DISCLAIMER: The only thing that is mine is the inspiration that had melded these two worlds together. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stonyman Farm, the Executioner, et all, belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction done for entertainment purposes only.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Continuing props to Pat Kelly. I may have taken it my own way, but you helped lay the foundation. Additional thanks to Kinetic Kid, who's Faith/Tara fics are what gave me the kick to take this past the single chapter it had been for 4 years or so.
SPOILERS: Season 7, nothing specific. As far as Stonyman Farm I may even contradict any big happenings but Stonyman Farm was always secondary to the actual Executioner books for me.
SETTING: This is a sequel to Life on the Farm which was an alternate version of season 6. So the events here will be a continuing elaboration which will draw some things from season 7.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Declaration of War
By Dark Wyldchilde
Final Operation Report-The Lock
(See attached files, Sunnydale CA, the Hellmouth, Second in Command: Riley Finn, Chief Medical Officer: Samantha Finn, Head of Occult Intelligence: Tara Maclay, as well as more general files on the nature of the infernal threat.)
As per orders I infiltrated Sunnydale California and proceeded to assess the nature and level of the threat. While the demonic presence in the town held it's own inherent dangers the Hellmouth itself posed a far greater concern.
Both research and actual encounters have shown that it is a gateway that will allow infernal forces to bring in both troops and material that would allow them to tip the scales in their battle with humanity.
In simpler terms, if the Hellmouth permanently opens, the world ends, and I only wish that were an exaggeration. (See attached reports: Previous Openings.)
Those facts combined with my own recommendations have heave led to the creation of the installation now known as "The Lock".
The Lock's primary purpose will to be just that, to "lock" the mouth of Hell closed, and guard over potential opening. Guarding that will consist of both physically securing the precise location of the Hellmouth as well as securing the greater Sunnydale area against those hostile entities that seek access.
Failing that the Lock has been prepared to make entry into this world as costly as possible for demonic invaders.
The exact nature of those measures is in a separate document that is classified for higher clearance levels.
The secondary purpose is to facilitate the training of individuals as to the true nature of the supernatural threat. Training that will consist of both the means to combat the various threats (stakes, silver bullets, and other methods) as well as classroom instruction on analyzing occult intelligence. (Filtering out useful information from ancient prophecies and the like.)
The installation is now up and running and is nearing full capacity. I am currently borrowing some skilled personnel from the Farm, but am currently seeking replacements with the help of my officers Riley Finn and Samantha Finn covering the military personnel while Tara Maclay also screens for the capacity to handle occult knowledge, both mentally and morally.
At this point no large scale supernatural threats have been identified though Tara Maclay continues with our research department to attempt to locate prophecy that may warn of any impending concerns.
Small scale threats are being used by units circulating in for training in combating paranormal hostiles. There has been such success with their efforts that I am pleased to report the first drop in mysterious deaths since the town started keeping reliable records of such things.
There are other paranormal concerns, but have seemed regulated to a sort of "recreational user" like the campus Wiccan group that has shown a rapid upswing in actual supernatural potential. They are monitored as a safety precaution, but none have warranted direct action at this point.
I will make a special note for the Scooby Gang. I have already provided files on the players, and will update their current status here as a unit their effectiveness has started to level off. While I would not consider them anywhere near an effective fighting force at the moment they have finally reached the point where that could be a future possibility.
Something that also includes the possibility of them taking hostile action against this installation. While we are not engaged in forbidden activities like the Initiative there is a strong possibility that the in groups current state they could be unstable enough to convince themselves we are a threat.
Thankfully the majority of the group is convinced of our friendly intent. The two primary concerns are the Watcher Rupert Giles and the civilian caster/computer expert Willow Rosenberg.
Buffy and Dawn Summers as well as Alexander Harris are all friendly enough to warrant no active concern.
While I will continue to file status reports this report is to update the Lock's status to active.
While Faith stood at the head of a long meeting table, she still wore her favorite mixture of leather and darker colors as she addressed the assembled soldiers. Tara was dressed in brighter colors, but as eclectic as her girlfriend and C.O. The rest of the Lock's command staff was present, but they opted for regulation fatigues. While Faith was not a stickler for protocol they were and she was smart enough not to try to "force" them to lighten up.
Instead she got right down to business and picked up the power point device that brought up the first in a series of images. It was a crime scene of a murdered young woman, with a time, date, location and method of death. The series that followed all were similar with all the slain being young women, all slain within the past two weeks, all slain with bladed weapons.
As the last young lady vanished from the screen a table appeared with each victims name and a percentage. The top of the chart listed the percentage as "Odds of being called." All of the victims were pushing ninety percent and the dates actually seemed to have the highest ranked being the first slain.
Faith then took a long, deep breath. "One of our on going projects is to discover the exact methods the Watcher's Council uses to locate potential Slayers, so that we could find them first and train them properly. One method we had come up with was a profile. We were in the initial stages of running it when we learned that the hits we were getting were in the obits."
Samantha Finn had the unenviable task of performing an autopsy on one of the bodies, so she knew what Faith's nod meant. "While the autopsy I performed matched the details from the other murders. I uncovered several interesting facts. The first is that all the murders were carried out with similar wide, curved blades. There is also the presence of bruising that leads me to think she had multiple attackers. Other murders had similar marks where the girl presumably put up more fight then a single attacker could overcome. What really stood out was that the girl had a denser musculature then any girl of her age and build should have. I am presuming that this is to allow her body to function under the enhanced stresses generated by the full measure of power gained when called."
Faith took another breath, more to let the news sink in then because she needed to. "While we do not think we are compromised you will be noticing a security increase, but that's not why we're here. Something is killing potential Vampire Slayers and as the Slayer I have been having dreams of the killings."
She knew that part of being assigned to the Lock was a briefing on her capabilities, and while that didn't necessarily make believers out of them it kept them quiet until the nature of Sunnydale did.
"In the dreams I witness humanoid figures in dark robes, all with out eyes. Instead occult symbols carved into the healed-over flesh where the sockets would be."
That lead to a nod to Tara and the witch took a calming breath, and then another, before stepping into the type of command that went well beyond simply conversing with the researchers she had been assigned. "They were identified as Harbingers. As in "Harbingers of the First Evil". A-an" She paused, but kept from cursing herself as she fought not to stutter. "An entity that was encountered almost four years ago w-when it tried to get the h-hero Angel to commit suicide."
Faith knew her lover was very uncomfortable, both in having to address the troops and fight down her speech impediment. So she met the woman's eyes and softened her gaze to let Tara know that she would take care of the rest. "The First Evil is reported to be made of the essence of every evil thought or act. While we have no means of verifying those claims it has followers. The ones we know about, the Harbingers, are further detailed in your reports." That was followed by the sounds of shuffling paper as the reports were opened to the page that detailed the figures, though as this point the representation was obviously copied out of an ancient tome. "Though previous encounters with other 'dark divinities' have taught us to be ready for non-conventional followers as well."
Faith gave them a moment. "Known facts about the First are also detailed, but we're assuming that there is far more to it. Right now all we know is that it is immaterial and capable of assuming the forms of the dead, though it also shows the capacity to access their memories. So for the foreseeable future any deaths that occur will fall under the procedures for a solider being turned."
"We have a better guess as to it's motives. The first modern encounter is included, but it's objective was the removal of the hero Angel."
To his credit Riley didn't flinch at the vampire's name but he brought up a good point. "Why didn't it just send legions of these Harbingers after him?"
Faith nodded. "Presumably because if it presented a physical threat then the Scoobies would have had something to unite against. Instead it tried to lead everyone to think he had simply gone mad."
He then made another point. "So this could be seen as an escalation."
Faith nodded. "And we think we know why. This thing seems to target key personnel and with Sam's realization that the Potentials are both physically as well as supernaturally prepared to accept the gift we think that the First wants take out all those who could be called, and then take me out. Which would extinguish the Slayer line."
Riley continued to try to both compliment and contradict Faith as any good second in command should. "Have we contacted anyone else about this?"
Faith rolled her tongue. "Our relations with the Council are stressed, but it's almost certain they have intel we could use. So we need to weigh contacting them versus covert action. The Scoobies are a potential in, but there are stresses there as well, and the added concern that we can't completely trust what they will relay."
"Right now we are going to continue gathering intel. Now that will be primarily handled by our research people and the command staff, but the field units need to be briefed on the Harbingers so that they can report any sightings as well as attempt dead or alive captures."
"We are also going to start putting the potential Slayers under protective custody. We have already been using our contacts in the justice department to spread word of a snuff film ring that has been specializing in teens, and marked our potentials as targets. Closer to home we will be working with the Farm to have field units do protective surveillance on the girls. More action will be taken once we know more. Any questions?"
While Faith could see her second in command had a few he seemed content to wait until they were alone. Mrs. Finn seemed to know that her contributions would be limited for the moment and Tara looked ready to head back to the Lock's growing library. So Faith dismissed the meeting and waited for her second in command to speak.
She grinned. "If you need permission to speak freely go nuts."
He gave a small smile in turn and shook his head. "Not needed. I just want to discuss contacting the Council since you and I are the most likely candidates."
Faith nodded. "I considered Tara, and while I know she could handle it I also think that anyone dealing with the Council will have to be ready to play the heavy."
"So that leaves you or me."
Faith nodded much like she just did. "The drawback is that you would HAVE to make contact through the Scoobies, and that holds the same problems if I made contact through the Scoobies."
They had both been standing, but Riley leaned back against the conference table. "Their hostility."
Faith crossed her arms over her chest. "It doesn't help that the Watcher is one of the most hostile."
He had been looking away, but then he met her eyes. "Tara could probably deal with that." She didn't verbalize the question, but her gaze asked plenty and he continued. "Your right that someone dealing with the Council would have to play hardball, BUT we have several friendly elements within the Scooby Gang that wouldn't require that kind of handling. If anything they would respond better to a softer touch."
Faith kept the gaze. " But Tara wouldn't want to spy for us either."
He rolled his jaw. "And normally we wouldn't ask her, but if this IS the First and if it IS trying to exterminate the Slayer line then even she would probably realize the need. Still, she wouldn't have to spy really. She could lay it all out, I mean chances are Buffy's been having the same dreams as you."
Faith clucked her tongue appreciatively. "Good point. Now, the Council itself?"
Riley shook his head in a short, but smooth motion. "They won't help willingly, period. We've both read Tara's reports from the battles with Glorificus and the Council was perfectly happy to keep Buffy in the dark until she forced the issue. I think we will have to do the same."
Faith arched a single brow. "The question is how much force? We could ruin Tara's shot before she ever takes it."
There was a long break as the two mulled over that point until Faith's expression settled. "Of course, I doubt that's changed." Not bothering to have Riley voice the question she elaborated. "The Council didn't share with them then, there's not reason to think the Council is sharing intel with them now."
Riley nodded once. "More likely the Council's keeping it close to their chest."
"Okay, put teams to work doing electronic scouting. Passports, bank accounts, etc. Primarily we've just been keeping an eye to see if they come towards me. Now I want to know where they are and where they are going. Should point us to a central location. Though we already know of the main headquarters, try to get us some eyes on them." While she had been standing still Faith began pacing as if to keep up with the thoughts gaining momentum in her mind.
Riley however stayed put. "I'll contact Leo over at the Justice Department."
Faith paused long enough to look at him quickly. "Good, with the Peace Accords we should be able to label the Watcher's suspicious enough, BUT be sure Leo passes along that they may be alert. After Striker and I killed the head of the Council they may be a bit more mil-spec."
"Not likely." Faith gave him a questioning glance as he explained. "No, I've been tapping old Initiative contacts and the word in the demon hunting world is that the Council has shown no real changes. Sure, they have their black ops units, but no signs of any large scale improvement in personnel or equipment."
Faith held his gaze. "Good, could be a front, but the Council isn't usually that subtle. Okay, sniff out the Council. Tara will contact the Scoobies, and I will run down some of my own leads."
"It's the adventure of a lifetime son." While Calvin James knew the dangers of letting one's mind wander during an operation, being immersed in the void of the ocean's depths often left a person's mind trying to make up for the missing stimulus while being swallowed by the lightless, soundless depths.
Of course remembering the words of the Navy recruiter left him wanting to laugh around his scuba mask he was able to restrain the impulse. When he first enlisted it was not a matter of seeking adventure, but rather seeking an escape from crushing poverty and a hopeless future that captured so many other young black men born to the meanest streets Chicago ever spawned.
Still, he found adventure all right. First as a combat medic in the Navy SEALS, and later serving in the same role for Phoenix Force, Stony Man Farm's international arm.
Right now both sets of his skills were being tapped for a underwater rescue mission where his dive skills would hopefully find their subject, and then his medical talents would hopefully revive them.
Then again when the subject is a 400 year old vampire who had been sealed in a stainless steel sarcophagus and tossed to the bottom of the sea it's anyone's guess how it will work out.
