FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (1/?)
Mexico City, Mexico
Faith looked up from her copy of ‘The Prince’ and glanced over to her boy-toy sat at their hotel room’s desk, crouched over his laptop. On the one hand she was grateful for the interruption from the homework Tara have given her, damn sis could make a strict school marm if her kink radar went that way, but on the other, Xan’s tone did not sound good. “What’s the what, hon?”
Xander didn’t look up from his screen as he replied, his tone distracted. “Do you remember me telling about Angela doing a daily hack of all the major powers’ intelligence agencies and their reports?”
“Yeah, sorta.” Faith shrugged. She kinda remembered him mentioning something like that, but she didn’t really pay attention to the operation. She supposed she should, just in case Xan got hurt or somethin’, but then that was precisely the reason she didn’t pay attention, her mind kinda just shied away from any thought of Xan or sis gettin’ serious hurt.
Well that and the fact she was a lazy bitch who hated paperwork…
“Well she’s sent me a titbit from the Vatican that fires some alarm bells…” Faith watched as Xander pulled the Eternal Archive out of the Always Pocket and began thumbing through the heavy, leather-backed tome.
“Alarm bells?” Faith rose and sauntered up behind Xander. “What sorta alarm bells?”
“I’m not sure,” Xander’s brow was
furrowed. “But Mithras,” Faith stiffened at the god’s name, “seems to remember
something about the description?”
“What description?” Faith growled, her heart thumping at the mention of the ascendant’s name, he might have given X all these cool powers and resources, but she didn’t trust the guy one damn bit, ‘specially after the asshole had possessed her man.
“Yeah, sorry,” Xander glanced over his
shoulder, a strained smile on his face. “I didn’t explain it very well did I?”
Faith half-smiled. “Or at all.”
“Yeah, sorry.” Xander’s smiled disappeared. “After the Vatican’s vampire-hunting team was destroyed by that Chaos Lord,” Faith scowled, she remembered that bastard, “they went all out hiring new teams, really pumped money into building that wing back up. They couldn’t get the experienced guns on board, they’d rather work for well us,” Faith chuckled when Xander blushed slightly. “So they went for special forces soldiers who were religious but didn’t know about the supernatural, and started training them. They’re good operatives, but raw in this sort of thing, you know?”
“Kay,” Faith nodded.
”Anyway, Captain Jeremy Saunders, formerly a Marine Recon officer with experience of the Orient, is or was the head of their Asian squad,” Xander continued. “And he and his ten strong team were in Vietnam, investigating the mysterious attacks on a number of villages there and the disappearance of kids from them.”
”Kay,” Faith repeated. “What did they find?”
Xander’s jaw clenched. “They were in the outer provinces, trying to follow the trail of the attacks when they were ambushed. Only one of the troops managed to get out alive.”
”Damn,” Faith whistled. “What attacked them?”
“Their description was distinctive, very tall, but skeletal, coal-black skin with violet slanted eyes and sharp, feline features, they all wore camouflaged capes over leather hauberks.”
Faith’s nose wrinkled. “That is descriptive, kinda drawing a blank though.”
”You would,” Xander grunted as he stopped at a page in the Eternal Archive, “because the Council wasn’t around when they where, but Mithras remembers them.” Once again Faith’s hackles rose at the mention of the avatar. “They were the Drow, a creation of the Old Ones, a monster warped from elves. They’re as fast, durable, and have the senses of vampires, but not their strength. At first they were nothing more than a pest, but in the years following Mithras’ death, but before his line was betrayed, they started raiding human villages, massacring the adults and stealing the children to raise into slavery. After over a decade of skirmishes and intermittent warfare, the human forces managed to corner the last of the clans, and were casting spells to banish them, when their clan elders were casting a teleportation spell of their own. The two spells somehow came together in an explosion that cratered the earth where the clan had been encamped, leading the human forces that survived the explosion to believe the Drow were dead.”
“Shit,” Faith scowled. “So a whole clan then?” Faith’s nose wrinkled. “How many exactly?”
“Not sure,” Xander returned her scowl
with one of his own. “The Drow nation numbered in its tens of thousands at its
peak, but there were dozens of these clans. There could have been a few
thousand in the group, or as few as a couple of hundred, then there was the
losses during the wars’ attrition.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “You could have just said ‘no’. Geez, watcher-like or what?” Faith realised her mistake as she saw Xander’s eyes darken. Fuck, compare Xan to them after he’d destroyed the Council was not one of her smartest moves and she had a history of real dumb ones. “You figure we gonna need help?” she hurriedly added.
“Yeah,” some of the coldness left
Xander’s eyes, “thinking about just who though…”
* * *
“DAMN IT! DAMN IT!”
Whistler looked up from checking the
sniper sight when Blade strode in from the other room, his expression even
stormier than normal. “What’s up, kid?”
“Remember Harris and his harem saving my life in Hungary?” Blade queried with a grimace. “They’re calling in the marker, I have to fly to Vietnam to meet them. Just great.”
Whistler grinned. “Not looking forward to seeing the Slayer again are you?” Blade impaled him with a knife-sharp glare. “Can’t understand it myself, that gal’s quite the babe.”
Whistler grinned as his protégé stalked back into the training room. “That spitfire surely squirrels my boy up…”
* * *
“You called, Chuck?”
“Ah Logan,” as usual the
wheelchair-bound Professor ignored his nickname, “I’ve just had a call from
Xander. It seems he requires possible assistance with a job that you given
your,” the professor’s normal eloquence temporarily deserted him, but then he
ploughed on, “expansive Asiatic experience would be ideal for.”
Asiatic experience. Logan tasted ashes in his mouth as he remembered not only the two wars he’d fought in on that continent, but also the island he’d ruled as its crimelord. Finally he nodded. “I’ll get my eye-patch,” he growled.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (2/?)
Noi Bai International Airport
Faith peered through the busy terminal. They’d been here for three days, just waitin’ for their companions to turn up, and Hanoi was a helluva city, a mixture of ancient Oriental architecture, almost modern European architecture, and the sorta modern crap that nearly every major city had these days, skyscrapers and the like. And man, you’d be in the middle of a major industrial complex, then suddenly in some sort of garden paradise.
But Wolverine and Blade were here today, signalling the end of their vacation.
That was if they could just find them.
“There’s Blade.” A half-second later
Tara continued. “Oh and Wolverine’s with him.”
Faith glanced across to where Tara was pointing. Sure enough the hulking, crew-cut black was heading towards them, prowling beside him a much shorter but scarcely less thickly-built white man with unruly sideburns, a scowl that appeared most at home on his rugged features, and an eye-patch.
“What’s with the eye patch?” Xander
queried before any of them could. “I thought you could, well heal.”
“I can.” If anything the leather-faced
Canadian’s scowl deepened. “The patch is just for show, people in this area of
the world recognise me with a patch.”
”Why’s that?” As usual Kennedy blurted out where angels and Slayers have more sense than to tread.
The Canadian glared at Kennedy until even the dumb as dirt potential found the sense to flinch, then answered. “Back in the mid 80s, I ran Madripoor’s crime scene.”
Faith’s hackles rose and eyes narrowed. She remembered the assholes in her neighbourhood who thought they were somebody, who figured they led gangs and organised crime, and how they treated people without any power. “You were a ganglord?”
The mutant raised a bushy eyebrow at her cold tone. “You weren’t there girlie, you have no idea why I did what I did.”
“Explain,” Faith wasn’t backing down, Xander’s reproachful look sliding off her.
“I was the lesser of several evils, you’ve met the Hand, they don’t fuck about, neither do HYDRA. It was either I take over or let the whole region go up in flames.” Wolverine glanced at Xander, completely ignoring Faith. “If this is a problem, I’m gone.”
“I’m sure you had your reasons,” Xander replied while shooting her a warning look. “Let’s go.”
* * *
Faith fumed all the way back to their
hotel, turning on Xander the moment they entered their hotel room. “Damn it,
Xan!” she hissed. “Wolverine used to be a crimelord-.”
“You heard his reasons,” Xander interrupted. “You know what sort of man he is now, isn’t that what matters?”
“Xan,” Faith shook his head.
“You know what sort of man Hawk used to be,” Xander interrupted her again. “Are you saying you trust your uncle’s judgment but not mine?”
Fuck, Faith’s jaw clamped shut. Xander had caught her there. If she continued bitching about Logan, he’d just throw that back in her face. “Fine,” she said through gritted teeth, “what’s the plan?”
“Wolverine,” Faith forced her face to remain calm, “has contacts in the city. He knows a coven of witches that might have sensed something, we’re gonna head there at nightfall.”
“Wicked,” Faith grunted before forcing herself to focus. “What else can you tell me about these dark elves?”
“Okay,” Xander opened the Eternal
Archive. “As I said, they live in clans, each clan has a king-.”
”Never a queen?” Faith interrupted.
”No,” Xander half-smiled at her brandishing of the feminist sword, “they value fighting and magical ability above anything else, two disciplines restricted to males. They’re nomadic and predatory in nature, raiding to survive, it’s part of the reason why they were defeated in the end.”
”How so?” Faith perched cross-legged at the foot of their bed, eyes intent on her boy-friend.
“They never learnt how to survive pastorally, they never learnt how to tend livestock, grow crops, or even much about wood-lore beyond what they needed to hunt their prey, so when their prey rose up against them and fought back, they couldn’t survive for very long on the run.”
“You mean they didn’t know which plants they could eat and which ones they couldn’t?” Faith queried.
”That’s one example,” Xander nodded. “They have these huge hunting dogs, but they had no idea how to keep cattle or how to grow crops, which meant even when their enemies were closing on them, they couldn’t just hide, they had to continue raiding.”
Faith nodded. “Right. And their elders, what sort of shit were they into?”
Xander scowled. “They were into deceit,
cloaking spells, illusions, poisons, drugs that would make people talk, that
sort of things.”
“Healing spells, power attacks?” Faith queried.
Xander shook his head. “Like I said, all their tricks are aimed at deception and stealth.”
“And their warriors?” Faith pressed.
“Similar to their mages in that they’re hit and run merchants, they’re raiders and ambushers rather than anything else,” Xander replied. “They use blowpipes, throwing knives, and short swords, they tend not to use heavy weapons like axes or armoury beyond leather cuirasses and hauberks.”
“So tricky bastards?”
Xander nodded at her comment. “They’re known for stealth, trickiness and deceit, they’re tightly loyal to their own clan, but vicious and cruel to outsiders, even Drows of other clans. If they’d had banded together, they might have made more of a fight of it, but their combative bloodlines wouldn’t allow them. Light doesn’t hurt them, but they prefer the shadows and night, probably because it makes it easier for them to hide.”
“And their physical advantages?”
“They’re immortal which means they can often accumulate centuries of experience either in combat or whatever else they study, they’re far faster than normal humans, and have superior eye-sight, hearing, and smell,” Xander replied.
“And after millennia trapped in a hell-dimension or somethin’, they’re probably really, really pissed,” Faith finished for her lover.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (3/?)
Faith whistled as they started out from their hotel. Forget about New York, Hanoi was the city that never slept. Even late at night it was packed and hot, the air filled with the constant roar of the motor bikes and scooters screeching down the road, the occasional car standing out in the chaotic order. Multi-national fast food and retail franchises sat next to looming office blocks that in turn were dwarfed if not in size but majesty by the ancient Oriental architecture that had somehow survived war after war and invasion after invasion.
