Finest Hour

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me.

Summary: To help someone who has become family, what will Xander do?

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

The Bronze
Sunnydale, California
June 3, '00

Xander leaned back in his chair and looked over the gathering of his friends with a slight grin. Buffy and Willow were there, of course, along with their respective 'better halves'. Jarod and Miss Parker had actually showed up for one, though the Bronze was far from their 'scene'. Of course, it was a special occasion after all. Even Giles had showed up despite the 'clattering racket' that passed for music in the club.

Harry Tasker and his wife, Helen, had also returned from Washington to join them, along with their friend Gib.

In short it was a major event for those Xander considered closest to him, in one way or another.

<It would have to be to get Andrea in this place.> He thought to himself.

Buffy leaned in, "So where is the birthday girl?"

Xander smiled and flipped his glance out to the dance floor where Faith was clearly enjoying the company of a rather impressively built young man.

Helen Tasker frowned as she looked over at her daughter. "Shouldn't she be dancing with you, Xander?"

Xander shrugged, a trace of a smile still on his face. "If she wanted to dance with me, she'd have asked."

The Taskers looked back at Xander in confusion as he took a sip of his beer. "Did you break up?"

Xander almost snorted his beer over the table. He quickly cleaned himself up and looked around, embarrassed at the mess he'd made. "Sorry... but me and Faith, break up? You have to actually be dating to break up."

"But... but..." Helen stammered.

Xander sighed, his smile dropping away as he remembered who he was talking to. "Faith... isn't the relationship type... She's got a lot of issues on that."

"What happened to her...?" Helen's voice trailed off.

Xander shrugged, "I don't know. She spent a couple years on the streets that she doesn't talk to anyone about..."

"Not even you?"

Xander shook his head, "Not even me."

Harry didn't speak, and neither did any of the others at the table as Helen looked around helplessly. She leaned forward to say something else, but Faith interrupted them, dropping into the seat beside Xander and grinning around.

"Hey, why so glum?"

Xander shrugged and grinned, "No reason. Just one of those slips of conversation..."

"Oh," She nodded, "Know all about those..."

The group slowly settled back into a semi-comfortable celebration that was centered around an obviously uncomfortable Slayer.

"C'mon, guys..." Faith protested as the cake appeared from nowhere, "This isn't necessary..."

"It's your birthday, Faith." Xander smiled, "Enjoy it."

The people around the table smiled encouragingly as the cake was deposited on the table in front of the shifting, uncomfortable, young woman. Faith began to squirm even more when the group broke into the traditional song, a song that brought the attention of a sizable portion of the current clientele of the Bronze in her direction.

Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday, dear Fa-ith.
Happy birthday to you.

She shifted uncomfortably as she noticed the other people in the club staring at her, most with patient or encouraging smiles on their face.

"Come on, Dana..." Harry encouraged, "Blow out the candles."

Faith looked down at the eighteen candles on the cake and shook her head. She drew in a deep breath and blew out over the cake, easily extinguishing all the candles on the cake except for one. The one that was centered in the dot above the 'i' in Faith.

The Slayer frowned and blew again, but it refused to go out. She actually glared at it until Xander laid a hand on her arm and she saw that he had a gentle smile on his face.

"That one won't go out, Faith." He said.


"It won't go out, trick candle."

Faith glared at him, "And why would you put that there?"

"A reminder."

Now she looked confused, "What?"

"Some lights don't go out, Faith." Xander said seriously as he looked at her.

Faith snorted, but smiled at Xander. "Thanks Xan."

The group around the table had varying reactions to the explanation, from Willow's sad and disturbed look, to Helen's dabbing at her eyes to clean away the tears. Xander just shrugged and plucked the candle from the cake and placed it in an astray at the center of the table.

"C'mon, Faith," Tara urged, "Cut the cake and share the wealth."

The mood slipped into one of laughter as the moment moved on and the group quickly sliced and devoured the cake.

"Mmmm, Chocolate..." Buffy literally purred as she took a bite of the thick cake.

Riley smiled at the look of pure bliss on her face, then leaned in and whispered something to her. Buffy started choking on her cake and turned red as she spun and lightly slapped Riley on the shoulder.


Faith snickered and nudged Xander as she whispered, "You're a bad influence on the Ken-doll, boytoy..."

Xander grimaced at an unwanted image that flashed into his head, but forced a mild grin and shook his head as he whispered back. "Coming from you, that's probably a compliment."

Faith nailed him with a thousand watt grin and then turned back to her own cake.

Eugene Irwin absently cleaned a glass behind the bar of the night club and watched the young man he had been sent to mentor. He grown to know the young man in the past few months, and had to admit that he liked the kid even though he had never spoken to him.

He'd grabbed a job opening at the Bronze as soon as he spotted one available, figuring that if he had to work he may as well choose a place that let him keep an eye on the kid. It was honest work, he supposed, but he had to admit that his patience with it was drawing to a close. Luckily he had decided that Metatron was right, the kid needed some help.

Oh, the kid was good. No disputing that fact, and he was a hands on type. That was something that Irwin respected. Problem was that his leadership skills, while extremely effective, were highly unrefined and his grasp of strategy was rudimentary at best. Irwin figured that he had gotten away with it this far because he had a very small core team that tended to handle all the jobs themselves. But from what Le Metatron had said, Irwin was guessing that, that may well be a temporary situation.

The Ex-General sighed and placed the glass on a rack, inwardly smirking at what he had reduced himself to. Tending bar on the mouth of hell wasn't exactly what he had in mind for his later years.

Across the room the group laughed and joked, taking a night off to celebrate a birthday. Irwin approved of the diversion and was glad to see that they knew to enjoy life in between battles. Still, he decided to make himself scarce before Dutch spotted him.

"Hey, Mitch..." Irwin called out.

"Yeah, man?" Mitch came up front, looking at Irwin with a lazy expression.

The Ex-General had to bite down an impulse to snap at the boy, try to beat some sense into him. Instead he spoke simply, "You want to cover the bar for a while? I need a break."

The boy's eyes lit up. "Sure, man!"

Irwin slipped past him and vanished out the back. Behind him Mitch started taking orders and filling drinks, grinning widely as he contemplated the tips he'd be able to rack in while the head Barman was away. Since they'd hired the new guy, he didn't get much chance behind the bar anymore. And this guy lasted longer then most of the other bartenders.

Mitch didn't bother to consider why the other bartenders tended to vanish, he just turned his drug addled mind to the pretty blond who was ordering a drink.

"Yeah, yeah... but get this..." Faith was talking with a grin, "These things had me literally up against a fence and I figured this was it, you know? Game over... I couldn't possibly take them on... so I was one dead Slayer."

Harry and Helen's faces were drawn, not enjoying hearing about their daughter in a certain death situation. Most of the Scoobies had heard the story, in one form or another, and were listening politely but, were mostly just smiling at Faith's expressions.

Gib, on the other hand, was all ears. "So? Come on, how'd you get out of it?"

"Just as they were about to finish me off, Boytoy over here," Faith nudged Xander, who looked around mildly embarrassed, "barrels in with his car no less, and runs down like three or four of those demonic bitches..."

"Dana!" Helen protested.

Xander looked amused, "Actually... in this case that's the technical term... I think the people who name these things get bored sometimes."

Another round of good natured laughter floated around the table.

"So what happened next?" Gib asked, grinning widely.

Xander and Faith glanced at each other and Xander was the first to look away.

Gib looked around and saw that Willow and Buffy had turned bright pink, and started to put two and two together. "Ooohhhhh..."

Faith smirked, her parents shifted uncomfortably, and the rest of the table stared at their drinks for a few seconds. Finally someone broke the silence.

Helen searched her mind for anything to deflect the topic, "So what happened with these... Apocalypse demons?"

Faith looked up, "Oh, nothing... we beat them back and closed up the Hellmouth again. It was a hairy night."

Harry was watching Xander, and caught a small private smile flicker across the young man's face. "Where were you during that, Xander?"

Xander looked up, startled. "Me? Ummm... I was at home..."

Willow glanced at Tara in surprise, "That's not what we heard."

Xander glanced across at them sharply but didn't say anything.

"What did you hear?" Buffy asked, suddenly suspicious.

Willow looked over at Xander, trying to read his face. "Not much... just that Xander was involved with saving the world that night."

"Xander?" Buffy turned around and glared at him.

Xander shifted in his seat, "It was no big deal... really..."


Xander closed his eyes in defeat, "I just stopped some zombies from blowing up the school..."

For an instant the music of the Bronze seemed to pause and the people at the table would have sworn they could had heard a pin drop.

"You WHAT!?"

"I stopped a bunch of zombies from blowing the school up while you guys were upstairs fighting, ok? It was no big deal."

Willow looked at him, "So that's why you kept grinning when you said that you liked the quiet life..."

Xander shrugged.

Buffy stared at him in shock, she had gotten used to the new Xander... but now she was being forced to reevaluate whether she even knew the 'old' Xander. "Why didn't you tell us?"

Xander stared at her evenly, "Tell you what? That I was risking my life to save yours again? Hell you all read me the riot act for doing just that less then twenty four hours earlier. I didn't feel like a lecture."

"I wouldn't..." Buffy trailed off, not really wanting to finish the lie.

Xander just shrugged again, "Like I said... no big deal. I've done more dangerous things before and since. It's a footnote in our high school years, nothing else."

"A footnote, he says." Gib grinned and shook his head, "He saves the world and it's a footnote. Hell, if I make it to work on time it's front page material..."

The group started laughing, and the conversation moved along to other topics. No one noticed the occasional glances that Buffy shot Xander's way as she tried to figure things out.

The evening went on for another hour and a half, then slowly broke up as the group headed back to Xander's to prepare for the night's patrol.

A tall man approached the empty booth casually as he watched the previous occupants leave the club. He grimaced at the banging racket that passed for music in this country and stood casually by the table.

In the center of the table flickered a single candle, still perched in an ashtray.

The man calmly reached out and pinched the burning wick between his thumb and forefinger, extinguishing the flame.

Irwin watched from the shadows as the group left and shook his head, smiling, as he went back to his normal job. "Thanks, Mitch... I'll take over again."

Again Mitch seemed more then happy at the news. The gangling teenager leaned in and whispered, "Bout time, man... This chick has been all over me... check her out, over in the corner."

Irwin glanced over at the blond in the corner and his eyes narrowed. He wasn't much good at spotting vampires yet, but he knew that this girl was way out of Mitch's class. He nodded at Mitch and took over, keeping an eye on the would-be couple as they drifted across the dance floor then, a few moments later, made a beeline for the door.

Irwin cursed and tossed down his washcloth and followed them, leaving the bar untended.

"Hey Mitch," The girl breathed huskily as she pushed him up against the wall of the Bronze, "I'm glad you could come out for a little fun."

Mitch grinned stupidly as he pulled her lithe body closer, until he felt her breasts against his chest and her lips on his neck. "I'd do anything to make time for you, babe..."

She giggled into his throat and tightened her grip on him. He smiled in response, but quickly began to wince in pain. "Hey... hey... hey!" He protested as her grip became extraordinarily painful.

She pulled back and looked at him and he screamed. Her face was horribly swollen or something as far as he could tell, her eyes were yellow, and her smile now had an evil leer. "Shhh baby," She said mockingly, "It'll be all over in a second."

As he screamed she brought her face down to his throat and he could feel the brush of her teeth above his carotid artery. Then she suddenly snapped back, her face a mask of pain and shock. "What...?" she said, almost plaintively as she vanished into dust.

Mitch kept screaming.

Irwin rolled his eyes and backhanded the boy, knocking him out cold. The ex-general bent down and picked the limp form up and lugged him back into the Bronze. "Stupid kid."

June 4th

Xander slowed the BMW bike to an easy halt outside Buffy's home and slid off the big bike. He grinned as he scooped the helmet off his head and started up the walk to the house. They had spent a pretty decent patrol last night, but now Giles wanted to debrief the two of them as they had led separate groups. Xander shook his head as he rang the bell, sometimes he thought he had it better off when the gang was ignoring him.


Xander staggered back in shock as a blur launched itself at him the moment the door opened, "Wha...!?"

He fell backwards as the blur attached itself to his body, landing painfully on the ground and rolling out on to the lawn. Xander grunted in shock and pain and nearly summoned Elan to his hand.

"Ow!" The blur yelled, "What did you do that for!? You usually catch me!"

Xander opened his eyes and looked down at the little girl who was inexplicably attached to his chest. The little girl who was now glaring up at him with accusing eyes. "What?"

"Dawn!" Buffy yelled from the door, "I told you before, leave Xander alone! Are you trying to kill him!?"

Xander sat up as the young girl disentangled herself from him, his mind racing as he tried to figure out what was going on.

<Careful, Alexander... the child is more then she seems...>

That snapped his head clear in a second. <Demon?> he asked quickly.

<No. No evil in her, but powerful... very powerful.>

Xander swallowed. When Elan described something as powerful it was usually his cue to duck for cover.


Xander looked up and saw Buffy and the young girl standing over top of him, both staring at him with worried looks on their faces. "Ummm... yeah?"

"Are you alright? The little pain didn't hurt you did she?"

The young girl looked upset at that possibility, "I'm sorry, Xand! I didn't mean to, I mean I was just saying hi like always... I mean..."

He shook his head again, <Whoa.. Willow-Jr.> "No... I'm ok, just... thinking."

Buffy extended a hand to him, "You think you can do that standing up?"

Xander grinned and accepted the hand, "I dunno... you know me, Buff... not enough brain power to do too many things at once."

Buffy grinned and shook her head as she pulled him to his feet, "Yeah... right."

Xander looked at the young girl as the three of them walked back into the house. "So... Dawn, is it?"

The girl turned to look at him oddly, "Yeah... Dawn, Dawnie, Dawn-Patrol... and all those other dumb nicknames you use. You know, Buffy's sister? Jeeez, X-man, did you bump your head on the way down?"

Xander shook his head, <Sister!?> "No... no, I'm fine..."

The two girls looked at him oddly, but didn't dispute him and they went into the house together.

"So," Giles began, "Do either of you wish to report anything on last nights patrol?"

Buffy and Xander glanced at each other, grinned, and shook their heads.

Giles sighed. "Allow me to rephrase. WHAT happened during last nights patrols?"

Xander and Buffy both laughed, then Xander spoke. "Dusted a few vamps... nothing big. Pretty routine."

Buffy nodded in agreement, "Same here. Got four, didn't see anything else."

"Vamps must be going into their summer lull..." Xander added.

"Yeah... why do they do that anyway?"

Giles groaned and shook his head, "Do not question good fortune to often, Buffy..."

Buffy shrugged and grinned at the annoyed older man.

"You are both quite certain that nothing else happened?"

Xander shifted, glancing back toward the living room where the dark haired girl was watching TV. "Ummm... yeah. Why? Is something supposed to happen?"

"Oh... no... not at all..." Giles said quickly, "I just want to make certain that we stay on top of things."

The two nodded in agreement.

"Well, I suppose that will be all... I should be getting back to my place..." Giles started to get up.

"Yeah... Hey, I'll walk you out, G-man... I want to talk to you about something."

Buffy glanced over, "I thought you were staying to watch TV with Dawn and Me?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah... I'll be right back..."

Buffy nodded and Xander joined Giles as he headed back to his car.

"What is it, Xander?"

"I just wanted to see what you thought of... Dawn."

"Buffy's sister?" Giles looked surprised, "What should I think? She's Buffy's sister."

"Right." Xander said quietly.

"Why? Is something wrong with Dawn? Has she done something?" Giles asked quickly.

"No... no!" Xander shook his head, "Nothing like that... just... asking."

Giles looked at Xander oddly, but finally nodded and got into his car.

Xander watched the old clunker drive away and turned back to the house behind him, a perplexed expression on his face.

"Did you see that!?" Dawn grabbed at Xander's arm and pointed his attention back to the TV, "Come on, Xander... you're not watching!"

"Sorry," Xander put his attention back on the TV, trying to focus on the movie that Dawn had selected. It wasn't long before his attention drifted again, and he finally got up and walked around the room.


"Sorry..." Xander fumbled for her name for a second, "Dawnie... I'm just stretching my legs."

She sat back down and pouted as she watched the television, causing Xander to smile almost fondly. Her expression was pure Buffy, and if he hadn't known better he would have been easily caught up in the fiction of her existence.

He stopped and looked at the pictures around the room, walking to them and looking at them closely. He remembered most of them, but they were different. He, Buffy, and Willow were joined in several by the pretty young child now seated on the couch watching television. There were new ones as well, he and Dawn laughing as they clowned around the living room, Dawn and Buffy, Dawn and Willow. Several portraits of the girl were placed around as well, photo's that he had never laid eyes on before.

Xander took a breath and shook his head, it was all far too weird for him to understand. He finally just gave up and sank back into the couch, where he was instantly surrounded by the two sisters. Neither of whom noticed that Xander's attention wasn't on either them, or the TV.

"See ya, Xan!" Buffy waved good bye as Xander straddled the BMW bike and started the motor. As he pulled away she looked around, expecting to see Dawn drooling at the window as usual.

Dawn was at the window, but she wasn't drooling. Instead she looked disturbed by something.

"Dawn?" Buffy looked at her little sister, almost letting her concern show through. Wouldn't do to let the little brat think that her big sister actually liked her or anything. "Are you ok?"

"Did I do something?"


"To Xander, I mean..." Dawn looked out the window, a worried look on her face, "Did I do something to him?"

Buffy shook her head, "No... no, Dawn. You didn't... why?"

Eugene Irwin watched from across the street as the boy walked up to the building he had made his home and base of operations. Irwin frowned, the boy looked preoccupied. That wasn't good, he didn't want the boy to be distracted when he introduced himself.

"Fuck it." He mumbled to himself and crossed the street.

He got halfway across before he saw the kid spot him and turn to meet him.

<What now?> Xander asked himself as he saw the man approach him. As the man got within ten meters he started analyzing what he could tell. <Casual dress... but it's been pressed... Walks like a soldier... At Parade, not patrol... he's probably not planning on fighting...>

As the man got closer Xander stopped and shifted to parade rest himself, his hands behind his back and his feet spread apart.

The man paused in mid stride and smiled tightly at Xander's reaction. He nodded stiffly and came to a stop in front of the boy. "Smart."

Xander didn't respond right away, instead he looked at the man in front of him and just waited.

Irwin nodded again, "very smart. The name's Eugene Irwin, I used to be a General."

Xander still didn't answer, his entire stance merely said one word. 'So?'

"A friend sent me to help you out."

"What friend?" Xander spoke finally.

"Tall guy, British accent, impressive wingspan." Irwin grinned slightly.

Xander stared at him with a raised eyebrow, "I only know one guy who fits that description... and the last time I saw him he didn't seem all that interested in lending me a hand."

Irwin shrugged, "From what he told me he wants to hedge his bets..."

That brought a slight snort from Xander, "Now that sounds familiar. He doesn't want me to screw up anything big, huh?"

Irwin grinned, "Something like that."

Xander shook his head and broke out of parade rest, turning back toward his building. "At least he has a softer touch then his friends, they decided that if I wasn't going to work for them then I was going to die."

"Control freaks, huh?"

Xander nodded, "Yep. Ok, Fill me in General... walk with me."

Eugene Irwin fell into step behind Xander as the young man walked up to his home, describing what he had seen and decided to do over the past few months.

Andrezj Konzaki smiled as he finished up his latest project, a pair of pistols for the boss man himself. The kid had been using the Beretta's for the past couple months but these would make those puppies obsolete, of that the armorer had no doubt whatsoever.

He got up from his station, balancing on his prosthetic legs and gathered up the weapons and clips, placing them lovingly into a foam filled attache case.

When he was finished he grabbed his walking cane from it's slot in his chair and made his way to the elevator.

"Let me get this straight," Xander glared mildly at the man, "You've been watching me for months?"

Irwin nodded, an unapologetic grin on his face.

Xander looked disgusted, "Damn. I should have spotted you long ago."

"Yes." Irwin agreed, "You should have."

Xander shot the man another mild glare but didn't comment as he opened the door to the building. As the two men walked inside Irwin suddenly staggered, almost falling to one knee as an expression of pain passed over his face.

"General!" Xander kneeled down and looked at the man in concern, "Are you alright?"

Irwin shook his head, his face clearing. "Damn... what was that?"

Xander helped the man get back to his feet and into the house. "You don't know?"

"Never happened before."

At the far side of the hall the elevator door slid open and Andrezj Konzaki hobbled out, sliding a long slim blade from his walking stick and pointing it down the hall at General Eugene Irwin.

"I am Andrezj Konzaki, and I'm not looking for trouble."

"Did Xander seem a little strange to you, Buffy?"

Buffy grinned at her little sister, "Xander? Strange? Naahhh... whatever gave you that idea?"

The two girls laughed for a bit until Dawn sobered up, "He kept looking at me funny..."

Buffy snapped around and looked at her younger sister, "Funny how? If he was checking you out I'll break his neck..."

"You will not!" Dawn protested, "I've been trying to get him to check me out forever..."

"Dawn! He's way to old for you!"

"Really? How old? Is he like, oh say... *two hundred and forty* years older?" Dawn threw back at her.

Buffy just glared at her sister, "That's not the same thing and you know it!"

"Yeah," Dawn conceded, "Xander has a pulse."


Dawn stuck out her tongue at her raging sister, then sobered again. "But anyway... he wasn't checking me out... he was looking at me like I was a vamp or something..."


"He just looked like... he didn't trust me... like he expected me to vamp out and attack or something."

Buffy didn't say anything for a few seconds, "I'm sure you're just imagining things, Dawn... Xander wouldn't look at you like that..."

Dawn frowned and didn't look convinced, "It was really creepy, Buffy... His eyes... I'm serious... he looked like he didn't even know me."

"Look... Dawn," Buffy spoke haltingly, not really knowing what to say. "I'll talk to him... ok? Tomorrow, I promise."

Dawn nodded, "Thanks Buffy..."

Xander took an instant step away from the man who called himself Eugene Irwin, stepping clear of any potential crossfire. Once he was clear he held his hands up and said one word, "Whoa!"

Neither man said anything in response, Konzaki merely looked wary and Irwin looked confused.

"What's this al about Andy?"

Andrezj's face remained passive. "It's between me and him, Xander."

"Hey, hold up now..." Irwin raised his hands slowly, "I don't know what your on about but I've never laid eyes on you before in my life."

Andy relaxed almost imperceptibly. "Why are you here?"

"I came to talk to the kid. That's all, Mr. Konzaki."

Andy nodded slowly, the point of his blade dropping. "You're not head hunting?"

"Head what!?"

Andy's eyes narrowed, "You don't know..."

"Know What!?" Xander asked, frustrated.

Andrezj took a deep breath, mentally berating himself for openly confronting the other man. It would have been better not to arouse the Kid's curiosity, Andy had seen what happens when the kid got on a trail. "Shit." He muttered under his breath. "We'd better sit down..."

The man casually kicked over a box that was laying upended in the center of the large room. "Disgusting."

"Hey!" A short man objected as he entered the room, "You don't see me coming over to your country and kicking your shit, do ya?"

The man grimaced, "What news do you have for me?"

The short man shrugged, "Its pretty much the same shit as I've been sending ya by email. The brunette is a bit of a loner, if ya want to grab her I'd say do it when she rips out of town on her bike for a couple days."

"And how often does she do that?"

The man shrugged, "Often enough I guess... just be patient."

"Patience is a virtue that is surprisingly sparse on the Council, David."

David rolled his eyes, "No shit. Look, you've got all I know about her. Make up your own damn mind, I don't give a flying fuck."

The tall man walked over and casually grabbed David by his shirt. "Oh, but you should, David... You really should... because if I should choose to disbelieve you... then things would get very ugly for you, very ugly indeed."

David swallowed and nodded, "I understand... I do... and I told you everything, I swear."

"Good." The man let David go, "The this is the last time we shall need to meet."

As the tall man turned to leave, David rubbed his collar and winced. "Like I'm sorry to see the back of your ass, you fucked up limey bastard."

Xander's eyes were bugged out as he stared at Konzaki and tried to piece together what he had just been told. <Immortals... whoa....>

Irwin merely looked disbelieving, as if he had just heard a mildly amusing fairy tale and was now waiting for the 'happily ever after' line. "You've got to be joking."

Konzaki shook his head, "Sorry. No."

<Immortals exist, Alexander.> Elan whispered into his mind, <They have for as long as even the histories of my culture were recorded.>

Xander swallowed, <Great. So, what are they? Demons?> he winced at the thought, he liked Konzaki and hoped that he wasn't trying to pull something.

<No.> Elan said with a mental shake, <They are merely another race. Genetically they are human, even the best science of the ancients could not tell them apart from a normal person.>

Xander blinked, intent on his internal discussion and ignoring the external one between the two Immortals. <What? How is that possible?>

Elan shrugged mentally, <They carry an energy signature within them that is unreadable by devices constructed by merely mundane methods. Presumably it is this that extends their lives.>

<So... are they human?>

<Unknown.> She responded curtly, <They may be a parallel evolution, a dimensional offshoot, or the ultimate end of one line of human evolution. Theories on the subject raged within the Kine'Iende for centuries.>

Xander groaned, he didn't need theories. <Elan... Simple answer, Good or Evil?>

<They are the same as mankind in that respect, Alexander.> Elan said quietly, <They exercise the right to choose as individuals rather then as a species..>

Xander sighed, "Nothing's ever easy."

Giles looked up from his reading as the phone started ringing. The Watcher sighed and got up from his chair, "What now?"

"Giles' Residence."

"God, Ripper, you are a difficult man to get a hold of!"

Giles straightened up, his eyes clearing, "Lady...."

"Not now." The woman's voice sounded urgent, "One of my contacts with the Council found something interesting. I don't think that you're going to like it."

Giles winced, "Faith or Buffy?"

"Faith. They've sent another retrieval team, Ripper."

Giles cursed, "When."

"I'm not certain, they could already be there. I didn't receive the news until I got back to England a few hours ago."

"Thank you..."

"Don't thank me, Rip." The amusement was strong in the woman's voice, "Just go save your Slayer."

Giles rubbed his nose, "Yes... well, I'm not certain if she's mine per say... but I'll do that."

The line went dead.

Giles stood their for a moment, then started dialing.

X&J's Place

General Irwin shook his head slightly and generally looked disgusted with the turn of events.

Konzaki smiled at him sympathetically, "I know... it's a lot to take in."

"It's not that..." Irwin said slowly, "I was just trying to figure out how I missed it."


"I knew a soldier under my command some time ago, he walked into a building that was struck by a mortar shell... we gave him up for dead, but a few hours later he reported in for duty with a story so crazy I had to accept for the truth...And it wasn't the first or last time he got out of situations like that."

"What was his name?"

"Owen Tanner."

Konzaki shrugged, "Haven't heard of him... but I don't have many contacts in the Immortal community anyway."

Irwin looked at him, "Why's that?"

Andy tapped his legs and smiled a little, "Its best for me to keep a low profile if I want to keep my head. I've actually won two duels sword to sword, but most people aren't as stupid as those two."

Irwin nodded, "What happens if they aren't that stupid?"

Konzaki smiled and slipped a cut-off version of his Atchisson from under his coat.

Irwin nodded, "Nice piece. I thought you said that was against the rules?"

Andy shrugged, "Dying is against my rules."

Irwin suddenly grinned, "Now that I can respect."

The two laughed slightly, but were cut off when the phone started to ring. Xander snapped out of the daze he seemed to be in and stood up, "I'll get it."

As he walked out of the room he glanced back at them slyly, "No sword fighting in the house... Or I'll have both your heads."

