith’s eyes widened when another beast, far bigger and more primeval than the other primordial nightmares rushed out at the darkness and at her.
While the other lizard-men all stood between five and six feet tall with wiry builds, this one stood closer to eight feet tall, with the thick physique more like a gorilla than anything in the lizard world. And yet for all its size, it moved like a panther, hitting her with a shoulder-charge that would have gotten it into the NFL in a heart-beat.
Faith grunted, hitting the ground shoulder-first, and rolling sideways and up, just in time to avoid a stomp to the chest. Before she could decide on her next move, a swinging back-forearm crashed into her head with a bone-bruising force. Her legs almost buckled under the blow, but the sheer bloody-mindedness that had carried through hundreds of battle kept her on her feet, her legs shooting out to kick the monster in the crook of its knee as it turned towards her.
Faith grunted as the blow’s impact reverberated back through her, a combination of the monster’s heavy scales and its thick muscle meaning it wasn’t much different from kicking a stone wall. The monster responded with another attempted haymaker, but Faith was getting used to its speed now, and managed to duck under the blow, her blade thrusting up at the creature’s distended belly.
The monster let out a tree-shaking roar as the sword hit home, the creature’s attempted twist out of the way of her attack meaning her blade only slid across its right side, just above its ribs. Even so, blood geysered out of its side as it charged towards her, Faith back-flipping out of its way, landing on her shoulders, and then reversing her momentum into a forward roll that carried her directly into the beast’s rampaging path. Faith sprang up, thrusting her blade up with all her momentum and considerable strength.
The blade tore through the creature’s thick scales, its bellow filling her ears as its green blood gushed over her sword’s steel and Faith twisted left and right as her adversary punched down at her, baseball-sized hands pummelling air rather than her. And then the beast fell silent and toppled forward, the weight of its falling body tugging the blade out of her grip as she jumped back to avoid being trapped underneath it.
"The harder they fall and all that," Faith muttered as she glanced around the camp, relief filling her at the sight of her uninjured friends and companions. Another attack successfully fought off.
"Men-Apes, swamp-monsters, were-crocodiles, and lizard-men," Xander shook his head in disbelief as he hurried over to her. "This place is like something out of a Conan novel."
Faith smirked. "Just so ya know it hon, you waitin’ for me to shimmy into a fur bikini, you’ll be waitin’ a hell of a long time."
"Well that’s a damn shame, girl." Hawk strolled up to them. "No way your Uncle Hawk can get you to change your mind?"
"Nah, and ugh, gross," Faith winked at the big black man.
"That’s alright," Hawk shrugged his broad shoulders, "that lil bedshirt will do fine. For now."
"Everything my uncle said ‘bout you is true isn’t it?" Faith rejoined.
Hawk beamed. "Only the really, really bad stuff."
"You’re a vile, vile man," Xander commented.
"You have been listenin’ to Spenser!" Hawk rejoined.
"Is everyone going to go back to bed?" Ryan’s strident voice cut in. "We’re gonna be moving out in a few hours, everyone needs their rest."
"By rest," Faith smirked at the big black man, "he means alone."
"Hell babe," Hawk flashed her a smile. "I already knew that, no woman ever gets any rest with the Hawk."
"You know," Xander cut in, "sometimes it’s like I’m the Invisible Man, but if I may make a suggestion try your lines on Kennedy, you’ll get a great reaction."
"Just make sure she don’t have anythin’ sharp to hand," Faith counselled.
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (15/?)
The next few days were exhausting, but refreshingly boring, the lack of incident a pleasant change after the hectic chaos of their first few days in the jungle.
The trek had finally led them to a small, craggy stone mound. The rock face had yellowy moss clinging to it, making it look for all the world like a leper’s skin, the mound itself twisting twisted its way some fifty to sixty feet into the air, its peak splitting into a trio of spikes that looked like a rough approximation of a trident. It was however the entrance at the column’s foot that garnered his attention, a small, low entrance that the taller of their party would have to duck their heads to get inside, an entrance guarded by a pair of spear-wielding, loin-cloth wearing blacks, their muscles glistening in the sweaty day.
"This is the place?" Xander asked.
