Mars on the Cusp of Vegas
Part II: Mars in Retrograde
A Veronica Mars / BtVS Crossover
A/N: This is going in a new direction, but eventually, the initial mystery will be solved.
See chapter one for disclaimers.
Veronica's Plans Gang Aft Agley
Apparent backward motion of a planet through the zodiac. Sun and Moon are never retrograde. Viewed as a debility in Western Astrology.
What happened is, we failed. I don't mean that an apocalypse came or that we lost a fight or anything, I mean that we failed to solve the case. It's still hanging out there, the witch that died in the hotel room is still unknown, who killed her is unknown, why she was killed is unknown. Oh sure, I've got lot's of hypothesis, in fact I've got a pretty good idea of who died, just no conclusions that would be worth anything in court.
So the whole magical thing we were worried about just sort of evanescened into the ether. Willow and Giles are mystified as to why, and they are both worried about it all coming back some day, so we're all just waiting to see what's going to happen, watching the signs and portents, wondering, marking time, trying to prognosticate, and just plain enduring the wait. Someday this thing is going to come back, probably when we least expect it, and bite us on our collective asses, and we know it, but there isn't one damn thing we can do about it until something happens.
Mars Rising 1
Rising: A planet is said to be rising, or ascending, when moving via the ascendant between the fourth and tenth cusps.
"You all right Xand?" I asked. We were sitting in a lawyer's office in New York City. It was a very fine office, with woodwork cut from a now extinct tree species, a wood burning fireplace, a gorgeous rug probably sewn by third-world children who went blind after years of making tiny stitches; the whole situated on the corner of the fiftieth floor of a grand building overlooking the city and the Hudson river. This was the office of a man who commanded seven hundred and fifty dollars an hour for the fruits of his labors. Giles was with us, and some woman that I strongly suspected was a vengeance demon, and three complete strangers. We sat mostly silent while waiting for the lawyer.
Xander couldn't keep his eyes of the lawyer's desk, which pretty much was the center of attention in that room. I watched him as he followed the lines of the desk; I knew from past experience that he was trying to see how it was put together, endeavoring to understand the hidden joinery while inspecting the finish closely. It interested me only because it interested Xander. After watching him for a few minutes, I leaned back and studied the bookshelves. Someone, I forget who, said that if you analyze a man's library you can understand his thought processes, or at least get clue how he thinks. This library was all law books, but a lot of them were antique and surely out of date, or at least old-fashioned. Didn't really give me any unexpected insights.
Finally, on the precise stroke of two o'clock on the rather fine Seth Thomas mantle clock, a portly and distinguished man dressed in a suit that cost more than my car was worth, a snowy white custom-made cotton shirt, and a very fine silk tie, entered and sat behind his desk.
He spoke in deep measured tones, "I have been Anya Jenkin's personal attorney and confidant for many years, and it is with great personal sadness that we gather today for the final disposition of her affairs. I thank you for joining me in the reading of Anyanka Christina Emanuela Jenkins last will and testament. My assistant will pass out the full document with all amendments and codicils for everyone's convenient perusal after I read the major bequests.
"First, ten years ago Anya came to me and set up a charitable fund. The majority of her considerable wealth went to this fund, approximately sixty-five million dollars..."
Several of us, including me, gasped loudly.
"...which is to be distributed to a variety of charities and organizations. The board of directors of this trust includes myself, Dr. Rupert Giles, and Mr. Alexander LaVelle Harris. Our first board meeting will be next month and you will be sent instructions in due time. The remainder of her assets are to be distributed today, via her will."
He picked up the file again and said, "This is the summary; I shall read it to you:
"To my very close friend of many years, Halfrek, or her designated heirs, I leave my collection of Russian jewelery, including my Faberge Egg – if she can find where I hid it;
"To my former employer, Lord D'Hoffryn, I leave the shattered remains of my Power Center and my Chain of Office;
"To Liss Bectorananoon, my faithful Housekeeper of many decades, I leave a bequest of five hundred thousand dollars, a trust fund that pays two thousand dollars a month for the remainder of her life, and her certificate of emancipation;
"To Dr. Rupert Giles, for the purpose of supporting those who save the world, but only at Dr. Giles exclusive direction, I leave the sum of ten million dollars;
"Also to Rupert Giles, who taught me more than he knows, I leave a bequest of three hundred thousand dollars and my interest in the Magic Box, which includes a sizable insurance policy, for his personal use;
"To the City of Florence, Italy, in the region of Tuscany, I leave a bequest of ten thousand dollars, to be deposited in an interest bearing account and not touched for a period of two hundred years, after which the proceeds are to be used for the good of Tuscany's citizens."
