Chapter 5 Taking the Initiative
Giles pulled up to the curb in front of his house, and he and his passengers filed out quickly. Giles immediately rallied the troops; "Xander, take Anya to the basement, you know where I keep my armory. Grab as many weapons as you can. Stakes, crossbows, swords, a good armful each! We’re hunting for bear!"
"You want me to grab some too?" Willow asked eagerly. She was more motivated than the others to rescue Buffy, although she was certain that they didn’t know why.
"No, Willow, I need to speak with you once we get inside," Giles answered.
The second that Giles opened the front door, his ears were assailed by his television speaker blasting out; "FUN, FUN, FUN, IN THE SUN, SUN, SUN!"
"What the bloody hell is going on?" Giles had to shout to be heard over the din.
The razor-haired head of the defanged vampire Spike appeared over the top of Giles sofa. "Hey, gov’ner!" he greeted loudly. "Just in time for ‘Red Dwarf’! It’s the one where Lister meets his female counterpart..."
"What happened to your movie, Deadboy?" Xander asked Spike, suppressing a desire to grab the nearest object that resembled a wooden stake and plunging the business end into his heart.
"Ooh, ‘Deadboy’!" Spike chided. "More of the legendary Xander wit. Or half of it!" Anya had to nearly pull a flying tackle on her boyfriend to stop him from trying to gouge out the vampire’s eyes. "Wouldn’t you know, they replaced ‘Sixth Sense’ with ‘Stuart Little’! So I thought I’d kick back here."
"Thank you, Spike," Giles shouted angrily, snatching the remote control from Spike’s hand and turning the television off, "for reminding me why I chose to remain in America!"
" ‘Ere, now," Spike protested. "I’m a guest in this shack, you know!"
"And as such," Giles answered, his rage held in check by the most tenuous of leashes, "it is long past time that you earn your keep! You can join Xander and Anya gathering weapons, and then meet us by the car. We’re attacking a concentration of vampires at the old Sunnydale High School site." Giles turned his back on the vampire, and approached Willow.
"You’re kidding, right?" Xander asked. "Man you picked a screwy time to develop a sense of humor."
"Believe me, Xander," Giles said, the irritation in his voice becoming a palpable force. "In a way it’s all a sick joke. But at this point we need any warm body who can help us. Or in Spike’s case, a room-temperature body."
"Whoa, Steady on, mate!" Spike shouted at Giles. "Nobody tells William the Bloody what to do, you hear me? I don’t take orders from any effin’ mortal ponces like yourselves! Got it?"
Spike didn’t see the hand that grabbed the collar of his jacket, until he found himself pinned like a chloroformed butterfly against the nearest wall. The look on Giles’ face would have intimidated a legion of demons. "Now you listen to me, ‘mate’!" he spat out his venom at the vampiric houseguest. "You are only tolerated here as long as you are useful to us. And if you ever, EVER, use that tone of voice with me again, I shall chain you to the front porch, and let you watch the sunrise! Do we have a meeting of the minds?" William Blood, AKA William the Bloody, AKA Spike, tried to look away from Giles’ eyes as they flashed fire at him. "DO WE?"
"There was a time when I would have torn into your jugular for that little display, mate," Spike growled. His shoulders then sagged in defeat. "All right. What do you want from your toybox?"
"Xander will show you what we require," Giles’ voice returned to its normal quiet tone, but the steel that edged his outburst was still there. Spike meekly followed Xander and Anya as they quietly made their way toward the basement. Only Willow stayed behind, in part because after watching Giles attack Spike, she was to scared to move.
"Uh, Giles," Willow started timidly, but Giles cut her off with a curt movement of his hand.
"I wish to apologize for that display, Willow," he said gently. "I guess that this situation with Buffy and her future counterpart has got all of us on edge."
"Hey," Willow answered. "You hear that sound? That’s the sound of no one disagreeing with what you did. Spike had it coming for a long time. But you said that you wanted to speak with me about something?"
