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 9
When the Angels go up... The Gods come down


The newly christened 'Angry Angels' slid from their cockpits almost in unison as the planes waited on the hanger floor for the loaders to pull them back for refit and repairs.

They walked across the large hall, footsteps booming through the air, and the looks on their faces were enough to make the others in the area take a step back.

"Merlin!" Xander snapped, "Get The Table ready and open a link to the Pentagon. It's time."

"Yes, Commander." Merlin responded, then spoke hesitantly. "Uh... Sir, their shields are..."

"Don't worry abut their shields." Xander said, "I'll worry about the shields. You just get the fighters ready... Naquadria ship killers if you please."

"Yes Commander."

Xander looked around at the pilots who were staring at him and the other 'Angels. "Merlin... Secure the base for combat operations."

"Yes Commander." Merlin said again, and a moment later the alarm was ringing through the base and Xander led the others out of the hanger.

As they walked down the halls, Jack leaned forward. "Please tell me you have a way through their shields..."

Xander shrugged, "Something will come to me."

Jack winced and fell back, "I was afraid of that."

"Go." Xander nodded to the rooms, "Clean up, then suit up. We're going right back out after we knock a plan together."

In his room, Xander paced around as he stripped down. Moments later his clothes were being cleaned and pressed by Merlin's efficiency while he stared at schematics of the huge pyramid currently sitting in orbit.

"Top view." He commanded, cursing under his breath as he saw that the protection was as solid there as anywhere. "Bottom."

After a moment, he frowned. "What this, Merlin?"

Merlin paused a moment, then spoke. "That is a phase shift in the shield frequency."


"To allow ring transports."

"Can we use that? Get a demo-team aboard her?" Xander asked.

"Negative. The phase shift is solid, and controlled from inside the shields."

Xander grimaced, shaking his head. "Damn it. There HAS to be a way."

"The new shield systems are quite potent." Merlin said, "They have used gravitic sequences to..."

"Wait! Say that again!"

"The new shield systems are quite potent." Merlin said obediently, "They have used gravitic sequences to..."

Xander waved him silent, staring at the picture, and a slow smile formed on his face. "My Uniform, Merlin. We have a battle to plan."

When Xander walked into the Table room he found that everyone was already waiting for him. He didn't speak, just walked around the table to the silver wedge that was lying empty for him. He stopped at it and produced Elan, dropping her into the contoured slot in the table.

"The Table recognizes Elanthielle and her bearer." Merlin said as the table glowed briefly in a pulsing pattern.

Xander nodded, but didn't sit down. Instead he looked over the assembled people, and at the image of the President that floated in the center of the screen. His eyebrow rose slightly as he noted that some other images and joined him.

"Hello Jack." He nodded at the image of Jack Ryan, "General Hammond.... And you are?"

"Sergei Golovko." The man said stiffly, eyeing Xander with some trepidation. "So you are the infamous Mr Harris."

Xander shrugged, "I might be. But that hardly matters right now. Mr President, we can't sit back at let them continue to walk over us."

Whitmore nodded, "We have a series of converted Silos ready to launch orbital missiles... Our people have been busy enhancing the warheads with an element they found somewhere..."

"Naquada." Xander said simply. "It won't work. Our analysis of their shields indicate that they will be able to withstand even Naquadria enhanced nukes."

Whitmore looked confused for a moment, and someone could be heard whipsering to him from off screen. He looked back at Xander a moment later, "You're extremely well informed."

"In my current position, I have little choice but to be." Xander said simply. "I've had my computers, and Merlin here," He nodded to the projection of the AI, "Analyzing our options and we think we've found a viable angle of attack."

"What are you planning?"

Xander quirked a grin, "Frontal assault."

A sharp intake of air echoed through the room as the people around the table absorbed the words.

"You are insane." Golovko pronounced. "I will not endorse the commitment Russian people and planes to this impossible endeavor!"

"Good for you." Xander shrugged, "They won't be of much use in an orbital assault anyway. No, Mt Golovko... Mr President... This is OUR mission."

"And who precisely are you, Mr Harris?" Golovko asked tersely. "You come from no where, equipped with machines and weapons that seem out of some... movie... and you expect us to trust your intentions??"

Xander looked around the room, his shoulders coming back as his face shifted to an expression of almost arrogant confidence. No one but Xander himself knew how much of that was a mask, especially after he spoke.

"We're legend, Mr Golovko." He said, "We're Myth and We're the Fairy Tales that have been bantered from mouth to mouth for ten thousand years. We gather only when needed, and then fade into the shadows from which we came."

Golovko sat back, his face shocked by the words.

Xander continued, "We are The Knighthood, Mr Golovko, and this is what we do."

There was a long silence, which Xander allowed to stretch for some time. "Alright. Listen closely everyone, this is what we have to do..."


"Mr Lord!"

"What is it, prime?" Apophis asked, annoyed at the intrusion on his target selection.

"The Kine have launched Three squadrons and are accelerating away from their base!"

"What!? Why?"

"We don't know, Sire!" The Prime said. "Their course is taking them across the planet at a very high speed."

Apophis growled, slapping down his hand on the controls of the shipboard sensors. He quickly brought up the monitoring system and frowned. "What are they doing??"

"I do not know, Sir."

Apophis watched the crafts as they ripped through the air at a high altitude, crossing the bulk of the continent that he recognized as the one that was supposed to house the Chappa'ai. He stared at the fast moving planes and whispered quietly, "What are you up too...?"

"My Lord." The Prime said tentatively, "By our count, they've used all their available planes... their base should have no air support now."

Apophis nodded, considering that. "Capturing the Chappa'ai would be of great significance... but no more so then the technology held within. Still... why would they abandon their base in this manner?"

He shook his head, "Task two landers to drop Jaffa soldiers on the island that is their base, and send four squadrons of Gliders to cover them. We'll follow the aircraft, perhaps they will lead us to more interesting caches of technology."

"My Lord." The Jaffa Prime slapped his chest and back away.

"They biting?" Xander asked tensely as he flew his fighter well past it's supposed limits, cutting the thin air over the rocky mountains as he continued to head east with his reactors whining.

Merlin paused before responding, then spoke slowly. "I believe... yes... the Pyramid ship is moving to follow you... Commander..."

"What is it?"

"They dispatched two landers... they are coming this way."

Xander swallowed, but nodded. "Alright. Activate all Island defenses you can, and have Faith get her team together."

"Yes Commander."

"In the Meantime," Xander said, "Switch me over to Niume's sphere. We'll handle our side of it, Merlin. You protect Avalon."

"Initiating control transfer now, Commander. Good luck, and good hunting Sir."

"Thank you, Merlin." Xander said, "And to you and the others as well."

"Thank you Sir."

"All planes," Xander said calmly, "Prepare to shift command from Avalon to Celtic Plateau."

Though briefed on the plan, the order struck many of the Hammerhead pilots as almost absurdly insane. They acknowledged it though, and tapped the corresponding sensors on their panels to confirm the transition.

"Welcome, Commander." Niume's clear voice echoed over his comm, "It is good to speak with you again."

"And you, Niume." Xander said, absently checking his panels and HUD. "Are you ready?"

"Absolutely, Commander." Niume said, her voice liquidly flowing around him. "Though I must say, this is a most unorthodox plan."

"You got a better one?" Xander quirked a grin.

"No." She admitted.

"Then we'll just have to see if we can catch the Goa'uld with a little fancy footwork." Xander said. "You're sensors?"

"Charged and ready." Niume said, "I am currently tracking the path of the Pyramid ship, using a satellite bounce. They should pass into my direct arc within thirty minutes."

"Good." Xander said, adjusting a thruster burn to prevent the shuddering of turbulence from affecting his course. "Let's get it done then."


"What's their location?"

"They will arrive in fifteen minutes." Merlin responded to Faith's nervous question. "Barring any... complications."

Faith looked up in surprise. "Complications?"

Merlin was very nearly smirking. "This island has many ways of defending itself, My dear. And these unfortunate Jaffa are about to learn some of them."

Faith looked at the screen, nodding. "Good."

Langley, CIA HQ

"Are you insane Emmetovich? You entrust the security of this world to a mere child??"

Jack Ryan leaned patiently over his desk as he spoke into the speakerphone. "Sergei, calm down. Xander is trustworthy..."

"I can not entrust the safety of Russia to a child, Ivan. I simply can not do this."

"I know, Sergei." Jack sighed, "I know. But what choice do you have? He has the tools needed to pull this off, it's his plan, and it's his allies at risk."

"There MUST be something. Bozche moi..." Golovko cursed, "With all we have spent on killing each other, *SOME* of it must be useful against that... that... THING in orbit!"

"Xander says it isn't." Jack said, ignoring the snort of derision, "And our best people have been forced to agree... though they didn't like to admit it. We still ave some hardliners who want to do a ballistic launch against the ship with an enhanced warhead."

"What is it's yield?" Golovko asked curiously.

Jack smiled, recognizing both the sincere curiosity and the tradecraft implicit in the question. "I'm afraid that they haven't even told me that."

"I see." Golovko managed to not sound overly disapointed.

"No, my friend," Jack sighed. "I'm afraid that we have to allow Xander and his 'Knighthood' the chance to do their thing."

"Oh, I fully intend to allow them that chance, Ivan Emmetovich." Golovko assured him, "But even as we speak I have the best Mother Russia has to offer preparing our own 'enhanced' devices. If he fails, then we do not intent to go down without a struggle worthy of our country."

"Neither do we, Sergei." Jack assured him, "neither do we."

The Jaffa piloting the lead Glider in the assault wave frowned, checking his instruments before reporting. "Sir?"

The voice of his commander echoed back over the communicator a moment later, "What is it?"

"The island Sir... it's being covered with a mist..." The Jaffa swallowed.


"A mist, Prime." The Jaffa stated again, "Rising from the oceans and... and..."

"Well, what is it!?"

"It's still rising... the mist is covering several miles around now and it's altitude is rising." The Jaffa swallowed.

"Switch to instruments." The Jaffa Prime ordered. "Land us on the island. Do not fail your god."

"Sir!" The Jaffa acknowledged as he stared at the rising mist, then steeled himself and sent the orders to his squadron to follow him in.

The ranks of Gliders vanished into the mist, soon to be followed by the transports as all their visuals went white and useless.

"Lock and load." Faith snapped. "Their coming down."

Everyone around her nodded as they checked their weapons for the last time and watched as the slight Slayer slapped the clamshell device around her head and activated the odd weapon in her hand. It whined to life, bucking slightly in her grip.

"Giles," She turned to the small group that had been berthed on the PT boat until the recent developments had made that position redundant. "You got your team ready?"

Giles nodded, "Robert and I will coordinate the magic use to support your efforts, Faith."

"Good." She nodded, not liking the fact that she kept somehow managing to wind up in positions of responsibility. She'd expected that to end when she hooked up with boytoy. He was supposed to be the one marshaling the troops, not her. "P, Tiger, and the other one will be with you guys."

Jacks bristled. "I have a name."

Faith turned to look at her, then nodded and shrugged. "Sorry. Don't know you well enough to decide what to call ya yet. Do well today, maybe it won't be too embarrasin."

With that she was gone.

Jacks stared after the brunette Slayer, seething inside as she brought her hands up. "Why that brazen little..."

"Ah ah, Ti..." Vin caught her hands and forced them down. "None o that before a fight, girl. You two can mudwrestle for the title of more aggravating after it's done."

The Half Fey did a double take, then scowled at Vin as he smiled beneficently back at her.

After a moment she shook her head, growling. "Don't think I'll let you get away with that, Vin. You'll pay. Oh yes, you'll definitely pay."

"I look forward to it." He winked at her, "Another time."

Then he hefted his rifle, shouldering the long weapon, and flipped a casual wave at her as he followed the Slayer.

She scowled after them, working her mouth around as if she had a bad taste in it, then sighed and turned to Mr Giles. "Let's find some things to hurt, alright?"

"Time?" Xander asked tensely as he watched his HUD and instruments like a hawk.

"They will enter my optimum cone in thirty three seconds." Niume replied.

Xander nodded, then opened the Squadron Wide. "All pilots... prepare for final maneuvers in thirty seconds."

The time ticked off as the planes continued to race across the sky, their screaming reactors having propelled them past the Continental shelf and well out to sea. Momentarily they would cross an invisible line of energy that marked the limits of Niume's sensor array, and at that time they would be in the optimum position to strike.

As the last second ticked past, Niume spoke. "The Pyramid Vessel is now in my direct arc."

Xander nodded, opening the channel wide. "This is Angel Lead. Kill your reactors!!"

Almost as one the craft killed their engines, dropping their power levels completely down as the Hammerheads went ballistic through the thin atmosphere.

"Alright Niume! Now! Full Gravitic Sensor Ping! Blow out your generators if you have to!"

From below them, deep under the heaving seas of the Atlantic, rose a massive surge of power. It aimed itself in a narrow arc, and unleashed a coursing pulse of energy outward. It surged up from the earth, then through the seas, an energy so great that any animal that could, was already long out of it's range when it pierced the water/air interface and ripped into the sky.

It drew with it thousand and thousands of tons of water, creating a phenomenal waterspout that was seen for a thousand miles in every direction, but kept going even as the water vaporized or fell off the edges of it's range.

At near orbit it's outer periphery passed through the Hammerheads, and they pilots of those advanced fighter craft found themselves fighting the sudden sheers created by the passage of the energy.

"Ride it out! Surf the wave!" Xander ordered immediately, his own hands working the thruster controls furiously as the fighter threatened to shake itself apart on him.

The three squadrons rode the rising wave out of the atmosphere, mostly just trying to surf out the turbulence as they watched the skies grow black around them.

"This is one HELL of a way to get into space!" Carter spoke up, cursing as she fought the controls.

Her sentiment was echoed around, but they all knew that the only reason they were riding the edge of that wave was because they were the bait, and the wave was the trap. No one had cared to ponder long on what generally happened to bait in a trap when the mouse grabbed for it.

The Hammerheads were quite capable of orbital insertions themselves, but in this case they had been forced to hitcha very rough ride.

The core of the energy, however, swept passed them, and continued on course to it's target.

"My Lord! There is a powerful energy surge from below!!"

"What!?" Apophis spun around and stared at the screens. As he recognized the readings, his eyes widened and glowed bright white. "Reverse course! Now!"

But by then, of course, it was too late.

The energy from the normally passive sensor array intersected the pyramid ship at close range and the effects were instantaneous.

First the artificial gravity was scrambled, and Jaffa were bounced around the interior like pinballs in a particularly good arcade game. Then the entire ship began to shudder and rumble as the energy built around it.

Finally there was an enormous crash, jarring the ship violently from side to side as it's shields blew out from the counter harmonies of the Gravitic resonance.

"Reactors up!" Xander ordered as he watched the pyramid ship ride the core of the sensor spire away from the earth.

He'd thought of it when he realized that the Goa'uld's new shielding systems used some of the same principles of Niume's sensor array. That and talking to Merlin about the Ticonderoga, ironically, had allowed him to come up with this idea.

Normally any sensor system operated on a very wide field, but they all had a massive amount of power in order to gain viable information from the distances they usually work at. Systems, like that on the Tico and Niume, that could narrow the field in which they broadcast could pour an incredible amount of energy down a narrow field.

The running joke about ships like the Tico was that if you seriously pissed off an Aegis cruiser, you'd wind up giving birth to what the military sometimes referred to as FLK's. However, when the amount of power you have on tap is as high as Niume, Funny Looking Kids are the least of your worries.

"Here they come."

Behind Faith, the rest of her force nodded in anticipation of what was to come. The McManus brothers hefted their weapons, P90 submachine guns, and silently tensed themselves. Daniel Jackson had his own assault rifle, borrowed from the '579s armory, in hand and was hunkered down behind a copse of trees as his eyes watched the Goa'uld craft approach.

"This is crazy. They're gonna see us."

Merlin flickered into place beside him, smiling calmly. "I assure you, Doctor Jackson. They can see nothing right now."


"I am currently projecting a field that prevents light from forming coherent patterns as it reflects off the island." Merlin replied, "I have called the mists of Avalon, Doctor Jackson. And they come, as soldiers to battle."

"Reactors fully charged."

"Right." Xander adjusted his course, reading off the Atlantean script as it scrolled past on one of his displays. Elan's memories, and his own absorbed knowledge of the language let him convert it quickly to something the others would understand. "Come about to bearing three nine one, thirty degrees up, Earth relative."

Ok, so he *hoped* they would understand him.

And, sure enough, one by one the Hammerhead squadron came about on course as their planes and pilots managed to determine the right course.

"Full burn." Xander ordered, igniting his own twin reactors as he did.

Angel Lead thundered through the great silence of space, barely visible blue white flames driving it one through the black. Xander felt the small craft's mass reduction field envelop him, creating a tiny pocket dimension around the plane within which the craft, and it's pilot, had virtually no mass.

Because of the field he leapt from a near standstill to incredible speeds without feeling so much as a thump. A move that, within an atmosphere, would have certainly overloaded even the Hammerheads defensive screens and turned plane and pilot both in a short lived shooting star.

Behind him, the hammerhead fighters of the Iron Eagles, Warbirds, and Angry Angel squandrons ignited their own reactors and joined their commander in a frontal assault on the heavily armed Goa'uld Pyramid Ship.

"Status report!"

Apophis' Jaffa Prime snapped around instantly as his god stormed into the control center of the writhing ship, having finally abandoned his private offices. "My Lord, the Graviton wake from the planet has completely disrupted all but visual scanners and blown out our primary shield junctions!"

"Recharge them!"

"It's taking longer then it should, my lord! The harmonics of the blast must have disrupted their alignment!"

"Fix it." Apophis glared, his eyes glowing white. "Now!"

The Jaffa prime paled, almost trembling, and nodded before turning away to snap orders.

"My lord!"

"Visual scanners, My Lord God!" The Jaffa in question said, pointing in near panic at the screen.

Apophis turned to look at the screen, his eyes flashing again as he saw the drive reactors moving against the backdrop of space. "They wouldn't DARE."

"They are coming, My lord! The computer indicates all three squadrons are inbound!"

"Impossible! They wouldn't dare! If they fire any weapons sufficiently powerful to destroy this ship it would irradiat..." Apophis paused, turning suddenly. "What is our position!?"

"Sire... the gravity wave has driven as back to the planets satellite."

"Charge defensive batteries!" Apophis bellowed, "Launch all death gliders!"

"Here they come." Xander said, noting his surroundings through the Hammerhead's sensors.

Beside him, Hercules brought Angel Two into formation as he replied. "Let them come."

Echoes of assent came over the tactical network, and a shiver passed down Xander's spine and into Angel One itself as he heard the controlled rage in their voices. "Angels up. Warbird?"

"Ready to do some damage, Suh!" Chappy Sinclair reported, having already taken his own status report.

"Good. Eagles?"

"Got my tunes, got my wings, ready to fly." Doug Masters said, his voice cold and cocky over the net.

Xander nodded, flipping a bank of sensors. "Arm weapons. Eagles, Warbird... take out their fighter cover. Angels... you're with me."

Acknowledgments echoed over the network for a few seconds as the reactors of the hammerheads flared once more and the screamed silently through the vacuum toward their enemies.


Faith's team ducked low as a trio of Gliders flew over their position close enough that it's thermal array may have been able to spot them.

"Come on, Sis... let's take them out."

"Not yet." Faith said, shaking her head. "I want *that*."

The brothers followed her gaze to the transport that was hovering a few hundred meters above them, waiting for the gliders to signal the all clear. They swallowed, but nodded. "Aye, alright. You want 'em, you'll get 'em sis."

"Damn right I will." Faith smirked lightly.

Pentagon War room, Washington

"What the hell was that!?" President Whitmore asked as he stormed into the room, eyes wide as he waved a paper in his hands. "Every news service is running a story about some kind of a water spout in the atlantic!?"

"We had a task force in the area, Sir." Grey answered. "We've got better footage then the newsies. Show him."

A captain nodded, punching up the information.

Whitmore watched in shock as a spout of water leapt skyward, it's base dwarfing the Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier set in the foreground. "Jesus. What the hell was that?"

"Keep watching, Sir." Grey suggested, "It get's better."

The camera shifted to focus upward, zooming in and tightening on a cluster of specks in the sky. As it tightened, Whitmore's eyes widened as he recognized the silhouette of the advanced fighters that had fought beside their units in the Pacific. "This is his plan?? A water spout?"

"I'm afraid not Sir." Jack Ryan said, coming up behind him. "At least not directly."

"What are you talking about Mr Ryan?"

"I just got a call directed to me from Berkly, Sir. They've been working on some gadget of another that is supposed to detect gravity fields..."


"Well... about the same time as that was recorded," Ryan nodded to the screen, then paused as if uncertain what to say.

"Yes? What about it?"

"Well... their detector blew up."

Whitmore stopped, stunned, and suddenly sat down. "I don't really want to know, do I?"

"I sure as hell don't, Mr President." General Grey said, snorting. "But we better damn well find out anyway."

The President of the United States nodded tiredly. "You're absolutely right, General."

"Absolutely right."

"Angel Lead. Guns Guns Guns."

As his forward cannon blazed in the blackness, Xander was peripherally aware of the other planes in his flight opening up one by one around him, their weapons standing out like beacons to the sensors of his Hammerhead.

The voices of the pilots swapping location and target information swept over and through him, but Xander was entirely focused on one thing. The dimly lit pyramid that lay in the distance, and his duty to see it destroyed.

Between him and that ship lay a barrier of living weapons, Jaffa pilots in their Gliders, all pouring their best efforts into stopping he and his comrades.

The Angels were at the vanguard of the attack, the tip of the spear that had to breach the armor that shielded their target, and as such they were under fire from the first instant of battle. But they were also firing back, and they had the advantage of superior targeting systems and a much heavier rate of fire.

The gimble mounted canons on the front of their Hammerheads jerked from target to target as they opened up with the full fury of their weapons, and in the darkness men died.

The explosions were furious, their lights flaring for one brief instant of light before the darkness of space overtook them, but for all that fury there was no noise save the screams that were cut off before they could be completed.

At the tip of the spear, the Angels themselves were furious death to anything that approached them. Unkillable, and unstoppable as their namesakes.

Xander Harris had amped his senses to their highest ability, and he could feel the sluggish passage of time like the world was moving in a parody of slow motion cinematography. Any attack on him was doomed to failure almost before it began as he used the sense of time to his advantage, destroying and evading fire with eerie ability.

To his side a demigod flew, at his back he had a dragon hybrid and a product of the cutting edge of human technology. Behind them, forming the rear guard were one of the best pilots of the Goa'ulds own forces, and a man who had made a habit of making the Gods themselves look like fools.

It was a team born of desperation, but one that could fail at nothing. Not even should the victory cost them their lives.

"Here they come." Faith whispered, more to herself then anyone else as the Goa'uld transport began it's descent.

Around her the Island's rag tag group of defenders tensed, all eyes glued to the screaming gliders that were overflying their position every few minutes. The transport slowly descended to the ground, touching down almost gently against the soft soil of Avalon's western section, troops literally pouring out of it even before it had stopped shuddering.

"Now!" Faith snapped, thumbing her Smart Gun to priority targeting and moving through the underbrush.

Heavy weapons fire sounded a moment later as hand launched Stingers ripped into the skies, joined shortly after by the steady beat of heavy machine guns opening up.

The battle for control of Avalon had begun.

Angel Lead bucked under a close detonation of a Goa'uld energy blast, the wash throwing Xander off course for a split second as his weapons continued to deal thunderous death about him. He corrected without thinking, his mind so deep in the alpha state that his memories and Elan's were almost one.

"Angel Lead to Angry Angels," He whispered, his voice hoarse. "I'm breaking through the Glider shield... Proceeding on attack vector."

