The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08-07-05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:03 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]3. "...It Is Only Necessary For Good Men To Do Nothing"[/center]

Looking around LJ decided that the forties version of Central Park would probably make for a pleasant stroll, if it wasn't the middle of winter. The park had swung between green oasis and no go zone over the years. In LJ's own time it had been sanitized and made safe for people to visit, though when she went there with her parents she thought it all looked a bit plastic. This version seemed much more real, which is a good trick considering this is just a vision.
Frederick navigated them towards a particular bench but nerves and the cold meant LJ wasn't inclined to sit down and she paced back and forth, fretting over what would happen if it turned out she was wrong. Even when Sabrina had been with the Athenai LJ had never treated her as the enemy, and the notion of having to do so now was something she wasn't sure she could handle.
Because she was pacing it was LJ who spotted the contact first. Frederick hadn't described him but the clean-shaven, smart suited, and distinctly furtive character making his way towards them couldn't be anyone else. She nudged Frederick who looked up and nodded at the man, who looked only slightly relieved to see the Watcher. He dropped on to the bench next to Frederick, "Good god Fred are you trying to get me busted? The bureau is tightening up security and you want to meet in broad daylight."
LJ stood in front of them, "That would be my fault, I pushed, Fred to arrange this ASAP."
Frederick didn't look happy about her use of the diminutive but didn't make an issue of it, "We do need answers to some questions."
"Yeah well you have to understand that what I've been able to get is all there's going to be, this panic about the Japanese is pulling in everybody." The contact sounded harassed and unhappy.
"What panic?" LJ couldn't help being distracted.
The information was classified but then this whole meeting was a security breach and he felt the need to vent, "The politicians have started panicking, they think the Japs are going to make a move, maybe against the British maybe against the Philippines. They've got the Bureau checking every Japanese business and citizen in the USA."
"If the Japanese attack the Philippines that would mean war with America." Frederick was thoughtful as he spoke.
The contact shook his head, "Don't get your hopes up Fred, we'll be in Tokyo Bay in six months and Congress would use war in the Pacific as an excuse to cut the lend-lease supplies to England and Russia."
That notion brought a pained expression to Frederick's face and LJ wished she hadn't gotten on to this subject. She couldn't precisely tell him what was going to happen but she felt she had to try, "You never know, maybe the Nazi's will declare war on the USA and make things simple."
The contact gave her a disparaging look, her comment was clearly close enough to reality to provoke a reaction, "Even Hitler isn't that crazy."
Frederick didn't seem very reassured either, "Well speaking of German friends."
The contact took the hint, "Your list is pretty good. It does look like it came from inside the FBI but at a pretty low level, it would be tough to trace the leak."
"So they are all spies." Now Frederick sounded very self satisfied.
More attuned to finding an out LJ spotted something in the remark, "Why low level? What was on there that someone at a high level would have left out or put in?"
The contact squirmed under her hard stare and gave in, "There were a couple of names, probably tips from the public, that we already knew about because they had already come forward, They're working for the Bureau."
LJ's smile was very broad, "Would Ilsa Hertz be one of them?"
The contact nodded, "She works for a shipping firm and she was approached by someone who suggested she could help the old country by providing them with details of loads and departure dates. She decided to be a good citizen and came to the Bureau. She's been helping us to identify who’s involved."
"I told you so." LJ crowed triumphantly.
Frederick sighed and nodded, "Indeed, unfortunately it also confirms that our opponents are more than a little slapdash in their efforts, hardly reassuring when you consider the powers they are dabbling with."
That wiped the smile off LJ's face.

Willow had called McPherson's apartment several times without an answer, which had left her with a dilemma. They might have gone with Frederick to meet his contact and in theory she could just wait until they got back and arrange a rendezvous. The problem with that was that it meant she would have to remain under the same roof with Marion and since Isaac was going out to work that would remove her shield from the woman's nagging on how Rebecca should be living her life. That prospect settled the matter for Willow, she would perform a recon of the Humanity First HQ and then make for McPherson's to check in; hopefully by that point the others would be back.
The office was on a ground floor, for which Willow was truly grateful. It was actually more of a storefront than an office, with posters admonishing America to wake up and do something, or words to that effect. Willow noticed that the posters were faded and peeling, the organization seemed to have fallen on hard times but not shut up shop entirely based on the trickle of people passing through the door. Some of the ones leaving were carrying bundles of the now all too familiar leaflets. On one level she admired their determination but on another she suspected it had led them into overreaching themselves, big time.
As she was weighing up whether to go in and scout out the inside Willow felt a tap on her shoulder. She spun around, ready for trouble and sighed as she saw Tara and Sabrina standing there, "How did you two get here?"
"I had a brain wave," Tara explained, "I went into a phone booth picked up the receiver and it turns out that McPherson did know Rebecca's number. I spoke to some woman who seemed to have something against me before someone named Isaac came on. He gave me the address so we hurried over to provide backup and fill you in on what happened."
Willow nodded along, "So what exactly did happen?"

The trio retreated around the street corner while Tara explained about the trip to Ilsa's apartment, with a few caustic interruptions from Sabrina, culminating with, "I'm going to go in there and make them tell me what's going on."
Willow looked at her quizzically, "Ok let's go through all the reasons why that's a terrible idea. Ilsa is German so even people in there who have nothing to do with the demons will be hostile. You don't have any magic so if things turn ugly you're the one whose going to get pounded, oh and the number one reason, Ilsa wouldn't be that crazy, which means it won't work."
Sabrina was fuming but she had the horrible feeling Willow was right, "So what is the plan?"
Willow had been thinking about that and had decided on the simple approach, "With you here to watch my back I'm going to go in, I figure a nice Jewish girl looking to do her bit for the cause is going to be welcomed with open arms."

The open arms seemed to be busy with phones and typewriters when Willow went inside. The office was gloomy with the windows plastered with posters and several burnt out light bulbs that hadn't been replaced but even that couldn't mask the grimy rundown air of the place; Humanity First was dead, it just hadn't stopped moving yet.
The preoccupation of the workers gave Willow time to check them out and one seated at a slightly larger, and much more cluttered, desk drew her attention. The woman was a little older than Willow with dark wavy hair and skin that might have taken for tanned if it wasn't winter in New York. She definitely looked like someone who could be thought of as 'Romany'.
Willow wove her way through the desks until she reached the woman, "Excuse me, are you in charge here?"
The woman looked up, "As much as anyone can be. My name is Tamara Hobart."
"Rebecca Rosenberg." Willow offered in response. Tamara's name wasn't very Romany but then she wouldn't be the first gypsy of Willow's acquaintance to anglicize her name, "I heard about your organization, and well it seemed like something I wanted to get behind."
That was clearly what Tamara wanted to hear, "It's good to see that some people are still willing to do what's right. Who did you hear about us from?"
The safe bet would have been to offer up Isaac's name but her instincts made Willow go a different route, "It was Victor Kelso, you know, the writer."
"I know Victor." Tamara said the name like it tasted bad, "I'm surprised he directed you to us."
"Well it was a while ago," Willow lied, "has he left the organization?"
"Victor lacked commitment, when the going gets tough the tough get going, Victor decided to go out the door instead." Tamara's voice was increasingly bitter as she spoke.
He ‘lacks commitment’ and a couple of nights ago he gets a visit from a demon, Willow looked Tamara in the eyes and was suddenly quite sure she was looking into the eyes of the person who had gone to Lucas and his cronies, willing to go any length to achieve her goal, "Perhaps I should come back another day, when you're less busy."
Tamara gave her a contemptuous look, "Perhaps you should."
Willow didn’t say anything else, just nodded and left. Everything about the woman screamed fanatic; she wasn’t going to be talked out of her plan, it was going to require a little ‘direct action’ from Rebecca and Co. to stop this disaster. Willow just had no idea what; yet.

[center]4. "Conscience"[/center]

"So let's get this straight, Ilsa is a spy but she's an American one?" Sabrina was trying to follow the twists and turns of LJ's meeting with the government contact.
LJ nodded, "That's right. The Nazi's wanted shipping information, so the FBI gives her a few carefully picked titbits and then Ilsa points the FBI to the people who collect the material and the FBI follow them to trace their contacts and superiors."
"Which miss Hertz could have told us sooner and saved a great deal of trouble." Frederick sounded irritated.
LJ was going to give him another piece of her mind but Tara raised her hand to hold her daughter back, "I think he's actually annoyed with himself for jumping to conclusions, not with Ilsa," she stressed the name to remind LJ that appearances to the contrary it wasn't Sabrina who was the focus of these questions.
They had once again regrouped at McPherson's apartment and formed a loose circle scattered around the nurse's furniture. Seeing that LJ wasn't going to speak Tara offered an answer to Frederick's question, which had been bugging her as well until she came up with a likely explanation, "The way I see it we were a group of strangers who turn up just when some very weird stuff starts happening; Ilsa may have imagined that this was some elaborate hoax, perhaps an effort to discredit her by getting her babbling to the FBI about vampires and witchcraft, bizarre but easier to believe than the truth."
Frederick considered that and found it made a large amount of sense, "And when I mentioned my contact in the government that could simply have been a further bluff, or if it wasn't it would support our claim to be on the side of right."
"And that big ugly demon that jumped us definitely wasn't some guy in a rubber suit, that was pretty persuasive." Sabrina observed wryly.
"And that alarms me especially," Frederick was relieved to move past his earlier misguided hostility towards Ilsa, "If I'm understanding your description correctly they have to be Clotak, and from what I know of them it seems unlikely they would allow themselves to be co-opted by a group of humans."
Willow had been letting the conversation flow over her, trying to fit the pieces together in some sensible pattern, "Unless Tamara offered them a bribe the same way she did with the vampires. Kelso has a falling out with his associates in Humanity First and since he knows some magic they send the big guns after him. Ilsa survives the vampires so they escalate things and send another of these things out to get her." Even though the argument hung together her gut instinct said that Frederick was right.
Some demons, vampires in particular, had enough in common with humans that it was possible to deal with them, trade if you were unscrupulous enough and crazy enough. Some vampires were always looking for an easy score, be it money, booze, or blood. Most kinds of demon though were just too different, too other, for any interaction much past kill or be killed. These Clotak definitely seemed like they fell into the latter category, so why are they running around helping out Tamara and her buddies?
LJ sensed Willow's indecision, "Well I hate to go all Slayery about this but we could just find out where these Clotak live and ask them ourselves."
That got a disapproving look from Frederick, "While I admire your enthusiasm Karen that would be a very risky strategy. The Clotak are pack creatures with a very clear hierarchy. The senior ones are rather more intelligent than the foot soldiers you've encountered so far. Going into their lair could be, counterproductive, to say the least.”
"Do you have an alternative strategy?" Willow asked.
"Only the obvious ones," Frederick conceded, "pursue this woman at Humanity First or track down mister Kelso and find out what he knows."
LJ shrugged, "Well I still say we need to go after the Clotak," a thought suddenly struck her, "maybe we need some extra magical firepower to go after them," she pointed towards the medallion hanging around Willow's neck.
Willow took the cue, "Yeah, perhaps a protective charm, something strong enough that the Clotak will have to respect it," she held her breath, waiting to see if LJ had guessed right.
She released it in a long sigh when Frederick nodded, "Yes that is certainly an option. I would be reluctant to attempt such a thing on my own but with your assistance and miss McPherson's, yes that seems feasible."
"Great, lets get on that." LJ enthused.
Frederick frowned once more, "It's feasible but there is still the simpler option of pursuing Humanity First and mister Kelso, simply because we could pursue the Clotak doesn't mean we should."
"And just because we have two options it doesn't we have to choose one or the other." Tara pointed out reasonably, "After all we can't put together that sort of spell on the spur of the moment."
As was often the way Tara had hit on a suggestion everyone could go along with even if she did feel like she was cheating just a little; after all whatever happened she knew they were absolutely going to make that charm.

Willow was thumbing through one of the volumes from McPherson's small collection. It was a familiar book because she had a copy of it at home, could be the same one. She found she had to keep reminding herself this wasn't her world or her life, it was a memory, a piece of someone else's past; and still she couldn't help getting carried away in it.
Tara slid onto sofa beside her, "I think we're going to have a problem with Kelso."
That didn't surprise Willow, "He wasn't exactly helpful when we saw him the last time."
"Well at least we knew where he was then, he's checked out of hospital and I spoke to someone at his building and he hasn't gone home." Tara wasn't wholly surprised by the development; Kelso had made his feelings clear and appeared to be doing his best to be left alone buy everyone and everything.
Willow didn't let it bother her, "Unless he took his passport to the hospital he hasn't fled the country, more likely he's gone to a friends, or he has some weekend place he's holed up in."
Tara smiled, "And you're more interested in the charm anyway."
"It's kind of frustrating looking up something I already know." Willow admitted ruefully.
Tara hugged her sympathetically, "Especially when it might not be in these books."
"I just hope Frederick hurries back with his collection." Willow fretted.
Tara laughed, "He was certainly in a hurry to get out of here but I think he was more concerned about getting away from Sabrina, he's mortified about thinking she was one of the bad guys."
"Which proves we should listen to LJ, just don't tell her that." Willow double-checked that LJ was out of earshot and realized that her daughter and Sabrina were still in the bedroom, 'freshening up'.
She was about to go and roust them when the front door opened and Frederick walked in with an armful of books, "I've brought the volumes we discussed, however I've bookmarked something I thought might be suitable," he handed a book to Willow, who trembled a little as she opened it to the page he had marked and she had to restrain the urge to hug him as she saw the familiar Greek symbols. Instead she smiled at him and said calmly, "It looks good to me, and I know what we can imprint it on."

LJ looked at the medallion, removed from its chain and laid star side up, "We should have pushed Frederick to find that runic spell."
"I don't think so," Willow's words were contradictory but her tone was conciliatory, "That much fire power isn't justified for a bunch of demons, however nasty. We're one step closer and that's what counts."
LJ nodded and took a place behind Willow, her other source of dissatisfaction was that she couldn't be involved in creating the charm, in the here and now she had no magic.
With everyone in the their proper places Willow picked up a small silver needle and dipped it in a bowl of water before drying it and then placing the tip inside one of the points and enunciating the charm, letting the magic flow through the point of the needle into the metal of medallion. She had already performed a simpler charm to imprint the Hebrew charm in the centre of the star, now she could feel the power swirling around it as she continued to set the Greek letters inside and above the points, power that seemed to draw the light from the air and plunge her into gathering gloom until suddenly there was only blackness, a familiar darkness.
For one heart pounding moment Willow thought that the vision was ending, that she had somehow shattered it, then she heard the voices and turned...

The earth slowly beneath Pathfinder, "You can't expect us to leave now, they’re about to go pummeled from above and below down there." Willow was indignant at the Circle’s arrogance
The Second wasn’t fazed, and fixed Willow with a look of unshakable certainty, "You haven't got a choice, if you don't its the end of everything."

...The room reformed around Willow and Fredrick was staring at the medallion, "Very nicely done Rebecca," he announced, oblivious to Willow's glazed look.
She blinked away the paralysis and looked at the others, they had clearly experienced something similar to her own vision, "maybe we should get used to being here because right now I'm beginning to wonder if we have a future to go home to," she whispered, and no one was inclined to argue with her.

[center]5. "Blitz"[/center]

LJ Maclay was not a happy person right now despite once more being alone with Sabrina. She was the one who had seen the truth about Ilsa, she was the one who had figured out that the right moment had come to create the charm, or start on it anyway. She had done all that and what was her reward? To stand in the freezing cold on a dingy street corner watching an apartment building that’s what. There was only one way to describe it and she didn't care how childish it sounded, "It's just not fair."
Sabrina wrapped her arms around her, pulling LJ close for warmth as much as affection at the moment, "It's not like it was really their decision Lydia," she reminded Lydia consolingly, "I have to admit I couldn't see Rebecca turning over the medallion to anyone else."
"Yeah but I don't think the moms tried very hard to think of an alternative." The way Willow had made it sound there was only one possible plan, her and Tara would go in search of the Clotak with the protection of the charm while LJ went in search of Kelso, and you can take Sabrina along, I'm sure Ilsa wanted to find out who was trying to kill her. That of course had persuaded Sabrina it was a perfectly sound notion and so here they were.
Just to make things worse LJ realized she had missed a trick; Frederick's contact could probably have dug up a file on Kelso if she had just thought to suggest. When it had finally occurred to her Frederick made it clear his contact was off limits for the time being, the FBI man wasn't going to risk doing any unauthorized snooping again so soon. It didn't help to realize that it was Karen's mistake as much as hers.
The alternative plan that they had come up with had been based on the expectation, or fond wish in LJ’s opinion, that Kelso hadn't been back to his apartment since he checked out of hospital. If so a little more B&E to restore the secret papers to their original spot was in order; tagging them and a few more items with locator spells of course, just in case. Then just sit back and wait, and wait.
LJ was contemplating the possibility of spending the whole of world war two on this street corner, and the notion of world war three back home, when Sabrina squeezed her butt, "Other people just tap you on the shoulder when they want to get your attention."
"And other people better keep right on doing that," Sabrina stated firmly, "right now check out the woman in the grey coat with the brown suitcase."
LJ stared at the woman as instructed, "Didn't she go in about half an hour ago?"
"Yes she did, and she didn't have a suitcase when she went in." Sabrina observed.
LJ saw where her girlfriend was going with this, "So either she's going on a trip..."
"...Or she's picking up a few things for a friend, and she looks kind of tense if she's going on vacation." Sabrina noted the way the woman was looking around while trying not to draw attention to herself; the classic give away of the amateur who was afraid she was being followed but didn't know how to spot a tail, "She keeps looking behind her but she doesn't watch her sides or in front, she's going to be easy."
"Unless she has a car." LJ pointed out dryly.
Sabrina's confidence was unshaken, "Well that will just make it more challenging."
Despite her other half’s easy self assurance LJ was glad that the woman made her way to a subway station. In all other respects Sabrina was perfectly correct though; the woman was wholly centered on someone trying to sneak around behind her and completely failed to notice the pair of young women wandering along in front of her, and paid no attention whatsoever when they sat down in the same car as her.
LJ picked a seat that put the woman in her eyeline while she was turned talking to Sabrina, and spotted the book the woman produced to pass the time, "I think we're definitely on the right track," she commented softly.
Sabrina didn't even twitch; she just carried on looking at LJ, "Oh?"
LJ smiled, "Our lady with the suitcase is a Victor Kelso fan apparently, his name is in big red letters on the paperback she's reading."
"So mister Kelso sent someone for a change of underwear, and maybe some deep dark magic to give him something to do of a evening." Sabrina mused.
LJ nodded, "Yeah nothing like the end of the world to keep you occupied."

The woman disembarked in midtown Manhattan and made her way to a hotel on Forty-eighth Street. That posed an awkward problem, it was one thing to trail this woman round the streets but even she might get suspicious if they tried riding the elevator; Sabrina though had another notion, "How about trying out those Slayer reflexes?" she nodded towards the door marked 'stairs' as the woman waited for the elevator to arrive.
"Ok but if I beat it I'm expecting a reward." LJ leered at Sabrina in a way that left no doubt what she had in mind.
"I thought virtue was its own reward?" Sabrina asked innocently.
LJ stuck her tongue out and walked briskly towards the stairwell as the woman stepped in the elevator, as soon as the door closed LJ started taking the stairs two at a time.

Sabrina waited patiently in the lobby, or at least as patiently as she could manage with nothing to distract her but some tourist brochures. She kept an eye on the stairs and the elevator and wasn't very surprised to see the woman reappear barely five minutes after she went up, now minus the suitcase. That made sense to Sabrina, if Kelso was afraid of getting another visit from the big uglies he wouldn't want anyone else getting in harms way, which was a point in the man’s favour she supposed.
Expecting LJ to reappear momentarily Sabrina began to worry as the seconds ticked by; only to practically jump out of her skin as the receptionist spoke to her, "Are you Ilsa Hertz?"
Sabrina recovered quickly, "More or less."
"Mister Kelso in room five oh two asked me to tell you its okay to come up now." The receptionist sounded thoroughly disapproving as she passed on the message.
Sabrina couldn't resist pushing her buttons, "Thank god, I thought his wife would never leave."
The receptionist just blanked the remark; this vision is just killing my sense of humour, Sabrina decided grumpily.

LJ opened the door to Sabrina almost before she knocked, "Sorry sweetheart but I figured I had better baby-sit mister Kelso in case he got any wild ideas."
Sabrina walked in and saw the man sat on the bed rubbing his throat, "I'm guessing you mean any more wild ideas."
LJ was unrepentant, "He tried to work a hex on me when he opened the door; kind of hard to do when you can't breathe."
Kelso looked at Sabrina, "Oh great, now they send in a kraut."
Sabrina definitely didn't like his manner, and she was pretty sure Ilsa wouldn't have stood for it either, "I'm an American mister Kelso, funnily enough one your friends couldn’t tell the difference either and sent a bunch of monsters to rip me to pieces."
That brought Kelso up short, "What do you mean by that?"
LJ stuck her face inches away from Kelso's, "She means that your associates at Humanity First sent a bunch of vampires to kick in her front door and tear her to pieces without wasting time finding out that she's working for the FBI, not the Nazi's. Oh and you seem to be planning to summon up the angel of death. Is that clear enough for you?"
Kelso's belligerence melted as LJ's words hammered home, not to mention the unpleasant recollection of her superhumanly strong hand wrapped round his throat, "Look I think I know what you’re talking about with the vampires but not the angel of death."
"You're telling me you don't know what that spell you hid in the chair does?" LJ demanded belligerently, until she saw the look on Kelso's face, "You didn't know."
Kelso looked from LJ to Sabrina and back, "Maybe I should tell you what I do know, then you can make up your mind."

LJ allowed Kelso to move to the chair in the room, and take a swig from a silver flask he rescued from the suitcase before he started his explanation, "We started out just wanting to get people to wake up and see what was going on in the world. Pretty soon though we got the message that the great American public didn't want to know, the war was thousands of miles away and America shouldn't be suckered in like last time."
LJ nodded a little impatiently, "That much we already know, we read the pamphlet."
"Okay, okay. Anyway Tamara knew about my interest in magic, she'd even helped out with some technical advice for my books on the right kind of rituals. She also knew a few other people in the organization who knew about the art."
"So she suggested taking a more active approach." Sabrina guessed.
Kelso shrugged in acknowledgement, "We threw around a lot of ideas. Putting a hex on Hitler was top of the list but no one seemed to be able to come up with a spell that would work. After that was doing something closer to home, finding some way to manipulate opinion,"
"Or just kill a few alleged Nazi spies to make an example." Sabrina sounded matter of fact, which just made Kelso look even more uncomfortable.
He raised his hands defensively, "Hey bumping off the Fuhrer fine, running around on some half assed retaliation plan, not my idea. When I saw the direction Tamara was taking I started to put some distance between her and me. Besides I was getting tired of being the one bankrolling her schemes; seemed the more money I put up the less I got told about what it was for. When she hit me up again I agreed to pay but I insisted on picking the goods up in person."
LJ could see where this was headed, "That's how you ended up with the spell."
"A copy of it," Kelso corrected her, "I turned the original over to Tamara. I didn't know exactly what it was but I could tell it was only partial so I wrote out a copy, told Tamara the bank was closed and started doing some research on what the hell it was for. That's how I wound up in the hospital." As he finished Kelso opened the flask and took a long swallow.
The witches digested the story and Sabrina frowned, "I hate to say it but I believe him."
"I guess I do too," LJ admitted, "but there is one more thing mister Kelso can tell us," she fixed the man with a hard stare and he squirmed uneasily in anticipation, "who did he buy the spell from?"

Last edited by Sheridan on Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08-07-05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:04 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[[center]6. "Krieg"[/center]

Tara knew that her daughter regarded being dispatched to stakeout Kelso's apartment as drawing the short straw but Tara suspected it would prove otherwise. She was perfectly certain that LJ and Sabrina wouldn't have long to wait before the man put in an appearance, a certainty based on her training as a psychiatrist, and her years living with a writer.
In private Willow some times joked that being a professor was just something she did to take a break from writing, and even more privately Tara wasn't sure it was just a joke. As much as Willow tended to play down the Demon Hunter books as just a way to help pay the rent Tara saw how much she put into it, writing wasn't something Willow could stop doing easily and she suspected Kelso would be the same. He might be able to buy new clothes and eat take away but sooner or later he would want his notes, his manuscript, his typewriter, and Tara was betting on sooner.
Finding the Clotak was an altogether harder proposition. Frederick had picked up the phone and called his Watcher associates but they were apparently surprised to hear about the presence of the demons in New York, which meant of course they weren't going to be a lot of help, "So basically apart from the two we've run into the Clotak are keeping a low profile," Willow mused, "which sort of proves they're working with Humanity First."
"Or that they're the only two here." Tara had to point out the alternative.
Frederick squashed the notion, "No the ones you encountered are low level soldier types, they don't go far from their leaders."
"So how exactly do we find them?" Willow asked a little despairingly.
"What about that vampire LJ interrogated?" Tara suggested, "Wouldn't he be keeping a watch out for any new demons in town?"
Willow wanted to hug Tara right then, and since Frederick would be oblivious she did.
Frederick nodded hesitantly; "Perhaps but he may have taken measures since our last visit."
Willow's enthusiasm was undiminished, "He may have beefed up his security against another visit from the Slayer but this time he's going to have to deal with witches."

In the car enroute Tara could see that Frederick was still looking uneasy, "I wouldn't worry mister Giles, we took care of the Clotak I'm sure we can handle a vampire."
"I believe that miss McPherson," Frederick assured her, "I'm more worried about the degree to which I've compromised my sacred trust, my sworn duty as a Watcher. I've gone well beyond simply working beside you on this matter, I've allowed you to co-opt Watcher resources and practically take charge of my Slayer.”
That'll be the day, Willow thought, "I think Karen can make her own decisions, maybe the Watchers should worry less about 'sacred duty' and realize their living in the twentieth century, times change Giles." When she realized what she had called him Willow flushed, just for a moment she had flashed back, or forward, to the sort of conversations she had with Giles in the early days with Buffy.
Frederick didn't notice her discomfort but he did reply, "I must admit that I have found myself wondering if some, modernization might be in order but frankly it would require a seismic event to budge the council."
Tara smiled, "I've never been referred to as an earthquake before."
Willow couldn't resist the obvious rejoinder, "Well you make the earth move for me baby." That got her a punch in the shoulder, and a kiss.

Lucas kept his bar open twenty four hours a day seven days a week, not every vampire slunk back to their crypt come sunrise, some of them hunted by night and then unwound with a few drinks at his place and there were other breeds that preferred the daylight. That suited Lucas just fine usually, he had been an insomniac even before he was turned but right now he wished he had a closing time so there would be an excuse to throw out the very loud pair propping up the bar.
"He had the bleeding cheek to ask why I wasn't in uniform, so I tore the stupid sods throat out."
"Is that why you left England?"
"Nah, just fed up with hearing about the war every five seconds."
It was the English one who especially grated on Lucas' nerves; he obviously was English but his accent was equally obviously an affectation, probably intended to make him seem tougher, though if he wanted to come across as a hard man the curly blonde hair wasn't helping.
The conversation was interrupted as the door of the bar crashed open, Lucas would have been grateful for the interruption if it had been anyone else walking in except Frederick Giles. This time he seemed to have left the Slayer behind and brought along an older pair of women. He was about to instruct his bouncers to throw them out when the pair of vampires at the bar slid off their stools and began to swagger across to the trio.
"That's what I love about America, they'll deliver meals right to your door." The blonde one announced.
His drinking buddy didn't say anything; he just reached out for the redheaded woman, and disappeared in a burst of flame as the blonde woman caught him in the chest with a fireball.
The incineration of his partner sobered the blonde vampire up, and Lucas had to agree with his sentiment, "Witches, I hate bleeding witches!"