“How do you know this coven?” queried Tara, her voice barely audible over the dust-billowing traffic.
Wolverine shrugged his powerful shoulders. “I was here durin’ the war,” the long-lived mutant replied. “Working with Fury,” Faith glanced at the thick-shouldered Canadian, the mention of the legendary spy interesting her despite her current disdain for the X-Man, “to stop a local warlord from opening up a dimensional rift to let in some demons to eat us.” Wolverine snorted and spat on the tarmac as they hurried across the road in a terrifyingly brief gap in the traffic. “Problem was plan had a hell of a flaw though.”
”How’s that?” Faith found herself asking.
Wolverine glanced at her, his dark eyes as impenetrable as usual. “The demons they were summonsing were cannibals alright, but they wouldn’t have stopped at eating just us, the natives would have made a nice course too.”
”So what happened?” Kennedy queried.
Wolverine shrugged. “Me and Fury made out okay, we didn’t get there in time to stop the spell completely but managed to close the rift, kill the demons before they got out into the general pop.”
“And the coven helped you close it?” Xander queried.
”No,” Wolverine shook his head, “they were the ones who opened it.”
* * *
”What!” Tara’s pronouncement was barely audible in the heavy traffic’s roar, but nevertheless Wolverine heard it.
“Ain’t as bad as it sounds girl,” the mutant growled. “The warlord was holding their families hostage to make sure they did as he wanted. Soon as we arrived they told us how to stop the spell.”
“And you’ve stayed in touch ever since?” Tara queried as they reached the other side of the street, ducked in an alley between what looked to be a converted 18th century French colonial building and a darkened, featureless office block.
“Not exactly,” was the mutant’s oblique reply as he led them between the two buildings into an alley that had foul-smelling water, possibly from a ruptured sewage, bubbling down its cracked stone floor.
The darkened alley snaked away from the city’s industrial and commercial centre and into a depressingly dangerous-looking shanty town. An air of depression hung unsurprisingly over the convoluted maze of haphazardly built dwellings constructed from plywood, corrugated steel, and plastic.
Suspicious, angry eyes followed them through the winding, refuse-strewn streets, the understandable envy of the abandoned to those who obviously had more, only the obvious air of danger projected by Faith and the three guys keeping them at a respectable distance. “Keep tight,” Wolverine growled, his voice tight with the fury of a warrior who saw an injustice that he for all his power could do little to right, “we don’t want to get separated in here.”
Tara shuddered slightly. “Why do the coven live here?”
“They figure they can help people, give them remedies, try and keep a little order,” the Canadian mutant grunted.
“Cool,” Faith said from her position up-front with Xander and Wolverine, Blade bringing up the rear, her and Kennedy in the middle, “where do they live?”
“See that hill towards the town’s rear?” Wolverine growled. “They live in a couple of cottages there.”
* * *
By the time they’d walked the two miles
leading to the hill and up its slope, Tara was sweating slightly, but she still
sensed the wrongness as they got half-way up the hill. “There’s something-.”
“I smell blood,” Wolverine growled. Tara’s heart chilled as she heard the distinctive skin of the mutant’s claws coming out.
Blade sprinted up the hill, Faith
jogging beside him. The door swung open as the duo peered in. “Oh crap.”
Bile rose in Tara’s throat as she peered in, dismembered limbs lay torn across the darkened cottage, blood soaking its walls, lifeless eyes in decapitated heads staring up at the one-storey roof. “Looks like the Drow beat us here,” Xander grunted as he exited the cottage and started back down the hill.
“Ohhh,” Faith looked around her as they hurried into a back-to-back circle, “I don’t think it’s the Drow.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (4/?)
“Helluva party you throw Harris,” Wolverine commented as his claws skinted out of his knuckles, the blades gleaming in the darkness even as he glared at the shapes surrounding them. There had to be a minimum of seventy-five vamps swarming around them, way too many for them to take. “Back to the house?” Fuck he hated vamps, it was so rare that any beast could actually manage to sneak up on him.
“They’ve already cut us off,” Blade growled as he drew his katana, the black’s tone controlled but filled with a tension probably only Wolverine heard.
“This is it people,” Xander spoke suddenly. “Stay tight, don’t let them separate us.”
Wolverine bared his teeth as a familiar desolation filled him. These demons couldn’t kill or turn him, his healing factor ensured that, but those with him wouldn’t be so lucky. Once again those with him would pay the ultimate price. Once again he would live while those he fought with died.
Suddenly the despair turned to rage, the sort that threatened to engulf him. Before he knew it, his legs were bending, then springing forward, claws glinting as they flashed down.
* * *
“Damn it!” Xander roared as Wolverine ignored what he’d just said and lunged into the pack of vampires, the powerfully-built mutant ruthlessly slicing through the demons.
Damn, Xander tore his eyes away from the one man gang, if they were all as lethal as Logan they might have a chance of coming out of this in one piece.
As it was, they were completely screwed.
Frustration filled Xander as he started firing his guns at the monsters encircling them. To die here, to a nameless pack of vampires, after all the monsters, arch-demons, and minor deities they’d fought.
Galling wasn’t the word.
* * *
Faith’s heart was firmly lodged in her throat as the vampires grew closer. Suddenly they burst forward, aiming for the three girls, clearly thinking they were the easy meat compared to their heavily armed and powerfully built male companions.
A theory that Tara quickly disabused them of with a pair of fireballs that sent close to a half a dozen of the demons straight back to hell.
But then they were on them, and things went downhill fast.
Faith’s breath thundered in her ears as the first vampire to reach her, a nose-ringed mohawked woman, leapt at her. Faith slid to the left, her sword trailing behind her to swing up and slice through the demon’s throat.
Even as it exploded into ash, Faith was dropping down onto one knee and back-hand slicing her blade through the knees of another demon leaping through its dust cloud, then rising and slicing down and through the back of the demon’s neck.
Faith scowled as she parried a right from a thick-shouldered vamp on her forearm while heel-kicking another in its chest, the battle’s din filling her ears. Yeah, things were going south faster than hell.
* * *
Blade grunted as a vampire caught him with a left to the jaw even as he tugged on his automatic’s trigger and blew a hole through the monster’s chest while simultaneously gliding into a side-kick to the chest of another vampire, knocking it back into the screaming for blood horde. Another lunged at him out of the mob, but by the time it reached him he’d already moved on, leaving just his katana’s keenly honed edge for the foolishly brave demon to decapitate herself on.
Despair filled him as he looked on at the veritable army of vampires swarming into the attack around them. Even if there was double their number and even if they’d not been caught out in the open, this would be an impossible battle to win. Blade’s fangs flashed.
Then all that was left was to sell his life as dearly as possible.
* * *
Blows reined down on him, blood pouring from a multitude of sealing wounds as his claws lashing left and right, bringing down a whirlwind of death on the vampires surrounding him. Yet as quickly as they fell more and more piled in, the bloodlust inflaming the demons, chasing reason and fear away.
Wolverine snarled as he side kicked a demon in the hip, laughing as he heard its leg snap with a crack and the demon’s cursed gasp as it crumpled under his attack’s brutal ferocity. A demon caught him with a left to the eye, but dallied too long in pulling its arm back, allowing his claws to sever its arm at the elbow, the creature’s shocked screams echoing in the air as it stumbled away.
Then an unexpected scent reached his nostrils, hope firing in his heart.
* * *
Sweat gleamed on Tara’s face, air torturous to breathe, and her limbs cramping like she’d been climbing Everest as she swayed and cast spell after spell into the demons surrounding them. The others really had no idea how hard magic could be, the toll it extracted on its caster.
To cast so many battle spells, the magics she was least attuned to, in so short of time drained her not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too, draining until she felt like a wrung-out face-cloth.
“Ooooh,” Tara gasped as a last-minute shield sent a demon stumbling away, and then blackness beckoned and her legs buckled beneath her.
* * *
”TARA!” Kennedy screamed as her girl-friend fell. Ducking a vampire’s haymaker, she leapt to Tara’s side then gasped as silhouettes appeared in the shadows behind the vampires, despondency filling her. They’d killed half of their enemy, but now they had reinforcements?
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (5/?)
“You have got to be kidding me!” Xander groaned as he noted the new shapes appearing behind the attacking vampires. Dropping his empty Desert Eagles to the muddy ground, he pulled out another pair, and, ignoring the ache in his wrists and forearms, raised the guns and prepared to sell his life as dearly as possible.
And then the newcomers tore into the vampires, ripping through the unsuspecting demons. “What the-.”
* * *
Faith’s eyes widened as the tide of battle changed in their favour. “XAN!” Faith yelled without taking her eyes from the turmoil assailing her and her friends. “AM I SEEING WHAT I THINK I’M SEEING?” Faith sidestepped a swinging bike chain while thrusting her blade through the vampire’s neck.
”Looks like it!” her boy-friend’s yell travelled back to her through the violence.
”ON OUR SIDE?”
”Only time will tell!” Came Xander’s less-than comforting reply.
”Fuckin’ A,” Faith muttered as she heel-kicked a vamp in the chest, knocking him back into the dwindling crowd as another vampire caught her with an overhand right to the forehead . Now all they had to do was survive long enough to get some answers.
* * *
Blade snarled as he sidestepped a demon’s careless charge, blade slicing up to skewer its crotch, the doubling-up vampire easy prey to a bullet to its head.
And then it was over just like that, the last of the vampires dissipating into dust as their rescuers likewise melted into the shadows. Blade sagged, only years of rigorous training and his self-imposed discipline keeping him on his feet, his body feeling like one giant bruise.
“Kinda rude not to hang ‘bout and
Blade glanced at Faith, a bruise forming over the Slayer’s left eye and blood trickling down from her right nostril, the curvy brunette looking as exhausted as the rest of them. “Perhaps they figured saving our lives was enough.”
Faith cocked her head to the side and grinned. “Can’t be too demanding.” Xander’s mouth opened. “Not. A. Word.”
“Who were they?” Tara gasped, the weary witch leaning against her girl-friend, Faith cursing and hurrying over to the witch’s other side.
”They didn’t leave a business card,” Xander replied, his eyes fixed on Wolverine as he strode over to the Canadian mutant. “When I say hold tight, we hold tight. You don’t run off like some loose cannon.”
“You know who you’re talking to, bub?” the mutant glared up at the almost foot taller man, his complete lack of intimidation written on his rugged features.
“Do I care?” the younger man scowled down, the air crackling with tension as the Slayer started forward to back up her man only for Blade to step in her way and stop her with a shake of the head. The last thing this situation needed was the Slayer’s fast mouth escalating matters. “I had a plan and you just charged ahead and ignored it.“
“Kid,” Wolverine growled, “I was fighting wars when your pappy was still chasing cheerleaders.”
“And I don’t care if George Washington
lent you his musket,” Harris retorted. “You went off like a mad dog, and that’s
not gonna happen, not if we’re working together!”
Wolverine bristled at the rebuke, even his heavy sideburns and bushy eyebrows seeming to shake. ”Listen kid-.”
“I’m the one whose responsible for us all, and if we’re working together, I intend to get us all out of here alive! And the best way to do that is by working together!”
Wolverine stared at Harris for a long second before brusquely nodding. “I guess I can respect that.”
