Boondock Slayer

New York, New York

Author: Kosh_len <kosh_len[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have to write this stuff.


Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series...but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

Author's Notes: A special thanks to Tenhawk for letting me play in his mucked up littleworld. Also thanks to my editor Shollinfor all her help in keeping my stuff straight.
Please excuse the formatting on this round, I was in a hurry to get this ball rolling, the next one will be cleaner. Also bear with me, I work three jobs, and have a life, unlike Ten it seems sometimes, so myposts won't be a thousand a day like he seems to be doing. On with the show and I hope you enjoy this.


Suffolk County, Long Island.
September 12th, 1995

"I can't believe you bought this piece of shit!" screamed a small figure in the darkness.

A head popped up from under the hood of the broken-down car, a scowl clearly written on his face.

"Now don't ye start! This car was working fine 'til you had me run over that. What did she call it, Murph?" said Conner McManus.

"A Flevem Demon," said the figure still working on the car.

With a scream Faith threw her hands up and stormed off into the darkness. She could hear Conner calling for her to come back, but right now she needed to calm down.

It had been five days since they had left Boston, taking the slow road, to ensure they weren't being followed by any more of the Watchers Council or by the police. Five days and everyone was grating on the others. Like most road trippers, they were tired, crabby, and generally in a bad mood. Add two demon/vampire stops and it only strained things more.

The last had been the worst. Two demons and eight vampires attacking a campground. The bloodbath had already started when they pulled up to rest for the night. Conner had to hit the largest of the demons with the car so Faith could finish it off. With nerves stretched to their fullest extent, the three had argued most of the day. The car breaking down had been the last straw.

Faith continued her walk, wondering yet again why the two men were with her. The Slayer had always operated alone, except for the help of her Watcher. She stopped and grinned. She knew why she tolerated them; they were good guys, not to mention cute - had she been in her previous body, she probably would have molested each of them for hours on end. But she was thirteen again. She let out a sigh.

They were also her brothers, not by blood, but by choice. She was happy to have them along. As she turned around to head back toward the car, she heard something faint in the distance. Faith paused and tilted her head to listen. A child cried somewhere in the dark.

It was nearly midnight, and they had planned on crashing at the next motel they could find. In separate rooms. She wasn't sure she could take another night of Murphy's snoring without killing him. Looking at her watch, she wondered why she heard a baby.

Faith peered into the darkness; she couldn't make out any houses nearby, just some open field. In the distance she could make out a few buildings, but the sound wouldn't have traveled that far. Her eyes swept the area, trying to match the sound to her sight.

She barely noticed it, a flicker of light off in a small grove of trees. Silently she moved toward the light. As she neared, Faith realized it was a bonfire of some sort. Near it stood five men dressed in black robes standing around another man dressed in red robes. Parting some nearby bushes, Faith took in the scene.

She could make out an outline on the ground, a pentagram, with each of the black-robed men standing at the points. In the center of the pentagram, she could see the red-robed figure holding an infant in one hand and a dagger in the other. The figure ignored the child's screams, muttering in a language Faith didn't recognize.

Faith narrowed her eyes. She had seen many scenes like this in her time as a Slayer. This was a summoning, a dark summoning at that. Reaching to the small of her back, Faith let out a soft curse. She had left the handgun Harper and Sharpe had given her in the back of the car. Patting her waist, she did a quick mental inventory. Two stakes and the escrima stick she had picked up at their last stop. Faith smiled when she remembered some of the stick-fighting classes Linda had put her through. Her Watcher had been anything but traditional.

Faith perked her ears up as she realized that the ceremony was coming near an end. Now was the time to act. In the back of her mind, she could remember something that Murphy had said, on the steps of the church.

<Never shall innocent blood be shed. Yet the blood of the wicked shall flow like a river.> A feral smile crept across Faith's face. <Mental checklist. Sacrificing a child, yup, that's wicked.>

The would-be-summoners never heard Faith's approach, but two rapidly felt it. The escrima stick flashed through the air, connecting quickly with two figures in black. Both crumpled to the ground. Without pause, Faith moved, quick as lightning. The figure in red had raised his dagger to strike at the crying infant, but had started to turn to see what the disturbance was. It was in that moment that Faith struck.

In a move that would have made an NFL quarterback proud, Faith slashed out with the stick in her right hand and scooped the baby out of the robed figure's arms with her left. Her movement was a second too late, and the dagger slashed down, cutting the infant's arm.

Faith never paused in her charge but continued forward, blasting past two more robed figures, heading out of the clearing at full Slayer speed. She never looked over her shoulder to see what happened next.

Blood magic is some of the strongest magic. With it, beings can be summoned or banished. Depending on the spell, it might require all the blood in a body, or simply a drop. It might require the blood of some fabulous creature, or that of a lowly animal. Pure blood, tainted blood, it all depends on the spell. Had Faith looked over her shoulder, she would have seen the summoning had only required a drop of blood from an innocent to summon a demon from hell.

Meanwhile, back at the car

"Faith!" cried Conner into the darkness. He shined a flashlight back and forth, trying to spot the girl.

"Blast it, Murph, where the devil did the lass go?" asked Conner as he turned back to his twin.

Murphy leaned against the side of the car, his arms folded across his chest. A frown was written on his face.

"Gee, Conner, I was keeping such a good eye on her while I had my head buried under the hood trying to help ye fix the car," scowled Murphy. "How the bloody hell should I know where she went? But I'll tell ye one thing. I know what she's doing."

Sighing, Conner looked at Murphy. He mustered his courage and took the bait.

"Right, what do ye believe the lass is doing?"

Murphy walked over to the back of the car and popped the trunk. Conner raised his eyebrows as Murphy tossed him a shotgun. Murphy tucked his own up underneath his coat on its sling.

"Why, dear brother. Our little sister can be only out getting herself into trouble. What the hell else do ye think she could be doing?" grinned Murphy as he headed off into the darkness.

Faith ran hard. Her lungs burned, the muscles in her legs screamed. The child was nestled against her chest, its body wrapped in her coat. She had only paused once to check the cut, and once she had seen that it wasn't bad, Faith continued her run. She knew she had to get someplace safe with the baby.

She remembered reading about a kidnapping in the paper the day before, and she had a feeling this was the baby in question. Now she just had to be able to get the kid to the authorities without getting herself arrested.

She knew the robed guys were probably trying to follow her, so she headed away from where the car should have been. Faith hurdled another shrub, never pausing. She heard the roar of a vehicle behind her, and glanced over her shoulder. Robed guys were now in pursuit in a four-wheel-drive truck, and gaining rapidly.

<Good grief, can't I ever get a break?> she screamed in her mind.

Running around the corner of a building, she headed down the street. She could hear the tires squeal as the truck hit pavement. Faith took a hard left toward what looked like a closed-off old building. Mustering her strength as she neared the entrance, she tensed her muscles to kick the door open. Faith's eyes widened as the door opened in front of her, and she plowed over a small man with his hand on the latch.

Faith stumbled as she entered the building. Struggling to remain upright, Faith came to stand in the middle of the room. Her brain worked rapidly as she realized where she was.

<Oh, you have got to be kidding me,> she thought as looked around the room.

Faces stared back at her from various points in the room, faces belonging to people with glasses or mugs in their hands. Her eyes flicked back and forth as she took in the room, looking for a quick exit. She could hear the truck's brakes from in front of the building.

<In front of the Irish bar you've just run into like a moron,> she growled at herself.

Faith turned toward the bar and looked at the lanky, long-haired bartender.

"This place got a back exit?" she demanded. "I have some rather unfriendly fellows on my tail."

The bartender raised his eyebrows and looked toward the door, then glanced at the piano player in the corner, who merely nodded back. The bartender's eyes continued to flick around the room, receiving nods from various people.

"Settle down, girl," said the bartender. "I don't know who's after you, but you should be safe enough in here. Name's Jake. Now, who's chasing you?"

"I don't have time for this! Is there a back exit or not?" screamed Faith as the front doors to the bar opened, admitting the red-robed figure, flanked by the five black-robed figures. Faith's eyes grew wide as she saw a demon bending down to step inside as well.

"Hello, girl. Merry chase you have led us on. I believe you have something that belongs to my friend here," said the red-robed figure, pointing to the demon.

A low growl startled Faith from the door. A second demon was struggling to enter the bar, a demon that looked strangely familiar.

"Take your sacrifice, mage. The girl is mine," growled the new demon. "Did you think I would die that easy, girl?"

"Oh, shit," muttered Faith. This night was just getting worse and worse. It was the demon they had run over.

A silence fell across the bar. No one moved, no one breathed. It was the bartender who finally broke the silence.

"Excuse me! Anybody want to tell me what the hell's going on here?" said Jake.

"Give us the girl and the child and we'll spare your lives," said the red-clad mage. Everyone in the room was silent, every eye fixed on the mage. No one moved, no one even breathed.

Suddenly a small noise filled the silent bar. The mage's eyes flicked away from where Faith stood in the center of the room. A salt shaker came sliding down the bar.

"Here, thought you might want that," said a drunk at the bar.

Jake cracked a smile.

"And what in the FUCK is that for, asshole!?!" asked the mage hotly.

"To paraphrase an old friend and part owner of this place . "That's for your ass, kid, 'cause you're about to eat it,' " said the man at the bar. "And while we're on that topic, to quote something else I once heard, 'You hurt that girl and I'll rip your soul out and use it for a breath mint.' "

"How dare you threaten me! I am Mikos, mage of the third circle, I will des....."

"Yadda yadda yadda," said the drunk, shaking his head. "All I wanted was to drink my life away! That's all I wanted!" he cried to the heavens. "But noooooooo, you gotta send dumb fucknuts like this to badger me. WHY!?!?"

The drunk's eyes became cold and gray, and he looked at the mage and the two demons behind him. The larger demon shivered under the gaze of the smaller man, and Mikos seemed shaken to the core. Even the five men in black robes trembled at the sight of the drunk.

"Glad you could join the rest of us, Robert," grinned Jake.

The drunk glared at the bartender. Picking up his glass, he finished off the drink and tossed it over his shoulder into the fireplace, where it shattered squarely in the middle of the bull's-eye carved into the stone.

"Shut the fuck up, Jake," he scowled.

"You forgot to toast," grinned the bartender.

Robert gave him a flat stare as he turned his attention back to the demons and mage at the door. He pushed himself away from the bar and moved himself between the girl and the man in red robes.

"It is said a bar is much like a church in its sanctity. This one especially. You will not have the girl, nor will you desecrate this place. Leave now, while you still have your lives," said Robert, his face impassive, almost emotionless.

Mikos pushed back his hood and glared at the man standing between him and the girl. He narrowed his eyes and began to build his power.

"Or you'll do what?" sneered the mage.

"Kid, you just ruined what was turning into a perfectly good two-week bender. It was going great. Now, I just flushed it all down the shitter on an adrenaline rush. That makes me a little cross," said Robert plainly. "This is your last warning. Leave. Now."

Faith watched the scene develop before her in stark amazement. Here was someone she had never met before, standing between her and a pissed-off pack of mages and demons. It was almost surreal. If she hadn't had the baby in her arms, she would have shoved the drunk out of her way and charged them. She looked around the room and spotted a portly older man standing off to the side. He caught her look and nodded. She handed the baby to the man and moved a little closer toward the hell that was about to start.

Robert's eyes grew even colder. It was almost as if a chill had settled into the room. Everyone held their breath. The drunk looked long and hard at Mikos. Suddenly, he took a deep breath and growled.

"I. Said. LEAVE!"

Mikos and the two demons took a step back, their eyes wide. The five men in black robes reacted instantly and much more obviously. Each broke and ran in a different direction, trying to get away from the drunk. Two managed to break out past the demons and into the parking lot beyond. A third was not so lucky.

The Flevem demon reached out, grabbed the panicked man by the throat as he tried to run past and casually broke his neck, dropping him to the ground at his feet. The demon cracked a smile at the other.

"Snack," was all it said.

Black-robe four dived out the main window of the bar in his escape. He lay unmoving out in the parking lot, his body cut to pieces. Black-robe five almost followed out the window as well, only to be blackjacked by the piano player.

Mikos' face grew dark. He glowered at the drunk before him. This was an unexpected turn.

"Well, well. Another mage. How....lucky for you, girl," sneered Mikos. "Nonetheless, the girl and the child will be ours."

Robert looked around the room, his eyes flickering from face to face. Finally he turned back with a puzzled look on his face.

"Another mage? Funny, I thought there was only one in the room." He paused. "Me. You, you're just a piece of shit wannabe. You couldn't pull a rabbit out of your ass if you'd stuffed it there. You wouldn't know true magic if it landed on you."

Mikos' face grew red, and the two demons behind him chuckled. Everyone else in the bar held their breath. Faith tensed. What happened next surprised even her.

The mage in red drew back his arm and started muttering in a vile- sounding tongue. He started to weave his hands back in forth, working himself into a frenzy. A dark greenish glow began to encompass his hands and just as it reached a crescendo Robert drew back and punched him in the face.

Mikos' eyes rolled back into his head, and he toppled backwards with a thud. The eyes of the two demons grew wide again and the closer of the two prepared to lunge forward when a noise stopped it.

People recognize certain sounds, even if they have never heard them. It can be said that just about everyone on the planet knows exactly what a rattlesnake's tail sounds like. Our brains are programmed to stop and look for said snake, which is most likely, in our minds, about to bite. This reaction has almost become genetic. As time has progressed, other sounds have joined the preprogrammed part of our mind. It was one of those sounds that brought the demon to a halt - namely the sound of a shell being loaded into the chamber of a shotgun. It was followed by the sound of a second one.

"Ye see, Conner, I told you that when we passed those two screaming fools that Faith had to be around here," said a voice from outside.

Faith let out a sigh of relief when she heard the voice. The cavalry had arrived.

"Ummm, Murph isn't that the demon from last night?" asked another voice from outside.

The Flevem demon spun around, preparing to attack when it was stopped again, this time by the sound of someone clearing his throat.

Robert still stood his ground. His flat and uncaring eyes stared hard into both demons.

"You two have only two options - leave or die. Same as these fools. You can't have the girl or the child," he said plainly. "Your compact with this one is broken. Take what was promised and leave," he told the first of the demons.

The demon narrowed its eyes and looked at the mage. It could feel the anger and power radiating from the human. In a fight, it wasn't sure it could take the mortal. In the back of its mind it smiled. One day though, he would feast on this Robert's heart. Scowling, the demon reached down and grabbed Mikos from the ground. Throwing the unconscious man over its shoulder, it smiled evilly at the assembled room.

"One day, mageling, you and I will continue this discussion," said the demon as it faded out of existence.

Shaking his head, Robert turned his attention to the Flevem demon.

"Why are you still here?" demanded the mage.

The Flevem demon squinted at the man before it, its yellow eyes focusing hard on the man. It clenched its hand, its long, sharp claws scratching the floor. It broke into a toothy grin.

"I want the Slayer you are protecting. Give me the girl and I will spare your life, mage. I am known as Valsek, destroyer of ."

"Destroyer of the Third Circle of Rembal, once thought to be associated with Ahriman, said to have killed two previous Slayers," finished Robert, looking entirely unimpressed. "Blah, blah, blah."

Faith gasped. They hadn't gotten this far into the discussion last night. She simply went in and slayed it. Or so she had thought.

Robert turned and smiled at the girl. An almost paternal look passed across his face.

"Slayer, eh?" he asked simply.

Faith nodded, her own face breaking into a smile.

Robert turned back and regarded the demon. His face became even harder. The man who had looked like a drunk before seemed to grow taller.

"You will definitely not be taking this Slayer, Valsek. Not while I live," said Robert.

The demon sneered, its sharp teeth reflecting in the firelight.

"Why protect this girl?" demanded the demon. "Simply give her to me and live."

Robert's eyes tightened and a glow started to spread across his hands.

"Because I'm not going to lose another Slayer."

Faith's mind came to a complete stop as heard the words that came out of the man's mouth.

"Because I'm not going to loose another Slayer," he had said.

<FUCK! He's a Watcher> her mind screamed.

"Ummm. Another Slayer?" she asked hesitantly.

The glow that had begun around his hand had grown into a ball in each of his palms. Eldritch energy crackled around the balls. Robert never took his eyes off the demon.

"It was a long time ago, another lifetime. Lets just say that the Watchers Council and I didn't part on the best of terms over what happened and leave it at that 'til AFTER this ugly S.O.B. has left this plane of existence, shall we?" he said with an exasperated tone.

Faith blinked at the man's back. Her first temptation was to run and let him deal with it. After what had happened in Boston she really didn't want to let any Watchers near her, but here was one, standing between her and a demon.

"Ummm yeah, later," she mumbled almost absently.

Taking up her stake, she moved to stand next to him. The Flevem demon looked almost exactly as it had the night before. She could barely make out the scar across its neck where she had cut off its head.

The demon lashed out, attempting to grab at Faith. Her leg shot out, kicking it hard in the chest, knocking it back toward the door. Its arms reached out a second time and tried to grab at the small girl, only to be stopped by a ball of pure energy hitting it in the chest, knocking it back through the doors and out into the parking lot.

Conner and Murphy had just helped a small fellow who was lying unconscious by the front door stand up when they heard more commotion start up from the inside of the bar. The door had shut when the demon had turned back inside. Both their eyes grew wide as the hulking shape of the Flevem demon flew out the doors and landed in a heap in front of them.

"Oh," started Conner.

"Fuck," finished his twin, who started backpedaling away from the demon.

The demon's eyes opened and fixed on Murphy, who was the closest. Its arms reached out to grab the McManus boy, only to be stopped by the explosion of a shotgun. Conner stood grim, his weapon aimed at the demon.

"Ye'll not be touchin' my brother there, ugly," he snarled as he chambered the weapon.

"I agree," said Faith from the door.

Robert said nothing, his hands still glowing. Valsek tried to stand, only to have its feet kicked out from underneath it by the Slayer.

"Stay down!" she cried.

Some of the braver patrons of the bar stood in the doorway, watching the scene. Jake stood in the door with a shotgun, waiting to see if it was needed. The piano player stood next to him, a .38 in his hand.

Faith looked up at the mage with a puzzled look on her face.

"So, Watcher boy, how do we kill this asshole?" she questioned as she kicked the demon a second time, knocking it back down.

Robert cocked an eyebrow at the small girl next to him. A smirk appeared on his face.

"Do you want the simple answer, or the Watcher answer?" he drawled, never taking his eyes off the demon.

Conner and Murphy both frowned at the statement and adjusted the weapons a little.

Faith shook her head.

<Great, a smartass,> she mumbled to herself.

With a hurricane kick she knocked the demon down again, completing the attack with a few added punches to faze it.

"How about the simple answer," Faith panted as she continued her attacks.

Robert continued to watch the fight, but started moving around the combatants. With a flick of his wrist, another ball of energy hit the demon in the back, knocking it back down and away from the winded Slayer. With one hand he reached into his pocket and fumbled around.

"Jake," he said in a calm voice. "May I have my car keys so I can open my fucking trunk?"

A set of keys flew through the air, landing in Robert's outstretched hand. He opened the trunk and pulled out a cloth-wrapped object. As he pulled on the ties, the cloth fell to the ground, and Robert slid his hand around the pommel of a beautifully crafted basket-hilt claymore. The polished silver of the basket gleamed in the light streaming out from the bar. The blade looked sharp and polished. With a quick motion he drew the weapon from its scabbard.

"Girl, catch!" cried the mage as he lofted the sword into the air toward Faith.

Throwing a sword is not like in the movies. A sharp blade coming through the air is not normally something a smart person really wants to catch. Three feet of sharpened steel turned into a missile tends to be a dangerous thing.

While Faith was smart, she was also one other important thing. Desperate. The thing was kicking her ass, and the boys and the bartender couldn't add their shotguns to the mix without risking hurting her. She was going to need luck.

