Sunnydale, the first step.
Sorry for how long it took me to rattle off this chapter, realistically without very much support (REVIEWS) this isn't as important as others I'm working on.
Giles heard the knock at the door and sighed. His brilliant plan had not back fired, in fact the Slayer's little sister was a virtual prodigy when it came to languages. He added it to the list of things about her. Knowing she was this mysterious "Key" was one thing. What the Key was and what it did was another. Quite frankly he had no idea and was going to use every opportunity he could to find out.
Closing the notebook with an exaggerated wink to Dawn he turned to the door. It was Buffy, followed by a man that could only be described as immense. 'Hi Giles met some new friends.' Buffy said with forced cheerfulness.
'Citizen.' The big man nodded to him. Giles was fascinated by the set square jaw, no jaw-line should be like that.
'Hello.' he replied offering his hand. 'Rupert Giles.'
'Brit-cit.' Was the big man's answer before he looked past Giles to Dawn. 'Juve. Staying indoors, a wise choice. What are you teaching her?'
It took Giles a moment to realise he was talking to him With the last part. 'Oh. Just a bit of Latin. To pass the time.' Giles realised he was on the defensive. 'Just who are you?'
'Dredd.' he pointed at his badge. 'Street Judge.'
'Think Robocop without the "I want to be a real boy" charm.' Buffy explained. 'He and his friend are hunting some undead creature that got away. They know he's coming here, just not when they'll.'
'Perhaps I can help.' Giles offered. 'We could do some research. What's he called?'
'Death.' Buffy and their new friend answered at the same time. The two of them looked at each other oddly
'Really? Wow' Dawn squealed from her chair. 'The Grim Reaper! This is going to be so cool.'
Giles knew that no such creature truly existed and said so.
'No. He's just called Death. One of the four Dark judges granted power by the hag sisters of death. We don't need research, I know how to kill him. You are not involved.'
If Giles was being honest with himself he wasn't listening much past the "Sisters of Death". 'There is a legend that two witches became so bitter and twisted,' he said remembering it. 'That they became necromancers, so powerful that they could never die and became ghosts when their twisted bodies finally did fail. Forever seeking one as twisted as themselves to mould into an avatar of their will.
'In all recorded history they have found three. All three scum of the earth with no hope for redemption and even they were repulsed by their evil.'
'Cool.' Dawn whispered and Giles noted, that like all children, Dawn could be entrapped by a gruesome story.
'Met them. Not that impressive in person. Judge Death is their protégée.' Dredd grunted
'I... I need a drink.' Giles stammered, hand reaching for his glasses automatically.
'Of water...' Buffy quickly pointed out. 'Because... Well...'
'Alcohol is illegal where I come from.' Dredd finished for her. 'As is caffeine, sugar and teaching without a licence.'
'And our friend here gets kinda tetchy about that sort of thing.' Buffy explained
'Ahh, yes. Of water, of course.' Giles went for his glasses again only to remember that they were already in his hand.
He didn't notice Buffy's shocked expression or the way she stormed out of the room.
Cassandra tried not to laugh at the flustered Englishman. She could read him and his reactions like a book. If Dredd knew the amount of petty crimes, and larger ones, in Rupert 'Ripper" Giles's past good old dependable Giles would be thrown into an iso-cube faster than you could say "Oops"
So the good news was, a distance from the hellmouth, she could block it out. The bad news was it put up enough interference that she could only feel around the outer edge. If Death did turn up in the middle of there she wouldn't know. She'd have to tell Dredd. Another thing she'd have to tell him about would be Dawn.
'Oh boy talk about the school of hard knocks.' She whispered to herself.
'What was that?' Willow asked her. Cassandra had kept out of the witches mind, who knew how sensitive the kid could be. Xander had the Psi ability of a plate of munce and a heart of gold but the red-head could be dangerous.
'Nothing. I'm still shaking off that hellmouth, you know?'
'I'd rather not.' she admitted.
Cassandra nodded and closed her eyes again. Throwing in a couple of winces she tried to keep up the illusion of recovery. In reality she was doing something very much different. She was rifling through Dawn's young mind and admiring the Monks handy work.
They were good. Very good. Instead of building her they moulded. An interesting difference that meant instead of building a personality from the inside they simply threw a blank slate through a magical virtual training course to see how it reacted. Dropping the finished product on Buffy's doorstep with the course as memories in everyone's head.
Good trick. So instead of a fake girl made by a bunch of guys who had probably read about women in books they had made a real girl. Only with fake memories. As a professional Cassandra had to admit to a bit of awe and respect. As a basic human she had to ask how the Grud-damn arrogant drokkers could justify doing something like that.
Sure this Glory character was a threat according to Buffy's memories and sure the monk, probably ALL the monks were dead but... Grud. If they could justify it? She planted a quick idea in Buffy's head and watched the slayer shake it off. Suppressing a sigh Cassandra decided to hell with subtly. -Buffy. It's me Cassandra- She sent. -Don't say anything, just think it.-
There were a quick flash of some really extreme curse words that had been all but abolished by the law back in Cassandra's home dimension. Heck some of them she didn't even know. The gist was the Slayer was not happy. Storming into the living area she looked Cassandra in the eyes and continued the tirade. After a full minute Buffy stopped and smiled. 'Get the message?'
