Apologies again people - I've been insanely busy this year, plus I've had other writing projects. Hopefully 2013 will be better. Happy Christmas!

The standard Wolfram & Hart makeup of their security teams were set in stone, for reasons that had possibly been lost in the depths of time. Two groups of three men, backed up by a reserve unit of four men. Why those numbers – well, who knew anymore? It was tradition. It was the way that it was done. People like Karl Bracken, who had recently retired at long last after so many years had wondered about it, complained about it and then finally shrugged their shoulders and acquiesced to it.

The team that was going in to get Darla was a standard team. It was also a very successful team, one of Holland's favourites, the boys who had pulled off more covert ops for the Vice-President of Special Projects than anyone else had in the company. They were the guys who had infiltrated that demon's nest in Sacramento and left the head of the local demon clan neatly dismembered and stuck onto various walls and ceilings with crazy glue. They were the guys who had once taken on a rogue half-demon warlord who'd forgotten who had been protecting him, and reduced his hideout to a smoking hole in the ground. And they were the guys who had once faced down an operative from the Order of Taraka and told him to go do something anatomically impossible to himself and then lived to tell the tale.

So getting a deathly ill former vampire from a house by the desert that was owned by some college-age kid was going to be a doddle, even if that house also contained that damn meddlesome vampire with a soul. Well, they had crucifixes and tasers for him. Holy water and incendiary ammunition would have been better, but orders were orders.

John Hartmann took point, as he always did. He normally welcomed it as it meant that he could call the shots. Today he didn't. He had a bad feeling about this place. He didn't know why and he certainly didn't like that feeling.

They went over the wall – the gate would have been a bit too obvious – and then re-orientated themselves and went for the nearest entrance, the large double-doored archway that they'd eyeballed from the hill overlooking the property. The doors were open – which made him a bit suspicious but he had no doubt that they could handle anything.

As they parted to press themselves against the walls to either side of the doorway, Hartmann pulled out a flashbang. The moment that he saw that everyone was in position he pulled the pin, threw the flashbang in through the doorway and hunched away from the opening, closing his eyes and opening his mouth to mitigate the worst impact of what was about to happen. One-one hundred, two-one hundred, three-one hundred, four one-hundred….. five one-hundred? Six one-hundred?

He opened his eyes again and turned towards the doorway in puzzlement. It was at that moment that something clunked against his helmet. Looking up he saw the flashbang hanging in the air in front of him. Smoke was hissing from the top of it. He had just enough time to close his eyes and flinch his head down before it went off like the crack of doom itself.

The world went very bright, as well as very loud. He never worked out afterwards how long he really spent on the ground shaking his head. It felt like an hour and a half, but he knew that it couldn't have been more than about thirty seconds. How the hell did they do that? was his first thought, followed by Jesus Christ, how long until those pinwheels of light stop spiralling across my eyeballs?

As soon as he could however, he was back on his feet and staring around at the others, who were all showing similar signs of having been whacked on the back of the head with a four by four. "In," he shouted muzzily and then brought up his gun and went through the door. Or at least he tried to, because something grabbed him and then threw him straight back into the others. They all went sprawling and as he tried to get to his feet again and raise his gun he caught sight of a grim-faced man with longish hair who was standing in the doorway and who then flicked a hand at him. To his astonishment he felt his gun jerk out of his hand and fly off somewhere in a parabola to land somewhere behind him.

Magic? he thought desperately, followed by Shit. We didn't bring anyone who can handle magic. But then there were ways to deal with mages. He reached down to his boot and pulled his favourite knife out. And then he launched himself at the mage. If the mage didn't have a throat, then he couldn't say another spell and problem solved.

The mage looked at him and then smiled slightly as he flicked a hand again. Hartmann tightened his grip on the knife desperately but it still slipped through his fingers like a bar of wet soap and thunked into the wall above his head.

Fine, we'll do it old school, he thought and then tried to rush the mage. He took three steps and then all of a sudden he was flying through the air again, before hitting the ground in the shadows by a doorway hard enough to shake him to the bone. As he struggled to regain his senses he saw the reserve team come around the corner. Kerrigan was leading them and he had his favourite Heckler & Koch up in a firing position and the moment that he saw the mage he let off a three-round burst.

