FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (1/10)
Jordan, 1160 AD
“The infidels continue to come!”
“I have eyes, Yassir!” Mustafa snapped at his junior. The forces of the blasted invaders encircled their castle, their numbers spreading as far as the eye could see; the remorseless sun no impediment to their advances. Soon, they would bring in the siege machinery and begin their attack. The situation was dire; he knew that with the crushing certainty of a seasoned campaigner who sensed his impending death. The forces outside their crumbling walls out-numbered them six-fold, and the besiegers were fresh, his men having only just finished taking the castle three days ago. Their only hope was being relieved by allies, but they didn’t have the resources to hold out for a long siege. The nearest supply of water was an oasis two days away, and between them and the water was the Crusaders.
And yet surrender to these invaders was not an option he entertained. He would not be damned by cowardice.
Mustafa turned to his junior. “Yassir, have the artefact brought to me.”
His companion’s dusky brown face paled,
the man who had stood steadfast beside him in three years of bloody battles
quailing. “Sir,” the man gasped. “I do not question you, but-.”
”Then don’t,” Mustafa meaningfully stroked his saif’s hilt. “Get it.”
“Yes sir,” Yassir turned and ran down the stairs, leaving Mustafa alone on the walkway, the men around him not daring to approach, sensing his dark, heavy mood.
He had discovered the artefact some six months ago, they’d been hiding out from a sand storm, the like of which he’d never seen before. It was almost as if the storm had driven them into the ruined fort, an apparent Akkadian outpost according to their cleric, although it had been further north than their usual haunts. Mustafa’s brow furrowed as he remembered the cleric’s face when they’d found the device, the way the man’s face had paled, the almost endless pleas for the device to be left behind. In the end Mustafa had had to kill the scholar just to get some peace.
You didn’t hide or run away from devices that could do the things the cleric claimed it could do, you embraced them, kept them close for the day you needed them. Unfortunately, Mustafa scowled, such a use would also result in his death. But he would die serving Allah, taking thousands of the infidels with him.
“I have it sir.” Mustafa turned from the forces lurking outside the castle and to the far more distressing object in Yassir’s sweaty hands.
“I can see that,” Mustafa growled, the hoarseness of his voice betraying his own fear. The object was a square box with a handle on top and made of a black material that he didn’t recognise but was cold and clammy to touch, like a long-dead corpse’s skin. But it wasn’t that made his eyes instinctively shy away from the object, it was the intricate runes on the object that twisted the eyes and revolted the soul.
“S…sir,” Yassir’s voice shook as he held the box out for Mustafa to take, “t…there has to be another wa-.”
“There isn’t,” Mustafa snapped as he steeled himself, eyes fixed on the terror of bygone times. Suddenly conscious of the men on the walkways and on the ground beneath him, staring at him, Mustafa looked around as he reached for the box, his suddenly sweaty fingers encircling the box’s plain handle. “For Allah!”
”For Allah!” The scream echoed back at him from three hundred throats. Pride suffusing him, he turned the handle.
He screamed as a cold fire gripped him, his body shredding as it was torn in a thousand different directions and pieces, the walkway beneath him shaking as the world moved, the screams of his men pounding in his ears as the world turned to blood, eyeballs bursting under the other-dimensional pressure.
And then, thank Allah, he knew no more.
* * *
Cairo, 2001 AD
Asu Antar gasped as he stumbled through his home city’s darkened streets, hands gripping onto the sandy walls for balance, fearful eyes searching for any sign of Mabahith Amn al-Dawla al-'Ulya, the State Security Intelligence. He doubled up as pain overwhelmed him, blood spitting out of his mouth to hit the dirty street. He closed his eyes as he fought to bring his breathing under control.
What he needed was a doctor. What he needed even more than that was a way out of Egypt.
But the world needed the information he carried more.
Straightening with a groan, he continued on, unsteady legs causing him to weave in a way that would have been comical in another situation and under other circumstances. He hissed as he reached his front door, lent against it and put his hand in his pocket to pull out his keys, cut knuckles rubbing against his coarse denim. Tears of frustration filled his eyes as the keys dropped out of his battered fingers and dropped onto the step.
Legs almost buckling, he placed the better of his hands flat against the wall, and slowly crouched down. A moan escaped him as his ravaged body protested against the movement. Bottling the pain down deep, he reached out and at the third attempt picked up the keys. Weary hand shaking with the effort, he raised the keys and unlocked the doors, a relieved sob escaping him as the door creaked open.
He knew his home would be the first place Mabahith Amn al-Dawla al-'Ulya looked for him when they found the two men he’d killed, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t afford to. Some things were more important than his life.
Stumbling into his normally scrupulously tidy apartment, he found it had been wrecked by the government’s hired thugs – sofa pillows cut open, the stuffing flung to the ground, the contents of his over-turned desk likewise littering the floor, and his bookcases turned over.
But thankfully, his fridge, while the door was flung open and the food inside flung around the apartment, remained undamaged. Hurrying over, he opened the icebox and reached up, fingers pressing into its ridged ceiling. He smiled weakly at the click that sounded and stepped back to allow a shelf to slide out from the bottom of the fridge containing a bubble-wrapped and insulated dark-grey laptop.
Setting the machine up, he quickly entered his triple-passworded system, the failure to get any of the passwords right would have resulted in the hard disc being immediately wiped, and typed up an email. That accomplished, he glanced at his watch. “Too long,” he moaned before rising from his devastated couch, walking over to the apartment’s sink and placing the open and still turned on laptop in it, turning on both taps.
Sparks erupted from the computer as the water took its inevitable toll. He closed his eyes at the sound of shouting voices and running footsteps. “They can’t have me,” he muttered before picking up a carving knife from the floor. Swallowing slightly, he raised the knife to his throat.
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (2/?)
Georgia, The Next Day
Ethan yawned and stretched as he awoke, the early morning Georgia sun peeking through his window, bathing him in its soothing heat. Throwing aside his sheets, he rose and padded over to the walnut-coloured desk and sat down in front of the two padlocked laptops lying upon it. Grabbing the first, he quickly unlocked and opened it. Once the computer had booted up, he entered his passwords and checked his emails. Seeing nothing relating to his demon groups, he closed it down, locked it back up, and picked up the second.
The first laptop was the one he used to run the Mithras Brotherhood unit, the other was the one he used to keep in contact with espionage contacts he’d cultivated throughout the world. Flipping the lid open, he entered his passwords. His eyes narrowed at an unexpected message from a long-time not heard from contact. Opening the email, he ran the decryption key, his blood chilling as he read its contents. “Oh no,” he turned the computer off and stared into space. The information was calamitous, but with his Georgia unit now up and running, he couldn’t just take off to deal with it. He had to entrust this to someone else. “Sounds like a job for the boss,” he muttered as he snatched up his cell.