Calvin wasn't alone for this mission. With Slayer herself joining in, the dive team was completed with Raphael Encizo, a Cuban expatriate trained by the CIA for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Up top Herman "Gadgets" Schwarz was manning the sensors that had gotten them to this point as well as keeping an eye on the boat.
Two quick clicks over their radios signaled Raphael had found something, and a quick check of the locator beacons all three divers were wearing lead C.J. right to the site. Though Slayer was the least experienced of the three divers she was qualified and with her superhuman strength she was already there and helping to attach the air bags that would allow them to raise the vampire's watery grave.
As Gadgets helped to get their cargo on board Calvin quickly climbed out of the water to begin the second part of the operation. Moving to the galley he set up seven IV stands and put a pint of human blood in each while waiting for the other three to carry the vampire in.
There were a few quizzical expressions as Angel was carried in and put on the table, but they were ignored as the needles were slid into major arteries at the knees, elbows, heart and each side of the neck.
"Oh." Echoed softly from Faith as she realized what was going on, but was the only one it seemed as two gazes asked silent questions. "Those are the major arteries in the body and by hitting them he's going to be able to get blood into Angel that much faster since it won't have to circulate as far."
The two Stony Man warriors nodded, but the medic gave her a raised brow. "That's right, but how did you know?"
Faith shrugged. "One on one a vamp tends to go for the neck, but group feeds tend hit those points."
Calvin nodded, but the Cuban's temper seemed to be getting to him as he poised a question. "So why are we helping this guy anyway?"
Faith didn't budge or even blink. "Because if it weren't for him I wouldn't be here right now... I'm not going to defend his past, hell HE wouldn't defend his past, but his present has been too damn valuable not to keep him in play. This new baddie that's after the slayer line came after him personally at one point."
Raphael relented a little bit, but didn't quite seem satisfied. "So what? He found God?"
Faith bit her lip a moment before replying. "More had God forced on him. While he had been a sort of evil-prodigy for a good hundred years he finally picked the wrong victim, and her family placed a curse on him, they returned his soul."
Gadgets joined the conversation at that point while C.J. kept treating the patient. "Yeah, and now he tries to atone by doing good deeds, I remember your report. My question is if there's anything of that guy left?"
With that question the three turned to the medic who shook his head. "His body is soaking up blood like a damn sponge, but there's no sign of consciousness yet. Once there is I'll start a feeding tube from an 8th stand, and hopefully that will do the trick. Otherwise..." He finished the trail off sentence by looking to a wooden stake laying amongst his medical tools.
Faith was shaking her head as she stepped forward. Placing her hand on the stake she picked it up and met the eyes of her fellow soldiers. "If it has to be done, I'll do it. I owe him that."
"Someone here to see you ma'am." Tara shot the soldier as much of a glare as her normally gentle demeanor allowed, to the perhaps predictable result of a friendly grin from the glares recipient. To be fair though Tara WAS wearing fatigues since she was moving around the outside of the armory to take some solar calculations for the prophecy she was working on.
The "someone" was Dawn Summers and Tara's expression quickly warmed to the smile everyone recognized. "Hey Dawnie!" As she gave the teenager a hug the soldier nodded, and after a return nod from Tara left the two ladies alone.
There was a quirk to the teen's brow as she took in the sight of Tara in regulation fatigues. "So your like officially a soldier now?"
A look so similar came to Tara's face one would reason Dawn picked it up from her. "Yes, I mean I think so. The guys treat me like I am."
The got a grin from Dawn. "That's probably because they're afraid of Faith."
The witches full lips curled into a smile. "Possibly, but I'm wearing these because I might start to attract attention if I'm seen wandering around in civilian clothes at all hours."
"So it's like camouflage?"
Before answering Dawn's question Tara put a arm around the girl's shoulders. "Yep, but I don't think you're visiting to give me fashion tips. Is something wrong?"
The frown was noticeable as well as the sorrowed tone to the reply. "Yeah, Buffy's having dreams, slayer dreams, and Giles is being a butt head about telling you guys about them. Even though Faith's a slayer and totally going to be having the same dreams! Right?"
The last word came out as a plaintive question and Tara gave a hug before replying. "Were the dreams of young women being killed by Harbingers?"
Dawn picked up on that right away. "Harbingers? You mean like those guys who tried to get Angel to kill Buffy?"
Tara blinked a second... they WERE trying to get Angel to turn, but the way the First wanted Angel to turn was to kill Buffy. She had to swallow a couple times to get her suddenly dry throat moist enough to talk. "Yes Dawnie. Faith's been having dreams where Harbinger's are killing young girls." Tara paused a second and then decided to use her "prerogative" and release an important fact. "We then researched her dreams and found out the girls being slain are potentials."
Tara shaked her head with a soft smile. "Sorry sweetie, potential slayers. Girls who haven't been called, but could be."
"Ohhhh, ok. Buffy just saw guys in robes, but that just means she didn't see their eyes or..." Dawn blanches as she continues to speak. "Lack there of."
Tara took a deep breath and held it a moment before speaking. "Dawnie, would you please call your sister and tell her I'd like to take you guys out to lunch?"
"You're going to change first, right?"
Tara rolled her eyes. "Right."
Tara couldn't help but feel comforted by Galen's presence over her right shoulder. A member of the British Special Air Service who could trace his family back to the Celtic Druids he had been flagged by the Farm for his military record and passed onto the Lock for his mystic background.
A background that he more then lived up to as he became one of Tara's finest students in her spell casting classes. Even Tara heard some of the gossip that the reason he was such a star pupil was because he had a crush on his teacher. Tara ignored the whispers however, because not only was she openly gay, she was hopelessly in love with the base commander.
There was the fact that when Riley set up procedures for the current threat of the First that dictated command staff be assigned additional security Galen was the first to volunteer for her personal detail, but that didn't mean anything did it?
Either way, she could not deny the sense of comfort she was given by the fact that he seemed not only willing and able to kill at her command, but almost eager. Such thoughts would normally never come from the all too serene sorceress, but as perhaps the only person Buffy had been able to talk to about Spike's attempted rape she found herself all too ready to give the command.
That is if there wasn't an entirely unknown woman that Xander had brought by while Tara was bringing Dawn home. It seems her name was Nancy and she had an unfortunate encounter with a worm that weighed in around a ton and had eaten her dog.
While Tara had already been trying to reach out to the Summer's sisters and Xander they were currently short-handed as Willow and Giles had left for England for reasons Tara preferred not to contemplate too closely. So even if she hadn't felt the need to keep an eye on Spike she would have volunteered.
Deciding that research would be a great way to distract herself from the stressful situation she pulled Nancy away from the stressful situation in the Summer's living room and tried to make her comfortable in the dining room.
"What is their problem?"
While Tara assumed Nancy didn't want all the gory details it was only natural to focus on something normal like the all too human drama then to focus on a face to face encounter with the supernatural. "People are still people, even when those people do extraordinary things..."
The calmer environment seemed to do the trick as Tara was able to get the woman relaxed and relating the details of her encounter while her apprentice quickly wrote down the information.
Unfortunately while she was outside calling her research staff the drama reached a boiling point and Nancy decided to leave. Thankfully Tara had made enough of an impression on her that she stopped to say goodbye before doing so.
Xander was already accompanying her, and while Tara didn't want to leave it to him alone she couldn't deny that his last seven years of experience left him capable enough of walking a woman home. She also couldn't deny that look of desperation that ghosted across his face when Tara was ready to ask Galen to accompany them.
Tara's stride was steady and sure as she walked back into the house. So much so that the room fell silent on her entry. Dawn smiled openly, and even Buffy had a small smile hosting across her lips. They only got a fraction of her attention however as she focused on the vampire.
"I know, I know the things that you don't want me to. I also know the things that they do not." That got an alarmed expression from Spike and confused ones from the slayer, her sister and the sorcerous soldier.
"I do not care. What you need to understand is that it does not exempt you from the consequences of your actions, but rather makes you more accountable, but you get that. Don't you?" The reserve that Spike seemed to have when walking in the door seemed to be crumbling a bit. "That is the only reason you are still standing here, forget it and you won't be."
Spike looked away while still nodding, both Galen and Dawn were grinning from ear to ear, while Buffy knew just enough to be confused. Tara however didn't allow time for any recovery as she started handing out assignments.
"Buffy, Spike, Galen and myself will head to the scene of the attack while Dawn will stay here and handle communications..." Dawn looked ready to protest until Tara finished. "While doing her homework." The teen deflated under the assorted grins.
Strangely enough Spike is the first to speak as they head towards the scene. "So Glinda, when did you become the not-so good witch?"
Tara's tone didn't waver in the slightest. "When I realized that while good and evil are useful abstracts results are what's more important."
Buffy's tone didn't waver either, but it wasn't so sure sounding. "Huh?"
Tara warmed a bit then, even allowing one of her lopsided smiles. "That means that were I say to have Galen shoot someone in the back it might be fighting dirty, but as long as the person was a threat it's ok." The fact that they were walking two by two with Tara behind Buffy and Galen behind Spike carried an implied threat. "Sure it might not be nice, but as long as no good people are hurt I've learned not to loose sleep over it."
Silence then fell, but rather then simply being uncomfortable it was more laden with the potential of Tara's words.
Once the reach the site of the attack Spike steps up and starts examining the hole left behind by the worm creature, and Galen is a step behind as Spike turns and addresses him. "Careful mate, I don't think they can issue you a new head if this one gets bitten off."
Galen didn't blink as he pulled a Mini-Uzi out from underneath his coat. "That's why we let Mr. Sub-Machine Gun go first." With the gun in one hand and a compact flashlight in the other he joins Spike in circling the hole.
Buffy blinks a few times before seeming to realize something and turning to Tara. "Look, no offense, but I've never really been the damsel type. I'm going to go join them."
Tara smiles, pitching her voice so Buffy's enhanced hearing could pick her up while Spike's would not. "There's only so much room around the hole Buffy, and I was hoping to ask how you are doing?"
Buffy replied in much the same tone. "Me? I'm ok... I mean as ok as I can be with all things considered, but what did you mean about Spike?"
Tara voice dropped a bit farther. "He has a soul Buffy, his soul. I don't know how he did it, but I can see that it's there. It's why I didn't have him killed on sight, but it's also why I'm going to watch him closely." Tara went ahead and answered the question she could see forming behind Buffy's eyes. "Some of the world greatest monsters have been entirely human."
"So Spike's still breathing? Well not breathing..." Tara and Galen both nodded at Riley's question while the three sat in Riley's office. "And Anya is now a hostile?"
Tara's expression had softened now that she was back at the Lock and the quirk of her lips was gentle. "I don't know. Xander convinced her to reverse the spell that she used on the boyfriend."
Riley's expression was as unsure. "But she IS a vengeance demon again?"
Tara nodded. "BUT she seems reluctant, she seemed really focused on Spike's soul."
Finn's nod was reluctant. "So what would you suggest?"
Tara's expression calmed at that. "Monitor her. I couldn't find any confirmed deaths to her actions, so at this point she may be able to be cultivated as an intelligence resource. Though that means we will have to observe stricter security around her to assure the opposition doesn't try the same."
That got a full blown grin from Riley. "Wow, I knew we'd make a solider out of you sooner or later."
Tara was starting to blush as Galen started in. "You should have seen it sir. She was exhibiting impressive command presence while we were out in the field."
The blush started to deepen as Riley gave a friendly shake of his head. "Doesn't surprise me at all. Dismissed Galen, I'm going to talk with Tara about our next steps."
The Celt nodded once before standing up and turning to Tara. "It was a pleasure working with you ma'am." Tara was able to give a shy smile and nod before the soldier turned and walked out the door.
Tara was greeted by a grin as she turned back around. "That boy has it bad. He's lucky, and I quote "I don't blame him one damn bit for falling for her." Tara's expression became slightly pained. "Ok, ok. I'll stop, but if he ever stops being a gentleman you can talk to me if Faith's out of town."
Tara was nodding. "How is she?"
"Last word was they recovered Angel and successfully revived him."
Tara interrupted at that. "I should call her. Dawn brought up a good point that when the first was trying to get Angel to turn it wanted him to do it by killing Buffy."
Finn's eyes widened much like Tara's had when Dawn brought up the point. "Damn, we never would have suspected a thing. Get back to me once you've talked to her and we'll start planning our next move."
Tara got a sly grin on her face and kept her eyes locked with Riley's.
"What?" He then gave a small laugh. "Dismissed."
Tara was laughing gently as she got up and made her way to the locked cybernetic command center. Patterned after the one at Stonyman Farm, and now run by it's former alumnus Huntington Weathers, it was the electronic heart of the facility where intel was put together before being circulated back out to be the lifeblood of the men and women risking it all out in the field.
The kindly African-American, former college professor in question gave the young woman a smile as she asked him a question. "Could you please raise Slayer for me?"
There was no hesitation as he entered the commands to radio the base commander and a second later a well familiar voice was coming over the lines. Yeah, what's up?"
