A Good day's Knight(s)

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]gmail.com>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If their proper owners had the slightest concept of how valuable their characters really were... I wouldn't have to write this stuff.

Summary: Well, it couldn't last forever. Xander's free ride on the Hellmouth comes to an end. Yes. I said he's had a free ride. Got a problem with that?

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating : PG-13. For mature themes and all the other fun stuff that rarely makes network TV.

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.

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Chapter 1

February, 1997
Chico California

"Fifty crazed motorcycle riding Demons against you and me."

Xander Harris smiled as his hands tightened on the grips of the steering wheel, "You want to give em a chance to surrender, Pal?"

KARR didn't bother responding. The demons in question had basically ripped the entire town apart by the time they had arrived, and it didn't look like they were planning on surrendering anytime soon. For the thirty *billionth* time in the last week, KARR reconsidered it's deal with Xander.

And, for the thirty billionth time, it came out with the same response.

Repair and upgrades available through his connection to Xander Harris and the Knighthood far outweighed the dangers that such association put him in.

Xander revved the engine a couple times as he grinned over the steering wheel at the fifty biker demons that were revving their own bike engines.

Ok. So maybe 'far outweighed' was a little bit of an exaggeration.

"Yeeehaaaaaawwwwww!" Xander screamed into the desert air as he slammed the pedal down with his foot and the black transam charged along the desert flats, kicking up a massive dust storm behind it as they raced straight into the demon pack as the bikers too popped their bikes into gear and charged him.

The fact was, KARR decided that the whole situation was worth at *least* one more calculation.

Six nanoseconds later.

Same results. Dammit.

Three seconds, and two more attempts to rationalize retreat, later KARR and the Biker line interpenetrated.

The Next Day

"Hey Xan!"

"Hey Jess," Xander grinned as he walked into school.

"When'd you get in?"

"Last night. Had to patch up some damage to KARR so I couldn't call ya." Xander replied easily as he tossed Jon a high five and wrapped an arm each around Willow and Buffy.

"You damaged KARR?" Buffy ignored his arm, giving him an odd look. "Isn't KARR supposed to be... you know, invulnerable?"

Xander shrugged, "We got a Molana Demon caught up in the axle."


"Long story." Xander grinned, "hey, there's the coach. I've got a tournament match to train for. Catch ya later."

"Was he kidding?" Jessie asked everyone and no one.

Buffy shook her head, "Don't ask me. Frankly, I don't think Xander is ever NOT kidding."

Jes laughed, "Yeah. That's Xan. Some of his stories are kinda over the top, huh?"

"You have no idea."

"Jesus!" Jessie jumped, almost hitting the hall ceiling, then spun around. "Jesus Christ Faith! Don't DO that!"

The cocky brunette just smirked at him, one hand resting on her hip as he clutched at his heart. "It's what I do Stud muffin. Get used to it."

Buffy rolled her eyes, "You know, sneaking up on people like that can be dangerous."

"Yeah. For them." Faith replied. "So what did the Xan man do this time that has you wondering?"

"He said he had a... ummm... Molasses demon in KARR's axle?"

Faith snickered, causing Jonathon to blush. "Molana demon, and yeah. He did. Nasty thing to get it out too, let me tell you. It must have gotten itself twisted about fifty times around KARR's rear drive axle before KARR shut power to it down."

"Umm... How did he get home then?"

"What?" Faith looked puzzled, "Oh, sorry... Forgot, you guys don't do a lot of work on KARR, huh?"

"Cars aren't really my thing." Jon admitted with a shrug.

"Not Xander's either, but KARR is more like a rolling computer." Faith said, rolling her eyes. "Anyway, the rear axle is just for backup power. As long as the rest is running ok, it's not even needed. There are two motors mounted by each tire that can be run independently."

"Uh huh." Buffy looked at Faith for a long moment. "And you know this how?"

Faith looked chagrined, "Umm... Well, I kinda talked KARR into taking me for a... um... spin... and well, let's just say I had to get him fixed before Xander found out."

Willow, Jesse, and Jonathan snickered while Buffy just stared in disbelief.

Cordelia Chase watched as the dweeb parade walked passed her, simultaneously ignoring their existence.

"So, like, anyway..." Harmony droned on. "Like I was saying, this really HOT guy came up to me last night... I mean, sizzling hot... I mean, volcano hot... I mean,..."

"We get what you mean!" Cordy snapped, glaring back at Harm. "Get on with the god damned story already!!"

Silence reigned for a long moment, then Harmony did what Harmony does.

She snapped back.

"What the hell is your malfunction anyway!? You've been in uber bitch mode for months, and I'm getting tired of it!"

Cordy started to snap back, but caught the rest of her group nodding in agreement with Harmony. Just the fact that Harmony was willing to speak back to her was a sign of the changing time, Cordy knew. Just a short time ago, Harmony was a member of the group at Cordelia's sufferance only. Now she was certainly in ascendance once again.

And it was all the fault of that blond BITCH.

Cordy hoped that someone had killed that bitch painfully by now, even though her dreams wouldn't let her believe that it had happened.

When Cordy didn't answer, Harmony shifted gears and turned to the others.

"Say, are you all coming to the martial arts practice today? I hear that Xander and Jake are sparring again. I bet Jake kicks Xander's butt."

Cordelia snorted.

"You have something to say, Cordy?" Harmony asked her in a sickly sweet voice.

Cordelia just shrugged, "I've seen Xander fight for real. If Jake wins, it's cause Xander let him."

"Ooohhh... Look who's crushing on the dweeb now!" Harmony sneered.

Cordelia just stood up and walked over to Harmony without saying a word. The blond started to look nervous as Cordy stopped just a few inches from her face and glared down at here. Finally, Cordelia just turned her back and walked away like Harmony wasn't worth the air it would have taken to breath on her.

"Geez!" Harmony complained, once Cordelia was safely out of earshot. "What got into her??"

Torn for a few seconds, Aura and Heather shrugged, then followed Cordelia.

Harmony watched the leave for a few moments, then sighed. "Hey guys! Wait up!"

"Kyle, you better have a look at this."

"What is it, Trek?" Kyle Stewart asked, walking up behind the computer expert and leaning over his shoulder.

"I've had Plato running and old reference search for the Foundation and he turned this up..."

Kyle frowned as he watched the screen, noting a black transam on it rip through about fifty bikers, sending parts and bodies flying everywhere. "My God. Is that KITT?"

"Doing that kind of damage? Yeah, it looks like it. There is NO way any other TransAm could survive that."

Kyle shook his head, "I never knew that Michael was to bloodthirsty. When did this happen?"

"Umm... That's just it... This is an NRO intercept, from last night."


Trek flinched back, but the bellow of rage wasn't aimed at him. Kyle jumped back and spun on his heel as he strode from the comm room.

"You know, Plato... I think he's pissed."

"Gee, Pilgrim. Ya think?"

Devon Miles sighed as the phone rang, then frowned as he realized it wasn't the phone. It came from another source entirely. He reached forward and brushed the dust off a long unused panel, and pressed down a red button.

A section of his bookcase slid open, revealing an old screen that had seen better days.

"Devon?" The figure on it said gravely. "We need to talk.

Chapter 2

"How should I know what Michael is up to!? I'm hardly his keeper, you know..."

The figure just stared back at Devon, unimpressed.

"Oh, alright. I *was* his keeper. But I'm retired now, and so is Michael, as you well know." Devon muttered in annoyance.

The screen flickered, then solidified as it showed a Transam decimating a biker gang in the open desert.

Devon paled, "When did this happen?"


"That's impossible." Devon muttered, "Where did you say this happened?"

"California. Desert flats. Why?"

"Because I happen to know for a fact that Michael and KITT are in Miami at the moment." Devon replied, frowning.

"And here I thought you weren't their keeper." The figure smirked.

"Oh do shut up."

The figure didn't respond, but merely flickered out of sight as Devon frowned to himself and reached for his phone. He punched in a number that was linked to a secure redirect, and waited.

"Trek!" Kyle yelled, striding into the technical center on SkyOne, looking around for the computer expert.

There was a smash, then a pained yelp, and Trek appeared from under a console, rubbing his head. "Yes, Kyle?"

"Sorry. Look, I just got a reply on the Transam in the desert. It wasn't KITT."

Trek frowned, "How's that possible, bossman?"

"That's what I want you to tell me. I want that tape examined, in detail."

Trek nodded, "Alright. You've got it..."

Kyle nodded and left the room.

"Well now... let's see what we've got here then."

Xander ducked under the heel strike, pivoting as he dropped, and lashed out with a kick intended to topple his opponent.

Jake hopped over the sweeping foot, then snapped a front kick at Xander's head.

Leaning back, Xander watched the foot as it passed within an inch of his head, and then something happened.

He felt the familiar sluggish pass of time as his senses shifted into augmented mode, and watched as the foot slid past at what seemed to be an inch per hour. For all the slowdown, his own faculties remained in the fight, and he reacted with the same lightning instincts that he had been carefully cultivating for years.

His hand snapped up, even as he leaned further back, and intercepted the foot at the ankle. Without conscious thought, Xander snapped off the ground in a spin that twisted the foot, ankle, leg, and body of his opponent along with him.

To the spectators, it was nothing but a blur.

One second, the fight was going along normally, and in the next Jake was flat on the ground with Xander on top of him, padded fist hovering just inches from the older boy's face.

"Uh... I... Uh... Give." Jake stammered out, swallowing hard.

Xander stared down at him for a long moment, blinking in confusion as the battle spell fell away from him, then he pulled back in a startled motion as his face crumbled into shock.

"Jake! Man! Are you ok!?" One of their teammates rushed up, quickly followed by the coach and others.

"I... I uh... I think so." Jake said slowly, letting them pull him to his feet. As he started to put pressure on his ankle, he almost fell again. "Ahhh shitt!"

"What is it!?"

"My Ankle... I think it's broken." Jake ground out, teeth gritting in pain.

"Hey Bossman!" Trek yelled, running out of the computer labs and nearly running flat into Jenny Andrews.

The two FLAG agents went down in a sprawl.



"Jeeze... I'm sorry Jen... I didn't see...!"

"I figured that." Jenny interrupted the younger man, "Did you get more information on Michael?"

"It wasn't Michael!" Trek said excitedly, jumping to his feet. "It wasn't KITT either!"

"It wasn't?"

"Didn't Kyle tell you?" Trek asked, then instantly shook his head. "Of course he didn't... if he had, you wouldn't be asking me this..."

"Tell me what??" Jennifer frowned, now burning with interest. The news of the NRO intercept had quickly filtered through the entire TKR group, and the massacre that it showed wasn't something any of them, especially herself, wanted to believe possible of a FLAG agent. Whether he was retired or not.

Especially not Michael Knight.

"It wasn't KITT!" Trek babbled on, pushing past her. "We have to warn Kyle!"

"Warn him of what!?" Jenny asked, chasing the younger man through the narrow halls and bulkheads of SkyOne.

"KARR is back!"

"Geez, boytoy... what happened?"

Xander slumped against the corner of the gym, knees tucked up almost under his chin as he took deep breaths. "I fucked up."

Faith let out a small chuff of amusement and shook her head as she sat down beside him. The two of them ignored the onlookers who were watching from a safe distance away. "That's kind of a no brainer. You didn't intend to break his ankle though, right?"

"Yes and no." Xander said darkly.


"I shifted into war mode, Faith. I barely stopped myself from breaking his *neck*." Xander closed his eyes.

"Heavy." Faith sighed, leaning back against the wall. "Lost control, huh?"

"No. You don't get it... I was in perfect control the whole time."


Xander looked over at her and for the first time in a long time, Faith shivered from something other then cold. His eyes were cold, they were simply dark, and she felt them boring into her.

"I don't lose control, Faith. If I had lost control, I'd either have wound up slaughtering half the Gym, or he'd have taken me down in two moves." Xander said finally. "I slipped into control... more control then I intended."

"I don't get it."

Xander shrugged, "I know."

"Well, we're still waiting on word from the Nurse... You think... I mean, is he hurt bad?"

Xander shook his head, "I don't know. If it's too bad, I'll call Paige. I can't let him take that serious an injury just because I was doing something I had no business doing."


"Fighting teenagers." Xander snorted, shaking his head. "I may as well be beating up on six year olds... I figured that by holding back, limiting my style, I could handicap it... Shows what I know."

Faith didn't say much, just sort of semi nodded, semi shrugged.

Just then they looked up to see the Coach come back in. The man ignored the others, and walked over to where she and Xander were sitting.

Xander looked up, and took a breath. "How bad, Coach?"

"Information on KARR is classified for a reason, Mr Stewart."

"If we're to be expected to deal with this rogue AI, I think we have a need to know." Kyle ground out in protest, fists clenching on the instrument panel as he glared at the hologram.

"I wish I could help you, Kyle... I really do," The voice softened, "But you aren't the only one they've been classified from."

Kyle blinked, then fell back a step. "But Sir, you're clearance...?"

"Is second to none within FLAG."

"Then why the hell can't you get me that information?"

"Because the classification came from Knight Industries. Not FLAG." The hologram admitted. "And they aren't releasing any information on either the Knight Automated Roving Robot, or the Knight Industries Two Thousand."

"But... why!?"

"I don't know."

"Michael, it's Devon."

"Yo, Dev, what's up?" Michael Knight grinned as he slid into the seat of the Knight Industries Two Thousand.

"I received a disturbing call from the Foundation for Law and Government earlier." Devon Miles said, looking up at him from the, slightly out of date, CRT built into KITT. "They seem to be under the impression that you were in California."

"Oh?" Michael asked with a crooked grin. "And how's that?"

"Well, it would seem that an NRO satellite caught the tail end of a massacre perpetrated by a black transam on a Biker gang."

"What?" Michael asked, his face and voice becoming deathly serious.

"It would appear that KARR is back, Michael. And FLAG is sending TKR after him."

"Good Lord." KITT interjected into the conversation. "Tell me that you're joking."

Chapter 3

"Quit!? You can't quit! I need you, Harris!"

"Coach, I injured Jake..."

"It was only a sprain, Harris!" The Coach snapped, "For Christsakes, shit happens on the mat. You should know that!"

"It wasn't an accident."

"What??" The coach goggled.

"Look, Coach..." Xander sighed, "I learned to fight, not to spar. To go all out until the other guy is dead or dying at my feet. That's my style, and it's not tournament legal for a reason. What happened today could have been worse."

The Coach looked like he wanted to say something, But Xander cut him off. "Look, I'm glad Jake is gonna be fine... but I can't risk snapping someone's neck in a tournament match. I'm sorry Coach."

Normally he would have argued with the boy, but something in his voice told the Coach that the decision was final. At least for now. He nodded reluctantly, "Alright. Fine. Principal Flutey won't be happy, you realize that."

"That's his problem." Xander said coldly, moving to stand.

The Coach nodded, thinking to himself that the boy was probably right. Harris had shown a great deal of resourcefulness this year, including keeping his grades up despite missing a great deal of school in the process. That record would pretty much let him weather anything that Flutey could bring to bear as pressure.

More then likely, if the Principal tried, it would backfire seriously, given the boy's newfound wealth and position.

The Coach sighed, "Alright. If that's the way you want it... But do me one favor...?"

Xander paused, glancing back. "What's that?"

"Help train the team."

Xander blinked, "What?"

"Hey, Jake is out for a week or so... and he's our Star fighter anyway, so he's got to keep up his own training. You help train the others, I'll keep Flutey from trying anything too annoying to get you back on the team. Deal?" The Coach smiled slightly.

Xander paused, considering it. Finally he nodded, "Alright. You've got a deal, Coach."

"Good. Glad to hear it."

"J.P," Kyle nodded as he slid into the large cockpit section of SkyOne, "Flight prep almost done?"

"You know it, Kyle. We'll be ready to roll out in just a few more minutes."

"Excellent." Kyle slapped a hand down on JP's shoulder and smiled, "California, bro."

"Sand, sun, and beach front bikini views." JP grinned, "Course, that's what I get. You guys are on the clock."

Kyle chuckled, ducking back out. "Don't remind me."

While JP finished his pre-flight, Kyle walked back to the conference room to find that the entire team was already waiting. The 'conference room' was actually the forward section of the vehicle bay, and had grown from a makeshift patchwork job that they had used for a while to a fully equipped communications center.

"Alright, I guess we'd better get the briefing underway... Trek, do you have a location?"

Trek rolled his eyes, "Do you have any idea how many Pontiac Trans-Ams there are in California?"

"Not what I asked."

"Yes and no." Trek sighed.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Kyle asked, irritated by the evasive answer.

"We have confirmed spottings in LA, but not lately." Trek said, "The last confirmed spotting, other then the Biker Bozo massacre, was shortly after that. A Trans-am triggered a speed trap with photo radar about ten minutes south of a town called Sunnydale. It was heading North, in case you're interested.

Kyle nodded, "So we have a starting point. Did the Photo Radar get anything we can use?"

"It didn't even get a reliable speed reading." Trek said sarcastically. "The cop figures his radar must be busted, and I'm inclined to agree."

"Why?" Jenny leaned forward, "How fast was it going?"

"According to the Radar?" Trek laughed, "The Sunny side of three hundred miles per."

The group stared at him blankly for a long moment, then started to laugh.

"I concur." The cool, calm voice of Domino said with a tinge of humor. "Even Kat and Plato are unable to do that speed. More likely the Radar device was one of the older models and isn't calibrated properly past a hundred and fifty miles per hour."

"That's what Plato and I think too, Dom." Trek nodded.

"Alright," Kyle nodded in agreement, "That brings us to the next part of this meeting. What do we do when we find KARR..."

A gruff voice snorted, and the group turned to look at the imposing bulk of Attack Beast as it spoke. "We take him down. Hard."

"Don't you think giving him an option to surrender might be an idea?" Domino suggested cooly.

"I'm afraid that's probably not going to happen, Dom." Kyle shook his head. "I've been reviewing old reports filed in the FLAG archives. KARR's AI is Homicidal, and effectively a paranoiac with a hefty persecution complex."

"Perhaps if approached by an AI alone..." Kat, a lithe motorcycle, spoke up.

"He reacted very badly every time he encountered KITT, according to all reports," Kyle pointed out with a sigh. "In fact, he seemed to consider KITT's existence as another Knight Industries AI to be a personal affront. From past experience, I have to assume that KARR will consider all of you to be much the same."

"Well. I never." Domino muttered, her lights flashing in indignation.

"So Beast is right." Duke shrugged, the big black man's face was impassive. "We hit him hard, take him down, and move on to the next job."

Everyone, most at least slightly reluctantly, nodded or otherwise signaled their agreement.

"Can we get anything more on KARR's capabilities?" Trek looked at Kyle hopefully.

"No." Kyle said stonily. "All requests to Knight Industries for information on KARR have been rejected. Devon Miles personal authorization... He also sent a message along to us in particular."

"Well...?" Erica asked, "What was it?"

"He, and I quote, requests that we stand down and leave this to the 'professionals." Kyle said with a hint of distaste.

The reaction of the group was predictable, and even the AI's were growling more then slightly in response.

"Like hell." Duke said for all of them.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to cut off your vacation, Michael." Devon said over the comm system built into KITT. "The Foundation Team has lifted off in SkyOne and are heading west to a town called Sunnydale. I fear that KARR may prove more then they can handle."

"No kidding." Michael muttered, shaking his head. "And I'm already on it. We're out of Miami and on the interstate now, Michael. Support?"

"Limited, I'm afraid..." Devon shrugged apologetically. "As you know, since the federal Government took over responsibility for the Foundation, Knight Industries doesn't have the same pull as it once did."

Michael nodded grimly. It would be hard for him not to know, since he now sat on the Knight Industries board of Directors as well as remained a key field troubleshooter. "What's their ETA?"

"They'll arrive in the area within five hours, I'm afraid." Devon said.

Michael muttered a curse on his breath.

"Really, Michael..." KITT reprimanded him. "Language."

"Sorry, buddy." Michael said, quirking a grin. "Alright, I'll do what I can, Decon, but I'm not going to get there before tomorrow morning."

"I understand. I suppose we'll just have to hope that KARR isn't what he used to be then, shall we?" Devon said, "I'll contact you later, Michael. I'm trying to find out if we still have a Knight Industries truck in California... preferably one with a mobile lab and maintenance bay."

"See if you can get Bonnie for the job," Michael grinned.

"I'll ask. Though I doubt she's quite forgiven you for the Dragan incident." Devon smirked back in his subtle way, then signed off.

"Ahh...." Michael Knight smiled as he leaned back. "Just like old times."

"Honestly, Michael," KITT said, sounding much put upon. "Must you enjoy yourself so much when faced with mortal danger?"

"It's what I do, KITT," Michael said, leaning forward. "You feeling up to a little Super Pursuit Mode?"


Michael smiled and punched in the button. A turbine whined in response, and he was slammed back into his seat as the car shifted and changed around him, becoming more aerodynamic as it used the pressure of the air around it to push it tighter to the road while the acceleration climbed.

The speedometer ticked away the numbers, quickly hitting the sunnyside of three hundred miles per hour, and continuing to climb as the black transam roared down the interstate.

Xander was walking out of school when he felt the subtle vibration of the Fold Comm in his pocket. He plucked it out and fit it over his jawbone, tapping the activation stud. "Go."

"Incoming patch from cellular network." A mechanical voice uttered.

<Huh. Merlin must be busy.> Xander smiled, waiting for the patch to be completed.


"Hey, Nat..." Xander smiled reflexively, then frowned. "Umm... You talking to me yet?"

"I am the one who called." Natalie Cook said, her voice carrying the smirk so well that Xander could picture it on her face.

"Good. Glad to hear it. How's it going?" Xander asked with a relieved smile.

"Oh, much better now that my boyfriend isn't sabotaging my work."

Xander winced. <Oookay... not *quite* over the whole Faith deal yet.> "I said I was sorry, what else do you want from me?"

"Oh, I'll think of something. How about you start with dinner and dancing?"

Xander smiled instantly, "You coming to town?"

The next words she spoke, he didn't hear over the Fold Comm, but rather over open air.

"Turn around, Handsome."

Chapter 4

Cordelia watched as Xander turned and hugged Miss Cook, her face darkening as the sight of the blond woman reminded her all too starkly of that night.

They turned away from the school, walking with arms wrapped around each other, and headed toward Xander's car. For a moment she tried yet again to reconcile the 'new' Xander Harris with the geeky, klutzy, yet annoyingly likeable person of old.

Not that she liked to admit it to anyone, even herself, but the fact was that even she hadn't hated the old Xander. In fact, he had a lot of friends in the school up until he vanished the year before. Now, though, he hung with a tight clique and didn't really talk much with anyone else.

Cordy sighed, turning away.

Things change.

He had changed, and she could easily guess why.

She was changing, and she could only assume it was for the same reasons.

Cordelia wondered for a while if she was going to turn out like he did.

Quiet... introverted... dangerous.

Cordelia shuddered, remembering the talk that had gone around the school within seconds after Xander's last match. Some people had even thought that he'd killed Jake for a short while.

<I wonder what he saw just as he made that move?> She wondered to herself, shivering. <One of them, maybe? Or something... worse?>

"So, Dinner? Dancing? Something else?" Xander wiggled his eyebrows at Natalie as they walked to KARR.

She smiled, knocking him a little off course with a wag of her hips. "Let's start with Dinner and go from there."

Xander nodded, moving to open the passenger side door for Natalie, and was somewhat miffed when KARR beat him to it.

"Why thank you, KARR." Natalie smiled, taking a seat.

"You are welcome, Miss Cook."

"Natlie, please."

Xander rolled his eyes, not even getting to close the door as KARR again beat him to it. He walked around the car, noting with wry amusement that KARR hadn't opened the door for him.

<Someone is teaching Mr KARR bad habits.> Xander thought to himself as he opened the door and got in. <Normally I'd blame Faith, but this isn't her style...>

"Well, I wasn't expecting you, so I don't have reservations anywhere nice, but I'm sure we can..."

"The Black Soir." Natalie said simply, smiling slightly.

Xander glanced across and eyed her for a bit longer then he really needed to. "One of those nights is it? It's a good thing that my credit card doesn't have an AI, you know KARR... Otherwise girls like this would give it a nervous breakdown."

"Hey!" Natalie snapped, slapping his shoulder. "You can save the female jokes for hanging out with Jack, thank you very much."

"As you wish, Milady." Xander smiled, then shifted the vehicle into reverse and backed out of the lot. "The Black Night it is..."

Cordelia sat in her 'Vette, looking out over the cape at the gentle swell of the ocean far below, memories of that night filling in the missing pieces of scenery around her.

In her mind it was after dark, though the sun was out.

In her mind, there was a car on fire in a place that now had nothing but grass and bushes.

In her mind she was naked, cold despite the heat from the flames and there was someone holding her.

Sometimes she was afraid, sometimes she was in a rage.

She was always shaking, always filled with some emotion that she hated.

And it happened every single night.

Cordelia Chase grimaced suddenly, shaking the oppressive thoughts away, and started the engine of the sleek sports car.

Her father had just given it to her, for her sixteenth birthday. Really, she wasn't supposed to be driving it now, wasn't supposed to be out alone at anyrate.

Certainly wasn't supposed to be thinking about driving the expensive sports car off the cliff and into the heaving sea below.

There were a lot of things that Cordelia Chase wasn't supposed to do.

She shifted the car into drive, holding it there for a long second, then finally moved it back to reverse and backed out onto the road and turned around. She gave the cliffs one last look before accelerating away from them and heading back to town.

"You umm... staying at a hotel?" Xander asked, looking across at Natalie as they drove.

She smiled coyly at him, staying silent for a tad longer then was really necessary, "I don't know. You know somewhere I can stay in town?"

"Oh, I think I could find room for one more at my place." Xander suggested with a smile to match hers.

"I guess that'll do." Natalie hemmed reluctantly, "Especially since I dropped my bags off there I got a lift into town with Jack."

Xander shuddered. "You drove with Jack?"

"He's not THAT bad." Natalie grinned, then held up her hands. "Ok, so he really should study the rules of the road a bit more, and he's picking up the bad habits faster then the good... but hey, I drive with Dylan."

"Point." Xander had to concede. Herc still paled whenever Dylan's name was mentioned, especially in conjuction with a car of any type. In fact, he so didn't want a repeat of the Charger incident that he had personally brought the car to Sunnydale some time past.

Jack had instantly fallen in love, much to Xander's fear and... well, fear covered it.

Luckily, Jack wasn't nearly as bad a driver as he could be.

Though, Xander had no intention of introducing the Colonial to the Dukes of Hazard any time soon. The last thing Styles needed were ideas like those. So Xander just smiled over at Nat, and nodded. "Alright, to Casa Alexander it is then... I think I can probably pull a fancy suit or something out of my closet, and I'm sure you'll look smashing in whatever you've chosen... so a night of fancy dining it is."

"Of course." She looked far to smug for Xander's taste, but he'd learned long ago that it was better to just let them have those moments when they came.

Fighting them was like wrestling a force of nature. Theoretically possible, but no one alive had ever seen it done.

So Xander just whistled pleasantly as he turned toward the Mansion, thumbing the auto-roof button and enjoyed the feeling of the wind rushing past.

"I just don't see why you get to drive and I don't."

"B... because I... I'm sixteen now and I... I p-passed my test." Tara told the sulking Slayer beside her.

Faith rolled her eyes, "Yeah. Right. Sure."

Tara did her best to ignore the dark Slayer as she checked the traffic carefully and pulled the big Chevy Impala out into the empty road and turned toward the elementary school where they were going to pick up Mikki.

"I'm just saying, we're in the same grade and all..."

Tara sighed, a long suffering sigh that she nevertheless hid magnificently under a blushing shudder. Faith had a point there, she supposed. Though Tara knew that she was supposed to be a grade ahead, but had lost a lot of time by running away from home the last year with Xander.

Faith, for her part, was hiding a smirk. She was getting to the blond witch, she KNEW she was. Too bad the mild mannered girl didn't have a mean bone in her body, cause it was damned hard to know when she was getting frustrated. And the art of teasing DID require a certain amount of feedback from the victim.

Mind you, Faith was having a hard time with more then just that. Like Tara's driving, for example. God this girl drove slow.

When Faith started making faces each time she slowed for a traffic light, or came to a complete stop at a stop sign, Tara sighed again and carefully adjusted her mirror while she avoided looking at her passenger.

It was during one of these times that a red corvette flashed out of nowhere and cut them off, prompting Tara to stand on the brakes in surprise while she squealed in unison with the tires.

"Whoa! What the hell was that?" Faith spun around in her seat, staring after the offending vehicle. "Damn. For a minute there I figured it had to be Jack, but that was a Vette."

"Huh." She said a moment later, "I wonder who else in this town is suicidal enough to drive like Jack?"

"This is your Captain speaking... please place your tray tables in their full and upright position... we are now approaching California airspace, and will be making our landing approach shortly."

The group smiled softly, rolling their eyes at the announcement from their pilot, but nevertheless proceeded to pack away anything loose so it wouldn't get knocked around in the landing.

"Is everything ready?" Kyle asked, looking over the large hold and the vehicles within.

"You bet, Sir." The Chief mechanic nodded. "Primed, loaded, and ready to roll out."


"We're prepared."


"Nothing new on the search." The young man frowned, "It's weird... I'm getting some kind of stonewall whenever I try to access Sunnydale records."

Kyle frowned, "Stonewall?"

"Ah, it's probably just that the berg hasn't put their files and records on computer yet..." The technical genius sighed, tossing a stylus aside and packing up his computer. "But I've got to say, I don't think I've ever seen a town that didn't at least have some of it's records computerized..."

Kyle frowned, not liking that anymore then the fact that they were going in blind concerning KARR's exact specifications. Nevertheless, they had a job to do, and Sunnydale was, at the very least, the place they had to start it.

"Alright, pack it up. We'll be landing withing the hour, then we'll roll out on a fast and dirty recon."

Chapter 5

"Faith!" Xander yelled, "You and Mik have everything you need for tonight?"

"Do you mean, have I got everything I need to babysit the Witch and the Were?" Faith asked snippily from behind him.

Xander turned around to see Faith leaning againsta door jamb with her arms crossed over her chest, glowering at him. "What'd I do?"

"Other then planning a party night on a school night, against house rules? YOUR rules." Faith kept glowering.

"Number one, it's not a party night. It's dinner and maybe some dancing." Xander said in his defense, "Number two, *my* grades aren't in the toilette. And number three, last I checked you didn't have a date tonight, so what are complaining about anyway??"

"Hey! My grades aren't that bad!" Faith objected.

"Uh huh." Xander leveled a piercing stare, "How-z-about I give Mom and Dad a call and see what they think of your report card, huh?"

"You wouldn't dare." She challenged him.

Xander just smirked, "You wanna bet? Guess who has them on Instadial?"

"I'm gonna get you for this." She muttered sulkily.

"Not if you don't get those C's up to B's, cause your Mom will ground you for sure, and she even scares me." Xander grinned.

Faith snickered despite herself. "Yeah. Tell me about it. Dad's the one with all the weapons training, but even he flinches when Mom gets pissed."

Faith paused thoughtfully, "Not as much as he flinches when she picks up a gun though. Something about a machine pistol and a staircase... but he laughs too hard to ever tell that story straight."

Xander chuckled, shaking his head. "Look, just make sure that Mik doesn't walk all over Tara, K? Buffy and Wes are patrolling tonight, and they've got the trio along for company so if anything happens, you're on call. Got that?"

Faith nodded seriously. Willow, Jonathon, and Jessie, AKA the trio, knew to call in the instant it looked like Buffy had hit something she might not be able to handle alone. Which was something that Buffy and Wes couldn't really be trusted to do, mind you.

<Stupid pride.> Faith thought, totally ignoring the fact that she'd do precisely the same thing herself.

"Alright. But I'm not happy about it..." Faith muttered, a little less unhappily. "And I'm still gonna get you back."

"Uh huh. Keep it up and I'll ask Aphrodite to help out with your wardrobe again." Xander said over his shoulder as he headed to the front hall to see if Natalie was ready.

Behind him, Faith snorted. "Aphrodite. Yeah right! Screw her, just let me know if Herc drops by! I could use a good long ride with a demi-god! Lord knows, I'm not getting any from you!"

Faith dutifully ignored the sudden explosion of laughter that came from Xander as he staggered out of earshot.

"Smart ass." She muttered, shaking her head. "Now where the hell did that Cat run off too anyway?"

The sun was setting as the huge modified 747 airframe that made up SkyOne slowed to a controlled descent over an empty field adjacent to a rough country road a few miles north of Sunnydale.

Huge directional thruster tilted on massive gyros, scorching the land with intense heat as the massive craft settled down on extended gear as dust and smoke kicked up all around it. Finally the roar stopped and the full weight of SkyOne sunk into the soft ground, and for a long time silence ruled.

Then the rear cargo hatch descended on it's hydraulics, and two bikes roared down it and across the field, followed closely by a Ford Mustang, Expedition, and F150. After they left, the hatch lifted slowly back, and SkyOne settled in for the duration as Team Knight Rider hit the road and turned toward town.

"Hey Nat are you... whoa..." Xander paused in mid stride, and just watched as the gorgeous blond came down the ornate staircase.

Natalie was dressed in a long flowing dress that seemed cut from the night itself, the black material sparkling with imbedded flecks of silver that shone as she moved. She noted his reaction with pleasure, her brilliant smile lighting the room up even more then the shimmering material of the dress.

"That's... some dress." Xander said, his voice almost reverent as she joined him at his side.

"Thanks." She smiled, "You don't look half bad yourself."