"Three-Point Mound," Tara declared, "look at the peaks, it has to be."
"Okay." Xander grimaced. It was a good five hundred feet from the undergrowth and to the column, and open ground all the way. There was simply no way they could get to the men without them raising an alarm. "You say they’d only use traditional weapons here?"
Tara nodded. "It would pollute the ceremony to use technology at the ceremony. Everything here and inside the mound will be of a similar tech to the day of the primals – clothing, weapons, everything."
"Okay," Xander nodded. That made it simpler. "Colonel Ryan, you’re
sniper-trained aren’t you?" He heard but ignored Tara’s muttered protest.
The soldier nodded smartly. "Yes sir."
"Dunn, I seem to remember you’re sniper-trained as well?"
"Yep, Marine sniper."
Xander nodded. "Sir, any shot will carry in these sorta conditions, we’ll need silencers on our guns," Ryan commented
"I could do a spell, knock them both out," Tara commented.
Xander briefly considered the wicca’s offer before reluctantly shaking his head. "No. We don’t know how much of your strength we’ll need in the caves, what sort of power we’ll need from you. I’m not going to risk you not having enough strength in there, where it really matters, stopping the ritual. I’m not going to let you waste your powers out here."
"Waste?" Tara shook her head, eyes glinting angrily. "Not killing is never a was-."
"Tara, I know you don’t like it, but if we go up there and ask them to politely move, they’re gonna raise the alarm and then we’re screwed." Xander peered down at the oblivious blacks, Xander pulled out a pair of M86 sniper rifles, followed by a pair of silencers. "Colonel, I want you on the one to the left, Dunn you’re on the right."
"Sir," the Colonel glanced between him and a still glaring Tara, "we can’t just shoot our rifles, if one of our rifles fires, but the other doesn’t, then the alarm will be raised. Permission to duck into the undergrowth and try them?"
"Of course," Xander nodded with a grimace, he should of thought of that himself.
"Sir, we’ll need new silencers once we’ve tried the guns, you have some spares?" Ryan queried.
Xander nodded, then the two men melted in the shadows, Xander ignored Tara’s continuing glares in favour of glancing towards Kennedy and passing the potential a Mossberg 590, a box of shells, and a pair of H&K MP5s with half a dozen magazines. "You’re staying here," he shook his head at the lesbian’s opening mouth, "for crying out loud, will one of you women just do as you’re told."
"Boy’s been in the jungle too long, he thinks he Tarzan, you Janes."
"Not. Helping." Xander glared at the unrepentantly grinning Hawk before
looking towards the potential. "If we don’t make it out of there, I want you to
turn that ground out there into a kill-zone for the cultists. If we do make it
out of here, there might be something coming after us, we’ll need cover."
The potential pouted then nodded. "Alright."
"Thanks," Xander glanced over his shoulder as Ryan and Dunn glided back out of the darkness.
"The sights and rifles are fine," Dunn said before he could ask.
"Okay," Xander passed the former soldiers a pair of silencers, the two men immediately fastening the silencers in place. "Dunn, you take the right man. Ryan, you’re on the left."
The two men nodded then moved into kneeling positions, their muzzles resting on nearby tree branches, and peeking through the undergrowth. Sweat beaded on Xander’s forehead, his heart thumping with rib-cracking loudness as he peered through the undergrowth, mouth becoming dry as he focused on the two men whose lives he was about to end with brutal ruthlessness. "On my mark," he whispered, "now."
For a split second he thought he’d been too quiet, then he heard a pair of twin pops, and then the two natives’ heads exploded, blood fountaining out of the front, and brains splattering the rock face behind them, their bodies falling limply to the ground. Xander let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. "Okay, let’s move. Faith and I at the front, then Tara, Hawk and Dunn, the Colonel at the rear."
* * *
Faith was about the only one of the group, apart from Tara, that had to duck when entering the cave. At the thought of her ‘sis’, Faith glanced at the wicca, her features framed by the shadows and grimaced, she really hated it when Xan and Tar went at it, they were the two most important people in her world, and she always worried that in their arguments one might say something that could never be taken back and would wreck the foundation of her world.
