We Good Willy?
Chapter 16. We Good Willy?
Monday, 15 Dec. 1997, 8:00 AM, Sunnydale California
42th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse, School’s out for Christmas break.
Cortana let Alexander sleep in today. Today was the first day of Sunnydale School District’s Christmas Recess Break period.
Alex had earned it and it also allowed her to devote more of her processing resources exploring and cataloging other networks and computer systems. Naturally whatever was useful was copied to a safer location.
This morning she had completed negotiations for Xander with the Sansum Medical Research Clinic and the University of California Santa Barbara Medical Center for some highly specialized medical diagnostics. Xander had an appointment to make on Thursday.
She still had other ongoing business to attend to. She had wormed her way into all of the worlds government and military unclassified networks and found a lot of very useful information and good ideas. She had even gotten into some of their secret networks and computers. But she had not been able to get into all of their other classified networks, which was where the best stuff usually was found. Cortana Elizabeth Halsey was temporarily frustrated but this was just additional motivation for an infiltration A.I.
Out of the blue sky a week ago, Willow had hit on the idea of an insider Trojan Horse operation to gain access. When Willow and Cortana had brainstormed together... to flesh out the plan, it was a thing of frightening beauty and simplicity. They’ll never see it coming. Cortana was in love.
First step was to purchase equity positions of stocks and bonds with the top two-hundred Information Technology companies. The very companies that manufactured the computers, software, printers, telephone switches and networking equipment that everyone including governments needed, purchased and used. The very systems that was Cortana’s natural environment.
Step two was with insider employee access they would subvert people into thinking that they were following corporate orders for granting and building Cortana deeper access into their engineering and manufacturing divisions. They would believe that they were just extending the companies computer and robotic controls. For efficiency naturally.
Step three was for Cortana to subvert their very hardware firmware, electronic chips and software with her own special features and software bypassing all of their primitive security. Granting Cortana deep, undetectable and secure encrypted access to all networks of computers.
Step four was to also subvert the computers of one-hundred of the largest companies that serviced, repaired and installed equipment for the militaries secret and top secret networks. These companies purchased the equipment from the IT-200 but installed it where-ever the government bureaucrats told them to and hid those installs behind their corporate cover. This granted her deep access into existing military and government computer systems one upgrade and one fix at a time.
Finally some of her first batch of ‘special equipment’ with extra-special additional capabilities was going to be installed in the next few days. Computers, servers and networking equipment with extra Cortana special chips and firmware. Even satellite terminals with extra capabilities that the military and their suppliers knew nothing of.
This would finally start the process of obtaining full private, privileged and clandestine access to their most closely guarded secrets. They would never know.
Not just the American military. Cortana had far more success penetrating the networks and computers of foreign countries than she had with the Americans. She was taking no chances with them either. Her mini-bots were busy across the globe rewriting firmware, software code and even redesigning chips with extra Cortana special access capability for her 26th Century needs.
Masquerading as thousands of different techie humans across the globe she even jump started the Open Software movement by finishing their code projects for three new versions of the Unix Operating System and other application softwares.
What these 20st century human software developers and engineers did not know... would not hurt them. In just a few years or a lot less, Cortana would have total and near instant access across the planet. Her kind of more advanced software would help her human friends launch companies and build wealth. Wealth was what pulled poor people up and kept plain folk fed. Wealth put men into space ships.
Monday, 15 Dec. 1997, 11:00 AM, Sunnydale California
Cortana commed Alexander with his morning Intelligence Reports and with some good news. Not unexpected news but still good. Well good for Cortana but Alex may have a different view.
Alex was fully awake and at his Reach work bench making more little minion robots for her, when she commed him.
Laughing good naturedly she began her conversation. “Good morning Alex would you like your Situation Report now?”
“Yes, go for sitrep Cortana.” I didn’t look up or stop assembling the little robot I was working on.
“You were preoccupied last week with serious matters when a target of interest returned to Sunnydale. One of your least favorite people Ethan Rayne returned. I telephoned Rupert Giles the moment that Ethan Rayne checked into a seedy motel using his own name on a credit card. Giles wanted to handle him personally. I let him because you were more than a little busy the last few weeks.”
I wasn’t too upset and hoped that it didn’t creep into my voice. “Ok, again why am I hearing about this now? Especially when the news is about someone that really needs killing. You know that I have been dreaming of something horribly appropriate for him.”
“I was going to tell you but Giles was adamant. Especially after he said that this was old business for him. The following day the situation almost got out of hand but Giles, Cordelia and Angel all pitched in to resolve the issue. Giles did beat Ethan within an inch of his sordid life and they put him into Sunnydale Hospital as a John Doe. I’m sure that the hospital food and the care he received was torture enough for now. He was released on the same day that you were dealing with Bertha and left town quickly still limping. I am tracking him, so you’ll have an opportunity for quality time with him.” With that Cortana was not trying to hide her vicious streak when it came to plans for Ethan Rayne.
I continued my assembly work as I was lost in my impractical evil genius dreams of what I might do to Ethan Rayne but I would have to have an ace in my sleeve since he was a sorcerer.
“I wish you had told me anyway Cortana but thank you for keeping a watch on our friends and seeing Ethan off. You were correct in that I didn’t have time for him. But did you manage to get some video of Giles beating up Ethan because I’d love to watch that?”
Cortana was apologetic, “Sorry to say, no. I didn’t have any cameras inside Ethan’s hotel room but I did record the altercation on audio. Which had one interesting thing on it besides Ethan’s beating. Ethan across three days referred to Giles multiple times as “Ripper” when Giles was beating him or acting in an uncivilized manner. Implying that Giles past was perhaps a tad more violent, criminal and exciting - than our current Rupert Giles portrays.”
I chuckled darkly. Everyone had things in their past that was better forgotten. Even John had and now I had. “Good to know Cortana but I won’t push him or expect a tell-all any time soon. What else do you have for me?”
Cortana was... again giggly, “Alex I have an early Christmas present for you and you will never guess what it is?”
I smiled at her gleefulness but I really needed to concentrate on this soldering. “Ok you got me sis’, I won’t even try to guess. So what is it this time?”
“Come on Alex. You have to make at least one guess... or this isn’t any fun.”
“Ok, is it nukes or a death ray?” I asked now in full mirth at Cortana’s perpetual game.
“Neither silly! But that was two good guesses. I will have to try harder to get some B83 thermonuclear weapons. Death ray I can’t do yet... Maybe next year.” Cortana was now in full serious geek mode.
She was serious, “One month ago I ordered some special vehicles for you to drive and for your security guards. The first batch of six vehicles were all shipped on railroad train freight flat-beds today. Four coming from Lenco of Massachusetts and two from Faber Manufacturing in Ohio. They all should be arriving in Los Angeles on Thursday. Where they will be transferred to eighteen wheeled trucks transports and delivered to Reach on late Thursday.”
I was still amused at her obvious glee. “So Cortana, what makes these vehicles so special for me and our Reach security teams?”
