Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Summary : A promise give is a promise kept in the world of Xander Harris.

Rating : MA

Disclaimer : BTVS and other crossovers do not belong to me, I'm just playing with them for mine, and the readers, enjoyment.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

"It's time."

Xander nodded, rising and lifting the small black box from it's place beside him on the table. "Well, Pal, sorry this took so long, but I thought you'd appreciate quality construction."

The entity in the black box couldn't hear him, however, it's external connections to sensing systems had been cut off when he removed the box from the makeshift center they'd built for the AI. Xander spoke more to comfort himself as he walked out of the office and down into the open garage area.

They were in the Sunnydale headquarters of Good Knight Security, a subdivision of Xander's own Renaissance Technologies Incorporated. GK Sec was also where he employed people who didn't quite pass security requirements for full disclosure of Avalon and the Knighthood. Sometimes the reason for that was as simple as them not having been tested in their reactions to the weird and wacky world of the real, other times it was more serious security considerations.

The Sunnydale HQ was a former factory slash warehouse built down on the docks. They'd refurbished it, repainting the entire building a gleaming white, and extended it out over the water to allow for the parking of boats like the 579, as well as cover for other vehicles from Avalon. The gleaming black letters of the company's name were twenty feet high along the top of the outer wall, and were actually visible for miles.

They advertised as a home and business security firm, providing extremely reasonable 'trial' periods to anyone who wanted better protection than the local PD provided, and in short order GK Sec had scooped up a majority of Sunnydale's business, providing them with legal authority to patrol the streets and even order the local PD out of any areas where they didn't hold a clear jurisdiction.

Detective Stein and Chief Simmonds were less than amused.

Xander, for his part, didn't give a damn.

Still, those considerations were for later. For the moment, he had something else to do. He approached one of the engineers who had completed the work on KARR's new body and nodded in greeting.

"Is that... him?" Julian Wilkes asked, eyeing the box with a mix of eagerness and trepidation.

Xander nodded, handing KARR's core components over, "Take good care of him, Julian."

The engineer nodded, carefully taking the core and then moved around to the passenger side of the vehicle. He popped open a fake glove compartment, then slid the box in until he felt the contacts lock and the cover snapped back into place.

"That should do it."

"That's it?"

"He was built to be, at least partially, modular," Wilkes replied frowning.

"KARR? Pal?" Xander asked, walking around the gleaming black hood, "Are you there?"

The front sensor, an elongated triangular slit in the front of the hood pulsed, then slowly lit up as a red light traversed from left to right and back again. Then, finally, KARR's rumbling voice spoke out.

"I am."

Xander let out a breath of relief and a smile, "Thank you, Julian. You do good work."

Julian Wilkes looked over his creation, as much of it as he could consider his at any rate, and smiled in satisfaction. "Thank you, Sir."

The gleaming black sports car was, externally, a Dodge Viper RT/10. It's aggressive stance was accented by the low profile, high speed tires, and the almost angry sweep the modified hood gave it. Internally, it was completely and totally unique.

The powerful aluminum ten cylinder engine had been yanked from under the hood, along with almost all of the internal workings, and replaced with four small, yet powerful, electric motors located at each wheel. The power system was a hydrogen fuel cell that would operate on any hydrocarbon fuel in a pinch, though it's preferred drink was pure Hydrogen.

Xander had considered using a Naqueda based generator, but the potential for mayhem had been a bit too high. Hydrogen, properly stored, was a good deal safer than what would happen if a cascade effect overtook a Naqueda reaction. A versatile fuel cell was better, all around, for the moment.

The shell was, of course, molecularly bonded using a combination of Wilton Knight's original formula with some tinkering by Wilks and Merlin. Without base comparisons on the new formula used by Knight Industries, Xander had no idea how it would stand up toe to toe with KITT, but he was certain that KARR was at least in the same league again. Likewise KARR's frame was bonded with the same process, giving him the near invulnerability the AI had come to find natural.

"Try moving, uh, KARR..." Wilkes said, looking down at the projected computer screen of his portable field Comp.

The Viper jerked forward hesitantly, slamming to a stop then moved again. Slowly the motor control improved, but for the first few minutes Xander and Wilkes took great care not to be too close.

"He's having trouble adapting the new circuits," Wilkes said, "This was anticipated."

Xander nodded, he'd read the files. The AI basically integrated the vehicle it was in like a human integrated it's body. Reflexive movement wasn't software based, but actually encoded into the hardware of the AI's adaptive core. KARR was now trying to recode all those impulses that had been designed to control his previous body.

It was one of the reasons why a modular 'hot swap' solution hadn't been proposed. The learning curve on integrated a new body was actually painful for the AI, much like a human trying to learn how to walk again after a bad accident.

"I understand," Xander said, patting KARR on the hood as he stepped clear, "Just keep at it, Pal. You'll be back in top form in no time."

The vehicle just rumbled slightly, not bothering to speak. Xander wasn't bothered by that, he knew that KARR was the strong silent type and didn't actually intend to give offense by it's silence.

"Run him around the floor here for now, then let him rest for the night," Xander told the engineer, "We'll start the drive course tomorrow."

"Yes Sir."

"I'll be back later, pal," Xander said, "I've got to check up on another project."

KARR rumbled again, it's sensor light sweeping back and forth, then continued to move in it's halting manner as almost every motion had to be calculated by the AI's relatively slow software.

Maria Sanchez glared at the people who were working on her 579, planting her hands on her hips as she caught one of them loading the wrong pallette.

"Hey! That goes on last!" She bellowed, "If there's trouble I do NOT want to be crawling over the food to get to the ammo!"

A low chuckling behind her caused her to turn around and see her 'boss' walk up behind her.

"Take it easy on the help, Maria," Xander Harris grinned, "They're new."

She snorted in response, "I learned a long time ago that any trip you're sponsoring is bound to kick me in the face. I want to be able to get to that ammo if I need it."

Xander raised his hands, still laughing, "No argument. But still, this one *should* be fairly calm."

"Says you." Maria snarled, "Last time we were out there, some freaking monster tried to eat my boat."

"Even the Guardian would have a hard time with her now," Xander said simply.

That much was true, Maria conceded. The 579 had been thoroughly upgraded, uparmored, and uparmed. Originally they had been equipped with mostly World War Two weapons, with some exceptions like the Mark 50 torpedos. The ship's armor had been nonexistent, as her original wood construction would indicate.

The PT Boat's protection had been her speed, which they'd sacrificed for legs by installing Diesel engines in. All in all, despite the weaponry, the 579 hadn't been remotely combat worthy by any modern standard.

The fact that they'd taken her into combat anyway was a mark against both Harris' and her own sanity in Maria's opinion.

Now, however, things had changed.

The 579 had been stripped to the decks, and then even some of those had been ripped out. She'd been rebuilt out of lightweight composites to the original design specs, then had a layer of molecularly bonded armored carefully applied. Inside, her systems had been completely tore out and replaced with the best mix of modern and Atlantean sensors and control suites the Knighthood could lay their hands on, and her sluggish diesels had been tossed in favor of a pair of high powered electric turbines powered from a Naqueda reactor.

Her weapons were mostly still the old WW2 systems they'd originally installed, but now those were all slaved to the fire control systems housed on the lithe fighting ship's bridge. Even WW2 weapons packed more than enough punch to take on anything short of a modern cruiser or Alien warship. In those cases, she still packed Mark 50 torpedos, and they'd added a couple more surprises for worst case scenarios.

All in all, Maria found herself the Captain of a eighty foot ship that could probably take on anything up to a US Navy task force and have at least a fifty fifty chance of sailing away.

Not bad for a woman who had once consigned her future to ferrying tourists around on short sight seeing jaunts, if she did say so herself.

"Almost ready?" Xander asked, shaking her out of her thoughts.

She glanced up as another forklift wheeled into position, dropping off a pallet of electronics supplies, then checked off another notch on her list before nodding. "Almost. We'll be ready to take her down through the canal by the end of the week."

"Good. I want to keep this quiet, but we'll have air support in case we have to deal with the guardian."

"Good." Maria said curtly. "I don't want to lose her to some overgrown lobster."

Xander smiled, "Understood, Captain."

Sweat poured down her face as Buffy danced clear of the kick, sweeping her arm up in a curved strike that caught her opponent's leg under the calf and added more force to the swing.

Faith grunted in surprise as she overbalanced, her foot sliding on the mat as her weight shifted, and she started to fall backwards. She went with the motion, though, once it became clear she wasn't getting out of the fall, and landed hard on her shoulders as she balled her legs up to her chest and kicked back out.

The force of the kick snapped her off the mats, pivoting her in mid air, and she landed right back on her feet just in time to block Buffy's next strike to her face.

"Getting good, B." She grinned, her mane of hair flowing around her face.

"Thanks *F*," Buffy responded sarcastically as she dropped into a sweep, almost catching Faith again only to have the brunette hop over the sweep.

"Uh uh," Faith grinned, snapping a kick out to Buffy face that sprawled the blond backwards, "You'll have to do better than that."

Buffy hit the mat hard, but rolled back in a shoulder roll that brought her back to her feet in time to catch Faith's follow up kick on her crossed arms. "If you insist."

Neither noticed that Xander had just entered the room behind them, and paused to lean on the door frame and watch with a bemused smile on his face.

Chapter 2

Slayers held a certain magnificence when they were in their element.

Xander watched as Buffy caught Faith's descending heel strike on crossed arms, powering up before Faith could withdraw her foot, pushing the dark haired Slayer off her balance. Faith was nothing if not flexible, however, and she pushed forward as Buffy forced her leg up until it was vertical, the sole of her foot pointed straight at the ceiling as Faith struck out with a combo punch that staggered Buffy back.

The blond stumbled back, red marks flashing on her face as the strikes raised welts. Faith swept her foot out and around, shifting her stance before lunging forward with a flurry of blows.

Buffy parried them, falling back under the assault until Faith snapped a front kick to her midsection that lifted the blond off the mats.

"Ooof!" Buffy yelped, the air rushing out of her lungs as she landed, crumpling to her knees in pain.

As she gasped, Faith went for the finish, only for Buffy to roll under the jab, and come up a short distance away still trying to catch a breath.

Faith spun around on her heel, ready to move in, but Xander interrupted them.


Both fighters paused, looking over their shoulder at him as Xander stepped onto the mat.

"What's up, X?" Faith asked curiously.

"Both of you," He half smirked, waggling his fingers. "Come on."

"You're nuts." Buffy said, shaking her head.

Faith just grinned, "Boytoy, you ain't half bad, but even you can't take on both of us."

"If you keep fighting like that, I could take five of you," Xander replied cooly as he tossed his jacket to the side and stepped into the middle of the mat. "Now come on."

Buffy shifted slightly, eyes swinging over to look at Faith.

Faith just shrugged, the joking tone melting away, "If that's the way you want it, X. Let's rock."

"Are you both nuts?" Buffy asked, "Faith, Xander isn't even nearly as fast or strong as we are! We'll hurt him."

"I've tried to kill X before, he's tougher than he looks," Faith said, moving out to one side as she stretched her muscles.

Buffy gaped at the younger girl, then back over at Xander, "I... I can't..."

"Don't worry about me, Buff," Xander smiled, "It'll give me an excuse to call Paige."

Faith snorted, a hint of humor coming back, "If you're that desperate for a toss, I'll give ya a ride, X, you just have to ask."

"You take me down, Faith, I'll give you anything you want." Xander replied with a lopsided grin.

Faith grinned, "I'll hold you to it."

Buffy looked between them in disgust, "Do you two really need to do all that flirting??"

Xander and Faith both shrugged, then nodded.


"Let's finish this before you both strip down and go at it like bunnies here on the mats," Buffy said dryly, taking a fighting stance.

