Welling from the darkest depths
Unspoken but there
Called by many names
Soaring to heights unmeasured
Bolstered by dreams
Enlightened by pain
Out of the gloom of despair
Truth clouded no more
A rush of pounding footsteps sounded outside the Hyperion just before the lobby doors opened and Charles Gunn, axe in hand, burst through quickly followed by Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Winifred Burkle.
Though unarmed, Wesley was prepared to use those hand-to-hand skills garnered under his Watcher’s Council training, or at least make a run for the weapons cabinet. Fred hadn’t thought beyond getting inside to see if her friends were all right; her arms still laden with the toy prizes from the carnival.
One by one they fell from her grip as Fred took in the sight of the empty lobby. Fear caused her words to tremble, “Do ya’ll think we’re too late?”
“ANGEL! CORDY!” Gunn let out a loud shout that received only an echo in return as he moved down the carpeted steps into middle of the lobby. Glancing back at Wes and Fred over his shoulder, he looked grim, but determined, “I’ll check out Angel’s room upstairs.”
Gunn had a bad feeling about this. He’d had it ever since that fortune-teller back at the boardwalk had warned them Connor was in danger. Taking the stairs one by one, he almost hoped he wouldn’t find Angel and Cordelia up there.
Things were different between those two lately, according to Fred, and even he had to admit there were a few vibes going back and forth that weren’t there in the past.
If Angel and Cordy were in that upstairs bedroom, there was a significant chance he would not like what he found whether or not that included an introduction with the vampire’s evil side. As he mentally readied himself for a first-time encounter with Angelus, Gunn sent out a silent warning to his friend, I’d better be wrong, Bro.
Watching him go, Fred’s mouth twisted worriedly. Suggesting to Wes, “Maybe they went out.”
Though he wanted that to be the case, Wesley thumbed in the direction of the doors. “Broad daylight and vampires don’t mix. If Madame Bosha was right, there’s still a chance they made an escape through the sewers. I’ll head down to the basement to see if there’s any sign they went that way.”
Nodding, Fred quickly realized that left her alone. “Okay,” she commented to Wes’ back as he disappeared around the corner. “Guess I’ll search for clues right here.”
Ignoring the scattered toy animals, Fred moved slowly into the main part of the lobby. A lump of fear rose into her throat and stayed there despite her efforts to swallow it down. After the gypsy’s warning, Charles had driven like a maniac to get across town in time.
Despite her hopes that the woman was wrong and that this was all some big mistake, that maybe, just maybe Angel had taken Cordy and Connor out for ice cream, Fred knew they wouldn’t want her hiding behind such wishes.
Squaring her thin shoulders, Fred decided that if there were clues to be found, she’d be the one to find them. Almost immediately, she came across the crossbow lodged halfway under the couch where it had fallen.
Bloody cloths lay in a pile on the floor next to the couch along with left over bandages, tape and a pair of scissors. It wasn’t like Cordelia to leave her first aid supplies in a mess, and so the sight was more than a little disturbing.
“Charles?” Glancing up at the slight sound, Fred looked toward the stairs to see him slowly descending the steps from the floor above. She thought the noise had come from behind her, but with Wesley also emerging from the basement door, it made sense that one of them had caused it.
“Nothing,” Gunn told her in response. “Angel’s bed is so neat I couldn’t even find a crease. Definitely no bliss-havin’ by the looks of it…not up there, anyway.”
Fred easily made the leap along his line of thinking and refuted it quickly. “I don’t think we’re dealing with Angelus.”
Even Wes had to agree, “Angelus wouldn’t be this subtle about being back. He would be eagerly waiting for us if that was the case, Gunn. That isn’t what happened here.”
“At least you ain’t doggin’ my theory like it couldn’t happen,” Gunn commented as he set the axe down across the front counter. “You’re the one who’s always on about it.”
“Yes, well it appears our concerns in that regard are unwarranted,” Wesley admitted. He’d been meaning to have a talk with Angel about those worries, but Darla’s arrival, Connor’s birth and the research he’d been conducting on the scroll of Aberjan had been enough to distract him.