He heard the acknowledgment from his flight members as they too broke through the massive shield of Death Gliders and continued on towards the hulking specter ahead.

Behind them the fight was still blazing across the inky black, Hammerhead's weapons blazing against the countering rage of Jaffa's energy blasts. Through the chaos of the fight danced the dealers of death and destruction, war and death riding the crest of the wave with a furious joy.

Xander forced the image of his friends and allies death dance from his mind despite the image burned there by the Hammerheads enhanced sensors. Instead he adjusted his course and laid his full attention on the looming monster ahead.

"Angry Angels, this is Lead." He said in clipped tones, his voice still sounding like he hadn't used it in some time. "Two through four, with me. Five and Six, cover our assault."

Then his reactors flared again as he accelerated into the lethal barrage of fire from the Pyramid ship. Behind him Herc, Austin, and Dragan accelerated as well, closing on him as they entered a figure four formation. Behind them, Teal'C and O'Neal pivoted 180 degrees to face back and form a rear guard against any Death Gliders that might try an ambush.

"Angel Lead..." Xander said tersely. "Fox Three."

Then the first of the big Naquadria based ship-killer missiles dropped from his pylon and ignited.

"Go Go GO!" Faith snarled as she fell back, the smart gun whining in her hand as it loosed a near constant barrage of energy blasts. Her arms felt like jelly as the vibrations of the big weapon ripped through her small frame.

Behind her, the brothers were kneeling and firing hard into the approaching Jaffa as Daniel and his group fell back.

"Clear!" Daniel Jackson yelled when he had dropped into a defensive position, weapon butt against his cheek.

"Drop back!" Faith yelled, already moving as her brothers turned and ran.

They scrambled past Daniel Jackson's position, the normally bookish man snapping out a command to his 'troops', "Fire!"

Daniel's weapon chattered, and was soon joined by four more, as they laid down heavy covering fire across the path of the Jaffa's advance.

"Just a little further!"

Daniel nodded, hearing Faith's call from behind him, but didn't spare the time to respond.


That was his signal, and Jackson broke from cover, still firing as he ran. His shots were wild and nowhere near their target, but by this point the Jaffa had learned to fear and respect the noise of a terran assault weapon and he succeeded in his intentions anyway.

"Move move move!"

"Confirmed, Command. Now entering targeted airspace." Captain Steven Hiller said calmly into his mic as he flew point for his wing. "Black Knight's, look sharp. We've got confirmed LIDAR targeting data inside that mist."

"We're going into THAT??"

"Can the chatter, Rev." Hiller said, "ok, Knights... Belly up to the bar boys... Drinks are on them."

Cheers and catcalls echoed over the net as the Black Knight plunged into the obscuring mists, trusting their lives to signals patched to their instruments from an alien device through a lone AWACS aircraft as it orbited the mists.

As the eerie mist rose up to swallow them, Hiller heard his HUD whine with the single long tone that indicated lock. "This is Knight Lead, I have tone... Permission to engage?"

"... Permission to Engage?"

"Permission granted."

Merlin smiled to himself as the skies above Avalon were suddenly crisscrossed with the smokey trails of live rockets, and the fiery explosions of Death Gliders. He instantly shunted a portion of his program away from monitoring the attack of the Black Knight's and projected an Avatar near the position of the surface defenders.


"Yeah? What is it, Merl?"

Merlin pursed his lips once, considering the nick name, but decided that now was hardly the time. "A Marine Aviator Squadron has engaged the enemy in the skies above. If you continue on you're present course of retreat the Jaffa will enter into my inner defense perimeter in a few moments."

"Tell me somethin I don't know!" Faith yelled over the constant whining chatter of her Smart Gun. The weapon danced in her arms, guiding her aim as she all but kept her finger tightened on the trigger for the duration of the ride.

"If the Jaffa succeed in penetrating past my external defenses, I shall have no recourse but to flood the Caverns below." Merlin stated evenly. "Avalon will not fall to the Goa'uld."

Faith's eyes widened, the smart gun pausing it's chatter in mid sweep. "That I didn't know."


"Ok." Faith turned around, eyeing the rest of her people. "Draw me a line in the sand, Merl. Give me something I can SEE to defend."

"As you will, Faith." Merlin uttered, then vanished.

"Awright! You heard him!" Faith shouted as her Smart Gun began it's whining chatter once again, "Make them earn the dirt they stand on!"

The redoubled chatter of automatic weapons fire answered her challenge, and Faith returned her full attention to the job at hand.

"My Lord! They've fired on us!"

"Fool! Do you think that your God is blind! Give me the status on our shields!"

"Still down, My Lord." said the chastened Jaffa.

"Get them UP!" Apophis raged, turning back to the screen. "All guns! Target those missiles!"

The guns of the huge vessel opened up in an attempt at creating a point defense barrage to stop the incoming missiles. It was successful to a point, many of the warheads being vaporized by the passing sweep of powerful energy weapons, but three got through.

The first Naquadria warhead hit 'low' on the big ship's hull, detonating with an explosion measured in megatons against the alien craft. As force met metal, metal lost the battle and was reduced to vapor and slag as the immensely powerful explosion ripped through the ship and opened it's corridors to deep space.

The second and third caught the big ship in the central section of one side, the Naquadria explosion again ripping through the gardened armor like water melting sugar.

Apophis reeled as the ship lurched, clutching at a console to steady himself. He growled, his eyes glowing as he passed his hand over a nearby globe and activated the fortresses automated systems.

The Goa'uld vessel was, after all, built as a ship of war.

Throughout it's hull, bulkheads closed and sealed themselves against the black beyond. Lost air was quickly replaced in sections once they were sealed, and the Jaffa who survived the process immediately moved with determined speed to complete the emergency repairs that the ship's systems had begun.

It was no longer a simple mission for those men, it had become a battle for their very lives. One they intended to win.

The Hammerheads of the Angry Angels ripped past the Hat'Ak cruiser as the plumes of escaping gas and wreckage erupted from the injured ship, each of them pealing off with their wingmen as they swing their planes around for another run at the injured ship.

"Destroy them before they can make another pass!"

The fast firing guns of the big ship opened up as the nimble fighters came back around and prepared to close with it once more.

"Eagle Two, roll right!"

Eagle Two obeyed instantly, and Doug Masters flashed through the space it had vacated to destroy a Glider that had attempted to wax his wingman.

"Thanks, Doug." Sam Carter said, relieved as the bandit went up in a fiery ball of flame.

"No prob, Sam." Masters said, wheeling around in an easy pivot, and reverse thrusting until he had caught back up to his wingman. "How do you think it's going?"

"Could be worse." Was Carter's proclamation.

"Could always be worse." Doug grinned.

"True." Sam replied, "Damn. Do you see that??"

"Yeah, looks like the Angels made it to the ship." Doug replied as the flash of light washed over him. "Those are some explosions."

In the distance they could see the tell tale flashes of weapons fire, and Same returned instantly. "Yeah. They're doing their job... Let's do ours."

"You got it, Two." Maters returned, all USAF attitude except in the smirk on his face. "Let's go get 'em."

"Warbird Lead this is Warbird Three," Kevin Griffin said calmly as explosions rocked his fighter around him, "Requesting permission to break formation to engage stranglers at Three Zero Mark Twelve."

There was a brief pause while Chappy checked the coordinates, but the request hadn't been made for fun and Kevin knew that Chappy Sinclaire would know why those bandits had to go.

"You got it, Three." Chappy came back, confirming Kevin's estimation. "Get them before they are out of our range or they'll be able to re-engage Angel without opposition."

Kevin acknowledged, switching tac frequencies to his and Sean's private line. "Get ready break, we're going after some strays."

"You got it boyo." Sean returned, "Sounds like a good time."

"Hopefully not for them." Kevin smirked, his voice as cool as ice despite the tensions boiling with him.

"Take cover! Form ranks!"

The defenders of Avalon threw themselves to the ground, consciously preparing themselves to defend the line that had been drawn in the proverbial stand.

"From this point, we don't fall back any more!" Faith ordered over the blasting whine of her Smart Gun.

Giles chuckled softly to himself, having rejoined the man group after preparing a few surprises for the advancing Jaffa. He tapped into his knowledge of history and threw out a quote he didn't really expect anyone to get. "There is no retreat from here, men! You must die where you stand."

He was surprised, and abstractly pleased when the two McManus brothers responded instantly with wide grins and the completion of the quotation. "Ay Ay, Sir Colin if needs be we'll do that."

Giles, the brothers, and Robert laughed out loud, over the booming sounds of warfare. From just beside them, Daniel Jackson rolled his eyes and then joined in with them as he remembered his own history.

"Let's break their ranks just as effectively then." Jackson suggested with a grin. "I understand that they won't be impressed by muskets... but maybe we can spook them with something else?"

"Oh, I think we can manage something." Giles smiled almost ferally, then slipped away from the group as he and Robert both circled around through the fight to help spring their trap.

"Tighten up, Sean." Kevin Griffen said, adjusting his own course as he watched the bandits loom in the distance.

Sean O'Leary acknowledged the command, making micro adjustments to his thrust vector that sent his Hammerhead sliding in closer to Kevin's fighter. He checked his instruments and spoke with a flat voice that belied the tension he felt. "Bandit's entering optimum engagement range in ten."

"Affirmative," Kevin let himself smile slightly as he locked his forward gun onto the closest target. "I'll fire first, prepare to interdict any incoming."


Precisely ten seconds later the Jaffa Death Glider entered into the cone of maximum lethality for the Hammerheads primary weapons systems, and Kevin mashed down on the firing stud. "Warbird Three... Guns Guns Guns."

The big forward canon roared into the silence of space, sending a chattering vibration through Kevin as the plane shook from the power of it, and five hundred high velocity rounds ripped through the vacuum to their target.

There was an appreciable lag, long enough for Kevin's heart to slam in his chest and sweat to bead and roll down his forehead, and then his sensors announced the death of the first Glider.

"Hell Yeah!" Sean crowed from beside him.

Kevin swallowed, watching as the Gliders ahead of him broke formation and began to arc around as they decided to take notice of the threat that was coming up on their rear. "Button it, Sean... we've got company inbound."

Xander led the Angel's through a tight corkscrewing maneuver as they came back around and avoided enemy fire. The burning pyramid ship floated into their sights as they came around, the darkness of the space between them being lit by the blinding blasts of energy from the ship's defensive batteries.

"Kill main thrust." Xander ordered, "Redirect to shields and use secondary thrusters for evasive action."

The Angels acknowledged and one by one their shields firmed up, actually surrounding the fighters with a crackling haze as they blasted through the dust and debris that the wounded ship was spewing forth.

"Lead, this is five." Jack O'Neill's voice echoed over the net, "We have bandits inbound. ETA is three minutes."

<Three minutes?> Xander thought in surprise as he checked his instruments. <Jesus... How far out did we go??>

Elanthielle answered for him, though for the first time ever he almost mistook her thought for his own. <The Hammerheads have much faster vacuum speeds, Alexander, and a higher acceleration.>

Xander nodded, not responding, and forced his mind back onto the matter at hand. "Roger that, Five. You and Six keep them off us if they get too close. Two through four... let 'em rip one more time."

Cries of 'Fox Three' echoed through the net as the four lead Hammerheads dropped their second salvo of Naquadria shipkiller missiles.

"My Lord! They have fired a second time!"

"I'm not blind, Fool!" Apophis snapped, glaring at the Jaffa until the man looked away in shame. "Direct the defensive guns to intercept!"

"Lord... we don't have enough guns to cover that angle of attack... we..."

"Do as I say!"

"Yes my Lord."

Apophis spared the Jaffa one more look of disdainful contempt and then swept from the command room and into the hall. He walked quickly, ignoring the Jaffa as they moved about him, touching a stud on his wristlet. "My Guard, to my personal hanger."

"Whooooo!" Sean crowed again, chalking up his third kill of this battle. One more and he'd have earned the rank Ace more then a few times over. That was when things began to go to hell.

"Sean... I've got a problem here." Kevin's voice came through, sounding calm, but the content was enough to grab O'Leary's undevided attention. "I'm comin, Kev!"

Sean spun his fighter around in place, retroing his main reactors as he did, and rapidly shed his kinetic speed in favor of a radical change of velocity. In seconds he was ripping back through space toward his friend, and could see the situation unfold in front of him.

Two of the Bandits had managed to bracket Kevin, and despite the Hammerhead Pilot's every attempt, these pilots weren't stupid enough to let either the forward canon or dorsal turret pin them down. Sean whistled silently as he haloed number one in his sights, avoiding the firing arc of BOTH those weapons took some major piloting skill and more then a little luck.

"Tone." Sean announced calmly, as if it wasn't one of his best friends under the gun. "Guns Guns Guns."

His forward cannon blared briefly and Sean sweated as he counted down the two second delay it took for the high velocity armor piercers to reach their target.



Boom. The Glider was shredded in the next instant, ripped from stem to stern by the kinetic energy of the ultra dense rounds. "Oh Yeah!"

Kevin snapped his fighter around, twisting hard on his thrusters as he tried to get the last Glider in his sights, but the damned Jaffa wasn't falling for it. This one was determined to take him out, and nothing was distracting the son of a bitch, not even the death of his wingman. "Need a little more help here..."

"One second... One second..." Sean gritted out as he flew in against the last Glider, he had the angle and there was no way that this one was getting away, but the Glider Pilot was able to stretch out the eternity that it took Sean to acquire tone. Finally his cockpit was filled with a cool, solid tone of sound. "Tone! Guns Guns Guns!"

Again his canon flashed in the dark night of space, it's noiseless discharge ripping through the vacuum on it's one second path to destruction.

But, in the space of that single second, the Jaffa pilot had fired.

Bolts of energy ripped through Kevin's fighter, the energy shield holding out the first shots, but buckling under the continued barrage. And by the time the attack was cut off by the destructive blast of it's originator, it was already too late.

Kevin's Hammerhead vibrated and rumbled around him, the shudders wracking through him like the death knell of some mythic beast. "Mayday, mayday, mayday... Warbird four has been hit... I'm going to try to reach Earth..."

Sean's fighter slid along side him, O'Leary staring at the incredible damage that his friend's fighter had sustained. His heart dropped as he berated himself for getting so far from his wingman. It hadn't seemed all that far, to be sure, but the emptiness of space had deceived him.

"Kev... I'm here. I'll escort you ba..."

"Negative, Sean." Kevin said calmly, "Get back to Warbird and lend your gun to them. You can't do me any good."

Sean swallowed hard, watching as the Hammerhead was wracked by another mini-explosion and winced as he half expected to see it explode right there. "Kevin..."

"Go!" Kevin snapped, the muscles in his arms standing out as he fought the bucking fighter, trying to keep it's nose toward the blue white ball of the Earth.

Sean gritted his teeth, not liking the order in the least. For a moment he considered disobeying, but finally he just muttered his response through clenched teeth. "Roger."

Kevin watched as his friend's fighter peeled away, sparing a priceless fragment of focus to wish his friend the best of luck before turning his attention back to his crippled fighter.

The Naquadria missiles ripped into their target in a rapid fire series of hammer blows that seemed to shake the very fabric of space around them. Huge zero gravity explosions ripped apart battle hardened ceramics and alloys, melting metals that made steel look like lead, and shattering delicate crystalline circuits like the most fragile crystal glasses.

"YES!" Dragan yelled out loud, following the comment with a muttered oath in a tongue long forgotten on earth.

Xander shook his head, but allowed himself a brief smile as he watched the huge ship rock under the series of strikes. It was hurt, maybe lethally, but Xander didn't care to take any chances. "Angels... form up for one last strike."

The squadron came back around, accepting the much lighter pelting from the few energy weapons left active on the hulking ship, and zeroed in on it once more.

"Fox Three!"

The third Barrage of ship killers roared through space, silently ripping through the vacuum, unopposed this time by any even semi-effective attempt at defensive fire.

Six missiles ripped into the target, some of them actually penetrating into the inner workings of the huge ship before detonating, and this time one of them found the central power core.

The flash of light reached them bare instants ahead of the blast wave, and Xander threw all power over to his shields as he ordered the others to do the same.

The Hammerheads abruptly returned to real-mass, the power that kept them near massless being poured into the shields as the huge explosion broke around them.

"Ride the wave!" Xander screamed, "Ride the...!"

Then his com was washed out by the sudden release of energy all across the spectrum.

Kevin's fighter was rocking from the first touches of atmosphere when the flash bang of the big ships death knell reached him. For an instant he thought it would pass, then the true front of the wave hit him, and everything went black as his fighter was thrown from it's careful reentry angel and tossed across the ionosphere like a ping pong ball.

"Fire Fire Fire!" Faith screamed over the ruckus as she let the smart gun whip her around to a Jaffa flanking force.

The line had been drawn in the sand, and none of the group with her were any more willing then Faith herself to fall back from it. Losing Avalon wasn't an option.

Doctor Daniel Jackson fired his M-16 into the approaching groups with a startling dichotomy from his normal 'I'm not a gun person' attitude, his time with Colonel O'Neill giving him some familiarity at least with the assault rifle. And for a man like Doctor Jackson, Familiarity was often synonymous with professionalism.

Beside him, the two McManus brothers were snarling over the sights of their guns, full auto fire from the P90's raking the Jaffa front line with brutal precision. Skill, Fate, or dumb ass luck, it was all the same to these two, and the Jaffa in their sights died in droves.

But the Jaffa were available in droves and more, and the armored figures just kept coming into the maelstrom. Edged on by the Prime at the rear they braved the fire and through their bodies into the whirling death, offering their armored forms as shields that their comrades to the rear might succeed where they had failed.

Faith gritted her teeth, her eyes narrowed by the stinging smoke from the rifles and machine guns, and by frustration with the enemies tactics. They charged right into the defenders guns, getting chopped down right and left, but still they came. The young Slayer wasn't used to fighting an enemy like that, most Vampire's were cowards at heart and they would long since have broke and run.

Just as it seemed they might actually have to fall back anyway, or die where they stood as Giles had said earlier, a crackling zone of energy erupted from either side of the Jaffa line, and four figures appeared, two on either side.

Giles advanced from their left flank, his hand outstretched as he summoned on his power and that of Daan'aal, an electrical crackling leaping across the space to his opposite number on the other side. Beside him stood Paige, her own face a mask of focus as she used a newly learned spell from Tara to harden the air itself into a solid shield to protect herself ad Giles.

On the other side, Robert and Tara mirrored their actions, the magical power leaping from Robert to Giles and vice versa. When it built to crescendo, the two mages blew their control blocks and unleashed the maelstrom.

Consciousness returned slowly to Xander, his world dark around him. He opened his eyes slowly, but didn't see anything to warrant the effort.

He groaned and reached down, his arm operating not on his authority but on Elanthielles. A second later light flickered through the cockpit as life returned to the Hammerhead. "Damn that hurt."

He forced his eyes open, blinking as he punched int a location query into the Hammerhead system. When it flashed back he sighed in relief. "Thank God. Only a couple light minutes from Earth...."

<Indeed.> Elan said, relieved herself. <I shudder to think what would have happened if you had allowed the wave to strike you while you have zero mass.>

Xander nodded, not wanting to spend much time on that thought. Instead he keyed open the tactical net. "Angel Lead to Angry Angels... Check in by the numbers."

"Angel Two, here." Hercules said almost instantly.

"Angel Three... Here." Colonel Austin sounded a little shook up, but fine. But then he continued, "I'm afraid my drives are down and not coming back up... Life support checks though."

Xander nodded, "Alright Steve, Hang tight and we'll get you home. Angel Four?"

"Here." Dragan said after a moment, "Shook up, but operating."

"Five here." Jack muttered, "What the hell hit me?"

"Angel Six, present." Teal'C said calmly. "My equipment is operating within set parameters."

"Alright. Good." Xander said, "Angel's two and four... you guys are closest. Form up on Three... I want you two to bracket Steve and expand your A-M fields to maximum... Then I'll come in behind you and nudge you toward earth with my particle field."

As they were moving into position, Xander widened his frequency. "Flight Leaders... Check in."

"Iron Eagles, here." Doug Masters voice came over the link, a little sombre. "We've lost a few... but we're still here."

Xander's heart skipped a beat, but he didn't say anything right then. "Check. Warbird?"

"Warbird here."

Xander's eyes widened, "Wheeler? Where's Chappy?"

Wheeler's voice came back soft, "I don't know... I can't get any contact from him. Kevin is also off my screens..."

"Shit." Xander whispered, "ok... everyone start looking for Chappy and Kevin! All systems, and by eyeball if you have to! I'm initiating a transponder ping... if any of their emergency systems are working they should show up on your screens"

Xander activated the ping and then continued with the towing operation as planned. Austin needed to get back to earth before his emergency systems went the way of his reactors.

"Mr President! Look!"

President Whitmore looked up at the screen, his eyes widening as he watched the angry red icon that represented the alien ship fade away into an expanding cloud of debris.

"They did it..." someone whispered, then louder. "They did it!!"

Whitmore smiled softly, falling back into his chair. "They did it."

A cheer, ragged from exhaustion, but a cheer nonetheless ripped through the operations center, as everyone realized that they really had done it.

"Mr President..." A cautious voice came from one side. "Mr President!"

"What is it?" Whitmore turned to see General Grey frowning over a techs console. "Put it on the big screen."

The big display shifted, attracting everyone's attention as it now showed a global map with a smaller angry red line scorching a line across the atlantic ocean toward the United States.

"What the hell is that?"

"I don't know Mr President," Grey replied, "But I'd like to suggest that we send up a greeting?"

The President nodded. "Do it."

Kevin Griffen woke up feeling vaguely ill. There was a whistling wind in his ear, and something was pitching him around like a cork in the ocean. He groaned, forcing his eyes open a crack to see what the hell was doing that.

Then they opened wide of their own accord as he watched the horizon pitch and yaw and flat out spin around him. "What the fuck??"

It all came back to him, even as his hands reacted according to instinct and grabbed for the controls. Or tried to. The damn things weren't where he expected them to be, and by the time his mind realized that he wasn't in his Mustang he had already lost another thousand feet of altitude.


That was it, his hands remembered before his head, and he grabbed the straining controls as the water and sky beneath him changed places with sickening regularity.

Slowly, painfully, he tried to fight the Hammerhead to a stable flight but he failed horribly. It wasn't until a flickering light to his left caught his eyes that he realized with a shock what had happened.

The light was the flaming wreckage of his fighter as it plummeted a few hundred yards away to it's death in the Atlantic Ocean. Kevin looked over his shoulder, confirming that he was in the escape module, then took note of the cracked canopy that was letting the wind in.

<Must have been some smash.> He thought, desperately running through the emergency thruster startup.

"Thank you god." He whispered as the thrusters coughed to life on the third try, and the capsule righted itself automatically.

That was when he first noticed that the entire cockpit was slick with blood.

"We've lost tracking!"

"What!?" General Grey snapped around, noting that the red icon had indeed faded as it crossed the continental divide.

He rushed over to one oft he Air Force stations, laying a hand on the technicians shoulder. "I want every reconfigured AWACS we have in the air along that things projected trajectory... yesterday."

"Yes Sir." The man replied, quickly sending out electronic orders.

"What happened, General?"

"I don't know, Mr President." Grey said, frowning, "But it happened before... remember? The first attack?"

Whitmore nodded, frowning. "I don't understand, General... why do we have a blind spot in our coverage there?"

"We don't, Mr President." Grey responded confidently, "We don't."

A tired weakness was washing over Kevin when the proximity alarms suddenly blared in his ears, forcing him to look up. The surface beneath him was no longer a solid mass of water, in fact there was a large patch of ground a lot closer then he would have credited possible considering the last time he'd had the strength to look up.