Hey Sweetie. We've got some new intel for you and we were hoping for a sit-rep."
"Sit-rep?" Are you trying to turn me on?" There was a fond tone to Faith's amusement.
A tone Tara mirrored. "Don't blame me that you can't talk like normal human beings."
That got a full-blown laugh. "Fair enough. C.J.'s blood transfusion brainstorm has Angel mostly mobile at this point, but sadly he doesn't have much since the First took him on a trip down memory lane."
Tara broke in at that point. "Dawn brought up the point that when the First was trying to turn him it wanted him to do so by killing Buffy."
There was a definite pause and when Faith spoke again her voice was all business. "Damn, out of the mouths of babes. It probably would have sent him after me next if it had been successful and we wouldn't have suspected a thing. I'll bring it up with the big guy since he's already on board, but he needs a favor from us. Cordellia Chase went missing at the same time he did and she's still MIA."
Tara nodded to a technician who started opening up search protocols. "Give us what you got and we'll start looking."
Faith did so and then continued. "Gadgets was inquiring about our search for potentials stateside while Raphael and Calvin thought Phoenix Force could help out internationally. With this revelation that the First has probably been setting this up for years now I'm going to see if the Farm can spare them for the search. I'm also going to let Striker know what we're up to so he can opt in if he's free. Can you put the packages together?"
"Of course. Is it that bad?" There was a definite tone of worry in Tara's voice.
"I hate playing catch up, and the longer we have to play it the worse our odds become. The sooner we can get ahead of this the better. Tell Riley that we can't pussy foot around anymore. I want him to head to England where he'll meet with Phoenix Force if they are free, otherwise with a group of blacksuits and won't come home till we know what the Council knows. Can you handle things while he's gone?"
Tara paled a bit. "M-me?"
Faith's voice was warm. "Baby, you got this. You may not have realized it yet, but you've earned the respect of everyone there. I'll be back soon, but I know you can handle it."
Looking around everyone seemed to have more confidence in her then she felt, but it gave her the strength to nod. Then realizing Faith couldn't hear her nod she cleared her throat. "O-" She swallowed. "Ok. I'll see you when you get back then."
"Love you, too."
Huntington looked to be engrossed in putting together their gathered information for Able Team, Phoenix Force, and Striker, but he still spoke up without looking from his work. "She's right you know."
Tara's mind was obviously elsewhere. "Hum?"
"Slayer, she's right. You're ready for this. I can see it, we all can." The man's words were back up by an assortment of smiles and nods as Tara rose to her feet."
"I-" She took a deep breath. "I need to meet with Riley and give him Faith's orders."
"Spare a fag mate?"
Looking quickly over his shoulder Rupert Giles realized the fellow over his shoulder was simply asking for a cigarette. Muttering quietly to himself he couldn't help but whisper. "I've been in America too long." Speaking in a normal tone he addressed the man. "I'm sorry I don't smoke."
At this point the other person had stepped close, and when he spoke again his British accent was still obvious, but was also much softer. "That's all right Rupert. I've got my own, but I was hoping you'd join me in that pub across the street for a pint."
The veteran watcher's eyes narrowed, and the veteran soldier, David McCarter noticed. "Now, now Rupert. It's an old friend who would like to catch up, nothing more."
He met the former SAS commando's eyes. "I have nothing to say to Faith."
David didn't falter. "That's why she's not here. It's another soldier of your acquaintance, one who didn't feel the need to draw his weapon."
The suspicion was heavy is Giles voice. "Riley is here in England?"
That got a nod. "Right he is, and it isn't for the lovely weather. Listen, this isn't a threat, and as long as you don't go taking anyone hostage it'll be nothing more then a few friendly words over pints."
"And if it get's... heated?"
That actually got a grin as David McCarter pulled out one of his Player cigarettes and fired it up. "Then you not half as smart as they led me to believe."
Rupert Giles loosened his posture, something both men realized was his preparing for possible fight or flight. "They?"
David took a deep drag, though an experienced warrior who could respond with violence at any moment his posture was completely calm. "They, Faith, Riley, Faith's cute little bird Tara, those they."
"Care to tell me what it's about?"
There was a laugh around another smoke-filled puff. "Not out here amongst, God, the Queen and any who might pass by."
The Watcher's reluctance was obvious, but he didn't resist any farther as he followed into the pub. Inside it was the typical brass and dark wood fixtures that make a pub, a "pub", but a great deal of them were passed by as Rupert was directed back to one of the private rooms for parties, meetings and the like.
Despite the presence of a couple pints of Guinness it didn't seem much of a party as the only person standing there was Riley Finn, and since McCarter left with a nod after delivering the Watcher the two men were left face to face waiting for the silence to break.
Riley did so with a voice that couldn't be called pleasant, but wasn't hostile either as he sat down. "Hello Rupert, would you like something to drink?"
Giles took a seat as well. "I'm fine, thank you. Now, what was so urgent to require this meeting?"
Riley realized pleasantries would just make things worse so he started in. "The First. Our slayer has been dreaming of it, and from what we hear your's has as well."
Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning them. "Dawn."
"She was right to do what she did Rupert. She also made the connection that none of us had." That got a bit more attention at the glasses found their way back to Giles face while Finn continued. "The first time you encountered the First it was trying to get Angel to turn to evil, and it's suggested method was killing Buffy."
The raising of the watcher's eyebrows showed that he hadn't considered that point. "But what does that connect to exactly?"
There was an obvious nod from Finn. "In the dreams Buffy has been having she has been seeing young women being chased down and slain by men in dark robes. From Faith's dreams she has identified them as Harbingers."
There was a reluctant nod from the other side of the table. "I myself had been wondering what lie under their hoods."
The solider continued his story seamlessly past the interruption. "And the young women are potentials."
The watcher picked up the idea almost as smoothly. "Potentials? As in potential slayers?"
Here Riley allowed himself his first deception in order to hide the Lock's efforts to recruit their own potentials. "My wife Samantha performed an autopsy, and found some results consistent with Faith's physical. Our working theory is that the potential slayers all have some inherent capabilities that prepare them to accept the full power of a slayer if they are called."
The Watcher was too stunned to try to deny the connection and nodded dumbly. "Is this confirmed?"
"Yes, sadly there have been several bodies to examine, all killed by similar methods. The good news is that we've been working to take potentials into protective custody."
There was an exhale from the Englishmen. "We were afraid it was you. Willow said that her attempts to locate the girls magically were being blocked by what she thought was Tara."
That got a bit of surprise from Finn. "She's practicing?"
Giles had a flash of anger, but reasoned past it quickly and quieted it in his own mind. "It was touch and go for a bit, but once those doors are opened in the mind they can not be closed, and thankfully Willow finally allowed herself to receive some help bringing her abilities under control."
The other persons smile was genuine. "I really am glad to hear that. I'm also glad to hear that some of the mystical enquires after the girls were coming from you."
"Some, but Tara also has indicated that some of the attempts to pierce the protective spells she put up were coming from darker sources."
"It's not a coincidence I am here in force. While partially it was in case the Council decided to go after our assets again " Riley could tell Giles wanted to protest, but gave a look that silenced it. "BUT we are BOTH under attack and "
Finn's attempt to warn the Watcher about the mutual threat they were facing was interrupted by a voice coming over Riley's earpiece. Recognizing the voice of the burly Canadian Garry Manning, Riley held up a hand for silence as he listened. "Heads up Finn, I have a Catholic Priest at the bar asking for a Rupert Giles, spinning some non-sense about a wife concerned with his drinking."
Finn's eyes glanced over to the Watcher. "Giles, unless you have a wife you never told us about who's worried you are drinking too much we are about to have company."
Rupert Giles was on his feet instantly and looking towards the door, Riley mimicked the action, but instead of looking towards the door was pulling the Englishman to a side door used to bring in food and drink from the kitchen.
Rupert seemed ready to protest. "Should we see "
Riley was shaking his head, and spoke up over the protests of the staff as they strode through the kitchen. "That's what my backup is for."
Just like David led able team the daredevil had taken it upon himself to lead the back up teams response. "You lookin for Rupert?"
"I am my son." The clergyman in question was average in appearance with brown hair and brown eyes. The only thing of distinction was that he seemed to be one of the new "hip" priests as he was in jeans with his long sleeved black shirt and traditional white collar.
"So what's ol' Ripper done to get the Church on him now?" David appeared to be engrossed in lighting a cigarette, but was truly processing the locations of all his teammates while keeping his eyes open to see if the priest had any teammates of his own. "By the way." David interrupted. "What Church are you with exactly? I aint ever seen you around here before. Father? "
It was at that point David's line of questioning was interrupted when a cry went up in the kitchen. With that the kindly expression vanished from the Father's face to become a look of dreadful focus as he started towards the kitchen. "The name is Caleb."
David pulled out a Beretta 92-F. "On the ground Caleb!"
The only response was a growl and a fiendish glare over his shoulder as he continued towards the kitchen. While McCarter was known for his glib tongue he knew when talking had to be replaced by action. An action like putting a double tap of nine millimeter rounds into Caleb's head.
David however seemed more effected as he was left wondering what was worse. Caleb's non-reaction to be shot in the head twice, or the little bit of reaction he did give by bleeding black blood from the bullet holes.
While his first response was to run and regroup with his people the pub's inhabitants were still stunned so he kept snapping off methodical rounds with a similar accuracy while making a steady pace for a back door, forgotten in the mad rush for the front entrance.
Caleb turned to charge the Phoenix Force commando, but at that point the room had cleared enough that Garry Manning was comfortable snapping up the H&K sub-machine gun he had been carrying in a shopping bag. Chambered for the heavier .45 caliber round he milked out short bursts that were ripping through the priests chest.
Now that the room had mostly cleared McCarter pulled a fat grenade canister out of his coat pocket and hurled it at Caleb's feet. The demolitions expert Garry Manning had recognized the flash-bang grenade as soon as it was out and was already clamping his hands over his ears and shutting his eyes.
It was the Canadian's reaction that led Caleb to look back at his first attacker, and leave himself looking right at the grenade as it went off.
While the soldiers were rattled by the stun grenade Caleb was knocked prone and grabbing at his eyes while screaming. The two men took advantage by staggering to the entrance, and into the night. Where they were soon greeted by a van that came up so quickly it rocked as it came to a stop.
The final member of Phoenix Force, a former Army Ranger named T.J. Hawkins was at the wheel while Carl Johnson helped his teammates into the vehicle with the two of them Raphael Encizo, Riley Finn, and Rupert Giles.
Up until Mack Bolan showed up outside her cell Faith had little to have faith in, but as her rental car hurtled over rocks and past trees she hoped that her slayer senses and slayer reflexes would be up to driving down the side of a mountain in the middle of a rainy night.
While this was not her intended path an emergency call from Able Team told her that their planned rendezvous at a summer camp where the FBI had stashed the girls had turned into a desperate siege where the three Stony Warriors were all that stood between a couple dozen potential slayers, their wounded and dying federal escort, and a seemingly endless swarm of Harbinger of the First Evil.
Hope turned into actual prayer for Faith as her suspension gave another sickening sound of rending metal, but by some miracle the vehicle kept up it's mad dash down the mountain side.
What little part of her mind that wasn't focused on keeping her from crashing into one of the ancient tree trunks scattered along her path was thinking of the military hardware under a blanket in her back seat. Initially placed there so it was relatively close, but concealed from the eyes of passerby it may as well be in a lock box in the truck for Faith's inability to take her hands off the wheel and grab it.
The roar of Carl "Iron Man" Lyon's distinctive Atchison combat shot gun was the first indication she was getting close, but it had her ready as the trees STOPPED rather then thinned out and then she was past them, rocketing into the camp. Seeing a skirmish line of Bringers charging she slammed on her vehicles breaks and sent it into a slide that took the half-dozen out. Unfortunately she suffered too as the impact with so many was enough to send her vehicle rolling side over side over the already mangled forms of the First Evil's servants and crashing into another half-dozen who were joining the charge.
They were left masses of broken bone and rent flesh as well while Slayer's training and instincts kicked in. Knowing she was a sitting duck in the car she wrote off the gear in back and drew the ka-bar fighting knife she was carrying at the small of her back cutting her seat belt free, then dropping to the roof of the car she turned enough to deliver a full-force kick to the driver's side door.
It sprung free, and she tucked both legs beneath her as she hurled herself from the ruined vehicle. Three Harbingers had already closed, and one that was a little father then his brethren sliced at Faith's throat with a wickedly curved blade. Some sort of cry went up as she seemed to be recognized.
Her own knife in her right hand met the right handed attack with enough force to cast sparks. Almost instantaneously she brought up her left leg in a move that was part kick and part shove to send the Harbinger into his two companions.
Slayer senses blazing she realized another attack was coming at her and threw herself back and to the left where another Bringer blade was now slicing empty air. Like a magick trick her Colt .45 automatic was in her hand and pumped two rounds into the robed chest at almost skin touch range.
