**Bakersfield, California 1998, May 14th**
"You mentioned hallucinations?" Doctor 'B' questioned curiously, his whitish blue scales shimmering in the bright light as he checked out Xander's physical status. 'Doc B' was a street doctor, he was part Ascretiva and part Dorgun. An unusual mix considering the two races rarely had contact with the other, but 'B' was one of the best street doctors around and he specialized in problems of the mind. "That's puzzling. As far as I can tell you haven't had a brain injury with enough damage to upset or damage the optic nerves, so that's out. It could be a spell, but an illusion that would follow you for months would take a lot of control and an experienced illusionist. Not someone you come across every day. You said that the hallucinations just appear every now and then, right?"
"It shows up very rarely and only for a second or two. Eight seconds maximum." Xander said quickly and efficiently, wanting to get this over with so that he could search for Buffy, find her, and go home. "Always the same person, complete with their mannerisms and voice pitch. It possesses personal knowledge, nicknames and such."
"Weird." 'Doc B' muttered, shaking his pale blue head in confusion. "Well, I can't tell you what it is without further tests, but I can tell you what it isn't. It's not an illusion or any spell that I'm aware of, it would have been much more tangible if it was magically related, but it isn't. It just comes and goes, no pattern. It could be a side effect of being in close range with a Tiltalic demon, but they are a hot pink color so I'm sure you would have noticed coming into contact with one. If it is a Tiltalic demon then I recommend some Swiss cheese and beer. Seems to drive them off and ends the effects. It could be demonic in origins but we are talking about some serious power if it is. Real big leagues kind of stuff. My only guess is that it is due to mental trauma of some sort."
"What kind of mental trauma?" Xander asked, blinking at the sudden light that was shined in his eyes by the good doctor via his miniature flashlight. "Are we talking about 'my parents didn't love me' or is it more of a 'dear god no, everyone is dead and I'm left' kind of trauma?"
"Well, the root of the trauma is definitely emotionally charged, but as for where does it start? No idea." Doctor B shrugged, turning off the small flashlight and striping off his latex gloves. "It could be a lot of things. From the loss of a loved one to information overload to just a rock hitting the head at the wrong place. What you are going through right now is a self imposed punishment made up by your subconscious to remind of something or someone. It's like a ghost, it won't leave unless you finally give it rest. Accomplish what it needs to be at rest again. Unfinished business, that sort of thing. I can give you some anti-psychotics but they wouldn't work, so I'm giving you something for anxiety."
"Do I look like I'm freaking out, Doc?" Xander snarked dryly, his face completely calm and his body still. "You said something about losing a loved one and information overload? Care to explain those to me?"
"Mental trauma comes from extreme mental and emotional change. Sudden changes in life, y'know, like a losing your dad or brother or sister, girlfriend, so on and so forth. Information overload is another way. It's getting pretty common nowadays to just get a mind dump instead of going to college or learning something the hard way." Doctor B explained patiently, as he should for what the fishy guy charged per hour. "Real rich kids in the know are getting mind dumped about things like business or seduction, public speaking instead of going to Oxford for five years. Half of them end up here after a month or two. They can't handle the new perspective and want to go back to the way they used to think. The information carries a person's perspectives on the world around them, how that person saw it. Soon the new perspective is fighting the conscience mind in a battle to see whose point of view the body will be using. If I get to them soon enough then I can reverse the damage, but wait four months and only your own will power can save you. Why, did ya get mind dumped recently or something?"
"No, just curious." Xander mumbled, his mind racing with the new information. Well, it wasn't good. In order for Xander to be rid of his hallucinations it was obvious that the Jackal would have to carry out one last mission. No, it just wasn't going to happen. He wasn't a murderer and he wasn't going to kill two good people, let alone how many other innocents that may get in his way. "Let's say that for whatever reason, I don't want to do what this ghost or memory or whatever wants me to do. Let's say I can't do it, that it's like moving the empire state building. Under those highly unlikely circumstances, could I live a functional life? I mean, could I just ignore the hallucinations?"
