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Digging for the truth
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CHAPTER TWO: Digging for the truth

The landscape around the speeding car was dead, yet beautiful in its shades of burnt orange and yellow. Living in Sunnydale, one would never have realized how isolated the town really was unless driving away from it. There was absolutely nothing around for miles except the occasional gas station, diner and truck stop. But when the customers had stopped dropping by on their way to L.A. for gas or a slice of coconut cream pie after the destruction of Sunnydale, these places had all been abandoned. Most of the owners had run even before that, when things started getting ugly on the Hellmouth. People might be oblivious most of the time when it comes to what’s going down in the supernatural world, but they still have enough common sense to run when all hell is about to break loose... literally in this case.

The gleaming black Viper took a sharp turn on the now unkempt interstate exit leading to Sunnydale. The normally somewhat busy road was now free of any traffic and in places covered with sand. The sports car lifted a cloud of dirt in its wake. Spotting a sign that said Sunnydale 20 miles, with a larger sign underneath saying “Closed Road, No access”, the driver turned the steering wheel and headed toward it. It was not the sign Spike would normally run over--his favorite one to flatten was the last sign before entering the city, the one that welcomed people to Sunnydale. The vampire always found it incredibly ironic that they would welcome people to the mouth of hell. But that sign had probably perished along with the town, so this was the next best thing.

“Spike?” Clem asked worriedly. “Spike, I don’t think you’re on the road anymore.”

Spike smirked without answering and stepped on the gas. Clem yelped and hid his face in his hands when he saw the large sign in the car’s path.

But Lazarus didn’t seem worried. He knew exactly what to say to stop what was going to happen.

“Isn’t this going to damage your car?” He asked innocently.

“Bloody fucking hell!” Spike stepped on the brakes and turned the wheels, the car spun and came to a screeching halt mere inches away from the sign.

Laz laughed and Clem peeked through his fingers to see if they were safe.

Spike swore under his breath. “Stupid modern cars. If I still had my Desoto, it wouldn’t have been a problem. That thing was built like a tank. Now I have to forgo tradition in order to keep my baby safe. Not bloody fair is what it is.”

The three friends looked around through the specially treated tinted windows. They were close, the three demons could all feel it. It didn’t matter whether the Hellmouth was closed for business or not, there would always be an energy here that couldn’t be mistaken. It would never be over. Someday in the near, or far future, something evil would set up shop here and things would start again. Or humans would build another town and the demons would start coming back gradually. They would always be attracted by the Hellmouth, demons and humans alike.

“We’re close. It’s going to be hard to approach the site without drawing attention to us. Especially if your cousin is right and the place is swarming with army boys. We’ll probably have to hide the car a couple miles before reaching Sunnydale and walk the rest of the way. Going unnoticed will be easier once the sun sets. I think another half hour and it should be dark enough.”

“Maybe someone should stay with the car in case you need rescuing.” Clem suggested while munching on chips in the back of the car.

Spike gave him a look in the rearview mirror. “Better be careful with the crumbs, mate, or I’ll have you pay to get the car cleaned.”

Clem looked sheepish. “Sorry.”

“You’re right.” Spike continued. “Someone should stay here.”

Clem raised his hand, the folds of extra skin jiggling with the movement. “I'll stay. I’m not much of a fighter, I’d be in your way more than anything else. I’ll stay in the car. I have my cell phone, you have yours, so if something happens, you call me and I’ll be there in a jiffy.”

“Sounds like a plan, buddy.” Lazarus agreed.

“All right. We all agree, so let’s go.” Spike said impatiently. He really wanted this over with already.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, Spike’s two passengers on the look out for a place to hide the car. It was now almost completely dark, but to avoid being spotted he didn’t turn his headlights on. He didn’t need any lights anyway, he could see in the dark just fine.

They drove off road for a while, which almost made Spike wish he’d picked the Hummer instead of the Viper when he won the poker game. But soon, they found a rock formation big enough to hide the car so no one would see it from the road.

They got out and Lazarus spread a large scale map of the surroundings on the hood. He indicated the spot where the former suburban town of Sunnydale, California, had been. He had drawn a big circle around it and filled it in with black marker to roughly show the dimensions of the crater. There was an ‘X’ near the south west edge of the site.

“According to Romulus’ friend, most of the military operation is located here. If I’m right, it’s pretty much in a straight line from where we are now. Maybe two or three miles east of here. He said that’s where they set up camp. They have helicopters, jeeps, tents and even a hangar.”