The Attorney briefly put down the file and looked at us. "Anya told me that she owed the Medici family for introducing her to the miracle of compound interest over time, and that she felt, not guilt exactly, but a sense of responsibility for the downfall of the Medici family in the eighteenth century and this bequest was inspired by Benjamin Franklin and was intended to make amends to Italy. I really have no idea what she meant by any of that, but she said she had been reading history books that year."
After a short reflective pause, he continued to read from Anya's Will:
"To the only man in my considerable lifetime who loved me with all his heart, Alexander LaVelle Harris, who could induce multiple mad screaming orgasms," several of us in the audience got a little embarrassed but the lawyer didn't turn a hair, "and who deserves credit for preventing me from wreaking any more havoc on mankind, I leave the remainder of my assets, including my bank accounts, real estate, stock portfolio, and retirement accounts. Also, the contents of my safe deposit boxes: one at Chase Bank in Manhattan and the other at Credit Suisse in Berne, Switzerland. And Alexander, when you open those boxes, I request and require that you be accompanied by Willow Rosenberg or suitable substitute to be designated by you."
He looked at us and said, "Anyanka added a codicil, in her writing, and not seen by me before this reading. I can neither confirm nor deny her admonishments nor can I make any representations as to the veracity of her claims. I can only read it:
"Should any person or creature attempt to overturn any of my wishes in my final will and testament, my spirit will become able and more than willing to unleash an act of glorious vengeance upon the heads of the perpetrators, one such act for each transgression, pursuant to the laws of Arashmahar, which laws are utterly beyond the ability of the United States of America or any other Earthly organization, group, person, creature or committee to supersede. Therefore, if you value your life, your sanity, your honor, and indeed, your very soul, HEED MY WISHES!"
The Lawyer said with a bemused smile, "I would advise all of you that, should anyone choose to ignore the codicil, you may indeed be in serious peril, for Anyanka had astonishing resources." He put the sheet down on his pristine desk and looked at us with a particularly penetrating stare. "Do all of you understand your bequests? Are there any questions?"
If anyone had any questions, they weren't forthcoming. I had one question, but I wasn't about to blurt it out and appear to be a golddigger in front of that crowd. One of the men in back had come to life. He said, "I am the representative of Lord D'Hoffryn, if I may have the objects in question, I shall be on my way."
The Lawyer pointed to his assistant, standing attentively by the door, and the two left. The other stranger stood and said, "I am Special Agent Hawkins from the IRS enforcement division. I will be present when those safe deposit boxes are opened."
"Certainly," said the Lawyer. "If none of the rest of you have any further business, then I invite you to wait outside while I discuss details with Mr. Harris and his wife." Everyone else left, except Xander and me. Giles said he would meet us back at the hotel as he had errands. The lawyer deliberately opened the file on his desk again and pulled out three additional sheets of paper. "This," he said, "is a list of Anyanka's accounts. All the legal work has been done, these are now equally yours, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, according to the laws of the State of New York and California and the wishes of Mr. Harris. The grand total of the cash accounts is four hundred fifteen thousand dollars, approximately. The stock portfolio, as of ten AM this morning, is worth approximately three million, nine hundred thousand dollars. The real estate is more difficult to evaluate, but it is probably worth double the stock price, but of course it is not liquid. I believe Anyanka was making a joke when she referred to her retirement accounts because I am not aware of any such thing. And finally, I do not know what she has in her safe deposit boxes, nor why she requested your friend Willow Rosenberg to be present when you open them."
"Oh gosh Xander," I gushed, "what are going to live on now?"
Mars Rising 2
May 2010, Hearst College
Well, it's been awhile since I've made an entry in my journal – almost four years, wow, time flies! I'll try to catch you up a bit, right after my graduation. Yep, little ol' Veronica Mars-Harris got her degree in Criminology. Also in Economics. What's that you say? In four years I managed dual degrees? All the while solving cases and avoiding vampires and having crazy-mad sex with my husband in my spare time?
The answer, she said blushingly, is yes. It took some work I'll admit, but I did it. So, if you'll allow me to put my Wonder-Phone away for just a few minutes, I'm gonna go up on stage and collect my diploma.
There, got that done. Actually, with Dad, and Xander (of course!) and Buffy, Dawn, Willow; and Logan and what may surprise you most of all, an exonerated Duncan, all in the audience, clapping for me as hard as they could, I got a little emotional about it. And why not? That little piece of paper represented a lot of hard work. It was necessary though, because to get accepted into the FBI Academy right out of college one has to excel. The double degree on top of two summers of FBI internships will make it impossible for them to reject me.