* * *
“Lo,” Xander picked up his cell. “Xander’s house of fun and happiness.”
“Hey, Xander, Ethan here.”
Xander raised an eyebrow at the former secret agent’s strained tone. “Hey, Ethan. What’s up?”
“Fathi Burhan is alive.”
Xander’s brow furrowed in thought. The name was familiar, but he couldn’t place where he’d heard it before. Then he had it, he was the terrorist they’d been chasing when they’d first met up with Ethan Hunt. Xander shook his head. “That’s impossible, Faith stomped on his throat and then we threw an explosive charge into the building he was in.” He paused and shook his head again. “No, he can’t be still alive.”
“Stamped on his throat?” He could almost hear the intelligence operative’s disapproving shake of the head. “No-one gets up from a bullet to the head.”
Xander raised an eyebrow. Clearly the secret agent hadn’t been moving in some of the circles he had. Leaving that aside, Xander queried. “Are you sure Fathi’s still alive? How reliable is your source?”
“As sure as I can be,” the secret agent sighed. “A good man, a good friend sacrificed his life to get me the information. And Fathi’s planning another terrorist outrage.”
”Of course he is,” Xander pursed his lips. He made it a general rule to stay out of mundane world affairs, the Mithras Brotherhood had enough on its plate dealing with the supernatural. But Burhan was unfinished business. “Okay,” he sighed. “You best give me the details.”
Faith was going to love this.
* * *
”The Middle East! I hate that rathole place!” Faith fumed.
“Well if you’d have made sure Fathi was de-.”
“Don’t blame this on me!” Faith screeched, her finger jabbing in Xander’s chest. “You’re a resurrected warrior god and you don’t know when someone’s dead? What’s up with that!”
“Wow,” Kennedy muttered to Tara as she watched Faith rant on and on. “Faith really doesn’t like the middle east. What’s up with that?”
“They don’t like it when women wear tight or revealing clothing,” Tara explained in a whisper.
“Well I do-,” Kennedy’s eyes widened in sudden understanding. “Oh I get it.” She sighed as Faith continued to rant. And rant. Boy, she really could get grumpy.
* * *
Fathi strode angrily around his darkened apartment, his eyes unable to cope with the light since the night of the fire. He looked up as the door opened and a trio of men strode in. “Do you have it?” he demanded, his voice made permanently hoarse because of the stamping from the infidel whore.
“We have it,” confirmed the trio’s leader. “It was where the cleric’s writings said it would be.” The man paused, eyes fearful. “If the cleric’s writings were so correct about that, they must also have been right about its destructive power-.”
“One can only hope,” Fathi agreed.
”But whoever uses it will inevitably die,” one of the other men whispered.
”No,” Fathi shook his head. “The person who uses it will find Allah.” Fathi paused. And after all his months of pain, it would be heaven indeed to be released. He just had to decide upon a target.
And then he would unleash untold misery on the infidels.
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (3/?)
Cairo, Sheraton Hotel
“Whoa,” Faith craned her neck to stare at the two white towers disappearing up into the clear blue sky. The two towers were joined together by a long building in the middle, “tall.” Faith turned to her boyfriend and grinned. “This place better be up to our usual standard, Harris to make up for us being here.”
Xander grinned back at her. “Let’s find out.”
“Can’t wait,” Faith winked at her boy-friend before sauntering inside. The lobby took her breath away, the size of a big house, its tiled floor, walls, and ceiling all the same creamy-white, a pianist tinkling away on a grand piano by some palm trees in the corner. All around, uniformed staff went around their business in a calm, unhurried manner, adding to the place’s air of serenity, light shining in through the lobby’s huge and immaculately cleaned windows. Faith smirked as a number of men in the seated reception areas sat around the lobby turned to look at her, damn she was hot.
“Faith, don’t make a show,” Xander reprimanded as he walked past her, sidestepping her retaliatory kick at his ass. “I’ll go and sign us all in.”
“I don’t see why Tara and I have to have single rooms,” Kenendy complained as Xander walked over to the gleaming reception desk.
Faith shot Kennedy a smirk. “Say, if they catch you and decide to stone you to death, I’m throwing the first one, ya know that, right?”
* * *
“Spacious casino, swimming pool, fully equipped gym,” Xander gloated as they entered their room. “This place has it all.”
“And you had to blow a stack of money on a suite,” Faith hungrily eyed the four-postered bed, that was seriously gonna get some work, if only to piss off sis and Ken in the adjacent rooms. Her gaze snapped to her boy-friend as he walked out onto the twentieth floor balcony, shuddered, and hurried back inside. “But don’t think this big-ass place lets you off the hook for thinking you could sneak off and leave us. What do you think? You can walk into a bar of hoods and walk out in one piece? I gotta go with you!”
“It’s fine, this is Ethan’s main contact in Egypt, if anyone knows what Fathi’s up to, and where he is, it’s him. This is a dangerous bar, a place with plenty of low-lifes, some who might work for Fathi. The only women who go in this place are hookers, you’ll stand out. Because you’re obviously not one,” Xander hurriedly added, thus saving himself from the ass-kicking of a lifetime. “And if Fathi hears a description of you,” Xander paused and shook his head. “He’s bound to remember you.”
Faith glared at her boyfriend before grumpily acquiescing with a shrug of the shoulders. “Fine,” she shook her head. “But you get hurt, and I’ll kick your ass. Get me?”
“Got you,” Xander agreed before glancing towards the bed. “Now I saw you the way you were looking at the bed, and I don’t have to leave for an hour.”
“Yeah?” Faith raised an eyebrow, damn X, don’t give me these openings. “What we gonna do for the other fifty-five minutes?” She laughed throatily at Xander’s wince. “Ah baby, let me make it up to you.”
* * *
“I go no further.”
Xander looked at the taxi driver, a moustached, portly man. “Sorry?”
“I go no further,” the taxi driver shook his head to emphasise the point. “Dangerous.”
“Well thanks a lot,” Xander threw a wad of wrinkled notes to the man. “Don’t even think about asking for a tip,” he warned as he climbed out of the car, slamming the door shut behind him.
Xander hunched his shoulders as he began to walk through the moonlit district, conscious that being recognised as a westerner in a rough area like this could very well be the last thing he did. The houses were crumbling, more than one of them had cracked windows, and in the distance he could hear the sounds of argument and fighting, an air of unending depression hung over the area. Xander prayed the directions he had written down from Ethan were correct, he’d really hate to get lost in this place.