“Jeez,” Faith’s sardonic voice broke in the tension-filled silence that followed Wolverine’s grudging admission, “what’s the plan, now you’ve finished measuring one another’s Johnsons?”
“Girl,” Wolverine kept his eyes fixed on Xander, “you’d be laid out on the ground havin’ palpitations if it had come down to that.”
“Promises, promises,” Faith muttered as Xander crimsoned.
“We need to get away from here,” Xander
stuttered. “All these dead bodies, someone’s bound to notice and alert the
”I wouldn’t bet on it around here,” Wolverine grunted. “I know a guy, used to use him as an informant in the old days, got fingers in all sorta pies. If something’s up in ‘Nam, he’ll know somethin’ ‘bout it.”
After a second’s hesitation, Xander nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
Wolverine returned Xander’s nod with one of his own. “I’ll shake some trees, see what falls out.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (6/?)
An incessant downpour drummed down on their car’s roof as the 4 * 4 pulled up across the road from the nightclub. A line of smartly dressed patrons had already formed outside the club’s entrance, the flashing neon sign over the door flanked by a pair of glowing silhouettes so busty as to give Jenna Jameson anxiety issues. “I can’t believe you’re making ME stay in the car!” Faith pouted and shook her head.
“I’ll have Blade and Wolverine backing me up,” Xander soothed. “If there’s a problem that we can’t handle on our own-,” Xander smirked. “Well excuse me while I change my underwear at the very thought.”
Faith’s pout intensified. “That ain’t the problem,” she snapped. “I don’t want you goin’ in there and ogling any of the dancers!”
Wolverine snorted. “Sounds like she’s got you pegged, kid.”
Xander shot the mutant a glare. “Stop helping me.” Xander glanced over his shoulder to where she was sat. “Look, we’re just going in to speak to Logan’s contact not stick ten-spots into dancers’ g-strings.”
”Speak for yourself,” Wolverine chuckled.
“There better be no stuffing!” Faith warned.
Xander looked at the mutant. “Please,
stop helping me, I’m begging you.” Xander glanced back at her. “Look-.”
”Can we get this done?” Blade grunted. “You two can catch up on the soap opera that is your life later.”
“You know,” Faith purred at the vampire hunter, “in a soap opera there’s always a bit of adultery.”
“Bring the car around fast if we call for you,” Xander shot his girl-friend a glare. “Otherwise sit tight.”
* * *
Logan pulled on his eye-patch as he
clambered out of the car. “From now on I’m Patch,” he grunted before glancing
at his companions, “you’re my hired muscle.”
“Are we supposed to be expecting trouble?” Harris queried.
”Kid,” Logan snorted as they took advantage of a break in the seeming endless cavalcade of scooters and bikes, and started across the cracked-tarmaced road, “I’m always expecting trouble, that way I’m never disappointed.”
”What a comforting world you live in,” Harris retorted.
”Kept me alive so far,” Logan replied.
The two men fell silent and into flanking positions as he strode to the club’s entrance, the indignant shouts of the waiting patrons falling on deaf ears. The three fridge-sized bouncers attempted to step into his path, but Logan snarled out an introduction, the men paling and stepping aside, allowing him and his companions to stride inside.
“You speak Vietnamese?” Harris queried.
“When you’ve been around as long as I have, you pick up a few things.” Logan explained even as he winced at the scene that met his senses.
His nose was first to be assailed, a combination of cheap and expensive liquor, sweat, pheromones, and smoke besieging his nostrils. Next were his ears, the bar customers’ raucous chatter inter-mingled with the western rock crackling out of the speakers situated throughout the bar. The bar itself was shaped in a circle, flashing multi-coloured fluorescent lights cutting through the smoke to illuminate a clientele of smartly-dressed twenty-somethings sat around fixed to the floor tables, gulping down over-priced drinks, and g-stringed, topless local girls the Slayer had been so worried about danced in ceiling-hung glittering cages.
“This way,” Logan nodded towards the club’s far end where the gleaming, stainless steel bar stood staffed by half a dozen lycra-clad lovelies that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fitness magazine and stocked with enough bottles to accommodate any palate.
His companions wordlessly fell in beside
him and made their way through the bar. “Lot of faces in here tonight,” Blade
commented, the vampire hunter’s low voice easily reaching his enhanced ears
despite the bar’s thundering sound system.
”Yeah,” Wolverine’s brow furrowed as he passed the third table of hatchet-faced toughs, their jackets filled with all sorta tell-tale bulges, “I’d noticed.”
“Could be trouble,” Blade grunted.
“Could be nothing to do with us,” Logan said. “Gang war, coincidence.”
“You don’t really believe that,” Blade retorted as they reached the bar.
“Nah, me and coincidence aren’t on speaking terms,” Logan shot the vampire hunter a grin. He felt a real kinship with taciturn black, they had a hell of a lot in common, somewhat similar powers, personalities, and lone wolf outlook.
Wolverine led his companions to the bar’s far end where a metal stairway stood, leading up to a glass-walled office stretching out over the bar. A quick growl at the two suited bouncers stood at the foot of the stairs had them parting to allow Wolverine and his companions through.
The office itself was soundproofed, muting the nightclub sounds, and luxurious, thick shag-pile carpeting, an antique mahogany desk at its far end, and a pair of leather upholstered couches to its left and right, a glass coffee table between them. The man sat behind the desk wore a custom suit that completely failed to hide the way the years had ravaged him. He was tall and gaunt, the muscled pounds he’d once carried having fallen away. His eyes were sunk deep in his weathered face and stared out to flank his hooked nose, his once thick hair thinning and greying.
“Bao,” Wolverine growled with a nod as he and his companions came to a stop before the desk. Wolverine scowled as he heard somebody, no make that some-bodies behind the clearly false wall behind Bao’s desk. “Been a while.”
“Decades,” the gangster rasped. “And yet you haven’t aged a day.”
“Must be all that virtuous living,” Wolverine agreed with an equable nod before turning serious. “I’ve come here for some information.”
“I’m afraid not,” his old contact pressed a buzzer on his desk, two doors slid open in the wall behind him, several slab-shouldered men striding out and a number coming up the stairs to enter the office behind him. “There’s a considerable ransom on your head in these parts. I intend to collect.”
Blade groaned. “I knew it wasn’t a coincidence.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (7/?)
“Faith, the bouncers are running into the club!”
“I see it,” Faith responded to Tara’s anxious gasp, her hand reaching into the car’s dashboard to pull out the .32 hidden there. “Damn it, Xan!” she cursed as she yanked the door open. “Always gettin’ into trouble!”
* * *
”Twelve on three?” Xander chuckled. “After last night I’m almost insulted.”
By contrast Logan as far from amused as he got, an ice growing inside him as he ignored the suited thugs to glare at his contact. “This is a big mistake,” he growled, the air crackling with tension, “one last chance, Bao, call your lap-dogs off.”
Bao paled and shook his head, sweat
beading down his face. “I think not, those now in charge of Madripoor will pay
very well to ensure Patch never returns to bother them.”
Logan parted his lips and snarled at the gangster. “Your funeral.”
* * *
One of the thugs encircling them lunged forward, but Xander wasn’t there when he arrived, leaping back to snatch a hold of the coffee table and swing it up and into the side of the thug’s head. Glass met skull with a resounding crash, several shards slicing into the shrieking man’s face, blood blossoming out as he fell to the ground.
Xander dropped the table in time to swing his arm up and block a right on his forearm, other hand snaking out under his parrying arm to jab his fingers into his attacker’s throat. “Damn it!” he cursed as the man back-handed his attack away then threw a hook to his head that Xander only just managed to block on his shoulder.
Another man leapt at him from the left, but Xander folded him in two with a kick to the mid-section. “Uhhh!” Xander grunted, head snapped sideways by a fist to the face from the second man. Blood flew from his lip as the man followed up with a thrust kick that Xander caught at the ankle just inches from his gut and twisted, sending the guy crashing to the ground.
Sensing the man he’d kicked in the gut struggling to his feet, Xander twisted at the waist, grabbed the man behind his shaven head and pulled him down into a knee to the face, bone shattering and blood flying as the man pitched down to the ground, Xander spinning back around to face his second opponent just in time to block a kick to the crotch on his thigh. “Uhh,” Xander grunted at the blow’s impact, profoundly it hadn’t caught him in his family jewels, even as he swung an arm up to block a back-handed chop to his neck then stepped forward and drove an uppercut through the man’s too slow defences and into his jaw. The man’s eyes crossed as he stumbled backwards, far too dazed to do anything but take Xander’s right to the throat straight on, then drop to the throat, his face purpling as he struggled vainly for air, body convulsing.
“Damn it,” Faith’s familiar drawl came from the office doorway, “you done threw a party without inviting me.”
* * *
Bao’s heart thundered as he watched, frozen immobile by shock, as his highly-priced army were torn apart by Patch and his two companions. He’d heard plenty of tales about Patch’s ruthless brutality, but to see him in actual action was a terrifying revelation.
Bao gulped as the legendary crimelord’s gaze fell on him. Stunned out of his shock, Bao lunged for his desk’s drawer, yanking it open and snatching for the pearl-handled snub-nosed automatic inside there. “Aieeee!” He screamed, body twisting in shock as Patch leapt over the desk and slammed the drawer shut, shattering several fingers.
“I don’t think so!”
Patch’s growl was more beast than human, the crimelord’s steel-cable fingers snatching hold of his throat, lifting him from his seat, and flinging him into the wall behind, the back of his head bouncing painfully off the reinforced glass. The air gusted from his lungs as he bounced off the wall and into a body shot from Patch that sent him to his knees.
Then the foreigner’s hand was around his throat again, lifting him into the air, and slamming him down on the top of his desk, papers flying everywhere. “You better have some real good information to make up for this bullshit, Bao!” Patch warned.
Bao’s lips dried as he shook his head, not able to much more than wheeze thanks to the hand still entrapping his throat. “Nothing,” he gasped, “just a ploy so I could get you here.”
Ice would have seemed warm next to the chill in Patch’s single eye. “Big mistake.” Bao whimpered, bladder loosening and releasing as Patch somehow sliced the table under him in half as easily as if he’d had a buzz-saw. And then Patch yanked him up until their faces were inches apart. “Run little man,” Patch snarled, the foreigner’s breath hot on his face. “Run and spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder wondering if this is the day I got pissed enough to come looking for some payback.”
* * *
“You really know how to make friends and influence people,” Faith snorted as the gangster staggered out of the office’s entrance, his face ashen grey and his companions still strewn out on the devastated office’s carpet.
“What’s the next plan?” Xander queried.
“I got a bud,” Wolverine ignored Faith’s theatrical groan. “He might know something. But getting to him might be a problem.”
“Really?” Xander chuckled. “Because this was so easy.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (8/?)
The sun struggled to fight a way through the thick tree-tops, yet even so the heat was stifling. Sweat streamed down Dux Acuta’s robe-clad frame as he stalked through the shadowy rain forest, his passing as silently effortless as one would expect for one born to track and hunt. Every sound, smell, and taste floated to him, telling him everything he needed about his surroundings, his people parting before their king.
Stopping by his mages, he crouched down, slanted eyes intent. “The spells,” he hissed. “When will the summonsing be complete?”