Then the crash alert went off and Kevin tried to brace himself against impact, but failed miserably.

The escape module slammed into the dirt, the impact shearing it's overworked thrusters clean off, and dug a three foot deep trench over a three hundred yard path before it came to a shuddering halt. For a long time it just laid there, no motion from inside or from anywhere around it either.

The there was a groaning rasp as the shattered cockpit opened, and a bloodied hand reached over the lip and pulled an equally battered and bloody body out.

Kevin flopped to the ground, the sandy dirt absorbing his blood like a sponge, and just lay there for a long moment as he looked up at the clear sky above him and wondered wether they had succeeded or not.

<Did we get them? Or are they coming for us...> He wondered before heaving himself to his knees.

The pain was long gone, all he could feel now was a numbing calm that was slowly spreading from his chest. His bare hands quickly found the source, almost cutting themselves on the little spike of metal that had bored into his chest, and he wondered for a moment that it had managed to miss both his lungs and his heart.

Not that it mattered, Kevin knew. He was going to be dead in just a few minutes, and nothing could save him.



Kevin's hand found the ancient dagger that was strapped to his hip and he looked down at it with eyes that were fighting against the encroaching dark.

<I don't want to live forever...> He thought softly, but then his eyes looked back to the skies.

They were still out there, he knew, even if this ship had been taken down THEY were still out there. Aliens, Demons, monsters, and even Men. They were going to try to destroy everything he and his comrades had bled and died for in world war two. Everything every soldier had bled and died for over the centuries.

Kevin's hand drew the dagger reflexively, and his eyes looked at it plaintively. <I don't WANT to live forever!>

He took the blade in both hands, point down, and stared at it for a long time as his blood continued to spatter against the sandy soil below him. His eyes flickered to one side, reading the battle scored words on his escape module.

Leper Colony.

Then he looked up again, his blood covered lips tightening into a snarl that made his pasty white face look truly horrid. "I don't want to live forever you bastards..."

"But I'm going to live long enough to kick your fucking teeth in if you ever show your faces down here!!" He screamed as the dagger flashed downward and buried itself in his chest.

Kevin Griffen fell to his knees, a scream of utter agony wrenched from his throat as his head tilted back and he roared to the skies. The Dagger activated instantly, it's flaming white hot energy sweeping aside the numbness and replacing it with a blazing agony that consumed Kevin's very being as his sight just faded into pure white.

He was still screaming, though even he could no longer hear it, for long minutes afterwards. White light poured from his eyes, nose, and open mouth, even as his chest was bathed in the same radiant power.

Then it faded away and the body of Kevin Griffen slumped to the ground in a boneless heap on the rusty red stained sand.

Then, slowly, life began to return to the island around him. Animals moving against the backdrop of the thick forests, and birds fluttering back to the beach. And as life came back to the island, so to did the slumped body shudder once, then begin a rhythmic rise and fall as Kevin Griffin slowly began to breath again.

"Man oh Man, that is a beautiful sight."

Steve Austin's comment was echoed by agreement from the other 'Angels, as all of them watched as the earth rose over the pockmarked surface of the moon while they pushed his disabled fighter back to Earth Orbit.

Three fighters worked in tandem to edge a fourth along the arcing orbit of the lunar surface.

"I can't believe we did it." Jack O'Neill said over the tactical net as he and Teal'C flew escrot for the clumsy rescue operation in progress. "We actually took down a Goa'uld pyramid ship."

The stunned tone of his voice was easily evident as he spoke, and Xander had to smile from where he was flying by the seat of his pants while he constantly readjusted his fighter's particle shielding so it didn't shred Austin's fighter while he tried to push it along. "What's the matter Jack? You disappointed?"

"Oh no...." Jack said wryly. "Just surprised. For a couple weeks there I figured we were goners... I don't do the defense thing well."

Xander nodded grimly, still focused on his job. "Yeah. I should have made this move a long time ago."

"You did alright." Steve Austin spoke up.

"I second that." Jack added, then instantly seemed to withdraw slightly as he continued, "for a kid of course."

"Gee thanks, Jack." Xander smirked, then grimaced as he checked his relative velocity. "God Damn, I wish we could get a bit more then a few hundred KPS."

"Not if you don't want to have Angel Three ripped to shreds." Dragan said dryly.

"I'd like to vote against that scenario." Austin spoke up humorously, "I like my parts where they are."

"Don't worry." Xander grinned, "We'll crawl along until Earth Orbit... it should take... what? Another few *days*?"

"Not quite that long, I would hope... we have need of your presence."

Xander frowned, readjusting his course slightly. "Merlin? What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said," Merlin replied. "Avalon is under heavy assault. The ground crews are holding back the attack so far, and the Marine Squadrons have intercepted many Gliders to create a neutral sky for them to fight under... but Faith and her team are outnumbered."

Xander was quiet.

"Furthermore, Niume's sensors have indicated that someone may have survived the destruction of the Hat'ak cruiser." Merlin said, "She tracked a Goa'uld energy signature until she lost it over Colorado."

"Oh shit." Jack muttered. "What are those goddamned things anyway? They don't STAY dead!"

Xander was silent, "Are the airforce elements planning an intercept?"

"They are."

"Inform me if they pick up anything."

"Yes Sir."

Merlin signed off and Xander fell silent for a while. Finally he spoke up, "Steve..."

"I know." Austin replied instantly, his voice resigned. "Just put me on a ballistic course and go to it."

Xander hesitated, but finally nodded. "Drag... You stay with him."

"Got it." Dragan said after a moment of grudging hesitation. He wanted in on the hunt, but Austin was his Wingman.

"Herc, Jack... Teal'C..." Xander sighed, "Give me a few minutes to get Steve on course... then we'll peel out for Earth."

"Eagle Eyes, this is NORAD C&C. Have you got anything for us? The man upstairs is getting antsy."

Major Charles 'Chuck' Marin frowned, tapping off the seconds as he shrugged and passed the question off to his co-pilot while he tried to peer through the cloud cover.

"Negative, NORAD." Captain James Turrin said calmly. "The skies aren't exactly friendly up here today, but there ain't nobody else flying them either."

"Not even on that new LIDAR system, Eagle?"

"Negative. Not a peep, beep, or flying heap."

"Alright. Keep watching."

"They don't call us Eagle Eyes for nothing, NORAD." Turrin grinned.

When the contact was terminated, Marin looked over to his copilot. "They seem a little shook up."

Turrin nodded, "Well you know as well as I do that something triple strange is going on. They don't order a field refit of one of these babies for nothing. And that briefing was about as weird as it gets."

Marin nodded. They, along with several other AWACS pilots, had sat through a mission briefing that was about as scarce on hard facts as his bank account was on cash. The really weird part was that the Ops officer didn't seem to know anything more then he was actually saying, not too mention all the weird talk among the pilots.

Everything from prototype superjets to UFO's flying over the pacific.

Mama Marin didn't raise no fools, and her baby boy Chuck didn't buy into that kinda crap. He didn't know what was going on, but he sure as fuck didn't believe in UFOs and little green men.

"Holy Fuck!" Turrin suddenly cursed as he pointed straight ahead.

Marin looked up from his instruments, his eyes widening as the big Boeing broke out inot a clear spot several dozen miles in diameter, just in time to see a section of the sky waver and shift like it was alive.

Then the new LIDAR system suddenly came to life, blaring warnings across the board, but Marin's eyes were staring at the odd humpbacked shape that had appeared directly in his flight path.

"Well I'll be a son of a..."

Bolts of green energy suddenly crossed the path between his plane and the humpbacked ship, and before he could finish his sentence Chuck Marin died a believer.

"We've lost Eagle Eyes, Sir!"

General Hammond rushed around a corner of the SGC, looking voer the incoming information. "What happened?"

"He got a hit off the new LIDAR systems, then just... vanished Sir."

"Damnit." The General muttered under his breath. "Tell the 85th to move into position and do a fighter sweep of the area!"

"Yes sir!"

"Keep firing!!" Faith screamed over the distinctive whine/roar of the Smart Gun as she took her own orders and let the ancient weapon roar through the crisp air of the Avalon morning.

Her order was hardly needed, except as notice that she was still alive and operating, as the entire group were busy as hell doing just that.

Murphy McManus was kneeling over his brother, firing hard as he covered his injured sibling while Connor quickly wrapped a makeshift field dressing over his arm. The Irish brothers were cut, burnt, and bleeding from a half dozen places each but neither of them would stay down for more then the few seconds it took to make sure they didn't bleed to death.

Beside them Doctor Daniel Jackson, almost miraculously unscathed by the constant barrage of staff blasts, fumbled slightly with the clip of his M-16 as he finally got it loaded. Then he quickly racked back the slide and leveled the heavy weapon back against the advancing Jaffa and fired.

Further along the flanks of the Jaffa the two groups of magic users were still laying their energies into the flanks of the Jaffa, but their energy was waning rapidly as the wave of Jaffa troopers kept coming. Magic had proved more puissant then technology, but it simply didn't have the legs to manage a running battle.

Merlin watched, unobserved, from his sensors and frowned to himself. It was time to change the odds slightly.

He searched his network for applicable data, and noted something with a smile as he activated his external comm again.

"Knight Lead, Please respond."

Captain Stephen Hiller frowned at the odd voice that came over his radio. "Who is this?"

"Call me Merlin, Captain."

"Merlin my ass." Hiller muttered, "How did you get this frequency!?"

"That is unimportant. My authorization is Gamma Gamma Twelve Mark Two. Authenticate."

Hiller swallowed, punching in the code. A moment later it came back cleared. "Yes Sir, what do you need?"

"I understand that some of your squadron are equipped with GBU-24 guided weapons?"

"Uh.... Yessir."

"Excellent. I will paint the target, Captain... Please assign Mr Skye to carry out the mission if you would."

"Yessir." Hiller said again, then watched as a target lit up on his screen. A second later he quickly flipped his comm over the tac channel. "Skye! Got a mission for you. Everyone else, provide cover!"

"Miss Tasker." Merlin said quietly, appearing beside Faith.

Faith spared him a glance, frowning. "Don't call me that. And what do you want??"

"I suggest you get your people to cover."

"What? Why?"

In answer, Merlin looked up.

Faith followed his gaze, still firing as the HUD of the Smartgun kept her on target. Her free eye widened as she saw three of the Marine fighters come around in an almost lazy circle, flying in perfect formation right straight at her.

"Holy shit." She muttered, then screamed, "Back! Back! Everyone fall BACK!!!"

Jarod Skye lined up on the laser beacon, watching the blaze of combat beneath him, and calmly armed the guided weapon on his central pylon.

For a moment he took a deep breath, thinking about how he hadn't meant to get in this deep. He hadn't meant to kill people, not ever. But he was here, and if he didn't do his job, then someone else would die.

He flipped up the switch cover and fired the weapon.

The 2000 pound bomb dropped free from his plane and the Hornet jumped a little as it lost the weight. Instantly fins snapped out and the heavy weapon switched to guidance mode as it fell clear of the plane.

Seconds later the heavy weapon slammed into it's target and a roar ripped across the island, throwing up a ball of fire into the skies as the Marines flashed past, the heavy roar of their engines completely washed away by the explosion.

"They have done it."

Jack Ryan nodded at the screen, confirming his old friend and adversary's assessment. "That's what it looks like."

"Boizhe moi." Sergei Golovko muttered, "I still do not believe it."

Jack shrugged, "There are still some loose ends on the board, but Big Boy is definitely out for the count, Sergei."

The Ex-KGB Spymaster shook his head, growling. "I do not believe it still. A mere child, Ivan.... I feel I must be falling for another of your spectacular 'ops'."

Jack noted the smirk on the other man's face and chuckled slightly, "You flatter me. But I'm not that good."

Golovko nodded slowly, "Da. I know this, unfortunately, Ivan Emmetovich. Which brings up my next problem."

Jack nodded, knowing what that problem was. "Are they a threat?"

Golovko shook his head, "No, Ivan. This Knighthood, as they call themselves, are most certainly a threat. That is not the question. The question is who are they a threat too? I am not so fool as to take this child at his word, Ivan. And I do not think that you are such a fool either."

Jack sighed.

"Are you?" Golovko frowned at the screen, reading Jack's face. His eyes widened. "You can not be serious! These people are not to be trusted. No one with such power can be entrusted completely... I don't even trust the people manning our own nuclear weapons! And they are from mother Russia!"

"They are saving our ass, Sergei." Jack reminded the old Soviet spymaster.

"Or their own." Golovko countered, "That thing out there is as much a threat to them as to us. And I have to wonder why those weapons were built in the first place, Ivan. One does not create a weapon without a target to point it at."

"If we believe them..." Jack started, but Golovko cut him off with a disgusted snort.

"Believe what? That rubbish about Atlantis? You are a learned man, Ivan Emmetovich. Tell me, have you ever seen proof, or even strong evidence that such a place existed?"

Jack quirked a slight smile, "Not really my area of expertise, Sergei."

"Of course it isn't," The Russian said, almost triumphantly. "You spent your time of REAL things. Things of value, Ivan... Not this fairy tale that we are asked to swallow."

Jack thought about that, then frowned. "Are we?"


"Are we being asked to swallow it?" Jack asked after a moment, "He said himself... They *are* fairy tales. Legends... ghosts."

"Bah." Golovko dismissed the thought, "Mark my words, Ivan Emmetovich, this one is trouble."

Jack smiled, "No kidding, Sergei. I already knew that..."

Golovko smiled slightly until Jack finished his sentence.

"I just don't agree with you on who he's trouble *for*."

"There! There he is again!" A technician pointed excitedly, "Whatever is hiding him from our birds isn't working one hundred percent Sir... We've got a trajectory lock... if he just stays on course..."

"Redirect the 85th to intercept." Hammond ordered instantly, "And scramble the X Squadron out of Nevada."

"Sir?" The technician half turned around.

"You heard me, Soldier."

"Yes Sir."

They watched the screen as the bogey again vanished from the AWACS sight, but left a computer generated vector path on the huge map. From the north a blue triangle angled downward and accelerated to one point three on an interception course.

To the south a gold triangle appeared on the map, not moving yet, but flashing as it's status was updated from inactive to 'preparing'.

Taylor 'Hood' Robinson, Captain, USAF, peered through the clouds as he rocketed at the head of his squadron of F-16 Falcons. Ahead of him, he knew, waited one bad ass of a bandit. The son of a bitch had taken out Eagle Eyes and his escorts only minutes earlier and now it was Robinson's turn to tangle with the cold hearted bastard.

"Merry Men, this is Hood." He said, smirking into his oxygen mask. "Looks like the Sheriff is coming into Sherwood for once. Let's show him a good time, ya hear me?"

The good natured acknowledgments from his squadron echoed for a few moments before they died out, and Hood smiled slightly as he considered the problem.

They had a bandit out there, somewhere, who was undoubtedly stealthed.

That wasn't such a big deal. Hood had yet to see a stealth system get by the good old Eyeball Mark One, so they'd just step up visuals.

What was a big deal, was the fact that this bandit was armed to the teeth and good enough to take down an AWACS and it's escort.

*THAT* just wasn't supposed to happen. Ever.

"Alright Double M's," Hood said, "Adjust course to Oh Oh Three Mark Two One and increase speed to full thrust. Weapons armed, eyes wide open... ready or not, here we go."

"Another group of those primitive craft approaching My Lord."

Apophis stared at the screens for a long while, still silent.

"My Lord? They are on a collision course... Should I move to avoid them?"

"No." The Goa'uld smiled slightly as his eyes glowed white. "All auxiliary power to the shield systems on my command."

The Jaffa swallowed, "Yes My Lord."

"He should be around here somewhere..." Hood muttered, eyes sweeping the skies for any sign of the bandit.

Hood shook his head, "Doesn't make sense... he should be righ- What the—!"

His exclamation was cut off as a section of the sky directly ahead of him wavered and then solidified into an ungainly looking craft.

At Mach One point Six Hood didn't have time to scream as his plane ran straight into the invisble field that covered the ship, his plane erupting into a massive fireball that splattered itself across the spherical field.

Behind him his 'Merry Men' pulled up hard and fast, screaming over the tactical channel as they did.

"What was that? What were they saying?" Hammond demanded. "Play that back!!"

After a second playback, General Hammond paled and sat down heavily. "Oh Dear God... He has some kind of advanced stealth system... Warn the others to spread out... don't get caught in a tight formation!"

"I've got a lock!! Good Tone! Good Tone! Falcon Four... Fox One!"

The normally RADAR locked missile dropped from the pylon under the F16 Falcon's wing and leapt forward, it's guidance provided by an AWACS unit almost a hundred miles away.

It flew straight and true, homing unerringly in on it's target, only to detonate spectacularly, yet in vain, against the Goa'uld energy shield.

After that, the sky was rife with the crisscrossed fire of missiles and energy blasts.

And the energy blasts were winning.

"Oh god... we lost another one.. Falcon Three is out, repeat Falcon three is out..."

Hammond shook his head in sorrow, "How long until the X Squadron arrives?"

"Eight minutes. They're still on the ground, but the first one should be in the air any second now." The Technician replied tensely. "But Sir, I don't think that they'll be much more effective..."

Hammond shook his head, "They've been equipped with Naquada enhanced missiles. They'll have to do.

The Technician swallowed and nodded. "Yes Sir."

Hammmond shook his head, wondering if it would matter. They were going to take eight minutes to get to where the enemy was right not. Where would he be by then?

Eight minutes. An eternity.

"Sir! Look on the board!"

Hammon looked up, spotting four unknowns appearing on the extreme range of NORAD's orbital systems. "Who are they??"

"One second... We're getting IFF codes! They're reading as ours, Sir!"

Hammond stared in shock and puzzlement, then another tech turned around. "Sir... we're getting a message from one of them... it's for you Sir."

"What? Put it on the speaker!"

A moment later the room was filled with a very familiar voice, "Hey General, you mind if we crash the party?"

Hammond suppressed a smile, "Colonel, by all means... come on down."

Jack O'Neill smirked as his Hammerhead bucked and fought against control in the high speed re-entry, "You got it Sir. We're a little shy on missiles, but we'll do our best."

"I'm sure you will, Colonel." Hammond assured him, "This one is giving us some trouble."

"Well, we'll just have to teach him some manners, Sir." Jack smiled. "O'Neill out."

He closed the connection, eyes flitting to one side as he checked the loose formation of Hammerheads around him, all of them bucking as they powered into the atmosphere at high speed. Any conventional craft would be falling apart by this point, but the Hammerheads took the searing heat with ease, their blunt noses just barely glowing with the fiery heat as they angled downward on their intercept courses.

As his plane fought a little harder, Jack returned his focus to the controls and assured himself that he was still on target.

Somewhere down there was a nasty snake with an attitude, one that was costing American aviators their lives.

That wasn't something that O'Neill was going let happen on his watch.

Not ever.

"Oh...." Faith groaned, feeling her body move along the dirt of it's own accord. "That sucked."

Jacks looked down at where she was dragging the injured slayer and shook her head. "You don't know the half of it."

Faith looked up, then blinked heavily. "Huh? Hey... you're bleeding..."

Jacks ignored the blood that was running down her face from both nostrils, despite the heavy taste of copper on her mouth. "I noticed."

Faith shook herself a bit, then pulled her hand loose, turning in time to notice that Jacks was also hauling Connor along as she stumbled back away from the carnage. "What hit us?"

Jacks jerked a thumb upward now that he had a free hand. "Marines. Subtle ain't in their vocabulary."

Faith looked back to way they'd come, her eyes widening. "Holy shit!"

That way lay armageddon.

Their was a wide blanket of carnage that was laid out in a circle that seemed to be a mile in diameter, through Faith knew that it couldn't possibly have been that big otherwise she'd be dead and so would...

"The others! Are they??"

"They're fine." Jacks nodded ahead of them, "You and Irish here were the slowest ones out. I had to knock his brother cold to keep him from coming back for the two of you."

Faith glanced up and saw Tara holding what looked like a compress over Murphy's face and chuckled slightly. "I guess we all made it then, huh?"

"Looks like." Jacks nodded, "Or we will all have made it in a second."

"Huh?" Faith asked, but was interrupted and shocked when a squeal of surprise came from just ahead of them. "What the??"

"Ahhhh.... Damn That hurts!" Vin muttered, suddenly sitting up to the shock and surprise of most everybody around him. "Man explosions just really really SUCK."

"What the!"

"Aiii!" Tara squealed, hopping away from the recovering corpse.

Faith rolled her eyes, "Oh great. One of them."

Vin spares her a sour look, but his face drops as he watches Jacks wearily drop to the ground behind him, "Hey... What happened?"

Jacks turned away before he could touch her face where it was slick with blood, sighing. "I overreached, that's all. I'll be ok in a bit."

She suddenly pitched to one side as her voice faded away and Vin reached out fast and caught her. "Blast girl! What did you do?"

She blinked, smiling almost embarrassedly. "Just a protection field... no big deal Vin..."

Vin looked up at the big Tomcats still circling the skies above them and swallowed, "Lordy girl, you know better then to do that! One of those things packs more punch then a thousand of those old Canons we used to dodge!"

She nodded weakly, closing her eyes against the strain. "Now you tell me."

"There he is." Xander said tensely as the Goa'uld transport flickered into existence ahead of him. "Remember, no missiles."

"Right." The others responded, remembering that they were packing Naquadria enhanced ship killers, not exactly low yield weapons and the last thing any of them wanted was a Mushroom Cloud over the Rockies.

The four Hammerheads rushed in, barely a few seconds passing from visual contact to practically overshooting the target, their guns opening up the whole length.

"Split S!" Xander called, and the four of them split up, he and Herc peeled up and inverted while Jack and Teal'C continued under the belly of the Goa'uld transport, all four of their turrets coming into play as they ripped past at nearly Mach 5.

Apophis and his Jaffa guards grabbed for the consoles as the ship rocked around them.

"Status!" The Goa'uld snapped out.

"Shields are holding, my lord! As long as they don't use their missiles we can hold them back!"

"Continue on course! Weapons to my control!"

The Hammerheads flew in a box formation, the four of them forming the corners of a vertical square, their canopies actually facing each other.

Xander looked down in time to see O'Neill look up and the two of them saluted before the loose formation split again.

Xander and Herc moved up in an inverted climb while Jack and Teal'c did the opposite, diving into a tight turn as they circled back around to move back on target. The instant the transport appeared in their sight the four of them opened fire again.

This time the transport fired back.

To the south east a very different flight accelerated on an intercept with the running battle, it's pilots pushing their planes to the very limit, but still only managing about half the velocity of their Kine counterparts.

The F22 Raptors were already straining the edge of their operating limits, but Captain Marcus 'Ghost' Jones ordered his squadron to push the twin afterburners even harder then they were currently rated to go.

"Weapons check X's!" He called over the tactical channel.

"Weapons check out Cap!"

"Good to go, Skip!"

"Let's do it, Ghost."

"We're hot, Cap'n." His wingman said at last, "Ready to rock."

"Let's get in tune then." Ghost replied, smirking under his oxygen mask as he finished his own weapons check, carefully examining the diagnostic panel that had been hastily bolted into the Raptor's cockpit.

When they all flashed green he nodded, watching the numbers count down to interception and mentally doing to math.

The X team was only going to have one interception opportunity, if they missed it then they wouldn't be able to catch up to the bandit. It was moving that damned fast.

"Watch for the friendlies, but when you get tone on that bandit don't hesitate." Ghost ordered as he armed his weapons. "They'll have to get clear on their own... we won't get a second run."

"Yes Sir." His wingman returned, "Arming the prototypes now."

Ghost winced. Prototypes. That wasn't something that he wanted to equate with what he was flying but it was true.