As Spike vanished through a back door Willow yelled after him, "You can run but you can't hide! You better get used to getting your butt kicked by the Rosenbergs!"
"Dear you’re being very undignified, especially as he can't actually hear you." Tara reminded her.
Willow grumbled but did it quietly, and stopped when Lucas marched over to them, "Mister Giles, last time the Slayer this time witches, what's next; a torch wielding mob of Transylvanian peasants?"
"Perhaps there won't be a next time, if we find out what we need to know." Tara suggested helpfully.
"I believe that was the implication last time." Lucas observed wryly.
Willow shrugged, "We could always make this the last time you have to worry about anything."
Before things escalated out of control Frederick butted in, "We simply came here to find out if you know anything about Clotak demons."
That shook Lucas' aplomb, "Information? As in you actually want to find Clotak demons?"
"That's the general idea." Willow snapped.
"Well in that case I'm sure I can help, hell I'll draw you a map." Lucas offered earnestly.
Willow was deeply suspicious, "And why would you be so helpful?"
Lucas smiled, "Because you won't be coming back to bother me after the Clotak turn you into a pile of rotting bones."

Despite being more than a little dubious about the directions Lucas had provided Willow and Tara finally decided to go with them; after explaining to Lucas in no uncertain terms what the Slayer would do to him if he should happen to have lied. That also provided a pretext for not bringing Frederick along on this part of their quest.
"I'm sorry ladies I really have to put my foot down, I can't simply abandon you," he had protested in a chivalrous if slightly condescending way.
"You're not abandoning us, we're telling you shouldn't come." Willow reminded him firmly.
Tara took a more pragmatic approach, "You don't have any magic of your own mister Giles, and this is going to be difficult enough without having to cover you."
"I can carry a weapon you know, in fact I would suggest we go and wait for Karen to return before we pursue the Clotak." Frederick seemed very enthusiastic about this notion.
Willow poured cold water all over it, "That would work, except that we don't know when she's going to get back, and at some point its going to occur to Lucas that the Clotak might ask us a few questions before they rip us limb from limb, like who told us where to find them. We need to do this and we need to do it now."

That had been the decisive argument and Frederick had been packed off back to McPherson's apartment while Willow and Tara took a cab as close to their destination as possible, which wasn't as close as they would have liked, "You know I can't help wondering," Willow mused, "if the biggest threat to demon kind is an economic boom."
Tara puzzled over that for a moment before she got it, "Oh, no abandoned factories or warehouses for them to use as lairs."
"Right, I mean if it’s not a sewer it’s some crumbling derelict like this one." Willow waved at the high brick monolith that Lucas had directed them to. The big arched windows were boarded up and the last of the paint on the company sign had long since peeled away. Only the fact that someone had whitewashed the number on the wall let them know they had the right place.
Silently Tara changed the subject, you figure they have sentries out?
Bound to, and I really don't want them behind us, Willow commented, so I suggest we go for a little stroll around the block.

They linked arms, and walked into the jaws of the trap.

[center]7. "Gotterdammerung"[/center]

As they walked around the building Willow was sure she could feel eyes on her. She ostentatiously checked out the factory as they walked, trying to appear as if they were looking for something in particular. Willow was hoping that the sentries would be curious enough to ask questions now and shred later, assuming they have any curiosity.
Whether they did or not they must at least have been confused because when dark a shape dropped in front of the couple the Clotak landed on all fours with its long jaws wide open; and just stood there weaving its torso back and forth uncertainly. There were a couple of thumps behind them that said it wasn't working alone. She didn't break eye contact with the one in front of her, "Two behind us baby?" she whispered.
"Uhuh." Tara replied softly and succinctly.
Willow nodded, and raised her hands over her head; "Take me to your leader."
Despite their lack of a proper face the Clotak continued to convey an air of confusion, humans weren't supposed to behave like this, they were supposed to run and scream, not stand staring. Clotak soldiers only had one option when confronted with confusion; go to their superiors.

The interior of the factory was empty and dirty, devoid of any trace of the Clotak apart from the three surrounding the couple. Tara wasn't fooled though, even through the filter of McPherson's more limited senses she could see that there was a sheet of magical energy drawn across a great section of the factory. It was nothing more than a simple piece of reflective camouflage, just about one step up from stage magic but good enough in a gloomy place if you were dealing with people who weren't expecting it, so Tara did her best to act blankly ignorant as they were herded through the barrier; she didn't need to act shocked at what lay beyond the curtain.
Willow's jaw practically hit the floor as she saw the Clotak lair; it was for all practical purposes a shrine to everything Nazi. There were large scale maps of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East covering one wall with current battle lines drawn on them; flanked by a pair of swastika flags. More of the emblems were dotted around along with photographs and busts of a disgustingly familiar mustachioed figure. There were also at least twenty of the Clotak. The fixation with the third Reich was disturbing in itself but it also made the question of how they had gotten involved with Humanity First all the more puzzling; "So is the leader here, or is he in Berlin?" she asked snappishly.
One of the Clotak was larger than the others and had a pronounced snout where the others heads blended into the shoulders. It was staring at the witches, I am Kormazagog, and I command this company of the Clotak.
Even though the creature's telepathic tone sounded like a growl Willow couldn't miss the undercurrent of smugness in its words, "Do you really? Looking at all this I doubt it."
We serve no human. We have simply come to appreciate a philosophy that encapsulates the true nature of things; the strong rule, the weak serve or die. The Germans simply do not know who the true masters are yet.
Willow couldn't contain her disgust, "They crush mankind under their jackboots and then you crush them."
Perhaps, or perhaps we will let them continue as figureheads, they have such an admirable talent for brutality. Either way we will preserve their leaders until such time as the matter is decided.
The demon made it sound so matter of fact that it took a few seconds for the meaning to sink in, "You're protecting Hitler? You're the reason all the attempts to kill him fail?" Willow didn't really need an answer, when she thought of how many impossible escapes the monster had enjoyed it had to be more than simple luck.
Kormazagog ignored her appalled expression, not us alone, but yes the Clotak have shielded him more than once, assassins who died without the human world even knowing they existed.
Tara could see Willow's hand moving towards the medallion at her neck and knew this interview was about to be cut short, "If you have this grand plan why are your soldiers working against it?"
My soldiers do only as they are commanded, the demon responded imperiously.
Reminded of their purpose Willow pressed the point, "Then why are they aiding Humanity First?"
We do not aid them, they simply provide an alternate strategy, Kormazagog was trying to sound imperious but Tara could sense an undercurrent.
"I get it; for all the big words you already suspect the Nazi's are going to lose, so why not help Humanity First wipe them out? There's always Stalin right?" She didn't bother holding back any of her anger.
Even as she listened to Tara's words Willow had a sudden flash of insight, "No baby its worse than that, much worse."
Kormazagog seemed to pick up something in Willow's, or Rebecca's, tone, you understand, and I think you have told me all I wish to know. He gestured towards his soldiers.
"I was just thinking the same thing," Willow murmured and grasped the medallion with one hand while slipping the other into Tara's grasp. As the Clotak reached out for them Willow intoned the syllables that brought the charm to life.

As the spell unfolded around the couple it intercepted the barrier the Clotak had erected to mask their presence. The thing folded like a stage backdrop unexpectedly cut loose; it's energy sucked into the protective charm. Sensing the magic the Clotak soldiers hesitated for a moment but orders were orders and they pressed home their attack.
Willow braced herself and then blinked as the demons began to blur around the edges, "Baby are they..."
"Melting? Yes their definitely getting fuzzy." Tara assured her. She knew that even without the third circle the charm was powerful but she had just expected it to repel evil; not vaporize it.
Kormazagog watched as the wave of soldiers dissolved into nothingness. He ordered more of the Clotak warriors into the attack, more out of reflex than any strategic notion; trying to crush the magic by sheer mass of flesh. He didn't understand the powerful antipathy between the shielding spell and the innate evil of the demons. In essence two like magnetic poles repel, switch one of the magnets for a bigger one and you just get a bigger force of repulsion.
The half dozen Clotak that piled onto the charmed circle around Willow and Tara didn't melt, they incinerated in a blaze of light that dazzled both the witches for a moment. As it faded they saw Kormazagog staring straight them; and several Clotak backing away from them in confusion.
Neither of them was willing to let the demons stage a 'strategic withdrawal'. With her free hand Tara pointed at one of the Clotak and a fire ball leapt from it, brighter than any she had been able to summon so far as McPherson. It ploughed straight through a Clotak and exploded against the wall beyond, setting fire to the map.
Two more points of flame sped out from Tara's fingers, tearing through the surviving Clotak, all bar one anyway. Kormazagog was transfixed by the disaster that had overwhelmed his troops and Willow looked at him almost pityingly, "You see that's the problem with you and those butchers you admire; you always think the good guys are soft and weak, that we won't fight, well guess again." As she spoke Willow stepped towards the demon commander and the power of the charm engulfed him.

As she surveyed the wreckage of the Clotak lair Willow released her grip on the charm, and almost fell to her knees. Tara caught her; "Are you okay Will?"
Shaking her head to clear it Willow got back on her feet, "I'll be fine but that charm really packs a punch."
"You could say that." Tara was looking at the smoldering remains of the Nazi paraphernalia on the walls and shattered fragments of statues littering the floor.
Willow stared at the medallion, "I wonder what the full effect will be like," she saw Tara was giving her a worried look, "relax baby, just intellectual curiosity, I can live without doing that again."
Tara gave her a reassuring hug. She didn't have any doubts about Willow; it was just she had rotten luck with talismans and other magical items. The Fire nearly consumed her, she had almost had to phase out of existence just to deliver the Spear of Odin and the tuning crystal had been nothing but trouble every time she set eyes on it, well maybe not the first time, she amended to herself, "So what next?"
"Oh that's easy," Willow explained with a serious expression that belied her words, "we just find the rest of that summoning spell and destroy it before Tamara and her buddies get a chance to use it."
"And if they already have it?" Tara asked unhappily.
Willow didn't like that option but she was clear on what had to be done, "Then we persuade them not use it, and we get as persuasive as we have to."

[center]8. "The Few"[/center]

"Hello, is that you Karen, or miss Rosenberg[i]?" Frederick's voice on the phone was edgy, a mixture of anxiety and too much coffee.
"If you let me get a word in edgewise Frederick then you would know." LJ pointed out amiably.
"[i]Yes I'm sorry but sitting here on my own has been a little frustrating
." Frederick conceded.
"What do you mean alone?" LJ demanded.
Frederick filled her in on the trip to the club, and the witches’ insistence on facing the Clotak without him.
"And you just let them?" LJ was wondering if it would seriously mess things up if she were to twist Frederick into a pretzel.
"I had little choice, miss Rosenberg is a surprisingly resolute woman; she was quite implacable." Frederick was beginning to sound irritated.
Visualizing her mother in full on 'this is how its going to be done' mode calmed LJ down, guess that's something else she inherited through granddad, "Okay Frederick, guess we just we have to decide whether to head for the apartment or go straight over there and back them up."
Frederick was going to offer his view when LJ heard muffled noises from behind him coming through the receiver, noises that might have been a door opening and slamming, "Miss Rosenberg, Miss McPherson, thank god!" She also heard the sound of the receiver being placed on a tabletop
"Mom? Are they ok? Talk to me Frederick!" LJ demanded increasingly loudly.
She was answered by Willow's voice on the phone, "We're fine dear, we found the Clotak."
LJ sighed with relief, "So do we need to go and do any tidying up?"
"You don't need to worry about that dear," Willow's tone didn't invite a lot of questions, "they won't be bothering us again."
"Okay, fine, we found Kelso, apparently he bowed out of the scheme before he found out what it was, trying to find out is what put him in the hospital."
"And brought the Clotak down on top of him." Willow guessed.
"He did have something useful to contribute though, he knows where they got the spell."
"Well that is interesting."
The way her mother said 'interesting' made LJ think of the proverbial Chinese curse, "Mom this guy isn't part of Humanity First, and if we go kicking in the front door he's just going to call the cops."
"Oh all right," Willow conceded grudgingly, "we'll try being nice, to start with. Where do we find this person?"
LJ gave her the details, "We should rendezvous somewhere first, so we can coordinate our moves." And so you don't decide to just charge straight in. It struck her just surreal it was, she was worrying about her mother doing the Slayer thing, stake first and ask questions later.
The same thought seemed to occur to Willow, "Okay dear you win; we'll come and pick you up before we go anywhere else."
LJ did her best to play innocent, "Of course mom, I didn't think you would do anything else."

If there was one thing LJ regretted not bringing up in her conversation with her mother it was the simple request, bring me a sweater. The night had turned freezing cold and despite the fact that she already had a sweater, a coat, and a girlfriend more than willing to snuggle for warmth, she was still shivering.
Sabrina was feeling the cold too and tried to distract herself by seeing just how close she could get to LJ while they were still wearing clothes, and checking out the house sat on the hill, "Now that's my ideal of a villains lair. I can just see the realtors’ description, spooky gothic pile; ideal starter home for mad scientist or maniacal serial killer. Extensive basement for hiding bodies or building monster, night viewings available."
LJ giggled, Tara grinned, and even Willow smiled for a moment. Tara was still smiling as she reminded Sabrina, "We don't know that he's mad or evil."
"Kelso said he was eccentric, isn't that just crazy with money?" LJ wondered.
Tara adopted her best professional tone, "Well from a psychiatric point of view yes it can do but its usually fairly harmless."
"Usually." Willow repeated ominously.
Frederick had insisted on taking a closer look at the gate in front of the driveway and left the women and the car behind a sharp curve in the road that concealed them from the house. Naturally they had argued fiercely against it but this time the vision had the final word and they had been left sitting in the cold. He reappeared with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his trench coat, "It's firmly locked and there's no bell or intercom. Clearly mister Beckermann doesn't invite casual visitors."
Willow took it phlegmatically, "So I suppose we should go home, phone, make an appointment for a convenient time to suit mister Beckermann..."
LJ interrupted her with an exasperated sigh, "All right mom I don't think we need to be that nice. Frederick you think we can justify a little breaking and entering under the circumstances?"
"I did see lights on in the far side of the house," he cautioned, "and people are apt to forget to lock their gates from time to time."
"Maybe I should take a look at the gate," Willow offered, "Just to double check that lock."
Frederick nodded, "Perhaps you should."

Trevor Beckermann heard the distant sound of a car and went to look out the study window. He saw the car turning off the main road towards the gate. Since Beckermann wasn't expecting visitors and the gate was locked up he shrugged and went back to his desk. If they were lost there was a gas station a couple of miles down the road and he was more interested in the authenticity or otherwise of the Mark Twain first edition he had been offered.
So intent on the book was he that when he heard the car again it took more than a few seconds before he realized that the sound was growing louder not quieter, "Could have sworn I locked that gate," he muttered to himself as he headed for the front door.
The knock on the door was polite but insistent, there was clearly no point in pretending no one was home, "Yes, who is it?" Beckermann called through the door.
"We're associates of Tamara and Victor, we need to speak with you mister Beckermann."
The woman's voice was pleasant but also sounded urgent and if she was an associate of Victor's, "All right just give me a moment."
As the door opened Willow saw that the description she had received second hand through LJ was pretty accurate, a distinctly overweight guy but well dressed and well groomed otherwise. He looked distinctly uneasy as he saw the size of the delegation so Willow fixed a wide smile on her face and hurried on, "Sorry about this but it is rather urgent, and its also pretty cold out here."
Tara watched as Beckermann assessed the group and made his mind up; she could guess his thoughts, four women and a respectable looking man, how much trouble can they be?
Beckermann made a sweeping gesture, "Do come in."
The group filed in with nods of thanks and Beckermann led them back towards the study. Tara looked around the room and tried to make sense of the disparate collection of books and artifacts arranged around it. She decided that all they had in common was that they were old and rare, and valuable.
Beckermann sat back behind his desk and gave a little sigh as his bulk settled into the chair, "Now what can I help you with? I thought we had concluded our business?"
That set Willow's alarm bells ringing, "You've supplied the whole of the spell?"
Beckermann misread her reaction, "I assure you that I haven't held out, you have the whole of the, spell, if you still insist on referring to it as such."
Tara heard the amusement in his voice, "You don't believe in magic I take it."
Beckermann smiled apologetically, "I'm sorry but no, I don't want to denigrate your beliefs but simply because something is old and handed down from generation to generation doesn't make it real."
Willow raised her eyebrows, "So when Tamara and Victor approached you about the spell..."
"I named a ridiculous price," he confessed, "and when they agreed to pay it I'm afraid greed got the better of me and I took the money."
"You know what the spell is supposed to do?" Willow asked in a calm way that made Tara and LJ uneasy.
Beckerman remained oblivious to the danger he was walking into, "Calls up some ancient power to slay their enemies. I can certainly sympathize with their views but they seem to have allowed their feelings to get the better of their commonsense."
Willow nodded, "Did they ever offer to prove magic existed, demonstrate it in front of you?"
"Of course not," Beckermann was clearly amazed at the notion, "I am an unbeliever and uninitiated, naturally the power won't deign to work in my presence."
Willow gave him a hard stare, "Whatever gave you that idea?" As she spoke her gaze shifted to the book lying on the desk in front of him, she hoped Rebecca's power was up to this. Willow needn't have worried; the book rose gently from the table and moved to hover above Beckermann's head. Tempted as she was to drop it on him she moved it back over the desk and lowered it before letting it fall the last couple of feet and land on the desk with a thud.
She saw Beckermann staring at the book in disbelief, "And I assure you, I don't do it with mirrors."

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: <<NEW STORY>> 05-06-05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:14 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]9. "Day of Infamy"[/center]

Tara watched Beckermann's bewilderment and felt a little sorry for him but knew they had to press home the point, "We can demonstrate several other techniques, put a fireball through your window, unlock your safe by laying hands on it, give us a little time and we can probably rustle up a real live demon for you. The important thing is that you have to understand that the magic is a real thing, and that Tamara had a very good reason for never proving that to you."
Beckermann looked increasingly pale as Tara spoke and slowly shook his head, "If that were so, then..."
Willow finished the sentence for him, "Then that spell you gave them does exactly what it's supposed to, it calls up the angel of death."
"We need to know everything you gave them, and where and when they plan to use it if you know." LJ added earnestly.
Beckermann was still dazed but that got through to him, "But they’re planning to use it now, they were here just a couple of hours ago."
LJ didn't react with any malice aforethought, she just found herself with the lapels of the man's jacket in her hands, the chair knocked over, and Beckermann hauled bodily to his feet with her screaming in his face, "Where the hell did they go?"
"Please put him down Lydia, he can't answer if you're choking him." Tara asked politely but firmly.
Sabrina put a hand on LJ's shoulder, "You better do it sweetheart, he's an idiot not a bad guy. If you start pounding idiots you won't have time for anything else."
LJ released Beckermann and he staggered back against the edge of the desk. He was angry at the rough handling but also deeply scared; if anything the demonstration of superhuman strength had been more convincing than the levitating book. A teenage girl simply couldn't throw his bulk around like a rag doll without possessing some unnatural power, "They wanted a place that had magical connections, I told them about some old Indian burial ground, or what’s supposed to be one, it's not much more than a clearing in the woods."
"Which I assume you gave them detailed directions to," Willow waited until Beckermann nodded, "fine, then you better give us a copy, and hope we get there in time."

As they raced to the car Sabrina felt she had to point something out, "You it isn't really a big deal if we don't get there in time. Rebecca and the others must have done."
The other three all seemed to blink simultaneously, and looked sheepish for a moment. Willow shook it off first, "No maybe it doesn't but it feels like it does. Besides I just have to see how this works out."
Sabrina shrugged, "Hey I do to, I just thought someone should act sensible and mention it; so let's get moving."

"What do you mean I have to stay here?" Sabrina demanded angrily.
With Frederick at the wheel the group had followed the directions as fast as he dared on the country road; until even that petered out and they faced the prospect of a hike along a narrow dirt trail that threaded amongst the bare branches of the trees. It was at this point that LJ, Willow, and Tara decided that this was going to be a witches and Slayer only party, prompting Sabrina's outburst.
"You have to stay here because I'm pretty certain that Ilsa Hertz didn't come into those woods," LJ responded determinedly, "Sabrina Harrington is a major asset, Ilsa would just be in the way out there, and so would Frederick Giles."
Frederick wanted to dispute that but Willow got in first, "We can hardly leave Ilsa here on her own. What if something goes wrong? She'd be stranded and there would be no one to call in the cavalry."
That was an argument that Frederick couldn't really dispute, "Very well but if I don't hear from you in an hour..."
Willow shook her head, "you get in the car, get to a phone, and tell the Watchers what's happened, right?"
"Very well. Miss Hertz I think we would be warmer waiting in the car." Frederick announced and opened the door for Sabrina.
She looked unhappily at LJ before giving her a hug, "I'm expecting a detailed report."
"Second by second." LJ promised her as she turned to join her parents.

Willow was panting for breath as they ran along the path, most of her attention on the ground to avoid tripping over some stray root but she had enough left to worry about what they were going to see and Sabrina's reminder that this was a vision didn't help; this was too personal, to close to home for her to fight down the growing sense of unease.
Tara was more worried about Willow than whatever Humanity First might be doing. There wasn't much point in reminding her once more that she wasn't the Willow Rosenberg who had called the angel, perhaps this might even be therapeutic for Willow, maybe there's more to our being here than just a spell gone wrong. She decided not to mention that theory to Willow, the notion that she might owe Sabrina a favour wasn't one she'd take well.
LJ had taken the lead and so she was the first to burst into the clearing and what she saw made her think they had wandered into a different vision, one involving Stonehenge. The impression was fleeting mostly because Stonehenge was well, stone. This example was nothing but a series of flat boards that had been erected in a circle and, while the surfaces facing outwards were dark the insides were painted bright white and daubed with magical symbols in what she knew instinctively was blood; all of this was illuminated in the flickering glow of a couple of gas lights, the kind usually used for more wholesome activities like camping. There were also five figures stood in the middle of it; one woman holding a sheet of paper seemed to be marshalling the other four and though LJ hadn't met her she would put real money on that being Tamara.
Willow appeared next to her daughter and stared at the scene with an appalled expression, which shaded into horror as she looked more closely at the spell laid out on the boards. LJ was astonished as her mother uttered a string of profanity before she shouted towards the circle, "It's wrong! It’s wrong!"
She repeated it again and again as she ran towards the group inside the circle.
As she halted in front of Tamara the woman a contemptuous look, "I suspected as much when we met, one of Victor's spineless friends. Well we're a little past you're moral objections."
Willow stared at her in disbelief, before drawing back her fist and landing a right hook square on Tamara's jaw. The woman fell back, ending up sat on her behind barely missing one of the panels.
Willow ignored the pain in her hand, "I mean you've done the spell wrong moron, you might summon the angel but there's no way you'll control it."
Tamara stared up at her for a moment, and then uttered something unintelligible but terrible sounding, "You think I'm going to be deceived so easily?"
She was still looking smugly at Willow as what looked like vast dark gossamer wings appeared out of thin air and closed around one of Tamara’s companions. The wings dissolved away again and there was only the distant echo of a scream where the man had been standing.

LJ and Tara had been stood back watching as Willow confronted Tamara. As soon as she saw the man sucked up by the darkness LJ sprinted into the circle, just as another of the Humanity First minions vanished, enfolded in shadows that reminded LJ of translucent bat wings. Pure instinct took over and LJ grabbed Willow, shoving her out of the circle where she sprawled on the grass.
Seeing Tara running to her side LJ turned her attention to the remaining Humanity First representatives. Tamara was struggling to her feet and as much as the woman probably deserved to be left here LJ didn't hesitate and shoved her towards safety, I hope, just making sure not to direct the woman towards where her parents were reassuring each other they were okay.
Of the remaining two wannabe American avengers one had already jumped clear and was sprinting into the darkness without worrying about the fate of his comrades. The last one remaining in the circle seemed to have frozen in terror, until she made eye contact with LJ. That shattered her paralysis and she turned to run; and promptly tripped over her own two feet as she did so, falling helplessly and sprawling face first in the grass. LJ sighed loudly and sprinted over; stopping as the air turned thick and something dark folded around her, damn now I won't know how it ends.
Willow stared wide eyed as the wings faded away, leaving only empty space where her daughter had been, "Lydia!" she screamed in despair.

[center]10. "Semper Fi"[/center]

As Willow rose to her feet Tara grabbed her and wrapped her in an almost crushing hug, "Willow she's ok!"
Willow looked at her, eyes filled with pain, "How can you say that?"
"Because she was never here," Tara enunciated the words slowly and clearly, "none of us were."
The calm voice broke through to Willow and she felt a rush of relief, which was swiftly followed by guilt, "Karen, it was her out there."
"Yes it was but she saved Rebecca, and her." Tara's voice turned harsh as she looked over at Tamara, who was still too disoriented by her rough handling and the fate of her comrades to respond.
Willow also turned her gaze to the woman and then back to the circle, now empty, and shivered; the angel was still there but still bound in place, for the moment. She made up her mind, "We need to regroup and we better take, that, with us."
Tara nodded, "We're going to have to explain what happened to Sabrina, and Frederick."
"Yeah, and I definitely want her there when we tell them." They grabbed Tamara and over her increasingly vehement protests frog marched her back along the trail.

At the car Sabrina was upset by their story but saw the reality quickly, "She's probably sat with Ira right now sipping a soda and wondering what's taking us so long."
Tara gave her a smile and then transferred it to Willow, "Exactly."
It wasn't that simple with Frederick, there was no comfort they could offer there, no softening the blow. Tara watched him staring at Tamara, anger and contempt mixing in his expression, his hands flexing in a way that suggested he wanted to wrap them around Tamara's throat but he held back, exhibiting superhuman restraint.
That unflinching gaze and palpable hatred unsettled Tamara enough that she felt the urge to justify herself, "Look we had a higher purpose, we were trying to end a threat to the whole of mankind."
Frederick's response was cool and cutting, "I believe Herr Hitler offered those same justifications when he started his war in the east, they weren't very convincing then and I find them even less so when they offered up to excuse the death of a friend."
It had the desired effect, Tamara descended into a tight-lipped silence, the first hint of uncertainty in her eyes. It's a start, Willow decided, and also concluded that the best thing for Frederick right now would be to keep him from brooding on Karen's fate, "We have to figure out how to undo this, and fast."
Frederick shook his head and turned to Willow, "You believe the creature will escape from the circle?"
"Right now either the gap they opened is too small or the circle is exercising some sort of control, despite how poorly it was executed," Willow mused, "sooner or later either it will tear a big enough hole to escape or the circle will collapse, then it can really stretch those wings. Wherever their shadow falls there won't be anything living left behind."
Like the others Sabrina listened to Willow's assessment soberly, until a thought struck her, "I'm not a big bible person but wasn't there some sort of sign to protect the Jews against the angel?"
Frederick nodded, "Indeed but even if we knew what it was it wouldn't be possible to protect everyone."
"Unless we painted it inside the circle!" Tara offered in a moment of inspiration.
Willow practically jumped into Tara's arms and Frederick snapped his fingers, "Of course the sign was intended to bar a place to the angel. Placed in the circle it would bar the world to it, hopefully send it back from whence it came."
Sabrina goggled, "I can't believe he said whence. It would probably work, if someone could live long to create it."
"You mean if someone had a powerful enough charm to protect them." Willow dangled the medallion in front of them, "And now I think I know where to get everything we need."

Beckermann was unhappy about the return of this band of invaders; he was appalled when they explained what had happened, "You're talking about the end of the world," he croaked, his throat dry with fear.
"We're talking about stopping the end of the world." Tara reminded him soothingly, "And we need your help to do it."
"How?" he asked desperately.
"Where did you get the summoning spell? Was there other material with it?"
"Yes, it was in a volume I acquired, it was full of arcane nonsense." Beckermann blushed as he realized what he had said.
Willow brushed it aside, "We need to see that book, and any other 'arcane nonsense' you have."

As Willow and Tara hustled Beckermann away to ransack his collection Sabrina and Frederick were left to watch over Tamara. The woman hadn't objected to being dragged along to the house, partly because the alternative was being abandoned in the woods and partly because she didn't dare complain under Frederick's steely gaze.
Sabrina looked her up and down, "Seems kind of unfair, that she should get off the hook, I mean it's not like we could turn her into the cops without winding up in a psych ward."
"I will have to report to the Watchers Council, they can take action, direct action if they feel it’s warranted." Frederick explained coolly.
Tamara began to look afraid, "You don't have the right..."
Sabrina cut her off with a "Hah!"
Frederick offered Tamara something that might have been intended as reassurance, and then again perhaps not, "The council is something of a bureaucratic maze, it could be a long time before they take a decision, weeks, months, years perhaps."

