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Summary: Xander has hit the road after graduation and is dead set on seeing as much of America as he can before heading back to Sunnydale. Little does he know that he will not only get his wish but soon his view of the world will change forever

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > Hulk
Comics > Wildstorm Universe
DC Universe > Justice League
ShadowMasterFR2113161,6932114758,77826 Aug 1025 Aug 12Yes

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A Jade Sunrise

"Nature Unleashed" by Shadow Master aka Ryley Breen

Disclaimer: This is to inform all who read this that I do not own The Incredible Hulk nor any characters related to it. Nor do I own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the characters associated with that show. In fact about the only thing I do own is the story itself and nothing else. I am not making any kind of profit from this whatsoever. I am writing this for the enjoyment of both the readers and myself. Therefore it would be much appreciated if you could refrain from any sort of legal action as it is likely to wind up costing you more than you will ever be able to squeeze from me.

Note : Now I know that I said I would be working on my in progress fanfics and not any new ones and believe it or not this is in perfect keeping with what I said. This isn’t a new fanfic but rather one that up until now I only had posted on I’ve decided to bring it over to to double my reviews and allow people who don’t go to to read this story. Well enough of the clarification and clearing up. Time to SMASH our way to the good stuff.

Nature Unleashed

"Man! Am I glad that I had this thing tuned up before leaving Sunnyhell!" Xander exclaimed as he briefly looked back at the BMW he had almost had a head on collision with.

It was the summer after the snake-a-licious graduation in which he, being the key guy, helped to blow up the Mayor and save the day. Of course he was even more pleased that he got to do what most teenagers in high school dream of doing and that was blowing up their school. It was just a happy coincidence that saving the town and blowing up the school happened to coincide on the same day. In any case once he had told the rest of the gang that he was going on a little road trip across the U S of A he had taken the Cadillac to get tuned up and checked out. There hadn't really been anything wrong with it as far as he could tell since it got him to where he needed to go in Sunnydale but there was a big difference between that and a cross-country road trip. The last thing he needed was for the engine to fall out of the car in the middle of nowhere leaving him to walk to the nearest town for a place to stay. It had taken a sizeable chunk out of his funds but he figured all that would mean would be that half way through his trip he would have to get some kind of a job. It being the summer he had little doubt that he'd be able to find something half decent. Probably a dishwasher or something equally menial but at least it would be honest and decent work unlike some jobs out there. He didn't care how desperate for cash he got there was no way he was going to do anything that chipped away at his pride.

In any case it was turning out to be a wonderful evening as he watched the sun finish setting over the desert landscape of Nevada. He had never really made any kind of plans as far as which state he was going to visit first or which one he would drive to after that. It was pretty much 'decide as you go' for him and he kinda liked it that way. Even if it was in a rather pathetic and trivial way he was the master of his own fate, the chooser of his own destiny, and after all the years of teachers telling him what to do in school it was nice. His first choice of where to go was good ol' Las Vegas, the city of lights, where gambling was a way of life and there was that real cool show with the tigers. The one thing he'd have to watch out for there was the three taboos that got most of the Harris clan in trouble including his parents. Gambling, Drinking and numerous one night stands with loose women were the three great vices of the Harris clan and there were precious few members who manage keep themselves from falling victim to one of those three. There was even an old joke among the family members that if a member of the Harris family ever fell victim to all three he or she would be dead within a year for certain.

~Well this is one Harris that isn't going to get chained to any of them!~ Xander thought bitterly as he remembered how those vices affected his immediate family members.

After turning on the radio and letting some cool tunes keep him company on the lonely road he had only been listening for ten minutes before he spotted something down the road. It looked like he wasn't the only one traveling the highway this evening but apparently he was the only one who had thought to make sure his car was in tip top condition. As he got closer and closer the details of the vehicle he had spotted became clearer and he discovered that it was a Ford Explorer that he had spotted. However as he crossed the two hundred yard mark to the car it was not the car that caught his attention but the lithe form bent underneath the raised hood instead. Long athletic female legs rose above the ground covered only by a pair of sandals on the feet and a pair of worn in jean shorts. Needless to say his interest was caught as any young man with a pulse would be and using a good deed as justification he brought his car up behind the woman about eight feet from her.