"Well....no." Doctor B said hesitatingly. "I'm sorry but unless you do whatever the task is the hallucinations, the 'memory' of the preson in question if you will, would just grow stronger. They wouldn't be the real person, of course, but they would be exactly like how you imagined or remember them being. Everything you know about the specter would become the specter until their wishes are complete. Once whatever it desires is accomplished then the hallucinations should fade and the mental healing can begin. I can recommend an excellent therapist who deals in matters of the mind, if you want? She is very professional and firmly believes in patient-doctor confidentiality. Mona is licensed but you shouldn't have any problem if you want to remain anonymous. She is very discreet."
"No thanks." Xander told him, pushing himself out of the chair. Reaching into his billfold he removed three hundred dollars and handed the money over to the scaly demon. "As agreed, here is the other half of the payment. Thank you for what you could tell me. It's more than I expected. If you learn anything else about mental trauma and ways to get rid of the hallucinations, I'll be back in six months for a check up and you can tell me then. May I have a way to contact you should I ever find myself in the area and in need of medical attention?"
"Sure, sure." Doctor B murmured, pulling out a blank white card and writing his phone number onto it with a pen before handing it to the teenager. "That's personal number by the way, just in case you're in town and feeling lonely. Just give me a call and Doc B will be there to perk you up!"
"I'll keep that in mind." Xander said, putting the card into his pocket. There was no way that Xander was going to call him for anything less than a medical emergency. One, the guy was just that, a guy. Two, he was a demon so there were those cross species breeding things. Three, Xander had way too much fun watching cheerleader practice to be ready to jump on the gay bandwagon. Not that he was homophobic, but he had enough trouble with girls. He didn't need a whole new category to screw up his sex life even worse than it was. "Thanks."
After making the polite farewells, Xander drove back to his hotel room in his rented BMW thinking deeply on his situation and a way out of it. The chance of the 'memory' possessing him frightened Xander the most. He knew better than anyone that the Jackal did not tolerate interference to his mission and had no problem with civilian casualties. The cold assassin would kill anyone who tried to stop him with no further thought, except to check if they were dead. If the doctor was right, then the memory would act like Xander remembered and would be capable only of what Xander remembered. Normally, this wouldn't be much of a problem, but the mind dump from Halloween made it a very real, very frightening thought. The Jackal would be alive again, if only until he killed Declan Mulqueen and Isabelle Zanconia. He needed to help them, they were good people now and what remained of his conscience demanded that he at least warn them. Xander needed to find them before he could warn them and that posed the danger of the Jackal possessing him and using the information himself.
Who knew how long it would be until the memory gained enough strength? Weeks, months, maybe even years? Either way, he was a walking time bomb and a danger to everyone around him. Everyone he loved could just be another casualty in the Jackal's mind. It came down to this: either he murdered Declan and Isabelle as Xander or who knows how many people would die if he went after them as the assassin. He didn't like it, he hated it in fact, but he could not ignore the conclusion that his mind had drawn up. There was no way around it, either he had to kill them soon or he risked his friends' lives. He wasn't stupid, he knew that Buffy, wherever she was, was capable of holding her own against nearly any threat that walked the earth, but assassins didn't operate in a way she could defend from. It didn't matter if she were stronger and faster than master vampire when a bullet pierced her brain. Despite her great strength Buffy was human, a fact that he and the other Scoobies often forgot, and she could be killed just like a normal human from things like a bullet to the head or heart, suffocation, dehydration, and starvation.