Hearing something again, Fred turned in the direction of the sound, but saw nothing. “Did ya’ll hear a cat or something?” Before they could answer, she moved across the lobby, a soft sound on her lips as she called out, “Kitty?”
“No, no there are no kitties,” Wesley wanted to point out that this was hardly the time to be concerned about that. Frustratedly, he revealed, “I found nothing in the basement. No sign at all to indicate Angel used that as their escape route. Nor any sign of what the threat was to begin with.”
Fred stood with her arms crossed in front of her as she examined the empty space that held no sign of anything, much less a stray cat. She was starting to theorize on residual noise left by fractal apertures in the space-time continuum when she took a step backward.
Her heel caught on something solid despite the empty space causing Fred to take a hard tumble to the floor.
“You okay, Fred?” The question didn’t come from either Wes or Gunn who were both already halfway across the lobby to help her up from her fall, but the male voice was too familiar to deny its owner.
Staring at the empty spot where the sound emanated, Fred gaped as she asked for confirmation, “A-Angel?”
“Where are Connor and Cordy?” his thoughts immediately focused on them.
Gunn’s eyes were huge circles as he sounded out his answer, “Not here.”
Letting out a curse, Angel told them, “Those little bastards must have them.”
“Umm…Angel,” began Wesley who faltered at the thought that Cordelia and the baby had been abducted. Before he could allow that to sink in, he had to ask, “Angel, are you aware of your current condition?”
“I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck,” Angel told her then realized all three of his friends were staring in his direction with flabbergasted looks on their faces. “What the hell was that thing?”
Fred let out a little panicked screech mixed with a twinge of excitement, “Angel, we can hear you.”
After a little pause, Angel gave her an odd look. “Yeah, I thought I was talking, too.”
“No, I mean…where are you?” Fred reached out a hand feeling across the hardwood floor until it connected with something. A shoe, she realized.
Glancing down at the delicate hand covering the top of his shoe, Angel wondered if it was just his aching head that was making this seem strange or if Fred was having a Pylean flashback. “Right here, Fred,” he put his hand over hers.
The sudden sensation of cool fingers sliding around her wrist caused Fred to let out a yelp of surprise. Wesley rubbed a hand across his stubbled jaw and decided that it was best to simply tell Angel extent of the problem.
“We can’t see you. It seems that you’re… invisible.”
Cordelia sat on the floor of the van with her back against a custom-built cabinet. The baby remained in her arms, now sleeping again, peacefully unaware of the danger.
Though Jonathan sat beside her, supposedly on-guard, he seemed more interested in catching up on old times than holding a weapon on her. Being injured, Warren claimed the rights to the front seat while the third member of the trio sat in the driver’s seat.
Just great! Cordelia couldn’t prevent the eye-rolling response to the computers and various electronic equipment inside the van. Connor, we’ve been kidnapped by Nerds-R-Us in their Geekmobile. I promise, sweetie. One way or another, we’ll get out of this.
“I guess a lot has happened since graduation,” Jonathan commented as he watched her fingers move in a slow pattern up and down the cloth covering the sole of one tiny baby foot.
Silence felt awkward and he’d never known Cordelia not to answer his questions with the complete and utter truth…no matter how painful some of those answers might have been for him. It all depended on what he was asking.
Right now she looked like she wanted to burst into tears or strangle him with her own two hands. Suddenly, it occurred to him that it might be both.
Trying again, Jonathan went for the more direct route, “How’d you end up in LA with Buffy’s ex? That was him, right?”
“Right,” she sucked in a shaky breath trying not to remember the way Angel had just vanished before their eyes. Obliterated by their idiotic ray gun.
Only the fact that Connor’s safety was on the line forced Cordelia to control her anger. She wasn’t certain what she would do yet, or how she’d make it happen, but Cordelia wanted them to pay.
Warren swiveled his chair, “Bet the Slayer just loves that. You and her ex. She know about the kid?”
“Nope,” Cordelia answered truthfully. The idea obviously amused the bastard. “Why don’t you call her up. Give Buffy the good news.”