'Yeah. Too late though. Rupert sort of piped my interest.' Cassandra looked around the fuming blond at the older man coming behind her. 'Hello there Cassandra Anderson Psi Division.' She said to the watcher in question
'She's telepathic.' Buffy didn't take her eyes of Cassandra. Neither did Rupert Giles but his were busy checking her out. He was good at hiding it but she could tell he was admiring her body.
Far from being insulted she took it as a compliment. Psi Judges often burnt out long before her age and she often felt old amongst the younger members of her division. Most men also were to afraid of her as a judge to even look twice. Cassandra shot him an image of her tutting and waving a finger. Followed up with a real life wink and a grin.
Rupert coughed uncomfortably and suddenly found something very interesting on a bookshelf. 'Sorry.' Cassandra explained tapping her head. 'Just making sure there was no real damage up here.'
Only she sent a different thought to Buffy, -I know about Dawn.-
'That's okay I for give you, next time knock.' The blonde replied in a cold voice before sending the thought; -What, exactly, do you think you know?-
-Everything. The Key, the monks, her creation- Cassandra tried to put sympathy into her projected thought. Only it didn't work that way, the Academy of Law was very good at removing emotions like sympathy, compassion and basic humanity. You had to to survive a job like theirs, without feeling it you couldn't project it to others.
Luckily Cassandra was never very good at those lessons.
Buffy didn't bother answering aloud -Tell anyone and I promise I'll kill you.-
This all took under five seconds, just long enough for the bouncing bundle of energy known as Dawn to push her way to the front of the little crowd. 'You can really read peoples minds, that's so cool! Oh I'm...'
'Dawn, yep I picked that up.'
'Wow, that's so much better than being a Slayer. How do you get psychic then, do you like need to practice or something?' she was on the balls of her feet and hopping from side to side.
Cassandra couldn't help but laugh, 'Born with them I'm afraid. Sure training helps but you wouldn't want to do it. you might end up like old stoney over there.'
Dredd grunted before folding his arms. 'So, now that your back in action. Is he here yet?'
'Never one for small talk were you Dredd. No, at least not where I can sense. That Hellmouth is throwing up a patch of interference worse than a cursed earth rad storm.'
'Drokk, well then I'll patrol. How big an area?'
Cassandra watched Buffy walk to the other side of the room and open a chest. 'About a half mile radius I guess.'
'Good, you stay here with the civilians, Radio the instant you feel something.' he turned and left the room.
'I'm a bit hungry but doesn't help does it?' she called after him
Dredd didn't even slow down. 'No.'
'Hold on big boots!' Buffy shouted, she was armed with a long sword, throwing knives and a short axe on a loop in her belt 'I'm coming with you.'
Dredd paused looked her up and down for a moment. 'Death would snap you half.'
'If you think I'm going to leave you out there with out a chaperone you're helmets on too tight. I don't trust you and I want both of you gone. The best way to do that is to find and kill this Death character so I'm coming.'
'Don't be a fool Dredd.' Cassandra said gravely. 'We still need their help.'
He looked around for a moment before meeting Buffy's glare. The small blonde caught her back step and matched it. ' Get one thing straight Summers, I'm in charge of this little adventure. You're the guide, when I tell you to back down or get out of the way...'
'This is my home...' she started Dredd grabbed her by her jacket and lifted Buffy face to face.
'This is Death, or very close. We don't know what new tricks they've got or what they can do. Until we leave your life is my responsibility.'
Cassandra watched Buffy's fist flex, no one dared say a word. she threw a though to Buffy. -Dredd's not a people person. He's trying to help, in his own way. Prove your self and he'll accept you.-
The girl's glare faltered for a moment. 'Okay I'll guide you around. This Death guy is your big bad but this is my town and you still need me. I'm going out there any way and its always better to hunt with backup.'
Dredd lowered Buffy back to the ground and Cassandra could almost have sworn he looked at her. 'Let's go.'
Buffy got off the huge motorbike and tried to shake her hair back where it belonged, no wonder this guy wore a helmet, then again Buffy couldn't tell if he even had hair. Dredd pulled a shotgun from it and then said 'Bike follow me, at least 200 yards.'
It gave a sudden lurch before a halting voice responded 'Confirmed order.' it then drove off.
'Come on.' he ordered. Buffy hefted her sword and followed chalking the whole self-driving bike down as another thing odd about the guy. 'Which way?' he asked at the end of the street.
'Depends where you think he would go, its' getting to late for the Bonze to be open. There are a few late night clubs out there but they are on the university campus. I don't think they'll let you on though' she said sarcastically 'Death hates the sound of the living enjoying themselves. Besides we think he's trying to build an army. Both cases the first thing he'd do is find a place where people gather. Good thinking Summers.' he looked to her expectantly
Trying not to roll her eyes Buffy went left and headed for the Bronze. 'Don't they have sarcasm where you come from anymore?'
