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One Tin Soldier


Part Twenty-Two

Oz made it through the heavily armed soldiers at the guard post with a minimum of fuss. They'd checked his ID against their access list, patted him down and gone through his case in just minutes. Oz wasn't too thrilled about a guy getting that friendly with his anatomy, but he understood the precaution.

The building he was entering housed every hacker's wet dream and every bureaucrat's nightmare. Monster computers with satellite uplinks to every mainframe the United States government had. Every single scrap of information, every secret the government held, could be accessed inside this unpretentious block of bricks. Not to mention the multi-layered processors that could practically think for themselves. Oz couldn't wait to get his fingers on a keyboard.

The fact that he'd be working with TJ Webster was just icing on the cake. Webster was practically a god as far as computer nerds were concerned. Oz had even chatted with the legend a couple of times.

That's why he'd been so surprised when the Army had asked him to come work for them on a limited contract. With Webster working for them, why would they need anyone else? Jamison had clued him in. Webster, it seemed, like a lot of geniuses, had a few quirks. The major one being the fact that Webster was severely agoraphobic. The man literally couldn't walk outside without completely freaking out. He even lived in the same building that housed his beloved computers.

Oz tapped on the door he'd been directed to, then walked inside. There he found a fairly young man with his head in a trash can barfing his guts up. "Hey, man, you okay?"

The man shook his head and heaved again before managing to mutter, "Could you take those disks to Harris, please? I can't and I don't think he can come over here."

Oz picked up the stack of disks sitting on the desk with a shrug "Guess so, but I'm supposed to meet TJ Webster here."

One shaking hand rose in the air and waved slightly. "Hey. Nice to meet you."

"Hey. Uh, me being here isn't a problem, is it?" Oz asked, worried that his presence had the other man ill.

Webster finally pulled his head out of the can, wiping his face with a paper towel. "No, it's what on those disks. One of the retrieval teams brought them in. It's some seriously sick shit, man. I've never seen anything like it. The guys on those vid disks need to be whacked. With extreme prejudice. Fuckers. That Rosenberg chick wasn't to blame for the shit that went down here. No way."


Webster's face went pale again, "You know Rosenberg?"

Oz nodded, "Old girlfriend."

Webster closed his eyes for a second, when he opened them, Oz was surprised at the pain he could see in the hazel orbs. "Whatever you do, do not watch those disks."

Oz felt his stomach start to churn, Webster sounded serious. Dead serious. "What about Xander? He and Wills were friends for years."

Webster buried his head in his hands, "Fuck. Can't believe I forgot about that. Someone has to watch them. I couldn't make it all the way through, I just saw enough to get them into chronological order, and to know without a shadow of a doubt that Rosenberg isn't to blame."

Oz nodded, thinking as fast as he could. He knew the Army was planning on a tribunal for Willow and Tara as soon as humanly possible, and time was running out for the young witch. "How about Spike? I doubt there's anything he hasn't seen before."

"Bloodwell?" Webster asked curiously, "Huh, good point, him being a vampire and all." Nodding at the phone hanging on the wall, Webster said, "If you pick up that phone and dial #63, that'll ring the comms unit. They can tell him to come over here."

Oz did as Webster said, the soldier on the other end promising to send Spike over ASAP. Oz hung up the phone and asked, "What now?"

"I'll have one of the techs set up a viewing room for Bloodwell and we can head down to my lab." Pointing at the case sitting next to Oz's feet he asked, "is that it?"

"Yeah. I've got most of it bugged out, but some of the code is seriously whacked."

Webster rolled his eyes, obviously more comfortable now that the issue of the disks had been resolved. "Tell me about it. You wouldn't believe some of the crap they were using before I started working here. A four year old could have gotten past their so-called firewall without even trying. It was embarrassing, man."

"What you got now?" Oz wanted to know.

Webster smirked, "I wrote a hunter/seeker. It's so totally cool. Someone hacks in, the program activates and follows them home. Then the real fun begins."


Spike hadn't been pleased about having to watch a bunch of intel disks, but once the first disk had started, he'd been glad they hadn't asked Xander. This would have killed him.

Someone had obviously bugged Red and Tara's place. The picture was a little grainy, but still all too clear for Spike's stomach, the sound quality was even better.


Willow paced around the room, practically tearing her hair out. "I know I said I'd give Xander space, but this has gone too far! He needs me and I'm going!"

Tara smiled, "Of course we are, sweetie."

Willow stopped moving, her eyes wide, "You're going with me?"

Tara stood and wrapped her arms around Willow's waist, "He's been your best friend since you were practically babies and he's hurt. Not just physically. When he wakes up, he's going to need you. And you're going to need me. Of course I'm going."

Releasing her girlfriend, Tara went back to the computer, closing down the file Willow had accessed through the Army's database, before opening the link to the discount airline ticket site she'd found. "I'll get us seats, you should call Buffy and Giles, tell them what's going on."

Willow nodded and headed for their phone, "You're right, but then, you usually are."


Willow had never completed the call. Several men wearing jumpsuits and hoods had burst into the room and shot both witches with darts. Spike watched as the bastards had fondled their unconscious victims before taking Tara out of the room. One of them had left a disk on the bed next to Willow's face. The sticky note on the disk said, "Read Me".

