Chapter Seven: Have A Nice Day
The pair moved along the dimly lit corridor in an odd sort of companionable silence. One, shrouded within a dark grey cloak and a suit of midnight blue body armor; the most advance available in the modern era. It was amazing to think that at six foot one, two hundred and fifteen pounds he could vanish into thin air as thoroughly as a wisp of smoke.
The other, a five foot seven inch, slightly built waif of a girl with thick, frizzy brown hair the color of autumn leaves. The royal blue mask she wore concealed her eyes but did little to hide her natural beauty. The hilt of a katana stuck up over her left shoulder.
Like her counterpart she was adept at vanishing at a moment's notice; while he accomplished the feat through hard earned skill. She managed it because of a genetic quirk that separated her from the rest of humanity.
Kitty was extremely curious as to exactly what it was that brought the Dark Knight to Sunnydale, the not so sleepy little town the brochures made it out to be. Then again she wasn't expecting any sudden revelations; Bat Man had a reputation and so far he did nothing to prove it undeserved.
Not knowing why he was here was driving her… Batty.
The man was closed lips, and he possessed exactly one facial expression. Scott seemed like Boo-Boo the clown next to Batman.
He stopped suddenly, becoming, if possible, even more silent in the stillness. The soft touch of his hand on her shoulder brought Kitty to a dead stop. She found him to be as unnerving as Logan, and wondered if they attended the same Ninja College.
With quick hand signs he told her somebody was coming up behind them. Straining her ears it took Kitty several seconds to pick up the dull thuds of heavy footsteps echoing up the long hall.
It was with deep speculation that she looked back at him, his hearing was at least on par with Ororo's, which while not on Logan's level was still considered better then average. Kitty wasn't sure if it had anything to do with his training, an intense awareness of his surrounding or if there was perhaps some little genetic quirk in his DNA.
Much as she would love to find the answer to that question there were more immediate matters that required her attention. The pair had a brief, but very silent conversation about the best way to proceed. While they both felt confident in their ability to handle any situation thrown at them, neither thought it was prudent to face an unknown, potential adversary, without doing a bit of reconnaissance first. Find out its strengths, discern its weaknesses and then formulate a plan of action.
Kitty grabbed hold of Batman's bicep and pulled him back, although she doubted she would have been able to move the man so easily if he didn't allow it. "Deep breath," Kitty whispered. Just like a diver preparing for a deep dive, she saturated her lungs with oxygen and stepped backwards into the sheet of dense steel coating the bedrock beyond.
Batman watched with some amazement as Shadowcat immersed herself in the steel. He had seen J'onn perform the same act countless times only he always looked like he was disturbing a pool of water, his presence sending out waves. Shadowcat simply seemed to merge with the steel as she phased into it.
Steeling himself for what he expected to be a rather unpleasant experience, something akin to swimming through slime. Only this wasn't, it was no different then the corridor they just left behind. It was the same, yet completely different. The steel and bedrock were no more of a hindrance to them then air.
The thought that his life was completely in the girl's hands, in her relatively unknown power, troubled Bruce some. He wasn't use to depending on other people, even those he's known and worked with for years, never mind somebody he just met and whose reputation was somewhat clouded.
He doubted if the X-Men were the public enemy certain politicians with questionable agendas made them out to be, let alone fringe religious groups who proclaimed mutants were Satan's agents on Earth, but the group did little to endear themselves to the public, not that he could say much in that area. He didn't exactly make it a habit of granting interviews with the media, but he did maintain relations with certain people.
They waited just beneath the surface, so close that Bruce was positive, if he concentrated just a little harder, he would be able to see into the corridor beyond. Only he couldn't.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed, a couple of minutes, possible longer. He wasn't concerned for himself, with meditation techniques he mastered over the years he was capable of holding his breath for close to ten minutes.
Shadowcat probably didn't have that type of training to fall back on; then again, she had noticed his presence when most others wouldn't. She didn't appear to be in any dire need of oxygen, and while relatively impatient she didn't seem to be in any great danger of suffocating.
She stepped out of the wall, drawing him along. "What the hell are these people doing?"
"Trying to build a better soldier," Batman answered. He has heard rumors of military operations like this one, but has never actually run across one.
Kitty shuddered at the thought. No wonder Fury is so hell bent to get this place shut down. He could've at least given me a heads up. The thought didn't hold the rancor she thought it deserved. Maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age?
Twenty-one, twenty-two no one could think of her as old, most people would see a young woman, what the vast majority of them would never know is that she has been donning an X-Man uniform since shortly after her thirteenth birthday and one bitter, pain-filled, heart wrenching experience after another has jaded her; most recently the death of her best friend Illyana, somebody she had literally shared her soul with, and the sacrifices of her first love Piotr, sacrificing himself to ensure no more lives would be lost to the Legacy virus.
She has traversed the vastness of the known Universe, beheld sights so wondrous that even the vague memories she retained were more then enough to make her soul soar and weep by turns, yet the depths that man could sink to constantly astonished her. Demons and aliens might be accounted great evils simply because their nature is so different then our own, but the atrocity one man is capable of inflicting upon another truly disturbed her, and their reasons were no less insane.
Bruce watched her; he could see the wheels turning. There was no fear in her, no excitement either, just a determination to finish a job she started. He could understand that. When he was young, younger then Shadowcat, his rage and grief and guilt had driven him to become the best, to become the Dark Knight.
Putting on his uniform though, emotions had a way of mudding up the waters when they needed to be crystal clear. It had taken numerous lessons to learn the hard truths, lessons he sometimes forgot when he got too close.
This wasn't going to be one of those times.
Buffy recognized Riley's voice as she raced up the long, stark white hall. It was distorted, quivered with raw emotion, so unlike his normally strong, confident tone. Now he sounded more like a petulant child then the Special Forces officer he was. Aside from the video feed, Buffy hasn't seen her pseudo boyfriend for more then a day, but what she did see, all sweating and shaking, matched up for better with the voice she just heard.
