Wheels of Fortune

Author: Kyle Bernard <csktech[at]yahoo.com>

Copyrighted: April 11, 2002

Category: Crossover

Spoilers: None

Keywords: None

Disclaimer: All characters with their respective rights, properties, and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers, and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story can be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.

Summary: Based in Tenhawks Journeyverse this story in meant to compliment his visions. I am not the writer that Ten is and never will be but I count him a friend and thank him for letting me play in his universe

Warning Crossovers ahead! (Yes Plural.)
The Following TV Series have been included in the story. Disclaimers appear at the end with the cast list.
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer
* KnightRider
* Seven Days
* Stargate SG-1
* Alien
* E.R
* La Femme Nikita

Rating: PG-16

Author's Notes: This story is dedicated to the writers of the Wandererverse, for writing such good story's. Special judos to Tenhawk, the creator of the Journeyverse and to Robert AKA, Grossclout, The Editor from Hell.

27 Aug 1998
Earth Base

The five members of 'Headhunter Alpha' geared up in the caves that served as locker rooms. Each left alone with their thoughts, mentally preparing for the new mission. Captain David Newman was all business. Recruited from the 1st Ranger battalion a year ago by Colonel Mayborne, Newman was an old hand at jumping across the galaxy. His only real concern was his new second in command. He wasn't so sure that the 5'9" brunette was ready to handle some of the necessities of a Headhunter mission.

Lieutenant Michelle Tobias was adjusting the weight of the LBE gear and admiring herself in the mirror of the women's locker room. No the all black fatigues didn't do much for her figure, she thought. Where we're going I guess it doesn't matter much. With a final look in the mirror, a single spoken sentence echoed off the walls of the cave, "Finally the stars."

The Noncoms, Devlin, Smith, and Ramirez, had been ready to jump for the last hour. So they sat there and followed the tradition of army's since before Caesar's legions, they gossiped about the officers. Devlin looked at his friends and asked the question they had all been avoiding. "What do you think of the new LT?"

Ramirez, a rare smile on his face, is the first to answer. "That long black hair is cool. But a little skinny for my tastes."

"Hell Ramirez, Anna Nicole Smith is too skinny for your tastes. Only your wife seems to have enough meat on her bones for you," teased his friend Smith. "I don't care what she looks like as long as she can pull her own weight," he added.

"Well lads," chirps in Devlin in his soft Irish brogue, "we're soon to find out."

27 Aug 1998

Leaving the gate, the team formed into its standard line of March, Captain Newman taking the point. His second in command, Lt. Tobias, hesitated and inspected the odd markings carved into the side of the structure. Noting the stylistic repetitions of the carvings, the crease of her forehead deepened into worry lines. She walked over to the leader and touched his shoulder.

"Sir, notice the carvings near the gate. The locals Colonel Mayborne warned us about must use this place. Perhaps as a place of worship, or a town meeting area?"

"Lieutenant, if they don't bother us, we won't bother them."

Michelle Tobias shook her head in disbelief at the uncaring nature of the team leader. Her training as a scientist conflicted with the realities of her duties. Being new to the Headhunters, she had yet to come to grips with the no nonsense approach that Captain Newman had adopted. < Still, > she thought, < Since that bitch Carter took my place on the SG-1 team this is better then being trapped on a single backwater world with no chance of seeing the stars. >

The Captain looked down the forested hill and noticed the well-established trail. "Ok gentlemen," he noticed the look of disgust on his new lieutenant's face, he smiled and then added, "and lady, let's saddle up. Sitting on our asses won't get us anywhere. I'd like to be back at base camp sometime this week." The order was barely out of his mouth and the team was ready to move out, ready to leave the gate behind.

"Sir, the heading that the Colonel gave us heads right up that trail. I suggest that to avoid any contact with the locals, we parallel the trail about 20 meters to one side."

The rattle of equipment echoed as the Headhunters shouldered their G11's and with that, the normal bitching of any military unit on the march began. Hour after hour, the team marched, the miles slowing fading under their combat boots.

The morning turned into afternoon with the heat and the humidity of the day extracting a toll from the team. Sgt. Ramirez was dead tired when they hit the edge of the jungle. < Carrying a hermetically sealed specimen box is worse then lugging an M-60 in the desert, > he thought to himself. < At least with the pig you get a sling to balance the load a little. >

The sounds of the jungle would have been familiar to any soldier who had served in the jungles of Panama or Vietnam. The sounds were the same, the overwhelming humidity was the same, and even the curses muttered by the soldiers were the same.

The members of the 'Headhunter' team cut and chopped a path through the thick jungle, heading slowly toward the set of coordinates given to them by the commanding officer, Col. Mayborne.

Headhunter Base Camp, Two Days Earlier

Mayborne's voice rang through the cavernous interior of their base. As he paced back and forth, he spoke to the team about the mission. "Listen up people. The Stargate team has fucked up! Our Intelligence sources have reported that a biological weapon is stored on planet PX1219. Your mission is to capture one and bring it back here for study. Since SG Team won't do the dirty work, we will. I can only stress that success of this mission could make the difference of earth living and dying.

"There's a cave thirteen klicks from the gate. You will enter the cave and acquire a specimen for study. That specimen's return has priority over everything, including the survival of team members," he told them. "Contact with the locals is forbidden." He had looked at the team, with the knowing look, "I repeat, No contact with the locals, or at least none that can be traced back to us, am I understood?"


The team leader called for a ten-minute break. Sitting on the ground by a tree, he drew his canteen out to drink. He motioned Lt. Tobias over to him.

"If the coordinates are correct, we have less than a klick to go. Sundown is in about 2 hours. I don't know about you, but I don't want to enter that cave and have to hump this jungle in the dark. I sure as hell don't want a firefight in unfamiliar territory at night. Let's bed down the team and in the morning we will send a scout ahead."

"Sir, I suggest a two man watch throughout the night, I don't know why, but this place gives me a bad case of the creeps."

The Captain spoke with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Now I wonder what would cause that lieutenant. We are thousands of light years from home, on a mission to collect some specimen that scares the higher ups shitless, and you have a case of the creeps, imagine that!"

Captain Newman yelled to the group, "Devlin, Smith, you have first watch. Rotate in 3 hours."

He turned and shouted his instructions to the rest of the team, "Weapons are clear, but keep your heads." Although the captain knew his team's fire discipline was just shy of perfect, he added with a smile on his face. "I don't want to wake up because you thought you saw the Easter bunny and wanted a few eggs."

The team members settled down in defensive positions and dug rations out of their packs. Heating water for the food, Devlin decided to tease the female lieutenant. "Hey lieutenant, did they ever tell you what MRE stands for?"

Sgt. Ramirez interrupted, with what is obviously a well-practiced routine, "Meals rejected by everyone?" he laughed at his own joke, and continued, "Or My all time personal favorite, meals rejected by Ethiopians."

"No man," Devlin interjected, "Meals ready for excretion." The look on Michelle's face was one of the classic newbie responses to the old joke. She looked down at her dinner of beef stew and set it aside, no longer hungry.

As Sgt. Devlin intended, the team laughed at the old and tired joke, as they always did. They also relaxed, and some of the built up tensions of the day faded from their faces.

28 Aug 1998

<Waking up in a jungle can be an unnerving experience,> thought Captain David Newman. This wasn't the first time that had ever crossed his mind, nor would it be the last, of that he was sure. Thinking back to Ranger school, he could remember the hardest two months of his life. In the final test before graduation, the class was dropped 80 miles into the deepest jungle in of Panama and told to survive. The long 10-day trek had been a test of everything the young soldiers had learned and everything they were. He smiled at the recollection. The goal then had been survival and success, as it always would be.

A 'Morning, Sir.' interrupts his thoughts. "Want some coffee, Captain?"

"Sure," he grumbled.

Drinking the bitter and lukewarm instant coffee, he pulled out the map and reviewed his plans for the coming action.

"Tobias, Smith, get over here"!

Tracing the route on the map, he explained his plan to the chosen team members. "Smith, I want you to go ahead and scout the cave. We really don't expect anything, but you know how that goes on one of these missions. When you get there; check the perimeter. Find the entrance. Don't enter that cave until the rest of the team is present. The colonel's briefing wasn't specific enough, so I don't know what to expect. I plan to be very careful here. Any questions? Dave waited for an answer. "OK, take off; we will see you in a few."

Sgt. Smith grabbed his rucksack and weapon and faded into the lush jungle.

The early morning march was a quiet affair. The kidding and joking of the previous evening was gone. In its place was the professionalism of soldiers. The soldiers were now 100 percent focused on the mission at hand. From past experiences, each knew never to discount anything on a Headhunter mission. Each had, in the past, risked their lives in the defense of their country, now it was the whole human race on the line.

As the group arrived at the coordinates, Sgt. Smith rejoined the team and reported to the Capt. "Sir. The area is clear. There is only a single entry way, at least only one I could find. Per your orders, I have not gone in, but I did do a quick thermal scan, results were inconclusive.

Gathered at the mouth of the cave, the captain ordered weapons drawn. "Ok people, this is where we earn our pay. This isn't the first world we have been on, nor is this the first raid we have pulled off. Stay together and watch each other backs."

Entering the cave in a single file, Sgt. Smith, the scout, was the first in. Following him was Sgt. Devlin, the team's medic and communications specialist. The rest of the team, Captain Newman, Lieutenant Tobias, and Sergeant Ramirez, trailed them at a 3-meter distance. Sgt. Ramirez whispered to Lt. Tobias, "LT., look at the walls."

"What's the matter Sgt.?" she asks.

"I come from mining country, Lieutenant. The sides of the walls are too smooth and regular," he hesitated, "too unnatural for this not to have been made, Ma'am.

"Goa'uld construction isn't this clean. They tend more toward pyramids and blocks of stone. Also note the lack of any support columns. It's as if the tunnel was bored out of the hillside with a single drill bit."

After the first 50 meters, the floor or the tunnel started to slope downward at slight two to three-degree angle. Hiking at a steady pace, the team covered first kilometer in little more then a half an hour. Sgt. Smith returned from the point, and addressed the group. "Looks like the tunnel doubles back on its self about 50 meters ahead. The gradient is a little steeper then before." He faced toward Captain Newman, "Sir, we must already be 300 meters underground."

Continuing the march, they traveled another 200 meters down the increased grade before they finally hit the bottom of the path.

At the bottom of the tunnel, they discovered an enormous cavern. The ceiling was more then 50 feet above their heads. Entering the cavern from the underground passage, the group paused to regroup. Lt. Tobias, not thinking of the tactical situation, wandered ahead of the group and noticed a thick fog covering the floor of the cavern. An Erie blue glow reflected off the dense fog.

30 Aug 1998
Base camp, Earth

Upon returning to home base, the captain dismissed his team and headed toward the main cavern to report to Colonel Mayborne. Dropping his pack and relaxing for the first time in days, the weary Captain began his report.

"Sgt. Smith patrolled the exterior of the cave and only found a single entrance. The odd thing was that the walls of the entrance were smooth and regular. Other than the possible construction of the tunnel, there was not a single sign of habitation. However, it felt like it had been. Sir I know that doesn't make any sense but I can only report what I observed.

"I'm telling you, Colonel, it was the weirdest thing I have ever seen! The entrance of the cave was only about five feet across so we had to stoop down to get inside. Inside the entryway it was bored like a subway tunnel, only the walls weren't that smooth. Now I have seen some dark places in my time but this one was in the words of Tobias, 'Creepy'.

"Colonel, other than the gate, this world has no technology. The insides of that cave were no different from the surface with the exceptions of the odd appearance of the tunnel leading to it, and the unexplained fog."

"Captain, stick to the relevant facts. You can cover your personal observations in the written report," interjected his superior officer.

"Sir, I believe these were relevant. You sent us to 1219 to find and collect a bio-weapon. I was under the assumption that what we would find was a device. What we found, Sir, was a huge cave, it must have been 500 meters across and 350 meters underground, and at the bottom were what I can only call eggs.

"Lt. Tobias was the first to stumble over the eggs. There were thousands of the damn things stored underneath that fog, Sir. The top of each egg seemed to be hinged, forming a slit in the shape of the letter X. Lt. Tobias was sure that the slit was to facilitate the hatching of the eggs. There was movement in one of the eggs, Sir. So, rather than expose the whole team to a biohazard, I pulled the team back and sent Sgt. Ramirez in to collect the sample.

"We boxed a single egg as per mission spec and Ramirez activated the cryogenic suspension systems. Take this for what it's worth, Sir. I would have sworn that those eggs were ready to hatch. From time to time, I know I saw some movement inside of them."

"Anything else, Captain?"

Dave rubbed his face with his hands before answering. "Yes, Sir. On the trip back, we encountered one of the natives of the planet. Sir… I shot him and we hid the body."

"Were you seen or heard?"

"No, Sir. The silenced G-11s did the trick. What bothered me, Sir, was the fact that he was human, so I guess my assumption that they were natives was misplaced. Someone out there beside us has this gate locked in and has transplanted a colony there. The really odd thing is that we saw no sign of the Goa'uld at all, so it's one more thing to add to the list of questions."

"Captain, we aren't explorers. We don't boldly go where no man has gone before. Our job is the defense of earth and acquiring weapons that will help us against future enemies. In the future, please restrict yourself to those activities. You're dismissed."

Colonel Mayborne watched as Newman retreated from his office. When he was sure the captain was gone, he returned to his desk, logged onto the secure Internet, and initiated a videoconference. When the connection to the party was completed, in a tone that belied his normal arrogance, he began his own report. "Sir… The Headhunter team just checked in and the mission was a complete success."

"What's the status of the specimen Mayborne?" The tone of George's voice left no doubt who was in command!

"Currently in cold storage in the original specimen box, Sir."

"No one is allowed access to that specimen or even the storage area. If anyone violates these orders Colonel; shoot them and incinerate the body within 6 hours." The man on the other end of the call hardened his voice even further, "I don't care if it's your mother that gets in there Mayborne; anyone gets in there, they die! Is that clear? Your orders are to store the specimen until the new exobiology lab is completed in Sunnydale."

Lessons learned

Anonymous Office
Classified location

The meeting of the oversight committee lasted less then fifteen minutes. There was only one item on the agenda and the outcome was preordained. Dressed in a reserved, yet finely cut suit, George headed to his office to make the call to the University of Illinois.

Referring to the file in front of him, George found the telephone number for the Psychology department and asked to speak with Professor Margaret Smith.

As George hung up the telephone he said to himself, "Things are moving along nicely."

Professor Margaret A. Walsh, MD, Harvard School of Medicine, Masters in clinical psychology from Johns Hopkins, Doctorate in applied cybernetic theory from M.I.T., was doing something she neither liked, nor was used to, waiting. Not that it was a bad place as waiting rooms go, it was more the fact of who she was waiting for that made her uncomfortable.

The call had come that morning. Her student aide called her to the telephone before she could start the first class of the day. A voice she had never heard before spoke to her in a tone of a man that was not used to defiance. "Professor Walsh, my name is George Smith. I represent a group that might be interested in funding the research you proposed in your doctoral thesis. Would it be possible for you to meet with us to discuss this further?

"Of course," was the professor's immediate reply. "What time would be convenient for you? I will need to make arrangements for a substitute for my classes for today."

"That has already been arranged, Dr. Walsh. Please meet your driver in front of the campus administration building in 30 minutes." As she walked by her classroom on the way, she saw the Dean of the psychology department was now teaching her psych 101 class. The sight left her both smiling, and wondering who had the pull to get that worthless excuse of a teacher off his secretary and back in the classroom?

Thirty minutes later, a black Mercedes Benz limousine pulled up to the college and a very large driver exited the car and approached her. He respectfully asked her if she were Professor Walsh. Overwhelmed with the sheer opulence of the car, and intimated by the size of the driver, Dr. Walsh could only nod in reply.

As he held the car door open for her, the driver spoke in a reassuring tone, "Don't worry about it, Dr. Walsh. I'm used to this reaction. If you will please get in the car, we do have a schedule to keep. Ma'am, there is a briefing folder on the seat. I have been instructed to ask you to please read it and make yourself familiar with its content. I'm sorry I won't be able to answer any questions. I'm sure that when you arrive, all of the questions you have will be answered.

As she made herself comfortable in the leather seat, Professor Walsh picked up the manila folder and broke the seal at the top. Pulling the contents from the folder, the first thing she found was a simple hand written note.

Dear Dr. Walsh,
Please forgive us for the mysterious introduction. If there had been any other way we would have taken it, but the security of our nation depends on the information to which you have now been made privy, never being disclosed without the gravest of needs.
Contrary to popular belief, the world did not start as a Garden of Eden, nor was it the haven for dinosaurs, as paleontologists would have you believe. Our world started as hell on Earth!
For uncounted millennia, this world was the sole possession of Demons and Vampires. Man was a simple creature that then was no higher on the food chain then a beef cow. Slowly, the demons lost their grip on this world, forced out by unknown forces. However, there are still half-breeds, vestiges of true demons, which roam our world even today, and that is one of the subjects of our research.
We also have additional questions that your thesis brought to our attention. You, as a medical doctor specializing in situational psychology, combined with an unparalleled grasp of the possibilities of a cybernetic and human interface, can bring a unique viewpoint to our research.
With the combination of your research and educational background, we feel that you would be the perfect person to head up this project.
I look forward to meeting you Dr. Walsh.