The X team was so named because all of the planes in it still bore the X designation. The F22's weren't yet approved for operational use. And neither were any of the weapons they were packing.

That wasn't something designed to make him or his team feel comfortable, but Ghost had volunteered for this duty when the orders came down a couple weeks earlier to prepare the F22's for flight operations.

That was probably his first mistake.

<Never volunteer.> He chided himself, watching the airspeed indicator flutter slightly as it continued to climb. <I thought you'd learned that in basic?>

"Break! Break! Break!" Xander ordered as he twisted his own Hammerhead in a spiral as he followed his own orders.

The Transport was turning out to be one tough nut to crack. The Goa'uld had equipped it with some of the nastiest weapons in the the Goa'uld arsenal and he wasn't screwing around. Only the high maneuverability and low profile of the fighter's electronic signature were saving them from being blown right out of the sky.

Jack was cursing over the com, while Teal'C maintained his customary silence. So silent, in fact, that Xander had actually devoted a tiny portion of his attention to the small icon that represented the Jaffa pilot. Just be certain that the big man was still with him.

Herc, on the other hand, was almost as quiet but was hanging so close to Xander that he didn't have to check his instrument. Xander just *felt* his presence.

"Let's come back around, Herc... This guy's getting on my nerves."

"Is there anything left?" Faith asked, looking over the charred section of land that she had only recently been on the edge of.

Merlin appeared beside her. "Yes. Some of the Jaffa have survived. They are regrouping now and have managed to recover from heavy weapons from the wreckage of the drop ship."

"Great." Faith muttered, looking over her tired team. She quickly made a decision, "I'll go. You guys get it together fast."

Before anyone could respond or object, she was gone.

"How's it look down there, Skye?"

"Toasty." Skye replied, then added a belated, "Sir."

Hiller grinned, "Nice drop. Looks like we might have some more ground pounding for you."

"That's what the Marines are for." Jarod smirked, setting some switches. "What's up?"

"Some of the bad guys are regrouping, Skye... We've got a ground unit moving in on them though, so let's avoid dropping any more bunker busters."

Jarod nodded, "You got it Sir, you want to make it any easier on me?"

"Ask me in a few, Skye. I'll think of something else."

A small warning light blinked to life on Xander's threat board and he frowned, glancing down. An instant later he was on the horn. "Angels we've got some official backup coming in from the southeast! They're arming what Merlin informs me are Naquada enhanced warheads! Let's NOT be in the way when they arrive!"

"Got it, Seraphim."

Xander growled, shaking his head. "You keep that up, Herc and I'll..."

"What? Grow wings?" Herc laughed, then became serious. "Abandoning attack run now."

"Roger." Xander replied sourly, pulling up on his own stick. "You hear me, Jack??"

"I got you," O'Neill said calmly. "Pulling out."


"Changing course." The stoic Jaffa said.

"Good." Xander said, checking his screens. "Cause here comes the best Uncle Sam has got to offer."

What was left of the trees in the immediate area of the blast made for poor cover, but they were all that Faith had and the dark Slayer was making the best if very skeletal remains of once proud trees.

She watched the burnt out wreckage of the alien ship carefully, both with her naked eye and through the enhancement of the monocle that covered the other. Both told her that there was bad news ahead.

The surviving Jaffa had regrouped and a big bastard was taking charge of the group. Worse, he seemed to be good at his job. It looked to Faith like this group had given up on the soft touch approach and was setting up to do the job her way. Hard.

Three of them were setting up some kind of tripod mounted blaster that Faith certainly did NOT like the look of.

She was frowning quietly, measuring the range to target, when a familiar voice whispered in her ear through the clamshell headset.

"Miss Tasker, I have contacted the Marines to provide support."

She grimaced, "Listen up, Merl... Don't call me that, ok? I'm Faith. Nothing else."

"And I," He replied, "Am Merlin. But since I doubt you will restrict yourself to my name, I see no reason to forgo the pleasure of using your proper name."

Faith grimaced, "Great. Look... I don't need help from no soldier boys..."

Merlin's voice sounded amused, "Would it help if I told you that the pilot prepared to back you up goes by the amusing appellation 'Jarod Skye'?"

Faith frowned, "Jarod? Not..."

"The Jarod, Miss Tasker." Merlin replied, "I assure you."

Faith's eye widened and she nodded, "Can you patch me through?"

"Without problem."

The man known currently as Jarod Skye maneuvered his big fighter back around as he eyeballed the situation on the ground.

The enemy had taken to being very cautious on the ground, not that Jarod was in any way surprised by that fact, but it did make for a very difficult time tracking them. On his last pass Jarod thought he'd seen some movement around the ship that had actually been ground zero for his bombing run, so he turned the big Tomcat in that direction and brought her down a little lower.

He was somewhat perturbed to suddenly hear a young female voice over his radio.

"Jarod? Jarod? Are you up there?"

He frowned, thumbing his channel open, "Who is this?"

"I'm on the ground. Name's Faith." The voice replied, "No time to explain, but I need a little cover and I'd rather trust you to do it then anyone else."

"Miss, I'm afraid that I'll need an authentication code..." Jarod began, following the rules he'd read up on just before taking his current position, but was cut off.

"Hey. Just *pretend* I gave ya the code ok?" The voice sounded annoyed. "I'm looking at three Jaffa setting up a heavy weapons emplacement here and I don't want them to finish."

Jarod paled slightly, his face tensing at her emphasis on the word pretend. Before he could say anything though, another voice broke in and gave him an authentication code. When he checked it out it cleared and the voice told him to follow the girls instructions.

Jarod swallowed, but nodded. "Alright then... Faith. What can I do for you today?"

In orbit the remaining two squadrons of extra-atmospheric fighters continued a grid by grid search of the combat area as they looked for their two missing men.

"Area fourteen clear." Doug Masters said, frustrated. "Am progressing to area fifteen."

"Roger, Eagle Lead." Samantha Carter replied, "We're progressing to sector twenty three. Still nothing."

Masters refrained from cursing, but his voice was still tinged with the frustration he felt at not being able to find Chappy Sinclair.

He wiped his eyes, blinking them open and forced himself to watch his instrument with a steady stare. He'd had the Hammerhead strapped on for over three hours now, and he knew he was good for another couple days if he had too. He'd pulled over a day once in a -16, refueling and flying the whole time. He figured with the Hammerhead's auto-systems he could hold out for two or more.

With that cheery thought he steeled himself and punched in the search grid for sector fifteen."

<I'll find you Chappy. I swear it.>

"X Lead... Fox One." Ghost said, listening as his squadron opened up and launched their own arsenals.

Six heavy missiles pulled away from the F22 Raptors, accelerating faster then even the enemy Bogey was so far able to do, and the pilots watched tensely as the rocket motors flared away into the distance.

"Pucker up asshole." X Four said angrily, "We got a little kiss coming your way."

"My Lord, we've been fired upon... missiles from a squadron approaching from the south east."

Apophis frowned, glancing at the readouts. "Bah. Do not bother me with the local pests. Only the Kine matter."

With that he turned his attention back to one of the viciously fast Kine fighters and locked it into his targeting sights.

"Incoming missiles from the USAF squadron!" Hercules announced as his system beeped the information. "Merlin's information says we don't want to be within three hundred yards of the initial detonation!"

"Keep moving away." Xander ordered, thumbing his turret control over to manual and blasting off a full automatic burst into the Goa'uld ship.

The Goa'uld suddenly opened fire and their shots crossed each other as they blasted away. Xander threw his fighter over hard, avoiding the first burst, but the Goa'uld tracked him and the blasts followed him through the air.

"Impact!" O'Neill yelled out, and Xander saw a flash in his peripheral vision, but was too busy dodging to pay close attention.

The bridge of the small transport rocked like the hand of God itself was shaking it, and the Jaffa were thrown about like rag dolls.

"My lord! We've lost shields! The missiles overloaded the projectors!"

"Impossible! They are primitives!"

No one dared counter the Goa'uld, but the evidence to counter his statement glared at them from all across the boards.

"Got him!" X Three crowed out.

Ghost shook his head, "That dumb bastard didn't even try to dodge..."

They watched as the flash faded down and the smoke started to clear. In the closing distance they could see a plume of smoke erupting from the target, and it was quickly clear that it was losing altitude as well.

"He's going down!"

Then the ship stabalized and started to pull up.

"Famous last words, Three." Ghost said, tense. "Get ready to launch again."

"Sir... we're into California airspace... if he doesn't go down soon, we'll be fighting over L.A.!"

Xander threw his stick over again and his agile fighter flipped back, looping across the line of fire from the ailing Goa'uld transport. His shields shuddered as he took three clear hits, then was through. "Alright you son of a bitch... You want to play... I'll play."

He pulled hard back on the stick and brought the nose of his fighter up, then hit his retro thrusters and flipped the bird end for end.

The spin pressured him into his seat, the fighter's zero-mass field keeping him from feeling the G-force too much. As his nose came even with the transport, Xander hit his burners again and forced the plane to level out and head straight for the ships aft section, chasing into the rar guns of the Goa'uld ship.

"Let's see how you like to play when you haven't got your shields to protect you."

"My Lord! The damage is worse then we thought! Those missiles must have been Kine built as well!"

Apophis snarled, "Of course they were. You think this pitiful planet could do that to a God's chariot? Go back to your work. We'll deal with the..."

"My Lord! Look!"

Apophis spun around, looking at the main screen as he saw a single fighter whip around and come straight at him. As he watched it angled down and it's forward cannon roared to life while it's dorsal turret swung around and laid flat forward. Then the pulsing death began.

The transport rocked under the intense fire and consoles exploded into showers of sparks and fiery death for the Jaffa working them. Apophis snarled and stepped forward, laying his gauntleted hand against the firing actuator and snarling at the screen as he locked in the target and opened fire.

"Hold fire! Hold fire!" Ghost snapped, just as he was about to announce a launch of his own. As they got closer they watched the head on run made by the allied fighter, and saw the devastating impact it had on the Bandit.

Curls of smoke and splintering debris roared as the fighter opened fire.

"That's got it, Sir." Ghost's wingman pronounced after an awed moment. "That Bandit is going *down*."

Ghost Jones nodded, his mind racing. Quickly he opened up to the command channel, "X Lead to control... X lead to control. Target is losing altitude and... oh shit!"

"What is it X Lead??"

"Target has shot down one of the allied fighters. Repeat! Target is going down, but has downed one of the allied fighters!!"

"Calculate their impact sight!!" Hammond snapped around, watching the screen as the Bandit contact and the allied IFF both started to lose altitude and an increasing rate. "Now!!"

Technicians looked over their information, calculating trajectories in their heads before the computers could get the right numbers punched in, and turned back to the General. "Sir... They're going down just outside of L.A. It'll be a desert hit, but it's going to be visible."

"Just perfect."

The air roared around the cockpit of the Hammerhead as Xander tried to level it out, pulling on the controls in vain as the reactors sputtered out and the nose started to tilt downward with an inexorable force.

He gave up, quickly dipping the nose of his own accord and prepared to build up speed as he watched the Goa'uld transport whine toward the desert just ahead of him.

"This is Angel Lead declaring an emergency." Xander spoke in clipped tones, still fighting the increased buffeting that came with the loss of the Zero-Mass generators. "I'm going down... Repeat, going down."

"Xander, are you alright?" Herc's voice came over the radio and something tickled the back of Xander's neck for an instant, so he threw a glance over his shoulder and spotted the Demi-God's fighter pacing along behind him.

"I'm alive for now." He said into the channel, repeatedly keying the reactors in an attempt to restore power. "But this crate is going the way of my last one..."

"Eject, Xander... Eject!" Herc urged him.

Xander punched the toggle that should have blown the cockpit module clear, but didn't get a response. "Oh fucking perfect."

"What? What is it?"

"Why don't these damned ejection systems ever work for me!?" Xander demanded, hitting the toggle again and again. Finally he gave it up, "I'm going to dead stick it in! Stay with the transport! You can't do anything for me!"

Herc waggled his wings slightly and banked away slightly as he began following the crashing transport. The transport, unlike Xander's Hammerhead, had about as much aerodynamic stability as a wingless brick and was proving it by it's rapid and uncontrolled decent. Still, none of the 'Angels were likely to bet against the Goa'uld surviving.

The damned snakes were too tough for that.

"Hey Wills... you hear that?"

Willow Rosenberg frowned, looking first at her friend and then up at the sky to where a low rumbling could be heard. "Yeah... Thunder?"

Jonathan shook his head, "No... No... Thunder doesn't usually rumble that steady."

Jessie nodded his agreement. "Weird huh?"

Beside the three of them, it was Joy Lee who first spotted the source and her arm came up. "What's that!?"

Everyone looked up, instantly spotting two flaming streaks as they roared through the sky, leaving plumes of smoke behind them.


"Second that." Jonathon said after Jessie. "What are they?"

The lowest of the two, and the largest, actually passed close enough overhead that they got a clear view of it for an instant. It was a huge, flaming, hulk that seemed to be coming down uncontrolled and very very fast.

"Man! We're being invaded!" Jonathan yelped.

Jessie smacked him on the shoulder, "Cut it out with the alien stuff, man."

"Sorry." Jonathon said, lightly rubbing his shoulder.

The second object was much higher up and moving slower, more in control, so the foursome didn't watch it until the first was well past and over the hills in the distance. When they did look up, Jessie frowned as he squinted. "Hey... is that a fighter jet?"

The others with him just shrugged, and before anyone could say anything a huge explosion roared and they all looked to the hills south of town where a fireball was climbing into the sky.


Xander watched the flash of the Goa'uld ship hitting down, but was forced to look ahead as he passed over the last set of hills and saw two things in his front view.

The ocean, and the L.A. skyline.

"Oh hell." He muttered, trying to pull more to the west from his current southerly course. "No no no no NO! I am NOT crashing into downtown L.A.!!"

As he fought the stick the wounded bird slowly responded, arcing slightly to the west and away from the huge buildings. After long minutes of fighting the dying Hammerhead, Xander found himself staring at the colling waves of the Pacific ocean.

"This is Angel Lead," He called out as his plane continued to lose altitude. "Am going down... expect a splash down just north west of Los Angeles. Merlin?"

"Yes Commander?"

"You better get a recovery craft out here ASAP. We don't want a Hammerhead in the wrong hands." Xander said, watching the water rush up toward him. "And uh... Send a rescue unit as soon as you can."

Merlin started to reply, but the Hammerhead plowed into the water before he could and all that Xander could hear was a sudden rushing roar and then he was slammed forward against the harness and everything went black.

"And uh... Send a rescue unit as soon as you can..."

"Certainly, Commander... Commander? Commander!?..."

"This is X Lead to Control... Both Bandit and Allied Fighter are down. Bandit is just north of L.A. Ally is down in the water north west of the city. Request response teams to the following coordinates...."

The room was dark, forgotten for the moment, but not dead. With a roar, lights filled it up and a black car nudged forward, pushing open the big double doors of the boat house gently. When they were open, the lights on the gas pedal lit up along the length of it and the car squealed out, burning rubbed as it skidded in a tight turn and headed north.

Xander woke up choking and sputtering, feeling water rush in around him. He shook his head, quickly rapping the release on his harness and forcing his mind to clear. Above him the sun was shining, so he wasn't under water yet. He flipped the manual catches on the canopy, blowing the seals with minor detonations, and pushed it up and away from him as he climbed up.

As he clambered up on the airframe, Xander glanced around and quickly spotted the beach.

<Not too far.> He thought, flipping his helmet off and tossing it back into the cockpit. <Lucky.>

He staggered as the plane shifted under him and started to sink. Xander scrambled up the frame of the once proud fighter and dove off towards the beach.

He swam slowly toward shore, weighed down by his gear but supported by his flightsuit as it kept the water from reaching his skin. Only minutes later he was stumbling along the sandy bottom as he climbed up the beach, pushed along by the breaking waves.

Xander paused on the shoreline, noting the spectators that had gathered. One blond guy with a surfboard under one arm was brave enough to walk close to him.

"Dude." The guy said in a brain dead tone of voice and with a silly smile on his face, "You crashed your jet, man..."

Xander looked at the guy for a moment, disbelief passing over his face. For a moment he wanted to do nothing more then draw his Desert Eagle and make a big show of checking it over, but instead he just stared at the guy until the blond started looking nervous. Then he said, "Gee Thanks for letting me know, man. I hadn't noticed."

"No problem, dude." The guy grinned.

Xander shook his head and shouldered his way up the beach.

"Jack, you see anything down there?"

"Nothing yet, Kevin." O'Neill responded, slowlyin circling his Hammerhead around the wreck. "Anything from Xander yet?"


"He'll pull through."

"Yeah," Hercules said soberly. "I'm sure he will."

"Colonel O'Neill... Mr Sorbo..." Teal'C broke in, "I believe that I see movement below."

"What? Where?" Jack demanded, then suddenly cursed. "I do NOT believe this crap! What does it take to kill these cockroaches!?"

"You!" Xander snapped to a startled man who was halfway up the beach.

The man jumped, pointing at himself.

"Yeah, you." Xander said, coming up to him, "I need your Cell."

The man looked at the phone he was talking on, "Uh... I'm talking to..."

Xander grabbed the phone, putting it up to his ear. "He'll call you back. Merlin?"

It took all of three seconds, and the signal faded and jumped as the AI overrode the cellular broadcast and inserted his own signal. "I'm here Commander. Good you hear from you."

"Good to be here." Xander said, "Look I'm going to need transport and a ground assault team to secure the crash site. Heavy weapons... Anti-tank at least. Check what's in the area, ok?"

"Confirmed." Merlin said, "I will have a rental car to your position in..."

Xander tuned him out as he looked up at the sound of squealing tires just in time to see a black trans-am skid off the parking lot and come racing down the sand as people dashed out of it's way. "Hang on a sec, Merl."

The car slid to a stop beside him and Xander looked at it for a moment.

"Whoa. Nobody's... like... driving dude."

Xander ignored the familiar voice and walked over to the car. "Hello KARR."

The vehicle was silent for a moment. Then it slowly rumbled, "Hello."

"What's up?"

Another long silence.

"We have a deal." It rumbled. "If you're dead... you can't keep your word."

Xander nodded, "That's true. Tell you what, give me a lift and we'll work out the details."

The drivers side door flipped open.

Xander put the phone back up to his ear, "Merlin. Cancel the transport. I've got my own. I still need that team, see what the military is sending... and then make sure they triple it."

"Understood, Commander."

Then Xander flipped the phone closed and tossed it off to the owner as he slid into the driver's seat of the black sports car.

"Let's burn rubber, baby." Xander smirked.

KARR didn't respond, but the car spun around on the soft sand, spraying the crowd with sand, and then accelerated hard and fast for the road.

"You ready?"

"Standing by, Miss."

Faith grimaced, "Call me Faith, J. And give me a ten count, then make your move."

"Ten count starting... now."

Faith broke from her cover, sprinting across the open terrain that had be blast cleared by Jarod's previous pass, counting off the seconds in her head. She hadn't wanted to bring the others on this one, mostly because she knew that they were hurt a lot worse then she was and didn't have the benefit of her endurance and recovery time. But that mean that she was playing the game a lot like her old self this one time.

She had to admit, in some dark corner of herself, it felt good.

At five she had reached her new cover, a ruptured section of ground that had been ripped up by the force of the 2000 pound bomb Jarod had dropped, and the yells from the nearby Jaffa contingent spotted her.

She hit the ground on her knees, skidding along the rough dirt and coming to a stop by the edge of the protruding mound of dirt. Staff blasts impacted around her, kicking up dirt and showering her with pebbles and debris, but she ignored that while she mentally kept count.

In the not so far distance Faith could hear the approaching thunder of the Hornet.

At seven she threw herself back on to the mound and slid the business end of the smart gun over it. Through the monocular eyepiece she watched the dispersion of the Jaffa with a critical eye, they were too close together for what was coming but that was perfectly fine with her.

At Ten, she flipped the tracking system to full automatic and squeezed the trigger.

KARR made fools of the L.A. traffic laws as the powerful car ripped through the streets with near impunity. Nothing on the road could catch him, and few police even caught a glimpse in the first place. He had spent the weeks hacking into the police radios and learning their codes and operating procedures again.

Now he easily skipped through RADAR traps, evading photo-radar and leaving nothing but a faint impression of a black blur on the eyes of the occasional patrol cars that came close enough to actually spot it.

Xander, for his part, sat back and let the car do the work while he tried to calm the ringing in his ears from the crash. <They say that any landing you can walk away from was a good one... wonder what they'd say about one you had to swim away from?>

<If you're still breathing, then it was good enough in wartime.> Elan replied calmly, her tone soothing his nerves.

He nodded, "Yeah. I suppose."

KARR heard him, "Suppose?"

"Sorry KARR," Xander said, "I was talking too... myself."

"Understood. Human minds are frail."

Xander frowned, then half smiled. "Yeah. I suppose we are. But we're also flexible, KARR."


"We bend. We don't break." Xander said in reply. "Human's rarely find themselves impossibly trapped by their own 'directives'."

KARR fell silent for a while, but then spoke up again. "How will you help me?"

Xander nodded slowly, "We'll get you fixed up... especially that hole I made in your hood... It'll be tricky, but we should be able to get the formula for the molecular armor. A full systems check, and the best replacement parts we can find. I gave you my word."

"Affirmative." KARR rumbled, "and after?"

"After I will offer you a choice."

Another long silence, and Xander knew that the computer was waiting for him to speak, but he wouldn't. Finally it was KARR who broke the silence.

"What choice?"

"You can go it alone..." Xander said, "Take your chances out there... but if you go against the Foundation or any of my friends, then I'll come after you. If you obey the law and maybe find yourself a partner you can work with... well then I'll provide you whatever help I can."

KARR was silent again, going over that option for some time. "The other option?"

"You could stay with me." Xander said, "I could use someone of your talents. You'll have to walk a line... in a manner of speaking. But I'll personally guarantee that you won't be reprogrammed, deactivated, or have any modifications made without your permission. In exchange for the help... you get all my resources backing you up... and KARR, I have a lot of resources."

The black car continued the drive toward the coordinates that had been provided by it's passenger, and ponderously considered the offer. The AI disliked intensely the fact that it wasn't bargaining from a position of strength. Normally it made certain to keep it's interaction with humans on that level. Human's could not be trusted in it's experience, that was a given.

It was also a given, however, that this human had yet to lie to him. This human had many opportunities to destroy him, of that KARR was certain, and he hadn't. This time, KARR was on the other side of the bargaining equation, and in his place KARR knew that he would have squeezed the human for every demand he had.

His logic circuits simply couldn't understand why the human wasn't doing the same.

"KARR," Xander leaned forward, "Can you get me a cellular signal?"


"Good... I want you to contact this number..." Xander gave the AI the number, and waited as the connection was made.


"Yes Commander."

"Good, what do you have on the military situation?" Xander asked, leaning back and watching the road fly by.

"The army base outside of Sunnydale has responded first..."

"Oh wonderful. Those guys couldn't keep a teenager out of their anti-tank weapons..." Xander muttered, "The Jaffa will shred them."

"Perhaps, Commander. Perhaps not." Merlin sounded like he was smiling.

Xander frowned, "What do you know?"

Jarod squeezed the trigger on the 20mm vulcan cannon as he roared over the battlefield, strafing the ground like he was in some prop plane in world war two.

The angle of attack made his pass a *very* short strafing run, but the heavy six barreled cannon was more then up to the task of sending the Jaffa counter attack into disarray as fifteen hundred twenty millimeter rounds ripped their fortifications, and them, to shreds.

The smart gun twisted her in her hands, actual resisting Faith's very weight as she used the pull of the powerful weapon to bring herself to her feet in a graceful pivot that didn't remove the barrel of the weapon from it's targets for a single instant of it's whining chatter.