Luck just happened to be on her side. Her hand fit right into the pommel of the sword as it came down. With a quick motion, she slashed out at the demon, cutting it deep. Valsek howled in pain as the small girl wounded it.

"The demon has a gem in its stomach. You have to cut him open and destroy it," said Robert from the other side of the demon. He was starting to run low on energy himself, he realized as he lobbed another ball of energy at the demon.

Valsek slipped into pure defensive mode, trying in vain to protect its stomach. Faith became a ball of pure fury, the sword whipping back and forth. What she lacked in finesse with the weapon, she made up for in anger and brute strength.

Robert reached into his trunk and pulled out a second bundle. Pulling its ties, the mage reached into the bundle and pulled out another sword. With a flick of his wrist, the scabbard of the sword slid off the broadsword. The sword flashed at the demon like lightening, cutting deep into the back of the demon's knees.

The demon roared in pain and turned to flee from the cutting weapons, only to discover the mage's attack had lamed it. Within seconds it was over for the demon. It toppled to the ground, its head several feet from it.

Faith moved in, cutting open the demon. She turned and looked up at the man next to her with a curious look on her face.

"Well?" she asked. "Where is it?"

Robert chuckled and smiled at the girl. Faith's eyes grew wide as she realized what he was intending.

"Oh, no. Hell no! I am not reaching into that!" she cried out.

Pulling up his sleeve, he reached past the girl's shoulder and into the demon's stomach. Robert grimaced as he fished around, and finally with a shout of triumph pulled out a fist-sized gem, which he tossed down on the ground.

The gem was brilliant blue and pulsed like a heartbeat. Everyone around could almost feel the malevolence coming from the jewel. Robert nodded to the two men holding the shotguns, looking back at the gem.

The two guns thundered, their shells shattering the gem into thousands of pieces. The demon's head, nearly two feet from the body, let out a mournful cry as it slowly started to melt into a puddle of black goo. The body itself was slowly dissolving.

Faith plopped down on the ground, breathing hard. Robert settled down next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder, and gave the small girl a smile.

"Good job there, girl," said the mage with a grin

"Name's Faith, not girl," smirked Faith.

Robert heard the two shotguns cock and before he realized it, both barrels were placed against his neck.

"Kindly take yer Watcher hand off our sister and let go of the sword, asshole," said Conner.

<Well, fuck,> thought Robert as he looked at the girl before him. It was his last thought as something hit him in the back of the head, driving him into unconsciousness.

Faith stared wide-eyed at Conner. It took her a moment to realize what her brother had done. Jumping to her feet, she almost climbed up the taller man.

"What the fuck did you do that for!" she cried, grabbing Conner by the collar and pulling him down to her eye level. "He hadn't done anything to me yet. We didn't even know if he still was with the Watchers Council!"

The sound of a shotgun being cocked drew their attention. Looking slowly over at Murphy, they realized it wasn't his. Murphy jerked his head forward and Faith ever so slowly turned around.

Jake stood there with the shotgun up against his shoulder, aiming it in their general direction. The piano player had the .38 casually pointed in their direction as well. Neither of them wore an amused look.

"I have no idea what the hell just happened, but then, strange shit happens here all the time, so we tend to take it in stride," groused the bartender. "One thing is certain though. I'll not have you hitting one of my patrons for helping you. Back slowly away from him, now."

Faith stepped back, pushing into Conner, forcing him back as well. She slowly set Robert's sword down on the ground next to the prone man. Bringing her hands up, she continued to push Conner backwards. Reaching out, she grabbed Murphy by the back of his coat and pulled him back as well.

"With all the noise that's been made, I imagine the cops will be descending on this place pretty soon. I've got a pretty good idea who the baby is, and also a pretty good idea that you three had nothing to do with it," said Jake. "But I imagine you're also not the sort that wants to stick around for the police either. Why don't you three split, we'll take care of the rest." Jake jerked the shotgun toward the street.

Faith looked at Conner and Murphy and nodded. The twins continued backing up before turning completely and breaking into a slow run across the field back toward the car. Faith paused a moment.

"Tell him I'm sorry about that, they're a bit protective of me. I've got a pretty good idea he'll understand," she said with a sigh. "Thanks for your help. You'll see that the baby gets back to its folks?"

Jake nodded, looking back over his shoulder to where Doc Webster held the child. When he turned back, the girl was gone. Running his hands through his hair he stepped back inside. He could hear the cops coming.

<This is going to take some explaining,> he thought as he put a coffee mug onto the conveyer belt and set the drink machine to his style. Leaning back against the bar, he let out a breath. Robert was starting to moan from the pile where Fast Eddie had dropped him. That man had some serious explaining to do later.

Eddie settled down next to his boss on a stool.

"Think we'll see 'em again Jake?" he asked.

Jake shrugged and picked up his coffee, now liberally spiked with whisky and whipped cream. Taking a slow swallow, he let himself relax. He could hear the cars coming to a halt outside.

<It's going to be a long night,> sighed Jake as the cops burst through the front door of the bar.

New York City
October 7th, 1995

Faith sighed as she looked out the window of the car. Three weeks of hunting through New York had turned up nothing. No Trick, no Kakistos, no nothing. It had been a week since they had seen their last vampire. It was as if the entire population had gone to ground.

She felt the car slow and looked up at the two men in the front seat. She could tell both of them were tired of this as well. It was one thing to hunt vampires every night - it was entirely another to know they were out there, but to have no clue where they were.

Faith crawled out of the back seat and stretched her back out. She hadn't felt a thing the entire drive. It didn't feel like there was a single vampire in the area. She shook her head at Conner and Murphy. Both men let out deep sighs. Though the area looked like a prime hunting ground, the populace didn't seem to be worried about the night.

Faith paused as she walked. She heard something in the distance, and a smile began to form on her face. Both men frowned at her, noticing a new bounce in her step.

"Tonight," she said with a smile, "I pick the entertainment."

With that, she bounced away, looking very much like the thirteen-year- old she had found herself in. Her ears followed the noise she heard, and soon all three found themselves standing in front of a club. Dance music flooded out the doors every time they opened, and a steady stream of teens and young adults moved into and out of the building.

"Oh fuck no," said Conner, a look of disbelief written on his face. "No way are you getting me and Murph in there, ain't that right, Murph?"

Murphy nodded in agreement, even as his eyes followed several pretty women into the bar. Faith caught the movement and snorted.

"Fine, you two pricks can wait out here," she stated simply. "I've had enough of this Irish pub shit. If I hear 'Danny Boy' one more freaking time, I'm going to slay someone."

Both brothers looked at each other and grinned, and turned back to Faith.

"Oh Danny Boy......" they began.

"ARRRRRGGHHHHH!" she screamed, throwing her hands up in the air. Giving each of the men a flat stare, she turned and walked away from them, into the club. The twins looked at each other and shrugged, following the girl into the noisy building.

London, England
Watcher Headquarters
October 8th, 1995

Quentin Travers was not a happy man. It had been over a month since his retrieval team had failed to return with the girl claiming to be a Slayer. It had also been over a month since she had last been seen. Sources in Boston seemed to indicate she had left the city, but as to where she had gone, there was no telling. Considering what had happened to the retrieval team, there was little point in sending them back to Boston.

The other members of the Council were less than pleased at the moment as well. If the girl truly was a Slayer, they needed to find her, both to find out how she became a Slayer and to place her under their control. Now if they could only find her.

"Creager!" screamed Travers, not looking up from his papers.

A tall, thick man entered the room. He moved in front of the desk, standing almost at parade rest, his hands behind his back.

"Yes, sir?" he asked in a low voice.

"Do we have any word yet? Any?" demanded Travers.

The man brought a hand out from behind his back and reached into his coat pocket. He brought forth a notepad, old and well-used. Flipping through its pages, he finally stopped, tracing a finger across the page.

"While there have been no sightings, it is assumed that she most likely headed south. For some reason, vampire activity in New York has dropped to almost nothing, so it is possible she is in the city. Our tamer mages, however, have been unable to track her energy signature. While the Slayers do normally show up on our radar, this one may have found some means to not only become a Slayer, but also hide herself from our watchful eye."

Travers thumbed his fingers across the desk, seemingly lost in thought. Shuffling through a stack of papers, he stopped when he came to one page. After a moment, he looked up and sighed.

"Send a team to New York City. Same orders as before. If she is there, I want her found and brought back here immediately. Bring anyone else with her as well, providing there aren't too many. I want to know who they are, why they are helping her, and how she has remained hidden," said Travers.

Creager nodded, and slowly walked toward the door. He had just placed his hand on the handle when he heard Travers speak again.

"You had better not fail me, Creager. You're going with them."

Creager lowered his head and nodded before he stepped out into the hallway, shutting the door behind him.

New York
October 8th, 1995

It had been a good night. The dancing, partying, and hanging out with people her own "age" had helped. While she was mentally eighteen, it was hard to get older people to take her seriously in this thirteen- year-old body. The club had been just what she had needed. She had noticed the guys were having a good time as well. They had seemed in good spirits this morning too. Their lack of hangovers might have added to their cheerfulness.

Faith settled down with a paper and started glancing through it. It had been a habit she had picked up from Xander. He and Jarod had both read one or more papers each morning, using them as sources to spot more potential problems on the horizon. Nothing had jumped out at her until she was deep into the Times.

Conner noticed the wrinkled brow from across the room. Faith wore a very concerned look and was mumbling to herself.

"Problem, lass?" he asked, coming over to her side of the hotel room they were sharing.

The Slayer looked up from the paper with a puzzled look on her face.

"Why do I know the name Telkhines?" she asked, still looking a little on the puzzled side.

Conner looked down to the paper where she was pointing. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged lightly at the smaller girl.

"Ye got me, sis," he responded. "Its not a word I've heard."

Faith looked back at the article and continued to read. Something was bothering her. It was something either Linda or Giles had mentioned at some point in time. She could almost hear Giles comment on the matter.

"Yes, yes, it is." he would say, and go off on some long theory. Linda would have been much more straightforward with her answer, bringing it down somewhat to a level she would have understood.

"We doing anything today?" she asked from the floor.

Conner shook his head and looked over his shoulder to where Murphy lay, snoring away on the bed.

"If sleeping beauty were to ever wake up, I would say we could go scare some more tourists, like we did last week," he grinned.

Faith sighed. She was hoping he had forgotten about that little incident.

"How was I supposed to know they were a bunch of goth Germans on vacation? They talked funny, looked weird, smelled bad, and were dressed like vampires!"

Conner laughed, remembering the look on the tourists' faces when the three of them had appeared from the shadows and accosted them. Faith had been partly right, a vampire had been shadowing them, waiting to get a meal. It had been the last vampire they had seen, in fact.

Conner's look turned serious. He glanced back down at the paper and then at Faith. She too wore a somber expression.

"I take it ye think we should go visit this museum?" he asked.

Faith looked up at Conner and nodded. Something was tickling the back of her mind. She knew she had heard of this before, but she wasn't sure where. With luck, the trip would help.

For a Sunday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art seemed fairly crowded. Faith had never been there before, and she had to wonder, as she glanced at the walls, just what some people where thinking to call some of the items "art."

The trio wandered from room to room, examining things here and there. Every now and then one of them would comment on something one of them liked. Faith was particularly amused with the antics of Conner and Murphy translating things for her as they went.

They passed through a door into the special collections, and Faith felt the air change. Something here wasn't right, something dark was here. The banner above the door read "Treasures of Alexandria." Case upon case filled the room. Each had scrolls, books, and artwork of every nature. Some things looked decidedly un-Egyptian, but had been found in the Alexandrian area. Several of the cards even indicated the items might have come from the Library of Alexandria itself.

What drew Faith's attention the most was the roped-off section near the center of the room. Police tape ran around several of the cases, and all three could see that at least two of the cases had been broken into. Several people were milling inside the tape, looking at items and taking notes.

Conner tried to restrain Faith, but she shrugged off his hand, moving close to the police tape, wearing a look of determined innocence. She stood and watched the men and women move around the crime scene, her mind noting details. With her less then stellar past, Faith could tell this was a professional job. The cuts on the glass and around the security system were precise. Who ever had done this knew what they were doing.

<I wonder if this is the work of that woman Xander met. Amanda?> she thought.

One of the police officers, a portly balding man, noticed Faith watching and moved toward her. Faith caught the motion and turned to look at him.

"You need to step back, kid," the cop said. "This is a crime scene."

Faith let her eyes get wide, and she stepped back a bit.

"Oh, I'm sorry, officer, I didn't realize," said Faith, slipping deep into the accent she had picked up from Conner and Murphy. "I've never seen American police officers at work, except in shows on the telly. I was just looking, I'm sorry."

The cop frowned and turned away from her. Another police officer nearby looked at her with a sympathic look on his face. He had an almost Spanish look to him, and his eyes were warm.

"Lay off the kid, Andy, she's not hurting anything, and she's outside of the tape," he said.

Giving Faith one more look, Andy turned back around and went back to looking at the cases. Faith watched his movements, and watched as he bent down and picked up something from the ground, turning it over in his hands. He frowned as he looked at the object and turned toward the other man, looking up from his squatting position.

"Got any idea what the 'Scrolls of Telkhines' could be, Bobby?" asked the balding cop.

Bobby shrugged and moved to look over his shoulder, reading a tag card from the case. He made a face as he read the card before he shrugged.

"Bag it and let's take it back to the house, maybe we can find out more about it," he said as he stood up.

Faith was already thumbing through the guidebook she had gotten at the information desk. Now she had an idea what section to look in. She flipped to the entry on the special collections.

"The Scrolls of Telkhines," it read, "were found in a cache of items thought to have been secreted away before the burning of the Library at Alexandria. The scrolls appear to have been written in some obscure Greek dialect, and have yet to be translated. Thought to have been sorcerers dealing in dark magics, the authors were said to have been destroyed by Zeus when he cast them beneath the sea."

Faith shook her head as she read this. Missing scrolls written by ancient Greek sorcerers was a bad thing. Who knew what the things said.

<Just judging the feeling of the room,> she thought, <the things aren't good in the least. And now someone else has them.>

October 8th, 1995

The phone ringing was starting to get to him. It had been almost non- stop for the past half hour. Ezra Weckstein looked at the phone in disgust. Surely whoever was on the phone must realize this was the day of rest. Grumbling, the old man walked over and picked up the receiver.

"Yes?" he grumbled.

A young voice chuckled in his ear.

"My, my Ezra, aren't you in a touchy mood today?" said the voice on the other end.

Erza frowned and looked at the receiver. He knew the voice, but he couldn't remember from where.

Gruffly he demanded into the phone, "Who is this?"

The person on the other end chuckled again.

"Forgetting me already? And you told me I reminded you of your granddaughter so much."

Comprehension flooded through Ezra's mind. A smile grew across his face, and he looked back to his study table where he and a young woman had spent several hours researching many weeks ago.

"Hello Faith, still off causing trouble?" the old man asked.

Off in New York City, Faith smiled. She had liked the old man. He reminded her a lot of her grandfather in some ways.

"Of course Ezra, I wouldn't have it any other way," said the Slayer. "I need some information if you have some time."

Ezra sighed and stroked his beard. Glancing at the library around him, he had to wonder how often this was going to happen. Reaching over to his desk, he gathered up a pen and paper.

"What kind of need do you have child?" asked the bookstore owner, settling himself into his chair for a long afternoon. He made a note to call his grandson. It was time to go to work.

New York
October 8th, 1995

Faith closed the cell phone down and rubbed her eyes. Now that she had gotten Ezra to help her look up the information, she just needed to figure out if this was just a regular crime, or if this came into her domain. Standing up she moved over to the window to look out over the city. Night was starting to creep in, almost time for her to start another patrol.

Faith closed her eyes and wondered what it had been like for Slayers long ago, before the hunting grounds had gotten so much larger, and so much harder to patrol. How the gods had expected one single Slayer to protect humanity was beyond her. She sighed and pulled her hair back into a ponytail, twirling it around in her hands as she wrapped it up.

She looked over her shoulder as she heard someone unlocking the door. Conner and Murphy had left earlier in the afternoon to find food and information as well. As the door opened, she could hear their usual banter back and forth. The smell of food followed them in.

"Yer cracked. I'm telling ye," said Murphy, shoving his brother with one hand. He handed Faith a bag and smiled over at the girl. "Conner wants to go back to that club again."

Faith raised her eyebrows and looked at Conner. Conner immediately looked away from the inquiring girl. As he glanced back he noticed Faith had moved into her 'I'm waiting stance'. In typical female fashion, she had her hands on her hips and her foot was tapping.

"Well?" she asked. "What's her name?"

Conner blushed a little, and finally met Faith's look.

"Molly," he said with a shrug. "She's a bartender there, told me to come back tonight and hang out."

"Ok," said Faith with a smile. She picked up her bag with dinner in it and moved over to the table, settling down to eat.

"Ok? Ok? Are ye daft to?" demanded Murphy, throwing his hands up in the air. He frowned a moment, and turned back to look at Faith. "Wait a sec."

Faith put on her innocent look and continued to eat her meal. She didn't make eye contact with Murphy. Murphy walked over and sat down across from the young girl, a smirk forming on his face.

"Faith." He began. "What's his name?"

A quick patrol of the area had once again proven worthless. Every vampire in New York was seemingly missing. In one way, it was a good thing in Faith's mind. There were no deaths, no drained bodies, and no missing children. But in another way, it was worrying. It either meant something big was coming, or they knew she was here, neither prospect appealed much to Faith.

The scroll weighed heavily on Faith's mind as well. Ezra had willingly taken up the challenge of digging up information, but it was going to take time, time which she was afraid they might now have.

A chill wind made Faith pull her coat tighter around her body. Fall was definitely setting in. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see Conner and Murphy trailing behind. Just as they were about to turn toward the club, Faith felt a familiar tingling. Faith slowed and let the two men catch up, her eyes sweeping across the throng of people mulling around.

The twins noticed the change in the Slayers motions and came to complete attention. Having been around Faith for over two months now, they had come to recognize the motions of Faith when she hunted. Something was nearby, and it most likely wasn't friendly.

Faith kept a fake smile on her face and moved her way through the crowds, making her way slowly and surely toward her target. Near the club, she could hear someone arguing, the tones in their voices getting louder and louder. In an alley next to the club, she could see two people fighting. Both were younger than Conner and Murphy, but older than Faith. They both looked to be high school age or such.

<The age I used to look> she groused to herself.

The tingling seemed to be coming from the alley, from one of the two fighting. Settling into the shadows, Faith paused a moment to listen.

"Come on Kate, come back to me. They're just a bunch of geek losers," yelled the guy, waving his arms in the air. Bringing his arms down, he attempted to touch the girl on the shoulders, but she jerked back from him.

From her spot, Faith could see that Kate was pissed at whatever the guy was saying. The girl looked almost elfin, short cut hair and an unusual face helped the appearance. Every time the guy would try to grab at her she would jerk away.

"Please Kate, come back to me," whined the guy.

"Kiss my ass Curtis. They're my friends," said Kate.

"Its that Dade guy isn't it, he's the one that stole you from me," growled Curtis, his face growing dark while his voice grew louder. "Ever since you had that run in with the FBI, you've been hanging around him more and more."

"Fuck you, it's none of your business," yelled Kate back.

Curtis lunged forward, grabbing Kate finally, pinning her back against the wall of the club. His face started to morph, teeth growing longer, eyes turning yellow. Kate tried to scream, but her mind couldn't comprehend what she was seeing.

"If I can't make you love me again one way, I'll make you love me another," growled the vampire, moving to bite the struggling young woman on the neck.

Faith moved instantly, crossing the distance between her and the couple in a matter of milliseconds. Using a kick that would have made and NFL kicker proud, she drew back her leg and let Curtis have it with her full Slayer strength right between the legs, lifting him three feet of the ground.