Speeding down the corridor, Buffy's feet never touched the floor. At least, that was what it felt like to her.
"You're making her sound like some psychopath. She was brilliant!"
He was close to the edge, might have already leapt head first over it.
"She was." A second voice interjected. His voice was quieter, softer, lacked any sort of strength, like the man had never known a hard days labor. Buffy was sure not a single callus had ever marred his palms.
"All she was doing was trying to help people, and this is the way you want them to remember her?"
Buffy skidded around the corner, took in the large two story room in a single glance. Like the rest of the base it was a single uniform steel gray. A sturdy catwalk ran the length of the back wall, with a slim ladder climbing the far wall.
None of that mattered to her; all of her attention was focused on Riley. He was shaking, looked flush… a sheen of sweat slicked his face. His arm was rock steady as he aimed the standard issue nine millimeter at Angleman.
Buffy had only meet the man once, found him to be more bland then she thought was humanly possible, even Wesley had more of a personality, for a watcher, Wesley was almost anal, which was several steps, perhaps an entire flight of them, above Angleman.
If he were to suddenly turn up as a corpse she wouldn't shed a tear for him, high school on a hellmouth hardened her, Junior year had been especially tough on her casual acquaintances.
What would weigh on her was if she let Riley pull that trigger. She couldn't believe how much he looked like a junkie in need of a fix.
"Riley," she called out in her most soothing voice.
His hand, his entire body jerked at the sound of her voice. He looked at her and his expression relaxed, the dark circles under his eyes seemed to vanish. "Buffy?" There was an edge of confusion in his voice as if he shouldn't believe his own eyes.
"That's right Riley," Buffy said with a nod. She smiled softly and added, "It's just me, Buffy. I've come to take you out of here. Take you home." Her voice remained non threatening, and there was no hint of the violence she was capable of as she removed several feet from the distance separating them.
"How?" Was the simple word that slipped out of his mouth, his eyes darkening, narrowing with distrust. "You're not suppose to be here."
A couple more feet, was the simple thought that kept playing in Buffy's head. She knew, even before he swung the firearm at her that she wasn't going to make it. Once more his speed had caught her by surprise; all of the Initiative soldiers had that. Its what made training with them so much fun.
Plus they could take a punch and normally came back for more. Until now she had assumed it was all training and attitude that accounted for their durability.
Now she wasn't so sure. His actions were reminiscent of an addict in desperate need of a fix. His hand shook violently, but the gun remained fixed on her. Sweat beaded on his brow and he rubbed at his face with his left hand and forearm. "You need to put the gun down Riley," Buffy said with tempered calm. "You're not acting like yourself."
"Its all the drugs Walsh was feeding them," Angleman said.
"You're doing this to me," Riley growled over Angleman. He advanced on Buffy, "This all started because of you!"
"I'm trying to help you," Buffy hissed back at him, forgetting the gun in his hand, "if you would just let me…"
Riley grabbed her arm as he shouted. "What did you do to her?"
Her eyes flashed at his touch, as she sassily broke his hold. "I didn't do anything." He snatched at her again and she pushed him back. "Stop it! This isn't— We need to get out of here. S.H—"
A body, dressed in standard olive drab military fatigues, hit the floor between the three people. "Oh god," Angleman gagged at the dead soldier.
Buffy glared up at the cat walk, eyes hardening on the cybernetic monstrosity looking down on them. "Three fourteen," she whispered. It was impossible to tell what he had been, he seemed to be patched from dozens of different things; human, demon, and robotics.
"I've been thinking about the world," he announced. His voice was a toneless monotone. "I wanted to see it, learn it. I saw the inside of that boy," for the first time there was a note of excitement, of wonder in his voice, "and it was beautiful, but it didn't tell me about the world. It just made me feel." He turned, walked back the way he had come. "So now— I want to learn about me. Why I feel? What I am?" He said as he came to a stop, and gazed down at them from the cat walk.
"Frankenstein's been born again," Buffy mumbled to herself.
Adam took a step forward, allowing gravity to pull him down. He hit the floor with a solid thud, his eyes never left Riley. "So I came home," he informed them as he pulled out a computer disk from the pocket of his camouflage cargo pants and slid it into the drive slot in his metal chest plate.
It loaded with a soft whirring as he began to pace again. "I'm a kinematically redundant, bio mechanical demonoid designed by Maggie Walsh. She called me Adam and I called her mother."
"Adam," Angleman started. Buffy could hear the hesitation in his voice, the fear, and wondered just how dangerous Adam was. In the movie Frankenstein was turtle slow and made Xander look like a theoretical physicist. She had the feeling it was going to take more then pitchfork and torches to kill Adam. "Mother would want you to stand down."
"Yes," Adam said turning his attention on Angleman, "but I seem to have a design flaw."
There's a shocker, the sarcastic thought floated through the back of Buffy's mind.
Adam began pacing again. "In addition to organic material, I'm equipped with GP-2/D-11 infrared detectors, a harmonic decelerator, plus DC Servo."
"She pieced you together from demons," Buffy spat.
He looked down at his mismatched body, holding his hands out in front of himself, palms facing up. He looked back at Buffy and said, "And man, and machine. Which tells me what I am, but not who I am. Mother wrote things down, hard data, but also… her feelings. That's how I learned I have a job here… That she loved me."
With each word Riley felt his blood boil. "She wasn't your mother. She didn't love you." Pure rage filled his voice as he shouted, "She made you because she's a scientist."
"Riley," Buffy growled in a sharp voice. She had the distinct feeling Riley was going to do something decidedly stupid, like attack this thing. Their best option was to keep it talking, and hope it slipped up and reveal more of its nefarious plot. She knew it had one, was almost positive the slayer hand book emphasized that. All fiendishly evil villains will have a nefarious plot that they will unwittingly unveil if you keep them talking long enough. Or that might have been Xander describing comic book plots. She wasn't really sure which.