The Jaffa were torn to shreds, caught in a lethal crossfire from both ground and air, and Faith leapt up on the embankment as she began to stride forward in an attempt to make certain that they STAYED shredded this time.

"This is Brian Berkowitz for KTLA news, I'm on sight at the scene of a military transport jet that went down just south of the small town of Sunnydale to L.A.'s north. Earlier today this transport was caught in a mid-air collision with a fighter jet when a solar flare temporarily blinded RADAR installations across the country. The current state of the Fighter pilot, who crashed into the pacific a short while ago, is unknown."

The camera shifted away from the reporter as a black trans-am approached the military barricade that the news team was reporting from.

"We have some motion here... most vehicles have been turned away at this point, but I see that the military guard seems to be conferring with the driver of this car... let's see if we can get a little closer."

"Sergeant." Xander said, slipping out of the car. He glanced up to where a news team was trying to get a shot of him, then calmly turned his back on them.

"Sir." The man replied hesitantly, trying to gage the apparent youth of the man beside him against the weapons that were slung off him with a casual professionalism that the sergeant recognized. There was also the fact that this kid knew all the pass codes and was demanding to speak with the general.

"Let's go, shall we?" Xander asked calmly, bringing up his soldier memories from the depths he and Elan normally kept them in. His shoulders came back and his steps unconsciously slipped into step with the Sergeant's.

"Uh... Yes Sir." The man said unhappily, "This way."

Xander smiled encouragingly, and then followed as the man led him up the hill past the barricade that kept the newsies back.

"We don't know who that was, but he must be part of the response team that was brought together to recover the transport's contents and rescue any survivors." The reporter said into the camera, "For KTLA, I'm Brian Berkowitz."

When the 'on air' light went out, the reporter turned to his cameraman. "Tell me you got a shot of his face?"

"Sorry boss." The guy said, "He just flicked his eyes toward us and then turned his back. Nothing more then a bit of his profile... and not much of that."


Xander climbed the hill, standing for a moment at the crest of it and looking down at the smoking ruin beyond. "Damn."

"I know what you mean, Sir." The Sergeant nodded, "That's as weird as I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot."

Xander nodded, not bothering to say that his reason for saying damn was undoubtedly different from the sergeants. Because despite the crash, and the explosion, Xander could tell that most of the ship was very nearly intact.

It didn't bode well for the immediate future of the military units on the ground. Xander sighed, then continued walking, his eyes climbing to the three Hammerheads slowly orbiting the wreckage.

He was brought out of his reverie by a familiar voice.

"Alright, who the hell are you kid? I don't have time for screwing around."

Xander straightened, snapping off a perfect military salute, and then following it with a Kine salute, his right palm open up against his left shoulder.

"Commander Harris, The Knighthood forces field commander." Xander nodded up at the sky. "Those are my birds in the sky, General Irwin."

Faith walked softly through the carnage, part of her screaming as she looked over the death that she and Jarod had created.

Jaffa were dead en mass, lying where they had fallen, some across weapons and others fallen over the bodies of their comrades. Their armor was stained with rusty red blood, the ground actually sticky under foot as she moved.



"Area clear." Faith said softly, "are there any more?"

"No. The Island is clear."

Faith nodded, "Good."

She powered down her Smart Gun and sat down heavily on one of the embankments the Jaffa had used to mount their heavy weapons. "Oh God."

The Holographic Avatar of the ancient AI silently turned his head as the tough boston Slayer suddenly turned her head and lost her lunch.

General Eugene Irwin glowered at the kid who was looking at him with a cocky smile. He returned the salute in a professional manner, not bothering to imitate the odd second 'salute' the boy had given, then turned his back on the boy to look back down over the crash sight.

The General had seen a hell of a lot in his life, enough that he'd had his doubts about what the government really knew about certain areas, but this was certainly an eye opener. Either someone on this planet was playing with stuff so far beyond Irwin's ken it was ridiculous, or a few of the crazier theories of the universe might have some validity afterall.

After a moment he turned back to the kid, mildly impressed that the boy hadn't moved appreciably. He nodded curtly, "Talk to me."

The kid stepped forward, coming up to his side. "Expect Thirty to forty heavily armed and armored combatants. They'll be tough, but your people can handle them without undo problems. Their leader, though, you'd best leave to me."

Irwin frowned, but skipped that for the moment. "Weapons?"

"Staff weapons." Xander replied, "clumsy, but capable of throwing high powered bursts of energy... It'll go through any armor you have available."


"Crude. They're used to fighting from a position of overwhelming force...." Xander replied.

Irwin frowned, glancing to the side at the boy... young man, he corrected himself, and wondered how someone that young had acquired the experience to assess a situation like that. "Lieutenant?"

"Yes Sir!"

"Direct the sniper teams to move forward, and have an assault group form up." Irwin said, "And double check with the artillery control that they have the range of that wreck."

"Yes Sir!"

As the young officer ran off, Irwin turned back to Xander. "Tell me about the leader. What makes him dangerous?"

"His weapons are... less civilized." Xander said softly, "Designed to kill painfully, not quickly."

"That should work in our favor."

"No, General." Xander said firmly. "It's won't."

"Why not?"

"He'll be surrounded by an energy shield." Xander replied. "Short of a tactical nuke I doubt anything you have will penetrate it."

Irwin frowned. It sounded like some crap from a scifi movie, but the problem was the whole scenario seemed to be the imagining of some warped author's mind. "What makes you think you can take it?"

Xander shrugged, "Trust me."

"Not good enough." Irwin snapped, "You're an unknown. Despite the fact that you know the codes and the fact that you have a couple big shots from DC backing you. Oh yes, don't think I haven't gotten calls about you already... But I'm in charge out here, and I'm not risking the success of this operation on you. Sorry kid, you sit this one out."


"Save it." Irwin cut him off, "I have work to do."

Xander watched as the general walked away, an almost unnoticed signal bringing several heavily armed troops to attention around him. Xander scowled, looking around at the men who were not so subtly fencing him in.

He sighed, shaking his head. "This can go nowhere good."

"My lord, the enemy approaches."

"Deploy the heavy emplacments when they enter optimum range."

"Yes My Lord."

Lieutenant James Carson crept forward slowly as he kept his eyes on the objective, his CAR-15 cradled easily in the crook of one arm as he dropped to a crouch behind a splintered tree. The crash had wreaked a massive amount of damage on the hill side, but that was all the better for cover. Carson's quick eyes spotted the movement at the ship first and he quickly held up his hand, fist clenched.

His squad ghosted to a halt behind him, each of the fifteen men becoming part of the terrain as he called them up. The motion passed, and soon there was nothing ahead of him again, so Carson opened his fist and flipped his hand forward silently.

He hadn't even started to move again when all hell broke loose.

Xander winced as the first blasts from the heavy Goa'uld energy weapons opened up. The Jaffa had caught one of the squads in a tight crossfire, something that no one could have predicted without better knowledge of the interior of the ship then even Xander himself had, but it was going to hurt.

The energy blasts ripped through the trees, turning more of them into matchsticks and kindling.

Around him the command post erupted into action as calls for backup started coming in and General Irwin quickly began snapping orders.

"Have the artillery units rake the crash site. Instruct Squads five and eight to converge on Six." Irwin snapped calmly, "Where's my air support?"

The radio man swallowed, "The units can't be here for another eight minutes."

The general scowled, but didn't say anything. He turned away after a moment, looking back down toward the crash with a determined look on his face but eyes haunted by past missions.

"Sir." Xander ventured.

Irwin turned back, scowling lightly, "What is it?"

"Like I said before Sir," Xander glanced skyward, "Those are my birds. And they're capable of ground support operations."

Irwin took a breath, but didn't hesitate, and nodded. "Do it."

Xander was instantly beside the radio man, "I need the mic."

The man hesitated, but a glance from Irwin settled that matter, and finally handed over the radio mic. Xander grabbed it, speaking a single word. "Merlin."

As per his standard operating procedure, the Avalon AI was monitoring all transmissions withing a fifty kilometer range of his Commander's location, and it took only seconds before the frequency was overridden and appropriated by the AI's voice. "Yes Commander?"

"Put me in touch with the Angels."

A moment later Hercules' voice was what Xander heard, "Xander?"

"I'm here, hugging dirt below you." Xander said, "We got a couple squads pinned down by heavy fire from the Jaffa. I need you and the Angel's to pound that wreck a bit."

"You got it." Herc replied, "tell those boys to keep their heads down... We've got a little wrath of god coming their way... wrath of demi-god anyway."

Xander laughed lightly, "You got it. Good hunting. Xander out."

He handed the mic back to the radio-operator, "Let them know what's coming down."

The man nodded, instantly relaying commands to the squads while Xander rejoined Irwin at his vantage point.

The three orbiting Hammerheads pivoted in mid air like attack helos and their reactors screamed as they came in fast and hard with forward cannons blazing. Irwin watched the attack through a powerful pair of field glasses and, as usual, scowled.

"Good flying, and not that I don't appreciate the cover... but why aren't they using the ordinance under their wings?"

"Because they're carrying heavy ship killers." Xander answered truthfully.

"Can lock on ground targets?"

"Oh they could." Xander shrugged, "But they wouldn't really have to actually."

"Oh?" Irwin glanced over, "Why's that?"

"Because even if they missed by ten miles or so they'd still vaporize the target." Xander said blandly, "Those are Trans-atomics. We don't use them inside a planetary atmosphere, General."

Irwin's eyes widened and he stared at Xander in shock.

"I found him!"

Doug Masters circled the dead Hammerhead slowly, his eyes searching the dark hulk as the powerful forward flood lamp played over the lithe little battlecraft.

Doug licked his lips slowly, his breath coming softly as he passed the little emblem of the Hawk with the clutched M-1 rifle in it's wings. It was definitely Chappy's fighter.

Now, what about Chappy himself?

"Doug, what's his status!"

"Unknown." Master's spoke, but even as he said it he knew it was a lie.

His heart stopped in his chest and he deflated in his seat as his search light played over the cockpit of the tough little fighter and spotted the single piece of damage visible on the Hammerhead.

The clear canopy, stronger then imaginable by any comparison to modern materials, had been perforated by a single spike of debris. The metal shard was about three meters long by Doug's best guess and less then a meter was sticking out of the cockpit.

Doug swallowed his grief as he let his light play lower to carefully view the *second* Hammerhead that was connected to Chappy's bird by the ugly spike of metal.

"Wheeler?" Doug called out, "Can you hear me? Please answer me, girl."

No response came from the second hammerhead, but Doug edged closer. His visual inspection told him that the shard had penetrated Wheeler's Hammerhead at the forward point that connected it's twin reactors. A hit there would force an emergency shutdown to prevent the reactors going critical, but the backups should have kept life support going.

"Rescue and recovery team required at the following coordinates." Doug said, his face clenched tensely as he kept his voice level as his eyes shifted between the hulk that belonged to his mentor, and the one that belonged to his best student.

Lieutenant Carson dove for the ground when the air strike code word came over the radio, hitting the rough ground in a slide and rolling over on his back as he took shelter. Above him he spotted the smooth belly of one of those strange aircraft slide past as a roaring whine shredded the air above him.

James Carson didn't know who the hell they were, but he'd never seen a more beautiful sight. As the attack continued he flipped back over and propped himself up, quickly fitting a range finder to his eyes as he scanned the wreck for the movement he'd spotted earlier.

<There!> His eyes glinted in triumph as he glanced over his shoulder. "Mitchell!


"Tell the Old Man I need an arty strike to the following coordinates..." Carson read off the numbers from his laser range finder. "Expedite!"

"Yes Sir."

"We have a request for a mobile artillery strike, General."

Irwin nodded, "Send it in."

"Yes Sir."

"Head's down L.T.!" P.O. Mitchell called out seconds later. "We've got a T.O.T from three units in ten!"

Mitchell hit the dirt after that, covering his head with his arms as he tried to become part of the very ground itself. The rest of Carson's squad did the same, huddling up where they could to ride out the inevitable concussion and rain of fire and debris that was coming.

Carson rolled under a toppled tree, but kept his eyes open as the strike roared in with all the subtlety of a freight train jumping it's tracks. The heavy screams roared overhead and Carson recognized the sound of the 155mm rounds fired from Paladin howitzers that were probably firing from more then ten kilometers away.

For a second the Lieutenant shivered at the thought of those incredibly destructive rounds literally flying over the heads of thousands of unsuspecting civilians, but then it passed as the entire barrages rained down on the wreck with the eerie single blast of a Time on Target strike. He blinked, but didn't move from his position, and kept on scanning the fiery blaze intently.

The ship rocked around him as Apophis grabbed for the wall to hold himself up, "Report!"

"We're taking heavy strikes from long range weapons, my lord!" The Jaffa Prime of his personal guard said, bracing himself against the hits. "The ship's armor can't take much of this in it's current condition!"

"We will break out and through the Tau'Ri." Apophis decided.

"Yes my lord!" The Jaffa slapped his fist over his heart.

As the flames died down again, Carson stared in shock at how little the TOT strike had actually damaged the wreck. Oh the metal was scorched, and even cracked more in some places then it was before, but it was nothing compared to what it should have been.


"What is it, L.T.??"

"Tell the Old Man that we've got a problem, P.O.!" Carson relayed what he'd seen, "And tell him I'm moving in for a closer look!"

Irwin lifted the powerful pair of field glasses to his eyes, staring at the smoking and burning wreck before him as he considered the report.

"You should call him back." Xander said. "If they catch him in that crossfire..."

Irwin glanced to one side, shrugging. "Carson is a Ranger, Harris. He knows what he's doing."

Xander started to speak again, but hesitated slightly before backing down.

"Now! Go!"

The Jaffa followed the order, bursting from cover as they scrambled for cover in the trees that lay around them, their staff weapons blazing as they laid down a frightening level of cover fire against the bunkered down Ranger team that had been engaging them.

Behind them, their God and two of his faithful quietly slipped away in the opposite direction and faded into the trees.

As they vanished, a wraith like figure in Ranger black detached itself from the shadow of the trees and ghosted through the forest after them.

<Oh no you don't.> Lieutenant James Carson thought to himself as he swiftly glided through the unbroken trees after his quarry.

These three were clumsy, noisy, and inept in the trees but that didn't matter much given the levl of distraction they had behind them. Carson knew that with the military still rushing to keep civilians *out* that these two might just get away in the confusion.

But not while he was dogging them.

The Ranger moved quickly, but doglegged constantly as he kept himself out of sight of his quarry. As he confirmed their position he softly activated his throat mic.

"Sir, Ranger Three reports that three hostiles are attempting to break away to the north under the cover of this attack."

Irwin frowned, turning away from the raging firefight for a moment and turning to the hastily set up 'war table' and the map that was laid out there. His finger quickly found the crash site and slowly traced a line to the north until he reached a road there. "Damn!"

"That's be the leader, General." Harris said from his side. "This is the sort of tactic he'd use. The troops your men are fighting are being sacrificed."

Irwin scowled, despising the mentality that it took to sacrifice over thirty troops just to save ones self. "I want every unit we have around to this road... double time!"

"Yes Sir!"

Xander shrugged, "That's my cue."

As the young man turned to leave, Irwin grabbed his shoulder. "Where the hell do you think you're going??"

"General, you do NOT want your men to go up against this target unsupported." Xander said calmly. "He'll break clear through them... or worse."

Something in the young man's eyes sent a shiver up his spine. "Worse?"

Xander nodded, "Much worse. They might actually catch him."

Irwin frowned, but his hand dropped of it's own accord. After a second he nodded, "Go. But this isn't over."

"It never ends, General." Xander said over his shoulder as he walked away. "Sometimes it just goes underground for a few thousand years."

James Carson stuck to his quarry like a shadow, doggedly refusing to let them get away. They moved pretty fast considering all the junk they wore, but it wouldn't have mattered if they moved twice as fast. Carson was a Ranger by God, and they weren't slipping away from him.

Just the same, he kept the range open. He'd seen enough of those weapons to have an healthy respect for their destructive capabilities, and didn't especially want to put his combat vest to the test against one of them.

Up ahead he could see the tree line break, and knew that they'd be out on the road soon. When that happened, he'd have to make a choice. He could try to follow them, but he'd lose the cover of the trees if he did. The only other choice, other then letting the army regulars have these ones (like that was a real choice.), would be to set up an ambush from the tree line.

Carson checked his clip as he moved, dropping the partially spent one in the dirt as he passed and drew a fresh one from his tactical vest.

"Let's move." Xander said simply as he slid in behind the wheel of the Knight Industries Roving Robot.

KARR obliged, his wheels spinning up the gravel and dirt as the black car spun around in a fast turn and then blew out of the lot toward the main road to the north.

"What occurred?"

Xander glanced down, "Three of the targets are escaping to the north. They could cause some serious trouble if left unchecked."

KARR didn't respond.

"Are your transmitters online?"


"Good," Xander said, "Open an unused frequency for me."



A moment later Merlin's voice came back as he shifted his attention to the new frequency and hijacked a communication sattelite to bounce off of. "Yes, Commander?"

"Two Jaffa and presumably one Goa'uld are escaping the wreck to the north..."

"I'm aware of that." Merlin replied. "A single unit is in pursuit, and the military is scrambling several units to intercept."

"I'm going to get there first."

"Indeed." Merlin said, unsurprised. "I recommend caution."

"Against two Jaffa and a Goa'uld? No shit." Xander shook his head in annoyance.

Merlin continued, unperturbed, "They will break out onto the road three miles ahead of you. You will miss them at your current speed."


"Affirmative." The vehicle said, putting the pedal down as it pushed it's engine to the limit. "Engaging Boost Mode."

Xander's head snapped back as the car forced him back into the seat, his eyes on the speed guage as the digital readout climbed past one hundred and eighty and kept going up.

Apophis and his two escorts were halfway across the travel route they'd found when a sudden chattering of weapon's fire took them by surprise. A spattering of sparks erupted from one of his Jaffa escort's armor and the Jaffa went down after a moment of dancing from the impact.

Apophis and his other Jaffa spun around, and the Jaffa leveled his Staff Weapon on the flash he'd spotted from the treeline and opened fire.

The heavy blasts ripped into the trees, masking the whisper quiet approach of the black vehicle from the west. The first the Goa'uld knew of it's approach was when the car braked and went into a controlled skid that came to a stop about fifteen meters away.

Caught between two potential attacks, Apophis calmly kicked the staff weapon of his fallen Jaffa into the air and grabbed it. He swiftly leveled the long weapon on the new target and opened fire.

As the car skidded to a stop, Xander spotted the Staff Weapon as it leveled on them and his mind raced to his conversations with Michael Knight in the past that would never happen now. "KARR, are you equipped with ejection seats?"


"Drop me right in his path." Xander said, hitting his restraint release and taking a breath.

"Calculating." KARR said, then the roof slid open and Xander was suddenly catapulted through the air.

Apophis jerked his staff upwards in response to the sudden flash of movement that went up, firing as he did, but the figure was moving too damned fast for him to aim.

Xander pulled his guns as he twisted in mid air, ignoring the heat of the blasts from the Goa'uld Staff Weapon. He amped his senses to the maximum just as he reached the apex of his path, leveling both Five-seveN's on the Goa'uld in slow motion.

As he began to drop to the ground again he opened fire.

The shots of the 5.7mm weapons were like far off pops of a cap gun, and Xander could see the bullets strike off the energy field surrounding the Goa'uld.

And then, everything sped up again.

Apophis tracked down, firing continuously as his target hit the ground in a blinding fast motion and rolled across the hard surface of the road toward him.

The self proclaimed God held his place, making one final adjustment to his aim as the figure rolled to a kneeling stop right at his feet.

His eyes glowed white, and an evil smile crossed the Goa'uld's face. "At least you know your place. On your knees before your superiors... I'm going to destroy you now."

Xander's head snapped up, looking up into the glowing eyes of his enemy and suddenly his own eyes flashed silver as he thrust his guns forward. "My guns are inside your shield now, Snake. You kill me and..."

An ominous click sounded from his weapons as Xander flipped the selectors full automatic. "I'll fill you full of armor piercing rounds as I die."

Carson's eyes widened in shock as he watched the rather spectacular display of aerobatics, but even as his frontal thoughts focused on that his rearmost thoughts instantly locked onto something else.

<What in the name of HELL stopped those bullets??> The Ranger's subconscious demanded of his trained mind. He instantly put aside the feat of acrobatics and focused on what mattered.

<First... the guy I *can* handle.>

He shifted his Car-15 and emptied the rest of the clip into the armored goon that was laying down cover fire in his general direction.

The burring report of an automatic weapon startled both Xander and Apophis, causing them to glance to one side as the string of shots ricocheted off the Jaffa's armor in a stream of sparks. The armor handled most of it, but some inevitably blew through and the last Jaffa of Apophis' guard fell.

That instant became a long eternal moment as Xander and the Goa'uld realized at the same time that the moment to act was then.

Xander moved first, batting the end of the Staff weapon away from his head with his guns, then shifting his aim to take out the alien.

Apophis reacted instantly, shifting into a practiced spin that swept with the force of Xander's blow and brought the Staff weapon around in a full circle. As Xander's fingers tightened on the triggers of his Five-seveN the blunt and heavy back end of the Staff Weapon crashed into his hands and knocked the two guns clear.

As the Five-seveN's clattered to the ground, Xander was already on the move. He jumped up from his squating position, powering as hard as he could, and leapt clear over the followup sweep of the Staff that had been aimed at his head. He flipped back, actually kicking off the Goa'uld armor for leverage, and landed back about three feet.

<Elan!> He called out, summoning the ancient weapon to his hand. As the elegantly curved silver weapon fitted itself to his hand, and he smiled ferally. <Activate!>

The ancient weapon bucked in his hand, extending from one foot to seven in an instant, and Xander spun to the attack.

Battlestaff met Staff Weapon just as the Goa'uld was bringing the weapon to bear on Xander for firing, and the force of Xander's attack drove the point of Apophis' weapon to the ground. He held it there, then grinned ferally again as he looked up into the white glowing eyes of the alien, his own silver gleam answering the unspoken challenge.

"What are you?" The alien rasped out.

Xander grinned wider, "I'm Kine."

The self proclaimed god paled, his eyes widening. "That's not possible! All your kind were destroyed!"

Xander's eyes bored into the aliens, "A people who go down fighting always rise again, Snake. Only those who surrender are truly dead."

With those words he shifted balance and suddenly struck out with a vicious backhanded blow from his staff, catching the alien across the face and knocking him back, reeling.

Carson shifted his aim, trying for a shot against the armored figure he'd been pursuing, but the fierce battle below kept him from getting that shot. Not that he was certain it would do any good, far from it considering what he had just seen, but he had to try.

The Ranger shifted from his position and quickly moved forward, emerging from the treeline as he approached the battle scene below.

KARR edged forward slowly, trying to make sense of what his micro relay sensors were reporting. The energy release from the two figures ahead of him were actually registering on his Microwave relays and his thermal overlay was noting a fast climb in the energy output of the one designated Xander Harris.

If the machine could have frowned, that expression would likely have been a permanent etching on his hood, but at this moment it would likely have been deeper still. Xander's thermal output had risen quickly to a point that was lethal for humans, and was still moving up as he moved with an alacrity that seemed impossible.

Occasional maneuvers by Xander also had KARR performing system diagnostics on his sensors, because the AI was quite certain that the young man had actually broken at least two rules of physical law in the last thirty seconds.

A stray subroutine that a human might define as curiosity edged out self preservation slightly, and the black trans-am edged closer still.

As much as Xander hated to admit it, the Snake was good.

