Year Zero

Turn of the Tides

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

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

Summary: After a near Tragedy, Xander takes stock of his direction and sets himself a new course.

Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

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

Feedback, It's the coin of the realm.

March 01, 1996
Rio de Janeiro

Xander walked up to the hospital, feeling more then a little uneasy. Tara was due to be released today, after a 'remarkable' recovery that had all the doctors 'baffled'. Apparently a little under three weeks stay in the hospital after going through critical surgery to remove a bullet from next to one's lungs was considered a little... miraculous.

What it was though, was merely nature taking it's course. Nature and some healing tips from Xander himself, and Tara's own connection to the earth energies that surrounded them.

Xander sighed as he remembered Tara's reaction to his guilt when she first woke up.

Two and a Half weeks earlier


Tara smiled weakly. "Hi Xander..."

"God, Tara... I'm so sorry... I should never have let you..."


Xander blinked. Tara interrupting him was odd enough, but her tone was actually commanding. "What?"

"Just... Stop." Tara said. "I chose to come. You said it was dangerous... I even t-t-threatened you with magic."

Xander shook his head, "Tara... I could have taken anything you could have dished out and still made you stay. It wasn't your fault. It was mine."

"Stop." She said again. "It doesn't m-m-matter... I chose. I... chose."

Xander hesitated, not use to hearing his own words thrown back in his face. How many times had he said the same thing to Buffy? How many times had he gone into situations at least as lethal as Tara had joined him on, with as little training and even less power? How many times had Buffy suffered through the same heartache as he was feeling right now?

Xander didn't know. He suddenly didn't want to know.

Finally he just nodded, "You're right. I'm sorry."

Tara frowned at him, her eyes getting tired again as the drugs crept up on her. "W-w-what for?"

"For trying to deny your right to chose, Tara." He whispered. "I'm sorry."

He looked up after saying that, but she was asleep.


Xander walked up, smiling as he saw Tara being wheeled down to him by an orderly. "How are you doing, Tiger?"

She glared at him, mildly of course, but still a glare. His nickname for her had caught on and the hospital personnel seemed to take great enjoyment out of calling the meek girl 'tiger'. "F-fine."

He caught the grin from the orderly and noticed the group of nurses and a couple doctors who had circled around. "I see your fans are all around to say good bye..."

She smiled hesitantly up at the surrounding people. Then looked down again, "T-t-thanks for everything..."

"Anytime." The big orderly grinned, "Just not too soon we hope."

Tara shook her head, smiling, but still looked at the ground. "Me too..."

Xander smiled, "Come on, Tiger. I've got a cab waiting to take us to the docks."

Tara nodded and pushed herself out of the chair, "O-ok."

As they walked down to the street Xander glacned back and smiled. He put out an arm to stop Tara, then motioned behind them.

She turned around and her eyes widened and her mouth gaped as she saw a huge banner draped from the third floor of the ultramodern hospital.

'Goodbye, Tiger... Stay Well!!'

She flushed red, but smiled at the gather staff who were laughing at her reaction, then waved one last time.

"Let's go." She said firmly a moment later, and Xander held the door open for her as she got into the cab.

"Docks please. Pier twenty-three."

As the cab approached the docks Xander's thoughts wandered back to when he first walked through here. It was after dark and he was doing a roving patrol, more to relieve tension then anything else. He'd nailed about four vamps that night, and was tracking number four when he saw 'it'.

Xander had planned to buy a boat in Miami, simply because Elan's interest wasn't actually *in* Miami, but rather a distance to the South East. So when he saw this one he simply knew.

The next day he identified the owner and put in a bid. The deal had closed remarkably fast, fast enough that Xander should have known better, but truthfully it probably wouldn't have mattered.

The next day he walked up to the boat, papers in hand, only to be rather surprised to find someone on board working on the engine.

Two Weeks Ago

"Hello?" Xander asked curiously as he hopped onto the boat.

"Yeah? What do you want?" An annoyed voice came from under the deck.

Xander blinked, "Umm... Who are you?"

A grease covered head poked up, "Maria. Maria Sanchez. Who the hell are you?"

"Umm... Xander Harris." Xander replied, "You mind if I ask what your doing here?"

"I'm working on my boat, you got a problem with that?" The small woman climbed out of the hold and looked at him belligerently.

"Ummm... no... not per say..." Xander frowned as he looked down at the papers in his hand, then back around at the dock number and the boat in question. "It's just that I think I bought this boat yesterday."

"What!?" She screeched, grabbing the papers from his hand and looking at them for a moment. "That son of a..."

Xander's eyes widened as she went into a long diatribe in Spanish. For once he began to wish that his association with Elan hadn't given him a growing understanding of other languages.

"Esta de Puta!" She cursed, "That piece of shit! He told me I had another month to get the money together!"

Xander flinched back, "Look... I'm sorry, I didn't know..."

She glared at him, "I can't believe that he sold my baby to a snot nosed little punk from up north!"

Xander glared back at her, then cursed right back at her in Spanish. "Listen here grease monkey, you want to be pissed at him for selling this barge then that's fine, but leave me and my snot nose out of it!"

She blinked, taken aback by his response. Then nodded and apologized. "Sorry. Look, it's just that I've been working on this for weeks now, trying to get her ready for tour season."

"You run tours?"

Maria grimaced, "Only because I have to."

Xander looked over the boat, "Look... Why don't you tell me what kind of shape the boat is in... maybe we can find some middle ground?"

She sighed and nodded, "Come on... I'll give you the grand tour."

As it turned out the boat was a rat hole, but the hull was in good shape and the basics were still as solid as the day she'd been built. So, with Maria's help, Xander had started to prioritize the jobs and get the boat ready. Within three days Maria had spent so much of his money that Xander made an offer of employment to her, figuring that he may was well have her on the payroll.

Luckily, she accepted.

That's when things really started moving. Before he knew it, he was the proud owner of three compact marine diesel engines, a ton of paint, lumber, and god knows what else. Maria had gone on to hire some other people she knew and Xnader found himself staring at the rapidly escalating bills.

<Good thing those investments are actually paying off.> Xander thought as he watched the cost top seven figures.

New electronics, GPS, Computer Navigation Software, A Satellite phone and communications suite, were all next on the list. Xander had to request all of these things himself though, since Maria considered them to be superficial. Of course she didn't really know what the boat was being prepared for.

Immediately after that, he made a call to Terry.

"Hey Terry."

Terrance Powell frowned as he considered the voice that was coming through on his provate line. There was only one person who knew this number that had a voice that young. "Hi kid, what do you want now?"

"Can you get a shipment into Rio?"

"Brazil? Jeez Kid, where do you think most of my stock comes from?" Terry laughed.

"Alright, I need some hefty stock... but I need it camoflauged." Xander said over the line.

"Huh? How are you going to manage that?"

"Don't worry about that. I've got an idea."

Terry shook his head, "Alright... what do you need?"

"First thing? I need you down here. And bring two of your White Elephants with you... in black of course."

"What? Look kid, I have a business to run, I can't just..."

"Terry, for a half million guaranteed up front, you and Lynn can come down here and spend a week on the beach."

Terrance sighed, then considered. It had been a while since he and Lynn had gotten out of town. And most of his real business was run through computers now anyway. He could bring a laptop and a secure modem...

Finally he nodded, "Alright. You've got it. What else do you need?"

His eyes widened in shock as Xander started rattling things off.


"We're here." Xander announced as the cab pulled to a stop.

He helped Tara out of the cab and her eyes widened as she saw the lone boat floating serenly at dock. "I-i-is that it?"

"That's her." Xander smiled, "What do you think?"


Xander smiled, then frowned as one of the workmen still working on it came up to him. "Yes?"

"What are ya gonna call her?" The man asked, holding up a can of marine white paint and a stencil.

Xander looked and saw that the bow had been painted over. He shook his head, "Put her numbers back up."

The man nodded approvingly and went back to the bow. Xander and Tara watched as the man carefully stenciled the number to the front of the boat.


"Permission to come aboard." Xander said formally as he stood with Tara at the gangplank.

Sanchez frowned, looking over at him oddly. "It's your boat..."

Xander sighed, shrugging theatrically. "No sense of tradition. Come on, Tara..."

He led Tara up the plank and onto the, rather empty, deck of the 579. "Come on, I'll show you to your cabin."


"You're at sea now." Xander grinned, "Get used to it. Unless you want a ticket to the states? The offer still stands, I know some people you could stay with..."

"N-n-no..." Tara said quickly, "It's too late for me to finish up this semester anyway... I'll need to catch up next year."

"Alright." Xander nodded, showing Tara the way below decks. "The ceiling's a little low in places... so watch your head."

As they stepped down Tara looked around, eyes wide. "It's... big."

Xander shrugged, "The 579 is eighty feet, stem to stern... As many as seventeen people lived on her when she was in service... Trust me, when you have another sixteen people breathing your air, you might think different."

Tara actually looked frightened at that thought.

Xander smiled, "Relax. For the foreseeable future we've got a crew of four. And I don't expect we'll be pushing that up until later..."


Xander nodded, "Yeah... but don't worry about that."

Tara nodded and Xander showed her to her cabin. It wasn't huge by any stretch of imagination, but it was a relatively nice single room with a small desk and a single bed. Tara was somewhat surprised to find a computer terminal on the desk. She looked at it, then back at Xander with wide eyes.

"What? Don't like computers?" Xander asked, confused.

"N-no... I do." Tara said, "I've just never had one... I had to learn at school."

Xander smiled, "Well... enjoy. It's just a terminal connected to the central computer here on the boat, but the central system is pretty powerful and as a decent communication package... so you can even do net research if you want."


Xander grinned, "like I said, enjoy... just don't scan any demons into it. Ok?"


Xander laughed and waved it off, leaving Tara alone to her new room.


"Yeah Mik?" Xander half turned to see Mikki pop her head of her 'cabin'.

"Is she here?"

"She's in her room, Mik."

"Thanks." Mikki smiled.

Xander nodded back, smiling in return. "Just remember... we have a session in twenty minutes."

She scowled at him, but nodded. "Alright."


Tara turned around to see Mikki standing timidly at the door to her room. She beamed widely, "Come in, Mik..."

Mikki stepped in hesitantly, "Glad you're back."

Tara nodded. "Thanks."

"You better?" Mikki asked with a frown.

Tara nodded again.

"Why take so long?"

Tara's eyes widened. She'd thought she had healed remarkably quickly, but then realized that to Mikki her injuries were minor. "Didn't Xander explain?"

Mikki nodded, "Didn't understand."

Tara sighed and smiled softly. "I don't heal as fast as you do, Mik."

Mikki frowned. This was something she knew, what she didn't know was, "Why?"

Tara thought of, and discounted, a hundred ways to answer that. In the end she couldn't think of anything that wouldn't result in the same question. So she sighed, "That's just the way I am."

"Oh." Mikki nodded. It made more sense then Xander's explanation of human versus mystical biology. "Ok."

Tara smiled widely again and sat down, "How have you been doing?"

Mikki shrugged, "Ok. Don't like the boat though."


"Smells bad."

Tara sniffed the air, but other then a faint smell of fuel and the stronger smell of fresh paint, she didn't detect anything.

"Xander says it's mostly paint... and it'll go away in a while." Mikki frowned, then brightened, "He got me plants for my room. They smell better."

"T-t-that's good."

Mikki nodded, then abruptly got up. "Have to go... Xander's teaching me some stuff..."


"Yeah..." Mikki didn't sound overly enthusiastic. "Boring..."

"Oh." Tara got up, "Can I come?"

"Sure!" Mikki grabbed her hand, leading her out of the room.

Xander was waiting on Deck when Mikki led Tara up and he smiled and nodded at them both. "How are you feeling, Tare?"


Xander nodded, "Cool. You may as well watch... when you're fully recovered you'll have to do this too."


"I'm teaching Mikki some martial arts." Xander replied, "If she wants to travel with me, if you want to travel with me, you need to learn to protect yourselves."

Mikki snorted, obviously not thinking much of that comment. Xander turned to look at her with a little smirk on his face, "You know Mik, you've got a little arrogance problem going here. Just cause most things won't kill you, doesn't mean you're safe. I don't usually deal with 'most things'."

"Right." Mikki shrugged, unconvinced.

Xander sighed, "Alright. Kata."

Mikki sighed in response and took up the form he was showing her. Slowly they moved through a series of reactions, mirroring one another. Mikki had some trouble following the complex moves, but did fairly well. After several minutes of the deceptively slow motions a sheen of sweat was showing on the young were-beings face and body.

Shortly after that, Xander called a break. "Good job, Mik. You're getting better... you want to grab a couple soda's? We'll continue in a few."

Mikki nodded and ran to an ice chest, retrieving some drinks from it, and came back. "Want one?"

Tara nodded, accepting the offered drink. As she sipped at it she looked at Xander, "T-that was very nice... what style was it?"

"Kani'Maro." Xander said.

"I never heard of it..."

"I know." Xander grinned. "But you're going to learn it."

Terry Powell whistled as he looked at the old PT Boat. The lines were about as classic as they came, and the ship was definitely looking 'ship shape'. He smiled, remembering the kid's plans for the boat. <This is gonna be fun.>

He approached the boat, Lynn walking along at his sides. "Ahoy!"

A head instantly popped up, "Yeah?"

Terry grinned as he took in the pretty face that was staring it him, spattered with grease and looking more then a little annoyed at being distracted. <Must be the mechanic.> "Name's Terry. I'm looking for Xander?"

"He's below." The woman said, then vanished from sight again.

Terry shrugged and took that as tacit permission to board the vessel.

"Kid? You down here, kid?"

Xander glanced up from the lower 'command' deck. "Hey Terry, how's it going?"

Terry grumbled a little as he ducked under a beam. "I'm in Rio while my business rots back home. How do you think it's going?"

"Right." Xander said, his voice sarcastic. "And you brought the laptop along to play first person shooters?"

Terry growled lightly, but shook his head. "Alright, you got me down here... now let's talk shop."

Lynn groaned.

Xander laughed, "In a minute. Hey Mik!"

Mikki appeared a moment later, looking curious.

"Mikki, why don't you show Lynn the boat? Maybe you can find something interesting to do." Xander said with a grin.

"O-ok..." Mikki looked a little shy, but motioned back to the door and Lynn nodded. In a moment the two were gone.

Terry looked after them, frowning. "What the hell is that little girl doing here?"

Xander sighed, "I pulled her out of a bad spot a while ago... Her parents are gone, so I'm sort of stuck with the job of looking after her for now... though she seems to think she's looking after me."

Terry snorted. Lynn thought the same most of the time. He shook off the presence of the girl, but made a careful note to look into it later. Instead he looked around the room he was in, "Little sparse, don't you think?"

Xander shrugged, "Still rigging this up. I need a command area down here, where the boat can be controlled after it's been sealed up."

Terry nodded, "Well I can get a couple specialists in to work it out. What's your price range on this job?"

"I passed seven figures just getting it back into shape." Xander replied, "I'm willing to put what it takes."

"Why the hell do you need all this?"

Xander smiled, "Worst case scenario."


"Just trust me," Xander said, "I'm covering my bases."

March 04, 1996

Xander watched, jaw wide open as Terry's 'contacts' carried the huge screen into the boat. "Tell me again why we're going for the sci-fi look?"

