Title: Ghost in the Machine
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes later on - ie M/M
Summary: Post Black Thorn and final AtS - The PtBs screw with Spike yet again.
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Author’s Note: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators
Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Illyria was apparently bored or asleep or... whatever because the swirl of images and prickling sensations in his consciousness had abruptly ceased. It left Spike observing yet another spotty teenager 'SK8erZD's mundane MSN conversation with 'BeenyROX5' and as a consequence was seriously beginning to lean toward the 'this is Hell' conclusion regards his status.
The exchange was certainly not any notable intellectual discourse, indeed could hardly be described as a dialogue at all, and certainly not in any version of english he cared to recognize.
70 enjoi deck n trucks
u at BH?
nice U 2 a thing yet?
shes cool - bit needy
not into sk8ing
U into her tho
way 2 go!
not that into haha
CU Sat at BH?
.............. And so it went on and as it did Spike's ire continued to grow until he decided that were ever to get his vampire body back, soul or no soul, he would seek out the two and drain them, if only to save the world from boredom and bad breeding! He felt rather than saw the result of his indignation in a flash from his own memories of tearing into a warm neck, the fruitless struggle of the victim, and a resulting 'kick' much like that of fresh human blood straight from the vein.
Illyria was back with him instantaneously. "You breached the divide at last. It seems we might now work as one to attain our goal."
Spike gave the equivalent of a "Huh?" reply before recieving an image of his old Angelus days self draining and dropping the gored body of a hapless youth.
"This is the image those humans will have seen on their screens before your energy drained their computers and shut the connection."
"I did what? How?"
"That is of little importance now. You will improve with practice. Come, I have found some intriguing anomolies with the assistance of Winifred Burkle's memories and knowledge of this medium."
The ensuing lightening fast blur included numbers, symbols and images flashing past him too fast to really register so instead he focused on the commentary Illyria's essence was providing him... and wasn't he glad he'd spent so much time with Fred, Red and the other Scoobies before his dusty demise as babble seemed her pace and language of choice for the 'lecture'.
"Winifred Burkle was able to research many aspectjs of her work with the aid of this inter-net. And though I am discovering this might mirror the human brain in its chaotic nature, and its linkages, it is also easy to exact its foibles, frailty and inherent weaknesses. Thus far I have only explored a small proportion and at random but it is enough.
"According to the rather elemental human research on their own system, there is close to a trillion and a half discrete pages, around 1.5 billion users and 220 billion communications they call 'emails' sent daily. More interesting for my purposes, there are over to 1.7 million temporary black holes where information can be hidden, transfered or lost permanently or for hours and days at a time - innocently, for security, or nefarious reasons - and these by the hand of incompetent individuals, governments and/or criminals.
"Unbeknown to these humans, this network which links so many is also becoming semiconscious in its own right. It will only be a matter of time before it is capable of making its own links, processes and determine information it needs to complete sets of knowledge. As much as the humans wish to control this system, it is wonderfully beyond that now. And they have merely tinkered with the surface of its capacity. Even their best minds do not have the capacity to encompass its full potential."
Spike was becoming increasingly agitated and sensing she was about to go on, butted in, "Taa for the Discovery Channel summary Pet, but what does that have to do with you an' yours truly, the dearly almost departed?"
Spike felt an overwhelming surge of power permeate his thought process, effectively silencing him.
"Do not interupt! Observe underling."
Spike was swept up in her wake again. Bombarded by what seemed an endless string of numbers and names he finally realized that he was looking at some sort of ledger and that the numbers were fast being shifted from one place to another.
"I seek out the dark side of this system, the links to the magical community, the knowledge and power that will lead to my restoration across dimensions. Already this electromagnetic based system has proven useful in my quest, but I do not comprehend fully the aspects of this system that seem based in human emotion and this dominant species' obsession with that they cannot define yet and yet somehow links them to a universal power."
