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Chapter Data

Chapter Fifteen

Fan Fiction: From the Shadows

Chapter Fifteen: Damsels in Distress

"For the female of the species is more deadly than the male."
~Rudyard Kipling


It took about four minutes for Ethan's spell to work, during which time the door warped, groaned, and started turning color. After the first minute or so Jonathan started hearing more noises from outside, and he hoped nobody had touched one of the doors by accident. He'd seen enough Star Trek to know what happened when someone put their hand into a highly accelerated bubble of entropy.

Their cell door was still standing when Ethan finished and started picking up the recoverable elements from his casting, but it appeared to be entirely made of rust, held up only by long habit. Jonathan gave it a good kick and the decayed steel all crashed down in a rotten, half-powdered heap. He kicked his shoe free of the fragments, reflecting gleefully back on a certain battle with a hotel door a few days ago, then jumped over the pile and walked to the next cell door.

Jonathan barely touched the knob to open the observation window, and the entire metal cover broke from its hinges and fell to the floor. He stood on tiptoe and looked as far into the room as he could, but it seemed to be empty. The next room he checked was empty as well, but the fourth was occupied. Two people were sprawled unconscious on the floor. One of them he recognized as Cordelia. He'd never met the other, but Jonathan guessed it was probably her boyfriend, Groo.

Jonathan took a couple of steps backward and kicked out at the door. The resulting noise almost drowned out the creak of hinges at the far end of the hall. He looked up just in time to see Ethan disappearing into the stairwell.

"Now why doesn't that surprise me," he muttered, shaking his head.

He was suprised when Ethan came right back through the door a couple of seconds later, with several goons right behind him. Jonathan groaned as he recognized the limp forms of Buffy and Dawn being carried by two of the burlier men.

"Oh shit," the head goon exclaimed, taking in Jonathan's escape and the destruction of the doors. "It ain't just the chaos mage-- Bruce! Warn Lilah!"

The one in the back nodded and stepped back into the stairwell, pulling the door shut behind him. The leader pulled a pistol from somewhere and aimed it at Jonathan. "You just back into one of those rooms, now," he said, "and nobody'll get hurt."

The two encumbered goons laid their living burdens down on the floor and drew weapons as well, covering Ethan and the open doorway where Groo and Cordy were just beginning to stir.

None of them, however, were paying any attention to the first door on the left, still standing, or its possible occupant(s). The Wolfram and Hart heavies learned that to their discomfort very quickly when the rusted metal exploded outward, knocking down one gunman and distracting the other two.

Unfortunately, the door seemed to have had much better luck crossing its threshold than the occupant of the cell.

"Jonathan," Angel growled, hands flat on the invitation barrier, greeting the young man with a nod. "Ethan," he added, narrowing his eyes as he took in the presence of the British mage.

Jonathan's eyes flicked to the white script paralleling the doorframe, then back to Angel. "Uh, I invite you out?" he tried. Given that this was a public building, it was pretty impressive that the barrier spell had worked at all; he doubted the firm's mages had been able to key the release phrase any more specifically than 'someone outside of the cell'.

Meanwhile, the two standing gunmen stupidly fired their weapons at the souled vampire, to no effect. Angel responded by stepping through and flinging their fallen comrade at them, and the three went down in a heap a couple of feet from Jonathan. Two of them were now unconscious, and the third had dropped his weapon. "That wasn't very polite," Angel chided the man.

Jonathan hastily collected the guns, while Angel forcibly revoked the last gunman's consciousness with a heavy fist and began stripping the three of their belts and tying them up.

Ethan eyed Angel, then the guns in Jonathan's hands, then the stairwell door. He sighed heavily, as if giving in to the inevitable, and moved to check on the Summers girls.

"Heavily sedated," he reported. "You won't be getting much out of them for the next several hours."

"Well that's just great," Angel grumbled. "I don't see how we're going to fight our way out without Buffy's help."

"I shall assist you," Groo said, clutching woozily at the frame of his cell door. Behind him, Cordelia was sitting up, looking pretty dazed.

"I appreciate that, Groo," Angel said, "but I don't think it'll be enough. We have a building full of lawyers and demons to deal with, and Lilah's already on her way."

There was only one door left standing, and two people still missing, so Jonathan gave it a good kick while Angel was talking. It collapsed easily, revealing several human-looking people lying asleep on the floor. None of them were Fred or Gunn, and none of them showed any signs of stirring.

"And Fred and Gunn are missing," he said.

"Well, if they're both unempowered humans, there's no reason for them to be in here," Ethan shrugged. "They're probably being entertained by the lawyers upstairs."

"Entertained?" Angel winced at that euphemism.

"In which case," Ethan continued, ignoring the vampire, "what is the lovely Miss Chase doing in here?"

"That's none of your business," Cordy snarked at him. She braced a hand on the wall and pulled herself to her feet, then brushed her palms over her clothes. "Damn. They scuffed my shoes, and I've got rust stains everywhere. Do you know what a pain that is to wash out?"

Angel sighed. "We don't have time to worry about your laundry problems, Cordelia. We need to get out of here. Groo, do you think you can carry Dawn?" He gestured at the sleeping brown-haired teen.

