Death of a Beast
This chapter has been the bane of my life. I started it in January and it slowly grew. Then I made the mistake of storing it on a USB stick so I could work on it in Oregon. Where I got caught in a rain shower. So that the jeans I was wearing had to be placed in a dryer. And guess where I was storing the USB stick? 5,000 words down the drain. Anyway here it finally is. Disclaimer - I do not own these characters.
Lilah Morgan hummed slightly to herself as she parked her car in the cavernous expanse that was Wolfram & Hart’s underground car park. She got out, extracted her briefcase and then made for the lifts in the corner that would take her up to the main lobby, from where she would complete the rest of her commute up to her office.
She was, she had to admit, in a very good mood indeed. The disaster at Harris’s place had knocked Holland Manners back on his feet and undermined his authority a fair bit. Which was such a shame. Oh wait, perhaps not.
The lift dinged and she swept out of it into the main lobby, which was of course filled with people. As she passed through the crowd she watched them dispassionately. They reminded her of ants at times – rushing from A to B, and then on to C, forgetting that their activities were, on the whole, ultimately fruitless. The Senior Partners were running things – or at least from a distance – and they were the real threat to her.
That said, the lower ranking people could still be annoying as hell and she reminded herself to arrange a nasty accident for one Gavin Park, who had been making a nuisance of himself recently in the massively mistaken belief that he was better than she was. She pursed her lips for a second in thought as she waited for the lift. An amusing but fatal accident perhaps. The man could be such a child at times.
She stepped into the lift, waited as the riff-raff filled it around her, noted dryly that someone else was going to her floor as the relevant button was lit and then waited as the lift ascended. This was the dull part of the day. She got to go higher up the building than most, but those who rode with her to her level made the foolish assumption that they were on the same level – so to speak – as she was. She knew better.
When she got off at her level she was frowning slightly. She’d felt a certain… something in the air. A tremor in the Force. Not much, but enough to raise the hairs on the back of her neck just a fraction. As she entered her office she closed the door behind her, shrugged off her jacket and then sat in her chair. As she waited for her computer to boot up she closed her eyes for a moment and embraced the Force, seeking out that strange tremor…
A short succession of images flashed through her mind. A red-brown creature, a demon of some kind, rising from the ground. The same creature rampaging through the halls of the Wolfram & Hart building. Dead bodies everywhere, those of Wolfram & Hart employees. Oh look, one of them was Gavin Park. What a shame. Still, it meant that she wouldn’t have to waste any time planning to kill the little slimebag.
Lilah opened her eyes and then smiled a very wide and savage smile. Something wicked this way came. What an opportunity.
Sam probed gently and carefully at the ancient computer core and then withdrew her hand very slowly. Hmmm. The chip she was holding in the small tweezers in her hand didn’t look too bad at all. She’d scan it first, from all angles and then examine any findings and then, perhaps, connect it up to an isolated computer and see if she could recover anything from it.
The findings from the inspection of the hyperdrive were apparently going rather better. Hyperdrives tended to be solid-state pieces of machinery and this one had been either very well maintained or built by the luckiest people ever.
She put the chip down very gently and then looked up with a frown as the phone rang insistently. Sighing, she answered it. “Carter.”
“Ah, hi there Sam,” Rodney said on the other end of the line. “Look, I just got a message from Helen Keeler. Apparently she’s travelling over to the States on business, so she can talk to us about those anomalies she discovered when she was writing the first version of her thesis. I’ve talked to Hammond and he’s arranging a visitors pass or something for her.”
“Good,” Sam replied. Then she frowned slightly. Rodney sounded a bit… odd. “Rodney, are you ok?”
“I’m fine Sam, absolutely fine.” There was a slight pause. “Well, no, I’m not fine. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in years and the last time we met it didn’t exactly go very well – she told me that I was an arrogant, domineering twit with delusions of adequacy. Then she said something even worse – that the theory I was working on at the time – a quite elegant piece of work even though I say so myself – was full of holes due to some niggling little… factual problems.”
“Really,” Sam asked as she bent over the equipment again whilst smothering a smile. Oh the horror – someone calling Rodney up on one of his theories. “So, what kind of factual problems?”