She brought both weapons to an X in front of her face to catch yet another dagger that was coming straight on, and was left in a struggle that she knew left her open for the packs of Harbingers to cut her up at their leisure, but couldn't let go or she would loose then and there.
The struggle was then resolved, but by a third party as the Bringer's skull was cracked open by the former LAPD detective's shotgun stock. Lyon's didn't waste any words as he grabbed Faith by the shoulder and started pulling her towards the main camp building where Herman "Gadgets" Schwartz and Rosario "Politician" Balances were raining down streams of fire from matching M-16 assault rifles.
Of course the men could handle the weapons as if they were extensions of themselves after serving with distinction with a young Sergeant Mack "The Executioner" Bolan in the hell grounds of South East Asia as Penetration Team Able they took the war far behind enemy lines and returned successfully each time. Returning stateside they were first recruited for Bolan's unsuccessful death squad he had formed as part of his war against the Mafia. They were still remembered by their Sergeant when he was approached by the government with the offer to found Stonyman Farm and fight civilizations enemies with official sanction.
Though Lyon's had started hunting Bolan as a member of the LAPD he couldn't help but admire the solitary crusader in his impossible task, and when that crusader offered him a chance to truly make a difference he readily became the leader of Bolan's old team and never looked back.
Though Bolan was a bit more hands-off in his relationship with the Government these days her training with the warrior had also taught her these men were both amongst the most dangerous as well as most honorable men in the world.
At first pushing her in front of him she had her footing and both were running to the cover of the doorway that the two men were guarding. Faith was the first to leap through and she immediately turned around to catch Lyon's as he charged through.
Finally able to stop and get her bearings she was greeted by a horrific sight. Of the thirty federal agents who had been sent to guard the camp only four remained. One wouldn't survive unless he was rushed to surgery immediately. Two more were walking wounded, but helping with the battle while the fourth and final survivor of the doomed team seemed relatively unscathed and was attempting to tend to his injured comrades while assisting in the defense of the building.
Able Team seemed high on morale, but dwindling on ammo. That didn't surprise Faith however as the men had pledged their lives to battling chaos, despair, and yes, evil so they were in their element battling to save these young women from brutal deaths.
Then there was the young women, girls in far too many cases. All of them potential slayers, all of them her heirs. The thought struck Faith deeply. She had accepted her end would not be a pretty one, and that was long before she had ever been called. Once she was called she hoped it would have some sort of purpose, and then once she was recruited by the Farm and had taken charge of the Lock she actually knew that when her time came it would be doing something that made the world a safer place.
Now looking at the huddled masses of terrified young women she allowed herself to think past that point. One of these girls, or one just like them somewhere else in the world would be called up to take her place. Possibly even being trained by her people to continue her fight against the evils of the world.
The thought was both deeply satisfying as well as highly motivating. She knew that their isolated location was making this siege a loosing battle, and unless they did something to break it they were done for. So with that thought in mind she turned to the fully functioning fed. "Does this camp have a bus?"
The agent appeared to be older, and if he wasn't leading the team when they came there was it obvious he had put himself in that position. "Yes, in that barn 50 yards to the northwest, but we can't get to it."
Faith's hair tossed as she shook her head no. "YOU can't, I'm going to. Gadgets! Were getting to that bus and you'll do whatever you have to get it running and get it here. I'll keep them off you while that happens."
The Feds looked dubious, and their leader spoke up. "We can't move..." With that he looked over to their heavily wounded friend, and saw that his wounds had gotten the best of him while they were planning. There was a look of pain on the mains face that was forced down before he continued. "Still, we should stay here and wait for back up!"
Slayer's wild mane of hair tossed once more. "There's no back up coming. Between the mountains and the rain I barely got the signal, and I couldn't raise anyone from where I was. I couldn't even get a signal back to tell you I was coming." Those words caused an uncomfortable flash on the face of all three Feds, but Faith ignored it as she kept on. "Ammo's dwindling, but their numbers aren't. If we don't move we die."
One of the younger, wounded agents cracked at that point. "What are THEY anyway?"
Faith sighed, and even allowed her shoulders to slump, behind her she felt Able Team shift a bit. "Short version is this. For thousands of thousands of years mankind lived with the idea of the supernatural, monsters, magick, spirits and the like. Then a thousand years ago humanity decided that was all wrong and none of it ever happened. Now think about that for a second..."
The silence was palpable.
Mack Bolan and Harold Brongola seemed to be in good mood as they walked into the Lock's computer central. Both were there to offer their help with the current concern, but in radically different ways.
Brongola was a highly placed official in the Department of justice who's work with Stonyman Farm had the ear of the President of the United States, several presidents of the United States as the Farm's men and women had been battling the enemies of America, and civilization in general for literal decades. In that regard he was essential in opening doors for allies and slamming doors in the faces of those hunting the same.
Mack Bolan's role in life was both far simpler, and far more difficult. The soldier himself will tell you that he had no idea where the vow of war everlasting he swore over the graves of his parents and sister would take him, but what no one could have seen was the number of people who would be inspired by his self-appointed struggle against savagery, and join him.
It was perhaps inevitable that the two men would join forces against a common foe, and it was only natural they would become friends after all the battlefields they would pull each other through. Hal was smiling at his friend. "What gets me is how easily we've adapted ."
Bolan smiled back. "It's just another front in the same war Hal. No different from packing the right gear when facing CBW."
The gave the federal official a moments pause. "Fair enough."
The two then paused and took in the Lock's control center. Hal gave sideways grin at his companion. "I know the Farm and the Lock share personnel, but that's almost eerie. Remind you of anyone we know?"
Of course he was referring to Barbara Price, the director of operations at Stony Man Farm. A blonde, she was responsible for coordinating all of the field operatives. The Lock's resident blonde Tara Maclay was stepping into a similar role with an incredible similarity as she was hunched over the shoulder of the former Farm computer expert and former cybernetics professor Huntington Weathers.
She had heard the two men enter, and after a few more words with Hunt she looked up and smiled. "Mr. Brongola, Mr. Striker." The words were accompanied by one of the blondes warm smiles and the men returned it.
Hal smiled. "Tara, what's the situation?"
"Phoenix Force and Riley have met with Mr. Giles, and he seems to be cooperating." The blonde then frowned deeply. The last word we got from Able Team was that they were heading to the summer camp, and Slayer was going to join them."
While "Don't ask, don't tell." was a common joke, the love the two women shared was no secret and her concern was obvious. Before anything could be said on the matter one of the technicians spoke up. "Phoenix Force is on the line."
The three turned to the immense screen at the front of the room as Tara gave a nod. It flickered to life with the face of Riley Finn. It was obvious the man was transmitting over one of their satellite-capable lap tops, and he seemed to be broadcasting from the inside of a moving vehicle.
Hal was the first to speak. "Finn, what's the situation?"
Riley didn't need any time to recognize the head of both facilities. "The Watcher's Council is destroyed."
While there was no pause in the soldier's report the entire room fell silent and focused on the screen. "We couldn't get close enough to determine the cause the Council's headquarters was destroyed by some sort of explosion. Rupert Giles confirmed that not only was it the headquarters, but the primary store of both personnel and resources.
The assembled military minds all knew the foolishness of such a maneuver, but they also knew the attitude of the Council and knew it would have made perfect sense to a group that considered them selves both infallible, and invincible.
Finn never stopped speaking. "We are now trying to find any Watcher's and potentials in England that weren't at the headquarters."
With that Finns fell silent, making room for questions, and Striker was the first. "Last reports indicate Rosenberg was with Giles. What is her status?"
Riley's eyes flickered to Tara, but his voice never faltered. "With us, and assisting in the search."
Tara was past flinching at her former lovers mention. "Does she need any assistance?"
Riley noticed, and smiled. "No ma'am, all signs say she's doing fine."
Realizing the ball was in her court Tara then spoke up. "Both Rupert and Willow know we are in Sunnydale. So you're not revealing anything by bringing them here. I will notify Buffy that you are on your way. Contact her when you get into town. Is there anything more?"
Riley was still grinning, it actually grew a bit. "No ma'am. Finn out."
Tara smiled. "The Lock, out."
Brongola wasn't smiling as he addressed their resident sorceress. "The Council is out of commission... what is that going to mean for us?"
Tara chewed her bottom lip a moment before responding. "Surprisingly little sir. We had already decided they were outdated and were seeking to prove... that anything they could do we could do better."
That got a grin from both men, and a significant portion of the room as she kept on. "Primarily it means that we will be able to do the things we were intending to do without fearing their interference."
Striker's eyes were narrowed in question. "You don't seem too broken up over their untimely demise."
Tara met the soldier with a steady stare. "They made repeated attempts on the life of the woman I love. That alone would keep me from feeling any compassion for them, but they repeatedly demonstrated that they were more concerned with controlling the Slayer then in aiding her in her work. So the only alarm I'm feeling is over the fact I find myself thinking 'Good Riddance'."
That seemed to alarm them as well, but rather then dwell on the topic she turned to Hunt. "Any word from Slayer or Able Team?"
That got a reluctant look as he keyed several commands. "The storm front is coming fresh off of the ocean and is dumping everything it has on the green side of the mountains in a storm front that is eating up radio signals and blocking out satellites. I'm sorry Tara, there's nothing from them."
The M-16 roared again and from the corner of her eye Faith saw two Harbingers crash to the ground in a bloody froth. Her own side kick caught one under the chin and crushed his windpipe with similar efficiency. Normally the soldier the Farm built inside her would be trying to quantify things like race, gender and such in a break down of the enemy, but at this point both the slayer and the soldier aspects of her were focused on survival for herself and those she was protecting.
Of course Gadgets would insist he doesn't need protecting, but she was keeping him in her awareness as the two finally came to the camp's makeshift garage. They didn't stop to see if the door was locked as Faith simply delivered a strong front kick that landed by the doorknob and sent the door crashing open without her having to break stride.
With her .45 out she was crouched low and Schwartz came in high above her as both scanned the room for any hostiles. Nothing stood out to either of them and they were working in such unison that they came to the realization at the same point and immediately and moved towards the bus.
Gadgets hustled to the front of the bus and lifted the hood to examine the engine, but not before handing Faith his auto-rifle. She looked around the walls of the room and was able to see the metal keys where they hung on the wooden wall.
As soon as her comrade finished his examination of the engine, and laid down to give a quick scan to the wheels and suspension Faith grabbed the keys and gave them to the commando while she ran to the door. When she heard him plop down into the drives seat she shouted. "How's the fuel?"
He shouted back. "Near enough to full!"
Without another word she shoved the doors to open as Herman turned the engine over. While he eased it out she ran up and jumped in, crouching down in the open doorway. Something that turned out to be a good idea as the Harbingers had been building themselves up to attack another building and had massed up outside.
Happily they had made the tactical blunder of standing close together, but whatever additional sense of support that gave them was short lived as it didn't stop the long ripping bursts Faith send crashing into their ranks.
As they spun to the ground the bus sped past only to come to a halt again in front of the camps main building. The three Fed's were the first out, but they stopped right at the entry and started waiving out the potentials. The girls didn't have them training to make them seem as sure as the officials, but they seemed all too eager to race for the apparent safety of the bus.
Lyons and Balances hung behind to cover the girls and the Feds as they escaped, only then allowing themselves to run for the bus, but as they were climbing on their third member spoke up from the drivers seat. "I don't know what it is, but it's incoming!"
Faith wasn't sure what it was either, but she didn't need her slayer senses to tell her it was inhuman. Eight feet tall if it was an inch it was half that distance wide at the shoulders. There was no hair on it's misshapen head, and it was dressed in rags as if someone else had to try to explain to it the point of clothing. It's intent was clear however as it charged towards the bus.
Laying the rifle against the console she didn't take her eyes off it as she spoke. "Get the girls out of here."
With that Faith leapt out of the door and charged the creature herself. What little part of her that feared someone may countermand her order was soothed by the sound of the engine starting back up and the wheels digging in for traction on the sodden ground.
Focused entirely on her target Faith leapt into a flying side kick to the creatures chest, only to find her motion cut short by an entirely successful, and entirely ineffective contact. Made all the worse because it turned out the creature was not only tough, but fast as it managed to bring up it's right hand and grab her round the ankle of the foot that had connected with her chest. It then proved itself strong as it used the hold to send her flying away.
The wind was knocked from Faith as she hit the forest floor and rolled, but she managed to regain her feet just in time to see the creature hurtling towards her. It's charge allowed her to take a fraction of a second to appraise it, and from the fangs and facial structure she took it to be a relative of the vampire, a mutant relative, but kin none the less.
That was the last thing she could concentrate on as she sidestepped at the last second and made a valiant effort to break her fist on the creatures chin. It made a similar effort as it regained it own feet with similar speed and swung it's own gigantic fist in an effort to crack open Faith's head.
