Brewing Storm

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

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

Summary: Cadre Vs The Order of Terakan. Let's get ready to RUMBLE.

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

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

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.

"Hey! Hey! Xander, wait up a second!"

Alexander Lavellle Harris paused, glancing back at the blond Slayer who was chasing him and Giles out into the parking lot. "You need to go home, Buff. You saved the world, took down the Master. That's a good night's work."

Buffy waved a hand, "Don't push me off like that! What are you talking about, waging war on an Assassin's order!? Is Wesley right? Are you perfectly insane!?"

"Nobody's Perfect, Buff." Xander smirked slightly.

Giles chuckled beside him, "Now THAT is funny."

"Shut up!" Buffy yelled, startling them both. "You... You can't!"

"Buffy, if I don't, they'll keep coming." Xander told her, all hint of humor fading from his face. "They'll keep coming, until they kill me."

"But... but... there has to be another way..." She said weakly, looking around as if a magical solution was going to pop up in front of her face.

"Buff. I'm tough. I'm damned hard to kill in fact, as quite a few people will attest... But I'm not immortal, I'm not superman." Xander spoke slowly, seriously, "And not everyone around me is as tough or as well trained as I am. One day the Order will get me, but first they'll probably kill a lot of my friends and innocent people. No, Buff... There is no other way."

He and Giles turned from her then, walking out of the school quad and into the dark parking lot. Neither of them expected what happened next.

"Then I'm coming with you!"

Both men froze, stopping and looking at each other for a short yet interminable moment. Finally, they turned back around and looked at Buffy as she stood defiantly behind them.

"No. You are not." Giles spoke up firmly.

Buffy grew irate, instantly glaring at the older man, but Xander cut off her rage with a sweep of his hand.

"You're not ready for this kind of mission, Buff." He told her simply.

"I train with you! I know how to use guns, I have armor... I'm the Slayer!"

"You're a little girl..."

"Giles!" Xander snapped, cutting the mage off with a glare. He took a breath then looked back at Buffy, "This is a search and destroy mission. You're not trained in team tactics. You'd endanger yourself and the team you were with. I'm sorry Buffy, but you can't come on this one."

"You can't just do this!" Buffy growled, stepping forward. "You can't run off like this, damn it! You helped me... You can't just leave me behind when you need help!"

Xander sighed, "Buff... You're really not ready for this. Please. Trust me."

"I won't let you leave me behind." She glared at him.

Giles rolled his eyes, "And what, pray tell, do you intend to do about it?"

That stopped her, and she backed up a bit as she stared at Giles with wide eyes. "I..."

"Enough." Xander growled, shaking his head. "You want in on this? Fine."

"What!?" Giles snapped, "You can not be serious..."

"Enough!" He snapped again, "She wants in, she's in. She's earned her right to choose."

Giles glowered back, shaking his head, "I don't like this."

"Join the club." Xander replied, then turned to Buffy. "You'll be on my team. That means I'm in charge."

"You're in charge," Buffy agreed, a little too quickly.

"You don't mean that now, but you will before we're done." Xander promised, "Cause if you don't do what I say, I'll toss you out on your ass so hard you bounce."

"I'll do it!" She protested.

"You'd better." Xander replied, "Cause I won't let you endanger my team. I love you, Buffy, but if you endanger my people... I'll shoot you myself."

Buffy swallowed then, her face dissolving into shock as she realized how serious he really was. "I... I get it. I do."

"Alright," Xander gestured to the parked van some distance off. "Let's move. We've got to get moving."

Miami, Florida

"Stan... did you hear something?"

"Shh... I'll check it out."

Agent Stanley Reed rolled the blankets off and got out of his bed, retrieving his DEA issue Glock from the nightstand next to his bed. He moved slowly to the door, cracking it open slightly to peer out.

A moment later he visibly relaxed and pulled the door open as he stashed his pistol on a high shelf by the door.

"Hey buddy, what's wrong?"

"I can't sleep," nine year old Jeremy Reed told his father, looking up at the big man.

"Come on." Stan reached down and plucked his son up, then turned to carry him back inside the room. "You can sleep with Mom and Dad, K?"


Dorothy Reed smiled as her husband set their son down on the bed, then sat down himself. "Hey honey, what's wrong?"

"There was a scary man outside my window."

Stan stiffened then, his head snapping around and voice tightening. "What kind of scary man?"

"He looked like a monster." Jeremy said matter of factly, "His face was all white and he had a painting on it."

Stanley was already back on his feet and moving as Dorothy frowned, "What kind of painting?"

"It looked like a snake."

Dorothy looked up in time to see her husband lunge for the shelf where he had placed his Glock, "Honey? What's wro..."

The window blow in like a bomb had gone off, spraying the family with razor sharp fragments of glass and drawing screams of pain and fear from wife and son. Stanley himself made it to his gun and racked the slide once to chamber a 9mm round as he spun back around.

"Please." The figure standing on the edge of the busted wall said, flipping a hand out.

A dagger flew from the hand like an arrow, and buried itself in Agent Reed's chest. Stanley fell back against the wall, struggling to keep his Glock aimed at the intruder as he pulled the trigger. The first three rounds from the big pistol were dead on, burying themselves into the chest of the intruder, but the man didn't even flinch as he stepped forward and drew a dagger.

"The Cartels send their regards." He told the agent who was sliding down the wall. "They want you to see this, so do stay alive for a few moments longer, alright?"

Then he turned on the screaming wife and child.

Los Angeles California

The insistent buzz finally ended when the heavily muscled hand lifted the small device up to the chiseled jawline and activated the comm.

"Sorbo." The man said.

"Good Evening, Mr Sorbo," the respectful voice came through. "There is a mission being prepped."

Kevin Sorbo looked over the set he was currently working late on, and frowned. "Is it important? I am mostly retired you know."

"I am aware." The voice sounded amused, "However this may interest you."

"Lay it out then."

"The Commander and The General have decided to commit the Cadre to action."

"This soon?" Kevin frowned, "Is this wise?"

"It is needed. The Order of Teraka has been issued an open contract against the Commander. Our intel suggests that the money has been paid to an Escrow agent already."

"Can you find the contractor? Have him call it off?"

"Even if he were so inclined, I'm afraid that it would require a Medium."

"Damn." Kevin said with feeling. "So... what? The Terakan's are structured in a cell structure... we can't destroy them. I've tried."

"Perhaps not, but we can cripple them... terrify them... and give them something else to worry about."

Kevin paused for a moment, then nodded. "Alright. I'm in."

"Good. The mission departure point nearest you is in Sunnydale. I believe you have the Address?"

"Yeah, I've got it." Kevin smiled slightly. "Tell Xander that I'm on my way."

"I will. And thank you, Mr Sorbo."

The connection ended then, and Kevin Sorbo pocketed the one piece of Atlantean technology he kept around.

"The Order of Teraka, huh?" He said out loud, "This should be interesting."

"What's that Kev?"

He looked over at his director, startled, "Nothing big, Sam. Look, can we wrap this up quickly? Something's come up. Family emergency."

"Everything ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just may need a few days is all."

"Alright, let's get this shot and we'll reschedule the next couple days for the non-hercules shots. That ok?"

"That's Gold, thanks Sam."


Xander strode into the mansion, glancing around at the rather haggard group that was sitting around the large living are off the main hall. "Everyone ok?"

"We're five by five, boy toy." Faith answered calmly.

"Good. Apone?"

"He'll live." She told him.

"Alright," Xander glanced at the former marines who were tracking dirt and grime onto his hardwood floor and expensive couch. "Faith tells me that you handled some Terakans pretty roughly. Nice job."

Most of the warriors smiled at least weakly, Hudson going so far as to grin. "Hell yeah!"

"It's not over though. The Terakans have become an intolerable nuisance to my operations here in Sunnydale. That means we've got to reciprocate, and make ourselves a righteous pain in THEIR ass. You up for it?"

"Fucking A."

"You know it."

"Just say the word."

"Good." Xander nodded, then glanced over his shoulder. "Buff, if you're coming you'd better call your mom and get permission to sleep over with Faith."

Buffy nodded, then Xander glanced back. "I've got one job to do before we pull out, plus we're expecting some reinforcements here, so get some rest and shuteye while you can. We've got rooms upstairs with clean sheets and decent beds. Use 'em."

Then he strode back out, leaving a confused mass behind him.

"B?" Faith eyed the blond uncertainly, "You're in on this?"

"Yeah... Yeah." Buffy nodded, "I'm in."

"Five by five." Faith shrugged, "You best call Joyce then."


The two girls turned and walked out, leaving the Marines staring at each other.

"Did the Commander just tell one of our teammates-to-be to call her MOM and ask if she could come along??" Hudson asked, looking around in total confusion.

Hicks just shouldered his pack and shook his head, "Forget it, Private. Let's just get some shut eye while we can."

"Yeah, miho." Vasquez nodded, "This shit is too fuckin weird for me to deal with while I'm half asleep."

Drake just grunted and stood up.

"Uh, right..." Hudson looked around, then finally shook his head. "Fucking twilight zone, man!"


"Whoa! Hang on CSI! No one goes in there until the Bomb Squad clears it."

Lead Detective Yelina Salas gritted her teeth but nodded and gestured her team back, "Fine. Who's in there?"

"Sergeant Caine."

Yelina nodded grimly, then looked up to the house where her brother in law was searching for any other devices that might threaten police in their investigation.