Buffy would no doubt call Warren ten kinds of a liar before she believed him. Then she’d spend about ten minutes being very ticked off before she came after this little Geek Trio and kicked their deserving asses all over Sunnydale.
Cordelia knew that Buffy would come to Connor’s rescue if she knew of his existence, but even these dorks weren’t stupid enough to call the Slayer just to give her some shocking news.
“Considering the way you two used to talk to each other. I was always hoping for a cat fight or a little mud wrestling, but then you started dating Harris and made peace or something.” Warren laughed despite his pain.
Cordelia glared back, “We’re real pals.”
Snorting at the sarcastic tone, Warren added, “Bet you’d like to see the look on her face when she finds out about the little love child.”
Actually, yes, but from a very long distance. Besides, “That’s not the news that is going to hurt Buffy, dofus. Try the fact that you slaughtered Angel. Human or not, you three are going to be hunted down like any other demon and she won’t be the only one after you.”
“Nobody knows we have you and the kid,” came his smug rejoinder. “As for Buffy—”
From the driver’s seat, Andrew sounded a little nervous, “M-Maybe you should forget about telling the Slayer. Wait until the baby is gone and we have the funds to set up a better lair with more security.”
“You seem to know a lot about Buffy,” Cordelia looked straight at Jonathan to give her an explanation. They obviously knew about her status as the Chosen One, certainly that her role in Sunnydale went way beyond her informal title of Class Protector.
After the explosive events of their graduation, Cordelia figured these three had the interest and know-how to get detailed information on whomever interested them. That obviously included Buffy and Angel Investigations.
“Know thy enemy,” quoted Warren. “Or as the Klingons say—”
“Nobody cares what they say,” Cordelia huffed. “Since when is the Slayer an enemy of yours? Geeks aren’t exactly on her radar.”
Warren told her, “She’s the obvious choice. Every great hero needs a nemesis. Great villains need a worthy opponent to challenge them to great deeds. Well, we’re Buffy’s arch nemesises…ses.”
Then Andrew explained, “We’ve been doing a little stalking and surveillance. Planning preemptive strikes to avoid a big showdown.”
Arching her eyebrows, Cordelia turned toward Jonathan again. “Spying, huh? So how is Buffy these days?”
“Alive,” Jonathan reminded her, “but different, too. Y’know, since she came back.”
“Being dead does that to a person.”
Andrew piped up again, “Better than being a zombie, which Jonathan says could have happened.”
“Willow brought her back, didn’t she?” Jonathan asked, curious about his theory on the Slayer’s return.
“I’m a little out of the loop,” Cordelia admitted. Though it wouldn’t surprise her in the least to learn that Willow would do anything to keep her friend in the land of the living. “I just get the newsflashes, not the detailed documentary.”
That didn’t seem to surprise him since she’d already told them that Buffy didn’t know about Connor. The lines of communication between Sunnydale and Los Angeles apparently didn’t even cover the life and death situations.
It was fortunate that there was nothing left behind in LA to reveal who they were or the location of their lair.
No matter what Cordelia might hope, the Slayer would not be coming to her rescue.
Changing the subject, Jonathan told her, “I’m still into magick, too. Not like Willow, but I can work some major mojo.”
“That explains a lot,” Cordelia leaned her head back against the cabinet. “I once got a freaky card in the mail from Anya. She told me she was considering letting me have Xander back because he just couldn’t compete with you. Something about you being the one man every woman wants. A couple of days later she left a message on our voice mail telling me to forget it.”
Grinning at the memory of his super-stardom, Jonathan shrugged, “That was great, but it wasn’t real. There’s nothing that the three of us can’t do. We can do anything; make anything. Just look at our latest invention.”
He pointed toward the metallic weapon on Warren’s lap. Cordelia secretly hoped it would spontaneously explode taking the murdering psychopath with it. “Your electro-magick thingy.”
Proud excitement animated Jonathan’s face as he clearly forgot about the fact that the ray gun was the cause of Angel’s death. Forcing herself to listen, Cordelia wanted to find out as much as she could just in case she got a chance to turn it upon its creators. Killing them wasn’t necessarily on her list of things to do, but she’d bet they would get the hell out of her way with it pointed at them.