“The wyverns are wildness themselves,”
the head Elder retorted. “They resist our spells. It is difficult to bend them
to our -.”
Dux Acuta nodded slowly. “How long?”
The Elder flinched at the naked steel in his voice. “A few days. Perhaps a week.” The Elder licked his lips. “Perhaps we should consider pulling in some of the other clans, the weaponry of this world is fearsome-.”
“As fearsome as the discipline and skill of their warriors is pathetic,” Dux Acuta interrupted with an impatient shake of his head. The humans had lost the fierceness and spirit that had negated his people’s advantages, leaving the race nothing more than a pathetic shadow of what had been. “I will not bring any of the other clans here until I have established our peoples here, there will be no room for dissension!”
”As you wish mi’lord.” All of the Elders bowed their heads.
”But of course.”
* * *
“Kay, tell the plan again.”
“Okay,” Xander struggled to breathe as his girl-friend strutted in from the bathroom wearing a tied behind the neck sequined, black evening dress with a plunging neckline and slits up all the way up to the hips of its full length dress, her hair trussed up on top of her head and gleaming teadropped earrings dangling down.
Where was he? Oh yeah, Xander grinned to himself, he was struggling to concentrate too. “All those martial arts films you watched as a kid have a kernel of truth in them apparently,” Xander explained. “Wolverine’s friend fights in an illegal but very well-protected ‘fight club’ where the rich and powerful go to get their kicks, quite the place to go, bet on the fights, negotiate business deals, just be seen, really.”
”So me, Tar, and Ken are youse guys’ arm-candy?” Faith asked as she fixed a golden crucifix around her neck, the cross sitting just at the top of the Slayer’s cleavage.
Faith winked at him. “Ken’s gonna love this.”
Xander grinned back at his girl-friend.
“Thought had occurred.”
* * *
Xander pulled his hastily secured blood-red Toyota into a parking space, watching in the rear view mirror as Blade & Wolverine followed suit, pulling up in a black Mustang and a silver BMW respectively. Satisfied his companions were where he needed them, Xander looked towards the grubby warehouse they’d parked outside, its very squalidness in shocking contrast not only to the sports and luxury cars parked in its mesh-fenced lot but also to the suited millionaires and their dressed-up arm-candy lined up outside being politely but thoroughly checked out by thick-set security with handheld metal detectors. Heavy metal could be heard, interspersed with a crowd’s cheers, coming through the warehouse’s open double doors.”
“Jesus,” Faith commented, “not ‘xactly subtle is it? How do they get ‘way not bein’ busted?”
“Like I said, the police are paid off,” Xander explained. “There’s too much influence in this place anyway. Bankers, politicians, newspaper owners, you try and bust this place, your career’s over even if the gangsters running the place don’t kill you.”
“Right.” Cool wind gusted in when Faith opened her car door and slid an alluringly shaped leg out. “Let’s get this done.”
* * *
Xander glanced around as Faith’s hips slinked their way into the raucously-loud club. The plush seating was filled with the rich and their playthings, and waiters hurrying around with trays of champagne and nibbles completely failed to hide or even disguise the warehouse’s barbaric scene. Speakers hung from the high ceiling, blasting out the heavy metal they’d heard from outside the club while the tiered seating was organised in an octagon around the wire mesh cage with a blood-stained canvas floor, the entrance to the club flanked by a further two entrances that Xander guessed led into the dressing room.
”Kay,” Faith glanced at Xander as she started up the six steps that led into the seating, the steps so narrow that Xander had to wait to follow her. Although he got a great view while waiting. “So what’s the rules of this thing?” Faith snorted. “Harris stop staring at my ass.”
Xander looked up and coloured as he
belatedly realised Faith was grinning over her shoulder at him. “Um sorry,” his
blush deepened as he hurried after his girl-friend and allowed the usher waiting
at the top of the steps to guide them to an empty pair of seats, “it’s to
unconsciousness or submission. Only rule is no weapons. Any fighting style or
combination of styles are allowed.”
”If anyone dies,” Blade commented from behind, the African-American and a disgruntled-looking Kennedy having followed them in, “the body is usually just disposed of.”
“Sounds brutal.” Faith looked towards the cage as they took their seats. “The guys who fight, are they like free or what?”
“Often they’re in debt, sometimes they’re doing it for the thrill, for competition, no one’s enslaved as such, but sometimes the organisers don’t like it when a fighter wants to quit, they figure they might lose money on the bets,” Wolverine commented.
”And your bud?” Faith queried.
”He’s one of the best.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (9/?)
Dux Acuta turned as he sensed his second and War-Chief striding up behind him, the tall, gaunt Drow’s stalk too quiet for any ears but another Drow to hear. “The witches are dead?”
“To a woman,” Spathe confirmed with a nod, slanted eyes glinting every side of his hooked nose, scars of rank proudly adorning his cheeks.
”Good.” Dux Acuta nodded brusquely. Upon their arrival in this dimension, he’d had the Elders scry for any potential threats and found their only near-by potential threat to be a coven of moderately powered witches. They were not the powers that had lived in the days of legends, indeed they were like candles next to a raging fire in comparison, but a threat was a threat, and so he’d sent his War-Chief with a cadre of chosen veterans to take care of them.
”There is however a problem.”
“Oh?” Dux Acuta stared patiently at his subordinate, the forest seeming to darken still further as he awaited his companion’s explanation.
Spathe swallowed at his chill tone
before continuing. “As we exited a small group approached. We watched as they
entered the house and then left-.”
”I assume they’re dead?” Dux Acuta interrupted.
“No mi’lord,” Spathe shook his head, nervous eyes fixed on him. “I was about to order an attack when the interlopers were ambushed by a greatly out-numbering force of Sangupastos.”
“Huh,” Dux Acuta grunted. He remembered the carrion-eaters of old, a pest that had sometimes gotten in the way of a hunt or torn a victim from them. An inconvenience to be sure, but perhaps not in this case. “Then they’re dead?”
The air seemed to crackle as Acuta struggled to contain his fury. He glanced at his sword, but with an effort managed to contain himself to a mere glare. “Why not?”
“The Sangupastos were defeating them, but taking very heavy losses, these warriors were fearsome indeed, but they were being beaten back, their mage crumpled.” Spathe shook his head. “But then a force melted out of the shadows-.”
“More humans,” Spathe clarified. “At least they smelt as vermin, but were masked and cloaked so I couldn’t be sure, they slaughtered the last of the Sangupastos, then melted away before the first group could talk to them.”
“Huh,” Acuta scowled. “It seems this
place may have interesting challenges after all. But next time you have a
chance to get rid of an enemy…”
”It will be as you command, my sire.” Spathe bowed at the waist, eyes remaining fixed on him.
”But of course it will,” he replied, his tone stiffly disapproving.
* * *
Faith got into her seat, dark eyes fixed on the cage. As a born warrior, she had to admit to a certain visceral delight at what was to come. Her eyes widened as a mic was lowered from the ceiling, the heavy metal music crackling to silence, and a thin Vietnamese man wearing a Vegas’ lounge singer’s suit in all its gaudiness strode into the octagon and grabbed a hold of the mic. “Ladies! Gentlemen!” the man screamed into the mic and did a wicked weird manic dance on the spot. “Next at The Punishment Pit we have a real treat! Standing six four and weighing two hundred and sixty pounds, a former Greco-Roman wrestling champion, from Greece, the home of gladiators, – Alexander Creon!” The crowd let out a warehouse shaking roar as a crew-cut man with flinty eyes, a square jaw, and gleaming muscles that looked like they’d been painstakingly etched from stone thudded onto the canvas, his glowering gaze taking in all around him.
“And his opponent, he’s five eight and one hundred and seventy chiselled pounds, a hometown boy, you’ve seen him fight here before, place your bets and give it up for - Duc No Tranh!”
The announcer’s shrill cry was swamped by the crowd’s bellows as a lithely-muscled man with intense features and long black hair strode out onto the canvas, his eyes never leaving his adversary. “That’s my boy.”
Faith heard Wolverine’s grunt despite the crowd’s cheers. “Yeah, well he’s gonna get killed by Megatron over there.”
Wolverine snorted. “Just watch girlie.”
“Give ya $ 5,000 at odds of three to one,” Faith smirked.
“My money, Xan.” Xander silenced at her glare, then Faith looked up to Wolverine. “Money talks, bullshit walks.”
Wolverine grinned down from his higher seat. ”Done, girl.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (10/?)
“Mi’lord, a moment of your time?”
Dux Acuta turned and eye-balled Spathe. “A moment but I’ll promise no more.”
“As you wish my lord.” Spathe nodded before continuing. “Those warriors that were not selected for the execution of the coven are itching with ‘The Urge’. If it pleases you I would take them out to find a village to cleanse.”
Dux Acuta stared at his second. It was on his lips to refuse his second’s request as punishment for his recent failure, but such an action would only punish the warriors under his command. “Very well,” he nodded brusquely. “But you wish you stay here and guard the Elders, women, and younglings. I will lead the attack.”
Spathe looked as if he smelt something foul but bowed anyway.. “As you command mi’lord.”
* * *
Duc No Tranh’s brow furrowed as he recognised a very old but very familiar scent in the screaming crowd. What was HE doing here? He’d always sniffed at the fights, figuring that fighting was somethin’ serious, not a sport, but a matter of life and death.
He on the other hand couldn’t see why it couldn’t be both.
Turning his attention back to his adversary, he watched as the thick-set Greek closed with him, his rival’s eyes wary under his beetle-brows. And then the man lunged, moving with an unexpected speed for a man of his bulk.
But Duc was quicker, sliding under the man’s grasping hands to connect with an elbow to the man’s ribs and leap back out, his rival’s pained roar ringing in his ears. The man came in again, eyes blazing anger as he sought to grab a hold of Duc, but instead Duc grabbed a hold of his wrist and pulled while simultaneously twisting at the waist, flinging his larger adversary over his shoulder and to the mat.
The Greek hit the ground on his shoulder and rolled up into a crouch, face creasing in angry furrows as he charged back at Duc. Duc feinted a sway to the right, then the moment his rival’s knees began to twist to block him sprung left, darting inside his rival’s longer reach to snap out a kick to the man’s outer right knee.
Anguish flashed across the man’s face as he fell to his knees, Duc sliding around the back of him to hook his arm under his rival’s right armpit, slide it up in front of the man’s thick neck, link it with his other behind the man’s neck and squeeze. The man let out a groan, shovel sized hands flailing wildly up, but Duc just leaned back and let the hands to catch nothing but air, the man’s desperate gurgling filling his ears. He held on a few seconds after the man went limp in his hands, then satisfied he was out, Duc let his adversary go and fall to the ground.
Duc ignored the platitudes and applause as the announcer proclaimed his win. Already he was planning his next move.
Namely finding out why Patch was back.
* * *
“Looks like you owe me some money, girl.”
Faith glanced over her shoulder and cast the smirking mutant a glare. “Xan’ll give you the money later.”
“I will?” Xander shook his head as he
watched the lithely-built man stride back through the tunnel he’d entered the
cage through. “Why’s this guy important?”
Wolverine shrugged his thick shoulders. “Guy’s a great fighter and I trust him more than most in this area. Figure we’ll need a local hand.”
“Good enough,” Xander said. “Faith-.”