Getting out of the car he began to walk towards her but no sooner had he passed the front fender of his car than he found himself staring down the barrels of three revolvers. The first was in the hands of the young woman, roughly his age, who had lured him in. The second was from a guy who had come around from the right side of the Explorer and fit the description of an angry former employee right down to the whisker covered face and messy hair. The other was an African American with dreadlocks but apparently was better off in the financial department than whisker boy was for the most part. All in all they had him good as there was no way he was going to be able to get back into his car and drive off without getting a forceful injection of lead for his trouble. Keeping his hands in the air he watched as they unloaded a few bags and a plastic toolbox from their vehicle and dumped it into his car. Judging from the way the two men were hurrying along and how the woman who had suckered him kept sneaking glances at the setting sun he suspected they were on a timetable of some kind. Which was kinda weird because unless they knew when the next highway patrol was about to come down this particular stretch it seemed to him like they had all the time in the world. The only possibility that he could come up with was that hijacking his car wasn't their primary goal this night but rather a means to an end. Maybe that was something that he could use to his advantage somehow.

"Okay we got most of the crucial stuff Betty. I doubt this old gas guzzler will be able to carry much more and still be as fast as we need it to be." Mr. Disgruntled said as he put the toolbox down in the back seat.

"You idiot! I thought we agreed we wouldn't be using names!" the African American exclaimed as if he couldn't believe his comrade could be that stupid.

"Like the entire military won't know who we are with her along!" Mr. Disgruntled said sarcastically, "You know they're going to have the thing under video surveillance with night vision lenses on them. Telling this yahoo won't make any difference."

"Maybe so but keep the talking to a minimum Rick. Just because they'll know who sabotaged their little project doesn't mean we should give this guy any info that can be interrogated out of him later by army grunts." Betty said not taking her eyes of her target one little bit.

~She's good. Not one chance for a surprise attack the entire time.~ Xander thought to himself as he watched the African American and 'Rick' hop in the back seat of his Cadillac.

"Sorry for leaving you in the lurch like this Brown Eyes but we have an appointment to keep and not a lot of time to get there." Betty said as she slowly began to approach him, "Now how about you hand over they keys without making any trouble and we can all keep this from getting any more unpleasant than it already is."

"No." Xander stated calmly.

"Look I don't want to have to hurt you pal but I don't have time to argue this with you!" Betty declared while trying to look more serious about her threat.

"I understand but look at the situation you're leaving me in here. I'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no food and only a broken down Explorer for shelter." Xander explained while trying to keep his voice sounding casual, "No food that I can see and no guarantee that anyone will come by and take me to the next down anytime soon. So basically you're asking me to choose between a bullet in the brain, hypothermia due to the rapidly decreasing temperatures or starvation in the middle of nowhere. If those are my choices then please just put me out of my misery now and shoot me."

~Oh yeah! I'm nuts!~ Xander thought with no little bit of fear as his mind began to calculate the odds as to whether or not Betty would actually pull the trigger.

Still he was pretty sure he had these guys pegged right as basically good people who thought that they were doing the right thing. Betty was doing a pretty good impression of a stone cold mercenary with the way she was keeping all emotions off her face but he could see the truth in her eyes. She didn't want to hurt him any more than he wanted to ^be^ hurt but she was obviously torn between whatever it was she and her pals needed to do and not killing him. For awhile it was a proverbial standoff with neither him nor Betty making a move or giving any sign of what was going on inside their heads. Rick and the African American were just looking on apparently willing to see how this played out in the next few seconds before ending the stalemate themselves. Eventually the young woman called Betty sighed and lowered her gun before turning walking towards the passenger side of the car.

"Get in the car. You're driving." She said as she hopped over the passenger side door and into the front seat.

"Wha?" Xander asked slightly confused by her demand and he could tell from the sounds behind him that both the African American guy and Rick were surprised as well.

"Well you said you didn't want to be left in the middle of nowhere and you have the only keys to the car." Betty explained in a manner reserved for dumb people, "Besides if you come with us you might be able to avoid being interrogated by the army after the mission is completed."