Faith forced her attention back to the low-ceiling cave, eyes narrowing at the paintings etched on the cavern’s round walls, eyebrow rising as she noted a particularly gory one of a pack of cats shredding a couple of humans. "Nice artwork, I could see that in the Lourve," Faith caustically commented.
"All these drawings," Tara shook her head, "they’re indicative of primal cults marking their territory. This is their temple alright."
"At least they didn’t do what actual cats do and just piss against the wall," Faith’s brow creased as she crouched over the hole in the centre of the pit and down the railing-less steps. "We gonna go down?"
"No torches we don’t want anyone to see an approaching light, besides they’ll probably have their own light illuminating their rituals," Xander said before looking specifically at her. "If you see any sentries don’t wait for the okay, just take them out, fast and quiet. Everyone else, have your guns ready for use." Faith padded down the steps hewn crudely out of rock, the passageway so narrow the men behind had to turn sideways to get down it. Her heart thundered as she crept down the steps, a creepy chanting echoing up the pathway and growing louder with every step, her blood running to ice at its bestial power.
After a quick nervous swallow, Faith forced herself to ignore the chanting
and its ominous tone, and continue on her way, creeping down the steeply
After another fifteen or so steps, Faith could see just ahead that the steps plateaued out onto a passageway just five steps under her.
And just at the bottom of steps, a loin-clothed man stood side-on, his avid gaze fixed on the ceremony beneath him. The moment she saw him, Faith leapt down the remaining steps, her blade slashing up and then down, her other hand grabbing the unfortunate cultist around the mouth, muffling any attempt at cries as her knife dug deep into his throat, the shaking man’s blood gushing over the blade. The man pushed against her, shock flooding his eyes, but she held firm, and after a few seconds he slumped against her.
Faith lowered the corpse to the dusty floor, only then did she glance over the edge of the passageway, what she saw freezing her heart.
Nature had shaped the cavern into a basin-like shape, her and her friends were on the ‘basin’s’ rim, while the ceremony itself was going on the basin floor. A blood-red pentagram was painted on the basin’s floor, covering most of it, the blood used to paint the diagram probably coming from the carcasses of the three big cats, one from each of the three specieses, lying in a triangle around the ivory pedestaled altar. Encircling the altar, but just outside the triangle, knelt about three dozen naked chanting men aged between twenty and thirty, those she guessed were chosen to receive the primal’s power. Orchestrating everything was the white-bearded hide, wearing man stood by the altar’s foot, a staff in one gnarly hand, and a thick, old-looking book he was reading from in the other. On the outsides of the pentagram stood a number of loin-clothed older men and women, probably the cult’s leaders waiting to see if their power-play worked. All this was illuminated by wall-mounted torches, the light from them dancing luridly.
And tied to the altar in the centre of everything was a truly terrifying sight.
"Lorne naked?" Faith whispered as she shuddered. "I never needed to see that. No wonder he drinks so much, I’d be a booze-hound too if I had a body like that."
"You think you’d drink?" Xander countered. "Imagine my habit if you had a body like that."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (16/?)
"Now the hilarity part of the evening’s over with, what’s the plan?" Hawk queried.
"Just so you know, the laughter never ends while I’m around," Faith fired back.
Xander glanced left and right, noting the steps heading down into the obsence assembly at either end of the walkway. "Tara, I want you to stay up here and block whatever the shaman’s doing. Martin, Ryan you’re to stay with her. Faith, take Hawk and go left, Dunn we’re going right."
Several sets of eyes turned towards him, unanimous in their incredulity. "You realise we’re outnumbered like fifteen to one don’t ya?" Faith hissed. "I’d struggle at those odds, and no offence to the rest of ya, you ain’t me."
"We’ll have surprise on our side, and just as long as the ceremony doesn’t get finished before we have Lorne, we should be fine. Remember, getting him is the priority, as long as we screw the cult’s plans up, we don’t need to wipe them out, without Lorne they’re nothing more than a local nuisance anyway."
"Give me some more shells for my rifle," Ryan commented. Xander looked towards the former colonel. "From here I can pick off several of the enemy and generally add to their confusion."
