“Slaying's what we were built for B.” Faith's voice echoed in Buffy's head as she looked around at the carnage that surrounded her. How in the hell did anyone manage to identify Faith after this? The warehouse was barely a shell.
“What did this?” she muttered to herself. “What could have done this?” Buffy wasn't a tech type. She didn't know if there were bombs that could do so much damage. But she found it hard to believe that something like this could happen naturally.
In the days following Willow's pronouncement of Faith's passing, Willow and the Devon coven had used every resource they could, mystical and otherwise to piece together what had happened. Faith had killed the Demon she'd been sent after. From what they could tell, it hadn't even been all that difficult. Rumble in the underworld was that the Demon had been somewhat preoccupied with another victim.
And that's where the real mystery started. There were rumors flying left and right as to what had happened next. Some were saying another Demon Hunter had been after him, and decided that a Slayer would make a good prize. Some were saying that the Initiative wasn't so defunct after all. Or any number of secret organizations from Department H, The Center, even plain old Interpol.
Willow had even heard that Buffy herself had come after Faith.
The only thing they knew for certain was that Faith had been pursued after the kill. And the chase had involved a young woman, a black helicopter, and a very large boom.
“Slaying's what we were built for B.” Of all the things, crazy and otherwise that Faith had said, why was that particular phrase running through her mind right now? Was this the epitaph she thought Faith should have? Was that really all they were? All they were for? Buffy couldn't believe that.
Maybe that was the real difference between them. In a lot of ways, Buffy would never admit to, she and Faith were very much alike. But Buffy had never believed, had never accepted that Slayers were made only to kill. That they were an expendable weapon. Even after they'd created an army of Slayers she'd refused to believe that. Maybe that's why Faith had flipped. She'd seen only the darkness of the Slayer's role and stopped caring.
“We're not expendable Faith.” Buffy thought. “And we will find whoever did this to you and make sure they don't hurt anyone else.”
The problem was, how?
“How are we going to find any clues in all of this?” she grumbled, kicking at a stray bit of heavy metal container. It skidded across the concrete, almost scuffing the circle Dawn was trying to draw. Her sister glowered at her.
“Do you mind Buffy?” she said. “Some of us actually have jobs to do here.” She regretted it immediately but before she could apologize, Buffy had turned away in a huff.
Dawn sighed. It was the first time she and Buffy had spent any time together since they'd left Italy. Not counting the few times during breaks from college. Not all of those had taken her to Scotland after all, which was where Buffy spent most of her time.
Of course it had taken a death to bring them together again. All of them really. Willow and Xander had emerged from their own “vacations” to help with the investigation. Any death of a Slayer or a Scooby was met with investigation, and usually, pretty bad ass retaliation.
The Devon coven or the handful of sciencey Scoobies usually handled the detective part. But this time was special. This was one of the old guard so to speak. One of the big names.
Faith was as much a legend as Buffy was. Bigger in some circles. Dawn didn't know how much Buffy was aware of the stories that got told. Dawn, being not the Big B herself heard more. Faith had always joked that while Buffy was the one the girls looked up to, she herself was a cautionary tale. But she was only half right. Faith wasn't just an example of what not to do, she was a story of redemption, and hope.
Her death had hid everyone hard. Even those, like Dawn, who hadn't particularly cared for her.
While Dawn was assisting Willow in at least the preparations for the mystical side of this investigation, Xander coordinated a small team of Slayers and friends in checking the mundane evidence.
“According to the Interpol report,” one, a hacker who's skills were impressive, even compared to Willow's, was looking into what had already been found. “Faith's target was under investigation by the Mortal Authorities. Interpol and the FBI it looks like.”
“Aw geeze.” Xander groaned. “But blowing up a warehouse? Pretty overboard don't you think?”
“It wasn't them.” she shook her head. “There was an undercover agent all set to apprehend the Demon...huh.”
“Even it's mortal disguise was kinda creepy.” She showed Xander the picture, and he agreed. It was exactly what you'd expect from someone suspected of...
“Okay wow. Even for us? Yikes.” The Demon had allegedly been involved in some pretty heinous stuff. No wonder the Feds were after him.
“Anyway it looks like Faith got to him before they did. Probably saved their lives. Then there was a chase, and Faith ran in here. And then it blew up.” She groaned and face-palmed. “God can't anyone come up with an original explanation?”
“Another gas leak?” the one eyed young man guessed.
“Yeah. But uh, somehow I doubt that's what happened.”
“Any gas leak big enough to do this much damage would have taken out a lot more than just this warehouse.” Xander acknowledged.
“Could it have been a bomb?”
“Maybe, but I don't know of any explosive could have done this. Granted my military knowledge is way out of date.”
“Well if it was mystical” Willow broke in. “We'll know soon. We're ready.” She stood just on the edge of the circle that Dawn had drawn. She was glad that the younger Summers had not only taken art classes in school, but had apparently done well enough in them to fill in the circle with the requisite elaborate runes and symbols.
“Willow,” Giles asked her. “What precisely are you going to do?” It had been many years since Willow had gone over to the Dark Side, but most of her friends still got a slight twinge of unease whenever she invoked either levels of power that were higher than most would, or when she cast a spell none of them were familiar with.