He spun around, falling back a step as he whirled Elan behind his back and finally came to a rest. The silver weapon was cradled behind him in the crook of his left arm while his empty right hand slid smoothly into a martial 'en guard' stance. His lips curled slightly as he inclined his head, "Not bad."

Apophis lifted his staff, examining the tip for damage, then blew some dirt from the weapon's emitters. He noted that the weapon was still functional, a slow smile crossing his face. "I'm a God."

Xander smirked, "Right. Sorry pal, but I've met the real deal before... you don't come close."

The Goa'uld scowled slightly, a low growl rumbling in his chest as he calculated the odds. The boy was fast, that was certain, and his weapon seemed unfazed by Apophis' shield. The self proclaimed God slowly lowered his Staff Weapon, not pointing it at Xander, but at something else as he talked. "So... Kine..."

Apophis smirked, "Fitting name for your people... We did, afterall, lead them all to slaughter like the cattle they are."

Xander's face darkened, his smirk vanishing into a thin lipped scowl. "Watch your mouth, snake."

"Does the truth bother you so?"

Xander growled himself now, "Don't think I don't know how the monsters of this world... demonic and alien alike, twisted the language and the legends, *snake*. I speak a language older then you're *species*, and I draw the meanings from there... not from the poor twisted language you tried to leave us as your legacy."

"Ah, but it is all true, after all..." Apophis smiled wider suddenly as he moved like lightning. "Your kind can always be led around by the nose."

Then he opened fire.

Not at Xander, but behind him.

Xander's mind was already in the first level of enhancement, his sense of time slightly slowed and the portions of his brain that assimilated sense data narrowed to only hearing and sight in order to better process those two for the fight. As the Goa'uld moved, he climbed instantly from level one to level two, and the floodgates opened.

Instantly he KNEW that KARR was behind him, and he KNEW that the Staff blasts would strike the vehicle on the hood that he himself had damaged. Under that were the irreplaceable components that made up the personality and *person* that was the KARR AI.

Xander didn't think, he acted.

He threw himself into the path of the blasts, not knowing and not trusting whether the vaunted molecular armor would withstand a heavy barrage from the alien weapon. It didn't matter.

Elan whirled like an aircraft propellor in his hands, her distinctive silver glow suddenly blazing to the intensity of a nova as Xander placed them in the path of fire.

The first shot struck off her tip, actually being ricocheted away by the whirling dervish of energy and metal. The next came closer to the center before being batted away, imparting some of it's energy to Xander and Elan. The third and final struck them full on, dead center, and imparted all of it's considerable power to them.

The blow snapped Xander out of the dreamy world that second level enhancement had wrought and suddenly he found himself flung straight backward, through the air, away from the Goa'uld. Xander's legs struck the hood of the black car, and he flipped end for end over it, his head smacking down on the armored roof and he fell back behind the vehicle as blackness fell over him.

Apophis smirked, raising his staff weapon in satisfaction. He didn't know who as piloting the strange vehicle he had fire on, but he didn't have to to know the reaction of the so called Knight. Their kind were hopeless.

KARR, for once in his existence, didn't take even a millisecond to *think*. His programming didn't even factor into the events that happened next, to the point that later, when it was all over, the AI would not be able to determine what chain of logical descision led him to his actions.

All that happened was that his gas pedal suddenly became welded to the floor.

As his tires bit into the road, the turbo boost engagement sequence initiated. And less then two seconds later he had covered the distance between him and the person that attacked him.

He was traveling just under one hundred miles per hour when he struck the armored individual at the knees and drove him back off the road.

That was before the turbo boost initiated fully. When they hit the huge redwood tree they were both moving two hundred and thirty. The armored figure's legs crushed like popcans and even KARR's armored front crumpled slightly.

Apophis stared in shock at the empty cockpit before him, the pain in his legs almost like some faint non-event. As the vehicle suddenly backed away, the 'God' fell to his knees and then back against the huge tree behind him. His eyes widened as he realized that no one was driving the vehicle that was even then accelerating toward him again.

<How ignominious.> He thought, just as the red light on the front of the vehicle struck him in the face, and drove his head back into the tree at seventy miles per hour.

James Carson edged out of the treeline slowly, his CAR-15 sweeping the arc between the two combatants and the black car as he moved with swift but quiet strides. He climbed down into the ditch and clambered up the other side and quickly made his way to the man that had fought his quarry.

He got there just as the man groaned and started to move again.

Xander groaned, the first thing coming back to him from the darkness was pain.

Lots and lots of pain.

"Geez buddy, are you alright?"

Xander opened his eyes, blinking against the new forms of torture the world was unleashing on him. "Did anybody get the license plate of the car that hit me?"

"Curiously enough..." The dark blur above him said, considering. "Yeah. It's K A R R."

"Figures." Xander groaned, suddenly rolling over and pushing himself to his knees and then up to his feet.

"Are you sure you should be moving, buddy?"

"I'll live." Xander winced, straightening up. "Might regret it for a while, but I'll live."

"Been there."

Xander looked at the figure, frowning. "Any reason why you have a gun pointed at me?"

"Look Pal," The figure said, "I just watched an insane fight... and frankly, I don't know who to trust."

Xander shook his head, "I've been there. But now isn't the time."

Carson glanced over his shoulder toward the car and the wierdo in the armor. "If you're thinking about the wacko you threw down with, I think that you're friend in the car got him."

"Friend?" Xander asked, confused, then shook his head. "Oh. Yeah. Friend. What do you mean?"

"I mean whoever was driving that hotrod did a major number on him..." Carson winced, "Mashed his head into that tree."

"Stay here." Xander said, drawing his Desert Eagle as he pushed past the Ranger and headed for the trans-am.

"Hey, now wait a...!"

"Stay Here!" Xander snapped over his shoulder, the tone of command stiffening the soldier in his tracks for a bare instant while Xander kept moving.

The Ranger behind him, Xander moved forward quickly but cautiously, leading with the Eagle. "KARR! KARR! Are you alright?"

As he approached the trans-am rumbled, and he heard the low tones of the AI's voice. "Affirmative."


"Target... eliminated."

Xander hesitated, then nodded. "Ok... back off. I'll confirm."

The car rumbled again, then slowly backed away. Xander grimaced at the mess that fell from the tree and slumped to the ground. He approached it slowly, leading with the barrel of the Eagle and keeping his eyes amped up in case the symbiote survived.

When he reached the body he carefully kicked it over, grimacing again as the mashed wreck of bone, blood, flesh, and cartilage was exposed to his sight. "Damn. Remind me not to piss you off, buddy."

KARR didn't respond.

Xander reluctantly kneeled down, pulling on of his daggers from his boot and slowly began to prod through the dead flesh.

"What the fuck are you doing!?"

"Stay the fuck back!" Xander snapped, looking over his shoulder for an instant.

That was when it struck.

"Cease fire." Hercules ordered, swinging his Hammerhead in a slow circle as the incidents of staff weapon blasts receded below.

The three Hammerheads' weapons fell silent as they orbited the crash sight, staying low enough to keep an eye on the area. They watched as troops started to move in.

"Go go go!"

Black clad Ranger teams rushed through the trees, abandoning silence as they charged toward the wreck. Each man was prepared to hit the dirt in a running dive at the first sign of resistance, but it seemed that the combined artillery and air support had 'pacified' the area.

The first team hit the clearing that surrounded the wreck, taking cover behind broken trees as they waited for the other teams to get into position.

"Team Two in place."

"Roger that, Two. Hold for orders."


The young Captain in charge of the team sighed and hunkered down. "Hurry up and wait."

His men chuckled softly, nodding their agreement as they swept the wreck with their weapons and looked for movement.

"All the teams check in, General."

Irwin nodded, "Give the order."

"Yes Sir."

Irwin turned back to the wreck, watching through his binoculars as the order was relayed and the Ranger teams moved with a fluid precision. They hit the wreck from four sides, entering through carefully scouted rends in the wreckage.

Irwin clasped his hands behind him after the men had moved from sight, and listened rather then watched, as the reports started to flood back in.


The Captain paused, waving the next man on. The man rushed forward, his MP-5 leading the way, and took the next corner. A moment later, he waved back.


The Captain nodded and leap frogged the soldier, moving warily through the wreckage. A few minutes later, the entered a fairly large room unmolested.

"Ranger Team Two to Control."

"Control here. Report."

"We seem to be in a control center. No resistance. Wreckage seems to be clear."

"Confirmed Two. Three and One report same."

"Roger. Two out."

The Captain shook his head, "Looks like they blew their wad on that suicide defense."

"Makes no sense, Cap."

"I know."

"Thinks look quiet down there." Hercules said, twisting around for another orbit of the wreck.

"Too quiet." Jack muttered, "Never trust a snake head."


"Well..." Herc started, but was interrupted.

"Mr Sorbo."

"Yes Merlin?"

"The Goa'uld appears to have used the fight as a distraction to escape."

"I knew it!" Jack cursed.

"The Commander located and intercepted him." Merlin continued calmly, "I have no contact with him at the moment, I would request that you provide him with air support."

"You got it, Merlin." Herc said instantly, "Just point us in the right direction."

"Uploading coordinate information to your battle HUDs now."

A low rumbled from over head brought Irwin's head up and he frowned to see the three aircraft that had given them such excellent close air support angle to the north and accelerate away.

"Where are they going?"

Irwin shook his head, "Don't know. Where are our air units?"

"Just a few seconds out now, Sir."

He nodded, "Redirect two of the Apaches to follow them."

"Yes Sir."

James Carson flinched back as something flashed at the young man's neck, and the man racted with reflexes that were literally blinding. His hand flashed to the back of his neck even as the blur flashed at him.

He watched as the young man swirled and stumbled as he grasped at the back of his neck like he was fighting for his life.

A chill ran up Carson's spine as he considered that maybe, just maybe, the young man was doing just that.

Then the man fell over, hitting the ground hard and lay there for a moment.

When he rose, his eyes flashed white and he smiled.

Xander calmly walked back to the body, ignoring the soldier behind him with a contempt that hadn't been there before. He calmly kneeled by the body and retrieved several items from the corpse. Then he rose and walked back, smiling nastily at the soldier as he moved, the glow returning to his eyes.

"What the hell..." Carson muttered, bringing his gun to bear on the man with instinctive speed.

Only to have it batted out of his hands with sheer contempt by his erstwhile target. The glowing eyes were suddenly just inches from his own and a single hand was wrapped around his throat. As Carson was lifted off his feet, kicking helplessly at the air beneath him, he heard him speak.

"You dare attack a God?"

Carson choked, trying to answer, but suddenly the pressure on his throat was gone and he fell back on his ass as the man clutched at his head.

Suddenly the eyes came back up, but this time the glow was silver.

And all he said was, "Run. Now!"

Carson scrambled back a few feet, then saw the eyes change again.

"No! I will NOT be denied!"

"What the fuck?" Carson muttered as he kept scrambling back.

Xander suddenly grabbed his head, holding it as if in pain. "Oh yeah? I can do something to stop you, snake breath!"

Carson blinked as the figure kept talking to himself.

"Such as?"

"This!" Xander grated out, then suddenly his body just went limp like someone threw a switch. He crumpled, hitting the ground hard with a boneless thump.

Carson panted for a moment, holding still, but didn't see any sign of motion from the body so he finally got up and approached it slowly.

As he got close a sudden rush of air and noise spun him around as a booming voice rent the air. "Step away from the Commander!"

"What the?" Carson covered his eyes from the blasting dust and wind, looking up to see the three jets that had given him air support earlier hovering just above.

One of them broke formation and slowly descended to the ground, touching down heavily on landing gear that extended at just the last moment. Above him the other two circled like angry wasps, their forward cannon actually twitching as they covered the area.

Carson just swallowed and raised his hands.

"What happened!? What did he do!?" Apophis raged, unable to find any avenue of communication to the body he currently inhabited.

"I shut down everything but my autonomic functions."

Apophis spun around at the voice that echoed around him. "Who said that!?"

"Who else?" Xander smirked as he appeared from the shadows. "It is my mind, after all."

Apophis snarled, instantly striking out at the figure. "Was, you pitiful human. Was."

"Hold it right there, pal. Don't move a muscle."

Carson obeyed as the figure in the plane hopped out and approached him slowly. He could see a side arm on the big guys hip, but it was the big guys *face* that really threw him. "You... You're... Hercules?"

The big guy glared at him until he backed off a bit. "What did you do to him?"

"Nothing! I swear!"

Hercules glared at him until he reached Xander, then he kneeled down under the cover of the two Hammerheads above. "Xander... Xander?"

"He was fine until this snake like thing attacked him."

Hercules snapped around, "What did you say!?"

"Whoa!" Carson lifted his hands again at the look on Herc's face. "Just that some snake like thing attacked him when he checked out that body over there..."

Herc pivoted, looking to where a mashed body was laying by a redwood. He frowned as he recognized the trans-am waiting nearby. "KARR? Are you alright?"


"What happened?" Herc asked, walking closer. "Do you have sensor records?"


Herc hesitated, "Let me see them."

"Jack, Teal'C... come in."

"Jack here, what's up Kevin?"

"Xander's been taken by the Goa'uld as a host."

There was a long silence on the radio.



"Worse then you know." Hercules said tensely. "The kid is probably one of the most dangerous humans on the planet right now... maybe *the* most dangerous... His potential in a Goa'uld? Not good."

"Why's he just laying there?" Jack asked tensely.

"I wish I knew."

"Bring him back to Avalon, Mr Sorbo." Merlin cut in. "Consider that a priority order."

Carson watched in confusion as the man who could only be Kevin Sorbo hefted the motionless form of the young man to his shoulder and turned around. "KARR... head back to my place if you want... I'll... I'll let you know what happens."

The car, apparently driverless, rumbled in response and then peeled away in reverse, cut a perfect handbrake turn, and roared out of sight. Then the big man turned back to Carson. "Get back to your unit, Soldier. You guys have a victory to celebrate."

As he watched the big man carefully deposit the motionless figure into the fighter cockpit and prepare for takeoff, James Carson had to admit that he suddenly didn't feel much like celebrating.

The first moments of the battle were fast, but of little effect as both combatants tested each others limits. Xander parried the Goa'uld's mental blast, then jabbed with one of his own that was easily absorbed by the alien intelligence.

"Return control of this husk to me, human!" Apophis screamed, his mental image wide eyed and raving in his fury.

Xander shook his head resolutely. "Uh uh, snake breath. This is my body... and the only way you get it is over my ascending ghost."

Apophis stared at him for a moment as he pieced together the meaning, then he smiled. "As you wish."

"Xander!" Paige rushed forward, joined by Mikki and Faith as the lead Hammerhead opened up and Hercules emerged with Xander once more thrown over his shoulder.

"Bring him this way, Mr Sorbo." Merlin's Avatar appeared, motioning to a cooridor.

They followed the hologram through the twisting paths, until they came to a sterile medical facility. Hercules laid his burden on one of the tables and stepped back.

"Initiating scan." Merlin intoned.

The automated equipment scanned Xander quickly, and a red light flashed urgent as a section of his neck and spine was highlighted. Merlin frowned, "He has indeed been taken by a Goa'uld."

"Well save him!" Faith snapped.

"It is not so simple as that." Merlin said stonily. "There is no known way to guarantee a safe separation of host and symbiote. Believe me... Faith... Many species have searched in vain for such a thing. The closest to succeed were the Asguard... but even their best method could not guarantee the survival of the host."

Faith swallowed, turning to look back at Xander's motionless body. "What.... what'll happen to him?"

"He is a trained Knight." Merlin said, tactfully not pointing out that Xander's actual training level was more along the 'Squire' level at this point. "He may yet defeat the Goa'uld."

"And if he doesn't?" Jack O'Neill asked, walking into the room.

Merlin was silent for a moment, then he spoke softly. "Then he will not leave this room alive."

It was odd, almost surreal, to be fighting a battle for his very mind, body, and soul, and yet to find it all come down to what Giles might call 'fisticuffs'.

Xander blocked the Goa'ulds swing, jabbing with one of his own that entered the snakes defences and caught it in the ribs. Xander was winning by points, the snake had yet to land a single blow, but it was like pounding on a mountain with bare knuckles. He just wasn't getting anywhere.

"Give it up, fool." Apophis snarled, "Better beings then you have tried to defeat the Goa'uld... You can not win, it is physically impossible for a host to resist a symbiote for any length of time. Eventually you will tire, and I will WIN."

Xander snarled, "Oh no you won't, snake. I'll kill my body myself before I let you have it."

"Empty threats." Aphophis sneered, "I will just find another host in such eventuality."

Xander fell back, taking a deep breath. He slowly shook his head, "No, snake breath... this is your last host. Win, lose, or draw... you ain't walking, or slithering, away from this fight."

Apophis caught something, a look or gleam in the boy's eyes, and shivered for a moment. But only for a moment. Then he merely smirked, "Empty threats, boy. No mere human can stand alone against me."

"Whoever said I was alone?" Xander asked, a serenity falling over him as he opened the floodgates and let out all the things that he normally kept tightly suppressed within. "Come on, Snake... Meet my roomates."

Apophis spun at a snarling that appeared behind him, and found himself facing a small but undeniably fierce beast that was snarling and growling angrily at his back. "What!?"

Then another sound caused him to spin, just in time to see a figure clad in Tau-Ri military garb appear from the shadows and level one of their weapons at him. The figure just stared coldly at him, nothing but death in his eyes. "Impossible..."

The next to appear was a mist, nebulous and ethereal, but broadcasting such powerful disgust and rage that Apophis staggered under the sensation.

And finally, a Knight in shimmering armor stepped up to stand at the boys side and matched gaze with the self proclaimed God.

"Goa'uld." She said, her lips twisted in disgust. "Your time is at an end."

"How is he?"

Paige looked over her shoulder, nodding slightly at the big man as he approached. "He's alive, Kevin."

Hercules nodded, "That's something. Xander's a fighter. He'll pull through."

Paige nodded, but her face was dark and trouble.

Herc paused a moment, then sighed. "Look... The Angels... I mean, Jack, Teal'C, and I have to head back out. We need some Search and Rescue units in the sky and fast..."

"Go." Paige said softly, "Xander would tell you the same thing, and you know it."

Hercules nodded, "Yeah. I just wanted to let you know."

Paige nodded, "Thanks."

Herc nodded, backing away, silent as he tried to think of something to say. Finally he turned and walked down the long corridor toward the hanger level.

Paige sighed, turning back to the large clear partition that separated her from the motionless for of Xander Harris. Merlin had locked everyone but Leo from the room, just in case Xander succeeded in beating the Goa'uld out of his body and the snake tried to take someone else. Faith, for one, hadn't liked it any more the Paige, but Merlin had been adamant.

Paige still remembered that encounter vividly.

"Like HELL!" Faith snarled at the immaterial hologram. "I ain't going no where until X is on his feet and kicking ass again!"

"Faith." Merlin said calmly. "You have to. The Commander is a trained Knight, he has a chance against this. You are NOT. And you would not."

"I don't give a damn!"

"I'm afraid that you are operating under a misconception." Merlin said calmly.


"You seem to think that I intend to give you a choice in the matter." Merlin said calmly. As he finished his sentence, a shimmering barrier appeared between Faith and Xander and it started to move toward her. Faith backed away as the barrier continued to push her out the door along with everyone else. Once they were outside, the door slid shut and sealed tight.

"You bastard!"

"I have no intention of allowing a Goa'uld to take a Slayer's body as a host." Merlin said, still calmly. "Things are quite bad enough as they stand."

"If you had a body I'd kick it so damned..."

"But I do not." Merlin cut her off pleasantly, "And you will not."

Paige sighed, and that was that. Merlin had only bent the rule to allow Leo in as much, she suspected, because he was unable to stop Leo as because Leo wasn't susceptible to being taken as a Host. Being a whitelighter made him immune to pretty much any attack by purely natural creatures like the Goa'uld.

Unfortunately, all Leo could do was heal the minor injuries that Xander had incurred when he splashed his fighter down in the pacific. His powers healed, but Xander wasn't injured anymore, and the Goa'uld apparently didn't count.

So Paige turned back to her vigil, one she shared with two others full time and a rotating schedule of every available person on the island.

Apophis looked around him, a feeling of mild consternation flooding him. As far as he could tell, each of the beings he faced was *real*. They weren't shades of his host, or constructs imagined into existence to defend his true foe. They actually existed within the mind of the host body.

It was... patently impossible. No mind could *share* itself with other voices like that. One of them HAD to be the controller, that was all there was to it. The rest must be subjugated by the Host.

But... They all felt... *real*.

It was troublesome. Subjugating personalities usually acquired a feeling of existing as shadows of the ruler, extensions of the core self, not independent entities in their own right.

And, aside from all that, there were too damned *many* of them.

Apophis shook off the thoughts, focusing his energies on the situation. Too many or not, they wouldn't shift the balance for long. He snarled, knowing that he still had the upper hand. They might be able to overpower him in here, but he still existed OUTSIDE. And in that world, in the *real* world, he was already finishing his connections to the host.

Those existed beyond this place of mind and will. And if he lost here now, then he would fall back until he was ready to try again. Eventually he would win.

Eventually, he always won.

"Rescue Wing, this is Control."

"Control, this is Rescue One... call the numbers Merlin, we're on the move." Hercules replied into the radio.

"Confirmed, Rescue One. Please direct your course to the following Coordinates." Merlin rattled off a series of numbers that Hercules immediately punched into his computer. "Colonel Austin is still enroute from the moon... I believe he would like a lift."

"Roger, Control." Herc replied. "Pointing my nose to the sky."

"Rescue Two, adjust course to bearing thirty degrees north by eighty three point oh one two vertical." Merlin replied, "Captain Masters has requested an emergency response team to his coordinates."

"Right." Jack nodded, "One Taxi pickup coming right up."

Merlin ignored the comment, switching his attention to Teal'C. "Rescue Three, proceed on course. I've managed to scramble military response to the Commander's crash sight, but that won't last for much longer. Pick up his craft, the proceed across the continental mass, Warbird Three's emergency transponder is broadcasting from an island near the Azores. I've diverted a local SAR response team to his location in case he's been injured, but you'll need to retrieve the Hammerhead wreckage or destroy it in it's beyond repair."

"As you command." Teal'C said calmly, adjusting his throttle as the three craft wing split apart.

Two of them roared skyward on diverging trajectories, while Teal'C stayed on course for the west coast of the states. He was less then a half hour out at the best cruising speed of the Rescue Converted Orca Bomber, after that he had a long trip to reach the second crash sight.

Xander growled, charging in and under the Goa;ulds defence and landing yet another solid blow on the alien intelligence that had taken up residence in his mind.

He was sweating, figuratively and spiritually, and was starting to get a little fatigued from the battle. He fell back after landing his strike, listening to the rattling roar of the M-16 in the Soldier's hands while the snarls of the Hyena punctuated the battle with an animalistic tone.

They were winning, but it was hard fought for every inch of mental real estate they earned. Worse, the Goa'uld didn't seem to be fazed by his retreat. He was fighting a war of attrition against them, accepting losses that Xander could never take in exchange for simply wearing down their will and energy.

"Together!" Elan ordered, and Xander nodded.

The two of them flashed in again, side by side as they moved like lightning through the mental landscape. Here, Xander's instincts simply *were* reality and he moved in ways that his clumsy body never allowed in the real world.

They blurred across the ground, and slammed into the enemy with solid strikes that reverberated across the dreamscape with the unmistakable aura of power.

They dodged the snake's response, easily evading the blows as the Hyena struck hard at his undefended flank with a snarling lunge. The report of the rifle echoed again, battering the snake from yet another side.

And through it all they could feel the reverberating power of the emotional strikes being carried out by the nebulous mist.

"Enough!" Apophis raged, suddenly emanating power th spare.