Ducking underneath an oval arch, he made his way through an unlit courtyard and down half a dozen steps at the far end. He squinted as he peered through the darkness and started through the narrow, winding alley at the bottom of the steps. After walking past two exits to his left, Xander peered through one to his right. Hearing the sound of some unidentifiable yet strangely recognisable western pop band, he grinned and started down the alley, walking up a slight slope before stopping at a stout wooden door and knocking on it. A panel slid open and a pair of eyes glared suspiciously at him. “No westerners here!”
“Not even for,” Xander slid fifty dollars through the opening, “this?”
The man’s eyes widened and the door swung open. “Please,” the short man shot him a gap-toothed grin, “come in.”
“Thanks.” The smell of hashish hit him as he entered the bar making his head swim for a second. “Wow,” he muttered, “you really did a bundle on decoration.”
The bar’s walls were bare with long cracks in them that suggested unfortunate things about the building’s stability, a solidity that wasn’t helped by the music he’d heard outside coming out of a pair of scratchy loudspeakers with an aching amount of feedback. And the clientele weren’t exactly convivial, a bunch of surly looking men sat around their tables who briefly looked up from his entry, glared suspiciously and then returned his attention to their drinks. Skin prickling uneasily, he started across the bar. The floorboards creaked underfoot as he made his way to the sparsely-equipped bar. “We don’t get many of your sort here,” commented the beady-eyed, scar-faced bartender.
“No,” Xander nodded. “Can’t imagine why. It’s such a nice place, should be in all the tourist guides.” The bartender stared at him. Xander shook his head. “Never mind, yankee humour. Where’s Dario Khem?”
The obese bartender squinted, straggly beard wobbling on his chins. Xander leaned back as the man breathed on him, almost knocking him out. He was really glad he hadn’t brought Faith, he’d have trouble keeping her from dumping him and taking up with this stud. “Never heard of him.”
“White doves over England.” Xander just hated code-phrases.
The bartender’s mouth dropped open, revealing his yellowed teeth. Really, this guy should go into modelling work, he’d make a fortune. “Mr. Khem is through the back.”
Xander nodded before making his way through the smoky bar and past the two bouncers stood at the back door. He found himself in a narrow corridor with a six-stepped stairwell, shrugging his shoulders Xander ran up the steps and through the door at the top of the landing. He smiled as he recognised the bald, bespectacled man from the photograph Ethan had sent him. “Mr. Khem-.”
Xander groaned as his head snapped back to see a trio of rough-looking men charging through the corridor and towards him. Turning back, he saw Khem raising a revolver that looked like it had been last fired in the second world war. “I hate it when Faith’s right.”
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (4/?)
Thinking quickly if not especially smartly, Xander leapt at Khem and onto the desk. Khem glared at him a half-second before Xander smashed a foot into the Arab’s face. Blood foutaining out of his face, Khem’s gun hand swung up even as his head snapped back. Gunsmoke’s arid stench filled the air as Khem’s arm twitched spasmodically, firing his gun, the shell hitting the light, showering them with bulb fragments and also plunging the room into darkness. A grin on his face, a lucky break at last, Xander plunged for the window behind where Khem had been sat, twisting in mid-air so to hit it shoulder-first, hands up around his head.
The window exploded under his impact, glass flying everywhere even as Xander heard the bullets splatting the air around him. “Ahhh!” Xander grunted as he hit the cobbled ground on his left side, the skin tearing from his shoulder and knee, and his head bouncing off the ground. His landings sucked.
Ignoring the pain, Xander rolled to his feet. Conscious of the shouting, he looked up to see four faces at the window, one of them Khem’s, at least he wasn’t dead, Xander would need him later. Hearing footsteps ahead of him, Xander turned to see two burly figures entering the shadowy courtyard, cudgels in hand. “When you screw up, Xander you really screw up.”
The two men headed towards him, their approach cautious. Hearing the sound from the bar behind him, Xander knew he didn’t have time for considered action. Leaping forward, he blocked a cudgel swing on his left shoulder, the pain reverberating through it.
Teeth gritted, Xander kicked the one to his right in the knee while driving his injured shoulder into the other’s chest. The man swore, his Arabic made even more incomprehensible by his gruff accent. Even as the thug doubled up, Xander grabbed a handful of greasy hair and shoved the man into his companion, the two of them crashing to the ground in an angry bundle.
“It’s been fun,” Xander leapt over the sprawled couple, “but you two seem to be getting on fine without me, so see you!” Xander winced as a flower pot on the wall just to his left exploded. “I can take a hint!” he muttered as he sprang out of the courtyard’s oval shaped exit.
And leaned back in as a meaty fist swung at him out of the darkness. “Screw this,” Xander muttered as he caught the bowling-pin shaped forearm at the wrist and above the elbow, and yanked it down onto his upswinging knee. The forearm shattered with an almighty crack. Xander cut off the giant thug’s scream with a karate chop to the throat that had had him slumping against the wall, swarthy face turning blue as he gasped for air.
Hearing a footfall behind him, Xander shot out a back heel kick even as he glanced over his shoulder. His foot collided with the portly would-be assailant’s stomach, knocking the wheezing man to the ground.
And then Xander was off, ignoring the pain in his leg and shoulder, he rushed up the narrow alley. He was almost at the top when another thug appeared, knife in hand. “That’s enough!” Conscious of the others charging behind him, Xander drew a gun and shot the scrawny man in the shoulder. The man screamed and spun like a top, his blood splattering the wall opposite as he fell to the ground.
Xander winced as a bullet zipped past him, white hot lead taking a chunk out of the wall to his right. As he’d feared his first use of a gun had escalated matters, now they were going to use theirs. Spinning around the next corner, he found himself on a low-walled bridge, the sound of running water filling his ears. Xander grimaced as he looked over the edge. “God the smell,” he shook his head before placing a hand on the wall and vaulting over, letting out a woeful wail as he leapt into the water, hand over his nose. “I hate it when Faith’s right!”
* * *
“Goodnight madam, sir,” Advia Lyma bowed slightly as a pair of guests that she guessed from their accents were Americans passed by. Advia was unable to prevent a beaming smile as she looked around the resplendent lobby. She was truly blessed to have a job at such an esteemed establishment, maybe some day she could work all the way up to Head Receptionist! And her, a mere girl.
Her good mood faded with her smile as a young man entered the lobby, guests making a wary detour around him as they either headed into or left the hotel. He was, she supposed reasonably good looking for a western man, but he was also utterly bedraggled. Blood dripped from his left knee and shoulder, his suit was torn in several places, and sodden with water and sewage that dripped onto the lobby’s previously pristine tiles. The stench coming from the interloper was quite horrific as he squelched his way over to the lobby and smiled wearily at her. “The roads around here are terrible. One wrong turn and you’re in the river. I’ve got a room on floor twenty, the Pyramid Suite.”