Xander knew quite well from his temporary possession by The Soldier on Halloween how most people were interrogated by the military. It got worse the more closer you got in their minds to being an accomplice than an innocent civilian and he had no wish to spend a few months in solitary confinement 'thinking their offer over'. So without further prompting he briskly walked back to the car and got into the driver's seat before asking Betty the most important question he could ask at the moment.

"So where to doll face?" he asked with his usual lopsided grin.


Military Mobile Command Center, 12 Minutes Later

"You better hope this invention of yours works Banner." General Thunderbolt Ross said as he looked at the stacked monitors in front of him.

On each screen was another image of the device that was to be detonated in little over an hour with each camera positioned so that nothing would be missed from start to finish. The device itself was essentially just a nuclear bomb but what made it experimental was the fact that it was half the size your usual nuclear warhead and had newly discovered G-crystals incorporated into it. According to Banner's brief on the device the crystals somehow made the bomb more efficient energy wise so that a person could get two to three times the bang for half the size of your normal nuke. Add to that fact that the crystals somehow absorbed the stray radiation from the plutonium inside and it made the device much easier to transport and virtually undetectable using conventional methods. All in all it would give America a significant advantage over its enemies if it worked. The reason that Ross was in such a bad mood was because he had the most to lose if this thing turned out to be a dud. While it had not originally been his project he was the general that had been running the show the longest. A friend of his had been in charge before him and had managed to convince Ross that it was a solid idea and worth backing. When Thunderbolt had asked his 'friend' why he was passing it along the reason had been that the top brass wanted someone stricter at the wheel. While that had been a feasible reason then he now believed it had been an attempt by the brass to quietly put him out to pasture without too much fuss. That just made Ross even more determined to make sure this proto-type nuke was a success as it would throw those bureaucrats' plan right back in their faces.

"Don't worry General. I have every faith that my invention will mark a cornerstone in history." , Banner replied while typing away on his laptop, "Think of how this technology could benefit mankind! Nuclear reactors will drop in size but maintain their necessary energy output! The possibilities are endless."

"Yeah, well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Until this bomb goes off without any problems I don't even want to think of what will happen in the future." Ross grumbled as he noticed the approach of a lieutenant he had spoken to earlier in the day, "Better to keep our eyes on the present where they belong."

"General Ross. The errand you asked me to run has been accomplished." The Lieutenant said while at complete attention.

"Any chance of the concerned parties fouling it up?" Ross asked and was relieved when the young man seemed to understand the hidden meaning of the words.

"No sir. Everything should be fine until at least 2200 hours." The Lieutenant replied confidently, "Also I took the liberty of arranging for some extra help in case something goes wrong."

If Ross was hearing the Lieutenant right he was more or less saying that while it was true his rebellious daughter's car was rigged to give out and was impossible to fix until at least ten in the evening aide had been arranged in case she couldn't fix the engine on her own. Nodding at the lieutenant to dismiss him he let out a mental sigh of relief that his daughter Betty wouldn't be able to make it to the prototype nuke in time to do anything to it. Not that she'd likely appreciate the lengths he went to keep her safe and out of trouble but it was for her own good until she outgrew this rebellious phase she was in. Betty had been such a darling little girl until puberty hit and then it was one argument after another between the two of them. They were barely able to tolerate each other's company and if any sensitive subjects came up in discussion that they were on opposite sides of it was almost guaranteed to get ugly. The heaviest blow though came just last year when she had not only graduated from high school but also turned eighteen which meant she was of legal age to make her own decisions and be held accountable for them. His little spitfire of course hadn't wasted any time exercising this right to choose and moved out within a month to stay with some friends in a barely satisfactory apartment. A number of his relatives had prodded him into trying to fix his relationship with Betty but when she stopped answering his phone calls he knew that a temporary retreat was in order.

That of course didn't mean he wouldn't keep an eye on her and try to keep her from getting into too much trouble. He had called in some favors from friends in the intelligence business and asked them to monitor his wayward daughter but to keep this arrangement under the table so to speak. The men could be trusted as he had more than a few mounds of dirt on them to make them reconsider any ideas of betraying him. He had made sure he had plenty of ammunition to use against them before he had even approached them with the request. If they tried to blackmail him or sell the information about his daughter to his enemies they would find hell preferable to where he'd send them.