"I believe so," Groo said. He took a few steps out of the doorway, testing his balance, then smiled. The expression made him look cheerful and eager, and reduced his likeness to Angel. "Yes. I feel much better now."

Angel nodded, and carefully picked up the elder Summers sister, draping her over his shoulder. He wrapped his right arm around her legs, anchoring her in place, and took one of the extra guns from Jonathan in his left. Groo copied his actions. Then Angel gave Ethan a stern look, and gestured with his chin at the stairwell door. "You go first," he ordered.

"Very well," Ethan sighed theatrically, managing to look arrogant, condescending, and frighteningly impish all at the same time.

They made it up the stairwell and back out into the hall where Jonathan had been captured without encountering anyone else. Jonathan took a peek into each of the conference rooms as they passed them; of course, they were all empty now. Just how far had Bruce run to find Lilah, anyway? Maybe they'd get lucky and make it out of the building before the shit hit the fan... again.

Or maybe not.

"Angel," Lilah said coolly, stepping off the elevator. "I see you managed to escape your cell. Tell me, why do we even spend money on security anymore?" She smiled wryly at her own attempt at humor and snapped her fingers. Several security types followed her out of the elevator, Bruce among them. All were armed, and less than half of them were human.

"Now come on," Lilah continued. "Did you really think you'd make it out of the building?" Then she turned to address her followers. "Take their weapons. Shoot anyone who objects; in fact, shoot the Chaos Mage if he even opens his mouth. We'll store them in that conference room for now." She gestured at one of the doors.

Angel and Groo were both encumbered, Ethan wasn't likely to risk getting shot, even though they weren't likely to shoot to kill, and there was nothing Jonathan could do against so many. That left only Cordelia and her fashionable yet appropriate-for-Slayage footwear.

For once, luckily, the Powers-That-Be were smiling on their messenger. As the men ushered Angel's little party towards the conference room, Cordy's feet suddenly left the ground, and her head tipped back. Her eyelids fluttered down and a look of intense concentration crossed her face. One of the guards made a grab for her, trying to bring her back down, but it was as if gravity didn't exist for her; she wouldn't budge.

Lilah frowned. "So this is what a vision looks like? Funny, I thought there was a lot more pain involved."

Cordelia's eyes opened again, and her smile was beatific. "Oh, there will be."

What happened next was unlike anything Jonathan had ever seen before. Of course, the whole week had been full of things he'd never seen before, but this was more in the miracle end of spectrum, a pretty rare thing in his experience. Cordelia's skin began to take on a pearlescent white glow, which expanded to touch the demon gripping at her ankle and then moved to fill the entire hall.

The effect was a little reminiscent of Jonathan's UV sphere but a little more discriminatory and a lot less messy. The demons among Lilah's troops who were touched by the glow disappeared with hoarse moans and yells; in the space of a few seconds every one of them was gone. The glow continued burning outward for several seconds, blindingly bright, before finally dying down.

Jonathan was still blinking the afterimages out of his eyes when Angel moved, taking down Lilah and her two remaining guards with a few well-placed punches. Even with Buffy still draped over his shoulder he could move with speed and power.

A few moments later and they had the unconscious Wolfram and Hart employees all shut into the conference room. Jonathan was nearly giddy with the relief of yet another close escape; all of them were staring in wonder at the half-demonic seer.

"Princess?" Groo asked, with awe in his voice.

"Hey," she said, laughing weakly. "Chapter One of my new user's manual, yay Powers That Be. Plus, more clues to whatever Skip crossed me with. What kind of demon can float and glow?"

"None I've ever met," Ethan said softly, without his customary sarcasm. "No wonder they kept you in the warded cells."

"I bet Wesley will know," Angel added, looking at Cordelia with concern. "Are you okay?"

"Just peachy," Cordelia said, giving him a shaky smile.

"Not that I am objecting, of course," Groo said suddenly, "but if the purpose of your new power is to destroy demons, how is it that Angel and I yet remain?" His brow furrowed in puzzlement.

Cordelia shrugged. "How the heck should I know?"

Angel looked up and down the hall again, checking for more pursuers, and started edging towards the elevator. "Well, it's possible you're some kind of anti-Judge," he said absentmindedly, as he urged them forward.

"An anti-what?" Ethan frowned.

"Oh, ew!" Cordelia complained. "You're comparing me to that blue-skinned monstrosity? That's the one Buffy blew up with the rocket launcher, right?"

Jonathan made a sudden choking sound. "Rocket launcher?" he managed to repeat, disbelieving. He leaned on the elevator's down-button, listening with anticipation for the rest of the story.

"Yes," Angel said. "It was written that he couldn't be killed by forged weapons, so Xander snuck into the army depot for something a little more impressive. He was supposedly a demon brought forth to rid the Earth of the plague of humanity, to burn the righteous down. I even saw him kill a vampire for not being demonic enough. So, maybe Cordy burns up the beings that don't have any humanity left?"

"That is an interesting theory," Groo said, turning his dark gaze on Cordelia again. "Princess, this has many implications for..."

The elevator's doors opened with a cheery DING! And what do you know? It wasn't empty this time, either.


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