Adam pulled another disk from out of his pocket as he said, "Riley Finn," and loaded it into his chest drive.
"Stop," Riley growled. He sounded more like a woodland beast then a man.
"Mother created you too," Adam said calmly.
Riley's face was a deep scarlet as he fumed. "Maggie's not my mother! I have a mother, a real."
"A birth mother," Adam cut in. "Yes, but after you met Maggie, she was the one who shaped your basic operating system. She taught you how to think, how to feel. She fed you chemicals to make you stronger; your mind and body. She said that you and I were her favorite children, her art. That makes us brothers…"
"No," Riley hissed as he stepped forward.
"I'm not like you."
Curiosity flashed briefly across Adam's face as he said, "That's pain. Isn't it? Why, because your feeding schedule, the chemicals, have been interrupted? Or do you miss her? Tell me."
"I'll kill you."
"You won't," Adam answered calmly. "You haven't been programmed to," he explained.
"I can't be programmed." Riley raged, the veins in his neck pulsed and the flesh had turned a dark blue. "I'm a man!"
Adam pulled out another disk. "Its here," he said holding it up for Riley to see, "the plan she had for us. What happens? How it ends."
"No," Riley whispered.
"Do you want to hear?"
A sharp noise, too soft for human ears catches both Buffy and Adam's attention as Riley says, "No," again; louder with more conviction. His berretta pointed directly at Adam's face, his arm straight, strong.
A small, oddly shaped boomerang spun out of the deep shadows. Adam shifted his arm, but wasn't fast enough to avoid the bat-a-rang as it lodged in his forearm. He lifted his gaze and stared into the blackness. "Interesting," he said softly. "Insulated, heat dispersion. I hadn't planned on such—"
"You," a stern voice hissed and a shadow detached itself from a darker patch of blackness. His cloak was wrapped tight, obscuring his build. It was like a piece of darkness had detached itself from a larger patch and wrapped itself around him. "Have something that doesn't belong to you."
It isn't possible, Buffy mumbled silently as she watched the dark figure emerge from the shadow.
Batman was almost as reclusive as the X-Men. Despite being a founding member of the Justice League he was extremely camera shy. There was almost no photographic evidence of his existence. He was the antithesis to Spider-Man. Even in California his face graced a fair number of publications. It was like a personal photographer was following him around, taking snapshots everywhere he went.
Her next thought was either Ethan Rayne was once again up to his old tricks or that another of Sunnydale's less then stable resident slipped over the edge between fantasy and reality.
She wasn't sure which one came first, only that Batman was standing in front of her was about as probable as her working on a covert operation with one of the X-Men. So maybe it's possible? She admitted stubbornly, Still doesn't explain why he's here, but he is providing an excellent distraction that I haven't taken advantage of yet.
As she steeled herself to move something just beyond Adam caught her eye as Kitty began to rise, ghostlike, through the floor.
"Point in fact Dark Knight," Adam began as he pulled the Bat-a-rang from his forearm, "I am composed entirely from parts that belong to others. Do you plan on returning them all to their proper owners? I don't believe they're in any condition to take them back."
Batman's scowl was a sledge hammer blow as he loomed forward. "You're an abomination. A mad scientist's freak show."
"I wonder if I could throw this little toy," he said holding up the Bat-a-rang, "as well as you? Say, through your heart."
"Good thing we're not going to find out anytime soon," Kitty said surging forward.
The sound of her voice startled Adam, she appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the disk out of his hand. He recovered quickly, lashing out at Kitty but the girl was already out of his reach.
"Hey!" Buffy shouted as she darted ahead intent on drawing Adam's attention from Kitty. He moved faster then she anticipated and his back-fist caught her flush across her check. She went down in a heap muttering a disdainful curse.
A sharp, pneumatic pop cut the air and Buffy flipped back to her feet, the sudden movement clearing the reedy fog from her head. A heavy cable, with a strange, bat shaped grappling hook was wrapped around Adam's wrist. On the catwalk Batman strained to hold his position.
Buffy grabbed Adam's forearm, cinching it tight with both arms as she brought her right leg around and drove a smash kick into gut causing him to stagger ever so slightly.
"Aaaarrghhh!" Riley screamed as he began firing round after round from his berretta in Adam's general direction. Buffy let go of Adam's arm like it turned white hot. She dropped to the floor as each shot went wide of its mark.
Kitty phased, several bullets passed harmlessly through her body as she grabbed the hilt of her specialized titanium katana. The sword leaped from its sheath as she turned and flowed back, charging Adam.
Buffy lashed out, kicking Riley's leg out from underneath him. He went down hard, the back of his head bounced off the floor with a resounding thud.
With effortless ease Adam swung his arm back and jerked Batman off the catwalk as if he was nothing more then a toddler he planned to discipline harshly. Batman wasn't surprised; he suspected Adam was simply testing him. There was no fear as he glided through the air, there was no excitement either. His entire life has been a singular quest to attain physical perfection in his pursuit of justice. He's spent so much of his life training, preparing, that at times he felt like an emotionless automaton.
Kitty stayed phased as she raced across the floor, padding silently on the air itself, sword poised, ready to strike. So long as she remained phased, Kitty knew she held the advantage; she would be able to strike at Adam without fear of reprisal.
Adam flipped his right wrist back, the skewer jutted out from the specialized housing in the bottom of his forearm. It was hidden from view by his body.
Buffy saw the weapon, knew what Adam's intent was; knew she was too far away to prevent it. "Kitty!" She shouted as things seemed to grind down. Batman braced himself with what was going to be a jarring impact. Riley groaned miserably as he writhed on the floor. Buffy tensed, preparing to flip back to her feet.
Adam's right arm shot forward, the skewer leading the way, only Kitty's been doing this a long time and while the foot long bone protrusion was a surprise, for someone who has walked on alien worlds, it hardly threw off her stride.