Well, you can see why I'm not living at home. Well actually, you don't. You see, back when we got back from Las Vegas, just before the start of my Freshman year at Hearst College, we stayed at dad's place. The problem was immediately obvious to us, the walls there are way thin. After dinner with dad and a few minutes of conversation, Xander and I yawned and explained we were exhausted. Then we made a beeline for the bedroom, stripped off our clothes and hopped into bed in record time, but our activity started the bed sloshing and the frame began squeaking ridiculously loud and we were immediately stymied. We just couldn't do it with my dad in the next room; I know it was silly, we were married! It's legal and expected and everything and it's not like my dad didn't know about sex – but...
So since we couldn't do anything physical and we weren't tired, we sat back and talked. "Xand," I asked, "there something that's been bothering me a little about our sex life."
Xander looked a little worried. "Uh, you don't have any complaints, do you?"
"No, of course not, how could you even think that?"
"So what's the problem?"
"Back in Vegas you made your infamous offhand remark about the Anyanka-sutra. Now I realize it was a play on words, but you really did write down what Anya taught you about sex – wait, she'd be blunter about it, she'd would have said she taught you about orgasms, right?"
"Heh, yeah, that's right."
"So why did you write it down? I mean, you don't take notes any more, do you? There isn't a Veronica-sutra hidden under the mattress or anything, I hope."
"No, no. The reason was simple, Anya not only graded me on my performance, she gave me tests, like it was a college level seminar or something. She claimed that..."
Xander had to stop talking because I was laughing too hard.
When I finally got control of myself he continued, "She claimed that putting it on that level made it better for both of us. She made me ask her questions and test her skills, too, it wasn't one-sided. She really expected us to study sex the way insectologists study bugs, for instance. But I also think she just liked talking about sex almost as much as doing it."
"So why don't we...?"
"Because the doing is better than talking about it for us. And anyway, what more could there possibly be to know?"
"Not much, I'd guess, there can't be much more that I'd be interested in knowing," I said.
Xander said, "But there are some more esoteric things we haven't tried, but even Anya didn't ask for the razor-blade technique very often, and I never let her try it on me..."
"Wait, what? Razor blades? That sounds sick."
"It involves gently scraping the sharp edges over your partner's most tender and swollen parts. The idea being to stay absolutely still because, if you don't, you might get cut and bleed to death. It adds to the suspense somehow. But if you do it right there is absolutely no cutting of any kind, just gentle scraping."
"I don't like the sound of that one."
"Oh I agree with you, first, it's really dangerous – a sudden uncontrollable twitch or jerk could sever nerves and destroy ones sex life permanently, even if you didn't bleed to death. Second, it's cold, I really prefer warmer, more personal sex."
"Oh, good," I said faintly. "What does it take for someone to be jaded enough to want the razor blades?"
"A thousand years of missionary position would do the trick, I suppose."
The very next morning we went searching for an apartment and found a nice one at a good price. Then a year later, with our windfall from Anya in hand, we bought a luxury condo. Actually, as Xander's business partner, I went ahead and bought a whole building, remodeled it, and sold the individual condos, keeping the best one for us, which included an incredibly luxurious shower even better than the one in the Las Vegas honeymoon suite. My timing was good, I bought the building at a fire-sale price even though it was a seller's market at the time, and managed a good profit on the sale of individual condos. By the time the California real estate market started to crash, I only had two empty units left to sell and had already repaid all the loans and had a tidy profit, so I kept ownership of the two empties and rented them, one to the Watcher's Council, the other to my dad at a family discount. And if there were any iffy mortgages, it was the bank's problem, not mine.
Malefic Planets: Planets generating difficult circumstances.
Xander grinned at me as he held up a large brown envelope, "I wonder what this could be?" he asked with a twinkle. I jumped up and grabbed for it.
He yanked it away and said, "Not so fast, first you've gotta kiss me!"
"Dammit Xander!" I yelled and jumped up to grab the envelope. He relented and let me have it. I ripped it open and started to smile in anticipation of getting accepted – after all, everything had been going my way for some time now – and read:
Dear Mrs. Veronica Mars-Harris:
It is with regret that we cannot accept you for the FBI Academy this year, as our quotas have been filled.
My face fell, my smile got sucked into my teeth and I started to choke on my tongue. What the fuck! They wouldn't take me! "Xander!" I wailed, bursting into tears for the first time in years, "they don't want me! What am I gonna do now?"
He gathered me up in his arms and hugged me close. He whispered something soothing, and I suppose that helped a little. We collapsed onto the couch together and stayed that way for some time.
Later Xander called up his contact in the FBI, Special Agent Robertson, and said, "Hey, how ya doin Robertson? This is Xander Harris."
