by Marcus L. Rowland
Lucifer sat, cross legged, in the centre of a pentacle. Willow, Faith, Modesty, Willie, and Illyria stood at its points, while a girl Willow had introduced as Kennedy guarded the door, with more Slayers on watch outside. There was nobody else in the clinic, everyone had been evacuated to the nearest hospital, but nobody was ruling out the possibility of a demonic attack. "...release what was bound," said Willow, "Restore what was lost. Return the memories that were stolen, remove those that are false, retain those that are true. Unbind that which was bound, restore what was lost. This I ask, in the name of the Goddess, and for the restoration of the balance of things. So mote it be." As she said the last words she seemed to be bathed in white light, which spread to the centre of the pentacle. Lucifer howled with anger and pain, then seemed to twist and change form. The man became a red-skinned giant, horned and nearly eight feet tall, with bat-like wings, naked and unashamed. He stood and stamped a cloven hoof, bellowed his anger, leaving a deep gouge in the wooden floor, then seemed to focus himself, shrinking back to his usual size and shape. He looked around the room, turned his eyes towards Modesty, and said "Modesty. Finally you have saved me, released me from this pathetic trap."
"You really are Lucifer?" she said, awed.
"You never really believed," he said, laughing. The room seemed to shake. "Oh well, what does it matter now?" Willow gulped audibly as he casually crossed one of the lines of the pentacle that was supposed to be containing him and briefly caressed Modesty's cheek with his hand. He turned to Willie, and said "And you, Willie Garvin, did you ever believe me?"
"Sorry," said Willie.
"Yet both of you have given up so much to help me. You could have lived centuries!"
"People aren't made to live like that," said Modesty.
"Perhaps..." said Lucifer. "What now? What can I do for.. for two Slayers, a witch, and a god?"
"Some friends of ours are in the Hell you used to rule," said Willow. "We thought we'd give you a hand getting back there, if you'd help us rescue them."
"And I would leave this world and find one less confining," said Illyria.
"What's in it for me?" asked Lucifer. And the bargaining began.
"How long 'ave we been here?" asked Spike, swinging on his chains in the torch-lit dungeon and wondering if he could build up enough momentum to kick the next demon that came by.
"Feels like a century or so," said Angel, "so it's probably about a month."
"Still might be rescued then."
"There is no rescue..." said an echoing, disembodied voice. "There is no hope..."
"Sodding PA system," said Spike, "They'll be playing bloody Barry Manilow next."
"Nothing wrong with Manilow," said Angel.
"What was that saying about Hell being other people?"
A smallish demon came in, easily dodged Spikes lunge, scuttled over to a brazier, and pulled out a red-hot poker.
"Never mind," said Spike.
"Friend of yours?" asked Angel.
"Naah, look at the nose, he's Irish."
Somewhere outside there was a loud explosion, followed by inhuman screams. The demon put the poker back into the brazier, went to the door, and looked out. There was a crackle of shots, and it scuttled back in again, slammed the door and barred it, and ran towards a rack of pikes on the far wall.
"Guns?" said Angel.
"It'll be the bloody Initiative," said Spike, "That bastard Finn really has it in for you."
There was another explosion, and the door blew off its hinges. The demon ran towards it, then clutched at the hilt of a throwing knife that was suddenly protruding from its forehead. A shot finished it off. A man and a woman wearing body armour and infra-red goggles came in, covering each other, and the man shouted "clear!"
"Excuse me," said Spike, "any chance you're here to rescue us?"
"Depends," said the man, in a broader version of the same Cockney accent, "on who you are."
"We've got them," said the woman, and Spike realised she was using a radio.
"Got any keys?" asked Angel.
There was another explosion outside, a last shriek of pain, and two women came in, both carrying swords dripping with demon ichor.
"Faith?" said Angel, recognising her despite her goggles.
"Hi." She moved to his chains, examined them, and gave them a quick tug. Nothing much happened. The man began to mould a small ball of material that looked like putty, and stuck it to one of Spike's chains, while Faith cleaned the ichor from the katana.
"What's that?" Spike asked nervously.
"Thermite," said Willie. "Keep your eyes shut for a second."
There was a flare of white sparks as the compound burned through the chain. Willie moved to the next chain while Modesty threw a grenade into the corridor. There was another explosion, and more cries of pain.
"Kennedy?" said Spike, finally recognising her. "Presume that means that Red isn't far away."
"She's outside with Illyria," said Faith, "holding off most of the bad guys."
"Sooner we're out of here the better," said Kennedy, firing her crossbow into the corridor while Modesty reloaded. Another cry of pain from the corridor, the second chain burned and Spike fell to the floor. Faith threw him a bag of blood and he drank thirstily, while Willie worked on Angel's chains.
"Got another sword?" said Spike. "Or a gun?"
"Sorry," said Kennedy. "We had to travel light."
"Never mind," said Spike, picking himself off the floor and staggering towards the weapons rack. He grabbed a pitchfork, used it to steady himself, then went back to kick the demon. It groaned, and Spike grinned, got a poker from the brazier, and stuck it up its nose. There was a smell of burning meat. It spasmed then lay still.
"Spike," said Kennedy, "We're a little busy here, stop playing and give Angel a hand, he's hurt more than you are."
"Okay," said Spike, pulling Angel to his feet. "C'mon, Grandad, let's be having you."
"Of all the morons in the world," said Angel, "Drusilla had to sire you."
Willie and Modesty threw more grenades into the corridor, waited for the explosions, then led the way out. Thirty seconds later the satchel charges Willie had left behind detonated, collapsing the corridor behind them.
"I hate teleporting," said Spike.
"Sorry," said Willow, "Trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near that fortress right now." She pointed across a desolate plain towards a distant mountain, the red sky around it black with circling demon hordes.