She parried the thrust with brazen skill never slowing in her charge. As mystical beings, demons were able to hurt her even when she was phased. She wasn't sure if the cybernetic Frankenstein was still demon enough to qualify or if he was too much machine to focus a demon's innate mystical energy.
Still, Kitty wasn't taking any chances as she kept her density at its minimum.
Buffy landed on her feet. Batman absorbed the impact and bonded back towards the fray, a pair of bat-a-rangs leading the way. Kitty slide into the floor. One bat-a-rang skidded off Adam's metal face plate, the other embedded into the meaty part of his left forearm as Buffy slipped underneath it. A quick pair of left and rights to Adam's short ribs caused him to grunt as he took a slight step to regain his balance.
With a snarl Adam drove his right fist at Buffy's head when he screamed suddenly, without warning. A sound equal parts rage and pain. Buffy looked down, the hilt of Kitty's sword jutted out of the top of Adam's right foot. Buffy struck without hesitation, her left fist smashed into his throat, and she grimaced. Any other creature would have dropped to the floor gagging for oxygen.
Adam looked annoyed.
That didn't deter Buffy. She drove her right knee into the meat of Adam's left thigh as her right fist crashed into Adam's jaw. While both Batman and Kitty would eventually devise a plan to take Adam down, she was the only person present capable of going toe to toe with the modern day Frankenstein. It was her responsibility to keep Adam occupied, use her muscle so they could use their brains. Her right fist struck again, slamming into Adam's bone skewer. She wrapped her left hand around his thumb, twisting it back painfully as she grabbed the base of the skewer with her right hand. With a savage jerk Buffy shattered the skewer, snapping it off. She spun in a tight circle, the broken skewer twirled in her hand like a baton an instant before she slammed it through his abdomen.
Adam pushed her back, a snarl on his face. Buffy had the feeling things weren't going how Adam anticipated. He appeared flustered and looked like he had overstayed his welcome and wanted to be elsewhere, but didn't know how to get there.
Buffy smiled; sensing she had an advantage, one she normally wouldn't have. If Kitty and Batman weren't here, if it was just her and Riley, she had no doubt the outcome of this skirmish would be drastically different. She waded back in, throwing a flurry of punches taking advantage of Adam's immobility.
Spike crushed out his cigarette as he wandered aimlessly down the previously sterile corridor. The thud of his boots echoed hollowly in the stillness. Since he left the auxiliary computer room he's yet to see another living soul, or even an unliving one, which he might have had a little fun with considering the burr Willow stuck in his ear. He didn't know if he was madder at Willow, for thinking—and insisting—that he go find Buffy and extricate her from whatever trouble she got herself into; or himself for not remembering all he had to do was remove the commlink and Red's high pitch squeal would vanish as quickly as Angel's soul when he finally satiated his obsession. Either way the first person he ran into was going to suffer like nobody has ever suffered before.
When Buffy and her cohorts first approached him, he agreed to help for two rather simple reasons; it sounded like fun, but far more importantly to him, it was a chance to get back at the organization that put a chip in his head, effectively slicing his balls off and putting them in a jar on display for all the world to see, "Here lies Spike, The Big Bad, done in before his time by a group of pencil-neck dweeps."
He wasn't here to play Buffy's chaperone, certainly not to pull her fat out of the fire; not that there was a lot of fat on that scrumptious…
Spike scowled viciously at the disturbing thoughts rampaging around in his head. He found each and every traitorous one and savagely stamped them out. Easy on the eyes Buffy might be, Spike wasn't about to let himself forget that she was the Slayer.
There was no sympathy for her. No mercy. Without this chip in his head she was nothing more then a lunchable. He smiled; a chilled grin that would jell the hottest blood, at the exquisite taste of Slayer blood.
It had been twenty years since he last tasted Slayer blood and seventy years before that, but he remembered each occasion like it happened only moments ago.
And could only imagine what it was going to be like when he finally sank his fangs into Buffy Summers neck and drained her dry, let the husk that had been her fall to the floor. That oh so sweet thud, it would be the sweetest sound. Music he's waited a lifetime to hear.
Spike paused, looked around and wondered where the hell he was. He had been so distracted by his thoughts that he hadn't been paying the slightest attention to where he was going.
He didn't have a clue as to where he was, but he'd be damned if anybody ever found that out. He was deep in the Initiative, most would say in the heart of it; but to Spike, this felt like the bowels, a place nobody ever came, if anybody even knew it was here.
Glancing up and down the corridor, either way he looked it stretched on and on. He frowned turning in a circle. Feels wrong. His vampire senses were as sharp as ever, even if he didn't rely on them like most vampires. He used them when he had cause, but he refused to base his life on them.
Right now, he had cause.
People had been through here, a few anyway, but their scents were stale; weeks old. Fortunately the bases circulation system down here wasn't the best so the odors lingered longer then they should have. Most passed by this area as if there was nothing special about it.
One however seemed to hover around this section. He concentrated, focused his hearing. It was faint, but it was there and steady, an electrical hum. Spike knew it might be nothing more then current running through wall; but if so that was a hell of a lot of current. Maybe even more then a place like this needed.
It took him several minutes of searching before he found what he was looking for, even though he hadn't been sure what he was looking for until he found it. There was the slightest seem in the wall, so faint that at first he didn't realize it was there.
Finding a way into the room wasn't nearly as hard. Whoever hide the room had been counting on its camouflage to keep everyone out and hadn't bothered with any sort of lock. After a few minutes of pushing and prodding the door sprang in. It was about half the width of a normal door and Spike had to duck significantly to fit through the opening.
The chamber beyond—Spike didn't want to dignify it by calling it a room, it was barely bigger then a broom closet—wasn't much bigger than the door. Spike fell in love with the room's simple layout as soon as he saw it.
