Part 14: To Paint With Fire
The dark and damp tunnels beneath the building provided the access. Quietly, Gunn removed the grate, giving the rescue party access to the boiler room. Within a couple minutes, everyone was climbing an old stairwell, searching for the place they needed to go.
“Do we know where we’re at?” Fred asked.
Lorne mentally went over the directions Angelcakes gave him. “Well, we just came from the boiler room. The stairs take us up to the basement, which is where we are now. Take a left down this corridor, then a right and we should find a stairwell to the first floor. Angel said Cordy was in a bedroom on the East Wing, first floor.”
The gang crept along the corridor wall, mindful of the countdown and of vampires. When they reached the right turn, Gunn poked his head around the corner. “Four vamps,” he whispered. “Tara?”
Tara pulled a small pouch from her pocket. She dumped the powdered contents into her hands and muttered a few Latin phrases. Raising her palm to her face, Tara blew the powder into the hallway. “Blind,” Tara whispered. Turning to Gunn she said, “Go.”
Gunn and Groo bolted from the corridor. The vampires rubbed their eyes in confusion. They heard the sound of running, but they were blinded by the attack. The vampires were dust in moments.
The rest of the gang scampered behind after the two men. When they reached the stairwell door, Tara quickly performed the spell again to ensure anyone on the stairs would be defenseless. Meeting no intruders, the rescue party rushed up the steps to the first floor.
“Which way is east?” Willow asked.
“That way,” Lorne pointed to his right.
In a SWAT-like cover formation, Lorne used the sledgehammer he brought to knock down doors, allowing Groo and Gunn to rush inside. On the fourth try, they finally found the right room.
“Princess!” Groo shouted when he found Cordelia sitting on the bed.
“Groo! Watch out!” Cordy shouted.
One of the two room sentries sucker punched Groo in the gut. Lorne quickly brought the sledge down on the head of the vampire, crushing his skull. “Holy Shit! That really is therapeutic!” he exclaimed.
From behind, Willow raised her crossbow and loosed the bolt straight into the second vampires heart, turning it to dust.
“Nice rescue,” Cordelia commented. “This is the rescue, right?”
“Yes Princess,” Groo wheezed.
“Where is Angel? He has his soul, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, he does,” Lorne said. “He’s taking care of some business. Speaking of which, we need to take care of our own.”
“He’s right, we only got about eight minutes to get out of this place,” Gunn said.
The gang ushered Cordelia from the room and ran in the direction they came. “What the hell happens in eight minutes?” she asked.
“The explosion!” everyone cried.
Angel’s broadsword sliced easily through the necks of any vampire that got in his way. After decapitating a fifth minion, he finally found the one he was looking for.
The tribesman appeared from his library, a Japanese Katana in his hands. “Angelus,” Kelemoke calmly replied. “What brings you back to my humble abode?”
“The woman, mainly,” Angel said.
“I’m also going to destroy you and every vampire in this place.”
Kelemoke smiled at Angel’s brass. “And how do you plan on doing that?” he inquired.
Angel’s slow smirk even gave Kelemoke chills. The souled vampire slowly pulled the remote from his pocket. “Isn’t technology wonderful? In less than seven minutes, we all go to hell. Unless of course I push this button.” Angel fingered a small green button on the remote. “But that won’t be happening.”
“So why come after me at all?” Kelemoke asked. “Why not just let the building blow?”
“Because I want to die, too.”
“You got any of that magic powder left?” Gunn asked.
“Nope,” was Tara’s short reply.
The gang had made it back into the boiler room, but they ran into a problem. About a dozen vampire kind of problem. That was a bitch when there was only six minutes left on the clock.
“Any other way out?” Fred asked.
“Not that Angel told me about, Kitten.”
“Well, I guess we fight,” Willow said. “Unless of course I hear some suggestions. Cordy?” The redhead turned to ask Cordelia if she had an alternative. “SHIT!”
“What?” Gunn asked.
“Oh, nothing, just the fact that CORDELIA IS GONE!”
The Seer was nowhere to be found.
Well, there was no question what one of her demon powers was. Smell was definitely one of them. Cordelia was certain that there were several benefits to that, her present situation being the first. But she rued the day she’d have to use a port-a-potty.
