Enter the Heroes (A Darkworld Tale)
By Philip S.
Summary: In a country ruled by the ascended Mayor Wilkins and the Vampire Lord Angelus, the Powers That Be are forced to recruit some unlikely individuals as their warriors.
Spoilers: This is an AU that branches off from canon Buffy in late Season 3. Spoilers up to that point.
Disclaimer: Buffy and associated characters belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The concept of Darkworld belongs to Yours Truly.
Los Angeles, 2005
Sometimes life stinks, you know?
I'm probably not telling you anything you don't know, seeing as we're all living in a world that has gone straight to hell these last few years. So I'll understand if you might be a bit skeptical when I tell you that my life is a lot stranger now than it was just a few months ago.
I mean, how much stranger could it get? I remember the world like it was in early 1999. Normal. Nice. More or less peaceful. A world we could all understand. A world that made sense. Sure, by now I know that things were brewing under the surface even then, but I didn't know about any of that back then.
My name, by the way, is Doyle. Back then, I was happy. I had a job I liked, I had a beautiful wife I loved, we were even thinking of having a child or two. The world was a good place. Or so we thought.
Then it happened. No one saw it coming. An invasion, not from outer space, not from a foreign country, not even from radical terrorists or something like that. Instead the invasion came from a little suburban town that no one outside it had ever heard from before. Of course we all know its name now.
Sunnydale. Capital of this new America.
Half of it anyway. According to the latest news Wilkins' troops are held this side of the Mississippi Wall, their advance stalled by the threat of nuclear retaliation.
I'm digressing, though. You all know the story of how America fell to an army of demons, led by a thing that was once a man. You all know Wilkins' face, smiling down on us from video screens and posters. This isn't a story about Wilkins.
In the farthest sense this story is about Wilkins' closest ally, or at least that is what he was during the takeover. Nowadays, of course, Angelus does his own thing. In his own realm.
That's where I'm living. Los Angeles. One of the cities that Wilkins was forced to cede to Angelus during their falling out. Los Angelus, some people call it. A city ruled by vampires. Is that better or worse than a place ruled by Wilkins and his demons? Beats me. I have stayed here ever since Angelus took over and I never left, not even for a day.
Harry did, of course. My wife. She headed east when the fighting began. I didn't go with her, even though I wanted to do. That was my own personal tragedy against the background of the larger one that befell this country. I couldn't go with my wife because when the two of us were attacked by demons during our planned flight from Los Angeles I discovered that I had no business being among humans.
I am not. Not human. Not quite demon, either. I'm something stuck between, something that is half of both and belongs to neither. I have since found others of my kind, hybrids, half-demons, and none of them has a place anywhere in this new world.
When I first slipped into my demon face, using superhuman strength so save the two of us, Harry ran from me. She ran, screaming, deathly afraid of what I had become.
I hope she made it out safely.
I stayed. At least here, among demons, I won't get shot on sight. I can pass for human, but not a hundred percent, as evident by my unfortunate habit to slip into demon face when I have to sneeze. According to the sketchy news we receive from what is left of the United States the people there have adopted a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy when it comes to everything that is not quite human.
I really can't blame them.
Coming back to my original point: Here I am, a half-demon, living in a city ruled by a ruthless vampire, living in a country torn apart by a civil war right out of the darkest fairy tales. So you might ask yourself, how could my life become even stranger than that?
Well, it can, believe me. To understand exactly what happened, you have to understand a few things about the closest thing to a social structure we have around here these days. Vampires and other demons, they really don't like each other. Demons don't like vamps because they are demons housed inside human bodies, which supposedly makes them inferior. Vampires don't like other demons because of their snotty arrogance toward them. So, to continue that thought, now that the vampires are the ones running the show, you can probably imagine that they might take the opportunity to practice a little snotty arrogance of their own.
To make a long matter short, vampires hunt other demons. At least all those that are not strong enough to smash them into paste without straining a muscle. Which means that pretty much all of us half-demons are on their list.
A fellow half-demon, half Brakken like myself, was asking for my help. Vampires were after him and his family. Unlike me neither of them could pass for human, which is normally my way out of a tight squabble. Vampires only go after humans when they're hungry. They go after half-demons as a matter of principle.
I didn't help him. I had enough problems of my own. So I sent him away. Half a day later they were dead, the entire family. And I learned that through a vision.
Crap, eh? Yeah, that's what I thought, too.
I've figured out a few things since then. The visions are real, not some sign of me finally going nuts, and they are sent to me by something or someone called the Powers That Be. Some kind of higher force. God, maybe. I don't know exactly. And the fact that they are always accompanied by searing pain that seems to split my skull in two isn't helping the matter much, either.
The visions tell me I've got a mission. An honest-to-God holy mission. It seems the Powers That Be are not too fond of the world in its current state. Welcome to the club. So they want me to change it. Or, to be more precise, they want me to recruit and guide a few people to do that.
After getting over my long-lasting bout of disbelief, followed by a temper tantrum and a few rounds of drinking myself into oblivion, I realized that I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. The visions didn't leave me alone and, let's be honest, what else was I doing with my life? If I could somehow do something to make this shit of a world a better place ... okay, I would look into it and then decide.
The visions showed me two guys I was supposed to recruit for the cause. This pretty much leads us to where I am right now. Enough with the back story, no time like the present.
