I've been a little worried about this chapter, this is where some of the real plot comes out. Due to my haziness on early AtS I really hope this works. Anything that seems wrong, let me know so I can fix it before I send it anywhere else.
Thanks to calove, hesadevil, gamiila for their betaing services.
Chapter Seven – Plans
In handing out their West Coast operations, Wolfram and Hart had created an opportunity for Angel Investigations that was truly unprecedented; the chance to use the clout of the law firm to their own advantage; removing its evil influence and harnessing its resources to serve Good - and resources were the key. It had been the bibliophile and the pragmatist in Wesley Wyndham-Pryce that had been lured into accepting the deal. There would be no more need for informed guesswork based on his limited personal library. Now he had access to all the records held in their vaults and a vast database of the world’s knowledge, the kind of resources that not been available to him since his days in the Watcher’s Council.
Once, in the not so distant past, before experience had jaded him and made him cynical, his old self would have been giddy at the thought of access to so much material. But now he understood, like Lilah had, that such things came at a cost you had to be willing to pay. He’d agreed to the deal with his eyes wide open. For all their good intentions, the Senior Partners hadn’t gone away, and they retained their own agenda, whatever that might prove to be.
Coming here had required some adjustment, even to someone like himself who had been brought up under the auspices of an organisation such as the Watcher’s Council; and corporate life had brought out the rebel in Wesley. The Council was traditional, slow and old-fashioned in contrast to the crisp professionalism on display at Wolfram and Hart, but Wesley had seen and been through too much to don a suit and vie for power again. Wolfram and Hart was to be used, but not trusted. The world here was no longer drawn in absolutes of black and white, where Good and Evil played Olympian board games with the lives of mortals, but had been smeared by the dirty grey of big business, politics and profit. Corporations, budgets and profit margins set the rules and every action was answerable to the shadowy influence of important clients or anonymous stockholders. It was a tool he would exploit. There were too many things he wanted to achieve here for the greater good. If he could also figure out a way to bring Lilah back from hell, then that would be a bonus. But he didn’t plan to do that at the expense of himself.
The downside of those extensive resources was the overwhelming amount of information to get through. Since they had rescued Spike from the basement of their client’s building, Wesley had looked at countless books, manuscripts and codices, trying to discover the meaning of the symbols they’d found. He’d searched the lexicons of all the standard languages of human and demonkind, deciphered a number of scrolls of opaque prophecy and spent hours carefully comparing the remarks of ancient observers with more recent accounts from Watcher’s Diaries. But the sinister sigils they’d found eluded his expertise, refusing to reveal their secrets and he was running out of theories.
They seemed familiar though, and that made them all the more frustrating. When he looked at them closely, there were aspects of alphabets he knew, but twisted into crude, corrupt versions; a curlicue here would look like ancient Grrnesh, and then another would make no sense at all but would appear to be heavy with meaning.
He flipped over the page of his book. For Wesley, the answer to almost any question could be found within the pages of some scholarly tome or dusty journal. Buried deep with the written word, the wisdom of a thousand cultures waited to be discovered if you knew where to look. Time, dimension, and language, none of these were a barrier to the knowledge that could be unearthed with the application of some trained reasoning and painstaking research.
But not today.
Beside him, he could tell Gunn was even more confused. He’d volunteered to assist with the research after finding he had a few hours to spare; helping to uncover promising leads so that Wesley could inspect them more carefully. But Wesley had to admit they were getting nowhere.
“Here, what about this one?” Gunn offered him an ancient volume, its delicate vellum threatening to crumble as he cradled it in his hands.
Wesley took the book carefully and studied it for a second before he dismissed it. “No, the symbols are more curved. The meaning is more…” He never finished the sentence.
Spike careened into the office, a dervish of vampiric agitation. “Right, what have you got?”
Ignoring Wesley and Gunn completely, he headed straight for the shelves where Wesley kept his personal library.
