[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Ongoing...
 

Episode Eight - Quis Custodes Ipsos Custodiet

The impact lifted Pike's body up off of the floor and would have sent him flying across the room were his wrists not manacled to the wall.

'I'll ask you again. Who sent you?'

'How many times do I have to say it?' Pike asked. His jaw was swollen - possibly broken - and it was agony to speak. 'Nobody sent us.'

'Liar!'

The stone creature slammed another fist into Pike's midriff, forcing air out of his lungs and blood into his mouth. He spat the blood into his assailant's face. That earned him a cuff to the temple that made his head spin.

* * *

He was back outside, his body free of injuries. Veruca, in full on wolf-girl form, was bounding ahead, following a scent trail that was invisible to Pike. He couldn't match her pace on foot so was riding along behind her on a motorbike he had borrowed from Wesley of all people. The trail had led them down towards the coast and Pike could smell the salt spray in the air. They had left the town far behind them and the only other people Pike had seen in ages were a few surfers out in the water.

He was putting a lot of faith in a dream and someone else's dream at that. What did he really know about Janice Penshaw? She was a witch. Pike had had some experiences with witches, had worked with one briefly in San Francisco. It hadn't ended well. Of course, Janice was Dawn's friend, but, when all was said and done, how much did he really know about Dawn. He'd only ever encountered her as Buffy's baby sister and she'd done a lot of growing up since then. He was working with her because he felt he owed it to Buffy for walking out on her all those years ago, but was that really reason enough?

'Hey, eyes front, sleepy-head,' Veruca growled.

Pike braked the bike sharply, so sharply that he nearly fell off of it. There was a building in the distance, a red brick structure with few windows.

'That's where the trail ends,' Veruca was saying.

She was changing back to human form so that she could talk to him. Fur was being drawn back into her skin.

Pike averted his eyes.

'You don't have to turn away if you don't want to,' Veruca told him. 'Shy was just the name of the band.'

'Maybe my mom raised a good catholic boy,' Pike said, looking out to sea.

'Maybe you're afraid you'll like what you see,' Veruca replied.

'Just get dressed.'

Pike held out the bag with Veruca's clothes in it, not turning his head. Veruca didn't take it so Pike dropped it to the ground.

'I'm going to call the others,' he said, reaching for the phone in his pocket.

'It'll be a while before that catch up with us,' Veruca said. 'However will we pass the time?'

Even with his eyes turned away, he could tell how close she was to him. He could smell the sweat drying on her skin, the animal scent mingling with her perfume. Could he really feel the heat radiating from her naked body or was he just imagining that?

'You could start by putting some clothes on,' Pike forced himself to say.

'Have it your own way,' Veruca said. 'Just don't say I didn't offer.'

* * *

The next punch brought Pike back to consciousness. The stone thing's face faded in from behind the fog that obscured Pike's vision. It looked so very much like an angel with its Adonis like body chiselled from smooth grey stone and its mighty wings furled behind its shoulders, but Pike refused to refer to it as such. Whatever this creature was, it was no angel.

Behind it, Pike could see Owen. He was chained to the wall just as Pike was, only he was unconscious. The creature had started on him first, beating him whenever he gave the wrong answer to one of its questions. No matter how many times Owen told it the truth, the creature would not accept it and finally the pain had proved too much for Owen. Pike wondered how long it would be before he felt the same way.

* * *

Owen parked the van down by the beach, out of sight of the building. Pike was standing at the water's edge, trying to skin stones across the waves.

'Where's Veruca?' Owen asked as he jumped down from the cab.

'Up there,' Pike replied. 'Keeping watch on the house. You'll relieve her in a bit.'

'He will?' Marcie said. 'Since when? Do we get an explanation of what's going on or are we just supposed to snap into line like all of Pike's jackbooted little soldiers?'

Owen smirked.

'What's so funny?' Marcie demanded.

'Just imagining you in jackboots,' Owen replied.

Marcie shoved him and he ended up on his hands and knees in the damp sand, still laughing.

'Did you see that house on your drive down?' Pike asked. 'Veruca says that's where the girls are.'

'So let's go get them,' Owen said, picking himself up and brushing sand from his pants.

'Gorch can't do anything until nightfall,' Pike replied. 'We'll wait until then. In the meantime, we'll take turns in keeping watch on the house to make sure we don't miss anything.'

'And what are the rest of us grunts supposed to do while you're keeping watch?' Marcie asked petulantly.

Pike shrugged.

'Did you think to bring a bucket and spade?'

* * *

'Enough!'

The man in grey was standing in the doorway.

The stone creature turned.

'But we must force this one to tell us what he knows, Azazel' he said. 'If they interrupt my work here…'

'If this one has friends and they do come for him,' Azazel replied, 'then he will be of use to us as a hostage, but only if you do cease before beating him do death, Gulgiel.'

Gulgiel looked as if he as about to argue, but then lowered his arms in defeat.

'You are right, Azazel.'

'Of course I'm right, you garden ornament with delusions of grandeur,' Azazel snapped. 'Didn't I give these pathetic individuals to you in the first place? If it wasn't for me, your work would be in ruins already.'

'You speak the truth, Azazel,' Gulgiel said, 'and on behalf of the Grigori, I thank you.'

'On behalf of the Grigori?' Azazel laughed. 'I suppose with a head of granite I should expect you to be dense. There are no other Grigori, Gulgiel. You are the last of your race. And if they were all as bright as you I say good riddance.'

'We still have a mission,' Gulgiel insisted. 'A higher purpose. Now more than ever.'

'Yes, yes, yes,' Azazel replied. 'Whatever makes you happy. And speaking of your precious mission, wouldn't you be better off getting on with it rather than taking out your frustrations on the mortals?'

'Of course, Azazel,' Gulgiel said, retreating from the room.

Pike lifted his head.

'Where are my friends?' he growled.

Azazel moved closer.

'So it speaks, does it?' he mocked. 'Too proud to answer Gulgiel's questions, but quick with ones of its own.'

'Where are my friends,' Pike repeated.

'You mean the vampire and the wolf?' Azazel said. 'The vampire is a perversion and will be left to rot. The girl I have given to Gulgiel for his experiments.'

Pike began writhing against the chains, trying to free himself.

'It could have been a lot worse, young man?' Azazel told him. 'I could have wanted her for myself.'

The chains were too much for Pike and, eventually, he admitted defeat and sagged back against the wall. There was one small glimmer of hop that it clung on to, desperately. Azazel had not mentioned Marcie.

