Author's Notes: I do not own the characters from the "X-Men: Evolution" and G.I. Joe, for they are the respective properties of Marvel Comics and Hasbro Entertainment. Characters of the Justice League as well as Luthor, General Eiling, Batgirl and Supergirl are property of DC Comics. The character, Jake Clawson, is from the SWAT Kats cartoon and is the property of Hanna-Barbera. The character, Leomon, is from the cartoon, "Digimon", and is the sole property of Saban Entertainment. The characters regarding the Thirteenth Order and the Heartless are from "Kingdom Hearts", a video game made by Disney and Square-Enix. The characters of the Charmed Ones, including the witches and Whitelighters, are the sole property of Aaron Spelling while the characters of the Buffy universe are the respective property of brilliant writer, Joss Whedon. The characters of the Misfit-universe, including Althea Delgado, Xi, Trinity, Claudius, Blind Master, and Lina are the respective property of brilliant authoress, Red Witch, who has graciously lent me her universe to write about. I DO own the OC Whitelighter characters, Justin Moore, Krygaw, and Damionax, and I am not writing this as a way to make money but for the enjoyment of all readers, so please, for the love of God, don't sue me! I credited everyone! That said, I hope everyone enjoys the most insane crossover I have ever attempted yet between the Misfits, "Charmed", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" universe. This takes place after "Chosen", the series finale of "Buffy" and after the events of "Scry Hard" in Season Seven of "Charmed". Yep, that's right folks! I'm rewriting the events of the finale of Season Seven in Charmed, including the fact that Elder Gideon is still alive in my series (he was never killed). That said, sit back and enjoy the madness and drama in a little story I call…
CHAPTER 1: Like Pawns to the Chessboard
Professor Xavier just sat there in his wheelchair, silent and brooding as he remained on the wooden floor of one of the gazebos that was standing in the middle of the east garden, looking out upon the grounds of the Institute of the Gifted, blankly staring at nothing in particular.
It was a clear night, not a single cloud in the sky, and though it was a new moon, the stars in the dark sky still provided a soft and subtle tone of silver light to bathe the city of Bayville in an aura of peace and quiet, for once.
Unfortunately, for most of the X-Men and their allies who took the trouble to keep the recent events in mind, they knew that it would be anything but peaceful for the planet Earth.
"As the old adage once asked, a penny for your thoughts, Charles?" Hank's silky and refined voice spoke from behind, but the Professor did not even need to turn around to see that Hank, Ororo, Logan, and Jake Clawson were coming behind, approaching the wooden pergola with concern and understanding. Xavier didn't have to read their minds to know that the four were just as easily worried for him as they were about the incoming future. The Professor sighed but offered a rueful smile despite his desire to have some quiet time.
"Nothing that the four of you have pondered once before ever since our last fight with Trigon," the X-Men leader said as he leaded slightly back and looked at the stars, "I was just attempting to mentally reflect and see if there could have been a fact or minor detail that we may have missed during one of the meetings we've had so far with Hawk and the rest of our friends about the Hellfire Club and the alleged Organization that has been causing noticeable trouble for us and the world."
Logan snorted as he crossed his arms and rested one shoulder upon one of the porch's support beams as he crossed his arms over his chest and half-growled, "Chuck, it ain't gonna do us any good if we keep beating ourselves to the ground over this. Already, for the past week, we've gone to eight different meetings with the various people we've run up with so far, and none of them are able to discover anything significant about this Thirteenth Order or this 'Gathering of Twilight' crap. Dr. Strange, the Justice League, the Teen Titans, S.H.I.E.L.D, the Joes...all of them went over everything we know and every possible lead with a fine-tooth comb, only to turn up with nothing. Trust me on this, Chuck, if they can't make any sense of what's ta' come, then there's no sense in making yourself sick trying to achieve the impossible."
"Why, Badger, I didn't think it was even possible for you to be philosophical with that little cell you pass off as a brain. You never fail to surprise me," Jake sniped good-naturedly as the kat acrobatically leapt up and bit before plopping his rear and sat on the sturdy wooden board like a youthful teenager across from Wolverine. Logan glared at his co-worker with the evil eye, but he gracefully remained quiet (and made a mental note to 'accidentally' let loose some fleas in Jake's bedroom tonight).
"It is frustrating, I admit Logan," Ororo admitted as she leaned against the railing of the gazebo next to Jake, "And I honestly can confess I feel scared for the children. We've been through so much already with Apokolips and the Furies, the siege of Megakat City, Cobra, H.A.T.E, the Friends of Humanity. I'm just not sure we can continue to maintain our run of good luck and fortune, especially since it seems to follow a pattern of each succeeding enemy we run into becomes more ruthless and dangerous than the last."
Logan frowned as he chastised a bit roughly, "The kids can take care of themselves, Storm, and we can't continue to baby the little rugrats and force them to avoid every single threat that comes our way. Yeah, don't get me wrong about this. I'm worried and these kids need to smooth a lot of rough edges in their tactics and such, but I can't say I'm disappointed in them."
"Yes, I remember how proud we all were when the Misfits, the X-Men, and the Teen Titans succeeded in saving the world when they defeated Trigon a week ago," Xavier had to smile despite himself, "I could honestly say that I have never seen such a finer display of inter-teamwork and bonds of trust between the different groups with the X-Men, untied against the common enemy for the sake of all of us. It's quite funny to remember that it has only been a week."