In a move both practiced as well as instinctive Faith drew a wooden stake and drove it at the creatures heart, and again connected. Again to no effect as the stake splintered, much like her encounter with the ancient vampire Kakistos. Remembering how she ended that with a broken two by four through the vampire's heart she started looking around for options here in the forest depths.
That however provided a distraction as the undead beast in question as able to wrap both it's hand around her throat and lift her up to it's height as it strangled her. Though panic and instinct were trying to take control of her Faith felt her training kick in as she grabbed both the creatures wrists and lift both her booted feet to kick it straight in the face. Though the force sent waves of agony through her body with the impact the creature seemed to notice and Faith delivered two more in succession.
The grip did not break however and she remembered a close combat drill for disarming. Hoping the creature was at least close to human she dropped her hands from supporting her weight as it's wrists and brought her hands up on the insides of it's arms. It was proven to share that bit of neuro-muscular similarity was humans as it's hands were jarred open and Faith fell to the ground.
She skittered to the left as it brought it's hands together to deliver a two handed smash that hit the turf rather then drive her skull into the same. She however wasn't able to get out of the way as it managed to connect a fist to her chin and send her flying to slam her back against one of the immense tree trunks.
Faith rolled behind the trunk to give her an extra second to shake herself and get to her feet. She had hoped the bus had gotten far enough away, but was now going to focus on her own survival. Drawing her .45 the charging creature ran face first into the rapidly firing automatic, and for the first time the creature seemed to take real notice as holes were ripped open in it's chest.
Unfortunately Faith's earlier assessment of "vampire" seemed true as the metal bullets were painful, but ultimately ineffective, and it's assault continued so fast Faith was unable to reload, and was darting backwards to avoid the vicious swings.
Back at the bus Carl Lyons was ordering Schwartz to slow down. "Keeping going, but I'm going back to aid Slayer."
The other two men actually nodded, and the rest of the bus seemed stunned to silence as he hoisted his shotgun and leapt from the slowed down bus. Tucking and rolling from the moving vehicle Lyons took a briefest of moments to make sure nothing was broken or strained in the fall before hitting a flat out run back towards the camp.
As he ran he checked his weapons, but it didn't seem necessary as the Harbingers seemed to be trying to catch up with the bus. All there was, was the sounds of the rain, of how running, and the pulse in his ears. Then he picked up another person exerting themselves, but the lighter tones told her it was a woman, and the pain mixed in let him know the woman was hurting.
There was another set of sounds, but they were all inhuman growls. Growls that led Lyons to the monster trying to get his hands on Slayer. The creature wasn't having much luck as Faith seemed purely intent on simply getting away, but the distance worked to their advantage as Carl was able to lay down a blanket of buckshot that ripped into the creatures chest and legs and sent it crashing to the ground.
Faith had leapt out of the way as the first blast ripped into the beast's flesh. Behind a tree she reloaded her pistol and pivoting around the trunk she added her fire to Iron Man's both weapons clicked empty and Carl ditched the shotgun to draw his .357 Magnum revolver and began emptying it with his typical accuracy into the creatures face.
Emptying her last clip in the same area Faith holstered the weapon and drew on her flagging reserves to leap up and grab one of the thicker branches. Using her weight to aid her slayer strength she was able to tear the thick branch free. Hitting the ground she shouted. "Cease Fire!"
Words matched actions as she was able to do a lunging charge that ended with her ramming the broken end into the creatures chest, and proving once and for all that it was a vampire as the wooden implement in it's chest caused it to turn to ash.
Dropping to her knees Carl was there to catch her before she fell to the ground entirely he picked up the surprisingly light frame of the vampire slayer, at which point she turned a bruised face to Carl Lyons and he was struck by just how young the warrior was.
Tara was half a step away from running as she entered the control room. Huntington was catching a few hours sleep, and she was doing the same when she was called back to the control room with word Slayer and Able Team were on the way in.
Rosario was on the line, and his face filled the screen from what appeared to be a moving school bus. "Tara. Good to see you." He could see the question she was trying not to ask. "Faith's alive, but injured. The camp came under heavy assault from Harbingers and some sort of mutant-vampire. Our federal escort suffered 90% casualties, and we lost 30% of our potentials."
That second number sobered the room as the Politician continued. "We left the Feds with Carl's car and they are going to begin the investigation there."
Tara smiled, though it was obviously stressed by concern for her lover. "So we'll put a clamp down on that."
Balances sighed. "I'm not going to lie to you Tara, she's hurt, but stable. You'll want Sam to be ready when we arrive. What arrangements should we make for the potentials?"
Tara considered the point. "We are a National Guard Armory. So we'll make arrangements here for the short term. What else can we do for you?"
He shook his head. "Nothing, we'll be in within a couple hours. Able out."
"The Lock out." Tara sighed, stretched, and took an orange juice from the refrigerator kept in the control room for it's staff. Sitting down at a console she started typing. While updating the commands to the security to make room for the incoming young women, and sending a flash down to the med bay to let Sam know that Faith would be coming in wounded.
There was a note for her from Hal indicating that he had been called about the camp by the surviving agents and had left an hour previously to get a hold on the situation. So Tara moved to the next item on her mental list and grabbed a telephone headset. Entering commands to dial Buffy Summers the phone was answered by her sister Dawn. "Hello?"
Tara's voice carried the warmth of the smile on her face. "Hi Dawnie, is your sister handy?"
Instead of answering she poised a question of her own. "Are Willow and Giles ok?"
Tara took a breath. "At last word they were fine. They should be here later today. Now sweetie, I really need to speak to your sister."
Buffy came on, probably waiting when she heard mention of the witch and Watcher. "Tara, what's wrong?"
The Wiccan took a deep breath before speaking. "Faith has been hurt, and while I'm still earning the details we're going to be without a slayer for awhile, and with the turn of events in England I'm thinking we're all going to want to have a sit down."
"Is Faith ok?"
Tara fought down the anguish that not knowing what putting her though, but allowed her voice to loose it's professional calm. "Stable, but Sam's going to be ready for them when they arrive."
There was a silence on the Summers end of the line, and Tara found herself guessing that Buffy was collecting her thoughts, and coming to a decision. "What do you want me to do?"
Tara hadn't put her professional mask back on and the relief was evident in her voice. "Right now, I just need you to be ready to receive Willow and Giles, and any surviving Council members they bring with them."
There was obvious doubt in Buffy's voice. "And how many is that supposed to be?"
Tara allowed herself a little giggle. "If it's a lot tell Riley to use the company and get them hotel rooms."
Buffy's tone quickly sobered. "How many do you think survived?"
The answer put Tara's professional face back on. "It doesn't look good. Riley forwarded some of the Council's communications and they while they were aware of the threat of the First..."
Buffy interrupted. "They were aware!?"
Tara took a breath. "Yes, they were aware and about to contact you with the information, but they decided to get everyone together before taking action."
"And they got blown up?"
Tara confirmed. "And they got blown up."
Buffy's voice was small. "Are you sure we should have this sit down?"
Tara was amused, but admitted to herself she had similar thoughts. "Were not so much bringing everyone together in the same building as much as putting the leaders of this effort together to finally share our information. Though we have taken the extra precaution of deliberately not having everyone at the meeting so even in the event of catastrophe the effort would continue."
Buffy seemed better. "So your doing what they did, but doing it right?"
Tara smiled, and it was obvious in her voice. "We're also doing it from a location that is secret, secret rather then the open secret the Council was hiding under."
"Yes Buffy, open secret. If Spike were sane he could probably tell you where the council was headquartered, and I'm positive Angel would know as well."
Buffy countered. "Yes, and they know of you too."
Tara's voice grew a little cool. "Angel doesn't know any details beyond Faith and I working for the government, unless someone else told him..." Tara allowed a meaningful pause to see if Buffy had anything to confess. "... and the only reason Spike knows is because Willow and Giles were loose in the lips."
Buffy was surprised. "How did you know that?"
Tara's voice stayed cool. "I know Willow, and with Giles having similar feelings I couldn't see him protecting our secrets. That does remind me however Buffy both Spike and Anya are not to be told anything. Anya is a demon once more, and Spike is insane, and going to be that way for a long time to come."
There was confusion at that point. "How do you know that?"
"Buffy, you have a better idea of Spike's past actions then I do. Having a soul along with having that sort of past is not the kind of thing he's going to get over in a couple of weeks."
There was a sigh from the vampire slayer. "It took Angel over 50 years."
"And he remained coherent. The honest truth is that Spike may never recover. All we can do is keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't become a threat."
Buffy then changed the subject. "But I can bring Willow and Giles? Even after what they did to you and Faith?"
There wasn't even a pause, and Tara's voice kept it's calm. "They seem to be with the program, and with the destruction of the Council I think they realize their options are limited and their talents are needed."
"Dawn and Xander?"
Tara allowed her voice to lighten a bit. "Yes, the genuine truth is that Dawn was a key part in helping us understand the First, and with their experiences they could provide similar insight."
Buffy then tried to force an amused tone to her voice. "Realizing us vets still have some uses huh?"
Tara's voice then dropped back to it's frigid tone. "No Buffy, were hoping that the good your group brings to the table will outweigh the bad."
The slayer's voice grew quiet. "That's fair. Anything else?"
The self-appointed mission controller allowed her voice to soften. "No Buffy, just wait for Riley to drop his people off. Then tell him if there's any time you can NOT meet us. We'll be in contact soon after... good bye Buffy, take care."
Turning around Tara had felt the eyes of the Executioner on her. Though she knew the warrior wanted to be out there tracking their new enemy he seemed to realize that waiting would get him where he could do the most good. Meeting his blue eyes with her own she did realize however that she had one of the world's foremost soldiers on hand and chomping at the bit to help.
"Striker? Can we talk?"
Walking into the bathroom in their quarters Tara's eyes were drawn to their extra large whirlpool tub, one of the few times Faith had taken advantage of the privilege her rank afforded her. Of course with the rigorous demands slaying put on her body it wasn't a very hard sell.
Those demands were tattooed across the soaking form of her beloved like they never had been before. Tara had to force down a shudder as she flashed back to Able Team helping her beaten and bloodied form from the school bus. The only comfort was that they were helping her instead of carrying her.
Faith showed another sign that she was going to be alright as she started grinning when Tara started undressing to slip into the tub with her. Though her eyes were closed her smile was deliberate and Tara knew she had heard her undress. "Don't even think about it Faith."
The smirk stayed. "It's WAY too late for that."
Tara shook her head. "I'm just joining you to help with any hard to reach spots."
The dimples Tara loved were in clear evidence. "I have a few that could use your special touch."
Tara couldn't help but smile herself, a little. "I do that and I'll drown."
Faith laughed. "I'd have to give you mouth to mouth then."
Tara then grew serious, even as she sank into the warm, bubbling water, letting out a groan of her own as it instantly went to work on muscles knotted by tension and stress. Then stressing two words. "You're hurt."
Faith started her reply by stressing two words of her own. "I'm conscious..." She then spoke normally. "Which means that I want you." Faith had opened her eyes at this point, and could see the argument forming. Cutting it off she brought her un-sprained left wrist up and caressed Tara's cheek. "Tara, it was bad out there, the worst it's ever been. Now, I need you to remind me what it is I'm fighting for."
Her slayer's words had Tara ready to cry, but the Wiccan herself didn't seem to notice as she pulled Faith to her and kissed her lover deeply. Pulling away a moment she met the familiar, brown eyes. "If it hurt you tell me, and we'll do it another way. Ok?" Faith nodded and smiled and as Tara felt her lover's flesh pressed to her she knew she needed this too.
Both women were now sitting on the bench that was part of the wall in the extra large tub. with Tara on the right and Faith on the left. Faith tucked one leg up under the other so she could reach her baby easier to give a series of soft kisses while her uninjured hand cupped Tara's cheek.
Slowly trailing from the left cheek the hand found it's way to the lovely weight of Tara's breast, and as it was cupped delicately the thumb and index finger applied a similar pressure to the rapidly hardening nipple. It caused the blonde's head to roll back with a delighted sigh and the lover's eyes met with a smile.
Faith's smile only grew as she leaned in to the now fully exposed length of Tara's neck and started kissing. and licking along it.
Tara giggled. "I've always wondered why a slayer would have such a love of my neck."
Faith laughed and kissed Tara's left ear. "It's more the you then the neck." While speaking Faith's hand drifted over to the right breast and gave it a similar treatment, which resulted in fluttering eyelids and Tara's hips giving an involuntary lurch.
Faith noticed, and was breathless as she spoke. "Oh baby, you needed this too. Didn't you?"
As the uninjured hand slid down Tara's abdomen to the spreading hips Tara could only groan. "Yes." Though Faith couldn't help but luxuriate at the sparse blond curls at the top of Tara's sex the bitten lip of her lover told Faith not to waste too much time.
Thought met action as Faith slid to fingers inside. Tara's moan was for obvious reasons, but Faith too had to let out a moan at the feeling of Tara's heated flesh gripping her fingers tightly.