* * *

'The stone guy doesn't work alone,' Marcie was saying. 'There's some kind of sorcerer in a suit helping him out.'

Marcie was still lying on the couch. They could tell by the way the cushions were bent out of shape and by the stains that continued to grow despite the bandages Marcie had applied.

'We figured that out already,' Ruth said. 'The hard way.'

'It makes a certain amount of sense,' Wesley said.

He was crouched in front of Marcie, hanging on her every word and filing it away for future reference. Janice could practically hear the whirring of the gears in his brain as he weighed up and discarded theory after theory.

'If our enemy is a stone giant,' Wesley went on, 'he can hardly walk the streets of Sunnydale hunting children. Not without attracting a great deal of unwanted attention. Therefore, he would need human-looking assistance.'

'This Mr Kidd?' Chrissie said and Wesley nodded in confirmation.

Though Chrissie had not complained once, Janice had fetched a chair for her from the kitchen and she had collapsed into it gratefully.

'He must have known we were coming,' Marcie said. 'They were both waiting for us when we stormed the house.'

'A divination spell is not unreasonable,' Wesley mused.

Janice crossed to the bookcase and reached for a volume. She paused with her fingertips brushing against the spine.

'Do you mind if...' she asked Wesley.

He waved her on.

'No, go ahead.'

Janice took the book down and began going through it.

'If it is a divination spell, we should be able to counter it,' she said. 'What do you reckon would be best, Wesley? Disrupting his spell or cloaking our presence.'

'A counter spell is normally more effective,' Wesley replied, 'but it relies on knowing exactly what spell your opponent is utilising.'

He stood up, took the book from Janice, turned to a specific page and then handed it back.

'That may be our best bet,' he said.

'I still think you're all crazy,' Marcie said. 'You're up against some serious power here.'

'Then we'll just have to be inventive,' Janice replied.

'Has it occurred to you that you're best bet is to send me back in?' Marcie asked. 'They can't see me, remember.'

'So now you want to help,' Chrissie said.

'Hey, Pike's done a lot for me,' Marcie shot back. 'I think this is suicide, but if you dead set on doing this then I'm going with you.'

'Into the valley of death rode the five hundred,' Wesley muttered.

'So when do I start?' Marcie asked.

'You don't,' Janice replied.

'Like hell I don't.'

'Look, Marcie, I appreciate the offer,' Janice said, 'but you're too badly injured. If you were at full strength, I'd send you in there in a heartbeat, but you're just not.'

'But I want to help.

'You can help,' Wesley told her. 'I need you to describe as much of the layout of the building as you can remember and any details of your assailants will be useful too. We need to know what we're up against and you're our best source of intelligence.'

'And then can we go flatten this guy?' Helena asked.

'No,' Janice said. 'This is a rescue mission, not search and destroy.'

'But you don't know what that thing's doing to those girls,' Helena protested. 'We need to stop him. Permanently.'

'We will stop him, Helena,' Janice said, 'but not today. Our priority is to get those girls to safety, everything else can wait.'

'That's not good enough!' Helena insisted.

'Listen to Janice, Helena,' Ruth said quietly. 'I know how you feel, but this time she's right.'

'If you're sure,' Helena said, looking down at Ruth.

'I'm sure,' Ruth promised.

'There is something,' Janice began slowly. 'If you really want to take on the Living Monolith then I may have a use for you.'

'Sounds like you've got a plan,' Chrissie said.

'I think I just might,' Janice replied. 'I think I just might. But first, I need you to do something for me, Chrissie.'

* * *

I woke up. I hadn't been aware of losing consciousness, but I guess I must have done because it took me a while to regain it. I was lying on the softest mattress I had ever experienced and was covered by a thin sheet so light I could barely feel it. It smelled faintly of flowers.

I didn't try to open my eyes. In my mind I could still see the blades of the Ophanim and the blood filling my vision. I couldn't feel any pain any more, but why was that? I couldn't have been asleep so long that they had healed up so I started to wonder about possible nerve damage. I wasn't worried so much as to what I would see when I opened my eyes, but that I wouldn't see anything at all.

I started to explore my environment using my other senses. Touch was out. I was enveloped in a cocoon of softness and I wasn't yet brave enough to try leaving the safety of the bed. Smell? There was the aforementioned floral small of the sheet, but there was another smell that permeated the air, something of a cross between baking bread and caramelising sugar, sweet and wholesome at the same time. It gave me belly rumblings. I lifted my head and listened. I could hear bird song. It was pretty loud and I began to wonder if there was a caged bird in the room with me. I concentrated on filtering out the chirruping to try and detect other clues. Wood was gently creaking. Were those trees bending in the wind or maybe I was on a boat? If it was the latter then I wasn't at sea, I thought, because I would smell it.

I had one more sense left so I parted my lips ever so slightly and stuck out my tongue.

'Well that's no way to greet a friend,' a voice said.

'Tara? Is that you?'

'Yes, it's me, Dawnie,' she said. 'Why don't you open your eyes and see for yourself?'

'I…I'm not sure I can,' I replied. 'The Ophanim…'

'I know,' Tara said. 'I saw. But it's all healed now.'

'You sure?' I asked.

'Promise.'

Gingerly, I rolled back my eyelids.

'Bright light! Bright light,' I complained, squeezing them shut again. All I could see was white. Lots and lots of white.

Tara laughed.

'Take your time,' she said. 'Let your eyes adjust.'

I tried again.

I had thought that the whole room was white at first, but now I began to see that there were yellows and browns in there. The colours were very pale, but there was variety if I stopped to pick it out. I seemed to be in some kind of tree-house, though one that had been grown from the tree itself, rather than being manufactured. The birds that I had heard were perched at the window and were free to fly off as they wished.

'How long have I been out?' I asked.

Tara sat down on the edge of the bed.

'Just a few hours,' she said.

'But my eyes…'

'Hedriel is a remarkable healer.'

'Hedriel?'

'You'll get to meet him soon, I promise,' Tara said, 'but first you need to eat.'

She passed me a wooden tray holding some bread and berries.

'I'll get you some water,' she said, getting up and crossing to the window. A jug was sitting on the sill.

'Isn't it supposed to be nectar and ambrosia in Heaven?' I joked, tucking in greedily.

'Sometimes,' Tara said, pouring water into a glass, 'but it's probably a bit rich for you at the moment.'

There was something in her voice that made me pause.

'What do you mean?' I asked.

'You're still a bit…delicate,' Tara replied evasively.

I put down my bread.

'How bad was it?' I asked.

Tara looked away.