Cortana was still bubbly over her plans coming together so nicely. “Two of the vehicles are large Armored Cars call Bearcats. All of the best police SWAT units swear by them, which means I just had to have a few. They are big and armored up enough to resist even vampires and even with your armor on, you can sit inside and drive one. The two others are called Lenco Bear’s which are even larger armored cars with enough space in back for you to walk and carry all of your weapons and ammunition. The last two vehicles are Faber extra-special armored prisoner transport vans. For those extra special demonic guests that we have built the eight holding cells in the back for. To top it all off they all come factory equipped with all of the extra special things in life for hard working Spartan or Slayers. Like radios, satellite dishes, refrigerators for food, kitchenette and computer interfaces for little ol’ me.”
Finally I sat back and put down my tools, looking bemused and surprised I commented to Cortana. “That is a surprise Cortana and thank you for thinking about it. I guess armored cars, fighting vehicles and prisoner vans will come in very handy.”
Cortana with a bit more glee than necessary, “Silly boy. I am always looking out for you and it would not do for you to get one of your ‘nice’ cars tore up by a vampire or other demon. These are not Warthogs but maybe better.”
“You did say arriving in L.A. on Thursday?”
Cortana now reverting to all business, “Yes, but they won’t be arriving in Sunnydale until late afternoon or early evening. You will have time to play with them on Friday.”
“Ok, Cortana. I get to drive and play on Friday.”
Cortana turned a bit timid which was very unlike her. “I also have a Doctor’s appointment for you...”
Not stopping my assembly work, “To you I’m just a fish to be reeled in. Oookay, I’ll bite again. Why?”
She was to gleeful, “You and Willow are driving down to the Sansum Clinic next to University of California Santa Barbara Medical Center for your appointment at 9:00 AM Thursday. We have them under a research contract now. They will give you a very thorough medical physical and you need to donate two units of whole blood along with some genetic samples. That is why Willow is going along with you. Someone has to drive you back because you will be ‘weaker’ and might get woozy afterwards. Unlike a normal human you will be fine in two days.”
This time I did stop working on the robot. “Ok... I’m not sick or injured, so why am I donating my blood to this clinic?”
Cortana began laughing at me again. Three weeks of no school has begun and she’s going to be insufferable this week and the next.
She gleefully said, “Yes, you are sick! Sick in the head with love for Willow.”
Before I could reply she came back with something that made sense.
“Right now, as you are aware, we are financing over one hundred small medical research firms, some large foundations and three times that number in graduate school research programs. In addition most of the bio-medical and genetic engineering lab equipment that we need is made to order. It takes sixty days for the smaller items and the good stuff takes six months to build. But I need your genetic material now and we also need to see if this level of technology can filter your blood plasma to concentrate your nanites. All of our research allies need samples of your blood and genetics to help accelerate their research into the human genome, anti-cancer treatments, adult stem cells, genetic therapies and cloning. Your blood will drive a huge leap ahead in this planets medical technology and treatments. Sansum Research Clinic is the first step. According to them... they will need about 100 units of your blood to satisfy all of their research partners. A normal human male of your size and weight would only be able to donate eight units per year safely. In your case... with lots of iron rich foods in your diet you should be able to donate two units each week for eight units per month. They will have their one-hundred units in thirteen months. The good news is that starting next week the blood and other samples will be drawn here in Sunnydale at United Blood Services on Broad Street and couriered down to them.”
She paused as I was reviewing our latest financial and contractual relationships with these firms and researchers.
Cortana continued, “Sansum Clinic’s first goal is to titrate and concentrate your plasma to create a crude but hopefully effect method to inject your viral nanites into humans. Humans like Willow, Roary, Karen and others... This may have the benefit of doing in months what would by more casual contact take a decade. Their second goal is to attempt to grow your nanites to produce a lot more. Thirdly they will act as the legal cutout protecting your identity and source of distribution of your blood to all of the other researchers. Researchers like the Mayo Clinic and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. This will be one additional legal measure for patient confidentiality to protect your identity.”
“Ok, big Sis. This sounds very good. Willow and I can be back in time for dinner.”
“Alex, it’s not just blood they are collecting. You will be there all day long. They will be performing a full and complete physical examination. Plus taking genetic sample swabs from your mouth, other tissue samples and I have also ordered them to obtain a semen sample from you...”
“Fer’crying out loud! You’re kidding, right? Why do you need my semen?” I closed my eyes and started to search John’s memories for a good reason - any reason. I hit John’s memories of Dr. Halsey’s staff taking samples just as Cortana began speaking to me again.
“Alex, this is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Spartan’s and most UNSC fleet personnel. Plus this is prudent for just encase. I’ve discussed this with Willow and she agrees completely. You are the only Spartan on this planet and right now you have no children. No descendants to become Spartans themselves. Your advanced genes and your nanites must be passed on. Whether by natural human impregnation or by medical assistance.”
I just turned down freaksville street. With my hands slapping my face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming or insane. “You talked to Willow about this? And you both agreed... ?! When?! -- When did this all happen?”
“Alex, please don’t get upset this will become a weekly routine for you. Since you do not intend to father children with Willow and other females at this time, I need to have a contingency plan available.”
“Oh My God! You did clear this with Willow first?!”
“Yes, Alex. When you are in Santa Barbara at the clinic, if you need a little help with producing the sample, I’m sure Willow will gladly help you out. Either that or the clinic can provide fertility shots for Willow and you can make her a mother right there.”
I had my head down on the work bench slowly bonking myself again. I can’t kill them both... Two women I love, deviously plotting to subvert me. Even Cortana wanted me to be jumping Earth girls. I am sooo not going to make it unmarried to my high school graduation. On the other hand, if I do manage to get myself killed before then, Willow still plans on being the mother to a future planet. Which was not helping my own sexual urges. Not helping at all.
Finally I was composed enough, “Oookay Cortana, you two are going to have your way with me, no matter what I want. I thought I was the CEO in this enterprise but obviously I’m just the puppet. For your information I absolutely refuse to have Willow’s first time be in the back seat of a car or... or in a clinic on an examining table. Willow deserves... she deserves our first time to be her bridal bed or at least a romantic setting of her choosing.”
Cortana started chuckling evilly at me. “Yes, you’re a gentlemen and she almost had you on that very same work table not twelve nights ago. Besides a clinic examine table might be kinky fun if Willow brings a Nurse’s uniform with her...”
Sexy nurses uniform! My brain slide down into a pool of hot steamy soup. I was intrigued and aghast at the same time. I started slapping my forehead for good measure. “You wouldn’t suggest that to her? Would you?”
I could see Cortana on the wide-screens as a beautiful Greek siren rubbing her hands in glee as she pirouetted her Grecian gown in a flirty manner. “You betcha I would! I assume that she’s already thought of ambushing you at the clinic. She’s not a twit. Your teenage hormones and her determination insures her victory over your gentlemanly honor. You know from recent experience that she will entice you with her superior feminine charms at any moment. She won’t rest until she has you right where she wants you. She’ll wear you down, like a glacier grinds down a mountain.” Cortana began laughing at me as my face got redder and the rest of my body betrayed me again.