Xander flushed a little, then shrugged a little self depreciatingly. He'd forgone the leather and armor for the night, and was clad in a tailored suit that put most everything else he owned to shame. It had actually been a concession to Andy and Terry, rather then something for a night like this. Both of them had insisted that he needed to look his best when dealing with business clients, and with that in mind Kevin had directed him to a Taylor in LA that charged enough for a sizeable down payment on a suit of Terry's armor. "Thanks."

Natalie just nodded, then took Xander's arm when he offered it.

"Shall we?" He asked.

"I think we shall."

"Then let's." He grinned, and they walked out of the mansion, arm in arm.

"Quiet town." Erica said softly as she and Kat slowly cruised through one of the residential areas of Sunnydale.

The AI hidden deep in the Honda motorcycle didn't respond right away, as she was busy analyzing the sensor returns. "Extremely. In fact, I don't read anyone out on the streets along this whole block. Weird."

"I was going to say creepy myself." Erica muttered, "hey Kyle, all quiet in this area. No sign of KARR or any Knight Industries electronics signatures. You got anything?"

Across town, near the dilapidated dock area, Kyle looked out at the odd figures moving from shadow to shadow as they went about their distance. Not exactly unusual in this type of area, he supposed, but not what he expected in a town of Sunnydale's size.

"Negative." He replied, "Some shady customers, but nothing that looks like our boy. You got anything on scanners, Dante?"

"Nothing." The AI replied after a moment. "Well... Nothing that fits what we're looking for."

"What's that mean?"

The AI paused noticeably before responding, prodding Kyle's curiosity even more. "Just some unusual heat readings. I'm running a diagnosis on my scanners now."

Kyle frowned, "I thought you were all checked out?"

"So did I. But some of the figures read well above human body temperature ratings... in fact, they should be dead. Plus I'm scanning others with body temperatures identical to the ambient surroundings. My scanner hardware checks out, I think... might be in the software."

Kyle sighed, "Alright, forget about body temperature anyway... we don't need it. Focus on finding any microwave bursts that might be coming from our target."


<Great. No fuckin Intel on the target, No intel on the zone of operations, and now we've got technical failures. What next?> Kyle thought to himself. Outloud, he just spoke into the TKR tactical frequency. "Duke, you got anything?"

In another section of town, a nondescript Ford F150 slowly cruised the streets as the setting sun through long shadows over everything.

"Not a damn thing." Duke replied as he settled back in the comfortable seats and let Beast do his job. "You got anything, Partner?"

"Negative." The AI rumbled, sounding annoyed. "Just some young people walking. No sign of Foundation technology."

"We've got nothing, Kyle." Duke sighed, "might not be the place."

Kyle shrugged, "You might be right, but let's not go giving up just yet. We'll clear Sunnydale completely before we move on. Jenny, what's going on in your area?"

Jenny and Domino were parked out in a fairly high end part of town, just outside a art gallery that was closing up.

"I've got nothing so far, Kyle." Jenny said, tapping out a command onto Dom's control panel. "I'm getting a street level layout of the place from Domino's sensors now... But nothing that suggests any technology like KARR's."

Domino scanned the street again, then payed special attention to the gallery. "That's odd."

"What is it, Dom?"

"I'm reading high frequency transmissions from the gallery... One second, locking in the frequency now..." The AI almost seemed to frown in concentration, then suddenly spoke again in surprise. "They're encrypted!"

Jenny frowned, "Lot's of people use encrypted wireless stuff now, Dom... it's probably just a security system."

"Yeah... but... it's *good* encryption." Dom said, sounding surprised. "This is going to be a challenge."

Jenny sighed, slumping a little in the seat of the Ford Mustang.

"Dom, just keep an eye out for KARR as well." Kyle ordered over the network. "Alright, Trek... What about you? Got anything for me?"

Trek slowed Plato to a stop, setting a foot down as he watched the surprisingly steady flow of kids moving around the building he was watching.

"I'm outside a club... no sign of KARR though." He shrugged. "Looks like a hot place, lots of people for a town this size. Maybe I should check it out?"

"Trek, unless you think KARR is shaking his rear spoiler in that place, keep your mind on the job." Kyle ordered. "Alright, move on to the next grid reference points, people."

"We'll just be inside, pal." Xander said, as he helped Natalie out of the car, and smiled as the doors shut themselves.

"Thank you for the ride, KARR." Natalie nodded, smiling to emphasize her words, then she accepted Xander's arm and the two of them went into the restaurant.

In the lot, KARR swept the area twice before powering down his scanner and setting his primary systems to a standardized sweep pattern. Then the AI powered up it's Fold Comm and bounced a signal off an NRO sattelite, hacking into a network backbone sat and logged onto several BBS systems to perform a few searches and perhaps chat with some acquaintances.

Chapter 6

"Here you are, Sir... Madam."

"Thanks." Natalie smiled as the waiter dropped off the two plates of food. She looked across at Xander, smiling as he pulled the collar of his shirt away from his neck uncomfortably. "You know, you don't have to do the top button up unless you're wearing a tie, right?"

"I don't??" Xander blurted, eliciting a lugh from his date.

"No." She shook her head, laughing as she spoke.

Xander flushed again, but allowed Natalie to lean across the table and undo the top two buttons of his white silk dress shirt.

"There. Much better... Debonair, yet relaxed."

"Thanks." Xander said gratefully, smiling despite himself. "No one ever taught me how to wear one of these monkey suits."

"I couldn't tell." Nat smiled wickedly, turning back to her meal to avoid laughing at Xander's aggrieved look.

"Yeah. Right." Xander sighed, picking up his fork and knife and slicing a piece off the steak.

"So if you don't know how to wear it, why do you own it?" Nat asked with a gentle smile.

Xander shrugged, "Corporate life. My assets have been put to work, I'm afraid, and somehow instead of working for me, they've managed to enslave me."

Natalie raised an eyebrow, wondering what he meant by that. She was well enough off herself, Charlie paid well, and her own skills had lent to a good living even before he had approached her. She wasn't into the corporate scene, however, her choice of lifestyles didn't necessitate that level of accumulation of assets. She lived well on her savings and the interest from same.

Xander sighed, "I picked up a big chunk of gold, silver, gems... you know, stuff like that, from a well wisher a while ago... In addition, I'd already owned a couple companies by proxy..."


Xander rolled his eyes witch sparkled with humor, "You could say I acquired them after an extremely hostile takeover."

Nat decided not to push on that subject, but merely motion for him to go on.

"Well, anyway, about the same time as your first visit to Sunnydale I picked up an ailing arms company in the midwest," Xander shrugged, "And since then I've have a corporate identity forced on me... hence the suit."

Natalie smiled, a little confused, but nodded as she chewed. "And what corporation would this be?"

"Looking for a new employer?" Xander asked with a smirk.

"Hardly." Nat grinned back, "Frankly, I doubt you could afford me."

They laughed mildly, then Xander shrugged. "You might be surprised. My corporate identity is Renaissance Technologies Incorporated, by the way."

Natalie blinked in surprise, "*You're* RT Inc?"

"You've heard of it?" Xander asked, mildly surprised. Merlin had only set the company up a few months earlier.

"Well you *are* one of the NASDAQ's fastest growing companies." Natalie rolled her eyes.

"We are?" Xander frowned. He hadn't known that.

Natalie groaned, burying her head in her arms. "You didn't know??"

Xander just shrugged.

KARR shifted his attention from the fold comm for an instant, coming up to perform the required security sweep of the area. His forward sensor swept the restaurant, easily pinpointing Xander's location inside, as well as identifying twenty four other individuals going about their business, then swept onward to examine the rest of the area.

A moment later, security procedures satisfied, KARR returned to it's distractions.


"What is it, Dom?" Jenny asked, glancing down at the holographic display.

"I just got a hit from what felt like a Microwave burst..." The AI replied. "Could be our naughty boy."

Jenny frowned, ignoring the sultry tone the AI had taken. "Source?"

"Too fast." Domino said, returning to her business voice. "But I think we were outside it's detection radius... it wasn't very strong."

"Alright." Jenny reached up and tapped an overhead switch. "Kyle, you there?"

"I'm here, Jen. Have something for me?"

"Maybe. We just scanned a microwave burst... could be KARR. We can't get a pinpoint on it though, just a general direction. Starting a search grid now."

"Alright. Take care. I'm going to have Duke and Beast move in closer to your position as backup."


"Ok, so that's how it works..." Natalie finished explaining with a sigh, "You know, you really should know this stuff..."

"Maybe." Xander smiled, shrugging. "But I have good advisors. Mostly I just need to make descisions on what our goals are and I know some people who figure out how to do it."

Natalie stared at him for a moment, then finally smiled as she shook her head. "Xander, you're one of a kind."

"That's a good thing... right?" Xander asked uncertainly.

Natalie smirked, "Sometimes. You know, maybe you should talk to Alex... she's really into this stuff... she helped me get my investments started."

Xander shrugged, "If I get some time. Mostly I'm an 'in the trenches' kinda guy."

"Well, that is where all the fun stuff happens." Natalie grinned.


KARR did the computer equivalent of a blink, pulling the majority of his attention away from the Fold Comm as something chirped against his passive sensors.

It had just been an echo really, like something was washing across his frequencies more by accident then intent. KARR pondered that for a moment, then widened his scanning into higher band frequencies then were normally used.


KARR spent a few nanoseconds on a sensor diagnostic that came out clean, then shunted the sensor data up to the forefront and passed it through several hefty analysis programs.


KARR did a passive scan of the area, noting nothing unusual in the area, but was reluctant to activate it's full sensor suite. After another nano-second's consideration, the AI sent a request to Avalon for access to a down looking satellite.

Merlin responded with a query a brief slice of an instant later, to which KARR had no immediate reply. Finally KARR uploaded the sensor echo to Merlin and waited.

Merlin looked over his proverbial shoulder, frowning when the request for satellite time came in from KARR. He didn't like stealing NRO birds too much, especially if he was constantly using them to look at the same place.

Even a government agency would eventually happen on a pattern of mysterious 'down times' if given too much data to work with.

So he sent KARR a query, and received a data upload a moment later in response.

<What's this?> Merlin frowned, examining the sensor data.

It looked like an echo, a degraded copy of something else. The question was, what else, and why would it show up on KARR's sensor suite.

<Hellmouth interference, perhaps?> Merlin frowned, looking it over carefully. After a moment he started to decompile the data into it's component signals.

"Let's see what we have here then, shall we?" He asked softly, diverting a significant portion of his attention to the data as he simultaneously sent out a probe of all down looking satellites over California.


There was one in the area, but it was active.

And it wasn't accepting any signals.

"What in the world...??" Merlin glared upward at the offending piece of technology. Someone was controlling it with a tightbeam signal, one that he couldn't hack unless he could find the source of the signal.

Now that was irritating.


Xander stiffened in his chair, frowning. Across from him, Natalie recognized the response and frowned herself, almost pouting.

<Oh no.> She thought.

"What is it?" Xander subvocalized.

"A problem... perhaps. There is an active reconnaissance satellite currently aimed at Sunnydale... One that I am unable to access at the moment." Merlin sounded slightly embarrassed. "I'm looking for the source of it's control signal. Once I locate that, I should be able to access the satellite again."

"Who's using it?" Xander asked softly, eyes locking with Natalie as they exchanged a serious glance.

"Unknown. KARR brought a minor anomaly to my attention and requested satellite time to resolve it. It led me to this." Merlin buzzed in his ear.

"What anomaly?"

"Still anomalous." Merlin replied wryly.

Xander sighed. There wasn't much he could do without more information. "Alright, stay on it. Let me know what you find."

"Very good, Commander."

"Dom... over there, in the parking lot behind that restaurant..." Jenny whispered instinctively, as if to hide her presence. "Is that what I think it is?"

On the holographic display a schematic of the car in question appeared, and Domino cackled in triumph. "That's our wayward boy. He even has his Foundation License plate!!"

"Kyle, did you get that?"

"We got it, Jen... Hang tight, we're coming in."

Chapter 7

Every sense and sensor at KARR's disposal jumped to hot standby in an instant as he felt an electronic signal wash over him.

He'd just been scanned!

The AI didn't recognize the frequency, it wasn't in his database, but the electronic signature was unmistakable. KARR resisted the impulse to go fully active, focusing instead on everything his passive sensor suite could detect and simultaneously uploading everything to Merlin via the Fold Comm.

The first instinctive thought was that the Foundation had found him, but that was quickly deemed unlikely as nothing that appeared remotely similar to KITT or himself appeared on his sensors. A moment after he had determined that, he opened a second frequency with the Fold Comm.

Natalie watched as Xander stiffened for a second time, and her eyes narrowed. Something was up, that much was certain.

Xander frowned, turning his head to the window, then raised his hand. "Excuse me, check please!"

"What's going on?" Nat leaned forward.

"We've got a problem." Xander said, leaning in as well. "There's an NRO satellite currently keeping tabs on Sunnydale, hanging ust outside our electronic countermeasures... and KARR just informed me that someone or something just did a close up and personal scan of him. I don't know for sure that it's trouble, but it's not a good thing, that much I'll bet."

Natalie frowned, "Scanned?"

"High frequency microwave pulse." Xander replied, "KARR isn't certain how much they got, but that alone is bad since KARR is pretty paranoid about his internal components."

Natalie nodded slowly and they sat back as the check arrived.

"Is there a problem, Sir?"

Xander smiled at the man, "Yes actually, but it's personal. I'm afraid that a family emergency just came up."

"Oh, I see... Shall I arrange a..."

"No thanks." Xander said, dropping enough cash the cover the bill a couple times over. "My compliments to the chef, the Steak was excellent."

"Yes. It was." Natalie nodded, rising to her feet.

"Very good Sir."

The two of them walked toward the door, side by side, and Xander leaned in smoothly, whispering in Nat's ear. "Are you armed?"

She nodded imperceptibly. "Like you told me... never come to Sunnydale unarmed. Silver dagger, and a Walther loaded with 9mm silver."

Xander nodded. It probably wasn't going to do much good against whatever was out there, after all vampires usually didn't use high technology, and that was what KARR had detected, but at least she'd have a way of defending herself against vampires and demons if the worst happened and she found herself facing something nasty on her own.

"Good. Sun's down, watch for vamps." Xander said.

Natalie nodded softly as they reached the door. Xander paused in midstep, then smirked over at her. "And remind me to frisk you later... I want to know where you hid those."

Natalie grinned, blushing slightly as they stepped outside.

KARR surreptitiously powered up his systems, still leaving the active scanners off on the odds that whoever was watching him didn't really know what they were dealing with. Xander was approaching the exit of the restaurant, and KARR expanded his surveillance as he lit off his drive moters.

"He's getting ready to bolt!" Dom blurted, her screens lighting up as she rescanned the target to confirm her readings. "I have positive activation on all eight drive motors!"

Jenny muttered under her breath, "Kyle, it looks like we may have been spotted."

Duke's voice came over the network a moment later, "I'm right with you, Jen. Call the play."


"Take him down."

"You got it." Jenny said, punching in a series of commands. "Bring the forward laser online, prime all rockets, and unsafe the guns."

If KARR had been a swearing kind of guy, he would have cursed in every language he knew. The sudden electronic signature he was looking at was nothing to scoff at, and whoever was behind it was at least as advanced as any human technology he'd ever heard of, and they'd just scanned him.

KARR lit off his sensors, going into full active mode as he searched for his unknown stalker.

"Whoa baby!" Domino yelped in surprise. "He has such a *big* sensor."

Jenny made a face at the AI's choice of words, but didn't say anything. "Kyle, we've been hit with an active scan... a powerful one."

"He's moving, Jen baby." Dom purred. "Looks like this bad boy is the shy, retiring, type."

Jenny nodded, shifting the Mustang into first and hitting the gas even as the black transam accelerated hard in reverse and swung around.

"Lock him up, Dom..." She ordered as the Mustang swung around to lock onto the Transam.

A tone sounded through the car and Jenny reached down a pressed a button.

Deep in the innards of the Red Mustang a whine sounded as a capacitor discharged into an exciter coil and sent a beam of energy out through the front grill.

Laser attack!

KARR recoiled in physical shock as a brief glare of laser light seared through an oening in his front grill and raised the temperature of his inner components by several dozen degrees in an instant. The only thing that had saved him was the fact that he was still swinging, and the majority of the burst had impacted on an armored surface.

His active sensors were reporting back, identifying the target as a red 1997 mustang that was even now powering up to full alert levels and accelerating toward him.

The Foundation.

It was the only answer, though the electronic signatures were decidedly different then his own or KITT's. KARR shifted into drive and put the pedal to the floor.

A squeal of tires was what greeted Xander and Natalie as they left the restaurant, followed by the sight of KARR roaring out of the parking lot and cutting a hard left as it hit the road.

On the other side of the road a red mustang roared into action, and Xander caught sight of a woman behind the wheel before the two cars flashed past and out of sight.

"KARR!" Xander snapped, "We're outside the restaurant. Sweep back around and pick us up!"

Jenny muttered a few profane words under her breath, something she didn't normally like to do. She had Domino to the floor, but the Transam was pulling away like she was standing still.

"He's do damned fast!" She muttered over the network, hands gripping the wheel tightly as she watched the Transam take a 90 degree corner at over eighty miles per hour.

"Some guys have that problem, I understand." Domino quipped.

"Oh shut UP already!"

"Does anyone have KARR on screens!?" Kyle demanded, leaving the driving to Dante as he watched the satellite surveillance and noted that Domino had just lost KARR for a second before she took the same corner a moment later.

The computer supplied the answer quickly with a big fat no.

Kyle swore under his breath, noting the path. "Erica, he's coming right at you. Don't let him get away."

Erica smiled under her helmet as she twisted the throttle all the way open and felt Kat jump under her. "You got it, boss man."

Ahead of them they could see the headlights approaching fast and Erica glanced down at the holographic display, noting the crosshairs that had appeared in the center of the enhanced image of the Black Transam.

"Laser ready." Kat said in her prim voice.

"Wait for it." Erica muttered.

"We have a shot."

"Wait for it."

"Erica, really I must insist..."

"Now!" Erica snapped, thumbing the firing stud for the mini laser mounted on the bike.

A series of capacitors discharged in rapid sequence, and tightly bound elements of coherent light stabbed out into the air.

But just at that moment, KARR executed a handbreak turn to the left and took the energy harmlessly on the Molecular Bonded side panels.

"Damn!" Erica cursed, smacking the center of the handlebars. "Missed him, he's headed north now! I'm in pursuit!"

Kat and Erica laid almost flat out as they took the turn barely any slower then KARR had, snapping upright as they came out of it right on his tail.

Kyle grimaced. He'd hoped it would be neater then this.

"Duke. He's coming right at you now... And Beast? Don't level the town."

Chapter 8

Duke DePalma gripped the steering wheel of Attack Beast firmly, cricking his neck as he reached down with his free hand and activated the flip up weaponry control panel.

"Charging MASER." He said, tapping in a command sequence.

"Maser charging." Beast grunted in response, "Targeting the AI's central core."

Unlike the lasers that their comrades carried, Attack Beast was mounted with a forward Maser, a Microwave based laser system, that could penetrate even the Molecular Bonded Shell of a Knight Industries AI.

On the holographic screen within Beast's cab, a rough schematic of KARR appeared on the screen, a red light flashing just ahead of the glove compartment.


Duke grimaced slightly, but nodded. "Fire."


The energy pulse KARR read from the Ford F150 ahead of him was enough to set off every warning buzzer the AI had, and he instantly swerved away as the pulse suddenly vanished and a blast of energy struck him a glancing blow that nevertheless rocked him back and forth as sparks flew off his armored surface and he experienced a power drain throughout his systems.

The drain only lasted a second, though, as his inner workings weren't reliant on any so called 'soft' electronics. His internal fuel cell kept pushing power through, so as soon as the microwave pulse faded, his systems came back to full power.

KARR didn't want to face that one down a second time, though, so he cut to the left again.

"Shit!" Duke cursed, flooring the F150.

The big truck's tires squealed against the road, smoke flying as they accelerated. "Damn it! Jenny, he's coming back your way!!"

Kat and Eric didn't slow down in the slightest as they went flat out again, following the Transam around the corner. "We're staying on him!"

Xander frowned as the Mustang executed a u-turn at the end of the block and accelerated back his way. He tensed, but the car's driver wasn't even looking at him as they came to a stop nearby and stood waiting for something.


"What's going on?" Natalie asked, confused.

"I don't know yet." Xander listened to the updated information from KARR as the AI ran the gauntlet that had somehow appeared around them. "Someone's after KARR."


Xander just shrugged, "I'll worry about that later."

With that he simply walked out into the street.

"Xander! What...!?"

He held up a hand and she paused, waiting. Natalie's breath sucked in as she saw a gleaming sliver of metal appear in his fist as he strode toward the Mustang. <What is he...>

"What is this jackass doing?" Domino muttered in annoyance as a man stepped out into the road and walked toward them.

"I don't know," Jenny muttered, tapping the public address button. "Sir. Please return to the curb. This is a police matter."

"He's not stopping..." Domino muttered, suddenly feeling a little nervous for some reason the AI couldn't fathom. Then her sensors picked up something... impossible.

"Jenny... he has something in his hand..."

Jenny was about to ask, but the man had reached the car just then and dropped into a spinning crouch as a flash of silver shot from his hand.

There was a crunch, and a blast of something, and Domino settled to one side.

"He *destroyed* my tire!!" The AI shouted in indignation.

Jenny stared in shock as the man flipped her a jaunty salute and turned away.

"What's your situation, KARR?" Xander asked as he walked away from the disabled Mustang.

Natalie watched as Xander frowned, then nodded.

"Alright, listen to me. Slow down. No, I'm NOT crazy. Slow down. That's right."

Xander stepped up to the curb, extending his arm to Natalie and smiling at her as she took it. "This should be fun."

"What?" Nat asked in confusion.

"KARR is being chased by a motorcycle."

She was about to ask what that had to do with anything, but then KARR skidded around the corner and came toward them.

"Can you get a lock!?" Jenny snapped.

"Negative!" Domino snapped back, "Hang on... we're going to try swinging around."

The rear wheels bit into the pavement as the gas was applied, but the AI swung the wrong way as the destroyed tire dragged.


Xander ignored the Mustang as he watched KARR. "Alright buddy... slower... slower..."

A grey and red Honda motorcycle wipped around the corner, the driver rapidly applying the brake as the bike snapped upright and the rear of the Transam appeared *much* closer then it should have been.

"Now! Brake!" Xander snapped.

The Transam skidded to a stop right in front of Natalie and Xander, just as the bike plowed into the rear of it.

There was a scream as the biker flew over the body of the sports car, landing in a sprawling skid that went on at least fifty feet.

"My lady?" Xander stepped off the curb, extending his hand to Natalie, who smiled in return.

"My lord."

Jenny and Domino watched, first in horror, then in shock, as Erica and Kat plowed into the back of the rogue AI, sending Erica flying into the street. Then the man who had disabled Dom had the audacity to *leisurely* stroll around the sports car, opent he door for his *date*, then head back around and get in the drivers seat.

Of course, then it got insulting.

"He *waved* at us." Dom seethed, unable to do much else. "That arrogant *bastard* waved at us!!"

Jenny didn't join the AI in it's rage, thought she felt the urge to. She quickly got out and moved around to check on Erica.

By the time she'd gotten to her comrade, Kat had righted herself and had driven up as well.

"Erica! Erica!?" Jenny dropped to her knees. "Are you ok?"

"She's alive." Kat said quickly. "Nothing broken... I think she's fine."

"No..." Erica seethed as she painfully sat up. "I am NOT fine. But I will be just as soon as we drag that black bastard back to a Foundation scrap yard."

Jenny let out a breath of relief, looking up as Beast cruised to a stop beside them.

"Are you guys ok!?" Duke asked, leaning out the window.

"We're fine." Jenny muttered, "But Dom's front tire is destroyed. I'm going to need a replacement from SkyOne."

"Right." Duke nodded, "I'll call it in, and tell Gil to get his ass out here with a replacement. I've got to go... this guy is tricky."

"No kidding." Erica muttered dryly, climbing painfully back onto KAT.

As the big F150 accelerated away, both women and their AI's heard The Beast grumble a comment. "This is what happens when you send a woman to do a man's job."

"Now," Xander turned to the AI's display. "Who the hell are these people??"

KARR was silent for a moment, then finally spoke. "They must be from the Foundation."

"The Foundation for Law and Government?" Natalie frowned, "Umm... aren't they the good guys?"

Xander grimaced, "Unfortunately... yes."

"Ouch." She looked over her shoulder, "I think you just got them a tad miffed at you."

Xander chuckled, "Yeah. Probably. You got anything on their cars, pal?"

"Armored. Armed. Superior to production vehicles, but not in my class performance wise." KARR said blandly. "I did detect multiple weapons systems on each, however. Including a MASER system that may be capable of harming me, even through the MBS."

"Shit." Xander cursed. "This is really getting ugly."

They took a random right turn, then a quick left.

"Alright, Pal... here's what we're going to do..." Xander started to talk, even as his eyes flicked to the rearview mirror.

"Xander... You aren't going to fight the police are you?" Natalie asked, a little nervously.

"I'm not going to hurt them... much." Xander smirked. "But they're messing with me and mine, can't let that go, Nat. Can't ever let that go."

Natalie bit her lip a little nervously.

"Look, you want out? We can find a safe place and..."

"No... No. You're not going to hurt them?"

"Nothing permanent anyway." Xander smirked.

Natalie smiled weakly, then nodded. "Then I'm in."

Chapter 9

"Does anyone have KARR on scanners?" Kyle demanded as he slowed Dante, pushing as much powers through the AI's sensors as he dared.

Negative responses came back, one after the other, and Kyle growled in annoyance after shutting down his transmitter. "This isn't good, Dante."

"I'm aware of that, Kyle." Dante muttered back, straining his own range as he scanned for KARR's electronic signature. "KARR is remarkably stealthy given the obsolete nature of his electronics."

Kyle didn't bother responding as he opened a patch to SkyOne. "JP, do we have anything on the Satellite we borrowed from the NRO?

"I'm running the images back now." The pilot answered from where he was sitting in the command center of SkyOne. "Damn, that boy moves fast."

"We're aware of that, JP. Just give me what you've got."

"Working on it, pard."

"Maybe we should pull in somewhere and wait them out." Natalie suggested.

Xander shook his head, "No. Not if the eye in the sky belongs to them, and I'm guessing it does. They'll have to zoom in to a pretty narrow field of view in order to see us, but I don't doubt that they have the computer technology to follow us wherever we go."

"So we go with the plan."

"Not just yet." Xander said, "KARR, they must have a communications network active... Scan through and fine the frequency... Get Merlin to help you crack the encryption if you need it."

Kyle sighed as he looked over the street layout as it was displayed on Dante's holographic matrix. "Nothing. Not a damn thing. Where the hell could he be hiding?"

"Unknown." Dante was more serious then usual, his tone sharp with a brittle edge. "But a more interesting question would be how one human with a hand held weapon could damage Domino."

Kyle nodded grimly, "I know. I've been trying to figure that out myself."

"It does not speak well of what KARR himself may be capable." Dante said grimly. "The fact that he is hiding from us may be the first good news we've had on this mission."

"Yeah. Right." Kyle snorted. He'd believe *that* when KARR was back in a Foundation lab in about three billion pieces.

He was about to address the issue with the rest of TKR when their communications link faded out in a blast of interference, and then a new voice slowly faded in.

"I'm assuming that I'm speaking to the Foundation bozo's who are trespassing on my turf..." The voice said grimly.

Kyle stared at the speaker in shock.

<Someone broke our scrambling codes??> He had time to think before the voice came back.

"Well? Come on now, speak to me. I don't have all night you know."

"Dante, track that signal." He hissed, then flipped on his transmitter. "This is the head of the Foundation team. Identify yourself."

"I'm the guy driving KARR, your target, I presume?" The voice said with a hint of irony in his voice. "This is the only warning you're going to get, Flag-boy. Turn tail and drive out of Sunnydale. KARR is none of your concern."

"That AI is dangerous." Kyle said firmly. "We have an NRO intercept of him massacring a biker gang only a couple days ago!"

"Are you fucking kidding me??" The voice snapped back, "Those bastards had it coming! Did you see the damage they did to that town??"

"That's beside the point. You don't kill over fifty people in some vigilante crusade and expect to get away with it. That's not how the law works. Now turn over KARR and maybe you can avoid criminal charges."

Xander stared at the barely lit dash that hid KARR's main speaker, a touch of awe in his features. "You're an arrogant bozo, ain't ya? Listen up pal, some of my best friends are Vigilante Crusaders, and as I recall wasn't *Michael Knight* something of the same himself?"

"That's in the past, and irrelevant." The voice of the FLAG team leader came back. "The Foundation now reports to the federal government and as such we have a responsibility to take you and the rogue AI down."

"What if I were to tell you that not one of those Bikers had any claim to *any* protection under law?" Xander asked, mostly out of curiosity and to gauge the man's reaction.

"Nobody deserves to be killed out of hand, Mr...?"

"Very well," Xander ignored the question. "You have your warning. Take it or we'll take you. Out."

Xander cut the transmission, grimacing. "KARR... Jam their communications."

"Done." KARR replied stonily.

"Biker massacre?" Natalie asked, eyeing Xander.

"Demon biker gang." Xander shrugged, "They ripped a town apart, didn't leave a whole lot of people alive and unscarred. So KARR and I dealt with them."

Natalie nodded quietly.

Xander sighed, "Alright. Back to plan A then. We take them down, hard... but with as little injury to the agents as possible..."

He frowned, "KARR... do you suppose those cars are Ais?"

"Most likely." KARR said, sounding like he was having teeth pulled. "They certainly have a powerful electronics signature."

"That makes it more complicated." Xander sighed, "Just disabling the Agents won't be enough. We'll have to do it in such a way that we disable the vehicles too."

"How are we going to do that??" Natalie asked, "I mean... aren't they all as tough as KARR?"

Xander just nodded grimly.

"Duke? Erica? Jenny? Trek?" Kyle slapped the door of the Expedition. "Shit!"

"We are being jammed."

"No shit." Kyle muttered, sitting up straight as he started punching buttons. "Alright, fine. Jamming works two ways... We can't talk to each other, but if they're using KARR's countermeasure suite to do the job, then we can use IT to find them."

"On it, Kyle." The AI said eagerly.

"Kyle? Kyle? Damn." Duke Depalma muttered, slapping the steering wheel.

"Wide frequency jamming across all comm channels." Beast rumbled out.

"I figured." Duke said, seething. "Alright, we know what general direction he took. We'll start a point by point search. Keep an eye out for the others so we can touch base with them."


"This is bad. This is really bad." Trek muttered, cruising along the Sunnydale streets.

"Bad? You don't know bad." Plato returned.

"Alright... think this through... Plato, can we track the source of the Jammer?"


"Do it."

"We are all blind men in a cave, looking for a candle that was lit 3000 years ago." Plato responded.

Trek grinned under his helmet, "You know it, buddy."

"God DAMN IT!" Jenny snapped, startling Domino and the people who had gathered to see what had happened.

"Jeez, Jen... calm down," Dom tried to sound placating, ignoring the fact that she'd like to be cursing too. "Gil will get here soon enough."

"I don't like being out of contact with the others, Dom." Jenny said, pacing by the drivers side window.

"Hey, Me neither." Dom replied, "But we'll get my tire fixed, then if this bozo is still free we'll make Beast eat his words about women. Deal?"

Jenny smirked slightly. "Deal."

"Oh, I'm gonna put a hurting on this guy." Erica swore as she cruised down one suburban street that looked much like the last one.

"Which one? KARR or the guy driving him?" KAT asked, slightly amused, but also with a personal stake.

"The driver." She seethed.

"Good. Cause KARR is *mine*."

"Right. Now what the hell do we do about this jamming?"

"I don't know." The normally superior AI sounded glum. "I hate to say this... but I wish Plato were here."

"Yeah. Tell me about it."

KARR took a quick right as his sensors detected active scanning from ahead of them, then a left so that he was running parallell to the scanner, but in the opposite direction.

"This one of them?" Xander asked, tapping the display.

"Yes." KARR replied.

"Alright... let me out here." Xander smiled, handing Natalie a Fold Comm. "Here, this will let us talk through the jamming."

She nodded, accepting the device as the car slowed and the door popped open.

Xander hopped out, and vanished off into the shadows as the car accelerated away, the door slamming shut.

Natlie looked down at KARR's display. "Let's find the next one."

Chapter 10

"Yo Devon!"

"Yes Michael?" Devon asked, sighing tiredly in a fondly remembered rote pattern as he smiled ever so slightly out from the CRT built into KITT's dash.

"Didn't you say that you could smooth my way with the police?" Michael asked casually.

"I did." Devon said, the frowned. "Why?"

"Oh, no reason..." Michael shrugged, leaning forward to tap in a couple commands. "It's just that I'm looking at about fifteen cops and a road block about twenty miles up the road, and they're not to happy about the maniac in the black transam coming their way."

"What??" Devon looked shocked, "Just give me a few minutes, Michael... I'll get right on it!"

"Don't bother." Michael shrugged, tapping in another command.

"Why?" Devon asked, then frowned as an odd sound filtered through. "Michael... what's that sound?"

"Ohh.... Nothing." Michael Knight said as he flattened back in his seat under the acceleration of Turbo Boost.

"Michael? Are you running that road block?? Michael!!" Devon glared at him. "KITT, is he?"

"I'd prefer not to answer that question at the moment, Devon." KITT said calmly, noting the three cops cars that were currently passing under his position.