'It was bad,' she said. 'If Lairel and the others hadn't turned up when they did… Even then, I thought you were going to lose your eyes.' She turned to face me. 'It's been a very long few hours.'

'So what happened?'

'Enough questions for now,' Tara said. 'Eat up. The others are waiting for us.'

* * *

'Get out,' Drew said.

He was sitting in front of the TV, flicking from one channel to the next with barely enough time to register the image on the screen.

'Drew, we need to talk,' Chrissie said.

'Don't you get it?' Drew snapped without turning to face her. 'I don't want you here.'

'Do you think I want to be here?' Chrissie asked. 'I really, really appreciate your mom letting me stay and all, but I'm supposed to have a home of my own. Do you think I like the fact that my parents have disowned me?'

'Well, you should have thought of that before…'

'Before what, Drew?' Chrissie asked. 'Before I decided not to kill my baby.'

'It wouldn't have been killing,' Drew replied. 'It was just a ball of cells, not really a person.'

'It was more than enough for me,' Chrissie said.

There was silence.

'Can I at least sit down?' Chrissie asked after a while. 'He's giving me backache, having to carry him around all day.'

'He?' Drew asked, indicating an empty chair with a wave of his hand.

'Well, I don't really know yet,' Chrissie replied, sitting down. 'I want it to be a surprise, but I reckon he's a he.'

'He'll be the spitting image of his father, I bet,' Drew said flatly.

'He better not,' Chrissie replied.

Drew turned off the TV.

'For what it's worth, Chrissie,' he said, 'I'm sorry about everything that's happened. You don't deserve this.'

'Does this mean that we're okay now?' Chrissie asked.

Tentatively, she snaked a hand out towards Drew. He flinched back, shuffling along so that he was out of reach. Chrissie sank back dejectedly into her chair.

'I'm sorry,' Drew said, 'but…'

He stood up and began to pace.

'I can't do this any more,' he said. 'We're not okay and I don't think we're ever going to be okay. You can't just hit me with something like this and not expect fallout.'

'I didn't…'

Drew cut Chrissie off.

'Why can't things just go back to the way they were?'

'Are you asking me to get an abortion?' Chrissie asked.

'No!' Drew insisted vehemently. Then he added softly. 'Maybe.'

'Drew!'

'Look, I would never tell you what to do with your baby,' Drew said, 'but…'

'But?'

'But we were happy before, weren't we?'

'Yeah, we were,' Chrissie agreed, 'but I'm not going back. This is my baby and everyone else is just going to have to accept the fact or get out of the way.'

Drew looked pained.

'You said we had to talk,' he said. 'Was this it or…'

'We need your help,' Chrissie explained. 'Pike and his merry men have been captured because they decided to be all tough without us and now Janice is trying to mount a rescue.'

'And where do I fit in?'

'Janice has come up with this scheme and we all have our roles in it, but we're one guy short.'

'What do you need me to do?' Drew asked.

'Someone has to distract the sorcerer guy while we slip inside,' Chrissie said. 'Look, you don't have to do this if you don't want to. No one's going to think any less of you for refusing to take part in this stupid idea. Blame me if it makes you feel better.'

'I'll do it,' Drew said. 'I may not be much of a hero, but I still try and do the right thing from time to time.'

Chrissie looked away and began chewing on her lower lip. She turned back and pulled a blue drawstring pouch from her pocket.

'Take this,' she said, holding it out towards him.

'What is it?' Drew asked.

'It's a protection charm, just in case.'

Drew took it from her. He started to examine it and wrinkled his nose at the smell.

'What's in this thing?' he asked.

'Don't open it,' Chrissie insisted, 'you'll let all the magic out. And don't tell anybody I've given it too you. I make fun of Janice for doing this sort of stuff and if she found out…'

'So why did you do it?' Drew asked.

Chrissie stood up.

'Doesn't matter,' she said hastily. 'Anyway, I'd better go. There's lots of stuff to organise. I'll see you back at Wesley's when you're ready.'

Chrissie hurried out before Drew could say another word.

* * *

Helena ran up the hill towards the red brick building were Piv and the others were being held. How long would it be before she was spotted? How far could she really get? She had reached the door now. She tried it, on the off chance that it wasn't locked, then took a step back to give herself room to swing a kick at it.

Ruth had tried to persuade her not to go.

'It's too dangerous,' she had said.

'It's a good plan,' Helena had insisted while the others got ready.

'You're deliberately putting yourself in harm's way.'

'And who better?' Helena had asked. 'I can't be killed, remember.'

'Just because no one's found a way yet, doesn't mean it can't be done,' Ruth had pointed out. 'Don't be an idiot, Helena.'

But here she was anyway.

The door shook in response to her first kick, but it held. On the second kick, it splintered and swung open. Helena took a deep breath and charged inside.

She didn't know where she was going, was not in fact looking for anywhere in particular. She found a set of stairs and raced downwards into a maze of corridors. The house above ground was just the tip of the iceberg, the majority of the building was hidden below ground. But Helena did not spare much thought for her surroundings. She just wanted to keep moving until…

'And what have we here?' Gulgiel asked. His massive frame completely blocked the hallway. 'Another body for the project?'

* * *

Tara led me across a rope bridge into room growing out of the side of another tree. Zauriel was waiting for us there, as were several other angels.

'Dawn, are you feeling well,' Zauriel asked, rushing to me with a display of informality that seemed to embarrass his colleagues.

'Better, thanks,' I told him. 'Apparently I have someone called Hedriel to thank for that.'

'I am Hedriel,' one of the angels boomed. He was tall and broad, with the head of a lion and wings that shone like brass in the light. He made me feel very small indeed.

'You have nothing to thank me for,' Hedriel continued. 'Rather, it is we who should be thanking you, for shouldering your burden.'

I must have looked blank, because Tara whispered in my ear, 'He means the Key.'

'It's not like I was given much choice,' I muttered in response.

'Hedriel is our leader,' Zauriel explained.

'A misnomer,' Hedriel insisted. 'Not one of us is more important than any other.'

'Except me,' I said.

'Dawn!' Tara exclaimed.

'What? It's true,' I said. 'If I wasn't, then one of you could find the Angel of Death, but I can do something you can't. Why is that?'

'Free will,' Zauriel said.

'We are bound by the dictates of our Creator,' Hedriel said. 'To mankind, he gifted free will and the ability to choose, but his angels were meant only to serve.'

'Can't you just decided not to?' I asked.

All the angels started talking at once.

'Folly!'

'You know not what you are saying.'

'That way lies madness…or worse.'