Conner and Murphy watched in shock and winced as the watched what Faith did. Making mental notes to themselves to never make Faith mad again, the watched in wonder as their sister grabbed the vampire and tossed him away from the girl.

"On a whole, I'm thinking maybe a 8, 8.5," smirked Murphy.

"Are ye daft? Her leg was fully extended, and she cleared him a good 5 feet off the ground. That's at least a 9," replied the other.

Kate fell to the ground, her own eyes wide, as she watched a young girl proceed to decimate her ex-boyfriend. She watched as the smaller girl whipped Curtis around the alley with a series of kicks and punches, before shoving Curtis toward two men standing nearby.

Conner and Murphy saw the vampire coming and realized Faith wanted it alive for the moment. Both men spun as the vampire sailed toward them, grabbing it hard and tossing it into the wall with a bone crushing sound, pinning it there. They both struggled with it as it tried to fight its way free, but two kick punches from Faith settled the struggle.

"Hi," said Faith cheerfully. "We've been looking for guys like you."

Curtis struggled to break free of the grip of the two men, but the young girl punched him every time he struggled. When he finally settled down, the punches stopped.

Kate watched from her spot on the ground on the other side of the alley, not believing what she was seeing. The two men had the monster pinned to the wall, holding it there with all their strength and a young girl stood in front of him, hitting him every time he tried to break free. Kate struggled to stand up, but her legs refused to corporate. Settling back down, she watched things unfold.

"I'll kill all of you!" yelled Curtis as he struggled.

Faith punched him in the face, grinning.

"Somehow I doubt that. But answer some questions, and we'll consider letting you go," she said, the grin never leaving her face.

"Questions?" asked the vampire, confused.

Faith nodded, and reached into her coat, pulling out a stake. She placed it just at the level where Curtis' heart would be.

"And should you chose not to answer them, well, things get a little dusty after that," Faith continued.

The vampire nodded his head rapidly.

"Anything, anything, I'll tell you anything, just let me go," he cried.

Faith reached up and patted him on the head.

"Good boy," she said, her face becoming hard. "Why have all the vampires in New York vanished?"

If Curtis had looked scared before the questions, it would have been said that utter panic crossed his face after the question. His struggles increased, causing Conner and Murphy to tighten their grip.

"Let me go, let me go, he'll kill me if I tell you!" he howled.

Faith kneed him in the stomach, ending the struggle. As the vampire struggled to regain its 'breath', Faith continued the interrogation.

"He's not here, I am," she snarled. "Who is he, and why are all the vampires hiding?"

Curtis began to cry. Blood tears started to roll down his cheeks. Kate gasped as she watched from her spot on the ground.

"Kakistos," Curtis said finally. "He wanted us lying low till he was ready. He's trying to free some demon, so he's got us collecting sacrifices out in other areas so that he won't attract the attention of the Slayer."

Faith looked at Conner and Murphy and grins grew on all their faces.

"Too late," was all she said, pressing the stake into Curtis chest a little deeper.

The vampire struggled, trying to get away again. He kicked out, catching Faith by surprise, knocking her backwards toward Kate. With an explosion of energy, Curtis shoved both the brothers away and lunged toward the alley entrance. Before he could make it to the entrance, Curtis felt something tear into his back. Looking over his shoulder, he could see Faith waving bye as his body fell to dust. He never got to see the stake protruding from his back.

Dusting herself off, Faith stood up. Bending over she helped the woman off the ground before moving onto Conner and Murphy. Conner was laying with his legs up in the air in a pile of garbage bags, while Murphy lay sprawled out at the base of a dumpster. Neither man moved, but Faith could see they were still alive from their breathing.

<Great, they're both unconscious> she mumbled to herself, trying to figure out the logistics of getting them both home. She heard a step behind her and turned to see the girl looking at her.

"What was that!?!" she asked, fear and confusion clearly marked across her face.

"Vampire," was all Faith said as she bent down to pull Conner out of the pile of bags. Throwing the man fireman style across her shoulder, she moved Conner over to a cleaner edge of the alley before gently settling him to the ground.

"Vampire? My ex-boyfriend was a vampire?" asked Kate to no one in particular.

Faith struggled to get Murphy over next to his brother, checking him over for injuries.

"Probably happened recently," said the Slayer. "Got jumped somewhere and they turned him. It wasn't even your ex there you were talking to, but a demon inhabiting his body. You're lucky we were nearby, few more moments and we wouldn't have been able to save you."

Kate watched as the girl check the two men over, looking for injuries. She could tell it was a practiced thing. There was an ease in which the young girl did things. Kate squatted down next to the girl, looking at her with a look that said 'How can I help'. Faith shook her head back and forth, watching as Conner opened his eyes with a groan.

"Cor, what hit me?" he moaned.

"A brick wall," smile Faith.

"So what hit me then?" groaned the pile called Murphy.


Both men moaned and struggled to stand up. With a bit of weaving, both stood upright. After getting their bearings they looked back and forth down the alley, counting the people in it.

"Where'd the bastard go?" asked Murphy.

"Dusted him," sighed Faith. "Didn't have a choice, he was about to escape."

Both men nodded in agreement. They looked over at Kate, their eyes roving over her, checking to see if she was alright.

"Ye alright there lass?" asked Conner. "Ye gonna be OK to get home?"

Kate nodded, her brain still not quite understanding what she saw.

Faith nodded at the woman, sliding an arm around each of the men's waists. With a bit of strength, she aimed the twins toward the entrance of the alley. Looking over her shoulder she jerked her head toward the alley entrance.

"I'm going to get these two out of here; they're done for the night. Do you want me to walk you someplace before we go?" asked Faith.

Kate shook her head.

"I'm meeting some friends in the club, I should be alright with them," she said.

Faith nodded, looking out to the street.

"Taxi!" she yelled, and watched as a yellow cab slowed down in front of her.

"I'll be damned, it worked," Faith grinned.

With a bit of effort, the two women got the men in the car.

"Thank you for saving me. Who are you three?" asked Kate before Faith got into the car.

"Name's Faith, the two lumps in the cab are my brothers, Conner and Murphy," said Faith with a sweep of her hand.

"I'm Kate, Kate Libby. If there is ever anything I can do, you can find me here most evenings. I owe you," said Kate.

Faith nodded.

"Be careful saying things like that, they might come back to haunt you," grinned Faith before she slid into the taxi.

Kate watched the taxi take off into traffic, her mind still reeling from what she had seen. Turning she walked toward Cyberdelia, wonder what the hell she was going to tell the others.

Unknown Location, New York City
October 12th, 1995

Morgan grumbled as he kicked open the door, body draped over his shoulder. Another night, another sacrifice. Never seemed to end. Work, work, work. Kakistos was so demanding. All this effort to summon some dumb demon. Tossing his bundle onto the floor, he heard it groan. A few kicks silenced the mortal. Troublesome things, damn shame they tasted so good.

His package deposited, Morgan locked the door behind him and walked down the darkened hallway. Knocking politely on the door, he waited for an acknowledgement before opening it. Stepping inside, he waited again.

Kakistos turned and looked at one of his chief deputies. He trusted this one about as far as he trusted Trick, which wasn't to say much. Morgan hadn't lost control of a city like Trick had, though, which made him a little more useful at the moment.

"Well?" asked the old vampire.

"We're up to twenty sacrifices. How many more do you want?" asked Morgan as he stood at casual attention. Always better to be polite around your boss.

Kakistos growled and looked over to the other side of the room where another figure sat, looking at some papers on a desk.

"How many more do you need, mage?" asked the vampire.

A moment passed with no response. The figure at the table continued to work, paying no attention to the rest of the room.

With a snarl, Kakistos stormed across the room, spinning the figure in the chair around.

"Who, what?!?" asked the mage in the chair.

"Before I rip your throat out, mortal, how many more sacrifices do you need to summon the demon?" demanded Kakistos.

The mage blinked a few times, and then an evil grin spread across his face. Looking over at the deputy, he smiled.

"As I have told you before, we need twenty-five total - a few extra wouldn't hurt, as some of them will most likely die before the ceremony is completed," explained the mage.

He brushed back a stray hair out of his eye and stood up, stretching the muscles in his back. Wandering over to a shelf, he pulled out an old and worn book. Moving back to the desk, he opened it, turning the pages until he found what he wanted.

"It's a rough translation, but 'Beneath the great city of the west lies the demon Bazul; to awaken him, twice a baker's dozen must be sacrificed at the rising of the new moon, when the war planet and the love planet ride.' well, you get the idea," said the man.

Kakistos frowned. These magic rituals never went right, but if the demon did what it was supposed to, chaos would rule this city. The vampire lord sighed and rubbed his chin.

"When will that be, mage?" he asked gruffly.

The mortal consulted a calendar sitting on the desk. He made a few humming noises and counted on his fingers. After a moment, he returned to stand before the vampires.

"You have three days to finish collecting what we need. After that, we shall rule the world!"

"We?" frowned Kakistos.

"Right, right, so right. You, Kakistos, shall rule the world," replied the mage, a wry grin on his face.

"You would do well to remember that, Ethan Rayne, unless you wish to lose your life," snarled the vampire as he stormed off.

Shrugging, Ethan returned to his desk, to his work. Soon he would have the scrolls he had stolen translated, and then the real fun would begin. Chaos would truly rule.

Brooklyn October 12th, 1995

The predator stalked through the darkness. She had been hunting her prey all night, and she was just about close enough to strike. It too had been waiting, watching the crowds moving back and forth beneath it, waiting for the moment to strike. Faith maneuvered herself into position; with luck the vampire would never even see her coming.

She dropped down silently behind the vampire, and in a moment it was all over. She hoped this one would be able to lead them to where all the victims were being stored. Tossing the body down into a dumpster, she hopped down, dragging the vampire out of the garbage. Within moments a car pulled up next to her and she tossed the vampire into the trunk. She climbed into the car and it roared off into the night, Conner at the wheel and Murphy in the rear.

"Well, that went better than expected," smiled Faith.

"Yeah, better than the running battle you had with the last one, you didn't have to jump over any alleys or be chased by the cops," said Murphy from the backseat.

"I don't want to hear it, Mr. 'Don't worry, I've got him!' " responded Faith.

Conner snorted from the driver's seat, remembering when Murphy had uttered those words, shortly before being driven to the pavement as the vampire literally used him as a springboard to get up and over a fence. The look on Murphy's face had been priceless when Faith had continued pursuit, doing the same thing the vampire had.

The car came to a stop near an old warehouse they had discovered. Abandoned and seldom visited, it was the perfect spot for interrogating a vampire. The three climbed out of the car and pulled their captive out of the trunk. Conner checked his watch and pulled a cloth off several items.

It took a few minutes before their captive awoke. The vampire looked wide-eyed around the warehouse and yanked hard on the restraints they had put on it. Its eyes flicked around the room, searching for its captors. It heard a scraping noise behind it and tried to turn its neck to see.

Faith sat off to the side with a long sword in her lap, sharpening it. The sound of the whetstone scraping up the blade was terrifying. There was no emotion on the young girl's face, just concentration. After a few moments, she looked up at the vampire, and grinned evilly at it.

"Hi, about time you woke up," she said. "You and I are going to have a long talk. Do you have a name, or do I just call you shithead?"

The vampire increased its struggles, trying to rip the chains loose from the floor. Blood ran down its wrists as it pulled, cutting them deep.

"I'd settle down if I were you, your hands won't grow back if you rip them off," grinned the Slayer as she moved closer to the vampire. She sat down just outside the vampire's reach, plopping down on the dirty floor.

The vampire watched her through squinted eyes, its fangs and brow ridges prominent. It struggled for a few more minutes before settling down.

"Would you like something to drink?" asked Faith, holding up a bag of blood and waving it back and forth. "It's only cow, mind you, but I'm sure you're pretty hungry."

The vampire reached out toward the girl, trying in vain to reach the bag.

"Ah, ah, ah, no bag 'til you answer some questions," taunted Faith.

The vampire scowled at the tiny girl before it. It couldn't wait to rip out this child's throat and suck her blood from her body. For the moment though, it knew it would have to play her game. It raised its eyes to the girl and sighed.

"Fine, girl, what questions?" he demanded.

"What's your name?" she asked again.

"Blake," answered the vampire.

"Well, Blake, it goes like this. You answer some questions, you get the bag of blood. You answer a lot of questions, the bag becomes more than your last meal," smiled Faith. "Oh and just to prove my point. Conner?"

There was a snapping thrum in the air and Blake screamed as a crossbow bolt slammed into its shoulder. The scream grew louder as the vampire's flesh began to burn.

"Hurts, don't it?" smirked the Slayer. "Some vampires tried to grab a priest a few weeks ago, and once we saved him, he agreed to bless just about anything we brought to him. That little bad boy in your shoulder is his way of saying hello."

The vampire continued to scream, trying in vain to pull the bolt from its shoulder. Blake never noticed Faith had entered its arm range until she pulled the bolt out. Blood tears streamed down the vampire's face.

Faith settled back down and tossed the bolt off into the darkness around them. She reached into a bag next to her, pulled out a bottle of water and took the cap off, taking a long pull off of it. She watched the vampire as he settled down again before she began again.

"So Blake, next question, where is Kakistos?" she asked.

The vampire's eyes grew wide for just a moment, before it shut down the emotion. The recognition was enough though, Faith knew this one had dealt with the elder vampire.

"Who?" asked Blake, knowing as soon as he did that she didn't believe it. Nothing happened though. It opened his eyes and saw disappointment in the girl's face.

"Shame you blew your only freebie question like that, Blake. You got one attempt at a lie to me, and, well, you just lost it. Things get painful from here on out any time you lie, I thought we had made that clear."

"I've got no clue," wailed the vampire. "I take the people to Morgan, Morgan takes them wherever he's stashing them. That's all I know!"

Faith paused a moment, thinking on the matter. She had no idea who Morgan was.

"Who is Morgan?" she asked. "And where is Trick?"

"Morgan is Kakistos' deputy here in New York. After Trick fucked up and lost Boston, Kakistos decided Morgan could be his second for a while, until Trick proved worthy again," exclaimed Blake.

"So you have no idea where Kakistos is then?" asked the dark Slayer. "Tell me and it will be so much easier, and you get a bite to eat."

"I don't know," it screamed.

The vampire tried to pull on its chains again, hoping to rip them from the floor. It lunged at Faith, trying to get itself free, only to fall in vain at her feet. Faith watched in amusement and shook her head.

"They never learn, do they?" she asked the darkness.

Faith stood up and moved over into the shadows for a moment. A squealing noise filled the air and Faith returned from the black pushing a large wooden box, almost man-sized.

"OK, Blake, I've tried nice. I really have," said Faith with a touch of sadness in her voice. "Shame you're making me do this."

She kicked the vampire hard in the face, stunning it. Two more kicks rendered it unmoving. She unlocked the manacles and with a heavy toss, threw the vampire into the wooden box. Murphy appeared from the darkness and helped her secure the teak box. Chains wrapped around the box would hold the vampire in place.

Faith pushed the box out into the pre-dawn night and rolled it over on the ground, the top of the box facing toward the coming daylight. Then she sat down on the box and began to speak again.

"Oh Blake, wakie, wakie," she yelled as she pounded on top of the box.

The box bucked and buckled but the hard wood didn't give. Conner and Murphy stood nearby, ready to aid the girl, their shotguns at the ready. Conner had the crossbow in his other hand, prepared to toss it to Faith at a moment's notice.

The box finally ceased its movements and Faith began again.

"Here's what's going to happen, Blake, if you don't tell me what I want to know," said Faith with an evil grin on her face.

Faith held her hand out, and Murphy handed her a cordless drill. Faith winked at Murphy and leaned down. Starting it up, she spoke again to the vampire trapped inside the box. From inside the box, Blake watched in puzzlement as Faith drilled a hole into its prison.

"As you can see, I have drilled a hole in this box. What you don't realize is, we've dragged it outside. That hole is facing the east. Now, you can imagine, can't you, the rising sun streaming through that tiny hole, making a beam of light?"

The box began to struggle, and Faith, Conner and Murphy couldn't help but chuckle. After a few minutes, the box settled down again.

"What do you want to know?!? I'll tell you anything!" Blake screamed from inside the box.

"Where is Kakistos?!?" she yelled back.

"Last I heard, he was holed up in some place on 74th Street, some old Chinese dry cleaner or something with some mage. That's where they are hiding 'til the ceremony in a few days. I swear! That's all I know!" wailed the vampire.

Faith looked at the other two with a look that could only be read as "Fuck."

"A mage?" she asked the box.

"Yeah, some chaos mage Trick brought in before Boston went to hell," cried the vampire. "Said he could raise some demon for Kakistos that would tear the city up."

"Fuck," mumbled Faith. "Pack it up, guys, time to leave."

The box began to thrash, the wood creaking, but not giving. As the first rays of sunlight filtered across, the box stopped again.

"Hey, what about me? What do you expect me to do in here?" whined the vampire.

"Frankly, Mr. Blake, we expect you to die," said Faith. "Let's get out of here, Oddjob."

"Ohhh, cheeky, I like that, Faith," said Conner. "You've been waiting to use that Goldfinger reference since you came up with the box idea, haven't you?"

Faith shrugged and opened the door to the car.

"I've got a thing for spy movies, it runs in the family," she grinned, as she settled into the back seat of the car.

Conner turned to face her, concern written on his face.

"So how long are you going to leave him in the box?" he asked, a hint of worry clearly in his voice.

Faith sighed and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She had let her dark side out again. Just like Giles and his Ripper persona, every once in a while she slipped. Deep inside, she wanted to leave the vampire in the box and drive off. But even she wasn't that cruel, not anymore.

"We'll give him a few more minutes to stew, then go plug the hole," she said finally. "He's got a few more questions to answer before all this is done. We still need to know just what we're up against."

Conner nodded.

"And then?" he asked.

Faith sighed again. She hated being in charge sometimes. Command decisions were not her specialty. So in the back of her mind, she asked the one question she could.

<What would Xander or Buffy do?>

She thought hard for a moment.

"And then we stake him and go kick the bad guy's ass."

Suffolk County, New York
October 13th, 1995

The car came to a halt outside the building. Faith stared at it for a while, wondering if she should do this. It was putting a lot of trust in a person, trust she wasn't sure she wanted to place in him.

When she had brought up the idea to Conner and Murphy they had exploded - she'd even picked up a few new curses from their rant. But in the end, they had seen it from her point of view, grudgingly.

Murphy watched Faith in the rear-view mirror. He knew she was worried, probably even more than he and Conner were. The emotions that crossed her face were a myriad. Conner was also watching her, but neither he nor his brother knew what to say that would make it better.

Faith grumbled, opened the door and got out of the car. She turned and looked at both men.

"You two," she sighed, "had better stay out here for the moment. I've got a pretty good idea you're not very popular in there."

They both nodded in agreement and settled in to wait. They knew she'd most likely be safe. And if she wasn't, well, they'd just go in and get her.

She nodded at them and turned and walked into the building, trying to muster all the courage she could.

Jake turned and looked at the door as he heard it open. It was early, and he was surprised people were starting to show up. He had heard a car pull up a while ago, but when no one had come in, he had simply thought he had been hearing things. His eyes grew a little wide as the young girl from nearly a month before slowly walked in.

Her steps were hesitant, as if she were waiting to be attacked. Granted, considering the way she had entered and left the Place last time, he didn't blame her. She seemed to relax as she made eye contact with him and saw no threat in his eyes. Jake motioned at a chair in front of him and simply waited. Timidly, the girl sat down in front of him, a bit of embarrassment written on her face.

"Umm.. Hi," she said.

"Hello again, girl. Here to cause more trouble?" he asked with a touch of humor in his voice.

Faith looked sheepishly at the floor for a moment.