"Damn it, Michael! This isn't funny! We have enough problems already without you attracting that kind of attention!"

Michael shrugged, "What I want to know is why there was a cop back in Texas who kept on screaming 'Bandit!' over his radio..."

"That was odd." KITT agreed. "Frankly, I'm just as relieved that he ran into that river... As badly as he was driving he could have hurt someone."

"You got that right, pal." Michael shrugged, "Weird trip though."


Devon moaned over the connection.

Michael just smiled, "We're going through New Mexico now, Devon. Making better time then I expected. We'll be in California within the hour."

Devon jerked up, staring at the screen. "Michael! You didn't!"

"He did." KITT tattled.

"Sorry, Dev... couldn't help myself." Michael grinned.

"That system is still experimental!! Michael, of all the stupid, insane, foolish...!!!"

"Sorry Dev... gotta go..." Michael fiddled with the dials, causing the signal to scramble. "You're fading out... must be the mountains..."

"I'm still on the EAST side of the mountains, Michael!" Devon snapped. "KITT! Don't let him...."

The signal scrambled completely and Michael turned the system off and smiled.

"Old times, right Michael?" KITT asked.

"Damn right." Michael Knight grinned. He'd been caught in the board room just a little too much lately. "Let's go bag us a bad guy."

The Knight Industries Two Thousand sped through the night, the mountains looming in the distance but growing closer with each passing mile.

The speedometer read three hundred and seventy five miles per hour.

Xander ran down the length of the block, barely pausing as he spotted his target.

It looked to be the same bike that had run into the back of KARR just a few minutes earlier, and he spared a smile at the doggedness of the driver. It looked like, whatever their faults, the Foundation had found some determined people to handle their new super cars... umm... vehicles.

The bike was cruising slowly, obviously scanning carefully as it searched for it's prey.

For a moment Xander wondered if it really had any idea what it was search for, and whether the driver knew that there was a hunter hunting him?

But only for a moment.

Erica searched the streets with her eyes, examining every driveway and side road, while KAT minutely checked the entire area with ever high powered scanner at her disposal.

Wherever KARR had gone, it wasn't in the immediate area, of that the were certain.

"Damn he's a slippery one." Erica muttered in annoyance.

"We'll find him." KAT said confidently. "I just wish that were weren't out of touch with the others."

"Feeling a little insecure?" Erica teased the AI.

"Hardly." KAT responded simply. "I simply shudder to think of the trouble they're getting into without me along to dig them out."

Erica chuckled, "Of course. How silly of me."

"I have noticed your propensity toward foolishness, Erica."

"Don't you start with me." Erica muttered in response, a flash of mild irritation rearing it's head.

"Well if you would simply..."

"I said, don't start!"

As the motorcycle came abreast of him, Xander summoned Elan to his hand and cocked back his arm. A second later he let fly, sending the collapsed form of the Rune weapon flashing out through the night on a collision course with the bike.

At the last instant, Xander sent the mental command to activate the weapon, and it snapped open in an instant, intersecting the bike's front tire.

The motorcycle came to a screeching halt.

Screeching in a literal sense as well as figurative as the tires squealed against the pavement, the driver let out a shocked yell as she was lifted from the seat and sent sprawling to the ground, and an indignant squeal of outrage from the bike itself as the AI let loose with language bad enough to make *Xander* flinch.

He left Elan where she was, knowing that with the indestructible rune staff jammed in the front tire, there was no way the bike was going anywhere, and jogged over to the fallen biker.

He grabbed the body, rolling it over, and reached under the helmet to check vitals, then grunted in satisfaction and glanced over his shoulder. "Relax. Your driver's fine."

"Sure I am." A muffled voice snapped as a foot came up on an intersecting vector with Xander's head. "But you won't be."

Xander, half expecting that, intercepted the foot easily and fell with the force of the blow, pulling it along. The move catapulted the driver off the ground and into a spinning arc that terminated against a picket fence a few feet away as Xander hopped to his feet.

"Now calm down." He said, walking forward. "I'm not looking to hurt you..."

The driver struggled up, then angrily flipped off the motorcycle helmet, glaring at Xander a moment later. "Maybe not, but I AM looking to hurt you."

Xander groaned.

Great. He'd just pissed off yet another insane, violent prone, woman.

<What a life.> He had time to think as she attacked.

Natalie Cook sat in the passenger seat of the TransAm as they cruised through the scenes of Sunnydale suurbia, thinking about her 'assignment'.

Not that the execution of it was actually so difficult, assuming they could locate the target easily enough. It was the morality of it that was getting to her.

There people *were* agents of the U.S. Government acting in the pursuit of their duty.

The fact that their duty clashed with what was... what she *believed* was right... that was her only justification here. Help her boyfriend and his... well, his car to be frank, evade duly authorized representatives of the government, or don't and let them be arrested or maybe worse just because they had been helping people by eliminating a threat.

Natalie wasn't a supporter of vigilantism. That much she knew, but were Xander and KARR truly Vigilantes?

She sighed.

The answer was yes, unfortunately.

But only because they had found a segment of the world that lived outside society, a segment that society literally did not have the means, nor the ability, to regulate.

Life was much simpler before she found out that demons existed.

"Miss Cook."

Natalie focused on KARR's display. "Yes, KARR?"

"I believe I have located the next traget."

Natalie took a deep breath.

Put up or shut up time.

She nodded, "Alright. Show me."

The display changed, showing a blow dot flashing down a side street just ahead of them.

"Are you sure this is the one?" She asked.

"I... believe so." KARR said, sounding almost uncomfortable with the uncertainty in his response.

Natalie smiled, "I'll trust you then. Alright, let's find out what direction he turns in, then we'll decide how to proceed."

"Yes, Miss Cook."

"I told you before, KARR. It's Natalie to my friends." Natalie said simply, eyes on the screen.

KARR made the electronic equivalent of a blink, processing that phrase for several nanoseconds before he decided that the words were intended to include him personally in the group of her 'friends'.

Another few nanoseconds passed before KARR responded.

"Yes... Natalie."

Chapter 11

Erica opened with a snap kick aimed roughly for her opponent's mid section, which Xander easily dodged with a twisting sidestep that brought him in close to her. She followed through with a fist to his head, blocked by his forearm, then pivoted and aimed a kick at the side of his head.

Xander intercepted the leg and caught it, holding her in place as he looped one of her arms behind her back and pressed up close against her. "Really now, if you wanted to dance you could have just asked."

She growled, seriously pissed off, and nailed him across the face with her free hand.

Xander's head rocked to one side, and he winced. "Ouch."

Erica gasped in shock as he didn't move other then to turn his head back and stare at her through eyes that glowed silver.

"That wasn't nice." He smiled, then slammed his head into hers.

KAT watched in horror as the man took Erica down with ease, catching the unconscious woman before she could fall, then carried her causally back.

"You people are really cramping my style." He said casually in her direction as he came to a stop beside the bike. "I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do with you, huh? I can't leave you here... you'd make it through the night, but she'd be dead long before morning."

KAT didn't know whether she should respond or not, though there wasn't a whole lot else she could do at the moment either. Not as long as that infernal stick was jamming her front tire.

"Shy type, huh?" The man said, setting Erica down gently on the road beside KAT. "I've met KITT and I drive KARR. I know about Knight Industry Ais."

"Who are you?" KAT snapped.

The man smiled, "No one you need to know. Suffice to say, KARR works with me now, and I'll fight to protect him."

"He killed people."

"So have I lady," The man said, surprising KAT. Few humans reacted as easily toward her or the other Ais as this one did. "And let me tell you, those Bikers had all that coming... and more."

"He killed people before. Ones who didn't have it coming." Kat snapped.

The man paused, then sighed. "Yeah. I figured that was probably what happened. KARR doesn't talk much about his past."

"You have to let us take him!" KAT snapped, pressing her perceived advantage.

The man just shook his head, sighing softly. "No can do. I've got a deal with KARR, and there's no provision for what he has done in it. Only what he will do. Besides, he's helped me take down some very bad guys over the past year... I'm not stupid enough to think he's a good guy now, but he's working on the side of the Angels... for now at least."

"That AI is unstable... dangerous."

"Dangerous I'll give you." The man said, "Anyone who doesn't handle him right is gonna get crushed into a pulp. But unstable? I haven't seen any evidence of that... his stability is part of the problem."

KAT was about to argue further, but the man looked up. "Look. I don't have time to argue this with you anyway. KARR is one of my team..."

He looked down at Erica's body, then back at KAT. "You have any idea what that means?"

KAT fell silent for a long moment.

"Yes." She said after an interminable silence.

The man nodded, "Thought so. Can you drive on your own?"


The man nodded, then pushed KAT upright, still leaving the stick in her tire. Then he hefted Erica into the saddle and produced some plastic strips from his pocket. KAT didn't say anything as he literally tied Erica into place, then straightened up.

"Get her back to wherever your base is. Sunnydale is dangerous at night... for humans at least. Our homicide rate is the highest in the country... We lose several people every night." He said as he turned and walked away.

"Hey!" KAT called desperately. "I can't go anywhere with this stick in my tire!!"

The man smiled over his shoulder. "Oh. That."

He lifted a hand in the air, and KAT's sensors instantly rebelled at what was being fed to them. It wasn't *possible*, but the stick in question simple vanished from her wheel, and reappeared in the man's hand.

KAT sat in a stunned silence for just one second too long, and by the time she thought to go after him, the man was gone. Even from her sensors.

<A Stick.> Elan muttered in disgust, rolling her mental eyes. <A stick!>

<Give it a rest, Elan.> Xander smiled, watching the Motorcycle as it drove off.

He really didn't know if that was a bright idea, but the fact was that he didn't know what the hell to do with either of them. They were well enough trained, though not in his league, but the fact was that were playing well out of ANY league they were familiar with.

Leaving one of them unconscious or incapacitated around Sunnydale at night was out of the question, and Xander knew damned well that as soon as the woman was conscious she'd be raring to come back for a rematch.

Women were like that.

<Be careful with the broad generalizations, Alexander.> Elan muttered darkly.

<Ok, fine.> Xander thought back sharply, <Women *I* meet are like that.>

Elan started to retort, then considered it, and had to admit that he was mostly right.

Xander just rolled his eyes and stepped back into the shadows as he activated his Fold Comm.

Natalie Cook was waiting by the side of the road, watching the lights slowly approach when the Comm on her jaw rang with Xander's voice.

"Nat, you ok?"

"I'll get back to you in five, Xan." She said, stepping out into the road and waving her arms.

The Comm went silent in response, leaving Natalie to focus on the SUV that was slowing to a halt.

"Hello?" A man's voice came from the widow as it rolled down. "Are you alright?"

"Thank you so MUCH for stopping!" Natalie said, walking over. "I... I had an accident... I ran off the road..."

The door opened, and the man got out, almost making Natalie feel guilty for taking advantage of his good nature.

"Are you alright? I can call for an ambulance..."

"No I..." Natalie said, feigning a stumble and a swoon as she stepped closer.

He caught her easily, as she'd expected, and she looked up at him and smiled.

"Thanks for making this easy."

She saw the expression in his face as he realized that he'd been had, but he couldn't react *nearly* quickly enough. Her hand snapped up in a ridge hand attack, paralyzing the nerves in his right side. He caught herself as his arm went numb, pivoted on her heel, and landed a heel strike across the side of his head.

The man went down like a rock.

As he fell, Natalie heard the SUV kick into gear and reacted quickly and according to the plan. She dropped, kicking out, and rolled the body underneath the vehicles tires.

The SUV froze in place, inches from running him over, engine revving in tightly reigned in anxiety and fury.

"Sorry about that." Natalie said as she got to her feet and brushed at her dress. "Couldn't have you do something stupid like drive off. I can't carry him very far, and he'd be dead within an hour if we left him outside in this town."

The SUV continued to rev it's engine, it's front tire shifting around as it looked for a way to move without running over it's own driver.

"Now cut that out." Natalie slapped the hood of the vehicle with a chiding smile. "I'm not going to hurt either him, or you. This was just a... warning. Now hold still while I get him inside. Alright?"

No response.

"Look, you can agree to this or I can leave you two here all night. You decide."

"Alright." The AI buried inside the SUV said finally.

Natalie smiled sweetly, "Thank you."

As she was rolling the unconscious driver around, and manhandling him into the vehicle, the AI decided to take advantage of the moment.

"Who are you?"

Natalie shrugged, "Just a friend of KARR."

"He's a killer."

Natalie nodded, "I know. The Biker gang, right?"

"And others."

Natalie hesitated, but shrugged. "It's not what you think."

"How do you know what I think?"

"I know the man who is protecting KARR." Natalie said simply. "That's enough. KARR is his teammate, and maybe even his friend. He'll do anything to protect him."

"We aren't going to stop."

"I know that too." Natalie said softly.

"Then why do this?"

Natalie looked over at the console which housed the AI's electronic displays. "Would you let someone take him without a fight?"

She nodded at the unconscious driver.

The AI didn't have any response.

"Didn't think so. Now get him out of here..." Natalie shut the door. "And take this as a serious warning... The next time, you can bet that you're going to start wracking up a lot of garage time if you come back... You saw what happened to the Mustang, right? Your armor won't protect you from him."

With that she backed away until the shadows swallowed her.

Dante monitored her on his heat sensors until she was gone from those as well, the frowned as he was forced to shift into drive and turn back toward SkyOne. Kyle might need medical attention.

Chapter 12

Natalie sighed to herself, forcing a small grin as she considered the situation.

It was insane.

It was worse then insane.

It was almost up to Dylan levels.

Natalie snickered as she made her way through the shadows, emerging out in the open street just as a gleaming back shadow slid to a stop, the passenger side door opening.

"Thank KARR." She said as she slid into the seat.

"You are welcome, Natalie." KARR responded as the AI smoothly accelerated away.

They glided through the streets in stealth mode, tires whispering against the asphalt the only source of noise.

"What's the situation?" She asked softly.

KARR was silent for a moment, then finally, "Processing smoothly."

She nodded with a smile, "Good."

The sports car slid to a stop and the driver's door popped open as Xander slipped easily into place. He grinned over at her, his eyes roving up and down her body. "No problems?"

"None." Natalie returned, smiling slightly under his gaze.

"Good." Xander returned his attention to the road as KARR pulled smoothly away from the curb. "You have their locations plotted, pal?"

"Yes, Xander." KARR intoned. "They are broadcasting their locations while in Surveillance mode."

Xander nodded, "Not used to dealing with people who have access to counter-electronics."

He sighed, then shrugged. "You know, I wish the bad guys were this cooperative."

Natalie suppressed a giggle.

"Ah well." Xander reached forward, tapping a button. "Let's give them their radio back... for a while."

"Huh? Why?" Natalie asked.

"The only thing better then confusing the opposition," Xander said with an air of quoting someone, "is to demoralize them."

"Damn it!" Jenny blurted uncharacteristically, kicking the demolished tire in frustration.

"I understand that you're upset, Jenny... but must you take it out on my tire?" Domino asked archly. "Perhaps you'd prefer taking battery leads to my central processing unit?"

Jenny closed her eyes and sighed. "Sorry, Dom. I'm just frustrated."

"I understand." Domino said, a little warmer. "However there is little we can do until Gil gets here with the replacement tire and rim."

"I know." Jenny shook her head. "What the hell could he have used to do this much damage to your rim?? Wasn't it bonded?"

"It was." Domino said in a tone that was darker, more focused. "And I have a scanner rendering of it... however, I'm not sure I believe it."

"Huh?" Jenny asked, confused.

"Come sit down and I'll show you." Domino said, popping the drivers side door.

Jenny sighed and walked around, dropping into the car. "Ok, what is it?"

"It's on the screen now."

Jenny looked, then did a quick double take. "It's a stick."

"According to my database it's a staff actually." Domino replied.

"Staff, stick, same thing. Are you telling me that's what wrecked your rim??"

"According to my scans."

"That's impossible." Jenny said flatly.

"And yet..." Domino paused in mid word.

"Dom? What is it?"

"The jammer has shut off. I'm in contact with the other AI's." Domino said, her voice tinged with concern.

"Did they get him?" Jenny asked, assuming that was the reason for the jamming to stop.

"No... Jenny, Kyle and Erica were attacked and rendered unconscious. They're being taken back to SkyOne for medical treatment." Domino sounded shocked.


"Ahhh.... California air."

"Michael, my cockpit air is sanitized, filtered, and recirculated. You are breathing the same air you have been breathing for hours." KITT said matter of factly.

"That's not the point, KITT. It's all about a state of mind..." Michael grinned, enjoying the familiar pattern as he only kept one eye on the road ahead.

They were passing through the mountains now, heading down toward the foothills. Soon, with a little luck, they'd be on a straight line to Sunnydale.

Hopefully before anyone got hurt.

"I'm receiving a call from Devon, Michael." KITT said after a moment. "Should I put him through?"

"By all means." Michael smiled serenely.

"Michael, has the 'interference' stopped?" Devon asked archly over the screen.

Michael looked seriously at the screen, nodding. "I think it has. KITT?"

"Oh yes, most certainly." KITT replied, making a note to himself that one sure way to fix interference was to keep Michael's grubby paws away from the tuning controls.

"Good." Devon said with a hint of annoyance. "I've called to inform you that I've managed to secure a Knight Industries mobile repair center... and Bonnie's aid in this mission."

"Excellent." KITT said quickly.

"When he's right, he's right." Michael smiled. "Where do we meet?"

"Twenty miles west of Sunnydale." Devon said seriously. "Michael... They've found KARR."

Michael winced. "How bad is it?"

"Could be worse. We lost radio contact with the TKR group for a period, but it's been restored... KARR has help, I'm afraid." Devon said grimly. "Competent help."

"That's bad." KITT said.

"That's very bad." Michael confirmed. "What's his story?"

Devon started to speak when someone said something off screen. "One moment, Michael... I think you'd better hear this..."

"I'm speaking to the Foundation team and their AI's..." Xander said calmly as KARR ghosted along the Sunnydale streets, evading the beacons that were the other car's scanners with ease. "We intercepted and disabled two of your personnel, and even managed to disable one of your armored cars while successfully ambushing two others. You are playing out of your league here. I highly recommend that you back off until daylight, then send in someone to negotiate."

"He's a nervy bastard." Duke muttered, "I'll give him that."

"He's still talking." Beast grumbled.

"Can you track him?"

"I'm triangulating with Domino and Dante now."

"Good. Find me this bastard."

"KARR is under my protection, and you have no legal claim to him." Xander continued. "If we MUST deal in legal semantics, the Foundation abandoned him over a decade ago. I found him, I repaired him, so under national and international law... he's *mine*."

"Is he right about that, Devon?" Michael asked.

Devon shrugged, "Technically? It's quite likely. We could possibly sue for control of the AI itself, given that Knight Industries has a degree of protection from espionage from the US Government... Of course, it's all a legal fiction anyway."


"The Bikers, Michael." Devon reminded him. "KARR killed those people... or his driver did. TKR won't back down over a mere legal fabrication."

Michael nodded.

"And in case you're thinking about those Bikers you guys saw us take out on Satellite TV," Xander smirked over at Natalie. "I think if you check your records, there is no warrant out over that... except in the Bikers names themselves. In fact, as far as the law is concerned they're still quite alive. No bodies were ever found, nor will any ever be found... You're satellite movie is just that. A movie. It will not see the inside of a court room, and I assure you that if you try to grab KARR, you WILL be seeing me in court."

"Devon..." Michael glared at the screen.

"Checking now." Devon sighed, tapping on a computer.

After a moment he sighed. "He might be right. There is no mention of those Biker's deaths in any police report. In fact, there was no evidence of DNA, blood, or bodies at the scene when investigators arrived."

"Devon, that's impossible." Michael snapped, "I saw that video... Those Bikers were ON their bikes..."

"I'm looking, Michael..." Devon said, frowning. "I'll have some people get right onto it."

"Alright. You do that." Michael said, thinking. "For the moment, we'll wait and see what TKR does. If they wait, we'll wait... as long as we don't lose KARR."

"And if they don't?"

"Then I back them up." Michael said grimly.

"Got him." Beast said with grim satisfaction. "Traveling north by north west three streets over."

"Let's get this Bozo." Duke smiled grimly, hands tightening on the wheel.

Chapter 13

A pothole shook the Ford Expedition, throwing it's lone occupant over and against the armored window.

"Ow! Shit!" Kyle Stewart groaned as his head cracked up against the glass.

"Kyle!" Dante spoke in surprise. "Are you alright?"

"What hit me?"

"A blond." The AI said simply. "A Cute one, if I understand human aesthetics correctly."

Kyle groaned. "Aww shit. Now I remember."

"If it's any consolation, her form was excellent. My data banks indicate that she was a Black Belt, Fourth Dan at least." Dante said quietly.

"It's not, but thanks." Kyle muttered, rubbing his neck. "I feel like someone just stomped on my neck with steel toe boots. Where are we going?"

"Back to SkyOne." Dante replied, "You may need medical attentio..."

The team network suddenly crackled to life.

"All units, this is Duke. We've got him. Heading North North West on... ummm... Pine Street!"

Kyle groaned, grabbed the wheel, and turned off autodrive. As the SUV pulled a U-Turn, Dante spoke up. "Are you certain about this, Kyle? You could be hurt."

"I'm fine." He ground out, stepping down on the gas hard.

KAT slid to a smooth stop as Plato and Trek appeared on a intersecting street, coming their way.

"Trek! Plato! I'm so glad to see you!" KAT burst out, then abruptly realized what she was saying. "I mean, not that I couldn't handle this myself, but a little help is sometimes nice."

Trek half frowned, half smirked as he dismounted Plato and walked over. "Erica?"

"She's still unconscious." KAT said. "Her vitals are good though. I think she's fine."

Trek frowned, lifting Erica's head off the gas tank, and patted her cheeks. "Hey... come on, wakey wakey..."

Erica groaned a bit, and tried to turn away.

"Come on, Wake up!" Trek shouted, then instantly flushed a little.

Erica jolted a bit, arms jerking in reflex as she tried to bat him away, but didn't move as the plastic strips that held her bound refused to move. "What the...?"

"Are you alright??" KAT asked, a little quickly.

"My head hurts." Erica groaned, then tried to move again. "And I can't move my arms and legs."

Trek smirked a bit, walking around the back of the bike. "That's cause you're tied to KAT. You know Erica this look is quite fetch...."

"Don't. Even. THINK. It." Erica growled at him, looking over her shoulder. "Just get me loose."

"I would, but I don't have a knife." Trek said apologetically.

"You don't have a...!?" Erica stared at him, eyes wide. "Never mind. Look, there's one in my boot."

"This one?" Trek asked, pointing to her right boot.

Erica nodded.

Trek easily found the knife, a chisel tipped balisong, and clumsily flipped it open, then cut the ties holding her hands in place. Erica grabbed the flip knife from him, snipping the ties on her boots easily, then flipped it shut with an expert move.

"Now. Where is he!?" She ground out through clenched teeth.

"Umm... Who?" Trek asked, mystified.

"I believe she means the young man who took her down like she was a rookie with a white belt." KAT supplied helpfully.

"Thank YOU." Erica snapped, wacking the gas tank of the Honda motorcycle in annoyance.

"Well... I don't really know," Trek said, backing away lest she slap HIM. "But Duke just announced that he had located KARR and..."

"Let's go!" Erica growled, straddling KAT and flipping the systems over to manual control.

"Erica, regulations are very specific concerning head injuries..." KAT said, only to be cut off.

"You can bitch about it to Dante and Kyle later." Erica muttered, gunning the engine as Attack Beast's location came up on the holographic display. "Right now, we ride."

Trek had to jump back as the bike squealed against the asphalt, then tore out, nearly running his toes over. He watched them take off as Plato slid easily up beside him. As he mounted up, Trek looked down at Plato. "Women. Go figure."

"Most women use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband." Plato said after a moment's thought.

Trek looked down for a moment, frowning as the bike accelerated away. "Gee, isn't that a cheery thought."

The headlights appeared from nowhere ahead of them, weaving madly as the vehicle in question swerved onto the road and headed straight for them.

"Oh great, we've got company." Xander muttered, punching up KARR's active scanners and directing them full forward.

KARR scanned the vehicle quickly, and didn't like what he saw. "That is the heaviest armed one of the group. It's forward armaments include high yield rockets and a front firing MASER that may be capable of penetrating my MBS."

"Great. Just freaking great." Xander growled, pushing down on the gas as he whipped the wheel over.

The Transam responded instantly, and the black car cut off the road and into Sunnydale's central park.

"Oh you do NOT think you can match us off road," Duke grinned, whipping the wheel around and sending Attack Beast crashing through a park bench and into the park after the escaping Transam.

The heavier, but high, F150 roared over a small hill and regained line of sight on the Transam for a moment before KARR vanished into some trees.

Duke reached up and flipped a couple switches, "Come on, Beast... Give me a layout of the park and calculate probable emergence points."

"Working." Beast intoned.

A map of the park appeared on the display a second later, along with several lines of convergence for KARR's probable escape routes.

"Yes!" Duke grinned, "Send this to the others. Let's rope this little doggy."

"Duke has him penned in..." Domino said as Jenny shifted and squirmed in her seat.

"Maybe." Jenny muttered.

"The others are moving to complete the net. I think they can take them." Domino offered.

"Stop trying to make me feel better." Jenny snapped.

"Who's trying to make *you* feel better!?" Domino snapped right back.

"Where the hell is Gil anyway!?"

"Ask and ye shall receive." Domino said suddenly, her voice lightening.

Ahead of them a black van appeared, slowing to a halt near them as the chief mechanic hopped out and looked around a little nervously.

Jenny jumped out of Dom, glaring at the man. "Where have you been!?"

"S... Sorry! It took a little while to find you guys... I mean, we don't all have AI's in our vehicles you know, and well... I mean..." Gil glanced around, "This isn't really my bag anyway... We should have just towed you back... I mean, I probably can't do anything out here anywa..."

"Gil." Jenny cut him off firmly, smiling sweetly at the nervous man. "You are going to get the tire and rim changed, and you are going to get it done FAST. Do we have an understanding here?"

"Ummm... uh.... Yes Ma'am."


"Tree!!" Natalie screamed, holding a hand up against the windshield.

"I see it!"

"Park Bench!!"

A loud crash sounded.

"I didn't see that."

"Tree! Tree!"

"Relax, I've got it..." Xander said, reassuringly.

Natalie looked over, hanging on to the seat and the dash. "Maybe you should let KARR drive..."

"Alright, now that's insulting!" Xander grinned, ducking the black Transam through a gap in the trees and uprooting some branches. "I mean, you drive with Dylan for Christ's sake!"

"Yeah, but she can drive!" Natalie returned.

"Oh, now you're just being mean." Xander mock pouted as he called up a park over view on KARR's displays. "What do you think, pal? Where are they going to cut us off?"

Several red 'X's appeared on the screen i various places.

Xander nodded, "Looks good. Alright, down to business."

"Michael, I'm afraid that they've cornered KARR in a park." Devon said grimly. "With luck, TKR may have this wrapped up shortly."

"Right." Michael replied, equally grim. "And without it, the Foundation might be needing a new flagship team. KITT, I'm afraid we're going to have to push the limits on the new turbine system."

"Very well, Michael. But if you burn out my tires, I'm not speaking to you."

Chapter 14

"You know that they're not just going to give up and leave, right?" Natalie asked, holding on as KARR twisted through a narrow walking path, narrowly evading a stand of trees.

Xander nodded simply, "Yeah. But I've got Merlin trying to worm his way into the Foundation as we speak... The key is finding out who's giving the orders... We might be able to short circuit the chain of command."

"Oh?" Natalie looked over at him, one eyebrow raising. "And how do you plan on doing that?"

Xander smirked, "I know some people."

Natalie as about to say something when a single headlight appeared ahead of them.

"Whoops. Bogey ahead." Xander twisted the wheel, gunning the engine, and turned off down another path.

"You could at least have the decency not to look like you're having FUN." Natalie said accusingly.

Xander grinned, "What? I'm not allowed to enjoy my work?"

"There are thee vampires ahead." KARR said, interrupting Natalie's response.

Xander grinned and floored it.

As the TransAm thumped over the two vamps that were too stunned to run, Xander looked over at Natalie. "See? Business, pleasure... presto. Perfect mix."

Natalie rolled her eyes and turned back to the road.

"Shit." Paulo Maith groaned from where he was lying on the ground.

His arms and legs didn't work at the moment, twisted as they were at unnatural angles. He turned his head barely. "Beth... you alive?"

Beth Trieste moaned pitifully, then growled, "I'm a vampire you stupid fuck. Of course I'm not alive."

"Man! Are you two ok??" The third member of their little group ran over to them, dropping down beside Beth with a stunned look on his face.

"Did you see who the FUCK hit us??" Beth growled, majorly pissed off. "Tell me you saw!"

"Yeah... yeah. It was that Black Transam that Harris drives..."

"Harris." Paulo muttered in disgust, trying to get up despite his broken limbs. "I owe that bastard for losing the cup last year... Tomorrow night we're going to find a couple of those girls he hangs out with and..."

A second set of headlights took them by surprise, and this time no one got a chance to run.

"Shit!" Duke looked over his shoulder. "Did we hit someone!?"

"Negative." Beast rumbled. "There was no body heat. I am scanning for any potential civilian interference. That was most likely park decorations."

"Thank god." Duke muttered, wiping his forehead clean. "For a minute there I thought..."

"The target is ahead."

Duke nodded, gripping the wheel tightly. "Ok, let's get him."

"Fuuucckkkk.... that hurstss..."

"I can't move... Can either of you move?"

"Who the fuck was it that time??"

"What kind of asshole drives through the park at night anyway??"

"I'm serious guys... I can't move... Can you guys?"

"I think I can... a bit..."

The whine of a motorcycle engine approaching hit them just before the flicker of it's headlight, and the vampires groaned.

"Oh fuck. Not again."

"Damn!" Erica cursed as she hit a lump in the road. "This terrain sucks!"

"Beast is within sight of KARR now, Erica," KAT said, ignoring what she couldn't change. "Attack Beast is more capable in this terrain then we are."

"Tell me something I don't know!" Erica snapped, slowing down as another turn in the path showed up ahead of them. "Where are they?"

"There are two currently chasing us." KARR said simply, "Another lies in wait fifty meters ahead, and a fourth is blocking the south entrance of the park."

"Cool." Xander smiled, "Let's shake this up a little... Hey KARR... I've got an idea... You remember what were were talking about when you showed me Turbo Boost?"

KARR was silent for a long moment.

"Absolutely not." The AI finally said.

"Oh come on!" Xander grinned.


"It'll be hilarious!"

"I won't do it."

By this point Natalie was looking between them, completely at a loss. "What are you two talking about?"

Xander grinned, "Oh, you've got to see this... Come on, KARR..."

"Negative." KARR intoned rather loudly.

Xander grinned evilly. "They'll *hate* it."

KARR fell silent.

Beast came around a stand of trees, moving far faster then could be deemed safe, and almost ran full tilt into Dante.

"Shit!" Duke cursed, hauling the wheel hard over as the big F150 went into a skid.

The truck slid to a halt, it's armored side just kissing the side panels of the Ford Expedition as Duke looked over at Kyle who was staring, white faced, at him in turn.

He rolled down the window as Kyle did the same. "Which way did he go??"

"Go? He didn't come through here!" Kyle shouted back.

Duke, looked back the way he'd come. "Impossible! I only lost sight of him for a second!"

Kyle sighed and looked down at Dante's scanner display. "Have you got any sign of him?"

"I'm afraid not, Kyle." Dante replied. "KARR has once more deactivated his active sensors, and is running stealthed."

Kyle sighed and shook his head. He was turning back to say something to Duke when Erica and KAT came slewing around the corner at reckless speeds.

Erica instantly realized her mistake and laid on the brakes, causing the Honda bike to fishtail as they dumped their velocity, resulting in almost enough braking to stop her before running into Beast.


The thump was loud enough to make Duke and Kyle wince, and Erica sailed through the air a moment later, landing with another thud on Beast's hood.

Duke winced again, leaning out the window. "Erica... you ok?"

She lay still for a minute, not saying anything at all.

"Erica...?" Kyle popped open his door and got out, starting to come around to check on her.

Suddenly she moved, growling as she hauled off and slammed her fist down onto Beast's hood.

"Hey! Easy on the truck!" Duke yelled, waving a hand reflexively before he remembered how well armored the truck was.

"He did it AGAIN." Erica ground out, glowering around her with such a withering glare that Kyle took a step back and Duke looked away.

"Man. This guy is toast." Duke muttered under his breath. "Erica is ready to slice out his liver and feed it to him."

Kyle just sighed and shook his head as he looked around the dark park. In the distance a single light was heading up towards them, and they quickly recognized Plato and Trek.

The bike slowed to a stop, until Trek rested one foot on the ground and flipped his helmet off. "Hey Guys... Um... Where is he?"

He paused, staring at Erica, "Uh... Erica... what are you doing on Beast's hood?"

Erica glowered at him, "Shut. Up."

"This is gonna be so good."

Natalie looked over, a little worried about the absolutely gleeful gleam in Xander's eyes. "Xander... I really don't know if antagonizing agents for the Foundation is such a good idea."

"Oh no..." Xander shook his head, "They came into MY town, chasing after MY teammate. If I can't kill them, I'm gonna make 'em pay another way. This is perfect."

Natalie shook her head. "They're gonna hunt you to the ends of the earth. You know that, right?"

Xander just grinned like a maniac as he floored the gas pedal and KARR tore out of it's hiding spot.

The twin headlights caught them like deer in the road, Kyle, Plato, and Erica froze for just and instant as the Transam charged them at full speed, unable to really believe what was happening.