'Enough!' Hedriel roared, restoring order. 'Angels have rebelled before. One group, the Grigori, was destroyed for their audacity. Another…they were cast from Heaven, perhaps the worst punishment possible to inflict on an angel.'

'So where do I come in?' I asked.

'We as angels cannot interfere with the Creator's design, but you, a human, are bound by no such restriction.'

'But if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be able to help you,' I said. 'You gave me these powers. Doesn't that mean you're already meddling with the grand design?'

'No, it does not,' Hedriel insisted.

'Yes, it does.' Another angel stepped forward.

'Hold you tongue, Lairel,' Hedriel said.

'She has a right to know the truth, Hedriel,' Lairel replied. 'We ask more of her than we have any right to as it is.'

He turned to me.

'The Creator commanded us to love mankind,' he said, 'and we do. It causes us physical pain to think that you may all soon be destroyed. Yes, we are breaking some rules to prevent this. It goes against our very natures and, as such, is extremely difficult for us, but we do what little we can.'

'But for the big things, you need a human to help you,' I said.

Lairel nodded.

'We need you, Dawn, more than we can express,' he said.

'And what happens if I say no?' I asked.

* * *

'I don't like this,' Chrissie said.

Janice, Chrissie, Ruth and Wesley were lying on their stomachs just below the lip of the rise leading up to the house. By craning their necks, they could see Drew approach the building and knock on the door.

'Neither do I,' Ruth added.

'So noted,' Janice replied, 'but it's a bit late now to start coming up with a new plan.'

'We all agreed that this was our best option,' Wesley added.

'Doesn't mean we have to like it,' Chrissie replied.

Ruth lit a cigarette.

'Could you not smoke next to the pregnant lady?' Chrissie complained.

'Sorry,' Ruth said, stubbing the cigarette out on the ground.

Janice was still watching the building.

'Drew's in,' she said. 'Let's go.'

Wesley put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

'Wait,' Wesley said. 'Give him a minute or so, just like you planned.'

Reluctantly, the girls waited, silently counting off the seconds.

'Now can we go?' Chrissie said at last.

'After you,' Wesley replied.

The four of them sprinted across the open ground to the house.

'Ready?' Wesley asked Chrissie and Janice.

'Give us a moment to centre ourselves,' Janice said.

The girls linked hands, feeling the magical connection between them.

'Slow your breathing, Chrissie,' Janice said. 'Don't lose your focus.'

Wesley guided Ruth away from the others so that they could talk in private.

'Well,' he asked, 'did you tell Helena?'

'Of course not,' Ruth replied. 'How could I?'

'Now do you understand?' Wesley asked.

'I wish you hadn't told me,' Ruth said.

'I did try not to,' Wesley pointed out.

'Still, I know now,' Ruth continued, 'so you might as well tell me the rest. If you find out anything else, I want to know.'

'Agreed,' Wesley said, 'and thank you. It'll be a relief not to have to keep this entirely to myself.'

'Places everyone,' Janice called out.

'After you,' Wesley said to Ruth, ushering her back towards the two magic-users.

Janice and Chrissie placed their free hands against the red bricks. The wall began to distort and ripple like a wobble-board.

'Still sure you want to do this?' Wesley asked Ruth.

Ruth shrugged.

'Bit late to change my mind now,' she said.

She dived at the distorted section of wall, disappearing through it. Wesley followed close at her heels.

The wall returned to normal as Chrissie's legs gave way. Janice hurried to catch her before she hit the ground.

'You okay?' she asked.

'Just tired,' Chrissie replied. 'Really really tired.'

'You feel strong enough to get down the hill again?' Janice asked. 'Then you can rest all you want. We've done our bit. Now it's all down to them.'

* * *

A tall man with steel grey hair and a grey suit opened the door. Drew figured this must be the sorcerer.

'You've got to help me,' Drew began. 'There's been an accident.'

Someone needed to distract the sorcerer while the others snuck inside and Janice had chosen Drew on the grounds that he was the better actor. Mind you, that had more to do with him being the only one who did act. He had been in the school production every year so far, admittedly with important roles, but still…

There was another problem no one had considered. What if the sorcerer believed him, but still decided to turn him away? It had occurred to Drew as he had approached the door, but he had dismissed the idea. From what they knew, this guy didn't want to attract attention and to slam the door in Drew's face, to leave a bunch of accident victims to suffer, might be counter-productive in the long run. That said, now that he was looking up into the sorcerer's face, Drew thought that possibility didn't seem quite so unlikely after all.

'What's happened?' the sorcerer asked.

'There was a crash,' Drew explained, 'just down the road there.'

'I didn't hear anything,' the sorcerer replied sceptically.

'Go take a look for yourself if you have to,' Drew said, praying to whatever immortal was listening that the sorcerer wouldn't take him up on the offer, 'but please, you've gotta let me use your phone. My girlfriend was driving and…and…'

'Of course, of course,' the sorcerer said. 'You must call for an ambulance. There's a telephone in my study.'

'Thanks, thanks a lot,' Drew said, following the sorcerer inside. 'You're a lifesaver. Literally.'

'You're too kind,' the sorcerer replied. 'My study's just through here. I'm a bit surprised you don't have one of those mobile phones. Isn't that a required fashion accessory for you teenagers, nowadays.'

'Haven't you heard?' Drew asked. 'They fry your brains.'

'That would explain a great deal,' the sorcerer remarked.

* * *

'This is going to take forever,' Ruth had said when she and Wesley had discovered the basement. They were not surprised to discover that there was a lower level, but they were surprised by the sheer scale of the place. It had been Wesley's idea to split up and now Ruth was regretting ever having said anything.

She drummed her fingers nervously against the wall. This was taking too long. Helena could be in serious trouble while she was wandering around down here. Where were they keeping the girls? What if they weren't down here at all? What if they were being held somewhere else and all this was a dangerous waste of time? Veruca had followed them here, but what if they had moved them after Pike and the others had found them?

'Don't think like that, Ruth,' she scolded herself.

She took her lighter from her jacket pocket and flicked it on and off a few times, watching the shadows caused by the flame dance across the walls. Finally she gave in and lit herself a cigarette. There, she thought as she blew smoke at the ceiling, that was much better.

She froze.

She could hear noises in the distance. Straining her ears, she tried to follow the sound. More than once she took the wrong turn and had to double back to find the chatter again, but eventually she found herself in front of a wooden door. There was a bar on the outside. Something was throwing itself against the door, trying to get free but without success.

'It's all right,' Ruth said. 'I'm here to get you out.'