"Yes," he muttered as he headed toward a small shelf. He reached behind an antique tome, and produced a small metal box. "You remember our last confrontation with Quentin Travers, don’t you?"
"Yes, he made you use that muscle relaxant of Buffy, for that damned eighteenth birthday rite of passage thingy."
"If you mean that exercise in barbarity they called a ‘rite of passage’, yes," Giles said bitterly. "Possibly the lowest point of my life was when I had to betray Buffy. She was right to turn her back on the Council. I only wish I had seen it before then." He shook his head, clearing his mind of self-recrimination, and continued; "Since that fiasco, I had taken the liberty of taking the compound that they had me give Buffy to a friend of mine, Lucas Small, a pharmacist." He opened the box, revealing a large metal hypodermic needle. "He supplied me with this antidote. If Quentin’s after Buffy for deserting the Council, he’ll no doubt use the muscle relaxant on her. Perhaps even a stronger concentration."
Giles knew this to be true. He had not said anything before, because he didn’t want to be seen as fishing for undue sympathy, but when Quentin Travers gave him the formula to administer to Buffy, he looked at the substance. It was of such a high concentration that it would have probably stopped Buffy’s heart permanently had Giles given her the dosage that Quentin ordered. Unable(or simply too scared, he still wasn’t sure) to go against the Council openly, he chose to defy them covertly; he diluted the muscle relaxant with simple blood plasma, reducing its potency. His first act of rebellion against his masters. Still, he couldn’t deny that he had betrayed the young woman who had become a foster daughter to him. He could say that he was just following orders, but that excuse didn’t fly with Nazi war criminals, Why should it fly with him?
Willow, for her part, stood thunderstruck at what Giles was saying to her. The head of the Council, whose stated purpose was to aid the Slayer in her fight against the forces of Hell, sabotaging her efforts, poisoning her? She remembered how devastated Buffy was to learn of Giles’ involvement in her losing her Slayer strength. She silently swore to the Goddess that if Quentin so much as breathed on Buffy, she would exact a terrible revenge.
"When we get to Sunnydale High," Giles continued, "you must find Buffy. That is your top priority. Once you find her, give her the entire contents of this hypodermic. The syringe contains a compound designed to stimulate the adrenal glands, and boost the metabolism to burn out any and all toxins. Once it’s administered, according to Lucas, the poisons will be purged from Buffy’s body within fifteen minutes. The only side effect is that she’ll become ravenously hungry about an hour after the chemical takes effect, as a result of her heightened metabolism."
"So we’ll have the traditional celebratory pizza party after we save the world," Willow suggested.
Giles smiled. "My treat. One more thing; before she recovers fully, she’ll be vulnerable. You’ll need to stand guard over her, and take on anything or anyone who would attack her."
"No worries, Giles," Willow answered, "I’ve got a defensive herbal spell I’ve been dying to try out." She rolled up her right sleeve, revealing a small sachet strapped to her wrist. "Twice blest herbs, simple ingredients, and a simple spell to activate it."
"You came prepared, Willow. I commend you." He turned his head toward her, and said simply, "I think I’m beginning to understand how important Buffy is to you. I know that you are in love with her. I want you to know that I will move Heaven and Hell to bring her back safely.
"Geez, does everybody know about me and Buffy?" Willow lamented. "I didn’t know I was even in a closet, when suddenly I’m outed!"
Giles suppressed a chuckle at Willow’s observations. He knew that Buffy was in good hands. Now, and should she and Willow choose to pledge their love for each other. "She’s lucky to have you in her life, Willow. I used to fret that she shouldn’t involve you in her fights, but it seems I was wrong."
"It was my choice," Willow answered solemnly. She remembered last spring when Willow amazed Buffy with her announcement that she was joining her at UC Sunnydale. Willow would have been right at home in Harvard or Princeton, any ivy league school, but she chose to fight along side Buffy. "It’s a good fight," she had said to her friend, "I want in."