“Sir,” Advia was briefly flummoxed as to
what to do. In her two years working at the Shearton she’d seen a number of
eccentrics, both foreign and local, she’d dealt with a number of strange
requests, accommodating the customers and protecting their privacy, but never
anything like this. “I’m sorry sir, but we do have a dress code.”
”A dress code?” she swallowed at the sudden hardening in the man’s eyes and the stiffening in his jaw. “Listen miss, I was just mugged by some of your fine upstanding citizens, and I am in no mood to argue. Check out a booking for the name Harrison in The Pryamid Suite.” Advia stared shell-shocked at the man. “The quicker you do it, the quicker I’m not dripping sewage all over your precious lobby.” The young man paused, glancing up at the mirrored wall behind her. “And you best signal the two security men trying and failing to sneak up on me. Not only will I kick their collective asses, I have enough money to buy and flatten this hotel without breaking a sweat.”
“Yes sir.” Advia gulped as she signalled the security men back. Somehow despite the man’s condition, she never doubted the veracity of his threat. Eyes fixed half on the man, and half on her computer, her fingers tapped in the codes needed to check suite availability. Her head snapped back to the man, mouth dropping open. He really was a guest! “I…I’m sorry Mr Harrison,” she stuttered. “Here’s the key to your room.”
“Thank you,” the man took the key and headed towards the gleaming elevator doors, head shaking woefully. “I hate it when Faith’s right!”
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (5/?)
Xander shook his head as the elevator door closed behind him. “W…what floor sir?”
Xander glanced at the elevator attendant. “Twentieth, please.”
He shook his head again. He’d been a real asshole with the receptionist, but his temper had definitely suffered after swimming through several miles of sewage. And it wasn’t likely to improve when Faith saw him and started with the ‘I told yous’. “I hate it when Faith’s right,” he muttered. The elevator slid smoothly to a halt and the door opened. A trio of tuxedoed business types started into the lift only to stop, sniff, and look disdainfully at him before backing out. “Just great,” Xander groaned.
A few seconds later and the elevator came to a stop. “Twentieth, sir.”
“Thanks,” Xander pulled out a sodden twenty and offered it the attendant.
The attendant smiled weakly. “This is compliments of the Shearton.”
“Great,” Xander stuffed the money back in his pocket and strode out of the elevator, “now even bellhops are turning down my money.” Of course, he could have pulled some money out of the Always Pocket, but that was beside the point. Shoulders hunched, he started down the well-lit, professionally decorated corridor, ignoring the guests he passed who scooted out of his path.
“Jesus,” he groaned as the door to his room was flung open and his girl-friend peered out, “what is the-,” Faith’s chocolate-brown orbs widened, “what in the hell happened to you?”
Xander looked around. “Inside, not out here,” he muttered before sliding past his girl-friend. “I’m having a shower.”
“Well I ain’t getting in with ya, not in that state.”
Xander shot his girl-friend a glare. “I wasn’t going to ask, do I look in the mood? Get the others, I’ll explain afterwards.”
* * *
By the time Xander had finished in the shower and dressed, all three women were sat on the four-postered bed, their eyes all snapping to him as he exited the bathroom. “What the hell happened to you?” Faith snapped
“I hate it when Faith’s right,” Xander muttered before smiling insincerely at his girl-friend and raising his voice, “I’m fine dear, thank you for asking.”
“I didn’t,” Faith bluntly replied. “I asked you what the hell happened to you?”
Xander counted to ten before answering. “It was an ambush, Khem had a bunch of thugs waiting for me.”
“Shit!” Faith cursed. “I knew we should have come with you!” Faith shot him a furious glance. “When will you learn to listen!”
“Yes mother,” Xander deadpanned.
“Shit X,” Faith smirked, “I don’t cuss or drink enough to be your mom.”
“Does that mean they knew you were coming?” Tara broke in.
The frightening thing was Faith was right. “Us personally?” Xander shook his head. “No, they probably don’t know about us, just that Hunt’s contact managed to get a message out before killing himself.”
“Why were they waiting then?” Kennedy asked.
”Khem was a dealer in illegal goods, nothing especially criminal, booze, fags, and banned western goods. Still, he did enough stuff that Ethan was able to blackmail him into working for him. The trouble with blackmailed contacts is the moment someone else finds out about their activities, he’ll make a deal and turn on his handlers. They’ve probably been waiting for a westerner to make contact and grab him.”
“Who?” Kennedy asked.
Xander grimaced. He had originally liked Austin Powers, but the film had soon paled once he’d inherited his own Mini-Faith in the bossy lesbian. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Could be a terrorist group. Could be the Egyptians. Could be the Syrians, the Libyans or the Saudis. Heck it could be a gang hoping to ransom the westerner to the highest bidder.”
“So what we gonna do?” Faith asked.
“Trouble is, Khem doesn’t know just how thorough Ethan was when building dossiers on his contacts,” Xander smiled. “I know all about Khem’s secret luxury apartment just outside the city.”
Faith grinned. “And we’re gonna go visiting?”
”We’re going to go visiting,” Xander confirmed with a grin.
* * *
“Allah be cursed!” Khem threw his glass of expensive whiskey into the far wall, the glass exploding as if pierced by a gunshot, the dark liquid dripping down the wall. His house was painted a perfect white inside and out, all the furniture the finest money could buy, and chosen by one of Egypt’s finest interior decorators. A twelve foot brick surrounded his house’s sprawling grounds, patrolled by four gun-toting guards.
And yet tonight, all his luxuries, all his security failed to soothe his harried mind.
Not after what he’d seen, the young American who’d effortlessly hewn through the thugs assigned to him to trap whoever came to contact him. Three men were in the hospital, the other five unharmed but shaken by the American’s dramatic escape and apparent disappearance.
But Khem knew he’d be back. Had known from the look in the man’s eyes before he’d kicked him, pain flared through his shattered nose at the memory, this was a man who didn’t stop coming while there was a breath in his body.
Khem looked down, hating the shake in his hand even as he walked out onto the balcony and peered uselessly into the darkness. He was on his way and there wasn’t a thing he could to do stop him.
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (6/?)
Xander stared at the silent mansion, its gleaming whiteness contrasting with the surrounding darkness. A hollow feeling formed in his stomach as he stared at the house. With all his money, he could afford to have the biggest fanciest house built, but duty and responsibility forced him to live on the road, moving from place to place, wherever he was needed. He just wished he could have somewhere to call home.
“Jesus, X,” Faith’s impatient growl brought him back to the real world, “you’re mooning at the house like a virgin about to score.” Faith paused and nudged him in the ribs, favouring him with a lewd wink. “And I should know.”
Of course, Xander grinned, home was where his family was.
* * *
Achmid listlessly turned page after page of his magazine, like he’d ever be able to afford an American road hog, as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the chair’s wooden panes sticking into his back.