Faith grinned, though her eyes were cool as she looked at Xander, and Xander just shrugged and smirked slightly. They both slipped into their own fighting stances.

Faith's was a modified Spec Ops aggression stance, her hands held close to her body as her feet shifted to stand ready to propel her forward. Buffy's hands were out in front of her in a classic karate stance, legs cocked in a half crouch. Xander, on the other hand, just stood limply, his arms at his sides as he looked between them.

"You ready boytoy?" Faith asked, smirking cooly.


Buffy blinked as Faith lunged forward in a flash, throwing herself forward a full three strides behind Faith as the dark haired fighter already reached Xander. Xander just bent to one side as Faith arrived, letting her fist whistle past his ear, then hit her with his shoulder as he snapped straight again.

The force snapped Faith off the ground, throwing her across the room and flat into the far wall even as Buffy arrived. Buffy snapped out two hard strikes, shocked as Xander bobbed out of reach of both blows, never moving more than the exact inch he had to. She growled, unleashing a roundhouse punch that would have knocked him into the next century, only to suddenly howl in pain as a lance of agony roared up her side.

Buffy fell to the side, hands clutching her side as Xander twisted just in time to block Faith's rushing strike on his arm. He twisted his arm around her's, then twisted around with her in an arm-bar, throwing her across where Buffy was laying. The two girls spun in a crumpled heap as Xander sat down crosslegged on the mats.

"Give up?"

Faith snarled, untangling herself from Buffy, and started toward him only to be stopped by Buffy's moans of pain. She paused, looking back, and stared, "Christ, X! What did you do to her?"

"Nerve pinch." Xander replied, "Pretty painful."

"Well undo it!" Faith snapped.

"Why don't you?" Xander shrugged.

Faith glared at him, "I don't know how!"

"I wonder why that is, huh?" Xander asked, walking around them as Buffy continued to clutch her side. "I've tried to teach you enough times."

"I told you, X, I don't need that meditation crap!"

"So help her." Xander said simply.

Faith looked down at Buffy, then back at Xander, fists clenched. "Fuck you, X! You know I don't know how!"

"Then I guess maybe you'd better learn the meditation crap, huh?" Xander asked, kneeling down by Buffy and pressing his fingers into her back.

She let out a loud yelp, then a sigh as the pain vanished almost instantly, leaving her suddenly feeling like she'd never been anywhere quite as comfortable as the stuff gym mats of the practice room.

Faith glared at Xander, but he just let it pass right through him as he stood up.

"Next time," He told her, "You'll be on the ground holding your side. It's your choice if you want to know how to undo it by then or not."

As he turned and walked out, Faith glared at his back.

"Fuck, X can be a cold bastard sometimes," She muttered, looking down at Buffy. "You ok, B?"

Buffy nodded, wincing. "What was that?"

"X and his mojo." Faith muttered, "He used you to make a point to me."

"And here I thought he was making a point to me," Buffy whispered, not wanting to move much just then.

Faith shrugged, "Probably was. X doesn't waste much."

"Yeah, I noticed." Buffy said softly. "How'd he do that anyway?"

Faith shrugged, "Don't know."

"You think he'll teach me?"

Faith shook her head, rolling her eyes, "Yeah. I'd say he was making a point to both of us."

Willow's eyes gleamed as she flipped through her course schedule, cross referencing the text books against her list.

"Did you hear?" She asked, not looking up, "The school got new computers and a new teacher for them and everything!"

"Oh, who cares?" Jessie asked, his feet up on the table she was leaning over. "Xander has the right idea, screw the school stuff."

"You can't say that!" Willow gaped, not liking the fact that Xander had chosen not to return to Sunnydale High in the following year, and liking her other friend's attitude even less. "You need an education!"

"Xander seems to do ok without it."

"Sure, you planning on getting a freelance job for the CIA too?" Jonathan asked, not looking up, "Hate to break this to ya, Jess, but you can't hit the ground with a rifle."

"Like you're so much better," Jessie replied, folding his arms in annoyance. It's not like it was his fault, marksmanship wasn't as easy as it looked, that was all.

Jon just shrugged.

Jessie sighed, "So what are your plans this year, Jon?"

"I'm going to try out for the school team," Jonathan said quietly.

Jessie and Willow looked at each other and blinked.

"T-team?" Willow asked.

Jonathan nodded, "Yeah... I figure the coach is going to need someone to take Xander's place."

"Oh now look who has delusions of grandeur," Jessie smirked.

"Hey!" Willow snapped, tossing a scribble at him. "At least he's trying out for something."

Jessie blocked the scribbler on his arm, yelping, "Hey! Come on, don't throw stuff!"

"Why not?" Willow smirked at him.

"Cause that's MY job!" Jessie replied, flinging the scribbler back, then tossing one of the couch pillows too.

Willow squealed and ducked away, going for the side of the couch to hide behind the arms as she flung another pillow back.

"Take that! And that! And some of that!" Jessie grinned, raining padded blows down on the ducking redhead.

He was still continuing to do so as she squealed in protest right up to the point where a heavy blow thuded along the back of his head, bowling him over. Jessie shook his head as he picked himself up off the ground and looked behind him.

"What the...?"

Jon was grinning, holding one of the sofa's seat cushions. "Oops?"

"Oh it is SO on!"

Willow shrieked, now caught between the two boys as they swung pillows and cushions at each other. "Not me! Don't hit me! Help!"

"Ten points for the redhead!"



Chapter 3

A thump from downstairs startled Tara as she heard steps rapidly climb the stairs, she glanced up from her reading just as Faith stomped past the door, paused, and looked in at her.

"Hey, Tiger," Faith said, "What are you doing?"

"N-nothing!" Tara sputtered, snapping her book closed.

Faith raised an eyebrow but didn't comment, "K, look, I've got to get patched up, but me and B are going out to do some shopping later. You interested?"

Tara nodded, "K... T-thanks."

"No prob. We need to blow off some steam," Faith told her, ducking back out, "Be back in a few!"

Tara nodded, though the other girl was gone, and then she hesitantly returned to her book after reaching out to gently push the door closed.

Cordelia Chase brought her Vette to a stop outside the mansion that belonged to Xander Harris and sighed as she leaned her head against the wheel.

This was the single most peaceful place in town, she'd found.

Tara and Jacks had helped her at her home by laying wards to protect the house, but the ones here were far stronger. They'd built up power over time, Jacks had told her, plus the sheer power of the people who lived there, combined with the presence of their occasional 'visitors' had gone to work counteracting the force of the Hellmouth in this limited area.

She wasn't really sure she understood it all, but she could feel the difference when she crossed the imaginary line that separated Xander's 'place' from the rest of the town.

Still, things were getting better, she thought as she opened the door and stepped out of the sports car. Cordelia was dressed in what she called 'business formal', though without the hints of sexuality she would normally have put into it. She had no makeup, and her hair was clean but lacked the lustrous shine she used to take the time to ensure was there.

All in all, Cordelia thought she looked like someone's secretary, but it generally kept the attention off her, which was literally like lifting a weight off her mind.

She was getting better at muting emotions, though. She could create a song, or more of a harmony, with Maro in the back of her mind and use it to mute the feelings she got from others, but it took work and she couldn't focus on much of anything else in the process.

She walked cautiously into the house, looking around, "Hello?"

There was no response, so Cordy just closed the door and sighed. There were people there, the light buzz in the background was enough to tell her that. It felt like Faith, and Tara... The little girl, well young girl slash cat, Miki too. Those three were such emotional extremes that they were easy to identify.

There were other's as well, but they were all mushed together. Excited, happy, playful, energetic.

A squeal from the den told her that was probably where those were, so Cordy went the other direction toward the kitchen.


"Oh!" Cordelia jumped when Buffy spoke up, startled.

She'd been focusing on the brighter emotions so strongly, she'd completely missed Buffy's presence.

"Sorry," Buffy said, looking concerned, "You ok?"

"I'm fine." Cordy snapped, then sighed. "Sorry. Just... wired."

Buffy nodded, "You want a drink?"

Cordy noticed the soda in Buffy's hand, then nodded, "Thanks."

Buffy just grinned, "Not like it's mine. Here, I just opened this one, I'll get another."

Cordy accepted the soda from Buffy, something she probably would never have done before, but she could feel the blond's emotions now that she wasn't focusing on everything else, and Buffy was honestly concerned, not setting her up for a gag.

"Looking for someone?" Buffy asked, popping the top on another 7up from the fridge and walking back over.

Cordy just shook her head, "Just... needed some time to unwind."

Buffy nodded, "Faith and I are hitting the mall in a bit... you want to...?"

"No." Cordelia shook her head sharply. "Thank you, no. I don't want to deal with the crowds."

"Yeah," Buffy said softly, "I figured, just wanted to offer."

"Thanks." Cordy sighed, for a moment wanting to join the at the mall, but knowing that it would be hell for her there.

Faith tossed her work clothes in the hamper as she finished fastening the cinch on her leather pants an grabbed for the matching jacket. The leather went on over her pushup bra and nothing else, and she left it open enough to show plenty of skin as she checked her makeup and headed for the door.

She almost tripped over Miki as she left the room, swearing in surprise as the young girl jumped back.

"Christ, Kit! Where did you come from??"

"Room." Miki replied, shrugging.

Faith rolled her eyes, "Yeah, Right... Look, we're heading into the mall, you wanna come?"


Miki was a cat of few words, that much was for sure in Faith's eyes, but the Slayer also knew that it wasn't personal. She was like that with everyone, even Xander who she positively worshiped.

"Your call, Kit," Faith shrugged, banging on the wall as she passed Tara's room. "Move it, Tiger! Heading out!"

Tara appeared a few moments later, as Faith was heading down the stairs, and carefully closed and locked her door behind her before following.

"Hi, Miki..." Tara said, brushing hair from her eyes as she nodded at the young Were. "Are you coming?"

"No." Miki replied, shrugging. "Gonna run."

"Alright," Tara smiled, "Be careful."

Miki just smiled slightly.

Downstairs Faith and Tara greeted Cordy in the kitchen where she was talking quietly with Buffy.

"Hey, C," Faith said, taking a chair, "You hitting the mall with us?"

Cordelia shook her head, "Thank you, no."

Faith noticeably bit her lip to smother a response, shaking her head slightly, and got a tired but wry look from Cordelia anyway. She pushed off the chair, "Well, we'd better get going. Time to spend, money to burn."

Cordelia smiled wanly at them as the trio left, then sighed as she sat there at the empty kitchen table, feeling a little bit more weight lift off her as the three girls left.

That did still leave the people in the den, who felt like they were winding down. Cordy stood up, heading out back. Whatever they had been doing, she could feel that they were thirsty now. They'd be in the kitchen in a few minutes, probably, and she didn't want to run into them.

The grove sounded like a really nice place to be right about then, Cordelia thought.

Willow leaned on the edge of the couch, her hair completely askew as she glared at Jessie through the stray strands of red.

"You.... You... BOY!" She growled.

"Hey, all Man here!" Jessie responded true to form.

Jon snorted from where he was half laying under the coffee table, earning himself a kick from Jessie in the process.

"Hey! Ow!" He yelped, trying to sit up only to smack his head on the table. "OW!"

"You klutz," Jessie said, shaking his head. "I'm gonna get a coke. You guys want something?"

"Hell yeah," Jon said, sliding out, "I'll come with. Willow?"

Willow shrugged, thinking about it, then nodded, "Sure. But we still need to get ready for classes."

"We've got two weeks, Wills! Let us enjoy the end of our Summer freedom!" Jessie moaned, "There is nothing wrong with not being obsessed with school!"

"I am not obsessed!" Willow objected, "Right, Jon?"