As for the others, they would be sitting ducks waiting for the hunter's bullet. Like he said, assassins, true assassins unlike the idiotic Tarakens, you never saw coming. 'You can't fight what you can't find.' It was the golden rule of assassins everywhere and a very true one. Even the strongest and most powerful of beings were vulnerable to surprise attacks that were planned properly. 'Anything can be killed, sometimes more than once.' Another golden rule. The Jackal had many of them, but there was one rule that was always carried out and if you messed that one up then it was all over for you and anyone with you: don't die. Xander hadn't chose this life, but he seemed to be living it regardless of what he wanted. The life of us his friends versus the lives of Declan and Izzy equals two very dead people. With any luck, it would be years before the memory grew strong enough, but could he really risk it?
The Jackal didn't risk anything. He never attempted a kill unless absolutely certain and Xander was certain that he didn't want to turn into the Jackal while on patrol with his friends. It had to be done. For Buffy. For Willow. For Giles. Even for Cordy and Oz. Better that two old ex-assassins died than five young heroes. It was just about numbers. Six billion versus two. It was worth it.
"Keep telling yourself that, Alex." The Jackal smiled from the rear view mirror causing Xander to nearly swerve into oncoming traffic. An amused expression crossed the killer's face at the near death experience. "Losing concentration while driving is an amateur mistake. You know better than that."
"You aren't real." Xander said aloud, more to convince himself than anything. "You aren't Rory, you're just a figment inside of my head that resembles him."
"I'm real enough to frighten you, Alex, and more than real enough to put a bullet in your friends' brains. Listen, I don't like the thought of killing your friends anymore than you do, too messy, too familiar." The Jackal commented, icy blue eyes with all the warmth of the arctic glaring into his own brown eyes. "But Declan and Izzy have to die for their betrayal. They knew what would happen when they tried to leave, they knew the promise we made to each other. To kill anyone who tried to leave, loyalty to we three only. They sealed their own death warrants when they made that choice and they knew it. I know they seem like good people now, but you remember what they did. The missions I took with them. Can you honestly say that they don't deserve to die?"
"Shut up. Just shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" Xander screamed into the mirror as the Jackal's smirking face disappeared and his own returned to it's rightful place. Turning his attention back to the road, Xander wheeled the steering wheel to the right harshly, nearly spinning out of control as he dodged the incoming semi-truck. "FUCK!" Xander screamed, barely dodging the eighteen tons of death. Breathing harshly, he took the nearest right and got off of the freeway. It wouldn't pay to get the police involved just because of a little reckless driving. "Wow, I almost can't believe I survived that. If the vamps don't get me, then my own brain will. I knew that thinking was evil."
**Arizona Desert, May 23rd, 1998**
"Ms. Connor." Xander greeted the pretty older woman with a cheery smile, wearing a stringy, straw blond wig covering his now short dark brown hair. It was expertly put on, carefully held in place by clips and make up. The older woman looked at Xander, her hard dark eyes sizing him up carefully. It was obvious that she wasn't impressed at first, but then her eyes widened slightly in surprise as she realized the precise control with which the boy in front of her moved. It was a good thing she had brought Derek with her to meet the buyer, the way this boy moved was almost inhuman in it's carefully controlled movements and he appeared to be open and friendly. In other words, despite his young age this boy was a very careful predator who hid what he was. Good at deception. Suddenly, Sarah Connor felt very thankful for John's insight to place Cameron in a sniper position on the hill one click south. "Nice to meet you, I'm your contact. Jackal."
"Let's just get down to business." Sarah requested, or rather ordered, in a 'no nonsense' tone of voice. The fake blond didn't loose his goofy grin as he nodded in agreement. Sarah dropped the bed on the Bronco and pulled out a box a little over a meter long and thirty centimeters wide with Derek helping her sit the heavy box on the dust covered ground. "As you requested, the total weight is under five pounds and the with the cover shell it comes to a sum of twenty six pounds. It uses a single 13mm cartridge and is a single shot. It was built for stealth and the sound is muffled up to a fifteen feet radius, the rounds are a little hard to come by due to their size and have to be specially made. It should be able to shoot mercury tipped ammunition, exploding shells, and depleted uranium shells." She opened the box and pulled out a large, high powered telescope. "As you can see, it's cover is perfect and it functions as a telescope. Once the weapon is assembled then you can fit the lens piece on top for a scope. I have the other scopes made for the cover as well, both star light/star bright and night-vision. It runs on a charge from any common car battery. Takes about three hours to charge it and is functional for eight hours before it needs recharging. Any questions?"