"I’ll take a rifle and some shells too," Martin added.
"Don’t fire until we engage the enemy," Xander’s eyes narrowed as he passed a gun to the former SAS soldier. "Actually, make your first shot when we do engage the enemy be the shaman." Ryan nodded silently as he laid down and sighted down the gun’s scope.
"Be careful where you point that," Faith warned as she stalked off with Hawk, various weapons strapped to them.
* * *
Faith raised an eyebrow as she stuck to the walls, allowing the shadows to
shroud her, watching as the black man beside her stuck a set of brass-knuckles
on his left hand while filling his right with a nickel-plated Desert Eagle.
"Just watch my ass in there, and don’t try to keep up, the moment we’re seen
I’ll be moving full-speed ahead to get to the demon.
"When you get down in that mess, just you remember gal, all us black fellas don’t look alike," Hawk drawled.
"I know," Faith whispered, "some of those naked studs outta there actually live up to the stereotype."
Hawk winced. "Just like her Uncle."
Faith chortled before lapsing into a grim silence as she reached the top of the stairs and began creeping down them, dark eyes fixed on the oblivious horde beneath her. As long as none of them looked up-.
Just then, five steps from the bottom one of the men, a fat, bald man with hanging jowls looked up. For a second everything froze, then Faith surged into action, leaping sideways off the staircase, the two Berettas in her hands spitting fire into the thong beneath her. Bodies fell to the ground, blood spilling from them as her fire lanced through them.
Then she landed in a crouch, her right hand comin’ up to the blow the brains out of a charging knife-man with more balls than sense. Then she was surging through the crowd and towards the to be sacrificed demon, unencumbered by the hands that clawed at her, doubtless seeking to restrain her. Instead she retaliated with brutal elbows and kicks that had her attackers falling away, unable to compete with a Slayer’s brutal fury.
* * *
Xander winced as Faith leapt off the stairs and into the melee, bodies first
surging towards and then flying from her. It appeared as if his girl-friend had
gone quietly yet spectacularly insane. "Damn," Dunn muttered beside him, "did
"She just side-kicked that man in the throat while putting a round in his crotch, he must have really pissed her off," Xander said as he raced down the last of the steps, his shotgun’s boom ripping through the chest of a charging man, blood bursting from his mouth as his soon-to-be corpse fell onto his back, thrashing wildly in his death throes.
Another lunged at him, axe in hand only to fall away when the shotgun bucked in Xander’s hands and he fell away, his face a crimson ruin.
* * *
"Fuck!" Faith cursed as she burst through into the pentagram, both guns clicking empty. Realising that she’d not have time to reload, Faith dropped the guns to the ground, leaned backwards at the waist out of the way of a spear-thrust, drew her short sword, and hacked the point of the spear before the spearman could withdraw it.
Even as she straightened a burly man charged in at her, perhaps emboldened by her discarding of the guns. Faith stepped back, her movements fast yet graceful as she left a foot for the blood-crazed cultist to fall over, sending him sprawling to the ground. The man was still falling when the spearman lunged forward, still thrusting with his jagged wooden stave. The spearman let out a wail as he tumbled over the falling body, falling into Faith’s sword-slash to the neck, crimson bursting loose to splatter her linen trousers and the floor.
* * *
Martin shook his head. "That Slayer’s like a wreckin’ ball," the Englishman half-smiled. "A sloppy wreckin’ ball, but nevertheless girl can hit."
"Time for me to weigh in," Ryan intoned.
"Oh no!" Tara let out a gasp a half-second after the witch-doctor’s head exploded in a spray of skull, brains, and blood, the headless corpse toppling to the pentagramed floor. "The spell," she moaned, "oh the spell."
"What’s wrong?" Ryan queried as he pulled the rifle’s bolt back, its click lost in the noisy chaos beneath them. "He didn’t finish the spell."
"No, no," Tara shook her head, the honey-blonde’s face ashen pale. "He’d only finished the summonsing part."
"So what’s the problem?" Ryan queried as he blew the head off one of the fat
black men on the outskirts of the ritual.
"The problem is the monster is here, but it’s physical, and not chained by enchantments," Tara looked towards him. "It’s unleashed on this plane."