"Oh," Robertson replied unenthusiastically, "how are you Mr. Harris? What can I do for you?"
"Well, my wife – Veronica Mars-Harris – applied for the FBI Academy and we all expected her to be admitted, but they refused her. I wonder if you might nose around and find out why?"
"Dual degrees in criminal justice and economics, an FBI internship a few years ago, and a qualified private investigator in the State of California with several high profile cases to her credit."
"Hmm, you do understand that more than 95% of qualified applicants are rejected, there are many more people who want to be FBI agents than we have room for, so it's not anything personal when an applicant doesn't make it. And of course, I must point out that the FBI does not especially value experience as a private detective, we much prefer real police work in the applicant's background."
"I understand, but Veronica is very upset, she really thought she had a lock on it."
"Okay, I can ask if you want. But you know I can only find out the reason for her rejection, right? You know I can't apply any pressure to change their mind."
"Yeah, sure. That's all I'm expecting."
Mars in Refranation
Refranation (Refrain): If two planets are applying to an aspect and one of them turns retrograde before the aspect culminates, it is said to refrain from the aspect, showing that the effect indicated by the aspect will not materialize.
It was just a few days later that Robertson called back. It seems that Special Agent Morris, that Xena-bitch Spiteful-Agent, whispered in a few ears and single-handedly put the kibosh on my application. Just because she thought I had something to do with kidnapping Duncan's own baby even though I was entirely innocent! What's worse, there wasn't anything I could do about it because nothing was written down anywhere. Agent Morris just didn't like me, and that's all it took to keep me out.
"On the other hand," Xander said, "there are more than ninety Federal agencies that have armed investigators and Special Agents."
"Oh yeah, but none of them are as good as the FBI."
"How about the Secret Service?"
"Oh, well, okay, yeah, they have a pretty good rep and they're even older than the FBI. But I wouldn't want to protect politicians I mostly loath; of course with my econ degree they'd stick me in the counterfeit money department. Going around arresting losers with copy machines doesn't sound all that exciting to me, even though it is important work I suppose."
Xander looked at the list he had pulled up on the net. "How about NOAA or EPA Special Agent?"
"National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?" I asked incredulously. "Environmental Protection Agency? They have Special Agents?"
"Yep, the EPA arrests polluters and NOAA protects the environment according to the Marine Mammal Act, very important work you know."
"Yeah. Right now I hate mammals."
"You are a mammal, complete with fine mammalian characteristics."
"I especially hate bipedal mammals and quit staring at my chest, Xander – I'm not in the mood right now!"
"Okay, okay. Forget NOAA and EPA. So I guess Fish & Wildlife Special Agent or Park Service Law Enforcement is out, too. Should I even mention US Department of Agriculture agents? Not even, huh? How about DCIS?" At my questioning look he added, "Defense Criminal Investigation Agency."
"Don't you have to be in the military for that?"
"No, I don't think so. You have to be in the Army for Army CID, and the Air Force for AFOSI, although I think they have some civilian agents now, but DCIS is all civilians. Oh, here's another one, NCIS, they're civilians, too. Except for a few Marines for some reason."
"Oh yeah, I can just see myself weighing anchor and investigating salty dogs too drunk to find their way back to their ships."
"I don't think NCIS does that sort of thing – it says here they investigate major crimes like murder and terrorism. But I bet they investigate a lot more missing supplies and a lot fewer terrorists than they talk about."
"Well, there's DEA."
"Yuck, enforcing laws that are more harmful to society than the activity they make illegal? I don't think so."
"FDA Office of Criminal Investigations..."
"What the fuck!?"
"Seriously, the Food and Drug Administration has armed Special Agents with full police powers – they go through FLETC just like most other Federal Agents – they investigate criminal violations of Federal Law..."
"No, just no, Xander."
"Okay, how about ATF?"
"The firearms part could be cool, but I can't see myself as a revenuer, sneaking through the Appalachians looking for stills isn't my thing."
"You know," said Xander, "according to Wikipedia, ATF Special Agents have the broadest authority of any Federal Agency, and they do explosives now, too."
"Yeah, that's real attractive, get blown up on a government salary. You don't know this, but back in High School I met an ATF agent – he turned out to be a giant asshole that I got arrested which probably means that I'm blacklisted at the ATF, too. But worse than that, the ATF has really bad rep, the worst reputation of all Federal agencies, they have a long history of using entrapment and false evidence to generate investigations – I wouldn't work for them even if they did want me. What else?"
"Really? You put an ATF agent in prison? Cool!"
"It didn't seem all that cool at the time. Anything else?"