"But will that always happen in each and every battle we face, Charles?" Ororo said in a voice that was on the borderline of resentment and reasoning, "This is much more different than any enemy we have ever faced before, worse than Cobra or Creed and Stryker or, yes, even Apocalypse. The Hellfire Club may be planning something along with the Organization that could very well doom the entire world, and this new Heartless threat may be the very weapon that could kill all of us. Charles, please, take into account the possibility that this war may be one we might not be able to win."
"And what would be the alternative, Ororo? To give up? To not even try?" Hank asked delicately and with some weariness. He just wanted a good night's sleep after all of the recent turn of events. Storm's eyes flashed for an instant as she whirled on Beast.
"No, but what I am saying is that if we do not obtain a definite way or method or tool that can help us fight the Heartless, the Hellfire Club, and the Organization, then we may not even have a chance. And we cannot wait for leads to turn up on their own," she emphasized in a final and hard tone. It was apparent that the weather-witch had pondered over this problem and only wanted to bring it up on the chance that it could be an oversight. The Professor sighed.
"Ororo, I have already realized the importance of such a vital piece or tactic that could be used as our trump card in this fight, but we have no such information about this Heartless or the Thirteenth Order ever being on Earth before. Not even Wonder Woman has been able to receive any records from the Roman gods or how Dr. Strange and Benny recently confessed that none of their associates have ever experienced or witnessed this threat. That is why I am just as worried as you are, perhaps more so. For when the Hellfire Club does make their next move, it shall be us that will be caught in the destructive crossfire."
"And the Misfits and the Joes too," Jake pointed out, "But that could be a silver lining in this whole mess. No matter where we and the kittens are in this fight, at least we won't fight alone. And frankly, I'm glad we have the close relationship with the Joes and the Misfits, all fights and arguments and differences aside. It helps, to know that we're not alone, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we do trust them and that we'd do everything we can to make sure that the Joes and Misfits would be safe from harm."
"You don't speak for all of us, Jacob," Ororo said in a somewhat hard voice, using the kat's full name to show her annoyed disagreement at that statement.
"Storm," chastised Logan, a bit taken aback at that harsh assertion and frowning. Jake however held up a paw, letting Logan know that he didn't take any offense as he looked at Storm's blue eyes. He knew the reasons why Ororo still had her reservations on the Misfits.
"Shipwreck is a good man, Storm. Eccentric and foolish sometimes, yes…but he's a noble kat nonetheless," Jake prodded gently, not seeing Hank's fur bristle at Jake's support for his rival for Ororo's affections. Storm just kept quiet, brooding. The Professor continued on a bit uneasily at the awkward silence.
"That is why the Justice League along with the Titans and our associates are compromised to prepare for the worst and hope for the best for now, as mildly as I can put it," Xavier said, "As much as we would all like an established and fruitful lead, everyone knows that we can only wait until the Hellfire Club or the Thirteenth Order makes its next move."
"I doubt that they're going to just suddenly mess up or make some sort of mistake and expose themselves," Razor pointed out while scratching at the wooden beam with a claw, "The Hellfire Club aren't fools, and they're cunning enough to hide what they're doing. If anything, when we do find out what the Hellfire Club is trying to achieve, it's because they want us to know, not because it was a simple fluke or screw-up."
Ororo nodded as she said, "Like Hawkgirl and Robin have both pointed out at our last meeting, it shall be as if the Hellfire Club is taunting us, and with Luthor and Slade being confirmed members, this could be a simple strategic move for them, one that they'll be fully ready for interference from us."
"Then this may be the very calm before the storm then," Hank said as he looked at the moonless sky, "With the appearance of the Thirteenth Order being more bold and audacious as well as the Hellfire Club's betrayal to the H.I.V.E. Academy and Lex Luthor trying to run for presidency of the United States, I fear things will get much, much worse in the times to come. We may not be able to even comprehend how the Inner Circle could top themselves with their next move, but it is possible. They are capable of it. And should it ever come to pass, I fear we will gain many more enemies against the X-Men."
"Maybe we can balance it out with the arrivals of new allies, or at the very least, people who have a common goal alongside ours and who would be willing to fight with us," Xavier said.
"We can't always depend on freak instances like that dipstick, Leomon, Chuck," Logan muttered, "Besides, even if we do finally go head to head with the next army of Heartless of the next crony of the Inner Circle, who can we find besides the Titans and the Justice League who're powerful, experienced and tough enough to go head to head with a demonic horde of demons and powerful mutants?"
At the same time, high in the Watchtower in Earth's lower orbit…
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" screamed Kara in pain as she clutched her head, her palms resting on her temples as she howled, writhing uncontrollably and nearly going into spasms of suffering. The agony was intense and unbearable; it was like being pierced with a giant spear of red-hot steel dead center into her heart and somehow having the liquid metal run through every nook and crevice of her veins and capillaries in her organs, skin, and brain. In that long tirade, Supergirl would have gladly chosen death if she could. The blond-haired protégée of Superman was shrieking loudly enough to wake the dead, but in this case, it certainly alerted the rest of the Justice League and Batgirl as well.
"What's going on? What's wrong with Kara?" gasped Green Lantern as Batgirl tried to hold her friend from collapsing and fainting on the floor while Supergirl just screamed and screamed without words. Batgirl was stunned and puzzled beyond disbelief.
