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.

Chapter 4

April 5th, 1996 - Contact

The view was expansive as the tall stern man looked out from his command deck. The steady pricks of light that were stars seen through a vacuum merely accentuated the almost idyllic sliver of blue that floated out in the depths ahead of him and his vessel.

"My Lord..."

He turned around, looking at the Jaffa who had stepped up behind him. "Yes?"

"All systems have been cleared for immediate combat, My Lord."

"Excellent." The man said, his eyes flashing with an eerie white light. "Order the Death Gliders from the hangers. We make our approach now."

The Jaffa slapped a fist over his chest and nodded, "As you command, My Lord God."

"As I command." The Goa'uld repeated, smiling slightly, then he nodded his head. "Go."

The Jaffa bowed, hand still over his heart, and backed from the room.

The Goa'uld looked out at the innocent sliver of blue white that hung above the rocky surface of the barren sattelite they were hiding behind and sneered slightly as he contemplated the hapless people that were awaiting him.

"Tel'shak!" He snapped, turning around.

"My Lord!" The Jaffa nominally in command of the Carrier snapped to attention as his God's eyes settled on him.

"When the Gliders have launched, have them form a wedge and follow them into orbit of the planet."

"Yes, My Lord." The Jaffa paused, "Any specific destination?"

The Goa'uld nodded slowly, walking over to the station. He calmly pointed out a place on the holographic display. "I want to be in a position to bombard this location."

The Jaffa nodded, looking at it. "As you command, my lord."

The Goa'uld nodded curtly and turned back, smiling to himself as he considered the target he was tasked with destroying. Few of the system lords would understand why he was willingly subverting his power to the commands of another, but the time would come when they would understand all to well. And when that time came, they would also know that he was standing on the right hand of their master.

He came to a stop at the large viewscreen, glancing back over his shoulder as he felt the big ship start to move. He hesitated briefly, the thought of allowing another to hold power over him was new, but only briefly. "For the greater glory of Anubis!"

The Jaffa on station behind him snapped to attention, accepting in their minds that their God served a Lord of his own.

Apophis briefly pondered how something of this extremity had come about in less then a year, but shrugged it off. "Command the attack."

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Deep in the bowels of the mountain facility, though not as deep as some of the mountain's secrets, lay the NORAD tracking station. A post that, at that particular moment in time, was as close to utter chaos as any military station was likely to get.

"Incoming contacts!"

"Jesus, they're everywhere!"

"How many!?" The Watch Commander demanded sharply, bringing a semblence of order back to the chaos.

There was a brief pause before a young lieutenant turned to him, her face taught with concern. "Numbers are still coming in sir, but it looks like at least a hundred smaller contacts and Big Boy is riding their coattails, Sir!"

The Commander nodded, his face tense but calm. "Alright, work on getting those numbers locked down... and calculate their course. I want to know where they plan on dropping by."


Pentagon, Washington DC

"Talk to me."

The words were uttered softly, calmly, and with no evidence of worry, but they were like an iron hand reaching across the War Room that let everyone know who had arrived.

"Mr President." The General in command straightened, coming to attention.

"Relax General Grey." President Whitmore said softly, "Just give me the update."

"Yes Sir." The older man nodded calmly, walking over to the main display. "The red icons up there are the bogeys, Sir. They all peeked out from behind the moon about an hour ago and are coming into what looks like a stable orbit now."

"Where, General?"

"Directly over Colorado, Sir." General Grey frowned as he said that. He didn't have a clue what was in Colorado to attract whoever the hell these things were, but the Presidents reaction told him that *he* did. "Sir?"

Whitmore had gone a ghastly white as his heart thudded in his chest, "Colorado..."


It couldn't be a coincidence, They knew. They had to know.

"My God." Whitmore whispered again, everyone they had who had any real experience with these 'people' was in Colorado. With the exception of SG1 and a couple advisors, the SGC housed every single person with hands on knowledge of these invaders.

Suddenly Whitmore shook himself, forcing his tension down as turned his attention back to General Grey. "I need a phone."

"Yes Sir." Grey turned to his assistant, "Well? Get the President a phone!"


Xander looked up from the projections he was studying along with O'Neil, Teal'C, Austin, Sinclair, and Giles. "Yes Merlin?"

"The President has elected to make contact."

Xander nodded, "Put him through."

Merlin hesitated, "Commander... I traced his location to the Pentagon's War room..."


"If you wish, I could arrange a visual connection."

Xander hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Do it."

War Room, Pentagon

"Yes Mr President?"

Everyone in the room turned in shock to see a young man appear on the huge display screen, overriding the tactical display that had been presented.

Whitmore was the first to recover, "Mr Harris I presume?"

The young man nodded.

"Are you monitoring the situation?"

"We are Mr President." Xander replied, "So far the Goa'uld are staging their maneuvers exactly as expected."

"They're targeting the SGC." Whitmore stated flatly.

"Yes Sir." Xander replied, "That was to be expected... though I have to admit that I don't know how they learned of it's location."

"Do you still feel confident that you can draw them to the Pacific?"

Xander nodded crisply, "Oh without a doubt in my mind, Mr President. Get your planes ready, we'll set em up... them we'll both knock em down."

Whitmore hesitated for the barest fraction of a second, then turned to General Grey. "Order all our Pacific based flights to scramble."

General Grey hesitated, not certain he liked ordering his people into combat on the word of what appeared to be a child. But he saw the look in Whitmore's eyes and nodded, "Yes Sir."

As Grey turned to pass the order on, Whitmore turned to the screen again. "I hope you know what you're doing Mr Harris."

Xander quirked a slight smile, "So do I, Mr President. So do I."

Whitmore nodded, not having expected much more. He took a breath, "Good luck then."

"Good luck to us all." Xander responded just before his face blinked off the screen."


Xander turned away from the screen and looked around, "Giles... It's time. Get Maria and the others on the move... Tell her to head East... their current approach will bring them in from that direction."

Rupert Giles nodded, turning on his heal and heading out the door.

"Steve," Xander looked at Colonel Austin, "Get the Angels ready. Chappy, go tell your Warbirds and Doug's Eagles to get ready."

Chappy and Steve nodded and quickly left the room.

Jack and Teal'C looked at Xander as the room cleared, but he didn't look back at them. Finally Jack cleared his throat, "Excuse me?"

"What is it, Jack?" Xander asked without looking up.

"Well I'm kinda curious on how you plan to attract an entire Goa'uld ship away from their primary target!" Jack's voice was angry, his tension running high as he avoided mentioning that the primary target in question held all of his colleagues and friends.

Xander smiled as he looked down at the board in front of him, "In good time, Jack... In good time."

"Now would be a *real* good time!"

Xander looked up, "Merlin?"

"Ready Commander."

"Then do it."

Merlin nodded, "Powering system..."

Deep in the bowels of the complex an ancient system purred to life as it received the first supply of power it had known in over ten thousand years. A deep rumble began to build through the facility.


"My Lord!"

Apophis spun around, glaring at the Jaffa who dared interrupt him as he prepared to watch his Death Gliders enter the planet's atmosphere. "What!?"

The Jaffa flinched, but didn't step back. "My Lord, you should see this!"

Apophis growled, walking back to the station and looking down. His eyes widened, flashing with white light. "Our information was wrong! Redirect all Gliders to these coordinates!"

Pentagon War Room, Washington DC

"They... I don't believe it..." One of the RADAR technicians muttered, "They're moving west... My God they're going to wind up right in the middle of the Pacific... what the hell is out there??"

Whitmore took a deep breath, "God knows. God cares. Get me General Hammond on the line and step our planes in the Pacific up to an immediate scramble."

"Yes Sir!"


"What the hell was that?" Jack asked in surprise as the rumblings failed.

Before Xander could respond, Merlin smiled slightly.

"Chevron One Encoded."

Jack blanched white, the impact of the words hitting him like a hammer. "You have a Gate!?"

Xander shook his head, smiling. "Jack... I told you that the Knights patrolled the worlds of the Gate system... what did you think? They shuttled over to Egypt every time they had a mission?"

Jack shook his head, listening to the countdown as Merlin dully announced the Gate status.

"Wormhole established." Merlin announced a short time later. "The Goa'uld are now en-route to this location."

"Alright... shut it down." Xander said, "Recheck all security and lock the Gate completely down in the meantime... take it off the grid, Merlin."

"Aye Commander."

Deck of the USS Enterprise, Pacific Ocean


Jarod turned around, his helmet thumping lightly against his thigh as he looked back in surprise. "Yes Captain?"

"Here." Hiller shoved a small metal tube into his hands.

"Excuse me?"

"Victory dance." Hiller said curtly, then waved a finger at Jarod. "Not until the fat lady sings!"

Jarod looked at him in complete confusion as the Captain turned and walked toward his plane.

"Uh... Sir?" Jarod asked, completely baffled. "What Fat Lady? Do we have a new pilot??"

USS Ticonderoga, Pacific

"Captain on the Bridge!"

The men came to attention as the Captain stepped on, but Donalds waved it off. "As you were."

As the men relaxed a Commander handed a set of orders to him.

"When did these come in?"

"Just a few minutes ago, Sir."

Captain Donalds nodded, "alright... take us around and power up the turbines... I want us a flank speed and en route in five."

"Yes Sir!"

"Launch, Launch, Launch!"

Jarod threw a salute to the Cat Officer, then sat back into place as he felt the sudden acceleration of the Catapult launch slam him back into the seat of his F/A-18. The Deck of the big Aircraft Carrier flashed past as he and his plane ripped into the air.

The deck vanished from under him, leaving only the pure blue green ocean, and Jarod's stomach flipped as the plane dipped slightly past the deck and dropped several feet toward the heaving seas. His burners took up the slack an instant later though, and he felt the plane respond to his need for speed and altitude.

"Good launch."

Jarod didn't respond to the voice over the net, but he nodded slightly anyway, as if to acknowledge the compliment.

"Come around to bearing four niner and increase speed to Mach 1.5."

Jarod nodded, again, this time speaking calmly into his mask. "Roger that Knight Lead. Knight Five, coming around to bearing four niner and increasing speed."

He was the last of the Black Knights to launch from the deck of the Enterprise, and he quickly climbed and slipped into the formation that was forming up behind them.

"Alright Knights," Hiller's voice came over the net. "We've got us a mission. Everyone have their victory dance?"

Jarod patted the odd lump in his pocket, and joined the chorus of affirmative responses that echoed over the Tac-Net.

"Alright. Good. Hey, Rev..." Hiller grinned, "Got any words of inspiration for us?"

Jimmy 'Reverend' Wilder grinned, already having his speech ready for the occasion. "As the good reverend would say... Why we are on this particular mission, we'll never know... What I do *know*, is that today, the Black Knights will emerge victorious once more."

"Amen Reverend."

All over the Pacific theater the scene was the same. Flights of F-16's were joining up with CF-18's and Chinese Mig-27 Flankers as they rocketed in on trajectories to intercept the targets that had just entered the atmosphere above the state of Washington.

From further north and east, a flight of Mig 29 Fulcrum left Russian airspace, leaving their refueling tankers behind as they accelerated on an intercept course. Shortly after entering international airspace they were joined by a squadron of F-16's from Anchorage who had been slightly detoured to escort them to the party.

Cheyenne Mountain, NORAD Tracking Station

"Targets are making atmospheric interface above Washington Sir..."

The Watch Commander nodded, looking up at the big screen as he did. "Good... Direct all allied flights to intercept them one hundred... no, make that two hundred miles off the coast."

The RADAR tech started to nod, then blinked as enemy units began to blink off her screen. "What... Oh no... No, no no!"

"What's going on, Lt?"

"We're losing them, Sir! We're losing our lock!"

"Get them back!"

"I... I can't!"


Merlin frowned, shaking his head. "They've passed below Niume's range."

Xander sighed, nodding. "We knew it was coming... The Carrier?"

"Still in orbit and on our screens... and NORAD's as well."

Xander stopped in midstep, frowning. "Damn."


"We needed the Hat'ak cruiser to come into our reach..." Xander frowned, "This isn't good. I don't want to engage it in orbit... our people are ready for that. I'm not ready for that."

"Ready or not, Sir... Here they come." Merlin replied dryly.

Xander scowled at him, "really funny."

Xander quickened his pace as he half jogged through the halls.

"I do try." Merlin almost smirked, "Your uniform is ready in your quarters."

"Did you make the alterations I asked for?"


"Good." Xander said, taking the corridor to his room. "Have everyone else suit up and then signal the scramble."

"Aye Commander."

In the flight hanger of Avalon, the assembled pilots stood around their planes, fidgiting slightly in their issued flightsuits. Many of them hadn't liked the idea of wearing the 'colors' of another orginization, even one that had died a long time ago, but Xander and Merlin had convinced them by flatly telling them that the Flightsuits were absolutely necessary to fly a Hammerhead in combat conditions.

They were distracted enough that no one noticed Xander when he stepped onto the deck, minus the normal click of his boots on the floor.

"Everyone up for a little flying?" Xander asked, cradling his helmet under one arm.

Everyone looked up to see him standing there, in a uniform that was obviously based on the more 'dress' type that he wore normally. It was tight fitted, and made out of a dull black material that seemed to absorb light without reflecting anything. It left him looking almost like a sillouette cut from the night itself. Almost.

Around his neck hung a glowing blue pendant, a single source of light from the black void of his flightsuit. Hung almost casually off one shoulder was a silver cross, strapped to his upper arm like a badge of pride while two custom pistols were casually slung in their shoulder holsters.

Over his other shoulder, Xander had casually draped the hip holster that contained his chromed Desert Eagle. The pilots also noticed that he was wearing a pair of daggers in each shin high boot, and the familiar silver cylinder on his left hip.

"Hello everyone." He said calmly, "You ready to kick some alien ass?"

The stunned moment stretched on for a second before anyone moved, and in that time Xander had a chance to peer closer at the rank of Hammerheads that the pilots were milling around. He frowned, stepping closer, and looked at the lead plane.

Painted intricately on the fuselage of the sleek fighter was an American Bald Eagle with a noble profile. That was interesting enough to Xander's eyes, but the fact that the Eagle was 'wearing' heavy plated steel armor made him blink.

Under that unusual design was two words.

Iron Eagle.

Xander looked across the rank of planes and noticed that each of them held the same picture, with variations on the theme. His eyes widened as he walked among them, noticing the talent that had been poured into the work.

The second rank had a similar design, only this time the birds in question were various Raptor breeds, and the armor was more understated. What made these stand out were the extra touches, which included rather abnormally huge guns held deftly in the wings of the birds, and smoking cigars that were clenched tightly in their beaks. Xander smiled lightly as he shook his head, noting the call signs for each of the pilots of Warbird squadron had been painted under each picture.

The gathered people watched silently as Xander walked on to the third rank of planes, and they all saw his face tighten up as he approached the first plane.

On it was a deftly painted picture of an Angel. But it was no 'ordinary' Angel. This one was a tall man that had a disturbing resemblance to Xander himself. The angelic figure was bathed in light from above but cast no shadow as it held two big pistols in it's hands. Behind it, it's wings were spread out to their fullest span, all *six* of it's brilliant white feathered wings. Xander's breath hitched as he saw the name painted under the picture.


He closed his eyes, groaning low in his gut.

"Who painted this?"

No one spoke for a long moment, then a quiet, almost impossibly timid voice wafted forward to Xander's ears.

"I... I did..."

Xander turned slowly his face a mask of chagrin and self depreciating humor. "How'd you find out about my nickname?"

Tara Maclay hesitantly walked forward, "I... I... well, I asked P-p-paige about it..."

Xander shot Paige a glare, but she only smirked and stuck her tongue out at him. He sighed, then smiled at Tara as best he could. "It's incredible work, Tara... I don't think I've ever seen better... not done so quickly anyway."

She swallowed, but didn't respond to the compliment.

"You did all of them?" Xander swept his hand over the planes.

"" She shook her head, "I just did yours and Chap... General Sinclair's... and Captain Masters'... M-m-merlin and Paige and... and... F-f-faith helped me."

"Oh they did did they?" Xander turned his ire, which he hadn't exposed Tara to, towards the two brunettes. Both of them smirked back at him and, as if they'd planned the maneuver, stuck their tongues out at him. "I'll have to find some way to... *thank* them for that later."

"Y... you don't l-l-like it?"

Xander had to measure his response carefully, because one part of him was itching to take a scraper to the side of the plane that he was supposed to be flying. But he didn't show that, because for one thing is *was* remarkable work, and for another he knew that Tara, unlike her accomplices, had done it purely because she thought it would be nice for him and the other pilots.

And it WAS nice. That much was true, he could see the eyes of the other pilots narrowing as they waited for his reaction. More, he knew that if he reacted negatively, they would probably be angered on several levels. Thankfully, Xander's pride was more then willing to step out of the way rather then injure Tara in any way whatsoever.

He smiled after a long moment, "I love it, Tara. It's... It's..."

He hesitated a long moment, and finally sighed with a rueful grin, "It's remarkable. Just like you are. I'd wondered what you were doing this whole time..."

She smiled hesitantly, looking at her feet as she shifted uncomfortably from the praise.

Around her the silence was broken as the rest of the pilots followed Xander's lead and crowded around the terminally shy girl and offered their own congratulations and appreciation. Unfortunately, several of them let drop that they had had some input on the designs as well.

"Wait a minute!" Xander burst out, "You were all in on this!?"

The group suddenly found utterly fascinating things to do or look at, anywhere that Xander wasn't.

The humor of the situation finally caught up to him and he growled out a comment through the resigned grin that was splitting his face. "Mutinous dogs."

Slowly the group that had been involved, mostly the younger Eagles, broke out laughing. Xander let it go for a minute before he shook his head and raised his voice.

"Ok, enough fun. Eagles, Warbirds, Angels... Saddle up! We can't let the regular military have all the fun now, can we!?"

Skies over the Pacific

"Knight Lead, Control."

The voice came over the tac-net, almost startling Captain Hiller as he scanned both the sky and his instruments for the enemy he was told was out here.

"Control, Knight Lead. Go."

"We've lost contact with the hostile units, Knight Lead." The Controllers voice sounded worried, "Last track indicates you should have them in instrument range now."

"Negative Control. No Joy."

There was a long pause. Hiller felt a chill run up his back as he felt rather then heard the implications of that. Finally the voice came back.

"Roger that, Knight Lead..." The voice said slowly, "We estimate visual contact is less them five minutes."

"Confirmed Control." Hiller acknowledged the message and took a deep breath as he considered that. After a moment he spoke into his radio, his voice brimming with confidence. "Alright Knights, step up your visuals... These bogeys think they can play hide and seek. Let's disabuse them of that notion, shall we?"

"It's starting..."

"I know." The man frowned, snapping his helmet shut. There was a hiss as his helmet and suit pressurized. When his spoke, his voice was filled with annoyance that could be heard even through the muffling factor of his helmet. "Ready."

"You really hate that thing, don't you?"

"You stop laughing, you overgrown Iguana!" The man griped, "Damnit, why did they have to go and invent supersonic aircraft anyway?? I *liked* flying against the old prop planes..."

"Stop complaining Geoff, at least now you don't freeze to death when I cut loose."

"That's *such* a comfort, Drake." Geoff muttered as he shifted into a better position astride the Dragon's back. "Let's get this over with."

"As you wish." The Dragon smirked as he howled joyfully and leapt off the ground and into the air, his heavily armored rider hanging on for all he was worth as the two of them accelerated like the figurative bat out of hell.


"My Lord,"

"Report." Apophis ordered tersely as he acknowledged the Jaffa.

"Our Gliders have detected the enemy at extreme range on an interception course, My Lord." The Jaffa said, "The Tau'Ri have mounted an impressive display of air force."

"What do the Gliders detect about their technology?"

"Primitive, My Lord." The Jaffa said quickly, "Low yield explosives and reaction based thrust systems... The Gliders also report that they use extremely primitive detection systems... systems that should be worthless against the Gliders shielding."

Apophis frowned, "If that is true... How did they mount an intercept?"

"Unknown, My Lord."

The Goa'uld frowned deeply, not liking anything unknown at the best of times. "Signal them to attempt to evade direct contact... have them come about and flank the Tau'Ri aircraft from both sides... We'll see soon enough whether they can see us or not."

"Yes my Lord." The Jaffa thumped his chest, then backed quickly from the room.

Over the Pacific

The tension was building tightly in Hiller's gut as he scanned the skies around him with a rapid, darting, movement of his eyes. It had been *seven* minutes and still no sign of the 'enemy' had manifested itself.

If it weren't for the sheer size of the current alert, Hiller could almost believe it was nothing more then a readiness drill. There shouldn't be *anything* in the skies that could possibly hide from the three AWACS planes that were blanketing the area. Even an F-117b would be nailed by that much coverege, and that wasn't even considering the USS Ticonderoga currently churning the oceans below them as it cauterized the skies with five million watts of RADAR output.

"Does *anybody* see these bozos?" Hiller asked in frustration.

Slowly the flight responded by the numbers, all of them coming up negative. And then....

"Knight Five.... Nega... Wait a moment..."

"Knight Five?? Knight Five!?" Hiller snapped.

A moment later, Knight Five's voice came back, not paniced, but certainly filled with a tension that was almost alien to the calm man that Hiller knew as Jarod Skye.

"Knight Lead, bogey's coming in on our Nine!! Repeat, Nine!"

Hiller cursed, his head snapping to the left, then back to the right. "Knight Flight, Check your flanks! Check your flanks!"

A moment later a sudden roar of explosions made Hiller wonder if he'd gotten the order out fast enough.


Xander dropped into the cockpit of Angel Lead, sighing as he realized that the plane had been re-christened 'Seraphim' behind his back. He shook his head, pulling his helmet on and sealing the collar of his flightsuit around it. He paused, looking around the instruments for a moment before he racked his helmet shut and then carefully thumbed open all the power breakers.

As the craft came alive around him Xander wracked his mind for the terminology he needed to communicate effectively with his pilots.

After a long hesitation he spoke, "Seraphim to Hammerheads, Systems check by the numbers."

<Damn I hate that name.> Xander grimaced as the acknowledgments came back in staggered intervals. <You and me, Spike. You and me... SOON.>

He cracked his knuckles slightly, then shook himself from the reverie and started his own system check.

<Reactors... Online... Weapons, Online... Null-Grav... Online... System Diagnostics... Check.> Xander thought to himself, casually thumbing the system check switches as he did.

"Seraphim, Go." He said into his mike, "Angel Flight?"

One by one the rest of the Angels called in and gave the same response.

"Roger. Angel Flight, Go." Xander repeated through the tac-net. "Eagle Flight?"

A moment later Captain Masters came back a moment later, "Eagles, Go."


"Warbirds, Go." Chappy said instantly.

"Alright..." Xander paused, trying to choose his words carefully. It was difficult to translate ancient terms into modern parlance, mostly because the Atlanteans weren't limited by the strictures of modern thought. Their language was considerably larger and more complex then modern english. Still, he and Merlin had managed to draw a few comparisons that weren't incredibly accurate, but still managed to get the basic concepts across. "All teams... prepare for Cat launch in thirty seconds."

The Atlantean version of a 'catapult' launcher bears absolutely no resemblance to any modern version of the same. In fact, though the end result of the device is the same, the reasoning behind it is utterly different. On modern aircraft carriers, Cat launchers are used to get aircraft up to speed in the shortest distance possible. But on any Kine ship or base, their equipment is designed to simply allow a fighter to *exit* the base.

For obvious tactical reasons, there simply *aren't* any hanger doors in a Kine base. Which means that the planners needed a way to allow fighters, cargo, and people to enter and leave the base.

Transport rings do fine for people and cargo, but would leave fighters open to attack for several crucial moments before their reactors could really open up and get the birds up to speed. Also the rings themselves could be disabled while they were extended, potentially sealing the fighters and other craft inside.

As it turned out the Rings were unnecessary however. In a standard configuration a Ring transporter only used the rings to improve the safety and security of a transport. Unlike transport without rings, it was virtually impossible to jam a ring transport and almost as hard to actually intercept on in mid-transport. The rings were used primarily to ensure a safe, secure, and above all *precise* transport. If precision wasn't vital to operations, then it was possible to play with the design of the system. And play the designers of Avalon did.

The 'Transport Launcher' grabbed Xander's plane first of all, converting the signal to energy just as any normal transport would do. Xander and his plane were then accelerated to a sizable portion of the speed of light and sent along the conduit to the outside world.

In that interminable moment while he was pure energy, Xander didn't feel a thing. The acceleration wasn't so much as the slightest buzz to him. An instant later the system reconstituted him, returning him to the real world.

Normally a ring system would return the transport to a stable, stationary, position. But, as things turned out, the designers of the system *liked* to play with their designs. The Hammerhead hit the air moving, slicing through the humid air at Mach 6 and change.

And behind him, Xander was quickly joined by the rest of the flights in groups of five. Less then thirty seconds later, three flights of Hammerheads were cutting the air toward the enemy.

Air Battle, Over the Pacific

Stephen Hiller cursed under his breath, growling low as debris that used to be three of his pilots drifted almost serenely through the pacific air toward the ocean below. The attack had taken them by surprise, and near as Hiller could tell the Black Knights had gotten off lightly with only three casualties of those first ferocious seconds. If it hadn't been for Skye's warning, he didn't even want to think of how many people would be dead or dying now.

Hiller muffled a curse as he jerked the stick of his '18 hard over, barely evading the lethal blasts from the weird fighter on his ass. "Oh you did NOT just shoot that energy shit at me!!"

He jinked hard to the left, cutting his thrust and pulling the nose up hard. The cockpit suddenly lit up with Stall warnings as it killed it's speed lethally fast. The alien fighter ripped past, not reacting fast enough to adapt to the maneuver, and Hiller slammed the throttle full open again and placed himself on the enemies Six.

The long sullen beeps of the AMRAAM missile never even once came close to acquiring tone, causing Hiller to again force down a curse as he toggled through his weapons payload.

"Knight Lead!! This is Knight Eight!! I can't get Tone, switching to Sidewinders!"

Hiller had just tried to the same thing without any luck and was switching to guns even as the other pilot came over the radio.

"Knight eight, this is..." Hiller began, but was cut off.

"This is Knight Eight, Fox Three! Fox Three!" The pilot's panicked voice came over the radio.

"What??" Hiller yelled, "No! Don't...!"

But it was too late, even as Hiller's head snapped around he saw the contrail of the Sidewinder heatseeking missile as it went airborne. The missile curved in the air as it flashed out, neatly skipping by the alien fighter it was aimed at, and slammed into the F/A-18 of Knight Twelve.

There was a moment of silence over the channel as the event penetrated the collective consciousness of the pilots, then the carnage took over again. Knight eight, distracted by the sheer horror of his mistake, was taken in the next second by a series of shots that ripped his plane to shreds.

"Knights! Knights!" Hiller snapped, getting his voice under control as he did, "Go to Guns! Guns only! Repeat, Guns! Guns! Guns!"

Acknowledgements trickled back as Hiller took his own advice and scowled at the fighter he was chasing. "Let's see how you like being on the receiving end you son of a bitch."

Without the 'tone' of the HUD and RADAR lock to help him, Hiller had to rely on his eyes and instincts as he closed on the alien. As the oddly shaped fighter slid unwillingly into place he almost tenderly caressed the trigger.

The plane's cannon spat fire, tracers briefly connecting his fighter to the alien, then the enemy fighter ripped into shreds under the fierce outpouring of fire.

"Oh yeah! That's what *I'm* talking 'bout!!" Hiller growled. "Knight Two... Reverend, tighten up on me! Let's take the fight back to these ambushing muthers! Knights... Let 'em have it!!"

Pentagon War Room, Washington DC

"How bad's the damage?"

"Sir, It's not looking good." General Grey said seriously. "We've lost over twenty percent of our planes in the first few seconds of combat... Our pilots can't use their missiles, and their RADAR isn't effective, and our pilots aren't used to fighting without RADAR anymore.

Whitmore nodded, he was a Fighter Jock himself and he knew that the loss of RADAR would be a massive handicap on the US Pilots. "What can we do?"

Grey shook his head, "Sir, I don't know."

The President of the United States of America growled low in his throat, barely resisting the urge to hit the screen in front of him. He wanted so badly to be there with his troops that he could *taste* the jet fuel, and the helplessness of watching his people die so far away was eating him from the inside out.


"Whoa! Check that furball out!"

Geoff took a breath as the wind whistled around him, he could feel it but distantly as a vibration through his armor. Ahead of him he could see the flames and and flashes of a fierce dogfight, but it looked all wrong to him. He frowned, "What the hell is going on over there??"

"I don't know, Geoff..." Drake said, frowning himself. "Looks like old times thought."

Geoff smiled involuntarily, then frowned almost as fast. That was the problem, the thing that was gnawing at him. It looked TOO much like old times.

"Where are the missile contrails??" Geoff suddenly blurted out. "Why are they using guns??"

Drake shrugged, a motion that caused Geoff to tighten his grip. The young Dragon didn't have a great grasp on modern technology, so he didn't really understand Geoff's sudden puzzlement. "I don't know."

"Goddamn." Maria Sanchez cursed as she stared up at the skies.

"Indeed." Giles nodded, shaking his head. "This is perhaps out of our league."

"You might be right, Mr Giles." Robert Sinclair said calmly. "But I fear that we have little choice but to play the game anyway."

Giles nodded, "You are most certainly correct. I suppose we should prepare then?"

Maria nodded, slapping down a button on the consol in front of her and leaning forward. "It's time, boys and girls... to your places!"

As her voice echoed over the PT Boat, the 'crew' of the small fighting ship jumped into action and slipped into their places behind the formidable array of weaponry the small little ship had even as Maria pushed the 579's throttle past the 'best speed' level and began to demand everything the three powerful marine diesels could give her.

"Can't we get ANYTHING!?"

The Ticonderoga's RADAR technician shrugged helplessly. "Negative Sir... They just don't *exist* according to our systems..."

"We;; for planes that don't exist, they sure are taking a big GODDAMNED *BITE* out of our fighters!" Captain Donalds snapped angrily.

The RADAR tech swallowed hard, nodding. "Yessir... I'll keep trying."

"You do that."

"Alright, Hammerheads... Form up."

Xander said the order as calmly as he could, willing his hands not to shake as he urged a little bit more power from the advanced fighter. The Laser projected HUD lit up his retina, showing the positions of the other Hammerheads as they slid into a flying wedge behind him. In his peripheral vision the HUD also fed him updates on the positions of the other two flights as they took up similar formations to either side of Angel Flight.

At Mach 6 and change the wing was barely minutes from the battle, but from the updates Merlin was shoving through the fighters Pilot Interface he wasn't at all certain that the conventional military had the time.

"YAAH!" Reverend completely un-reverend like exhultion ripped over the radio link as he waxed another bandit. "Take that you backstabbing Ess Oh Bee!"

Hiller briefly considered reprimanding him for the atrocious radio discipline, but only briefly. Truth was, they'd lost so many pilots that radio discipline had gone out the window a long while back. He could hear war cries, screams, and prayers on practically every channel and in a half dozen languages at least as the multi-national task forces began arriving on the scene and flew right into a furball that belonged in World War One.

Hiller felt sorry for some of those poor Chinese bastards who arrived in aircraft that were little more then overloaded missile launch platforms. Without the 'hand-to-hand' utility of the '18s forward guns his squadron would have been long dead.