At the last moment they threw themselves outward, trying to keep it from being able to mow them all down at once, but just then the car lifted off into the air and flew over tope of KAT, Plato, Beast, and Dante with ease, and over the whine of the engine they all heard something odd.

KARR landed on the other side and roared out of sight as everyone was picking themselves up, and the members of the Foundation's elite TKR team looked at each other in confusion, and in one case, pure rage.

"What the hell was that?" Dante asked, frowning.

Erica just screamed.

Inside Beast, Duke was pounding on the steering wheel and yelling. "Get out of the way! I'm gonna PULVERIZE that fucker!!"

"What are you guys screaming for?" KAT asked, confused.

Kyle was seething, but managed to speak. "Did he just do what I think he did?"

Trek's head was craned as he followed the path that KARR had taken, but he nodded. "He whistled dixie at us."

"Huh?" Kat blurted in confusion.

"He just compared us to about the most incompetent Cop ever to be shown on TV." Kyle said with remarkable calmness.

Plato, unfortunately, chose that moment to make his comment. "Come on, Enos, let's cuff 'em and stuff 'em."

Erica spun around on her heel, finger ponting straight at the motorcyle. "You shut UP! Whose side are you on anyway!?"

"Ghk ghk ghk." Plato replied in an eerie approximation of Roscoe P. Coltrane's laugh.

Erica growled and advanced on the bike as Trek held up his hands placatingly. "Come on, he doesn't mean anything by it... Erica... Erica...?"

Chapter 15

The Knight Industries Two Thousand rolled smoothly up the ramp and into the still moving Semi-Trailer, coming to a sudden stop in the hastily rigged repair and refit depot built into the truck as the door closed shut behind it.

"Yo Devon!" Michael grinned, sliding out of the car. "What's the latest?"

"Not good, I'm afraid." Devon frowned, coming forward with a long printout in his hands. "It seems that the TKR group has become somewhat... Shall we say, irritated, with KARR and his... ummm... driver."

Michael raised an eyebrow, "Pardon?"

"The TKR tactical network that we've been able to intercept shows that the Drivers and even their AI's are rather... miffed over some stunt that KARR pulled."

"Stunt? Did he hurt anyone?" Michael frowned in confusion. "He didn't kill one of the..."

"No... no... Nothing like that." Devon frowned, "Frankly, I'm not sure I understand the situation. Apparently KARR turbo boosted over a group of them while... whistling dixie??"

Michael stared blankly at Devon for a moment, then blinked. "Did you say... whistled Dixie??"

"Indeed I did." Devon frowned, puzzled as he stared at the papers. "I presume that he accessed his PA system, but what on earth does a civil war tune have to do anything?"

"His Horn." Michael said, shaking as he tried to keep from laughing. "He used his horn."

"How on Earth would you know that?" Devon asked in confusion.

Michael started laughing, unable to hold it in any longer. Around him, Devon, Bonnie, and KITT watched in confusion and growing irritation as his laughter became louder and louder.

"Jesus, buddy..." Trek muttered as he and Plato made their way through the park, looking for KARR. "Don't bait Erica like that! It's dangerous!"

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned for Sega." The AI responded.

"Unless you want her to replace your silicon chips with corn bread, I think you need to cut back on the jokes." Trek muttered.

"Who's joking?"

"I'm gonna kill him." Erica muttered. "I'm going to rip his circuits out and use them to decorate my apartment."

KAT gave the digital equivalent of a gulp, "I'm not certain that KARR's circuits will be so easily dismantled."

"Who's talking about KARR?" Erica asked wolfishly as she gunned the accelerator. "I'm going to do that to PLATO."

As KAT was considering that, Eric went on, "You don't want to KNOW what I'm going to do to KARR."

"All done..." Gil muttered, straightening up as he finished attaching the last clamp to the newly installed rim. "You make sure you're in the repair bay as soon as possible, Dom! I can't guarantee how stressed those gimbal pivots are... What the hell did you get hit with anyway?"

"A Stick." Jenny answered for Domino as she hit the gas and roared away, the windows rolling up.

Gil stared after the departing Mustang with a puzzled frown.

"A Stick!?" He shouted, far far too late, then shook his head and packed up his tools as he headed back to his van.

"I really need to get a different job." He muttered, "A stick. Through a molecularly bonded shell. Right. What next?"

He snorted in amusement, "Probably bug eyed aliens and vampires from dimension X."

He slammed the door of his van, still chuckling as he drove off. "A Stick. Ha!"

Xander was keeled over the wheel, laughing his ass off as they sat in the shadow of a grove of trees, lights and sensors off, hiding from the Foundation cars searching for them.

Beside him, even Natalie was having trouble holding back her laughter, while KARR was trying to puzzle out the entire scenario.

"Query." The AI said.

"What is it, KARR?" Natalie asked while Xander tried to stop laughing.

KARR was silent for a moment, before finally speaking again. "What is humorous?"

Natalie started to crack right there, barely containing snickers as Xander broke down again. After several long moments, Xander managed to gasp for air. "It's a long story, KARR... and really hard to explain..."

The Xander paused and grinned, "Hey, tell you what... ask Merlin to pull up the Dukes of Hazzard from the fractal archives at Avalon. It's a TV series that should give you an idea about it... But do it later, ok? We've got to deal with this stuff now."

KARR considered that and reluctantly conceded to that course of action. "We can not 'play games' with these people much longer."

Xander nodded, mostly to himself as he looked out at the sky. It was starting to lighten in the east, so he just smiled. "We don't have to. In a couple hours the sun will be full up and there won't be any danger to them if we leave them, and their cars, lying scattered all over this park."

Natalie looked over apprehensively, "Xander..."

"I'm not going to hurt them, or even damage the AI's." Xander said reassuringly. "But if Merlin can't get me some slack through their bosses before dawn, then I'm going to take them out of play."

KARR revved his engine once in agreement to that.

"Come on, Bonny! We have to move!"

"You're not going anywhere until I change those tires." Bonny snapped, glaring at Michael disapprovingly. "And the Turbine is on it's last gasp, Michael. It needs a serious overhaul."

"We don't have time for that!"

"I know. Which is why I'm only fixing and replacing the systems that are mission critical." She growled, sliding under KITT with a tool in hand. "You were told that the Turbine was experimentla, Michael... What did you expect?"

Michael sighed, "Well I wasn't expecting to have to make it across country in a few HOURS."

She sighed from under the car and reluctantly conceded the point.

"How long?" Michael asked, resigned.

"Another hour."

"An HOUR!?"

"We also have to install a new Laser system that should be able to give you a shot at taking KARR out." She told him, her voice muffled from under the car. "It's much more powerful then the ones we have to use the last time, and KITT's new power system can handle it with an almost continuous beam... Just try not to set any bystanders on fire."

"Oh har de har har." Michael said, rolling his eyes. "Any other helpful advice?"

"Yeah." Bonny pushed herself out from under KITT, a smoldering wire trailing from her left hand. "The next time someone tells you that a system is experimental... don't *destroy* it! The new Turbine is going to have to be trashed."

"What!?" Michael yelped.

Bonny scowled at him, "You totally fried the contacts and scored the impellers. It's toast."

"It was working when I drove in here!" Michael protested, hands waving. "You just said that all it needed was an overhaul!"

"That was before I saw this!" Bonny held up a mass of smoking wires, shaking them at Michael. "Now quiet down while I reconnect it to the system."

"Huh? But you just said..."

"It's totaled." She repeated, "But as long as it has a last gasp of life in it, you may as well run it into the ground."

KITT's forward sensor swept back and forth mournfully, "I wish you hadn't told him that, Bonny."

Merlin rewrote some random data in frustration, glaring at the blank spot that he knew had to contain the information he needed.

The Master of Avalon had access to probably 90% of all data transmitted in the United States, slightly less in other sections of the world, but none of it was coming out of the Foundation for Law and Government at the moment.

The irritated AI momentarily cursed whoever had come up with the idea of a mobile headquarters with no constant contact with world information sources.

"Alright. Fine." He muttered as he started to dig in another direction. "If I can't get at you through the data... let's see about getting at someone who can get at you..."

Around the world from his position, in Washington DC, computers whirred to life at the command of Merlin The Magician.

"Who's holding your reins??" He asked himself idly as he started digging through Congressional operations budgets.

Chapter 16

"Alright, let's go." Xander said, triggering an automatic systems boot in the car.

"It's still dark out..." Natalie said softly in a worried voice.

"Yeah, but not for too long." Xander replied, "And if we wait much longer even these guys will find us out in this park."

KARR didn't bother to reply as he finished his startup procedure and plotted the latest positions of the Foundation vehicles on the display.

"Do you have the identities charted yet?" Xander asked the AI as he leaned back and ran a couple manual system checks.

"Affirmative." KARR replied, the display shifting as he highlighted each of the Foundation icons in turn. "These two are KAT and PLATO. Their shells are modified Honda motorcycles. Minimal armament. Threat level... low."

Another light lit up.

"This is Domino. It's Shell is a Ford Mustang. Moderate threat level."

"And probably pissed off at me." Xander smirked, eying the red icon.

"Gee, I wonder why?" Natalie asked with a smile.

KARR ignored them, lighting up another Icon. "Dante. Ford Expedition. Threat level... high. Recommend we exercise extreme caution."

Xander and Natalie nodded seriously at that, eyeing the screen as a weaponry estimate rolled past.

"Finally," KARR lit up the last Icon. "The Ford F150... Code named, Attack Beast. Threat level... Extreme."

Xander noted the distaste in the AI's voice, but didn't push it. "How extreme?"

"Avalon computes that his forward MASER system may permanently damage my electronics if he succeeds in a direct hit." KARR said reluctantly. "Additionally, his secondary armaments are sufficient to destroy a substantial area of terrain, potentially endangering... civilians."

Xander smiled slightly to himself, knowing that KARR had only added the bit about civilians as an afterthought, and it was more for his benefit then out of any concern for 'civilians'. All things concerned, the reason didn't concern Xander overly much at the moment, so long as KARR did calculate those factors into his results, that was good enough.

Better then many fighters with 'pure hearts' then Xander had known, including Xander himself from time to time.

"Alright," Xander said slowly, "We take them down hard, preferably close enough together that we can keep any stray vamps off them until the sun rises... Nat, I know you want to help but I think you should sit this one out..."

"No." Natalie said firmly. "I'm in. I told you I would help, and I will."

Xander sighed, but nodded. "Alright. Nat... These two are yours. Can you handle them?"

The Angel looked at the icons on the display and smiled, "Oh yeah."

"Good. I'll handle these two..." Xander said simply, pointing out a pair of other icons. "Shouldn't be too hard... KARR, I want you to take out Attack Beast. Ok?"

KARR grumbled but revved his engine once. "Agreed. I have analyzed the sensor readings and believe that this can be done. One on one, I am the superior model."

Xander smiled slightly, "Never doubted it, buddy. Once you've got him, circle back around and back us up. Ok?"


"Alright," Xander nodded, reaching across the seat to cup Natalie's hand.

She looked back at him, turning her hand over and gripping his as she smiled back at him and nodded.

"Let's get moving." Xander said, taking a breath. "And KARR?"


"Hit their comm channels again."

"Alright, that's it!" Michael jumped into the seat, slapping his hands down on the wheel. "Let's move, buddy."

"Right with you, Michael." KITT replied as the car's turbine and main powerplant whirred to life.

The rear door of the semi-trailer creaked as it started to lower, and Michael waved cheerfully to where Bonnie and Devon as he shifted the car into reverse and hit the gas pedal.

The Transam flashed back, out of the truck, and hit the pavement turning as KITT swung around and pointed toward Sunnydale.

"Sunnydale, here we come." Michael grinned, flooring the gas.

As the car accelerated away, KITT spoke up. "Sunnydale. Sounds like a nice place, doesn't it, Michael?"

Natalie Cook slid stealthily through the wooded section of the park, eyes following the light that was moving against the shadows just a short distance away. She wouldn't have much time, she knew that. The sensors would pick her up soon, if they hadn't already, but for all the speed of the AI systems, her opponent was still human.

She waited patiently for moment, judging the timing with all the skill at her command, then burst into a sprint at the last possible second.

"The shadows are moving." Plato said quickly, alerting Trek to trouble with the off hand quote.

Trek looked up reflexively, eyes already being guided to the location of the trouble by the HUD in the helmet he wore, but by then it was too late.

A blur was all he saw.

A blur of shadow with his naked eye, and a blur of heat and motion that the computer filled in through the HUD. Then it was passed, and what felt like a cinder block hit him solidly in the chest, lifting him clear of the bike and threw him to the ground.

Natalie hit the ground rolling with her target, mind already forcing her body to move to the next step of the plan as she let herself draw air once more into her lungs. Her hands moved almost of their own accord, slipping a prepared strip of plastic from her hand as she rolled on top of the motorcycle rider and pulled his hands behind his back.

Two quick motions was all it took, and the gasping figure was trussed like a rodeo calf, and Natalie was already responding to the whine of the motorcycle she could hear swinging around to come at them.

She reached behind her back and smiled as the dingle light speared her.

"Come and get it."

One of Kyle's eyes searched the dark shadows that seemed to be all that existed around him, the other carefully watching the Holographic display that Dante's sensors kept updated.

"Still nothing?"


Kyle sighed in frustration. It wasn't supposed to be this hard to find something the size of a car in a park this small. Not with all the advanced technology that he and the rest of the team was packing.

He was so focused on watching the shadows that he almost missed what was right dead center in his headlights.

"Shit!" He yelled in shock as the figure just appeared from nowhere, right in front of him, and stood there directly in the path of the Expedition.

Kyle's reflexes were good, and he jerked on the wheel almost instantly, but almost wasn't *instantly*. The SUV was movign almost fifty miles an hour, and the ground was grassy and wet from the dew. Dante started to skid for a few slivers of time before his tires could bite in, still heading straight for the unknown figure.

It all seemed to move in slow motion as Kyle knew that he was going to hit the figure, and that there wasn't a thing he could do. That one second ticked by like an hour, and then... the figure moved.

Xander smiled softly to himself as he watched the SUV skid as the driver started to turn in an effort to avoid him. The effort was appreciated more then the driver could know, but Xander knew it was doomed to failure because he had carefully chosen his precise moment to appear.

It wasn't easy lowering one's body temperature below the survival level of most humans, the human body was poorly equipped for self cooling really, but it was one of the tricks that he had practiced and gradually learned to master over the past couple years.

But only one of them.

He summoned Elan to his hand, snapping the ancient weapon to it's full length as the SUV continued on it's path, each passing moment an eternity as Xander rode the wave of adrenaline and energy. At the last instant he twisted and pivoted to the inside of the SUV's turn, and drove Elan down and into the front tire.

"Ole!" He said, reflexively snapping his fingers as the Expedition rushed past him, it's center of balance destroyed in an instant of applied force.

The Foundation vehicle dug into the soft ground as it's tire blew out, the rim digging a deep, but brief, furrow in the ground until the entire vehicle flipped clear off the ground and plowed into the ground on it's side. It skidded along like that for a short while, slowing as it did, then finally hit another bump in it's path as it flipped totally over onto it's roof and came to a complete stop, wheels still spinning.

Xander smirked slightly, then stretched out his neck and shoulder muscles as he walked over to the upturned vehicle and leaned against the driver's side door.

"Everyone ok in there?"

The groggy, but severely pissed, glare that met him was enough to answer that question so Xander just used Elan to destroy the door handles and electronic locking system within them before waving down into the vehicle again. "You just stay put, y'hear? It's safer there then out here. I'll make sure that someone picks you up in the morning."

With that, Xander whistled jauntily as he walked away and vanished back into the shadows.

"Michael, we have an incoming call from Devon."

"Put him up, KITT." Michael said with a smile as he passed the sign that read 'welcome to Sunnydale'.

Devon's face appeared on the screen a second later, looking worried.

"Uh oh. That look doesn't make me feel good, Dev." Michael smirked, hiding his own tension.

"It shouldn't." Devon replied. "I'm afraid that we've lost contact with TKR."

"Are they...?" Michael started to ask.

"We don't know." Devon cut him off, "It appears that they've been jammed again."

"Oh great." Michael groaned. "Just great."

"I'm sending you their last known positions... Good Luck Michael."

Chapter 17

Jenny turned Domino around a stand of trees as they completed their circuit of the park and moved back toward the meeting place that the team had agreed to use in case of further jamming. The situation was infuriating and entirely intolerable.

As they turned, the Mustang's lights fell across the red and grey colors of Plato, and Jenny immediately frowned as she realized that the motorcycle was alone. She slowed to a halt, "Full scan, Dom."

Domino responded instantly, scanning the entire area.

"Jenny! I'm reading a single human signature on the ground behind Plato!"

"Damn it!" Jenny swore, popping the door as she hit the brakes, and instantly jumped out.

She ran around the car and rushed over to the bike, immediately spying the helmeted and leather clad figure of trek where he lay on the ground. "Trek! Trek, are you ok!?"

There was no answer, and as she got closer Jenny spotted a thing line that went from the bike to the manacled hands of it's rider and realized what was holding Plato in place. Trek's attacker had chained him to the AI, forcing the bike to stay in place or else wind up dragging it's rider along behind it.

She dropped to one knee beside Trek, grabbing at his shoulder, and moved to roll him over. Before she could, he moved on his own, roughly rolling away to reveal a blond woman in an evening gown who was laying in a hollowed out trench directly under him.

"Hi." The blond grinned as Jenny started, jumping back in shock.

A single hand flashed out with surprising strength, pulling her closer, and then a foot swept up, connecting with her head, and everything went black.

Natalie Cook jumped up, using the scissor motion of her kick to spring her to her feet before the woman could even fall, knowing that she had only seconds to make her move. She grabbed a hold of the woman's jacket, holding her up as she palmed a long thin wire she'd taken from KARR for just this purpose.

Two twists and a quick loop dropped it around the woman's neck while Natalie pulled her arm up through the loop before tightening it, just so she wouldn't choke to death.

Easy part done, Natalie's eyes locked onto the Mustang that was just then starting to react to the situation. As the car door slammed and the vehicle started to accelerate around, coming to bear right on them, Natalie pulled the woman up in front of her and then rushed forward, toward the car.

Domino locked up the woman who had attacked Jenny, but was unable to get a probably hit percentage about sixty eight percent before the woman started to move, shoving Jenny ahead of her as a human shield.

As she tried to regain the lock, Domino skidded sideways, and turned around the two, avoiding Trek and Plato as she tried to get behind Jenny and her captor.

She never got to finish the move as the woman looped something around her rear spoiler as she passed and Dom's sensors detected the sudden application of drag just as Jenny was pulled off her feet and dragged along behind her.

The Mustang instantly skidded to a stop, fearful of harming her driver, but remained running as her engine revved in angered frustration.

Natalie smiled softly, letting out a breath of relief as she mopped off her brow and brushed back the wet slick hair from her forehead. She walked over to the motorcycle and calmly pulled a small box from it's speaker.

"Sorry bout that," She smiled down at it. "Couldn't let you blow the whole deal."

Then she turned to the Mustang, "Both of them will be fine... As will you, I'm sorry but no one screws with my friends."

Natalie looked up at the lightening skies and sighed with relief. "Just hold tight. We'll make sure you're picked up sometime during the day."

With that she walked away from the two unconscious humans and effectively hogtied AIs."

Xander set the end of the staff in the soft ground as he watched the vehicle approach, smiling slightly as he placed a mental bet with Elan on the human's reaction to the sight of him.

The bike slid to a stop as the rider stared at him.

Having lost her helmet, the woman's fiery eyes glared across the space at him as Xander just smiled back.

"You've got some nerve." She said finally.

Xander just shrugged, "So I've been told."

She dismounted the bike, much to the concern of the AI. "Erica... This is against protocol!"

"Erica, is it?" Xander asked, nodding to her as the woman unzipped her jacket and dropped it on the motorcycle seat. He unbuttoned his own suit jacket and left it hanging on Elan as the battlestaff remained in place. "Lovely name."

"Remember it." She growled, stepping forward.

Xander smiled, moving up to meet her. "I knew you were going to do this, you know."

"So you have half a brain after all." She growled, falling into an Akido stance.

"You know, I'm not one to criticize, but your AI is right... You should have stayed on the bike." Xander shrugged, arms falling limply by his sides as he widened his stance just slightly taking a form that Elan translated to mean 'Still Water'.

"I'm sure you had some plan in case I did." She smirked nastily.

"As a matter of fact..." Xander let his phrase drop, smiling slightly as he shrugged.

"Well, I decided to forego the *flying through the freaking AIR*this time." Erica snarled.

Xander nodded, chuckling softly. "Yeah. I would have done the same thing. You do know that you're not in my class, right?"

"I'm a fourth Dan black belt, and that's just in Akido." She sneered. "I've taken down world class competitors."

Xander nodded absently, "I'm sure that's true. But I don't fight in competitions... not anymore anyway... And I know a style that perfectly counters Akido... besides, I'm not precisely... normal."

"Right." She mocked him, "Let's just find out... Come on then... Let's get this done."

Xander glanced up at the sky, noting the growing light, and nodded. "Yes... It's time.

She shifted her stance, but didn't attack as she watched him. This time, she swore, she would remember her lessons and use her head. No wild ass attacks, leading with the ego instead of the mind.

They stood there staring at each other for long moments, a silence falling around them as they mentally committed themselves to the fight.

Finally it was Xander who moved first, the time working against him as much as it was working for her. He had to take her out and move on, just in case one of the others needed his help. His arms rolled up from his sides, then he took a single stride forward as he pulled his arm in close to his body, then *rippled* it out in a wave like strike aimed at her chest.

Erica pivoted her torso away from the strike, intercepting the deceptively slow move with her hand as she prepared to tug her opponent off balance and meet him with a lifted knee.

The arm she grabbed, though, seemed to have an impossible force moving within it, and Erica found herself forced off balance as the force rushed from him into her. Thrown back, her knee already coming up to strike, Erica was flung off her sole remaining connection to the ground and sent flying back.

She hit the ground hard on her ass, and slid some distance until coming to a stop against a stump.

"Ow." She muttered, more in annoyance then in pain.

"Sorry." Xander said, his voice actually sounding regretful.

Of course, it also sounded amused, so he didn't win any points with Erica for that.

She growled and jumped back to her feet. "I don't know how you did that, but..."

Before she could finish he rushed in again, taking her by surprise this time as he was suddenly inside her 'personal space', his face only inches from hers.

"Sorry." He said, his breath washing over her face. "But I can't let your friend shoot me in the back."

"Whhhaa!" She managed to get out as he spun her around and interposed her body between him and KAT.

KARR used his passive sensors only and ran on one tenth his normal cruise power as he stalked his prey.

The big pickup truck was loaded with more weapons then even he had originally though, their occasional break in the electronic signature of the F150 being duly noted on his scanners. The vehicle was approaching his position now, moving slowly as it carefully scanned the area with it's microwave bursts.

The Rogue Knight Industries AI reviewed it's carefully prepared plans, based off the multiple angle pulse readings it had taken of the F150 while using it's full scanner power earlier.

The Molecular Shell of the new Knight Industry AI's were imperfect, KARR had noted. Carefully designed flaws existed in each of them, leading the AI to believe that it could probably survive a head on collision with the big truck if it had to.

Fortunately, a head on collision wasn't necessary.

KARR had another idea.

Duke breathed deeply as he eyed the shadows around him, knowing even as he did that it was useless to do so. There was nothing out there that he could see that Beast hadn't already spotted, cataloged, analyzed, and discounted.

Still he looked.

They were approaching the meeting point as planned when a burst of motion erupting from a stand of bushes snapped his eyes around. Just as he locked onto the blur, Beast's alarms went off and he knew that it wasn't a false alarm.

"Target approaching from two o'oclock!" Attack Beast updated as Duke punched a button and activated the turret mounted flame unit.

Jets of superheated flame lanced out at the car as it raced in at a 45 degree angle to his course, but it didn't pause in it's flight, and for a second Duke's brow curled in puzzlement.

Then Beast shouted out another alarm. "Collision course! Brace for Imp..."

KARR struck the F150 just ahead of the rear axle, his nearly invulnerable shell hammering into the heavy duty offroad tire with enough force to shatter solid steel.

Even so, the MBS of both AI's held firm at the impact.

But the, admittidly reinforced, drive shaft of the big truck was not protected by an MBS.

KARR sheered the rear tires off Attack Beast as the bigger truck bounced up from the force of the blow, and continued under it as it fell. The F150 struck the ground, no tires attached to it's rear end any longer, as KARR accelerated away on the same course he had approached on.

Inside, Duke blinked and shook the stars from his head as he stared in disbelief at the damage reports flooding the big truck's computer display.

Chapter 18

Natalie walked tiredly along the path, coming out into the clearing just as the first rays of sunshine touched the open area and the new day began. Once there she whistled silently as she looked around.

The clearing was like a junkyard or something.

Light smoke was curling up from the location of a wrecked Ford pickup truck, it's entire rear axle laying on the ground at least forty feet behind it as a largely built black man walked slowly around it, alternatively cursing and reassuring the vehicle that everything would be fine.

Behind her, still in sight, there were two vehicles, a motorcycle and a Mustang, that had their own drivers tied to them in awkward positions so that the AI's within wouldn't dare to move.

And through a thin copse of trees, Natalie could see the upturned wheels of an SUV.

That only left...

A whisper of movement caught her eye and Natalie turned to see Xander approaching out of the trees on the other side of the clearing, a kicking and struggling woman thrown over his shoulder and a driverless motorcycle preceding him as he eyed the situation himself.

"Well..." Natalie let out a long breath. "This date could have gone better."

Duke stopped his muttered cursing as he heard a muffled voice drowning his own out. He turned around, eyes widening as he saw a man approach with the still kicking form of Erica tossed over one shoulder, walking along behind KAT as the motorcycle slowly made it's way toward him.

Duke took a step forward, growling as he lifted his fists in challenge.

"Uh uh." The man, the YOUNG man, snapped, shaking his head as a big black Desert Eagle just *appeared* in his hand. The big bore of the pistol twitched, and Duke fell back a little, eyeing the man.

"Who are you?" He demanded.

"None of your business." The man snapped, then sighed. "Here, you want to take her? She's starting to get on my nerves."

Duke flinched as a new tirade came from Erica, but nodded and stepped slowly forward.

He was still several feet away when the young man *threw* Erica at him, causing Duke to fall back a step before catching her. He looked down, she looked up, her face was beet red and seriously pissed off.

"Put me DOWN NOW!" She snapped.

Duke did.

Erica yelped as she hit the ground ass first.

Xander watched as the big black man dropped the woman, admittedly enough at her own request, and rolled his eyes. "You know, *I* could have done THAT."

Erica cursed again, trying to get up with her hands tied together with the plastic strips that Xander carried. "Goddamn you Duke!"

"Hey! Don't blame me!" Duke muttered, "I thought you'd land on your feet... you always do!"

"They're TIED together!!" She snapped, hopping a bit to regain her balance.


"OOPS!? OOPS!?" She raged, smacking him once with her bound wrists. "Just get me a knife you oaf!"

"I'd rather you didn't." Xander said mildly.

"You SHUT UP!" She snapped.

"Women." Duke muttered.

"I hear ya." Xander nodded.

"Hey!" Duke snapped, pointing at him. "You don't get to say that! And what the hell are you doing anyway??"

"Protecting my friend." Xander said, keeping the Desert Eagle trained on them. "Hey pal, you ok?"

A whirring sound caused Duke and Erica to half turn, and they soon saw their target cruising back toward them. "I am fine."

That might have been over stating things slightly, Duke thought. There was an ugly gash that marred the hood of the black car, crossing diagonally from front to back, that exposed the inner systems of the AI. He felt some slight satisfaction that the trans-am hadn't gotten off completely unscarred from it's duel with Beast.

Xander looked over the damage with a careful eye and sighed, "Patching that is gonna take a chunk of change. Make an appointment to get you fitted, k pal?"

"Affirmative." KARR rumbled to a stop as he swept the area with his sensor array. "Area secured. All Foundation units have been disabled or otherwise... detained."

Duke growled, even as Beast's engine roared in impotent rage. The turret mounted flame unit twitched, but the AI knew that there were too many humans too close. It did leave KARR locked in though, if it could get a clear shot it might, just might, be able to inflict damage through the ruptured hood.

"Hey, you guys asked for it." Xander muttered, nodding as Natalie walked over. "This is my town, boys and girls... You don't come hunting here without crossing me."

"That AI is dangerous!" Duke snapped. "It's an early prototype and was proven unstable!"

Xander rolled his eyes, walking around to the KARR's driver's side door as "Yeah, well since he's been here he's saved lives. Since you've been here, you've just caused trouble and got nothing to show for it."

Duke was about to snap something back, but a flicker of motion caught their eyes and they all looked up in surprise.

At the end of the clearing, about thirty meters away, a second black Transam slid to a stop, red light sweeping from side to side as it scanned the area carefully.

"What the?" Duke muttered, eyes wide.

"Oh shit." Xander cursed, eyes narrowing.

"You got him Pal?" Michael asked, tapping a series of commands into the overhead switches.

"Of course." KITT replied confidently. "He's been damaged, Michael."

"So has Attack Beast." Michael muttered, "And I think that Beast got the worst of the deal."

"Indeed." KITT replied. "However, the damage should give up an easier shot at KARR's internal workings."

"Right." Michael watched the scene. "Can you tell if the team is ok?"

"I am detecting more life signs then would account for the team, however I can't contact the TKR AI's due to the interference."

Michael sighed, "Alright. Can you get me Devon?"

"Of course. This Jamming is very powerful, but my own systems are unnaffected." KIIT practically smirked.

A moment later Devon appeared on the old display. "Yes Michael?"

"I've found KARR." Micahel said, eyes not leaving the scene in front of him. "Some of the TKR group have been disabled... casualties are unknown at this time."

"I see." Devon frowned, shaking his head. "Well I'm afraid that I don't have much to tell you Michael. You *must* stop KARR however."

Michael nodded, "I know that. You get anything on those Bikers yet?"

"I'm afraid not." Devon frowned, "I've been met by an official stonewall, I'm afraid.... The Authorities won't let me access the evidence that was gathered."

"Something stinks here Devon." Michael muttered.

"Indeed." Devon agreed, "However I don't see how it can possibly change your position at this point. KARR is a threat, we know that from personal experience."

Michael nodded, still eyeing the park. "I might be able to talk to them, Devon. They're not making any move to attack or run."

Devon hesitated, almost ordering Michael to forget it, then finally shook his head. "I can't see where it would help... but if you want to take the chance..."

"Michael! You can't!" KITT objected. "If KARR catches you outside of me..."

"I'll take that chance." Michael said resolutely. "We can't just start a fight right here... We could get the others killed... Maybe we can..."

"Talk KARR into surrendering? I think not." Devon shook his head. "I think it's a fools errand Michael."

Michael sighed, knowing that Devon was most likely right.

Even so, KARR was just sitting there even though he must have spotted them by now. And the man standing by his driver's side was just watching them, waiting...

Waiting for what?

Michael had this sudden chill run through him as he looked at the figure standing by KARR. He was tall, and dressed in black pants with a white shirt that rippled in the wind. It caused Michael to flash back to the old days, the old memories.

"Wait here, buddy." Michael said finally as he popped the door and got out.

"Michael!" Kitt started to object, but Michael just closed the door.

Xander smiled slightly, letting out a chuff of amusement. "Well well. Someone with some sense. KARR... wait here."

KARR's engine revved, an aggravated sound, and the Transam rocked back and forth as he eyed his old arch rival. Inside his central core, new calculations were taking place.

KITT's presence changed the formula considerably, and the AI suddenly wasn't so certain about the cost/benefit ratio.

Xander and Michael slowly walked toward one another, eyes never leaving the other as they closed.

"Michael Knight." Xander said, a wry smile on his lips.

Michael's eyebrow went up, "You have me at a disadvantage."

Xander shrugged. He wasn't planning on giving any of them his real name just yet, though he wasn't sure how long he could hide it from them either. "It would seem that we have a situation here."

Michael nodded, "Yeah. You could say that. So what are we going to do about it?"

Xander smirked, "You could turn around and go home?"

"I'm afraid that's not going to happen."

Chapter 19

Merlin The Magician, a name the AI privately despised, was known throughout history in both fiction and fact as a man with a long fuse and an explosive temperament. One annoyed him at one's own peril, and one withheld information from him only at the greatest of risks.

At the moment, he was seriously considering dropping the entire U.S. Justice department's computer network in the flusher as an object lesson. Only the fact that no one would ever know WHAT the lesson was kept him from making that move.

The Commander was in dire peril, not necessarily from the elements currently in Sunnydale, though they were an annoyance, but more from the fact that they had *found* him in the first place. Their interference may well bring the Commander's identity to light in the incredibly loose security of the United States Federal computer network.

If that were too happen, then there were far too many agencies currently looking for him, both within the States and without, who would jump at the chance to turn Sunnydale inside out.

The Casualty rate among those agencies was Merlin's least concern, but he knew it would be high if they started poking their nose into Sunnydale. So that meant that not only did he have to fix the current problem, but he had to camouflage the Commander's presence somehow.

An old piece of data niggled at Merlin's consciousness, and he drew it up to the forefront of his mind, smiling slightly as a plan began to form.

If it worked, it should cover all the bases and even give the Commander a much needed public persona.

If not...

Well, Merlin shrugged, if not then perhaps it was time for Xander Harris to die.

