Chapter 9: Hell Starts Here
Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own it.
AN: I want to thank everyone for being so patient for this chapter. Like everyone else, I got consumed by the demands of the holidays, sorry. Also, a big thank you to whoever nominated any of my stories for the Crossing Over Awards. I can honestly say that I never expected anyone to consider my stories good enough. Once again, thank you and I hope you like this chapter; it is the beginning of a battle that should last at least another chapter or two. Please review and tell me what you think! I need at least one review before I'll post the next chapter, sorry guys. Even if the review is just one word, that's enough to let me know people are reading the entire story and my efforts aren't wasted!
You couldn't grasp what it was like to stand on the top of a building and just… look. There were no lights, no noises. As far as the red sky would let you see there was nothing. Only falling towers and withering homes, small fires breaking out occasionally. Us or them, you couldn't help wonder. But the bitterest part of the landscape before you is that you remember what it had been. Maybe you had never actually seen London, but the gleaming windows and metallic high-rises, a crowning achievement of architecture, could be found in any major city. So when all you could see were receding monuments and cold fires, you knew. Knew how far the mighty empire of man had sunk, knew that the bodies of million lay forgotten under the ruins – the base on which the demons made their kingdom; the truth was unavoidable. Humanity was dying, a slow and lingering death, helpless against the decay that plundered the world. It wasn't the waste and desolation that caused such agony, no. Watching the last vestiges of life fade away, doomed to observe and unable to even touch the scales, was the torment of those who lived in the ashes.
It rained sometimes. Just when he began to think there was nothing that could make the place seem worse, the rain came, bleak and cruel. Years ago, rain was considered a sign of favor, a gift from the gods. Now, it was a curse. There was no life to coax from the ground, no torrent strong enough to wash away the blood. The only thing the rain brought was limited visibility and slippery footwork. Although, if one were inclined to believe in such things, which Xander really wasn't; it might the forbearance of some prophecy. There was nothing prophecy would tell him that he didn't already know. What would it say; there was a wealth of possibilities waiting in the future? That the world was going to fucking end?
Xander watched as rain covered the world. Not even this unexpected guest would deter him this night. He arbitrarily decided that it was night, as there wasn't a way to tell the difference between pitch black or brightest light; it was all the same red color of rusted blood. There was much to be done, if any of them wanted to be alive when morning came. Xander didn't spare a thought for the other group as his own moved out.
The dawn that never came would tell who lived.
Hours Ago – Preparation:
The black, metal-plated vest had been set aside in favor of bone armor. It was a patchwork affair, much like his first, comprised of bone shards from demons he had killed. Mortifera had suggested it actually, by way of a weird dream where Xander killed the Judge by holding a horned skull between his palms; the skull had absorbed the blue death-lightning and from the fanged mouth emerged a darkly lit green bolt of energy that consumed the demon's form. He wasn't Druscilla, or even Willow, to get the reference until the next day when he saw the corpse. It was one of the humanoid demons that they had killed on patrol. Yvonne had tested a new potion on it, on that ate away the flesh and muscles of the thing, enabling the spine to be seen through the hole that had been the demon's stomach. Like humans, their spines were composed of discs. Theirs, however, that were much more numerous, completely flat, no imperfections at all, and held together by ligament instead of bone. This accounted for the flexibility the demons displayed when leaping over obstacles and climbing sides of buildings. Harvesting the bones was dirty work often requiring two or three visits to collect all the pieces. Cutting through demon flesh was tough, put possible; bone was another matter entirely, Mortifera begin the only bladed weapon among their arsenal that could. Xander had secured the discs by heating sheets of metal and melding the bones to the surface. These sheets were shaped into a chest plate, wrist and shoulder guards, and covers for his shins. Overall the armor was surprisingly light, the bone bits were highly durable for having so little mass, and the metal was a new invention from the 2010's, the weight not bothering him at all.
It had taken him most of the week to put the final touches on his new battle armor, but Xander wasn't the only one who was pushing their gear into upgrades. Everyone was adding extra protections and defenses to their armaments, using everything from metal to magic and blessing to blood to get the job done. Blades were sharpened and cleaned, guns were dismantled and oiled, and any miscellaneous pieces of technology were broken down, reassembled, and debugged within an inch of their lives. No one wanted to see what would happen if one of their weapons were to suddenly crap out in the middle of what was coming.
The plans were made. The teams were set. Everyone knew their parts in the upcoming venture. They had gone over the options and tactics time and again, in an effort to cover all the bases, and before anyone could digest the new circumstances, it was time.
Like automations of tin and not flesh, as one they stood. Facing each other and yet not looking too closely into the others' countenances. Here they were: six humans, fragile in body yet mighty in spirit, with nothing but anger and determination to guide them through the night. Every one of them carrying more weaponry than a whole division of armed forces, they were war and will made real.
Nothing was said as four of their group turned and left the room, leaving uncertain past behind and entering the tempest that was the future. No soft words passed between bedmates, no encouragements were spoken between comrades. There was not a damn thing that could make this situation better. All would do what they must and the ground and sky would become as one. Blood above, blood below.