All of these thoughts passed though his mind as he was automatically lining up another of the weird aircraft, and he puncutated the thoughts with a burst from his forward cannon, blowing another bandit to hell. Hiller glanced around, updating his visual understanding of the battle, then his eyes widened in shock. "Rev! Rev! On your Eight High!"

Captain Jimmy 'Reverend' Wilder snapped around as he looked over his left shoulder and spotted the incoming bandit. He muffled and curse and threw his throttle forward, trying to turn into the bandit's flight path to cut off it's engagement time. The pilot of the enemy aircraft was having none of that, using the incredible maneuvering of the small craft to pull in tight on Knight Two.

"I can't shake him, Lead!" Reverend snapped out a scant few seconds later as he kept trying to shake the pitbull of a pilot from his Six.

"Hold tight, Rev! Coming in!" Hiller shouted, as it the volume of his message would cause it to arrive faster at it's destination.

Hiller was coming around hard, beginning to gain on the airborne hunt he desperately needed to stop, only to pull the nose of his plane hard to the right as a blur damn near cut him off. Hiller cursed, his eyes following the motion until he saw what it was.

The Veteran pilot's eyes widened in shock, his jaw actually hanging loose for a moment as he took in what he saw.

A, there was simply no better word for it, Dragon had just *pounced* on the bandit in mid flight, ripping it to shreds. As the shredded debris fell into the pacific the Dragon leapt back into the air, gracefully flapping it's wings as it swooped around and looked for another target.

Hiller swallowed hard as he saw an armored figure on the Dragon's back. The figure seemed to look right at him, then threw him a fast salute as it and the Dragon slid past.

"Uh... Boss man?"

Hiller swallowed again, watching the dragon pounce on another bandit. Finally he spoke up, "No one... NO ONE shoots that bandit! Everyone get me?"

A weak chorus of acknowledgments echoed through the net and Hiller took a breath before speaking again. "Hey Rev?"

"Yeah Bossman?" Wilder's normally exuberant voice was somewhat subdied.

"What would the Good Reverend say about this?"

There was a long pause before the pilot's voice came back, his accent heavy, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... I shall fear no evil... At least not as long as THAT guy is on my side."

"Amen Reverend."

"What do we have?"

"Not a damn thing, Skip."

"We have to have something."

"Fraid not..." The slightly unkept man in what was obviously meant to be regulation navy gear shrugged. "If'n I didn't know better I'd think our boys were fighting ghosts up there."

The Captain sighed heavily, shaking his head. "Nothing on the Whiskers?"

"Not a buzz."

"Alright." The Captain turned around, walking to the front of the darkened room. "XO, Take up to Periscope."

"Yes SUH." The slim woman stepped forward, "Awright boys... Take us up. One and a half degree upbubble! Ahead three quarters!"

"Yes Ma'am." The two men at the forward stations nodded, "One and a half up, ahead three out of four."

The floor of the submarine tilted back noticeably as the vessel began it's climb. The Captain stepped back, laying a hand on the shoulder of a seated officer. "Weps, have them pull the long range ordinance and replace them with everything we have in the way of Surface to air."

The young man looked back, "Sir, without something to lock on to..."

"I know that, Weps." The Captain said sternly, "But the Surface to surface stuff is completly useless right now... and I want to be ready if Sonar get's lucky."

The man nodded, "YesSir."

The Captain moved back to the center of the room, plucking the Periscope up from the floor and locking it into place. "Time, XO?"

"Thirty seconds, Sir."

"Very good... Sound General Quarters."

President Whitmore's face tightened as more and more of the planes on the big screen, HIS planes, blinked out of existence, wiped out by the invisible enemy. From the chatter he knew that the fight wasn't completely one-sided, but it didn't help that all HE could see was the deaths of his own. None of the people in the War Room with him were getting any 'revenge', however vicarious, from the Bandit deaths, and that made the tension rise considerably.

"Get me, Harris." He finally snapped.


Xander frowned, "What is it, Merlin?"

"The President would like to speak to you, Sir."

"Can it wait??" Xander asked incredulously.

"He seems rather, agitated."

Xander growled, but truthfully he wqas still at least a minute away, so he could spare a couple words. "Put him through."

"Yes, Sir."

A moment later there was a click and Xander heard the connection open. "Yes, Mr President?"

"My people are dying, Harris! What's you're big plan??"

"Now isn't the time..." Xander began tensely.

"Now is the ONLY time!" Whitmore snapped in anger.

"Mr President..." Xander said tensely, then he abruptly calmed down and smiled. "I think you should watch your displays.."


"Alright Rudy... You in position?"

"Ready to roll."

"Merlin..." Xander smiled, "Light em up."

"Light em up."

Whitmore frowned, puzzled, "Huh? What's he?"

"Oh My God."

The President spun to the shocked voices, his eyes widening as he took in the huge display at the front of the room. On it there were lights appearing from nowhere, just blinking into existence in the dark blood red that signified a hostile aircraft.

"Jesus Christ, Mr President," General Grey said, his voice filled with awe. "We can see them..."

Whitmore blinked away the shock, getting his voice under control. "Get on the horn... patch this into the AWACS units... Get this information to our men!"

"No need, Sir..." Grey said, holding an earphone to his head. He handed it over to Whitmore, "They already know."

"What the hell??"

Knight Three's exclamation echoed over the net, and pretty much summed up the thoughts of every other fighter pilot in the joint task force, including those of Captain Stephen Hiller.

Almost as one, every single proximity alarm and warning buzzer in the entire squadron went into overdrive as his HUD suddenly came to life. It took all of three seconds for it to click in, and by the end of second four he was grinning so wide that his face seemed to split in half. "Oh YEAH! Now THAT is what I am talking 'bout!!"

He pulled up on the stick slightly, and the slow beeping suddenly turned into a long solid whine. "Knight lead... I have tone. Fox Three!"

The RADAR guided AMRAAM missile dropped from it's pylon and flared as the powerful jet motor ignited and slammed the big missile into one of the odd fighter craft a few seconds later. As the expanding cloud of debris began a slow descent into the pacific, a roar of whoops and cheers went up over every frequency as the Allied pilots realized that their guns had just been 'loaded'.

Cries of 'Fox Three; echoed over the net in the next few seconds, and the sky was filled with missiles, contrails, and explosions.

Xander Harris adjusted his controls slightly, then nodded. "Alright, All planes, this is Seraphim... Angel Flight will take the lead, Warbird and Eagle will follow us in from both flanks."

"You got it." Doug Masters replied.

"Warbird's with you." Chappy Sinclair said.

"Alright," Xander nodded, "All fighters... Let's get ready to announce our arrival. Merlin, Patch me into all military frequencies and prepare to issue new orders to the Allied pilots."

There was a brief pause, then Merlin came back. "Patched in."

Xander took a breath and began to speak.

"All allied pilots..."

The voice came over the Pentagon speakers, causing all eyes to trun toward them in shock.

"Where is that coming from!?" General Grey demanded instantly.

"Prepare for inbound artillery barrage." The voice continued, "Safe corridors are being transmitted to your planes as I speak. Please follow these corridors to ensure your safety."

"What the hell is going on!? Shut him down!!" Grey ordered loudly.

"No! No!!" Whitmore said, causing everyone to freeze. "That's Harris!"

"Mr President!" Grey turned, his eyes wide. "You can't let someone give orders to our boys..."

"I'm not." Whitmore said, turning to the radio man seated by him. "Confirm those orders... under my authority."

The man gulped, but nodded. "Yes Mr President."

"What the hell is going on, Cap??"

"I don't know, Rev... But orders are orders." Hiller snapped, "Knights, Take evasive action... Break off the attack..."

There was a lot of griping on the channels, but everyone followed orders. No one was particularly happy about it, especially considering that they had only just gotten back the initiative in this fight.

Hiller suddenly snapped around, looking over his shoulder. "Dammit!!"

"What is it, Cap?"

"Where's our friend on the flying iguana?" Hiller asked.

There was a pause, "Damn! I don't see him!"

"We have to warn him!"

There was another pause, then Knight Five's voice came over the radio. "I'm on it Captain! Get everyone clear!"

Hiller hesitated, then nodded, "You heard Skye! Everyone clear out!"

"They're entering the safe cooridors, Commander."

Xander nodded, "Alright. All Hammerheads... Fire."

"Hey, Drake..." Geoff frowned, "Where's everone going?"

Drake glanced around, "I don't know..."

As the two friends looked around in mild confusion, a single fighter came along side them and the pilot waved almost frantically at them.

"What does he want??" Drake asked.

"I think he wants us to follow him..." Geoff frowned.

"Should we?"

Geoff looked at all the other fighters as they bugged out of the area and made a descision. "Something's up. Follow him."

From each Hammerhead, a single large missile dropped from a center pylon, one not normally used by the planes. Naquada powered reactors roared into action on each missile, powering the big birds into a screaming acceleration that took each of them into the heart of a Goa'uld attack force.

It took only a matter of seconds for those birds to cross the distance still separating them from the attackers, and less time then that for the onboard systems to enter their attack range. The birds didn't go straight at the enemy, instead the accelerated into position *above* the Goa'uld force.

At a preset position the warheads of the missiles seperated from the main body, and split into several dozen smaller submunitions. The smaller warheads entered into a freefall that was guided by smaller versions of the counter grav units that kept the Hammerheads aloft.

Each of the smaller munitions dropped swiftly, zeroing in, as programed, on any target that wasn't equipped with an IFF transmitter set to allied frequencies.

When the came into contact with a Death Glider, the results were... spectacular.

"Holy mother of god!" Reverend said over the radio, his voice laden with shock.

"Amen." Hiller replied in much the same tone.

The sky was on fire, there was simply no other way to describe it. The entire sky was on fire.

It lasted for seconds that seemed to be hours, then began to fade away. Hiller blinked as he realized that single strike had managed to thin out the opposition by over half, and suddenly, they weren't out numbered any more.

That was when the voice came back over the radio.

"All Allied, pilots... You are clear to reengage. Be advised, you have three new squadrons entering the vicinity from the South East. They are friendly, repeat, friendly."

Hiller shook off his shock, "You heard the man... Let's get back in there!"

"Ready for Phase two, Merlin?"

"Of course Commander." Merlin replied, "I am prepared to transmit on all Goa'uld, Asguardian, and Human Military frequencies. The transmission will be simulcast in the language of each frequencies user."

Xander nodded, watching as the firefight began to close. "Ok, Hammerheads... Go get em."

Everyone but Xander and his Wingman, Kevin, rocketed forward. Xander nodded once more, "Ok. Begin transmission, Merlin."

"Beginning transmission."

"To all Jaffa pilots and their Goa'uld leaders..."

"... This is Alexander Harris, You have illegally entered this system and are hearby requested, required, and *commanded* to withdraw all forces from Earth's atmosphere..."

Apophis looked around in shock as the voice came over his own battle frequencies, speaking directly to him in his own language. His eyes grew white as he spun, "What is happening!?"

"I do not know my lord! Our Death Gliders have been struck by a massive attack... and the Tau'ri forces are now engaging them from a distance with missiles!"

"Impossible! Their weapons cannot track our technology!"

"I do not know how my lord but..."

The voice interrupted them, "... And then the Hat'ak mother ship in orbit is ordered to quit the system immediately, or be destroyed..."

"He dares to threaten ME!?" Apophis raged.

"... You are hearby informed that the Earth is under the protection of the Atlantean special forces. This is your first, final, and only warning. Harris, out."

Apophis stopped in mid tirade, paling. "He's lying. He HAS to be!!"

Pentagon Warroom

"Atlantean Special Forces? The guys a nutter."

Whitmore looked over at his Secretary of defence, his expression sour. "Thank you for your input, but it's hardly constructive."

"Mr President, you can't honestly believe that this man represents *Atlantis*??"

"Mr Secretary," Whitmore said patiently, "I don't think I'd care to contradict him if he claimed he was a speaking terms with GOD. Not after what he just did to those bandits."

"Atlantis?? I've heard some bullshit in my life, but that one takes the cake." Hiller muttered as he got tone on another enemy craft and mashed down on the stud that dropped another AMRAAM from it's pylon.

"Don't knock it, Cap..." Reverend said, his voice filled with humor. "I'll take any help I can get right now... Even if it is from a delusional nutcase."

Hiller shook his head, grinning as he started to line up another shot. "You have a.... What the!?!?"

His eyes widened in shock as his bandit suddenly erupted into a ball of fire, then another went up on his two o'clock, then a third on his eleven. Hiller looked around just in time to see three groups of very odd looking advanced fighters rip into the battle, guns blazing as they waxed bandit after bandit.

"That's it." Xander said, nudging his acceleration up to full. "Let's mix it up, Kev."

"Don't call me Kev." Hercules growled humorously as he stayed with Xander.

"Whatever you say, Kev." Xander grinned, "Then again, I guess now I can call you Herc and no one will wonder why huh?"

Herc groaned slightly, remembering that Tara had also managed to peg him with a 'new' callsign. He wondered if it was actually 'allowed' to use his real name as a callsign under the Fighter Jock code. "Let's just get this done."

"You got, Herc." Xander grinned.

"You lead, I'll follow... Seraphim."

Herculse grinned as he heard the, totally unhumorous, groan that came from his wingleader.

"Holy shit...." Hiller whispered almost reverently as he watched one of the newcomers enter the fight at a blinding rate, a blaze of fire leading the way as it trap shot three of the alien craft on it's way through.

The, when Hiller thought it had lost the firing arc, the newcomer spun on it's axis and continued firing away as it flashed out of the battle, *backwards*. "That's not possible."

"Tell that to the nuts flying those things, Cap'n." Reverend replied, his own voice thick with shock.

Hiller shook his head, trying like hell to clear it. "Ok, Knights... Back at it! Those new guys must be our 'backup'... let's get in there before they have all the fun!"

Doug Masters twisted his plane hard to the left, waxing four bandits with an smooth sweep of his forward gun. All the fighter pilot's instincts screamed at him to acquire tone and use his missiles, but Harris' orders stood in his mind and he had to admit that the forward guns and dorsal turret were lethally effective.

"Eagle Two, this is Eagle Lead," He announced into his mic, "Switch to heading two oh four mark two and accelerate for a second attack run. I'll cover you through."

"Roger Eagle Lead. Eagle Two confirms." Captain Samantha Carter said back.

Doug looked over the position of his team on the HUD and began issuing orders to them as he adjusted his own course to match Eagle Two."

"Ah... Sir.."

"What is it, Sonar?" The Captain asked without looking away from the Periscope.

"We've got some interesting data filtering in over the Whiskers array..."

"How interesting?"

"I'd say Very Interesting sir. Targeting data and IFF codes for the battle above us."

"What!?" The Captain pushed away from the scope and moved to look over Sonar's shoulder. "Well I'll be damned."

He straightened up and moved back quickly. "Sonar, send that data to Steppanic. Weps,"

"Yes Sir?" Lieutenant Steppanic straightened.

"Think you can announce our presence in style, Lt?"

"Oh I think I can manage that, Sir."

"Alright Warbird," Brigadier General Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair said with a practiced air of 'the devil may care', "Let's get in there and rough them up a little."

Warbird Flight flew in perfect formation as they ripped through the first hints of Goa'uld resistance, the lead elements of the flight opening up without warning as the forward mounted weapons buzz sawed through the first ranks of Death Gliders.

On their port flank, Kevin and his wingman, Seamus, rotated their aircraft and slid along with the group while they covered the flank. To starboard Palmer and Leichman did the same, clearing the skies in that direction while their turrets joined with Kevin and Seamus' to wreak unimaginable havok on the skies above them.

As the Warbirds penetrated deeper into the enemy mass, Chappy snapped an order. "Wheeler, go to it."

"You got it, Chappy." Wheeler, Chappy's wingman, hit her retros and simulatneosly flipped her plane end for end while killing her reactors. Warbird Two wound up pointing straight back while in an inverted flight profile with it's turret and forward cannon blazing as it cleared the skies behind and below the team. "Waaaahooooo!"

"Can that chatter, Warbird Two." Chappy snapped, even as he grinned and rolled his eyes.

"Suh yes Suh!" Wheeler grinned as she replied in classic 'recruit' form, obviously implying that Chappy's order was as 'dumb as a drill seargent'.

"Smartass." Chappy grinned, then sobered, "Ok Warbird, we're about to break through the other side... get ready to..."

"We're getting a patch from the AWACS Sir!"

Captain Donalds glanced over, "Are they getting anything more then we are?"

"Yes Sir! Targets, vector data, everything sir!"

"Load the birds, insert the chip." Donalds said, his decision made instantly. "Fire when ready."

Below the fight, two unnoticed players were about to make their presence known.

The first announced it's presence with a sudden barrage of missiles that leapt from under the cover of the ocean, blowing off shielding as they lifted into the air, and then accelerated rapidly into the battle.

The second was a little less dramatic, but even more effective. The USS Ticonderoga Aegis Class Cruiser opened up with everything in her inventory, missiles and ground to air fire from Phalanx cannons ripping into any targets of opportunity.

Suddenly the Jaffa Death Glider pilotsd found themselves caught in a triangle of devilishly lethal fire that was ripping them apart with a ferocity that was unmatched in their experience. The wolves had stumbled into a hornets nest, and these insects had stings that killed.

"My Lord!" The Jaffa slapped his fist across his chest almost absently as he presented, "We've lost more then sixty percent of the Death Glider's we commited to the mission..."

"What!? How is this possible!?"

"The enemy fighters that had entered the battle are faster and more lethal then the ones who first initiated contact, Sire." The Jaffa responded, "They have trapped our pilots between them and the others and are systematically eliminating our Gliders."

Apophis growled, turning back to the huge HUD that displayed the battle data for him as well as the rest of the command crew. He shook with rage for a long moment, then made up his mind. "Withdraw our pilots. We will regroup and prepare a second attack."

"My Lord!"

Xander twisted the thruster control gently, rotating his fighter thirty degrees to port, and trap shot a Glider that was making a run on a Mig that was painted with a large red star. "Watch out buddy... these guys play for keeps."

He killed the thruster and stopped fighting the airflow, letting the aerodynamics of the fighter snap him back into position with jarring abruptness. "Hey Herc, You see what I see? Nine High..."

Hercules looked to his left, his eyes widening. "That would depend. Do you see a dragon making Jaffa popsicles while some guy in armor is shooting off a big gun from his back??"

"Thank god." Xander sighed in relief, "I thought I was going loopy for a second. Hey, Dragan!"

"What??" Dragan snapped from where he was busy shaking a Glider from his tail.

"You know that guy by any chance?"

"Just because my name is Dragan why do you assume I'll know..." Dragan paused, "Oh hey... That's Drake and Geoff!"

"That's who and *what*??" Xander asked, confused.

"Actually it's what and who. Drake is the dragon, Geoff is the nutcase riding him." Dragan muttered, activating his turret as he did. As the two heavy plasma cannons rendered the Glider that was trying to sneak up on him to dust, he came back, "Met them a while back..."

"They trustworthy?"

"Sure. Geoff's got a real White Knight complex." Dragan responded, "Just don't use my name as a reference if you talk to them... I was in one of my more mercenary moods back then."

"Oookay." Xander shook his head, suddenly snapping back to 'reality' when his onboard sensors began beeping at him. "Hey... what the?"

Pentagon Warroom

"They're pulling out!" General Grey said in shock.

A cheer went up through the war room, but whitmore put a stop to it as quickly as it started. "Cut that out! Quiet down! Quiet!!"

A hush fell over the group, and the President turned to Grey. "Details."

"The surviving enemy fighters have broken off and are climbing for orbit." Grey responded, looking at the screen. "Our fighters, and those of our allies, have been forced to let them go... but the newcomers are still in pursuit."

"Alright Hammerheads, "They're leaving town... let's send em off in style." Xander said, "Angel Lead... Fox Three."

"Warbird Lead," Chappy declared, "Fox Three."

"Eagle Lead, Fox Three."

One by one all the Hammerheads tilted their noses up and acquired tone, and then announced their launches. With the enemy on the run, they could fire off their missiles and be confident of getting a new load out before anything new hit them between the eyes. The skies filled with the glinting lights of the missiles burners, and the whisping smoke of their contrails, as the three flights of Hammerheads unloaded their missile payloads.

The missiles roared upwards, climbing for orbit even as the Gliders began to make their exit from Earth's atmosphere, and ripped into the retreating gliders like the furious hand of god.

"Jesus." Hiller whispered into the net, looking up at the eerily spherical explosions occurring in the skies above him.

"Some fireworks, huh boss?" Reverend asked, his own voice quiet. "I guess we know now why they saved their birds, huh?"

Hiller nodded, "Yeah."

"Uh, Captain?"

"What is it, Five?" Hiller returned his attention to the situation at hand.

"I don't know about anyone else," Jarod Skye said calmly, "But my fuel situation is starting to worry me, Sir."

Hiller cursed, looking down at his own readings. Sure enough his fuel tank was definitely on the lean side, though it hadn't reached the point of no return yet. He shook his head, "Black Knights, check fuel and prepare to return to the carrier. I want the leanest tanks down first, so call out by the numbers people!"

Pentagon Warroom

"That's it Sir," Grey said after a moment, "They've left the atmosphere. They're gone."

"And the Big Boy?" Whitmore asked.

"Still there sir, but maybe when it picks up his stragglers..." Grey said, almost hopefully.

"Do you really think he'll just pick up and leave, General?"

Grey hesitated, then shook his head. "No Sir, I don't."

"Right. Our boys?"

"Requesting permission to return to base for fuel and weapons." Grey responded, "But they're ready to get back in there, Sir."

Whitmore nodded, "Of course they are. Get them down and loaded... Make sure that all our allies have the fuel to make it home, otherwise direct them to the closest bases for the same."

"Yes Sir."

"That was TOO easy!" Wheeler crowed over the net as the Hammerheads turned for home.

"Stow that, Two." Chappy snapped sternly. "It ain't over yet."

"Hey, we kicked their asses!"

"Not likely, Wheeler." Doug joined the conversation. "We just tapped em on the chin a little. Made them notice us. They'll be back, and when they come they'll be spoiling for a little payback."

"Doug is right," Xander said over the net. "We got them by surprise today, but if you really think that THIS was easy... Look down."

There was a silence over the net as many of the Hammerhead pilots looked down at the water below. Water that was littered with the debris of dozens of American and allied fighter aircraft, dye markers and parachute silk, and even the occasionally visible body.

"Don't forget who took the brunt of this attack, Wheeler." Xander said calmly, "It wasn't us. It was them. Next time, we'll be the ones the Jaffa come hunting for... Next time, we won't have it so easy."

There was silence over the tactical network as the Hammerheads roared away, and on the rolling seas below the rescue teams mounted by the Ticonderoga and the PT-579 began in earnest.

"That really sucked."

Jason Howe splashed around a bit as he tried to get clear of the material of his chute. He heard an engine and looked up through the clinging wet material to see a lovely, if unusual, sight. An old PT Boat was cruising up to his position, people leaning over the side and shouting for him.

"Over here! I'm right here!" He waved his hands around, trying to attract their attention.

It seemed to work, the boat turned toward him slightly and a deck hand threw out a rope. He grabbed at it, giving it a couple quick tugs when he had it tightly gripped. In his later years, Howe would never be able to accurately describe the feeling of pure joy he felt when that line went taught and the PT Boat started to reel him in.

When he reached the side he was pulled up a bit, then strong hands reached down and pulled him aboard.

"Thanks for the save, guys..." He muttered, starting to shiver as he rolled onto the deck. "I don't know who you guys are, but you were one welcome sight!"

"Don't worry about it, kid." A man said, smiling down at him. "Come on, strip off those clothes. This water ain't exactly a hot tub this time of year. We've got some dry duds and a pack of blankets waiting for ya."

Jason allowed them to hustle him out of his clothes almost at the same time as they wrapped him up in a heavy blanket. A few moments later he was seated in free corner with other downed pilots, with a hot cup of coffee in his hand.

As he sipped the coffee slowly, Jason looked around the open deck to see that there were more then just americans with him. He saw a couple russians talking to each other at one end, and three chinese pilots were jabbering away at the other.

"Hey pal," One of the other pilots nodded to him, passing over a block of chocolate. "Here, this will help warm you up a tad."

"Thanks... uh?"

The man smiled, "Sorry. Matt. Matt Riley, CAF... My '18 got ripped to shreds by one of those weird buckets and I got dropped in the drink. Then this thing comes along and fishes me out... I spent my first fifteen minutes on board half expecting the bermuda triangle to swallow it up again and dump me back in the water."

Jason laughed out loud, gathering a few glances. "Jason Howe. Good to meet you, Matt. And damned if I don't know what you're talking about... Who the hell operates a PT Boat now-a-days?"

The Canadian pilot shrugged, "No clue, pal. Don't much care right now either."

The pitch of the motor shifted, and Matt looked up. "We're slowing down to pick up another one... That makes what? Over twenty since I came on board?"

Jason looked around the deck, counting heads. "Twelve I think."

Matt shook his head, "No, they've been packing the wounded away down below... only the lucky ones are on deck?"

Jason shivered at the thought, considering how close he had come to be quarter below decks, or not being found at all.

"I wonder what country the next boy will belong too?"

Jason shrugged, "No clue. They don't seem to be playing favorites."

A few moments later their curiosity was answered as another figure was fished from the cold water. It was a woman in a dark uniform, they saw as she was deposited unceremoniously on the deck by the men who hauled her out of the water. Her black hair was plastered across her face and she shivered as her uniform was stripped off her and a heavy blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

Instantly another cup of coffee was poured and a slab of chocolate handed to her. She was seated on a clear spot on the deck next to Jason.

He nodded at her, "Heya, Ma'am."

She nodded weakly, sipping at the steaming coffee. "Hello."

"That answers that." Matt smiled, and Jason chuckled.

She looked confused at them, "What?"

"You're accent, Ma'am." Jason replied, "We were wondering what country the next one would belong to."

She nodded tiredly, "I am Russian, of course."

"Of course." Jason extended his hand, "Jason Howe, the Canuck over here is Matt Riley."

"Hello to you both," She said between sips, "I am Valeri Zuyeniko."

"Hey!" Came a voice from across the deck, "You speak russian??"

Valeri looked up, bemused. "Of course... why?"

"Cause we've got a guy up here whose been trying to talk to us for an hour now... seems important, but damned if we can figure out what he wants..." The owner of the voice stated.

Valeri got up slowly and walked over to the small group. She introduced herself and exchanged a few rapid fire words with the russian in question. Then she frowned and turned to the man, "He wishes to know when the russian government will be informed of our condition..."

The man looked surprised, "You know, that's probably a good question. Problem is, I don't know what country is running this tub."

"What? They are Americans, are they not?"

"Ain't no such thing as an American PT Boat, lady. Not in a long time." The man said, frowning himself. "Truth was, I was so damned grateful to be pulled out of the drink I didn't think to ask who they were... anyone here know??"

There was a general denial, and the other rescuees started to look around with a bit of concern and a lot of curiosity.

Maria looked to one side as she piloted the heavy craft. "Anymore?"

Giles swept the water, a powerful pair of binoculars in his hands, and shook his head. "No. Not that I can see. Robert?"

They looked over their shoulder to where Robert was focusing on a spell. Finally he looked up, his face grim. "No more survivors, Rupert."

Giles sighed, "Alright. What's the status of the ones we did get?"

"We've got fourteen or fifteen in good shape," One of Dragan's men stated, "But another fifteen or more that are messed to varying degrees."

Giles shook his head, "Damn it. Maria, call the warship... see if they can help."

Mari nodded, picking up her mic. "American Cruiser, please respond, this is the PT-579."

"Captain, I think you should hear this..."

Captain Donalds walked over as the comm officer flicked on the radio.

"American Cruiser, I repeat, please respond this is the PT 579."

Donalds looked up in confusion, "PT?? What the...?"

"I don't know Captain, but they're out there... we've got them on the screens... looks like they've been doing the same thing we have."

Donalds shook his head, "Alright, hand me the mic."

The comm officer handed off the mic to the Captain.

"PT 579, this is the US Cruiser Ticonderoga... What is your situation?"

There was a pause, then the woman's voice came back again. "Ticonderoga, we have approximately thirty aviators on board, including approximately thirty with varying degrees of injury that require immediate attention."

Donalds looked around in surprise, "Uhh... Roger that 579."

"We need to unload the injured aviators as quickly as possible, Ticonderoga, we don't have the facilities to treat them."

"Damnit." Donalds looked around, "What's the status of our own facilities now?"

"We're tapped out, Sir. We've picked up almost fifty ourselves... we have them stacked in the halls down there."

Donalds rubbed his forehead, "Damnit. Where's the SAR units we were promised?"

"Still thirty minutes out."

"Great. Just great." Donalds sighed, "alright, I want someone up here to meet with the 579 and triage the mosre serious cases... Helm, plot us a course."

"Aye Captain."

"Aye Captain."

Maria set down the mic and shook her head, "That didn't sound good."

"What is it?"

She turned to Giles, shaking her head. "The Tico is coming to meet us..."

"That's good, isn't it?"

"Not if the captain's voice means anything." Maria said, "I think they've got their hands full."

"Bloody marvelous." Giles muttered, "We've got people down there bleeding to death, and nothing but some basic first aid training on board."

"We need a miracle." Maria said.

"Right. A..." Giles eyes widened, "A miracle. That's it!"


"Leo. By God, we need Leo."

"Miss Mathews?"

Paige looked up in surprise, "Yes Merlin?"

"You have a radio call from Mr Giles. I believe that it's urgent."

Paige's eyes widened, "Is Xander...?"

"He's fine. He and the other pilots are returning to base as we speak."

Paige sighed, "Ok... put Giles through."

A moment later a voice broke through the air. "Paige?"

"Yes Mr Giles?"

"We have wounded pilots here on board... I was hoping you might be able to call Leo?"

"Of course... Of course..." Paige nodded, "I'll contact him immediately and try to get out to you."

"Thank you, Miss Mathews." Giles said, his voice relieved.

Paige nodded as the connection closed, then looked up. "Leo!"

Xander watched the island that housed Avalon approach as they flew into the rapidly setting sun and at once cursed himself and thanked god for what he had been able to do.

"Hammerheads... Line up in groups of three and follow Merlin's vectors." He ordered.

As the planes descended into the range of Avalon's 'traps' Xander shook his head and worried about what the future was going to bring.

Chapter 5

April 5th, 1996 - Digging In


Xander unsnapped the harness securing him to his fighter as a big trundling loader walked up and clipped onto his plane. As it started to tow the plane away to be serviced, Xander dropped to the ground and stretched wearily as he walked out of the hanger.


He looked up, smiling as he saw Paige on a catwalk above him. He nodded to her and changed direction slightly to meet her.

"Xander, are you alright?" She asked him her face concerned.

He nodded tiredly, "Yeah. I'm fine."

"What's wrong?"

Xander sighed, shaking his head. "It's nothing you can help with, Paige... I just need to make a decision."

Paige looked almost hurt for a moment, but then grabbed his arm. "Come on... You need to rest."

Xander looked about to object, but then nodded and let her guide him to his room. As they walked, he spoke to Merlin. "Merlin,"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Have O'Neill and Carter meet me in Central in thirty..."

"Ahem!" Paige growled at him.

Xander smiled, "An hour."

"Yes Sir."

PT 579

"You need help?"