Jonathan didn't say anything, just ducked his head and slipped out of the room ahead of them.

"Jon!? Jon! I'm not! Right?"

Miki let herself out of the house through her room, onto the patio that overlooked the back of the house, dropping her clothing to the deck as she jumped up on the rail and stood, perched there, for a moment.

The fourteen year old girl crawled easily and gracefully along the rail on all fours, the cool sea breeze brushing along her naked skin as she stayed there for a moment. Then her body began to shift, skin rippling and growing darker as her olive skin sprouted short, fine black fur and her head flattened, jaw opening wide as she let out a coughing roar that filled the air.

In moments the nude teenager was replaced by a powerfully muscled wild cat that continued to move along the railing, then sprang off and onto the roof of the lower level of the mansion, ignoring the stairs in favor of walking down the incline and jumping the ten feet to the ground below.

She sprinted across the grounds then, just running for the sake of running, crossing the open fields like a blur and vanishing into the low shrubs and trees on the far side. The california flora wasn't precisely her home turf, but she was growing to know the things that lived here just as well as she used to know the thicker jungles of her birth place.

The rules were different here though.

She remembered hunting dogs and cats for food, as well as occasional goats and even cows from the farms that were encroaching on her jungle. Her family had few restrictions on their diet, and they weren't afraid of bullets.

Here, though, she left dogs and cats alone. They usually belonged to somebody, and she wasn't hungry anyway. Sometimes she hunted rabbits, though, just to stay in practice. She'd even brought her first catch back to Xander, just to show him how good she was. Rabbits weren't easy to catch, especially if you gave them a little warning.

He said all the right words, but she had a feeling he didn't appreciate it that much.

Not in the house, at any rate.

There were some things that Miki just didn't understand with her new family, but the price of carpet cleaners seemed pretty straightforward. She didn't bring her catch back anymore after that, though once in a while she and Xander would run through the night together, even stalking prey by moonlight.

She really enjoyed those times.

Chapter 4

Jenny Calender, nee Jana Kalendish, sighed as she settled into her couch across from the empty space her tv would be in a couple days. Her apartment was nice enough, the price of real estate in Sunnydale was incredibly low for reasons obvious to anyone who was in the 'know' so to speak, but the place was pretty bare.

Her computer was the only thing she brought aside from a few changes of clothing, there was no way in hell she was going to be parted from her baby, after all. She'd interviewed with Principal Flutey, and the man seemed a nice sort, if a bit on the dim side. Teaching computers there would be interesting, especially with the odd rumors the Clan had been picking up.

The Slayer and the Vampire Angelus were bad enough, but this new player on the scene, The Seraphim, was rumored to spend time in Sunnydale. There was a person who would be worth meeting, she thought. Rising to the status of legend in the underworld in less than three years from the first mention of his name, to the point where some demons even associated him directly with his namesake.

That was impressive.

The world was turning into an interesting place, Jenny thought. Hunter groups were in ascendence, from the Vatican Teams to some new group calling themselves simply The Knighthood. Jenny had a feeling that it was going to be an interesting time to be alive.

That thought was followed by a chill, and the techno-pagan twisted off her couch as a whisper behind her startled her. As she turned, she saw a figure by the window, smiling slightly at her.

"Who the hell are you!?" She demanded, a defensive spell rising to her tongue.

"Rupert Giles," The man said, ignoring the rising power in the room. "Formerly of the Watchers Council."

Jenny's lips pulled back, almost sneering at him, but she held the spell. "What do you want?"

"This is just an introduction, Jana." He said, nodding to her. "We'll have time to sound each other out on another occasion."

"Don't tempt me to 'sound you out'," She growled, "You're trespassing on my home... How'd you get past my wards anyway?"

"I'm not demonic, and have no ill intent." He replied cooly, shrugging, "That rendered the more powerful of your wards rather useless against me. The rest... well, I have more than a few tricks of my own, Jana."

As he spoke it, Jenny felt the power unmask in him and she recognized the truth of his words. He might even have been able to overpower her full power wards if he chose. Still, her demonic intrusion wards were intact, as were the ones she set to handle minions and common burglars. He was probably telling the truth, just a Council lackey sent to deliver fair warning that she hadn't slipped into town unnoticed.

"You've introduced yourself," She growled, "now get out."

He smiled, "In a moment, if you don't mind. There are a couple things we should speak of first."

"I do mind as a matter of fact, but say your peace."

"First, the vampire, Angelus. He's already being watched, and his curse is well known to us... as is it's method of elimination."

Jenny paled, a chill running down her spine. "What?"

"He works with us, we make a point to know things like this..." Giles said, something strange in his eyes as he spoke.

"How can you know that? The curse is a clan secret..."

"And it will remain one." Giles said sternly, "Frankly, we don't want it ever cast again. Should more ensouled vampires begin appearing, we will be paying clan Kalendish a visit. It may be more pleasant than the visit we payed the Terakan's this past summer, but I would not count on that."

Jenny fell back a step, eyes wide.


The Knighthood. Upstarts, yet they'd laid waste to uncountable networks of the Tarakans, sending the entire surviving sect into disarray. The rumors had it that it was possible that the Terakan leader himself had not survived, and he was a supposed immortal.

"Knighthood," She whispered.

"Precisely." Giles replied cooly, though it hurt him to do so. "Inform your clan that we tolerate one ensouled vampire... He has been 'grandfathered' in, so to speak. Should they use that curse again, however... we will not be pleased."

"The curse is lost... no one knows it anymore..."

"No. That is not true," He said firmly. "Tell them, Jana. They have dabbled in areas best left to the Creator, and The Knighthood will not allow the torture of innocent souls for the sake of revenge against a demon."

She swallowed, "I... I'll tell them."

"Good," He smiled, "Thank you. I'm sorry we had to get off on that foot... Jenny, may I call you Jenny?"

"I'd prefer Miss Calender." She replied, a hint of frost making it's way back into her voice.

"Yes... quite." He nodded, to her surprise, "Miss Calender then. That does bring me to the second reason for my visit..."

"Oh? And what other threat are you going to trot out?"

"No threat... a... request actually."

Jenny laughed, unbelieving. "A request!?"

"Indeed. Ridiculous, I agree, but these are issues we have to deal with." The man, Rupert, sighed deeply.

"What request?" She was curious despite herself, Jenny had to admit.

"One of your students," He replied, "Is particularly gifted in both computers and magic... we would ask... we would consider it a very great favor if you would consider teaching her."

"What? Computers? That I'm going to do anyway, if she's a student..."

"No. Magic." Giles sighed, "You see she's already trying to learn on her own. We've been watching, worrying about her. She has... an insatiably curious mind, and something of a thirst for both knowledge and power."

Jenny winced, "Ouch."

"Precisely. We would have her taught, but taught carefully... with full explanation of consequences."

"I would have thought you people already had teachers for that sort of thing," Jenny said sourly.

"We do... Myself, possibly... But honestly, I am not the best people children..."

"Or people, apparently."

He winced, to her surprise. "That is more true of late than you know... There are others... another girl is being taught by someone else..."

"So have them handle it."

"I think not," Giles winced. The thought of Jacks teaching Willow magic was actually frightening. Frankly, he would lay money on them killing each other. Jacks intentionally, and Willow by some subconscious fluke. "To be honest, that teacher would be a bad influence on her."

"And you're letting her teach someone else?" Jenny scoffed, "You aren't filling me with confidence here, Mister."

"Giles, please, or Rupert if you wish," Giles sighed, "The other student is... not prone to excess. If anything, quite the opposite. She needs a certain level of pushing to perfect her art."

"So you want me to teach one of my own students," Jenny half sneered, "one that you admit you don't trust. Do I look like Ben Kenobi to you?"

"Pardon?" Giles looked completely confused for a moment, drawing a laugh from Jenny as his expression suddenly cleared up and he nodded, "Oh Yes. Alec Guinness. Quite right, very amusing."

"A bit slow, aren't you English?" Jenny asked wryly.

"Pop culture isn't the first thing that leaps into my mind," Giles replied dryly, "My utmost apologies. The example isn't, unfortunately, without a certain degree of accuracy. She was tested last year, surreptitiously... She is... quite powerful. Had she been born with the natural link to magic, she would be a frighteningly capable witch already."

Jenny took a breath, "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Indeed I am." Giles replied, "And, to continue your own anology, you are not Obi Wan... I am. Which is why I am afraid to teach her."

Jenny snickered, "So I'm the green muppet, huh? Boy you know how to sweet talk a girl, English."

Giles groaned, hand climbing up to his temple but he wasn't wearing glasses to clean. "If you would just consider it, we would be grateful."

"I'll want to meet her," Jenny warned, "before I make a decision."

"Of course."

"Alright... I'll consider it."

"Thank you," He said, sounding genuine.

"Could you get out now?"

He sighed, nodding. "Indeed. My thanks."

She was surprised when he crossed the room and left by the door rather than however he had gotten in the first time, but she immediately went over and locked it, then did the same to all the windows.

<Alright. First things first... Stronger wards.>

She powered up her laptop, linking into the network and summoned a circle of fellow pagans. Informing them of her need took time, but with a few dozen minds working on it they quickly found a half dozen more powerful wards and called the Circle via the Irc chat room, their power enforcing hers from wherever in the world they were.

She loved technology. It made absolutely everything so much easier.

Giles sighed, leaning against the wall of the building, his heart aching.

She was so beautiful.

He hadn't been precisely celibate since the time 'hitch' as Xander described it. He'd had a bit of an affair with Maria, and a couple nights with Olivia off and on during his trips back to England, but Jenny...

She was so damned beautiful.

And it hurt like hell for her not to know him.

He also didn't like the hard sell that he and Xander had decided to open with, but knew that it was their best chance. He didn't have time to get to know her like before, he didn't work in the school now, and Xander wasn't enrolled in the upcoming year.

They also needed her expertise.

Still, it hurt to be this near her again and not have her even know him. Not so much as it had hurt when she was killed, of course, and he'd endured that.

He would endure this as well.

"Sleep well, Jenny," He whispered, standing back from the building as he felt her wards strengthen. He raised his hands as they fluxed, and poured his own strength into them as well. "And stay safe."

Chapter 5

The Orange grove had a certain scent, Cordelia found, that seemed to help her focus and turn off the constant barrage of noise around her. She had learned over the summer that sitting amidst the trees and just breathing the air in through her nose, then out through her mouth, would center her far quicker than anything else.

Now she was cross legged on the ground, and the noise of Sunnydale was far in the back of her mind as she focused on her breathing and the smell of the orange trees filling her nostrils.

Solitude was something she'd come to crave, since drawing that damned sword from it's sheath.

<Sorry, Kagi,> She thought almost instantly.

A faint sensation of resigned acceptance passed through her, like an emotion from someone else, but both clearer and less intrusive.

The deeper she meditated, the more she could feel his emotions, she'd found. They became clearer, sometimes almost bordering on actual speech. Kagi was something of a wise soul, or so he seemed. Probably that came from the fact that he couldn't actually talk, Cordelia thought wryly.

A shot of humorous indignance shot through her, tearing a snort of laughter from the former cheerleader.

<Open mouth, insert foot,> She thought in response. <No mouth, and no foot, makes anyone seem wise.>

The emotional response halted in mid communication as something else pinged on Cordelia's emotional radar, and both of them fell mentally quiet as they spun their attention around. Cordelia reached down to grasp the scabbard of the sword, and the blade slid two inches out on it's own power just as her hand closed around the hilt.

Plain human scent mingled with the trees, some soap, some fragrant powder. The scent was familiar, however, and the wild cat snarled silently as she moved stealthily through the trees. Padded feet sought out soft ground, without leaves and twigs to break under them.