Achmid barely had time to turn his head and register the stunning beauty stood by his side. And then her impossibly devastating fist was upper cutting into his jaw, lifting him off his seat, and flinging him to the ground, head slapping off the porch’s wooden finish. Teeth rattling and tears blurring his eyes, he reached for his automatic located under his left shoulder.
And then a heel smashed into his forehead and the darkness came.
* * *
“You know,” Faith commented as she quickly and, for Xander’s watching eyes, worryingly expertly hog-tied the man, “they don’t make hired thugs like they used do.”
”Maybe it’s people like us that make recruiting decent help so hard,” Xander suggested.
”You know it,” Faith shot him a grin as she sinuously straightened and rose. Faith stared thoughtfully at the metal-grey alarm system fastened to the door’s right. “You know the code?”
”No,” Xander admitted. “But I was -.” Wood splintered under Faith’s kick, the door falling inwards to crash on the hallway’s plush carpet.
”Come on, X!” Faith hollered over the sound of alarms blaring out. “Time’s a wasting!”
“Never mind,” Xander muttered as he followed his girl-friend into the house, head shaking.
* * *
Khem’s fourth glass of the evening dropped from his hand, shattering on the carpet, at the sound of the alarms going off. Sweat beading off his forehead, he opened the drawer to the desk he was sat behind and pulled out his revolver, a memento from his father’s service in the Second World War. Gulping slightly he rose on shaky legs and stumbled towards his office’s entrance. “I’ve got a gun!” he shouted. “You better get out of here before I find you!”
”Shouting to tell us you’re coming,” a huskily female voice chuckled from his left. “You really are new at this.”
Khem started to turn to face the shocking interloper. A raven-tressed lovely stepped out of the shadows. Even as he hesitated what to do about this unexpected interloper, she stepped into his space and head butted him in the face, pain erupting in his already shattered nose. Then she grabbed the wrist of his gun-arm, twisting until the bone snapped like a twig. Legs trembling from the shock and stomach churning, he slumped against the wall, managing to throw a feeble left that girl caught and effortlessly held while catching him with head-ringing backhand.
“I see you’ve been getting acquitanted,” Khem sobbed as the young man stepped out of the shadows to his right. “Oh don’t be like that; we’re not going to hurt you-.”
“Anymore than I already have,” the beautiful but clearly psychotic female cheerfully added.
“Thanks for that,” the young man shot a dark glance at the young woman who just blew him a kiss. With a sigh, the Westerner returned his gaze to him. “I hate to tell you, but help isn’t coming-,” even as he spoke, the alarm silenced, “your bodyguards are junked and the police will just think it’s a false alarm. So why don’t you tell me what I want to know, and then I can call you an ambulance.”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” He screamed when the brunette grabbed his twice-broken nose and twisted.
“That must really hurt,” she finished.
”I’ll tell you anything!” he stared bulging-eyed at the smirking woman, it was true Western women WERE devils. He didn’t think anyone could scare him more than the young man who’d rampaged his way through the trap earlier that night, but it was clear now he was wrong. His eyes snapped back to the male. “Just keep her away from me!”
“Ah shucks,” the girl sniffed. “You’re hurting my feelings.”
”Trust you to make an impression,” the youth crouched before him. “You’re the man to go to for information, so how about you tell us about Fathi Burhan?”
“Anything,” he sobbed, blood still streaming down his face.
“Okay,” the young man nodded. “Then is he still alive?”
“He is,” Khem sobbed at the young man’s darkening face.
”I told you you should have gone for a clean kill,” the young man dared to remonstrate with his companion.
”Bite me,” she flipped him the bird in reply.
After a shake of the head, the young man’s gaze returned to him. “Where is he?”
“Israel. I don’t know where, but he left three days ago,” Khem shook at the baleful looks the two Americans shot him. “I don’t know anything else.”
”Ya better think of something,” the brunette beauty growled.
“H…he had a weapon,” Khem stuttered out as desperation made him think harder than he’d ever done in his life. “Something old.”
“Oh yeah?” the young man’s eyes narrowed. “Wanna give us some more information? Like a name? What it does?”
”I don’t know much about it,” he sobbed. “I was only involved in setting up transport. But I can give you a description, I saw it once, it was square, with cryptic, ancient sigils on it, and black, your eyes seemed to slip over it.”
“Oh hell,” the young man paled and scowled. “Which idiot gave him a Wrathful Energy?”
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (7/?)
“What’s this Wrathful Energy crap?” Faith demanded as Xander hurried to Tara and Kennedy’s waiting car.
“Something very bad,” Xander grimly replied.
”No shit Sherlock,” Faith growled. “But I was thinking a little more specific.”
“I’ll tell you when we get back to the hotel.” Faith’s mouth opened. “Not now Faith!”
”Woof, woof,” Faith scowled. “Wanna me to heel too.”
“Heard that, Harris.”
* * *
Xander paced the hotel room’s floor, heart churning, this was bad, very bad. “Spill, Xand.”
Xander glanced at his girl-friend and nodded. “Okay. During the Demon Wars, the Old Ones came up this weapon they made The Wrathful Energy. They made a series of boxes just like the box Khem described to us. In them, they poured the essence of a tortured arch-demon. Every time the box was opened, a piece of the demon would escape, its pain and depravity combining to cause a warping of reality that would destroy every living thing for miles, then after releasing its poison, the box would re-seal.”
“H..how powerful were these boxes?” Tara asked, face pale.
Xander stared at the witch for a long second before replying. “The Old Ones used them to destroy cities of tens of thousands.”
“Well that’s just wicked,” Faith scowled at him like it was his fault. “And how are we supposed to track Burhan now? He’s in Israel now! Not a big country, but still a country!”
“Yeah, I had a thought on that,” Xander nodded. “Remember that face recognition software Brill designed?”
“Hey X,” Faith commented, “guy lost an eye and got caught in a fire, he probably doesn’t look like any photo on file.”
“I know,” Xander waved an impatient hand at his girl-friend, eyes fixed on an attentively listening Tara, “but we’ve also got three photos of his accomplices, if Tara hacks into Isarel’s passport control system-.”
”I can run the face recognition software alongside it and see if I get a match!” Tara interrupted, eyes shining eagerly.
Xander nodded. “Exactly. Limit the search for entries in the last three days, since we got the alert.”
“It’ll take time,” the witch warned as Xander passed her the laptop.
”Time we don’t have,” Faith darkly commented.
Xander shot his girl-friend a withering look. “Haifa, Nazareth, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Bat Yam, Bnei Brak, Holon, Jerusalem, they’re all good sized cities that could be planning to hit . Wanna take a wild guess which one?”