Terry shrugged, "You're the one who wanted a sealed command deck. We'll put high resolution digital cameras at various angles, even under the boat, and you can call up any view from in here. The screen will also double as a monitor for your computer system."

Xander sighed theatrically.

Terry frowned, "What?"

"I'm going to have to learn to use it aren't I?" Xander moaned.

Terry grinned, clapping him on the back. "I know what you mean. I hate the computer in my shop with a passion... but even I'm not stupid enough to think that they're not useful... Just the same, we'll install complete manual backups... hydraulic systems that are time tested and other battle tested systems that won't lock up on you at an... inopportune time."

Xander nodded, "Good plan. Hey... can I watch movies on that thing?"

Terry just growled at Xander and shook his head.

The next day found Xander hanging off the newly placed RADAR mast, tightening bolts as he dropped wires down to to where Terry was looking up.

"Got it!?"

"Yep!" Terry yelled out, as he snapped the wires into the PVC tube and slid them down into the Cabin. "Once you've got that tightened up we should be able to run the lines to the tech geeks inside."

Xander nodded, tightening the last bolt, then slid down the mast. "That's it!"

"Excellent." Terry said, clapping Xander on the back. "Let's go make sure it's hooked up right so we can seal the holes we just made."

Xander grinned, nodding.

Terry looked up at the mast, "Damn that looks old."

Xander glanced up himself, nodding in agreement. "Yep."

"Who'd ever believe you packed more modern gear into it then the space shuttle?" Terry grined.

"It's not *that* advanced." Xander grinned, then paused and frowned. "Or at least I hope it isn't... cause otherwise I have to say, my confidence in NASA would be sorely shaken."

The two men laughed, heading down into the boat.

"Kid. You just *can't* do this!" Terry muttered, "It's just not right."

"Terry... What the hell are you talking about now?"

Terry pointed at the source of his complaint, "Those! You can't put diesels into a PT Boat... it's just not.... right!"

Xander sighed, "Terry... we've been over this. Do you know how often the original PT boats were *towed* back to port after a fight?? Not because they were damaged, but because those damned aircraft engines sucked up three thousand gallons of gasoline faster then Lynn and Mikki eat Ice Cream!"

"I know a guy who can get you three Rolls Royce..." Terry started.

Xander held up his hand, "Terry... With three diesels this boat can still make the north side of thirty knots... and we'll still have a decent operating radius to work with. I'm not the United States Navy... I simply do NOT have refueling stations all over the planet's oceans."

"How about..."


Terry shook his head, grumbling, but didn't go any further.

Xander sighed after a moment, "Look... if it turns out we NEED the extra speed... then we'll work something out."

"Kid. By the time you know you need it... That's usually too damned late."

Terry sighed as he looked over the manifest. "You've got to be kidding me, Kid."

"What?" Xander looked up from where he was working on a turret emplacement.

"Why the Thunderbolt system? I can get you a radar controlled 20mm cannon for almost the same price..." Terry said, walking up. "And it'll be a hundred times more effective against faster moving targets."

Xander laughed, "Terry... how the hell do you expect me to sail into American waters with something like that on the stern of the ship?"

Terry paused, then looked at the current load out of the ship with disbelief, "Kid you have two water cooled Ma Deuce fifty cals in turret mounts, two 20mm Oerlikons and a 37mm cannon mounted on the bow, a pair of 8 tube rocket launchers, and we're expecting four tube launched Mark 50 torpedoes tomorrow! How the hell do you expect to get this gunboat through a coast guard picket anyway!?"

Xander laughed, pulling some papers from his pocket. "I've been wondering how long it would take you to ask that. Here."

Terry took the papers, frowning. "What's this?"

Xander grinned, "Terry, you're looking at the registration papers of the newest restored World War Two PT Boat... and our schedule to be at a boat show in Texas in three weeks. Oh, and as a side note there's also some papers in there that show our permits to have replica weapons mounted on the decks."

Terry stared at the papers for a long moment, then just started laughing. "How do you plan to handle inspections?"

"I was thinking that a big bad arms dealer like you might know how to get some dummy parts we could swap out when things get tough?" Xander grinned.

Terry's laughs echoed over the docks.

Three days later they were still plugging the arms into the old mounts, reinforcing as needed.

"You know, kid..." Terry shook his head, "Those Mark 50's are not part of the original loadout... Any history buff will nail you for those."

Xander looked up from where he was tinkering with a hydraulic pump, "Terry... I'm not *really* trying to make it into a replica. I couldn't care less what the history buffs say... hell, if they want to whine and bitch they can go right ahead. What do I care? Besides, they're tube launched... I'm going to disguise the tubes."

Terry shrugged, going back to work.

"Hey Ter..."


"I've been wondering..." Xander asked he tightened the connection on a hydraulic hose. "I know why I'm doing the grunt work on this job... I want to know how it all goes together... but why aren't you on the beach with Lynn?"

Terry grinned, "Lynn and I have a beach date this afternoon. But I felt like getting my hands dirty, it's been a while since I had a chance to work on a project like this. Still don't know what the hell you want this thing for though..."

Xander shrugged, hopping down into the turret mount and grabbing the Fifty cal's controls. He swivelled the turret 180 degress to the left, then back 360 to the right, testing the automated hydraulics. When he was done he looked up, "Let's just say I've seen that I can get into more trouble then you'd believe on land... I don't want to push my luck at sea."

"That it?"

"That's it."

Xander, Terry, and Maria shook their heads as they looked at the transformed vessel. From what could be called, in all seriousness, a Garbage scow to a sleek fighting machine in only a few weeks.

"What now," Maria asked.

Xander looked over at her, "Well... If you want, you can stay on... same pay, lots of travel... but a fair chance at some risk too."

Sanchez snorted, "What's life without risk?"

"You tell me after your first firefight." Terry muttered.

"Alright." Xander said, "Tomorrow we have a little armor fitting... and then we sail with the tides."

He turned to Terry, extending his hand, "Thanks for the help, Man. I'd never have gotten her together without you."

Terry shook his hand, grinning. "Are you kidding? This has been a paid vacation. I haven't had this much fun in years."

The next day the tailor showed up with his wife while Xander and Terry were loading the final touches onto the boat. Xander called Maria and Tara on deck and got the job underway.

"Hey, what the hell is dis thing?" Maria complained as she squirmed under the attention of the tailor Terry had brought in.

"Please, Miss..." The elderly man said plaintively. "Do stop moving... this material is quite difficult to work with as it is..."

Still grumbling, she acquiesced, holding still as the tailor tightened the black armor around her body and marked off the points where the material would have to be refused.

"Hey!" She suddenly growled, "Hands off the package, Mister!"

The poor old man looked utterly mortified, falling back instantly.

"Maria," Xander said sternly. "Let the man do his job."

"What is this..." Maria broke off cursing in Spanish.

Xander motioned the old man back in, "It's an advanced battlefield armor... and if you want to sail with this ship you're going to need to wear it. I already came within three millimeters of losing a friend because she wasn't packing protection... It's not going to happen again."

"I didn't know I was signing up for the Navy." Maria muttered, but let the tailor go back to work.

"You aren't." Xander replied. "I don't intend to bring you or this boat into any trouble... But trouble and me have this little disagreement going... I reserve the right to go where I choose, and it reserves the right to join me. So you and Tara are going to be packing this."

Maria looked aside to where Tara was meekly letting herself be measured by the old man's wife. She would have complained about Tara at least having a woman do her measurements, but she didn't think Tara would survive being 'pawed' at by anyone else.

Xander nodded approvingly until Terry came up and pulled him back to finish off the last loading.

"What's up?"

"Just wanted to thank you for taking the last of those things off my hands." Terry grinned, "The only one left is the prototype."

Xander smiled.

"What?" Terry eyed him strangely.

"I was meaning to bring this up before..." Xander grinned, "But It's going to want at least another dozen of your white elephants over the next year... maybe more, but we'll see how the finances go."

"Uh uh." Terry shook his head, "No way. Do you have any idea how big a bath I took the last time I tried to market these?? I wouldn't even tell Andy about the damn things cause it was so friggin embarrasing!"

"I'm not asking you to market them, Ter." Xander said, "I'm asking you to contract out to me as a supplier. You don't have to sell them to anyone else, in fact I'd be grateful if you didn't... I really don't want to run up against this armor in the wrong hands..."

"And how do I know that *your* hands are the right ones?" Terry countered.

"Tell you what..." Xander smiled, "You call Andy and ask him. Deal?"

Terry hesitated, then nodded. "Deal. But I'm not guaranteeing anything. I'll talk to Andy and see what he has to say..."

"Fair enough." Xander replied. "Come on, let's finish loading this baby."

The two men then went back to work.

"That all of it?" Xander asked as he locked the last assault rifle into place and let the disguised bulkhead smoothly slide shut over it.

Terry pulled out a bulky Palm computer and checked off the last item. "That's it... Everything's aboard from the pistols to the rifles... even those two marine shotguns you have out in the open."

"Well... It would look suspicious to be completely 'unarmed'." Xander smirked. "A couple chromed Mossbergs should look like the sort of thing a few over confident show boaters would carry to look like they can protect themselves."

Terry nodded, "Alright, that's it then... You now have one of the heaviest armed ships I've ever seen outside of a warzone."

Xander shrugged, "Terry... Who said we're not in a warzone?"

Terry frowned, "Kid... You're packing more firepower on this ship then any similar sized boat in any modern navy I know of..."

"Yeah... so?"

"So... Why the hell do you have a twelve year old on a gunboat?" Terry's voice had taken a slight menace. "You didn't even get some armor for her... though if you had I'd probably kick your ass off this tub and hold you under..."

Xander shook his head, smirking.


"Terry... number one," Xander said with exaggerated patience, "I would never put Mikki into a suit of armor..."

Terry nodded, relieved in a way.

"Practically anything that could hurt that girl would rip through your White Elephants like tissue paper." Xander finished.


"And besides that," Xander shook his head, "I may as well hogtie her in that case... Armor would just handicap that girl."

"Listen to me, you..." Terry growled.

Xander stopped him with an arm on his shoulder, "Terry... I know you mean well, and I respect you for bringing this up... but Mikki is physically the toughest person on this boat right now."

Terry just stared at him, completely unbelieving as he listened to the unmitigated bullshit spewing from Xander's mouth. "Don't give me that piece of bullshit..."

"Terry." Xander snapped, his face turning hard. "I pulled that girl out of a freaking mob that was trying to *beat* her to death. Do you really think I'm going to risk her life stupidly now?"

Terry glared at Xander for a long moment, his eyes searching the kid's face as he tried to measure the boy's sincerity. Years of doing business with some of the sneakiest people on the planet had given him a decent read of people, and Terry had to admit that the boy was speaking truth. Or thought he was.

"If she gets hurt..." Terry said, "We'll have *words*."

"If she gets hurt," Xander replied, "It'll probably because my bleeding corpse is already rotting on the deck."

Terry paused, again reading Xander's face and stance. Finally he nodded, "So long as we understand each other."

The Next Day

Xander stepped up on deck, looking around at the newly renovated ship with a modicum of pride and awe. He nodded to Maria, "Are we ready?"

She nodded back, "Engines are primed, pumps are ready, and our course has been registered with the authorities."

Xander nodded, smiling. "Have your passport?"

She smirked at him, but didn't bother to dignify the comment.

Xander chuckled, then looked around at Tara and Mikki. "You guys ready?"

They both nodded.

"Alright... Maria, care to take us out?"

Sanchez smiled, looking at the new controls built into the open cabin. She shifted into the big bolster seat, not bothering with the belts, "With pleasure."

One of the powerful diesels roared to live and Xander went to cast off the bow line. "Tara, catch the stern, ok?"

Tara nodded uncertainly and did as she was asked.

Maria slowly backed the boat up, turning it on it's axis as the bow cleared the dock, then pushed the throttle up and eased the big boat forward, dead slow. The eighty foot gunboat cruised slowly past a series if yachts and tour boats, her weapons secured but standing tall and proud against the ocean camouflage paint of her hull.

They slid slowly past boats that were faster, or larger, or even more expensive, but not one eye in the marina was looking anywhere else then the sleek military configured 579 as she slid out past the shelter of the port.

Tara shied a little closer to the cabin as she realized how many people were actually stopping whatever they were doing to watch the small group leaving port in the very unique vessel.

As they cleared the harbor Maria keyed the second and third engine and pushed the throttle up all the way, a wicked grin on her face as the big ship's bow came clear out of the water, sending a cascading spray to the sides as the eighty foot craft quickly pushed it's speed past twenty knots and headed for thirty.

Xander looked out over the cabin, holding onto the dash as he steadied himself against the motion of the boat. Water sprayed out from the sides of the big boat as it cut through the water as the PT 579 roared out of Rio De Janeiro and turned North.

Three days later

The 579 was drifting easily with the current as Maria tinkered with the throttle. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, but she had been finding little bugs to fix for the entire trip so far. It was really slowing things down, but Sanchez couldn't stand anything less then perfection, and Xander didn't really feel like forcing the issue.

Tara needed time to mend, something the sea air, sunshine, and a little douse of self help was pushing along at full speed. And his last talk with Faith had shown amply well that she didn't need him in the area right now, even if she could find Kakistos. Which, so far, she wasn't having a lot of luck with.

Xander shook his head as he pushed Mikki through the Kata's again. Vampire's were tricky SOB's at the best of times, and when you were dealing with one who had survived the treachery of his own race and the ravages of several centuries, it became ridiculously difficult to track him down if he didn't want to be found.

That said, Xander wasn't overly worried about Faith so long as she reported that they were having a hard time finding Kakistos. When she reported that a 'stroke of luck' had revealed the vamp's location, then Xander would start worrying, but he'd talked to Faith about that eventuality and was hoping that she'd follow through on her promise to call backup in such a case.

He shook his head clear, forcing his attention back to Mikki as the young shifter slipped slightly on the deck and lost the form. "Careful."

Mikki looked up, but just nodded.

Xander sighed. She was getting bored, not that he could blame her. Her attention span was lightyears beyond his at that age. Finally he relented, "Alright. That's enough."

Mikki brightened immediately.

"Just one more thing." He added, smiling as she looked downcast again. "Sparring."

"What?" Mikki looked at him oddly.

"Sparring." Xander replied, "Let's see how you learned what I've showed you."

Mikki looked around, "You serious?"

"Sure... Come on..."

Mikki hesitated.

Xander frowned, "What's wrong?"

"Don't wanna hurt you."

Xander looked at the young girl, his face dissolving into shock. The pint sized twelve year old didn't want to hurt *him*. "Excuse me!?"

She looked at the deck, then back up at him, her eyes guilty. "Human's are fragile."

Xander's jaw dropped, his eyes widening. After a moment he laughed, shaking his head. "I tell you what... you don't have to hurt me... just get through and tap me once and you win... you do that and I'll cut you a free pass from training for the rest of the week."

Mikki's eyes widened, then she smiled and nodded eagerly.

Xander shifted into a fighting stance, "Well then? Come on..."

Mikki lifted her hands and then suddenly charged.

The little girl was fast, faster then humanly possible, but unfocused. Xander sidestepped the charge, easily blocking the light attacks she sent his way as she skidded to a halt.