“And of course, if there‘s any relevant information at all about what they‘re doing here and what they want with Buffy, it‘s gonna be in the hangar, in a secure area, and well guarded. Bloody great...”

“Do you even have a plan?” Clem asked.

“Plan? I stopped making plans many years ago, mate. I always bullocks things up anyway, so there’s no point. It’s much more fun to get myself into a mess and figure a way out later. Takes more creativity.” The vampire smirked smugly.

Clem and Lazarus exchanged a look. Then Laz shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, don’t ask me, most of the time I just follow him and try to stay alive. Sometime I think he only keeps me around because my 4'8'' makes him look taller.”

Spike chose to ignore his friend's comment. “All right, enough chit chat, ladies. Let’s get on the road.”

And just as he had mentioned, Lazarus didn’t have a choice but to follow his vampire pal and hope to stay alive.

The two demons covered the distance in a record time. The problem was mostly approaching the site without getting caught. They managed to make it from rock to rock, using the cloak of darkness to their advantage, until they reached the first Jeep. From behind the vehicle, they took a moment to observe what was going on so they would know what they were getting themselves into. It didn’t seem as bad as what Lazarus’ cousin had said.

A group of five soldiers were sitting on chairs in the light coming from the hangar. They were playing cards and drinking coffee. If they were the ones supposed to reinforce security around the perimeter, they obviously didn’t expect anyone to come wandering this far into the desert to a town that was no more.

There was some light coming from the tents area, and probably more soldiers in there. Spike assumed the more important army personnel would be found inside the hangar.

One helicopter was flying at the moment, its spotlight shining down on the crater. Something was going on in there. By the sound of it, they were digging.

Despite the activity, it was obvious to Spike that this was a temporary base of operation; only there until they had all the information they could get, then they’d pack and leave. Which meant that security probably wasn’t as tight as it would be on a real military base; a place like the Initiative. If he had managed to escape the Initiative without help while starved and drugged, breaking into the hangar would be a piece of cake for him.

Spike looked around trying to find something that would inspire him with some kind of plan. He stood up to look inside the Jeep, then sat back down.

Lazarus looked at his friend and the spark he saw in the vampire's blue eyes worried him. "I'm not gonna like this, am I?"

"Some wankers left a couple duffle bags in the Jeep. With a little chance, there's something in there with can use. Uniforms, or weapons; if we're lucky, both."

"And you think a uniform is going to make me blend in?" Lazarus snorted derisively.

"The uniform will be for me. The weapon for you... and me. I love weapons."

The short yellow demon sighed deeply. "Fine. You know I trust you blindly... like the fool that I am. Do what you have to do, I'll follow."

Staying as low as he could, Spike managed to open the door. He pulled the first bag out, unzipped it and quickly looked inside. It was nothing but dry food, cans and coffee. He swore under his breath and pulled out the other bag. This one was much heavier. He opened it. Some soldier was very careless. Inside were two semi automatic guns, a knife, and clothes.

Spike frowned.

"What? What is it? You look worried. Isn't this a good thing?" Laz asked, curious about the cause of the sudden darkening in Spike's eyes.

"Too easy. It usually means that something's gonna go wrong along the way."

"I would have never thought of you as a superstitious kinda guy."

"I'm not. That's just something I observed over the last hundred years or so. It doesn't matter though. Gotta do this and there's no other choice."

Spike took off his shirt and t-shirt and thank God that he'd had the good sense to leave his faithful duster in the car. "Hey, turn around, nancy boy. Stop checking out my goodies."

Lazarus snorted. "Yeah right, like I'm interested in your pasty white skinny body. In your dreams."

Spike smirked and put on the khaki shirt. He quickly buttoned it up, then took off his jeans and pulled the cargo pants on. "There. All decent again. I'm not sure I'll blend in, but it's as good as it's gonna get. You can now call me..." Spike looked down at the name tag on his shirt. "Bleedin' hell. Sergeant J. Harris. Gotta love irony. Another sign this is all gonna blow up in our face. Hey, maybe I am superstitious after all. Who would have thought?"

"I don't get it."

"Forget it. Just someone from my past who wasn't too crazy about me. The whelp would laugh his ass off if he knew I am now Sergeant Harris."

He handed a gun to Lazarus and put the knife on his belt. "Let's go. Stay close behind me."