It took her two attempts, but she managed to lift the bar out of its brackets. Then she opened the door. The things in the room beyond might once have been girls, but now…Ruth recoiled from the sight. There were twisted and misshapen. Some had full extra limbs, some just lumps that might be abortive attempts at appendages. Some were huge, other shrivelled and tiny. Most appeared to have been taken apart and then reassembled in random sequence, with faces in stomachs, arms emerging from the top of heads and so on. Was this what was being done to the girls who had been kidnapped? Had one of these creatures once been Piv?

There was an uncomfortable lump in Ruth's throat and she swallowed to try and clear it. It helped, but not much.

'I…I'm here to help,' she stammered. 'Follow me and I'll get you out of here.'

The creatures gurgled in response. Few were able to manage full words, but those that did settled on one in particular.

'Pain. Pain. Pain.'

En masse, they advanced on Ruth.

'Stay back,' Ruth cried, panicking.

One of the creatures extended her arm towards Ruth. There was a mouthful of teeth in the palm of her hand. Ruth raised her arm in front of her face to protect herself and fought back the pain as the teeth clamped down on her arm even through the leather of her jacket.

'I only want to help you,' Ruth protested, but the creature's either could not understand her or did not want to here. Instead, they continued to advance, intending to give substance to their mantra.

'Pain. Pain. Pain.'

Ruth shook of the hand biting into her and backed out of the room. She tried to force the door closed, but there were too many of them and they surged into the corridor like a tidal wave of rats. Ruth turned tail and fled.

She sprinted down corridors, accompanied by the echo of her footfalls and the constant burbling chant. The fact she smoked was taking a toll on her, making her fight for every breath, but sheer terror was lending a weightlessness to her legs that propelled her onwards. She arrived at a door, threw it open and hurled herself through. There were brackets on this side of the door and she hunted frantically for the wooden bar that would allow her to hold the entrance closed. She could hear the creatures approaching, some running, some slithering, some dragging themselves along as best they could. She knew that they were close, but she couldn't bring herself to look. One sight had been horrible enough and she could already feel her stomach rebelling as she pictured them in her mind's eye.

There! There was the bar. She hefted it, the muscles in her arms protesting all the while, but desperation forcing her to fight off the pain. She dropped the bar into the brackets, just as something impacted on the other side. The door shook, but it held. More impacts followed, but although the door creaked and groaned, the creatures remained trapped outside.

And I'm trapped in here, Ruth thought to herself.

She looked around for another exit, but there wasn't one. There was something, however, a figure curled up in a shadowy corner.

'So this is what y'all call a rescue, is it?' Lyle Gorch asked.

* * *

'No?' Hedriel said.

His stare was so fierce that I almost backed down. Almost.

'Yeah,' I said. 'I'm supposed to have free will, right? What if I choose to exercise that free will by not going looking for this Angel of Death?'

Lairel bowed his head.

'There are many angels,' he said, 'who do not believe that your world can be saved. Worse, that when it falls, it will be the first in a chain reaction that will topple all existence.'

'You mean, like a row of dominoes?' I asked. 'Knock one over and all the rest follow.'

'Exactly,' Lairel confirmed. 'To save the universe, they plan to destroy your world before disaster overtakes it. To this end, they have obtained a device.'

'A device?'

'I have seen it,' Zauriel said. 'It is a thing of infinite beauty and infinite terror, a bone flower the size of a city.'

'It is a relic of our past,' Lairel said, 'when we were weaving this universe out of nothingness. But what can be created can be unmade and that is the purpose of the device. When activated, it will be like tugging on a loose thread that causes the whole fabric to unravel. Your world and everyone on it will cease to be.'

'That's a bit drastic, isn't it?' I said.

'It's been done before,' Lairel replied. 'Once. To unmake the actions of the Grigori, the so-called Watchers.'

'Grigori?' I asked.

Lairel was about to respond when another angel came rushing into the chamber.

'What is it, Cassiel?' Hedriel asked.

'My lord Hedriel,' the newcomer replied, gasping for breath, 'the enemy is upon us.'

* * *

Gulgiel carried Helena to his workshop.

'You are a remarkable specimen,' he was saying to her. 'We are lucky to have found you.'

He laid Helena down on a wooden table and began tightening leather straps around her wrists and ankles.

'Tell me if these are too tight,' he said. 'I do not wish to hurt you, but there may be convulsions during the process and it is best you be restrained.'

Helena did not reply. She was gathering her strength.

'As we were saying,' Gulgiel continued, 'you are much stronger than the others. We have had so many rejections to the process. The Nephilim we call them. Poor, poor creatures. I wish we had the talent to save them all, but in any great experiment there must be an element of trial and error.'

Gulgiel crossed to the apparatus that took up most of the far wall. It was a mass of tubes and valves and pumps. Green and yellow fluid oozed through it like blood.

'I remember the old times,' Gulgiel continued. 'We were so many then. We had come to walk among you, to share our knowledge and our skill, to turn you into the giants we always knew you could be. We walked among you and we gathered the womenfolk and we raised them up above all others. Azazyel taught them the art of battle and skill with arms. Amazarak taught them of magic while Armers taught them to defend against the same.'

Gulgiel took a pair of syringes and attached them to the ends of two of the tubes. Then he crossed back to Helena.

'Barkayal taught them the names of all the stars and Akibeel and Tamiel taught them to divine the future through these and other signs. Each in turn, we brought a new gift and together we raised them up to perfection. This might sting a little.'

Gulgiel plunged the tips of the syringes into the veins in Helena's upper arms. Helena flinched, but still said nothing.

'But the Seraphim were jealous of the good works we had done,' Gulgiel continued, 'and they brought their complaint to the Creator. Blinded by their lies, He decided to undo all that we had accomplished. He sent the angel Arsayalalyar to warn those we had not felt our touch so that they might take measures to avoid the impending disaster. Gabriel himself came and walked among us, his silver-tongue spreading dissent and causing conflict even among our own ranks so that we might not see what was happening until it was far, far too late. The Seraphim came in the hundreds then and we could not raise arms against them. They took us and they bound us and they forced us to watch as all that we had accomplish was unmade, washed away by a great flood that engulfed the Earth. And we wept, able to do naught but watch as we were named.'

'Good Lord!' Wesley stepped out from the doorway were he had been listening to Gulgiel's monologue with great interest. 'You were the original Watchers, weren't you?'

'That was one name for us,' Gulgiel agreed.

'And those giants - were they Slayers?'

'That is your name for them,' Gulgiel said, 'for the memory that has persisted to the now.'

