Year Zero

Desert Visions

Author: IceWing <icewing[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. The Journeyverse belongs to Tenhawk, long may he reign.

Summary: Another guy from up north converges on Roswell.... Galactic North... Is it something the air around there? The water? Discount Saucer parking?

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating : R. For mature themes, sexual content, and all the other fun stuff that rarely makes network TV.

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.

Alien Terms are translated into closest English equivalent.
<< indicates non-English language >>


The depths of the vast room were masked in shadows. The once well lit room was now darkened. From time to time, the lights would be brought back up to normal intensity, but with no inspection occurring, nor the twice weekly poker game, the sheet covered equipment looked like so many bad ghosts, waiting in the wings for some innocent to get too close.

It had been months since the project had been moth-balled, following the disastrous mission which had occurred light years away. In that time, the powers that be in the military had decided to conveniently forget that the artifact house underneath tons of granite and concrete even existed. After all, if nobody said anything about it, then nobody could be blamed for the deaths which had resulted.

And nobody could worry about the questions that the mission had left during debriefing.

The light level slowly rose in the room, as energy defused through the sheet covering the artifact. After a few seconds, the light level stayed constant, as the process was complete. Nothing happened for a moment, then a faint humming could be heard in the room as a small metallic device appeared in mid-air, emerging slowly from the event horizon of the Stargate.

With no visible means of propulsion, the spheroid emerged from behind the sheet, slowly moving about the perimeter of the room. It paused before each piece of writing on the walls, as well as slipping beneath several of the dust sheets in order to determine what was beneath and if said objects posed a threat. After determining that there are no dangerous devices, but that several surveillance devices are located within the chamber, the device sent an extremely low powered transmission through the gate, then move a few feet away and waited.

The water-like event horizon rippled again, although nothing visible to the naked eye emerged from the Gate.

Underneath the cover of a stealth field, a hand reached out, and blue fingers plucked the probe from the air, before tucking it into a pouch on its harness. After checking the room himself, the being investigated the area surrounding the gate room, before returning stealthily to the gate itself, where it transmitted a brief report.

<<Exploration Report - Gamma Theta Beta - Niner Four Six Epsilon Twelveteen : The Chappa'ai is located in a military installation of some kind. The inhabitants are of a single race, bipedal with a symmetrical. Basic frame and structure indicates that they may in some way be related to several of the Vanished Races. Atmosphere is heavily filters and sensors indicate that the part of the facility in which the Chappa'ai is located to be deeply subterranean. It is unknown at this point if this is a racial preference or as a military policy.

Technology level seems varied. Electronics utilize primarily solid-state, printed circuit based technologies, although indications of remote sensing, non-independent robotic units are present. Military weaponry seems to be chemical based projectile weapons. No indications of heavy weapons present, nor of vehicular, medical, or aerospace technology.

It should be noted however that this species has been able to construct a replacement of the Harku'Ator. The replacement construct, however, is extremely crude, utilizing mechano-electrical devices to activate the chevron's in a system entered into one of their computers. A electrical motor gives initial motive power to the iconographic ring. There is no method noticed to deny entry or egress to the event horizon. However, the fact that they have at least constructed a device indicated that they have a rudimentary concept of Chappa'ai operations. The replacement device is in place on all nine chevrons. It is unknown if this was done for thoroughness or perhaps they know the secrets of the extra variables.

Power throughput to the Chappa'ai is sufficient for standard travel. No higher functions will be functional with current power levels. Additionally, none of the ancillary equipment in the Chappa'ai is functioning at this time. The natives may not be aware of said equipment, or of how to operate it.

Attaching visual imagery of Chappa'ai chamber, as well as of iconographic ring. Egress sigil noted in imagery. Limited footage of natives included as well. Due to layout and security, no additional footage prepared at this time.

Report Ends:>>

A moment later, a reply was transmitted through the wormhole, after which another ripple crossed the horizon, once again, not revealing anything, and then the gate shut down.

The scout read the response on his wrist-comp.

<<Report Acknowledged. Proceed with scouting of planetary surface. Standard scout packs deployed, under stealth, through gate following this transmission. Mission priorities: Obtain cultural, scientific and any assorted relevant data for sociologists, anthropoloists, contact teams and military planners.

Specific Secondary Objectives: Genetic samples of flora and fauna requested. Allow sensors to record continously if communications wavelengths in use.

Per standard mission parameters, if capture, detainment or demise imminent, use any and all means needed to evade, escape or deny remains to natives.

May the Spirit of the Empress watch over you.

End Transmission>>

The scout picked up the stealthed equipment package, attached it on the back of its lower torso. The sides of the equipment pack hung down, reaching several inches beneath its torso, but clear of all four of its legs, maintaining the scout's ability for quick movement and agility. Satisfied, the scout moved out.

One of the soldiers on duty, paused as it thought it heard something. Leaving the vending machine, he looked around the surrounding area. He paused by the freight elevator, wondering idly why it was on this level with its doors open. A quick look indicated that it was empty.

He kept looking around for several minutes though, still wondering why he thought he'd heard a horse in the depths of a U.S. military installation.

Later that Evening:

<<Mission update:

Have been successful in exiting installation. Interesting dichotemy. The facility itself is designed for maximum security, but many areas are largely ignored. Much of it on the lower levels seemed to be offline, and had been converted to an inactive storage mode.

One note to any military planners. Sensors indicate that there are at least three fission based thermo-nuclear weapons in the facility. As there is no delivery method noted in the facility, there exists a strong possibility that these are self-destruct charges to insure that no offworld foothold can be established via the Chappa'ai. Due to the nature of the base material of the Chappa'ai itself, any one of these devices would be more than sufficient to vaporize the entire mountain in which the Chappa'ai is housed. It is unknown if the natives know this, but the effect would none-the-less remove any threat before it could deploy on a global scale.

The communication medium of this world seems to be primarily radionics. However, they seems to have taken to it with a passion. There are a large multitude of signals, carrying a variety of different mediums.

In addition, I have detected a burst transmission of a nature other than that used by the natives of this planet. The technology, which was trans-uKloric in nature, is significantly more advanced that that used by the population at large. Based on my readings, the transmission originated at a point to the southwest of my current location. I have decided to investigate, as the presence of such a transmission indicates that either a segment of this society is significantly more advanced than the remainder, or that there is an offworld presence present.

I have spent several hours gathering genetic samples of a variety of flora, although I have not had much success with fauna. The two exceptions have been collected from small, furred quadrepeds which have been tethered in the green areas surrounding what seem to be living quarters for the natives. I believe the quadrepeds to be kept as pets, although the possibility of some kind of livestock does exist. Beginning tonight after dark, I shall begin my journey southwards to find the source of that transmission.>>

Part One

'Look Elan, you're going to make me go out in the desert for at least days in the morning. Wearing a black, armored leather jacket, secondary armor vest, and all my gear. In the desert. With no water. I'm going to enjoy my dinner, and my desert. And all the greasy fries and onion rings I want.'

<Alexander, although I still do not understand why you insist on poisoning your body with such foods, I am not telling you that you cannot eat them. What I am telling you is that you are somewhat defeating the purpose of the training tomorrow. With that amount of salt in your system, your body will retain extra water, thereby making the desert training not as efficient as if you were to be dropped in such a situation with no extra supplies.>

'So you're getting onto me for water, salt and carbo loading before the training, yes?'

'Perhaps,' came the response. For some reason, Xander knew that he'd just succeeded in making his training over the next few days a bit more difficult. He didn't know which bothered him more, the fact that she was somewhat irritated with him, or the fact that she was coming up with creative ways to 'improve' his training regimen.

His thoughts drifted as he sat alone in the completely packed restaurant. He had managed to get himself in one of the rear booths, his back to a wall, and was currently people watching.