A small computer screen flickered to life, a tiny blue dot blinked at him for a brief second. The next instant, Hello Mr. Gyrich, stared at him. It has been eighty-four days since your last visit.
Spike blinked; that was just about the time he escaped from the Initiative. It couldn't be a coincident.
Is everything all right?
Apparently he had taken too long for the computer. With a smooth stroke he replied, No. He wrecked his brain for American vernacular. The last thing he wanted to do was sound like a pillock while trying to convince the computer he was this Gyrich bloke. Things aren't all right. S.H.I.E.L.D. is only moments away from penetrating this installation. What options do I have?
A list appeared in front of him but the only words he saw were self destruct. It was an easy decision to make.
Input time. Then press enter.
Spike smiled as he typed in a five minute countdown. Spike's harmless, show 'em just how harmless I am. Spike can't hurt anyone, see how much nobody gets hurt once I get done here. Buffy thinks she can put me on a leash in keep me there. Bury her under a few thousand tons of rubble and see how—
Pain seared his brain as he reached for the red button. "Bloody Hell," he gripped driving the heel of his palm into his temple. "I'm pressing a bloody friggin button! Not ripping the heart from a vestal virgin!" He glared at the button as if it should depress simply because he wanted it to.
He drew in a deep breath ignoring the fact that he didn't need to breath. Nothing bad is going to happen… He started to reach for the button. …if I press— "Aargh!" He cried out staggering back a step, banging his head on the door jam.
"Stupid bloody git," he grumbled. His plan wasn't coming off the way he planned. The chip in his head was more debilitating then he ever thought; if he couldn't even press a lousy button. It just sat there, mocking him. "Shut the Hell up," he growled at it.
Blank mind. He faced away from the keyboard. Blank mind. Blank mind. Blank mind. He reach behind himself, index finger aimed directly at the enter button and casually leaned back—
Then jolted forward with the searing pain that shot through his head. He growled deep in his chest. Given time and serious aversion therapy, overcoming the chip's limitations would be easy. Only he didn't have the time, not if he wanted to kill Buffy and the rest of her sniveling band of sycophants.
To accomplish that he was going to have to think outside the box. He looked back inside the room; his intention of pressing the button was all but impossible. Just looking at it made him wince.
Without thought Spike leapt through the open portal. He screamed as pain exploded in his head, but it was too late to stop. His momentum carried him through the doorway. His hand slapped against the corner of the keyboard; but Spike was already unconscious. He hit the floor with a boneless thud, blood dripping from his nose, seeping from his ears.
He was unaware of the wailing siren blaring throughout the entire base. In between each burst of ear liquefying sound a mechanized voice said a single number. It started at three hundred then went to two hundred ninety-nine, two hundred ninety-eight.
Fury glared at everything, everyone in his field of vision; which sent most scurrying for someplace else to be. Those that knew him, moved twice as fast. He didn't have to ask what the countdown meant or what the blaring siren signified. He's been in the military longer then most of the people under him have been alive. At seventy-five he looked less then half that number; the only indication of his advancing years were the thick streaks of white at his temples, racing around his head.
"You've got four minutes to clear this building people. I don't want anybody left inside. Move it people. We ain't got all day here."
And once this latest crisis was cleared, there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. For starters, who equipped this installation with a self-destruct, it wasn't on any schematic he has ever seen of the underground structure. He had the feeling that the answer would come from one source.
"And someone bring me Shadowcat's head!"
Buffy glared at Adam, the air raid siren blaring in her ears, it was like it was going off in the center of her skull and just reverberated outward from there. If they patented this they could put alarm clocks companies the world over out of business. A quick check of her two allies showed they weren't affected by the banshee wail, not even Adam was paying the noise the slightest bit of attention, while she wanted to shove a boatload of cotton between her ears.
She also wondered if they couldn't have gotten somebody different to do the countdown, a little perkier, maybe with an accent, give it a bit of personality. Whoever was doing it now had all the emotional quality of a computer.
The three of them had been keeping Adam hemmed in, not allowing him to retreat. Buffy was doing most of the work, she was the only one capable of going one on one with him for a time.
Batman surprised her, according to all reports he was nothing more then a guy, in what she might have considered a spooky—before the whole slayer thing—costume. Reading about his exploits in papers and tabloids, always left her with the opinion he was something of a nut job. Fighting side by side with him, convinced her he was whacked. Nobody in their right mind would do what he was doing without super powers; still being this close to him she realized just how tenacious he was.
In a way, he reminded her of Spike. When he got something stuck in his craw there was just no letting go. He just hung on and hung on, until he wore you down.
The only problem with that strategy was Adam didn't wear down. Buffy could attest to that. It was like fighting Spike with the Ring of Amara only worse… There was no ugly ring to pull off Adam's finger thereby returning him to normal.
This was normal.
"What is it going to be Slayer?" Adam asked in his toneless monotone. His voice had all the emotional quality of a great white shark discussing European politics. Adam was curious to learn when a self-destruct mechanism had been installed. It wasn't on any schematic, and mother made no mention of any such device, an indication of betrayal by her superiors.
Buffy glared at Adam wishing that was all it took to put an end to the obscenity standing in front of her. She wished Spike was here, and wondered where he had gotten himself to and if he was in some way responsible for the air raid siren thundering in her skull at regular intervals. It wouldn't surprise her in the least. Spike would have been a valuable asset in this fight… If Spike had been here Buffy was positive Adam would be a grease smear right now. This would actually be a lot more relevant if Spike were actually here, Buffy complained silently.
"Do we stay?" Adam droned on. "Continue our test of each other. Perish as this installation obliterates itself?" While he was confident he could deal with the three well before the time allotted, but this had only been an expeditionary mission; the time wasn't right for his finale solution to be initiated.
"You're the only one that's going to die down here," Kitty informed him. Her voice was steady, showing none of doubts fluttering in her gut; it was nearly convincing enough that she believed it.