Staying low, they managed to make it to the side of the building by running from one Jeep to another, using the vehicles for cover. Getting from the last Jeep to the building had been the tricky part. Spike had waited a few minutes until he was sure the group of soldiers in front of the hangar was distracted. The second he heard one of the soldiers yelling "I win! Show me your money assholes!" followed by some more yelling and laughing. Spike ran, Lazarus close on his heels.

The two demons silently made their way to the back of the building while making sure to stay in the cover of the shadows, hoping to find a door there. Spike chanced a look around the corner. As he had predicted earlier, the security was minimal. Only two guys were guarding the back door.

He turned to Lazarus. "Be ready. And remember, no killing."

Laz gave him a mock salute. "Yes Sergeant Harris."

Spike picked up a rock and threw it at a car that was parked in the other direction, hoping the soldiers would turn their back to them. The noise got the soldiers attention. They both looked in the direction of the noise and Spike and his friend used that moment to sneak up on them from behind. Spike grabbed one of the soldier’s hair, his other hand going around to cover his mouth. He smashed the guy's head against the wall, then dropped the unconscious body to the ground. At the exact same moment, Lazarus had hit the other soldier behind the head with the handle of his gun. The man fell to the ground next to his companion with a thud.

Spike snatched the key card from around one of the soldier's neck.

"All right. If I'm not out of there in fifteen minutes, you call Clem and tell him to bring the car and you leave."

Laz laughed quietly. "Yeah right. Like that's going to happen. I have never left a friend in trouble before, I'm not gonna start today. I'll call Clem, tell him to bring the car, then come after you."

"Fine. But don't get yourself killed."

"Same to you. Now go. I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to."

Spike swept the card and carefully opened the door. He quickly sneaked in and hoped to go unnoticed. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw that no one was nearby. He moved to the shadows on the side of the door to give himself a chance to look around and evaluate the situation.

The place seemed much larger seen from the inside. It was cluttered with digging equipment and boxes. Overhead, a catwalk ran around the hollow building. A soldier stood on it looking down. The man was leaning against the railing looking bored. If this was their security, Spike thought he didn't have much to worry about.

Things were quiet in the hangar and the vampire soon understood why. At the other end of the building, about six or seven soldiers were bringing in and tagging the objects they had dug out of the crater, and two men and a woman who looked like scientists were busy cataloging and taking notes while supervising everything. The activity taking place all in one area gave him a lot more freedom of movement than he had expected to have.

The only soldiers he'd seen so far, including the ones on the other side of the building, looked young and didn't seem to take the operation too seriously, which played in his favor. But these guys were the ones who were given orders and followed them without asking questions. Spike was not foolish enough to underestimate the gravity of the situation and its implications for Buffy. The danger came from the few high grade military men who had taken a particular interest in her and were probably hidden away in offices somewhere in the hangar and drawing incorrect conclusions about what had happened here. How they knew about Buffy was a mystery to Spike, and he couldn't wait to find out.

Careful to keep an eye on the man standing at the railing, Spike started to follow the wall to his left. He reached the first door without incident and tried the handle. He knew before opening the door that he wouldn't find anything of interest in the room; it wasn't locked. As expected, the room was filled with supplies. Same behind the next door, more boxes and junk. The third door was locked. This sent Spike's hopes up. The problem was that by breaking in, they would eventually find out that information had been compromised. But he didn't have a choice. He broke the handle and opened the door, only to be disappointed again. It was nothing but a meeting room, the only furniture being a long table and some chairs. He sighed in frustration and closed the door.

Having run out of doors to open, he realized he now had to go across. The safer way was to go back around so he didn't have to cross the hangar and risk being seen from above. Despite the uniform, Spike was painfully aware that he stood out like a sore thumb.

"Hey. You... "

Spike froze, his muscles tensing in anticipation. He would never kill a human, but he was aware there was a possibility he'd have to hurt a couple of them to keep 'em quiet if he got caught.

He didn't answer or face the man addressing him, only turned his head to the side to see him.

"Are you one of the guys who arrived today?" The soldier asked with no suspicion in his voice.

Spike relaxed slightly. "Yes I am. Why?" He tried his best to fake an American accent, doubting the US military recruits foreigners.

"Have you been oriented yet?"

"Yes sir." Spike said, keeping his answers as brief as he could.

"Then you are aware we need as much help as we can bringing all this junk in."

"I know. I'll be there in a minute I..."

