Part II of The Emerald Plan
A fic in the Worldburner shared-world series, by Brother Grimace
"Wow – now that's a costume!"
"It's a little over the top, Viola," Angelina Fosh said, taking in the sight of the girl in the skin-tight black bodysuit and red cloak as she strode past the two women, and the man who stood with them.
Viola Fosh snickered at her older sister, before taking a moment to take in the setting inside the gymnasium-sized conference room (now redecorated and re-arranged for a celebration) of the Lawndale, Maryland branch of Wolfram and Hart. "You just wish you were bold enough to wear something like that," she countered.
Angelina grunted out a sound of annoyance. "She wears the tramp look too well – but then, look at who her mother is!"
The petite, pale-skinned blonde in the shepardess outfit whacked her fiancé on the back of his blond-tressed head. "See something you like?"
Rand McBain nearly choked on his slice of pumpkin-rum cake as he realized his fiancé – and her little sister – were watching him as he watched the shapely rump of "Just thinking that Little Red Riding Hood comes from one hell of a tough neighborhood."
"Sure you were," the Fosh sisters said in unison – something Rand knew that he was going to simply learn to live with, considering how close the two sisters were, even though they were a full decade apart in age.
Rand brushed cake crumbs from his 'Solid Gold Dancers' costume. "Besides, I like 'Little Bo Peep' a lot more."
The blonde broke their kiss as she saw a face in the crowd. "Hey - isn't that 'Der Boss and Company'?"
"Yes, it is," a familiar voice said from just behind him. "Enjoying the party, everyone?"
Wishing inwardly the world would end at just that moment, Rand turned around to see Helen Barksdale-Lane standing behind them, looking spectacular in the I Dream of Jeannie 'harem girl outfit she was almost wearing.
"For future reference, Rand," she said distracting all three from the sight of her ample breasts all but spilling from her top, "If you can't find a girl who's got the sense to check around her before she makes disparaging comments about the Senior Partner-in-Residence – the person who decides your future here – you might have a problem at my sister's firm."
Rand nodded silently as Helen reached out to take the hand of a blond-haired man in a World War II Army Air Corps dress uniform. "Come on, Wind. Let's go say hello to Erin and the twins."
Viola Fosh – a vibrant, busty girl of nineteen with waist-long onyx hair, eyes that matched her hair, and pale, yet flawless skin; all coming together to accent her own Mogana Le Fay costume – smiled as a trio of guys in vampire makeup and Armani evening suits walked past, unable to keep from looking back at her.
"Man, the people who work here have excellent makeup artists!" she said, watching as a second trio walked past, unable to keep from noticing the thin necklace around her pale neck – a necklace studded with a number of eye-catching jewels.
"I'd say that you've done equally well with your skills as a gemsmith," a second familiar voice said, as Amy Morgendorffer – the Senior Partner-in Residence of the firm – walked up to her. "I love your necklace – especially the gemstones you used, and the way you set them... it's as if it were specifically crafted to ward off evil and amplify good energies."
There was a moment of tense silence; Amy went "Boo!", making the older Fosh sister and her fiancé jump. "Gotcha. Rand – Angelina. So glad that you could make the party."
Amy turned back to look at Viola with the expression of a cat toying with a particularly dangerous Norway rat. "And your little sister, too," she continued.
"Wouldn't have missed it," Viola said; at six feet even, she was the tallest person in the conversation, and towered over even her brother-in-law to-be by a good five inches. "Gets me out of a GE algebra test that I really don't want to take just yet."
"Oh, I remember those horrid 'general education' courses – hated 'em," Amy concurred. "Still, I'm glad for the grind – helped out worlds when I went to law school."
Viola noticed how the level of tension radiating from both Rand and Angelica seemed to dissipate as the smile Amy directed at her widened.
Why don't you all come with me?" Amy continued, guiding Viola towards the front of the room. "I think that you're going to enjoy this year's special addition to the annual Halloween party's events – and this year, I promise that there will be no human blood sacrifices, ritual summoning, or raising of the dead."
Angelica hung back, touching Rand's arm so that he dropped back as well. "Was – she was just kidding, right?"
"Ang – remember when you asked how a guy two years out of law school could be working a major law firm and making a mid-six figure salary?" Rand said, making sure that no one was in earshot before speaking. "You'll find out everything soon enough – but for now, accept that there are things about my job that you just don't need or want to know about for now."
"Okay," the woman relented, noticing that Amy was waving them forward. "Let's see what your Dread Leader wants."
"Oh – one more thing," he said. "You should stop doing that – snarking on people who work here - unless or until Miss Barksdale says it's okay."
The serious tone in Rand's voice chilled Angelica's blood as she followed him to where Amy, Viola and the young woman (who looked eerily like Amy - now that she got a good look at her, Angelica thought).