George Smith

Maggie Walsh was stunned. She was also shocked and filled with disbelief, so much disbelief, that she had to read the letter three more times. Each time she read the letter, new doubts formed in her mind. Finally, her curiosity overcame her fear and she began to study the reports that had accompanied the letter. An hour later, she heard the distinctive noise jet engines make when starting up. She had been so involved with reading the technical reports; she never felt the telltale bumps of the car entering the cargo hold of the C-130.

Finding the intercom button, she thumbed the button and asked the driver where they were going.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, but the answer to that question is classified. I can tell you that we will arrive at our destination in 3 hours. If you're hungry Ma'am, there are food and drinks located in the center compartment of the front seat. I'm sure you will find something that suits your tastes."

3 Hours later
Classified location

A man dressed in a military uniform had met Professor Walsh at the plane. The problem was that she had no idea where she was and only a basic idea of why she was here. Asking questions of her escort was like inquiring about the weather from a brick wall. The man simply ignored any questions put to him. The only words he had spoken the entire time was a warning not to venture more the 20 feet from him or she would be considered as a hostile.

He had led her to a small office then spoke in a respectful tone, "Ma'am, There are additional case files for you to review on the desk. If you need anything else, please dial 411 on the telephone. Anything you need will be brought too you. There is a small restroom over there," Indicating the back of the room. "Please Ma'am; don't leave this room for any reason without escort."

With that final warning the guard had left, an almost silent click from the door was the only indication that Maggie Walsh was a prisoner.

The next three hours passed as if they were minutes. Buried in the reports were clinical work ups of thirteen human beings. The only problem was that according to the blood work, the EEG, and the EKG these people were dead. The EKG showed a flat line across the board. The EEG needles never twitch once in over two hours that the recording strip covered. The final straw was the blood work; the pH levels were nonexistent which; since they matched the electrolytes made perfect sense. The enzyme readings varied so much, that it had Maggie doubting that the samples were from a human being at all. The last telling reading was hidden in the blood work, the presence of a sedative in levels so high that it would kill a human being within 2 minutes of injection.

While Professor Walsh was reviewing the last of the reports a well dressed, man had entered the room. Maggie stood up with a scowl on her face; she was ready to rip into the visitor.

"Professor Walsh, I'm George Smith."

Dr. Walsh's response had been more then a little hostile. "Mr. Smith is it standard procedure for all your prospective employees to be kidnapped for their interview?"

"We have already apologized for the circumstances that brought you here. So, please don't give me that attitude. You can see from the reports that you have that we are facing a problem that has plagued mankind for its entire existence."

"If I'm to believe the reports you have given me that is." Her doubt etched on her face.

"Very well Doctor Walsh, follow me if you would."

Walking through the corridors Mr. Smith had continued his lecture. "Any where else in the world and this research facility would be the pride of the nation that had constructed it. Here and now, it's a necessity that it be kept secret. Located in this complex is equipment that is simply light years ahead of current medical technology. Do we put this to the humane use of curing cancer or solving the AIDS problem? No, the current problem is much more dangerous and immediate then a simple disease to the entire world... He paused to catch his breath, That problem is of course the Vampires and the Demons. Ah… here we are."

He passed his cardkey over the reader and punched a pass code into the security lock. "Doctor will you please mask and wait for me at the inner door please, I need to speak to these young gentlemen for a few seconds."

The two young soldiers dressed in olive drab pullovers and black commando pants shot to attention. "Is everything ready for the demonstration Mr. Finn?'

"Yes Sir. Hostile four is restrained and shackled to the operating table as you ordered." Riley Finn questioned the older man meekly; "Sir is this really a good idea? Even in its present state hostile four could escape." I'm sure you remember the trouble we had capturing it. At the very least let us accompany you and Professor Walsh."

"Very well, you make a sound argument. Will you and Mr. Graham please accompany us in." although it was phrased as a question, both of the soldiers knew better, an order was and order was an order.

Heading toward the inner door of the operating room Mr. Smith introduced the two young men to Professor Walsh.

"These gentlemen will accompany us to provide security. The hostile you will meet was captured three weeks ago. It took a full platoon of highly trained soldiers to capture and restrain him. Please don't let the appearance fool you Dr. Walsh, what you are about to see is no longer human, and given even a split second it will kill you without a single second of thought or remorse." The group passed through another security door into an operating theater.

Dr. Walsh was impressed with the quality of the equipment that she observed, even in her days at Johns Hopkins she had never seen an OR so fully equipped. Lying on the table was a young man, perhaps in his mid twenties dressed in a simple gown. The patient shackled to the table with chains that looked more as if they should be in Dr. Frankenstein's lab then in a modern research facility.

"This is Hostile number four. His appearance would lead you to believe that he is in his mid to late twenties. However, radio carbon dating of bone samples shows that he is at least one hundred and seventy years old. We have also uncovered historical data that places him in Chicago during the great fire in 1871"

The look on Dr. Walsh's face betrays her disbelief. "You expect me to believe…"

"I expect you to believe nothing, save for what you see with your own eyes." With that he produced a mirror from his pocket and aimed it at the vampire. Maggie saw nothing but an empty operating table reflected in the mirror. The sight of the shackles hanging there is mid-air, unsupported; unnerved her more then she cared to admit.

Mr. Smith chuckles. "Legends sometimes have a basis in fact Dr. Walsh. Holy items such as a cross, a Star of David and holy water can burn these creatures like acid would burn humans. Exposing them to sunlight causes them to immolate within seconds of exposure. Watch carefully now."

Mr. Smith grabbed a stun gun from a gurney next to the operating table and zapped the vampire with 50,000 volts. The change was both immediate and chilling. The eyes of the vampire changed to a sickly yellow color, the pupils expanded far beyond the human norm. A ridge reminiscent of Neanderthal man formed on the forehead and a deep threatening growl issued forth from his throat. The vampire opened his mouth as if to feed.

"As you can see professor we have, for safety reasons pulled all of its teeth. We were somewhat concerned that the canines would regenerate, but so far, that concern has proven unwarranted. We thought this a reasonable precaution against him attacking and turning one of our personal."

"The old stories are true Professor Walsh. The only way a vampire can reproduce is to drain a victim and then force feed the pour soul its blood. Mr. Finn, if you would please proceed with the demonstration. Watch closely Professor Walsh, I'm, sure that this final demonstration will remove any lingering doubts you may still harbor."

The well-built young soldier strode over to the now raging demon and produced a fire-hardened oak stake. What happened next had the scientist in Dr. Walsh cataloging the effects with detailed precision. The soldier, with a single thrust of the stake pierced the sternum; it slid under the breastbone and entered the pericardial sack. The last millimeter of travel of the stake produced a result that Professor Margaret A. Walsh will remember until her dying day.

Decomposition that should have taken centuries occurred in milliseconds. The soft tissue of the brain, eyes, skin, and muscles all converted to dust, forming a mist around the newly exposed skeleton. The destruction of the more dense tissue of bone and cartilage took no longer then the blink of an eye. The remains of the vampire then exploded like a claymore mine, leaving the lab table and the floor beneath it covered in a fine dust.

"For obvious reasons Dr. Walsh an autopsy would be an impossibility." Then with a gallows sense of humor Mr. Smith taunts Maggie Walsh. "That, Professor Walsh, was Vampire 101."

Maggie Walsh sat in the waiting room. Sat and waited, waited and thought. Maggie reflected on the changes of her worldview. In the last 8 hours, she had faced terrors; terrors that she had thought were just stories to scare children into behaving. No longer were these simply monsters under the bed. No, that comfort had been removed forever. These creatures, ugly as they were, proven to exist, they had now become facts and facts, were Dr. Walsh's business.

In the center of a darkened room, sitting at a horseshoe-shaped table, Mr. Smith sat with his colleagues discussing the events of the past hour, deciding if they their long-term plans had been affected in anyway.

"My friends her record says it all. Yes she is arrogant, but that comes from being the best in her field. We wouldn't expect any thing else. You've all had a chance to observer her reactions to the demonstration with hostile four and you have to admit she was far more controlled then any of us were."

"I'll say," a voice with an English accent answered from the right. "I damn near soiled myself the first time."

A second voice from the right pipes up. "George, I'm more concerned about security. If she turns us down, we will have to explain her disappearance to the collage."

Mr. Smith stippled his hands, "I don't believe that's a worry. Look at her psych profile. Maggie Walsh has never backed down from a challenge in her life. Number one at Harvard, number three at Johns Hopkins, and again number three at M.I.T. Turn us down, its more likely she will beg for the job."

From the far left of the table, came another question, "What about her personal life? The commitment required for this job, and the need for security would make it almost impossible for a man or woman to have a personal life of any kind."

"With the exception of a single romantic encounter while she was in medical school, our investigators could find no romantic involvement at all. The medical school encounter was with a fellow student, and was very short, less then three weeks. We tracked him down in Chicago and the impression he gave our investigators was that Maggie Walsh was, even in bed, the coldest woman he ever met. She might as well be sexless. Both of her parents are dead, No brothers or sisters or even aunts and uncles to worry about. Maggie Walsh lives for two things, her research and her teaching. Her work is her life."

A voice distorted by a speaker phone asked the final Question, "Her thesis shows promise for the A.D.A.M. project, but what of the other projects that the Initiative project carries the responsibility for?"

Mr. Smith played his trump card. "Let me direct you to the June 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Specifically the article titled, 'Performance enhancing drugs in a military combat environment' on page 64. In that article, the writer proved that current off the shelf drugs, in the proper mixture and dose, could improve the performance of soldiers in the field by a factor of four. The writer's ideas were dismissed by her colleagues, mainly because the unknown side affects of mixing so many chemicals. The writer of that article was Maggie Walsh."

"Gentlemen, we could argue this all day, rather then work solely off her record lets bring the professor in and you can judge her yourself."

"Thank you for coming today, Professor Walsh. As I stated in my letter, we feel that you are perfect for this job, however my colleagues have a few questions they would like answered. For security reasons I will act as the moderator, all questions will be asked though me, I hope you understand our need for security."

"Professor Walsh, for the record; are you the Margaret Walsh that wrote, 'A theoretical study of the possible interactions of a cybernetic interface with the human nervous system' as her doctoral thesis at M.I.T.?"

"I am," She replied. More then a little surprised that anyone had ever read her thesis.

"In that work you hypothesized that a melding of computers and human beings is less then 25 years away, in light of what you have witnessed today, has your estimate changed in any way?"

"It has." She paused for three heartbeats then continued in a tone that every student that had even taken her class would recognize. "Gentlemen, the biggest problem facing not only the cyberneticist, but also doctors that perform transplants of any kind, is the incredibly voracious immune system that human beings possess. For example," Maggie paused and thought for a second, "A heart transplant… perfected in this country over a decade ago yet, even today, when the patient survives the initial surgery they are in for years of drug therapy simply so the patient's body does not reject the replacement."

"It's a vicious cycle. The anti-rejection drugs suppress the immune system, and then the patient become increasingly susceptible to infections and diseases. If you treat the infection with antibiotics, the strain on the transplanted organ increases and then it requires more anti-rejection therapy. A medical 'Catch-22' that's never been solved."

"With the reports, I have read today, and given access to the facility you have constructed, I surmise that without the problems of rejection, a cybernetic organism would be a practical not in 25 years, but today. At least trial runs with the…" She stumbled for a word.

Mr. Smith interjected, "Hostile sub-terrestrials is the current term in vogue with our capture teams, Professor."

"Thank you Mr. Smith, with the HST's, as you name them, the chance of failure would be lowered considerably. These HST's have no pulse, they draw no breath, and diseases have no effect on them, if the experiment does fail, no one cares! They are already dead. The research possibilities are endless."

The gleam is Professor Walsh's eyes told the oversight committee everything they needed to know.

Three days later
University of Chicago

Davis Jamison was in a foul mood that morning. The car had refused to start, and waiting for his wife to get ready to leave was infuriating. Arriving at his office, He found a letter waiting for him on his desk.

Dear Dr. Jamison
Due to an unexpected opening in the psychology department at the University of California, Sunnydale, I find myself forced to resign my position in your department. I realize that my actions leave you understaffed for this semester and for that I apologize. The Circumstances were such that a decision on my part was needed immediately.
Please consider this as my letter of resignation effective immediately.

Maggie Walsh

Hero's Past's

University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Urgent care unit.
9 March 1982

The old gray-haired gentleman stood next to the bed and asked, "Officer Long, can you hear me?"

The young man, fresh from surgery, lost in his own thoughts could hear the words, but in his confused state couldn't raise enough interest to care.

"Very well, there is no need to answer, just listen. You have suffered a large caliber bullet wound in the back of the head. The Doctors say only the steel plate in your head saved your life. I'm also informed that your long-term memory has been affected and the prognosis for its return is not favorable."

"My sources in law enforcement informed me that you were working undercover on an industrial sabotage case when you were shot. They tell also me that there is no chance of anyone being arrested or prosecuted for this crime. It seems you have made some powerful enemy's son. Your chances of leaving this hospital alive… Well that's why I am here."

Mumbled from underneath the pile of bandages sitting on the pillow, "Who are you?"

"My name is Wilton Knight, Michael. I own Knight Industries."

"Why should you care?" The earlier apathy had now turned to self-pity.

"I care Officer Long, because I have known son of a bitch's like the ones that shot you all my life. It galls my own sense of right and wrong that they are above the law. No one should be above the law." The vehemence of Wilton's voice is overwhelming, "The power that these men wield assures that any case made against them will never see the light of day, never mind the inside of a court room."

The old man sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned toward Michael's head, his voice changed to a whisper. "Son, I'm tired, tired, and dying." Wilton's voice faded, after a few minutes he continued, "I'm dying, and I wish to leave this world a legacy."

Then almost as if talking to him self, "What a pair we make. You young and healthy but your life's memories lost to you. Me old and failing but I can remember every important event of my life as if it were yesterday. His voice firmed up as he returned to the present. "Michael I am a rich man. If that legacy is to become a reality, I need your help."

"Michael, the men you tangled with don't leave loose ends. I have no doubts that whoever they send to complete the job won't make the same mistake twice. One way or another, Michael Long will die tonight. Either by an assassin's bullet, or if you accept my offer, Michael Long will die the death of the John Gault. That is none at all."

Knight Research Laboratories
12 December 1983

The road to recovery had been a long ride on a bumpy road; fifteen surgeries to re-sculpture Michael's face, and another four to change his fingerprints. Every step of the way filled with pain for the ex-policeman. Finally, with the healing done, it was time to begin the work that Wilton Knight foresaw.

Walking into the laboratory disguised as a motor pool, Michael wasn't sure to expect.

"Michael, I'm glad that we finally meet. My name is Devon Miles and I have been assigned by Mr. Knight as your liaison to the Knight foundation."

"That makes you my boss, Mr. Miles?"

"No you misunderstand, Wilton thought that my experience with MI6 during the war would be advantageous in guiding you however, you are the final authority. Would you like to meet your team members?"

"The young lady in the grimy coveralls is Bonnie Barstow." A very pretty young woman, in her mid-twenties, offered Michael a hand equally as grimy as the clothes she was wearing. Pulling it back before every one else was just as dirty as she was she simply said, "Hi."

Devon spread his hands, indicating the car Bonnie was working on. "And this, Michael Knight, is KITT."

Los Angeles California
15 Jan 2000

Michael Knight was a man without a past. Born fully-grown in 1983 and teamed With His partner KITT, they had been fighting crime and injustice for 17 years.

"Vigilante is a harsh word, KITT."

"Would you prefer a synonym Michael? There are many stored in my data banks. Guard, Sentinel, guardian, protector, defender, each could apply, but vigilante is the most accurate. It may be harsh Michael, but we do fit the technical definition."

"Ok Buddy, have it your way. That doesn't mean I have to like it."

"What was it that Wilton Knight always said, 'You don't have to like it you just have to do it.'" As KITT spoke the dreaded words, his partner recited them word for word with him. "Very Funny Michael." Even after all the years they had been a team, the human-like quality of KITT's voice still amazed Michael.

"Michael, I am receiving a transmission from Devon."

"Have him hold on for just a minute."

Michael pulled the car into a McDonalds' parking lot. "Put him on the screen, KITT." The center console came to life showing a distinguished gray-haired gentleman. His stuffy English accent coming through the speakers, "Michael, I have your and KITT's next assignment. The most recent FBI crime statistics survey has revealed an alarming anomaly. What we discovered was that the small town in California, Sunnydale to be precise, has an equivalent mortality rate to the cities of Washington D.C and New York City. Equally disturbing is the fact that the resolution rate of crime in Sunnydale is only 4 percent. I had the foundation's computers check the past surveys and this trend started only a few years ago.

"Do we have any suspects, Devon?"

"Not at this time. You will have to 'Wing it' I'm afraid.

"Well, at least we have had a lot of practice at that. Ok Devon, we are on our way."

"KITT, would you please bring up a map for me."