"How many bullets did you bring with you?" Xander asked, kneeling down to inspect the 'telescope' and checking for any flaws in the design. It seemed to be very well made for a fairly cheap custom job, the right forging process, and was very evenly made with no seams to make it unusual. Excellent quality metal too. Sarah Connor did good work, just as her reputation said. He ignored the big, tattooed man who stood near enough to Ms. Connor to be either be her personal bodyguard or her lover. He acted and looked like the average mercenary, except for evidence of much higher training than the usual grunts of the military. More adaptable.
"We brought ten rounds for each ammunition. We didn't think that you would want to buy more than that from us as when it comes to specialized ammunition we are pretty expensive." Sarah answered immediately, narrowing her dark eyes at the blond youth's change in tone. It had gone from lazy, beach bum to a professional's tone in a split second. This kid wasn't a joke, he was a pro. She could recognize that now and it made her wonder just what a pro wanted with a gun like the one he had ordered from her. "The size of the round is hard to come by but for a further fee of five thousand dollars we can give you the name of a private bullet smith in Wisconsin who is very discreet. I assume you have the other half of the payment with you?"
"I think I'll take that name, Ms. Connor, and yes I have the payment with me." Xander answered, standing up and stretching his arms out. He was no fool, he knew that there was probably a bullet with his name on it and a scope on his head right at that moment, but he was prepared if they decided to double cross him. He walked back over to a rented SUV and reached in the open window and withdrawing a green backpack. Turning back around, he walked back over to the duo and threw it down on the ground at their feet. "15,000 US. I'll need to test the weapon, see what it's capable of. Is this place secure enough or should I go someplace else?"
"It's secure. The nearest road other than the one you came here on is fifteen miles from here and the nearest house is ten miles north. There's nothing but desert and us here." Sarah said, watching as the man identified to her only as the 'Jackal' expertly twisted the telescope's cover and assembled the real rifle fairly quickly for his first time. She shivered a bit, not liking how this boy operated or moved. He reminded more of a Terminator than a human, very cold. Icy. "The rounds are in the tackle box in the back of the Bronco."
"Hm." Xander grunted, moving to the Bronco and getting the burnt orange tackle box out. Walking back to the set up 13mm sniper rifle, he set the box next to the gun, then he turned back toward Sarah and Derek. "I'll need a target. The maximum accuracy range for this gun should be at around nine hundred meters, so put it eight hundred meters out."
"Already done." Sarah revealed, marching up to the teenager and handing him her binoculars. She pointed out an area to the south where a large homemade marksman target was set up. "There, two inches below the horizon. Will that be an acceptable target?"
"It'll do." 'Jackal' murmured, handing the binoculars back to Sarah and kneeling down next to the gun, adjusting the scope and squeezing the trigger on the empty gun to practice fire. Opening the tackle box, he retrieved a single depleted uranium round for the test. Carefully, he inserted the round and took aim, the wind was dead so there was no worry about cross winds or factoring the wind into calculation. Squeezing the trigger gently, Xander was knocked back a few inches from the recoil as the bullet sped it's way to the target and punched the bull's eye. Lowering the gun, Xander looked at the target. Perfect shot. "Ms. Connor, you do very beautiful work."
"Thank you. The payment is good, all that's left is the five grand for the bullet smith's name." Sarah said, impressed by the shot despite herself. Definitely a pro. She knew better than to ask the reason for buying such a weapon. It could mean death. It was better if she didn't know, both for her own conscience and for her state of mind. She was still tense, though. If this 'Jackal' was going to betray her and Derek, then now would be the time for murder. "That is if you intend to pay us at all."