But somehow the mage had sensed their arrival because somehow he was moving before the bullets left the barrel of the gun. Christ, Hartmann thought, how can anyone move that damn fast? And then it got worse, because the mage ran straight at a wall and then leapt up it at a speed that was almost too fast to see. As he reached the top he flicked a hand again and all of a sudden the reserve team also went sprawling, with more than a few grunts of surprise.

Got to get up, I have to get up, Hartmann thought desperately but then as he got to his feet the door opened and someone grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and pulled him through. He had just enough time to see the distorted face of a male vampire before a fist hit him on the side of the head and knocked him clean out.

Daniel looked at the neat row of unconscious bodies and then shook his head in puzzlement. "You know, this hardly seemed fair."

This earnt him a bark of laughter from Lindsey, who was binding the hands of the last of the raiders. "Oh believe me Daniel, they weren't going to play fair themselves." He stood up and wiped his hands off on a piece of rag as if they were dirty from touching the men. "I recognise a few of these guys. They worked for Wolfram & Hart's special operations teams. If they were here after Darla then I think that they're still working for my old and massively unlamented company." He shot a caustic look at them. "I know that they've got their hands not dipped in blood but drenched in it. They're not the kind of people to ever use minimal force. No, they'd kill first and apologise never."

"Then let's find out for sure why they're here," Oz said quietly as he walked up. He'd taken care of the third group of men when they'd tried to enter the main building from the West. Like the others they'd thrown a flashbang and had been armed to the teeth. Like the others it hadn't done them a damn bit of good. "Let's see know…. That one I think."

Daniel looked at the man that Oz was pointing to. He was a thick-set individual who looked as if he'd been shaving with a piece of glass for most of his adult life. Reaching out with the Force he dragged him closer and then grabbed him by his chest webbing and pulled his torso up, his head lolling.

"Wake up," he told him and slightly to his surprise (he still had to work on that) the man's eyes opened suddenly. "Who sent you?"

The man gaped at him for a moment. "Wolfram and Hart," he said eventually. Daniel suppressed a sudden thought about Obi-Wan Kenobi telling a group of Stormtroopers that these weren't the 'Droids they were looking for, and then smiled slightly. "Why did they send you here?"

"To... retrieve Darla." Daniel looked up at the others – the shadows had lengthened enough to allow enough shade for Angel to join them, whilst Rebecca had been able to leave her post on the East wing.

"As we suspected," Lindsey muttered, scratching his chin as he did. "Why though?"

"Orders from… above. She is… an asset."

"If she is an asset then why didn't you try to take her before?"

"We're not allowed to go… to Sunnydale. Too… dangerous."

Lindsey flickered an eyebrow up and down. "Aha," he said delicately. Then: "Who exactly sent you here?"

"Holland Manners."

Lindsey smiled a very thin smile. "My ex-boss. What a surprise." He looked at the man. "Sleep."

As the Wolfram & Hart man slumped back in to sleep, Lindsey looked at the others. "I think we need to have a word with Xander."

There was a certain amount of tension in the air in the Initiative, which was only understandable given that the new C.O. was in the building. Apparently he'd entered without any fanfare at all, which meant that he was either someone who wanted to see the basics from the start or he was a sneaky bastard. Given the recent run of C.O.s, Riley had his money on the latter.

He was therefore just a little on edge waiting for the arrival of whoever the hell it was. Hopefully everything was perfect on the base, because if something was wrong somewhere then by the laws that governed all such visits by superior officers, the new guy would find it/slip on it/fall over it. Riley had inspected the main armoury carefully but quickly, before making sure that the cells were all in order. The last thing they wanted was an HST breaking out at the wrong time. Ok, so that hadn't happened since Adam's little visit, but the thought of it was still enough to make him break out into a cold sweat.

Riley looked at his watch again and then frowned. The new C.O. should be due about now, but so far there was no sign of him. Perhaps he was late, which would give them more time to make sure that everything was ok. "Is there anything at all we've forgotten?" he hissed at Forrest, who frowned in concentration.

"I don't think so," Forrest muttered. "I think that-" A wall phone trilled and he answered it. "Agent Gates." Then he paled. "When? Where is he now? Right…. Ok…. Yes, thank you." Placing the phone back on the socket he turned to Riley. "That was Graham. He's here now. He arrived ten minutes ago and told the gate guards not to let anyone know that he was here. He wants you to join him now."

"Where?" Riley asked, his stomach sinking to just south of his big toe.

