E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
Bob was fairly sure he’d just dozed off when a shadow occluded the sunlight bleeding in through his eyelids, and Helga slapped him on the thigh with her tail. “You’re sulking,” she accused.
He squinted up at her, the bright sun giving her an avocado green halo where it shone through her hair. “I’m not - I’m napping.” He claimed.
She made a disgusted noise that only women seemed able to make, and shook her head, tail twitching like she was having a muscle spasm. “Would you go and talk to Logan already?” She turned away and walked towards the sliding door, skirting the pool.
Bob was laid out in a lounge chair, soaking up the sun, drinking rum, and listening to Garbage. There didn’t seem to be a better way to spend a nice warm Sydney afternoon. On the table beside him, he noticed his highball glass was mostly ice. As he topped it off, he sang under his breath, “Make a whole new religion: a falling star that you cannot live without.” Only about an ounce of deep amber liquid trickled out of the thermos, then stopped. Damn it - had he drank the whole thing already?
Hel was waiting by the door, arms folded across her chest, the tip of her tail impatiently tapping the glass. “I’ve never seen you like this. What the fuck happened?”
“I discovered that I fucked up so bad I’m not sure I can make it right, m’dear. We have any more of the Jamaican stuff?”
“No, but you can conjure some up, can’t you?”
“Well, that’s cheating,” he told her, sipping what was left of his rum. It seemed wrong for a guy who owned a bar to run out of booze.
“What did you fuck up? The verdict’s still out on this relationship,” she noted darkly.
That made him chuckle. “Give me a chance to make it up to you. I might be able to do that much.”
Her look could have cut glass. “This is about Red, isn’t it?”
“If by 'Red' you mean Jean, yes.”
She threw up her hands in disgust. “What is the big fucking deal? She is a Human with god power - there’s only one answer to that, and you know it. Don’t just sit on your ass getting a tan, go take her out before she fucks up the multi-verse.”
He shook his head, and put his empty glass back down on the side table. Maybe conjuring up one glassful would be acceptable, under the circumstances. “If I do that to Logan -”
“He doesn’t hafta know!” She exclaimed impatiently. “I won’t tell him!”
He gazed at her sadly, knowing she meant well. “I’m not gonna do that to him. And you know he‘s not an idiot - if Jean dies, he‘ll know who‘s responsible.”
“Fine. But don’t you trust him to understand why? Even he will get that Humans shouldn’t have god powers. It’s kinda logical, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but -” he sighed and ran his hands through his hair. If he was to be completely honest, he blamed himself for all of this. If only he had mastered time travel, maybe he could jump back and not go to Camaxtli for help in beating Fenrir. But coulda, woulda, shoulda. “He won’t handle it well.”
“No, he won’t, but he’ll get over it. He’s put up with a lot of shitty stuff in his life - what’s one more?”
And that was part of the problem, wasn’t it? He liked Logan, and he didn’t want him to hate him because of this. But there was no way he could avoid it, was there? He couldn’t have it both ways. He couldn’t do what he had to do, and expect Logan to even speak to him anymore. Especially if he had to use Logan to get close to his target.
Shit. Could things get any worse?
As Hel used her tail to slide open the door, they both heard the phone inside ringing. As she ducked in to get it, he shouted, “If it’s for me, tell them I'm dead. They can call back when I’m resurrected.” Okay, it was unlikely anyone he knew would accept that, but some might, so it was worth a shot.
After a moment, the handset of the cordless phone came flying out the door towards him, and would have smacked him square in the balls had he not caught it first. She had incredible aim. “It’s Amaranth,” Helga told him, leaning out the door. “She knows you’re not dead.”
As he listened to what Ammy had to say, a philosophy occurred to him. In one of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” books, one of the characters opined that nothing was ever so bad that it couldn’t get worse.
Bob hated that his life was living proof of that.
Scott had just made it over the New York border when he had to stop for gas.