"Winifred Burkle's research extended to dimensional shifts and aspects of other energy realms but I now also find there is a powerbase known as the international monetary system which fascinates me. Its dependance on the inter-net, on human greed, power games and the tendency of humans to organize into nation states be they gathered by subspecies (race), opportunity, location, gender or religious choosing. I am unsurprised that there is evidence that they have and are endangering their own existence (and that of other species) by altering the precarious balance affording life on this planet, not to mention the obvious repeated and as yet unsuccessful attempts the human species have made to wipe themselves out with crude but effective weaponry fueled by pathetic tribal like squabbles on a massive scale.
"What I am unable to comprehend is their tendency toward acts of kindness, the connections between these beings and their apparent willingness for self sacrifice to benefit the whole. Their belief in one or many gods whom they have never seen seems wide spread yet has no cohesion. This..."
Spike had finally worked through the odd sensation of being overwhelmed and silenced and suspected that, if left to her own devices, Illyria would continue the diatribe until the humans really had become a footnote in history, so he tried again. "Not wantin' to bust into your rhetorical musin's Luv, but already know all most of the above n' really not seein' how all this is helpin' us. Thought you said sommit about movin' on to your own nirvana or some such. You got a plan to take over the world, leave it behind for good, or is this just a fact findin' exercise for us to fill in the rest of eternity? Really not seein' how I fit in, 'cause gotta say, much as I'm a keen observer of the human condition, yours truly a little over the light and sound show if we're not movin' toward bein'... well, in amongst it, proper-like. Seems as though I'm all a bit irrelevent as is, bloody useless, not even a ghostie. Bloody hopeless..."
Illyria seemed to pause for a moment then Spike had the oddest sensation of being stroked and comforted somehow, "That is where you are, as usual, wrong. You have an understanding of these beings and of the dark side of the demon world. I have the capacity now to wipe out this planet using the human devised weaponry, but this would be fruitless. Rather we will find those who might assist us and determine what it is they want in return for their services. Your strength lies in understanding human motivation. You possess what these beings would call a soul. You have lived as both human and demon therefore your memories and understanding of their world gives you strength, and your capacity for what they call love, despite your demon heritage, seems to be of use to me, to us."
Spike focused on the ledger of numbers again, realizing belatedly that it was a Swiss bank account containing a very significant sum, not to mention details of precious items stored in a vault with unknown value, all under the surname 'Aurelius' at the top. His pause and mentally whispered, "Bloody hell! Could buy 'n sell half Christ'ndom with that lot!"
"I am uninterested in this thing you call Christianity, but am fascinated by the potential of buying and selling. It is apparent that even the demon world participates in using this medium 'money' to exchange for goods and services. It is my understanding that it is a simple matter to put this manufactured wealth into the human system whereby it increases in sum without the need to acquire any additional forms of recognised physical wealth such as precious metals or large stadiums."
"Well... yeah... but it's not quite that simple, Luv. Seems as though we're at a bit of a disadvantage, what with us bein' all non-corporeal 'n all."
"Yet you do understand the basic strategies and mental capacity required to do such a thing, were we to appear, as you say, corporeal."
"Done my share of dabblin' in the past, but more of a 'take what I want when I want' chap before the chip... 'cept when it was me 'n me mum, and at the beginning with 'Gelus, but then he was a right tight bastard if there ever was one." Spike was about to go on but the names on the top of the ledger caught his attention as Illyria cut in.
"Yet it seems your original name William T. B. Aurelius appears as a signatory for this collection, something I assume entitles you to access."
"So it does... bit hard to convince the ol' bank teller t' hand over the loot though innit, given that I'm a little less than even undead these days."
"Yet much of the more recent activity has been electronic in nature. It seems that Angel had already begun to utilize the 'holdings' portion of the funds. It would merely be another such transaction, though claiming the full wealth would require a physical presence, I am sure the current active sum would suffice for our immediate needs."
Spike refocused on the numbers Illyria was talking about and were he able might have raised an incredulous eyebrow, instead having to be satisfied with, "That sneaky f$#ing Irish ponce! Bankrolled his full blood boy's future and was plannin' 'is own post Black Thorn by the looks."
"The one you call Connor has indeed been paid by your Grandsire it appears, but the remainder is in your name according to this... and Winifred Burkle's memories would confirm that."