"I don't know!" the red-haired vigilante gasped, "We were just talking for one moment, and then she just started acting like this for no reason! Kara? Kara! Kara, hold on! Help her! I think she's in pain!"
"Gee, what was your first clue?" shot back Wally as he and Superman zoomed up to the two teenage girls, "The screaming or the fact that she looks like she's going through the monthly PMS tipped you off?"
"Wally?" Wonder Woman said in a flat tone.
"Please shut up."
"I'll take Kara to the infirmary ward," Superman said with great concern and worry in his voice as he moved to gather his sister in his arms, but Supergirl's eyes began to glow with the intensity of a thousand suns as he body began quivering in violent throes of paroxysms, and instantly, Barbara could see something, a hot aura, forming all around Supergirl.
"Watch out! Get back!" she cried, much to Flash and Superman's collective confusion as Supergirl had a number of images fly by her head despite the pressure crushing her body…death, darkness, a circle of powerful mutants, hooded figures in black hooded cloaks, light, a door, and an blond-haired angel with black wings against the sign of the Heartless. The voices were horrendous, permeating every iota of her mind and thought, driving her mad as then a cold, disembodied female voice called out inside her mentally.
It is coming…
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Supergirl screamed, and instantly, her fire wings erupted from her back violently, causing a enormous backlash of heat and flames that rivaled that of s supernova. Before they could be incinerated, superman quickly grabbed Batgirl and both he and the Flash dashed off before they could succumb to the deadly flames. As invulnerable Superman was, he didn't want to take chances with the spirit of the Phoenix Force inside Supergirl. Supergirl kept screeching like a banshee as she ascended up into the air, her wings spreading into their full glory, a cyclone of hot air and fire swirling around her.
"What is with her?" Green Lantern gasped as he used his ring to create an emerald-colored energy barrier to shield all of them before the energy of the fire wings could touch them.
"I do not know. I cannot sense her mind for it is chaotic, jumbled, almost shattered into fragments," Martian Manhunter said in a calm voice, though his eyes were solemn and troubled. And as suddenly as it happened, the fires immediately vanished into this air, barely emitting a puff of smoke, before Supergirl stopped screaming and collapsed, hitting the metal floor solidly, nearly unconscious from her ordeal.
"Kara!" Superman yelled as he, Batgirl, and the rest of the League rushed over to the young teen. Superman protectively gathered Supergirl in his arms before Kara weakly looked into the faces of the other superheroes before she managed to choke out, her voice and body quivering with the cold.
"The angel…the wings of darkness…" she whispered, and Kara then fainted, passing out as she went limp into Superman's arms.
Half an hour later, Batgirl and the Justice League were gathered around Supergirl as she laid motionless on a bed with two wired nodes, one connected to her forehead and one to her chest, detected her respective to an EEG and an EKG machine, beeping faintly.
"So what's wrong with Supergirl and what made her act out like that?" Green Lantern asked, "Do you think it could be from the Phoenix Force she absorbed inside her when she fought at Apokolips?"
Martian Manhunter shook his head as he gently caressed the sweaty and feverish forehead of Supergirl, brushing her bangs tenderly like any father, replying in his tranquil rational voice, "No, it is not the Phoenix Force. Though it is a powerful being of energy, I could have easily detected the presence of the Phoenix Force had it been the one causing Supergirl's suffering. Yet if anything, the remnant of the spirit was not the one that was hurting Supergirl. I could sense some sort of foreign outside force invading Supergirl's body, as if it was a direct onslaught on her soul and core of her being. I can't explain it nor detect it any further because it has vanished, but whatever caused Supergirl to come into a coma, it was some unnatural outside influence."
"But how could it have gotten past the detection and security of the Watchtower?" Wonder Woman asked, distressed, "If it was some sort of energy beam or biological warfare or even nanotechnology that has afflicted Kara, shouldn't our systems have detected the presence and alerted us of such a invasion?"
"I don't think it's anything like that," Flash put in, "All the signs from the EKG and EEG show normal patterns, except that she's just in some sort of deep sleep."
"So what else could it be? Magic?" John Stewart half-joked. Unfortunately, when he caught the solemn and serious gazes of Hawkgirl and Batman and Martian Manhunter, his jaw slightly dropped in astonishment.
"You're serious?" Green Lantern repeated, making sure he was clear on their answer.
"It's the only logical explanation," sighed Wonder Woman, accepting it. As a goddess and an Amazon from Paradise Island, she was much more open to the notion of magic and the bizarre.
"And there's another reason why we suspect this may be some sort of paranormal assault," Hawkgirl reported as she held up her mace for everyone to see, and sure enough, the League and Batgirl could discern a faint while glow of luminescence covering the head of her weapon, faint but evident. Hawkgirl continued to explain.
"Remember, my mace is made of N'th metal, and it reacts strongly with any sort of magical energy and mystic signatures. Since our scanners couldn't detect any biological or chemical imbalances and J'onn couldn't sense any malicious outpouring from the Phoenix Force inside Supergirl, it's safe to say that my mace is indicating that whoever's doing this had cast some sort of spell or charm on Supergirl."
"Magical? Well, if that's the case, they why don't you just say 'bibbidy-bobbidy-boo' on Supergirl and cure her, Bats? You did so before when you helped Etrigan against that witch-boy, Klarion," the Flash suggested, and Batman did his best to wither the speedster with a look.
"I may know some forms of magic, but nothing like this. Even Zatanna's skills could surpass mine. I cannot help Supergirl," he said curtly, shortly.