For some reason, he was itching to just get it over with. The mysterious knapsack had bothered him so much, he had tossed it in the trunk. But why? It was irrational; it was an inanimate object, for Christ’s sake. Was he some superstitious moron?
Still, he'd thrown it in the trunk. Insane or not, it gave him a really bad feeling. And it smelled funny, too.
But maybe it was good he'd stopped. He was starting to yawn way too much, and could probably use some coffee. It wasn’t quite dawn yet, but the sky was starting to lighten, from ebony to a dark, silken blue, and the last radio deejay he'd heard said it was five in the morning. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t have slept on it, but it was that nagging feeling again, that stupid, idiot impulse to run that he listened to simply because he had no idea what else to do.
In retrospect, he couldn’t believe he'd acted so illogically. What was wrong with him? He wasn’t Logan; he was not a slave to his animal brain. He shouldn’t be acting like he was.
The gas pump was digital, but of course the credit card reader was busted, so after getting ten gallons of gas, he had to go inside the station mini-mart to pay. But if he wanted some coffee he’d have had to come in here anyways, so what was the big deal?
Still, he knew there was something wrong when he didn’t see anyone behind the register. Scott looked around briefly, then said, “Hello?” There had to be someone here - it was open, wasn’t it? The florescent lights buzzed overhead like bees, and cast the cramped little store in flat, glaring light that couldn’t be anything but unflattering. Over the audio system, he heard tinny traffic reports concerning some kind of massive jam on the Triborough Bridge (this early in the morning?)
He figured whoever was working this crappy shift was in the back. So he threw a twenty on the counter and went back to the cold case to grab a Starbucks frappachino to drink in the car. But as he rounded the corner, he realized he heard another strange noise: dripping, and the hiss of compressors. Was their freezer section going out? Great, this was his night, wasn’t it? And to think it all started because he took out his garbage.
Scott froze, as soon as his mind processed what his eyes were seeing.
Glass from the doors of the cold case glittered in shallow pools of melted ice, the compressors gasping as they worked to cool this entire store. And at the end of the case, sitting against its warped metal frame, was a stocky woman in a brown and white striped mini-mart smock and brown polyester pants, a patch reading “Judy” over her left breast.
Judy had had her eyes gouged out; there was nothing but bloody holes in her face, trails of blood smeared down her cheeks like badly applied make up. Broken glass jutted from her body and face like porcupine spines, stippling her with even more blood. Some shards of it glistened in her peroxide blonde hair like frost.
Scott clapped a hand over his mouth as he rapidly turned away and fought back his rising gorge. Shit, oh shit - what kind of fucking maniac would do something like that?
Scott didn’t even want to know - that level of inhumanity was
unfathomable. He instantly moved to
What if she was still alive?
Logically, a person thrown through the glass of a thick freezer door (multiple times? More than one was broken) and divested violently of their eyes wouldn’t live very long, but that didn’t mean she was dead. People could live through some of the most hideous mutilations and violence imaginable - and not just Logan. Now there was nothing his rudimentary first-aid training could do to help her if she was indeed alive, but maybe he could offer her some comfort. And he’d know whether to request just police or an ambulance as well.
He forced himself to turn back and approach the aisle once more, and realized he was so tense he could scream. He’d seen too many horror movies - this was always where the killer suddenly sprang out of nowhere, snarling and wielding a chainsaw. Or maybe it was the fact that the fact that traffic reports had given way to Frankie Goes To Hollywood. That was so wrong on so many levels it was hard to know where to begin.
Water and glass squished and crackled beneath the sole of his sneakers as Judy suddenly and abruptly moved.
He jumped back and gasped, startled and instantly ashamed at his own schoolgirl reaction. It was horrible looking, yes, but she was a victim and she needed help. “Don’t move, it’s okay,” he said, trying to keep any revulsion or pity out of his voice. “I’m gonna call an ambulance right now -”
“It is ours,” she growled in a gravelly, almost inhuman voice, climbing up to her feet. And in spite of the fact that she no longer had any eyes, he had the eerie impression that she was staring right at him. “Give it back.”