Spike went through five cigarettes waiting for Willow to wake up. He knew he could have skipped ahead, but he wasn't really sure he wanted to see what happened next. All too soon, he watched as Willow came out of her drugged state. Once upon a time, watching the red headed witch panic and fall apart would have been amusing, but not any longer.


Willow was shaking so hard it took several tries to get the disk into the drive. The file opened showing a plain text document. The file had obviously been put together very quickly. There were spelling errors and the formatting was all wrong, but it was clear enough.

'Tel no onewe'll be watchng. your
girlfreind lives as longas you do what your told ch
eck yo ur email in to hours'


Spike spent those two hours waiting with Willow, flinching every time she started crying. By the time the promised email arrived, Spike was exhausted, wanting nothing more than to have a cold one and get some sleep. Willow was in much worse shape, the witch had aged years in two hours.

The camera angle switched to show the computer monitor, so Spike could see what Willow had seen at the time. The message contained a string of numbers that Spike assumed was a website. He was proven right when Willow clicked on the string and the page changed.

The monitor now showed a dingy room in what looked to be a deserted warehouse. The floor was littered with trash except for a circle in the center of the room. The bright fluorescent lights seemed centered on that one small space, highlighting the horror that was taking place.

Tara had been stripped naked and strapped to a table. Her ivory skin was covered with cuts, bruises and what looked like burns. That was bad enough, but it didn't stop there.

The men who had taken Tara were busy entertaining themselves by raping the witch, laughing at her hoarse screams of pain and anger. The man raping Tara finished and moved aside so another could take his place. The bastard didn't even bother zipping up before stepping directly in front of the camera's lens.

'Same time, same place, tomorrow.' Spike heard him say over Tara's screams and Willow's whimpers. 'You will contact no one. It can get a lot worse, she might even live through it.'

Spike stared at the grainy picture, memorizing the man's face. That fucker was dead, one way or the other.


Spike made it through the rest of the disks through sheer determination. He'd done worse than these fuckers, but he was a vampire, he was supposed to be a brutal, blood thirsty bastard. Humans, they took the cake though. Demons, for the most part, held their own kind above all others. Humans seemed to delight in torturing each other. Spike occasionally wondered how the race had survived this long. They seemed so intent on driving themselves to extinction. The longer he lived, the worse it got.

These bastards, they were some of the worst Spike had ever seen. After the first disk, the others had been edited to only show the 'important' bits, Tara's torture and Willow's compliance with the instructions she'd been given.

First had been Buffy. Spike couldn't say exactly what the spell had done to the blonde Slayer, but immediately after Willow had finished, the phone had rung. Buffy picked it up and listened intently, not saying a word until the very end. Then all she said was, "I understand. I will wait for further orders." With that, the Slayer had hung up the phone and left, without even acknowledging Willow's presence.

Giles had been simpler, but at the same time, more complex. Dru had used the same cantrip on several occasions. It simply made the victim rather vague. They still saw everything that happened around them, they just didn't pay any attention to it.

The disks had covered less than a week, that was all. Six days, but an eternity to Willow and Tara, for Spike too. Some of the things they had done to Tara had made Spike physically ill. By the time Willow had been told to come collect her lover, Tara had been broken. She no longer screamed at the pain they inflicted on her. Even as she was being raped, she didn't utter a sound, her head rolling limply with every brutal thrust. Spike had seen more life in a corpse.

The final disk in the set showed Willow arriving at the warehouse where Tara was being held, but, of course, it didn't end there. The 'dead men walking', as Spike had taken to calling them in his head, decided to have a little fun with Willow first.

Spike watched, not blinking, as Willow performed every disgusting act they wanted. When they finally finished with her, she wasn't in much better shape than Tara. Then the bastards had left them, naked, bruised and bleeding. Spike didn't know how Willow had gotten them back to their room, but she did.

The witch showed no concern over her own nakedness or injuries, she was solely focused on the catatonic Tara. Willow managed to get her lover onto the bed before fetching a bowl of water and a wash cloth. Every inch of Tara's body was lovingly bathed, Willow talking to her quietly the whole time, telling her that it would be all right, she would fix it.

And fix it she did. Spike had known that Red had power, but the spell she performed was something Spike had never seen before. All of Tara's injuries disappeared as if they'd never been.

Then Willow had placed her hand on Tara's head and whispered, "I will always remember, so you can forget." As her voice faded, Willow started to glow, the soft light passing from her body into Tara's. As the light sank beneath her skin, Tara started to stir.

Willow grabbed a robe and donned it quickly. Tara's eyes fluttered open, "Willow?"

"I'm here, baby. Rest. You've had a really icky case of the flu, but you're better now."

Tara nodded, her eyes drifting closed. Willow sank to the floor, huddled in her robe and started rocking, much like Dru had on her worst days. Spike could hear her muttering under her breath, "it never happened. It never happened."

The remainder of the disk showed Willow occasionally receiving emails telling her they were still watching. Other times those messages gave Willow instructions to access various databases or to launch viruses into specific computer networks. One of those messages gave the order for Willow to shut down the security grid that had resulted in Spike gaining his first childe.

Spike ejected the disk with a vicious smirk, "Got 'cha, ya bastards."

Now came the hard part, telling Xander.

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