With his red axe, four handguns with five clips each, eight knives, a dozen throwing stars, and one assault rifle complete with night vision, Xander was something out of Rambo's deadliest fantasies, resplendent in his grey and black armor. Smearing his face with a paste made from demon blood and dirt, he was invisible in the darkness, indistinguishable by sight or smell. An offering to wretched gods, meat for the beat, Xander was in this element as he waited for perfect moment to revel himself.
Gareth had gone ahead, he knew. The older man had his own role to play. For now, Xander was standing on a rooftop overlooking their camp, doing nothing has the group of four faded into the rain. In his head, Xander counted. 'One dead demon, two dead demons, three dead demons…'
The explosion could still be heard, even with the torrents of water currently beating the earth. It caused the ground beneath them to tremble at the force. Still, none of them looked back. Resolute and furious, not one of the four turned around for fear of what they'd see. Instead, their eyes scanned the watery red landscape, alert for any attackers hidden in the ruin.
For better or worse, the group reached their destination without encountering any demons. Better because the humans could save their strength for what was in front of them; worse because there was a good chance their enemies were wanting for them somewhere ahead. No one paused as they entered the Underground station at Arsenal. Then, there was nothing to see as Nix, Yvonne, Ann Marie, and Pollux were swallowed by the darkness within.
It took a lot of effort on Xander's part not to laugh as dozens of demons screamed and died below him. Some died instantly from the concussion, others were incinerated where they stood, and still more were slowing bleeding to death from being impaled by shrapnel. It did a body good to see his foes decimated while he watched. But now was not the time for laughter, he had work to do.
While the blast had killed off many of the demons, there were a lot left. Too many for one man, even one like Xander to kill them all, which didn't stop him from raising his rifle and popping the head of one of the blue imps in the crowd. Anyone else would have thought twice before antagonizing over a hundred demons, but he was beyond such petty concerns. The horde turned its head in creepy synchronicity to peer into his hiding place. Then, in a chorus of growls and roars, they charged.
Not panicking, Xander kept reloading and firing, dropping over fifteen demons before he was forced to run. The first wave had reached his building, and the demons were using their claws to scale the side. Xander decided that he didn't want to be here when they reached the top and broke into a sprint to get to the other side of the roof. With one last glance back at the demons chasing him, he jumped.
There was nothing but the dark. Nothing could be seen through the black cloud that obliterated their vision. Water flowed down the steps as they descended into the space below. Even though visibility was nil, everyone kept their weapons up and at the ready. Knowing that something was out there, even though she couldn't see it, Yvonne removed a sphere from her pack and activated it.
A bright orange glow shone from the sphere, illuminating their surroundings, which turned out to be a good thing, as eight zombies and four red lizards converged on the group. With the skill born of a lifetime of practice, Nix swung his spear in an arc, the blade at the end severing two of the zombies' heads. Nearby, Pollux was just as busy, holding his sword and taking out three more zombies. In Ann Marie's hands, an enlarged hand gun was emitting bursts of purple energy that felled the lizards. Yvonne stood to the back, seeing the others had things well at hand.
No more than three minutes passed and the eleven demons were dead. No one was wounded or breathing hard, just a little tense that it had been so easy. Each member turned their gazes towards the area around them, wanting to make sure there were no more hiding in dark corners. Behind them where the stairs they had come down, which opened into a wide hallway that went both left and right. Down each branch, a barricade had been erected, making it impossible to see what was beyond them.
When nothing immediately tried to attach them again, the group took a moment to secure the doors. The entrance to the station was equipped with emergency doors that were bolted to the cement walls unless someone gave the override command. Any demons that were down here either didn't care or didn't know how to close them. Knowing what a bad idea it would be to leave their back unprotected, Yvonne and Nix worked quickly, ripping open a panel on the wall and hot-wiring the doors shut.
With only the orange glow ball as their light, everyone grabbed their weapons and made stood in the hallway. Each one could hear noises from over the barricades, the clicking of nails against the floor, the harsh breaths of air squeezing between fangs. This mattered not; forward was their only option. Splitting into two groups, Nix and Yvonne went to the left, Pollux and Ann Marie to the right. Into the breach, they traveled.
Gareth remained as still as possible as he waited for a group of demons to pass him by. When Xander had put his ability, spell, whatever it was on him, Gareth hadn't really believed it would do that much. Boy was he glad he'd been wrong; it had already saved his life twice when he'd encountered some demons. He couldn't fight them, couldn't risk them finding out that he was hiding out here, running from shadow to shadow laying his webs. When the demons moved out of sight, Gareth stood up from behind the crumbled wall he'd been using for cover.
As more time passed, he found it easier to navigate the streets of London. There were fewer lone demons crawling around; all of them had followed the sounds of the explosion earlier to find its source. Which made Gareth's work go much faster, entering select buildings with heavy bundles on his back and leaving bare handed; he had stashed what he needed at various locations on his route. Vaguely, he spared a thought as to how Xander was doing before turning his mind to task in front of him. Focused only on his mission, Gareth once again used the shadows to obscure his journey.