"Jesus Horatio, doesn't this ever get to you?"

"Not while I'm on the clock." Horatio Caine replied, moving slowly into the bedroom after he'd checked the door for trip wires. "Door's clear. Am Proceeding into the bedroom now."

"Roger that, Horatio. Take care now."

"You know it, Lieutenant." The bomb disposal expert whispered into his throat mic as he pushed the door wider and stepped in. A moment later he winced slightly, shaking his head. "It's a mess, Sir."

Lieutenant Al Humphreys voice came back a moment later, "Don't think about that, Caine. That's CSI's job. Locate and other devices and report back."

"Yes Sir." Caine replied, forcing his eyes away from the mutilated corpses on the bed, and toward the epicenter of the explosion that had rocked the suburban house.

Behind him he heard gagging almost as soon as his partner came through the door, "Don't look at the bed, Johnson!"

"So... sorry Horatio... I... I'm..." The man heaved.

"Out!" Horatio spun around, shoving the man out the door. "You'll contaminate the scene."

Out in the hallway there was the sound of liquid spattering the wall and floor, but Horatio ignored it and turned back to the debris pattern he was looking at.

"This is strange, Lt." He said, keying open his mic again. "The debris field is scattered into the room, like the bomb was outside. On the wall maybe."

"That could be, Horatio. What's strange about it?"

"There are no scorch marks, Al." Horatio returned, "It looks more like... a giant fist just punched in the wall."

"Alright, check that. Look for any other potential devices, we've got CSI out there and they want in."

Horatio nodded, "Check. Am clearing the room now."

He turned away from the hole in the wall, moving slowly through the miniature armageddon that existed there. He paused by the body of the man, the only one of the three in the room that wasn't mutilated, and eyeballed the slide that had locked back on the Glock still held in his hand, as well as the casings that lay all around him.

"No sign of a device yet, Al. Do we have any information on the guy who lived here?"

"Not yet, Horatio. Why?"

"I'm looking at what seems to be a Government issue Glock. It's been fired empty. Tell the CSI boys that they might want a background before they get in too deep."

"Alright, I'll tell them. Just clear that room."

"Working on it."

Horatio keyed off the mic then and moved back over to the bed, kneeling down and examining underneath it. He was just finishing that up when a scratch behind him brought him up and around. He pulled his service pistol from under the heavy bomb squad armor, and leveled it at the closet as he moved slowly forward.

"Horatio here." He hissed into the mic. "I've got someone in the room. I say again, there is someone still in the room."

"We're sending backup, Horatio. Be careful."

"Always." Horatio Caine said as he closed on the closet door with his pistol aimed ahead of him.

He paused at the door, quickly eyeballing the edges for any sign of tripwires, then pulled it open as he leveled his gun into the small space.

There was nothing there but a small noise from below caused him to point his gun down, and right into the eyes of a shivering little girl. He immediately pulled his gun back up, pointing it at the ceiling, then struggled out of the massive helmet and face shield he wore as he crouched down.

"Well hello there," He smiled warmly at her, "What's your name?"

She didn't say anything.

"You know what?" He asked calmly, still smiling softly at her. "I bet it's scary in here... I'll tell you what I'd like to do... I'd like to take you out of here. Is that ok?"

She hesitated, then nodded.

Horatio glanced over his shoulder, making sure that he was between the child and the bodies on the bed. "Come on then, I'm a police man and I'm here to help."


"Eleven targets confirmed, General."

General Grey nodded, looking at the scattered points of light on his map. New Orleans, New Zealand, Africa... and eight others similarly scattered across the entirety of the planet. Each site confirming no less then one member of the Order of Teraka, and probably no more then five.

A maximum of fifty five assassins scattered across the entire planet.

How many could the Order have?

Neither Merlin nor Grey could tell.

More then that, certainly. They'd already sacrificed more then half that number in the contract on the Commander as it was. That would imply a significant concentration just in the United States of America, an area where employment in such areas was harder to hide then some areas of the world.

"What about Paris?" Grey asked.

"There was one there, however it was destroyed last year. To my knowledge it has not yet been replaced." Merlin responded, "The Commander has noted the Former member of the Order there who caused so much trouble last year, however, and will undoubtedly contact him for more information."

Grey nodded. "Ok, let's go over the layouts of the places we know about."



The Director blinked away the sleep as he moved in front of his computer and examined the source of the insistent beeping.

<Why is Miami Dade doing background searches on one of my people?>

He tapped in a check, then flagged the file with a higher level of security, and finally reached for the phone.

"Agent Givens? This is the Director. Find out why Miami Dade is interested in Agent Stanley Reed. Now."

He hung up the phone then and looked at the screen again, his gut churning as he considered the options.

Few of them were good.

"So much for sleep," The tall black man sighed, rising to his feet.

"Honey?" His wife moaned, "It's three AM... come back to bed."

"I can't sleep, dear... go back to sleep. I'm going for a walk."

"Liar." She groaned, "You're going to the Office, aren't you?"

He smiled, "Yeah." She rolled over and covered her head with a pillow.


"Hey Boytoy? You down here?"

Xander didn't look back as Faith slowly stepped down into the basement. He just finished reloading the empty clips from his FiveseveNs and fitted them back into the brace he wore. "I'm here Faith."

"B's getting psyched upstairs." She told him, "You did a real number on her, Xan. You really tell you'd shoot her yourself?"

"Yep." Xander said, stripping his pistols and checking for dirt in the workings.

"That's harsh."

"No. That's truth." Xander said, quickly reassembling his pistols. "She asked to be in on this, which is her choice... but I have my people to think of."

"She is one of your people, Xan."

Xander nodded, sliding the FiveseveNs back into the shoulder leather. "I know. But she's only one person. I have so many more to worry about now."

"This ain't like you..."

"You don't know me that well, Faith." Xander cut her off, finally turning around. "You and me, we're not the same."

Faith's eyes widened and she fell back a step, "I... don't you think I know that? Xan... you're so much... more then I am..."

Xander shook his head, half smiling. "No. I'm not."

He walked over to her, cupping her cheek with one hand. "You're much better then I am, Faith. You just pretend to be worse because you think you don't deserve to be as good as you are."

She swallowed, shaking her head, but he pulled away from her and reached into the gun safe, pulling out a small leather pouch that jingled as he yanked it up into his hand.

"Xander... where are you going?" She asked as he pocketed the pouch and headed for the door.

"Out. Have everyone get ready, we'll be heading to Avalon by morning light." He told her, then walked up the stairs.


Agent Harry Wolfe of the Central Tactical Unit of the DEA, or Centac, rolled over in his head and grabbed the phone as it rang.

"Wolfe." He snapped into the phone, sleep clouding his voice.

"This is the Director."

Harry forced himself awake, "I'm up. What's going on?"

"One of our Agents was just killed." The Director's voice said coldly. "The killer also killed most of his family."


"His nine year old daughter survived. We don't know how yet. Miami Dade PD have her at their Crime Scene Investigations unit. I want you and Agent Morales to go down there and see if she knows anything."

"Two what end?" Wolfe asked, making sure that he and the Director were on the same wavelength.

"I'm authorizing a Code Zero."

"I'll be there in twenty minutes."

"Carmalita will meet you there."

Harry hung up the phone and roused himself quickly by shoving off the bed and letting himself fall to the floor. Once there he did a quick fifty pushups, twenty on his hands, twenty on his knuckles, then five on each arm alone. Only when he was done did he get up and walk to his closet.

His suit was first, of course, the standard agent attire for dealing with other law enforcement agencies. Then he slid his Glock 17 into the custom made shoulder leather, and the custom snub nosed Smith and Wesson. 357 slid into the Ken Null ankle holster which was quickly hidden under his pantlegs.

Then Agent Harry Wolfe turned to examine himself in the mirror, staring at the stubble of hair he had let grow slowly back, the clean shaven face he'd once tried to forget.

Another Code Zero.

He closed his eyes.

At least it would be good to see Carmalita again.


The cherry red Vette pulled up outside the impressive looking mansion and it's driver got out, smiling up at the huge house and shook his head.

"It's nicer then my place." Kevin Sorbo chuckled as he slammed his car door shut and walked up to the front door.

Jonathon stared wide eyed at the weapons that were piling up in the center of the living area as Faith directed him and Jessie to carry the unloaded guns and ammo up and into place.

"Is this all really necessary?" Jessie complained, lugging a disassembled Barret M82.

"X says to pack for war, this is what we're doing." Faith told him.

"Aren't the Marines up there supposed to help?"

"They need some shut eye. Things are gonna get hot for them soon." Faith replied, "Now go fetch the..."

The door chime sounding interrupted her.

"I'll get it!" Jessie yelled, dropping the load and dashing for the door.

Faith rolled her eyes and went back to work until a yelp from the door snapped her around. "Jes! What the...!"

She paused in mid dash, suddenly grinning ear to ear as she recognized the big man coming in the door. "Kev!"

Kevin Sorbo laughed as he hugged the young girl who dashed over to him, "How's it been, Faith... or is it Dana now?"

"Faith's fine." She told him, "You in on this thing?"

"Oh yeah." Kevin nodded, "The Terakan's messed with me and mine more then once. I'm fine with dealing them some trouble."


Jessie and Jonathon were staring from either side, eyes wide and mouths gaping as Faith chatted with the famous face.

"Holy crap!" Jessie suddenly blurted, "You're Hercules!"

"No, but I play him on television." Kevin grinned, "Who're these two, Faith?"