After a few minutes, a frustrated looking waitress came up to his table, forcing a saccharine sweet smile onto her face. "Welcome to the Crashdown..."

Before she could out the rest of the opening, Xander spoke. "Hi again Liz." He paused for a moment. "Looks like they're keeping you hopping tonight....

Liz recognized the guy at the table as the one who had been in last night with the two girls she thought were his sisters. From the table that had left a good sized tip. As such, she decided to drop the whole happy waitress thing and just be herself again. "Oh, you have no idea. There's some kind of convention in town, and of course, since this is pretty much a two horse town, we're one of the bigger places to eat, that is if you're sick of Mickey D's and Long John Silvers. And better too, I might add."

"A UFO convention? Something to do with the crash?"

Liz chuckled. "Nope, would you believe it's something to do with environmentalists. They're going off about habitat destruction and encroaching on the wilds."

"I take it you're not impressed?"

"I get enough of that from Maria, my best friend. The whole green thing is her current kick. But, as much as I enjoy talking to somebody who's not leering at my antennae, or espousing how I'm responsible for rain forest destruction through serving Brazilian beef, even though I have no idea where our burgers come from beyond the delivery truck, can I take your order?"

Xander glanced around, taking in what everybody else was having. "I think I'll have two of the double cheeseburger platters. Onion rings with one, fries with the other. Two Large Iced Teas."

"You expecting somebody else?" she asked as she looked at the otherwise empty booth in which he sat, the largest booth in the restaurant.

"Nope, all by my lonesome tonight. The girls are tired and I was hungry, so I thought I'd grab some food. Plus, I'm not going to have much chance to eat tomorrow, so I thought I'd get a good meal tonight."

"Not a problem. I'll get this to the kitchen and have it out to you as soon as Tommy gets it made."

Xander thanked her and continued his people watching. A moment later, his iced teas were set on the table by Liz, who was gone again in a heartbeat. As he sat there, sipping the sweet tea, his thoughts wandered. It seemed so long ago, since he had been as innocent and carefree as these folks. Able to walk outside at night, not wondering if there were vampires, demons or Hard Meat around, watching and stalking him. Able to enjoy looking up at the stars without wondering where the worlds he had fought and lost on were at amongst the expanse of darkness. Although he had chosen this path, and couldn't imagine walking away from it now, or any other time while he still breathed, he wondered, not for the first time, how his life would have been different. How things would have turned out for him without the forces of darkness encroaching on his life, coming at him in endless wave after wave.

<It is a question that those such as you and I, and most of your friends, shall never know the answer to, Alexander. It is our path, our fate, to be the stalwart defenders of civilization. Never quite knowing the life that we defend so vigorously.>

Xander sighed, both internally and physically. 'It never ends does it, Elan?'

<Not for most of us, Alexander. Or more accurately, it does, but not in such a way which allows us to enjoy a remaining life of leisure, or of anything for that matter.>

'Feet first, eh?'

<If you're lucky enough...>

'You know, we're going to have a long talk one of these days.'

<We're going to have many long talks, Alexander. It's both a blessing and a curse of being a Bearer, or a Bearee.>

'A curse?'

<What else would you call a lifetime of being subjected to what you laughingly call humor?>

Had his response been vocalized, it would have given an aneurysm to every censorship advocate within two hundred yards.

Glancing at the clock, Xander decided it was time to return to the hotel. He needed to get some sleep, maybe dream a little Dream, plus he had a feeling that both Mikki and Tara might worry if he was out too late. As he got up, he chuckled. Here he was, a warrior, known and feared by the forces of darkness as the Seraphim. A guy who'd saved and helped save the world more than a handful of times. And a twelve year old kid thought she could protect him.

He was still laughing as he handed Liz a twenty and waved off the change. He wished her a good night and headed out the front door. As soon as he stepped outside, he reached into his pocket for his keys, then remembered that he had walked from the hotel, not more than a mile away.

<All hail my glorious commander,> came an amused voice from within. <Saves the world, tossed back in time, cannot remember how he got from point A to point B.> A long paused ensued, followed by <The Earth is Doomed!>

'Oh shut up!' He willed back. 'Considering I have a voice in my head, I'd say I'm doing better than....'

The thought was disrupted however by the voices coming from down the street. Acting without thinking, he kicked his senses up a notch, and what had been a dimly lit street was now brightly illuminated. About two and a half blocks away, he saw two people standing and having a heated discussion. Not even pausing to consider that this might not be his fight, he silently jogged towards the altercation, unconsciously sticking to the shadows.

"Come on girl. You know you're the hottest chick the district. Just think how much it would help your rep to be dating a sports star like me." It was a line that no reasonably intelligent person on the planet would ever use with any hope of success. But, not too many people had accused Wes Givens of being overly high up on the evolutionary scale. And that was when he was sober. Tonight, he was far from an unintoxicated state, having raided his older brother's liquor cabinet before deciding to have a night cruising the town.

"Go home," said the young blonde as she tried to bat his hands away again. "How many times do I have to say it. I want nothing to do with you. I'm not even allowed to date, and even if I was, you'd be far from my first choice. Or my sixth hundredth for that manner."

She turned sharply on her heel, hoping to get away from this jerk before he could get really out of control. But, she hadn't gotten even a half a step before she was spun back around by the football player.

"Don't you be walking away from me! I'm important and you, you're not even a freshman yet. So, you're going to listen very carefully and as of tomorrow, you and I are going to be a couple. And next year, I'm going to be even higher in the team and you're going to be at my side, understood!?" The pressure he was applying to her arm got more intense with each word.

"I think you need to let her go, right now," said a voice from beside Wes.

The relatively large linebacker pushed her to the ground before turning to face this new presence. "I think maybe you need to mind your own business McFly."

Xander looked at the guy, a look of confusion on his face. "McFly? You're actually stealing a line from Biff Tanner? You didn't get the whole mocking contempt thing, did you?" He sighed. "Look, go home dude. You're going to be in enough pain in the morning as it is."

"Oh, and why's that asshole?"

"Well, because judging from your breath, and I'm ignoring the slurred speech because you seem pretty developmentally challenged if you ask me, you've had about a case of beer. The hangover's going to be murder."

Apparently, the sentence was just too complex for the mental midget to follow, so he just decided to take a swing at Xander.

The travelling warrior simply leaned back and watched as the fist passed slightly in front of where his face had been. Almost lackadaisically, Xander grabbed the jock by his now overextended arm, and swung him around in a circle. As an afterthought, he positioned his right foot behind Wes's ankle and performed a basic hook sweep.

As the drunk was falling to the ground, Elan commented. <Why such a basic technique? And, your foot was out of position. It should have been a few more degrees to the right.>

'It worked, didn't it? I didn't want to hurt the guy, he's just a drunk kid. That did the job, and so what if my foot was askew by a fraction of an inch.'

<You should always strive for perfection Alexander. No matter how simple the technique, they're done like that for a reason.>

'I know, I know. I'll watch my feet next time.'

The thunk of the kid hitting the ground was loud enough to make Xander wince. "You'd think he'd at least know how to fall..." he muttered as he knelt down, checking out the kid's head for any serious injuries. Apparently there were none, although the fall had knocked him out cold. Satisfied, Xander turned to the girl, who was still sitting on the concrete sidewalk where she had been pushed. "Need a hand?" he asked as he offered her his.

After a moment, she took it and he easily pulled her to her feet. "Umm, thanks?" she said hesitantly.

Chuckling, he made a small bow. "Well, I am a full service hero. It's all just part of the package. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more dragons to rescue and damsels to slay." He paused, scrunching up his face for a moment, as if in deep thought. "Yep that's right. Xander Harris, at your service."