Rodney coughed in a way that probably meant that he was going slightly red. “Oh, just something I um, worked out eventually,” he snapped a bit abruptly. Then he caught her rather pointed silence. “Ok, ok, she had a point, it was elegant but unworkable due to certain… facts.”
Sam grinned and then straightened up. “So, when does she fly in?”
This simple question bought her a slight pause from Rodney. “She didn’t say. Odd that. She just said that she was going to arrive at the main entrance at 3pm. She seemed… very intent. She used to be a bit more relaxed.”
She looked at the wall and then shrugged. “Ok, well I guess that we’re talking to her in the upper levels then?”
“What? Oh, yes. I talked to Major Davis and he booked us a room in NORAD.” He sounded a bit shifty. “You know, she’s going to ask about that. About what I’m doing here and what it has to do with archaeology.”
Sam smiled impishly at the phone and then turned her attention back to the artefact. “I’m sure that you’ll think of something.”
This bought him a splutter from the Canadian scientist. “Oh, thank you very much indeed!”
“Any time Rodney, any time.”
Xander parked the van with his usual care and then opened the door and got out and stretched. It had been quite an odd day. It wasn’t every day that you drove to the Jedi Temple (well, sort of), picked up the dazed members of the Wolfram & Hart snatch team and then drop them off at the front entrance of their main office, having used the Jedi Mind Trick once or twice. The sign around the neck of the team leader had been a nice touch on Lindsey’s part. “Please return these idiots to the bigger idiot who sent them. C/o Holland Manners.”
He looked at the building in front of him and then back at the van. It had been worth borrowing it off Joyce, but he’d have to get it back to Sunnydale soon so that she could use it again for her gallery. That said, he needed to talk to Lindsey and Oz about how the training of Daniel and Rebecca was going.
And perhaps he’s also meditate a little and scratch that mental itch that the Force kept throwing his way. Something was happening somewhere and he couldn’t put his finger on it – and that bugged him. Bugged him a lot.
It had been an… interesting daily meeting so far. Lilah sat in her chair with just the right combination of eagerness, interest and carefully masked cynicism that showed that she was a seasoned veteran of many such meetings.
That said, most such meetings hadn’t started with their glorious leader in such a visibly weak position. If the Senior Partners weren’t watching him with narrowed eyes and pursed lips (or whatever they had in terms of mouth parts) for his recent screw-ups then they didn’t deserve to be in charge. Or they weren’t paying attention.
Holland, she had to admit, wasn’t showing any visible sign of being in trouble. He was his usual self – outwardly affable but with a hint of fang every now and then. Sarah Hogan had been slapped down once already and Victor Obrinicki was pale and sweating at the far end of the table already.
Gavin Park on the other hand was bright-eyed and busy tailed and watching everyone with poorly-hidden amusement. Oh and he also had all his cases in almost perfect order, which was why Holland hadn’t slapped him down as well.
As for Lilah, she was going with the flow. Her caseload was just as heavy as everyone else’s, but she had her cases in perfect order. Holland was treating her with courtesy and friendliness, which meant that she was his blue-eyed girl of the month. Gavin was already shooting her the occasional veiled look of hatred. Well, his life expectancy was fairly short anyway, so she wasn’t worried about him.
There was a knock on the doorframe and she looked up to see Holland’s secretary Helen at the doorway. “Excuse me Mr Manners, but there’s a message from the Washington office.”
Holland gestured at her and she glided in and handed the message over before departing.
“Ah,” said Holland tiredly. “It would seem that the gastro-enteritis bug has struck down yet more of the Washington office. Damn. And the New York office is still recovering from that SNAFU involving that funfair. Very well.” He looked around the table. “Lilah, I need you to fly to Norfolk, Virginia in two days’ time to take a deposition from a client of ours in Federal custody. See me later on for a briefing on it. And by the way everyone, if you meet anyone from the Washington office don’t shake their hand. Right, that’s everything on the agenda – see you all later.”
As the meeting broke up Lilah smiled a tiny, contented little smile. That particular group, unless she very much missed her guess, would never meet again. What a shame. At least one of them owed her money.
As she left the room she glanced at her watch. She had some reports to write. Oh and she had to prepare for the upcoming attack. Which was happening today, she could tell.