"Good evening, everyone!" Amy spoke, her voice somehow seeming more powerful as it carried easily to even the back of the room. "Fellow partners, associates, employees, clients and guests – welcome to the annual Wolfram and Hart Halloween celebration!"
The conference room (the Fosh sisters noted) held a lot of people who wore some of the best monster costumes they'd very seen. Oh, well, both sisters thought, almost as one. With al of the super-rich and famous people they work for all over the East Coast, they'd have the money and contacts to get costumes this good.
Viola tuned back in to Amy's words as a chill went through her – and she noticed the girl from earlier watching her, as if curious, but unsure about her identity, or reason for being here...
"Tonight, we will forgo several of the usual party activities, and welcome a special guest!" Amy called out, waving forward the girl in the bodysuit. "I present to you – Judith!"
"Ohhhh," Angelina breathed out, as she leaned in towards Rand. "So, that's not her daughter Daria?"
Rand shrugged. "I never thought that Daria would be seen, at an occasion like this, in something so, well, ordinary."
Judith stepped forward, her malicious smile making her seem even more alluring than before. "Thank you, Amy," she said. "Shall we begin-?"
Tendrils of dark energy reached out from the sphere of dark energy that Judith conjured with a slight gesture, and with shrieks and screams of agony and rage tearing through the air, all of the monsters and demonic creatures-
They're real! Angelica realized, her heart starting to beat wildly as she saw a werewolf shifting back and forth in the air directly above her, snapping at her face as the tendril of energy brought him just over her head. Oh, God, these monsters are real!
The sounds of the creatures disappeared as they vanished – and the air of the room was filled with a collective gasp as a single dark beam drew down from the hovering sphere to a point barely an inch above the floor.
As everyone watched, the beam began to flow outward like thick tar until it became a circle four feet across. "My thanks to the Senior Partners," Judith said. "With your help, and the sacrifices they provided, your universe will live."
She stepped forward; Judith's eyes flared, and the annihilation sphere flared with red streaks from within before it dropped through the eldritch portal. "Goodbye, universe of Glorificus."
Judith turned to Amy, a look of absolute hatred flooding across her visage. "And now, for all of you."
A second sphere, the red streaks burning through the darkness within, appeared over Judith's outstretched left hand.
"You lied to us," Amy hissed.
"No, I didn't," Judith countered. "I said that your universe would live. I never said for how long – and considering that you look exactly like that Green-Jacketed Bitch – I never planned for that to be very long. Goodbye-"
An aura of blue energy appeared around Judith's construct – a second flash cut through the air barely a blink of an eye afterward – and she spat out a single word with undiluted anger as the sphere froze in mid-air!
Judith shrieked – her screams lost among the mass of other cries of terror – as the area erupted in panicked terror! "You BITCH-!" she screamed, as a blue circle of solid light appeared in the air and a roaring light and sound. "How are you – you can't – I'll get you, Amy-!"
Judith screamed as she and the annihilation sphere were both swept into the air and sucked through the blue circle – which immediately faded away!
Rand (who had dropped to the floor to protect Angelina by covering her with his own body) lifted his head to see Viola – now, the only person still standing in the room. "What the hell was that all – Viola, where did you get one of those from-?"
Viola 's face held a sheepish expression as she looked down at her family, over to a rising Amy, and then, glanced about the room at the people who were rising from places of hiding to gape at her. "I, well, I guess there's something that I need to tell you about, Angie..."
"I should say so!" the blonde said, wriggling out from under her fiancé – and then, hugging her sister tight before holding Viola's hand up to reveal the simple silver ring that she wore on her right hand. "Did you just save us from that – person – and is THAT what I think it is?"
"I'd say that she did," Amy cut in, smiling as she rose to her feet. "All that, and more... now, do you understand why I asked that you make sure to bring your fiancé and her sister to the party?"
The expression of approval on Amy's face for the members of her family didn't even begin to smooth over the wave of anger that began to wash over the absolute terror from just moments earlier. "Viola, how did you do – whatever it was you did, and you-!"
Rand stepped away from his fiancé, worried (and with good reason, the thought) that she might bash him over the head with her shepard's crook. "Why the hell is it that you seem to know how Vi did whatever it was that she did? Is that one of those Rings they talk about on the news? Why didn't you ever tell Nana or me about it – that necklace of yours isn't just really good costume jewelry, is it? You made that at school with real jewels that you made with that Ring!"
As Amy stepped between the young couple and helped to calm a slightly hysterical Angelica, Viola stepped over to a dessert table, keenly aware that while the guests maintained a respectful distance - what she had done had made her the unwitting center of attention.