”Jesus,” Faith scowled at him. “Panties, unbunch them.”
Xander turned back to Tara with a shake of the head. “Here,” he crouched by the witch’s shoulder, “Burhan’s contacts are in the folder -.”
“Named ‘Contacts’, I’ve got it Xander,” Tara waspishly snapped.
“Wome -,” Xander smiled weakly as he remembered just how out-numbered he was, “never mind. Anyone for tea?”
* * *
“Got it!” Tara yelped, an accomplished glow filling her. The others started, having been drowsing on the bed or, in her girl-friend’s case, the couch throughout the room while she’d been working. Fortunately for them, she was the bigger person and wouldn’t mention it…
“Really?” Xander sprang up and hurried over to her, rubbing his eyes as he came.
“Jesus, sis! It’s been three hours.”
“Three hours you slept through,” Tara snapped. Well, Faith had provoked her.
“Faith,” Xander shot Faith a warning glance, “what have I told you about playing nice with others?” Xander looked back towards her. “What have you got for us, Tara?”
“Cy Azam,” Tara pointed at the man, “disembarked at Ben Gurion International Airport in the company of three men, none of which match any known associates, but one who was noted as being badly burnt.”
“Sounds good,” Tara grinned when Xander squeezed her shoulder, “well done.”
“Four on four, doesn’t sound like a problem,” Faith cheerfully commented.
“Unless they already met with some of their buddies,” Kennedy pointed out.
”Gee, you guys are just too happy go lucky!” Faith complained.
“She’s got a point though,” Xander’s eyes
returned to her. “Have we got a hotel?”
”No,” Tara grinned. This was the really clever bit. “But we have a rental, and thanks to CCTV cameras all through Isarel, I managed to track them to a boarding house in one of the seedier areas of the city.”
“Really nice work,” Xander praised.
“Yeah, sis,” Faith added her voice to the praise, “you are the bomb!”
“Well done sweetie,” Kennedy added. “And you’re even cuter when you blush.”
“Oh god,” she heard Faith’s amused mutter, “I’m going into the bathroom to puke.”
”I’m just going to stand here and watch,” Xander muttered, “there might be clothes removal, all types of fun.” Suddenly Xander grimaced and grabbed at the back of his head. “Faith! That hurt!”
* * *
Ben Gurion International Airport
“Damn there’s a lot of security,” Faith looked around the well-ordered airport lounge, light coming in through all the probably bulletproof glass. There was a lot of hard-looking bastards, their stone eyes missing nothing and carrying what she recogised as Uzis in free-hanging shoulder holsters.
“Your country’s permamently under siege by a bunch of terrorist supporting countries, what do you expect?” Xander retorically asked.
“Fair nuff,” Faith shrugged. “How we gonna play this?”
“I was thinking about this on the way over,” Kennedy interrupted. “These guys aren’t playing with the full deck, any one of them could blow Wrathful Energy. We’ve got to first find out where the thing is, then find out how many of them there are. Then when we know they’re all together, we hit them, grab Wrathful Energy before they do.”
“Not a bad plan,” Xander agreed. “Although if we could grab Wrathful Energy, all we really need to do is get rid of Burhan.”
“You mean kill him,” Tara whispered.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded as they exited the airport. “That’s exactly what I mean.”
* * *
Burhan smiled as he looked at the box, its presence soothing him as nothing else in the world did. He couldn’t understand the others’ fear of it, this would be their salvation. The day he used it, would be the day the Allah-cursed Zionists learnt the true meaning of hell.
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (8/?)
Carlton Tel Aviv Hotel
“X, why haven’t they detonated The Wrathful Energy already?” Faith asked as he played cards with her and Kennedy, Tara busy at work on her computer.
“Good question,” Xander nodded. “I was checking some papers earlier. Apparently there’s a delegation of influential Islamic moderates meeting here with top-level Israeli diplomats the day after tomorrow to discuss a treaty with Israel. Burhan will consider such people as traitors and will probably want to kill them all-.”
“I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” Tara squealed as she jumped up and down in her seat.
Xander exchanged amused expressions with Faith and Kennedy before speaking. “Going to share, Tara?”
The witch stopped in her celebrations, the back of her neck reddening as she realised just how exuberant she’d been behaving. “Um,” the wicca spun around to face them, eyes alarmed like a deer caught in headlights. “I….I’ve found where The Wrathful Energy is!”
”Oh yeah?” Excitement quickening his blood, Xander hurried over to the witch and crouched by her, peering over her shoulder to the lap-top screen. “How?”
”Yeah,” Faith added, “false modesty don’t suit you, sis. Share so we can all marvel in your genius.”
”It’s not likely anyone’s going to marvel in yours,” Kennedy sniped.
”Nah,” Faith shook her head, “just my bitching hotness. You though, you’ve got shrillness.”
”Children,” Xander reprimanded. “The grown-ups are talking. Tara?”
“I…I had a thought-.”
“Always dangerous that Tar.”
“Go on Tara,” Xander shot Faith a warning look. His girl-friend lapsed into a pouty-lipped silence.
“We used close-circuited TV in the first place to track down Burhan, Azam, and the others down, so I figured why couldn’t we use it to track down where the Wrathful Energy is? Tara suggested.
”’Cause it don’t have legs and walk around?” Faith raised her hands at his glare. “I know, I know. Shut up Faith.”
“So,” Tara shot Faith an uncertain look before looking towards him, “I got Angela to hack back into the closed-circuit tv and watched just the camera outside the boarding house. Then I found it.”
“Found what?” Xander pressed.
Tara grinned. “The suspects always leave the boarding house in groups, never solely. Well, except one. There’s one guy,” Tara touched a keyboard button, “who only goes out alone.”
Xander grimaced at the picture that jumped up on the screen. To judge from the cloths wrapped around his face, it could only be one person. “Burhan.”
”That’s what I figure,” Tara agreed. “Once a day, just before dark he leaves and goes to a garage five streets away.” Another photograph replaced the first. “That’s where it must be.”
“Well done,” he grinned at the witch’s increasing blush and decided to add to it. “Kennedy’s right, you are your cutest when you blush like that.”
“Quit hitting on my chick, Harris,” Kennedy warned darkly before smirking. “Just ‘cause yours is a nag.” Kennedy’s face sobered. “How are we going to play this?”
”X, this is pretty weak,” Faith said, all suggestion of bantering gone from her tone.
“Not really,” Xander disagreed. “Look at the way he covers his face, you can only see his eyes, that must be Burhan. He’s either covering up because the sun hurts his face or through shame. Also, The Wrathful Energy is reputed to give off a vibe that disgusts everyone except the truly mad or desperate, people can’t bear being close to one, so they wouldn’t keep it at their lodgings. And Burhan would be the one to go and check up on every day, he probably wouldn’t trust anyone else. Also, it would be normal operational procedure to have at least one person with you at all times, but Burhan’s alone, going to this place where he must be storing a weapon. A weapon that he either doesn’t want the others to know about or they just don’t want to know about. It fits.”