The Beast smiled as it looked at the concrete above it. It had navigated through some rather tricky rocks to get here – there was a major fault line in the area and such things could be unpleasant to pass through. But now it was here. It was ready. It raised a fist and then jabbed at the concrete, which crumbled at every punch. Again and again it punched. And then it was through. The beast pulled itself up into a large space filled with those strange mobile structures that humans used. A human was standing next to one nearby, looking confused and panicked. And it was the work of a moment to reach out and grab it by the neck and then squeeze.
The sentry had a number of ways to fend off boredom. There was the silent recitation of poetry. There was the fond rememberance of how nice his wife’s ass had looked that morning and what that nice ass would look like in the silk underwear he’d ordered for her. There was his ability to think up new lyrics for his brothers’ band. And there was the fact that if Sergeant-Major Standing Cloud ever caught him napping or goofing off (other than mentally that is) he’d be on a charge so fast that he’d be blown off his feet. Well. At least it wasn’t raining. Sentry duty in the rain was a truly horrible thing to undergo.
He paused for a moment. He could have sworn that he’d seen a flash out of the corner of his eye, followed by an odd cracking noise. Turning his head he checked the perimeter. Nope, nothing in sight. Then he blinked. A woman had come into sight on the road. She was walking as she talked – or rather barked – into a cell phone. She was dark-haired, quite pretty and extremely pregnant.
As she approached he walked to meet her at the closed main gate. She seemed harmless, but there was no point taking risks. “Can I help you Ma’am?”
She came to a halt and then pulled a face as she rubbed at her back. “I have an appointment here with one Dr Rodney McKay. My name is Helen Keeler.” She had a mid-Atlantic accent – there was some East Coast there and also something British.
“One moment please Ma’am.” He stepped back, not taking his eyes off her, unclipped his radio and then reported in. Whilst he waited for a response he frowned slightly. “Beg parson Ma’am, but why didn’t your taxi drop you off right outside here instead you having to walk in your condition?”
She blinked slightly. “Long story, private, long story.”
Then the radio crackled. “Escort her in please – we’ll send a vehicle to get her to the main entrance.”
“Roger that,” he replied and then he opened the gate. “This way Ma’am.”
She looked at the main entrance and then sighed slightly as she followed him. “Rodney, what the hell are you doing here?” he heard her mutter.
The report was not coming along well, Holland thought as he scowled at the screen. He was doing his best to push the blame away from himself and onto other people. The problem was that blame-shifting in this company had been refined almost to an art form, so he had to word it perfectly if he was going to be able to survive the latest fiasco with his reputation in some form of decent-ish condition.
And then, naturally, the damn phone went. He rolled his eyes and ignored it for a moment. Then his ears noticed the ominous tone of the ring and he frowned. Security. Why were they trying to call him? He groaned quietly and then picked up the receiver.
“Sir, it’s Okagawi here, main security desk,” the man on the other end of the line panted. Holland could hear the sound of radios and alarms in the background and his heart plummeted to the bottom of his stomach as he wondered what the hell had gone wrong now. “We have an intruder in the building. A demon, type unknown. It came in through the parking garage somehow and it’s gone on a total rampage.”
Holland frowned. “How the hell did it get in without tripping the wards or without the Seers getting a glimpse of it?”
“No idea sir, we think that it was at least partially warded itself somehow. We sent two teams down at once – but it tore them apart sir. We sent another three, but they don’t even seem to be scratching the damn thing sir and they’ve lost half their number. It seems to be bullet-proof.”
Well, this day had started off shitty and was now getting worse. “What do you need from me?”
“Sir, we need to send Alpha Squad down to confront it,” Okagawi said and Holland could feel the blood drain from his face. This was bad. This was very bad. Alpha Squad were the first of the ‘smash glass in case of emergency’ teams that Wolfram & Hart had on site in case of real emergencies. They were almost never used because they were a bunch of trigger-happy lunatics with more guns than brain cells, but if Okagawi thought that they might be needed, things were very bad.
“Permission granted,” Holland said quickly. “It’s that grave a threat then?”
“Sir, if Alpha Squad can’t deal with it then I need permission to use Bravo Squad.”
Holland’s scalp crawled. Bravo Squad consisted of the heavy-duty magic users. And he’d never heard of them ever being used. “You have permission to use Bravo Squad if the situation warrants it,” he said curtly. “Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Thank you sir,” Okagawi replied gratefully and then the phone went dead.