Despite what had just happened, or maybe because of it, Isabel laughed. Not the controlled half giggle that was the only thing that her so called friends had heard from her, but a full, laugh. The kind that completely drained any tension or worry from your body. As she finished, Isabel realized that she felt very relaxed and safe around this stranger who had stepped out of nowhere to help her. "Isabel Evens," she said with a smile. "A damsel in distress who greatly appreciated your assistance and timely arrival. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, kind sir."

"The privilege was mine, oh lady fair." Xander grinned. It had been ages since he'd had any innocent flirting. Amanda was always way too tough to read, and Paige, well, that was just confusing. Plus, from what he'd heard as he'd approached, the young woman in front of him was going to be able to give Queen C a run for her money in the wounding comments department. "I would offer you a ride on my... Okay, that just sounded way wrong," he said with a chuckle. "Let me try this again. Due to it being late and past sundown, and since I've already had the opportunity to come to your rescue once tonight, would you like for me to wait with you till your ride shows up, or walk you home."

Isabel paused for a moment. Her dad was at the office late again tonight and her mom was over at her friend Susan's house playing cards or something. Max and Michael were going to see some movie after Max had stopped by to drool at Liz from a distance. But, he was a stranger. 'A stranger that helped you when he had no interest in doing so, other than it was the right thing.' The voice paused, getting a wicked, sultry tone to it. 'Plus, maybe he's new in town...' "Well, since you're here, and I enjoy talking while I walk, you can walk me home."

Xander chuckled, causing Isabel to look at him questioningly. "Sorry, you just sound like somebody I know, from back home." He wondered how much like Cordelia this young lady actually was. Would she grow out of the barbed tongue and wicked barbs, into a strong, mature lady? Or would she be stuck as an arrogant, selfish female? Only time would tell.


Again, Xander chuckled. "No. Right now she's not sure what to make of me. I think I've managed to escape from the box she had me walled into. But don't worry, it was a compliment to you."

"Well thank you," said Isabel as they walked down the street towards the neighborhood which held the Evens household. "So, where's home at then?"

"Where's home?" He rolled the question around for moment, realizing not for the first time that what had been his home was long gone, possibly for good. "Well, I've been doing the whole cross country thing for a bit now, but when I'm done, I'll be heading back to California. A town called SunnyDale, a couple of hours north of LA."

"They must have a long winter break...." 'Oh, real subtle,' she thought to her self.

"Well, I made a deal with the administration. I get some extra time off because of my contribution to the football team this season."

"So you're what, a sophomore, and you've got the teachers in your pocket? Isn't that going to hurt your grades?"

"Actually, this is my freshman year. As for the grades... Well, I don't think that being out of town is going to change them all that much."

"Must be nice. So, tell me about yourself."

"Well, not a lot to tell. What you see is what you get."

"Somehow, I don't believe that. I bet there's a lot more to you than meets the eye."

"Nope, I'm Xander. Just a regular guy from SunnyDale. I used to hang out in the library a lot. I'm a pretty good hand at research. Lately, I've noticed I'm pretty good at guessing how TV shows and movies are going to play out. My musical tastes are pretty eclectic. I have plenty of beautiful female friends, but I'm not dating anyone at the moment and have pretty bad luck when it comes to relationships. I like to read comic books, annoy the popular crowd, and save the world. Not necessarily in that order. My favorite donut is raspberry jelly filled and I'm pretty sure that the universe is out to get me. How about you?"

Isabel grinned. "My name's Isabel. I have an older brother Max. I've been stuck in Roswell for as long as I can remember. I'm one of the popular people you like to annoy, although I'd rather not be noticed. I feel like my brother tries to run my life, although I know he just sees it as protecting me. I'm planning on getting into college and getting far away from this town. I don't like donuts, but baklava is my favorite pastry. And I have no idea why I'm telling you all of this."

"Maybe because since I'm a nobody, you can say things to me that you wouldn't normally tell anybody else."

"So, what brings you to a sleepy backwater town like Roswell?"

"Was just driving down the highway, thought it seemed like a good place to get a night's rest. Plus, I'm doing some hiking over the next day or three. Seems like some interesting terrain around here... Then I'm back on the road."

The two continued talking as they walked, neither bringing up anything serious, but both flirting a bit. Ten minutes later they had arrived in front of Isabel's home.

"Well, here's my stop. Thanks for walking me home."

"No worries. You never know what's lurking in the night, so you're always better to be careful." He paused, then offered her his hand. "Take care of yourself, Isabel Evens."

Isabel gave him a quick hug instead of taking his hand. "You too, Xander Harris. Maybe we'll run into each other again sometime."

"Maybe. It's a pretty small world."

"Well... Bye then." And with that she turned and headed up the sidewalk to her front door. With a quick look back, she waved, then went inside.

He waited a moment, till the door had closed, and then headed back towards the hotel. As he walked he pulled out his cell phone, dialing the number for the sheriff. Quickly and concisely he relayed what had happened with the football player and Isabel. Valenti assured him he'd have an officer swing by and pick the kid up and take him home, as well as have a discussion with his parents about not understanding what no meant.

As he started to head back to the hotel, one of the questions Isabel had asked stuck in his mind. "Where is home?" she had asked.

Those three words gnawed at him the entire walk back.

As Xander's head hit the pillow, his mind was already wandering. Why was it that he always seemed to find himself in situations where he always had to intervene.

<Because of who you are, Alexander.>

'What's that supposed to mean, some kind of trouble magnet?'

<Not at all, Alexander. You are simply unable to stand by while some injustice occurs or an innocent suffers. Your character will not permit you to do nothing when action is an option.> Elan sounded almost proud.

'In other words, I can't mind my own business...'

The resulting laughter filled his mind. <No. Although perhaps I should say not entirely. You want to help people. You want to see the best in others, and help them see it. You think of others before you think of yourself, or of your safety.>

'I hear a but concealed in there somewhere.'

<But, no matter how hard you try. No matter how selfless you are, or how powerful, or skilled, no matter what else occurs, no one, not you, not your friends, not anyone, no one can save everyone Alexander.>

Xander sighed. 'I know that Elan. But somehow that just isn't much of a comfort.'

<No, it is not. Now sleep, for tomorrow, we train.>

As her Bearer drifted off, Elan caught a fragmentary thought wondering if Thor had any relatives around here.... She sighed as she prepared to watch over her charge in the Dreaming. <How far he still has to go...>

"Ok Mikki, Tara, I'll be back in three or four days, ok?"

Neither of the ladies looked really happy about the announcement, but both had already tried to convince him not to go. Both had eventually given up, long before he had given in.

"Look, this is something I need to do."

Mikki was the first to respond. "Yeah, people NEED to go out into the desert with no food or water. That's just right up there on..." Her words petered out as she realized that she didn't know quite how to finish the flip comment.

Xander ruffled her hair. "Keep practicing kiddo. You'll soon master the art of the smart aleck comment." He looked over to Tara. "You've got the money and ATM card I gave you? And remember the PIN?"

Tara nodded then recited the number which Xander had told her. The look in her eyes as she recited it... Well, if he hadn't already sent trouble careening towards Darynville, well he would have sent trouble careening their way. No innocent should have the look of fear of punishment in their eyes every time they answer a simple question.

"Tara," he said as warmly as he could. "I swear, you've got nothing to worry about from your family anymore. And you don't have anything to fear from me. So, will I'm out, I want you to take a couple of days, go shopping with Mikki and enjoy yourselves, ok?"

The softly mumbled response, Xander knew, was the best he was going to get anytime soon.

He gave each of them a hug. As he walked out the door, he didn't know which effected him more. The fact that Mikki didn't want to let him go, or that Tara flinched from the human touch.

Sheriff Valenti was leaning against the front of his truck, sipping a cup of coffee. "Morning Xander."

"Morning Sheriff." Xander looked him over for a moment. "Any particular reason that you're waiting outside my hotel room on this, well, let's just say way too early in the morning?"