"About half of the armies of Hell are tearing the place apart looking for us, and they're going to run into Illyria and a friend of Modesty's any moment now."
"Who's your friend?" asked Angel.
"Lucifer," said Modesty.
"Bollocks," Spike said disbelievingly.
"Okay," said Faith, "that's the Spike I remember."
"Don't worry," said Willow, "they're both really here, and they've both got souls. No First Evil, no Angelus. First thing I checked."
"What's going on over there?" asked Willie, staring at the mountain through binoculars. "Looks like they're flying away from the mountain."
Willow concentrated for a second, then shouted "Cover your eyes. Spike, Angel, get behind that rock."
"What?" said Angel. Willie lowered his binoculars.
Both vampires leaped for cover. A second later there was a flash, and for a fraction of a second Hell was illuminated by a light brighter than any sun. When their eyes recovered the fleeing hordes were gone. So was the castle and half the mountain.
"Sodding hell," said Spike.
"Lucifer," said Willow. "The Lightbringer. Settling some old scores."
"Is he all right?" asked Modesty.
"How about Illyria?" asked Kennedy.
Willow reached out with her mind for a few seconds, and said "I think so. Both kinda busy right now." For some reason she was blushing.
"What was that saying about power being an aphrodisiac?" asked Faith.
For a few second they felt the noise and shock wave of the explosion, both in the air and as the ground shaking. The mountain was burning, its peak erupting as a volcano, and hot blobs of ash were thudding down from the sky. Angel slapped one from his arm.
"Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone," said Willie, "and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. Psalm eleven verse six." Angel stared at him, Spike laughed.
"Willie was stuck in prison once with nothing but a Psalter to read," said Modesty.
"I think we'd better get out of here," said Willow, "everyone close, Kennedy and Faith next to me, I may need to draw on your power."
They gathered around her, and in moments they were gone.
"So what happens now?" asked Modesty, back in the clinic, after they'd bandaged their cuts and burns.
"We head back to Cleveland," said Willow, "get these two debriefed, find out everything they know about the Senior Partners and the rest of that crowd, and see what we can do about putting more dents into their plans."
"No you don't," said Spike. "The first thing we're going to do is get rat-arsed drunk and say goodby to Wes. Reminds me, did Gunn make it?"
"He's in hospital in LA," said Faith, "with at least two Slayers around at all times. Between them he and Illyria saw just enough to tell us where you'd wound up."
"Better get him somewhere safer," said Angel, "They'll want to settle scores eventually."
"Once he's okay to be moved. Don't worry, I think the Senior Partners have more important things to worry about right now."
"I hope Illyria's going to be okay," said Spike. "I kinda like Smurfette."
"Hate to tell you," said Willow, "But I think she's moved on."
"To Lucifer?" asked Angel.
"Can you think of anyone else that could cope with her?" asked Faith. "Besides, you didn't meet the guy. Believe me, he's hot. In a demonic sort of way."
"I hope she'll treat him well," said Modesty.
"What about you two?" Kennedy asked Modesty and Willie. "Get some rest then head back to Britain?"
"I think so," said Modesty. She had a slightly haunted look.
"What's wrong?" asked Faith.
"Time," said Willie. "I think we're both feeling it catch up with us a little. All of the stuff that was fuzzy in my memory is coming back to me. You know, I've owned that pub nearly forty years now, a lot of my regulars weren't even born when I bought it, and I never realised."
"It's the same for me," said Modesty. "People I'd completely forgotten, so many that just drifted away over the years, or thought that it was only a year or two since I'd seen them."
"Probably not a good idea to go back and renew old acquaintanceships," said Angel. "I made that mistake a few times, it never goes well."
"Well yeah," said Spike, "considering everyone hates you. The Scourge of Europe, remember?"
"I meant after I got my soul back, you moron."
"Look," said Willow, "if you need a hand with this I could kinda fade it in gradually, so you didn't feel the impact so much."
"Not for me," said Modesty, "if I'm going to rebuild my life I want my wits about me."
"Same here," said Willie.
"You know," said Modesty, looking thoughtful, "there must be quite a few police out there who've forgotten us completely by now."
"Now there's a thought," said Willie. "Fancy going back into business? Start up The Network again, or just pull a few jobs to keep our 'ands in."
"It's an idea. Never stole the Mona Lisa."
"Or The Scream."
"They've both been done though."
"'Ow about The Night Watch, now that'd be a challenge."
"It wouldn't fit into the penthouse."
"Warhol?" asked Willie
"I already own too many legitimately," said Modesty.
"I think we just unleashed a monster," Willow whispered.
"Well, at least it was in another dimension," said Kennedy.
"Not what I meant, doofus."
"Well, we can't leave yet," said Angel. "Still daylight out there."
"I know," said Spike, "Anyone got a pack of cards?"
"Funny you should say that," said Willie, dipping into a pocket. "Poker?"
"Got any kittens handy?"
"Most people play for money, Spike..."
Author's note: The first of Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise comic strips appeared in 1962, with a novelization in 1965 and a (dreadful) film in 1966. The last novel was published in 1985, with a final short story collection in 1996, and the final episode of the strip appeared in 2001. A 2002 film, My Name Is Modesty, was set at the beginning of her career and is allegedly considerably better than the original movie; I haven't yet been able to locate a copy. Most of the other material is readily available; the strips have been anthologised several times, and the books were recently reprinted.
In many ways the series seemed to be adrift in time; generally nobody seemed to age, and some of the values and attitudes seemed to be stuck in the sixties. While it would be easy enough to overlook this aspect of the series, and write a story that assumed a more recent origin for the characters, I decided to take all of this at face value and write a story that explained how Modesty could still appear to be in her early thirties despite a career spanning four decades. I hope that readers will have enjoyed the result.