Konzaki grimaced at the tasteless joke, but Irwin merely shook his head as he began to ponder the new information.

"Y-ello?" Xander answered the phone, "Huh? No, G-man... She took off earlier today on her bike... I expect her back soon though... what!? Don't those guys ever learn? Alright... get Buffy and Willow, I'll find Jarod and Miss Parker... Right. Meet here. Cya then."

Xander hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment, then grabbed the receiver again and started dialing.

Jarod groaned as his phone started ringing.

"Leave it alone, Jarod..." Miss Parker grinned and pulled him back down.

He hesitated, duty warring with desire, until duty won. "Just a second..." He promised the suddenly irate woman beside him.

"Jarod. This better be good." He said into the phone.

Miss Parker watched as he eyes widened, then his face became concerned. She didn't bother listening to what he was saying, she just started packing up the picnic lunch and blanket. When he hung up she glanced at him expectedly.

"The Council sent another team after Faith."

Miss Parker tossed the bundled stuff from the ground into the backseat of the Mustang, "What are we waiting for?"

"Yo?" Faith answered her cell phone casually as she leaned against the gas pump. "Hey Lover, what's up?"

Her causal attitude changed to one of concern and wariness. "Shit. You sure? Yeah... yeah, I'll trust Jeeves on this too. Ok, I'm coming home. Huh? What about Dawn? How should I know... you know the little rugrat doesn't like me... she blames me for stealing you from her."

Faith grinned into the phone, "Don't tell me, tell her...Yeah yeah, you wimp. Look, I'm coming right back. I'll be back at the place in twenty minutes. Yes I'm sure. Bye."

She hung up the phone, handed a fifty to the attendant and pulled her helmet on, "Keep the change, Stud."

The bewildered man looked at the money for a second as she peeled out of the lot, then at the gauge on the pump. It read nine dollars even. He shook his head and counted his lucky stars as he walked back into the station.

Xander was frowning when he walked into the living room, barely even noticing that Irwin and Konzaki were chatting rather amiably for two people who's introduction had been at the point of a blade.

"What is it, Kid?" Andy asked as he took note of Xander's expression.

"You remember I told you about the Watchers Council?"

Konzaki nodded, "Sure. They mentor the Slayers... you had some differences with them in the past."

"They're back in town, and it looks like they've sent a retrieval team for Faith."

"What!?" Andy asked, his eyes wide, "Why?"

Xander shrugged, "Only two thoughts come to mind... neither of them good."

Konzaki and Irwin remained silent a Xander thought about what to say.

"The first possibility is that they want to test Faith... this being her eighteenth birthday, she's due to go through a ritual called the Cruciamentum... It's not a nice thing." Xander grimaced, "Second chance is that they've sent another team to take her back to stand trial for her past errors."

Konzaki nodded, thinking rapidly.

Irwin frowned, "Past transgressions?"

Xander shook his head, "She flipped out a while back, sided with a demon wannabe against us... But I've got her back on track now and I'll be damned if I let them step in a screw it up on me."

Irwin nodded thoughtfully, "Then it sounds like they'll probably be planning both."


"Well, if what you say is true I'd assume that they are going to run her through the trial," Irwin continued thoughtfully, "then if she is found not guilty or whatever they'll run her through the test."

As unlikely as it seemed, Xander's face fell even further then it had when Giles had informed him of the trouble in the first place. "Great, in other words she's probably a dead Slayer even if she does make it through a trial."

"The test is that dangerous?"

Xander nodded, "And then some. They strip her of her powers.... well, her strength and speed anyway, then they toss her in with an uber vamp to see if she is worthy or some such shit."

Irwin nodded, analyzing the scenario in his mind, "And since this... Slayer, is used to fighting with enhanced speed and strength..."

"She's fighting at more of a handicap then we would be if we had to go up against the same vamp." Xander finished for him.

"Fuck." Konzaki put in, disgusted.

"That sums it up," Xander said with a grimace.

"So what now?"

"We wait." Xander said glumly, "Faith should be back in twenty minutes... Giles is bringing Buffy and Willow over, and I called in Jarod and Miss P."

Konzaki nodded, then glanced down at his side noticing that he was still carrying the attache case. "Hey kid, these'll help you out I think..."

Xander frowned at the case as he accepted it from Andy, "What's this?"

"Remember I told you I'd put together something to replace your old forty-fives?"

Xander nodded as he clicked open the polished aluminum case, his eyes widening as he pulled out a pair of pistols from inside. "Nice."

"Fabrique Nationale FiveSeven pistols," Konzaki said, "Nice little puppies that fire the 5.7mm armor piercing rounds developed for the FN-P90."

Xander nodded, "I have some friends working out of Cheyenne Mountain that use those... good weapons."

"Very good." Konzaki confirmed, "lightweight, ergonomic, compact, and they pack one hell of a punch."

"Yeah," Xander said, "the SGC commissioned the design from Fabrique Nationale several years ago to replace their MP-5's and M-16's.They needed a weapon built to very demanding standards."

Konzaki raised his eyebrows, "SGC? Never heard of them..."

"They're a Shadow op... not quite black, but pretty secret anyway." Xander replied, "Jarod was able to dig up some interesting stuff on them in the Senates budget appropriations files."

Konzaki nodded, "Anyway, the FiveSeven's are pretty good pistols too... Standard bullets are armor piercing, though they don't pack the same punch as a forty five. But I've included a half dozen clips of the magnesium rounds, and something new I've been working with Jack Crow. These should compensate for any lack of stopping power."


"Yeah, Crow got me some information on the bullets those Vatican shits used in Orwell, seems they were developed as Werewolf killers by the church back when they were still using led pellets in front loading muskets. When you guys mentioned that they had an effect on Hannah I got a hold of Jack and got him to find out what was in the damned things."

"You think they'll be useful against other creatures?"

Konzaki shrugged, "Only one way to find out."

"What are they exactly?"

"Basically they're silver bullets..."

Xander cut him off with a protest, "Whoa... we tried silver against vamps and demons... one of the first things Jarod and I played with. Nada. No go."

Konzaki held up a hand, "The trick is that the silver was melted down from a blessed crucifix."

Xander's eyes widened a bit, "That... we didn't try."

Andy grinned, "Give 'em a shot when you get a chance, I'll be interested to find out. And so will Jack."

Xander laughed, "Yeah, I bet he will."

"Anyway, I rebuilt those babies from the frames up," Konzaki continued, "Redid the action same as Parker's Smiths, and I added a couple new actions to the weapons... see the lever on the inside face of the weapons?"

Xander checked, and quickly spotted the small lever set just above his thumb on each pistol. "Yeah?"

"Firing modes. Flat is single shot mode, forty five degrees lets out a three round burst, and ninety degrees will empty the clips in a little under eight seconds."

Even Irwin looked impressed by that bit of news.

Konzaki continued calmly as if he had said nothing special, "I also extended the clips to twenty two rounds... plus one in the pipe if you want to carry it loaded. I removed the safeties and rebuilt the firing mechanism to match the new Glock's... keep your fingers off the trigger and they will *not* fire accidentally."

Xander nodded as he looked at the weapons appreciatively, "Thanks, Andy..."

"Hey," Andy grinned, "No problem kid... just doing my job."

Xander shook his head as he slipped a canvas assault rig over his shoulders and snapped the two pistols into place, "Maybe... but your doing it damned well... and that deserves some thanks."

"Remember that when I ask for a raise, Kid."

Xander laughed, "I'll do that, Andy..."

Irwin hid a smile and kept his features impassive, but he felt that we was going to actually like working with these people.

Buffy slammed down the phone and headed for her room to grab her things, an evil look on her face.

"Buffy?" Joyce asked as she followed her daughter into her bedroom, "What is it?"

Buffy started grabbing gear from her 'Slayage trunk', speaking as she did. "The council sent another team after Faith."

"Oh no..." Joyce said, shocked. She had thought that the trouble with the Council was over. "Have they...?"

Buffy shook her head, "I don't know. Giles called me to meet the group at Xander's."

Joyce nodded, "Yes of course...."

Joyce trailed off as Buffy pulled a Beretta pistol from the truck, checked its action, made sure it was loaded, and slipped it into a holster she snapped around her waist. "Buffy! Since when have you had a gun?"

Buffy grimaced at the reproving tone in her mothers voice, "Andrea taught me how to shoot this winter, mom... Then she and Jarod got me a permit to carry it."

"They did, did they?" Joyce fumed, "I'll have to talk to them about that...."

"Mom!" Buffy objected, "They were just trying to make sure I had the best chance of survival... With the new bullets Jarod made we can take vampires out a lot safer now..."

Joyce still grimaced, but nodded. "But you should have told me..."

Buffy nodded, and spoke with a tinge of sarcasm. "Yes, mom."

Joyce smirked at her eldest daughter and shook her head, "And don't you forget it."

Buffy finished packing up her gear and headed for the door, "I won't."

"Tara?" Willow asked as her lover came back from the phone, "What is it?"

"T... the council... they sent a team after Faith..."

"What!?" Willow's gaze darkened, "why?"

Tara shook her head helplessly, "I don't know... Giles wants us to meet at Xander's place."

Willow opened the closet, pulled out a dress cover, and tossed it on the bed. She quickly unzipped it to reveal two pistols and two pieces of Kevlar assault armor. "I guess we'd better get ready then."

"Buffy," Dawn looked at her sister as Buffy stared out at the street, "What's up?"

"Trouble, Dawn..." Buffy didn't look back, "I'm going to Xander's."

"Xander's?" Dawn brightened up, "Can I come too?"

"No!" Joyce and Buffy said at the same time.

Dawn pouted, "I never get to come along."

"It's going to be dangerous, sweetheart." Joyce said quietly, hugging her youngest from behind, "The Watchers sent a team after Faith."

Dawn wrinkled her face up, annoyed but not certain with who. She didn't have much liking for either side of that equation. The last time she saw one of the idiots from the Watchers he called her a 'spoiled infantile child' and tried to get Buffy killed. <And no one kills my big sister... except maybe me.>

Faith, on the other hand, actually treated her nice... well, lately anyway. But she was sleeping with Xander and didn't even realize how lucky she was to have him... and *that* drove her nuts.

Still, she finally had to admit that the Council was the worst of the deal and she forced a cheerful smile. "Kick some Watcher butt for me, Buffy!"

Buffy shook her head, hiding her grin as Joyce cuffed Dawn lightly. "Dawn!"

As she saw Giles pull up out front, Buffy darted out the door and shouted over her shoulder, "I'll do my best Dawn... I'll see you guys soon!"

"Bye Buffy!" Joyce called, "Be careful!"

"Yeah!" Dawn joined in, "And kick some watcher..."


Faith wove her bike easily through the sparse traffic as she roared back into Sunnydale limits, her mind split between watching the road and mulling over the situation she found herself in. As much as the Dark Slayer hated to admit it, the Council might have a point... She had screwed up in a big way, and she deserved to be punished.

She shook her head slightly, knowing that the only punishment the Council had in mind was probably her death. And Faith did not want to die.

In the end she had to admit to herself that it didn't matter as much as it should. There was no way in hell or heaven that Xander would step aside and let the council take her, no matter what form their punishment would take. And, she grudgingly admitted, she liked that having that kind of support again. It had been four long years since she had last felt that way, and she wasn't going to give it up a second time.

The Dark Slayer gunned the throttle and felt the big bike surge under her, and she turned the bike toward Xander's place.

"So?" A short man asked, irritated. "Where is she?"

The tall man frowned in irritation, "She'll be here. My contact say's she drives out on her bike a lot, sometimes for a few days at a time... but our tap on Ripper's line let us know that her pals are calling her back. We wait."

The short man frowned, but nodded. He hated working with freelancers, the Council tended to hire the most arrogant bastards they could find. Most of them were rank amateurs as well. At least they had let him keep his normal team for this mission, the Ex-SAS man thought to himself. His team had been recruited from some of the scariest units the watchers could find, including the British SAS, SBS, and the French Foreign Legion.

He had some of the most lethal men in the world under his command, and the thrice damned Council tells him that he has to follow the orders of this imbecile. "We really shouldn't be pulling this as close to their base of operations as this..."

"What do you suggest then?" The tall man snapped, "Wait a day? A week? A month? The Council wants her yesterday."

"I still don't like, we should wait. The council should be happy whenever we get her."

The tall man shook his head, "What's wrong with you? You scared?"

"Damned right I am." The shorter man snapped, "And if you had any brains you would be too. There's a reason that the Council hasn't sent anyone to 'sanction' Ripper, you know."

"I've read the man's file..."

"Screw the damned file!" The shorter man snorted, "It doesn't cover the years that define the man, you idiot! Ripper was one of the scariest blokes on the underground scene in London back in his day. The man had half the underground running scared of him, and the other half begging to join him... and I'm not talking about the *criminal* underground. You catch my meaning?"

The tall man shook his head, "Don't matter anyway. Giles isn't here."

"Oh no?" The shorter man pointed to where an ugly yellow compact had just pulled up and four people got out. "That looks like him to me."

Giles stood up from his car and straightened his jacket carefully, "I do hope that Xander was able to reach Faith."

"Come on, Giles..." Buffy urged, "let's get inside and see.

"Yeah, move it already." Willow smirked as she started up the walkway.

Giles shook his head in annoyance, but followed the three girls up the walk.

"So we'll just have to be fast." The Tall man said, "Your men can handle that can't they?"

The shorter man growled under his breath, but nodded.

"Good, then no problem."

The shorted man was about to comment when he spotted a red Mustang pull up, "Aw hell... now who's this?"

The tall man shrugged, "Must be the man called Jarod that the kid was going to call in."

"We're really going to pull a snatch and grab right under the noses of the local hunting squad?" The short man shook his head, "Yer outa yer mind, bloke."

Xander was speaking quickly with Giles when Jarod and Miss Parker strode in the door.

"Is she here?"

Xander shook his head, "No, she should be back in just a few more minutes."

Miss Parker shook her head, "Damnit. Who are these people exactly?"

Giles cleared his throat, "The council employs specialized teams for dealing with supernatural threats in addition to the Slayers, these teams are normally composed of ex-members of the British Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service, as well as members of other elite units throughout Europe."

"That's just great." Parker growled.

"I wouldn't worry overly about them," Giles said, "they are quite good, but it's their backup units that concern me."

"Why?" Xander asked.

"Council teams tend to work with a two man backup team that is... shall we say, mystically inclined?"

Xander sighed, "Great. A double threat then..."


"We just have to wait for Faith to get here, and hope we can handle whatever they send at us."

Faith took a deep breath when she caught sight of the building she called home ahead, and eased off the throttle a bit.

She was within mere meters of the driveway when she hear a loud pop, felt something slap against her side, and lost control of the bike.

"That's her."

"'Ow the bloody hell can you know that?" The short man asked, "She's wearing more then a fricken helmet!"

The tall man glared down at his 'colleague', his eyes an oily black. "Oh, I'm quite certain."

"Right then." the shorter man gulped and signaled his men, "That's her... do it!"

He heard the soft pop of the special rifle go off above him and saw the Slayer suddenly weave out of control as she took a strike from the hardened rubber bullet. The BMW bike went into a skid as the Slayer kicked off it and slid along beside the big bike.

"Team two, move NOW!"

Faith flattened herself out along her back, her hands slapping at the pavement to stabilize her slide as she tried to keep from tumbling. Her leather armor kept the pavement was peeling her skin down to the bone, but the thump was going to leave a bruise.

Ahead of her she could see the bike kicking up sparks as it skidded and part of her mind winced at the damage. <I liked that bike.>

As she slowed to a halt she started to roll over, wincing as the pain shot through her body. A sudden squeal of tires alerted her to more trouble and she looked up to see a black van suddenly disgorge a half dozen very large men.

<This is going to hurt, isn't it?> Faith thought as she was surrounded by the men.

"Hold still, lass... and this'll be all over quick and easy." One of them muttered as he bent down, holding a pair of cuffs.

Faith suddenly struck the ground with enough force to lift her entire body off the pavement, and send her back to her feet in a fluid motion. She snapped out with a kick that knocked the cuffs from the man's hands and grinned in her helmet. "Sorry Mister, I don't do the kinky stuff on the first date."

The man stared in shock as the Slayer caught the cuffs as they fell back down and held them by one finger, taunting him. He recovered quickly and yelled, "Get her!"

The men closed on her at once, intending to bring her down my sheer numbers if necessary.

Faith spun fast, kicking the closest man hard and throwing a punch at the man who approached from the opposite side. She smiled with satisfaction as her boot landed solidly, crunching into the man's rib cage. Her punch was a little less successful, landing only a glancing blow on the man as he dodged.

He growled and got in close, his first swing slashing in at her throat with a ridge hand move she remembered far too well. Faith jumped back, avoiding the potentially lethal maneuver, but landed square in the arms of another man. His big arms closed around her, trapping her own arms against her body with no leverage.

Faith growled and jumped up, kicking two others while using the man holding her as leverage, then slammed her heels back into the bridge of his feet as she simultaneously rammed the back of her helmet into his face.

Blood spurted over her black helmet and bones cracked under her heels as the big man's arms fell limply away. She spun on him as he stood there, looking like he was out cold on his feet, and growled. "I learned to fight dirty from someone a helluva lot sneakier then you!"

With that she nailed him with a spin kick that toppled the man to the ground.

She turned to look for another opponent when she felt a sudden stabbing pain in her left shoulder. She grabbed at it and her right hand came back with a large syringe, now empty.

She turned and saw that only one man was still standing, but he was grinned at her. As her vision suddenly went blurry she muttered, "Oh shit." And collapsed.

The last man caught the Slayer easily and hefted her over his shoulder, "Get up, you pantywaists! Carry Harry to the bloody van, and be quick about it!"

Four groaning men staggered to their feet and started to drag the biggest member of their group to the waiting van.

The squeal of tires was the first indication of trouble to reach the group inside Jarod and Xander's home.

They glanced at each other and stared for a few seconds.

"They wouldn't dare." Andrea Parker said in disbelief.

"There is little that a Council team would not dare, Miss Parker."

Xander looked around for another second, "Let's go."

The group rushed outside.

"'ere they come..." the short man growled, "Three, take them!"

As the rushed outside the group saw the fight just up the street and started to break into a run when a planter on the side of the driveway blew into shards of dirt and hardened clay.

"Sniper!" Jarod called as the group split for cover.

"Where is he!?" Xander called.

"Rooftop, across the street!"

Xander rolled over onto his stomach, "Got him... Guys... a little cover!? I'll try to get to Faith!"

The group was about to object, but Xander was already moving so they drew their weapons and opened up on the rooftop.

"Shit!" The sniper rolled back as shards of cement dug into his face, drawing blood.

He quickly popped back up and fired off another shot, without aiming, before ducking down again.

"They've got me pinned!" he called into his radio.

Both men fell back from the window when the six people across the road drew pistols and opened fire on the sniper position on the roof of the building he was using.

"I warned you!" The short man growled.

The tall man shrugged, "It doesn't matter. They aren't moving fast enough, and your men already have the Slayer."

Xander scrambled to his feet and drew his new pistols, sighting onto the van as the engine started and the doors slammed shut.

He flipped the guns to three shot mode and opened fire with both, tracking on the van as it started to move away from him, his bullets aimed low for fear of hitting Faith if the armor piercing shells went through the van.

The first three struck the rear drivers side tires, but the tires held up even as he heard a hiss of escaping gas, the van was pealing away as he stopped firing for lack of any decent target. Xander kept running, his weapons aimed and he opened fire again when the van turned, his bullets ripping into the passenger side window and door, but he couldn't tell if they had any effect.

He stopped when he reached Faith's bike, reached down and pulled the big machine up. He straddled the bike quickly and hit the starter, grinning as the big motor turned over with a roar. He hit the gas and spun the bike around 180 degrees, and twisted the throttle to full power.

Jarod glanced down from where the Sniper was hiding when he heard the roar of a motorcycle motor, just in time to see Xander peel off on Faith's bike. The big motorcycle stood practically on end as Xander forced the front wheel back down and followed the van around the corner.

"Good luck, Xander." Jarod whispered as his mind started working out how he was going to explain a firefight in the middle of the neighborhood.

Jeremy Gilden put the pedal to the floor and heard the satisfying squeal as the powerful engine of the van roared, pushing the big machine forward. He could hear the faint popping of gunfire behind him, then felt a faint shimmy in the van that took him a moment to place.

<Bastard got the tire... Glad we optioned for the run-flats.>

He cut the wheel and turned the van around the corner, suddenly flinching back as gunfire sprayed through the passenger side window, showering him with glass. Just as the van was starting to pull away he felt a sudden spray of warmth hit his face.

Jeremy looked over in shock, "Jesus! Mac! Mac!?"

Beside him Mac was sitting limply in his seat, slumped as blood poured from a gaping wound in his head.

"Fuck!" Jeremy cursed as he clawed at his face, trying to wipe off the blood and gore from his face.

"Watch the bloody road, Jer!" Ted screamed from behind him, "I'll check 'im!"

Ted grabbed Mac's body and pulled it out of the chair and into the back of the Van. "Bloody hell. This was supposed to be an easy job!"

Jeremy cursed, then yelled back. "I know, I know! How's Harry?"

Ted shook his head, "Still out cold... He's gonna need reconstructive surgery.. Don't know if he'll be able to walk straight again, she did a number on 'is feet!"

Jeremy cursed again, "Shit! That move was straight from the SAS manual! Who the 'ell thought it was a good idea to teach a slayer to fight like that!?"

Behind them another man, Jace, was staring out the back window. "I don't know fellas, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were that guy back there chasin us!"


Xander gunned the engine again, leaning forward to keep the front wheel on the ground, trying to catch up to the Van as it roared down the road. He squinted into the wind, barely able to see by times as the wind whipped by his head.

He ignored it all and focused on the van in front of him, locking his eyes on the rapidly approaching bumper of the larger vehicle through the sudden sheen of water in his eyes from the ripping wind.

His eyes widened involuntarily as the back doors of the van flew open and two figures appeared wielding guns. Xander leaned to the right as automatic gunfire chewed into the pavement where he had been, straightened out and pulled one pistol in his left hand, and returned fire.

"Unit Baker Bravo, we have reports of a gunfight near the university... please respond."

Terrell Parker looked at the radio as if it had grown teeth, "No way..."

"Unit Baker Bravo, cancel previous orders..."

Terrell smiled, "I knew that had to be a mistake..."

"Gunfight has moved onto Macmillan Street, heading south...Proceed with all caution, Baker Bravo."

Stunned, Terrell grabbed the microphone and stammered his acknowledgment of the orders. He turned the patrol car and headed north. "Grace told me something was weird in this town... but a gun battle? I thought only Sammo attracted that kind of trouble."

Giles got up slowly, his eyes locked onto the rooftop across the road. "He's gone."

"Are you sure?" Jarod asked from his position.

Giles nodded, "They have what they came for... they have no reason to stay."

Jarod nodded and got up himself, surveying the mess.

"We have to go after Xander!" Buffy yelled.

Giles nodded, "Get into my car, we'll get moving."

Jarod stopped the watcher with a hand, "Take my car."

Giles accepted the keys and nodded his thanks as he headed for the Mustang.

Jarod watched the car roar off with Giles, Tara, Willow, and Buffy and had enough time to feel a certain pity for the Council team before he heard the first fait wailing of sirens in the background.

"Andrea," He half turned, "Go to our room and grab our FBI identification papers and Federal firearms permits..."

She nodded and headed back into the building.

"Does this sort of thing happen often around here?" Asked Irwin.

Jarod nodded, "Every week it seems..." Then the Pretender turned and frowned at the man, "Who *are* you?"

"Bloody hell!" Ted screamed as he ducked back into the van, bullets ripping into the walls of the van around him. "The damned prick nearly took my head off!"

"Of course he did you bloomin idiot!" Jeremy screamed back at him, "He's aiming high to avoid hitting her! Stop screaming and kill him already!"

The FiveSeven pistol locked open as it spent its last round on the van. Xander cursed and nearly threw it aside but remembered that recovering it would be difficult in the extreme so he took the time to fit it back into his assault rig and close the snaps.

Turning his attention back to the van, Xander twisted the throttle again and felt the big bike leap forward again. Behind him he heard a wail of a siren and risked a look back to see a black and white slew onto the road behind him and burn rubber as it accelerated toward him.

<Sunnydale cops are getting involved? Will wonders never cease?> Xander turned his attention back to the van, and hoped that the cop wouldn't get caught in the crossfire.

Terrell's eyes widened as he watched the motorcycle race after the van, dodging occasional fire from the larger vehicle and close the gap quickly.

"This town is insane!"

He grabbed a radio beside him and flipped it on, "Grace? You out there?"

A few seconds later it crackled back, "Yeah, Terrel?"

"When you said this town was weird, you weren't kidding were you?"

"What?" Grace sounded confused, "What's going on?"

"I'm chasing a biker who's chasing a van, who's doing its damned best to shoot the biker!"

"Biker? What kind of bike?"

"Black racing job... can't tell what make..."

"Black...? Sounds like one of Harris'."

"Isn't that the guy you called a lunatic?"

Grace's voice was dry when it came back, "That's him."

"You make the most interesting friends, Grace..." Terrell grinned into the radio, "So I should treat the guy with kid gloves?"

"Terrell..." Grace' voice came patiently back, "If that's Harris I think you should worry about how he'll treat you."

"He that dangerous?"

"Would you like to go against Sammo one on one?"

Terrell's eyes widened, "He's that good?"

"No... not by skill, but he's scary Terrell... trust me."

"Alright, Grace... I'll be careful."

"I'm almost to my bike, Terrell... where are you?"

"Going south on Macmillan, Grace..."

"On my way..."

Terrell dropped the radio and barely swerved the patrol car fast enough to avoid an oncoming car. "Shit!"

Xander closed on the van, approaching from the passengers side, when the big vehicle suddenly swerved directly in front of him. His eyes widened as he saw two figures inside aiming automatic weapons on him again.

"Shit!" His scream was whipped away by the wind as he twisted the handle again and pulled up on the bike, pulling the front tire into the air, hunkering as close to the bike as possible to avoid the hail of bullets.

Bullets sparked off the engine block and frame of the German bike and Xander was suddenly engulfed in white smoke as something in the big machine gave way. The engine warbled, cut out and in, and finally stalled.

Xander started wobbling on the rear tire and forced the bike back down, only to feel the bike suddenly shimmy under him. He had time to scream one last curse as the rear tire jammed and caused the bike to slew to the left. He leaned hard into it, and dropped the bike into a skid, hugging tight to the upper side of the bike as it skidded down the road, spraying sparks along for a hundred and fifty feet before it finally slowed to a stop.

He slowly got up off the smoking motorcycle, cursing under his breath as he watched the van grow smaller in the distance. He didn't even look back as he heard the wails of the police siren come to a stop behind him.

Terrell hit the brakes as he watched the figure 'surf' the skidding bike to a stop. <Grace was right, if that's Harris he IS scary.>

As he slowed the patrol car to a stop he saw the young man get off the smoking wreckage that used to be a racing bike and pull something from under his jacket. Terrell reached over and pulled on the door latch, but only had enough time to put one foot on the ground when the figure suddenly turned toward him and leveled a gun directly at his head.

"Sorry about this," The figure said calmly, "Federal Agent, I need your car."

"We lost him!"

"About bloody time!" Jeremy cursed as he turned the van toward the airport. "That was too damned close!"

"Oh shit!"

Jeremy closed his eyes for a split second, "What?"

"I think he just carjacked that cop."