"The kitchens. Apparently he said that the place that showed the true character of an installation, whatever the hell that means."

Riley paused for a moment. That sounded awfully like…. Nah, it couldn't be. "Do we at least know what our new C.O.'s name is?"

"Graham didn't say. Not sure why. You'd better hustle – I'll check the infirmary just to be on the safe side."

"Goddamn it, why can't life ever be simple in this place," Riley muttered as he hustled away.

Xander looked at the speakerphone and then raised an eyebrow thoughtfully. "Interesting," he said eventually after those at the Jedi Temple (kind of) finished speaking. "Sithspit. What the hell were they thinking?"

"I think that Holland Manners is acting like a fairly typical Wolfram & Hart senior executive," Giles said in a tone so dry that it could have mummified an elephant. "He expects reality to conform with his wishes. Sadly for him life seldom works that way."

"I concur with Giles," Lindsey said over the phone. "Holland's not a man who likes to be balked. He tends to think that an obstacle is something that can be hammered flat and then ignored. He's also possibly the most ambitious man I've ever met. Wolfram & Hart spent a huge amount of magic to pull Darla back from the dead. That makes her an asset in their eyes – not a person, a piece on the board. Getting her back would boost Holland's position in the eyes – if some of them have any – of the Senior Partners."

"So this lot of muffins thought that they could grab her from your location as it wasn't Sunnydale – which they'd been banned from entering?" Giles mused thoughtfully. "Right. I, I think that whilst Darla is extremely safe with you, it might be best if you got Darla to Sunnydale as soon as possible. Otherwise Mr Manners might try something even more stupid."

"That's a good point," Xander agreed. "Angel, can you and Oz get her to us tonight?"

"That should be ok, but she's still very weak," Oz replied. "That said, I can place her in a Jedi healing trance for the journey. I think that she'll need to be looked at by a doctor that we can trust though. I'm improving all the time at healing, but syphilis is not something I want to take any chances with."

"I think I know who to go to," Giles muttered, before he rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "I think that we also need to send a message to Wolfram & Hart. In the good old days this would have been on the lines of sending the severed heads of the raiding party back to the nearest Wolfram & Hart lair, but I imagine that you'd like to do it more politely Xander?"

"Sadly, I would," Xander grinned. "Did any of them have a cellphone on them?"

"Several did," Lindsey said. "I take it that we're going to call Holland Manners?"

"Yes, we certainly are. Can you patch me into it?"

"Should do," Lindsey mused. "What are we going to say?"

"Mr Manners will have to stop playing with things that don't belong to him," Xander said grimly.

By the time that Riley got to the kitchens the new C.O., whoever the hell he was, had moved on, leaving behind him a slightly stunned Warrant Officer who was scrubbing his already spotless pots in a rather demented fashion when Riley arrived. "Slight carbonisation in one corner sir," the WO said, followed by: "He's gone to the infirmary – said for you to follow him."

Grimacing, Riley strode off down the corridor, went up a flight of stairs and then went down two more corridors before arriving at the infirmary, where he could see a knot of people clustered around a desk. They looked a bit worried and as Riley approached he could see why – man in a marine's uniform with the shoulder insignia of a Brigadier-General. Then he caught sight of the man's face and he blinked in astonishment. It couldn't be. Just before he could open his mouth the man looked up, caught sight of Riley and smiled slightly. "Agent Finn, good to see you again."

It was Tom McDermott, the guy who'd done more to build the Initiative than anyone else and right up until the incident with a supply van, a murdered man, at least one vampire and unless he missed his guess Xander Harris, the man who should have been the first commanding officer of the Initiative. Riley blinked again, drew himself to attention and then saluted hastily, a salute that was returned by his new C.O. before he turned back to what he had been doing before Riley arrived – perusing a folder full of papers that seemed to be displeasing him.

General McDermott glared at the head doctor there – Sam Collins, a man whom Riley had had very little time for since their first meeting due to his tendency to be a stubborn idiot who didn't listen to advice – and handed over a file. "I expect better from you in the future, Dr. Collins," he barked at him and then stood. "Agent Finn, a word with you in my office. I need to brief you about a few things."

"Yes sir," said Riley and then walked after McDermott as he swept out of the room.

"You've done a good job keeping this place running in the absence of a commanding officer," the new head of the Initiative muttered as he strode down the corridor like a force of nature, looking, peering, scowling and generally making people salute hastily and then go about their business faster than before.