“How are we going to handle this then?” Kennedy said after a long silence.
Xander paused in thought, before he could speak, Tara did. “There is some bad news though,” the wicca grimaced almost as if it was her fault, “they met two more men since entering the country at the boarding house.”
“Six to four,” Xander scowled. If not for The Wrathful Energy it would still be manageable, but The Wrathful Energy made it difficult. “Okay,” he sorted his thoughts. Getting The Wrathful Energy was the important thing, but probably easier and less dangerous than dealing with the boarding-house gang. The only problem was both had to be done simultaneously, just in case he was wrong and someone else did know about The Wrathful Energy’s whereabouts. “Just after dark, you said?” Tara nodded. “Okay, just after Burhan leaves, me and Faith will go into the boarding-house as new guests. When Burhan leaves I want you two to get ahead of him and be waiting at the garage-.”
”Xander!” Tara’s eyes widened. “You-.”
”You’ll do fine,” he interrupted before the witch could continue. “Just get me The Wrathful Energy, that’s the important thing.”
After a second the witch nodded. “Okay, Xander,” Tara glanced at her watch, “I better get changed before I go out then.”
“And Kennedy,” he grabbed hold of the potential’s arm as she was about to follow Tara into their adjourning room, “I don’t want Burhan to survive this.”
Kennedy looked after her girl-friend and nodded, face paling. “I understand.”
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade (9/10)
All around was dark, their shabby surroundings obscured by a depressingly steady drizzle. All they had really was their other senses, the stench of uncollected refuse, the sound of children fighting, and near-by doors slamming shut.
“I don’t see why you get to go in through the front door while I have to climb up the damn drainpipe!”
Oh, and never forget his girl-friend’s continual complaining. Xander shot his girl-friend an amused look. “Which of us can climb like a monkey?”
Faith smiled sweetly at him. ”Next time you compare me to a monkey, I rip your nuts off and eat -,” Faith’s threat changed to an observation. “That’s Burhan,” she pointed at what was for him a barely visible silhouette across the street. “It would be easier if we just-.”
“Maybe,” Xander interrupted, “but we can’t risk me being wrong about someone else knowing about The Wrathful Energy, we have to wait until he’s with it, and grab it then.”
“Sounds risky as hell to me,” his girl-friend shrugged, “but your call,” Faith glanced out of the alley. “Tar’ and the brat have set off after Burhan, let’s get this done.”
“Okay,” Xander wiped his slightly clammy
palms on the front of his jeans. “Give me fifteen minutes, okay?”
”Third floor second from the right, right?”
Xander nodded. “I’ll deal with third
floor, first right.”
“Five by five,” Faith nodded. “Good luck, stud.”
* * *
Kennedy started at her girl-friend’s whisper. “Yeah,” she swallowed, throat dry as it had been since Xander had given her order, “I know. Let’s go.” She hated this, concealing stuff from Tara, but she was too soft, that was part of what she loved about her girl-friend, and Xander was right, Burhan couldn’t be allowed to live.
Her eyes fixed on the heavily clothed figure she followed the limping man through the streets, sticking to the shadows as she did so, wincing every time a car passed them by, feeling sure he would see them reflected in every set of lights. She ducked into an alley and crouched as their target turned into a road lined with single-storey garages on both sides. “Is that it?” Tara nodded, face nervous. Kennedy swallowed, she didn’t feel too good herself. If they messed this up, a good chunk of Tel Aviv could go bye-bye, and she was too young and way too hot to die yet.
Telling herself that this was gonna be alright, she had after all the best back-up out there, Kennedy rose. “Come on.”
* * *
Deliah Gad hurried through into reception, drawn there by the ringing of the reception bell. Her heart fluttered and missed a beat at the obvious American stood there. He was tall with a body to drool for, warm brown eyes, and long, full black hair. “Hello sir,” she felt her cheeks flush at the young man’s friendly smile, “how can I help you?”
“Hi,” her knees went weak at his deep, confident voice, “I’d like a room, perhaps the third floor?” The young man brought out a wallet. “I’ll be staying three nights, is that okay?”
“I…it’s.” It was an effort but Deliah managed to regain his poise. “It’s fine sir-.”
“Please,” the young man interrupted, “it’s Alex, keep saying sir and I’ll think my high school principal is behind me.” The man’s smile broadened. “And believe me when I say neither of us want that.”
Deliah giggled. Funny too, what a dreamboat. “That’ll be six hundred Shekels, sir-,” she smiled at the young man’s waggling finger, “sorry, Alex.”
* * *
Faith looked around the shadowy alley, shuddering slightly as a rat scurried past her, its tail running over her boot. “I’m so gonna get you for this, Harris.” She wriggled uncomfortably as a raindrop hit the back of her neck and rolled down it, under her collar. “Fuck!” she cursed as she looked up at the rain-slicked drainpipe, hating the people she could see through the boarding-house’s illuminated windows, moving around, all warm and dry. “I’m so gonna get you for this, Harris.”
Taking a breath, she stepped forward and took an experimental hold of the drainpipe and pulled. Faith heaved a sigh of relief when the drainpipe stayed attached to the wall. “Well that’s something,” she muttered before taking a grip. “Only don’t think you’re safe just yet Harris.”
* * *
“Thank you, Deliah.” The moment the receptionist had left, Xander made his way over to the targets’ doorway across the hall. It was a dreary place, the walls covered with a grey wallpaper that failed to hide the mould growing through cracks at the top, the whole corridor illuminated by a single ceiling lamp that flickered erratically. Xander swallowed as he stepped outside the worn door, Arabic voices clearly audible through its flimsy plywood. Sweat beaded down his forehead as he glanced at his watch. “Just one more minute.”
* * *
“Allah be praised!” Burhan croaked as on the fourth attempt his clawed, twisted fingers managed to unlock the garage’s padlock. After putting the padlock in his pocket, he grimaced before crouching down, the many scars on his back pulling, placed his hands under the door and lifted, groaning with the effort. It was an ordeal to come visit his pride and joy, but did not the Koran teach that anything worthwhile should be difficult to achieve or there was no joy in the attainment?
“Where is that light?” Burhan hissed as reached blindly to his left, his clawed hands finally grabbing and pulling on a piece of string. Burhan smiled as he entered the darkened garage, his earlier anger dissipating as he saw his beautiful box on the table towards the back of the garage, the light he’d scrabbled on seeming to shy away from it. It was his salvation, his key to paradise. He stepped towards it.