Any further intimidation was halted as Willow and Tara reappeared, books in hand, "I think we've got what we need." Willow announced, handing a tattered volume over to Frederick, "That's the book the spell came from, what no one noticed," she looked contemptuously at Tamara, "was that a couple of the symbols had been damaged. What is very clear though…"
"The sign." Frederick practically sighed the words with relief.
Tara handed her book to Sabrina, "And you might recognize this."
Sabrina gazed at the image on the page, "That's the charm, so we have everything we need."
"Except some blood to paint the sign," Willow corrected her, "but I think Tamara can help with that." The woman recoiled in horror, "I meant you used blood to paint the spell so I'm guessing you probably had some left over, what else would I mean?" Willow concluded in a poor impersonation of innocence.
"There was a traveling bag, its still in the circle, it should still be in the circle." Tamara babbled.
Sabrina smiled and handed the book back to Tara, "Which just leaves the question of whose going on this little excursion?"
Willow tapped the medallion, "That's already been settled by history and argument so there’s no point going over it again."
Beckermann came out of the library carrying several items, "I think I have what you need for that charm you were so interested in."
Willow gave him an encouraging smile, "Thanks, that's going to make this much easier.
The man sighed, "I'm sorry for panicking, I realize this is probably just another Sunday for you but I'm still trying to catch up."
Tara did a double take, "I beg your pardon?"
Beckermann pointed at a clock on the wall, "It's after midnight."
"Right Sunday December seventh nineteen forty one, just another Sunday." Willow shook her head, "It would be wouldn't it?"

The circle looked different as the witches approached it this time, the grass inside the ring of boards had shriveled and all but disappeared, nothing lives where it passes, Willow couldn't help remembering that phrase.
Tara had taken her hand and squeezed it tight as she saw the devastation, "The charm could protect us both you know."
"Probably," Willow conceded, "but I think I need to do this myself."
"You don't have anything to atone for honey." Tara reminded her firmly.
Willow smiled, "Maybe not, it just feels like there is."
Tara wasn't going to argue any further, she just kissed Willow and murmured softly, "Just be careful."
"Hey what can go wrong?" Willow answered cheerily, and swiftly made for the circle before Tara could offer any suggestions.
As she reached the edge Willow whispered the words that summoned the charm. Even with its power wrapped around her Willow felt as if a great weight had draped itself over her, the oppressive presence in the magical ring making itself felt even through the protective power. She looked around and spotted the bag Tamara had mentioned resting against one of the planks, another sloppy gesture that raised Willow's hackles. She couldn't help but wonder again what Humanity First might have done with some competent help, and be deeply grateful they never got it.
Rummaging through the bag she found a screw top jar with dark fluid in it that Willow didn't need two guesses to identify, it was still at least half full, more than enough for her purposes, hopefully. She held it firmly and walked towards the centre of the circle, only to nearly drop it as she heard a voice in her head, what do you think you're doing?

[center]11. "I am Become Death"[/center]

Trying to visualize what an encounter with the angel might be like Willow had imagined many things over the years; a light, pleasant, contralto voice hadn't been among them. Recovering Willow spoke out loud, "I'm sending you back where you belong."
That is not necessary, you can simply repair the summoning, command me as you wish, the voice suggested.
Willow undid the lid of the jar, "That I know."
Then why pursue this path? We can smite those who have brought evil to this world, and do it in such a way that none will dare take up their cause, we can put an end to this war, spare more lives than we take. The voice was reasonable and persuasive. It was also wasting its time.
Pouring out a thin trickle of blood to form a line Willow shook her head, "I'm sure that's what Tamara and her friends told themselves, without bothering to worry about what would happen after that."
What do you mean?
Taking a deep breath Willow spilled out the thoughts that had been plaguing her, "I mean that sooner or later others will learn the truth, worse after such an unmistakable demonstration they'll actually believe it. How long do you think it will be before someone else decides to strike down their own personal vision of evil? How long before they start looking for a power that can protect them from you? Either we end up with a dead world because you are set loose or a world enslaved to the things that left this world when mankind was young. This war is a terrible thing but it's a human thing, and it’s going to stay that way." As she spoke Willow had all but completed the sign. She had one last curve to paint; and for a second time the voice nearly made her drop the jar.
My misfortune to meet one who understands the balance; finish your task Willow Rosenberg, and know that you are not the one who summoned me, and never were.
Willow was to stunned to move for a moment, she couldn't have heard that, this was a vision.
I am not bound by time or place witch, now close the circle.
That nudged her into action, she tipped the jar and drew a rough semi circle. As she finished the sign the night seemed to grow darker until finally she was stood in a dark nothingness, and this time she was happy to see it.

As she stood there Willow became aware of someone standing behind her. She turned round expecting to see Tara or Sabrina standing behind her, instead she was face to face with Rebecca Rosenberg, "Are you here?" Willow felt the question was clumsy but she couldn't think of any other way to ask it.
Rebecca smiled and nodded, "Like the angel I'm now outside the bounds of time and space."
Which is a polite way of saying she's dead, "I hope I didn't make too much of a mess of things in the vision," Willow offered apologetically.
"You did very well, frankly I think you have rather more world saving experience than I have," Rebecca sighed, "When my time came I was fearful that I would be the last witch in the family, no one else seemed to have the interest or the aptitude. When I arrived, on the other side shall we say, I was amazed at the reassurance, the knowledge that the craft would be taken up again, and taken to heights greater than I ever imagined."
"LJ is pretty special." Willow admitted proudly.
Rebecca shook her head, "I wasn't referring to her Willow. Anyway it's time you went back to her and Tara but I'm so glad I was given this moment.
"Me too," Willow agreed enthusiastically, "And I won't forget it."
Rebecca smiled broadly, and suddenly Willow was looking into a different face, a younger one, a face framed by blonde hair, with twinkling eyes that were her eyes, "I know, and neither will I."
"Rebecca." Willow whispered as the vision faded away.

Tara was staring at Willow slumped in the dining room chair worriedly until her partner murmured, "Rebecca," and opened her eyes.
"Hey mom, what kept you?" LJ asked cheerily."
Willow gathered her wits quickly, "Having a word with an old acquaintance," and maybe a new one as well.
Ira had been growing impatient as the others clustered around Willow, "Can anyone explain what's going on to me? You all turned into statues a couple of minutes ago and know you're acting like you've been gone for days."
Willow waved towards an empty chair, "Sit down dad, I've got a story to tell you, about the 'black sheep' of the family."

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: <<NEW STORY>> 05-06-05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:23 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Another brilliant episode! It raises a lot of questions (LJ and Sabrina in space???) but I guess I'll have to wait and see. I enjoyed the 1940's setting, and it was nice to see Giles (well, a Giles) again. Looking forward to part 2

Well look forward no longer because it's here! Also you'll see a new thread from me 'And now for something completely diiferent'. I won't tell you what's in it, its a surprise... :devil
Sorry, that thread has been relocated to Mi2, my mistake!

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 4:28 am 
6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 1:47 pm
Posts: 499
how did this update slip past me? glad i stumbled across it last night, cause sleeping, so overrated.
i expected this update to be harder to follow, with four characters having essentially two names during the vision, but it wasn't difficult at all. loved the whole atmosphere of the visions, very early 50's b-movie (but a really good b-movie). got a big kick out of sabrina's sense of humor not transalating to the era, and frederick, really in over his head with these four.
awesome ending, willow confronts the angel of death (without any chess games, just magic) then meets her ancestor, and her daughter. this just keeps getting better! ~mary

you toyed with my heart like it was a toy heart ~ lisa simpson

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:44 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
this just keeps getting better! ~mary

Thanks very much, I'm well under way with the next story Elements: Earth, and as you may be able to guess a piece of Willow's past is back to cause trouble once more.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 10:00 am 
4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:39 pm
Posts: 186
I liked the fact that far from being the first Rosenberg witch, Willow actually has a whole line of magical ancestors. Can I assume we'll be seeing more of Rebecca in the future (or the past).

I liked how the Angel of Death wasn't evil, but just wants to do what it does. Still, poor old Karen the slayer!

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 10:04 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Can I assume we'll be seeing more of Rebecca in the future (or the past).

Well I do have an idea for another story; involving Rebbecca search for Thor's Hammer in the company of McPherson and an archeologist named Jones... :-D

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:48 pm 
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:28 pm
Posts: 60
I was so excited to see this update a couple of days ago, and I have been so busy that I just finally finished reading it. Once again you have written another wonderful installment to this fantastic story. I look forward to your next update and the developing relationships between both Sabrina and LJ, and Sabrina and LJ's Moms.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 11:22 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
I look forward to your next update and the developing relationships between both Sabrina and LJ, and Sabrina and LJ's Moms.

Ah Animism the forecast on that front is, stormy.:)

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: ---NEW STORY--- 08/07/05
PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 11:17 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Just to say 'Elements: Earth' is finished, should be edited and up by the weekend.

 Post subject: Reality Check 2018: Elements Earth Part I
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 11:59 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Title: Elements Earth
Author: Mike Mullen
Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence and adult themes.
Spoilers: None what so ever
Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.
Summary: Willow and Sabrina find the past catching up with them.
Authors notes: First of a two parter and be warned there will be a lot of angst in part two, which won’t be resolved until ‘Dark of The Sky’.
Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.

[center]Elements Earth[/center]

[center]Prologue: Adrift II[/center]

Sabrina couldn't help looking at the oxygen level indicator in the helmet, literally as it happened. The indicator was designed to show itself in the helmet display wherever your eyeline was, a clever optical trick she had a hard time appreciating right now. Whoever had been responsible for that part of the suit's blueprint clearly expected the wearer to take notice and head back to wherever they had come from in good time, yeah right.
At a guess there was about fifteen minutes of air left in her life support system, Lydia still being unconscious probably had a little more but not much more. Sabrina couldn't help feeling a stab of fear, not so much about the dying as about what lay beyond. Her experiences told her that there certainly was something beyond; her fear was that she might be parted from Lydia. LJ Maclay was after all a hero; someone who had saved the world and earned a spot in the good place ten times over. Sabrina wasn't so sure about herself; so she had acted to save a life, maybe more than one but it didn't change the fact, they don't let killers into heaven.

[center]1. "Infatuation"[/center]

The image on the screen behind Willow provoked more puzzlement than upset amongst her students; a black swastika set in a white circle on a scarlet backdrop, "I hope you were all paying attention in history one oh one," she commented, only half joking, "and that you recognize this, a symbol of evil and the dark side of human nature."
Willow waved her hand and the screen changed, showing a stone tablet with a broken armed cross, different from the other one only in the direction it was facing, "A symbol of good fortune, commonplace in the Asian subcontinent for centuries."
She let the class think about that for a few moments before pressing on with her theses, "The adoption of this emblem by the Nazis was not accidental; it was part of a wider interest in magic and the occult that infused the Nazi philosophy," more than I can I can ever tell you without getting locked up in an institution, "So we can rapidly dismiss any notion that the belief in magic and witchcraft was something that only influenced society or history in medieval times."
"Are you suggesting the Nazi's used magic?" The preemptory question from the middle rows was more than a little sarcastic.
"I'm suggesting they believed in it, and certainly some of them attempted to use it to manipulate events." Willow didn't enjoy hedging but she could hardly offer up the unvarnished truth; that dark things had watched over a monstrous regime they saw as fellow travelers. The best she could do was try and nudge some of the brighter and more open minded ones in the right direction; to understand there was a larger world out there.
The question allowed Willow to steer the class down a productive avenue and shake a few preconceptions loose, which made it a good afternoon from a teaching point of view, "Professor Rosenberg, do you have a moment?"
Willow looked up and the first thought that ran through her head was, legs, as in the girl had long shapely ones in a very short skirt. Willow's attention moved up to the girl's face, a pretty one with blonde haircut in a bob style, "What can I do for you...?"
"Jessica, Jessica Lazar, I wanted to know if you might have some free time later." The girl asked brightly.
"Well I can always make time for a student who’s interested in learning more." Willow offered.
"That wasn't quite what I meant." The girl responded suggestively.
Willow's hands were resting on the desk and now she felt fingers brushing against the right one as Jessica spoke, ah, that sort of free time. It was hardly the first time Willow had been propositioned over the years by a student, it averaged about once a semester actually and since she her sexuality was hardly a secret most of the offers came from the right gender. Some were sweet, some were direct, a couple had been more than happy to include Tara in their suggestions, all of them had of course been turned down.
It wasn't that Willow didn't find any of them physically attractive, she was grown up enough not to pretend that, it was simply that none of them could offer anything to match what she already had. Jessica broke Willow's train of thought as she leant further across the desk, "I know I'm being terribly naughty here Professor, propositioning a married woman, and if you felt the need to spank me for being naughty, well I could live with that."
The attempt to shock or seduce Willow backfired totally because she recognized the type she was dealing with, someone who just wanted to tick her off a list, a notch on a bedpost, "I'll pass." She gathered up her tablet and turned to leave.
Jessica called after her, "Think about it Professor, maybe I could show you a few new tricks."
Willow halted, she knew she should just ignore the remark but; "My dear girl my partner knows 'tricks' you've never even heard of." Now she did leave, marching away in a haughty manner.
Jessica stared after her and the girl's expression froze into a cold smile, "Don't bet on that Rosenberg."

With a clear calendar for once Tara was at home making some sandwiches and opening a bottle of wine in anticipation of Willow's return. They would have the house to themselves since LJ and Sabrina had, 'gone to the mall', which had already acquired the status of a euphemism in Tara's mind since the pair had returned from their last supposed shopping trip smelling faintly of suntan oil, left a trail of fine white sand when they took off their boots, and, the clincher, Sabrina looked exhausted but happy.
Tara suspected that these little jaunts were the only reason the pair hadn't raised the matter of sharing a room, yet. However with LJ heading for college in a few month, and Sabrina determined to go wherever her Lydia went parental approval was apt to prove academic sooner rather than later.
Hearing the front door opening Tara walked into the living room, and saw Willow frowning as she put down her bag, "What's the matter honey?"
Willow shook her head, "Someone tried to pick me up at school."
"Personally I miss the days when they used to give teacher an apple instead of their phone number." Tara observed dryly. Seeing that the joke hadn't gone over she slipped an arm around Willow, "What made this one so different?"
Willow outlined the events and Tara pursed her lips as her partner finished, "Pretty aggressive."
"Way too aggressive," Willow agreed, "the more I think about it the more her whole attitude bugs me."
Tara nodded and came to a decision, "I think a call to the Dean is in order."
Willow was startled, "Hey she didn't actually do anything."
"Willow I trust you to know bad when you see it, and this girl is bad right?" Tara asked reasonably.
As usual Tara had gotten to the heart of what had been nagging at Willow, there had been something more than just sexual aggression in Jessica Lazar's body language; something that suggested the girl wasn't inclined to take no for an answer, "You're right, as usual, at the very least I'd better speak to him in case she decides to do something petty."

The Dean liked Professor Rosenberg, she published in the professional journals often enough to maintain a high profile for her department, was always nice at faculty and alumni parties and her partner doctor Maclay was a charming woman. That was why when his secretary informed him that Professor Rosenberg was calling he had no qualms about taking it.
He was somewhat unsettled by Willow's account of events, as much by the potential legal exposure as anything else, thank god the girl didn't proposition Fuller, just because he teaches classes in primitive behavioral patterns doesn't mean he has to practice them, "I share your concerns Willow, a student who's that, direct, is apt to respond petulantly when they're rejected. It's probably a good idea to remind this girl that we take just as dim a view of students sexually harassing faculty members as vice versa."
Willow's concerns ran a little deeper than that still with no hard evidence it would have to do, "Thanks Jim, it might at least make her think twice about misbehaving again."
"Right, and the name was Jessica Lazar." The question was more or less rhetorical as he was already running his fingers over the tablet and calling up student records.
Willow watched the creases in his brow deepening as he scanned over them and had a sinking feeling, "There's no Jessica Lazar."
Reluctantly the Dean nodded, "I have four Jessica's, surnames beginning with 'L', perhaps you misheard?"
Not a chance, "I suppose its possible Jim."
"Well see if any of these look familiar." The Dean’s face was replaced by a split screen showing the four girls.
The student ID photos were as lousy as all such pictures tended to be but even allowing for that none of them were close to the girl Willow had encountered, "Definitely not any of them."
The pictures vanished and the Dean reappeared, looking very worried now, "All right, lets broaden out the search."
"I guess we have to." Willow sounded unenthusiastic. Silently she spoke with Tara as the Dean played with the settings on his terminal, we're not going to find her in there.
Which just proves that you were right in the first place
, Tara pointed out.
I wish that made me feel better about it, Willow observed with a hint of anxiety, some girl goes to the trouble of sneaking into my class just to proposition me.
Not just that honey
, Tara corrected her, I mean your cute but she was obviously after something more.
Willow suppressed a smile at the compliment contained in the statement, I know, I just wish we had some idea what the heck it was.

Jessica folded a crease in the wrapping paper. It was gaudy stuff, gold with red hearts scattered across it, pretty appalling actually but suitable for this purpose, she folded the triangle she had formed over and stuck it down with a short piece of Mylar tape. Turning the package over in her hands she again considered whether she should put a bow on it, nah, why gild the lily? This should be just perfect.

[center]2. "Past and Present”[/center]

LJ was fiddling with the hem of a top and stretching it out on a hanger to get a good look at the texture and colour before she decided it was a little too pink for her taste, "What do you think of this one?" Sabrina's voice interrupted her inspection and LJ turned to see her dressed in a long cream dress that lacked sleeves or shoulders, anything in fact much above the bust line and there was a panel cut out there with the two sides pulled together by a clasp that pushed her boobs up and together
"Now that I like." LJ's gaze was helplessly drawn towards that clasp.
"I think you would be just as happy if I went to your prom naked." Sabrina put a lot of emphasis on that 'your'.
LJ appeared to give it serious consideration before shaking her head, "I think that would be sharing more of you than I really had planned."
Sabrina looked askance, "Speaking of sharing aren't we supposed to be meeting up with your friend about now?"
LJ hastily checked the time, "Yeah, are you going to go with that one?"
"I think I'll keep that as a surprise," Sabrina decided, "you'll just have to wait and see."

Ally had been sat by the fountain for about ten minutes, LJ was late but that was practically a given so she wasn't worried. The fountain gave her a good vantage point so she spotted LJ first, and the dark haired girl walking with her. The thing that was immediately obvious was how relaxed they were around one another, which was good as LJ seemed to have been on a rollercoaster lately, mostly to do with this mysterious potential girlfriend, who isn't potential anymore, she corrected herself.
LJ waved as she saw Ally parked on the bench and waved, steering Sabrina with a hand on her hip until she was stood right in front of her, "Hey Ally, this is Sabrina Harrington. Sabrina my old buddy Ally Thomas." Just remember, no discussing, magic, Slaying or time travel, she telepathically reminded Sabrina.
Sabrina was still dubious about that proposition, I can't believe you've never told her about, well any of it.
She's a little neurotic at times
, LJ admitted, why give her something else to worry about?
Sabrina offered her hand to Ally, "Hi, I've heard a lot about you."
"Wish I could say the same but LJ has been very mysterious about you." Ally shot an accusing glance at LJ.
Sabrina smiled, "Well that’s my fault, I like to maintain an air of mystery."
"I'll go get us some sodas.” LJ offered, she wanted Sabrina and Ally to get along and she figured there was a better chance of that if she got out of the way for a couple of minutes and let them talk freely.
As LJ walked away Sabrina sat down next to Ally and smiled as she watched LJ's back disappearing into the crowd. Ally saw the way she looked at LJ and that made her warm towards the girl. There was however something she felt she had to bring up with Sabrina, "I'm really glad that she's found someone but you do know that there's sort of another side to LJ's life right? I mean she never talks about it but sometimes she just drops out of sight, and when she comes back she acts like nothing happened."
So much for her not knowing anything, Sabrina patted her hand, "You don't need to worry, I know all about that other side to her life; after all where do you think she found me?"

Willow heard the front door opening and closing but didn't react to it, she had her full attention directed to the face on the screen, "Do you have anything that would help us find this girl?"
The chief of campus security was usually a cheerful man; he got a pretty good salary to watch over a university with distinctly lower than average rates of drunkenness, drug abuse, theft, etc. He wasn't very cheerful right now however. It wasn't simply that this mysterious woman had accosted a professor, it was that however it turned out she had managed it the chief was the one who was going to be held responsible, "We've picked up a few images from the CCTV but all they really do is confirm her presence on campus. We could certainly nail her on trespassing, if we could track her down."
LJ and Sabrina had wandered into the room and were clearly bursting with questions but kept silent at a gesture from Tara. Willow glanced over at them and seeing they weren't going to interrupt focused on the display again, "I suppose you could turn those over to the police."
The chief looked uncomfortable, "This falls below the threshold where they’re going to involve themselves, unless we can show that there was a pattern of similar incidents, provide the basis for a stalking charge."
But since she only seems to have turned up to day that isn’t going to happen, unless she comes back." Willow concluded.
"Right. But I'll keep checking, I might be able to turn up something to interest the PD." The chief sounded apologetic and not at all optimistic.
Willow sighed, "Okay, let me know if there are any developments."
The chief offered an, of course, gesture before Willow cut the connection.

As soon as the screen went dark LJ practically exploded, "You have a stalker? Why are we messing with the campus clowns? Why don't we just go find this person and explain to them why that's a terrible idea?"
Her parents let her rundown before answering, "We're not sure this is a stalker," Willow explained, "there was a girl who got into my lecture and hung around afterwards. She, acted strangely," Willow wasn't going to tell her daughter that the girl hit on her, "I did some checking and when it turned out she wasn't a student campus security got called in."
Tara chipped in, "Which is where you came in, so we haven't had time to make any other plans."
That calmed LJ down, a little, "So what do we know?"
Willow frowned, "Not much beyond a few pictures campus security and the name she used, Jessica Lazar."
Sabrina had been looking for a safe spot to put the bag holding the dress she had finally settled on, now it dropped to the floor utterly forgotten, "What did you say?" she asked in a dangerous tone.
The other three all stared at her, "Jessica Lazar." Willow repeated slowly.
Sabrina strode over to her, "She just wandered into your college and had a cozy little chat?"
"Not especially cozy, except compared to this." Willow responded acidly.
Sabrina ignored the warning tone, "Listen to me, if she comes back, if she comes within five feet of you then you don't take any chances, you hit her with everything you've got, [you don’t fuck around talking to her!"
LJ gazed at Sabrina in disbelief, her girlfriend was screaming at her mother and she could see the simmering anger in Willow’s face, "Sweetheart please you have to calm down..."
Sabrina swiveled towards her, "You don't understand, she's dangerous, vicious, you can't let her get anywhere near you."
She's in so much pain, Tara's thought threw cold water on Willow's growing anger at Sabrina's manner, "Sabrina dear you have to slow down, we can only do something about her if you tell us what you know." Tara spoke gently but firmly.
"What I know? I know she's dangerous, and untrustworthy." Sabrina's tone was less belligerent but more miserable.
"She was Athenai." Willow made a shrewd guess.
"More than that," LJ said softly, "you told me you had an ex."
Sabrina's misery was complete now, she slumped into a chair, "Right my ex-girlfriend, the Athenai, the assassin."
That got Willow and Tara's complete attention, "Assassin? Are you being figurative?"
"I mean she killed people, and enjoyed it, more than that, she got off on it." Sabrina's hesitated, there was so much more to it than that but she was reluctant to spill in front of all of them.
"Would this be easier one on one?" Tara offered gently, "With me maybe?"
LJ was going to reject the last part of that vehemently, until she realized that her mom was using her best professional manner, and remembered her mother was a bona fide expert here, you won't spill anything she doesn't want you to?
I'll treat her like any other patient, anything she wants to share fine, the rest stays between us
. Tara assured her.
Now LJ nodded, "Take the offer sweetheart, just make sure she doesn't bill you."
That got a little smile from Sabrina but it didn't reach her eyes, "Okay," she agreed quietly.

LJ chivied Willow out of the room, maneuvering her towards the garden. Sabrina's gaze followed the pair until they disappeared from sight; "Don't think I've endeared myself to Willow."
"I wouldn't worry about that," Tara's tone was comforting, "she'll understand that you've been bottling this up for a long time."
Sabrina thought about that, "I guess I have, no one to share it with."
"Not even LJ?"
"And let her know what kind of idiot she's dating?" Sabrina shook her head, "That I could really live without."
"You're not an idiot Sabrina, if I was going to pick a word to describe you I'd go for, 'romantic'. You wanted to see the Athenai as a noble cause fighting for a greater good but you were too smart to fool yourself like that."
Sabrina waved the comment away, "You're giving me way too much credit, actually it’s the one thing I do owe Jessica, she opened my eyes about the Athenai."
She halted but Tara stayed silent, letting the girl set her own pace.
Sabrina swallowed hard, "The organization gave me an apartment to live in, and a roommate to share it with, one who was only to happy to take me with her when she hit the town. I was so naive then, I didn't even realize I was her date until one time…"
Sabrina stopped again and this time Tara did intervene, "I think I can fill in that part."
"Right. I was just overwhelmed at first I thought it meant she cared for me so I convinced myself I felt the same, until I found out what she did for a day job and what really turned her on." Sabrina looked like she had bit into something unpleasant. "I confronted her about it and she just laughed in my face. So I went to Phoebe, I ranted and raved, demanded she do something. Later I realized she could just have had me bumped off, I didn't know she was so determined to keep me then."
"She agreed to take action?" Tara asked dubiously.
Sabrina didn't blame Tara for disbelieving, "Oh yeah but of course we couldn't involve the cops, Jessica used her magic to kill, how could we explain it to them? Phoebe promised me Jessica would be dealt with, punished. That was the first time I didn't believe one of Phoebe's rationalizations and it just went downhill from there, until I met Lydia."
Tara mulled over what Sabrina had said, "I'll respect your privacy Sabrina but there's nothing you've told me that you couldn't share with LJ, I promise you."
"You're sure?" Sabrina was desperate for reassurance on that point.
"I'm certain, and we have to remember Jessica could turn up again." Tara reminded her.
"Oh I'd bet on that, she's up to something," and if we're going to figure out what I'm going to have to share, with everyone.

 Post subject: Reality Check 2018: Elements Earth Part II
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:00 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]3. "Academic Questions"[/center]

Green looked at his superior unhappily, and the man smiled back at him, "You have permission to speak freely."
"Thank you sir. It's just that we've faced some pretty serious bad asses over the years and you've never issued orders as, strict as these." Green was doing his best to be tactful.
His superior wasn't fooled, he remembered being as gung ho and convinced of his own invincibility, once upon a time, "That is because Green, what you may think to the contrary, you have never met a true bad ass, which is as it happens about to change. There is also another consideration."
Green looked unhappy but asked the obvious question anyway, "What's that sir?"
"That we need them a lot more than they need us and pissing tem off would be a very bad idea."