"I don't lie when business is involved, Ms. Connor. I will pay for services rendered as long as nobody changes the deal or threatens to notify the authorities." Xander half smiled, cocking his head to the side as if studying a specimen instead of a human. The gesture chilled Sarah for reasons she couldn't explain and she saw Derek tense up at his words. "That is assuming that what I ordered is up to my expectations, if it wasn't and you had request a higher payment then you never would have left this desert alive. Thankfully, everything is perfect." He reached into his bak pocket and handed the wallet to Sarah. "I keep six thousand dollars US in my wallet, five is your payment and the rest is a bonus. You brought the blue prints, right?"
"Here." She handed him the folded blue prints. Sarah figured that since he was going to destroy them then she didn't have to roll them up and folded them instead. The blond took them and pulled out a lighter, setting the blue prints on fire. He watched and re-burned the remains for the next few seconds untilothing was left except ashes. "Our business is concluded then?"
"Yes, it's concluded. Nice to meet another professional." Xander smiled coldly, the sunlight refecting off of his sunglasses eerily as he loaded the fake telescope into the Sports Utility Vehicle, strapping it down with ropes to keep it from tilting over. Climbing into the SUV, Xander paused only long enough to say one more thing. "Oh and you may want to remove the plastic explosive from beneath your bumper. These dirt road are so rough that it could set the bomb off."
Sarah stared in shock as the teenager drove off and rushed to check under her bumper where a small strip of C4 had been planted. Her training coming into effect, Sarah easily removed and disabled the explosive with Derek's help. Turning to Derek, she spoke. "Just how in the hell was he able to do that without us noticing?"
"No idea, maybe the metal bitch picked it up on her scanners." Derek shrugged, seemingly concerned with something else if the puzzled frown on his face was any indication. "Guy looked damned familiar, though. Something about the way he moved...."
They sat there for ten minutes waiting for Cameron and John to show up. For safety's sake, Sarah had decided that John would be better protected if left with the Terminator. The farther he was away from the danger the better in her opinion, both as a mother and a soldier. When the two finally showed up, Sarah stomped over to Cameron. "Why didn't you tell us that he had placed a bomb on the Bronco?"
"Mission protocol prevented me for doing so." Cameron answered emotionlessly, carrying her disassembled sniper rifle's case to the truck and placing it behind the seat with John surreptitiously enjoying the view. "I am unable to terminate any key members of the Resistance unless they attempt treason or mutiny."
"Key members? You're telling me that guy is one of my future officers?" John asked, an alarmed look shooting across his face. He hadn't been able to watch the exchange, but the guy had still planted a bomb on their car.
"Yes. Commander rank and leader of the Black Black Squad. Code named: the Jackal." Cameron answered her superior officer without hesitation. "His face is unrecognizable, but I was able to perform a retinal scan and ascertain his identity. No doubt he uses plastic surgery to change his features in the next several years, possibly more times then one. As a high paid assassin, he frequently changes his appearance prior to Judgment Day and continues to do so during the war with Skynet. One of our best strategists, he is known for his ability to lead the Black Black Squad behind enemy lines undetected and for destroying crucial facilities with very rare casualties."
"What's the Black Black Squad?" John asked, while Derek wondered away from the conversation with an angry look on his face.
"The Black Black Squad is the formation of hand picked recruits started by the Jackal for John Connor's special black operations team." Cameron answered. "It's members are usually reprogrammed Terminators, T-800's and T-1000's are fairly common in the squad, but the Jackal's prized captured and reprogrammed Terminator is the TX model. Allison Young was one of his few human recruits and my appearance was designed for infiltration of that unit and the termination of both the Jackal and John Connor whom associated with each other often. I was never able to find my secondary mission priority so I moved against John Connor first."
"You said that he was a high paid assassin, who were his targets?" Sarah questioned, staring hard at the beautiful infiltrator unit. "What are his methods like?"
