Strategies and Developments
Author's note: This has been on hiatus for some time, I am aware, and I am not exactly certain when I'll have another chapter ready to post, but rest assured this story is not abandoned. I have, though, written a chapter that will post closer to the end of this particular volume in my little tragedy, but not until the story has progressed much further in that direction. There will be conflict, there will be despair, and maybe....just maybe....a little bit of light at the end of this very long tunnel. The long night is almost upon our brave and desperate heroes...Houston, KTRK Channel 13 News reporting site near Aldine High School
“We’re now into Day Three of the standoff between a group of armed students of Middle Eastern descent and HPD Special Weapons units at Aldine High School, and we’re now told that the students have barricaded themselves in the innermost classroom on the top floor, and they have mercilessly shot dead anyone who has tried to penetrate the upper floor of the school. The last body count stands at a total of thirteen HPD officers dead and fifty-two wounded. There’s still no word as to how the students came to avail themselves of so much ammunition, and they have still as yet made no demands, but the rumour mill is spinning, and options and time, it is said, are beginning to run out before the armed terrorists begin to execute the still unknown number of hostages.”
The attractive black woman standing before the camera, whose name was Gina Carstairs, paused for a moment while the voice of Alana Carson, the present anchorwoman at the desk, asked, “There’s been as yet no declaration of responsibility from any known terrorist groups currently on the Terror Watch List or otherwise, but have there been any statements as yet from the Police Chief Hursst or the National Guard?”
“No, Alana,” Gina answered, “and the Mayor has called the City Council into emergency session as of yesterday afternoon. No one has left the Council chambers yet, except for one staff member who answered our questions on the condition that he remains anonymous, and according to this staffer, Mayor Anette Parker, despite numerous demands to the contrary, has stated that she will not, I say again, not petition the Governor to send in National Guard assets, opting instead to seek out and hire assets from the clone mercenary group created by Bio Research Solutions, due to their impressive record in singlehandedly ending the cartel wars just south of the Mexican border. When she was asked for a reason by the Council, Mayor Parker cited that this is an internal matter of the City of Houston, and that the issue should not be permitted to spread further from the city limits than it already has.”
Just that moment, Gina turned to look over her camera operator’s shoulder, and her mouth fell agape.
“Gina? Gina, this is Alana in the studio, are you receiving?” Alana Carson’s face became the picture of professional concern for a colleague and a friend. “Gina?”
“Alana, you will not believe what I am now seeing. If my camera operator will turn in the direction I am looking,” and here the operator complied as his reporter spoke, “you will notice a bright light has now appeared in the air just a mile away or so, and a craft of some sort is emerging from this portal, for lack of a better description. We’re looking at the craft now, and we can definitely see markings on the craft that match those of the type of aerial transport vehicle that carried clones into P’yongyang and elsewhere. Yes, there it is now,” she continued as the clone gunship approached the high school, “and it is on an approach vector that will intersect with the high school roof in approximately one minute given their speed and direction. And now another clone transport has emerged from the portal, and it has taken the path followed by the first ship and pulled alongside it. Now they are moving together across the space between their position and the centre of the high school roof. Once they arrive their troop doors should open and the craft should disgorge the soldiers that will enter the school and hopefully end this horrific stalemate. Wait. Alana, I see something in one of the windows on the top floor.”
“Yes, Gina, I see it too. It looks like a window is opening. Someone is apparently leaning out with some sort of – wait; is that a rocket-propelled grenade?”
“Yes, it is, Alana, it looks like an RPG-7, and whoever is leaning out with it is taking aim at one of the clone transports.” Presently the sound of a large bang echoed in the space surrounding Aldine High. “Oh, my god,” exclaimed Gina, “he or she has just fired it at one of the clone transports, and now there is screaming all around and people running, looking desperately to get under some sort of cover in what looks now to be some sort of war zone. The troopship is now firing on the grenadier, and it has scored a direct hit on him or her. I can’t be sure because of all the devastation surrounding the grenadier’s position in the window, but I am fairly certain that the grenadier was killed instantly in the clones’ response. The grenadier’s body has begun to slump over, and now it has fallen from the window to the ground two stories below. The clone ships are now hovering over the roof of the high school, and are now casting lines from the open troop doors. Alana -- Oh my God….there is shooting inside the high school now. We can hear it from all the way out here. And now there are more bodies showing up in the windows of the top floor, and they look like students that have just been shot dead in cold blood, because they are now being shoved out of every window on the top floor of Aldine High. People down here are screaming. They are terrified, they are outraged. This is the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed. I only hope the clone soldiers can resolve this situation as effectively as they’ve done in North Korea and Mexico.”
“We can see it too here in the studio, Gina. This is appalling. There really are no words to describe this atrocity. These are high school students and their lives had only just begun. Now they will never know what they could have amounted to in the world because of these terrorists,” replied Alana somberly. “What are the clones doing right now?”