Willow glanced around the campus quad, there were already flyers posted up with a likeness of Jessica on them and a request for information. She felt a little bad about not being able to tell campus security to call off their search but since she couldn't explain that the girl had probably teleported in and out of the university she would just have to leave them to it, sorry fellas. Thinking about Jessica Lazar she turned her attention to Tara and a question she hadn't been able to ask back at the house, "What sort of read did you get from Sabrina when she talked with you," realizing how that sounded she amended it, "I don't mean about whether she was telling the truth, I mean about Jessica Lazar." That was why she hadn't raised it earlier, too much room for misunderstanding.
Tara appreciated that, Willow didn't want LJ and Sabrina getting the wrong idea, that she still had suspicions about the honesty and motivations of her daughter's girlfriend, "Well I hate doing analysis second hand but I'd strongly suspect she's manipulative and definitely arrogant."
"Definitely?" Willow asked.
"That isn't based on reading Sabrina,” Tara explained. “that's based on the way she approached you. She has to have known who you were, and what you could do, unless this was an unbelievable in a massive coincidence."
Willow turned that over and agreed with the premise but "So what exactly did she expect to achieve?" To Willow's small surprise Tara kissed her, "What was that for?"
"Because honey it didn't occur to you that someone might doubt you've been totally faithful to me all these years." Tara explained smiling.
"Oh, right, she thought I might go for her offer." Willow realized.
"Or if you didn't you probably wouldn't tell me about it, either way she was probably hoping for some leverage she could use later." Tara concluded.
Willow gestured towards one of the posters pinned to a lamppost, "I think we've corrected that dumb notion."
Tara nodded firmly, "Right, so let's see if she's left us any clues as to where she came from or where she went."
The reason for coming back to the campus in the first place had been to look for magical traces Jessica might have left behind. A little discrete checking around the lecture hall and a couple of other places the security cameras had placed Jessica at left Willow and Tara empty handed. Apparently Jessica had been discrete with her power, or just used her own two feet to come and go, "Guess she's not that stupid." Willow concluded reluctantly.
"Or she's just not that powerful." Tara countered optimistically.
Willow would have liked to believe that but her suspicious nature worked against it. Before she could think about it any further she spotted one of the history department's secretaries weaving her way through the crowd, waving at Willow as soon as they made eye contact, "Now what does she want?" The woman's name was Kathleen, around the same age as Willow but always dressed younger and in rather loud colours. She was also an inveterate gossip with a lurid imagination, at least Willow hoped it was just the secretary's imagination; she would hate to think she had really been working all these years with such a bunch of degenerates.
Since there was no point trying to duck the woman Willow stood her ground and smiled as best she could, "Kathleen, what can I do for you?"
"I think it's what I can do for you professor," Kathleen practically simpered, "somebody left this for you," she offered a package to Willow.
The package was wrapped in gold paper embossed with little red hearts. Willow just stared at the garish thing so Kathleen spoke up again, "I ran it through a scanner professor, it’s just a book."
As Willow reluctantly took it Tara saw Kathleen direct a furtive glance towards her, wanting to see how she reacted to Willow receiving such a gaudy gift. Tara did her best to disappoint the woman by remaining impassive.
Willow was keen to be rid of Kathleen; besides being a nuisance there was still some the possibility of a magical risk attached to the package, "Thanks very much, I'll let you know if there's anything else."
Kathleen's smile turned sour as she realized she was being dismissed, she just nodded and walked away.
Willow stared after her, "You know that by the end of the day she'll be telling everyone that I've got a secret girlfriend and you were sobbing you're heart out."
"That's terrible," Tara sounded appalled, "now if she said I was bitch slapping you to find out the sluts name that would be okay..."
Willow made a face and gingerly began to unwrap the package and what she found was more troubling than a copy of the Necromonicon; it was a modern hardcopy book, the kind still printed as a collector's edition or for those who didn't like the ephemeral nature of a tablet download. This particular volume was all too familiar to Willow and Tara; it was the first 'Demon Hunter' novel.

Willow and Tara's first instinct after receiving the unwanted present was to just teleport and get out of there. Jessica Lazar had dug up a deeply guarded secret and casually revealed it to them; they both felt the urgent need to regroup and make some sense of why. Unfortunately that would have meant abandoning the car so instead they hastened towards the car park, intending to tell the computer not to worry about speeding tickets.
They had just about reached their slot when a man in a dark suit and glasses stepped in front of them, "Professor Rosenberg, Doctor Maclay, could we have a moment of your time?"
Willow stared up at the man; she didn't have much choice since he was built like an ogre, albeit an ogre in a sharp suit, he's wearing a gun under that jacket, Willow observed to Tara.
So are his friends, Tara had spotted three more semi-identical men emerging from among the cars.
Friends of Jessica's do you think? Willow was getting ready to zap them just in case.
Tara was also calling up her magic but she wasn't sure if it would be needed or not, these guys are very cool, I'd say highly trained, ready for anything types.
Willow reflected on what she knew of the Athenai, cool and professional weren't traits she associated with them, that only left one way to figure out their identity, "Would you mind telling us who you are?"
The man flashed some sort of official looking ID at her, "Agent Green ma'am. My superior would like to speak to you if you don't mind."
Willow couldn't help asking, "What if I do mind?"
Green remained impassive, "I've been told in no uncertain terms that attempting to coerce you would be a serious mistake both professionally and for my personal well being."
That left the witches rather nonplussed, "I suppose we could spare a couple of minutes." Willow conceded, and gestured for Green to lead the way.
The car Green led them to was a good fit with the man; a long black limo with tinted windows that hid the occupants. Green opened the passenger door and the interior was hardly any lighter than the outside. Willow and Tara stared at the shadowy figure inside, guess if we want to find out what this is all about we have to play their game, Willow reminded herself unhappily as she climbed in and slid over to make space for Tara.
As she took the seat next to Willow Tara finally got a look at the man sat in the opposite corner. He was in his forties with a weather beaten face, someone who spent a lot of his life outdoors, and probably not lying on a beach, "We've met somewhere before."
"Good memory doctor Maclay." The man nodded approvingly.
Willow squinted at him, she didn't have Tara's facility with faces but there was something about the man, something in his posture that did seem familiar, "So who are you and why are we here?"
"You're here because I need to ask for your help, as to who I am," he stuck his hand out, "Colonel Riley Finn, at your service."

[center]4. "Checking In"[/center]

LJ handed the glass to Sabrina and sat down beside her, sliding up so they were sat hip to hip on the sofa. After talking with her mom Sabrina had decided to share the whole story with her girlfriend. Outwardly LJ had offered nothing but sympathy and compassion; inwardly she was seething. Not at Sabrina of course, her anger was wholly directed at the Athenai. There was no way she believed that they had accidentally paired off a couple of lesbians as roommates, and she also didn't believe it had been an innocent bit of matchmaking. The Athenai had been determined to weld Sabrina to them, and LJ had the appalling feeling that Jessica Lazar was just another tool to achieve that purpose and had known exactly what she was doing all along. It hadn’t work of course, never could have, my girl is a good guy to the tips of her toes.
LJ wrapped an arm around Sabrina and kissed her, "At least my taste in women has improved." Sabrina murmured.
Although she wasn't going to share her theory with Sabrina she couldn't help pointing out one thing, "I don't think your taste had much to do with it sweetheart. It sounds to me like this Lazar person didn't bother asking what you wanted."
Sabrina chewed her lip, "I guess that's true, she always seemed to decide stuff, even..." she trailed off for a moment, "You know you said you didn't mind me being more, experienced?"
"And I meant it." LJ assured her emphatically.
Sabrina squeezed her hand, "I know but honestly I wish I wasn't."
LJ was trying to think of a proper reply when the house computer chimed in, "There is an incoming call."
"Who from?" LJ asked.
"The caller is Dawn Summers."
LJ was startled, "Put her through."
The wall screen lit up to show Dawn with what looked like a busy airport behind her, "Hi LJ," she glanced over at Sabrina and squinted, "I know you from somewhere don’t I?"
"Alleyway, couple of goons tried to shoot you with a dart gun and grab you." Sabrina prompted her succinctly.
That just left Dawn looking more puzzled and LJ could guess why, so how did you get from there to here? "You sort of introduced us, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend Sabrina Harrington."
Dawn blinked, and then nodded, "Okay guessing there's a long story there, maybe you can tell me when you pick me up."
"You are at San Diego airport?" LJ wasn't that familiar with the place but it was a good guess, "The moms are out and they took the car."
Dawn smiled, "I was thinking more along the lines of the instantaneous express."
"Auntie Dawn you know the rules." LJ blushed realizing she sounded ten again.
Dawn wasn't fazed, "I know, and I know the exceptions to the rules."
As Dawn spoke LJ detected a trace of tension in her voice, "And you think this is an exception?"
"I think there are several exceptions hanging around here just waiting for me to set foot outside." All trace of humour had gone from Dawn's voice.
"Okay, we'll see you in a couple of minutes then." LJ agreed.
Dawn didn't hide her relief, "I'll be right here."
As the screen went dark Sabrina asked, "Are we going to let your parents know what we're doing?"
"I figure they're still busy at the campus, all we're doing is scooping up Dawn and her luggage and bringing her here, I think we can handle that by ourselves." More than that of course it would provide a distraction for Sabrina from brooding over Jessica Lazar.
Sabrina wasn't fooled but she was happy to go along with the plan, "I bet she's got lots of great stories about when you were a kid."
LJ frowned, "Maybe this isn't such a great plan after all."

The arrivals terminal wasn't all that busy; it was the wrong time of day and the wrong time of the week for it to be really busy. Normally Dawn would have seen that as a good thing; less time wasted getting through security and less spent waiting for luggage to appear on the carousel. Right now it just left Dawn feeling exposed, doubly so since she didn't have Slayer power to fall back on.
She had resented it at first when the Renaissance stole her powers and gave them to their clone of Buffy. She had turned to her sister, the original one, looking for sympathy and gotten a lecture about how it was way past time, that it was an opportunity not a disaster. None of it had convinced Dawn; she had loved the edge Slayer strength gave her but she wasn't about to give up her lifestyle, and it's not like I've got anything to give it up for.
It wasn't that Dawn hadn't had relationships, she'd had too many according to Buffy, it was simply that none of them really gotten under her skin. There wasn't one of them she could imagine spending the rest of her days with. Whatever intangible something she might be looking for though it certainly wasn't the pudgy middle aged businessman making his way towards her now, eyes watching her intently, "Hi, long time no see."
Dawn was taken aback by the soft female voice that came out of the man's mouth, "Sabrina?" she guessed.
The 'man' nodded and sat down next to her, "Doing a little recon, I count at least three people, two guys and one woman, watching you, and me now of course, so if you could look like this is a bad pick up attempt that would help."
"I'd only spotted the guys." Dawn admitted and it suddenly occurred to her that it hadn't been a coincidence that the girl had been there to save her from the Renaissance, "I guess you've got a lot experience with this kind of thing."
"Quite a lot." Sabrina admitted cheerily.
Dawn decided not to press that at the moment, "So do we just walk out?"
"No, I call in the cavalry." Sweetheart I count three of them, Sabrina accompanied the thought by picturing the trio, I can't swear to it but I think the woman spotted me when I walked in.
So they sent a witch, interesting
, the texture of LJ's thought sent a shiver down Sabrina's spine, in a good way, okay just sit tight and I'll be there before you know it.

The woman was standing on a crosswalk, looking down and watching Dawn speaking with the man, apparently unreceptive to whatever line he was using. There was a distinct aura of magic about him that she couldn't pin down but definitely rang alarm bells. She wanted to advise her two colleagues but they were still scanning the crowd and she could only connect mentally with them when they made eye contact, "Hi there."
The chipper voice startled her and she turned to find LJ Maclay stood next to her, "Whatever it is I don't have time."
"Oh yes you do." LJ assured her in a harsh tone, and began to summon the power for an all out magical strike.
The woman's magical sense lit up like she was staring into a nuclear explosion. She had never in her life been in the presence of that much power, never imagined such power could exist in a single individual, "Who What…?"
"Definitely a who," LJ interrupted, "and you don't need to know anymore than that, you just need to get out of here while I’m willing to let you go, and do it now."
The woman didn't say another word; she just turned on her heel and walked towards the exit.

Sabrina watched the woman turn pale and walk away from LJ before her girlfriend followed down the staircase, turning towards Sabrina and Dawn as the woman vanished through the automatic doors, "Ok time to go, LJ will get you out of here, I'll run interference."
Dawn nodded, a little taken aback at the smooth way the pair worked together, has it really been that long since I've been here? Or are they just that well matched? She didn't get long to wonder as LJ scooped up her bags and took Dawn's arm, "Hey Dawn, let's find some place private and get out of here."
Dawn noticed LJ wasn't speaking like the enthusiastic little girl who was practically family, she sounded cool and professional, totally focused, "Since you seem to have gotten rid of the female help I'd suggest the Ladies."
"Works for me." LJ agreed.

Seeing their target moving the remaining watchers decided it was time to move in, they had no idea why their alleged support had run off and only the vaguest notion of what sort of support she was supposed to provide but it could only mean things were going wrong and it was time to fall back on good old fashioned methods; grab the target and go. It was a simple plan; ruined when they ran into an invisible wall ten feet from their objective and landed in a heap on the floor, "How clumsy." Sabrina commented gruffly as she wandered past in her disguise.

As they marched into the ladies Dawn was a little surprised to find LJ's hand slide on to her hip. She was even more surprised by the sultry look on LJ's face, especially when it was turned on the only other woman in the place. The woman did nothing to hide her look of distaste and discomfort as she hurried out, "What were you going to do if she offered to, join in?"
"Panic." LJ explained succinctly, and then they were elsewhere.

At the house LJ offered to make Dawn a coffee to give her a few minutes of recovery time. Dawn would have preferred something stronger but settled for the coffee. Besides gathering her thoughts Dawn took the chance to see how LJ and Sabrina were around one another, and was not wholly surprised to see they reminded her of another couple, guess it just runs in the family.
LJ handed her a cup and asked the question she had been dying to ask since Dawn called them, "Why were those guys after you?"
Dawn frowned, and this is where things get messy, "I think I'd better talk to your moms about that."
LJ snorted, "I'm not a child Dawnie, and lets not forget who just rescued you. There aren't any secrets around here,." An expression crossed Dawn's face, just for a moment but enough for LJ to read it, don't bet on that. Since Dawn clearly wasn't going to explain LJ shrugged her shoulders, "Fine I'll call them," she reached out telepathically, which was when she really started to worry, there was a wall of 'static' cutting off communications, it's just one of those days.

[center]5. "Spooks"[/center]

Willow did her best to dredge up a clear image of where they had met Colonel Finn but her memory would only stretch so far. Finn could see both witches were having trouble placing him, "I was Professor Walsh's teaching assistant, and Elias Carter's immediate predecessor."
The explanation did nothing to put Willow and Tara at ease, "You're with the Initiative." Willow made it sound like an insult.
"Was with," Finn corrected her, "and that organization is long gone. After something shredded Professor Walsh I was reassigned to other duties, demon hunting in whatever god forsaken part of the world my superiors could think up."
Tara did her best to look sympathetic, "Not a choice assignment."
"Definitely not, and one that got a lot harder when some bioresearch project the higher up were hot for burnt down in strange circumstances; lot of budget cuts after that debacle." Finn seemed to be recalling unpleasant events.
Willow could see Tara fighting down the urge to apologize about the demise of doctor Tomarov's project. They didn't have anything to apologize for; still it was hard not to feel some irrational guilt. The best way to ignore that was to focus on the now, "Unless you're organizing a college reunion I'm still not clear why we're here."
"I kept in touch with some old buddies who stayed in Sunnydale, buddies who told me about what really happened when the Initiative was invaded," he gave both Willow and Tara a significant look, "I kept up an eye on reports from Sunnydale after that and there were a lot of them, the one about how the entire town was cut off by an invisible barrier was especially memorable, and all of those reports had two names right at the top. It all went quiet for quite a few years, until a couple of years back I start seeing one Lydia Joyce Maclay and her parents turning up in the files."
Willow interrupted him, "Finding out your stalking us isn't winning you any brownie points."
Finn sighed, "I simply wanted you to understand that I know about your ability, your expertise, so you'll understand that I wouldn't approach you lightly. I need you to believe me when I tell you that I'm facing a crisis and I think you're the only people who can help me."
Willow remained skeptical, "If it's that big a deal why don't you just go to your bosses?"
Tara got in ahead of Finn, "He thinks they’re mixed up in this."
"I see the reports don't exaggerate your skills as a mind reader, I don't think their mixed up in this I know some of them are, just not which ones." Finn admitted unhappily.
Tara didn't correct his misunderstanding of her abilities, "That's not a new problem, no big surprise that some of them are unreliable."
"No it isn't but I can usually count on them being concerned enough about covering their butts to do anything too outrageous, this time though," he hesitated before deciding it was a little late for that, "they've got together with their friends on the outside, politicians and corporate types to grab the big prize."
In spite of herself Willow was intrigued, "What is this prize?"
"That's my other problem, I have no idea, I just have the name of a contact who does, which is another reason why I'm here; it's another name from the old days; Dawn Summers."

The witches were left stunned for a moment, "There is no way Dawn is working for your..." Tara stumbled looking for a description.
"Just call them the Cartel, I'm sure they've got some fancy name for themselves but that's good enough."
Tara shrugged, "Okay but there is no way Dawn is working for this Cartel."
"I didn't say she was but the Cartel are certainly interested in her and what she knows." Finn explained placatingly.
"So why haven't you just gone to her directly instead of shanghaiing us?" Willow demanded.
Finn was ready for that particular question, "There's no way I could keep that from the Cartel, and frankly the records suggest Dawn Summers doesn't deal well with authority figures."
"She's not that bad." Willow's defence of Dawn sounded a little hollow.
"I think the governments of the three countries where she's persona non grata would disagree, not to mention a string of unhappy police officers and ex-boyfriends, groups which have a surprising degree of overlap." Finn commented dryly.
Tara couldn't help squirming in her seat. She wanted to refute Finn's characterization of Dawn but... LJ and Dawn had both thrown themselves into slaying with huge enthusiasm; LJ however had rapidly tempered that with common sense and caution after some hard lessons. Dawn never seemed to learn that restraint, and as for her personal life; if Dawn had been a patient Tara could have made a career out of her.
It wasn't hard for Tara to figure out why Dawn had gotten stuck in a teenage rebellion phase. The death of Joyce Summers had hit Dawn hardest of all and although Buffy had tried to fill the parental role you couldn't switch off sibling rivalry that easily and Dawn's accession to Buffy's Slayer powers had just made matters more complicated between the sisters. For a while the younger Summers sister had looked to Willow and Tara in a parental way but when they became actual parents and had to juggle taking care of LJ with getting through college they hadn't been able to offer the kind of support a confused teenager needed but at the end of the day you can't do everything for everybody, you can only stretch so far before you snap.
Tara pushed those thoughts aside, there was a more important issue right now, "You want us to act on your behalf? Spy on our friend?"
Finn looked unhappy, "I want you to find out what's going on, then it will be down to you to decide what to do with that knowledge."
Willow was surprised, "You're prepared to trust us that far?"
"More that of a limited selection of options it's the least worst choice." Finn admitted disarmingly, and then threw in his final persuader, "I doubt the Cartel are going to be anything like as reasonable if they catch up with Miss Summers."
Assuming you're telling the truth, Willow's thought was blunt and as it entered Tara's brain she knew it was as much a question as a statement.
He's being truthful, of course if other people have lied to him that might not mean much, Tara pointed out.
Willow considered that; if Finn thought Tara could read minds others might too, and the obvious way to beat that was to send someone who believed the lies they were telling. Still Willow's instincts didn't buy it, we can't take the chance, and we will make sure we have the final say[i].
Tara agreed with that sentiment, "I guess we can look into this Colonel Finn but strictly from the point of view of helping our friend."
Some of the tension seemed to drain out of Finn, "That's as much as I could hope for, thank you ladies."
Willow gave him a frosty smile; "I'd save the thanks until you see how things turn out."

As they stepped out of the limo Willow didn't look back at Riley Finn, she didn't feel like swapping any phony pleasantries with the man, she just closed the door and impassively watched the spook mobile drive away. Her air of cool was almost ruined by a telepathic shout exploding into her brain, [i]MOMS
There's no need to yell dear, Tara admonished LJ.
There is when I can't reach you for fifteen minutes, LJ countered.
Willow winced, naturally Finn had his car protected against snooping, physical and magical, sorry dear, we'll explain when we get home.
Well we've got a visitor waiting for you
; LJ had decided that she could be just as mysterious as her parents.
Unfortunately for her Willow had a strong suspicion who the visitor was, and she wasn't inclined to play at the moment, who exactly is this visitor?
LJ's thoughts turned sour, it's Dawn, and she won't tell me why she's here.
I think we have an idea dear but don't let her know that just yet, let us surprise her
, Willow suggested.
Fine but somebody better explain things to me soon.
Tara was going to promise but a nagging feeling at the back of her mind held her back; we'll be there as soon as we can.

Tara could see that Willow was looking unhappy and she could guess why, "I suppose it simplifies things, we don't have to go looking for Dawn," as she expected Willow still looked gloomy, "but you wanted some time to figure out how to handle this, how to handle her."
Willow sighed, "I love Dawnie but she can be..."
"Reckless? Irresponsible?" Tara filled in the gap.
"Either or both." Willow admitted reluctantly.
"Well I think we have to tell her about Finn, make her see just how serious this situation is." Tara suggested.
"And find out what the heck is going on here." Willow turned to open the car door, and stopped when she spotted a poster fixed to a lamppost. Thoughts of Jessica Lazar had been banished by their encounter with Riley Finn, "We have an ex-Athenai assassin turning up and according to Finn some very bad people are after Dawn."
Tara considered the chances of a connection, and decided it was about one hundred percent, "Well maybe that will make Dawn sit up and take notice."

 Post subject: Reality Check 2018: Elements Earth Part III
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:04 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]6. "History"[/center]

LJ wasn't remotely happy about the current situation with which Sabrina sympathized completely, and not just because she wanted to stay on her girlfriend’s good side. They had snatched Dawn Summers away from her pursuers as smooth as silk and the woman refused to explain her presence, which just smacked of ingratitude. Now it appeared Willow and Tara had some idea what this might all be about and they were also being mysterious about it.
She looked at Dawn Summers again, thirty something, athletic, dressed a little young maybe, since she's a few billion years old that’s probably inevitable. When she was with the Athenai Sabrina thought she was at the cutting edge of magic and weirdness. Since hooking up with LJ felt like a girl from some quiet mid-west town suddenly transplanted to midtown Manhattan. Time travel, genetically engineered super witches, though looking at LJ she sort of approved of that, and now an ancient ball of magical energy transformed into a human being.
It was tempting to ask what that was like but Sabrina doubted Dawn would be any more forthcoming on that subject than on why she was here. As she considered that she realized she was staring at Dawn; and Dawn was staring back.
LJ walked in from the kitchen to find her girlfriend studiously making herself busy and Dawn still tracking her every move, "You keep watching her like that and I'm going to get jealous," she announced as she sat down next to Dawn.
"A little young for me, and a little too girlie." Dawn teased.
LJ smiled, "Well she suits me just fine."
Dawn's expression turned a little more serious, "Yes she does doesn't she?"
LJ blushed, and was happy to hear the front door opening for more than one reason. She bounced up and raced into the hallway; almost bowling over her parents in the process.
"Could you try not killing us before we've even gotten our shoes off?" Willow suggested.
LJ didn't look very contrite as she replied, "Sorry but I've been going a little nuts here, what with no one telling me anything."
Tara smiled, "We honestly don't know that much more than you do."
"But we know who does." Truthfully Willow was as impatient as her daughter for answers, and she was going to get them.
When the trio walked in Dawn knew she was in for a grilling. She decided to get in first but a raised hand from Willow killed that idea, "Before you say anything let me tell you about my day."

LJ already knew about Jessica Lazar, more than she really wanted to, but she stayed quiet while her mothers went through it with Dawn and she even managed to stay quiet when they described their meeting with Riley Finn. As soon as they finished however she couldn't contain herself, "Good grief auntie Dawn what did you do, swipe the keys to Fort Knox?"
"Not exactly," Dawn frowned, "This Finn character thinks some of his bosses are working with the bad guys?"
Tara shook her head, "He thinks some his bosses are the bad guys."
That didn't make Dawn look any happier, "Okay, so if he knows about my connection to you aren't the odds pretty good they know too? And if they know they could be planning a move right now."
"Possible I suppose." Tara agreed reluctantly.
Dawn gave her a quizzical look, "I'd hate for them to decide to interrupt while we were talking, and they would probably ruin the carpets in the process."
As her parents turned towards her LJ looked wounded, "You want me to go check?"
"Just a quick once around the block," Willow assured her, "it could also be that Finn sent some of his people to follow us; it would be good to know."
LJ threw up her hands, "Fine but don't get to the good stuff before I get back."
She stomped towards the front door with Sabrina trailing behind her, "What LJ said," she called over her shoulder.
As the front door slammed Tara's expression shifted from concerned to angry, "Would you like to tell me why I just lied to my daughter? You didn't believe a word of what you just said, you just wanted her out of the way."
Tara had communicated that fact silently to Willow. It didn't make her happy but if it got Dawn to talk straight then it might be worth it, in fact it had better be or she’s going out on her ear.
"I just thought this was a conversation you wouldn't want to have in front of LJ." Dawn explained placatingly.
It didn't remotely work, "And what would make you think that?" Willow demanded angrily.
Dawn had a two word answer that left Willow and Tara dumbstruck, "The Fire."

LJ was stomping along so hard that Sabrina was surprised the concrete beneath her feet didn't crack, "I mean who exactly is the Slayer around here?" she grumbled.
"You totally are sweetheart." Sabrina reassured her.
"So what's with the secret meetings? What's with this waste of time?" LJ appeared to be asking the universe in general.
Sabrina was going to answer anyway but her response turned into an indignant shriek as someone pinched her butt. She spun around to give them a piece of her mind and came to a grinding halt as she came eye to eye with Jessica Lazar, "Sorry but I always did love that cute little behind of yours."
LJ looked at Jessica Lazar with a gaze that seemed to be boring right into her, trying to dissect the woman, "I was wrong about this being a waste of time, I get to pummel you."
Jessica appeared untroubled, "If you want to spend the night in jail feel free, I'm sure your parents will bail you out in the morning, assuming you get bail after a vicious unprovoked assault."
"I think threatening my mom might just be called provocation." LJ countered.
Jessica laughed, "Since when does asking someone to sleep with you constitute a threat?
LJ practically went bug-eyed, "You hit on my mom?"
"She's still a looker, and I bet she's a wildcat between the sheets." Jessica's tone remained cheerful and reasonable.
Sabrina could tell LJ was swinging between skin crawling embarrassment and raw fury; and when she settled on one or the other she was going to hit Jessica. As much as she would love to see that she didn't doubt Jessica would call 911, "What do you want here?"
That pulled Jessica's attention towards her; buying time for LJ to calm down. Jessica regarded her coolly, "At the moment I just wanted to get an up close look at you and your new girlfriend. Got to hand it to you, you're certainly punching above your weight, again."
"Lydia is worth a hundred of you!" Sabrina snapped.
Again Jessica maintained an air of glacial calm, "Right before Phoebe exiled me she said you were worth ten of me, so I guess that means Lydia is worth ten of you."
Sabrina tried to form a comeback but the comment was a little too close to some of her own thoughts for a flip response.
Her girlfriend's effort might have stumbled to a halt but it had achieved its goal, LJ had regained her self-control, "I think you'll find your old boss was being nice, strikes me an assassin is pretty much worthless."
Just for a moment Jessica's calm exterior seemed to waver. She swallowed and smiled once more, "You kill, I kill and we both have our justifications."
LJ took Sabrina's arm, "Come on I don't think we need to listen to anymore of this."
Sabrina nodded but as they turned away Jessica spoke up again, "Sorry to be melodramatic but I do have to threaten you." The couple turned back to look at her, "On behalf of my employers that is, basically back off, or else."
"Back off from what?" LJ demanded.
Jessica shook her head, "You're asking the wrong person, maybe you should ask at home." With that the woman teleported away.
LJ swore, practically turning the air blue, "She does have that effect." Sabrina commented unhappily.
"It's not her," LJ contradicted her sharply, "It's Dawn, and the moms and all this secrecy, I have had enough of it."
Secrecy like not mentioning my ex was a killer? Sabrina admonished herself silently, there was no point reminding Lydia of her stupidity at the moment, "So we go home."
"And we twist arms until someone tells me what's going on." LJ's tone said she wasn't being figurative.

LJ closed the front door quietly behind her, slamming it would have been satisfying but it would have given her parents and Dawn too much warning. Her intention was to storm into the room and demand answers without giving them the chance to come up with any excuses. The plan broke down almost instantly as she could hear that someone else was as mad as she was. That wouldn't have stopped her if it was Dawn, or even Willow but Tara Maclay just didn't lose her temper, not like that.
"I know your lacking in the tact department Dawn but this is a new benchmark even for you." The comment came through the study door loud and clear.
Usually when her mom was mad it came across as more in sorrow than anger. In fact there was only subject LJ knew of that would make Tara Maclay act that way, if something threatened Willow Rosenberg.
Sabrina naturally didn't know Tara as well as LJ but even she was amazed by the vehemence in her voice, "Maybe we should wait."
LJ shook her head, "We've been waiting too long already."
As the door to the study was thrown open the conversation inside ceased, "Oh don't stop on my account, I want to know; what the hell is going on here?"