He shook his head, smiling. "Come on... you'll have to do better then that..."

She growled lightly, not liking his tone, and attacked directly.

Xander batted her claw strikes away lightly, twisting away from the hits easily. "Better... now how about you stop worrying about breaking this fragile human and actually *try*?"

She redoubled her attack, coming straight at him and not giving Xander a chance to sidestep. He stayed on pure defense, not countering, but not letting any of her hits through. Without even tapping Elan's power in the slightest he redirected the impressive strength of her blows to the side.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk... Is this the best you can do!?" He taunted, trying to get her blood boiling.

It worked.

She growled low in her throat and leapt at him, hands outstretched. Xander ducked under the jump and rolled back to his feet as she landed in a graceful move that showed her heritage.

"Really now..." Xander taunted, smiling. "Can't you even hit me once?"

Mikki snarled, her bestial side taking over, and leapt full force at him.

The little girl arced through the air, a bestial snarl echoing off the cabin of the boat. Tara gasped as she watched, certain that one of them was going to be injured, and even Maria looked up at the eerie noise, her jaw falling open in shock as she saw the little girl leap across the twenty foot deck of the boat.

Xander charged forward and jumped into the air himself, twisting to one side as the little girl swept past. He flipped back in mid-air like a soccer player, the bridge of his foot connecting with Mikki's butt as she went past.

There was a brief silence, then a thud as Xander landed on the deck shoulder first, and finally an angry cat scream that was followed by a splash.

Xander quickly went over to the side of the boat in case Mikki needed help, but found that the girl was paddling back to the boat quite well under her own power. He smiled almost sweetly down at the shocked 'waterlogged' look in her eyes and casually leaned against one of the 50 caliber turret mounts.

"So, Mik..." He said conversationally, "I thought cats didn't like water?"

She scowled at him, but he laughed and reached down, pulling her out of the water. When she was on deck he looked more serious, "Ok. What have we learned today?"

She glared at him, but her eyes quickly found the deck. "You're not fragile."

"Wrong." Xander said, "But that's another matter. What we've learned is this... First, Skill will beat power any day of the week. Second, while your instincts are good, you have to learn to focus your emotions... You're letting your anger control you... that's not good. You control your anger, then you can use it like you would any tool. And three...."

Xander smiled as he dragged that word out, "Three... You're not getting any breaks from training until you can tag me at least once in sparring."

Mikki groaned.

Xander heard a soft laugh from behind him and turned in surprise to see Tara cover up a smile. He looked over at her nastily, "Oh don't you laugh, Tiger... You're starting the same routine next week."

Tara groaned.

March 14, '96

The 579 was under way at a cruising speed of about twelve knots, running only the center engine to save fuel. Xander was on the deck bridge getting a course in navigation from Sanchez.

"That's it?" He asked after she showed him how to check their position against the GPS screen that was concealed beneath the Navy issue dash.

"That's it." She smiled, "Unless you'd like me to throw you overboard to make the point."

Xander smirked, shaking his head. "Only if you think it's neccesary."

"You're pushing her hard." Maria said, "She's pretty young."

Xander sighed, thinking about all the times he'd tried to talk Mikki into going to someone, anyone, else. "She won't leave me... and truth be told, there are very few people that I know who are qualified to look after Mik."

"She's a little girl." Maria said, "anything else is just incidental."

"She's more then that, and you know it Sanchez." Xander replied as he idly steered the 579 a few degrees north.

Maria shrugged, conceding the point. "Ok, I'll give you that. But you say she can control the change."

Xander sighed, "That's true. But she can't control herself... she acts on reflex first, thinks about it after it's over. Few people could deal with that."

Maria nodded, thinking about the third night she had known Xander.

Three weeks earlier

Maria looked up in surprise to see the new owner of the 579 appear on deck, wearing a black armor of some sort and enough weapons to start a small war. She blinked and shrunk back down into the engine compartment as he tossed his black duster over his shoulders and walked off the boat.

After he was most of the way up the dock she climbed up and followed him silently. If she was going to do business with this guy, she may as well know what he did himself. The good lord knew that Maria had already turned down enough jobs working for drug smugglers, she didn't want to get hooked into something like that. Not even if the option was running a tour service.

She shivered as she followed him up the dock, then watched as he turned toward the seedier section of Rio's waterfront.

<Great. He's probably a smuggler then.> She sighed. It was too much to hope for that the guy be legitimate she supposed. What legit person could hope to afford the money he was sinking into the old 579?

She watched as he slowed his walk, approaching a couple sailors who had been tipping back a few too many drinks and were on their way somewhere, probably a cheap hotel room, with a couple girls they'd picked up.

His approach became instantly cautious, and she saw something in his walk that tripped off alarm bells all through her head. He was walking like a hunter, like her father used to do when he went into the jungle. Maria shivered, it wasn't the kind of walk she wanted to see in a city.

He must have said something, but she was too far back to hear, so she jogged up closer and hid behind the corner of a building and looked around. Her breath caught in her chest as she watched him draw two daggers from under his coat, but it wasn't the weapons that caused her shock, it was the fact that the two women... weren't.

Their faces were deformed, their eyes and mouths angry, hateful, as they looked at him.

"Knives don't hurt us, human." One of them said loud enough for Maria to hear her properly.

"Then by all means," Xander replied, "Let's dance."

The fight was short, brutal, and lethal. Xander easily drove his blades into the hearts of both of those things, a light smirk on his face as they looked at him in shock then simply vanished into dust.

Maria gasped in shock.

Xander turned around, smiling lightly. "You may as well come out, Miss Sanchez."

As far as world shattering revelations went, Maria figured her's didn't really rate much compared to most people, but it had been a hell of a night for her. The subsequent explanations didn't go over well, but eventually she was convinced and after a couple more days of mulling it over, she was sold on the idea of helping Xander out.

At first it was just getting the 579 ready, but as she met his friends and learned more about his world and plans, she had to admit that liked the idea of joining him for a time at least. There were worst things to do with your life, and he was hiring her at decent pay for work she liked doing.

All things considered, Maria Sanchez could have gone a lot worse in her opinion.


She frowned, "What?"

"You look thoughtful, penny for your thoughts." Xander smiled.

Sanchez rolled her eyes, "I'm not that cheap."

Xander chuckled, "Most people's thoughts aren't worth that much... so if yours are worth more, keep them for yourself, they'll make you a fortune someday."

Maria smirked at him.

Xander just laughed, until the crackle of the radio broke the silence.

"... Mayday! Mayday! Repeat..."

The signal went dead.

"What the hell?"

"Mayday call." Maria said, suddenly turning all business as she flipped a switch and played with the dial.

"I got that much." Xander said, suddenly looking all around them to see if he could spot something.

Maria noticed. "Don't bother. The call could have come from anywhere... we need more information..."

"Well get it." Xander said shortly, shivering as he considered the situation. "I'm not interested in leaving anyone to their death out here."

"Niether am I." Maria snapped back, "But I can't get the signal back..."

Xander growled, his hand smacking the dash as he looked out at the endless sea around him, knowing that someone needed help, but he couldn't so much as find them.

Sanchez grabbed up the radio and glanced at their GPS coordinates, speaking in rapid fire spanish. "This is PT 579 out of Rio, and American flagged vessel, reporting a Mayday call. We don't have a location, did anyone get more?"

The radio crackled, coming back in Spanish. "This is the cutter, Triest Villa. We acknowledge your report. What is your location?"

Maria responded with their location.

"Confirmed, 579." The voice came back again, "The yacht in question was equipped with a GPS transponder... you are the closest responder to their location, can you respond?"

"Si." Was all she said as she waited for the response.

After a moment a response came back and she acknowledged, then waited. She glanced over at Xander, "Catch that?"

He nodded, "We're lucky they had that transponder."

Maria snorted, "Not us. They're the lucky ones."

Xander shrugged, starting the second and third engines and pushing the throttle all the way up as he turned the 579 away from their north east course to one that was more due east.

The sleek prow lifted from the water as the boat responded to the demand for speed and quickly pushed past 25 knots, heading for thirty.

"What's going on?" Mikki asked, popping her head out.

Xander glanced back, "Mayday call."

"Oh." Mikki nodded. "What happened?"

"Don't know," Xander responded, "Go let Tara know what's up... see if she has any ideas for some mojo in case we need to pull something tricky."

Mikki nodded and ducked back under the decks.

As they approached the coordinates, skirting around a desert island complete with palm trees, Maria scanned the sea around them with powerful binoculars. "Nothing... Damn!"

Xander looked around, his own eyes pushing their limits as he also scanned the sea. "Over there!"

"What?" Maria swung around to where he was pointing. In the distance she could see two boats running fast. She let out a curse.

"What!?" Xander asked, turning the 579 toward the boats.

"Drug pirates." She spat out.

"*Pirates*!?" Xander asked, looking over at her as if she were nuts. "As in Yo Ho and Avast me mateys?"

She scowled at him, "Nothing so civilized. Drug pirates hijack private yachts, usually killing the owners, and use the boats for a few smuggling runs... The coast guard doesn't usually bother boats that aren't known for making runs, and they don't have enough forces to check every boat anyway..."

Xander nodded, understanding. "Alright..."

He pushed the throttle up again, then looked over at Maria. "Take the wheel."

"Huh? Why?"

Xander smiled, "Time to play some poker. I'll be back in just a second... I need to get Tara..."

Jake Raths eyes were focused solidly on his prey, a rich folks yacht that had made the mistake of crossing his bow while he was on the prowl. Stupid bastard didn't know they were supposed to just give up though, and the sleek Hatteras yacht was fast, but not fast enough. Another few minutes and it would again be in range of the 20mm deck gun he had bolted to the wooden deck of his converted fishing trawler.

Jake smiled, enjoying the fact that his measly forty thousand dollar craft was about to overtake and plainly take over the multi-million dollar Hatteras. <Rich assholes.>


"What!?" He snapped over his shoulder.

"We've got company!"

He looked over his shoulder, frowning as he saw the prow of a big boat cutting the water behind him. "Who are they!?"

The man lowered his binoculars. "Americans."

"We're not in American water." Jake shrugged, "So it can't be their coast guard..."

"Coast guard don't carry this many guns."


"You ready Tara?" Xander asked from his position at the 37mm forward cannon.

"I-i-I'm trying..." Tara said hesitantly.

"Not trying to push you here, but they're already checking us out with binoculars..." Xander said nervously.

"I'm s-s-sorry..." Tara said, "but I've never done this before..."

"You've never done a glamour before!?" Xander looked back at her over his shoulder incredulously.

"S-s-sorry..." She winced.

"Hey, it's ok. Just do your best." Xander said.

Tara nodded, standing in the center of the deck, wearing her armor and began to cast the spell.

"How many??" Jake demanded as he stole furtive glances over his shoulder at the rapidly approaching boat.

"I don't know... doesn't look like too man..." The man's voice trailed off, "Scratch that. They have at least a half dozen men on the guns!"

Jake swallowed, "Let's hope they work for the same people we do."

"If they do, I want to know why we didn't get one of those."

Xander smiled as the two ghostly figures appeared beside him, wavered, then solidified. <Good job, Tara.> He glanced over his shoulder and nodded to Maria. "Go for it!"

Sanchez nodded, pulling the mic up and flipping it over to loudspeaker. A brief smile touched her lips, she'd been a sea for a good portion of her life and dated more then her share of Coast Guardsmen. Who knew it would come in handy? "Attention aggressor vessel!"

"Attention Aggressor Vessel!" The hail boomed across the sea, "This is the Coast Guard Vessel PT 579, stand down your pursuit and heave too for boarding!"

The men aboard the small pirate vessel glanced at each other nervously.

"What do we do?"

Jake snarled, "Fuck em. You heard what they said, they're American Coast guard. They can't touch us."

"You really want to bet on that?"

Jake grabbed the mic and made to respond, but his second grabbed his arm. "Jesu Christo, Jake! Even if they aren't in their jurisdiction do you think any American Coast Guard ship will stand by and watch you shell a U.S. flagged ship??"

Jake's hand wavered on the key switch, then nodded. "You're right. Break off... make a run for it. They won't shoot us outside US territory if we aren't threatening their people."

The man nodded, waving the order on to the man at the boats helm. The helmsman nodded in relief and turned her aside, arcing the boat away from both the Hatteras and the American Coast Guard ship.

"They're breaking off!"

Xander nodded, breathing out a sigh of relief as he locked the useless cannon back into position and climbed back. "Ignore them. Bring us up to the Yacht."

Maria nodded, "That was too close."

Xander nodded, "Yeah... We didn't have time to make the weapons hot... good thing they fell for it."

"Tell me about it."

Xander looked over his shoulder, then back at the retreating pirates. "Ok, Tara... you can let it go now..."

Tara let out a sudden explosion of breath and collapsed to the deck, sweat pouring from her face and neck. Xander stepped down, grabbing a canteen off the dash and passed it to her, "Here... small sips."

She drank slowly from the canteen, nodding gratefully to Xander.

"You ok?"

"Yeah..." She said weakly.

"Ok, good... Why don't you go below and take a nap?" Xander suggested, knowing that she was tapping her power out.

Tara nodded weakly.

"Hey, Mik!" Xander called, "Help Tara below, ok?"

Mikki came up and nodded, helping steady the older girl as she led her down below.

Xander walked back up to the bridge and looked forward to see that the yacht had slowed down. Maria guided the eighty foot 578 along side the sixty foot Hatteras and brought the big ship to a stop.

"Ahoy!" A voice called from the yacht.

"Hey there," Xander called back as he walked over to the side, "What's your situation?"

An older man was on deck, looking relieved to be talking to someone who wasn't trying to kill him. "Thanking god that you're flying the Stars and Stripes!"

Xander chuckled, "I meant shipwise."

The man shook his head ruefully, "We've got some extra holes in the hull, but no leaks the pumps can't handle... but our antenna is shot to hell... we didn't think our call got out!"

"It didn't." Maria joined Xander, "You're emergency system works on a satellite transciever. It uses a different antenna."

The man shook his head and smiled ruefully. "I'm going to kiss that salesman when I see him again! I thought he was giving me a shuck and jive when he sold me that system!"

Xander laughed, "If you're shipshape we'll escort you into the nearest port."

"I'd sure appreciate it." The man said. "We're due in Port au Prince tonight, but that bugger chased us so far off that I'm not sure we have the fuel to make it..."

Xander shrugged, glancing at Maria.

"Martinique is pretty close. Think you can make that?"

The man nodded.

"Alright then," Xander smiled, "Bring her around and well escort you in."

"Ok... Hey!" The man shouted, "What is the coast guard doing way down here?"

Xander grinned, "We're not the coast guard."

"Then... who?"

"This is a WW2 PT boat we restored for doing the boat show circuit." Xander said with a grin.

"All those guns?" The man asked, paling.

"Dummies." Xander grinned, "Nice bluff huh?"

They escorted the Hatteras, cutely named the 'Bankr's Interest', within sight of Martinique when they saw the thick white trail of a Cutter bearing down on them at full speed. As it got into range they saw it's guns come to bear instantly on the 579 as it hailed them in spanish.

"Ahoy armed vessel! Stand down and prepare to be bordered!"

"What do we do?"