"I did my best sir," Riley replied carefully. "Luckily it's been quite quiet recently."

"I know, I read the latest files on my way over. Sorry to sneak in on you, but I've always found that it tends to get you a more accurate look at a place than you might otherwise get when everyone's busy standing at attention in the main entrance and blinding a new C.O. with how great their shoes have been polished." He smiled wryly. "Some of the scientists still aren't too good at that, are they?"

"Not really sir," Riley said, smiling back. They went around a corner and then into McDermott's office, where the latter stalked over to his desk, muttered something about getting pictures of the wife and kids set up and then sank into his chair with a sigh.

"Close the door Riley," he said. As the door shut he then gestured to a chair in front of the desk. "And take a seat."

As Riley sat he studied the older man carefully. There were a few extra lines around the corner of his eyes and a little grey in the hair at his temples, but he seemed the same man. On the surface, anyway.

"First things first Riley, I'm confirming you as my second in command. Like I said earlier you've done a damn good job running this place not once but twice, so I'd be a fool not to keep you on. I've read the files on what's been happening here, and I'm pleased that you've lived up to the potential that your C.O. in Fort Bragg told me that you had. "

McDermott sighed slightly and then leant forwards and clasped his hands together on the desk in front of him. "So – cards on the table Riley. I'm not just here to command this installation, I'm also here to conduct a study into its continued viability. I've been told to look into the question of whether or not this place should be shut down."

This wasn't the total bolt out of the blue that it might have been, and Riley nodded sombrely. "I was expecting something like this sir," he said sounding a bit shaken. "The past few years have been… interesting."

A snort emerged from McDermott's nose. "I see you haven't lost your taste for understatement. Director Walsh was killed by her own creation, the FUBAR over that mass break-out attempt by Adam rocked the NID down to its very foundation, the Pentagon sent in some kind of investigator who answered to the President himself and your last C.O. turned out to be a nut in chainmail who was trying to avenge his dead family and who almost triggered the Initiative's self-destruct. That's about as interesting as you can get and still be alive." Then he shot Riley a shrewd look. "Oh and you're also dating the Vampire Slayer."

Finding himself turning slightly pink Riley stiffened in his chair. "With all due respect sir that's-"

"None of my business, I know. Still, it does illustrate the fact that things here have not exactly gone as first planned, have they?"

Which was a good point and Riley found himself nodding in acknowledgement. "That's true sir."

McDermott sighed and leant back in his chair. "Despite that, you've done some great work here – your intervention stopped Adam's breakout from being a total bloodbath and the amount of information on HSTs has increased tenfold, giving us a far better idea about just what's out there.

"That said, there are some at the Pentagon who want this place mothballed or even shut down completely. Some say that the Initiative has served its original purpose, that of collecting information on HSTs. Others claim that there's a curse on the place – and no I'm not joking. I even talked to one religious nut from the Air Force who claims that everything that comes out of here is 100 per cent bullshit, because God would never allow such things to happen, which should give you a frightening glimpse into the mindset of some of the assholes who are running about in the Pentagon at the moment."

Riley winced and then looked up at McDermott. "Sir, we're still doing good work here. And I'd like to stress that we've discovered that this town is placed over a Hellmouth. I know that there are some in the Pentagon who won't believe that, but given everything that's happened here over the past few years I can't see how they can deny that at the very least this is a place where bad things happen."

There was a pause whilst McDermott looked at him carefully, before nodding. "A very good point Riley." He sighed. "And one that I've pointed out several times to various people. I guess that I'll have to make it again. I won't lie to you Riley, I really will conduct an in-depth investigation into whether or not the Initiative is a project that has run its course. But at the same time I intend to give you every opportunity to fight your corner. Especially as you seem to have links to some quite extraordinary people here in Sunnydale – including the guy who defeated Glory. I know that a lot of the security tapes of that battle were blank afterwards thanks to Lam's meddling, but enough small pieces remained to give me an idea. And by the way I've been read into the SGC program, which you're not cleared for but which I know that a certain Mr Xander Harris has helped out with."

Some of the tension resting on Riley's shoulders eased a little. "Does the NID know about him sir?"

"Not as far as I know, so hopefully not at all."

"He's saved I don't know how many lives so far."

"Then hopefully he'll go on doing so." McDermott leant forwards again. "We have a lot to do, Riley."