She circled the grove, watching the sitting human form through breaks in the branches, coming around behind.

So far, so good.

She leapt up, powerful muscles carrying her to a place in the crook of a particularly large tree, then leapt instantly into the air toward the human.

And then the human form moved.

Cordy snapped her arm around, not even looking behind her, trusting in Maro and her own emotional sense to recognize the direction and range. The still sheathed sword arced sharply, the scabbard flying off it in mid swing, and Cordelia heard a sudden scream and hiss, like a cat who'd just stepped into a mouse trap.

She pivoted up from her sitting position in a single fluid move, turning as she rose toward the yowling hiss, and her lips curled as she watched the cat pawing reflexively at her nose where the flying scabbard had struck her.

"I am not going to let you get away with scaring the hell out of me whenever we meet, Mikki." She said sternly.

The cat glared at her balefully, still pawing at her nose until finally she shifted and morphed by to the form of the little girl and rubbed it more gingerly.

"Hurts." She said, voice carrying a hint of surprise as much as self pity.

"Sorry," Cordy shrugged, "But you were the one sneaking up on me."

"Practice." Mikki said defensively, "You good prey."

"Oh I am, am I?"

Mikki took her hand off her nose and smirked, sticking her tongue out at Cordy. "Fat, stupid. Slow."

Cordelia's eyes widened in shock, "Why you little! Come back here!"

Mikki turned, though, and bolted, shifting back into cat form as she bounded away. Cordelia scooped up the scabbard of her sword as she ran, smoothly sliding Maro back into the sheath as she chased the errant Were.

Just before the blade slid completely in, Cordy pushed her thumb into it's path, drawing blood just as the weapon clicked shut.

Xander sighed as he let himself back into the house, feeling a little tired.

He was probably too harsh on Faith and Buffy earlier, but they had to stop fighting like it was a damned exhibition sport. Both of them were too concerned with using flashy, stylistic moves than they were with ending the fight in their favor.

Part of him suspected that was attributable to the Slayer spirit, but he was certain that a lot of it came from the fact that they both had the speed and strength to emulate hollywood, so they did. Just because you could do something, however, did not follow that you should do it. Buffy, in particular, wasted a great deal of her strength on showy moves that did nothing but telegraph her strikes.

Faith was a little better, mostly because of experience, but not by as much as he wanted. They both had the physical base to be able to kick his ass every time they stepped on the mat, but for Xander it was like fighting four year olds. They always did the same thing, easily predictable.

Faith also needed to buckle down and start learning to control some of that internal power she wielded. The Slayer enhancements left a mark of strength on her that was visible in her Chi, if she learned to manipulate it, she should be capable of so much more than a mere Slayer.

Buffy as well, of course, but she was younger. Of mind, if not body, so Xander could excuse her for the moment. She was still learning the physical aspects of her enhancements.

He unbuttoned his suit jacket, sliding it off his shoulders as he stretched out a bit.

A lot of things were happening, but they were all pretty good things from his point of view. His companies were showing good profit, enough to underwrite the losses Good Knight Security was incurring in their Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sunnydale operations. Those were, of course, the only three operations they had open at the moment, and the losses they were paying out were substantial.

Funding a security force with the capability of genuine SWAT deployment wasn't cheap, even less so getting it legally recognized by the municipal governments they had to work in. Sunnydale had been easy, the only municipal government currently intact was what remained of the Mayor's, and Xander had Allan Finch in his back pocket.

The man had enough dirt clinging to his boots to put him away for a long time, as did the town council. Ferreting that out had taken real legwork, but in Sunnydale no one had really taken care to hide it much anyway.

LA hadn't been too hard either, though expensive. GKsec simply got themselves properly accredited, then started advertising. The low initial rates were enough to win over a lot of fringe customers, and from there the service provided built quickly. They also served the large non-human population of LA, those that didn't want to become involved in the ongoing war, so most demons and vampires had learned the hard way to avoid properties protected by GKSec.

San Francisco, however, was proving harder to get a foothold in. The demon population there was, by an large, less prone to random violence, so their was a perception of lesser need. Unfortunately, there was also a concurrence of natural ley lines within the city that drew all kinds of extremely powerful demons into the play.

The fact that the nexus was pinpointed directly under Halliwell Manor further complicated things.

<The Halliwell line sure knew where to build em,> Xander thought dryly as opened the fridge and got himself a soda. <That damned house is a massively powerful demon magnet, and the fact that there are a balanced Wiccan Trinity within is just icing on the cake.>

Those thoughts were swirling in his head as the back door suddenly burst open, causing Xander to go for his pistol until he caught sight of Mikki bounding through the kitchen, skidding on the waxed floor, bounce off the far wall, and then scramble like made for the opening to the foyer, her padded feet sliding on the floor almost comically.

Finally she got enough traction and vanished toward the stairs just as Cordelia came charging through, Kagi Maro waving in one hand as she caught the door frame with the other and vanished after the cat, screaming at the top of her lungs.

"You get back here you furball! I'll show you who's fat and slow! You're gonna get SUCH a spanking!"

Xander stared after them for a moment, then popped the top on his coke and took a sip.

There were come questions that shouldn't be asked, he decided, and some images he didn't need floating around his head.

The snarl of a wild cat was, perhaps strangely, not an unfamiliar sound to those who hung out around Xander of late, though when the snarl was echoed by a yowling hiss of indignant sounding pain, and accompanied by a female voice triumphantly crowing, "Got you, you little furball!", the sound was unusual enough to elicit comment.

"Was that Cordelia?" Jessie asked, looking over his shoulder.

Jon, who was close to the door, stuck his head out then nodded.

"Cool..." Jessie grinned.

Jon held up his hand, "You don't want to go out there."

"What? Why?"

Willow smacked him across the back of the head, "Dumbass."

"Ow! Hey! Cordy hasn't tried to kill me in weeks!"

"Yeah, but she's waving her sword around and chasing Mikki around the house," Jonathon said, "She's not mad at me, and there's no WAY I'm going out there."

"She's chasing Mikki with a sword!?" Willow asked, aghast.

"It's still in it's sheath..." Jon winced as they all heard another yowling hiss, "But I still don't want to catch that across the head."

"Let me see! Let me see!" Jessie pushed past, sticking his head out over Jonathan's smaller frame. "Ooh! Cool! She's sweaty!"

Willow smacked him again.

"Ow! Damn it!" Jessie glared down at her, then looked chagrined as the redhead matched the glare in return. "Ummm... I meant Mikki?"

Willow snarled, hauling off and nailing him in the shin. "That's just doubly sick!"

"Ow! Ow! Damndamndamn!" Jessie yowled, hopping on his good leg back toward the couch. "Damn it! I can't win with you!"

"Or with anyone else, apparently," Jonathan grinned from the door.

"Yeah, yeah... yuk it up." Jessie growled, rubbing his shin.

Another meaty smack was accompanied by a hissing scream and Cordelia's voice screaming, "Hold still and get it over with, furball!"

"Geeze... Violent much?" Jessie asked from the couch.

Jon shrugged.

"Isn't that child abuse?" Willow asked, tentatively poking her head around Jon to look out.

Cordelia shrieked just then as they saw Mikki's paw catch her on the rump, the echoing smack loud enough to carry to them.

"Is it still child abuse if it's mutual?" Jon asked, uncertain.

"Oooh..." Willow winced, "That left a mark."

Chapter 6

Xander walked into the living room, noting the mess in a detached sort of way as his eyes fell on Cordy and Mikki. They looked exhausted, both covered in sweat and were panting visibly as they slumped in place.

For Cordelia that meant her chest was heaving noticeably under the silk blouse that now clung to her more suggestively than Xander knew she would like, but Cordy wasn't the one that drew his eyes. Mikki had changed back and was thrown over Cordy's lap, though how Cordy had managed to wrestle her Were form into that position he didn't know.

The fourteen year old's ass was blazing red, however, as she lay there nude as the day she was born, and Xander wondered what Maro thought of being used as a discipline tool for a cranky were. That might normally bother Xander, actually, the fact that someone hit one of his girls, but from the tattered state of Cordy's clothes Mikki had more than returned the favor.

"Cor," Xander said dryly.

"Uh?" She didn't even open her eyes.

"You're bleeding on my couch. Did Mikki do that?" Xander asked, nodded toward her thumb.

Cordy lifted her thumb, only noticing the sting then, and shook her head. "Did it myself. Cut on Maro."


Xander shrugged, shaking his head as Cordy dropped her hand down to the couch again. Damn, he went through a lot in cleaning costs. Blood was a real bitch to get out of fabric.

Mikki sniffed at the air as Cordy continued to pant, then rolled her head over and licked at the former cheerleader's injury, surprising Cordy into opening her eyes all the way and looking down. She yelped as she realized she had a naked girl on her lap, startling Mikki into arcing up into the air and causing a noise to catch Xander's attention from the den.

He snapped his head over in that direction, just in time to see a head vanish back into the room, but couldn't tell who it was. If he remembered correctly, Willow, Jessie, and Jon were hanging out today.

<If Jess is perving at Mikki, I'm gonna have to show him that there are limits to what even brothers put up from each other.> Xander thought, idly cracking his knuckles.

"Oh god! Off! Get off!" Cordy squealed, causing Mikki to crouch on the floor, more confused than anything, but a little hurt too.

"Hey... Mik, it's ok." Xander winked, "Human thing."

The Were sniffed at the air disdainfully, then turned her nose up at Cordelia and brushed against Xander lightly. He rubbed her back in return as Cordy looked at him in a mixture of surprise and a little disgust maybe.

"She's a cat, Cor... She needs a little contact from her family." Xander shrugged, "Nothing sexual about it."

Mikki snorted at that, then padded off toward the stairs.

Cordy watched her go, tasting the emotions coming from the young girl. Xander was right, she realized. Well, mostly right. There were, in fact, hints of a sexual undertone in Mikki's emotions, but they were very tiny, and mostly unformed. Mostly there was just a feeling of tired satisfaction of a game well played, the fatigue of exerted muscles feeding it. Some hurt from how she'd been shoved away, Cordy could feel, but also a grudging acceptance that humans were just weird by times.

Xander cleared his throat, pulling her attention back.


He tugged at his shirt and pants while pointedly nodding at her, causing Cordy to look down and yelp again. Her shirt had been yanked away, almost exposing her, and her pants were a tattered mess.

"God! That little furball has sharp claws!" She grumbled, pulling the cloth to cover herself.

"You play with a wild cat, you're gonna get mauled." Xander replied dryly, "You bleeding from anywhere else?"

Cordelia shook her head, "I don't think so."

She looked at the cut on her thumb, noting with a wince how the skin was parted. She wasn't bleeding anymore though, and Cordy frowned as she looked closer at the clean slice.

"Were saliva," Xander said, amused.


"It's a natural coagulant, and antiseptic," He smirked, "Mikki was cleaning your cut when you yelled at her."

"Oh." Cordy winced slightly. "I'm going to have to apologize for that, aren't I?"

Xander smiled. It wasn't long ago that even getting Cordy to say the word 'apologize' would be like pulling teeth. She was still pretty savage when dealing with peers, but he'd noticed that she was actually pretty good around younger people. And older, for that matter. "It would be nice. Mik doesn't always get the cultural clash, so when one of us does understand, it's important to explain it."

"Annoying little furball," Cordelia muttered, but with little bite. "She was stalking me, you know."

"Figured as much." Xander grinned, "You're a challenging prey. She stalks me too. Take it as a compliment, she thinks that sneaking up on you would be an accomplishment."

Cordelia snorted, "Some compliment."

Xander shrugged, "She's a born hunter, Cor... That's the highest compliment she can pay."

"I'd rather she said she liked my shoes," Cordy said dryly.