Wesley’s office, when he was in full research mode, became a museum in microcosm. Shelves bulged with rare books, groaning under the gravity of the knowledge within. Priceless, obscure scrolls were stuffed casually between rare volumes or shoved onto boxes stacked on the floor. Photos and lists of strange letters hung haphazardly on the walls, pinned there for easy reference; smart décor, decorated with an intellectual randomness. Not knowing where to start, Spike started to rummage, pulling out a book at random. When he saw it wasn’t what he wanted, he slung it to the floor and pulled out another.
“Hey!” Gunn leapt up. “Hey there, calm down.”
“Spike?” Wesley asked, wincing as a valuable codex whumped onto the carpet. “Spike, can we help you?”
Spike quickly leafed through a book on the Black Arts before discarding it. “I’m looking for a book.”
“I can see that,” said Gunn. “Maybe you should try the Public Library if you’re short of reading.”
“Need something…” Spike mused, “…on The First.”
“Is he here?” said Fred from the doorway, out of breath from chasing Spike up from the medical bay. Angel loomed behind her like a furious shadow.
“If you mean turbo Spike here, yeah I think we’ve seen him.” Gunn gestured to where Spike was searching through a wodge of scrolls.
“Would you like to tell us what this is all about?” Wesley asked Fred. He felt he was more likely to get sense out of her, than the agitated vampire currently destroying his own rare book archive.
“Spike has been kind enough to tell us about his basement adventure,” Angel sighed. He grabbed Spike’s arm and hauled him away from the books.
“Hey!” Spike protested, “I was reading those!”
“And now you’re not.”
Fred ignored the vampiric posturing and turned to Wesley and Gunn. “Spike says he was attacked in the basement and someone ripped the First out of him. Does that make sense to you?”
“Not really,” Wesley replied. “Spike, do you know who attacked you?”
“Bringers. Lot’s of ‘em. Zapped me with some spell. Don’t remember much after that.”
“Bringers,” Wesley started to muse and look through the pile of books on the desk. “Harbingers of the First Evil…”
“They ripped The First outta me,” Spike jabbed his sore chest with a finger. “It was inside me, stuck with me in that poxy amulet.”
“What do we know about that amulet, Wes?” Angel asked.
“Not much, and nothing that we didn’t investigate before, when Spike arrived.” Wesley sat down. “I believe the amulet to be a new construction, specially made for the purpose for which it was used - closing the Sunnydale Hellmouth.”
“And trapping the First?” Fred asked.
“So it would seem. Trapping Spike with it would appear to be an unfortunate side-effect.”
“Side-effect! Is that all?” Spike said, incredulously.
Wesley ignored him. “That would certainly explain why The First appears to have been lying low since the Hellmouth was cleared.”
“It certainly does,” said a voice behind the group. They turned to see Eve framed in the doorway, standing as prim as an asian schoolgirl in Chinese silk. “And now we have a problem.”
“And what would that be?” Angel asked, not disguising his dislike for the Senior Partner’s liaison.
Eve stepped into the office, pacing until she had the attention of everyone and wringing her hands dramatically like a distressed phantom. “That problem would be The First Evil.”
“What would The First have to do with Wolfram and Hart?” asked Gunn.
“Everything, Hot Shot,” Eve told him. “The Senior Partners want The First out of the picture. The First is powerful, but it has its own agenda. One that directly threatens the Senior Partner’s plan for this dimension.”
Angel frowned. “And that would be?”
Eve smiled at him indulgently. “Nice try, but I only know what I told. I’m not party to the Senior Partners plans any more than you are.”
“So what can you tell us?” Angel asked.
“Wolfram and Hart made a deal with The First to prevent the Shanshu. Sorry boys. They couldn’t let that happen,” Eve looked at Angel and Spike, ignoring the identical scowls she received back. “The First took the matter into its own hands when trying to destroy the Slayer line and open the Hellmouth, thus destroying an equilibrium Wolfram and Hart have been maintaining for millennia. The balance had to be maintained.”