"Yes sir," he grinned. "Can do."

Holland didn't look nervous as he sat at his desk and stared out at the night lights of LA. He knew that from his reflection on the impressively large window opposite him. Unfortunately inside he felt nervous. It wasn't a feeling that he was familiar with when it came to things that weren't related to the Senior Partners, who were normally the things that made him nervous enough to want to be sick.

The team that he'd sent in to get Darla were now more than an hour overdue. This was not, by any means, normal. It was enough to worry him and that was not something that he liked at all. For a moment he was tempted to drum his fingers on his desk. However, even though there were no underlings nearby he suppressed it. If he couldn't school himself into not showing emotion when he was on his own then he'd never be able to do it when he was dealing with his idiot underlings.

He shot a quick glare at the phone. Perhaps… no, he shouldn't do it. Ringing a team when they were in the middle of a job was a no-no. If they'd been delayed by some unknown factor, if they'd encountered something new, well then he'd have to wait a bit longer.

It was at this point that his phone rang. His eyes snapped down at the display on it. "Hartmann" it said and he relaxed slightly as he picked up the receiver. "This is Manners. I take it that you have her?"

A chuckle answered his question, a chuckle from a voice that he'd heard before but which wasn't form anyone he employed. "I'm sorry Holland, but your people don't have Darla. Instead we have them."

Holland froze in his seat for a split second before gathering his wits. "Who is this?"

"This is Xander Harris, Holland. You know, the guy whose property you just sent your people into, in a totally futile attempt to grab a woman who has no desire to have anything at all to do with Wolfram & Hart at all."

Harris. It was Harris. Crap. Holland licked what were suddenly very dry lips and then he leant forwards slightly. "Mr Harris. What exactly are you accusing me of?"

"I'm not accusing you of anything Holland. I just know full well that you sent a team into my property to try and snatch Darla. Luckily some friends of mine were there at the time, so I'm not very sorry to say that your people failed utterly." His voice had become still and emotionless – and Holland swallowed nervously and wished to hell that he hadn't listened to Lilah and sent that team in.

"Say hello to – what's your name again?"

"John Hartmann," said a voice that sounded as if it was speaking from a different location and slightly against his will.

"We do have you and your entire team, Mr Hartmann?"

"Yes, you do." There was a click and then Harris spoke again.

"We'll be sending them back to you – alive of course, we're Jedi, not Sith – but I have to warn you again – do not meddle in our business. We may not be quick to anger, but we can be subtle and above all we dislike evil. Perhaps you should remember that, given that Wolfram & Hart seems to be about as evil as anything I can think of."

Holland moistened what suddenly seemed to be very dry lips. "I see," he said, thinking desperately quickly. "Is that all, or is there anything else?"

"Just this – Darla is under our protection. If you send someone after her we will protect her to the very best of our ability. You can take that to the bank Holland. I'd advise that you and the rest of Wolfram & Hart stay well away from her. Do you understand?"

The arid lips had made a return. "I understand," Holland said.

"Good, because we're likely to be far nicer than Buffy would be. I'd stay away from Sunnydale as well. Goodbye Holland. I hope we never speak again." And then the phone went dead.

Holland replaced the receiver and then stared at it as if it was a poisonous snake. He had the feeling that he'd just received the most important warning of his life and he wiped the sweat off his face with a suddenly shaking hand. Perhaps it was time to go home. That or get blind drunk. Perhaps both?

"You went a bit easy on him," Lindsey grumped slightly at the speakerphone after Hartmann had been taken away. The Wolfram & Hart team would be taken back to their vehicles later and told in no uncertain terms to go back to LA and never bother them again.

"I know," Xander replied quietly. "I had a sudden feeling via the Force that Holland Manners is in deep, deep trouble. I'm not sure why. I might meditate about it. Anyway – brief me on how everything's been going in the meantime."

"I wonder who he was?"

She looked up from the fascinating (if incredibly old) computer system. Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey was looking at the seat that the corpse had been sitting in with a quizzical look on her face.

"I don't I think we'll ever know," Sam said with a certain measure of sadness in her voice. She didn't say it out loud, but she occasionally wondered if that would be her fate – a crash on an alien planet, unmarked, unnoticed and unknown.

"Sad," Hailey muttered and Sam could do nothing but nod in agreement. Then she heard the sound of feet being stomped down the corridor and she grinned slightly. It sounded like the footsteps of a pissed-off Canadian and that could only mean one person.