"Yeah, about that, I'm sorry," she began, only be stopped by Jake.

"Kid, weird crap like that happens all the time here. Don't worry about it. The biggest thing we were upset about was your brothers clocking Robert. You were right though, he did understand."

Faith nodded. She looked around the bar for the man in question and frowned when she didn't see him. Jake noticed the movements and smiled.

"He's due any time, Faith," he grinned. "Can I get you something while you wait?"

Faith let out the breath she was holding. She didn't want to be here, but she knew she needed Robert's help. She watched as Jake put a cup of coffee on a converyor belt leading into a machine. He turned and looked at Faith a moment, then adjusted some dials.

The machine sprang to life, and Faith raised an eyebrow. There was hissing, groaning, and for just a moment, Faith considered ducking out of fear of an explosion. After a moment, the cup appeared on the other side, full of something steaming.

Jake picked up the cup and placed it in front of Faith with a bit of flourish. Faith peered at the cup skeptically, and then at Jake.

"Umm, what is that?" she asked hesitantly.

Jake just smiled at her.

"Folks around here call it God's Blessing," he said. "It's an Irish coffee, with a lot less whiskey, to compensate for your age and all."

Faith picked up the cup and smelled it. Her eyes widened as the aroma filled her nose. Slowly she took a sip, relishing the flavor.

"It's perfect," she exclaimed as she took another sip, settling into her chair to wait.

Jake just smiled at her and wiped down the bar.

"You'll want to fetch your brothers in from the cold before they freeze out there," grinned the bartender.

Faith just blushed before she headed out to the car.

She watched from her chair as people slowly filled the bar. It was Friday, and the Place was starting to fill up quickly. Those who had been in the bar the last time all seemed to pause when they saw Faith and the two brothers sitting at the bar. A shake of the head from Jake silenced any opposition they had. Some even came over to check on them.

Doc Webster settled into a chair next to Faith, chatting about nothing in general, helping to relax the girl. Nearly an hour after Faith had entered the bar, the man she had been waiting for came in.

Robert paused at the door, seeing the girl sitting at the bar with Jake standing behind her. Jake's face said it all, she wasn't here for trouble, she had apologized, suck it up and deal.

Placing a grin on his face, Robert moved over to the bar, settling down into the chair that the doctor vacated for him.

"Back to cause more mischief, are you?" the mage said simply as he took a cup from Jake.

Faith looked at the floor and then over at Conner and Murphy before turning back to the older man. She drew a breath and tried to speak, then paused, then tried to speak again, then paused.

"Spit it out, Faith," Robert smiled, "I don't have all night."

She took a breath and decided to go for it.

"Weneedyourhelpthere'samageworkingwithavampirenamedKakistostryingtosum monademon," she rushed out.

"Would you care to try that in a language that I might recognize?" he asked, eyebrow in the air.

Faith blushed, and stared at the floor again. <I cannot believe I just shifted into Willowbabble. I am so kicking Xander's ass.>

"The vampire Kakistos is attempting to summon a demon with the help of some mage. I don't have any support to deal with magic right now. Can you help us?" she said more slowly.

Robert looked long and hard at the girl, considering what she was asking. Long ago he had vowed never to deal with either the Council or a Slayer.

<Not after what happened,> he growled in his mind.

Faith looked on with hope in her eyes. She hadn't wanted to do this, but this was the only option she had found herself left with.

Robert continued to stare at the girl, the motion of the bar lost around him. His mind wandered through what he had discovered since his last encounter with Faith. His few remaining contacts on the Watchers Council had indicated that Travers was actively searching for a rogue Slayer of some sort. The real Slayer was somewhere in Europe, with her Watcher, but this one had appeared in Boston more than a month ago, rooted out a vampire named Trick, and sent him packing.

She had proved herself both capable and dangerous, going against all Council tradition, leading other men and women into combat to deal with a threat. Instead of going into a situation that would have most likely gotten her killed, she had gathered together a group to help her, and they had decimated the vampire population.

<And continued to do so, even with the girl gone. And a child shall lead them,> he mused.

The mage glanced over at the two men sitting beyond her, who were giving him the evil eye. Clearly what had happened with the retrieval team had put them on edge; they had no reason to trust the Watchers, or him for that matter. But they came anyway, trusting their sister to do the right thing.

He shot a look at Jake, wanting his opinion. While he knew Jake wouldn't interject, he knew the bartender was listening. Jake gave an almost undetectable nod in his direction, causing Robert to relax.

Robert sighed and scratched his beard. The Fates seemed to want him back in the fight, and they weren't going to leave him alone until he got back into the thick, it seemed.

"I know I am going to regret saying this," the mage started, "but looks like you've got yourself a mage, girl."

Faith nodded and looked over her shoulder to Conner and Murphy. They in turn nodded to her. She stood up and offered her hand to Robert.

"Faith McManus, at your service," she said.

The mage took her hand and gave it a shake.

"Robert Sinclair, at yours," smiled the man. A serious look crossed his face. "You do realize though, that if we do this, I am going to be taking up the responsibilities as a Watcher as well, for the duration."

"Which means?" asked Faith suspiciously.

Conner and Murphy both tensed and waited.

"Training, education, and you telling me why Travers has such a bug up his ass to bring you to London. Basically, the whole deal," grinned Robert evilly. "If you can piss him off this much, you're worth the trouble."

Faith chuckled, and Conner and Murphy both relaxed. Suddenly Faith frowned, a thought coming to her mind. One she wasn't sure she liked the sound of.

"What do you mean, training?" she asked hesitantly.

15th Precinct, New York

Detective Bobby Simone stared at the wall for a moment before taking the piece of paper off the board. He looked at it long and hard and tried to figure out where he had seen the face before, but he couldn't put a finger on it.

Weaving his way through the chaos of the room, he stopped at his desk and sat down, studying the face on the page.

"What ya got there, Bobby?" asked his partner Andy Sipowicz.

Bobby frowned and handed the piece of paper over to the detective across from him.

"Missing persons report. I've seen her somewhere, but I can't think where," replied Bobby.

Andy studied the page, his mind working. He had seen her somewhere as well. He glanced around his desk at the paperwork he was working on when something caught his eye. The museum robbery notes.

"The girl." he said. "The girl from the museum."

Bobby's eyes got wide as he remembered. He quickly grabbed his notes from the crime scene. Thumbing through the pages, he quickly discovered he didn't have any information.

Andy was paging through his notes as well, but with a huff, he tossed his notes down.

"Nothing," he stated to his partner.

"So what do we do now?" asked Simone.

Andy sighed and looked picked up the phone. He glanced at the information on the page and wondered briefly why there was a FBI contact number on it before dialing it.

"This is Agent Trilby, what have you got for me?" said a voice on the other end.

Suffolk County, New York

As the evening had progressed, the crowd had grown. Robert, Murphy, Conner, and Faith had settled into a seat in the corner to discuss things away from everyone else. Faith sat with her back to the wall, watching the crowd flow in and out.

The piano player (Fast Eddie, she had learned) was playing a lively tune. On several occasions, Jake had come out from behind the bar and joined Eddie on his guitar. All around, people sat talking and drinking. The whole crowd seemed eclectic, but they seemed right.

Robert caught Faith watching the people around the bar and smiled. In some ways, she seemed so innocent, in others so very hardened. He had gotten only a little out of her so far, but he hoped that would change.

"Faith," he asked patiently, "would you like to come back to the conversation?"

Murphy and Conner both chuckled as Faith snapped back from whatever place her mind had been.

"Umm, sorry," she said, embarrassment clearly written on her face.

"It's no problem," said Sinclair. "Are there any other details you have that might help?"

"I can't think of anything else," she said, "though there is something that's been bothering me."

"Which is?" asked the mage, raising his eyebrows.

"Who stole the scrolls and where are they?" she pondered out loud.

"Scrolls?" Robert asked.

Faith reached into her coat and pulled out a scrap of newspaper and handed it over to the older man. Anger started to form on his face and he began to mutter in a language Faith couldn't recognize.

Conner and Murphy did though, their eyes wide as they took in the rant.

"Cor, have you ever heard anyone short of Ma curse like that?" Conner asked his brother.

Murphy only looked on in wonder, taking in all the curses and storing them for later use.

After a few moments Sinclair seemed to calm down. He waved at Jake and lifted his cup in the air. No one spoke, but Jake appeared at the table a few minutes later with four cups and, strangely, four shot glasses.

"Ummm, we didn't order these," said Faith, nervously looking at the glasses.

"They're for a toast later," said Jake with a mysterious smile before he turned and left.

"Toast?" asked Faith as she looked at Robert, curiosity written on her face.

Robert shrugged and continued to look at the paper.

"With these people, who knows what they're toasting," was all he said.

Conner, Murphy, and Faith watched the mage look at the paper for a while, waiting to see which of the three would be the brave one. It was Murphy that finally broke the silence.

"I take it these scrolls are bad?" he asked.

Robert nodded seriously.

"They are more than dangerous, they are something that should never have been rediscovered," said Robert. "More to the point, they should have been destroyed long ago, but weren't, and now we happy few get to save the world."

"That bad then?"

"No, boy, much worse if we don't find them soon," said Robert as he stared down at the clipping. "The Telkhines were said to be black sorcerers, among other things. The scroll was said to contain most of their dark knowledge. It was stored at the Library of Alexandria, in a special collection, there to be protected to ensure they would never fall into the wrong hands. It had been hoped that they had been destroyed when the Library was burned. If someone has the scroll, then they have at their fingertips some evil, evil stuff. Enough to send the world to hell, possibly."

The trio groaned. A two-front war in New York was not what they wanted or needed. Options were short though. Conner caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and looked over in wonder as Faith pulled out her cell phone and a small piece of paper. She looked up at Conner.

"What? Sharpe said to call this guy if we needed help fast. We need help fast," she said, dialing the number before placing the phone to her ear. She waited as the phone rang. Finally, the other side was picked up.

"Yes?" said a cultured British voice on the other end.

"Richard Sharpe told me to call you if I needed help," said Faith into the phone.

"Did he now?" asked the voice. "Where can I meet you to discuss this?"

She quickly gave him directions to the bar, and waited.

"I will be there in a little while. Richard must trust you to have given you this number, which is the only reason why I am even bothering, understand that," said the voice with a bit of a haughty tone to it.

"Can I ask your name?" asked Faith.

"You can call me McCall," said the voice before hanging up.

Suffolk County, New York
October 13th, 1995

The dark Jaguar pulled to a halt outside of the bar and McCall wondered for about the tenth time why he was here. A call to Sharpe had indicated that, yes, he had given someone the number, and that if she had called, she needed help. Sharpe had offered to cover the cost and told McCall to watch over the girl.

<Who is this girl and why is she that special?> he asked himself as he got out of the car. Almost unconsciously he adjusted his shoulder harness as he straightened his trench coat. McCall knew he should have brought Mickey along, but the man was off on an op of his own. McCall had no way to contact him if things got as bad as Sharpe had made it sound and that wasn't good.

Pushing the door open, McCall felt the warmth wash over him as he took in the bar. No one in the crowd looked in his direction as he entered, just moved on about their conversations. He did catch the bartender watching him though. As he made eye contact with the man behind the bar, the bartender simply smiled and pointed in the direction of a table in the back.

The old spy frowned and looked in the direction he bartender had indicated. At a table in the corner sat four people, an older man, two younger men and a young girl. An empty chair sat next to the table as well. The older man at the table nodded in McCall's direction and then nodded at the chair.

McCall walked over to the table and remained standing, looking at all four of them. He could tell they were weighing him as well.

"Have a seat, Mr. McCall," said the older man.

"I take you are Faith, then," McCall said, nodding in Faith's direction. "Sharpe said to tell you hello, and that he lost a bet with Harper. It took you four weeks to call me instead of the three he was betting."

The Slayer nodded with a hint of embarrassment clearly on her face. McCall sat down in the chair, never taking his coat off.

"Lets get this out of the way, I am only here because Sharpe asked me to help you, I am completely retired," said McCall.

"Retired from what?" asked Conner with suspicion clear on his face.

"Sharpe didn't tell you who you would be calling?" asked McCall in puzzlement.

"Nope, only to call you and that you could help," responded Faith.

"Also understand this, Mr. McCall, had I known she was going to call someone, I would have asked her not to without checking you out first," said the mage. "For all that Faith deals with, she sometimes puts trust where it shouldn't be."

"Like in you," muttered Murphy.

Faith looked sheepishly at the floor and elbowed her brother. Murphy winced.

"Easy there lass, no breaking my ribs," grinned Murphy.

"With that out of the way, I'm Robert Sinclair, and this is the McManus trio, Faith, Murphy and Conner," said Sinclair.

"Robert McCall," said the ex-spy.

McCall frowned as a cup of coffee and a shot glass appeared at his elbow. He turned to look over his shoulder and only caught the retreating form of the bartender.

"What's this?" he asked, indicating the cup and shot glass.

"Irish coffee, don't ask me what the shot is for, Jake only said we'd know when it was time," shrugged Faith.

McCall sighed and picked up the cup of coffee, sipping on it.

"Now, what do you need from me?" he asked. "Sharpe wouldn't tell me what you were into, only that you would explain it to me."

<This ought to be fun to watch,> mused Faith as she looked at her new "Watcher."

"Well, Mr. McCall, how much we tell you right now depends on how much faith you're willing to put into us," responded Sinclair. "The fact that Sharpe trusts you gives you some credence, but that doesn't mean dick with me."

McCall frowned at the statement. Something about Sinclair bothered him, and there was an underlying hint of something. In a way, he reminded him of Control. There was that sense of authority that he was giving off.

"Very well," nodded the ex-spy. "I ask of you again, what do you need?"

"Firepower, support, intel, the whole deal," said Conner from his side of the table.

"For what?" asked McCall as he grew more and more puzzled.

"Hostage rescue," replied Faith.

"Hostage rescue?" he asked back, receiving nods from everyone around the table. "Why not go to the police?"

Faith thought for a moment on how to answer the question but before she could answer, Sinclair beat her to it.

"It is not the sort of situation that the police can handle. They are not prepared to deal with the kidnappers on any level."

McCall frowned more and took a sip of his coffee. These people were dancing around something, but he didn't know what.

"Why would the police be unprepared to handle the situation?" asked McCall.

Sinclair looked to Faith, who merely nodded back at him.

"Because, Mr. McCall, the kidnappers are vampires," said the mage.

Wu's Cleaner, New York City
October 13th, 1995

Morgan tossed the last body down and looked around the room. Twenty- nine other people looked back at him with fear in their eyes. They couldn't scream any more, gags had taken care of that. He didn't particularly mind his food screaming, but it was another matter to have it screaming constantly for days on end.

He was tired of these mortals. If Kakistos hadn't told him specifically not to eat them, he would have feasted on a few of them days ago. Running his hands through his greasy dark hair, he turned and closed the door, locking it soundly.

<No point in having them getting away,> he thought as he chained the door shut.

He wandered back down the hallway and knocked on the office door. After receiving a gruff response from the inside, he stepped in. The damn mage in the corner never turned around, focused on whatever it was he was reading. Kakistos looked up from the desk where he was working with Trick.

"Well?" he asked.

Morgan stuck his hands in his pocket and rocked back on his heels.

"That's all of them, boss, we got thirty," said the deputy. "We might have a problem though."

Kakistos frowned and looked at his childe.

"What sort of problem?" the master vampire growled.

Morgan shivered. He hadn't even wanted to tell the boss, but if he didn't and things went south, it was his ass on the line.

"Two of the boys didn't return," Morgan said, wincing as Kakistos snarled at him.

"Two?" he demanded, receiving a nod from his lieutenant.

Kakistos stood and walked around the desk, invading Morgan's space.

"Find out what happened to them," he snarled. "Deal with the situation; we do not need a repeat of what happened in Boston here. We don't have that many people here. If that damned Slayer is in the city, we need to know."

Morgan winced before turning and heading out of the room. He called together two more vampires and sent them out into the city to find out where their missing crew was. Morgan sighed and headed back into his own office, plopping down in his chair, letting out a heavy breath.

<Time to start planning someplace else to be,> he thought. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a bottle of bourbon and took a swig off of it. Shaking his head, he looked over his notes for the coming sacrifice.

Suffolk County
October 13th, 1995

"Vampires?" asked McCall with suspicion written clearly on his face.

All four people at the table smiled back at him and nodded.

"Right. Sharpe put you up to this, didn't he? Some evil prank of his," said the spy as he got up from the chair.

"I told you he wouldn't believe us," said Sinclair, shaking his head.

"They never do," replied Faith.

All four of them stood up and moved around the table, pulling on their coats.

"Follow us, Mr. McCall," said the mage as he climbed up the spiral staircase leading to the roof.

Faith waited for McCall to start up the stairs before following. The cold caught her off guard as she stepped onto the roof. A breeze was blowing in, the leaves rustled, and the moon had gone behind a cloud.

She brushed past McCall, heading over around the air conditioner unit and into the darkness. After a moment, she returned, dragging something with her. As she got closer, McCall could see it was a body, tied and gagged, struggling.

"What is the meaning of this?" McCall asked, a hint of confusion and worry in his voice.

"This is Blake. Blake, meet Mr. McCall. Mr. McCall, meet Blake," said Faith with a bit of a flourish before she dropped the vampire on the roof.

Conner and Murphy moved forward and helped get the vampire up on its feet, holding him upright.

McCall could see a pleading look in the bound man's eyes. Blake wasn't much older than the girl, and he could see bruises on all parts of the man's body.

"Surely you are joking, this isn't a vampire, I don't know." the spy started.

Faith shrugged and reached into the collar of her shirt, pulling out her cross. She walked over and placed it against the vampire's cheek. Blake started to scream, trying to pull away from the cross, his face morphing into the demonic visage.

McCall's eyes widened at the sight, his mind not quite understanding what he was seeing. The vampire struggled, trying in vain to break the brothers's grip and get away from the cross. After a moment Faith pulled the cross away and put it back under her shirt. She reached into her jacket, pulling out a wooden stake.

Blake looked almost relieved when Faith plunged the stake into his chest. As the body fell apart, dust blowing away in the breeze, Faith looked over at the spy.

"Vampire," she said to McCall. With that, she turned and headed back down the stairs, the other three following her, leaving McCall standing on the roof.

Wrapping her hands around her cup, she tried to leech every ounce of heat out of the coffee. She looked up, seeing McCall descending the stairs, confusion written on his face. None of the other patrons looked in his direction as he settled back into his chair.

"You have my help," he said. "I know a few people in the area who will most likely help as well, providing I can contact them."

The door to the bar opened and a roughly dressed man in a camouflage jacket walked in. His reddish hair was a mess, his hands were covered in dirt and grime. The man wandered over to the bar.

"You got a phone I can borrow? My van broke down."

Jake nodded and handed him the phone. The scruffy man looked around the bar before picking up the phone. He caught something in the shadows and peered at it. Putting the phone back on the cradle, he wandered across the bar, confusion on his face.

"McCall?" he asked slowly.

The spy turned around, his hand inside his jacket.

"Mickey?" he asked, looking at the man.

"What the hell are you doing here?" asked Mickey Kostmayer.

McCall looked at the other four at the table, a puzzled look on his face. Faith shrugged and sipped her coffee. At the bar, Jake looked at a small redheaded man sitting on a stool and shook his head.

"What?" asked the Lucky Duck. "It's not like I plan for shit like that to happen."

After the introductions were made and another shot glass and cup of coffee appeared at the table, the planning started.

"You're taking the vampire bit pretty well, Mr. Kostmayer," said Sinclair.

"Yeah, well, I'd love to say I'd never encountered the damn things before, but I'd just be lying to myself," the mercenary said. "A few years back, I ran across some drug lord in the jungle who turned out to be one. Things got a bit messy before I managed to get out of there, I blew the compound up. Bastard killed three guys with me, so I figured I'd return the favor."

