The morgue attendants lay dead on the floor.
Better clean that up, thought John Patience.
Patience liked to do his work neatly; clean up the mess, no blood traces -- not even a DNA strand to pick up. He did it well, which is why Wolfram & Hart sent him to take out many of its major 'inconveniences'.
However, this was the first time he was instructed to take out a body.
"Job's already done, I don't get it," piped a voice beside him.
It was also the first time he was instructed to take a W&H lawyer with him on the job.
"Shutup," he muttered.
The lawyer, a snivelly-looking, overpaid creature in Armani called Lawrence, curled his lip at the assassin. "Do you have any idea-"
"I don't. And I don't care. What I care is that you're making enough racket to get us both noticed. So shut up before I decide to use this axe against you."
Lawrence had enough brain power to flinch. Good, Patience thought.
He studied the corpse on the trolley before him. It looked like an ordinary corpse -- no fang marks, so not a vamp-to-be. Died of a bad stab wound at the side. What the heck is so special about it?
Well, he wasn't paid to wonder.
"Ms. Morgan said that we have to make sure the corpse is totally dismembered and if possible, ground."
Patience glared at Lawrence again. "Don't make me repeat myself," he growled.
Lawrence just stood up straighter. He lifted his axe to-
"Hey, do you smell something?"
Patience was about to turn, tell him that 'of course there's a smell, it's a damn morgue' when the smell hit him too.
It was acrid and sulphuric. And it was coming from the-
He didn't finish his thought.
For a gathering of a thousand or more Aman-yar, Avarice was surprisingly deserted.
"What did you expect, tour busses?" Lorne muttered out loud.
Unfortunately, his voice carried sharply in the empty warehouse, causing the others -- Angel, Gunn, Fred, Cordelia, Giles and Willow -- to turn around in surprise.
"Sorry," Lorne said self-consciously.
Something was up, and they all knew it. They'd followed Wesley's detailed diagrams and had ended up here, the supposed epicentre of the meeting. But there was no one around.
Angel told them to stay sharp. But he didn't want to admit his fear that they could've read the map wrong. Giles, however, cut to the chase and told them that he couldn't be wrong about the map. This was the place.
That didn't make him feel any better because they were being lured into a trap -- or were probably already in one.
Meanwhile, Gunn and Fred were wiring the place with explosives. They had decided to split up -- classic horror movie cliché -- and always a bad idea, but they had no choice.
"Anything?" Willow asked.
Giles looked warily around the empty warehouse. "How do a thousand people hide themselves?"
"I've checked the place for invisibility spells -- I don't detect anything," she said.
Suddenly, they heard a startled scream.
"That sounded like Lorne!"
Giles and Willow ran towards the direction of the sound, but before they could reach it, a body came flying across their path and landed heavily on a stack of boxes.
"Gunn!" Willow cried out in shock. But not letting that distract her, Willow armed herself with magic, preparing to nix the culprit.
No one was there.
"Fred? Angel?" she called out.
Giles cast her a worried look. Could the Aman-yar have gotten to them so fast?
The movement came so fast he didn't register it until he landed heavily on the floor ten feet away. Winded, Giles looked up blearily, only to be met with a blow to his chin. His vision blurred, his glasses broken, Giles could only gasp and struggle vainly to get up.
Willow instinctively struck out at the invisible being, and for a moment, she could make out a human shape lighted by her blast. It didn't even flinch as it raised an arm to strike her.
She avoided the blow easily, but the figure moved so quickly that she could not avoid the second blow. It threw her fifteen feet away and she landed with a heavy thud on a wall, to slide down bonelessly to her floor.
Before her vision faded, she saw the figure rematerialise. A young woman, about her age, smiled at her.
Then everything went black.
"Welcome back. You weren't such a challenge, were you?"
Angel blinked to clear her vision. Cindy stood before him, all blonde and angelic, wearing a pink floral dress. When his vision cleared some more, he realised that a number of people were standing behind her.
An elderly woman, in her forties, wearing a business suit. A teenage girl, about Dawn's age, chewing on bubble gum, wearing a hipster and a baby-T. A grandfatherly man smoking a pipe. A fashionable woman, wearing a tank top and a mini skirt. The Aman-yar, empty human shells, vessels to one demon.
"Hello Amopholas," he gritted out.
Cindy raised an eyebrow. "Well, aren't you smart," she said derisively. "But I don't think you discovered it all by yourself. I bet it was the Watcher, wasn't it? Rupert Giles?"
He heard a sound to his right. A furtive glance and he saw Giles coming to. He realised then that they were in a cage of some sort. Giles was the only one among the group that was coming around. The rest were slumped around the cage, unconscious.
"How do you like my children, vampire?" the teenage girl asked. She walked towards him, holding the bars of the cage seductively as she pouted. "I come in many shapes and sizes ... and now, thanks to the Mother ... I have more than human vessels."
To prove her point, she started bending the bars she held just a little bit.
Giles stumbled beside Angel, his eyes widening. "You have used the Mother."
"You're too late," came the grandfatherly man. "But that is not what we're after ... ultimately."
Cindy smiled wide. "I think it's time for me to come home," she said, her blue eyes sparkling.
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