'Then the Watcher's Council and the Slayer,' Wesley said, trying to comprehend all the facts that he had suddenly been given, 'their legacy is just a remnant of your original angelic art?'

'An imperfect echo,' Gulgiel replied, 'nothing more. It will not be enough to stand up to what is to come.'

'So you're trying to create more, is that it?' Wesley asked. 'You're trying to create an army.'

'Without perfection, you will all be washed away again.'

'I cannot allow you to do this.'

'You cannot stop me.'

'You're using these girls against their will,' Wesley said.

'It is for the best,' Gulgiel insisted. 'There is no other way.'

'You said it yourself, their rejecting the process,' Wesley replied. 'You're creating monsters, not perfect beings.'

'Once we numbered two hundred,' Gulgiel said. 'Now we are few.'

'You're the only one left, aren't you?' Wesley deduced, 'and you've forgotten most of the art. You're trying to piece it back together, but you're not succeeding. Can't you see that you're doing more harm than good.'

'No,' Gulgiel snapped. 'I must keep trying. This girl, she is different from the others. She may survive where the suffered.'

'And if she does not.'

'Then I try again. And again. And again until I do succeed. I will not see the world destroyed a second time.'

'I don't want to see the world destroyed either,' Wesley said, 'but this isn’t the way to save it. Let the girls go and work with me on another solution.'

'No, no you're trying to confuse me. You're just like Gabriel,' Gulgiel said. 'Except, unlike him, you are mortal so I can put an end to your lies.'

Helena roared.

She pulled her arms forward, snapping the straps about her wrists. Then she tore through the leather about her ankles with nails that were lengthening into claws. She crouched on the end of the table like a jungle cat, yellow eyes sparkling. Then she vaulted the Grigori. The syringes fell from her arms trailing yellow and green fluid across the tiled floor. Using Gulgiel's head as a pivot, Helena spun round in mid-air so that when she landed between the two Watchers - the one angelic, the other human - she was facing the Grigori.

'If you want him,' she snarled, 'you'll have to go through me first.'

* * *

Drew put down the telephone.

'The ambulance is on its way,' he told the sorcerer.

Azazel smiled.

'Good,' he said. 'Now perhaps you should be getting back there. You should check on your girlfriend and the others. I'm sure they'll be reassured to know that help is on its way.'

'You could come with me,' Drew suggested. 'Two heads are better than one and all that.'

'I shall stay,' Azazel replied. 'I have work here that demands my attention.'

'But…but those people are really hurt,' Drew protested. 'You've got to help them.'

'You have already summoned professional help,' Azazel pointed out. 'What could I do that they could not?'

Drew mumbled something unintelligible while he tried to think of a way to save the situation.

'Unless, of course,' Azazel continued, 'your purpose is simply to lure me from this house.'

'No, no, of course not,' Drew insisted, but it was too late.

Azazel's eyes began to glow blue and Drew felt a piercing pain like someone drilling into his head.

'Yes, I see it now,' he said. 'There never was an accident, was there. Your presence here is a distraction, nothing more.'

'No…'

'Silence!' Azazel roared. His voice was so loud that the room shook. 'I have heard quite enough of your prattle.'

Azazel began to grow. His chest swelled and his suit tore, exposing grey fur underneath. His legs bent back and cloven hooves burst through the leather of his shoes. Horns sprouted from his head and his human face was replaced by a goat-like muzzle.

'I am Azazel, once of the angelic host,' he declared, 'and your are naught but an insect, one that I shall take great pleasure in stamping on.'

Azazel raised his hands and a bolt of blue energy shot from his fingertips at Drew.

* * *

'Ophanim!' someone yelled.

We had left the meeting room and were standing on the walkway. If I raised my hand to shield my eyes I could make out the bronze wheels flying towards us. Already, several of the angels on our side had taken to the sky and were engaging the Ophanim in combat.

'We'll have to fight our way out,' Zauriel told me. 'Here, take this.'

He offered me a sword. I stared at the blade.

'I can't,' I said.

'What do you mean you can't?' Zauriel said. 'I've seen you fight before.'

'Not with a sword,' I said. 'Not anymore.'

'But…'

'No buts, Zauriel,' I said. 'I will not use a sword and that's the end of it.'

Zauriel looked about to argue, but must have seen in my face that he would be wasting his time.

'Fine,' he said. 'Come with me.'

'No!'

Both Zauriel and I looked up to see Hedriel approaching.

'I will take charge of Dawn,' he said. 'I cannot trust such an important charge to you any longer, Zauriel.'

'And don't I get a say in this?' I asked.

Hedriel stared at me.

'No, child,' he said, 'you do not.'

* * *

Gorch huddled against the wall. He looked pale and gaunt. Shrivelled.

'What happened to you?' Ruth asked, kneeling down behind him and trying to ignore the hammering at the door.

'Lack of blood,' Gorch replied softly. 'Folks upstairs decided the best way to be rid of me would be to throw me down here and forget about me. Starve me.'

'Probably for the best,' Mitch said. Gorch could see the boy with the baseball bat standing behind Ruth. He looked just the same as when he had taunted Gorch outside the van on his arrival in Sunnydale. The boy kept swimming in and out of focus. 'An animal like you doesn't deserve to live.'

'I'm not an animal,' Gorch protested.

'I never said you were,' Ruth said.

'Not you,' Gorch said. 'Him.'

'Who? There's no one else here.'

Gorch closed his eyes.

'Must be hallucinating. It'll be the hunger, I bet.'

'Yes, the hunger,' Mitch said. 'How tempting it would be to just give in and feed. On her perhaps.'

'No,' Gorch moaned.

'But she looks so tasty. I mean, sure, you promised Pike you wouldn't feed on a human, but how's he going to find out? Go on, give in. You don't want to die down here, do you?'

'Get up,' Ruth said. 'We've got to get out of here.'

'I'm not strong enough,' Gorch said. 'You'll have to go without me.'

'Can't you hear those things at the door?' Ruth asked. 'If I go out there alone, there'll tear me apart in seconds. I need help.'

'Too weak,' Gorch protested. 'Seems so long since I last fed. So very long.'

Ruth turned her back on Gorch and stood staring at the door.

'If you fed,' she said, 'could you fight a way through those things?'

'Maybe,' Gorch said, 'but it's all academic now.'

'Not if you fed on me,' Ruth said.

'Now this is rich,' Mitch said, clapping his hands. 'She's practically offering herself to you on a plate.'

'No,' Gorch said. 'Couldn't do it.'

'Why not?' Ruth asked, turning to face him. It's not like we have a whole lot of other options.'

'Yes, Gorch, what are you afraid of?' Mitch asked.