In the shocked moments that happened next, the defenders were shocked to see the Goa'uld split like the mythical Hydra, and an instant later they were facing not one but nine attackers.

"Jesus." Jack O'Neal cursed softly as he arrived at the scene of the impossible wreckage. Fox Four collisions were something Fighter Jocks joked about, they didn't happen in real life. Especially not in an environment like Space, even the tightest formation in the void wasn't THAT tight.

He cleared his through and mind and opened onto the Tac net. "This Rescue One to Eagle Lead... Back off to three hundred meters, I'll retrieve them."

Masters barely acknowledged the order, but he did move off, and Jack maneuvered his hefty and somewhat clumsy craft into position over Chappy's Warbird Lead.

The controls were simple enough to use, like most well built systems, but Jack wished devoutly that they had spent at least some simulator time on these craft as well. It hadn't seemed important at the time, to any of them, and Jack had to admit that if it had been suggested he probably would have been against it. Rescue training would take away from combat training, and that wasn't acceptable.

Now though, he was regretting it. As much as he, or any combatant, respected the rescue teams, Jack had to admit here and now that he had always taken them for granted just the same. Even when he had been pulled from the occasional hairy situation by such a team. They were just always there.

<Shouldn't have overlooked the need for a few teams like that, Jack.> He chastened himself. <You should have known better, even if the kid missed it.>

He pushed away those thoughts when his system locked up with the Hammerhead below and he heard the musical chime. "Gotchya."

"Reeling him in." Jack announced to the volunteers in vacuum sealed flightsuits in the rear bay.

"Roger, Colonel." The hastily recruited aviator returned, "Now... just where is the welcome mat in this thing?"

Xander flew backwards, landing in a heap as blood poured from his mouth and nose. He was still technically up on points, the young Knight figured, but it didn't much matter when one blow from the bad guy was enough to damn near finish him once and for all.

The Goa'uld stalked toward him, sneering nastily. "You lose, human."

Xander shook his head, spitting out a tooth that his mind told him must have been dislodged by the blow, and got back to his feet. "Not yet. Not yet."

Around him the fight was quickly deteriorating as even Elanthielle was barely able to hold her own against the implacable foes she faced. Her millenia of experience served her well, forcing the Goa'uld to direct no less then three of his alter egos to her at any given moment, but that still left him enough to handle the rst with ease.

And, worse Xander figured, was the fact that the Goa'uld seemed immune to the fatigue that was beating the defenders down. If he seemed injured, the Goa'uld just shifted the fatigued version of himself out of the fight to recover while the others kept up the pressure.

They couldn't fight a physical enemy in the dreaming, Xander realized belatedly. The Goa'uld held all the biological cards to this fight.

No, they weren't going to win this battle in the dreaming.

And that really left only one option, Xander thought as his heart sunk.

Paige's eyes widened as Xander suddenly shook and shuddered in the medical bed.

"What's going on!?" She demanded instantly.

Inside the room she saw Merlin's Avatar and Leo rush to the bed, holding Xander down as he convulsed and examining the readouts.

"His chart is all over the map!" Leo grunted, trying to keep Xander in place as the young man convulsed fiercely against the material restraints.

"It's begun." Merlin sighed. "There is little we can do."

"What are you talking about!?" Leo demanded, then he suddenly yelped in shock as Xander's skin first paled, then began to flush a dark and angry red. "My God... what is..."

"Stand fast, Whitelighter." Merlin said sternly. "Your time is not yet come."

"We got him, boss!"

Jack nodded, tripping the intercom quickly. "Status??"

There was a long silence.

"Damn." Jack sighed, "Ok. Have you managed to separate the two fighters?"

"Not yet, Sir. It's damned hard to do anything around this thing."

"Keep at it." Jack ordered.

"Yes Sir."

An olive drab military HMMV roared onto the beach just ahead of a small convoy of trucks, forcing their way through the milling crowd that had gathered there for the second time fo the day.

"Please step aside, People!" A L.T. ordered through a loudspeaker as he ordered his driver ahead dead slow. "Move aside! Let us pass! Military business, please let us pass!"

The crowd milled some more, but slowly opened up for the HMMV to drive through, and the corporal edged the big vehicle through the opening. "Damn L.T., I thought the report said that the thing had sunk... wouldn't be much to see by now, you'd think they'd all go home?"

The lieutenant shrugged, "Don't try to figure out why civilians do things, Dover. They'll surprise you nine times out of ten, usually in a very bad way."

The young Corporal chuckled slightly until they managed to break into the clear and get a look at what the civilians were gathered to see. "Ho-ly shit."

"Ditto." The stunned Lieutenant muttered, slowly opening the door and hanging out the side of the powerful military vehicle.

Ahead of them, hovering over the water like some angry bird of prey, was about the meanest looking salvage craft he had ever seen.

At least he THOUGHT it was a salvage craft. It certainly had lines down in the water and was drawing them slowly upwards as it's obviously powerful engines whined against the strain. It was big, fat, and ugly as hell, which meant that to a military eye it held a stark beauty that even an infantry man like himself could appreciate.

It's lines were chunky, but obviously utilitarian, and it had at least one obvious cannon on it's nose. All in all, he decided, it looked like something designed by the U.S. military.

But it sure as hell wasn't in any of HIS briefings.

The Lieutenant slid back into the hummer and grabbed at the radio. "HQ, come in HQ. This is Retrieval One..."

"Retrieval One, this is HQ... Go ahead."

"Sir, we have a Bogey on sight... Sir, he's doing our mission."


"Just what I said, Sir. One big bad ass of a bogey... doesn't look like anything I've ever seen, but it's definitely military Sir. It's flying like a chopper, but I don't see no blades either..." He paused as the tail of the salvaged fighter broke the water. "Damn it, Sir... He's got the bird we came for! It'll clear the water in just a few seconds!"

"Hold on! I'm sending air support..."

Brigadier General Raymond Garr turned to his support staff, "Get a flight of Apaches out there pronto...!"

"Belay that command."

Garr looked up in shock to see a figure walk into the command room, "Sir, someone just poached our bird."

"No, General." The man replied, "They just recovered their own. No hostile actions are to be taken against these people without direct confirmation from the President. Is that understood?"

Garr growled, but nodded. "Yes Sir."

"Yes Sir." The Lieutenant nodded, putting down the mic.

"We're just supposed to sit here and do nothing, L.T.?"

"That's the size of it."

"Well damn."

The two of them watched as the big bird finished reeling it's catch of the day and securely locked the battered fighter to it's underbelly. Then it turned slowly in the air and accelerated away.

"HQ, Retrieval One... Bogey just roared out of here with the salvage... heading due east."

"My God." Leo looked like he was going to be sick.

He'd seen a lot of things in his life, and more in his death, but this was horrific.

Xander's body was breaking out in what looked like chemical burns and severe reactions to some allergen. His face was swollen, pustules growing under the skin, and everywhere that Leo could see bare skin the story was the same.

His body was killing itself.


"What are you doing!?" Apophis roared, the environment around them collapsing and random surges of power bringing excruciating pain.

Xander gritted his teeth, glaring at the Goa'uld. "I told you, Snake. You ain't getting this body. It's mine. Mine to live in. Mine to DIE in."

Apophis looked around wildly. "You're bluffing. You wouldn't kill yourself."

Xander leaned heavily on Elan as he spoke, she being the only one of them unaffected by the environment. "A long time again, Snake, a good friend of mine was infected by a parasite a lot like you. He tried to kill me, my friends... even some people I didn't much like. He was my best friend..."

Xander straightened up, pushing off Elan and glaring at the Goa'uld. "I killed HIM. Not to save myself... not even intentionally, though I would have... or like to think I would have. And I learned one thing there, Snake..."

"What?" Apophis challenged him.

"That sometimes you have to kill someone," Xander said slowly, deliberately, "in order to save their soul."

A long silence echoed between them.

"Can I do any less for my own?"

Leo steeled himself and immediately moved to heal the injuries on his patient, only to be blocked by Merlin. "Get out of my way!"

"No." Merlin said in a steely voice. "You must not heal him now."

"Are you insane!? He's dying!"

"By his own hand, Leo. By his own hand." Merlin said softly. "Look at the readings."

Leo glanced up, but shook his head. "I don't know how to read those."

"They say that his lungs have reversed their operations, and are now pumping carbon dioxide BACK into the bloodstream." Merlin said calmly, "His kidneys are releasing their toxins, his adrenal gland is producing toxic levels of adrenaline, and his liver and kidneys have ceased operation."

Leo staggered back, "That's not possible."

"On the contrary," Merlin replied, "A trained Knight can control the autonomic functions of his entire body... and even those of someone else's in the right situation. The Commander is doing this to himself."

"But... Why?"

"Because..." Merlin said softly, "Perhaps is he sufficiently mangles his own body... the Goa'uld won't want it any more."

Leo blanched in horror.

"You will not defeat ME!"

"I already have." Xander countered. "You lost the instant you entered MY body. There is only one question still remaining..."

"Oh? And what would that be?"

"Whether or not either of us survive the battle." Xander smirked painfully.

"You most assuredly will NOT." Apophis growled. "I will scorch your mind to the very bone before I take my leave!"

Xander nodded, "Get it over with then. I want you out of my head... Even I have my standards for houseguests... and you, Snake, don't even rank."

Apophis growled in frustrated rage, bellowing to the sky. "I will survive this, human! I will live to take another host, and I will destroy your world! And there is nothing you can do about it, because shortly you will be DEAD!"

"Nice talk. Let's see you back it up."

"Something's happening!" Leo yelled.

Merlin turned to look at the body on the bed, his convulsions had twisted his head to one side and there was a bulge at the back of the neck. "Now! It's time!"

The skin suddenly broke open and a serpentine creature appeared, quickly leaving Xander's body and getting it's bearings. Suddenly it turned and threw itself through the air at Leo, who merely orbed out of it's path on reflex.

Merlin growled lightly as he activated the internal defenses and blasted it from the air.

Then Leo came back, the doors to the room opened, and those who had been watching rushed in.

"Heal him Leo!" Paige ordered.

Leo turned to his patient, then swallowed as the machines told him the story before his own senses could.

"I can't." Leo said, his face a mask of pain and anguish. "He's dead."

"Dead?" Paige whispered softly, barely able to stand from the shock. Somehow, some way, Xander simply wasn't supposed to die. He was the experienced one, the one who could handle himself.

<And the one who takes the biggest risks.> An inner voice reminded her.

She stood there, stunned for a long moment, and then suddenly felt and arm tighten around her shoulder.

"Hey," Faith said softly, "It's ok..."

"No..." She whispered, feeling her legs weaken. "It's not... It'll never be ok..."

She started to slump down, but the strong Slayer held her up easily and they made their way to the body.

Faith swallowed, uncertain what to do, but then slowly and hesitantly wrapped her other arm around the grieving witch and gently patted her as the young Slayer's eyes rolled around the room looking for help.

The others in the room, with the exception of Merlin, suddenly found other things to draw their attention, ignoring the Slayer's unspoken plea for help. Faith scowled at them, but turned her focus back to Paige.

Paige reached out slowly, laying a hand against the burnt and damaged skin of Xander's face.

"He wasn't supposed to die... not like this."

Faith swallowed her own grief through hard personal experience, and focused on supporting Paige. "Everyone dies. Good, Bad, and in between... everyone."

"You're not helping!" Paige snarled, her voice suddenly harsh.

Faith didn't snap back, she just tightened her hold on the young Wiccan. "Everyone dies." She repeated, "But how many get to go out in a fight that saves the world?"

Paige hesitated in mid-snap, then suddenly broke down. She leaned over and Faith caught her easily and, somewhat uncomfortably, rubbed her back as she cried.

"I hear you two could use a lift?"

"You can say that again." Dragan said in relief as he heard the familiar voice of Hercules over his tactical channel. "How far out are you?"

"Two minutes." Herc replied. "You ok, Colonel?"

"That's a big affirmative." Steve Austin said, somewhat tiredly. "Just glad to hear someone else's voice... This guy was getting on my nerves."

"Funny man." Drag muttered half sarcastically.

Herc chuckled, "Believe me, Colonel... I know the feeling. I'll pick you and your hammerhead up shortly. Drag, you want a lift?"

"No thanks. My bird's got plenty of kick left in her." Dragan replied, "I'll take her back in myself."

"Yeah, rub it in why don't you?" Austin asked sarcastically.

"Nah, not right now. Wait t'ill I get you back on Avalon." Dragan smirked.

Austin mock groaned, but smiled slightly at the comment. His smile turned into a full grin when he suddenly spotted a large ungainly hulk eclipse the crescent of the Earth, and as ugly as that thing was he had never seen a more beautiful sight.

Xander was floating in a space of white light when he felt the presence approach him from one side.

"Is it done?" He asked softly.


"Thank God." He shuddered. "This place is giving me the creeps."

Elanthielle chuckled softly, "Most people would consider this to be some form of heaven, Alexander."

"Right. When the twinkies fly by on demand we can talk." Xander joked, focusing enough to bring the ground back into formation around him.

As the dreaming slowly took form once more, he glanced around. "How much time?"

"Less then three minutes."

"Phew." He sighed in relief. "That gives me a whole minute to turn stuff back on before I croak."

"I wish you wouldn't be quite so crude about things." Elan said in exasperation.

"Sorry." Xander shrugged, then looked at her. "Hey... thanks, ok? If you hadn't handled metabolizing that contaminant I'd be dead for real right now."

"It was nothing."

"It was something alright, Elan. It was everything." Xander said, "I couldn't do it. If I'd left anything active, I'd have pumped that crap through my own body... You saved me, Elan."

Elanthielle was silent for a moment, then spoke. "Perhaps. But it's no more then you would do for me, or then you have done for others. It was my honor, Alexander."

"Then I thank your honor as well," Xander smiled gratefully then looked around. "Ok... let's get up and running again."

He closed his eyes and focused again, pulling the dreaming into a semblance of order around him.

First the ground stabilized, then the air cleared and the brilliant white light faded away to reveal the lush grounds around him like the slow dissipation of an early morning mist.

"Better." Xander nodded as Elan smiled slightly.

In the distance, thunder rolled and a flash of light lit up the world in stark contrast. Then the pouring rain rushed down upon them. And with that, Xander began cleansing himself of the poisons *he* had inflicted on his poor body.

"Unidentified craft, this is Air Force flight Two Niner Five. Transmit your ident or we will force you down."

Teal'C was mildly surprised that the Air Force flight had actually challenged him, but supposed that it spoke well for the security measured instituted by the local government that they would challenge him even though he was using their own IFF codes.

Teal'C took a moment to mentally review the appropriate response before he spoke.

"Air Force Two Niner Five," Teal'C said calmly. "This is Air Force Rescue flight, bound for the coast. Transmitting identity codes now."

Teal'C did that, then waited. He didn't need to wait too long.

"Confirmed, Rescue Flight. You're cleared through."

Teal'C didn't respond as he watched the farmland pass by underneath him. He knew he had a long distance yet to travel to pick up the last wayward hammerhead before any over enthusiastic members of the local agencies decided to grab it for themselves.

The big Jaffa wondered for a moment at the power that was hidden on this world. The Goa'uld and Jaffa had many whispered legends about Earth and the Tau'ri, most of them so outlandish as to be impossible to believe. Certainly, when Teal'C had finally been introduced to actual Tau'ri he had been more convinced then ever that the legends were merely stories.

As impressive as Colonel O'Neill and his people here, they were not the Knights of legend.

And now, as Teal'C consider it, perhaps they were after all.

He had finally met one of those Knights, fought beside a gathering of forces that boggled the mind, and saw normal people rise to the occasion and give everything they had for the future of their world.

Suddenly, those old legends didn't seem quite so unbelievable after all.

The medical bay was silent except for the sob sobs from Paige and the vaguely uncomfortable comfortings from Faith, so when the machines monitoring Xander suddenly came back to life, the sounds filled the room.

"What?" Paige looked up through red rimmed eyes, staring uncomprehending at the machines.

Behind them, Merlin smiled in satisfaction. <His training is further along then we anticipated.>

<Thankfully.> Niume's relieved voice returned to him a moment later.

"What's going on?" Paige asked again, confused as the machines lit up one by one.

Faith grinned wide, "X ain't out until he's OUT. Yes!"

"Indeed." Merlin said allowed. "He's reactivating his organs one by one... His mind is still in the 'drivers seat' in your vernacular."

"He... He's going to alright?" Paige said in uncertain tones, not wanting to get her hopes up.

"Under normal circumstances, He would be very nearly brain dead." Merlin said calmly, "Or paralyzed for a long time while he worked on regenerating... Thankfully, we have another option to that. Leo?"

"Right with you." Leo said, moving forward. It was a somewhat new sensation he felt as he worked not on healing his patient, but accelerating the work the young man had already begun. The whitelighter was surprised to find that it was almost a rush to combine his strength with the power emanating from Xander.

It took only moments, and then Xander was lying peacefully on the bed, breathing easily.

"It's done." Leo said, whiping away some sweat and smiling through his flushed features. "Whoa..."

"What is it, Leo?" Paige asked, frowning.

"Nothing... nothing... He's just got a lot of power under the surface... his and..." Leo hesitated, "His and someone else's I guess."

Merlin and Faith just smiled at that comment, both turning their attention to peaceful form of Xander Harris as he rested.

Paige and Faith were both sitting beside his bed when Xander's eyes flitted and opened at last.

Paige was snoring softly, a gently pressure on his left side, and Xander looked at her for a long moment. She was half leaning on him, and half being held by Faith, and he smiled softly at the scene.

"Merlin..." He whispered softly, his throat dry and rasping as he spoke.

"Yes, Commander?" Merlin replied in an equally low tone.

"Some water..." Xander said, then smiled. "And make sure you get some good shots of these two... from all angles."

"Very good Sir." Merlin smiled, mentally prodding the medical bay's catering services.

"Yeah." Xander said, still in that hoarse whisper. "Never know when I'll need to blackmail Faith."

Chapter 10 - Epilogue

"Chappy Sinclair took an overconfident little kid and turned him into a pilot." Doug Masters spoke softly, looking over the gathering of people who were present.

Xander Harris was there, standing stiffly at attention with the rest of the surviving pilots, including, thank god, Wheeler. Warbird Squadron, the three survivors of it at least, were heading the crowd. Kevin Griffin and his buddy Sean, both Ex-Air Force, were in their old dress uniforms as Doug delivered his eulogy. Wheeler was simply wearing her Iron Eagle flightsuit, the best salute she could imagine.

Much of the Eagles had followed suit, barring Sam Carter who was also wearing her own dress blues.

The ranks of each Hammerhead squadron were filled in by volunteers from the rescued aviators and those who had signed on for a brief tour with the Avalonian forces. Everyone was somber, especially as this was only the latest eulogy to be given on this day.

Chappy Sinclair led the names of those who would never fly again, but was far from the only one on the list. In all, the Avalonian flyers had lost nine pilots from their ranks over the past month of combat. Perhaps not a huge number, given that the slapdash memorial on the Hanger wall now held over two hundred and twenty names, but it was a painful number to the people who had counted those lost names as friends and family.

"I owe him my Father's life." Doug said softly, "And my own. I survived everything that life could throw at me because of what Chappy Sinclair taught me. He was the best."

A murmur of agreement rose up from the Eagles at that statement and Doug looked around painfully for a moment before he stepped down from the podium that had been erected in the center of the hanger.

Xander met him at the bottom of the makeshift stage. They two of them locked eyes briefly, both nodding as they crossed each other and Xander stepped up to the stage. He looked over the crew that had been patched together, a hurried mass of people scavaged from all walks of life in order to face the Goa'uld.

A better team, Xander couldn't imagine.

He took a breath, "Chappy, Dana, Peter, Horst, Christopher, Raymond, Michael, Nikki, Samuel."

He paused, letting the nine names sink in. "They saved the world."

Another pause, letting that simple statement echo in the minds of every person present and over the airwaves that echoed his words to the offices of the Government heads that were watching from hundreds of miles away.

"They and the other two hundred and eighteen people on this wall," Xander glanced behind him to where the carefully sketched names were visible behind him, listing the names of every man and woman who had died in combat, or during rescue operations, during the conflict. "Saved this world. I don't care what country they were from, I don't care what they believed personally... No one could ask any more from them. Remember that. Remember them. They died, but God damn did they LIVE first."

"Hear hear!"

The call went out, clenched fists came up in energetic agreement as an angrily triumphant noise went up through the hanger. Even the recent additions to the group, aviators pulled from the oceans in the later battles, were caught up in the feeling of righteousness that accompanied the moment.

Xander smiled, his face satisfied by the reaction as he looked them all over. "Let's honor them, by living half as well... If we can do just that, then may god have mercy on anyone else who threatens this world."

Xander stopped the response before it really got started, turning to one side. "I believe that we have something prepared for the occasion... Tara?"

Tara Maclay swallowed, staring at the ground as everyone turned to look at her. She nodded slowly, walking up to the stage and then around behind it. She lifted something from her side and looked back at Xander for support.

He smiled, nodding. "Tara has prepared something that hasn't been done on Earth in over ten thousand years... It's... painfully fitting that the first use of this technique in that time be used for this."

There were soft murmurs as Tara placed a small crystalline disk on the wall and it suddenly glowed. It sunk into the solid rock of the cavern wall, and *changed* it. In a radiating pattern the wall shifted it's very composition to a solid granite look and the sometimes hastily sketched lettering that made up the two hundred and twenty seven names was incorporated into the new look in a cleanly chiseled form.

A long hush passed over the group, then an awed gasp echoed as they all watched the entire wall reform itself.

Xander smiled at Tara, then slowly began to clap.

The cheer went up again, the applause growing until Xander turned to the wall and stiffened to attention. The room hushed, then he saluted and there was a uniform echo as ever military person in the room followed suit in near perfect sync.

"An impressive ceremony."

Jack Ryan nodded, meeting his Russian counterparts gaze over the computer monitors. "I agree."

"I would feel better if at least one of us had been permitted to be present."

Jack shrugged, "I think that Harris is starting to tighten his security a lot more now that the threat is gone."

"Not Gone, Emmetovich." Golovko corrected him, "Merely... postponed."

Jack sighed, but nodded.

"You know that we can't allow this 'Avalon' to remain independant, don't you?"

Jack sighed again. That argument was already filtering through the Agency and other groups that were in his own balliwack, So Ryan knew that Golovko had to be hearing and probably uttering the same buzz himself.

"Ivan..." Golovko muttered warningly. "Do not go soft on this boy. Hero he may be, but he has far to much power to be allowed to stand alone."

"I'm not certain that it's that simply, Sergei." Jack said softly. "The island that Avalon appears to be on... doesn't exist."

"What?" Golovko asked, perplexed. "That's impossible."

"It's true." Jack said, leaning forward. "It's not any map. *Any* map. Satellites don't register it, and I've scoured every report from ships deployed in that area for the past fifty years. Nothing. No mention of an island withing a hundred miles of where our flyboys say it was."

"Was?" Golovko asked pointedly.

"Was." Jack confirmed. "The President ordered a flyover with one of our commissioned Blackbirds. Clear skies, open waters... and no land. None."

"That's not possible. It must be... cloaking itself somehow..."

Jack shrugged, "You could be right... but I've checked our records, Sergei... And I suggest you check your own..."

"For what?"

"We register no less then eight warships that *sailed* right through the coordinates the island is supposed to occupy." Jack said calmly. "I think that we would have a great deal of trouble landing an occupying force on it."

Golovko shook his head, muttering. "I will check into this, Ivan."

The ceremony over, Xander walked quietly through the hanger as he looked over the ranks of crafts that were currently stocked in the hanger.