"Thought you'd be heading out to the desert today, since you mentioned some kind of survival training. Wanted to make sure that your girls would be ok, as well as check to see how long you were planning on camping out there..."

"You check up on everybody who visits Roswell like this?"

"Nope, just the ones who have more contacts before they're old enough to vote, than I have made in twenty years of being sheriff."

"Fair enough," said Xander as he made sure his coat was buttoned up.

The sheriff glanced around the parking lot. "You waiting for your friend to show up?"

"Nope." He paused for a moment. "You know the desert around here I'm guessing?"

"I know it pretty well. Not as well as some of the trackers out on the reservation, but well enough to get by. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I thought I'd ask you, what area around here is the roughest terrain, the most inhospitable?"

Valenti thought for a moment. "Probably the Crags. It's some kind of nasty rock field. About two miles east from the old state highway, six miles out of town. Some of the formations in that area are close to a couple hundred feet tall, with lots of nasty crevasses and pitfalls. Probably a half dozen hikers get hurt or go missing out there every year. Sometimes entire families." He paused for a moment, lost in thought.

"Something specific?"

"Not really. Just thinking about a couple of kids who lost their folks out that way in the late eighties. Anyway, definitely an area to watch out for. So, where's your gear?"

"My friend, she's got everything with her. All I'm taking is what's on me now."

"A word of advice son, leave the jacket behind. Even this time of year, with this heat wave, we're looking at breaking into the nineties."

"Yeah, but what's it get down to at night?" asked Xander.

The sheriff shrugged and commented that around here, it tended to be bake or freeze. Not a whole lot of middle ground. "So your friend supposed to meet you here?"

"Actually, she's onsite already," he said with a grin. "I'm supposed to get out to the desert to meet her."

"Well, hop in," said the Sheriff as he opened the driver's side door and slid in. After a moment's thought, Xander got in on the passenger side. "So, where you need to go?"

"Head out on the old state highway, about six miles." Xander grinned at Valenti's sputtered response. "Well, it wouldn't be survival training if it were easy, now would it..."

Part Two

Xander muttered under his breath as he felt for another hand hold on the rock face. "'Go to the desert,' she says. 'It's something you need to do.' Oh yeah, this is just SUCH a good time!"

'There is no need to try and speak under your breath Alexander. You know I can hear you."

"That's not the point," he said as he found the grip he was looking for and pulled himself over to a more stable position. "And you know it. When you want to vent when somebody's listening, you do it under your breath. You can hear my thoughts, Faith and Buffy, well the other Buffy, or the... Anyway, Buffy, it didn't matter if they could hear me or not. I wanted to vent, I did it under my breath..."

'Your reasoning is less than spectacular on this argument, Alexander."

"It's not supposed to be valid. That's why it's called venting!" With a final pull, he got his head above the top of the cliff, then swung his legs up behind him. After taking a second to take a breath, hold it then exhale, Xander looked out from the plateau, out over the desert sands and rocky outcroppings.

'Now, Alexander, you need to....'

"Hang on Elan... I'm having a moment. I mean, take a look at this. Its like something out of a painting or something."

Watching through the eyes of her Bearer, the Kine Warrior looked out over the scene before her, and saw what Alexander did. The subtle colors, shifting with the sands, reflecting the beating rays of the sun in a vibrant spectrum of golden beauty. The pieces of life, plants and animals, which had adapted to the harsh environment of Earth's deserts.

It had been a long time since she had just watched the sun shine and reveled in the beauty of nature. Well, not all that long, she conceded to herself as she recalled walking across the grass, the soft smell of the flowers and warmth of the daylight. It was a gift the Creator had given her, if only for a few moments, that she would cherish for lifetimes.

After a few more moments of taking it in, Xander spoke. "And we're done." He stepped back to the center of the rock on which he was perched. "So, now that I'm out here in the middle of nowhere, just before noon, also known as the hottest part of the day, in my black leather sweatbox, what are we doing?"

'Well,' she said with a chuckle that Xander oh so definitely did not share, "How about we find you something to drink..."

"I never thought that almost hot water could taste so good," said Xander as he scooped a handful of water from the pool near the back of the cave.

'It's actually quite cool, Alexander.'

"Then why does it feel so warm?"

'That might have something to do with the fact that you've been running around in the desert with so many clothes on that your body temperature is close to a hundred and five degrees.'

Xander stood there dumbfounded for a moment, then moved to pull off his duster.

'No Alexander, leave it on.'

If Elan had been a corporeal being, Xander would have been staring at her like she was a blithering idiot. As it was, the waves of disbelief he was radiating managed to get the emotion across pretty well. "Leave it on, she says." He muttered to himself. "You know, there are times when this whole Defender of the world bit gets a little old."

'You say that as if you have some vast experience in it, Alexander. You have been on the front lines for six, perhaps seven years, or less than one, depending on how you look at the timestreams. My battles have spanned millennia, watched more friends, warriors and family died, or wiped from this plane, than I care to even contemplate.' She paused for a moment, and in that brief hesitation, Xander felt a depth of loneliness and pain far beyond anything he ever wanted to experience again. 'Now, let us begin. Visualize in your minds eye.....'

'Needs garlic.'

'Didn't your parents never teach you not to speak with your mouth full?'

'No, their lessons were more along the lines of how to open a beer without disturbing the foam, how to properly make a long island iced tea, avoidance 101 and how to waste your life in ten easy steps. And anyway, this isn't technically talking, so what's the difference.' Xander continued chewing the roots he had dug up from the desert floor. 'So, what's next on the agenda?'

'That depends on you. You picked up the metabolic tricks rather quickly, possibly as you used a similar technique to teach the young witch to cool herself. Let us try something different. Do you have anything you wish to work on, Alexander?'

'Hmm... Well, a couple of things come to mind, but you know, I would like to know some more about the whole Kine thing. I mean, you've told me I've picked up a few of the skills that a normal Bearer....'

'Alexander, I have never had a 'Normal' Bearer. Each was unique, special in their own right, as are you. Even though you are extremely unprepared and untrained for that which lays before you, before us, you do not just take steps along this path, you make monumental leaps forward.'

'Well, as much as that ego boost feels good, it still doesn't help that I have no idea what I'm doing in the big picture. This stuff just gets thrown at me, and so far I've managed to keep my head above water, but sooner or later, luck gives out.'

'There is much wisdom in your words, Alexander, and even more truth.'

'Anyway, when we were, separated, after the Hitch, I realized that I didn't know what I was working with. And without knowing what I have, what I can do, I'm eventually going to do something dumb because I didn't realize all of my options. That's not something I want to be worried about. I need to finish going through the basic training that I would have had if I'd been a Bearer back in the day. Plus, we need to go through some of the advanced classes as well. Never know when I'm going to have a run in with another troublemaker like Glory.'

'Never would be my first choice, Alexander. But, as for what you have said, know this. Much of the training that a Bearer would have before being bonded with one of my kind, was done through the standing forces the Kine maintained. Some of those lessons, of those skills, you have already become proficient in. Others, we will have to work on. Much of the basic training as you call it, was to familiarize and train the Kine recruits in the workings and capabilities of the equipment and weapons they would be sent into battle with. Equipment and weapons that you, that we, are very unlikely to come across in our journeys. As Niume confirmed, none of the Kine installations survived the Fall. Therefore, I feel it would be in our best interests to forego that portion of the training. Considering the strength of our bond, it is very unlikely any opponent would be able to separate us for any significant period of time. As such, we should focus on training your mind and body, weapons which no opponent can take away from you. After we have completed that training,' she said with a bit of mental joviality, 'then we can discuss equipment and weapon familiarization.'

'How long will the first bit of training take?'

'Oh, no more than thirty or forty years.' He could hear the laughter in her voice.