"That's Jessie and that's Jon-boy." Faith pointed, "They're designated mascots for this here operation."

"Hey!" Jessie yelped, "Who're you calling a mascot!?"

"Hercules..." Jon finally managed to speak, his eyes suddenly moving again. "Holy crap! He's Hercules!"

"Didn't we just cover that?" Kevin frowned at Faith.

"Don't mind them, they're a little slow in the head by times." Faith shrugged, motioning inside. "Come on in. Xan went out, but he'll be back soon."

"Alright." Kevin nodded, walking in. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the pile of material on the living room floor. "Packing I see."

"Yeah well, Avalon has gear for everyone of course, but boytoy and me like using our own stuff." Faith told him.

Kevin nodded, "That's smart."

"Holy...!" Someone yelped, then darted out of sight before Kevin could turn around to see them.

"What the hell was that?"

"I think that was Queen C." Faith frowned, craning her neck.

"Why'd she run?"

Faith shrugged, "Dunno. Do I look dumb enough to think like a Cheerleader??"

Mayor Richard Wilkins the Third, and second, and first for that matter, was working late as was his wont. In fact he preferred it, the night was when Sunnydale truly came alive, so to speak.

"Paperwork, paperwork..." He sighed, actually smiling a little bit. "Good government turns on paperwork."

"So they say."

The voice startled the mayor, making him jump in his chair and snap his head up to where a figure was leaning against the wall. "See here! How did you get in here?"

"I walked." The figure said, leaning forward and coming out of the shadows.

Wilkins froze for a moment then, recognizing the figure. "Mr Harris. I suppose I should have expected to see you sooner or later."

"Would have been sooner, but I had other business to take care of." Xander told him, idly tapping the wall with the butt of the drawn pistol that filled his hand.

"I take it this isn't a social call?" Wilkins asked calmly, his fingers sliding under the desk.

"No. And don't bother with the caller. I disabled it." Xander said, "And I also dusted your goons about ten minutes ago."

"I see." Wilkins sighed, leaning back. "So you're here to kill me I suppose?"

"I'm afraid so." Xander said, half smiling. "It's too bad, you know. You actually were a good mayor. Sunnydale got a lot of things that it would never have qualified for with someone else working the system."

"Well, I do try to give the people their money's worth."

"And the fact that all of that encouraged more people to move here where they could feed your ascension had nothing to do with it of course." Xander shook his head ironically.

"All politics are about working the system."

Xander nodded, raising his pistol even with Wilkin's head. "Goodbye Mr Mayor."

The shot was silent, but it's effect was instant. A plume of blood spattered the back wall, and Richard Wilkins the Third hit the desk with a solid thump. Xander holstered his gun then, and walked over to the body as he fished the leather pouch from his pocket and pulled out single gold ring. He put the ring on the Mayor's finger, then grimaced as he wrote out the word 'Assassin' in blood over the fallen body.


"Agent Harry Wolfe," Harry said, flashing his badge at the desk, "I'm with the DEA AISI unit here in Miami."

The woman behind the desk nodded, "You must be here about the Reed case?"

"That's correct ma'am."

"Lead detective is the Unit Supervisor, Detective Salas." The woman said, "I'll page her, she's in the Ballistics lab."

"That's fine, I'll wait."

Harry turned around and walked back out into the large clean reception area, noting some of the people as they moved through. Suspects, cops, lab technicians. Miami Dade had a good reputation for their criminalist division, and he'd worked with their people before but rarely had cause to come in to the head office.

It was the first time, in fact, since they'd tore down the old building and setup in the newer, more modern facilities. Harry had to admit that, so far, it looked like money well spent.

"Agent Wolfe?"

The female voice caused Harry to turn around in time to spot a hispanic, probably cuban, lady walk toward him. He nodded, "Detective Salas?"

"That's me." She confirmed, "My condolences on your Agent."

Harry nodded, but only shrugged past that. "I didn't know Agent Reed personally, and at the moment I'm more concerned with his remaining family."

"The daughter is fine, one of the bomb squad people found her while they were clearing the house."

"Bomb squad?" Harry's voice sharpened, "I wasn't aware that there was a bomb."

"We're not sure if there was," Salas frowned, "To be honest, the scene is more then a little confusing. Neighbors reported what sounded like an explosion, however, so we led with the Bomb Disposal Team."

Harry nodded, understanding. "Alright. I understand that Agent Reed managed to get off a few shots?"

"That's correct. The Agent emptied his magazine, in fact." Salas replied, frowning again.

Harry watched her for a moment, "Is there a problem?"

"Not exactly, Agent Wofe." She sighed, "It's just that he fired all seventeen rounds from his Agency Issued weapon, at a target that was presumably in the same room with him... But we haven't found any blood trail or evidence that he hit his target."

"Armor?" Wolfe asked.

"No. We pulled the bullets out of the wall, and they tracked across the room as if what he was aiming at was moving."

Wolfe frowned, flipping open a folder he'd brought with him. "Agent Reed was a three time pistol champion. He wouldn't miss at that range."

"We're running some trace that we found on the bullets now, maybe that will help explain something." Salas said, shaking her head. "At the moment that's about all we have, except this..."

Wolfe looked down and took a piece of paper from her, then flipped it over and frowned. "What's this?"

"A picture drawn by the Agent's daughter. She says that the 'monster' wore it on his finger." Detective Salas told him.


"Kevin Sorbo is HERE!" Cordelia Chase hissed, yanking Buffy around in a circle.

"Whoa! Ow! And what the hell are you talking about!?"

"Kevin Sorbo! Hercules! He's in this house!" Cordelia answered, shaking the Slayer hard enough that her blond hair flew in a cloud around her head.

"Let me go!" Buffy prized herself free of Cordelia's grip, then went about fixing her hair. "Are you completely mental??"

There was a long silence then, and Buffy swallowed. "Hey... I uh, I'm sorry Cordy, I didn't mean..."

Cordelia nodded, "It's ok. Maybe I am, but that's something else. How's my makeup look?"

Buffy blinked, "Huh?"

"Make-up. Hair. You know... looks?" Cordelia spoke slowly, as if for a child. "I can't meet Kevin Sorbo looking like I hang out with you guys!"

"Cordelia, you do hang out with us."

"SO!? What's that got to do with anything??"

Buffy wondered briefly, if she should be worried that Cordelia was having an apparent psychotic break, or be happy that the girl was beginning to show a resurgence of her old personality.

"One of us is very confused at the moment," She said finally, "And I wish I was certain it wasn't me."


Merlin paused in his preparations, a hint of distraction echoing to him from one of his subroutines that monitored federal computer traffic.

He keyed up the flagged file, then began to delve deeper into the computer that had sent it.

A few second later, he opened a communication channel.



Xander was on his way back to the mansion, knowing that it would be morning at the latest that the Mayor's body was found, probably more since he'd taken the time to lock the door. With luck everyone would be too afraid to open it for some time.

By the time they did, the Terakan's deaths would be big news in the demon community.

With detectives like Stein on the case, even the Mayor's death should get kicked under the carpet in short order with enough evidence of the supernatural around it. And if it didn't, the ring and the word above he body should connect Wilkins' death to what was about to happen.

His fold-comm buzzed then, interrupting his grim thoughts.


"I'm here, Merlin."

"I believe that we have a twelfth location for the Terakans."

"Good work. How'd you find him?"

"I haven't, however there was a murder of a DEA agent and his family in Miami. The sole survivor, the agent's nine year old daughter, drew a picture that looked very much like the symbol for the Order."

Xander grimaced, showing his teeth as he turned into the driveway to the mansion. "Alright. Investigate, try to locate the assassin."

"Very well."

Xander pulled the black van up beside the Vette and smiled for the first time since he'd left the house. "Herc's here. I'll see you soon, Merlin."

"I am... Looking forward to it, Commander."

Xander chuckled, then signed off as he walked up the path to the front door. He let himself in quietly, listening to the sounds of conversation from inside and walked into the living room.

"Heya Kev." He grinned, stopping in the archway that connected the room to the hall. "Long time."

"I told you to not call me that, Sarah." Kevin Sorbo smirked, rising up and turning around.

Xander grimaced, "Oh now that's hitting below the belt you washed up has been."

Kevin laughed and the two men embraced quickly, clapping each other on the back for a moment before breaking apart.

"So I hear you're going after the Terakans?"

Xander nodded, "They've got a real hefty fee to scalp me I'm afraid, and they've started to interfere with operations on the Hellmouth."

Hercules winced, nodding. "I can see where you'd have to do something about that."

"Yeah." Xander said, then noticed an odd look on Hercules' face. "What's wrong, Kev?"

"You've got two girls behind you making like fly traps."

"Huh?" Xander turned around to see Cordelia and Buffy staring at him and Kevin with gaping mouths and wide eyes.


Agent Carmelita Morales walked into the reception area calmly, looking around for a certain familiar face as she moved through the crowds.

"Excuse me, can I help you?"

Carmelita turned slightly, self-consciously tilting her head so that her bangs fell across the white scar that traced a faint path along her forehead. She smiled up at the tall, yet very young, man who was looking at her. "I'm looking for Agent Harry Wolfe, officer...?"

"Delco." The young man smiled, "The DEA guy, right?"

"That's right," Carmelita smiled demurely at the strong cuban features of the officer.

"He's over with the boss." Delco told her, gesturing to show the way. "I'll show you if you like?"

