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Chapter 17 Bullet Hits The Bone
Help, I’m stepping into the twilight zone.
The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned.
My beacon’s been moved under moon and star.
Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far?
Soon you will come to know
when the bullet hits the bone.
Spike closed the door behind him, thankful that the old hinges remained silent, and slid further along the wall. His nostrils flared, the unusual scent was strongest here. He cautiously moved into what appeared to be a large cave that had been incorporated within the mine. He walked farther in, continuing to keep his back in contact with the rough wall; he didn’t want to be surprised by whoever had unlocked the door. He saw a smaller opening within the cave and the heartbeats he had detected and the confusing scent emanated from that location. Spike listened for indications that anyone realized he had breached the door. When he didn’t detect anything he continued forward, silently gliding to the other opening.
He looked up and noticed a faint glow emanating from the ceiling. Disconcerted, he recognized it as the one Buffy had described from her dream. Leaning flat against the wall, he slowly angled around the doorway and glanced inside.
Almost the entire room consisted of a rusty metal cage with thick iron bars that reached from floor to ceiling. Three men were imprisoned within the cage. Pinned against the back wall by an indefinable force, the men were unconscious, their breathing deep and regular. It was their scent that Spike had followed.
Someone had used powerful magicks to contain them. There were runes written in black ink on the floor in front of the door. Bunches of dried herbs, their sickly sweet scent cloying in the small room, were hanging around the outside perimeter of the cage and a large padlock hung from the massive gate.
A vivid otherworldly glow surrounded the men completely, pulsing slightly with each man’s breath. Three colors, white, green and black, swirled together then broke separately around them before fusing back together to begin the pattern over again.
Spike cautiously moved farther into the room, gingerly stepping around the runes. He distrusted magicks; there were always consequences with their use and he didn’t want to become closely acquainted with those consequences.
When he neared the cage, the man positioned in the middle slowly opened deep, red eyes and Spike realized that although they smelled human, all three prisoners were demons. That must be why their scent is so unusual.
Warily, he backed up.
Red eyes burned as the demon sought to ascertain who had breached the prison and awakened it. The demon’s face contorted with effort. “Vampire, why are you within these protected walls?” When it spoke, its voice was low, menacing, and without inflection.
Spike assumed an air of nonchalance. “Just out for a moonlight stroll.” He studied the cage. “You blokes seem to be in a spot of trouble.”
The demon summoned its strength again. “Release us vampire, and I will allow you to accompany us. There is much reason for you to consider my request.”
“Sorry, mate, I’m not really much for group activities.”
The demon persisted, its voice cajoling. “I have great power and I can offer you that which has been lost to you.”
Leaning against the doorway, he raised an eyebrow. “And what might that be?”
The demon’s eyes glowed brighter. “Your ability to hunt prey.” Its voice gathered strength and it grew more persuasive. “You are being denied your true nature and it is easily within my abilities to remove that which binds you.”
Spike remained outwardly passive, but inside his demon demanded freedom. It whispered how things would finally be back to normal, once the hated chip was removed. Spike struggled to control his demon and wrench his eyes away, but his gaze remained locked on the prisoner, and his control waned.
The prisoner continued to stare at Spike.
Spike took a step toward the cage and then another. It’ll be easy to break such an old lock. He stretched his hand toward the cage.
Buffy raced into the room and pushed him away from the cage. Spike fell to his knees, his hands on his head. With eye contact between himself and the vampire lost, the glow around the prisoner grew bright again. Its power spent, the demon slumped back into unconsciousness.
Buffy watched the demons warily as she reached down to help Spike stand up. Still in game face, his golden eyes looked confused and unfocused. Placing her arm around his waist, she helped the unsteady vampire out of the room and down the tunnel to the outside.
“Spike? Can you jump over the fence? We need to get out of here.” Buffy had helped the
vampire out of the mine, but she couldn’t lift him over the high barbed wire fence without hurting him. He had to do that himself, but she wasn’t sure that he could. Whatever that thing in the cage was, it had managed to completely sap his strength. The master vampire was weaker than a fledgling.
Spike lifted his head. “I’m fine Slayer; I can get over the bloody fence on my own.” Buffy shrugged and stepped aside. Immediately his legs buckled and Spike slumped back to the ground.
“Uh huh, I can see that.” She looked at the barbed wire fence again and then at the nearly unconscious vampire at her feet. “Okay, I guess our stealthy covert op is over.”
She snapped the gate lock, reached down and lifted Spike back to his feet. “Now would have been a good time for that hover board. Come on, Spike, let’s go get Trigger.”
Although it was not yet dawn when Giles and the girls arrived back at the portal, they had been up for hours. Unsure of what they would need in the other dimension, they had filled their backpacks with a variety of supplies, food and weapons. Giles had used his cell phone and called Anya and Xander to alert them to their plan. Now there was nothing left to do but hold hands and perform the incantation.
“Well, that was certainly anti-climatic.” Giles said wryly as he watched the small door that had appeared in the rock wall slowly close behind them.
Willow and Tara were already setting up their location spell on a flat rock and didn’t answer, although Tara glanced over and smiled briefly. A few minutes later, they were finished.
“Well, the good news is, they are definitely in this dimension.” Willow looked up. “The bad news is that they’re at least several miles from here.”
Giles grimaced and glanced at the sky. “We should go soon, the sun’s coming up and it looks like it’s going to get warm rather quickly.”
He shouldered the largest of the backpacks. “Which direction Willow?”
She waved her hand at the vast, empty desert and shrugged. “Somewhere out that way.”
“Please lead on.”
Willow and Tara slung their backpacks over their shoulders.
Willow muttered. “I sure wish we didn’t have to walk. I hate sand.”