Devon Miles poured over the reams of information pouring out of the computers, almost all of it second hand and next to worthless for his purposes. He couldn't gain access to the government records for some reason no one in any agency he had contacted could explain to him to his satisfaction.

Evidence had vanished from the lockup it had been sent to, and there was literally no evidence that any bodies were found at the site of the Biker Massacre.

All of which told Devon that Michael and TKR were involved in something that not a single one of them understood properly, dealing with forces that they were utterly incapable of identifying. It was most... disconcerting.

Devon returned to his work, a tired expression masked only by the determination on hi face.

Michael eyed the young man, hardly more then a boy really, and wondered how he had managed to get involved with KARR. He didn't ask though, instead he looked over the young man's shoulder toward the damaged units of TKR.

"They're all alive." Xander told him without being asked. "We didn't want any dead cops."

Michael nodded, looking back at him. "Well that's good. Now I guess we have to figure out what to do now..."

"I guess we do." Xander said evenly. "The problem is that I don't see a peaceful way out of this. You're here for KARR, and I'm not going to let you have him."

"Yeah. That would put a crimp in our relationship wouldn't it?" Michael asked with a smirk.

"Something like that." Xander smiled in return. "Unfortunately, I don't think we have much time to figure it out either. I don't know about KITT, but KARR is getting edgy... and KITT's presence isn't helping his state of mind much."

"KARR and KITT have a history." Michael said simply. "One that I'm a part of... and all I can say is that I don't have much sympathy for KARR. He's psychotic."

Xander smiled, "That's overstating the case just a tad. He's paranoid, and pretty much a sociopath... but he's not Psychotic."

"How would you know that?"

"Because I couldn't work with a Psychotic. They have no self control, can't be trusted. KARR is out for one thing, his own survival. That makes him very reliable." Xander said evenly. "KARR's not a crusader, but his services are available for the right price."

Michael frowned, noting the use of the word 'crusader' and wondered just how much this kid knew about him. Out loud all he said was, "So you employed him. For what?"

Xander just shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me, and we don't have the time to talk about it. I've read all your reports to the Foundation about KARR. I know about his relationship with KITT, and you have to know as well as I do that we can't count on keeping this peaceful for much longer."

Michael grimaced, but nodded. "So where does that leave us?"

Xander shrugged, "Well, unless you want to pack it up and take your team mates out of here, that leaves us with walking back to our respective cars and getting ready to try to kill each other."

"Not what I'd call a great option." Michael muttered, shaking his head. "But I can't leave."

"Then we're just about out of things to talk about." Xander told him flatly.

"Wait!" Michael said quickly, "Look... We'll *buy* him from you. Knight Industries will pay you for salvaging the vehicle. We'll make it worth your while."

Xander turned back with a slight smile on his face.

"We'll make it worth your while..."

KARR's forward sensor swept in irritation, speeding up as the AI redirected energy to it's drive motors and shifted slowly out of park.

"How about I make you a counter offer." Xander said with that same smile.

Michael frowned at the smile, but Xander went on before he could talk.

"I promise, it's just as fair as your offer..."

"Fine." Michael nodded, "Let's hear it."

"I'll purchase KITT there from you." Xander's smile turned to a smirk, "I have enough money to make it worth *your* while. He's a tad obsolete and all that, but I figure he's still worth five hundred mil... whaddya say?"

Michael's face practically turned to stone as he glared at Xander. "KITT is not for sale."

"Neither is KARR." Xander returned in exactly the same tone.

The two of them looked at each other for a long moment, until Michael finally nodded. "Then I guess we don't have anything more to talk about."

"I guess not." Xander said simply, his voice tired.

The two men separated, turned and walked back to their respective cars.

"Of all the nerve!" KITT exclaimed as Michael stopped by the driver's door.

"Don't worry about it, pal. You know I'd never sell you." Michael replied.

"Thank you, Michael. That's very..."

"Trade you in on a nice Corvette... not that's a possibility..." Michael went on with a smirk.

KITT was silent for a moment of shocked speechlessness.

Finally the AI spoke in a very flat, annoyed tone. "That's not funny, Michael."

"Depends on your point of view, pal." Michael grinned as he dropped into the front seat. "Depends on your point of view."

"This is trouble." Xander said as he arrived back beside KARR.

"Why?" Natalie asked, "We already took out five of them... this is just one more."

"The Knight Industries Two Thousand is an inferior copy of my own design..." KARR rumbled in response, then reluctantly added, "However, it is vastly superior to the current models."

Xander nodded, "And KITT isn't damaged... and we have to assume that he's both armed, and massively upgraded from the last records KARR has... What about Merlin, pal? He have anything new on KITT?"

"Affirmative." KARR rumbled. "He has received a new Molecular Bonded Shell upgrade, enhanced sensors, scrambled microwave burst mode transmitter, a compact jet turbine, and at least one high powered laser. His top speed exceeds my own by fifteen percent, acceleration by twenty two point five percent, maneuverability by an estimate fourteen percent, and his armor is thirteen percent denser... assuming I was in top form."

Xander grimaced.

"We can handle it." Natalie said confidently.

"KARR," Xander ignored her. "Lock the door."

It took KARR a twentieth of a second to calculate which door he meant, then another hundredth of a second to send the command.

Natalie looked down in shock as her door locked, leaving her standing outside as Xander dropped into the driver's seat.

"Xander!" She yelled, slamming her hands up against the unyielding glass.

"Let's do this." Xander said to the AI as the systems came alive around him. He looked aside at the blond, and brought his fingers up to his lips, kissing them, then reached across to touch the glass.


Xander pushed down on the gas, and the black trans-am slid almost slightly away as Natalie Cook yelled after him.

"Here we go." Michael said, grip tightening on the wheel. "Get ready with that Laser."

"Ready, Michael."

"Just like old times." Michael whispered. "Just like old times."

Michael floored the gas, KITT's tires spinning as they bit into the soft dirt and the car accelerated forward.

Natalie watched in horror, along with the shocked members of TKR, as the two Trans-Ams raced toward each other at breakneck speeds.

"Holy shit." Duke muttered, just barely understanding what he was actually seeing.

"Get him." Erica snarled, fists tightened as she watched the scene with gleaming eyes.

"Oh no..." She whispered, white faced. "Oh God no."

But God wasn't listening it seemed, and the scene continued to play out in front of her eyes.

Chapter 20

"Alright pal," Michael Knight said with a confident smile. "Let's take these guys."

"As you say, Michael." KITT replied. "Shall I charge the Laser?"

"Do it." Michael punched in a key as he felt the car accelerate under him. "Lock up KARR's processors, get ready to burn him out."

"Working, Michael. Targeting now."

"Fire when ready, KITT!"

"Ok, Buddy," Xander smirked slightly, "Give me evasive action. We have to get past him and out of his laser range. We can't fight this one head on."

"Affirmative." KARR growled in his angry voice.

The transam slammed Xander back into the seat as it took off, sending a rooster tail of mud and dirt across the prone Attack Beast that lay in their wake. Xander glanced back, chuckling softly.

"Insult to injury, pal?" He asked the AI, shaking his head. "Remind me to tell you about being gracious in victory."

"As you wish." KARR replied, making a note to inform Xander of that at a later date as he calculated an evasive course. "Evasive action engaging... now."

Xander patted his seatbelt as he released the controls and let the AI take over.

The Laser flashed out between the two cars, both AI's initiating their actions in accordance with the most likely probabilities of success. On a meta level, the AI's dueled, each trying to out think the other as they calculated all possible variables and then initiated action.

With both working with the same information, and largely the same capabilities, the outcome was predictable.

It was a tie.

KITT fired just as KARR calculated his evasive action, and as always in cases such as this when there is a tie the final decision favors the defender. The Laser splashed harmlessly off one of KARR's armored side panels, and the two cars hurtled together at breakneck speeds.

"Oh no." Natalie repeated, paling in shock, "Oh God no."

The two cops watched in equal shock as the two transams played a lethal game of chicken, coming withing inches of an unavoidable collision before both reacted minutely to avoid the total destruction.

One acted out of self preservation, the other for the safety of it's pilot.

The outcome was the same.

Sparks flew in an unholy rain of fire as the two driver's side panels connected at a converging speed in excess of four hundred miles per hour and then the cars were past each other, and KARR kept accelerating away.

"He's getting away, KITT!" Michael snapped, punching in a control override and twisting the wheel as he spun the car around on a dime.

"I am capable of outrunning KARR, Michael." KITT replied calmly. "He won't get far."

"I know it, pal." Michael said grimly, "But let's not underestimate him, ok? This is his turf, he could have all sorts of nasty things in store for us."

"Very True, Michael." KITT conceded. "I will keep him on my sensors."

"Good. Very good, KITT." Michael put the accelerator to the floor. "Let's go get him!"

"They are in pursuit." KARR informed Xander unnecessarily.

"Yeah, I see them." Xander replied, "Open me a channel to Merlin."


"Merl," Xander smirked, unable to keep from twisting the AI's nose a tad despite the situation. "You got anything for me yet? I could really use the help..."

"Do not call me Merl." The AI replied testily, but then went on grudgingly. "However I may have a solution for you."

"Hit me." Xander replied.

"Would that I could." Merlin returned dryly, "In the meantime, however, it may interest you to know that you have an acquaintance that might just be able to help you out of this situation."

"You mean Jack?" Xander asked, "I thought of him, but..."

"No. Sir Ryan is not an option, at least not directly. The CIA do not have jurisdiction in matters within the borders of the United States, except in very limited cases of which this is not one. I was speaking of Mr Brognola, of the Justice Department."

"Hal?" Xander frowned, "What about him?"

"Mr Brognola is nominally in charge of the Justice department, though his actual position is somewhat... higher then that would indicate. This places many agencies under his jurisdiction, directly and indirectly. The Foundation for Law and Government is one of those."

Xander frowned, ducking KARR down a side street and looping around a block to keep KITT out of range. "It took you this long to find that out??"

"Unfortunately not." Merlin replied, sounding irritated, "In fact, the connection is... tenuous. However, officially, Harold Brognola is in charge of the Foundation. Unofficially, I'm not certain he's entirely aware of it's existence."

"Great." Xander muttered, "Just freaking perfect."

"There is an additional problem." Merlin supplied dryly.

"Oh gee, another one?"

"Indeed. Michael Knight is no longer in the employ of the Foundation for Law and Government." Merlin said stiffly. "Harold Brognola has no influence over him, or over Knight Industries."

Xander groaned, "Well shit."


A flare of light in the background indicated that KITT had caught up to them again and was painting their rear end with the laser, so Xander tapped the break and cut down another road.

"Alright, you get the FLAG bozos off my case..." Xander said grimly, "I'll worry about Michael and KITT."

"As you say, Commander."

"Damn, he's good." Michael grinned, enjoying the chase as he tapped the brakes and followed KARR up another street.

"Indeed, Michael." KITT replied, "I'm charting his course, and I'm finding a pattern."

"What?" Michael looked down, "Is he leading us into a trap?"

"I don't think so..." KITT sounded puzzled.

"What is it, pal?"

"I *believe* that we are being led away from populated areas, Michael. KARR and his driver appear to be attempting to limit the possibility of innocent bystanders."

Michael frowned, "Now that IS odd."

He made another turn, still in pursuit as he puzzled it out. "Alright, buddy... here's what I want you to do. Confirm that theory... then shoot it over to Devon and see if he can make any sense of it. If KARR's suddenly developed a Conscience I'm sure that Bonny will love to know how and why."

"And what do we do, Michael?"

"Until proven otherwise... we treat him as a dangerous threat and try to take him out." Michael Knight said seriously. "Give me a little Super Pursuit Mode, Buddy."

The morning's work was just starting for Harold Brognola when the call came through the hotline.

That was the first surprise.

Hotline calls at the farm meant that the shit was hitting the fan.

The voice on the other side didn't belong to President Kealty.

That would be surprise number two.

As much as Brognola disliked the President, he was the only man who was even supposed to KNOW about the red phone here at the Farm.

"Who the hell is this?" Hal snapped into the phone, drawing surprised looks from the men who had gathered nearby to see if a mission was in the works.

Cowboy Kissinger, Stony Man Farm's chief armorer frowned and nudged one of his friends. "Hey Gadgets... Has the boss man lost it and started yelling at the President?"

Herman 'Gadgets' Schwartz frowned and shrugged, "Sure sounds like it."

Hal ignored them, instead focusing on what the voice had to say. After a long moment he finally nodded. "Alright, I'll see what I can do... Don't ever contact me on this line again."

With that he slammed the phone down and half turned around, "Bear! Get me everything you can find on the Foundation for Law and Government."

"You got it, boss." The burly man said as he turned his wheel chair around and slid over to one of his computer terminals.

As the stocky man with the arms of a weight lifter began to make his computers sing like a maestro conducting an orchestra, Hal picked up another phone, "Switchboard? Get me Jack Ryan."

As he was being connected, he looked up to Gadgets. "You remember that guy Striker sent you to meet in LA a while back?"

"Who? Xander?" Gadgets asked, half smiling as if it was a joke.

"Yeah. Harris." Hal muttered, "Seems he's got half the federal government on his ass and he wants a favor."

"How'd this guy get on the hotline??" Kissinger asked in confusion.

Gadgets just shook his head, "He'd find a way. Trust me, Cowboy. He'd find a way."

"Mr Ryan?" Hal asked after a moment, "Hal Brognoal, Justice."

Devon Miles growled slightly as he hit another computer block courtesy of the federal government. Someone didn't want him to get any data on the Biker's, and it was beginning to irritate the man. He growled and pushed the keyboard away as he sat back and glared at the screen.

And then felt his eyes widen in shock as one by one all the security locks began to unlock themselves right before his eyes.

"What on Earth??"

Chapter 21

Washington DC

John Patrick Ryan stared at the phone, almost daring to to ring while he was busy pondering the meaning of the last call.

<Xander certainly seems to get around.> He thought to himself, calling up the Company profile on Sunnydale California.

There was depressingly little there, which wasn't really all that odd for small towns. <Of course that pain in my ass wouldn't choose to locate somewhere like Stalingrad... Nooooo... He has to pick some craphole burg that isn't important enough for even the local government to bother reporting on. If he was in Bejing I could probably call up a dozen local assets, and a map of his HQ... Some town in my own damned country though, and can I even find an address for him? Noooo...

The phone rang.

Ryan glared at it as if that would stop it's noise, but it persisted, and he finally picked it up. "Ryan."

"Sir Ryan." A respectful voice came through from the other end. "This is Merlin. I presume that you read the report that Colonel O'Neill filed on me?"

Ryan froze for a portion of a second, the report in question flashing through his mind. He leaned back and took a breath, "Yes... I presume that this is in reference to the call I just recieved?"

"Indeed." Merlin replied, "I believe that I may have a simple method to salvage the situation without too much fallout on either side."

"From what I've been told, that would be something." Ryan said dryly. "Go ahead, I'm all ears."


This guy is getting on my nerves, pal." Michael Knight gritted out as he swung KITT around another ninety degree turn, losing the few seconds they had gained on their quarry in the last straight away.

"Indeed, Michael." KITT agreed, "If he continues to maneuver like this it will require fourteen point nine two hours to catch KARR... at which point we will still have to maneuver to get a shot at his weakened armor. I calculate that..."

"Can it." Michael grunted out, snapping the car to a forty five degree angle and hitting the gas.

"Michael! What are you doing?" KITT asked, flabbergasted by the move. "KARR's making up an additional fourteen point three seconds on our..."

"Not tonight he isn't." Michael said as the car smashed through a fence and over a lawn, then he pressed the Turbo Boost button.

The black Knight Industries Two Thousand went airborne, clearing a stand of shrubs and one occupied doghouse. A second later it burst out and into the neighboring street, touching down hard as Michael threw the wheel hard over and spun the vehicle to a stop.


"Wait for it..." Michael said, smiling stonily at the road ahead.

"The Odds are..."

"Wait for it...." He repeated.

KITT was about to say something else when KARR spun around the corner and came head to head with them.



Merlin the Magician gave out a very human approximation of a contended sigh as he watched the scenario unfold. A little nudge here, a little nudge there, and things were coming together nicely.

In short order, if things went correctly, the agents of the Foundation would be receiving a most unwelcome message from their immediate superiors.

As a precaution, however, the AI took a few nanoseconds to draw up an appropriate obituary for the Commander, as well as arranging the funeral through a reputable mortuary service in Los Angeles.

<I wonder... Tulips or Lilacs?> He pondered as the interminably slow humans continued to make up their minds.

Stony Man Farm, West Virginia

"I don't give a damn where he IS. Get him on the line NOW." Hal snapped into the phone.

On the other end of the line a frightened minion of his quarry was currying around, trying to determine why this had fallen on his head and not someone else's. Hal spared the bootlick no pity, however, as the man had purposely attempted to obstruct him.

"Having fun?" The Bear asked him with a wry grin, rolling up to his desk in his wheel chair with a sheaf of papers on his lap.

"Hand it over and spare me the humor." Hal growled, reaching out for the papers.

"Humor is wasted on the humorless." Bear grinned, but handed over the papers.

Hal spread them out over his desk and poured over them as he waited for the peon to come back with something that resembled useful information. After a moment he raised his eyes to look at Bear, only to notice the smirk on the other man's face.

"How'd they get something like this funded under my umbrella without me knowing about it?" He asked.

"Pretty nice work, if I do say so myself." Bear grinned, handing over another sheet of paper.

Hal looked at it, then groaned. "You have GOT to be shitting me."

"Fraid not." Bear kept grinning.

"Bastards." Hal swore, promising himself that he'd rip a strip or two off the next person who had the temerity to try to slow him down.

Knight Mobile Workshop
Just Outside Sunnydale

Devon Miles swore as he reached the end of the rainbow, eyes staring at the information in shock. After a moment he swung around and grabbed for his phone.

"Yes Mr Miles?"

"Amy, yes," Devon said to his secretary. "Could you please get me Mr Dragan on the line?"

There was a short pause.

"Are you certain, Mr Miles?" His secretary asked with a hint of distaste in her voice.

"I'm afraid so. It's quite urgent."

"Very well."


"Not Bad." Xander said softly as he found himself staring down the headlights of his pursuer.

"I am calculating points of retreat now." KARR rumbled angrily.

Of course, Xander noted, KARR always sounded angry.

"Don't worry about that. Just make sure that your circuits aren't opened to his laser." Xander said simple.

"Affirmative." KARR replied.

"Alright, KITT... Lock him up." Michael said softly, as if the other side might hear him.

"Working." KITT replied as his screens lit up and showed a schematic of the opposing vehicle.

"Michael, we have a problem..." KITT said after a moment. "KARR has angled himself so that his circuits are covered by his Bonded Shell. We will have to reverse two point three meters and turn nineteen degrees to open the shot."

Michael smiled slightly over the steering wheel. "Nicely played. You know, KITT... If this guy wasn't so damned annoying, I think I'd be starting to like him."

"I empathize completely." KITT replied dryly. "I felt much the same about you when we first met."

Washington DC

"Excuse me, Mr Ryan?"

Jack looked up, "Yes, Virginia?"

"You have a conference call with a Mr Brognola on line three? He said that you're expecting him?"

Jack nodded, "That's right. Thanks."

The secretary nodded and backed out.

Jack took a breath and hit the speakerphone. "Ryan."

"Hello Jack," Hal Brognola said cheerfully, causing Jack to raise an eyebrow. He barely knew the fed, and was fairly certain that the reverse was true, but he supposed that Brognola had a reason for the familiarity.

"Hello, Hal." He returned with equal cheerfulness. "What's this all about?"

"Well you see, something's been brought to my attention." Brognola went on as if Jack didn't already know about the entire situation. "And it seems that it may involve you."

"Oh?" Jak asked neutrally. "And how is that?"

"Well, I have a Senator Kinsey on the line here... It seems that he slipped a bit of red herring through my last budget, and took over a civilian organization called the Foundation for Law and Government." Hal went on, "Isn't that right, Senator?"

"That's not entirely incorrect." Kinsey allowed, his voice sounding like Brognola was pulling teeth.

"How does this affect me?" Jack asked, as if he didn't know what was coming.

"Well you see it seems that this group has gon gunning for a man by the name of Harrison. Alexander Harrison. I believe you know him?"

Jack permitted himself a smile, but didn't let it reach his voice. Instead, when he spoke, he kept it grim. "I do. In fact he's one of my freelance agents, he's done a lot of good work for me. What has he done to catch their attention?"

"Well, it seems that he salvaged a piece of technology they misplaced about ten years ago."


"At the bottom of the pacific."

Chapter 22

Hal Brognola smiled as he heard the subtle edge in Jack Ryan's voice fade slightly, the man's educational background coming to the forefront as he unconsciously entered into a lecture mode.

"I'm not an expert on salvage rights, however I'm uncertain as to how the Senators people have an legal claim over the individual in question." Jack said calmly.

"They don't." Hal supplied, shutting up the sputtering Senator. "However, in the defense of his team, that's not precisely why they're after Mr Harrison."


"You see, he was caught on Sattelite in an... altercation... with a Biker Gang in California." Hal supplied, "I'm faxing you a copy of the photos now."

There was a pause as the fax went through, and then Jack came back. "Well well. It seems that Alex has been busy."

"He's a mass murderer!" Kinsey sputtered angrily over the line, trying to take the initiative.

"Well now," Hal frowned, "Here's the problem that I have with that... All of the bodies, DNA evidence, Bikes, and Material *witnesses* have vanished. Now, I'd really like to know how one man in a black car managed to make that happen."

Kinsey was silent on the other side of the line.

"That's about what I thought." Hal growled low in his throat, "So here is what's going to happen... First, I'm going to call of your dogs, Senator... Since you were so kind as to hide them under my jurisdiction, I'm claiming them. TKR is MY unit now."

When the Senator started to protest, Hal cut him off sharply. "Unless you'd like to explain to congress exactly WHY you needed a Domestic strike force armed with rockets and near invulnerable vehicles."

Kinsey shut up.

"Second, I want the 'missing' witnesses to resurface." Hal said, "I don't care where, or how, as long as they're alive and well. Otherwise I'm going to launch an investigation with *my* domestic... investigative unit."

On the other end of the line, Hal could hear Kinsey start choking and he made a note to find out how and when the Senator learned about the existence of Able Team. As a further test he went on seriously, "Should anything... untoward happen to any of those people in the future, Senator, I may... shall we say 'accidentally' leave your file lying around where Colonel John Phoenix can see it."

There was a bang and clatter on the other end of the line and Hal hid his smile under a frown.

<Damn it. This man knows far too much about the Farm.>

Senator Kinsey grabbed for the phone from where he'd dropped it, paling to a stark shade of white as he tried to keep his voice calm.

"I... I'm sure that these people will turn up." He said in a strangled voice.

"So am I, Senator." Hal Brognola's voice came over the phone. "Now... If you'd like to perhaps make up for some of these... terrible... mistakes, you could make my job considerably easier by contacting your Control Officer and informing him of the new... managment."

"I'll... do that right away." Kinsey choked out, bile rising in his throat as future plans went up in smoke.

"Thank you." Hal said, a smirk not quite hidden in his voice. "Now, I believe that I have some work to do. Good day, Senator... I'll talk with you later, Jack."

Jack Ryan let the line go dead and sat back as he pondered what he had just helped to cover up. If Kinsey had really known what he was stepping in, there was no way the man would have sent a small team like the TKR group he had been briefed on.

From their files, those people were good people.

Some rough edges in the group, to be sure, but a good solid leader. Jack remembered Kyle from his earlier days in the Company, though the two of them had never really worked together. He was known as a straight shooter, and a reliable leader.

Not the type of person a man like Kinsey would send after the number one wanted man in Intelligence circles today.

Jack had to smile at the simple brilliance of Merlin's subterfuge. Xander Harris was a teenage highschool student, certainly not the Alexander Harris that everyone was looking for. But that persona didn't fit the young man who was currently under investigation for the involvement with those bikers.

So Alexander Harrison was reborn.

And Alexander Harrison had a perfect excuse for being in that sort of situation. He was a known freelance operative of the CIA, had an ongoing record of involvement with police agencies and private security companies, and was licensed by the United States Government to do everything from carry prohibited weapons to chase down fleeing felons.

The only problem was, Alexander Harrison was a fiction and Jack Ryan knew it.

Which meant that Jack found himself in the middle of a serious quandry. President Kealty wouldn't approve of Harris running around loose, the fact was that Kinsey and Kealty were in bed together as far as intelligence operations went. Jack's own power base was still solid, but even it was eroding slowly under the new reforms the President was putting out.

If Kealty knew about Harris, then Jack had no doubt that the NID would become involved in short order.

However, Jack Ryan was legally obliged to inform him.

Jack closed his eyes and looked down at the complete, and nearly totally fictional, file on Alexander Harrison.

<I wonder if he's really worth quite THAT much?> Ryan wondered, his mind going off on a tangent before he snapped it back.

He sighed, then closed the file and buzzed for his secretary.

"Yes Sir?"

Jack smiled. Virginia was one of the best.

He handed her the file, "Do me a favor, Virginia... File that back with our active 'freelancers'."

"Of course."

Legality be damned.

Jack hadn't sworn an Oath to Kealty, he'd made his oath to the United States of America. And the USA owed Xander Harris a couple favors.


"Jesus Christ." Duke shook his head, kicking at the ground as he looked over the wrecked remains of Attack Beast's rear axle, strewn as it was across half the park. "I can't believe we got hit that hard."

Natalie Cook shrugged, but remained silent as she looked worriedly in the direction that KITT and KARR had vanished in.


Natalie glanced aside to see Erica glaring at her. "What?"

"Who the hell are you, lady? And what are you doing with that asshole!?"

Natalie pursed her lips, reminding herself that the woman was under a lot of stress at them moment. "That 'asshole' is my boyfriend. And I'll remind you that your people attacked us first. You're just lucky that Xander took it easy on you."

"Easy!?" Duke snapped, pointing a finger at Natalie. "Listen here, blondy, my TRUCK is in pieces!"

"Could have been you." Natalie said flatly, pursing her lips as she looked over the damaged truck. "Would have been you if Xander wasn't in control of KARR, at least from what I've been told."

"That's a rogue AI, lady." Duke muttered, "You don't control those. *We* know."

Natalie shrugged, "And yet..."

The big black man glared at her but was distracted as Beast spoke up.

"Duke... We have a... situation."

Natalie glanced to one side to see that Erica was receiving her own message from the motorcycle AI, and raised her eyebrows slightly.

"No I don't mind repeating that." Hal Brognola said over the radio connection. "You are ordered to STAND DOWN. Alexander Harrison is an asset of the Federal Government and he is not to be bothered with."

"But Sir," Kyle Stewart objected, "We have him on a video feed, killing a biker gang!"

"That's none of your concern." Hal told him flatly. "This is a direct order from your superior. Are you going to disobey it?"

Kyle hesitated, "No Sir... But it's not really up to us anymore, Sir."

"I don't follow you, Mister."

"My unit has been... disabled." Kyle muttered. "Mr Harrison is currently being pursued by an independent."



"Kles speaking."

"Kles? It's Devon Miles... I need to speak with Dragan..."

"I'm afraid that he isn't available at the moment, Mr Miles." The demon said, "May I take a message..."

"I'm afraid that this is rather urgent..." Devon said, his voice stressed. "There's been an incident near Chico, California..."

"Excuse me," Kles interrupted him. "Do you mean the demon bikers?"

"So they were demons." Devon let out a long sigh. "I must inform Michael."

The phone went dead, leaving the demoness to stare at it for a moment. "Hello? Hello? Mr Miles?"

"How odd." She said, hanging up the phone as she pinched at her beak slightly. "Humans... so very strange."


"Let's do this." Michael said seriously as he punched in a command and put the gas down to the floor.

The Knight Industries Two Thousand leapt forward, only seconds ahead of the Knight Automated Roving Robot, and the two vehicles accelerated towards each other at reckless speeds.

"Get me a lock, KITT!" Michael yelled as he directed all available power to the laser.

Chapter 23

"Look!" Erica shouted, pointing.

Natalie and Duke looked up, eyes widening as they realized that the two fighting supercars had looped around and were facing each other down at the south entrance to the park.

"Xander..." Natalie whispered, face shocked as she stared.

"Remind me to toss some ideas around with Merlin about getting you some weaponry." Xander muttered grimly as he faced down KITT, one eye constantly on the displays that showed KITT's estimated firing arcs.

KARR made a note to do just that, though only double checked it twice due to the severity of the situation.

"Affirmative." He growled.

"He's going for it." Xander said, foot coming down on the accelerator just as KITT started to move.

KARR leapt forward, wheels biting easily into the asphalt as the two supercars roared together.

"Incoming message from Devon, Michael."

"What!? Now!?" Michael looked down for a split second, his eyes wide with consternation.

"It has an extremely high priority level." KITT told him.

Michael snapped back, eyes focusing on the target. "Tell him to wait and give me a lock on those exposed circuits, KITT!"

KITT threw up some calculations, then frowned internally. "I can't do that, Michael. KARR is maneuvering out of the firing arc."

"Damn it!" Michael snapped as the black car ahead swung through an arcing course that would bring it back into contact with him and KITT from a safe angle. He threw the wheel over, trying to bring his laser to bear.

The display showed the estimated firing arc as it swung around to zero in on him, so Xander tapped the brake as he called out to KARR. "Burnout!"

The AI took several nano-seconds to calculate the order and what would be necessary, then shut off the power to the right front wheel as Xander threw the wheel over to turn them into the firing arc. At the same time he locked up the left wheel momentarily, just as Xander applied heavy gas to the remaining tires.

The black trans-am whipped around in a split second maneuver, winding up pointed at a reciprocal direction from it's previous course, and then returned full power to all tires.

The all wheel drive bit into the road surface and KARR accelerated through KITTs firing arc on a least time course to come out the other side.

"Fire!" Michael snapped, finger snapping down on the button.

The Laser lanced out, catching the side of the renegade AI as it flashed past.

"No hit, Michael. He went through too fast."

Michael nodded, whipping the wheel around as he brought KITT back onto an interception course. "Alright, buddy... let's get this bastard."

"Michael... Devon's calling again. The priority is very high." KITT told him.

"What!?" Michael glared at the AI for a moment, the looked back at the road. "Alright, fine. Put him through... Brace yourself though, buddy... this is about to get bumpy."

The firing arc on the display was rapidly tightening up as they got closer and closer, giving them more room to move, but less time to do it in.

"This is about to get up close and personal, buddy." Xander told the AI, "Brace yourself... I think this is gonna hurt."

The AI took note of that, and then triple checked that it's memory cores were safely locked down. Other then the primary one that was currently recording the events, of course. After that it examined the telemetry data and noted that impact was currently ninety three point five percent likely.

"The Bikers were demons, Michael!"

Michael blinked, taking his eyes off the road. "What!?"

"Demons! They weren't human!" Devon said urgently. "I don't know what it means, but KARR didn't kill all those people... they *weren't*people."

Michael looked up, time slowing for him as he watched the black transam closing on him. It was only seconds away now, and an impact at this speed would probably destroy the rogue AI, certainly it would heavily damage it.

KITT would survive, at least without any critical failures because his MBS was intact.

Michael knew that in his gut, didn't even have to think about it.

What he did think about was the demons.

A few months earlier, Michael Knight didn't believe in demons.

A few months earlier, He thought that human evil was as black as it got.

Now he knew better.

Why had KARR dealt with demons? Who was his Driver? What the HELL was going on.

Michael Knight was a cop, an investigator. He had to know.

He HAD to understand.

He turned the wheel.

The display shifted suddenly, and Xander almost missed it, even as he rode the adrenaline rush and felt time dilate around him in that way that only occurred when he was enhanced.

<What the hell?> He had time to think, watching the firing arc of the laser whip suddenly away from him as KITT lost speed.

The Knight Industries AI and driver were now vulnerable, offering him a perfect shot. Even with KARR's damage, he could probably rip right through the side and destroy KITT.

But that would kill Michael Knight.

Seconds from the impact, Xander turned the wheel.

KARR's circuits burned as he watched the events, the Knight Industries Two Thousand was open. He could destroy it with only a twenty two point one percent chance of critical damage.

And Xander Harris wanted to let it LIVE.

KARR overrode the drivers control keeping the car on course.

In the last two seconds before the inevitable impact, Xander knew that the AI had taken control back. His eyes flashed downward, but in the time left all he could do was start to yell.


<He's not turning.> Michael realized in a blanched moment of visceral terror.

He'd gambled on the driver, and lost, the Crusader realized.

And he was going to pay for it with his life, and the life of his best friend.

"I'm Sor..." He started to say.

Internally the AI calculated the odds again, noting that this maneuver would cost it it's deal with Xander Harris.

Destroying KITT ranked among it's highest priorities.

KITT was it's replacement.

The thing that was supposed to be better* then KARR. The very idea was repugnant to the AI, KARR *knew* that he was unique. After all, hadn't his creator told him so?

The AI steeled itself for impact, just as the one priority higher then the destruction of KITT flashed for his attention.

Preserve Self.

KARR knew that he would lose his deal if he did this, it was directly counter to his arrangement.

KARR rapidly calculated the likely results, and realized that even if it survived this, it would require repairs.

Repairs that Xander Harris was unlikely to supply.

KARR tried to locate alternate avenues, but was unable to locate a source with high enough likelyhood.


But it wanted to survive.

KITT was a threat to it's survival. KITT made it obsolete. Replaceable. KITT...

KITT was just another AI.

There were more of them now, and would be more of them later. He was no longer unique. He was obsolete.

KARR turned the wheel.

"AR!!" Xander finished as the car whipped around at the last second, bleeding speed at a ferocious rate as he was thrown around the seat.