About two months ago he had received a file from one of the observers that his daughter had joined up with some kind of environmentalist group called 'The Green Dawn'. They were a harmless enough group with nothing more serious on their records than destruction of government property at protest rallies. However evidence had recently been discovered that the group was about to take huge leap away from those activities and actually try something seriously criminal. It had only been a few days ago that he had been told that Betty and a few other members were heading in this direction and that left him little in the way of doubts as to what they were intending to do. So he had discreetly taken the Lieutenant aside and asked him to tamper with his daughter's Ford Explorer so that it would give out an hour or so after being turned on. Given that the test site for the prototype nuke was almost two hours away by car there was no way she could run the distance in time to interfere in any way. The Lieutenant's effort to ensure that Betty would receive some roadside assistance if she couldn't fix the problem on her own took an added wait off his shoulders as it meant he would not have to deal with that himself. He loved his daughter dearly but he was also aware that any meeting between the two of them now would only end badly. Better to help her from afar then to try to fix things in person and only make things worse.

"General Ross, sir, technicians report that the observation equipment is online and the prototype is ready for deployment." Said a communications technician from the comm. Gear.

"Very well. Inform them to set the timer for one hour and then to proceed immediately to the safe zones." Ross ordered as he looked the technician right in the eyes.

"Yes sir!" The Technician said before turning back to the equipment in order to follow his orders.

"Well since we have some time to spare General I think I'll go grab a quick bite to eat before the show starts." Banner said as he placed the clipboard he had been holding onto a nearby table.

Ross only harrumphed at this with his opinion of glasses wearing eggheads going down another notch.


Dirt Road off the Main Highway, 10 Minutes Later

"Don't worry. Once this is all over you'll be free to go." Betty said as she took in the sour look on Brown Eyes' face, "I'm sure once they take a look at the security footage and see that we have guns pointed at you all they'll want is a statement. So chill and enjoy the show."

Unfortunately this did little to improve the driver's mood as he continued to just look straight ahead and follow the directions she and the guys gave him. Not that she could really blame him for his mood given that they had hijacked him at gunpoint and weren't being overly honest about what it was they were up to but secrecy had been necessary. The less they told him the less that her dad and his military monkey's could pry out of him or perhaps even suspect that he had. This was as much for his protection as was for the Green Dawn's protection. If they completely spilled the beans then the army wouldn't let him go until they had extracted every tidbit of information they could from his mind. Not only would this severely compromise Green Dawn's efforts to protect the environment but she doubted the military morons interrogating Brown Eyes would be all too gentle about how they got the information in the first place. If they thought he knew nothing though and was merely a victim of circumstance they'd still give him a grilling but in the end he would be set free. So all in all it would be the best for all concerned to keep from getting too friendly or familiar with one another. Checking her watch she saw that it was roughly fifty minutes until the prototype nuke that the Green Dawn's informant inside the military said was being tested today would go off. That meant that assuming this old car didn't give out on them anytime soon they should get to nuke in time to seriously cross some wires.

Their overall plan for this mission was to either a) sabotage the device so that it looked like a design flaw and force the eggheads to go back to the drawing board or b) steal the key components and once analyzed send the plans to every nation in the world. The idea behind plan b was partially the concept of M.A.D (mutually assured destruction) and partially the belief that the United States military would try and bury the project. After all there had to be a treaty or pact between the various nations of the world that prohibited the invention of new and deadlier nuclear devices. Once it was even suggested that America was trying to come up with something like that the military would do everything it could to destroy anything that could confirm the idea. True a few nations might pursue the new technology despite M.A.D and the U.S' denial of its existence but they were all pretty sure that America had everything necessary already under lock and key. From what their informant had explained one of the key parts of this new bomb were some kind of rare crystals that were extremely hard to come by even on the department of defense's budget. Uncle Sam probably already had an iron clad contract with whoever had discovered them as well as made sure the site was under constant surveillance. If that was the case then it was highly unlikely that any other nation would be able to get their hands on them.