“It’s all right,” he assured her, thinking ‘She’s in shock. Who wouldn’t be after such a brutal assault?’ But what did she mean by “It’s ours” ? Why would she start speaking like Gollum? “Just sit back down --”
But she started walking towards him, shoulders hunched and head down in a posture that was nothing but aggressive. Still, how could that be? She couldn’t see him, and she had to know he wasn’t her attacker.
(She wasn’t actively bleeding from any wounds, not even her eye sockets. That wasn’t right … )
“Give it to us!” She roared, her voice not only inhuman, but barely female.
It was then he realized she used to be Human, but she wasn’t anymore.
“Judy, can you hear me?” He asked, quickly backing up, trying to confuse the issue and buy himself some time
Didn’t zombies walk stiffly in the movies? She
a woman with shattered glass jutting
“Stolen what? Who’s us?” Scott asked, glancing behind him before bolting for the door.
But he had just shoved it open when he realized there were more people in the gas station parking lot. Dead people. Without eyes.
Okay, what the hell had happened? Had he fallen asleep at the wheel and woken up in a Stephen King novel?
He took aim at one of the nearest zombies (or whatever), a balding guy in a Mets t-shirt, and fired a hard beam, intending to send him flying. But the narrow beam punched through his midsection, and sent his guts splattering all over the parking lot.
The man remained not just standing but walking towards him, with a nice portal through his stomach. It was like he didn’t notice it at all. He’d probably have to blast him to pieces to make him stop. All of them.
Scott just lunged for his car. He threw himself in the driver’s seat before they could grab him, although he heard them shouting, “It belongs to us!”
He instantly started the car, almost flooding it in his haste, and sped the hell out of the station, accidentally sideswiping a zombie and sending him flying. Considering he was already dead, it was hard to care.
His heart was trip-hammering in his chest, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tight he thought he might snap it, and he didn’t think he could sleep now if shot up with horse tranquilizers. What the hell was going on? What had happened to all those people, and why? Who could do such a thing?
And why the hell were they after him?
When Angel heard the faint strains of “London Calling” coming from Wesley’s office, he thought Spike had decided to snoop around in there after Wes had gone home. Who the hell else would be around after two in the morning?
So he was surprised to stick his head in and find Wesley shelving one of his “special” books, his computer leaving a glowing after-imagine reflection in the window behind his desk. “Oh, hello,” Wesley said, obviously distracted. He must have been - he didn’t even comment on how rude it was of him to come in without knocking. Well, he had been expecting Spike …
“I thought you went home,” he admitted, coming in and closing the door.
“I did,” Wes confirmed, taking a seat behind his desk and turning his attention back to his computer screen. “But Ghita left a very disturbing e-mail for me, so I had to come back and look into it.”
“Ghita?” Was that someone in accounts receivable? You know, he really needed some kind of yearbook with people’s photos and names underneath. He had no idea so many people worked for Wolfram and Hart; easily half of Los Angeles.
Wes just nodded absent mindedly. “A friend of mine in Andhra Pradesh. She used to be a Watcher, but since the council is technically no more, she’s started up her own independent, worldwide supernatural phenomenon network.”
Angel wondered how he was supposed to take that as he leaned on the back of the chair before his desk. “Good for her,” he finally said, not sure what else to say. “Is there something going on?”
Wesley barely glanced at him in time to nod. “Something very bad. There seems to be a concentrated chaos wave heading up the East Coast of the United States.”
“It’s a concentrated, occult burst of entropy, that causes -”
“Exactly. But by virtue of the name, the wave should be spread out, random.” Wesley actually bit his lower lip while staring at something on his screen, and Angel knew, whatever it was, it had to be bad. He hadn’t seen Wesley so obviously expression an emotion since … well, since they started working here.