Xander shrugged, shaking his head as he smiled. Cordelia was still, at heart, Cordelia.

She winced, holding her thumb up again. "Damn. That's starting to sting now... Of all the things Maro insists on, this one really sucks."

"There is a point to it, you know," Xander smirked.

Cordy snorted, "Yeah. Warrior's honor. Maro's a chauvinist."

"Well, there is that," Xander smiled, but then he grew more serious. "But, more to the point, is that he's making sure that you think before you draw that blade."

She frowned.

"Cordy, a rune weapon is like holding a nuke in the palm of your hand... they should never be used unless you NEED them," Xander said grimly. "They pack power that makes nukes look like firecrackers... you don't want to get too used to relying on them. Maro believes that, if you have to draw blood, you'll think twice before being too frivolous with his abilities."

Cordelia winced, "Oh. I ah... screwed that up then, huh?"

Xander smiled, shrugging, "Don't know. Ask Maro what he thinks."

"What are you smirking at?" Willow asked suspiciously.

"Nothing." Jessie said, grinning like a goof as he sat down in front of the Nintendo and slid a cartridge in.

Jon rolled his eyes, "Mikki changed back, and she shredded Cordy's clothes too."

"Oh..." Willow said, then blinked, and her eyes widened. "Oh! You... you... you... BOY!"

Jessie just grinned, "Mmmmmm..."

"God..." Willow muttered in disgust, "You're just not worth hitting, you know that, right?"

"Can't help what I am," Jessie grinned, starting the game.

"And what you are is a really twisted teenager boy," Willow replied in annoyance.

"Hey, it's not like they were in the bedroom or something," Jessie defended himself. "They were out in the living room, making a racket you wouldn't believe. Besides, Xander's out there too you know."

Willow looked up, perplexed, and frowned. "He is?"

Jessie nodded.

"What was he doing?"

Jessie shrugged, "Talking to them."

"While Cordy's clothes were torn and Mikki was naked?" Willow shuddered.

Jessie just shrugged, "He didn't think it was a big deal."

"I doubt he was peeping for night time fantasy material," Jon replied dryly.

"Hey, I was just... checking to make sure they hadn't hurt each other," Jessie finished, sounding rather proud of himself.

Jon just snorted as Willow reached over and smacked him again.

"Ow! Hey! I thought I wasn't worth hitting!"

"Guess I was wrong."

The sun was falling toward the horizon, Angel could see the shadows lengthen from where he was standing, even if he didn't need them to know. He could feel it, through brick and concrete and wood, like a flame against his back. As the fire waned, he could feel the demon inside him, it's bestial nature crying out for the hunt.

If he felt it, Angel knew that there would be others feeling it too.

It was what drove him, now. The knowledge that others like him, yet not, were abroad and hunting.

The ensouled vampire ducked into the sewers, making his way across town as the sun fell. The vampire population were still in their lairs, he presumed, what few there were of them in Sunnydale now.

Since GK Security moved into town in force, the majority of the violent demon types had backed off the Hellmouth. Even vampires weren't stupid enough to deal with an active police organization that was trained and equipped to deal with them.

That would change, Angel figured.

Others would come, looking for the challenge. Demons lived a long time, compared to humans. And many were of a warrior breed, the worst were of warrior breeds in fact. Warrior breeds tended to enjoy challenges, so they'd be coming.

They wouldn't be interested in the civilian population of Sunnydale, however, only the Security forces and the Seraphim himself.

That was probably an improvement, Angel supposed.

A sound from ahead of him caused the vampire to pause, sinking back into the shadows. Movement was coming his way, and he waited for it patiently. When it appeared, he could smell the death stink on it.

Vampire, but a newly turned fledgling. Not yet fully divested of his mortality.

Angel let him pass, then his arm snapped out and he drove a stake into it.

He was on his way before the dust settled, making the rest of the trip in relative peace. At his destination there was a door at the edge of the sewer line, heavy reinforced steel with an armored coating. He stopped in front of it.

"Identify yourself."

"Angel." He said.

"Scanning. Vampire... Confirmed.... Sian'Quai analyzing... Isolating... Non Vampiris energy signature detected. Comparing... Angel, Liam, identified. Welcome to Good Knight Security."

The door slid silently open.

Chapter 7

The next morning Xander woke up slowly, he'd crashed early knowing he was going to have a big day, and rolled over to tap a sensor on his night table.

"Status report," He called as he rolled out of bed.

A list of report headers from the night before scrolled along a projection, and he glanced over them while pulling on his pants. There was no casualty report, though, and nothing flashed urgent so he left it for later.

He headed down the kitchen, wincing as he noticed the pile of dishes in the sink, waiting for room in the dishwasher. He'd have to get to that later too.

"Hey X," Faith said, looking up from her hastily fried breakfast.

"God..." Xander looked at the plate, one eye twitching, "What is that?"

"Bacon and eggs," She told him, sounding defensive.

"I've never seen eggs with grey whites before," Xander said uncertainly.

"Tastes ok," She shrugged, "Want some?"

"No!" He held up his hands as she tipped the plate in his direction. He didn't even want to know how she'd managed to make it, let alone what it tasted like, "I'm good. Got to road test KARR this morning, so I'll probably just grab something on the way."

"Suit yourself," She shrugged, going back to her food.

"Hey, Faith?"


"I'm sorry about yesterday," Xander sighed, "I was a little rougher on you than I meant to be."

She scowled, but then shrugged. "No big. We got the point... When do you want to start?"

"We'll start in earnest on the run to Atlantis." Xander said, "But I'll show you some prep stuff you can do later."

"Fair nuff. B wants in too."

Xander looked surprised, but nodded, "Good. I'll see ya, need to go check on KARR."

She waved her fork at him, and Xander retreated before she offered him any more food.

"Mr Harris, you're early..." Julian Wilkes said, looking up from his test console.

"Hey Doc, how's it going, Pal?" Xander asked, patting the roof of the black Viper as he walked past, chewing on a sandwich as he walked past. "Just figured I'd get a roll on the morning, Doc."

"Ah, well, very good."

"He ready to roll?"

Wilkes nodded, "His neural mapping is only at twenty three percent, however..."

"That's why I'm driving today, Doc," Xander smiled, pulling a coffee out of the brown paper bag he was carrying. "We'll get him back in shape, don't worry."

"Well, I've linked into his systems, so I'll mirror everything here," Wilkes said, "but if you start to get a feeling that anything's wrong..."

"Relax," Xander calmed the doc, "I'm not here to wreck him before we even get him fixed. What do you say, Pal? Ready to roll?"

The light along the front of the Viper swept from side to side, then KARR's angry voice sounded through the large room.


"Alright then, let's rock." Xander grinned, taking a last bite and downing his coffee before walking over to the car and sliding in behind the wheel.

The sports car was still around him, but just the same there was a sensation of power waiting to be unleashed. Xander shrugged into the four point seat belt system, activating the active restraint systems even as he buckled in. Technically he probably didn't need the racing belts, but Xander'd learned the hard way that sometimes the simple things were best.

"Systems check." He called, eyeing the holographic display that wrapped around the drivers cockpit area.

"All systems green." KARR rumbled in response.

"Manual control." Xander asked, politely requesting.

"Controls switched to manual."

"Alright, let's see what you can do."

Xander pushed his foot down on the accelerator, the viper gliding silently out of the repair bay and into the sunlight. The windshield adjusted automatically, tinting to keep the light level the same, then slowly brightening as it calculated for Xander's eyes adjustment. Xander turned them toward the assault track they'd rigged up for driver training.

The track ran through several former parking lots and old warehouses that harkened back to Sunnydale's former glory years as a boom town, winding through over six blocks now owned by Xander through GK Security. The city had been just as happy to sign the old roads over to private control, given that they were in lousy shape and repairing them cost money and no one used the old docks anymore.

Xander edged the viper to the start line of the assault course, eyes flicking across the main tell tales that were all within easy view as he gripped the wheel.

"Ok Pal, active neural mapping on?"

"Mapping in real time." KARR confirmed.

Xander nodded, KARR would use his driving skills as a base map to boost the AI's own hardwired reflexes. That would get the AI up to a fairly competent level in short order, though any mistakes Xander made would have to be corrected in much the same way as KARR was relearning things already.

He'd try not to make too many mistakes.

"Let's do this," Xander grinned, pushing his foot down, almost to the floor.

The Viper just leapt ahead, almost no actual acceleration per say, just from a standing stop to sixty miles per hour almost too fast for Xander to realize it happened. He was slammed back into the seat, his weight more than tripling as he glanced at the acceleration gauge.

He was pulling just short of four Gees.

"Damn!" Xander crowed, keeping his foot down as they ripped through the first part of the course, then he tapped the brake, cut the wheel, and floored it again.

They swept through the first turn like they were on rails, skimming the cones that were setup, the wind causing them to vibrate in place but not fall over. The slalom course came up next, and Xander let off the accelerator for it, suddenly feeling weightless as the car slowed markedly, then pushed down again before hitting the first turn.

He kept the pressure on as he cut through the slalom, accelerating slowly but evenly through the course as he remembered the first time he'd done something like that, under the tutelage of Lara Croft.

Coming out of the slalom, Xander put the accelerator down again and the Viper leapt forward, slamming him back into the seat again. They raced straight for a former loading dock of a warehouse as Xander reached out against the four gravity acceleration and punched the Boost button.

The viper blasted off the ground, soaring through the loading dock, and right into the warehouse.

The screamed through the gaping interior of the warehouse in seconds, flying out through the open doors on the other side.

The speedometer read two hundred and eighty and still climbing as Xander twisted the wheel and threw them into a skid across the next parking lot. Alarms blared, red lights erupting around him as the internal gyros registered the forces trying to flip them over, but the systems responded accordingly, and they slid to a stop on two wheels across the lot, thumping back down to four as Xander's heart threatened to burst in his chest.

"Auto-Gyroscopic balance checks out," He grinned.


Xander floored it again, the tires biting into the ground as they'd been designed, not wasting any force by squealing against the asphalt as they roared into the next section. It was the skid track, water soaked asphalt constantly sprayed down. KARR's windshield's energized with an electrostatic charge that repelled the water as they blasted through the hoses, hitting a second slalom barely any slower than the first.

This time some of the cones flew wildly away as they tore through, but neither Xander nor KARR were particularly perturbed. Perfection was the goal, not the present.

The tore out of the skid track, heading for a narrow alley, causing Xander to joggle the wheel as he thumbed another button.

The car hopped up on two wheels, gyros whining in the background as they accelerated into the alley and out the other side without touching either wall. The gyros whined again, dropping them down without slowing the acceleration, and the power automatically shifted to the motors as the tires hit the asphalt.

"I'm loving this," Xander grinned, turning the car into a skid, the wheels biting into the asphalt as they cut a wide turn and circled around. "How's the mapping coming?"

"Forty nine percent."

Xander nodded, "Take it."

He dropped his hands from the wheel as they roared straight at another loading dock. KARR took a few cycles to realize what Xander had told him to do, then automatically assumed control. Turbo Boost flashed as they came into range, and the car roared forward and up, soaring through the open loading dock.

The hit hard, throwing up sparks from the side as the viper tore a section of the door off, causing KARR to furiously correct those responses.


"Minor cosmetic."

Xander nodded, "Keep going."

KARR didn't bother to reply as the pedal slammed down to the floor and Xander was slammed back hard into his seat, the Gee-meter reading out past five gees. He panted carefully, tensing his muscles and mentally ordered his heart to pump harder to push blood up to his brain, in order to prevent a blackout. At five gees he wasn't really in danger of one, but the practice was good for him anyway.

