If I owned the Buffyverse, instead of Hellgod Joss, I'd've made more happy endings...and yeah, there probably would've been Naked Faith and Naked Tara galore... As for the Avengers (one of whom will finally make her appearance in this story) if Canal+ and A&E would release them to me, who knows *what* I'd do with dear Emma?? ;-)
"From the look on your faces, I'm assuming the news isn't good on the Hellmouth front?" Buffy quipped as the Scooby Gang gathered in the Summers-Giles house.
"I'm afraid that's an understatement, Buff," Willow said. She glanced at the Watchers, and they nodded for her to go on. "We worked together on a spell to find out just how far the Mayor's Ascension has progressed. And we got this." She pulled a small crystal out of her pocket which was stained a red so dark it was almost black.
"O-o-okay, on the basis of the general ugliness and bloody-ness of that color, I'm assuming that this is a bad thing," Xander commented, "but for those of us without the mystical mood-ring translator, this means what?"
Miss Peel answered this time. "Actually, the mood ring analogy isn't that far off. The crystal is supposed to change color based on the local magical environment. Sky blue would indicate little or no power in the area, green a powerful untapped reservoir of magic in the area, and various shades of red indicate a power source currently being used for a major working, like an Ascension. The darker the shade, the more power being used.
"Based on the founding date for the town of Sunnydale, we were fairly certain that Mayor Wilkins was relatively close to the end of the hundred-year cycle of rituals that culminates in Ascension. This crystal tells us we may only have a few weeks left. Specifically, it tells us we've already missed the hundred-day deadline."A worried murmur went around the room. By now, everyone knew the Mayor's ultimate goal: transforming himself into a pure demon, the likes of which had not been seen on Earth since the passing of the Old Ones. And that during the last hundred days before the Ascension, his body would begin preparing for that transformation by extending itself into other dimensions. A side effect of this extension was that the Mayor would become totally invulnerable -- wounds would instantly heal, poisons and diseases would leave him untouched, and even fire and explosions were supposed to be completely ineffective.
The only consolation was that Buffy and Faith could pull out all the stops. An Ascension could be halted in the first ninety-nine years and two-hundred and sixty-five days with the possibility of starting over, but as part of the ritual that began the hundred days, the sorceror attempting Ascension offered up his human soul as a sacrifice to the Lower Beings, committing himself either to success or total annihilation.
Richard Wilkins was no longer human, and therefore a legitimate target for Slaying.
If they could only figure out how to hurt him, much less kill him.
"Any progress on the Gillette Multi-Blade Sword, G-man?" Xander said, referring to a theory Giles had developed, which involved enchanting a weapon so that it extended onto the same dimensions as the Mayor's body.
"Nothing," sighed Giles. "Since the Council's visit is coming up, I've asked Sanderson to bring us anything they have that might help, including books on enchanted weapons, but I'm at a dead end for the moment." Turning the tables on the boy, he followed up his comment with a question, "Have you come up with anything from your
perusal of the Books?"
"Actually, I think we've got something," Xander said. "Remember the bit about the high school being built the last time the Mayor went public? There's nothing special he was supposed to do in 1954, but we all agreed that the high school being built right over the Hellmouth was important, right? So Faith and I looked for any other reasons the school might've been put there, and we found something in the last book." He glanced over at his girlfriend/research partner.
She frowned down at a page of notes. "For the final transformation, he's got to be within a hundred yards of the Hellmouth, right? So, why not just put City Hall right on top of it? He wouldn't need to do anything special that day, just demonize right in his office. This way, he's got to make a special trip down to the high school, and with a hundred years to plan this thing, that doesn't make any sense. Except . . . " she looked down again, "'Even as magic nourishes the growth of the demon's spirit, so too must the demon's body be nourished with life.'
Xander and I figure that means the Mayor'll need to chow down on a bunch of people when he changes."
Willow snorted. "Trust you guys to come up with a food angle on all this."
Giles' eyes widened, and he raised a finger and started pacing, deep in thought. "I saw that passage myself, and assumed that it referred to a human sacrifice of some kind, but . . . actually eating
a number of people . . . yes, that would make a certain kind of sense. But that would mean that the Mayor would need to consume more than one person, or even the few dozen that work in City Hall . . . "
"There are over fifteen hundred kids at Sunnydale High," Xander concluded. "Brings new meaning to the phrase 'school lunch program,' doesn't it?"