The Seer followed her nose as she tracked a scent that was distinctly Angel. Not Angelus, she realized, this scent had something extra to it. It was the soul. And it was leading her directly to him.
The sounds of metal striking metal resounded throughout the lavish corridors of Kelemoke’s palace.
Kelemoke narrowly dodged the blow from Angel’s broadsword. The blade whizzed over his head and shattered a vase on the table behind him.
“Hey, you son of a bitch! That’s from the Ming Dynasty! You can’t just buy those at flea markets!”
“Put it on my tab,” Angel growled.
The vampires continued to trade blows at a vicious pace. Finally, Kelemoke delivered a devastating roundhouse kick that sent Angel crashing to the ground.
Kelemoke stood above the fallen vampire. “Looks like I win, doesn’t it Angelus?”
Angel grinned evilly up at the tribesman. “Do you now? It’s really gonna suck when you try to use the remote.” Angel laughed as Kelemoke’s eyes flashed yellow. “The remote does shit. You really think I’d risk you shutting down the bomb?”
Kelemoke’s eyes snapped up and locked on the beautiful young half-breed. It was all Angel needed. The elder vampire rammed his sword through the groin of the tribesmen, the trajectory slicing along the useless intestines of the younger vampire.
“Looks like I win,” Angel said.
Angel kicked Kelemoke off him and leapt to his own feet. The tribesman was pressed against the wall, holding onto the spot where his genitals once were. A clean slice was all it took to end Kelemoke’s existence.
“Angel!” Cordelia rushed into the arms of her Champion. “That’s really you, right?”
“Yes,” Angel said, his tone suddenly somber. “It’s me.”
Cordelia grabbed the vampire’s arm and tugged. “C’mon, we have to go. The gang told me we don’t have much time. We need to get out of here.”
“No Cordelia,” Angel said. “You go. I’m going to make sure that none of the others try to escape.”
“NO!” Cordelia shouted. “You will not do this! God dammit! I am not going to lose you, Angel! I need you!” The vampire shook his in denial. “Angel, I know you’re hurting. I know about the things that you’ve done. I know that you’re still hurting about Connor. But damn it, Angel, you still have a purpose in this life, and so do I. And you know what? It’s together! Champion and Seer! Now you can either come with me and get out of here, or I can stay and we both die! What’s your choice?”
Angel stared into the eyes of the woman he had caused so much pain. He wanted to see hatred. He wanted to see a cold disgust. It would make what he needed to do so much easier. But all he saw was an undying faith. Faith in him.
“Angel,” she pleaded. “Please.”
“Cordelia,” he began. “I’m sorry.” He couldn’t stop himself from kissing her softly on the lips. “I’m so sorry,” he said again.
The gang finally managed to beat back the group of vampires blocking their escape. “But what about the Princess?” Groo yelled.
“Angel will find her,” Gunn shouted back. “He’ll make sure she’s safe.”
The gang made their way through the access tunnels beneath the complex and into the sewage system beneath the streets. Everyone finally resurfaced through a manhole in an alley three blocks away from the building.
“But how can you be sure he will?” a desperate Groo asked again.
“Because he’s Angel,” Fred said with absolute confidence. “He always saves her.”
Inside the building, what was left of Kelemoke’s minions tried desperately to figure out what to do. They knew that their Master had been slain, and that Angelus was the betrayer.
But none of them knew that their lives were over. Not until the timer on the fuse hit zero. None of them realized quickly enough that they were on their way to hell. The blast shot upward from the parking garage, destroying the infrastructure of the building. Those who weren’t destroyed by the initial explosion were consumed by the fire that fed on the oxygen in the vast corridors.
Once the basement collapsed, each of the seven floors above it fell like a row of dominos. The rubble spread for several blocks in all directions. The gang waited for several hours after the explosion, waited long after the ambulances, police, and fire trucks arrived. They waited long after the new dawn rose in the east. They waited, hoping, that Angel and Cordelia would arrive at the rally point.
It was nearly twelve hours after, that all realized the truth. Angel and Cordelia weren’t coming.