All Buffy could say after her vow was simply, "I kinda love you."
Believe me, Willow thought now as she remembered, for me, it’s more than ‘kinda’.
"We’d better get going," Giles said, breaking the moment of nostalgia. Giles called for Xander and Anya, who, along with an obstinate Spike, had emerged from the basement, each bearing a small arsenal of medieval weapons; spikes, crossbows, silver-tipped swords. "We’ve got the party favors," Xander announced, "let’s crash the party!"
"Don’t worry, Willow," Anya said in surprisingly sympathetic tones. "We’ll get your potential orgasm-buddy back for you."
Willow gasped loudly at her turn of phrase. She stood aghast at the vengeance demon, then shrieked, "Does anyone here not know that I’m in love with Buffy?"
Xander’s face wore an expression of goofy surprise, as he paused for a second, and answered, "Well, not now." Spike just smirked. Willow wished that she could turn invisible, or intangible and seep through the floor beneath her.
"Well, enough of these happy thoughts, mates," Spike quipped in mock-cheerfulness. " ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more’, and hopefully," he finished, staring daggers at Giles, "we’ll shut the walls up with our English dead!" He headed outside, toward Giles’ car.
As the others headed out, Xander was heard to say, "Oh, yeah, I’m feeling more confident about this mission already!" Fittingly enough, no one answered.
Buffy awoke slowly, and could not quite shake the veil of lethargy that seemed to steal the function from her limbs. Unable to move more than her neck, she turned her head around to gage her surroundings. She was dimly aware of the hard cold ground beneath her, of the cooling night winds that brushed against her cheek, of the derisive laughing of unearthly fiends. Her innate preternatural senses, what she sometimes called her "Spider Sense", was buzzing in her skull like a hive of angry wasps, but she couldn’t muster the strength to arise, to stop whatever was happening.
"Our sleeping beauty awakens," a condescendingly proper British voice that she didn’t recognize at first, but knew didn’t belong to Giles, intoned over her prone form. "Prop her up, I doubt she has the energy to move herself." She felt rough hands grab her arms and yank her upright. She tried to keep her head from lolling to the side, as her body had all the structure of an old doggy chew toy. She managed to raise her head slightly, and look at the speaker. Her blood ran cold, but she still couldn’t fight back against whatever was sapping her strength.
"Quen-Quentin..." she started, forcing back the fogginess that had been engulfing her mind.
"I’m pleased that you remember me," Quentin Travers nodded to the weakened Slayer. "Oh, don’t bother to get up. I’ve taken the liberty of dosing you with a stronger form of the muscle relaxant that I had Giles use on you before. You won’t be able to move your limbs for at least several hours. Long enough for our business to be concluded."
The Slayer said nothing. She just tried to sit up straighter, but her body betrayed her and fell forward, like an ancient Raggedy Ann doll. Her nose was gracelessly flattened against the ground.
Quentin ignored the suffering Slayer, and turned to the other gentleman who stood beside him. "I like her this way," the weasel-faced individual commented. "For once, she’s not talking back to me. If it weren’t for the school board, I’d have never let her back in school. She was a bad influence."
"I assure you, Mr. Snyder," Quentin said to his partner, "that she will trouble no one again. The Watcher’s Council knows how to deal with troublemakers." The two men turned their backs on the helpless Buffy, who could only remain in the position in which she fell, since no one had offered to sit her back up, and wonder what Quentin and the demon who had assumed the form of Mr. Snyder were planning.
This exchange took place outside of the remains of the school building, in the school’s old football field. As Quentin and Snyder discussed their plans, they failed to notice a second Slayer, a tired, ragged young woman with only one arm, lurking behind the bleachers. She managed to tail Quentin’s car to the field, and avoid any vampires(and there were many present) to get to her location. She spied on the proceedings, and when she felt the coast was clear, she pulled out a cell phone, and dialed.