“It’s part science and part magick,” Jonathan explained proudly. “The laser effect is all science. That’s Warren’s department.”
“Nice diamond,” Cordelia noted the huge gemstone fitted into the top of the device.
Warren didn’t mind sharing their escapade just to let Cordelia Chase know that they were men of skill and daring. “We needed a diamond large enough to focus the energy beam. The only one accessible was at the Sunnydale Museum. So we broke in and took what we wanted.”
Giving him a look of disgust, Cordelia said, “Theft, kidnapping and murder; you guys really have moved down in the world.”
“You’re not exactly on top of it,” Warren jeered. “Guess Daddy’s pampered princess had a lifestyle change after the Feds took everything. No wonder you’re shacked up with a vampire.”
“You should be so lucky!” Even if that last part wasn’t true, it was none of Warren’s business. Cordelia would have given him an earful, but her angry shout caused the baby to stir in his sleep.
Jonathan decided to try to cut through the tension by continuing his story about their new invention. “My magick made it all possible. I found this really cool rock in an old junk shop. It was saturated in mystic energy and worked as a power source for our blaster.”
“So Warren’s the science guy and you’re the magick dude,” Cordelia’s voice was now deliberately softer. “What about him…Tucker’s brother.”
“I’m Andrew,” he reminded her. “Andrew.”
An eye-roll later, Cordelia let out a short huff, “Pfft! Okay, sheesh! Andrew. Let me guess…you’re the chauffeur.”
“No,” Andrew protested that even if he did drive the van more than the others. “I’m the strategic planning department. Mission control. Stealth guy.”
Cordelia figured, “So you’re supposed to be the brains of this operation?”
An immediate, “No!” sounded from both Warren and Jonathan.
Egos, much? She pulled another string, “So who’s in charge?”
“I am,” all three answered in unison.
“Invisible?” Angel glanced down at his hands and lower body. “I can see myself.”
“Fascinating,” murmured Wes just before asking the vampire what caused it.
Fred jumped in with a scientific theory on harnessing light waves to create the illusion of invisibility. “It’s kinda like a cloak of light covering the target object, but one refracting the light normally absorbed by it. Only in this case, the object is a moving target rather than a stationary, inanimate test subject. Basically, the actual invisibility isn’t as surprising as the fact that it’s happening around Angel.”
After listening to Fred’s drawn-out explanation of scientific theory, Gunn just wanted to know, “So how do we fix it?”
“This is all very disconcerting,” Wes commented as he walked back across the foyer.
“Yeah, but how do we fix it?” he asked the question again.
Wes told him they needed to start with finding out the details of what happened. He had no sooner made that statement than he bumped into what felt like a solid wall. A low growl of irritation sounded as Angel moved Wesley off of his foot. “Sorry.”
“Forget this problem for the moment,” Angel told them moving to a spot where they weren’t likely to step on him. “We can think about it on the way to Sunnydale.”
Angel quickly explained that their attackers were from Sunnydale and were known to Cordelia. “They came across internet sites offering money in exchange for Connor.”
“Who are these punks?” asked Gunn.
“Jonathan, Warren and Andrew,” Angel answered as he picked up his leather jacket from the counter and reached into the pocket to pull out his car keys and tossing them toward Gunn. “Pull the car around in the shade. Looks like I’ll be riding in the trunk.”
“You got it.” Catching the keys, which remained visible for the few seconds they were still in Angel’s hands, Gunn immediately headed out to move the car.
Moving up the stairs, Angel shrugged into the jacket, anxious to get going. Within a few seconds of putting it on, the jacket also became invisible. “We need to figure out exactly where they’re holding Cordy and Connor, but I’m pretty sure they’re headed back to Sunnydale.”
Fred suggested, “We could check out Cordy’s High School Yearboo—”
“Hello, hello my little crumbcakes,” Lorne strolled through the front doors, opening them wide and sending sunlight streaming across the front of the lobby.
“Lorne, no!” called out Fred drawing a startled look from the Pylean.