Xander smiled, then shrugged. "Stand down and prepare to receive guests."

A half hour, and some fast talking on all parts, later found Xander chatting calmly with the Captain of the Cutter and the owner of the Hatteras.

"We were just escorting them into Martinique," Xander said as he offered the man a cup of coffee. "They had a rough time out there."

The captain, a man by the name of Miguel Sandros, nodded. "Si. These pirates are a lot of trouble. Usually they get a ship before their victims even get a call out... other times they take out the antenna like they did to you, Sir."

The owner of the Hatteras, a Jason Macklin, shuddered, "You don't need to tell me. I can still hear those damned bullets chewing up the cabin."

"You were very lucky, Senior." Sandros said, "both that you had the new equipment and that the young man and his friends were nearby. Our cutter was the closest ship and we could have been too late."

The man nodded feverishly. "Damned if I knew how dangerous these waters are..."

Sandros shrugged, "We have out good points as well. You should stay to the better traveled lanes and not cruise around as much. There is usually a ship patrolling along those areas."

"Good advice." Xander said, nodding to the man.

"I'll take it." Macklin said, grinning. "You better bet I'll take it."

Xander and the Coast guard captain chuckled.

Sandros looked around the PT-579 and shook his head, "I can easily see why they ran. I would be hard pressed to take this boat if this were all real."

Xander laughed, "Oh, it's all real alright. Real fake. You want to take a look?"


Xander grinned and walked them both over to one of the turrets in the side of the boat. "Hop in."

Sandros gingerly lowered himself into the turret and gripped the guns. He shook his head, "They look very real."

"Squeeze the trigger." Xander suggested.

Sandros did so but not, Xander noticed, until he checked the sights to make sure they were clear. Then he frowned, "They do not move..."

"Dummies." Xander shrugged. "But try the turret controls..."

Sadros did, and was instantly awarded by the smooth rotation as the turret swept around it's arc of fire. He smiled widely. "Magnificent."

Xander grinned, "Well, let's hope the boat shows agree. It took a lot of money to restore this baby, I'd hate for it to be for nothing."

Macklin shook his head, laughing. "Hey, as far as I'm concerned it was worth every penny."

The three of them laughed at that as the Cutter captain climbed out and walked back to his boarding party. Xander walked along with him, "Satisfied?"

"Yes. You're papers are in order, and you did us a service today..." The Captain grimaced, "It is almost too bad your weapons we're not real... People like that are a plague on these waters... have been for centuries."

Xander grinned, "Well, all I could do was bluff."

"But is was a *good* bluff!" Sandros grinned, slapping Xander's back, and burst out laughing.

Xander chuckled along with him, but the urge to laugh loudly fled as he caught a death glare stare from one of the Captain's men.

"Are you going into Martinique as well?"

Xander shook his head, clearing it. "Um no... We're going to push through to San Juan and retank there for the next leg."

The Captain nodded, "Alright, well... good luck."

"Thanks." Xander said, his mind still on the sailor who's glare he could feel on the back of his neck.

As they watched the Cutter and the Hatteras sail away, Xander turned to Maria. "Take the wheel... head us toward San Juan."

Maria frowned, "Ok. Why aren't you taking it?"

Xander headed below, "Because I'm going to be doing something else."

"What!?" Jake screamed into the radio, enraged. "Are you sure!?"

A moment later he slammed the mic down, turning to the helmsman. "Set course for San Juan!"

The man obeyed, turning the wheel and moving the throttle up a few notches, before turning back. "What is it?"

"That damned 'Coast Guard' ship was nothing more then a fucking Parade float!" He cursed, hitting the dash.


"It was a fake! Some boat fixed up by a history nut!" He cursed again.

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not kidding!" He yelled, "Best speed! I want that boat."

The Helmsman hesitated, increasing the throttle, then turned. "But... why? It's useless to us... That thing will be stopped by every picket vessel on the sea..."

"I don't care!"

Late into that night


Xander looked up from where he was working under the flood lights.


"What!?" He yelled.

Maria looked back at him, "There's another boat behind us!"

Xander nodded, smirking. "Alright."

He slapped the breech shut on the Thunderbolt system he had just armed, "I've been expecting some company! How close?"

Maria checked the RADAR display, shaking her head. "I don't know! Close!"

"Kill the engines!"

The 579 suddenly slid to a stop, running dead silent as Maria and Xander strained their ears for sound. Xander heard it first, but had trouble locating the direction as the sound seemed to come from everywhere. A motor droning from somewhere in the inky blackness.

Xander killed the work light he had and locked himself into the Thunderbolt system, turning the four big cannons of the ship mounted weapon in the direction he thought the sound was coming from. He glanced over his shoulder to Maria, "Hit the floods!"

She nodded, flipping a bank of switches.

The powerful floodlights mounted on the 579 snapped on, reflecting off the water and vanishing into the dark sky, all but the beams of one aft light that found the bow of the slowly approaching ship.

Xander shifted the Thunderbolt slightly to the right, locking the big iron sights onto the ship and waving at Maria.

She nodded, grabbing the mi and keying on the loud speaker. "Attention unidentified vessel, Identify yourself or you will be fired upon!"

Xander listened intently as the echo of the speakers died out, and could hear the mocking laughter from the boat echo back across the waves. He smiled grimly, waiting with his hands tight around the firing studs of the big weapon system.

As the boat slid forward the big cannon mounted on it's boy fired once, impacting off the starboard side of the 579. Then a mocking voice came across on another loud speaker.

"Attention floating *Museum*! Stand by to be boarded!"

Xander could hear Maria snarl and utter a Spanish profanity, then he heard her quiet whisper. "It's ok, baby... we'll show him who's a museum piece."

Xander smirked to himself, <A Good mechanic loves her machine like her own child... I'm glad that Maria's a damned good mechanic.>

As the pirate ship motored in closer, Xander started at them through the iron sights and then squeezed both studs down hard.

The Thunderbolt's four big cannons opened up in sequence, firing in a slow, steady, staccato that belched flame across the water. Xander watched the first two rounds strike low and to the right, but then pulled the gun up and shifted until the shells were ripping into the hull just above the waterline.

The big gun jarred him with each shot, but Xander kept the gun stable until he let up on the firing studs. He waved again to Maria, but kept the weapon locked on target.

"Attention hostile ship," Maria's voice echoed over the water, "Stand down and we'll take you aboard!"

The boat didn't respond.

"Fake weapons huh!?"

"That's what I was told!"

"Now what!?"

"I'm not being taken in! I've got too many things on my record already! Get us out of here!"

"The pumps might not hold up..."

"Then we'll bail this tub out!"

Xander watched as the boat started to limp away.

"What do we do?" Maria called.

Xander unhooked himself from the Thunderbolt system and locked the big system down. "Back on course to San Juan. Call the local guard and give them the pirates location and approximate heading. Let them pick 'em up."

Maria hesitated. "What if they tell them about the guns?"

Xander laughed, "Right. Who's going to honestly believe them? They aren't the only pirates in the area, right?"


So, report that two groups were fighting over us and we got away in the confusion." Xander said, "You have the watch. I'm going to catch a couple hours sleep, wake me up before dawn so I can disarm the Thunderbolt before we hit San Juan."

Maria nodded, lifting the radio as Xander headed below.

Xander eyed the chart that was overlaid against the GPS grid and spoke softly to Maria, "Kill the engines."

The big bulk of the PT 579 slowed to a gliding halt as the motors fell silent, the only sound remaining being the gentle lap of water against her wooded sides. As the ship came to a drifting stop Mikki came up from below.

She shivered in the heat of the sun, complaining, "Cold here."

Xander nodded.

"Cold? What are you talking about?" Maria asked, her grey tank top soaked with sweat.

Xander looked at her, "Not physical cold... it's just... something in the air."

Mikki nodded miserably.

Xander glanced around, frowning. "Tara?"

The blond came upon deck, looking around. "Yes?"

"You feel anything off about this place?" Xander asked, almost casually.

Tara paused, then looked uncertain. "I... I'm not sure."

"Cold here." Mikki repeated stubbornly, shivering again.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. We won't stay long, Mik. Just a few hours."

"What the hell are you people talking about?" Maria demanded.

"Like I said... something in the air." Xander said with a nervous smile.

"No." Tara said suddenly, her eyes opening. "Something...missing from the air."

Xander smiled, "Very good, Tara."

"We won't stay long?" Tara asked, not acknowledging the praise.

"not long." Xander agreed. "We'll set sail just after midnight."

The sun set in the west, lighting the gently rolling seas afire as it touched down along the horizon. The lone boat bobbed gently in the surf, barely a spec in the endless water. As the final rays of day faded over the horizon, Xander climbed out onto the bow of the boat and sat astride the very tip, legs dangling over the edge.

He looked up at the stars thoughtfully, noting their positions, and finally nodding.

"I'm sorry, Elan." He said out loud.

After a long moment her somber voice came back, an almost fatalistic tone in her mental speech. <I knew it would be so, Alexander.>

Xander nodded, looking down into the black depths beneath him. "Hard to believe that it was here, you know. This place has been infamous for centuries... people are scared of it."

<With good cause.> Elan replied, <You can feel the scarred earth here as well as the young Were can. The earth itself has been mortally injured here.>

Xander nodded. "Like Mikki said... it feels cold."

<It is time.>

Xander looked up at the sky, noting the position of the moon and nodded. He casually hefted himself up and balanced on the bobbing bow of the 579. He silently summoned Elan to his hands, activating the ancient weapon with a thought in the next second, and held the silver staff out horizontally as he began drawing her power into himself.

The silver glow first appeared in his eyes, then swiftly spread along his skin until his nearly nude body was completely engulfed by it. He held it for several long seconds, then finally let the power fade. As the glow around him abated he slumped down, sighing as he once again perched astride the bow of the boat.

<I'm sorry, Elan.> Xander thought morosely.

Her voice was resigned as she responded. <I expected no less, Alexander. It has been over ten millennia since I have seen my home. I never expected to find remnant, it would be too much to hope for.>

Xander nodded, then hopped back up and walked back to the cabin of the 579. He slipped down behind the bridge just as something sent a shiver up his back. He stopped, then looked around as he tried to place the source.

The air thickened around them and Xander could see a mist springing up from nowhere.

"Shit!" He cursed out loud, flipping the master starter switch that keyed all three engines. As the big boat powered to life Xander pushed the throttle full up and spun the wheel around as he twisted the 579 around.

The three powerful diesels roared to life, and the 579 spun around practically in place until Xander headed the ship South west and straightened her out.

Around them the mist began to crackle with flashes of lighting that were eerily silent as they lit the water around them.

"Hey!" Maria crawled up from her bunk below, "What the hell is the big idea!? You damned near knocked me out of... holy shit."

The tough hispanic woman looked around at the eerie calm water they were cruising through, and the roiling mist that was coming in from all sides. "Jesu Christo. What is the name of God?"

"Wrong direction." Xander growled, his eyes trying to penetrate the thick fog. "For all practical purposes at any rate."

Maria joined him on the exterior bridge and looked at the instruments. "What happened to the navigation gear?"

"Jammed." Xander gritted out.

"What direction are we going!?"

"South West." Xander said, "I think."

"You think!?"

"I tried a sky bearing... used some stars I know."

"Ok... so we're going South west..."

"Maybe not." Xander muttered, "These waters can be tricky that way."

Maria snorted, but it sounded more desperate then she'd have liked. "Don't tell me you believe that 'devils triangle' bullshit!?"

Xander's eyes widened as he looked ahead, "That tell you anything?"

Maria looked ahead, her eyes bulging as she saw a plume of water rise a hundred feet into the air, reflecting the moonlight like some pillar of legendary proportions. "Madre..."

"Just a water spout." Xander said, turning the boat to go around it. "Don't give it too much credit."

The plume disintegrated, breaking out and collapsing like the spray of some gigantic fountain. The cascading spray broke across the deck, soaking both of them to their skin in a single deluge.

"What do we do!?" Maria asked as she held on.

"Go below." Xander said, "Get one of the metal mixing bowels from the kitchen."


"Just do it!"

Maria vanished below, muttering about baking a cake as she did. Xander smiled grimly, but ignored her as he kept one eye on the sea and the other on the worthless instruments, praying that they would stop reporting random numbers and spinning like tops.

He held the ship steady as the fog came up on them, taking a deep breath as the boat plunged through the fog at twenty eight knots.

<Well, I'm guessing that there are some remnants afterall.> He thought savagely as he tried to see through the murky soup that was enveloping them.

Elan didn't seem overjoyed by that fact. <It doesn't make any sense, Alexander. The defenses should not be targeting us!>

<Shoulda, Coulda.> He thought back, slapping the compass as it spun on it's axis. <We're fucked if it starts shifting the seas on us, Elan...>

<The defenses should NOT have that level of power after this time...> Elan said, not sounding reassuring as she did.

<They shouldn't be active at ALL!> Xander snapped back just as Maria came back online. "Thank God... put it on the dash, upside down!"


Xander just glared at her and she did it. He summoned Elan to his hand, then drive the collapsed weapon through the bottom of the steel bowel. "Ok, go fit that over the GPS antenna, rightside up!"

This time she moved without questioning, clambering up to the electronics spar that crossed the deck above them and forced the bowel over the plastic cylinder that housed the antenna.

Down below, Xander smiled in relief as the computer screen flickered back to life, their GPS coordinates being displayed normally as they moved. He smirked at the fog, "Gotcha."

Even as the word escaped his lips, Xander knew that he should have kept silent. A deep, soul shuddering, groan suddenly sounded all around them. The sound came from everywhere at once, echoing off the thick fog and seeming to get louder with every bounce.

Xander swallowed as the PT Boat suddenly rose up under him, riding a massive wave that had grown up right under them. "Aw Crap."

The PT Boat rode the lip of the thirty foot wave for a few seconds, her aft end coming completely clear of the water, causing the engines to race until Xander hit the cut off. Maria dropped down beside him, almost spilling to the deck until Xander grabbed her.

"What are you doing!? Keep your hands on the tiller!"

Xander shook his head, "The rudders are out of the water. Hold on!"

She grabbed onto the dash, pulling herself up. "What's happening?"

"You don't want to know." Xander said, "Go below and lock the ship down... don't let Mikki or Tara come up or look outside... ANYWHERE."

"What?" She asked, truly baffled. "Why?"

"Just do it!" Xander snapped, pulling her hands loose from the dash and pushing her toward the hatch. "Go!"

He watched as she locked the hatch down, then looked back to the prow of the ship as it began to rise again. The wave slowly passed under them and he felt the stern slap down into the water again and hit the starter for the engines.

"Let's hope the cost of this navigation stuff was worth it." Xander muttered as he set a course south west and flipped on the boat's autopilot.

The engines roared, and the boat started chugging under it's own power, following information from the GPS system. Xander left it to it's own devices and hopped over the cab as the mist around them darkened. He turned back and flipped up the bank of switches that snapped on all the ship's running lights and floodlights.

"Alright..." He whispered, "Come out come out, whatever you are."

<Be warned, Alexander.> Elan whispered, <Not all of this is in fitting with the defenses of Atlantis. Something has gone wrong here.>

"No shit." Xander muttered under his breath as he activated the ancient weapon and moved quietly along the deck of the boat.

