Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: I can't... Just know that this is the one you've been waiting for!
Spoilers: Season 7 AU, takes place after my fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy.
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet! Would love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Usual Suspects: Chris, thanks for your everything every day. Kelly, you squeal real good. Thanks for seeing the real deal. Colleen, I love sending you the final for beta and waiting for your yay or nay, unspoiled one.
And my wonderful Moose, thank you for that midnight ride through my fic!
If he could just put some kind of dampener around Spike to stop the chip's signal, then he could fight.
That is, if he would. Buffy was still not so sure about that part.
Of course, the other thing that she was unsure of was her reception from Riley. Would he slap her in a holding cell? Or order out for pizza?
Was anybody even here? Who said that the old entrance was the new entrance? If they'd rebuilt, the door could be anywhere above the rambling facility.
Buffy leaned down and spoke into the microphone by the hidden door. "Buffy Summers to see Riley Finn." Well, that felt stupid. She felt stupid. That was so lame, she was grateful that no one was around. And jeez, like he was just going to let her in and...
The door to the elevator slid open. Her eyes widened slightly as she shrugged. Now if Jonathan could just pull off his part, she'd have a little help in here.
Daniel stood still in the center of the room. "The smell of him is stale. Not new. He hasn't been here in a while. Probably since yesterday."
The former Key flopped down on the brightly-colored Joe Boxer smiley face bed and absently stared at a bright green bean bag chair. Clem was the only demon she knew with a twin bed and kids' linens. "So we've got...what? No Clem. No Spike. Riley Finn..." She looked up at Daniel. "And Clem's canvas bag isn't here. I don't think he was taken from here. I think he never got home at all."
"Since early this morning means that he was taken on the way home from your house?" Daniel peered behind a door that had a huge poster of Tom Hanks as Forest Gump on it, and the legend, 'Life is Like a Box of Chocolates...'
Dawn jumped up, hair swinging. "Okay, we need to get back. Buffy probably needs us. Because if Riley is doing all that..." She stared at Daniel. "Not exaggerating, right? It's really bad, isn't it?"
"Yes, Dawn. It is."
"Making vampires? From live people?"
Daniel nodded once. The girl rushed toward the door. "I hope Buffy can figure something out. Riley must have gone crazy to be doing this!"
Lt. Colonel Riley Finn smiled as Buffy was escorted onto the deck. He nodded at the soldier, who turned and left the elevated observation area.
"I was wondering if you were going to make it in time," he said agreeably. "Doing a little test run on old Spikey's chip. Thought you might want to watch."
Buffy ceremoniously looked down at her nails to hide the shock in her eyes. "Right," she grumbled. "Like I did so well in Lab anyway."
The man laughed. "I remember. And of course, with all the saving the world stuff, it was hard to make those structured schedules, wasn't it?" He swiveled around in his ergonomically-sound chair and walked to a large floor-to-ceiling window. He tapped on the high-impact, clear plastic. "See, there he is. Right down there. Although it's hard to see him with all the leads we've got hooked up to him. We'll be measuring everything. Pain levels... pain levels." Riley smiled at her.
Buffy walked forward and peered out and over, splaying her palms and fingers against the plastic. Spike looked very frail and small on the table far below. He was surrounded by technicians. And soldiers with tasers.
Now what did she think she was going to do here?
She cocked her head at Riley, playing for time and praying for Jonathan. "Sam didn't make the trip?"
Riley sighed and returned to the chair. "I'm glad you were all so impressed. No. Sam's gone. Decommissioned and somewhere in Asia doing Peace Corps type work."
"Still fighting the good fight then. And you? Gave up the good fight?"
He ignored the sarcasm. "This place was just tottering along, barely funded, until I came back. I looked around last trip and knew I had just the thing to put it back on its feet."
"Well, first, you have to understand that I'd already put a feather in my cap and lettuce on my chest with the whole New York thing."
"Feather. Lettuce. Check. New York thing? Not so checked." She nodded as if humoring him.
"The Bezuine demons. I found them in South America and came up with a way to introduce them into the sewers in New York," he boasted. "Incidence of infant bites is practically nil at this point."
"But that was..."