“Basically I'm going to use the circle, and the energy in the warehouse to trace Faith's path from where she killed the Demon, to here. The 'memory' is still in the area and I can make them appear as images in the circle.”
“So, it's like a mystical version of that holographic doo-wonky on that show?” Xander guessed.
“Yep!” Willow smiled cheerily.
“What do you need us to do?” Buffy asked.
“Just don't interrupt me, or disrupt the circle or I'll lose the signal.” Willow could see they were nervous. It didn't bother her. She knew she'd be fine. She knew now that it was not power in of itself, no mater how strong, that determined whether she'd go dark or light. It was entirely her own intentions. She began to chant in a language she was certain no one but possibly Giles would be able to identify. It was a language no one outside the densest jungles of South America spoke. She wasn't even certain it was of this Earth. Her diminutive green mentor certainly wasn't.
As she chanted, she could feel the old connections firing back up. It was a familiar feeling, ever since she'd brought a flower through the earth from Peru to England. This time she was bringing images, and psychic impressions. Less tangible, but also across far less distance.
Giles watched Buffy and the others. Mostly Buffy. He knew this must be killing the girl. He knew she hated feeling useless. Particularly because it was not a feeling she was used to. When the images popped into being in the circle however, his attention was riveted there. The 'picture quality' was not the best. He guessed it was from a combination of both Willow's inexperience with this kind of projection, and amount of time and distance that she was calling them from.
Faith's grunt as her ax buried itself in the Demon's skull sent a pang through all assembled. How strange it was, the things that stuck with you. Faith's inarticulate vocalizations in the midst of battle for instance. She barely had time to recover her breath before she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. Who knew where the supposed innocent victim of the late demon had hidden it. Her face was unclear. Buffy wanted to ask Willow to try to clear it up, but managed to hold her tongue.
The voice was garbled. They could make out the word 'freeze', and what sounded like three short words. Possibly a designation for some police branch? The hacker was already narrowing down possibilities.
Faith of course, did not freeze. She shoved the demon's body at the new assailant and bolted. The projections of the chase were disjointed, but as it went on, the picture and sound became clearer, as distance and time were lessened.
By the time Faith was in sight of the warehouse where they now stood, they could see her pursuer clearly. Buffy fixed the face in her mind. Then, Faith dashed into the warehouse, and was just in time to see a small, irregularly shaped circular device on the floor.
“Oh sh-” And then fire. Willow gasped, and leaped back from the circle. She was amazed to find that not one of her friends caught her from falling, but all of them did. She took a moment to revel in the warm fuzzies, then composed herself.
“So uhm, that's what happened.”
While the others cleaned up, Buffy paced restlessly. “Who was that woman? Who was she working for?” She whirled on the hacking Scooby. “Anything yet?” she demanded. Her tone was apparently sharper than she'd intended because the young woman flinched away from her.
“There's lots of Government agencies that could have been. It'll take a while to narrow it down.”
Buffy growled and bunched her fingers into her hair.
“Buffy,” Giles said, coming to a decision. “May I speak with you for a moment?”
Uh oh. He had his lecture face on. “Giles I know I need to be patient but I can't stand not being able to do anything.”
“Actually that's precisely what I wanted to speak with you about.” he said. “There may be something you can do.”
“What?” she asked eagerly. She really wanted to slay something or someone right now.
“There is a young man, an apprentice Watcher. One of those who survived the First's attack, who may be able to help us. It's taken me some time, but I've finally tracked him down.”
“How can he help us? Oh God Giles are you sending me on a recruitment mission? You know I hate those.”
“Yes I do. And yes, I am. You wanted to feel useful yes?” he smirked sympathetically.
Buffy sighed with frustration. “I'm supposed to be above those sorts of things by now.” she grumbled.
“This young man may be able to help us not only because he was a member of the Watchers. He was also working for the C.I.A. at the time.”
That stopped Buffy in her tracks. “Yeah buh-what?”
Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them. “He was sent by the C.I.A. to determine if the Watchers were a threat. Shortly before the First wiped out the London headquarters, the young man disappeared. My guess is that he was reassigned.”
“Okay so let me get this strait. You want me to go off to recruit a C.I.A. spook, to re-join the Watchers, this time for real?”
Buffy thought for a bit, then gave up. “Fine. He better be James Bond cute though.”
To Be Continued...
From the Personnel Files of Carpet Noctem:
Name: Vincente Natchios
Call Sign: Savant
Supernatural Expertise: Auras, and Ancient Runes
Training: Vincente has had no formal training in his area of expertise but has dedicated much of his life to independent study. As a result he has become quite an authority in the subject.
Special Skills: In addition to an extensive knowledge of Runes and their meanings, Vincente possesses the unique ability to see magic. This ability manifests itself as a distinctive aura around individuals or places with any sort of mystical ability or heritage. With practice and experience he has learned how to identify specific types of auras.
Background: Vincente has been very secretive about his background, but it is known that he was born and raised in Greece. His upbringing was apparently intensely abusive, resulting in an acute unease in the presence of women. He ran away at age 15, and eventually recruited into Carpe Noctem.