"Thanks, Buffy, we’re on our way." Willow hung up the phone and told Giles, who was concentrating on driving, "Alt-Buffy sneaked into the football field, and heard Quentin talking to The Amazing Snyder-Man. She also saw Buffy, and from what she told me, they used the muscle relaxant on her."
"Damn," Giles muttered under his breath. "Did she see what they were doing?"
"No, but she said that the vamps that were gathering around were keeping quiet. She thinks that something big is happening."
"We’ll find out soon enough," Giles answered. "There’s the school, just to our left."
He passed the parking lot, looking for a space near the football field, only to find a large number of jeeps, and at least one Humvee, all painted in camouflage colors. A squad of soldiers was milling outside the school grounds, all carrying large, rather exotic looking weaponry. One black soldier motioned for Giles to pull over, and marched toward his car. As Giles rolled down his window, the soldier said to him; "Sorry, folks, this is a restricted area. I must ask you to vacate the premises."
"May I ask on whose authority this area is restricted?" an irritated Giles asked.
"By the authority of the Initiative," the man answered smartly. "I repeat, this is a restricted area."
"Now look, Mr..."
"Sergeant Carter," he barked out, loudly emphasizing his rank.
"Fine, sergeant, we have business here. We are here to stave off an event that will have severe repercussions on this city."
"The Initiative has this situation under control," Carter said loudly, "there is no reason for you to remain here. If you do not return to your homes, I will be forced to bring you into protective custody for your own safety."
"Excuse me, sergeant, I thought that we were still in America!" Giles shouted, his patience worn to the nub. Before he and the sergeant could continue their stand-off, the sergeant found himself in a hammer-lock. Spike, who had surreptitiously slipped out of the car, had managed to overpower Forrest. "I think the gentleman wants to get through, gov’ner!"
"Hostile 17!" Carter shouted. "Shock it!" A lance of electricity rushed through Spike’s body, augmented by the chip that the Initiative had implanted in his nervous system to control him. Spike convulsed, releasing Carter and dropping nervelessly to the ground.
"Out of the car, all of you!" a commanding voice shouted. "Hands where I can see them."
Giles and the younger passengers slowly filed out of the Citroen, their hands above their heads. The man giving the orders turned to them, and Willow gasped when she recognized his face, and his wavy blond hair. "Riley?"
"Lieutenant Finn to you, Ma’am, he’s the commanding officer of this mission," Carter stated.
"At ease, Carter," Riley interrupted. "I know her. Willow," he turned his attention to the young hacker. "What the devil are you doing here? This place isn’t safe. Intelligence confirmed that it’s crawling with vampires."
"That’s what we’re doing here," Willow answered. "Buffy’s in there. Someone’s holding her hostage."
"Whoa, Buffy?" Riley shook his head. "What’s she doing in there?"
"It’s her job, Riley," Willow raised her voice. "She’s the Slayer. You saw her take out the Gentlemen, your intelligence people should have some idea what a Slayer is. We’re her posse, we help her slay undead stuff."
"Then what are you doing consorting with a known vampire?" Riley asked, his voice edged with mistrust.
"Uh, can we call someone at home on that, Regis?" Xander chimed in, only to get Anya’s elbow hard in the ribcage.
"Don’t worry about Pretentious-Boy here, he’s on a tight leash. We’re just making sure he won’t cause any more trouble."
"I don’t know, Willow," Riley hedged. "I like you, and I know that Buffy thinks the world of you, but you’ve put me in a tight spot. My superiors don’t want civilians involved in--" Riley’s statement was cut short by sounds of battle. His troops were firing at a mob of vampires and demons, holding their own but doing minimal permanent damage. Riley barked out orders to his men; "Full power on the stun rifles. Fry ‘em!"
"If you’ll permit us," Giles offered, "we may be of assistance."
"Oh yeah?" Carter snapped at the retired librarian. "What can you do?"
