Seven is one of those numbers wizards like to remember. It sticks in the human brain because of the significance that number holds. That number has power wizards can use—Harry had used it in more complex summoning circles in the past.
Millennium were going to hit 7 different places of power around the world, ranging from the well protected to places only the mad would dare to tap.
Thanks to some extraction techniques which would send the White Council of Wizards on edge, the UN had the names of those locations: Roanapur, the modern day pirate haven; New York’s Gotham District, splashed with the blood of titans and gods; Atlantis, the Lost City; Vatican City, Catholicism’s center of power; Tokyo, one of the most unfortunate cities on the planet; Cardiff, home to a Time-Space Rift; and Kaspak, sometimes called Caprona, an island that was itself a sleeping Old One.
Places where White Council members tread carefully.
Harry had to admit that he was a little nervous. This was not helped by the local support brought in by the Vatican’s special Anti-Demonic forces known as Iscariot, nor the “Mercenaries” they brought along as well.
He actually felt rather safe with the hastily assembled ensemble he found himself with. Dubbed “The Irregulars” by that monstrous woman Eiko Megami (after her first suggestion “Londo Bell” had been outright rejected), Harry had to admit that all things considered, the group was rather odd—and that included the group Harry currently found himself surrounded by.
Thankfully, he knew a few of them. One was his good friend and repeatedly ally Michael Carpenter—knight of the cross and wielder of one of three holy swords which greatly evened the odds against even the most vile of supernatural horrors. A tall man with a muscular build, but still shorter than the lanky Dresden, his face was awash with small proto-wrinkles—of many laughs and many worries.
Buffy Summers, Willow and the Hellboy rounded out those he had met prior, though only the first two he knew well enough to give him comfort. They were dressed in a similar manner to what he had seen before, though this time Buffy held a rather odd ax-like weapon in her hands that almost radiated with power. Beyond that, the other members of the Irregulars brought here at behest of the U.N. were three robots—honest to god Robots. They inhabited human-like shells at the moment, but two of them would be switching out to stockier robotic frames when the fighting started.
He’d been assured that his “Hex Field” had been compensated for by the machines electromagnetic shielding—but Harry still worried a bit.
The robot nearest Harry was of average height, had blond hair, a rather large nose and was dressed in combat fatigues similar (but markedly different) to the ones he’d seen the other soldiers wear.
Next to him was Heracles, whose physique fit the title—tall and well built. His military-cut blond hair and blue eyes were a little off-putting having grown up with images of Hercules actually looking Greek. But, again, he was a robot. He could alter his appearance as he wished.
Which didn’t really explain Brando—a big guy to be sure and muscular, but built more like a barrel with brown hair, a darker complexion and flat nose. Shorter than the others, Harry looked at him and wondered why anyone would want to look like that if they had total control of their appearance as they did. Still, the air around the machine was more akin to Michael than either would care to admit.
Both robots were dressed in sweats. When the time came, they would upload themselves into their “War Bodies” designed by the UN for combat uses. The three had previously worked in the previous administration’s war in central Asia.
Despite its decisive brevity, soldiers were still stationed there to keep the peace and rebuild, but it was apparent to all that this was building into a quagmire.
Still, all of them were positively normal next to Daisuke Umon. His armor was a dark, multicolored ensemble that, aside from the helmet, only brought two words to his mind: Power Ranger.
Harry felt Michael Carpenter step in front of him before he saw the reason for the action:
“Are you Harry Dresden?” A powerful voice with a mild Irish accent struck Harry like a bolt, causing him to turn around to meet its owner.
The man before him was easily 7ft tall if he was an inch. Harry himself was no slouch in the height department, but he still felt dwarfed by the man. The fact that he had Michael Carpenter’s broad shoulders made him all the more intimidating.
Next to him was a stark contrast—a tiny, nun who looked to be in her 80s or 90s, moving with simple grace. Her face was worn with the wrinkles of many smiles, at the edges of the habit, Harry noticed the edges of scars—the kind of scars one only got in heavy combat where things didn't go your way.
“Yes,” Harry answered.
“Michael,” He said, turning to Harry’s friend, “It’s good to see you again.”
“Likewise, Alexander,” Michael answered with a slight tenseness in his voice, which brought Alex’s eyes into a narrow focus.
“No need to be like that, Michael,” Alexander said, “I just want to chat with… the wizard.”
Harry clearly picked up on the pause, as though he swallowed a curse or insult during it.
“Pardon my caution, Alex,” Michael answered, “But I’ll stay here.”