They tore through the rest of the course, knocking over some things and ripping a few others to shreds, but without serious incident just the same, and skidded to a stop by the starting line where the Doctor Julian Wilkes, PHD, jumped out of the way in stark terror.

As the Viper rocked gently, it's power control systems turning off, Xander climbed easily out and eyed the armored surface of the car, brushing away traces of the door they'd destroyed until the smooth surface shined out again.

"Not bad, Doc," Xander said, not looking over to where Wilkes was holding his chest. "Not bad at all."

"Thanks ever so much," The engineer muttered darkly.

"So, is KARR's SPM ready for testing?" Xander asked with a grin.

"Super Pursuit Mode is fully installed and ready to run," Wilkes lips curled up, his eyes rolling up slightly. "Though I wish you wouldn't call it that."

"It's traditional, Doc... KARR may not look it anymore, but he's still a Foundation boy at heart, ain't that right, KARR?"

The black Viper didn't dignify the comment with a response.


Chapter 8

"Kickass," Faith pronounced, grinning at KARR as she walked past, flashing a thumbs up to the sensor as one of the techs polished out the scuff marks they'd caused during the test. "Looking good, K."

The AI didn't respond, though the polisher had to adjust for a shift in the vehicle's suspension as the young woman slinkily moved past.

"Hey X!"

Xander looked up from where he was leaning over Wilkes' shoulder, checking out KARR's neural result. "Hey Faith, how's it going?"

"No complaints," the girl shrugged with a grin, "How's big K doing?"

"KARR's neural mapping is on the order of sixty three percent complete," Wilkes said, by this point used to the peculiar language variations he had to deal with on this job. "I believe that he's actually around ninety five percent for the most common of his options, but there are some major systems yet to be mapped."

Xander nodded, "I'll take him out this afternoon, do a long run... Here to LA, maybe. We'll put his more esoteric systems to a hard test."

Xander's face darkened, "I've got another promise to keep in LA anyway."

"X?" Faith asked, confused.

Xander shrugged, smiling wryly, "Made a promise to a lady, Faith."

The Slayer looked at him oddly, but just let it go. "Whatever. You coming back tonight?"

"Yeah, should."

"Coolio." The girl shrugged, "Say, X, you notice anything weird about Tiger lately?"

"No... why?" Xander asked, puzzled.

Faith shrugged, snapping her gum, "Nothing big. She just been getting these weird looks sometimes when I walk in on her studying... And that's something that girl does way too much, y'know what I mean?"

"Could be worse," Xander grinned, "She could be like Willow."

"Gak." Faith pantomimed gagging, her finger halfway down her throat. "No offense, X, I know she's your girl and all, but Red and Books just weird me out."

Xander chuckled, nodding, "Willow and books routinely wierds me out too, that's what happens when you're a bonafide genius."

Wilkes glanced between them, one eyebrow raised, "If you're simply going to gossip about your friends, would you mind taking it out of my work area?"

Xander and Faith glanced at the man, then laughed together.

"I think we're getting kicked out, X."

"My own company and I still get no respect," Xander marveled, clapping the engineer on the shoulder. "Get him prepped for a run to LA, Doc."

Julian just nodded as the two retreated from his work area and he called up calibrations for KARR's high speed pursuit systems.

"You're dumping a lot of cash into this place, X," Faith said as they walked through the large open warehouse that made up the local headquarters for GKSec.

The security firm was still relatively small in Sunnydale, only a couple dozen employees, not counting the local hunters. Xander had found places for many of them on the books in various positions, though Buffy was something of a pain to fit. Jessie, Jonathan, and Willow were all on the books as interns, learning the ropes. Xander had cleared that with their parents easily enough, but Buffy hadn't really wanted to bring Joyce even this closely into her world.

So he'd finally just started depositing her 'wage' for Slaying into a trust account for when she turned eighteen. Since Merlin was handling the account, and it included stock options in Good Knight Security, Xander was fairly confident that Buffy would receive a nice surprise on her eighteenth birthday just about a year and a half away.

He was also toying with the idea of forcing the Watchers Council to make matching payment, though that would have to wait. Perhaps later in the year, when they were fully settled and Good Knight owned Sunnydale's night life.

"Yeah, but this is the Hellmouth," He said after a moment, snapping back to the presence. "I figured we should have a proper net here. Once you graduate, if you still want to be involved, I'm thinking that you might like to lead a roving team... do a little world traveling."

Faith glanced over at him, a little shocked. "Lead a team? You high on something?"

Xander smiled, "No. You're not bad as leadership material, Faith. You care about people, but you also don't let it show too much. Gives you the right level of detachment, I think. You've got good instincts too, and by the time you get out of high school, you'll have enough experience AND look old enough for it."

Faith snorted, "You ain't making me do the whole college scene?"

Xander smiled, shaking his head, "You'll be eighteen by then, and more educated than most people twice your age. It's your call, but I thought that taking a year or two to see the world might be nice."

"Visit strange, exotic, places... meet interesting people..."

"And kill them," Xander finished, half smiling. "Though I think we'll settle for only killing the evil half of the interesting people."

"Natch." Faith replied as they came to a stop by the floating 579. She ran her hands along the gunwales, noting the gleam off the deck, a sign of the molecular bonded armor that now coated the surface of the attack boat. "One last trip before the summers out, huh?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah. We've got gear to bring Atlantis back into the world, even if the world doesn't know about it. Besides, I thought you guys might like a little boat trip."

"Hey, I'm cool. Don't know how you got Miss S to agree," Faith smirked.

Xander smiled, "It wasn't as easy as you'd think. Especially not to get her to let Dawn come along, but with Mikki and Jacks both coming..."

Faith nodded, knowing that Joyce worried about Dawn. The girl didn't seem to have many friends, at least from the perspective of her mother. It was impossible to explain to her that it was because the young girl connected better with Faith and Cordelia than with most girls her own age. A boat trip with the only two friends Dawn had her own age would soften even the hardest mother's resolve. Besides, with Maria and Giles along to chaperone, it looked pretty solid Faith guessed.

It was gonna feel good to get out of Sunnydale, though. Faith just felt cooped up after a couple months in the town, and she suspected B felt the same. They were both city girls at heart.

Dawn Summers frowned, looking at the swimsuit she was supposed to pack for the trip and practically whimpered at how childish it was.

"Just go with it, girl," Jacks advised her, smirking. "We'll be landing in LA for a day before heading down to Panama. Shopping time."

Dawn's eyes twinkled, and she packed the one piece away, mind conjuring up images of a nicely skimpy bikini to replace it with. She was fourteen now, after all. Physically that was. Nineteen, mentally, and she didn't want to be dressed like a four year old anymore. Not that her mom got it, and Buffy was even worse.

That's cut too low, that one's cut too high, no you can't wear that it's see through! Dawn worked her jaw, making yak, yak, yak motions as she mimicked her mother and sister in her mind. The fact that Buffy was coming along was gonna put such a crimp in things.

Sometimes they just made her want to scream, the two of them. Both mothered her like she was some fragile little girl, and it honestly surprised Dawn how hateful she could be in her mind when either Joyce or Buffy got on a tangent. She managed to keep it mostly to herself, and felt pretty guilty about it when it did spill out enough to worry her Mom.

Like the time she'd decked that bitch Kimberly for ragging on Mikki. Dawn felt the need to snarl at the memory, the spoiled rich kid had the nerve to call Mikki *retarded*. Mik's english langage skills were impeccable, Dawn knew. Her math wasn't so hot, but Dawn had peeked at some of her test results. The girl wasn't even remotely a 'special needs' student, she just didn't see the point in using more words than she absolutely needed.

"Are you ok?" The half Fey beside her asked, feeling a subtle shift in her friend.

"Yeah," Dawn replied, quickly packing the rest of her bag. "Just remembering Kimberly."

Jacks winced slightly, remembering the fall out from that particular incident. She wished she'd gotten to the girl first, if only cause Vin wouldn't have grounded her. Well, not in a *bad* way at least. "What brought that up?"

"Just thinking about how Mom and Buffy treat me," Dawn confessed. "I don't know if I can take it much longer, Jacks."

There wasn't really much to say to that, time wasn't something that even the likes of Jacqueline Standish could snap her fingers and fast forward. And that was the only thing that would fix Dawn's problem at this point.

"It's only a few more years," She said, knowing how badly that sounded even as the words came out.

"I know," Dawn sighed, "It's just so damned hard... I'm nineteen damn it! I shouldn't have to put up with this anymore."

Jacks patted her friend's back, sighing. "I know."

The half Fey paused, a gleam coming into her eye.

"What?" Dawn asked suspiciously.

"I've got an idea..." Jacks grinned.

"What??" Dawn edged away a little, Jacks 'ideas' weren't really renowned for being *good* ideas.

"We're gonna stop in Panama for a couple nights, right?"


Jacks eye's gleamed, "Lets you, me, and Faith hit a couple nightclubs."

"Jacks, I'm fourteen. I look fourteen anyway, and Faith's the same."

A twinkle of actual magical light gleamed from the Fey's eyes, "I can fix *that*, for one night at least. Easy."

Dawn's lips tightened, and then she slowly smiled. "We'll have to ditch the others, especially Giles and Buffy. Xander too probably... he's not as bad, but he's still a bit..."

"Stiff." Jacks smirked.

"I was thinking of a few other words, but yeah, that'll do."

"We can do it," Jacks grinned. "If you want..."

"Hell yeah."

"Girls' night out." Jacks grinned.

"In *Panama*," Dawn grinned, "This is gonna be so cool."

"The false underage gals strike back."

Dawn cracked up, joined in short order by Jacks, and the two just collapsed on the bed laughing loudly enough that Joyce heard them from downstairs.

"Are you two alright up there!?"

That just set them both off again, gales of laughter filtering down to Joyce, who just smiled. At least Dawn was having fun, that girl got so serious and even, dare she say it, broody sometimes. It really worried her. This trip with her friends would be good for her.

Chapter 9


Julian Wilkes looked disgusted as he watched the black blur whip around in place, it's four independent motors operating much like a tank's treads by running in reverse directions. The result was a Dodge Viper making like it was child's top, literally blurring as it spun.

He could hear the shrieks from inside as Faith and Xander whooped in amusement, and could only wonder what the AI thought of this very human insanity.

"Ok! Ok! Stop! I give up!" Faith screamed, "I'm gonna throw up!"

Julian winced as the car spun to a stop so fast that he *knew* the occupants inside must have bruises, then the passenger door popped open and then it reversed direction before suddenly stopping again.

Faith was pitched out, sent rolling to the ground as she gasped for air.

"KARR!" Xander yelped, hopping out the other side, "You didn't have throw her out!"

The stoic AI just shifted on it's suspension. "The upholstery is newly installed."

Faith groaned, rolling to her knees as she breathed deeply, "Oh you're gonna pay for that one, you rolling junk pile."

"Do NOT start a prank war, you two!" Xander growled, shaking his own head to stop the spinning.

He was starting to think that a high gee carnival ride was maybe not the best way to test KARR's high stress motors. The car could literally spin on a dime, however, which was cool.

Faith gagged, tossing her cookies to the pavement, and glared over at him and KARR both.

"Don't get pissy with me," Xander grinned, though his own eyes were rolling around in his head. "You were the one who bet you could out last me."

"Children, Please," Julian Wilkes said dryly as he stepped forward, "If you want to keep this up you'll miss your pre-K classes..."

Faith and Xander both spared a glare for the engineer, who simply shrugged it off as he stepped carefully around Faith and te new decoration she'd left on the parking area. "Besides, why weren't you wearing your belt?"

She spat the taste out of her mouth, crawling backwards as she groaned. "KARR has that fancy restraint system, figured why bother?"