The sounds came first.

A quiet moan that seemed human, coming from just far enough to his right that Xander knew that it wasn't coming from anyone on the 579. He suppressed a shiver and resisted the urge to turn in that direction. Chances are there wasn't anything there anyway, and if there was it was something he didn't want to see anyway.

There was a splash in the distance, well out of visible range, but loud. That he payed attention too, turning in the direction he thought the sound was coming from. His eyes shone silver as he tried to peer through the fog.

The boats engines droned away in the background, but a scarmbling noise along the deck of the boat was what caught Xander's ears. He spun toward the sound, shivering in revulsion as he saw the shambling wreck that was pulling itself up onto the deck.

It bore strong resemblance to a zombie, or more accurately to the Hollywood vision of a victim of drowning. It's eyes were milky white and long since dead, and Xander caught sight of a hermit crab scuttling around in it's mouth as it's jaw jaggled open where the tendons had rotted away.

Xander held back an urge to vomit, speaking in broken Atlantean. "Morpheus Defense Deactivate!"


It shifted, stumbling along the pristine deck of the 579 and leaving decayed remnants of itself along the washed decks as it came. Xander cocked back his staff, hesitating for a moment.

<It is Illusion, Alexander! Do not give them power over your mind!>

He hesitated a moment longer, then his arm dropped to his side as the creature shambled toward him. All around her could hear similar scrapings from all quarters, but he deliberately kept his guard down as the shambling thing approached him.

As it made it's final, awkward, lunge Xander grimaced and spat at it.

It vanished into whispy tendrils of smoke just before touching him.

"God damn it!" Xander muttered as the other sounds ceased to echo around him, "What the hell is going on?? You said these defenses would be down!"

<They should be, Alexander!> Elan said defensively. <Something must have tripped them...>

"Yeah, well I'll say a big No Kidding to that." Xander muttered as he moved back to the bridge and checked the GPS signal. It was still good so he left the boat on automatic and turned to examine the mist that was enshrouding them. "I guess this explains why so many ships go down around here."

<I very much doubt it, Alexander.> Elan said softly, <These defenses are designed to evoke terror... not actually kill.>

"That's just lovely. Except that some of these things could shatter an unprepared mind, Elan." Xander growled, still looking to the mists.

Before she could reply he heard another sound, more of a whooshing noise that seemed to echo from the very night itself.

<Illusion, Alexander.>

He nodded, agreeing mentally with Elan, then was struck down to the deck as something hit him from behind. Hard.

He hit the deck rolling, coming back to his feet. "That didn't feel like an Illusion!"

Elan was shocked into silence for a moment.

Another whooshing noise.

Xander spun around, but wasn't fast enough and something struck his shoulder as he twisted, drawing blood and sending him spinning to the deck.

"Fuck!" He yelled as he rolled along the deck, Elan clattering from his hands. He rolled to his hands and knees and started to climb up as another whoosh blasted past his ears accompanied by a hammer blow that lifted Xander clean off the deck and flipped him around in mid air. He spun twice, then hit the deck on his back, all his air blasting from his lungs.

Xander rolled along the deck, gasping for air that simply didn't want to enter his lungs. Around him he heard more noises, like something ripping through the very air around him, and then two thuds of something landing on the deck.

He closed his eyes for a brief moment, forcing his muscles to relax and let the air past the panic block on his throat. Fresh air filled his lungs and he forced his way back to his feet.

Before he could fully get to his feet another hammer blow struck him between the shoulder blades, driving Xander to his knees again. This time he rolled with the blow, hitting the deck with his shoulder and rolling to his feet a short distance away. He spun around, looking for his assailant.

"What the fuck?" He whispered as he looked at the odd figure that was stalking toward him.

It wasn't human, of that he was certain, but it didn't seem to be anything else either. If it weren't for the solidity of it's blows, Xander would be certain it was illusion. It held no aura, and no sign of demonic power. It simply existed.

Physically it was more or less humanoid, but it was in no way human. It's skin was dark green, glistening fangs emerged from it's mouth, it's ears were huge and almost shaped like fins. It had two unblinking eyes that looked too large for it's face. In it's hands was a large trident.

"Great." Xander muttered, "I'm going to get skewered by a B movie monster."

As the thing came at him, Xander summoned Elan back to his hands and blocked the thrust of the trident by blocking it with the ancient staff.

<It is an automaton!> Elan's voice came through his head.

<It's a robot!?> Xander thought desperately as the things immense strength forced him back, step by step.

<No. It is a demonic entity controlled by the defenses!>

<So it's alive?> Xander thought, coughing as the thing forced itself closer and snarled at him. "Whoa... scratch that question... nothing alive could possibly have breath this bad."

Xander twisted elan into a rapid spin that ripped the trident from the creature's claws.

<Correct... though unnecessarily flippant. It is controlled via electrical implants.>

"Fine." Xander pulled the Desert Eagle .44 from his hip, "Then it won't mind me doing this..."

The big gun boomed twice and the monster fell to the deck, it's head effectively removed by the big bore handgun. Xander looked around cautiously, Desert Eagle in one hand and Elan in the other. "Now... how fast is this thing?"

<Slow. As you've seen.>

"Then what hit me from the back?" Xander asked, still moving around through the wisping mist slowly. "That thing couldn't have done it... hell I'm surprised it was able to swim up to the boat..."

Elan was silent for a moment, <It could not have.>

Xander nodded, growling. "Damn this mist! The freaking USS Saratoga could be off our port side and I wouldn't be able to see it."

He doubletimed it back to the bridge and looked down at the displays, cursing when he saw that the only one working was the shielded GPS receiver. He looked around, frustrated. "God damnit. Ok, think.... think... I'm being jammed... from below, or the mixing bowl trick wouldn't work... so what is it trying to hide? What the FUCK is it trying to hide??"

Xander blinked, flipping open a panel he hadn't checked yet. SONAR.

Two switches later and it was obvious that the water around him was being completely flooded by low and high frequency noise. Xander chuckled derisively. "I bet every whale and dolphin within a hundred miles is going nuts."

He was about to flip the SONAR panel back down when a thought struck him and he smiled. "Oh yeah..."

Xander quickly popped up another recessed control panel and tapped a few commands into the computer. There was only one weapon on board that was 'hot' full time, or rather, there were four of them. He activated the first one and slapped down hard on the launch button.

There was a burst of power as the number one mark 50 launched from it's tube and dove into the sea.

Xander eyed the SONAR for a long moment, eyes glinting as he armed number two.

Under the wave the torpedo instantly went into homing mode, power away from the 579 under it's chemical energy propulsion, rapidly accelerating to a cruise speed of thirty five knots. It's SONAR opened up, but was instantly flooded with too much data for it to even make out it's own active systems.

The onboard computer system switched to passive SONAR, running an automatic program used to track enemy submarines by their own SONAR signals and began running the interference frequencies through it's discriminator one by one. The low frequency signals were skipped as they were omnidirectional and impossible to track, but when it hit one of the lower end of the high frequency signals, the lethal fish dived.

It went from homing to solid lock mode in three seconds and accelerated to over fifty knots as it dove.

At one hundred feet down it slammed into an opaque bubble on a huge obstruction and detonated it's one hundred pound payload of shaped high explosives. The resulting explosion rocked the obstruction, ripping a huge gash in it's side.

Above the waves, Xander never felt the explosion, but he did see the effects instantly.

All of his equipment came back online instantly, screens leaping back into function as the data their sensing equipment was feeding them suddenly became comprehensible once again.

Xander looked down and his eyes widened as he saw that the RADAR screen showed a fairly sizable blip just off his port side.

"Hello, hello... I see you..." Xander whispered quietly.

Maria huddled underneath, trying not to shiver as she heard the scrapings run across the outside of the ship. She'd heard two loud shots a moment again, then a noise she didn't know, but all she could think of was Xander's last words. Don't look outside.

Resisting the temptation to that was almost impossible, but so far she's done as he said. So when his voice came ringing over the intercom, she almost jumped out of her skin.

"Maria! Come up here, fast!"

She headed for the door, pausing only to snap a command to Tara. "Keep Mikki down here!"

The blond nodded, placing a restraining hand on the little girl, and whispered "good luck." softly to Maria as she climbed up the hatch.

"What the hell is that!?"

Xander glanced down at Maria as she stared open mouthed over his shoulder. He glanced back at the floating object that was slowly being revealed by the dissipating mist.

"It's a Manta Class Skip Fighter." Xander said, "Flew up here on remote to neutralize us."

"It's a what?" Maria muttered, then she understood the rest and her eyes widened. "Neutralize? You mean kill us??"

"Right." Xander said, nodding, pointing over his shoulder to the headless corpse on the deck. "It dropped that thing here and set it to kill us."


"That's what I'm trying to find out." Xander said, "Come up here and take the tiller."

She climbed up, noting that the shadowy form of the 'fighter' was pacing them. "Ig that thing's on remote, what's it still doing there now that you killed it's pilot?"

Xander released the helm to her, then checked his weapons quickly. "I took out the controller with one of the Mark 50's. But I don't know if it'll keep for long... damn thing has an automatic repair system."

"What thing??"

"The Guardian of Atlantis." Xander smirked as he cinched his armor up carefully and tightly over his shoulder.

"You have GOT to be kidding me!"

"'Fraid not." Xander said, "Not take us over to the port side slowly."

She obeyed and Xander watched as the Manta fighter stayed it's course, not altering to match their new course. He nodded, "Alright. Bring us under it... easy now... I don't want to lose the RADAR Spar."

She skillfully maneuvered the 579 under the floating object, her eyes widening as it became more visible as they got closer. It did look vaguely like a Manta ray, but only in so much as an obviously human designed object could. It certainly didn't looked biological in the least, but rather like something designed by a special effects man for a sci-fi movie.

"What the hell is keeping that think up??" She asked.

Xander climbed up on the electronics mast, reaching out gingerly and grabbing the floating object as it slid closer. "That's good! Hold it steady!"

He jumped onto the 'wing' of the object, hanging on as it wavered in the air. He shook his head, "Damn, Elan... you guys built to last."


"Nothing." Xander shouted down, "And it's being held up by an anti-grav unit. Don't ask how it works, I don't know!"

Maria shook her head, throwing the object over her head occasional glances as she kept the PT-579 steady under it. "What the hell are you doing?"

Xander thumbed a catch on the fighter, smiling as the canopy popped slightly. He pulled the clear canopy up, then slid it forward and dropped into the cockpit. As he did he grimaced, "Aw shit. This place stinks... How long was that freak in here??"

Elan didn't answer, nor did he expect her too. He glanced around, comparing the cockpit to Elan's memories as she fed him information. "Let's see... manual override... ah, here we go."

He pulled a cover off a panel and flipped a couple switches inside. After he did he felt the craft instantly start to wobble, forcing him to grab a guidance stick that was on his right side. "Whoa!"

"Hey! Watch it!" Maria screamed as the craft floated close enough to brush the RADAR spar.

"Whoops..." Xander muttered, pulling the stick the other way and bringing the Manta Fighter down until it was skimming the waves at the side of the 579. He hit a couple key's telling it to hold steady, and crawled up a bit, looking over at Maria. "You ok??"

She nodded back, "What the hell are you doing?? Just blow that thing up or whatever and let's get the hell out of here!"

Xander shook his head, "No. You go without me!"


"You heard me!" Xander shouted, "You take Mikki and Tara back to San Juan and park her in the cove we used to shelter from that storm! There's enough cash on board to get you guys by for a while... I'll catch up!"

"What the hell are you going to do!?"

Xander quirked a grin, "I gotta make sure that you guys make it out of here!"

Maria looked instantly concerned, "I thought you said you hit whatever that thing was with a torpedo!"

"I did, but trust me," Xander grimaced, "One lightweight torpedo isn't going to put this puppy down for the count. It's probably already on it's way after us!"

Maria blanched, thinking about the sounds and terror that had came to them even inside the 579.

"I'm going to intercept it... distract it... hopefully turn the damned thing OFF." Xander said, "I'll be alright. Just wait for me, I'll catch up in a few days at most!"

Maria shivered, shaking her head. "I don't like this!"

Xander rolled his eyes and dropped back into the cockpit of the small fighter, muttering softly. "Yeah, Like I do."

He flipped a switch and the cockpit closed overtop of him and pressure sealed.

"Alright... Let's get this over with."

He grabbed the controls and pulled back on the throttle, sliding out of formation with the 579, until the PT Boat was clear. When he was sure he had plenty of room, Xander shook his head, "Here goes nothing," and pushed the control stick forward.

The lithe fighter surged slightly, hopping up a bit as the wind hit it's control surfaces, then pitched forward and dove into the sea.

Maria was looking back over her shoulder as the oddly shaped craft dove into the water and her breath caught in the throat as she thought it crashed, but then she caught a glimpse of glimmering lights running under the surface and realized that it was a submersible.

She shook her head and programmed the Navigation gear to head for San Juan.

"Good luck..." She whispered as she tried to imagine what she was going to say to Tara and Mikki.

Xander flicked on the exterior lights as he let Elan guide his control movements, turning the Skip Fighter around and turning it back the direction they had come from.

"So," He spoke outloud, mostly just to hear something other then the odd rush of the Fighter's engines. "How about a sitrep on this thing?"

Elan shrugged mentally, <Manta class Skip Fighter. Designed to conduct light combat operations from a submerged base or carrier. Not particularly impressive by even modern standards when it comes to weapons power... though it's much lighter then a modern aircraft would be for comparable firepower.>

Xander rolled his eyes, "I meant on the Guardian."

<Oh.> Elan said, not sounding even slightly like she had actually misunderstood. Instead the ancient soul sounded remarkably disturbed. <The Guardian was designed to be a self repairing automated defense platform. It was activated during my time and used to patrol the seas around Atlantis.>

"From what?" Xander asked as he adjusted the pitch of the fighter and checked the sensor readouts as best he could without the appropriate interface systems.

<At that time the demons were still a serious threat across the planet.> Elan replied, <And some of the very deadliest of those lived in the seas. Like cetaceans, Ocean based demons grow to massive sizes without losing as much mobility. A full grown Kraken could annihilate a modern naval vessel with ease, Alexander.>

"Ok... So that explains the why." Xander said, "Now... what about the How?"

<That is uncertain.> Elanthielle replied, <Unless they installed a default patrol into the Guardian in the time I was gone... it should not have activated.>

"Would they have done that?" Xander asked as he pushed the throttle up a few notches, keeping a careful eye on the tiny displays in front of him.

<Possible.> Elanthielle said, sounding disturbed, <But It would have been reckless to do so... I can't believe that they would have taken this kind of chance.>

Xander shrugged grimly, "Sounds like something humans would come up with if they were on the losing side. Reminds me of the whole M.A.D. concept."

<Indeed.> Elan said dryly, <But I would like to believe that Atlanteans were not so foolish as to believe that Mutually Assured Destruction would deter a demonic force.>

"Desperate people..." Xander said softly, frowning as he tried to read a panel. "Damn it Elan, they could have designed these things better... I can hardly see the displays."

<Normally you would wear a flightsuit and helmet that would interface directly with the craft.> Elan said dryly, <The screens before you are merely backup units.>

"Great." Xander shook his head, "But in the meantime I'm stuck trying to tell is that blip is the Guardian, or if I'm about to run into the seabed."