"Well, we know some people who could be powerful enough to help us out," Green Lantern suggested, but Superman shook his head in disappointment, already cursing the bad timing.
"Dr. Fate, Zatanna and Jason Blood have already left with Dr. Strange and his apprentice to another mystical universe to see if they could discover anything about the Thirteenth Order and the Heartless as of last week, and they're still on their duties of trying to look for any information that could help us deal with the Gathering of Twilight. And the reason they left was because Dr. Strange and Jason may have discovered a promising lead in the ruins of some ancient and magical kingdom that had the same energy signatures that have been appearing all around the globe, especially in San Francisco, according to some of their sources. As such, they'll be gone for a while," Superman said with some frustration.
"What about General Hawk and his G.I. Joe or the X-Men? Don't they know anyone who's strong in the mystical arts?" Martain Manhunter asked, and Batgirl gasped as it came to her.
"Of course! Margali Sefton is the mother of Nightcrawler's girlfriend, Amanda, and she's a sorceress! And Scarlet Witch was tutored by a witch named Agatha Harkness! And there's Raven from the Teen Titans! All three of them are incredibly powerful! I'm sure they can find something if we could reach them!" Barbara exclaimed.
"I dunno, it may not be enough," Flash put in with some hesitation, "If this magical mumbo-jumbo was enough to cause Supergirl's piece of the Phoenix Spirit to go haywire, then this might be pushing our limits. Yeah, it'll definitely help if they can look over Kara, here, but we're gonna need someone with major firepower to help us. And if we don't do something quick, Superman's gonna be short one sidekick."
"Must you always open that big mouth of yours and insert the shoe-store, Wally?" groaned Green Lantern out loud as Superman gave the red speedster a piercing glare. Wally chuckled weakly, letting Superman it was a harmless joke. Batman's face was steel, emotionless, but he quickly whirled around and walked away from the congregation.
"Batman, where are you going?" Wonder Woman asked.
"I going to see if one of my past acquaintances can help us with Supergirl," Batman said in his deep voice as he disappeared into the shadows of the hallway, "Or, more specifically, three past acquaintances…"
However, at the same time, in the lair and headquarters of the Cadmus group…
"The Justice League have been already alerted of the status of Supergirl," Lex Luthor stated, almost chuckling, as he and General Eiling looked at the transmission reports that had been expertly and skillfully hacked and extracted from the Watchtower of the Justice League in one, sterile metal room filled with complex communication equipment. Deep and hidden within the many subterranean bases within Washington D.C. and with their technology, the Justice League would never be able to guess who and where the signals were being downloaded to. Though it was extremely difficult and it took much effort on the part of Dr. Hamilton and his staff of technicians' in order to find a way to intercept and burrow their Spyware into the Watchtower's computer networks, it was certainly a rewarding and fruitful gain, worth the many risks. In fact, Eiling doubted that the League would even detect such a small anomaly. The Omega Juggler just smiled, not the least bit bothered as he chewed the end of the cigar in his mouth.
"Good, exactly how we have planned, and I'll certainly be happy to see how this shall turn out now that we have what we required for our special weapon. And with the new Heartless experiments we have in development, it should certainly be more than enough to raise hell once we set them free in San Francisco for the slaughter," Eiling said without much thought.
"Of course, since the X-Men, Misfits, and Joes shall try to trace this back at the abnormal energy gathering in the city as of late while they try to request the help of the Charmed Ones, if Selene and Blackheart managed to succeed in their parts, then like all fools, those heroic imbeciles will play directly into our hands once they start investigating. But…why not try a test run with one of our more promising results? A gathering of heroes all concentrated into one place? It is tempting if you think about it," Luthor suggested with a sadistic and cunning smile.
Eiling's eyes glittered with anticipation and agreement as he concurred, "Of course. We might as well see how our newer models will fare against the Halliwells, the Joes and their mutant pets. And if some are killed before the eventual siege, then so much for the better, I say…"
Meanwhile, in a dark and abandoned cavern deep within the black, sooty, iron mountains of Hell, the very heart of all supernatural evil dimensions…
"DAMN IT ALL!" the dark-haired, goateed demon-warlock named Zankou bellowed with all of his might and hate as he flung another crackling, purplish-tinged energy sphere that could have taken out a small group of human soldiers instantly in incineration. The blast of death immediately collided with the nearby wall of stone and cragged earth before exploding hotly and leaving a very noticeable, smoldering hole in the slab of granite and mineral. Yet it was not the only one. All throughout the walls and borders of the headquarters were various, charred holes of numerous shapes and sizes, a testament to how long the satanic demon general had been hurling his attacks on his home.
To say Zankou was angry would have easily been an understatement.
The well-built, powerful and influential warlock was the supreme commander of over ten-score of some of the most depraved and ruthless demon warlords ever known to both man and demon kind, infamous in Hell and Heaven alone. He himself prided on his cunning tactics of warfare, strife, and hostile ability to conquer and rule over all with an iron fist. He was feared by many, few ever dared to stand and correct him or disagree with him (they would never live to brag that right), and Zankou even managed to defeat the Avatars themselves, beings of almost infinite power and omnipotence and authority.
So why in the name of Satan could he never succeed in defeating the three Wiccans known as the Halliwell sisters?