"Hey, hey! Hey!" Terrell held his hands up as the figure approached, "I'm kinda hoping that your name is Harris?"

Xander looked at the man oddly, but didn't reply. "Get out."

Terrell shook his head, "No way, man."

Xander walked around the open door and gestured with the FiveSeven pistol, "Then move over. Your choice."

Terrell swallowed and slid over to the passenger side seat, "You are Harris right?"

Xander got in and started the car, he glanced over at the cop and growled, "Buckle up."

Terrell scrambled for the safety belt, cursing as it locked in place when Xander hit the gas and sent the patrol car squealing down the road. As he finally got the belt around him and snapped in the kid glanced over at him and half smiled, "Yes, I'm Xander Harris. And you are?"

"Terrell Parker..." The black man gulped as the police car cut into traffic and accelerated down the road, "You mind keeping your eyes on the road?"

Jarod held his hands up as the Sunnydale PD started to arrive in force around the building, holding his federal ID in one hand.

"What the fuck happened here!?" Detective Stein screamed as he got out of his car. "And who the hell are you?"

"Federal Agent Jarod Ness." Jarod smiled easily as he handed his ID over to the detective.

"Fed?" Stein glared, "You mind explaining what the hell you're doing shooting up my town!?"

"A protected witness was just abducted from our safe house, we have several assets in pursuit."

"What kind of witness?" Stein demanded.

"I'm afraid that's privileged information, Detective." Jarod responded smoothly, "but I can tell you that the witness was involved heavily in certain nocturnal activities, and is wanted by several gang's that trade heavily in... PCP."

Stein went white. "Uh... umm... That's fine Agent... uh... Ness... I'm sure that the FBI has this all under control..."

Stein turned on his men and with rapid gestures told them to back off. He did, however, confirm the FBI credentials that Jarod had given him before leaving the scene to the 'Federal' authorities.

Jarod shook his head as the last of the cop cars sped off. "Xander was right..."

"About what, Jarod?" Miss Parker asked from behind him.

"Sunnydale cops are the worst on the planet."

"Giles! Slow down!" Buffy screamed from the passenger side, "I think I see Faith's bike!"

Giles hit the brakes and slowed the Mustang down as he passed by a group of people huddled around a smoking wreck of a bike. Buffy leaned over the door of the red sports car and yelled, "Hey! Did anyone see the driver of that bike!?"

One person stepped forward, "Yeah... he pulled a gun on a cop and took off in the cop car... that way."

Buffy stared at the man for a long moment before speaking. "Thanks... Giles?"

"Right." The Watcher floored the gas and the Mustang peeled away.

"He *stole* a cop car!?" Willow goggled from the back seat.

"I... I'm... sure he thought it was a good idea at the time..."

Giles glanced to the side, "I believe that we can safely table this discussion until later..."

"Giles's right..." Buffy said, then looked shocked, "Oh god! Did I just say that!?"

Giles let out a long suffering sigh as the three girls giggled around him. <Americans.>

"So," Xander said almost conversationally, "You know Grace do you?"

"Yeah.. Uh..." Terrell grabbed the dash of the car, "Watch out!! Left! Left! No, Right! Right!"

Xander cut the wheel and stepped on the gas again as he cleared traffic, "Relax Terrell..."

"Relax... yeah, right..." The black man breathed heavily as he stared at the road ahead. "Who are we chasing anyway?"

Xander checked the road ahead, and saw nothing except the van in the distance. "Grab the wheel."

"What!?" Terrell's head snapped over to see Xander let go of the steering wheel. His hands snapped out and grabbed the wheel as he felt the car continue to accelerate. "This is not a safe way to drive!"

Xander didn't comment, just removed his pistols from the assault rig and ejected the clips into his lap, and pulled two fresh clips and slapped them into the FiveSeven pistols.

"You carjacked me with an empty gun!?" Terrell yelled indignantly.

Xander shrugged, and took the wheel back. "Sorry."

Terrell slumped back into his seat, "I can't believe I got carjacked by a brat with an empty gun."

Xander grinned tersely and cut the wheel, skidding the car into the access road to the airport. "I said I was sorry."

Terrell sighed, "Who are we chasing anyway?"

"Some British ass-holes who kidnapped a friend of mine."

"Kidnapped? British?"

"Long story." Xander said as he focused on the road, "Now hang on a second... this ride is about to get bumpy."

Terrell looked forward just in time to see the back of the van loom ahead of them, the doors hanging open and two men holding big guns pointed in their direction.

"Oh hell."

"Jesus!" Ted screamed, "he's right on our backsides again!"

"Does this guy ever give up!?" Jeremy yelled from where he was standing. "Just kill him already!"

Ted muttered under his breath, grabbed an assault rifle, and moved to the back of the van. "Freakin dejavu."

Xander twisted the wheel, avoiding the first round of shots as he tried to pull up beside the van. The driver of the van swung in front of him, blocking his path, and put the patrol car back in the front of the line of fire.

Xander shoved his hand out the window, pistol gripped tightly in his fist.

Terrell flinched as the rapid fire sound of pistol fire opened up beside him, and ducked down as machine gun fire ripped into the hood and windshield of the car. "Jesus Christ!"

Xander twisted the wheel again, firing in three shot mode as the van passed in front of him. He saw a halo of blood surround one man's shoulder as three of the 5.7mm tumblers dug into the man's torso. He felt a momentary twinge in his stomach but ruthlessly suppressed it, clenched his teeth, and kept firing.

"Fuck! Ted's hit!"

Jeremy glanced back over his shoulder, "We're almost to the airport! Stop playing games for fucks sake, it's a goddamned patrol car... use the Armscor!"

The man nodded and kicked the still unconscious body of the Slayer aside as he broke open a case behind the drivers seat. He pulled out the chunky Armscor Rifle from inside, quickly checking to see that the large drum mag was fully loaded with 40mm HE.

"Oh Holy Mother of God!" Terrell screamed he saw the big bore of the huge gun pointing at them.

Xander didn't say anything, he just twisted the wheel hard over as the first round from the grenade rifle detonated just to the left and behind the patrol car. He cursed and pulled his hand in, dropping the FiveSeven in his lap, and grabbed the wheel with both hands and tried like hell to stay out of the big gun's cross hairs.

"These guys are riding on my last nerve!" he grated out, cutting the wheel hard again to avoid another shot. The big patrol car was half in the ditch as Xander kept the pedal down, kicking up a huge plume of dust until he managed to wrench the car back onto the pavement.

"This better be one hell of a good friend, Harris!" Terrell gritted as he drew his Sig and aimed it out the window.

"You have no idea, Mr. Parker." Xander gritted out as he tried to keep the car steady on the road.

"Good." Terrell said as he opened fire.

"Fuck!" the man screamed as he ducked back, under heavy fire. "The son of a bitch moves like he can anticipate me! I can't get a shot!"

"Then take out the goddamned road!"

The man swallowed and popped out again, aiming well in front of the cop car.

"Oh shit." Xander blanched white, "Hold on!"

The explosion ripped apart the road ahead of them, throwing a plume of dust, gravel, and chunks of asphalt into the air. Xander cut the wheel and tried to go around it, but another explosion cut him off and that was all they wrote.

The 'borrowed' cop car dug into the crater and the rear pitched up until it flipped over and flew clear of the hole. Upside down it touched down again, the truck crumpling into a tenth of its original size, then the reinforced roof smashing into the road.

The red and blues on top shredded in an instant and the car skidded for a few feet until the car slid sideways, then the cruiser broke into a roll that brought it to a rocking stop fifty feet further on.

Xander's eyesight cleared as he hung upside down by his safety belt, and he could see the big van vanish into the airport grounds. He let his head slump back down and closed his eyes. "Shit. I'm sorry Faith."

Laying on the roof of the car a radio, miraculously intact, crackled to life. "Terell? Terell!? I'm on Macmillan! Where are you!?"

Xander reached down and picked up the radio, "Hi Grace."


"Xander? Is that you? Where's Terrell? Is he alright?"

Xander looked over to where the black man was hanging in his own safety belt. "Hey, Terrell, You alright?"

The man groaned and looked over at him. "Just peachy."

Xander lifted the radio to his mouth, "He's fine, Grace."

Xander hit the release on the seat belt and dropped out of the seat, breaking his fall with his free hand. Groaning he slid out of the open window and looked back in to where Terrell was doing the same on the other side. Xander glanced around the roof of the car and snagged his pistol from where is had fallen, thanking his lucky stars that neither that nor the radio had batted his or Terrell's brains out during the crash.

Xander straightened up and stared at Terrell across the underside of the car. "Two."


"Two." Xander repeated, "That's two vehicles I wrecked in less then twenty minutes... I'm not going to live this one down for a long time. I can't believe I wrecked Faith's bike..."

"Bike!?" Terrel yelped, "You smashed my patrol car! How am I going to explain this?"

Xander shrugged, "Tell your boss that you were chasing an orange dodge charger with a confederate flag on the roof?"

Terrell stared at him blankly for a moment before groaning. "You have a sick sense of humor, you know that right?"

Xander was about to answer but the sound of an approaching car distracted him. He turned to see Giles guide the Mustang through the ditch at the far side of the road, and pull up beside the upset cop car.


Xander walked stiffly around the car and leaned on the red sports car, "Hey."

"Don't 'hey' us!" Willow huffed, "You stole a cop car!"

Xander shrugged, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

He was surprised to see Tara snicker and Willow flash her lover an irritated look.

Giles looked up, "Where did they go?"

Xander glanced toward the airport, where planes were taking off every few minutes, and winced. "England?"

Giles blanched. "Good Lord."

"We'd better check the airport in case they haven't gotten off yet," Xander said without much hope.

Xander planted his hand on the side of the red sports car and launched himself into the backseat, landing squarely between Tara and Willow. The two girls squealed as they were pushed aside and Xander forced a grin through his depression and hugged the two Wiccans. "Come on G-man... step on it."

"Hey!" Terrel screamed as the car pulled away, "What the hell am I supposed to do!?"

Xander flipped the radio over his shoulder and into the cop's hands. "Grace should be along shortly... say hi to her for me!"

Terrell Parker glared down at the battered radio, then at the departing car. "Damn. He hops in a Mustang convertible with three chicks who could pass for super-models... and I have to explain to Grace how I got carjacked by a kid with an empty gun. Life just ain't fair."

Xander stared across the airport, not really certain where to go, but saw no sign of the van he had just chased from Sunnydale. Of course, given the number of flights in and out of this place, it was no easy task to find one van in the sheer number of vehicles present.

He was searching through the lot for it when Giles came back from the terminal.

"It's not good." Giles looked grim.

Xander stopped in place, "Gone?"

"I'm afraid so. There was a private cargo jet that left a few minutes ago for Hong Kong."

"Hong Kong?"

Giles nodded, "The Council has numerous assets there... most of them survived the change of ownership. From there they can get a flight to London easily."

Xander took a deep breath, "So... Giles... How do you feel about a visit to your old stomping grounds?"

A very un-Giles like sneer passed over the librarian's face. "Sounds like a bloody good idea."

The two men turned and walked back to where they would meet the girls.

"Hey Giles?"

"Yes, Xander?"

"Let's take a different road home..."

Terrell was sitting on the ground, his back against the upside down door of his squad car, when the roar of a bike sounded Grace' arrival.

She took a long circle around the two craters and came to a stop a few feet from him. The beautiful Asian slipped her helmet off and shook her hair down, then glanced down at him. "Car trouble?"

"Har de har har," Terrell grumbled as he got up, "I get transferred to this town to give you a hand and in less the *three* days, I've already got a wrecked patrol car to explain... and I suppose it was your idea that I go undercover as a patrolman!?"

Grace grinned at him, "I thought you might be able to see a bit more if you were in uniform... besides, it looks good on you."

Terrell checked himself out, smoothing the wrinkles of the uniform, "You really think so? I mean, I had to do some alterations to what they gave me but..."

Terrell trailed off as he noticed Grace grinning at him, "Oh very funny! Tease the guy who was just flipped like a pancake...!"

Grace shrugged and kept grinning, "So, what happened?"

Terrell kicked a piece of gravel, "I got carjacked by your pal, Harris."

"You what!?" Grace started laughing.

"He pulled a gun on me!" Terrell said defensively.

"Uh huh." Grace said, not doubting it in the slightest but still digging at Terrell. "Did he say why?"

"Just that from Brit guys kidnapped a friend of his... someone named Faith I think."

"Faith was kidnapped!?" Grace' smile was gone.

"You know her?"

Grace nodded, "Yeah... and from what I know about Xander... I really don't want to be the guys who took her."

"That bad?"

"The guy looks after his friends." Grace confirmed.

Terrell shook his head, "as tenacious as this kid is I wouldn't want to be his target. I think he took out at least one of the kidnapers..."


Terrell shrugged, "Three shots to the chest from a FiveSeven pistol..."

"Damn." Grace said.

A loud honk of a horn caused them to turn around. There were several cars stopped on either side of them, irate drivers blowing their horns and shaking their fists. The two police officers groaned and shook there heads.

"You handle this side, I'll go get them to turn around and detour on the other side."

"Right," Terrell nodded. He walked toward the closest car, waving his hands. "We've had an incident and this road is going to be closed until further notice! Please go back the way you came and detour!"

Cargo Jet over Pacific Ocean

"We lost two men on this mission!" Jeremy screamed into the satellite phone, "To say nothing of the one man who's probably crippled for life!"

The voice came back calmly, "Did you achieve the objective?"

Jeremy grimaced, looking over at the peaceful face of the brunette Slayer. "Yeah, we got her. But I'm telling you that it was damned expensive."

"Well worth it, I assure you Mr. Gilden."

"God dammit, Travers! Those were two good men I lost!"

"Mr. Gilden, I assure you that you will be compensated admirably."

"You didn't inform us of the type of resistance we would be meeting, Travers!" Gilden growled, "And you sure as hell didn't tell us that the Slayer would have a Spec ops unit working with her!"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me! Our sniper was nearly killed by small arms fire from a half dozen skilled marksmen, and the ground team was pursued by a man with military training and weaponry."

"That's absurd." Travers said calmly, "The people working with the Slayer are merely civilians."

"Civilians don't kill two SAS trained men without incurring casualties of their own! And my men sure as hell don't need a grenade rifle to take out a civilian!"

"I assure you, you must be mistaken."

"Travers, don't be a complete ass if you can help it." Gilden growled, "I'm telling you that these people are trained, loyal, and lethal. And you will shortly be in possession of something they want BACK."

"I suppose that it's a good thing that we have you then to protect us isn't it?" Travers said blithely and cut the line.

Gilden growled again and slammed the receiver down. "Bloody idiot."

"What is it?" One of his men looked up from where he was looking over Harry's injuries.

"Travers." Gilden said disgustedly.

Looks of equal disgust were mirrored around the plane, showing that all the men there were in agreement.

Jarod heard the scrape of tires as the Mustang pulled up outside and looked out to see Xander, Giles, Willow, Buffy, and Tara get out. Jarod let out a breath of relief when he saw Xander, but his heart tightened in his chest when he noted the grim looks on their faces and the lack of any sign of Faith.

The group marched into the building, looking a little grim and a lot determined.

"What happened?"

"They got away." Xander said coldly. "Jarod, I'm going to England... Can you handle the Hellmouth for a few days?"

"You don't want me along?"

Xander walked up to Jarod and pulled him aside, "I don't want to leave Crow as the guy in charge... and I want you to run a search on this Irwin guy."

"Who is he anyway?"

"He claims that Metatron sent him, he's... well, something different. Talk to Andy about it, tell him I want you to know what's going on."

"Metatron?" Jarod's eyes widened.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. Check the guy out, everything you can find. Let's see what the Voice thought was important enough to send us."

Jarod nodded. "What are you going to do?"

"First?" Xander looked glum, "First I have to tell Faith's mom and dad that I let her get kidnapped from under my nose."

Jarod laid a hand on his shoulder as Xander turned away, "You did everything you could, Xander."

Xander brushed it off, "Not yet I haven't."

Omega Section, Washington DC

"Micro Consulting, how may I help you?"

"Put me through to Harry Tasker."

"He's in a meeting right now, may I take a message?"

"Priority code Omega Black."

The secretary sat up straight, "I'll patch you through directly, Sir."

Priority Stakeout, Third and Lexington, Washington

"So, what do ya want to do tonight, man?"

Harry shrugged, "I was going to call Dana..."

"Come on man," Gib protested, "You want to smother the girl?"

"She's my daughter. That's my job." Harry grinned as the phone rang. "Hello, Tasker here."

"Harry... its Xander."

Harry's grip tightened on the phone as he heard the grim voice, "What is it?"

"It's Faith... she's been kidnapped."

"What!? What happened?"

"I don't have time." Xander said quickly, "Tell me where I can meet you... I'll be in the area in a couple hours."

Harry thought fast, "You're coming to Washington?"

"Yeah. I need an address."

"Anything specific?"

"Large rooftop would be nice."

Harry quickly gave him the address to his office.

"Two hours. Be there."

"I will."

Harry numbly closed the flip phone and set it down.

"Harry, man... what is it?"

"It's Dana... someone took her."


"Buffy, can you call Riley?"

Buffy looked up, "Sure. Why?"

"We're going to need some help on this one." Xander said tersely. "I'll be downstairs."

Buffy shook her head as Xander vanished into the basement and reached for the phone.

"Andy!" Xander called as he reached the bottom of the stairs, "You here?"

"Yeah, you get 'em kid?"

"No." Xander growled, "Break out the assault gear. I'm going on a trip."


"Graham, its Buffy..."

"Hey, Buffy... what's up?"

"Something bad has happened... is Riley there?"

"Naw, but I can probably track him down."

"Could you? Thanks... please ask him to come to Xander's."

"Ok... I'll... uh... do that."

"Thanks. I've got to go."



Xander was shifting boxes of gear in the basement when people started thumping down the stairs to the basement.


"Yes Xander?"

"You ready?"

The older man nodded, "I retrieved some materials that should come in handy."

"Good. You know where they'll take her?"

Giles nodded, "Yes. They'll hold a trial for her at the Watcher's headquarters just north of London."

Xander nodded. "Good. We're going to need some help when we get there... you know anyone?"

Giles nodded slowly, "Yes... Though I have another suggestion as well."

"What is it?"

Giles smiled slowly, an evil grin that had no place on the librarian's face. It did, however, fit Ripper perfectly.

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain


"Jack, this is..."

"I know who this is kid." Jack O'Neill snapped, "What is it this time?"

"Hey!" Xander grinned into the phone, "You called me last time remember?"

Jack grimaced, "Yeah, yeah... what's up?"

"I need you to help me swing a favor..."

"I'm listening...."

Riley Finn marched down the stairs to the basement of Xander's building, his friends and comrades Graham and Forest following behind. "What's going on?"

Xander glanced up from a military box clearly marked 'grenades', and nodded at the new comers. "How do you feel about invading England?"

The three soldiers blinked.


Xander quickly filled them in and Riley nodded. "Alright... I'm in. I'm not letting you drag my girlfriend to another continent without me."

Xander grinned and shrugged, "Whatever. How about you two?" He asked Forest and Graham.

"You mean you're actually asking this time?" Forest grinned at him.

Xander shrugged, "Can't very well order you to help me violate the sovereignty of a foreign power now can I?"

"I'm in." Forest replied, grinning.

Graham chuckled for a moment before nodding. "Me too."

"Good, help me move some of this stuff over there... we have to be in Washington in an hour."

The three Soldiers looked at each other, confused, "How the hell are we going to do that?"

"He hasn't let us in on that little secret yet." Buffy said dryly as she came out carrying another large crate. This one was marked Fabrique Nationale: FN - P90 on the crate.

Xander glanced around, "Everyone here? Good."

He reached over to an arms locker and pulled out an ornate armband that he quickly slipped over his wrist. "Inside the circle I've drawn on the floor please."

Everyone shuffled in, not certain what to expect.

Xander tapped a control on his armband and a set of rings leapt out of the floor and surrounded the group. A second later a flash of light flooded the room and then they were gone. The rings quickly retreated back into the ground.

Outside a brilliant pulse of light traveled skyward, causing most of the citizens of Sunnydale to find something utterly fascinating on the ground at their feet for several seconds before going back about their business.


"What the hell was that!?" Buffy screamed as the rings dropped from around the group and equipment, leaving them standing inside a large room.

"Ring transporters." Xander said brusquely as he walked to a wall panel across the room and checked what it said. "I asked Jacob and Anise to help me install a set into the building back just before Christmas."

Riley looked around in shock. "Where are we?"

Xander walked up to a door that slid open as he approached, "Orbit."


The door slid shut and no one heard Xander's response. The group just looked at each other for a few seconds, then followed Xander's path in a rush.

They quickly caught up to him, "How long have you had this... this... ship!?" Buffy demanded.

"Since the battle at the SGC." Xander responded. "Thought it might come in handy some time."

"And you didn't tell us why?"

Xander glanced over at her, "Because it wouldn't have done you any good... I mean, what were you going to do with the information? Come up here and use the ship to do what? Land on vamps in downtown Sunnydale?"

Buffy opened and closed her mouth a few times but no sound came out.

"Come on," Xander motioned, "The command deck is this way."

The group shuffled onto the command level and looked around, and especially out. Large screens showed a clear image of the earth, floating beneath them, in all its splendor. The group drew in a hissing intake of breath.

"Is that... really out there?" Willow breathed.

Xander half turned and nodded, "Yeah... but actually the screens are turned below us, not ahead. The Earth is that way." He finished and pointed at the deck.

Buffy shifted nervously as Xander got into a chair in the middle of the room. "Ummm... Xander, do you know how to fly this thing?"

He flashed her a quick grin, "Nope."

Before she could respond he tapped a couple buttons and pushed forward on the controls.

"Xander!" Buffy yelled as she felt the sudden drop in her stomach and the Earth seem *much* closer on the screens.

Omega Section HQ
Washington, DC

Harry Tasker growled as he looked around. "It's been two hours. Where is he!?"

"Come on, Man," Gib urged, "Relax... The kid said he'd be here... he'll be here. We just have to give him a little more time... that's all."

"But where is he?" Harry muttered as he turned and stalked off a short distance.

"Harry," Helen walked up to him, "calm down. It'll be ok."

"We can't lose her again. We can't."

Helen was about to respond when an odd noise caught her attention and the three of them turned to see a series of rings appear from nowhere and fall to the roof. A flash of light followed them and then they retreated back up into the sky, only to vanish maybe twenty feet up.

"What the!?"

Where the rings had fallen now stood Xander Harris, "Explanations will have to wait, people. We're on a schedule here."

"What in the name of god was that!?"

Xander turned to see a man he didn't recognize staring at him. The man was older, and looked like he had been through a lot of rough living. He had a patch over one eye and didn't look happy. Xander glanced back at Harry, "Who's this?"

"My Boss." Harry said, "He wanted to meet the guy who was sleeping with his God Daughter."

Xander slumped. <I so don't have time for this.>

"This the little weasel?" Spencer Trilby growled as he walked up to Xander.

"Yessir! That's the Guy, Boss." Gib grinned as he walked up to get a better view.

"You mind telling me how you pulled that little trick a moment ago, boy?" Trilby glared at Xander.

Xander straightened up and glared back, "That depends. Do the initials SGC mean anything to you?"

Trilby shook his head.

"Then you're not cleared to know." Xander said and ignored the shocked response he got and turned and looked at Harry, "You coming or what? Faith will be landing in Hong Kong by now, and they'll be moving her over to a supersonic. Maybe they already have. If we want to beat her to London we have get moving."

Harry and Helen nodded and walked forward.

"Who's Faith?" Trilby growled, not happy at being put off like that.

Harry shook his head, hiding a grin. "That's the name Dana's been using."

The older man grinned and popped a cigar into his mouth, "Little Dana's already got her first alias? Ah... I knew that kid had potential... If she hadn't already proved it when she stopped that nutjob with the nuke I'd have all the proof I needed right now."

Harry, Helen, and Gib stepped close to Xander but he held his hand up. "Whoa... hang on a sec, Nut job with a nuke?"

Trilby grinned, "She never tell you that boy?"

Xander shook his head.

"Tell you what. You fill me in on this doodad you got here and I'll tell you the whole story... even give you some videotape we have of the incident..."

Xander fought back a grin and thought about it for a while. Finally his grin won out and he nodded. "Ahh to hell with it, I'm not part of the group that classified this stuff anyway. You got a deal, Mr. Trilby. But it'll have to wait until we get back... be more fun to see Faith squirm anyway."

Spencer Trilby grinned through his cigar and held out his hand. Xander grasped it and the two men shook hard. "I think I'm gonna like you, boy."

Xander shrugged, "I don't really care." he said with a grin.

Trilby watched as the boy touched a armband and the rings dropped from the sky again, surrounding the four people and making them vanish in a flash of light. As the rings vanished up into the air He just grinned around his cigar and turned back to the stairwell.

"And that's probably why I like you, kid."

Harry, Helen, and Gib stared around the ship as Xander guided them up to the command level.

"This is some place you have here..." Gib said in awe as he walked along.

Xander shrugged, "Nothing like a stolen ship to impress."


"What, you think I went down to the waterfront and ordered one cloaked spaceship to go?"

"Good point." Gib conceded.

Harry interrupted the conversation, "What happened to Dana?"

Xander was silent for a moment, then he paused and looked up at the big man. "She was taken by the Watcher's Council, and we think they're going to put her on trial."

"Trial!?" Helen looked stricken, "Why?"

Xander sighed, "Back when Faith first came to town she didn't have anyone... She didn't let anyone close and we... well, I'm not proud of my part in the whole thing... anyway, she was on patrol with Buffy one night and they had just been attacked by some vampires... They took them all out pretty easily, but a guy showed up just as they were wrapping up... he was human, but Faith didn't realize it..."

Harry's face went white.

"She put a stake through his heart."

Helen let out a little gasp of shock and Harry pulled her close.

"It was an accident, but Faith was just a kid... she didn't know about war... she still doesn't really. She reacted badly." Xander's mouth was dry as he tried to explain, "She became more and more unstable as things started falling apart around her... until she finally flipped. She started working for the other side."

Harry closed his eyes, wincing at the imagery.

"Things got pretty bad then..." Xander continued, "but we managed to pull it out... save the town and all that... but a lot of people died. Faith was put into a coma during a fight with Buffy. When she woke up we got some things straightened out and I've been keeping a close eye on her since... but the Council is going to try to hold her responsible, and probably execute her."

"What!? Why!?" Harry boomed.

"Because when Faith dies, a new Slayer will be called." Xander explained, "Younger, more malleable, and more trustworthy in the eyes of the Council."

"That's it?" Helen asked, her eyes filled with fury now. "That's all? They want another child to put through this hell!?"

Xander nodded. "Probably."

Xander decided that, if any of the Council wanted to keep breathing, they'd do well to avoid coming face to face with Helen Tasker. The fire in the eyes of that woman was something only another mother with a child in danger could have hoped to match.

As they stepped back on the command level, Helen, Harry, and Gib nodded to the gathering of people that were crowded around the forward screens. They quickly saw the attraction as a vista of downtown Washington was laid out on the screens in breathtaking detail.

Xander slipped back into the pilots chair and looked at the controls blankly for a moment before nodding and putting his hands on the console. "Hang on."

He pushed a slider up, and keyed in a command, causing the ship to accelerate away from the ground and back into orbital space. A moment later he was sliding the big ship over the Atlantic and slowing to a stop over the British Isles.

"Hmmmmm...." Xander mulled as he played with the controls, slipping the ship first one way, then another. "Tricky little bastard..."