“Wouldn’t that like, end all Evil? Why would the Senior Partners want that?” Gunn asked.
Eve gave Gunn a look that implied she was explaining this very simply for his benefit. “Evil comes in many shapes, Counselor. You should know that.”
Gunn frowned back at her, unhappy with her condescending tone.
“The entity known as The First Evil is exactly that; a manifestation of the absolute evil that first appeared on earth. But guys, it’s only one of many. Wolfram and Hart has no place for such a maverick as The First…”
“…So they created the amulet to trap it.” Wesley finished for her.
“Exactly,” Eve agreed. “You can’t remove something like The First Evil from existence, but you can remove its influence.”
Wesley thought for a moment. “So where does Spike come in - and Angel?”
“Yeah,” Spike asked. “What about me? I got barbequed for nothing?”
Eve looked at him. “You had a purpose, just not the one you expected.”
“Oh yeah? And what’s that?” Spike snapped.
“Once The First was trapped, the amulet was returned to Wolfram and Hart.” Eve continued.
“And Spike became all ghosty,” Fred mused. “Their essences combined within the amulet…”
Eve nodded. “And this is where you get to be all proud, Miss Burkle. Once back on Wolfram and Hart property, Spike was released from the amulet, only incorporeal, The First contained within him. He became its prison…”
“I was what?” Spike growled furiously, surging into his game face. One of Angel’s large hands clamped down on his shoulder, tight as a vice, preventing him from going after Eve. “All this time wandering this bloody place, The First was inside me, and you knew?”
Eve flinched a little, but held her ground as it became clear that Angel was not going to allow Spike to go anywhere. “Not me, I never had that information. Yes, it was inside you, but then Fred made you solid again – well done you, by the way!” she said aside to the other woman. “And you immediately became vulnerable to The First’s followers. Now The First is free, kids, and all bets are off.”
“Why am I still around?” Spike asked. “Why aren’t I dust?”
“They weren’t interested in you. They obviously don’t consider you a threat anymore, so they left you. Whatever The First had been trying to prevent by attacking you and Angel in the past is over, it has new plans.”
“That’s just great,” Spike muttered, shrugging off Angel’s arm and starting to pace.
“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” Angel asked Eve.
Eve tried an innocent bystander look that no one in the room found the least bit convincing. “I had nothing to do with any of this. I’m just the messenger for whatever the Senior Partner’s wish you to know.”
“How convenient.” Fred muttered.
“So what now?” asked Angel.
Eve shrugged. “I am not privy to The First’s plans.”
“But these might give us some insight.” Wesley pointed at his sketches of the Sigils they’d found in the basement. He grabbed one of the template volumes from the shelf, selecting it quickly with incisive familiarity. “Gunn and I have been trying to translate them without success. Now we know that they relate to The First Evil, it might make it easier to track a language down.” Cracking the book open, he whispered the name of the text he wanted and started to compare the contents with his sketches.
“I want to know what its plans are, Wes.” Angel told him before turning to Eve. “And you can get out of my sight.”
Eve nodded. She looked at everyone in the room, finally settling on Spike. “It wasn’t so bad, you know,” she told him. ”You got to come back. That’s more than most get.”
Spike scowled. “You try it sometime.”
“That won’t be necessary.” And with that she left the room.
Angel tapped his fingers against the armrest of the chair. Wesley was making quick progress with the translation now, promising an answer within minutes rather than hours, but it was still taking too long. Angel was tetchy; he’d admit that. After spending most of the last hour trying to deal with Spike’s angry ranting, where he’d threatened to kill just about anything he could think of in a number of colourful ways, Angel felt that his disquiet was justified.
“So what do we have, Wes?” Angel asked. He glared across the room at the other vampire, who was calmer and was back in his human face now that Fred had got him to sit down next to her, but his anger was still simmering, and he glared back as if Angel alone was responsible for his predicament.