Adam however, he didn't buy one syllable as he said, "Ah, Shadowcat. My files on the mutant predicament are incomplete, mother meant to rectify that, but those on the X-Men are quite extensive. Your mutant power allows you to become intangible, to phase the molecules of your body and those you're in physical contact with, through solid matter. You however, cannot breath while intangible and physical exertion still takes it toll. I wonder… Would you be able to swim four people to the surface through five hundred feet of solid rock?"
Kitty fumed; she was in excellent shape, would have triathlon competition eating her dust. Xavier's training saw to that, but that was closer to her limit then she was willing to admit. Swimming through rock was similar to water only rock was much thicker, its molecules closer together, by herself she could easily handle three times that distance, but pulling three other people… it was too close. Still she glared at him hard enough that she thought her eyes were going to explode.
Adam simply stood there, impassive.
Kitty and Batman might not like it, but Kitty had forced this situation and Batman simply crashed the party so she didn't care what they thought. Buffy stepped aside, clearing a path to the catwalk Adam had first appeared on. She placed herself between Adam and Riley. She knew this decision was going to cost lives; that each one would haunt her until the day she died. The only thing she could do was find him, as quick as she could and kill him.
A faint smile creased Adam's lips, it wasn't particularly triumphant or mocking. His gaze lingered on Riley for the barest fraction of a second and Buffy could swear there was something like longing or love twisting in his inhuman gaze, but he made no move towards the fallen soldier.
Buffy's gaze followed Adam until he disappeared before she was able to tear her eyes from the spot he had last been. "Not a word," she said with a scowl at the other two.
"It was the right decision," Batman said suddenly. His voice was grainy with age and wisdom.
Buffy's glare simply intensified as she lifted Riley's prone body back to his feet as if he were nothing more then a sack of feathers. "Like your approval matters so much," she said slinging Riley over her shoulder.
Batman's scowl masked his frustration. He knew a little about slayers, about as much as anyone who wasn't in the know. One girl chosen at an impossibly young age to kill vampires. Nobody he knew, knew who did the choosing or what criteria they followed. All anyone could agree on was that they often died young. That Buffy survived to attend collage was a miracle, that she possessed an attitude to rival Stewart's was understandable. Both were soldiers though one chose it and the other was drafted, they had seen their share of wars and suffered for it. Both had the habit of putting the weight of the world on there shoulders.
"This way," Buffy said, without checking to see if anybody followed. She started off at a fast trot, though it was obvious she could have gone faster and chaffed at reigning herself in for their benefit.
Kitty followed without a word.
The grinding blare deep in Spike's skull slogged the vampire to muddled sort of awareness. He wasn't sure if it was the chip in his head or the air raid siren, they had melted into one sensation so painful as to drive nearly all thought from him.
"Bloody fu…" he started to grumble before a flash of memory wrenched him to full wakefulness. The leap through the door. "It was suppose to be a silent countdown!" He ground out wincing at the pain.
"How the bloody hell is the explosion suppose to kill the poofed up jack a bites if they know its coming?" He demanded glowering at the screen.
"All that work and I'll be lucky if a janitor gets himself locked in a broom closet," He twirled around, driving his fist wrist deep in the concrete wall.
He ripped his hand out of the wall, whirled back around and delivered a devastating blow to the keyboard. It crumpled with less resistance then a piñata, sparks showering outward from the bare wires.
Spike grumbled incoherently as he lashed out at anything close to hand; the monitor, walls, the door, leaving nothing whole or standing. He stood breathing hard despite not needing to breath. It took him several seconds to realize silence had descended all around him. The air raid siren had gone dead, the countdown had stopped. He took a moment to simply bask in the noiseless vacuum.
"Now that's more like it," he gloated as he turned and walked away. By his second step he stopped, his face scrunched up as he looked at something no one else could see. It struck with the force of the chip going off; he had no idea how much time was left.
Unconcerned with if he was heading toward the surface or not, he figured it had to empty out somewhere, Spike raced down the corridor as only a vampire could. He rarely used his vampiric gifts, but with his life hanging in the balance beggars couldn't afford to be choosers. With vampiric strength and no need for oxygen he was a blur; while nowhere near the speeds the super speedsters could attain it was still more then any natural born animal.
The ground rumbled ominously, settling into the new crater the Initiative base created when it sank back into the earth. The explosion had been powerful, but not so powerful as to leave evidence that there had been an explosion. The complex had collapsed in upon itself with a long and violent groan.
Adam smiled to himself. Whoever mother's enemy was, they were far more ruthless and cunning then the average human. They might even be his equal or close to it and the only clue as to their identity was now buried with Sunnydale's newest sinkhole; a plausible explanation given the populations more then willingness to ignore the town's dark underbelly and believe even the most far flung excuse.
The loss of the Initiative would push back his plans, but they would proceed just as mother wished.
Leaves rustled behind him, the very faintest of sounds, made deliberately if Adam was correct. "I knew that you would follow me. Your reputation as a man that does not give up precedes you. In this instance though it is going to cost your life," he said as he turned to face Batman.
He was crouched on a thick branch, his face an impenetrable mask as always. "You talk too much," was all he said as he thumbed a device secreted in his right hand. He hated resorting to these measures, but sometimes there were no other options. Adam was an amoral abomination that killed simply to kill. There were very few prisons that could contain such a creature.
Adam's gaze focused on the hand, the device held within it's grasp. It was a detonator. "What?" For the first time fear laced his voice.
"Something I've been meaning to try out for awhile, plastique micro-fibers. Blow open doors when finessing them isn't an option. They take a little time to reach explosive density but once they do…" He spent the entire fight using Buffy as a diversion, letting her keep Adam distracted while he laced the creature's back with more then forty strands of the high yield explosives, smaller then the finest strand of spider web they were almost completely undetectable. "There's enough explosives on you to blow the doors off Fort Knox."