“Oh lordy, I’m such a big fan of the fights,” Faith said breathlessly, “please Mr. Security Guard, I just gotta go and see Duc, he is so hotttttttttttttttt.”
”Little subtler, but yeah, that’ll work.”
“Course it will,” Faith rose with a wink. “You guys followin’-.”
“No need for that,” Faith looked up to see Wolverine was rising and fixing an eye patch over one eye. “I’ll deal with this. Harris, you and Blade are my muscle, Tara you’re my PA, Kennedy, Faith,” the diminutive mutant stuck out his arms, “you’re my eye candy.”
“Oh I really don’t like you,” Faith grunted as she grudgingly took the man’s left arm.
“I know sweets,” Wolverine’s uncovered eye winked at her.
The three of them made their way down the steps and headed towards the tunnel, Xan, Blade, and Tara trailing behind. The thick-set guards flanking the tunnel’s entrance stepped up to block them only to part like the Sea ‘fore Moses at Wolverine’s angry bark, the mutant shooting off a stream of unintelligible growls that she guessed was Vietnamese as they strode past into the sweaty corridor beyond.
The mutant’s nose quivered. “This way.” The mutant led them to the fourth run-down door to the left and opened it, revealing a drab looking changing room. “Hello Duc.”
“Patch,” the oriental shrugged on a grey hoodie before turning to face them. “Unexpected.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (11/?)
Dux Acuta crouched in the village’s dust as he looked around him. Even as he watched his men moved from mud-hut to mud-hut ruthlessly eliminating anyone foolish enough to think hiding would save them from his wrath.
These were undisciplined scum, easy kills for a race with the skills of his clan. They might have some weapons, he picked up a long object that had shot some sort of fire at his people then disdainfully cast it back down, but they lacked the iron discipline and skills of the humans they’d once warred with.
Dux’s brow furrowed. But he sensed there were many of them, they’d bred like the insects they truly were in the many centuries since their exile. That was why, as much as he loathed the thought, the other Clans would have to be brought back to this time to help with the war, otherwise his people would be crushed in a matter of months.
But the other Clans, the other Clans would know who they had to thank for their escape and they would behave appropriately or feel his wrath.
“Mi’lord,” he glanced up at the approach of Oxy, the lean Drow’s expression gleeful, “the village is cleansed of the human pestilence.”
“Not quite,” he corrected and rose.
“Burn this village to the ground and salt the earth, I never want another human
to foul this place again.”
* * *
“Nice fight out there kid,” Wolverine
smirked at the sultry Slayer then glanced back at his friend, “you made me a
fair bit of cash out there today.”
Duc half-smiled. “I live to serve.”
“Yeah,” Wolverine shook his head, unpatched eye narrowing, “but what the hell you doin’ here? I remember you back in the day, you was somebody. A pain in my ass as I recall, but somebody. What you doin’ back-alley brawling?”
Duc shrugged, his face stereotypically inscrutable. “Earning money.”
“Look at this shithole.” Wolverine shook his head. “You were good at what you did, real good.” Not as good as him of course, but that went without saying. “You could be doing somethin’ that means a crap.”
“Man,” the Slayer drawled, “that was practically poetic. No really I’m tearin’ up.”
Duc’s lips tugged up in a smile while he was busy glaring at his ‘arm candy’, the Vietnamese native taking this opportunity to interrupt the mutant’s tirade. “Why are you here?”
“Here’s the thing kid,” Wolverine’s gaze returned his gaze to him. “Vampires, werewolves are-.”
“Real?” Duc shoved his hair to one side, revealing the decades old scar on his neck. “I know, I killed one eighteen years ago. Nearly killed me. Didn’t know about werewolves though, not surprised though. Magicians I know are real, met Jennifer Kale once, zombies, demons?”
Wolverine hid a smirk as he noted the interest in the kid’s eyes. Duc might be a hot as hell martial artist but he’d always cleaned the kid out at poker. “All real-.”
“Not leprechauns though.”
Wolverine counted to ten at the Slayer’s as usual unhelpful interruption then continued to explain why they were here. “And that’s why we’re here.”
The moment he’d finished, Duc nodded. “And why do you want me?”
”We want a guide, someone who really knows the country to help us track these things down-.”
“Patch is experienced,” Duc interrupted Xander.
“I’d say,” he grunted. The only problem was thanks to Weapon X his memories were all over the place. He knew he’d served in ‘Nam, recalled the language, some of the faces he’d served with even remembered some pretty hairy moments, but the actual indepth stuff was pretty much a blank.
“Yeah, but in case you ain’t noticed he ain’t a people person,” snarked the Slayer.
Xander joined him in shooting irritated glances at the Slayer. “My time in the country is a bit of a haze to me because of a bra-,” realising the Slayer would only have another smart-ass comment, Wolverine changed what he’d been about to say, “memory injury, so I’m not the most reliable guide.”
”And yet you remember me?” Duc queried.
”You come from a later time, a time I was only in the cities, not the jungles,” Wolverine replied.
“Duc works for me.”
Wolverine turned at the haughty voice from behind, he’d smelt the intruders’ approach almost from the start of this conversation, then glanced back at Xander. “Why don’t you explain about the Brotherhood?”
Even as Harris was nodding, he strode to the doorway to meet the interloper, a short, pock-marked man with greasy hair and an expensive suit, his eyes concealed behind a pair of sun-glasses, and flanked by a pair of black men that Wolverine guessed had only just failed the NFL draft. This was a conversation that didn’t need any diplomatic fancying up.
It was in short a conversation he was perfect for. “I’m Patch, I’m pretty sure you know who I am,” he came to a swaggering stop as he announced himself in flawless Vietnamese.
The fight promoter sneered at him. “No-one’s seen him in years,” the man spat back. “Anyone could put on an eye-patch and claim to be him!”
Score one for Asia’s version of Don King, definitely not as dumb as he looked. “True,” Wolverine allowed his right claws to skint out, ignoring the pain as the metal tore through his flesh, “think this is part of my disguise?”
The two blacks scuffled back and their charge paled. “I…I apologise,” the man stuttered. “The rumours-.”
”I don’t deal in rumours, I deal in facts.” Wolverine replied. “I trust you’ll leave us to conclude our business in peace?”
“Of course sir,” the man bowed. “My apologies again.” The trio retreated out of the door.
Wolverine smiled slightly. His name still had power around here.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (12/?)
“Where’s Wolverine and Blade?” Faith queried as she sashayed into her hotel bedroom to find Xander and Duc sat crouched over the table peering at a map.
“They’re tracking down a contact of Duc’s who can supply them with a vehicle for the jungle and some equipment Xander’s low on in the Always Pocket,” Tara explained as she passed her a Pepsi.
“Thanks,” Faith opened the can before
glancing towards Xan and the newcomer, “and what they doin’?”
Xander looked up at her question.
“We’re plotting the known Drow attacks, trying to work out where they’ll hit
next or at least the direction.”
”They appear to be located in the Central Lowlands, heading in an easterly direction, careful to avoid any significant population centre,” Duc said in his flawless but accented English.
“So’s,” Faith sauntered over and squatted between the two men, dark eyes intent on the map with almost a dozen pins stuck in it, newspaper cuttings and what she guessed were Vietnamese police reports scattered around the table and on the surrounding floor, “any luck guessing where they’ll strike next?”
Faith’s heart caught at Xander’s wince, oh shit here came one of those crappy decisions that tore at her lover’s heart and shredded his soul. “Yeah, they’ll strike here in two days.” Xander tapped the pin furthest north.
Faith’s brow furrowed. She didn’t see the problem. “So no big deal, we hit them when they get there, wipe the assholes out.”
“We can’t.” Xander scowled, knuckles whitening as he squeezed his hands into fists. “It’ll take us between four to five days to get there, the terrain’s too difficult for us to make better time. We’ll have to stop them here.” Xander tapped on a pin just down from the previous one. “In six days’ time.”
Faith joined Xan in wincing. Now she got it. “Shit hon,” Faith put her hand on Xander’s shoulder, “you can’t save everyone.”
“Billions of dollars, a whole army, a bunch of supernatural allies, and yeah I can’t save everyone,” Xander spat as he glared at the map, as if trying to will geography into submission.
“Ain’t your fault these people are gonna
be-,” Faith changed her clumsy comforting. “Take it out on the fuckers doin’
“Does anyone know how many of the said fuckers there are?” Kennedy queried.
Duc shook his head. “They are very good at covering their tracks and burn each village to the ground once they’ve finished, estimates of their numbers range from thirty to forty up to a hundred.”
”We’re seriously out-gunned then,” Kennedy commented.
“Yeah,” Faith glanced up as Wolverine and Blade entered, the duo bristling with their usual mix of rugged hotness and wicked bad intentions, “but you’ve got us with ya.”
* * *
Xander ran a critical eye at the camouflage painted SUV Wolverine and Blade had returned with, the SUV parked ain their hotel’s underground and gated garage. “Ex military?”
”Not quite,” Wolverine shook his head, trademark cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth, “this was a former government minister’s protection car, Agricultural Minister I think, hence the colour.”
”Dude,” Faith shot the mutant a shocked look, “you said ‘hence’.”
“I know, it was a surprise to me too.” Wolverine grunted before looking back at Xander. “It’s the real deal though, reinforced undercarriage-.”
”Sounds like a Wonder Bra,” Faith grunted.
“Bulletproof, one-way glass and all-terrain tyres,” Wolverine finished.
“’Kay, not so much then,” Faith conceded.
”Bet it cost a lot,” Xander commented.
”We knew you were paying so we didn’t let that worry us.”
Xander glared at Blade. “Yeah, thanks for that.”
“We will still need petrol,” Duc commented.
Xander shook his head. “Don’t worry, I’ve got that covered.”
“There are no petrol stations once we get into the wilds, the terrain will be difficult and consume petrol-.” Duc’s jaw opened and closed as Xander began pulling out sloshing petrol cans out of the Always Pocket. “How-.”
“I’ll explain later,” Xander grinned as he put the cans back away before looking around his companions. “Everyone ready?” His grin became rather more forced at the others’ nods.
Seven against an army, this was gonna end so well.
“I am surprised you did not call me.”
Xander spun around to face the man stepping out of the shadows. . He was a big man for an American or European, for an Oriental he was verging on the gigantic, six feet six inches tall with a powerful, ripped physique, an unruly black mane, and matching brooding eyes. “Kenuichio!” Xander gasped as he recognised the head of his Japanese Branch, the infamous Silver Samurai.
“Although given your company, perhaps I
shouldn’t be.” Kenuichio shot Wolverine a dead-eyed look. “Hello Logan.”
Xander groaned at the sound of the mutant’s claws skinting out, the Canadian glaring up at his taller companion. “You ready for another round, Ken?”
Kenuicho smirked down, his hand reaching over his shoulder for the hilt of the blade strapped to his v-shaped back. “If it must come to that.”
“Oh tell me,” Faith fearlessly stepped between the two mutants, “tell me you’re gonna play a game of whose got the biggest length, I’m beggin’ you!”
“Never mind Xander,” Kennedy murmured,
“Faith clearly believes that variety is the spice of life.”