“Aye,” Alex said, “Your choice, then.”
The nun’s eyes narrowed.
Alex turned his eyes back to Harry, a scowl of suspicion overtaking his face, and his glasses quickly reflecting the lights around him, “I hear one of the Swords of the Cross was bequeathed to you. Fidelacchius, if I'm not mistaken.”
“I don’t pay attention to rumors much,” Harry answered, averting his gaze from the giant.
“If Shiro Yoshimo did indeed leave it in your custody, you must have made a good impression on him. He was an excellent judge of character,” his smile faded as he added, “and he is greatly missed.”
Before Harry realized it, he had been backed into a wall by the man, “Of course, if you fail to live up to his judgment and the sword falls into the hands of Satan’s ass-wipers, I’ll have to lop off your head for betraying his trust.”
The man’s smile returned, but it was equal parts cheer and threat, as though he had just said a friendly “hello” to him.
"Does that come with a silver platter?" Harry said, "I assume we're going to be Catholic about it, so might as well go all the way."
Anderson smile disappeared and a growl slowly crawled out of his throat, but before another word could pass between them--the Nun's voice cut through them.
“Alexander Anderson,” She said. Her voice that was both quiet and powerful at the same time, “That is quite enough. These are our allies in this battle.”
“Aye, Mother Heather,” Anderson backed away casually from the wizard and the knight and walked towards the Nun, with whom he had a brief, but quiet conversation.
Harry released the breath he did not know he was holding and noticed Michael release the hilt of his sword—which Harry noticed he had been clutching the entire time.
“Michael,” Harry breathed, only a few entities had shaken Harry quite like that—not quite Fairy Queen level shaking, but still a decent jostle, “Who or what the hell is that asshole?”
“Harry, we’re in the Vatican, please watch your language.”
“Right, whatever,” Harry grumbled, “So who is he?”
“Alexander Anderson,” Michael Carpenter answered, “The Vatican’s #1 monster slayer.”
“I thought that was you.”
“It’s not a contest, Harry,” Michael smiled. He was about to say more when a new voice cut in.
“He’s certainly restraining himself today,” a white haired pretty boy in a red leather duster walked up to the two Americans as he interrupted, “usually, he’s all: ‘Executioner Anderson’, ‘Bayonet Anderson’ or ‘Off with its Head Anderson’ when I’m around at least.”
“Are those seriously his nick names?” Harry asked Michael, who only gave a nod.
Inwardly, Harry thought of all the people who he had seen with titles, epithets or nicknames before blurting out, “I guess if I had his PR agent, you’d be calling me ‘Dino Rider Dresden’.”
“Or ‘Burns it Down Dresden’” a white haired pretty boy said as he approached the group, “From what I hear at least.”
“So who are you, exactly?” Harry asked, not really liking the look of that guy—he was far too pretty for his liking and reminded him just a bit of his incubus half-brother Thomas. He was athletic like a runner or a swimmer, but definitely showed signs of strength in his shoulders. His red leather coat was a complemented by a similar vest and pants.
But what really ticked Harry off was the two women on either side of him. They weren’t draped over him or otherwise indicating that they were with him, but they followed him and were incredibly hot. Simple jealousies are simple.
The first woman had short, cropped black hair and wore similar military fatigues to the other soldiers, but was nonetheless very distinct. Her mismatching eyes had that effect. The small scar over her nose did nothing to distract from her beauty—and then there was her primary weapon—which looked like a bazooka with a large bayonet on the end of it.
This struck Harry as all sorts of wrong, as well as deeply stupid.
The other woman, a curvy blonde, was dressed far less practically. Leather pants did not make good combat wear, though Harry couldn’t tell leather from pleather from vinyl in the clothes department, so he was just making a guess. Her top was basically a corset for all intents and purposes—a sleeveless, shoulder-less corset. His Wizard senses definitely tingled around the blonde woman and the pretty boy.
“Dante,” The pretty boy answered, “Demon hunter. The Vatican outsourced to a few independent agencies for this party.”
“Great," Harry grumbled, his dislike for Pretty Boy growing by the minute.
“The Vatican does this from time to time,” Michael answered, “Training its Iscariot members is a long, difficult process. To be honest, the Knights of the Cross technically are independent contractors.”
Harry mused that the nature of the Holy Swords would preclude such training for the most part.
“Alright, now that everyone is here,” Mother Heather said at the conclusion of her conversation with Anderson with a quiet force that brought the room to silence, “I can brief you on why the Irregular and special contractors have been brought here. We’re very lucky here, in that our prayers have given the identity of what millennium wants from this place.”
