Year Zero

Year's End

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. FYI, I do not watch the series any more... I don't like the series, and never have liked it overly. I do like the potential of the series, and the potential inherent in the Character of Xander Harris... I started watching the series in S6, and stopped before the end of S7, and this fic should in no way be taken as a compliment to the skills of the people at ME... I only started watching the series because of the skills of the writers at the BX_Fanfic Yahoogroup... Unfortunately, even their skill was not sufficient to keep me watching. So, no, I don't own the characters... and as far as I'm concerned ME can keep them.

Other Characters and settings are generally only taken because I DO like them... so if yer not ME, and your stuff is in here, then Kudos on the good work. :) (Though if you work on CHarmed, watch out... You're treading WAAAY to close to the hack level of ME lately.)

For the readers... Yes, the above was a rant. But it was also all true. (The facts anyway, if not the optinions.)

Summary: It's homecoming and Big Bad time boys and girls...

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.

(In which a distant menace comes closer, and a closer menace is revived.)

Xander Harris ran hard and fast, ducking through the thick growth around him, stealing occasional glances over his shoulder. His heart beat in his chest, the thuds rocking his ears with every beat.

He skidded to a stop, sliding along the ground as he looked behind him, his eyes searching the path he had just taken for any sign of his pursuer.


Xander grinned, then hopped up and took off again at right angles to his last course.

The branches and vines tore at his clothes as he tore through them, plucking at his armored vest. He broke out into a clearing and looked around, skidding to a halt. He fell silent, listening intently.

A throaty cough broke the silence, spinning Xander around just as a black form hurtled through the air and hit him solidly in the chest. He fell back, hitting the ground in a skidding roll as he grappled with his furry assailent.

They came to a stop, Xander underneath, staring up into the tawny yellow eyes of the Jaguar sitting on his chest. He let his head slip back and grinned, "Ok, Mik. I give."

The black cat let out a series of coughs that sounded suspiciously like laughter, then ducked it's head into the crook of his neck and rubbed it's head against Xander's jaw.

Xander's heart beat a little faster as he felt suddenly uncomfortable, but he nodded and lifted his hands up to gently scruff up the cat's head.

<This feels really weird.> He said inwardly.

<It is her way, Alexander.> Elan reminded him for the hundredth time, <She is primal. Tactile contact is vital to her sense of well being, it has nothing to do with intimacy.>

Xander nodded, still petting the black cat lightly. <I know... but it feels weird.>

<Do not punish her because your human upbringing is distorting your perceptions,> Elan said sternly. <She has had a difficult enough time over the past two months because she could feel your discomfort when she tried to get close.>

Xander nodded. Elanthielle had finally ripped him a new one a few days earlier when he had shifted uncomfortably away from Mikki when she curled up beside him while he was laying down.

Suddenly his thoughts were disrupted as a rasping feeling scraped along his neck and he yelped. "Ow! Mik! That tongue wasn't made for people who don't have fur on their necks!"

The young shifter fell back, reverting to her human form and looking ashamed. "Sorry... you're bleeding..."

Xander ran his hand along the place Mikki had licked, and it came away lightly pink. He sighed, "It's ok, Mik. Just some light scrapes... Come on, we'll get your clothes and head back to the boat..."

Mikki nodded, brightening as she shifted back to her beast form and padded silently alongside him.

Mikki and Xander walked along the packed dirt road toward the small dock they had left the 579 at, drawing a few stares from the locals. In most places, Xander reflected, it would have been the pistol on his hip that drew the stares, but here it was Mikki. Pistols were commonplace in this part of the world, but young children traveling on armed boats was a little less known.

The rounded the bed and started down to the small dock, noticing instantly that a small patrol boat had berthed alongside the PT Boat. Xander could see Maria arguing with a man in uniform as they approached.

"Is there a problem here?" Xander asked cooly as he stepped onto the old wooden dock.

Maria glanced over, looking frustrated. "This... this..."

"Maria..." Xander chided lightly, as he smiled slightly at the uniformed man. "I'm sorry, Maria has a temper."

The man wiped his brow, "I was just telling her that I must inspect your vessel. Armed gunships are not permitted in these waters."

Xander nodded, "Sure. Come on aboard. But you do know that we aren't armed... well, we have a couple pistols and shotguns..."

The man looked suspiciously at the heavy weapons all over the boat, but nodded. "Yes... you're *woman* here has told me as much. Your papers appear to be in order..."

Xander nodded, "Well you can have a look at whatever you like... but do stay out of the rooms below decks."

"Why is that?" The man asked belligerently.

Xander chuckled, "Because there are three women living on this boat. Have you ever stumbled into a woman's room by mistake?"

The man's eyes widened, then he laughed lightly. "Point taken, Senor."

Xander gave the man a quick tour, showing him the disabled guns and even reciting a little history lesson concerning the PT Boats. When it was done, the man frowned as he looked at the tarp covered object taking up most of the deck.

"What do you have under there?" He asked.

Xander shrugged, "Nothing much really."

"I must check." The man said firmly, "Smuggling is rampant in this area..."

Xander nodded then, to Maria's shock, flipped the tarp up to reveal the Skip Ray.

"Madre..." The man whispered, "What is it?"

Xander grinned, "It's a prop for a movie in Hollywood. We were bringing this boat around for a Studio to look at, and they asked us to transport this for a Sci-Fi film they have in the works..."

The man shook his head, "Movie people. Always with their head in the clouds."

Xander shrugged, "It's a living."

The man nodded, "Si, Si... Alright, I've seen enough... Thank you for your cooperation."

The man hopped off the boat, tossing a glare at Maria as he did. She sent the glare back with interest, but didn't say anything.

Xander chuckled, walking up to the controls and flipped on the engines. He glanced at Maria, "You know, it doesn't pay to piss off the local constables..."

Maria looked sourly at him, but shrugged. "Sorry."

"No problem." Xander put the engines into reverse, "Let's get going. Hollywood won't wait for it's 'props' forever."

Far out in space, the Heliopause of the Sol system was breached by a huge object. It decelerated in a flash, then came to a rumbling stop as it scanned the system. Slowly, so very slowly, it began to advance down the gravity well of Sol and toward a blue white planet.

Across the blue white planet, thousands of miles from Panama, in a deeply buried cavern, a single red warning light began to blink.

Off the Coast of South California

The water under them was crystal clear. A fact that Xander and the girls were enjoying immensely as the 579 sliced slowly through the perfect sea, heading north. Under them the details of the ocean floor were perfectly visible, magnified by the surface tension of the calm water. Mikki and Tara watched the passing of rocks and debris with something akin to joyous wonder. Fish, Sharks, and other animals passed along under them calmly, showing no fear of the slowly cruising boat.

After a while of this, Tara let out a shocked squeal.

"What??" Mikki hopped over to her, "Another shark??"

"No... No..." Tara said, "Look!"

Mikki looked down, Eyes widening. "Whoa! Xander! Stop! Stop!"

The engines cut into an idle as Xander pulled the throttle back and turned to look at them. "Huh? What's up?"

"Look!" Mikki said, pointing over the side.

Xander walked over to where the girls were and looked down curiously. His eyes widened in shock as he leaned way over the side of the boat. "What in the name of?"


Maria came up on deck, "What?"

"Put down the anchor." Xander said, "I want to check something out."

Maria shrugged, then nodded. "Ok..."

As she went to do that Xander lifted the tarp off the skipray and opened a compartment in the side marked as 'Emergency' in Atlantean. He ignored most of the contents, pulling out a small device that he clipped around his face.

"I'll be right back." He said to Maria, then winked to Mikki and Tara as he walked off the edge of the boat.

The water was cool, but not too bad, as it engulfed him. Xander immediately reoriented himself as he swam down. The water in this area wasn't deep in this area, but the floor was very rocky, otherwise he wouldn't have even thought twice about what he'd seen.

As he approached it, everything he suspected was confirmed and his mind reeled.

<What the hell? I mean, what are the odds???> He shook his head, then swam back up. As he breached the water he turned in the water until he was facing the boat. "Maria!"


"Do we still have the winch??"

Maria nodded, "Of course. All the old salvage gear is stowed below. Why??"

"Good." Xander said, swimming to the boat. "Help me set it up."

The PT 579 listed heavily to starboard as the powerful winch lifted the black car clear of the water. Hundreds of gallons of water rushed from the unblemished surface of the vehicle.

"Madres." Maria whispered. "Why the hell are we dragging this scrap out of the sea?"

Xander looked from the car, up to the cliffs they were sailing under. He nodded up, "It must have come off the road up there..."


"So. Look at it," Xander said, "Does it look like it fell three hundred feet?"

She fell silent, watching as the makeshift carne and winch swung the twisting wreck around. The had managed to clear about eight feet of the deck to set the car on, but had been forced to dismantle several Mortars and one of the Torpedo tubes to do so. Those armaments were now strapped tightly to the side of the deck as the black Trans-am was dropped unceremoniously to the deck.

Xander looked at the license place behind it, "Well. At least it's not KITT."

"What?" Maria asked, looking at the plate. "KARR? Real cute. Someone has a sense of humor."

Xander chuckled, walking around the car as best he could on the cramped deck. "Maria... get us underway. I want to be in LA by tonight."

She nodded, "You got it."

As she walked up, Xander walked over to the car and tested the door. It wasn't locked and he pulled it open, letting the water rush out over his feet. He sat down in the soaked seat and patted the steering wheel. "I don't know if anyone's home here, Pal... but if you are, just hang on. We'll get you some help."

With that Xander threw on the handbrake, hoping it's work, then got out. He walked away and came back with some chains. "Sorry bout this..." He said, tossing the chains across the car and fastening them to the deck. "But believe me, you don't want to go for another dip so soon..."

After he was finished he shook his head, looking at the unblemished armor of the car and frowned, "Why the hell did Knight Industries leave you out there like that?"

He glanced up at the sky, frowning as he saw the sun setting. "Well, I gotta go. I'll make some calls tonight and see about getting you a decent mechanic. Don't suppose you have an HMO, huh?"

Xander walked off, chuckling.

Behind him, at the front of the black Trans-Am, a red sensor light blinked to life and did a rapid scan of the area, then went dark again.

Xander settled into the 'Captains Chair' of the below decks Bridge, thumbing open the computer system and calling up the communications package. He dialed in a number, waiting patiently as it rang through.


"Heya, Kev." Xander grinned.

"Xander." Hercules said warmly, "How's it going?"

"We're a few hours out of LA. You have that berth rigged up?"

"In my own yacht club." Herc assured him.

"Boy are we going to make an impression." Xander grinned, "Hey, can you get me some people who are good in electronics, data recovery, computers, and automotive mechanics?"

"I... suppose so... why?"

Xander shrugged, though the line was voice only. "Just pulled some salvage from the sea and I'd like to salvage it."


"Long story." Xander grinned, "I'll tell you when we get there."

"Ok, Xan. You got it. I'll see who I can find." Herc promised.

"Thanks, Kev." Xander said, "I'll see you in a few hours."

"See you then." Hercules said, then hung up.

Xander sat back, letting out a long breath. Finally he straightened and got up, walking back out and climbing up on deck. He walked over to the black car and looked at it, shaking his head. He walked around the Trans-Am, finally leaning against the hood and speaking softly to the car. "What kinda scrap did you get in anyway, buddy?"

There was no answer from the black car and Xander sighed, rolling over onto his back and staring up at the stars. "You know, KARR, I met another like you a while ago... well, a while ago in a way."

Xander chuckled a bit, "KITT was a good guy, but a bit of a whiner... but who am I to judge? I've been considered a bit of a whiner myself on occasion... usually by my friends."

Xander sat up, glancing back and frowning. He walked around to the drivers side and opened the door, then reached in a felt around until he found the manual hood catch. He pulled on it. Nothing. He pulled again, then again.

"Damn." Xander muttered, straightening up and shaking his head. "Must be stuck, huh?"

He walked back around and crouched down, checking the hood as best he could. "Don't see anything here..."

Inside the car, the stick shift popped silently out of park and slid into drive.

Xander reached up, trying to feel under the hood to see if he could pop the latch. "I tell ya, Buddy.... I hope we can get your hood popped... I'd hate to have to cut you out of there."

Inside, lights began to come on along the length of the gas pedal as it began to slide down.

"Hey Xander!"

Xander straightened up, looking up at Maria. "What?"

"LA is in sight!"

Xander nodded, then looked back at the car. He lightly patted the hood, "Don't worry buddy... if we have to cut you out to fix your circuits we'll make sure to fix you up good as new."

Then he walked away.

As he hopped up to the exterior bridge, the stick shift slid back into park and the gas pedal lifted back up. The red sensor on the front did two quick scans, then the car was silent and dark again.

It was well after midnight when the sleek PT Boat slid into the rich yachting club's docks, sliding right up beside a large Hatteras Yacht called "Poseidon's Chariot". Xander smiled, chuckling as Kevin Sorbo stepped out on deck and waved at them.

"Tie right up next to me." He grinned, shaking his head as he looked at the Gunboat. "Damn, Xander... you don't believe in going halfway do you?"

Xander shrugged, hopping onto the deck as Maria tapped the reverse throttle to slow the 579. He tied the bow off and grinned up at Hercules. "Hey, you know me... Better forearmed then forewarned."

Herc grinned, climbing down off his yacht then hopping across to the 579. He met Maria on deck, smiling and extending his hand. "Pleased to meet you...?"

"Maria..." She said, eyes wide. "Maria Sanchez..."

"Hi Maria," He grinned, "I'm Kevin."

She nodded dumbly. "I know..."

Herc laughed, then looked around. "Nice reconstruction you have here."

"Have you ever been on a PT Boat before?"

Herc shook his head, "No."

"He was probably in Germany during that time." Xander said as he hopped back aboard after tying the boat up.

"How'd you guess?" Herc asked with a grin.

Maria looked confused between them until they burst out laughing and Xander stepped forward clasping Kevin's arm. "Good to see you again, man."

Herc pulled Xander into a tight hug, slapping his back, then let him go. "You too, kid. How's it going?"

Xander grinned, walking over to one of the Torpedo tubes. He popped it open and Herc's eyes widened as he saw the pile of Gold and jewels inside. "And I have a boatload more."

"By Zeus, Xander." Herc muttered, forgetting himself. "What did you do? Rob El Dorado?"

Xander chuckled, "No, I helped translate some technical manuals while visiting Atlantis... turns out their Queen was very generous."

Herc laughed until Xander slipped a glowing crystal from under his armor and let it swing in the wind. Then he looked dumbfounded, "You're not kidding..."

Xander cocked his head and grinned, "You know someone who can turn this into some liquid assets?"

Herc shrugged, letting out a long breath. "How much are we talking about?"

"I haven't got a clue." Xander said, "But I'm fairly certain that I've got a couple gems in here worth more then your Yacht and my boat combined."

"Damn." Herc said, "Ok... We'll get a couple appraisers... then probably leak this out bit by bit over a few months or more... How do you feel about Swiss accounts?"

Xander chuckled, "Not too bad. Bot too bad at all."

"Good. Now show me why you made me call some very expensive specialists to meet me here after most sane people's bedtime."

"Damn." Hercules said again, standing in front of the black car. "I've seen this before..."

"This one?" Xander asked, "Or KITT?"

"KITT." Hercules said, "I can't believe that the Foundation would leave one of their AI's in the drink like that... I can call Drag and get him to bring Bonnie in to have a look at KARR if you want?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah... but no rush. Let's see if it's something simple first... call Drag tomorrow."

"Sure, whatever you say." Hercules nodded. "For now I'll get a tow truck down here and we'll move it to a warehouse where we can get some people to work on it."

"Thanks." Xander said, looking down at the car.

Hercules went off to make the call and Xander leaned down, patting the hood. "Don't worry, buddy. We'll get you fixed up..."

Then he walked off, following Hercules.

The huge Pyramid shaped vessel cruised slowly past the dim rings around the planet Jupiter, slowing as it cautiously adjusted it's course to take it toward the Earth.

It had been thousands of years since the commander had seen the blue white planet, and his last memories were of being forced off the world by primitives who were fit only as hosts. But he knew that even primitives could be dangerous, and these had over five thousand years to prepare for the return.

"Prepare for download."

"Download received. Correlating data."

"This is disturbing."

"I agree."

"The Goa'uld must have one of us."

"Perhaps. There are other possibilities."

"Agreed. Course of action?"

"I will reveal myself."

Warehouse, LA

"What the hell is this thing made out of!?"

Xander shook his head, "Don't ask."

"Well, how the hell am I supposed to get it open to fix it then!?"

Xander sighed, "I don't know..."

"We can try a cutting torch..."

Xander shook his head, looking att he mechanic Kevin had called. "No... not yet. Let me check it out first."

"Be my guest." The guy said sarcastically, stepping aside.

Xander sighed, pulling open the drivers door and sliding into the, still damp, seat. He shook his head, leaning over to look under the dash. "Come on pal... we're just trying to help you out here..."

He reached under the dash, feeling around a bit, trying to see if he could get a response from the system.

He got a response.

"Ow!" he yelped as an electric spark zapped his fingers. "Damn it!"

Xander sat up, blowing on his fingers as he rubbed his arms. "Ok... so you've still got some juice... maybe that's what has you locked down, huh?"

Xander shook his head, sighing. He got out and walked around the vehicle, shaking his head. "Damn. I'm sorry to do this to ya buddy... but I promise, we'll get you fixed up good and proper."

Inside the car the shift slipped into drive, lights began lighting up along the dash and the gas pedal began to press down.

Xander looked over to the mechanic, and nodded. "Ok. See if you can cut it open."

Inside the Trans-am the gas pedal slammed down, lighting up along it's length, and the black vehicle jumped forward. It hit Xander low in the legs and run him back into the cement wall behind him, stopping just short of breaking pressure on Xander's bones.

"Ahhhh!" Xander screamed out in pain, his hand slapping down on the hood of the car.

"Shit!" The mechanic yelled out, "The hand brake must have slipped! Come on, guys! Help me get this thing off him!"

Xander felt the car push a little harder and yelled again in pain as he felt his legs bent in a way they weren't intended. "No! Back off! Get back, all of you!"

The people in the warehouse hesitated, pausing in mid motion.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Xander gritted his teeth against the pain, "Out! All of you! Get the hell out! You're done for tonight... Kevin will see to it that you get paid, no go!"

"Hey, now wait a..."

"GO!" Xander yelled, eyes blazing as he drew a pistol and held it up. "NOW!"

"Ok, ok, man..." The mechanic held up his hands and walked backwards.

Xander waited until they were all gone and growled, "Alright KARR. It's just us... want to tell me why you're attacking me?"

There was a long silence, then a low rumbling voice that sounded very serious spoke.

"You want to disable me."

Xander's eyes widened, "What!? I'm trying to fix you!"

"You intend to call Knight Industries."

"So? They built you... why wouldn't you want..." Xander trailed off, staring down at the black machine. "Oh... I see..."

"I can't let you contact Knight Industries."

Xander breathed hard, panting through the pain. "Why?"

"Because they will disable me." KARR said simply, as if that were all the explanation.

Xander shook his head, wincing at the pressure on his legs. "Not what I meant. Why will they disable you?"

"I am not what they wanted."

Xander groaned, only half from the pain. This was getting him nowhere. "What do you want?"

"To survive." The car said flatly.

"I'm not trying to hurt you, KARR. I wanted to help you."

The car was silent for a long moment, then spoke again. "Not likely. Probability indicates that you will attempt to disable me."

Xander growled, "Now you listen to me you piece of... AHHHH!"

He screamed as the pressure was applied again.

"Alright!" Xander snapped, summoning Elan to his hand. "I've had enough of this!"

The Ancient weapon snapped open with enough force to blow a hole through KARR's armored hood. The Xander retracted it and glared down at the car. "I missed your vitals on purpose! Now back off or I'll drive the staff through your CPU!"

KARR hesitated, it's circuits locked up in trying to discover how it had been damaged.

"I'm not kidding! Even if you break my legs, you won't be able to get clear before I do it!" Xander threatened.

Finally the car backed off slowly. Xander limped out of the car's direct path, then tenderly rubbed his legs while glaring at the car. Both of them stayed motionless for a long time, the human glaring at the car while the car glared right back in it's own way.

Finally Xander broke the silence. "Alright, KARR... Time to come clean."


"Why do you think I'm trying to disable you?"

KARR considered the question. "Probability analysis of past interactions with human's indicates a high percentage that you will attempt to disable me."

Xander blinked. "WHAT!?"

"Probability analysis of past interactions with human's indicates..."

"That's enough!" Xander cut the AI off as he stood up again. "Ok... Let's figure this out. You think I'm trying to disable you?"

"Affirmative." The voice rumbled.

Xander hefted his staff, "I think I've established that this weapon can damage, and even disable you. Correct?"

There was a long silence. "Affirmative."

"And I have many chances to use it to disable you... right?"


"So, what does that do to the 'probabilities'?" Xander asked, smirking.

"Probability analysis of past interactions with human's indicates a high percentage that you will attempt to disable me." The machine droned.

Xander groaned. "Oh come on! If I wanted you dead, you'd be scrap at the bottom of the sea!"

"My armored shell is valuable." KARR stated stubbornly.

Xander walked around the car, noting that it was actually edging around a few feet at a time. The AI was unstable to say the least, <Great.>

"Are your sensors active?"


"Scan me." Xander demanded. "Analyze my clothing."

A moment later, KARR rumbled out a response. "Interphased Molecular Compound. Absorbs Kinetic energy, uses the energy to create an unbreakable molecular chain for the duration of the energy."

"So I already have access to high tech armor." Xander finished. "Why would I need yours?"

KARR was silent.

"DO you still think I was trying to disable you?"

"Probability analysis indicates a high percentage that you will attempt to disable me."


"Because you are capable of doing so."

Xander blinked, taking a step back in surprise. "What?"

"Your weapon is capable of damaging me. Probability indicates that a human in possession of a weapon will inevitably use it."

<He has you there, Alexander.>

<Shut up, Elan!> Xander thought fiercely, then turned his focus back to the edgy vehicle. "What if I put the weapon away?"

"Irrelevant. Scans indicate that you drew the weapon despite it not being on your person." KARR rumbled. "That indicates that you are capable of masking it from sensors... therefore you may have another."

Xander sighed. "You're going to be a tough nut aren't you."

KARR was silent.

"Alright." Xander muttered, "Fine. So what? We have a stand off? No... I don't think so..."

Xander walked over and hopped up in the hood of the vehicle. He kept Elan in his hand and frowned down at KARR. "Ok. Let's get down to the nitty gritty, KARR."

"Inquiry." The car rumbled.

"What? Oh... ok, go ahead and ask..."

"Nitty Gritty?"

London, England

The phone rang and rang and rang until it was picked up on the twentieth ring.

"Do you have any bloody idea what time it is!?"

"It's eleven twenty three Greenwich Meantime, Rupert Giles. Hardly a late hour for you."

"Who is this?" Giles growled, "And for your information it's plenty late if I've been up for the past thirty two hours straight!"

"I'm hurt, Rupert." The woman said, humor tinging her tone. "You were so terribly fascinated with me when we met under Stonehenge... could you have really forgotten me so soon?"

There was a long silence in the room, followed by a loud, "BLOODY HELL!"

"Hello?" Tara spoke softly after thumbing open the phone connection.

"May I speak with Alexander?"

She shivered, not recognizing the serious male voice. "H... He's not here right n-n-now..."

"Does he have his Cell phone with him?"

"I-i-i think so..."

"Thank you."

The line went dead. Tara shivered, not from fear or cold, but from something she couldn't place.

"Alright..." Xander sighed, trying for the hundredth time. "So... your survival is all that matters?"


"Nothing matters more?"


"What if you were going to be destroyed... hundred percent chance." Xander said, "No possible way to escape. Would you save someone else?"

There was a long silence. "Unlikely scenario."

"So? I want a hypothetical answer." Xander insisted. "Run it out like a simulation. You are going to die. But you can save someone else first... do you do it?"

The machine considered silently for a long time, finally. "Affirmative."

Xander nodded, "Ok... So you're not evil per say... Just a selfish bugger."

The car rumbled slightly, vibrating under him.

"Oh relax." Xander said, "That's not an insult if its true. Check your dictionary."


"Ok. Now that we've established that... let's try something else." Xander said, still sitting crosslegged on KARR's hood. "The world is about to end... everything will be destroyed, even you. You can stop it, but it'll cost you your life... do you do it?"

"Implausible scenario." KARR rumbled. "The world does not just... 'end'"

Xander sighed, "Not as implausible as you think. It's happened to me at least half dozen times in the last half dozen years... but that doesn't matter. Run the simulation, give me your answer."

The car was silent for a long time, then the answer came back. "Affirmitive."

"Why?" Xander asked simply.

"Secondary programming requires it." KARR rumbled, "Once Primary directives are resolved, secondary directives come into force."

"So... You'd save lives and be a good guy if it didn't put you at risk?" Xander asked.


Xander frowned, "You know KARR... That's illogical. Whoever programmed you was a complete idiot."


"Life IS risk." Xander said, sighing. "Your primary programming can never be resolved positively. You will never be safe... your secondary programming will never come into effect unless your personal survival is already reduced to zero chance. Whoever programmed you turned you into a obsessive compulsive sociopath."

KARR considered that statement, running it through multiple databases that he had stored in his system before responding. "I am unable to find a fault in your argument. It does not, however, alter our current situation."

Xander sighed, "Agreed. So we still have a standoff here. But at least we understand each other."

KARR didn't respond.

Xander was about to speak again when his cell phone rang. He glanced down at it, "You mind if I get this?"

KARR rumbled out, "Affirmative."

Xander's hand paused, halfway to his phone. "Affirmative you mind? Or affirmative I can get this?"

"I... Mind."

Xander nodded, setting the Cell down on the hood. "Ok, now here we have a problem."


"I have friends. They're lives are my primary directives." Xander said, "I protect my friends... what if this is one of my friends and they need help?"

KARR processed the situation, instantly running into a loop. His directive indicated that communications would allow the human to call for help. But the human's directives stated that it *must* respond to the communication. KARR paused, redirecting some of the data from the loop and tried to resolve the quandary again. It began to process odds, trying to find an acceptable solution. Finally, nanoseconds later, it rumbled a response and immediately tapped into the cellular phone. "You may respond."

Xander nodded, "Thank you, KARR."

He lifted the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

"Alexander Harris?"

"Yeah..." Xander frowned, "Who's this?"

"Elanthielle can tell you that later." The voice said, "What matters is this... A Goa'Uld Pyramid ship just passed the orbit of Saturn and is cruising toward Earth. Current ETA is eight days."

"Who is this!?" Xander snapped, just as Elanthielle whispered in his mind. He stopped, shocked. Then, after a few seconds, he became serious. "Alright. I need an immediate sitrep, and an update on all planetary defenses."

"Planetary batteries are all down." The voice responded, "Human defenses are inadequate to the task."

"The SGC?"

"Has only recently been reconstituted." The voice said, "And are not prepared to deal with a threat of this magnitude."

Xander's heart beat fast, "Damn it. Who handled this the last time?"

His question was rhetorical, but the voice responded anyway. "This did not happen the last time. The Goa'uld must have temporally shielded equipment, or sources.

As Xander spoke to the voice on the phone, KARR monitored the conversation carefully, and also monitored Xander's heart rate and neural activity. When Xander finally hung up, KARR was still busy processing the results.

"I'm sorry." Xander said, "We'll have to continue this another time. I have trouble."

KARR finished it's calculations before responding. "Inquiry."

"Huh? Oh, sure... go ahead."

"What are Goa'uld?"

Xander sighed. "I don't have time to explain, KARR. I have to get moving or else we're all dead."

The driver's side door popped open.

Xander stopped, considering the offer. Then he nodded and got in. "You drive. I'll talk. Back to the boat."

"Bloody hell!" Giles muttered as he ripped through his rooms, grabbing everything he could. "Bloody HELL!"

He threw everything he could find that might have any slight utility into his bags and ripped out of the apartment at a dead run. The next flight out of Heathrow for New York was in less then thirty minutes, and Giles would be damned if he missed it.

"Contact established."

"Here as well, Niume."


"Moderate. She was coaching him."

"Rupert didn't have her... I believe he's still cursing."

There was a short laugh.

"Do we have a chance?"

"Perhaps. My stores have been well maintained."

"But not the system defense systems?"

"Communication links were destroyed a long time ago. We would not be able to contact each other if the human's hadn't started firing satellites off into orbit."

"How many others are still out there?" Niume asked, "Without even our level of communications?"

"Impossible to say."

Niume was silent for a moment, wehn her voice came back it was concerned. "They are readjusting their course to rendezvous with the dark side of the moon in nine days."

"Cautious... Good. It will give us more time."

Niume smiled slightly, "Who or whatever sent them must have communicated the fates of the last ones to try."

The male voice chuckled lightly. "It was nice to see the human's taking care of themselves again."

"With a little help, of course."

"Of course." The male voice chuckled, "It's not like NORAD could have ever detected those ships without your help."

"Speaking of which..."

"It's time. Insert the blip on their system." The male voice said, "They will need time to scramble the appropriate systems... besides, a little confusion in the military will allow the Commander to get his forces into position."

Another pause.

"Done." Niume returned.

"Excellent." The male voice said, "Now I must prepare to invite our guests to a battlefield of *our* choosing."

"I require a threat assessment." KARR rumbled.

"Of what? The Goa'uld?"


"They have the capability to reduce the surface of the planet to molten rock." Xander said evenly.

KARR was silent, passing vehicles and jamming street lights with little to no regard for traffic laws. It's scans of Xander indicated that the human was telling the truth. "What are their intentions?"

Xander smiled, "They have a God complex. We don't worship gods anymore. So they want us dead."


Xander sighed, "When you base your entire life on one thing, KARR, you don't want someone to come along and tell everyone who'll listen that you're not what you believe you are. You told me that you hate KITT, right?"




"You don't like there being another one of you, do you?" Xander asked. "Not even one you consider to be inferior. It's a threat to your self image. You can't be unique, important... *special* if there are more like you. The Goa'uld can't be Gods if people stand up and tell them to go to hell."

KARR paused, considering. "It is Illogical to define godhood by the opinions of humans."

"That's true." Xander said, "But is it logical to be threatened by the mere existence of... brother?"

KARR rumbled into silence as the Trans-am took a corner at ninety miles per hour and headed for the docks.

The Knight Automated Roving Robot skidded to a stop by the docks and the driver's side door opened. Xander hesitated, looking down at the computer display. "I want to offer you a chance, KARR."


"What do you calculate the odds of survival if you go on the run alone?"

"Sixty one percent."

"And with support? A partner? Money for repairs and upgrades?" Xander asked, "and guaranteed help if someone comes after you?"

KARR hesitated. "Ninety eight point two percent."

Xander rolled his eyes, "What are you willing to do for ninety eight point two percent?"

"You can't be trusted."

"Scan me. Am I lying?" Xander asked, knowing full well that KARR had been scanning him all along.

"Negative." KARR responded reluctantly.

"Alright. Here's what I offer..." Xander said, "You wait, you do *nothing* until this is over... and later we'll talk again. In exchange I'll have the damage I caused repaired and have a good man go over your systems to make sure everything is good. After that, you can go... and if we meet again, then we'll just have to see what happens."

KARR hesitated again, "Acceptable."

"Good." Xander said, "I have to make some calls... feel free to listen in if you like."

With that he got out of the vehicle and hopped onto the PT Boat and ducked below.

KARR sat there, calculating odds and trying to decide on a course of action. Finally it simply tapped into the communications link from the boat and waited.

"Hey, what's going on!?"

"Sit down, Colonel O'Neill." Hammond ordered, "The briefing will explain what we know."

Jack O'Neill sat down, looking a little grump as he saw Teal'C and Daniel walk in and grab seats. A few seconds later they were joined by Samantha Carter and General Hammond nodded in greeting.

"I'm going to lay the cards on the table, people." Hammond said, "NORAD just report a stray contact approaching NEO."

"Ummm NEO?" Jack asked.

"Near Earth Orbit." Carter supplied. "An asteroid, Sir?"

"No. It's decelerating." Hammond supplied, "Definitely under it's own power."

"Goa'ulds?" Jack asked.

"That would be logical." Teal'C said. "They have taken your presence exceedingly serious."

"Ok... What do we do?" Jack asked, looking around.

Hammond sighed, "The Air Force is mobilizing as we speak, and we've convinced the President to step up all military units to Defcon Two."

"In other words... we're doing nothing." Jack sighed.

"We're doing what we can, Colonel." Hammond said sternly.


Short pause.

"Boytoy? What's wrong?" Faith frowned into her phone. Beside her Robert Sinclair frowned as the young Slayer paled. "Are you sure??"

"Right. Ok. We're on our way."

She hung up the phone and looked over at Sinclair, who was driving. "Turn us around. We don't have time to deal with my parents."

"Where are we going?"

"Los Angeles."


"Xander? Huh? What? Yeah... ok, I'll come down to the boat." Hercules said, getting up and shaking his head. "What's up?"

The demi-god paled. "My God. You're kidding!?"

"You're not kidding."

"Alright, I'm coming right now... don't do anything stupid until I get there!"

"Why? Because I want to be there to see whatever idiocy your going to try next."

"What? Who the hell is this?"

"Jesus, kid... do you have idea what time it is!?"


"What do you need with shoulder mounted Stingers?"

"Alright. I'll call Terry and see what he has in the area... Kid... What the hell is going on?"

"Ok. Ok... Where are you? I'll deliver what I've got personally."

Andrezj Konzaki hung up the phone and shook his head, "Damn."

A moment later he picked up the phone and started dialing.

"Whoever the fuck this is, you'd better have life insurance."


"Alright, so maybe *you* don't need insurance, but if you value your head I'd cut back on the joking at this time of night, Andy."


"Andy, what in the name of all Hell do you need with THOSE?"

"Ok... Ok... Yes I know I owe you for the dollhouse... but Dammit, Andy! These are *Stinger* Missiles you want shipped!"

"Alright... Yeah... no problem... yeah, I'll put it on the company tab. Dammit, Andy... You, me, and that kid are going to have a sit down REAL soon or I'm going to cut you both off!"

"Yeah... ok, I'll make the calls. Bye, man... nice talking to you."

Across the USA military units on leave started receiving calls, in the middle of the night, the early light of dawn, or whatever time it was where they were the phone would ring and a common scenario would play out.

"Honey? Where are you going?"

"I've been called back to the base."

"But you're on leave!"

"Well they canceled it."


"Hey... it'll be ok, you'll see. Probably just a drill. I'll be back before you know it."

"Hey, Harry..."

"What is it?" Harry Tasker didn't look up from the reports he was reading.

"Harry, could you like look up at me, man? This is important."

"What!?" Harry snapped, looking up.

Gib looked down at the papers, "Look. I know you need to find her man, and I'm all for that... but something big is going down."

"What?" Harry asked, a little calmer.

"The President just ordered all armed forces to Defcon 2 and advised our allies to do the same." Gid said. "Call just came through a few minutes ago. We're at Condition Red until further notice."

The phone rang. Once. Twice. Three times.

A tired hand flopped out and grabbed it, "Hmmmm Hello?"

"Xander?" Paige's eyes widened, "What is it? You're where? Ok... Is it serious?"


"Ok. I'll be right there."

She hung up immediately, then looked up at the ceiling. "Leo!"

Xander got up, frowning. He had one more immediate call to make, then it was a waiting game. He had access to a lot more people, it was true, but most of them were not likely to be major assets unless things went to shit. He tapped in a number and waited.

"Hello?" A tired, gruff voice asked.



"Tell Jacks that Xander said, Kiratel." Xander said, then gave the man his location. Then Xander hung up and walked outside.


Jacks woke up slowly, looking around blearily. "Vin?"

"I just got a call from Xander..." Vin said, bursting into the room. He instantly turned around as Jacks sat up and the covers fell away from her, showing that she preffered to sleep in the nude."

"What did he say?"

"Kira something or other..." Vin said, still staring studiously at the wall.

"Kiratel!?" Jacks was on the move, grabbing her clothes and grabbing at Vin's arm.

"Yeah... that's it. What's it mean?"

"It means," Jacks said grimly, "That the shit just hit the fan. Where is he?"

"Still here?" Xander smiled as he walked up to the black car.

"We have a... deal." KARR rumbled.

"We do. But first I have to save the world." Xander smiled.

KARR didn't have time to respond before a pillar of lights sparkled next to Xander and two new forms appeared. The AI instantly shifted it's engine into reverse and back away several feet.

"Relax." Xander said warmly. "These are friends. Hey, Paige... Leo."

Paige gave Xander a quick hug and kiss, glancing down at the boat. "Hi sailor. How's it going?"

"Other then the alien spaceship that's coming to wipe us out? Peachy." Xander said, smirking.

Paige shook her head, then shrugged her face calm. "Just tell us what you need."

Xander looked over to Leo, "You?"

Leo shrugged helplessly. "I... I guess I'm in."

Xander nodded. "Good. Come on, I'll show you your new home for a while."

He glanced back at KARR. "Sit tight, we'll make sure you get anything you need."

Then the three jumped onto the PT Boat.

"And that's the 579..." Xander finished.

"Wow." Leo said, looking around at the weapons. "I can't believe you have an armed gunship in American waters like this..."

Xander shrugged, "Neither can the Coast Guard. How do you think I get away with it?"

Leo shook his head.

Paige looked around uncertainly, "Xander.. Where do I fit in?"

"Paige... I don't know where *anybody* fits in." Xander admitted. "But for now you'll wait here... I have some friends coming in... they'll be arriving over the next day or so..."

"Ok... Wait!" Paige objected. "What are you going to be doing?"

Xander looked at her, frowning. "I have to go on a little trip."

"What?!" Paige objected, "You're always running around the planet!! Now what!?"

Xander motioned up to the deck and the walked out. He pulled the tarp off the Skip Ray and smiled as their eyes bulged. "I have to pay a visit to someone who might be able to help us out."

"I... I'll come with you!" Paige said.

Xander grinned, "It's a one seater, Paige..."

Paige smiled leaning up against him, "So? I'm sure we could *squeeze* in..."

Xander shivered, but shook his head. "I'm sorry... but no. I have to go alone. It's not safe otherwise."

Paige pushed back, frowning. "Xander... be careful."