"Still comes back to the same point though Pet. Not really here am I. How'd you propose..."
"Electronic transfers are a simple matter of initially breaching the security on the account then continuing to use it to amass our fortune ready for a time we might need it to fund a 'favour' as the human's call it."
"'N breachin' security is your specialty I don't think. Swiss banks are the best and..."
"Winifred Burkle had a head for numbers and formulae. It will merely be a matter of time before I can do this, the investing I will leave to you. You have a knowledge of what motivates the humans and will see opportunities as they arise. I have other, more important aspects of this inter-net to explore."
"Well taa muchly for the confidence Pet, but need a bit more of a handle on where and what to invest in 'n the how."
"You have time."
"That I do... apparently got a boat load 'n some o' that."
With that Illyria seemed to lose interest in communicating further, so Spike immersed himself in a full investigation of just what and how much it was he was 'playing with'.
Xander was lost in thought when the newest of the coven's members cleared his throat to announce his presence. Xander let out an 'eep', dropped the chisel he was holding and spun around. "Geez Wills just about... Oh... sorry not Willow... um... Mattias right?"
The tall figure of the young man came further into the workshop, brushing back the hood of his black jacket with his left hand, "Yeah, um... Here." A cup of steaming coffee was deposited at the end of the work bench.
"Thanks. How'd you get the delivery job? Willow too busy for a visit?"
The lanky youth looked a little uncomfortable, shifted from foot to foot then shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and looked at the floor as if something particularly interesting lay there. "The Mistress thought I might... um... thought you and I should... well... talk... sort of... um..."
Xander took a moment to look properly at his unexpected visitor. The longish black hair was pushed back for the most part, an unruly lock hanging over a slim pale face with rather attractive, androgenous features. Had Xander been in anything but a rather reflective mood he would have made a flippant comment, but recognized the distinct signs of a boy needing a 'manly' chat so indicated to a solid looking side table, sat on its twin and reached over for the coffee saying simply, "Pull up a pew, time I took a load off anyway. What's up?"
Mattias sat, but kept his head down, replacing his focus on the floor with a close examination of his hands, "Mistress Willow... that is... well... most of the wiccans at the coven... It's just hard being the only guy... You know, apart from you, or when Mr Giles visits... but even then... I... just... I just feel like I don't fit really... but I'm trying really hard! And Mistress Willow says I'm doing fine... well better than fine really... and that's a problem too."
Xander was just about to jump in with some kind words when the young man lifted to look properly at his new confidant. Xander was immediately struck by the look of utter desparation, knew from too many bitter experiences how it felt to be an outsider, but all words seemed to evaporate as Mattias lifted his head and levelled two begging crystal blue eyes framed by impossibly long lashes in the carpenter's direction. It was Xander's turn to stare at an inanimate object for a moment and focussed on his coffee. In a different setting, say a bar for same gender types, and with a beer rather than a coffee in his hand, and with ten or so years less difference in their age... He cleared his throat and dismissed all such thoughts. The boy(!) had come to him for advice and that's exactly what he would do his best to give... but... in the right light... He looked up again and could not shift the single name that had come to mind... that of an old ally who had also looked that desperate with tear filled blue eyes, more than once... Spike.
It took a deliberate sip of coffee and distinct clearing of his throat before he dared answer. "Well, we should get on just fine then, me not exactly command central when it comes to the fitting in, but I'm sure a good listener, and you know, maybe we can work out a few things together. How about you start a little further back, like... what brought you here to study in the first place?"
Mattias (Matti to his friends, of which Xander was now apparently one) visibly relaxed and began with his discovery of his magical leanings and the rather convoluted path of part discovery and experimentation in dark and light arts, part self destructiveness and the anguish that accompanied a search for his early adult identity first amongst university peers and now at the coven.
By the end of the conversation, coffee long gone and Matti proving a dab hand at the basics of carpentry, the two had resolved little, but succeeded in putting the finishing touches on the turned legs for a new coffee table. A short "I'd better get back, see you tomorrow?" was enough for Xander to feel confident that it would not be the last time the two 'worked out stuff' while working together in the shed.