"The Doctor? And no, Buff. That was me. Not the doctor part, but the demon answer to sewer rats. He got the idea from some rumors that we planted back here. Quite the entrepreneur, your Clem. He's around here somewhere. Not much to look at though. We supplied the eggs. They weren't the right ones, but..."
"You set Spike up."
"The connections were there. And I've always had a soft spot for your old lovers."
A tone sounded. Riley put up a hand to forestall Buffy's reply.
Riley looked at Buffy apologetically. "Sorry, Buff, but we'll have time for old home week later. Need to get started here. I have company coming from Washington, and I want to be ready with a little show and tell."
Buffy turned and looked back down at Spike from twenty feet up. "Riley, I've never killed a human in my life, but that doesn't mean I won't hurt you real bad." She glanced back at him, a determined, no-nonsense look in her eyes.
The man smiled at Buffy dangerously. "Do it and he's dust. I'll see that the chip burns out his brain. Fire from the inside out. Besides, this isn't about you and the vampire anymore. This is All.About. The Chip."
Buffy stood with Riley on the observation deck - thick, clear, nearly impenetrable plastic between her and the surreal scene below. She clenched her fists in frustration. Had Jonathan been able to do the spell?
"We've isolated the frequencies now. Recalibrated the pulse. Improved it, I think, a bit. Now we can modulate it. Change the data flow. Delicately, of course. We want everything working well for our little demonstration. So we're putting him through his paces. Now."
Riley barked an order into the mic. Almost immediately, she saw Spike's face twist in pain. This was a thousand times worse than anytime she'd ever seen him react to the chip. She watched impotently as it went on and on, his arms and legs stiffening in reaction to the pain in his head.
"Yes. Everything seems to be working just fine," he said in satisfaction. A triumphant grin stole across his face.
Jonathan shook his head. "I don't feel any surges of power. Maybe we need to be there."
"Oh, sure." Xander looked at him disgustedly. "Like that's gonna happen. We can't just waltz in there, draw a circle and start casting spells."
Anya rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to make a suggestion about what her ex-fiance could do with his 'waltz.'
Dawn and Daniel burst in the door, the teenager panting with exertion. "Where's Buffy? Clem's not there. He hasn't been there. His canvas bag is gone."
"Buffy's gone after Spike," Anya answered helpfully.
"But Clem never got there. Something is really wrong. We think the Initiative has him, too." She stood by Daniel with a 'we are the world' look on her face.
Xander frowned in confusion. "But why? What has Clem done, or got, or..."
"Hello? Demon. With Slayer connections. Spike connections. Riley's got him and I'm going after him."
"Whoa, missy. You don't know that. And you're not going anywhere. Buffy's handling this." Xander realized that things were way out of hand. He grabbed for Dawn, hair sliding through his fingers, as she strode to the hand-carved weapons chest.
"I've been patrolling with Buffy... um, a lot! And I don't see you doing anything except shooting looks at Anya and bothering Jonathan anyway." She threw a cross-bow to Daniel. He caught it and looked it over.
The teenager reached back in and hefted the sword that she'd used in the cemetery the night that Willow had gone all evil. "He's got Clem and he's got Spike. By now, he might even have Buffy! I'm going in."
Xander laughed at her. "You don't know *how* to get in."
"I do," said Daniel quietly. Xander gave him a dirty look.
"And you're being ridiculous," the Scooby continued, turning back to Dawn. He nodded at the sword. "It's not like you know how to use that."
With a flash, the man's shirt was laid open across his stomach. There were a few flecks of blood. "Hey!" He rubbed a stinging spot on his belly.
Dawn looked down, mumbling, "Sorry. Just thought your shirt was too big."
"Not the shirt. Just Xander," Anya said bitingly.
Dawn determinedly walked to the door. Looking back at Xander, she raised her eyebrows in challenge.
"Are you coming or not?"
Buffy watched Spike writhe against the restraints. His face was almost unrecognizable in its pain. The slayer tried to calm herself. She had no idea how many soldiers there were, or where the Initiative vampires were.
She didn't know much of anything. She heard a thin wail through the speaker. It didn't sound human.