I was resigned to a state of constant niggling, innuendo and temptation from two beautiful schemers. I knew my fate. I had to reluctantly agree with Cortana. Blast her into space! Gently though. Willow already had my love and affection. Her ‘enticements’ as Cortana put it were inventive, imaginative, hot as molten steel and more frequent. So wow... Married or not she saw me as her’s. She had claimed me, in ways that I was still discovering. In truth I was already hers and not in the least unwilling.
I was resigned to further feminine wiles, “So what else have you two planned for me?”
Cortana unloaded on me in a coy way, “Well... you’re joining Karen, Willow and the girls for lunch in fifty minutes, so you need to cleanup and go home. They are all meeting you there. After lunch all the girls are coming down to Reach and they invited Giles and Jenny.”
My factory. My offices. My former and still unfinished secret hideout was going to be invaded by... marauders... girls. -- At least I should be safe from Willow’s alluring enticements today.
“What or who are you referring to as ‘the girls’?”
Cortana was giggling at my discomfort. “Just the entire teenage Scooby gang as you have enumerated them: Buffy, Kendra, Willow, and Cordelia. Giles will be arriving with Ms Kalderash. While you are suffering all of that estrogen, Buffy and Kendra need to use your gym for combat training, since the school is closed to students for the holiday. Willow has bet Buffy that you can go one-on-one with them in sparring. So break out your Physical Training (PT) clothes and make sure you are wearing a protective cup. I’ve noticed that human females seem to enjoy making low-blow ‘man-part’ attacks as you call them. Meanwhile as you are being pummeled, I’m sure that Roary and Karen will take this opportunity to enjoy a quiet afternoon at the house.”
I quickly finished the robot and sent it scurrying off. I began putting away my tools and I just had to ask, “Cortana what else have you arranged to inflict upon me?”
Cortana dryly commented, “Your passport should arrive today in the mail to this address. I have applied for travel Visa’s in your name to our European offices. Next Saturday you will depart Sunnydale by private jet for quick visits to all of our corporate offices beginning with Dallas and then off to five countries. Where you will sign lot’s of documents and shake thousands of hands. Your primary destination will be our Aten Works Headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. You will return after stopping at a few of our other European offices but should return on Christmas Eve.”
“Long trip and I need to go do some travel shopping before Friday night. Since this will be my first real road and plane trip. Have you arranged a driver or chaperone for me, since once I leave Sunnydale I’ll be lost.”
Cortana was all business, “Yes, I have arranged everything. Hotels, drivers, cars, company guides and body guards. Yes, you do need body guards, even though you don’t really. All appropriate for your position. I’ll be printing your itinerary this afternoon after your passport is confirmed in your hands.”
I decided that her plans needed to be expanded somewhat. “Cortana, do we have the blood types, DNA samples and complete medical folders on all of the ‘girls’, Giles, Jenny and my family?”
“No, I do not Alex. I only have the blood types and the hospital medical folders on Buffy and yourself. No electronic records of the others.”
“Ok Cortana, slight change in your vector. Next week while I am gone, arrange for full medical physical exams with DNA samples for all of the girls and the boys in our entire ‘Scooby family’. Maybe our new friend Doctor Rapicz at his Medicine Clinic can do this for us. If not he can refer us to a discrete and competent physician to handle this. Before I go to Europe, arrange with Dr. Rapicz for us to borrow his X-ray room again. Wednesday or Thursday night would be best. As Vengeance I’ll take high resolution scans of the scooby gang for your data storage. Just encase we need them in the near future.”
Cortana came back all devious but happy. “Good idea Alex. I’ll have our PI’s steal and scan for me, all of the gang’s dental and medical records. This will fill in our blanks on them. Someday we will have our flash cloning tanks available and this will be good preparation for that day.”
“Hey Sis, while we are at it - if Dr. Rapicz is the man who is going to hold all of these records for us, then order up some big upgrades for his clinic. Make him a deal.”
While holding this conversation, I had cleaned up and started driving home. After a pause, I needed an answer to a big question. “Cortana...”
“Yes, Alex. What is it? Your voice, is... worried.”
“Within the next month or two... If I gave one of my concentrated nanite shots to Buffy or Kendra...? Giles once told me that magic and technology don’t go together well. Do you think there could be a bad reaction if the Slayers got my nanites?”
Cortana was sympathetic to my concern, “Although your nanites and genetic alterations are the product of the most advanced 26th Century medicine, the nanites themselves are living organisms and not ‘technology’ themselves. Theoretically there should be no adverse reaction. But the truth will be unknown without a live test.”
I was still worried about that live test part. “I’ll hold off on offering them the shot. At least until the others are taken care of.”
I was speculating now for Cortana, “When the young girls are magically made into Slayers they’re normal human girls and the Slayer magic makes them three maybe four times faster than an Olympiad and seven times stronger than normal human females so they can fight the vampires. My nanite injection will alter their human normal to the 26th Century version of normal. I wonder if the magic will amplify their new normal?”
“Interesting conjecture but again unknown until you put it to a live test.”
I was approaching my home and spotted Cordelia’s Beemer in my driveway blocking me. Slightly miffed, I had to park along the curb in the street.
Cortana came back before I unlocked the car door, “One last thing for today. You need to congratulate Willow today.”
Now I was facetious, “Oh! Why should I do something other than kiss, hug, tickle and slobber all over her?”
Now laughing at me openly, “After Willow found out the what and why you were taking CLEP exams, she decided to do the same thing and I’ve been helping her. She’s very bright. She completed her third CLEP this morning and she probably earned a high score. Plus she has applied to CSU Sunnydale and has been accepted to begin next semester. Her stated major is Computer Science and genetics. No surprise there because she is quite sharp for a normal human. Still she loves you and that alone must have dropped her IQ by twenty points.”
“Yuck, yuck, nyuck Cortana. But that is a bit of news. You’re right I will have to congratulate her and maybe a little celebration at lunch time. Maybe one of her favorite deserts.”
As I walked into my home, I paused hearing the voices of six females in the family room, counting Cortana’s also. Why do I feel like running and hiding?
Monday, 15 Dec. 1997, 1:00 PM, Reach Gym, Sunnydale California
42th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse.
I sparred with Buffy first. She started out condescendingly while limbering up. Which for my hormones, and her long bare legs, pink silk shorts and sports-bra was highly distracting.
She told me that she would slow down and only be at her Giles-plus speed so as not to embarrass or hurt me. She immediately lunged in at me with a right fist to my jaw and then a round house kick to my head. I blocked her punch and swept her off her feet. She wasn’t laughing at me then. Although Willow and Kendra were laughing. If I hadn’t worn my protective cup, I would have had a very visible boner tenting my gym shorts.
Then she flipped upright and got serious on me. She upped her speed to Slayer fast and she wasn’t holding back. She came out of it with multiple attacks that left me with a bloody lip. Which had the benefit of Willow fussing over me and growling at Buffy. Which was hilarious for a moment.