"Other than the fact that the restraint system is entirely electronic, and thus prone to possible failure," Wilkes sighed, "the four point belts are also there in case you, for whatever reason, use the ejection seats. I thought you might like to be attached to the parachute."

Faith looked suddenly ill, "You mean he could have launched me into fucking orbit!?"

"Not quite that high, thankfully," Wilkes replied, eyeing Xander as he stumbled awkwardly over to a nearby table and leaned on it. "But high enough."

Faith groaned, holding her head as the world stopped spinning to the left and started to head back the other way. "Oh man, I need some cotton candy. I ain't felt this bad since that ride at Six Flags."

She leaned back against KARR for a moment, patting the armored shell with the back of her hand, and grinned, "Just for chucking me out like that, Big K, I'm gonna tell Jesse and Jono all about the carnival ride thing you've got going. Them and *every* kid we meet."

It actually took KARR some time to respond as his computer tracked the 'threat' to it's probably out come. Then the Viper shifted away from her in shock as the angry voice called out loudly, "NEGATIVE!"

Faith just chuckled, balancing on her red high heel pumps as KARR's forward sensor swept in agitation. "You may as well rename yerself 'Puke Master' Big K, cause I'm gonna make it my mission to give you such a reputation..."

"This is NOT acceptable!" KARR growled.

Xander was choking as he tried to laugh without puking himself, "There are consequences to actions, Pal."

Faith smirked as she crouched there beside the Viper as the AI became more agitated, "Tell you want, big K, we'll make ourselves a deal..."

"I am listening..." The AI growled in annoyance.

Jenny Calender looked around the town she had been consigned too and sighed. It looked like such a nice, normal, place. Too bad the looks were more than merely deceiving, but actually dangerously so. She could feel the darkness in the background, the hate and the fear that thrived in the proximity to the Hellmouth.

The hellmouth itself was also there, a powerful yet somehow... oily and ethereal, sensation that left a bad taste in the back of her mouth.

What surprised her, however, was the flashes of power on the other side of the line.

She was standing near the town's 'center', such as it was, and could feel the powerful wards that wrapped certain buildings. There was an English style pub, as far as she could tell, that radiated powerful protection wards. Many of the businesses were similarly protected, though on lower levels, as well. In fact, each of the protected buildings sported a sign that announced a provate security firm.

Good Knight Security.

In a town that she now knew the 'Knighthood' played a role.

There was the off chance that it was a coincidence, but she wasn't betting on it.

No matter how she looked at it, though, things were interesting at the very least. Few of the known groups would be willing to take the fight to the center of evil with quite this much arrogance. The Vatican groups were the only ones she could think of with similar attitudes, but very few of them were remotely powerful enough to consider this level of intervention.

The only one that could was the Van Helsing group, and they were mobile trouble shooters that rarely stayed in one place for more than a few days at most. If they did, entire worlds of badness was likely to drop down around their skulls. That was what happened when you gathered a reputation as powerful as Van Helsing did, even if you have the backing of the Catholic Church.

Jenny wondered if they really had any idea what was likely to happen in the long term, if these 'Knighthood' people continued on their chosen path.

She rather doubted it.

While she was pondering that, however, a black ford SUV glided down the street, the logo of Good Knight Security in gleaming silver on it's side, and she watched as it came to a stop just up the street from her and two men stepped out.

Military if She'd ever seen such, they were visible armed and wearing white uniform shirts and dark grey pants as they nodded politely to the people on the street, smiling and joking with a couple like they knew them, and headed into the Starbucks.

Cops were Cops, she supposed wryly. Even private rent-a-cops spent their time propping up the local coffee and donut shops.

A marked police car pulled in just after them, though, and Jenny frowned as she approached, noting the dark looks on the real cop's faces as they climbed out of the squad car and followed the GKS people into the Starbucks.

"Well, check it out, Stan... It's the rent-a-cops." Detective Stein sneered as he stepped up behind the two uniformed security guards, "You boys should learn to watch your backs, this is can be a dangerous town."

The two GKS people didn't bother to turn around, but the larger of them spoke quietly. "Detective. Good morning. You might want to get your car looked at, it's running on only seven cylinders... We heard you coming down the block."

Stein flushed angrily, "You've got a real smart mouth, pal. You looking for trouble!?"

The big man turned around, straightening up to tower a full head over the Sunnydale cop, "Always, Detective. Always."

Stein dropped back a step, but the smaller of the two GKS people put a hand on his partner's shoulder.

"Relax Carl," He said, "He's not our problem."

The big guy grumbled, but nodded and picked up his coffee. He and his partner nodded to the cashier, who was standing in near frozen apprehension, then walked past the two cops.

"Good morning, Officers."

Stein actually trembled with anger as they stepped past, "I'll be watching you guys! One step, just one step out of line and I'll shut you all down!"

The two paused at the door, not turning back, and he heard one of the speak softly.

It was almost impossible to hear, but the single word filtered back enough for Stein to make it out.


Then they were through the door and heading toward their brand new SUV.

"Christ, Stein," Stanley Denver hissed under his breath, "Those guys have the Town Council on their side, you sure that pissing them off is a good idea?"

Stein just growled, pushing his partner away as he stormed out of the Starbucks.

Carl Baker, formerly of the US Army Military Police, and his long time partner Simon Kensington slid into the air conditioned SUV and pulled out onto the street as Detective Stein stormed out after them. They pulled away as he glared at them from the curb, knowing that he couldn't do anything at the moment, and with some luck wouldn't be any position to do anything ever.

The two former MPs had been given section eight discharges from the US Army three years earlier when they'd broken up a routine bar brawl that had turned into a fight for their lives against things that wouldn't stay down when they put them on the ground.

Trained in non-lethal takedowns, the two had found themselves with their backs to the wall, side by side with a half dozen SpecOps boys who were in the same boat, and not one of them had any idea what the hell was going on. They'd gone for their weapons in desperation, emptying the nine millimeter and forty five caliber rounds from their pistols into the advancing monsters, only to have them grin and keep coming.

Baker figured they should have died then, and still suspected that fate had somehow been fooled into letting them go, but another group of monsters had actually intervened. He didn't know the story then, and didn't know it to this day, but he privately thought that they'd stumbled into some kind of supernatural gang war and had been saved by cross fire.

The US Army hadn't found their report of monsters to be amusing in the slightest, and both he and his partner, along with all the specops boys, had been cashiered with very quiet Section Eights.

Three years later, Carl had gotten a call from one of the SpecOps boys, a former Green Beret, with a job offer. He'd called Simon a few minutes later, and they turned up in Sunnydale California in under a week. That was when he'd been finally let in on the secret that had ruined his career in the Army years earlier.

Vampires and Demons were real.

And sons of bitches like Stein knew about them and still let them have their own way while wearing a badge of office.

"I hate that fucker," Carl growled.

"Don't worry about him, pal," Simon replied cooly. "Boss has a plan to deal with him."

"I can't fucking wait."

The two security guards for GKS drove back around the block, heading for a known hot spot in the area. Daylight was a deterrence to trouble in Sunnydale, but not a guarantee.

Chapter 10

Xander idly flipped open a couple circuits, then eyed the wrap around holographic HUD that KARR projected around the driver's cockpit. "Looking good, Pal. Ready for a little long distance trial?"

"Affirmative." KARR replied in his low, angry voice.

"You know, some day we ought to pay the Foundation a visit and kick the ass of the guy who programmed you." Xander replied, "You'd think they'd have given you more than one emotional sound."

"I am the Knight Automated Roving Robot," KARR replied, "I have no emotions."

Xander snorted, "Yeah right, that's why you panicked when Faith threatened you with Jon and Jes."

"I do NOT panic." KARR growled.

"Yeah, sure." Xander replied, his tone amused, "Systems check."

"All systems are green." the AI responded.

"Alright, let's see how fast we can hit LA." Xander grinned, pushing the gas pedal down, "are you updating your neural connections?"

"Affirmative," The AI said as they tore out of the lot, squealing around in a tight turn, and silently sped down the road out of town.

The black Viper was still accelerating as they blew past the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign that had been replaced since the last time, and the backwash of wind shook it back and forth in place for several seconds after they were long out of sight.

On the highway, KARRs long range sensors locked onto traffic up ahead, flashing it up into the holographic HUD.

"Let's try a little Super Pursuit... our style," Xander grinned, keying in a command sequence.

KARR could have initiated it himself, such was the nature of their deal, but he allowed Xander to key in the initiation sequence as he continued to map neural responses. As the SPM shift began, KARR sent a blast of Turbo Boost energy into the ground under them, lifting the Viper clear off the road in a long arc as a spoiler slid out from the rear and adjusted the wind flow.

The four independent tires retracted and folded into the chassis as the vehicle slid smoothly into ground effect mode, similar to the Foundation's 'hovercraft' mode designed for KITT. Air intakes in the front sucked the wind blast in through the grill and hood, then ducted it out and down as they continued to accelerate to KARR's SPM cruising speed of five hundred and fifty five miles per hour at an altitude of three feet.

"Traffic approaching rapidly."

"Initiate mapping and evasion sequence." Xander replied, knuckles tensing on the wheel.

He probably should have tested the system on a salt flat, now that he thought about it.

"Affirmative." KARR replied.

Xander shifted his vision into enhanced mode, letting the world slow around him. No normal human would have a chance in hell of maneuvering a vehicle like KARR at full capacity, but he wasn't about to play fair. The long range radar and lidar pulses mapped out the road ahead of him, even as they converged with the traffic.

The Viper banked hard to the right, ducking a family sedan, then twisted left away from a minivan. The Heads Up Display was filled with the icons that indicated vehicles, and a blue path cut through them that showed the 'safe lane' path for them to follow.

So they wove in and out, cutting across lanes of traffic at such a speed that most people never even had a heartbeat to react before they were long gone, leaving only whispered curses and shocked faces in their wake. Los Angeles was upon them in minutes, and Xander slammed the viper onto the exit, skipping over the top of a Semi-Trailer as it too headed into the city, coming down in front of the driver as KARR flipped open the air brakes and initiated deceleration.

The racing tires rotated out of their recessed wells, already turning to the appropriate speed as KARR calculated airspeed, and they kissed asphalt inside of Los Angeles less than ten minutes after leaving Sunnydale.

Xander just whooped, unable to contain himself.

"Man! What a frigging RUSH!" He grinned stupidly as the Foundation's Laser Restraint System, combined with some Avalon tweaking, prevented him from going through the windshield.

KARR didn't join him, but privately the AI agreed. The experience had been... revelatory. It was the first real upgrade he'd had, and the sensation of so far exceeding his previous limits was indescribable. Beyond the benefit of repairs, KARR felt that the potential for upgrades was an exceedingly good point in favor of continued relations with Xander and Avalon.

The fact that, by doing so, he could also begin to uphold his secondary protocols, well that was just a bonus.

"So what are you guys doing tonight?" Dylan Saunders asked as the trio stepped out of the Townsend Detective Agency.

Alex just shrugged, "Spending some time with Jason."

Natalie didn't say anything, causing the other two to look over at her.

"Well? What are you doing tonight?" Dylan repeated.

"Xander." Natalie replied.

"Honey, you two broke up, remember?" Dylan said, surprisingly gently all things considered.

"No, look." Natalie nodded her head.

The other two turned to where the blond was looking and were surprised to see Xander Harris leaning against the side of a glossy black Dodge Viper that was resting against the curb.

"Someone's got a lot of nerve," Dylan mumbled, cracking her knuckles.

"Dylan," Natalie growled sharply, "Be nice."

"Yeah... sure," The red head said as they approached the waiting figure, "until it's time NOT to be nice."

"That's it," Alex shook her head, "You have got to stop seeing that Bouncer."

"Awww! He's cute!"

