to Know What to See"
-Angel BTVS episode "Innocence"
"Damn," Riley cursed as he looked through the binoculars.
"We've got to get back," Buffy said tersely. "We've got to warn the Council and recall the soldiers."
Riley nodded and handed the binoculars back to her. Under her orders, he and the rest of the Council soldiers retreated to the ridge and scouted the area. It didn't taken them long to spot the demons massing in the deeply shadowed ravine. There were a lot of them, more than enough to mount a sizeable attack on The City, vampires and other demons alike.
"This has to be Walsh's doing," Buffy said under her breath.
Riley nodded. Once again, Buffy was right. Not that he was shocked, Buffy was an amazing warrior. He felt invigorated simply being near her again. The time he spent as her backup had been very important to him and he had been longing for her company.
He knew she was involved with William Fordham, but Riley had asked around. Apparently their relationship was tenuous at best. Ford had no idea how to treat a woman, especially one as amazing as Buffy. Riley knew it was bad form, but he was going to do his best to try and sway Buffy's affections. He had waited long enough. He wanted the Slayer.
It was close to sundown when Buffy was called before a Council panel to report what she saw. Despite all of Holtz's searching, there had been nothing of value left to find in Walsh's labs and the scientist was at large. It didn't take a genius to figure out that her disappearance, the demon massing, and the attack on the Divide Compound were not coincidences. The City was vulnerable, especially with the realization that they had a traitor in their midst. The Council soldiers were recalled immediately, but it would be hours before they arrived.
After the briefing, Holtz called Buffy back to his private offices in Council Headquarters. The Slayer wearily slumped into one of the chairs. She had been up for more than a day and was almost out of steam.
"So what do we have?" Buffy asked.
"Nothing," Holtz said bluntly, his frustration clearly etched on his face.
Buffy sighed, wearily rubbing her eyes before looking around the room. Anya, Giles and Lindsey were all busy rooting through different files and maps of The City, searching for any clues as to Walsh's plans. Riley leaned against one of the bookshelves, watching she and Holtz with a guarded expression.
"Where's Angel?" Buffy asked offhandedly, realizing he wasn't in the room.
Holtz looked at her and then around this office, a puzzled expression on his face. "I don't know," he said.
Buffy sat up in her chair. "What do you mean you 'don't know'?" she asked. Angel might have been heads and tails above your standard DHST, but he still lived by their hard and fast rules. He rarely went anywhere on business without accompaniment, usually Buffy's. And he always checked in. In the entire time that they worked together, Angel had never taken off without warning. The idea that he would start now, after everything that had happened, was rather unthinkable.
"Exactly what I said, " Holtz replied, clearly confused by the DHST's absence. "He was with us when we were examining Walsh's labs, but I don't believe I have seen him since."
Buffy turned around and looked expectantly at Giles who was listening to their conversation. "I'm sorry, Buffy, I haven't seen him either," the Watcher said gently, mindful of Buffy's emotions.
She almost shivered at the icy coldness that had crept into her chest. She simply knew that Walsh was behind Angel's disappearance and that if she didn't find him quickly, she would never find him. That was not acceptable. Buffy jumped up and headed for door.
"Where on earth are you going?" Holtz demanded. The bulk of the Council's military force was still en-route from the Divide Compound. There were only a handful of soldiers and the Slayer left to guard all of The City. He needed Buffy close at hand.
"To find Walsh," she said with barely controlled fury.
"Don't be rash, Buffy. Wait until we have sufficient backup. You don't even know that Walsh has Angel."
"Yes I do," Buffy said with absolute conviction.
Holtz took a deep breath, closely regarding his adopted daughter. He had never seen her so determined. With a slight frown, he nodded sharply, giving her his consent to leave.
"You've got company," Lindsey said, grabbing his jacket as he joined her in the doorway.
Buffy took a step back warily. "I don't need your help," she said tautly, not trusting the DHST for a second. Not only was Lindsey allied with Walsh, he was a former lawyer.
"I'm not going along to help you," Lindsey replied evenly. "I'm going to kill Walsh."
Buffy met his eyes and saw the pain and hatred there. She didn't trust his loyalty to her, but she did trust his animosity towards Walsh. She nodded mutely.
"I'm in too." Buffy turned around and found Riley standing in full gear. He and Lindsey weren't an army, but they were all she had. Lindsey was strong simply by virtue of being a DHST, and Riley was a highly trained soldier. They would be useful in her search.
"Fine, let's go," she said, heading for the stairs.
Nearly an hour later, they stood in the ruins of Walsh's labs. "Not much to go on," Riley said, brushing some scraps of paper off of a desk.
The lab was mostly empty, having been completely cleared out by Council investigators after the raid. It was, however, far from pristine, littered with bits of paper and overturned pieces of furniture.
"Who is Angel anyway?" Riley asked as he assisted Buffy in looking for clues. He hadn't been particularly interested in finding the missing person, he had only known that the Slayer was in need of assistance. Angel wasn't a name he was familiar with, but Holtz had a large staff.