She motioned to a statue the archangel Michael carved from the finest marble, standing in full glory.
“The demon Samael has been released from its prison by the enemies we are preparing to face. Here we have another such demon that we believe they will also try to release.”
“This demon got a name?” Buffy asked with a shrug.
“Unfortunately, he has several,” Mother Heather said, “Amon will suffice for this ne'er-do-well. Most of you will be stationed in here to protect it. The corridor has been reinforced with mundane and blessed barriers that will force those forces that break through the line out front into this corridor. Use the bottleneck to your advantage.
“Ms. Rosenberg? Mr. Umon?”
Umon nodded in acknowledgment and Willow answered, “Present!”
Mother Heather gave Willow a warm smile, “You will accompany me and Father Anderson outside, to combat the larger part of their forces,” She said, “Mr. Heracles, Mr. Brando--please get into your combat bodies and join us shortly. The rest of you will be taking your orders from Mr. Carpenter as needed, though I will be in radio contact with you if need be.”
She nodded once and Umon and Willow followed her. The two robots followed in suit, but in a slightly different direction.
Harry surveyed the area and still found the amount of space in the hall remarkable. The open area around the statue was more than enough to move around—though Harry’s wider spells would have to be controlled to prevent friendly fire. A fifty foot radius would do a lot, but it was cut in half by man-made trench—sandbags around layered steel walls up to Harry’s...the top of his stomach, really, but on a normal person, that would bring it up to their chest easily.
The Hallway facing the wall was only 10ft wide and long. A decent bottleneck should they break in.
Though if they had anyone else like Wodan Ymir, Harry had his doubts that the armor and shielding would hold out and allow the bottleneck to hold.
“Hey, Michael,” Buffy asked, “Who was the Nun who kept Anderson in check?”
“And more importantly, how did she do it?” The blonde woman Harry did not get the name of added, “that guy has tried to take Dante’s head 4 times already.”
The woman in fatigues smirked and added, “it keeps getting funnier every time he tries.”
“Yeah,” Dante scowled, “It’s really hilarious how he tries to kill me.”
"Well, you did arrive after she cowed him," Buffy said, "But knowing him, that really shouldn't have done anything."
“Mother Heather?” Michael scratched his short beard, “She’s just extremely sweet is all. A little kindness can go a long way, you know.”
Harry could actually hear Dante rolling his eyes before he let out a groan.
“I bet’cha,” Hellboy leaned back a bit and turned from Michael, “he respects her for her service in the Paris Combat Revue back in the 20s.”
Buffy only got out a “The what?” before the radio on Michael’s belt crackled to life: an Old World War II model designed to survive magical interference (Harry doubted such a thing was possible, but there it was).
“We have word from Japan that they’ve made their first move—be on your toes!” The voice on the other end said—some soldier Harry had yet to meet, he ventured.
“TSAB Alert—a massive number of teleportation signals have been detected. They’re coming in!”
From the large, narrow windows, Harry could see glowing rune circles hovering in the air—many almost 30ft in the air. From these circles, many things dropped in: the Hellfrogs Harry had seen at the party were mixed among black armored warriors with demonic looking helmets and almost mechanical movements. These warriors marched like and acted almost like photo-negative storm troopers. Harry hoped their aiming skills remained the same.
And then there were the machines. Massive black robots with flared shoulders, two horns on either side of their head, which housed a single red ‘eye’ that consisted of a long slit. The arms of the machines had 3 protrusions on them that ended in blunt sticks.
Harry gave a quick blink as his mind put the pieces together.
Hellboy whistled, “Well, those are new.”
Harry tightened his fist in frustration, “their first attack was a purge.”
“What?” Dante turned to the Americans as Buffy echoed Dresden’s scowl.
“Getting rid of what they don’t’ need,” She said, “They let that woman be captured.”
“Now we get to fight the cream of the crop,” Harry snorted, “Joy.”
That’s when the earth shook
. From the narrow window outlooks, a new beast joined the fray from the largest of the summoning circle: a black creature with a similar monocular eye that formed a narrow slit, each of its forearms and hands were replaced with massive steel-like scythes and a row of three red-lined fins down its back and capped off with a row of metallic horns curving towards its face in a single row.
Its beaked moth opened revealing serrated teeth and a set of thin, insectine pinchers on either side of its mouth, letting loose a pseudo-electronic howling shriek. It stood clear over most of the buildings and was by far the largest living thing Harry had ever seen.
“Gigan!” The radio barked, “They revived Gigan!”