"I'd like that very much, thank you." She told him, turning slowly.

"No problem...?" He gestured.

"Agent Carmalita Morales." She said, talking his offered hand and smiling as he held it loosely and shook it. "I'm DEA too."

"Oh... uh well, We're all really sorry to hear about the agent..." Delco fumbled.

"I know. Let's just find out what we can, alright?" She said, looking way up through her eyelashes as he stepped closer.

Her five foot four frame wasn't built to stand side by side with a six foot two person and look them in the eyes, which was fine with her of course. Delco gestured to the office in question and, placing a hand on the small of her back, guided Agent Morales through the offices.


"You dweeb!" Cordelia glared at Xander.

Xander looked at her, then at Kevin, and placed his hand on his chest with an innocent explanation. "Who moi?"

"You *know* Kevin Sorbo!?" Buffy blurted. "Why didn't you tell anyone??"

"No one asked?" Xander said, shrugging.

Faith snickered in the background, causing Xander to roll his eyes and glare in her direction.

"You never mentioned me?" Kevin smirked, "I'm hurt. After all the fun we've had..."

"Oh you do NOT get to make this worse!" Xander snapped, turning his glare on Kevin. "You just shut up!"

"Fun? What kind of fun?" Jessie asked, curious.

"He never mentioned the times he's been on the show?"


Even Kevin cringed as everyone else in the room screeched, even Faith.

"You never told ME that, Boytoy!" Faith glared.

"You were on Hercules!?"

Xander groaned, mouthing a death threat in Kevin's direction, as everyone else in the room descended on him for details.

Washington DC

Lee Hatten silenced her cell phone as she quickly stepped to the back of the large conference room, nodding apologetically to the Navy Corpsman who was giving a lecture on trauma surgery. The man noticed her as she moved and nodded back, but didn't skip any beats as he went on describing the procedures the Navy had developed to treat Neural trauma in the field when time was of the essence.

Outside the hall she flipped open her phone and hit the automatic redial, letting the technical marvel connect her to the last caller.


"It's Lee." She said briskly.

"Hello Lee, it's Nils." The gruff voice came through the connection, "I'm afraid that I have bad news."

Lee froze. Bad news from her boss was usually really bad news, "What happened?"

"Stan's dead."

Lee's heart froze for a moment, her face blanking.

"How?" She croaked.

"A hitter took him, his wife, and son in his house a few hours ago."

"Jesus..." Lee hissed, unbelieving. "Do we know who?"

"The best word is that the Cartel we helped him nail contracted an outside hitter."

Lee took a breath, "Alright. What are we going to do about it?"

"Officially? Nothing."

"Goddamn it, Nils..!"

"Calm down. Officially we can't do anything. We can't legally operate in the United States of America without a government contract, you know that."

"Fine... fine." She said, "Unofficially?"

"Columbia isn't in the United States of America," The voice said coldly. "I've already called in the rest of the SOBs. The plane will pick you up at Dulles in an hour."

"I'll be there." Lee Hatten growled, closing her flip phone with a snap as she strode out of the medical conference, already double checking the. 45 caliber Para-Ordinance automatic she kept in her Italian leather purse.


"You are a dead man."

Kevin Sorbo chuckled at the threat, lifting his hands in mock defense. "Hey, not my fault you keep stupid secrets from your friends."

Xander growled unintelligibly, not bothering to look at the famous face with it's equally famous smirk. "Yeah yeah, yuk it up. Sooner or later your secrets will just 'happen' to pop out, then we'll see who laughs last."

The demi-god just shrugged, "I don't keep the stupid stuff from people, and I know you aren't going spill anything important."

"Taking advantage of my good nature will only get you so far, Actor."

Hercules just chuckled, then changed the subject. "When are we moving out anyway?"

"Soon. We've got an Orca APC inbound, Rudy's flying." Xander said, "Wheeler took the converted bomber back to Avalon with Tara and Apone."

"Apone?" Kevin frowned, "Don't know that one."

"He's a Gunny we picked up during our recruitment drive." Xander explained, "He and his unit walked into a nasty vamp nest in Kuwait, got ripped to shreds. The docs pronounced them all section eight cases when they wouldn't give up the answers they wanted to hear."

"Section eights." Kevin shook his head, smirking. "Sounds like your ideal recruit."

"Don't laugh. We beat out three other groups who were courting them," Xander said grimly. "The Watchers Council was looking into hiring them, probably as a disposable shock team. The Vatican Organization had approached them through three priests that we know operate as recruiters..."

"And the third?"

"Don't know." Xander admitted, "We've only got hints of their interest in the group. They were still skirting around the edges when General Grey and I went in personally and made the offer."

"Curious." Kevin frowned, "But I guess that means that these guys are good, then?"

"Good enough. They're among the best in the Cadre right now, for pure humans at least." Xader said, "There's one or two Immortals that are better trained, and a couple real Supernatural types that are more powerful... even some humans who are more dangerous individually, but Apone's group are a team."

"Teamwork trumps superpowers." Hercules nodded, "I should know."

Xander just nodded in agreement as he finished tossing his stuff together and then slung his pack over one shoulder. "Come on, I've got to face some more music... and make sure that Gummer gets back to his hotel before we pull out."

Hercules froze. "Gummer? Burt Gummer? The Famous Monster hunter?" "Does EVERYONE know this guy but me!?"


"Agent Morales." Harry Wolfe said warmly, unable to keep the smile from his face.

"Harry," Carmelita smiled in return, then hugged the senior agent briefly but enthusiastically. "It's been too long."

"Well we work in different circles." Harry reminded her before gesturing to Detective Salas. "Detective, this is Carmelita Morales. She's been assigned to this case with me."

"She with AISI as well?" Salas asked.

"No, I teach unarmed combat at the joint DEA/FBI facilities at Quantico." Carmelita replied, smiling warmly at the CSI detective. "Harry and I work together on Code One cases."

"Code one?" Delco asked from behind them.

"We're with Centac, a sub unit within the DEA," Harry Wolfe explained. "We use a scale to determine how important a case is. Code five is basically for sh... stuff to do when we can. Code four is important, but not urgent. Code Three, Urgent. Code two means we drop anything we're working on to get the case resolved."

"And Code One?" Salas asked.

"No budget limit, no manpower limit." Agent Morales replied coldly, "Code One cases get closed."

Neither agent mentioned that the case in question was not, in fact, Code One. It had been classified as Code Zero, though that classification was known to only a dozen people in the entire country, not counting one former President.

"Impressive." Delco said quietly.

"We try to treat all cases as Code One here," Salas replied, but nodded in the direction of the labs, "Still, if you want to look over our evidence, Delco can take you down there."

"Thank you, Detective."Harry Wolfe nodded, "I'd appreciate that."

"No trouble." Delco told them, gesturing down the hall.


"Move it! Move it! Move it!"

The huge caverns that housed Avalon's war machine were in a constant state of excited flux at the time, people moving quickly from one side of the large bays to the other, dragging equipment and materials to where they had to be to get things ready for the mission ahead.

Against one of the immensely curved walls, two figures were quietly, though earnestly, arguing. One of them was a dark haired girl who's darkly beautiful features were made even darker by the hair dye and dark gothic makeup that covered her face. The other was a young man who stood a full head taller then his companion, his slim figure covered in an Avalon issued combat blacksuit, and a full assortment of weapons as well as technical gear.

"Are you insane, Dade!?"

"Dammit, Kate," Dade Murphy growled, "We've been over this. I wanted to DO something."

"Then go to MIT! Get your degree! Don't join the army for Christ sakes!" Kate Libby growled, "I only agreed to signing on with Xander and these lunatics cause it was supposed to be a *technical* position!"

"It is." Dade countered with a smirk, "You're just a little more technical then I am."

"Dade, you're going out looking for a fight! How could you be so STUPID as to sign on with those Cadre... *men*!?"

Dade actually chuckled, "There are a couple women on the team who'd be insulted by that."

"I don't care! They're crazy too... it's like you all have terminal testosterone poisoning!" Kate countered, "Even the women!"

"It'll be fine, Kate. Just work with the others from here, you'll be helping Merlin track and coordinate the teams." Dade replied, "I'm going to be on-site technical support... It's not like I'll be on the entry teams or anything."

Which, Dade knew, meant very little since On-Site technical support was very much like a Navy Corpsman or Combat Medic. They may not be the point of the spear, but they were the ones who kept the point sharp... and they did it while the spear was being jabbed into dangerous places.

He wasn't going to tell Kate that, however.

Sunnydale "Hey superstar," Faith drawled as Xander returned from his ignominious retreat.

He just scowled at her, "Can it."

"Man," Jessie grinned, "A couple bit parts in Hercules and now he's a Prima Donna. Guess that fame stuff really does go to your head."

"Jes, you're just lucky I don't hit children." Xander returned, tossing his bag onto the couch as he looked around. "Where's Gummer anyway?"

"He leave."

Xander paused, then slowly turned around to look at Mikki, "He what?"

"Leave." She said again.

"Through Sunnydale?? At night!?"

She shrugged, but something in her eyes caught Xander's eye.

"Mik..." He growled warningly, "What did you do?"

The girl suddenly found something utterly fascinating to look at on the floor.


"It no my fault!" She shouted. "He startle me!"

"Oh God." Xander groaned, "Are you ok?"

She sniffed disdainfully at the suggestion that she might be anything else.

"Mikki, Burt carries guns. And knows how to use them."