Xander glared at the Potential. “Not
“Hey Blade,” Faith shot the famed vampire hunter a saucy wink, “if you wanna enter the competition, it’s open to all comers.” Suddenly the brunette’s eyes hardened as she looked from one mutant to the other. “Xan wouldn’t invite Ken to this party ‘cause he thought you two couldn’t act like adults ‘round one another. But I knew better, I knew you’d BOTH understand that people gettin’ butchered was more important than old grudges and egos. Right?”
“Right,” Wolverine reluctantly straightened out of his fighter’s crouch, claws skinting back under the skin, flesh instantly healing.
“As you say fair Faith,” Kenuicho half-bowed, eyes not leaving his adversary.
“See?” Faith turned her head and winked at him. “Should I work for the UN or what? There will be peace in our time.”
“Oh boy,” Tara whispered, “now she’s quoting Neville Chamberlain.”
“This can’t go as bad as that did,” Kennedy muttered, “even she can’t make that much of a mess of things.”
Xander sighed and rubbed his forehead. This was going to be so much fun.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (13/?)
Dismembered corpses littered the ground, inter-mingled with charred skeletons and burnt to the ground huts. These people who had had so little and now had even the illusion of life snatched from them, their dried blood dried into the burnt grass.
Xander forced himself to concentrate, to
ignore the smoke and blood coiling in his lungs, turning his guts to ash. He
looked towards Wolverine and Blade, ignoring his girl-friend’s worried eyes.
Wolverine glanced up from invisible to Xander’s eyes tracks. “Somewhere around forty,” the mutant reported.
Xander digested the number with a bitter nod. Wolverine and Blade’s enhanced senses afforded them certain advantages over merely human trackers so he’d bet on the mutant being right.
But he’d had to see this place, to get a sense of the evil they were facing. Of the foulness they’d be stopping.
“Why didn’t they take the children?”
Xander glanced at Tara, briefly angry at the witch for breaking the reverential silence. “Sorry?”
The witch no longer blinked or cowered at one of his grunts, instead she stared right back at him. Something he was hugely grateful for. “You said they always killed the adults and took the children, there’s,” the witch shivered, “children’s corpses here.”
Xander shrugged. “Maybe they have enough slaves.”
“Or maybe they’re changing their MO?” Kennedy suggested.
”Yeah,” Xander forced his shoulders square as he looked towards Blade and Wolverine. “How do they work?”
Wolverine cast a grim glance around.
“There’s nothing sophisticated about them. They encircle the place, wait until
nightfall then move in, always tightening the cordon around the village. Then
they hit hard, no-one’s spared, they hit with their blowpipes and bows first,
then when they’re close enough they go to their melee weapons.”
“First to die are those outside their huts, hit with darts or arrows as Wolverine said,” Blade continued. “Then they leave some of their forces outside the village to scoop up any potential escapees, the rest of their forces going house to house, killing everyone. Then when they’re satisfied everyone’s accounted for, they set every hut on fire.”
Xander’s fists had clenched by the time the vampire hunter had finished his dispassionate recital. “So they’re methodical and ruthless,” he commented, his voice little more than a grate.
“Very,” Blade replied. “These guys remind me of Nazis, the way they obliterate an enemy settlement before moving onto the next.”
“And they’re good,” Wolverine growled. “They got within feet of villagers used to guarding themselves from wildlife without being noticed. Then when they struck, nothing escaped.”
“Yeah,” Xander looked around, noting each burnt out ruin where a family had once lived and the deathly silence in a place that if not filled with joy would have filled with the industry of a settlement caring for itself. “Twenty – twenty-five huts,” he muttered before looking towards Wolverine, “we’re looking at a minimum hundred people, right?”
“Xan,” Faith took his hand and squeezed it, “don’t do this to yourself, this ain’t your fault.”
“I know exactly whose fault this is,” Xander continued staring around the devastated village, “and I know whose going to pay.”
* * *
“Yeah,” Wolverine hid his own disquiet behind his customary gruffness. On the one hand, it was good the kid took an atrocity like this hard. It was a long time since he could remember being that bothered about the fates of strangers. His friends and those he respected like Xavier and he supposed the kid himself were his sole concern these days. But on the other hand, if the boy didn’t grow himself some armour against scenes like this, one day it would break him. Maybe he’d go nuts, maybe he’d kill himself, or maybe his will would break, but something bad would happen.
Shrugging his disquiet away, he stared up at the warrior god avatar. “And if we don’t get goin’, they’ll make the next village ‘fore us.”
“Yeah,” Xander seemed to shake himself,
the sadness leaking from his eyes to be replaced by a chill hardness, “we
wouldn’t want that would we?”
The silence seemed to somehow deepen as they turned as a group and headed for their battered SUV.
* * *
Xander blinked himself awake as the SUV stuttered to a halt, its engine cut off. Wiping sweat from his forehead, he looked towards the mutant driving the car. “What are you stopping for?” he demanded, his throat dry with the jungle’s unrelenting heat.
Xander stared blankly at the mutant. “What smell?”
Blade chuckled. “He means the car,
given how far away the village is from here, if we go in much further, they’ll
be able to smell the gasoline, probably hear its engine too.”
“Oh, yeah,” Xander nodded, embarrassed he hadn’t considered the Drow’s enhanced senses.
Gathering himself, he cleared his throat, leaned out of the window and hawked and spat. Not particularly gentlemanly, but then this sweatbox didn’t leave much room for manners. “Okay,” he said. “Here’s the plan, seeing as Blade and Wolverine are our two best trackers, we’re going to split into two groups, one lead by Blade, the other Wolverine. Duc says the village is built into a triangle, so Blade’s going to approach it from the right, Wolverine’s team will come in from the left. When they move into position to strike, we’ll be there to hit them hard and make sure this is the last village they attack.”
”We’re using the villagers as a lure?”
Xander hid a wince at the distaste in Tara’s voice. “We know the Drow are going to wipe it out, we get there before them, we stop them.”
“Kid,” he looked towards Wolverine, “you
realise of course these are just some of the Drow, there’s other ones out there,
there has to be.”
“We deal with this raiding party, then we deal with the rest.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (14/?)
Minutes crawled by as Xander crouched with Faith and Wolverine on the right side of the village, Tara, Kennedy, Blade, Duc, and Kenuichio having taken up residence on the far left of the village. Their ears filled with the chatter of the villagers and its attendant smells, the stench of their animals and smell of their cooking, filled their noses, but their eyes remained fixed on the surrounding jungle as they crouched behind a thick bush.
Sweat poured down them from the humidity and the tension of every passing moment, Xander’s breath and the breath of his companions’ seeming to roar in his ear, muscles threatening to cramp with the passing of each second. Xander’s eyes strained as he attempted to peer into the encroaching darkness.
Then Wolverine stiffened, his claws skinting out as the mutant looked left to Faith and then right to him, jaw clenched in a promise of violence. And then the mutant leapt over the seven foot bush as Xander rushed around his side to meet the predatory elves.
* * *
Faith’s blood surged in her veins as she followed Wolverine’s lead and raced into the attack. Her feet pounded on the wet grass underfoot as she shoulder-charged into the nearest of the drows, the force of her collision lifting the dark elf from his feet and flinging him into a near-by tree.
Another dark elf just managed to spin to face her by the time she reached him, but was helpless to avoid or block her blade arching down and through his face, taking his jaw off with a blood-curdling crunch. The drow’s screech cut through the darkening sky as it fell away, blood vomiting down its leather hauberk.
“Fuck!” Faith leaned back at the waist as a scimitar lashed at her, then straightened, snatching at the drow’s wrist and holding it still as the elf attempted a back-handed slash, her own blade thrusting out to punch through his throat and out of the back of his neck, blood flying out of his mouth to splatter her. “Gross!”
Faith’s left leg snapped out, slamming into the chest of another Drow even as she smoothly segued into a back-flip over a Drow charging her from behind, her dark mane snapping in the fetid air. Her rival spun cat-like to face her as she landed, just in time to deflect a slash at his face. “Fuck!” Faith snarled as she dropped into a crouch beneath a dart fired from a blowpipe, plucked the dart out of mid-air and flung it into the eye of the blow-piper, before leaping up in time to twist out of the way of the sword-wielder’s attempted skull-cleaving and return his attack with a sword-thrust that he turn leaned out of the way of.
But he did nothing to avoid her leg-sweep that sent him crashing to the ground, easy target for a downward decapitating strike through his throat.
* * *
Wolverine chuckled as he sprang into action. Even in battle the Slayer couldn’t keep her pretty little mouth shut.
Wolverine growled as he charged the nearest pair of drow, claws glinting in the encroaching darkness. The warriors’ blades came up, then flashed down, then uselessly shattered on his claws. Then before surprise could take root in the Drow’s eyes, his claws swept up and sliced their throats open. Blood gushed out of gaping wounds as both men fell, the pair corpses before they hit the ground.
Fifteen paces in front of him, a Drow dropped to one knee, drew a blowpipe and fired a dart at him. Wolverine roared as the dart thudded into his chest before he had chance to bring his claws back to slice it into twain, but then laughed as his healing system kicked in and forced the dart’s poison from his system.
And then he was on the Drow before he could fire another dart, his claw punching through the elf’s forehead.
“Aaaaah!” He grunted as another Drow slid out of the shadows behind him, his sword slicing down and into his shoulder as he spun to face it. Fire raging through and blood arching out of his left shoulder as he thrust his right arm across his body and at the Drow’s face. The Drow let out a gasp as he ducked under Wolverine’s attempted attack while yanking his blade free, Wolverine’s blood still pouring down the ebony blade.
“Grrrr!” Wolverine’s blood lust filled him as he leaned away from a slash to his face, then bent his knees to go under a back-handed slash at his face before leaping forward and burying the claws of his already healed arm knuckle deep into his adversary’s gut, the drow’s leather hauberk worse than no protection against his spikes.
* * *
Unlike his companions, Xander didn’t plan on playing anything like close to fair with his opponents. He figured you preyed on the weak and defenceless, anything you got in retribution was exactly what you deserved.
His first silenced automatic shot took a charging Drow in the face, brains bursting out of the back of the man’s head as his face simultaneously disappeared in a shower of blood and gore. Even as the body fell, Xander was aiming with his other gun, a slight tug on his Berreta’s automatic the recoil reverberation travelling up his arm as another drow crumpled under his attack.
Another drow charged forward, then dropped into a crouch and flung a pair of black, marble-sized pellets at his feet. Even as Xander sighted and fired, double-tapping the man in his face, a dark cloud exploded from the pellets, searing pain filling his suddenly tearing eyes, blinding him.
And all around him he could hear the Drow closing.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (15/?)
Blade dived into action, leaping between a pair of Drow, he leaned to the right, shoulder-charging his lighter adversary to the ground before twisting to face the other one, his katana thrusting underneath the drow’s defence to skewer his gut even as his right foot shot out to collide with the other drow’s face. The blow flung the drow into a near-by tree with root-shaking impact, his bones snapping like dry twigs.
Hearing a Drow rushing in from the his right, Blade spun to meet it, ducked under its back-handed slash at his head, then retaliated with a thrust at its face. The drow slid outside his blow with thrusting up with his blade, forcing Blade to dance outside his blade before retaliating with a slash across his body at his adversary’s knees. As he’d expected the drow leapt over his slash, but was helpless to avoid his follow-up elbow to the face, the drow’s cheekbone and jaw imploding as if hit with a hammer, and the drow falling heavily onto its side, Blade’s sword slicing down and through its throat before it had chance to even think about a counter.