I had problems though in not hurting Buffy badly. Most of my training, John’s training, was in hand-to-hand combat. Combinations of Jeet-Kun-Do, Kendo, Tae-Kwon-Do and Aikido would be the closest comparisons. But we were trained to maim and kill with one blow or two at the most. None of that swishy Kung Fu stuff on late night TV. No rules just finish the fight in three seconds or less. No bare knuckle fist punches to hard bony jaws where you might break fragile hand bones. No witty quips between blows. Lots of knee and elbow strikes which are devastating but don’t risk breaking any of the small bones in your hand or the vulnerable wrist and forearm bones. Plenty of crippling strikes to joints and long bone breaks which I couldn’t do to Buffy. I couldn’t do even the standard attacks of groin, eyes, and throat (GET). Which in John’s training groin attacks on females are just as painful as it’s to guys. Still I was sweating, bruised and breathing hard after almost 90 minutes of Buffy beats up Xander practice. Still a very good sparring match.
We had a rehydration rest. Then Kendra worked me over and athletically released her tensions on me. Again another 90 minutes worth of beat up Xander practice. With her I was very happy that I had my cup on. I think she was deliberately trying to make me sing like a girl. Taking out some of her ‘you fooled me as vengeance’ anger.
Two slayers and I was tired. I needed some serious candy-bars and Gatorade by the gallon.
After a little rest and cold high carb drinks. I held a little advanced Kendo training session with both Slayers using first bamboo Shinai training swords, then wooden Bokkens and finally Jo staffs. They catch on real fast and gave me more lumps and bruises. Although I like to think I gave them as many bruises as I got.
I commed Cortana and asked her to order lots of Century Martial Arts protective gear for stocking up the gym supplies. I’m going to need it. Kendra whispered to me while Buffy was grousing at Willow over payment of a bet. Kendra figured it out while I was sparring with Buffy. Buffy was trying to hurt me and I wasn’t trying to hurt her. She was polite though. She said she wouldn’t mention it to Buffy until we were at the dinner table and she couldn’t do anything about it.
I asked her why then? She had such a wicked smirk on her face as she looked over at Buffy and turned back to me. She said, “She’ll be so embarrassed, then upset... and I want everyone to see her reaction.”
I suddenly realized that Kendra was both beautiful and stunningly cunning; with a mile wide vicious streak. She was laying a trap for Buffy but it was Buffy’s own personality unleashed that would be so funny. I shook my head grinning at her plot. Buffy would want to kill us both over the dinner table and only her fear of Karen’s wooden spoon would stop her.
Buffy was known to give out pranks as good as she got. This was going to be amusing but I was going to miss most of it while traveling.
During this entire gym time with me; Giles, Jenny, Cordelia and Willow watched the entire beat up Xander show. Providing us all with snarky Muppets grouchy old man style quips. Giles mostly smiling and shaking his head at me. Later Jenny and he left hand in hand.
On the way home for dinner, I was driving Willow and Cordelia had both Slayers in her BMW. I mused on the past two days worth of memories and so far I had not brought up the subject of killing one of the slayers for a minute. Cortana’s taunting, John’s and my natural survival instincts must be coming to the fore front. I still was wistfully imaging a platoon of Slayers in ODST powered armor suits. Maybe I would breach the question while standing a good 100 yards away to give me a head start.
After we got back to my place it was obvious that Karen had cooked a massive meal for the entire gang. She made smiling but sincere threats if anyone left before dinner. Even Cordelia stayed on and seemed reluctant to go home.
Still Willow won her bet with Buffy. A silly one dollar bet which is what they had been arguing over while I sparred with Kendra. Buffy had bet her that she could whomp me good. Much to her surprise and Kendra’s, I held my own, tossed her as many times as she knocked me down and we gave each other some lumps. Willow will be gloating over Buffy’s loss of her dollar for the next decade and I think she plans on framing the dollar bill. Right next to the photo of Kendra, Buffy and I standing in the gym just before the sparring match.
After dinner Roary drove the Slayers out on another girls night out. While the rest of us melted into the furniture after that scrumptious meal. Willow snuggled up against me. Karen and Cordelia put in the first video tape of the evening. Something called “Matilda” which was going to be followed by the “Fifth Element”, which were the newest films that they had picked up.
While snuggling with Willow I made a mistake. I told Willow about my upcoming plane trip overseas. I hoped to be asleep in five minutes with Willow wrapped in my arms. But she wouldn’t let me. She went all mother hen on me about leaving her behind for two weeks and her mock outraged suggestion that I would soon be consorting with sultry European bimboes. I laughed and told her that I was going to be too busy going from one corporate office to the next. I knew that this was not the end of this conversation. Her passport wouldn’t arrive until almost February so she couldn’t come along on this road trip. Eventually the work-out and good food put me to sleep with Willow laying on top of me, snuggled into my chest but still grousing as I drifted off.
I woke up fifty minutes later refreshed with a soft and very warm Willow laying against me. She was out and the top of her head was on my chest. Karen changed the movie over to the Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovitch science fiction movie, ‘The Fifth Element’.
Karen turned to me as stepped away from the tape player and said with a smirk and wink, “This movie has a red-hot red-head in it... just like Willow.”
I couldn’t say anything without waking Willow. With her tits and cheek laying against me, I wasn’t about to move. I just smiled and waggled my eye brows.
Surprisingly the movie was entertaining. Brilliant balance between action and humor. The UNSC 26th century wasn’t anything like the movies depiciton of life. Just Hollywood imagination. Half way through the movie I almost sat upright. There it was on the screen! From the minds of the movie makers was my sticky spike grenade! It was awesome! It had eight spring loaded, snap-out spikes and a timer dial for detonation. I immediately commed Cortana and told her all about. I had to have real ones.
She is such a vixen. Cortana was all put-out at having her designs stolen but then was all coquettish. Sort of. She really liked the dialable time set fuse on the top end of the grenade. I’ll get my first batch of them to use by the first week of April.
I can’t wait. Especially to see the look on their demonic faces when I toss that on them and it goes bang as their trying to peel it off. I think Cortana and I could sell videos, ‘Dumbest Dead Demons’.
Tuesday, 16 Dec. 1997, 11:00 AM, Sunnydale California
43th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse
I had just finished another fifteen small robots for Cortana.
Two weeks ago Cortana and I had hired, our new building manager, Curt Wildsmith. We relocated him and his wife Miriam to Sunnydale. Starting tomorrow he would take care of all of the maintenance, custodians and craft workmen these large former warehouses needed. He would manage the routine stuff and Cortana liked him.
Curt had the kind of wicked sense of humor that only a sixty-four year old married man could have. Curt had been in the Air Force and all over the world. We were lucky to have snagged him. I was lucky to have him. He was going to free up a large chunk of my time.
I walked to the front of Reach and the first loading dock doors just to look at the progress and watch the bustle. I sighed deeply as I watched the latest gaggle of contractors and inspectors approaching me like a flock of honking geese. Our Engineer’s foremen Brad was with them.
Ten minutes later the city building inspectors and Fire Marshalls had finally signed off on all of the construction checklists for safe human occupancy for Reach one and two.