Tara's hips gave a jump as Faith's thumb found Tara's clit and blue eyes locked with brown, silently communicating the woman's need. The response was instant as the circles Faith's thumb were making became faster, and harder.
Tara's head had rolled back farther, over the edge of the tub at this point, and her beautiful blue eyes had scrunched shut, and she was making desperate sounds of her need. Her jaw was closed just as tightly and her body was moving to meet each thrust of Faith's hand.
Seeing her lover struggle to find her release Faith leaned in to speak in a low, seductive tone. "Come on baby, you can do it for me. Can't you?"
Tara's eyes flew open in something like disbelief, but in that moment they then fell shut again as the blonde who body writhed in her release. Faith had to bring her injured right hand around to cradle Tara so the woman's head wouldn't slip under the water.
As she held her Faith had to bite down a moan of her own. While it was not like the full release of orgasm she felt sensations coursing through her in seeming unison with Tara.
Blue eyes blinked open and found familiar brown ones staring back at them. "Wow Baby, I didn't know you were that wound up."
The reply was weak and a little horse with the keening she had done near the end. "Neither did I."
Faith was still grinning. "Let's get you dried off, and get some sleep."
Galen couldn't help but notice how much more relaxed Tara was now that Slayer was back, and he couldn't control the blush that came up when Slayer grinned as she noticed him noticing how much more relaxed Tara was.
It wasn't that the SAS commando turned sorcerer held any illusions about his chances, even if the witch wasn't head over heals in love with the C.O. Tara was as gay as he was straight. So she was left handling him much like Galen would have to handle a nice guy who had a crush on him.
The soldier in him wanted to call it pathetic, the Celt in him wanted to call it poetic, but whatever you call it he still got a rush every time she came into view, and still melted at her half-smiles. He had been having that reaction for awhile though and was quite good at containing it. Leaving him relatively certain that only the focused professional showed as he shadowed the women to the Lock/Scooby meeting, as part of his duties as Tara's personal security.
Now in the public part of the armory the three turned the corner to find someone else Galen could imagine understood what it was like to long for Tara Maclay. Willow Rosenberg's typically eclectic wardrobe was in muted colors, but still an obvious contrast to the fatigues all three were wearing as part of the Lock's cover.
Faith was the first to address the redhead, and while it wasn't certain whether she was concealing her old antipathy for the woman, or simply no longer was holding on to the old hate, she had a level tone. "Hey Red, everything ok?"
Willow however didn't seem anywhere near as calm and turned around to look at the closed door to the conference room. "What? Yeah, everyone's here. I just wanted to speak to you guys first, and Riley said it was ok."
Faith arched a brow as the silence started to stretch on. "Ok?"
Willow took a deep breath. "Ok... I'm sorry. I know that Giles and I would probably be dead right now if it weren't for Riley and your guys, and not only did you not have any reason to help us you had plenty of reason NOT to help us. So the fact that you didn't just help us, but also allowed us to help tells me just how wrong I was, and while I still love Tara I realize she left me before she met you and so you and Tara have nothing to do with me and Tara. That's my fault and I have to live with that."
Tara didn't say a word, but allowed one of those soul-warming smiles on her face as she walked forward and embraced Willow. Over Tara's shoulder Galen could see both the agony and the ecstasy the close moment was putting Willow Rosenberg through and he realized there was something worse then unrequited feelings for Tara Maclay.
As the former lovers pulled apart Faith gave her woman a nod and then turned to hold the door open. Tara walked in and Willow followed, with Galen then taking up position standing guard inside the door. From there he saw Faith give a nod to the soldiers with M-16 auto-rifles that would be outside the doors.
Willow slipped into a seat between Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles as the C.O. and Mission Controller moved to the front of the table. Slayer gave a questioning look to figure out which one would head up the meeting, and that got a horrified expression as a reply.
Faith grinned and stepped to the head of the table as Tara sat to her right in the first seat. "All right everyone, with this room of professionals I'm not going to worry to much about protocol." With a quick look to a corner table where Huntington Weathers was typing away Faith poised a question. "We linked to the Farm?"
The former professor typed a few keys while he chewed on the stem of his cold pipe. Taking it from his mouth. "It's confirmed, Yaakov is online."
Faith smiled at that. "Kitten! Good to have you."
That drew an assortment of grins and chuckles from Able Team, Phoenix Force and Striker, as well as a laugh from an obviously older voice that came over a speaker at the front of the room. "Hello Faith."
Faith smiled at the tolerant tone coming from the former leader of Phoenix Force, until age and old injuries forced the former Mossad man to retire to an advisory role at Stony Man Farm. "Ok, with everyone in the neighborhood we're going to present all the intel we gathered so everyone is up to speed and then get you out where you can do the most good."
David McCarter felt the need to speak up at that, and didn't feel any need to be subtle about it. "And where is that going to be? If I read Tara's brief on the First right then the thing can't be killed."
While McCarter was abrupt, he was always abrupt. Subtlety was not the man's strong suit, and the subtle nature of their enemy would confuse him so she readily explained. "That's true. The First isn't just made up of the evil of the past, but also of the future, and as long as humanity has the potential to do evil then the First will exist."
Xander then piped in with an idea. "What if Willow and Tara did some sort of spell to put everyone in the world asleep?"
Both Tara and Willow were ready to explain why, but the calm voice of Mack Bolan answered. "Too many casualties, people driving, performing surgery, working on the control rods of a nuclear reactor."
It was obvious Striker could continue, but it was just as obvious he didn't need to as Xander sunk in his seat. Bolan didn't elaborate that point, but didn't seem finished either. "If I understand the situation correctly this thing may not be able to be killed, but it's already been beaten."
The confused looks from the entire room made it clear the Executioner would have to elaborate. "If every evil thought or act fuels this thing then every evil act we've stopped has weakened it." As the nods grew sure he continued. "So now we need to understand why it's escalating a conflict it's been willing to wage at a certain level since the beginning of time."
Tara's brow scrunched together. "We still don't know Striker." He seemed ready to reply when Tara's face suddenly went slack, and then lit up. "I do! I do! I know!" The blonde had her hands up by her widely smiling face, a smile most of the room was matching as it waited for her to explain what she knew. "IT is playing catch up!"
Faith looked at her lover fondly, but with obvious confusion. "You've lost me babe."
Tara looked exasperated. "This thing HAS been waging it's war the same way for MILLIONS of years. Now all of a sudden it changes? Something MADE it change, something related to the slayer!"
T.J. Hawkins was shaking his head. "Sorry Tar, but the other slayer's little sis hit it earlier, this thing's been working on this for years now."
Tara was still smiling as she shook her own head. "This thing is millions of years old, changing in a matter of years is sudden."
Dawn then added her two cents. "So this thing is after Buffy?"
Buffy was the one to contradict that idea. "Unlikely, it's been going after potentials, and Watchers."
Tara felt the need to contribute. "And Faith."
Faith shook her head. "That thing came after me because I was keeping it from the bus full of potentials. Do we know what it is yet?"
Tara replied off handedly. "Turok-Han, a prehistoric vampire."
Calvin James spoke up at that point, the back and forth brainstorming picking up steam. "Would go with the 'since the beginning of time' angle."
Carl Lyons had been quiet up to that point, and even now his voice seemed quiet, lost in thought. "And I have to disagree with Faith, they focused on you as soon as they saw you. The second you cleared your vehicle and they got a clear look you became their only target. It's why I ran out to get you."
Yaakov's voice came over the speaker. "So it was trying to get rid of the potentials, as well as the guys who would guide them, but took you as a target of opportunity. Tell me, what would happen if the slayer were killed if there were no potentials to be called?"
Giles had taken off his glasses. "Oh dear Lord."
Willow however hadn't noticed as she picked up the train of thought. "That's gotta be it! It's out to kill all the potentials, and then kill Faith to wipe out the line! It just went after Faith because an inexperienced slayer would be that much easier to wipe out."
Riley was grinning as he cleared his throat to get everyone's attention, with a thumb to the Watcher he spoke. "Giles just "Dear Lord-ed."
That got the attention of the current and former Scoobies while the Farm veterans were looking on in confusion.
Giles then put his glasses back on. "You're almost twenty, aren't you Faith?"
Faith shrugged from her chair. "Next week, why?"
Giles took a deep breath and folded his hands. "There is a prophecy, called the 'Prophecy of the Elder'. It's been held in the deepest vaults of the Council's libraries, it talks about a slayer reaching her second decade."
Buffy interrupted. "I'm over twenty?"
A look of sorrow appeared, and then vanished from Rupert's face. "But you died at 16. All slayers have died before the age of twenty... until now."
Faith was eyeing the Watcher. "What's the prophecy say?"
He met her gaze. "It says she will awaken the line."
Faith found herself staring over a desert landscape, savanna maybe. She was standing there all in black from her combat boots to BDU, to sleeveless t-shirt. Squinting her eyes against the glare she looked around and thought the scene looked somehow familiar. "Aw crap!"
The blonde that approached her over one of the dunes was definitely familiar, and while what Buffy had said about her slayer dream told her it was just the witches image Faith had to pause, and wonder if the First Slayer had known something. "Hey there Beautiful. I'm glad you're here. I'd be hurt if you interpreted in Buffy's dream and not in mine."
Feeling a presence over her shoulder Faith turned to find the crouched, stalking form of the progenitor of the slayer line staring intently at her. Now over Faith's shoulder the familiar voice of Tara began to speak for the wordless one in front of her. "The witch woman was meant for the slayer."
Faith found her head bobbing as she agreed. "And since B WAS the slayer she got a little dream time with my girl, right, right."
Her lover's gentle tones continued. "You are the eldest. You have survived to when I was first called, and now you shall call them all."
Faith raised a hand to shield her squint as she focused on the source of her power. "Yeah, I get the idea, but I'm not quite sure how to make that happen." Yet even as she spoke the words she looked over the shoulder and spoke to herself. "The witch woman was meant for the slayer."
Again the form of her love spoke for the silent slayer. "Yes."
Something kicked in and Faith was leaning backwards and hurling herself in the same direction, to land on her back a good half dozen feet away from where she was standing. The air was still humming with the power radiating from the blade in the First Slayer's hand. It looked like an axe with a weird configuration for the blade. All red except for the brown of a wooden stake built into the base the First Slayer was passing it from hand to hand as she seemed intent on giving it to Faith in the most violent way possible.
Faith was down on all fours where she had landed, unconsciously mirroring the common pose the First Slayer favored. She kept her eyes locked on her target, but couldn't help a rueful grin. "I don't suppose a hearty hand shake and 'good luck' is an option?"
The reply was phrased in the ancient slayer's typical fashion as she pulled the blade above her head and leapt, ready to split Faith's skull all the way down to the shoulders. Faith simply leapt again, but leapt short and was still within legs reach as she lashed out behind her and connected the sole of her boot with the back of the First Slayer's skull.
That staggered her long enough for Faith to pivot and grab the shaft of the weapon. Now with her arms wrapped around the First Slayer from behind Faith was fighting to bring the axe-like blade back to the other woman's neck while the woman put all her strength into preventing that.
At first the contest of strength seemed evenly matched, but soon the power of the primitive started to show itself as the blade was pushed farther and farther away. It was then the other source of Faith's power made itself felt inside her.
Mack Samuel Bolan, the Executioner, a man who had been slaying human demons long before Faith was born. A man who had been able to fight Faith with only his mortal strength because he wed that power with the infinite might of the mind.
All of his lessons came rushing back to her and she slid her bottom hand closer to the stake. The top hand then pushed away with the First Slayer's motion while the bottom hand jerked back on the shaft at the same time. The stake slid home and while the were a brief look of surprise on the First Slayer's face, as a trail of blood came from the ancient's lips she was smiling.
Tara spoke from where she had been silently observing the battle. "I can rest now. It's up to you."
Then the First Slayer spoke. "It all begins again."
She then turned to dust in Faith's arms, and as that dust fell away to nothing the scene changed. She was now in a rough-hewn cavern with a floor finished in slate gray squares, one foot by one foot. The walls were what seemed to retain the look of a natural cavern as they were rough, but rounded in a natural cave fashion from the finished floor to the arched, natural dome at the top of the ceiling.
A light came from an opening at the top of that dome, but that wasn't what drew her eye. At the far wall of the room an alcove was set back in the wall. In that alcove where two carved pieces of stone that had grooves at the end that Faith knew was meant to hold the weapon now firmly gripped in her hands.
Without any choice of her own, or even thought about it Faith walked forward and put the weapon back in it's resting place, and looked around once more. Alone now she assumed that Tara's image was no longer needed to interpret for the now departed spirit of the First Slayer, and had either been dispelled, or vanished naturally with the one who had needed it.
"Well, should figure out where I'm at because I'm sure I'm going to have to find my way back." Suiting actions to words Faith started climbing the natural stone walls, and as she reached the top had to stop and stare at herself before taking in the scenery. While the natural walls should have been easy to climb they shouldn't have been THAT easy, and Faith wondered if the First Slayer had passed on more then duty.