She nodded, "No silver though."

"Oh shit." Xander sighed, "Alright... did Burt tell anyone where he was staying?"

"Um... No." Jessie and Jonathon said after looking at each other.

"Great." Xander opened his comm, "Merlin. Find me the hotel room for Burt Gummer in Sunnydale. And you! You're grounded little girl! No, not you Merlin... Oh cut me some slack, you know damn well I wasn't talking to you!"

Harry Wolfe kept his face impassive as he and Carmelita were led through the halls down to the ballistics lab by the CSI man named Delco. The man was busy flirting with Carmelita, and doing a fair job at it too from what Harry could tell. Certainly he didn't hear Carmelita complaining as she flirted back.

He supposed that he should feel jealous, but as close as he and Carmelita had come over the past few years they'd never moved to that step. Not that he'd have objected, but at the same time he didn't want to ruin what they did have. Agent Morales was the strongest person he'd ever met, and she'd managed to keep her... innocence, even through everything she'd endured.

"Calleigh," Delco called out.

A young blonde looked up from where she was aiming a Glock 17 into a water tank. "With you in a sec, Delco! Firing one!"

The sound of the shot went off and the blond ejected the magazine of the weapon, then cleared the chambre expertly before setting it aside and fishing the bullet she'd just fired out of the water.

Only then did she turn around and smile at them, "Hey There, Who are your friends, Delco?"

Harry recognized her accent as deep south, but her handling of the Glock was certainly not something she'd picked up at any society cotillions.

"This is Agent Wolfe and Agent Morales, they're with Centac."

"DEA, huh?" Calleigh Duquenes smiled slightly, nodding at them. "Here about the Reed case?"

"That's correct." Wolfe nodded.

"Well, this is his gun," She motioned to the Glock, "I'm just confirming that he fired all the shots in the room. Protocol, you know."

Wolfe nodded, he knew it as well or better then her. He'd been assigned to AISI, Agent Involved Shooting Investigations, the DEA version of Internal Affairs for almost seven years now, in addition to his Code Zero status. When a cop, or an agent, were involved in a shooting you didn't leave anything to chance, no matter how small. The public oversight was such that cops investigated cops even harder and more thoroughly then they did most criminals, if only to ensure that no one could call foul later and get a perp off the hook on a technicality.

They waited as Calleigh put the slug under a scope, examining the grooves of the slug against a sample from the scene. As she was working, Wolfe noted that Delco didn't seem to let that interfere with his flirting.

"They're the same." Calleigh pronounced as she straightened, "Would you like to take a look, Agent Wolf?" Harry nodded and moved forward to examine them for himself, "Standard Agency Issue 9mm... everything matches up."

He straightened, "Now I just have to figure out how he managed to miss at point blank range with an entire mag from his Glock."

"Now that is a good question, Agent Wolfe." Calleigh nodded in agreement, "We've sent a few of the bullets down to Trace, maybe that will give us some clues."

Wolfe nodded, "Agent Morales?"

Carmelita looked up, "Yes?"

"We should get to Trace and see what they've got."

Carmelita nodded with a smile full of perfect white teeth, "Of course."

Calleigh pointed, "It's just down the hall, you can't miss it."

"I'll show..." Delco started, but Calleigh cut him off.

"Can I speak with you for a sec, Delco?"

"Huh? Oh, sure."

Harry and Carmelita smiled and left, leaving Calleigh and Delco alone in the ballistics lab.

"What's up, Calleigh?"

"You are," She smiled at him, "Do you know who that is?"

"Who? Agent Morales?"

"You don't, do you?" She was grinning.

"What are you talking about?" Delco frowned.

"You remember, about five years ago? Some DEA agents were on a routine case with some local PD up north... The perps they were pursuing had backup and wore vests?"

Delco nodded, "Yeah... They made a training film out of that one didn't they?"

"That's the one." Calleigh smiled wide, "You remember the perps shot all the agents?"

"Yeah. One survived though, right?" Delco frowned.

"A young hispanic agent, she was shot in the head by a. 45 caliber round. Gouged out her skull in a nasty groove, put her out cold." Calleigh said, "But didn't kill her. So the perps decided they'd take her along for... fun?"

Delco nodded, grimacing. "Yeah. I remember that. So?"

"So, Agent *Morales* was rescued, and went on to blow one of the perps head off just in time to prevent the death of a fellow officer, then she chased the other one to Venezuela where he again tried to abduct her." Calleigh said smiling wider as Delco started at the name, "That's when she performed surgery on the guy with her flip knife... down *there*."

Delco winced, remembering the case a lot more clearly now. "Are you *sure* that's the same agent...?"

Calleigh grinned, nodding. "Oh yeah. I remember that case real well cause it was part of my ballistics refresher course three years ago. The Venezuelan authorities sent the perp back, but the DEA convinced a judge to give him life instead of letting him ride the needle... Cause they wanted everyone to see what happened when you screwed with one of their agents."

Delco was still grimacing painfully, remembering the images that had made CNN and those that hadn't but had been shown in his police courses. The knife Agent Morales used had effectively, if messily, ended the man's will to fight, among other things.

"They say she just shoved that Spiderco flip knife she carries down his pants and *twisted* it." Calleigh went on, enjoying the look in Delco's face.

"Alright, alright!" He held up his hands, "enough..."

"Just thought you'd like fair warning," Calleigh smiled sweetly, "I wouldn't go hurting her feelings if I were you."

Delco shuddered, looking back over his shoulder. "Man. Who could believe that little thing could..."

He shuddered again.

Calleigh laughed at his distress, "Hey, it worked. No one has kidnapped or assassinated a DEA agent since then."

"Yeah, until last night." Delco replied darkly.

"Yeah." Calleigh agreed. "And they assigned her to the case."

"You think someone's sending a message?"

Calleigh nodded, "Undoubtedly."


"Burt? Burt! Goddamn it, man, shut up!" Xander snapped into the phone. "Did you make it back ok?"

The others watched as Xander winced, then shot another glare at Mikki while mouthing the words 'so grounded'.

"Look, I'm sorry about that. No, no, you were in no danger..."

Xander pulled the phone away from his ear as a blast of sound erupted from it, "Hey, did it eat your face? No. It didn't. And after you shot it I'm sure it had the chance."

Xander shot another glare at Mikki, who was studying the floor, "It chased you HOW far?"

"Ok, look... just relax, take your day to calm down, and for god's sake don't go out after dark, ok?"

"Fine... See you another time, Mr Gummer."

Again, Xander winced as he pulled the phone from his ears, then hung it up.

"You are SO grounded young lady!" He growled, wagging a finger at Mikki. "You didn't tell me that you chased him back to his hotel!"

"Shot me!" She protested.

"You scared the HELL out of an armed man, what did you expect!?" Xander snarled, "God, what if I'd given him Silver rounds for his gun!? Jesus, Mik, you could have been killed!"

The young were found something incredibly fascinating on the floor once again.

"And you!" Xander turned on Cordelia, "You were supposed to be looking after them!"

"Me!?" She screeched, "Hello!? Basket case here, remember!? I couldn't stay around that Gummy guy more then a few minutes without getting paranoid! He was totally freaking me out!"

Xander shook his head, trying not to groan or whimper.

"There has got to be an easier way to do this." He moaned, "Half the time I feel like I'm raising a bunch of snotty kids... The other half I just want to cry or something."

A web was circling the planet, meshing it a thousand times over as the entity known as Merlin continued to lock down every possible detail for the operations that were even now beginning to evolve around him.

A terakan cell in New Zealand, servicing the needs of Oceania was currently listed as a low ranking on the urgent threat scale Merlin was measuring, while the Terkan hit in Miami was topping the list. The New Zealand group were among the most dangerous in the Terakan lists, but their computer records indicated that they were just off a job and had elected to take two months away from the 'job' to relax.

Merlin bumped them up a priority level when he located a message on their secure server that indicated that they had been involved in the recent assassination of a Japanese politician in an attempt to recreate the events that led to the shooting war between the Japanese and the USA in the original time track.

He then threw the New Zealand contact over to Uluru with instructions to operate as controller for the mission while he applied more of his capabilities toward locating probable locations of hidden Terakan cells. He hastily inserted a slip of his own code into the Kaer Walin facility, however, to monitor the operation.

This would be Uluru's first Joint operation in thousands of years, and Merlin wasn't certain if the AI was prepared for it. In the meantime, however, he had other details to cover.


"I am here."

"Have you located any more European targets?"

"Negative. I am currently analyzing all ley interferences but have found no matches to known Terakan mage users."

"Understood. Do you still have a location on the Necromancer?"

"Affirmative. He has not left Paris since he and the others returned."

"The Status of the Unit?"

"I am not certain if it could be termed as such, however they are establishing themselves as a strict and effective security force in Paris and the outlying regions. The AI appears to be stable, however I don't have enough interceptions to create an Amalgam."

"The child?"

Niume paused for a moment that would be indiscernible to a human but was almost an eternity to an AI.

"She is... difficult for me to track. Her aura doesn't interact with the Ley in the same manner as most others."

"I see." Merlin nodded in a digital manner, "Based on intercepts then?"

"Apparently healthy, as such is possible considering the abominations inflicted on her."

"Control yourself, Spiritus Aquila." Merlin snapped as Niume's 'voice' hardened. "Atlantean mores are not those of the modern era."

"Even the modern era would abhor what was done to this child."