As the footsteps entered her office she raised a hand and waved. "Hi Rodney."

There was a moment of nonplussed silence and then: "How the hell did you know it was me?"

"Oh just a hunch," she replied. "How can I help you?"

"I see you're looking at that computer," Rodney McKay muttered. "Any joy with it?"

"Not a lot," Sam sighed, "It's old and it's been buried in a hill in one of the rainiest parts of Wales for tens of thousands of years. Even though the spacecraft had kept its integrity it's still not looking good."

Rodney walked up to it and then peered at the ancient components. "Ah," he said eventually. "No, you're right. That doesn't look good. Basic corrosion will have ruined most of it. Are there any solid-state components? I mean, the Goa'uld and the Ancients used crystals."

"No such luck here," Sam said with a shake of her head. "These are quite advanced computer components, but they're still made from some kind of synthetic polymer like plastic that just wasn't designed to last this long. We scanned everything in situ where we found it, we've been incredibly careful with everything, but it's all still so brittle. It can fall to pieces if you're not incredibly careful."

"Umph," Rodney grunted as he looked closely at the nearest component. "So advanced but not Ancient or Goa'uld. And how old is it again?"

"Around 150,000 years," Sam sighed. "Give or take ten thousand years either side of that figure."

"So that complicates all our theories about everything here. Again." He looked about again. "Still no Dr Jackson?"

"Daniel's still training," she replied patiently.

"Training to be what, Ma'am?" Hailey asked, puzzled.

"A Jedi," Sam answered.

Hailey blinked several times. "This place is so weird at times," she muttered.

"Hey, I told you that the SGC would be a challenge," Sam grinned at her. Then she looked at Rodney, who was being uncharacteristically quiet. "You ok Rodney?"

"Just thinking about the age of this thing," the Canadian muttered with a frown on his face. "It reminds me of… hmmm, I wonder where she is now?"

Sam frowned. "Where who is now?"

To her surprise Rodney blushed slightly. "Oh," he said in a bad attempt at sounding casual, "Someone I knew when I was doing some advanced physics work after University. Helen Keeler. She was studying paleo-archaeology – a post graduate course. She and I had this… thing."

"Thing?" Sam repeated, a smile stealing over her face. "What kind of… thing?"

Rodney's blush deepened. "Oh this whole living together thing that might have led to a… ring thing if I hadn't made a few mistakes. But the thing is that she was studying ancient human cultures and she told me that she'd discovered some… anomalies. "

This really got Sam's attention, because she straightened up and stared at him. "What kind of anomalies?"

"Well, if I remember correctly she was talking about anomalous pieces of apparently worked metal and other things that had been discovered in parts of Africa and North America that dated to roughly the same time. She was writing her thesis on it. Well, she was writing it until I, um, intervened."

"You intervened?"

Rodney stared at the wall, still slightly pink. "It was at about the same time that a certain Daniel Jackson was apparently committing academic suicide by claiming that the Ancient Egyptians didn't build the pyramids. I told her that her thesis might not be coming at exactly the best time. I might not have been exactly… tactful."

Sam looked at him again. Knowing Rodney and his tact shortfall now, she shuddered to think what he might have been like a decade or so before. "So what happened?"

"She ended up doing her thesis on some back-up research she had about cave paintings in Spain. Got excellent marks for it."

"And her other research?"

"As far as I know she kept it. After we, well, parted ways I heard that she ended up working for some roving department of the British Museum."

This sounded oddly familiar to Sam, who frowned. "Doing what exactly?"

"I don't know," Rodney said with a shrug. "Recovering odd artefacts I think. Why?"

That now sounded extremely familiar to Sam and she turned and grabbed for the phone. "I think I need to talk to Rupert Giles. If your friend works for who I think she works for, then he might be able to get in touch with her. We need to see that research of hers. I think it might help us."

The Beast paused and looked upwards. It had gotten a bit turned around on its way here, and had wasted two days having a pleasantly invigorating swim in the magma chamber under Long Valley, before heading Westwards again.

It had arrived. This was the spot that The Voice had told the Beast about. Now it just needed to head upwards. Upwards to fulfil its destiny. Once it arrived back on the surface The Voice would surely speak to it again. And even if it didn't – there would be blood aplenty to sake the thirst of the Beast. It grinned and struck up.