'Yeah, I walked into that one, didn't I.' He paused. 'One other thing. I want to know more about the whole Kine thing. Not just the training and equipment, I want to know about the history and traditions. I mean, it's pretty pathetic that I'm a Commander in this whole thing without knowing a damn thing about it. Even if I don't have anybody other than Jacks to be a Commander over.'

Elan hesitated before responding. In that pause, Xander could feel the emotional turbulence that was passing through the once woman who was now his battlestaff. 'I will teach you about the Kine, Alexander. But before I do so, I would ask a request of you.'

'Name it.'

'I would like to, pay my last respects to, what was once my home. To my family. After that, I shall tell you all manner of stories.'

'Sounds like a deal. I just want to make sure that somebody remembers who and what they were. And somehow it seems right to me for that person to wear the uniform they once did...' He grinned, rolling to his feet as he did so. 'Speaking of which, do I get a uniform? And if so, tell me its better than that chain mail bikini thing....'

'Just for that, I think we'll have a nice little run. Say about ten miles?' But even as she tried to be stern and upset, Xander could feel the laughter within her.

His steady footfalls ate up the distance with each stride. 'You want to know what's sad,' he thought. 'A couple of years ago, or last year I guess... Man, I hate time travel... Anyway, it used to be that there was no way I could keep up this pace.'

'More accurately, it is likely that you couldn't even reach this pace, even at a sprint.'

Xander watched the landscape move by. 'I'm going that fast? Like Jesse Owens fast?'

'Perhaps not quite that quickly, but your speed has definitely improved significantly.'

'I need like one of those heads-up speedometers....' His thought drifted off for a moment. 'Elan, could we practice that data overlay thing some more?'

'I am not sure that is a good idea Alexander. You have shown that it affects your balance and equilibrium in a rather intense negative fashion.'

'Well, yeah, it threw me for a loop. You try and have your vision get a pop-up overlay out of nowhere. But its kind of a useful thing to be able to do, even if not in combat. I mean, say I'm at Willy's, you can show me the strengths and weaknesses of all the different species. Point out what world ending widget I'm not supposed to bleed on.'

'The idea does of merit. When you are not moving at a speed which it could cause significant damage, perhaps we shall try it...'

'And, I get my very own sub-titles....'

Elan's response to that was untranslatable, with or without subtitles.

As he worked through the advanced battlestaff kata, Xander felt a calmness flow over him. A peace. He could feel himself moving, flowing with the moves, into the strikes, in a way he had one had hints of before. He watched, almost from over his own shoulder, as he saw, no, as he knew where the strike was at, where it was going, and what the reaction would be. Each move felt right, as if he could think about it for quite awhile before it connected, as he knew it was right.

Elan's extended form was a shimmering blur as he spun, twisted and blocked foes of shadow and thought from their imaginary attacks. Spinning, he slapped the end of the staff into the ground, transferring a good chunk of kinetic energy into the dirt and rocks, allowing him to massively alter the pattern he was using without overextending his arms.

He continued the martial dance, his eyes idly tracking the debris he had kicked loose with the strike. As he wove an intricate defensive pattern, some of the fragments vanished from his sight.

Not altered or stopped, just gone from the path that they had followed as they arced through the air.

Without thinking, he stepped back, abruptly breaking the pattern, which Elan started to comment about, bringing the Ancient weapon into a defensive position.

But, before she could get more than a 'sound' of reproachment out, Xander's word/thoughts stopped her in her metaphysical tracks.

"Elan... We're being watched..."

Part Three

I have been travelling for several days now, heading towards the source of the transmission I detected earlier. During the course of my travels, I have detected the transmission several times, although have been unable to determine either a schedule to the transmission times, or been able to determine the exact technology base which may have constructed the transmitter.

This planet, or more precisely the society through which I am travelling, seems to be very segmented. I have seen a wide variety of archetectural concepts, not at all like home, where everything has been planned with a sense of aesthetics in place, even if it a minor concern.

It is my belief that this is a relatively young culture, although they seem to be making rapid development in a variety of technological area. Although, this does not seem to be spread evenly throughout the culture. Earlier today I passed several of the dominant lifeforms astride some form of quadrepeds. I find it somewhat odd that other beings here use mechanical transport, either on the ground or airborne, yet others use organic lifeforms as a primary transport. As I make my way through the undeveloped sections of land towards my goal, I have seen a variety of makeshift paths and have passed a multitude of the beings here who seemed to be on a journey, carrying large packs and making their way on foot. I wish that there had been time to perform a full video surveilence on said beings for an extended period. As per standard mission parameters, I have been constantly recording my surroundings, but as usual, there is no way to integrate these brief glimpses into a larger picture without far more data to work from.But then again, that is for the cultural anthropologists and researchers to concern themselves with. Mine is to carry out a standard survey.

I have finally reached the area in which the alien transmitter is located, however, at this time I am unable to narrow down the target area to a specific locus. In addition to the random times of transmission, the individual who designed this transmission equipment or facility, was both creative and security conscious. There are a multitude of emitters for the transmitter itself, all of which seem to be shielded from ground level observation. At the time of broadcast several of these emitter nodes go life and the signal is rapidly switched between them for the duration of the transmission. As the transmissions themselves tend to last for milliseconds, it is difficult to get enough data recorded to even locate an emitter assembly.

I am quite confident that this technology is not native to this planet's technological base, and has been placed here by another species. The purpose of said installation, or of the overall objective of said species, is unknown at this time.

Although I have continued my search, I have been unable to locate either an emitter array or the central facility from which these broadcasts are originating. I have, however, stumbled across something of equal if not greater interest.

Earlier this day, I observed a native, I believe it to be a male, near the age of maturity, as he was engaged in some sort of ritual. Having just completed ascending the rock face without the aid of any kind of climbing equipment or safety equipment, he stopped at the summit of the rock face, held his arms out wide and looked out over the surrounding desert.

Perhaps this is some sort of religous ritual, or a rite of passage of some kind. I have been unable to detect any other natives in this area, which is unusually harsh, even for this geographical region.

As I was viewing this individual, my personal sensor suite began to vibrate on my harness, attracting my attention. Upon examination of its readings, I discovered that the individual before me had an energy signature similar to that of one of the artifacts we discovered in the ancient ruins on the planet from which my exploration began. The artifact I mention was crafted in an unknown fashion, in the shape of two pyramids fused together at the bases.

This form was floating in a crystalline matrix or box, which we have been unable to open at the time of my departure. The energy signature of the inner form of that artifact matches that which is overlaid and intertwined with that of the individual I am observing. I am attaching sensor readings to this report, but I have no idea what to make of this.

The implications are interesting to say the least. Not to mention what the purpose of the artifact we discovered could be. I am continuing observation in hopes that more information will be revealed over time.

At this point, I must confess confusion. The subject I am observing is demonstrating abilities which do not make sense. I believe that some of these confusing observations may have something to do with the energy signature which I have previously noted. The young native will be performing some physical activity, which my sensors indicate are near the physical limitations of it's physiology. Then, it will go beyond the limits indicated by my sensors, at the same time as a flucation of both it's bio-electric field and of that energy signature that surrounds and infuses it.

This would be interesting enough on its own, but I have witnessed a clear violation of physical laws. The native simply held out its hand, its empty hand, and then there was something in said hand. Sensor data was inconclusive as to what had occured, but in short, a physical object was present were a millisecond previously there was nothing. And then, said object multiplied both its physical volume and mass, while its density remained the same.

The scout watched curiously as the native used its extended staff in some form of martial art. There was an innate beauty to the spinning, shimmering disc that was visible as the being went through whatever routine it was performing.

'By the Empress, that hurt!' thought the scout as it lifted its hand to its shoulder, where a rock fragment had struck a glancing blow. A trace of blood was visible on its hand as it looked at it. He shook his head as he pondered the odds of being hit like that, in what was clearly a fluke chance.