Sunnydale California
15 Jan 2000

Doctor Doug Ross was late. Being late never concerned Doug when he worked at Cook County Hospital, but his current employers were less forgiving then Mark Green or Karry Weaver had ever been. Every day since he had left Chicago he has cursed the deal he had made with his current devil.

Cook County hospital

One year earlier.

When the doors of the emergency room had swung closed behind his back for the last time Doug felt relieved. Relieved that his sense of what needed to be done to save a patient's life and hospital policy were no longer a bone of contention. The Grey hair now filling his head was a direct result of butting heads with the hospital administrators. That relief lasted a full 3 minutes.

"Doctor Doug Ross?"

"Yes," he turned and faced the stranger.

"Dr. Ross, I'm Joshua Ledbetter; I'm an agent with the Government Services Agency."

"Please to meet you, Mr. Ledbetter! Is there something I can do for you?"

"Actually there is." He looked around. "Is there perhaps someplace we might go to discuss this? I don't think a parking lot is the proper place."

Scene after scene flooded Doug's mind. How many times in the last four years had he heard that one before, too many and usually it meant trouble for him.

Following the neon glow, they headed over to Doc Magoo's restaurant. "Welcome to Doc Magoo's Agent Ledbetter, The home of bad coffee and worse food. The only good thing about Doc Magoo's is that the trip to the hospital is only a hundred feet, which is usually close enough that the food inflicted on the customers is rarely fatal." The soft tone of Doug's voice is just enough to make Joshua wonder if the doctor was pulling his chain or giving him a needed warning.

Sitting at the counter and drinking coffee, the silence between them finally overcame Doug. "Ok Agent Ledbetter, just what can I do for you?"

"It's simple really. I'm here to offer you a job."

"I already have a job waiting for me in Seattle."

"I'm afraid, Dr. Ross, that that job will have to wait. The contract you signed with the government is quite specific. After finishing medical school and your residency, you owe the government 5 years of service. We have been most understanding about your stay here in Chicago, but the time has come for you to pay your debt."

"I have already repaid that loan." A hint of anger entered Doug's voice. "I have no intention of becoming a government drone for the next 5 years. What you are asking is impossible."

"Doctor Ross, you seem to think that you have a choice in the matter. I assure you; you don't. Let me predict the future for you. Tomorrow you will get a call, the job in Seattle will have mysteriously have been filled. The day after that, you will get another call; this one from the Illinois medical board, with the news that your license to practice medicine in this state has been put on hold pending an investigation. The day after that, your insurance company will inform you that your malpractice insurance has been revoked pending the results of the board's findings. The day after that, the Internal Revenue Service will begin an audit of your tax returns for the last eight years. Is the picture becoming clearer Dr. Ross?"

The choice had been simple at the time. Doug wanted to go to Medical school and the government had needed doctors. It was time to give the devil his due.

Present time

Getting into the Initiative's main lab was not a simple task even if you belonged there. All personnel were required to pass through a retinal scan and a voice check and that delayed Doug even further. Glancing at his watch as he passed the final security checkpoint, Doug knew that Riley Finn would already be waiting for him. One of Doug's jobs was to monitor the health and well being of the field agents. They were required to report to him at least once a week for standard check up. Like clockwork, every Friday morning at 9:00 am, Riley Finn would be there, waiting for Doug.

"Good morning, Doctor Ross. Running late again I see." Over the last year, Riley had come to look forward to his weekly checkups. Over time, his respect for the doctor assigned to the field team had changed into a friendship. He thought of Doug as almost a big brother.

After checking Riley's blood pressure, checking his ears and eyes and then making the proper notations on the chart he asked, "Ok. Finn, strip the shirt off, let's see what new bruises you have added to the collection."

With the shirt off, Doug was somewhat surprised to find no new bruises. The only things he could find are greenish-hued area's that indicated old injuries. "What's the matter Finn, have you been sleeping on the job or was it just a slow night on patrol?

"I didn't patrol last night Doc… Professor Walsh gave me the night off, So…" He silently debated with himself on whether to tell Doug about his night, "I had a date."

"A date… you mean like… with-a-girl date."

Riley chuckled at the doctor's surprised tone of voice. "Graham said the same thing. What is so surprising to you guys that I might date a girl?"

"Let's face it Finn, you may make G.I. Joe look like a wimp. Demons and vampires may shake in their boots when they hear you are in the neighborhood. But when it comes to women, you are the biggest coward this side of Don Knots."

"Gee thanks, doc."

"Get dressed and you can tell me all about her."

Seated at the desk in Doug's office, Doug is the first to speak. "Ok Riley; tell me about the girl."

Riley is sitting there wondering how much he can tell his friend. "Well… she likes cheese."

"Well that's certainly a desirable trait in a woman, tell me, do you and Miss Cheese plan on basing your whole relationship on a mutual admiration of dairy products?"

That visual caused Riley to smile despite the fact it made him look a little foolish. "Her Name is Buffy… Buffy Summers. She's a freshman here. I met her in Professor Walsh's Psych class. She's like no other girl in the world." Boy is that the truth he thought to himself.

Sitting across from the young agent, Doug can see the silly all teeth grin that had plastered itself to Riley's face the second he started speaking about Buffy. "You're hooked aren't you? Look Riley I can appreciate the attraction of a beautiful woman, perhaps better then anyone else here, but you have to remember that what you do is dangerous."

"Don't you think I don't know that? All my life, all I wanted was a job that makes a difference and someone to love me. What I do here does make a difference, to a lot of people. Now the only thing missing is the Girl." His eyes focus on Doug. "I'm hoping Buffy is that Girl, because everything inside of me is telling me that she is, and now you're telling me to walk away because what I do is dangerous."

"Riley, I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that what you do here can't be separated from the rest of your life. You knew that coming in."

"Look Doc, I don't need you interfering in my life any more then you already do." With that, Riley shoved his chair back and slammed the door on the way out.

The rest of the day passed quickly for Dr. Ross. At 3:30 pm he sat down and began to update his files and record his daily reports on a small cassette recorder. "Finn, Riley, Captain, file number 529-44-1411 weekly check up by Dr. Doug Ross. The heart rate and blood pressure are with in the normal ranges for the therapy. Left and right eyes remain unoccluded and no sign of infection in either ear. There are multiple hematoma located on the left upper quadrant of the patient's chest. These hematoma are in the same location as the last report and the accelerated healing is well within previously established norms."

Doug paused the cassette to collect his thoughts. "Note to Dr. Walsh. Captain Finn is without a doubt the biggest success of your prescribed therapy. There is a 30 to 40 percent difference in his reactions compared to the best member of the team however, this morning he exhibited an irritability that is uncharacteristic for him. While it is possible the causes of this irritability are external factors, we have to consider that it may be a reaction to the drug regimen. My recommendation is that his current dose be reduced by 3 percent and his behavior monitored more closely."

The simple email on the computer screen had Maggie baffled.

To: mwalsh[at]ucs.cal.edu
From: jsmith[at]secrt.gov
Subject: Biological shipment

Dr. Walsh

Tomorrow you will receive a biologic sample for inclusion in the A.D.A.M project research. All safety and security precautions remain in effect and the sample must be stored in a level 7 environment

George Smith


Sunnydale, California
16 Jan 2000

Xander Harris was bored. When you consider where he had been in the last seven months, and what he had been doing, you would have thought that he would have enjoyed the feeling, but he didn't. Sitting at home, gathering at the Giles apartment or hanging out at the Bronze with his friends had lost their appeal.

"Jarod, are you home?" he yelled as he walked into their shared building.

The only answer he got was the echo of his own question. Heading toward the kitchen, Xander spied a stack of magazines and newspapers on the kitchen table, with sections removed, and the glue next to, the stack led Xander to draw the easy conclusion. Jarod had gone hunting again. I pity the person that pissed him off this time, he thought.

"You pity scum Alexander?" Came the question from his companion Elan. "I hardly think that whoever Jarod pursues would be worthy or deserving of your pity." The ancient weapon's oddly accented voice echoed through his mind.

"Elan, one of these days we have to sit down and have a little 4-1-1 session on the word sarcasm, and would you please call me by my name! Its not that hard," Xander spelled out each letter slowly, "X-A-N-D-E-R, only my mother calls me Alexander."

"Alexander, in all of the cultures I have observed throughout the centuries, I have found a name to be most important to the person named, irrespective of the language or the culture. I have concluded that a person's name defines him, so to shorten yours would be disrespectful, make you less then you are, and yet you constantly insist that I do so."

"Well there's a story behind that. You see when Willow and I were five; she had a slight stuttering problem. Whenever she tried to say my name she would get frustrated and cry, so Willow shortened my name to Xander and it sorta stuck. When the folks heard that, they thought it was so cute they began calling me that too, except when they were pissed off."

"The first day of kindergarten, I had become so used to Xander that when the teacher called my name, I didn't answer. To this day, I can remember Willow standing up and telling Mrs. Peach, in her completely serious five-year-old voice, it was Xander Harris and he was right over there. Now that I think about it, that must have been the day that her resolve face showed up for the first time. Willow and I have been best friends ever since."

Elan reflected on what Alexander had just told her and began to realize exactly what he was offering her. As a rune weapon Elan was something of a contradiction, Rune weapons are eternal and the lives of her bearers were but a blink of an eye to her. As a fully being sentient housed in an inanimate object, she could love or hate, but hate was easier and less painful. When she had loved in the past, it always led to a pain that lasted far longer then the happiness.

It had been over ten thousand years since she had had a bearer, and still longer since she had enjoyed the company of one that was more then a tool for her destined purpose. Alexander was offering her his friendship. Elan wasn't sure if she was ready to accept the pain that his friendship would cause.

Used to Elan's extended bouts of silence, Xander still had to figure out what to do to combat his boredom. < I know, > He thought, < I'll be car guy again. The Mustang the Centre so kindly 'rented' for me is almost as cool and Uncle Rorie's '57 Chevy. >

Xander laughed every time that he got into the car. Jarod had left the rental car with him to replace the piece of junk that had died an unholy death in Montana. Jarod prepaid the entire rental on a Visa card that, unknowingly, the Center financed. I'm dreading the day I have to take this sweet thing back to Hertz. He thought.

Driving around town always gave Xander a thrill. It wasn't just the freedom, and it wasn't just about picking up chicks. No, it was more then that. It was about being cool. He may have traveled to other worlds, fought creatures that were best left in his nightmares, but Xander was still a typical American teenager in many respects.

Driving around Sunnydale had proved useless. Michael and KITT had arrived earlier that morning after stopping off at the transport for what Bonnie had claimed was a simple upgrade to KITT's sensors. Seven hours later they had finally hit the road, but it had delayed their arrival in Sunnydale.

"Michael, I have accessed the Sunnydale Police department computer system. For the current year, they have 23 open homicide cases and an additional 17missing person's reports. I can understand why Devon was so concerned. I'm trying to access last year's reports, but an encrypted firewall is preventing me from gaining access and it will take some time to break the encryption codes."

"I have faith in you, buddy. Can you get into the officer's notes for the open cases, KITT?"

"No. The system they use only has the basic information from the original reports."

Looking at a city map on KITT's video display Michael wondered why a town of this size needed 13 cemeteries. "KITT, correlate the addresses of the crimes and see if there is a pattern that develops."

"All the crimes are centered at two of the cemeteries and the local park. With the exception of a single crime reported at a place of business listed as 'The Bronze'."

"Michael there is a second pattern. Each of the crimes was reported in the early morning hours, leaving an 87 percent chance that all these crimes were committed night."

"Well buddy, looks like we find a hotel and settle in till the sun goes down."

Driving KITT on autopilot had it drawbacks. Over the years, Michael has developed the habit of working, when he should have been driving, so he missed the bright red Mustang as it cruised up to him at the red light.

He couldn't miss the young driver's intentions though, when the dark-haired man in the Mustang revved his engine in a challenge. Michael flipped the autopilot button off and revved KITT's motor in answer.

"Michael, do you think that racing a teenager is appropriate when we are working on a case?"

"KITT, in the last 17 years, how many drag races have we lost?"

"None, but I was hoping that you would act your age for once."

"I promise I'll hold back. I won't beat him too bad." With that, the grin that popped on Michael's face would have done credit to any motor head.

When the traffic light had flashed green, Xander floored the accelerator, and the Mustang launched from the intersection like an F-14 off the deck of an aircraft carrier.

"Alexander, stop this right now." her voice growing louder and louder "Stupid bloody adolescent do you not realize that you can die just as easily in this horseless carriage as from fighting demons?"

The thrill of the adrenaline had overcome Xander's common sense and his focus was on the road in front of him. The tone and volume of Elan's voice grew in his head. The faster he went, the more esoteric the curses became. Xander was pretty sure that he recognized French and German and there might have been some Japanese mixed in there too. Finally, when she started calling him names in languages that had been dead before the extinction of the dinosaurs, he had to listen to her.

That fickle bitch known as fate never ignored Xander Harris! The exact second that Xander had decided that Elan was right, that what he was doing was stupid, the right rear tire on the Mustang blew out, sending him out of control.

Sideswiping the black Trans Am next to him, Xander could feel the right side body works crumble. As he regained control of the Mustang, Xander's temper got the best of Him. "I should have known better. How am I going to explain this to Jarod? He will never let me drive his car again."

Parking the Mustang on the side of the road, Xander got out, and slammed his hand on the roof of the car. In his, anger he failed to notice that the black Trans Am parked behind him.

A tall man in his mid-forties approached Xander. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," was Xander's answer, his anger fading. "Is anyone hurt in your car sir?"

"Not a scratch, I'm Michael Knight." He extended his hand to Xander.

"I'm Xander Harris. I'm really sorry about your car."

"Don't worry Xander, there's not a scratch on my car either."

Xander looked back and while expecting to see the whole left side of the Trans Am caved in, it was just as Michael said, there wasn't a scratch. What he did notice was the odd flashing red lights on the front of the hood.

Edwards Air Force Base
16 Jan 2000

Sitting at the desk in his quarters, Jarod was planning for his first flight in the SR-71 when his cell phone rang. Noting the number displayed, he picked up the cell phone and thumbed the on button. "Hello Xander."

"Jarod there has been an accident." Even the interference of the mountains surrounding the base couldn't hide the serious tone of Xander's voice.

"Demons or Vampires this time, Xander, I really can't."

Xander interrupted Jarod before he could complete the question. "Worse… I wrecked the Mustang."

Xander sighed and decided to face the music. "I was racing on the old factory road when the tire blew out. I sideswiped a Trans Am."

"Xander are you OK?"

"I'm fine, but the right side of the car is wasted. The strange thing is, well not Sunnydale strange, but still strange. There's not even a scratch on the Black Trans Am."

"Is the other driver injured?"

"No, Mr. Knight told me he was fine."

A suspicious look crossed Jarod's face. "Xander, is there a series of lights on the hood of the Trans Am?"

"How did you know that?"

"Xander please let me talk to the other driver."

Xander passed the cell phone over to Michael. "He wants to talk to you."

"Hello Michael, How are you and KITT today?"

U.C. Sunnydale
16 Jan 2000

The problem of covertly shipping anything into the Initiative labs was a problem that had long ago been solved. When the bright red Armored Car pulled up too the loading zone of the main powerhouse no one thought it unusual.

If anyone had seen them, they might have wondered what required four armed guards rather then the traditional two. It may have also stirred a little excitement when each of the four guards pulled their weapons before they opened the back of the truck.

The only thing in the truck was a single package, destined for Lab 315. The guards unloaded the crate from the truck with a power forklift, moved it toward the back of the powerhouse.

The whine of the machinery that lifted the false control panel was lost in the normal din of the powerhouse. Inside of the panel was a secure freight elevator.

The guards that accompanied the shipment loaded the container into the elevator and holstered their weapons, their job done. Never aware that if the specimen box opened, while in their care, they would have died within 30 seconds, a thermite charge in the base of the crate would have destroyed the specimen box

U.C. Sunnydale
Initiative Lab
17 Jan 2000

The A.D.A.M. cleared personnel had assembled that morning in the conference room; and the argument had been raging for hours. Questions about the specimen, and the possible answers, were fiercely debated back and forth between the staff. What had become apparent to all was that they simply didn't have the answers.

Dr. Walsh finally decided to end the speculation. "Gentlemen, what we have in lab 315 is an unknown. Where it came from, we don't know. How it affects the A.D.A.M. project, that's what we are here to find out."

"Since I carry the final authority for this project, this is how we shall proceed from here. Doctor Ross and I will perform the initial unpacking and the first inspection of the specimen."

"Professor Walsh, you do realize that I'm simply an MD," interjected a somewhat confused Doug Ross. "I'm not qualified for bio-research."

Maggie glared at the handsome doctor as if he were a first year student late for one of her lectures. "I am aware of your qualifications Dr. Ross. In addition to your being the only other MD with clearance for the A.D.A.M. project, you have proven yourself a talented researcher over the course of your work here in the last year. May I continue?"

The combination of the tone of her voice and sarcastic praise shut Doug Ross up. As she continued, he thought to himself, < This bitch and Kerry Weaver are two of a kind. >

"We will enter lab 315 in full environmental suits. Dr. Ross will deactivate the cryogenic system of the storage box and I will lift it away to expose the specimen."