Adam smiled. A man as ruthless and cunning—
Spike quickly slipped away from the mass confusion milling about, gathering up just about anybody that emerged from Lowell House. He had spotted a group of soldiers escorting Pryde and the Slayer away, it had been amusing watching the Slayer complain about them putting Riley in cuffs, but he could tell it was a half hearted attempt. If she had been serious the Slayer would've waded through those soldiers like they were nothing more then cardboard cutouts.
Lurking in the deep shadows Spike was surprised he didn't feel more disappointment the Slayer wasn't dead. A fact he wasn't going to spend a lot of time analyzing. Despite everything she was fun to keep around, she knew how to keep his life interesting even if was by trying to kill him on a by weekly basis.
He was more then willing to leave it at that. Delving into the whys and whatfores tending to land him in a good deal of trouble.
Riley on the other hand. Seeing him set his blood burning. It wouldn't have been too much to expect her to leave him. Seeing him in handcuffs, it wasn't the same as seeing him dead, but it was something.
Silently, without any sort of fanfare, Spike slipped away, hugging the shadows as he made his way to the nearest sewer access.
Buffy flopped onto her bed with a disgruntle sigh. The too hard mattress barely acknowledged her presence. She felt wrung out, more so then at any other time since being called as a Slayer; considering the drama that had taken over her life, that was saying something. There were two things she wanted more then anything else, sleep for a week and a hot shower… A large pizza wouldn't be refused right now either. Several large pizzas, she amended.
The last two days had been spent confined in a S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation chamber she like to think of as a broom closet. It was a small room, smaller then a prison cell at any rate with three white hot spot lights mounted opposite where she was forced to sit; one was mounted in each corner while the third glared down from directly across the room.
It was cramp when she was in the room by herself, when her integrators occupied it as well it was positively claustrophobic; not that she was afraid of small, enclosed spaces or anything.
Buffy wasn't sure how many people questioned her, she could barely remember what any of them looked like. Most asked her the same questions, over and over again; all concerning the Initiative and what she knew. She had played the part of dating girlfriend who was visiting her boyfriend.
That was until the last S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogator. Buffy knew she could break the man with little more effort than snapping a toothpick, but something about the man screamed that she shouldn't take him lightly. He was different from the rest, showing more then a hint of his advancing years and a dark eye patch; with the stiff grizzle of a man that hasn't shaven recently. When he talked he sounded as if he had taken extra time out of his schedule to chew on red hot filings just before coming to see her.
The man cut straight to the point, that if it were up to him she'd be locked up with the rest of the Initiative personal, but according to what files they had been able to recover her official Initiative title was a special advisor, though he wasn't sure how an attractive college freshman could advice an organization like the Initiative.
It was clear from the insinuation in his voice as to what he thought her duties included. The only thing that kept Buffy from slugging him, was that she was more then positive that was what he wanted. It would give him an official reason to hold her.
The interview only lasted a few minutes more after that and basically consisted of him telling her she was free to go and her asking about Riley and being told he was being charged with high treason and had already been moved to high security installation. That in all likelihood he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Again she had to suppress the urge to knock the smug look from his face not to mention several teeth from his mouth.
Should probably give mom a call. It had only been a couple days, but given her calling she knew her mother worried and it only grew worse as the days passed. Have to call Giles too, he's almost as bad as mom but hides it behind that stiff British upper lip. Then there's Willow. She must be going out of her—
Buffy sat up suddenly realizing that Willow wasn't in the room. She had half expected her best friend to pounce on her when she walked through the door and been mildly relieved when the exuberant hug fest didn't occur, but now she had to wonder where Willow was.
As if her thoughts had been a summons the door opened and Willow strolled in. "Hi Buffy," she said crossing the room and setting her armload of books on her desk.
"That's it," Buffy practically groan. "I disappear for two days, held captive by an ultra secret government agency and the best I get is a Hi Buffy. I mean I was yeah close to being locked up for the rest of my life and this mean guy said I was—"
"I'm sorry," Willow said. While she normally enjoyed a good babbling Buffy rant, today wasn't one of them. She gave Buffy a huge hug saying, "Its good to see you again."
The hug felt somewhat awkward to Buffy, as if Willow were holding back as if she were just a little uncomfortable and Buffy wondered about that. Willow had never held back before. Normally she was the one forced to hold back for fear of hurting one of her friends with her slayer enhanced strength. Willow's hugs had always been like surviving an avalanche.
Before she could comment on the change Willow said, "Sorry about the 'Hi Buffy' it's just we've known where you were from the time Spike told us what happened, being taken into custody with Kitty and the rest of the Initiative. Me and Tara did a locator spell so we've known where you were being held all along. Giles' been spending most of his time watching the building along with Xander, and Spike was there last night but we had to pay him, so it was just Spike being Spike." She paused, taking in a lungful of oxygen before asking, "What happened?"
There had been something when Willow said the name Tara; a catch in her voice, a twinkle in her eye, Buffy wasn't sure what, but it had been there. She had meant to question it, but Willow continued on without pause for breath and by the time Willow finished, it had gotten shoved to the back. What she wanted to know, more then almost anything was how much it cost for Spike's help, all she had to do was work the conversation around to that.
To say Kitty was upset would be a gross understatement. She hasn't felt this level of anger since Charles Xavier demoted her from full fledge X-Man to a junior member of the X-Babies after their hectic, helter-skelter, only nearly almost died a zillion times, battle with the Brood or their more apt name the… The Slezziods. And this time she didn't have a Danger Room to run through simulations and work out her frustration.
She stormed through the front doors with a scowl on her face and a dangerous, nearly murderous gleam in her eye. Even the most slow-witted jock realized it would drastically lengthen their careers by not getting in the way of the lanky brunette who seemed to be walking on the air itself as she often did when preoccupied or dealing with strong emotions.
Like most things in Sunnydale, the natives simply ignored what didn't fit into their concept of reality.