Mickey shivered as his mind wandered back to the past. McCall nodded, remembering when the man had come back from the mission, one of many that the mercenary refused to talk about.

"We're going to need plans of that building," said Mickey, "among other things."

McCall nodded in agreement, trying to decide the best way to get them.

Faith sat back and watched as Sinclair, McCall, and Mickey discussed things back and forth. A wry smile crossed her face. She'd let them think they were in charge, til it was time for her to get down to business.

Time passed and there wasn't much more that could be done in the bar, so the group decided to pack it up for the night. Sinclair stood and picked up his shot glass. The others frowned and watched the mage move over to stand before the fireplace, his toes on a chalk line drawn on the floor.

Everyone else in the bar had stopped what they were doing as well, watching the man before the fireplace. Holding his glass high before him, he began his toast.

"May God stand between us and harm in all the dark places we must walk."

He drank his shot in one quick motion, drawing back his arm and hurling the glass into the fireplace. Faith watched as everyone else finished their drinks and tossed their glasses into the fire as well. She shrugged and finished off her glass, tossing it into the fire with the others.

No one noticed the figure in the corner toss his own glass into the fire.

<No truer toast could have been said,> smiled Simon as he watched them leave the bar.

McCall's Apartment
New York
October 14th, 1995

"Fuck!" screamed Mickey as he tossed down the phone.

The other five people in the room looked over at the man, curiosity written on each face. The smaller redhead continued to rant in a corner for a moment before picking up the phone and dialing again. Everyone continued to watch and wait.

"Fuck!" he screamed again before picking up and dialing a third time. Everyone continued to watch, smirks and grins forming all round.

"Fuck!" he yelled, banging the phone on the table before storming away from the phone and toward the group.

"Problem, Mickey?" asked McCall, trying hard not to chuckle.

Mickey fumed a moment, staring at all of them, daring them to laugh.

"WE got a problem," he began, causing everyone to get serious again. "Seems the Mayor finally decided to move the clerk's office into the 20th century. They started with the blueprints. They're all on computer now."

"So call one of." began McCall.

"I did, I even tried Kermit," he groused. "They're all up to their necks right now."

McCall thought long and hard. They needed the blueprints. Scratching his head, he wondered if Control might be able to help him, but if Kermit was busy, most likely he was too.

"What exactly is it yer lookin' for?" asked Conner.

"We need someone to break into the city's computer network and steal the blueprints," said Mickey, a disgusted tone in his voice. "I can pull together a hundred men to attack a country, but when I need one fucking hacker, I can't find one."

A grin spread across Faith's face, and continued across to Murphy's, and then Conner's.

"What the hell are you three smiling at?" said Sinclair from his perch on the arm of the couch.

"We might be able to help ye there, if she's thinkin' what I think she is," smirked Murphy.

"But you three aren't going to be able to go with us," said Faith with an innocent look on her face.

All three men narrowed their eyes and looked at the young people on the couch.

"And just why is that?" asked McCall with his clipped British accent.

"Duh, cause you're old," snickered Faith.

"Oh really?" said Sinclair with an evil grin on his face.

Washington, D.C.
October 14th, 1995

For Spencer Trilby, the week just seemed like it wasn't improving. Hell, the past few months hadn't been good in general. First, his premiere team had gone missing, reportedly captured. Then to top matters off, the daughter of the missing team had also vanished.

Trilby stared at the notes in front of him, reading them over and over again. What on earth was Dana doing in New York City of all places? The police officers had reported that they had spotted Dana along with two other men.

<Are they taking advantage of her?> he wondered idly. <If they are, Harry won't be able to find the pieces of them when he gets out of wherever he's being held, I'll see to it personally.>

Growling, he pounded on the keyboard, trying to see what sort of men he could move into New York to look for the girl. His eyes wandered down the list of agents, associates, and other people in the area.

"Hrmmm," he said to himself, as he looked at a name on the screen. "I wonder."

New York City

Creager stared at the newspaper, trying in vain to ignore the phone ringing on his dresser. He knew it had to be Travers. The man had called him almost as soon as he had checked into the hotel, wanting to know if he had heard anything.

One of the other men glanced at the phone and looked up at Creager.

"He can bloody well wait, we're out," he grumbled.

The man shrugged and went back to eating his breakfast.

"What do you think our chances of finding this kid are?" asked another man.

Creager shrugged. They hadn't heard a thing in the two days they had been in town, so odds were good she had already skipped town, if she had even been in the bloody place. Sighing, Creager turned the page and read about the latest kidnapping in the area.

<Bloody Yanks,> he thought as he continued with the paper and ate his breakfast.

New York City
October 14th, 1995

Faith smiled and nodded at a few people she recognized as she moved through the club. Even with the smiles, she bore a serious look on her face, a searching look. Her eyes flicked around the room, glancing from face to face, searching for the person she hoped to find. Behind her, three shadows followed along, dancing around couples and groups as they flowed through the room behind Faith.

"I can't fuckin' believe ye can change yer face like that," said Murphy to a much younger-looking Sinclair.

The mage merely shrugged. He had already spent thirty minutes trying to explain Glamour to the two Irishmen, with little luck.

"I told you, Murph, it's a kind of magic," winked Sinclair as he breezed past another couple.

Murphy stared at the mage's back before shaking his head and following the others. Faith stopped finally and smiled, her eyes peering into a dark corner of the club. One of the teens at the table caught her looking in their direction.

"Dude, dudedudedude," said one, pointing toward Faith, only to be stopped by a swat to the back of his head. "Ow! What the hell was that for?"

"I told you I was going to slap the shit out of you, Joey," said Ray Sanchez. "Now what the hell are you pointing at?"

"Isn't she a little young for you?" asked Dade Murphy, looking to where Joey had pointed. "Besides, I think the three guys with her are going to rip your arms off if you keep looking at her like that."

Kate glanced over her shoulder to see what the guys were bantering about, only to have all the blood drain from her face. For the past few days, she had been trying hard to convince herself it was all a dream, and now, confronted with her savior, she knew, it wasn't.

"Shit," she said accidentally out loud, causing the others to look in her direction.

"You alright, Kate?" asked Dade.

"Ummm, no, not really. Look guys, wait here a sec, I'll be right back," she said, pushing away from the table.

Dade and the other three at the table frowned but didn't move, their eyes tracking Kate's movements.

"They don't look like feds, so who the hell are they?" Paul asked no one in particular.

Faith saw Kate approaching and smiled in the woman's direction. She motioned to an empty table and sat down. Murphy, Conner, and Sinclair took up positions around her and waited for Kate to sit down.

"I see you're adding to your collection," said Kate with a grin, nodding in Robert's direction.

"Yeah, I got two more on the side as well, but they just didn't fit in real well in here," said the Slayer with an equal grin. Her face grew serious. "You alright?"

Kate thought for a moment, and slowly nodded.

"Nothing a few years of therapy won't cure," she said with a shudder. "It's been nightmares, mostly."

Kate noticed the other four all nod in understanding. A quick glance into each of their eyes showed the same haunted look she herself had when she woke up from the nightmares. Shivering for a moment, the hacker brought herself back to the present.

"What can I do for you? I know I promised to help any way I could, but I didn't expect it to be this soon," said Kate with a wry smile. She frowned a moment when she saw the other four harden up, no hint of joking left.

"When you had your run-in with Curtis, he said you had some geek friends, and judging by this place, I am going to assume that they are computer-geek friends," remarked the Slayer. "I have had several like that, and I find myself in need of one with some very extensive computer knowledge."

Kate's frown deepened. In the back of her mind, all sorts of warning lights went off. The vampire had been a very real thing, but she had to wonder if these people were Feds, trying to trap her and the others again. They were all already on probation, once more and they'd all be back in jail.

"Why?" was all Kate could ask.

Faith looked at Sinclair, who merely nodded to his young ward. Even without a spell, Sinclair could see the fear and trepidation in the girl in front of them.

"I'll be frank, Kate," said the mage. "We need a hacker; lives really do depend on it."

Kate blinked.

"Pardon, what makes you think I might know a hacker?" asked the girl.

Sinclair sighed and shook his head, reaching into his coat. He pulled out a piece of paper out of his pocket and laid it down on the table in front of the girl.

"Hackers Save World From Oil Disaster," read the New York Times headline, with her picture beneath it.

"No reason in particular," said the mage with an evil grin.

McCall's Apartment
October 14th 1995

Laughter filled the hallway outside the door to the apartment, causing McCall to open the door in confusion. His frowned deepened as he saw five teens, Murphy, Conner, Sinclair and Faith all talking and bantering.

"Dare I ask?" was all the ex-spy asked.

"We got who we were after and then some. We should be able to get the files in about an hour," said Faith with a big grin on her face.

"Oh great, it's Shaggy and the Scooby gang from hell," said Mickey from his spot on the couch. Weapons and cleaning kits sat all around the mercenary.

All the teens stopped and looked at Mickey and his collection.

"What the hell are you getting us into, Kate?!?" asked Paul, aka Lord Nikon.

Kate stopped and looked over her shoulder at the others, trying to judge what to say.

"I'm sure you have read about the recent kidnappings?" asked Sinclair as he settled down onto the couch next to Mickey. He picked up a handgun and started cleaning it as he waited for one of the teens to respond.

"Yeah, man, all over the city people been going poof for no reason," said Emmanuel Goldstein, aka Cereal Killer. "What's that got to do with the whacked arsenal?"

Conner chimed in as he sat down to help Mickey as well. "A few days ago, the same people tried to grab Kate there. We persuaded them not to."

Kate blushed and looked at the floor.

"And you were going to tell us when?" asked Dade, concern in his voice.

"It was no big thing," Kate tried to say, only to be cut off.

"No big thing! No big thing!?!" cried Dade.

"Easy there big fella, the lass is alright," said Conner from his spot. "Hell, if anyone got roughed up, it was me and Murph. Ain't that right, Murph?"

"And the brick wall and the dumpster!" said Faith as she walked back in from the kitchen, carrying drinks.

"We'll continue this later," growled Dade. "What do you need from us?"

McCall wandered over to a table and pointed at spot on the map of the city. Faith and the other five teens huddled around the table.

"We need the blueprints to this building right here. They recently moved all the blueprints for this part of town onto the city's computer network."

"Is that it?" asked Ray Sanchez, aka The Phreak. "That's, like, what? Five minutes worth of work?"

McCall nodded.

"Under normal circumstances, we would have had other available hackers to handle this situation, but they are otherwise occupied," said McCall.

"Other hackers? Like who?" grinned Nikon.

"Kermit," said Mickey from the couch.

"You know the Frog?" asked Cereal, his eyes wide.

"We've worked with him before from time to time," said McCall.

Respect formed in each of the teens' eyes.

"You guys are like, what? Spies?" asked Joey.

Sinclair shook his head and chuckled. Mickey actually let out a laugh and was joined by Conner and Murphy. Faith just shrugged.

"Think of us as concerned citizens for the moment," said Sinclair. "We need those files as fast as you can get them."

"Well guys, time to go to work," said Kate as she settled down at the table and pulled out her laptop.

Faith wandered over to the table, watching each of the teens' fingers dance around the keyboards. It was like watching five Willows, all working in sync. They seldom spoke, and when they did, it was in the same kind of babble she had heard Willow use many times.

<Come to think of it, it's a lot like the babble Sinclair uses sometimes when he's casting spells,> she thought.

"Got it," said Phreak.

The adults in the room wandered over and looked over his shoulder at the building plans.

"Is it me, or is that place built like a fort?" asked Murphy as he peered at the screen.

"We're so fucked," said Mickey, a scowl on his face. "The vamps sure know how to. Oh, fuck."

"Vamps?" asked Nikon.

"Vampires?" asked Cereal.

Faith reached over and smacked Mickey on the back of the head.


"Looks like you got some more explaining to do." said Nikon.

Somewhere in New York

The ringing phone was driving him nuts. With a sigh, he pulled himself out of bed, stormed over and answered the phone.

"What!?!" he yelled into the phone.

"Is that any way to answer the phone?" asked Spencer Trilby.

"It is when you call over and over again for ten minutes. What do you want, Trilby?" he said.

"I'm calling in a favor," said the voice on the phone.

"You're joking, right? Spencer Trilby is calling in a favor?" the man said.

"Dutch's daughter has gone missing and is in your area somewhere. Find her and bring her home," said Trilby.

The man thought about it long and hard, remembering the times long ago when he had worked with Dutch.

"You're not calling in a favor, Trilby, I'll find her. It's the least I can do for him," said the man.

"Good luck," said Trilby as he hung up the phone.

Sighing, the man sat back down on the bed and began to think.

McCall's Apartment

"And that's the whole deal," finished Sinclair.

"Cool, man!" said Cereal. "This is so wicked."

The other four teens bore a look of worry and fear. Each was lost in thought.

"So the six of you are gonna go in and take these things out?" ask Joey.

"We've got a few other people going in with us, but yeah," said Mickey. "I've got a couple of old mercenary friends watching over the building right now. Now that we have the plans, we can figure out a way to move in and take these bastards out."

"You guys are fucking nuts," said Kate.

"Madre de Dios," said Phreak.

"It's a job, and somebody's got to do it," said the Slayer. "We volunteered for it."

All five teens looked at each other, silently talking it out, their faces transmitting what each was thinking. Cereal got a funny look on his face, wandered over to his laptop and started typing.

"Rock on!" he said after a few minutes. "I knew I'd seen it somewhere, I thought it was bogus until now."

"What's that, kid?" asked Sinclair from his spot on the couch.

"Vamp-killing rounds. Some guy posted it to the Internet last month," said Cereal, pointing at his screen.

"What!?!" asked Faith. The Slayer jumped over Conner and Murphy and stared at the screen long and hard. Conner and Murphy watched the blood drain out of their sister's face.

"Lass, what is it?" asked Murphy.

Faith looked up at the twins, her eyes wide.

"I've seen this recipe before, but. but it shouldn't exist yet," stammered Faith.

Conner and Murphy looked at each other and then back to Faith, raising their eyebrows.

"Someone want to give me the Cliffs notes, cause I just missed a whole chapter here, I think," said Mickey.

"I can't go into it, but this shouldn't exist. I couldn't remember how it worked, but I know the guy who originally thought this up," said Faith as she stared at the screen.

Sinclair narrowed his eyes at his Slayer. They had much more to talk about later, it seemed.

McCall looked over the girl's shoulder and read the screen.

"We don't have enough time to put those together for this operation, but they will help later," the ex-spy mused.

Faith nodded and continued to look at the screen.

"Any way you can trace that back to where it came from?" she asked.

The five hackers nodded, settling back down in front of their computers.

"Anything else you need?" asked Kate.

"One more thing," said the Slayer with a grin. "You'll like this one."

October 14th 1995
Watcher Headquarters

"Mr. Travers, I hate to disturb you, but there is a police inspector here to see you," said an aide.

"A police inspector?" asked Travers, looking up from the report he was working on.

A white-haired man pushed past the aide and looked at Travers.

"Are you Quentin Travers?" he asked.

"What is the meaning of this?" bellowed Travers.

"My name is Inspector Morse. We have received a report that you are dealing in child pornography, among a few other things. I need you to answer some questions," said the detective.

"Child pornography?!? Seriously, this must be some sort of joke," said Travers, trying to calm himself down.

"I assure you, this is no joke," said the detective. "We received a report from America from their FBI, and Agent S. Layer, indicating you and several others were trafficking in child pornography. I am going to need you to come down to the Yard with me and answer some questions."

"Agent S. Layer? S. Layer?" said Travers, his eyes growing wide.

<It's got to be that girl!> his mind screamed. <I will get even with her yet!>

New York City
Old Warehouse
October 15th, 1995

"Are we set?" asked Mickey as he stuffed the last AK-47 into the duffel bag. The dozen mercenaries around the room nodded, each understanding his role in the upcoming battle. Even if it hadn't been vampires, the men would have gladly gone on this operation. Lives were at risk.

"You four set?" he asked again, looking at Conner, Murphy, Sinclair, and Faith.

Faith smiled and put the stake she was playing with away. She stood up and cracked her neck.

"As ready as we can be," she said, adjusting her shoulder rig. She hated wearing the thing, it altered her balance, but the backup weapon always helped.

The three men nodded as well. Each had armed up earlier, shotguns, handguns, and for some reason, in Sinclair's case, a basket-hilt claymore.

McCall walked in, his trench coat floating behind him. He nodded to all the men standing around the room.

"Are the spotters in place?" he asked.

Mickey sighed and flipped on his headset.

"Spotter One, report," he said into the microphone.

"Spotter One, in place," said a voice back.

"Spotter Two, report," Mickey said again.

"Spotter Two, in place," said a female voice.

"Spotter Three, report," Mickey said again.

"Dude, this is like, so Ian Fleming," said another voice back.

Mickey sighed and looked over at McCall.

"Do we?" he started to ask, only to be cut off by Faith.

"They wanted to help - this way, they're out of harm's way," she shrugged.

Mickey shook his head and grumbled for a moment, praying to whatever gods or angels were listening to watch over them, the fools that they were. Finally after a moment he looked up, his emotions back in control.

"Spotter Three, are you in position?" he asked into the microphone.

"Spotter Three in place, boss type dude," said Cereal.

"Spotter Four, report," said Mickey.

"Spotter Four, in position," said Nikon.

"Spotter Five, are you ready to be mobile?" asked Mickey.

"Spotter Five, ready to roll," said Dade from his position, his skates already on.

Glancing around the room, he looked hard at everyone. Every person wore a hard face, there was nothing left to say, nothing left to do, just a job to do.

"It's time to go to work, people," said Faith, picking up her bag off the floor and heading for a car.

New York City
Wu's Cleaners
October 15th, 1995

Carlos sighed. He was bored. He had been left to watch the shop while Kakistos and the others left to do some stupid ceremony. They hadn't even left him a snack, taking all the mortals with them.

Idly he walked down the corridor toward the front of the store.

<With a little luck,> he thought, <I might find a bum sleeping in the doorway or something.>

His musing was cut short as he heard a loud boom. Carlos looked up toward the front door, only to notice something. For some unknown reason, the front door was rushing toward him at a high rate of speed. His body was blown back down the hallway as the door smashed into him.

His face started to morph, demonic anger fueling his rage. With a shove he tossed the door off him and stormed through the smoke toward the front of the store, only to be stopped short.

In the door stood a small girl wearing an evil smile, a stake in one hand and a short sword in the other.

"Avon calling!" she said as she stepped through the door.

Carlos snarled and lurched toward the girl, his fangs ready to rend her to pieces. It took him a moment to register the pain that slowly enveloped his body. His body spun around and idly Carlos wondered what was going on -then he heard the thundering noise of machine guns, lots of them.

<What the fuck?!?> he thought as his body dropped to the floor, literally holed to pieces from gunfire. Struggling, he looked out the door, only to see men entering, machine guns sweeping back and forth. His vision was suddenly filled by the small girl.

"Hi there! Hurts, don't it?" she said with an almost feral look on her face. "Where is Kakistos?"

Carlos smiled at the little girl.

"Fuck you, bitch. Kakistos will soon rule this city, then the world!" he spat out.

Faith shrugged and looked sadly at the vampire.

"Maybe, but he's got to go through me first," she said as she drove the stake home, dusting the vampire.

She looked up, hearing gunfire here and there in the building, followed by shouts.

"Clear!" said a voice.

"Clear!" said another.

"What the fuck? This place is empty!" shouted Mickey.

Faith thought for a moment and realized she didn't feel any vampires nearby.

"I's clear!" she shouted, moving rapidly through the building. She stopped as she reached a large room with a desk and books.

Sinclair looked up from a table, some papers in his hand.

"They were here, but they've gone elsewhere. I'm not sure where though," he said as he read through the pages. "I know this handwriting too, but I can't remember where."