A moment later a dark shadow blurred over their head, moving to fast that Xander could only barely catch a glimpse of it.

"Right." He swallowed, banking the Skip Fighter around and pushing the throttle all the way open. "So it's not the seabed."

There was a long silence as he adjusted the trim and activated the Skip Fighter's weapons.

"Lucky me."

Maria put the throttle of the 579 to it's limit, pushing the diesels to the limit as the PT Boat sliced the waves.

She glanced over her shoulder, a paranoid sensation of being followed suddenly running up her spine. Her eyes widened as she saw the heaving water being displaced, moonlight reflecting off the huge wave that was coming on fast.

"Madre de Dios." She whispered, tapping the pommel of the throttle a couple times, trying to coax anything else she could get out of the beleaguered engines.

In front of him Xander could see the shadowy form of the Guardian against the dim light filtering through the surface of the water. The moon was bright, and the mist seemed to have faded completely away, leaving just enough visibility to see the bulk of the Guardian as he trailed it under full thrust.

"Damn it!" He cursed, "I'm right here you bastard! Stop chasing them!"

There was, of course, no response.

Xander fumbled around the cockpit of the Skip Fighter, growling. "Weapons, weapons... where are the... Ah!"

He flipped a bank of toggles up, lighting up a previously dark panel.

<Wrong panel, Alexander.> Elan said, <Next one to the right. Those are the wingtip blaster cannons.>

"So? Sounds good to me..." Xander shrugged.

<The water will dissipate the energy too quickly.> Elan replied, <Shift to the low frequency....>

"What? Why'd you stop?" Xander asked.

<I am attempting to translate the term into modern english...> Elan sounded confused. <Never mind. Turn on that back and arm the central mounted weapon.>

Xander flipped up the switches and blinked as the fighter's running lights went out and the cockpit lights shifted to a dull red. "Hey, what the hell?"

<Merely shifting to combat mode.> Elan said, <Be easy. The red frequency light is to preserve your night vision...>

Xander nodded, going back to preparations as he watched the big form closing above him as he got closer and closer.

"Now?" He asked, arms tense as he watched the dark form loom over head.


Xander checked the small screens, watching as the atlantean script passed by, indicating a weapons lock.


The form grew large and larger as they approached, it's undulating movement propelling it through the water at better then forty knots.


Xander's finger tightened on the firing stud, a low hum sounding through the ship as a vibration ran up his body. Outside there was no visible evidence of the weapon, not until the form above them suddenly arced around violently, a burst of white fire ripping oxygen from the very water around it.

"Whoa!" Xander jerked the stick over hard, pulling away from the sudden motion of the Guardian. As he pulled away he looked over his shoulder, "Was that enough?"

<To destroy it?> Elan asked, <Hardly. But you may have annoyed it sufficiently to attract it's attention.

"Great." Xander muttered, "just what I always wanted. A big unkillable monster with a jones for my blood. So... how long until we know whether I got it's attention?"

A bolt of white lightning ripped through the water around them, vanishing into the inky blackness below, it's energy ripping oxygen from hydrogen and igniting both around the Skip Fighter.


<I would guess that you have it's attention.>

"No shit!" Xander muttered, looking over his shoulder to catch the barest hint of a shadow behind him. "And the sunofabitch has the high ground!"

He looked again, catching a hint of the Guardian as it flashed above him. "Damn. damn. Damn! Alright... come on, sucker... follow the leader."

Xander pushed the stick forward and dove for the ocean floor.

Sanchez looked back, trying to find any trace of the phantom wave or the odd light show she'd seen moments earlier, but the sea was calm. She let out a shuddering breath and looked forward again, "I need a desk job."

The Skip fighter slid through the water, diving fast as it headed for the sea floor, it's running lights still out and nothing but the dull red glow of his cockpit lights showing.

<Here comes the floor.>

Xander nodded, pulling back on the throttle and leveling the fighter out. "Let's just hope we can outrun that big..."

A blast struck the ground just ahead of him, blowing a huge hole in the seabed. Xander jumped, pulling the stick up and to the right and slamming the throttle down again. "Jesus! If I hadn't throttled back that thing would have roasted us!"

<The Guardian's AI isn't particularly bright, Alexander. But it is focused.>

Another blast ripped into an undersea valley ridge, ripping up debris and dropping it in slow motion around the Skip Fighter as Xander kept the throttle up and dodged through the newly dynamic obstacle course.

"Sweet Jesus!" Xander yelped as a mast came out of nowhere and he banked the lithe craft hard to port to avoid it.

A moment later he was amongst a hundred wrecks of different types, ducking in and around the ocean burial ground. The little Skip Fighter responded smoothly, ducking under a fallen mast, then skipping over the big cannons of an early WWI battleship.

"Holy shit, there are wrecks from the last three centuries out here!" Xander muttered, then noticed what looked like a viking longboat complete with oars. "Or maybe a bit longer. What the hell?"

Xander's eyes widened as he skipped narrowly under the fallen spire of an old galleon that still had a white and black jolly roger flag drifting lightly in the current. "Hey, you supposed that was Blackbeard's?"

<Alexander!> Elan snapped, <Focus!>

Xander nodded, "Right. Still..." He grunted as he ducked under another blast from the pursuing Guardian. "It is pretty cool. You know, Giles would probably love to see all these ships..."

<Alexander!> Elan commanded, <Dive into the next valley!>

Xander swallowed, "I hope you know what you're doing."

As the ridge came up, he skimmed the ground, banking up along the edge, and then dove into the valley beyond. Behind them another blast of lightning ripped into the canyon wall, showering the skip fighter with debris. Xander flipped the fighter around and put the Manta into a steep dive, paralleling the canyon wall. As he watched the canyon walls flash by he glanced down at another of the gauges, noticing that something was starting to flash red.

"Uh... Elan?"

<That is the pressure gauge, Alexander.> Elan said softly.

"And it's flashing red *why*?"

<The Skip fighter is not designed as a deep water craft.> Elan said, <Very little combat is conducted at such depths.>

"Great. And when exactly is the ocean going crush me like a Beer can??"

<Hopefully it will not come to that. Look ahead."

Xander looked ahead, his eyes straining to see through the murky depths. "What the hell is that?"

Elan's voice was grim, <The underwater Naval access point to Atlantis. Head for it, best speed.>

Xander nodded, thumbing a catch off the throttle and jamming his thumb down on the button underneath. The Skip Fighter shuddered, then a low rushing roar rang in his ears as the Fighter accelerated fast toward the gaping hole.

The Skip fighter flashed through the water, ducking into the hole just as the Guardian swam past over head. The frustrated sounding groan of the Guardian echoed through the water and send a low shudder that even reached Xander as he focused on not bouncing off the walls.

"This place has seen better days." He muttered dryly as skimmed the rocky bottom, following the curve of the tunnel as it headed up. "Can that thing follow us in here?"

<No. It is too large.>

"Thank god." Xander breathed out, backing off the throttle, then he frowned, "Do you think it'll go back after the 579?"

Elan was silent for a moment, <No. It's AI routines are too simplistic. It won't realize that it has lost us for some time... by that time your boat will be far enough away.>

Xander breathed a sigh of relief, "ok. Good. So... now what?"

<We wait it out.>

Xander nodded, then considered. "In the meantime... we're down here anyway, Elan... I know you wanted to visit the surface as a Pilgrimage of sorts... maybe in person would be better?"

Elan's voice was tense, but filled with suppressed longing. <No, Alexander. Your friends...>

"Can handle themselves." Xander said, "Maria is a tough lady, and the other two stand for themselves. Between the three of them I think we don't have to worry... besides, they have twenty grand or so in cash... that'll hold em for weeks at least if need be. We only need a few days."

Elan nodded, a mental gesture that Xander felt, <Very well. And Alexander?>


<Thank you.>

"No problem." He smiled as he pushed the throttle forward again, skimming the rocks as he followed the tunnel to it's end.

The Skip fighter was hovering a few feet above his head as Xander knelt on the ground, frowning as he brushed aside the dirt. He uncovered a scrap of paper and lifted it to his nose, sniffing lightly.

"Dynamite." He said, looking at the fallen pillar and shaking his head.

<This is an atrocity.> Elan's voice was filled with barely controlled anger. <That pillar was one of nice... hand cut by artisans when we founded The City. That it should be... so desecrated...>

Xander looked at the tracks left in the dirt, kicking them lightly with his feet as he clapped his hands clean. "Tracked vehicles... big ones. Impossible to tell how long ago though... this place may as well be the moon. Given the tech, could be anytime in the last... oh century maybe?"

<Barbarians.> Elan seethed.

Xander reached up and grabbed the wing of the skip fighter, flipping himself lightly up and then crawling across to the cockpit and dropping in. He didn't bother closing the cockpit, just pushed the throttle lightly forward and let the wind air the interior out. "Nothing to be done, Elan. Whoever it was needed a bridge."

Elanthielle didn't respond, but Xander could feel her aggravation in the back of his mind. It was bad enough to have the continent annihilated by some disaster, whether it be natural or enemy action, but to have tomb robbers defile it was pushing everyone of the ancient soul's buttons.

A short distance later, Xander brought the Skip fighter to another hovering stop.

"What's with the walls?"

<They look to have suffered a volcanic event.> Elan responded. <Fairly recently...>

"Great." Xander shook his head, "You don't suppose this place is still active?"

<It never was active.> Elan said, her voice apprehensive. <Only the central power could have initiated such a reaction.>

"Central power?"

<The source of power for all the continent.> Elanthielle replied, <It... it requires some explanation.>

"I'll bet." Xander frowned, tapping the throttle up again, "So how about you tell me all about it before we stumble on it and it tries to blow us up. For once, maybe, I can find out about something before it tries to kill me."

Elan was silent for a long moment before grudgingly acquiescing. <The Central Power is based on the highest precepts of Atlantean skill. The very same precepts that created me, Alexander. Atlantis was powered by the souls of it's Royal family. They lived on after their physical passing as Guardians of the people.>

Xander shivered. "They did this willingly, right?"

<Of course.> Elan sounded insulted. <One can not trust a guardian who has been.... as you say, Drafted.>

"Ok, so we've got some potentially ticked off dead people in here." Xander frowned, "And you have no idea how much I wish that didn't sound like business as usual."

<Do not be so flippant, Alexander.>

Xander was about to reply when they came to a huge bore drilled into another pillar. "Whoa."

<Uncultured Oafs!> Elan cursed.

Xander pulled himself out up, standing in the cockpit and looking at the huge hole. "Man. Who the hell came through here? Do you realize how much money someone must have sunk into this expedition? Why didn't anyone hear about this?"

Elanthielle was too busy muttering profanities in various languages to respond.

Xander dropped back down and shook his head. He hit the running lights and slid the throttle forward, sliding the skip fighter into the tunnel.

"Well..." Xander said, licking his lips lightly as he leaned on the forward windscreen of the cockpit and looked over the huge cavern. "There's something you don't see every day."

Elan was shocked into silence, almost unable to communicate at all. All Xander got from her was a confusing blast of emotions.

"You ok?"

<They... They survived.>

"Some of them anyway." Xander said.

They were floating on the edge of a cliff face overlooking a massive cavern that was lit by some kind of natural lighting. The edges of the cavern were so far away that they just faded into the rising mists.

Lying at the center of the cave lied a city.

The buildings were worn, some of them barely standing, others seemed stronger, and a few were obviously under construction or being repaired. Around, above, and through the twisted skyline of the city flew the flyers.

Xander didn't know what else to call them in his mind. They were pretty much ridiculous as far as he could tell, unless you liked the idea of driving a flying tuna like it was a motorcycle.

<They are ceremonial.> Elan said, interrupting his musings. <The people of The City had a great affinity for the sea... The Royalty used many such symbols to engender the love and loyalty of the people.>

"Thank god." Xander muttered, "I had this image of trying to ride one of those into battle... Scary."

Elan actually smiled mentally at that, <They are armed, as are even the least of the ceremonial vehicles and weapons, but are not intended to be used except under dire circumstances.>

"No kidding. It'd be easier to ride a bronco while aiming a rifle." Xander shrugged, dropping back into the cockpit. "So, you want to go pay a visit?"

<I would.>

"Cool." Xander smiled, "I wouldn't miss this..."

He thumbed a button, shutting the cockpit and pushed the throttle forward, and slid the Skip Fighter through the rising mists and flew toward Atlantis.

Within seconds of emerging from the mists on the other side Xander found himself under the close scrutiny of several of the 'flying fish'. They had instantly noticed the differences between his fighter and their own vehicles.

<Like a Cobra Gunship at a Lear factory.> Xander thought as several more of the flying fish swooped around him, their riders pointed and speaking in varied tones.

Xander flipped on the external mics and listened in for a bit, and was rather shocked to realize that he knew most of the words they were speaking with Elan's automatic translation.

<Do not be so surprised, Alexander.> Elanthielle smirked mentally, <Did you really think I was speaking to you in English all this time?>


That insufferable smirk again. <I think in Atlantean, Alexander. Your mind merely assumes that what you hear is English, because that is the language you are accustomed to.>

"So I can speak Atlantean now?"

<Now. You can understand it.> Elan said, <Your accent is too atrocious to be considered actually 'speaking' the language.>

Xander grimaced, "Smart ass."

Elan just smirked again, riding an emotional high at seeing the Capital of her culture once again after so many millenia. <Land over there. It is the landing pad for Royal Guardsman.>

Xander nodded guiding the Fighter and it's newfound escort over to where Elan had indicated. He brought the nimble fighter in for a soft landing, touching down without disturbing more then a few particles of dust. Then he flipped open the Cockpit catch and pulled himself out as the clear shield slid forward.

"Kida! Kida!"

"What is it, Kuma?" Kida 'Thatch' asked as she looked over her shoulder.

"There is a visitor!"

She frowned, There were never any visitors. Not in almost sixty years. "What?"

Kuma shrugged, looking helpless. "He landed on the flat rock above!"

Kida looked up, frowning, toward the ceiling. "The flat space on the roof?"

"Yes. Yes!"

"Get Milo." She said, then turned and strode quickly for the stairs.

Xander looked around nervously, "Ummm... Hi?"

The people around him inched back, looking almost fearfully at him.

"Ok. This is weird."

<They are frightened.> Elan's voice was utterly confused. <And unarmed. Why are their no weapons?>

<I'm just as glad there aren't any hand weapons. Nervous people and firearms are a bad mix.> Xander replied silently, then he held out his hands. "Hey, I... uhhh... come in peace?"

The assembled people just feel back further.

"We have heard that before." A cold voice came from behind him.

Xander turned around, blinking as he found himself staring into a face that was remarkably familiar. <Elan? She looks a lot like you...>

Elan was silent.

Xander shook his head, smiling. "Hi there, My name's Xander....?"

She stared at him coldly, but grudgingly nodded. "Kida. You may call me Kida."

Xander smiled, "That's not your full name is it?"

Her eyes narrowed, "How did you know?"

"Just a hunch." Xander grinned, "look, I don't mean to scare you guys... I was just holing up from the Guardian and decided to..."

"Guardian?" A new voice called out in surprise, "You've seen the Leviathan?"