"See? Like Forest used to say. Animals!" Her old boyfriend practically spat out the word. Her Riley would never be doing something like this. He'd helped free Oz, Willow's old werewolf lover, over just this kind of experimentation. What had happened to Riley in South America?
"Spike is not an animal." Buffy's words were spoken reasonably to try to stave off the fear that was clogging her throat.
"Want to see him bare his teeth?" With that remark, Riley spoke again. And the mask of pain began to disappear beneath the bumps and ridges of Spike's other face - the demon one.
Buffy winced as Spike howled. The speaker crackled as it tried to compensate for the noise. Riley stared at the scene with a feral smile, saying under his breath to the vampire below, "Not so cocky now, are you?"
The slayer's voice pulled him out of his reverie. "Right now, he looks more like a man to me than you do. Even like that."
Riley just smiled. Buffy almost shivered. "Proper stimuli applied... properly," he explained. He leaned forward on the desk and looked out at the scene below. "You know," he mused, almost to himself, "we really don't need him for this. We've got what we wanted out of the testing. The chip's the only thing left. Working backward is a pain, but..."
"What do you mean?" she asked, trying not to give into the sense of panic that was threatening to engulf her. She didn't even know this man anymore. There had been some bitterness after the whole thing with Adam, but this... this was insane!
Riley turned to her. "I can just dust him now. Implant the chip in another one. Bound to have a bad ass vampire lying around somewhere."
Buffy snorted in spite of her fear, still trying to be the slayer. "Oh, yeah. Right. A world of Spikes."
Dawn walked with Daniel, Xander following closely and looking behind him almost constantly. She squinted her eyes in the near dark and saw the metal door in the cavern wall.
Daniel spoke into a microphone. "North, Daniel G."
Brows raised, both Xander and Dawn cut their eyes at Daniel.
"G.?" Dawn echoed.
A thin voice came from the speaker at shoulder level. "North, Daniel G. deceased. Access denied."
"Ouch." Xander looked surprised. "Oh. Guess no zombies get in here then."
Daniel ran his hand through his hair and pulled at his sweatshirt. "Guess not. There's the main entrance. We can..."
"No time," Dawn said in a steely voice. She closed her eyes and put her hands on the door.
"Uh, Dawnie, even a slayer couldn't get through that door. Well, maybe a slayer..." Xander was thinking about going the other way and wondering if it would do any good. He touched Daniel's arm. "Let's try it. The entrance, I mean. Not the 'through the door' thing."
The young vampire was staring at Dawn. Xander followed his eyes with a quick glance and turned back to Daniel. "Hey, if we're gonna..."
A soft green light lurked at the peripheral of his vision. He jumped back. "Jumpin' Jiminy Cricket, Dawn! Are you doing that? Wait. *What* are you doing?"
Dawn let her overwhelming need to open the door flow out through her fingers, through every fiber of her being. She felt an easing. Then a pop. Finally, the door in front of her slid open.
"I may not be a slayer, but I *am* a key. Still, I guess." She looked at Xander with a smirk, to cover the surprise she felt at her success. Wow! "If I can open a hell dimension," she said in a nonchalant voice, "a door shouldn't be a problem, right?"
But the sensation didn't end. She felt another pop. And another. And another. One after another, she felt doors give and unlatch. All kinds of doors. Doors that weren't regular doors even.
"Whoops. We may have a problem."
Anya tilted her head to look at the odd selection of items in the small circle. "Are you sure this is the correct way..."
"No!" Jonathan's voice was shrill. "I'm not sure of anything. Including why my parents ever moved to this place!"
Anya waited for his frustrated outburst to end. "Maybe you're just missing a little thing. One little thing. Think."
"I've been thinking! My head *hurts* with thinking. I need aspirin... or something a lot stronger!"
"Well, you just have to do better, that's all," she said in frustration. "I find that when I need to focus, talking helps me. So if you will just *talk* about the spell, perhaps you'll see what's missing. And then..." Anya fell silent.
"Oh." She looked at Jonathan. "Duty calls."
The young man's eyes went wide as Anya disappeared.