Turning her head toward one the lab technicians she continued, "Carlos I want full audio, and video records kept. We will allow 30 minutes for the specimen to warm to room temperature and then will proceed with a full MRI scan. Once the MRI scan is completed, we will regroup to analyze the results and plan the next steps from there."

Sitting at her desk Maggie, looking at the MRI scan results, was a deep in researcher mode. The specimen appeared fully formed on the holographic MRI display "Odd," she said to her self, "I can find no earthly reason to explain why this egg hasn't hatched."

The rest of the day went as planned. The results of the MRI were clear enough to allow a more detailed study of the specimen. Professor Walsh made the decision that a dissection would be the next step in the investigation.

Scheduling the dissection for the following day, she moved on to the daily reports.

The converted frat house, once an accident waiting for a spark to ignite it, was beautiful. The simple beauty of its architecture restored to its former glory. Yet, like many beautiful things, there were layers upon layers that weren't visible to the casual passerby. Michael appreciated the building for what it was.

Coming back to the house after dropping the Mustang off at the local body shop Xander and Michael had begun sharing stories.

Michael told Xander how, after being shot, Wilton Knight and the Knight foundation saved his life and after plastic surgery, given him a new identity. Michael snickered as he related the story about his and Jarod's first encounter. By the time, he finished that story; Xander too, was laughing out loud.

"For the last 17 years I have been doing everything I could to insure that 'untouchable' criminals pay for their crimes."

Xander looked at his new friend and asked the question that had been bothering him all day. "So, what brings you to Sunnydale?"

"The Knight foundation noticed the abnormally high mortality rate and the low success rate that your police depart-"

"Those assholes," laughed Xander. "They couldn't poor piss out of a boot with the instructions imprinted on the heel."

"They can't that bad."

"Why do you think I dress like I do? The cops are afraid of anyone who looks different. Around here curiosity and cops usually results in new openings on the SDPD. To be honest, noticing anything in Sunnydale can get you real dead, real fast."

"That's why I am here Xander, to find the reason and to help."

Xander realized he was taking his frustration with the police out on Michael. Recalling his conversation with Jarod after the tow truck showed up, Xander decided that if Jarod trusted Michael, then perhaps he could too. "Mike, if you really want to know then I'll show you. C'mon."

"Where are we going?"

"Waverly Park. Since the Mustang is on the 30 day disabled list, you're driving."

As they walked out to KITT, Michael tapped Xander on the shoulder. When he had his attention, he asked "Xander, please don't call me Mike."

"Sure thing, Mike." A huge grin split his face.

Michael sighed and pulled out his keys and pressed a button on what looked like an alarm key. In actuality, it reactivated KITT's vocal mode.

With the door, open Xander started to get in the car when something he never expected, happened. The car talked to him.

"Good evening, Mr. Harris…."

The unexpected voice caused Xander to slam the back of his head against the inside of the T-top glass... The impact and the shooting pain in his head forced him to stumble backward.

Rubbing the newly formed bump on his head Xander moaned, "Owwww. What was that?"

Michael laughed and answered, "Xander, It's not a what, it's a who. That's my partner, KITT."

Xander, holding his head and moaning replied, "Why is it that every time I turn around an inanimate object is talking to me?"

Before Michael could answer, KITT jumped in. "Mr. Harris, I may be a computer, but I am hardly inanimate."

Elan, her own sense of propriety kicking in, whispered into Xander's mind. "Apologize Alexander; your comment was both crude and impolite." Xander could just hear the amused laughter in her voice echoing in his head.

Xander, not realizing that he was speaking out loud, replied testily. "Why should I apologize? He talked to me first."

Michael jumped back into the fray. "Hey, what can I say? The Knight foundation paid 17 million dollars so I would have someone to talk too."

"Really? Mine followed me home one day." Xander's last words confused Michael. "Cut it out, Elanthielle."

"So… you can pronounce my full name. We shall discuss this Alexander, " in a haughty tone that took centuries to develop. We most certainly will discuss this.

"Wait a sec, Just who are you talking to Xander," asked Michael.

"Elan, my pain in the ass 'inanimate object'."

Waverly Park
17 Jan 2000

Sitting in the parking lot of Waverly Park bothered Xander Harris. To just sit there was like advertising to the local vamps, Free happy meal with a toy surprise inside, but he had to do it. He had to warn Michael about what they were going to face.

"Look Mike, I don't know how up you are on mythology, but what I'm going to tell you is true and it may just save your life. Here's the sitch, Sunnydale is located on the Hellmouth."


"Portal between dimensions." As he spoke, Xander noticed two vampires heading their way. He interrupted himself. "Too late, I'll explain the rest later."

Reaching under the black duster that he wore, Xander withdrew one of the chrome plated Colt 1911's. The sound of the slide being drawn back and a vamp killer round being chambered echoed throughout KITT's interior, followed by the snick of the safety being set, leaving the pistol in the cocked and locked position… He handed the legendary weapon to Michael. "Stay in the car. If the shit goes down, shoot for the heart, that's the only chance you will have with these assholes."

He tosses his cell phone on the passengers' seat, "Call Jarod if something happens to me. The number's in the memory. He will know what to do if I'm down."

"Right," Michael answered a little dumbly as he tried to process what was going on.

As Xander got out of the car, Michael snapped out of it and spoke to KITT. "KITT, full recording mode."

The first vamp headed for Xander. Seeing the young Slayerette standing there in his duster, the vamp just had to play the smartass. "What are you dressed up for boy, playing cowboys and Indians?"

"Nope. I'm playing Alien Hunter and since there are no aliens, gee… I guess you will have to do," was Xanman's reply!

Seeing Xander standing there with Elan in his hand and fully extended, the vampire continued with what he thought was witty repartee, "What are you doing to do pole vault me to death, Oh great alien hunter?"

"Didn't your Mother teach you not to play with your food?"

"She taught me to fully enjoy the dining experience."

"Well it ain't happening tonight." The rune weapon flashed all most too fast for the human eye to follow. A single strike to the forehead stunned the undead, followed by a thrust to the stomach that doubled it over. The vampire never felt itself become another part of the Waverly Park real estate, as the short sword cleaved it head from its body.


Pounding on the hood of the car before him and failing to notice that it was having no effect, the second vampire bellowed. "You humans never learn, you think you can hide in your iron machines, Meet the ultimate predator."

"Not hardly," said Xander in the worst John Wayne impression ever.

The swoosh of Xander's Wakizashi cutting through the air was the last thing the vampire ever heard.

U.C Sunnydale
Initiative Lab 315
18 Jan 2000

With no annoying personnel to deal with, Maggie Walsh was in her element: a puzzle to be solved, and not many clues to go by. Even the persistent itch at the back of her neck went unnoticed, or at least ignored.

Professor Walsh had spent the night studying the MRI scan further. The scan revealed a completely developed organism and there had been signs of a pulse or at least something that looked like a pulse and the more she studied the bigger the mystery became.

The eight, double-jointed legs, suggested arachnid to Professor Walsh, but the long tail wrapped around the body inside of the cocoon and the placement of the front legs defied that label. The shape of the egg and the obvious opening at the top also concerned Professor Walsh. The thickness of the shell would indicate to her a very harsh environment, and the specimen must not be strong enough to crack the hard shell by itself so nature had provided and easier answer

Lab 315

Doug Ross was close to killing Professor Walsh. < Well not really, > he thought to himself. If putting up with her attitude weren't enough to justify homicide, being forced to wear an environmental suit would at least sustain a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict. < But what a sweet thought, > as a grin hidden by his face shield clearly demonstrated.

Donning the polymer nightmare is akin to making love in a single sleeping bag. There is never enough room and something sensitive is always getting in the way. The suit, with its single zippered entrance in the back, was bulky and hot. Even the positive air pressure meant to keep any dangerous bugs out incase of a tear, failed to stop the flood of sweat that cascaded down Doug's face.

Doug's only consolation was the fact that Professor Walsh was wearing an identical suit and had to be suffering the same side effects and discomforts he was.

"Are you ready Carlos?"

"Yes, Professor Walsh. Video and audio systems are running. I have two fixed cameras as well as the suit feeds. Doctor, how long will this take?"

"About four hours, Carlos," was Dr. Walsh's answer.

"Ma'am, the tapes are running, but I have to go to supply and get some more video tape."

"Get back here fast, Carlos."

"Let's begin. Today is Wednesday January 19 2000; this is the dissection of specimen A1219. Present in the O.R. are Dr. Margaret Walsh and Dr. Doug Ross. The time is 09:05 am."

As Maggie droned through the litany of known facts, the whine of the bone cutting saw pierced the room, interrupting her speech. Doug mumbled, "Sorry, Professor Walsh," into his microphone.

What neither of them noticed, was that, as they talked, the top of the egg opened like the petals of a flower.

As they turned to start, the sight of the open egg chiseled terror on each of their faces and their pupils dilated in fear.

An inhuman screech echoed off the walls of lab 315!


Terrace Point Montana
18 Jan 2000

Terrace Point Montana, a one Starbucks kind of town, except that anyone foolish enough to open a coffee bar would be out of business within a month. The people of Terrace Point liked their coffee as they liked their lives, simple and straightforward. They attended church on Sundays, well most of them did. Every Friday, they gathered at the local high school to cheer on the game of the week. All in all, a typical All-American town, well almost, as the events half a year ago proved.

Frank Parker was a man on a mission. That it was a personal mission his superiors wouldn't approve, nevertheless here he was. Finding the surplus store was simple task. In a town of 5000, just how many yellow buildings could there be, he thought to himself?

Parking in the empty lot, Frank headed toward the door. As he entered the dark and dank building, a smell so familiar assaulted him, so familiar; it felt like going home. Nothing else smelled just that way. Frank had experienced that smell in every duty station which he had been assigned to. Frank called it the 'get ready for war' smell… and he reveled in it.

Strolling along the tight corridors formed by walls and walls of used and ex-military gear, he spotted the counter, and the man he had come to visit. The man with the thinning gray hair at the counter looked up and a huge smile bloomed on his face.

"Frank Parker as I live and breathe. I was wondering when you would finally show up."

"How're you doing, Terry?"

Terry Powell, the shop's salesman, janitor, chief bottle washer, and owner, stood up and vigorously shook the ex-SEAL's hand. "Oh, better then some, worse then others I 'spect."

"That's good, how's Lynn doing now?"

"Better then she was 7 months ago when you called. She still has the nightmares, but not as often. Speaking of your last call, I expect that you're here looking for your special order."

"Were you able to get one?"

"Frank, have I ever failed you in the past. It wasn't easy mind you! But yeah, I got one, and a few 'extras' too. Come on in the back and I'll show it to you."

As Frank walked around the counter, he watched as Terry entered a command on a computer that was at odds with the rest of the shop. It was odd in that everything else in the store looked used, broken-in and even on the edge of worn out. The computer was latest thing on the market.

"New computer, Ter?"

"Yeah, your bosses insist that I stay up with the technology, if I want to do business with them that is. You know how bureaucrats get. Sometimes I think they live in the past, unless it can cause others problems, then it's 'Katy bar the door' and 'I'm sorry sir, but that system isn't secure enough'."

While he was talking, Terry completed the code he was entering in the keypad and the snick of an electronic lock bounce off the counter and a wall behind the counter retracted, revealing a hidden room.

Frank snorted at the 'in the past comment' and thought to himself, < You would never believe buddy, you would never believe! >

Sitting on the table under a dim light, was a gun case. In that gun case was the special order that he had called Terry about months ago.

The L.A.R. 'Grizzly' was a limited production gun in an experimental caliber produced in the late eighties. The 45 Winmag round had proven popular with hand-gunners who hunted big game, but it never caught on with the buying public.

The blued weapon looked like a Colt Government model on steroids. The additional firepower of the expanded cartridge was perfect for the task Frank had in mind. The extra heft of the expanded frame would help control the recoil. Lost in thought, Frank missed what Terry was telling him about the new weapon.

"I'm sorry, Terry, I brain faded there for a few. What was that?"

"I was telling you about the extras I got for you, ten spare magazines, a shoulder rig, and a skeleton holster. The magazine well is beveled for smoother reloads and the trigger has been worked over by a pro. I have 5000 factory rounds of 230-grain hollow points, and the cherry on top of the cake, 1000 special rounds for when the shit has hit the fan and you only want to send the very best."

Knowing how Terry thought, Frank had to smile at the last comment. "Special? How?"

"Well it's like this… a friend of mine likes to play with ammo to see just how deadly he can make it."

"I don't need the melodrama Terry, now give."

"You spoil all my fun, dude. Ok, Ok." He reached into one of the plain white boxes and drew a cartridge out. "The bullet is a 250-grain hollow point made of cast magnesium. We drilled the center out, placed a phosphorus capsule inside of it, and topped that off with a small pistol primer. As the bullet enters the target, the bullet expands and mushrooms just like any other hollow point. That's where the fun begins. The primer caps off. That crushes the phosphorus capsule and that ignites the magnesium.

"The end result is a truly explosive round that burns the shit out of anything that it hits. Took a while to solve the range problem, but this baby will do the trick. I call 'em 'Demon Killers'."

Each of the men grinned for the same reason. Each ignorant of the fact that the other knew about the real demons. The smiles soon faded as their attention turned to a more important subject, like lunch.

In-between the first beer and the arrival of the biggest hamburger available, Frank asked Terry a question he had wondered about as long as he had known him. "Man, what makes you want to live in this one stop light, wannabe Wal-Mart town?"

"It's hard to describe. This is where I grew up and I wanted the same thing for Lynn; to grow up in a place where she was more then just a name at school. I know this may sound silly, my entire first tour the only thing I could think about was the snow-covered fields here. Compared that to the hellhole in the delta, the choice was an easy one to make. I always swore that if I survived, I would come home and stay. So that's what I did."

The obvious sincerity in Terry's voice left Frank wishing that he had a place like Terrace Point to make him feel at home.

"Where to from here, buddy?"

"I'm heading to San Diego, gonna visit with some friends at Coronado Island."

"Would you do me a favor? I have a delivery for a town called Sunnydale but missed the UPS truck. Could you drop it off for me?"

"Sure, no problem."


U.C. Sunnydale
Initiative Labs
18 Jan 2000

The inhuman screech was the last thing Maggie consciously remembered. The rest was only bits and pieces, fragments of memories, and the irresistible urge to escape. That was all she remembered.

Heartbeat by heartbeat the lab video cameras caught it all. The main camera in the lab had been focused on the specimen and running at high speed to capture the dissection in slow motion. It showed the top of the rough-textured egg opening like the petals of an orchid, exposing the sickly yellow creature nestled inside, like a baby wrapped in its swaddling blanket.

Less then a half-second after the petals had fully opened, the creature launched itself into the air, aimed at the suited form of Doug Ross. The slow motion camera impersonally recorded the clear vicious fluid that the eight-legged monster had spit at the environmental suit while still six feet away.

The crisp clear video showed the lens of the faceplate melting, the edges smoking, and then mercifully the screams had stopped.

Everything from that point was a blur. The Physician in Maggie had taken over.

"Carlos, get a med team in here… NOW!"

Moving the patient and breaking quarantine had been a risk. Lab 315 was a research lab, not a hospital emergency room. It lacked the basic life-support equipment that would keep Doug Ross alive, assuming he was still alive in the suit.

Arriving at the Medical center less then four minutes after the 'accident', Doug Ross's vital signs were stable. His temp and heart rate were elevated, but the blood pressure reading was good. Maggie was amazed that he was in such good health, despite the fact that she had been able to do nothing with the interference of the bright red environmental suit.

The first instinct of any doctor who has served in an E.R. is to act, and Maggie was no exception to that rule. With the suit being the first of the many problems to overcome, she took the simplest action she could. She grabbed a scalpel and cut the e-suit away. The helmet, made of a hardened polymer required drastic action. Maggie grabbed a bone saw and the whine of the air driven tool had filled her ears.

Cracking the helmet open had been easy, once the bone saw finished its task. Pulling the now separated half's apart had resulted in crackling and crunching sounds that grated on Maggie's nerves. After dropping the remains in a bio-bag, Maggie was finally able to treat her patient.

"What the fuck is that," she said, shocking the medical team who had never heard Dr. Walsh use profanity. Even in the worst of times, of which there had been many, Dr. Walsh never lost her command of the English language and reverted to pure expletives.

The 'face hugger' had obscured Doug Ross's face. Its tail wrapped around his throat and the eight legs gripping his whole head.

"Give me the largest set of forceps that we have. Lets see of we can pull this thing off." Locking the forceps around the uppermost leg, Dr. Walsh tried to pry the creature off the patient's face. As she applied pressure, the tail wrapped around Doug's throat began to slowly constrict. The more pressure she applied, the tighter the constriction. The message was clear. They weren't pulling this thing off.

Sighing, Dr. Walsh reluctantly removed the forceps and backed away from the table. Replacing the forceps on the instrument table, Maggie grabbed a scalpel. "If we can't pull it off, let's see if we can cut it off."

Inspecting the creature from every angle, Maggie decided to make an incision on the lowest part of the front leg, that leg provided the best access. She could come up from below with a horizontal incision and then remove the lowest joint.