Holland sat there for a long moment, his fingers drumming on the desk in front of him as he thought furiously and then he made up his mind. He saved the document, dragged it into the most heavily protected part of the system and then sat back. After a moment he heard – or rather felt – heavy weapons being used several floors down and there was a pause in his secretary’s typing that meant that she was truly surprised.
The vibrations continued for several long minutes, much to his increasing worry. There was also a sudden greasy feeling in the air, which meant that magic was being used somewhere. When the phone rang again he snatched it up. “Manners.”
“Sir this is Kincaid in Security. This thing is just… just unstoppable. Alpha and Beta Squads are all dead and we’ve lost most of our men.” The man was panting and sounded heavily stressed.
Holland reeled in his chair. “Where’s Okagawi?”
“Dead sir. He got too close to it. I am recommending immediate evacuation of the building. I repeat, I recommend the immediate evacuation of the building. This thing is just too tough. I don’t know what it wants but it’s killing everyone it sees.”
“Very well. Try and block its path or something. It’ll take time to get everyone out,” he ordered quietly, knowing that he was signing the death sentence of Kincaid and everyone around him.
There was a short pause and then: “Understood sir. We’ll try and buy as much time as possible.”
He replaced the receiver and then walked quickly over to a section of wooden panelling on the far side of the room. Pressing at three sections simultaneously with his fingers he then waited until a panel slid upwards to reveal a control interface with a keypad. He entered a ten-number combination and then hit the enter button. The lighting in the room flashed on and off and then took on a red tinge, whilst at the same time a dull klaxon started to sound the evacuation alarm.
Satisfied he then walked three paces over and pressed a hidden button in the wooden panelling. A door opened immediately next to it and he strode into it and then pressed the only button on the control panel of the small one-man lift. Time to get the hell out of here. The door closed and he felt the magically-enhanced machinery shoot him straight down at a ludicrous speed. Hopefully some of the people in the building would survive, but he made a mental note to advertise for some more as soon as possible.
Lilah didn’t glance up when she heard the evacuation alarm start up. She had to suppress a smile at the same time. She’d sensed the fighting through the Force – and the death. Oh, there were ripples in the Force that were very intriguing at the moment.
This was going to be very, very, interesting and she permitted herself a moment of time to think things through. She needed to be able to make it look like the work of someone else, and then capitalise on-
She looked up to see Gavin Park in the doorway. He looked, well, rattled. Fascinating. And he thought that he was her equal? He barely came up to her ankles and that was on a good day. “Yes Gavin?”
“Didn’t you hear the evacuation alarm?”
She smiled at him. “Probably another mistake.”
He stared at her incredulously and then looked down the corridor as another herd of sheep thundered past gabbling into their cellphones. When he looked back there was definitely a hint of panic in his gaze. “Well, everyone else seems to disagree. And I can’t raise Holland – or his secretary.”
Oh dear, she thought, our gallant leader has used his secret elevator again. Understandable, if cowardly. He’s probably in the sewers again. She’d once thought about leaving him a surprise present down there, but that probably would have fallen foul of Holland’s paranoia. She wasn’t quite ready to move against him, she needed more information on the Senior Partners first.
Looking at a restless Gavin she allowed a trace of uncertainty to cross her face, as if she was starting to realise that something might be happening. “If you can’t contact Holland then something might be up. You go on – I’ll catch up.”
“You do that,” he snapped and then darted away, giving the probably correct impression that he wanted to save his own skin at the cost of every other worker in the building.
She watched him go with a concerned little furrow on her forehead for the benefit of anyone who happened to pass the doorway and then she bent her head and smiled slightly. She saved the document she was working on, just to be on the safe side and then kept working. It wasn’t time to go just yet. Not just yet. She’d know when. Oh and the Force was with her.
The Beast was experiencing some very mixed emotions at the moment. On the one hand it was having the time of its life as it slaughtered its way down the corridors of Wolfram & Hart. It was literally painting the walls red with the blood of everything that came against him and it was exhilarating. They’d sent security details against the Best, but they’d failed totally. Their pathetic bullets hadn’t worked and their even more pathetic spells had just bounced off.