'Oh,' thought the scout as the native looked straight at it as it dropped into a ready combat stance. 'This is not good...'he thought to himself as he began to move....

Xander scanned the area in front of him. He knew the rocks had vanished from sight. His eyes moved back and forth over the landscape as his hand moved Elan into a second defensive position without conscious thought.

<Whatever is observing us, it is...>

Xander cut off ELan with a thought... 'There! Did you see that?'

The 'That' being refered to was a very slight flicker in midair. < Indeed. Your perception is very good, Alexander. Now, try and follow it...>

Xander slowly pivoted, keeping the staff at the ready. "Blood," he whispered as he saw the blue-green splotches on the ground. "Well, on the upside, I'm not facing off against a Yautja. Even if the thing has a better stealth field," he muttered. Breathing in, he closed his eyes then reopened them. "Gotcha!"

The scout watched the a mix of amazement and horror as the native turned to face him again. Swallowing, he moved again, being extremely careful not to make a sound as he did so. The native still tracked him.

Xander muttered under his breath. "Well, unless they've paid a visit to the island of Dr. Moreau, that's not a Yautja. Any idea, Elan?"

'I cannot identify the species, Alexander. The aura is not enough on it's own to provide identification...'

Shaking his head, Xander made a comment about not being able to get any peace and quiet in the middle of the desert even. "Hey," he said loudly. "I know you're right there." He pointed right at the creature. "So why don't you drop the cloak and we can... Well, do something..."

The scout was completely confused. How could the native see him. He'd already checked the readouts on his equipment and everything was working fine. Blue, right across the board. He moved, the native watched him. And now it was speaking to him. The tone didn't seem hostile, but he had that staff and was making no attempt to put it away. Not that a six foot staff was something that could be stuffed into a pouch. Well, not a normal one anyway, the one this native was using, it could be, but would it... He sighed and rubbed his temples. This mission was giving him a headache. Huffing with resignation, he reached for his equipment.

Xander was waiting, watching as the figure shimmered into existence before him. Unlike the stealth suit used by the Yautja, this seemed to fade in an almost stylized fashion, like a shadow coming to life.

"Well, at least we know they have style..." he said to nobody in particular. Then, louder, he continued, sliding Elan into the holster on his thigh as he did so. "So, any chance you speak English?"

Elan chided him before the alien could respond. 'That's your attempt at a First Contact greeting?!' Xander didn't have to be able to see her, or even technically be able to hear her, to pick up on the disbelief that was rolling off of her.

'Hey! I've never... Ok, I did this a couple of times before but give me a break, I wasn't really expecting my quality time bonding with the heat to be interupted by Ed the Wonder Horse here...'

'One of these days Alexander, we are going to have to work on appropriate behavior for this sort of event…'

'Fine,' responded Xander, who then muttered under his breath that maybe he should look into opening a long term saucer parking facility near the Crashdown....

Xander then, a little louder, muttered under his breath. "If he says 'I come in peace.' I am heading for the hills... Oh wait, I'm already IN the hills... Maybe I could head for the beach... No, already spent too much time around way too much sand… "

'Maybe we should work on the appropriate attitude issue sooner rather than later...'

'Fine, fine,' he though... 'How about this?' He extended his hand and very solemnly spoke. "Hey Ed… If you're looking for a phone, there's one in town..."


Part Four

Xander shook his head with a sigh. There was just no pleasing some people, or rune weapons, or rune weapons who used to be people.

"No nome do Yarnak, eu cumprimento-o," spoke the centauroid in a deep alto voice as he brought his hands together over his chest.

<Any clue?>

<It is not any language which I am fluent with, although it does sound familiar.>

'Doesn't sound like anything I've picked up either,' responded Xander. 'Hang on, I'll try the universal greeting.'

<Universal greeting?>

"Bah weeb grana, wheet nini bong," he said solemnly then muttered that he didn't have the required energon goodie.

The sigh that the ancient warrior responded with was almost audible.

<Well it was worth a try.>

<No, it wasn't.>

<Fine, you try one.>

And so it went for the next five minutes or so, first Xander, then the centauroid trying to find a language which the other understood.


'Wait, that was a form of Ancient,' said Elan excitedly.

Xander repeated the phrase back that the Centaur had spoken, then added what Elan said translated to 'I welcome you, fellow traveller'.

'Finally,' thought the scout. 'Some progress.' "Can you understand this tongue?"

"With difficulty," came the reply. "It is not quite the same as the barzak I know."

"But we shall try, yes?"

"Yes. Where are you from Traveller?"

"I have journeyed many grignak since I came to this world through the Chappa'ai."

'Chappa'ai?' thought both Elan and Xander, nearly simultaneously.

'Well, that means the Gate is active, although I can't help but wonder how he snuck through. The SGC security is pretty formidable.'

'No Alexander, it shall be formidable. We do not know what the security is at this time, when the Gate program is currently shut down. There may be no security in place at all. Did not the powers behind the SGC consider the gate to be useless when they thought the Abydos gate had been destroyed?'

'True. But that means that Ed here may not be the only alien wandering around the planet unattended. More potential problems.'

'Just because they are aliens, does not mean that they are fated to be enemies.'

'I'm from SunnyDale Elan. Paranoia is a survival skill.' Then he turned his mental attention back to the blue skinned centaur.

"So, where do you come from on the other side of the Chappa'ai?"

"You know of the Chappa'ai?"

"Yes, in fact I have been through it more than once, to more than one other world."

"Indeed? It did not seem to be in use when I passed through it."

"Not at this time," replied Xander. "But you still have not said where you come from."

"The name of the world from which I travelled via the Chappa'ai is Marklar."

<Notice he did not say it was his home>

<Yeah, I picked up on that too... Looks like we've either got a wanderlusting Mr. Ed ripoff, or he's on the run from something.>

<Or he is a scout?>

<Oh that's even better, alien races scouting Earth for who knows why? You know, life was simplier when it was just vampires!>

<No, it was never simpler, you were just not able to see as much as you do now, Alexander.>

"So how did you come to this planet named Marklar?" asked Xander, a grin on his face.

'Damn, this youngling is a sharp shknikt.' "Very clever?" the centauroid paused and Xander caught the hesitation.

"Oh, we never did introductions, did we?" He performed a proper Kine salute, which he sensed made Elan more than a bit happy, then offered his hand. "My name is Xander. Welcome to Earth."

"In the Name of the Empress, I thank you. Mine name is Rochuned." The blue centauroid performed what Xander assumed was a salute of his own, slapping his hands heavily against his harness. For some reason, the gesture looked off to Xander, but he shrugged as the blue guy offered his own right hand, albeit it hesitantly.

"So," asked the biped. "What brings you to the neighborhood?"

Xander watched as the centauroid dropped its hand from the departing wave it had offered, then slipped behind one of the huge rock formations which dotted the area.

<Think he'll make it home safe?>

<There is no way for us to know, Alexander. The fact that he has made it out of the SGC once indicates that he should be able to return through the gate safely.>

The teen pulled his newest weapon from the waistband of his belt. <You know, I lose more good knives giving them away to aliens than I do in combat.>

<But just think, Alexander. You have also gained more weapons from aliens gifting them to you than anyone else who knows you.>

<What about SG-1?>

<Ah, but I said who knows you, not who you know.>

Xander muttered about damn temporal loops and time travel and smart ass rune weapons as he pulled the blade free of the sheath. <No crosses on this one,> he thought. <Going to have to get it blessed if its going to be of any real use.>

<Not that I would dream of contradicting my commander, but have you though of the advantages of having a knife, which has the same ability to cut as Kagi'Maro. Which is not detectable as magic, nor is detectable by the technological means posessed by the vast majority of the authorities whom you will encounter.>

Xander turned the blade in his hands, carefully keeping clear of the edge of the blade. As he did, his mind began to consider the possibilities which he had overlooked before.