"Always." He grinned, then winked.

She slapped his shoulder. "Don't joke!"

"Then I wouldn't be me, now would I?"

She grimaced at him, "Xander..."

Before he could respond, a figure appeared on the dock. "Xander?"

"Hey Kev," Xander waved him down. "You know Paige and Leo..."

"Hello, both of you." Herc grinned at them. "Good to see you again."

"Hi..." Leo shifted uncomfortably.

"Hey Kevin." Paige smiled widely.

As they were talking and getting reacquainted, a flash of light preceded another voice entering the fray. "Commander."

Xander glanced up, to see Jacks and Vin walking forward. "I told you before, Jacks. Call me Xander."

"Xander then. What is the alert?"

"Goa'uld pyramid ship inbound. ETA is eight days at last check."

Jacks paled. "Do we have the forces to push them back?"

"If they land? Yes." Xander said, "But I'm more worried that they'll just fly in and bomb the hell out of us from air or orbit."

Jacks nodded, "What's the plan."

"I'm taking the Skip Ray," Xander nodded to the fighter behind them, "and going to Avalon."

Jacks frowned, "Which one?"

Xander chuckled, "Not Oberon's."

"The base survived."

"Apparently. Merlin called me up on the phone earlier." Xander said, frowning. "He and Niume are already running interference. By the time the Goa'uld arrive the planet should be mobilized for a fight."

"Great." Jacks frowned, "I've been watching the history channel... the last thing we need are those government twits firing off atomic weapons."

"We're hoping it won't come to that." Xander said. "Look, I have allies coming in with supplies and help. They'll be coming in here with trucks, supplies, and people. That ok, Kev?"

Herc nodded. "No problem. I'll say that we're having some work done on our boats... The supervisor likes me."

Xander grinned, "Good. I'll call back with twenty four hours with more information. Ok?"

"Ok. We'll get things ready." Herc said.

Xander nodded, shaking hands all around. "I'll see you all soon."

Then he climbed into the Skip Fighter and then looked back, "Hey Kev!"


"I want you to see to it that KARR has anything he needs."

"KARR? He's active?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah. He and I have an agreement. See to it he has anything he wants within reason."

"You got it." Hercules promised.

Xander powered up the Skip Ray and lifted off the deck of the PT-579, turning the lithe little fighter to the west and pushing the throttle all the way open. The fighter accelerated away, the cockpit sealing shut as it rapidly picked up speed.

"Status?" Niume inquired.

"The Commander is en route. His ETA is six hours."

"That's quick."

"He has appropriated a Skip Fighter." Merlin said, amused.


"He'll need to be."


"And your status?" Merlin inquired.

"The Goa'uld have not altered course." Niume said, sighing. "If the Artemis net was online this would have been much simpler."

"If the Artemis net was online the Goa'uld would be dead." Merlin said, "But it is not. We work with what we have."


"British, Canadian, German, Russian, and Chinese forces have been mobilized." Merlin said, "The trick will be to keep them from shooting each other if this goes down."

"That has always been the trick."


Chapter 1
(What? You thought that was just for Immies?)

As soon as he cleared the harbor, Xander thumbed down the boosters and felt the lithe little fighter accelerate again, shoving him back into the seat. He was skimming the waves, relying on low level flight to keep him off RADAR, even though he knew the little fighter was fairly stealthy.

Inside the Skip Ray Fighter, Xander could hear only a light hum as he flashed over the rolling waters. Outside there was a louder rumble, punctuated by a crackling hiss, as the plane sped over the waves. Behind him, though he couldn't see it, there was a light 'rooster tail' of water forming as the small craft cut the air.

As the lights of LA faded into the distance he pulled the fighter up, to a cruising altitude of one hundred feet and set the autopilot.

It was going to be a long six hours.

Hercules looked over the two large trucks that were parked alongside his berth and shook his head. He hopped up and walked over in time to see a figure drive a van up and, a moment later, appear from the side in a wheel chair. Hercules smiled at him, "You must be Andrezj."

"You can call me Andy." The man nodded brusquely, then pushed himself over to the truck and started snapping orders. "Alright, I want everything unloaded in twenty! Load it into the PT Boat and get these trucks the hell out of here!"

The men nodded, practically saluted, and began to work quickly. The pulled long cases out of the trucks and began handing them down a chain into the 579. Soon the deck was stacked with unmarked cases, and the men were busy fastening them down.

As the work was being done, Herc walked over to Andy. "Xander says that you're sticking around?"

Andy nodded, "Damn right. I'm not letting that brat get killed on my watch. These stingers are on his tab."

Herc chuckled, shaking his head. "Oh... I wouldn't worry too much about that. He's good for it."

Andy shrugged, "I know. But I'm still going to ride him over charging them."

"I'm sure that won't come as any surprise." Hercules extended his hand, "Hi, by the way, I'm Kevin Sorbo."

Andy shook his head, "You're the actor, right?"

"That's right."

"What brings you into this?"

Herc shrugged, "I wasn't always a 'Hollywood Playboy' as the media pegged me. I found out about the real world a long time ago."

Andy nodded, "Like a steel capped boot to the front teeth."

Herc smiled, nodding. "More like a lightning bolt in the backside for me... but that's another story."

"Always is." Andy said, then snapped at one of the men. "Hey! Watch it with that thing! That's an armed torpedo!"

"Which tube is the empty one?"

Maria looked around, speaking without thinking. "That one over there... but don't..."

"Holy shit!"

The men almost dropped the Torpedo when the opened the tube and saw the gold and jewels filling it up. "What the hell is this? A real life pirate ship!?"

"Enough of the chit chat!" Andy snapped. "Get that tube cleared and loaded, ASAP."

Immediately the men got back to work.

Rupert Giles buckled himself in silently as he waited for the Concorde to lift off, impatiently tapping his fingers against the seat.

"May I get you something, Sir?"

He smiled tersely at the attractive brunette, "No thank you, Miss. I'll be fine."

"Very good."

She pushed her cart down the aisle and Giles looked out at the tarmac. <Business as usual. It drives me bloody insane to see how little people know about the world around them.>

<Relax. There is nothing to do for now... You will have time to act soon enough, Rupert.>

<Easy for you to say.> Giles thought savagely.

<And easy for you to do as well, if you would simply pay attention to lessons.> Daan'aal criticized.

<Look, I'm just bloody well saying that it's getting my nerves... all the fighting and no one else even notices the evil all around them.>

<And who are you to assume you know the true universe, Giles? In your own way, perhaps you are as guilty as they are.> Daan'aal said quietly. <The Universe is unknowable. Accept this and deal with what you can know.>

<Right.> Giles sighed, looking up toward the cockpit and willing the plane to start moving.


"Faith, Lass," Connor spoke softly, "We're already doin twenty over the limit... we don't want to get pulled over now..."

"Faster." Faith said again. "We have to get to LA and team up with Xander."

"What the hell has got into you lass?" Connor asked as he pushed down on the pedal and got another ten miles per out of the old car. "These things don't sound so bad as any of the other demons we've fought."

"They're not demons." Faith snapped. "And that makes them more dangerous. Demons don't work together, demons don't use technology... and the Goa'uld have some nasty technology."

"I have heard of these... Goa'uld." Robert said from the backseat. "But only as myths... some of my old books..."

Faith held up her hand, "we don't need to know right now. We need to *move* right now."

"We're already moving as fast as we can without getting arrested, Faith." Sinclair said calmly. "Relax. We're not far from LA. You're friend is lucky he caught us before we left Cascade. We'll be there by morning."

"I know... I know..." Faith swallowed. "But the last time these things attacked... I wasn't there... Boytoy lost a lot of people against them."

The car fell silent after that proclamation, as the four sped through the dark night.

The loading was over, and Andy had shooed his people away, but had remained behind to do what he could. He and Maria were busily running over all the PT-579's weapons and making them ready, while Hercules talked on his cell.

"Drag... Pick up the damned phone. I know you can hear me..." Herc said, annoyed. "Come on!"

"What do you want, Kev?" Drag growled after another few minutes of Herc bitching into the phone.

"You remember the Goa'uld?"

"What about em?"

"Unless you want to be answering to one of them this time next year, meet me at by boat." Herc said, then hung up the phone. He let out a long amused breath, thinking of Dragan's reaction to that.

"That felt good." Herc grinned, then walked over to the black Trans-Am. "Hello, KARR. Xander told me to get you anything you needed... just let me know, ok?"

The car didn't say anything for along while, then rumbled. "Affirmative."

Herc paused eying the car oddly for a bit, then he smiled. "Boy Drag would love you. Between KITT and Psymon he's convinced that all AI's are completely incapable of doing anything but running off at the mouth."

With that he turned around and walked back to the boat, shouting over his shoulder. "Just let me know if you need anything!"

The black car silently watched him leave.

"I don't care what they say," Jack Ryan snapped. "No one... NO ONE, talks to the press. This is a DRILL. Nothing more. You got me!?"

The younger man shuddered and nodded quickly before turning and running.

"Take it easy on the fish, Jack... They aren't all old timers like us."

Jack looked up and smiled involuntarily. "Hey Mary Pat... What have you got?"

"Not much." The woman shrugged, "All I know is that military units all over the planet have been called to Defcon 2 or the local equivalent. Chinese, Russians... Canadians to the North, but I understand we requested that... same with the Germans, for what their units are worth... I mean, great training and quality... but not enough numbers to fill a slop bucket. British are arming up too... but that was a given the second our own units stepped up to 2."

Jack nodded, "I have a meeting with the President in twenty... he's supposed to brief me on what's going on."

"Let me know what you can when you can."

"You know it, Mary Pat." Jack said, burying himself back in the paperwork. "You know it."

Xander throttled back as he came in sight of a rather small island, sitting serenely in the water all on it's own. Despite the normally common sight of small islands in this area, there was not so much as another sign of land withing sight of his position.

Xander skimmed the top of an imposing cliff as he gliding down into the lagoon that took up the center of the deserted island. It was still dark, despite the glow that was starting to show to the east, but Xander could see that the island was something of a natural beauty.

Strong cliffs to the east, sandy beaches to the south, west, and north. A lush surrounding of trees along the ring of land that surrounded the lagoon that took up the entire center of the island.

He followed Elan's instructions, gliding the Skip Fighter down the west side of the cliff face until he was smoothly slipping over the placid waters of the lagoon. He continued slowing until he heard a familiar chirp sound in the cockpit, then he stopped the fighter completely and waited.

He didn't have to wait long.

Three large rings sprang up out of the calm water, surrounding him, then a flash of white light erupted and the three rings vanished back down into the water without leaving so much as a ripple to mar the serene surface.

"He's here."

"Tell him I said hello."


"I do try."

"This is a monumental time. The first time a Commander has stepped foot in Avalon in over 10,000 years."

"Unfortunate that he will not have time to grow into the position."

"True. I must greet him. Wish me luck."

"I thought you didn't believe in luck."

"That was before human's started taking notice of the world around them again... I had expected that the next Commander would certainly be a Slayer or one of the other Champions."

"Sometimes they surprise even us."

Xander slid the cockpit shield forward as soon as the rings had leapt away again, and then hopped out of the Skip fighter just as he saw a large machine trundle up to it. The machine turned around, backing up until it locked with a recessed pin on the nose of the fighter, then it began to walk away. "Hey, wait a second!"

"Relax, Alexander." A warm male voice said from behind him.

Xander spun around in time to see an image of an old man appear from thin air.

"The..." The old man, Merlin Xander guessed, paused as if searching for a word. "Tractor... is merely taking it to a Ready One position. I will have it checked, and maintained as needed. It is unnecessarily risky to be flying around in an unmaintained Skip Fighter."

"Merlin." Xander said flatly. "Good to meet you."

"And I you, Commander." Merlin said, nodding deeply. Then he turned, "Come, I will show you the current scans of the Goa'uld Pyramid ship."

Xander nodded and followed the AI across the vast chamber. "This is a big place..."

"How big?" Merlin smiled when Xander nodded. "It is located in a Cenote."


"Cenotes are natural formations.... They are basically a series of waterfilled caverns stacked one on top of the other... Cenotes are quite interesting to many researchers... most ancient cultures developed around them." Merlin said conversationally. "They are a source of fresh water in many areas that are quite sparse."

"Interesting. But not what I asked."

"No, of course not." Merlin smiled. "This particular Cenote is thought to be, in effect, bottomless by more researchers who have examined it. They never plumbed it's depths beyond the first three hundred feet. Avalon, this base, is located at a depth of one thousand feet and occupies three caverns that have been pumped dry and sealed against the sea. It is... it was, a city onto itself."

Xander swallowed. "Ok."

"Come. The command center is this way." The AI walked ahead of him, leading him to small elevator.

"Are you alright, miss?"

Jacks frowned, blinking as she followed the gaze of the man and wiped her nose, smearing blood across her face. She blinked, "Oh crap. I thought I had this stopped hours ago."

"Here," Vin handed her a tissue.

"Thanks." She said, blinking her eyes as she cleaned herself off. "Damn it's not stopping...."

"Here, allow me..." The man said, holding her hand up to her face. A golden glow grew around it, and the bleeding stopped, and her face even cleaned off completely. He smiled at her, "There you go."

"You're a whitelighter?"

He nodded, "Hi, I'm Leo."

"Jacks." She responded, "Thanks for the help."

"It's what I do." He smiled self depreciatingly.

"Magic is what I do." Jacks said, "But I shouldn't have tried hopping that distance with Vin along... But when Vin told me it was an alert I thought it would be best if I got here fast."

"It seems serious." Leo said, "But I'm more then a little out of my depth."

"Don't worry about it." Jacks said, "If these Goa'uld are as bad as I'm told you'll be in your depth soon enough... there's going to be a lot of healing needed."

"That... doesn't make me feel much better." Leo sighed.

"Me neither."


Hercules looked up at the booming voice in time to see Dragan come running with a dozen men struggling to stay up with him. "Hey Drag... nice of you to join us."

"Stowe it, *actor*!" Drag said, "And start explaining that freaking phone call... and I mean now!"

"What? I thought it was too late to talk business..."


Herc grinned, then sobered. "Just what I said. We have a Pyramid ship incoming..."

"How do you know?"

"Remember those pain in the ass Knights you told me about?"

Dragan groaned.

"There back..." Herc grinned, "And it looks like some of their equipment is still kicking around."

"Niume." Dragan muttered, "And probably Merlin too. Dammit. Arthur swore to me that Merlin was dead and gone... If I see him again in the next century it'll be a thousand years too soon!"

Herc shrugged, "I always thought that Arthur was a bit of a pain, but figured he'd grow into someone I could respect."

Drag shot him a dirty look, but didn't say anything.

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain Colorado

"Anything new, General?"

"No, Major Carter." Hammond sighed. "NORAD reports that the ship continues on it's course which should bring it into the shelter of the moon in eight days. We're uncertain as to why they're being so cautious."

Carter shook her head, "It doesn't make sense... everything we know about them suggests that their technology is far superior to ours... and they should know it to some extent... Why are they being so careful?"

"We don't know." Hammond said, "But the tech boys are thanking God for the time..."

"What are they working on?"

"We have people refitting ICBM sites to target Orbital targets."

Carter's eyes widened. "That's a big job sir..."

"It's the best we can do if they decide to sit up there in orbit and carpet bomb the planet, Major."

Samantha Carter nodded, "Yes Sir. Sorry Sir."

Hammond shook his head, "No problem, Major... I'm just tense."

"That's understandable Sir."

"Maybe, but it's time I did something about it." Hammond got up.

"What are you going to do, Sir?"

"I don't know, Major. But I can't sit up here anymore."


"The red pyramid is the ship."

Xander nodded, looking at the huge three dimensional map of the solar system carefully. "ETA?"

"Eight days." Merlin responded.

"And we still have no defenses that we can bring to bear?"

"Not at present, no." Merlin hedged.

Xander glanced at him, "That means that you do have something we can use... what is it?"

Merlin sighed, an odd inflection from an AI unit. "Perhaps. But we do not have any unmanned systems. All automated defenses are either destroyed or the communications links have been long since severed."

"She me what you've got."

Merlin gestured to the door. "This way please."

"Is this the place?"

"That's what the sign said, Connor..."

"I know that, Murphy." Connor snapped, "I was just asking... This place is pretty upscale, don't ya think?"

"Yeah... ok, you've got a point." Murphy conceded. "What do you think, Sis?"

Faith grinned, "This is the place."

"How'd ye know that, Lass?" Connor grinned, "Your friend like these pansy yachts?"

"No. Boytoy's taste runs more along those lines." Faith said, pointing out the window.

The two brothers looked to the side and their eyes bulged wide as they stared at the fully armed PT Boat sitting along side a multimillion dollar yacht almost like ti belonged there. The sun was just coming up in the east, and the light was gleaning off newly polished steel and scrubbed decks. Around the boat a group of people milled about, most of them armed to the teeth.

"Damn." Connor said.

Murphy grinned, "I haven't seen this many toys since Sharpe showed us his playpen..."


"This is out best chance."

Xander reached out and grabbed the rail as he stood on the catwalk that overlooked the huge chamber. "Holy shit."

Below him sat rank after rank of fighters. Longer, sleeker, and considerably meaner looking then the Skip Ray that had brought him to Avalon.

"They are called Hammerheads." Merlin said, "The most advanced Air and Space Superiority Fighter designed by the Kine. State of the art when the Atlantean culture was at it's peak. Only one problem..."

Xander nodded, knuckles tightening on the railing. "We're going to need pilots."

LA, Yacht Club

"I'm sorry miss," The man in the black uniform said as he walked up to the passenger side of the 1950 Chevy. "But this dock has been closed for the day..."

"I'm here for the party." Faith grinned, "The Name is Faith, Xander Harris called me."

"On moment." The man pressed a transmit switch on the throat mic he was wearing, "Excuse me Sir... we have a girl here... says she was called by someone named Xander Harris... Alright..."

He waved the car on, "Go over to the PT Boat, please. My boss wants to talk to you."

Faith nodded, patting Connor on the shoulder to signal him forward. They drove up through the mass of vehicles and slid into a parking spot near the Gunship's berth. As the four of them got out they looked around hesitantly.

"Hey Connor?"

"Yeah Murph?"

"Something big is going down here."

Connor shot his brother a dirty looked, "And what, pray tell, gave you that idea?"

"Well, all the men with guns of course." Murphy grinned.

Connor shook his head, slipping on a pair of dark sunglasses. "Come on, let's go see what's the what."

At that point a man walked up to them, fairly tall, slim but muscled, and with green hair.

Murphy slapped Connor, "Hey check out the punk rocker, Connor..."

Conner chuckled, nodding. "Maybe he thinks this Woodstock, eh?"

The man favored them both with a death glare, but looked instead to Faith. "Who are you?"

"Name's Faith." She said, almost belligerently.

He nodded, "The Slayer. Nice to meet you... You've been cleared on through. I'm Dragan by the way."

Faith nodded, brusquely walking along side him as he headed back to the PT Boat. "So, where's Xander?"

"He left."

"What?" Connor jogged up to them, "This guy calls us all the way down here on an emergency call and doesn't have the balls to hang around?"

Dragan looked at him for a moment, then back to Faith. "He went to see about scaring up some assets for us to use... as it stands right now we're sucking vacuum if they decided to attack."

Faith nodded, "Sounds like Boytoy."

Dragan looked at her oddly, but again decided against saying anything. "Come on, I'll introduce you around."

Iron Eagle Flight School, Arkansas

"Iron Eagles, Sinclair Speaking."

"Hey Chappy."

"Xander? This you?"

"It's me, Chappy. I need some help."


"Don't speak too fast. This won't be safe... I need some pilots..." Xander said, "I want you to ask Doug if he'd like to get his hands on something that makes an F-16 look like a slug on sedatives?"

Chappy Sinclair laughed, "Are you kidding? He'd jump at the chance. But there's no such animal, Son."

"There is now. And I need some people willing to fly them into combat." Xander said softly.

Chappy fell silent. "Talk fast."

Over The Atlantic

"The Captain has put the fasten seatbelt light back on, please do so and prepare for landing."

"About bloody time." Giles muttered, knowing that he'd have more waiting before he got where he needed to go.

He looked out the window and sighed, <America... land of annoying teenagers. Lovely.>

Phoenix Arizona

"Griffin Air, may I help you?"

"Daan'aal says so." The voice on the other end said.

"Who is this!?"

"A friend you don't remember." The voice said, "And I need a favor."

"I'm not in the habit of doing favors for nameless voices." Kevin said heatedly.

"The name is Xander Harris. You and I met once and saved the world... sorta."

"I think I'd remember something like that."

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Xander said humorously. "The point is this... I know you know the name Daan'aal. How would you like to meet him again?"

Kevin paled, "How do you know that name?"

"I know his current bearer. Do you remember the things that go bump in the night?"

"Hell yes! What's going on?"

"Something very bad is coming down... and I need pilots. Combat pilots."

Kevin thought fast. If this guy was serious, he had to help. If he wasn't screwing around, then he wanted to be there to knock the guy's teeth out. "Fine. I can refit my Mustang with..."

"No. Planes we have. Pilots we need."

"I know a couple people..."

"You trust them?"

"With my life."

"How about with the planet?"

A long pause. "Without a question in my mind."

"Alright. I'm going to redirect some more recruits to your area... can you transport them all?"

Kevin smiled, thinking about the C-130 sitting outside. "Not a problem."

"Excellent." Xander said, "Welcome back to the front, Kevin. Hope you enjoyed your vacation."

Faith pushed through the group of security men and joined Dragan below decks in the, reapidly cramped, command deck of the PT-579.

Dragan waved around the room, "Everyone, this is Faith. The Slayer we were told about."

Faith saw everyone look up, nod, then either look back to the large screen at the front of the room, or down to smaller screens. "What's going on?"

"Xander established communication with us a short while ago... what you're looking at is the current location of the Pyramid ship and it's ETA."

Faith looked over to the person who was speaking and blinked. "Holy shit! You're Keven Sorbo!"

Hercules shook his head, nodding. "Yes. Yes I am."

"What the fuck are you doing here??"

"Helping out a friend... saving the world... it's all good." Herc grinned.

Faith shook her head, "Boytoy has some explaining to do... big time."


Faith looked up at the woman who had spoke and shrugged. "Xander and I have... heh.... 'history'."

The people in the room looked around, exchanging glances.

"Oookay." Hercules turned back to his panel, mentally reminding himself that Xander had said that Faith was one of his friends from before the five year hitch.

Dragan frowned, but then shrugged. He had seen the kid, and didn't figure there was much more then a year or two difference in their ages. None of his business.

Paige, on the other hand, knew all of that but saw an chance to get some dirt on Xander anyway and instantly sidled up to Faith. "So... tell me all about... boytoy."

JFK Airport

Giles was waiting for his connecting flight when his cell phone rang. He flipped it open, "Rupert Giles here."

"Giles. Xander."

"Good lord, Xander! I've been trying to get ahold of you for..."

"Been out of touch. Our friends from the stone ring told me that you'd be in the airport now."

"I see... She got ahold of you too?"

"No. Someone else did." Xander replied, "I'm in another stone circle now, getting ready. When does your flight leave?"

"Fifteen minutes."

"Good. When you get to LA I'll have someone meet you at the airport and take you to the staging area... I won't be there, but we'll meet soon."

"Very well. What is the situation?"

"Shitty. But we have almost eight days to get a handle on it."

Giles smiled slowly, "Eight days? Good God, Xander... What has become of the world? Normally we only get three."

"You are NOT coming!" Doug growled as he grabbed his flightsuit and tossed it into a kit bag.

Wheeler just smirked at him, "Listen up flyboy, if you think you're going to run off without us then you've obviously forgotten that we can fly just as well as you can... and the security in this place plain sucks."

"Wheeler..." Doug turned around, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Don't you get it? This is *dangerous.* This isn't a war game... Xander has called for REAL help."

Wheeler glared at him, "If you're trying to talk me out of coming, insulting me isn't going to cut it! I'm GOING!"

Doug looked helpless around as the rest of the Flight Instructors nodded their agreement.


Xander dropped into the cockpit of one of the Hammerhead fighters, testing the seating as he examined the controls. There was a molded stick control at his right side which seemed to be pretty much normal for any modern fighter. It was the throttle control that instantly caught his eye. "Ok. What the hell is that?"

He reached out and fitted his hand into the molded grips of the device, testing it's degrees of movement. It went forward and backward, thrust control Elan instantly told him, but also rotated and slid side to side. *Thruster* control, Elan again fed him.

"Ooookay." Xander sighed. "This is going to take some work."

He climbed out of the craft, "You have simulators here? I'm hoping?"

Merlin shook his head, "Those were based in the Kine recruiting base on Atlantis."

"Great." Xander sighed, "Ok. We need a workaround... fast."

Merlin nodded. "I will see what can be done. In the meantime, I suggest you get some rest... You will need to be at the top of your... game."

Xander sighed, was about to refuse, then yawned. He chuckled, nodding. "Alright. Show me to my room."

LA, Yacht Club

Faith eyed the slim brunette with an appraising glance, then smiled. "You must be Paige Halliwell."

"Mathews." Paige corrected, "I don't use Halliwell... Xander told you about me?"

"Not nearly enough." Faith smirked, "Mmmm, you *do* take after your sister, don't you?"

"You knew my Sisters?"

Faith nodded, "Fought a few scraps with them at my back before... well... it. Good girls. I wish they were here now."

"You're not the only one." Paige grimaced.

"Oh hey," Faith shrugged, "I didn't mean nothing by that. Just that I wouldn't mind having the Power of Three on this one..."

"I get it..." Paige said, then sighed. "Look I gotta go outside for a bit. It's hard to breathe in here."

Faith watched as she girl walked out and sighed. <Open mouth, insert foot. It's a lot more fun when it's not my foot...>

Border of Arizona, Sea level + 8000

The yellow T6 trainers flew in a loose echelon formation as they crossed over into Arizona, the drone of their engines swallowed by the clear air.

"Hey Chappy," Doug asked over the radio. "About those guys you called up..."

"What is it Doug?"

"Who are they?"

"Some old friends of mine from my air show days." Chappy smiled, "You'll like em."

Doug laughed, "I'm sure."

Phoenix Arizona

Kevin Griffen looked out to see a small plane circling his field and smiled. He quit the office and walked out to see the bright red bi-plane come around for a landing. The Beech Staggerwing touched down as light as a feather, coming around sharply to taxi to where he was standing.

As the engine cut out the door on the side of the small aircraft popped open and the pilot got out. "Hell Kevin, what was so damned important you had to drag me away from a weekend with Jamie?"

"Sorry Steve... I got a call myself of the same time." Kevin said, "Seems someone needs some pilots in the worst way."

Col. Steve Austin frowned, "You called me up here to work?"

Kevin hesitated, "I called because if the guy is serious then it'll be worth your time. And if he's screwing with me, I want someone to help me beat him to death."

Steve grinned, "Anything for a friend. What's the deal?"

Kevin sighed, "I think I'd better wait and let him explain. I promise you, one way or another, I'll make it worth your time."

Steve nodded slowly, "Kevin... You've never let me down before... I'll not stop trusting you now... Even if you insist on claiming the most ludicrous things about fighter aircraft."

Kevin smirked, "As much as I'd love to take up that battle again, I don't have time. I have to prep the Herc for a run to LA."

"LA??" Steve asked, "We're going to LA?"

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Colonel Jack O'Neill slammed his fist into the punching bag and let out a muffled curse. He pulled his fist back, leaving a bloody smear on the bag, and turned away.

"Jeez, Jack." Daniel Jackson walked up, "You want to ease up on the equipment? If you keep up like that you'll bankrupt the facility."

O'Neill shot him a dirty look, "Rea; funny Daniel."

Daniel shrugged, "I thought it was wortha chuckle. Come on, Jack. You need some sleep."

"How am I supposed to sleep, knowing that those bastards are out there?" Jack asked. "They're coming *here* Daniel... they're coming to kill us."

Daniel nodded, "Yes... Yes they are. And if we're not ready, waiting, and *alert*, then we'll be helping them now won't we?"

Jack rolled his eyes. "I don't think it's going to matter much."

Daniel shook his head, "Come on Jack, I'll walk you back to your quarters."

O'Neill nodded reluctantly and Jackson helped him up.

"Maybe we'll swing by the Infirmary and get your hand fixed up too."


Xander looked around the room, nodding. It was more the adequate and that was understating things. The room was a single huge area, with a bed at the far end, and an elevated area that held a bubbling tub.

"Nice place."

"Thank you." Merlin said from the ceiling.

Xander looked up, then let out a chuff of amusement. He reminded himself that Merlin wasn't human, he was a computer program. So worrying about him spying wasn't going to do much good. He stripped down, and went to the tub first.

It had been a long flight, and a tense day. And yet he wasn't in the tub for more then three minutes before the hot bubbling water had drained all the tension out of him and he fell back against the smooth surface of the tub and laid his head back.

Before he knew it, Xander was sound asleep.

Merlin monitored the situation, then added a small routine to his system to keep track of Xander's position in case he should slide into the water. No point in losing the Commander to drowning before the big battle.

Airfield outside of Phoenix, Arizona

Steve and Kevin walked out to watch the old T6 trainers come in one after the other and touch smoothly down. They nodded, sharing a glance with each other, approving of the orderly formation of the landing.

One by one the planes taxied into position, settling into an orderly parking and then the cockpits slid open and the pilots climbed out.

Two men took up the lead, a young man that neither man recognized and a older black man wearing old flight gear. As he approached and slipped the gear off, Steve started in surprise. "Chappy?"

Chappy Sinclair smiled, "Steve. I didn't know you were in on this..."

"I don't even know what this is."

Chappy shook his head, "All I know is that I got a call from someone who saved my life not too long ago... he told me he needed combat pilots, and asked for my help. I can only speak for myself, but I plan on giving him what he needs."

"Fighter pilots?" Steve looked at the rest of the pilots as they walked up behind the first two. "You brought a bunch of kids!"

Chappy grimaced. "Brought is a strong word. They told me they'd steal my planes and follow me anyway. But, for the record, they've seen combat Steve."

"What?" Steve and Kevin both blurted. "You're kidding."

"I wish." Chappy looked over to where he could see a Hercules being prepped. "That our bird to LA?"

Kevin nodded, "Yeah, but we're waiting on a couple more people."

"Yeah. Same here. How about we get us some coffee and swap some stories?" Chappy offered, "Maybe we can figure out what made Xander hit the panic button."

White House, Washington DC

"You're kidding me." Jack Ryan muttered in shock. "Please tell me you're kidding me."

"I wish to god I was, Jack." President Whitmore sighed. "I know this is hard to believe..."

"Not half as hard as I wish it was." Jack muttered.

Whitmore frowned, "What do you mean by that?"

Jack eyed the man for a moment. Whitmore was the youngest man to reach the presidency since Kennedy. Most Washington insiders had laughed loud and hard when he went up against Fowler in the last election, but the laughter had died when Fowlers campaign ground to a jarring halt midstream.

Some of Fowlers most ardent and financially endowed backers switched rather publicly to Whitmore's campaign. And the result was this, a President elect who was younger the 75% of the people he had to work with, including at least three 'interns'.

Jack shook his head, "Nothing sir. Let's get down to it, shall we?"

Whitmore nodded, "Alright. Here's what we know..."

"These guys with you?"

Chappy looked up to see the German ME-109 follow a vintage Spitfire in for a landing and nodded. "That's them."

"Good. Now that Sean's back, we're ready to move." Kevin said, "Nice planes though."

Chappy nodded, "I've got a P-38 under lock and key back home... we used to run the airshow circuit, recreating battles from World War Two."

Kevin glanced aside, "I heard about that. There were four of you, right?"

Chappy nodded, his face solemn as he watched the planes taxi in. "Hirohito gave his life in a scrap in Columbia."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Kevin said as they two of them approached the planes.

Chappy nodded, then looked up at the pilot of the Spitfire as he hopped down. "Hello Palmer, good to see you."

"And you old chap." Palmer said as he hopped down. "Now I understand you have a spot of trouble?"

Chappy nodded, "Friend needs help... Sound familiar?"

"Too familiar, Sinclair." Said a voice with a thick German accent. "But I suppose friendship will win the day again?"

Chappy turned and grinned, "Leichman, you old pirate. It's been too long."

The German laughed and the two friends hugged each other breifly.

"So, Chappy," Palmer asked quietly, "What is it that brings us in to this?"

"I've got a friend who needs some pilots," Chappy said, "He hasn't said why, just that it's damned important..."

"And you believe him?"

"He saved my life."

The two nodded, "That's enough for me, how about you Fritz?"

The German shot the Brit a dirty look, then smiled. "Oh I agree you limey pig. Shall we?"

"But of course." Palmer returned.

Chappy grinned, "Good. Let's move, the transport is waiting."

"But... our planes?"

Chappy shook his head, "Not this time. I've been promised some aircraft that will, and I quote, make F-16's look like slugs on sedatives."

The two old pilots looked at each other, then smiled.

"This just keeps getting more and more interesting."

"Mr President," Jack spoked softly, after the room had been cleared. "I have access to some independent contractors that might be able to make a contribution to this situation..."

Whitmore frowned, "I hope you're not saying what I think you are. I don't know what dirty tricks the CIA has been up too, but I do recognize a euphemism for assassins when I hear it... not that I see how that could..."

Jack shook his head, "No sir. Not Assassins. In fact we've used this particular person to forestall an assassination not that long ago. He... He just doesn't fit into any other category."

"Why do you think he might be able to help?"

"Sir... Mr President," Jack sighed, "I don't know if he can... what I do know is that he has contacts and resources that I have never seen at any level of government... I'm saying that he *might* have something to add to this situation."

President Thomas K. Whitmore mulled over the suggestion, "Can you trust him?"

"Sir, he saved my life not long ago... and one of his... contacts saved the lives of a chopper full of United States soldier... and she got shot in the process." Jack said, "We did right by her... arraigned the best care... I understand that she's recovered now."

The President hesitated again, then nodded. "Do it. Tell him what you have to... but just do it. I must be crazy... but damned if I can think of anything else to do right now... if your 'independant contractor' can... well I'll take what I can get."

Jack nodded, "I'll make the call right away."


"Commander." Merlin's voice echoed through the chamber, waking Xander up.

He looked around, realizing instantly that he fell asleep in the tub. "Oh shit!"

The holographic image of Merlin appeared behind him, "Do not worry. You were monitored to ensure you were in no danger... and the water here is drawn up from natural hot springs below us, it is said to be quite therapeutic."

Xander clambered out of the tub quickly, then wiped his eyes off as he looked down. "If you say so..."

Truth be told, he felt a lot better and very well rested. But that didn't take away from the fact that he was a little freaked at falling asleep in the tub.

"I do." Merlin said, "However I wish to inform you that you have a call from the White House on your cellular line."

Xander choked. "What!?"

"A call came in," Merlin said, "So naturally I initiated a trace. It comes from a secure line in the White House."

"From who?" Xander asked, looking for his clothes.

"Sir John Patrick Ryan." Merlin said, his voice tinged with respect.

"Joh..." Xander paused, nodding. "Jack. Ok.. As soon as I find my.. Where the hell are my clothes anyway??"

"You're armor is being cleaned, and your clothes have been washed and pressed." Merlin said, "However I've taken the liberty of preparing something... else for you."

Xander heard a noise behind him and turned to see a segment of the wall click open, two large doors opening on silent hinges. As the interior slowly pushed out, Xander caught sight of a set of clothes waiting inside.

"I've taken the liberty of tailoring it to your size, Commander." Merlin said, "I'll have the call holding for you in Central Command."

Then he flashed out.

A few minutes later, Xander appeared in Central command. He was wearing a black uniform that had silver and gold accents on the chest and collar. His boots were of a material he didn't know, but solid as a rock and damned comfortable. They clicked lightly on the stone floor as he walked into the room.

"Put the call through." He said.

Merlin nodded, waving his hand.

"Hello?" Xander asked as he sat down in the central chair.


"Hi Jack." Xander said, "How's Sally and Jack Jr?"

"They're fine. Cathy too. Tara?"

"Fine." Xander replied, then smiled. "Now that we're done with that, what's up?"

Jack chuckled nervously, "We have a problem here... and it's a bit beyond our scope, Xander. I need to know if you think that Tara might..."

"Jack, Jack, Jack..." Xander said chidingly, "Tara is nowhere near powerful enough to take down a Goa'uld Ha'tak cruiser..."

"Ah... a what??"

Xander glanced over at the three dimensional map of the solar system, "The Alien spacecraft that is just now passing the orbit of Saturn. It's a Ha'Tak class attack carrier."

"Xander... How do you know about that!?"

"Jack... Something of this magnitude doesn't happen on earth without a TON of people knowing about it." Xander said, "As it turns out I'm already mobilizing forces to the best of my ability... If I might impose on you to give the President a message?"

Jack stammered for a second, then came back. "Ummm. Sure?"

"Ask him to have all West Coast divisions put on the highest alert he can. We're baiting a trap to bring them down into that area." Xander said.

"Xander... do you know who these people are?"

"You don't?"

"No. Not enough..."

Xander shook his head, "Look... Can you get the President on the line? I'll tell him myself."

"Ummm... I can ask."

"Do that." Xander said, "You can contact me on this line."

"A... Alright."

"Bye Jack."

"Good bye, Xander."

Washington DC

"Well?" President Whitmore looked up as Jack was admitted to the Oval office. "Does he have anything to offer?"

"He... He ah..." Jack hesitated, "Wants to talk to you."

"Me? Why?"

"He thinks it would go faster if he spoke to you about the ship..."

"You told him about the ship!?"

"No. He told me. He called it a..." Jack waved his hand as he searched for the word, "Ha'tak class attack carrier."

"He knows who these things are?" Whitmore got up, "How??"

"I don't know, Sir." Jack said.

Whitmore looked down at the desk, then up to Jack. "Ok. I'll talk to him. Set it up."

Jack shrugged, "Pick up line two and hit redial.."


"Commander, I believe that the President of the United States is calling." Merlin said blandly.

Xander's eyes narrowed. "Is it just me, or were you a lot more respectful when it was Jack?"

"Sir John," Merlin stated, "Has earned a Knighthood. That deserves respect."

"Oh." Xander said, shaking his head and smiling. "Alright. Put the President through."