Xander turned to see a slim man walk toward him. He nodded, "Yeah. Leviathan huh? Good name for it I guess. I stole one of it's remote Skip Fighters and got it to chase me so my ship could get clear. Nasty SOB... We really have to find a way to shit it down... do you have any idea how many ships it's killed over the centuries?"

"To many to count, I'm sure." The man said, a little grimly, then he shook it off and smiled. "I'm Milo Thatch."

"Xander Harris." Xander frowned, "Hey... you from England?"

"Yeah... how'd you guess?"

Xander chuckled, "You've still got a hint of the accent. I've gotten used to it over the years."

"Oh..." Milo looked surprised, but then frowned. "Uh... how'd you find us here... I mean... no one should be able too..."

"I had a guide." Xander said candidly.

Milo's eyes lit up, "One of my expedition? Are they with you?"

"Whoa, whoa... I don't know anything about any expedition. My guide is a Native." Xander said, lifting his hands to interrupt the eager man.

"A native?" He turned to the woman, "Kida... is anyone missing? Are we having more problems with the outlying..."

"Hey, whoa... slow down..." Xander smiled, "I mean a native from way back... look, never mind that now..."

Xander looked around, shaking his head. "It's incredible that you've survived down here. The Central Power is still operating obviously."

"The uhh... what?" Milo asked.

"The Heart." Xander said, "The heart must still be here. Or none of this could exist."

"How did you...?" Milo shook himself before saying more.

Xander smiled, "Relax. I'm not interested in hurting anyone or stealing anything..."

"These people have heard that line before." Milo said, frowning. "From others who carried guns."

Xander glanced down at the weapons he had strapped to his armor and shrugged, "Sorry. But I don't go anywhere unarmed, especially not to an submerged cavern at the center of the Bermuda Triangle."

"So," Milo asked as they walked through the gardens, "How are things on the surface? I haven't had any interaction with the rest of the world in a few decades or so..."

"Same old, same old." Xander shrugged, "Few wars here and there, lots more people... technology has probably taken a few hops since you've been around..."

Xander suddenly frowned, looking at the young man beside him. "How old are you anyway?"

Milo shrugged, "Mid seventies I guess... maybe late... I tried keeping time down here for a while, but it just didn't seem important after a while..."

Xander nodded, "I see that the Core is still extending lifespans."

Milo nodded, then frowned. "How did you know about that?"

"My guide." Xander smiled. "She's been around a while."

"I see." Milo muttered in a tone that said he clearly didn't. "So you ran into the Leviathan?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah. And I'm not too happy about that. Who activated that damned thing? It was supposed to have been decommissioned over twelve thousand years ago..."

"You already know more then I do." Milo sighed, "All I've found here are rather fanciful scripts referring to it... nothing hard. Nothing I can use."

"No wonder really." Xander shrugged, "This is the Royal Palace and surrounding grounds. The real data on things like that would have been kept at the Military HQ... and that was on the waterfront."


"Yep." Xander sighed, "What you've got here is whatever the Parliament thought the royalty needed to know... which probably wasn't much."

"Parliament??" Milo's eyes widened, "Kida never mentioned a parliament..."

Xander looked around, "She was around then?"

"Well..." Milo hedged, "She was a kid."

Xander nodded, not bothering to say anything further. "So... What was it like when you guys got here?"

Milo looked around, a bit of pride in his eyes. "It was beautiful. Like nothing I'd ever seen..."

Then he sighed, "But the people... they'd forgotten so much... They couldn't even read Atlantean script anymore."

Xander's eyes seemed to drift, and he winced.

"Are you alright?" Milo asked.

"After eight thousand years... humans forget." Xander said, but his tone gave Milo the impression that he was speaking to someone else.

"Well... yes..." Milo said slowly, "That's what we figured."

Xander nodded, but still looked like he was carrying on another conversation. Finally he spoke again, "What happened? The people here are a little jumpy."

Milo sighed, "Their first meeting with the rest of the world wasn't on the best terms. And since then we've had some problems with Kraken."

Xander snapped around, looking sharply at him. "There are Kraken still on the planet??"

Milo nodded. "They tend to stay in the deep water trenches, but they're still there. Generally, as far as I can tell, they don't come out much unless they run out of food."

"No. They wouldn't..." Xander said his mind racing. "But that's not good news. It means that there is an underwater Hellmouth somewhere... The Kraken were driven from the planet over twelve thousand years ago... along with the other powerful demons."

Milo shrugged, "We had an attack about... oh, maybe thirty years ago. But it killed a lot of people..."

"How large?" Xander asked.

"Large." Milo frowned, remembering the thrill of terror. "It's tentacles were at least a hundred and fifty feet long."

"An adolescent then." Xander replied, still looking distracted.


"Kraken grow a lot larger then that." Xander said, frowning. "Why do you think I'm a little bothered by having them kicking around the oceans?"

"I see." Milo groaned. "I hope they don't come back here."

"That one must have been young to have dared it." Xander said, "No Kraken old enough to know Atlantis would have dared come near this place... not even now."

Milo stopped, putting a hand on Xander's shoulder. "You seem to know a lot more about things around here then me... and I've been studying the scripts and writings here for decades."

Xander smiled, "My guide *founded* the City, Milo. She was here when all this was nothing more then a gleam in the eyes of five people."

Milo Thatch stopped in place and just stared as Xander continued to walk through the garden. Finally, after a long moment, he unfroze and ran to catch up. "Hey! Hey! Wait a minute, what are you talking about?"

"Come on." Xander smiled, "I'll show you. We'd better bring Kida along... She's the current ruler right?"

"Uh... yeah. I guess."

"Come on then."

"Hey... what? Wait a sec..." Milo objected as Xander climbed over the wreckage of a building. "This place isn't safe... we haven't gotten around to clearing it out yet!"

"Relax." Xander said, entering a far room. "They built to last."

"Well, yes..." Milo said, "But it has been over eight thousand years..."

"Closer to ten." Xander grinned, "You went by Plato didn't you?"

"Huh? Why... I mean, of course..."

"He couldn't do long division if his life depended on it." Xander grinned, "Of course, who am I to talk? Me and math have a mutually enforced restraining order in effect."

"Huh? Restraining what?"

"Sorry." Xander grinned, looking over some of the surviving artifacts in the ancient building. "I guess it's a new thing."

Milo looked at him oddly, "Look... would you mind telling me what your looking for?"

Xander found a huge stone desk and shook his head at the impracticality of the thing. He found a hole in the desk and looked over at Milo, "You mind putting your crystal in here and giving it a quarter turn?"

Milo looked at the hole and hesitated, staring. Finally he shook himself and nodded, "Huh... oh. Yeah... sure."

"Thanks." Xander grinned stepping back as Milo did as he asked.

As he turned the glowing crystal Milo looked up in surprise to see a spiral staircase recede into the floor, opening a passage to a lower cavern. "Oh, hey... I'm not to keen on going anywhere under this place... the last time didn't have great results."

Xander looked over, "What?"

"Umm... Nothing."

"Ok..." Xander hesitated, then shook it off, "Anyway, relax. There shouldn't be anything down there overly dangerous."

Milo was about to say something else, but Xander was already walking down the staircase with Kida following close behind. "Hey! Wait up!"

"What is this place?" Kida asked in her clipped tones.

"Royal Guardsman Armory and Central Command." Xander replied.

"Whoa! Whoa! Armory!?" Milo asked as he caught up to them.

Xander nodded, "Nothing heavy though... the Guardsmen were a largely ceremonial force... Not a front line group. The heavier weapons were kept away from the City."

They came out into a large room that was too dark to see much in. Xander frowned, looking around. "Lights!" He commanded in Atlantean.

No result.

"Damn it..." He rolled his eyes, walking over to a wall were he felt around for a panel that Elan insisted was there. "Ah. Found it..."

He flipped open the panel and palmed a device inside.

Immediately the room was illuminated, white light pouring from panels in the ceiling. Xander nodded, smiling. "There. That's better."

Milo and Kida looked around the room, eyes wide. Along one wall was a bank of staffs and armor that looked very ornate. Milo went over, brushing his hand across the symbols on the armor.

"Guardsman Captain..." He whispered.

Xander glanced over, taking in the design of the armor at a glace. "Yep. That'll take a blast from a staff weapon... but it's pretty much useless... too heavy."

"It's beautiful..." Milo said softly.

Xander rolled his eyes, "I guess."

Xander turned to another wall and flipped open another panel. Behind him Milo pulled one of the staffs off the wall. "Hey, what's this?"

Xander looked back, then hit the floor as he saw the business end of the Staff Weapon pointed in his direction. "Hey! Don't point that at me!"

Milo startled, lifted the weapon up. "Why? Surely it's not loaded...?"

As he spoke the weapon snapped open with an electrical crackle and he dropped it like a live wire. The weapon hit the floor and went off, sending an energy bolt ricocheting through the room.

As the shot fizzled out, Xander and Kida looked up. "Milo!"

"Sorry! Sorry!" Milo flinched back.

Xander shook his head and walked across to the staff and picked it up. He deactivated the weapon and put it back in it's place. "Staff weapons are charged by a Naqueda reaction... They don't run out of ammo until the reaction is dead... and Naqueda has a VERY long halflife."

"Half what??"

Xander groaned, shaking his head. "Never mind."

He walked back to the other wall and tinkered with the panel until he was rewarded by a hum of power and a sudden slicker as the entire wall lit up into a huge display screen. "There we go... I love Naqueda reactors. I wonder if I can find an extra couple lying around here?

Then he shrugged and started snapping orders to the screen.

After several minutes of inputting commands, Xander shook his head and sighed.

"What is it?" Kida asked, coming up behind him.

"Everything's gone." Xander said, sighing. "Communications are shot to hell... I can't even contact Niume from here... No sign of any surviving bases, stockpiles, or defense fortifications... but that doesn't mean anything because the communication system is shot. Hell, even the central data core is gone... It must have been destroyed. Damn it, so much as been lost..."

"What this mean?" Kida asked, her english slipping as she frowned at the screen.

"It means," Milo stepped up, "That he's looking for weapons."

Xander glanced back, "So? Sue me, I'm a soldier. It's what I do... But that's not why I'm here."

"Then why are you here?" Kida asked.

Xander shifted to Atlantean, his eyes glowing silver and his accent vanishing as he allowed Elanthielle to control his speech. "I am here as Pilgrimage to my homeland."

Kida blinked, then whispered in shock. "And who are you?"

"I am Elanthielle of Atlantis."

Kida gasped, falling back a step as the glow in Xander's eyes faded away. Milo caught her as she stumbled, "Kida? What is it?"

Xander's arm crossed his chest, palm up and fingers lightly splayed in salute.

"He is Kine." She whispered in shock.

"What? He's what?"

"Knight." Xander said, "In Atlantean the word Kine means Knight."

"So... ummm..." Milo asked hesitantly, "What happened? I mean... If these Knights were so powerful..."

"When Atlantis fell, they lost their home, Milo. Their families, their support... everything." Xander said softly. "From what I know... and most of this is second, third, fourth... hell even hundredth hand, They fought on for a while... did their best, but eventually died out. The last great battle was in Egypt... Turok and his bearer fell in battle against Ra."

"The sun God?"

"Something like that." Xander snorted.

Kida let out a soft cry, her eyes wide in shock. "Ra? The Goa'uld have returned?"

"About eight thousand years ago." Xander said, "Humans kicked their asses off the planet about three thousand years after that. They're still out there though."

Kida nodded, "They always were."

Xander smiled, "No. But they have been around for a long time."

"Goa... what?" Milo asked.

Xander smiled, "Bad guys. That's enough for now."

Then he looked at Kida, "And you, Kida, know a lot about somethings... and surprisingly little about others."

Kida looked down, almost ashamed. "There were stories told when I was young... but time passed and people stopped telling stories... some I forgot, some I always remember."

Xander smiled, "That's important, Kida..."

Then he turned back to the wall and sighed again, "Now... let's see what's left..."

He tapped commands directly onto the screen, flipping through the displays quickly.

"What are you looking for?"

Xander shrugged, "Anything really... Hmmm... Treasure storage..."

"There is much gold here." Kida said, "Is that what you mean?"

Xander paused for a moment, then laughed, "I didn't say that I was looking for Treasure storage. I said I found one... here, see?"

She looked at the map, "That is below my Father's... My throne...."

Kida looked lost for a moment, and Milo hugged her.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. It's one of the royal treasure rooms."

"More gold?"

"Among other things." Xander shrugged, "Nothing useful though."

"Most people would consider gold useful."

"Money is worthless." Xander said, "until it has been turned into something we can use. Until then it's nothing but a lick and a promise."

"Sounds like you have money." Milo smirked.

Xander shrugged, "I do now. But I fought for years without it, and wouldn't consider it the end of the world if I didn't have any now. I'm more interested in this.... right here."

Milo leaned forward, "What's that?"

Xander smiled, "Royal mechanic's lodging and work area."

They spent a while longer in the Guardsman Armory, then left without bothering to take any of the weapons or armor.

"It's junk." Xander said dismissively, "Designed to look pretty and have some mild utility. I know some guys in the Government who played with them for years and never considered giving up their firearms."

"Why?" Milo asked, confused. "That blaster is more powerful from what you said, and it doesn't run out of ammo...?"

"It's also clumsy as hell, has a slow fire rate, and requires a rather bulky containment system." Xander replied, "You saw the balancing weight on the rear end?"


"That's the Naquada reaction system." Xander said, "It makes the weapon... an amusing toy, but rather worthless in battle."

"Oh." Milo frowned, "But those Goa'uld things... you said they use them?"

"Well... They do make excellent weapons of terror." Xander replied, "I have... had... a friend in the military who summed it up nicely..."

Xander paused, drawing his pistol from the hip holster and holding it up. "The Staff Weapons are tools of Terror. These..." He tilted the pistol in the light, "These are tools of war. Staff weapons scare the hell out of the enemy... a good assault weapon *kills* the enemy."

Xander returned the weapon to it's place.

Milo swallowed, "That's uh... a real nice attitude you have there."

Xander chuckled, "You should meet my friends. I'm considered the joker of the group."

Milo watched as Xander walked off, glancing at Kida, who glanced back.

"If he's the joker, the rest of them must be real fun at parties." Milo said sarcastically.

"Milo?" Kida pulled on his shirt.


"What's a joker?"

The huge doors moved slowly as Milo and Xander put their weight against them. As they slowly shuddered open, Milo spoke.

"I don't know what you expect to find here... I've been all through this place."

Xander shrugged, "We'll see. You may have missed something. Anything in here that you didn't recognize?"

"Other then everything?" Milo grinned, as he forced the huge door open the last inch. "There's plenty. But it's all dead. None of it would activate, even after I translated the instructions."

"Well..." Xander said, walking in. "We'll have a look and see what we can find."

Milo nodded and the two of them walked into the dark area, coughing slightly as the dust kicked up. After a moment Xander smiled, "Lovely."


"Reactors." Xander said, "The computer said that the backups were kept here."

"Oh, those." Milo didn't seem impressed, "I found those, but they wouldn't turn on."

"Not surprising." Xander said as he checked one of the machines. "They aren't stored with a Naqueda supply."

"Oh." Milo frowned, "What do these things do?"

"You know what electricity is, right?"