In addition to the Kine equipment, there were currently three Black Hack helo's and a half dozen of the Sea King's waiting to take the rescued aviators out. Xander smiled, Merlin hadn't liked bringing them down here, even briefly, but the risk it entailed wasn't much greater then what they already faced.

Now that the crisis was over, every security agency on the planet wanted a piece of Avalon. Merlin was being kept busy just monitoring all the satcom transmissions that mentioned them by name now, and it was quickly becoming obvious that Avalon had been irrevocably outed among the espionage community.

Everyone from the CIA to a group known only as Section wanted Avalon's technology for themselves.

Luckily Avalon itself wasn't helpless in this matter.

Most of those groups relied extremely heavily on Sigint, and Merlin was plugged into every signals system ever conceived. In fact, between him and Niume, they were even able to tap supposedly secure lines with relative ease.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that some of them had extensive Humint resources as well, and that was distinctly harder to spoof. Not impossible, thankfully, but difficult.

The first thing that Merlin had done was intercept and delete every copy of Xander's picture on file. Luckily he had never allowed anyone to establish a hardcopy file either, otherwise that would have been useless. Alexander Harris, the one listed on all the records at least, now bore a surprising resemblance to one Xander Harris, but was obviously a different person. His eyes were blue, for one thing, and he had a small scar under his left eye. He was fifteen years older at least, but looked young for his age just the same.

Xander had to laugh when he saw the picture that Merlin had concocted to cover him. It looked almost entirely, but not quite, unlike what he knew he would grow up to look like.

He just hoped it was enough.

Doug Masters looked at the bottle of liqueur moodily, watching it swirl in the bottle as he swished it around.

"Tastes better if you drink it."

He looked up to see Xander approaching him, wearing the full dress version of his uniform. "What do you want?"

Xander sat down across the table from him, taking a clean glass and sliding it forward to be filled. "A drink."

Doug snorted, but filled the drink.

Xander took it, lifting it up slightly. "To Chappy."

Doug scowled, but nodded. "To Chappy."

Bottle met glass, and they chimed. Both men took long drinks.

"I want you to stay on, Doug." Xander said after a moment.

"Stay on? Where?"

"With the Knights." Xander replied. "I want you to help me start building a new Knighthood."

Doug shook his head, "Get someone else."

"I don't want anyone else. I want Doug Masters. I want you." Xander said. "This wasn't the only enemy out there... more are coming."

Doug put the bottle down with a bang. "Maybe I don't care."

"Bullshit." Xander snapped, "You care. You have to care because if you don't, you're *pissing* on the sacrifice of the people who died here. And You and I both know you aren't going to do that."

Masters growled, but looked away.

"Look, Doug..." Xander softened his tone. "I'm not asking you to answer right now. But think about it... What would they want you to do? What do you *need* to do?"

Doug was silent for a long time, then he looked up and met Xander's eyes. "Who else are you asking?"

Xander smiled softly, "A few others to start. Austin, Griffin, some of your Eagles if they want to stay on..."

"Over my dead body!" Masters blurted instantly, attracting stares.

"Calm down." Xander ordered. "It's their right. Besides, I'm not talking about being a frontline group anymore... it could be years before the next attack comes... I'm not asking anyone to fight full time like we have this past month."

Doug shook his head, "Leave them out of it."

"Doug... It's not your call." Xander said softly, "If there's one thing I know, its that we all have to choose our path. If they want to walk this one, all you or I can do is to make sure that they have the best we can give them..."

"God damn it, Harris." Masters muttered, shaking his head. "I'm wishing that I'd never met you right now."

"No you aren't, Doug." Xander said, smiling sadly. "Because if we hadn't met then maybe, just maybe, the snake would have won and we'd all be dead now."

Masters rested his face in his hands, his elbows on the table.

Xander got up slowly, walking around the table. He laid a hand on Doug's shoulder, "You know where to find me."

Then he walked out.

It was three hours later when Doug found him again.

"I'm in." Was all he said before turning his back and walking away from Xander.

Xander nodded, watching him walk away, then spoke to the air. "That's number two with Austin. What do you think, Merlin?"

"I believe," The holograph said as it appeared, "That the new Knighthood may be off to a decent start."

"Start running down the candidate list, Merlin." Xander said quietly. "I have a feeling that we're going to need this place humming before too long."

Merlin nodded thoughtfully, "I believe that I have the shortlist prepared."

"Send it to my system to review once we see the military people off." Xander said, "I'll stay on here for a little while longer before heading back to the states."

"Very good Sir."

Xander left his office, deciding that it was a good time to rest and relax. "Merlin?"

"Yes, Commander?"

"Where's Paige right now?"


Paige spun around at the soft voice, smiling when she saw Xander approach. "It took you long enough."

Xander shrugged, "Been busy."

They met each other in the middle of the floor and Xander cupped her face in his hands. "Been real busy."

"You better have been." She smiled at him, "Cause if I find out you've been ducking me I'll turn you into a toad."

"It's been tried before." Xander said mildly, "What makes you think it'll work for you this time?"

Paige laughed softly, then kissed him lightly on the lips. "Because I'll ask nicely?"

Xander shrugged, "Works for me."

Then he leaned in and caught her lips again. They didn't come up for air for quite some time.

Later, still entwined together, the two of them lay on Paige's bed and stared at the ceiling above them.

"What are we going to do now?" Paige asked softly.

Xander didn't move much, but he shifted his eyes down to meet hers. "Depends I suppose..."

"On what?"

"On what you mean." He smiled slightly. "Do you mean what are we going to do... or what are WE going to do?"

She smiled back, a lick of humor flickering in her eyes, "The first... and then the second."

Xander chuckled softly. "Well, first we have to start organizing ourselves. Gathering friends and allies together and tightening communications."


"Because it's more effective..." Xander replied, then frowned. "But also because we're going to be hunted now."

Paige shifted, pushing away. "What?"

"Merlin's already monitoring communications between various agencies." Xander sighed, rolling onto his back. "Some elements of the CIA, NSA, KGB, Surete... another group that's only referred to as Section..."

Then Xander frowned, "And... oddly enough... US Fish and Game."


Xander shook his head, "I don't know... I can't figure it out either. But for some reason Fish and Game has been putting some subtle requests over the net..."

Paige looked at him as if he were nuts, then smirked evilly. "Xander Harris, have you been stepping on any endangered species?"

Xander shrugged, "Maybe they didn't like my treatment of the Goa'uld..."

The two of them laughed for a moment, then the humor faded away and Paige looked worried. "Xander... all those groups... We..."

"Relax." Xander half smiled, "Don't worry about it too much. It just means that I have to be more careful from now on. No more treating it like a game. I've been luckier then I deserve though."

"What do you mean?"

"Well the CIA and NSA are the lead agencies on this," Xander explained. "They have the most information on me, afterall... But both of them are heavily geared towards electronic information gathering. And that is something that we can disrupt heavily. If the KGB had an interest in me before this, then I might be worried."

"How come?"

"Because they don't rely as heavily on computers... and not even Merlin can hack an agents mind." Xander said sourly. "For now we've made sure that an... altered version of my picture has been slipped into the databases... The only people who know it's fake are people I trust... Jack Ryan being the main one. I've already slipped him a message about it. The president might know better, but the KGB won't believe anything he says anyway. So we can keep the CIA running in circles, and hopefully the KGB and it's agency types are on the wrong track completely."

"So what are you going to do next?" Paige asked softly.

"Take a vacation." Xander grinned, "then I'm going undercover in the one place no one will ever think to look."

"Where's that?"


"That's it." Jack O'Neill said as he watched the Blackhawk chopper vanish through the ring transport, being brought up to the surface. "It's just us left now."

The three other members of SG1 nodded, then looked around the almost dead hanger level.

"It's so quiet." Daniel Jackson muttered softly.

"Yeah." Sam nodded.

"Won't be for long." Jack replied. "We need this place... you can bet that if the SGC doesn't come back for it, then someone else will."

"Yeah." Sam said again, her voice a little bitter.

"Not our call, Sam. You know that." Jack sighed.

"No." A voice sounded behind them and they turned to see Xander appear with Paige at his side. "But it is mine."

"Ah... um... right." Jack said uncomfortably.

Xander half smiled, "Trust me on this Jack, you'll never set foot on Avalon without Merlin's permission. In fact..."

He paused, "Well, we'll let that be a nice surprise."

Jack frowned, "what are you talking about?"

"Nothing." Xander grinned. "Just here to see you guys off. The Blackhawk over there yours?"

Jack glanced over his shoulder, then nodded. "Yeah."

"Time to go." Xander said, smiling slightly.

"Um... right."

They walked to the Black Hawk Helo, pausing when they reached it.

"Paige?" Xander looked over at her.

Paige nodded, smiling as she reached out. "Tialcom Charms!"

SG1 started slightly as two chunks of rock appeared in her hands.

"Whoa." Jack muttered.

Xander took the rocks from Paige and presented them to Jack.

"What's this?"

Xander smiled, "Give it to the President... or to Jack Ryan at the CIA. Tell them, that if we have to do this again... they should have these on hand. Oh, tell Jack that the second one if for his friend on the other side of the satellite link."

"Huh?" Jack O'Neill looked confused.

"He'll understand." Xander assured him. "Time to go, Jack. I'm bringing the island back into conservation mode."

"Ah... right. About that..." Jack tried."

"Go." Xander said firmly. "You've got work to do at the SGC."

"We need the technology you have here!" Jack tried.

Xander shook his head, "No you don't. You have plenty of capture Goa'uld stuff to work on for now. Avalon stands alone, Jack. For now."

Jack grumbled as he allowed himself to be guided onto the Black Hawk. Before closing the side door, he shouted down. "Damn it Harris, you KNOW that the government is coming back here!"

Xander just smiled as the door slid shut, and he shook his head slightly. When the rings descended and the chopper vanished, he turned to Merlin's avatar. "When they clear the island, institute full countermeasures against detection."

"Of course." Merlin smiled.

"What does that mean?" Paige frowned as they turned away and began walking across the hanger.

Xander shrugged, "Avalon has a lot of tricks up her sleeve... Avalon is safe from discovery for as long as we need it to be."


Merlin smiled, "Let us just say that any ships or planes looking for this island will be sorely disappointed. It's remarkable difficult to find something that is, after all, only a myth."

As the Black Hawk containing SG1 leaned forward and began to pull away from the island, Jack leaned over and carefully memorized the GPS coordinates that were displayed.


"Not now, Daniel."

"Uh... Sir..."

"Not now, Sam..."

"Colonel O'Neill... I believe you should see this..."

Jack turned around in annoyance, looking at the rest of his team. "What??"

They pointed at the window and Jack looked out, then back, then forward. Then he snapped back in, grabbing the pilots shoulder. "Take us back!"


"Take us back! Now!"

The pilot shrugged, turning his bird around in a tight turn and followed his instruments back to where he had taken off. When he got there, he looked down at the rolling waves below them and paled. "Sir... I... I don't know how..."

"Never mind." Jack sat back down, "Get us out of here."

The chopper circled one more time, then headed for the carrier.

"Jack... are you ok?" Daniel asked.

Jack snorted, then started laughing softly.

"Jack!?" Daniel stared at him in puzzlement.

"Can you imagine the look on Maybourne's face when he get's out here and finds nothing but ocean??" Jack asked between laughs.

Daniel laughed a couple times and shook his head, "The General isn't going to like it."

Jack shrugged, hefting one of the 'rocks' that Harris had given him. "Somehow I think we've managed to enlist an ally, Daniel... and that is out mission, isn't it?"

"Countermeasures engaged, Commander."

"Good." Xander smiled, looking around at the group of people left.

Giles nodded at him from where he was standing, Maria by his side. Tara and Mikki were seated beside Faith and her 'brothers'. Colonel Austin had elected to remain, as had Doug and his remaining Eagles. Robert was also present, but had elected to remain aloof from the Knighthood for the moment at least, though he and the brothers had renewed their pledge to help Faith whenever she needed it.

Hercules had stuck around, but Dragan had left with the first group, having his own people and organization to look after. Xander couldn't really blame him, the man had a lot of issues with humans and the Knighthood in particular.

Kevin Griffin had left, saying something about having some things to work out, but the man and his friend Sean had pledged their help if any future event occurred, and Kevin had taken a card that would allow him to get a hold of Merlin or Xander from any phone on the planet and had promised to call when he got those things figured out.

So that left Xander with a small group, but a proven one.

"A short while ago," Xander said calmly, looking over the group, "I thought I knew what the future was bringing... I was wrong."

Giles and Faith exchanged glances of concern as he spoke, but were quiet.

"The future is an unwritten story, and we are all caught in the center of the next few chapters." Xander said with a slight smile. "If anyone wants out... you'd best do it now."

No one spoke.

Xander nodded, "Alright... This is what I have in mind..."

Later, Xander was sitting in the office he had been using, watching the screens as Merlin projected the most interesting data he could retrieve, when Faith and Paige walked in.

"They're done talking."

"Oh? Any decisions?"

Faith nodded. "The brothers wanted to sign up, but they finally decided that they had to think about it."

Xander chuckled, "That's funny. I wouldn't have considered them the thinking type."

"They aren't." Faith smiled, then frowned. "But something that happened to us a few months ago has them thinking... they want to go back to Boston. They say they'll help though, if we need it... and that you never know?"

Xander nodded.

"Robert is also undecided." Faith sighed, "But he might come around after a while. He wants to stay on as my Watcher."

"You'll need a good one in Sunnydale, if your coming." Xander said.

"Damn right I am." Faith smirked.

"Well, Austin is in." Xander said, I know that myself."

"As am I."

Xander looked up to see Giles walk in and he smiled, "I'd hoped you would be."

"It'll be a great adventure." Giles smiled. "Worthy of the bards, to quote a new friend of mine."

Xander chuckled.

"I'm in too." Hercules said as he stepped into the office, smiling at Xander. "But you own me one."

Xander groaned.

"And I'm not letting you put by boat through any more of this crap unless I'm at the helm." Maria grinned.

"I'm in too!" Mikki smiled.

"Me too." Tara said softly as she came in.

"You know that we're all in." Doug Masters announced, his face somewhat grim but set as he and the Eagles walked into the, very crowded, office.

Xander watched them all file in the door and smiled. "Good. I'm glad... I can't think of a better group to start with."

"Nor," Merlin announced as he projected himself. "Can I."

"In a joint statement today, the President of the United States, together with the Soviet Premier and the Chinese Head of State, announced that recent activities within the military were the result of a rogue group of Korean Nationals, in association with Chinese and Soviet militants attempted to create an international incident and thereby destabilize the region. The joint task force managed to put down the attempted insurrection with little trouble, but at a loss of life that included over two hundred aviators and military personnel... and very nearly the entire population of a United States town in the Hawaiian chain."

The reporter paused for a moment, solemnly allowing a moment of silence. "The three world leaders each expressed their sorrow, and pledged their aid to the survivors and their familes."

"In other news, The crash of a military fighter and transport in California earlier this week was declared to be the result of the stringent security measures the Government instituted in response to this emergency. As a result of the apparent collision, and the end of hostilities, the federal aviation authority has petitioned the government to reduce security."

"Some partisan politicians on the hill have begun to push for an investigation into President Whitmore's 'mishandling' of the situation, leading some of the fring opposition to whisper the word 'impeachment' in the backrooms here in Washington. So far the public opinion seems to be firming up in favor of the President, but new revalations could change that scenario drastically in the near future."

The reporter nodded to the camera, then allowed himself a smile. "On the lighter side of the news, reports have been reaching us from various sources concerning the events of the past month that paint things in a very different light. According to some eye witnesses, the battles over the Pacific were participated in by several UFOs, saucer shaped no doubt, and at least one Dragon. That's right folks, the Chinese nationals who supplied weapons to the Koreans apparently managed to dig up a Dragon for their allies. This reporter would like to caution all of his listeners to beware of flying iguanas... they might be more trouble then the seagulls that plague the coast."

"How bad is it, Arnie?"

"Bad, Mr President." Arnold Van Damn said tiredly. "Officially, it's just rumors, but the sharks smell blood."

"Goddamnit!" General Grey cursed. "This is fucking insane, and we all know it!"

"This is politics." Arnie said evenly. "Get used to it, Mr Secretary of Defence."

Grey growled, slumping back in his chair. "I'm starting to think that Harris kid had the right idea. Told us all to go to hell and just vanished... At least he doesn't get cut to shreds by his own fucking people."

Arnie sighed heavily, thanking god that the reporters weren't allowed in this deep into the White House. He'd have to work on Grey's language, and soon. "Be that as it may, we don't have the option."

"What do you suggest?" Whitmore asked, leaning forward.

"Spin control." Arnie said, shrugging. "I've got people working on leaking more of the cover story, spinning it to sound good for the administration... If we can get to press first and bend enough ears, then we can probably ride this out. The Public will forget it in a few weeks anyway."

Whitmore nodded slowly, "Ok... DO what you have to."

"What's the worst case scenario here?" Grey asked suddenly, his military mindset forcing him to consider a complete SNAFU.

"If the opposition can get this into court in the next couple weeks, then we are in real trouble." Arnie said after a moments consideration. "The public have short memories, but the courts don't. To avoid that we really need to turn public opinion to our favor now... without hard evidence, which they don't have, the opposition won't risk slashing their own throats before a possible forced election."

"Ok." Whitmore nodded, "Ok. Do it."

"Oh that's it. I'm going to Washington and I'm FRYING his ass." Drake muttered. "Not only did we help the bad guys... and may I just ask who they hell are they kidding with that story??... but now I'm a bird that goes around shitting on peoples cars!"

Geoff chuckled softly, "Hey, it could be worse... besides, he's right."

"He's what!?"

"Hey, I've SEEN you pass wind, Drake. You ARE more dangerous then a seagull."

A sudden rush of wind served notice to Geoff to hit the deck before a cascade of flame passed over him.

"Quite moving damn you!!"

"Not on your life, Drake! Just cause I'm immortal thanks to your heart doesn't mean that I *enjoy* getting flambeed!"

"That's their story huh?" Faith shrugged, turning away from the screen.

Xander nodded, "Yeah. Makes sense... I wonder how they got the Chinese to go along with it?"

"Trade concessions I would expect." Giles shrugged.

Xander chuckled, "Bribery writ large."

"Basically." Robert said calmly, "The Government is surprisingly adept at small time theft and criminal activities... it's just that when they do it, it's called statesmanship."

"Gee, you guys are so upbeat." Paige muttered.

"Seen too much." Xander said nonchalantly. "When you get grabbed by a government scientist and then fed to a vampire for her idle curiosity, you get jaded real fast."

"Boytoy's got a point." Faith shrugged, "Not that I recognize that particular story... You gonna come clean on that one, X..."

"Or what?"

"Or I tell G and Robert about you and your girl's games with handcuffs." Faith smirked.

Xander shuddered, along with Giles and Robert actually.

"Please." Giles muttered, "Just tell her. I don't want to know."

"Same here."

Faith smirked again, "Oh, but you both would love to hear THIS..."

"Ahem!" Paige snapped, "Tell her, Xander."

Xander shook his head, "Why should I? It was YOUR idea as I recall. Besides, I've got these lovely pictures of Faith that I'm *sure* the brothers would love to get ahold of..."

Faith snapped around, "What are you talking about??"

Xander just grinned, winking at her.

Faith scowled, but decided not to push it until she knew precisely what he was talking about. She folded her arms under her breasts and frowned. "Fine. Be like that."

"I intend to." Xander flashed her a lopsided grin. "Especially since I found out that Omega was kind enough to file all their video footage on a networked computer... Anyone here ever see Faith cry?"


Xander smirked, walking over to the young Slayer. He leaned in close, whispering into her ear. "Don't play games with the guy who controls the cards, Faith."

She scowled at him, then whispered back. "I haven't folded the game just yet, X... and I'm pretty sure that I can get Paige to deal me a whole new hand."

Xander backed off, looking at her in puzzlement. Faith just smirked cockily at him and turned away.

The rest of the day was taken up by the necessities of shutting down elements of the base that weren't going to be needed any time soon.

Doug and the Eagles had lives to return to, at least in the short term, and Xander had to be where the action was going to be along with his allies, which meant that until a substantial infrastructure could be created Avalon was going to be a quiet place.

Paige found Xander in his room, reading a status report of the remaining levels and 'secrets' of the ancient base.


Xander looked up and smiled, "Hey."

"You know," Paige smiled softly at him, "You never answered my second question."

Xander looked confused. "Huh?"

Paige shook her head, "How soon they forget. What do WE do now?"

"Ah..." Xander sighed, "That question."

Paige nodded.

"Paige..." Xander pushed back from the desk. "You know my life..."

She nodded, "You know mine."

Xander nodded in return. "So at least we know what we're getting into."

Paige didn't look as certain, "Maybe."

Xander closed his eyes, "You know, I lose more girls this way."


"You are going to give me the 'my life is too dangerous' line, aren't you?" Xander smiled sadly.

Paige shook her head. "No."


"No, because mine was never safe... even before you." Paige smirked at him slightly, then turned serious. "But I think you should know..."

Xander waited a moment, then prompted her. "Know what?"

"I... I uh, well There's this guy..."

Xander blinked, surprised by that. "Oh. Oh. Well.... I mean we never said..."

"Not like that." Paige smiled, then frowned. "Well, not entirely..."

She walked over and sat down on the bed, sighing. "I've never been good with relationships, Xander. The only ones that ever last were the kind I've had with you and this... other guy. No strings, just for fun... But..."

Xander waited patiently.

"But I'm afraid that I'm getting too close to you." Paige said finally. "And I don't know what to do about it. I love you, Xander. Believe that."

"I do." He whispered, joining her on the bed. "I do."

"Thanks." She looked up at him, her eyes glistening with moisture. "This isn't easy for me... I... I just don't know what we... are."

Xander opened his mouth, then shut it for a while as he considered that. Finally he put an arm around her and held her tightly. "Paige... I love *you*, you know that right?"

She nodded, smiling as she leaned into him. "Yeah. I know that. And it scares me."

"Don't let it." Xander told her. "It's just like a law of nature. It's not going to change. Ever."

"But... what if I..." Paige hesitated.

"Paige," Xander interrupted her. "If you need space... you have it. If you need time, it's yours."

He smiled at her, lifting her chin up. "I'm Sixteen, Paige... Physically at least. You, you're just barely Eighteen, right?"

She nodded.

"We've got out *lives* to figure this stuff out." Xander paused, then chuckled, "Ok, so those lives might not have the same security some people have... but that just means that we have to live them to the best we can. If that means we can be together... I'm all for that."

She smiled at him, leaning against him heavily. "So am I..."

Xander heard the 'but' in her voice and finished for her. "But not just yet?"

"Well... maybe not just later." She smiled up at him. "Just yet, I think I can handle."

Xander fell back onto the bed as she pushed him down, her lips on his. "Ummmmm... Me too."

"Is everyone prepared?" Merlin asked, appearing before them as they met with the group in the Hanger.

Maria had taken the 579 back, all her weapons once more dummied. Giles had elected to travel with her, while Xander took the rest back in the transport.

Xander looked around, then nodded.

"Very well. Good Journey, Commander."

"Good Journey, Merlin." Xander replied in kind.

The Avatar smiled, "I don't have many of those in my future, Commander."

"There are many kinds of Journeys, Merlin." Xander replied. "You're just ending one, and beginning another."

Merlin nodded, "But this time, it would seem that I have companions."

Xander nodded, smiling slightly settling in behind the controls of the Transport he and the others had just boarded. "Power down the island."

"Until you return, Commander." Merlin nodded solemnly as the lights flickered out. "Until you return."

Xander nodded, keying open the power shunts. "Until then."

And then the transport rings caught them and the darkened hanger vanished in a flash of light.



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