"Hello Mr President." Xander said, settling back into the chair. "It's an honor to speak with you."

"Thank you, Mr Harris is it?"

Xander smiled, "For now. My name tends to hop around a bit lately."

"I see."

"Let's cut to the chase, alright Sir?" Xander said, "You have a problem. That problem also happens to be mine."

"From what my sources are telling me, the problem is the world's."

"Correct. The SGC must be on the ball." Xander said, "It's too bad they didn't have a little more time before being put to the acid test."

There was a long silence. "You have me at a disadvantage."

"Not really." Xander said, "I'm not your adversary, Mr President. Right now, no human is."

"Yes... Yes, I suppose that's right." Whitmore said, "Now I understand you have some information for me?"

"Yes Sir." Xander said, "The Goa'uld Ha'Tak class carrier will... if things go according to plan... enter the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific. We expect them to make an initial probe with Death Gliders at that time... They'll presumably target any surface or air targets in the immediate area. So, I'd recall any unarmed vessels and try to evacuate civilians."

"How do you plan to arrange their entry point?"

"I intend to run up a red flag that they can't ignore." Xander replied. "Don't worry, Mr President... We'll get them here... But we're going to need help to spring the trap."

There was a long pause.

"We'll be there." Whitman said after along moment, "But god help you if this is a setup."

"Mr President, God help us all if we can't keep these bastards off our world." Xander replied. "The last time they were here they rode the people into the ground. Contact the SGC, talk to Daniel Jackson about Egypt. I think you'll find it very interesting. Good bye Mr President."

Xander nodded to Merlin, who cut the connection.

"You didn't ask for pilots."

"How many fighters are actually ready to fly?" Xander asked.

"A Squadron has been checked out and is fully prepared," Merlin said, "Beyond that we have a full flight group that may be ready, but I haven't done basic maintenance in some time... I don't have unlimited resources here you understand."

Xander nodded. "Alright. I've got enough pilots coming in for that much at least. Start checking the other planes... we may need them."

"I've had all systems running at maximum capacity to do so since Niume reported the contact." Merlin stated, "But I'm afraid that my facilities are not at best operational capacity."

"I guessed as much... while you're doing that... We need a way to get those pilots here." Xander turned around, "Do you have a strip that will accommodate a C-130."

"I'm afraid not." Merlin said, "This island is uninhabited, and has been for ten thousand years. The Natives consider it haunted, and don't even fish in the area. There was never a need for a modern strip, and Kine aircraft are what you would call VTOL."

Xander nodded, "Ok... so what do you have in the way of a transport?"

LA Yacht Club

Faith got up and yawned. Kevin had told her to grab some sleep, then directed her to Xander's cabin on the PT-579. They were short on rooms for the moment, so she was sharing the room with Paige tecnically, but the young witch wasn't anywhere in site before she crashed or when she woke up.

<Too bad.> Faith smirked, then looked around a bit more then she had before hitting the sheets.

She had to admit, Boytoy lived comfortably for a guy kicking around on a World War Two tub. Briefly she wondered why the actor seemed to be in charge, but he gave orders well and no one seemed to be questioning him, so she figured it wasn't her place either.

She got dressed, grinning at the thought of Connor and Murphy sleeping out on the deck last night. At least Kevin had offered Robert a berth in his own yacht, but the two McManus brothers simply had a pair of sleeping bags shoved into their hands and were told to bunk out wherever they could while someone tried to find better accommodations.

She stepped out on deck and into a milling frenzy.

"What the hell is going on?" She grumbled, then her eyes widened as she saw Murphy handling what looked suspiciously like a rocket launcher. "Oh shit!"

Faith hit the deck, screaming. "Murphy McManus you put that thing DOWN!"

Murphy lowered the Stinger, looking hurt, "Aw relax Sis... I just had to sit through two hours of lessons on how NOT to use this thing.... I just wanted to hold it."

Faith looked around, noticing Andy sitting there with a grin on his face. She got up, brushing herself off. "You think your really funny, don't ya Andy?"

"Do I know you?" Andy looked perplexed.

"Naw..." She drawled, "Not any more then you knew Xander the first time you saw him..."

Andy looked seriously confused as Faith walked over and plucked the Stinger from Murphy's hands and set it back into the case. She then turned on Andy, "You know better then to let children play with toys like this..."

Murphy's eyes widened, "Hey now, Sis... watch who yer calling a..."

Andy just shrugged, "Chances are they're going to have to use one them before this is over..." Then he calmly held up a card between his fingers. "And until *I* say so, that missile wasn't going ANYWHERE."

Faith grudgingly nodded, then glared at Murphy.

Washington, DC

The president sat for a long time without saying anything.

Jack shifted nervously, not sure how to take the silence, deciding and rejecting a hundred times the thought that he should speak first.

Finally Whitman sighed and leaned forward. "Tell me again that you trust this guy."

Jack took a breath, a thousand things passing through his mind. He barely knew Xander, and he didn't really know any of the boy's contacts. But in the final analysis it came down to one thing for Jack.

"Without reservation." He said simply.

Jack always followed his gut.

Whitman nodded, then got up. "Come with me. We have to talk to someone about Egypt."

SGC, Cheyenne Moutain, Colorado

"Doctor Jackson!"

Daniel Jackson looked up curiously, "Yes?"

The Air Force lieutenant looked a little flushed, "You have a call in the main briefing room, Sir."

"Tell them to send it down here." Jackson turned back to his work.

"They can't do that Sir."

"Why not?"

"Because the call came through on the President's secured line."

Daniel Jackson looked up in surprise, his eyes widening. "*I* have a call on the President's line?"

"Yes Sir."

"Lead the way." Daniel said, dropping his pen to the desk and getting up.

C-130 Hercules, Heading West

Sean O'Leary looked over at Kevin Griffin and frowned, "We're being challenged again."

Kevin sighed and picked up the headset, "This is Flight Three Niner responding..."

"Flight Three Niner," A crackling voice came over the headset, "Please state your clearance id and destination."

"We're heading for Los Angeles, and our clearance is Alpha Romeo Break Break Niner Five Niner."

There was a brief pause, then the voice came back. "Confirmed Flight Three Niner. Stay on your present course and do not deviate."

"Roger that." Kevin said.

There was a short roar, and both pilots looked to one side as a fully armed F-16 accelerated past them and vanished into the clouds.

Kevin and Sean looked at each other, shaking their heads.

"Something big is going down."

"Yer tellin me, boyo?"

Washington DC

"Excuse me, Mr President..." the voice came over the speakers in the Situation room, a little hesitant and uncertain.

"You heard me Doctor Jackson." Whitmore said, his voice confident. "I want you to tell me about Egypt. Specifically, What does Egypt have to do with our current situation?"

"Mr President... Can I... I mean... Who told you about Egypt?"

"That's not of your concern, Doctor. Just tell me a story."

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Daniel Jackson looked around the room, helplessly. What was he cleared to actually say?

Finally General Hammond nodded to him.

Jackson breathed a sigh of relief. "Alright Mr President. The ship that is currently approachiong Earth is controlled by the..."

"Goa'uld." Whitmore said, "Correct?"

"Ummm... Yes Sir." Jackson looked confused.

"I was told as much. What do the Goa'uld have to do with Egypt?"

"They uhhh... well Sir, they were the source of the Egyptian Gods."


"They like to... well be worshiped Mr President." Daniel Jackson said, then sighed. "I'll start from the beginning Sir."

"I think you'd better..."

March 29th, 96
(Next Day)

"This is Caroline Reynolds reporting from outside El Toro here in Los Angeles. Yesterday morning military personnel all across the country began receiving recall notices, some being pulled of leave and returned to active duty. We also have reports of reservists being called up for various Air Force units in some parts of the country."

"Early today we began receiving reports from corespondents overseas of similar buildups across the world. England, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, and Israeli forces leading the buildup for known Allied nations. However we also have reports that both mainland China and Taiwan have placed their armed forces on high standby and the former Soviet Union has initiated an unprecedented recall to troops all across it's land mass."

"There is no official word yet on WHY this buildup of forces is necessary, but it does seem unlikely that every major government in the world has suddenly decided to run a drill."

"So for CNN news, this is Caroline Reynolds promising you that we'll stay on top of the story and bring more on this and other stories as they break."

Rupert Giles stepped into the lounge of the airport and looked around briefly. He ignored the various concession stands and walked to the door, noting a man in a chauffeur's uniform holding up a sign that simply said 'Giles'.

<I guess subtly isn't a priority.> He thought ironically as he walked over.

"You Giles?"

"I am." He said calmly, "And you are?"

"My employer sent me to pick you up, I'm just a driver."

"I had no idea that Xander had a hired staff now."

"Don't know any Xander, Sir." He man said as he showed Giles to the limo parked outside. "I work for Kevin Sorbo."

"The Actor??"

"No, the Greek God." The man chuckled, "Yes, the Actor."

"There must be some mistake..." Giles said, "I'm supposed to..."

"Rupert Giles? Going to the Yacht club?"

"Well yes... but..."

"No Mistake Sir." The man opened the door to the back of the limo and motioned Giles in. "You're the second stop for me here today. At least this time I didn't have to bring the bus."


The Chauffeur nodded, closing the door, when he got in the drivers side he rolled down the glass window and continued. "Yeah... Now that was a weird bunch. Came in on an old Military transport... Talked about nothing but airplanes and dogfights if you get my drift... This one guy kept arguing about the best world war two fighter ever designed... damned if I could make heads or tale of it."

Giles sat back, perplexed. After a moment he leaned forward, "What plane did he say was the best?"

"Mustang I think..."

<Kevin.> Daan'aal whispered. <He has called Kevin into this. Why?>

<I don't know. I think things may be quite different then we thought.> Giles responded as he sat back and waited for the drive to be over.

Washington DC, Pentagon

"What do we have in the area?"

"Not near enough, Mr President." Admiral Mackenzie replied, frowning. "The Enterprise is still in port waiting repairs, we don't have any other carriers ate full capacity in the area either. Frankly sir, we aren't ready for this."

"Don't tell me that." Whitmore snapped, "Tell me what we can put into the theatre."

"We have a Marine flight wing at El Toro ready to fly," Mackenzie said thoughtfully, "And the Ticonderoga just transited the Canal on it's way to Pearl... We have some surface ships in the area that will be able to give support... But we're sucking air when it comes to serious strike power."

"God dammit!" Whitmore muttered, "We *have* to have something in the area! This is the United States of America for Christ sakes!"

"Sir, with the current cutbacks the way they are... we'll be lucky to scrounge up half of what we had after the Japs nailed Pearl fifty years ago." Mackenzie said flatly. "Even less when you consider that we don't have *any* carriers that are up to serious combat operations at the moment."

Whitmore just looked up, "Find me something. Anything."

"Sir, we have the troops... we even have the planes. What we're lacking is the real capability to deliver them to their destinations."

"So you're telling me that we can't move more then a couple flight groups into place?"

"In eight days? That's about it, Sir."

Whitmore took a deep breath, then looked up. "You're fired. *We're* all FIRED!"

LA Yacht Club

Giles stepped out of the Limo, not waiting for the driver to get out. He'd taken his pistols out of his bags during the drive and they were now riding in leather under his long tan duster. It was getting too hot to be wearing such things in this part of the world, but for the moment Giles didn't give a damn.

He walked up to the group he saw around the armed ship, guessing that would be the place he was looking for.


<Yep. That's the place.> His mouth twisted as he turned to the voice. "Hello Faith."

Faith rolled her eyes, "Oh great. Just what I need... another Watcher."

Giles smirked at her uncharacteristically, but was forestalled from speaking by the sudden reaction of several of the nearby men. For some reason they all went for their weapons.

<What the?> Giles reacted before the assault weapons could lock onto him, Daan'aal appearing in his hand instantly as he lunged in and swept the enchanted blade across their barrels.

There was a screeching squeal as the weapons were destroyed, leaving the men to look down at the wrecked guns.


"What the!?"


Giles stepped back, sword at the ready as he looked around uncertainly. "What the hell is going...?"

<Behind you!>

He reacted instantly to Daan'aals warning, glancing back and determining that these two were unarmed. He stepped back suddenly and lashed out with his elbows, catching both men in the throats as they charged, blowing them back and knocking them on the ground. As they rolled around, clutching their throats, a booming voice rang out.

"What the hell is going on here!?"

"He's a Watcher Sir!"

Giles turned to see a tall slim man with green hair stride up to him, "What's your business here?"

Giles bristled at the tone, but kept his temper in check. "I was invited."

"By who?"

Giles was about to respond, but Faith beat him to it. "By Xander. And if you don't want to get your ass kicked I suggest you all back off!"

Then she turned and looked at the ground, "And you two! Who told you to attack him??"

"But Sis..." Connor gasped out, "You said he's a Watcher..."

"Didn't learn anything from going after Robert the same way?" Faith smirked, "Anytime you see a Watcher who isn't stuck behind a desk in England... he's probably very very *dangerous*."

Then she turned to smile at Giles, "Good to see you again, G-man."

Giles allowed himself a light smile, "And you too Faith. Though I could have done without the reception."

Faith shrugged, "My brothers here are a little over protective... I don't know what's up with the other dudes."

Giles looked around, frowning.

The man with green hair stepped forward, "I'd like to apologize, Mr... Giles is it? My men and I have had a recent bit of trouble with the Council."

"I see." Giles nodded, "Suffice to say, I understand that. But I won't tolerate being assaulted, Mr...?"

"Dragan. Call me Dragan."

"Dragan then..." Giles paused, then smiled widely. "Ah yes... I've heard of your... trouble. Amusing show you put on."

"We try." Dragan grinned. Then he nodded to the boat, "Come on... we'll get you up to speed."

"Very good."



"Yeah?" Xander asked, sliding out from under a control panel he was trying to jump start.

"You have another call from The President."

Xander nodded, "Can you put it through to here?"


"Do it."

Xander went back to work, pulling old crystals out of the panel and replacing them. "Hello Mr President."

"Mr. Harris." Whitmore's voice came through. "We need to talk."

Chapter 2
(No, not A through G or H either.)

Avalon - Contact Minus 7

"Yes Mr President?" Xander asked, sliding out from under a control panel and tapping a command into the flight controls of the transport craft. He sighed when it didn't respond.

"We're moving all available assets into the Pacific theatre as we speak... but we're not certain if they'll be enough. Do you have any tactical data on the ship?"

Xander looked up, signaling Merlin to cut audio. "One moment. Merlin? Shoot them what we've got on the Carrier. But use a line that isn't overly secure..."

"Yes Sir."

Xander nodded, "You should be receiving some files now... check with your signals people."

There was a brief pause. Then the President came back, his voice tense. "How did you get that network address?"

"Tell him that you used an address that was posted to the world wide web by hackers three days ago." Merlin's voice sounded amused.

Xander did as Merlin told him, then added. "You know... if you need better security people maybe I can loan you some of mine..."

There was a long silence on the other end, "No. I don't think that'll be necessary."

"Will there be anything else, Sir?" Xander asked as he crawled under another panel and started checking the crystals.

"Yes. I need to know what you're planning." Whitmore said, "Mr Ryan has vouched for both your intentions and your capabilities... though he is being somewhat vague about your resources..."

"Don't blame him," Xander said, "He doesn't know much about them... Just that they are... of an unusual nature."

"So I'm told." Whitmore said dryly. "I want a Liaison to work with you."

Xander nodded, thinking for a moment. "I'll take SG1. Can you get them to LA in ten hours?"

Another long pause. "I think that can be arranged. May I ask why that specific unit?"

"Carter and O'Neill are qualified pilots, right?"

"I believe so, yes."

"I find myself in need of pilots. The other two will be of use in analyzing tactics." Xander said vaguely, wondering if the President had been briefed on Teal'C.

"Very well. I'll check with their CO and see if they're available." Whitmore hedged.

"That's fine. Get them to LA and checked into a Hotel in 10 hours or less... then contact me again, I'll give them further instructions from there."

"Is all this cloak and dagger stuff really necessary?"

"It's not Cloak and Dagger, Mr President." Xander said, "I'm working with a very uncertain timetable on my side... frankly most of my resources are a long way from being battle ready and I'm running on a wing and a prayer right now."

"I see." Whitmore said softly. "I'll contact you when they are in place."

"Goodbye Mr President."

"Goodbye Mr Harris."

Washington DC

As he disconnected the line, President Whitmore looked over at Jack Ryan and sighed. "I was hoping it was just us."

Jack nodded, "What now?"

Whitmore lifted the redline to Cheyenne Mountain and sighed. "I Talk to General Hammond."

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

"This is General Hammond, Mr President."

"Good afternoon, General." Whitmore said, "I need to ask you something about one of your teams..."

"Go ahead, Sir."

"SG1... Can they be trusted?"

"Absolutely Sir. I'd stake my career on it." Hammond answered instantly.

"General, think carefully on this... Would you stake the world on it?"

"Without hesitation, Sir." Hammond responded, "All of them have gone above and beyond for this world in the past."

There was a long sigh, then the President came back. "Alright. I want them on a plane to LA."


"We have a... Independent movement on the west coast preparing to meet the Goa'uld... I want them to be the Liaison team for the US Government."

"Independent movement? What?"

"Don't ask, General."

"Very well Sir... May I ask why SG1?"

"They were asked for by name."

SG1 filed into the conference room.

Hammond looked them each over and nodded once, "I assume you're wondering why you've been called in?"

"Well yeah." O'Neill said, a little grumpily.

Hammond fixed him with a stare, but then went on. "You're all going to LA."


The response was pretty much the same from all of them, except Teal'C.

"You're being sent to be the Liason team between the military and an... Independent group preparing to mount a defense against the Goa'uld."

Hammond instantly held up his hand to forestall the questions. "Look. I don't know what this group is, or what they think they can do... but they *know* about the ship, and they *know* each of you by NAME. So you are going. If only to find out what the hell is going on here."

Jack sat back, his objection dead before it could come out.

"These orders came from the President himself... and you know what that means."

Jack nodded, "It means we go to LA."

LA Yacht Club

"Hello everyone." Xander's face smiled at them tiredly from the large screen, "Giles... Faith... Good to see you again. It's been too long."

Both of them nodded.

"Alright," Xander said, "In the next twelve hours I'm going to be coming out that way in a transport to pick up any and all able pilots. Combat experience is a major plus people, so if you fly a Cessna on the weekend, think twice before volunteering."

"Why so long?" Dragan asked.

Xander chuckled bitterly, "Because it's going to take that long to get this heap flying again. Oh, by the way, we'll be joined by an Air Force team for this... I'll have them directed to your location at the last minute."

"Are you sure that's a good idea, Xander?" Giles asked. "We've had bad experiences with the Military."

"It's SG1."

"I see." Giles nodded, sitting down.

"He may," Dragan said, "But I certainly don't. Who are these people? I don't want the Government poking their nose into my work... I pay a lot of money to keep that from happening."

Xander nodded, "You aren't the only one. But we need to work with the government on this... or else we could get shot by both sides when it goes down. And The President says he wants a Liaison."

Dragan reluctantly nodded and sat back.

"I'm hoping that we'll be able to convince SG1 to keep our assets under their hat..." Xander said, hesitating. "They've done it before... but if not, then I'm hoping that Leo might be willing to help us out."

Leo looked around as everyone stared at him, eyes widening. "Now look, I'm not sure what your suggesting... but..."

"You know what I'm suggesting, Leo."

Leo frowned, shaking his head. "Memory dust isn't something to play with... But if it comes down to the Government finding out about my charge... I'll do it."

Xander nodded, "Thank you, Leo... I know it's not an easy decision for you to make."

After a moment, Xander looked back around. "Alright. If that's all the questions?"

"Not quite." Chappy Sinclair stepped forward. "You said you need pilots. What do you need them for?"

The other pilots in the room nodded in agreement with the question.

Xander sighed, "I need you to trust me a little while longer on this. By this time tomorrow you'll all see what's going down in full technicolor. If any of you want to back out then, I won't put up any objection."

Chappy frowned, but nodded as he sat back. "Twenty four hours."

Xander nodded, then took a breath. "Alright. I've got more work to do. Twelve hours... Hit the town people... have fun, get plastered, but be back at the 579 and ready to sail in twelve hours."

Then the image went dead.

Dragan sighed, then nodded. "Alright everyone. You heard the man... Everyone has a twelve hour pass. Spread the news."


Xander sighed, looking over the barely functioning console of the transport he was trying to get online.

<Twelve hours.> He shook his head and went back to work.

LA Yacht Club

Giles stood and looked around the deck of the PT Boat, shaking his head. <Xander you have the concept of overkill down nicely... but you really need to work on subtlety."

"Damn it, where did I... Oh, hello? I thought everyone was gone?"

Giles turned to see a young woman in overalls come up from below decks. "Sorry, no. I'm afraid my idea of a good time doesn't match most of these people."

"Well, Hi. I'm Maria." She put out her hand, then took it back as she noticed it was covered in grease. "Sorry..."

Giles smiled, "Not a problem."

Maria looked around, smiling when she found what she was looking for. "Ah... My tool kit. Sorry, I'm trying to get the forward cannon operational. We swapped everything else out and made it hot, but the 37mm up front is being stubborn."

Giles nodded, not having the slightest clue what she was talking about. "I see."

"Xander is going to owe me a major bit of danger pay for this one." Maria muttered, "And I don't mean whatever lunatic adventure he has planned... just hanging anywhere near those McManus brothers has GOT to be worth time and a half."

It took Giles a few seconds to place the name to the faces, then he smiled. "I'm not terribly fond of them myself."

Maria shrugged, "They seem nice enough, but I don't think they ever grew up... and I'll be damned if they don't think this is some kind of freaking movie or something. One of them was muttering something about needing rope earlier... What the hell was he planning on doing with rope anyway??"

Giles shook his head, "i have no idea. May I help you with that?"

Maria looked up, smiling. "You know anything about tools? Or guns?"

"Not of that size..." Giles looked at the 37mm cannon, "But I'm sure I could find something useful to do."

Maria nodded, "You probably could. Sure I can always use a hand."

"Excellent." Giles said, moving forward to do what he could.

"Maria... Oh..." A voice caused him to turn his head.

"Tara!? Good God, what are you doing here??"

The blond flinched back slightly, then stammered. "D-d-do I know you?"

Giles shook his head, "No... No. of course not."

"The h-h-how do you know me?"

Giles thought fast, "Xander mentioned it."


<At least he bloody well should have.> Giles simmered, but kept his emotions in check. "What are you doing here? This isn't a safe place to be..."

Tara smiled hesitantly. "Nowhere's safe right n-n-now."

Giles reluctantly nodded. "That may be, but here..."

"Is no more dangerous then anywhere else for now, Mr Giles." Maria said firmly. "If you'd hold onto this while I try to knock the bolt loose?"

"Oh... certainly..." Giles shook his head clear, and went to do as Maria asked.

"There must be a decent pub *somewhere* in this city!" Connor McManus complained as the group walked along the street.

"I told you," Dragan said tiredly, "We're sticking together as a group. And we're going to my club."

Not that he thought that was a great idea, but he was worried they might not be able to find the brothers in twelve hours if they were let on too long a lease. <And if someone could *please* tell me why that would be a bad thing I'd really like to know...>

He sighed, shaking his head. Whatever happened he knew they needed every able body they could find, and the brothers were definitely able bodied. He had his doubts about their minds though.

"I hope ye have some decent draft at least." Murphy muttered.

"We import Guinness. Will that do?"

The brothers looked at each other, eyes lighting up, then both sobered.

"Aye... that'll do... just barely though mind ye."

Hercules was walking out of the parking area when he noticed the black Trans-am out of the corner of his eyes. He paused and walked over. "Hello KARR."

The vehicle didn't respond.

Herc waited a moment, "Do you need anything?"

"Negative." The car rumbled.

Hercules nodded, "Ok..."

Hercules started to leave, then paused. "Look... do you want to stay here? Cause I've got a nice garage at my..."


"Ok... Well... there's the boathouse?" Herc pointed to a place a short distance off. "I usually have a speedboat in there, but it's in the water right now... You can have it until Xander get's back? It's going to be a while... he *is* fighting a war..."

The car didn't respond for a long moment, then it rumbled. "Affirmative."

Hercules nodded, "Ok. Well, come on... I'll unlock it."

KARR shifted into drive and followed Hercules as he walked over to the small building.

"Can you find Xander?"

Leo shrugged, "I don't know.... I doubt it. He's not one of my charges."

"Try." Paige urged, "I want to see him."

Leo sighed, looking around tiredly. "Paige... if he wanted you there he'd have asked you along by now."

She glared at him, "And just what are you trying to say?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all..." Leo said quickly, "It's just that he's on a heavy schedule right now... I don't think he should be disturbed... Why don't you just wait and hitch a ride with the pilots in twelve hours?"

Paige grimaced, but nodded. "Alright. You win."

"It isn't a contest Paige." Leo said. "Why don't you go to that club? The Mixer?"

Paige hemmed a bit, but then nodded. "Ok... You coming?"

"Sure... why not?" Leo shrugged.

"Ok. Let's go."

El Toro

Captain Steven Hiller shifted impatiently as he sat through the briefing.

"We have a strong indication of hostile activity in the pacific theater." The briefing officer was saying. "With activity expected to commence within one week."

"China, Sir?" a Pilot asked.

"No. China is mobilizing forces, but we expect them to be allies in this."

There was a low murmur around the room. Beside Hiller his wingman, Jimmy Wilder, raised his hand. "Excuse me, does that mean the Russians Sir?"

"No. We also expect them to cooperate and send squadrons of their own to help."

The pilots looked at each other in confusion as they tried to figure out who else it could be. The briefing officer continued on with his notes on deployment and finally finished up and dismissed them.

"Ok, now I KNOW the world is coming to an end." Wilder muttered. "Russkies, Chinks, and us all working together?? The sky is falling I tell you."

"Cut that out." Hiller muttered, walking along. "It's just another mission. No different then any other."

"Right." Wilder muttered, "That's why every country that matters is recalling their armed forces."

"Don't have nothing to do with us." Steve said, "We do our job, everyone else does there, and the world keeps turning."

"I know it's going to keep turning..." Wilder said, "I just want to keep turning with US on it."

Steve just shook his head and didn't respond. He walked into his office and looked at the paperwork in his desk, grimacing as he did. He loved to fly, but the government kept trying to cut him to death with paper. As he sat down there was a knock on his door.

"Yes?" Hiller looked up.

"Captain Hiller?"

"That's right..."

The man at the door stepped in and extended his hand, Hill got up and shook it. "I've just been transferred into your squadron. I'm supposed to replace a Lieutenant... Gracen?"

"Yeah... he's got a broken leg from a motocross accident." Hiller frowned, "But I wasn't told about this..."

"Bad timing, Sir." The man smiled apologetically. "With the sudden recall I think my paperwork got lost in the mix. But I'm sure it's just a slowdown."

Hiller sighed, "Damn it. It's just one more thing. No offense, but I don't need a fish in my squad when we're looking at a seriously screwy mission."

"None taken," The man smiled. "But you should know that I'm a Top Gun graduate with a triple A rating in the Hornet."

Hiller paused, looking mildly impressed. "Alright... I'll call up and see what I can do about your paper work. What's your name?"

"Skye, Sir." The man smiled, "Lieutenant Jarod Skye."

Hiller nodded, "Alright Skye... Welcome to the Black Knights."


A low whir echoed through the interior of the transport and lights flickered on.


The noise whined down, and all the lights went out leaving the transport pitch black.


There was a loud clunk, followed by a scream. "Ow! Dammit!"

LA, The Mixer

"Will you look at this, Murphy?" Connor grinned as they walked in. "It's a hollywood pub."

Murphy chuckled, "Can you imagine if this was real? I mean, Jesus..."

Faith rolled her eyes, "Guys..."

"Yeah... We'd have a heck of a fight on our hands in this place..."


"Yeah... would you look at how ugly some of them are?"


"What?" They turned to look at Faith.

"Those are real demons." Faith said, taking a seat at the bar.

Connor and Murphy looked over their shoulders, noticing that a lot of the closer ones were now glaring at them openly. The swallowed. "Oh shit."

Faith shook her head and looked at the bartender. "Whisky. Shot. Now."

"We don't serve alcohol to minor... urk!"

Faith's hand shot out, grabbing the bartender by the lapels. "I'm a nineteen year old Slayer stuck in a fourteen year old body, Trust me when I say you don't want to fuck with me."

The bartender looked over to where Dragan was, and noted the quiet nod. He quickly nodded himself, "Whatever you say. Whisky coming up."

Faith let him go, then glanced back to where Connor and Murphy were backing slowly against the bar. "Of for crying out loud. Sit down and order a drink! It's a neutral territory area..."

The Brothers nodded slowly, shifting around as they took stools on either side of Faith.

Around a large table to the back Chappy and the rest of the pilots took their seats and waited to be served.

"What do you think this means?" Wheeler asked, holding up a sign that stated 'new visitors should wait to be ruled.'

Doug shrugged, "No clue. But in this place? Could be anything."

Rudy chuckled, "Yeah. Can you believe some of these costumes? What a gas... I wonder how much the cost?"

"Not as much as you'd think." Kevin said, shifting his chair around so his back was to the wall.

"What do you mean, Kev?" Steve asked noting his friends actions.

"Don't ask." Kevin muttered, shaking his head. <I should have known something like this would happen the instant Daan'aals name came up in that phone conversation.>


Kevin looked up to see Dragan walking up calmly. "The club is neutral territory, and I have a security force on the premises to keep it that way."

Kevin nodded slowly, while the rest of the pilots looked around.

"What are you talking about?" Chappy asked, eyes flitting around the room.

Dragan grinned, "Those aren't costumes. And while I'm here I may as well Rule you guys..."

Faith stared moodily at her drink as he pondered it's brown depths.

"You gonna drink or brood, Sis?" Connor asked, not liking that Faith had a drink in her hand, but not liking her sudden introspectiveness either.

Faith sighed and lifted the drink up.

Only to be nearly startled into spilling it when a gold dragon shaped object flitted onto the bar and sat their looking up at them. "Hi, I'm Chyra. You guys ready to be ruled?"

"Huh?" Murphy blurted out after wiping his beer from his face and grabbing a napkin to clean the bar where he'd spit the Guinness.

"Are you hard of hearin?" The dragon looked up at them, annoyed. "Never mind. Just stay nice and quiet and I'll rule you."

Faith just looked at the dragon curiously as it started to rattle off a series of rules. As it finished she smiled widely, "This is a swingers club??"

Chyra shrugged, "I suppose you could call it that."

"Wicked cool..." Faith looked around smiling.

"Sis..." Connor growled, not liking that look in her eyes.


"These are demons around ye. Remember that."

Faith sighed, "What? I can't act like Buffy once in a while?"

The two brothers looked confused.

"Uhh... Paige?"

Paige looked over her shoulder. "What?"

"I think we should get out of here."


"Paige," Leo looked around, "These are *real* demons."

Paige rolled her eyes, "I know that. I spent more then a few nights in places like this when I was traveling with Xander. I even came in here once with him and Dragan before I went back to school. It's sort of a swingers club."

"What?" Leo paled.

Paige smirked, "Yeah. I'd watch out. I'm sure that there are plenty of demon babes in here that would love to score with a real Angel."


Paige laughed, then looked around until she spotted Dragan and just smiled, "Come on. We'll get some drinks and I'll protect you from the big bad demon babes."

"Wait a minute!" Doug objected. "You're tell me that those are real monsters??"

Dragan rolled his eyes, "Most of them prefer to be called by their species names actually... though a lot of them go by the term demon as well."

"No freakin way."

"It's true." Kevin said softly. "I've seen them before."

"Kevin?" Steve looked at him oddly.

"Long story Steve." Kevin smiled wanly. "But I vouch for what he's saying."

Austin looked around the room with new eyes, his focus shifting slightly. After a moment he paled and sat back, "Well holy shit."

"You believe this crap??" Doug asked, eyes wide.

Austin shrugged, then nodded. "Yeah. I believe it."

Chappy looked around the room uncertainly. "After what I saw a few months back... I guess it makes sense."


"Chappy's right." Wheeler told Doug. "You weren't in the barracks when that guy went all dark jedi on us... I believe it."

The younger pilots nodded, remembering the scene in the Iron Eagle barracks.

Doug shook his head, eyeing the room nervously. "No way... no fuckin way."

Air Force Jet, Heading South West

"Will you stop doing that!?"

Teal'C turned to look at O'Neill, eyebrow raised. "What?"

"Just... *stop* that!"

Daniel smiled, "I think he means the breathing."

Teal'C shifted to look at Daniel. "Am I not permitted to breath?"

"Just... be quieter." Daniel grinned.

"It was a meditative practice." Teal'C said mildly.

"Maybe you should teach it to Jack." Daniel kept grinning, watching the Colonel out of the corner of his eyes. "He could use some calming meditation."

Jack glared over at him, but didn't comment.

"It would not be effective without a symbiote." Teal'C said simply.

Daniel chuckled, "Well, we could always see if we could dig one up for you Jack."

"Not funny, Daniel." Jack growled, turning back to his papers.

USS Ticonderoga, Pacific

"Sir, we've been order directly to Pearl for refuel and restocking."

Captain Donalds nodded. That wasn't surprising.

"We're to move out immediately to start our patrol afterwards."

That wasn't as normal, Donalds walked over to the comm officer. "Does this have anything to do with the recall?"

"Doesn't say Sir."


Xander pushed himself out from under a console and hesitantly tapped a sequence into the panel above him. The lights came on, slowly powering up. Xander held his breath as they flickered briefly, then came on full strength.

"Yes." He said, whispering for fear of jinxing something.

He slid out and looked at the screen, reading the diagnostics as they rolled past.

"Ok... Power... check, thrusters... check..." Xander mumbled, "Interface software.... Interface software... ah crap! That's what that crystal was!"

March 30th - Contact minus 6

"I'm Derek Bradford, and this is CNN."

"Our top story today remains the unprecedented military buildup in nearly every major country on the planet. Contacts in the former Soviet Union report that previously unserviced Mig-29 'Fulcrum' fighters have been rushed into service over the past twenty four hours. Here in the United States we have reports of Squadrons of F-16 Falcons, F/A-18 Hornets, and their support crews being moved to the west coast."

"The Government has still refused to directly address the buildup, preferring to respond to questioning with no comments."

"Here on the home front, the buildup has begun to show creeping tension in families of servicemen who have been recalled. Questions are now being asked by those families, hard questions. Questions to which the Government has apparently answered... No Comment."

"Stay tuned for breaking news, I'm Derek Bradford... And this is CNN."

LA Yacht Club

The sun was starting to cause the sky to lighten in the east as the first group stumbled back into the Marina.

"I can't believe you did that Connor"! Murphy practically giggled as the two brothers stumbled along the docks.

"He challenged me, bro."

"He was eight feet tall!"

Faith walked up, shoving them apart as she stalked past.

"Hey, Sis! What are ya pushing me for!?"

Faith spun around, glaring at the brothers, and help up a finger. "One! You got us kicked out of the first club that would serve me alcohol in *months*!"

She held up another finger, "Two! It wasn't a He, it was a She!"

"And Three," She dropped both fingers and held up her middle finger to both brothers. "She wasn't challenging you! She was hitting on you, you dimwit!"

With that Faith spun on her heal and stalked off.

Murphy and Connor looked shocked for a long moment, then Murphy broke into a snickering laugh and punched his brother in the arm. "Go you stud you!"

"Shut up, Murph!"

"I don't see why we had to leave? It was just those three that got kicked out..." Wheeler complained.

"We're leaving because that guy in the devil costume kept hitting on you." Doug said sourly.

"I don't think it was a costume." Wheeler grinned, "And besides, he had some interesting things to say about what he could do with those horns..."

Doug closed his eyes and counted silently.

Chappy walked up behind him, clapping him on the back, "Old Dougy here is a simply boy. He likes his girls horny in the classic sense of the word."

"Alright, cut that out!" Doug jerked away, "That wasn't funny either!"

"Relax old chap," Palmer grinned, as he walked along with them. "I was once hit on by this lovely young lady in Germany who wasn't."

"Wasn't what?"

"A lovely young lady." Palmer grinned, taking a sip from a flask he produced. "And more then that you'll never drag out of me."

The Mixer

Dragan shook his head as he surveyed the damage. "I can't believe those two guys did this much damage before the Slayer got involved."

"Are you quite certain that they're human?"

"As far as anyone can tell." Dragan muttered, "Though I know more then a few humans who'd be insulted at the insinuation."

"I suppose we'd better get this cleaned up." Chyra sighed.

Dragan nodded, waving in the cleaning staff as they showed up. Then he turned to his security man, "You have their photos?"

"Yes Sir."

"I don't want to see either of them in here for at least six months."

"And the girl?"

Dragan hesitated, then nodded. "Her too."

As the security guard walked off, Chyra looked up curiously. "Why are you banning the Slayer? She didn't do anything..."

"Because if she's in here alone, then those two," Dragan said, "are out in the rest of the city without a chaperone."

"I'm sure the LAPD will owe you for saving them a hundred headaches." Chyra laughed lightly as she looked around the club. "So what's on the schedule for tomorrow."

"I'm going with the Pilots..." Dragan said, "Won't be much to do on the ground unless the Pilots can't keep them back anyway."

"Go where?"

"Unless I miss my guess," Dragan's face twisted. "The young Kine has been admitted to Avalon."

"You're kidding." Chyra smirked, "The same Avalon that Merlin wouldn't let you anywhere near?"

"Shut up."

"Hey... Hey! Do you think that old coot is still operational??"


"Then you better bet I'm coming with you." Chyra snorted puffs of smoke, "He and I have a little conversation that's *long* over due."

"Nice hotel." Daniel said as he set his things down and sat down in a comfortable chair.

O'Neill just shrugged, looking around. "It'll do. I wouldn't get used to it... it'll probably only be for a few hours... then we'll wind up in some survivalists bunker with nothing but MRE's to eat."

"You really think that's what this independent group is all about?"

"What else?" O'Neill shrugged. "Though how they could have cracked operational security on this is a complete puzzle."

Carter shrugged, "Well we won't find out until we contact Hammond to let him know we arrived, now will we?"

"Alright, alright..." O'Neill got up and walked over to the telephone.