"...ry, pal..." Michael said, his eyes widening even as he spoke as he watched the Black Transam turn away at the last second.

He had time to realize that he might just survive after all, then KARR slammed side on into KITT, and the world went mad.

"Michael? Michael!?" Devon Miles stared into the screen in front of him, but it was snowy white with the static of a lost signal.

"Oh Lord..."

Natalie surged forward, "Xander!"

Behind her, the members of TKR broke into a run as well as they chased after her.

Chapter 24

"Michael? Michael? Are you ok?"

Michael Knight groaned slightly as he opened his eyes and looked around. "What hit me?"

"The Knight Automated Roving Robot." KITT replied dryly. "And it hit *both* of us. Next time you plan on doing something like that, at least have the courtesy to inform me first."

"No time, KITT." Michael said, remembering what had happened. "Are you alright?"

"I'm functional... However I think that Bonnie will be having a few words with you." The AI told him dryly.

Michael chuckled, "That's just Fine... What about KARR and his driver?"

"Both appear to be largely unharmed."

"Oh man." Xander groaned, rubbing the back of his neck. "I need a lawyer."

KARR processed that for a moment, but was unable to figure out why. "Query."

"Huh? Oh... ok. Go ahead." Xander said, blinking his eyes painfully.

"Why would you need a... Lawyer?"

"Cause I think I have whiplash." Xander told him.

KARR considered it, but still couldn't figure it out. "Non Sequitor."

"Only if you don't have a neck, pal." Xander muttered, then glared at the AI. "You took control back."

KARR paused, then finally admitted it. "Affirmative."

Xander glared at the AI for a long moment, "Why?"

KARR processed the question, considering various answers, and finally spoke up. "Primary directives of this unit is for Survival. KITT was a threat to that."

"No, I mean why'd you turn."

"We had a deal." KARR replied.

Xander nodded. "He *have* a deal."

Xander glanced to one side, and noticed that the two transams were smashed right up against each other. He thumbed the power windows and noted that Michael Knight was doing the same.

"Hey." Xander said, still rubbing his neck.

"Hey," Michael Knight replied, wincing as a pain ran through his skull.

"So what do we owe the honor of the reprieve?" Xander asked seriously.

"Demon Bikers."

Xander stared at Michael for a moment, then blinked. "Huh. You found out about demons, huh?"

"A while ago." Michael told him. "Devon just told me that the bikers in Chico were demons... so I have to know... why?"

Xander shrugged. "It's what we do. KARR works with me now, and we take out threats like those demons."

Michael sighed and leaned back in his chair. "What a mess."

Xander snorted, "Your telling me? I had a DATE tonight."

Michael started laughing first, then Xander joined in.

Between the two of them, laughing uproariously, they stunned the 'rescuers' running up to the cars, and thoroughly annoyed the two 'emotionless' AI's they were sitting in.

Natalie smiled as she slowed to a halt.

If he was laughing, things were ok.

"Xander?" She said hesitantly as she walked up, just to be certain. "Are you ok?"

The driver of the other car looked up through the windshield as Xander turned around in his seat to look out the back window at her.

"That your date?" The other driver asked.

"Yep." Xander nodded.

The driver shook his head, "Damn, I hate it when that happens."

The two of them started laughing again.

"What the HELL are they laughing at!?" Erica fumed as she glared at both vehicles and their drivers.

"I dunno, but whatever it is... I think it's over." Duke muttered, shaking his head in aggravation. "I hope we get pickup for BEAST soon... I don't like seeing him like that."

"Relax." Erica sighed, "it's already on the way. Let's just figure out what the hell is going on here."

"From what that Brognola dude said, this guy is CIA." Duke sighed, "Which means we stepped in it deep."

Erica rolled her eyes. No shit. That wasn't going to stop her from tearing a few strips of the joker in the rogue AI.

Kyle and Jenny arrived, with Trek straggling behind, and came to a stop a few feet from the two cars.

"What's going on here?" Kyle asked firmly.

"A truce." Michael Knight said, then glanced at Xander. "I think?"

Xander nodded. "Truce. Now let's get these cars pried apart and see how much this little jaunt is going to cost me."

"Sunnydale. The Hellmouth."

"I know where we are."

"Where is the meeting place?"

"The Grave yard, just up ahead."

The two figures moved into the graveyard, silently now, and came to a halt near one of the crypts located nearbye. They didn't have long to wait.

One by one, more figures materialized from the hazy morning mist, coming to a stop and gathering in a loose circle.

"All of us?" One of them asked, looking around at the fifteen others present.

"The contract is substantial. The timing is set... He must be eliminated before the Prophecy."

The gathered figures nodded.

"His location?"

"A house in the hills. He should be there today."

"Let us prepare, bothers... and Sisters."

Once the cars were separated, Xander and Michael both walked around their vehicles, shaking their heads and muttering about scuffed paint, among other things.

"Damn." Xander said finally. "I didn't know anything could do this to KARR."

Michael sighed, "When one MBS encounters another, something has to give. At the speeds these two can manage, it's usually pretty certain that they aren't going to bounce."

Xander nodded, sighing as he patted the door. "It's alright, pal. We'll get you patched up ASAP, and maybe see about some more upgrades while we're at it."

Michael looked over sharply. "How are you going to patch him? You don't have the formula for the MBS..."

Xander smirked, "The people I work with have had the Formula since before KARR was built. Knight Industries wasn't always as paranoid as they became concerning it. I know a hacker who has complete files on all the AIs."

Michael pursed his lips and shook his head. "Devon's not going to like that."

Xander shrugged. "Not my problem. Besides, what's he got to worry about anyway? It's not like I'm building an army of invincible cars... Well, not yet anyway."

"Not funny." Michael growled.

Xander just smirked.

"This guy is CIA?" Duke cut in, waving a hand at Xander. "He looks like your kid brother, Kyle!"

"I'm NOT CIA." Xander snapped, rolling his eyes. "I just do work for them from time to time."

He sighed, smiling slightly. Merlin's plan had worked.

Thank God.

He took a step forward and nodded to Michael, extending his hand. "Alexander Harrison. Good to meet you, Michael."

Michael nodded slowly, then took the hand and shook it. "Good to meed you, Alexander."

"Call me Xander." Xander smirked. "Alexander makes me feel old."

Duke snorted, and Natalie outright laughed at that.

Xander looked around at them, then shook his head. "Alright... You guys have some recovery crews coming?"

Duke nodded sourly, "Yeah. Beast is down for the duration."

"Sorry about that." Xander said, then shrugged. "But you didn't give me much choice."

"Yeah. Right." The big black man growled, all humor gone now that he'd been reminded of the morning's events.

Xander sighed again, "Alright... I can see that we've got some things to hammer out... But I'm not doing it here in the open..."

"Consider yourselves my *guests*." He smirked as he stressed the word, "Come back to my place and we'll have a little chat about what just happened... and maybe get our 'bosses' in on it. Ok?"

Chapter 25

"Well." Michael smirked as he got out of KITT and closed the door. "So this is how the other half lives."

"Michael," KITT said, sounding confused. "Isn't your Condo in Beverly hills good enough? Or the Ranch in Arizona? Or the Knight Industries retreat in..."

"Enough!" Michael shook his head, thumping the car as he rolled his eyes. "Jeeze, KITT, you really know how to ruin a good line."

"I'm sorry, Michael."

Michael Knight smiled, closing his eyes as he shook his head. "I'm joking, KITT."

"Ah. It would appear that I'm still not completely familiar with all forms of humor." KITT said, sounding disappointed. "I'll add this to the list."

"You do that." Michael nodded as he walked up to the house. At the steps he half turned back, "hey KITT?"

"Yes Michael?"

"No one is familiar with all forms of Humor. Don't worry too much about it."

"I won't Michael."

Michael Knight smiled fondly as he continued up the steps. The Door opened before he got there, and he was surprised to see a young girl frowning at him.

"Hi, I'm here to see..."

"Xander." She muttered darkly. "Inside."

With that she just vanished.

<Huh. Weird kid.> Michael shook his head.

Behind him the mobile units of TKR were arriving, and parking along side KITT as the drivers got out and headed up to the house.

Only Duke was missing, as he'd elected to stay with Attack Beast as it was returned to SkyOne.

Michael shrugged and stepped into the house. "Hello?"

"Hey Mikey!" A Brunette who looked about thirteen appeared from nowhere, clapped him on the back, and kept on going. "Love ta chat, but I got a cat to catch!"

Michael spun around, trying to follow her, but she vanished up some stairs faster then he could follow. "Whoa... what was that?"

"That was Faith." A man who looked to be about thirty or so said, chewing on a chocolate bar as he walked in. "You Knight?"

"Yeah, that's me."

The man looked him up and down, then shrugged. "Don't look like much."

With that parting shot, the man wandered off.

"What the hell was that about?"

Michael turned to see Kyle and the TKR team step up beside him and just shrugged. "I haven't got the slightest clue."

"That's just Jack."

Michael turned back around to see Xander Harrison walk up, stepping out of a side room. "Come on into my office. I've got a link to Mr Brognola and Jack Ryan. We've got some shit to hash out."

"Right." Kyle said, pushing past Michael. "I have a few questions for Mr Brognola as well."

"A tip." Xander slapped a hand onto Kyle's chest. "Don't piss Hal off. He's not the type you want on your case."

Kyle glared at him for a moment, the grudgingly nodded. Xander dropped his hand and nodded, "Into my office then."

Cordelia Chase needed someone to talk to.

She hadn't slept all night, hadn't even gone home for that matter.

She didn't feel safe even at home anymore, and hadn't slept more then a couple hours here and there as she drove all night long.

It had been going on for weeks now, reaching the point where it was affecting everything about her life.

Cordy scowled into the mirror, noting how her looks were affected, just as much as her sense of fasion. Even Harmony had seen it lately, as well as the rest of her friends.

She needed to talk to someone.


She turned her 'Vette up the driveway toward the home of Xander Harris, and was surprised by the sheer number of vehicles parked in the spacious drive.

<And why is Xander's car parked outside?> She scowled, not liking the crowd, but not knowing what else to do.

If she kept up like this, she was going to be in the hospital soon.

And they'd be able to get her there.

Cordelia Chase shuddered.

"I don't care what you are used to, Mr Stewart." Hal Brognola's face glared at the Ex-CIA agent from the Plasma display. "Things are going to change in the TKR group. Legally, you people shouldn't exist... An urban strike force of your nature is certainly riding the edges of the constitutional law as it stands. The Armaments you have at your disposal are hardly 'police' weapons you realize?"

"I know that, Sir... However the Foundation has a long history of solving problems that the police are unwilling or unable to handle. I think you'll find that..."

Hal cut him off, "I've been briefed on the history of the Foundation. Michael Knight," The Head fed nodded toward Michael, "Piloted an experimental vehicle that was adapted for defense and investigation *only*. It had no offensive capabilities... it certainly did not have rockets and energy weapons that the *military* has yet to develop."

Kyle started to speak, but Hal was still barreling along.

"Frankly, it makes a lot of people in the Government uneasy... to say the least," Brognola went on. "To have an armed urban strike force wandering around the country. Trust me, I know."

No one caught Hal's smirk, or Xander snicker.

"That said," Hal went on, "I believe that we can maintain the TKR group... however, as I've stated, there will be some changes. Mr Knight?"

"Yes?" Michael looked up, curious.

"What would you think of training an investigative branch for the TKR group? The current team makes for a strong strike force, however I believe that I would feel more comfortable if we had more solid intel on what they are striking *against*." Hal smiled thinly. "Certainly, good intel could very well have averted the day's... unpleasantness."

Michael nodded slowly. "That could be arranged. The fact is, the team has some good investigators as it stands. I think that a lot of the problems could be handled by rewriting their SOP."

Hal shrugged, "Give me a proposal, Mr Knight. I'll consider it seriously."

"I'll have one ready for you within a week." Michael promised, "Along with additional resources that Knight Industries would be willing to provide, assuming that the group allows external audits of their SOPs and personnel. The reason we withdrew much of our technical assistance was because we were cut out of the loop."

Hal sighed, "I'll see what I can do, Mr Knight. I think I can guarantee that independants will be called in to audit the group, however."

Michael nodded, "thank you, Sir."

"Now wait a second!" Kyle objected.

"No, you wait Mr Stewart." Brognola glowered at him. "This is no more then any police organization has to deal with... In fact, considering who your major backer is, I would imagine that you already HAVE investigators watching your actions. They just haven't bothered to inform you."

Stewart looked shocked, but settled back.

"Is the Sunnydale situation dealt with?" Xander asked, suppressing a sigh. He hadn't wanted Hal to know about Sunnydale, to say nothing of Jack.

"Yes, I believe so." Hal nodded, rolling his eyes. "Incidently, you can expect a visit from an old friend or two in the near future. Now that they know where you live."

Xander groaned. "Which one, Sir?"

Hal shrugged, "Oh, I'm certain that your Frisco friend will make time sooner or later, but I believe that Carl and the others are talking about dropping by with Cowboy... something about playing a prank on the poor bastard."

Xander groaned again. "Just remind them to pack stakes. Ok?"

"Steaks?" Trek looked up, frowning. "Why on earth would they pack meat? Can't they buy it locally?"

Xander licked his lips, trying to keep from laughing at the bookish young man. On the Plasma screen Hal was doing the same, and the heretofore silent Jack Ryan was openly snickering.

"What?" Trek asked, looking around, dismayed to see that even Michael Knight was laughing at him. "What!?"

"Nothing... Nothing..." Xander held up his hand, "Let's get back to business..."

"Hello?" Cordelia asked, knocking on the door. "Anyone?"

The door opened a scant few seconds later, and she jumped back as the young girl, Mikki, appeared in the frame.

"Yes?" She glowered.

Cordy winced. The girl really didn't much like her.

"Mik! Be nice."

Mikki spun around, flushing under her dark skin. "Sorry Tara."

Tara smiled, "Cordelia... Come..."

The blond stopped then glanced at the sun and merely gestured. Cordelia nodded and stepped in, looking around. "Something going on? Am I disturbing you?"

Tara waved a hand casually. "Just some trouble Xander ran into. We've been stuck sitting here at home all night worrying."

"You didn't help?" Cordy was surprised.

"Told not too." Mikki growled.

Tara shrugged, "Xander didn't want us identified... They're with the government."

"Oh." Cordelia didn't have a clue what that meant, but she supposed it meant something. "Is he here now?"

Chapter 26

"Look, all I'm saying is..." Michael trailed off as there was a knock at the door.

Everyone turned to see a blond girl there, blushing red from the sudden attantion.

"X... Xander... C-Cordy is here. I think she n-needs to talk..."

Xander nodded, "Thanks Tare. Let her know I'll be out in a few seconds, ok?"

Tara nodded and left.

"What the hell was that?" Kyle looked around, exasperated. "You do realize that we're talking about highly classified materials in here, right? What kind of place has little girls wandering through and..."

"My *home* does." Xander glared briefly, "Look, this may be an Operation for you, but you guys blundered into my HOME turf..."

"Besides." Jack Ryan said quietly, but managed to attract the attention of everyone there. "Tara has the same security clearance as Mr Harrison, and has earned a commendation from the United States Military for actions that saved the lives of combat soldiers. If she chose to sit IN on these discussions, I wouldn't have any complaints."

As everyone stared at him in shock, the CIA man just glared back and dared them to contradict him.

"Oookay." Kyle sat back down. "Now I know it."

"Know what?" Trek asked softly.

"I've gone completely loco, and am probably in a padded room right now. I hope the doctors get the drug dosages right before I start to believe these hallucinations."

The TKR group snickered, but that comment just earned him another glare from Jack Ryan.

Xander just sighed. "Look, I've got to check on Cordy."

"Let me guess, another little girl with Top Secret security clearance?" Kyle asked dryly.

Xander shrugged, "Wouldn't surprise me. Cor usually manages to sneak things past me."

Then he was gone.

"He was kidding... right?"

Cordelia looked up as Xander slipped into the room.

He was dressed well, she noted idly, or he would have been if the suit and silk shirt wasn't in such a tattered state. She wondered what had happened, then realized that she probably didn't really want to know.

"Hey." He said, dropping into a chair across from her.

"Hey." She said back, suddenly not knowing what to say.

Xander looked at her, and felt an edge of concern slip in. She looked... worn. He leaned forward, "Are you ok, Cor?"

Her eyes didn't even flicker at his use of the affectionate nickname, and Xander knew that there was some serious problems going on.

"Alright." His voice became firm, "Spill."

She looked up at the order she heard in his voice, and a sliver of her old self flared through. "Don't you think you can order *me*around Harris. I'm not one of your *pets*..."

He didn't get angry, or defensive, he just smirked at her. "Careful, Mikki might take exception to that."

"Like I care." She growled.

"Cordy.... Cor," He said seriously, leaning forward. "You came here for something... how about you talk to me and we see if we can find it. Ok?"

She sighed, shivering.

She couldn't stop that now, the shivering. It was like she was afraid all the time, like she was jumping at shadows.

"I can't sleep." She confessed suddenly, letting it all out with a deep breath. "I haven't had more then a cat nap in weeks... and the last time I slept through the night, it was from sheer exhaustion. I... I can't go on like this... I know I can't but I don't know how to stop it!"

She snapped the last part defensively, as if afraid of what he might think of her for her failure to manage her own life.

"Cor..." Xander said slowly, licking his lips as he thought. "Maybe you should talk to a specialist..."

"Oh no!" She stood up, "I'm not going to any freaking shrink! If I told some quack about vampires I'd get tossed in a padded room for sure!"

"Shhh..." Xander hissed, looking over his shoulder as he got up and motion with his hands for her to calm down. "Alright, alright... Why don't you tell me what's bothering you..."

"Bothering me!? Other then that blonde slut breaking into my house at night and finishing the job!?" Cordelia glared.

"Cor, I told you... They can't come in uninvited."

"You think I don't KNOW that!?" She snapped, pacing now. "It doesn't matter. I can't close my eyes anymore... I can barely relax in broad daylight! It's got nothing to do with reality, Xander!"

Xander sighed, crossing the room and grabbing her hands as she flailed them about. "Hey... Cor... Calm down. I told you before, this house is the safest place in town when it comes to Vamps. They couldn't get within a hundred feet of the place... Look, I've got an extra room upstairs... why don't you take the bed there, and we'll talk after you've had some sleep."

"I... I don't know if I can." She admitted, almost guiltily.

Xander wrapped an arm around her back. "Come on... I'll walk you up there, just try ok? A few hours will do you some good, then maybe you can chat with some of the others too..."

"Like who? That slutbomb you live with!?" Cordelia snapped, still irked. "Or the wallflower who can't get a single sentence out without stammering? Or maybe the twelve year old girl who really *really*doesn't like me?"

Xander started walking her toward the stairs, noting that Cordy was so worn down that despite her rote complaints, she really didn't seem to notice that they were moving. He forced a smile, "Well you can't really blame Mikki you know... You DID deck Tara with a lamp."

"I said I was sorry!" Cordy sniffed. "Besides, she scared the hell out of me too you know."

"I know, I know." Xander smiled, a little more genuinely now. "But she gets protective."

"No duh." Cordelia stated, taking the stairs one at a time as Xander guided her up. "Oh, alright... I'll try it your way."

"Thanks, Cor." Xander said with a soft smile.

She sighed, then looked over at him suddenly. "Why do you call me that anyway? No one else does... I don't even let my boyfriends call me Cor."

"It's a long story... but you aren't getting it right now." Xander told her. "Now, you sleep. Ok?"

She yawned.

"Ok..." Cordelia conceded guiltily. "Sleep... sounds good."

Xander nodded, continuing to rub his thumb along her spine as they walked. "Very good. You'll need your energy for later..."

"Need... energy..." She drooped a bit, and felt Xander catch her and easily pluck her off her feet. "So... so tired."

"I know." Xander said softly as he carried her to one of the spare rooms and set her down gently on the bed. "Sleep."

This time she didn't answer, except to snore softly as her mouth opened and she drooled on the pillow.

"I ain't letting you touch me ever again, X."

Xander glanced back to see a smirking Faith leaning on the door jam. "How long have you been listening?"

"Oh, I perked up my ears when she called me a 'slutbomb'." Faith glared mildly at the sleeping girl.

"She didn't mean anything by it." Xander said as he covered Cordy with a blanket and straitened up. "She's exhausted."

"I know." Faith kept smirking. "Queen C is usually more creative then 'Slutbomb'."

Xander had to smile at that himself and walked back toward the door. As he got close, Faith ducked back, staying well out of his reach. He frowned, "What are you doing?"

"I told ya, X... I'm not letting you get close enough to work that mojo on me." She smirked. "You could put me out and take advantage you know..."

"Faith..." Xander growled.

"What? I want to be *awake* if you take advantage." She grinned at him, then quickly left.

Xander just groaned.

The group stopped at the entrance to the drive of the impressive mansion, one of them looking with sightless eyes at the grounds laid out ahead of them.

"Impressive." He said stonily.

"What is it?"

"Wards. Powerful ones."

"Can you break them?"

The man nodded, "Given time."

"How much?"

"As much as it takes." He said cryptically, eyes emitting a reddish glow.

"Great." Another muttered, turning, he pointed to four others. "You four... move around back. Check for wards, and other security... Don't enter their range until contacted."

They nodded, and slipped back into the shadows of the grove of trees the group stood in. A second later they were gone as if they had never been.

"Work fast."

"I always work as fast as quality permits."

The group was silent for a moment, until another spoke up.

"Spread out. Blend in. Prepare."

With those words the group just moved apart with a smooth motion that belied the speed at which they had vanished.

The Terakan Assassins were in Sunnydale, and may their target beware.

Chapter 27

"Is she ok?"

Xander glanced over as he stepped off the stairs and noticed Natalie standing there. He nodded, then shook his head, then sighed and shrugged. "You know what? I don't know."

"Want to talk about it?"

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "I wouldn't know where to start."

Natalie nodded. "I'm here if you need someone to bounce ideas off of."

He smiled, "Thanks, Nat."

"Any time." She said, then glanced towards his office. "How's the deal going with them?"

"Bout as well as can be expected." Xander sighed. "Only Jack has any real idea of what's going on here, which means that I'm trusted the CIA with my location. To be honest, if I didn't really like Jack, I'd probably be packed up and moved out of here before nightfall."

Natalie nodded. She could sympathize since she knew a good deal more of the story then she had four months earlier, though she was equally certain that Xander was still holding back some secrets. "Can you trust him?"

Xander shrugged, "I think so."


"But..." Xander dragged the word out, smiling slightly. "We've already got all sensitive materials ready to move. We're ready to bug out if it looks like anyone in the government is getting to curious."

"You WILL leave me a forwarding address, I hope." She said, waggling her hips as she pressed up against him.

Xander appeared to consider it as he slipped a hand around the small of her back. "Well, with the right incentives..."

She smiled wide, crystal blue eyes sparkling. "Oh? And what kind of incentive would you like?"

Xander slid his hand down to cup the curve of her ass, pulling her closer.

"Oh." Natalie smiled, "THAT kind."

"Mmm hmmm..." Xander leaned in with a smirk.

"I think..." She whispered as they kissed, "that could be arranged."

"Thank god for negotiations." Xander whispered back as they continued kissing.

Erica shifted in annoyance, looking at her watch. "Where the hell did he go?"

"I'll go get him." Kyle muttered, standing up.

Michael Knight, who was standing by the door slapped a hand on his chest as he approached and pushed Kyle back. "Ah... Not a good idea."

"What? Why?"

Michael glanced back through a crack in the door. "You guys kinda interrupted his date earlier, you know... And I think that Xander and the blonde are making up for lost time."

Trek coughed, flushing slightly, as Erica and Jennifer exchanged glances.

Kyle stammered a bit and let himself be pushed back into his seat. "Um... oh.... ok. So what do we do?"

Hal Brognola chuckled on the screen, "I believe that we could see about hammering out an operational standard for your team... or at least a guiding spirit. And as we have the time, Mr Ryan, it occurs to me that the TKR group doesn't have a clear mandate within Justice... I was thinking that we might be able to work something out with the CIA in exchange for some new information sources?"

Jack Ryan sat back in his chair, looking at the camera. He thought about it, then frowned. "Excuse me, Merlin? Are you listening in?"

Everyone in the room exchanged confused glances, until the Plasma monitor split into *three* sections and the image of an old man with a short white beard and shaved scalp looked back out at them. "I am, Sir Ryan."

"Who the hell is this!?" Kyle snapped.

"I am Mister Harrison's Chief of Electronic Security." The old man answered.

Jack rolled his eyes at the outburst, "Am I right in assuming that you've scrambled all the links in this signal?"

"Of course." Merlin replied. "Mister Harrison's privacy and operation in Sunnydale is paramount. There are several agencies that would undoubtedly repeat the TKR group's actions should they learn of his location. To be frank, he doesn't need the distraction. Sunnydale is dangerous enough."

"Yes, I understand that." Jack replied. "I merely had to be certain that our conversation was privileged."

"I can assure you that is it." Merlin told them, "Any leaks will be due to the human factor."

"Thank you." Jack nodded.

"Certainly." Merlin said, then flickered out.

"Who was that?" Hal Brognola asked, staring out of the screen.

"That was 'Merlin'." Jack Ryan said with a half smile. "He's probably one of the top Hackers on the planet, from what I've been told. And an expert in digital security. Now, Mr Brognola, about your idea... Any association would have to be on the Q-T, however if the TKR group is willing, I can see several situations in which their help could be very useful."

"Mr Stewart?" Hal looked to the leader of TKR. "I'd like your input on this."

Kyle frowned, "Sir... As I understand it, TKR is a domestic investigation unit... always has been. If we..."

Hal snorted. "Son, your group is a lot of things, but investigative units don't have a VTOL 747 fly them around the country, nor do they pack the firepower you have. That was an official fiction, and you know it."

"Be that as it may Sir," Kyle went on stubbornly, "Working for the CIA will require an amendment to our operational procedures... and, frankly, I'm concerned about the kind of work my team might be asked to do."

"I was thinking along the lines of extraction of assets and agents." Jack said, musing. "I can think of more then one time I'd love to have had a bulletproof car. If we can't get the TKR group behind this, Mr Knight, do you think we might be able to commission a series of vehicles from Knight Industries?"

Michael hesitated. "Mr Ryan, I'd like to say yes, but I can't speak for the board in this matter. Wilton Knight had a... vision for his creations, and those of us who are still working toward that vision tend to guard it very jealously."

"I understand that, Mr Knight." Jack nodded, "I'd like a chance to work something out, though."

"I'll present it to the board." Michael said, nodding. "I can't promise anything other then that we'll give you your say."

"Thank you." Jack nodded.

"Most impressive."

"What now?"

"The Wards are multi-layered and intertwined." The Mage said, smiling softly. "I haven't seen work like this in years."

"Stop admiring the son of a bitch and break them down."

"It's not that simple... I think that the wards generate a area wide disturbance when active."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means," The Mage sighed as he rolled his red eyes, "that when the wards are in place and active, and sensitive person within their boundaries is aware of their action. Shutting them down will be like... turning off the sun. It's something you can hardly miss."

"Great. So what are our options?"

"I'm working on it." The Mage replied serenely. "If we cannot shut the wards down, we must become invisible to them."

"Can you do it?"

"It's done." The Mage smirked. "Contact the others... inform them that we are ready."

"It's about time." The man grinned. "This contract is just too good to let slide for long."

"Oh get a room!"

Xander and Natalie jumped apart, glancing up as Faith stood at the top of the stairs smirking at them. "Go on, Xan... hit her with that mojo..."

Xander groaned. "I'm in hell."

Natalie smirked, looking up at Faith. "Shouldn't you be watching cartoons or something?"

The dark haired Slayer reddened slightly, stiffening. "Hey, don't go there, blondy. You won't like the view."

"I like the view just fine," Natalie said, looping an arm around Xander's neck. "It's the *viewers* that are annoying."

Faith snarled, then turned and stalked off.

"You do know that she'll get you for the cartoon crack, right?" Xander asked, chuckling.

Natalie shrugged. "Of course. She's like Dylan... easy to predict once you get to know them."

Xander shrugged, considering that. Faith wasn't exactly what he'd call predictable in most situations, but he had to admit that in some ways Natalie had a point. She did have a pretty set pattern of behavior for dealing with friends and allies.

Generally that mean annoying them until they wished that she *wasn't* a friend or ally.

He smiled a bit and looped his arm around Natalie again, copping a feel. "Well, as long as you can get rid of her when in counts..."

"Uh huh... just what I was thinking." The blond grinned.

The signal went out, and sixteen members of the Order of Teraka crossed the boundary as one, leaping easily over the hedge fences, and other lines that marked the property line.

Natalie and Xander parted as the house lights went dim and shifted to the red.

"What's going on?"

"Perimeter breach." Xander frowned. "Come on."

She followed him wordlessly as he sprinted for the office.

Chapter 28

"What the hell?" Kyle muttered, looking around as the lights dimmed and turned red.

"I don't know, Mr Stewart." Michael Knight muttered, pushing off the wall he'd been leaning on. "But somehow I don't think it's Christmas time."

"Bingo." Xander said as he burst into the room. "Perimeter breach."

The occupants of the room glanced at each other as Xander rushed over to his desk. "Merlin?"

An instant later, a holographic display rippled into existence around him, surrounding Xander with a 360 degree image as Merlin's voice came from somewhere else in the room.

"Analyzing now." The voice intoned.

On the holographic display a series of lights lit up in time to Merlin's process, and Xander frowned. "Primary systems show clear. Secondaries... good... Merlin, what the hell is..."

A new series of lights lit up, these ones an angry red.

"The intrusion is on the tertiary passives." Merlin replied.

"Diagnostics. System wide." Xander ordered.

"All systems functioning properly."


The hologram changed to a series of images showing the exterior of the house. On each of them were single or small groups of figures moving stealthily toward the mansion.

"There." Xander reached out and tapped a section of air. "Zoom in."

The picture zoomed in, tightly focusing on the now still photograph, until it was focused solidly on the figures hand. Xander's eyes hardened as he recognized the ring on the man's finger.

"Terakans." He snarled.

"The Assassin's Order?" Jack Ryan sat bolt upright in his chair, "Are you certain?"

Xander nodded grimly. "Merlin... numbers?"


"Shit. Someone ponyed up enough cash to bring them out of the woodwork." Xander growled.

"Assassins?" Michael Knight asked, eyes darting around the holographic display. "Assassins don't usually bring a small army."

"They do if they want to get in here." Xander said grimly. "Merlin... Lock us down."

The Assassins of the terakan guild paused as they approached the house, the sudden slamming of steel shutters over the windows taking them by surprise.

"What in the hell?" One of them muttered, watching as a steel slab rose from the group to cover the patio doors in front of him.

"I think that we've been spotted." Another said dryly.

"No shit."

Faith's Room

Faith opened her eyes at the sounds filtering up into her room and looked around suspiciously. She'd spent the last few minutes plotting an appropriate payback for Natalie, and hadn't noted the change in lighting, but the sounds were hard to miss.

"What the hell?" She asked, confused.

"House is entering lockdown." Merlin's voice came through suddenly. "Members of the Order of Teraka are approaching the premises."

<Shit!> Faith snapped out of the bed, twisting in the air as she planted her feet firmly on the ground and dove for a section of the wall near the door.

She slapped the wall and it opened, revealing a compartment inside that was loaded with weapons.

Her face was dark as she drew a pair of stock FiveSeven pistols, checked the clips with a smooth motion, then slapped them into the receivers with a practiced move and racked both slides simultaneously.

The pistols dropped into the waistband of her shorts, held tight by the form hugging material, as Faith pulled out a pair of Cold Steel Tomahawk's and a breakaway thigh piece to hold them. She braced her right leg up on the wall and wrapped the once piece velcro strap around her bare leg, tightening it with a quick tug.

The Tomahawks fitted into the sheath as she ran the clip up to the belt loop of her denim shorts and locked the sheath in place.

"Play time." She grinned.

Faith had a bit of extra tension to work out at the moment.

Mikki's room

Mikki bolted upright from where she was sitting, actually leaving the ground as she twisted in the air and landed on the balls of her feet.

"The house is entering lockdown." Merlin's voice came over the PA system, "Please remain where you are, Miss Mirri. This room will be secured against attack."

Mikki hissed softly and bolted for the door as it started to shut.

She made a flying leap, just squeezing through as it locked solidly behind her.

Jack's Room

The lighting had been his first clue, and Jack remembered the briefing on what the color coding meant. He reached under his bed quickly and pulled his portable gun safe from under the bed and quickly entered the combination.

Inside were his personal pistol, the Glock he had bought from Andy, and a single FN Five Seven that he had been issued when the first production models of the pistol had become available a couple months earlier.

He grabbed the FiveSeven, checked it's action, and loaded the weapon.

Once that was safely tucked in his waistband, Jack grabbed his Glock and repeated the action.

That done he turned and headed for the door.

"The House is entering lockdown. Assassins of the Order or Teraka are approaching the Premises."

<Teraka?> Jack paused in mid step. <Those lunatics are still around?>

He paused by the door, then crossed over to his closet and pulled his rapier from it. He shrugged the strap over his shoulder and headed for the door.

Xander stripped off his dress coat, revealing the FiveSeven's he wore in the shoulder harness, then pulled open his desk drawer and pulled the matt black Desert Eagle from it. He checked the clip and action, then racked one into the pipe as he strapped the heavy weapon around his waist.

"What the hell do these guys want?" Kyle asked, standing up.

"I'm just guessing," Xander shrugged, "But probably my head."

"They can damned well stand in line." Erica muttered.