Giles barely kept himself from jumping when the soft spoken voice echoed from behind him, instead turning with a iron control and nodding. "Yes, leo. We have wounded below... Could you?"

Leo nodded, then hesitated, "Uhh... I'm not certain how to say this... but don't you think this is a little public?"

Giles nodded, "Yes. I agree... I've been considering that."


"And we have some light sedatives... On you're word we'll sedate the patients before you... well... do your thing."

Leo nodded, "Alright, let's get to work."


Xander stepped out from behind a small screen, his flight suit replaced by his 'normal' uniform, to be greeted by the sight of Paige sitting on the lip of the hot tub. She took one look and glared at him, "You are not going right back to 'work' without any break at all, are you?"

He looked at the beautiful brunette longingly, but nodded. "I'm sorry, Paige... We're just to hard pressed for time..."

"Don't give me that." She glared, "I've seen you take on a GOD and still have time to buy lingerie for christ's sake!"

"This isn't the same thing. This is a real war, Paige." Xander said before sighing and relenting, "Look... I have to meet with Carter and O'Neill..."

"You have forty five minutes!"

"And I have to get ready." Xander said, "Paige... I..."

"Save it, Hero," She replied darkly, getting up. "For someone who cares."

Xander's mouth worked, but no sound came out. Paige stalked from the room, leaving him staring in shock at the empty space she had left behind. <What the hell just happened here??>

Paige stepped out of the room, fighting back the urge to run back in and apologize almost as hard as she was fighting the urge to cry.

<Damn that man!> She cursed inwardly, not noticing the small form in front of her until she almost tripped over her. "Mikki?"

The little girl scowled at her, deliberately stepping to one side to clear room for her.

"Mikki... are you alright?" Paige asked, her voice still hoarse from the rampaging emotions invoked by her conflict with Xander. She hesitantly reached down to the child.

"Don't." Mikki evaded her touch easily, positioning herself between Paige and Xander's room.

"Mikki... What?"

"I heard you." Mikki scowled, folding her arms across her chest. The little girl nodded forcefully down the hall, "Go."

Paige sighed. This, she didn't need. "Mikki... I was just..."

"Go." The young Were's voice was ice cold with a hint of threat hidden behind it.

Paige opened her mouth again, then let her hands fall to her side. She gave up, turning away and walking down the hall.

Xander left his room some time later, barely avoiding tripping over Mikki as he did. "Mik?? What are you doing out here?"

The little girl smiled up at him and shrugged, "Waiting."

"You know you could come in any time, Mik..."

Michelle Mirri shrugged, "Didn't want to bother you."

Xander smiled slightly, nodding. "Ok... Thanks for the thought, Mik. I've got to go now though, I've got a meeting."

"Ok." The girl smiled back, "Later?"

"Later." Xander promised, then headed for control.

PT 579

"That's the last of the critical patients," Leo sighed, straightening up. He actually had to wipe the sweat from his face. Healing people wasn't a huge draw on him, but the stress of deciding who to heal, and how much sedative to give them first, was more taxing then the actual job. "The rest will make it even without help... A good Doc will have them on their feet in no time."

"Thank you, Leo." Giles said, wiping his own face clean.

"Thanks for assisting, Mr Giles." Leo said, nodding to the syringe in the other man's hand.

"All part of the job, I'm afraid." Giles said, shrugging. "You've saved a lot of lives here today."

Leo smiled wanly, "All part of the job, Mr Giles."

Giles smiled, "Please, call me Rupert or just plain Giles."


Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter sat in the Control room overlooking Avalon's flight 'decks', both fairly tired. Jack looked up impatiently when Xander entered, "What is it, Harris?"

Xander didn't look too good himself. "I've been chatting with Merlin about on of our problems."

"Which one?" Jack asked sarcastically.

"The one that cost the good guys a ton of planes and pilots today." Xander snapped, then instantly regretted it.

"Oh. That one."

Xander nodded, "Yeah. I've gotten Merlin to draw up instructions for connecting LIDAR equipped scout pods to AWACS planes. I'm going to cut loose ten pods from storage."

Jack blinked, his eyes widening. "You... ah... you did?"

Xander nodded tiredly.

"What about not wanting to hand out advanced technology?"

"I still don't..." Xander frowned, "But this is costing us lives. Lives we can't afford... lives we shouldn't be spending, even if they weren't necessary to the survival of the planet. So I'm going to compromise. Merlin agrees."

"Oh. Well... Good."

Xander nodded, then turned to Carter. "Sam... I want you to pick a team to do the installations... You won't be able to head them, so choose good people. We need you on the Eagles."

Carter nodded, her mind already turning. "We'll have instructions to follow?"

Merlin appeared, "That is correct, Captain. I've drawn up detailed instructions to integrating the sensor output to an AWACS computer system... I am afraid, however, that it will require some very expensive equipment."

"What sort?"

"A Fiberoptic interface currently under development at M.I.T." Merlin replied instantly, "It can be used to convert data from the pod's crystalline output into electronic impulses. I've included the necessary software."

Sam blinked in shock, nodding slowly. "I... I'm sure that can be arranged."

"Good." Xander said quickly, "Sam... You get that done, I'll have a transport loaded with the pods. Jack..."

"I'll get the Pres on the line."

"Alright," Xander smiled slightly, "Let's get this done before our friends upstairs decide to pay us another visit, shall we?"

Paige growled, thumping her elbow into the wall as she slid down it to sit on the floor.

<Jesus. What the hell did I just do??> She questioned herself as she shook her head. <Holy hell, Paige! Like he doesn't have enough on his plate now, you have to go adding to it!?>

She let out a short chuff of breath that could have been a sob, or merely a sigh, and looked up at the ceiling.

And right into the concerned eyes of Faith.

"What the hell is wrong, Paige?" The young Slayer asked, her voice obviously concerned.

Paige stared at her, stricken silent for a long moment as she tried to decide what to say.

"You're telling me that these pods can let our AWACS units see the enemy fighters?"

Jack nodded, looking at the image of the President on the screen. "That's correct, Mr President."

President Whitmore shook his head, looking amazed and relieved at the same time. "How long until they can be delivered?"

"I have the list of people that Captain Carter recommends to do the installations here," Jack said, "And Harris is already en-route to the Enterprise with the delivery. Ah... you might want to tell them not to shoot when an unidentified aircraft flies in without showing up on their radar... Though Harris will be broadcasting an IFF signal."

"I'll cut the order." Whitmore turned, "how many AWACS are on the Enterprise?"

"Three Sir." General Grey said instantly.

"Ok, I want a team flown out there immediately." Whitmore said, "Carter's top choices."

"You've got it, Mr President."

Whitmore turned back to the screen ad Jack O'Neill. "Anything else, Colonel?"

Jack shook his head, "No sir. We're all pretty beat here. It's been a long week... Training wound everyone up pretty tight, and the fight just made it worse... I'm kind of hoping that they are surprised enough to give us a day or two to get it back together. Some of the pilots here are just kids..."

Whitmore nodded, "Some of them always are, Colonel."

"I know."

"So you told him off and then stormed out?" Faith looked down at Paige with a disgusted look on her face.

Paige nodded miserably, ducking her head to avoid meeting the Slayer's eyes.

There was a long moment of silence, then Paige heard something utterly astonishing.

Faith was laughing.

Paige looked up, growing angry again without knowing why. "Stop that!"

Faith shook her head, her laughter trickling down slightly, but didn't stop.

"Cut that out!"

"Sorry..." Faith said between chuckles. "You know, Boytoy should know better by now."


"What did he expect?" Faith shrugged, not paying attention to Paige at all. "He hooks up with some chick who's got enough power to level a building, he should know better then to leave them sitting around while he goes off to do the 'mans' work."

"What are you talking about?"

Faith shook her head, wondering at how weird it was to be the mature one in the group. She smiled gently at Paige and reached down to pull the other girl up. "You're frustrated, Girl. You've got the power to go toe to toe with the baddest bastards this planet or any other can field, but instead of being there by his side, you're stuck back here. It's got you on edge. You got pissed, trust me, I've been there."

Paige shook her head miserably, "You might be right, but I shouldn't have taken it out on Xander."

Faith nodded in agreement, "True enough. But who else are ya gonna take it out on? He's calling the shots..."

Paige grimaced, but didn't say anything.

"Hey, buck up girl." Faith slapped her on the back, "You'll get a handle on it. Lord knows, if I can, anyone can."

"How did you?"

Faith shrugged, "Don't know."

"That's really helpful." Paige muttered sarcastically.

Faith chuckled, "Come on, we'll find something useful to do while you figure out how to get that foot out of your mouth."

Transport, En Route to the Enterprise

Xander checked his heading, glancing worriedly around the displays.

"Is something wrong?"

Xander grinned, glancing back at Samantha Carter, "Nah... It's just that this is the Transport I repaired last week."


"So, it's also the first transport I ever repaired..." Xander smiled sheepishly, "And I had some parts left over."

Samantha looked at him oddly, "I... I see."

"Yeah," Xander motioned toward the transport's 'dash' where a crystal and fiber link were still laying. "I really spooked Jack with that one earlier, let me tell you."

Carter smothered a snicker and tried to look stern. "How long to the Enterprise?"

Xander smiled, "Four minutes. Let's hope they don't try to shoot us down."

"Colonel O'Neill said he'd have the President smooth things over."

"You trust Jack to get it right?" Xander grinned.

"Off the record?" Sam smiled back, "If it were something less important I might be worried."

Xander nodded, "Me too."

USS Enterprise

"Captain... I think our friend is inbound."

Captain Marcus Perry turned and walked over to his intercept officer, "Oh?"

"Unless someone else has a completely invisible plane flying our own IFF flags."

"Let's hope not." Perry said dryly, "Signal our patrols to intercept and escort. Oh, and have a deck crew muster out to meet them."

"Aye Sir."

Captain Eric Nolan blinked as he tried to pace the bogey on his RADAR. "Hot damn. This boy is moving, Sir... I'm sorry, but I can't pace him for you."

"Alright Captain, peel off and return to your patrol. The Marshal is locking him up now..."

"You got it, Enterprise." Nolan said, "Blue Leader, peeling out."

The F/A 18 pulled away even as the fast moving contact continued pulling away.

The USS Marshal, part of the Carrier Task Force, instantly locked up the IFF signal as it entered into it's range, then transmitted orders.

"Inbound Contact, This is the USS Marshal, reduce your speed and proceed to the following vector immediately or we will open fire."

Xander winked at Sam as he responded, "Roger that, Marshal. Am proceeding to approved vector. Will await further instructions."

They were directed from one approach vector to another, never allowed withing three miles of the Enterprise, while various fighters and ships checked them out carefully. Finally they were directed to an approach vector for the Carrier.

Xander brought the old transport in smoothly, coming to a hovering stop above the cleared portion of the Enterprise's flight deck and lowered it down slowly. On the deck, a flight crew stared in shock as the boxy transport landed nimbly on a square of deck no larger then it's own surface area.

Xander flipped the flight harness up, letting the system retract into the seat as he got up. "Sam, you ready?"

"Yes, I am."

"Alright, let's get to it."

"What's going on?"

A flight crewman turned around, irritated until he saw who was behind him. "Oh, Heya Jarod. How's it going?"

"Won't complain." Jarod Skye smiled, then nodded to th commotion. "What's going on?"

The flight crewman shrugged, "Some hush hush equipment transfer."

Jarod watched the man step off the odd looking craft, noting the black uniform with some confusion. "That's not an American Uniform."

"Maybe it's from an ally." The crewman shrugged.

Jarod nodded noncommittaly, but he knew for a fact that no allied nation used a uniform like that. He found himself thinking back to the odd radio message that had come over the frequency before those strange fighters entered the battle.

Atlantean Special Forces.

Jarod watched as the man, practically a boy, supervised the unloading of some very strange looking equipment.

<It's insane. Isn't it?> Jarod mused to himself as he watched from the shadows. <I mean... it...>

Jarod paused, his thoughts drifting back.

The Center, 25 years Earlier

"It's the only thing that makes sense, Sidney." The young boy named Jarod said earnestly.

"That's not acceptable, Jarod." Sidney responded, smiling slightly. "Atlantis is a legend. It doesn't really exist."

"But all the pieces fit, Sidney." The boy insisted. "It explains everything from the missing ships, to that researcher who vanished fifty years ago."

"Jarod," Sidney said patiently, explaining the boring reality of the world to the young child. "You have to understand that the real world doesn't have such things in it. Atlantis is myth. Nothing more."

USS Enterprise

<Nothing more.> Jarod took a deep breath, <Are you so sure, Sidney?>

"Careful with that." Xander ordered quietly to the crewmen as they gently lifted the first of the ten sensor pods from the cargo bay.

"We've got it, Sir." One of them said, his voice sounding irritated.

Xander nodded, "I know you do. Sorry, we just don't have a lot of these available."

The man nodded, his voice mollified when he spoke again. "We'll take good care of them."

"You take care of them," Xander replied, "And they'll watch your backs when it counts."

The men nodded, transfering the pod to a forklift and quickly moving another into place.

"Are you Harris?"

Xander looked over to see an officer approaching. He nodded, "That's what they call me."

"The Captain would like to speak with you."

Xander hesitated, then nodded. "Alright."

"This way, Sir." The officer said respectfully.

Xander turned to follow him, then turned back to Carter. "Sam, keep an eye on things here... No one on the transport, Ok? I don't really trust the patch job I did... and we need it intact to get home."

Carter nodded, "Yes Sir."

Xander turned and followed the officer toward the large 'island' that stood out on the huge flat deck of the Enterprise.

Jarod watched as the man, the boy really, in the odd uniform walked away. He frowned, then began to make his way toward the unusual transport. He could see that a woman in an Air Force uniform had taken over the activities and was directing the work crew.

"This is a secured area, Sir."

Jarod turned slightly, seeing a guard walk up to him with his hand on his service pistol. "I was just going to have a closer look at that plane."

The guard shook his head, "Sorry, Sir. But this area is strictly off limits. You'll have to go back below decks."

Jarod hesitated, but then nodded. "Alright."

He turned and walked back below decks while the guard just stood there watching him leave.

"You Harris?"

Xander nodded, not for the first time suppressing the urge to salute when he saw the insignia on the uniforms around him. Sometimes he didn't much like the soldier memories. "That's me."

"I understand you're delivering some advanced detection technology..." The man in a white Admiral's uniform said as he stepped forward.

"That's correct, Admiral." Xander replied, "The scout pods that are been offloaded will enable your AWACS units to relay accurate information about Goa'uld positions."

The admiral nodded, his face tense.

"Where the hell were these things earlier!?"

"Stand down, Cag." The man with the Captain's insignia said, putting a hand on the angry figure's shoulder.

"I'm sorry." Xander said simply, "We didn't have time to get them out and installed, even if I'd been willing to sign off on their release. Which, for the record, I wasn't."

"Why the hell not!?"

"Simply?" Xander asked, keeping his face stolid. "I don't trust the government... ANY government with the technology. If I thought the planet could handle it, I'd probably broadcast everything I know to every country on the planet... but it can't, so I won't. Which means, you'll get what you need to protect the earth, and not one damned thing more."

"Why you son of a...!"

"Enough!" The Admiral snapped, hauling the Cag up short. He turned back to Xander, "These pods... you sure they'll work as advertised?"

Xander shrugged, "One of them worked well enough earlier. The only real question is how well they'll interface with the AWACS computers."

The Admiral nodded, "We've assembled a staff of some of the best people we could... If it can be done, they'll do it."

Xander nodded, "Carter has the instruction manual that we rigged up... It should be let you get them up and running."

"What will you be doing in the meantime?"

Xander shrugged, "Monitoring their positions and responding to any attacks. Same as today."

The Cag spoke up again, "You were with that group that flew in today's battle?"

Xander nodded, "I flew with one of the groups, yes."

"And... what? You want to sit back and let them make the first move?"

Xander let out a long breath, "We don't have much choice."

"We can't win this on the defensive."

Xander turned and looked the Cag straight in the eye, "I'm not sure that we can win this at all."

Carter looked up, surprised as Xander walked back. Her eyes widened further as she took in the person standing with him. She straightened in time with the crewmen working around her, her arm coming up in perfect unison with the others.

"Admiral on Deck!"

"As you were." The Admiral said, nodding to Carter specifically. "Captain Carter I presume?"

"Yes Sir."

"I've heard good things about you." The Admiral nodded to her. "Tell me something Captain..."

"Yes Sir?"

"What's your opinion of the people you're working with right now?" The admiral asked, pointedly avoiding looking at Xander as he did.

Samantha looked between Xander and the Admiral, hesitating.

Xander smiled very slightly, "Excuse me, Admiral... I have to do a preflight."

As he walked off, the Admiral chuckled quietly. "Confident isn't he?"

"Very, Sir." Sam confirmed.

"And the answer to my first question?"

"They're... Unorthodox, Sir." Carter said after a long moment, then looked the admiral steadily in the eyes. "But they get the job done."

"And you're confident that they're doing the same job we are?"

"Yes Sir." Carter responded, not even thinking about the question.

The Admiral nodded, "Thank you, Captain."

Carter nodded, and the Admiral turned to look at the last of the pods as they were offloaded from the transport. "They don't look like much, do they?"

Carter looked at the unobtrusive pods on the forklift. "No Sir."

"What can they do?"

"I've only browsed the specs, Sir." Carter replied, "But basically they use what Harris likes to call LIDAR..."

"Don't we have some people developing that?"

"Yes Sir," Carter confirmed, "But I don't think it's precisely the same thing."


"Xand... Commander Harris is translating from an extremely old language, Sir... and sometimes I think he sacrifices precision for accuracy."

The admiral nodded, smiling lightly. "As long as he's accurate."

"He usually is, Sir." Carter smiled hesitantly. "The scout pods can detect Goa'uld attack craft at distances of several hundred miles... properly incorporated into an AWACS they should be able to give our fighters a fighting chance."

The admiral nodded again, "That's all we can ask for, Captain. That's all any of our boys are asking for."

"Yes Sir."

Xander looked over his shoulder as Carter came up, "All done back there?"

She nodded.

"Good." He flipped a switch and contacted the tower, asking for clearance to take off.

"Aren't you going to ask me what I told him?"

Xander shook his head, "Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because I trust you to do what's best for the planet, Captain." Xander said seriously. "And I trust your judgment."

Samantha Carter nodded slowly, "Thank you."

Xander just shrugged as the tower cleared him to lift off.


"Hey, Jarod!"

Captain Stephen Hiller frowned, and grabbed a passing aviator. "Hey, you seen Lt. Skye??"

"Sorry, Sir... haven't seen him anywhere."

"Damn it." Hiller growled, "Where the hell is that guy?"

Xander glanced over at Carter as the dark water flashed under them. "Something wrong?"

"Huh?" She shook herself, "no... not really."

"You seem preoccupied."

Carter shrugged, "Just considering... things."

Xander nodded, "what things?"

"Nothing important."

Silently, Xander disputed that statement in his mind, but didn't push it. Instead he just nodded, "When we get back I don't want Merlin telling me that you spent all night working."

"I guess I'll have to shut him up then, won't I?" Carter said with a sly smile.

Xander chuckled, but reverted to a straight face. "I'm serious. Get some sleep, and spend tomorrow relaxing. No work. It's bad enough that we're going to be on alert from now on. You need to be ready to fly on a moments notice."

"I will be." Carter said firmly.

Xander nodded, not really liking the set of her eyes, but unable to say anything about it.

"Hey, Geoff..."

"Yeah, Drake?"

"Who were those guys in the weird planes?"

"I don't know, buddy... They certainly put the fear of god into the bad guys though."

"For that matter, who the hell were the bad guys??"

Geoff frowned, shrugging. "I honestly haven't the slightest clue, Pal... They weren't any country that I know of... If I'd had to guess I'd say that only a handful of countries on the planet could even possibly build anything like those..."

"SO it's one of them?"

Geoff shook his head, "Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because every single country that might possibly be able to TO do it, were represented on *our* side."

"Oh." Drake fell silent for a long moment, then, "So... What's left?"

Geoff laughed, "Aliens?"

Drake snorted, a puff of smoke erupting from his nostrils. "So I've finally managed to corrupt you have I?"

Geoff chuckled again, shrugging. "Maybe you have. Lord knows, being forced to watch endless days of the sci-fi channel has to have *some* detrimental effect on the human mind."

Drake laughed at his partner for a long moment, then his sharp ears caught Geoff's next mumbled comment.

"God knows it certainly does on a dragon's."


"Jarod! Hey, Skye! Get your ass front and center, now!"

Hiller looked around in frustration, growling.


He whipped around, coming face to face with the object of his hunt. "God damn it, Skye! Where the hell have you been??"

Jarod shrugged, "Just around."

"Come on, we have a briefing." Hiller said, grabbing Skye's arm. "The brass think they have a way for us to see the bandits from the start next time."

"I see." Jarod said, his mind wandering back to the odd little pods he had watched being unloaded from the transport. Silently he slipped a hand into his pocket and flipped off a small device before allowing Hiller to drag him along.

"Transport to Avalon," Xander said quietly, "How's our trail?"

"Clear with no sign of pursuit, Transport." Merlin's voice came back instantly. "Welcome home."

"Good to be back, Merl." Xander smiled slightly. "We'll touch down in the ring in ten minutes."

"Confirmed." Merlin responded, his voice tinged with something that sounded suspiciously like annoyance.


"It is not possible!" The Goa'uld raged in the privacy of his inner sanctum. "They simply can NOT be members of the thrice blasted Kine'Iende!!"

Apophis visibly forced himself to calm down, walking to a computer display and calling up the sensor records from the attack force. They clearly showed a number of advanced fighters that out performed even the most advanced equipment at his command, fighters that turned the tables on a Jaffa task force that had been having their own way with the defending forces up to that point.

"They can't be."

But they were. Or, at least, they were using equipment that matched the profiles the Goa'uld had on Kine equipment.

Apophis cursed again, raging impotently against the simple facts presented by the records. It was impossible, and yet it was true. And if it was true, then he was in serious trouble.

Had he encountered this a mere year again, He would have simply bombarded the planet and departed. Six months ago, he may have retreated until he had a better idea of what to do. Now, today, the Goa'uld gritted the teeth of it's host and issued an order that he worried would lead to his death.


"Yes, My Lord." The Jaffa was instantly at his door.

"Have the troops prepare for another attack." Apophis ordered, "The Korel Fighters will lead the assault."

"Yes my lord!"

Xander stretched as he walked stiffly off the transport, following on Carter's heals as the big lumbering loader locked into place and then began pulling the large transport out of the ring circle. "Those damn chairs are uncomfortable."

Carter nodded, kinking her own neck. "Yeah. I wonder why? The Hammerheads are pretty good..."

Merlin appeared a moment later, shrugging. "You didn't reconnect the auto-form system."


"The seats are designed to automatically form themselves to the person sitting in them... you didn't connect the system when you did the repairs." Merlin said blandly.

Xander blinked, "So that's what those things were for! Huh, go figure..."

Abruptly he stopped, frowning. "Hey! Wait a second, if you knew, then why'd you let me cramp up on those things!?"

Merlin smiled patiently at him, then faded out. "My name *isn't* 'Merl'."

Xander stared in open mouthed shock at the empty space in front of him, barely hearing the soft chuckle from Carter as she kept walking.

"That's the last of them?"

Giles turned to look at where Andy had managed to hobble up to and nodded. "That's it. The launch from the Ticonderoga made it's last trip five minutes ago."

Andy nodded, "Good. Any problems?"

"We got some odd looks from the medical officer they sent over." Giles smiled, "Seems that he is having a hard time matching up the survivors reports with their... ah... physical condition."

"I'll bet." Andy grinned. "I have to say, I like your medic."

Giles shrugged, "Leo is something else, that much is for certain. But I wouldn't call him 'ours'... the people he works for can be a little... possessive."

Andy snorted, "Heard that one too many times before. What's the latest from base?"

"Xander has nothing to report... They are simply sitting up there... waiting."

Andy nodded, pushing himself to his 'feet'. "I'll be crashing below. Let me know if the shit hits the fan."

Giles nodded, then made his way to the open bridge as Andy vanished below. "Maria?"

The hispanic woman smiled as she turned to him, "Yes, Rupert?"

Giles smiled at her, "How are you?"

She shrugged, "I'll live."

Giles smiled a little wider, "That is always a good start."

Maria laughed involuntarily, "I'm sure it is."

There was a long silence, then she spoke again. "It's not over is it?"

"No." Giles shook his head, "No, it's not over."

She looked up at the stars above them and shivered. "I wonder which one they are... Which one of those lights is trying to kill us, Rupert?"

Giles didn't say anything. What was there to say? He didn't know and, if he did, it wouldn't do any good to tell her anyway.

Pentagon Warroom

"We've got movement on Big Boy!"

"What!? What's going on!?"

"Hold on... I think... damn! They're launching fighters again!"

"Shit. Alright... Scramble alert, all stations. What's their destination and ETA??"

"Looks like... The Pacific again... less then thirty minutes."

"Put our birds in the sky."

"Yes Sir."

"And someone... wake the President."


"Huh?" Xander groaned, rolling over in his bed. "What is it?"

"The Goa'uld are moving."

"What!?" Xander snapped straight up in bed, weariness melting away from him.

"The Goa'uld have launched a new attack wave."

Xander threw the covers clear, landing on the warm stone floor in his bare feet and moving fast before the cover hit the ground on the other side. "Damn it!"

He reached his desk a moment later, still clad only in his underwear, and fell into the chair. "Give me what you got, Merl."

There was the briefest hesitation, then the screen came to life. Xander cursed as he watched the lights form up on the wall screen in front of his desk. "How many?"

"Seven squads of six, Commander. Forty Two fighters total."

Xander took a breath, "Composition?"

"Three squads of advanced fighters... Three of Gliders flying backup." Merlin replied, "They will be harder to detect and more difficult to kill, Commander."

Xander nodded, "Patch me through the intercom."

"Patch established.

Xander took a breath, then spoke. "All pilots, Scramble! Repeat, Scramble! We have hostiles inbound!"

"Scramble! Scramble! Scramble!"

The call echoed over the deck of the Enterprise, sounding out over even the mass confusion of people running this way and that, each intent on doing his or her part.

Captain Stephen Hiller and the Black Knights were running across the flattop at a full sprint even as their planes were tractored into position.

"Yo, Knights! Everyone got their victory dance!?" Hiller yelled over the noise.

A Chorus of calls came back in the affirmative and Hiller nodded in satisfaction, "That's the way I like it."

He hit the cockpit ladder to his plane at a full run, barely slowing as he threw himself up the short distance and flipped over the edge of the cockpit and fell into the seat. He pulled on his helmet and slapped the intercom chords into the plug. "Knights, you up?"

Another chorus of responses came back moments later as the Knights jacked in.

"Alright." Hiller took a breath, "Let's get up there and kick ET's ass!"

Xander grabbed his flightsuit from where it was hanging, and began to throw it on. He paused oddly for a second when he saw a new patch on the left shoulder. "What the?"

It was a pair of stylized white feathered wings, stretching out to either side, with a golden halo floating above and between them. Under the picture was the simple word 'Angels'.

"Tara strikes again." Xander sighed, smiling slightly. "Merlin, you really shouldn't encourage her, you know."

"The young lady has a gift for art, Commander." Merlin said simply, "That is a gift that is... was... encouraged by the Kine and Atlantis."

Xander nodded, taking a breath. "Right. Ok."

He finished fastening the flight suit and headed for the door, "Wish me luck."

Jack O'Neill looked around, "Every one here?"

A quick head count showed that Angel flight was all present except Xander, who came into the room at a dead run a few moments later.

"Alright, good." Jack said, turning to Xander. "We're ready. What's up?"

"New attack." Xander said, fitting his pistols into the shoulder rigs after a last minute check. "Looks like a probing attack, but they're sending in some bad boys to lead the charge."


Xander nodded, glancing at Teal'C. "Advanced fighters. Three squads. Shielded and fast as hell."

"Korel Class." Teal'C said simply. "This is not good, Colonel O'Neill."

"Oh? Since when is anything the Goa'uld do, 'good'?" Jack asked as he walked along with the group toward the waiting planes.

"This is worse." Xander said, "we've got to get in the air and get a LIDAR coverage going before those fighters get a shot at any of the military flights... otherwise things are gonna be ugly."

Xander was three steps further along when he suddenly had to stifle a yawn. "Ah shit."

Jack smiled, "Inconsiderate bunch aren't they?"

"Yeah," Xander grinned back, "That's the problem with would be world conquerers... No respect for other people's schedules."

"Geoff... Geoff! Wake up!"

"Huh? Wha? What is it?"

"Your radio is going nuts, partner."

Geoff got up, stretching and yawning as he did. "Probably just a patrol sweeping through this..."

He stopped as his mind began to process what he was hearing. "Oh shit."

"What is it?"

"They're coming back."


"I'm here, Xander."

Xander nodded over the screen, "Looks like they're coming back for another run."


"I'm sending you the projected interception point now." Xander replied. "They're coming for Avalon."

Giles nodded grimly, "I suppose that's no surprise."

"No... Not in the slightest." Xander confirmed, "But the timing could be better."

"Indeed." Giles smiled, "Inconsiderate bastards."

"That's what I was just telling Jack." Xander grinned. "I mean, if you can't rely on Goa'uld manners, what can you rely on?"

Giles nodded, laughing softly, "Vampire hospitality perhaps."

Xander laughed himself, nodding. "Right on. Ok, See ya on the flip, G-man. We've got some visitors to welcome..."

Giles smiled a slightly feral smile that actual send a thrill of cold through Xander when he saw it. "Indeed. We'll roll out the welcome mat, I assure you."

Xander signed off, wondering at the change in Giles since he had first met the man.

Red lights were casting dark shadows over the bridge as Captain Donalds rushed on board. "What's going on!?"

"Bandits inbound, Sir!" His RADAR intercept officer announced.

"ETA?" Donalds asked crisply.

"Twenty minutes or less, Sir."

"Take the safties off." Donalds ordered, "And insert the chip."

"Aye Sir."

"Damn it, Lake!" Captain Thomas Dodge of the Sea Wolf Class submarine, 'Devil Ray', said as he rushed onto the command deck, still buttoning up his shirt.

Emily Lake turned away slightly from her Captain as he finished doing up his shirt and then buttoned his pants. "Sir, we have another attack wave coming in. We've recieved orders to proceed to the interception point and observe the battle."

"Observe." Dodge grimaced slightly, "What about our resupply request?"

"We're on the list Sir."

"Fabulous." Dodge muttered, "That and a buck will get me a cup of coffee. Alright. Take us to the interception point..."

"Speed, Sir?"

"Flank." Dodge ordered immediately, "No point in being quiet now is there?"

"No Sir." Emily took a breath, then spoke proffsionally. "Flank, Aye Sir."

"Everyone checked out?" Xander asked, then heard the chorus of affirmatives come back from the pilots of Angel flight. "Alright. Flight Leaders... Check in."

"Warbirds, ready and willing." Chappy sinclair said easily.

"Eagles, Cocked and locked." Masters said instantly.

"Angels," Xander smiled slightly, falling into the same sort of attitude as the other. "Wings out, and guns hot."

"Let's do this."

"Alright, Merlin... Flights, Launch by the numbers." Xander ordered, then mashed down on the launch confirmation.