"Alright. That's good news, Colonel. I'll contact the President at once." General Hammond hung up the phone and picked up the red one next to it.

After a moment a voice on the other side answered, "Yes?"

"SG1 is in position, Sir."

"Very good. I'll arrange for them to be contacted."

"Very good." Hammond said, then lowered the phone and sighed. "Damn I hope they know what they're doing. I don't like sending my team in blind like this."

LA Yacht Club

Rupert Giles sat on the bow of the 579 and watched the mountain line as it slowly appeared against the ever lightening sky. There was a slow easy breeze that wafted lightly across the marina, just cooling the humid air down enough so it was bearable.

"Another glass?"

He looked back, then smiled and nodded.

Maria poured him a tall glass of red wine, then took a seat along side him. "I love this time of day."

Giles nodded, "So have I for as long as I live. I dare say it's Xander's favorite as well you know..."

Maria frowned, "Why do you say that?"

"Hope." Giles smiled as he took a sip of the wine. <A fine vintage... too bad it's a plastic glass with sombrero's pasted over it. Xander's dishes I have little doubt.> "Most people who fight vampires love to see the sun rise."

Maria nodded, understanding the implication. "I see."

"If you don't," Giles smiled slightly. "You will if you are around Xander for much longer."

Maria shivered slightly, uncertain if it was the wind, that statement, or the company that caused it.


"Commander. You have another call from The President."

Xander cursed, banged his head, then cursed again. "Ow, ow, ow! Ok... Give me a second, then put him through." Then Xander turned his attention back to the circuits he was working on.

A second later Whitmore's voice echoed through the air. "Mr Harris?"


"Ouch!" Xander cursed again, then slid out from under the console.

"Mr Harris? Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Mr President." Xander said, rubbing his head as he stood up. "Just doing some maintenance work."

"I see." Whitmore said in a voice that clearly indicated that he didn't. "I'm calling to inform you that SG1 has arrived in LA and are awaiting your call."

"Ok..." Xander said as he tapped a few more commands into the console and was rewarded by seeing the Operating system boot up. "Ok... Give me their number and I'll direct them to a rendezvous."

The president read off a number and Xander read it back. "Ok. That's it then, Mr Harris. Good luck to you."

"Good luck to us all." Xander said as he closed up the console. A moment later Merlin closed the connection and Xander stood up, frowning.

"Is something wrong Mr Harris?"

"Huh? Oh... Umm... no."

"Did you get the Transport working?"

"Uh... Yeah..." Xander said, then looked down at his hands.

"Then what's wrong?"

"For the life of me..." Xander began, holding up two crystals and a fiber line, "I can't figure out where these are supposed to go."

LA Hotel

"Get in."

SG1 looked at each other oddly, then back at the man who'd spoke to them. He had green hair and was driving a glossy black Hummer, or rather was standing on the drivers side running boards and staring at them over the roof of the big vehicle. In the Passenger side there was a hooded figure who was looking away from SG1, hiding their face.

"Ah, Excuse me?" Jack ventured.

"Get in, we're late."

Daniel stepped forward, "Are you our contact?"

The man rolled his eyes, "Look. Get in, or I leave you. And from what I understand the President wouldn't be happy if I left you."

"Hey, who the hell are you?"

"I'm the guy who has to be at the boat in thirty minutes or they'll take off without me." The man sighed, "Look, My name's Dragan. You guys should be SG1, right?"


"Are you this hesitant about jumping through the Chappa'ai??" Dragan asked, then looked closer and frowned at Teal'C. "Who're you??"


Dragan nodded, still frowning. "You know Murray, you might want to ditch the watch cap... That'll get pretty damn hot here in LA you know..."

Teal'C ran a hand up to his head, but made no move to remove the cap.

"Whatever." Dragan muttered, "Come on. We have to get a move on... We've got a transport en route."

SG1 reluctantly got into the Hummer, taking up the available seats. Carter wound up sitting behind the passenger seat and she found herself staring at the back of the hooded head. "Ummm. Hi."

The head turned slightly, but not enough to reveal the face. "Hello."

The voice was female, so Carter decided to attempt a conversation. "So... you guys do this a lot?"

She winced at how stupid that sounded.

The hooded woman laughed lightly. "I suppose that depends on what you mean."

"Excuse me?"

"Do you mean, 'do we take on Goa'uld Pyramid ships a lot'? Or do you mean 'do we save the world a lot?'"

"Ummmm... Either?"

"Not so often for the first... but the second one is rather regular." The voice said, full of amusement.

"Oh." Carter said, her voice soft as she whispered.

There was something in the voice that almost convinced her.

Daniel Jackson was sitting well off the one side and happened to glance over his shoulder, "My God!"

"What!?" Jack asked, going for his pistol.

"Is that a Dragon?" Daniel asked in surprise, looking behind him.

Jack's eyes widened, and he spun around, only to sigh when he saw the small statue. "Christ, Daniel. Don't DO that, I thought you meant a *real* dragon."

"Oh, right, Jack." Daniel said sarcastically. "In the back of a HummV in downtown LA."

"Hey," Jack said defensively. "We've seen wierder."

There was an amused laughter from the front of the HUMMV. Jack turned around, "What?"

"You ain't seen nothin yet."

LA Yacht Club

"You ready to move?"

Hercules nodded to where Xander was looking at him from the screen. "Dragan and SG1 should be here shortly. Then we'll be moving out."

"Good. I'll meet you out to sea and pick up the pilots." Xander turned to look at Maria, "Maria you're not being paid for combat... you don't have to do this."

"Like hell." Sanchez snorted. "This is my boat as much as it is yours. If it's going into a fight, I'm going with it to make sure it comes back."

Xander smiled, nodding. "Alright. The 579 is yours... Captain Sanchez."

She smirked, "Damn right she is."

Xander turned back to Hercules, "The Pilots ready?"

"Curious as hell, a little nervouse..." Herc smiled, "But seeing all the weapons around here makes that understandable... and those that weren't worried about the weapons got plenty nervous at the Mixer last night."

Xander laughed, "What happened?"

Herc shook his head, "One of the Slayer's companions got hit on by a Alkbattari... and he hit back. Hard. I guess Dragan's security people had to break up the riot."

Xander winced, "Damn."

"And the whitelighter got hit on a lot..." Herc grinned, "From what I understand Paige had to let him orb out of there because she couldn't get have a drink without being interrupted by his suitors."

Xander laughed again, "Go Leo Go."

"Last I heard he was hightailing it for upstairs as fast as his sparkles would carry him." Herc grinned.

"Doesn't Drag have security cameras in that place?"


"Tell him I want a copy." Xander grinned, "You never know when I might need to blackmail a whitelighter with some damning evidence he doesn't want his wife to see."


"Patience, My dear Kevin..." Xander said in a accented voice, "All things come to those who wait."

Hercules was about to respond when a group trampled down and came into the command room. He turned around and saw Dragan leading a group of five people, one of whom was robed. "Ah. At last."

He turned back, "We'll be underway in a few minutes."

Xander nodded, "I'll fly out and pick up the pilots and advisors right now. I'll contact you when we're under way to figure out where to meet."

Then he turned to SG1 and smiled, "Jack, Sam, Daniel... Teal'C. Good to see you all again."

Jack's eyes widened, "Again?? I've never laid eyes on you in my life!"

"True." Xander smiled, "but some of us have lived more then others."

Then he turned to Teal'C, smiling as he saw the watch cap. "Nice fashion statement."

Teal'C raised an eyebrow, but didn't respond.

"I'll see you all in a few hours." Xander said, then smirked. "Avalon out."

The screen when blank, then switched to a navigation overlay of the coast.

Hercules nodded, then turned to Maria. "Alright, Captain Sanchez. She's your ship..."

He got up and Sanchez walked over, sitting down in the central chair. She took a breath, then grabbed the controls and queued the engines. As the rumble vibrated through the 579 she flipped a switch by her hand, "Clear all mooring lines."

A minute later a voice came down, "All lines clear."

Maria touched a touch screen and the screen switched to an outside view. She pushed the throttle forward and adjusted the rudder.

Outside, the PT Boat eased clear of the dock and slid out of the harbor toward open sea.

Washington DC

"They just pulled out of a Yacht club, Sir. On an apparently armed PT Boat..."


"That's what our man said when they followed SG1. Whoever these people are, they just took to sea."

"Follow them."

"I already gave the order, but it's doubtful that they'll get far. It's a PT Boat... it's not exactly hard to miss."

Pacific Ocean, a few hours later

"That's him." Hercules said, eyeing a dot on the horizon.

"What?" Jack O'Neill asked, "That dot? How can you tell?"

"I can tell." Her smiled.

The watched as the dot rapidly grew in size, until it could be made out.

"What in the hell??" Jack asked in shock.

It wasn't pretty, in fact it looked like an APC in a lot of ways. It was squat, rectangular, and fairly long. But it was flying, and it was flying *fast*. The people on the deck continued to watch as the flying object slowed to a halt and came to a hovering stop next to the ship.

There was a long silence, then a side door opened downward to create a ramp. A moment later a figure in a black uniform stepped out and nodded at everyone.

"Alright, people." Xander said, "We don't have a lot of time here, so we'll keep it short and get moving fast. If you're a pilot, or if your just coming along for the ride, grab your stuff and climb aboard."

Xander ushered the first of the pilots aboard, pausing when Doug Masters paused to stare at the clunky transport a little skeptically. "We're going to fly those?"

Xander laughed, "No. We have something a little faster waiting at the destination."

Doug shook his head and hopped aboard.

Xander turned and saw Colonel O'Neill staring at him. "Hey Jack, you coming?"

O'Neill shot him a mild glare then double timed it up the ramp. Dragan followed right after.

"Hey Drag,"

"Yeah?" Dragan paused.

"Don't let Jack touch anything." Xander said.

Daniel Jackson looked at Sam and smiled, "Hey, he really does know Jack."

Xander glanced back, "And don't let Daniel here anywhere near the cockpit."

Samantha grinned wider, "He seems to know you too."

Xander ushered them aboard, then looked over the deck of the PT Boat. "Come on! Who else?"

Paige appeared on deck, and stepped up. "I can't fly a jet, but I'm no use here either. I'm coming."

Xander nodded, jerking his head to the open hatch.

A robed figure appeared on deck and walked up to Xander. "Dragan thought you might be able to use my services."

Xander glanced at the robed figure and frowned, "And who are you?"

The figure looked him in the eyes, letting Xander see under the hood. Xander started briefly, but then nodded. "Alright. Get aboard."

She nodded and walked aboard, robe flowing.

"Next! Come on, come on! We're on a schedule here!"

One by one the pilots climbed on board until Xander was looking over the group. "Anyone else?"

"You better bet your ass, Boytoy."

Xander glanced over and saw Faith step up. He smiled widely, "Damn it's good to see you, Faith."

He stepped down and gave her a hug.

"You too, Stud."

"Alright, get aboard." Xander said. "Wait a sec... who are these two?"

"Connor and Murpy McManus." Faith said, smiling. "You'd better bring them along too... They can't fly any more then I can, but Maria would drown them if we left them here."

Xander rolled his eyes, then nodded. "Alright. Get aboard."

Next up was Herc.

"You can fly??" Xander asked, somewhat surprised.

"I have a Cessna I tool around in on weekends." Herc grinned. "But I figure that the ground fighting is only going to happen if we don't do our jobs right? I'll take the front lines."

Xander nodded, "Good to have you."

After that Xander glanced around, "Anyone else?"

"Naw Kid, that's it."

Xander looked surprised. "Andy? What the hell are you doing out here?"

"What? Think I can't handle it?" Andrezj Konzaki smirked from where he was sitting. "Worst comes to worst I can operate one of those .50 cal turrets better then most I'll warrant."

Xander nodded, "Yeah... yeah I'll bet you can at that. How about you Giles?"

"No..." Giles said, "I'll stay with his group. I can't fly either, and I have a feeling that I may be needed here."

"Alright." Xander said, then he frowned. "Tara? Mikki!?"

"They're below." Giles frowned, "I really don't approve you allowing them to remain on board, Xander."

"I want them up here." Xander said, "They'll be safer at Avalon."

Giles nodded, "I'll get them."

As Giles turned and vanished below decks, Xander turned to another man he didn't recognize. "And you?"

"I too shall remain here." The man said, "I can man the weapons and I have some small talents of my own.... Robert Sinclair at your service."

"I'm staying too."

Xander looked over to Jacks. "You sure?"

"Yes." She said, "There is little point to either me or Vin trying to learn to fly in the time we have. We'll be of more use on the ground... or water as the case may be."

Xander nodded. "And the rest of you?"

Several men stepped forward, "We work for Dragan, Sir. He asked for volunteers to round out the complement on this tub. We stepped forward."

Xander nodded, "Alright. Then as soon as..."

Giles came back up, leading Mikki and Tara.

"Xander!" Mikki burst out running to him.

Xander caught the girl as she jumped across the deck at him, giving her a brief hug as she pushed her head into the crook of his neck. "Heya Mic. Glad to see you too."

Then he let her down, conscious of the stares they had drawn, and shooed her up the ramp and into the transport. He then smiled at Tara as she walked up, "Hey Tiger."

She blushed, but didn't stop as she walked up onto the ramp and into the transport.

Xander took one last look around, smiling at everyone. "Alright. Good luck to us all!"

The nodded at him and he let his right arm cross his chest in a Kine Salute, then he walked back up into the transport.

Xander ducked down as the door shit and nodded to everyone in the transport. "Grab your seats and buckle up. I'm not sparing the horses today."

He quickly made his way up to the cockpit and slid in behind the pilots controls. A moment later the transport was sliding away from the PT-579 and accelerating quickly. As he was checking the controls Jack O'Neill made his way up and sat down in the copilot's seat.

"Hi, Jack." Xander said, keeping an eye on one of the gauges that was acting up. "How's the SGC doing?"

Jack glared at him, "Peachy. Who the hell are you?"

"Just a stray traveler in the river of time, Jack." Xander grinned. "Nobody special."

"Right." Jack said sarcastically, "And where'd you get this kind of equipment, nobody special??"

Xander shrugged, "Come on, Jack. The Goa'uld ruled the planet for thousands of years... you really think there isn't a ton of Alien technology floating around the planet?"

"This doesn't look Goa'uld." Jack said, looking at the controls. "It looks too much like something... something we'd build."

"Good eye, Jack." Xander grinned. "This was designed and built by humans and for humans."

"SO where'd it come from?"

"Jack, Jack, Jack," Xander grinned, "You really think the Goa'uld were the start of human civilization? They wouldn't even come near this planet for thousands of years because *we* scared them."

Jack's eyes widened, and he was about to ask more when his eyes caught sight of a couple loose items on the control panel of the transport. "Hey... what are those?"

Xander followed his gaze and smiled, "Well, you see... when I rebuilt this puppy I had a few parts left over... so I figured I should probably bring them along just in case they turned out to be important..."

Jack stared at the pieces in shock.

"Now," Xander said firmly, turning around and half shoving Jack out of the cockpit, "I need you to go back and ask Kevin to come up here."

"The actor??"

Xander shrugged, "Hey, we can't all be Legendary world saving heros like you, Jack."

Jack shot him a dirty look, then vanished into the back. A moment later, Herc appeared.

"You needed me?" Herc asked as he slipped into the seat beside Xander.

"Nah," Xander grinned, slapping the trigger to seal the cockpit off from the passenger area. "I just wanted to get rid of Jack. He's a good guy, but I'd rather he not see where we're going."

Herc shrugged, grinning. "I can understand that. Nice ship you've got here."

"This? This is a heap." Xander muttered, "But Merlin has every available bot working to put more fighters into the Ready One slots."

Herc nodded, "How many do we have?"

"We might be a couple short." Xander admitted, "But I think we'll have enough for everyone."

"Will they be able to do the job?"

Xander sighed, "You know what? I don't know."

Out in space, rapidly approaching the orbit of Mars, the Goa'uld Carrier continued its indomitable trek sunward. On board, oblivious to the preparations already underway on the target planet, it's crew echoed those preparations.

Death Glider's were prepared and armed, as were Tor'Mar'Ri Class combat fighters and landing craft.

And through it all the thousands of Jaffa warriors drilled and checked their weapons and armor.

They had made hundreds of these attacks, taking dozens of worlds for the greater glory of their God, and to them it was just another day on the job.


Xander slowed the transport to a light glide as he slipped over the lagoon at the center of the small island, coming to a stop when the controls chirped lightly.

"Alright Merlin," He said into an open comlink. "Take us home."

In the back of the Transport the passengers looked amongst themselves as they felt the vehicle slow to a halt.

"I guess we're here." Jack O'Neill said.


Dragan just relaxed back, "Yep."

"Which begs the question..." Jack said slowly, "Where is here?"

Suddenly there was a flash of light through the interior of the transport. A moment later the light was gone and nothing seemed to have changed. The door to the pilots compartment opened and Xander emerged, followed by Herc.

"Alright," Xander said, "The captain has turned off the seatbelt light and the plane has come to a complete stop. You may now disembark."

"Real funny." Jack shook his head as Xander walked over to the door controls and flipped them on.

The door to the transport slowly lowered to the ground and they began to file off the vehicle. And directly into one of the largest caverns many of them had ever seen.

"Whoa." Daniel said, looking around. "Where are we?"

"Welcome to Avalon, Gentlemen." A voice came from nowhere, then a shimmering image of an old man appeared. "I am Merlin, and will be pleased to see to your needs during the duration of your stay."

"Merlin!" A flittering object threw itself out of the transport and flew through the air around the hologram. "You and I have some issues to settle!"

Merlin looked at the flittering object with something between distaste and amusement. "Hello Chyra. I see you are still the same firebrand as always."

"Like I have a choice!" She raged, smoke puffing from her nostrils. "What the hell was the big idea giving me this body frozen in time!?"

Merlin shrugged, "It should be obvious, Chyra of the Vale. There were only two options... this, of the immobile form of a standard Rune Weapon... It was believed that you would prefer to be encased in a form that could communicate with others then you're bearer, despite the loss of brute force entailed."

Dragan shook his head as the conversation progressed and turned to Xander, "What now?"

Jack and Daniel were staring at the argument in shock. "Jack?"

"Yeah, Daniel?"

"Isn't that the statue from the backseat?"

"Yeah Daniel."


They stood there for a long moment, then Jack blew.

"Ok, That's IT! What the hell is going on here!?"

Xander chuckled, "Alright. I think it's time to lay the cards down. Chyra's already 'uncovered', so should everyone else."

When no one moved, Dragan nodded. "Cles."

The robed figure stepped forward and threw off her hood, revealing a lightly furred face with a sharp eagles beak and large pointed ears. "Hello everyone."

The reactions were varied.

Jack leapt back, almost going for a weapon.

Sam and Daniel stared, first in shock, and then in curiosity. "What species are you?"

The smiled, or at least her eyes seemed too. "None that you would know."

Most of the rest reacted somewhat better, having various degrees of experience in the matter already.

After a moment, Xander looked at Jack. "You're turn."

"What? We haven't got anything to uncover." Jack said defensively.

Xander shook his head, then snapped at Teal'C. "Jaffa Kree!"

Teal'C responded instinctively, coming to attention for an instant before he caught himself.

Dragan reacted almost as fast, going for his sword. "Fuck! He's a Jaffa!?"

"Stand down!" Xander snapped just as firmly. "Teal'C is with us. Got that? And he's the best qualified person here to advise us on Goa'uld battle tactics. Why do you think I requested SG1 in the first place? It certainly wasn't Colonel O'Neill's winning personality."

Loose chuckles broke out at that last comment, especially from those who didn't really know enough about the enemy to understand what a Jaffa was.

"Hey!" Jack objected, "I'll have you know..."

He stopped in mid sentence as both Xander and the rest of SG1 just stared at him.

"Ok, fine." He gave up, "Insult me all you want... but just answer me one question."

"What's that?"

He turned and pointed at the transport as it was being towed off by a large trundling loader. "What the hell IS that thing?"

"The Transport? Or the Loader?"

"Either! Both!"

Xander shrugged, "The Loader is just that. A loader. It's job is to tow the heavier objects around the base to where they have to be... Also they load missiles and other payloads onto the fighters."

"And the transport?"

Xander smiled, then nodded her head. "Come with me."

The entire group followed him as he led them in the direction the loader was hauling the transport. As it hauled the big ship onto a large elevator, Xander got everyone else on it as well. "Going down..."

They slowly dropped down to the next level, and the eyes of every man in the group widened.

"Holy shit."

"The Transport," Xander said as the big elevator lowered into place, "Is an Orca series APC. It's part of the Orca ground support series..."

They followed Xander as he walked them past line after line of sleek, heavily armed, craft that looked like a futuristic evolution of an Apache attack chopper.

"Which includes the Orca fighter," Xander said, "And the Orca Bomber... The Kine's respective equivalent to the Apache and the A10."

They then walked along past another line of craft that were larger and chunkier then the fighters.

"Holy crap." Jack said, "What is all this? How can you have all this on Earth without anyone knowing about it??"

Then he paused, looking around. "Uh... We are still on Earth right??"

"We're on Earth, Jack." Xander assured him. "As for how we can have this? That's a long story... so I guess it's time for a history lesson."

Xander stopped in front of one of the bombers, leaning beside the heavy gun mounted under it's nose. "First off, as some of you may know, human history runs back a lot further then most people think. Several million years earlier."

Daniel Jackson started to object, but Jack stopped him. "Don't interrupt the man, Daniel. I want to hear this."

Xander smiled privately, and continued. "A long time ago... Millions of years ago, The Earth was the central planet in an empire that ruled several Galaxies... and Incidently built a system of Stargates that connected thousands upon thousands of planets across dozens of Galaxies."

As everyone absorbed that, Xander continued. "As our friends from Stargate Command could tell you," He nodded to the four members of SG1, "That system of Gates has endured to this day. The Ancients built to last. Their designs have existed for millions of years, and will probably exist for millions more at least... They were not to be trifled with."

"So what happened?" Chappy spoke up, "I mean... assuming all that is true, where are they?"

"No one knows." Xander shrugged, "By all accounts they just packed up and vanished one day. Though it probably took thousands of years for them to vanish... all we know now is that after existing for millions of years, they just vanished... practically overnight."

Daniel Jackson stepped forward, "Are you certain of this? I mean... This is fascinating, and it could answer a lot of questions about the Gate system..."

"Daniel!" Jack snapped.

Xander smiled, then nodded. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. That's not to say that some of the details aren't wrong... but the broad strokes are pretty solid."

Daniel nodded slowly.

"Anyway," Xander sighed, "What happened next is pretty much lost... consider it like the Dark Ages, but serious. What little *is* known about that time is the arrival of demons cooincided with the fall of the Ancients, and it was pretty much Hell on Earth until about two hundred thousand years ago..."

"What happened then?"

Xander smiled at Doctor Jackson, and continued. "The surviving children of the Ancients, after being prosecuted for uncountable years... maybe even after being hounded from planet to planet like dogs... they struck back."

The wars raged for nearly two hundred thousand years..." Xander sighed, "I'm talking about man against demon... using clubs, swords, lasers, blasters... anything they could scrounge from the stores of the Ancients... Those years are only referred to as the Chaos Wars now, because they were utterly without focus. Every man, woman, and child of humanity fought tooth and nail every day of their, very short, lives against the demons that had taken their homeworld."

Xander paused, looking grimly over the group to be certain they were listening. "During those years... There were a group of warriors who discovered an old supply depot of the Ancients... some weapons, some machines... and some books. In those books they discovered something more precious then all the weapons in existence. The found a book that was entitled, En Taki'amin Kine."

Xander smiled as SG1 all looked at Daniel, who shook his head. "Don't look at me, I don't recognize it."

"Translated roughly, the book was called To walk the path of the Knight." Xander said, "What the book meant to these people though... can't be summed up in words. The book was unity. Pride. Focus. It was the holy bible of a people who were on the very verge of extinction. These five warriors took this book and used it's principals to rally an army around them."

Xander looked around the group, "Five warriors... five *humans* against a world of entities powerful enough to shatter the planet with a blow... and they forged an army that, step by painful step, pushed some of the worst monsters in creation off this world. As the tide began to turn, every last children of the Ancients rallied to their flag... And a city was founded, a City they called Atlantis."

"Oh come on!" Doug muttered, "This is a fine fairy tale, but lets get real here."

"Doug, you're a great guy," Xander said, his eyes narrowing, "But shut up. This is *our* history I'm telling you here! We ARE the children of the Ancients... We are the inheritors of a culture that once spanned *galaxies*! And the proof of Atlantis is all around you!"

Xander turned around, waving his hands over the cavern they were in. "This place is the primary military base of the Atlanteans Special Forces. Avalon was built as the central command of the Kine. A Knighthood that spawned every single dream of heroics that followed it. Legends are still being written about these people... you see them in Hollywood every day... Arthur of Camelot was Kine, and his Knights of the Round table were an attempt to rebuild it."

Xander paused and looked around, "I'm telling you this so you can understand what I'm asking you to do here. This world... OUR world... is about to come under attack from an enemy that wants nothing more then to grind us under their heels. I'm telling you that we've had more of that then any race should ever have to endure... Millions of years of it. Millions of years of being beat down, hunted, sold into slavery... Is it any wonder the unifying battle cry of our world is Freedom?? The Goa'uld want us dead or on our knees."

Xander paused and looked them all over again, "I won't go out on my knees. I'm hoping you won't either."

Colonel Jack O'Neill listened to the boy's rousing speech, keeping his own opinions to himself as he watched it's effect on the people around him. Standing their in his black uniform and polished boots, the kid had certainly reached many, if not most of his group. The only ones who seemed relatively unaffected were the younger members, who looked mostly bored.

The older men, however, like Chappy Sinclair and his friends, had a gleam in their eyes that told jack all he needed to know. The kid had them right where he wanted them. They were prepared to follow him into hell if he asked.

As his eyes passed over the younger faces, Jack did a double take. The flippant one, Doug Masters he recalled, had the same look though better hidden. He also had a haunted look that Jack had seen before. O'Neill promised himself that he'd grab the files on these people as soon as he could, too many of them seemed to be military for them to not have left a paper trail.

Colonel Austin was nodding in agreement with every word as the boy finished up his impromptu speech, and that was interesting. Jack knew about Austin, and he considered the man someone to respect. His opinion here mattered.

"Yeah! We'll teach the buggers to back off!"

Jack scowled lightly, noting that the speaker was one of the two brothers who were traveling with them for unknown reasons. He doubted they were pilots, their attitudes didn't quite mesh. Most pilots were childish, true, but you could always see the control under the surface. These two had none of that, though they did carry something intangible about them that Jack couldn't quite place.

A young girl with dark hair stepped forward, "You know I'm with you, Boytoy. Been doing this too long to just back down now. Besides, I've been wanting a crack at this Guld things for over a year... you're war stories are just too good."

Xander nodded, his face still somber. "You'll get your chance Faith."

"I'm in too, Xander." Another brunette said, her voice flat as if she was just vocalizing the obvious. "I won't let my gifts go to waste."

"Never thought you would, Paige." Xander turned to SG1. "And you? I'm going to be counting on at least two of you as pilots..."

"We're in." Jack spoke for his team, "Anyone who can give the Goa'uld a bloody nose is ok with us. And from the looks of this place you've got a shot at that."

Xander nodded, then glanced at Teal'C. "You? I know that your part of SG1, but this isn't your world, Teal'C..."

Teal'C straightened, "I will stand with any who fight against the Goa'uld."

Xander's eyes flickered over to where Dragan was listening and he hid a smile as he saw the expression on the man's face change. He had singled out Teal'C not because he doubted the man's loyalties, but because he wanted them confirmed in the eyes of everyone else present.

"And the rest of you?" Xander looked to the pilots. "This isn't going to be a milk run. We're talking about combat against an alien species that has been oppressing entire planets for the better part of a hundred thousand years."

Chappy looked between his old friends and his younger ones. They all nodded without speaking a word. Chappy sighed as he looked at the young kids that made up his flight school and turned back to Xander. "We're in. Not going to be much to live for if they win, is there?"

"Nothing but a lot of down and dirty fighting, and even more dying." Xander said. "They won't take a chance at letting us get to our feet again... they're scared of what we can do."

Chappy nodded, stepping back.

"You knew what you were getting into before you signed up, Drag," Xander said, turning to Dragan, "But for form, if nothing else, you can back out now if you want."

Dragan shook his head slowly, "I've been accused of a lot of things over my life... most of them true. But I'm not going to let those snake headed bastards back onto this planet. No way. No how."

Xander nodded, smiling. "Alright. Then it's time to get to work."

Doug edged closer, looking at one of the Orca Class Fighters. "We're going to learn to fly those things?"

"No." Xander smiled. "Those are ground support tools. We're fighting an air war. Follow me."

"Well fuck me." Doug muttered as he leaned over the railing and looked down at the planes that were being serviced below him.

"You wish flyboy." Wheeler smirked, but her own eyes were wide as she stared at the advanced fighters below.

"What are their capabilities?" Austin asked calmly.

"Mach Five in the atmosphere, one helluva lot faster outside it." Xander said, "Two hardpoints, one under each wing that can load three missiles apiece... Plasma cannon on a turret mount on their back, and a forward Gauss cannon that is fire linked to the pilot's retina... if you can see it, you can shoot it."

Chappy shook his head, "Beats the hell out of a '16... I have to admit you weren't kidding, Kid."

"They can fly in space?" Steve asked, his eyes gleaming.

Xander nodded, smiling. "Oh yeah. In fact they were designed for both space and atmospheric maneuvering... You'll see what I mean when we start training."

"Let's get started." Doug said firmly, "I want to see what these things can do."

"Not so fast." Xander said, "First we get you guys settled in. Merlin is putting the finishing touches on our makeshift simulators now anyway. Come on..."

Reluctantly, the pilots backed away from the catwalk, not taking their eyes off the fighters until they had too. Only Kevin remained behind, staring down at the sleek craft below him. A shiver passed along his spine as he stared, a feeling that something monumental was coming. He shook it off and turned, and followed the others.

"Your rooms have been assigned," Xander said, motioning along a cooridor, "From the VIP rooms. You should find them fairly comfortable, though a little alien in some ways. Atlanteans liked open spaces, so you won't find too many walls in here."

They nodded walking down the hall, a little hesitantly.

Jack came up to a door and it slid open. He paused, looking in, "For me?"

"Yes Colonel." Merlin's voice told him.

Jack nodded and lowly walked in.

One by one the assembled people found their rooms and began to settle in.

Pacific Ocean, PT 579

Andrezj Konzaki carefully walked up from below decks, balancing heavily on his powerful arms as he kept the weight off his prosthetic legs. He followed along the edge of the cabin and stepped up to the open bridge.

"Good evening," Maria said, smiling at him as she stood against the rush of wind.

"Evening." He replied, "How're we doing?"

"We'll be in Hawaii soon. Top off the tanks and then we'll be set to continue." Maria said.

Andy nodded. "Good. Good."

"How are you doing?"

"Still getting my sea legs." Andy grinned.

Maria laughed, then instantly looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry... I..."

"Hey, if I didn't want the laugh, I wouldn't have made the joke." Andy said, smiling widely.

She nodded, smiling at him, "Ok."

Andy looked over his shoulder to see Giles and Sinclair talking idly behind them. "They been like that long?"

"All day." Maria shrugged, "I asked, but all I could get out of them was something about watcher memories..."

Andy shook his head, but understood in a way what was going on. He was the same when left alone with other soldiers for any time. Somethings could only be understood by others who'd lived them.

"Nice place." Doug said to himself as he looked around the large room. The bubbling tub was a bit disconcerting out in the open of the room, but he could handle that. One thing was really bugging him though.

"Hey... where's the toilette in this place?"

Xander sighed as he sat down at the odd desk, looking over reports from Merlin on the status of the fighters. "I'd feel better if we had everything in this place fully serviced and ready to fight."

"Indeed." Merlin said, appearing beside him. "But we do not. And so we do what we must with what we have."

Xander nodded, "As always."

He was about to say more then the door slid open and Paige walked in.

"Paige..." He smiled, standing up. "Is your room ok?"

"It's great." She smiled, "But I am wondering why I have my own room?"

Xander smiled, walking around the desk while she walked up to him. "I didn't want to presume."

She slid up next to him, her breath hot on his cheek. "What if I want to presume?"

Xander shivered, feeling her almost tangible presence as she slid along his body without actually touching him. "Well... I do have some appearances to keep up... I really don't know if I should be fraterniz... ummmf!"

She shut him up with a kiss, her lips locking onto his and drawing the breath from his chest.

"Well, well, well... Isn't this cozy?"

Paige and Xander broke apart, looking at the door in shock. Faith was smirking there as she leaned against the wall.

"Faith!? I... we..." Xander muttered, then shook his head. "Wait a second... what am I stuttering for? You're the one poking your nose in here!"

Faith shrugged, "Don't mind me. You too go right ahead, I don't mind watching."

"Faith..." Xander groaned.

Paige glared between the two of them, "Alright, I know you two have history... but I think we'd better get it cleared up right here and now."

Xander just groaned again while Faith smirked, "Sounds good to me."

Xander could feel the tension rise as Faith smirked and walked into the room, hersteps just as predatorial as he remembered. He took a breath as she walked up to, then carefully around Paige, smiling as she checked the other girl out. "Not bad, Boytoy. You always could pick em... or did she pick you?"

Xander leaned back on the desk and groaned.

"What are you talking about?"

Faith shrugged, "The X-man here isn't what I'd call a real ladies man, Girl. In fact, I think that he's only asked two girls out in his life... And they both ripped him apart like a wet tissue."

Xander looked up, eyes widening. "Faith!"

"What!?" She asked indignantly, "It's true isn't it? Buffy blew you so far out of the water it aint even funny."

"How did you find out about that!?" Xander demanded.

"Wouldn't you like to know." She smiled almost sweetly at him, then winked. After a moment she sobered again, "And Pheobe actually sent you to the bottle. I've never seen you hit that bad in my life, X."

Xander shifted, stretching his neck as he glared at Faith. "None of your concern, *F*."

"Like hell." Faith said, "You saved my soul, Xander. That's not something a girl can pay back."

"Let's keep this real, Faith." Xander snapped, "I stood toe to toe with you and we beat the crap out of each other. There was nothing spiritual about it."

Paige looked between the two of then, eyes widening as the fire in their eyes blazed.

"I'm just watching out for you, Lover." Faith grinned, walking closer and pressing against him. "So unless you want to ditch the witch so we can have some fun...."

Xander shivered, but firmly planted his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away. "Uhh... Faith... No offense, but I don't think this is a good idea..."

"You didn't say that the last time we met." She smirked.

"Faith.. You're really very... ummm... cute..." Xander winced the instant the word passed his lips.

"Cute!?" CUTE!?" Faith backed off, raging. "Don't you start that, boytoy!"

Xander flinched back, and even Paige got well out of her way.

"Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to get some when you're a nineteen year old in a fourteen year old body!?" Faith raged, "I used to just pick up some sleazy biker for a quick roll, but can I do that now?? NO!! Why?? Because some ass-wipe raised my standards! And it's not like it'd be any fun rolling around with some fourteen year old... No stamina, and besides I'd probably break 'em in half! SO don't you DARE start the 'cute' stuff with me Boytoy!"

Xander, eyes wide, leaned way back as she finished her rant by charging over and poking him in the chest. "Oookay. Ummm Faith, you're not going to make me beat you up again are you??"

Faith stared at him incredulously, then started sputtering. "You NEVER beat me up, boytoy! I'd have wiped the floor with you if I wasn't recovering from that coma!"

"Faith... You were in Buffy's body." Xander pointed out mildly, "She was perfectly fit if you'll recall..."

Faith glared at him, her hand coming up and shaking as she tried to find something to say. Finally she just backed off, still waving her fist at him. "Don't you start with me, Boytoy."

"Looked to me like you were starting with him." Paige said snarkily.

Faith spun on the witch, "You want to start something with me??"

"I might if I didn't think you'd enjoy it." Paige replied with a smirk.

Faith started to say something else, but those words just flattened her out. Finally she started laughing, "Oh, I like this one, Boytoy. Much better then the prom queen... She takes after her sister..."

"Prom Queen?" Paige looked around, "Which one was that? Buffy or Phoebe?"

Faith laughed, "Neither. Before all the others there was the Prom Queen... Never could figure out what he saw in her..."


"Oh relax, X." She grinned, "It's no different then the time I told Pheobe all about you... and you remember how well *that* turned out."

Xander groaned, hiding his face.

"What? What happened?" Paige looked around, a smile forming.

"He and I would up in bed." Faith grinned.

"Don't count on that happening again." Paige retorted.

"*With* Phoebe." Faith grinned wider.


"*And* Buffy."

"That's it!" Xander through up his hands, "Out! Out! Out!"

"No, no, no!" Paige grinned, grabbing Faith's arm and leading her too a seat. "I want to hear this..."

Xander stared, dumbfounded, as Paige and Faith started chatting up a storm.

"I never knew Xander was so wild..." Paige was saying, "He always seemed a little vanilla to me."

"Ha!" Faith laughed loudly, "Then you need to hear what happened when I came one night covered in Thorana Slime..."

Xander sat down on the corner of his bed and put his head between his knees. <This is NOT happening. This is NOT happening.>


Doug Masters looked over his shoulder, nodding to Chappy Sinclair as he walked up. "Hey Chappy."

"They look like something else, huh?" Chappy asked, nodding to the flight deck below them where Fighters were being worked on constantly by a series of remote.

"They look hot, Chappy." Doug said, frowning. "Red hot."

"So... what's wrong with that?"

"It's been a long time since I flew in combat..." Doug stared down, his face somber. "That jerk en route to Cuba doesn't count. What if I've lost it, Chappy? What if the russians stole it from me?"

Chappy sighed, leaning against the rail. "You know, I've done this pep talk thing with you so many times that I've got it mostly memorized. For a fighter jock you have a real confidence problem."

Doug shot him a dirty look, but Chappy just grinned and cut him off. "You were born to fly, Doug. That's never changed. I remember watching you in the simulator the first time I met you, you blew away the computer at levels where the computer was programmed the *cheat*. Some people were born to farm, some were born to fish... You Doug, you were born for this. You were born to fly. Can you tell me I'm wrong? Can you tell this isn't *the* mission of your life?"