"Xander..?" Buffy ventured but was silenced by a wave of his hand.

"One sec Buff... just let me... ahhh!" Xander smiled in satisfaction as a small chirp sounded around them.

Everyone glanced around, nervously.

"What was that?" Willow asked hesitantly.

"Just a lockup signal..." Xander said as he stared at some screens, trying to mask the fact that he didn't have a clue what he was looking at.

"Lockup to what!?" Willow asked as she tried to read the alien language over Xander's shoulder.

Xander flipped through a couple more screens before answering. "Hmmm? Oh. Elan found us a working set of Ring Transporters in England... the signal was just a confirmation to let me know that I was aligned with them."

"Pardon me, but I think I speak for us all when I say... huh?" Buffy interjected.

Xander smiled, "Sorry Buff... Look, think of the ring transporters as something like the teleporters in the movie 'The Fly'. They can transport you between two terminals... one sending, one receiving..."

"Uh... but you didn't have another set in Washington did you?" Willow asked.

Xander shook his head, "Nope, but at close range one unit can act as both sending and receiving... that's why I dropped us out of orbit to pick up Faith's parents."

"Why don't you do the same to drop us off in London?" Giles asked.

"Well, I'd rather avoid it if I can..." Xander hedged, "We don't have the forces to leave guarding the ship, and I'd hate to see what would happen if someone ran into it and called the cops... or worse, reporters."

"Ah...Quite." Giles nodded. "But who has a working set of these things in England? and how do you know they won't mind us using them?"

Xander looked grim, "Oh I'm pretty sure they won't mind... They've been dead for over ten thousand years."

The flash of the ring transporter was the first light that had shone in the room for over a thousand years, and when it was gone there was again no light to be found.

"Christ, Harris!" Riley muttered, "What the hell is this?"

"Relax." Xander said, and a second later a silver slight glowed around them as he held the collapsed version of his staff above his head like a torch. "Just don't touch anything..."

"Not a problem." Forest muttered feelingly as Xander walked off. "This place gives me the creeps."

Xander quickly found what he was looking for and thumbed a panel.

A lyrical voice with an odd intonation suddenly appeared from the air and seemed to challenge them in a language that even Giles didn't recognize.

"What the hell was THAT!?"

Xander looked up and spoke hesitantly in the same language, his words halting as if he was trying to repeat them after someone else. Silence greeted him and for a long moment he thought that he had screwed up the pronunciation.

The, suddenly, a beam of light swept out and scanned over him. It lingered for a long moment as it passed his weapons, the FiveSeven pistols, the P-90 he had broken out, even the ammunition for both. Then it struck Elanthielle and stopped completely. For a long time the light rested on her, then it blinked out of existence.

Around them lights came back on and they found themselves standing in a small cavern that had been carved from solid rock. Inset into the walls were banks of screens and controls, all of them coming online even as the group looked around.

"Whoa..." Gib stared, goggle eyed at some of the screens. "Is this what I think it is?"

Xander glanced over, "Deep space telemetry... This place was built to scan the sky for England, Greenland, and most of Europe as far south as the northern tip of Africa. Feel free to look around... but don't touch anything while I negotiate our position with the caretaker."


A translucent figure of a woman in flowing silken robes appeared in front of Xander, glaring at him and snapping questions. The group stopped and stared at her in surprise, taking in the blue green tint of her hair and her irritated looking eyes.

"Her." Xander said, "Now, quiet."

She glared at the young pup who had dared intrude on her command. "Who are you and how did you come by that weapon?"

The pup stared at her for a few seconds, then spoke in the old tongue. Or a poorly pronounced, ill sounding version of it.

"My name is Alexander Harris... I am the bearer of Elanthielle."

She growled. The last time one approached claiming to be a bearer she had been forced to eject the man's remains through one of the underwater tributaries that supplied this base with its water. It had taken three months for the trace elements of the imposter's genetic structure to be cleared from the water supply. Not a big concern since no humans came here anymore, but it was irritating nonetheless. And it would be more so if this one proved to be a liar and she had to activate the defenses on the entire group. Years, probably, would pass before the water was pure again.

"State the password and confirmation codes."

Again the peculiar hesitation before the pup spoke. "Pass-code Delan, confirmation phrase: From the oceans we came, and to the oceans we return."

She raised her eyebrows. Not exactly a sign of surprise in her normally, but it was a motion she had been practicing for the past fifty years or so. "The code is accurate, however the confirmation phrase is outdated by one and a half thousand years of the last code update. And," She added with a trace of distaste, "if you are an imposter, the phrase is in terribly bad taste."

Xander blinked. Not the reaction he had been hoping for. <What now?>

Elan growled in irritation. <Arrogant machine. Now we inquire as to what proof she will need.>

Xander sighed and repeated the words Elan fed him. "What proof may I offer?"

The figure also sighed, and supposed that some allowances had to be made. "Activate your weapon and tap into her power."

Xander winced.

Finally he nodded and activated Elan, feeling the ancient weapon buck in his hands. he planted one end into the ground and stared at the figure before him as he started to draw on Elan's internal power. He could feel the tingle of power run up his arm and knew that the silver glow was starting to leak out around him.

The figure stared impassively. Her senses registered the rise in the boy's energy signature and he analyzed the data.1% of estimated maximum, and the energy leakage was atrocious. The figure shook his head at the wasted power but continued to monitor. 5%, then 6%.The figure noted that the pup's body was starting to react poorly. His heart rate was racing, his brainwaves fluctuating.

<Ill trained then... perhaps that makes sense if he has only just come to our attention.>

8%.The figure was mildly surprised that the boy was still standing. The energy readout indicated a level that should have rendered him unconscious. She adjusted her senses to dig deeper.

10%.The pup was sweating under the silver glow now, and the figure had to concede that he was telling the truth. By this point Elan would have fried anyone who dared defile her power. She nodded her head, "That is sufficient."

Relieved Xander let the power slip back into the ancient weapon and struggled to stay on his feet as he felt the rush leave him. He ran his hand over his clothes, and found that they were intact and his skin wasn't charred. He was glad that he had left his armor on the ship.

She quickly reviewed her data and surmised the appropriate language. She glided to a stop in front of the young man and kneeled.

When she spoke, it was in flawless English. "Welcome to the Celtic Plateau, Commander. I am Niume."

The group stared in shock as the phantasmal woman kneeled in front of Xander and spoke in perfect English.

"Welcome to the Celtic Plateau, Commander. I am Niume."

Xander nodded, "Thank you for your greeting, Niume. I require a status report of your facilities."

Niume nodded and rose, "This facility remains functional, and has no current contacts save the vessel that deposited you here."

Xander nodded again, "I'll look over your contacts report later... For now we require a staging area for a mission, is the facility adequate for the people you see here?"

Niume hesitated. "Commander, we have sufficient water and air for the people you have brought for only three days. After that time your presence will tax the available recourses. This base was built to house no more then three technicians at once. It is not a military facility."

"We know." Xander said, "However I do not believe that any military facility has survived to this date."

Again she hesitated, but finally nodded. "That is correct." <Forgive me, Elanthielle... but I do not trust so easily.>

Xander nodded, "Then we will use this base."

"As you wish, Commander."

"What the hell was that?" Harry Tasker demanded when Xander turned back to the group.

Xander about to answer when Niume, looking irritated, spoke for herself. "*That* is the person responsible for the air you are breathing."

Harry's head snapped back in surprise, and he quickly looked chagrined. "I'm sorry Miss...?"

"Niume." She finished, "And do not apologize. Merely be polite."

Xander shook his head and smiled ruefully as Harry nodded and kept his peace.

"Niume?" Giles spoke hesitantly, "The... Lady of the Lake?"

Niume nodded, a faint wistful smile crossing her features. "Yes. Though it has been a long time since I was called that."

Giles took a deep breath and tried to think straight. "It's all real... It's really real."

Xander raised his eyebrows and looked at Giles, "Mind cluing us in G-man?"

"Excalibur... Arthur...Good Lord Xander, you weren't kidding."

Xander smirked at the older man, "You know... since I do have an... ahem... undeserved reputation for bad jokes I'll let that one pass."

Giles glared at him for a moment, but was soon distracted again. "My god... the things you've seen..." he said, staring at the shimmering figure of Niume. "I must..."

"Giles!" Xander cut him off, bringing the Watcher back to reality.

"Oh... yes, quite right." Giles said, "All in good time...?"

Xander nodded. "Right. For now we have to get moving. Giles can you contact your friend and arrange a lift?"

Giles looked at Xander as if he were crazy, "With what?"

Xander shook his head and went back to the equipment pile and pulled a small duffle out, "Here..."

Giles caught the duffel and opened it up. "A cell phone?"

Xander shook his head, "Satellite phone. Works anywhere on the planet."

"Oh." Giles turned the phone on and put it to his ear. "No signal."

"Damn.... forgot about that." Xander turned to Niume, "Can you boost the signal?"

Niume nodded. "Done."

Giles looked surprised when the phone came to life in his hands. He shook it off and quickly dialed a number from memory.

She leaned on the hood of her Range Rover, looking around impatiently. <Why in god's name would Ripper call me here of all places?>

She scanned the sky every few moments, expecting to see the lights of a plane or chopper approaching, but saw nothing other then the blinking lights of an occasional airliner passing overhead. As she was about to get back into the vehicle a strange noise caught her attention and she turned around, her eyes opening in shock.

Three circular pieces of metal had just burst clear of the ground, and flashed with a white light before retreating back where they had come from. She stared in shock at the group of people that the light had remained behind.

"What the...?"

One of the figures smirked at her, "Tsk tsk, Lady Croft. Do watch your language."

Lara Croft grinned, as she spotted her old friend. "Uncle Rupert."

Rupert Giles smiled at the daughter of one of his oldest friends, "Lara. It's good to see you again."

Lara nodded and moved forward, forgetting where she was.

Rupert hugged her, whispering. "I'm sorry I haven't been around... The past years have been very busy for me, Lara..."

Lara nodded and pulled back. "I understand. I haven't exactly been sitting at home waiting to see my old Uncle either, you know."

Giles nodded, smiling ear to ear. "I know. I heard about your escapade with the Illuminati... Good Show."

Lara grinned, "I... I got to say goodbye."

Giles' eyes widened, he knew what she meant by that but didn't understand how. It burned in him to ask, but instead he simply nodded. "I can't tell you how glad I am, Lara."

The two old friends looked at each other for a moment, and then were interrupted by a hesitant voice behind them.



Irritated, Giles turned to look at Willow. "What is it, Willow?"

She looked around, swallowing. "Look where we are, Giles..."

He frowned and looked around. When he recognized the place he started in shock. "Good Lord!"

Around them stood the standing stones of Stonehenge.

"You could have told me where we were," Giles glared at Xander accusingly, "rather then feed me that load of GP whatever garbage."

Xander shrugged, "How the hell was I supposed to know where we'd land? I've never been here before."

Lara looked between the two of them, confused by the exchange. "Ripper? Who is this?"

Giles let out a disgusted snort. "This is proof that injustice reins in the universe, Lara... A typical product of American schooling, who just happens to wind up with thousands of years of cultural knowledge given to him."

"*Given*?" Xander looked outraged, "Do you have any idea the crap I've wound up in because of this... gift!?"

Giles rolled his eyes and snorted in disgust. "There is no justice."

Lara eyed the two uncertainly, trying to decide if they were serious or just baiting each other. She decided that it was the latter when she took in the resigned looks and smiles that passed around the rest of the group. She filed Giles' comments as something to question another time and looked at the group impatiently.

"I assume that this is about the retrieval team the Council sent to America?"

Giles nodded. "Indeed, they managed to grab Faith and escape with her in a plane."

"Escape?" She asked, her lips curling up in a smile.

Lara noticed the boy named Xander roll his eyes as Giles favored him with an arcing glance. "Xander here gave pursuit, wrecking two vehicles in the process... one of them was a police car he stole at gunpoint."

Lara grinned, "Sounds oddly familiar."

Giles winced, "Yes, well... be that as it may, it was still an impulsive move."

Xander shrugged, "Didn't have much time to think... that would be the time for impulses normally... and for the record I don't think you can call it stealing since the cop came along for the ride."

"Oh, like kidnapping is so much better."

"Would you two cut out the bickering!?" Buffy pushed her way between them, "We do still have to rescue Faith."

Xander looked at her and nodded, "We've got at least twenty hours before she arrives, Buffy... We'll get her back."

Lara looked at Giles again, "What's the plan?"

Giles was about to respond when several lights came to bear on them. "Hey now! You there, what are you doing?"

Two uniformed guards approached the group cautiously, until one of their flashlights fell on Lara. "Lady Croft... you back again?"

She smiled and turned toward them, "I'm just showing my friends here the one that beat me."

The guard dropped his flashlight and grinned, "Ah now, there's no reason to be ashamed of that lass... Iffin you ask me, no one will ever figure this one out. I mean, who can understand what those pagans wanted with this thing?"

Lara caught herself nodding until she saw Xander grinned quietly, a knowing look passing over his face. "What?"

Xander shrugged, "The stones were carefully placed within a mystical convergence of energies that enhanced the druids ceremonies... as well as had certain beneficial... side effects."

"Right, lad." the security man grinned, "Mystical nonsense and all that gibberish."

Xander shrugged, "To each his own."

Lara glanced between them and looked over at the guard, "Can we have a while longer, Billy? I'd like to show them around some more."

The guard nodded slowly, "Cause its you, Lady Croft... though I'd think that you'd rather do this in the daytime..."

Lara shrugged her shoulders, "My friends are leaving soon."

The guard nodded, "Alright then, just don't go touching anything... you know the rules..."

Lara nodded and the man walked off. Then she turned back to Xander, "What do you know about this?"

Xander smiled, "I know a lot of things."

She was about to question further when one of the girls in the group cleared her throat and growled. Xander smiled and shrugged, "Later I guess. Let's get our gear."

Lara looked around but didn't see anything. "What gear?"

Xander grinned and tilted his head, "Come on over here... I'll introduce you to the rest of the team."

Lara walked over to where he was standing with Giles and the girl named Buffy. "There's no one else here..."

"True," Xander smiled and tapped something on his arm.

Lara jumped in surprise as three rings leapt out of the ground and surrounded them, "What the...!?"

"Hell!?" Lara finished as the rings deposited them in the small cavern below Stonehenge.

Xander threw her a grin, "Like I said... I know a lot of things."

She watched as he walked toward a group of people, her eyes narrowing as she determined to keep a close eye on this one.

Xander glanced back, "Lady Croft, I'd like you to meet my friends...Harry and Helen Tasker,"

She nodded at the serious couple, and they nodded back a little coolly.

"Their friend, Gib,"

This one was a pleasant looking man who had a smile that had the feeling of being perpetually impressed on his face. "Good to meet you, Ma'am."

She smiled coolly back at him and turned her attention back to Xander as he moved on.

"Willow and Tara... Wiccans and our Magical edge on this mission..."

She nodded at them, "Pleased to meet you."

The red head, Willow, nodded at her, and the blond smiled hesitantly.

"Riley, Forest, and Graham," Xander pointed out three men who were standing together.

Lara recognized the way they held themselves as military instantly and decided that they were probably special forces of some type. She nodded at them, ignoring the glances and appraising looks she got from them. They were good looking enough, but she didn't have much use for Military types... discipline wasn't her forte, well imposed discipline at any rate.

"I'm pleased to meet you all," She said before turning her attention back to Xander, "Now, if you wouldn't mind explaining your earlier comments?"

Xander grinned, "As we work."

Lara nodded and walked up to the pile of equipment and grabbed a box. "Fine. Where do you want it?"

Xander shook his head and grinned. "Over in the circle."

She nodded, then looked at him as she walked by him. "Good. Now start talking."

"So," Xander grinned as he dropped a case of flash bangs in the circle, "What do you want to know?"

Lara glared at him as she let a crate of 5.7mm ammo drop the last couple inches to the ground in the circle, "Start with what you were talking about earlier. What do you know about Stonehenge?"

Xander shrugged, "You want the Readers Digest or the Britannica?"

"Britannica," Lara answered, "But start with the Digest."

"Short story then," Xander started as he fetched another box, "It's based on a very old form of magic that would probably be called Geomancy nowadays... But not the new age crap, I'm talking the real deal..."

At this point Giles looked over, "Geomancy? I say... that's a lost form..."

Xander nodded, "Yep."

"What is it?" Lara asked.

"Basically it's the art of working and drawing power from stone and the earth itself." Xander said after a brief hesitation, "That's why the big ass rocks. Also it's built on a conjunction of several lines of earth energy... The Standing Stones are carefully oriented to magnify and direct that energy."

"But... why?"

Xander shrugged, "Well... originally the concept was pretty cool... You see the people who built it needed a Deep Space Radar type installation, but they were looking for something that wouldn't be detected by invaders... so they decided to use an energy base that is always present around the Earth. It's kind of like trying to find a needle in a needle stack, forget about the hay."

Lara shook her head, "I can't believe it..."

Xander grinned at her, "Gets better. A couple thousand years later, after the builders had left the area on automatic, some locals found the stones and put two and two together... and got five."

Lara stopped and looked at him, "What do you mean?"

Xander laughed, "They decided that only Gods could build something like that so they started holding ceremonies at the stones..."


"So, there is a ton of energy floating around this area... so even a half witted underpowered person with a quarter the talent of your weakest witch can cast spells of serious power around here. Presto chango, you have the birth of the Druids."

Giles, by this point having got caught up in the conversation, interposed a question. "If that's the case... Isn't this area infested with demons? I mean, they do tend to like any power boost the can find for their spells..."

Niume appeared from the walls and approached, "I am completely able to defend this area from dimensional incursion. It was part of the basic design."

Lara spun around at the new voice, her hands flying to her pistols. "Who the hell?"

"Relax," Xander grinned, "This is the Caretaker, Niume..."

"Niume...? The...?"

"The same." Xander smiled again.

Lara nodded, simply accepting it for the moment.

Giles looked at Niume and slowly removed his glasses, wiping them. "If that is the case, why didn't you prevent the incursion of the Druids?"

Niume shrugged in a flowing manner, "They were human... I'm afraid my external defenses are not primarily designed for that... and I have a certain programmed reluctance to interfere with Humans who have are not threatening this installation. The energies they used for their ceremonies were waste by products of the Telemetry station, of no value to me."

Lara turned and looked at Giles, "You do realize, *Uncle Rupert*, that you have a LOT of explaining to do about when you started associating with people who knew the secrets of Stonehenge... and why I wasn't informed."

Giles rolled his eyes, "Why you weren't informed? I'd bloody well like to know why I wasn't told..." He finished, glaring at Xander.

Xander shrugged, "Sue me. It takes time to work my way through thirteen thousand years worth of conversation..."


"Long story."

Lara curled up her lips, "I can't wait to hear this one."

A few minutes later the group had succeeded in transferring the rest of the gear to Lara's Land Rover.

"We're going to need a bit more room to pack everyone in..." Xander said.

"No problem." Lara grinned and pulled out a small cell. In moments two heavy duty vans slipped out of the night and parked beside them.

"Cool." Xander nodded, "That just leaves one more bit of business then."

Lara raised her eyes, "Oh?"

Xander smiled, "Time to get into character."

International Airport, Outside London

The man in leather watched as the planes came in and checked his timepiece. <Twelve hours to go. Then things will be getting a trifle hot here in jolly ol England.>

The man gave one last glance over the lay of the land before he returned to his parked motorcycle and remounted the bike, kicked the motor over, and pulled away from the airport.

He didn't even glance back as he sped out of the chain link gate and turned onto the highway, <Just enough time to get back to my flat and grab some sleep.>

Lara Croft glanced over at the figure seated beside her in the Land Rover, her eyes half nervous and half appraising of the armored form. She had seen a lot of things in her life, but the stained and scuffed armor that Xander Harris had briefly retreated into the ring system to don was the most eerie design she had ever seen. Mostly she could spot certain similarities in armor, even across cultural boundaries, after all it was designed for humans by humans. But this had a savage, completely uncivilized look to it and it gave the young man an alien aura.

"Where on Earth did you find that?" She ventured at last.

Xander looked over at her with a crooked smile, his eyes sparkling as if she had said something remarkable funny. "Nowhere on Earth..."

Her eyes darted sharply over at him again as she gauged his meaning. "I don't suppose you'd mind clarifying that?"

He shrugged, an awkward gesture in the bulky armor, "An acquaintance of mine from... way out of the neighborhood gave it to me almost a year ago."

"How far out of the neighborhood?" Lara asked suspiciously, her eyes narrowing as she heard muffled giggling from the blond in the back and a snort from Ripper.

"About thirty thousand light-years... at best guess."

Lara nodded, exercising great restraint to keep her face from betraying any shock. "I see."

Xander glanced at her sideways, smiling to himself. <I like her.>

Elanthielle's voice echoed back through his skull, <As do I, she's a bit different then the others you associate with.>

Xander nodded, <Controlled. I wonder why?>

Elanthielle mentally shrugged, <I do not know, but it is... refreshing.>

Xander chuckled a little out loud, drawing a stare from Lara.


"Nothing." Xander grinned.

Lara frowned slightly as she noticed Ripper roll his eyes in her rearview. Finally she just shrugged it off, <This is going to be an interesting weekend.>

She studied the old mansion from her perch in a tree with a pair of spyglasses and shook her head as she grinned. <Pitiful. This is going to be a piece of cake.>

She hefted her assault line and checked the lightweight hook on the end to make sure it was secure. One last look around to make sure that no one was in sight and she flung the rope across the distance and smiled as it looped around the old brick chimney.

<Perfect. Nice to see I haven't lost the touch.>

The woman tugged her cap down, pulling the cloth hood out until it covered her face, and tied the rope off solidly to the big tree. Then she clipped a small pulley from her belt to the rope and kicked lightly off, sliding out and over the cement wall below and toward the old mansion.

Lara pulled the Land Rover to the side of the road and nodded ahead, "The Watchers Headquarters is right there. Security is fairly light, all things considered, I don't expect we'll have much trouble."

Xander nodded, then glanced over at her. "You don't have to be any more involved then this, Lady Croft."

"Lara." She said firmly, "And I'm always willing to give them a pain in their tight asses."

Xander grinned and glanced back at Giles, "I have to say G-man, I approve of your choice of friends."

Giles smirked at him sourly, "Oh my path in life is now vindicated."

Xander and Lara chuckled and slipped out of the Land Rover, as the others got out behind them. Just a few feet away the two other vans disgorged their occupants as the war prepared to come to the Watchers Council.

Silently she slid off the rope and onto the rooftop, crawling across the old stonework that edged the mansion. She loved this old places, they were always so incredibly easy to break into. As she spider crawled across the old roof she quickly found a modern skylight that had been recently installed.

She grinned and, after casting about for a moment, drove a piton into one of the huge oaken beams that made up the roof. She clipped her assault line to the piton and then turned her attention to the skylight.

<Nice... expensive... too bad they didn't add a security system to it. Idiot.>

She quickly checked it out, and found that it was sealed shut. <Too bad.>

She pulled a large roll of double wide duct tape from her bag and started covering the glass with the wide strips of tape. When she had the whole surface covered she quickly taped a criss crossed section of rope to the rest and then she grabbed a small cutter from her bag and sliced the glass around the tape with quick, practiced strokes. As the heavy glass gave way she pulled it up with a grunt, and grinned.

< I love Duct tape.>

"Check the gate." Xander ordered quietly, examining the area for heat traces. <Nothing.>

"It's locked... old lock though." Riley hissed back.

"Don't suppose we have anyone who's got a touch of the thief in them?" Xander glanced around.

"One side." Giles said as he stepped up to the lock, looking at it. "Easy."

"Giles!?" Buffy hissed as her Watcher slid a slim piece of metal from his pocket to the old lock. It fell apart in seconds.

"What? You think my life started in Sunnydale?" Rupert 'Ripper' Giles asked with a grin as he pulled the gate open.

The entire group flinched as it squealed in protest, but then it stopped and they slipped through one by one.

"Any security on the grounds I should know about?"

Giles shook his head. "It's all inside, what little of it there is. Mostly just anti-demon spells and such."

"Ok... everyone spread out, lets keep quiet and pay our dear friends a nice visit."

She dropped through the open skylight, sliding down the rope until she came to a stop just above the ground. She was about to unclip when a noise at the door startled her.

<Great! Tonight they break routine!?>

Using a pair of ratcheting handgrips she quickly climbed back up the rope, stopping when the door opened and she could hear people enter below her. He used all her strength to press herself tight against the dark ceiling, hoping that she would be invisible to the people below.

"Seems awfully quiet, Giles." Xander whispered as he took point and moved cautiously through the wide open room.

"Indeed. I don't understand... they should be here."

"Well they're not, Giles," Buffy hissed, "So where are they?"

"How should I bloody well know? I've been babysitting you for the last few years."

"Babysitting!?" She hissed ins response, "why you British...."

"Shhh..." Xander said, overriding them. "Everyone, quiet."



Everyone fell silent as they saw Xander looking straight up. They jumped in surprise as the saw his plasma caster swivel into action, tracking something his laser was aimed at on the ceiling.

Xander examined the heat source of the ceiling through the target analysis of his helmet for a few moments, though he didn't need the readout to recognize it as human.

<What the hell?> He shifted viewing modes until he managed to configure the light amp mode to maximum yield. Then he smiled and slowly increased the heat on the targeting lasers.

Everyone heard a snap and scream and a figure dropped into the middle of them, stopping just above the floor, hanging by a thin assault line.

The black clad female figure swung around on her rope, twisting in the nonexistent breeze, "Umm... Hi?"

"Umm... Hi?"

She swallowed as she noted the automatic weapons that were being pointed at her. <This is going to hurt.>

She swallowed again as a figure that she remembered from eight hundred years ago approached her. "AHHHH! Yautja!"

She started to move until the clicks of the various weapons around her reminded her to hold still. The Yautja reached up and depressurized it's mask, gas hissing out as the pressure equalized, then removed it. Her hissed breath echoed through the room as she saw a pleasantly handsome *human* face stare back at her.

"Who are you?"

She didn't answer, still not certain what was going on. He reached out and pulled her stocking cap off her head.

Xander was mildly surprised to see a very pretty face under the ski-mask. She had short cropped black hair, and well defined features. What really caught his attention though, was the almost chagrined expression on her face. As if she was embarrassed at getting caught.

"Who are you?" he repeated.

She smirked at him, her confidence seeming to flow back into her. "A lady never tells."

He rolled his eyes, "Most ladies don't hang by a SWAT harness and assault line in a darkened house when nobody's home."

She shrugged, "We all need our hobbies."

"Look. You're a thief right?" Xander asked, taking her silence as confirmation. "So you've been staking this place out for a while... right?"

She sort of semi-shrugged.

"So if you know where the occupants are... and tell us, we'll see out way to let you go."

"Xander!" Buffy hissed, "She's a thief."

"So?" Xander looked at her oddly, "What do I care?"

"We can't let her go!" She exclaimed.

"Why not? I'm not protecting the Watcher's stuff... We're here to rescue someone they kidnapped, remember? What the hell do I care if someone cleans them out at the same time?"

She watched the byplay between the two for a brief moment, <I already like this young man... the way he thinks of course... I wonder what he looks like under all that armor?>

"Ummm..." She ventured slowly, looking for a way out, "Did you say kidnap?"

"Stay out of this!" The blond snapped at her.

She sniffed daintily at the air, "Americans."

An older man nodded, commiserating with her, "I know... I've had to live with them for several years... it's bloody well frustrating."

