Coming of the Scooby Army
Ch 23- Down to Two….
Friday morning was a bustle of activity for all of the Scooby Family. Well, except for Spike naturally, who was in his ‘dead sleep’ in the guest room at Xander’s apartment.
The rest were at the train station with multiple bags of luggage piled around them. Dawn was nearly hopping in excitement, while Willow and Tara were more somber.
“Have Cordelia call me when she meets you,” Xander said.
“Yes, yes! You’ve told me that four times, Xan! I’m not a moron,” Dawn grinned. “And, I’m gonna be fine,” she put her hand over the pendant she wore. It was designed by Tara with some extra power from Willow to keep her nature hidden.
“That’s ‘cause I know the second you see the horses, you’re going to completely forget to call,” Xander grinned back at her. “And, you’re not the one who is going to have a ball of neurotic vampire pacing around her place waiting for news.”
“I love you, Xan, but boy am I not gonna miss you this weekend.”
“Well, that’s a fine thing to say,” he gave her his best impression of ‘sad puppy eyes’. “And this about the guy who’s going to have doors put on her house, too.”
Dawn’s reply to that was cut short by the sound of the train’s whistle and her squeal of excitement.
Across the ‘Pond’, Giles sat glumly in his holding cell. It was a sparsely decorated room, stripped of anything that couldn’t be nailed down or would allow him to trace any sigils or symbols. Except for the bars over the door, it was more like a monk’s room and one of the more severely austere sects, too, than a prison cell. This didn’t make him feel any better about it. The magicks over the room fit around him as snugly as a strait-jacket and it made the air feel more dense and close than it would have ordinarily.
“So… will you stay for my execution? Or do you need to rush home,” he asked facetiously and bitterly.
“I don’t think it’s that bad, Rupert,” Lavinia Mills told him. “They seem to be listening very carefully to the details of Glory’s assault.”
“And my subsequent actions. I am so sorry, Lavinia.”
“About the women?” She made a pshaw sound with her mouth and a waving aside gesture with her hand. “You think you’re the first mage who’s magic went straight below his belt line?”
“You’re trying to be supportive,” he told her. “But I know I’ve hurt you. It was never my intention. And, there will no doubt be more details to come that you’re not going to want to know.” He reached out for her, but carefully not too far. The magical barrier between them packed quite a punch, as he found out when he’d gone to throttle Quentin for being a smug bastard. “Perhaps you should go on to Latvia. Perhaps it would be better for you to forget me and all of this mess.”
“Stop it! I’m not leaving. Those judges are going to know that everything you might have done was to protect the world… the entire world, Rupert! It isn’t your fault that you weren’t prepared for the influence that dark magic would have over you. Nor is it your fault, or anyone else’s,” she stressed, “that the cleansing ritual in Sunnydale didn’t take hold.”
“I hope you’re right,” he spun from her and went over to his cot, where he sat heavily. “I really do. But, I’m afraid of what they’re going to do. I… I must admit… I think I’m most afraid of… of losing….”
“… your power? The magical energy?”
He glanced at her and nodded before hanging his head in shame.
“Oh, Rupert. Again, you think you’re the first mage to be seduced by the power and control magic offers. When will you understand you’re just human? You did the best you could and now you’re sick… but it isn’t any better or worse than any other addiction. We’ll get you through this. So will the Council. They’re not going to execute you - they’re going to take care of you.”
“What if… what if I’m never the same? What if I’ll never be reliable for the children, again?”
“That won’t happen. I know it won’t.”
“You don’t have to stand here for an hour, Xan,” Tara said, after Dawn’s train north pulled out.
“Like I’ve got better things to do?”
“I’m just saying.”
“Yeah, Xan. We’re two powerful witches in broad daylight,” Willow added. “If you need to get back to the site?”
“We wrapped up yesterday,” he shared. “I’m officially back on the public dole. Who knew that construction in Sunnydale actually had lulls?”
“Well, while your standing here, anyway,” Tara grinned, “Let me remind you that Buffybot is sitting in the basement of the house.”
“She should be alright on her own,” Willow said. “I’ve installed a timer on her, so she’ll know when to get up for patrol. I’ve included some pretty restrictive limits on her activities that I’ll remove when we get back. It should allow her to engage any strays, while avoiding getting herself torn up until I can be here to fix her.”
“And, Miss Kitty should be set,” Tara mentioned. “Don’t worry about her box - I just emptied it this morning. She has fresh food and water.”
“I’ll check on her anyway,” Xan smiled back. “I’ll be over there Sunday with a few guys from work to hang those doors. Any special instructions for Amy?”
“She should be set, too,” Willow said. She sadly added, “Poor Amy. I feel bad that I haven’t been able to reverse her stupid spell… she really should have turned that Fairy Tale Demon into a rat, instead.”
“Well, we’re doing what we can,” Tara shrugged. “I mean, you know, Hecate isn’t somebody to be called on lightly - especially if you don’t make sure you can call on her to reverse your incantations. We have this really old crone-witch in the bayou… I’ll look her up while we’re there. If she’s still alive, she may be able to give us a counter-spell.”