'What if I can't stop?' Gorch asked.

'Is poor little Gorch afraid of killing the girl?' Mitch asked. 'Whatever happened to the vicious bloodsucker we used to know?'

'The way I see it, I'm dead anyway,' Ruth said. 'My only chance of getting out of here is to trust you can control yourself. And, if you can't, at least I'll have the satisfaction of choosing my own death.'

'But that's not it, is it?' Mitch said. 'It's not just her you're worried about. What if, once you've got a taste for it again, you want more? What if you can't stop yourself becoming a killer again? Because that's what you are, isn't it, Gorch. You're a killer. You just need to be reminded of it.'

'No,' Gorch said. 'I can't. Don't make me.'

'Gorch, listen to me,' Ruth said, crouching down so that her face was inches from that of the vampire. 'Helena's out there somewhere and I can't bear the thought of never seeing her again. I love her, Gorch. Do you understand that?'

'I had a sister once,' Gorch said, his voice barely a whisper now. 'I loved her so much that I wanted to turn her into a vampire like me so that we could be together forever. But she didn't want to be turned and, because I loved her, I could never force her and…and I had to watch her die.'

'If there's a chance of getting out of here, Gorch, a chance of seeing Helena again, then I have to take it. Please, Gorch. I need you help.'

Gorch nodded, tears glistening in his eyes.

'I'll try,' he said.

His face morphed as he let the demon out.

'Will it hurt?' Ruth wondered before Gorch plunged his fangs into her neck.

* * *

The flash died away and Drew was able to see again. He was surprised to discover that he was not dead, but not nearly as surprised as was Azazel.

'You should have been vaporised,' the fallen angel said.

Drew had no idea what had just happened, but he wasn't about to waste his advantage.

'Maybe you're not as powerful as you think, Azazel,' he said. 'Maybe my friends and I are more powerful. Maybe you've finally met your match.'

'I highly doubt it,' Azazel said.

'Is that so?' Drew replied, advancing on Azazel. 'Because, if I'm not that powerful, how else do you explain how I'm still standing.'

'I…cannot,' Azazel admitted.

Drew took another step forward, consciously invading Azazel's personal space, hoping all the while that the angel wouldn't notice his knees knocking together.

'Scared yet, Azazel?' he asked.

'Of you?' Azazel said. 'Never. Still, you have given me much to consider. Perhaps it would be best if I left Gulgiel to his own devices while I pursue other agendas.'

'Perhaps it would,' Drew said, channelling the tough guy act from every private eye flick he could recall.

Azazel vanished. It wasn't flashy. One moment he was towering over Drew, the next he was gone. Once he was sure he wasn't coming back, Drew's legs turned to jelly and he collapsed on to the floor.

Azazel was right about one thing, though. Drew wasn't a powerful wizard so how come he had survived a blast that should have left him nothing more than a stain on the furnishings.

He could feel a weight in his pocket so he thrust his hand in there to see what it was. His hand came out holding the pouch Chrissie had given him. Its contents had fused into one single, solid mass.

* * *

'Dawn almost died while in your care, Zauriel,' Hedriel said. 'The Ophanim have found you out not once, but twice. I cannot risk your inexperience further endangering the child. She will be safer with me.'

'Hey!' I protested. I had to shout to be heard over the sounds of battle raging around us. 'You've got another thing coming if you think I'm going with you, Simba. I trust Zauriel. I don't even know you.'

'I am not asking for your trust,' Hedriel said. 'In fact, I am not asking you for anything at all. You will come with me because I have said that it will be so.'

'And if I say no?'

'Child, you have powers beyond those of other mortals,' Hedriel said, 'but I am a Seraphim of the Leonine Host. You will do as you are told.'

'I won't let you take her anywhere she does not wish to go, Hedriel,' Zauriel declared, brandishing his sword.

'You would defy me, Zauriel,' Hedriel said.

'If I have to,' Zauriel replied.

'You know that you cannot defeat me,' Hedriel said.

'At least I will rest easy knowing that I died trying,' Zauriel said.

'Hold it, you two,' I said. 'No one's going to die here.'

'Then you will come with me?' Hedriel asked.

'No,' I said, backing towards the edge of the walkway, 'I'm going to make a third option.'

I stepped off of the edge and into open air.

I plummeted. The wind howled as it swept past my ears. My hair was blown into my face, but through the tangle I could see the battle unfolding all around me. Seraphim clashed with Ophanim, each ring of blades sounding melodic and beautiful. Seraphim fell from the sky, their wings shredded. Ophanim spiralled away, torn out of shape, their many eyes blinded. I looked down, but could not see the ground. How long might I fall, I wondered.

And then I was falling no longer. I was rising up, held aloft in Zauriel's arms.

'What kind of insane, reckless stunt was that?' he complained.

'I don't know,' I replied. 'How many kinds are there? Besides, I knew you'd catch me.'

'And what if Hedriel had caught up with you first?' he asked.

I shrugged.

'You looked faster.'

'I looked faster? Didn't Tara explain how perception works here? You see what you want to see, not necessarily what is.'

'Then I guess I just got lucky,' I said.

* * *

Helena blocked Gulgiel's swing with her right arm, but the impact still sent her tumbling head over heels across the room. She was on her feet again in moments, snarling.

'I am doing what is right,' Gulgiel insisted. 'Why can you not see that?'

'The ends do not justify the means,' Wesley replied.

He was standing in front of Gulgiel's apparatus, examining it.

'Get away from there!' Gulgiel ordered him, but before he could advance on Wesley, Helena had sprung. She wrapped her legs around the stone angel's neck and began to claw at his face, her long nails making gouges within the rocky surface.

'Enough!' Gulgiel picked Helena up by her hair and hurled her into a rack of shelves laden with glass bottles and beakers. The glass shattered, the pieces becoming embedded in Helena's flesh. She stood up and one by one the glass shards popped out as her wounds closed.

'What does it take to squash you?' Gulgiel asked.

Once, twice, three times he hammered his fist into her face. The flesh around Helena's left eye blackened and blood welled up from a deep cut in her cheek. But despite the pain, she grinned at the Grigori and he recoiled as the bleeding stopped and her flesh restored itself.

'My turn,' she said.

Interlocking the fingers of her hands, she swung her arms up and out like a sledgehammer. She caught Gulgiel in the chest and lifted him up off of the ground and sent him flying through the ceiling. Chunks of masonry cascaded around them.

Wesley was flicking switches and adjusting dials.

'There,' he said proudly, 'I think that should do it.'