[center]7. "Fiery Temper"[/center]

Tara turned a pained look towards her daughter, which shaded into anger as she switched her gaze back to Dawn, "Thanks so much."
Dawn had the overwhelming feeling that the situation had slid beyond any possibility of fixing it but she was compelled to justify her actions, "I'm sorry but who else could I ask for help with this? You beat it the last time, and this would be different, Earth and Air aren't the same as Fire."
Tara was utterly unconvinced, "No, they could be worse, and that's an unacceptable risk."
As it became clear that her demand had fallen on dear ears LJ tried again, "Wait a minute we're talking about the classical elements? Earth, wind, fire, and water? What's the big deal with those?"
The flippancy of the question achieved what her anger hadn't; got her an answer. Dawn turned her attention to LJ, maybe she could persuade the Slayer how important this was, "We're talking about four gems, each of them aligned with one of the elements. They have some specific powers that relate to their element but they're also a huge source of pure magical power."
"Too much power for anyone to use." LJ jumped, Willow had been so silent her daughter had almost forgotten she was there. "Enough to make you forget everything but the power."
LJ digested that, "I'm guessing someone got hold of this Fire gem and used its power. I'm also guessing it got ugly stopping them."
"To put it mildly," Willow agreed, "Damn near killed the Scoobies, including your mom."
"You were at just as much risk as me." Tara countered.
"Okay so this was a serious big bad but I've heard about Glory, I've heard about the First, so how come the big secret about this one?" LJ was more puzzled than angry now.
Willow looked at Dawn and sent a cold thought to her, I will never forgive you for making me tell her this, "Because dear I was the big bad."

As she listened a sense of detachment crept over LJ. Her parents had told her some bizarre things and while this was well up the top ten it wasn't the strangest. What made it stand out was the look in Willow's eyes, the pain of the recollection undimmed even after two decades. Added to that were the details of what had happened to her grandmother, not to mention World's End. It was all just too hard to hear but LJ couldn't run away from it, after all she had asked, demanded, to be told. One thing drew her unwilling curiosity more than any other. “A part of you, died?"
"You could describe it that way, of course I can't say it’s a part I miss." It was meant to be light hearted but Willow's tone remained sober.
"I've wondered if maybe it wasn't truly a part of you, it was something the fire created," Tara's explanation was earnest but not very convincing, "that's why you were able to destroy it."
Now Willow did manage a smile, "You know why I survived, because of you."
LJ looked towards Sabrina who was chewing her lip and looking thoughtful. Her girlfriend sent her a silent whisper, that's what she saw in me, reckless and dangerous.
The notion startled LJ and she didn't have an answer to it; mostly because she suspected Sabrina was right. Instead she turned her attention on Dawn, "You know where these last two gems are?"
"Definitely." Dawn did her best to be positive, trying to dispel the negative atmosphere.
"And no one else knows, no colleagues or buddies?" LJ’s tone remained hard.
Dawn didn't like the way LJ asked the question but she didn't have much choice but to answer, "No, no one else knows."
LJ nodded, "So if you forget where they are they'll stay buried," she concluded harshly.
Now it was Dawn's turn to look horrified, "You want to erase my memory?"
"That's not a bad idea dear," Willow more or less ignored Dawn's response, "especially if we also erase the trail that points to them. Might mean a little archeological vandalism but I think it would be justified in this case."
"Especially if no one knew what it was in the first place." Tara agreed.
"Hold it!" Dawn demanded, "You're acting like this is a done deal and I haven't said yes to it yet."
Willow gave her a hard look, "You came here for help and we're giving you a solution that means none of us have to go near those gems, it sounds pretty good to me."
Reluctantly Sabrina spoke up, "Actually there are a couple of problems with it."
"Like what?" LJ's question was sharper than she intended.
Sabrina looked still more unhappy, "Well just because Dawn doesn't think anyone else knows doesn't mean she's right, maybe she talks in her sleep." She looked over at Dawn but the woman just smiled and gestured for her to go on, "Plus memory spells can always be reversed, if the person doing the reversing is ruthless enough." and they know which person I mean, Jessica would cheerily fry Dawn's brain to get the information.
Dawn looked triumphant, "See knew it was a bad idea."
Tara saw Sabrina wince and decided to speak up, "Actually I think she was just reminding us that things are never that simple."
That would have made Sabrina feel better, except that she wasn't finished yet, "There is one other thing, even if you do erase this trail maybe there's another, or there’s always just plain dumb luck. If they’re out there someone's going to stumble on them sooner or later."
That suggestion met with dead silence, and when it was broken it wasn't exactly a response, "Obviously we're not going to settle this now, maybe we should sleep on it tonight and talk about it in the morning." Tara suggested.
Willow was happy to take the out, though it did bring up a practical issue, "We can't check Dawn into a hotel and I'd offer you the spare room except it isn't spare anymore."
LJ patted Sabrina's shoulder, "I'm sure we can squeeze up in my room."
Sabrina nodded, though she couldn't help feeling that LJ hadn't been as enthusiastic about the suggestion as might have been expected.
Willow considered alternatives but since they all involved sharing her and Tara's bedroom with a third party there was only one answer, "I'm sure you can dear."

Sabrina had rescued her pyjamas from the spare room, for the sake of form if nothing else. Tonight however she suspected she might need them to keep her warm, "Look sweetheart I didn't mean to shoot you down."
LJ was getting a pillow out of the closet. She turned to face Sabrina frowning, "When your right your right, there's no need to apologize. I'm just mad that I came up with a such a dumb idea in the first place." She walked over and patted Sabrina's bottom, "I hope you're not planning to wear those to bed?"
"Figured it would be better not to go rubbing your parents noses in it, I mean they know we're not exactly going to sit up playing cards but..."
LJ nodded and smiled, "Good idea, you know if you really do want to apologize there is something you could do."
"What's that?" Sabrina asked cautiously.
LJ leaned in and whispered, "Get your clothes off." she kissed Sabrina to stifle a reply.
Sabrina kissed back hungrily but couldn't quite silence the little voice in the back of her head; you got lucky but next time...

As soon as the bedroom door closed Willow sighed, "She's not going to go for it is she?"
Tara shook her head, "No, Dawn's unhappy about the trouble she's caused here but deep down she hasn't let go of the notion of finding the gems."
"Especially since Sabrina provided her with plenty of excuses to say no." Willow grumbled, a little half-heartedly.
"All of which we would have thought of if we hadn't been so desperate to get off the hook." Tara was sure Willow already knew that, it just needed to be said out loud.
Willow nodded, "I know but I don't like the implication, that we're going to have to get involved in this."
"Now I didn't say that," Tara countered emphatically, "just because our first idea was shaky doesn't mean we can't come up with a better one. I still want to stay out of this."
"And if we can't persuade Dawn to agree?" Willow wondered.
"Then we make it clear she's on her own if she goes ahead. That'll stop her, however mad she gets about it." Tara stated resolutely.
Willow smiled, "Works for me," She reached out for the door, intending to go to the bathroom. That was why she was rather surprised to find herself grasping at thin air. She whirled round and was relieved to see Tara stood behind her. That relief faded as she took in her surroundings. She could feel the grass beneath her feet and see an azure blue sky over her head bounded by a ring of trees.
It was an idyllic scene but it wasn’t making Willow feel serene. Instead she could feel anger boiling up inside her, "What do you people want now?"

[center]8. "Circular Reasoning"[/center]

Willow's question echoed through the trees and she looked around impatiently, "Come on I'm waiting for an answer." Tara remained silent but her expression was every bit as angry as Willow's.
The Second stepped out of the tree line, she could simply have materialized beside the couple but prudence demanded that she not get that close until she was quite sure that neither of them was going to do anything drastic to her, though they would certainly be entitled under the circumstances. "Sorry about dragging you away but we needed to talk."
"You mean you want to interfere, again." Tara corrected her.
"I would have thought staying out of your way these past two decades would have cut us a little slack." The Second made the comment as bland as possible, anticipating the response.
Willow went wide-eyed, "You think we don't realize you've been hanging around in the shadows? I mean Sabrina is a pretty big hint don't you think? Or are you going to tell us its pure chance she met LJ?"
"I wouldn't dream of it, though I doubt Lydia would be upset about it." The Second felt compelled to remind them that there was a good purpose to their actions, especially in light of what she had to ask them.
Tara could guess what was on the Second's mind, "You didn't bring us here to discuss Sabrina, you want to talk about the gems."
"You want us to go after them." Willow's hostility level was rising again.
The Second wasn't remotely enjoying this chat and couldn't contain her frustration, "I don't want you to go after them, I would prefer to tell you to follow your instincts and stay away from them."
That left Willow and Tara bemused, "Then why..." Tara began.
"Because of a series of bad choices finding them is the least worst." The Second interrupted.
Willow was having a hard time accepting that; "You can say that bearing in mind what happened the last time I got my hands on one of them."
"That's the main reason I do trust you with it, you understand the nature of the danger in a way that no one else does." The Second packed every ounce of sincerity she had in to the statement.
Willow wasn't wholly convinced by the tone but the words did hit home, "I don't suppose you could tell us about what this least worst outcome might be?"
The Second shook her head, "Only that the difference between least and most is orders of magnitude, and most would be catastrophic."
"So no pressure," Willow muttered, "you're not leaving us much choice."
The Second wasn't going to argue with that, "I suppose not, then again choices are in short supply right now for all of us."
Tara's heart was sinking, she could see they were on an inexorable downward path that led straight to those damn gems, just once I'd like to pass on this laughing in the face of danger stuff, "We'll sleep on it, like we told Dawn, and we're not going to be hustled into anything."
"I just wanted you two to understand how important this really is." The Second was convinced the decision was already made but there was no need to rub their noses in it.
"Fine, now how about you send us home?" The words were hardly out of Willow's mouth when she realized she standing in the bedroom again, "Thanks so much." she turned to Tara, "Well that made things so much less easy."
"We could just ignore the Circle, they do manipulate and keep information to themselves that would help." Tara didn't sound like she was convinced by her own suggestion.
Willow knew why, "But they don't lie, if they say not going after the gems will cause a catastrophe they mean it."
"So we're going to go find them." Tara concluded unhappily.
"Yes," Willow agreed, "but not until tomorrow I'm not going to give the Circle the satisfaction; and when we find them we're going to smash those stones to powder even if we have to drop an A-bomb on them."

Dawn sat staring at her tablet without really taking in what she was reading. She had been so sure that this was the right thing to do, she just couldn't ignore what she had found, could she? And where else could she have turned to for help? As hard as she tried to convince herself she couldn't forget the anger on her friends face. Her contemplation was interrupted by a pinging from the tablet. She thumbed a switch and the screen was filled with a cheery advert and an annoying jingle.
Dawn stared at the thing while it looped three times before she cleared it. She tried to find the thread of her thoughts again but it was gone. What did come to mind was that she needed to have a back up if Willow and Tara turned her down flat, time for plan 'B'.

Morning found Willow in a better mood, partly because Tara had done a wonderful job of relaxing her and partly because the removal of the conflicting choices took a lot of the turmoil with them. She walked into the hallway, just in time to see LJ emerge from the bathroom wearing only a pyjama top, not that unusual, except that this top belonged to Sabrina.
LJ could see the look of recognition on her mother's face, and that Willow had drawn the logical conclusion that Sabrina couldn't be wearing her pyjamas at the same time her daughter was. She decided it was best to skate over that little awkwardness, "Hey mom, anymore thoughts on what we're going to do with Dawn?"
"The decision's been made for us, I'll explain once everybody's up," Willow forestalled anymore questions but as LJ walked past to her bedroom she couldn't resist adding, "and wearing their own clothes."

It took a good half hour for everyone to gather in the kitchen in a reasonable state of dress. Dawn looked a little bleary, as if she hadn't gotten a lot of sleep. She saw the expression on Willow's face and guessed her thoughts, "My conscience is just fine, and I would have slept like a baby if it wasn't so noisy in this house." None of the others were left in any doubt what she meant by noise.
Sabrina wasn't going to be embarrassed by someone she saw strictly as an interloper, "Yeah I guess wherever you usually stay there's absolutely no; noise."
Tara could see that the comeback had stung Dawn, and it occurred to her it had been a while since Dawn mentioned any relationship, even the mayfly kind she specialized in. Even if she did think Dawn had asked for the putdown this wasn't really time for a verbal catfight, "Willow and I have decided, we're going to look for the gems."
LJ nearly dropped the glass she was holding, "Have you gone crazy?"
"No dear, we've just been having a chat with some old friends and they were quite persuasive." Willow laid out the details of the conversation with the Second. She could see LJ wasn't sold and added a silent addendum, do you remember where I first saw Sabrina?
LJ wasn't likely to forget that, in the Circle, so we have to get involved with them?
Unless you have a better notion
, Willow offered.
Since she hadn't LJ sighed, "Okay so we go after the gems."
Sabrina had missed the byplay but she wasn't going to argue with LJ, especially after shooting down her last plan.
Dawn was positively beaming, "This is good, I've got some ideas about how we can do it."
Willow put up her hand to stop Dawn, "Before we hear them, you need to understand that when I say we I mean we'll work as a group but Tara and me will be making the final decisions."
"But it’s my discovery!" Dawn snapped.
Willow looked coolly at her, "Don't think we've forgotten that. We also remember that you don't have Slayer strength anymore, or magic."
"You should also remember who actually has experience of these gems." Tara added forcefully.
Dawn looked from one to the other, and could tell arguing was going to be a waste of time, at least they were going to help, "Okay, okay, I guess it makes sense, more chance of staying one step ahead of the bad guys."
Sabrina frowned; the comment had jogged loose a memory. She turned to LJ, "Uh sweetheart did you mention meeting Jessica to your parents?"
LJ stared at her and blushed, "No, sort of got buried under everything else," she could see her parents waiting for an explanation, "When you hustled us out yesterday we ran into Jessica Lazar, she gave us a whole, 'back off or else' routine." In between insulting Sabrina.
Willow considered it and shrugged, "Doesn't really change anything, and at least we know why she was creeping around earlier."
"Right," Dawn interjected, "probably lucky though that I put plan B into action."
Willow didn't like the sound of that, it sounded as though despite her agreement to let them take charge Dawn was still pursuing her own agenda, "And what exactly is plan B?"
Dawn smiled, "Simple, B is for Buffy."

 Post subject: Reality Check 2018: Elements Earth Part IV
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:07 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]9. "Green Eyed Monster"[/center]

Buffy Summers was sat on the sand in her bikini, stretched out on a large beach towel laid on golden sand and gazing up at a blue sky, and yet still that sense of dislocation didn’t quite go away; that this wasn't really her world. It was perhaps the fact that this beach hadn't existed twenty years ago, the product of the last big quake reshaping the coastline. Having Angel around helped, in that having someone else around who shared that sense of dislocation was good, and there was still that emotional bond but...
She knew that there was a gap. Angel had experienced their relationship before, from beginning to end in fact. He had also formed new bonds, moved on. As hard as she tried not to Buffy couldn't help wondering if history was going to repeat itself, especially when there was so much they couldn't share, yeah he's missing so much not roasting on a beach.
"Hey Buffy, how are you doing?" LJ's voice startled her.
She rose and turned to see LJ standing next to a dark haired girl. Buffy flung her arms around LJ in a hug that would have crushed anyone who wasn't also a Slayer, "I didn't think you'd come and fetch me, Dawn said you weren't going to help."
"Change of plans." LJ wasn't up to going to go over the ugly details again.
Buffy released LJ, "I didn't think you'd turn down a chance for some action."
Sabrina was giving the pair an arch look, "Ahem."
The theatrical cough reminded LJ she wasn't alone, "Oh sorry, Buffy this is Sabrina Harrington my, girlfriend."
The hesitation didn't go unnoticed by Sabrina and LJ wanted to explain, except the explanation would probably make matters worse, well sweetheart she didn't know I'm gay and telling her means she might wonder if I was attracted to her and since I was before I met you it could make things even more awkward, LJ sighed inwardly, yeah that would so smooth things over.
Since things seemed set on a downward path anyway LJ decided to pass on that, "Have you got a bag packed?"
"Sitting in my motel room ready to go." Buffy assured her.
"Well no time like the present." LJ suggested as cheerily as she could manage.
Sabrina trailed behind as they marched up the beach, scrutinizing Buffy Summers and deciding she didn't like what she saw one little bit. The girl was blonde, cute, and worst of all perky, and quit wiggling that ass in front of my girlfriend! That brought up another sour note, what was with Lydia hesitating over introducing her? She'd never done that before and Sabrina couldn't think of any reason why she would now, or at least not any good ones. She was beginning to think that the whole Summers family was trouble, Dawn had stressed Lydia's moms and her sister, or her sister's clone, was definitely stressing her, maybe we'll get lucky and this all be solved in five minutes. Sabrina didn't believe it for a moment.

When the trio materialized in the living room Tara instantly picked up on Sabrina's mood, and she hardly needed to read the girl's aura. As soon as the hellos were done she managed to pull Sabrina aside and went straight to the heart of the matter, "Buffy is straight you know."
The words didn't have the desired effect, "You mean the Buffy you knew. This one was manufactured by the Watcher's, how do you know she's the same? I mean they cloned her and shoved in her memories, how do you know they didn’t change something?"
That left Tara speechless, it had never occurred to her that there might have been some sort of 'error' in the copying process, "It's very unlikely," the comment was directed as much to herself as Sabrina and the girl could clearly sense that, oh well I tried.
Buffy was looking over her shoulder at Tara and Sabrina, "I don't think your friend likes me very much."
"Girlfriend," LJ restated emphatically, "and things are just a little tense right now, once we take care of business everything will be fine."
Buffy looked thoughtful, "So I didn't get the wrong idea earlier, you two are involved."
"For a few months now, actually you sort of introduced us." LJ recalled how Sabrina described that first indirect contact, a goddess kicking ass, and flushed a little.
Buffy smiled and asked a question LJ had been dreading, "So is she your first girlfriend or?…"
"No, first girlfriend, absolutely." LJ sent a telepathic plea to Willow, mom can we get this started before this hole I'm in gets any deeper?
Willow was only too happy to help, "Dawn why don't you tell us what you know about the gems, as in where you think they are?"
"I know where they are," Dawn insisted, "but I'll tell you how I found them," she picked up a tablet from the table in front of her to buy a moment and compose herself, "I guess we can skip the story of what happened to the Fire and Water gems."
Buffy was going to point out that she didn't know the story but the looks on the other's faces kept her silent.
Dawn was relieved by that and hurried on, "Earth and Air wound up on earth about a thousand years ago, down in Central America, one of the ancient city states. They formed two separate religious orders to control the gems and they managed it pretty well, they manipulated weather and earth to dominate their neighbours."
"Until the priests turned on one another." Willow commented sourly.
Dawn looked aggrieved, "Have you been reading my notes?"
Willow shook her head, "Just the inevitable outcome."
Dawn composed herself and went on with her explanation, "Anyway the fighting went on for years until there was some sort of revolution. The new rulers took the gems and put them out of reach inside a statue of their most powerful god. Of course without the gems their neighbours went for revenge, and took the statue from the ruins as a trophy. They kept it without knowing what it contained, until the Conquistadores hit them and it made its way to Europe. It currently resides in a Spanish museum, who have more Mesoamerican artifacts than they know what to do with so it’s sitting in the museum basement gathering dust."
"And you're the only one whose put this together?" Willow asked dubiously.
Dawn wasn't troubled, "I'm the only one who saw the translation of an inscription and realized it was more than just an interesting myth. No one else followed the trail because no one else knew there was a trail there."
LJ wasn't impressed by Dawn's assurance, "But they got on your trail, figured out you had something big. So if you head for the museum they'll be all over you. That's why you're here."
That took some of the assurance out of Dawn's expression, "Yeah but with your help we can just teleport to the museum, grab the gems and get out."
LJ laughed unpleasantly, "After what we pulled at the airport, they're going to be watching for us doing exactly that."
Willow was on the same wavelength as her daughter, "LJ's right, they have at least two witches working for them, and they'll be watching our every move."
"But you're stronger and smarter," Dawn protested, "you can figure out a way round that."
"Well thank you for the vote of confidence, and perhaps now you can see why we insisted on running the show." Tara's tone was pleasant but firm.
Dawn threw up her hands, "All right you win, what are we going to do?"
"I've got a couple of ideas." Willow and LJ spoke over the top of one another.
LJ looked at her mother, "You first mom."
"Thank you dear. I think we need to take them by surprise do something they won't expect us to do." Willow was chewing her lip and looking thoughtful. She turned to Tara, "I'm afraid you're going to hate this plan."

Willow hefted her bag as she heard the doorbell ring, "Come on the cabs here."
Tara sighed, "Your mother always gets like this when we're going somewhere, I think you missed a career as a drill sergeant honey."
"I'm not that bad," Willow insisted, "now get your butt in that cab in thirty seconds or you'll drop and give me fifty."
Tara shook her head, concealing a smile in the process. Dawn bringing up the rear wasn't smiling, she had a frown plastered on her face and was muttering to herself, "Stupid idea, don't why I agreed, must be a better plan." Only the closing of the front door cut her off.

As the trio climbed into the cab LJ watched them through the window, watched them so intently that she started as Buffy leant against her and looked over her shoulder, "You think this is going to work?"
LJ tried to look positive, "I think the bad guys can't afford to ignore it and they can only have so many people to watch us, if we're lucky they'll be too confused to do anything." If we don't wind up confusing ourselves first.
"I just have one question," LJ and Buffy turned to face Dawn, "do you think Sabrina got my butt right?"

[center]10. "Cat And Mouse"[/center]

Passing through the multilayered security necessary to board a plane Sabrina had to focus all her energies on maintaining the glamour to ensure that nothing gave away the fact that she wasn't actually Dawn Summers. Since it was a domestic flight she didn't have to worry about retinal scanners or DNA readers; still it was enough to keep her mind off things, at least until they made it through to the departure lounge, "Have I mentioned how much I hate this idea?"
"Repeatedly." Willow commented sourly. Truthfully she wasn't thrilled about it herself even if it was her own. LJ could teleport anywhere without much more than a photograph to go on, Sabrina was the only one with real experience of using the disguise glamour, and Dawn was determined to be there when they retrieved the gems. That left one logical way of splitting the group up, and if Willow wasn't worried about parting LJ and Sabrina she was troubled by not being able to keep an eye on Dawn.
Tara wasn't especially happy either. She had no doubts about the plan; LJ was more than capable of keeping Dawn in line and her daughter would find a way to calm Sabrina's insecurities later. No she was unhappy for a much simpler reason, she hated flying, "Sometimes we just have to do these things and get through, remembering things will be better afterwards."
"Can I get that in writing?" Sabrina demanded.

Dawn looked up at the great structure looming on the horizon, "Unless they've relocated the Eiffel Tower we're not in Madrid."
"No we're not," LJ conceded, "Decided that we could use an extra layer of decoy and Paris has the Louvre so why not?"
Buffy smiled, "Fine by me, always had an ambition to come here."
"Sorry we can't stay long, it is a cool place." LJ sounded a little wistful, as she set off in the general direction of the Louvre.
Buffy carried on the conversation as they marched, "You've been here before?"
"When I was nine, just after mom sold her first book we came here. I didn't really appreciate the whole experience until I was older." LJ explained.
Dawn smiled, "I guess the city of romance was sort of wasted on a child. Now if you were coming here now with someone you were attracted to it would be a great way to warm them up.”
Buffy looked bemused by the comment and luckily didn't see the venomous look LJ shot at Dawn, "This is close enough, this charm I'm going to use should act like a magnet for any locator spells. It'll look like we're staking out the Louvre."
"Clever." LJ would have appreciated Buffy's approbation more if she wasn't still thinking about Dawn's little remark.
It did help LJ make up her mind, when this is all over I'm taking the weekend off and taking Sabrina away, maybe here or wherever she wants to go. No slaying, no magic, no deep dark mysteries, just us. With that resolved she felt immeasurably better, "Ok let's go pick up some culture."

Doctor Seve Olazebal looked at the trio sat across the desk from him uncertainly. The credentials Doctor Summers offered were excellent and that she was traveling in the company of two attractive young women was not so unusual; he had known plenty of academics who chose their secretaries and personal assistants on the basis of looks rather than intellectual qualifications. Still he was hesitant, "It is usual to make arrangements in advance for a visit."
Dawn gave him her most dazzling smile, "As I say Doctor Olazebal I was given to understand they had been. That's the way it is these days, our computer talks to someone else's and everyone assumes things have been done. I would of course rearrange but I'm afraid it would be sometime before I'll be back in Madrid and it will set my research project back significantly." Her eyes were pleading and she finished off by crossing her legs and letting her skirt slide back up her legs in the process.
Olazebal chewed his lip, and studiously moved his gaze away from the shapely limbs, "I suppose it would do no harm, one must not become overly enamored of bureaucracy."
"Thank you so much Doctor." Dawn purred.
As they walked towards the basement entrance LJ couldn't resist asking, "What were you going to do if he hesitated any longer. Climb in his lap?"
"Do you really want to know how far I'd go?" Dawn retorted sweetly.
Overall LJ decided not to press it.

The basement of the museum was cavernous and crowded, filled with the less glamorous parts of the museum's collection; pottery, inscriptions, and of course statuary. When they found the one they were looking for LJ couldn't blame the museum for sticking it as far away from the public as possible. It wasn't that the sculptor who made it lacked skill; they just wanted to create something that no one would willingly touch. It was made of obsidian and might have originally been modeled after some big cat, or possibly a toad, it was too distorted for LJ to say for sure. There was one thing she could say for sure, "I don't see any gems."
"The descriptions said the gems were concealed in the statue." Dawn reminded her.
"So what's the plan, just smash it to pieces?" Buffy flexed her muscles.
"Let's just hold off on that." LJ had examined the carvings closer and noticed a square array of symbols carved on the chest. She brushed her fingers over it and let a little power flow into them, "Okay I think I get this." She pressed a finger against the symbol in the top left corner and traced a diagonal to the bottom. She lifted her finger and pressed it against the symbol at the lower left and drew the opposite diagonal.
As LJ straightened up and stepped back the great round eyes of the statue melted away to expose two chambers, one held a faceted reddish brown stone and the other a gem as clear and shining as a diamond. Dawn was mesmerized by the sight and took a step forward, only to run into LJ's outstretched arm, "You don't touch them, remember?"
Dawn looked at her, "But you do?"
LJ had been expecting this, "Don't even start, the moms made it clear, no one but me is going to handle them, and I'm doing it strictly by remote control."
"Now you're just being boring."
All three of them turned to see Jessica Lazar standing just feet away, "No freaking way, you could not have followed us." LJ insisted.
"Don't flatter yourself, you may be powerful but you're not infallible." Jessica retorted, "And relying on Sabrina as a decoy, well I learned just how big a mistake relying on her is."
"How about we just skip the banter and pummel her?" Buffy suggested.
Jessica focused, on her, "Hmmm, pretty cute, if you want to come over here and wrestle I'm up for it." She laughed as Buffy blushed, "Guess not, pity but I suppose I'll just have to settle for the gems."
LJ could feel Jessica's magic reaching out and moved to envelope the stones with her own telekinesis. What happened next was akin to going to push a door open just as someone pulls it open from the other side. Expecting Jessica to yank the stones away LJ was thrown completely off balance as instead the came hurtling towards her; Jessica's power adding to hers, not opposing it.
Buffy watched as the dark gem flew towards LJ; saw the girl snatch hold of it. The clear crystal went past her, smacking straight into Dawn and knocking her to the ground. Jessica took in the scene of chaos, "One more thing I think." She raised her hand and a brilliant spark leapt from her fingers and struck a fire sensor on the ceiling and triggering a wailing siren. Satisfied she glanced back at Buffy, "Sure you don't want to come with me?"
Buffy responded with an obscene gesture and Jessica shrugged and teleported out. Buffy turned to LJ, and saw that she was motionless staring at the gem in her hand, "LJ? Can you hear me?" Getting no response she turned to Dawn; she was moving, tossing the gem from hand to hand, "Dawn we can't stand around playing..."
Dawn looked at her and Buffy froze, her eyes were illuminated with a green light but that wasn't the most disturbing thing; Dawn looked all of sixteen, "Playing? Right because nothing I do is ever serious, it’s all just a big game. Well let’s see what new games I can come up with." She vanished in a burst of green light.
Buffy was bewildered, she went back to LJ and rested a hand on her shoulder, "Please LJ you've got to snap out of it, I can't fix this by myself."
There was no response, just the siren and the sound of running feet on the stairs.

[center]TO BE CONTINUED...[/center]

 Post subject: Re: RC 2020 - Elements: Earth
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 1:15 pm 
4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:39 pm
Posts: 186
Uh oh...