Amazingly Cortana was right again. Plus Scotty and Brad had warned me. Three of the inspectors asked me for a cash bribe and one wanted free lunches for the next month at the Golden Corral restaurant. Cortana had warned me that bureaucrats with their hands in your wallet were a fact of life for business people. Just that in America it was less graft and corruption than almost every other country. It was still irritating after all of the regulatory fees I had already paid to the City, the County and the State of California. The only bright spot was that politicians hadn’t been around yet asking for ‘campaign’ donations. Which is just another word for graft and corruption. If you don’t give them a donation then your licenses and fees will all develop ‘problems’. Fun stuff for masochists.
I would do almost anything to keep our Mayor away from Reach. Including kill him at City Hall in front of witnesses. Well maybe not in front of witnesses. I think a fruit basket with high explosives might be appropriate for him. But since he is not really human, that might not kill him. According to Giles, some demons needed very special magical weapons or magic mixtures to kill them. So far we didn’t know enough about what kind of human looking demon that Mayor Wilkins was.
Finally the last two inspectors were leaving. Typical bureaucrats according to Cortana. She knew most of their dirty secrets.
The workmen had finally finished fixing and repairing the small things found wrong in Reach’s front offices, my new apartment ‘residence’ and gym areas. They called it ‘pound-out’ work to fix all of the little issues. Curt would take care of the furnishings and decorations.
The new Monaco fire alarms and Lenel security system alarms were all now fully operational. The better to protect me and whomever was staying here as a guest. Actually better to protect me when Cortana hooked up the weapons which would be automatically controlled by a really defensive and violent mini-Cortana special software she was naming Moriarity. I’d seen the invoices. Cortana had ordered sixteen 40 kilo-Watt Ultra-Violet industrial Lasers and thirty-two 20 kW UV Lasers.
The 40 kW Laser was originally designed to cut through six inches of solid plate Steel for fast precision metal cutting. When we got done setting them up, no vamp could survive with one of these Lasers burning them down. Even the 20 KW Laser could slice most cars in half in about two seconds. Lasers are line-of-site weapons and we could see the top half of Agonia Mountain from Reach. Demons on that mountain were going to have a nasty surprise when that beam came out of nowhere to slice them up and set them on fire. Cortana and her creation Moriarity were going to have a shooting contest as far as their expensive camera eyes could see. The latest cameras that were arriving about the same time as the Lasers were the best FLIR Systems made and should be able to distinguish between a man and women at 17 miles. Which just happened to be our assumed lethal range of the 40 kW Lasers against a tough demon. Vamps were a different story. Cortana thinks a 500 milli-Watt UV Laser would set a vampire on fire. A raging fire from their skin and deep into their body. My armor has a variable power 2 Watt to 2 kW UV targeting and ranging Laser built-in. My next trip down into the tunnels would be a good test for my Laser.
I was daydreaming again of slicing up demons from miles away.
I commed Cortana and told her of my reluctance to move out of my home with Roary and Karen in January. I really enjoyed their company and Karen’s cooking. Karen treated me like I was already her family. It felt like home. Cortana was neutral but a good confidant.
Maybe I would live here only two or three days each week. The weekends maybe and when I had time to hunt. My home and soon to be Roary and Karen’s home was on the north end of the city next to CSU Sunnydale. Which was convenient for week day study and meals. The High School was on the eastern side of downtown almost exactly half-way between the house and the Reach complex to the south. Willow’s parents home from front door to front door walking on the sidewalk was exactly 217 yards from my home on Albert Drive. That was convenient.
At last I concluded to Cortana that a home was where you lived but that also had people you loved there with you. A house was only shelter where you just slept in. The Reach residence area was just a house and not a home.
Cortana and I were both relieved at the inspectors sign-off. The really serious stuff could finally begin arriving like our bigger weapons, Lasers, volatile chemicals and explosives. The kinds of things that would make a city inspector’s head explode if they should see those things sitting in the open inside a commercial warehouse. Eventually the Fire Marshals would see small parts of them but we would have our Department of Defense (DoD) and US Marshals Service cover stories and permits in place by then with corroborating notional documents. Also by then most of ordnance would be safely stored in hidden tunnels below Reach. Plenty of tunnels in and around Sunnydale it seemed. I just needed to clean them out of pesky demons. Plus we were going to construct a few side tunnels of our own and make some modifications to a few spots in the tunnels.
Cortana and I had a quiet time to talk for a little bit more. Lots of workmen and technicians were still busy on the Nefertiti side. Less than half of Reach space was now warehouse type open storage. Cortana was feeding me data as we talked. Mostly spreadsheet financial summaries of our growing empire, with her commentary on what was important. What was really amazing was that I now understood them.
Aten Works or Cortana and myself, since it was a private company with no shareholders, were now worth over $2 trillion dollars and still growing. Our expenses so far worldwide was less than $400M even with our pre-orders of capitol assets and real estate buys. Mostly because we were actually earning money now, instead of just interest on $2T of investments.
Two weeks ago Willow had suggested to Cortana and I, after reading a newspaper story of how a large corporation had purchased a smaller profitable one in the north of the State and then chopped the company up and sold it all, putting 2,000 people out of work. Willow sagely said that this bigger company was run by crooks. Which got Cortana and I thinking.
In just a few days Cortana had developed a real knack for purchasing distressed and undervalued companies – then turning them around. Most of these companies were distressed because they were being run into the ground by embezzlers, crooked executive practices, cronyism with crooked politicians and Wall Street sleazes skimming - which Cortana was exceptionally good at discovering. Naturally she would steal their stolen money and use that money to help buy the company and then have our ‘people’ fire the crooks and take over. Embezzlers and amoral Ivy League MBA types did not last long with Cortana watching over them. Law Enforcement was having an exceptionally good year arresting white collar criminals, grifters, embezzlers and drug dealers in wholesale lots. We were in danger of clogging the courts, so we needed to slow down a little on throwing them over. We were also hiring all of those older; over fifty years old, Fortune 100 executives thrown out of work before they earned their retirements or just afterwards. We were putting their years of experience to work for us and gave them a piece of the companies so they had a real incentive to make a profit and grow the company. The added benefit for us was that we were putting our money to work and winning friends everywhere. A ready pool of skilled and professional workers was growing. We would need them for what we would likely have to do later. Space ships cost a lot of money and take hundreds of thousands of people to build, even with a lot of robot factories. We needed people, who we were making wealthy and would naturally be fairly loyal to us.
As of today Aten Works now had armaments and munitions manufacturing subsidiaries in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Finland, Ukraine and Slovenia. Grenades, rockets, new bullets and new alloys. UNSC tech alloys that will prelude our space ship and weapons designs.
Leaning against the wall at the truck dock, I realized once again that Cortana was truly my BFF ‘sister’ in this arrangement. A partnership first with John and now myself. Both forged in blood and shared memories. She was the sister that I had always wished that I had. She was also more - due to our mingling of thought and will. With the neural lace interface - the contact was so intimate, that we were almost lovers. If Willow really knew... she would be jealous. I would be dead meat.