“The clones are now disembarking their transports and moving quickly over to the roof access hatch. They have the door open now, and they are filing quickly inside. They are moving very quickly inside, and they are as quiet as shadows. Bodies of dead students are still being shoved out of the windows to fall on the pavement below. The last trooper has entered the top floor of the school, Alana; now we can only wait for the clones to do their work.”Third Watchers’ Council Interim Headquarters, Christchurch, New Zealand
Xander, Giles and the remaining staff of the Council watched the events in Houston unfold with heavy hearts and grim purpose. School shootings had started to become regrettably commonplace, but this was the first one in which the local community had begun to ignore in large part the abilities of the local authorities, to instead call upon the clone forces of BRS that had proven themselves in the recent incursions south of the border and elsewhere. In short order the clones had swept through the Aldine High School building and taken out every terrorist that they had encountered, with extreme prejudice. There had been so many students killed that one would likely never think that a clone or two would have shot through the bodies of several living hostages to eliminate the terrorist holding them in his thrall. In less than half an hour, not one terrorist remained alive to tell the tale of the clone response. But the media were eating it up, and they were lauding the efforts of the Sith Lord’s mercenaries in bringing the terrible episode to a quick close.
There were now interviews being held only an hour later, and on every news channel the subjects of these interviews were either witnesses of the tragedy or city dignitaries that had elected to call upon BRS to help out. After listening to either the fifth or sixth interview, Xander lifted the remote controller and paused the live broadcast in disgust.
Looking around at every face present in the conference, Xander remarked, “Does anyone here see where this is heading?”
He expected their response to be as grim and numb as what he saw projected in everyone’s faces, but still he pressed his question. “Who wants to share their thoughts on this latest bit of news?”
A silken English voice spoke up. “I’d say public opinion is starting to work in favour of the Sith now, if this incident repeats itself in one or more places in the United States,” opined Drusilla.
“Agreed,” replied Patrick beside her. “Once people at home start relying less upon local law enforcement to deal with crises such as this, and more upon these corporate mercenaries, then our own country is just one step closer to abandoning Posse Comitatus and embracing a police state. Then other countries who see the model the United States is pursuing will start to follow in their wake, if they already do not possess a national police force or rely more upon their own military to manage terrorism within their borders. But regarding the complete annihilation of the cartels in Mexico and the People’s Army in North Korea, there’s a strong possibility that they in turn will start to consider BRS assistance as a more viable alternative. Throw in the premonitions about the nuke strikes down the road, and in my view and Dru’s, that’s a disaster just waiting to happen.”
“No doubt,” said Xander. “Rupert? Cordelia? Either of you want to weigh in on this?”
“Everyone knows who lives there that Houston is a vital shipping port for the United States,” stated Rupert Giles. “This attack has spread a message that Houston is now vulnerable to attack at any moment. We’re lucky it was only a school, but the key infrastructure there depends upon the petrochemical industry. There are literally thousands of chemical plants dotting the Gulf Coast region, but the largest concentration of that infrastructure is located in and around Houston and its Ship Channel. Today we had a few ambitious Islamists go into a public school building with only a few rifles, and they killed many. If you will all divert your attention briefly to the screen, I believe now they are saying that the last terrorist has been killed in action with the BRS troopers. Of course this now means that more communities across the United States and elsewhere in the world will be calling upon BRS for local security. Take this as a warning, people. The Sith are growing stronger by influencing public opinion worldwide against the law enforcement community. Next time an ambitious Islamist will be smuggling a nuclear device into one of those plants and detonate it, and that will set off a chain reaction that will wipe out the Texas Gulf Coast all the way to Conroe and Austin. It could even result in a tsunami the effects of which will impact the great majority of the entire Gulf Coast as far out as Yucatan in Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi. Throw in the regional hurricanes that plague the area during the summer months and we could see the more recurrent effects spread out across a greater part of the continental United States. Since word of this incident has flooded the US national media, the likelihood of one person
causing that much damage to that entire region has now increased manifold. We have to ensure that never happens.”
“What do you propose, Director Giles?” one person queried. Giles looked around, and his eyes fell upon the gaze of his old friend from the First Council, a Watcher named Robson whose life he saved during the Bringer raids in 2002.
Giles smiled at that memory. Looking Robson in the eye, he stated, “We need to send an urgent petition to the United States government to tighten security around Houston and the Ship Channel, and at every point along the Intracostal Waterway, and to use the National Guard and the Reserves in that capacity. Tell them that the United States is under imminent threat of a clandestine nuclear attack against its petrochemical infrastructure. And use your contacts in MI6 and elsewhere. Make sure the United States takes this threat very seriously…”
“At once, sir.” Robson then stood and walked out to carry out his orders. As he left, Xander shifted his gaze then to the ensouled vampire sitting next to the woman who had been a friend to him even when Sunnydale was not yet a hole in the ground.