The groans this last comment elicited were interrupted by the phone ringing. Mrs. Summers answered it, then passed the phone to Miss Peel. "It's for you, Catherine -- your father."
"Hello?" the Watcher said into the phone. After a short pause, a smile of relief appeared on her face. "Really? That's wonderful . . . Give Mum my congratulations . . . Mr. President," she finished impishly.
Whatever her father said received a chuckle in response. "You have my condolences, Dad."
Several "Um-hm"s and "I see"s followed, concluded finally with, "Yes, of course I'll tell them. Bye."
As she hung up, Giles glanced at his watch and asked, "The Conclave ran this late? It's past one o'clock in London."
"Most of the delegates probably went home hours ago, but the votes were being counted until about ten minutes ago. Apparently, neither side trusted the other not to interfere with the results, so they were counted out right away, in full view of anyone who wanted to watch. The final vote was almost two-to-one in my mother's favor, and the ink wasn't even dry on the tally sheet when she called a Council vote naming my father as the new President."
She chuckled. "Poor Daddy! He said he wished he had a best friend to go have a drink and grouse with, but all his best friends are on the Council with him and don't want to hear about it."
"Did he say anything about Giles?" Buffy asked eagerly.
She nodded. "Reassigning him as your Field Watcher will take a full Council vote," she paused as she turned to Giles, "but he told me to tell you that his first official act as President was to re-hire you as a full Watcher. And to compensate you for the two months you had to go without a Council paycheck, he's already set your salary at the level for a married Watcher with one child." She glanced at Mrs. Summers. "That's an extra ten thousand pounds a year, by the way."
The blond woman's eyes widened, and she glanced over at her fiancé. "You get bonuses for having kids?"
He shrugged. "There are enough of us that they don't require all Watchers to get married and have children, but that might have to change in a few years -- unless they start recruiting more outsiders like Catherine's mother. As it is, only about half the current Watchers have had children, and since there are a number of two-Watcher couples in that group, we're looking at a severe shortage of fresh trainees in the next generation."
"'Trainees.'" Mrs. Summers frowned. "That's a pretty cold way to talk about your own children."
"It can be a harsh way of life at times, Joyce. But I can assure you it's worthwhile. It could even become more so, if the Council can change a few of the rules and regulations that have been out of date since the Renaissance." Giles' mouth firmed and his expression grew more serious. "But worthwhile or not, someone
has to do the job we do, or else the whole world will suffer."
"Meanwhile, we do the same work, and for what?" grumbled Xander.
Willow noticed the look Giles and Miss Peel exchanged, but forgot about it as the latter said, "Dad also said that with the Conclave effectively over already, the Council's visit will be moved up. We should expect them no later than Thursday."
Giles mumbled something that sounded so nasty it must have come out of his "Ripper" days. "I wish the Council would content itself with sending one representative, or even two -- as long as one of them wasn't James Ashton or John Hemphill," he added. "Trevor's an old stick-in-the-mud, but when you get him away from Ashton, he's not all that bad. The other two, though . . . " He shuddered. "They're ten times worse than Quentin, and Ashton acts like he thinks he's a member of the Royal Family."
Miss Peel shrugged. "With the sudden shift in the balance of power on the Council, I doubt that my father would trust any members of the Opposition out of his sight. And if he sent more than one member of 'our party,' that would still leave a quorum in England, with Ashton's people back in the majority. This was the only solution that satisfied everyone."
"Everyone but us," muttered Giles.
After the meeting, Willow went home, deep in thought. Although Giles' grumbling worried her somewhat, she was actually looking forward to the Council's arrival. She had talked about it with Buffy, and knew the Slayer herself was interested in meeting Peter Peel and Terrance Evans, the two Council members who had once been Field Watchers to Slayers.
But the two Willow was interested in were its "big brains." Emma Peel and Wallace Sanderson had a combined I.Q. approaching four hundred, and with the former's scientific and tactical know-how and the latter's gift for mystical research, they probably could solve the problem of the mayor's invulnerability in two seconds flat.
At least Willow hoped so. Because if they couldn't solve it, the Scooby Gang -- and the world -- was in deep trouble.