"Xander, can you handle Sixteen Terakans?" Jack Ryan asked, concerned.

Xander shrugged, "I don't know. I'll get back to you in a bit."

"Xander?" Ryan called out as Xander headed for the door.

Xander paused, glancing back.

"Good luck."

"Thanks." Xander said, then stepped out.

Tara's Room

Tara paled as she remembered what the color of the lights meant, and quickly scrambled out of her chair and rushed over to the small room that connected to hers.

She quickly rifled through the components that existed there and shoved some, seemingly at random, into a leather pouch.

"This house is entering Lockdown." Merlin's voice filtered down to her, and she looked up for a moment as he continued. "Terakan Assassins are approaching the premises."

Tara bit her lower lip, nodded, and bolted out into the halls as he door slammed shut behind her.

"Is this shit for real?" Erica asked, looking around for some kind of confirmation.

"Very real." Jack Ryan told her from the screen, his face drawn with tension. "I sent Xander up against thee Terakan's almost two years ago now... The only reason we managed to save their targets was because we were able to locate the person who had issued the contract and force him to withdraw it."

"What would have happened if he hadn't?" Michael Knight asked, frowning.

"The Terakan's never give up a contract until it's fulfilled, canceled by the contractor, or the contractor is unable to pay up." Ryan said evenly. "And if Sixteen of them have shown up there... It's one hell of a contract."

Hal Brognola frowned, "Mr Harrison has a lot of enemies..."

"I'll bet." Erica muttered.

Kyle looked over to Jack Ryan, "Sir... This may sound stupid, but what is the legal status of the Terakans?"

Ryan snorted. "Don't you mean to ask if they're on Company payroll themselves?"

Kyle nodded grimly.

"They aren't." Ryan said flatly. "And as far as I know they never have been."

"Very good sir." Kyle turned to Hal. "I'd like permission to commit my team."

Hal nodded. "Granted. But Mr Stewart... Be careful."

"Yes Sir." Kyle nodded as he lifted his commlink to his mouth. "Dante... Come in."

Around him the others members of TKR did the same.

As the Terakans approached the front of the house they didn't notice the vehicles out front suddenly purr to life.

Sensors swept the area in silent passes, identifying targets with computer efficiency.

Inside the mansions garage, another car also purred to life, though the doors stayed down. KARR drew in sensor data from the house sensors, then scanned with his own and settled in to wait.

Chapter 29

"Who do these bozos think they are?" Domino sneered as she watched the three Assassins approach cautiously.

"They think that they're dangerous Assassins." Dante growled over their link. "And they're right. So don't joke around."

"Sure sure," The Mustang smirked audibly. "Locking up the lead two now."

"When you're ready." Dante replied. "We move on your signal."

"Oh, I'm ready."

"We've got six approaching from the rear." Xander hissed as he spotted Faith coming down the stairs. "Watch out, Terakan's are rarely what you'd call normal."

"Right." Faith nodded, pulling the twin pistols from behind her back.

"Jack," Xander nodded to the man out of time, "Go with her... you too Tara."

"What about you?" Tara asked softly.

"The front side is the most heavily defended." Xander replied. "I'll stay here to counter any mojo they get working. K?"

"K." She nodded, falling out and moving along behind Jack and Faith.

Xander half turned, then glanced sharply up the stairs. "Mikki... You're supposed to be in your room."

The young Were rose from her hiding place at the top of the stairs and shrugged. "Didn't wanna."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Stay there. Don't get involved."

She just shrugged.

Xander sighed, <Foolish girl.>

He moved up to the door, pulling a small device from his pocket and activating it.

A hologram instantly projected in front of him as he stood there, showing him a composite image gathered from all the available sensors of the other side of the door and wall.

"Neat gadget." Michael Knight said, sliding up beside him. "What is it?"

"Computer." Xander replied. "Has a wireless link to the Mansions systems and a holographic display and input system."

"Nice. Didn't know they made holo projectors that small." Michael said as he settled in. "KITT and the TKR group are onboard. Domino is just waiting her chance to open the party."

"Why her?" Xander asked softly.

"She's equipped with non-lethals." Michael replied, "TKR is a police group, after all."

"Won't work."


"Now." Domino said, her statement punctuated by two puffs from her front grill.

Two knockout darts flew clear out, impacting with their targets mere instants later, much to the shock and surprise of the Terakans.

One of the grabbed at his neck, face grimacing in shock as he pitched over, but the other only snarled as he yanked the dart from his throat and spun around with an ugly glare on his face.

"Who dares!?" He snarled softly, barely noticing his fallen companion.

On the other side, the third member of their group looked over the area with glowing red eyes. "I don't see anyone... But..."


"The cars." The mage said suddenly. "They're running."


"So they weren't when we started our approach."

"One down." Domino said, sounding disappointed.

"Did you miss number two?"

"Miss!?" She sounded scandalized. "I think not."

"Why is he still standing then?"

"I don't know, Dante. Why don't you tell me?" She snapped sarcastically, then froze as the two remaining assassins glared directly at her. "Uhhh.... I don't like the look of this."

"We've been spotted. Stealth means nothing." The first man said finally. "Destroy the cars."

"With pleasure." The Mage snarled.

He passed his hands together, charging a ball of lightning from the ambient air, then flung his hands out with fingers splayed.

The energy blasted into the parked cars with enough force to rock them on their suspension, electrical blue energy dancing over their bodies as the two parked bikes were actually lifted from the ground and flung back against the mansion.

When he was done, the energy faded and the Mage stared in shock.

"What on...??"

"... Earth was that!?" Domino shrieked as her sensors went haywire and the surge protection systems all went into lockdown.

She was suddenly locked out of her own body as her reflexive systems cut her off from the sudden surge of energy.

"Hello?" She said quietly. "Hello? Anyone?"

No good. Her communications systems were locked down too.


"What was that!?" Kyle Stewart growled, pushing forward as he stared at the projection floating in front of Xander.

"Mage blast. Electrical type, I'd say." Xander said softly, "Are your AI's shielded?"

"Against what!?"

"Lightning strike."

Kyle blinked, "Well... yeah. But a direct hit would trip every breaker they have..."

"Can you reset?"

"They'll reset automatically in sixty seconds." Kyle replied. "How the hell could a man throw a lightning bolt!?"

"Welcome to the Hellmouth, Mr Stewart." Xander replied as he shut down the display. "Are you armed?"

"I'm ex-CIA. What do you think?"

"Get ready, they're coming in."

The rear of the Mansion looked up as they approached through the grove out back, and the four Terakans paused to note the firing range.

"Well, we knew he'd be armed." One of them said.

The other paused and knelt by one of the targets and frowned as he picked up one of many hundreds of steel shards. "I don't know if I really want to know what he's been shooting back here."

"Enough of this." Another said. "We have a target to end."

The four nodded and continued on until they arrived at the back of the mansion and spotted the steel shutters that had covered the doors and windows.


"I can handle this." Said one, a rather imposing figure with golden horns sprouting from his head. He stepped up the one of the door sized steel shutters, reared back, and slammed his hands into it.

The steel dented at the blow, the hoofed hands ringing like stone against the metal as he reared back and hit it again.


Tara jumped a little as she watched the steel behind the patio door shudder as two large dents appeared in it.


The second blow didn't startle her as much, but the huge dents made her look twice as she moved forward and whispered to the other two. "H... here."

They looked back and nodded as they spotted the pair of P90s she had cradled in her arms.

"Stay cool, Tiger." Faith said as she knelt down by the wall and lifted one of the P90s Tara had brought up to her shoulder, carefully aimed at the steel shutter. "We've got these guys."


"R.. Right." She swallowed, pulling her pouch open and gathering out a small paper packet.

Jack Styles hefted the second P90 as he kicked open a door and crouched down in the frame of it, wielding the sub-machine gun left handed. "Don't worry 'bout it, Tiger. These bums have nothing on us."

Tara risked a watery smile, but nodded.


A glint of light from outside showed now as the steel tore, and Faith cursed.

"Shit these guys are strong." She muttered, "That was the best system we could get installed without the contractors reporting us to the BATF."


"I think we get the next one put in by techs from Avalon." Jack said firmly.

"Got that right, Style." Faith replied. "And if I know Xan, it ain't gonna be quite as polite as the current one."

Chapter 30

"I told you to destroy them."

The mage hissed, eyeing the inert vehicles oddly as they passed. "That usually does the trick. I've seen vehicles turned into fireballs by less."

"Sure..." The first man said sarcastically. "And maybe you're just losing your touch."

"Silence your mouth." The Mage hissed, "Before I silence it for you."

"You'll need a fuckin army first." The First man said, then nodded toward the steel shuttered door. "Think you can handle that? Or should I call one of the others?"

The Mage snarled and snapped his hand out as he reached for the steel shutter with his inner eye.

A burst of gunfire from the back startled Kyle and Michael as they stood in the open foyer, causing them to look over their shoulder.

"Don't worry about them." Xander advised them softly. "We've got enough problems here."

"That looks like reinforced steel to me," Kyle hissed. "What the hell do you think they're going to do? Blow it open?"

"Nope." Xander said as the steel began to rattle in it's mount. "They're going to rip it off."

Kyle's eyes widened as he shook his head. "That's not possible."

The steel shutter ripped off the frame, yanking clear as the daylight outside was revealed to them. The Desert Eagle on Xander's hip leapt up as his hand made a subtle flicker of motion, and then boomed once as the big hand cannon went off.

"Shit!" The big man ducked as the steel shutter clattered back to earth, nearly taking his head off. "Watch what you're..."

He trailed off as he looked to one side and saw the Mage keeled over with a big hole in the center of his forehead.

"Fuck me." He muttered, then looked up just as a flicker of motion warned him to move.

The Desert Eagle boomed three more times as Xander tracked the Assassin on his flight across the outside, until the figure was out of his line of fire, then he ducked back in.

"Two down." Xander said, "What kind of non-lethals does Domino pack, Mr Stewart?"

"Knock out darts..." Kyle replied, pistol in hand as he surveyed the exterior. "Put a man down for six hours minimum."

"Let's hope they last long enough for us to finish this." Xander replied.

"I'm heading for KITT." Michael told them. "Cover me?"

Xander nodded once, but caught Michael's shoulder as he started to move. "Michael... don't pull any punches on these guys. They're not human."

Michael just nodded.

"Alright then... go for it." Xander said as he swung out again, searching for targets.

"KITT, open up!" Michael said into his watch as he bolted through the door. "I'm coming down!"

As the cloven hooved figure stepped back from the steel shutters, satisfaction written on his inhuman face, a sudden tearing sound erupted from inside and the look of satisfaction vanished into shock as over thirty armor piercing rounds wrapped in blessed silver ripped through his chest, turning his flesh to hamburger.

As he fell back, his three companions reacted instantly, diving for cover as they sent return fire into the open hole.

Literally, in one case.

A wall of heat scorched Faith as she held her ground, looking through the integrated sight of the P90 for a target, any target.

Chunks of plaster and wood were raining down around her as something ripped into the walls, but she couldn't see through the flames to tell what was being thrown at them.

Finally she'd had enough.

"Back!" She barked sharply, started to move backwards away from the flame before it cooked them where they stood.

Tara threw up an airshield as she and Jack ducked back, keeping the fire confined further back, and only dropped it once Faith and Jack were past the stairs.

As the shimmer of solidified air wavered away, the fire sprinklers kicked in and they were awash in water cascading down over them.

"Great!" Jack yelled, a shit eating grin on his face. "Now I don't need to take my shower this month!"

"You better be joking, Style." Faith growled as she pushed sticking hair out of her face. "Cause if you aren't, I'm gonna drown you when this is over."

Jack Styles just chuckled as he tossed the partial clip and dropped a fresh one into the P90.

Michael Knight slid into the driver's seat of KITT, patting the dash fondly as he smirked. "Nice to see you didn't get shut down by the electrics, pal."

"I did get shut down." KITT informed him, "However I believe that we can consider the new power control system Bonnie installed to be a success. My reboot time is under thirty seconds."

"Alright, let's show these guys a little 'reboot' of out own." Michael said, flipping some switches on his overhead panel.

"Michael," KITT sounded concerned as the powerplant whined to life. "You're arming the laser... surely you don't intend to use that against *people*??"

"KITT, I'm not so sure these things ARE people." Michael said, shifting the car into gear and hitting the gas.

The tires squealed as KITT pealed out, jumping the edge of the drive and spinning acoss the manicured lawn.

Trek looked around the office, trying to locate a keyboard or mouse or *anything* that could connect him with the computer system he knew was here somewhere.

"May I help you?" A voice came out of nowhere, one that trek recognized as belonging to the Hacker 'Merlin'.

"I'm trying to access the security system." He said, looking around. "If I can get information to Kyle and the others they can react better."

The voice was silent for a moment, then suddenly the holographic display flashed into existence.

"Good luck, Mr Trek."

"Kyle..." Kyle's commlink hissed into action.

"Trek?" Kyle paused, listening. "What is it?"

"You have three bogies at the windows straight ahead of you. They seem to be... I don't know what they're doing, but it can't be good."

"Thanks, kid." Kyle said, nodding to the windows as he spoke to Xander and Natalie. "Other side of those windows."

Xander nodded, glancing over at Nat.

The Angel nodded and glanced around the room, quickly finding what she was looking for. She ducked out of the room, vanishing from sight.

"Where she go?" Kyle asked as he kept one eye on the windows.

One of them seemed to be glowing. But that was impossible.

"The Gym." Xander replied softly, leveling his Desert Eagle at the window.

"Why?" Kyle asked, frowning. That window was *definitely* glowing.

"You'll see." Xander said with a mysterious smile.

Any further comment was forestalled as the steel shutter that covered the window actually started to *melt* in metal rivulets, opening a hole in the steel.

Kyle aimed his pistol, but was halted by a hiss from Xander.

"Wait for it..."

The steel door had been ripped, battered, and shattered by the forces applied to it as the Terakans stepped over the threshold and into the house.

The hallway was filled with steam now, the cascading water still coming down as the heated metal and materials boiled it to a thick, concealing, wall.

They moved silently, or as silently as was possible in the quarter inch of water on the floor, with no words to expose their position. First one, then two, then the third slipped in and spread out across the wide hallway.

They moved together, making their way through the steam with calm deliberate movements, one on either side of the hall and one in the center, they moved forward.

A loud noise penetrated her hearing, but she ignored it.

Then it happened again.

Cordelia Chase rolled over, annoyed. "Damn it! Cut that racket ou....."

She trailed off as she didn't recognize the room she was in.

The world spun as she looked around, trying to remember, then suddenly knew where she was.

<Xander's...> She thought, <I fell asleep her..."

Something that sounded like gunfire startled her awake, sitting up in the bed as the blankets fell away. Cordelia looked down, and was glad to see that she was still dressed, then another series of shots echoed up the stairs and she slowly got up from the bed.

<What's that noise?> She wondered worriedly. <It's probably just Xander... He has guns... he even has a range.... right?>

Another booming noise echoed up the stairs.

Cordelia swallowed and slowly pushed the door open and stepped out into the hallway.

"Hello?" She asked in a wavering voice. "What's going on? Is anyone there? Hello?"

Chapter 31

KARR had had enough waiting. The attackers were outside and they were threatening his... safe place. He signaled for the garage door to open and waited as the big doors moved, engine revving.

As the door moved up far enough for him to slip out, KARR flipped up his headlights, spearing one of the Assassins with the dual high beams.

The Terakan looked at the car dumbly for a moment, puzzling that no one was behind the wheel, then KARR's all wheel drive bit into the surface of the garage floor, and the black transam leapt out of it's home. The Assassin was hit just above the knees, and flipped up and over KARR as he burst out, head slamming hard into the near unbreakable windshield as the body continued to flop bonelessly over the car and finally landed hard against the pavement.

KARR hit the brakes, squealing to a stop, shifted into reverse, and backed over the fallen assassin.

Just to make sure.

"You see anything, Style?"

Jack Styles shook his head as he shifted through the steam that had thrown up a wall between them and the assassins. "Fraid not."

"Fuck." Faith muttered, half turning. "Hey Tiger, catch."

Tara reached up just in time to catch the P90 as it was tossed to her, and watched as Faith yanked the twin Tomahawks from her thigh. The Slayer fitted the weapons' wrist straps and got a good feel for the weight of the Cold Steel weapons, flipping them casually around in her hands as she moved forward.

The modern incarnation of the ancient weapons were purely utilitarian, a flat black handle and blade, with no ceremonial decorations hanging from them to appease the spirits. Faith had selected the weapons because they were light, they were lethal, and she liked the way she should whip them into any vampire that got too close.

The blade wasn't razor sharp, but the weight and force a Slayer could put behind it more then evened out any lack that might be, while the slightly duller edge made for a stronger surface in a fight. On the flip side, a beveled spike of high carbon steel gave her arguments with vamps and demons a little extra... point.

So, with weapons in hand, Faith slid slowly through the steam as she searched for her quarry.

She almost missed the shadow in the steam as she moved, barely getting the Tomahawk up in time to blow the hammering blow from above.

"Now." Xander hissed, bringing the Desert Eagle up into a Weaver stance as the first head appeared in the melted hole.

Kyle's service Berretta barked first, three shouts ripping into the face of the figure as Xander put a single round into it's head.

The intruder fell away from the hole as Xander grabbed Kayle and pulled him down. "Move!"

"What are...!?" The Ex-CIA agent had a chance to yelp out as a ball of energy flashed through the hole, torching the wall behind them.

"Demon." Xander growled, scrambling backward as he drug Kyle with him. "We need a bit of cover!"

"De...!?" Kyle stared at him like he was nuts. Come to think of it... "Are you NUTS!?"

Xander grinned, one of those insane smiles that send shivers up the spines of people still in possession of *their* sanity. "How nice of you to notice."

Kyle pulled away from him as they got out of the room, throwing himself back against a wall that separated himself from the room they had been in. Demon or what, he didn't know and didn't much care. Whatever was in there was dangerous.

Of course, Kyle snuck another glance over at Xander. What was in here was dangerous too.

Xander risked another look into the room and spotted the demon that had thrown the energy ball. He snapped up the Desert Eagle as the demon growled and flung another ball at him.

The Eagle roared once, just as the energy ball scorched the wall Xander was hidden behind, just as the demon vanished.

"Fuck!" Xander snapped, "The bastard can shimmer!"

"He can WHAT!?" Kyle asked incredulously.

Xander rose to his feet, looking around with his senses fully extended.

Only the sudden growl of a wild cat warned him to move as he did, a ball of energy slamming into the wall behind him as Mikki flew through the air and landed on the demon, claws and teeth rending as they hit the ground rolling.

Cordelia saw the sprinklers on the ground floor in action and her eyes widened.

"Ohmygod! The place is on fire!" She yelped, running down the stairs.

As she hit the bottom of the stairs she turned around, noting the curling steam that was floating around her feet, and looked around quickly. "Hello!? Anyone!?

There was no direct answer, but Cordelia yelped in surprise as two forms came barreling out of the steam.

The smaller one, she recognized as Faith, but the larger one she didn't know at all.

It took a moment, but then she realized that they were fighting, and that they were coming straight at her.

Cordy pressed herself against the wall as they stumbled past, exchanging blows, and just screamed.

The ear piercing sound shocked both combatants into a stunned silence, but only for a second as Faith grinned and recovered first.

The trim Slayer suddenly whipped both Tomahawks around in a martial stick rhythm that battered her opponent with dozens of strikes in just a few seconds of intense activity. Cordy stared in shock as the big man fell to his knees, his upper body and face cut and hacked to a hamburger mush, and Faith's blood covered face came into sight.

"Thanks for the distract, C." Faith grinned, white teeth showing through the macabre face she presented. "You should go back upstairs though."

"Upstairs!?" Cordy screeched. "The place is on fire!!"

"Naw." Faith drawled, wiping her face with one hand and smearing the blood around. "We're just dealing with some Assassins. No big. Go get some sleep."

Cordelia stared at her in total shock, frozen in place by the insanity of the moment. Then it passed as four more figures came rushing from the steam, and Faith snapped back into the fight alongside Jack and Tara, Cordelia forgotten in the rush.

Cordy shook herself free of the shock, then slowly inched her way along the wall as she tried to surreptitiously get away from the insanity.

"What the hell is THAT!?"

"That," Xander glared at the Jaguar, "Is Mikki. Who I told to stay out of this fight..."

Kyle stared in awe as the cat actually looked chagrined for a moment, not wanting to look Xander in the eyes.

Xander finally sighed and smiled, "Come on. Stay close Mik. You watch my back, I'll watch yours."

The big cat coughed out an enthusiastic sound and bounded up off the demon's melting body and landed at Xander's side. Kyle watched as Xander scruffed the cat's ears fondly for a moment, and could SWEAR that the Jaguar started purring.

"This is just too much." The Ex-CIA agent muttered. "Too damned much."

Erica and Jennifer glanced at each other as the house seemed to descend into madness, but checked the urge to run out into the fight. Trek had elected to stay in the office and help guide the fight as much as he could, so they'd been elected to stay close and watch the kid.

Just in case.

Of course, that didn't mean they were completely out of it.

Neither of them knew where it had come from, nor really what 'it' was, but when it attacked them they reacted reflexively.

It was about six feet tall, mostly human shaped, but all in the wrong proportions. It's upperbody seemed to imply massive strength, which was borne out by the blow that destroyed a section of the wall when Erica ducked.

As she fell into a crouch, she lashed out with an automatic kick that twisted it's knees back at an unnatural angle.

The thing roared, but didn't fall, and proceeded to clasp it's hands together in an axe-handle blow aimed down at her.

Erica rolled clear as Jennifer jumped up, snapping a kick into it's face.

It flinched back from the solid blow, but nothing more, and Erica gasped as it spun around and it's face was exposed to them.

Whatever it was, it wasn't human.

Cordelia squirmed around a corner, not caring where she wound up as long as it wasn't back there.

As soon as the fighters were out of sight she sprinted down the hall and broke out into the foyer, heading for the front door.

Only to skid to a halt, screaming as she spotted another fight going on there.

She turned and fled.

"NOW WHAT!?" Kyle growled, looking over his shoulder as the girl screeched and fled.

Xander frowned, "That's Cordy... She shouldn't have gotten out of her roo... AH SHIT!"


"I forgot that we haven't installed the lockdown on the guest room doors yet." Xander sighed, "Low priority... They're usually empty."

"Nice oversight." Kyle said dryly.

Xander nodded, "Come on... we'd better go get he..."

He was cut off when another assassin appeared from a doorway and threw a half dozen steel throwing spikes at him.

Cordy hit the wall hard, pressing flat against it as she looked around in terror. All around her the place was going nuts! Everyone was fighting, killing... dying. She shouldn't be here. She couldn't do any of this!

She cautiously took a step, intent on finding away out, when a shadowing figure came from nowhere and slammed into her. She screamed again as she fell, kicking and hitting at the figure who just shrugged it off as they crashed through a coffee table. Cordy kicked out savagely, breaking loose for just a second and tried to scramble away.

She screamed again as a cold, hard, hand locked itself around her bare leg and started to drag her back.

Chapter 32

As the spikes flashed through the air, Kyle dodged to the left as the actions suddenly burst around him.

First a pair of chains flashed out from the side, striking half the spikes right out of the air like a pair of guided missiles, and then Xander just twisted to one side and plucked the remaining three out of the air with one hand.

As he watched, Xander spun around and flung those same three steel throwing spikes back at their source.

The assassin croaked in pain as two imbedded themselves in his throat, and one found his right eye.

As the Terakan fell, the chains were snapped back, and Natalie smirked as she whipped the weighted chains around her forearms with a casual maneuver, hooking the spike weights on the ends between her thumbs and forefingers.

"Ready for some action?" Xander grinned, ignoring the rather disgusted sounding cough from the jaguar at his side.

"Maybe later." The blonde smirked. "First let's deal with these assassins."

"You people are all INSANE." Kyle growled, shaking his head as Xander and the blonde shared a quick kiss.

"Come on." Xander said right after.

"What's wrong?" Natalie asked, noting the frown.

"Cordy." Xander said grimly, his brief levity fading already.

Jack Styles jumped back as the Terakan he was dealing with slashed at him with a heavy sword. He grinned, enjoying the rush.

"Just like the old days." He smirked, sweeping his rapier across and deflecting the other sword with a sweep.

The Terakan growled, lunging forward with another hacking blow.

"Ole!" Jack grinned, sidestepping, and slapping the assassin on the ass as he passed.

The enraged assassin stumbled and spun around, glaring daggers at the Colonial Spy.

"Style!" Faith snapped from where she had just taken out another Terakan.

"What!?" Jack asked, parrying another blow and punching the man in the nose.

"Stop playing with the bastard and finish him off! We've got more to deal with!"

"Right." Jack sighed, shrugging as the Assassin looked at him with a confused look. "Sorry pal, sometimes you get the bull..."

The look turned to shock as Jack produced a Main Gauche with a flick of his wrist and buried it into the assassin's chest. "Sometimes the bull gets you."


"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Jack rolled his eyes as he yanked the dagger back. As the assassin fell he leaned over and wiped the blade off, "You don't mind if I just clean this up a bit do you? I didn't think so..."

"Style!" Faith snarled again.

"Alright already!" Styles jumped up, running over. "You aren't related to the Rothschild family by any chance, are you?"


"Never mind."

Michael Knight twisted the wheel as he guided the black Trans-am around the house, and easily spotted a rather obviously non-human 'entity' trying to gain entry to the house through a side window.

"Lock him up." Michael ordered.

"Michael, you can't be serious!"

Michael didn't have time to argue, and began to aim the laser manually. "Sorry KITT, I know this seems to go against your programming but it's got to be done."

The AI watched, unable to alter the commands of his driver, and uncertain if he *wanted* to do so, as Michael manually locked up the hulking thing and charged the laser.

"Michael, are you certain this is necessary??"

"Fraid so, buddy." Michael said.

The AI all but sighed. "Very well."

Michael blinked in surprise as the laser guidance locked in.

"Target... locked."

Michael nodded, flicking firing control over to manual. "Don't worry about it, pal. My call. Firing now."

He depressed the button.

Inside the car a series of connections were made, and a surge of power traveled from the capacitor systems to the newly installed laser system. There was a flash of light, not caused by the laser itself as the beam was far too energetic to be seen, but rather by the sudden flash incineration of several ounces of demonic flesh.

The demon roared in pain as it pitched to one side, forgetting about trying to get into the house as it clawed at it's injured side.

"Again." Michael said, depressing the button once more.

Cordelia kicked again, trying to get loose as she scrabbled against the carpeted floor, but the cold hand that had her lower leg wasn't letting go as it drew her inexorably back.

Mentally she screamed, but her voice didn't seem to work as she flipped over on her back and looked down. The thing looked like some kind of lizard, hissing at her as it tried to regain it's balance despite her struggles.

Suddenly she found her voice again and screamed.

"NO!" She yelled, kicking it in the head, trying to break free as she desperately turned around and fought against the unyielding pull that was pulling her back.

She couldn't do this.

She couldn't TAKE this.

Not again.

Not ever again.

Cordelia Chase wasn't made to be some victim for the weirdo of the week. She wasn't supposed to BE here!

Cordy clawed against the carpet as she tried to escape, but couldn't move an inch.

She twisted around again, grabbing for the closest thing she could use as a weapon, and got a hold of a broken table leg from the coffee table they'd crashed through. She screamed again, smashing it down on the monster.

And again, and again.

She hit it over and over again until finally it growled in anger or annoyance or something, and batted the makeshift weapon out of her hand.

It had managed to move now, and was half way up her body as it glared into her terror stricken eyes.

"Where issssssss he?" It hissed, glaring at the troublesome morsel it had caught, already tired of the antics of this human. If she didn't answer him, he'd kill her and move on. He'd already wasted too much time.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" Cordy squealed, trying to kick, but not succeeding because the thing had straddled her legs soldily.


Cordy didn't even know what the hell it had said that time and just stared in terror as she shook her head. "I... I don't know!"

"Then you die."

Cordelia shrieked again as the thing reached forward, moving up her body toward her throat with it's cold hands, and she twisted and reached out desperately for a weapon.

Any weapon.

There was a hiss of air near her ears and something just fell right into her hands as her wish was granted, and Cordelia wrapped her hand around it with strength born of desperation. She could feel the clawed hands at her throat already, and so she just swung blindly.

There was a hiss of steel sliding along a surface, then a meaty smack, and then the weight on her body fell forward onto her breasts and became still.

Cordelia Chase opened her eyes and screamed.

"Shit!" Xander ran for the living room as another shriek echoed through the house.

A motion to his right caught his eye, but he didn't pause as he identified the demon as it forced open one of the damaged windows.

Instead he simply pulled a FiveSeven from his right shoulder holster with his left hand, lifted his right arm slightly, and put three rounds into the demon without pausing.

He and Natalie skidded to a stop when they reached the living room, the scene there shocking them into silence.

Cordelia was in a corner, shivering as she curled up and just stared at a demon in the center of the room. The scaly lizard type demon was dead, Kagi Maro embedded solidly in it's scalp, his sheath lying a short distance away.

"Cor..." Xander stepped in, checking to be sure that the demon was dead. "You ok?"

She looked at him with unseeing eyes as he grasped the sword and pulled it clear from the body.

Xander frowned, looking down at the sword in surprise.

It... felt wrong.

He blinked in surprise, then opened his hand.

The sword flipped gracefully out of his hand and landed point down between Cordelia's legs, resting it's pommel against her hand as she huddled in the corner.

"Xander..." Natalie nudged him, "What's going on?"

Xander just stared for a moment, then laughed. It was an almost sarcastic, unbelieving sound and he directed it and his gaze at the sword.

"I offer you some of the best warriors on the *planet* and you pick a Cheerleader!?"

Chapter 33

"He's down!"

"I can see that, Michael." KITT replied, his voice tinged with a darkness that Michael had only heard rarely.

"Hey, pal... He wasn't human, and he was trying to kill some people. Remember that."

"It's not easy, Michael." KITT told him flatly.

"I know it." Michael nodded as he twisted the wheel and spun around the corner of the house just in time to see another misshapen figure.

This one took note of them almost as quickly and spun on them, a fire ball lighting up in it's hands.

Michael Knight's eyes widened in shock as the thing snapped it's hand out, throwing a fireball straight at them. The flame hit the hood and exploded, shaking the car and throwing them into a skid as alarms blared.

"The Molecularly bonded shell was penetrated Michael!" KITT yelled in shock as the spun, coming to a rest just as the watched the thing power up another blast.

Faith, Jack, and Tara rushed in behind Xander, Kyle, and Natalie, and skidded to a stop as they noticed everyone.

"Hey, X... I think we've got the demons all cleared out of the house..." Faith told him, "But we've got some more out... hey, what's everyone looking at?"

She followed Xander's eyes until they rested on Cordelia and her eyes widened a bit, "Hey,C... You ok, girl? I told you to go back up... ummmm... X, is that what I think it is?"

"Yep." Xander said softly, a hint of his earlier humor still licking at his lips. "Maro's picked a bearer."

Faith snorted. "C? Are you kidding me??"

Faith glanced down at the barely listening Cheerleader and threw the girl a half apologetic smile. "No offense, C, but you aren't really the warrior type."

Cordelia didn't look up.

"He didn't want a warrior." Xander said quietly. "I didn't know it... But I think he just wanted to be needed. And She needs him right now."

"Well shit." Faith shook her head. "It's still kind of a let down, you know... ummm... No offense, C."

Cordelia didn't look up, she was staring at the sword that was resting on her hands.

It was humming, she thought, she didn't know that swords were supposed to hum.

"That's a nice tune..." She whispered.

"What tune?" Faith asked, looking around, perplexed. "What's she talking about?"

"He's bonded to her." Xander said softly. "She's feeling him."

Faith's eyebrow went up, and a smirk formed on her face. "So umm... Is he a 'big' man?"

Xander didn't even notice the innuendo, his eyes locked on Cordelia.

Faith rolled her eyes, "Hey. X. We've got more of the Assassin freaks outside..."

"We've got to get turned around!" Michael snapped, stepping on the gas.

"It's too late, Michael." KITT replied as the figure raised it's hand for a throw. "My shell can't take another blast like that in the same place, Michael!"

Michael Knight twisted the wheel, trying to turn away from the demon as it prepared to attack.

And then, in a flash, the demon was gone as Michael watched KARR slam into the thing at a hundred miles an hour and slam it right into the house.

"Michael... Did KARR just... save us?"

"I think he did, Pal."

Faith's words were lost as she and everyone else in the room jumped as the armored shutter in the west wall suddenly buckled and exploded into the house, propelled by a demon who hit the floor hard.

Xander, Faith, and surprisingly Cordelia were the first to react.

Faith flipped both Tomahawks up into a strike position, then slammed them, point first, down into the demon's skull.

Xander emptied the rest of his clip of .44 caliber blessed silver into it's chest.

And Cordelia just... hacked at it until it's head separated from it's body. And then kept swinging.

"Cor... Cordy... Cordelia!" Xander finally yelled, startling her to a stop.

She looked up at him, eyes wide.

"I think it's dead." Xander said, eyebrows raised in slight distaste as he looked at the blood and gore that covered his living room carpet.

Well, that and the large cuts that now decorated his floor.

He sighed, then looked out to see KARR resting at the hole in the wall for a moment. Then the AI reversed out and away.

"Alright..." Xander half turned. "Faith, Jack, Tara... sweep the mansion. Make sure we don't have anything left alive in here. Natalie, could you stay with Cordy for a bit? Just keep her calm, ok? I'm going outside to clear the grounds."