Milo sputtered, "Of course I do!"

Xander laughed, "Sorry... but I really didn't know when you got here. Anyway, these generate power like an electrical generator... they can even be rigged to output electricity, though not as efficiently... Here, grab one of those... let's get a couple out into the light."

They carried one of the reactors apiece out of the building.

"These are light." Milo said in surprise.

"No Naqueda inside."


"Naqueda is a super heavy element." Xander explained, "It'll more then triple the weight of the reactors."

"How much electricity can these generate?" Milo asked, looking around, wondering what things he could turn on with the small devices.

"Enough to run a small city." Xander shrugged, "a couple of them would probably reactivate everything still in working order here."

Milo looked back, "There were ten in there!"

"Atlantis was a big city." Xander replied, "That was just the backup systems for this sector."

They set the devices down, and Xander flipped one open and examined the innards. After a long moment he smiled, "Perfect working order."

"Yeah, but no fuel." Milo frowned.

Xander looked up from where he was crouching, "Didn't I tell you, Milo? In Atlantis, Naqueda *was* treasure."

Milo looked at him for a long moment, eyes widening, then he smiled. "I see..."

"Come on, let's get Kida and check out her throne."

"Naquada?" Kida asked hesitantly as Xander hefted a silverish grey brick.

"Naquada." Xander confirmed. "Weapons Grade..."

He looked across the room, shaking his head as he looked at the vast supply of the element. "My god. If this got in the wrong hands..."

"How dangerous is this stuff?" Milo asked.

"You have any experience with TNT?"

Milo smiled, "A little."

Xander hefted the brick in his hand, "With a little bit of work this brick is the equivalent of more then half a million *tons* of TNT."

Milo blinked, then frowned, then shook his head. Finally he sat down and just looked confused, "I... I don't get it."

Xander sighed, "Guess you came here before World War 2, huh?"

"They had another one of those!?" Milo asked in shock, "Who started that one?"



Xander shrugged. "Look. At the end of World War Two the US was getting a little desperate to end the war... Don't get me wrong, the States were winning... but it was slow, and it was costly. So they dropped a couple bombs. Just small ones by todays standards. A few kilotons or so... Do you understand me?"

"Kilotons?" Milo blinked, "You mean a few thousand pounds? Of what? Dynamite?"


"How'd they deliver the bomb??"

"By plane..."

"Huh? How'd they get that much Dynamite into an airplane??" Milo shook his head, "That's not possible."

"They didn't." Xander said patiently. "They developed a more powerful explosive. It packed that much power into a package that weighed only a few hundred pounds..."

"Ok..." Milo shook his head, "I guess I can understand that."

"Ok." Xander said, "The point is this... Those two bombs *destroyed* two Japanese cities. Not just a few square blocks... but entire cities."

Milo looked horrified. "God."

"Right." Xander said, "Now this brick, makes those look like firecrackers in comparison."

Milo still didn't look like he understood.

Xander sighed. "Ok. Let me put it this way... Imagine if we took this brick and detonated it here in Atlantis..."

Kida and Milo looked shocked and horrified.

"Relax," Xander said, "Just trying to give you an idea here..."

"Ok... go on..." Milo said.

"Ok. Imagine this..." Xander said, "First, the city is vaporized. Everything in it, utterly destroyed. Next the expolosion breeches the cavern... reducing it to rubble and erupts out into the ocean... with me so far?"

Both of them nodded in shock.

"The power displaces the water as it erupts, vaporizing some of it," Xander said, "But mostly just shoving it out of the way... Now, even if we assume that the energy itself doesn't reach any inhabited land, the Tsunami it creates would destroy the east coast of the States up to fifteen miles inland... New York, Washington, Miami... all gone. Same thing in South America, Africa, and Spain. Are you getting an idea yet?"

"My god." Milo looked sickened. "That... that's too much power..."

Xander shrugged, "It has a flip side."

"How could it!?"

"This same brick could cleanly power a small city for centuries." Xander said. "It's a tool. Nothing more."

They were both looking at the bricks in terror.

"Hey, is this stuff safe? I mean... Dynamite can go off when it gets older..."

"Relax." Xander casually flipped the brick over his shoulder, letting it dig into the ground behind him. Milo jumped in terror. "It's perfectly stable, and requires extreme measures to detonate."

"Like what??"

"A nuclear reaction would do it." Xander replied. "Like the bomb I told you about. Anything short of that and this stuff is just a paperweight."

"Thank God." Milo muttered.

Kida hesitantly picked up one of the bricks, cocking her head. "So much power... so small a thing. How?"

"Now for that, you're asking the wrong person." Xander said with a smile. "In the meantime, what I want to point out is that you can't let this stuff get out of here... It's too dangerous. If anyone else from the surface comes down here, they can't know you have a supply like this..."

Xander looked over the Naquada. "This room contains the power to destroy the world..."

Then he turned back to Milo and Kida, his face deadly serious. "Or save it."

Some time later Milo was walking around, looking for the visitor. He and Kida had taken some time to have a hurried conversation, and though he wasn't certain he agreed with her, she wanted to trust this Xander Harris. Milo wasn't so sure. He'd been burned once by trusting without question, and it was a hard sell to do so again.

It was, he decided, that Xander reminded him of the Captain. A dangerous man, one who seemed fair and competent, but one who kept a lot to himself.

He sighed, hoping that Kida's trust wasn't misplaced. She, he admitted, had a much better track record of who to trust then he did.

He found Xander sitting at the side of the great lake, a melancholy look on his face as he skipped stones across the placid surface of the water. "What's wrong?"

Xander looked back, no evidence of surprise on his face. "Nothing."

"Yeah, right." Milo smiled hesitantly, "I'm not quite that oblivious... not anymore anyway."

Xander waved his hand around, "All this."

"What about it?" Milo dropped down beside him.

"It's all wrong..."


Xander sighed, "Look... I came out here to bring Elan on a pilgrimage. Neither of us expected anything to be left... Atlantis was the capital of an Empire, Milo... It was once the brightest light in this Galaxy..."

"And now, it's gone out?"

Xander shook his head, "Worse... it's faded out. Elan looks at these people and her emotions rip me apart. I've been trying to work through it, so has she... but this is all so wrong. Atlanteans aren't supposed to be doing subsistence farming..."

Milo nodded, "It's getting better you know... They've started to learn again, started to rebuild. We've actually managed to repair a lot of the old systems, and get more running... with what you've told us we can make this place thrive again. It's only a matter of time."

"Time you might not have." Xander said gloomily.


"Milo... things are coming to a head." Xander said, "I know. I've been through it once before. The world is entering a Crisis time... Old enemies are coming back... And they don't want Atlantis to rise. If they find out about you while your helpless like this..."

Xander let the statement hang.

Milo nodded, sighing. "Tell me about these enemies."

Xander snorted, "You have six years or so?"

"Just start somewhere." Milo said, "Explain to me what is coming."

"Armageddon. Armageddon is coming, Milo. And it's bringing friends." Xander said, then sighed and began to explain more.

Later, Xander was tinkering with his Skip Fighter when Milo and Kida walked up behind him. "Hey," He said without looking back, "I'll be with you in a second."

"Are you leaving, Xander?" Kida asked.

Xander sighed, "Yeah. I wish I could stay, but I can't."

"We could really use your help, you know." Milo said, "Making this place thrive..."

"I wish I could." Xander said, "But I can't. I... I just can't."

Kida nodded and Milo smiled, "We thought you'd say that. Kida wanted to present you with something..."

Xander frowned, turning around. "That's ok.. Really..."

Before he could say anything more Kida had stepped forward and slipped something over his head. Xander frowned and looked down to see one of the glowing blue crystals hanging alongside his Celtic Cross. His breath stopped for a moment as he looked at it, then he nodded and looked up and smiled. "Thank you."

She smiled at him, "We Honor You, Knight."

Xander smiled, then returned her gesture with a Kine Salute. "And I am honored, Lady."

Milo cleared his throat, "Yeah... well, we also thought you might be able to use some help... It's not much really... we're not warriors here, not yet... maybe not ever... but it should help you in your fight."

Xander frowned, not understanding, then Milo pointed behind him. Xander turned around, his eyes widening as he saw a large fish shaped flyer floating there, it's 'mouth' open and mountains of gold and jewels visible inside. Xander also caught sight of two Naquada reactors with a brick of Naquada apiece.

"You don't have to..." He said.

"No." Milo said, "We don't. But we choose to."

Xander hesitated, then nodded.

"Besides, you need a guide to get out of here anyway." Milo said, "If you go back the way you came you'll have to run through the Leviathan again."

Xander frowned, shaking his head. "We have to do something about that thing."

Milo nodded, "Yeah. But for now, the best we can do is avoid it."

Xander reluctantly nodded, sighing. "I know. Short of a nuke I don't think anything would even disable it for long... and even that... If it's shielded, then even that might not do the job."

Milo shook Xander hand, "Hey, we'll work something out. It may take some time... but we'll get it figured."

Xander nodded. "Yeah... we need to fix the communications... but we'd need a team of techs..."

Milo shrugged, "We do our best."

Xander sighed, "And it's never good enough."

"It's all we have." Milo said firmly, "And that is always as good as it gets."

Xander nodded, straightening. He smiled, "It's been a pleasure to meet you, Milo Thatch."

"It's been pretty interesting to meet you, Xander Harris." Milo grinned.

Maria Sanchez stared out over the calm sea, brooding as she let the soft rocking of the 579 sooth her nerves.

The past three days had been a nerve wracking one for her, and the girls as well, but they at least had each other and Maria as a convenient target. Mikki hadn't done more then growl at her since she had refused to turn around and go back, and even Tara had been distant. Though, she had to admit, that it was hard to tell with Tara.

Maria sighed. She wished she could go back, but if she did what good would it do really? It's not like Xander was floating around on a life raft, he was *under* the waves, not on them. And if he did make it back, then they should be right where he swore he'd come.

So, for the third late night in a row she found herself staring moodily out over the ocean.

This night, however, she saw something staring back.

Out in the sea two lights appeared, dim, but growing brighter. They approached from under the waves, coming in so fast that she didn't have time to do anything but stare before they were right by the side of the 579.

"Dios!" She swore, jumping up as something rose out of the water.

The huge bulk lifted up beside the 579, shedding water by the gallon as it turned to face her, Maria almost choked when she recognized it as a giant *Carp*. For a brief moment of insanity she wondered if she had fallen asleep on the deck, then the mouth of the carp opened and a man stepped out, smiling.

"Hi." He said, "You would me Maria... right?"

She stared, eyes bulging, mouth open wide.

"Xander sent us." The man smiled, extending his hand as he hopped down onto her deck. "My name's Milo."

"Xander?" She asked, trying to shake the obvious delusional scene from her mind. "You know Xander?"

Damn. The delusion wasn't going away.

Milo nodded, "Yeah. He'd be here, but he spotted a coast guard patrol boat cruising out this way and went to distract it so we could get this done before we were spotted."

"Do what?"

Milo stepped aside, smiling. "Unload out Cargo."

Maria stared at the mountains of gold and precious gems and stumbled back in shock, falling on her ass.

"That's a good boy..." Xander grinned. "Follow the strange lights..."

A couple bursts from the wingtip blaster cannons fired harmlessly into the air had been enough to change the course of the small cutter. So Xander watched it for a short while from his semi-submerged position, then turned back to where the PT-579 was waiting.

He skimmed the surface of the water, closing on the boat at a relatively relaxed speed of a hundred and fifty knots, leaving a wake of foaming water behind as he slid into the sheltered cove and decelerated until the Skip Ray was coasting into a parking position beside the PT Boat. He popped the cockpit and waited for it to slide forward, then stood up and grinned down at Maria and Milo.

"How'd it go, Xander?"

"No problem, Milo. Poor Captain probably thinks he saw a shooting star in reverse though." Xander grinned. "Your end?"

"Wrapping up now..." Milo grinned, "But we've filled your engine room and every storage compartment... even the empty torpedo tube."

Xander chuckled, "We're not going to be making goo fuel milage, for a while then. Thanks, Milo."

"No problem." Milo grinned, "Just come back and visit."

"Count on it." Xander said. "Next time I'll try to bring some comm gear, or something to fix up the damage to yours."

Milo nodded, "Yeah. It'd be nice to be able to keep track of the world..."

"I'll bet."

"Take care of yourself, Xander." Milo grinned, then half bowed to Maria, "And you as well, Miss Sanchez."

Maria stared, still stunned as Milo followed the rest of the crew onto the huge carp. Then it's mouth closed and it turned and flew away. She stood there until Xander interrupted her reverie.

"Hey, could you move aside?" Xander asked, "I want to land this thing and it'll take up every bit of deckspace we have..."

She swallowed and moved aside, letting Xander guide the Skip Ray into position and slowly lower it to the deck. After it was down and the systems turned off, Xander hopped out and grinned at Maria. "So... how've you been doing?"

She stared at him in shock, then gaped at the craft behind him. "That's... a little conspicuous..."

Xander glanced back and grinned, "We still have that paint tarp from where we used while fixing this up?"

Mikki woke up the next morning, feeling the ship moving under power. The shudder of the boat was a little off and she frowned. They were supposed to wait for Xander. The little girl growled, throwing her blankets off and charging up on deck.

"Maria!" She scowled, looking around. "Why are we moving??"

"Because I started the boat and hit the throttle."

She spun around, "Xander??"

Xander grinned down at her, "Heya Mik."

Then he frowned, "I hear you've been giving Maria a hard time, Mik."

Mikki frowned instantly, "She left you."

"I told her too." Xander countered. "There was nothing you could have done... none of you. So I got you out of there. Don't be angry with Maria, I made the call. So you are going to have to do extra training to make up for your behavior."

Mikki half frowned, half pouted, and stamped her feet on the deck.

"Don't try that look on me, young lady." Xander smirked, "I've been exposed to that look so often that I've built up an immunity."

She kept up the angry pout.

Xander sighed, "Or maybe it's just a weak resistance... Oh alright! No extra training... but you WILL apologize to Maria."

"Ok..." Mikki said grudgingly.

"Good." Xander grinned, then reached down and hugged the girl. "Good to see you, Mik."

"You too..." She said softly, hugging him back.

Xander grinned and then got up, "Now, come on up here and I'll show you how to pilot this boat."

Mikki semi shrugged, "Ok..."

Xander rolled his eyes, "And when we reach Panama I'll let you take me for a tour of the jungle..."

"Cool!" She grinned wide, then paused. "Panama? Where we going now?"

"Home." Xander said, smiling. "I'm going home."

"Where's home?"

"Sunnydale California."

"Any jungles there?"

"No, Mikki... but we have some forests, and parks..."

Mikki looked disappointed, but nodded. "Ok... So... Sunnydale?"

"Yep. But we'll be making a stop first..."


"We picked up some cargo that I have to unload..."



"Any jungles there?"

Xander laughed, "Only the urban kind."


Further questioning was interrupted by a voice from behind them.


Xander turned around, grinning. "Hi Tiger."

Tara blushed. "I thought I asked you not to call me that...?"

Xander shrugged, smirking. "I don't seem to remember anything like that."

"Oh." She said.

Xander grinned, "Don't ever change Tara."




Valid XHTML 1.1! Valid CSS!