Avalon's Transport Launcher dematerialized his plane an instant later and the Hammerhead were cutting the air a fraction of a second after that.

"Alright, Eagles." Doug Masters spoke calmly as he checked his systems for the final time before the battle. "Let's keep it close and tight everyone... Look after your wingman, and whatever happens, don't panic."

He could hear the quiet chuckles and laughs over the frequency and sighed. His group was the youngest of the pilots and he was currently wondering if Xander had made the right decision to keep them together. Certainly they were more used to flying with each other and that would serve them well, but they also lacked experience, and that could get them killed.

None of them had seen real battle. Not yet. To them, a kill was something that they got to chalk up in their win column, and a loss was something the enemy had to deal with. Their first battle with these invaders could only be described as a rout, having taken the aliens completely by surprise. And their sole experience prior to that had been against human pilots so damned arrogant that the Iron Eagles had actually succeeded in taking out a modern fighter jet with a T6 Trainer!

Doug gritted his teeth, such experiences were not conducive to creating a realistic expectation of war. That was a situation that he knew better then most anyone else. His own experiences in his youth had led him to think himself utterly indestructible.

He had been wrong. His team was wrong now.

But, by god, he hoped no one ever proved it to them.

Brigadier General Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair felt the familiar surge of tension and adrenaline pour through him as he watched the enemy fighter's closing on his position.

"Warbird Lead to Angel Lead."

"Angel Lead here, Go." Xander's voice came back crips and clear over the tight beamed comm.

Chappy glanced at the readouts on his screen, considering his next words for a second. "I'm reading elements of the USAF and Marine Corp Aviators inbound from our Nine, Seven, Four, and Three."

There was a brief pause, "Confirmed, Chappy... What about them?"

"Your briefing on the lead elements of the enemy group said that the were tougher then normal Gliders, correct?"

"That's right."

"Suggest we redesignate the lead elements to Black Targets and tangle witht hem ourselves." Chappy said, "Leave the other four elements to the Military."

Another pause as Xander considered the suggestion. When he spoke he was hesitant and grudging, but in agreement. "Agreed. Merlin, Redesignate the Korel units as Black Alpha through Gamma... and inform the military to leave them to us."

"Confirmed." Merlin intoned over the channel.

A moment later they watched the lead elements shift from blood red to pitch black.

Pentagon War Room

"What's going on...?"

"The lead squadrons are..." The technician shook his head, "Message coming through..."

Over the speakers an unfamiliar voice echoed briefly, "Please instruct your squadrons to focus on Red Elements only until they have been dealt with. Black Elements are advanced units with energy shielding, our fighters are better equipped to handle them."

As the voice died down from the speakers, the room turned to look at the Commander in Chief.


The President hesitated, balancing the options in his mind. Finally he shook his head, "Redirect three squadrons to back up our allies... Have the rest focus on the Red Elements."

"Yes Sir."

Over the Pacific

"Roger that," Hiller nodded as he examined his RADAR display. "Black Knights proceeding to target designated, Black Alpha. Out."

As the connection closed he switched to the squadron frequency, adding a little of the arrogant confidence that was second nature to any combat pilot. "You heard the boss, boys... We're gonna get to pay back a little of the help we got yesterday. Up to it?"

The replies and catcalls spoke for themselves.

"We've got tone."

Xander nodded, feeling rather then hearing the signal from the fighter's weapons systems. Unlike the other pilots he had left the configuration of his fighter in the original 'preferences'. He didn't have any modern preconceptions to overcome, and Elan didn't see any reason to let him build any. So, unlike the others, his fighter communicated with him on multiple levels.

"Roger." He replied, letting the tingle grow. Finally he nodded again, "Angel Lead... Fox Three."

An instant later the big missile dropped from the center pylon and ripped through the lightening pre-dawn sky. A quarter instant after that the air was rent by more then a dozen others joining it.

The barrage flashed through the thin atmosphere, leaving behind whisping white contrails as they did, until they reached their targets.

The designated targets, Black Alpha through Gamma, saw the skies above them erupt into multicolored flames as the munitions detonated and dropped their small care packages. Just like the day before the submunitions dropped through the air to their targets, then detonated in the midst of the enemy squadron. Unlike the day before, the effect was spectacular but largely ineffective.

The sky again erupted into fire, blotting out the alien fighters as the flew, and dazzling everyone with a hundred miles and more. But then the flames died out, the enemy fighters were still flashing through the skies and heading on target.

Xander's heart dropped, even though he'd expected little else. Those lethal submunitions were simply too small to seriously affect a shielded target. This fight was going to start up close and personal, and it was likely to get worse from there.

"Damn." Hiller muttered, checking his RADAR after the skies lit up with the fury of the opening barrage. He was starting to see that5 the Black Elements were a damn sight tougher then the Reds he had faced previously.

"Knights, Knight Lead." He said, keeping calm and confident, "Stay tight and look for tone. Do not close to guns range unless absolutely necessary."

Normally such an admonition would be patently unnecessary, but given the fact that Guns were then only thing that kept them alive the day before, he thought it might be wise to impress upon them that they were no longer the order of the day.

Confirmations echoed quietly over the frequency, serving to tell Hiller that he wasn't the only one to watch the effect of the first barrage, and neither was he the only one to understand it's impact.

He watched the two opposing forces flash together at many multiples of mach, their lives simulated by the tiny blinking lights on his screen, and prayed.

"Switching to Raptors." Xander announced a moment later, keeping his voice calm as he heard the others confirm that they too were flipping over to standard missiles for the engagement.

Again the nerve inducted buzz announced to Xander that he had 'tone' as he kept his target calmly 'haloed' in his mind's eye. "Eagle Lead... Fox Three."

Moments later a second barrage of missiles were burning through the atmosphere, leaving their trademarked contrails as they homed in on their targets.

The Jaffa pilots of the lead elements saw them coming, and were quick to realize that these missiles were aimed *at* them rather then above them. Orders were quickly flashed through the attackers, and the Jaffa immediately took evasive action.

The advanced craft they flew were wildly maneuverable and insanely fast, allowing almost all of the Jaffa to escape the missile barrage easily. The few that didn't had the advantage of shields to keep them in the fight for another round, though their defenses were badly chewed up by the relatively low yield warheads used in the Raptor missiles.

Three of them were not quite so lucky, taking heavier strikes due to position, angle, or plane bad luck. Those quickly vanished from the threat boards as the rapidly expanding gas and debris that used to be Jaffa and Machine vanished into the Pacific.

Just as quickly the Jaffa pilots reformed their squadrons and turned back to their targets, the lethal little craft that had slaughtered them the day before. The elite pilots had a mission, and that was to get in close with the so called 'Kine' craft and destroy them.

For the greater glory of Apophis.

For their god they would take the long range pounding of the enemy missiles, never stopping to wonder why it was that they didn't carry similar payloads themselves. Never questioning where their equipment came from and why it hadn't changed in so long.

Never knowing that their 'God' was merely another being such as they were.

Never knowing and, in truth, never caring.

Doug Masters grimaced as he watched the black elements continue to close. In his gut he knew that his prayer to whatever God watches out for his people had gone in vain.

Reality was about to pay them a housecall, and there was not a damned thing that Douglas Masters could do about it.

So, instead, he steeled himself for the worst and listed as his plane reported tone on another of the black fighters.

"Eagle Lead... Fox Three."

"... Fox Three." Xander said, mashing down on the firing stud and loosing his fourth missile into the sky.

In the time it took that single missile to drop from it's pylon, Xander had flipped his selector switch to Guns and mashed down on the stud again. "Angel Lead, Guns Guns Guns!"

Then the lead elements of Black Alpha were past him, their own close in weapons raking through Angel Flights formation as the forward cannons of the Hammerheads raked right back.

Calls of 'Guns Guns Guns!' came from each of the pilots as they gave up on the missiles and began the hairy task of infighting with craft every bit as slippery and fast as they were.

Xander held fast until the last of the Black Alpha elements were already committed to the pass, then threw his Hammerhead into a flat spin as he targeted one with his forward cannon, and let his plasma turret lock onto a straggler.

The forward cannon roared in unrelenting automatic fire as the accelerated rounds chewed into the shielding of the enemy fighter. At this close range, with this much determined fire poured into one small section of shielding, the result was inevitable.

The shielding failed for the briefest moment and, before the other projectors could compensate, over eight hundred rounds had ripped through the fighter and it's Jaffa pilot.

Even as that Jaffa was dying, the straggler was reeling under the dual pounding of the dorsal turret. This pilot was fast enough to picot his craft, however, and managed to take the damage more evenly over his shields before he cut hard to port and rocketed away.

Xander gritted his teeth, snapped his fighter out of the spin, and pushed his throttle all the way forward as he gave pursuit.

Dragan snarled as the first Black Fighter flashed past him. He trusted Colonel Austin, his wingman, to watch his back and threw his fighter into a flat spin that brought the fighter into his sights.

"Die you interrupting piece of..." He trailed off as he shook his head, "Angel Four... Guns Guns Guns!"

His forward cannon erupted as his fighter began shaking against the flow of the air around him. Dragan gritted his teeth as he fought the bucking, shivering, mass of metal and kept his eyes on the prize.

Beside him, Colonel Austin, kept his plain facing forward and poured similar fire into the Black Elements as they flashed past. His flipped his dorsal turret to automatic and felt it whine into action as it tracked the passing fighters and opened fire with it's own two gun salutes.

Austin's bionics whirred almost silently as they tracked multiple targets while the forward cannon did the same with a great deal more noise. "Angel Three... Guns Guns Guns!"

Across the ever lightening pre-dawn sky, the battle raged.

Hammerhead Versus Korel Fighter in battles that rewrote the meaning of the word frantic. The Goa'uld fighters were almost impossibly maneuverable, making turns that should have crushed their pilots with enough gravities to pulverized any human.

The Hammerheads, by contrast, were like dancers at a ball. They moved just enough to evade fire, with little wasted energy or motion.

Blazing blasts of energy flashed through the sky, striking one fighter after another from the sky.

And the dying began on both sides.

"I got him! I got him!" Peter Kane yelled excitedly as one of the enemy fighters began to smoke from his hits and lost altitude.

"Good work, Pete, but watch your six!"

Kane glanced reflexively over his shoulder in time to see one of the lethally fast fighters suddenly snap around and come in behind him.

He gulped and threw his stick over, hitting all his thrusters as the first shots passed harmlessly by his port side. He spun around in his seat, looking over the other shoulder as he struggled to keep the enemy fighter in sight while still trying to shake him.

After a few seconds sweat had beaded on his face and Kane yelled into his mic. "I can't shake him! I can't shake him!"

"Hang on, Pete... I'm coming!" His wingman, Dana Osborne said tensely as she tried to get into range of the enemy fighter.

"Hurry up, Dana!!"

"I'm... Trying..." She gritted her teeth, struggling to keep her craft under control as she 'haloed' the enemy fighter.

The Korel fighter spat fire again as Pete tried to dodge, the vicious energy splattering against his shields as it got his range. Inside the cockpit of the hammerhead warning buzzers and lights erupted, vying for his attention as the young pilot tried to evade further fire.


"Got him!" Dana snapped as he mashed down on the cannon's firing stud. "Eagle Four, Guns Guns Guns!!"

Her guns blazed, intercepting the Korel fighter as it closed on Kane, and blowing it from the sky.

Kane breathed in relief, wiping the sweat from his eyes as he glanced over his shoulder at his wingman. "Damn, Dana... That was too close thank..."

His eyes widened in horror as he saw the smoking fighter that he had thought was down and out come up behind Osborne. "Dana! On your...!"

Even before his warning could be completed the enemy fighter opened fire and caught Dana's hammerhead with a focused barrage of fire. The ancient fighter vaporized after a short burst overloaded it's shields.


"Hey Fitzy..." Palmer muttered into his mic, "Be a good chap and do get this blighter off me!"

"Hold on, English." Leichman responded, "I'm on him..."

"Well get off him and shoot the bugger already!" Palmer growled, rocking his fighter from side to side as he tried to keep the Jaffa from getting a bead on him.

"Just... one... more... second..." Leichman said, "Guns Guns Guns!"

His forward cannon roared, pelting the enemy fighter with a barrage. The fighter suddenly gave up it's prey and darted to the left, clearing his firing arc in a blindingly fast maneuver. "Blast it!"

"Thanks, Fritzy..." Palmer sounded relieved.

"He got away."

"I'm alive... You're alive... Let's go make him regret that, shall we?"

"You've got it, English."

The two fighters wheeled about, turning to pursue the enemy fighter that had come so close to splitting them up, only to run flat into the crossfire of two other Jaffa who had been waiting for them to do exactly that.

"Three oclock! Three oclock!" Palmer yelled out.

"They're at Ten as well!!" Leichman responded as the lethal barrage of fire ripped through his fighter.

"Damn it! Punch out! Punch out! Leichman! Palmer!" Chappy Sinclair ordered. "Punch out!"

Both pilots moved to obey, their hands closing on the lever, even as the Jaffa redoubled their fire. An instant later there was nothing left of their fighters but expanding gas and flying shrapnel.

"Oh God! Palmer! Leichman!" Chappy swung his fighter around, immediately haloing the first of the fighters that had ambushed his friends. "Warbird Lead... Guns Guns Guns!!"

His canon blazed, ripping into the first of the ambushers, and Wheeler's voice echoed in his ear a moment later. "Eagle Two, Fox Three!!"

From the corner of his eye he spotted the flashing contrail of a missile even as it impacted on the other target. The enemy fighter staggered in mid air fromt he force, then was struck by three more heavy blasts from Wheelers dosral turret, holing it's shields and annihilating the fighter.

The two alien fightercraft fell from the sky, holed and dying, amid the debris from the multitude of craft that had met their ends in that bloody sky.

"Leichman! Palmer!" Chappy called again, searching the sky for any sign of the cockpit escape pods of either plane. There was no sign of them against the rolling black of the ocean below. "Oh God..."

"Come on, Chappy..." Wheeler called, nervously worried about her mentor.

Chappy shook himself once, nodding. "Warbird Two... stay with me, let's get this over with."

Xander's mistake was worrying too much about his own losses.

He was watching the fading icons that represented Warbird Two and Three when the attack came. To his credit it wasn't anything anyone sane would have expected. The attack didn't come from his six, instead it started as an evasive maneuver safely at his nine. The Jaffa fighter spun around in a lightning fast move that left an afterimage on Xander's retina, and placed itself right on his twelve oclock high.

Xander's eyes widened at the unexpected maneuver, registering the flashes of light that indicated that the Jaffa was opening fire, and his finger mashed down on his own master weps switch in reflex.

His hammerhead erupted in fire, as it's dorsal turret laid almost flat out and opened fire full forward and his cannon blazed in fury at the suicidal maneuver of the enemy fighter.

Even as his own blasts ripped into the Jaffa, the Jaffa's ripped into him. The first blasts spent themselves to weaken his shields, splattering against the invisible defense and blocking Xander's view as he tried to evade the incoming fighter.

A second later the first shot punched clear through the shield and ripped into his cockpit, destroying some displays even as three more holed through and ripped into Xander himself. His eyes bulged in shock, blood suddenly erupting and frothing from his mouth and wounds, but his finger stayed on the trigger and he kept the alien craft Haloed.

The Hammerhead's weapons blazed as the two craft flashed straight into each other, the Jaffa's defenses giving at the last instant as his craft erupted into a ball of flames.

"Holy shit." Doug cursed as he watched the icon that represented Angel Lead fade from his display.

"That about covers it, Sir." Captain Samantha Carter gritted out as she struggled with her own antagonist.

Doug shook his head clear, nodding, as he moved to help his wingman. He easily dropped into the enemy's Six, allowing he and Carter to catch the unsuspecting Jaffa in a lethal crossfire between his forward cannon and her dorsal turret.

The fighter's shields died in a blaze of pyrotechnics, allowing their weapons to rip into his unprotected hull. But as the alien fighter craft died in the cold, dark, skies it let out another series of shots that holed through Carter's shields and ripped her Hammerhead apart.

Chapter 6
Darkest Shadows

The universe exploded in Xander's face, flames and heat searing his skin through the gaping holes in his cockpit even as whipping winds swept them away. As he saw the massive fireball engulf every aspect of his world, Xander slapped one hand down hard on a shielded switch, then fumbled with it for a moment to pull up the protective cover. That done he hit the switch again.

Outside, the remaining missiles of the Hammerhead fell clear of the plane and vanished into the murky depths below. Then the fighter was swallowed by the explosion of it's antagonist.


Doug screamed so loud that his throat was instantly sore. His eyes were wild as he watched the wreckage of the fighter drop from the sky, flames blazing as it crumpled in half from the air pressure being exerted on the battle weakened airframe.

His eyes were wild as other images superimposed over them. He could see Chappy Sinclair's F-16 taking hits from any enemy fighter over the desert. He relived the helplessness of know that his mentor was going down, and all he could do was watch the event from the safety of his own aircraft.

Doug's limbs worked on reflex, jamming the throttle hard forward and drawing the nose of the aircraft straight up as he put some distance between him and the carnage.

Flames licked at him through the cockpit as he fought the turbulence of the disrupted pocket of air, and struggled against the shrapnel that was ripping into his fighter. Xander fought the motions, trying to keep his plane steady while lifting the nose up to protect the damaged canopy and the injured pilot.

Just as the flames were sucked away and he could see the skies around him, Xander felt the plane lurch as it rammed into a particularly solid piece of shrapnel.

Warning lights, sirens, and nerve tinglers which had been blaring around him... all went dead.

"My God."

Giles eyes hardened as he watched the carnage erupt above him. He couldn't see clearly enough to make out who was fighting who half the time, but he could tell that it wasn't going easy on either side.


The sharp yell came from behind him and shocked Giles into motion, much as it did the rest of the crew. Men dove for the guns and locked themselves into position as the PT-579 started to come around. Giles turned to the source of the yell, nodding at Andrezj Konzaki as he dropped his body into one of the hydraulicly powered .50 caliber turrets. Then he stepped up and shuffled around the cabin to stand on the foredeck of the rocking boat.

"Glad you could join me, Rupert."

Giles smirked at the other man, nodding silently.

He and Robert both shucked their long coats and looked up into the sky.

"After you, Sir."

"If you insist." Giles said, then he began to mutter in an arcane language as the guns around him began to chatter in their most modern one.

SSN Devil Ray

"Lot a action up there, Skipper."

Dodge nodded absently as he looked through the periscope at the flashes of light that marked the death and dying. "Surface contacts?"

"Three so far, Skip." Sonar said from where he was listening carefully to his equipment. "The Tico just arrived on scene... they're opening up with everything they got. Looks like a Chink... I mean Chinese Missile Boat is first on the scene... but they're dry, not a round left in their banks..."

"And three?"

Sonar frowned, "Sounds like that same PT boat that entered the fray before. This time they are really pouring it on too..."


"Sounds like they've got every weapon on that old tub operational and active, Skip." Sonar replied, "And damned if that don't sound like Stinger launches too..."

Dodge straightened from the periscope and looked back, "Are you kidding me?"

"Fraid not, Skip." Sonar frowned, "They got something weird there too... Can't identify it. Sounds like... like..."

"Like what??"

Sonar shook his head, "Sorry Skip. Don't have a clue."

Dodge blinked, then turned back to the scope. "Alright... Weps!"


"What's our status on SAMs?"

"We've got three birds ready to fly, Sir... then we're bone dry."

"Three birds, huh?" Dodge frowned, "I suppose we'd better make them count. Give me a solution on one of the black elements."

"Aye Sir."

It was weird, but Dodge almost wished that he was back in the old Baleio Class Devil Ray. At least then he could surface and use his deck gun and small arms fire. It would probably be useless compared to even three SAMs, but it would *feel* good.

USS Ticonderoga

"Keep firing, weps." Donalds urged. "Pour it on!"

"We're dumping them as fast as the systems will cycle, Cap."

The Ticonderoga was as close to fully automated as anythiong got in the US Navy, and all if it;s systems were busy at the moment. It was pouring every erg of RADAR energy it could down half a degree of sky as it looked for any sign of the enemy, but even as it did that the missile cruiser was using the patched signal from the Allied AWACS to launch missiles as fast as the system could cycle them.

For the moment, all the Captain could do was trust his ship, his crew, and the fates, while the watched the battle unfold.

Captain Donalds had complete confidence in his ship and crew. The fates, he figured, could go fuck themselves.

Two out of three wasn't bad.

Xander worked the stick furiously, trying to recover from the spin that last strike had put him in. His Hammerhead was twisting in the wind as it fell, and Xander was fighting against avionics that had lost all power.

"Counter-Grav... Dead..." He muttered, blood spattering against the face shield and obscuring his vision. "Power... Gone... Avion...ics... intact... Comms... gone. Oh great..."

He hacked and coughed for a moment, "I'm talking to myself... Ejection..."

Xander yanked at the slim bar, once, then twice, but gave up on the third time. "Dead."

"Reactors..." Xander frowned, tapping a display that was dead. It didn't respond so he hit it hard. Still nothing. Xander closed his eyes for a second, when they opened they were glowing silver. He reached down and slapped the display again, this time a power surge flowed into the system and it flickered to life. "Reactors... Ten percent... Nine percent... Oh fuck."

He dipped the nose of the fighter down, still trying to break the spin. Finally it slipped into a nose dive and he found himself staring at the heaving black morass of water as the ocean spun beneath him. Slowly the fighter righted itself, using the raging air to stabalize itself, and when it had finally stopped twisting Xander pulled back on the stick hard while pushing his throttle full open.

Thirty feet off the deck the fighter pulled level, twin rooster tails of water ripping up behind it as it's reactors flared a brilliant blue in the pre-dawn light. Then it pulled up, and Xander managed to twist it toward Avalon while still keeping the throttle wide open.

He watched the reactor display numbly as he felt more and more of his lifeblood pouring onto his seat. <Eight percent...>

"Doug! Doug!!"

Doug Masters blinked, the voice bringing him back to the real world in a snap. "Chappy??"

"Doug! What the hell are you doing!? Get back in here!!"

"Chappy... I... We..."

"Damn it, Doug. I know! We've lost people, I know! But we need you, Son. Or we'll lose even more!" Chappy Sinclair said desperately, again realizing that his young friends scars went deeper then he'd ever thought. When he spoke again, he was much calmer. "Come on, Doug. I know you can do this... You have to."

In his fighter Doug Masters nodded slowly, his eyes again taking in the situation around him with a professional eye.

After a long moment he spoke softly into his mic. "Merlin?"

"Yes, Captain Masters?"

"I need some tunes." Doug Masters said with a calm voice and a gleam in his eye.

Merlin blinked and was shocked into silence for several milliseconds while his program did an automatic search through Captain Masters' service file. He immediately found notes from General Sinclair and various trainers about the boy's preference to hear music while flying. The Air Force had ruthlessly exterminated that particular habit, and Masters had learned to fly without the crutch. But in this instance, Merlin figured that a little crutch might just be useful, if only to beat the Jaffa over the head with.

Another quick perusal of his files allowed Merlin to select a playlist, and place them in a quick order of play.

"Captain Masters.. Your... Tunes."

Doug grinned wide and began to nod slightly as the ghostly sounds of Queen's One Vision began to echoe through his cockpit. "Louder."

The sounds cranked up several notches and the music began thumping.

"Alright." Masters said, flipping a series of switches, "let's get back into this."

He pushed the throttle wide open and spun his fighter in place as the reactors strove to bite into the sky. He steadied the plane, they did bite into the air, and in seconds he was accelerating insanely back into the fray.

Chappy Sinclair looked up. Hearing the background music come through Doug's transmission, he started laughing.

"Warbird Lead... Are you laughing??"

Chappy shook his head, replying to the question from Wheeler. "Watch your back, Two... and if you get a chance, turn an eye to Eagle Lead when you can..."

"Doug? Why? What's wrong with Doug?"

"Not a thing, Wheeler." Chappy replied, still chuckling. "The kid's finally *back*."

Eagle Lead plunged into the fray, still accelerating, with all it's weapons blazing. Doug loosed two missiles at separate targets while Haloing a third for his cannon and letting his turret operate on automatic.

As the heavy sounds continued to thump around him and the words started to play Doug slipped deeper and deeper into his trance state. Medical personnel might refer to it as an Alpha state. Military trainers often mistook it for loss of situational awareness, better known by pilots as having your head stuck so far up your ass that you thought daylight was a fable. It wasn't a state of mind encouraged by either.

At this point in time, Doug Masters didn't give a damn.

Colonel Jack O'Neill was still in shock even as he flew his plain with instinctive competence. The sheer destruction of the past few moments in time where horrifying, and he could still see the fading light of Captain Carter's fighter in his minds eye.

"Colonel O'Neill..."

Jack shook his head, "What is it?"

Merlin calm tones grated on him, but Jack forced himself to remain calm for once. "Commander Harris' plane survived the explosion."

"Huh? How?"

"I am uncertain. His communication is out, and he is proceeding to limp back to Avalon."

"Can he make it?"

"I am uncertain." Merlin replied. "His reactor levels are dropping very quickly and his counter-grav signature is non-existent."

"He's flying that heap back by aerodynamics alone??"

"So it would appear."

"Damn." Jack muttered, then his eyes narrowed. "Why are you telling me?"

"Commander Harris believed it best that you succeed him as Commander of this mission, given that your experience with the Goa'uld and modern avionics is the most recent and complete."

"Oh." Jack said, not knowing what else to say. "Oh."

"Good luck Colonel."

"Gee thanks."

Jacks sarcastic rejoinder was not acknowledged by the AI.

"Turn to port twelve degrees, Chappy." Doug said quietly as he haloed a fighter that was sneaking up on his mentor.

Chappy obeyed instantly and saw the dorsal turret of Doug's hammerhead open up as he flashed by above the younger pilot. "Thanks, Doug."

"No problem, Chappy." Doug said calmly, almost too calmly as he turned to another target.

The music was still pounding in his ears, Queen belting out their hard rock rhythm as they called out the lyrics.

Hey, one man, one goal ha, one mission One heart, one soul just one solution One flash of light yeah, one God, one vision

Master twisted his plane around, strafing a formation of fighters with heavy cannon fire, and got their attention. As they all turned on him he snapped his hammerhead back around and tried to urge a little more speed out of the fighter.

Three of the Black Elements chased him, clearing a large section of the sky behind him for the surviving Hammerheads to regroup and remount their own assaults.

"Come on, Angels!" Colonel O'Neill snarled into his mic as he haloed another one of the enemy. "Take em down!"

He and Teal'C roared through the sky in tandem, their weapons roaring in conjunction with those of Hercules' as he joined up with them and watched their backs. The combined firepower cleared the skies in front of them just as an unexpected bit of help entered the picture.

"Knight Lead... Fox Three."

Captain Stephen Hiller smiled in grim satisfaction as his bird leapt clear of his plane and ripped across the sky. The newly risen sun glinted off it's metal fins for a moment, then it was gone into the distance.

The next Hiller saw of it was when the fireball blossomed, enveloping one of the black element fighters. The fighter didn't go down, but Hiller wasn't about to let that deter him in the slightest. "Knight Lead... Fox Three."

Missiles ripped into the Black Elements from outside the diameter of the dogfight serving notice that, as much as they might like to forget it, the Jaffa didn't only have the Kine Fighters to worry about.

The Black Knights were joined by two Air Force Squadrons even as heavy SAMS from on and beneath the ocean surface ripped into the alien fighters from below.

Caught between the advanced fire from the Hammerheads, and the overwhelmingly brutal fire from the conventional forces, the Advanced Korel fighters were forced to break off their attack and were then destroyed piecemeal before they could regroup.

Some of the survivors determined that, if they were to die, they would cause some damage first.


Donalds grabbed his binocs and rushed to where the seaman was pointing from. He shouldn't have wasted the time grabbing them. There, in the distance, where two alien fighters and they were closing on his position fast.

"Activate the close in defences!!" He yelled over his shoulder.

The heavy Phalanx guns whirred to life, but swivelled uncertainly as if they didn't know what to shoot.

"What's wrong!?"

"They're below the AWACS coverege!!"

"Fuck!" Donalds let out a rare curse as he ran back. "Manual control!"

"Manual!?!? Sir thats..."

"I don't care! DO IT!"

The technician gulped, hacking into the Phalanx control systems and inserting the appropriate commands.

Outside the guns swivelled around and opened fire, attempting to create a wall of steel between the Ticonderoga and the incoming fighters.

Doug dodged the incoming shots almost causally as he let the fighters continue to creep up behind him.

"Come on... come on... come and get it..." He whispered over the beat of the music. "No one gets into me for a wingman and lives to tell about it. No one."

One flesh, one bone One true religion One voice, one hope One real decision

Finally the approaching fighters slipped close enough and he twisted his control stick hard.

The Hammerhead designated Eagle Lead slid smoothly around 180 degrees and loosed it's last two missiles while its cannon opened up with all the subtlety of a buzz saw. Combined with the two missiles, it took less then three seconds to reduce the heavily shielded, insanely fast, Advanced fighters to scrap metal.

A few seconds later the music faded out and Doug realized that he'd missed the last stanza because he'd been so focused. He shrugged, then snapped his hammerhead back around and checked his HUD for more targets as the opening bars of 'Way of the Gypsy' began to play.

"Teal'C, Herc," Jack O'Neill commanded, "They're making a run on the ship... let;s head em off at the pass."

"You got it, Colonel."

"What Pass?"

"Never mind, Teal'C." Jack groaned, "Let's just get 'em."


"It's not working, Captain!"

"I can see that!!" Donalds growled, "Keep firing!"

"Get down!"

Donalds felt himself being hurtled to the deck as the alien fighters spat their lethal fire into his ship. Explosion and yells echoed from everywhere as they began a strafing run. And then, abruptly, there was a horrendously loud double explosion and everything went silent for a moment.

The next thing Donalds heard was screaming even as he felt a heavy weight on him. At first he thought it was his men dying, but it didn't fade, and as it got closer he heard the exultion in their voices. Donalds rolled over, pushing a weight off him, only to realize that it was the body of his RADAR Intercept Officer. He gently turned her over as he realized that she was dead weight.

The Captain swallowed, seeing the burn that was scorched into her back, then laid her back down and closed her eyes.


Around him he could see men cheering and waving and he looked up to see three of the advanced fighters flash by overhead. And while he was grateful he couldn't muster any desire to cheer at the moment.

"Weps... Find us some more targets." He gently pushed the man back to his station, then flipped on an intercom. "Sickbay... send someone to the bridge... We have casualties."

Cue Music - Witch of the Westmoreland by Stan Rogers (Author highly reccomends you listen to this song as it is now the official Xander/Paige Ship song of the Jverse)

Pale was the wounded Knight
That bore the rowan shield
Loud and cruel were the raven's cries
As he feasted on the field

The darkness loomed around him, threatening to swallow him whole, but Xander rallied with Elanthielle's help and carved a silver line through the encroaching blackness. It wasn't much, but it was enough to see through.

He worked the controls of the plane automatically, not knowing how he was doing it, not knowing that it was patently impossible for him to do it. He flew using a skill that wasn't his to wield, but no one told him that so he never realized it.

Occasionally he caught a glimpse of himself, reflected in the shattered canopy or the damaged displays, and with each glimpse his face showed more and more of a deathly pallor. Xander knew that the damage he'd sustained, the injuries inflicted by the Goa'uld heavy blasters, were more then he could heal by himself even if he did have the time to attempt it.