"Search this place, top to bottom, but do it fast!" shouted Faith. "We got about five minutes before we need to split. Move, people!"

Men scattered, tearing through rooms, grabbing things that looked like they might contain information.

"All spotters report, any of you see anything unusual?" yelled Mickey into his microphone.

"About the only odd thing we've seen in the last twenty minutes was a moving van come out of an alley about half a block down from the laundry," said Kate.

"Fuck!" Mickey yelled.

"I've been trailing it," said Dade. "I'm about a block behind it, looks like it's headed into traffic, that's slowing it down.

"Spotter Five, you stay safe and out of sight, you got that!" yelled Mickey.

Mickey looked over at Faith, who nodded. He glanced up as several men brought papers and computer disks in.

"We found where the prisoners were being held. There are a few bodies back there," said one of the men with a touch of sadness in his voice.

"Fuck," said Mickey.

"Mickey, it's time," said McCall from the door.

"You heard the man, people, everyone out, regroup at secondary site," he yelled. "All spotters except five, report to secondary as well, we've got disks, so we'll need you as well."

"You want to start moving soon, dudes, sirens are in the air," said Cereal.

People moved out of the building like clockwork, vanishing into the night as quickly as they had come. The street was silent, but only for a moment, as cop car after cop car pulled down the street.

Officers slowly got out of their cars, weapons drawn. A tactical van pulled to a halt, and armored officers in black poured out, their weapons sweeping back and forth. With slow and methodical steps, they entered the cleaners. Minutes passed for the officers on the street before the all-clear was given.

"Someone is going to want to call homicide, we've got bodies," said a voice on the radio. "Otherwise this place is clear."

"What the fuck is going on here, Sully?" asked a female officer.

Fred Sullivan took off his hat and looked up at the building, scratching his head.

"Damned if I know," he replied.

"How are you and that new partner of yours, Bosco, doing?" he asked her.

"Fool was ready to rush right in there, almost had to handcuff him to the wheel," she said with a grin.

Sully shook his head and looked at Yokas.

"Uncuff him and let's get the interviews started," he said, moving toward the gathering crowd.

The group reassembled shortly in a parking garage three blocks away. Quickly they poured into their vehicles and calmly drove away.

"So where in the fuck are they heading?" asked Conner as he drove behind the van containing the mercenaries.

"According to these notes, they need to go to a specific site to summon this demon," said Sinclair, his nose buried deep in the papers he had recovered. "Whoever wrote these, though, was either pulling Kakistos' leg, or is just a poor translator."

"What do you mean?" said Faith as she looked over the seat into the back where Sinclair and Murphy sat.

"Well, this part right here is completely wrong, New York is not the Great City of the West, it's referring to something else completely," he said, pointing at a spot on the notes.

"Any clue as to where they are going though?" asked Conner as he drove behind the van.

"I'm a mage, not a miracle worker, give me a minute," growled Sinclair, still thumbing through the notes.

"This is Spotter Five, looks like the moving van is headed toward." said Dade over the radio.

"Central Park," said Sinclair and Dade at the same time.

Faith frowned and looked at her new Watcher.

"How'd you know?" she asked.

"Duh." He said holding up a map with a big red circle around it. "I really have to wonder who is pulling whose leg in this deal."

Wu's Dry Cleaner

"What have we got, Bobby?" asked Andy as he entered the building.

"You got me, Andy," said Bobby Simone. "So why'd we get the call?"

Andy Sipowicz looked at his partner and the room. Bullet holes riddled the front part of the store, and the door was nearly fifteen feet into the building, blown literally off its hinges.

"We're part of the kidnapping task force aren't we?" said the older cop.

Simone nodded and followed Andy deeper into the building, the older cop moving past the other investigators. He opened a door with several different types of locks and restraints on it and pointed. There in the back of the room sat the bodies of three people, tied and gagged. Their eyes were vacant, their souls having already left their mortal coils behind.

"Three of our missing people," said Andy with a scowl on his face.

"So where are the rest?" asked Simone.

"That's what we gotta find out. That and who hit this place," said Sipowicz as he turned and left the wooden tomb.

Central Park
New York City
October 15th, 1995

Faith looked at her watch for a third time. She knew time was running out, but still they argued about how to do this. Dade had radioed in nearly twenty minutes ago, reporting where the ceremony was going to take place, yet they were trying to figure out strategy. Dade had also reported that there were only ten vampires, and one guy dressed in a stupid-looking robe.

<Ten,> she growled. < I can take ten on my own, why in the fuck are we waiting?>

She glanced around the group, seeing if anyone was watching her. Kate and her friends were still working on the disks and computers recovered from the cleaners. Mickey, McCall, Conner, Murphy and Sinclair all had their faces buried in a map of the park. The other mercenaries were reloading and cleaning their weapons.

She smiled a grin and slipped into the woods without a sound. Lives were at stake, and the Slayer couldn't wait any longer.

Simon watched from the shadows and shook his head.

<The girl takes boundless steps forward, and then does something like this,> he sighed. <I guess that's why I'm stuck with her. Metatron gets the easy one.>

Detective Odafin Tutuola walked into the 15th Precinct and let his eyes wander the squad room, looking around. He frowned as he noticed that several of the desks in the bullpen were empty.

"Can I help you?" asked a voice behind him.

The detective turned and looked at the man who had spoken to him.

"Pardon?" asked Odafin.

"Can I help you?" said the man.

"I am Detective Tutuola, I am looking for Detectives Simone or Sipowicz, concerning a matter," said the large black man.

"I'm John Irvin, the aide around here. They are presently out on a case, if you would like, I can leave them a message," said the man.

"Nah, I'll just catch them some other time," said Tutuola. "Mind if I ask which case they are working on?"

John narrowed his eyes at the detective. It was rude to ask about other detectives' cases in his mind.

"No, you may not," said the aide.

"Its cool, man, just asking. I'll check back later," said the detective.

Tutuola moved quietly out of the bullpen, heading down to the first floor, wondering where next to look.

<Dutch, if it was anyone but you,> he thought to himself as he headed out into the street to continue his hunt.

Central Park

Sinclair glanced up from the map and around the group. He narrowed his eyes and looked around a bit harder.

"Conner, where's your sister?" he asked slowly, afraid that he already knew the answer.

"She's right over. fuck," he said, realizing Faith wasn't where he last saw her.

Conner and Murphy both whirled, looking around their quickly-made command post.

Everyone looked up, curious looks on their faces.

Sinclair looked around more, casting his senses out, knowing completely well that even with all the magic he had, he'd never be able to detect the Slayer.

"Has anyone seen Faith?" asked Conner, a bit of panic in his eyes.

"Conner, ye don't think?" asked Murphy.

Conner frowned and looked flatly at Murphy. He reached past his brother and picked up the shotgun lying on the hood of the car, never saying a word.

"Right," said Murphy, nodding mournfully, picking up his own shotgun.

Sinclair shook his head and gathered up his own weapons. Mickey growled and folded up his map. McCall just sighed and gathered the other men up.

"You five need to stay here. This isn't saying you're not a help, you just don't know how to fight these things yet," said the mage.

Conner walked over and looked at the five.

"I know ye want to go, but trust us on this," he said, reaching into his pocket. "If we're not back in, say, two hours or so, I need ye to call this number. Tell 'em New York went south, and they'll need to clean it up."

"Whose number is this?" Kate asked, looking at the paper.

He grinned and moved to join the crowd. As he did, he glanced over his shoulder and winked at Kate.

"Just a bunch more Micks who know how to have a good time," he said and vanished into the trees.

"Do we follow them?" asked Phreak as he watched the men disappear into the woods.

"Not yet," said Kate. "We'll give them a bit, then we'll follow. Joey, you'll stay here and make the call if we don't come back."

"Why me?" stammered the youngest of the group.

"Cause you don't know your left foot from your right on a good day," grinned Nikon.

Central Park

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," grumbled Faith to herself.

She had almost managed to make it to the sacrifice site when they had grabbed her. She hadn't even heard the two guys in robes sneak up on her before they had grabbed her. She had tried to fight them, but a quick blow to the head had ended her struggles.

As she came to, she realized she was tied up. Straining to sit up, she ignored the pounding headache she had. A portly-looking man who was tied up beside her watched her struggle up, and grinned.

"Welcome back, kid," he said. "I figured you'd never wake up before they did whatever it was they were planning."

"Hard head," she grumbled.

"You got a name, kid?" asked the man.

"Yeah, Faith," she said as she tested her bonds. They might break if she worked hard enough, but it was going to take a bit for her to get her head screwed on right. The world still seemed a little blurry.

"Pleased to meet you, Faith, I'm Tony. I'd shake your hand, but well." He shrugged, wiggling his fingers helplessly where they were bound behind his back.

She nodded and looked around. Scared faces looked back at her, some were gagged, some cried quietly. Several people appeared to be unconscious. Most looked beaten, worn out, and near death to begin with. She struggled to turn herself around and saw her captors in the distance.

"Kakistos," she said in a low voice upon seeing the elder vampire.

The ugly beast stood talking to a man in robes, his face obscured by the cowl. She could see and feel several more vampires around her, more than they had anticipated.

<They must have come through the sewers or something,> she thought.

Straining her ears, she forced herself to try to listen, working to drown out the crying behind her.

"How long, mage? How long til the demon can be summoned?" demanded Kakistos.

The mage peered up into the sky and looked for a moment.

"Not long now, now long at all," he grinned. "The stars are almost in place. We should be able to begin the sacrifices soon."

"Good, mage, I hate waiting," said the vampire before turning and walking away.

Faith could see many of the vampires from her position, and she glanced around slowly, looking for Trick to see if he was nearby. As she glanced around, her eyes made contact with the black vampire, and her face drained.

<FUCK,> she thought.

"Well, well, what have we here," he said as he walked toward the group of bound victims. "Do my eyes deceive me, or have we managed to capture the Slayer herself?"

"What?" said Kakistos as he stormed across the grove. "Are you certain, Trick?"

"This is the girl that ruined the Boston project," he snarled. "I'm certain."

"Where are all your allies, girl?" demanded the vampire lord. "Tell me, or I'll break your neck here and now."

"Why don't you fuckin' leave the girl alone," yelled Tony. "Pick on someone your own size, you goddamn circus freak!"

Kakistos chuckled, then began to laugh.

"Mortals are always so spirited right before they die. Have you noticed that, Trick?" asked Kakistos. "Rayne, how will the blood of a Slayer affect your spell?"

"Should make the summoning go even faster," said the chaos mage.

"Good. Start with the girl, and start soon. Morgan, send out some of the men. I imagine we have visitors in the woods."

All was silent in the woods as Morgan and six vampires began to scout. They crept through the woods, their yellow eyes peering into the darkness.

"Are you sure there are hunters out here?" asked one of the vampires.

"Shut up and keep your eyes open," growled Morgan in a low voice. "If that's the same girl, she's got a whole fucking army at her back according to Trick."

He stumbled across a branch and fell down. Growling, he stumbled up, trying to regain his footing. As he brought his head up, he noticed boots, followed by legs and a torso, and then a grinning face of a mortal. A mortal holding a crossbow.

<Fuck, I knew I should have taken a vacation,> were Morgan's last thoughts as the crossbow bolt entered his chest and his body began to dust.

It happened in a moment. All seven vampires fell without a sound as the hunters sprang from their concealment. Swords, crossbow bolts, and other silent weapons struck out, bringing the vampires down.

The hunters glanced around, checking to make sure none had escaped the attack. The mercenaries flicked hand signals around, indicating their intentions before vanishing into the woods.

"What now?" asked Conner in a whisper.

"Move in that direction toward the site," said Mickey, pointing. "McCall and I will be swinging in that way. The others know where they are going."

"And I get to kill the girl, right?" asked Sinclair with a grumble and a grin.

"She's all yours," grinned Mickey.

The three men moved off into the trees, trying their best to minimize the noise. They were almost to the edge of the clearing when a scream pierced the night.

"Faith," all three said in unison, before moving their way into the clearing.

Faith continued to work on her bonds, straining them ever so slowly, waiting till she was in a spot to strike. Tony watched the girl working on the ropes and smiled.

<Girls got guts,> he thought.

His smile was cut off as a large vampire stormed across the clearing and grabbed her by the back of the shirt and started dragging her toward the altar set up in the center of the clearing.

What happened next would stick in Tony's mind for the rest of his days.

Faith exploded into motion, the bonds that had held her separating like cheap ribbon. With a twist of her body, her foot struck out, drilling the vampire in the chest, driving him away from her and causing him to drop her. In less than a second she struck again, driving the vampire back even further, kicks and punches moving faster than the human eye. Several more vampires moved in to attack, only to be driven back by the small valkyrie.

She ran at one of the vampires and kicked him straight in the chest, causing him to lean back. Continuing the motion, she spun, planting her other foot on his shoulder and shoving off, bouncing into the air. She rolled herself into a ball, reaching out only at the apex of her flight, her hands grabbing a branch above her head and pulling herself into the tree.

She wasn't in the tree more than a moment before she sprang back into the attack, driving down like a tornado, hitting another vampire in the chest before rolling away and jumping to her feet.

The vampire looked down at his chest, his eye not comprehending what was happening. Faith smiled and waved bye with her free hand, her other holding a rather sharp branch. She sprang again, going toe to toe with another vampire, trying hard to drive her improvised stake into his chest.

Tony's mouth dropped as he watched the battle. Here was a girl no older than his daughter taking on these monsters. He strained at his own bonds, trying to free himself when he saw the largest of the vampires moving toward Faith. He tried to shout a warning, but never got a chance. The vampire moved with incredible speed, grabbing the girl by the back of the neck.

Faith struggled and tried to fight off the attacker that had grabbed her from behind, but the grip was too strong.

"Foolish girl, I ought to snap your neck," said Kakistos with a growl. "Instead, it's time for you to help bring forth the demon."

Kakistos chuckled as he watched the girl continue to struggle, her fighting increasing as he dragged her near the altar. As he prepared to set her on the altar, she let out a scream.

"You will die, Slayer, just like so many of your kind have before," grinned the vampire lord.

"Actually," said a voice behind him, "No. She won't."

Kakistos spun around, bringing the girl close to his chest. His eyes narrowed as he saw three men standing at the edge of the clearing. One wielded a sword and a crossbow, the other two held shotguns.

"It's about time," Faith gurgled, Kakistos hand tight around her throat.

Sinclair grinned and fired a shot off at a vampire creeping toward one of the hostages, dusting the creature. He shrugged and dropped the crossbow, his hand filling with a greenish glow.

"A wizard is never late, Faith McManus. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." The mage smiled, then his face grew hard. His eyes narrowed as he looked around, focusing on the men in the robes.

"Hello again, Ethan, we have a long discussion to continue," said Sinclair.

"Ah, shit," said Rayne, his face growing white.

"Ah, shit," said Rayne, his face growing white. After a moment he recovered, and a smile formed on his face. "Hello again Robert, it's been what? Eight years?"

"Eight years, three months, fourteen days," scowled Sinclair.

"Still holding a grudge I see. Tsk, tsk," smirked Ethan. "You really need to learn to get over things. Really, you'd think I tried to kill you or something."

The scowl on Sinclair's face deepened, anger lines forming on his forehead.

"You did," he said.

Rayne rolled his eyes and sighed. He shook his head for a moment and chuckled.

"Actually, I shot you, I didn't try to kill you," he began.

A deep growl formed in Sinclair's throat and he took a step foreword. Kakistos saw the move and stepped back away from the angry mage, his arm tightening around Faith's throat.

"Now, now, Robert. No need to get all fussy. We wouldn't want the girl getting hurt, now would we?" asked Rayne. "Really, old chap, you need to learn to relax. Let's talk this out like gentlemen, and everyone gets to go home alive."

Kakistos growled and looked at the three warriors before him. He knew he and his minions could take the two boys out easily - shotguns were of no consequence to his kind. This mage was a different matter.

"Kill him, Rayne, don't taunt him," snarled the master vampire. "My servants and I will deal with the two boys."

Conner and Murphy looked at each other and then glanced around the clearing. Red eyes stared back from the darkness and started to grow closer. Several vampires stepped into the light of the clearing, their white teeth and ridges clearly showing. Slowly the vampires moved in, surrounding the three men.

"Ummm, Sinclair, now might be a good time for whatever plan ye got," mumbled Conner, his back to his brother's.

"Plan? I was supposed to come up with a plan?" said Robert, a bit of disbelief on his face as he watched the vampires grow close.

"Goodbye, Robert, it's been fun," smiled Ethan as he drew out a .45 Colt from his robes.

Sinclair shook his head and looked at Rayne, a hint of sadness in his eyes. He leaned his head back and whispered something to the boys, who also glanced over at Ethan before smiling.

"I really wouldn't suggest you do that, Ethan - the ten gentlemen behind you with the really large guns might take offense to you shooting at us," said Sinclair sweetly.

Ethan furrowed his brow, a tiny trace of puzzlement written on his face.

"Do you expect me to fall for that, Sinclair? Surely you could have come up with a better plan than trying to trick me into looking over my shoulder," said Rayne, exasperation in his voice. "I mean really."

The rest of his rebuke was cut off at 7.62 bullets ripped up the ground behind him, a neat and precise line laid out at his ankles.

"I have no idea what you'll fall for, but I suggest you put the girl down," said Mickey, a wild grin on his face.

Ethan whirled around, taking in everything behind him. Ten men in camouflage stood in the treeline, all but one with rifles against their shoulders. The tenth stood with the smoking weapon pointed at the ground behind the mage, a smirk on his face.

"You know bullets won't kill a vampire, right?" asked Ethan as he tried to slide out from in front of the weapon. He stopped moving as Mickey brought his rifle to bear on him.

"Yeah, we gathered that," said Mickey with a nod. "But from what I understand, they still hurt like a bitch."

Kakistos growled as the situation spiraled out of control. He caught more movement and realized more mortals had entered the clearing, taking protective stances around the rest of the hostages.

"Do something, mage," he snarled toward Rayne.

Faith squirmed in the master vampire's arms, trying to break the grip that held her tight. Kakistos felt the girl struggle and tightened his grip, cutting off Faith's air supply.

"Cease, girl, or I will break your neck now," the vampire growled.

Faith settled down, letting her body relax. Across the distance she made eye contact with her Watcher. He nodded slightly at her, and then he turned his gaze back to Ethan.

"We seem to have ourselves a standoff here, Ethan," drawled Sinclair. "What are you going to do about it?"

Ethan looked at the ground a minute, his mind lost in thought as he mulled over the options. Everyone in the clearing seemed to hold their breath, waiting for what the chaos mage was going to say. After an eternity, Ethan looked back up and smiled at Sinclair.

"This," he said, bringing up his weapon and firing toward where Conner, Murphy and Sinclair stood.

To an outsider, the next few seconds seemed to pass like they normally would. But to those inside the clearing, it became an eternity. For some, a long and painful eternity.

As the gunfire erupted, Conner and Murphy dropped to the ground, their own shotguns barking out toward the vampires surrounding them. Sinclair stood his ground, bringing his hand up for just an instant. Before the bullets could impact into his body, they seemed to shimmer, before driving Sinclair backwards and to the ground. His body hit with a loud thud, and he lay there motionless.

Faith let out a scream of fury and pain. Seeing her Watcher struck down, she exploded out of Kakistos' arms, pure rage fueling the Dark Slayer. The master vampire looked down as the small girl lunged out of his arms, just in time to see her begin her attack. Her first spin kick caught Kakistos in the chin, spinning him around. Her follow-up kick knocked his legs out from underneath him, bringing the vampire lord low.

Ethan dropped and rolled as bullets exploded the ground he had been standing on. The dirt behind him was ripped up as he fled from Mickey and his gunmen, ducking behind a tree at the last moment. The hail of gunfire abruptly stopped and Ethan took a moment to peek out from behind the tree.