"You and I both know that only part of your abhorrence comes from the pain inflicted." Merlin warned, "Modern humans do not have the same aversion to implants as Atlanteans, do not let it color your thoughts or dealings with them."

Niume nodded slowly, "I will take care."

"Good. Status on Gravitics then?"

"Operational and currently in a negative Mass curve. I will apply Graser energy to push the anomaly into the upper core shortly in order to begin the Positive curve."

"Excellent. Will you be able to coordinate European operations?"

"Of course."


"At ease." Grey said firmly as he stepped into the main hanger.

The two soldiers, one a former member of the Army Rangers, and the other a Russian Spetsnaz commando, dropped their salutes and nodded as he walked past.

"Where's McQueen?"

"Down the Third Tier, Sir," The Ranger said, pointing. "He's prepping one of the Orca CPC's."

The general nodded and turned in the direction he was pointed.

The newly formed, or reformed, Knighthood had been using the converted Orca Bombers so much that Grey and Merlin had actually altered the designation of the four converted heavy lift vehicles to CPC, or Combat Personnel Carrier, to indicate that it was significantly more armored then the APC designation.

The CPC was also capable of flying in most terrestrial weather systems, while class five hurricanes and tornadoes made the lighter APC's slightly skittish.

The General came to a stop where he found McQueen overseeing the loading of mission spec equipment.


"General," McQueen stiffened, performing an academy perfect salute while somehow managing to not look like a total kiss ass.

"I understand that you drew the New Zealand mission."

McQueen just nodded, knowing that it wasn't a question.

"I think you should know, Merlin just bumped the priority two grades." Grey told him, "Apparently one of your targets was behind the Assassination of President Kamahoto a few months back. According to intel, it was part of a staged coup that was supposed to start a shooting war with the US."

McQueen raised an eyebrow, as close to shocked as the man seemed to get. "That's insane."

"Maybe." Grey said, a lot less convinced as he would have been a few hours earlier. Merlin's numbers were scary. "We still want these tangos out of play."

"Understood, Sir."



"If you can get one of them alive, we would like intel on their client." Grey said slowly, "The world had enough troubles in the shadows, Son. We don't need some piss ant bastard starting fires in the open."

"Yes Sir."

Burt Gummer sat down heavily on the bed of his hotel room and shakily popped the tab on a can of beer.

"God damn." He breathed out, shaking his head as he took a long hard slug of the brew.

Being chased by a freaking wild cat across town was about the most eerie damn thing he'd ever experienced.

Which was saying something, to be quite honest.

What was the worst, though, wasn't the cat or it's snarls.

It was that damned girlish giggles that kept coming out of the shadows.

He shivered again and grabbed for the phone, dialing a local number.

"Hey Earl? That you?" Burt let out a breath, "Look I don't think I can make it tonight."

"Why? Look, do I need a reason? I just have a bad feeling, ok?"

He sighed, "No it's not one of those feelings... I hope. Anyway, Burt, I'm not interested in this Real Estate scam you're working on with Val... No, I don't care if the market value of the land in Sunnydale is ten times the going price... Look, I have my future covered. Well, let's just say that it's where I can protect it, alright?"

He sighed and nodded, smiling a bit. "Yeah, I'll come out to see you and Val and the girls tomorrow. Thanks for inviting me, I was going to turn down the UC Sunnydale gig, but it'll be good to see you guys too."

"Here's our ride."

The Orca series APC slid to a stop over the terrace of the huge manicured grounds behind the mansion, coming to rest on an ornate stone circle that had been designed specifically for the purpose.

A moment later the hatch popped and Douglas Masters stepped out and threw a quick and dirty salute to Xander as he approached the craft.

"Ready to move, Command." Masters replied with a grin.

"Is my team ready?"


"Alright," Xander nodded as everyone piled aboard. "We'll be heading back to Avalon, but we're just going to kiss dirt for a couple hours before we move out. I've got the Miami mission on my dance card and I don't feel like being the wallflower this time around."

Faith chuckled as she stowed her gear, "You hear anything from Merlin bout that crew in Boston? I'm looking forward to cracking some heads on my home turf."

"Not yet, but Merlin has it on priority." Xander replied, slapping Kevin on the back as he climbed up. "Hey, Kev, you think you can find your way around Greece?"

The actor threw glare back at Xander, "Real funny."

Xander just smirked, "Everyone aboard? Alright, let's move out!"

Below, the dominoes continued to fall completely out of order, defying all attempts to correct the situation or predict it's effect on future plans.

For the moment the general consensus was that the forces of order were gaining in the chaos, ironically being helped by the very randomness of the events. However that didn't mean that the Light was gaining.

A portal to a hell dimension had opened in the city mortals called Paris, though only for a short time, and had required the attention of no less then two of the old Gods, as well as members of the Order. The portal was closed now, but the tear still existed and was now a potential break into a Pillar dimension. Kali was currently watching the situation closely, using the instigator of the breach to hopefully heal it.

If it worked, all well and good, however the place called Paris was now a blank spot on the senses of many higher beings, and would remain so until the Ley influences increased to their former thresholds. When that happened, in no more then an eyeblink, then it would be a race to see who would claim access to the tear first.

Heal or Harm.

Now the mortals in control of the Atlantean's former base were mounting a massive operation, the flower spreads from the probability analysis were utterly destroying the predicted future and, again, rendering several war plans worthless.

The situation was becoming untenable.

The light was fighting a defensive war, unable to even begin to mount the forces needed to recapture lost dimensions, and now, here, in a pillar dimension, everything was being thrown to the wind as the mortals began playing dice with the future of the Infini-verse. Something had to happen, something had to be done, and soon.

The only question was... what?

Buffy stared around her in wide eyed awe, the sheer size of the cavern she was standing in shocking her. The weird vehicle that had flown them there, without wings mind you, was parked just behind her and Buffy was practically shivering as her Slayer instincts screamed at her. There was power practically charging the very air around them now, but she couldn't quite figure out it's source.

"Commander," A man walked up to Xander, saluting,. "Welcome back to Avalon."

"Thanks General." Xander returned the Salute, smiling easily at the older man. "How are things?"

"Preparations are proceeding for the operations," General Grey said, letting his hands drop easily behind his back as he matched Xander's step. "You'll be in uniform for the operation?"

Xander nodded, "Of course."

Grey nodded, "We have two dozen suits of powered armor available as of this moment, Sir. We've detailed four of them for your unit."

"I'll only need two, general." Xander said, "Is Doug tuned yet?"

"Yes Sir."

"One for him, and give me one other Cadre member." Xander said as they walked.

"Sir, the mission profile requires a minimum of four enhanced status operatives per team." grey reminded him.

Xander nodded, "Me. Doug, the other Cadre member, and Buffy."

"Buffy?" Grey paused, blinking.

"The blond following us."

Grey turned half around to see a tiny blond girl approaching slowly, staring all around her like she was caught in a dream. "Her?"

"Slayer. Same as Faith."

Grey nodded, face relaxing. "Experienced?"

"She's blooded, but still a rookie." Xander replied, "This is... on the job training."

"Are you certain that's wise?"

"No." Xander replied honestly, but then shrugged, "but i need to see if she can work with a team."

Grey nodded slowly, "Very well. I believe that I'll make a couple changes to your roster then, Sir."

Xander raised an eyebrow questioningly, but grey fell quiet as they continued to march through the preparations in the main hanger.

"Xander!" Buffy finally blurted as the imposing man in the uniform left Xander and her alone, "What is all this?"

"This is the Knighthood, Buff." Xander said seriously, looking over the clothing that had been laid out by Merlin for him.

His uniform, space black with the glint of silver threads shimmering out of it sparsely, was there. Xander knew from looking at it that merlin had taken the time to tailor him one from the Atlantean High Command's fabric of choice, enhanced Spinner Fish fibers. Softer than silk, stronger then Steel, and almost as impossible to harvest as Spider Silk.

"Merlin?" Xander glanced up, "Where did you get any of this?"

"I salvaged it from the stores, Commander," The disembodied voice spoke into the room.

Buffy jolted, looking around, but was somewhat used to voices from the ether due to KARR. "Let me guess, another computer?"

"More than that, Ms Summers." Merlin replied calmly, "I am Merlin, Master of Avalon."

Buffy looked between Xander and the ceiling, the two words only just clicking in her mind. "Xander...?"

Xander nodded, "that Merlin, and that Avalon, Buff. Welcome to Arthurian Legend."

While she gaped at Xander, Buffy heard Merlin sniff in annoyance.

"Hardly Arthurian," He muttered, "Arthur spent less then two months here when Excalibur brought him to me for training."

"Speaking of which," Xander cut into merlin's complaint, "Is the portal to the Celtic plateau still intact?"

"It's infrastructure is intact, however it is quite discharged." merlin responded, "the last time it was used was by Draco the Dragon when he wished to make a point to a rather stubborn Knight. Current power reserves are not sufficient to charge the gate."

Xander nodded, sighing as he sized the uniform carefully, "I shouldn't expect so much, I guess."

"Indeed." Merlin replied, "Time conquers all things... or most of them anyway. I should know."

Xander chuckled softly at the joke, while Buffy blinked.


"Merlin is an Elemental AI." Xander said, "Or, if you want to be quite clear, he's an Elemental Entity that wasn't created by God... directly. His element is Time."

Buffy stared at Xander for a moment, then crossed her arms, "Ok, and now I'm back to 'Huh?'"