So LJ's holding the ultimate temptation, and Dawn's unleashed the power of the key? There may be trouble ahead - I love it!

I like your creation of Jessica - what a bitch! And I think some of the "future flashes" show that she's only going to cause more problems.

Its nice to see Buffy 2 again. I must say she seems very curious about LJ's love life...

Something totally unimportant that's been bugging me, was professor Walsh killed by Veruca?

Looking forward to the second part

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< 26/8/05
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 3:56 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
I like your creation of Jessica - what a bitch! And I think some of the "future flashes" show that she's only going to cause more problems.

Oh yes Chronic, she's the reason for that angst warning in the authors notes.
Its nice to see Buffy 2 again. I must say she seems very curious about LJ's love life...

Yes she does, doesn't she :devil
Something totally unimportant that's been bugging me, was professor Walsh killed by Veruca?

That's right since he wasn't dating Willow Oz left Sunnydale that much sooner but Veruca and her band still got that gig at the unversity and Professor Walsh still walked home across the campus that night.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< 26/8/05
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 11:00 pm 
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:28 pm
Posts: 60
Your writing is amazing. I was very happy to see this update. The dynamics between your characters, both old and new is delightful. Once again I cannot wait for your next update. Thank you for writing such an intriguing story. :bow

Last edited by Animism on Fri Sep 02, 2005 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< 26/8/05
PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 10:31 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Thank you writing such an intriguing story.

Thank you for the kinds words Animism, I've got a couple of other writing tasks to finish but I should get started on part 2 at the weekend.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< 26/8/05
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 11:19 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
So 'Elements: Air' is finally finished, should be edited and up by the weekend.

 Post subject: RC 2018: Elements: Air Part I
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:39 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Title: Elements: Air
Author: Mike Mullen
Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, and adult themes.
Spoilers: None what so ever
Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.
Summary: The battle against the element gems and Jessica Lazar reaches its climax.
Authors notes: Be warned there isn’t a happy ending here, and things won’t be fixed until ’Dark of the Sky’.
Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.

[center]Elements: Air[/center]

[center]1. "Temptation"[/center]

As she stared morosely out of the airplane window Sabrina felt the wrongness. It started as nothing more than the hairs on the back of her neck standing up and slowly spread; soon her heart began to pound and her stomach was doing flip flops. Digging her nails into the armrests let her focus long enough to turn to Willow, "It's gone wrong, she's in trouble."
Willow frowned; she was going to remind Sabrina that they had agreed not to make telepathic contact in case one of the Cartel's minions could sense it. The comment died on her lips as she saw the look in Sabrina's eyes, "Have you called to her?"
"No, I just feel it, I know Lydia's in trouble." Sabrina's voice conveyed barely restrained panic.
Willow let her mind reach out to her daughter, and kept on reaching. She had experienced powers that could block telepathy but this was different, more like LJ just wasn't there.
Sabrina saw the look that passed across Willow's face, "No, she's alive but she's in trouble, and we need to go to her now."
Tara had also been trying to reach LJ and encountering that same emptiness, "Dear we're at thirty thousand feet; we can't just excuse ourselves and step outside."
"I'm going to go to the bathroom, we can figure out how to explain it later." Sabrina insisted stubbornly.
Willow agreed with Sabrina's sentiments but there was still one problem, "You don't have anything to fix on."
"I can use Dawn, or Buffy." The bimbo has to be good for something.

LJ wasn't really looking at the gem; it had reached past normal vision and was filling all her senses, blotting out everything else around her. It shimmered and glowed, it sang to her, it even felt silky and sensuous against the palm of her hand. It wanted her to command it; with her direction they could do anything, all she had to do was ask.
Buffy watched LJ anxiously and once again considered knocking the gem from her grasp. She has no idea what would happen if she succeeded LJ might snap out of it, or turn into a raging monster, or just drop dead.
Her consideration was interrupted by a telepathic voice grating into her brain, what the hell is going on?
Buffy didn't get the chance to answer before Sabrina was standing next to her with an expression that rapidly shifted from concerned to appalled, "How could you let this happen?"
Sabrina's tone made it clear she wasn’t really looking for an answer but Buffy supplied one anyway, "Why don't you ask your ex-girlfriend?" She suggested venomously.
That drained the anger out of Sabrina, "Jessica was here?"
"No, the tooth fairy." Buffy growled.
Sabrina was prevented from responding by the sound of hammering at the basement door cutting through the blaring klaxon. She marched over to them and made a couple of passes with her hands. The hammering continued but softer now and the doors didn't shake under the blows. As she walked over to LJ and Buffy the klaxon was grating on her nerves almost as much as the blonde was. Another quick pass silenced the alarm and she barged past Buffy to place her hands on LJ's shoulders, "Why don't you go watch the door in case they decide to break out some of their medieval weapons and hack it down?" Buffy nodded and turned to go but Sabrina couldn’t help adding, "If they do break through do something to distract them. Wiggle your butt maybe, you seem to be good at that."
Buffy halted and it took all herself control to start moving toward the door again, what the hell does LJ see in that bitch?
Sabrina hadn't seen Buffy's display of restraint, she was staring into LJ's unblinking eyes, "Come on my goddess, snap out of it, tell that thing where to get off."

LJ was feeling around the edges of the gems power, tracing out its dimensions. It could transmute base metal into gold, fulfilling the dreams of alchemists down the centuries. It could also rip the earth apart, bringing earthquakes and volcanoes to places that imagined they were immune to such things. It could also power any spell LJ might imagine; it could give her the power of a god if she simply commanded it.
Come on goddess; tell that thing where to get off.
The words echoed in her head and LJ couldn't miss the desperate concern in Sabrina's voice. She looked at the glittering power dangling in front of her and this time all she saw was death and misery. If it offered the power of a god then it was a crazy, angry god.
The painful look on her moms face as she recounted her experience with the Fire blotted out the vision of power from the gem, it will take everything you have, and it's got nothing you want.

As Sabrina watched LJ blinked and unwrapped her hand from around the gem and shook her head, "That will be quite enough from you." She placed her other hand above the gem and a silvery shell formed around it. She tossed the englobed gem from hand to hand and smiled at Sabrina, "Hey sweetheart, you got to come after all."
Sabrina's first instinct was to throw her arms around LJ but wrapped in a forcefield or not she wasn't going to get that close to the gem.
She settled for smiling back, "Someone had to come to the rescue," she couldn't help casting a glance in the direction of Buffy, and Buffy didn't miss it.
"And what was I supposed to do, your ex wasn't supposed to gatecrash the party; in fact I'd love to know how she got here." Buffy snapped back.
Seeing that Sabrina was about to retaliate LJ cut the fight short, "We better get out of here before someone breaks that door down, just one little detail to fix first." Squatting next to the statue she ran her fingers over the carvings in its chest and the eyes closed once more, "Nice little locked room mystery for them to solve." She straightened up and looked round, only then noticing that they were one short, "What happened to Dawn?"
"Maybe we should hook up with your parents before I explain about that." Buffy wanted to buy some time, she was trying to think of a way to make this sound less bad than it was, not to mention make sense of why Jessica had acted the way she did.

The office Jessica Lazar was waiting in was one of a series of plush suites on the top floor of an expensive office block. The only thing that set it apart from the others was that where they had big gold leaf signs proclaiming their occupants had made it this office remained discretely anonymous; its occupant wasn't officially there.
Be that as it may the man who entered the office looked very unhappy at seeing her feet resting on the edge of the desk, "Miss Lazar, was there some misunderstanding about your assignment when we hired you?" he asked as he slipped into the chair behind the desk, pointedly ignoring the offending footwear.
"I think you were very clear, Dawn Summers had found a major magical item and you wanted it." Jessica summed up the task amiably.
The man nodded, "Indeed, so perhaps you could explain when you practically had it in your hands you just turned it over to Summers and her associates."
Jessica laughed, not a giggle but a full-blooded guffaw, "Associates? Did you read any of the files you military buddies gave you? Did you pay any attention when I told you how important it was to keep Summers away from the Rosenberg-Maclay clan?"
He did recall Jessica bringing the matter up, "That still doesn't explain why..."
Jessica cut him off angrily, "Assuming I had by some miracle snatched the gems out from under the nose of Lydia Maclay, and that would be truly miraculous, you wouldn't have gotten to enjoy them for five minutes before her and her parents kicked down the door and took them away from you."
The man frowned, "I think you underestimate our abilities."
"I'm sure the Athenai felt the same way, and where are they now?" Jessica asked pointedly.
The man wasn't wholly convinced but it was a little late to argue the point, "So what exactly do you expect your plan to achieve?"
"I expect them to tear themselves apart over the gems," She explained cheerfully, "Then we really can take the power over their dead bodies."
As he considered the idea the man began to see the attractions; there was something to be said for letting the competition destroy themselves while you remained out of the line of fire, and maintained plausible deniability, "Very well, for the time being we'll stick with your approach."
"Very generous of you." Jessica smiled sourly and wandered out of the door.
The man thumbed the talk button on the intercom, "I want a new priority order assigned, locate the Summers woman without harming her, and you better make it a global search." In business sometimes you beat the competition, and sometimes it made more sense to propose a merger.

[center]2. "Most Wanted"[/center]

Willow shuffled in her seat and stared at the empty place next to her. She had expected Sabrina to report back the instant she got to Madrid, instead there was silence once more. Her maternal instincts were screaming to just go but...
"If Sabrina can't help her I'm not sure what we could do." Tara echoed Willow's thoughts out loud.
Willow nodded and continued the conversation silently, if this is the Circle's idea of the best option.
Least worst,
Tara reminded her.
If anything has happened to LJ I'll show them 'least worst', Willow answered grimly.
Tara nodded, the Circle of the Glade could talk all they wanted about the greater good and the bigger picture but if harm came to their daughter then the Circle were going to face the consequences.
Fortunately for the Circle that was the moment that another voice joined the conversation, hi moms, sorry for scaring you but I'm okay now.
The other passengers looked askance as the pair practically jumped out of their seats in relief; do you want us to come there? Willow asked anxiously.
LJ turned her down quite politely, actually we're getting out of here, and I think I should actually send Sabrina back to you and we can all hook up at home after you get off the plane.
That seemed reasonable, All right but it doesn't mean you don't have to explain things, we have plenty of time to talk, Willow's mental tone was firm.
LJ capitulated, Okay but give me a minute. I need to explain things to Sabrina.
Tara could imagine how that was going to go, good luck dear.

"You expect me to leave you alone again?" Sabrina was horrified by the suggestion, and ignored the ever louder hammering on the door.
LJ was keeping an eye on it, and decided there was still a little time for patient explanation, "I won't be alone, Buffy will be with me." Why don't I just bite my tongue off? LJ knew the comment was a mistake the moment it was out of her mouth.
Sabrina went wide-eyed, "But..." I can't leave you alone with that hussy and her push up bra, it has to be a push up; no one's boobs are that perky naturally. Sabrina tried to find some way to express her objections without sounding like a harpy.
The silence let LJ jump back in, "Look if that plane lands and your not on it there are going to be a lot of questions being asked about where you went, cops, reporters, FBI, TSA."
Sabrina stopped her before the list got any longer, "Okay, okay, I'll go back," she wrapped her arms around LJ in a rather grandiose hug, and couldn't help casting a glance at Buffy, who stared back frostily. Sabrina disappeared without another word.
LJ turned to Buffy, "Time to go."
"Are we going to look for Dawn before we head for San Diego?" Buffy was concerned about the girl, by however complex a route Dawn was family.
LJ shook her head; "I don't think she's going to want to see us right now.

Dawn strolled along in the sunshine taking in the bustling streets of Madrid and looking at all the little people going about their lives as if it really mattered. She smiled at them and a few of them, mostly men, smiled back. If they could have read her mind they would have screamed and run away.
A breeze ruffled Dawn's hair, and it didn't seem to touch anything else; it just swirled around Dawn like a gentle reminder of the power that throbbed in her. She looked at the gem grasped in her hand; a little test is in order.
The guy running the newsstand was just some genial fifty-something selling hardcopy to people who didn't quite trust the news unless they could hold it in their hands. The man was sharing a joke with some regular customer and Dawn didn't like the way he did it; she decided it was insincere and deserved to be punished.
As the contents of the stand blew up into a small tornado the man threw his arms up to protect himself and when it passed he stood staring in disbelief as his livelihood went swirling away along the road with pedestrians ducking and weaving to avoid it.
Dawn chuckled as she wandered past, it was a petty thing to do, but you have to start somewhere, we'll work our way up to countries.

Willow sat with her eyes closed as LJ relayed what she knew about events, she was missing the bits after she snagged the earth gem but Buffy filled that in. Willow picked up an unhappy overtone when LJ mentioned the other Slayer, and on cue Sabrina slumped back into her seat with a thunderous expression, "I really wish I hadn't shot down LJ's original plan because it's looking better all the time."
Tara nodded sympathetically, "But you were right, too many people knew about this for it to work."
"Especially my ex-girlfriend." Sabrina concluded bitterly.
That implication hadn't been Tara's intention, which didn't mean it wasn't true, this is going to be a very long flight.

Willow couldn't help staring at the coffee table and the souvenir her daughter had brought back from Madrid. Even though the gem was wrapped in an unbreakable shell of energy she could feel its presence. As she eyed it nervously Willow couldn't avoid the irrational feeling that it was going to break free at any moment and go for her. Trying to shake that off she turned her attention to the other gem, "Dawn looked like a teenager, and there was a green glow when she teleported out?"
Buffy was getting a little tired of answering the same questions over and over, especially when she suspected that she was being asked again so Tara could measure her response, whether she was telling the truth or not.
What Tara picked up loud and clear was that reaction, "I don't doubt your truthfulness Buffy but you might have been affected by the magic."
"Or Jessica might have put a spell on you while you were standing there staring at her." Sabrina was trying to sound reasonable, and failing miserably.
Buffy clenched her fists, she was sorely tempted to drop the verbal sparring and just go for the real thing, only the prospect of LJ's reaction held her back, "Well I'm sure you would know more about that than I would," she matched Sabrina's tone of dubious sincerity.
LJ suppressed a groan and sent a telepathic plea to Sabrina, could you cut her some slack? It's over and done with.
Unfortunately Willow's next question rather contradicted that, "Jessica must have gone to a lot of trouble to track you to Madrid so why didn't she try for the gems?"
"Probably figured LJ would kick her ass if she tried." Buffy offered.
"Well yes but if she thought she could neutralize LJ with one of them why not do that and take the other?" her gaze fell on Sabrina.
Sabrina let her eyes fall to the floor, "I never asked any details about how she killed people but I got the impression she always made sure there was someone else to take the blame, or do the actual dirty work."
Willow thought it over, "She figured LJ or Dawn would turn on us and then probably one another, take out all the competition." It made sense to her, remembering her own experience with the Fire.
"Well she underestimated our daughter's willpower." Tara pointed out with a smile, "Jessica Lazar isn't as smart as she thinks she is."
That did help to improve the atmosphere in the room a little. Still Jessica had left them with a serious problem and Willow reminded them of it, "We have to assume that sooner or later Dawn will turn her attention to us, so we need to get to her first."
"And figure out a way to pry the gem away from her, without killing her in the process," LJ chewed her lip, "Don't suppose splitting her in half would do any good," she saw the look on Buffy's face, "I'm talking magically here."
Buffy looked relieved, "Oh, right."
LJ went on with her original train of thought, "And there's the joker in the pack, if the power of the key has been woken up there's no telling what Dawn might be able to do."

Dawn had left Madrid behind and was currently sat on Miami Beach staring out at the ships moving along the horizon, cruise liners, container vessels, like those little ducks in an old fashioned shooting gallery. The thought gave Dawn an idea how to flex her muscles. She clenched the gem tighter in her fist and focused on one big fat container carrier.
The other people on the beach hadn't really noticed Dawn, and they weren't paying attention to the ships; the waterspout that suddenly rose up from the sea was a different matter however. The swirling wind that had sucked up the water sped out towards the horizon, far faster than the lumbering cargo ship.

Its crew could only watch in horror as the spout ploughed into the bows of the ship, yanking it upwards and sending containers slewing across the deck; stripping it clean of fittings before the metal of the hull shrieked and split apart under the stress. The men and women aboard scrambled for the lifeboats as the bow disintegrated; only hesitating for a moment when the spout vanished as suddenly as it appeared, the damage it had done was more than enough to doom the ship.
Dawn got up and brushed the sand off her jeans and wandered along the beach without a backward glance, like we said, one step at a time.

[center]3. "Top Of The World"[/center]

Tara looked at the way Sabrina was tearing up the salad leaves, "We just need them separated dear, not shredded."
Sabrina looked at the remains of the head of lettuce, "Sorry, guess I was distracted."
"And picturing tearing apart something else." Tara guessed.
Sabrina sighed, "I'm trying to see the good in Buffy, I'm trying to cut her some slack but all I'm seeing is someone who’s getting way too cozy with my girlfriend."
"She's out of her time and slaying doesn't make for a great social life, it's not surprising she's a little clingy with the friends she does have." Tara offered soothingly.
Sabrina didn't respond but her body language and aura said she was unconvinced.

With the salad assembled Tara carried the bowl into the living room where LJ and Buffy were swapping Slayer stories. She tried to look at the scene through Sabrina's eyes, put aside her recollections of the original Buffy and see just two girls. Looking at it from that angle it could be said that the two were rather cozy.
Willow had been checking some information on her tablet, specifically the best or at least nearest fast food delivery place. When it had first been suggested that breaking for food might be a good idea there had been a degree of horror that they should put aside this dire crisis just to eat. Of course that changed when it occurred to everyone that they were hungry, maybe some sandwiches, or a pizza, or several pizza's. Now Willow had arranged a delivery she saw Tara watching LJ and Buffy and put out a silent query, something wrong baby?
Just noticing how much attention Buffy is giving LJ
, Tara explained.
Willow wasn't concerned, probably just trying to get under Sabrina's skin.
And if she's not?
Tara asked pointedly.
Willow still wasn't overly concerned, then LJ will let her down gently, or not if she doesn't want to though I don't think that's very likely, and right now we can't really indulge Sabrina's paranoia, can we?
Reluctantly Tara had to agree, especially since she knew LJ's feelings for Sabrina were unshakable. She put the bowl of salad on the table, "Dig in."
Sabrina walked in at that moment and didn't much like the domesticity of the scene, especially the way Buffy looked as if she belonged there. She was about to ask Buffy to move up when the household computer chimed in, "There is an incoming call, a Colonel Riley Finn for you Professor."
"There goes my appetite," Willow muttered, "put him through."
Finn looked distinctly harassed as he appeared on the screen, "Miss Summers isn't with you."
Willow spotted Buffy about to speak up and shook her head, "No Dawn isn't here, though that doesn't seem to surprise you."
"I have a report of Dawn Summers boarding a plane out of San Diego, and oddly enough another that appears to place her at an attempted robbery at a museum in Madrid. I've also got a couple of Shaman I know telling me that dangerous elemental forces have been unleashed, and it happened at around the same time as the incident in Madrid. Is there anything you feel I should know Professor Rosenberg?” While Finn's tone was mild something in his eyes said there had better be an explanation; and it better be good.
Willow took a deep breath and gave him the abridged version of what had happened, glossing over the relationship between Sabrina and Jessica and playing down how close the gems had come to overwhelming LJ.
Even this sugarcoated version made Colonel Finn very unhappy, "You have the, earth gem with you?"
"Contained, neutralized." Willow hoped those terms sounded suitably military, the right language might make Finn a little less nervous.
"And you don't intend to turn it over to anyone else." Finn didn't sound reassured.
LJ picked up the encased gem, "Colonel if you think you have someone who can take care of this better than we can then I'll gladly hand it over."
Finn conceded defeat, on that at least, "All right I accept that one is safe, and I can cover for that. I can't do the same with the other one. My superiors are going to have to know and I'll have to pursue it, by whatever means necessary."
Tara jumped up, "You said you would let us handle this."
"That was before you told me what this air gem could do, and before I made the connection with Miami." Finn explained.
Willow was left bemused, "Miami?"
"Check the media grid," Finn suggested, "and maybe do a little scrying while you're at it, I have a duty to protect the public, and I will carry it out." The soldier cut the connection before anyone could respond.
There was silence for a moment before Willow hesitantly spoke to the computer, "House I want you to check for news from Miami, focus on disasters or unexplained accidents."

After watching the twelfth video of the spout ripping into the cargo ship Willow cancelled the program. Buffy was still sat on the sofa next to LJ. The blonde girl put her head in her hands, "I can't believe she's doing this, I know its all screwed up but she is my sister and we've got to be close the last couple of years, she just wouldn't do this." As her voice trailed off LJ put an arm around her consolingly.
Sabrina felt another sharp pang of jealousy but she bit her lip, nothing she said was going to go over well. Willow's mood was also grim, for different reasons, "With that gem in her hands she's capable of anything, and this is just the beginning. The longer she's in contact with it the worse its going get, and I don't even want to think about what the power of the Key might do. We need to find her now."
That brought a frown to Tara's face, "Just doing a standard locator spell could be risky."
Willow didn't disagree, "I know and I'd like to take our time and come up with something more subtle but every minute we're standing here thinking about it Dawn could decide on some new way to flex her power."

Sabrina carefully put aside a t-shirt from the bag she was digging through. LJ smiled a little sadly, "You needn't worry about keeping things tidy, Dawn was always kind of messy," she paused for a moment and chewed her lip, "I said was didn't I? Like she was dead."
Sabrina rested a hand on her shoulder sympathetically, "Maybe its better to think of this Dawn as a different person, makes it easier if we have to fight her."
LJ nodded, "Maybe, actually almost definitely, thanks sweetheart."
Sabrina felt a little of the weight lift off her but couldn't resist following up the thing that was bugging her, "I just wish we could get a little time alone, without your parents, or Buffy Summers."
This was a conversation LJ had been afraid of because somewhere in it the question, do you find Buffy attractive? Was bound to come up, "I know but we can't make the time right now." Luckily LJ came across a necklace that she remembered Dawn wearing quite a bit, "I think this will do for a focus, we should be able to track down Dawn."
Sabrina nodded in response, she knew LJ was trying to dodge the topic of Buffy Summers and she had a dreadful feeling she knew why.

Downstairs Willow and Tara had put together the other elements for the spell but Willow couldn't help double checking them, "Do you think there's an expiry date on magical candles?"
Tara sniffed the air, "Not as long as you can still smell the Sandalwood."
"Right." Willow laid them out around the edge of the world map she had spread out on the wooden floor of the study. It was a bit of a broad canvas but with Dawn's current power she could be just about anywhere.
The door slid open and LJ walked in dangling the necklace from her fingers. Willow nodded approvingly, "That should be perfect."
Tara agreed with that but she couldn't help reading the tension in LJ and Sabrina's auras. They were all a little on edge but she knew this was something more personal. Tara really wanted to sit the pair down and clear the air, if we just had a moment to spare. With Dawn on a gem fueled rampage though there just wasn't one.
Willow picked up the mood, "The sooner we get this done the sooner we get things back to normal, for everyone." That got her a round of nods, "Okay then we can begin."
There was one final hold up as Buffy walked into the room, "I know I can't help with the magic but if you do reach Dawn maybe I could help talk her down."
Sabrina choked down a sarcastic remark as once again Buffy picked a spot right next to LJ to stand.
Willow smiled encouragingly, "Can't hurt." She dropped the necklace into a bowl and held it above the map before uttering an incantation. The candles leapt into life and a faint glow began to crawl across the map untile it suddenly swirled up and knocked over the candles one by one.
The light seemed to be sucked out of the room before an angry yet familiar voice boomed out, "What the fuck do you want?"

 Post subject: RC 2018: Elements: Air Part II
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:41 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]4. "Betrayal"[/center]

As Willow stood there she could feel a breeze ruffling her hair, the outrider of a hurricane of anger that she could feel pouring out from Dawn. It took her aback a little, but I should have expected it. The power of the gem eroded self-control, Willow just hadn't expected it to happen so quickly, "We want to help you Dawn, you know that."
"Do I really?" Dawn's voice was venomous."
"Yes you do," Tara answered firmly, "and you know how dangerous the gems are, what they do to people." Tara wasn't remotely expecting Dawn to listen, we need to break this connection, she silently urged Willow.
Before Willow could respond Dawn jumped in angrily, "You think I can't hear your little telepathic whispers? Your two faced silent dialogues? I'll do you a favour and break the connection; just as soon as I get what I want."
That left Willow bemused until something banged into the door of the room. She snapped round just in time for it to fly open and a silvery sphere drift towards the magical circle. LJ realized what Dawn's plan was and tackled the enshrouded gem. It took all of her strength to hold it as it squirmed in her grasp, “You’re not going anywhere.”
"Get it out of here!" Willow yelled, at the same time linking arms with Tara and Sabrina and focusing all their energies on breaking the magical connection.
LJ didn't need to be told twice but just before she could teleport out Buffy laid a hand on her shoulder, "I'll go with, in case anyone's waiting at the other end again."
There was no time to argue, LJ just grabbed her hand and the pair was gone.
That sight almost made Sabrina pull away but Willow's grip was firm, "Concentrate." Willow commanded her.
Tara focused on Dawn, "You aren't going to get the other stone, and we are going to save you, whether you like it or not."
"Save yourselves," Dawn answered harshly, "either give me what I want or suffer the consequences, remember this is just the start, we’re playing by my rules now."
The magic left the room and the trio nearly fell to the floor as they were suddenly pressing against nothing. Willow slumped into a chair, "So that went well."
Tara perched on the chair arm next to her, "We may have to go to plan B."
"What's plan B?" Sabrina asked wearily.
"I was actually looking for suggestions." Tara admitted.
That was greeted by silence, broken by the pitter-patter of raindrops on the windows. Tara got up and looked out, at ominously dark clouds, "It was blue skies twenty minutes ago."
"This is just the start," Willow murmured, having an uneasy feeling she knew what Dawn had in mind.
A couple of minutes ticked by before anyone else could summon up the energy to say anything and this time it was Sabrina who spoke up, "I've got to catch up with Lydia," she tried to reach out telepathically, and only then discovered just how drained her power really was.
Willow was also exhausted but that didn't prevent her delivering a firm, "No."
"No?" Anger and bewilderment drove the fatigue out of Sabrina's mind.
"We need to figure out some alternative way to get to Dawn, and that's going to take some serious spellcraft, which you have lots of. We need you here to help." Willow explained doing her best not to sound irritated. Seeing that Sabrina was digesting that Willow pressed on to forestall the next suggestion, "While we're doing that we don't need everyone who wants a piece of the gems crawling all over us, so it's better if LJ keeps Earth away for the time being, right?"
Sabrina didn't remotely want to agree to this plan but it made such obvious sense that she couldn't really argue against it, still she couldn't stop herself suggesting one modification, "Maybe it would be a good idea to bring Buffy back, someone to watch our backs while we work."
Willow's diplomacy had reached its limits, "I'm not leaving LJ out there on her own just to satisfy your irrational jealousy," she snapped.
Sabrina's expression turned frosty and she chewed her lip for a moment. There was a huge temptation to just tell Willow to go to hell and join Lydia. All that held her back was the thought of how Lydia would react to her torpedoing a perfectly sound plan and jeopardizing everything just to spy on Buffy Summers. Trying to retain some dignity she got out of the chair, "I'm feeling kind of sticky, I'm going to take a shower, if no one objects."
"Sounds like a good idea actually." Tara commented quietly. As soon as Sabrina's footsteps had receded up the stairs she turned to Willow, "That was pretty harsh dear."
Willow was unrepentant, "It needed to be said. We have to focus all our energies on saving Dawn and dealing with the gems, we can soothe Sabrina later."
Tara had to agree with Willow's priorities, except; try as she might Tara couldn't bring that nagging worry into focus. She just had to hope that it would work itself out on its own, before it’s too late.