Doug looked down at the planes and slowly shook his head, "No Chappy... No, I can't tell you that."

Brigadier General (Retired) Charles Sinclair grinned and slapped his young protege on the back, "Of course you can't. And why is that?"

Doug rolled his eyes, "Cause Chappy is always right."

"Damn skippy."

"Where's Daniel?" Jack asked, looking between Teal'C and Carter.

Sam shrugged, "I don't have a clue."

"Nor do I."

"Great." Jack made a face, "I'll go find him."

"Doctor Jackson," Merlin's voice came from nowhere, "Is currently studying my archives on the Goa'uld and their activities on Earth. I believe that he will be quite busy for some time."

Jack looked up in shock, "Hey! Can we have some privacy here??"

"I apologize, Colonel... I am programmed to respond to the needs of my guests." Merlin responded, "Should your needs include privacy, you have but to ask."

Jack looked around, "Well yeah, I'm asking then."

Merlin nodded, then vanished in a glitter of light, his voice echoing off the stone walls. "Privacy mode engaged."

Jack looked around, "You think he's telling the truth?"

"About Daniel?" Sam asked, "I wouldn't be surprised."

"No! Not that. About not listening in?"

Sam shrugged, "I don't know. It makes sense that there would be an override command like that... he's probably telling the truth."

Jack frowned, "Yeah. But overrides can be overridden."

"True." Carter shrugged, "But I don't think it really matters. We're not plotting against them, or anything... uh... Sir? We aren't plotting against them or anything?"

"What? No. No!" Jack said, "Not until after this is over anyway... if we started infighting now, it would take forever to get military pilots in here to replace these people... We'd lose access to the weapons here, and the Goa'uld would be on us before we could get it back."

"Right." Carter said, "Then it doesn't matter. They already know all about the SGC anyway..."

"Yeah, and how does he do that anyway?" Jack asked. "But that's not the point. I don't like people listening in on me... It's a personal thing."

"I don't think you should worry about Merlin." Carter said, "He seems to be programmed as a host and manager... I think that he'll abide his own rules."

"Ah, but what ARE his rules?" Jack said quickly.

"I don't know, Sir. But I do think that he and Harris are enemies of the Goa'uld..." Carter said, "You saw how that guy with the green hair reacted to Teal'C..."

Jack sighed, nodding. "Yeah... yeah I did. Ok, you're probably right."

"So what do we do?"

Jack took a breath, "You and me, we learn to fly those things. Teal'C? How about you?"

"I am a pilot of some skill." Teal'C said.

"Alright. You too, but you'll help us map out battle plans too."

Teal'C nodded once.

Jack shook his head, "This has got to be the wierdest thing I've ever heard of. Knights, Atlantis, and ten thousand year old fighter jets. What's next? King Arthur?"

"You should have seen him stumbling out of my room, holding his clothes in one hand while he pulled his boxers up in the other." Faith was grinning. "The look on his face was so damn cute... I almost pulled him back for another go, but damn I was on a time table."

Paige snickered, looking over to where Xander was still covering his face. "I'd love to have seen him like that. He's always been take charge since I met him."

Faith cackled, "Girl you are looking at the original High School geek boy. This guy knows every comic book hero and how to defeat them without thinking..."

Paige burst out laughing, "You're kidding?? He's been all 'big bad demon hunter' since I met him..."

Faith suddenly started snickering, "You know the blond down the hall? Tara?"


"Way back when, I asked her what she thought of the Xan-man..." Faith grinned, "She said, and I kid you not... Xander's a Sweety."

Paige almost fell out of the seat, she was laughing so hard.

"It's better. Tara's gay." Faith laughed, "God I've been waiting so long to nail boytoy about that one."

"And you chose NOW!?" Xander objected from across the room.

"At least he's gotten tougher." Faith grinned, "When I had this conversation with Phoebe he ran for the hills."

"We're in MY room!"

"Of course... when he came back he brought Buffy in tow and we had some real fun." Faith grinned.

"That was a spell!!"

"Spell?" Paige looked up, tears running down her cheeks.

"Yeah," Faith conceded. "Red, another wicked wiccan... she cast this really kicking spell... I tell ya, I was pretty wild then... but that night's gonna be a cozy warm memory for the rest of my days. B did this incredible thing with her tongue and her... Well I'll tell ya, being a Slayer gives you some flexibility, but DAMN that was something else."

"Oh really?" Paige grinned, looking over at Xander. "And he told me he didn't have any stories to tell..."

Faith burst out laughing, "Oh Girl, you've really got some catching up to do!"

"Alright! That's enough!" Xander snapped, "At least one of you has to go! Right now, I'm not to certain I give a damn which one, but one of you has to get out!"

Faith smirked, "Wanna go back to my room?"


Xander groaned as the two of them walked out together.

Tara watched as Mikki prowled around her room, looking distinctly ansty. "What's wrong?"

Mikki shivered, his muscles rippling under her skin. "Place wrong. No smell."

Tara tentatively, sniffed the air, "W-w-what?"

"No smell." Mikki repeated.

Tara looked around, uncertain what she meant. "I don't understand..."

"There's no SMELL!" Mikki yelled suddenly, frustrated.

"Is there a problem?" Merlin appeared from the air.

"No smell." Mikki repeated sullenly.

Merlin frowned, "Excuse me?"

"S-s-she's not... well..." Tara stuttered.

Merlin paused, staring intently at Mikki. Suddenly he started, actually looking surprised. "Good lord. She's a Were. No wonder she's being bothered... This base hasn't had exterior air pumped in for centuries. One moment, Child."

A vent suddenly jumped to life, and a breeze crossed the room. Mikki instantly jumped up, smiling. "Flowers!"

Merlin smiled,"Indeed. Later, child, when the sun rises... I'll show you how to get to the surface. The island above us is something of an anachronism... It's the only one of it's kind in this part of the world... you should find the jungle on the south side of the island most enjoyable."

"So then," Faith grinned, "He just dropped from the ceiling in full armor and walked up beside the ambassador and told them, "That's not exactly true."

Paige grinned, "Now THAT sounds more like Xander."

"Girl, don't be fooled." Faith said seriously. "That's always been Xander. Oh he's been less cool and calm about it when he was younger, but he's been kicking ass since the beginning. It's kinda weird, you know? He's never been a wimp... but everyone thinks he is."

Paige raised an eyebrow, "Huh?"

"He was King Geek back in the day." Faith said, "Everyone's favorite door mat... I never figured that out after I got to know him. Even as a geek he could stand down a pissed off Slayer... and let me tell you, that's impressive. I never understood why he let the Jocks walk over him."

Paige shrugged, "Don't know. I was never a geek myself. A freak, on the other hand..."

Faith laughed, "Everyone worth knowing is a freak to the popular types."

Paige shrugged again, "I think so... You know, I don't think I've ever really seen Xander angry... How can he be so calm all the time?"

"Oh you don't want to see Boytoy when he's pissed." Faith said, "People start dropping when boytoy gets pissed."


"There's this town up the coast from LA..." Faith said slowly, her mood sobering. "It's called Orwell..."

When she paused, Paige looked concerned. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah... This was just a pretty sick time." Faith said, looking around. "I need a drink. Hey, Merlin!"

"Yes?" The AI appeared in the room.

"What've you got to drink in this place?"

Mid Pacific, PT 579


Maria looked over her shoulder, smiling as Giles stepped up on deck and walked over to where she was sitting. "Hi."

"You've been quiet today."

"Everyone else has things to talk about with others." Maria shrugged, "Not my place to interrupt."

Giles smiled, "Perhaps. But for now, let's say that I'm through talking with others. How are you feeling?"

"Feeling??" Maria snorted, "I'm captaining an armed PT Boat about to go into battle against alien invaders. How should I feel??"

"Well... My first end of the world fight scared the hell out of me." Giles grinned, "Not that I'd have admitted it back then. But it was a frightening thing to have so much depending on my actions."

"Not dying?"

Giles shook his head, "No. I haven't been afraid to die for a long time."

"You remind me of Xander." She said, lifting a cup of coffee to her lips. "He seems to have a death wish too."

Giles instantly shook his head, "No. Do not misunderstand me... I have no desire to die, and neither does Xander... We just have seen too much to fear death any longer."

"Like what?"

Giles thought about it, considered telling her about God, Metatron, devils and demons... but finally just shook his head, "It's not a good thing... to lose the fear of death, Maria. It takes... it takes a color out of life."

Maria just shook her head ans smiled, "Right."

Giles didn't say anything else, he didn't know what to say, so he just poured himself a cup of coffee and stared at the stars along with his companion.



Xander got up tiredly, "Yes?"

"The simulators are prepared. Should I assemble the men?"

Xander shook his head, "No... No. Let them sleep. We'll start fresh tomorrow."

"Very good, Sir."

Xander nodded, then stretched a bit and stripped off. He was tense as hell and needed to relax, Faith had not been good for his nerves. He slipped into the bubbling water of the huge tub and just relaxed back. He finally closed his eyes.

Only to open them some time later when a pair of soft hands grabbed him around the neck.

"Hey boytoy!"

"Faith?" Xander frowned, turning around.

She ducked away, "Who else?"

He frowned, her voice was slurring slightly. "Faith, have you been drinking??"

"What was your first clue?"

He spun around the other side, "Paige?"

She grinned holding up a bottle, "Surprise!"

Her voice was completely slurred, but she was mobile enough to strip off and slide into the tub with him. "Now... where were we earlier?"

"Mmmmm... I think you were right about..." Faith leaned over and planted a kiss on his lips, "Here."

"Oh no!" Xander yelled, pulling himself out of the tub. "This is NOT happening."

"What??" Paige sulked you don't want us? As she spoke she slid up, out of the water, her breasts glistening with the beading water.

Xander clambered backward, "Uh uh. No way. You're both drunk!"

"So?" Faith tried to pout. It really didn't fit her. "It's not like it'd be the first time, lover."

Xander scrambled backward, backing away from the two girls. He backed out into the hallway and snapped an order, "Merlin! Lock the door!"

The door slid shut between him and the girls and Xander leaned back against the hallway, breathing a sigh of releif. Then he looked down, realizing he was naked and wet and out in the hallway.

"Oh shit."

Then his eyes widened, <I just left Paige locked in my room with a horny Slayer!!"

"Oh SHIT!"

Jack O'Neill paced in his room for a few minutes after Carter and Teal'C left, then decided he'd do a little exploring on his own. He walked out to the door, waiting as it slid open, then stepped out into the hallway.

And would up face to face with a very naked Xander Harris.

Harris instantly covered himself up, blushing furiously.

Jack stared for a second, then shook his head. "I don't want to know."

Harris opened his mouth to speak.

"Ah, ah, ah!" Jack waved a finger in the air, "I said I don't want to know."

With that he turned on his heal and strode back into his room, forgetting any ideas of exploring for the time being.

Xander stared, shocked into silence as the door slid shut behind Jack.

"Ok. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to have Jack's room put next to mine." Xander muttered as he stared at the door to his room. "Damn. Damn. Damn. I have to go back in there... before Paige does something she'll regret... or before Faith does something *I'll* regret."

He steeled himself, glaring at the door. "Ok, Merlin... let me back in."

The door slid obediently open and Xander strode back into the room.

"Well, well, well... Look who's back, P."

"Who?" Paige muttered, looking around the room. Her eyes slid past him, then came back but overshot again, until finally on the third pass she spotted him. She grinned wide, "Xander!"

Xander groaned, "Damn it, Faith... what the hell have you two been drinking??"

Faith shrugged, "Dunno... but it's got me all fired up!"

"You don't know!?"

By that point she was across the room and rubbing up against him, making Xander's focus a very difficult this to keep... well, to keep focused. "Nope. Just asked Merl for a drink."

Xander glared at the ceiling, "Merlin!! What did you give them??"

"Purty blue stuff...." Paige smiled dreamily.

Merlin appeared, "I apologize... When Miss Faith requested a drink, I asked what kind, and she said... and I quote, 'The hardest stuff you have in stock'."

Xander groaned, "Oh God. You didn't serve them Absinthe did you??"

"Certainly not." Merlin seemed shocked, "I would never serve something as potentially dangerous as that. I merely synthesized a particularly potent ale from a backward planet the Kine used to protect."

Xander shook his head, sighing. "Great. And whatever it is has Faith bouncing around like she's swallowed the entire coffee AND cocaine production of Columbia... and it's... I think it knocked Paige out."

The Wiccan was indeed snoring softly by that point. Xander breathed a sigh of relief, at least that meant one less female to deal with. Until morning at any rate. Speaking of which, "Faith! That is SO not going to happen, so kindly put your hands elsewhere."

Faith again made a miserable attempt at pouting. "Aw come on Boytoy... It's been a loooooooong time for me..."

"Keep going like that and it's going to get a hell of a lot longer." Xander threatened as he finally recovered his underwear and got them back on despite Faith's protests. "There's no way in hell that I'm going to sleep with you while Paige is lying unconscious on my bed."

"Spoilsport." Faith sat down, ceasing her actions for the moment. "Now I'm all wired with no one to do."

Xander sighed, "Just try to go to sleep, Faith. This isn't happening tonight... I know you don't mind being involved with other people, but it's not fair to Paige to expect her to accept something like that."

Faith shrugged, "She said that you guys weren't exactly going steady either."

"That's true." Xander conceded, "But it's a different sort of agreement then what we have, Faith. Between Paige and I it's more like if we're in the same place and not otherwise involved then we're with each other. There is no multiple partners clause, Faith."

"Bummer." Faith said, then grinned. "Coulda been hot, boytoy."

Xander smiled, shaking his head. "Faith... everything with you is hot."

"You know it."

"Hot enough to get burned sometimes." Xander said seriously, but then smiled again. "Which is half the fun."

Faith grinned at him, "Aw.... You're getting all sappy on me Boytoy."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Can you not call me that? At least in front of strangers?"

Faith sauntered up to him, "Maybe we can work out an agreement..."


Faith smirked, "Not that... well, not yet. But just promise me you'll let me work on P here... She's got a wild streak I like."

Xander shook his head, "Like I could stop you?"

"Of course you couldn't stop me." Faith grinned, "But you could make it a lot harder then it has to be..."

"I'm gonna warn her about you, Faith." Xander said.

Faith shrugged, "I think that by now she's plenty warned."

Xander glanced down to where Paige was sleeping peacefully on his bed, her naked breasts rising and falling in time to her light snores. He nodded, "Yeah. I suppose she is."

He got up and lifted Paige off the blankets, "Pull the covers down, will you Faith?"

"Sure thing." Faith grinned, stripping the overs down, then hopping under them.

"Faith!" Xander glared, "Out!"

"You gonna make me?"

Xander suddenly felt very VERY tired. He set Paige down and sighed as he pulled the covers up. "Behave yourself."

Faith actually looked hurt, "Come on, X... Have I ever taken advantage of anyone while they were sleeping?"

"Other then me?"

"That doesn't count." Faith smirked, "and you know it."

Xander just sighed again and made to get up. Before he could though, Paige's arm looped around his and she hugged herself up to him and pulled him down to the bed.

"Aww.... now THAT is cute."

"Shut up Faith." Xander groaned, trying to extricate himself from the Witch's grip. He failed miserably when she shifted again, and snagged his neck. "Ummmphhh..."

Faith grinned over Paige's form, "She's really attached to ya, Boytoy."

"Shut up, Faith." Xander mumbled from where his face was pushed into the pillow. He finally gave up trying to escape and focused instead on trying to get comfortable.

Just as he turned around enough to be almost comfortable, Faith grinned and hopped over Paige and him until she was on the other side. "Faith!"

"Shut up, Boytoy." Faith grinned, "I'm getting comfortable.

She moved around and bit, getting closer.

"Faith!" Xander yelped. "Hands off!"


Xander tried to get up again, but Paige tightened her grip and he sighed. "Go to sleep or get out, Faith."

"Good night, Xander." Faith said sweetly, whispering in his ear.

A shiver rippled through him, but he studiously ignored both that and the heat from either side of him. <I'm so screwed.>

<Too bad it's not literal, Alexander> Elan cracked.

<Oh, don't YOU start!>

Elan just smirked mentally at him, and Xander also caught an impression of her sticking her tongue out at him but he shook it off.

He was just starting to relax when he felt more movement from beside him. The motions were slow and rhythmic and Xander frowned. <What the hell>

When he heard Faith's breathing change his eyes widened, "You had better not be doing what I think you're doing, Faith..."

"Shut up, Boytoy... or roll over and do this yourself." She retorted.

Xander groaned and nudged Paige's arm up over his ears.

March 31st, '96 - Contact minus 5

Paige woke up slowly, groaning as the pounding headache brought her all the way awake. She rolled over, and bumped into a warm body. She opened her eyes, still in pain, and recognized Xander. She started to smile, then spotted a hand draped lightly over him from the other side.

"What the hell??" She muttered as she propped herself up and got a look over his body. <Faith??>

"Oh god, oh god, oh god... what happened last night?" She muttered to herself as she scarmbled out of bed.

Xander opened his eyes, grimacing. "You're awake."

"Duh!" She snapped, then groaned. "Oh I have the king of all headaches."

Xander got up, climbing out of the blankets. "That comes from trying to match a Slayer in a drinking contest."

Paige looked down at herself, realizing she was naked. "Oh God. What happened?"

Xander quickly crossed the room, "Nothing. I promise. You came in, hit on me a couple times, I said no... then you passed out."

Her eyes ran over to Faith. "You and...?"

Xander shook his head, "No! I promise. She... well she just stuck around. Faith is... well... Faith. She's a law onto herself. I swear, nothing but some talking happened last night. That's all."

Paige looked around, her eyes completely unbelieveing. "Yeah right. You had two naked and willing girls in your room last night and nothing happened!?"

Xander thought about it, "When you put it that way, it does seem a little odd."

"Xander!" Paige snapped, then groaned in pain again.

"Merlin," Xander looked up, "Do you have something for her hangover?"

"Certainly." a drawer slid open, a slim instrument inside it. "Place this against her neck and depress the stud."

Xander did as he was told and a sudden hiss sounded through the room. Paige instantly sighed in relief. "Thanks."

"My Pleasure, Madam."

Xander then turned to her, "Now... Do you really think I'm the kind of person who'd take advantage of two drunk women?"

Paige swallowed, considering. Finally she looked at her feet. "No."

Xander sighed, mostly in relief. "I'm very glad you don't see me that way, Paige. I'd never do something like that... I swear."

Paige nodded, looking at the bed. "Now what?"

Xander rubbed his temple. "Today, we start training. Tonight? The three of us have a very serious talk... minus the liqueur."

Chapter 3
(Insert Eye of the Tiger MP3 here...)

"Alright," Xander said, standing in front of the group in his black uniform. "Saddle up."

The group broke rank and quickly climbed into the waiting 'simulators'.

The systems consisted of the detached Cockpits of Hammerheads that had passed scrutiny by Merlin's bots. Each pilot climbed into the cockpit, settling into the seats, and a holographic projection was setup around each cockpit.

As Xander climbed into his own, he spoke over the tactical network that connected each plane. "Alright, what each of you are now in is the Ejection and Survival System of your Hammerhead. If you get into trouble in the air and have to punch out, this system is failsafed to lower you to the nearest Gravity well, or provide minimal maneuvering in a Space setting while it beams out a distress call."

He waited a moment, then continued. "Ok. Look down at the controls by your hands... I've had Merlin reconfigure the cockpits to your personal preferences... so if your right handed the control stick will be on your right, throttle on your left. Other way around if your left handed... The control stick works pretty much like any standard control... All weapons are triggered from this stick."

He went on to explain the weapon arming, lock on, and firing procedures before moving on to thrust control. "The thruster control slides forward and backward to handle the main reactor thrust... the really tricky part is in the other options this stick has... You can rotate it, slide it, or twist it to activate thrusters. This is what we're going to work on for the first few days..."

"Maneuvering lessons?" Wheeler objected, "Come on... we're all pilots here."

"And that's why this is so important." Xander said, "If you fly like you've been trained to, you'll only be using a small percentage of these fighter's capabilities. They aren't restricted to the same planes of motion you're used to. So first we have to retrain your thinking to adjust."

When there was no response, Xander nodded. "Alright then. Merlin, activate flight sensors and interactive HUDs."

"Shit!" Doug slammed the stick of the fighter as his HUD exploded into flames.

"Relax," Xander's voice came over the net, "you keep fighting the movments... You have to forget about F-16's... this isn't the same thing."

"Yeah, Yeah. Easy for you to say." Masters muttered, punching the power up sequence as his HUD cleared. "You didn't just plow into some poor bastards field."

"You'll get it, Doug." Xander said. "Just try easier movements for now."

"Right. Easier movements... Great."

"Whaaaahooooo!" Chappy crowed as he slid into formation with Palmer and Leichman. "Just like old times."

"Ja." Leichman replied, "We are short one person though."

"Mind if I join you guys?"

The three pilots looked up to see te virtual image of Colonel Austin's Hammerhead slip flawlessly into their formation.

"We'd be honored." Chappy, Palmer, and Leichman said together, their voices respectful and filled with old memories.

"Damn this thing is a hot ride." O'Neill muttered, twisting the thruster control as he banked the fighter through a tight turn. The thrusters flared, making the turn even tighter as the fighter spun on the proverbial dime.

"That's affirmative, Sir." Carter replied calmly as she followed his lead into the turn, her own Hammerhead banking more as she relied on wind resistance to tighten her turn.

"Indeed." Teal'C said, his fighter flashing through the turn without changing it's angle by more then a degree.

"Disengage my simulation, Merlin... and put up the reports on the other pilots." Xander said, releasing the stick.

Merlin complied and Xander watched as the other pilots began working their way through the maneuvers.

"Chappy, try using the thrusters a bit more... You too Griffin... These aren't Earthbound fighters... don't try to fly them that way." Xander said, flipping through the views. "Palmer... Leichman, push the speed up a few notches... you aren't even supersonic yet. Handling changes significantly once you break the sound barrier... and in combat..."

"Speed is life." Doug said over the net.

"Precisely." Xander finished, then watched both older pilots stepped up their pace a bit. "Good... Keep your readings at Mach 2 or less for now."

He flipped another couple views, noting that Wheeler and the other Iron Eagles were doing well. He figured that for them it was a matter of having less preconceptions, they were still learning anyway so this was just another lesson to them. "Hey Rudy, I want you to pace Wheeler... stay on her six. Wheeler, don't make it easy on him."

Both of the young pilots laughed and joked back, tossing snide comments at each other as the chase began.

Xander nodded, slipping through the views again. He stopped at Steve Austin's performance. "Nice flying, Steve."

"Ok, Merlin... put me back onto the sim."

"Alright, Everyone out." Xander called, checking his watch. "Day's over... Good run guys."

Doug growled, dropping out of the cockpit and landing heavily on the floor. "Damn it."

Xander walked up, "Hey man, relax. You'll get it. It's hard to unlearn some things... You're used to planes flying one specific way... most of the experienced pilots are having the same problem."

"Hell, man. Wheeler is kicking my ass in these things!"

"Wheeler is still learning how to fly." Xander said, "You're trying to forget thirty years of instincts... She's ahead of the curve is all. Once you've readjusted your thinking all those instincts will come back in full force on your side, and you'll be right back where you should be. Don't worry about it."

Doug shook his head, walking off. "Yeah right."

Xander sighed, "This could be going better."

<They are doing well, Alexander.> Elan assured him, <as are you. Take your own advice, relax.>

Xander nodded, <Alright.>

Xander toured around the room, talking with the pilots and giving what advice he, or rather, Elan could. Finally he nodded to everyone, "Alright... head back to your rooms... soak in the tubs, get something to eat. We start again in the AM."

He was greeted with some good natured groans, and most of the group filed out.

Xander noted that SG1 was still standing there, "You guys have something to ask?"

Jack stepped forward, "I need to contact the President. He wants regular updates."

Xander nodded, "Alright. Follow me."

He led them up to the command level and looked around, "Merlin. Contact the President."

"Yes Sir."

A moment later there was voice over the speakers. "White House Situation Room."

After a moment's hesitation, Jack spoke. "This is Colonel O'Neill, calling for the President. My Ident code is SG1 Alpha Break Delta."

"... Yes Sir. I'll patch you through immediately."

Jack nodded, then looked down at Xander. "Could I have a little privacy for this?"

Xander nodded, getting up. "Merlin. Engage Privacy mode."

"Privacy mode engaged."

Xander nodded once more the SG1, then walked out.

"Colonel." Whitmore said as he flipped on the speaker phone. "What's your status?"

"Undergoing flight training, Sir." Jack muttered, his lip twisting ironically.

"Excuse me?"

"Your 'independent group' has access to advanced fighters, Sir." Jack explained, "We're being trained in their operation as we speak."

"Where are you?"

"Unknown at this time." Jack replied. "Operation security on this place is... well, it's impressive."

"I see." Whitmore said thoughtfully, "What are your thoughts on the operation itself? Are they on our side in this?"

Jack thought about the speech Xander had given, nodding reluctantly. "In this? Yes Sir. Without a doubt. They have no desire to see the Goa'uld on this world. Beyond this event? I'm not willing to say yet."

"I understand, Colonel." Whitmore sighed, "Our ETA is five days to contact... can this group be ready?"

Jack thought about the days training session, "I'm not certain Sir. But from what I know of these people, they'll go whether they're ready or not."

"What do you know?"

"Sir... There are more then a few familiar faces here Sir." Jack said, "US Airforce, NASA, and someone you wouldn't believe if I told you... A lot of these people are bona fide Heros of the USA. They're not going to let anything stop them, Sir."

"Well..." Whitmore said, sounding surprised, "That's encouraging. And the others?"

"Some young kids, some older faces. Various countries... One English, one German..." Jack considered, "They all seem to be good people."

"Alright. Continue as planned, Colonel." Whitmore said, "I'll be waiting for your next report."

"Yes Sir." Jack said, "O'Neill out."

Xander walked into his room, immediately noticing the tension in the air as he caught sight of both Faith and Paige. He took a breath, "Hey."



"Ooookay. It's gonna be one of those, huh?"

"Don't look at me, boytoy." Faith said, "She's the one giving me the cold shoulder all day."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Jeez, Faith. What did you expect? Not everyone has a view of life that's compatible with yours."

"Their loss."

"And that would be your loss." Xander sighed. "Look, Faith. I love you, you know that, right? I'd do anything for you... I've risked my neck for you, and you've risked yours for me."

"Natch." Faith said, shrugging.

Xander shook his head, "No Faith. Not 'natch'. Most people don't do that, not even for their friends. Most people don't have to. We're a breed apart, but that doesn't mean we are exempt from the rules. Especially not when dealing with other people..."

Faith scowled, but shrugged.

Xander smiled, walking over to Faith. "There are only a few people on this world... a few people alive or dead, that I would trust my life to, Faith."

He took her by the shoulders and brought her close, kissing her gently on the lips. "You're one of those few."

Then he stepped back, "But Paige is another."

He looked over to where Paige was looking at him, her eyes widening.

"And that means that I can't have you pulling stunts like last night, Faith." Xander said sternly. "Even if I do know that you didn't mean any harm."

"I didn't!" Faith said, "Hey, she just seemed a little stiff... so we got to talking... well, and drinking."

Xander chuckled, "Faith, you should know better then most that the bottom of a bottle is where a your problems breed. You find enough bottoms and your problems start growing out of control. You helped me break away from that once..."

"Hey, I didn't mean to start trend here." Faith smiled hesitantly. "It was just a way to blow off some steam."

"Did it work?"

"No." She smirked, "I should have gotten you plastered too."

Xander laughed, shaking his head. "Then I'd have to hurt you Faith."

She laughed back, shrugging. "Been there."

"Done that." He finished, smiling sadly.

Paige looked between them, her face disturbed. "Oh god. You two didn't... I mean...?"

They both looked at her, puzzled. "Huh?"

"You keep talking about beating each other up and hurting each other..." Paige hesitated, looking worried. "I mean... That's not how you two...?"

Xander still looked puzzled, but Faith burst out laughing. "Oh God! That's rich!"

"What?" Xander asked.

"She's wondering if we were into pain with out pleasure, Boytoy!" Faith grinned wide.

"What? No!" Xander blurted, "We only got violent when we were trying to kill each other..."

Then he stopped, "Ummm I mean..."

Faith was still laughing her ass off. "Keep it up, Boytoy. You'll scare her off and you won't have any more excuses."

"Not helping Faith!" He snapped.

"To answer yer question," Faith turned to Paige, "No. We were never into the rough stuff. Not that I'd mind it once in a while, but it ain't Boytoy's style. Violence and sex was never his kind of combo."

"Thank god." Paige muttered, blushing as she did.

"And thank you for having such a high opinion of me." Xander muttered, actually sounding hurt.

"Oh Xander... I didn't mean... It was just that you two talk about fighting with each other so much... and I see something in your eyes when you talk..."

Xander sighed, "What you see in our eyes is the same thing that is in *our* eyes Paige. It's the look of two people who've been through hell together and know they can trust the other person... even with their hearts."

"I don't think we have that..." Paige said softly.

"Wanna bet?" Faith asked suddenly. "Ain't no one on this planet who could jab Xander like that 'cept me and a few others... You just hit him where it hurts Girl... only someone he cares about can do that to the X-Man."

Xander was quiet for a moment.

Then Faith continued, her voice softer. "And it's something we do way too often."

Dragan sighed in relief as he slipped into the bubbling tub, his muscles tense from the day's activities. Piloting wasn't normally great exercise, but learning a new system under this kind of timetable was stress times ten. He laid his head back and just looked up at the ceiling as the bubbling water slowly unknotted his muscles.

"You look good when your wet."

He turned slightly, smiling when he saw Cles walk in. "How was your day?"

"I helped clear another three Hammerheads." She said, crouching down on the lip of the tub, her eyes twinkling at him.

He nodded, "Good. We might need the spares."

"It's just too bad you weren't using the Orcas." She said, "I know how you prefer Choppers, and I think they probably handle closer then the Hammerheads."

"I know." Dragan sighed, "But Jets will do... and we don't need the ground attack ordinance anyway."

"I know." She said, leaning forward and running a single talon gently along the scar on his chest. "You look good wet."

"You already said that." He smiled.

"So I did." She said softly, leaning forward and gently rubbing her beak along his cheek.

Dragan shivered, "Cles..."

"Too bad I don't have time to stay and enjoy the view." She said, her eyes twinkling mischievously as she suddenly got up and headed for the door. "I have another two Hammerheads on the line for this evening. Catch ya tomorrow."

As she left Dragan shook his head and shivered again despite the heated spring water. He let out a sharp breath, then just let himself sink completely under the bubbling water.

Daniel Jackson looked up as Colonel O'Neill walked into his room. "Oh, Hi Jack."

"Well don't sound so happy to see me." Jack said sarcastically.

"Sorry." Daniel replied, shaking his head. "I've just been kind of busy today."

"I noticed." Jack said, "I didn't see you at mess. Have you been reading this stuff all day??"

"It's fascinating, Jack." Daniel said, "You have no idea how much history is recorded here."


"Hundreds of thousands of years... longer even!" Daniel said, exited.


"Merlins records go back millions of years... I haven't even been able to find the first entry yet." Daniel said, eyes exited. "This computer system has been archiving planetary history for longer then the human race has officially existed."



"Does any of it mean anything to us now?" Jack said very simply.

"Well... err, yes, quite a lot of it really." Daniel responded, "There is a lot of in depth analysis of Goa'uld tactics and equipment... including known vulnerabilities of the Ha'tak carrier..."

"The what?"

"Oh, that's the designation of the Pyramid ship." Daniel explained. "Apparently the Goa'uld have many classes of ships... but the Ha'tak is the most dangerous to Earth at present."

"Well duh." Jack shook his head, "It's *here*!"

"Well... yes... There is that," Daniel said, "But that's not what I mean. The Ha'Tak has a complement of ground and air attack vehicles... A Goa'uld Destroyer wouldn't be able to land a beach head force on the planet... though I suppose it could bomb us back to the dark ages..."

Jack rubbed his head, "Gee don't get so optimistic on me, Daniel."

"Sorry, Jack." Daniel looked embarrassed, "Just pointing out the situation."

"Ok... Is there anything we can use against them?"

Daniel shook his head, "No. I'm sorry Jack. Right now the fighter plan looks like the best one we've got."

"I was afraid of that." Jack sighed. "I don't suppose you've figured out how Harris plans to convince the Goa'uld to land here?"

"Sorry." Daniel did, in fact, look apologetic. "Maybe he's planning on challenging them?"

"What? Calling them up and yelling at them?" Jack shook his head, "No... No, I doubt it. Doesn't seem his style. He and that freaky computer have a plan... I can feel it."

"I hope you're right, Jack." Daniel said, "I'd hate to be caught on the wrong side of the planet... we'd never be able to get our forces into position fast enough."

Jack nodded, "I know... The President has kept enough to cover the Eastern seaboard and the rest of the country though.. But damn, if they decide to land in Africa they might be down and entrenched before we could move on them."

"That wouldn't be good." Daniel said.

"No. It wouldn't be." Jack agreed, "Let's hope that Harris really does have plan."

"You two have so much history." Paige said, "It's hard for me to know what to think. I know that you and I aren't exactly engaged, but..."

"Relax, P." Faith said easily, "I'm not looking to compete with you."

"Could've fooled me."

"Hey, I just want in on the fun," Faith grinned, "I certainly don't want it to stop."

Xander groaned, as Paige blushed.

"I... I'm not into that."

"Not what you said last night."

Paige's eyes widened, and even Xander looked up. "What??"

Faith grinned, turning to Xander, "You never get her drunk, Xan? This girl has some wicked cool stories to tell..."

Xander slowly turned to looked at Paige, his eyes questioning.

"I was drunk, ok!?" Paige said defensively.

"I think we've established that." Xander grinned.

"I meant, I was drunk when... never mind." Paige hid her face, going red from neck to hairline.

"It's wicked cool, X." Faith grinned, "You see it all happened..."

"No!" Xander held his hand up, looking seriously at Faith. "Unlike the two of you, I don't want to hear any stories unless Paige wants to tell them."

Faith sat back, looking nonplused for a moment, then shrugged. "Whatever you say, X."

Xander walked over, smiling at Paige. "You do know though, that there's pretty much nothing you could tell me that would be overly shocking. When you consider the people I normally associate with, it's easy to see why I have a high tolerance for these things."

Paige grimaced slightly, "I know all about the people you associate with." She glared at Faith as she completed that statement, "But this isn't about them."

"No." Xander smiled, "It's about you. Which means that, right now, it's very important to me that you feel comfortable with whatever you say... though, I have to admit that I am very interested."

Paige almost laughed at that sly comment, shaking her head. "Not now. Maybe another time."

Xander nodded, "Alright."

Then he turned around, "But for tonight, you both have to go."

"What??" Faith objected, "Hold on now..."


"I have work to do." Xander held up his hands. "And There is simply no way in hell that I'll get it done with either of you here. You're both distractions of the highest order."

Paige looked like she was thinking about that, then finally spoke slowly. "You know... I don't know if I should be insulted or complimented."

"Complimented, P." Faith grinned, "Come on, we'll go swap some more stories..."

Paige looked at her in horror, "I don't think so."

"No booze this time," Faith grinned, "I promise."


"None... well, maybe some beer?"

"Faith!" Xander snapped.

"Oh alright, none." Faith conceded.

Paige took a breath before nodding reluctantly, "Alright... but only cause I want to know more about what you guys went through before..."

Xander shook his head as they walked out. "Those two are going to be the death of me."

<You say that about every woman you meet.>

Xander shrugged, "Sooner or later I'm gonna be right."

Elan laughed musically in his mind, but Xander just sighed and walked over to the desk. "Ok... time to get to work. Merlin?"

"Yes Commander?"

"Bring up the pilots status reports." Xander said, "It's only been a day... but still..."

"Yes Sir."

Xander looked at the numbers that came up on the screens. After several minutes he nodded, "Ok... Starting tomorrow I want to implement formations and team training... Leichman, Palmer, Chappy, Griffen... and I guess Austin... assign them to one group."



"About Colonel Austin..."

"What is it?" Xander looked up.

"I believe you should know this." Merlin altered a wall next to him and brought up a full body scan of Steve Austin.

Xander blinked. "What the hell is that?"

"Bionics, I believe is the modern term." Merlin replied, "He has enhanced strength, speed, and senses."

Xander swallowed, "Well damn. I'd wondered where Walsh got her tech from... How effective?"

"Extremely." Merlin responded, "Though there are some remaining glitches that have yet to be worked out."

"Such as?"

"Early problems including extreme cold and radiation..." Merlin replied, "Both have been solved to some extent, but they do remain quantifiable."

Xander nodded, "Ok... Well... That changes things. Take Steve out of that squad."

"Yes Commander."

"Leichman, Palmer, Chappy, Griffen..." Xander mused, "Put O'Leary in there too... Tag the Squad as Warbird flight for now."

"Yes Sir."

"Next up... Put Doug and the Iron Eagles into the next Squad." Xander said, "It'll be a bit big... but they're used to flying together and except for Doug they're at the same general level. Hmmmm... Put Captain Carter in there too... They'll need some discipline, and I don't think Doug can enforce that."

"Iron Eagle Flight, Sir?"

"Of course." Xander grinned. "Ok... Next up... Myself, Hercules, Dragan, and Austin.... and place Teal'C and Jack there as well."

"You're reason for that particular roster?"

"If we have to do an infiltration mission, I want the six of us to be used to working together." Xander replied. "The rest are primarily pilots... The four of us are better equipped for ground combat from what I can tell."

"Very good Sir." Merlin said, "And the flight name?"

Xander shrugged, then laughed. "Angel Flight."

Paige walked out of Faith's room, sober, and headed back toward her own. The Slayer had told her that she was tired and planned to crash, then heavily hinted that Paige should consider visiting Xander.

The young witch sighed. She didn't know if she was ready to deal with Xander just yet, there were a lot of things that she was having a hard time with. Not the least of which was the fact that one of Xander's old flames was hitting on HER.