"Giles!" the blond hissed at the older man, "Stop talking to the thief."

"Really Buffy... There's no reason to be rude."

"She's a thief!"

Giles just shook his head, and turned to her. "I'm terribly sorry about her..."

"Oh no need... I've had to deal with the whole boyscout thing before... I'm used to it."

He nodded at her, "Good, good..."

The young man that the blond had called Xander turned back to her. "So... what were you here to steal?"

Wordlessly she pointed to a painting hanging on the far wall.


"Good taste," The older man nodded, "A Monet..."

"Nothing... dangerous about it?"

"Dear Lord no... all that is kept in a vault away from here."

"Cool." The young man walked over to the wall and pulled down the painting, frame and all. He walked back over to her, "This all?"

She nodded slowly.

"Here." He handed it to her, then leaned in closer. "Now... about how long you've had this place staked out..."

She winced. <Damned boyscouts. First MacLeod, then Wolf... now this guy is going to drag me into a rescue mission... At least this guy doesn't mind if I have some fun too...>

Then she reluctantly sighed. "I've been watching this place for weeks."

"Any idea where everyone is?"

She shook her head, "No... but I might know someone who does..."

"Cool." The young man grinned at her, "I'm Xander by the way...."

She reached down and accepted his offered hand, "Amanda."

Hours Later

The man watched as the supersonic jet landed and checked his watch. <Right on time.>

He sat there, straddling his bike, as he watched the jet unload. Before anyone was unloaded he watched the ambulance drive up to the jet and offload a sedated passenger.

<Hello again, Faith.>

He kicked the bike over and twisted the throttle, following the ambulance as it pulled out of the airport.

"You sure this is the place?"

Amanda nodded. "Yep. I called my fence and told him they moved the painting... he wants that Monet real bad. So he called a contact and checked where the Council was going to be tonight."

"You know about the Council?"

"Watchers?" Amanda said with a smile, "Of course. I've known a Slayer or two in my life."

Xander nodded, "I've known three. One of them is going to be put on trial tonight."

"What for?"

"She slipped. Got a human by accident... didn't do much for her state of mind."

"You sure we want to break her out?" Amanda asked.

Xander nodded. "Yeah. Faith's had a rough time, but she's come a long way. She's on the side of the Angels."

Amanda nodded. "Fair enough."

Xander looked from the old manor house they were watching, then back to the black haired thief. "Why are you still here?"

Amanda considered. What was she doing here? She grimaced and blamed it on boyscouts. "I've been around bad influences lately."

Xander grinned.

The Amanda smiled at him wickedly, "Besides... I help, you owe me a favor. And I always collect."

Xander groaned, but smiled. "I've already shelled out some major markers for this mission."

"Oh? Anyone I know?"

He smiled quietly, "Oh... maybe not personally, but yeah... you've at least heard of 'im."

She looked at him quizzically, but he just smiled and spoke again. "Come on, lets get back and get ready to make our move."

"Wake her up." The voice echoed coldly through the stone hall.

A needle gleamed in the harsh lights and vanished into the soft flesh of the bound Slayer's arm. The plunger was depressed and a thick fluid forced its way into her blood. It took only seconds for her to wake up.

"Huh... wha...?" Faith's head rolled from side to side.

"Hello, Faith." The man said coldly.

"Ooo th 'ell are you?" She slurred, her eyes trying to focus.

"You may call me Mr. Travers." The man said as he leaned in close to her face. "I'll be your prosecutor for the evening."

"Wha?" She asked, her mind trying to wrap itself around what was happening.

"You're on trial for murder, Slayer. And I intend to see you executed for it."

Faith blinked, guilt rushing back. "It was... an accident."

Travers smiled coldly at her, "I'm supposed to believe you?"

She lunged at him instinctively, but her hands and feet were strapped down. Travers smiled thinly. "You really expected us to leave you free?"

"I didn't mean to kill him..." She whispered again. <I can't die for this... not now. Not now.>

Travers leaned in closer, his lips brushing her ear. "Confidentially, I don't care... You are uncontrollable... we need a Slayer who will listen to the Council, even if these fools here think you deserve the right of law. So you have to die."

Faith snarled and brought her head back, then snapped it forward, crushing his nose to a pulp. Travers fell back in shock and pain, blood running freely down his face as he screamed.

"You see!? She's a murderous bitch! We can't turn this... *thing* loose on the public!"

The council murmured quietly as they considered the event. Finally three robed figures stepped forward and assumed a place at the head of the room.

"The Triumvirate will now come to order."

"I wonder what he said to her?" Amanda whispered as he carefully remained perched beside the huge glass windows that overlooked the hall.

Xander snarled silently, "That he was going to kill her to call a new Slayer. That the trial was just to appease the moderates on the Council."

Amanda growled low in her throat. "I think I like the girl's style."

"Faith has a way of growing on you." Xander smiled under his helmet, still listening to the sound amplification mode. He thumbed his radio mic, "Everyone stand by... we go on my signal..."

"Who sits for the Prosecution?"

"I do." Travers stood up, cradling his nose under a handkerchief.

"The Triumvirate recognizes Quentin Travers. Who sits for the defense?"

No one spoke.

"Someone must sit for the defense."

Travers spoke up, "Your Honors, I believe that the evidence speaks for itself. No defense is possible. Faith committed these crimes. I move that no defense council be appointed."

There was a hushed murmuring, "This is... a disturbing motion, Mr. Travers. It is contrary to the laws of both the country in which we sit, and the country to which the defendant belongs."

"Your Honors," Travers said smoothly, "No one present wishes to represent a murderer, and we are not a court of law. We rule this court under the conditions of battlefield justice. I feel that the triumvirate is capable of sorting through the evidence itself."

There was a hushed whispering between the three robed men. Finally they nodded and faced forward again. "With great reservation and dismay we have decided to accept the motion presented by..."

A sudden roar sounded and everyone turned in shock to see the huge oaken doors burst open.

"Three..." Xander whispered, "Two..."

The he stopped in shock as he and Amanda watched a black motorcycle smash its way into the hall. The driver plowed his bike through three guards, scattering them and their weapons to the ground and came to a stop between Faith and Travers.

He ripped his helmet off and threw it full force at another guard who was aiming a pistol in his direction, catching the man in the head and knocking him cold.

The, affecting a hard glare that seemed overdone, the biker got off his bike and strode halfway to the Triumvirate. "I should like to represent the accused."

Xander, shocked, whispered. "Holy shit. Hold! Hold! Everyone hold!"

"You know this guy?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah... that's..."

"Mr. Wyndam Pryce!" The lead of the three robed figures said sternly. "What is the meaning of this."

"I wish to represent my Slayer before the Council."

The robed figures looked surprised, and glanced at each other.

"I object!" Travers screamed, "This man was fired from the council! He has no right to be here!"

Wesley turned on Travers, fury in his eyes that appeared a good deal more genuine then his previous attempt at stolid indignation. "Right!? I should at the very least have been called as a witness you uncultured ass! I was, after all, present at the time of the events in question!"

"You are an incompetent fool, Pryce!" Travers screamed again, "And you always were!"

Instead of growing angry, Wesley just smiled. "Really? In that case why exactly did you select me personally to be Faith's Watcher? Never mind... I suppose I know the answer to that after all."

Then he turned to the triumvirate again, "I respectfully request to be assigned as Council for the defense."

The lead man smirked at him, some humor showing in his eyes. "Respectful requests are not usually preceded by driving a motorcycle into our Hall..."

A round of small chuckles passed through the hall.

The man cleared his throat, "However... Given the grave nature of the charges and the unusual motion before the court... I think that I can speak for the entire triumvirate and council when I say that I am grateful that someone, at least, has proven willing to take the responsibility. I approve your request."

Nods came from the other two robed figures and the gathered Watchers.

"Thank you." Wesley nodded and turned and walked back to Faith.

"What are you doing here, weasel?" Faith hissed as he got close.

"I'm defending you."

She groaned. "I'm dead. Why are you defending me?"

"To make amends."

"A good start would be unstrapping me so we can get the hell out of here!" She hissed again.

Wesley shook his head, "How are you feeling?"

"I don't know... a little weak I guess... why?"

"They injected you with a serum that removes your Slayer's gifts... I'm afraid that we wouldn't get to the end of the hall."

She slumped back. "Great."

"What now?" Amanda asked quietly.

"We wait." Xander replied. "I was going to use my contingency plan to keep the Watcher's from pursuing us... but I think that marker I handed out might be a lot more useful then I thought."

He tapped the radio link before speaking again. "Everyone hold. Faith just picked up an advocate... He'll buy us some time... and I have an idea. Giles, call in that backup plan we prepared."

Giles voice came back, acknowledging the order.

"This court will now come to order."

A hushed murmuring settled down as the occupants of the hall quieted and turned to look at the triumvirate with interest.

The lead of the three judges turned to look at the accused and the prosecution. "Mr. Travers, you may begin."

Travers stood up, casting a contemptuous glance at Faith and Wesley before he stepped in front of his desk and cleared his throat. "Your Honors, The facts are clearly presented and are not in dispute here. We know that this Slayer killed a human during the course of her duty. We also know that she then tried to cover it up, by blaming it on her sister Slayer. When that did not work we KNOW that she *chose* to change sides and serve with an aspiring demon and that she did his bidding for several weeks before her sister Slayer was able to bring her down."

Travers paced slightly before continuing. "These facts are not in dispute. They can NOT be disputed. Slayer Faith is guilty of the charges against her. My fellow colleagues... we are at war. There is no room in the ranks for a traitor of this magnitude. She must be... removed, that another Slayer may be called. There is no other choice."

Travers paused for a brief moment before turning to Faith. "Do you... CAN you deny these charges!?"

Faith was silent until the Triumvirate spoke. "Answer the question."

She shook her head. "No. I can't."

The hushed murmuring was heard again but quickly died down.

Travers looked triumphant.

"What's going on?" Amanda hissed.

Xander shook his head, "She just admitted to the charges being held against her."

"Is she nuts?"

"Just feeling guilty." Xander said quietly.

"What now?"

"Now I think it's Wesley's turn."

Wesley took a breath and stood up from his table, glaring at Travers until the elder Watcher smugly took his seat.

"Mr. Travers... May I ask you what your reaction was when you heard the identity of the new Slayer when Faith was called?"

Travers sputtered. "What? This has nothing to..."

"Your honors..." Wesley turned, "By our traditions the defense council may challenge the accuser and ask any question deemed relevant. By his own admission, Mr. Travers would appear to be Faith's chief accuser."

The three figures nodded. "Answer the Question, Quentin."

"Very well. I was dismayed."


"We had already seen how much trouble an American teen could be in Miss Summers. She had proven uncontrollable, and had even co-opted an experienced field Watcher. Faith's personality was distinctly more unbalanced. I was justifiably concerned. And I was proven correct."

"What was your reaction when Linda Pryce was assigned as her watcher?"

Travers shrugged. "I said that it was a waste. Ms. Pryce was far to valuable a colleague to waste on American gutter trash."

Faith stiffened in her seat, her eyes blazing with fury even as a tear slipped down her cheek. "You son of a bitch! Don't even talk about her you fucking bastard!"

Wesley moved immediately to calm Faith, and Travers took advantage of the situation. "Do you see!? She can't even comport herself with a modicum of decorum in this solemn setting! How can she be trusted with such a sacred post!?"

"Calm down, Faith." Wesley hissed. "This won't help."

She glared at him, but obeyed.

Wesley turned back, "When Ms Pryce was killed in the line of duty... who did you select to replace her?"

Travers glared at him. "You of course. Everyone knows that."

"You... personally selected me?"

"Yes!" Travers snapped.

"Excuse me... but didn't you just say that I was... and I quote 'an incompetent fool'?..." Wesley paused, as if considering, "And didn't you further this by saying that I always had been? Why then, if that were your opinion, would you select me to look over a Slayer?"

Travers was silent, his face red with fury.

Wesley glanced at the triumvirate, but didn't speak. Instead he looked back at Travers. "I put forward to the court that he not only intended for Faith to die under my... incompetent care... but that he also intended to remove me in the same way."

A sudden burst of murmurs spread through the room until the lead judge slammed his hand down on the podium. "Silence!"

As the room quieted, Travers took the opportunity to speak. "Even if this were the truth it doesn't absolve your client of anything!"

Wesley nodded. "That's true. Quite true, Thank you... Quentin."

Travers snarled at Wesley's use of his first name.

Wesley ignored it and continued. "Faith... would you mind telling the council what accommodations the council had found for you in Sunnydale?"

She tried to shrug in her restraints. "A flea bag motel room."

Wesley nodded, then looked to the group of watchers who had gathered to observe, particularly the field watchers he knew were there. Men and women who had already served a Slayer in the past. "Do any of you consider that to be appropriate living conditions for a teenage girl?"

"She's a SLAYER!" Travers screamed, coming to his feet.

Wesley turned on him, "She's a teenage girl! As are all Slayers. The Council knows this, and the council also has strict guidelines for the care of Slayer's that have lost their family. Why were those guidelines ignored in this case?"

Travers calmed down. "I don't know. You were her field watcher... why did you ignore them?"

Xander winced under his mask.

"What?" Amanda asked, having caught something in his body language.

"Travers just moved to undermine her defender... this is moving faster then I expected." Xander tapped his radio link. "Giles? How's that backup coming?"

"A few more minutes, Xander."

Xander acknowledged and turned back to the trial.

Wesley flinched and looked away. When he turned back he had barely managed to keep himself under control. "I might remind you that I was a junior member of the council at the time, and not trained as a field watcher. I was your librarian as I recall."

Travers refused to be cowed. "You had the same training as any other."

"But not the field experience that comes from the apprenticeship that is standard for a field watcher." Wesley snapped back. "And yet I was sent."

Travers started to speak again, but Wesley kept going.

"I had no warning. I was packed up within minutes of the decision, without any instructions or council... and yet I was sent."

He turned to the crowd, "I was the youngest man ever appointed to an Active slayer... and I was obviously not prepared. Yet I was sent."

Then he turned back to Travers, "So why was I sent!?"

No answer came from Travers and the group was quiet, especially the assembled field watchers.

Finally Travers spoke again. "This still does not excuse the actions of the Slayer, Faith."

"No. I suppose they don't. But they do go some distance to explaining them do they not?" Wesley asked calmly. "She was just a child who had no way of understanding that the death of her first watcher was not her fault. She didn't fit in with the people she was forced to work with. She had no supervision and lived alone. She was only *fifteen* gentlemen. Empowered to several times the strength and speed of a normal human, and told to go out into the night and *SLAY* vampires."

Wesley turned to the assembly of Watchers. "We were once... colleagues... and I have a statement and a question for you. The question is this, Has Faith's deeds proven sufficient to condemn a child to death? The statement is simply this. Absolutely not. This girl has had a hand in saving the world several times, and yet even if we ignore her good deeds we are faced with one simple fact. Wartime or no, she has done nothing to warrant the execution of a child."

As Wesley finished Travers came to his feet. "She is no child! She is a Slayer!"

Wesley turned on him, "It is not a Watcher's duty to KILL a Slayer!"

"Giles... come on, things are getting hot down there." Xander whispered.

"We're ready."

Xander closed his eyes and whispered thanks. "Ok. Do it."

The lead judge stepped forward, "We have heard enough. We will deliberate on the matter and return a verdict shortly.

The three judges stepped down from the podium and started to file out of the room when a group of people marched through the doors. Almost all of them were wearing suits, many of them sported drawn guns.

"Hey, we late for the party!?" The man in the lead, wearing a American Air Force dress uniform, asked with a grin.

"Who are you!?" Travers bellowed, "And what right have you to disturb this meeting!?"

A man in a suit came forward, "Sir Basil Covington... Her Majesty's cousin... and intelligence advisor to the Prime Minister. As for my right, I believe that you are holding a citizen of the United States against her will here? Someone is here who wishes to have her returned."

He stepped aside and a new group of people filed in.

"Thank you, Sir Basil." A man in a gray suit said as he stepped forward. He then looked around the room, finally addressing the three men in black robes at the head of the hall. "I'm Ambassador Lewendoski. President Ryan asked me to come here personally to retrieve one of our citizens... A Miss Tasker?"

The Watchers looked around in confusion. <Tasker?>

Travers managed to get up a little bluster. "There is no *Dana Tasker* here."

A booming voice interrupted them, attracting the attention of everyone in the room to the ceiling. "That's not technically true."

They all saw a black assault line fall into the room, then a figure in armor slid smoothly down the line in a freefall that slowed to a halt just as his feet touched the floor. The figure stepped forward, removing his armored mask as he did.

"Dana Tasker changed her name to Faith. Faith Williams by your files, Quentin."

"Who are you!?" Travers sputtered, "How do you know my name!?"

Another voice joined the conversation. "I told him you bleeding wanker."

Travers spun around, paling. "Rupert?"

Giles stepped into the room, his pistol pointing at the ground, and glared at Travers. Behind him Riley and Buffy covered him from each side with P-90 SMG's, their faces grim.

"I told your people to stay out of my town, Travers." Rupert growled, "You should have listened."

Travers turned red. "Rupert, get out of here and take your... *imposters* with you! You have no business here any more!"

A slim woman strode into the room from another door, a hulking man just behind her, her hand filled by a big pistol she had aimed directly at Travers. "I'm just going to shoot this fucker!"

"Helen!" Harry said, shocked, from behind her.

Behind them two men followed, P90 SMG's held high to cover the guards on the far side of the room. Graham and Forest glanced at each other and shook their heads, their eyes conveying more in a few instants then most people could in minutes of nonstop talking. <Glad its them and not us.>

She didn't even look back, just locked eyes on the beads of sweat that was forming on his brow. She didn't stop until the barrel of her gun was resting on the bone of his right eye socket. "I don't care, Harry! He took my little girl!"

Harry Tasker's hand extended from behind her, his own gun coming to rest on Traver's left eye socket. "I just wanted you to wait for me."

Travers stuttered and started to fall back, but the two angry parents followed him as he moved. " has no parents... she's an orphan."

"Wrong." Harry said coldly, "We're her parents, and you're dead."

"Mom. Dad." They turned their heads slightly, their guns not budging an inch.

Behind them they could see Faith getting up weakly, rubbing her wrists gingerly. Beside her they could see the man who had defended her quietly slipping a folding knife back up his sleeve. He shrugged at their look. "Plan 'B' as it were... in case the Council refused to listen to reason."

Harry nodded, then looked at his daughter. "Yes Honey?"

Faith shook her head, "He's not worth it. I don't want his blood on my hands too."

Harry took a deep breath, but beside him Helen seethed. "He was trying to *kill* you!"

"I'm not innocent in this either, mom." Faith said quietly.

Around them the room grew quiet as the two people considered her words, their guns still resting on Quentin Travers face. Travers was too terrified to move, he just stayed there shivering in terror, finally a trickle of liquid struck the floor at his feet and a wet stain appeared along the length of his pants.

Harry shook his head and grinned at his wife. "Old times."

"Yeah," She agreed, a more sinister grin appearing on her face. "But I should still 'do' him."

Finally they both lowered their guns. Helen glared at Travers and snarled, "My daughter just saved your worthless life."

Then they engulfed their daughter, pulling her into their arms and holding her tight. Helen looked up over Faith's shoulder and smiled gratefully at Wesley, mouthing the words 'thank you' silently. He just shifted uncomfortably and smiled back.

"Well..." The Ambassador's voice broke the silence. "Unless there are any objections..."

He looked around the room, his eyes dark as they challenged anyone to raise an objection. "Good. If that is all?"

The Ambassador raised his hand, and motioned the Taskers to step out of the hall. They helped Faith walk out as she was still stiff from confinement. As they passed the group Harry glanced up, a light of recognition in his eyes as they settled on a man. His eyes darted back down the hall for a moment, and the man nodded. Harry nodded gratefully back, and walked his wife and daughter out of the hall.

After a brief moment the Ambassador and all but two of his people followed them. Sir Basil glanced around and nodded at the rest. "I suppose we'd best be going. Oh, and I do recognize several of you... I shouldn't like to guess what I'll find when I open an investigation Monday morning."

Amid the winces and grimaces of the Watchers, the British contingent walked out of the hall.

Xander looked around. "We done here?"

"Not quite." Giles muttered as he looked over the assemblage. "You all know me."

His voice was stone cold, his tone left no doubt that the words were a statement of fact and not a question.

"You all know who I was, and what I'm capable of."

Again, no question in his voice.

Giles faded into the background and Ripper came out. "If You bloody well set foot in my town again without BEGGING for permission, I'll be back and I'll make certain that any of you who survives rue the day you even heard of the Slayers!"

Xander shook his head as he slipped his mask back on, his voice becoming alien and ominous. "Forget about that. None of you will survive to regret it."

Then he activated the laser designator and tagged the podium and hanging tapestries above it. An instant later he popped off a dozen rounds from his plasma caster that shattered the podium and ripped burning holes through the ancient seals on the tapestries. "I guarantee it."

Then he and Giles turned to walk out, Buffy, Riley, and the Commando's just a step behind, only to stop halfway and glance back to look at Wesley. "Well?"

Wesley looked nervous. "Well what?"

"Are you coming you bloody git?" Giles grinned.

Wesley swallowed and nodded, grabbing his bike from where it had been propped up against some broken chairs and hastily wheeled it out after them.

Outside they found Lara waiting for them, her Land Rover running. She didn't look especially happy as the group slid into the big vehicle.

"What?" Xander asked with a grin.

"Next time, YOU wait outside." She growled, starting the engine.

Xander shrugged, "Sorry... but if we had to make a fast getaway who better to have driving? You and G-man are the only ones who know the roads."

She rolled her eyes, but didn't comment further.

Xander stuck his head out the window and yelled to Wesley. "That thing still work?"

Wesley stomped on the started and was rewarded by a low rumble. He grinned and nodded.

"Good. Follow us if you want... we have some things to talk about."

Wesley nodded. "Alright."

Xander nodded himself and turned back to Lara. "Let's go."

As they pulled away Xander spotted a familiar figure appear on a bike just ahead of them. He smiled and thumbed his radio, "You coming for the party, 'Manda?"

Her voice came back, a grin easily audible in it. "You bet. I still have a favor to ask."

Xander groaned, but was smiling. "Sounds good. Follow us in."

Amanda didn't answer, she just pulled up beside the land rover and paced them.

Croft Mansion

Xander walked over to where Faith was being smothered by her parents, a small smile on his face. "You ok, Faith?"

She looked up, her face a cross between joyful happiness and mock pain. "Sure. Great. The Council doesn't kill me, so my parents try to suffocate me instead."

Xander grinned and shrugged, "Could be worse."

She nodded. "Don't I know it, Lover. Hey..."

Xander looked back, "What?"


He looked confused. "For what?"

"For coming after me... Giles told me you even got a hold of the President... how did you get a hold of the President?"

Xander grinned, "You remember the guy in the Air Force uniform?"

Faith frowned, but Harry and Helen nodded.

"He's a Colonel working out of Cheyenne Mountain. I did him and the Pres a favor a while back... even though they evened that score with me a few months ago they were very happy to put me in *their* debt for once."

Faith shook her head. "Well... thanks."

Xander smiled. "Every time." The he turned and walked back to the main group, leaving the family some space.

Amanda looked around the ornate mansion, her eyes gleaming. She was so engrossed in the surroundings that she missed the footsteps coming up behind her.

"You even think of lifting any of my belongings and I'll feed you to some sharks I was swimming with off the barrier reef."

She turned in surprise to see Lady Croft walking up behind her. "I was just... admiring."

"Sure you were." Lara said with a knowing look. "Just remember my warning."

Amanda nodded, smiling as she did. Lara turned around an walked off, muttering.

Amanda had turned back to look at a painting when she heard another set of footsteps come up behind her. When she turned around it was the boy, Xander.

"What was Lara muttering about?" He asked, glancing back at the other woman.

Amanda shrugged, "Oh something or other... I wasn't really listening."

He looked at her oddly, but nodded. "So. What's the favor?"

Amanda grinned at him, her finger reaching out to lightly trace the line of his jaw. "Oh... I'll think of something."

Xander stood there, actually shocked as she walked past him, her finger sliding lightly along his face and neck as she walked off. When she was gone he took a steadying breath.


Quentin Travers slipped into his manor, his hands grabbing at the walls to steady himself as he staggered through the downstairs hall. He headed immediately for the upstairs bathroom and started a bath running as he shed his soiled clothes.

He slipped a bathrobe on, and stepped into his bedroom and picked up the phone. He dialed a number from memory and waited patiently for a response.

"Yes?" The voice on the other end was coldly professional.

"I have a job for you."

There was a bark of laughter. "You have your own attack dogs. Use them."

"I can't be connected to this."

"Fine." The voice said, "Triple the fee."

"Fine." Travers repeated. "You have it."

"Who's the target?"

"A young girl named Fa... Dana Tasker." Quentin said.

"Tasker, Dana... Where does she live?"

"Currently Sunnydale California..."

"Alright we'll send a team. Anything else?"

"Yes, I..." Quentin broke off as he heard a noise.

"Hello? You still there?"

"Yes. One moment..." Travers put down the phone and stepped to the window, glancing out. When he turned back there was a man standing there.

"Who are you!?" Travers asked, falling back onto the window sill.

"Doesn't matter." The man said as he calmly screwed a silencer onto the barrel of a small pistol.

"Wait... whatever you're being paid, I can beat it!"

The man shook his head, "Its not about the money. You made a mistake earlier. No one ever told you Dana's first name."

As the man lifted his arm and aimed the gun, Travers caught a glance of a tattoo of a seal on his upper arm. "Wait! Stop! Please, have mercy!"

"Mercy doesn't live here." The man said coldly as he pulled the trigger.

The small pistol puffed six times, the ejected cartridges flying out of the breech only to be securely captured by a small felt bag that was secured over the breech. The man stepped forward, adjusted his aim, and placed three more shots into the dead Watcher before turning back and picking up the phone with gloved hands.


"Who is this?" The man on the other side asked.

"The contract has been canceled."

"Who is this!?"

"I'm the man who canceled your contractor."

There was a long silence. "Very well. In that case you're quite right. The contract has been canceled."

"Good. Go near Dana Tasker and I'll hunt you down." The man said before hanging up the phone.

He looked back over at the dead man on the floor. "I suppose I should thank you. You were a dead man anyway, but you make it easy for me to feel good about this."

With that the man slipped his pistol back into his pocket and left the room.

Giles walked over to Faith with Wesley by his side. "Hello, Faith. Are you well?"

She nodded from where she was seated between her parents. "Yeah... I'm feeling stronger."

"It will take some time before you are back to full strength." Wesley said quietly, "I'm sorry I couldn't have gotten to you sooner."

"Hey, no sweat, Watcher Man." Faith grinned, "You did your best... hell you almost convinced me."

"We really have to thank you, Wesley..." Helen Tasker said, "Thank you for trying to protect our daughter."

Wesley shook his head, "You don't owe me any thanks. I have my own sins to redeem I'm afraid."

"Quite so." Giles said sternly, as Wesley jumped. Then he smiled, "But I can think of a few jobs that need doing on the Hellmouth if you'd like to redeem yourself."

Wesley stammered for a moment, uncertain what to say. "I... I would be honored."

Faith rolled her eyes, "Great. Another tweed man to ride me about patrol protocol."

The door to the hotel room opened softly and the lone occupant shifted to his feet and went for a weapon. When he recognized the person entering he relaxed.

"Hey Mr. C," He grinned, "Where you been?"

Mr. Clark shrugged out of his coat and walked into the small bathroom. "Doing an errand, Ding."