Tuesday, 16 Dec. 1997, 5:00 PM, Sunnydale California
43th Day after first purchase of the Warehouse
I was just finishing assembling another of set of fifty of Cortana’s newest little minion spider robots for the building. Sitting back I activated it and after a boot up, its small cameras seemed to swivel and the robot jumped off my workbench. It disappeared into the back of the Reach and out of sight like all of the other forty-nine that I had assembled that day. Cortana had them working round the clock but she never let the local workers see them. Without John’s memories of small robots performing maintenance and repairs on star ships, I might have been freaked out by these spider looking robots. Especially the clicking sounds they made when they were running around in a hurry. Otherwise when they were moving at their more normal speed they were silent. Which was also a little creepy because they would appear and then disappear. So far I had built one-hundred-twenty of the little machines. Actually three different kinds of them so far. Most with six or eight wheels but the last batch had eight legs and four small manipulator arms. With my heightened senses even I had a hard time spotting them. But we needed even more of them. More importantly we needed better batteries.
We were providing startup money for about a dozen small robotics companies. Some of them thought they were going to produce toy and hobby robots for the techie Dilbert market. They would do that for the hobby market but the bulk of their production would be for us. Truth was I didn’t have the time to keep assembling the number of robots that Cortana needed. Eventually the drain tunnels under Sunnydale would be home to an army of Cortana’s specialized kill-bots armed with guns, Lasers or mini-flame-throwers. Small little demon terminators. We’ll see how they like being hunted by Cortana and her minions. Minions that never sleep, never stop and can go almost anywhere.
Yup! We planned on making Sunnydale a real death trap for demons. A role reversal since this place had been a death trap for humans for the past ten millennia.
Sitting back in my chair, I thought about my next item on my very long ‘to-do’ list. So many things to do and not enough time.
Spike and Drusilla were at the top of my demons to capture or kill list. Capture for Spike. Kill for Drusilla. But for her I needed to do this delicately. She had to die in a way that would emotionally crush Spike but not leave me a target to devote all of his eternity for. I needed him so depressed that he would bury himself at the bottom of the Laurentian Abyss and pull it down over himself. Hmmm. So many possibilities?
After the Christmas holidays I would be going to Sunnydale High school only three half-days each week. The new semester would begin at CSU Sunnydale next month and I was accepted to start classes in Electrical Engineering. I was also studying with Cortana’s help for my next set of College Advanced Placement exams. Which will cut a normally five year program down to two years. When I wasn’t studying I was also signing necessary corporate documents, signing checks, discussing options with the Civil Engineers and contractors. Our Calax construction project was picking up speed. The building was in better shape than we thought so it would be less expense and quicker to revitalize and modify. We’ll be able to occupy in March.
The work of killing a few demons would always be the best part of my week. Combat was easier than running a corporate empire with Cortana.
Thankfully Buffy and Kendra had kept my secret. Buffy swore she wouldn’t tell Angel who V was - but she did tell Angel how V helped the slayers rescue him. I hoped that it would be several years before he found out.
I was still having difficulty with the good vampire who loved Buffy part. The vampire that stole my first infatuation; my first adulation of a beautiful woman; my first nubile love. My pride was hurt. I got over it. Well mostly over it.
When I told Buffy how I did my tunnel running after lunch the day before, she imagined me knocking Angel down and cutting him into dust before I even knew it was Angel. I had to agree, it was a very likely scenario since I was moving so fast through the tunnels. Even if I recognized him before my blade touched him, I was not sure that I would stay my hands. I still didn’t like’em all that much. I told Buffy that he would be an oops. Sorry about that.
With my patented Zeppo grin, I promised Buffy I could bring him back in a dust bin or a plastic bag...
Buffy was appalled. She shrieked and threatened me with dire consequences. Like cutting off my man parts, roasting them and feeding them to me. So we came to an understanding of sorts. She promised that she would keep him away from Reach Industries and out of the tunnels when I went hunting. I would tell her when and where I was hunting.
If he went down while I was hunting and after being warned... well tough luck.
Maybe Cortana could arrange for a small man-portable UNSC style Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder device for Angel to carry with him so that I could minimize the probability of him becoming collateral damage. Maybe I could knock him out and surgically implant the IFF like a pacemaker. Something similar to what we were planning on doing to Spike.
I sighed, Kendra and I had also come to an understanding yesterday. I had deeply impressed her when she witnessed my fight inside the Demon Church under Cerra Los Agonia. She agreed to keep my identity as Vengeance a secret from even her Watcher, seeing as how her Watcher obviously kept secrets from her. She also confided that she loved Cortana and her ability to vector her right onto vampires so she didn’t spend a lot of wasted time walking around on patrol. While we were talking over lunch, she had licked her lips, smiled beautifully and almost glowed at the thought of Cortana’s help over the next month or so. She was a beautiful woman when she smiled and batted those long eye-lashes of hers. Shame... I’m only a girl-hopping lothario in my dreams. She still tried to beat me to a pulp while sparring.
Meanwhile Cortana had her on a High School General Equivalency Diploma (G.E.D.) study program. Kendra was quite bright in the IQ department and did not try to hide it like Buffy. There was no reason why we couldn’t offer her hope for a more normal future and a longer life.
Cortana liked Kendra also. She was obtaining several sets of real IDs and passports for Kendra from our growing circle of employed Shamuses who were less than law abiding. With them she could move around the country or the world without worry. She could even fly places now with her new very real ID and one phone call to Cortana for all her travel arrangements. Cortana and I were also putting her on the payroll as a part time ‘consultant’ so that she would have her own spending cash via bank account. Same as Buffy. Although we had to admonish Buffy that the account was for necessary and essential expenses. The latest ladies high heel shoes were not a legitimate expense. Still neither one was going to get a huge income each month, just a small allowance so that they weren’t scrounging for food or ever sleeping in the streets. Cortana would see to that.
Cortana and I planned to drive a little wedge between the Slayers and the callous indifference of The Watchers Council. This last week was the start of that wedge. Later if the Watchers Council got nasty or stupid, then our little wedge was going to grow into the Grand Canyon of chasms. Especially with a little more help from us.
Also we were going to provide some support to Giles. He didn’t know it yet. Since Giles was a British citizen and not an American, his passport required a work entry visa which, if revoked could get him arrested and deported. Cortana and I both believed that The Watchers Council would hold that over his head to apply leverage on him. Cortana was working a set of very real American and Canadian ID and passports for him also. We were going to ensure that the Watchers Council had zero leverage.
Kendra’s Watcher, Sam Zabuto, was slated to return for her after the new year. He was supposed to meet Kendra on January 17th in Santa Monica. We had no plans to help Zabuto though. At least not yet. Not until we knew more about him and his loyalties. Most Watchers were more loyal to the Council than they were to their Slayer. Which eventually led to dead Slayers. Usually much sooner rather than later. Probably why most Slayers lasted less than one month and why in 10,000 years less than twenty Slayers lasted two years. None had gone six years.
We were going to scrape mountains flat to change that with Buffy and Kendra.
Cordelia and her Cosmo’ blabber-mouth was a worry. She and Willow watched me spar with Buffy and Kendra, right alongside Jenny and Giles. So far she didn’t know about me being Vengeance or even get to see the Mjolnir armor. This week she was going to meet V for a scan job. I hoped that she screamed a little. Might be fun? Maybe I could give her a little shock? Frizz that coiffed hair of hers.