'Do what?' Helena asked.

'Well, I believe I've triggered a catastrophic build-up in the Watcher's equipment here,' he said.

'And what's that supposed to mean?'

'It means it's going to blow up,' Wesley replied. 'I suggest we beat a hasty retreat.'

'But what about him?' Helena asked, pointing to the hole in the ceiling. He hand was broken and misshapen, but the bones were knitting themselves back together as Wesley watched.

'No time,' he told Helena as he grabbed her wrist. 'Come on!'

He dragged Helena from the room.

* * *

Drew had found a set of keys in Azazel's study and was now using them to free Pike from his chains. He had already located the girls, those that hadn't yet been subjected to Gulgiel's procedure, and they were huddled in a panicked group while he released Pike. Then he threw the keys to Veruca, who had been locked in with the girls awaiting modification and she released Owen. He was still unconscious, so she slung him over her shoulder.

'Where's Marcie?' Pike asked, leaning heavily on Drew.

'Back at Wesley's apartment,' Drew explained, 'recovering. She told us what happened.'

'And Gorch?'

'I don't know,' Drew admitted.

'We have to find him,' Pike said.

'Nice to know you care,' Gorch said, 'but there's really no need.'

He walked into the room. His clothes were torn and bloodied, but that wasn't what caught either Drew's or Pike's eyes. Instead they focussed on Ruth, lying unmoving in Gorch's arms and on the blood on the vampire's mouth and throat.

'What have you done to her?' Drew asked.

Pike narrowed his eyes.

'You know what I said I'd do to you if you ever fed of another human,' he said coldly.

'I remember,' Gorch said, 'but now is not the time.'

'Make time,' Pike snapped. 'If you think I'm just going to let you walk out of here.'

'Will you shut up and listen,' Gorch said. 'I've had to fight my way through an army of freaks to get this far and they're still behind me somewhere. After what she did for me, I am going to get this girl to safety whether you like it or not.'

'Drew,' Pike said, never taking his eyes from Gorch, 'pass me a stake.'

'Pike, you're making a big mistake,' Gorch said. 'I promised this kid she would see her friend again. Once I've made sure of that, then you can do what you like to me.'

'You think I'm going to trust you not to just disappear?' Pike asked. 'You really think I can trust you ever again after what you've done?'

'If you were smart,' Gorch replied, 'you'd have never trusted me in the first place.'

'Drew,' Pike snapped, 'where the hell is that stake?'

'Stop,' Ruth said weakly.

'Ruth?' Drew said. 'You're okay?'

'Not hardly,' Ruth said, 'but I'm better than dead, which is what I would have been if it wasn't for Gorch here. I asked him to drink my blood. It was the only way.'

'The only way, huh?' Pike said sceptically.

'You heard the lady,' Gorch replied.

'What are you people standing around for?' Wesley demanded as he and Helena sprinted through the room.

'This place is going to blow,' Helena added.

The others exchanged glances.

'You heard the man,' Gorch said and they all raced towards the exit.

* * *

Gulgiel lifted himself up, his head still ringing from Helena's punch. How strong that girl was. How perfect she would have been for the process. Spreading his stone wings, he stepped over the lip of the hole he had made and glided down into his laboratory.

He saw at once that his equipment had been tampered with. The room was shaking. Pipes were swollen and alarms were whistling. He began wresting with the apparatus, trying to undo the damage that had been done, but he was out of time.

'No,' he wailed. 'Not again.'

The machine exploded.

* * *

Wesley, Helena and the others threw themselves to the ground just as the building exploded behind them, a fireball reaching up towards the clouds.

'Is that satisfactory enough for you,' Wesley asked Helena.

She smiled grimly.

'It'll do,' she said. 'It'll do.'

'Drew!' Chrissie yelled.

She ran up the hill towards him. Then she stopped. The space between them was one she couldn't cross.

'Are you…okay?' she asked.

'I'll live,' he replied.

He took the pouch she had given him from his pocket and threw it to her.

'Thank you,' he said.

Ruth staggered over to Helena.

'You're okay,' she said, collapsing into the other girl's arms. 'I was so worried I wouldn't see you again.'

Helena looked at Ruth, at her pallor and the deep wound in her neck, and her mouth fell open in shock.

'Ruth,' she exclaimed, 'are you all right? Does it hurt?'

'Not anymore,' Ruth replied with a weak smile. Then she kissed her girlfriend.

Pike sat on the grass next to Janice and the pair of them looked out to sea.

'Thanks,' he said, 'for everything.'

'You're welcome,' Janice replied.

'Look, I guess I was kind of harsh on you before,' he said. 'I misjudged you and I'm sorry.'

'Hey, you don't really know us,' Janice said, 'and that's as much our fault as yours. I think that's something we need to change.'

'I think so too,' Pike said. 'Friends?'

Janice took the hand he offered her.

'Friends,' she replied.

Ruth looked up.

'Where's Piv?' she asked.

'Isn't she with the others?' Helena asked.

'I can't see her,' Ruth said.

She struggled to her feet, Helena helping her to stand, and the two of them began searching for Piv amid those they had rescued. But she was not among them.

'Piv!' Ruth yelled. 'Piv, where are you?'

Wesley jogged over to her and put his hands on Ruth's shoulders.

'I'm sorry, Ruth,' he said.

'Sorry?'

'I think we're going to have to face the fact that your friend was one of the Nephilim.'

'The what?' Ruth asked. 'I don't understand.'

'The girls that thing experimented on,' Helena said. 'His failures.'

'You mean, those creatures…Piv was one of them?'

Ruth stumbled back and sat down ungainly on the grass.

'I think she must have been,' Wesley said softly.

'No,' Ruth whispered. 'Not Piv. I don't believe it. I won't believe it.'

'That doesn't prevent it from being true,' Wesley said, 'no matter how much we might wish otherwise.'

Helena wrapped her arms around Ruth and rocked her gently.

'She was my little sister,' Ruth moaned. 'She can't be dead. She can't be.'

Janice walked slowly towards the burning ruins of the house.

'Chrissie, give me your hand,' she said.

'What for?' Chrissie asked, even as she complied.

'I want to obliterate every last trace of what was done here,' Janice replied grimly.

A meteorite fell from the sky and landed in the centre of the rubble like a bomb. The force of the blast caused Janice and Chrissie to rock back on their heels and the heat singed their faces, but they remained where they were as meteorite after meteorite fell, smashing away at the house and the lair underneath. When they had finished, there was a large crater where the man-made structure had once been.

'It's over,' Janice said finally. 'Let's go home.'

 

 
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