Kitty made it to her room without any serious incident, and actually remembered to open her door instead of walking through it. The door slammed shut behind her with enough force to rattle the frame.
"Who the hell does Nick Fury think he is?" She growled darkly. The man actually had the audacity to accuse her of destroying the Initiative, of rigging the base with explosives and then blowing it to kingdom come.
True, she wanted the Initiative data to disappear; it was far too close to experiments the Nazi's ran during World War II, but she wasn't about to risk a single life to accomplish it, hence her worm program Buffy, Willow, and Spike dumped into the computer mainframe.
At the first sound Kitty adopted a fighting stance as she pivoted toward the voice. Her eyes widened fractionally at who was lounging on the room's sole chair. "Bruce Wayne."
"…believe that would be the head of S.H.I.E.L.D."
She relaxed, tossing her satchel and all its content onto her bed. "How'd you get in?"
Bruce smiled as he stood up. Kitty decided it was a pleasant look for him, especially considering the alternative. She suspected what she was seeing now was more the mask then the one he wore the other night. This sophisticated, charming, upper echelon, golden boy was a facade for the rest of the world.
"Its amazing the number of doors the name Wayne can open. Had a rather interesting conversation your dorm advisor."
"And he just let you in?" She asked folding her arms across her chest.
"Once I mention you had an Interview the other day," he walked across the room to the window, standing at the edge he stared out at the campus below. Several moments passed before he spoke again. "It's strange when you think about it, here I was, in Sunnydale on some rather pressing business for Wayne Industries when what should I stumble upon. Katherine Pryde, at thirteen she was touted as one of the most promising young minds, perhaps one of the most intellectually gifted people since the likes of Tesla, Edison, Einstein. Private academies and colleges all across the country, from Ivy League juggernauts like Harvard and Princeton, to MIT, even the Massachusetts Academy, not to mention most of Europe, clamoring to get their hands on such rare and exceptional ability, if I'm not mistaken even Wayne Industries was offering a full scholarship to the college of her choice.
"So what does this young, but incredibly brilliant girl, Kitty as her friends call her, decide to do? With all these opportunities sitting in front of her. Would you believe she decides on a small, rather exclusive private school in Westchester, New York. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters." He smiled at the phrasing. He turned slightly taking Kitty in from head to toe. "I have to admit it was probably the best choice she could have made, all things considered."
"Thanks for the endorsement, now if that's all—"
"Are you always this hostile?" He cut her off.
"Only when I'm being threatened," she answered.
Bruce sighed and messaged his temple lightly; he should have seen this coming. Sometimes he outsmarted himself. "I'm not a threat to you or your friends Kitty. I handled this situation badly. You've done a lot for the Earth, probably more then most can imagine or are willing to admit, and have gotten a lousy rep in return."
Relaxing slightly Kitty exhaled. "Sorry. It's just, everywhere we go there're nothing but enemies. Ones we know and ones we don't. Even most of the people we consider allies look at us with fear and distrust. Even Banner," she finished with something close to a laugh.
The irony of the comment wasn't lost on Bruce. Banner, Dr. Bruce Banner one of the world's foremost nuclear physicist, specializing in Gamma Particles. He was caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, instead of being killed like any other person, his body absorbed the massive radiation, his cells mutated, and he was forever cursed by an uncontrollable transformation into the savage, rampaging Hulk, a beast driven by a pure, almost childlike rage.
A number of years ago he had the opportunity to watch Banner in action when he worked on a project for Wayne Industries. The man was more brilliant then he imagined, having Banner head the project had cut production time by seventy-five percent, he spotted potential problems long before they became a concern and rectified them with a simple ease that Bruce still marveled at. Science was what the man had been born for; it was beyond a tragedy what had befallen him, a victim of his own genius.
He also came face to face with Banner's alter ego and discovered most of the preconceptions he had of the brute were inaccurate. While the Hulk had few peers in terms of raw, unadulterated strength; Superman, Juggernaut, Hercules and maybe one or two others, he was like a child; with a child's intellect and temperament. He was hardly what Bruce would call evil. He simply wanted one thing and that was to be left alone and when that didn't happen he would often fly into a fit of rage. That wasn't to say he couldn't be reasoned with or that he didn't understand, as a matter of fact he understood far better then most adults. If not for the Joker's interference it was quite possible he would have been able to talk the Hulk down.
Still that was all years in the past and did little to help him now. "I tend to judge each person by their own merits, plus somebody I trust nearly as much as myself gave his approval and any person that has the guts to stand up to Darkseid-"
"If you're gonna be talking this much, can I get you something to drink? I've got water, juice, soda… even a six pack Molson." She admitted a little sheepishly.
"I know," Bruce answered. For a moment she looked her age, all nineteen years old. It was hard to imagine that she's been living this sort of life for six years. Put in that context it wasn't hard to believe she's separated the world into teammates, friends, enemies, and potential enemies. The people that knew him best often accused him of doing much the same. Fortunately for him, he was able to slip on the façade that being Bruce Wayne allowed him, something he was fortunate enough to have developed long before Batman garnered his reputation.
Kitty gave Bruce a hard look that he shrugged at. "Habit," he said unapologetically. "I do need to get back to Gotham. Dick has his own life that he's itching to get back to. I just wanted to make my job offer in person. I left a portfolio on your bed." He nodded slightly and moved towards the door.
"You were serious about that?" Kitty inquired.
Bruce stopped with his hand on the door handle. "You'll find there two things I never joke about," he said pulling the door open.
"What's the other?" She asked before he could leave. She was positive she knew what it was, but she couldn't resist asking.
"Be sure to tell Buffy I closed out the project we were working on the other day and she shouldn't worry herself about it."
This is the end
I do have a sequel in mind, but it's going to be awhile. My brother still has a couple of more chapters to type up for "Minutes to Memories" "Rocks on the Road" and a few others. He's been extremely lazy for the last few months, half a year, so my apologies. I hope my next post won't be quite so long.