"A DHST," Buffy replied, mindlessly, her attention focused elsewhere.
Lindsey snorted loudly at Buffy's casual definition of Angel. The Slayer was upset, and consequently omitting a lot of the details. Riley looked at Lindsey in time to see the DHST roll his eyes at Buffy's statement. The soldier frowned. Angel was a DHST? A wave of coldness passed over Riley as he realized that Angel must be Subject V73, Buffy's assistant.
Riley tried to shake off the feeling. Subject V73 was her assistant. Buffy wasn't an unfeeling monster, of course she was worried about it. But even as he told himself those things, Riley knew they were lies. Buffy's concern was not casual. Her worry held a tinge of hysteria that signaled a very strong relationship.
Buffy suddenly stilled, cocking her head to the side, her eyes pressed tightly shut. Her nostrils flared as she breathed deeply. She stood motionless for minutes on end, concentrating while Riley and Lindsey watched.
"What is she doing?" Riley asked quietly, not looking at Lindsey, his attention riveted on the motionless Slayer.
"Tracking," Lindsey replied dryly, "by scent."
Riley's head whipped toward the vampire with an appalled look on his face. "She can ... smell ... vampires?" he stuttered.
Riley heard rumors about Slayers and how different they were from the rest of humanity. For the most part, he didn't lend it much credit. He assumed that while Slayers might be somewhat stronger than the average human, they were, on the whole, nothing more than very highly trained soldiers. Like him. But he certainly couldn't track something by scent.
Lindsey shrugged. "I doubt she can track vampires," he said dismissively. "She can probably smell Angel."
Riley's lips pressed into a hard, thin line. Angel. Buffy could track Angel by scent. Something inside of the soldier seemed to wither. For so long, Buffy had been his ideal, his perfect woman. He had worshiped her, both from afar and up close. He had reveled in his time as her backup. The fact that she obviously cared for one of those beasts turned his stomach.
Buffy's eyes flicked open abruptly, revealing an expression of absolute concentration. Rising to her feet, she pulled back and punched the tiled wall. Instead of seeing the exposed studs and cinder blocks that would be expected, Lindsey and Riley found themselves looking at a piece of dented steel. The Slayer kept punching until enough tiles were shattered that the outline of a reinforced door was clearly visible, streaked with blood from her abraded knuckles.
"Help me tear this down," Buffy said tersely, breathing hard from the exertion.
Angel came to consciousness with a roar, snapping his fangs at the offending party. Apparently DHST training hadn't managed to overcome all of his natural instincts. Panting raggedly from the pain, he fought to clear his head from the agony singing along his nerves. He was lying on his side on the ground, his hands bound above him. Cautiously, he turned his head and studied his surroundings, aware that he was doing so in full game face - an action that was forbidden within The City. It took a while for the implications of what he was seeing to sink in, but he allowed none of his dawning surprise to be reflected on his demonic features.
Maggie Walsh regarded him placidly, like she hadn't just jabbed him in the side with a cattle prod. He followed her eyes as she looked at the collar in her hand. "Your tags weren't affixed," she said dryly.
Angel bared his fangs, but remained silent. Walsh might have been an egomaniac, but she was also brilliant. He was a DHST whose tags weren't strapped down tightly and whose skin wasn't dyed. It didn't take a genius to figure out that he had been given preferential treatment by someone very high up the Council.
"I have your files from the Council," she explained evenly. Her mouth quirked into a wry grin. "But before I saw your tags, I had no idea you would be such an effective bargaining tool."
Angel smiled insolently. "I'm just a vampire," he said dryly. "You know as well as I do that the Council won't do a damn thing to save me."
One of her eyebrows quirked in amusement. "I wonder if the Slayer feels the same," she said.
Angel snarled and Walsh's perfectly composed facade disappeared. With practiced ease, she hit him in the solar plexus with the tip of the cattle prod. His muscles instantly contracted as the current hit his body, leaving him writhing on the floor, his jaw clenched too tightly shut to yell.
"It takes quite a bit to mortally wound a vampire," she mused idly, throwing the collar at his spasming body. "Keep that in mind."
"Where did you go?" Buffy growled as Lindsey returned.
The Slayer was doing her best to pound through the wall, but so far only succeeded in making a hole about a foot in diameter. Both of her hands were bloody with ragged shreds of skin hanging off of her knuckles, but she was oblivious, mindless of the pain.
"Stop," Lindsey said firmly, looking at the abraded flesh of her hands.
No DHST ever dared tell a Slayer what to do, but Lindsey showed no fear. Riley turned and looked at him incredulously. "What did you just say?" the soldier demanded. Such behavior was never condoned from DHSTs, but now, especially, Riley was more sensitive than ever. Those dirty beasts were not allowed to speak to humans so casually. Instinctively, Riley pulled his hand back to strike Lindsey.
Buffy turned quickly and looked at Riley, her expression hard. The soldier halted, eventually lowering his hand. Clearly, she was unimpressed with the golden boy soldier's manner for dealing with DHSTs. She pushed away thoughts of why she objected to his behavior. Such thoughts led to Angel and she couldn't afford to think about him now or she would break down. "Where did you go?" Buffy repeated more calmly.