Xander laughed, tossing his bag over one shoulder, and the uniform over the other. "You tell her, Merl. I'm getting changed."

"Very Well." Merlin said as Xander walked into a side room, "What the Commander was trying, and failing, to explain is that I am what you would term an Artificial Entity, not specifically an Artificial intelligence."

"Ok, I know that I'm going to sound stupid here.... but what's the difference?" Buffy asked helplessly.

"By all known tests, used by Man, Alien, or Demon, I exist. I have an Aura, akin to the one generated by your soul and body. I am sentient. I am intelligent. By Modern understanding I might be considered an Artificial intelligence, however modern understanding of the concept is incomplete at best." Merlin replied.

"So... you have a soul?" Buffy asked, trying to weed out the details from the words.

"As far as anyone has been able to determine." Merlin replied blithely.


"Of course, most living things have souls, in one form or another." Merlin replied, "Demons, humans, Aliens..." "Aliens!?" Buffy squeaked.

Merlin fell silent, "The Commander hasn't told you very much, has he?"


Buffy winced as she heard an exasperated sigh.

"I'm not short with you, Ms Summers." merlin said after a moment, "Merely annoyed that Commander Harris has brought you here with so little preparation."

"Harr... Xander?"

"Yes. Alexander Lavelle Harris, Knight Crusader of the First Order, Field Commander of the Knighthood, Bearer of Elanthielle of Atlantis, and current head of The Reformed Knighthood." Merlin replied by rote.

Buffy giggled. "Lavelle??"

"Damn it, Merlin!" Xander growled as he stepped out of the adjoining room, "Did you have to tell her my middle name?"

"It is part of your title."

"Jesus." Xander rolled his eyes, "You laid all that crap on her? I told you to tell her about you, not me!"

"In your modern parlance," Merlin replied, "What are you going to do? Fire me?"

Buffy started giggling again.

Xander's boots echoed on the fused stone floor as he stepped into the main conclave room and took a seat at the gently arcing stone table, slipping the silver form of Elan from his hip and dropping her into the groove cut for her on the table.

"The table recognizes Alexander Harris, Bearer of Elanthielle." Merlin intoned as a chime sang through the room.

Xander nodded to the avatar of the ancient entity, then looked around at the men and women seated there.

"Welcome to the Round Table." He said, nodding to each of them in turn, "most of you have been here before, so you know the drill, for those of you who are new to this part of Avalon, the Table automatically relocates you next to the person you wish to communicate with. It ca take some getting used to, so don't worry if you feel a little queasy at first."

Actually the only person who appeared queasy was Major McQueen, and he pretty much always looked like that, but it seemed the thing to say.

"You're going to be the team leaders for this operation," Xander went on after a moment, "and since I'm certain that merlin has already forwarded the pertinent information..."

Familiar faces nodded in response, Kevin Sorbo was currently reading his mission brief from a projected image floating between him and the table, Major TC McQueen restricted himself to a brief nod before returning to his stiff posture.

"Kevin," Xander said, "There's a potential cell in Greece, setup about two decades ago. That's your job... We figured that Hercules should be able to find his way around Greece."

People chuckled while Kevin shot Xander a dirty look.

Xander just smirked in response, then went on. "Giles, I'd like you to check out New Orleans. There's something there, and it feels like a cell, but we're not certain. It's definitely magic based though, and you're probably our best and most experienced expert in magical theory... you're also no lower then the fourth most powerful magic user here, which isn't half bad considering that we're in the company of a Fey, a Dragon, and at least one Immortal Witch."

More chuckles, and Giles nodded slightly as he looked through the projected brief at Xander. "My team?"

"Your discretion." Xander said, "At least four enhanced qualified persons are required, however. The Terakans aren't exactly the sort of average targets that military counter?terrorist ops go after."

"Agreed." Giles replied, "I'll look over the lists and inform Merlin."

Xander nodded, "Good. Merlin, have you locked down the blip in Boston?"

"I'm having difficulty, Commander." The Avatar spoke, "It appears to be a coded message, however the code is unbreakable until I decipher the key used to create it. The only word that was confirmed in the message was 'Terakan'."

Xander nodded, "Alright. Faith, you good to go?"

"You know it." Faith smirked.

"Take Vasquez, Drake, and Robert, alright?"

"Sounds good to me." Faith nodded, "That's two enhanced though, right?"

"Drake and Vasquez have been tuned." Merlin replied.

"And that makes four." Xander said with a smile, "they'll be in power armor, so they're strictly to play the cavalry."

"Got it." Faith confirmed, "You mind if I take the Wheelman as my driver?"

"You want Rudy?" Xander shrugged, "You got him."

"Wicked." Faith replied, "I'm good."



"You have new Zealand, correct?"

"Yes Sir."

"I'm going to send Maria with the 579 as your backup." Xander replied, "The group out there appears quite at the moment but they're dangerous. The 579 can give you an emergency fall back point if you need it, and we've heavily rearmed it, so it'll serve if you need artillery as well."

McQueen nodded, saying nothing.

"Hey Jacks," Xander stared over at the true form of the demi?fey, who was floating idly over her seat. "I boring you?"

The fey looked up sharply, "nope. Just checking out the brief here Africa, hummm?"

"That's what it says." Xander replied, frowning. "Be careful, we don't have any contacts in Africa, and there's very little infrastructure for merlin to tap. Since Niume's reach doesn't extend much past the northern section of the continent, you'll be flying blind. The primary target is in Cape Town. Get in, do the job, and get out without riling the locals too much. That part of the world has enough troubles, got it?"

"Yeah, yeah," Jacks shrugged, "No mass alterations to the population."

A couple people chuckled while Xander rolled his eyes.

"That's just to start," Xander replied with a mild glare, then he looked around at the rest, "This goes for everyone. Do not, under any circumstances, initiate action in the middle of a city unless you can guarantee an absolute minimum of collateral damage. We're not here to kill civilians, people. The only necessary damage is to the enemy. Am I quite understood?"

There were a series of instant and serious nods, and Xander nodded in satisfaction. None of the people sitting at the table with him were prone to inflicting collateral damage, and that was the way he wanted it.

General Grey took that moment to summon attention.

"Agreed, Commander," he said looking around at the assembled people. "I don't mind saying that I hold some grave reservations concerning this entire operation. To date i have voiced them only to the Commander and to Merlin himself, but now I'll tell them to you."

He had their attention, even the normally indifferent gaze of Jacqueline Standish was seriously waiting for what the General was going to say.

"We hold, in this buried citadel, the key to, perhaps, saving our world." grey said, "But we must not stray down the well traveled paths of our combined histories. We are here to preserve this world, and the terakans are a threat to our operations. So be it, they must fall, or at least be chastened severely... But we are not them, we don't strike with arrogant impunity, nor can we afford to let our selves slip down that path."

"We, we few people here at this table," Grey said grimly, "Hold in our hands power that is easily more threat to our world then almost any of the enemies arrayed against us. We can inflict so much more damage to this world then even the Goa'uld or the demons, simply because we are within the defenses already. Make no mistake, we are a lethal threat..."

Grey fell silent for a moment, then cleared his throat, "Let us make certain that we remain a threat to the right people."

Xander nodded, "Amen."

Buffy was lost, staring around at the identical hallways she was wandering through. She'd been told that she could explore as she wished while Xander was busy, that she had two hours probably before they would move out again and she wanted to use that time.


Even the valley girl she had been had heard of Avalon. She'd gone through her King Arthur phase, the same as practically every other person she knew. She'd read and reread the tragedy of Guenevere and Lancelot, thinking about what kind of love it would have taken to follow so blindly a path to destruction.

The final resting place of king Arthur, at least by legend. Buffy didn't believe that he was here, if he were then why would Xander be in charge? But it was still an amazing place to see. It was huge, the halls were twisting and seemingly unlimited in number. She turned one corner, though, and came to a dead end.

What now?

Buffy turned around, looking at the halls, but was unable to read the script on the walls.

"Umm... Merlin?"

"Yes Ms Summers?" The comfortable, yet oddly sharp voice of the ancient entity asked instantly.

"Where am I?" Buffy asked meekly, feeling somewhat stupid.

"You are on Level One, Subsection 1891, Corridor nineteen."


"Forty eight meters south southwest of the Commander's location, near a Telepad."

Buffy spun around, looking at the floor at the end of the corridor, and finally noticed the design on the ground. "Telepad?"

"Something like an Elevator."

Buffy wasn't falling for that one, "Look, I may not be a sci?fi geek but I recognize what the word 'tele' means!"

"It's perfectly safe, I assure you."

She eyed the area leerily, "Oh yeah?"


Buffy swallowed, looking back up the hall. "Maybe I should go find Xander..."

"Where you go is no concern of mine, ms Summers, but the Commander is currently in a meeting that may not be disturbed."


Buffy looked at the pad for a moment, pursing her lips. On the one side she didn't exactly trust the pad that she KNEW was intended to do something quite unnatural in her opinion, and on the other hand she was feeling pretty flush at the moment. She was fresh from a victory over prophecy, had defeated the Master in defiance of fate itself, and turning away from something because of fear wasn't in the books.

Buffy stepped forward and onto the pad. There was a flash of light, and everything changed.

Xander stepped out of the Conclave room last, almost an hour after he'd stepped in. He adjusted his uniform as he walked, stretching out the kinks he'd received from sitting for a while, and casually slid Elan back into the hip holster he wore.

"Where's my team, Merlin?"