“And this isn’t?”
“No. It’s clearly focused, and seems to be gaining strength as it goes along, which is another basic violation of chaos wave physics. Someone is manipulating it, and it could only be something very powerful.”
Angel didn’t want to say “And?”, but it did occur to him. “Could this be a problem for us?”
Wesley finally did look up at him, to give him a disapproving scowl. His short black hair was mussed, and he had dark circles under his eyes; he was clearly tired. But his blue eyes seemed to blaze, and it was clear his body would have to give out before he actually rested. “This could be a problem for the entire planet.”
Okay, now Angel felt like a complete idiot, because he knew there was something he wasn’t getting. “Why?”
“There are several reasons. First of all, anything strong enough to control a chaos wave such as this - and feed it - is virtually god-like in power. And depending on whoever is doing it, and for what ultimate purpose, the after-effects of the wave alone could be devastating. Things from other dimensions could come here; Hellmouths could randomly open and close, disgorging who knows what; Humans could be instantly displaced as the Alpha humanoids on the planet; vampires could walk in daylight; the entire dimension could implode; the Earth itself could be destroyed.”
Angel stared at him, hoping his exhaustion was making him a drama queen. But no, he knew Wesley wasn’t like that. Oh, in the old days, he could be like a hyperventilating Victorian era hypochondriac, but that was the old him; the new one was a grizzled veteran of the demon wars. He might state a worst case scenario, but he wouldn't exaggerate things. “If this is so lethal, why haven’t I heard of bad guys trying to deploy it before?”
“Because a chaos wave requires a lot of energy to create and sustain, and are impossible to control. “
“Except you think someone finally figured out how to control one.”
“Yes. And since it’s growing in strength, there’s a good possibility that it will eventually subsume the entire planet.”
Now that was a quality world domination plan. “Why? To what end?”
Wesley snorted in frustration and shook his head. “We’ve been trying to figure that out, but until we can determine who’s behind this, we have no clue.”
Wes continued to shake his head. “The chaos wave is heading somewhere. I think, if I can get ahead of it, I can figure out both the intended first target, and those responsible for it.”
“But won’t you be in it then?”
Wes reached down behind his desk, and pulled out an old fashioned black leather “doctor” bag. Angel knew from the Hyperion days that Wesley carried what could be considered a “last possible mystical resort” kit in there. For some reason, it always smelled of sandalwood and Robitussin. “If I did get caught up in it, at least I’d be prepared to deal with it. The rest of the people in the wake probably aren’t.”
And that’s when it really hit home for Angel. Maybe he was a bit stupefied from being in this damn office all day, but he finally got it: people were already in it. Chaos was occurring in their small portion of the world, be it as simple as the toast always popping up perfectly golden brown, or the family retriever turning into a snarling, twelve limbed Ruugoor beast that already swallowed little Billy whole.
A new Hellmouth may have formed in Madison Square Garden while they were standing here talking. Shit.
“Let’s go,” he said, wondering if anybody in weapons had
he could use against chaos. “I’m
“Going somewhere?” A familiar, unwelcome female voice said behind him.
Angel glanced over his shoulder to see Eve come in. She was a petite little ash-blonde lawyer who happened to work as the “mouthpiece” of the Senior Partners, the evil uber-overlords. No one trusted her, and Angel was sure they all had damn good reasons not to.
Wesley had stood up, placing his doctor bag on the desk, and he gave Eve a surprisingly (for him) acrid look. “Do they know about it?” He asked.
She cocked an eyebrow at him, trying on an innocent look that didn’t quite fit her face. “Does who know about what?” Her tone of voice was far too light and casual to be believed.
Wesley’s glare became molten. “The Senior Partners about the chaos wave. Are they behind it?”
Eve scoffed in disdain. “Like they’d be interested in something so … pedestrian.”