"He's a bad influence!"

Dylan went on to object, but Natalie ignored them both as she and they arrived at the viper. "Xander."

"Hey Nat," Xander smiled tightly, his conflicting memories concerning their 'breakup' still plaguing him.

She looked down at the car, "Nice wheels... new?"

"New and old. Say hi to Nat, KARR."

Natalie's eyes lit up as she heard the name, and when the familiar, yet angry sounding, voice spoke up she almost squealed.

"Hello Natalie."

"KARR!" Natalie jumped around the hood, looking down into the forward sensor, "You're looking great!"

"Thank you," The AI said formally.

"That's KARR??" Dylan blinked, distracted from her tirade as she took in the Viper for the first time really. "Wow. Not bad for a bucket of bolts."

The AI shifted on it's suspension, the front sensor whirring as it swept back and forth, but KARR didn't deign to respond.

"Dylan!" Natalie objected for him, "KARR is not, and never was, a bucket of bolts!"

"Yeah well he didn't run over your FOOT now did he!?"

"I can't believe you're still angry about that!"

"Those were my favorite shoes!"

Alex sighed, shaking her head as her two partners bickered over the hood of the car. She fixed Xander with a focused look, though, and stepped closer. "What brings you to LA?"

"A promise." Xander said, "One of many."

"What sort of promise?"

Xander shrugged, "I told Natalie that I'd take her somewhere, a while back... if she wanted to go. Time to deliver."

Dylan paused in midst of haranguing KARR and Natalie, turning on Xander like a guided missile. "You think she's going anywhere with y-!?"

Natalie, however, did squeal this time as she swept around the car and grabbed Xander by the shoulder. "You mean!?"

He grinned and nodded, "If you're interested."

"How could I miss it!? God, I thought you'd forget about it, and I didn't want to ask, but it would be so incredible...!"

<Willow babble from a blond... it's staggering,> Xander though, grinning.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Dylan clapped her hands together, "Time out for the babble impaired! Are you nuts!? You just broke up with this guy! Nat, you were depressed for a week!"

Natalie shot her an angry looked, "I was not depressed! I was just... quiet."

"Only a week?" Xander asked, trying to pout and failing miserably, "I'm hurt. I figured at least two..."

Natalie slapped him with an absent backhand, "Hush you. Besides, Dylan, you don't know what he's asking..."

"So what is he asking??"

Natalie glanced questioningly at Xander, who was rubbing the side of his head.

"May as well tell her, I was going to invite them too," He replied grumpily.

"He's going to Atlantis." Natalie hissed.

The other two Angels stared at her for a long confused moment.

"I don't get it." Dylan blinked.

"Huh?" Alex shook her head.

"Atlantis. The *real* Atlantis." Natalie repeated. "You know? The city under the sea... swallowed up by the oceans??"

"No way."


Xander just nodded, "Yes. I promised Nat a visit if she liked, and we're bringing supplies to Queen Kida, Milo, and their people next week. Some of us are making a cruise of it, we're heading down through the canal in a few days. You can catch a lift with one of the aircraft we're sending a little later if you like..."

He shrugged, "Or you could come with, but it'll be cramped on the 579."

The three girls looked at each other, blinking.

"The *real* Atlantis??" Alex asked, "You're not kidding?? It doesn't exist... It can't..."

Xander shrugged, "Come along and find out."

Chapter 11

"Oh Christ, it's him again. Cut!"

Xander looked around as the Director threw up his hands and stalked off. "What? What'd I do?"

Kevin just grinned as he walked off the set, waving to Jason and one of the bikini clad Amazons, "Don't worry about it, Xan. What's up?"

"Just checking in, see what you were up to, maybe ask if I can borrow your yacht."

Kevin blinked. "What??"

Xander just laughed, "Mostly kidding, man. We're just planning a little cruise before the school year starts, I want to get everyone out of Sunnydale for a bit. Figured I'd take em all to see Atlantis."

Kevin snorted, shaking his head, "Let me get this straight... You're taking your friends on a cruise to Atlantis for vacation??"

"Well, I thought about going up the coast to Seacouver, but it just didn't seem as... well... spectacular." Xander grinned.

"You need help, Xan. You need serious help."

"Yeah, I know," Xander nodded, "The 579 won't hold everyone, and we were thinking about making an event of it. Wanna come along?"

"And bring my yacht no doubt," Hercules said dryly.

"Would you? Thanks, Pal." Xander grinned, clapping the demi-god on the shoulder.

"Har Har." Kevin said dryly, sighing, "I'm not sure if I can get away, I'll need to check the shooting schedule. I think we've got a sidekicks episode on the docker... give me a few minutes."

Xander grinned, "No problem."

Xander glanced around the set, noting the action going on off to one side and wandered over in that direction. When he arrived he saw that it was people setting up a new series of sets that obviously weren't intended for the hercules series.

The fact that a mockup of a Hammerhead fighter was sitting in the middle of one of the sets was something of a dead giveaway. Xander sighed as he walked over and picked up one of the flight helmets resting on a bench by the mockup.

He chuckled dryly as he flipped the helmet over, noting that the design would probably collapse under a quarter the pressures the Hammerhead's put their pilots through. Hollywierd, he supposed, but he was just as happy that his own flight helm was designed slightly differently.

"Xan? Hey!"

Xander looked over his shoulder, spotting Kevin as he jogged over. "Hey man, I see you're still planning on doing this Space Beyond whatever thing."

"Above and beyond." Kevin corrected, grinning. "What do you think?"

"What's with the lightbulbs inside the helmets?" Xander asked, chuckling, "You trying to ruin your pilots night vision?"

Herc rubbed the back of his head and smiled, somewhat chagrined, "That wasn't my call. The Visual effects people say that they have to be able to see the actors faces."

Xander snorted, but set the helmet down. "Whatever. So how's your schedule?"

"Sam's not happy with you, but I've got a couple weeks," Kevin grinned.

Xander chuckled, "Tell him I'll invest in his next movie or whatever...."

Xander trailed off, eyes noticing a familiar face off in the distance, "Hey... is that Jack?"

Kevin glanced over his shoulder, "Yeah... He's trying to sell Sam on series... I think he's calling it Styling on Palau Palau or something."

"Title needs work." Xander replied.

Kevin laughed, nodding in agreement. "Doubt it'll go anywhere."

"I was wondering where Jack got off too. Haven't seen him around Sunnydale as much." Xander said.

"I gave him a job here," Kevin replied, "He stays with me when he's in town."

"Better you than me."

They laughed, walking off the slowly growing set of Space : Above and Beyond, and headed back toward the Legendary Journeys sets.

"I still can't believe you talked me into letting you use a Hammerhead..." Xander sighed, shaking his head.

"Yeah, since you mentioned that," Kevin said, "I don't suppose you could spare a powered armor suit for a few weeks...?"

"Don't push your luck, Greek Boy."

Visiting the Angels and Kevin had taken hours, but Xander felt satisfied that he'd gotten everything he wanted done, right down to checking out the majority of KARR's new systems. The cockpit of the Viper was a snug, but comfortable, fit and the neural systems were now upwards of 97 percent, so all in all it was a pretty productive day.

Sunnydale was rapidly approaching in the distance as KARRs tires touched down again, shifting out of Groud Effect mode and back into normal driving mode as the air brakes slowed their motion and Xander noted the rapidly approaching sign with a wry eye.

He reached out, flipping open a circuit. "Weapon test."

KARR hummed, "Affirmative."

He armed the forward machine gun, and watched as the heavy weapon slid up out of the hood, pivoting as he highlighted the sign on the holographic hud, then reached down to grip the manual trigger and squeezed it tight.

The specially built .50 caliber caseless weapon roared as they tore past the sign at two hundred and fifty miles per hour, turning the 'welcome' sign to confetti. The weapon silenced as KARR calculated the accuracy and lowered the machine gun back into his chassis.

"Ninety eight hits within acceptable tolerance, two misses. Magazine is now empty."

Xander nodded, "Not bad. We'll load you up with Silver slugs when we get back."


"Just remember, pal, treat it like a cop would treat his gun. You're going to have to account for every round you expend." Xander reminded the AI.


Xander nodded silently as they slowed under a hundred miles an hour and cut a left turn as they came into Sunnydale proper, heading for the mansion.

Tara looked up from her books as she heard the car door close outside and went over to the window. She saw Xander getting out of KARR's new form, then pat the vehicle as it drove off on it's own, presumably heading back to Doctor Wilkes at GKS Hq.

She hurried back to her books and closed them up, stashing them under her bed before head out of her room and down the stairs.

Xander was just closing the door when she was halfway down the stairs, and he smiled up at her, "Hey Tare, what's up?"

"Umm..." She brushed her hair from her face, "I was just wondering... wh-when are we leaving?"

He shrugged, "A couple days."

"O...oh." She nodded, "A-and we're really going down w-with you this time?"

He smiled, "Yeah. We're all going to pay a visit this time."

"That's really... nice."

Xander chuckled as the blond blushed slightly. Nice from Tara was roughly the equivalent of 'Fukin Awesome' from Faith, so he could tell she was excited. There was something else too, though, and Xander wasn't sure what.

"You ok?" He asked as he pulled off his coat.

"U-oh! Yes..." She nodded, "I'm fine... just..."

When she trailed off he frowned, "Just what?"

Tara shook her head, blushing furiously, "It's n-nothing."

Xander had to blink, she was redder than Willow when you mentioned sex. "Is Faith riding you again?"

If possible, Tara managed to turn even redder.

"Cause if she is, I'll..."

"N-No! No, it's nothing like that... I... I just wanted to ask..." Tara suddenly shook her head and spun on her heel, bolting up the stairs. "Nothing! Sorry!"

Xander blinked, watching the blond go.

<What the hell was that?> He wondered.

Elan gave a subconscious shrug, <She is a teenage girl, Alexander. The mind boggles at the range of things it might have been.>

He shuddered, hoping like hell Tara wasn't coming to him to ask about feminine needs. As that nightmare of a thought passed through him, he considered that while his immediate family was heavily weighted to the female side of things, there were no real female role models or even mature women for any of the girls to go to.

The men in the group were ranged over all ages, from the very young to the very old. Ancient in a couple cases, Xander considered. There were no women, however, who'd even finished going through puberty. Well, technically Faith was on her second time around, but Xander didn't even want to imagine what kind of advice SHE was giving to the younger set.

<Christ.> He groaned, <We need a den mother, don't we?>

Elan chuckled softly in the background, and he sighed.

<Alright, something else for the list. Maybe I can bring Joyce in... she could fill the role, and it would be good to get her in on the whole story.> Xander considered.

Elan nodded in the back of his mind, <She is most likely your best option, though Miss Calender is another possibility. Younger than Joyce, true, but also something of a magic user. That may be of equal importance.>

Xander nodded as he wandered through the house and popped open the fridge, snagging a coke. <Point. God, if anyone had ever told me I'd be looking after a bunch of pubescent and prepubescent girls... well, I'd probably have been dumb enough to thank the gods. I'm a frigging moron.>

Elan laughed cheerfully at him, mentally agreeing with his assessment.

He made a face as he sighed and sat down at the table. <You're no help. Aren't you supposed to be this ancient old crone? That's a woman, right?>

Elan's inarticulate cry of outrage didn't catch Xander by surprise in any form or shape, so he just grinned as she did the spiritual equivalent of glaring at him with jaw hanging wide open in shock.

<What? It's not?> He asked, with such patently false innocense that he was fairly confident that he'd gone over the top.

<Oh you.... impossible... child!>

Xander grinned, took another drink, then mentally blew her a raspberry.

She grumpily responded with a rude mental response, then went on to inform him what he could do with his tongue.

In detail.



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