"Yeah? When are we due back at Rainbow?"

"Day after tomorrow. I was thinking we might see some sights in London before leaving... talk to some old friends."

"Sounds good." Ding Chavez said as he settled back down in his bed with a book.

"Yeah," Clark said quietly as he looked in the mirror, his eyes falling on the funny seal tattoo on his arm. "Sounds real good.

The party had retired to the rooms Lady Croft had offered, taking the chance to rest before heading home.

Xander was still awake, sitting on the ornate front steps of the mansion and staring up at the sky.

"You up for a reason?"

He glanced back, surprised that there was anyone still up. "Hello, Lady Croft."

"Lara... please."

"Lara then." Xander nodded, motioning to the step beside him.

Lara slipped down beside him, looking at the night sky where Xander had been staring. "They're nice aren't they?"

Xander shrugged. "I guess. Don't really look at them the same way anymore."

"And why is that?"

"I know to much I suppose."

Lara snorted, a very unladylike sound. "There are many who would consider that to be a blessing."

"Maybe it. Maybe I'm too stupid to realize it." Xander shrugged, "But every time I close my eyes I see things that shouldn't exist. Should never have existed."

Lara shrugged. "That doesn't sound stupid."

Xander was silent for along moment. "Maybe not. But it does blind me sometimes..."

The two leaned back against the steps and stared at the stars in silence.

Next Day
Lion's Head Pub

Harry Tasker stepped lightly as he walked into the pub, smiling fondly as he remembered the place from times long past. He glanced at the bar and the bartender smiled at him and nodded his head to a booth in the corner.

Harry touched his temple with two fingers in a mock salute and walked over to the corner booth. He slipped into the seat and looked across the table at the other occupant. "Hello, John."

"Hiya Dutch."

Harry shook his head, "Its good to see you."

John Clark grinned and grabbed Harry's arm across the table, they clasped arms and tested each others strength for a few moments before Clark grinned and gave in.

"You've still got it, Har."

Harry nodded, then looked sober. "Did you do it?"

Clark nodded.

"Thanks. I would have done it myself..."

"You had a daughter to look after, Harry. Besides, I caught him just as he was putting a contract on Dana... You would have been too late."

"Damn it." Harry cursed, his face angry.

"Relax, the contract didn't go through." Clark said, "I made sure of it."

"Thanks, old friend."

"No problem, Dutch. I still remember holding little Dana in my arms when she was a few weeks old... The bastard had it coming."

Harry nodded. "If you ever need help..."

"I know. And it could happen, god forbid... I have a daughter too."

Harry smiled again, "I know. How is she anyway? It's been... years."



Clark grinned, "She married my partner... Domingo Chavez."

Harry shook his head, "Why wasn't I invited?"

Clark shrugged, "You were looking for Dana at the time... It didn't seem... like something you'd be up for."

Harry closed his eyes. "Those were hard years."

"When did you find her again?"

"A few months ago..." Harry said, "She's been fighting a guerrilla war in a small town in California called Sunnydale."

Clark's eyes widened, "What?"

"It's a long story." Harry said, "She'd hooked up with some friends and saw a job that needed to be done."

John shook his head, "If you say so."

Harry grinned, "So... how'd you know about this anyway?"

"I didn't." Clark said, surprised. "President Ryan asked me to escort the Ambassador in case things got rough. I didn't know you'd be here."

"President...? How'd he know?"

"All he told me was that he was returning a favor. But that Colonel O'Neill I came in with was fairly talkative... said that some kid named Xander called in the favor."

"Xander... How the hell does he know the President?"

Clark shrugged, "Don't ask me. I just work here. Who is this guy anyway?"

"The punk bastard who's sleeping with my little girl." Harry growled.

Clark laughed, "I know the feeling, pal... Ding was lucky I didn't sanction his ass when he asked my little girl out."

Harry just shook his head, "At least you got to meet the guy before she got involved."

Clarke laughed again, his pale blue eyes sparkling with humor. "At least he seems to care. He called in a marker with the Commander in Chief, Dutch. Can't go much higher up the lander then that."

Grudgingly Harry nodded.

Clark kept grinning and lifted a glass, "To Daughters."

Harry lifted his own, "God's punishment on us for being men."

"May the loves of their lives suffer the same fate."

That Night
Croft Manor

"Plane tickets everyone!" Xander called out as he handed out a sheaf of paper.

"Plane? Aren't we taking the... ummm..." Riley stopped, glancing at Amanda uncertainly.

"No. I'll take it back later, but I've got a couple debts to pay off first." Xander grinned. "These'll get you back to the states, first class."

"Ooohhh... gimme!" Buffy grabbed the ticket, "No offence but I'll take pampering over the way you travel any day."

Xander laughed and passed the rest of the tickets around. When Faith looked at hers she frowned. "Washington? I'm not going to Sunnydale?"

"I thought you could do with some family time." Xander explained, "I have to stop off in Washington on my way home anyway... That Trilby fellow and I have a bargain."

"Uncle Spence?" Faith frowned at him suspiciously, "What sort of bargain?"

"Nothing much." Xander shared a grin with Helen and Harry.

"Xander." Faith growled, but Xander just smiled and turned back to the group. "So, everyone ready?"

A chorus of nods followed.

"Good. Time to go then... the flight leaves in a little over an hour."

"What? How'd you get tickets that fast?"

"The Concord was under booked. Count yourselves lucky." Xander grinned.

As the aircraft lifted off Xander shook his head, then turned back to Amanda and Lara who were standing behind him. "So... What now?"

The two women looked at each other and grinned.

Suddenly Xander had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "I'm going to regret this aren't I?"

Two Days Later
Amanda's London Flat

"This was NOT what I had in mind when you asked for a favor!" Xander groaned as he staggered under the weight of eight thousand dollars worth of purchases.

Amanda shrugged and grinned as she let herself into the apartment, "Not my fault you made an assumption."

Xander dropped the stuff on top of a table. "This better be it! I swear, I'm done here! This is it!"

"Oh?" She grinned, "You think so huh?"

Xander looked at her through narrowed eyes, wondering what she had up her sleeve. "Yeah... that's it..."

"Ok." She said.

Xander paused, "ok?"

"Ok." She repeated herself.

Xander backed away from where she was casually lounging in a plush chair, nervously eyeing the door. "What do you mean... ok?"

"I mean, ok." She said simply. "We're even... after one more thing."

Xander groaned.

Amanda just grinned.

"What is it?"

"Oh... nothing much. Really... You'll probably enjoy it."

Xander swallowed as she turned in a sultry manner and reached behind the chair and plucked something off the table behind her. Then she rolled back and handed a paper to Xander while smiling.

Xander took the paper and glanced at the headline. "Local Museum to host Gems of the World exposition.... millions of dollars worth in uncut and cut gems will be on display at..."

Xander trailed off, looking up at Amanda. "Oh hell no."

She pouted at him, a stray curl of her lip indicating a hidden smile.

"No! Forget about it! I'm not going to be part of this!"

"I really need a second person for this... and you did so well with the Monet..."

"Oh no!" Xander turned on her, "That was completely different! The Watchers had that... and more! Coming!"

"Now don't get in a huff..." Amanda got up as he turned away. She walked over and laid her hands on his neck, gently rubbing his shoulders. "It's not like we're robbing a little old lady you know... these Gems were mined in third world countries... practically by slave labor... and they are even insured... No one loses. The company loaning them out to the museum is a real piece of work... you know they are blacklisted in a dozen countries for their labor practices? This is just a public relations scheme to make them look good to Parliament."

Xander groaned as he felt the warmth of her breath on his ear. <This is not a good idea.>

He could hear Elanthielle giggle inside his mind. <Are you going to roll over for every pretty face that comes your way?>

Amanda pulled him back and pulled him down into her chair as she knelt down behind it. "Come on... it's only a small favor..."

Xander groaned again.

<Ask a stupid question I suppose.> Elanthielle said dryly.

<What do you want me do? I do owe her!>

<Don't rationalize it, Alexander. I was a Warrior and a Knight during my day and I know one thing...>

<I know... I know...> Xander mumbled internally, <Stealing is wrong.>

Elanthielle laughed, <I've done worse. I think you might consider examining the target... if she's right about the company then it might be worth the time.>

"What!?" Xander jumped as he spoke out loud.

Amanda hopped back, "I was just saying..."

"No, no... not you..." Xander shook his head, cocking it to one side. <What?>

<Alexander... I am not what you might call a Paladin.> Elanthielle's voice was filled with humor, <And neither are you... You care too much for people, rather then causes... you should know that the law is not always the same as justice.>

<I don't need to hear this right now!> Xander groaned internally, <I need reasons to turn her down! Not join her!>


<Because I'm not a thief!> Xander shook his head. "I'm not."

"Not what?" Amanda asked, confused.

"A thief... I'm not a thief."

"And what's wrong with being a thief!?" She planted her hands on her hips as she walked around the chair, glaring at him.

"Well... its... uh... not right?" He said weakly.

"What? Do you think I steal the last dollar from young couples on the road!?" Amanda's eyes were blazing as she approached him. "Or maybe I rob social security checks from mail boxes!?"

"No... I uhh..." Xander backed away.

"I'm a thief because I enjoy the challenge... the rush of a job well done..." Amanda softened her glare, "Money is important, but I pick and choose who I rob. And this company has it coming."

Xander picked the paper back up and looked at it glumly. "Mind if I check them out?"

She shrugged, "Go ahead."

"I'll be back later."

Amanda nodded as Xander grabbed his coat and walked out.

Sunnydale California

Jarod grabbed the phone on the sixth ring. "Hello."

"J-Man, it's Xander."

"Hey, Xander... How are you?"

"Fine. Look, I need some info on a company..."

"What's the name?" Jarod asked as he slid over to a computer.

"Merin Mining International."

Jarod's hands paused above the keyboard, "What do you want with them?"

"Never mind that right now... I just need to know."

"Merin Mining is known for its flagrant human rights violations... they hire miners for pennies a day in some countries like South Africa, the Congo, Zimbabwe, Libya... mostly third world countries... They rarely operate directly within the United States, but instead use a maze of subsidiaries to do business here. Xander..." Jarod trailed off.


"Merin is a subsidiary itself... It's wholly owned by the same corporation that backed the Center."

"Oh?" Xander's voice brightened. "You don't say..."

"Xander... what are you planning?"

"Nothing too big..." Xander assured him, "I'll be in touch."

"Xander? Xander!?" Jarod tried, but the phone had clicked dead.

Amanda looked up as the door burst open and, with one glance at Xander face, smiled.

Xander dropped the paper in her lap. "Ok. According to this the company is using their own security to transport the gems... right?"

She paused, "That's right..."

"And if we hit them before they deliver then the Museums insurance won't be liable... right?"

Amanda looked up, shocked. "Now hold on a second... the job is hard enough..."

Xander smirked, "What? Not up to the... Challenge?"

Amanda grimaced, "Don't you throw my own words back at me... I'm not into armed robbery, and that's the only way we'd get anything out of those trucks. No finesse in that. No skill."

Xander grinned. "How about if we got in and out without the guards knowing we were ever there?"

Amanda leaned forward, a gleam in her eyes. "I'm listening..."

Three days later

The armored truck was rolling down the highway when the tires blew out and the driver swerved across two lanes of traffic before he got it under control and pulled to the side of the road.

"What the bloody hell was that!?" A voice screeched from behind him.

He slid open a grate and glanced back, "You guys ok?"

"Yeah we're fine, mate. But what the 'ell was that?"

"Felt like a blowout. Johnson's gonna check."

He looked over at his partner and the two of them nodded and pulled guns from under the seat before anything else. Then the driver reached for a radio as his partner slipped outside.

"Control, this is unit Nineteen."

"Nineteen, Control... go ahead."

"We have a problem..."

"What sort, Nineteen?"

The driver glanced up as his partner leaned back in and mouthed the word 'blowout'. The driver nodded and continued on the radio.

"We have a blowout on highway 9.... we're just south of London under the highway 3 overpass. Send some help."

"Roger, Nineteen. A second unit and escort are on the way."

"Thanks. Over."

The Driver shook his head and sighed. It was going to be a long night.

Above the truck a burred shape detached from the underside of the overpass and seemed to drop in slow motion onto the roof of the truck. It touched down lightly, barely making a sound, then flipped away a black rope and went to work.

From thin air it produced a small pressurized tank that seemed to float as the figure kneeled down. It laid the tank down on its side, and applied a small amount of putty to hold it in place. Next a small role of tubing appeared from nowhere and was attached to the tank. Slowly the form spider crawled toward the front of the vehicle and leaned over to look into the cab.

"What's that?"

"What?" The driver looked around, annoyed.

"Didn't you hear that?"

"Hear what!?"

His partner shook his head, "Never mind... must be me imagination."

"Keep it to yourself next time. You're giving me the creeps."

"Yeah... Right." The Partner muttered, "I'm gonna check around the truck. Be right back."

"Sure. You do that." The Driver muttered as the door opened, then closed. "Geeez. That guy needs a girlfriend."

The man slammed the door shut and walked around the truck, looking for the source of the sound he had heard in a half-hearted sort of motion. Had almost completed the circuit of the track, ad was approaching his own door, when the horn suddenly blasted without stop.

The man quickly unlocked the door and pulled it open wide. Inside the driver was slumped over the steering wheel, his head hitting the horn.

"What the hell?" he had time to ask before a blur of motion caught his eye and something knocked him cold.

"Damnit." Xander muttered as he shocked the man back into the cab and keying off the shift field.

"Hey! Hey! What the 'ell is goin on out there!?" Came a yell from the back of the armored vehicle.

Xander shook his head and pulled the unconscious driver off the steering wheel. He opened the grate a crack and slipped the tube of the cylinder inside, turning the nozzle on all the way. A few moments later the noise from the back subsided and he sighed under his mask before triggering his radio.


Amanda pulled up behind the truck on her bike, slowly driving the bike down into the ditch and hiding it behind the big armored vehicle. She quickly got off it and ran up to the passenger door. Before opening it she slipped on a small gas mask.

"We good?" She asked as she glanced at the two men lying in the cab of the big truck, then frowned as she noted the ugly bruise forming on the passengers face. "The plan called for no signs..."

Xander shrugged in the alien armor. "He decided to get out for a walk as I started the gas. Nothing I could do."

She shook her head, but nodded. "Ok. The ones in the back?"

Xander opened the grate and looked in, "Sleeping like babies."

"Good." Amanda nodded as she pulled out a kit bag. "We have to move fast."

Xander nodded. "Let's do this."

"Don't peek." Amanda grinned as she quickly peeled out of her biker's clothes.

A few minutes later two figures in the uniform of the guards stepped out of the van and walked around to the back. To the passing cars they appeared to be simply checking their cargo.

The two of them walked up to the back doors and placed a small device over the lock, then stepped back. Amanda quickly pressed a small trigger in her pocket and they noticed the brief glare ad thin wisp of smoke rise from the door.

A moment later the two of them pulled the door open and Amanda slipped inside while Xander waited outside, standing guard.

Amanda smiled as she quickly reviewed the contents of the van, shaking her head ruefully. "This was almost too easy. Breaking into the Museum would have been more fun."

She quickly produced a set of lock picks from her pocket and went to work on the cuffs holding two brief cases to the left arms of the guards. It only took a few seconds apiece and the cuffs were cleared. She quickly popped the briefcase locks and checked the contents, smiling as she gazed at a couple stones from each case.

"Beautiful." She breathed softly.

She emptied the contents of the cases into her kit bag, then relocked and re-attached the cases to the guards wrists.

Outside Xander banged on the door. "Two minutes!"

She nodded to herself and got up, heading back out.

When Amanda rejoined him, Xander quickly closed the doors again and set the lock back into its place, even though it was useless now. The two of them double timed it back around to the front of the Van and grabbed their stuff from where they had packed it into two duffel bags Amanda had brought.

"Lets go." Xander said.

Amanda smiled and nodded, straddling her bike as Xander hopped on behind her. She grinned into her helmet as he grabbed her around the waist, then gunned the engine and they took off.

A short while after pulling back into traffic Xander and Amanda noted a procession of vehicles bearing the Merin Mining Logo heading back toward the armored truck. Both grinned as Amanda revved the engine a little heavier and the powerful Bike roared into London.

Xander was lounging in the Couch at Amanda's flat when he heard a knock on the door. He got up slowly, flicking off the TV.

"Hello?" He opened the door.

"Amanda?" A man stared in shock when he saw Xander, "Who are you? Where's Amanda?"

Xander shrugged and stepped back, "She went out for a bit... she should be back soon. And since I'm in her apartment by her invitation, and I don't know who the hell you are... shouldn't the 'who are you' line be mine?"

"I'm Duncan McCloud of the Clan McCloud."

"Ah." Xander said, nodding slowly, "that's very... useless information actually. You known Amanda long?"

Duncan smiled slightly, stepping into the flat. "Longer then you can imagine."

Xander smiled back, "I doubt that. Look you can wait I guess. She shouldn't be long."

"Thanks." Duncan said as he stepped in a took a seat on the couch.

Xander walked over and took a seat across the couch and tossed Duncan the remote. "If you want to watch anything, go ahead."

As Duncan flipped on the TV, Xander shifted slightly in his seat and casually pulled his jacket over making a show of reaching in the pocket for a stick of gum. "You want one?"

"No thanks." Duncan said as he settled on the news.

Xander nodded and popped the gum in his mouth, shifting his coat and his guns even closer.

The newscaster quickly came on and rattled through the daily affairs. "In today's top story, a daring daylight robbery of an armored car netted twenty million pounds in cut and uncut gems. Witnesses have come forth to say that they saw two people, a man and woman, dressed in guard uniforms apparently checking on the armored car's cargo while it was pulled over for a flat tire. The company has stated that this particular car had no female guard, and se it is assumed that the slim brunette in question is indeed one of the thieves."

Xander noticed Duncan stiffen at the mention of a slim brunette and quickly hid a smile.

"The guards riding along with the gems were gassed and never had a chance to see the thieves. This is one of the largest robberies in recent history, and has been compared by some to a string of similar thefts that occurred over a century ago. Unfortunately no one has come forth with a better description of the two perpetrators."

The news quickly moved on to a weather report as Xander sat there, feigning interest and ignoring the sudden string of suspicious looks that Duncan was shooting him.

Sunnydale, Ca


Buffy nodded tiredly at her mother and stuck her tongue out at Dawn in retaliation for the rude gesture her sister shot her as she walked in. "Hi Mom, Hi Butt Pain..."

"Mom!" Dawn complained, "Did you hear what she called me?"

Joyce rolled her eyes, "Yes. And I also saw what you gestured. So I can overlook them both, or reprimand Buffy and ground you. Your choice."

Dawn folded her arms over her chest and sat down heavily.

Joyce looked back at Buffy, smiling. "Is Faith ok?"

Buffy nodded. "We got her out ok..."

"That's good." Joyce said, relieved. "Did anyone... I mean...?"

"Everyone's fine, mom.. We had some help, and Xander called in a favor or something with the government... they had the Ambassador escort Faith out... No bloodshed."

"Ambassador?" Joyce froze. "How?"

"Apparently Giles' suggested it... He thought that we might be able to put a little pressure on the Watchers to convince them to let Faith go."

"Well... good. No one got hurt by it."

Buffy smiled, "Travers wet his pants."

Dawn jumped up, grinning. "Cool!"

"Dawn!" Joyce snapped.

"What? He was an..."

"Don't you dare finish that sentence, Young Lady!"

"But he was!"

"I don't care. You watch your language." Joyce finished sternly, then turned back to Buffy, "What on earth happened to scare him that badly?"

"Faith's mom and dad." Buffy grinned.

Joyce let out a little chuckle, but quickly covered it up as she glanced at Dawn. "Well, good."

"Yeah... it was great." Buffy said, stretching her neck.

"What's wrong?"

"The flight from Washington was delayed... I'm just a little stiff."

"Well, go on upstairs and take a bath... a nice long soak will help."

"Thanks, mom." Buffy said as she walked up the stairs.

"Man! What a ride!" Graham grinned as he tossed himself down on the couch of Lowell House.

"Yeah man, First Class all the way!" Forest laughed in response. "I can get used to this."

Riley rolled his eyes, "Don't. Cause you know that the Initiative is never going to pop for first class tickets."

"True." Forest said.

"Hey, you think we could transfer over?" Graham grinned until Riley pierced him with a glare.

"Don't even think about it."

"Jeeze, man... Kidding is all." Graham grinned. "Come on... you gotta admit that it was one hell of a nice trip home."

"I'm thinking more of the trip over." Riley said, shaking his head as he vanished into his room.

Washington DC

The Taskers sat down around the dinging room table, smiling as Harry set a huge roast down and picked up a large carving knife. As Harry sliced into the roast the family and guests settled into an easy conversation.

"So, Dana," Gib grinned, "Just out of curiosity, and you can level with me here... Do you have a sign on your back that say's 'kidnap me'?"

Faith shot him a dirty look, "No. But tell, me... and you can level with me Uncle Gib, do you have a sign on your back that says 'Sucker'?"

"My ex-wives think so."

A round of chuckles rolled around the table, and Spencer Trilby leaned forward. "You gave 'em hell I hope?"

"Nope." Faith said, "Didn't have to."


Helen Tasker leaned forward, "Alexander called in a favor from the President."

"President of what?"

Harry cleared his throat as Faith and Helen grinned widely. "Umm... the United States."

"Jack!? That pup knows Jack?"

"Apparently so." Helen said, a little smugly.

"I guess I'm going to have to sweeten my deal with the kid when he gets back... get some more info out him." Trilby said thoughtfully.

"Deal? What deal?" Faith asked, looking around.

Trilby ignored her. "So what happened to the kidnappers?"

Faith shrugged, "They let me go, Xander, Mom, and Dad didn't kill them."

Trilby's eyes widened. "You let them get away with it?"

Faith just shrugged again.

Harry spoke up casually, "You know... Jack also sent John Clark over."

Trilby shot him a look, then smiled. "Oh? How is that old reprobate anyway?"

"Still the best."

"Good." Trilby dug into his plate. "Good."

Amanda's Flat, London

Xander twitched when Duncan suddenly turned to look at the door, his left hand closing around one of the guns under his coat reflexively.


Duncan composed himself, settling back down. "Oh... nothing."

Xander nodded slowly, telling himself to relax. Then the door opened and Amanda walked in, her hand closed around the hilt of an elegant long blade.


"Amanda." He smiled as he got to his feet, "I've been waiting for you."

"I can see that," Amanda said as she tried to hide her sword from Xander.

Xander had already seen it, though. "Oh you have got to be shitting me."

"Excuse me?" Duncan looked at him as if he was insane.

"You're both Immortal!"

Duncan looked at Amanda, she looked back at him.

Duncan made a quick show of indignation. "Are you insane?"

Amanda just sighed. "You know about Immortals?"

Xander ignored the shocked look that Duncan was flashing Amanda, "Hell I live with two of them... well, I will if my security check on Irwin goes through ok."

"What!?" Duncan looked lost.

Amanda, "Irwin? Never heard of him."

"He's new." Xander explained, "A... um... friend sent him to me because of his military experience."


"What the hell is going on here?"

"Oh relax, Duncan..." Amanda condescendingly patted his shoulder. "This is Xander, Xander this is Duncan."

"Yes, I got that part earlier, Amanda. Who is he though? Another accomplice?"

"Oh Duncan," Amanda looked bored, "Can't I just have a friend without having some felonious motivation?"

"No." Duncan said certainly.

Xander snickered.

"Don't you start too." Amanda glared at him.

"Hey, don't get mad at me. Not my fault if your old friends know you so well." Xander smirked.

"It was the Armored car job, wasn't it?" Duncan asked accusingly. "Admit it!"

Amanda tossed her long coat over a hook, "ok. I admit it. Speaking of which, Xander, I have some bad news."

"What?" Xander asked curiously.

"The Gems were fake." Amanda sat down heavily, "They suckered us... that truck must have been a decoy."

Xander shook his head, "wait a second... if we stole the fakes... then why are they reporting the theft as the real deal on the news?"

"They're what?" Amanda looked up.

"It's all over the news, Amanda," Duncan growled, "They're even comparing the job to some of your earlier work here in London."

"Really?" She smiled, "It's good to see that my work is remembered..."

Then she frowned. "But They're blaming for something I didn't even do!"

"You did so!" Duncan waved his hand.

Amanda dismissed him with a wave of her own. "Oh, they were just fakes... that doesn't count."

"What's their game?" Xander asked curiously.

"Hmmm? Oh." Amanda shrugged, "Probably going to report the theft to the insurance company and collect the money while they keep the gems."

"WHAT!?" Xander burst out, furious. "You mean those bastards get MORE money out of this!?"

"I'm afraid so."

Xander fumed for a few minutes. The finally burst out, "No way! Uh uh... not going to happen."

"What are you talking about?" Amanda asked curiously.

"Where's their company head quarters?"

Amanda thought for a moment, "South Africa... why?"

"We're going to clean them out."


Buffy rolled her eyes as she wrapped the towel around herself. "Yes, Dawn?"

Dawn peeked in, assuring herself that she wasn't walking into anything that would get her ass kicked, then stuck her head in. "Did you talk to Xander?"

Buffy grimaced, suddenly remembering her promise. "Damn it. I'm sorry, Dawn. I forgot."

Dawn nodded, "It's alright... I know you were all busy... but I'm still kinda worried. You think you could talk to him tomorrow?"

"Sorry, Dawn... He's still in London."


"He stayed to pay a favor back to Amanda and Lara."

"Who's Amanda and Lara?" Dawn asked suspiciously.

Buffy shrugged, "A couple women who helped us out... Lara is a friend of Giles.  Amanda's a thief who was robbing the Watchers when we got there."

Dawn cracked into a grin. "Really? That is so cool!"

"It is not!" Buffy snapped, "She's a thief, Dawn! Don't forget that."

Dawn rolled her eyes, then paused. "Wait a minute... were they Hot?"


"Hot. Sexy. You know..."

Buffy looked at her sister like she'd gone crazy.  "How the hell should I know?"

"Well you did see them... but I guess I could call up Willow and ask..."

"No!" That conversation Buffy didn't need to think about, "They were kinda hot, I guess..."

Dawn growled, "You left 'Ladies man' Xander Harris alone in a foreign country with two 'hot' women that we don't know?? Are you crazy!?"

Buffy shot her sister a dirty look, "Since when is it any of your business... and since when is Xander a ladies man!?"

"Oh puhlease.  Even as a Geek he scored with the most popular girl in school." Dawn said scathingly, "What do you think is going to happen now that he's all leather wearing and macho?"

"I don't have time for this, Dawn." Buffy said tiredly, "And Xander the 'ladies man' is the last thing I want to think about before bed. I'll be up all night laughing."

Dawn started ticking off on her fingers. "He had Willow twisted around his little finger most of their lives, he hooked Cordy when she was at the peak of her popularity and he was the lowest Geek in school... next to you..."

Buffy growled and lifted a hand toward Dawn, but her sister just hopped back and kept counting. "And you KNOW that if it hadn't been for that whole 'having to kill to live' deal he and Impata would be going steady now..."

"I should never have told you about that."

"Then of course there is Faith, who he also scored with as a geek,..."

"She kicked him out right after." Buffy objected, not noticing that she was being drawn into the discussion.

Dawn shrugged, "Still counts. Then Phoebe... then Faith again, and last I heard she's not kicking him out anymore."

Buffy clapped her hands over her ears. "I SO don't want to hear this!"

Dawn waited semi-patiently for her to remove her hands before asking, "What did Faith have to say about this?"