“The box is ours now.”
FIC: MC 40 Aug 01 The Forgotten Crusade 10/10)
Burhan started to turn towards the interloper, a western woman from the sound of her voice, to castigate her for her impudence. And then his head exploded in pain, more pain he’d felt since he’d awoken from his coma. He looked in disbelief at the woman and then began to turn back towards his box, legs suddenly leaden. And then his back exploded in pain, and he knew nothing but darkness.
Sweet, soft darkness.
* * *
“You shot him! You didn’t give him a chance to surrender!”
“He might have had a timer set up to a bomb under his robes, might have made a dive for the box, anything.” Kennedy hid her misgivings at her actions by hurrying forward, stepping over the body, almost slipping in the blood pooling under Burhan’s corpse, and picking up the box. Ignoring her involuntary shudder at touching the box, she picked it up, and gingerly thrust it into the sports bag Xander had given her for the job.
”You can’t just shoot someo-.”
“Look!” Kennedy spun to face her girl-friend, her frayed nerves and troubled conscience combining into a combustible mixture. “He’s a mass murderer! I wasn’t about to give him a chance to hurt you! Besides, Xander said-.”
“Xander!” If anything her girl-friend’s eyes bulged even further out of their sockets. Kenendy began to back-pedal. “OOOOOOOOOOOOO! THAT MAN!”
“Yeah,” Kennedy nodded, eager to pass the buck. “Definitely his fault.” She gulped at Tara’s glare. “Yep. Shutting up now.”
* * *
The moment the timer on his watch beeped, Xander moved. His foot slammed into the door, sending it crashing open. As he stepped through the entrance, he opened the Always Pocket and took out his favourite Desert Eagles, the guns seeming to mould to his hands.
The three men sprang up from their seats on the couch, hands dipping for the guns on the table before them. Xander’s left hand bucked. One of the men’s heads disappeared in a crimson mist.
The middle of the three twisted towards him. Xander had the briefest second to see an Arabic face contorted in shock. Then that face was disappearing in a visceral spray. Xander winced as the third started to lift his gun, mouth opening in what he guessed was a continual stream of swear-words. Before the man had chance to fire Xander hit him with a double-tap to the chest that knocked him into the TV, sending both him and the TV crashing to the ground.
Xander winced as he looked around the carnage, corpses leaking blood all over the carpet. He didn’t like to do business like this. But he couldn’t risk being wrong and there being a second Wrathful Energy. The arid stench of gun smoke burning the back of his throat and his ears pounding to the gunfire, he hurried out into the corridor and made his way through to the second room to check on Faith.
* * *
The moment her watch beeped Faith stopped clinging onto a drainpipe and leapt through the window. Glass flying around her, she hit the threadbare carpet on her shoulder and rolled up into a crouch, grinning at the two men sat gaping on the couch. “Anyone phone for a stripper-gram?”
Her throaty voice broke the shock. Both men leapt to their feet. Faith jumped forward, grabbing the faded couch with one hand and flipping it over onto the slowest to react of the men, pinning him underneath. The second she took care of by kicking his sub-machine gun off the table and into his forehead. The man was out before he hit the ground, head bouncing off the ground.
Seeing the first man weakly struggling to shove the couch off him, Faith stalked over, grabbed the couch and flipped it off into the wall. “Hey, let me help you with that,” she greeted before kicking him full in the face. She winced as several teeth slapped against the wall. “Send me your dental bill, dog.” She spun around as the door opened only to relax when her boy-friend walked in. “Anything?” He shook his head. “Wicked,” Faith looked around, “wanna help me toss this place before we scram?”
* * *
“I can’t believe you did!” Cheeks flushed, Tara screamed, finger jabbing in his direction. “Going behind my back like that way!”
Xander winced. “I know you wouldn’t have agreed,” he defended
“And why’s that?” Tara shouted. “It was
”Hold on!” Xander snapped. “Burhan’s killed hundreds. If he’d have released that zombie virus it would have made him a murderer on the scale of Pol Pot, Hitler, or Stalin. The Israelis might have fired off a nuclear missile if he’d have unleashed The Wrathful Energy. There was no other choice!”
”I could have done a spell, knocked him out!” Tara said. “We didn’t need to-.”
”When you slaughter innocents you give up your right to live,” Xander responded, his own cheeks flushing.
“Wow,” Faith sat on the bed, her head bobbing from Tara to Xander like a spectator at a tennis match, “wish I had some popcorn, this is one hell of a show.”
“You could offer to referee,” Kennedy suggested.
Faith shot her companion a sneer. “What are you a ‘tard? No way am I getting in sis’ way when she’s like this!”
* * *
“Hello, I believe Wesley Whyndhm-Pryce works here?”
Gunn glanced up from the Sports Illustrated he was reading while on reception duty for Champion Investigations, they really needed to get a receptionist, to see a greying, bespectacled man who somehow managed to look dangerous despite both his glasses and grey hair. Eyes fixed on the man, he stood and let out a shout. “Hey Wes, for you!”
“Thank you for the bellow, Charles,” the Englishman muttered as he walked out of the inner office. “Good lord, Giles.”
Gunn raised an eyebrow. He’d heard of him, anyone who set Faith up, his hand slid into his pocket where he kept his switchblade, just give him ten seconds alone with the mother and he wouldn’t get to his bud’s girl again. Suddenly Angel was there, doing that vampire appearing from nowhere thing he did. “Hello, Wesley,” the Englishman glanced at him, “I wonder if I could have a word with the both of you. In private.”
“Gunn isn’t an employee, he’s a partner, he can stay, Rupert,” Angel softly replied.
Gunn hid a grin. That was one way of putting it, once he’d decided Angel was on the side of the angels, to abuse a quote, he’d decided to join forces. Angel had Doyle, Wes, and Pike working for him, Gunn had his twenty something demon hunters. Together
they managed to be an ever-living pain in W&H’s ass.
”As you wish,” the Englishman took a breath. “I’d like to offer you a job, Wesley. Your old job as it were, a Watcher.”
”Oh goodness gracious,” Wesley glanced at Angel, then him, and then back to the middle-aged man. “It’s true then, Mithras massacred the Council?” Giles grimaced and nodded. “Well,” Wesley looked briefly sick before shaking his head. “I feel honoured to be asked, and especially by you, but I have to refuse. My home, my duty is here now.”
“Very well. I can’t lie, I am disappointed, but I can respect your decision,” the Englishman paused. “Before I take my leave, I feel I should warn you. You see,” Giles winced. “Xander is Mithras.” Angel’s mouth opened. “And before you question me, I know it’s fantastic, but it’s also true. He beat the belief into me.”
Gunn scowled inwardly. Oh shit, Harris was gonna need to know about this and fast.
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