As his face edged out from behind the large oak, it was greeted by the arrival of the Slayer's fist. Ethan felt his nose shatter as the small Slayer attacked with a fury, pure rage written on her face. He backed away from the small girl, trying in vain to protect his body from the assault of angry Slayer.

He breathed a sigh of relief as a vampire charged in to attack the girl, giving him a moment's respite from the beating. He smirked as the vampire dragged the small terror away from him. With a groan, Ethan struggled to stand, his body barely cooperating. As more gunfire erupted around the clearing, the chaos mage decided it was time to leave. Stumbling, he dragged himself deeper into the park and away from the raging hell behind him.

Kakistos shook his head clear and struggled to stand up. The Slayer was locked in combat with one of his minions and all around him the other vampires were struggling to kill the mortals who had attacked them. The ancient vampire reached out, grabbed one of the mercenaries by the neck and picked him up, squeezing the man's throat. He smiled as bullets bounced off his hardened skin. With a twist of his wrist, he broke the mercenary's neck, tossing him back at the group firing at him.

Mickey let out a cry as the broken body landed at his feet. He continued to hammer the vampire with his AK-47 and then grimaced as the weapon ran out of bullets. His face paled for a moment as the vampire before him smiled a toothy grin and started forward. The gun dropped from his hands, and with one quick motion, he reached back behind him and shifted his shoulder forward, slinging the SPAS-12 shotgun that was hanging across his back into his hands.

Kakistos paused for just a moment as the mortal rearmed himself.

"Do you really think that will hurt me, fool?" asked the vampire.

Mickey nodded and smiled evilly as he pulled the trigger. The grin tipped Kakistos off and the ancient vampire sprang to the right, out of the blast radius of the shotgun. One of his childe was not as lucky and was caught in the blast of the shotgun. The vampire's last sight was a ball of fire approaching out of the barrel of the shotgun.

McCall's eyes grew wide as his partner fired the weapon and it belched a ball of flame.

"Good Lord, Mickey! What do you have in that thing?" he asked.

Mickey grinned and took aim again at the large vampire who was attempting to escape.

"Flare round," Mickey cackled. "I picked up a couple of boxes a while ago, and this seemed like just the perfect place to use'm. Get back here you bastard!"

Kakistos sprinted away from the cackling maniac, another ball of fire shooting across the clearing. With a lunge, he jumped over the hostages, knocking over one of the mercenaries guarding them. The elder vampire never paused, continuing his flight away from the battle and the shotgun-wielding maniacal mortal chasing him.

Brushing past trees and down a path, Kakistos plowed over a jogger wearing headphones and continued toward the edge of the park. He didn't have to turn around to see if he was being pursued; he could hear the mortal's curses clearly enough.

"Rotten fucking asshole, I'll jam this shotgun up your ass!" cried Mickey as he hopped over the downed jogger.

As he broke out of the treeline and toward one of the main streets surrounding the park, Kakistos paused, trying to figure his best plan of escape. His eyes grew wide as a van screeched to a halt in front of him. The side door was thrown open and Trick held his hand out to his master.

"As soon as I saw that little bitch I knew this was going to go to hell," he said as he hauled the larger vampire into the back of the van.

A fireball erupted from the treeline and Trick barely closed the door in time. He turned to the driver and screamed.

"Get us out of here!" he yelled.

The van's tires began to spin, trying to gain traction, and suddenly the van lurched into traffic, tearing across lanes and shooting down a street away from very pissed Mickey.

"Oh great," he mumbled as he watched the van drive away.

In the distance he could already make out the sirens. He looked back over his shoulder and nodded to the other men who had followed him from the clearing. Silently the men faded back into the trees, and Mickey himself began the quick run back to the clearing.

"McCall," he yelled into the radio. "It's time to leave, we got cops on the way. Everyone pack it up and get out!"

As the last vampire was dusted, the radios crackled to life with Mickey's warning. Faith was still stalking around the clearing, looking for more vampires or mages to take her wrath out on.

"Lass, we have GOT to go!" yelled Conner from across the clearing.

Faith ignored the comment, her eyes still searching for targets.

"Come on, sis!" cried Murphy, trying in vain to get the small girl's attention.

McCall walked across the glade and tried to put his hand on the small girl's shoulder, only to receive a mule kick to the stomach. The tiny girl spun around, her eyes filled with rage, pain and grief. She pummeled the ex-spy backwards with a barrage of kicks and punches.

The older man staggered backwards, his attempts to block the Slayer's attack foiled at every turn. He could see she was lost inside herself, and as he yelled at her to stop, he watched as nothing seemed to faze the girl. Suddenly another voice called out.

"That's enough, Faith!" said the voice.

The voice cut through the haze that had filled Faith's mind, her eyes slowly coming back into focus. She stopped mid-swing at McCall and turned to look over to where Conner and Murphy knelt, next to where the body of Sinclair should have been lying.

The Watcher's grey eyes locked onto the small girl's, and she blinked slowly, her mind slowly coming back online.

"Robert?" she asked with a quiver in her voice.

The mage nodded from his spot on the ground, grimacing as he struggled to stand with the help of Conner and Murphy. He let out a groan of pain as the Slayer suddenly leapt at him, her arms wrapping tightly around him.

He looked down, puzzled, at Faith crying into his shirt, babbling incoherently.

"I thought he killed you too," she repeated over and over again.

As the mage glanced at Conner and Murphy, both men shrugged in confusion as well.

<Clearly this is something else from her past that she hasn't mentioned,> he thought as he picked up the girl.

Mickey broke through the treeline like the devil himself was after him. He stopped and stared at McCall's battered body and frowned.

"Don't ask," muttered the ex-spy.

Mickey nodded and gathered up some dropped equipment. He pointed to Conner and Murphy and then to items on the ground. The twins quickly gathered up the desired items and turned back to the mercenary.

"We really need to split, folks," he grumbled.

The twins nodded and vanished toward the parked cars. Mickey stared at the trees a moment and suddenly yelled out.

"That included you guys too!" he shouted.

There was silence a moment, then a rustling of branches.

"See, I told you this was a crazy idea," said Phreak from the treeline.

"Shut up!" yelled Dade as they too fled back to the cars.

Sinclair said nothing as he vanished into the trees, his ward nestled tight against his chest. He turned back and nodded at the mercenary. McCall limped along with the mage, making sure the way was clear and no more vampires lurked about.

Mickey was about to vanish into the treeline himself, when he realized almost a dozen people were staring at him, waiting.

"Awwww fuck!" he muttered. "I can't believe they left this to me."

He turned and looked at the hostages a moment, scratching his head. What to say, what to say.

"Umm, hi," he said, trying his best not to look embarrassed. "I really don't have a lot of time here, so I'll make it simple. You folks have got a pretty good idea what you saw, and you can pretty much bet the cops aren't going to believe you if you try to tell them."

Several people, including Tony, nodded in agreement.

"So tell 'em what you think you should, but we would prefer you not mention us. Otherwise, you folks have a nice night. I pretty much guarantee someone will be along shortly to free you."

Some of the hostages started to protest, but Mickey didn't pause, instead he made for the treeline as fast as he could. He could hear the approaching voices as he exited the clearing and ran for the van. McCall didn't pause as Mickey jumped in the back of the truck.

"Go! Go!" he yelled as he slammed the door shut. "Lord, what a night."

McCall just nodded as he steered the van rapidly out of the Central Park area, an area rapidly filling with life

McCall's Apartment
October 16th, 1995

It was nearing dawn as the last of the stragglers made it back to the apartment. The New York City Police had almost closed off the downtown area when they got reports of heavy weapons fire in Central Park. It had taken everyone an extra hour to get out of downtown and back into safer regions of the city.

McCall sighed as he opened the door to his apartment, releasing the tension built up during the drive. He hung his jacket neatly on the coat hook next to the door and waited. Soon enough the loud thunder of teenagers filled his ears, their banter echoing around the apartment and the hallway. Mickey dragged in last, a look of disgust on his face.

"Woohoo, who's bad? Who's bad?" said Cereal. "That kung fu shit Faith was doing was, like, so wicked."

"Yeah man, did you see when she did that flip and." began Joey.

"ENOUGH!!!" shouted Mickey.

The chatter of the room stopped suddenly, and all eyes turned to the man. Anger simmered behind his tired eyes, and a scowl was written on his face.

"You kids don't get it, do you? Do you?" he demanded, staring holes into each of the teens. "You could have been killed out there tonight!"

A stunned silence greeted him, each teen looking at him in confusion. Realization slowly crossed each face as the reality settled in.

"You entered a COMBAT ZONE!" yelled Mickey. "We could have shot you by accident. This wasn't some fucking game we were playing on your goddamn computer, this was real life and you kids could have been hurt!"

"But you took Faith," Joey started, only to be cut off again by the ranting mercenary.

"And look where that got her!" he yelled back. "Not only that, but Faith has been fighting these things a lot longer than you shits have!"

"Mickey, enough," said McCall finally, seeing the looks on the children's faces.

"No, McCall, they need to understand that this is real fucking life and -" He never got to finish as Sinclair, Conner, and Murphy walked in. Faith was asleep, nestled in the arms of her Watcher.

"Indeed, it isn't a game, Mickey, and they do understand it," said Sinclair as he set Faith on the couch.

"Is she?" started Kate.

"She's fine. Her little rage took a lot out of her; she'll probably wake up in a bit," smiled the Watcher.

"We do understand, but we couldn't just let you guys go at it without trying to help," said Dade, resolve set on his face.

"And what the fuck did you think you were going to do, kid? Beat them to death with your laptop?" sneered the mercenary. "Don't you kids get it? We didn't win."

"But we saved all those people," began Phreak.

"But the bad guys got away," said Nikon with a hint of remorse and a nod. "I know where you're coming from now."

Sinclair nodded at the teens before settling down in a chair with a flop.

"The siren call of battle is a powerful thing," said the mage as he observed the teens, "but one that should be heeded with caution. Never jump into a battle unprepared. It's the best piece of advice I can give."

"Tell me about it," said the form on the couch.

Sinclair smiled at Faith as she opened her eyes. With practiced ease, he moved over next to the girl and looked at her. He never said a word, just raised an eyebrow at the small girl. She immediately recognized the questioning look.

"I'm fine, nothing broken and everything in place," she said flatly. "That doesn't explain what happened to you though. I thought he had killed you."

Sinclair nodded and winced as the smaller girl touched his chest where the bullets had struck.

"I managed to get a spell off at the last second, changing the bullets to rubber. I didn't have enough time to stop them, just." he said with a shrug. "Still hurt like a bitch though."

"Does this mean I get a few days off training?" the Slayer asked with a smile.

"Of course not! That's what your brothers are for, isn't it? Punching bags," smiled the mage back.

New York City
15th Precinct

"This is nuts!" stated Bobby Simone as he looked over another of the hostages' statements. "None of these statements make sense. Some are claiming monsters, some space aliens, some are claiming guys in robes grabbed them. We got dead bodies, weapons of various sorts, and some crap I don't even recognize."

"You're telling me," said Andy Sipowicz as he looked at his equally bizarre stack of notes. "Here's one saying some little girl came in and tried to beat several of them off before turning them to dust with a tree branch!"

The two detectives shook their head as they continued on the notes. As they were working forward, a shadow darkened their desk.

"Umm, Detective. Mrs. Plotkin, one of the hostages, wants to talk to you again," said John Irvin as he stood fidgeting next to the desk.

"Yeah, sure, send her on over, John," said Andy, never looking up from his reports.

An older woman walked over and Bobby motioned for her to sit down in the chair next to the desk. She was silent for a moment and looked at each of the detectives, trying to figure out where to start.

"John said you wanted to talk to us again, Mrs. Plotkin?" asked Bobby as he tried hard to be patient.

"I didn't want to say this while some of the others were around," she began, her old hands shaking a little.

"Tell us what?" asked Andy, a hint of puzzlement in his voice.

"Well, a lot of the others were afraid you would think we were crazy," she started.

"Whatever gave you that idea?" said Andy snidely. He looked abashed as his partner frowned at him.

The old woman wrung her hands and looked around. She looked at the floor again, wondering if she should tell what she had heard.

"Go on, Mrs. Plotkin," prodded Bobby.

"I overheard one of the men saying how they had robbed the museum, stealing some scrolls for the guy that claimed to be a wizard," she mumbled.

Bobby raised his eyebrows and looked at Andy. Andy frowned and began to shuffle through his notes. As he did, a picture fell out of the stack and landed on the floor near the old woman's feet.

"Sorry about that," said Andy as he reached down to pick up the picture. He paused as Mrs. Plotkin sucked in a deep breath.

"Everything all right?" asked Bobby as he watched all the blood drain from the woman's face.

With shaking hands she took the picture from Andy and looked at it. Her eyes grew misty and she started to shake.

"Mrs. Plotkin?" asked Bobby slowly in a calm voice.

The old woman stared at the picture a long time, tears slowly trickling down her face.

"That's the girl," she said quietly, never taking her eyes off the photo.

The two men looked at each other, confused, trying to figure out what the woman was talking about.

"What girl?" Andy asked.

"The girl who saved us," said the woman as she broke down in tears, the drops running down her cheeks and falling on the missing person report for one Dana Tasker.

"What?" screamed Creager into the phone. "You're certain that is what is being reported to the police?"

He paused and waited, listening to the voice on the other end. His body started to shake in anger and fear as he listened to the information. Several of the men watched as their leader ranted into the phone.

"Bloody hell," he said as he slammed the phone down.

"What is it, boss?" asked one of the heavies sitting in the room.

Creager began to pace the room, trying to gather his thoughts. Calling Travers was necessary, but when to call him was the question.

"The girl has struck again. Seems something went on in Central Park last night," growled Creager.

"Isn't the park across." began the large man.

"Yes, you bleedin' sod! It's across the street!" yelled Creager. "That's what all those bobbies were doing out there last night! The girl rescued some twenty-five hostages from a dark mage and Kakistos!"

"Kakistos?" asked one of the other men in the retrieval team, a touch of fear in his voice.

Creager merely nodded and continued his pacing. The situation was rapidly getting out of control.

"My informant will be getting us a list of the hostages. We will go see if we can get any good information out of them," snarled the Watcher.

"And then?" asked another man.

"And then we get the girl and go the fuck home."

October 17th, 1996
McCall's Apartment

Mickey spun around, bringing his staff into the defensive, barely dodging Faith's attack. With a quick slip-and-pass movement, he avoided the small girl's thrust, dropping it to the floor, and with one quick motion, he twisted the staff, dragging Faith's feet out from under her.


The Slayer glared up at the mercenary. Mickey chuckled as Faith stared daggers into him from the floor.

"I told you, you raise up to much on the balls of your feet," he said simply as he extended his hand down to the girl.

She contemplated tossing him across the room with a quick pull, but the bruises from the last time she did that still hadn't healed. As she stood to her feet, she looked over to where Sinclair and McCall sat watching their prot�� work out. The mage smiled at her and nodded.

"I warned you," he said with a grin.

She frowned at him and toweled her face off. When the Watcher had said training, she had assumed he would be the one doing it; instead he had roped the mercenary into helping. Military take-downs had not been on her agenda for the day. McCall smiled at her from the couch, and she had to wonder just how much revenge this was for her accidentally beating up on the ex-spy.

"Have I been beaten enough yet, oh mean Watcher-type person?" she asked.

"Flattery will get you everywhere, Faith," grinned Sinclair. "Why don't you take a break and get cleaned up? We need to go to Cyberdelia and see what the kids got off those disks we found at the cleaners."

As soon as Faith left the room, Mickey let out a groan.

"Jesus, Sinclair, that girl kicks like a mule!" he moaned.

Sinclair shrugged and picked up the discarded equipment.

"You're the one who said you would spar with her," he quipped as he stuffed a boxing glove into the bag.

"I realize that, but how fucking strong is she?" the mercenary asked.

"Honestly, I can't tell you," said the Watcher. "From what I've been able to determine, it really depends on the situation and her stress factor. When she snapped in Central Park, she went well beyond what I have seen or read about some Slayers."

Mickey nodded and toweled his head off, settling down into a chair. McCall handed the man a cold drink and the three sat in silence for a moment, each man lost in his thoughts.

"You ever figure out what made her lose it?" asked Mickey.

Sinclair sat for a while in silence, trying to figure out the best way to explain the situation. The mage picked up his glass and took a drink before beginning.

"It seems that Kakistos killed her previous Watcher in a rather brutal fashion," he said. "Faith was forced to watch. She escaped, but it, like many other things, still haunts the girl."

"What sort of other things?" asked McCall, his attention now focused on the conversation.

Sinclair shrugged and looked at his drink. He swirled the ice around in the glass, watching as it slowed to a stop. He took another drink and looked at the two men.

"We're still working on this communication stuff," he said simply. "There are a lot of things she isn't telling me just yet, and I don't blame her. Her track record with Watchers has been less than stellar, from what she has told me."

Both men sat up a little straighter and looked hard at the mage. While they had only known the girl a few days, she had earned their respect and trust.

"In what way?" asked the ex-spy, his voice quiet and dangerous.

"One of the high muckity-mucks in the Council is a bit on the curious side concerning Faith. He wants her brought back and interrogated as to how she became a Slayer," said the mage. "They have already tried to grab her once, and from what I can determine, they have gotten close at least one other time."

Mickey and McCall looked at each other and nodded.

"Any time, any place, anywhere, you call and we're there," said Mickey with a tone of finality in his voice. McCall added his nod.

"Be careful saying something like that, gentlemen - with the nature of this war, that could mean a literal thing," cautioned the mage.

"We understand the implications, Mr. Sinclair, but our desire to help is sincere," said the ex-spy.

Sinclair shrugged and looked over his shoulder toward the door where Faith was getting cleaned up. He shook his head and turned back to look at the two men.

"Had you asked me years ago if I could imagine the fate of the world in the hands of a teenage girl, I would have never been able to believe it," he said. "But now, after dealing with two Slayers, I can't imagine the world without them."

McCall and Mickey nodded at the mage. Mickey noticed the slightly haunted look around Sinclair's eyes and was about to say something when he felt McCall's hand on his arm. The mercenary looked over and saw the shake of the head from McCall.

"So where are the other two troublemakers?" asked Mickey finally.

"Believe it or not, they're on laundry duty," snickered the mage.

The mercenary let out a laugh and McCall joined in chuckling.

"There was no way in hell I was getting in a car with them without those two doing some laundry," chuckled Sinclair. "I think their socks were becoming sentient. I swear one of them winked at me."

"What are you three laughing at?" asked Faith as she re-entered the room, toweling off her hair. She frowned at the three men as they laughed more.

"Your boss here was wondering if you were going to have to slay your brother's socks," laughed Mickey.

"Excuse me?" asked Faith, as she looked at the three men in puzzlement. This just added to their laughter.

Somewhere on the highway

Kakistos shifted in the van, trying to adjust his legs. They had been driving nonstop for fear that whoever had attacked the clearing was in pursuit. With a snarl he reached out and grabbed one of his surviving minions by the throat and dragged him close. With a quick jab of his hand, he pulled out the vampire's heart. The master vampire smiled as his servant crumbled to pieces at his feet.

"Much better," said Kakistos as he stretched his legs out in the newly emptied seat.

Trick watched from his spot in the passenger seat and shook his head.

<The boss is pissed,> he thought. Trick was about to say something when Kakistos broke the silence.

"How did they find us, Trick?" he growled.

Trick shook his head and tapped on the laptop he had brought with him. As he finished what he was typing, he looked back to the vampire lord.

"No clue, boss. This Slayer seems to be a little more prepared than any of the last ones we have encountered," said Trick. "It was just like last time from what you have described, a Slayer and guys with guns."