Buffy thought about it briefly before suddenly paling. "So *that* was why she said 'Good Luck' when he kissed her good bye!"

Dawn screamed and stalked out of the room, muttering. "God I HATE that b..."

"Dawn Summers Don't you DARE finish that sentence!" Buffy heard her mother call from downstairs.

Amanda's Flat

"Now wait just a second..." Duncan interrupted Amanda and Xander as they started firing ideas for the plan back and forth. "I'm not going to let you run off and rob some company!"

Xander rolled his eyes, "He always like this?"

"Always." Amanda said flatly, "You know... Back in my Bonnie and Clyde days, he used to preach that same sermon every time he dug us out of a shallow grave."

"Really..." Xander blinked as he processed the 'shallow grave' remark. "You were... Bonnie?"

"Something like that." She winked at him, "Those were the days. Back before every yahoo Wyatt Earp wanna be was equipped with radios... I hate those things."

Xander chuckled.

"Would you two listen to me!?" Duncan reddened. "You can't run off and rob innocent companies..."

"Whoa!" Xander turned on him, "Innocent? Have you looked at the human rights record of these people? Not to mention their shadier dealings that a friend of mine dug up."

"What are talking about?"

"Yes, Darling, what do you mean?"

Xander frowned at Duncan, "They are a subsidiary of a group that funded a think tank in the US, that think tank made a habit of kidnaping young children and brainwashing them with experimental techniques to enhance intelligence.  A friend of mine was held there for most of his life before he finally broke out. Pardon me if I'm not overly sympathetic for these bozo's."

Duncan blinked and almost stepped back from the venom in Xander's voice. "You have proof?"

Xander shrugged, "The human rights violations are a matter of public record. I checked.  The rest is personal."

Duncan grimaced and looked around for a few moments, clearly wishing he was anywhere else on the planet. Finally he turned back. "Ok. Fine."

He took a deep breath, "Can I help?"

Amanda looked at him in shock, then smiled in delight. "How long I've waited for this day!"

"Don't rub it in." Duncan groaned petulantly.

"Oh, but its so fun..." She pouted mockingly at him.

Xander smiled slightly and shook his head. "Come on... We should stop by Croft Manor on the way to Stonehenge and let Lara know that we're heading out of the country."

"Right." Amanda agreed, then paused. "Stonehenge!?"

Croft Manor

"Let me make certain that I understand this..." Lara Croft said calmly, "You robbed some fake gems from an armored car and now you intend to go to South Africa to get even with the company for tricking you?"

Duncan laughed, Xander shrugged, and Amanda merely smiled.

Lara rolled her eyes and shook her head, "I believe that I will stick to raiding three thousand year old tombs."

Xander smiled, "Suit yourself. We just wanted to let you know we were leaving the country... we're heading to Stonehenge tonight."

Lara sat up straight. "Stonehenge? You're... umm... leaving the way you came?"

Xander grinned. "Yep."

"Perhaps I was overly hasty..."

Amanda and Duncan looked confused. "What's all this about Stonehenge?"


"Back again, Lady Croft?"

Lara smiled at the Guard, "Yes, Jamie... Just a look around if you don't mind?"

"Not at all. Have fun."


The four of them walked out into the middle of the great stone circle.

"Ok, we're here... Now what?" Amanda asked, turning around.

"Step a little closer to me." Xander smiled as Lara instantly stepped close to his side.

Amanda arced a glance at him, "Am I supposed to believe that's not an incredibly transparent way to get me to brush up against you?"

Xander smirked at her, "You don't have to get that close... just inside this circle you see in the dust at our feet."

She and Duncan looked down to see a barely visible circle in the ground, obscured by footprints and other tracks in the dust.  They both step inside it.

"What's this supposed to do?" Duncan asked sarcastically, "Beam us up?"

Xander grinned and tapped something on his wrist. "No... Down."

Three circles leapt out of the ground and surrounded them, and in a flash of light they were gone.

"What the hell was that!?" Duncan yelled as the effect let them go.

Xander ignored him, instead calling out. "Niume?"

"Yes, Commander?" The spirit form drifted out of the walls.

"We're going down to South African for a little trip. You monitoring anything down there we should know about?"

"No. The area is calm at the moment. May I enquire as to when you will be returning?"

"Few days." Xander said, "Not too much longer. How much access do you have to the global communications network?"

The ghostly figure smiled, "I hacked those protocols long ago... most of my back doors are still active, and none have ever been found."

"Cool." Xander said, "Look... can you dial up a phone number for me?"


Xander told her the phone number and she instantly plugged it into the network.  A few moments later Jarod's voice came on the line, echoing in the cavern. "Hello?"

"Jarod... Xander."

"Xander. Thank God, are you alright!?"

"I'm fine.  I'm going down to South Africa to pay Merin Corperate HQ a visit... interested in coming along?"

There was a long silence.

"Xander... are you sure that's a smart idea?"

"No." Xander grinned, "But I'm doing it anyway."

A low sigh sounded like wind through the trees. "Fine. I'll call up the group..."

"No. Just you and Miss Parker... The rest probably wouldn't much like the idea of us going down their to rob Merin."



"Jarod." Xander said back.

"Fine. When are you going to be back in town?"

"Not too long.  We'll lock up with the Rings and come down."

"Alright.  Anything else?"

"Yes." Xander said, "Can you give a friend of mine the network address for our computer?"

Another long pause. "If your sure."

"I am... I'll put her on.  Niume?" Xander nodded to the ghostly figure.

She smiled and nodded, and began speaking silently over the connection.

Xander turned back to his guests, only to see Amanda and Duncan staring open mouthed.

"What is all this?"

Xander grinned, "Long story... come on, step back into the circle and we'll get it all done at once."

Once again, Lara was immediately at his side but the other two moved somewhat more nervously. When they were all in the circle Xander grinned at Duncan.

"This time we're going up."

"Alright, I've had enough." Duncan growled as the rings fell away and he found himself somewhere else. "What the hell is this?"

Xander shrugged and walked out of the room. "This is a Goa'uld troop transport. I stole it from one of them when they tried to invade the US last year. Follow me."

"What!?" Duncan bellowed as Xander vanished around a corner. He, Lara, and Amanda hurried to catch up. "What are you talking about, Invade!?"

Xander shrugged, "Just what it sounds like. We fought back an Invasion about eight months ago or so. They wanted to take the Earth back."

Duncan shook his head, and Amanda asked with a chill in her voice. "What do you mean.... back?"

"The Goa'uld used to own the planet... I'm not really clear on the dates myself, but most of them were the source myths for the Egyptian Gods... You know, Ra, Osiris, Anubis... those guys."

"They came back?" Amanda asked, her voice think with apprehension.

Xander paused and turned back, "You heard of them!?" He asked incredulously, then his eyes narrowed, "How old are you anyway?"

She smirked, "A girl never tells."

Duncan looked between them, "What are you talking about!?"

Xander looked at Amanda and shrugged before turning around again and continuing.

Amanda sighed. "The Egyptian Gods were a nasty bunch... I knew a few Immortals who had met them personally."

"Wait. Wait! You're telling me that the Egyptian Pantheon is *real*?"

"Not exactly." Xander said from ahead of them, "The Egyptian Pantheon was created by Alien parasites who enjoy being worshiped. They take a human host, because the human body is pretty simple for their stolen technology to heal. That way they can live forever... in theory."

The group came out onto the command deck of the ship.

"There is no way that you are..." Duncan stammered to a stop as he saw the Earth on the huge screen ahead of them. "Is that... real?"

"Yep." Xander took a seat and looked at the controls blankly for a moment before finally laying his hands on them. "I'll just slip us over California and we'll pick up a couple friends."

The image on the screen shifted as the ship slid smoothly out of its geostationary orbit.

"Ok... Say I believe this... were these things the same source for the other Gods?"

Xander shook his head. "No. The Norse Gods were a more benevolent group of aliens that like to play parent figure to developing races, they named the 'Gods' after themselves. The Asguard. From what I understand they're still kicking around now... Earth has some kind of treaty with them. Don't ask me to explain it, cause I don't know the details."

"Treaty!? We have treaties with Aliens now?" Amanda asked, surprised.

"Several from what I know... The United States has been throwing billions worth of resources into securing technology and allies to prevent the Goa'uld from retaking the Earth."

"And just how are they doing that?" Duncan asked sarcastically. "They have a starship program they haven't announced?"

"Star Gate, actually." Xander said as he fine tuned the controls and smiled when he heard the audible chirp that signaled the ring lockup. "We're here."

"Here?" Duncan looked at the screen, "Here where?"

"California. Come on." Xander got up and walked back outside.

The group quickly followed him out.

"What about the Greeks?" Duncan asked, "And Romans?"

Xander paused, then continued. "They were... something else. I'm not really sure what exactly, but they were probably the closest thing you get to real Gods that have ever kicked around the planet."


Xander shook his head, "I'm sorry, but I don't know every answer... and my knowledge of recent history is pretty spotty at best."

"Recent? That was over three thousand years ago!"

"Yeah... Recent. Ask me about stuff from 15 thousand years ago and I'll probably be able to tell you anything you want to know."

Duncan and Amanda shot each other a confused look while Lara brightened up considerably.

The Buzz hit him just after he heard the sound of the Rings activate, and Andy grabbed for his Atchisson instinctively. He relaxed imperceptibly when he recognized Xander in the group but held his aim at the group.

"You got some 'old' friends with ya kid."

Xander nodded. "I know, Andy. Friends."

Andy nodded and let the shot slide down as he let himself drop tiredly into his wheel chair. "Just so they remember... look at my neck and I'll shoot you dead every hour on the hour for a week."

Amanda and Duncan looked at each other in confusion as they took in Andy's legs.

"What happened?" Duncan blurted in surprise.

Andy shrugged, "Stepped on a land mine. It didn't kill me."

Amanda winced. "Shit."

Andy nodded, "I get by though."

Xander spoke up, "Amanda, Duncan MacLeod, this Andrezj Konzaki. He's my group armorer."

"MacLeod, huh? I've heard of you. You got a good rep." Andy said.

"Thanks." Duncan said, looking around.

Xander nodded at Andy, "Jarod and Miss P ready yet?"

"They just went upstairs a few minutes ago... Jarod has been piling up toys down here for the past hour." Andy said, "Do me the favor of getting that crap out of workspace, ok?"

Xander glanced over at a pile of boxes and nodded. "You got it, Andy. Duncan, give me a hand here would you?"

Duncan nodded and walked over to help Xander shift the boxes. As the two of them grunted over a particularly heavy box Duncan looked down at it. "What the hell is he bringing anyway?"

"Knowing Jarod?" Xander asked, "God alone only knows."

Jarod and Miss Parker walked down the stairs with Broots, to the basement workshop and were mildly surprised to see a large group waiting for them. "That was a quick trip."

Xander smiled and nodded. "Nothing like alien space ships to cut down on travel time. We pick up another passenger?"

Miss Parker nodded. "Broots knows the security procedures they implemented."

Xander nodded and smiled at the nervous man, "Welcome aboard."

Broots nodded, "T... thanks... I guess. Are we r-really taking a space ship?"

Xander grinned, "Oh yeah."

Jarod grinned right back. "I can't wait to pilot that baby. I've been studying the translated material that the Tok'ra left us and learning the language... Hardest thing I've done in a couple decades."

Miss Parker rolled her eyes, "This coming from the guy who thinks the Pentagon needs to increase their computer security because he can crack it in his head without using the computer."

Xander laughed while Lara, Amanda, and Duncan looked around the group as if they were crazy.

Finally Xander spoke up, "Well, come on... let's get a move on."

Back on the ship Jarod took the controls this time with Xander, and thereby Elan, looking over his shoulder. He easily slipped the ship out of the stationary orbit and flew around the earth to Africa, then he paused and turned around.

"Let's go over the plan... or lack there of..." Jarod said, eyeing Xander.

Xander grinned. "Why do I need a plan? I have you."

Miss Parker snickered and shook her head as Jarod got up and fished a laptop out of a bag he brought up with him.

"The security for this building was put in place by the same people who did the Center. Miss Parker should have no trouble disarming it."

She nodded, "It's a good system, but it has faults that are exploitable. Broots, can you get into their computers?"

Broots nodded slowly, "Yeah... yeah I think so. The hard part will be hacking into their ether net lan. But if you can get me close enough I think I can do it."

"How close?" Duncan wanted to know.

Broots shrugged, "Depends I guess... maybe a couple hundred feet? Maybe more. Depends on conditions."

Xander and Jarod smiled. "No problem." The said together.

Preparations complete, Jarod took the helm again and dropped the big ship out of orbit.


Xander glared over at where Jarod and Broots were leaning over a laptop. "Hey, this isn't as easy as it looks... well... I don't think so anyway."

"You don't think?" Duncan looked at him incredulously.

Xander glanced at him and shrugged helplessly. "I can't read any of these displays."

"You what!?" Amanda, Duncan, and Lara yelled at him in shock.

Xander tilted his head and rolled his eyes, "Don't worry... even us illiterates can do the occasionally thing right... hmm, I wonder what that red light means?"

Amanda nudged Duncan and whispered, "Do you know if an Immortal comes back if they've been mostly vaporized in a crashing spaceship?"

Duncan shot her a dirty look, "Somehow I doubt the situation has come up before."

Xander looked at them over his shoulder, "Actually... It has."

Amanda opened her mouth but Duncan laid a hand on her shoulder. "Don't ask."

Xander just grinned and turned back to the controls as he tried to get lower. "You guys got it yet?"

"Get us closer."

"Come on... I'm practically landing on their roof... and I really DOUBT if that roof is rated for something this size!"

Broots looked up helplessly. "S... sorry... The ship must be blocking the Ether net signal..."

"Great." Xander muttered. "Ok, hang on..."

Xander shifted the ship and centered it over a flat section of the building. "Go to the Ring room and transport down to the roof... You'll have to do your hack while on sight."

"On... sight?" Broots quavered, "Down there?"

"Come on hacker boy," Miss Parker growled, pulling Broots up to his feet.

"B... but I'm not supposed to be on sight... not me... Jarod can do this better anyway."

"Jarod is going to be busy." Miss Parker said, pulling him along, "Breaking into the vault."

"But... but..." Broots stammered as he was hauled physically out of the room.

Jarod looked over at Xander, "This changes the plan."

Xander nodded. "I know. I'll keep the ship in place... when you come out, just signal and I'll bring you aboard."

Jarod nodded. Then left, the rest of the group following him.

Xander sighed after they were all gone. "Damnit. I wanted in on the action."

The rings lifted back into the sky and vanished into the cloaked ship above them, and Broots shivered as he stared at the empty sky.

"I'm n... never going to get used to that."

"I know what you mean." Duncan said as he stepped clear of the group and looked around. "Now what?"

"Don't walk too far." Amanda warned, "First we need to disarm the security system... Mr. Broots, have you gotten into their LAN yet?"

He shook his head, "Not yet... but the signal's strong... give me a few more seconds... got it."

Amanda blinked. "That fast?"

Jarod smiled, "Broots is very good at what he does."

Broots looked up and around, smiling nervously. "Ok... I've looped the security cameras and deactivated the sensors between here and the vault."

"Good." Jarod said calmly, "let's go."

"G... go?"

"Unless you want to stay here alone, Mr. Broots." Jarod grinned.

Broots swallowed and nodded, folding his laptop and following behind the group as they headed for the stairs.

Xander stopped for a moment and looked up at the screen as everyone vanished into the building. "Hey! This was my idea! Why am I stuck driving!?"

His earpiece crackled to life an instant later. "Serves you right."

Xander growled, "Oh Shut up, Lara."

The were at the bottom of the stairwell and had just opened the door when Amanda put her hand out and stopped Jarod from going forward.


"What is it?"

She pulled a small aerosol out of her pocket and sprayed it into the room. The cloudy fog drifted into the center of the hallway and revealed a criss crossing set of lasers. "That."

Broots paled. "I... I don't get it... I shut off all the sensors."

Amanda shrugged, "An independent backup. Don't worry about it, Mr Broots. It probably isn't connected to the primary LAN."

"What do we do now?" Miss Parker asked quietly.

"See that control panel over there?" Amanda motioned casually as she dug something out of her bag.

Miss Parker looked down the long hall, squinting at the small panel on the far wall. "What good does that do us?"

Amanda smiled, "Watch and learn... Oh, MacLeod... remember Kiev?"

Duncan groaned but nodded as he looked down the hallway. "Not much to work with."

She smiled and brushed his jaw with her finger. "I've done more with less."

He sighed, "Let's get this over with."

Amanda grinned and stepped back as Duncan kneeled down and laced his fingers together. Amanda got a running start and charged at Duncan.

Miss Parker's eyes widened, "You've got to be..."

Amanda vaulted off of Duncan's hands as he whipped his hands up and over, sending her flying over the beams in the hallway.

"Kidding me." Miss Parker finished as she leaned over and saw Amanda grab a fixture and swing up against the ceiling, holding herself above the beams.

"Now for the tricky part." Amanda hissed as her arms trembled under her weight. She slowly began to inch her way down the fluorescent fixture, toward the end of the hall. About halfway down the fixture creaked and she felt it start to give way.

"Damn..." She hissed, holding her breath for a precious second. "I've gotta go on a diet."

She let her breath out and started moving again.

"She's very... limber." Jarod said as Amanda dropped down on the other side of the lasers and went to work on the panel.

"Keep dreaming rat boy." Parker growled in his ear, sending a shiver up Jarod's spine.

A flicker of light announced the deactivation of the lasers as Amanda turned around and smiled triumphantly. "Well, that was bracing."

Duncan shook his head and stepped into the hall, walking down toward Amanda. The rest followed behind him in various stages of surprise.

Xander noticed motion on his board and managed to focus on it with Elan's help. He frowned as he saw several vans arrive and people pour out of them and head into the building.

"Guys... we've got a problem."

"... problem."

"What is it Xander?"

"Bunch of vans just drove in... twenty people or so moving into the building. They're going slow, look relaxed... but they are going in."

"Damn." Jarod said as he looked at the imposing vault door. "Ok. Thanks for the heads up."

He walked up to Amanda, who was examining the vault door with a professional eye. "Impressive vault."

She nodded. "Xanatos Industries. They make some of the best."

"Five minutes." Jarod said.

Amanda looked at him oddly, "Seven."

Jarod smiled, "I guess I win the bid then."

"You've got four minutes, fifty-five seconds." Amanda smirked as Jarod went to work, pulling equipment out of his pouch.

Jarod slid a card sensor into the vault lock and examined a PDA. He set a routine running and examined the numbers as they flashed back.

A couple minutes later Amanda looked over his shoulder at the display and frowned. "You have eight different systems running there."

"I know," Jarod said slowly, not looking away from the display. "I have the processor working on all of them at once."

"But that's just going to slow the routine down..." Amanda objected.

Jarod didn't answer this time, he just kept staring for several more seconds, then shut the PDA down in mid process and tapped a number into the keypad. The Vault security light flickered off.

"How?" Amanda demanded as Jarod went to the other side of the Vault. "You didn't finish the process..."

"Didn't need to. I just used the routine to get a mental image of the pattern of the equation they used to program the number. I did the rest in my head."

"That was a thirty-two bit encrypted equation." Amanda objected.

"I know, that's why it took me three minutes." Jarod said as he examined the next stage of the lock.

Duncan looked at them, "Does anyone here know what they're talking about?"

Broots nodded.

Lara shrugged.

Miss Parker looked disgusted.

Duncan nodded. "Right. Shut up. Gotcha."

On the main floor of the building eighteen guards accompanied two men through the lobby.

"That was refreshing." The first said.

"Indeed. I do so love it when the seller doesn't bother to check the value of his 'investments'."

"We going to put this in the vault tonight? Or keep it up here to show to the boss?"

"Are you kidding me? This thing is worth billions in patents. I'm not leaving it in my desk for some common thief to steal."

"Come on Paul, this place is protected like Fort Knox."

"It's going in the vault."

The second man sighed, "Alright..."

The two men walked up to the elevator and pressed the button.

Jarod smiled as the final locking mechanism clicked open and grasped the huge vault door and pulled. It slid silently open on its big hinges, slowly revealing the sizable room on the other side.

"The elevator's moving!" Broots hissed as he looked up form his laptop, "It's coming down here."

Amanda jumped back from looking at the vault, "Turn the security for the hallway back on while I reactivate the laser grid."


"Just do it."

Broots shook his head and went back to work, mumbling as he did.

Amanda reached around the corner and deftly reset the security grid, reactivating the lasers just as she heard the elevator doors open.

"Everyone get ready." She hissed.

Everyone nodded and Lara drew her pistols.

"No." Jarod hissed from where he was standing. "No guns. Here."

Lara reflexively caught what he threw her and looked at it in consternation. "What the hell am I going to do with this?"

Miss Parker reached over her shoulder, "Press here..."

She did and jumped as the compact device popped open with a whine.

"Trigger is right there... One shot stuns, two kills... three... well, stay with one for now."

"I don't like this." Lara hissed, "I don't trust new weapons without a chance to test them."

"It works." Parker said as she activated her own weapon confidently, "Trust us."

The two men and eight of their security detail stepped off the elevator.

"Hold it." Paul said, "Have to shut down the laser grid."

He held up a remote and pressed a button, followed by a code, and the lasers went off. He then walked across the hall and entered a quick code into a wall panel, deactivating the other security sensors.

"Ok, come on." He said, walking toward the vault room.

Xander tensed, listening to the sudden drop in conversation from below. He kept the ship in place, but couldn't keep himself quiet.

"Are you guys alright?"

"Shhh..." Was his only answer, and he couldn't tell from who it came.

The ten men approached the vault room casually, Paul in the lead and his friend and the security men walking along relaxed behind him. He quickly tapped in his security code and grabbed the door handle as it buzzed, then walked into the darkened room.

"Strange... You want to catch the light?"

One of the security men casually slapped his hand against the wall, searching for the switch.

As the light came on Paul turned back toward the vault and was shocked into silence to see it open, a man in dark cloths wearing sunglasses of all things grinning at him as he leaned against the heavy door.

"Hi." The man said, waving.

Paul gaped.

Behind him he heard the security mean going for their weapons.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Came an accented voice from behind him, and Paul turned in time to see and man with long hair take down his lead security man with a series of lightning fast strikes that came straight out of a martial arts movie.

The other security men immediately drew their weapons, aiming at the man when a series of high pitched whines echoed through the room and they went down, shivering as blue electrical light buzzed through them.

In seconds, Paul was the only one of his group left standing. He shivered and looked at the people arrayed around him. "W... who are you?"

The man in the black leather and sunglasses shrugged, "That's a very complicated question... and I'm busy."

The man turned back to the vault and walked in with a tall brunette woman. Paul looked around nervously, licking his lips as he searched for a way out of the room.

"Uh uh." Another brunette said as she walked up to him, smiling ferally. "I think you should... sit right down over here."

She pushed him over to a chair and forced him down, he could see a nickel plated Smith and Wesson filling her small hand and just swallowed and did as he was told.

Inside the Vault Jarod and Amanda quickly ran through the items, their eyes gleaming. Albeit for different reasons.

"Ahhhh..." Amanda breathed as she emptied trays of gems into her leather bag. "There you are my beauties..."

Jarod rolled his eyes at her talking to the gems, but quickly was absorbed by the ranks of DSA disks stored in the vault. He pulled one out and carefully examined the label. "My god.... It's a backup of the Center's archives... and more."

The two of them went to cleaning the vault out, one grabbing anything worth money, the other packing away things of another nature entirely.

On the floor, unnoticed, one of the security men twitched slightly and opened his eyes. He remained utterly still as he tried to figure out what was going on around him. When he came to the realization that they were being robbed he slowly moved his hand until it reached his pocket.

In his pocket he pressed a button on a small device that instantly began blinking with a solemn red light.

"So," Miss Parker placed her foot on the chair between the prisoner's legs, leaning forward to growl at him. "What's your name?"


"Well p p paul," She mocked, "What's in the briefcase?"


"The one cuffed to your wrist."

"Oh... that briefcase." Paul looked down, then back at Miss Parker, "Nothing... papers, stuff like that."

"Really?" She smiled ferally. "Must be some important papers for you to be putting them in a vault this *secure*..."

Low chuckles echoed around the room as she spoke and John paled and shook his head. "No... no, I was just... just..." He trailed off, unable to think of an explanation.

"Let's have a look, shall we?" Miss Parker lifted the case up. "What's the combination?"

He shook his head. "I don't know."

"Oh come now," Miss Parker looked at him, her lips pursed in annoyance. "Must we go through the whole song and dance?"

Paul remained silent and Miss Parker lifted her Smith to brush lightly against his forehead. As the sweat began to bead on his brow she slid the muzzle of the imposing weapons down, sliding along his nose, then down his jaw line and along his throat. Paul kept staring into her cold eyes and sweating as he felt the muzzle trace a path down his chest and stomach. He flinched as it came to rest in his lap, her eyes having remained utterly devoid of any emotion the entire time. When she jabbed it forward into his crotch he jumped involuntarily and yelped. "Three nine five... THREE NINE FIVE!"

"Thank you." She smiled and clicked open the briefcase after sliding the gun back into its holster.

Jarod had just finished packing up the DSA's he had found when he heard Miss Parker's voice call out to him. "Jarod... you'd better come take a look at this."

Jarod came out curiously, slinging the pack with the DSA's over his shoulder. "What is it?"

"Have a look." She presented him with an object.

He looked it over, frowning as he tried to figure out what it was. It was a small box, about the size of a computer hard drive, but he didn't recognize the material it was built of. He turned it over, "What is it?"

"I don't know," Miss Parker admitted, "But it was important enough for him to put it in the vault."

Jarod looked at the small item, frowning as he noted the scorching on the side of it and tried to brush some of the char off of it. "There's something written here... looks like numbers. Hmmm, seven... four... six... five... I can't make out the other one... maybe a five? Maybe a six... could be a serial number."

"If he thinks it was worth putting in here, maybe we should take it too?" Miss Parker smiled. "Oh, there were some papers in his case too... didn't say much other then that they took it from the remains of Chronwerx Industries a few years ago."

"Chronowerx? They faded from the computer market in 97 after a terrorist incident the year before." Jarod grinned and shook his head, "Doesn't matter, if the Tower has one of their companies working on it then yeah... I think we'll take it."

Jarod tossed the device into his pack alongside the DSA's and looked back at the Vault, "Hurry up, Amanda!"

Xander blinked as something changed on the screen in front of him. <What the hell?>

He hesitantly tapped a few commands into the computer, and called up a new focus on the screen. His eyes widened and he let out a curse.

"Jarod! Jarod!"

Jarod placed a hand against his earpiece, "Yes, Xander?"

"You've got company coming in... they're flooding into the building. I think you're going to be cut off anytime now."

Jarod looked around sharply, "Got it. We're moving. Amanda! Move it!"

Amanda stuck her head out of the vault, annoyed. "What?"

"Alarm." Jarod said succinctly.

"Oh. Why didn't you say so?" She flashed him a grin as she slung a duffel bag over her shoulder. "Let's go."

On the ground floor of the building the security detail suddenly jumped as they found themselves surrounded by their own people.

"What the hell is going on!?" The lead man asked in consternation.

One of the new arrivals stepped forward, "We just got a silent alarm from Joseph's tracker."

There was a brief silence, "Shit. Joseph went down to the vault... Detail some men to take the stairs. We'll take the..."

The elevator suddenly chimed.

There were over thirty men in the lobby and they all snapped around, aiming their Igram submachine guns at the elevators doors as they slid open.