Trying to figure out a good place to hide out on the spur of the moment LJ had brought Buffy to a dusty corner of the university library her mother had brought her to one time. There had been a few worrying minutes for LJ as she couldn't establish a link with anyone at home. Finally though Willow made a connection but the news she shared made hardly made LJ feel any better.
Buffy was watching LJ's face as she communicated telepathically with home, and she didn't miss that sudden flick of the girl's eyes in her direction and the way LJ winced when she did. "Trouble at home?" She asked when LJ finally broke the connection.
"Not anything major." LJ hedged.
"I'm guessing a certain dark haired girl isn't thrilled about me spending time with you all alone." Buffy guessed astutely.
LJ was embarrassed but still felt compelled to defend Sabrina, "She's wound up pretty tight at the moment, can't be easy with her ex hanging around stirring things up," she frowned, there was something in what she had just said...
Buffy didn't give her a chance to think about it, "So she thinks I'm here trying to seduce her girlfriend," she suddenly leant in closer, bring her face just inches from LJ's. She pouted and ran her tongue across her lips, "You know you have the most amazing eyes, their sort of luminous." Buffy whispered huskily; before leaning back and giggling, "Wouldn't work though would it, I mean its not like you're attracted to me, are you?"
LJ was having something of a hard time focusing, she knew she had to answer and this time she wouldn't be able to dissemble or lie; she would have to tell Buffy that, actually you were my first crush, and she was afraid of the consequences. Not that Buffy would be freaked out but what if she wasn't?
I could really use a distraction right about now
, she wished silently, and was rewarded as a trio of nasties materialized on top of a nearby desk, thanks. The things jumped down and LJ was surprised they didn't shatter on landing; they looked almost skeletal with only grey tattered flesh holding the bones together.
That didn't slow them down and they had long razor sharp fingernails and fangs that could ruin your day if they made contact, "I suppose you could just zap them." Buffy commented unenthusiastically.
LJ smiled, "Where's the fun in that? Besides if I miss I could wreck the library and mom would never forgive me." And I've got a lot of frustration to work off.
Buffy nodded, "So left or right?"
The demons made the question moot as one of them lunged towards LJ. She sidestepped and caught the creature by the shoulder she spun it round and brought it to the floor. LJ planted a knee in the small of its back and pulled the shoulder upwards. There was a sound of cracking, splintering bone and the thing simply crumpled when she let go of it. Buffy had rolled back and flipped her target over her head.
As Buffy was tangled up the last demon made a try for her. LJ headed that off by the simple expedient of sticking a leg out and tripping the thing. It tumbled over and struck its head on the edge of a table. LJ could see the head squash and deform before bending back ninety degrees; there wasn't going to be any more trouble from that quarter. She pulled herself up of the floor just in time to see Buffy snap the neck of the last demon.
"I was kind of hoping they'd just turn to dust." Buffy sighed as she looked at the mess on the floor.
"Now that I have a spell for." LJ assured her, and frowned when she saw something sticking out of the shabby clothing the demon was wearing, a piece of paper, a pink piece of paper. She drew it out, unfolded it, and cursed.
That unnerved Buffy, "What's the matter?"
LJ handed her the note and Buffy cursed right along with her;

Just so you know I'm
Thinking of you,

[center]5. "Globalization"[/center]

Reese Burkle stared at the 3D computer display, the layout of the proposed core unit all looked correct, so far as it went. Double checking that he was alone in the lab he tapped the keyboard and a new item was added to the device, an egg shaped blue crystal that nestled in the centre of the array, that was something that he would have a hard time explaining to his scientific colleagues, "We should be ready for the first trials in about four weeks Reese, constantly staring at the blueprints won't make it happen any sooner." System pointed out reasonably.
"Yeah but four weeks from now is six weeks later than our original schedule," Reese reminded the computer, redundant as such an act was he needed to vent and System was the only other entity that knew the full story, "and my research grant won't last forever. I think we may have to accelerate the testing program."
"That would be unwise considering we're talking about bending the fabric of space-time, and we have six separate theories of the outcome, none of which appear to be compatible with one another." System was aware that such a reminder should be superfluous but humans had a habit of forgetting or ignoring things they found inconvenient.
"Which is all the more reason to get some concrete results, especially as sooner or later I'm going to have to admit this doesn't just look like magic, it is magic." That was a prospect that kept Reese awake at night; he would need irrefutable, reproducible, evidence before that day came.
He was still pondering that when System chimed in again, "There's a call coming in from Professor Rosenberg."
The computer didn't wait for an acknowledgement; it had picked up the stress level in Willow's voice and knew that if she was that worried they had better talk with her.
"Hello Reese, System, would it be ok if we popped over right now?"
Like System Reese didn't miss the urgency in her voice, or the heavy emphasis on 'now', "We're alone in here, you can come right on over."
The connection instantly went dead and Reese sensed a small crowd suddenly appearing behind him; he wasn't surprised to see the professor and doctor Maclay but the girl with them...
"Sabrina Harrington, LJ's girlfriend," she explained curtly, almost as if she was daring her companions to contradict her.
"Nice to meet you," Reese did his best to keep his tone polite and pleasant, "I guess there's some sort of emergency, a big one if LJ isn't with you."
Willow smiled sourly, "You could say that, System can you check the weather in San Diego?"
It seemed like a non-sequitir but it was simple enough for the computer to tap the grid, and begin to formulate a theory as to why they were here, "There is a storm over the city, one that is building in intensity despite air masses that should be providing clear weather."
"How fast is it building?" Tara asked worriedly.
"It would achieve wind speeds equivalent to a category five hurricane in about forty eight hours at its current rate of acceleration; though that is theoretically impossible."
Reese turned that over in his mind, "If it was depending on currents and air masses but I’m guessing this is being powered by something a little more exotic."
"Try a lot more exotic." Willow suggested, and laid out the whole sorry mess for him.

As Reese listened he kept casting uneasy glances at the computer display and Tara guessed why, "Don't worry Reese the tuning crystal is a complete different thing, it just does what you tell it."
Reese did look relieved but putting aside his concerns about the tuning crystal brought another question to mind, "How exactly can I help you? I'm not sure any of my equations, spells, are really ready for a full scale field trial."
That option hadn't really occurred to Willow but combining LJ's power with what she knew Reese's crossover equations were capable of; would be a quick way to kill Dawn, stick with the plan, "We weren't going to ask for anything that drastic. Our big problem is tracking Dawn down without her knowing and since she could be anywhere in the world I wondered if we could tap into a system that was already watching the whole world."
"The global satellite system, there are satellites monitoring global weather, crop growth, environmental changes, not to mention a myriad of spy satellites." System surmised.
"I think we'll steer clear of the military for now," Willow commented, "but yes I figured that if satellites can pick up light and other electromagnetic readings then maybe you could figure out a way to make them detect magic. Long shot I know but it was the best thing I could come up with in hurry."
Reese shook his head, "Actually that I can help you with. A big part of my early experiments here was trying to detect the effects of magic using physical sensors. I've never thought of trying it in the way you want but if you help me with a little spellcraft, and a lot of hacking we can probably do it."
The physicist's positive attitude came as an immense relief to all three witches but it came across as more than just relief to Tara; it was first sign of anything upbeat in days and she decided to capitalize on it, "That's great Reese, why don't you show Sabrina your math, Willow can work with System on connecting with the satellites, and I'll go fetch the coffee or something."
Her self deprecating comments provoked some smiles and a look of disbelief from Willow, having dispelled some of the tension the group settled down to work in a distinctly better mood.

As they pored over the math Reese was impressed by Sabrina's quick grasp of the meaning behind it, and her knowledge of magic, "I can see why you hooked up with LJ. That got him a dubious look, "Sorry that came out wrong I mean you've got a lot in common, witchcraft, fighting the forces of evil."
"I'm not a Slayer." Sabrina told him.
Reese shrugged, "Who is apart from LJ?"
That made Sabrina feel better but she was also a little embarrassed and a small voice reminded her that the answer to his question was ‘Buffy’, and she decided to hurry on without dwelling on that, "So how about you? Do you have someone special?"
Reese looked rueful, "No, all the interesting women I've met lately are, unavailable."
"Sorry, if I run into any interesting straight girls I'll let you know," Sabrina hesitated for a moment," How do you feel about blondes, especially perky, slightly annoying ones?"

Willow leaned back in her chair and sighed, it had been a long couple of hours but between her and System they had found a lot of satellites, a worrying large number in fact; all of them commercial and watching the whole world. She tried rubbing her neck but it wasn't as satisfying as having Tara do it. Her partner had of course done a lot more than just fetch and carry but ironically Tara had now gone off to fetch coffee and sandwiches, or make them after she saw the unappetizing samples Reese had purchased from the cafeteria.
Sabrina interrupted Willow’s musing on how good a back rub would be right now; "I think we have something that will work, if you can get it on the satellites."
"We have twenty three satellites with appropriate capabilities, miss Harrington and the professor has been very ingenious in gaining access." System assured her.
Sabrina was happy to accept the computers assurance but had one pertinent question for Willow, "Do you want wait on Tara getting back, or call her?"
Willow thought it over for a moment, "Neither, we'll surprise her when she gets back, if it works," she couldn't resist including that one qualifier.
Sabrina didn't rise to it, "Only one way to find out."

The program/spell that uploaded over the data links wasn't very big; it went unnoticed among the constant two-way stream of communication between earth and the machines looping around the earth. As the orbiting systems processed the instructions they unleashed the power contained by them and the satellites were enfolded in a miasma of magic.

Willow and the others were watching a globe of the earth. She was feeling the tension going back up, wondering what she would see and gave a little gasp as glittering diamonds dusted the surface of the earth, "That's a lot of magic." she breathed.
Reese nodded, "It can't discriminate between people, objects, or demons but yeah that's a lot more than I expected," he shook off the surprise and spoke to System, "can you start the globe rotating?"
The image duly began to turn and as the pacific spun into view a bright point that dwarfed the others appeared, "Either someone has yanked open a Hellmouth or that's where Dawn and the gem are."
Reese adjusted the controls, "If I doing this right she's near Bondi beach in Australia."
"Putting some distance between herself and us." Willow mused.
"Or she just likes the people there, fun crowd the Aussies."
Everyone one at the console turned slowly and Sabrina's heart sank as she looked into Jessica's sneering face, "Hi gang, miss me?

[center]6. "Old Wounds"[/center]

Not a-fucking-gain, Sabrina thought angrily but couldn’t make her mouth say anything coherent. The others were having similar problems and Jessica was only too happy to fill the gap; she looked pityingly at Sabrina, "Lydia ditched you already? Ah well they do say blondes are more fun."
"Have more fun." Willow was finally prompted to respond.
Jessica shrugged, "Maybe you're just hanging out with the wrong blondes."
As Willow was fencing with Jessica Reese was edging towards the display controls. When Willow spotted him she waved Reese back, "No if she wants to know where Dawn is let her."
"Very generous professor." Jessica commented.
Willow smiled sweetly, "Hardly, I just have moral scruples about how I deal with human beings, even ones like you. Dawn however will squash you like a bug."
"We'll see professor, oh and Sabrina I'll give your regards to LJ next time I see her, assuming she still remembers your name now she's got her first choice." With that Jessica teleported out again.
Almost as soon as she was gone Tara arrived carrying a thermos and a large paper bag. She rapidly took in the scene and sighed, "What exactly did I miss?"

As she listened Tara grew grim, "I think that girl needs professional help, I'd offer it but I'd probably end up throttling her."
"You'll have to get in line." Willow muttered.
"Do you have any idea how she tracked you here?" System's question was asked from a purely technical curiosity, without realizing quite how big a cat it was dropping among the pigeons.
Sabrina turned sharply and caught Willow's fleeting glance in her direction, "You think its me don't you? That I'm selling you all out?"
"No dear of course not." Tara responded emphatically.
"Not deliberately." Willow threw in the qualifier practically before Tara had finished.
Sabrina shook her head, "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"I just think it's possible that since she knows you so well that maybe she can get a read on you, even from a distance." Willow opined, not especially reassuringly.
Tara frowned, "I don't really think so dear, I mean I would know if you were in trouble but given how Sabrina feels about Jessica I would expect it would be a brick wall as far as trying to get a sense of where she is and what she's doing."
Willow couldn't dispute Tara's logic, however she couldn't quite let go of the notion and didn't look wholly convinced.
Sabrina was going to press it but thinking about Jessica she finally latched onto her ex's final comment, first choice. She knew a fair amount Lydia's first meeting with Buffy but her girlfriend had been a little vague about the details of the period after she rescued Buffy from Sabrina's former Athenai comrades, deliberately vague it now seemed to Sabrina, Lydia loves you, she reminded herself but it seemed hollow and instead the words first choice kept bouncing around her brain, eating away at her certainty.
It was Reese who steered the conversation in a more productive direction, "We can keep track of Dawn pretty much indefinitely but that storm over San Diego is getting worse, are you going to go face her down?"
Willow shook her head, "Not until we have some sort of plan for handling her," short of dropping a very large rock on her head. To date all the viable solutions for dealing with Dawn seemed to come back to the same problem; hitting her with something sufficiently powerful to shake the element gem loose would probably kill Dawn in the process.
"Well if no one's got any practical suggestions I'm going to go talk to my girlfriend." Sabrina announced and marched out of the lab. Willow stared after her and to Tara's consternation simply shrugged, "With a little quiet maybe we can actually think of a plan."

LJ ducked as the, whatever it was, sizzled through the air. The thing was perfectly flat and razor sharp, literally tearing apart the air as it moved along the alleyway. It struck the intense beam of force that LJ had stretched upwards and tore apart in a blaze of light. LJ pulled herself up and checked the bag she had stuffed the Earth gem in before turning her attention to Buffy.
The blonde had unintentionally found the filthiest corner of the alleyway to throw herself into and was climbing to her feet futilely trying to scrape off the grime, "You think the psycho could just forget about us for half an hour?"
"Look on the bright side, while she's playing with us she's leaving the moms and Sabrina alone." At least that's the theory. She hadn't put a call into her parents or Sabrina for fear that it might remind Jessica of their existence and draw fire in their direction but she had the nagging feeling that with the resources of the Cartel it might not be as successful as they hoped. And there was something else, except LJ was still trying to pin it down. It was something to do with her, Sabrina, and Buffy, and not the obvious problem, she told herself as Buffy smoothed out her tight sweater and sighed.
"You know I'm seriously in need of a hot shower and something to eat, a change of clothes would be good but I'd settle for two out of three."
LJ thought about it and had to agree, "Ok but let's see if we can do it low key."
Low key turned out to be walking a mile, sneaking into a motel and persuading the electronic lock on an empty room to play ball. It wasn't a luxurious room but the plumbing was working and LJ magnanimously let Buffy go first with the shower while she stretched on a bed; at which point Sabrina stormed into her brain with a tirade on the subject of Jessica Lazar, her parents and the unfairness of the universe in general.
Slow down sweetheart, Jessica showed up in Reese's lab? LJ asked patiently.
Sabrina did slow it down, a little, Yeah trying to track down Dawn and Willow thinks I led Jessica there somehow, and then there was that 'first choice' crack.
LJ was getting lost again, who said what about first choice?
Jessica made some crack about you and your first choice, trying to needle me
; Sabrina's psychic voice was angry and just a little whiny at the moment.
"LJ I'm finished with the shower if you want to jump in." Buffy literally interrupted LJ's chain of thought and she turned to say a quick thanks and get back to Sabrina, at which point however she froze.
Standing beside the bathroom door was a tousled, slightly damp Buffy Summers clad only in a rather small white towel. Superhuman she might be but LJ couldn't help one small moment of pure wow; unfortunately it was a moment that transmitted itself down the telepathic link with accompanying graphics.
HOW COULD YOU? Sabrina wailed angrily and severed the connection with a jolt that almost knocked LJ off the bed. She wanted to call Sabrina back, to explain but all she was getting was a wall of static and she just sat on the bed with her head in her hands trying to overcome her bewilderment at how this disaster had struck so suddenly.

Willow was talking with Reese, going over a bunch of technical stuff that left Tara dizzy so she wasn’t really paying attention, which was partly why she got some advance warning of what was coming. Normally someone had to be in the same room as her before she could sense their emotional states but Sabrina's aura seemed to be stretching out before her like a storm front such was the intensity of her feelings. Before Tara could warn Willow the lab door flew open and Sabrina stomped up to the couple, practically knocking Reese over in the process, "You knew!"
"Knew what?" Willow's reply was loaded with exasperation.
Sabrina was too angry to care about that, "You knew that LJ has a thing for Buffy!"
Tara frowned, "We knew that she did but that was a long time ago."
"Oh really?" Sabrina's sarcasm was palpable, "Then what is LJ doing in a hotel room ogling her half naked?"
This statement was too staggering in its implications for either of LJ's parents to respond immediately and Sabrina wasn't inclined to let them. Instead she focused the full force of her fury on Willow, "You wanted this too happen, you've been deliberately keeping me and LJ apart, practically throwing Buffy at her."
Willow sighed, "We do not have time for this."
Tara was going to put up a more cogent defense but she couldn't help seeing the ambivalence in Willow's aura, enough to make her wonder if there wasn't some truth in Sabrina's suggestion, had Willow, albeit unconsciously, still been hoping that LJ would find someone more, 'suitable'? Not trusting herself to put up a credible argument along that line Tara tried a different approach, "Sabrina I'm sure you misunderstood what you saw, if you speak to LJ."
"Right now I'm speaking to her," Sabrina jabbed a finger in the direction of Willow, “I want you to tell me I'm wrong, deny that this what you wanted to happen."
Willow was stony faced, "I want whatever will make LJ happy," she answered impassively.
Sabrina stared at her for a moment, before tears began to roll down her cheeks, "You can all just go to hell," she announced and teleported away.

 Post subject: RC 2018: Elements: Air Part III
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:43 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]7. "Off The Rails"[/center]

As LJ sat looking miserable Buffy dropped down on the bed next to her with an anxious expression on her face, "Things have gotten worse haven't they?"
LJ looked at her and sighed, "Yeah but not the way you think."
That puzzled Buffy but she pressed on, much to LJ's discomfort, "So what is it?"
"I was talking with Sabrina and she was already wound pretty tight, then something sent her over the edge." Since Buffy and Sabrina didn't get on LJ was hoping that might be enough to kill the other Slayer's interest but her luck remained lousy.
Buffy was going over the sequence of events in her head and almost instantly figured out what had pushed Sabrina over the edge, "She got a telepathic flash of me walking in wearing just a towel."
"Yeah." LJ admitted miserably.
"And maybe more than that?" Buffy asked hesitantly.
LJ turned away, "I don't know what you mean."
Buffy reached out and took her hand, forcing LJ to look at her again, "I know when someone is checking me out, and you Lydia Joyce Maclay were checking me out."
"Just for a second," LJ admitted, "I'm sorry but you just took me by surprise."
Buffy looked thoughtful for a moment, "You didn't really get a very good look at me though did you?" she wriggled a little closer to LJ, causing the towel to collapse around her waist, "Is that better?"
LJ crunched through a series of emotional gears, surprise kicked in first, before shifting to a moment of desire and slamming straight on into blind panic. She wanted to tell Buffy, that she was beautiful, it was flattering really and a couple of years ago she would have... That was when she heard Sabrina's words once more and a question finally battled its way to the forefront of LJ's mind; how did Jessica know about my crush on Buffy? Even as that question formed it unleashed a cascade of others all of which eventually focused on the topic of why Jessica had scryed out that little fact.
Buffy was bewildered when LJ suddenly grabbed her shoulders, locked a hard gaze on her and did precisely nothing until she leapt off the bed and grabbed the pack she had stuffed the Earth gem in, "Better get your clothes on."
Buffy felt incredibly hurt, "I offer myself to you and this is your reaction?"
LJ gave her a sympathetic look, "I'm guessing here but you've been thinking a lot about me lately, the last few weeks maybe?"
Buffy frowned, "These last couple of months I've been thinking about you in a different way."
"That's what I thought, we definitely need to go hook up with my parents." LJ wanted to throw clothing at Buffy and hurry her up but decided that would be just too humiliating.
Fortunately Buffy grabbed her underwear of her own accord, still looking upset and confused, "I thought we were supposed to keep that thing away from that gem?"
LJ pulled the field shrouded gem from the bag, "This thing? Please we've got real problems to worry about now."

The beachfront at Bondi looked quite pretty by night Dawn decided; especially with a dusting of snow. The bemused locals didn't seem to feel the same way. They were wandering around poking and prodding at the thin powder, apparently believing it all had to be some sort of special effects type trick. Maybe if I summon a real blizzard that'll convince them, Dawn wondered, and decided against it. A little amusement was one thing but it wouldn't do to get distracted from the big picture.
She tried to decide whether it was time to squeeze Willow and Tara to surrender the earth gem yet but past experience suggested they would insist on making one more pathetic attempt to 'save' her before they would even consider that.
Even her current state Dawn was perfectly well aware that there was every chance Willow and Tara would still refuse even after that. That left the storm building over San Diego as her main tool of persuasion. She decided that once they made their next try she would crank the storm to maximum; hopefully ratcheting up the couples guilt quotient would maximize its impact.
She was still thinking about ways to crank up the pressure when she spotted a familiar figure walking towards her, "Your Sabrina Harrington's ex."
Jessica nodded, "Good memory."
Dawn unfolded her hand to reveal the Air gem; "You think you can take this away from me?
"Absolutely not." Jessica responded firmly, "In fact that's why I'm here. The people I'm working for have decided its better to negotiate."
Dawn gave her an incredulous look, "What do you imagine you could offer me?"
"Well I personally can be a lot of fun but as to what they could offer you." Jessica shrugged, "I guess that's why it called negotiating. I really don't care one way or another."
She turned to walk away, and wasn't surprised when Dawn called out imperiously, "Wait!"
Jessica turned, "Yes?"
"I'll meet them but we do it now before I think better of it."

The conference room had been cleared of all extraneous clutter, not to mention the security devices that normally recorded everything that happened there. The head of the Cartel pulled a handheld terminal from his pocket and circled the room, double checking just in case any of his associates had decided to install any back ups.
More or less satisfied he took a seat, and felt a cold breeze swirl around the room before the figure of Dawn Summers materialized at the far end of the conference table. She gave the room a disdainful once over before planting herself in the chair furthest from him and placing her feet on the polished surface of the desk.
The chairman tried to suppress his annoyance; even if she looked and acted like a teenage brat that was just an illusion, she's powerful and dangerous, remember that, "I'm glad you agreed to meet."
"Are you really?" Dawn asked sharply, "I would hardly think you'd be happy to have to share with a mere girl."
"One of the things you learn in business is to deal with reality rather than what you might prefer." the chairman responded carefully, trying to neither antagonize Dawn nor lie to her since it was eminently possible the girl would know if he did, "I would have preferred to have the gems under our direct control but I'm quite prepared to deal with the circumstances as they are."
"Which is the point, what sort of deal are we talking about?" Dawn asked acerbically.
"Well what we would want is exclusive access to your services. We've been interested in the commercial potential of manipulating the weather for some time, in fact we had some former associates who made promises in that direction that they failed to deliver." The chairman didn't keep the disapproval from his voice.
"That's what comes of trusting the Athenai." Dawn observed.
The Cartel chairman wasn’t surprised she knew about that, he had recently become aware that the Rosenberg-Maclay family had been responsible for that, and had doubtless shared the story before their falling out with the girl, "Perhaps; still that's in the past. Now we can achieve our goals with your help, and in exchange we can offer you access to all the best the world has to offer, converting that raw power you possess into wealth and privilege; something you'll find very difficult to do on your own."
Dawn thought about that and nodded, "And a seat on the board? I assume you have a board?"
"We do." The chairman had been hoping Dawn might be content with access to the high life, wanting actual power? That could create problems with some of his colleagues but they could be persuaded one way or another, "That could also be arranged."
Down looked thoughtful for a few moments and then laughed nastily, "You guys are incredible," she got up and pushed the chair away, "You want to use the power of the elements to make a little more money and stay hiding in the shadows, playing at power."
"We don't play." The chairman snapped.
"What's the point of power if you can't make them grovel at your feet? And I haven't forgotten that you tried to kidnap me. I think I'll give you a demonstration, and then we'll see if you can't manage a little groveling. I suggest you run for the exits after I go." Dawn vanished in another swirl of cold air.

The lower level employees passing along the corridor were astonished by the sight of the chairman running along the corridor, which turned to panic as they saw him dive through an emergency exit.

The chairman found himself tangled in a bush, part of the landscaping around the building, what had been a building before a great hurricane force vortex formed around it. The resulting zone of near zero pressure sucked the glass panes from the frame and spun the contents of the building, fortunately minus the occupants, high in the air before dissipating and letting them crash to earth in a crescendo of smashing glass..
As he lay there taking in the carnage the chairman felt that cold wind again and found Dawn Summers standing over him, "Now how about that groveling?"

[center]8. "Insight"[/center]

Tara was deeply unhappy with the way Willow had dealt with Sabrina but couldn't come up with a way to raise the subject that didn't threaten another divisive fight. Willow was in full on stubborn mode and not about to admit she might have made a mistake.
She was spared the effort LJ and Buffy materialized without warning. As she got a good look at them Tara wondered for a moment if perhaps LJ really had cheated on Sabrina. Her daughter was flushed and Buffy looked distinctly tousled, as if they had just been, 'busy'. As soon as she read LJ's aura Tara dismissed that fleeting notion, LJ wasn't aroused, she was angry and worried.
Willow's reaction to her daughter's arrival was pure horror, "You aren't supposed to be here, if Dawn zeroes in on us and the gem."
"We'll deal," LJ interrupted, "right now I'd like you to just step over here for a second."
Willow couldn't help noticing that LJ was speaking to her in a manner suggested she was standing on a high ledge and her daughter was trying to talk her down. Curious as to exactly why she did as she was asked and before she could speak LJ seized her right hand.
Tara was astonished to see Willow yelp and leap back like she had received an electric shock, and even more astonished by the sudden shift in the pattern of Willow's emotions.
"That wasn't remotely funny Lydia." Willow muttered.
"Willow how do you feel?" Tara asked urgently.
"My fingers are still tingling." Willow complained as she massaged them.
Tara took a breath and clarified, "That's not what I meant dear, I mean how do you feel; about the argument you had with Sabrina for example?"
LJ wanted to demand to know what argument but she bit her lip, one thing at a time.
Willow thought about her reaction to Sabrina's obvious pain; and flinched, "That was kind of cold and uncalled for," she turned to LJ again, "That still doesn't explain why you zapped me."
"Technically I didn't," LJ responded a little pedantically, "that was just a general all purpose magical energy purging spell I read. It wouldn't have done anything if you weren't under a spell already."
That statement made Willow forget all about her tingling fingers, "What spell?" She demanded.
"I'm guessing something that brought out your antipathy towards Sabrina." LJ stated coolly, spell or no spell those feelings had come from somewhere.
"I don't feel any antipathy towards Sabrina." Willow countered weakly.
"Not consciously," Tara interjected, heading off any accusations from LJ, "but I think subconsciously yes there is still some residual resentment; and that is definitely what I was picking up earlier." Tara was relieved to finally be able to put a name to the wrongness she had been feeling.
Willow was far from relieved, because if she was under a spell there was only one person who could have cast it on her, "Lazar, she stuck me with a spell to distract us while she went after the gems."
LJ shook her head, "Right suspect, wrong motive, this isn't about the gems, and it wasn't just you she hexed she also got Sabrina, Dawn and Buffy."
Buffy had been silent to this point but now she spoke up, "That's why you turned me down? Because I'm under a spell?"
LJ looked at her sympathetically, "No, I turned you down because I'm deeply in love with Sabrina, the way you are with Angel; you'll remember that when the spell is broken. I didn't want to risk breaking the one on you first because I figured it was probably a lot more powerful than the one on mom." And if I were wrong it would have been incredibly messy.
Willow wasn't really tuned in to the byplay, she was still trying to make sense of LJ's previous assertion, "If Lazar isn't after the gems then what is this about?"
"Sabrina." LJ offered a simple synopsis.
Willow's jaw literally dropped, "You have to be kidding. All this just because Sabrina dumped her? The woman would have to be psychotic."
LJ retained the serenity of someone who is several steps ahead, "Good point, why don't we ask the expert?" She gestured towards Tara.
"Because she's never met..." Willow ground to a halt as she connected one of the links in LJ's chain of reasoning.
Tara also saw it, "Every time she's shown up I've been elsewhere."
"And why would she be avoiding you mom?" LJ was talking to Tara but it was strictly for the benefit of Willow, "What is it you could do that none of the rest of us could?"
Tara didn't bother answering; if Willow didn't get the point then LJ would have to try that clearing spell again, and turn up the voltage.
That didn't prove necessary, "Okay, okay, she didn't want to be read but I can't believe this is all just petty jealousy and vengeance."
"Don't think petty honey think more Iago scale." Tara suggested.
Now LJ was lost, "Iago?"
System supplied a synopsis, "A character from Shakespeare's Othello. He so hates the title character that he convinces the man that his wife is cheating on him. Othello becomes so consumed with jealousy that he murders his wife."
"Oh that Iago," LJ replied unconvincingly, "however mad Sabrina got I don't see her trying to kill me."
"She did look like she might strangle me though." Buffy joked, until she saw the looks she was getting, "Oh, right."
"Sabrina turned against Jessica when she found out she was a killer who enjoyed her work, provoke Sabrina into killing proves she's no better than Jessica. Egotistical to the point of psychosis but I'm guessing that on some level Jessica knows Sabrina is a better person than she is, and simply couldn't deal with that."
Tara's analysis didn't make anyone feel any better and it still left one big question, which Buffy put into words, "What exactly are we going to do about it?"
"Erasing the spells on you and mom is a big step in fixing this but the most important thing is to de-hex Sabrina." LJ's expression turned frosty as she finally got to the question that she had been wanting to ask since she got here, "So where exactly is my girlfriend?"