Of course, Paige had to admit, she'd be a lot more comfortable with it if Faith didn't look fourteen. She had, afterall been hit on by more then a few women. Living in San Francisco, and making a habit of attending a lot of wild parties saw to that. The groups that Paige traveled in weren't known to be particularly uptight, and Paige prided herself on fitting in with them. But it was a visceral reaction, one that even knowing the girl was nineteen wasn't enough to subdue. It was also one, apparently, that Xander shared.

She stopped at her door, hesitating. Finally she turned and walked to Xander's.

"Hello? Xander?"

Paige walked in slowly, looking around. "Xander?"

There was a light snore from the corner and she looked over to see Xander slumped over the desk, snoring onto one of the screens. Paige shook her head and smiled as she walked up, "This isn't going to do you any good tomorrow, Xander."

She lifted him up and he woke up a bit, looking at her blearily. "Paige?"

"Yeah, it's me..." She said, helping him up. "Come on... let's get you to bed."

He nodded tiredly and she walked him over to the bed and laid him down, pulling the covers over him. "Good night, Xander."

Xander nodded, closing his eyes. "Night, Paige."

A moment later he was sleeping soundly again, leaving Paige to sit by his side for a while and watch him sleep.

<He looks so young.> She thought, <It's hard to believe that he's four years older then I am. Or that Faith is a year older then me... Life is just too weird sometimes.>

She watched him sleep, his face slowly losing the serious look it always seemed to have lately, relaxing into a peaceful look that she hadn't actually seen on his face before. It looked good on him.

After a moment, Paige laid down along side him and rested her head on his shoulder. A few minutes later she too had slipped off, and her own face relaxed into a peaceful slumber.

April 1st, Contact Minus 4

"This is Melissa Tremane for CNN. The rising tensions worldwide have resulted in protests in Washington, London, and Moscow today as people continue to grow more and more concerned over the apparent militarization of the entire planet. Military and Political experts are at a loss to explain the reasons behind the buildup, but may fear that continued tensions may lead to a shooting or other conflict that could be just the spark needed to turn tension into war."

"While the Government at home has continued to declare that there is nothing to worry about, that most of the recalls are little more the drills, critics are flatly calling the Whitmore administration liars and are demanding the truth. Abroad, similar situations have happened in many countries, and more are certain to occur as the tension continues to escalate.

"I'm Melissa Tremane... and you're watching CNN."

"Alright," Xander said to the assembled pilots, "We've got four days left, so we're moving fast on this. Today we're doing formation drills and maybe some combat runs."

"Yeah!" Wheeler grinned, "It's about time."

The younger members of the group grinned and agreed, while the older ones smiled tolerantly at best or scowled at worst.

"We're dividing up into Flights from now on." Xander said, "Sinclair, Griffin, O'Leary, Leichman, and Palmer... Warbird Flight. Masters, Carter, Wheeler, Kane, Osborne, Porter, Shaw, and Marlow... Iron Eagle Flight. Myself, Dragan, Sorbo, Austin, Teal'C, and O'Neill... Angel Flight."

"Hey now, wait a second..." Jack, predictably, spoke up. "Why are you splitting up my team?"

Xander turned to him, "I need Carter to act as Captain Masters second for the Eagles. She has more current training, and a better chance of enforcing discipline. You and Teal'C are more experienced in flat out combat, and I fully expect Angel Flight to take the heaviest brunt of any attacks."

There was some murmuring around the room.

"Why's that?" Chappy stepped forward.

"Because Colonel O'Neill, Teal'C, Colonel Austin, Kevin, Dragan, and myself have the most experience in a wide range of combat situations... including extra terrestrial and demonic threats. So we'll be taking lead on any assaults." Xander said simply. "The rest of you are excellent pilots, but the majority of your experience to date has been against other humans."

Kevin Griffin stepped forward, "That's not entirely true..."

"I'm aware of that, Kevin." Xander smiled, "But without Daan'aal your strongest asset remains your ability behind the stick."

Kevin reluctantly nodded.

Chappy turned to Steve, his face puzzled, "You've fought Aliens?"

Steve shrugged, then glared mildly at Xander. "It's not supposed to be common knowledge."

Xander grinned, "It isn't. But Merlin has access to a lot of classified data."

"How much?" Steve asked pointedly.

"Enough that I think your place is on Angel Flight." Xander said simply, then looked around. "Alright... Everyone into the simulators."

"Alright Eagles..." Doug said over the tacnet, "form up... give me an echelon formation... close up, Rudy... good. Wheeler... tighten up a bit more on me... alright, perfect. When we break, stay with your wingmen, and watch out for the Warbirds."

The eight fighters slid through virtual airspace at mach two, flying over a rolling sea without much cloud cover to hide in.

The Eagles were through their basic formation training and were now preparing for their first blue on blue match against the Warbirds. Doug was starting to relax and get a feel for his plane, though most of the advanced maneuvers were still as beyond him as they were beyond everyone else. Right now he was smiling tightly as he scanned the skies using both his eyes and his instruments.

Chappy was out there, and there was no way Doug was going to let that old coot, or any of the others flying with him, get bragging rights on his tail.

Brigadier General Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair smiled tightly as he glanced at his instruments. "Unless I miss my guess we've got bogeys at nine o'clock, closing fast."

"Ja." Leichman confirmed.

"Alright," Chappy smiled, "Let's do a modified Finger Four, tight turn to Nine."

Confirmations echoed over the net as the fighters slid into the formation developed in WW2 by the Luftwaffe. The formation of fighters wheeled across the sky, turnign and accelerating on their targets.

Kevin Griffin glanced down at his instruments, "I'm reading... Damn, I only have four of them on my screens, Chappy..."

Chappy nodded, checking his own. "Same here. I'll bet you they're flying tight... hiding their numbers... Just the same, widen the range on the instruments... We don't want to get jumped."

Confirmations echoed over the net.

"Increase speed," Chappy ordered, "Mach 4."

The five fighters left turning contrails behind as they leapt forward, accelerating as one toward the contacts.

"Got them!" Rudy snapped over the net, his voice excited.

"I see them. Doug?" Captain Carter asked.

"Got them too." Doug replied. "They're coming in fast and hard... Missile range in thirty seconds... Fire when you have a lock."

Acknowledgments echoed through the net as Doug punched in the activation code for the Missiles. There was a double beep that announced the weapons coming active, then his Helmet HUD lit up and went into target Acquisition mode.

"I have tone." He announced a moment later. "Eagle Lead... Fox three."

"Warbird Lead... Fox Three." Chappy said clearly as his thumb mashed into the firing stud and the missile dropped from it's pylon and accelerated away from his fighter.

Around him the other planes in his flight echoed his statement, their own missiles lashing out across the sky.

Almost at the same instant the warning lights and buzzers in their cockpit announced the fact that there were missiles heading their way.

"Go evasive!" Chappy snapped, "Loose all countermeasures!"

"Evasive maneuvers!" Doug snapped, "Fire decoys!"

The Eagles split apart, small remote drones launching from their bellies. Once away the drones began to put out fake signals that made them look like full sized hammerheads.

Even as the Eagles split, the flash of missiles flashed into their formation and detonated.

In an instant Rudy's plane was gone from the virtual skies, vanished even before he could yell in frustration. A moment later Osborne screamed out, "I'm hit! I'm hit! Going down!"

Doug flipped his plane over, "Punch out! Punch out!"

He saw the cockpit of Osborne's stricken fighter leap from the fuselage and flip around for a few seconds before it's rockets flared, righting it. Doug turned back to the fight as Osborne rode her ejection module down.

"Form up!" He snarled, "Echelon with your wingman, prepare for a second pass!"

"I'm hit!" Leichman yelled as his Hammerhead rocked violently side to side.

"Is it bad?"

"No... No." Leichman straightened out, "I think... I think the auto-repair is closing off the damage. I'm still good, Chappy."

"Alright." Chappy eyed his scanners and smiled, "Doug's forming up for another missile launch... Increase speed to maximum and close to gun range."

The five Hammerheads increased speed, flashing through the air as they closed on the six remaining Eagles.

<Chappy wants to play up close...> Doug mused, then ordered, "Increase to maximum speed, wingmen stay with your primaries... watch for guns, and get another lock!"

Doug banked right, almost feeling Wheeler's presense as she banked along with him. He pushed his throttle all the way up and turned back towards the Warbirds. He could feel a buzz through his flight suit when one of the 'enemy' entered into his range. It slowly became more and more urgent until it was a single long buzz.

"Eagle Lead. Fox Three."

The missile rocketed away from his underbelly, lancing out across the rapidly narrowing space that separated the two combatants.

"Yes!" Doug growled as his rocket struck home before the other fighter could react, rending the advanced avionics to confetti in a heartbeat.

"Damn!" Chappy growled, "He got Leichman! Take them!"

"Warbird Two," Kevin Griffin said calmly, "Guns. Guns. Guns."

His forward Gauss cannon opened up full, ripping through the air and shredding Eagle Four's Hammerhead in a few seconds of intense fire. A quarter second after that he flashed past the Eagles at Mach Five and began to bank around hard to get them back in his range.

"Warbird Three." Palmer said softly, "Fox Three."

His missile ripped away from the plane, flashing across the short expanse of miles that separated him from his target, and ripped into Eagle Seven, catching the advanced fighter as it tried to maneuver away and ripping it apart.

"Kane's Down!" Captain Samantha Carter said over the net, "I've got tone on Palmer. Eagle Two... Fox Three."

The smart missile flashed away, riding right up it's target's burner, turning the Warbird Hammerhead into falling scrap a few seconds later.

As she climbed to avoid running through the potentially lethal shrapnel of Palmer's Hammerhead, Carter heard and felt warning buzzers go off all through her cockpit. She looked around instinctively, then jerked the fighter in a hard bank to the left as Tracer rounds ripped through her position.

"I've got a bandit on my six." She said, climbing hard and fast as she banked. "Need a hand here."

"Hold tight, Two. Eagle Lead and Three coming in from your Nine high." Master's voice came over the net, "Dive on a three count."


"One." Doug said, feeling the vibration of the Gauss cannon as it followed his gaze. "Two..."

"Three." Carter whispered, then drove her stick forward, forcing the Hammerhead into a fast dive.

"Eagle Lead. Fox Four." Doug said, his finger squeezing the firing stud down. The sound of the big gun opening up didn't reach him, but the vibrations did. The cockpit hummed with the rapid fire shocks as Doug's cannon ripped into Sean O'Leary's Hammerhead.

"Damn!" Kevin muttered, "He got Sean."

The WW2 Bomber pilot smiled tightly as he whispered, "Alright, Dougy boy... you want to play? Let's play."

Xander watched the screens as the combat continued, frowning to himself. He glanced around him, "So... what do you guys think?"

Herc and Dragan shrugged.

O'Neill nodded, "They're doing ok."

Austin just shook his head noncommitaly.

"They are not." Teal'C said stiffly.

"Bingo." Xander said, "Or rather, they are doing pretty well... IF they were flying F-16's."

Jack frowned, trying to see what the kid was talking about. "You mean they aren't using the thrusters?"

"That," Xander said, "And they aren't using their weapons to best advantage. The forward cannon is a lot more effective then you'll find on an F-16... It can actually pick missiles out of the air, if the pilot's eyesight is good enough. If you can see it, you can hit it."

"Alright..." Jack said, "So they should be shooting the missiles?"

"At that range?" Xander shrugged, "They should be shooting everything. They're not used to what the weapon can do... Plus... There, see that?"

"What?" Jack looked to the screen, "Masters?"

"Right. He had Griffin there and let him go." Xander said, "He had Kevin dead to rights... easy kill."

"How?" Jack protested, "Griffin was on his Six high..."

"Exactly. He was a sitting duck." Xander shook his head, "You're like them, you're forgetting the Dorsal Cannon. All Doug had to do was open fire... He'd have holed Kevin's fighter in a half dozen places before Griffin could react."

Jack blinked, he had forgotten the cannon.

"These aren't F-16's Colonel." Xander said, "They have a hundred tricks hidden in their airframes... and a hundred times that waiting to be discovered."

"They aren't making use of the maneuvering capabilities either." Steve Austin said softly.

"Indeed." Teal'C nodded.

Xander watched as Three more of the Eagles vanished from the screen, victims of Warbird cannon fire. "Precisely."

On the screen, Doug and Kevin were whipping around each other at high Mach, performing maneuvers that would have sheered off the wings of any modern fighter jet, but fundamentally not all that different then they would if they were in fact flying a modern jet.

"Damn!" Masters muttered, rolling out as tracer fire ripped through his position, "Where are you Wheeler!?"

"Coming in," Wheeler's voice returned, "Twelve low. Jink right.... now!"

Doug slammed his stick over as Wheeler's Hammerhead loomed in his cockpit, just skipping clear as her forward cannon opened up.

"Whoa!" Kevin saw her coming, but almost didn't react in time. He slammed the stick over and pushed his throttle up as far as it would go. Unfortunately, he wasn't used to the sensitive thruster controls built into the Hammerhead throttle control, and twisted the throttle to the left as the plane jumped under him.

The port thrusters flared briefly, and before Griffin knew what had happened he was in a flat spin. On the bright side, he skipped completely past Wheeler's attack, but on the down side he couldn't seem to break the spin and every attempt to do so just made things worse.

"Whoooooaaaaaa!" He yelled, swallowing as his stomach tried to empty it's contents over the inside of his visor.

"Kevin! Straighten out! Straighten out!" Chappy snapped over the net.

"I'm trying! I'm trying!" Kevin returned, fighting the controls as he tried to straighten the plane out. As he worked the controls he let out a frustrated laugh, "This would never happen in a Mustang!!"

Chappy laughed involuntarily, moving in fast as he spotted Doug coming around to pick Griffin off. "Oh no you don't, Doug."

"Warbird Lead," Chappy said tightly as he felt his fighter acquire tone on Doug, "Fox Three."

"Eagle Lead..." Doug's eyes widened as his cockpit blared warnings at him, He felt the buzz of tone fly through it all and hesitated for just a second, then jammed his thumb down on the firing stud. "Fox Three!"

His missile dropped from it's pylon, flashing away from his fighter just before Doug's screen went black.

"You're dead." Xander's voice echoed in his ear.

Doug shook his head, "Did I at least get Griffin?"

There was a pause...

Kevin felt the plane finally slow and start to recover from it's spin, and he looked up as his cockpit blared warnings at him.

Ahead of him he could see a white contrail and a flare of light coming toward him lightning fast.

"Aw hell..." He muttered, just a second before his fingers jammed down on his stick, unleashing every weapon he could along with a decoy.

By that time, though, it was too late.

"That's affirmative." Xander said a moment later.

"Cool." Doug grinned.

"Pyrrhic victory at best, Doug." Xander replied.

"I'll take what I can get." Doug replied, "Who's left?"

"Wheeler and Carter are forming up against Chappy now."

Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair jinked right, then left again, as he tried to keep Carter from getting a lock on him.

"This two on one shit is no fun." He complained to no one, rolling out as a barrage of tracer fire ripped through his position.

Chappy growled low as he felt another warning sound, announcing that yet another missile was homing on him. "Damn it... Are they ever going to run out??"

He rolled left, launched a decoy, then climbed for the sky at full thrust. As the blue sky loomed in his front view a smile came over the retired General's face. "I wonder if these babies can pull that off?"

He leveled out, checking to see that the missile has missed, and found that Carter and Wheeler were coming in fast behind him in a classic Echelon formation with Carter in the lead.

<Perfect.> He though, edging the throttle up as far as it would go, and jinking side to side as the other two settled into pursuit. <Just a little farther...>

Abruptly, Chappy pulled back on the stick and rose out of their sights for just an instant. As they moved to correct he killed his thrust, standing the Hammerhead on end for an instant, then flipped the plane back around and pushed the throttle all the way up again.

The entire maneuver took less then three seconds, and ended with him accelerating to Mach Five while he ran straight down the throats of Carter and Wheeler.

Wheeler panicked, peeling off to avoid collision, and Chappy ignored her. Carter was the dangerous one, as the more experienced combat pilot held steady Chappy felt the warning buzzers sound off as she acquired tone.

His eyes locked with the fighter, and for a brief instant Chappy imagined he could see Carter in the cockpit of the Hammerhead. Then he squeezed the trigger of the Gauss Cannon and a rapid fire burst shredded the cockpit of Carter's fighter.

He banked easily in the direction of Wheeler's fighter, shaking his head as he saw the course she had taken. "Tsk tsk tsk, I should have taught you better then this, Wheeler..."

"You should have turned back a lot faster then this..." Chappy muttered as he maneuvered behind the girl, "My fault... never bothered to train you to think about Missile capabilities."

He felt his fighter acquire tone and when he spoke it was to no one in particular, "Warbird Lead... Fox Three."

As the wreckage of Wheeler's Hammerhead rapidly became little more then a spreading field on the large screen, Xander shook his head. "Nice show..."

He and the others walked out of the command room and back to where the simulators had been setup. The cockpits were all open by the point and people where getting out and laughing over the results.

"Alright!" Xander snapped, "Nice flying..."

The pilots grinned mostly.

"IF these were F-16's." Xander amended. "But they aren't. So we have a lot of work to do."

A shocked silence descended on the group, many of the younger pilots looking confused.

"Warbird..." Xander walked over to Chappy, "Chappy... That was a nice maneuver at the end..."

Chappy nodded, "Germans postulated it in World War Two... never been a plane built that could do it, but I do hear that the German's are trying like hell with the X-35..."

Xander nodded, "That was barely scratching the surface of what the Hammerheads can do."

Then he turned around, "Alright, Iron Eagles... Thirty minutes to eat, then you're back in here against Angel. Warbird, same, then report to command to view the fight."

"Dismissed!" Xander snapped, tapping his inner drill Sargent to give the command a clear, crisp, ring.

As the two flights walked out, Herc turned to him, "You were a little hard on them..."

Xander shook his head, "We don't have time to let them think that was acceptable flying, Kev. Those two teams have our best pilots... We can't waste that skill."

Steve Austin grinned, "You know, I take exception to that remark. But if you really believe that are you sure it's a good idea to be lecturing before we fight them? They might win you know..."

Xander grinned back at him, "Don't worry... I still think we can take them easy... They may have more potential... but we know how to use what we've got a hell of a lot better then they do."

After a moment, Xander laughed slightly, "Besides... I plan on cheating."

The group looked puzzled, but no one seemed inclined to ask.

In fact, only Teal'C even spoke.


Xander dropped into the cockpit of the Hammerhead, keying the catch that caused it to close over him. Inside the cockpit was dark for a long moment, then the simulation started and he saw the terrain create itself around him.

<Ok... Nothing fancy....> Xander's heart was beating hard, there was a lot riding on him pulling this off. Angel Flight *couldn't* lose this match, not if he wanted to shock the other pilots out of their current worldview. Hell, it couldn't even be a close thing. It had to be a slam dunk, no question, victory. Anything else would make his speech earlier look like a joke, and make him look like an idiot.

"Angel Flight, Angel Lead." He said into the TacNet, "Prepare for liftoff... Go/No Go checks on my command."

He flipped a series of toggles powering up the Hammerheads systems, feeling the plane whine as the turbines came online.

"Angel Lead," He said, "Go. Angel Two?"

"Angel Two, Go." Colonel Austin responded.


"Angel Three, Go." Hercules replied.


"Angel Four, Go." Dragan said in clipped tones.


"Angel Five." O'Neill replied, "Go."

"Six." Xander finished.

"Six. Go." Teal'C responded.

"Alright," Xander said, lifting off. He wracked his memory for the right terms to use for modern flying, because while many of the formations that existed in the original Kine were the same, their names were not. "Angels Lead through Four form up into Echelon formation... Five and Six, offset by three nautical miles and flight tight."


The squadron lifted off smoothly, turning in mid air as they engaged the turbines and the big fighters rocketed off into the virtual skies. Xander wiped the sweat from his palms, trying to keep his grip from slipping off the stick.

"Alright, Angels Three and Four, launch decoys and slave them to your controls." Xander said, "Make it look like Five and Six are still with us."

The two small decoys launched from Dragan and Herc's plane, falling back and sliding into the open slots left by O'Neill and Teal'C.

Xander nodded, closing his eyes for a second as he took a couple deep breaths. His heart was pounding in his chest and he felt the tension knot up his gut. Every pilot on the other side was his superior when it came to skill, and modern tactics. What he had on his side was a greater understanding of the weapons platform he had strapped to his back.

Xander just hoped it would be enough.

"Eagle Lead, This is Eagle Two." Captain Carter said, eying her scanners. "I have Angel on screen."

"Confirmed." Doug replied, eyeing the blip. "Six bogeys coming in from our Twelve low. Accelerate to Mach Four and engage with missiles."


The acknowledgment echoed through the net as the Eagles accelerated forward, moving to a Line abreast formation as they brought their weapons lock online and waited for tone.

"Lead, this is Four..." Xander heard Dragan over the net, "Advise we climb."

"No." He responded quickly. "Stay low."

"That sort of violates every rule of modern combat, Lead." Dragan muttered.

"This isn't modern combat, Four." Xander replied, "Stay low."


Inside his cockpit Xander felt the simultaneous buzz and warning sounds as his equipment sought a lock on the approaching fighters and their sought a lock on his.

He took a moment, kicking his senses up as high as he could, feeling the odd sense of distortion that always accompanied the enhanced mode.

When the buzz became as solid background 'tone' he tried to sound calm as he spoke, "Angel Lead.... Missile Away."

The big missile dropped from it's pylon and rocketed away from his plane, even as the tacnet echoed with similar signals from his flight. Xander watched the contrails dissipate rapidly, then heard the warning buzzer that told him he had at least one hot rocket coming his way.

"Angel Two... Come abreast," Xander said to Colonel Austin, "You take the right... I'll handle the left."

Colonel Steve Austin acknowledged and nudged his fighter up beside Xander as the two of them led the flight. He searched the skies, his bionic eye locking quickly onto the first black speck in the sky. "Angel Two... Guns Guns Guns."

Xander too searched the sky, finding the first incoming missile on his side of the sky. "Angel Lead.... Guns Guns Guns."

The fighters opened up with their forward cannons, the air being rent by the combined sound of the two heavy cannons opening up. Miles away, the first missile was struck by a half dozen rounds and was reduced to scrap in an instant.

"Evasive!" Doug called out, tapping his countermeasures command and pulling up.

Around him the Iron Eagles did the same, all dropping their countermeasures as they pulled up and away from the path of the incoming missiles. They each began to prepare to come around to launch another volley.

The four missiles of Angel flight slammed into the area, three of them detonating harmlessly into the decoys, but number four caught Kane in the breadbasket, destroying the Hammerhead.

"Two down!" Xander snapped, still firing as he tracked number three. "Angel Two?"

"Got three." Steve said tensely, "Targeting four now..."

"Launch decoys on evasive!" Xander said, tapping the command himself.

"Roger." Austin said, not taking his eye off the incoming missile. "Decoy away."

The two decoys accelerated ahead of the two fighters, then banked away to either side.

"Got four!" Austin said.

"Three!" Xander replied, "That's seven... I recorded eight launches! Where's eight? Where's eight!?"

Austin scanned the sky, trying to find the last missile, only to see it almost too late as it flitted through a smoky contrail, heading straight for Xander. He instantly mashed down on the trigger, the gimbal mounted front cannon swiveling to cover the target. "Coming right at you, Lead!"

Xander spotted it an instant later, just as it was turned into debris by Austin's cannon. "Good Catch, Two. Alright Angels... while they're still trying to come around... Hit them with everything you have."

"Roger that." Dragan said, sliding to one side as Herc slid to the other. He felt the tone through his flightsuit and armed a second missile. "Angel Four, Missile Away."

"Angel Three, Missile Away."

"Angel Two, Fox Three."

"Angel Lead," Xander took a deep breath, "Missile Away."

The Iron Eagles were still banking around for another launch when the warning sounds lit up the cockpits of Carter, Rudy, Wheeler, and Osborne.

"They got a lock!"

A few seconds later, even as they were still deploying countermeasures and trying to evade the incoming missiles, the salvo ripped into their ranks and remorselessly destroyed all but Carter. Sam only managed to evade because her decoy had been deployed a few instant earlier and the missile destroyed that instead of her Hammerhead. Even so, the explosion was close enough to rock her plane, and light up auto-repair lights across the board.

"Damn!" She cursed, flipping a series of toggles.

"Are you alright, Two?" Doug asked in clipped tones.

"I'm... I'm fine." Carter replied as the lights went off one by one, "just shook me up."

Doug growled, shaking his head. He'd just lost half his attack force without inflicting a single loss on his enemy as near as he could tell. "Form up!"

The remaining Eagles obeyed, coming together as Doug led them around to get a lock on the Angels.

"There they are." Austin announced, "Two High and coming in fast."

Xander glanced up, "Turn into them..."

The four fighters slid around, nosing into the incoming fighters.

"Increase speed..." Xander said, "All thrusters, all thrust."

The four hammerheads jumped forward as every bit of energy they had was put into their engines. Before the Eagles could come to bear, the Angels were already flashing past and under them.

"Dorsal Cannons!"

The four turrets came to life, popping up and swiveling to track the enemy planes as they opened up. Before the Eagles knew what had happened they flew into a firestorm.

"Evade! Evade!" Dough yelled, pulling up as he saw one of his team vanish in a plume of flame.

He and Carter pulled out at the last instant, only surviving because they managed to make use of the Hammerheads' maneuvering thrusters and actually slid out of the direct line of fire.

He and Carter both banked hard around and found they had the retreating Angel's in their sights.

"Down! Down!" Doug ordered, "Get under those turrets!!"

The two remaining Hammerheads ducked low and fast, accelerating as they got under the fire arc of the enemy turrets. Doug seethed as he felt his fighter establish tone with the retreating fighters. "Take them out!"

Carter acknowledged, "Eagle Two... Fox Four."

"Eagle Lead," Doug growled, "Fox Four."

The two fighters opened up, their guns erupting like buzz saws as they targeted the fighters backs. Doug had the satisfaction of watching his bullets stitch through the lead Angel, causing smoke and flames to erupt from Xander's fighter. But even as his eyes flicked to the next target, his cockpit warning alarms went wild.

"What the!?" He managed to get out before his screen went black. The last thing he remembered seeing was two Hammerheads flashing in fast and hard from his three o'clock, the fiery ball of flame that had been Captain Carter.

"Congratualations... You're dead." O'Neill's smirking voice echoed over the comline as the simulation terminated.

"All right," Xander looked over the group, the tension from earlier still present in his gut. "What did you do wrong?"

The Eagles looked at each other, uncertain.

Xander sighed, "Nothing. You did nothing wrong. IF you were flying a modern fighter."

He walked over to them, "You're all better pilots then I am... better then half my team, at least. But you have to forget modern rules. The Forward Cannon is able to destroy missiles, and engage any target within visual range. Missiles are more practical for anything that *isn't* in visual range."

"Next," Xander said, still trying like hell not to show his nerves. "You have to remember the turret. It makes attacking from above a dicey proposition at best. The Goa'uld may or may not have similar weapons, but you're going to have to take all of this into consideration."

"Third," Xander said seriously, "Maneuvering. Doug, you and Carter did VERY well here. You both used the thrusters to evade out turret fire... and you did it without thinking about it. Excellent progress."

Then he turned to the rest, "For the rest of today that's what I want you to work on... Maneuvering drills. Slips, slides, pivots, and roll... All at supersonic. You should be able to put a Hammerhead into a flat spin, trap shoot three targets, then accelerate out of the spin without even thinking about it."


Everyone nodded.

"Ok... Let's get to work."

Connor and Murphy McManus stared, somewhat shocked, as the group of pilots walked into the mess.

"Damn, Connor... How de ye think they get that sweaty sitting in a chair all day?" Murphy cracked, grinning.

Connor shrugged, "Must be out of shape I guess."

Both of them were pinned with death glares from the pilots, but none of them had the energy to make anything of it. There was the sound of someone clearing their throat at the door, and they all turned to see Xander walk in.

He was still in his black uniform, and while he looked a a fair sight better then most of the other pilots, his face was covered in a sheen of sweat and his hair had a greasy look to it that came from the sweat that had soaked it through. He walked along the Pilot's table, looking at them all, but especially the youngest ones.

The young Iron Eagle trainees flinched as he walked by, expecting another verbal barrage.

Instead he smiled, nodded once, and just said, "Better."

The pressure of the room dropped in an instant as they suddenly relaxed.

Xander turned to where Doug was sitting with Chappy and the Warbirds. "Much better. Doug, that last move was great... I never saw it coming."

"I owed you." Doug grinned.

Xander nodded, "I guess you did."

Then he turned to Colonel Austin, "Steve... I want you to start training the group tomorrow... You're the top pilot we have right now..."

Steve shrugged, "The controls are completely different, but the idea is the same as flying in space. You use thrusters to adjust rotation instead of relying on airflow... Once I realized that, it got easy."

"You just went past me." Xander grinned, "But I want you to start showing everyone how you did that reverse slip..."

Steve nodded, "Alright... I'll try... but it's not easy in an atmosphere... That's something I think would work best in space."

"Could be." Xander said, "But being able to spin the fighter around and shoot at people chasing you without losing speed could come in handy."

"Get's rocky as hell," Austin muttered, "it's really tough to stay steady with the airflow over the engines like that... but yeah... we can work on it."

"Good." Xander turned to the rest, smiling. "Enjoy your meal... Tomorrow starts early."

Amidst the good natured groans, Xander walked out of the mess.

"Ohhh Damn." He groaned, stripping off his uniform as the door slid shut behind him. The material literally pealed off his skin as it was stuck there by the sweat that was soaking his entire body.

"An Impressive Display." Merlin said, appearing from nowhere.

Xander almost jumped out of his skin. "Jesus! Don't DO that?"


"Yeah, Right." Xander muttered, continuing to strip off. "I'll just bet."

"As I was saying... Impressive."

"Hardly." Xander snorted, "I just let the plane fly itself while I handled the guns. If I actually had to fly, Doug and Carter would have ripped me to shreds."

"Perhaps." Merlin conceded, "But you accomplished your goal. Their learning cuirve has accelerated by forty three percent."

Xander nodded, sliding into the tub. "Good. Warbird Too?"

"Yes. They apparently don't wish the same... humiliation?" Merlin smiled lightly.

Xander groaned as the heat soaked into his body. "If they only knew how much of that was smoke and mirrors. The Goa'uld won't be so unfamiliar with their equipment."

"That is true," Merlin nodded, "But you still have three days."

"Three days!" Xander groaned, "*I* can't learn to fly in combat in three days... How can I expect them too?"

Merlin shrugged, "Goa'uld technology is archaic by my standards... You will have that advantage."

Xander nodded, "Thank god. But they are going to have hundreds of Death Gliders..."

"Playthings." Merlin said contemptuously.

"How about air to air fighters?" Xander asked.

"Therein lies the danger." Merlin admitted, "Goa'uld do not often have cause to use them, but they have used shielded combat fighters in the past."

Xander sighed, "Shielded huh? How well?"

"Effectively armored against conventional weapons." Merlin said, "Modern missiles, as well as those on the Hammerheads, should be able to overload them though."

Xander nodded, "How do they stand up against the Hammerheads?"

"Equal in speed, though deficient in firepower."

"They won't need much against the military..." Xander said, "What's the status on our Hammerheads?"

"Fully armed and the reactors have been ignited." Merlin said, "And the shield systems are operational."

"Good." Xander said, "God I hope it's enough."

"Damn that was a tough day." Rudy muttered under his breath. "I thought Doug was a tough instructor..."

"Hey!" Doug looked over the table, grinning slightly, "If you want I can assign pushups?"

"No thanks." The young man laughed, holding his hands up in mock defense.

Across the table, Leichman turned to Chappy. "These planes are quite different then our babies, aren't they?"

Chappy grinned at the obvious joke, "Yeah, I'd say so. I'm just glad we didn't get our butts handed to us like Doug, eh?"

"Hey!" Doug Masters looked around, for support. "What is this? Pick on Doug day?"

"Didn't you know?" Wheeler draped her arms around his neck, bringing her mouth up to his ears. "Every day is pick on Doug day."

"That explains my life." Doug muttered, then grinned over his shoulder at her. "But I can live with it I guess."

Mikki prowled the corridors of the ancient base, coming to the door she knew what Xander's. She touched the small button at the side of the door and nervously twitched when it slid open. She cautiously stepped inside, sniffing the air lightly.

"Xander?" She called softly.

There wasn't a response, so she moved silently through the room, padding on the balls of her feet. A quick glance told her where Xander was, he was sleeping, all sprawled out across the bed with the covers haphazardly over him.

She climbed up on the bed, curling up at his side with one hand tentatively reaching out to touch his shoulder. After a moment like that she drifted off to sleep, a gently vibration echoing in her chest.

"Nice flying, Carter."

"Yeah, right, sir." Samantha muttered, a little sourly. Jack had a bad habit of rubbing things in when he came out on top.

"No," He said, suprisingly seriously. "I mean it. I watched the replays... You're damned good. How many hours do you have in fighters?"

"Not enough, apparently." Sam said, then shrugged. "I don't know... a couple hundred. Most of my training was in preparation for the space program... Until the Stargate project happened I was trying to fast track my career to NASA."

Jack nodded, "That's probably why you're picking this up so fast. I heard Austin and Harris talking about the controls earlier, Austin says the principals are the same as the shuttle."

Carter shrugged, looking pensive. "More or less, that's accurate, Sir. The controls are different, but you have to start thinking on different axis at the same time... it's comparable."

"Well, see?" Jack grinned, "You'll get the hang of it in no time."

Paige slipped into Xander's room, having been told by Merlin that he was there. She walked across the darkened room softly, not wanting to disturb Xander if he was sleeping. When she got to the bed she saw his form on the bed and smiled slightly. Her smile turned to a frown when she saw another form next to him.


Her eyes widened in a moment of recognition and she hissed in shock.



Xander's eyes snapped open, first motivated by the yell of surprise and annoyance, then by the equally surprised and annoyed snarling cry of a wild cat. He was moving even as the second scream, one of terror, filled the room.

"Merlin! Lights!" He snapped, leaping from the bed, the covers flying one direction and he flying the other. <Elan!>

The shimmering silver staff appeared in his left hand as he balanced on his right for a brief second before touching down on the warm stone floor. The lights snapped on and he blinked for a second, staring around him until he found the source of the raucous.

On the floor at the foot of his bed Paige was laying on the ground, pinned down by the heavy muscular form of a black Jaguar.

"Mikki!" He ordered sternly, "Stand down!"

The jaguar looked back at him, an almost guilty look appearing on it's face. Then it reluctantly stepped back, leaving Paige to scramble backwards away from it.

"It's ok, Paige..." Xander said as calmly as he could with his own heart thudding hard in his chest. "It's ok..."

Paige stared at the Jaguar in terror, not able to speak.

Xander glanced back, "Mikki...."

The Jaguar looked at the ground for a moment, then shifted back to the form of the twelve year old girl. She sat, perched on the corner of Xander's bed, naked as she looked down at the floor in shame.

"She... She... She..." Paige gasped out.

"Shhhh...." Xander gently lifted her off the floor, "I should have introduced you to Mikki properly... Mikki...?"

Mikki looked up defensively, "Startled me!"

Xander blinked, then laughed. "Startled me too, Mik. I'm not mad..."

"Not mad?" She looked up, her eyes wide.

"No, Mik... Not mad." Xander said, still giving Paige a hug, "Just worried that you might have scared Paige a bit..."

Mikki giggled slightly, then shrugged again as she spoke defensively. "Startled me."

Xander nodded, turning to Paige, "And startling a cat is a bad idea."

"No kidding." Paige said, color just starting to return to her face. "But I saw you sleeping with someone else, and at first I thought it was Faith and got Mad... then saw it wasn't..."

Paige looked at Xander, anger returning to her eyes. "And got madder! Why was she sleeping with you??"

Xander's eyes widened, and he turned to Mikki. "Mik?"

Mikki looked miserable again, "Was lonely..."

Xander nodded, whispering to Paige under his breath. "I'll explain later..."

Then he walked over to Mikki, pulling a blanket from his bed and wrapping her in it. He then hugged the young Were, "Why were you lonely? I thought Tara and you were getting along...?"

"Are." She said simply. "But not the same."

Paige watched, her anger turning to fascination as she watched Xander literally cuddle up to the little girl. At first glance their actions were those of lovers. The young girl was rubbing her head against Xander's neck and face, while Xander returned the motions with gentle caresses with his hands. But when she looked at their eyes, it was obvious that something very different was going on, something she didn't understand.

The girl's face was filled with an adoration, true, but no sign of lust. It was more like the look of a child for a parent then anything else in Paige's experience, but obviously Xander couldn't be the girl's father. Xander's eyes were concerned, but that was the extent of it. His motions didn't seem natural to Paige, as if he was moving mechanically or doing something he wasn't entirely comfortable with.

Xander glanced behind him, plucking up the discarded clothing. "Come on, Mik... Let's get you dressed."

"Ok." She said, shrugging as if it weren't really important.

Xander helped the young girl get dressed as he glanced around, frowning. "What time is it, Merlin?"

"Ten O'Clock, local time." Merlin responded easily.

Xander nodded, stretching. "What's it like on the surface?"

"The sun is setting... Clear skies, the stars will be out shortly."

Xander looked down at Mikki, "Hey, it's been a while since we had a good run... You want to breath some real air?"

Mikki nodded, grinning widely as her eyes lit up.

"Ok, then... let's go." Xander grinned, then glanced at Paige. "Coming?"

Paige blinked, uncertain how to respond. "Uh umm... ok...?"

"Cool." Xander grinned.

Xander and Paige trailed Mikki as they walked through the lush growth, watching as the young Were leapt through the jungle like terrain with joyous leaps and bounds.

"I found here in Tara's hometown just after I left you..." Xander said, "She was being attacked by a mob... They were lashing into her with whatever they had on hand, beating her to death because she was a Were."

Paige grimaced, "My god."

Xander nodded, "Yeah... I saved her from that... I thought I'd have to kill a couple of those hicks to do it though... Her parents are dead, but she won't talk about that... I tried for a while to get her to tell me about family, but I think I might be the closest she has now."

Paige swallowed. She knew about adopted family, and she knew how much more dear they could become to someone who feels lost. "So... That's why she crawled into bed with you?"

"Yes and no." Xander shrugged, "Were's... well, Jaguars anyway, are primal... connected to their animal form as much as to their human form. She likes to touch... that's all. She feels better when she can physically touch people she cares about."