"Well, how about--THIS!" In a single fluid motion, he allowed a small wooden stake to drop out of his sleeve and into his right hand, and threw it like a dart into the chest of a vampire that had risen from behind Carter. Carter turned around in time to see the hapless vampire disintegrate into a small pile of ash.
"Bogey at one o’clock!" Xander shouted, ducking back into the car long enough to pull out a crossbow. He quickly loaded a bolt onto the bowstring, cocked the weapon and fired. The bolt flew into the heart of another undead fiend, dusting it instantly.
Two more vampires were converging upon Riley and the Scoobs. Willow raised her right arm, revealing the herb packet she wore on her wrist, and shouted rapidly, "Henbane and holly to guard my back, Garlic and rue to repel the attack!" An invisible force hammered into the bodies of the two vampires, and several others behind them, knocking them flat on their backs, and burning them as effectively as the sun. The remaining vampires retreated to the field. Spike got back up on his feet, and asked Willow, "Not that I mind, missy, but why didn’t that spell dust me?"
"I guess that implant protected you, interfered with the spell," Willow answered nonchalantly. "Consider yourself lucky." Spike pursed his lips, wondering at her coldness.
Riley looked around at the evidence of the vampire attack. "Rather old-fashioned weapons you’re packing, Giles."
"They’re effective enough against vampires," Giles answered. "Sometimes the old ways work."
"And how did you take the others out, Willow?" Riley scratched his head over that puzzle.
"I’m a witch," Willow stated simply. "Wicca, to be exact."
"So, you just cast a spell and poof, no more vampires?" he countered skeptically.
"Pretty much, yeah."
Riley stood silent, considering his options. "You’ll forgive me if I’m a little suspicious. I’m a scientist by nature; I don’t accept magic that readily."
"Arthur C. Clarke once said," Giles offered calmly, "that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic."
"And there are more things in heaven and earth, right Horatio?" Riley thought further, then said, "You seem to know more about what’s going on here than we do. Would you care to tell us more about it later?"
"Perhaps," Giles smiled at Riley. "For now, you have weaponry, we have information, I say that we put our mutual animosity aside and pool our resources."
At length, Riley turned to Carter. "I’m going to take a chance and trust these people." Carter started to protest, but Riley cut him off; "Go gather the troops, we’ll be going in on my mark. Dismissed." Carter saluted his superior officer, and left. Riley then asked Giles, "Okay, friend, what do you suggest?"
"The two men behind this concentration of vampires are Quentin Travers and a demon called Belial. Belial will be assuming the identity of a human named Snyder. In all likelihood, they have Buffy with them, drugged and helpless. They have something major planned. While we take on the vampires inside, I will confront Quentin. We have a history together, and I feel that I should confront him first. Meanwhile, Willow will find Buffy and administer the anti-toxin. Buffy should recover within fifteen minutes of receiving it."
"And then what?"
Xander answered for Giles; "Then she kicks butt, we save the day, then we all go home, scarf lots of pizza and watch Jet Li movies."
Riley regarded Xander with a smirk. "You seem to have faith in Buffy."
"Hey," Willow answered. "She’s saved the world three times now. You?"
Riley half-smiled at Willow. He then turned to his men, and shouted, "We’re moving in, men. Let’s do the deed!" The forces of the Initiative marched toward the wreckage of Sunnydale High to face the monsters within.
"What about that?" Riley asked, pointing his head to indicate Spike.
"He gets a sword and some stakes, that’s it," Giles said as he passed weapons around to the others. "I don’t trust him with a ranged weapon like a crossbow." To the Slayerettes, he added, "The first sign of betrayal from our peroxide poster child, you know what to do."
"Got it, he’s a pincushion," Xander said. Willow and Anya nodded in silent accord.
"All right, people," Giles announced, crossbow in hand, a bandoleer of stakes over his shoulder. "Let’s move in!"
And the battle was joined.