"Jackbooted thugs working for an agency with a penchant for doing insanely stupid things in the name of national security. They're competing neck and neck with ATF in a race to the bottom, so that's a big no."
"Immigration Inspectors or Border Patrol."
"Diplomatic Security Service?"
"I don't really know much about them, but my impression is that they're mostly guards, not really something I'm qualified for."
"IRS Special Agents? Economics again."
"Oh jeez Xander, when you go to work for the IRS you instantly became a pariah, it's important work, I know, it's just not for me."
"U. S. Marshals Service?"
I considered it and answered, "Umm, they have a good reputation, they've certainly been around for a long time. But I can't see myself wearing a cowboy hat."
"They don't wear cowboy hats anymore, except for that one guy in Kentucky."
"Yeah well. I suppose chasing fugitives could be kind of exciting, still, the Marshal's Service doesn't really do much investigating, they're kind of a service provider to other agencies. I just don't think it'd be for me."
"You know Veronica, almost every state has an equivalent of the FBI, and in one of those you'd be a bigger fish in a smaller pond – like the CBI here in California."
"That's a strong possibility, I'll have to think about it."
"How about Postal Service Investigators? Probably not much of a future there and I don't suppose they're hiring these days, okay, forget that. Railroad police? I'm joking, sorry. But seriously, how about CIA, DIA, or NSA?"
"You think I'd make a good spy? Somehow I doubt it. Besides, I think you have to be a math major to get on at NSA. And CIA are all weaselly, not for me I think." I sighed, "I don't know, maybe I'll become a Watcher."
"Oh god Veronica! You don't want to do that, do you?"
"It's too secretive. You'd never get recognition outside of the Council, ever. And if you did, it'd be of the nutball variety. Trust me, you don't want that."
"Well, before I decide, let's sort these different agencies, maybe I could apply to two or three of them, see what happens anyway."
Mars Rising 3
Well, to make a long story shorter, I sent out applications to six Federal and State agencies, and was accepted to two of them. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do, researched them, and finally, with worry about what I was doing, accepted the invitation to join NCIS. After getting my TS/SCI (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information), and three months of agent training at FLETC – that's the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center to you civilians – and another two months of specialized NCIS training, I was a probationary Special Agent of the NCIS, authorized to carry a badge and a gun. It wasn't the FBI (quiet sigh), but in some ways it was better. For one thing, I was one of about a thousand agents instead of one of more than thirteen thousand. That right there was a major plus. For another, there was a good chance that sooner or later I would be assigned to San Diego, just an hour away from Neptune. And now I could now exchange official communications with Sheriff dad of Neptune – kind of cool, really.
There was one other thing that set me apart from all other Special Agents in the Federal Government: I was – potentially – the liaison between the ISWC and the USG. But, if I ever activate that particular option, it could derail everything I had worked for. On the other hand, maybe it would make me more influential than I had anticipated. Well, we shall see, won't we?
I hear you asking, 'Wait, back up: Sheriff Dad of Neptune?' Well, what happened back at that horrible election against Vinnie Van Lowe, is: we lost. Vinnie won by by less than fifty votes, there was a recount, and he still won but by only thirty votes. So Dad graciously bowed out and went back to the private sector. But, wouldn't you know it, it was only three months later that the FBI swooped in and arrested Vinnie! They'd been investigating him for some time, then after he got elected a certain anonymous person sent some amazingly incriminating evidence to the FBI. It wasn't me, really, well not publicly anyway – I may have contributed the envelope, a couple of stamps and a photo or two, and, well, possibly a copy of a most fascinating ledger which entirely by accident came into my possession which I'm sure Vinnie had never intended to be seen by anyone with a badge. The fact that I was kinda sorta breaking and entering at the time I happened to come across it and by accident run it through a copier is something the FBI never needs to know. So Vinnie Van Lowe and lower was facing serious prison time and was forced to resign from the sheriff's department and spend his rapidly dwindling assets on lawyers, which couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.
So finally, the town council asked Dad to come back, there was yet another special election, and this time he won handily and decisively. Of course it helped that by then all that stuff about the prosecutor going after dad had gone gurgling down the drain, and many of the wealthier families in Neptune got behind him. The Kanes were especially helpful.
My NCIS career was going well, I had a number of successfully concluded cases under my belt, including a few high-profile cases. I had advanced from probie and was now a full-fledged special agent with my very own cubicle. Higher-ups were beginning to look at me as an up and coming agent, someone to be watched, someone who was going places. And then, one day, I got a call from Giles. He wants me to activate my Watcher's Council liaison status. Crap.
Will Veronica be able to keep the dark side from affecting her career at NCIS? What do you think?