"Damn them! Damn each and every one of those bitches!" Zankou continued to rant, his entire muscled and toned body quivering with absolute burning rage and ire underneath his uniform. His energy and fury spent, Zankou had little choice but to just mope, fume, and try to plan another attempt to kill the Charmed Ones and steal the Book of Shadows…where it would probably fail and fall flat on its face just like the other various times he and other entities of evil have attempted before. Zankou however was far from admitting defeat as he continued to ponder while seething. There just had to be a way to weaken the Charmed sisters! There just had to be!
Suddenly, his tirade and session of meditative thoughtfulness was interrupted by a slow and intentionally mocking round of clapping as a female's voice rang out in amused jest from behind.
"Lost another match to the Charmed Ones, have you, dear Zankou? My, my, my…so does this make the tally a mere ten-thousand to one in the Halliwells' favors?"
Zankou whirled around to see a familiar woman of black magic, her long raven hair sleeked and shining like the purest onyx stone while billowing over her shoulders like a waterfall of death, her white robes clinging seductively to her luscious frame and ample bosom. Yet Zankou was not the least bit pleased or intrigued to see his guest from the Hellfire Club.
"Selene…" Zankou hissed, his eyes now glowing red, "Whatever you are here for, I can tell you I am not interested. The last thing I wish is to associate with those mortal fools in the Hellfire Club, especially since we demons have no adherence to the scum called mutants."
"I'd watch your tongue if I were you Zankou," Selene said, but her voice was mild, almost faintly pleased, as she continued, "Especially since the Hellfire Club wishes to inform you of a golden opportunity to help take down the Charmed Ones…"
Zankou snorted in disbelief at the Black Queen as he snarled with malice, "Don't make me laugh! Not even your fellow Externals could eliminate the Charmed Ones! Or have you forgotten how easily the Halliwell sisters killed Absalom and Crule when the God damned cunts along with Batman, Dr. Fate, and Etrigan stormed in at the High Lord Ascension to prevent your clan from ruling over the Earth? I can easily see through your lies, you filthy succubus! You think my men and I shall easily be led and do your dirty work for you and the Hellfire Club while you all just lounge around and reap the rewards of my faithful followers getting killed? Not likely, so get out!"
Selene's eyes now turned as hard and cold as steel at the reference to the High Lord Ascension.
"I assure you, Zankou, that this time, things are different, especially since the Hellfire Club now has the aid of the Heartless and the Thirteenth Order. But our plans to wipe out the Halliwell line cannot be accomplished unless we have you and your men assisting us for the eventual battle against those witches."
Zankou looked a little lost as he repeated with some curiosity, "Heartless? The Thirteenth Order? Who the hell are the Thirteenth Order?"
"That would be the group whom I represent, Zankou," a deep voice rumbled from behind, managing to evade Zankou's supernatural senses until the very last minute, "But my Superior does not take well with disrespect to him and his Organization, so I highly advise you to watch that tone of voice, warlock."
Zankou nearly jumped out of his skin (if demon warlocks had any) as he whirled around to his unknown second guest, wrathfully humiliated that someone managed to catch him off-guard and unaware. However, for one of the rarest of occasions, Zankou was completely shocked and bowled over as he then realized he was staring directly into the muscled, tones bare chest of a black-skinned creature displaying an odd red-and-black symbol of a heart crossed out with a thorny "X" crossed over it. The warlock leader looked up to see himself staring directly into the red eyes of the ten-foot tall demon known as Blackheart. Even with his centuries of fighting and hostile conquest, Zankou knew from his demon instincts that this spiky-mane creature of darkness was not to be taken lightly. He could sense it, that aura of power that could gobble worlds whole…
"What in the name of Heaven and Hell?" gasped Zankou, "Who are you?"
"My name is Blackheart," the Organization member rumbled.
Selene then said from behind the demon warlock, "As you can see, he is a being of great supremacy and dominant power, power that makes the influence of the Nexus and the Charmed Ones seem insignificant. This is the true strength of the powers of the darkness and the Heartless…"
Zankou, though interested, remained suspicious.
"And why do you need my help for?" he hissed. Blackheart's eyes narrowed.
"The Charmed Ones are no fools nor are they weaklings. The three Halliwell sisters are one of the most powerful and formidable foes this planet has to offer, and unlike so many of their fallen nemeses, the Hellfire Club and the Organization are not foolhardy enough to go rushing into direct confrontation with the Wiccans, especially with their magic. Yet you, Zankou, have temporarily allied himself with them in order to vanquish and destroy the Avatars. As such, it could be a great assistance, for you have been working with and against Piper, Phoebe, and Paige Halliwell, so you know their weaknesses and strengths, their faults and their full potentials. Such insight would be highly valuable to us and the Hellfire Club."
"In other words, Zankou, an allegiance will work quite well against your hostilities against the damned Halliwells," Selene added, "You lack the power but have knowledge about the Charmed Ones and could help strategize how we could hurt the witches the most. The Hellfire Club lacks adequate knowledge about the true might of the Charmed Ones and their spells from the Book of Shadows, but we have the power to overwhelm the meddling fools once and for all. Thus, it shall be a case where we both help each other for the common goal…"
Zankou had to admit that he was weakening. Still, he wished to test exactly how potent this Organization member was, and without warning, the goateed warlock summoned another energy ball in his palms before he flung it directly in the center of Blackheart's chest, scoring it into the Heartless insignia. Selene made a small sound of surprise, but Blackheart wasn't the least bit fearful and he just stood there, his arms crossed over his torso, as the energy ball struck.