"I called in some help," Lindsey replied, still watching Riley warily. "You can't do this alone. Even if we manage to track Walsh, she's not going to be by herself. She has Angel for collateral, but she's sure as hell got backup as well."
"Who did you call?" Buffy demanded.
"Fred," he said, "Wesley, and some kid named Xander. It's the best I can do on such short notice."
Buffy took a deep breath and nodded. Including Wesley had been a smart call. If they found Walsh, odds were that her backup would be the DHSTs she'd managed to coerce or torture into assisting her. Wesley could do a lot towards swaying their loyalties.
"Fine," she said wearily, nearly collapsing to the floor with exhaustion as she waited for the meager reinforcements.
When Angel regained consciousness Walsh was gone, but he didn't move. The manacles biting into his wrists were chained to a ring bolted deep into the brick wall above his head and a perfunctory tug informed him that he wouldn't be able to break free. Not that he was really in the mood to try. He ached from head to foot and could feel the electrical burns throbbing on his chest and side. Thankfully, he was very well fed, the damage wouldn't incapacitate him for as long as Walsh had intended. Still, it was not a pleasant experience. Quick healing did not mean lack of pain. The burns were nearly incapacitating.
Angel ground his teeth together and forced himself into a sitting position with his back against the wall. He had to distract himself from the pain. He looked around, watching drone vampires perform rote tasks. None of them spared him a glance. It obviously was not odd for Maggie Walsh to torture a vampire in full view of others.
Absentmindedly fingering the collar lying in his lap, Angel studied the space more closely. It was an abandoned sewer tunnel, deep under The City, at least a hundred feet in diameter, packed with workers. They were all DHSTs, though some wore tags and some didn't. They were organized. At least twenty burly vamps worked at chipping away at the wall with large pick axes, while scores of others cleared the rubble.
The tunnel was old and Angel estimated it hadn't been used in at least half a century. It was brick, rather than concrete, and although it was a sewer tunnel, every surface was bone dry. He would be willing to bet that it was one of the old tunnels that had ringed The City when it was first created.
The tunnels had been out of use for years, off limits due to their proximity to the Wasteland border. They were filled in decades earlier to prevent demons from sneaking in undetected. A prudent measure, even if they were no longer secured. Angel knew exactly how the tunnels were excavated - through DHST labor. The vampires in the tunnel were a well trained group. They moved efficiently, with the precision of a well-oiled machine. He marveled at the sheer size of the project. It had to have taken months.
And they still weren't finished. But now, rather than excavating the tunnel itself, they were going through the wall. He felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. This wasn't good. He knew what they were doing. They were tunneling through to the outside. The tunnel couldn't be more than fifty meters from the edge of the ravine that surrounded The City. They were going to open up a huge doorway that would allow Varkesh's forces to enter before anyone knew there was any danger of that happening.
"Now!" Buffy said through clenched teeth, pulling as hard as she could.
Xander, Fred and Wesley had arrived, and with their help, they almost managed to get the heavy metal door pried open. They all grunted and swore, pulling as hard as they could until the metal twisted under the force, leaving a small, but useable hole into the hidden passage.
Buffy panted, bending over to brace her hands on her knees as she sucked in air. Lifting her head, she looked at the dark passage. It was a stairway that led down, a long way.
"Grab the flashlights," Riley barked at the DHSTs, who complied wordlessly.
Standing, Buffy took one of the proffered flashlights and led the others into the dark stairway. Positioned at the edge of the stairs, she looked down. The walls were concrete for the first several feet, but it soon gave way to roughly hewn dirt. The stairway wasn't large, big enough for someone Riley's size to walk without having to contort himself, but there was no way two people could walk side by side.
Buffy took a deep breath. Angel must have found some way into the passage. There were no signs of a struggle. How far had he made it? Was he still sneaking around Walsh's maze, or had he been captured?
There was only one way to find out. Slowly, she descended the first step.
"When will the soldiers return?" Holtz barked impatiently at Giles, who recently hung up the phone.
"Hard to say," Giles replied. "As long as four hours or as soon as one."
Holtz scowled darkly, sinking into his chair. The Council soldiers were close, but not close enough. Recent reconnaissance missions brought the disheartening news that the demons massing in the ravine were boring into the rock face. That in itself wouldn't have been too distressing. The old sewer tunnels that would have been accessible from such an attack had been filled in years before as a precaution against just such an event.
But Holtz didn't believe in coincidences. The fact that Varkesh's forces were attempting to reach those tunnels, combined with Walsh's disappearance were too suspicious to be unrelated. He hadn't gotten to be head of the Watchers' Council by not being able to make logical jumps. He was willing to bet anything that Walsh and her conscripted army of DHSTs were in those supposedly filled sewer tunnels, digging their way out to meet Varkesh's forces.
And Buffy was in the middle of it.
[End Chapter 12]
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