"Clear!" The lead man shouted, "It's empty."

He quickly motioned two men into the elevator to check it out. The went in slowly, holding their 9mm machine pistols ahead of them, searching for targets. From inside they turned around. "Nothing..."

"Ok," The lead man said, "you seven come with me."

The seven men he pointed too nodded and followed him onto the elevator. As the doors shut he snapped an order to the rest. "Cover the stairwells and send a team down to the vault room that way."

After the doors shut the next in command nodded. "You heard him. Move out!"

In the elevator the man hit a button and waited patiently for the elevator to start moving. When it didn't he frowned and hit the button again repeatedly.

"What the hell?"

He hit the emergency open button, and still didn't get a reaction.

"Fuck. Come on you piece of junk!"

He hit several buttons, and finally tried to pry open the doors. Nothing worked.


"Got ten of them locked up in the elevator."

"Good work, Broots." Miss parker grinned nastily.

"We've got another five coming down each of the two stairwells." Broots said, frowning at his laptop. "Could be trouble."

Parker looked over at Jarod, "Ambush them all here, or take our chances with half of them on one stairwell?"

Jarod glanced over the ground they had, noting how far apart the two stairwells were and how little cover there was. He jerked his head toward the closest stairwell, "Take our chances."

"Right." Miss parker agreed and the two of them took point as they led the group out of the Vault level.

"Unit three, this is base."

"Base, Three. Go."

"We're reading an intruder in the Security Network... We think we have a hacker."

"Well get rid of him."

"He's good sir. I don't think I can."

"What can you do?"

There was a pause.

"Shut it all down and set the security system to manual. All the sensors will come online and the cameras will feed directly to the security bunker. We won't be able to get exact information or interact with the system, but we'll be able to track the intruders."

"Do it."

"Damn it!" Broots cursed as the lights flickered out around them.

"What is it?"

Jarod answered for him. "They reset the security system. It's going to come online, they'll be able to track us."

"Can't Mr Broots hack it again?" Amanda asked quickly.

Broots shook his head, "No. They'll have shut down all the inputs... They'll be crippling their own abilities a bit, but they've cut me out completely."

"We'll worry about that later." Miss Parker said curtly, "We've got company coming down."

Jarod nodded and keyed his Zat to active mode.

"Team two, this is Central..."

"Go ahead central..."

"We've got some movement on the restored sensors in your stairwell below your position... proceed with caution."

"Affirmative, central."

The lead man clicked down his radio and he waved two of his men forward with a silent signal.

"What is it boss?" One of the two whispered.

"Security says we got movement below us. Pass the word."

The men nodded and one of the slunk back to tell the other two members of the team. Shortly they were moving down the stairs, this tome much slower and more carefully.


"What is it?" Jarod whispered, looking at Miss Parker.

She lifted a single finger to her ear and pointed straight up. Jarod nodded and moved slower, his zat leading as he slowly wound his way up the stairwell with Miss Parker at his side. He paused as he felt a tap on his shoulder and looked back.

The man, MacLeod, pointed to himself and then motioned up the stairs.

Jarod shook his head. <he wants to take point... why?>

MacLeod thumped his fist over his heart twice, then motioned up the stairs again. This time he didn't wait for the response, instead taking the lead. Jarod shook his head, annoyed, but quickly tapped MacLeod's shoulder. The man turned to look back at him and Jarod handed him the activated Zat, using motions to show where the trigger was.

MacLeod nodded, accepting the alien weapon as he quickly reviewed what he had heard earlier. <One shot only... One shot only.>

MacLeod and the lead elements of the security team came face to face a few moments later as they both tried to round the same corner.

Mac reacted first, his centuries of fighting giving him the edge in combat reflexes. The Zat in his hand spit electrical fire faster then he expected, and the four hundred and fifty year old immortal winced as the lead man took two shots before he could shift the aim. <DAMN!>

He kept his cool, forcing the emotion down in the heat of battle and struck out at the remaining people. The blue white electrical fire struck down two more in rapid fire motion before the spitting of the Ingram 9mm's buzzed in his ears.

The bullets struck him hard, stitching the Immortal from gut to shoulder as the man who fired it went down with his last shot. Duncan dropped to one knee, then fell face forward onto the steps, revealing the cold eyes of Miss Parker behind him.

The last standing member of the security team barely had time to widen his eyes and start to shift his aim as the electrical chirp of the zat echoed in the hall and he hit the ground himself.

"Jesus. He's dead."

Amanda rolled her eyes, "You haven't been listening have you? Someone pick him up... we have to get out of here."

Jarod shook his head and hefted Duncan's body into a fireman's carry, letting Lara take the remaining Zat and the point position with Miss Parker. "Let's go."

At ground level the group stopped moving as they heard another group coming from above them. From the voices and the clatter the group was making it was obvious that there were a lot more the five of them.

"Shit." Miss Parker cursed. "What now?"

Jarod nodded his head toward the fire door. "Someone check the lobby."

Amanda nodded and opened the door a crack. "Looks like another team out there... five... maybe a few more."

Jarod took a deep breath. "Ok... we go out that way. Xander," He said, activating his radio, "We can't make it to the roof."

Xander's voice crackled back over the channel. "On the move now, J-man... just get in the open."

The team in the lobby were a little nervous, they had just lost contact with unit three and unit one was still trapped in the elevator. Three men were trying to jimmy the doors open, but the damn things had been locked somehow and refused to budge.

Another four were nervously watching the stairwell that unit three had descended, but weren't overly worried since they had another three teams coming down that same stairwell.

That was what slowed their reaction when the doors opened.

Two figures pivoted out from behind cover, aiming some weird looking toys at them, and the next thing any of them knew was pain.

Xander shook his head as he slid the ship away from the building, heading for the main entrance. His heart was beating fast as he waited for the group to come out.

As the doors to the lobby burst open he broke into a grin when he recognized Lara and Miss Parker in the lead.

His blood ran cold, however, when the screens suddenly went wild with motion.

The group had just cleared the doors when the screamed orders split the night air.


Miss Parker pivoted, looking for a target, but suddenly the environment was what her old instructors would have called 'target rich'.

"Don't even think about it bitch!" A nasty voice ordered.

She sneered, but grudgingly lowered her Zat. "You don't know the half of it pal."

Beside her she could see Lara do much the same, dropping her hands to her side as the array of weapons were aimed at them.

The ring of security personnel closed around, and the group unconsciously tightened up as they did.

"Drop your weapons!"

Lara and Miss Parker looked at each other and nodded. The crouched down and lay their weapons at their feet.

"Now kick them away."

Both women started to move to obey when suddenly one of the security men cursed and shifted his aim.

Straight up.

"What the fuck is that!?"

They looked up as well. Above them hovered a mammoth floating vessel that defied all the laws of gravity and aerodynamics. Its huge form seemed to eclipse the sky as it slowly rotated around them.

Miss Parker shook off the shock as she realized who it had to be. She looked back, to see that almost to a man the security team had aimed their weapons at the ship. At that point the ear pieces of the team all crackled to life.

"Get closer together and pray."

They immediately tucked in closer as the rings fell down from the ship above and encircled them. As the stunned security team watched there was a brilliant flash of white light that shot up to the ship, then the rings retracted and there was nothing left.

Xander re-cloaked the ship as soon as the ring transport was confirmed and lifted away from the ground, heading once again for orbit. He breathed a sigh of relief as the haze of the atmosphere gave way to the brilliant clarity of space, then set the ship on automatic and headed for the ring room.

"You guys alright?"

They looked up from were Duncan was laid out to see Xander come in.

"All but him." Jarod replied.

Xander glanced down at Duncan, his face etched with concern as he glanced over to where Amanda was calmly checking her bag. "Will he be ok?"

"Huh?" She looked up, "Oh, yeah... sure. Wasn't anyone listening?"

"We know about Immortals Amanda... but we've never seen one 'die' before."

At about that time Duncan suddenly arced his back and took in a shuddering breath. He opened his eyes to see everyone looking at him. "What's everyone staring at?"

Jarod reached down and offered his hand, which Duncan accepted. Jarod then lifted the Immortal to his feet. "Thank you. One of use probably would have died if we'd gone first."

Duncan shrugged, then nodded. "No problem."

Xander shook his head, processing what he had just seen. As he did something caught his attention in the corner of his eye. "What's this?"

He walked over and kneeled down just inside the ring circle. There were pieces of metal that were sparking, and with a start Xander recognized them. "Oh Crap."


"The Zat's must have been caught half outside the ring... they're totaled."

Lara winced. "Sorry bout that."

Xander shook his head and shrugged it off. "Better them then you."

Then he sighed, "Better them then any of you. Let's go home."

"These are worth millions." Amanda practically cackled as she finished confirming the gem's authenticity and put them away again.

Duncan rolled his eyes as he slipped on a shirt Jarod had brought down from upstairs, "I'm so happy for you."

Xander shook his head, grinning. "What did you find J-man?"

Jarod looked a little grim. "More then I wanted."

Xander frowned and walked over. "How's that?"

Jarod shook his head, "The Center and The Tower have been pulling more dirty tricks over the years then even I knew. Kidnapping, assassination, blackmail... It's a long black list... and I helped them do most of it."


"My sims. My entire life... was turned into a textbook case of black bag tricks. Every sim I did to catch a criminal, they twisted to show one how to get away. Every security system I designed, was used to show someone how to slip through." Jarod took a shuddering breath as he looked through the index file on his DSA player, "They even managed to twist a sim I did for NASA. You want to know what really caused the Challenger to blow?"

Xander shuddered and backed away. "No thanks."

Duncan looked over, "Who are these people?"

"I don't know." Jarod said, "I used to think I did... but I don't know."

"What about this thing?" Lara asked, holding up the small device they had taken from the security man.

Jarod reluctantly put his DSA player aside and walked over, "I don't know. The lettering is English, so it's fairly recent... if it was taken from Chronowerx then it must be something to do with computers... but I don't see any communication ports... I'll take it upstairs and see if I can figure it out... could take a while though."

"Keep it." Amanda shrugged, "It's probably unique judging from how the guy was protecting it... so it'd be impossible to fence anyway."

Duncan snorted and Amanda smiled at him, "Hush. I'm just saying it like it is."

"Look, as interesting as all of this is," Duncan said, "I have to get back to Paris soon. Adam is going to kill me for pawning Wolf off on him for this long."

Amanda looked at him curiously, "You left Nick with M... Adam!? How could you!?"

"The damned boyscout was driving me up the wall." Duncan growled.

Amanda pealed with laughter, "Oh that's rich!"

"At least I don't go looking for trouble!" Duncan said defensively. "He reads about some obscure crime in the paper and bang! It's off on an investigation!"

Amanda looked at him sternly, "I asked you to train him, Duncan."

Duncan glowered at her, "And I know very well why you did. He's still pissed off at you for shooting him."

She pouted, "He was going to die... permanently. What was I supposed to do?"

"Ask him if he wanted to live forever?" Duncan smirked.

"Do shut up, Darling." Amanda growled.

"Ummm..." Xander broke in, "The domestic dispute aside, if you guys want to go I can run you back any time..."

"Good." Duncan said.

Amanda sighed, "Oh very well... I suppose I can do some more... shopping in London before I go back to New York."

Lara smirked and walked up behind Xander, whispering in his ear. "You going to pay up for the help?"

Xander shivered at the proximity of the beautiful woman but nodded.


"A... alright... let's go. I still have a promise to keep in Washington... anyone mind if we stop there first?"

Duncan looked about ready to object but Amanda brightened up, "Of course not! I have some excellent leads on... ummmm... a sale in Washington..."

"Sale." Duncan groaned, "Five finger discount I suppose?"

"Duncan!" Amanda reprimanded him in a shocked voice, "I am *not* some lowly shoplifter."

"Oh, and the difference is?"


Duncan groaned and everyone else just shook their heads.

Xander got up, "Ok... just let me grab a few things, make a phone call, and we'll get a move on..."

Washington DC

"Now where in the hell am I going to park this thing?" Xander muttered as he looked down at the city scape below him.

"Please tell me you're joking." Duncan muttered behind him.

Xander smiled over his shoulder, "Of course I am. A friend of a friend had a parking lot cleared for us... don't ask, long story."

Xander set the big ship down beside a much bigger building and set all the systems except the cloak to standby. Then he quickly led Duncan, Lara, and Amanda back to the ring room and they transported to the ground.

Outside they found themselves facing an interesting collection of people. Faith, The Taskers, Gill, and Spencer Trilby were standing calmly waiting for them as they approached.

"Kid." Trilby nodded as he recognized Xander.

Xander smirked, "Spence."

Harry and Gill flinched, their eyes widening as they each took a step away from their boss.

Trilby smiled around his cigar, his teeth giving his face a feral appearance and his single eye gleaming in the moonlight. Still, he didn't speak or comment as Faith stepped up to Xander.

She cocked her head and smirked at him, "Watch it boytoy. Uncle Spence is a scary guy."

"I'm not?" Xander grinned as he looped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

"Not to those who know you." She whispered, her breasts flattening against him, before pulling back. "Come on. I want to show you my home..."

"Sorry Faith... no time." Xander confessed. "I just came to keep my deal with Spence here."

This time Gill and Harry got well clear and even Helen stepped away, but Trilby didn't say anything. He just grinned and lifted a video cassette up, showing it to Xander. "We got a deal?"

"Deal?" Faith looked around, "What deal?"

Xander smiled, looking at the cassette, then nodded. "Sure. Ask away."

"How'd you do that teleporting shit?"

Xander shrugged, "Alien transport ship equipped with a transport system... real sci fi stuff."

Trilby stopped for a second, "No shit?"

"No shit."

"Where'd ya get it?"

"Stole it." Xander grinned.

Spencer barked with laughter. "Giving us human's a bad rep are ya?"

"Something like that." Xander grinned. No one around except Faith really got the joke.

"You said it was classified stuff... who classified it?"

Xander shrugged, "Congress I assume... At least some of them know about it. Can't tell you much more without getting into secrets that aren't mine."

"I get a tour?"

Xander grinned. "Sure. Come on."


Xander shrugged, "Thanks. I've really tried for that homey feel.. If you're a wannabe alien conqueror, you know?"

"It shows." Spencer said dryly as they finished up the impromptu tour.

"We have that deal?" Xander grinned.

Faith looked up again, "What deal already!?"

"Sure kid." Trilby flipped him the video cassette, "Enjoy. I had it edited especially for you... Multiple camera angles from every agent we had on site..."

"Thanks." Xander grinned.

"Xander..." Faith growled, "What the hell is this deal!?"

Xander grinned and shrugged, "I don't really know actually... something about a nutjob with a nuke..."

Faith turned on Trilby, "You didn't!??"

He just grinned at her, around the cigar in his mouth. "Sorry kiddo, just had to know about this ship."

"But I was *crying* on those tapes!" Faith waved her fists in the air.

Xander brightened up quickly, "Really!? Man, wait till Buffy and Willow see this..."

Faith turned back on him faster then he would have thought possible and made a lunge for the tape. Xander danced back, barely keeping it out of her grip. "Now now... behave!"

"I'm not a dog, Xander!" Faith grunted as she tried again.

Xander kept his distance, grinning like a fool. "That you certainly aren't.... Come on, Faith... I'll cut you a deal..."

Faith paused, then looked at him suspiciously, "What kind of deal?"

"How about a vacation?"

Faith shook her head, "No deal. Give!"

Xander danced back again, "Now calm down... you haven't heard the whole offer..."

"You've got twenty seconds."

Xander grinned, "How would you feel about spending the summer in Europe?"

Croft Manor
A Week Later

Xander and Faith faced off on the mats of Lara's gym, taking advantage of the facilities to keep in practice.

Xander bowed to her for the eighth time that day, not taking his eyes of her out of habit. Faith had used that particular trick one time too many. He winced as the bruises he had reminded him that she was up by six matches for the day, and that the one of them she hadn't won was barely a draw.

Faith looked bored, "You gonna stand there all day, or are ya gonna work for it?"

Xander shifted into a combat stance, deliberately using a stance he knew Faith was familiar with. Enough was enough, the only way to beat a Slayer was to surprise them. "Come on then, clock in."

Faith grinned at him and charged.

As she halved the distance between them Xander shifted into a new stance, using the techniques Elan had been teaching him in the Dreaming. His right leg lifted almost completely off the floor, his toes just brushing the mat. His right arm swept up, his hand open and loose, and stopped in a crane position at the level of his forehead.

He mentally 'switched' on some of the techniques that Elan had been force feeding him in the Dreaming, his eyes automatically moving into 'enhanced' mode as he prepared to meet the Slayer.

Faith didn't pause her charge as she brought her fist up in a punch.

Time seemed to slow slightly as he watched her approach, his mind already planning it's next move.

Xander's right hand snaked out just as she entered his range and, to his mind, brushed against the center of her chest in a light graze.

Faith's eyes widened in shock as her upper body just *stopped* in place, her legs sweeping up and off the ground.

Xander automatically twisted to one side to avoid her feet, then swept her legs with his left arm. Her body inverted in mid air until she was completely upside down, then Xander applied more pressure to the back of her knees and spun her the rest of the way around, until she had spun 360 degrees in mid air.

Then he caught her and held her cradled in her arms. He grinned at her shocked expression. "So... call this one a draw?"

Faith coughed, her face a mask of surprise. "H... how the hell?"

"Been working on some old moves." Xander said.

He heard a metal snort echo through his head. <Do not blame me for that one Alexander. My lessons did not cover a maneuver as useless as that.>

Xander smirked, both at Faith and internally at Elan. <Just applying your theories to the real world, Elan.>

"Alright, Xan... You can put me down any time." Faith scowled at him.

He kept grinning as he dropped her to the ground.

"What was *that*?"

They both turned in surprise to see that they had a spectator.

"Hi Lara." Xander said as he reached for a towel.

"Hi." She said, "You didn't answer the question."

Xander grinned, "That was a little bit of Kani'Maro with a lot of Xander Harris mixed in."

Faith glanced over, "Kani'what!?"

"Maro." Xander said, "It's sort of like a cross between Akido and Kung-Fu... with a lot of other stuff mixed in."

"Never heard of it."

Xander nodded, "No surprising. No one has in eight thousand years or so...."

"Shit." Faith cursed, "The babe in the chain mail bikini been giving you lessons in fighting? No fair!"

Xander laughed, "All's fair, Faith."

Lara looked blankly between them. "Babe in the chain mail bikini?"

"Long story." Xander said, still grinning. "Anyway, Kani'Maro is more meditation then fighting actually... It's about making use of the energy of combat... going with the flow instead of trying to fight it."

Faith rubbed her chest where Xander had struck her, then looked down to see five red spots in an almost perfect pentagon just below her neck. "Ouch... I can't believe you hit me that hard with your fingers..."

Xander shrugged, "I didn't."

"Could've fooled me." Faith grumbled as she rubbed the sore spot.

"It's a variation of a Kung-Fu technique called 'deft touch'," Xander explained, "Basically it's a method of transferring energy more efficiently... sorry if I hurt you."

"Hell no, Lover." Faith grinned, "Just a bruise to my pride and some welts to my skin. Slayer healing'll fix one up real easy... the other, well... I'll fix that up myself next time we spar."

Xander swallowed hard as he saw the feral gleam in the Slayer's eyes. <Shit. I should know better then to practice new fighting moves on a Slayer.>

Elan gave him a mental shrug, <They say God loves Fools... you seem to prove the point.>

<Oh shut up.>

Lara shook her head, "I'll have to test myself against that later as well... but for now you have a debt to repay."

Xander groaned as he nodded and followed the woman out of the gym.

Xander stared at the ancient Mayan dialect, his eyes burning as he listened to Elan give him a quick translation of the text.

"This one's talking about a temple to a sun god... Sounds vaguely like a Goa'uld..."

"A what?"

Xander yawned. "Goa'uld. Long story... I'll fill you in another time... anyway, it says here that the temple holds the secret to eternal youth... probably a regenerative sarcophagus."

Lara lifted an eyebrow, "You think it's legitimate?"

Xander yawned again and nodded, "Sure... but it's not something you'd want to use on yourself."

"Why not?"

"Wrong brain chemistry. The Sarcophagi were designed for a different species... they work fine on human bodies, but they degrade human neural patterns with each use... not too bad if you use it once or twice... but its cumulative."

"Brain damage?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah. Specifically it tends to degrade the parts of the brain that keep someone from acting on their darker impulses... Use it too much and it turns you into a sociopath."

"Ouch." Lara said, wincing.

"Big time." Xander replied as he tried to stifle another yawn.

Lara smiled at him, "Bored are we?"

"No offence, Lara... but this stuff is putting me right to sleep. Besides, I've translated enough to pay my debt." Xander gave her a lopsided smile in return.

Lara grudgingly nodded, "Suppose I wanted you to help me with some more?"

"What've you got to offer in return?" Xander borrowed a page from Faith's book and leered lightly as he spoke.

She pursed her lips at him, "You wish."

"True," Xander grinned. "But that's beside the point."

Lara thought about it, "You and Faith like motorcycles, right?"

Xander nodded slowly, "yeah... we've got a set of BWM racing editions... well, I have one anyway... I kinda wrecked Faith's trying to catch the Watcher team that kidnapped her. Don't tell Faith, ok? Jarod has them doing a rush job on the repairs..."

She laughed, "fair enough. How about some driving lessons?"

"I know how to drive a bike...."

"No... I mean *real* driving lessons."

Xander raised an eyebrow, "Keep talking."

Two Weeks Later
Sunnydale California

Xander throttled down his BMW and pulled up to the curb by the Summer's residence. He unstraddled the bike and flipped his helmet off and smiled as he walked up to the house.

<Damn. It actually feels good to be back in the 'dale.> He mused as he range the bell.

His musings were cut short as the door was ripped out and a blurred form tackled him from inside.

<What the...!?> Xander screamed mentally as he was thrown back, tumbling across the lawn. As he came to a rest he opened his eyes to find himself staring into a wide pair of accusing eyes.

"Xander!" Dawn screamed as she wincingly picked herself up. "That's twice in a row! Why didn't you catch me!?"

Xander groaned and got up slowly, but didn't get a chance to reply. <I can't believe I forgot about her... WHO is SHE!?>

<Unknown, Alexander.> Elan replied, <But she is more then she seems.>

<Yeah, yeah, I know... We'll have to figure it out later... any suggestions?>

<Only one way I know, Alexander...>

<Ah hell.> Xander mentally cursed before bringing himself back to reality.

"DAWN!" Buffy screamed at her sister from the door, "Are you trying to kill him?"

"It's not my fault!" Dawn whined as he rubbed her elbow where she skinned it.

"Oh, I suppose I threw you at Xander?" Buffy asked bitingly.

"He always catches me!"

"Oh? Then why did you just scrape yourself off the ground?"

"I... He... It wasn't my fault!"

Xander winced again as he straightened up, "It's all right... I'm fine... and can I just say... Ow!"

Dawn immediately turned contrite. "I'm soo sorry, Xander... I thought you'd catch me this time..."

Xander walked toward the house again, Dawn at his side. "S'alright, Dawn... patrol... I'll live."

Dawn smiled widely at that and hugged him as they walked. "Good... I'm so glad that you're back! How was London?"

"Not bad... Paris was cool too."

"Paris?" Buffy looked up, "You... like, went to Paris?"

"Yeah," Xander nodded, "Amanda had some business over there..."

"You mean she had something to steal." Buffy growled as she closed the door behind Xander and Dawn.

"No, actually she got me to help her and some friends take out a terrorist... She's got this pal, his name's Nick... cool guy, but a bit stiff. You'd like him." Xander said with a slight smile.

"Really? What's he look li..." Buffy trailed off, "Hey! Are you calling me stiff??"

Dawn giggled as Xander lowered himself into the couch, sighing as he did. "Of course not, Buffster... Who could ever call *you* stiff?"

"Right." Buffy said defensively... "I'll have you know that I'm loose... like really loose..."

She trailed off as Xander raised his eyebrows and stared at her with a leer, "Really?"

"Not like that!" She blushed, "Alright, forget it.... I hope you paid off those 'debts'?"

Xander nodded, looking tired at the thought. "Yeah... Help Lara translate some ancient text, help Amanda steal some gems, help Lara locate a three thousand year old temple, help Amanda steal some more gems..."

"Steal? Like burglary? That's so cool!"

"It is NOT!" Buffy yelled out again, "I'll thank you Xander to NOT give my little sister ideas like that... last thing we need is for the little ditz to turn klepto on us!"

Xander chuckled and sat back, "Relax, Buff... We did the job against a company that had it coming... almost a Robin Hood thing..."

"What do you mean... almost?"

Xander shrugged, "Well, we kept the money of course."

Buffy let out a growl of frustration while Dawn just laughed.

Dawn poked Xander, "So what else did you do?"

Xander shrugged, "Learned to drive..."

"You already know how to drive..." She objected.

"Not like this. Lara took us to this skidpad north of London... high speed driving course crammed into a little over a week... Bikes and Cars... good fun."

"Cool." Dawn said, and even Buffy looked interested. "What else?"

Xander smiled at her, wondering inwardly at the source of the odd child's enthusiasm. "Here... check this out..."

Xander produced a pair of handcuffs from his belt and passed them to Dawn, she looked at them curiously then grinned back. "Who were these for? Lara, Amanda, or Faith?"

Xander had to catch his breath from the chock of that question, and he reddened perceptibly.

"Dawn!" Buffy yelled.

Xander finally settled on a smirk and a non-response. "Check em out, Police issue... Nick gave 'em too me."

"Cool. How come?"

"Amanda wanted to show me something." Xander grinned, took the cuffs back, and snapped them on his wrists. "Solid right?"

Dawn grinned and checked the cuffs, "Yeah... and might I say, I *like* this image..."

Xander rolled his eyes as Buffy glared at her sister, scandalized. Then he flipped his wrists out of sight, worked the cuffs for a few seconds, and flashed his wrists back up. The nickel plated cuffs were hanging from his index finger.

"That is SO cool!" Dawn gushed. "Can you show me!? Please?"

Xander leaned in and whispered, "Sure... but later. I don't think your sister would appreciate me teaching you how to pick locks."

"You will NOT show her how to pick locks!" Buffy stepped in, "And stop trying to teach my sister to be a felon."

Dawn sat back on the couch in a sulk. "Damn her Slayer hearing."

Xander leaned back and winked at Buffy, "Come on Buff, you never know when someone in this group might need to get out of handcuffs..."

Buffy crossed her arms and sat back, looking at Xander pointedly, "If I even hear of you putting my sister in handcuffs I'll tell Mom."

Xander looked back at Dawn, "Sorry kiddo... that's checkmate."


X&J's Place

Xander settled down onto the mat of the gym, the doors were sealed and he was nude except for a towel. He took a deep breath, then began to center himself and prepare to slip back into the Dreaming as he had been doing regularly for months.

This time though, he had a pressing reason.

The room became deathly silent as his breathing slowed and his slipped past the level of conscious thought.

Seconds ticked by, then minutes. Finally an hour and a half passed. The Xander's eyes snapped open.


<Perhaps... Perhaps that is more accurate then you believe, Alexander> Elan said in a hushed tone. <She is... powerful beyond anything you've faced.>

Xander shook his head, "I know but... she's... Innocent."

<That as well. If I am correct, she is newly created... and that speaks of massively powerful magicks, Alexander... Beyond anything a mortal can do... Only the Creator could sanction the addition of a Soul to a newly minted being...>

"What do we do?"

Elan's response was as direct as it was simple. <Protect her until we are informed as to her reason for being. Or at least her reason for being *here*.>



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