A small cloud of steam and bluish sparks scattered in the air, but to the warlock chief's amazement, the energy blast of a thousand metal bullets absolutely had no effect! Blackheart just widened one eye with some amusement, but mostly irritation, at proving his point. Zankou was astounded beyond his capable belief. Not even an Avatar could have withstood that attack without at least some sign of discomfort! And yet Blackheart did not even bat an eye or wince in the slightest pain.
Zankou now felt a bit intimidated, if not wary and fearful. This representative from the supposed Thirteenth Order was powerful.
Blackheart's voice was cold as he intoned, "You were given one chance to test me. If you ever dare to attempt that again…"
Blackheart left the message unsaid, but immediately, Zankou arched his back and screamed as Blackheart's eyes began to glow, enveloping the warlock with the same ruby brilliance of the dark creature. Zankou bellowed from the bowels of his deepest pits of feeling and agony, and it was even more humiliating considering that the commander was stubborn and adamant and had an unfaltering will of steel to a fault. By the names of the Ancients, not even the fires of Hell could set every fiber of his body aflame in such an excruciating manner! And as soon as it came, Blackheart stopped, causing Zankou to drop down to his knees in merciful relief, panting and sweating. As Zankou wrathfully and belligerently looked up at the black creature of darkness with a mixture of hate and poisonous respect, Zankou still knew that the Hellfire Club would not be shortsighted enough to request his services without a price…and a reward.
"What are your terms?" Zankou hissed.
Selene then replied with some satisfaction, knowing that they had cornered the commander and war chief at last, "Give full authority and command to Blackheart to order and summon your men. Both you and Blackheart shall share the roles of war chieftains with your mercenaries and any demons and warlocks willing to fight and provide their services to the upcoming battle in San Francisco. Blackheart needs an army, and you so conveniently have one."
"And what shall we get in return?" Zankou asked, his interest growing.
"You shall have the gift of the Charmed Ones' Book of Shadows as well as the powers of the Nexus, Zankou. And no, the Hellfire Club has absolutely no interest in the Nexus at Halliwell Manor nor that middling tome of pitiful spells. The Thirteenth Order and Organization have powers that are far greater and significant compared to the powers of the Earth and Wicca, and as such, we have no attraction in the rewards and gains you would reap from defeating them. We just want the Charmed Ones dead for they are a hindrance to our plans for the Gathering of Twilight," Blackheart stated.
As much as his instincts were rising against the offer, Zankou knew that deep down, this may be the only way to get what he wanted.
"And afterwards? Once the deed is done?"
"You are free to part ways with the Hellfire Club and do whatever you wish with the Book of Shadows and the Nexus, free to use them to become the most feared and renowned warriors and warlocks of demon-kind in all the Earth. As Blackheart said, we couldn't care less about what you do as long as you help us destroy the Charmed Ones," Selene said simply.
"Very well," Zankou said as he wiped some of the blood from his mouth, "But I can warn you both right now that the Halliwells are very powerful and should not be taken lightly. Even with our forces combined, we still may not be enough to stop them."
"Oh, I can assure you, Zankou," Blackheart rumbled, his red eyes now gleaming hotly with anticipated and eager savageness, "The Thirteenth Order shall make sure that the Charmed Ones do not make it through this unscathed…"
One week ago, in a quaint boarding school in the English countryside…
"And that's what you could make of this dream?" the Slayer Rona asked Willow as she and the others listened in intently to Willow's testimony along with Giles, Wood, Xander, Andrew, Faith and several of the new Slayers that included Kennedy, Rona, Caridad, Vi, and Shannon. Ever since that night, Willow had been zealously, agitatedly, and feverishly looking up all the ancient texts and manuscripts she could find in their small collection of the paranormal and whatever she could find on the Internet, much to Kennedy's worry. And in the very first thing in the morning, before breakfast, Willow and Kennedy spread the news to a select few about an emergency meeting. Since many at the boarding school were newly-instated Slayers, both the witch and the Slayer thought that there was no need to alert everyone of what vexed Willow on that fateful dream last night.
And thus, at the meeting, Willow went into precise and accurate detail of what she could feel in the dream and how it gave her a moment of clairvoyance and lucidness that a great evil and force was gathering in San Francisco, also sharing the term of the mysterious experiment that plagued her thoughts and aroused her primal fears. The others along with Kennedy, listened with great interest and there was only a puzzled and thoughtful silence when the red-haired Wiccan finished her narration. Rona just awkwardly brushed her dreadlocks off her shoulders as a weak response, but like everyone else in the room, she didn't know what to think.
"Experiment 666…" Giles repeated to himself before shaking his head, "I apologize, but Willow, I do not believe that the Council ever had any reference or record of such an event in all my time being a Watcher. It could be possible that such a monstrosity could not exist and that this could simply be a bad dream brought on by the stress of training and accommodating the newfound Slayers from all over the globe."
"No Giles, you know better than that," Wood said in his deep voice, "In our line of work, there's no such thing as odd coincidences and bad dreams. If Willow believes that she senses something building in San Francisco, then I'm willing to believe her. Remember, her connection to the Earth and it's life forces make her sensitive to anything strange or evil that may be building up strength and numbers."
"And it is better to be safe than sorry," Shannon replied, unconsciously rubbing the scar on her neck behind her ear where Caleb, a representative and servant of the First, had burned her with his ring right before he stabbed her, "I'm willing to go back to the United States again if it gives us a chance to nip whatever evil force is over there in the bud before it gets out of control."