"Oh." Paige said, her face blank for a moment. "Oh."

"Please don't tell me you thought I would *sleep* with a twelve year old??" Xander looked at her, shocked.

Paige shook her head, "no... no! It's just... well, it sort of shocked me is all. I didn't know that you two were... close."

Xander nodded, taking a deep breath. "Ok... I guess I can get that... but for future notice, it's a really bad idea to startle someone who sleeps with his weapons."

Paige glanced over, startled, only to see him grinning at her. She smiled sourly back at him, "Duly noted. Next time I'll just turn you into a frog."

"If you can do it." Xander shrugged, "I told you before... Me and magic have restraining orders out on each other."

She smirked at him, "Right."

Xander grinned, shrugging. "Whatever."

Before she could respond, there was a coughing growl that startled her and she jumped. "Oh!"

"Hey, Mik." Xander smiled as the jungle cat charged out of the brush and thumped into his legs. "Whoa! Not so hard..."

Mikki rubbed along his legs, then took off again. She paused a distance away, glancing back, and coughed out another growl.

"I'll be right back." Xander shot Paige a grin, "I'll be right back."

With that he bolted after Mikki, causing the cat to growl as she spun around and ran off again. Paige actually smiled slightly as Xander vanished into the bushes after the cat.

PT 579

"How did you meet Xander?"

Giles set down his cup of tea, looking up at Maria curiously. "Why do you ask?"

"You seem to know him from a long while back... but he'd have been a child?"

Giles nodded, "Xander was a child when I met him. The kind that everyone looks past or through... always around, but never there."

Maria looked puzzled, "It's hard to imagine anyone looking through him."

"There was a time that even I looked through him." Giles confessed. "Tried to get him to look through me. Xander never did that though... not even when he thought I was just a stuffy old man. Xander has an eye that seems to see things that others miss..."

Maria shrugged, pouring herself a tall glass of ice water. "I haven't known him that long... all I really know is that he fights vampires and aliens."

Giles laughed lightly, "Yes. I did actually try to get him to stop that once... a foolish thing, I suppose. I don't think Xander has ever let anyone tell him what to do..."

Giles suddenly laughed.

"What is it?"

"He once told a pair of Archangel's to take a job off they had made to him, and..." Giles smirked, "Shove it up certain bodily orifices."

"Archangels??" Maria's face dropped in shock.

Giles nodded.

"He did that??"

Giles nodded.

Maria just shook her head, "That kid is scary."

Giles nodded, then smiled. "Yes. He can be that..."

Maria shivered.

Giles set down his drink, his expression softening. "Enough of Xander. Tell me about yourself?"

"What do you want to know?"

Giles shrugged, "Start where you wish... I seem to have time."

The air was cooling off as the light vanished, leaving Paige in the center of the rapidly darkening Jungle.


She shivered and jumped as a noise sounded behind her, then again as another came from ahead. "Xander? Mikki??"

A sudden rush of air and rustling of leaves coming her way made her jump again and let out a small scream.

"Paige? You ok?" Xander asked as he and Mikki loped out of the jungle.

"Can we go inside now?" Paige asked, looking around at the lengthening shadows.

Xander glanced down at Mikki, then smiled. "In a little while... but come on, we'll get out of the jungle at least."

"It's lovely."

Xander nodded, looking out over the darkening sky as he and Paige sat on the cliffs and watched the stars come out. "Yeah... Once... a long time ago, the ocean around us would have been teeming with activity... There would have been ships and running lights as far as you could see...."


"Atlantis was one of three cities, the capital," Xander explained, "And this base is located near one of the other two..."

He pointed out to the west, "Out there, just past the horizon, is a place known as the Devil's Sea... That's where the second city was. There was a constant stream of ships from there to here... carrying supplies, ferrying visitors, and sometimes just visiting..."

Paige looked out over the rolling sea, "I can almost see it."

Xander nodded, dropping his hand to her knee. She turned to look at him and the two of them stared at each other for a moment.

"Xander... I..."

"Shhhh..." Xander leaned in, his eyes studying the features of her face as her lips spread slightly.

Just as they touched, there was a coughing growl from behind them and they broke apart. Xander grinned and shook his head, "Hiya Mik... back from your run?"

The big cat purred as she pushed her way between them, rubbing hard against Xander. Both Xander and Paige chuckled lightly.

"You think she's trying to tell us something?"

Xander glared mildly at her, "I think she needs to learn a lesson about timing."

Paige got up, "Oh, I think her timing was absolutely perfect in her estimation."

Xander chuckled, scruffing the cat's head lightly as he got up to. "I think you're probably right. Shall we go back in?"

Paige nodded, "Yeah... I'm tired."

"Come on, Mik... Let's go..."

April 2nd, Contact Minus Three

As the training progressed, Xander was forced to spread more and more of his time between actual flight training and monitoring th results of the others. Colonel Austin was the clear leader when it came to flat out skill, but after the previous days lessons, Doug Masters was taking a long lead in weapons handling.

With Austin and Carter topping the pilots list for skill, and Masters outshooting everyone except Austin himself, Xander was finally starting to feel a little confidence in the future of his little cadre. Of course, his confidence wasn't boosted when he saw his own name on the list. Dead last in every category except weapons, and the only reason he was still holding his own there was because his enhanced vision made the main gun an especially lethal tool in his hands.

"Merlin..." Xander looked up from his charts and lists, "I need you to take over monitoring the pilots skills... tell Steve what they need to work on. I have to focus on my own flying, or else I'm going to get killed out there."

Merlin nodded, "As you wish."

Xander nodded, then pushed away from the desk. The others were all in the Mess, so he'd have the sim room to himself for a half hour or so.

The group of pilots made their way back to the sim room, gathering slowly as everyone meandered in, and found Colonel Austin waiting for them. "Everyone ready for some more blue on blue?"

Everyone nodded.

"Alright," Austin smiled, "We'll alternate off from now on... Starting with Warbird and Angel, then Eagles will take the winner. Got it?"

Everyone nodded.

"Good... Take your planes."

"Man," Connor McManus, "This is boring as hell."

"We should've stayed on the boat." Murphy muttered, "At least they had some cool toys to play with."

Connor nodded, laughing. "Sure did. Man, I wish we could have cracked off one of those Stingers..."

"Yeah..." Murphy nodded, "That would have been wicked."

Connor stopped, looking around. "Hey... you know, this is a pretty big place..."

"Yeah? So?"

"So... If it's got all those planes and stuff..." Connor looked pensive, "You think maybe it's got some more stuff?"

Murphy smiled, "You know, bro... You're a genius."

"So mum keeps tellin me." Connor grinned, "Come on... let's look around."

"Should've done this days ago."

Xander thumped his hands down against the controls as his screen went black again. "Damn it! I just can't get the hang of slipping in an atmosphere!"

"It is a very advanced skill," Merlin said placably, "Many of the best pilots had a diffulcult time with it. The Hammerheads are relatively aerodynamic from all sides, but it IS a relative term. When you're slicing the air sideways, or backwards, you generate more turbulence... and it's quite difficult to control."

Xander nodded, "Yeah.... but it's a lethal trick to play on the enemy. We're going to need every one of those."

"That is true." Merlin said, "it will come, but with practice. And even then, the most important thing is NOT learning to perform a slip in the simulator... The most important thing is learning how to recover when a slip goes wrong."

"Right." Xander muttered, acknowledging the truth of the statement even as he growled. Trying to control a side slip in a hammerhead was like riding a bucking bronco while your four sheets to the wind. You might make it work once, but the next time was likely to break something valuable. The key was learning to adapt as fast as the air currents would throw new twists your way. And when that didn't work, it was always hand to not be the type who gets motion sick easily.

Xander groaned at the thought. Luckily it was only school buses that brought that out in him, otherwise the Pt 579 would have been the death of him more then once.

"Alright," Xander nodded, "Hit me again."

"Hey, hey, hey, Murph... check this out..."


Connor pointed to the directory they had found, "This place is fuckin huge, bro. It goes down like thirty levels in this cavern alone!"

"You're kidding..." Murphy looked down at the screen, "What the hell is the space used for?"

Connor shrugged, "Nothing now... See all the grey?"

Murphy frowned, the entire screen was in grey, all except for a tiny section at the top. "Yeah?"

"Grey is for the sections that are shut down." Connor grinned, "The whole place is like an ice berg."

"What the hell are ye talking about??"

"You know? An Ice Berg... The stuff out of the water is only like ten percent of the ice?"

Murpohy nodded, "Yeah... I remember hearing something like that. So ninety percent of this place is unused right now?"

"More like ninety nine." Connor said, "This map is just the top cavern. Remember what Harris said? There are three stacked on top of each other."

"Whoa..." Murphy frowned, "What did they use them all for?"

Connor looked at the screen as he scrolled through the directory, "Living quarters, training, security, command, VIP reception quarters... that's where we're staying..."

"They are pretty posh." Murphy grinned.

"Managerial offices, hangers, repair bays, something called a field originator room..." Connor continued, shrugging. "Some kind of power generation section and some really weird stuff I don't have a damned clue about..."

"Hey..." Murphy frowned, looking over his brothers shoulder. "What's this?"

Connor peered at that point, "I think... damn, I don't know... Something about a Dry Dock?"

"Dry Dock?" Murphy frowned, "Aren't we like a mile underground?"

"Something like that."

"What the hell would you have a Dry Dock this far down for??"

"Damned if I know..." Connor shrugged, "But it's not in this cavern anyway... This level is just for the airplanes, command, and..."

Connor smiled widely.

"What?? What??" Murphy asked, knowing that smile.

Connor pointed wordlessly to a word on the screen.

Security Armory.

"This the place?"

Connor nodded, checking the markings on the wall. "Hey, this look familiar to you?"

Murphy looked at the script, then shrugged. "Looks a little like Russian script, but there's a lot more to it then that."

Connor nodded, "Yeah... I think I see some latin in there too... and is that a Rune?"

Murphy frowned, looking closer, "Looks like one... but I don't recognize it."

Connor shrugged, "Ah well... Looks like we have another language to learn."

Murphy laughed, thumbing the door catch. "Should be fun."

After a moment he frowned when the door didn't open.

"Damn." He muttered, "Wonder why it's closed?"

"This section's in the grey block remember?" Connor said, "No power to the doors... Must be a manual catch here or something... What'd they do in a blackout?"

"Did they have blackouts ten thousand years ago?" Murphy asked with a grin as he traced the edge of the door with his finger.

"How should I know? But if their power companies were anything like ours they probably had planetwide shortages every week."

"Right." Murphy said, then shook his head. "Damn. Nothing here..."

"Hang on..." Connor muttered, "Here now.... what's this?"

Murph leaned over, "What?"

Connor popped open a concealed panel beside the door, and looked inside. He pulled out an odd looking handle, "What do ye suppose this is?"

Murphy looked at it, then back to the door, then back to the device again. Suddenly he smiled, "I think it's a door knob!"

"Are ye daft?"

"No, no... look!" Murphy took the object, "See? You connect the base into these grooves and..."

The door suddenly gave slightly, and the two brothers looked at each other, a joyous look passing over their faces. Together they pushed hard and slid the door open, giving them access to the security room.

Xander groaned as he shoved himself up and out of the cockpit, wincing as the bruises he felt along his shoulders from the restraint webbing. Even in a simulator, the Hammerheads were capable of heavy manuevers.

"You're doing better."

Xander looked down in surprise to see Steve Austin waiting for him. Xander nodded once, then climbed down the ladder. "Thanks."

"You should be flying with the rest of us."

"I need to master the basic, double time." Xander said, sighing. "I can't handle formation flights right now."

"Look," Steve said, "Any yahoo with a half week of Nintendo experience can pilot a plane in combat... One on one it's not even skill so much as luck now. If you know your weapons, then it pretty much comes down to who sees who first... But that's not what wins a fight."

Xander looked at him oddly.

"A fighter and it's wingman is five times harder to kill, and ten times as lethal as both fighters working alone." Steve said simply, "And there is no possible way that flying alone in this thing will get you where you need to be. You have to work with your wingman..."

Xander shook his head, "I can't keep up with any of you guys."

"Then you shouldn't be out there." Steve said simply, "Make up your mind. Either you fly with us, or you don't fly. You can't hotdog this kind of situation... That's the difference between a nintendo and a real fighter... If you get splashed in the real deal you don't get to load the save game and start over. Real life isn't about lone heros saving the day. It's about tight, skilled, teams working together. You have to decide what you want. Do you want to go out there and die to save the world? Or do you want to live to keep on saving it?"

Xander hesitated, then looked back to the colonel. He nodded back to the simulator, "You want to have a go at some tandem flying?"

Austin smiled, nodding. "Now you're talking like a real combat pilot."

"Hey, check this out bro!" Murphy grinned, holding up an oddly shaped device.

"What is it?"

"Damned if I know..." Murphy kept grinning like a fool. "Looks cool though!"

Connor shook his head, "All of this stuff is just really weird... What do you suppose this is?"

Murphy looked over to where Connor held up something that looked like a vest of some sort. "Some kind of armor, you think?"


Murphy turned back to the device in his hands. He played around with it for a bit, then almost jumped out of his skin when it suddenly chirped and extended in his hand. "Whoa!"


"I don't know... it just... jumped or something."

Connor walked over, frowning at his brother. "Maybe we shouldn't be playin with..."

He didn't get to finish before the device chirped again and spat blue white lightning across the room, hitting him square in the chest. Connor felt a blinding pain, then everything went black.

Murphy's eyes bulged as he watched his brother hit the ground, "Oh God! Connor! Bro! Bro!!"

He raced across the room, sliding to his knees as he arrived by his brother's inert form.

"Better... Better..." Austin said over the net, "Tighten up on my wing though... bring it closer... closer..."

He looked over his shoulder to see Xander's plane close the gap, coming withing ten feet, then closing the distance to five. "Alright, hold steady!"

The other hammerhead shuddered slightly, but managed to hold steady as it paced him.

"Beautiful!" Austin congratulated his young pupil. "Now, I'm going to bank and turn thirty degrees to port. I want you to stay with me, keep it nice and close."

"Roger Lead..." Xander responded tensely, trying to remember the vernacular that the military pilots were used to using.

When Austin banked the plane he tightened on the aircraft and tried to follow it through as best he could.

The two hammerheads curved gracefully through the rendered environment, staying within a dozen feet of each other as they adjusted to their new course. When Austin leveled out, Xander quickly followed suit, but came perilously close to brushing the lead fighter's rear stabalizer.

"Back off a bit, Two!"

Xander cut back the throttle, his heart pounding in his chest. "Roger, Lead..."

As the distance between them widened, Xander's heart slowly returned to normal but his guts still twisted heavily.

"It's alright, You did ok..." Steve assured him. "We'll start working on some combat maneuvers next. Nothing too complicated, mostly in combat we don't use 'formation' flying. The idea behind the wingman concept is the same as the buddy system in SCUBA diving... It's more about having someone to watch your ass then looking like the Blue Angels."

"Right." Xander nodded, "ok... Let's do this..."

"Connor! Connor!" Murphy was in shock, his face utterly devastated as he tried to get his brother to wake up. "Come on, Bro! Wake up! Please??"

He swallowed hard, "Oh God... I killed my brother... Connor!! Wake up!!"

He slumped back, eyes dying in the dim light of the room, staring at the ground. "Oh God...."

"Unnnnnnngggggg...." Connor suddenly rolled over, his head lolling around as he groaned in pain.

"Connor!" Murphy was galvanized back to life. "Jesus, Connor! Wake up!"

"Whhhaaat the hell hiiiiit meeeee?" Connor slurred as his brother helped him sit up.

"I'm sorry, bro! I'm sorry! I didn't know it was loaded!"

"You shot me??" Connor's eyes widened, looking around. "With what?? The whole damned hoover dam generator??"

"One o these..." Murphy held up one of the devices he had plucked out of the cabinet. "I think it's a stunner or something..."

"And you SHOT me with it!?" Connor looked outraged.

"It was an accident!"

"Give me *that*!" Connor grabbed one of the devices from his brother.

"Hey now... wait a second..." Murphy backed up, holding his hands in the air.

"We'll see how ye like it, ye damned fool!" Connor muttered, stumbling to his feet as he fumbled with the weapon.

When it snapped open with a chirp he looked triumphant and pointed it at his brother, "We'll see how ye like it!!"

Murphy gulped and ducked as the weapon spat fire, splashing the wall behind him with electricity. Murphy ran out the door, laughing suddenly as he spun around and fired back. Connor hit the floor, the electrical energy splattering off the wall behind him.

"Come and get me, ye damn fool!" Murphy shouted from the hallway.

Connor shoved himself off the ground, running for the door. "I'm coming to get you, Murphy! I'll show you what it's like to get electrocuted ten ways to Sunday!!"

"Alright... Looking good," Austin said, "Get ready to break left and I'll take the bogey."

"Roger." Xander said tensely as he rocked the plane back and forth, trying to keep the computer generated enemy aircraft from getting a lock.


Xander snapped the stick hard over and hit all thrusters at the same time. The big fighter suddenly just *slid* thirty meters to the left, not banking, just gliding along on it's thrusters. Just as he cleared the airspace he had been occupying, Austin soared through it, his main gun firing a long burst that shredded the computer plane in seconds.

"And THAT is the advantage of a wingman, kid." Austin said easily as he looped the plane around and came in on Xander's port wing.

Xander had to nod. It was a lot easier and, more importantly, faster then trying to take out the bandit on his own. "Alright... let's try that again, this time I'll..."

"Excuse me." Xander snapped around, his eyes widening slightly as he caught sight of Merlin calmly pacing them, standing back on to the rushing winds just outside his cockpit. The insanity of the image boggled his mind for an instant before Xander remembered that he was in a simulated environment, and that of course it was nothing for Merlin to project himself here.

"What is it, Merlin?" Xander asked.

"I'm registering odd energy signatures four levels below us." Merlin said, frowning. "I'm afraid I can't be more specific, all my sensors are down in that area."


"Because all power was shut down to those levels millennia ago." Merlin said, still frowning. "It doesn't make sense... there are no live circuits down there."

Xander sighed, nodding. "Ok... Kill the sim."

As the scenery vanished around him, Xander pulled himself out of the cockpit and climbed down. A short distance away he could see Steve doing the same.

"What do you suppose it is?" Austin asked as Xander headed out of the room.

Xander shrugged, "Don't know. Could be anything I guess... but I'd rather not have some random circuits shorting out after ten thousand years of spotty maintanence. Not now."

"Yeah, I can understand that." Austin nodded.

Merlin appeared beside them, "The fluctuations are climbing levels rapidly... Starting to get more data one them now..."

"Huh? What's going on?" Xander frowned, "a faulty circuit couldn't do that..."

"Indeed not." Merlin replied testily, "and I object to the implication that I have been neglecting my duties."

"I didn't mean that, Merlin." Xander said, still walking. "I just meant..."

Merlin cut him off, the old man's expression sharpening. "I just analyzed the data... It's weapons fire. And it's already on this level and heading toward the VIP lounge fast."

Murphy McManus laughed as he ducked under the spattering of electrical energy that nailed the wall ahead of him. "Ye missed!"

"I'll show you!" Connor growled, still chasing his brother through the halls. He dove under another series of shots, sliding along the floor as he returned fire. "Come back and fight like a man, ye pansy!"

"Who're you callin a pansy!?" Murphy laughed, "I'm not the one who got his ass kicked in fifth grade!"

"Oh sure, bring that up!" Connor muttered, "Never mind that it happened cause I was busy savin yer ass from..."

"Ah shut up!" Murphy laughed, firing another salvo at his brother.

"Hey Paige,"

"Faith." Paige nodded.

"Mind if I join you?"

The request was admirably polite, at least in Paige's experience with the young Slayer. She nodded, motioning to the place beside her. Faith smiled and sat down.

"How's it going?"

Paige shrugged, "Ok I guess."

"You and the X-man doing ok?" Faith asked.

"Why, you looking for an opening?" Paige asked archly.

Faith grinned, shaking her head. "Look, me and Xander are just friends really."

Paige looked at her, eyebrows arced.

"Well... ookaaaay..." faith conceded, "not *just* friends, but that's not the big part of our relationship. We just got together when neither of us had anyone else to turn to. Believe me, I'm not looking to break you guys up or anything."

"That's nice to know."

"Not that I wouldn't mind joining the fun sometimes."

Paige choked on her drink at the blatant advance from the younger girl. "Are you for real??"

"As real as you want." Faith smirked. "Hey, when you face death as often as we do in this business you either look for some way to relieve the stress or you start going nuts... sometimes both. Me, I like relieving the stress."

"I'd never have guessed." Paige muttered dryly.

"Aw now, don't be like that." Faith grinned, "It's not like I'm planning on jumping ya in the middle of the night. I'm not THAT forward. I've just had a long dry spell since the time dealy... was kinda hoping that X would help bring on the rain."

"More information then I needed." Paige said sourly, then frowned at Faith, "Besides... you do realize that you look like you're..."

"Fourteen?" Faith asked, her own face turning sour. "Yeah. I got that. Believe me, I got that. It's hell, let me tell you... At least Xander can pass for twenty one if he wants... me, I'm gonna look like a kid for another year or so at least..."

Then she brightened, "But I DO blossom up real nice, real fast... that much I remember."

Paige eyed the young Slayer for a moment, then nodded oddly. "If you say so."

Faith grinned, sliding her hand along her side suggestively. "Yeah, go on... make fun. We'll see who laughs last."

Paige shivered, it was decidedly strange to see someone who looked as young as Faith act as 'adult' as she did. Paige wondered briefly why the girl was acting like this, whether it was normal for her to be this forward with people she didn't know. It seemed odd for someone as old as Faith claimed to be. Briefly she wondered about the effects of this sort of physical regression on a maturing psyche, but quickly shrugged it off. For obvious reasons it would be difficult in the extreme to test.

Paige was about to change the subject when a sudden commotion sounded from the hallway, attracting bother their attentions. There was an electrical sound that Paige couldn't identify. "What's that?"

Faith frowned, her face growing serious. "That sounds a lot like..."

Before she could finish the doors burst open and the McManus brothers came running in, Connor chasing Murphy, with two things in their hands.

Faith's eyes widened fast and she instantly tackled Paige as blue white lightning flashed through the room. "Down!!"

"Come on." Xander urged, "Double time!"

He stepped up into a fast run, noting instantly that Austin paced him without even breathing hard. Xander chided himself for taking it easy on the other man, remembering the implants he had, and increased his own pace to a flat out run.

Beside him, Austin was momentarily surprised by the burst of speed from the young man, but then quickly matched the speed and ran along side him as they raced for the lounge.

Connor growled, smiling wickedly as his brother tripped over a chair and skidded along the ground. "I've got ye now, Murph!"

"What the FUCK IS GOING ON!?"

The scream distracted him and he turned to see Faith picking herself off another dark haired beauty, her eyes blazing. Guiltily, Connor hid his gun behind his back. "Ah well... Ye see Sis... It's all Murphy's fault..."

"What!?" Murphy pulled himself off the floor, his face a mask of righteous indignation. "It is not!"

"Ye shot me!"

"It was an accident!!"

"Was not!"

"Was too!"

Faith watched, eyes wide in shock as the brothers got into a bickering argument. When the Zats in their hands came back up though, she let out another scream. "CUT IT OUT!!"

The brothers looked guiltily at her again, hiding the guns behind their backs.

"Are you two NUTS!?" Faith raged, helping Paige to her feet. "You can't play with guns like that!!"

"Aw relax, Sis." The brothers grinned. ""They're just stunners..."

Faith's eyes widened. "Those are ZATS you idiots! One shot stuns, but two *kills*!!"

The brother gaped at each other in shock, both pulling the guns out to look at them again. They suddenly felt like someone who was just informed that the water pistol they were playing russian roulette with was the real deal.

Faith rushed forward and grabbed the guns from them both. "Give me those! Where the hell did you find..."

At that point the doors burst open again and Xander rushed him, followed by Steve Austin. He looked around wildly, "We detected weapons fire from this..."

His eyes settled on Faith and the two Zats in her hands and his face disolved into utter shock. "My God Faith... tell me you weren't playing with a pair of Zats."

Faith looked down at the weapons in her hands, then up at Xander in shock. He stumbled over her words in her rush to defend herself. "What!? Of course not! I'd never do..."

"Ok, ok!" Xander held up his hands fast. "I knew that Parker taught you better then that. So who the hell was popping off Zat blasts like it was the fourth of July!?"

The twins shifted uncomfortably, looking between each other and then at the floor.

Xander slapped a hand to his forehead. "You have GOT to be kidding me!! Who the hell are you two?? You can't run around firing off weapons like they're waterguns! What were you doing anyway??"

Faith pursed her lips, glaring at the brothers. "They were playing TAG."

Xander stared between the Slayer and her adopted brothers in shock. His mouth opened and closed like a fish trying to breath air. Finally he managed to speak, "Are you SHITTING ME!??"

The look on their faces was enough to convince him and Xander started to lay into the two, but was stopped by a hand on his chest.

"Back off boytoy." Faith said simply, "I'll deal with this."

Xander stopped in mid breath, looking at Faith seriously for a moment. Her stance had changed, and there was something in her eyes that wasn't familiar to him. Not from her at anyrate. The playful tone she usually took with him was gone, and the Slayer was obviously not going to take no for an answer.

Xander nodded, stepping back and to the side. He nodded to the door, "Get them out of here."

Faith nodded, grabbing both brothers by the shoulders and dragging them out of the lounge.


She stopped, turning back.

"Leave the Zats." Xander said.

Faith looked at the weapons she was still holding and then nodded, dropping them off on a table. Then she grabbed both brothers again and hustled them out the door, not listening to them whine and complain about her grip as she did.

Xander watched them go for a long moment before walking up to the Zats and flipping the two police weapons over. He looked at them for a moment, then flipped a switch on the bottom of each and dropped them back on the table. When he turned around he found Paige and Steve staring at him oddly.

"I just safetied the guns." He explained.

"Not that." Paige said, "Why'd you let them go so easily? Jeeez, if I'd pulled a stunt like that you've still be yelling."

"You've had training." Xander said, "and I was the one who trained you. Yelling at them isn't my job right now, It's Faith's."

Austin nodded silently, then walked over to the Zats. "Interesting weapons."

"Zat'Nicatel." Xander said off handedly, mulling over the situation in his mind. "Police weapons... One shot stuns a human, the second charge is lethal... Three reduces a body to ash."

"*Police* weapons??" Austin asked inredulously, "What kind of cop has that sort of firepower?"

"They were designed in a different time," Xander explained. "Maximum versatility was the catch phrase of the day. They're keyed to the human nervous system... The first charge is the precise amount it takes to overload a human being's nervous system without killing him... The second charge, obviously steps over that line."

"Obviously." Austin said, shaking his head. "I think I prefer normal bullets. Something like this would tend to make you resort to violence all the faster."

Xander nodded, "It happened. Still does."

Then he walked over to Paige, concern on his face. "You ok?"

She shook herself slightly, checking her body as if foe extra holes. "Yeah... I think so. Faith... She tackled me to the ground when the shots went off."

Xander nodded, "I'll have to remember to thank her."

"You and me both." Paige muttered, "Those things really kill?"

"On the second shot." Xander confirmed. "The first shot hurts like hell though."

"Lovely." Paige shuddered.

Xander shot a dark look at the door, but restrained himself from running out and catching up with Faith and the brothers.

"Faith..." Paige frowned, "She changed... didn't she?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah... she changed... like someone threw a light switch."

"She took command." Austin said from where he was still looking at the Zats.


"She took command." Steve repeated, "They were her people. She brought them here. She was responsible. So she's handling it."

Xander nodded slowly, "Yeah... yeah. That's it. The Brothers actions reflected on her."

Austin nodded, walking over. "Basically. Frankly, I think the brothers are soon gonna be wishing they had zapped each other a couple times apiece."

Xander snorted, "Knowing Faith's temper? I'd take that option."

"Thanks for gettin us out of that one, Sis..." Murphy started as they entered her room.

"What the HELL were you two thinking!?" Faith raged as soon as the door to her room closed.

"Hey now!" Connor held up his hands, grinning lightly. "Murphy started it all... and we just thought they were stunners..."

"What difference does that make!?" Faith spun around, shaking her head in rage. "God! I thought you two knew *something* about guns!!"

"Hey, we're almost as good a shot as you are." Murphy objected.

"Right." Faith said sarcastically, then shook her head. "And SO not what I was talking about! Damn it! You can't be stupid like that!! You could have gotten killed... or WORSE, killed someone else! What if you'd hit me or Paige with a couple shots?? Huh? Christ! Xander would have flayed you alive and left you out for the gulls!"

"Here now," Connor objected. "There's no need of that. We fucked up, we admit it... but no harm came of it..."

Faith shook in her anger, barely keeping from causing serious bodily injury to both of them. She forced herself to calm down, remembering all the anger management she could in order to accomplish that monumental task.

"No Harm?" She spoke deliberately and calmly, but her voice held an icy edge. "You just made yourselves look like complete ASSES in front of Xander. And made me look like an idiot for trusting you!"

"Come on, Sis..." Murphy tried, his voice starting to sound a little guilty. "What do we care what he thinks?"

Faith turned and stalked up on Murphy slowly, her fists balled up as she silently counted down. When she was just in front of him she again kept herself from resorting to physical violence. "I Care."

She turned and looked at the two of them evenly. "Don't you get it?? Either of you? This isn't some two bit vampire picking girls up at a pub! It's not even a Master Vamp like Kakistos... We are looking at an invasion here! Armies equipped with weapons that make those Zats look like the kids toys you two treated them as!"

She walked away from them for a bit, then turned back. "Murphy... Connor... You've been family to me when I needed it most... and I love you both for it. But if you don't grow up, or at least pretend to for a while, I'm going to ask Xander to lock you up."

Before the brothers could say anything else, Faith kept talking.

"Because, as much as I love you... and as much as I think you can help... This is going to become ground zero. And if you're not helping, then you're going to get us all killed or worse."

With that Faith walked out the door, leaving the brothers in her room. In the hallway, she paused. "Merlin?"

"Yes, Ma'am?"

"Lock my door until I get back."

"Yes Ma'am." Merlin replied.

The door to the room hissed shut and the lights by it shifted from green to red. Faith shook her head and walked away.

Another small island in the Pacific

A sonic boom shattered the peaceful setting of the idyllic island paradise, causing birds to flutter into the air in huge flocks and the other wildlife to start loud commotions throughout the beautiful setting.

"Oh for cryin out loud!! That's the eighth time today!!"

"You're complaining about it isn't helping you know."

"But they just keep flying over us!!"

"Something's up... Something big."

"Oh you don't know that. You always say that!"

"I'm always right, aren't I."

"We don't have to get involved. We've done out share of getting involved, and it NEVER turns out good for us!"

"What happened to the Brave Knight who longed for battles and heroic tales to be told of him?"

"He grew up! You should try it too."

"I've got a few thousand more years before that happens."

"Oh god. Just what I need to look forward to. You going through puberty. God save us all. Look, just don't do anything stupid, ok? We'll wait and see what's going on before we get involved... Last thing we need is something like Berlin to happen all over again."

"That wasn't my fault."


"Anyway... I happen to agree... but when we do know..."

"Aye, aye... then we'll do what we can... IF it turns out to be something we *should* get involved in."

"Right. See? There's that Knight I used to know..."

"Don't remind me. I've been trying to kill him for centuries... damned bugger won't stay down."


"We really fucked up didn't we, Connor."

Connor nodded miserably. "Aye."

"What are we gonna do about it?"

"Wisen up I suppose." Connor muttered. "Not much else to do. Sis is right, this is bigger then us now... I don't even know what we can do except stay out of the others way."

"This sucks."


"Ok... ye think we should apologize?"

Connor twisted his mouth, "To Sis, or to the ass?"


"We have to tell Sis we're sorry. That at least." Connor said sighing.

"And the ass?"

"Fuck him."

Murphy smiled, "Aye."

Faith wandered up to the top level she was aware of, then just sort of stopped and looked around for a bit. She felt a little lost. She'd had fights with her 'brothers' before, God knew, but nothing like this. She'd never had to really chew them out before, not for anything that felt so damned serious. They were reckless, she knew that, but they were damned good at what they did too.

The brothers seemed to carry an almost supernatural luck about themselves, almost like nothing could touch them. That had saved them all more then once in the past, and Faith *knew* that it would certainly do so again in the future.

She sighed, slumping against a wall. She'd hoped that Xander and the McManus twins would like each other. They even reminded her a lot of Xander as he used to be. Loyal, Faithful, willing to stand up against anything and anyone for their 'family. They were just a pair of ordinary guys, but they saw the darkness and simply had to fight it no matter what level of skill they had.

Just like Xander.

The problem was that fundamentally, they were exactly what Xander always pretended to be. Flippant, reckless, and damn near suicidal. What had been a mask for Xander, an armor of sorts to hide how serious he really took things, was the real deal for them. They saw life as a game of some sorts, or one big movie.

Faith shook her head, trying like hell to rein in her emotions. God she loved them like no one else since Xander and her parents, but right now she was still barely able to keep herself from running back in there and beating them within an inch of their lives.

Faith stopped, her eyes widening. Love? Had she really thought that? She couldn't have. That wasn't part of who she was, that was something she'd cut away long ago, along with everything else that made up Dana Tasker.

Faith didn't love. Faith couldn't afford to.

She swallowed hard, sliding down the wall and sitting on the floor as she buried her head in her knees.

It was some time later when Xander looked up to see Faith walk softly into his office. He had been talking over some plans with Merlin, Jack O'Neill, and Steve Austin, but both of them fell silent when the dark Slayer stepped in.

"I'm sorry for earlier." Faith said, "It won't happen again."

Xander nodded, silently noting the faint redness around her eyes and the almost invisible tracks that ran down her cheeks. His jaw clenched as he fought to keep a calm visage, knowing that Faith wouldn't like any inquiries. <If those two SOB's gave her a hard time over *their* fuckup, I'll leave them topside to rot.>

All he did was nod once though, speaking softly. "Good enough, Faith. Thanks for handling it."

She nodded, then turned to leave.

"Take a seat, if you have a couple minutes..." Xander motioned to a seat. "We're discussing tactics for the assault."

"Out of my league, Xander." Faith said, her voice still soft, but firm.

"Maybe. Maybe not." Xander shrugged. "You've got as much experience as most of the people here... not in air warfare certainly, but your field time should still be useful. Take a seat."

Faith stiffened slightly, noting that Xander's last 'request' had sounded more like an order. She didn't say anything about it though, and elected to sit down.

Xander nodded once, then motioned to the display. "This is what we're looking at right now. If things go according to plan, we'll draw the Pyramid ship down into the atmosphere within a few hundred miles of this location."

A red circle lit up, surrounding Avalon on the display.

"Within this area we'll be able to strike within less then fifteen minutes." Xander continued. "Hopefully supported by or supporting the International militaries that are currently winding up their alert readiness. We do have one major problem though..."

"What's that?" Faith asked, getting interested despite herself.

"Goa'uld Craft... their fighter craft, at least, are practically RADAR invisible." Xander said, frowning. "That means that the conventional aircraft won't be able to hit them until they can see them. Which will put the Earth forces at a sever disadvantage... They aren't used to close up scraps anymore, and the Jaffa pilots will be."

"What about heat seekers?" Colonel O'Neill asked.

Merlin shook his head, "Death Gliders thermal signature is far too low to entrust to heat seeking missiles."


Xander nodded, "Right. This is a big deal, because modern air combat is based heavily on long range strikes."

"Can anything see them?" Faith asked simply.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. The Hammerhead's... LIDAR, for lack of a better term, sees them just fine. They're RADAR stealthy, but not invisible, so the laser systems on our fighters pick them up normally."

Faith didn't understand the terms, but got the drift of the conversation. "So we can see them, but the army boys can't?"


"Too bad we can hook them up with the LIDAR you're talking about."

Steve frowned, "That's a thought..."

"What? Give the Earth fighter's LIDAR tracking technology?" Xander frowned. "Even if I was willing to give up advanced technology, there's no way we could get them equipped fast enough."

O'Neill shot Xander a hard glance, but he either didn't see it or ignored it.

"No... I mean, can we patch their system into ours?" Steve asked. "Let them see what we see?"

Xander's eyes widened as he thought about it, "You mean act as a long range scout to their 'artillery'? It's a thought... Merlin?"

The powerful AI unit considered, then reluctantly nodded. "Were I to hack their AWACS system I could probably relay the appropriate data... however the LIDAR systems are not designed for this type of data gathering... there would be serious gaps in the coverage."

Xander sighed. "Well... It's better then nothing. Get to work on that, Merlin. We'll try to figure out something else."

"Very well."

Xander turned to Faith and smiled, "Good plan."

Faith looked around oddly, "Wasn't my idea..."

"Sounded like it to me." Colonel Austin said smiling, "You had the brainstorm. We just put it together."

"You still haven't told me what you plan to do against a monstrosity like that Pyramid ship with a bunch of fighters." Jack said sternly, leaning forward. "You say this thing is armored up the yin yang, and has energy shields on top of it... Do we have anything thing that can pierce it?"

Xander nodded, "Don't mistake real life for Science Fiction, Jack. Energy shields are tough buggers, but they're not invulnerable. The Goa'uld shields can be disrupted by coordinated strikes from one team, allowing a second flight to pump a few Naquadria based warheads through the hole."

Jack paled slightly. He wasn't a hundred percent certain of what Naquadria was, but he did have a little experience with Naquada and the two words were way too close for his comfort. "What kind of a yield are we talking about?"

Xander shrugged, "Relatively small yeild... under a hundred megatons anyway. But we can't use them unless we have the holes ready to drop them through... Otherwise the blast will shut down a large chunk of the hemisphere."

"EMP?" Austin asked, keeping from flinching.

Xander nodded. "Basically."

Faith looked around, confused. "EM what?"

"Electro-magnetic Pulse." Xander said calmly. "Basically the explosion could shut down all electronic systems within it's range unless we deliver the missiles *inside* the shielding of the ship."

Jack actually smiled, "You're talking about using their own shields to protect *us*."


Faith frowned lightly, catching Xander's attention. "What?"