<We can discuss possible new techniques and tactics later, Alexander.> Elan said. <In the meantime, as your culture says, Daylight is wasting.>

Xander stopped, and had Elan been standing there, he would have looked at her in disbelief. <I just had an encounter with another alien, got a nifty blade out of the deal and you want to get back to training before he's even a couple hundred yards away?>

<Maybe next time you'll listen when I tell you not to eat as much before training? >

As Xander's groan sent a lizard skittering across the desert sands, Elan began to instruct him on what was next on the agenda.

As he began to head back toward the chappa'ai, Rochuned considered what the.. What Xander had told him. That security was about to be stepped up at the installation that housed the chappa'ai.

His story seemed a bit off, about his, what was the word he had used. His uncle working at the place, that was how he had been through the Ancient device. But then again, he seemed knowledgable as to how the gate network worked, at least in general sense.

Pausing, he removed a tiny device from the palm of his hand. Slapping the harness as he had, well it looked silly, but it got the sampler in place for what he had needed. Carefully, he dropped the unit into the larger system on his lower back, watching as the indicators went through their normal sequence. Only when the blue indicator came on did Rochuned breath a sigh of relief. This Xander was definitely interesting, and interesting things always needed to have tabs kept on them, less they come back around and stick you in the hoof.

Checking the readouts on his transciever, he verified that the remote sensor which he was now several hundred atarns away from was functional, then switched it to record mode only. His reciever hummed briefly as the signal strength dropped to nothing and it attempt to reacquire the signal which was no longer transmitting.

Taking a sip from his waterpack, he took a moment, enjoying the view, before heading towards home.

"Hey Lucy, I'm?." cried Xander as he swung the door open to the hotel room. His bad cuban accent was cut off by what seemed to be a hypervelocity projectile leaping across the room and wrapping him in a hug. "Hey Mikki," he said as he tried to get his breath back. "Guess you missed me, huh?"

"Don't like you going off alone!" said the young were in that caring yet selfish way that only small children can pull off.

"I know, but I had some stuff to take care of. Did you and Tara do okay without me?" He switched his gaze to the young Wicca as he wrapped an arm around Mikki.

To his surprise, Tara met his gaze, a twinkle in her eyes visible before she looked away. "We? We did fine?. I tried to take her to the park, but there were too many people there for her to, you know?"

"And a couple of them smelled funny too," stated Mikki firmly. "And one of them kept watching me as I watched him. He didn't wasn't like the other kids?"

Xander looked to Tara again. "He looked lonely. I think Mikki watching him? I think it made him nervous."

"Like he knew what she was?"

"N? No. Like he was afraid of strangers I think," said Tara, a bit hesitantly. "And, as.. As we were leaving I saw another kid come over to him, they seemed to know each other. The second one told him something and they both left. He seemed happy when we left the park."

"Stupid boy!" said Mikki. "I wanted to bite him, but Tara said I shouldn't."

"Well, tell you what, how about we go grab a bite to eat that's not a stupid boy and I'll tell you both about somebody I ran into out in the desert."


The sun was had barely crested the hills when Xander found himself standing in front of the Roswell Sheriff's department. He'd waited in his car for a few moments as the deputies headed for their cars after the morning roll call, then headed inside once the office had emptied out somewhat.

The small bell above the door jingled softly as he swung the door open and stepped inside.

"Can I help you?" asked the rookie who was on desk duty.

"Yeah, I'd like to speak with Sheriff Valenti please. Tell him Xander's here to see him if he has time. "

The sheriff was in the main area a moment later and gestured for Xander to follow him into his office. "I'd ask what brings you here this morning," said Valenti. "But I'm almost afraid to ask."

"Actually, I just stopped by to say thanks. The girls are getting cleaned up before we head out of town, but I wanted to let you know that we're on our way."

Jim looked at the young man before him, then stood and offered his hand. "I appreciate it." He paused for a moment, then spoke again. "Look, I know when I'm out of my depth, and I definitely get the feeling that I don't even want to know about the circles you move in. But you did a good thing by getting those girls out of that town. I've been a cop for a long time, and from time to time I hear things, about some of the kinds of people who? Like those in Darynville. Sometimes one of the problems of wearing this," he tapped the badge on his shirt. "Sometimes it means we can't do things we know need done. Not an stay true to the oath we swear." He glanced over at a picture which Xander guessed was of his own father. "Not and stay sane." Again he paused. "I can't do you what you do son, but I can offer this. You did the right thing and saved two innocents in the process. If you ever need a place to lay low, and I know I'm going to regret this, there's always a couch at my place."

Xander looked at him and then offered his own hand. "Sheriff, I appreciate the offer. But the circles I run in, I wouldn't want to inflict that kind of experience on you. You just raise your son and keep people as safe as you can here. That's the kind of support I need, knowing there are good people out there, who are worth fighting for."

And with that, he was gone.

As the Charger rolled out of town, heading east towards Texas, Xander glanced at his two newest girls. Mikki was stretched out in the backseat, basking in the early morning sunlight. Tara was turned sideways in the passenger seat, and was looking out the rear window.

"Well," he started. "It's a nice little town. A little on the theme attraction side, kinda a bit hokey, but not bad. I met two interesting people here, and one of 'em was definitely out of this world? " He glanced back over at Tara. "What'd you think about it, Tara?"

Tara looked like she wanted to fold in on herself, but she quietly said that she thought it looked like a nice quiet town.

"So, since you guys didn't go get yourselves anything while I was baking out in the sun, we're going to do some shopping today or tomorrow. I heard there's a nice mall in Lubbock?"

"I? I don't need anything?"

Xander reached over and gently patted her on the shoulder. "Tara, I know things haven't been easy for you. And I know that you probably don't really know what to make of me yet, but I promise you, I am your friend. And one thing I am notorious for, is doing anything in my power to take care of my friends." He glanced at Mikki, who was making a noise half between a snore and a purr in the backseat as she slept. "Neither one of you have much more than the clothes on your back, and that's something I can do something about."

"But I can't? I don't have much money?"

Xander chuckled. "Like I said, money's not a big deal. From what I remember of you, you're not much of a clothes horse, so I'm not worried about you going over board."

"Wh? What do you mean, what you remember? We just met."

"Yeah," he said with a grin. "This time around?" He gently tapped the breaks, a split second before a large owl passed through the space where the car would have passed had he not slowed. "So, other than the whole how do I know you when you don't know me thing, do you have any questions?"

The miles rolled by as the two talked, starting to build a friendship. For one it was a chance to be able to ask questions and talk freely as she learned about her new friend. For the other, it was a chance to get to know the person he had only started to really become friends with before he found himself adrift in the sea of time.

Xander slid the third and final bag into the trunk of the Charger and closed the lid. After the shopping experiences he had in the past three? no, it was the next four? "Arggh," he muttered. "I hate time travel."

<You should be thankful for it Alexander.>

'Oh yeah, its so slick. I get to relive the past five years of my life, and hope I don't mess stuff up badly enough to make some major paradox occur.'

<Well, look at the positive. If you hadn't had access to it, the world would have definitely ended, as opposed to ending only if you 'mess things up'.>

'You're not helping, you know that right?'

Xander wasn't sure which was worse, hearing Elan's laughter, or feeling Kagi'Maro's amusement.

He slid into the car, looking at Tara and Mikki. "So, you two ready for the next leg of our road trip?"

Both nodded, and he started up the massive engine and got the Charger onto the Interstate. As the mall fell away in the rearview, he commented that shopping with them was a breeze compared to Cordy and Buffy, not to mention Ms. Parker.

An hour had passed in relative silence in the car, Mikki had a set of headphone on and was listening to the sounds of the jungle, while Tara was reading through one of the books she had brought with her.