The videotape would show that, as the scalpel sliced into the outer covering of the creature, the blade had begun to smoke instantly. The 'blood' squirted onto the bedding had eaten a hole through the bedding and then the exam table.

The incision healed itself in seconds, but the damage already done was more then enough to shock even the most experienced scientist. The acid that was the creature's blood, ate through the exam table, though the flooring, and into the thirty feet of concrete and steel encasement that was the foundation, stopping only on the hard rock supporting the initiative's secret laboratory.

"Jesus Christ! This thing uses acid for blood. Wonderful defense mechanism, you don't dare kill it," yelled Maggie Walsh at the room in general. "OK, everyone stop." Looking where she had just made the cut and noting that there was now no sign of a wound, she said, "Let's take a more scientific approach to the problem. Get him to MRI stat. I want to see just what we are facing here before we do anything else."

Sunnydale California
1630 Revello Drive

Michael Knight sat in the living room on a comfortable couch and wondered if he had gone insane. Never mind that he had reviewed KITT's video of Xander killing the vampires. Never mind that KITT's data proved that the creatures had an ambient body temperature consistent with area around them. Those facts he could accept.

He could accept the facts that the older man had explained to him, the occult nature of the Hellmouth, and how the teenagers had been fighting evil since their sophomore year in high school. He could even buy into the legend of the Slayer. How one girl in each generation is chosen and enhanced to fight the creatures of the dark and the fact that the 5'3" blonde next to him, Buffy Summers, was that slayer.

What had Michael thrown for a loop was a person. Her name was Joyce Summers.

After killing the monsters last night in Waverly Park, Xander had explained the basics to Michael while they drove back to Xander's house. Xander had refused to explain further saying that there were others that would be better able to explain, but he had to get permission first.

"Why?" had been Michael's only question.

"Look, Mike, would you want me spilling the beans about you and KITT?" The look on Michael's face had been all the answer that Xander had needed. "Look, it's been a long night. I'm heading for bed. You can have the first bedroom on the right at the top of the stairs."

The last 24 hours had been exhausting for Michael. In spite of that, his mind refused to slow down, so he lay in the guestroom of Xander's home, reviewing the events that had drawn him into this bizarre town. Finally, after an hour of tossing and turning, the blessed relief of sleep took over.

Early the next morning, Michael descended the stairs and found Xander happily munching away at a Jethro-sized bowl of Cap'n Crunch cereal. With milk dribbling from the corner of his mouth, Xander explained, "I called my friends and they agree; you need to know the facts. We have a meeting after breakfast."

The intense look in Xander's eyes belied the silly look that his face presented. Michael could feel the concern that Xander had and knew that what Xander had done was not an everyday event.

"So what's for breakfast? The Knightrider asked, hoping to ease the tension so obvious on his host's face.

"Well, I'm not much for cooking. Though Jarod makes a mean omelet, your best bet would be cereal or toast." Xander grabbed the half-empty box of Cereal; "My Cap'n Crunch is off limits. Nobody messes with the Xanman's Cap'n Crunch."

"I have met some Cap'n Crunch freaks before but you take the cake."

"Hey! You live off the stuff that I lived off of for 3 months and see if you don't get a little defensive about your food. I used to love sweets, you know, Twinkies and Ho-Ho's stuff like that. The first day back I went to the store and got all my favorites and dug in. The next thing I know, I was thinking that the bottom of my stomach would be the last thing out. Now the only sweet thing I can handle is My Cap'n Crunch."

Michael laughed at Xander's predicament then went to toast some bread for his breakfast.

After finishing breakfast the duo headed out to KITT.

"Good morning Michael, I have several messages for you from Devon"

"Morning KITT, Please send Him a reply that I will contact him this afternoon. I'm still gathering facts on the case, and KITT, restrict access to the video system too my voice print only"

"Good morning, Mr. Harris."

"Be polite Alexander," interjected Elan before Xander could reply.

"Good morning, KITT. Please call me Xander, almost EVERYONE ELSE does."

The emphasis on the words, 'everyone else', was not lost on Elanthielle.

Driving down the road, Xander turned to Michael and asked him, "Mike, what did you mean when told KITT to respond to your messages from Devon?"

"KITT has secure access to the Internet and our own Intranet through a microwave transceiver. He can access any database anywhere in the world. Over the years, I have found that having him answer my email saves me from answering questions that I don't want to. It's a system that has worked for us for years and rarely have I had a reason to disagree with the way he handles things."

"Oh man… Willow is gonna freak when she see this!"

"Willow?" Michael wondered aloud.

"One of the friends we are meeting. She is a genius and is so totally hooked on any machine that even looks like a computer. KITT will send her into babble mode in less then a minute."

A svelte redhead that Xander introduced as Willow had met them at the door of the suburban home. She led them into the living room to the left of the door and asked them to 'be seated'. "Giles and Buffy will be down in a second, Watcher/Slayer stuff you know."

Not more the two minutes later, an older, thinly-haired man, dressed in a tweed suit of all things, and polishing a pair of glasses, descended the stairs and introduced himself as Mr. Giles. "Mr. Knight, I am please to meet you, although I do wish the circumstances that forced this meeting had not occurred."

Mr. Giles, after what I saw last night, I think its better that we meet now, rather then later."


Then a short blonde dressed in a pink top and blue jeans bounced down the stairs and immediately walked over to Michael and said, "Hi I'm Buffy. You must be Xander's new friend." Buffy then yelled towards the back of the house, "Mom, come and meet Xander's friend."

That's when the trouble had started. An older, more mature, and in Michael eyes, more beautiful version of Buffy walked into the living room and into Michael's Heart.

Standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room Joyce Summers waited there, hoping that the flush she felt on her face didn't show. "Hi, I'm Joyce Summers," she stammered out. The man standing before her was simply gorgeous.

"Hello Mrs. Summers, I'm Michael Knight. Thank you for inviting me into your home."

Thinking of Angel and Spike, Joyce answered with the first thing that came to mind. "You aren't the first odd friend that Buffy has ever brought home. Please call me Joyce, Mr. Knight."

"A day ago I would have doubted that seriously; now, I'm not sure if I should congratulate you or offer my condolences." Both of the adults laughed at Michael's lame excuse at humor. "Please call me Michael. Have you known Xander long?

Joyce looked at the boy she had watched grow into a young man. "All too long I'm afraid. Xander has always been a little odd, but since last summer he seems even odder then normal, if that makes any sense to you."

"I remember being that age Joyce," he confided in her.

"It's not that. The growing up oddities I can understand. She searched for an example for him, "For instance, have you ever seen a man eat half a box of cereal in one sitting?"

"Well as a Cap'n Crunch aficionado I can understand. I try to limit myself to a third of a box a day." The look on Joyce's face was worth the little lie about the cereal.

"How did you know it was Cap'n Crunch?"

"I watched Xander eat breakfast this morning. It wasn't a pretty sight."

In the living room, Xander had been explaining the events of the previous evening to the Scoobies; the blonde slayer had begun wondering about her friend's sanity, or at least his judgment. Buffy thought, < At least he had the common sense to be embarrassed about wrecking Jarod's Mustang in a drag race. >

"…We were racing down the old factory road. I was winning until the rear tire blew out."

"Xander, you weren't winning," yelled Michael from the doorway. "Excuse me Joyce; I have to go correct our young Frank Pendragon wannabe."

Michael leaned over near Xander's ear. "You weren't even close, buddy."

"Was too."

"Xander, KITT's top speed is 300 miles per hour. You weren't winning, you never stood a chance."

"Wait a minute guy's, who is KITT?" Willow, the redheaded witch asked out loud.

"A better question would be 'Why were two grown men drag racing in the first place'. Really, you two should known better," added Joyce, the taller of the two Summers women. "You both could have been killed. As if fighting a vampire isn't enough."

"Vampires, Mrs. Summers," said Xander adding fuel to the fire. "There actually were two in the park last night."

"Excuse me. Confused here. Who is KITT?" demanded Willow again.

"I'm sorry Willow; KITT is my partner. Would you like to meet Him?"

Xander had already told Michael about his hacker friend and the most probable reaction that she would have when she met KITT for the first time. Michael was secretly looking forward seeing one of her famous babbling rants.

"Sure," she answered, "when will he get here?"

"Will, KITT is already here. He's parked outside. KITT is Michael's' car."

"What?" in a tone of that that was beyond confused, "How can a car be a partner?"

"And this from a woman that fell in love with the Internet demon. Small words, Will, KITT… Car… computer… advanced," quipped Xander.

The words advanced and computer coming from Xander's lips caused Willow's face to light up like the National Christmas tree. Willow didn't fool anyone. Everyone in the room saw the bright shiny light that only appeared when Willow was neck deep in technology.

Standing in the Summers' driveway, Michael made a spectacle of the presentation.

"Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to the Knight Industries Two Thousand. I admit the body style is a bit dated, but KITT can still beat anything on the road, and most cars on the track. KITT, I would like you too meet Willow Rosenberg, Buffy Summers, Rupert Giles, and you already know Xander Harris."

"Michael, is this wise?" Michael would swear he could hear a hesitation from his long time partner.

"You'll have to trust me on this one KITT; they have as many secrets to hide as we do. This may be the key to the problem we were sent solve. Any luck on that encrypted database?"

"None so far. The historical database is using an especially long encryption key and I have not had sufficient time to break it as of yet."

Willow stepped in. "What database, KITT?"

"The Sunnydale Police department historical database, Miss Rosenberg."

"Oh that one… That's easy. Find the birthday of Mayor Richard Wilkens III!"

"Miss Rosenberg, there are three different date listed from various sources, which would you like?"

"Please call me Willow, KITT. Find the most recent one listed."

"Retrieved, Willow."

"Okay this is the tricky part… well it was for me… you being a computer won't have a problem at all, Well I don't think you will… but you might… But I don't think so."

Miss Rosenberg, I believe you're babbling. At least that's what Michael calls it.

Buffy looked at Xander. "You set this up didn't you?"

Xander tried to look not guilty and then plead guilty with his smile. "You bet I did. This is a once in a lifetime event."

"I'm sorry, KITT, I do that from time to time."

"That's okay, Willow, Michael accuses me of it all the time."

"Take each digit and convert it to its binary form. If the digit is a letter, use its numerical place in the alphabet for that binary. String all the binaries together and try that."

Less then a second later, "Michael, I have access."

Michael and the rest of the Scoobies are sitting of the fender, laughing so hard that tears are leaking down their faces.

Later that evening

After eating the delicious dinner that Joyce had cooked, Michael was telling the gang about his various adventures.

"Then there was the month I spent on the beaches in LA. There was a serial killer that was targeting female lifeguards."

Xander sat there with the silly stupid grin that normally occupied his face when discussing beautiful women. "I bet there were some real babe's on that beach."

"Well there were some nice looking ladies, but I don't think there's a female lifeguard on Baywatch that doesn't have a fortune invested at her plastic surgeon."

U.C. Sunnydale
Initiative Labs

Working was Maggie's only way of dealing with the tragic events of the day. Hoping to find an answer in the videotapes, she had watched them repeatedly, praying she had missed something that might help.

"Dr. Walsh. Listen to me and don't talk." The menacing tone of the intruder's voice easily led Maggie to the proper conclusion, that the man could kill her without a second thought. "My name is unimportant. The fact that I am here is. Your sponsors are more then a little disappointed in the events of the last few hours. They sent me to explain to you how serious they consider your failure. Be warned doctor, your actions can have dire consequences, not only for you… But for the whole human race... so beware or I'll be back."

With that warning, the strange man left, leaving Dr. Maggie Walsh in tears.

Sitting at her desk in the dark, her granite facade of untouchability broken by the dried tear stains on her cheeks, Maggie Walsh wept, not out of concern, but out of fear.

Initiative Labs
20 Jan 2000

The nearly empty hospital ward, dowsed in near silence, disrupted only by the rhythmic beeping of the EKG, which tolled in its constant, incessant drone. The overweight duty nurse sat at the darkened central service's desk reading one of the trashy novels that had become her constant companions on these long nights, by the light of a simple desk lamp. Her second thermos of coffee, almost empty, waited for its next call to duty.

In the central bay was her only patient, one of the doctors that she secretly has always lusted for, lay there under the muted lighting of a neon glow. Angela White had been shocked to find Dr. Ross placed under her singular care, given the nightmare of his horrid accident. She would have expected that a complete team would have attended him every second of every day. Dr. Walsh's orders were explicit; 'to limit exposure to employees with 'Alpha Echo' clearance', and Angela was the only nurse with that clearance.

At 0215, Angela rose for the seventeenth time that night to check Dr. Ross's vitals signs. She wasn't sure why she bothered; the vitals hadn't changed since she'd come on duty at 2200 the previous night. Still' it gave her an excuse to stretch her cramped legs and to visit the bathroom to excise some of the coffee she had consumed to fight the battle of boredom.

"How's he doing?"

The shriek that Angela let out would have rivaled Jamie Curtis's blood curdling scream in Psycho. Once the adrenaline cleared her system and her heartbeat was close to approaching normal, Angela turned to find Agent Riley Finn standing there with a look of worry on his face. "What the hell are you doing here," she gasped, a few seconds later. "You just wait till your next physical, Riley Finn. I'm going to find every dull needle in the place and they will all have your name on them."

"I wanted to check on Doug. The whole team is worried about him." The morose look on Riley's face caused Angela to believe his words.

Staring at the worried warrior and then patting him on the back in a motherly manner Angela gave him a stern warning. "You shouldn't even know about what happened to Dr. Ross, never mind coming to visit him."

"You know how well secrets travel around here." A grim smile crossed the agent's face. "Don't worry about it, Angela; even if I hadn't overheard the lab tech on the phone, we were already suspicious. Dr. Ross may be late for appointments, but he never cancels them, and both Graham and Stevens had their check ups cancelled with no explanation. Besides, you know I have clearance for everything on this base."

"That doesn't matter. You shouldn't be here. Walsh is gonna go ape-shit when she finds out."

"Then I guess it won't matter if I visit him for a few minutes will it?"

"Riley, you're going to get me fired," Angela gasped to his back, "Or worse."

Even the rumors didn't prepare Riley for the sight of his friend; the unconscious body, lying still as death. The sight shook the young agent to his core, as he never had been before in his short life. Nothing else had even been close; not vampires, not demons, even the 'doctors' that had stolen the voices of everyone in Sunnydale looking for hearts, nothing could have been a greater shock.

The pale orange creature on Doug's face was mostly still; only the long tail wrapped around his throat gave any sign of movement. Riley sat down and began to speak to his unconscious friend…

"Hey Doc…" Riley looked away and wondered to himself, < Can Doug hear or understand me? > He has heard that patients in a coma sometimes reported hearing their family and friends speaking to them while unconscious… "But what do you say when your friend in being suffocated by a demon," he finished out loud.

Looking back to the man that had patched him up on so many different occasions, he continued his midnight confession. "Look doc… I'm sorry I snapped at you the other day. It's… Well it's complicated. You see, Buffy's like no other girl in the world. She's the Slayer. She understands the danger I face." He lifts his head slightly and smiles. "She not only understands; she shares that danger every night." Shaking his head back and forth, "Boy, who am I fooling? I share her danger, not the other way around, and that's the problem. That's why I snapped at you. I want so much for her to need me that it hurts and I'm not sure that's ever going to happen."

Riley got up to pace as he continued his confession. Spilling the whole story about Buffy being the slayer and the vampires, they had faced. It felt so good to get it all out, after hiding it from them for so long. The young Captain was so involved with venting his own problems that he didn't see the face-hugger unwrap its tail from the man on the bed.

Turning back to the bed Riley was stunned for a second. Then he yelled in his best command voice, "Angela… Page Professor Walsh and get a capture team down here, we have an unknown HST on the loose in the infirmary."

Professor Walsh was pissed. The angry flush to her face made that all too clear to Riley Finn. When she spoke to him in a voice filled with fury, he knew he was in trouble with a capital 'T'. "What the hell do you think you are doing here Finn? This area was posted off limits to all but assigned personnel."


"I don't want to hear your lame excuses. Report to my office and I will deal with you later."

After issuing orders to the capture team that the HST must be captured using only stun weapons, Dr. Walsh turned toward the bed and evaluated her patient. "Angela, let's get a complete blood work up and start another I.V. with normal saline, he's got to be dehydrated as hell."

 Standing at attention in front of Professor Walsh's desk, Riley couldn't help but worry. The Professor wasn't known for her forgiving attitude and if Riley was honest with himself, he had broken standing orders by visiting his friend.

After waiting for the Professor for 15 minutes his attention began to waver. His eyes swept the room looking for anything that might be interesting, giving him something to do rather then just stand there like a robot. The closed project folder on the desk wasn't the first thing to grab his attention, but once he read the title, Riley Finn was no longer bored, he was terrified. The thick folder project read, Project 314, A.D.A.M., Assembly, Demon Assimilated Matrix. "What the hell is Walsh up to," he asked out loud.