"Fine. Just making sure you knew. I just caught some of the new guys wandering around outside not knowing what they were supposed to be doing. If we want to get the hell out of this hole soon, we have to work around the clock. I'd like to get out of here before I have gray hair... This place is giving me the creeps."

Spike smirked. "Same here."

The soldier patted Spike's shoulder in a friendly manner and walked away. Spike let out the breath he'd been holding and hurried to the other side. This time, he didn't waste time opening every door. He went straight for the one that had a keypad next to it. Logically, anything useful would be kept under key so it was his best bet. He just hoped forcing the door wasn't going to set off an alarm.

He waited and listened at the door for any movement coming from the inside. When he heard nothing, he grabbed the door handle. Spike took a deep unnecessary breath, then forced the handle until he heard the lock break. He waited for a moment and when nothing happened, walked in and closed the door behind him.

At first glance, the office had nothing in it but a desk, a chair, a lap top and a fax machine. But as he moved around the desk, he saw that a small two-drawer metal filing cabinet had been placed under the desk. It was locked.

Spike was reaching for the top drawer when the light was suddenly turned on.

"What the hell?" A female voice exclaimed.

The woman didn't have time to open her mouth again. The vampire was on her in a blur. With a hand on her mouth and his arm around her, Spike pulled the female officer all the way inside the office and shut the door. She tried to fight him off but didn't have a chance against the vampire.

Spike was standing in the middle of the office, holding on to the struggling woman, at a lost for what to do with her.

"Bugger! I knew this was all going too well. What am I supposed to do with you now?" He asked while looking around for something to restrain her with.

The woman was petite for a soldier, about twenty five years old, with strawberry blonde hair styled a la Mia Farrow. It was easier to imagine her sitting in a class room listening to a lecture than it was to imagine her digging holes in the desert. She stopped squirming so Spike glanced at her face. She looked more angry than scared, her blonde brows were drawn together in a way that reminded him of Buffy when she was pissed. He almost chuckled, but this wasn't the moment.

He forced her to walk behind the desk then pressed her against it with his body to hold her in place while freeing one of his hands. Holding on to someone, silencing them AND searching for something to tie them up with only two hands was not the ideal situation. This was making him waste a lot of time that he didn't have in the first place, and putting him more at risk of being discovered. If he wanted to get out of there alive and with the information he was after, he needed to hurry.

In the only drawer of the desk, he found pencils, paper for the printer and some masking tape. He took a sheet of paper and rolled it into a ball, then shoved it into the woman's mouth before she had time to scream. Then he unrolled some masking tape that he cut with his teeth and taped her mouth shut. Not the most efficient way to gag someone, but as long as it held long enough for him to find what he was looking for and get away, that's all that mattered to him.

The only thing he had at his disposal to tie her up being the laces of his boot, he had no choice but to let go of her completely. Deciding the best way to get her to behave was a little terror, he sat her down on the chair and then vamped out. The woman's eyes widened comically.

"Move and I'll rip your throat out. Understood?"

The soldier woman nodded.

He undid the laces of one of his boot and yanked it out of the holes. Then he roughly pulled her arms behind the chair and tied her up as tightly as he could manage without hurting her. He went back to crouch in front of her, still in game face.

"Just so you know, pet, I'm a master when it comes to kinky bonding games and I know knots that will get tighter as you pull on them. So if you don't want to completely cut off your circulation, I'd suggest you stay put."

She nodded her head in understanding.

The bones in his face shifted as he returned to his handsome human visage. He turned back to the filing cabinet and yanked the first drawer open without effort. As he was looking through files, he felt the need to reassure the woman.

"I'm not gonna hurt you. There's something in here I want and you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong bloody time."

He reached the last file in the drawer and having not found anything related to Buffy in any way, he swore in frustration and slammed the drawer shut. The female soldier flinched in fear at his outburst.

Spike forced the bottom drawer opened. There it was, staring him in the face. One very thick file with a picture on the first page. Buffy. He stared at it for a moment, not sure if he should feel relieved or angry. A part of him hadn't really believed what Lazarus had said about the military being interested in her. He couldn't deny it anymore.

Spike took the file and put it inside his shirt. He turned to the woman.

"It was nice meeting you, pet. I'm sure you don't share the feeling, but I swear I'm a really nice bloke when you get to know me." He winked at the woman and walked to the door. "Don't worry, I'm sure someone will find you soon enough."

There were a few muffled curses, but Spike didn't hear them. He was already gone.

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