"Whatcha reading there Tara?" asked Xander idly. He didn't want to turn the radio on, but the silence was getting to him. He was pretty sure that Elan and Kagi were 'discussing' something, but he wasn't sure what, so for a change, the voice in his head were pretty quiet.

She looked up like she'd been caught doing something she wasn't supposed to, but after a second, the reaction faded.

"I'm not going to bite or take it away, I was just curious."

"Sor? Sorry? I'm just not used to? " She paused, marking her place in the book and closing it. "I was just reading one of my mother's books."

"Like a journal, or a? Or, what did they? A book of shadows?"

"No no no. Its not black magic!"

"Relax Tara. A book of shadows is just a witch's spell book. Some of them are passed down through families for generations. Its just another word for a? a grimoire." From the corner of his eye, Xander saw Tara relax a little bit, but could tell she was still a bit edgy.

"So, have you cast a lot of spells before?"

"N? No? My mother, she taught me a little bit, but I think that my? My father, he didn't like what she did. From what she wrote, when he caught her, or even thought, she'd been prac?practicing.. He got very mad at her? "

"Well, from what you pulled off last week, you've definitely got the talent. If you want, I could try and give you some pointers? The few I know anyway."

"That? That's nice of you, but I'll be ok."

"You sure Tara? There no strings or anything?" When she said no, he shrugged and said its ok, but the offer still stands.

Soon after, they passed a sign that said 320 Miles to New Orleans.

Rochuned looked around the room where the Chappa'ai was located. Sneaking back into the facility had been somewhat more difficult than it had been to leave in the first place. It was almost like they were more concerned with people getting to the Chappa'ai, then with people like himself coming through it.

He made his way to the giant ring, checking his sensors to make sure there were no new surveillance devices recording the activity in the room. When the indicators came back negative, he nodded to himself, then pulled out a small piece of equipment from his equipment pack. He examined the ring carefully, then moved to the side of the Ancient device. Using one of his hands to steady himself, he raised himself up on his rear legs. Stretching, he reached the underside of the chevron and attached the device to one of the grooves which ran the circumference of the vaguely arrowhead shaped form.

Lowering himself back down, he sent a test signal through the piggyback transmitter. Now, assuming the? That Xander had been honest and he did indeed know where the Chappa'ai was, and that he ever used it again, the next time he was in the area, the device that Rochuned had just planted would come online.

Although not made of the same metal as the Chappa'ai itself, the device was colored similarly and should be missed on anything but the most thorough inspection. If Rochuned understood correctly, it would download the contents of the remote sensor device and then the next time the Chappa'ai was activated would use a signal generated by one of the secondary devices within the ring itself to piggyback the transmission to all other active devices. Although this was its first field test, the up and coming scientist who developed it claimed he not only understood how the Chappa'ai's themselves worked but was promising an entirely new way of travel based upon it.

But, he thought wryly, those bench warmers in the labs were always promising new technologies and better ways to do things. But, scouts like himself still found themselves pushing back the uncharted realms.

Satisfied that the device was working properly, he took one more look around the room before activating the Chappa'ai with his bracer. As the wormhole flowed into existence from top to bottom, he wondered if he'd be off on another mission soon, or if his report would generate enough of an uproar that he would be called home before he could step through to another world.

His bracer indicated code approval and he took a step, a step which sent him back the far edge of the galaxy.

As the sheet fluttered back into place, had anyone been in the room, they could have heard the approaching soldiers talking about the upcoming poker game, as well as how they were going to fleece the new blonde lady lieutenant who was playing for the first time that night.

Dusk's shadowy tendrils had long given way to the dark Georgian night. The dashed yellow line country road flowed past the Charger at a rapid pace, as the miles rolled past. To the driver's enhanced eyes, the darkness was almost as bright as the noon day sun.

As the Detroit steel rolled over the macadam road, his thoughts wandered around various topics. What the future would hold this time around? The consequences of his actions on the time line? Whether helping his friends would be for the better or for the worse? If he would be able to keep the same problems from arising again.

His thoughts were interrupted by his phone going off in silent mode. Pulling the phone, which he couldn't wait to replace with one of the far more compact versions, from his pocket. After glancing at the display, he thumbed it on and said hello.

After a moment, having just listened to the person on the other end, he said thanks.

At the next junction, he silently turned the car to the north. Away from Miami, and towards Washington DC.

Planet Marklar North-Eastern Galactic Edge of the Milky Way Galaxy

It had been three days since the now Senior Scout had returned from Gamma Theta Beta - Niner Four Six Epsilon Twelveteen and shortly after that return, the entire exploration base had been buzzing like a kicked over Jehkit hive.

Although specifics had been hard to come by, Yetlar had found through some of his slightly unauthorized computer taps, that there had been an energy signature records on that planet which bore a striking similarity to the one which had been recorded from one of the artifacts discovered in the main vault, near the bottom of the ruins.

It was this fact, coupled with the reports regarding the energy signature, which had the high command, none of whom were currently on planet, scrambling for answers.

Fortunately, it was extremely late according to the local clock, and so there was no hurry here. But that would change as soon as the rest of the base woke up, in about four more hours.

Yetlar's eyes kept drifting to the artifact in question, which he had moved from the storage chamber to his own lab mere moments after he had read the electronic message he should have never seen in the first place.

'Forgiveness if always easier to obtain than permission,' he thought as he focused his lab's observation remotes on the crystalline box. 'Besides, once I have discovered the method by which that central artifact is maintaining its distance from the sides and bottom of the box, I will have perhaps started us on the path to an entirely new science.'

After ensuring that the containment protocols were in place and the quarantine seals were in place on the test platform where the crystal box was sitting, and possibly most importantly that the door was locked, Yetlar brought the remote armature assembly online and moved it over the closest upper edge of the box.

Working carefully, he first brought a high magnification scanner online and carefully examined the seam. Or what should have been a seam. He could find no trace of any kind of break. Moving the scanner along the entire length of the edge, then around the entire top, he could find no indication of how the top, or at least what he assumed was the top, had been joined. Somewhat perplexed, he checked each and every edge on the box, with the same result.

For the life of him, he had no idea how such an artifact could have been created, but the box itself wasn't the treasure. The item inside was. It was the source of the main energy signature, as well as being immune to little things like gravity or inertia.

Not one to be stymied by a little thing like adversity, Yetlar brought a plasma cutter online within the quarantine. He brought the cutting torch into contact with the crystal and brought it to ten percent power. His eyes widened as the material shrugged off the torch as if it weren't even there.

Determined not be thwarted, he increased the power to twenty-five percent, then thirty-five, then fifty percent as there was no effect. It took him close to a minute to believe what his eyes and his instruments were showing him. But once he accepted it, he ramped the power up again, pushing it to seventy-five, then eighty-five, and then ninety percent power. At that point, he heard one of the sensors chirp as the plasma torch began to slowly eat through the material.

Excited, he pushed it up to ninety-five percent and smiled gleefully as the progress quickened.

There! The computer indicated the material had been breached.

He shut down the torch, thinking about what tested he could run through the breech, when his eyes widened. He watched in disbelief as the inner artifact seemed to almost ripple, first stretching, then contracting back to its original size and shape.

He started to move towards the instruments, to try and see what they would indicate had occurred as well as to verify the containment seals. But before he could move more than a length, he opened his mouth as to scream, but nothing came out.

A look of sheer agony appears on his face and he falls to the floor, all six limbs thrashing. A moment later he became still. In the crystalline box, the inner artifact faded from sight.

Several moments passed before the form rose from the floor and stood, somewhat shakily at first. It raised a blue hand in front of its face and examined the digits, as if it were seeing them for the first time. After a moment, it reaches for the computer display, its eyes flashing silverish - purple as a feral snarl falls across its face.



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