"Wow," gushed a hyperactive and easily emotional, high-pitched Andrew Wells, "A quest for the greater good, a crusade to search for branches of evil and eradicate and purify the very lands were are sent to as holy men! A group forged by the bonds of destiny and friendship, united in the mission to save the world. Like the Crusaders on their journey to find the holy grail in the lands of Jerusalem! Like the Fellowship of the Ring that accompanied Frodo on his duty to destroy the One Ring of Mordor! Like Driscoll and Denham's expedition to save Ann from the clutches of King Kong! Like - !"
"Andrew?" Giles said, his eyes closed and a hand to his throbbing temple to mask his rising gall while everyone else fought the urge to roll his or her eyes at the tirade of the science-fiction/fantasy geek.
"Do shut up."
Andrew blushed before he hastily uttered a soft apology. Xander turned his good right eye to Willow, Wood and Faith before saying, "OK, so a trip to the Bay Area where there's Chinatown, the Golden Gate bridge, and the gay mecca of the United States? I call dee-double-dibs on the window seat! Any contest to those dee-double-dibs shall only be won through a good round of thumb-war, Slayers need not apply!"
"You are certainly not going, Xander," Giles shot down sternly, "This is not a bloody vacation, if I should remind you none too gently, and we cannot send everyone to the city, especially when the new Slayers still need to be rather thoroughly trained and watched over in case of any secret attacks."
"I hafta agree with Giles here, Xander," Wood pointed out, "We can't send everyone out in San Francisco, especially since most of the new Slayers and Potentials still lack the needed training before they can even tackle a vampire or things much worse. And even though there haven't been any sighting of Bringers or vamps since the destruction of the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, we can't leave the girls vulnerable like this."
"I'd wish you'd quit calling us 'potentials', Mr. Wood," Caridad sighed, throwing the Watcher an irritated look as he highlighted-brown hair caressed her tan face, "We're all full-fledged vampire slayers now, not Potentials anymore."
"Sorry, girl. Force of habit," Wood apologized, but he gave Caridad a typical grin that was reminiscent of his happier, compassionate times as a former principal.
"What about Buffy?" Shannon asked, "She should know about this."
Yet Faith shook her head in a dismissive and care-free fashion, snorting softly, as she pointed out, "Nah, leave B alone for now. She and the kid are in Rome, and I don't wanna be the one to break up their happy-living and stuff, all nice and peaceful like. B doesn't need to be bothered by some lame fact-finding mission or some hunch Willow had. Nothing against you, girl, but I need more proof than a case of heebie-jeebies, you know what I'm saying?"
Faith added that last sentence when she caught the look of annoyed and protective anger from Kennedy and the look of hurt on Willow's face.
"Awkwardly said, but significant nonetheless," Giles said, though one could tell he was fighting the urge to correct her syntax and sentence structure, "We have no proof that Willow's premonition is valid, and as such, we cannot go into a full alert of emergency just because of a single dream."
"And Faith has a point," Vi remarked as she thoughtfully held her chin with one hand, "Buffy isn't the only Slayer in the world now, so any possible threat from the First that comes up doesn't necessarily need her involvement, especially since she's already busy trying to investigate the Wolfram and Hart branch in Europe. If Willow is right and something powerful is building up in San Francisco, we should be able to handle this one ourselves."
"Actually, that reminds me…" Xander interrupted, "Has there ever been a record of a Hellmouth in San Francisco? It could explain why Willow felt something weird there."
Kennedy shook her head as she replied with a heavy sigh, "Negative. Willow and I searched every text and manuscript we could find about all existent Hellmouths left in the world, and not one of them made any note or indication that there was one in the Bay Area or anywhere close to it. Sunnydale, yes. Cleveland, yeah. New York, no brainer. But San Francisco? Nothing."
"Maybe it's not a Hellmouth then," Rona put in thoughtfully, "Willow said she sensed that whatever this evil or this 'Experiment 666' is, it's nothing like the First or any of the other baddies we've fought before"
"So who'll come with you?" Caridad asked.
"Well…" Wood said after a moment of thought, "San Francisco is a big city, and I immediately thought Chao-Ahn could be valuable since she could help talk and communicate to the locals in Chinatown and guide the scouts there since none of us are fluent in Chinese. Also, definitely Willow and Kennedy and Faith since they're experts and powerful enough to deal with any unpleasant surprises we find in the city. I also thought of Dana -"
"Dana?" gasped Vi and Rona simultaneously, alert and alarmed. Indeed, everyone remembered the girl from the mental asylum that was brought from Los Angeles, a Slayer who had gone through dire and horrific trauma, both physically and mentally, that resulted in her being psychotic and needing to be incarcerated. Thankfully after much time, love, patience, medication, sedatives, and cuts and bruises (given courtesy by Dana, of course), Dana managed to emerge from her shell and destructive state of mind. True, she still had a long way to go and she was very fearful of others, but the other Slayers grew to see Dana for the slightly caustic and sarcastic yet hurt girl who needed love and a family like everyone else.
Still, sending Dana on her first mission as a part of the Slayers and Scoobies was sort of like adding gasoline to an already crackling bonfire.
"Are you sure she's ready?" Giles asked with worry, and Wood nodded strongly.