“Aarrgh!” Angel automatically cried out as the light flashed in his eyes. Then realizing instantly, “I’m not on fire.”
“Angelcakes?” Lorne’s jaw dropped as his head immediately turned in the vampire’s direction. “There’s something different about you.”
Still wound up, Angel snapped, “I’m invisible.”
Wes kept staring at the sunlight filtering through the frosted windows of the closed doors. “The sunlight didn’t affect him.”
Standing close, Fred was equally interested in the phenomenon, “Must be the light waves that created his current state.”
Lorne seemed preoccupied and the invisibility factor was the least of his concerns. “No, there’s something else. It’s your aura. I can’t see it, but I can still sense it and it’s shouting at me.”
“Well, if you’re sensing anything, it’s probably just me being extremely pissed off,” he told Lorne. “Cordelia and Connor have been kidnapped.”
Lorne appeared taken aback. “That would explain some of it. Who did this? Is there a ransom note? A plan to get the princess and the little nipper home again?”
Angel confirmed, “There’s a plan.”
Just the tone in his voice, much less the other waves coming from the vampire, gave Lorne the impression that the plan was all too simple. “Yeesh, good thing I’m one of the good guys. I’d hate to be them when you find them.”
Violent thoughts skimmed close to the surface as Angel imagined getting his hands on Cordelia and Connor’s kidnappers. “Lorne, I need you to stay here and man the phone in case they call. I doubt it because if they thought I had the kind of money they were looking for, they would have tried to get it from me instead of—”
“Turning you invisible?” asked Fred filling the void left by Angel as his voice trailed off.
“They were trying to kill me. Why turn me invisible in the first place?” Angel asked her. “What advantage does that give them?”
They all shrugged. Fred suggested, “Maybe they didn’t know that was a side effect. From their perspective, you just disappeared.”
Gunn suddenly appeared again, “Car’s ready. I’m grabbing some weapons and we’ll be good to go.”
“Good,” Angel paced in front of the door. Addressing Fred and Wes, he described the ray gun. “It was metallic and had a huge diamond built into the front. They made it themselves, I think, some super laser electro-magic thingy.”
Rolling her eyes Cordy-style, Fred told him, “Angel, it would be more helpful if you could remember the real name.”
“That was it…sort of,” he confessed thinking he’d got it right.
“Well any weapon powered by a laser could have powerful destructive capabilities if designed appropriately,” she told him as they moved toward the car. “Maybe they thought you were vaporized. There could be a flaw in their design.”
“If magick is involved, there are many things that could have affected the outcome,” Wes added as he pulled a gun from the cabinet before trailing behind the others.
“This magic mumbo-jumbo always gets to me,” Gunn still couldn’t shake the weird feeling left behind by the fortune teller’s predictions and seeing…or rather not seeing, Angel in his invisible state.
Fred felt more excited about it and it sounded in her voice, “Not just magic, Charles. If Angel is right about its description, the laser gun is like a hybrid of both magic and electro-mechanical invention. I’d love to get my hands on it to see how they made it work. Y’know. Take it apart. Put it back together.”
“I hope you’ll get that chance, Fred,” sounded the droll tones of the vampire as he closed the passenger side door.
As her thin features froze in reaction, Fred promised, “Oh, well only after we make you visible again.”
Angel didn’t really care at this point. His first priority was getting his son and his seer back safely. “Gunn, give me the keys. I’m driving.”
“The sun’s still shining,” Gunn commented having missed their discovery.
“I’m immune to its effects in this form,” Angel explained. “Keys, Gunn. Now. We’re wasting time.”
Wesley knew that Angel wanted to get to Sunnydale without any further delay and probably doubted any of them would drive fast enough to satisfy his urge to get there. Cautioning against it, “I think you should reconsider driving.”
“The hell I am. Let’s go.”
“But Angel, it’s nearly rush hour,” Wes reminded him. “Getting out of town with an invisible vampire driving our car will draw a lot of attention we don’t need.”
A frustrated growl sounded followed by a short pause. “Then I guess I get shotgun. Gunn, just keep your foot down… and try not to scratch my car.”