Private Jet in-flight
20 Jan 2000

Sitting in the custom leather seat of the Lear jet, Michael was quite comfortable. The last minute job operations had assigned to him had come off without a hitch. He truly didn't know or care who Professor Walsh was, or why a lethal warning was warranted; but he was thankful that whoever designed the security system of the lab must have understood just who he was designing for at the time. Pulling the blank, unused, unmarked access card from his pocket, Michael looked at the card and smiled. He considered the invasion one of the easiest of his career, even without using the card.

On the flight out Michael had been bored. So he started digging into the official blueprints for the initiative lab. It hadn't taken long for two discrepancies to become apparent. The first was subtle. The lab had been designed with a backup generator system, with far more capacity then it should have needed. Michael could have seen that, given the Initiative's mission statement. It was the second one that raised the hackles on the back of his neck. There was simply too much air-conditioning there. With the tonnage built into the lab, Michael figured that they could have the place at -32 degrees on even the hottest day and that little fact made him look deeper.

Digging into the USGS surveys, Michael found the answer. There was a series of caves in and around Sunnydale, and when he overlaid the blueprints of the lab with the maps, there it was, the way in.

Overcoming his fear of caves wasn't easy; then again, you didn't get to work for Section One if you couldn't stifle your own fears. At the back of the furthest cave, Michael had found a secure door, locked down by an access reader. His first thought was to try the card issued to him and he almost did.

"Wait," he said to himself, "any use of this card is going to leave a record somewhere, even if it's a daily log that nobody reviews. Now why should I have to find another entrance next time, when I have a perfectly good one right here?" Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his tool kit and set to work.

After that, everything was simple. Michael found the ash blonde professor in her office, staring at a series of videotapes. Mustering as much menace in his voice as he could, he gave the middle-aged professor the message he was sent to give.

"Dr. Walsh. Listen to me and don't talk. My name is unimportant. The fact that I am here is. Your sponsors are more then a little disappointed in the events of the last few hours. They sent me to explain to you how serious they consider your failure. Be warned doctor, your actions can have dire consequences, not only for you… but for the whole human race... so beware or I'll be back."

Extraction had been a piece of cake after that. He headed for the private jet waiting for him at the Sunnydale airport, mission accomplished.

The ringing of his cell phone interrupted Michael's recollection.

"Yes, Sir," he answered respectfully. "No, Sir. No problems at all. There are a few details abut that Lab you may want to be aware of sir. Yes, Sir. I'll explain completely at the debriefing."

 Sunnydale, California
Converted Frat House
20 Jan 2000

The once bleak arid desert that had been the background of Xander's dream world had changed slowly over the past month. Now instead of the hard packed sterile dirt of the past, the ground now hosted a dark rich loam, with the beginnings of grass and wild flowers and a promise of trees in the future.

Sitting down on a conveniently located flat spot on the only boulder in the dream world, Xander smiled to himself. "Guess I'm getting better," he mused to the empty field. "I wonder what's brought on the change, it not like I have changed."

It's called Hope, Alexander, Hope, and acceptance. Elanthielle's voice drifted to him from the wind.

"Hope?" he questioned. "I'm not sure I even know what that means anymore Elan. Ever since I was fifteen the world has taken over my life, like I have no choice anymore."

"Do not act foolish with me, Alexander. You play the buffoon all too well, but I see the true side of you. You could have chosen to leave anytime, yet you persisted. Ask your self why."

"They needed me."

"Did they?

A defensive tone crept into Xander's voice. "Of course they did, The Master would have won if I hadn't been there. And… and… I broke into the armory to steal the anti-tank rocket."

"Or was their need something that you desired. Be honest with yourself, Alexander. Your choice of friends, and choosing to fight the battle they were committed to, was the turning point in your life."

Elanthielle walked around the boulder dressed, not in her armor, but in a white toga of the finest linen. Her eyes locked on to Xander's. "Alexander," her voice was slightly above a whisper. "Jesse was the key, the key that unlocked a destiny that lingered under the surface."

Unshed tears of losing his best friend finally flowed to the surface and the true origins of the desert of Xander's mind were revealed. That night at the bronze was still crystal clear in Xander's mind. Holding the stake as his best friend turned vamp impaled itself. The look of Jesse's eyes as he turned into dust would always haunt Xander. The last sight of his childhood friend.


Xander sat there, as if he were lost in his own world, lost to everything but the memory of losing his friend.

"I understand the pain, the never-ending ache that follows you everywhere."

I killed him Elan.

"You did NOT kill your best friend Alexander. You killed a demon that looked like him, a demon that sacrificed Jesse's life for its own greed. If anything Alexander, you saved Jesse's soul. Ask yourself this question, would Jesse have wanted his body to be profaned that way?"

"No." The tones of Xander's voice indicating to Elan that that would have been his friend's worst nightmare.

"That was the beginning Alexander. But it is not the end. You have the spirit to survive. Look around, what was once a desert of your mind now lives and flourishes. Trust in your friends Alexander. They are the cause of this salvation." A cryptic look emerged on the rune weapon's face, "Particularly the short one."

As the dream world began to fade, a whispered warning, "Trouble comes," echoed throughout Xander's mind.

A still troubled Xander's eyes pry themselves open and the red numbers on the clock radio pierced his consciousness. 0432. "Oh Christ, 0 dark thirty and I wake up, just what I fricken need." Deciding sleeping for the night was done; Xander peeled back the sheets and got up. Dressed in his trademarked Hawaiian shirt 'n jeans, and headed for the kitchen.

Turning the TV on so he has some company, Xander headed for the coffeepot, wishing that some magic that would have the liquid of life ready and waiting for him.

While the almighty caffeine brewed, Xander headed for the armory and retrieved the padre's pistols. Sitting down at the table, he cleared the loaded magazine. Then he pulled the slide back to check for an empty chamber. "Damn it I forgot the cleaning kit." Laying the nickel-plated pistol down on the table gently, Xander schlepped back to the armory and retrieved the black cased kit.

Stopping by the cupboard, Xander retrieved his favorite, 'Marvin the Martian', coffee cup and filled it from the still dripping pot. With the aroma of the coffee trailing him, he headed back to the table to start cleaning his guns.

Even as he depressed the recoil spring cap and twisted the barrel bushing, the familiarity of the task amazed him. "How can I know this so well that it's second nature to me? I guess a possession or two has its benefits. Thank you, soldier boy!" Xander smiled at that thought as he pushed the locking lever through the frame and pulled the slide off the pistol. He laid the frame of the pistol down on the table and separated the barrel from the slide.

"Is that how you see me Alexander, as a benefit?" The tone of Elan's voice told Xander that she was just teasing him.

"One of the Best Elan," he answered in the same teasing tone. "One of the best."

Running the oil soaked gun patch through the barrel, Xander enjoyed the simple task of cleaning the weapon. A simple job, one allowed him some time simply to be himself, a time he hadn't enjoyed recently. Picking the pistol frame, he wiped the oily residue and inspected the feed ramp looking for any stray residue. Finding none, Xander lubed the slide rails and reassembled the classic gun.

Xander drew his coffee cup to his lips, drawing the near too hot liquid over his tongue, savoring the bitter drink.

"Good Morning Xan..."

The unexpected greeting from his houseguest startled Xander and he inadvertently inhaled a swallow of his coffee. Choking and coughing Xander sprayed the newly cleaned weapons with coffee and spittle.

"Xander, are you alright?" asked his guest, Michael Knight.

Unable to speak for a few seconds as he cleared his windpipe, finally he managed an answer. "I'm alright. Every now and again I have to remind myself that human beings are air breathing mammals. Then more to himself then to Michael, "Breathe air, Xan, not coffee, breathe air."

Cleaning up the mess, Xander made a decision. "Look Michael, I have been fighting these things for a long time, I have learned the hard way that sometimes the equipment makes all the difference, so I'm going to show you how to get some 'special supplies'.

Leading Michael into the computer room, Xander sat down at the computer and logged on. "Ok, the first step is to go to www.terry'ssurplus.com. Make sure that it's all in small case or you'll get the wrong site." While Internet explorer loaded the page, Xander explained that he would get KITT a special cookie that the computer of the shop would recognize. "Go to the shop now icon and click on the History of Guns. You need to order nine copies of that book then click on the check out button. When it prompts you for a credit card number, use this one." Xander typed in a 16-digit number slowly. "Watch now." Xander clicked the last button and a whole new site showed up, one that featured weapons that would get anybody 25 to life in the big house. "Simple at that." The shock on Michael's face was exactly what Xander expected. "I love being me," he said.

Sunnydale California
Initiative Labs
20 Jan 2000

Doug Ross slowly regained consciousness. Feeling desperately tired, his throat as dry as the Sahara desert, he fought to open his eyes. The muted sights and sounds of the infirmary all around him slowly moved into focus.

"Welcome back."

Looking upwards, Doug found one of the duty nurses smiling at him. "Water," he croaked, the dryness in his throat overcoming even the question of what happened to him.

Angela, the nurse, beamed at him the way nurses do when they are going to deny you what you feel you need. "How about some nice ice chips?" Cranking the bed up into the sitting position, Angela handed the haggard doctor a Dixie cup filled with slivers of ice.

After munching on the ice chips, feeling the cold liquid quench his burning thirst, Doug asked the nurse what happened.

Angela, witness to everything that had happened in the last 6 hours was ready for this question. "Dr. Walsh will explain everything when she gets back Dr. Ross. For now, you are the patient and not the doctor. So… lay back and eat your ice."

Riley Finn, still disturbed at the implications of the file folder he had discovered, was surprised when the door behind him slammed shut. Professor Walsh, her faced filled with an anger he had never seen directed his way, started to lecture him like a parent would lecture a 5-year old.

"Agent Finn," she began in a barely controlled voice, "You, of all people, should know that the security procedures on this base are here for a reason."

"Ma'am, I simply wanted to check on my friend."

"Wanted to check on your friend," the sarcastic tone of voice evident, "in the process you risked everything and everyone on this base, is that you're only excuse Finn?


"I don't want to hear it Riley. From now on, you will follow every security procedure without question. If for some reason, I haven't made myself clear, or you again decide that the rules don't apply to you, you will be relived of duty and placed under arrest. Is that clear? Get out of here. I'll see you at the 0900 briefing."

Catching the face-hugger had been easy. The initial sweep of the lab by the capture teams had found nothing. Professor Walsh ordered a second more detailed search. She added the security forces to the search in hopes of finding the creature alive.

John Talton searched the supply closet of the now deserted infirmary. The newly assigned security officer's worry plainly etched on his face. The first sweep of the lab had come up empty. Now they were checking every nook and cranny. Shining the beam of light up into the corner of the shelving unit, the flash of pink caught his eye.

John pulled his radio out and called the command center. "Unit four to command, I have the unknown HST located in the infirmary."

Having only been there for two weeks, John didn't understand the hostility between capture teams and the security forces, but the glares the he received when the commandos arrived were proof positive that it still existed.

"We'll take it from here Goon boy," said Forrest, the black commando.

Riley Finn was worried. Trapped in his dorm room in Lowell house by his conflict between duty and the feeling that something seriously wrong was going on with the initiative, he had been lying on his bed, staring at the sports poster taped on the door, restlessly shooting hoops with Nerf ball and debating with himself.

The door opened just as he took another shot and he nailed his roommate, Forrest, right in the head. Picking the Nerf ball and sinking a shot from five feet his roommate asked, "You wonder why I always beat you in basketball, well there's your answer."

Looking Forrest right in the eye as he rose off the bed, "What happened?"

"One of the security guys found the creepy crawly just lying in the closet, dead. Walsh is cutting the thing open right now. She cancelled the 0900 briefing to finish up with the critter."

The thought of Walsh calmly dissecting the creature that had threatened his friend Doug bothered Riley, so in the end, his decision was made by the cold unfeeling Professor that he worked for.

"Man those security creeps give me bad case of wanna kick ass." The look of Forest's face made that statement all too clear.

"I wouldn't mind going a few more rounds with them myself." Pulling on a sweater Riley continued, "I have to get ready for class, Ill catch you later." Riley left his teammate in their shared room.

Walking at a pace that would have been called marching in any other place, Riley headed off campus to make a phone call.

The ringing of the phone in the dorm room woke the still tired slayer and her friend Willow. Lying there in her yummy sushi pajamas, Buffy reached over and answered the call. "Hello," she mumbled.

"Hi Buffy, it's Riley."

The sound of her boyfriend's voice brought a smile to her face, Then the realization that Riley would never call this early in the morning just to say "Hi," cancelled the smile. "What's wrong now, Riley?"

"Buffy, something is going on with Professor Walsh."

"She didn't fire you again, did she?"

"I really can't talk about this on the phone." The barely contained panic in Riley's voice chilled Buffy.

"Is this a Slayer thing?"

Riley standing by a pay phone six blocks from UCSD considered that question carefully. "More then that Buff…I think we will need the Slayerettes. I don't have much to go one. Can we meet somewhere?"

Willow was desperately trying to get her roommates attention. "Hang on a second Riley?"

Covering the phone with her hand Buffy looked over to Willow and filled her in with the information that she had.

Willow replied her voice filled with vengeance. "If Walsh is going after Xander and Tara again I'm going to turn her into a rat. Amy could use the company."

"We don't know that yet, Will; but if she is, I'll buy the rat food for the next semester."

"Buffy… are you still there," came through the speaker of the phone.

Turning her attention back to the problem at hand, "Riley, I'll call you on your cell phone when I have a place for us to meet." Then in a tone of a girlfriend worried about the safety of her boyfriend, "Please be careful."

The harsh intrusion of the phone ringing jarred Rupert Giles from his slumber. The middle-aged Watcher has spent the night searching his ancient books for prophecies, with little success.

"Giles, it's Buffy…" The expression on Giles face changed from an annoyed librarian to one that resembled a concerned father.

"Buffy was there a problem on patrol last night?"

"Nope. Same old same old… They came. I saw. They turned to dust and I got hungry." Buffy thought it best not to add the horny part. Faith's directness on the subject of slaying applied to Buffy as well, but she wasn't ready to admit that to anyone just yet.

"Thank god for that."

"Giles, it may be worse. Riley called me in a panic. Something is going on with the Initiative and Professor Walsh. He couldn't explain it on the phone and asked me if I could gather the gang."

Giles remembering the trouble between Xander and the initiative a while back suggested a possible answer, "Very well. Perhaps we should meet in my apartment around noon."

"I don't want to be rude, Giles; but your place is kinda small and smelly with all those books... I was going to ask Xander if we could meet there."

"Very well, Buffy…" his voice sounding a little hurt from the comment about his beloved books, "I'll be ready in half an hour."

"You're the greatest, Giles." With the click of the phone in his ear, Giles headed toward the bedroom to get ready.

Xander and Michael Knight had spent the last few hours browsing the surplus store's hidden website. The type of equipment that Terry had for sale had simply blown the ex-policeman, turned guardian of justice, away.

Pistols, assault weapons in full auto, sniper rifles, machineguns in every caliber, antitank rockets, ammunitions of all sorts from standard military issue to custom loaded rounds, Terry had it all, everything was for sale. The most disturbing part was the notice that tanks and aircraft were available on a special order basis and a 10-day delivery date.

Michael turned to Xander and asked him, "How is this possible?"

Xander smiled then took a careful sip from his refilled coffee cup. "I met Terry last June in Montana. There was a bad assed demon in town and Terry's daughter got caught up in the slaughter. I needed some stuff for the fight and Father Cranston directed me to Terry's Surplus Shop. That's where we hooked up. Well to make a long story short, we saved his daughter and, as I was leaving town, he gave me his card, said "If I ever need equipment" to give him a call."

"Xander this has to be illegal as hell."

"Terry used the 'Purloined Letter' method to hide it in plain sight. First, you have to know where it is. There must be thousands of surplus shops online, that's step one. Step two, you have to know what book to purchase and how many to order. Then you have to have a cookie in the right folder on your computer before you will get the prompt that will let you log on to the second site. Then the right credit card number has to be entered. I thought it was pretty slick the first time I used it to get ammo for the Colts."

"What about the government?"

"Let just say that there are people and agencies that know that Terry is in business. It's to their benefit that he remains so."

Xander's cell phone chose that moment to interrupt the conversation. He flipped it open and answered, "Hello. Hey Buffster… What up?" The smile on Xander's face disappeared in a heartbeat. "Not again. Ok, get everyone over here as fast as you can. I'm not letting them have the advantage this time."

"Problem, Xander?"

"Yea, you didn't meet Buffy's boyfriend last night, but he belongs to a government group called the Initiative. They have caused me a lot of trouble in the past. I won't let it happen again."

Forty-five minutes later.

After everyone settled in, and Xander had introduced Riley, Tara and Michael to each other Xander indicated to Riley that the floor was his.

"Last night, well, early this morning really, I went to visit a friend that had been attacked by a demon. Professor Walsh had restricted the infirmary to all but cleared personnel. I went any way. When she found I was there, she was furious, like I have never seen before. She chewed my ass on the spot and then sent me to her office for, what I assumed was a second round of discipline that's when I found it.

"Found what. Riley," asked the blonde Slayer.

"A file folder on her desk, about a project I have never heard of before. The dejected look on Riley's face clearly showed his disappointment of not knowing as much as he thought he did. He continued, "I don't have much, but what I saw scared the hell out of me."