Time, however, was something that was running out for Alexander Lavelle Harris.

<Paige.> Was his one thought at that point. Surprisingly her face crossed his mind before he considered Leo, but when the whitelighter's name entered his thoughts it only added to the urgency that he see Paige again.

Saying beck water cold and clear
Will never clean your wound
There's none but the witch of the Westmoreland
Can make thee hale and sound

The remnants of the once sleek Hammerhead shuddered around him, the loss of it's counter-grav and shields rendering it vulnerable to turbulence that wouldn't normally have jostled a paperclip on board. Xander could feel the craft's dying throes through his seat, even though all the bio-feedback circuits were long since dead, and knew that this plane was going nowhere ever again.

The reactor power have started to dip under the final five percent, which meant that he was running off the Naquada equivalent of 'fumes'. The reaction would require a massive power influx to stabilize, assuming that everything behind him was in running order. Which, of course, it wasn't.

Xander fought the controls as the plane bucked like a willful animal, trying to keep it aimed for where his instincts, his and Elan's, told him that Avalon awaited.

So turn, turn your stallion's head
Till his red mane flies in the wind
And the rider of the moon goes by
And the bright star falls behind

Xander blinked, his eyes suddenly doing dark again against his will. When he opened them again all his instruments seemed covered in blood. Everything, in fact, was covered in blood. The whole world was tinted blood red.

It wasn't until he looked up and saw the pale red moon still hanging in the ever lightening sky that he brought a hand up from the controls and tried to wipe his eyes clear.

With every wipe he'd clear his eyes and see again for a brief instant, but then they would fill with blood again. Xander tried to locate the scalp wound he assumed was causing it, but his hair was nothing but a sticky mat of wet and drying blood.

He coughed again, the plane starting to rock, and gave up. Instead he returned his hand to the thruster controls and tried like hell to coax another few seconds of burn from the dying craft.

"Come on baby... just a little further." he whispered, his voice hoarse and scratching, "not too far now..."

<I don't think.>

And clear was the paley moon
When shadow passed him by
Below the hill were the brightest stars
When he heard the owlet cry

When the cliffs of Avalon loomed out of the distance, Xander thought he was hallucinating.

The island looked so beautiful to his weary eye that even the horrid red tint cast by his injuries didn't bother him at all.

"We're almost home, baby..." He whispered again, patting the side of the cockpit as he tried to will the craft to hold together long enough for him to get back.

He never considered what he would do when he arrived, not realizing that his directional thrusters were long since dead and he was flying a brick with wings at this point.

That was when he heard a beautiful sound.

Saying Why do you ride this way
And wherefore came you here?

"Xander? Xander?"

The voice seemed to come from thin air, but it was a clear and beautiful sound.

"Faith?" Xander looked around, his mind so weak from the loss of blood that he half expected to see her sitting on his wing. "Faith? Is that you?"

"Xander! It's me..."

"Where are you, Faith?" Xander asked, confused.

"I'm on Avalon." Her voice sounded annoyed. Xander wondered how he'd managed to piss her off this time.

"Oh." Was all he said.

"Xander, what are you doing?? Merlin says that you're off corse! He can't grab you with the trap if you don't come into it's range!"

"I don't think I can steer anymore, Faith..." Xander replied, mustering another massive effort between him and Elan to set his mind in a clear frame. "I'm... I'm going down..."


"Tell Paige..." Xander hesitated, coughing slightly. "Tell Paige I'm sorry, ok?"

I seek the witch of the westmoreland
Who dwells by the winding mere

"Sorry for what!?"

Xander smiled, his teeth blood red against the black of his lips and white of his face. "Hello Paige..."

"Xander! You have to get to the trap! You have to make it!"

Xander looked at his altimeter, tapping it with an almost childish expression of petulance on his face. Finally he shook his head, "No... I don't think so..."


A moment of clear thought passed through him as he saw the rushing landscape of Avalon's host island rush up toward him. "Angel Lead going down... Paige... I..."

Then the cliffs of Avalon reached out their dark grip and everything went black.

And it's weary by the Ullswater
And the misty brakefern way
Till through the cleft of the Kirkstane pass
The winding water lay

Xander was slammed against the restraints as his fighter richocheted off the top of the cliffs, it's reactor finally dying in the impact. He felt the ground fall away again as the twisted airframe of the Hammerhead was thrown back into the air and into the mists that surrounded the island.

The next thing he saw were two spires of rock loom out of the mist and his eyes widened in shock and fear as he realized that his controls here as dead as he was.

A shrieking scrape ripped the port wing clear off the fighter as it flashed through the narrow pass, and it began to corkscrew through the air as Xander watched the jungle spin through the shattered canopy.

He crashed into the growth, and felt the vines and branches clutch at the fighter as the starboard wing was wrenched off. As the scrapes continued he could feel the vibrations die out as the remnants of the fighter slowed.

It came to a rest, hung off the ground between several towering trees, and Xander just swung there for a moment, upside down, as he stared out the shattered canopy.

Through a break in the jungle he could see the sparkling waters of the Lagoon and two thoughts passed through his mind.

<So close...>


He said Lie down my brindled hound
And rest ye my good gray hawk
And thee my stead may graze thy fill
For I must dismount and walk

Blood was falling out of his eyes now, and what little of it he had left was rushing to his head. Interestingly enough, that meant he was able to think a little better.

Xander coughed, again spitting more blood to join the stains he had left on the jungle floor. He reached up and gripped the restraint release.

<Alexander! No!> Elan cried out in shock.

Xander ignored her, fondly patting the control panel of the plane. "Thanks for getting me this close... You can rest now."

<Alexander! You're hallucinating!>

He pulled the release.

But come when you hear my horn
And answer swift the call
For I fear ere the sun will rise this morn
Ye will serve me best of all

He hit the ground solidly, almost as if his body had become part of it. He didn't bounce, he didn't roll, he just smashed into the wet, loamy, surface and stuck there.

For the longest time in his estimation he didn't move or think or see anything. Then he felt a rough sensation on his cheek and opened his eyes again.

Above him was a dark form that he couldn't make out. He started, his hand clawing for the big silver pistol on his hip, but as he got it in his hand he heard a coughing noise he recognized, so he blinked a couple times until the image cleared. He smiled.

"Hi Mik." He whispered, trying to lift his hand to scruff the Jaguar's ears, but was unable to do more then move his fingers.

The cat growled lightly, then nudged at him, trying to get him to move.

He shook his head. "Sorry, kit.... I'm... not going... anywhere."

The cat stared at him with baleful eyes that seemed to shimmer with tears. But when the cat tried to lay down beside him, Xander pushed her away with the last of his strength. "Please... Mik... Get me to Paige."

The Jaguar looked at him in disapproval, growling in annoyance to mask the hurt.

"Please..." He whispered again, staring into the young were's eyes. "Paige?"

Finally Michelle Mirri coughed out her agreement. She gently grabbed his flightsuit in her powerful jaw and began to back toward the lagoon, pulling his unresisting form with her.

And it's down to the water's brim
He's borne the rowan shield
And the goldenrod he has cast in
To see what the lake might yield

His senses had gone haywire, and Xander smelt the salt air of the lagoon long before he saw it. When they broke out of the jungle he almost cried, realizing how close he'd come to making it back, only to crash down to earth within a few paltry meters.

Mikki left him at the edge of the water and roared at the sky, her snarling roar echoing off the cliffs around them.

Xander struggled to lift his head, looking out at the still water, and his eyes smiled even if his face didn't have the control any longer. Because he saw the most beautiful sight he had ever hoped to see.

And wet rose she from the lake
And fast and fleet went she
One half the form of a maiden fair
With a jet-black mare's body

The rings leapt from the surface of the water, followed by a flash of light that all but blinded Xander in his injured state. When the flickering afterimage had died down he saw her.

Paige was all but running across the surface of the water, her hair flying back as she came towards him.

Xander's mind reeled as he saw images of her from the past year, one after another, superimposing over her as she came on.

He saw her in a deep blue gown, that she had worn only once, when he had taken her and Amanda out on the town in L.A.

He saw her eyes, milky white and unseeing, as she had been in Texas.

And he saw the sweat beading on her lips and forehead as her face showed the throws of passion that they had both shared in her apartment over Christmas.

As she came to him, reality faded around him and Xander slipped away.

And loud long and shrill he blew
Till his steed was by his side
High overhead the gray hawk flew
And swiftly he did ride

"What's happening?"

"You're dying."

Xander shifted his focus, that being all he could do in this immensity of white within white within white. "Metatron."

The Angel smiled gently at him, stepping forward. "Hello again."

"Come to read me my fate?" Xander half smiled.

The Angel shook his head, "Not yet."


"Another's fate is being decided today." Metatron shrugged, "Then maybe we'll get to yours."

Xander felt a rush of motion envelop him, but didn't see anything move. "What's going on?"

"Don't worry about it." Metatron said gently, "It's not in your hands anymore."

Saying Course well me brindled hound
And fetch me the jet-black mare
Stoop and strike me good gray hawk
And bring me the maiden fair

Paige fell to her knees as she reached Xander, ignoring the jumpy motions of Mikki as the young Were regarded her suspiciously while still in her Jaguar form.

"Xander!" She cried out, her eyes widening in shock as she took in the massive damage he had suffered. "Oh my God, Xander!"

His hair was matted with blood, his face a pallid white under the red stains of it. His lips were pake, cold, and the red shine off his teeth gave the young man a horrifying spectre.

But Paige didn't give a damn. She gently brushed his face, looking up at the sky. "Leo!"

There was no response. "LEO!"


"Leo god damn you! Get down here!" Paige screamed at the sky, then her voice broke and she looked around helplessly. "Please?"

She said Pray sheath thy silvery sword
Lay down thy rowan shield
For I see by the briny blood that flows
You've been wounded in the field

Paige looked him over, trying to remember what little she knew about first aid but failing miserably. She winced as she saw the holes in his abdomen, wondering that he had survived this long at all because they were large enough for her to put her fist in.

She swallowed her revulsion and finsihed cataloging his wounds, only to see that his pistol was still gripped in a deaths grip. She gently pried it from his hands, worried that it might go off.

"You won't need this now, I swear..." She whispered.

His hand slackened as she spoke, and Paige looked into his eyes, her own wide. "You heard me, didn't you?"

And she stood in a gown of a velvet blu
Bound round with a silver chain
And she's kissed his pale lips once and twice
And three times round again

"Xander..." Paige swallowed helplessly, her hands covered in his blood as she tried to stem the flow.

Truth was, she didn't even understand why there was a flow. The blood he'd lost should have killed him a long time past, but Paige wasn't complaining. Instead he leaned closer, to him.

"Please... don't die..."

Her lips touched his. Warm and red against the pale cool touch of his skin.

"Don't die... not like this. Not now."

She kissed him again, softly but urgently as her eyes sought any sign of life in his.

"Please... come back to me Xander... Come back to us all."

Her lips brushed his a third time.

"I love you."

As she uttered those words, Paige didn't notice the glow that begun to form around her.

Metatron smiled suddenly. "That's it."

"That's what?" Xander asked, confused.

"Your Witch's Fate has been decided." Metatron said smugly.

"Paige? What!? What have you done to her!?"

"I've done nothing, Alexander." Metatron said calmly. "She has made this choice all on her own."

Xander stared at him as the Seraph began to fade away.

"Of course," His voice continued even as Metatron vanished, "She wasn't the only one whose fate was decided today."

Xander floated, helpless for a moment, then felt a tugging sensation.

And she's bound his wounds with the goldenrod
Full fast in her arms he lay
And he has risen hale and sound
With the sun high in the day

It was Mikki's shocked yowl that caused Paige to open her eyes and see the golden light erupt around her.

"Wha...?" She asked in shock and fear, almost falling away from Xander's form until she saw the light touch his wounds and heal them.

She pushed closer, trying to focus the light on him as much as she could, healing his injuries with the power the felt course through her. "Xander? Xander?"

Her heart skipped a beat as his eyes opened and he looked up at her, his face cleared of blood and ruddy with returning color. "Hey beautiful. Love you too."

"Xander!" She cried out, hugging him close.

He reached around her, still stiff and sore, and hugged her right back. He felt her lips lock onto his and he kissed back this time, his eyes staring up at her with wonder.

As their kisses and caresses became more and more adventurous, Mikki coughed in disgust and turned away. When she saw the others who had come out to find Xander approaching from the distance she loped off to head them off at the pass.

Behind her two allies who had become friends, two friends who had become lover, continued their actions, oblivious to the world around them.

She said Ride with your brindled hound at heel
And your good gray hawk in hand
There's none can harm the Knight who's lain
With the Witch of the Westmoreland

"Break Break Break!"

Hiller obeyed the command, banking his F/A18 hard to port and tried not to wince as the AMRAAM flashed past close enough for him to imagine he could smell the exhaust.

The resulting explosion from behind him was gratifying, however, and he grinned. "*That* is how you shoot, Rev! From now on, you shoot like that ALL the time!"

"Any time, Pard." Rev drawled as his pulled his -18 around in a lazy roll and examined the skies.

Hiller did the same, looking for more targets. The massive surface to air fire from below had begun to peter out, but then was redoubled as more surface ships arrived on scene. By the point there were no less then eighteen warships from at least six different nation below him, and every one of them was throwing every last peice of ordinance they had into the sky.

Normally that would have made Hiller very VERY jumpy. But today he was willing to overlook the fact that the guns and launchers below him belonged to some normally unfriendly people.

Jack O'Neill leveled his fighter out, looking over the information pouring into him through his HUD. The Black Elements were in rout now, and the conventional military was making short work of the Red, but there were still enough of them to be a threat.

"Angels," He spoke clearly, "shift priorities to targets of opportunity. Teal'C, you're with me."

Acknowledgments sounded over the net as Jack selected his next target, one of the few Blacks still in range, and hit his burners. On his HUD he could see that Teal'C was casually pacing him without difficulty.


Xander looked up at Paige, who's wet hair was plastered across her flushed face. For a moment he wondered why she was wet, then the lapping of water around his body answered that question. Then his besieged mind suddenly remembered everything that happened and his eyes opened wide.

"What?" Paige looked down at him, concern in her voice. "What's wrong?"

He smiled softly at her, "As much as I'd love to lay here with you, Paige... There are still..."

"Things to do." She finished for him, nodding with a tired smile. "I know."

He reluctantly rolled out from under her and forced himself to his feet. Then he turned and took her hand, gently lifting her out of the shallow water. "Come on... let's get it done."


Xander ignored the AI, unfastening his soaked flight jacket and letting it flap as he walked. "Merlin, have one of the SAR Orca's readied to fly."

"Yes Commander." Merlin responded instantly, though he didn't sound like he approved.


"No time, Faith." Xander said, still moving quickly with Paige and Mikki at his side as he strode through the huge rooms. "Get your 'brothers' together and make sure they aren't scared of heights. We've got work to do."

"Bout time, Boytoy." Faith smirked. "I was getting bored around here."

"I know you were, Faith." Xander grinned, "That's over now."

"Oh?" She leered suggestively at him.

"Oh grow up." Paige told her.

"I'm trying. I'm trying."

Pentagon War Room

"Sir, I think they're breaking again..."

"What are our losses?"

There was a pause before the young Captain answered. "Heavier then the first time... but more spread out this time."


"The first time they caught our fighters in an ambush... the main casualties were grouped in a few units. This time we took more hits, but it's been balanced over the entire task force."

General Grey sat heavily back in his chair. "That's good I suppose?"

"Tactically? Yes Sir." The Captain didn't like saying it, but that was what he was paid for. "It means that we have more units that are combat ready at the end of this one, without having to transfer new pilots into units that won't be prepared to integrate them."

"Well I guess that's something." Grey muttered, looking very tired.

"We also have casualties on the Tico this time, Sir."

Grey shook his head, but then nodded. "Lay it out for me."

"Threat board?"

"Clearing Commander." Merlin replied instantly.

Xander nodded, reaching up and pulling himself into the cockpit of the converted Bomber. "Good."

"Commander... you shouldn't be exerting yourself..."

"Whitelighter healing." Xander replied, "As good as new, Merlin."

"I am aware of the benefits of such healing, Commander." Merlin stated testily, "I am also aware of the limitations."

"So am I." Xander stated, flipping open the checklist of tabs in the cockpit. Then he stuck his head out the window, "Move it or get left behind!!"

He pulled his head back in, hearing Faith snap at her 'brothers' to get them moving quicker. He frowned a moment later when he saw Daniel Jackson rush to the craft, snapping a black flightsuit on as he did.

"What do you think you're doing, Dr Jackson?"

Daniel didn't look up, he just grabbed the edge of the door that led into the converted bombbay and shouted over his shoulder. "Sam is my friend!"

Xander nodded reluctantly, sighing. "I hope to hell that you aren't afraid of heights, Dr."

Not hearing a reply, Xander turned back to the controls and went through the pre-flight. After he was done he flipped open the channel to the back area, "Everyone aboard?"

"We're all here, Boytoy." Faith's voice trickled back.


"I'm here too Xander." Paige said, fumbling with the flap on her newly issued flight suit.

Xander nodded, powering up the big reactors on the hefty ship. "Merlin... Redesignate this ship, Rescue One."


As the AI said that, a light cry of surprise went up in the back as their flightsuits shifted color, going from shadow black to a snow white marked by a brilliant red symbol that looked a little like the oriental yin and yang.

"What the hell??"

"Relax." Xander's voice came through the intercom. "Just making sure that we don't get hit by friendly fire..."

"Right." Connor McManus muttered, looking at himself in disgust. "This thing looked pretty wicked a moment ago..."

"And no ye look like a Christmas tree ornament." Murphy snickered.

"So do you, ye idiot!"

Faith sighed, settling down against the cool metal of the cargo hold and tripped the intrcom. "You better get us moving, boytoy... If I decide to throw my brothers out, I want them to have a long enough fall to think about WHY I threw them out."

Kevin Griffith let out a long breath, half of it due to sheer terror and half to the pure adrenaline rush. This situation, these fighters, they were the first time that he'd truly been able to pursue his chosen vocation.

He'd had the greatest respect for bomber pilots, and even more after he'd become one himself, but he'd never been able to shake the regret... No that wasn't the right word. He didn't regret anything about the war anymore, except perhaps that it had happened in the first time. But that didn't stop his mind from playing 'what if' ever time he closed his eyes.

This situation was letting him put that old ghost to rest. He knew now that he would have done well as a fighter pilot. So far he had four kills to his credit, and three of them were the tough Black Elements. So he knew that had he been given his Mustang back in WW2, then he'd have acquitted himself respectably with it.

But he wouldn't have been here.

He wouldn't have been able to fly in THIS dogfight, the preserve the world from an evil of a different order. Certainly, Griffith had to admit that someone else would have taken his place and filled his shoes, but that wasn't the point. He *wanted* to be here. He wanted to be part of this.

For a moment he thought guiltily about the dagger strapped to his hip, but then he shook it off. That was still a decision for another day. Being here was what he wanted to think about now.

"Come on, Sean," He spoke calmly into his mic, managing to sound bored by the whole situation. "Let's see if'n we can't bag us a couple more reds."

The Transport Launch for the Bomber was a lot easier then with a Hammerhead. When they hit the sky they were barely moving Mach One, and that was plenty fast.

Xander triple checked his controls, then again keyed open the intercom. "How is everyone back there?"

"Peachy!" Came back the response from a sarcastic male voice.

Xander heard Faith slap down one of her brothers and had to smile. As much as those two aggravated him, he had to admit that they had a certain fortitude that was impressive. No lesser men would be able to piss Faith off that much and keep coming back for more.

"We're good, X-man."

"Alright," Xander acknoledged. "You guys locked in?"

This time it was Daniel Jackson who responeded. "Safety harnesses are locked in place, we're ready."

"Good. ETA in ten minutes, then we'll start low level search for survivors." Xander said before closing the connection. <Our survivors.> He thought to himself, remembering the guilt he felt at watching those first three lights fade from the world.

<God I hope we have survivors.>

"Stand down the guns!" Maria called as she looked through the skies. The biggest problem with the weapons setup on the Pt-579 was that they didn't have the same access to the LIDAR direction that their more equipped allies had.

On the other hand, they also didn't have to worry about losing that advantage like the Tico had. Andy himself had potted no less then two Gliders trying to same strafing attack on the 579 with his .50 calibur turret.

However, having to wait for a message from below to be run up to her before she could order the guns to stand down meant that it took that much longer for Maria to get the 579 retasked to Search and Rescue.

The crew was small enough that they couldn't man all the guns while attempting rescue operations. Andy, of course, stayed at his place in the turret and swept the skies with those eyes that could spot the fault in a machined block of metal from thirty paces. Two of Dragan's men kept to their places on the big Thunderbolt system and the forward 30mm. The rest dropped the hot gun grips and began making the deck of the boat into a temporary hospital ship.


"I'm here, Maria." The slim girl said as she seemed to flow to the Captain's side.

Maria smiled at her slightly, "We'll need your eyes again."

Jacks nodded, her face determined as she began to scan the water around them with eyesight that was both eagle sharp and Fey aware. It didn't take too long before she snapped her arm out, "Over there!"

Maria threw the rudder over, yelling over her shoulder as she shoved the throttle up. "Coming around to port!!"

"579 this is Rescue One, come in 579..." Xander spoke, keeping his voice level as he winced.

His body was healed, but the residual pain occasionally made itself felt through the mystical sensation of well being he was currently enjoying. The human form wasn't really intended for the quick fixes, so that left Xander with phantom pains that would flare occasionally as he kept his attention on the controls.

It only took a moment for Maria to reply. "This is 579.... Xander? Is that you?"

"Yep. Coming in with a few people to help gather up the swimmers."

Xander heard relief in her voice a moment later. "Thank God. Xander, we thought you were dead!"

Xander forced a laugh into his voice, ignoring how close to reality that statement had come. "Hey, I'm a bad penny... I always show up."

"Whatever." He heard her smile back, "What's with the new Moniker?"

"I picked up a new toy back at the island." Xander replied, "We've got some friends who need a lift..."

"Alright, good to hear that you're ok." Maria replied, "Looks like we've got out work cut out for us now though... 579 out."

"Rescue one copies." Xander said with a half smirk. He noted the position of the 579 on the projected HUD and banked off to cover another sector.

The occupants of the rear cargo area of the converted bomber jumped when Xander's voice came through the intercom.

"We've got hot body in the water, ladies and gentlemen. Time to go to work."

They looked at each other, a little fearfully because they'd been considering the job they were about to do for some time. It was a job that was dangerous, dirty, and fraught with as many risks as fighting ever had.

"Well then..." Connor McManus said finally, "Let's be about it then, shall we?"

Everyone nodded as they got up.

"I'll go first." Connor said, clipping a cord to his safety belt and pulling on a warm cap.

Murphy nodded, grinning like and idiot for some reason, and snapped a similar cord to his own belt. "I'll be right behind ye if ye need me, Bro."

Connor nodded, then reached out and placed his hand over a panel marked as 'Hatch Control'. He swallowed hard, then flipped the panel open and palmed the control inside.

Everyone jumped back as a hatch opened in the floor, exposing them to the open air and rolling sea below them. Connor forced a grin and pushed off the floor, hanging over the opening by his belt.

The big craft rumbled slightly as Xander applied reverse thrust and came to a stop. Connor looked over to where Faith was standing by a series of clearly marked controls. He nodded.

"Good luck, Connor." She said, a grin on her face to match his brothers, then palmed the control marked with a big green down arrow.

"Thanks Sis." He smiled as he dropped through the hatch.

Captain Michael Sams looked up, not because he heard anything, but because he suddenly felt every single hair on his neck stand on end. "What the hell?"

The Marine was bobbing along the surface of the ocean, having ditched his -18 after taking a host of hits from one of the strange looking Red bogeys. Looking up, he was wondering whether or not he *wanted* to be rescued. Whatever this was, it wasn't US Issue.

A man in a white and red suit was suddenly lowered through a hatch in the bottom, and seconds later was immersed in the water next to the Captain. His head bobbed back up a moment later, "Hey, pal... ye need a lift?"

Sams tried not to laugh at the earnest face, more because he still wasn't certain who the guy was then out of any politness, but he couldn't keep his face from cracking into a smile as he saw the cap on the man's head. He glanced at it and read the tag that was visible on his forehead.

100% Cotton, do not get wet.

"Sure." He managed to get out without his voice cracking. "I could use a lift."

USS Ticonderoga

Donalds stepped over the wreckage of his flightdeck as he looked for the crews. He could them clearing a large section and working on one of Sea King Helos.

"Captain!" One of the finally noticed him.

"As you were." Donalds said, watching where he stepped. "What's the situation here?"

The Chief shrugged, scratching his head. "Not good, Sir... Whatever that thing was it messed us up good."

"We need to get the Helos in the air, Chief." Donalds said, "We've got downed men in the water."

"I know that sir..." The Chief looked miserable, "I can give you one of them in ten minutes... maybe less if I push it."

Donalds hesitated. The desire to tell him to push it was strong, but instead he shook his head. "No... Ten minutes will have to do. I'll have the crews down here and ready to go by then."

"Aye Sir." The Chief said, then turned to his men. "Come on! You heard 'im! Let's get this bird cleared and ready to fly!"

SAR Helos from the Enterprise were already dotting the skies as small fast attack craft scoured the seas. They had been in the air and water before the battle had even begun to wound down, and among them were some of the casualties of the day. But that hadn't deterred them from their jobs, nor had it prevented them from the successful completion of those jobs.

Sea King's rotors beat the water above the heavily dyed water as their crews plucked unfortunate pilots from the ocean's grasp.

Unfortunately for these brave crews, the battle had yet to quite end, and the danger to them wasn't over just yet.

"This is Sea King Helo Three!" The pilot got out as fast as he could, his eyes locked on the approaching dot. "We're under attack! Repeat under attack! One of the red elements is making a..."

He was cut off as the small glider opened fire.

"You hear that, Rev?"

"Damn right I did, Cap'n." Reverend said grimly. "It's one thing to shoot us down, but taking out the recue helos is a beg no no."

The squadron acknowledged those sentiments and Hiller nodded. "Come on, Knights... Let's give em a little taste of cold steel."

The remaining members of the Squadron pulled into tight formation as they hit their burners and began the deadly race to the besieged helicopter.

"Jesus!!" The pilot of the Sea King jerked his stick to the left as he tried to evade the fire. Below him he had two men hanging by cables, one of his crew and a pilot they were trying to save, but he couldn't take it easy on them because it would do them no good to have an easy ride if it brought the entire heavy chopper down on their heads.

The first attack missed by inches and the pilot immediately spun around, "God damn it! Get them up here!!"

His men began retracting the winch, trying to make it run faster then it was designed, plucking the two men from the chopping waters below.


"What is it Jacks?" Maria looked up to see the eyes of they young woman gleaming and shining with a light of their own.

"There." Jacks pointed. "Best speed, if you please."

Maria swallowed, because the expression on the young woman's face was not one that she had when spotting swimming pilots. The young woman was pissed.

Maria just nodded, pushing the throttle up as hard as she can. "Coming around to starboard! Brace yourselves!!"

The heavy ship leapt to speed, her crew grabbing on to anything they had at hand as the PT Boat accelerated to the sunny side of thirty knots. The second order, the one that came from the other woman standing at the helm, set them running.

"Stand down from rescue operations!" Jacks ordered in a loud clear voice, "And prepare to engage the enemy!!"


The pilot of the Sea King cursed as loud as he could, hearing the reports from the command and control units, telling him that the Red element was coming back around for another pass. He glanced over his shoulder, "Brace yourselves!!"

As he worked the controls the nose of the heavy chopper dipped down as it accelerated as fast as it could.

Below them, the two men who were still being winched up suddenly dropped again until they were being pounded by the heaving waves as the heavy helicopter tried to buy precious few seconds for help to arrive.

PO 1st Class Maxwell Clarke shook and spun as he skipped off the waves, trying to breathe as he tried to confirm the clips on the safety harness he'd rigged to the downed pilot he was supposed to be rescuing.

The pilot was bleeding pretty bad, and the jostling was doing him no good at all, though Clarke had to admit that the guy was a tough bastard. He hadn't let out much more then a groan during the whole mess, but Clarke was a trained E-Tech, and he knew that the man was in bad shape and growing worse.

The Sea King above them was roaring, it's engine straining in a familiar tone. Clarke knew that the big chopper was reaching fast for it's top end, and he wasn't sure if he and his charge were going to be able to survive that. The steel sharp spray was already cutting into their exposed skin as they spun and skipped along the rough surface of the water.

He looked up and could tell that the Lt wasn't pushing his bird as hard as he could either, probably because he was worried about them.

Clarke looked to the pilot, then up to the chopper above.

The pilot looked at him and nodded.

Clarke nodded back, then reached up and grabbed the release catch on his harness. He grabbed the pilot with his free hand and felt the aviator grab a hold of him as well.

Clarke yanked the catch.

The Sea King actually jumped slightly as the weight it had been dragging dropped loose, causing Lt Graves to looked around in surprise. "What the fuck was that!?"

"Clarke cut himself loose!!"

Graves swallowed, but nodded. Without having to worry about the two below him, the pilot pushed the chopper past it's limit and began evasive maneuvers as best he could.

"Damn." Jacks whispered, her voice strained.


Jacks didn't respond right away, her eyes flickering to the sky and the sea as if she had a choice to make. Finally she decided, and her arm flashed out. "There!"

Maria responded instantly, twisting the wheel as she redirected the PT Boat to it's new target. She spared a glance to the side, worried about the young woman beside her.

The young woman's face was a mask, no emotion visible as she stared straight ahead, but her eyes were another story and Maria shivered as she returned her attention to the controls.

"Vin..." Jacks said, her voice cold but urgent. "You're up."

"Almost there..."

"Hurry up, Cap'n. That chopper doesn't have much time..."

"Almost..." Hiller whispered quietly as the beep began to quicken, "Almost..."

Abruptly the droning beep became a solid tone, and Hiller mashed down on the launch button. "Knight Lead... Fox Three."

The AMRAAM dropped from it's pylon, the powerful rocket motor erupting to life and powerinf the chunky cylinder away from it's host. The white steel flashed through the air, accelerating at a blinding rate.

Ahead, it's target also acquired a target lock on it's own prey. And the Jaffa pilot within squeezed his firing stud.

"YEAH!!!" Lt Graves yelled as he watched the Red Element erupt into flames. He twisted his stick, brining the Sea King around in a wide but fast turn as he headed back to look for his wayward passengers.

A squadron of F/A-18's ripped past, waggling their wings at him as they did.

Graves didn't give a damn that they couldn't see him, he saluted them with his free hand before turning back to the task at hand.

Clarke struggled to hold up the weakening aviator, the man had lost consciousness some time earlier and he was worried that it wouldn't be long before the man slipped into a coma that he might not waken from.

"Come on, buddy... wake up and talk to me..." Clarke grunted as he tried to reposition the man on his other arm. "I'm getting lonely floating here all by myself."

A second later he could have bitten his tongue, because the sea had decided to answer his request. He felt a shiver run down his spine and turned on instinct, just in time to see the fin of a shark break the surface and come straight for him.

<Oh fuck. The blood.> He thought, his own blood running cold as the fin twitched a couple times, but came straight at him, accelerating.