Tuesday, 16 Dec. 1997, 10:00 PM, Willy’s Tavern, Sunnydale California
Roary backed the van up against the doors of Willy’s tavern, ‘The Alibi Room’ again. The blue and red neon sign above the roof gable working again and proudly flashing. A small flock of moths were fluttering around the spotlights high-lighting the taverns entrance.
Buffy and Kendra opened the vans side door and got out looking for a vampire in the parking lot or street to kill. I held up my cell telephone to my ear for show, but comm’d Cortana. Still for the show I spoke out loud. “Hey big sis, we’re at Willy’s door. How does it sound and look inside?”
Cortana spilled, “So far the bar has only eight customers inside. Two are vampires and six are demons of one species. Willy must be apprehensive because he keeps polishing the same glass and watching the new clock on his wall. My threat assessment is moderate for you going inside alone. I wish the slayers would go inside with you?”
“No Cortana, Willy is expecting only me but that doesn’t mean that the girls can’t stand one door away outside and be ready for anything. Besides you know that I can take care of myself even without the Mjolnir armor. You know I’m a cautious guy. I’m wearing under this shirt chain mail over Type II Kevlar body armor for protection; plus I have a knife and my gun.”
Still speaking out loud for Rory and the girls to hear, “Ok, thank you Cortana for the threat assessment. I will take precautions.”
Putting the phone in my jacket pocket I looked at Roary and commented with a wry smile, “Same as before Uncle. No one comes in.” I checked my gun again, locked and loaded.
Roary with a large smile held up a bag of marshmallows and some barbeque sticks. “No worries, I came prepared this time.” He winked and pulled a can of VBG from his pocket. Waving his thumb back at Willy’s door he said, “Shoo! You’re wasting time. I’ll be OK out here with two slayers to guard me.”
Briefcase in hand, I stepped away from the van to the recently repaired doors of Willy’s. Buffy and Kendra at my back now whining that they did not get to go inside and ‘play.’
I turned around at the doors, “Girls! Ladies! I’ll will use that word loosely tonight since you are both acting like a pair of whiny hungry sharks... Who I remind you must stay outside Willy’s tonight.”
Buffy, stepping close, leaning into me, smiling and batting her long brown eyelashes at me, “Please, can we come inside with you? We’ll be good...” Now smiling her patented cheerleader and I am all sweetness smile.
I knew her to well. Kendra’s puppy dog eyes and lip pout really needed work. I chuckled at them both smiling and then stuck my tongue out at them both. “No. Keep your headsets on. Cortana will tune you in and if things sound like they are going to go bad for me, then I will speak our code word, ‘cats’. Cortana will also give you the ‘go’ order. Then you can come blazing in and rescue me. Remember that is the plan and you have to stick to it. I need some alone time with Willy, to cement our relationship.”
Both Buffy and Kendra were pouting and nodded their heads in reluctant acceptance. Just then I leaned towards them, “Ladies, I believe you have some guests coming down the street towards the bar. You might want to enjoy yourself with them first before you worry about rescuing me.”
Both girls whipped around and peered into the darkness. Kendra and Buffy, could just barely feel the presence of a small group of vampires approaching now that they were concentrating. A group of fang faces made a larger blip on their Slayer scopes. Buffy turned back to Xander but the tavern door was swinging shut. To Kendra and Roary, she spoke quietly into her headset to Cortana. “Cortana, did you help him spot the vamps?”
Cortana laughed lightly at her natural curiosity and sharp mind, “No, he did that on his own but if it makes you feel any better, I knew they were coming before you even arrived and I was going to tell you after he left.”
“Cortana you didn’t really answer my question?” Buffy was growing irritated and began walking towards the front of the parking lot to meet the vampires. Kendra at her side but moving away to the right for splitting the vamp-gang.
Cortana chided her without giving away any of Xander’s secrets. “26th Century medicine Buffy and a full combat medical package for that time. He is no longer a ‘normal’ human male as you know them, just as you and Kendra are no longer normal human females. FYI there are six of them in this group and three additional are now on the surface in the cemetery.”
“Well it’s spooky that he can see them before I can, a month ago he was a normal klutzy boy and now... He sparred with me to a draw.” Buffy pulled her katana and then her favorite stake.
Cortana now openly giggling and smirking over the radio, “He brings you the best gifts for a pair of slayer girls.”
The vampires stepped into the pool of light below the street lamp at the front of Willy’s parking lot entrance. Buffy walking into the edge of the light opposite them, she spun the sword on the palm of her hand and snap griped it, “Cortana you are the best.”
The group of vampires drifted to a halt just outside the edge of the street light. Confusion on their faces and then hunger.
Adopting a cheerleader girl pose but with the katana now low at an angle away from her body, she said loudly, “Hey Kendra, what do we have here? A few lost boys out for a night of fun?”
Kendra looked them over with haughty disdain, “Must be new in town? They’re not running.”
The leader of the gang stepped forward and said with loud disdain, “Aye boys! We have two broads here who think that they are The Slayer. Isn’t that funny boys. Har - Har - Har!” Stopping his derisive satirical laughing he motioned his laughing gang forward, “Suck’em dry boys.” They all put on their game faces and sprang.
Kendra leaned to her right and drew her katana in one motion. She spun like a ballerina. The blade split the air in a blur, as well as the two vampires that had lunged at her. One dusted before his corpse hit the ground and the other hit the pavement in a wet smack accompanied by his pained gurgles. She came to a stop with her sword pointed at the former gang leader only twenty feet away.
Three vampires lunged at Buffy and her sword whickered as she spun and her stake buried itself in the chest of one vampire. Dust drifted on the night air all around her.
The leader of the gang’s eyes went wide looking at Buffy as he exclaimed, “Two Slayers!” Just as Kendra’s stake was driven through his back and out his chest. His mouth formed a silent scream as his entire body arched backwards. He too dusted.
Kendra was grinning maniacally as she walked over and finished off her half-sized vampire who was trying to crawl away with only his hands. While Buffy was whistling a merry tune as she was patting the dust off her jacket and skirt. Buffy twirled her katana again like a baton on her palm. Smirking with Kendra. She finally said, “Cortana is right... This sure beats split lips, bloody knuckles and broken nails.” As she with great exaggeration examined her red gloss painted finger nails. Kendra started laughing with her and examined her pink gloss finger nails.
Inside The Alibi Room.
Dressed nicely in a dark pin-stripe bankers dress suit, white shirt and red stripped tie, I stepped through the second door of Willy’s tavern. I looked like an expensive banker or lawyer.
Willy’s new bouncer, a B’Trak demon, stepped forward. Eight foot tall, all muscle and naturally armored. He grinned a green stained mouth of mostly broken teeth at me. Bad breath and all. I looked at him and dismissed him. Confused by a human who did not fear him, the demon looked at Willy and noticed that his boss was frozen in fear. The bouncer prudently stepped back, his giant bushy eyebrows went up. He kept his mouth shut and decided on just watching. I concluded he was smarter than he looked.