Kakistos growled and picked up another blood bag from the cooler. While it wasn't fresh, it would have to do until they were in safer terrain.

"How much longer?" he asked after he finished off the bag.

"We should be there tomorrow, ready to set up shop well away from the Slayer. With luck, she shouldn't find us for awhile," said Trick as he pounded on the keyboard some more. "I have the bar all set up, booze and supplies should arrive at the end of the week. Everything else should be ready to go soon."

Kakistos nodded, eased his large frame back into the chair and settled in for the ride.

<Soon, Slayer, I will have my revenge,> thought Kakistos over and over again as the miles flew by down the highway.

October 17th, 1995

The loud music pulsed as the group entered the club. Faith could almost imagine the faces of McCall and Mickey tense up as they walked in. Some of the kids in the club paused and took notice as they walked through the bar. Faith smiled when she spotted her friends at a table in the rear of the place.

"Hey guys," she said as she sat down next to Nikon. She watched as Cereal's hand snaked out to grab a fry from Nikon's tray. The teen winced as the Slayer intercepted his hand on the return trip with the fry.

"Thanks," grinned Nikon until Faith took the fry away from Cereal and ate it herself. "Never mind."

The teens scooted around as the others joined in around the table.

"Quite an," McCall paused as he looked around the club, "unusual place you hang out in."

"Ease up, McCall, I kind of like it," said the mercenary. He looked around the room, his eyes wandering over the games. "Which one of you holds the top score on the game over there?"

"Me. I like to be on top," said Dade with a smile.

Faith let out a laugh and the others at the table joined in.

"More than I wanted to know about you, kid," said the mercenary. The table erupted in more laughter. Mickey shoved away from the table and headed for the large video game. "Let's go give that thing a try."

"How'd he know it was one of us?" asked Joey as he tracked Mickey.

Sinclair let out a chuckle and smiled at the teen. "Think of it as a compliment," said the mage. McCall nodded along with the man. "It was his way of saying he knew who the top dogs around here were."

All the teens nodded hesitantly, not completely trusting the older men.

"What have you got for us?" asked Faith with a hint of impatience in her voice. Conner sat down next to the girl and set a drink in front of her. His twin set down a second tray and spread the drinks around.

"Rayne wasn't too good at security when it came to the files," said Phreak. "We hacked those pretty quick."

Faith raised an eyebrow and stared at the hacker, waiting.

"And?" she said finally.

Phreak grinned and pulled a folder out of his backpack. He spread the papers out on the table and turned them toward Faith and her Watcher.

"What it looks like plans to one of the museums, names, dates, etc. Also we found reference to a couple of other networks, but. ummm." Phreak said with a pause.

Sinclair frowned and looked at all the teens. Each of them was wearing an abashed look.

"You didn't get caught, did you?" he asked.

No one would make eye contact with the mage. Sinclair closed his eyes, looked down at the floor and counted to ten slowly, letting his frustration drain out of him.

"Not exactly," said Kate finally.

"What does 'not exactly' mean?" asked McCall, as he wondered how many favors he was going to have to call in to get the hackers out of trouble.

"Whoever controls the network we tried to hack appears to be elite himself," said Nikon. "We didn't get a name, but he shut us down cold."

Sinclair rubbed the bridge of his nose and wondered idly if he wanted to be sitting at the table anymore. That was all he needed, a discussion with the Feds.

"How did he shut you down?" asked Faith.

All the teens blushed and looked at each other.

"How did he shut you down, guys?" Sinclair repeated Faith's question.

"Ummm. You see, he, ummm." said Joey.

"He hacked us back," said Dade finally.

"It was so cool, there we are," said Cereal as he got his hands moving to describe the scene. "Working away, when all of the sudden these messages start popping up on each of our screens. We never saw the trace or anything."

Sinclair closed his eyes and stared to grit his teeth, wishing Faith had never introduced him to the hackers.

<More training, oh yes, she gets more training,> he growled internally.

"What did the messages say?" asked Faith, her own worry starting to show.

"'Nice try, go away, and leave my systems alone.'" said Phreak.

Sinclair laid his head down on the table.

"And then?" asked McCall, finally taking the bait.

"Then the power in Nikon's apartment building turned off," said Dade.

Sinclair began to bang his head on the table.

"Dude, doesn't that hurt?" asked Cereal as he watched the mage.

Sinclair never got the chance to answer as the club erupted with loud noise. A crowd let out a large cheer, and the teens looked over to where Mickey was coming down off the game platform. He wandered over to the table, grinning like a maniac.

"Looks like it's my turn to be on top," he said, winking at Dade.

October 18th, 1995
Faith's Hotel Room

"So why were you holding back with Mickey the other day?" asked Sinclair as he read through the newspaper. Without looking over it, he could tell the girl was blushing. He waited a moment for an answer, and then set the paper own.

"Well?" he asked a second time, looking at the girl.

"I wasn't holding back, boss-man," she tried to grin.

The mage narrowed his eyes and looked hard at the girl. Faith began to shift in her seat uncomfortably, her eyes refusing to meet the Watcher's. At first she tried looking at the floor, then the window, then the TV, but the mage continued to look at her, a smirk on his face.

"All right, all right, yeah, I was holding back!" she said finally, tossing her hands up in the air.

"Why?" Sinclair asked again, his face impassive.

"Because I felt guilty," Faith said.

Sinclair blinked and looked at the girl in confusion. He glanced around the room, looking for cameras and a 'You're on Candid Camera' crew, and then back at the Slayer.

"What?!" she demanded. "I felt guilty for beating up McCall. I figured letting Mickey win might even things out."

The mage chuckled and shook his head.

"You do realize it's going to make him intolerable now, don't you?" he asked.

Faith let out a groan and hung her head, which caused Sinclair to laugh even more.

London, England
October 18th, 1995
Watcher Council Headquarters

Quentin Travers looked up as one of his aides knocked on the door. The well-dressed man entered slowly and tried to judge Travers' mood. The scowl on Travers' face indicated that once again the man was unhappy with the search for the supposed second Slayer.

"Do you have something, or are you just going to stand there like a bloody statue?" snarled Travers.

The aide shivered and adjusted his tie with one hand. The man moved to the desk and laid a folder out on the table before Travers. The head of the Watchers Council looked at the aide questioningly but said nothing.

"We have had some movement from the States, sir."

Travers flipped the folder open and glanced over the information. He looked back up at the aide after a moment, wanting a summary.

"It appears that two days ago," began the aide as he stood before the desk, "there was some sort of action in the Central Park region involving the supposed Slayer, as well as the master vampire Kakistos and possibly several dark mages."

Travers closed his eyes and bent his head forward. It was going to be one of those conversations, he could tell. After his discussion with the Inspector several days ago, the supposed Slayer had haunted Travers' dreams. Killing the girl had filled many of those dreams.

"Continue," said Travers after a moment.

The aide shifted from foot to foot, and carefully watched his boss. Travers' fits of rage had become worse since the British Police had visited him. The fact that Creager hadn't reported in had only made things worse.

"Our informants in the police department indicate that Creager was contacted and given a list of the hostages, but the informant hasn't heard anything from them since. Shortly after handing the information over to Creager, our informant also intercepted one other piece of information that I think you will be happy with, sir."

Travers raised his eyebrows and looked at the aide with an almost feral look on his face.

"Sir, we have a name and picture now of the supposed Slayer," said the aide.

An evil smile spread across Quentin Travers' face. The Watcher opened the folder and flipped through several of the pages before stopping. Travers gazed at the picture on the page and smiled.

"Well, well, Dana Tasker. Finally a name to the thorn in my side," said Travers as he looked over some of the information.

"I am having our researchers dig up everything they can on the young lady. We should have more details soon, sir," said the aide.

Travers nodded and continued to gaze at the missing persons report. Soon this girl would be in his possession. With luck they would be able to determine how a second Slayer had come into existence, and the tide of battle against the darkness would turn.

October 18th, 1995
Washington, D.C.

Spencer Trilby looked over the papers before him with a sigh. Nothing seemed to be going right today. He had dropped his favorite coffee cup and broken it, his two best agents were still missing, and now for some reason, MI-6 was asking questions about their daughter.

Trilby stormed into the conference room and looked at the men and women assembled around the table with his one eye.

"What have we found out?" he demanded to the assembly.

One of the men stood, adjusted his jacket and glanced around the table at the others.

"We have contacted MI-6 and they are as confused as we are, sir," said the agent. "Somehow, for some reason, someone used some of their channels to inquire about Dana, claiming she was a descendant of some Lord."

"Does MI-6 have any clue as to who used their channels?" growled Trilby.

"No, sir," said another agent. "Whoever it was, MI-6 is either in as much the dark as we are, or they are denying any knowledge."

"Sir," said one of the female agents. "Several people in New York City also ran records on Dana. It appears that the New York City Police Department, child welfare, and the FBI field office have also run her records."

Trilby sighed and looked at several pages of information before him. The man began to shake his head as he read through the data.

"Well this is becoming a regular clusterfuck isn't it," he grumbled. "Why is it we control one of the finest intelligence agencies in the nation, yet we can't find one teenage girl?"

The assembled agents looked around the room at each other and then back to their boss. None was sure how to answer the question. Finally after a moment one of the more junior agents stood up.

"Sir, perhaps it's." he began and then paused as Trilby focused his eye on him. "Perhaps she doesn't want to be found, sir. She is reported to be in New York, which is one of the easiest places to get lost in."

Trilby frowned at the man for a while. The gaze caused the man to sit down, looking abashed. Those around him scooted away, trying their best not to be associated with the agent.

"Then that begs the question why, doesn't it?" asked Trilby in a cold voice. "A question which we need the answer to. I also want to know who in the British government is asking question about my goddaughter. Is that clear, people?"

The assembled agents nodded slowly and proceeded to gather up their things. As they departed, Trilby stopped the young agent who had spoken up.

"Why do you think she is trying not to be found, son?" he asked, his voice a little easier.

The agent paused and tried to figure the best way to answer the question.

"She knows what Harry and Helen do," he said finally. "If she thinks they're dead, she could be worried that whoever took them will want to kill her as well, since she has been used as a pawn before. She could also be attempting to hide from us. She knows that we are for the most part capable of finding her; she could be worried you are going to stick her back in the school."

Trilby nodded at the man and let him go. He stared off into space for a while before opening the folder again and looking over the information. Dana had rescued twenty-five people from some unknown terrorists in Central Park according to police reports. How this all tied back to Harry and Helen's capture, the British government, and everything, Trilby had no idea, but he was determined to find out.

October 19th
New York City

The crowd was thick and lively as the crew gathered around the table. The music washed over the room as everyone chatted about nothing in general. Faith's face was lively and full of energy as she talked with Kate and Dade. The twins were in a discussion with Mickey about football, with Joey and Nikon joining in with comments. Sinclair sat in the corner and watched all the teens banter about.

"Kind of an amazing thing, isn't it?" asked the person sitting next to him.

Sinclair paused his observing and looked at the teen next to him. Gone was the hyper cheerfulness he usually displayed, replaced with a more adult look.

"What did you say?" asked Sinclair as he looked at the teen known as Cereal Killer.

"Amazing that we can go from saving the world one day to hanging out in a club the next," he told the mage.

Sinclair nodded and watched everyone around him. For a moment, just a moment, the weight of the world was off Faith's shoulders, and by proxy, everyone else's.

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers," said Cereal.

Sinclair nodded and he watched his Slayer laughing and joking - his, if she would have him. Faith felt the eyes on her and looked up at the Watcher, a smile on her face. She winked at the man and went back to the discussion.

Faith was enjoying herself; it was good to be just a teen again for a moment. She couldn't feel any vampires; nothing dangerous was looming on the horizon. She regretted she was going to have to tell them it was time for them to get on the road. She just had to decide which road to take.

The info they had gotten from the hackers had indicated Ethan had been the one behind the scroll theft. Apparently the scroll was in three pieces, one of which Ethan already had. The robbery had brought him up to two pieces. Whichever network he had been trying to break into had piece number three, or at least information leading to it.

Hacking the network had been unsuccessful a second time. The kids had made no further progress than they had the first time. The results hadn't been as spectacular, but the message had been clear. They had gotten a name the second time - two, actually. Max and Pinocchio. Nikon hadn't heard of either of them, and any attempts to find out information on them had turned up nothing.

Faith sighed and swirled her drink around, her mind lost in thought. It seemed like puzzle upon puzzle. Trick and Kakistos were out there somewhere, but they had no idea where. It was going to take them days or months to track down the master vampire.

<Ethan or Kakistos, Ethan or Kakistos,> she thought.

Another thought wandered through her mind as she laughed idly at some joke Dade was making. It was a simple thought, but one she had to wonder about nonetheless.

<Who posted the bullet recipe?> she asked herself. <That's something Xander and Jarod thought up.>

Jarod was still in the Centre, and Xander was still a fifteen-year- old kid, with no knowledge of the dark side.

<But still?> she questioned. <all right then, so three options, Sunnydale being the third.>

Faith continued to think as everyone talked, her mind mulling over the options. She let her eyes flick around the table and looked at the faces. Everyone, even the Watcher, seemed happy, even if he was in some sort of discussion with Cereal.

"Folks," she said finally. "We're going to have to hit the road soon."

The teens looked sad at Faith's statement. They had known the time was coming, but hadn't expected it this soon.

"You sure, Faith?" asked Joey. Everyone had noticed the kid had developed a crush on the girl and a small case of hero worship.

"Sorry Joey, but this chick has a job to do. Slaying waits for no girl," said Faith with a smile. Her face grew serious and she added, "The bad guys got away, and we've got to go find 'em. You've given us some leads and I imagine the boss over there is going to want to track them down."

Sinclair raised an eyebrow and looked at the girl.

"Boss?" he questioned. "Decided not to get rid of me?"

"The lads and I decided we'd keep ye fer the moment," she said, slipping into her brogue for a moment. "Wouldn't want ye to be gettin' bored or anything in your old age."

"Old age, eh?" smirked the mage.

Faith looked at the Watcher after the comment and saw an evil glint in the man's eye.

"More training?" she asked with a sigh.

"You got it, kiddo," said Sinclair as he picked up his coat.

Conner and Murphy let out a laugh as they watched the emotions play over their sister's face. The anger wasn't there, but they could tell she knew she had trapped herself.

"So where you guys headed?" asked Mickey as he stood to walk them out to the car.

"Wherever the road leads us, I imagine," said Conner.

"Or more to the point, wherever trouble leads Faith over there," said his twin.

"HEY!" yelled Faith as they walked out of the bar.

October 18th, 1995
Newark, New Jersey

Creager looked around the restaurant and wondered if the hostage they had contacted was going to show up. The crowd had been light, and several of the retrieval team were scattered around the restaurant in case a more severe form of interrogation was needed later.

The Watcher's eyes flicked to the front door as a heavyset balding man entered and talked to the hostess. The lady pointed toward Creager's table and the man approached. Creager caught the man's quick look around the room but paid no heed to the movement. His men were capable of being discreet in any environment.

The man moved to the table and the Watcher stood. The man looked at him a moment, sizing him up. After a few seconds, he finally spoke.

"Are you Mr. Creager?" asked the man.

"Yes sir, I am," said Creager as he offered his hand. "I am happy you could come, Mr."

"Just call me Tony," the man interrupted as he pulled the chair out and sat down.

Creager frowned as Tony motioned him to sit down. <Americans are so rude.> He settled into the seat and adjusted his jacket. A waiter appeared and poured a glass of wine for Tony and Creager without it being ordered and then moved off.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Creager?" questioned Tony. "Your phone call said you had some questions about what happened at the park. You don't have the look of a reporter, so I have to ask myself, what business is it of yours?"

Creager set his napkin in his lap, picked up the glass of wine and smelled it. It was a good Italian vintage - the American at least had good taste. He looked at the man for a moment before beginning.

"The police report indicated that you and your fellow hostages saw some rather unusual events in the park," began Creager.

Tony narrowed his eyes and looked hard at the Watcher. He looked beyond Creager and nodded imperceptibly to another man standing near the door to the kitchen. The man nodded and headed into the kitchen after a moment.

"And just how do you know what the police report said, Mr. Creager?" asked Tony.

"Please, call me Evan," said Creager with a smile. "As for how, my associates and I have many sources, none of which we need to go into at the moment. Our biggest concern is the girl that was mentioned in the police report."

Tony's frown deepened at the mention of Faith. He knew many of the hostages had been careful to be vague about what had occurred in the park, but others had not been as circumspect.

<Why is he looking for Faith?> he wondered.

"What girl?" asked Tony, an innocent look on his face. He reached into his jacket, pulled out a cigar and gave it a smell.

"Many of the hostages reported a girl of admirable skill dealing with your captors," said Creager coolly. "We just wish to talk to the young lady about the events."

Tony squinted an eye and frowned at the man. The man's utter Britishness was already rubbing him raw, and the evasive questions were only making things worse.

"You tell me why you're looking for the girl, and I'll tell you if I know of her or not," Tony said finally.

"Let me be frank, Tony," smiled Creager. "My associates and I are willing to pay a considerable amount of money for information leading to the girl. As for why, we simply wish to discuss with the girl about the events and how and why she came to be in the situation she was."

"Considerable amount of money, eh?" asked Tony. Creager nodded enthusiastically. "And if I don't happen to know her?"

Creager frowned at the man and looked around the restaurant. After a moment, he returned his attention to Tony before answering the question.

"Then we'll move along and hopefully get information about the girl's whereabouts somewhere else," said the Watcher after a moment.

"So you're just going to keep hounding the supposed girl until you find her, eh?" scowled the heavyset man.

"We have been asked to find the young lady," said Creager rapidly. "She saved someone else and they wish to reward her for her efforts."

Tony narrowed his eyes and looked at the Brit hard. He reached into his jacket, pulled out a lighter and started to light his cigar. The Watcher frowned at the cigar as Tony held it in the flame. After a moment he took a long drag off the cigar and blew the smoke toward Creager's face.

"I think you're fuckin' lying to me, Mr. Creager," said Tony with a hint of anger in his voice. "And I hate liars."

Creager frowned and shook his head. He was about to say something else when a meaty hand grabbed him from behind and slammed his head into the table with a loud thud. Several of the retrieval team stood up to aid their boss, only to be grabbed and thrown to the floor by other patrons in the restaurant.

Creager winced as his head bounced off the table and was about to fight back when he caught the muzzle of the gun held inches away from his eye. A large man held the weapon with almost no emotion on his face. Creager looked around his line of vision and could see all of his men down, in various levels of consciousness, all held at gunpoint.

Tony smiled and blew another ring of smoke into Creager's face. He stood up, grabbed the Watcher by the hair and slammed his head into the table a few more times before leaning down next to Creager.

"I'll ask you one more time before things get painful. Why are you looking for the girl?" he demanded.

Creager shook his head back and forth as best he could with his face pinned to the table.

"I told you, we just want to ask her some questions," he stammered.

"Wrong answer," snarled Tony. "Take'm out the back and continue the discussion elsewhere. Give me a call with what you find. And Paulie?"

"Yeah boss," said one of the men.

"I want to know what they are after the kid for, whatever it takes," he growled.

"And then, boss?" asked Paulie.

Tony stared at Creager as he was dragged out of the room toward the kitchen. As the door to the kitchen swung shut, he looked up at Paulie.

"That'll depend on their fuckin' answers, but I got a pretty good idea what's gonna happen," he said after a moment. "If someone is looking to harm that kid, and they come lookin' here for her, I owe her that much to handle the situation."

Tony sat in his chair for a while after the men had left, smoking his cigar. After some time, a shadow fell across his wine glass. Tony looked up at the man and smiled.

"Everything all right, Tony?" asked the owner of the restaurant. "If you're done, I want to get this place open soon."

"Yeah, Artie, we're done with business, thanks for your help," said Tony. "Get Vesuvio open."

The End


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