The Jaguar at his feet coughed, sounding irritated.

Xander rolled his eyes, "Fine. You come too."

Mikki let out a little roar that made most of the newcomers to the group shiver, then bounded happily after Xander as he jumped out the big hole that the demon had made in the wall.

"Why..." Jennifer gasped, slamming a knee into the thing's guts.

"Won't..." She dropped an elbow strike into the back of it's head as it doubled over.

"It..." As it tumbled to the floor, both she and Erica followed through with blows that would probably have killed any normal man.

"STAY DOWN!!?" She finished, falling against a wall and gasping for air as the damned thing shook, and shivered, and started to get up again.

"Fuck!" Erica cursed, snapping another kick to the damned thing's head. "Just DIE!"

Their fight was interrupted by a series of gunshots, making them jump and making the thing on the ground shudder and collapse. They turned to see the handsome man identified as 'Jack' approaching with a Glock in one hand, and another pistol in the other.

He stepped closer, fired a few more rounds into it, then looked up and smiled at them.

"Ladies..." He winked, "How about a reward for your rescuer?"

Erica and Jennifer looked at each other, then back at Jack, then just shook their heads as they turned away.

"What? Damsels in distress don't give kisses anymore?" Jack called as they walked away.

Xander planted his feet on the soft ground, glancing around as he tried to get his bearings.

"Three more Terakans to your left." Merlin's voice whispered through his FoldComm. Xander nodded, then headed in that direction with Mikki close behind.

As they rounded a corner, they both spotted two of the three. Mikki charged out and away from Xander straight at the first one, while Xander raised his reloaded Desert Eagle and tracked the further of the two.

The jaguar snarled, leaping through the air toward it's target, as the Desert Eagle roared it's war cry three times in rapid succession, and a moment later there were two more dead Assassins on the grounds.

Xander lowered his gun, looking around as Mikki jumped off her target. "Where's number three?"

"I've lost him." Merlin replied softly. "Be cautious."

"Cautious. Right."

KITT was racing a wide circle around the house, tires throwing up clods of dirt, as he and Michael paced KARR.

"Michael, my scanners indicate that there are no more of the... entities... out here." KITT said.

"We'll finish the sweep before anything else, pal. Then double check with the others." Michael replied.

"Of course... Michael! I'm reading one again! It just appeared behind Mr Harrison!"

Michael glanced down at the screen, then cursed as he stepped on the gas.

Even though he knew that he'd be too late.

It was an odd buzzing sound that alerted him, one that he'd heard before, and Xander leapt forward, twisting around as he leveled his gun on the figure that had just appeared behind him.

Three shots struck the cloaked figure dead center, but left nothing more then a little ripple as the thing stepped toward him. Xander rolled over his shoulder, coming back up to his feet as he tossed the Eagle away and summoned Elan to his hand.

Just in time to watch KARR slam into the figure at over a hundred miles per hour. The assassin burst apart, flying into a million pieces that scattered up and down KARR's form, some of those pieces penetrating the damaged MBS.

KARR skidded to a stop, smoke already curling from under his hood as the thousands of little insects made short work of his electronics.

"It... Hurts." KARR said, his normally angry voice dissolving into a stuttered state of shock as the AI watched, helpless, as it's systems went down.

Xander sprinted to the car as KITT pulled up and Michael jumped out, wrenching the door open and diving inside. The interior was already clouded with the thousands of insects and he could feel their bites already stinging at him.

"KARR, buddy! Let me get your AI matrix!" Xander yelled shielding his face as much as he could.

The AI didn't seem to hear at first, but then the shielded section protecting the central matrix popped open to reveal hundreds of crawling maggot like insects squirming in the depression.

Xander bit down on his reservations and shoved his hand into the mess, biting back a scream as his arm burned like it was one fire, grabbed the handle of the Matrix, and ripped it out.

Then Michael Knight's hands were on him, pulling him back and out of the car as the interior lights went red and a loud beeping noise began. Michael threw Xander back, diving over him, just as the damaged Trans-am went up in flames.


Chapter 34

Michael Knight got up as the flames died down behind him and looked down at the young man he;d pulled out of the dying car. His eyes widened as he realized that Xander had lost consciousness, and his expression turned to one of horror when he looked at the arm that clutched at KARR's Personality Matrix.

The skin had been torn away almost up to the elbow joint, and the raw flesh was oozing blood and something that Michael didn't recognize, nor did he *want* to recognize. Whatever it was, it didn't look like it belonged.

Xander's face was swelling even as he watched, hundreds of red bites along his face and neck obviously the source of the problem.

"Oh hell." He whispered as he reached down and hefted the young man up.

Michael grunted. He was heavier then he looked.

<Hospital.> He thought, turning toward KITT. "KITT get me a least time route to the closest hospital!"

He'd only taken a couple steps when a Jaguar bounded right between them and he froze.

"Uh... Nice kitty..." Michael started, then was struck dumb as the big cat *shifted* and changed right in front of him until he was staring at a naked little girl.

"No hospital." She told him petulantly, pointing inside. "Tara."

"Listen, he needs a hospital..." Michael started, only to take a step back when the little girl turned into a cat again. "Uh... Tara. Right."

With the cat following close behind, Michael turned and headed for the mansion.

Faith and Natalie snapped around as the remnants of the front door was kicked open, weapons snapping up to the ready as the two prepared to meet the threat, only to relax as the recognized Michael Knight.

And then to stiffen again when they saw what he was carrying.

"I don't suppose you have a medic!?" Michael shouted, rushing in and heading for the closest couch. "One of those assassins turned into... a swarm of bees or something. Got him pretty bad."

Tara rushed over, actually beating Faith to his side, twisting her pouch over her head as she skidded to a stop and winced as she saw the damage to Xander's arm.

"Oh." She said, shocked.

Faith swallowed and turned away, grimacing as she looked at the ragged flesh of Xander's arm. "Oh God, I think I'm gonna be sick."

Michael decided that pointing out that she, herself, was covered in blood and gore might not be well taken, so he looked at Tara, "Can you do anything?"

Tara pulled some things from her pouch and quickly mixed them together, but shook her head. "No. This is too bad for me to heal."

"Then you want to talk to the cat back there?" Michael jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

Everyone looked, puzzled, to where he was pointing at a naked little girl.

Somehow, even for the newcomers, that wasn't nearly as strange as it should have been.

Michael shook it off, "I can get him to the hospital in a few minutes...."

Tara shook her head, "No."


Tara spoke, softly, "Merlin... Contact Paige."

Paige Mathews sighed as she flipped through her books, she had an exam on Monday and things weren't looking up. She really needed...

"Miss Mathews."

She groaned.

That voice could NOT mean anything of the good.

"Yes Merlin?" She asked, looking up at the wall.

The image of Merlin looked back at her, "The Commander has been injured."

"What!?" She jumped up. "How badly? Where is he? Never mind I'm..."

She vanished in a shimmer of lights.

"... on my way!" Paige finished as she landed in the middle of a very edgy group.

"What the hell!?" Kyle Stewart jumped, bringing his gun up to attack, only to have it batted from his hand by the flat of Faith's Tomahawk.

"Not now, Stewie." She muttered, "Paige is a friend."

"Really Miss Mathews..." Merlin's irritated voice sounded through the area. "It isn't as simple for me to maintain a conversation as one might think... at least not when the person I'm talking to teleports a couple hundred miles in mid-sentence."

"Sorry." Paige said, dropping to her knees as he struggled to keep down her lunch while looking at Xander's arm. "Jesus. What happened?"

"Bugs." Michael replied. "Lots of them."

Paige nodded, running her hand over the shredded arm as a healing glow encompassed it. The damage vanished quickly, revealing unblemished skin. When she moved on to his face and neck, though, she no sooner healed the damage then the swelling would return. She frowned and tried several times before her arms dropped and her head drooped, perspiration covering her face.

"Paige?" Tara asked softly.

"It's poison." Paige said after a moment. "I can't get it out of him."

Tara helped her up, nodding. "I... I understand. W... what should w... we do?"

Paige thought back, remembering the first time she'd met Xander. "Watch him. If he gets worse... we'll think of something."

Tara nodded, "F... Faith... Why don't you take Paige to..."

Tara looked at Faith and grimaced. "Ummm... maybe y... you should g-get cleaned up first."

"Huh?" Faith glanced down at herself, then blushed though no one could tell under the red gore that covered her. "Yeah. Whoops."

Faith turned and sprinted off.

Paige watched her go, and tiredly shook her head. "That girl is just scary."

"Tell me about it." Natalie said, looking at Paige speculatively. She extended her hand, "Hey. I'm Natalie..."

"Cook." Paige nodded, smiling. "I know. I read your file."

"I have a file?" Natalie asked her, eyebrow raised.

Paige nodded, smirking. "Oh yeah."

Natalie glanced over her shoulder at Xander, worry crossing her features.

"Relax." Paige said confidently, more so then she felt really. "He can handle it..."

"You're sure?"

Paige nodded.

"Alright..." Natalie sighed, then forced a smile. "So... tell me about this file."


Xander Harris would have been breathing heavily if he needed to breath.

The sensation around him was oppressive, like some thick sludge surrounding him on all sides, pushing in against his senses on every level. He growled, snapping his hands out to either side, and pushed.

Slowly, agonizingly, a bubble formed around him, giving him a clear space to think.

"Damn." He muttered. "This is weird shit."

"Demon poison."

He looked up, then nodded. "How bad?"

"You can handle it on your own." A smile played at her lips, until she conceded. "But I will aid you."

"Gee thanks." Xander muttered, smiling sarcastically. "That's downright corporeal of you."

"Watch yourself Alexander." She wagged a finger at him. "Or I will leave it to you alone."

"Fine fine." Xander frowned, looking around. "I don't feel as bad as I did though. Is that you?"

"No. Tara summoned Paige."

Xander nodded. "Alright. Let's clean this muck up."

Elan snickered softly. "I've often wished you would say that about the state of affairs in here."

"Don't push me, Elan..."

"W... what's that?" Tara asked softly, pointing to the box still clutched in Xander's hand like in a death grip.

"That's KARR's Personality Matrix." Michael Knight said softly.

"K... KARR?"

"Didn't make it. His shell didn't anyway..." Michael told her.

"Oh no." Tara whispered. "He... he helped us."

Michael wondered at what kind of changes must have happened in the rogue AI, or whether it was merely how these people had handled and treated him. The AI had saved him and KITT, had gone out of his way to avoid injuring anyone earlier, and had actually nearly died in the process of saving Xander.

Alright, so he probably didn't realize what a risk he was taking, Michael conceded. But it was STILL a huge leap from where he had been the last time they'd met.

It was frustrating.

There was so much he didn't know about the AI. He had seen KARRs core programming, of course, for what little good it did him. It was all Geek to him. The problem was, that event he Geeks couldn't really predict how KARR would turn out over time. It was a popular area of speculation in the labs back at Knight Industries. The AIs program was only the first step in it's evolution. It's neural network would actually overrule the core values eventually, although it would almost certainly do so in a way that integrated the core values anyway.

But somehow KARR hadn't done that. Or, if he had, his core program wasn't as rock solid as Michael had been led to believe. It was a peculiar problem, and the answer now rested locked in the grip of an unconscious man.

Devon was just gonna LOVE this.

Chapter 35

"H... how is he?"

Tara looked up, slightly surprised when she recognized Cordelia standing near her. The naked sword was still clutched in the teenagers hand like a security blanket, but at least Cordy looked to be holding up a bit stronger then before.

"B... better." Tara said, looking back at Xander. "He's healing himself."

"How?" Cordelia swallowed.

Tara shrugged. "I'm still learning how to do it myself... b... but it has to do with controlling yourself."

"Oh." Cordy answered, no better off.

"You'll learn it." Tara said suddenly.

"What? Me? N... no. I couldn't."

Tara nodded to the sword, "He'll teach you."

Cordelia looked down, totally lost. "Who?"

"M... Maro. The sword." Tara told her. "He'll teach you like Elan taught Xander."

"Who's Elan?"

Tara looked down at Xander, then pointed to the tiny hint of silver that was poking out of a pouch on his thigh. "That's Elan."

"I don't understand."

"You will."

"So," Natalie gave Paige an appraising look. "What's in this file?"

Paige gave Natalie much the same look, then shrugged. "Honestly? Enough stuff to give a girl a permanent inferiority complex. I don't think I've ever met anyone as well educated as you are... to say nothing of all the fighting styles you studied... I'm not surprised that Xander fell for you."

Natalie blinked in shock. That wasn't what she expected to hear.

"What about you?" Natalie asked, voice shocked.

"What about me?" Paige shrugged. "I'm still hamming along trying to get my degree so I can be a social worker..."

"B... but..." Natalie stammered, waving her hands. "You heal people, and teleport, and... and... use magic and..."

"That?" Paige shrugged, "I guess it's kinda cool, but my god... You've done so much in your life... I mean, how do you go from a teaching degree to driving a Formula One car??"

"That?" Natalie waved it off. "I always liked to drive..."

She grinned, "The faster the better too."

Paige rolled her eyes, "I bet the guys loved that."

Nat frowned, "Actually most of them got scared off."

"Figures." Paige snorted. "Give 'em what they want and they don't want it anymore. Men."

"Tell me about it." Natalie sighed.

"So how'd you meet Xander anyway?" Paige asked.

Natalie half smirked, half grimaced. "We were looking for Dana... I mean, Faith. Her Godfather is a friend of my boss, and he thought she was kidnapped. So we kinda lucked right into Xander..."

The blond frowned, "Funny how that works sometimes..."

"Anyway, we found Xander really quick... but..." Natalie shrugged, embarrassed. "He made us before we got within twenty feet. So we spent the next little while playing cat and mouse with him, thinking we were the cats..."

Paige laughed, nodding. "I've seen him do the same thing. It's hard to hide anything from him... even without all the tricks he's got up his sleeves, he'll zero right in on you like he's got X-Ray vision."

Natalie nodded, chagrined. "Yeah. And it's not supposed to be easy to do to me and my friends... we're trained to make sure that the men look in other directions... and they don't need X-Ray vision to do it."

Paige smirked. "I'll bet."

Natalie blushed a little under the brunettes gaze, quickly looking away. "So anyway, we had a couple dates... went surfing, roller blading, stuff like that... I was trying to get information out of him, and he wasn't biting... I mean *nothing* was working, you know? I gave him the best airhead performance I could muster, complete with all the classic dumb blond come ons..."

"Didn't work?" Paige grinned.

"Not even a glimmer." Natalie admitted, sighing with a smile. "Then I kinda slipped up and acted normal for a bit and..."

"And you snagged him." Paige finished. Laughing. "That's Xander."

"Yeah... that's Xander." Natalie grinned, then she frowned and looked at Paige for a moment. "How come you broke up... I mean, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Huh? Oh we didn't." Paige said flatly.


Paige smirked at her, then laughed. "Relax. He's into you, and that's cool. I'm not really interested in anything long term anyway... besides, I've got one or two guys floating around here and there too. Me and Xander are complicated though."

Natalie stared at her, uncertain what she was talking about, but pretty sure she didn't like it.

"I mean," Paige shrugged. "If you guys break up, Xan and I might have another go at it... Sorry if that's not what you want to hear, Natalie... but with our lifestyles, that's about as far as we can get before stuff happens to mess things up."

"Like what?"

"Like Xander trying some stupid stunt that nearly gets his ass killed." Paige growled, then sighed. "He's got this hero complex thing going, I'm sure you've noticed."

Natalie giggled. "Yeah. I noticed."

"Laugh while you can." Paige grumbled, rolling her eyes. "You might not find it so cute when he's fighting some war or another and leaves you at home to knit or something."

Natalie looked up sharply, "Excuse me!?"


Xander shivered and looked around.

"What's wrong?" Elan asked, irritated by the flicker his lack of concentration caused in their work.

"Sorry." He turned back to the job at hand. "I just felt a chill."

"There's not such thing as a chill in here. Now kindly focus on the task we have at hand." She muttered. "The poison is eroding a section of your Dreamscape, and reconstructing it will be quite time consuming... especially if you allow it to destroy your heart at the same time."

"I know, I know." Xander grumbled. "Alright, I've got it contained away from my brainstem and nervous system... But the heart is pretty much non-negotiable, so let's figure out what will neutralize this crap."

"It's a variant of an insect neuro-toxin..." Elan told him sharply. "Treat it as such."

"Huh? Oh... right." Xander nodded, triggering an adrenaline surge in his blood while Elan tinkered with the production of hemo-globin and trace elements in his blood.

The combination went to work on the neurotoxin as it began to circulate through his rapidly beating heart and started to neutralize the effects.

Once started, Xander let the process continue on it's own and stepped back.

"That it?"

"That will do." Elan confirmed. "Though it would work faster if you neutralized the mystical quotient first."

Xander sighed, "Why didn't you say something!?"

"It's hardly my body to worry about now is it?"

Faith sighed as she let the hot water wash her down, the pink tinged water washing down her body and swirling down the drain as she just stood there.

One thing about fighting with Tomahawks, they were real messy.

Faith didn't mind too much, she'd seen too much in her few years to be overly bothered by the sight, smell, or even sensation of blood. Some demon races left much worse trace behind that she had to deal with.

Once the worst of the gore was washed away, the Slayer went about the process of washing the rest down. That got a bit involved, seeing as how blood had a habit of getting into nooks and crannies that even she hadn't been aware that she had.

Lucky thing that most diseases didn't last long inside a Slayer's immune system, she supposed, especially considering how often a slash of a blade left her spattered with something distinctly disgusting.

Cordy sat, largely forgotten, in the corner of the living room and stared at the sword in her hand.

There was still blood on it, from where she'd used it on the thing that had crashed through the wall, and Cordy watched as the liquid slowly oozed down the blade to the tip, forming into dark red drops that slowly grew until they fell to the floor.

The sword was still singing, and the sound of it was lulling her off, making her eyes tired as she sat there.

She blinked once or twice, but slowly nodded off as the humming continued to lull her into a peaceful slumber.

As she fell asleep, Cordy leaned forward, falling on her hands as the sword twisted of it's on volition under her to keep her skin from running along it's razor edge. After a few moments, the sword shifted again, and Cordelia fell back as it pushed at her, and she slumped in the chair, head lolling over onto the headrest.

Kagi Maro waited a moment to be certain that she was stable, then flipped silently through the air and came to rest at her side, pommel resting just under her right hand.

In her sleep, Cordelia tightened her hand into a grip on the sword, knuckles whitening for a moment before she relaxed and slipped deeper into sleep.

She lay there for a few moments before Tara walked softly over and quietly cleaned the blade of the sword without removing it from her hand, then sliding it into it's sheath and dropping a blanket over Cordy's still form.

Chapter 36

Xander opened his eyes slowly, testing his limbs as consciousness returned with an agonizing glacial speed. The first thing he noticed was the cramping pain radiating from his right hand, and he glanced down to see that KARR's Personality Matrix was still gripped tightly there.

He pulled it up to his chest and forced his hand to let go.

<Paige does good work.> He sighed, looking at his hand.

He could still feel the effects of the demonic neuro toxin, but overall wasn't too bad off so he slowly pushed himself up and out of the couch.

"Xander..." A soft voice hissed. "You're awake... are you...?"

"I'm fine, Tare." He said, smiling at the blond. "How long?"

"About an hour." She told him.

Xander nodded and walked unsteadily over to her, extending the personality matrix to her. "Take this downstairs... lock it up. It's..."

"KARR." She nodded, "Michael told me."

Xander nodded. "Lock it up safe. We'll bring him back."

Tara nodded, then turned and left.

Xander looked down at Cordelia as she slept softly in the chair, the blanket tucked up under her chin. He couldn't see Maro with his eyes, but he could feel the hum of power emanate from under the blanket and knew that the sword was communicating with it's new bearer in the only way it could.

He shook his head.

<I hope to hell that Maro knows what he's doing.>

Elan's sigh permeated his soul, and he could feel her mental head shake. <As do I, Alexander. Maro is not as powerful or as controlled as am I, which could have unforseen effects on the bonding.>

<Such as?>

<I do not know.> Elan sighed. <It would be unique to Maro, and perhaps even to her. Perhaps some of his gifts will filter through to her... he was an incredible fighter, for example.>

<So... maybe she'll get a fighting boost...> Xander considered that. <That's not too bad...>

<Perhaps.> Elan sighed. <Perhaps not. Perhaps nothing will happen out of the ordinary. Much of it is up to her at this point, Alexander.>

Xander nodded, patting Cordelia's shoulder as he hesitantly limped past. <She's strong. She'll be ok.>

<We can only hope.>

"I can't *believe* I missed the fight!" Duke Depalma growled, looking out at the rest of TKR from the wallscreen. "Beast is gonna be ticked."

"Right. Our AI's got burned, had their breakers thrown for two minutes longer then was supposed to happen, and we almost got killed by assassins coming to nail the guy we were supposed to arrest." Kyle muttered, "Oh yeah, we sure got lucky."

"How's Beast?" Jennifer asked, rolling her eyes.

Duke grinned, "He's good. They're welding the new shock joists into place now, and we'll have a new axle with MBS armor by tomorrow."

"That's good new, Duke." Kyle nodded. "Of course, the way things are going now, I wonder if we're going to have a team by tomorrow."

"What!? What's going on??" Duke demanded.

"It's not that bad, Mr Steward." Michael Knight said as he walked in. "I've been speaking with Mr Brognola, and I think we can guarantee that your team will remain intact. Some of your SOP is being rewritten, and we're going to commission five more AI units to act as a forward scout for your group."

"Five more members of TKR?" Jennifer asked, eyes focused on Michael Knight with an intent gaze.

"No." Michael shook his head. "These units will answer to me personally. They're going to be your investigative branch."

Michael Knight smiled, "We're going to old school in this case. Five men and woman, five cars. No anti-tank weaponry, lasers, mazers... just a group of good cops. When they find something bigger then they are, you'll get the call."

"You mean that we're taking a step backward." Kyle said flatly.

Michael shrugged, "Since when did that become a bad thing? Sometimes the only way you keep moving forward is by stepping back."


Cordelia Chase stood in an empty shopping mall, looking around at the expanse of stores with names she couldn't seem to read.

"Hello?" She called, turning around.

There was no answer, so she began to slowly walk. She stopped in front of a shop that looked familiar, but still couldn't read the sign.

She blinked and sighed, then her eyes widened.

<That sign changed!> She thought excitedly. <I know it did!>

She backed away from the shop, shaking her head as she tried to understand what was going on, then a chill hit her and she turned to run.

And ran right into her bedroom.

"What..." Cordelia stopped, spinning around in confusion.

She blinked.

What was she running from?

Why was she running in her room anyway?

Cordy shook her head, sitting down on her bed. It was strange, something told her that something was wrong here, but she couldn't quite figure out what it was.

She sat down, on her bed and leaned back in the sunlight.

<Wait...> She frowned. <Wasn't I already sitting? How'd I sit down again?>

She shook her head, just letting the warmth of the sunlight warm her, closing her eyes as she leaned back and lay down on her pillow.

A moment later a shadow passed over her, and Cordy opened her eyes in annoyance. "Hey! You mind? I'm... I'm..."

She stared up at the smirking face of the blond vampire, blood dripping from her lips as she leaned down over her, and Cordy could feel the hard ground poking into her back as the cool night breeze wafted across her bare breasts.

"Hmmm... tasty." The vampire said, leaning down for another bite, and Cordelia screamed.

"Oh dear lord."

Paige and Natalie looked up from their conversation to see Xander leaning against a door jam and looking at them with a wary look on his face.

"You know, the last time my Ex and my Current lady friend met each other things got... *interesting*." He looked archly at Paige.

The Witch had the decency to blush, which caught Natalie's curiosity, but she decided to ask later. For now she just got up and crossed to Xander, quickly embracing him.

"You're alright..." She said softly.

"I'm fine." Xander smiled, nodding to Paige. "Thanks to some good treatment."

Paige shrugged, "It's what I do. I'm glad I could help... I... uh... well, I'll leave you two alone..."

She stood up, preparing to orb out, but Xander stopped her.


She paused, looking over at him. "Yes?"

He disengaged himself from Natalie and crossed over to her, embracing her.

"Thank you, Paige." He said, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead.

She smiled back. "Anytime."

Then she orbed out of his arms.

Xander sighed, shaking his head, and turned back to Natalie. "So now you've met Paige."

The blond nodded. "So I have."

"Alright, out with it." Xander said, a hint of a smile playing at his lips.

"Out with what?"

"Whatever you want to say..."

Natalie smiled, her teeth gleaming as her smile lit up the room. She crossed to him, looping first one arm around his neck, then another, and hung back just not quite touching his chest with hers. "I think you have good taste in women."

Xander blinked.

"Of course... we already knew that, didn't we?" She smirked.


Everything froze.

Cordelia screamed again, she couldn't move, and while nothing else was moving either it was like a nightmare. She couldn't move, she couldn't even twitch. The hated blond face above her was staring down at her, and she couldn't get out from under it.

Then, suddenly, she could move again.

She slapped out at the face, screaming again as it vanished into nothing and she was left alone out on the cliffside.

She got to her feet unsteadily, and walked again to the edge of the cliff, looking out over the black waters below.

The night around her grew so cold that she shivered, teeth clattering, but she didn't look away from the hundred foot drop into the heaving pacific.

<It would be so easy.> She thought.

Then, slowly, the chill went away and she felt warm again. Safe again. She turned slowly around and found herself standing in the center of a lake, the water rippling under her feet as she stared at a sparkling cloud that floated just a few feet away.

"W... who are you?" She asked, not finding it odd in the least that she was talking to a cloud, walking on water, or now standing in brilliant daylight.

Chapter 37

A scream from the other room broke Xander and Natalie apart, and brought a vaguely amused looked to the blond's face as Xander growled in irritation.

Nevertheless he quickly moved out of the room and toward the scream.

Once he made it to the living room he found that Cordelia was awake and Tara was standing beside her, trying to see if she was hurt.

"I'm fine!" She snapped, shaking like a leaf.

"What happened?" Xander asked crisply, looking over the scene.

Cordy was standing halfway across the room from where she had been, and Maro was still resting against the chair as she glared at it with something akin to fear in her eyes.

"Cordy..." Xander said softly, catching her attention. "Tell me what happened."

She swallowed. "I... I was dreaming. I think."

He nodded.

She closed her eyes, "It was the same nightmare I've had for months."

Xander nodded again, soberly. He'd known about her nightmares, but she'd led him to believe that they had started to recede.

<Apparently she is as adept at hiding her true self as you are.> Elan said, dryly amused.

<Very funny,> Xander returned, just barely suppressing the urge to roll his eyes.

"Cor," Xander stepped closer, "You're safe."

"Safe!? Safe!? This house was almost burned to the ground the last time you said I was safe!" She suddenly shrieked. "And that was only an hour ago! Are you NUTS!? Nowhere is safe!"

"Were you hurt?" Xander asked simply, shrugging.

"I... uh... no." She faltered.

"If you'd stayed upstairs, you never would have even known it happened." he told her. "I told you that this house was the safest in town, and it is. The people who live here know how to take care of themselves, and we don't let anyone get hurt under our protection. That's as safe as you can hope for."

Cordelia sank down into the couch, still sneaking fearful glances to the sword that was propped up against the chair.

"I... I think I saw... that." She said hesitantly, pointing a shaky finger at Maro.

"I'd be surprised if you hadn't." Xander told her simply, pulling a footstool up and sitting down in front of her. "Let me guess, sparkly kind of cloud... likes to sing, and probably felt really nice when you looked at it. Right?"

She stared at him, then nodded dumbly.

"Cordelia Chase... Kagi Maro." Xander gestured to the sword, "Kagi Maro..."

The blade rose into the air and flipped gracefully until it landed, pommel first, into Cordelia's hand.

"Cordelia Chase." Xander finished. He looked at Cordy seriously, as she stared at the blade, and could tell that for all that had happened, it still wasn't completely sunk in. "Maro is a very old soul, Cordy. He was a Warrior during a time when Warriors were revered as artists... And Maro was a Picasso among his peers."

"I don't understand." She admitted, swallowing hard. "I just don't understand."

"Cor..." Xander hesitated. "You're holding one of the last great weapons of Atlantis in your hands. It's alive, it... HE feels like you feel, he's been waiting for thousands of years for someone to carry him again. And he picked you."

Her eyes widened, a look of horror filtering through, and she dropped the sword as if it were red hot.

"No..." She shook her head, backing away. "No... NO. I'm not fighting those things. I... I can't..."

"Cordelia!" Xander snapped, getting her attention again as he grabbed her hand and pulled her back. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do... But I'm guessing that, deep down, your desires and Maro's aren't contradictory."

"But... I don't want to fight." She said, pale.

"Maro may not want to fight either." He told her, "I don't know. All I know is that he's willing to walk *your* path at your side. He's not asking you to do anything more then let him."

Cordy looked down at the sword on the ground, and almost against her will her hand reached out, trembling. As soon as she made that move, the blade rose back into the air and fitted into her palm. As her fingers closed around the pommel again, Cordelia could once more hear the humm.

"It... I mean, he... sings." Cordelia said softly.

Xander nodded, "It's not sound though. I can't hear it."

"You can't?" She looked up, surprised.

Xander shook his head, "Only you. Maro communicates through empathy... he's a projective Empath, which means that he can let you feel his emotions... and he can feel yours."

Cordy started to shake again as she began to understand what Xander was saying, but Xander closed his hands around hers, locking the sword in her grip.

"Cordelia... I won't say that this is safe. I won't try to tell you want is going to happen..." He told her earnestly. "The only promise I can make, is the same promise that I feel Maro is making..."

She looked up into his eyes, "W... what?"

"We'll be there to help you as much as we possible can."

Natalie watched as Xander talked softly with Cordelia, gnawing at her lower lip as she saw the tremors in the girl, and recognized the signs of post traumatic stress disorder. Cordelia hadn't been in great shape when she'd first recovered from the attack so many months ago, but she had appeared strong and looked to be coming out of it.

Now, though, it was obvious that she hadn't.

Worse, she'd fooled the people around her into missing the symptoms.

Natalie didn't know what she could do about it though, since vampire attacks weren't something that any reputable therapist would have any kind of therapy set up for.

<That's an interesting thought...> She wondered. <I wonder if there are any irreputable therapists who simply have a bad rap over this?>

That thought in mind, she decided that she'd have a glance. However, in the meantime all she could do would be to have a word with Xander and hope that he could keep an eye on the girl. Natalie's own job took her too far afield for her to even think of doing it herself.

She just hoped that things would tune out.

From what Xander had said about that sword, which Natalie had to admit wasn't a lot, she had the idea that it was a very dangerous thing to be in the hands of someone on the verge of a breakdown.

Xander sighed as he closed the door to the guest room once more.

Cordy was sleeping again, relaxed by a combination of his hands and Maro's emotional support, and would remain so until she awoke normally this time, he hoped.

He and Elan had chastised Maro for coming to her so soon in her current state, but they were both satisfied that the ancient spirit would do nothing more then guard her dreams this time, and let her rest. He'd get Merlin to cover for her with her parents, maybe give her the weekend to sleep off the exhaustion she was suffering from.

Xander frowned, somehow he wasn't feeling all that great about this particular change in Sunnydale.

Something about it was gnawing at him.

"I'm ordering TKR out of Sunnydale," Hal Brognola said over the line. "There's no reason for them to be there now... especially since their main reason for showing up has been destroyed."

The group nodded, a little grimly.

For the most part, the group was uncertain about the outcome, or at least about their reaction to it. The destruction of the rogue AI meant that their mission was accomplished, and a potentially dangerous element was removed from the national equation.

The fact that the AI had been on the good side of the line in recent efforts made it a pyrrhic victory however.

The only person in the room who appeared altogether satisfied with the destruction of KARR was Michael Knight, and they could understand that since the Rogue AI *had* tried to kill the man and his partner on various occasions.

Kyle nodded, "I'll have the team moving within the hour."

"Excellent." Hal nodded. "When you get back to Washington, we'll do a face to face and work out your new SOPs."

"Yes Sir." Kyle nodded.

"Excuse me," Michael said, nodding as he stood up. "I've got to get some air."

Hal nodded, waving him out.

Xander noticed Michael Knight approaching as he stepped off the stairs and nodded to the older man. "Hey... thanks for the save."

Michael just shrugged. "It's what I do."

Xander smiled, remembering all the times he said the same thing.

"I need to know what you're going to do with KARR." Michael said flatly.

Xander gazed at the other man, considering the words. Finally he shrugged. "Same thing you'd do for KITT."

Michael sighed, nodding. "I guessed as much. He *is* dangerous, you realize?"

Xander nodded. "But so is the job we do."

"True." Michael said, then finally nodded. "I've told the others that KARR was destroyed."

Xander stared, uncertain what to make of that.

"That should keep any more ABC groups off you." Michael said with a smile. "But I'll be watching, and so will Knight Industries. If he crosses the line..."

"I'll destroy him myself." Xander said firmly.

Michael Knight nodded. "See that you do."

With that the two men parted, the sudden silence seeming to take up the entire house.

Xander sighed softly, thinking of the problems he now faced, and how somehow they seemed worse then 'merely' saving the world. Above him, a young woman slept peacefully, for the first time in months. Her future was uncertain because of what the outside world had reaped from her soul.

Below, a piece of machinery lay, waiting to be resurrected. It's future lay in it's ability to conquer an internal demon that every person on the planet had to face on occasion. But could a machine defeat it's own programming? Could a human rally back from the kind of stress that Cordelia had suffered?

Xander didn't know.

But he was going to do his very best to see that they each got their chance.

The End


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