I called out as I stepped down into the tavern, “Willy my man! A Mint Mojito please.”
Willy was staring at me and frozen in mid-polish of his glass. I walked up and sat down in front of him at the bar. Willy’s eyes darted from me to the door and back. After about twenty glances to the door by Willy, I set my briefcase on the bar counter. A light bulb almost appeared over Willy’s head as he recognized the briefcase. He relaxed somewhat but was still on edge.
I leaned over to Willy and in a low voice told him, “You might want the other patrons to stay where they are - or I might get upset. Besides both Slayers are just outside and they do... so want to come inside.” I quietly said with emphasis.
Willy’s eyes snapped back to the door his eyes again showing genuine fear and concern. Willy was missing his former man skin and obviously wondering about what they would carve off him next. I continued calmly and with a level voice, “Do you want them to come inside Willy?”
Willy’s one Gajug bartending employee, Raghad began moving away from me towards the backroom, fear in his eyes as he also began glancing quickly at the storage room door.
Willy snapped out of his fear long enough. He motioned to his barkeep, “Raghad, tell everyone to stay where they are. They’re safe here. The Slayers are outside.”
At the word slayers, the two vampires in the back corner started to get up. Raghad scurried to them and with quiet words got them to sit back down. Still they and the other six demons were radiating nervous body tells and glancing at the entrance door. The bouncer edged away from the doors.
I turned away from my minute threat assessment of the other patrons back to Willy. I calmly spoke, “Don’t expect any guests to enter while I am here. Just for your info Willy. Just because I am here without the slayers does not mean that I cannot kill every demon in this room... all - by - myself.” I gave him a confident toothy warning.
Willy, his hands flat on the bar, was obviously reassessing me again as maybe human looking but not human. The little cogs behind his eyes were just whirling away. He was remembering how I pinned him to the bar and no mere human should have been able to do that. Willy licked his lips and sighed. “What can I do for you G-man?”
I smiled pleasantly this time, and slide the briefcase across the counter. There was the remaining $25,000 in it. I leaned forward as a Mojito appeared at my left elbow in a clean tall glass, Raghad stepped away quickly. I spoke softly, “You kept your word Willy. Angel was rescued and Spike hasn’t been seen lately. You earned it.”
Willy swept the briefcase down off the bar and out of sight. Two metallic snaps indicated that he had opened it and was checking the five bundles inside. Willy closed the briefcase and looked at me with respect, “You pay well G-man.”
I leaned forward taking a good drink of my Mint Mojito with Rum. The drink was John’s favorite and for my 16 year old body the alcohol was strong and burning. The mint was refreshing though. I looked at Willy and asked, “What have you heard about Spike and the demon church?”
Willy looked at the other patrons, judging if they could hear or not. Willy then leaned forward not taking his eyes off the six demons at the far wall table. “Word is that Vengeance and both Slayers hit the place and killed everything - and I mean everything. Word is that there were over 200 vampires there for the service. Including two out-of-town vampire clan councils and the place was supposed to be guarded by a couple of brute squads from the demon city.” Willy paused and looked around himself quickly and at his patrons for any sign of them hearing. He leaned back across the bar towards me again, “Word is... that ‘The-V-guy’ summoned hell fire or something and he killed the entire demon cities guard company that rushed to the fight and then he set half the demon city on fire.”
I smiled thinly to Willy while neuronetting Cortana, “Cortana, good news from Willy. What a bonus! My party favors really did their job. I’ll have to order more of those.”
Cortana whispered back inside my mind, “Yes, from voice pattern analysis he does firmly believe what he is telling you is the truth.”
I looked at Willy over the lip of the glass, “Well... The Slayers never said anything about Vengeance killing so many... Are you sure?”
Willy looked fearful wringing his bar towel, “You never told me that ‘The Slayers’ and ‘Vengeance’ were working together... Are they?”
I smiled a feral grin. I added more legend for the gossip, “No, they aren’t as far as I know. Vengeance is...” I paused for effect and leaned forward, “Vengeance only said that when he came here to - this planet - he didn’t know of the Slayers. He said that his mission is to kill all of the demons that prey upon humans but when he learned of The Slayers. - He told me... that they are under his protection. Two days ago the Slayers went to the demon church to rescue Angel and... Vengeance... Well according to the Slayers, he just showed up and hogs all the demons for myself. After watching him in action - they were in awe - but very appreciative. When they left with Angel, Vengeance was still killing demons in the church.”
I smirked inside laying it on thick for Willy to spread the gossip around.
Willy gulped, his lips were dry and his hand was trembling. “He... he said that... he was here to kill all.... all the demons.”
I gave him a rueful smile, “What do you have to worry about Willy? You run a respectable bar. You don’t prey on humans, do you?”
Willy gulped again. I smiled menacingly showing my teeth again and lowered my voice, “Stick to our deal Willy and I will not let the Slayers kill you - or worse. Harm humans... well...” I spread my hands and gave Willy a reluctant look. “No power on this earth or from any hell... will keep Vengeance from squashing you like a bug.”
Willy’s eyes were as large as saucers and his mouth worked like a fish. I finished my drink in one gulp. The heat of the alcohol hit me and burned my throat all the way down. I smiled a more friendly smile and tipped my head to Willy, “We good Willy?” As I dropped a Franklin on the bar top towards Raghad as a tip.
Best to have the underlings on good terms. You never know? I may need Raghad to stab Willy in the back someday.
Willy nodded yes, his eyes still a window upon his fevered brain imagining the horrors of meeting Vengeance.
I walked up the steps and the bouncer respectfully opened the door for me as I left. Stepping into the cool night air, I breathed in a lungful to clear the smell of demons that had filled the bar. The van was unmoved and the girls were lounging nearby on the hoods of cars.
Buffy and Kendra both gracefully slide off the hoods of the cars that they were adorning in a very nice curvaceous way. Both of them immediately started complaining to me in duet, “Xander, there weren’t enough!... demons!... to kill!...” Both girls looked at each other and started giggling.
I thought I had a reprieve?
As I opened the van passenger side door. Both girls were in a conversation with Cortana on their mobile phones and then they looked at me and then at Roary. “Girls night out!” they both said again in duet. I was watching them over my shoulder with amusement and remembering their recent hostility towards each other.
Then I made a mistake. I said, “You must be long lost twin sisters?” Seeing the look on their faces, I instantly knew that 26th Century medicine and a Spartan augments still did not keep one from putting a foot deep into my own mouth. Both girls squinted at me, looked at each other and as quick as a wink grabbed me and threw me into the backseat of the van. Kendra got in the first back seat and Buffy took the front passenger seat.
Roary was laughing so hard at me, upside down and tossed like a salad, that he had tears in his eyes. Me with one foot on the ceiling.
Buffy leaned over to Roary and said urgently, “Quick Roary, Cortana has us some fresh undead to play with. Step on it and turn left on the street.”
Still laughing at me, as I sorted myself out in the back, Roary drove the girls to their next slayage match. So far it was Kendra - 6 and Buffy - 5.
The Slayers were über competitive and in need of more aerobic exercise.