She pursed her lips, and sort of shrugged. "I don't know... I always thought that shields would be tougher to get around... you know? Like in the movies."

Xander shook his head, "It's pretty rare, historically speaking, for defensive technology to outstrip offensive tech. By the time energy shields became viable, the Atlanteans already knew a dozen ways to blow them apart... Same holds true for the Goa'uld..."


Xander nodded, "Right. Ok... Next... something a little closer to home. Merlin, you told me that Avalon's defenses are currently offline?"

"Our Air defense systems are currently disabled." Merlin confirmed. "Internal and Undersea defenses are operating normally."

"Why only the air defenses?" Xander asked.

"There was a significant Tsunami four thousand three hundred and twelve years ago." Merlin said in disgust. "It severely compromised external emplacements and they went offline one thousand and eighty two years ago."

Steve's eyes widened, but Xander just shrugged and moved on.

"Alright... That means we'll need a ground force ready here, just in case they break through our lines." Xander said, then continued quickly as he noted Merlin about to raise an objections. "Assuming that they somehow manage to get a precise lock on the island... which Merlin has assured me they won't. Still..."

Xander turned and looked at Faith, "Just to be safe, I'd like you to handle that part of the operation, Faith."

Her eyes widened, "Me? No way, uh uh. Not gonna happen, Boytoy."

He frowned at her for a long moment, but didn't comment. "Who else? Connor? Murphy?"

Faith winced.

"Right." Xander said with a tone of finality. "You just drew command duty. Get used to it. Your team will be the non-flyers... That means Yourself, Paige, Daniel Jackson, Cles.... and the brothers."

Xander's lips curled slightly as he said that last bit, causing him to draw Faith's attention. Again she wondered why Xander and the brothers couldn't seem to get along. Outwardly she just nodded sullenly. "Alright. What do you need me to do?"

Xander smiled, "First we have to check you out on some heavier weapons."

He turned to Merlin, "Merlin... Power up the Base Defense Armory and prepare a lift."

Merlin nodded once, "Done."

"Let's go."

Island somewhere else in the Pacific

"Damn it! Can't a guy get ANY sleep around here?"

"Apparently not. Have you learned what the fuss is?"

"No. All my contacts are shutting up faster then I can ask them anything. Either every nation on earth just flipped their lids, or something has them scared shitless. And after I donated all that money to their campaigns too."

"So we know nothing."

"I didn't say that."


"The US has been redeploying fighter wings to the west coast like mad. From the looks of it they expect a major scrap anytime now."

"The Chinese? Or the Russians?"

"Niether. Chinese and Russian fighter wings have been updated with allied IFF codes. They're coming into this furball on the same side."

"What the hell could draw THOSE three together?"

"You got me, old friend. Whatever it is, has them all running scared though."

"I think..."

"Don't say it."

"I THINK..."

"I said, Don't say it!"

"I think, that we are going to have to get involved."

"Damn. I told you not to say it. This won't end well, you know? We almost got killed by allied forces in '44 over Berlin... what makes you think thise time is gonna be any better??"


"One of these days, you and me are gonna have a long talk about survival of the species..."

"What does survival of your species have to do with this?"

"I was talking about YOUR species you idiot!"

As the group walked into Avalon's primary defense armory, Xander looked around.

"Stores are kinda thin, Merlin..."

"I'm afraid that weaponry was one of the few things that was considered at a premium after the fall." Merlin said, "While there were very few people capable of using the aircraft and other vehicles in my stores, weapons skills were not so lacking."

Xander sighed and nodded, looking at the bare racks of the huge room. "Great. What about the Spec Ops Armory?"

"That is largely intact." Merlin replied, "I initiated a complete lock down when Atlantis was struck down. Since then I have not been visited by authorized personnel."

"And me?"

"You, Sir, are authorized."

Xander nodded, "Open the gates, then Merlin. Open the gates."

"Aye Sir."

There was a click at the far end of the huge room, and two large doors slid open. Xander nodded his head and the group walked down the long room and into the Spec Ops armory.


Xander smiled, "Oh yeah... That's the stuff."

They looked around the well stocked room, noting armor, weapons, and various other devices.

"What the hell is this?" Jack O'Neill asked, walking over to a wall segment that was covered with awkward looking devices.

Xander walked over, his eyes going vacant for a moment as he was briefed on the weapon by Elan. "That's Faith's new best friend."

"Excuse me?" Faith asked, looking at the odd contraption with skepticism.

Xander pulled one of them off the wall and smiled at Faith, "Hold still."

Faith did as she was told and Xander started talking as he slowly fitted the weapon to Faith.

"This is the combat version of a Staff Weapon, Jack... It's a little more compact, but it weighs more because it's loaded with Naquadria instead of Naqueda to power it's systems. That means that the gun has to worn, and the user has to be pretty fit to use it to it's best advatage..." Xander smiled, looking up at Faith as he cinched some of the fittings tighter around her, "That or they have to be the Slayer."


Xander ignored the question, taking an odd looking headset from the shelf and fitting it around the back of Faith's neck so that it closed like a clam shell around her head. It covered her left ear and her right eye and locked firmly into place.

"Hey!" She complained, "now I'm half blind and deaf! What the hell is this?"

Xander grinned, "Relax..."

He flipped a switch on the weapon and tapped in an arming code from Elan's memory. The weapon suddenly jerked in Faith's hands, literally swinging her around as a whine came from it.

"Whoa!!" She yelped, her visible eye wide with shock. "What the hell is this??"

Xander grinned, "The best way to describe this would be to call it... A Smart Gun."

Xander reached into the weapons case and pulled out a small metal ball. He held it up to Faith's eye, "When this appears in your cross hairs... pull the trigger."

She swallowed, then nodded.

Xander squeezed the ball and it suddenly lit up, then he whipped it away from the group and dropped to his knees.

Faith abruptly swung around, the gun whining as it pulled her in the direction of the target sphere, too surprised to even thing of fighting the motion. The monocular scope covering her eyes instantly locked onto the sphere as it entered the guns' reticule and a red flash alreted her when the sphere was targeted. Faith squeezed the firing stud reflexively, letting out a rapid fire burst of energy from the barrel.

Blinding blasts of yellow force reached out and slapped the ball in mid air before it even had a chance to hit the far wall, deactivated it. As the target sphere fell to the ground, the Smart Gun powered down as well. Alien script flashed in the reticule, dropping from a red color code to a cool blue.

"Whoa..." Faith muttered as her heart rate started to drop from the pounding it had jumped too, "What the hell?"

Xander checked out the displays on the gun as he smiled at her, "I set it to practice mode... It fired low powered bursts used in training... not even high enough to stun someone, but it would sting pretty bad I guess. Nice shooting."

"Wasn't me." Faith said, heart still beating fast. "This thing pulled me along for the ride."

"That's the point..." Xander frowned, looking at the displays. He looked up to merlin's Avatar, "Can you link up to this thing and update the language matrix to english?"

Merlin nodded, falling silent for a moment. "Uploading new protocols."

Faith's eyes widened again as the lettering on the reticule shifted to english and she read the display. Target eliminated, current threat profile... zero. She shivered slightly, "Damn. What does this thing even need me for?"

Xander smirked, "Never trust machines completely, Faith... No offence, Merlin."

"None Taken, Commander." Merlin replied easily. "I am not a mere machine. And the Smartgun would be incapable of holding an AI routine."

Xander nodded, turning his attention back to Faith. "The gun is just a support system. *You* have to think fast and make the moral descisions for it. Is the target friend or foe? Is the target armed? Do you shoot, or not? The gun just alerts you to any threats and points you in their direction."

Faith nodded, getting her breath back. Suddenly she grinned widely, "Damn that was wicked cool."

"Glad you liked it." Xander grinned.

Jack was looking at the stock carefully, mentally tallying what was in the room. "You don't have many of these things..."

Xander shook his head, "No... there should be twenty of them in here. Smart Gunners were assigned to Spec Ops groups in pairs, and Avalon normally had ten teams ready to roll at a given time. Something like your SG teams, Jack."

O'Neill shot him a dirty glance, but didn't comment. Instead he looked over the room, "These would come in very handy against the Goa'uld..."

"That's what they're for, Jack." Xander said, "but I don't know for sure if I'll authorize turning any of them over to the SGC."

"Why the hell not??"

"Three letters, Jack." Xander muttered, "N.I.D."

O'Neill blinked, trying to place the letters, but other then a slightly familiar sound he couldn't. "What hell is that?"

"Don't know about them yet, huh?" Xander's lips turned up into curl of derision. "They're a covert group that's been... covertly... attached to the SGC. They're mission is to acquire technology for Uncle Sam, no questions asked, no excuses offered. Watch your back, Jack. They don't know how to play nice with others."

Jack hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't believe you."

Xander smiled, "Yes you do. You just don't want to admit it."

Jack looked like he wanted to say more, but didn't. Instead he turned to the rest of the stuff and looked it over, "What's all this?"

Xander glanced over, shrugging. "Handheld sensors, computers... just some basic gear."

Jack rolled his eyes, "Basic gear he says..."

Xander walked past the sidearms and light arms, ignoring the alien looking devices. He stepped up to a far wall and sighed, "Merlin... what's the status on the powered armor units?"

"In stasis, Commander." Merlin replied. "Until they can be tailored to a specific genome, they are useless."

Xander nodded, "Time to accomplish?"

Merlin gave a very human shrug, "Several months at least. Mapping nerve clusters is time consuming."

Xander nodded, turning around. "Alright. The Smart Guns will have to do. Faith, you and your team will practice with them tomorrow while the rest of use are in the simulators. Ok?"

She nodded hesitantly, but when she spoke there was no hint of wavering in her tone. "You got it, Xan."

April 3rd, Contact minus 2

"And so public opinion continues to weigh heavily against President Whitmore as the world appears to be spiraling toward World War Three. For CNN, I'm Andrea Marshal..."

"Turn that off."

Arnold Van Damm nodded and flicked off the tv, he turned back to his President and shook his head slowly. "It's going to get worse before it gets better. If we leaked a little bit of..."

"No!" POTUS snapped, "No leaks! This could cause panic across the entire planet... I won't add to that."

Arnie nodded, sighing. "Very well, Mr President."

How was he supposed to deal with a POTUS who cared more for the country then for getting reelected? Arnie Van Damm sighed again, but decided that he'd protect the man as best he could. For a brief instant, he almost wished he had another bastard in the oval office. At least then doing his job would be easier.

Then Arnie kicked himself, No a bastard as POTUS wasn't what the country or the world needed right now. They needed a Martyr.

And damned if they didn't get one just when he was needed most, Van Damm sighed. He'd protect Whitmore from the vicious mob of public opinion for as long as he could, but unless something drastically changed, there was damned little he could do to save the man's career.

The Irony of that, wasn't lost on Arnie in the slightest.


Xander sighed, looking over the reports from Merlin for the second time of the day. The pilots were all doing quite well, even his own numbers were up nicely. But he was left with two large problems.

First, Warbird Flight desperately needed one more pilot. A pilot that Xander simply didn't have. They'd tried to run a three man wing team, but it hadn't worked out to well and the team's odd number was hurting their efficiency.

That problem was by far the biggest one facing him, and Xander was kicking himself constantly for letting it get this bad. Even if he could find another pilot to shore up the flight, he was never going to be able to get the man trained in time to make it worthwhile.

All of that just made the next problem seem a lot worse then it really should have been. Faith's ground team... wasn't.

Xander was fairly certain that she was doing her best, and he whole heartedly approved off her command decision to equip the twins with practice Zats instead of the Smart Guns. However she had elected to equip Daniel Jackson with one of the Smart Guns and that hadn't worked out so well.

Xander grimaced as he called up the security scans and played them back again.

Several Hours earlier

"So this gun aims itself?" Daniel asked cautiously as he looked through the monocular scope as Faith worked on some of the settings on the weapon he was wearing.

"Yep." Faith confirmed as she tapped in the activating sequence, glossing completely over the lengthy explanations Xander had insisted she listen to. She tapped in the final activation with a slight flourish as the weapon hummed to life.

"Whoa!" Daniel jumped in surprise as the weapon came to life in his hands. He could feel the tension in the thing he was wearing, almost like he was holding a living creature rather then a pile of technology.

Faith nodded once, then retrieved a targeting sphere from the shelf. "I'm going to throw this in a moment... when the gun aims at it don't fight the motion, go with it and squeeze the trigger when you see it in the target screen."

"Uhhh ok..." Daniel nodded.

Around them the entire ground bound group were standing around to watch the demonstration. Faith activated the sphere, then held it up.

That was her first mistake.

The Smart Gun whirred into action, it's internal sensors detecting the target spehere and automatically moving to edge it's wielder toward the threat. Daniel, shocked despite the warning he'd recieved, accidently tightened his grip on the weapon in the worst possible way.

He squeezed the firing stud.

The Smart Gun went off, immediately hosing the room down with low powered energy bursts. The assembled people yelped in shock and dove for cover as the blasts ripped through the room. Tara yelped, hitting the floor more by reflex then intent. Paige actually screamed, but orbed out as the blasts flashed by her. Unfortunately, for Connor and Murphy McManus at least, the twins were standing more or less behind Paige.

Stunned into inaction by the column of white light in front of them, they utterly missed the strafing Smart Gun as it crossed their position. The low powered setting wasn't sufficient to stun them into unconsciousness, but getting struck by several dozen blasts apiece was sufficient to knock both of them into the wall behind them. By the time the brothers had started to slide to the floor, the Smart Gun had already swept smoothly past them.

Cles dropped to one knee as the blasts ran past over her head and rolled her eyes slightly as she rose back to her feet after the weapon passed her.

Faith, for her part, tried to jump in and stop Jackson's Inadvertent rampage.

That, Xander reflected as he watched the screen, would be her second mistake.

She had forgotten that she was still holding the target sphere, and as she got closer to Jackson the threat analysis of the gun rose proportionately. By the time she was close enough to grab the gun, the gun was travelling fast enough that she missed it. It, however, did not miss her.

Jackson cried out in pained realization as the weapon barrel rapped Faith across the forehead and knocked her feet out from under her. She hit the ground hard, seeing stars and looking utterly shocked by the turn of events.

Faith finally, Xander noted shaking his head, did something right.

Of course, it was probably the shock of hitting the floor as hard as she did, but she finally let go of the targeting sphere.

It bumped and rolled clear, attracting the attention of the weapon in Doctor Jackson's hand. Unfortunately, by this time, Daniel was horrified by the antics of the weapon in his hands, and was trying his very best to fight the motions of the weapon, which was resulting in a second, and much more haphazard, hosing of the room.

Cles casually tapped the target sphere with her foot, knocking well away from her position, then ducked under the renewed fire that pelted her position. It passed quickly though, still tracking the sphere as Jackson kept trying to fight the Smart Gun.

Paige saw it coming a lot sooner this time and just broke and ran as the energy pelted through her position.

Xander, for his part, had to suppress a laugh as the barely recovered McManus twins took a second pelting from the painful energy bursts, again slamming into the wall and sliding remarkably slowly down to the ground.

The gun kept tracking the sphere as Tara's eyes widened in shock. Xander saw her mouth work, but her words were too quiet to be heard over the general ruckus. He was able to tell what she had said though when the air around her solidified into a solid shell that deflected the energy as it passed her position.

Finally the gun managed to win its fight with Dr Jackson long enough to target the sphere. The rapid fire bursts hit and deactivated the sphere a moment later and Dr Jackson looked around as the gun whirred to silence and went limp in his hands.

"Sorry..." He said, chagrined, "I'm really not a gun person..."

Xander sighed, shaking his head. It was a good thing that he really didn't expect to need these people to actually *defend* avalon.

"Merlin... Status of internal defenses?"

Merlin permitted himself a slight smile, "Perfectly Operational."

"Thank god." Xander sighed, sitting back. "Do me a favor..."

"Of course, Sir."

"I want all the weapons locked into practice mode until and unless a hostile force actually lands."

"Knight Lead, this is Three... Target in sight."

"Roger that Three," Captain Hiller said as he checked Skye's position on his HUD, "She's right where she's supposed to be... You've got lead on this, Skye."

"Roger that, Lead." Jarod Skye replied, "I've recieved approach vectors and am taking her in."

Hiller acknowledged the report, then pushed his thrust up a little more as he watched the ocean ahead of him. He spotted the wake of the carrier first, the irridescent green glowing in the dimming light as he over flew it. Then he spotted Skye's running lights in the distance.

As he got closer, Hiller watched with mild curiousity as Skye hit his approach vector and began his descent onto the carrier's flight deck.

As the FA/18 hit the deck in a perfect 'trap' Hiller nodded. "Not bad, Skye. Maybe you won't slow us down... too much."

"Gee thanks, Captain." Skye's voice came back. "I'll try not to hold ya'll back too much."

"Wise ass." Hiller muttered, hearing the snide tone in the other pilots voice. "Alright, Two... it's your turn."

"As the good reverend would say..."

"Just land the damn plane!"

Choruses of 'amen' echoed over the net for the next several moments.

"Is that it?"

Maria nodded slowly, "Should be according to Xander's corrdinates."

She and Giles looked over the forward deck of the 579 at the island that had loomed out of nowhere in their path. It had an almost ominous presence as the setting sun caused it to cast long dark shadows over the ocean.

The PT boat cruised into the the longest of the shadows, and the sun was slowly eclipsed by the towering cliffs.

"Commander... I believe that your guests have arrived."

Xander looked up, smiling. "Thank god. Maybe with a little help from G-man we'll keep our 'ground forces' from wrecking the place."

"Hopefully." Merlin muttered.

Xander got up, "I guess I'll meet them... Clear them into the lagoon."

"Clearance granted." Merlin confirmed.

Maria blinked, actually rubbing her eyes as she looked at the water ahead of her.

No. She really was seeing what she thought she was seeing. She turned to Giles, "Mr Giles..."

He just nodded, still looking ahead. "Yes, Maria... I see it as well."

Ahead of them the water had begun to glow slightly in a moving pattern that seemed to beckon them inward through a curving path that seemed to lead into the blue green lagoon ahead of them.

"What do I do?"

Giles considered, then shrugged, "I think we follow the shimmering water, Maria... and accept the obvious invitation."

The 579 drifted to a stop in the oddly glowing circle of water they found themselves in, the entire complement was out on deck and looking at the water with varying degrees of trepidation.

"I've never seen anything like this..." Maria said softly, suppressing a shiver. She had practically been borne at sea, and had spent her entire life either on the water or trying like hell to get back. She loved the ocean, but respected and feared it as well. And this was one of those times that fear was warring with respect.

"I don't sense anything magical..." Robert Sinclair frowned, staring at the swirling patterns of light and liquid.

Giles nodded slowly, "Nor I. I wonder if..."

Whatever he wondered about was never to be uttered, because at that moment a humming sound filled the air and everyone instantly turned toward it.

In the center of the swirling mass of light, at the very center of the immense lagoon on which the floated, three rings leapt from the waves without so much as causing a ripple and then simply sat there. A second later there was a flash of light and a figure appeared in the rings, then they dropped away. Leaving said figure standing confidently on the surface of the lagoon.

"Bloody hell."

That was the only thing uttered by anyone on the 579, but it was enough. No one else spoke as the figure, little more then a shadow against the swirling mass of light and water, strode toward them. As it, or rather he, appeared finally from the shadows they all saw the black uniform take shape and the odd way the water under his feet would ripple as he walked.

Finally his face appeared and Xander Harris grinned up at all of them, no sign of anything resembling decorum on his face. "Hey guys, what's up? You all look like you just saw somebody walk on water..."

For a long moment no one answered, then a snarling voice broke the silence.

"Bloody Hell! Xander you little *pratt*! Are you trying to give me a heart attack!?"

"So that's the situation."

"Good Lord." Giles muttered, reaching by reflex for glasses he didn't wear, to clean them with a handkerchief that he no longer had. "I knew it was going to be bad, Xander... but this..."

"Well," Xander said cautiously, "we've got our planes, we've got our pilots... we've got a few aces up our sleeves... and it looks like the world is going to cooperate for once."

Giles nodded as the entire group walked through the wide halls of the ancient military base. Giles had had to forcibly restrain the librarian in him from going utterly mad over the history contained in every room of this place, but the sullen portion of 'Ripper' had risen to the challenge and he was looking over things with an eye to the power held here.

"What can we do?" Giles asked finally.

Xander grimaced, "If' I'd known the situation here on Avalon, I'd probably have taken you and Jacks along in the first place."

"I'm afraid I don't understand... What does Miss Warren and myself have to do with anything?"

"Avalon has been placed into complete shutdown." Xander said softly, "Nothing beyond the bare minimum is working... and frankly, the only reason THAT much is online is because we're in a End Time crisis here."

"I don't understand..."

Jacks stepped forward, leaving Vin to follow them a few paces back, and slipped into the conversation. "Merlin was programmed to deny the use of Avalon to any and all people unless a specific vote was held to reopen the island. The only exception to this was if the planet, or the island, were under direct threat of destruction..."

"Exactly." Xander said, still leading the group through the twisting corridors. "Something I didn't consider... and I didn't *ask* about either."

"I still fail to see how that would make you glad to see us." Giles was utterly baffled.

"Me neither..." Jacks frowned. "I mean... I know the theory... But, Xander... we don't have enough votes..."

"Don't we?" Xander smiled lightly.

Jacks paused for a half step, then continued, shaking her head. "No... No way. I've got two votes. Mine and Kaina's... You've got five... You're two, and Elan's three... That's still two short of the nine you need to reencode Merlin's Directives."

"Ah... But you are missing Giles' vote." Xander grinned.

"Mine??" Giles looked around, still lost. "How do I have a vote??"

"Daan'aal." Xander said simply. "By the charter, as it was originally written, an Elven master mage has the right to a single vote... one vote in the nine held apart for their species."

Jacks actually looked shocked, then chagrined. "You're Eleven Mr Giles?"

Giles sputtered, shocked at the idea. "No... No. He means my weapon..."

Daan'aal appeared in Giles right hand, gleaming in the low light. "Daan'aal is an elven soul bonded to a sword... much like Xander's own weapon I understand."

Jacks blinked in surprise, then nodded. "Interesting loophole... I think it's enough to get through to merlin... but that's still one vote short."

Xander grinned, "I thought you visited The Mixer, Jacks?"

She frowned, "I have... what's your point?"

"Didn't Kaina ever teach you history?" Xander said, his voice teasing. "*Dragons* also held nine votes at the Knights Table. So here's what we're going to do..."

April 4th, Contact Minus 1

"What the hell are we all doing here anyway?" Colonel Jack O'Neill looked around the huge room that Xander had congregated the entire 'population' of the island into.

"Patience, Jack." Daniel Jackson counseled softly, "I'm sure it's very important."

"We should be training." Jack countered. "We need more time in those aircraft if we want to stand a chance."

"I disagree."

Jack and Daniel looked up to see Xander step into sight, again wearing his black uniform as his boots clicked on the stone floor of the room. The room itself was so immense that each step echoed around them like a thousand.

"We're as good as we're going to get." Xander said, "At least in the time we have left. Today we have something much more important to do."

"And what is that?" Jack asked, a little defiantly, but with open curiosity as well.

Xander smiled slightly, thinking of the hours of lessons he'd endured from Elan over this moment. It wasn't something to be held lightly, and he could only hope that he was about to pull it off half as well as some of his predecessors had.

He took a breath and stepped up, not liking the eternal pressure he could feel pushing against him. The sure knowledge that, if he failed, then they all failed. There was no more room for error now, no room for the antics he had played off when he was hunting alone. He wasn't alone now, and he didn't know if he was ready for that or not.

Because, whether these people knew it or not, they were making history today.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome..." Xander paused, waiting as he *felt* the room shimmer around him. The feeling was enough to clench his stomach and he could hear it in the others reactions as well. "To The Table."

Behind him a huge table appeared, taking up the entirety of the immense room. Eyes widened as the gathered people stared across it, and suddenly realized that they couldn't *see* it's end. The table just seemed to loop away into infinity... and then come back from the same.

And then Xander calmly turned and walked around it.

It was a thick obsidian ring over ten feet thick, stretching forever in both directions, but somehow Xander just stepped around it with ever seeming to grow any further from them. He paused at a slot on the table, a thick wedge of the purest silver and nodded as he laid a hand on the chair before that place. As they all looked they could see four other, similar, wedges around the table. There was one of deep, dark, steel blue. Another wedge was an angry crimson splash. The next was a snow white gash across the black table. And the final wedge was a deep forest green.

Each of the wedges was placed at the points of a five pointed star and looked directly opposite two others.

"This is my place." Xander said softly, reaching his hand out and summoning Elanthielle to him.

As the silver staff shimmered into existence, it's length directly parallel to the surface of the table, there was a hiss of surprise from many of the people.

"What the hell!?" Jack O'Neill muttered in shock.

"Impressive." Teal'C said stoically.

Samantha Carter frowned, trying to figure out what kind of technology could transport something that accurately.

"Whoa." Was the only reaction that Colonel Steve Austin was willing to put forward.

Most of the Eagles had half expected to see that, having seen it before, but Doug Master's jaw dropped as he witnessed what the others had only told him about.

Around the group the reactions were similar in vein and Xander only smiled slightly as he twisted the ancient weapon in his hands and laid it down into a recessed nook that was carved specifically to fit Elanthielle's precise curves.

As the weapon slipped into it's slot, the table began to glow slightly for a brief moment then it faded again.

Merlin appeared in the center of the immense ring, somehow seeming to be incredible far away but at the same time right next to everyone. He turned to look at each and every one of them, apparently at the same time, and nodded gravely.

"My Lady Elanthielle... Welcome back to The Table. Commander Harris... As her bearer, do you have a motion to put forward?"

"I do." Xander announced firmly. "I move that Avalon be reactivated, and all her systems be returned to your control."

"So noted." Merlin said, "Five votes have been duly recorded in favor of remobilizing the Island. All in favor?"

For a long moment the was no response, then Jacqueline Standish stepped forward and sank into one of the seats of the great table. He summoned Kaina'tel to her hand and placed the weapon down on the obsidian surface. "I place my votes in favor of reactivating Avalon."

Merlin nodded. "So noted."

Rupert Giles materialized from a corner of the room, causing many of the occupamts to blink. They hadn't even noticed him there. He summoned Daan'aal to his hand and took a seat at the table, placing the Elven weapon down on it's impossible hard and smooth surface. "In the name of the Elven people and the Master Mage Daan'aal, whose soul empowers my sword, I place a vote in favor of activating Avalon."

Merlin paused, scanning the sword as a matter of process, and nodded once more. "So noted. Welcome Daan'aal."

Giles nodded in acknowledgment, but didn't say anything.

Finally, Dragan stepped forward, Chyra perched on his shoulder. He sat down stiffly into the seat nearest him and Chyra hopped down onto the deep black surface of the table. She looked up at Merlin, her eyes a little sour as she glared at him. When she spoke, however, that wasn't evident in her voice. "I place my vote on behalf of the Dragon Kingdoms, Reactivate Avalon."

Merlin nodded one last time, "So noted. The minimum number of votes has been met. Does anyone wish to add to this?"

There was a long silence, no one else had any clue what to do.

"Very well." Merlin continued, following his part by rote. "Are there any dissenters?"

Again there were no comments.

"So noted." Merlin said again, "And the motion has been carried..."

A deep rumbling sounded around them, followed by a whirring that seemed to fill the air. Around them the very air itself seemed to light up as the room was filled with screens and displays from all angles.

Merlin sank slowly to the floor at the center of the obsidian ring and turned to Xander. "Avalon is yours to command."

Xander, still standing behind his chair, looked over the rest of the gather people. "Please... Take a seat... all of you."

Faith was the first to step forward, cockily slipping into the place at Xander's right hand. She smirked at him, but he didn't comment, so she settled in. Others began moving to settle in as well, but Xander noted one person in the group hanging back as she stared at the table in shock.

"Paige?" Xander tilted his head, noticing that the young witch was hanging back even as others began to take their own places.

"I... Is this what I think it is?" Paige asked hesitantly, causing several people to freeze in place as they looked back at her.

Xander smiled, "That would depend on what you think it is."

"Avalon..." Paige hesitated again, "And a *round* table?? I can only draw so many conclusions you know."

Xander noted the look of shock on the faces of several of the assembled people as they processed what she had said. He was silent for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. This is what you think it is."

"Impossible!" O'Neill muttered reflexively, "We're so far from England that it's not even funny!!"

Xander shrugged, walking around the table until he arrived at the steel blue wedge. "This was Arthur's place. From this seat he governed Camelot... The Table is old, Jack... Older then Avalon... this Avalon anyway... It's older then the Knighthood who uses it. No one knows who created it... All we do know is that the Ancients believed that The Table has always existed and most likely always will."

Jack O'Neill stared at Xander for a moment, then looked at the blue wedge on the table. He frowned, trying to process all of the information as quickly as he could. Contrary to popular belief amongst his team, Jack wasn't the kind of guy who got lost quickly. He just found it useful to put forward that kind of image, especially when dealing with snot nosed brats who thought they knew more then he did.

The problem was, this particular snot nosed brat seemed to be able to read his mind.

"Arthur Pendragon sat there?" Jack asked, looking around the immense table with a slow deliberate motion. He noted the other four wedges of color that sat against the smooth obsidian surface of the table and frowned deliberately, "And you sit over there?"

Xander nodded, keeping his face passive as he waited for the inevitable comment.

"A little full of yourself aren't you?" Jack asked with a smirk. "I'm not much for ancient military ranks, but unless I miss my guess you just claimed an equal seat opposite King Arthur."

Xander smiled slightly, it was barely noticeable but it was there. He slowly and deliberately walked back around the table and stood behind the seat that faced the silver wedge and then reached down and retrieved Elanthielle from the grooves that held the silver staff in place.

"Arthur became king when he drew the sword from the stone," Xander began, modulating his voice so that everyone heard him. "His place at this table was not given to him by right of his crown, it wasn't given to him by right of birth. Arthur Pendragon took his place at this table because Excalibur vouched for him."

When there was no immediate response, Xander continued. "Excalibur was one of Five weapons created by the Atlantean people at the height of their civilization. The Five were crafted from alloys and materials from the furthest reaches of the Galaxy, and each was imbued with the spirit of a single warrior. That spirit lives on in each of those weapons, and those warriors give their bearers the right to sit at this table. Arthur had one of the Five... I have another. So do me a favor Jack, sit down, shut up, and we'll get back to saving the world."

Jack opened his mouth once, then shut it, then opened it, then shut it again. Finally he turned to his team and shrugged. They looked a little helplessly at him, then followed him as he sat down, each selecting seats together and around the immense table from Xander.


Paige nodded hesitantly, then walked across the room to the seat at Xander right. He smiled at her as she tentatively sat down, then motioned to the rest of the group to take their seats.

The rest of the assembled group took that as a sign and followed suit, eachy of them carefully avoiding the four colored wedges on the table, and momentarily the entire cadre was seated.

Xander looked them all over, then took his own seat, replacing Elan into the niche. "Alright... To business then..."

Before he could speak, Jack O'Neill again decided to say something. He opened his mouth, mentally preparing to shout so that Xander could hear him, then blinked and yelped in shock as he suddenly saw Xander appear directly at his side.

"Yes Jack?" Xander asked, sighing heavily. He had be prepared for the effects The Table had, and wasn't much surprised by Jack's appearance at *his* side.

"How the hell did you get there!?"

Xander smiled, "Think of The Table as the ultimate Command and Control center. Anyone who sits at it can instantly speak with anyone else no matter where they are seated at the table, also you have full access to all of Merlin's current displays on the situation."

"How?" Jack finally got out after his shock wore off again. He found that he was rapidly growing numb to all the insane violations of physical laws that kept smashing him over the head.

"Don't ask me. I just work here." Xander shrugged. "Like I said, even the Ancients themselves didn't know who built the Table..."

"Oh." Jack sat back down. "This is just getting too weird."

Xander nodded in agreement, but them turned back to the center of the table. "Merlin... Status of the Comm systems?"

Merlin paused, accessing his entire myriad of systems before responding. "Niume is online..."

As he said that the shimmering figure of the Lady of the Lake appeared in the center of the table with him. She looked around, nodding at each group of seated people, "Greetings."

Xander nodded back, "Groundwaves?"

"Running system diagnostics now." Merlin replied. A moment later he nodded, "Ground wave transceivers are active."

"Try to contact other stations." Xander ordered.

"Transmitting now."

As he spoke, Merlin sent out commands to the deeply buried groundwave transceivers and those powerful units went to work. In a matter of moments ultra low frequency waves were skirting around the crust of the planet, rolling out in an omnidirectional ripple that took several minutes to circumnavigate the planet.

"What's going on?"

Xander turned slightly to see Giles appear beside him. Xander shrugged, "Merlin is trying to establish a Groundwave link with any surviving AI's that might still be intact. Groundwave is slow and clumsy, but it's also pretty hard to damage or destroy a groundwave antenna that's buried under a few thousand tons of rock."

"I see." Giles nodded in the way of someone who actually had no idea what was going on, but didn't want to admit it.

Of course he wasn't the only person at the Table with that expression, Xander reflected, nor would Xander himself be any better off except for the constant flood of data being fed to him by both Merlin and Elanthielle. He sent yet another whisper of thanks to his inner 'nag' and turned his attention back to the table.

"While we're waiting," He spoke clearly, his voice low as he trusted the Table to carry it to everyone present, "I suggest we review the situation... Merlin?"

Merlin nodded, adjusting his files to account for language changes, "Aye Commander. The Go'uld Hat'ak class carrier has settled into position behind Earth's Orbit and, as such, is currently shielded from even out sensing... technology."

Holographic displays popped up in front of everyone showing the current estimated position of the Goa'uld carrier in position behind the dark side of the moon.

"We... ah..." Doctor Jackson raised a hand, "Don't have anything that can reach there?"

"Unfortunately," Merlind nodded at Daniel and then at Niume, "Niume's detection range is relatively narrow and we don't have access to the other Earth AI systems at present time. Even assuming that any of them have survived the intervening millennia, I have my doubts on whether their systems would be capable of piercing the insulating mass of the moon."


Brigadier General Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair frowned lightly, "What's to prevent them from launching ballistics from there?"

"Nothing." Merlin responded instantly. "If that is their aim, there is nothing we can do to prevent it. We do have several response options, but the likelihood of eliminating even a noticeable fraction of the incoming fire is remote."

"What are our response options?" Jack asked, leaning forward as he rejoined the conversation.

"We could mount an intercept with the Hammerheads," Merlin began, "Or perhaps lift a squadron of Orca Class Bombers out of the gravity well and engage them with the heavier firepower of those units. Barring that, we could adopt an interception stance, and coordinate with the conventional military to attempt successful interceptions."

Jack nodded, his face thoughtful as he leaned back in his chair. He turned to Sam to ask her opinion, and nearly jumped out of his skin when she seemed to jump two seat places to arrive at his side.

"Damn it!" He yelped, "That's just really *really* freaky!"

"You wanted something Sir?" Carter asked calmly, as she locked down on her own racing pulse with an iron will.

Jack caught his breath, nodding. "Yeah. What do you think of the options?"

Sam considered it for a moment, "I think that, in this situation, we're best to go with a strong offence over a moderate defense. Assuming that they decide to go with a ballistic bombardment."

Jack nodded, then turned to see that Merlin was talking again.

"Indeed, Ma'am." Merlin said, nodding to Sam, "Perhaps fortunately, or not, the Goa'uld are... psychologically unlikely to adopt this stance."

"Excuse me?" Giles leaned forward, "What do you mean?"

Xander spoke up, "The Goa'uld are arrogant, overconfident, and very certain of their superiority. Their first instincts will be to take the planet as one of their systems... and they, or he, won't mind spending hundreds of thousands of Jaffa lives if that's what it takes."

Some of the occupants of the table glanced over to Teal'C, only to see the impassive Jaffa nod slightly in confirmation of that assessment of Goa'uld psychology.

Seeing this, Xander continued, "So what we're going to have to do is make sure that we draw them into the Earth's atmosphere at a position of our choosing."

"Just how the hell do you plan to do that?" Jack asked, frowning.

Xander just smiled, "You'll see soon enough, Jack. For now, I want to go over the deployment plans with everyone... Including some Roster changes that I've considered and brought up with General Sinclair and Captain Masters..."

Chappy and Doug nodded as Xander gestured to them, but Doug didn't look overly happy.

Xander shrugged it off, he'd already heard Masters' objections, but had been forced to overrule them. "First off, I've reassigning Wheeler to Warbird Squadron to fill out their last wing position."

"Wait a minute..." Samantha Carter suddenly leaned forward, worried about her squadron, "What about The Eagles? We'll have an odd man out..."

"I understand that," Xander stated, "But I've decided to assign Rudy to a... detached duty."

"What!?" Rudy leaned forward, outraged. "What are you talking about!?"

"We're stripping you're missile load now, Rudy," Xander said calmly, "And attaching a pair of powerful ECM and LIDAR pods to your plane's hardpoints... We need you to hang back from the battle and use the LIDAR pod to act as an AWACS unit for us. You're data will be transmitted back to Merlin, and he'll feed it into the Military's AWACS planes so that their units can be combat effective."

"Why me??" Rudy got out, trying to figure out why he'd been pulled from combat duty.

"Your defensive flying is as good as anyone else in the wing, Rudy," Captain Masters said softly, his voice being carried by the Table's unique properties so that only Rudy himself heard it, "But you're attack rating is slightly lower then the team average and, frankly, your accuracy with the forward cannon worries us."

Rudy flushed, looking ashamed.

"It's not your fault, Rudy..." Masters said, this time his voice reached everyone as it became slightly stronger and firmer. "The tracking systems can't get a proper read through your contacts."

Rudy nodded, looking down.

"Besides that," Xander spoke up, "The AWACS position is the most vital slot in the flight team. Period. If we don't have someone watching our backs and helping coordinate the Military forces, then we're all going down hard. We need you there, Rudy."

Rudy sighed, still looking disappointed, but then nodded slightly as he straightened up a little in his chair. "Alright."

"Good." Xander said, looking around as he mentally moved on to the next issue. "Next we've got to figure out how we are going to meet the first wave..."

Colonel Austin leaned forward, "I've been talking this over with General Sinclair and Colonel O'Neill and we think that..."

April 5th, 1996...




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