However, the Voice was still silent. No matter how many humans the Beast tore apart the Voice did not speak and the silence was a worry. The Beast thought about it for a moment as it tore the throat of a particularly stubborn guard away from the human’s spine and then shrugged. The answer was obviously more blood. It threw the body down the corridor, knocking over four or five humans as they darted from their pathetic hiding places, and then it charged after them. This was fun.
Gavin Park ran. He’d been hoping to make it to the emergency lift that he was pretty sure that almost no-one else really knew about, but then the lights had suddenly dimmed and then flickered madly and he’d known that the lift was no longer a safe option. He swore viciously under his breath. He needed more people around him. If they did encounter whatever the hell had invaded the building then some distractions would come in very nicely indeed. He could throw some of them at the damn thing and then run the other way. As fast as he could.
He turned a corner, almost skidding on the way and wished that he’d worn his other shoes today. He needed every possible advantage today. And then someone screamed wetly ahead of him and he did his best to stop as fast as possible. It had indeed been a wet scream, ending in a gurgling thump. Shit. What the hell was ahead of him?
He tried to run, but his feet went out from under him and he sprawled on the floor. What on… oh. Blood. The carpet was soaked with blood. He had to get out of here and…
Something walked around the corner and he gaped up at it. It was red and black, mostly red, horned and was holding what looked like a spinal cord in its right hand. It looked down at him as if he was a worthless worm that was beneath its contempt and then it smiled. The spinal cord came up and around and then down and Gavin screamed as he tried to get away, scrabbling desperately on the blood-soaked carpet but the thing was moving too fast and-
The beast looked down at bits latest offering to the Voice. It had been a tricky thing to kill, being so slippery and fast. Noisy too. But it was now dead. And he had a lot more of these stupid, weak, creatures to kill. It threw the spinal cord to one side and then strode off down the corridor in search of more insects to squash. The more it killed then the more chance that the Voice would talk to it.
Xander sat cross-legged and stared at the wall opposite him again. That odd nagging feeling had been growing again, a feeling like something was building in the air, like static electricity. It was never a good thing when that happened. It meant that somewhere something very bad was happening, or was about to happen. He rubbed his chin for a moment and then relaxed into a full Force trance.
Previous Force trances had given him a few snippets of the future – or possible futures. Looking into the future with the Force was always tricky. There were so many possible interpretations that could be placed on things. He always thought about Anakin at times like this, and the poor interpretation that he’d placed on his visions of Padme. He’d seen her in pain. Well, she’d been pregnant. Why hadn’t he made the connection that giving birth was massively painful for women?
He thrust Anakin Skywalker and the tragedy of his life to one side and then looked forwards again. Oh. A smiling Rebecca. Lindsey weeping – or was it really Lindsey? A man with short brown hair and some kind of badge on his belt pointing to a yellow gem and nodding seriously. A cowled shape peering at him from a great distance and then recoiling in shock. A pale white face with lidless eyes lying on the ground in front of him. And then… a brown haired woman dressed in red leather with the yellow eyes of a Sith, staring at him in hatred holding a red lightsabre.
His eyes opened in shock. A Sith. A real, honest-to-god, Terran Sith. Well crap. There went his day.
Lilah looked at the flickering lights on the ceiling and then sighed tiredly. Ok, it looked like the power was about to go down soon, or perhaps just get really unreliable for a while. Someone must have accidently shot something again. Idiots. Guns were a bad idea. Lightsabres and being able to choke someone to death from a distance were far better ways of enforcing discipline.
She saved her work again and then backed everything up on the mega-secure server that was based somewhere that conventional science would probably never believe existed. Then she stood up and grabbed her jacket. Her lightsabre was tucked neatly into a pocket and she looked at it quizzically. Perhaps a belt hook might help? It would be well hidden at her back and also would be easily accessible.
Looking out into the corridor she smiled slightly. Ah, the noises were dying down a bit. Presumably the demon was still there but was running out of victims, on this floor at least. The lights flickered once, twice and then went out completely, before coming on again, this time with a reddish tinge. That meant that the power had been switched to the emergency backup. Which in turn meant that half the security systems in the building, including the security cameras, were now inoperative. Which suited her just fine.
She heard the distinctive crack-crack-crack of a Glock being fired, and the whine of bullets ricocheting off in all directions around the corner, and smiled. When she then heard a crunching noise she counted to ten and then walked around the corner.