“William, Cordelia, have you anything to report on the search for Potentials?”
An apologetic expression then crossed Spike’s face, and he and Cordelia turned as one to each other, then he answered, “Nothing yet, Xander. Cleveland was a bust, as well as the whole state of Ohio. After we closed the Hellmouth there it seemed all the Potential signatures just dropped off of Illyria’s radar. We’ll be conducting a search of the surrounding states, but if what I think is happening has come to pass, then being out there is going to become a lot more troublesome. I don’t particularly relish the thought of running into an ADAM patrol this early in the search…or anytime, really. I might be immune to sunlight now, but I can’t say the same for any bullets that come my way.”
“And I think no one here would be especially glib about an encounter with a clone squad or two. We don’t need the Sith to take notice of our activities this early in the execution stage. Cordelia?”
The brunette nodded in agreement, then replied, “Blue’s nose hasn’t been twitching for some time now. It may be just bad luck right now, but when we formed the Slayer Command all those years ago we pretty much rounded up any girl who could be a Potential and brought them to Groom Lake almost the same year the complex was finished. There’s not that much out there, and Blue and I are starting to think we may need to consider alternatives to rebuilding the Slayer army. There’ve also been some weird energy signatures that resemble Potentials in the areas we’ve searched so far, but whenever we go to investigate, there’s either no girls that match those signatures or the clone activity in the area was just too intense. People are starting to love having the ADAMs around, I’m afraid.”
The Head of the Third Council and his chief deputy both nodded in rueful agreement, and then Giles inquired, “Where’s your next search area, then?”
“Well,” she replied, “I had thought about going up to Chicago and starting there, then going in a counterclockwise pattern from state to state until we have gone around Ohio, and then if we bust out in that whole area we’ll try New England, going south along the Eastern Seaboard to Florida. We’ve got to get lucky at some point; I can’t believe there would no longer be a single Potential in the whole of the continental United States. How’s Angel’s search going?”
“He’s run into a snag of sorts; a retired agent of the American FBI has caught his scent. It seems this particular agent has knowledge of the supernatural world, and he demonstrated it to Angel when he staked a vampire on the East End of London. There seems to be more to this Special Agent than would be visible at first glance, and he may yet be a reliable source of information later in future, and possibly an ally later on in our campaign. For now, though, I will reserve my judgment and await word of Angel’s progress, of which as yet there has been no word. If we come up with any alternatives to the Coven of Masters in the matter of Calling any new Slayers, then you will all be informed at once and we will proceed to put those alternatives into practise. Until then we go with your plan. Acceptable?”
“Totally,” replied Spike and Cordelia in turn.
“Very good, then. Everyone please keep your ears open for any late breaking intelligence on the Sith and the ADAM troopers’ activities. I want to know at once if there’s any change in their strategy,” announced Xander, “though I would prefer to know what they’re doing before they do it. Let’s get to it, people; this meeting is adjourned.”
Xander and Giles watched as everyone began to file out of the conference room. When the last person left, Xander spoke without turning to the old Watcher.
“Are we sure about this, Rupert? I think we’re coming up on a dead end here…”
For his part, Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, hopefully to forestall the headache he knew was coming. “I don’t think anything’s certain at this point, Xander,” he responded tiredly, “but we have to proceed with Spike’s and Cordelia’s plan, and we have to hope that Angel or his new friend in the Bureau come up with something else that can help us. All we have against the Sith at this point is Buffy, and we can’t reveal her until we have something resembling an army.”
“What about that time at the Magic Box in Sunnydale, when Will—“ he hesitated to say that name anymore, knowing that to speak his old friend’s name aloud was to acknowledge that there might be some way to save his friend from the dark side. She was dead, though, and any hope that she could be saved, as well as Dawn, with her. “When she
first went bad, and you had to go back and stop her?”
Giles looked into Xander’s eyes in sudden remembrance, and his countenance betrayed the thoughts he kept hidden from the rest of the world that maybe he had grown just a touch sensitive to the flow of the magicks. “Are you referring to when the Coven gave me their powers?” Xander’s only response was to nod in silent affirmation, the idea forming in his mind that maybe Spike and Cordelia were proceeding wrongly. Perhaps they were looking for the same old Potentials…
“Maybe there’s a little something left…maybe she didn’t take all of it from you like she thought she did?” his voice translated for his mind.
Giles nodded. “Possibly…I have felt something faintly ever since Groom Lake…” He interrupted his sudden rumination with his next words. “Pass this on to Spike and Cordelia. If there’s a chance the Slayer Essence is starting to manifest itself otherwise, then we should explore it. Get going.”
Xander nodded then, and he almost jumped out of his seat to hurry after the two searchers…