"Cheese, it does a body good." A grinning bald man in thick, dark rimmed glasses and a off-the rack suit seemed to be offering Faith a patter of cheese singles, and after taking one Faith shook her head and shove the man off the pinnacle on which they both stood.
For several seconds there was the sounds of the man crashing and rolling as Faith finished her slice of cheese. Her face then scrunched in thought. "I hope that doesn't count as evil." Then shrugging she took in the terrain.
While there was a definite chill at this altitude Slayer almost laughed as she took in the all too familiar Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, and knew that if this weren't a dream she could probably walk to Stony Man Farm.
She then found herself sitting bolt upright in bed, and Tara was there once more, but the blonde sleepy. "Are you ok, Sweetie?" Told Faith she was dealing with the genuine article. When Faith didn't respond Tara slid an arm over Faith's bare shoulder. "Faith?"
At the sound of her name she turned. "Sorry, yeah, processing. Come to find out the reason you were in Buffy's dream was because you were destined for the 'Slayer' and since she was a title holder you made an appearance."
Tara pulled back at that, not bothering to cover her own nudity. "You had a Slayer Dream?"
Faith whistled. "And how." Grinning a little bit her hand went up to take off her all-weather brace on her right hand and started to remove it.
Tara was ready to protest, but as it came off the bruising and swelling was all gone, and squinting in the darkness Tara realized that the other injuries that had covered Faith's body seemed healed as well. "What happened?"
Faith was still in motion as she rolled off the bed and grabbed a set of BDU pants. "Tons, but don't worry. You're involved too. You are so involved too. Hell, you're so involved they should have given you your own page in the prophecy."
Tara's face was crinkled in confusion, but her voice didn't show it as she got up and grabbed a summer dress from the closet. "So you know what to do?"
Faith was nodding as she put on a shirt that seemed straight from her dream. "And when and where to do it." She was laughing as she laced up her boots.
Tara ran a brush over her hair a few times before slipping on some sandals. "Are we going there now?"
Faith shook her head. "Nope, but I'm going to let them know were coming."
The confusion finally reached Tara's voice. "Is that wise?"
Faith looked over her shoulder with her own confused smile. "Of course."
Tara followed as Faith strode from the room and made a beeline for the control room. Without breaking stride Faith spoke to a technician. "Get me the Farm." She then stood in front of the large monitor at the front of the room.
Tara looked up into the scowling face of Faith. The two women were dressed in matching camouflage fatigues, and Tara was sliding a 9mm Beretta 93-R into the holster on her web belt. Seeing Faith's eyes focus on the weapon Tara sighed softly. Then walking close she put her hands on Faith's shoulders and put their foreheads together.
Faith however was the first to speak. "That's my job. I kill stuff. Not you."
Tara started her sentence with kissing Faith's lips. "Darling, I am your woman. That means something that I can't ignore, but even if we weren't together with the things I've seen working with the Farm I know that good people sometimes have to take up arms against evil, and I want to be a part of that, I need to."
Faith looked into Tara's well loved gaze, for several long moment before sighing. "I don't like it, I'll never like it. Even if we get a couples membership down at the firing range..." The lovers shared a smile as Faith continued. "But I guess partner, really does mean partner. More then that I've been hearing how well you've been doing here, and I can't hold you back because I want to protect you."
Faith tried to look away, but Tara put her hands on each side of Faith's face and pulled her gaze back. "You don't hold me back love. You never have. I was Willow's GIRLfriend, you made me your WOMAN."
They shared one more kiss before pulling apart and finishing up getting equipped. As they did so Faith threw Tara a grin. "Your boyfriend help you get qualified at the range?"
Tara returned the grin. "Galen is sweet, and understands that I can't get any gayer without flannel and mullets being involved..." Faith gave an overdone shudder. "...but Mack was the one who helped me pick out a weapon and get qualified in it. So do we have confirmation on the target?"
Faith nodded as she checked her M-16/M-203. "Satellite imagery matches with my vision, and Jack's been doing flyovers while the Farm's blacksuits have made sure NOT to engage Harbingers that have been seen swarming the area."
Tara was concerned. "So they don't know about Stonyman Farm?"
Faith shook her head. "Doesn't look like it... I've been meaning to ask. It isn't a coincidence that they built Stonyman Farm in the same place is it?"
Tara bit her bottom lip. "It could be, but it's unlikely. In magick like affects like, it's one of the key concepts. So having a group of warriors dedicated to the fight against evil build their haven near an ancient weapon dedicated to the same fight is probably 'sympathy' in action."
Faith nodded as she slung the rifle. "I couldn't remember the term, but I remember you talking about something like that. You ready Babe?" Seeing she was Faith straightened and walked out of their quarters with Tara close behind.
Galen didn't keep such a close watch over Tara when Slayer was on base. So the two made a quick stop to pick up the SAS commando at Tara's library where he was waiting with a unit of their sorcerous soldiers that fell in without a word.
A second stop showed Buffy Summers, Alexander Harris, Rupert Giles, and Willow Rosenberg were waiting, they too now in fatigues, in preparation for their field mission. Their gear however was far more antiquated with old style bladed weapons and ancient crossbows.
Faith shook her head. "Guys, we can provide more then the cammo fatigues. At the very least we can provide composite crossbows and carbon-steel blades." Willow and Giles shared a look, but Buffy just sighed. "That would be great Faith, thank you."
Xander then raised his hand. "Could I get a rifle?" Everyone gave a quizzical look, and he shrunk a bit. "Halloween, remember?"
Faith's mouth dropped. "Right, right. Ok, he's a construction worker so give him a full load."
Buffy smiled while Faith gave out a few commands and then came in and sat down while waiting for them to be carried out. "So you're sure about the location?"
Faith confirmed. "Yep, satellite imagery confirms my dream. Flyovers have also spotted Harbingers on the ground."
Giles perked up at that. "The First knows where it is?"
Tara spoke up then, both women knowing they had to keep the Scoobies from realizing they already had resources in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the form of the ultra-secret Stonyman Farm. "It doesn't look like they know the exact location. Faith's dream gave us the edge."
Willow then looked nervous. "Were going to take a chopper there?"
Faith smiled at that redhead's nerves. "Not for awhile. First we'll be taking humvees to catch a military flight to the Black Hawks at a base outside DC which will then leave us a short hop to the Blue Ridge Mountains."
The 20th Century versions of the Scoobies chosen weapons arrived and were quickly distributed. As Giles was examining the high tensile crossbow and it's assortment of both high tech polymer bolts as well as wooden ones he looked at Tara. "Are you ready my dear? While Faith's presence is obviously mandatory you will be the one that will be taking the massive amounts of energy the First Slayer deposited into Faith and redirecting it to the rest of the potentials."
There was more rueful then smile to the expression on Tara's face as she replied, but somehow the blonde still seemed confident. "I'm as ready as I can be considering there's nothing known about the ritual I'll have to perform."
Buffy interrupted then. "But you ARE linked with Faith right?"
That made Tara's smile far more certain. "Oh yes. It seems now that this was my destiny as well as Faith's, and the fact we are lovers has just reinforced the bond over, and over again."
The two lovers shared a small grin at that as Faith muttered under her breath. "And over, and over again."
While Willow had been sincere in her gratitude as well as she understanding that she was solely at fault for loosing Tara her discomfort was obvious, and Xander attempted to lighten the mood. "So I guess that's going to make Faith the First Slayer now." He gave one of the giggles that still carried the vitality of youth. "Too bad you couldn't literally be the 'First' Slayer, as in the Slayer of the First Evil."
The other five people gaped, and Giles began cleaning his glasses. Buffy was shaking her head and Willow was smiling. Xander however looked confused at the other people in the room. "What?"
Faith was the one to answer. "You hit it better then you realized Xander. While the First may exist as long as evil does once the entire Slayer line awakens it's ranks are going to get a whole lot lighter."
Tara picked up her lovers train of thought without any break in stride. "So conversely the First will be directly weakened by a thinning of the ranks."
Faith focused on Tara. "And I'm figuring that little bit of evil in every soul isn't going to be quite the same meal as a full blown baddie would be."
It got a nod from Tara, but with an explanation. "Meal' is probably not the best term, but yes the First would be greatly weakened. In a best case scenario it would be rendered virtually ineffective."
Buffy picked up on the conversation then. "Virtually."
Tara came right back. "Virtually, it's too great a threat to be completely nullified, but I think Striker had it right when he said we've beaten it before. Now if we manage to wake up the Slayer line we will be beating it on a whole new scale."
Faith then stood up. "And on that note, there's no point in waiting. If we need to talk more we can do so on the plane."
Much to the Scoobies dismay it wasn't a private Learjet that was waiting for them at the military airstrip, it wasn't even coach conditions in the military cargo plane. Tara however didn't seem shocked actually seeming fond of their pilot, whom she called "Jack". Faith and her commandos actually started catching cat naps after securing themselves in the webbing that ran along behind the benches. At least they did after helping the Scoobies get themselves buckled in.
The four Scoobies felt even more conspicuous at the second military base as there was a slight delay when the base commander seemed intent on flexing muscle against this unknown black ops team commandeering his choppers. It didn't help when the "little girl" Faith was obviously in charge, but the Scoobies finally got to see the command presence that the rest of the Lock knew was as much a part of Slayer as her vampire slayer abilities.
A second pilot stepped up from their commando team as the hawks were finally readied with Slayer, and the newly named "Witch Woman" riding in Jack's chopper with Galen and half the team while the Scoobies rode in the other chopper with the other half of their force. While there was radio communication between the attack birds the plan had been hammered out on the trip here and the only sounds came from the rotor blades, the checking of weapons, and the applying of combat cosmetics to exposed flesh.
"I can't do this, please don't make me do this!" The plaintive tones of Willow Rosenberg came over the tactical radios everyone was wearing, Buffy and Xander's encouragement was then heard back.
Faith's replying sigh however was muffled enough not to be noticed where she was already on the ground after having rappelled from the chopper. She was already on the ground with half of the men loaded on her chopper while Tara made a careful descent. Half of the other chopper's team was on the ground and they had Rupert Giles on the ground while waiting for the other inexperienced team member to rappel to the ground.
"Listen Red, the longer the choppers hover the better chance were spotted. You need to go, or you need to scrub and go back with the choppers, but this delay puts us all at risk." What she didn't say, but all the Lock people knew was that if the choppers still had Willow on board they wouldn't be able to head down to the Farm complex in the valleys beneath the mountain where Striker, Able Team and Phoenix Force were waiting incase the covert insertion didn't work out and they needed a harder punch to get through.
There was another heartbeats pause, and then Willow was sliding down the rope, though making a deal more noise then any of the commandos liked. Of course in a perfect world they would have been able to drill Willow on the technique until she was comfortable, but with Faith's 20th birthday literally hours away at this point they had to settle on making sure the Scoobies wouldn't break anything when rappelling from the choppers to the closest point possible to their objective.
Faith's chopper was already emptied at this point, but once Willow was down Buffy's natural physical ability got her to the ground. Xander actually showed a degree of proficiency, but he was showing the skills put into his mind by Ethan Rane so many years ago hadn't left him. The fact he had his rifle in his hands as soon as he hit the ground even got him nods of respect from the more experienced commandos.
Once the second chopper was emptied Slayer clicked her radio. "All right Flyboy. Thanks for the ride, now sit tight and hope we don't call till we need a ride out."
A voice came back over the teams channel. "Roger Slayer, Flyboy out, and happy birthday." Faith's replying laugh carried to everyone.
Turning to the assembled team Slayer started issuing orders. "Ok people, by the numbers. I'm on point, B will walk slack. Otherwise pair up with your teammate or Scooby as discussed and fall in,"
Buffy actually held up her hand and Faith gave her a look. "What's 'walk slack?"
That got a few grins, and Faith was included. "Sorry B, it means you trail the last pair by 10-15 feet. With me leading by the same we're guarding the main body by both sides."
That got a single nod and they fell into their assigned spots with slayers on each end it alternated a pair of the Lock's sorcerer soldiers with a Tara or a Scooby and their assigned personal escort. While jokes could be made about Tara being paired with Galen, the fact was he was an excellent student, and they had a rapport.
Xander's assigned soldier was a young black man named Voodoo who got the name because his ancestors practiced the same and it was what got him flagged for the Lock. He could possibly weigh double the construction workers own muscular frame, and was using that additional strength to carry the massive M-249 squad automatic weapon. Willow and Giles had their own accompaniment, but were obviously more shielded by the majority of the troops.
The construction worker noticed, and while he kept his voice pitched low to match their covert nature he felt the need to ask his assigned companion why. "I noticed I'm not being baby sat like the rest."
That got a smile as the man adjusted his grip on his large gun. "No sir, Slayer realized that with your skills you wouldn't need it."
That got a pause, but forced up another hushed comment. "She's finally found her place, hasn't she?"