Buffy had watched Spike fight against his restraints for...seven minutes. Only seven minutes? It was the longest seven minutes of her life. Every move he'd made had seemed like it was in slow motion. And her brain was moving at the same speed. There was no talking to Riley. And Buffy had been fresh out of options at the first threat.
"We could just get it over with. Test out the far end range of the chip."
Riley kept rambling on, making Buffy more and more frightened of what the man would do.
"... go all the way. We've got everything in place to measure it. Just fire it up and watch him fry," he crooned to no one in particular. "Then, we make more chips." Making his decision, Riley leaned down toward the microphone again.
In desperation, Buffy finally made her move. And took great pleasure in it. She slammed her ex against the clear plastic, looking out past his bulky frame at the scene outside.
The sight of Spike's continued anguish made her even more furious. She looked at Riley with hatred, almost snarling, drawing her hand back to punch him in the face. "You know what, Riley? I wish that damn chip was in my hand right now. Just so I could shove it up your ass!"
Buffy shuddered as something moved inside her fist. Her eyes widened in surprise. The howls stopped. She backed away from Riley, as her astonishment gave way to grim delight. Realizing what had happened, she stretched out her fingers and opened her hand, showing the contents to her old flame.
It was a black computer chip.
"Or maybe not," she said wickedly, as she carefully laid the chip on the floor. Riley looked at her in disbelief, unmoving, eyes huge.
She took the heel of her stylish, yet affordable, boot, and ground Spike's chip to dust, as Riley's face turned white.
"Huh. Didn't even have to throw a penny in the fountain," she quipped.
The man's eyes darted to the vampire below. The technicians and soldiers seemed frozen in place. A woman in a brightly colored suit, like a parrot in the midst of grey and white pigeons, reached down and touched Spike's restraints. They fell away as he pulled himself up, one hand tight on the side of the table, while the other dragged the leads off his face, head, and neck.
She saw Spike look up into Anya's eyes and mumble something. The vengeance demon's mouth moved in a two-syllable word.
Buffy already knew what the word was.
Spike had never known such pain. Somewhere on the periphery of it was the idle thought that he'd been a nancy-boy ever complaining about it before. He felt like his brain was swelling in his skull and running out his ears, the ducts of his eyes, his mouth, his nose...
Oh, yes, this was going to kill him. Or leave him a vegetable. Or leave him a vegetable as it killed him.
Once again, 'impulsive' had gotten him in trouble. He just hadn't realized how far Finn would go. He made a silent apology to Buffy for not paying attention. Another one. He'd spend eternity apologizing to her. If there was an eternity for a creature like him.
Probably not. Just dust. Ashes.
And Dru. He hadn't helped Dru. Hadn't even seen her. She was here somewhere, just like Clem was. Trapped. A prisoner.
He felt himself go into gameface as the pain worsened. Worsened?
How the bloody hell could it get worse?
Suddenly, he was beyond it. The pain was somewhere over and off to the left and his thoughts were clear. A lost soul. That was Riley Finn. And all the vampires. More lost ones, just like Daniel, who hadn't chosen as Spike had. They'd been made to be used. Finn had given them the means to do it.
And for Drusilla, what could be worse than to have to wear her rival's face over and over to fulfill the fantasies of someone even crazier than she was?
God, what that wanker had done, how he'd used them all! Even Buffy. The woman the git said he'd loved.
Absently, Spike realized that his ears were splitting with white noise. A constant howling sound rose and fell, like being in the eye of a hurricane at sea. He hoped he'd be dust soon. And he hoped Buffy would never know what happened here.
Suddenly, he felt himself slam back down into his body. It echoed with the pain in his head. Every muscle in his body screamed, striving toward release.
A hand touched his head, trailed across his chest and legs, as small fingers fumbled at the restraints. He was free. And he realized, really free, for the first time in four years.
The chip was gone. He could feel its absence. There was just a steady ache where it had been.
He opened his eyes, to a pair of soft ones. Not Buffy's, of course, but full of warmth. Even surrounded by her vengeance demon face. And as he pulled himself up to a sitting position to face Anya and dragged the wires away, one thought came to mind.
Very deliberately, he locked eyes with Anya. "I wish Drusilla would kill that bastard," he said hoarsely.
Continued in Part 18