FIC: MC 63 Feb ‘ 03 The Beast In Us (17/17)
Faith was almost at the foot of Lorne’s altar when a monster burst out of the shadows at the far end of the cavern, its flailing fists sending panicking cultists flying from it. "Oh you have gotta be fucking me," Faith muttered as she leapt over the protesting demon tied to the altar and charged to meet the monster.
It was one freaky-lookin’ bastard, with a head that looked kinda like a sabre-tooth tiger she’d seen on some program or other, but underneath that head it had the thickly-muscled body of a silverback gorilla although it was completely hairless, its massive physique gleaming in the flickering torches.
Even as Faith charged to confront the howling gargantuan, it snatched a hold of a long-haired woman foolish or clumsy enough to stumble into its path by her swinging braids. Bile rose in her throat as she watched the demon yank casually on the woman’s hair, the force enough to tear her head off, blood vomiting from her neck as her headless torso toppled to the ground, grim testimony to the primal’s power.
Faith leapt at the monster, her blade slicing down through the air.
And then the monster was moving, its speed impossible for a creature of its bulk. Smoothly sidestepping her blade and powering a spade-sized fist at her face. Faith leaned forward at the waist, ducking beneath the monster’s fast but telegraphed haymaker, and leapt up inside its defences, crashing a knee into its distended gut even as the creature’s hellish stench reached her nostrils, her nose wrinkling in shocked distaste.
"Aaaah!" Faith screamed as the creature grabbed a hold of her long mane and yanked her head back, only the strength of her neck muscles saving her from sharing the black woman’s fate of a brutal decapitation. Her jaw clenched and teeth gritted against the bruising pain, Faith sent her knee driving up at the creature’s gut as she simultaneously swung her blade at the creature’s trunk-like neck, only changing to a thrust to its gut when the creature’s arm swung up in an attempt to block and wrestle her blade from her.
The beast let out an unholy bellow as her blade sunk into its belly, her free hand swinging up to block a fist to the face on her forearm. Faith gurgled helplessly, drool dripping out of her mouth and her vision swimming when the creature grabbed hold of her throat and began choking her, adding yet more pressure to her already straining neck. Her free hand grasped the monster’s thick wrist, but couldn’t dislodge it, its power as equal to her own as made no difference. Instead Faith concentrated on thrusting her blade again and again into the wildly-roaring beast’s belly. Suddenly the vice-like grips on her hair and neck loosened, allowing her to drop to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks as she struggled for air, the monster crashing to the ground beside her, its lifeless eyes staring up at the high ceiling, the ground beneath it soaked with blood.
A heel slammed into the side of her head, knocking her on her side. Faith’s eyes widened as the heel came in for another stomp, this one aimed squarely at her belly, her hands flew up to grab the foot and twist. The black man let out a shrill cry as his ankle shattered like dropped glass, a cry that turned into a croak when Faith planted a foot in his balls, the man falling away, dust billowing under his downed body.
Faith gasped as another cultist ran in wielding a spear. Faith rolled backwards and away from the attempting skewering, the spear’s stone point sparking blue off the ground. Faith sidestepped another attempted skewering, then dived forward, grabbing at the sword still buried deep in the primal’s belly. Blood flew as she yanked the blade out, landed on her feet and spun to face the still turning spearman.
Her blade flashed from side to side, slicing the end off the spear even as she back-heel kicked a cultist with dreams of sneaking up on a Slayer clean in the face, bone caving in under her brutal attack. Then she straightened, slapped aside the spear’s remaining jagged end and sliced her blade across her would-be attacker’s throat.
Blood burst free as the man fell to the ground, and then just like that the
battle was over, the rest of the cultists either dead, incapacitated, or just
plain fled out of one of the cave’s two exits. A grin on her face, Faith strode
over to Lorne, pausing only to quickly avert her eyes when she was once again
confronted by the demon’s terrible nakedness. "Hey, Xan!" she hollered. "I need
a sheet or somethin’ to cover the unsightly nudity."
"Well really," huffed the demon. "No Versace or Armani? And where’s my Sea Breeze, my little chocolate bun?"
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