It was a vision from hell. The broken body of a security guard was sprawled against one wall and by the angle of his neck he was never going to get up again. Standing over him was the demon from her vision. It was big, with horns and a red-brown mottled colour. Exactly as she’d seen it in her vision.
It turned to look at her, its lip curling as it did. It seemed so arrogant, so confident, so sure that it was about to kill her and she felt her own anger start to burn like lava, hot and heavy.
“Looking for another easy victim?” She smiled at it brightly. She knew that this spot wasn’t covered by any of the internal cameras or sensors – if any of them were even still working at that time. She could therefore enjoy herself a bit. Especially as she could sense that there was no-one else left alive on the floor.
The creature tilted its head to one side for a second as it contemplated her and then it seemed to shrug internally and then step towards her, its hands reaching for her. She summoned the Force and then directed it straight at the chest of the demon sending it tumbling straight down the corridor. It hit the far wall with an impact hard enough to almost leave an impression of its shape in the wall and she grinned fiercely as she saw it shake its head and then stare at her incredulously.
But then it found its feet and then came upright with a roar that shook the dust free from the ceiling – and then it ran at her, its feet leaving deep impressions on the floor as it came. Its face was stuck in a rictus of a snarl and its intent was obvious – to kill her.
This time she used the Force to backhand it into the wall to the right, hitting it so hard that the wall itself half caved in. She smirked at it as it shook its head to clear it. “Are you getting the picture now? You’re not up against one of those Wolfram & Hart losers now.”
“What… what are you?” the creature puffed as it stood up again. “You are here – you are Wolfram & Hart!”
This was the cue for a sneer and she unleashed a good one on the demon as she pulled out her lightsabre and ignited it. “I’m a Sith you worthless piece of trash. And you are about to die.”
The demon gaped at the red blade for a moment and then it looked up at the ceiling for some reason, as if it was searching for something that was beyond her sight. “Is this my test?” The roar from it was unexpected and she frowned slightly. Who was it talking to? “Is this the creature you brought me here to kill?” The horned head jerked around as if it was trying to listen for something. And then it came around and red eyes narrowed into slits as the creature looked at her with utter hatred and a terrible resolve. She could see muscles bunching as it prepared itself to strike and she readied herself.
“Your funeral,” she said with a savage grin.
The demon exploded out of the wall as it rushed towards her, its fists swinging desperately. She dodged the first one easily and then the other before ducking down to one side to allow it to pass her – and then as it did she slashed down with her lightsabre.
The demon shuddered to a halt and the looked down with angry confusion at the truncated and smoking remains of its right arm that she’d left it with. Then the pain hit and it let out a bellow that shook the floor and caused more dust to fall from the light fittings. Lilah simply smiled at it. The Force was running through her like a torrent and she felt more alive than she had for some time.
“You… die… for this!” The demon glared at her with eyes that were now shot through with pain and hatred.
Lilah frowned as if in thought. “Oh,” she smiled, “I bet I don’t.”
The demon threw its head back and howled. It was a noise that spoke of pain and anger, of anguish and utter hatred and Lilah had to steel herself not to take a step back at the sheer volume of noise. She knew what was about to come and sure enough as the demon lowered its face towards her it charged again, its remaining hand reaching for her.
It never even came near her. As it approached she Force-leapt to one side, kicked off the wall, brushing the ceiling with her feet and her lightsabre flashed down and then around. She landed behind the demon, where she deactivated her lightsabre and then turned around to look at it as it slammed to the floor in three separate pieces. Its head bounced once, twice and then three times as it went down the corridor, before coming to a halt.
Lilah walked up to the severed head, as the life finally died from it. “Pathetic.” Ah well. She had to pretend to be a helpless survivor now. She returned her lightsabre to her sleeve and then looked down at her clothing. Too perfect. She’d need to mess things up a bit so that she’d look as if she’d been nothing more than a helpless victim hiding somewhere.
She walked down the ruined corridor. Oh this could turn out very nicely indeed. A huge swathe of the local office had been wiped off the map, on Holland’s watch. She’d been able to take care of the creature without anyone at Wolfram & Hart knowing, which was a good thing as people would therefore continue to underestimate her.
And as for the chaos that would soon envelope the office… well, chaos was always good. Chaos could be… exploited.