"Oh for gods sakes, quit the melodrama and get to the point," interjected Giles.

Riley, his voice firming up, "Professor Walsh has a new project in lab 314; Project A.D.A.M."

"Adam, as in Adam and Eve?" asked the confused Tara.

"No. A.D.A.M., as in, Assembly, Demon Assimilated Matrix, I think Walsh is building her own pet Demon."

Sunnydale California
Initiative Infirmary
20 Jan 2000

Professor Maggie Walsh had been in lab 315 all night. As she dissected the creature that had escaped the infirmary, she could understand why George wanted this specimen included in the A.D.A.M. project. Given its silicone-based physiology, the creature would be adaptable to almost any environmental conditions and the molecular acid that it used for blood was a great defense system.

As she finished her lab notes, her work interrupted by a Code 100 call over the loudspeaker. A code 100 was an undefined emergency. Maggie picked up the telephone; "This is Walsh, what the code 100?"

"Alarm from the infirmary Ma'am," replied the Duty Officer.

"Tell them I'm on the way. Seal the base." Without waiting for a reply, Maggie Walsh ran for the infirmary.

"Doctor Ross started complaining about stomach cramps about 4 minutes ago, after that he wouldn't respond to any questions."

Professor Walsh ran over to the hospital bed and pulled back the patient's gown. A scream filled her ears and she watched a bulge that looked like a baseball bat was being thrust through Doug Ross's body from behind. "What the Fuck is…" Before she could finish the curse; the skin of the stomach burst, sending blood and pieces of internal organs flying.

Her surgical scrubs and face splattered in gore, Maggie stood there in shock, only to be shocked further when a creature burst forth from the now lifeless body of Doug Ross.

Time slowed, all Maggie could do was watch as the creature dropped to the floor. It screeched once and then the penis-shaped monster disappeared into the ventilation system, leaving a nine-inch hole in the grating.

In most places in the world, sunrise is a time of rebirth. In Sunnydale, sunrise is a relief and a blessing. The all too real dangers subside for the next 12 hours and the residents can continue with their normal lives.

The Scoobies, totally unaware of the sun peaking over the horizon, had been discussing their options for the last hour. Giles silenced the gang. He assumed the persona of the curator of a museum that he had once been. "Let us approach this in a logical manner. One, why would Professor Walsh want a demon and what is its purpose? Two, does she have the capability to create such a monster? Three, is this project sanctioned, or is this a personal project for the good doctor? Four, how can we research the problem? Five, How do we fight whatever she creates? Six, how much time do we have?" As he made his points, he ticked each one off on the fingers of his hands.

The room broke into a furor of conversations, each overlapping the others. Giles gave the chaos a few minutes to rule then yelled, "Quiet." Looking over to the couch where Riley and Buffy sat, he asked Riley to go first.

Riley sat there thinking. He was a soldier. He has given his oath to never divulge or compromise the information he had access to, but the thought of Professor Walsh gone rogue scared him more then 25 years in Leavenworth prison.

Buffy watched Riley sit there not answering. "Riley?"

Riley, feeling conflicted over his involvement with the Initiative spoke in a hesitant voice, "Professor Walsh has always been committed to her work."

A still vengeful Xander interrupted Riley's speech. "You mean she should be committed," he said from across the room.

The teacher's assistant and soldier nodded, "Well I wouldn't go that far Xander, but I just don't know now. She has always been so focused on the research sometimes it's scary. I believed I was cleared for everything going on at the project. Finding that the Professor lied, makes me doubt everything. I believe she has the capability, or at least the basic theory, to make this A.D.A.M. project work."

"Riley, what else are they working on that you do know about?" asked Giles.

"Mainly capturing and studying the HST's. Professor Walsh has developed a computer chip that, once implanted in an HST, will control their behavior to the point that they will not be able to harm human beings. VIP's have visited the lab, reviewed the plans for the chip, and permission to go forward was given."

"I'm sorry guys. I wish I had more info for you. Maybe I should have stayed and looked deeper."

Buffy grabbed Riley's hand and squeezed gently. "NO! We needed this now. Any later may have been too late. You done good! You can still go back and ask some questions."

"Discreet questions," added Giles.

Michael had listened to the conversation and decided to add his own special talents to the mix. "Guy's," The group's attention focused on the older crusader, "KITT has access to a lot of classified databases. Perhaps He and Willow could attack the problem from another direction."

"That's good," said the Slayer. "Maybe I can shake some info from loose from Willie."

"Buffster I don't mean to be rude," interrupted Xander, "Elan and I should shake the weasel down. You can kick his ass, but Jarod and Miss Parker truly scare him. I can use that." The smile on Xander's face showed just how much that possibility tickled his fancy.

"Ok. But I'm going too. Will, you and Tara start working with KITT! Find everything you can on the Initiative. Riley… Honey… I hate to do this, but you have to go back and be inside guy for now."

Buffy turned her head toward the newest Scooby auxiliary. "Michael?"

"I'll contact the Knight foundation. They have resources that extend everywhere. Michael recalled his past experiences and added, "We have been known to fracture a law now and then!"

With each of the members assigned to a task, they all separated to begin their assigned tasks. Buffy escorted Riley to the door. "Thanks," the simple word failed to express the deeply felt emotion that showed on her young face.

"Look Buffy… I know that Walsh may seem odd, but we have done some good for Sunnydale. I can't help having doubts about the Initiative, but I will never doubt that. Things will change when the Commanding Officer gets here."

"I can't share that same faith. It has been hard enough to fight the natural demons and if you're right, and if Walsh succeeds in building a demon, I have to be ready to do whatever it takes."

"You won't have to. I promise!"

"I do have to! That's what a Slayer does!"

"Buffy, we caught this one. Don't worry before it's time to worry, ok?"

Leaving Buffy with a soft kiss on the forehead, Riley headed off to play spy.

Computer Room

Xander led Tara, Willow, and Michael into the computer room and logged onto the computer. "Will, please don't break anything. It took Jarod a week to set this up and he left a dire warning that should I break it; I would have to answer to Miss Parker again." The memory of the spoken threat caused shiver to run up and down Xander back.

Willow's bright red hair flipped to one side as she turned to face Michael. "How do I get access to KITT from here?"

Michael withdrew his cell phone from his pocket and dialed a number from memory.

Bonnie Barstow was sitting in the mobile command center updating the software connections for KITT when the telephone rang. "Hello."

"Hi Bonnie, it's Michael. Would you please activate the program we discussed this morning?"

Working feverishly as she spoke, "Give me 5 more minutes, Michael. This has turned out to be a little more difficult than I believed it would be."

"Okay, Babe. Call me back when you are ready. I would also like to talk to Devon when he is available.

"Wait a second, he is right here." Bonnie passed the telephone over to the tall man, Devon Miles, who acted as the leader of the Knightrider's support team. "It's Michael," she informed him.

"Yes, Michael?"

"Devon, can you call in some favors and see what you can find out about a project called the Initiative?"

The name of that project puzzled Devon. "It doesn't recall anything to mind. I can try, but my resources aren't what they used to be."

"Do your best, Buddy."

"Michael, is this connected to the case you went to investigate? I have been waiting since yesterday for an update."

"You won't believe it when I tell you, Devon. I want you to move the command trailer to Sunnydale; we may need your resources."

"Very well Michael, but I believe you owe me some explanations."

"When I have them, you will be the first to know," lied Michael.

After saying 'goodbye', Michael pressed the off button on the cell phone. He felt bad for lying to Devon, but the answers he had would make Devon question Michael's sanity, even with the video taps stored in KITT's memory.

Willow sat in front of the 21-inch flat screen monitor watching the network icons. As she watched a new Icon appeared and a log-on pop-up jumped on the screen. "Michael what do I use for a log-on?"

"I set this up this morning, just type in your name. You will have limited access to utilities, but all of KITT's databases will be available to you."

As Willow finishing typing her name, "Good Morning, Miss Rosenberg," issued forth from the speakers. "Please state your name for voice print verification."

"Willow Rosenberg."

"Thank you. Voice print confirmed."

"Good morning, KITT. We need some help." Willow couldn't help but treat the computer like another person. Instead of typing requests, she asked questions. "KITT what database do you have access to that might included information on a project called 'The Initiative'?"

"Willow, I have access to over 25,000 databases, many of them restricted. What context should I search in?" he asked.

Willow sat there and considered the request. "Well since it's a research lab, try the grant system of the federal government. I would also suggest that since Riley and the commandos are military, you may want to search the personnel files of the Army and the Marines."

"Search now in progress," came the oddly-accented voice of KITT.

Tara, who had been sitting there watching her friend work her special magic, whispered into Willow's ear. Willow grinned and told her, "I can only ask."

"KITT, can you do other things while you do the search?" Willow wondered aloud.

"Of course, how else can I help you?"

Willow smiled at the screen. "Can you check your databanks for information on Wiccan magic and save it to an FTP site for me?"

"I would be happy to add that to the search. Please enter the FTP IP address now."

"Willow, I have the results of the second search. The amount of data exceeds the capacity of the FTP site you specified, I took the liberty of storing the information on the Foundation's computers."

"Thank you, KITT. How's the first search coming?"

"That will take longer I'm afraid; several hours at least."

In the dark bowels of the Initiative labs, hidden from all, the xenomorph grew at a furious rate. The pain of its growth, and the loss of the connection to its brethren, triggered an inbred reaction.

Riley Finn nervously returned to Lowell house. Knowing that he was safe, personally, was little comfort to him. His roommate, Forrest Gates, waited for him in their shared room.

"Where the hell have you been? Walsh has been screaming for you for the past two hours."

Without answering the question, Riley headed toward the hidden elevator and initiated the security protocols. What he found as the bottom of the elevator was a barely controlled chaos. The technicians and the security personal were all armed and it looked as if a search was under way.

"Where is the Professor?" he asked his second in command as he headed toward the briefing room.

Forrest stared at Riley, wondering just where he had been for the last few hours. "You didn't answer my question Finn."

The look in Riley eyes shifted to a steel gray and his backed stiffened, "I didn't answer, because it none of your business Lieutenant. Now I'll ask one more time, where is Professor Walsh?"

Forrest, knowing he had just crossed the boundary between friendship and command responsibility, backed down. "She's in the command center, Sir."

Switching directions in mid-stride, the pair of commandos headed toward the command center. As they entered the room, they found each of the interior scanning consoles manned by security personal. Riley turned toward Forrest and asked him, "Why the goons on the consoles?"

"Walsh's orders. She has the capture teams cocked and locked in the briefing room. This place went ape-shit about three hours ago, so far we haven't been told anything except to be ready and wait." The bald agent hesitated for a split second as a contrite look claimed his face, "Riley… Sorry about back there."

The tone of Riley's voice changed back to its usual Iowa bred politeness, "I know... me too. Get the team ready, I'll find out what's happening and get us something to do."

Marching into the command center, Riley readied himself for whatever was coming his way. After the earlier encounter with his boss, he fully expected to be relieved of duty. Instead of a reprimand, the Professor greeted him with simple sarcasm. "Well, agent Finn, how nice of you to join us this morning. I won't ask where you have been, or why your phone didn't ring when we called you. I know you will have a very logical reason and right now we don't have the time for it."

"Ma'am… I want to apo-"

"Riley, we really don't have the time for this." Maggie handed the young commander videotape, "I want you to watch this. I have to warn you, it's not pretty."

Riley Finn sat down, inserted the tape in the player, and pressed the play button.

Standing in front of the weapons closet that held his armor, Xander wondered if the events of the meeting earlier that morning would require that he don the suit again. Standing there and staring, he heard footsteps behind him, taking a wild guess he said, "Hi Buffy."

"How did you know it was me? Some new secret power you haven't told us about yet?" she teased.

"Oh yea… super duper secret power, picked it up cheap at a garage sale." Xander turned to see the puzzled look on his blonde friend's face. "I guessed Buff, that's all."

The Slayer returned Xander's smile and said, "Imagine that, and here I thought I was being so sneaky."

Looking at each other, they both felt the connection of friendship that brought them together so many years ago.

"Xander, I wanted to thank you for this morning."

"Hey, it's no biggie."

"It is a biggie," Buffy insisted. "I know you and Riley don't exactly get along that well, but I appreciate you at least listening to what he had to say."

"Buff, it's not that I don't trust him, I don't trust the people he works for. He and the others were really an asset in Colorado. That cuts him a little slack in my book."

The unspoken gratitude showed in Buffy's eyes. As they stood there, Xander's cell phone rang.

"Hello," he answered.

"Hi, Xander, it's Willow. Can you come back to the computer room?"

"Will, I'm 20 feet from you, why did you call me?"

"Hello… Security system, remember."

We'll be right there."

Maggie Walsh stood behind him, and watched her lead agent view the videotape from the infirmary. She could see the hairs on the back of his neck raise, as the stomach of his doctor exploded, sending flesh and blood spraying all over the infirmary.

She placed her hand on his shoulder, offering a small comfort against the loss of his friend.

Stunned at the loss of his friend and horrified to have seen such a gruesome sight, Riley could only ask, "Why."

As Riley stared the static-filled display, she told him what had happened. "It seems the first creature was simply a parasite. Riley, we had no way to know what was happening."

"You had no way of knowing." Anger filled Riley Finn's voice. "Why do I doubt that, Professor? That Thing was brought here under a heavy guard. Where did it come from? Why wasn't it destroyed?"

Professor Walsh's answer didn't surprise the young soldier. "This is a research facility, Agent Finn. If you cant accept the risk that goes along with that, I suggest that you resign and leave the work to people that have the nerve for it. I'm sorry about your friend, but we have bigger problems right now." She shifted her gaze from the angry young man, and focused on a blueprint of the Initiative facility, then pointed out a section of the diagram to Riley. "Join your team and have them search this quadrant. I want this thing captured. Stun weapons only. This thing can bleed acid, so advise your team to be careful."

Riley hissed his "Yes, Ma'am" and stormed out of the control room. Instead of heading to the briefing room, he detoured by Professor Walsh's office and let himself in with the pass key.

It took him less then a minute to find what he was looking for. He palmed the piece of paper and headed for the briefing room and his team.

The balance of the Scooby's, plus Michael Knight, reassembled in the computer room of Xander's house. As each of them gathered around the computer, Giles asked Willow what had she and KITT had found.

"Quite a bit actually. We started with the military personal files. Since we knew that we had names of people assigned, that gave us a starting point. All of the members of the team were pulled from special operations training, some from the Rangers, others from the SEALs and Marine Force Recon. The key was that they were all assigned to a project numbered 3135. We assumed that that was the project number. Oh By the way, they are getting a military commander. A General Robert Steele has been assigned."

A secret smile on his face, Xander asked his friend, "Willow, where does that get us?"

Willow smiled, "Everywhere. Once we knew the project number, we traced the program almost back to the beginning. Project 3135, was hidden in the budget of the Center for Disease Control. That led us to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the blueprints for the Initiative, or at least the official ones."

"Willow, you know I'm impressed with your abilities with the blasted infernal machine, but I fail to see how you could tell that the blueprints were not the correct ones."

Willow turned toward her former librarian and friend, "That was easy. KITT calculated the material needed from the blueprints and compared that to the invoices from the suppliers. The CDC was consistently billed for twice as much material as would be required for the design. Now it could have been a rip-off, but I think it's more likely that the Initiative is twice the size it's reported to be.

"Oh Lord," was the only reply.

"Wait, it gets worse. KITT got suspicious; he didn't think the geology of the area would support an underground construction of that size, so he cross referenced that design to the United States Geographical Survey. The bottom line is that the University sits on top of a huge cave formation and the Initiative could be up to four times as large as reported."

After searching all day, the capture team and security team had drawn a blank. At dusk, Riley Finn told his team to pack it in and return to the briefing room. "I'll tell Walsh what we found, which is exactly zero."

Not wanting to face the obsessed Professor, Riley chose to call in his report. Grabbing his cell phone from his belt he flipped it open and pressed the speed dial.


"Professor, we have searched the entire lab twice, and found nothing. I think we have to assume the creature escaped. Request permission to have the team begin searching outside of the perimeter."

"Granted." Professor Walsh hung up on him, silence filled Riley's ear.

In the last 14 hours, the alien had grown to 15 times its original size. Now standing seven and a half feet tall and with its gloss black skin, it presented a true nightmare.

It had found the caves below and it searched for the right place for the nest. Everywhere it went, instinct told it that the place wasn't right, so its search continued, leading it out of the caves and into the night of Sunnydale.

Willies Bar
20 Jan 2000

Willies Bar and Grill, a decrepit looking business, which only survived because of the clientele only he, would serve. Demons, vampires, and the occasional black mage made the bar their hangout. The price Willie paid was the constant threat of dying at the hands of his customers.

Buffy and Xander entered the bar as if they owned the place, and in a sense, they did. Since Miss Parker had promised Willie that should he ever prove to be uncooperative, they would have the government and the IRS look at his books, the snitch had become a fount of information. Only his simple, "Oh no," whispered under his breath, indicated how he felt about the Slayer and her friends.

Walking up to the bar, and pulling a quarter from his pocket Xander said to Buffy, "Heads or tails?"