'There's no law against it, yet.' He ground out and strode a lot faster than he had to. Buffy fell quickly behind. She was about to erupt into a jog when perhaps the single most annoying Vampire in the world jumped out of an ally way.
'Slayer, there you are. I wouldn't go to the bronze if I was you, at least not with an army at your back.'
'What are you talking about Spike.'
'A big guy that looks like a bag o' bones in a boiler suit. He just marched in there and butchered anything that tried to stop him.'
Buffy watched Dredd spin and walk back. 'And you got out of there fast. Nice to know your survival instincts are still on par with a first rat off the titanic. This boiler suit guy, you wouldn't describe him as death incarnate could you?'
'That's one way. No scythe but no one respects the classics these days.' Spike hadn't seen Dredd or heard him approach. 'So, Slayer, what's say we rustle up the gang and head on over there. Be fun, I guess.'
Dredd tapped Spike's shoulder. The bleached wonder spun face to chest. 'No need citizen. We can handle it. We must hurry Summers.' With that he took off, Buffy kept up with him easily with Slayer speed and stamina but without it she, and Spike following, would have been left in the dust.
'Who the hell is that?' Spike almost shouted
'Dredd, it's a long story.' She called back. Increasing her stride she tapped the big guy on the arm. 'Hey we better slow down, we're nearly there.'
They did, 'Death could have been here for hours. No telling what he's done or what tricks he's got up his sleeve this time.' he growled
Buffy whispered 'I though Blondie was supposed to be back up here. If he's in the Bronze there's no telling what he could do.'
Buffy pointed down the ally where the Bronze was. Spike wave a hand and pointed to the pile of rubbish to be taken away in the morning. Two feet were poking out.
It was the bouncer Joe, big guy who'd been around long enough not to tackle the wrong kinds. Buffy lifted one of the stinking bags of his head, his face contorted in fear. 'Woah' she muttered. 'Sorry Joe.' She closed his eyes, he'd always warned her and the gang if something on the wrong side tried anything. A good guy.
'He's here, I cant' risk calling Anderson. If Death picks up on her we lose the element of surprise. Is there a roof access?' Dredd looked up and around.
'Sure but I can't carry you up there.' Buffy pointed. Dredd just shrugged and reached into his belt. The little gun he pulled out looked ridiculous until he fired it.
With a "pi-chow" a grappling line fired out just above the fire exit. 'Oh like that's going to work.' Spike scoffed. He was wrong and Dredd jumped, with help, onto the stairway.
Buffy and Spike jumped with out help and met him on the roof, 'Got any other cool toys?' Spike asked in a low whisper.
Dredd just gave him a frosty look and tucked the grapple line into his belt. Cracking the skylight window open the three of them slid onto the balcony. Below them a dozen or so people were shambling around the dance floor. 'I thought this guy killed people?' she asked. Dredd pointed at one of them and she got a look at it's face.
Open mouthed and drooling their lifeless eyes we empty, she could tell even from a distance. Her Slayer sense, never that acute, flared briefly as she realised the young woman was dead inside. 'Zombies.' Spike breathed. 'Bloody priceless.'
Dredd nodded. 'Not the first time he's used that trick. Now we know how he's making his army.' Tapping his helmet Buffy watched a little microphone come down. 'Anderson, flow my homing single. Get here now.'
'You mean he's building an army of these brain eating tossers?' Spike looked in shock. 'What for.'
The answer came when Death walked onto the stage ahead of four more zombies. Two crawled on all fours and the others sat on their backs, with a shock Buffy noticed they had been sewn together, legs and arms switched until they became a sort of grotesque half walking half crawling chair.
Death was dressed in a baggy gruesome version of Dredd's uniform, a dinosaur with wings on one shoulder and a rib cage on the other. His helmet cracked and broken into a pattern of spikes and edges. 'The worrrk issss compleeete.' he hissed out before sitting on the following zombie chair thing. 'Bring the nexxxt sssinner.' He commanded.
Two zombies shuffled out, carrying a terrified victim between them. 'You have been judddged, Guilty. The ssssentance is Death. Do you repppent.'
'R... repent?' the man asked and Buffy gripped her sword.
'I mayyy be lenient.' Death almost purred flicking long bony fingers
The guy looked around in a panic and Buffy was dragged down There's nothing we can do right now. Watch.' Dredd whispered in her ear. 'Wait for Anderson and your friends.'
'I... I repent.' the guy pleaded.
'Gooddd. Bring him cccclosssser.'
'The ccccrime is life the sssentancccce is dddeath!' Like lightning he moved forward, hand moving through the guys head like a stick sliding into water. Buffy watched as the seconds felt like hours before Death let the man go and sank back into his chair.
The judged man shambled to his feet, a zombie like all the others. 'Bring the next sssinner.' Death gloated.
Before Buffy knew she had done it the she had thrown the sword with pinpoint accuracy right for Death's twisted heart.
End part II