Sabrina stared at the sticky, smeared counter of the bar, looking for a spot where she could bury her head without gluing it in place. Since there wasn't any such place she leant back in her chair and took a sip from the drink she had ordered, grimacing as she tasted the bite of the raw alcohol through the orange juice. She didn't like vodka so ordering it kept her from getting drunk, at least it kept her from doing it quickly.
As it happened Sabrina was not a frequent drinker; leaving aside her age she hadn't developed much of a taste for any alcoholic beverages apart from some rather absurd fruity cocktails, and she had only gotten drunk on one occasion, drunk enough though that she had to be carried out of the bar she had snuck into and hadn’t remembered it until she was told about it.
That occasion had been precipitated by the same problem as afflicted her now; a relationship going down in flame, not the same, not the same at all, she corrected herself. With Jessica there had been pain but also a righteous anger at being betrayed. Now there was pain but it was accompanied by a nagging sense that somehow she had brought this on herself. She had tried to snag someone who was simply out of her class and the inevitable had happened.
The more Sabrina thought about it the more she hated that idea; sure Jessica showing up had caused some stresses and strains but Sabrina was sure that they could have been fixed if; if that blonde bimbo hadn't sunk her claws into my Lydia. That was a notion Sabrina could get fully behind, Buffy hadn't come to San Diego to help, she had come looking for a way to get Lydia for herself.
Looked at through a haze of magically enhanced jealousy it was obvious to Sabrina that everything Buffy had done since her arrival was a calculated act to steal her girlfriend, probably with the collusion of Willow Rosenberg. Sabrina felt a spasm of resentment towards Willow but truthfully the woman had never hidden her disapproval, she's not a two-faced hypocritical girlfriend stealer like Summers. That settled it as far as Sabrina was concerned, Buffy Summers had wronged her and Sabrina was going to make her pay. Downing the remainder of the drink without even noticing the taste Sabrina jumped off the stool and marched out of the bar.

As her ex headed for the door Jessica squeezed herself deeper into the corner of the booth she was sitting in. As soon as she was certain Sabrina couldn't spot her she made a quick pass with her hands. The spell wasn't much but it would make it harder to contact or locate Sabrina magically, especially if you didn't know the spell was there.
Thinking about the look of grim determination she had seen on Sabrina's face Jessica smiled, things were coming together, probably time to go twist the screws on the others. She reached out for the threads of magic that connected her to geas' she had cast on Buffy and Willow, which was when that smug grin was wiped off her face.
The spell Jessica had used to manipulate Dawn Summers had evaporated the moment the woman touched the power of the gem. That had been disappointing but not wholly unexpected. The prospect of utilizing the power of the gems by remote control had been interesting but strictly secondary to her main goal. Discovering that the spells on the other two had been erased told her that someone had found out at least part of her plan, and with the Rosenberg-Maclay troika back at full power it wasn't likely to be long before they got the whole of it. They were also likely to figure out some scheme for neutralizing the gems without her magic clouding their judgment. All in all that meant turning up the distraction level, and even without a spell there was one last manipulation she was sure she could pull off.

 Post subject: RC 2018: Elements: Air Part IV
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:44 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]9. "Sibling Rivalry"[/center]

"I can't believe you did that!" LJ's anger had boiled over as Willow reluctantly recounted her icy reaction to Sabrina's pain.
"The hex dear, remember the hex." Tara reminded her emphatically.
LJ wasn't convinced, "Which I don't think would have worked unless those feelings were there in the first place."
"I'm not wholly convinced of that dear." Tara responded, drawing surprised looks from LJ and Willow, if I was entirely convinced then what about Buffy?
That was something LJ just hadn't thought through, if the hex had dredged up the subconscious feelings from Willow, Sabrina and Dawn then yes what about Buffy? You mean that she really does have feelings for me?
I mean that in some quiet little corner of her mind there is something going on
, Tara explained, and if you want to really make your life complicated you'll carry on with this argument.
LJ shook her head, "Okay, fine, I guess we go find Sabrina, break the hex and put a stop to this."
Again she was contradicted, this time though it was System that spoke up, "I don't think that can be your first priority at the moment, the storm over San Diego continues to escalate, and there has been another incident."
Willow's heart sank, "What kind of incident?"
"Dawn Summers relocated to the USA and the office building she was in was destroyed by a freak weather event, no casualties reported but the same can't remain true much longer in San Diego, the storm is likely to cause serious problems within the next two to three hours." The computers tone was as impassive as ever, which just made its words all the more compelling.
"Great, just great, we have to go after Dawn, and leave Sabrina to stew," LJ muttered savagely, "Lazar is way smarter than we gave her credit for, even when we know exactly what she's up to she's still got us divided one against another."
Willow listened to LJ’s words and rather than being upset she smiled broadly, "That's very good dear, not against one another, one against the other."
"Are you sure that you cleared that spell properly?" Tara asked LJ.
Willow waved the concern away, "I know what I'm saying. We wanted to use the gems to destroy one another. We can't but we might be able to use one to destroy the other," she shook her head, "I should have thought of it sooner."
"The hex honey." Tara reassured her once more.
"Right," Willow agreed, "but I will need your help LJ."
LJ nodded slowly and unhappily. Buffy planted a hand on her shoulder, "I can go look for Sabrina, if Tara helps."
"I think that could be dangerous dear, Sabrina won't be pleased to see you." Tara couldn't help pointing out.
Buffy nodded, "Yeah but she's avoiding you, I figure I can draw her out."
"If your sure." LJ was hesitant, she couldn't help feeling she was exploiting Buffy.
Buffy wasn’t going to be put off, "I'm sure, if everyone else is willing to go along."
There were no objections and Tara took Buffy's hand and turned to look at Willow, "Good luck."
"You too." Willow replied earnestly before Tara and Buffy teleported out.

Willow looked at the empty space unhappily for a moment before shaking it off; we've got a city to save. She turned her attention back to LJ, "Dear if I ask you to undo the forcefield around the earth gem and handle it can you do it? Safely?"
LJ frowned, "You mean can I put it down again?" Willow nodded, "Yeah mom I promise I won't be able to do it fast enough."
That reassured Willow sufficiently that she could ask Reese about the other part of her plan, "You created a setup to test the tuning crystal, could it measure what it's made of? The physical composition of it?"
"Well yeah, practically the first thing I had to do." Reese sounded a little hurt she would think otherwise.
Willow smiled, "Sorry, had to check. Could it analyze one of the element gems?"
"Yes it could but why would you want to?" Now Reese was genuinely curious.
"Because among the specific powers of the Earth gem is transmutation. It's a safe bet the air gem is made of the same stuff as it is." Willow explained carefully.
Reese saw where she was going and jumped in, "So if you know what they're made of you could transmute one of the elements in the air gem."
"Which would achieve what exactly?" LJ wondered.
Reese beat Willow to the punch, "Crystal are a lattice of different types of atoms. Atoms will only connect together in certain patterns, change one of the atoms and the whole pattern disintegrates."
The scientific explanation didn't mean that much to LJ but she got the point, "If the crystal goes the magic will dissipate, and San Diego is saved, neat mom."
Willow's smile was a little half-hearted, “Well thank you dear, of course we don't know if it will work, or what the side effects might be," she couldn't help thinking about Dawn but they couldn't let people die while they worked out something safer, assuming there was anything safer.
LJ guessed what Willow was worrying about, "Let's find out if this is actually possible before we worry about anything else."
Since her daughter was already putting her own concerns aside that seemed more than fair to Willow, "All right dear. Reese how long will it take you to set it up?"
"Just ask System to load up the software and we're good to go." The physicist assured her.
Willow nodded, "Okay, then if you wouldn't mind Lydia?"
LJ opened the bag and lifted out the sphere enclosing the gem. She cupped it in her hands and concentrated, dissolving and letting the stone fall into her hands. LJ felt the power again but she was ready for it this time, let's show you who's in charge here.

Dawn looked over the group that had assembled at her command, the entire leadership of the Cartel, the former leaders of the Cartel, she corrected herself, they worked for her now. None of them looked particularly happy with that prospect but they had all seen what had happened to the office building and none of them were inclined to argue right now. As she was deciding what exactly to say to them Dawn tightened her grip around the gem, which was when she felt it; a flavour in the energy of the gem, something like apprehension. Dawn had assumed that her so-called friends would make their move against her, not against the gems themselves. She couldn't imagine what they could hope to do against the power of the elements, but let's not wait to find out, "Ladies and gentlemen before we can get on with future plans there's a little piece of old business we have to deal with."

Tracing Sabrina wasn't that hard for Tara. In theory the girl could have gone anywhere in the world in practice a shrewd psychiatrist could narrow that down to a handful of places, and doctor Tara Maclay was a very shrewd psychiatrist. Since Sabrina was in a black mood, and very possibly convinced of her own inadequacy and basic unworthiness courtesy of Jessica's little spell, there was one place that topped the list, especially if Sabrina was planning a little black magic.
Buffy had never seen the Athenai HQ when it was functioning but she doubted she would have liked it any better then. It had a dark depressing air to it, an oppressive atmosphere that spoke of dark secrets and conspiracies. The Slayer tried to shake that off; she needed to be alert for something that was really there, not the ghosts of the past.
It was just as well Buffy was keyed for action because that was the only thing that prevented her getting a chair cracked over her head. One second Buffy would have sworn she was alone in the corridor, the next she was ducking as someone swung a wooden chair through the space she had just vacated. The chair smashed relatively harmlessly against the wall but was rapidly followed by a dark haired fury that pounced on Buffy, "You rotten bitch, what are you doing here?" Sabrina screeched as she grappled with Buffy, "Do you want to rub my nose in it? Is that it?"
Buffy had been planning to pull her punches with Sabrina but the dark haired girl's rage driven assault quickly changed that plan and Buffy found herself having to exert all her Slayer power to fend her off. She managed to roll so that Sabrina wound up on top straddling her.
At that moment Tara dropped the concealment glamour and hit Sabrina with a bolt of magic. It was intended partly to stun Sabrina and partly to purge the spell Jessica had put on her. Sabrina slumped to one side and Buffy grabbed her wrists; just in case that spell didn't wear off as quickly as it was supposed to.
It soon became clear that it was a wise precaution as Sabrina tried to claw her eyes out. Buffy held her back and spoke up before Sabrina could throw out any more accusations, "Look dimwit yes I threw myself at LJ butt naked and you know what happened?" She had to pause as Sabrina renewed her bid to claw the Slayer's face off, "She told me to get dressed because we had to go find you. She was convinced you were in trouble and that's all she cared about."
That stilled Sabrina for the moment, "She really did that?"
Now that the risk of being caught up in the struggle had diminished Tara planted a hand on Sabrina's shoulder, "Think about it dear, you know LJ loves you, you know she would never cheat on you."
Sabrina did think about it, Lydia had leched Buffy but she was only human and there hadn't been anything that said Lydia had asked for it, or was remotely intending to do anything about it, and the more Sabrina thought about it the harder it was to understand why she had let her paranoia get the better of her; there was one thing she wanted to clarify though, "You were trying to steal my girlfriend though, right?"
Buffy flushed with embarrassment, "Yeah well you can thank your ex for that."
"What has Jessica got to do with..." Sabrina stopped, "She put a hex on me."
"And on Willow, Buffy and Dawn." Tara added reassuringly.
"All to get her hands on the gems?" Sabrina hoped that was it but she had a sinking feeling it wasn't.
Tara knew there was no point hedging, "No they were a diversion, it looks like she was after revenge on you."
Sabrina laughed bitterly, "Revenge on me? Like I was the psycho assassin who got off on manipulating people?"
"Maybe we should get back to the others, see if we can help Willow with her plan to take out the gems." Buffy suggested, not liking the way the anger was returning to Sabrina's voice.
Sabrina nodded but her words weren't encouraging, "You should; I should go find Jessica."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea." Tara countered gently.
Sabrina wasn't dissuaded, "If Willow has a plan to knock the gems out what do you think the odds are Jessica will try and wreck it, out of spite if nothing else?"
"About one hundred percent," Tara admitted, "but you shouldn't go alone."
"Jessica wants to make me suffer, she isn't going to try and kill me but if I take anyone with me; I'm going alone.” Seeing that wasn’t wholly convincing anyone she added the capper, “Come on its not like you can stop me."
"I suppose not," Tara sighed, "and it would be a waste of time to tell you to be careful."
"Probably." Sabrina agreed, "Tell Lydia I'll be back soon," she asked, and disappeared again.

[center]10. "Collateral Damage"[/center]

LJ wanted to rail at her mother and Buffy, demand to know why they hadn't brought her lover back to her but she knew why and doubted she could have talked Sabrina out of it if she had been there herself, "Do you think she's right, that Jessica won't hurt her?"
"Physically? No. Emotionally? I'm sorry dear that I'm not so sure about." Tara had decided there was no point shading the truth. What she was doing was going to be hard on Sabrina and LJ needed to be ready to pick up the pieces.
Willow didn't want to let LJ brood but wasn't sure how to distract her, System supplied the means, "I'm picking up another surge of magical energy."
"Where?" Willow demanded.
System's reply got everyone's full attention, "Right here professor."
Willow cursed silently, “Well I guess Dawn knows we're up to something."
"What exactly have we got System?" LJ asked.
"Several distinct areas of magical energy rapidly coalescing into some sort of structure."
LJ nodded, "She seems to have a thing for twisters so I think we need a barrier to buy us time."
"The gem appears to be rather resistant to analysis but I believe I will have it pinned down shortly." System offered by way of encouragement.
"Okay so something cheap and nasty should do it," LJ observed, "I'll go keep them off until we're ready."
"Just remember dear that when we are ready we'll need you here." Willow warned her.
"I'll go with you and watch your back." Buffy offered.
LJ hesitated, having the other Slayer backing her up would be handy but if her mother was right about Buffy's feelings being more than just magical that could just make things awkward.
Tara rescued her, "The three of us will go."
"Yes, good plan." LJ agreed enthusiastically, "Let's go round up some twisters."

The motel room was nice as such things went but Sabrina didn't really care. Jessica hadn't done anything to cover her tracks, apparently confident that her opponents would be too busy and confused to track her down. Sabrina knew any number of spells that would have allowed her to sneak up on the place but she wasn't in the mood for any of that. Instead she just focused her power on the lock and the metal shattered, allowing her to kick the door open and march inside.
Jessica was stood next to the bathroom door with a large hunting knife in her hand, seeing Sabrina she relaxed and tossed the knife onto the bed, "Well I figured I'd be seeing you or your girlfriend sooner or later, I suppose she's busy elsewhere."
"Oh just give it up," Sabrina snapped, "I know about your latest trick and it isn't working anymore."
"So I guess Buffy Summers is still breathing, just as well really, shame to waste a hottie like that." Jessica shrugged, "My own fault I should just have kept it simple, put a bullet in the Maclay bitch and watched you crack up."
The statement was so matter of fact that it took a moment for Sabrina to absorb what Jessica had said. When it hit home Sabrina's rage came boiling back to the surface, "What the hell gives you the right? What makes you think you're allowed to destroy my life?"
"It only seems fair, you destroyed mine." Jessica met Sabrina's fire with ice.
"Destroyed what? You killed for a bunch of amoral megalomaniacs and got turned on by doing it, you're totally fucking insane!" Sabrina shrieked.
"Yeah? Well let’s just see shall we?" Before Sabrina could react Jessica launched a telepathic probe and the girl found herself sharing her thoughts with a psychopath.

As Tara looked out over the broad expanse of lawn that bounded one side of she couldn't really see the twister, until it ran over a rubbish bin and launched the green plastic cylinder high into the air, "I should have asked Reese about that really big forcefield spell."
LJ shook her head, she had some experience with dealing with vortexes, "We just need to contain it, and hope it tears itself apart."
"Or at least stays put until your mom is ready to take down the gem." Buffy suggested less ambitiously.
"Either way." LJ wasn't really paying attention now; she focused herself on the twister that was now weaving its way towards them, until it ricocheted off the barrier that the witch had thrown up. It didn't bounce far, the barrier was a great tube wrapped round it. LJ could feel the thing slamming off the forcefield, it wasn't going to be held up for very long, "We better get to the other two, quick."
They were turning to head for the second tornado when a trio of large SUV's came swinging around the driveway that curved through the landscaping. They slammed to a halt and a group of very unpleasant looking men spilled out. They were similarly clad to the agents who had accompanied Finn but Tara suspected these people were the ones Finn had rejected.
LJ shared her assessment, "I guess Dawn isn't just relying on magic now," she made to get into a combat stance but Tara restrained her.
"No dear, you take care of the twisters, we'll take care of these gentlemen." Tara stated firmly.
"You sure mom?"
Tara gestured and one of the approaching goons was thrown backwards, "Positive dear."

Sabrina felt like she was about to drown under the weight of the emotions Jessica was throwing at her, a warped belief that somehow everything she had done could be justified, its a jungle out there and I kept you safe from all that.
Safe? Protecting me from the jungle by keeping me in a cage full of lions
? Sabrina was disgusted by Jessica's hypocrisy, you killed for one reason and one only, you liked to kill, and the Athenai just gave you an excuse, she sneered.
Now Jessica's anger was growing, you're just a selfish little bitch, I tell you what I'm going to do to your girlfriend and do you beg for her life? No you just try to score points, I'm sure Willow and Tara will understand, when they’re standing over LJ’s grave.
Lydia will kick your ass if you try anything!
Sabrina's thought was defiant but she couldn't hide the undercurrent of fear.
Jessica smiled as she felt it and expounded all the things Sabrina feared, can she stop a bullet in the back fired from a thousand metres? Outrun an explosion? Kick the ass of a neurotoxin or a virus? There are a thousand ways to die without me being anywhere near her. Sooner or later I'm going to take it all away from you, I'm going to make you beg on your knees for forgiveness and when you do I’ll just laugh in your face, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.

LJ was sweating as she wrapped the last tornado in its force jacket, she remembered seeing a plate spinning act on some old video; a guy running between thin poles atop which was a whirling piece of crockery. No sooner had he finished spinning one up than another needed attention. LJ was beginning to feel like that because she was pretty sure the first forcefield was close to collapse and there seemed to be more and more Cartel goons trying to get in the way.
Willow interrupted her, LJ dear we're ready to go.
"What took you so long?" LJ enquired as she materialized in the lab.
"Well I went for coffee, read a good book." Willow responded dryly.
"And what is the thing made of?" LJ enquired
Willow looked a little embarrassed, "Actually it turns out it's Aluminium Oxide, or quartz if you want to be less technical about it."
"About as ordinary as it can get." Reese added, also sounding apologetic.
LJ didn't care about that, "Ordinary means I can zap them, right?"
"Oh yes dear." Willow sounded much more positive.
"I can call up the other gems location." System offered.
LJ nodded, "That would be perfect System." The core element lay open, and LJ closed her hand around the earth gem.

Nothing you can do, except maybe beg, Jessica taunted Sabrina, get down on your hands and knees and who knows? I might just feel merciful.
Now it was Jessica who was betrayed by her emotions, Sabrina could sense the burning desire for vengeance, that's a lie, you want to watch me suffer.
Jessica laughed, true but so what? I'm going to walk out of here and tomorrow, or the next day or a year from now I'll destroy you, and every night until I do your going to wake up screaming, and every time the Maclay girl walks out the door you're going to be terrified she won't be coming back.
The torrent of venom just kept coming accompanied by lurid images, Lydia burning, Lydia drowning, Lydia bleeding her life out and Sabrina knew it was true, knew there would no peace, no happiness unless Jessica was stopped, stop. Stop! STOP! And something in the depths of her mind reached out and did stop Jessica Lazar.
The telepathic scream that drowned out the torrent took Sabrina by surprise and she stared at Jessica, wondering at the strange expression on the woman's face, until her gaze lowered to the hilt of the hunting knife protruding from Jessica's chest.
Sabrina tried to pull away from the psychic connection with Jessica but the woman clung to Sabrina's mind as her own slid into the abyss.

LJ let the power of the Earth gem flow into her this time but she still kept it separate, contained. She reached out to the screen to the screen displaying the location of air and gently touched a finger to it.

Dawn was concentrating on breaking the twisters free from the cages LJ had erected around them, and she was reluctantly bleeding power from the storm over San Diego to do it. She was doing her best to avoid the conclusion that the power if the gem was far from unlimited and told herself it didn't matter anyway; she would soon have the energy of the Earth gem to magnify her power and she was right, sort of, the power of the Earth gem would soon be with her.
It started as a hum, which Dawn thought was simply a shift in the magic until she realized she could feel an actual vibration in the palm of her hand, the hand she was holding the gem in. The vibration grew until she could feel her hand shaking. Dawn tried to still it as she felt the power flicker and fade. She grasped the gem tighter, which was when it cracked and crumbled into dust.
There was a sudden brilliance in the room and the Cartel members who had been watching Dawn all flung themselves behind whatever cover they could find, expecting a vast explosion. Instead the light died as suddenly as it appeared, leaving nothing behind but a very bewildered looking Dawn Summers.

As the image on the screen faded LJ drew her hand back and cupped it over the Earth gem. She focused the crystal's energy back into itself, turning its own power against it. There was another dazzling display of light but when it faded LJ was quite calm, she opened her hands to reveal they were empty.
"The tornadoes have dissipated and the storm over San Diego is fading." System announced.
Willow was elated and hugged LJ, "It's over, their finally gone!"
LJ remained impassive. While she had been manipulating the crystals she had been oblivious to everything else, now she heard something, like the distant echo of a scream, "It isn't over, not even close," she murmured before teleporting out of her mother's embrace.

[center]11. "Pyrrhic Victory"[/center]

The scene in the motel room almost overwhelmed LJ. She had seen appalling horrors before and shrugged them off with a smart remark. The sight of Sabrina Harrington lying on the floor, to all outward appearances simply sleeping peacefully was enough to reduce her to hysterics. She reached out to her lover, stretching her telepathic link as far as it would go but there was just a faint answer, too distant for any meaning or message to be transmitted.
LJ cast a single contemptuous glance at the corpse of Jessica Lazar, any claim to sympathy she might have had long since beensacrificed in the Slayer's eyes. She turned back to Sabrina and scooped her up, "You promised you wouldn't leave," she whispered and got as far from the place as she could.

Tara couldn't suppress the unhappy memories as she watched LJ sat by Sabrina's bedside. She remembered Sunnydale High School and Willow being knocked unconscious. That had been one of the most dreadful days of Tara's life but at least it had only been a day; Sabrina had been in a coma for nearly a week now and the doctors still couldn't offer up a diagnosis. Tara had her own theory but she wasn't sharing it, especially not with LJ. It had been all she could to rein in her daughter's desperate schemes to revive Sabrina.
Tara turned to look down the corridor, waiting for Willow to rejoin her after going to speak with Sabrina's aunt but instead she spotted another familiar figure, the Second of the Glade. Tara nearly slammed the woman into a wall, "You have no right to be here, go now!"
The Second flinched in the face of the unaccustomed venom in Tara's voice, "I just came to offer some reassurance."
"The only way I could be reassured is if you know how to bring Sabrina back, which I'm willing to bet you do, and you were going to tell me, which I'm willing to bet you won't." Angry as she was Tara clung to a small hope that this time she might be wrong.
Unfortunately the Second just nodded, "Right on both counts."
Tara turned her back on the Second, "If its any comfort Sabrina isn't alone." The woman offered before she vanished.
"I already know that." Tara whispered as she watched her daughter holding Sabrina's hand.

Sabrina was rather ambivalent about the grey nothingness she was standing in. One the one hand if this was heaven it was a serious disappointment, on the other if it was hell it was kind of a relief.
"Limbo is a little dull huh?"
Sabrina turned and saw a blond girl with a vaguely familiar look watching her. After what she had been through Sabrina was thoroughly suspicious of this intruder, "Maybe I like it that way."
"I doubt it, you're a pretty social sort and since you haven't asked I'm Rebecca Rosenberg, Rebecca Sheila Rosenberg if you want the whole thing. After naming sis after a Maclay and a Summers I got a double up on Rosenberg family names." Rebecca explained.
"Uhuh," Sabrina nodded slowly, "which would make you the sister LJ doesn't have."
"Yet." Rebecca pointed out, "She will have a sister in the relatively near future."
Sabrina thought about that and decided it was too much of a headache, "Assuming I accept that two questions; where are we and why are you here?"
Rebecca nodded amiably, "Where we are is in some remote corner of your mind while your body is lying comatose in hospital. I'm here to keep you company until the rescue party arrives."
"So I am going to get out of here?" That immensely relieved Sabrina.
"Oh yes, at least according to the stories I was told when I was growing up, would you like to hear them?"
Now Sabrina was suspicious, "You're offering to tell me all about the future? What's the catch?"
"Basically that you won't remember much of it when you wake up but it will keep you entertained until Lydia comes along." Rebecca sat down, in so far as she could in a featureless limbo, and crossed her legs.
Sabrina sighed and copied her move, "So does this start 'one upon a time?"
Rebecca nodded, "As a matter of fact it does, when ironically enough LJ had to rescue someone else from Limbo, a teenager named Willow Rosenberg..."

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:35 pm 
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:28 pm
Posts: 60
I was so happy to see your update when I logged on last night and I just finished reading it tonight. Once again what a great story. You are an extremely talented writer.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 3:37 pm 
4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:39 pm
Posts: 186
Wow, what an amazing episode. Death, carnage and angst, just what I like :) Jessica was an interesting villain, no dreams of world domination, she just wanted to hurt Sabrina. Can't say I'm sad she died.

So will Dawn revert to her original age, or has she been rejuvianted? All this time travel is confusing me, we've now seen Rebecca as an old woman and (I assume) a teenager. And I guess we're nearly at the point Where the LJ from the early episodes travelled back from?

Things are getting very apocalyptic, can you reassure me that there will be more episodes after the ones you've listed so far?

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 12:05 pm 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
I was so happy to see your update when I logged on last night and I just finished reading it tonight. Once again what a great story. You are an extremely talented writer.

Thanks Animism, hgopefully you won't be disdappointed by what's to come.

All this time travel is confusing me, we've now seen Rebecca as an old woman and (I assume) a teenager. And I guess we're nearly at the point Where the LJ from the early episodes travelled back from?

Things are getting very apocalyptic, can you reassure me that there will be more episodes after the ones you've listed so far?

Ah Chronic if the time travel so far has been confusing just wait for what's coming. :devil Seriously with 'Dark of the Sky' I'm launching into a 10 story mega-arc that will be the climax of RC2018, and there is something else in the offing, something I'm working on with the early material. I'll put up details the arc and of the 'New Direction' in a week or so.

 Post subject: RC 2020
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:42 am 
4. Extra Flamey

Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:39 pm
Posts: 186
Hi there. How's the next instalment going? I don't want to sound like I'm nagging (even though I kinda am :) ) but its been a while since we heard from you. Really looking forward to the next update.


 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 4:38 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Well for Chronic and everyone else I'm up to the last chapter of 'Dark Of The Sky'. It's taking a while because I've got several other writing projects going on, including one that I assumed was finished already, and its a matter ot trying to balance out the time allocation.DOTS should be up in the next two weeks though.

 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:36 am 
21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Well after many a long day 'Dark of the Sky' is finished. I need to do some editing and it'll be readay for posting, hopefully part two won't take quite as long...

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