"She needs to start being exposed to what it's like to interact with people outside our little group, and I'll be with her to help accompany and guide her to make sure she doesn't get overwhelmed and such. But Giles, we have to let her out and expose her to human interaction at some point. It won't be healthy for her to remain cooped up here," the strapping African American Watcher emphasized, and Giles, though he still had some doubts, knew that Wood could be entrusted with Dana's care.
Willow then added with some hesitation, "Also, I think we could do with a few more people to help cover more ground. That's why I asked Shannon, Caridad, Rona, Vi, and Andrew to attend this meeting. I think it would be beneficial for the five of them to be added as a part of the expedition team."
"Wait a minute! Why Andrew?" Caridad asked in a hard and humorously exasperated voice.
"Yeah, why me?" Andrew whined in a high-pitched voice.
"To help you as a part of your training to be a future Watcher. Andrew, if you wish to help grow and mature in the role of being a Watcher to future Slayers, then you need to start going out in the field more and start learning how to deal with field work," Willow said as she gave a small hesitant smile at the nervous, blond boy even though a part of her would always hold some resentment at him and his friends for being responsible for killing Tara. Still, over the years, Willow learned to look past that and see that Andrew did truly redeem himself from evil and just wanted to make up for his past errors, though not from most of his faults of cowardice and opening his mouth before thinking.
"Well that, and if we somehow meet some huge, dangerous baddie that tries to kill us in the Bay City, it'll be the perfect way for us to 'conveniently' get rid of you as demon-bait," Xander put in humorously with a big smile, and it was rather difficult for everyone to say whether or not the one-eyed adult was joking.
"Then it's settled, dudes," Faith drawled with a smile, "We leave for the San Fran in a week."
Back at the X-Mansion the following morning after the Professor had his small talk with the staff in the gazebo the night before…
"Ugh!" ranted Kitty, incredibly irate and fuming as she gingerly walked out of her room, now covered completely from head to toe with a translucent, pinkish-colored, foul-smelling slime mold that would have made manure smell like violets. Toad and Trinity's handiwork apparently. Shadowcat continued screaming as she stomped into the living room.
"I am like so going to kill Trinity and Toad!" hollered Kitty, hysterical and shrieking so much that even dogs could register the high-pitched tone of her screeching voice. The only people who looked up at her yells of fury were Tabitha and Forge, both of whom were reading a magazine apiece while sitting on the den's couches. Forge raised an eyebrow, wrinkling his nose at the smell.
"Not cool. I take it this explains the small and gnarly explosion we heard upstairs a moment ago?" the inventor asked.
"Ugh, I swear, I'm like the only target for those totally immature creeps!" Kitty griped, nearly in tears as she tried to get the gunk off her, but with little success. The slime, though like mucus, stuck like glue and was already beginning to harden. Piotr then emerged from the hallway with a towel, concern and the protective need to soothe and comfort his girlfriend arising with his instincts.
Piotr whispered in a gentle manner as he started to wipe the gunk of Kitty's body and matted hair, "Katya, it's all right. I'm sure we can clean you up in no time with a good bubble bath and shower. You'd like that, wouldn't you? And don't feel too mad about these pranks. They're just trying to annoy and get your goat because you saw how much of a loser Alvers is and dumped him before he could ruin your life even more. Come on, Kitty, it's not much, and I'm sure I can run your clothes through the laundry while you go clean up -"
"Peter, it's OK," Kitty said in an exasperated voice, "I can like totally do it myself!"
Yet the Russian X-Man avoided Kitty's attempts to grab the towel as he continued to mollycoddle her, as if she was some child, still placating and trying to calm her down delicately in a infuriating way, "Kitty, just stand still so I can wipe out the mess out of your - "
Yet it was then that Kitty snapped as she growled and yanked the towel out of Piotr's hands, now starting to lash out at him.
"I said I can do it, Peter!" she almost yelled as she didn't even bother to look at her boyfriend and teammate as she furiously rubbed her hair with the towel, "Honestly, I'm not like some weak baby who can't like take care of herself! I can handle drying myself just fine, Peter! Like, I'm grateful for the towel, but can't you like stop totally babying me?"
Tabitha raised an eyebrow at the hurt on Piotr's face as he just stood there, backing off, and it didn't escape Boom-Boom that there was a look of irritation on Kitty's face when Piotr took that first shot at Lance in his dialogue. Then the awkward silence was broken by a familiar voice in the background.
"I see you X-Men never have a dull moment amongst yourselves or with the Misfits," and Forge, Tabitha, Piotr, and Kitty turned to see a semi-amused Batgirl, standing in her full yellow and black masked regalia. Though she was half-smiling, her blue eyes were solemn.
"Batgirl?" gasped Tabitha, "Hey girl! What're you doing here at Mutant Central?"
"Reconnaissance with you and the Joes and the Misfits, courtesy of the Justice League. Get Professor X to organize another meeting in his office. The Misfits will be arriving shortly. We've got trouble…" Batgirl said, her face now turning grim.
Author's Notes: Well, the ball has begun to roll, faithful reviewers! Next Friday, we run into an old member of the X-Men as she endures a new horror, and Batgirl briefs the X-Men the Misfits and the Joes about the recent events! And as for the Charmed Ones, trouble is brewing with Inspector Sheridan and Agent Keyes while the sisters get a few unwelcome guests in the manor, and Piper will certainly not be pleased! Until next week, read and enjoy! Constructive criticism welcome!