Buffy, wearing black jeans and her favorite leather jacket, considered the question of or a second, "Tails," she replied. Xander flipped the quarter and let it fall to the bar.

"Sorry Buffster, my turn to beat up Willie."

"Willie, Willie, Willie… I thought we made it clear last time that anything you heard we would be hearing two minutes later. I guess we didn't impress you all that much. Well I'm here to reinforce that point."

Xander pulled one of the Colts from the holsters and emptied the magazine in less then 2 seconds. The results were impressive. Every third bottle on the back wall exploded into fragments. Popping the empty mag from the pistol, letting it clatter down onto the bar, Xander reached under his jacket and reloaded the weapon. "Those were the nice bullets. Wanna see what the bad ones will do to your place?"

Sven the Proud, a fifth level black mage and new to Sunnydale, was sitting in a back booth wondering why two normals could walk into a demon bar and act as if they owned the place. Angry at their obvious disrespect for the black arts, he began whispering a spell.

"Alexander," warned Elan, "in the back."

"Hey, Buffy. The funny looking dude in the glasses is not playing nice."

Buffy walked over to the booth and looked at the older magician. "You didn't raise your hand before talking." Then with a single punch, she fractured his jaw into 6 pieces. "Next time remember that it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature." Lying there with most of his teeth on the booth table, all Sven could do was moan.

After watching the Slayer deal with the Mage, the rest of the customers suddenly remembered that it was Mother's Day, and they had forgotten to call their mommies, made a mass exodus from the bar.

"Any problems?" asked Xander when Buffy returned to the bar.

"Well his dentist won't be giving him a lollipop on the next visit," she replied.

Laying the reloaded pistol down on the bar, Xander's attention refocused on the now sweating and reeking bartender. "Ok Willie, now, what have your heard about an ADAM?"

Standing there, his face beaded in sweat, the scared bar tender searched his memory for any scrap of information that might get the Slayer and her friend out of his place, hopefully with the building intact. "Look Harris, it's not much. More like a rumor of a rumor, but there've been a lot of demons disappearing lately. We thought you and super friends were on the warpath again."

"So…" Xander drew the word out to let Willie know that he wasn't pleased with the lack of detail.

Then in English accent from behind, "So… It's the bloody commando types."

"Spike," echoed Buffy and Xander in unison.

"Hello, Slayer." The vampire draws the last consonant out.

William the Bloody, AKA, Spike, was the only vamp with the balls to stick around after Buffy's display of applied violence. Dressed in his all black get-up and his bleached blond hair pulled back, Spike came forward and continued, "Same wankers that put this blasted chip in my head. I know all about it," Spike sniffed once to accent that point and then added, "But it will cost you."

Xander picked the nickel-plated colt off the counter and pointed it at Spikes chest. "Know all about it, well time to share the wealth or I may finally get the pleasure of killing you."

A glint of fear flashed in Spikes eyes. "Right... and lose the chance of knowing the answer, not even you are that stupid, you bloody bint."

Buffy decided that the back and forth posturing was getting them nowhere, so she kicked the blond vampire in the balls. "So we don't kill you, but even you can't stand massive amounts of pain," she said to the back of his head as he kneeled on the floor moaning.

"Damn… I wish I had thought of that," said Xander Harris.

The door crashed open, interrupting their enjoyment of Spike's pain. A commando staggered through the door. His flack vest shredded and his clothes torn.


The bald headed commando limped over to the bar and the pair of demon hunters. The skin of his head laid opened to the bone and blood dripping down his face. Grimacing with the pain, he looked at Buffy and said, "We lost three, and Riley is missing. We need help."

"We left the lab in full combat gear. Searching through the streets of Sunnydale, we didn't find a trace of the HST. Amazingly enough, even the local vampires seemed to be quite that night."

"Riley called us together to plan the next step." He said, "Look, so far we have nothing. Let's head north and check the abandoned factory. The vamps seem to like that place, maybe the worm would have headed that way."

"The creature attacked us as we approached the factory through the woods. George died first, the sharp pointed tail of the creature driven through his flack vest as if it weren't there. The god damned thing ripped my vest with one stroke and hit me upside the head. When I woke up, there were three bodies and Riley was gone."

The mention of a sharp pointed tail froze a look of fear on Xander's face. "Forrest, this is important. What did the creature look like?"

"I only got a glimpse of it. It was huge, and black as a moonless night." Forrest froze, afraid, knowing that what he had to say, wouldn't be believed, couldn't be believed. He looked at Xander and added, "Steel teeth, shiny steel teeth."

"Oh Fuck."

A look of fear and revulsion claimed Xander's face. His eyes turned a stony black and his normal smile locked into a grimace. Standing there, remembering the people of the village that he tried to save and his later confession to Faith, he couldn't help but be overwhelmed. < How could these things be here? > he thought to himself.

Forrest and Buffy watched as Xander stood there lost in thought. Her voice softened to a whisper, Buffy spoke up, "Xander…" then louder, "Xander."

Xander looked toward the injured commando. "Forrest, why were you searching for it?"

Forrest thought for a moment, trying to decide how much to tell. How much he could tell. Finally, he gave Xander the condensed version. How the creature escaped from the Initiative, and how the capture teams searched all day and didn't find a sign until they approached the old factory.

Xander glared at the young black man. "How many of these goddamned things were there?"

"We only saw one."

Xander marched to the door. "We have to go."

Blocking the door, the Slayer stopped Xander in his tracks. "Not before you tell me what is going on."

"Look Buffy… This isn't a demon like the Judge that you blow up with a rocket, it's worse. I spent my summer fighting these things. You've seen the scars on my back, well these things did that." He paused for a few seconds, "and that was through the armor. This isn't a simple slayer problem, it's much worse. Now we have to go!"

"What about Forrest?" she asked.

A sheepish tone crept into Xander's voice. "Oh, yeah." Xander stalked back to Willie. "Give me the keys to your car."

The scum known as Willie protested. "I'm not giving you anything."

Pulling Elan and activating her to the full length, "Look, you little worm, you have two choices here, One, give me the keys and I figure that I owe you one. Two, I knock you unconscious and take the keys, then I'll be back to discuss your uncooperative nature. Either way I'm borrowing your car."

Realizing that the choices offered, were no choices, Willie tossed Xander his key ring. "It's the brown Ford wagon out front."

Searching through the darkness of the night in the forest, two of the security scouts found the bodies of the collection team. As they prepared the bodies for recovery, they talked about the events of the last few days. The rumors of the grotesque way the creature killed Dr. Ross, now commonly accepted as the truth. The Sergeant of the Guard even claimed to have seen the videotape.

"Graham reported three dead and Finn missing," said the taller of the two guards.

"I never liked that Boy Scout. Him and that bitch slayer caused all sorts of problems," replied the shorter one.

"Don't forget the Harris kid."

"Like there was any chance of that! The way he took us apart last time. Let's say I won't forgive and forget. Look, if we find Finn, why don't we just add him to the list of the dead. No one but you and me will know any different. The creature killed him after the rest of the team had scattered. That will make everyone's life easier."

The two guards completed their task, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but both knowing that if they found Finn alive, he wouldn't remain so for long.

Lying in the grass, thirty feet from the original attack, Riley recovered slowly. As he attempted to rise, a shooting pain in his leg forced him back down on the ground. < Well that's not a great idea, > he thought. Contemplating his options, he heard voices from the direction of the attack. He listened as the two voices plotted his murder.

Retrieving his cell phone from his belt, Riley called Xander's house. The phone rang 6 times before the answering machine picked up.

"Hi. You have reached Xander and Jarod. Currently we are out saving humanity from the forces of evil and destruction. Please leave a detailed message and a phone number and we will call you back when the forces of good have triumphed and, oh, have a nice day."

"Xander, pick up if you are there." Riley waited for a minute. "C'mon Xander this is important." With no answer, Riley decided that he had better leave a message just in case his plan failed. "Xander, this is Riley, A creature has escaped the Initiative and is located at the old factory." Riley took a deep breath and continued, "This isn't a demon Xander. I have proof of where it came from. I need you and Buffy to help me fight this thing." Heading back to the collage, Riley hoped that Xander would get the message in time.

On the ride back to the frat house, Buffy sat there stunned, as Xander explained how he spent his summer. Too much had happened to him that summer. His description of fighting the Aliens on another world only registered on the surface of her mind.

"Look Buffy, I know this is a lot to grab a hold of at one time, but you have seen my armor and you helped to save the Stargate in November. I have to ask you to let me handle this."

Buffy didn't like that suggestion one little bit, "Why?"

"Haven't you been listening? These things are worse then any Demon we have faced before, they bleed acid when you wound them, even my armor was damaged. Can you imagine what that would do to your skin? I'm the only one that has fought them before and lived to tell about it."

"That still doesn't answer the question Xander, Why do I have to let you 'handle' it.

"Because it's not safe. If we had the time, I'd call Jack and the Charmed ones in to help, but we don't have it. With KITT's armor, I think Michael and KITT are the only other ones that might stand a chance of surviving this thing. This needs to be done now."

Pulling the Ford into the parking place behind KITT, Xander got out and helped Forrest out of the back seat. Heading into the building, Xander found the rest of the Scoobies in the computer room still working of the A.D.A.M. mystery.

Willow looked up from the keyboard and said, "Guys, we have more information now."

In a tone of command, Xander stopped Willow with a single word, "Wait." Gathering them around, Xander explained, "We have a bigger problem right now. Somehow the Initiative acquired an Alien, and it has escaped. The priority right now has to be finding it and killing it. Willow and Tara, I need you to take Forrest to the hospital. Stay with him until Riley or one of the commandos relieves you. Don't leave unless it is one of them. Don't trust anyone else."

Tara, Willow, and the rest of the gang were shocked at the change in Xander. No longer was he the Zeppo of the past, now he was in command and his attitude and his tone of voice proved that that.

"Michael. How good is KITT's armor?"

"Bonnie tells me it the toughest ever created," Michael answered.

"Let's hope she is right, or that we don't have to test that theory."

Walking over to Forrest, Xander asked him for his radio. Forrest handed it over to Xander and slumped back against the chair.

Handing Buffy the radio, "Buffy, I need you and Giles to monitor the radio and, if anything happens, call me on the cell phone." Xander headed for the door. "I'm going to change."

Heading to the armory, and the suit of armor, Xander noticed the answering machine light flashing. Pressing the play button he heard Riley's voice, "Xander, pick up if you are there."

Xander yelled down the hall, "Buffy."

An exhausted and beaten Riley Finn limped back to Lowell house. Avoiding his teammates, he headed to his room and changed into a fresh set of fatigues. Digging in the closet, he retrieved the package delivered a few days ago by a very odd man.

At the time, Riley hadn't even known why he ordered the weapon. It seemed like a good idea at the time and the events of the last few days confirmed his feeling that one day, they would need the firepower it offered.

He loaded the weapon with the special ammunition that had accompanied the delivery and headed back to the old factory.

Old Factory Road
Sunnydale California
21 Jan 2000

It had been a slow night for Officer Keith Dunn. The rookie police officer had pissed off the desk Sergeant, who then assigned him the swing shift in reprisal. Dunn wasn't an idiot, only three weeks on the job and already he knew the night shift in Sunnydale had the highest mortality rate for cops in California.

Sitting in the parked cruiser on the old factory road, trying to be inconspicuous, Dunn heard the shattering of the glass as a black arm punched through the windshield.

As the huge black alien pulled the man through the shattered glass, the struggling police officer managed to draw his service pistol and fire a single round. The bullet hit the creature and the entrance wound began to bleed on the cop's face. The unheard screams were mercifully short as the acid ate its way through Dunn's brain.

Turning onto the old factory road, KITT announced, "Michael, we are being painted by X and K band radar."

"Can you locate the source, KITT?"

"The source is a Sunnydale police car, approximately three quarters of a mile ahead. Michael, thermal scanning indicated the car has been there for at least an hour. The engine block is cold and I don't detect any life signs."

Xander listened to KITT's report closely, "Mike, stop and let me out. I'll signal you when the coast is clear." Getting out of the passenger's side, Xander donned his helmet and shimmered into invisibility.

The sight of the dead police officer, sprawled on the hood of his cruiser, surrounded by glass, acid holes eaten through the hood, was gruesome. The officer's face was worse. Xander fought the bile that threatened to spew from his stomach. < Puking in my helmet, now that would be 'fun', > he thought.

The crunch of tires on the gravel on the side of the road alerted Xander that Michael hadn't waited for a signal. Striding back to the black Trans Am, he warned the passengers, "Look guys, you don't want to see this."

Buffy, stuffed into the almost nonexistent back seat asked, "Why."

Concern for her welled in Xander's heart. "For the same reason I didn't want you to come with us Buff. The cop is dead and he is a mess. It has to have been the Alien that killed him."

Sometimes, Buffy Summers can be the most obstinate woman on the face of the earth. She got out of the car and went to look, despite Xander's warning. The cavity that had once been Keith Dunn's face sickened her.

"Oh god."

"Now you know. We just have to deal. Let Mike and I handle the alien; you search for Riley and then get the hell out of dodge," came from behind her.

The 'Now you know why' and a comforting arm from Xander were the only things that kept Buffy from throwing up.

Driving into the entrance of the old factory, a flash of movement caught Michael's eye. The alien was fast. KITT was faster. Michael mashed the gas pedal to the floor, chasing the alien across the deserted parking lot.

The black Trans Am caught the alien at the perimeter of the parking lot. Hitting it at better then 90 miles per hour, the legs of the creature caught against a 3-foot retaining wall.

The Alien screamed, its carapace swinging back and forth in a rage, beating on the hood of the car and swinging its tail wildly.

Xander rolled out of the car, His armor crunching against the gravel on the ground. As he arose to his feet, instincts honed over the summer of fighting these creatures took over. Without a conscious thought, he drew the Zat and fired.

The sniper on the roof has been waiting for the perfect moment. Getting up on the roof of the factory hadn't been easy with his injured leg and the trip filled with terror. Neither had mattered, only the end result mattered.

Watching the black car chase the monster across the parking lot, he had been hopeful, and he hadn't been disappointed. The sniper pulled the weapon to his shoulder when KITT had trapped the creature against the retaining wall; the movement of the creature had made a killing shot impossible.

Watching Xander, as he rolled out of the car through the powerful night scope, the sniper recognized the Zat and knew his chance would arrive in seconds. As the Zat froze the monster, the sniper gently caressed the trigger, then Riley Finn smiled.

Xander rolled to his feet and reached for Elan as the .50 caliber bullet drilled through the creature's head. The armor-piercing incendiary round exploded, ripping the alien's head off of its body, killing it instantly.

The dead creature would have one last revenge; lying on the hood of the car it bled all over the hood and the fenders. Sensors, unused in 17 years, signaled to its alarm system, panicking KITT. "Michael," he announced, "Sensors indicate armor failure in 34 seconds."

Michael screamed in frustration, "KITT!"

Michael Knight dove back into the car and began furiously to dig under the console. As he pulled the wiring away he ordered KITT to execute option 48 and hoped that there was enough time.

The only thing Buffy and Xander could do was to watch KITT die.


Old Factory
Sunnydale California
21 Jan 2000

Riley joined Buffy, Xander, and Michael in the parking lot. Looking toward the now destroyed car, all he could do was morn with them. "Michael, I'm so sorry that I couldn't avoid it. I wish it had been different," he said.

"It's ok, Riley. I saved KITT's personality module. That's the important part." The shock at losing his friend caused Michael's voice to waiver in loss.

"Thank god for small favors," was Riley's reply.

Xander walked up to Riley and offered him his hand in thanks. "Look Riley I know we haven't been the best of buds," emotion covered Xander face like a funeral shroud, "Thank You."

"You may want to take that back when you read this." Riley's voice turned cold as he handed Xander the piece of paper that he had retrieve from Professor Walsh's office the day before. Riley handed the shipping invoice over to Xander and waited for his reaction.

Xander face contorted in rage as he read the note. "Mayborne. Those sons of bitches. After all we did for them; they bring one of these here to Sunnydale."

Initiative Labs
21 Jan 2000

Maggie Walsh sat at her desk finishing the paper work on the loss of personal when Riley Finn stormed in and tossed the 32 pound Barrett sniper rifle on her desk, breaking the telephone and the computer keyboard.

Barley controlled rage controlled the soldiers voice. "Look, you stupid bitch, this is how I cleaned up your mess. You let Doug and my friends die and never gave us any warning on what we faced." Riley got to within an inch of her face and continued, "I may have to work with you, but I don't have to work for you. As of now, I'm on leave until the new commanding officer arrives. If you ever give me a reason to regret staying, I'll kill you myself."

Knight Industries
1 April 2000

Pulling back the cover Bonnie exposed KITT's new body.

"You have to be kidding, A red car? How am I supposed to follow some one in this, and remain hidden?" asked Michael Knight.

"I like it Michael," interrupted his partner. "Makes me feel sexy."

Michael threw up his hands and stalked away muttering, "She might as well have painted him orange and painted a rebel flag on the roof."

The End

Writers Note: If you want to see KITT's new body, search for a Pontiac Banshee on the net.


Valid XHTML 1.1! Valid CSS!