Damn. They said that everyone should remain aware, and remember to see if Judith and her spheres were vulnerable to banishment – if we got a clear shot and didn't have to fight – otherwise, get as much information as possible, and portal out before the universe flames out.
Even with this being one of the few universes that's seriously active – in a mystical sense – I didn't think that Judith would actually show here
Even with the Daria that exists here being just a bitch as she is – excuse me? And just what are you looking at me like that for - Oh. That's why.
Viola followed the gaze of the trio of near-salivating young men dressed as 'the Three Musketeers' to her own left leg-
As she looked at her exposed leg, Viola could see how she was suddenly blushing all the way down to her - because the slit in her Morgana Le Fay costume (already a bit higher than she was comfortable with, and certainly never something she would wear in the light of day) had torn to reveal so much more leg and thigh than she had ever wanted.
"If you want, you can have my cloak," the voice of a young man spoke from just behind, and Viola turned – and looked up! – to see a tall, broad-shouldered young man with carrot-red hair and a perfect smile.
Among several perfect things he has, a little voice inside her spoke very loudly, as Viola momentarily forgot her embarrassment – until the young man finished snapping the robe's fasteners around her neck, allowing it to flow over her like a dress.
"Thank you," she said, looking into the boy's eyes.
"The least I could do for the heroine of the hour." There was a moment of awkwardness – something that, Viola could sense, was quite unusual from him. "I'm Finn Morgendorffer. Mom and Aunt Amy said that you're Mr. Mcbain's sister-in-law."
"In a couple of months," Viola replied, almost gushing – before remembering what Valkyrie has once said to her and the always-in-trouble Courtney (though, being honest, it really wasn't her fault – trouble seemed to just come looking for Courtney).
Don't show off your endowments – especially to impress someone. Well, don't do it in public. If you have to do so, please remember to modify everyone's memories afterward – and don't leave anyone out because 'they're cute...'
Finn's smile became broader. "So – when did you become a Ringbearer?"
"About six months ago," she said; the relief at being effectively 'outed' (although using the Ring in public in here, of all places, means that it'll probably never get reported in the mainstream news, she thought) helping to ease the tension from her 'wardrobe malfunction'.
Of course, the sexy green eyes of 'Mister Hot, Handsome Hunk O'Young Boy Muscles Here' certainly helps, she thought, quite loudly. Part of me really hopes that you're not a telepath – or a vampire, werewolf, demon, shape-shifter, or any other sort of paranormal or mystical creature... because that would mean that mean that all of that – is all real.
"So – when did you become D'Artagnan?"
The smile on Finn's face widened as he accepted the flute of sparkling punch Viola offered him. "About ten seconds after I told them that I wasn't going as a 'sandworm' – even if I got to be the front section. How did you know that I wasn't one of the Musketeers?"
"Because you're talking to me," Viola replied, stopping for a moment to sip from her own flute of punch, "while your entourage is hanging back in awe of you talking casually to the girl who just did something unusual."
As Finn and Viola talked, Helen made her way though the crowd to Amy – who had just left Rand to finish the job of calming his fiancé down. "She'll be all right with this," Amy said. "He'd never have gotten involved with her if she wasn't tough enough to deal."
"What about her?"
Amy glanced over to where Helen has motioned, to see Viola and Finn close as they chatted. "Inform the Senior Partners that our deal with the Ringmasters has been completed," she said. "The time-control facet of their minion's Rings is effective against both Judith and her means of destroying universes – and that Judith is currently unaware that she is vulnerable to that aspect of their weapons."
"As well as the Ring's capacity to banish extra-planar entities," Helen cut in. "The Ringmasters built better than they knew-"
"Or than we imagined," Amy finished her sentence for her. "Those things can also banish active energy sources of extra-dimensional origin – even those sources infinitely more powerful than the Rings themselves. I think that we just learned something about the Ringmasters that they didn't want known."
Helen's eyes narrowed. "What's that?"
"All of the universes that have been destroyed by Judith? They could have stopped it all," Amy said, watching Viola closely, "but they chose not to."
The Senior Partner-in-Residence turned back to her sister. "There's only one reason," she said. "They wanted those realities to die... or they needed them to be destroyed. Why? What are the Ringmasters planning?"
"Why did they need us?" Helen echoed.
Amy turned back to her sister. "Simple. They needed something – or someone – as powerful as the forces backing Wolfram and Hart to appear as if we had interfered with her plan. They needed something else to occupy Judith's attention while they carried out whatever it was they needed to do."
Helen's eyes flared with anger. "Then that means – they used us – they-"
Amy reached out to touch her sister's arm. "They did exactly what we would have done, were the tables turned," she said, a surprising calm in her tone. "They used us - because they needed a diversion."