"General Grey has prepared your team and assembled them in the main hanger, however Ms Summers is in the lower level."

"Lower level?" Xander raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You let her down there?"

"It was recently opened when enough power generation was brought online to return full life support to all levels."

Xander nodded, "I see. What section?"

"The Dry Dock."

Buffy was staring at it when Xander arrived, so engrossed in what she was looking at that she didn't hear or notice the clap of his boots on the floor.

"She's a beauty, isn't she?"

Buffy started, jerking around, "Oh!"

Xander ignored her flush at having been surprised and nodded to the ship beyond the transparent screen in front of them, "The only ship of her kind to ever have been built."

Buffy turned back, "What's it called?"

"She was never launched." Xander said stonily. "The Atlantean civilization fell before she was finished, and the survivors didn't have the access to get her out of stowage."

Buffy stared at the gently arcing hull that floated just beyond the screen, colored a mottled blue that was almost the color of seafoam and a sandy colored brown. The ship looked huge, its surface arcing away from them into the distance until it faded like the horizon. "It's big." She said.

Xander smiled, "Bigger then you think. There are workers on her hull, see... right there."

Buffy stared at the point where Xander was pointing, then her eyes suddenly widened in shock. "They look like ants!"

He laughed, "not that small, but yeah... they're pretty far off. The screen condenses the image to fit."

"Oh." Buffy blinked, "How big is it?"

"She's..." Xander paused, thinking about it, then smiled, "You ever hear of Chester Nimitz?"

"Uh... No?"

"No World War Two history huh?" Xander chuckled, "I used to read everything about World War two... long time ago. Chester Nimitz was an Admiral in the American Navy, he coined a term to describe aircraft carriers. I think it was four point two acres of sovereign American territory anywhere on the planet."

Buffy blinked, not understanding.

"She," Xander nodded to the ship floating in the vaguely misty atmosphere beyond, "Is ninety eight acres of Sovereign Atlantean territory... anywhere in eight Galaxies."

Buffy gaped, "it's a space ship??"

"It's a Combat Carrier, intended to deliver hammerhead, Manta Class, and Orca series craft to any flash point in the old Atlantean Empire." Xander said seriously.

"You're repairing this thing!?"

"We're trying." Xander said softly. "She takes a lot of expertise that we don't have available yet, so we have to refit and reconfigure a lot of the systems."

Buffy shook her head, eyes wide in awe. "Why do you need something like this?"

"Demons aren't the only things I fight, Buffy." Xander said grimly. "Come on, we have a mission to prep."

"Wait!" Buffy said, holding him back.

Xander paused, turning back to her, "What is it?"

"W..." Buffy licked her lips, staring at the ship again. "What's its... her... name?"

"She doesn't have one." Xander said after a moments pause, "She was never christened, her AE control systems were never brought online."

Buffy took one last long glance at the ship as she walked away with Xander. Somehow it seemed sad that such a beautiful ship didn't have a name.

It wasn't right, somehow.

The hanger was still an image of chaos unleashed, people moving back and forth with a seeming purpose, causing Buffy to stare around her in a near constant state of wonder. Tehre were so many people, it seemed, but the enormity of the Cavern just swallowed them up.

"Here we are."

Buffy stopped just behind Xander as they came to a large hulking thing that towered far over her, and she looked up. "We're going in that??"

Xander chuckled, "The Orca bomber airframe may not be much to look at, but she's pretty tough."

"Too bad they fly like pigs!"

Buffy looked up towards the voice and instantly jumped, falling back into a fighting position as her hands sought a weapon.

Any weapon.

"Drake you overgrown lizard, what are you doing here!?" Xander shook his fist at the speaker.

"Your general Grey decided that you might need a little more muscle." The bobbing an weaving head of the Dragon said, smiling down at Xander and Buffy, showing all his teeth in the process. "Who's the cute blond?"

"A 'little' muscle!?" Xander growled, "I'm going to Miami! How the hell are you going to hide in Miami!?"

Drake wobbled his head, "I'll drop into the glades if I get tired of flying over the city."

"Oh great, just what we need," Xander muttered in annoyance, "Fines from the Glade authorities because you're eating protected species."

The dragon snorted, sending puffs of flame and smoke down toward Xander, who ignored him as Buffy flinched back. "I'd like to see the Park Guard who's got the guts to give me a ticket."

Xander rolled his eyes, "how the hell are you going to get there anyway?? I'm not putting up with you passing icicles in an Orca!"

"I'm going to eat Geoff for telling you about that." the Dragon muttered, then snuffled, "besides, I told you these things fly like pigs, right? I can keep up with one of these hogs any day."

Xander sighed, "Fine. What about Geoff?"

"You really think I'm letting him out of my sight? He's on the team."

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "Most commanders get to pick their own team."

"Hey, you're the one who wanted the blond powder puff." the Dragon wobbled it's head, looking down at them from over the Orca, "Don't blame me if the general thinks that you're too dumb to know what's good for you."

"Watch it, Iguana!" Xander growled, "unless you want to wake up spray painted hot pink with sparkles!"

"Like I'd not hear you coming." the Dragon said smugly.

"You think I don't know Acu?pressure points on Dragon anatomy, Iguana!?" Xander snapped, "You try me."

Drake was silent for a moment.

"You wouldn't."

"Test me."

Buffy watched in shock as the huge lizard shut up and backed off.

"Let's move!" Xander growled at the assembled team, "And where the hell is Geoff?"

"The Curtain is drawing closed."

"What the hell is she talking about?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

"Shut up, both of you... What curtain, Elise?"

"On the Terakan Order."

There was a deep silence following that word and the Head of the Order turned to his seer, "Explain yourself, Elise. We are Terakan, we close the curtains on others."

"They're coming for us."


"The Knights of the Table. The Knights of the First Order."

The Leader shook his head, "impossible. I killed the last of Arthur's boy scout troupe two centuries ago."

"Not the last, but not that Order either." The seer said, rocking back and forth in her trance. "The First Order, the one that spawned all others."

"She's talking nonsense, Boss."

"Shut up." The head of the order growled, leaning forward toward the seer. "How can we stop them?"

"Nothing will stop them. Not yet. The Crusader has chosen his Crusade."

"This Crusader... how do I kill him? He can die, right?"

"All things die, and his death is inevitable, as is yours."

"Will he die at my hands?" The head of the order asked in a whispered voice.


The three listeners slipped back, shocked into silence. When the Seer gave a flat out answer it was invariably the truth, and had never been changed.

"But he will die?" The Head of the Order growled urgently.

"He will die." The Seer confirmed, nodding. "Soon."

"How soon?"

"All times are soon." She replied instantly.

The Head of the Order frowned, shaking his head. As usual, the seer's words left plenty of room for interpretation. He tried another tact, "How will he die?"

Elise, the Seer, smiled gently and leaned back as she stared into nothing. "No enemy will kill the Crusader, no evil can touch him."

"Bloody hell," One of the men spat, "Just what we bleeding well need, and god damned immortal that none of us can kill."

"How will he die," The Head of the Order growled again, pressing as he reached out and grabbed the Seer's arms.

"Run through by the Legend, his lifes blood will stain the hands of a man he calls brother." Elise said serenely, predicting the death of a man she'd never met. "No brother of blood, but one trusted implicitly just the same. Apprentice, Family, Brother, Child. The Mortal blow will deliver the Crusader from this world of pain."

"Betrayal." The Head of the order mused as he let go of the seer, the woman curling up almost instantly as she murmured to herself. "It's sometimes the only way to kill a crusader. Arthur was untouchable in combat, until his own son run him through."

"Doesn't bloody well help us now, though, does it?"

"No." The Head of the Terakan Order said grimly. "No, it does not. Alert all the cells, tell them that something... is coming."

Xander climbed into the Orca and glanced over in surprise when he saw the armored figure waiting patiently, already locked in place. "Andy? What the hell are you doing here?"

Konzaki smiled slightly, "I'm getting itchy feet... which is something, given that I haven't felt my feet in about forty years."

Xander rolled his eyes, "You watch your head, Andrezj. We need you here on Avalon more than in the field."

"Ditto." The Immortal replied dryly, smirking in Xander's direction. "Besides, I need to test out the suit in combat conditions if I want to understand it enough to start coming up with modifications."

Xander's mind boggled at the idea of trying to modify the powered armor, but just shook his head. "Alright. Andrezj, this is Buffy Summers. Buff, this is Andrezj Konzaki. He's our Chief Armorer here on Avalon. If it inflicts horrible amounts of damage, Andy here can make it inflict *incredibly* horrible amounts of damage." Buffy nodded slowly, "Ah... ok..."

The Immortal just chuckled, "Don't mind the kid, he's got no appreciation for art."

Xander just rolled his eyes, "yeah right. Where the hell is Geoff anyway?"


Geoff, wearing light Atlantean Armor similar to Xander's, though not made of Spinner Fish threads, rocketed through the door and hooked his hand in one of the many handholds welded to the interior of the Orca. He swung around in a fast arc, and dropped perfectly into a seat that adjusted to his size instantly, locking him in place. "Ready!"

"Alright." Xander nodded, thumbing his comm. "We're ready, Doug. You good?"

"Roger." Masters replied, "Miami, here we come."

Xander dropped into his own seat as the Orca hummed to life, shaking a little as Doug lifted it off the ground, and then powered along toward the Ring Cat system.

"Right," He said dryly. "Miami."

The End


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