“Then they won’t mind us going to take a look at it,” Angel responded, just waiting for her to contradict him.
She didn’t disappoint. “Actually, they would. The boss of a law firm just can’t decide to leave on a mission that’s certain to be extremely dangerous. They won’t allow it.”
“Yeah, well, tell them to listen to themselves. I’m boss, and I say what’s what. And I’m going.”
She gave him a smile that just screamed “Sad, pathetic fool”. “No, you’re not.”
He glowered at her, wondering (not for the first time) if shaking her upside down would dislodge a single iota of truth from her. “Are they gonna stop me?”
“You’ll be unable to leave the building. Sorry Angel, but -”
“They have something to gain,” Wesley interrupted bitterly. “They’re pan-dimensional beings, with footholds in many worlds. Extreme chaos only works in their favor, doesn’t it?”
Eve gave him smile number four, which was the “Like I’m telling you a damn thing, idiot” smile. “That’s hardly the way to talk about your bosses, Wesley. If they think things will work out for the best, I’m inclined to believe them.”
“This is such bullshit,” Angel growled, wondering how they’d stop him if he just jumped out the fucking window.
It was then he felt a shiver of extremely powerful magic, the kind that made the demon in him instinctively cringe, and he wondered if the Senior Partners were finally going to show what they were made of.
But they all looked to see the strangest sight standing on the left side of Wesley’s office.
It was another petite woman, but this one had almost violently blue hair, cut in a sleek, short style, just highlighting the delicate bones of her face. Her lips were blue, but not quite as blue as her eyes, which seemed like a hyper-real cobalt. She wore a black t-shirt with a picture of the gold robot puppet from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the words “Bite me!” emblazoned on it, blue leather pants that seemed to match her hair, and a leather wrist cuff covered with spikes. She smelled Human, Belial, and … other. She also, inexplicably, smelled familiar, even though Angel knew he hadn’t seen this startling young woman before.
It was Eve who looked more perturbed than anyone else. “How the hell did you get in here?”
“’Cause my granddad can kick the asses of your bosses,” she replied, betraying a really thick Australian accent. “And if they interfere with me, he’ll come do just that. Now be gone, slag.” And with a dismissive wave of her hand, Eve winked out of existence.
“Where did you send her?” Wesley asked, more curious than annoyed.
“Basement. She’ll probably call security when she gets out, so let’s make this fast, okay?”
Australian accent; cobalt eyes. Angel suddenly had a bad feeling about this. “Who’s your granddad?” He was only asking for confirmation.
“Bob. And you’re Angel and the pommie, right?”
“I don’t appreciate being called a pommie,” Wes replied crisply. Angel didn’t completely understand the derivation of the term, but it was an Australian slur for the British.
Bob’s grand-daughter (Great grand-daughter? With him, it was possible to add another couple of greats) simply shrugged, like it was no big deal to her. “Ya guys know what’s goin’ on?”
“The chaos wave?” Angel guessed. Oh shit, was Bob somehow involved in this?
She nodded. “Too right. Bob’s getting together an Earth bound unit to help him with the thing, and for some reason he thinks you rag bags might want in. Do ya?”
“We are not rag bags,” Wesley exclaimed angrily. Bob’s
was not endearing herself to him.
“You guys in or out?” She repeated impatiently.
Angel wondered briefly if they could trust the witch (she was a witch, wasn’t she? She smelled vaguely of wormwood), or Bob, but he knew the answer. No, they shouldn’t trust them, but if anyone had the power to stop this, it would lay in the Bob camp. Trust would simply have to remain secondary. “We’re in.” Angel then paused, and asked, “Did we really have a choice?”
“No,” she admitted. Well, at least she was honest.
“Who are you exactly?” Wes asked.
She looked at him like he smelled bad. “I’m Amaranth. Now hold on to your goodies, guys, ‘cause here we go.”
And with that, Amaranth transported them abruptly to god knew