Tara patted her sympathetically on the arm.
Resolutely, the trio walked forward into the open desert.
“There, there, Trigger, that’s a good horse.” Buffy patted the palomino on its neck, while shifting to try and find a more comfortable position. The saddle was definitely not made for a petite woman like herself. The leather was comfortably worn, but altogether too high and wide. It didn’t help that she had a barely conscious vampire leaning his body weight up against her back, but it definitely beat walking and trying to carry Spike at the same time. It suddenly occurred to Buffy that was exactly what Spike had done the previous day, and for a whole lot farther. She felt her heart lighten at the thought of what he’d done for her, of how much he’d cared. He was definitely the one.
“But now we’ve got you, Trigger, although I think we need to find you another name.”
Spike groaned and sat up straighter. Wincing, he cracked his eyes open and tried to look around. “Where are we?” Bloody hell, my head hurts.
“We’re nearly to that boulder where I hid my dress. How are you feeling?”
“Like I just spent the last two days on a bender at Willy’s, drinking the cheap stuff.” He ran his hand across his eyes and realized he was still vamped out. Shaking his head slightly he changed back to his human visage. “Bollocks, Slayer, what happened? I don’t even remember gettin’ on the bloody horse.”
Buffy’s mouth quirked. “That’s because I had to throw you up here like a really large sack of undead potatoes. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Spike thought for a moment. “I was tracking an unusual scent and I came across a big cage with some demons in it.”
Spike sat up the rest of the way. “Uh, I remember one of the demons woke up and started talking to me.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t really remember anything else. What happened?”
“Well, when I came in, you were just about to play doorman. I pulled you away and you collapsed. It was almost daylight, so I put you and me on Trigger here and left.”
Spike smiled even though it hurt his head. “I never thought of you as a horsewoman, Summers.”
“Actually one year my parents gave me some horseback riding lessons, but I didn’t really enjoy them. I like ice skating a whole lot better.” She patted the horse’s neck again. “I’m not sure I could’ve managed but Trigger here is really mellow.”
“Thanks for the help back there, Slayer.”
“I’m glad you’re alright. You had me worried.”
Spike thought back to the cave and what the demon in the cage had offered him. He was concerned about how the Slayer would react when she found out that there were demons here powerful enough to remove the chip.
Spike knew he hadn’t willingly started to open the cage; the demon prisoner definitely had a powerful thrall. He’d been with Dru long enough to recognize one when he ran across it.
This new wrinkle didn’t bode well, but Spike refused to let this bollocks up their new relationship. He would tell Buffy later when they were both fresh and could think this through. When he could discuss with a clear head why he’d almost freed some demons in return for the removal of the chip.
Exhausted, he leaned back against Buffy’s back, tightened his encircled arms around her waist and closed his eyes. He would need time to think, but more importantly right now he needed to rest and get his head to stop pounding.
McGee was furious. It was too damn early for anyone to be knocking on his office door. He wrenched it open and bellowed. “What the hell do you want?”
Davis stood there with his hat in his hands. “Sir, I’m sorry to bother you so early, but there was a break in at the mine.”
McGee was startled. That was the last thing he expected. “Was anything disturbed?”
“No sir, not that we can see.”
McGee motioned him back out the door. “You did the right thing Davis. I’ll send the
sheriff over later to check everything out. Now, you need to get back to the mine.”
Davis placed his hat back on his head. “Yes sir.”
“And Davis? I expect you to have reached the antechamber by tomorrow.”
Davis nodded. “We should have no problem reaching it by then.”
“Good. Do not open it; just notify me when you do.”
McGee shut the door, quickly strode back to his desk and picked up the heavy crystal. Stroking it, he muttered the incantation to summon the rider. Satisfied, McGee set the crystal down and settled his bulk into the desk chair. It would be necessary to check on the prisoners himself, he couldn’t allow the other demon anywhere near them. If there was anything he’d learned from his years on the Watchers Council, it was to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
McGee touched the crystal again. Everything was falling into place. One more day and the miners would reach the crystal fragments. He would collect the pieces and reunite them. It was unfortunate that the cave had collapsed when he had only sought to hide the additional pieces within it but that was of no importance now. Once he had the crystal of Namine whole again, he would control its power and the riders. Then he could return through the portal and the riders would protect him from the Council’s wrath.
A slight noise interrupted his musing. He looked up to see Grip standing in front of the desk.
The rider’s voice was low. “Why have you summoned me?”
“There was a break in at the mine last night.”
“I was at the mine during the night. I saw no one.” His eyes bored into McGee. “Are my fellow riders undisturbed?”
“No one would dare to venture down that tunnel. The miners are all afraid of it, ever since the blast we created killed all those men. It made the rest superstitious and afraid. I want you to check everything out, just in case. See if you can find out who was nosing around.”
“As you wish.”
“They will be through to the antechamber in one more day’s time.”
“It will only be a little over a week until the alignment. Even within this dimension, I can feel the planets’ movements.”
“We’ll be ready. I have all the ingredients to perform the spell that will reassemble the crystal.” McGee stroked the pointed crystal again. “Then we’ll both be free of this dimension.”
The demon stared at the former Watcher intently. “I have performed my portion of the bargain. I have kept your death at bay in exchange for help with the portal.”
“We have both done what was necessary for our continued survival. When I free your fellow riders using the crystal, I expect that they too will keep the bargain that we’ve struck.”
The demon’s eyes glowed red. “They took the blood oath. It is binding, unbreakable. When we return through the portal, the first thing we will do is destroy the Council of Watchers and their allies.”
McGee smiled. “Good, we’re both agreed.” He waved his hand. “Now, leave me.”
The rider inclined his head, turned and walked into the hall.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/188314.html