This is a bar, easily recognizable by the drunken patrons, the dingy interior, and the smell of booze. I've seen the insides of many, many bars in the last six years, let me tell you. Most of the times I was one of those drunken patrons myself. Very drunk. Not today, though. No, today I'm here on the holy mission thing.
One of the guys I am looking for is already here. In fact he sits about three meters to my right, leaning on the bar just like me, a drink in his hand, a faraway look in his eyes. A young man, no older than 24 or so, but with a look in his eyes that makes him seem thrice that age. Short-cropped black hair, beard stubble on his cheeks, dressed in what might have been a fine pair of blue jeans and a mildly expensive leather jacket a few years ago.
This bar, to get back to it for a moment, is a neutral place. One of the few such places around. The only other one I know in this town is Caritas and I'd rather be there right now, even though I hate Karaoke. This place here is called the Evil Eye, probably named after the one-eyed witch (that is witch, with 'w', not 'b', though some people mix it up on purpose) to whom it belongs, and people who try violence in here tend to get disfiguring warts, terminal syphilis, and other such pleasant surprises. So no one fights. We're all just here for a drink, whether we are human, demon, or something in between.
My boy here, the 'warrior' I'm supposed to recruit, he's human. It's come to the point where I can smell such stuff. Pure human, not even a single gene of demon in him, no supernatural booga booga about him, either. Of course I could start wondering right now, wondering how a mere human is supposed to change the world.
If I do that I'd go running for the hills in a second, so I won't.
Would be a bit late, too, seeing as the second guy has just come in through the door. And he certainly isn't human. Hasn't been in a long time, judging by the smell of him.
"Gimme a cold one, Eve!" The vampire leans on the bar, looking pretty worn down himself. The long leather coat he wears has seen better days. About half a century ago, maybe. His hair is bleached within an inch of its life, his skin almost as pale. I know him, of course, as does pretty much everyone here in Los Angeles.
It's hard not to remember a guy who is worth a small fortune, dead or undead.
Spike. William the Bloody, member of the famed Aurelius family of vampires. Childe or grandchilde of the city's master, Angelus. No one is quite clear on that one and those that know are not telling. What everyone knows, though, is that Angelus isn't very fond of his bleached offspring. Spike's got a bounty on his head, large enough to tempt many a man or demon. Rumor has it that Spike betrayed Angelus, helped the Slayer defeat him.
Which would be an exercise in irony, seeing where the Slayer is now.
So I have them both here. Spike, a vampire, and a human by the name of Alexander Harris. And the Powers That Be want them to work together for the betterment of the world.
Of course they never told me how I was to sell that to these guys.
I'm about to rise, give it the old college try, when Harris looks up from his glass and comes face to face with Spike.
"Spike!" Harris whispers.
"Oh, just what I needed to make a bloody bad night really perfect." Spike groans.
Why do I get the feeling I wasn't given the whole back story here?
Harris, who has clearly had a few drinks tonight already, takes another swig from his glass, after which they disdainfully stare at each other again.
"Heard you're worth money these days, fanged wonder." He slurs. "Deadboy wants you dust in the worst way."
Spike smirks, more amused than angered.
"Yeah! And how much money are you worth, Xander? I mean, I seem to remember you hanging around with the famous Scooby Gang. Fighters against evil and defenders of lost puppies everywhere. How much is your death worth to the big noise these days?"
Harris' face warps with anger as Spike leans in closer, grinning.
"Not a cent, Xander! Not one lousy cent. Some things don't change, do they? No one even cares if you're alive or dead. Certainly not Angel-Puss or Fluffy the Vampire Layer."
Harris surges to his feet. "Don't you dare talk about her, fang boy! You don't have the right!"
"And what are you gonna do about it, loser?"
He is about to slug Spike, Evil Eye or not. I guess this is my cue.
Why can't I be somewhere else right now?
"Uh, guys?" I walk toward them, earning me glares from both of them. "You might not want to go to blows over this. Unfortunate things happen to guys who fight in here."
"What's it to you, Irish boy?" Spike morphs into demon face. Does he think he is scaring me with that?
Well, okay, if he thinks that, he would be right.
"Normally I wouldn't mind," I shrug, "it's always fun to see someone go down with a terminal case of syphilis from one moment to the next, but I think the guys higher up would get angry with me for it."
"What are you talking about?"
I sit down on the barstool nearest to them. It takes guts to sit down right next to an angry vampire, give me that much.
"How about I buy you guys a drink? And then we can talk about a few things."
"Such as?" Neither of them seems very taken in by the prospect of a free drink. Don't they know that I don't offer that to many guys? I am nearly broke, after all.
"Such as bringing about the downfall of a few guys you both know. People like Wilkins and Angelus, for example."
For a moment they both stare at me as if I'm nuts. Maybe I am. I certainly would think so if I heard someone talking like I just did. But seeing as this entire thing is pretty much nuts, I might as well get into the mood.
"Could use a drink." Spike slouches down on a stool. "And maybe an amusing story on the side."
Harris says nothing, just drops down and looks at me expectantly, the occasional hostile glare toward Spike a given.
Okay, now I've got their attention. What do I tell them?
"Sometimes life stinks, you know?"
They nod. Both of them know that much, I'd say.