“Don’t worry about a thing, guys,” Xander said. Growing solemn for a moment he leaned in and kissed Tara’s cheek. “You just focus on your family right now. Things here will be fine. After all, it’ll only be a few days and without the living tornado of Dawn what could really happen?”
“Groan, Xander!” Willow sighed in mock exasperation, “Haven’t we learned by now that we never ask questions like that? Bad boy - no Spike kisses.”
“Uh, yeah…,” he said uncomfortably “… my bad.”
Out in the vast desert surrounding Sunnydale, outside of its limits so that no one would detect them, Razor’s men baked in the harsh, late summer sun. It seemed to have no appreciable effect on them, despite their utter lack of water and their consuming gallons of cheap whiskey.
“This is boring,” Garrote complained.
“When do we roar in,” Barbwire asked.
“Tonight. That’s the way that the boss wants it,” Spar half complained. He saw no reason to sneak in under cover of darkness… the humans relied on guns these days and the pellets would find little effect against their skin. For reasons mystic, only bladed weapons forged by a mortal would harm any of them. The modern human military had forsaken such tools a very long time ago.
Garrote looked westward over the heat-shimmering sands. “This is going to be so good….”
Fifteen feet underground, at the end of one of the warren of tunnels that snaked through Sunnydale, a tall creature sat at a makeshift bar. It was dressed in long black robes, covering it from head to toe. One hand was tucked within a long sleeve, while the other grasped a bottle of human beer. The face of the creature was mostly hidden within a deep cowl, aided by the weak lighting that Willy had managed to string around the cul-de-sac.
“It is not that aiding the Slayer brings me any sort of joy,” it was complaining between huge swallows of beer. “However, in this case….”
“How sure you ‘bout this,” Willy wheedled. “I cause a stir - waste her time, she might decide trashing this place would be just as fun as crashing my old joint. And, there isn’t a lot of room for me to go any lower.”
“I have complete confidence in your ability to find a place deeper in the muck. But yes, I am sure. My visions are very rarely mistaken.”
“Very rarely? Very rarely?!”
“No one is perfect. However, in this I am right. The Marauders are coming - and very, very soon. I fear the Hellmouth is about to become a rather uncomfortable place to live - even more so than it is under the Slayer‘s watch….”
“I want to leave,” Tangina insisted.
“We don’t know where to go,” Keith insisted. “We haven’t gotten a direction since your imaginary friend decided to clam up!”
“Stop being an ass,” she screamed at him. “I didn’t have to come this far, you know! Unlike some of us, I had a life!”
“Guys, stop,” Donna Rumboldt stepped between her boyfriend and their psychic companion. “This isn’t helping anything!”
“We’re in trouble, here,” Tangina insisted. “The last message I got was that we were in danger. And, this whole town has me on edge. This place is wrong. I know it!”
“But Keith’s right,” Donna said. “We don’t know where to go….”
“Yes, we do. We go home,” Tangina said snottily. “We forget about the obsession and we get the fuck out of here!”
“You wanna go, you go,” Keith Campbell yelled. “But you go on your own dime! Don’t expect me to let my parent’s killers go free ‘cause your intangible boyfriend decided somebody else was more worth hanging out with.”
“Keith! Knock if off,” Donna turned on him. “If Tangina says she senses something wrong here, we should listen to her.”
“Thanks, Donna,” Tangina said, “But ‘listening’ to me is useless if you won’t follow my advice. Sam said we’re in danger and now I can’t get anything from him no matter how much I focus on the Board. I’m telling you we should get out of here… right now. We should already be on the road with Sunnydale in the rear view mirror.”
Keith gave a disgusted snort and banged his fist on the small table in the motel room. He stomped the few steps to the window and angrily yanked at the drapes, and glared out over the sun-drenched parking lot.
“Okay, look,” Donna said, having gotten used to playing peace maker the last week between her two bickering companions. “I have a compromise. One, Tan - give us two more days in town to find a lead. Who knows, maybe the vampires ran out of town? Give us a chance to find out for sure. Two, Honey - we need to ask for help from those guys.”
“What?! It’s their fault we didn’t kill them all in the first place!”
“I don’t care! We’re wasting time and money and getting nowhere fast. They obviously know all of the nooks and crannies in town - we ask for help. We check out where they tell us to look and then whether we find our vampires or not, or figure out which direction they’ve taken off in or admit the trail is dead - we follow Tangina’s advice and we get out while we can. Agreed?”
Having a moment of hesitation, Tangina reluctantly nodded. Keith stood silent and gazing out of the window.
“I can’t let them go. I can’t.”
“If they didn’t stay in town, we’re losing valuable time with them in the wild,” Donna said softly. She came up behind him and laid a hand against his back. “We ask for help - we know for sure.”
“Fine,” Keith frowned. “Fine, but I don’t care how cold the trail seems - I’m not giving up until every one of them and all of their ‘new recruits’ are dust….”
Later that evening, just after sundown, as Donna and Keith were knocking on Xander’s apartment door and Tangina was pacing nervously in his hallway and waiting for him to answer, men and women in uniform began screaming and dying in horror outside of town….