As it closed his eyes closed hard, and Clarke prayed for the first time in years.

The sound of a water splashing made him open his eyes at the last second, and Clarke wished that he hadn't. The Shark was on it's terminal run, turning on it's side as it's mouth gaped wide open. In that second he saw the nictating membranes close over it's eyes, and the gruesome gums flex as the rows of teeth came into range.

<Oh please lord, make it quick.> He prayed as he watched the horror come.

Suddenly the shark jerked, flashing in the water as it seemed to hit a wall in the water. It turned around, the water becoming frothy pink, as it seemed to chase it's own tail.

Then Clarke heard an echoing report come over the waves. He turned, unable to believe his eyes when he saw a boat rushing toward him, a small figure on the deck hefting a big rifle.

"Good shot, Vin." Jacks said, her face more relaxed now as she smiled slightly.

The Immortal sharpshooter nodded, "Had a lot of practice."

The men around him stared in shock at the unassuming man. He had just made a shot from over two hundred yards on a boat that was moving at full speed, and hit a target that was barely visible.

Vin ignored the looks, merely racking the slide and resting his rifle against the cabin again as he scanned the seas around the downed men.

Clarke raised his hand as the boat glided alongside and a pair of arms reached down and grabbed him. He shook his head, "Him first! He's lost a lot of blood!"

The men nodded and he pushed the pilot as far out of the water as he could so they could get a grip on him. Strong hands grabbed the man and hefted him aboard. In the meantime Clarke could hear another rifle roar and swallowed as he made a conscious effort to NOT look around and see what the man had been shooting at.

He was pulled aboard a moment later, flopping to the deck like a landed fish and just laying there for a moment. Trained arms run over him, looking for injuries, but found none. He could have told them that, but he didn't have the strength. After a moment he found himself pulled to his feet and led to a clear spot on the deck, a blanket and towel shoved in his hand as someone spoke a little gruffly.

"Sorry we can't do better just now, but we've got more work to do."

He nodded at the man, using the towel to wipe down his head and hair, then forced himself back to his feet as he looked around. He found himself standing on the deck of an honest to goodness PT Boat and couldn't figure out what the hell it was doing here.

There was a chatter of machine weapons and he turned to see a man in an old .50 caliber turret loosing a long burst into the sky. Clarke turned and looked into the sky, but only saw a smoke trail leading into the ocean. His eyes widened as he took it all in.

Clarke heard the beating of rotors above him and looked up. Relief washed over him as he saw the familiar faces of his crew in the Sea King above them. He waved up, at them and they waved back.

"Sit down, buddy... before you fall overboard." A gruff voice said, not unkindly.

He shook his head, "I've got more work to do... My lift is here."

The man looked up, then shrugged. "Your call."

Clarke nodded, waving for them to drop a line. "Can you treat the man you picked up with me?"

The man nodded, "We'll get him stabilized..."

Clarke caught the line and nodded again, He yelled over the drone of the rotors. "I'll send an evac chopper ASAP!"

The man nodded, "Go on! Save some more lives!"

Clarke smiled and waved as the winch plucked him off the deck.

Strong arms pulled him into the chopper and he found himself looking at his Chief.

"Are you alright PO!?"

Clarke nodded, laughing, "That was some ride! Think I could go again!?"

The Chief slapped him upside his helmet, but laughed. "You just might at that PO!"

"Grab him, Sis!"

Faith cought the arm of the downed aviator and flipped him casually over her shoulder as she pulled the unconscious man into the safety of the hold. She quickly laid him down while the other three they'd pulled from the water so far looked at her in shock.

"Paige!" She called out before turning back to help Connor swing back into the hold.

Paige rushed over, looking over the unconscious man. There was blood flowing from a head wound and his face had a pallor that was too familiar to her. She swallowed, "This one is hurt pretty bad."

"Can you... well, you know?" Faith asked with a shrug.

Paige hesitated, "I... I don't know how I..."

"Damn girl, do your thing, or call for Leo!" Faith muttered, closing the hatch and slapping the intercom. "We're clear and good to go, Boytoy!"

Xander didn't respond but the ship vibrated quickly as it began to accelerate away.

Paige took a breath, "Leo!"



She was about to give up when a pillar of light appeared, causing every single rescuee backpedal for the far wall.

"What the hell!?"

"Holy fuck!"


"Leo!" Perhaps surprising, Paige's voice made his name sound a lot like the curse words from the other pilots.

Leo winced, "Look, I can explain!"

"Later, Wingboy." Faith said, nodding to the downed man. "Heal first, squeal later."

Leo frowned, "Right..."

He knelt down, then looked back at Paige. "You can do this, you know. You found the key..."

"The key?"

Leo applied his hands to the man's wounds, and a glow emitted from them. He nodded, looking back at her, "Love, Paige. That's what triggers this power. You found the key... You've earned the gift."

"I... I..." Paige stammered.

Between them, the injured aviator groaned and started to move around. Leo held him down long enough to pass a healing hand over his head. When the man's eyes opened, Leo looked down and smiled, "Hey... How do you feel?"

"Like I just ditched my plane in the Pacific." The man groaned.

"Congratulations." Faith said dryly, "You feel perfectly well for the situation."

The man groaned a bit as the three moved away from him. He looked around, his eyes widening when he saw three other pilots crowded against the far wall, their eyes wide with shock.

"What?" He asked, suddenly worried, "What!? Am I missing something important?"

He patted himself down, checking for missing limbs, but came up with all the right numbers.

One of the others spoke up hesitantly, "You... you... you were bleeding bad a few seconds ago... Jesus, you..."

The man paled, checking himself for wounds, but came up dry. In fact he couldn't even find stains of holes on his flightsuit. He grimaced at the others, "Yeah right... it's not nice to screw with the new guy, guys. What are you trying to do? Give me a stroke??"

"We're not kidding!" Another protested, but he just shrugged him off and sat up.

"Yeah, yeah..."

Leo, Faith, and Paige ignored them, Paige was more focused on facing her Whitelighter.

"Leo! Where the hell were you when Xander needed you!?"

Leo grimaced, "Look, I just found out about that not too long ago. I was called upstairs for a conference... no one can call a whitelighter when they go behind those doors, Paige... I swear I didn't hear you."

"Why the hell did they call you up then!?"

Leo frowned, "From what I understand the Powers wanted Xander eliminated... they didn't even consider that you might heal him..."

"What!? Why?" Paige asked.

"Probably because he told them to go screw themselves once." Faith muttered, disgusted.

"He did WHAT!?" Leo gasped in shock.

"No one told you about that, huh?" Faith smirked. "They came to him once... offered him power if he'd work for them... He told them what they could do with their power."

Paige and Leo looked at her in shock.

"Just... just who are these Powers, Sis?"

Faith looked over, suprised that the brothers had been listening. She shrugged, "A couple Archangels I guess... They were overstepping their authority though... They got a major bitchslap from upstairs... Big Gal herself brought a stuffy englishman down to read 'em the riot act."

"Englishman??" Leo asked in confusion.

"Yeah... some dude called Matatron..."


"Yeah. That's what I said."

Leo looked around for a place to sit down. "I don't believe this."


He looked up, "But it explains what's going on upstairs now..."

"Leo! What are you talking about?"

"The Seraphim are cleaning house upstairs." Leo muttered in shock. "The Powers have been removed from their duties over this mess... None of the lower corps can figure out why a mortal's fate could have triggered this..."

"Why would it?"

"It wouldn't." Leo said flatly. "Not unless they've been waiting for an excuse. The whole upper hierarchy is in an uproar right now, Paige."

"What does that mean?"

Leo shivered. "I don't know. The Hierarchy have presented a united front for eons... It doesn't make sense... something huge must be coming, Paige... they wouldn't do this unless..."

"Unless what??"

Leo shook his head, eyes actually showing an element of fear. "I don't know."

Xander flew with one eye on the waters around him, but the other being besieged by information from the projected HUD. Merlin had tapped into the the NSA's satellite net and hijacked an appropriately equipped bird for their use.

The Satellite in question had an advanced thermal camera that could pick up a human body through six feet of poured concrete. Spotting warm bodies in the cool ocean wasn't quite as easy as it might have been, the job being complicated by refracted sunlight and the occasional sea mammal in the area, but when combined with Merlin's instant rewind of the battle, knowledge of sea currents, and insanely powerful processing capability, it was enough.

He brought the converted Orca Bomber into a slow glide that slowly circled the latest 'catch'. The HUD instantly locked onto the bobbing thing in the water and Xander's heart thumped as he recognized the shape of a Hammerhead cockpit module.

He hit the intercom.

"Swimming time, boys and girls!" Xander's voice echoed around the hold. "It's one of ours!"

The rescued pilots watched with wide eyes as the people that had saved them leapt into action.

"My turn, boys." Daniel Jackson said, clipping himself into the harness and swinging out over the still closed hatch.

"You got it, Doc." Murphy said smiling slightly. "Hope yer not afraid 'o water."

Daniel shivered as the hatch fell open behind him. "Let's do this."

Faith nodded, and slapped the other switch.

Daniel Jackson dropped clear through the hatch and out of sight. "Ahhhhhhhh!"

Tap tap tap.

Captain Samantha Carter heard an odd noise that she couldn't quite place. She thought about investigating it, but decided that she was too tired. The slim sliver of light the noise had let in quickly closed up again as she fell once more to oblivion.

Tap tap tap.

"Hold on, Sam!" Daniel said, excited as he saw her move behind the cockpit. The module was intact, so Dr Jackson tripped his communication system.


"Yes, Daniel?"

"The module seems to be intact... but Sam is unconscious."

"Alright... Don't try to open it." Xander said, "I'll have Faith send down the retrieval lines... How are you at reading Atlantean?"

"Not so well that I want to risk Sam's life on my translation!"

"Relax. It's fool proof." Xander said, "Just plug the cables into where they fit. They'll only go where they're supposed to."

"Alright... send it down."

"It's already coming down."

Daniel looked up to see a frame descending down from above, and he caught it when it came into range. He twisted it around until it fit over the module and then pulled it down. There where four heavy clicks and it locked solidly into place. He shook it a few times as hard as he could, then tripped his mic again. "Ok... I think that's it..."

"It is." Xander said, "I've got green across the board here. Faith is going to bring you up."

Daniel nodded, feeling the cable tighten. He reached out one hand and placed it on the cockpit, "Hang on, Sam... Hang on..."

Chapter 7
The Long Haul

The sky was black again, the battle long past, when Rescue One finally returned to Avalon. Xander was running on artificially pumped adrenaline and even he knew that his nerves were beyond the safe zones. When the huge cargo rings caught the converted Orca Bomber, he released the controls and slumped wearily back into the seat and closed his eyes against the horrors of the day.

Outside the cockpit he could hear a commotion kicking up as people began milling around it. Xander groaned and pushed himself up, flipping the latch as he got out of the seat and climbed down from the cockpit.

Instantly he was surrounded.

"Did you find them!?"

"Is Dana ok??"

"Are any of them ok?"


Xander shivered and walked through the press, not speaking. Behind him the side hatch of Rescue One slammed open and Merlin guided a loader over to it with a portable staircase. The crowd of pilots turned and watched as figures disembarked the craft.

Faith came out first, her face a stoic mask as she helped a figure down the stairs. The pilots frowned, not displeased, but uncertain. They didn't recognize the man. Behind her came Doctor Jackson, leading a limping Samantha Carter, and a small cheer went up. Next though came the brothers, and they had no one between them, then came several more aviators in US Military flightsuits. Finally Paige stepped out, her face ashen, and her motions stiff and tired.

The people turned to Xander, noticing that he was walking to the immense far wall with something in his hand.


"Xander... What's going..."

Xander stopped at the wall, then took a breath and reached up and began writing. Carefully, neatly, concisely, he jotted down three names. Then he stepped back and stared at them quietly for a moment.

Chappy Sinclair, looking over his shoulder, swallowed as he read them.

Dana Osborne

Horst Leichman

Christopher Palmer

He stepped up beside Xander, glancing at the young man's grim face, and nodded.

"Warbirds, Present!"

Kevin Griffen and Sean O'Malley snapped to first, quickly followed by Wheeler as she caught on. Each of them holding military attention and saluting.

"Eagles!" Doug Master snapped out a moment later, "Present!"

This time the squad moved as one, being forewarned by the actions of the Warbirds.

Xander nodded, not looking back. "Angels." He whispered, but his voice carried to each and every person without effort. "Present."

His arm came up as he saluted the names he had just scribbled on the stone wall. Not much of a tribute, perhaps, but he swore to himself that he would find something more fitting when he had time. For now it was the best he had.

Xander held the salute for over a full minute before letting his arm drop, feeling rather then hearing as those behind him did the same. He stepped back, still quietly, and turned to Chappy.

"We found Dana's body..." His voice was quiet now, and didn't carry, "her module was intact but it looked like a single shot got through the back of the canopy..."

Chappy closed his eyes, hiding the glistening moisture. "And the others?"

"Their modules weren't intact..." Xander stopped as his voice caught, but quickly put away the emotion for later. "But we found..."

He paused again, glancing over to where Paige was holding herself tightly, and corrected himself. "They found... parts."

Chappy flinched, feeling the triple strike hammer home at once. He'd just lost two old friends and one young student at a shot, and it was killing him.

Xander hesitated, then reached out and placed a hand on the older man's shoulder. Doug appeared a second later, taking Chappy's other side and nodding to Xander. Xander nodded back, releasing the older man and speaking to Doug, "Get him to his room... He needs the rest."

Doug nodded and started to move away.

"We all do." Xander said, turning to the rest of the people there. "We've lost some good friends today. When this is all over, we'll mourn them properly... Until then we have a job to do."

Xander caught some looks of anger from the people around him, and understood the source. He felt it himself, but he couldn't let their rage against the universe turn on him or themselves. Not now, not yet. Later, if they wanted, they could blame him.

"I know that sucks. I know it feels dirty," He said, "But they died to save this *world* from the Goa'uld... If we don't finish the job, then they died for nothing. I won't let that happen."

The pilots began nodding around him, slowly shaking off the shock of the news.

"I will NOT let that happen!" Xander repeated, raising his voice slightly. "We who lived, owe those who didn't, that much at least."

With that, he turned and walked over to Paige and, taking her arm, led the shaken witch from the hanger.

Behind him he left a sea of emotions that were slowly shifting from a self destructive rage to a raging inferno of determination that could be felt from one end of the hanger to the other as it beat off the walls with an almost palpable heat.

Hovering around the converted bomber designated 'Rescue One' were the twelve rescued aviators who didn't have the slightest clue where there were or what to do. The shuffled a bit before the little girl they knew to be Faith walked over to them with a confident strut.

"Hey, Colonel Jack!" She called over her shoulder, her voice tight despite her practiced calm exterior.

Jack O'Neill scowled but walked over, "What?"

"You wanna give these guys the 411 while I have Merlin scare up some rooms for 'em?" Faith asked.

O'Neill nodded, "You got it, kid."

Faith slapped him on the chest as she walked past, "Don't go there. Name's Faith."

Jack winced, rubbing his chest where she smacked him. "Ow! Get out of here!"

Faith shrugged and walked off.

"Alright," Jack looked over the weary band of flyers, "Welcome to Avalon, boys and girls. I'm Colonel O'Neill... United States Air Force."

The men looked at his black flightsuit with a certain amount of scepticism, but also noted the USAF wings on his chest and the rank insignia. The American Flyers stiffened and saluted, but the three others, all of them seemed to be russian, looked around wearily.

One came forward, "This is... American facility?"

Jack shook his head, "No. This place belongs to..."

Jack looked around, shaking his head. "Damned if I know."

Merlin shimmered into place beside him, "Technically no one has claim on this island, Colonel."

"What??" Jack frowned, "How's that possible?"

"Simply enough." Merlin smiled, "We don't appear on any modern map. Modern maps are made from satellite photos. I and my colleague have backdoor systems hardwired into every satellite every built."

Jack's eyes widened at the implications, but stuttered in shock. "That's not possible... This area was mapped before Satellites!"

"True. But Avalon has it's own ways of staying... undetected." Merlin smiled briefly before turning to the rescued aviators. "I've prepared suites for each of you until we can arrange transport back to your units. Until such time, I hope you will avail yourselves of our facilities."

The men looked at each other, a little confused, but one of them came forward. "Our governments must be apprized of out situation..."

Jack O'Neill nodded, "I'll handle that in my next report. Just leave Merlin your names and unit information and we'll get it to the right people. In the meantime... Get some rest... soak in the tub, grab some grub... We're still on full alert here, so there's no telling when anyone will be available to fly you home."

The men looked at each other again, not happy with that response, but reluctantly nodded.

Jack scowled at Merlin, but shrugged and nodded to the men. "Come on, I'll show you to your rooms."

Xander led Paige into his room, holding her as she shivered. "It's ok... It's ok..."

She shook hard in his embrace, shuddering as the things she'd seen kept crossing her vision. "I... I keep seeing... Seeing her..."

"Face." Xander finished for her. "I know."

She turned and looked to him, her face stricken. "How?"

Xander smiled, it was a tragic expression that was turned into an expression of pure pain by the horrible light in his eyes. "I've been where you are, Paige. Had faces haunting my dreams. I know it's not easy."

She fell back into him, burying her face in his shoulder as he tightened his grip on her. "Oh God... I'm so... so..."

"Tired." He said. "You're exhausted, shaken up, and hurting. Can't do anything for the last two, Paige... but I've got a cure for number one."

She didn't speak as he lifted her off the ground and carried her over to the bed. He lowered her into his bed and pulled the covers over them both. She shifted closer to him and he wrapped his arms around her tightly.

It didn't take long before they were both fast asleep.

Silently watching over them, Merlin lowered the lights in the room soon after, but made careful note of something that worried him.

Even in the depths of sleep, Xander's muscles and nerves twitched and jumped as he held Paige.

"He's pushing himself too hard."

"Are you certain?" Niume looked up, her virtual avatar frowning.

"I am." Merlin replied gravely.

"How serious?"

"It's becoming critical." Merlin replied. "I do not understand why She is allowing him to do this."

"Perhaps she isn't as aware as she might normally be?"

Merlin frowned, "I fail to see how that is possible."

"If he is strong enough to prevent her from taking charge, perhaps he is also capable of masking his symptoms from her?" Niume postulated, "How bad are his symptoms?"

"His neural synapses have begun to fire randomly," Merlin replied. "If he doesn't rein them in, he could cause burnout. And you know what that would mean."

Niume nodded, sighing. Not even a whitelighter could heal nerve damage, particularly not self inflicted nerve damage. "She must surely recognize the threat by now then."

"Indeed." Merlin agreed. "The only question that remains is... which of them is in charge, and what game are they playing?"


"How many times must I tell you this, Alexander!?" Elan growled exasperatedly.

"I don't know," Xander sighed tiredly, "Why don't you try again... maybe you'll hit the magic number."

Elanthielle closed her eyes, breathing deeply in an effort to center her emotions. Her relationship with her young bearer had grown more and more tense as the exterior tensions were piled onto him. "You must stop pushing yourself so hard."

"Elan," Xander almost yawned, despite being in the dreaming. "Just... please, let me focus on healing... ok?"

"You cannot heal nerve damage, Alexander!" Elan raged at him. "Nor can you continue to excise fatigue toxins with impunity!"

Xander rubbed his face, shaking his head as he just slumped there. "What do you want from me!? Huh? Just what the hell do you want from me, Elan!?"

Elanthielle was silent for a long moment. There was no answer she could give right now that would satisfy him, and she knew it. Instead she tried another tact. "Alexander. It isn't what I want that matters. It's what you are physically capable of doing that is in question."

"Everyone else is pulling their weight," Xander said stubbornly, "I refuse to do any less."

"Alexander!" Elan snapped, her sea green eyes flaring with a light like lightning over open water. "The others are doing one job, you are attempting to Command, Fly sorties, transport equipment, create battle plans, AND now you add almost twenty straight hours on a Search and Rescue flight! This is NOT pulling your own weight. This is insanity."

"Someone has to do it, and the others need their rest." Xander replied stubbornly.

"And who exactly is going to do all these jobs when you collapse from the strain?" Elan countered. "Which is going to happen sooner then later, I assure you Alexander."

Xander turned to Elan, his eyes narrowing. "I'll hold out as long as I have to."

"Alexander, if you continue as you are..." Elan paused, sighing. "Yes, perhaps you might be able to hold out through to the end of this crisis... I've seen you do too much else to believe that your will won't carry you through this as well. But have you considered what will be left when it's over? I assure you, there won't be much. Damaged nerves and brain cells are not reparable by any technique I can teach you."

"I'll deal with that when I get to it." Xander replied stubbornly, refusing to give an inch. "Now I have things to do, Elan."

He turned his focus back to the task uppermost in his mind. The purging of the fatigue toxins that had gathered in his muscles and mind. With them gone, he could fool his body in thinking it had managed to rest.

"Twelve men?"

"Yes Mr President." Jack said, "Plus three Russians."

Whitmore sighed.

"Mr President?"

"I'm sorry, Colonel." President Whitmore said after a moment, "It's good news... great news. It's just..."

"How many are missing, Sir?" Jack asked, understanding.

"Not counting your twelve? Forty eight." Whitmore said, closing his eyes. "And judging from you've said about Harris SAR method I doubt any of them are going to turn up."

Jack shook his head, "My God."

"Exactly." Whitmore said.

"What are we telling the press?"

Whitmore snorted, raising his head to the ceiling. "That question has caused a minor riot over here. Aside from the truth, the best suggestion I've seen yet is a 'training accident'. Which should tell you what kind of suggestions I'm getting over here."

Jack winced.

"Precisely." Whitmore shook his head, "I'll send word to the Russians about your three... In the meantime... Just keep doing what you're doing Colonel."

"Yes Mr President."

Paige shifted in her sleep as Xander slipped out of the bed, he looked at her fondly for a moment before steeling himself. He looked around and subvocalized. "Merlin?"

"Yes Commander?" Merlin's voice was low and targeted to him.

"Clothes." Xander ordered.

"Commander... The threat board is still quiet. You have time to..."


"Yes Commander." Merlin sighed.

Xander grabbed his uniform from the alcove and stripped off the sweaty flightsuit he had slept in. He reconsidered before dressing and walked across the room. As he approached another alcove was revealed to him, and he stepped in. A low hum echoed in his ears as the alcove was activated and the devices embedded in the walls went to work cleaning him.

The waterless shower wasn't a particular favorite of Xander, or the Atlanteans who designed it for that matter, but it was fast and incredibly efficient. Xander stepped out, clean from heel to scalp, and began to get dressed.


"Go back to sleep, Paige." Xander whispered. "There's nothing going on."

She rolled over, groaning as she got up. "If there's nothing going on then what are doing up??"

Xander smiled, "I've got..."

"Work to do." Paige frowned, "Xander, you *always* have work to do."

"Well, then I guess I better get cracking on it." Xander smiled crookedly as he fastened his tunic.

"Xander." She frowned.

"Go back to sleep, Paige." Xander said firmly. "You've earned the rest."

With that he walked out of the room.

"Haven't you earned it too?" Paige asked the empty room, frowning.

There was no response, of course, but Paige growled to herself as she kept from yawning through an exercise of sheer will. She threw the covers off and stood up, "Damn it. No how am I supposed to sleep?"


"Here are the numbers my Lord."

Apophis barely grunted as he poured over the numbers already on his screens. He had lost almost three entire squadrons of advanced fighter craft. More in that one battle then any Goa'uld had lost against *any* outside enemy in the last century.

Normally they were only used in battle against other System Lords, the Death Gliders being more then sufficient to tame the primitive societies that exist among the majority of human planets within this galaxy.

He looked at the numbers and his eyes narrowed. "Are these correct??"

"We believe so, Sire."

The Goa'uld looked up, his face tense. "We must be certain."

"Yes, My Lord."

"Begin planning a schedule of fast probing attacks." Apophis ordered, standing up and pacing the room. "We must try to draw them out... see how many of them there really are. If these numbers are correct, then perhaps things are not so dark as they seem."

"As you say, My Lord." The Jaffa Prime slapped his chest with his fist and backed from the room.

Apophis turned to look at the blue white world that spun slowly beneath him.

"I think that you are bluffing my friend." He spoke to the world below. "I think that you are not what you claim. But if you are, then I think that you have yet to establish yourself... and I will not permit you that time."

The Goa'uld's eyes glowed white and his voice grew hollow and reverberating. "The Kine fell once to the machinations of us and our allies. And now you will fall to me."

Faith rose with the sun, even though she couldn't see it from where she was. It was a habit that she had picked up from Xander over a year ago by her estimation. He had liked to watch the sun rise, and it was a tradition that she enjoyed herself. Today though, she wasn't going to see it.

"Paige?" Faith frowned as she walked into the mess hall, seeing the young Wiccan sitting alone in the rather large room.

"Hey, Faith." She said, looking up from her morning coffee.

"What the hell are you doing up, girl?" Faith asked, confused. "I figured you and the Xandman would be crashed for the duration..."

Paige snorted, shaking her head. "He's been up for hours. Last I checked he was in the Command Center watching the ship in orbit."

"What the hell is he doing that for??"

"Don't know." Paige shrugged. "I honestly don't know what he thinks he's getting out of it."

Faith shakes her head, "Goddamn it. Come on."


"I said come on." Faith said again, "Get your ass in gear. Unless you think he's doing something healthy for any of us??"

Paige nodded, gritting her teeth, and got up. "Ok."

"Merlin... Ask Niume to give me a scan of the shields gravitic distortions." Xander asked, his face calm as he examined the information on the screen through his eyes and Elan's experiences.

"Yes Commander."

A moment passed, and the information changed. Xander frowned, "Shit."

"Yes Commander." Merlin replied blandly. "They've shored up the traditional weaknesses in the shield systems."

"Any idea how?"

"I can speculate, but it's largely moot at this point, Commander." Merlin said. "The fact is that they've managed it. Even a Naquada enhanced nuclear weapon would be shrugged off by those shields."

"Great." Xander shook his head. "In other words the standard response using Hammerheads would be a suicide run."

"Indeed." Merlin said mildly.

Xander leaned back, closing his eyes. "We need to get those shields down..."

Merlin didn't reply to the statement of the obvious. He was busy monitoring the approach of two young ladies. They stepped into Command together and headed directly for Xander.


Xander grimaced, but didn't turn. "What is it Faith?"

"Why the hell aren't you asleep??"

Now he did turn, "Do I look tired?"

Actually, Faith had to admit that he didn't. He had no bags under his eyes, and they were clear and clean. Still he simply *couldn't* be ok after pushing more then 24 hours straight in the air. Not to mention getting large chunks of his flesh blown across his cockpit.

"You look like an idiot." Faith snapped. "I don't care what tricks you've got cooking, you need your rest."

Xander got up, "I don't have time for this, Faith."

As he walked past her she grabbed his arm, "Make time boytoy."

He shook himself loose, glaring at her. "Don't you think I would if I could!? Jesus Christ Faith! What the hell do you think is going on here? This isn't Sunnydale anymore!"

She fell back in surprise as he lashed out at her.

"We're not playing pattycake with vampires this time! And there are more people on the line then just the scoobs!" Xander snapped, "We already lost three of our own, and you don't even WANT to see what the Military has lost! So just back right the hell off, *Slayer*, and let me do my job."

With that last snap, Xander turned his back and vanished from the room in a rage.

Faith looked around in shock, swallowing hard. The last time Xander had been that pissed off he had tracked her to England and organized a commando raid on the Watchers Council.

She looked around in shock, "What the hell just happened here?"

Paige shook her head, shrugging helplessly.

"Come on, girl." Faith said finally, "He ain't gettin away that easy."

Xander walked into the hanger, heading for the newly christened 'Angel Lead'. Tara hadn't had a chance yet to repaint her masterpiece on the cockpit module, but Xander had little doubt that she would eventually. He grimaced at the thought, and considered telling her to leave it be, but didn't see the blond Wiccan in the area so shrugged it off for another time.


He ignored Faith's call as he walked, noting that there were some people already in the hanger. <Damn it Faith! Don't make a scene. Do NOT make a scene.>

"Xander! Don't you ignore me you stubborn son of a bitch!"

Xander stopped, looking down at the floor and closing his eyes. He could hear them both walk up behind him, smelling the light perfume off Paige and the more natural scent of Faith as they closed. He didn't stop to wonder why his senses were hypertuning on their own.

Both of them split as they walked around him and he looked up, smiling lightly. "Yes?"

"Don't you try that with me, boytoy." Faith growled. "You need rest."

"I'm fine." He said calmly, deciding to try to reason. "I've purged the fatigue toxins from my system Paige. I feel like I've had eight hours straight, no problems."

"Really?" Faith asked sarcastically, "Cause you're acting like you've been up for thirty and change."

"I'm not the one making a scene in the Hanger, Faith." Xander said, still calmly. "Maybe you need some more rest after yesterdays work."

Her eyes widened as she looked around in shock. "Me? You flew a combat mission and a search and rescue back to back, and you think that I'm in need of sleep?? Damn it, X..."

"Faith." Xander growled, his facade slipping just a bit. "That's enough. I'm fine. Back off."

"I beg to differ."

"You stay out of this!" Xander spun on the hologram as Merlin appeared.

"I feel that I must inform you, Miss Tasker," Merlin nodded to Faith, "That Commander Harris has been showing signs of nervous burnout. If this should happen he would be damaged for life."

"Merlin." Xander snapped, "Stay out of this."

"Damaged?" Faith looked at the hologram, "Damaged how?"

"Nerve clusters cannot be healed by any method currently available to us." Merlin replied, blithely ignoring the death glares that Xander was giving him. "Should he burn his out, he will lose motor control, and feeling in the affected areas."

"Whoa whoa whoa." Paige held up her hands, "You're talking about him becoming a parapalegic..."

"Potentially... yes."

"That's it!" Faith looked over at Paige, and nodded to Xander.

Paige nodded back and the two of them advanced on him.

"Hey! Hey now! What are you two...!?"

Every pilot in the place, most of them rescuee's from the previous day, watched with wide eyes as the two slight women picked him up by his arms and marched him backwards out of the hanger, his feet more then six inches off the ground.

"Put me down! Faith! Paige! Put me down right now! God Damn it!!" Xander raged until the doors closed, muffling his still outraged protests against their ears.

"About damn time."

The rescuee's looked over to where a black pilot was idly examining the components of his fighter under the watchful gaze of the old man named Merlin. They recognized the General's star on his tunic and one of them hesitantly spoke up.

"Uhh... Sir? What do you mean?"

Chappy Sinclair looked over, shaking his head, "Kid's been burning the candle at both ends and the middle too. Been a long time since I say anyone try thirty hours of flight time without relief."


"He was flying combat before he took Rescue One out to pick you guys up." Chappy said grimly. "And he got shot up by one of the Blacks, and crashed his plane into the island before he went out for you guys."

"You've got to be shitting me."

Chappy shook his head, then turned back to his plane while the rescuees looked at each other nervously.

"Alright, you two have had your fun... now put me down!" Xander tried again as they carried him bodily into his room.

"Uh uh, boytoy." Faith smirked. "Not just yet."

He struggled a bit, but Faith kept him solidly in place with her Slayer strength while still managing to keep most of his weight on her. She powered him backwards while Paige steered. When they reached the bed, Faith shoved him hard.

He hit the bed sprawling, scowling at the two of them as they smirked at him. "Oh real funny."