“The language these symbols represent predates the written word by perhaps millennia.” Wesley told the group. “As such it is impossible to translate them directly into what we would recognise as a coherent language. What they do represent are ideas and concepts.”
“Get to the point,” Angel snapped.
“Yeah, it’s not you this place is playing silly buggers with.” Spike added.
Wesley ignored them both and continued. “The sigils form part of a ritual, one meant to pull The First Evil out of Spike and back into its full power.”
“I could’ve sodding told you that,” Spike mumbled.
“There’s more here than just a ritual, Spike,” Wesley said seriously. “The most prominent symbol in the room was one for ‘Warrior’. With the combination of qualifying sigils around it, I have honed the meaning down to ‘Slayer’ - singular.”
Angel looked up sharply. “What does that mean?”
“It’s still a little early to say, but I believe The First wants its revenge on…”
“Buffy,” Spike whispered.
“We need to warn her, don’t we?” asked Gunn.
“Agreed,” Angel stood up and pulled out his cell phone. “We need to speak to her right away.”
Spike jumped up to face his grandsire. “Oh, no you don’t. I’ll call her.”
Angel frowned at him. “I thought you decided she didn’t love you?”
“This is different.”
“We don’t have time for all that.” Angel turned his back on him and pressed a number on speed dial.
Fred put a hand on Spike’s shoulder. “Maybe there’ll be a better time.”
There were a few nervous moments while Angel waited for his call to be answered. It rang for a short time before clicking onto the answerphone.
“Hi, this is Willow,” the chirpy message began. “We’ve gone to Brighton for a few days. Yay, fun! If it’s important leave a message after the beepy thing.”
“Shit.” Angel hung up.
“What?” Spike demanded.
“They’re not there.”
“Why don’t you try her cell?” Fred suggested.
Angel sorted through his phone’s address book and dialled again. This time a stern woman’s voice told him that the number was unavailable. “Shit.”
Gunn caught the worried expression on Angel’s face. “Maybe someone should go and find them?”
“There’s still some more numbers I could try. Rupert Giles…”
“What? That git? Pffft,” Spike snorted. “Like he’ll be any help. Look, I suppose I’ll have to go sometime…”
“No! I’ll go,” Angel snapped, before shouting for Harmony.
After a moment she trotted into the office, a dainty vision in baby pink, spoilt by the vacuous expression in her eyes. “Yes, Boss?”
Angel gestured to her. “Cancel my appointments for the next couple of days and get my jet ready.”
“Sure, Bossy,” she glanced at Spike, the hopeful look dimmed as he turned his back on her and she fled with a sniff.
Spike watched over his shoulder as she flounced away, and then turned on Angel. “What? You can’t…!”
Angel cut him off. “Oh yes, I can. Get out of my way, Spike.”
Spike planted himself firmly in Angel’s path, blocking his route to the door. “No. I’m going. Where were you when…?”
“Spike, you’re staying here.” Angel grabbed Spike angrily by the collar of his T-shirt and hauled him aside, dumping him in an empty chair.
“You can’t stop me, you know!” Spike bounced up again and yelled after Angel as the other vampire headed towards the door.
Angel stopped and turned back to Spike. “Just try it, Spike. I’ll get there before you.”
Gunn cleared his throat. “Actually, you can’t go at all, Angel. Your conference is tomorrow, and you have to show. The Senior Partners were quite clear on that. You won’t be free until the end of the week.”
Angel scowled darkly at Gunn, defeated.
Spike broke into a wide grin. One up on the poof was always a pleasure. He slapped Angel on the chest. “I’ll just start packing then.”
Through gritted teeth, Angel growled. “Fine.”
As they watched Spike leave, Gunn turned to Angel again. “Are you afraid of what will happen when he gets there?”
“No. I’m afraid that he’ll stay.”
Previous parts are here.