* * *
As asked by ‘his’ Slayer, Kenuicho kept one eye on ‘sis and the brat’, even as he fought, the Drows seeming little more than annoying gnats to the most skilled swordsman in all of Japan.
One charged him from the right, one came in from the left. Both lost their heads in a single sweep of the sword Xander had gifted him as reward for saving Faith, the one on the left first, the one on the right second, blood spurting out of the stumps that had been their necks.
Not that a reward had been required, serving justice and honour was its own reward.
Another leapt at him, its mouth parted in a scream, and the blades in its hands slashing diagonally through the air.
Unfortunately air was easier to cut than him, Kenuicho mused as he slid in and out of the blades, then finally batted one away with his free hand while back-hand slashing his rival’s neck, then spinning away from an attempted skewering in his back. The drow stumbled when he spun to face it, his sword thrusting up and through its chest, ending any chance of it gathering itself for another attack.
* * *
Xander forced away the pain searing through his eyes and the panic threatening to swamp him to think fast.
Something neither Snyder or ‘Mr. Harris’ would have considered him capable of.
If he couldn’t see, he couldn’t use his guns, not without the risk of hitting one of his family or their allies. Even as the thought occurred the guns slid back into the Always Pocket. And if he couldn’t see, he needed to even the playing field.
”Flashbangs.” A smile pulled on his lips as he drew out a pair of grenades and dropped them at his feet and threw himself backwards, eyes squeezed shut and hands reaching up to cover his ears.
The moment his back hit the ground, he yanked his hands off his ears and pulled out a pair of short swords. Now he realised his lack of numbers and blindness were an advantage, he knew whatever he stabbed was one of his rivals, but they couldn’t attack with same certainty.
Hearing a high-pitched keening to his left and guessing that the Drow’s enhanced senses made them even more susceptible to a flashbang than a normal human, sorta like a vampire, Xander stepped left and swung this left sword down while swinging the other blade blindly back and forth in front of his body in a wild hope to parry any attack coming in from there.
Feeling the left sword thud home and hearing its recipient whimper, Xander released his grip and pulled another sword out of the Always Pocket as he spun to the right, then leaned left as he felt the tell-tale woosh of the air being split it two by a sword, thrusting under the attack and into the Drow’s gut. A quick twist of the wrist later and the sword was loose, the Drow dropping to the floor in front of him.
And getting tangled up in Xander’s feet, sending him stumbling blindly backwards. “Oooof,” Xander grunted as he crashed into something, his head bouncing off what he guesses was the trunk of a tree, then dropped to one knee under a heard incoming sword slashing at his head, thrusting up and into his attacker’s belly with his other blade.
Sensing a presence to his right, Xander spun to face it, relieved that now he could just about make out a blurred outline as he sliced down with his right blade and thrust hard with his left. “Jesus, Xan!” His heart caught at his girl-friend’s smoky tones even as she grabbed his wrists, twisted, and threw him onto the grass, dropping onto his chest with her knees and pinning his arms to the ground. “If that fucker’s taken control, I swear I’ll rip him outta of you!”
That fucker? Realising the buxom Bostonian meant Mithras, he shook his head. “No,” he rasped, “they blinded me, couldn’t see sorry.”
“They blinded you?” Faith paused. “You killed six blind?”
”Three,” Xander gasped.
”Still, wicked cool.” Faith paused. “Tar, we need your healing touch over here.” Faith chuckled. “When you can see, wow, have I a surprise for you.”
Xander groaned. He did not like the sound of that.
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (16/18)
“Aaaah!” Xander groaned as a hundred needles seemingly pierced his eyes.
”Don’t be such a baby.”
Xander glared up at a thankfully an
increasingly in focus Tara. “You and Faith go halves on a bedside manner or
Tara shook her head. “What they used on you was some sort of herbal remedy that shocked your eyes in a similar way to a getting an electric shock. Even without my help it would have only been a temporary injury.”
“But by the time it would have been healed I was supposed to be dead.” Xander gasped as everything suddenly focused. “Thanks Tara.”
”You’re welcome,” the witch put aside her poultice dish and helped him to his feet.
Xander blinked, suddenly wondering if he was seeing things. Deciding he wasn’t, he looked at the newcomers, about seventy Vietnamese, both men and women, all aged between twenty and fifty, all fit, and all dressed in the same apparent uniform of linen lime trousers and shirts. “Huh,” Xander pursed his lips together then gave up, “whose the party-crashers?”
Duc stepped forward, a quizzical look on the warrior’s face. “Perhaps I can explain?”
“I’m glad someone’s offering,” Xander nodded.
“Around 600 AD, what is now Vietnam was coming under increasing attack from supernatural forces, and so the wealthiest families bought a hundred orphans and hired the region’s finest martial artists to train them as their protectors, repaying them with respect and honour. Several centuries ago, the Honoured Hundred began protecting all of Vietnam, not just the rich, combining the martial arts of China’s Wushu, Kung Fu, and Wing Chun, Korea’s Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do, Japan’s Aikido, Jujitsu, and Sumo, the Phillipines’ Eskrima, Cambodia’s Bokator, and Thailand’s Muay Thai, to create a martial art called ‘Toan bo Vu khi’, the Whole Weapon.” Duc paused. “It was them who aided you when the vampires attacked you in the slums, and they came to our help again today.” Duc took on an embarrassed expression. “I had heard of the Honoured Hundred, but thought they were a myth.”
Faith snorted. “Clearly you were myth-taken. Get it?”
Everyone who understood English shot Faith pained looks. “ What?” the sultry brunette’s smirk turned to a pout. “I thought it was funny.”
“You would,” Kennedy let out a long-suffering sigh.
“Well huh,” Xander struggled to take everything in as he raised his hand to rub his eyes.
CRACK! “OWWW!” Xander looked first at his slapped hand and then the smacker. “Tara, that hurt!”
Tara returned his glare with interest. “Don’t rub your eyes, you’ll only aggravate them!”
”Yes mom,” Xander muttered before looking towards Duc. “Duc, can you ask the Honoured Hundred,” he noted there were considerably less than that, but then every war had casualties, “if they’ll escort us to hunt down the rest of the Drow?”
Duc nodded before rattling off some Vietnamese to the Honoured Hundred’s leader who replied in rapid-fire kind. Duc nodded at the man then turned to him. “He said it will be their honour to escort you and examine you further in battle before the decision.”
The decision? Xander bit back a groan. That sounded all kinds of ominous.
* * *
Spathe hid a tremble as he rushed towards his liege lord, certain that the news he was about to impart would not be greeted sympathetically. Dropping to one knee, he bowed his head and waited until his master gave him leave to speak. “What?”
“The troops we sent to raid the scum’s
village have come under attack-.”
“Attack?” the king’s voice cracked like a whip. “What sort of attack?”
“The shaman surveillance spell has been ended with the wiping out of our men,” Spathe risked a look up at his master. The King was staring away into space, his normally ebony skin ashen-grey. “It seems this time has champions worthy of the fight.”
”How many were in this attacking force?” grated his king.
“There were initially an eighth, but then a further somewhere close to eight Tens joined the battle,” he hurriedly replied.
”And I assume they’re heading towards us?” his sire grated.
“Yes Mi’Lord,” he nodded briefly. “I will order our men to make ready a defence-.”
”No,” his king sighed and shook his head. “This world is not for us, not in these paltry numbers. Not without the Dread-Lords to buttress our defences and the other Clans to fight alongside us. Order the mages to start a teleportation spell, this dimension has not seen the last of us, but our time is not yet.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (17/18)
“Damn it.” Xander’s fists clenched and unclenched as he stared around the charred desolation. All around the jungle’s lush grass had been turned to ash, a fate that centuries old trees had shared. Sulphur coated the back of his throat and the ash made his eyes water.
At least he hoped it was the ash.
“They used a pan-dimensional teleportation spell,” Tara whispered, the witch’s eyes wide and her face pale. “They didn’t care about subtlety or the damage they’d do, just getting away.”
”I suppose we should be flattered,” Faith commented, her customary snark hushed by the devastation surrounding them.
“Well I’m not,” Xander muttered then shook his head. “Any way of tracking them?”
Tara shook her head. “Not a chance, they could be in the next dimension, or a hundred away, they could have sewn the path shut behind them, trapping us between dimension. We really don’t want to be chasing them.” Tara grimaced. “Besides I know enough to recognise a teleportation spell, but I’ve never done one. And this one was done by a lot of witches, I couldn’t match their power or take us all even if I was experienced.”
Xander scowled. “Okay, then let’s just hope they don’t return-.”
“Idiot,” Xander turned to his girl-friend at her groan. “You’ve just screwed us haven’t you, now you said that they’re bound to return, you complete-.”
“Xander, may I speak to you?”
“Thank god,” Xander muttered as he turned to Duc, “of course.”
Duc half-bowed before glancing towards
the member of the Honoured Hundred stood beside him. “This is Bon-.”
”Doesn’t that mean Four?” Kennedy interrupted.
”Just so,” Duc bowed. “He is forth in powers of his generation of the Honoured Hundred, and with the deaths of first, second, and third, he is now their leader. As such, he wishes to make a,” Duc half-winced, “request.”
So clearly the Honoured Hundred was a meritocracy. Xander nodded. “A request?”
“Bon feels there is great honour in you
and that the Mithras Brotherhood has a just purpose, one the Honoured Hundred
would be proud to serve as part of this nation’s defenders, but there is a
Xander sighed, his elation at Duc’s first words quickly fading. “Of course there is.”
Duc shot Bon a nervous look. “It has long been tradition in the Honoured Hundred that they cannot serve an outsider, unless the outsider has first proved themselves as superior to their leader in battle.”
* * *
Faith groaned when Xander shook his
head. “Sorry Duc, but in the past week they’ve saved my life twice, I’m not
about to fight him as thanks.”
”Oh come on Xander,” Faith said, “you’re not chicken are you?”
Xander shot his girl-friend an irritated
look. “It’s nothing to do with -.”
“Squawk! Squawk!” Faith’s head bobbed up and down like a bird pecking, her bent arms flapping from side to side like a bird’s, her ass swinging back and forth in tandem with each flap of her arms.
Xander’s face flushed. “Faith-.”
Faith winked as she strutted in a circle around her beleaguered lover. “Squawk!”
The Silver Samurai blinked, shook his head, and then stared ahead. Yes what he was seeing was definitely happening. “Is Faith-.”
“Doing the chicken dance?” Blade nodded. “Yeah.” Blade chuckled at the Silver Samurai’s stunned expression. “Haven’t met our Faith much have you?”
“Just the once,” replied the Japanese warrior, his eyes fixed on the strutting Slayer.
* * *
“Fine, fine,” Xander shook his head at Faith’s antics. “I’ll do it.” Even as he spoke, he examined his rival.
Bon was a good half foot shorter than him, and built along a lean greyhound’s lines. The tanned Oriental had cool dark eyes and a way of moving that suggested he was a warrior born.
Of course he’d expect nothing less from the leader of a battle order. Xander shook his head, this was utterly ridiculous, he couldn’t believe he’d allowed Faith to bait himself into this. Or of course it could be Mithras’ ultra-competitive nature, always needing to be proving himself. To judge Xander would have the size and power advantages, Bon would be quicker and probably have greater stamina, who was the more skilled was anyone’s guess.