"We think so." They said together, still smirking.

Xander started to get up, but was shoved back by Paige. When he turned for the other side, Faith was waiting. He sighed, falling back. "Alright. I give. You win... alright? I'll sleep."

"You believe him?" Faith asked Paige.

She shook her head, "Nope."

Xander scowled again, "Enough! Founis fun, but this is...!"

He abruptly cut off as Paige grabbed his wrist and with a click cuffed him to the bed.

There was a long silence as Faith stared at Paige in shock, then suddenly crowed with laughter. "Way to go, Wicked Wiccan! Where on earth did you get the handcuffs??"

Paige shrugged, "I keep a couple sets in my purse."

Faith's jaw waggled open as she looked at Paige in shock, then looked at Xander. "Oh I DO like your taste in women, boytoy."

"Paige!" Xander glared at the brunette wiccan in shock as he shook his wrist against the cuffs for a moment, "What do you think you're doing?? Unlock these!"

She grinned at him, leaning closer. "Uh uh, lover. You're staying locked up until you learn to play nice."

Xander's eyes widened at the soft tone of her voice and the addition of 'lover' to the sentence. "Oh, I so do not have time for this!"

"Make time." She whispered, her mouth closing on the side of his jaw in a light nibble.

"Hey, not that I'm complaining here," Faith frowned, "But isn't the idea to get him to rest?"

"Oh, he's going to rest." Paige smirked, glancing back. "You can go now."

"Aw! Come on..." Faith almost whined, "I got him here!"

"And I thank you..." Paige smiled from where her face was almost pressed against Xander's. Her hand run slowly up his chest and then along the other side of his face.

She completely lost the smile when she heard a 'chink' of metal and felt a familiar bite against her wrists. Her head spun around, her eyes wide in shock, as she saw her wrist cuffed to the bed where Xander's had been.

Faith's eyes bugged out, "What? How??"

Xander just smirked at the two of them as he rolled ff the bed, shrugging. "I warned you, Paige. Amanda taught me how to get out of those in six seconds flat."

"Xander! You get back here and let me loose!" Paige muttered, aggravated.

"Ummm... no." Xander kept smirking as he headed for the door.

Faith blocked his way. Her face wasn't smirking and held no humor. "Where do you think you're going, boytoy?"

"To work."

"Uh uh." Faith shook her head, "No go. You ain't getting out of this room until you've got at least eight straight and uninterrupted. You, loverboy, are on convalescence until then. And if you try to get past me, I'll make *sure* that you need it. Got me?"

Xander grimaced, his muscles tensing as he considered taking the young Slayer up on the challenge. He could beat her, of that he was sure. She was good, and experienced, but her strength wouldn't help her much against Kani'Maro techniques.

Faith's eyes widened as she saw Xander's muscles tense, his hands ball up into fists. She looked into his eyes and realized that he was actually going to *fight*. Her mind raced ahead of her, trying to figure out what was going on, because this wasn't like Xander at all. She knew that she could beat him, he'd never been able to hold out against her when she was ready to really cut loose, but this wasn't what she wanted.

"Jesus Christ, Xander!" She snapped in shock, surprising him. "Look at yourself for Christ's sake! You're getting ready to fight me over this! You're really losing it! Think, Xan! THINK."

Xander blinked, taking a step back. His face grew puzzled as she stared at him in shock and surprise.

"We've only let the gloves slip twice, boytoy." Faith said, her face earnest. "Once I was seriously fucked up... the other time it was you. Think... Who is it this time?"

Xander stood there, frozen in place as he considered what she was saying. She was right, they only came to blows when one or the other was seriously screwed up. That said, he had to admit that it wasn't Faith this time.

His arms relaxed at his side, his head shaking as he glared at her. "God damn you, Faith."

His skin jumped as he felt an arm on his shoulder, and he half turned to see Paige behind him. He frowned, "How'd you get loose?"

"Well... I did spend some time with Amanda too..." She smiled, then shrugged and held something up, "But it was probably more to do with the fact that I had the key."

Xander snorted lightly. "Probably."

Faith walked up to his side, "Come on, Xan-man... Let's get you back to bed."

As Paige and Faith walked him, still reluctantly, back to bed, Xander suddenly smirked. "Are you both going to tuck me in?"

"Xander!" Paige smacked him on the shoulder as Faith started laughing.

"Damn, you KNOW that X is seriously fucked up if he's making that suggestion!"

Xander shrugged, "A guy can dream you know."

"Keep dreaming." Paige muttered, shoving him into the bed.

"Wouldn't say that, P." Faith smirked. "He's been there before you know."

"So you keep reminding me." Paige scowled at the Slayer, "And I'd appreciate it if you just butted out."

Faith shrugged, "Suit yourself... but you have to admit it would be wicked cool."

Paige shrugged, appearing to consider it for a moment. Then walked slowly over to where Faith was standing. The Slayer's eyes widened as Paige entered *well* into her personal space, the Witch's mouth bare centimeters from her own. After a moment Paige slid her mouth along Faith's jaw as she whispered, "That has some... interesting possibilities..."

She slid her hands along the Slayer's body, moving up her sides and causing Faith to shiver.

"P... I... Uhhh...."

Xander, still on the bed, watched with eyes wide as saucers. Faith was falling back in sheer surprise as Paige matched her step by step. Faith was utterly unprepared for her advances to be turned on her, probably had resigned herself to being on the sidelines, and was struggling to regain the initiative. Xander knew that her shock wasn't going to last.

Faith's back hit the stone wall, Paige's momentum causing their lips to brush as Paige turned slightly. Their cheeks slid along each other and the witch's lips came to a halt by the Slayer's earlobe. "Yesssssss...."

Faith shivered again as Paige continued to run her hands up her side and then along the underside of her arms. The Witch lifted the Slayer's arms over her head, causing her chest to lift and her chin to come up as Paige kept talking. "Maybe you have a point afterall..."

Click. Click.

Paige backed away, then shrugged. "Or maybe not."

Faith's eyes bugged out, her wrists cuffed to the top of an alcove well above her head. "What!? Hey! Get back here!!"

Paige danced back, avoiding a sweeping kick, and smirking at the young Slayer. "Maybe later."

"Paige! Let me go!! Damnit!!"

Xander had to admire Paige's work. Faith was effectively trapped, and without any leverage to use her superior strength to break loose as well. All she had was her body weight in that position, and there was no way that the young Slayer's weight was going to break either cuffs or alcove.

"Nice." He smiled as Paige walked back to him.

She shrugged, "It's a gift."

Xander smiled wider, noting Faith's struggles behind the approaching witch in his peripheral vision. "I have a feeling that this gift is going to keep on giving. You've declared war, you realize."

She shrugged again, straddling him on the bed and smiling into his face. "I can handle myself."

Xander smirked as she shoved him back until he was laying down. "I'm sure you can. But Faith isn't the type to forgive and forget."

Paige lowered herself down until her face was just over his, "I guess I'll just have to take my chances."

"I guess you will.... ummmphhhhh..... mmmmmmmmmmmmmm..."

Faith stared at them as they began to kiss, her eyes raging. "Hey! No fair! Come on! Don't leave me here like this!! Please...???"

The two on the bed ignored her and she could see their kissing progress to groping and the Slayer slammed her eyes shut in an effort to block them out. <This is NOT happening! This is NOT happening!>

Involuntarily she opened her eyes again, watching as Paige flipped a blanket over them. Under the covers she could see their movements, and her eyes widened again when she saw Paige's blouse come flying out until they looked like they would literally fall out. "Not FAIR!!"

Under the covers Xander shook his head and smirked as Paige sucked slightly on his earlobe. After a moment he flipped back the covers to their heads were uncovered and spoke fairly loudly, his voice filled with censure. "Tsk tsk tsk. Contributing to the delinquency of minors..."

"Hey, you're the one who keeps telling me that she's older then she looks."

Xander lifted Paige's head up so he could stare in her eyes with a look of mock surprise. "I was talking to *Faith*."

She glared at him, a shocked smile playing around her lips. "Why you brazen...!"

Xander laughed and pulled her face back to his, catching her glistening red lips in another kiss.

Against the wall Faith groaned, her eyes still unable to break away from the scene. "Come on, guys! Can't I at least have ONE arm free?? Please??"

"This isn't funny! Guys? Guys? Come on!"

Another groan. "This is so unfair! Paige! Come on! I helped get him here!"

Some time later Xander was drowsily staring at the far wall, a smile playing on his lips. "We should probably let her down, you know..."

Paige glanced back to where the Slayer was boring a hole in the two of them with a laser hot glare. She felt a shiver run up her spine, and suddenly regretted what she'd done. It had gone a lot further then she'd originally planned though, to be fair, she hadn't planned much at all. Now it looked like the dark haired Slayer was going to rip her limb from limb as soon as she got free. "Maybe we should wait until she falls asleep?"

Faith's eyes widened in shock, but she didn't say anything.

Xander laughed, "I don't think that's a good idea."

Paige shivered again, this time with serious fear of what she'd done. It had been intended as a way to simply shut the Slayer up, but things had gone way past that and now she had a bad feeling that she'd irrevocably set the three of them on a far different path. Still she sighed, "Yeah... you're probably right."

She played her fingers over Xander's chest, smiling sweetly at him. "So... could you go uncuff her?"

Xander laughed once, shaking his head. "I don't think so. I'm on bed rest, remember?"


"You did it, you undo it." Xander smirked at her, then made a show of turning over and closing his eyes.

Paige pouted, but he wasn't looking and so was proofed against visual attacks. "Xander...."

No response.

"Xander..." She tried again, adding an element of wheedling to her voice.

No response.

Paige swallowed, getting up slowly. She wrapped herself in one of the blankets and stood up, clutching it to her chest. Behind her, Xander rolled back over and opened one eye.

Faith glared at her as she approached.

"I'm going to let you down now..." Paige said hesitantly.

Faith nodded, her face almost pleasant, but her eyes were screaming a message to Paige.

Unfortunately that message seemed to be, 'I'm going to rip your arms off and beat you to death with them.'

Paige hesitated again, staying well out of the range of the Slayer's feet. "Come on, Faith... It was just a..."

"Joke?" Faith asked, her voice dripping with sweetness that had no place there. "I get it. Ha ha. Funny."

Paige swallowed, marshaling her nerve. "Maybe I should just leave you there?"

Xander's eyes glazed behind her, as he considered that impossible future. Faith did make for one hell of a nice wall decoration. He shook that thought out of his head as quickly as he could, but the damned thing kept nipping back in.

He turned his gaze back, both eyes now wide open as he didn't want to miss any of this.

Paige hesitated again, but then steeled herself and stepped in close to Faith. She could feel the Slayer's glare even as she felt the hot chuff of breath from her. Paige swallowed and reached up, having to lean in until her body was pressed against Faith, and fitted the key into the cuffs.

Then she hopped back.

"You can do the rest." Paige said, putting a safe amount of distance between them.

Faith's mouth twisted as he hands found the key and turned it. The cuffs gave with a scrape of metal on metal an her arms dropped. Faith took a deep breath and just stood there, rubbing her wrists. After a moment she looked up at Paige, noting that the witch had put more then half the immense room between them.

She nodded. "Nice moves, P. Real nice."

Then she flashed across the room in a single leap that carried her straight to her target.

Paige yelped in shock, orbing out as Faith skidded past.

"What the?" Faith circled in shock, noting that the witch returned to the exact same point she had left.

Paige reappeared, looking around, just in time for Faith to grab her from behind.

"Nice try." She whispered into Paige's ear as she bodily lifted the witch from the ground and throw her to the bed.

Xander rolled fast, moving out of the way as Faith pounced again. In a few seconds she was straddling a terrified Paige across the chest, idly plucking at the blanket that was covering the witch.


"Stay out of this, X." Faith snapped, "This is between me and the Wiccan wannabe here."

With that she turned her attention back to Paige, who stared up at her with wide eyes. Faith smiled and leaned down. "Got me real good, didn't you? I hope you enjoyed it..."

"Now Faith... I was just..."

"Shhh..." Faith put a single finger over the Witch's lips. The her eyes roamed lower has her hands returned the light caress she'd received from Paige earlier.

"Faith!" Paige protested.

Faith shifted her weight until her hips were over Paige's and then she lowered herself down onto the frightened girl. "What? You got me all worked up and now you're going to leave me hanging?"

Faith made a show of pouting, then dipped lower and captured Paige's mouth in a hard kiss.

Then, before anyone could object, she abruptly slid off Paige and laid back on the pillows of the bed. "Shame on you. I guess I'll have to get you back some other way then."

With that pronouncement she turned on Xander, "And don't think that you're getting off the hook, boytoy. That was NOT a nice thing to do."

Xander knew Faith and recognized the shift in her attitude. He shrugged and smiled, "It seemed pretty nice to me. In fact, you make a very nice 'objet d'art'. There is definitely something to be said for the 'sexy slave' motif."

"Don't even think about it, boytoy." Faith scowled at him. "You ain't catching *me* with that again."

Xander shrugged, laying back. "I've still got my dreams."

"Keep em." Faith abruptly slapped him hard across his chest. "You'll need em."

With that she pushed herself up and headed for the door. "If you'll excuse me, I'll be going. X-Man needs some *rest*." She looked pointedly at Paige, who winced and nodded.

"And I," Faith smirked suddenly, licking her lips lightly as she eyed the two of them. "Have something... personal to take care of."

Jack O'Neill stretched as he slipped out of his room, clad once again in his familiar USAF uniform. Now that there were more USAF officers on the island besides himself and Carter it felt better to wear that then the Hammerhead flight suit. He checked the hallways, a precaution he'd adopted since walking out and finding Harris naked in the halls early on in his visit. After he'd assured himself that the way was clear, he headed for the hanger.

The immense cavern that was Avalon's main flight hanger was already beginning to buzz with activity. Or rather, Jack decided, it had never stopped buzzing.

Huge loaders were pulling another two Hammerheads into place for repair and refit, and he could see Tara playing some sort of airgun over the newly commisioned Angel Lead fighter. General Sinclair was idly pulling components out of a wrecked module, Jack thought it was probably Sam's actually, while one of Merlin's avatars looked over his shoulder and acted as a realtime instruction manual.

Jack noted that several of the rescued pilots were grouped around Sinclair and another couple of the cockpit modules, some asking question, some just staring at the fighters in awe. That was something Jack could understand, he was afterall a pilot himself, and these fighters were most definitely awe inspiring.

He had never gone the Fighter Jock route when he enlisted, opting instead for the Special Operations Units and various other Black aspects of the Air Force, but he had flown everything up to and including the new F-22 prototypes and even the Top secret Bandit designate Stealth bombers. The Hammerheads put them all to shame.

He turned and headed over to the group around Sinclair. The American pilots who saw him coming instantly saluted, but he waved them off. "As you were."

Sinclair, Chappy, looked up and nodded at him. "Hello."

"How are you doing, Sir?" Jack asked respectfully.

"I've been better." Chappy responded, "I've been worse. I'll get through it."

Jack nodded, knowing what the man was going through. Chappy had recruited the three KIA's and was certainly feeling that on top of the loss of his friends. He'd done that before himself, and knew that it wasn't something he'd wish on his worst enemy. "What are you in to?"

Chappy shrugged, "Just learning how these things run... more or less."

Jack's eyebrows rose. Not at Chappy learning how the fighters worked, but at the tone of his voice when he said 'more or less'. "Huh?"

Chappy shook his head, "This is Carter's module..."

Jack nodded, hiding his wince. "Yeah. I figured. So?"

"So... It's the second one I pulled apart." Chappy said, "I also took Dana's... her module apart too. And I looked mine over carefully."

"Ok... So?"

"So... they aren't the same." Chappy muttered, annoyed.

That floored Jack. "Huh?"

"None of them." Chappy muttered, shaking his head. "Oh, they have all the same components... mostly. But they aren't in the same places... the crystals are all different hues and colors... some of the systems seem to be subtly different."

Jack's eyes widened as he looked over the ranks of fighters, the concept being hard to grasp. "None of them?"

Merlin spoke up, answering the question. "Yes Colonel. All of them."

"But... but..." Jack shook his head. Counting the ones waiting to be refitted and repaired, there were probably a hundred fighters in this cavern alone. The sheer concept that they weren't identical under the hood didn't make any sense to him. "How?"

"The Kine, and the Atlanteans," Merlin responded, "Did not make a habit of mass production, Colonel. None of our equipment is mass produced in the way you would understand."

Jack shook his head, trying to clear it. "That's not possible. You can't maintain an operative army with hand built materials!"

"Of course not." Merlin said calmly. "But what you fail to understand is that the Kine were very different from any modern force, Colonel."

"I get that, but what does that have to do with..."

Merlin made a show of sighing theatrically. "If I were to ask you to name one person who best symbolized the United States Air Force... who would you say, Colonel?"

Jack blinked, falling back a step in surprise at the change of tact. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Just humor me, Colonel."

Jack frowned, shrugging. "One person? The Air Force is more then any one person could be... that's the point..."

"I am aware of that. A generalization should suffice." Merlin said, "One person who comes closest to symbolizing the air force."

Jack shook his head, actually considering the question. After a long moment, he shrugged. "Carter."

Merlin smiled, "As I assumed. May I ask why?"

"She can fly, she can fight. She's got the brains to understand the technology and to understand tactics and strategy." O'Neill said after a moment, "She's the recruiters dream candidate."

Merlin nodded, still smiling softly. "I agree. She is all those things, and more. But she is not the one thing that symbolizes the Kine."


"Were I to answer the same question," Merlin said, "Do you have any idea who I would choose out of the people here on Avalon?"

"Harris I assume."

"Hardly." Merlin smiled again, "The Commander is a warrior, gifted with heart and soul and will and bone. He will some day be a great man, if he survives his youthful mistakes... but he does not sum up what the Kine were."

"Then who?"

Merlin turned slightly, looking straight across the hanger to Angel Lead. And Tara.

"Her?" Jack asked in confusion.

"Her." Merlin said, his face deadly serious. "Understand this, Colonel. Your Air Force is the Pinnacle of modern technology... but technology is not the core of the Kine. Technology is the science of the universe, Colonel O'Neill... But the Kine built their lives, equipment, and organization from the Arts of the universe."

Jack looked around in complete confusion, and Chappy shrugged, commiserating. "Don't ask me, Colonel. He's been trying to explain it to me for hours."

Merlin sighed again, "That is perhaps what I miss most about the old guard. Today everything is about science..."

Merlin struck an arrogant pose, "Give me enough numbers and I shall give you the universe... bah! The universe was not built on science, Colonel, It was imagined into existence. It is a work of art, unparalleled in eternity itself. Science has it's place, but it is inherently limited by one simple factor."

"What's that?"

"Science can only explain that which art already understands."

Paige laid quietly beside Xander, watching his chest rise and fall in a gentle rhythm. She didn't want to move, physically at least, but her mid was racing at blinding speeds.

What had she done? She was still grasping the consequences. She'd done kinkier things in the past, but she'd never been sober while doing them. Truth was, she couldn't quite regret it either. Faith had all that and more coming to her. The young... the almost *nineteen* year old, Paige reminded herself firmly, had been pushing ever since they'd met. It was about time that Paige pushed back.

The Wiccan smirked softly, she'd pushed back and scored the first decisive 'victory' in the little battle of wills that had emerged between her and the Slayer. But, and she lost her smirk as she considered this, she had the advantage of surprise in this case. Surprise and a 'formal' declaration of war. The next move Faith put forward would be unimpeded by the veneer of civility that she had so far exhibited.

And *that* was what was bother the young witch. She wasn't sure she was ready for where the escalation was going to lead.

Unfortunately it was far too late to do more the worry about that now.

She sighed slowly, and tried to push the thoughts from her mind as she curled a little closer to Xander and felt his sleeping arms tighten around her.

"This is Robert Graves for CNN News."

"Escalating tensions erupted in violence this week as a misunderstanding resulted in a major shooting incident between Allied, Soviet, and Chinese fighter aircraft. Reports are still sketchy at this time, but independent sources claim that no less then fifty fighters were shot down in the incident that occurred over International waters sometime in the last two days."

"We have amateur video filmed from some distance away, and as you can see the explosions and fire in the distance is quite spectacular. Experts have examined this tape and declared it to be authentic."

"When approached for comment, the official response from the White House was that there was an incident, but that the details are still under investigation. Unofficially, certain anonymous sources have indicated that the President's policy of aggressive confrontation has cost the country the lives of many good men."

"It has to be speculated that President Whitmore has his reasons for being so openly aggressive in his stance in the Pacific Theatre, but as long as he is unwilling... or unable... to defend his position, this reporter has to wonder if the President isn't letting his experience as a Fighter Pilot weigh heavily against his inexperience as a statesman."

"I'm Robert Graves... This is CNN."

"Anonymous sources my ass!"

"Calm down, General."

"For Christ Sakes, Arnie! You know who leaked that crap! I know who leaked that crap!" General Grey growled, "We should have them shot for treason!"

"Get serious." Arnold Van Damm said shaking his head, "They're just playing the game."

"They're undermining the president's authority!" Grey snapped.

"That's the game." Arnie said, "The Insiders don't like the fact that they've been cut out of this one... and they're getting their licks in where they can in preparation for the next election."

"They're leaking matters of national security to the press!" Grey objected, "And they're inserting their own lies into it while they're at it! If we went public with the truth The President would be a hero!"

"We can't do that." Whitmore said, speaking for the first time. "I've seen the predictions... Panic in the streets, looting, riots... hundreds, probably thousands and more dead. It's not an option general."

"Mr President, please!" Grey turned, putting his hands down on the desk of the Oval office. "We can't let them do this!"

"We can." Whitmore said firmly. "And we will. It's better this way then the alternative."

Los Angeles California


The blond sat up in bed, her motion so sudden that it threw her blankets across the bed and to the floor. She was pale and flushed, her skin damp with sweat and her face etched with terror.

For long minutes she sat there, sobbing and panting as she held herself tightly and shivered.

"Buffy!? Honey?" Joyce Summers rushed into the room, flipping on the light. "Are you ok?"

"Just a bad dream, mom." Buffy whispered softly, her eyes staring blankly at the bed.

Joyce sat down beside her, rubbing her back as she hugged her oldest daughter. "Was it those men again?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, Mom... Just... nightmares. I'll be alright... go back to sleep... ok?"

"Ok..." Joyce didn't move. "Honey... are you sure?"

Buffy nodded.

Joyce finally got up, torn between wanting and not wanting to smother her daughter with her concern. Finally she left the room, leaving the light on as she did.

Buffy didn't move for a long time, just sat there and held herself.


Buffy looked to the door. "Go away, Dawn."

Dawn shook her head, biting her lip as she entered the room. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine. Go back to bed, buttpain."

Dawn ignored her and sat on the bed beside her sister. "Bad dreams again, huh?"

Buffy didn't respond.

"You'll beat em, Sis." Dawn said, "You're too strong to let em win."

Buffy looked across at her sister, her eyes widening. She'd never heard Dawn talk that way to her before.

Dawn didn't look at her, instead just leaned in against her older sister. "You know how I know that?"

Buffy frowned, curious. "How?"

"Because you're always there to protect me." Dawn said quietly. "That's how I know."

Buffy swallowed, tentativly reaching out to hug her sister. They both sat there for a long time until they slowly sort of slipped down and fell asleep.

Outside the room, Joyce smiled, reached softly in, and flipped off the light.

Chapter 8
Blaze of Glory

Two Weeks Later, Apr 19th

Xander let out a long sigh as he looked over the reports that Merlin was flooding him with.

For two weeks they'd been fighting now, forced to react to a series of lightning fast probing attacks on surface targets rather then face the Goa'uld in direct combat. Sof ar the rate of attrition was certainly in favor of the Earth forces, even his own small cadre of flyers had incredibly slight losses.

Four more names had joined those on the wall however, and Xander's heart clenched everytime he passed them.

Peter Kane was the first, he'd gone into the very next battle they'd fought with a rage in him. Something no one had noticed until it was far too late. Xander didn't know if he and Dana had something between them, or if it was simply the anger at losing his wingman that caused it.

In the end the result was the same.

Kane had acquitted himself well, earning the title Ace in that single fight, before he was caught in the crossfire of three Goa'uld Gliders and had his plane reduced to shreds. He probably would have lived if he'd stayed with his wingman, but his battles had taken him too far from his allies coverage and the Goa'uld had picked him off as his Module descended to the water below.

That had severely angered his fellow Eagles, of course.

The resultant battle could only be called a massacre, Xander supposed, as the Eagles run roughshod over the entire Goa'uld squadron to get at the three who had killed their friend while he was helpless. The got the last Glider as it was leaving Earth's atmosphere, causing a rather spectacular display as the Glider, pilot and all, crashed back into the Space/Air interface and burned up.

The next fight had forced Xander to change his stance, it had come so close on the heels of the last that his pilots were damned near dead with fatigue by the time they got back.

After that he'd established a schedule where by a single squadron would stand ready to respond at any given time, and the other two would only be called on if the attack was large enough to force the issue.

Xander lost a great deal of sleep wondering if that descision had saved lives among his pilots, or cost them.

The next three names belonged to three pilots Xander had recruited from the rescuee's to fill their ranks. They'd died at various times in the past eight battles the Hammerheads had fought, each fighting well before going down. It hurt Xander worst of all that he didn't hurt as bad about their loss. He hadn't known them, and while it didn't feel right he found he could look at their names and not feel any loss.

That damned near killed him.

Xander shook himself from his reverie and forced his attention back to the screens in front of him. "God damn it, what is his game?"

There was no response, of course, even if there had been someone there to respond everyone had already said everything that could be said. The Goa'uld attacks had become more and more daring, until the last one had actually been over the Mainland US.

The American press were calling it a terrorist attack, and the Government was subtly encouraging that belief, but some independent press and the rag sheets were talking about Alien Invaders.

The target had been a nuclear power plant, and the Goa'uld attack had very nearly sent the plant critical. Only the fact that it had recently been upgraded with new meltdown safeguards kept it intact long enough for HAZMAT and RADTech teams to get on site and secure the reactors.

Xander shivered, that would have been a nightmare. That plant could have irradiated a large segment of the west coast if it had blown.

He looked over the map indicating the Goa'uld targets slowly, trying to discern a pattern, but other then the fact that each successive attack grew a little more brazen and a little less cautious, he didn't see anything.


"Is this certain?" Apophis asked.

"As certain as possible, My lord." His first Prime replied. "The Kine responses to our probing assaults have dropped off... They were unable to reach the last attack before our units broke off the attack."

"The target wasn't destroyed." Apophis reminded his Prime.

"No my Lord." The prime nodded, "The local response was faster then anticipated, and they must have more then adequate security measures on their fission plants... But despite some losses to the local military, our Gliders did manage to disable the plant for the foreseeable future."

Apophis nodded reluctantly, accepting that. "But the Kine did not reach the battle?"

"No my Lord." The Prime responded, though he new that his God already knew that.

"Very well. For the next assault we will need a tagert closer to the Gate." The Goa'uld stated. "The point of these assaults is to accurately determine what the so called Kine is capable of fielding against us."

"Yes my lord."

"I believe that this..." Apophis pointed out a small dot on the map between them, "Should suffice."

"My Lord?" The Prime frowned, knowing that there was nothing of strategic value there.

"Two more probes should be sufficient, Prime." Apophis stated. "First you will..."

"Damn it!"

Jack O'Neill frowned as he heard the familiar voice utter an unfamiliar curse. From her at least. "Sam?"

"Sorry Sir." Carter got up, "Just trying to figure this thing out."

Jack frowned. He never should have told Carter what Merlin had told him. She'd taken it as a personal challenge. "You need to relax, Carter. This is your shift off duty."

"I know that, Sir." She said, looking abashed. "But usually this does relax me."


"But, I can't figure it out, Sir." Sam sighed, tiredly admitting defeat. "Merlin was right. I'm just no good at this."

"That is not what I said, Captain Carter." Merlin said as he blinked into place. "You are quite capable of repairing any of the equipment here. You are merely going about it the wrong way."

Carter sighed, "I can't. I find something that works on one, and it doesn't on the next one... I don't even get back the same results when performing identical diagnostics."

"Of course you don't." Merlin shrugged. "The key to understanding all Kine equipment is much the same as understanding the philosophy behind it. You merely must learn to hold the pattern in your mind."


"Each Hammerhead, for example," Merlin said patiently, "Is created from a base pattern... much like a fractal equation. The patterns are never identical, but they are all recognizably familiar. Learn to hold the pattern in your mind, and to recognize the pattern of each craft, and you will be able to easily and quickly locate and repair any damage."

"Wait a minute..." Carter objected, "You're talking like these fighters are... grown?"

"Not precisely." Merlin stated, "They are... formed. Much like crystal is formed. According to a pattern set by the designer... the artist... who created them."

Carter looked around the hanger, then turned to Jack. "Do you know what this means??"

"Ummm... no?"

"This is a completely new way to build, Sir!" Sam said excitedly, "You don't plan out block by block every detail of a design... you just establish a pattern that gives you the desired results!"

Jack raised an eyebrow, "And this is easier... how?"

"Well... it's not Sir." Sam conceded. "Not for us. But for someone who was brought up with this mindset... my god sir... there would be no limits. You could 'grow' an entire fleet according to a single equation!"

"Overly simplistic." Merlin responded. "But more or less accurate."


The floating pyramid looked peaceful enough to anyone who didn't know better, but even that image was shattered as it's maw opened up and disgorged yet another mass of the devilishly fast little attack Gliders.

They turned in formation and began their descent to Earth, aiming for a small spec on the heaving waters so far below.

As they hit the atmosphere, flaming trails grew up around them, causing each fighter to leave a fiery path through the pre-dawn sky. The flames grew brighter and brighter as they accelerated, pushing their systems to the limits in order to shave a few more minutes off their ETA.

Pentagon War room


"Yes, Lt?"

"Another wave coming down, Sir."

"Damn it. What's their destination?"

"If they stay on this trajectory, they should come down in this island chain."

"... That's terribly close to Hawaii."

"Yes Sir."

"Scramble all the closest units."

"Yes Sir."



Xander looked up, "Yes?"

"Another wave has launched."

Xander nodded wearily. "Signal the scramble."

He got up as Merlin's voice echoed through the base.

"Angel Flight, Scramble Scramble Scramble. This is not a drill."

Xander was already rushing out the door as he closed the front flap of his flight suit and ran for his plane.

He hit the floor of the hanger running, and saw the other members of Angel Flight already at their planes. Hercules nodded at him as he approached Angel's One and Two at a dead run, and underhanded Xander's flight helmet to him.

Xander caught it on the fly, nodding his thanks to Herc as the big guy heaved himself into Angel Two. Xander caught the ladder to his own module at a dead run and planted his foot on the bottom rung and jumped.

The jump threw him up and over the edge of the cockpit and he scissored his legs over the lip and dropped into the seat.

"Angel Lead," Xander said as he closed the clamshell helmet over his head and passed his hand over the first of the crystal sensors. "Online."

The rest of the Flight echoed him as the cockpit glass slid up from behind him and closed down from in front. A moment later there was a hiss as the cockpit seal was made and the interior pressurized itself.