On one level it was obvious the man wanted silence, but everyone at the Lock knew Slayer's checkered past, as well as the new path she had charted for herself, and all of them were ready to defend their commander's honor. "Sir, while Slayer will be the first once to admit her mistakes it's my opinion that the biggest was on your side when she wasn't given the chance to reach her potential. Once given a half a chance she has become one of the world's premier soldiers, and has taken the war that your side has been waging with limited success to a battle where humanity is finally starting to hold it's own."
Xander fell silent as the man's face showed the conviction behind his words. roughly 10 feet behind them Solomon was sending prayers to Jehovah for the same silence from his companion Willow Rosenberg. "Ma'am please, I know you are nervous, but the odds of the opposition having enhanced hearing is almost certain."
Giles wasn't speaking, but the former librarian wasn't exactly skilled in moving silently through the woods and the Norseman with the handle "Hammer" was wondering how angry Slayer would be if he were to "loose" his guy in one of the nearby thickets.
Though there were additional soldiers they knew their jobs as were doing them as Buffy brought up the end, moving with her typical slayer skill, and gripping the hi-tech crossbow in professional hands.
The initial talk had fallen silent as they started into the woods. Though at a much slower pace then the professional soldiers were used to since they didn't want to exhaust the civilians before they ever got there.
While the Scoobies were starting to relax with each uneventful mile the Lock's people got more and more tense. Buffy then keyed her radio. "Are you sure they are here Faith?"
Slayer's reply was tense. "Yeah B, satellite and flyovers confirm. All this means is that they are probably there waiting for us."
It was obvious the Scoobies hadn't thought of that because their tension level suddenly jumped up to match the soldiers.
Slayer's prediction was proven right as they reached the entrance and rappelled once more, into what was essentially a hollow mountain, only to find a mixed bag of Harbingers and Turok-Han, with Father Caleb standing in the middle with his arms thrown wide in a welcoming gesture. "Faith, welcome I w..."
His sentence was cut off as Slayer snapped her assault rifle to her shoulder and triggered the under slung M-203 grenade launcher.
Her soldiers snapped into action with practiced ease, and by the time the high explosive charge was connecting with the fallen priests chest their auto rifles were cutting down Harbingers with streams of auto-fire. Some were catching the Turok-Han, but the metal rounds seemed to anger them more then anything.
Tara had dropped back and erected a shield that was allowing Galen's bullets out, but keeping nothing else from coming through.
Voodoo cried out to some "Shango" and then was smiling with a look of eagerness as he began firing the massive M-249 one-handed while grabbing a grenade with his now free hand.
Solomon found a corner and threw a metal disc on the ground with a series of strange engravings on it, and neither the Harbingers or Turok-Han could approach.
Hammer started singing some strange words and the Harbingers fell to the ground holding their ears.
Willow was unleashing her own blasts of black lightening, and it seemed one of the few things that could truly get the attention of the Turok-Han, but as she was next to Solomon they could only howl and try to get past the radius of the seal he had tossed on the ground.
Xander was plugging away with his rifle in short-controlled bursts that were still telling as Buffy and Giles fired their crossbows with methodical precision.
Slayer sent a longer, but still accurate burst into the already grievously wounded clergyman. Her attacks were interrupted as a good half-dozen Turok-Han fell upon her.
Buffy heard Tara's cry of "FAITH!" and immediately jumped into the fight. Just as quickly she knew what Faith was talking about when she said it felt like she did more damage to herself with each hit then she did to the prehistoric vampires. It did not stop her however as she fought with all her might to reach her sister slayer.
Her sister slayer was doing the same, but was having much more success as she threw one off with each hand. Delivering a mule kick to the chest of the one in front of her it too was sent skidding and rolling away from her. The three behind her were trying to grab at her, but Slayer reached to the stake loops that were standard issue on all Lock web gear and pulled out one of the new steel cored wooden stakes and slammed it into a Turok-Han's chest with the expected result of it turned to a pile of ash.
Buffy smiled and put augmented stakes into each hand and started mimicking Faith's actions. While the Turok-Han were still an incredible danger if they connected , Buffy fought defensively and waited for her opening. Each time she exploited it to predictable results, though the wood rapidly shattered and fell away from the steel core they had been issued plenty and Buffy made use of them all.
Both Voodoo and Hammer saw the slayers success and opted to close to hand to hand with the Turok-Han while their team tried to keep the Harbingers at bay with their firearms.
Buffy was getting her rhythm, and couldn't help but comment as she watched Faith pound away with her bare hands on a Turok-Han. "How's that possible now?"
Faith laughed. "It's like their normal vamps! A gift from the First Sl..."
She was interrupted by Caleb standing upright in spite of his chest cavity being a blackened mass of charred flesh and his own black blood. "A gift of the First? I will show you fools the gifts of the First Evil!" His hands reached upward and waves of shimmering black swarmed to him.
They sank into his flesh and repaired it, but they also seemed to sink into the flesh of the assembled hero's and went right to their bones to chill them with a sense that went beyond simple evil to an absolute sense of wrong, a feeling that what they were in the presence of was an affront to existence itself.
The enemy however seemed as renewed as their leader, with foes thought dead rising from their premature graves.
Caleb was smiling as he looked at Faith and saw her charging, his smile growing as he waved his minions aside to let her advance. "That's it Slayer! Come to me!"
That was exactly what she was doing, at least until she jagged to the left at the last second and jumped behind him to the alcove that held the weapon from her dream. While she could see the rock was pitted where the minions of the First had been trying to free it, it instantly came loose in her hand.
Caleb's bellowed protest couldn't even get out a second letter as she spun and beheaded him at "N..."
The assembled horde turned as their leader fell and swarmed at Faith, yet she smiled as they did so. The smile was the last that was seen of her as she was literally buried under the massed horde. Only the sounds of her powered weapon slicing let them know she was still standing.
Now seemingly abandoned, Tara rallied the assembled troops, yet already some would never rise again. "We need to get to Faith, if she falls we've lost. I need everyone to focus on me, and I will focus on her. As soon as it's done just keep them off us."
At first the Scoobies were confused, but then the sorcerous soldiers, her students massed around her, and their separate disciplines massed into a cohesive whole as massed energy gathered around their instructor. Energy she used to hurl away everything in that pile that wasn't sharing her energy like Faith did. Willow actually bit her lip as she felt a tug on the little bit of Tara that she still carried with her.
It went unnoticed however as Tara pulled her side arm and led the charge to where the confused vampire slayer was wondering where all her enemies went. A few Harbingers went down to Tara's pistol, but it was holstered as the vampire slayer seemed ready to respond to the people who seemed to be charging her.
Those people however formed a ring of steel while Tara ran up to Faith and placed her hands on Faith's, on the weapon.. "The Witch Woman was meant for the Slayer."
That got through, and the bloodlust on Faith's face faded. "Tara?"
The soldiers of the Lock and the Scooby Gang didn't need to speak as they simply formed a circle and cut down anything outside it. Weapons were fired dry, but to great effect that the minions of the First could not deny.
Tara was smiling. "Yes love, were almost there. I just need you to open yourself to me. You are now holding the energy that's going to go to all the other slayer's. I just need to channel it to them."
Faith nodded, while some might wonder how she knew what to do opening herself to Tara was quite simple. Tara had been the first person she had ever really opened herself up to. The first person that Faith had ever opened herself to that she had never regretted, never betrayed her. Allowing the woman into every corner of her was simple.
Tara's brow was arched. "Are you sure that outfit is regulation?" Her own outfit was a simple, but elegant women's business suit with skirt.
She was on the roof of the Sunnydale Armory and Faith was there as well, tanning, in a string bikini and mirrored sunglasses. Faith grinned back from where she was on a reclined, folding lawn chair. "Be glad I kept this on, you know I don't like tan lines. Now come to momma."
Faith was making a beckoning motion with her hands, and Tara complied as she sat on Faith's lap while Faith spoke. "So how'd the meeting go? How's our Hillbilly in Chief?"
"Faith, you ARE part of the United States Military. You shouldn't make fun of the Commander in Chief." Her tone seemed serious, but she was smiling as she put her arms around Faith's shoulders.
Faith put her arms around Tara's waist. "Technically love I don't exist, and I won't respect the redneck until he respects our love and lets us marry. I mean we struck the biggest blow against the forces of Hell since they got kicked out of Heaven. We've taken the war from simply saving the world and keeping evil at bay to genuinely fighting back. Speaking of which, is he going to try drafting our girls?"
Tara sighed, both at Faith's tone, and at the memory. "We started by telling him that the Watcher's Council had been destroyed, and he was totally on board with the Lock filling that hole. Then we told him about the Prophecy of the Elder and that it had been fulfilled, and there WAS a gleam to his eye."
Faith tensed and Tara kissed the top of her head. "But Hal knew how to work him, and reminded him about the caged vampire you guys brought him back when first pitching the Lock. Then the President remembered the Initiative on his own, and realized the Vampire Slayer "Had a duty older then the War on Terror, and will still be fighting their battles long after it's won."
Faith pulled herself closer to Tara, but not close enough to get her tanning oil on the suit, pausing when she realized that was what she was about to do. "That's cool, really cool actually. I had visions of being on the government's list of terrorist organizations and that would get old really fast. That said if I find Halliburton on our list of contractors I won't be held accountable for my actions."
Witch Woman's smile was indulgent. "On to business, has Mr. Giles agreed to help us train the girls?"
Faith nodded. "Buffy too. We're moving things around to make the first level a sort of 'secured' visitors area so we can have the Scoobies and such there without compromising the security of the rest of the installation."
Tara's look was doubtful. "You still don't trust them?"
Faith sighed. "They joined us as a matter of necessity, not desire. I really can't trust them at this point, but it's not just them. I don't want to throw open the doors to a bunch of school girls without being able to take their measure. While we'll train them all I'm definitely seeing a divide. Some will be a sort of supernatural cop where they will be trained, set up with a handler..."
Tara interrupted. "You might want to use 'Watcher', handler sounds so sinister."
Faith shot back right away, with a grin. "And 'Watcher' sounds perverted, but that's not the point. They'll be set up, but with lower expectations to mainly keep monster populations down. They would contact us when serious threats arise where the best of the best would be on station here, helping us with our work. I figure between them, the blacksuits rotating in for occult training, and the war wizards we'll finally be self sufficient... I love that term 'war wizards' by the way."
Tara blushed, and then shook it off. "That's reminds me. Is Xander ok?"
Faith laughed out loud. "Yeah, he's fine. I don't think he realized that Voodoo has such a high alcohol tolerance because rum is used in so many of his rituals, and then Hammer is... well Hammer. I mean he's a fucking Viking. Thankfully though Xander avoided alcohol poisoning and just had an INTENSE hang over after the boys took him out to celebrate our win."
Tara quirked her head. "The rest of the boys?"
That got Faith laughing again. "They knew to stop drinking no matter what names Voodoo and Hammer called them. With Xander being so accepted by the guys I'm going to talk about him signing up as a National Guardsman here at the armory. That way we can have his help anytime we want it, and he can draw a paycheck on top of it."
Tara was trying to keep a professional expression, but didn't keep her legs from easing open as she felt Faith's hand sliding up her thigh. "I know we were going to pay Buffy and Mr. Giles, but I would like to give Dawn something too as she volunteered to help the girls adjust to school here in Sunnydale."
Faith's hand was cupping Tara's sex through the thin, now damp cotton of her panties. Exerting a little pressure had Tara biting her bottom lip, and Faith's breathing deepened as she continued speaking. "Hunt's even been making subtle hints about Red's skill on the keys."
The blonde's face had grown flush, but she focused at that. "And you're ok with that?"
Faith was more focused on the warmth soaking into her palm. "No, but if he could set up a system that would allow her to help while not letting her have any access to her systems I'm willing to use her skills to our advantage. ONLY if you are ok with that."
Tara made a deliberate rock into her lover's hand as she leaned into a passionate kiss. "The wounds have healed love. The scars will always be there, but they've fully healed."
The palm was pulled away and nimble fingers were drawing the fabric aside as Tara reluctantly spoke. "You need to stop Love."
Faith's index and middle fingers slid easily into aroused flesh, but she looked up into Tara's face. "Why?"
Instead of answering Tara's gaze looked off the roof and into the distance. Following her eyes Faith swore. "Damn it! They're early."
"They" being another busload of newly called vampire slayers. Faith stood up and straightened out her suit.
Looking in Tara's face she looked unsure. "Do I have any of your lipstick on me?"
Tara shook her head. "Smudge-proof. Does it still look ok?"
Faith picked up her towel and handed it over. "Blot."
Tara complied and at Faith's affirming nod the two women headed down to meet the new arrivals. Tara gave her lover's outfit an over done critical look. "Are you going to greet the girls in that? It's just going to get more 'Fort Lesbos' jokes from Gadgets."
"I'm not worried about Herman. I'm just glad the people of Sunnydale are so damn clueless they aren't noticing all these girls coming in and not going out."
With that the women held hands and walked down to greet the new arrivals.
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