Xander pulled his shirt off and threw it
at rather than to his girl-friend. “Fine, he wants this, he gets it,” Xander
looked towards Duc, “tell him it’s to submission or being knocked out.”
Bon nodded and bowed at the waist, Xander returning the gesture, his eyes never leaving his rival. The Oriental dropped into a fighter’s crouch, Xander preferring to remain upright, watchful eyes remaining on his rival as the two began circling one another, the onlookers’ anticipation heavy in the air.
Bon exploded into action, leading with a palm strike at Xander’s chest that he stepped outside of, driving an elbow at the side of the Oriental’s head only for his adversary to duck beneath. Honours even, both spun to face one another.
Xander leapt backwards out of range of Bon’s attempted leg-sweep, the Oriental’s foot pulled back before he could snatch at it. Then the Oriental jumped in with a thrust kick that Xander slapped away before reaching for the man’s grounded foot.
“Uh,” Xander grunted as his lead arm was grabbed at the wrist and elbow, Bon gracefully twisting into him until his rival’s shoulder was jammed into his armpit. Realising where this was going, Xander reached across with his free arm to punch the Oriental in the mouth. But then the Honoured Hundred’s leader snapped forward at the waist and released his grip on Xander’s arm, flinging him up and over him. Xander grunted as he hit the ground on his back, blind instinct sending him rolling away from his rival and back up to his feet facing Bon.
The two men continued circling one another, the crowd’s excitement growing more with every passing second. Xander shot a haymaker out at his rival’s jaw, Bon’s hand sliding up to parry it away even as Xander fired off a finger jab that crashed not into the Oriental’s aimed-for-throat, but into his chest.
Even so, the blow knocked the Oriental back a step, a look of surprise entering his eyes at Xander’s raw power. Then Bon launched himself forward, beneath Xander’s western-style boxing jab to land a trio of blisteringly fast hooks to Xander’s right side before his retaliatory elbow to the side of his head forced him to stumble away. Xander ignored the pain bruising his ribs to follow up on his advantage, snapping off a front thrust kick at his rival’s face that Bon blocked on his left forearm before throwing a traditional right cross that Xander leaned away from before snatching the arm at the wrist and elbow, and bending them back, aiming to throw the man onto his back.
“Ah!” Xander gasped as the resourceful Oriental locked his legs around Xander’s ankle, twisted at the hips, and drop-toeholded Xander to the ground even as he himself fell onto his back.
Both of them scrambled up and rather than circle one another again, lunged at each other like a pair of rams battling for dominance. Bon shot off an overhand right that Xander knocked away with his left forearm even as the Oriental writhed away from Xander’s retaliatory right hook to the body.
Xander grunted, the air driven from his body by a knee to the gut, his head dipping as he began to double up, the Oriental diving forward to grasp him in a front facelock only to stumble away when Xander snapped a stamp into his left shin. For a second there was nothing but tension filled silence as the two of them glared at one another.
Xander sprang forward, Bon writhing away from his overhand right only to have his head snapped back by Xander’s left uppercut to the jaw, blood flying from his mouth. “Ugggh,” Xander grunted, pain flaring through his right arm when Bon snapped a punch off into his armpit, the blow catching him on some sort of nerve cluster.
Xander sprang back, but Bon was remorseless, charging into the attack.
And right into a forearm to the face that squashed his nose flat and sent blood pouring down his face. Xander grinned sourly at the Vietnamese’s shocked expression, then gasped as a right cross caught him in the mouth, sending his blood flying as the Oriental ducked beneath Xander’s follow-up hook to the head.
“Ooof!” Xander grunted as the man caught him with a knee to the gut before he had chance to pull away. Ignoring the pain, Xander reached down, hooked his hands around the back of his rival’s grounded leg and pulled.
Bon’s eyes widened as he left his feet, crashing down onto his back and starting to roll up. “No you don’t.” Xander launched himself forward and snatched Bon’s head into a choke before he got upright, Xander’s left arm linked under and around his rival’s neck, cinching in tight. Simultaneously his right arm looped under his opponent’s left armpit, then over it to link fingers with Xander’s other arm, effectively immobilising his rival’s left arm, ensuring he couldn’t attempt any suplexes or throws. The Vietnamese threw desperate right after desperate right into Xander’s side but he ignored them all to bear down on his struggling rival with all his weight until finally satisfied he was out, he released his grip and let his opponent slump to the ground.
”Guess I got myself a battle order then,” Xander spat blood onto the charred ground. “Now that’s settled let’s get out of here.”
FIC: MC 70 May ’03 The Drow (18/18)
Xander looked around the isolated hotel room. They’d left Vietnam last night on a flight back to the states to deal with a few matters, Faith and the others having left to do some clubbing that he’d cried off from with a headache.
Faith probably figured he was lying, but she also probably figured it was because of their wildly differing tastes in music.
Which was fine by him, it gave him time to conduct his more amoral business. Flicking open his cell, he stared at it for a long moment before finally calling up the number and dialling.
The phone rang a dozen times, a tell-tale beep ringing out informing him A-Team Industries’ beyond state-of-the –art encryption had kicked in. “Hello Xander?”
Xander grimaced at the wariness in Angela’s voice, but kept his tone casual. Considering what he was going to ask her, he couldn’t really blame her. “Hi Angela, how’s the,” his heart missed a beat, “Dirty Facts file going?”
The genius hacker let out a long sigh. “This week alone I’ve unearthed evidence of a four star general selling Pentagon bidding information to rival contractors, a southern states TV evangelist preaching family values whose having an affair with his secretary and a volunteer in his fund-raising centre, a EPA executive taking bribes to turn in favourable reports on businesses who flout the rules, a French Supreme Court Judge who secretly donates to far-right groups, and a German bishop whose covering up a paedophile ring in his country to avoid bad publicity for the Vatican.”
“Okay,” Xander nodded slowly, “well that’s fruitful.” It certainly wasn’t good, in fact it was depressing as heck, but he needed the information for the future. “Keep plugging away at it, the more proof, and the more of these people we get the goods on, the better.”
“Right,” Angela replied. The hacker probably thought he was going to use this information for blackmail, but the truth was well no less seedy but certainly less self-serving. However she didn’t need to know the motivation, not yet.
“I need you to start building another list for me,” Xander continued.
Xander scowled at the wariness in his employee’s tone. Obviously Bennett’s trust of him had taken a knock. It was lucky then that he still believed in her. “Yeah, call this one the ‘Contacts List’,” Xander replied.
Xander heard the query in his subordinate’s tone and decided to throw her a bone. This was only classified and not top-secret. “Whatever’s coming, whatever the Brotherhood’s going to face is going to be big, and once,” a rather more doubtful ‘if’ resonated in his own head, “we win through this, the whole world’s going to know about the Brotherhood.”
Xander bit back a chuckle at the hacker’s mutter. “And we’re going to have people wanting to join, maybe even a flood, and we’re going to want to expand.” And replace those who died, he mentally added but couldn’t force himself to say, almost as if saying the words would make it true.
“Okay,” Angela’s tone warmed slightly, the hacker unsurprisingly finding this rather more palatable. “What sort of people do you want to look for?”
Xander glanced at the computer screen in front of him, the laptop’s pixels flickering slightly in the lamp-light. “Hunters, the organised sort, not those with a death-wish and not those indiscriminate supremacists, any potential metas, supernatural or otherwise, law officers or soldiers who’ve lost people to the supernatural but don’t know how to get in the fight yet, occultists and witches.”
”You’ll need back-up as well as front-line personnel.” Angela commented as Xander listened to her fingers tap on the keyboard.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded. “Thought of
that. I want hackers, administrators, doctors, surgeons, lawyers, thieves,
forgers, investigators, pilots, drivers, accountants, and shrinks. I’ll also be
pumping money into A-Team Industries after all this, so look for places that
your organisation can expand-.”
”I want these two lists to be completely separate, no conflict of interest or doubling of effort,” Xander replied. “And I want the best, I’ll be paying for it.”
“Okay.” Once again he heard the clicking of Angela’s keyboard as the woman made notes.
“I’ll need background checks and histories on these people,” Xander said. He’d have Lorne check these people out, but Lorne’s skills only went so far. The demon could tell if someone was trustworthy, honest, and loyal, but not necessarily if they were competent. Xander paused. “Should anything happen to me, I want your reports to go to both Faith and Spenser in their respective roles as new leader and second in command.”
“Okay,” Angela replied, her tone grimmer. “And the scope of this report is I assume international? Any search parameters?”
“Apart from limiting to the professions I mentioned,” Xander tapped his fingers on the desk before him. Damn he wished he’d thought of this question before making the phone call. “For the front-line personnel, experience with dealing the supernatural is preferred and experience in some sort of combat is essential. I don’t want Joe Blow who thinks his next door neighbour is a Satanist turning up with a shotgun.”
”I’d imagine so.” Angela chuckled softly. “Anything else?”
“With the military and police check candidates for a history of insubordination, don’t disqualify them, just note it to be checked. Also check for any mental illness, if it’s related to people making claims about the supernatural, okay just note it, otherwise they’re disqualified. ” Xander replied. “As for the rest, just get a full work and skills history so we know if they’re worth our time. Also run a check on currently employed Watchers, see if any might be worth our time.”
“Okay,” Angela continued tapping at her computer, “anything else?”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded then paused, a colour rising in his cheeks. “This request isn’t specifically about the Brotherhood. It’s more personal.”
“Oh?” Angela’s laughter had more than a hint of gentle mockery. “Now I’m really intrigued. Do tell boss.”
Xander cleared his throat before
continuing. “Heh, you may know that Faith’s building a home in -.”
“Oh Texas!” Xander practically heard
the hacker’s enthused nod. “I’ve seen the plans!”
“Really?” Xander grunted. That was more than he had, once they’d returned from their flight over the land Xander had bought Faith for her 21st, he’d been unceremonially kicked out and told Faith and the others had to plan their home. Apparently Alonna Gunn, Lady Croft, and the Halliwells had been consulted about their home.
Him? He didn’t have a clue, having been told he’d see it when it was finished and not a moment before.
“Anyway,” Xander shook his head as he returned to the matter in hand. “The place is going to need a staff, so I’m going to need you to put someone on discreetly advertising and vetting the people for their jobs before we interview, they can’t have any idea who’ve they’ve applied to work for until the interview.”
“Huh, okay, advertise and vet people for jobs we’re not even will start when?”
“Yeah I know,” Xander grimaced. “Maybe just head-hunt and vet prospective candidates but not contact them until we’re ready?”
“Yeah, that makes more sense,” Angela agreed. “What sort of staff will you want?”
“Okay,” Xander’s head furrowed in concentration as he brought up the list on his laptop. “I’ll need a butler to organise the household, a chef for cooking, three cleaners,” he guessed the place would be huge just like his girl-friend thought, “a handy-man to look after the household appliances fix things, and a couple of gardeners. As for parameters, no criminal history, good work history, can be foreign but must speak English. I’ll be paying a lot, so I want the best.”
“I’ll get someone on it,” Angela promised. “Eight to ten prospects for each position?”
“Sounds good,” Xander agreed. “Thanks Angela.”
A/N: Look at the date at the top of the story. Next story’s a game-changer.
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