"Codenamed Jackal was described as a 'human terminator' by John Connor, someone who went after his mark with obsessive drive and constantly changing appearance. Not much information on his methods are recorded, but he does not attack unless certain of his success." Cameron said checking the Bronco over for any more bombs. None. "Known targets in order are: Isabelle Zanconia and her family, Declan Mulqueen, Donald Brown, Jack O'Neil, Sarah Connor,-"
"What?!" Sarah demanded, her face turning white.
**Dublin, Ireland, June 3rd, 1998**
"Reason for visiting?" The woman at the Airport check in asked the green eyed, brown haired twenty something man in front of her. He had an easy smile, one that she found herself returning, and a pleasant, tanned face.
"The Dublin Hold 'Em Tournament." Mr. Jack Allis answered her smoothly in a Cajun accent, a flirtatious smile on his face as he leaned just a tad too close. "Got fifteen grand to blow and I'm feeling lucky. Maybe I'll kiss the Blarney Stone just for luck before the game, eh? I could use someone to show me around till tomorrow, never been to Ireland before if your interested?"
"Thank you but I'm working all night." The woman smiled at the flirt. It felt good to see someone who wasn't in a hurry and wasn't an arse. She stamped his passport and handed it back to him, then she handed him a piece of paper with a phone number written on it. "Maybe if you win the tournament we'll go out, but until then..bye."
"I'll hold you to that, cherie." The Cajun smirked and walked off. Xander didn't allow himself to smirk for long as he made his way through the airport. It would be a week until the 'telescope' arrived via mail and he did plan on sitting in on the tournament. It was due to be crowed and was going to be full of people ready to make their fortune with that lucky hand. Perfect place for his identity to blend in. He slid his sunglasses down from the top of his head to their proper place.
"I'm telling you Jonathon, we should not have brought the children to a poker game. It isn't a good lesson in morals for them." A familiar accented voice said to the handsome man next her. She was twenty feet to his left and Xander turned to see if it was who he thought it was.
"C'mon Izzy, it won't be that bad. It could even help the kids get in touch with their family roots to see the emerald isle." The man said from his place next to the dark haired beauty, he was carrying a little girl in his arms and a boy about six was walking next to him. The woman tossed her hair to the side in agitation and revealed her beautiful face to two cold brown eyes that were hidden by green colored contacts and sunglasses.
"I'm Basque, not Irish." The woman protested, walking alongside her husband. Isabelle Zanconia felt someone watching her and old instincts kicked in as she made a move toward the water fountain. "Excuse me, beloved, but I'm a bit thirsty yet. Be right back."
Her warm dark brown eyes turned icy as they flitted over the crowds, looking for anyone or anything out of place that could have triggered her assassin instincts. She reached the water fountain and used the reflective surface to surreptitiously scan the area. Nothing. Turning around, Isabelle froze as her eyes landed on a man who was watching her wearing *very* familiar sunglasses. The man smiled coldly and cocked his head in frighteningly familiar gesture before raising his right hand and waving mockingly. Before Isabelle could do anything but stare in shock, a crowd went between them and when they passed the man was gone as if he had never been there.
Quickly Isabelle made her way back to her family, her instincts on high alert and her eyes constantly scanning the area around her for any sign of the man who was wearing the Jackal's sunglasses. Walking up to John, her husband took note of his wife's pale and worried face as she fell into step next to him, picking up their son and carrying him like John was doing to his daughter."Something wrong, Izzy? You look like you just saw a ghost or something."
"I think I just did." Isabelle murmured, clutching her son to her chest protectively. It couldn't be coincidence. Ireland, where she was. Ireland, where Declan was. Ireland, where the both of them were. She knew that she houldn't have come here. She should have just stayed home instead of letting herself be convinced to go by John. Isabelle had to find Declan just in case it wasn't just a coincidence. Just in case.
Isabelle never noticed the man from earlier watching her leave.
END OF CHAPTER
AN: Another chapter by popular demand. By the way, I really need to know how to put up banners for this story.