<Weapons,> Xander thought to himself, sliding his hand over the next sensor in line. <Check.>

<Counter-Grav, Check. Reactor, 98%. Comm... Check....>

He slid his hand across the board, being rewarded with the flickering of green lights in response to each system activation. When he was done he calmly locked the board open and sealed the system against accidental contact. "Angel lead. Green and good to go."

"Angel Two," Herc's calm voice came a moment later. "Green and good to go."

"Angel three. Green across the board." Colonel Austin said calmly, locking his own board.

"Angel Four, Ready to roll." Dragan said a moment later.

"Angel Five." Colonel O'Neill said in clipped tones. "All systems are go."

"This is Angel Six." Teal'C said a second after that, "I too am prepared."

Xander nodded, his thumb slipping over the manual override switch for the transport launcher. "Roger. Angel Flight... Launch! Launch! Launch!"

He mashed his thumb down over the normally shielded button and the cavern vanished around him.

Pentagon War Room

"Mr President," General Grey stood up as Whitmore rushed in.

"Sit down, General." Whitmore said, waving him down. "Don't let me get in your way."

"Of course not, Sir." The General said, then turned to the threat board. "As you can see they've started another attack run."

"Against what?"

"That's just it, Sir." Grey shrugged. "There's nothing much there... Though they could shift course and hit Pearl easily enough."

Whitmore shivered. That wasn't a pleasant thought. "Analyis?"

"Our people think that they're testing the waters." Grey said, "Trying to determine exactly what we can hit them with."

Whitmore nodded, it made sense given their recent pattern. Then he frowned, "Us?"

"More likely out 'friends', Sir." Grey admitted. "We can bloody their noses pretty bad, but it's those advanced fighters... the Hammerheads O'Neill called them... that clean their clocks."

Whitmore nodded, frowning. "Damn."

"Yes Sir."


Grey turned to the Captain who had called for his attention. "What is it?"

"Look at the board, Sir... we don't have any assets to deploy!"

"What!?" Grey thundered. "That's impossible!"

"No Sir... It's not. We shifted a lot of our weight to the north east, Sir... Our closest squadron, aside from the ones at Pearl, are ten minutes out."

Ten minutes. That was an eternity that the enemy was going to be running rampant over an area filled with *populated* islands.

"How many squadrons are ready to go from Pearl??"

"Two are in the air now, Sir. They were the ready group." The Captain replied, "The rest are being recalled. It'll be between fifteen and thirty minutes at best guess before they can be onsight."

"Two squadrons..." Grey paled.

Whitmore looked over the map, "Does Pearl have an upgraded AWACS?"

"Yes Sir, Mr President. It's already in the air."

"Good. Tell those two squadrons to hit them from far out and not to close until they have backup... not unless they deem it absolutely necessary."

"Yes Sir."

Skies over the Hawaiian Islands

"Bandits inbound from Niner Five Seven, Intercept with Caution. Birds only. Repeat Bird only."

"Roger that, Command. Birds only." Commander Gordon 'Blackie' Blacks acknowledged, thumbing the weapons selector up to the AMRAAM switch.

"Patch from AWACS unit coming in clear and cool." Blackie muttered as he pitched the nose of his fighter up a bit until the slow beeping told him that the AMRAAM had acquired the target.

After a few moment the beeps evened out to a single long tone and the battle for the Island Chain was on.

"I have Tone." Blackie announced, his thumb coming down on the stud. "Arrow Lead... Fox Three."

Missile after missile poured from the Navy F/A-18's as they all tipped their noses up and unleashed millions of dollars worth of ordinance into the skies.

<Come fly the friendly skies you sons of bitches.> Blacks thought to himself as his second AMRAAM began beeping it's urgent message.

Tick Tock.

"I have tone. Arrow Lead... Fox Three."


"Heavy resistance, My lord."

Apophis nodded, then shrugged. "Only by the primitives. It's of little account."

The First Prime nodded, reluctantly agreeing with that conclusion. It was true, he supposed, on a count of sheer numbers, but those primitive missiles were still more then enough to drop a Death Glider into the heaving waters below.

"How far out are the Kine?" Apophis asked.

"They've launched from their base and are traveling toward the attack coordinates at extreme speeds. But they won't arrive on time if the plan goes without error."

"It had best go without error, Prime." Apophis glared at the Jaffa, his eyes glowing. "Or things will be bad for you and any pilot who survives."

The Prime swallowed and nodded, slapping his chest. "As you say, My Lord."

Keith Kuahanna was a pretty ordinary guy, and a lucky one too by his figuring. He had a good life, he loved his job, and his wife was the most beautiful woman he'd ever known. Heck, he even had a daughter who was learning to surf with him whenever he went out.

He figured that life didn't get a whole lot better then that.

He even figured that there were damned few people alive who'd argue with him on that count too.

He was right.

Unfortunately, life may not have been able to get better, but it could always get a damn site worse.

Keith was driving his old Chevy S10 to the docks, getting ready for another day on the open sea, when he heard the sound of thunder in the distance. He frowned, and let up on the gas as he looked around at the skies. There wasn't supposed to be any thunder today, it was clear skies as far as the eye could see.

<Hell... I can still see the stars.>

When another boom shook the night he pulled over, wondering where the sound was coming from, and got out of the truck. He left the four way flashers on and walked around the front of the old rig, staring at the sky.

Another boom cracked in the distance, and then he saw a flash far out in the sky. It didn't look like lighting, but he relaxed when yet another crack cut the silence. Mentally he tallied the time from flash to crack.

<Long way off yet.> He shrugged and got back in his truck. <Damn weather service don't know it's ass from a hole in the ground.>

He flipped off the flashers and put the old truck in gear, heading down to wharf.

He hit the brakes again when he saw the objects in the sky. They were moving, dark spots against the brightening sky, and coming in damned fast as he watched. Keith scratched his head, leaning against the steering wheel as the things flew closer and closer. Then, with an eerie noise they flashed right past him overhead, seeming to come withing just a few dozen meters of his old truck.

Close enough that Keith Kuahanna thought he could see what looked like flash bulbs go off on what must have been their wingtips. He hit the brakes hard, coming to a complete stop, and spun around in his seat too look behind him.

There was nothing for a long moment, then one by one flashes of light etched themselves on his retinas, and pillars of flame erupted where nothing should burn.

His eyes widened in shock, his mind stunned into inaction for one long moment after another, then he took his foot off the brake, spun the wheel of the pickup as far around as it would go, and shoved the gas to the floor.

The rear wheel drive pickup spun on the old gravel road, pivoting around practically in place, and then kicked up a huge could of dust as the powerful V8 engine propelled it back to town. And back to Keith Kuahanna's wife and daughter.

"Oh my God..." Gordon Blacks whispered in horror as he watched the fires erupt below him.

He and his squadron had hung back as ordered, pelting the enemy with their AMRAMM missiles from a 'safe' distance, until their pylons were empty and the last of the missiles long gone from the sky. But now they watched in shock as the alien craft ripped into a defenseless little town on one of the smaller islands.

Of course, even without those orders, they wouldn't have been able to get turned around in time to intercept the bandits, not if they wanted to thin the opposition as much as possible with their missiles. But as it stood now, Blacks didn't see where they had any choice.

The enemy bogies still had them outnumbered, though not by as much as earlier, but Blacks knew his job.

"Arrows... This is Arrow lead. We're going in."

Pentagon War Room

"Well, Sir..." Grey sighed heavily. "That's it. Blacks made the call."

Whitmore nodded, knowing that he;'d have done the same thing no matter the orders from HQ in that situation. "See if you can scrape up anything at all to support him."

"Yes Sir." Grey said, shaking his head as he waved to the Captain who was standing nearby. The man nodded and immediately went to work, trying to scrounge up anything in the area.

On the big screen they could see the tiny icons that designated the Arrow Flight as it shifted and spiraled around the small island to get onto an intercept course. The little white arrows on the screen chased in against the harsh red ones, and were about to make contact when one of the younger captain's let out a pained yelp.

"What is it, Taker?" Grey snapped.

"The red's sir... they're fading!"

The President and General Grey both snapped around, staring in shock at the screen. Sure enough the red icons were fading in and out at apparently random intervals.

"God damn it!" Grey bellowed, "Someone find out what's going on!!"

Captain Blacks was the first person to figure it out, his eyes widening in shock as his fighter lost tone and the red element made use of his momentary confusion to escape his cross hairs.

He spun around in his seat, looking around and cursed as he saw the looming mountain of the inner island pass to one side of him. "Goddamn it! They're getting below the AWACS coverage!! Don't rely on your instruments, Arrows!! Take 'em hand to hand!!"


"Their coordination has been reduced." The First Prime observed as the tight formations suddenly went to hell as the Tau-ri fighters intercepted the Gliders over the small island.

"It as I said." Apophis stated. "Without those aircraft working as their eyes, they are blind to us."

"Yes, My Lord." The Prime nodded, "The Tau'ri at least. But not the Knights."

Apophis nodded, growling lightly but accepting the reminder. "Yes. But without their missiles, the Tau'ri ability to inflict harm is greatly reduced."

"As you say, My Lord."

"Blind them."

Lieutenant Jason Gorman blinked as he looked at the data being fed to him by the unorthodox package duct taped to the side of his console. "No, no, no..."

"What is it, Gorman!?"

"Either this thing is on the fritz, or they're on to us Sir!!"

"What are you talking about!?"

"We just got hit by some massive surge over the new LIDAR package... we're blind!"


"Get's worse Sir!"

"How can it get any worse?!"

"I'm pretty sure I saw three of the bandits break off and head in our direction before the burst hit."


"The sensor systems are encountering mild jamming, Commander."

Xander nodded, reaching forward and tapping three panels in succession. "Roger, Merlin. Angels, switch to a rotating frequency."

The rest of his squadron echoed their acknowledgment as they continued on their path. Jamming was nothing new, the Goa'uld had tried to against them before with little success. Jamming a LIDAR system was a little bit more involved then merely flooding the area with a powerful signal since the systems could be programmed to selectively ignore specific frequencies.

To get a really effecting Jammer working you had to pinpoint the target of the jammer and track it as it moved to keep them in the 'sweet spot'.

Something patently impossible to accomplish when you had an entire squadron moving at Mach 6 while flying less then fifty feet off the deck.

"Commander, I believe that the AWACS plane is about to come under attack."

"What? How?"

"They are being pinned by three jammers, Commander... They don't see the incoming fighters."

"Relay your signal to them!"

"I am now. But it's too late. They can't maneuver fast enough to evade."

Xander swore, but nodded. He hesitated for no more then a second before giving his next order. "Jack, Teal'C... Break formation and see if you can give those boys some cover."

"Angel Five copies." O'Neal replied.

"Angel Six concurs."

The two fighters suddenly shifted their vectors so quickly that an observer might have been forgiven for assuming they'd struck something and skipped off it. The Hammerheads lifted clear of the formation as their reactors screamed against the pilot's demands for more power.

"Good luck, guys." Xander whispered, then turned his attention back to the island that was looming in the distance. "The rest of you... get ready for a little meet N greet."

Commander Jurgen, pilot and commander of the E3-Sentry Airborne Warning and Command plane cursed as he pushed the modified Boeing's big turbofan engines past the redline as Captain Gorman shouted out bearings to him.

"Inbound at Mach FOUR!!" Gorman updated him, "And still accelerating!!"

"We're fucked." one of the mission specialists muttered, holding on to his console for dear life as the Boeing dipped forward and began a steep dive to pick up speed.

Jurgen ignored the man, gritting his teeth as he pushed the big plane well past it's official structural limits and into the big grey area known only to test pilots and the very VERY unlucky. The craft buckled and creaked, it's huge mass not liking the dive one bit, but it held together as Jurgen knew it would.

"We're at two thirds of Mach! Jurgen you fucking psycho! This thing isn't rated to break Mach!!"

Jurgen ignored him too, knowing that it was futile, even if he could break Mach the lethal little buggers behind them were going over four times that, and would be on them in a few moments no matter what he did. All he could do was buy a few more seconds at most.

But by God, Jurgen *wanted* those few seconds.

"Got him in my sights." Jack said as he dropped in behind the first of the three targets on his board.

"I too have acquired a... lock." Teal'C replied.

"Go hot." Jack ordered calmly, thumping the safety switch and haloing the Glider in his mind'e eye. "Angel Five... Guns Guns Guns."

"Angel Six." Teal said a hair later, his voice practically echoing with distaste at the ritual of announcing his intentions. When he flew Gliders for Apophis he answered to no one save his 'God', and the Goa'uld had no interest to know when he was killing the enemy. Only that it had been done. "Guns Guns Guns."

The occupants of the E3-Sentry were bouncing around the interior of the big aircraft as turbulence added it's tension to the mix, and were uttering their last prayer's in between yelps of pain when they all heard their pilot scream.

That, they figured, was that. There was nothing on the planet that could make Jurgen scream, or so they'd all figured, and it just made sense that he'd finally lose his cool when he really had nothing else left TO lose.

That's when the words he was screaming filtered through.

"TAKE THAT YOU SORRY SONS OF BITCHES!!" The normally reserved commander screamed, laughing like a maniac as he pulled up on the stick and began to bank the heavy plane to port.

The occupants of the aircraft looked around in wonder and shock. Did that mean they were going to live?

Beside them they heard Lieutenant Gorman laughing his ass off and cheering along with the curses and the frightened mission specialists stopped holding on for dear life and turned their attention back to their screens.

The two Hammerheads swept past the wreckage of the first two Gliders and closed in on the third.

"Take him, Teal'C." Jack said, letting up on the throttle slightly as he let Angel Six slip past him. "Try not to hit the Sentry."

Teal'C didn't dignify *that* comment with a response, he merely let the Death Glider enter into his HUD and then allowed it's image to fill his mind. A moment later he calmly announced tone. "Angel Six... Guns Guns Guns."

The hammerhead's forward cannon spat a short burst that ripped into the Glider, not shredding it, but disabling the alien craft and sending it spiraling into the heavy seas below. Teal'C watched it fall with an impassive stare and wondered for a moment if he had known the Jaffa flyer.

He shook his head slowly, pushing that thought from his mind, and then calmly spoke. "Target eliminated, Colonel O'Neill."

Jack's voice came back a second later, "God shooting, Teal'C. Loop back to the island, but do a deep sweep to starboard while I go to port... Just in case there are any stragglers waiting for another shot at the Sentry."

"Very well, Colonel O'Neill." Teal'C said, peeling off to starboard in a smooth long arc.

Jack hit his throttle and came up beside the big AWACS aircraft and waggled his wings once before pulling off to port.

"Damn that's a beautiful sight." Jurgen said, almost reverently.

"Who do you think builds those babies?" his co-pilot asked.

That was one of the big questions of the month. That and what was the real deal with the 'alien invaders'. Jurgen just shrugged, "I can only think of a few countries that could do it... maybe. I just hope it's us."

"You and me both."

General Grey slumped in seat and let out a long breath, "Godamn that was close Mr President."

Whitmore nodded, watching as the two golden arrows made long smooth arcs away from the AWACS and headed back to the party. "It's not over yet, General."

On the screen four of the golden arrows were about to make contact with the dwindling white and harsh red arrows. All the while the thermal overlay of the satellite imagery showed them the raging inferno burning below them.

Two weeks of heavy combat experience made for some serious changes in a man, Xander reflected as he casually adjusted the reactors thrust and trimmed his flight level. "Angel Lead to Angel Flight, the Goa'uld have engaged civilian targets... Break formation and intercept with extreme prejudice."

The three pilots with him responded first, acknowledging the orders with growls that told him more then he really needed to know about their current mindset. <Pity the Jaffa>, Xander thought as he heard Jack O'Neill's voice come over the comms.

"Angel Lead, Angel's five and six have eliminated our bandits and will enter your sphere in three minutes."

"Confirmed, Angel Five." Xander replied absently as he haloed his first target in both his mind's eye and the laser projected HUD. "See you in three."

"Save some for us, Angels."

"You want some, Five," Dragan growled, "You better come and get em fast. Angel Four... Guns Guns Guns."

Around him Xander heard both Hercules and Colonel Austin go to Guns as well as they haloed their targets and announced their arrival in spectacular fashion.

Xander locked his target in, then snarled out his own greeting.

"Angel Lead... Guns Guns Guns."

The four Hammerheads spat fire viciously as they ripped over the small island community, dumping speed at alarming rates while they spun and circled through the every lightening skies in pursuit of their quarry.

To the bealeagured and badly scarred Arrow Flight group, the introduction of four new fighters to the mix could have been seen as very little to cheer about. But these fighters had heard of the exploits of the new advanced groups over the past two weeks, and just the chance to see them in action was worth more then a few scars to the cocky pilots of the Navy's 121st.

Perhaps not quite worth the beating and losses they had taken, but still worth a great deal nonetheless.

"Well gollee..." Arrow Sic drawled humorously. "Will you look at those purty bird fly."

Blacks fought the temptation to close his eyes at the idiot slang Six was drawling over the net, and satisfied himself with a mild reprimand. "Keep Com discipline, Six."

By that time, of course, his order was as pointless as it was late.

"Hot damn!" Arrow three crowed as another bandit went down in flames. "What rank do you have to be to qualify for those babies!?"

"Probably a Captain..." Arrow five muttered, "In NASA."

"Those eggheads? Please. If they'd designed those birds they'd be trying to talk the bandits to death."

"Awright!" Blacks broke in, his voice aggravated. "Can the chit chat and get back to work, Arrows!"

The radio chatter died out quickly and Blacks led his Arrows back into the fray.


Apophis growled as he watched the icons that reflected his forces suddenly begin to blink out of being at a decidedly quick pace. He wasn't annoyed with the fact that his pilots were dying, just that they were losing. The balance of forces was quickly slipping to favor the other side as the Tau'Ri fighters joined the newly arrived Kine detachment with a renewed vigor that didn't bode well for the short term survival of his Gliders.

"Prime!" Apophis snapped without turning around.

"Yes My Lord."

"I've seen enough. Order the withdrawal and prepare our forces for planetary bombardment." Apophis said crisply. "These so called 'Kine' have not the power to fight back. Else they would have used it long before this. We've attacked military targets, civilian targets, fission plants that could have irradiated an entire continent... and still they respond only with these pitiful fighters of theirs."

"As you say my lord." The Prime nodded, electing not to remind his God that those same primitive fighters had been kicking everything that the Jaffa could field up to this point.

"Anubis desires that this world be neutralized." Apophis stated, "So be it. I will 'neutralize' it until not one living organism survives on it's barren surface."

"They're pulling out!"

Xander nodded looking up as the last of the Gliders pointed it's nose skyward and began to accelerate out of sight. He started to chase them, then paused and glanced below him and sighed. "Angel Two, you're with me... Angel Flight, pursue and harry until they are clear of the atmosphere."

As the rest of Angel flight tipped their noses skyward and rocketed off, Xander and Hercules circled around the burning wreck of the town below them.

"By Zeus."

Xander just nodded, not bothering to speak. The DemiGod's words covered his feeling accurately enough that he didn't need to say anything. Not to Herc anyway, "Merlin... ETA to emergency personnel?"

There was a brief pause, long enough to let Xander know that something was up, then Merlin's voice came back grim. "Forty five minutes at best for the civilians, they are based on another island and the Goa'uld have destroyed all local emergency stations. The Military will beat the civilian emergency crews there, arriving in fifteen minutes."

"Too long." Hercules stated over the net.

"Agreed." Xander said, "Let's put down in that field there in the middle of town."

The two hammerheads pivoted in the air, setting down gently in what seemed to be a soccer field down in the center of town.

As the reactors whined down the two comrades in arms dropped from their planes, sliding down the extending ladder even before it finished dropping. Their solid boots sunk into the damp field as they immediately turned and headed for town.

"Where too?" Xander asked, automatically patting down his weapons to assure himself that there all there even though he doubted he'd need them.

Herc looked around, "Over there."

Xander looked over to where he was pointing and nodded. The local school was burning brightly, but at this time of day it was probably empty so they could safely ignore it, but there was a spotting of houses near it that were also aflame, and those were probably occupied.

The two of them broke into a fast run as they headed for the houses, Herc drawing on his Godly heritage and the tricks he learned from druids a long time past, while Xander reached out and drew in Elanthielle's power into himself. They both moved as if a blur, Hercules leaving a turbulent wake behind him while Xander left a silver afterimage despite not moving quite so fast as his companion.

Herc arrived first, pulling a door off a burning house by it's hinges. As Xander came up behind him he looked over his shoulder. "Get the next one! I've got this!"

Xander swallowed, wanting to object, but as much as teamwork ruled he had to admit that they simply didn't HAVE a team. He split from the big guy and headed for the next house.

Hercules strode through the doorframe of the burning building and looked around, shielding his eyes from the heat. "Hello!? Is anyone here??"

His ears picked up a faint call, so faint that he couldn't be sure that it was a cool, but he started moving toward it anyway.

The Demi-God shouldered aside a fallen beam, ignoring the searing sounds as the heated beam tried to burn him through his flight suit. Surprisingly he didn't feel much heat, so Herc decided that Merlin hadn't been kidding when he said that the suits were worth more then they appeared.

As he reached what seemed to be a bedroom, Herc knocked his way through a jammed door and looked around. Inside he could see a woman holding an infant, her legs pinned under a collapsed section of the ceiling.

When she saw him her eyes widened, then she instantly extended the child to him. "Please... take her out?"

"You can take her out yourself, Ma'am." Herc smiled comfortingly. Then he grabbed the section of ceiling and lifted it easily off the trapped woman.

The woman dragged herself back as quickly as she could, her eyes wide as she saw the muscles bulge under the black flightsuit. "H-h-how..."

"Later." Herc smiled softly, "Let's move."

He bent down and picked her up easily, then retraced his steps out of the house. When he was a safe distance he ste her down and spoke quietly, "IS anyone else in there?"

She shook her head.

"Ok, I have to go... but stay here, I or someone else will be here soon."

She nodded, still in shock.

And with that, he was gone.

Xander shifted his vision as he moved, using the same techniques that allowed him to see auras in order to determine if there were anyone in the houses around him.

Anyone alive that is.

The first house was empty, and Xander moved around the 'block' to the next. He paused as he came across an old Chevy that had been flipped end for end by the Glider blasts, then quickly went around to check the drivers side.

Empty, with the glass shattered completely out. Xander frowned as he found a blood trail and his eyes lifted automatically to follow it.

<Shit.> He cursed, running up to the body of a man who was laying on a rough lawn, his arms outstretched toward the burning home.

He rolled the man over gently, but quickly realized that there wasn't much reason to do that. The man was long dead, his muscles stiffening, and the only warmth was that reflected by the burning house.

<What were you crawling too?> Xander asked himself as he straightened up and headed to the house.

He slipped his vision into the enhanced mode and examined the place from the outside.


He looked over his shoulder at the corpse behind him and grimaced. Straightening his shoulders, Xander went in anyway.

The door shattered with a kick, and he slipped into the burning home. Inside he peered through the smoke, but saw nothing. He moved in a little further, making his way through the porch to the kitchen. The smoke was so thick that he didn't see whatever it was he tripped over and he the ground hard.

When his vision cleared Xander let out a strangled cry, staring into the dead eyes of what had once probably been a very pretty lady. Her arms were curled around a young girl, but niether of them had a flicker of life left in them.

Xander sat and stared at the scene for a long, interminable moment, his mind locked on it.


<What!?> He snapped back at Elan, then coughed as he realized that the smoke was starting to get to him.

Xander blinked and pushed himself up, stumbling from the building.

Outside, he looked back once, blinking smoke and emotion induced tears from his eyes, then forced himself to move to the next building.

"Angel lead, we are returning... Angel Lead? Lead? Hey Xander? Kid? You out there?" Jack frowned as he checked his HUD.

"The Commander is currently away from his craft, Colonel O'Neill." Merlin's voice responded. "I believe that he and Mr Sorbo are currently engaged in search and rescue operations in the town. I believe it would be unwise to interrupt him at this moment."

"Shit!" Jack cursed, making a flip decision. "Alright, Angels... let's go see what we can do."

The four remaining planes of Angel flight arced in the air and joined up in a tight formation as they accelerated toward the burning town.

"Knight Five, this is Knight Lead."

"Knight Five here." Jarod Skye said calmly as he adjusted his trim and tapped the speed up slowly.

"Word is that the bandits have decided to bug out, Five."

Jarod nodded, shrugging. "Good for us, Sir. We being recalled?"

"Negative." There was a pause as Hiller hesitated. "The bandits laid waste to a town, Five... Our friends in the funky planes have landed and are attempting to locate survivors."

Jarod tightened up, "Sir? What about local Search and Rescue?"

"In Flames, Five. Military SAR choppers are already in the air, but for now those pilots are the only ones on the scene."

"Yes Sir." Jarod muttered, his mouth twisting as his eyes cast around as if for anything to lock onto. "What do we do, Sir?"

"We're going to relieve the Arrows and provide air cover in case the Bandits get any funny ideas about coming back."

Jarod nodded. "Yes Sir."

"I'm taking the roof, Five. Go low and recon the island."

"Yes Sir." Jarod said again, throttling back as the island came into sight, and dipping his nose down to the deck as his plane began to drop.

Xander coughed and gagged, pulling his third survivor of the day from a building. The two of them were covered in soot and ash, smoke pouring from their lungs with every breath until it looked like their mouths and noses were on fire.

Xander let him drop, patting him lightly on the chest. "Hold on buddy... we've got help coming. I've got to go back."

The man didn't respond, barely having the strength to breath.

Xander charged back into the burning wreck of a building, heading for the next room in which he'd seen a flicker of life force. This time it was a fairly young boy, who was light as a feather, so Xander flipped the staggered child over his shoulder and turned back to the door.

As he moved there was a loud crack and Xander looked up in time to see the ceiling give way. He threw himself and the child hard to the side, just getting clear in time, as tons of material crashed down on where they had been.

"God damn it..." Xander muttered as he coughed through the smoke. "How the hell and I going to get out of here?"


Hercules looked up from where he was performing CPR on an unconscious woman to see the four other members of Angel flight run up to him. He nodded, then went back to work.

They watched as he finished, rewarded by the sound of the woman's coughing and sputtering.

"That's it... breath. Help's on the way. Just hang on, ok?" Herc said reassuringly.

She nodded and he clapped his hands clean, mostly just succeeding in smudging the soot around as he got up.

"Kevin," Jack said hesitatingly. "Where's Xander?"

Herc shrugged, looking around. "I'm not sure. We lost track of each other a while ago. I think he's over..."

The building that Herc was pointing too suddenly groaned and a large section collapsed, billowing smoke and belching flame.

The five Angels stared in horror as two people staggered and dragged themselves away from the building. They rushed up, immediately seeing that neither of them were Xander.

"He's still... in... there!" One of the injured people coughed out.

"Who? Xander?"

The man shook his head, still coughing. "Don't know... guy dressed like you..."

The Five looked at the building and then at each other.

"Come on!" Jack ordered, just a hair ahead of Hercules and Steve, "We've got to get him out of there!"

The five started forward, but a sudden cracking sound brought them up.

As they stared in shock at the building the entire front face of it blew outward, reduced to dust and fragments by some explosive force. And as the dust settled they watched in shock and awe as a silvery form appeared from the smoke.

As the smoke drifted around they recognized Xander, his black flightsuit now a gleaming silver that matched the eerie glow of his eyes. His hand was clenched tightly around his extended battle staff, thrust forward ahead of him as if to project something ahead of him.

Arms wrapped around his neck were the only immediate sign of the little boy clinging to his back, but as he came forward they could see the bright eyes of the child show themselves over his shoulder.

Xander strode out until he was clear of the smoke and debris, then staggered and collapsed onto the well manicured lawn as the silver glow left him. The boy just rolled clear as the two of them thudded to the soft lawn and just laid there.

"Wow." Was all the child said.

Xander nodded. "Yeah."

An instant later the rest of the Angels were around him.

Xander looked up, then reach up for a hand. Herc grabbed him and hauled him bodily to his feet as Xander coughed and gagged. "We've got more work to do."

Herc nodded, but then motioned skyward. "Yeah, but we're not alone anymore."

Xander followed his gaze to see the small fleet of Sea King choppers coming in like a cloud of insects. He nodded, slumping a little, but then straightening. "Cool."

He shook himself slightly, then grimaced. "Shit."


"We've been doing this all fucking wrong!" Xander groaned, triggering his com. "Merlin, come in... Merlin."

They watched as he nodded, "Alright, tell Paige to get Leo and bring a team over here. No, they don't have time to use the Orca, have Leo Orb them. Ok, Good. Thanks."

"Wow." Jarod Skye said, his voice a little shocked as he pondered what he had just seen on that low pass.

"What's that, Five?"

"Uh... nothing Sir." Jarod said a moment later. "Just an explosion below."

"Keep the channel clear, Five."

"Yes Sir."

Jarod closed the channel, then looked back down as he circled back. The glow was gone from the small figure, and he couldn't tell which was which now. But the memory of it was etched in his mind.

Some time later found the pilots of Angel flight standing in a small group near their planes, covered in soot and sweat, suffering from burns and scrapes that they hadn't yet asked Leo to heal.

Around them were a small flotilla of helicopters and gear from various agencies that had moved in to help in the efforts. The entire island was by this time a furor of activity as fire prevention units and ambulance choppers buzzed through the air while ground crews ripped through the rubble with frightening efficiency.

Around the six Hammerheads though, there was an island of quiet.

None of the Angel's wanted to speak, their eyes haunted to greater and lesser degrees. Dragan's muscles twitched with the controlled rage that was burning in his fiery psyche, while on the other end of the spectrum Teal'C merely sat in a contemplative manner.

Hercules was glaring at thin air, his thoughts turned inward, while Jack was staring moodily at an empty point in the sky. He had been watching one of the airlift choppers as it vanished, the young boy on board reminding him of another young boy from another time.

Colonel Steve Austin's face was tense, but controlled. AT least until one were to look at the twisted piece of metal in his hand, once a solid steel pry bar, now molded to his grip.

Xander's face, on the other hand, was expressive as hell. And very nearly matching hell in focus as well. He looked around at the group, seeing a different rage in each of them, but rage nonetheless.



Seething unabated ire.


<Anger.> Xander reflected, his mind locked in a tired loop as he looked at his torn and bloody hands.

"God DAMN THEM!" Dragan finally burst, actually striking the goal post of the soccer field with one solid strike that bent it to a twisted pretzel of steel tubing.

The others muttered their anger slightly, starting to burn with the same fury, but Xander spoke up first. And his voice was calm.

"It's time." He said calmly. Coldly.

Everyone looked at him in confusion.

"What's time?" Jack asked, frowning.

"It's time we take this war to them." Xander said calmly as he brought his hand up.

The gathered pilots saw the blood dripping from his hand, wincing at the sight of it, but Xander didn't care about that. He brought one finger up to the flight badge he wore on his shoulder. The one they all wore on theirs.

Slowly, calmly, deliberately, he traced a blood red circle over the golden halo on the badge. Then etched a word over the 'Angels' that was inscribed there. When he was finished, the looked up around at all of them, his eyes challenging them.

Slowly the all nodded, mimicking his motions on their own badges.

When they were done, Xander looked over them all, his heart thumping in his chest as his guts tightened and knotted. Inside he was ice cold though, and it showed in his voice.

"Alright then." He said, "No more kid gloves. Angel flight is dead."

They all nodded.

"The Angry Angels are abroad... and may God have mercy on our prey."




Valid XHTML 1.1! Valid CSS!