In any case it was something that had to be done before the American military machine decided this new weapon gave them the edge they needed to start another war. While the desk jockeys and military representatives would likely state that the tech was being developed for non-military applications she knew nothing had them drooling more than a new way of killing people. Any other possible uses would only be explored once every tactical possibility had been explored and exploited and by then a great deal of damage would already be done to the environment as well as the human race. The bombs would kill and the radiation left over from the blast would contaminate the area around ground zero for years with no guarantee that any kind of clean up would ever be done. All in all the creation for a smaller, more powerful, nuke would spell death and sickness for everyone and everything if it got past the testing phase.

~Well after tonight those idiots will have no choice but to see things my way!~ Betty thought as she saw the first landmark their informant had told them to look out for.

It would have been more convenient for them if their informant had managed an actual map but he had stated that while security around the project wasn't great it would raise quite a few red flags if he made a map of the testing area and how to get there. The most he had been able to do was point out a few recognizable rock formations and cliffs with directions like 'turn left' or 'go three miles' to make sure they were going in the right direction. Still so far everything had shown up right when the guy had said they would so she was inclined to believe that they were on the right path. It wasn't a smooth ride by anyone's definition, especially given what they were all riding in, but it was at a decent enough speed that she didn't see the need to tell Brown Eyes to pour on the gas.

All that was left to do now was wait.


Army Mobile Command Center, Fifteen minutes Later

"Sir we have a breach on the western perimeter!" a technician declared intensely as he brought the relevant tactical information up on the various monitors.

~I've got a bad feeling about this.~ General Ross thought as he turned away from the bureaucratic paper work he had yet to finish to see what the problem was.

The screens mostly displayed a loose topographical map of the test area with several dots of different colors to indicate the positions of personnel and equipment. At the moment a red dot indicating an intruder was framed in targeting crosshairs with data like speed as well as both longitude and latitude co-ordinates next to the crosshairs. It wasn't moving all that faster which to him indicated that it was likely a car or some other land based form of transportation. Unfortunately he had a sinking feeling that his wayward daughter was in that vehicle and was on her way to the prototype neo-nuke with her Green Dawn pals to try something. Sure it could be another team of eco-extremists or some idiot out for a joyride in the middle of the desert but somehow he doubted it could be that simple or that favorable to his career.

"Can we get a visual of the intruder?" he asked since he knew that there were several cameras posted around ground zero feeding images for the official records.

"One moment General." The technician replied as he worked the keyboard in front of him.

A few minutes later a grainy image appeared on the screen but it did show what appeared to be a Cadillac driving across the desert towards the neo-nuke. The car was too far away to clearly identify who was in the vehicle but he could see that there were indeed four people in the automobile. This puzzled him slightly as his information stated that Betty's group totaled three including herself but according to the image on the screen there was a mystery fourth member added to their band. It made him wonder if she had anticipated his interference and arranged to have a back up car in place.

"Can you zoom in and enhance the image any?" Ross asked the technician with some concern.

He wanted to make sure of who was actually in the car before he issued out any orders since if it did turn out to be Betty he would have to find some non-lethal way of stopping her. Usually on operations like this lethal force was permitted since these matters were considered important to national security. As far as he was concerned though any man who tried to kill his daughter would be cleaning out latrines 'til doomsday if he had any say in it. Still he knew that there was only so much he could do to protect her without making his superiors angry or flushing his career down the toilet.

"Just a moment General." The Technician replied as several frames of the video feed were turned into pictures and then underwent the process of enlargement and enhancement.

It took awhile but by the time that the process was half done and therefore half the picture was finished his suspicions were confirmed as his daughter's face was readily visible in the picture. He let out a disappointed sigh as he pondered the kind of trouble this would get him into and how much of it would be of his own making in trying to keep his daughter safe. He would call in a few favors and bully a few low level officers and that would hopefully make certain that either his daughter was completely left out of the official report or at least written down as an unwitting dupe. He just hoped that those boys standing guard just outside the inner perimeter would be able to stop her before she got to the neo-nuke or else keeping her out of prison would be that much harder.

"Order the guards stationed around the inner perimeter to move in and intercept the intruders." , Ross ordered with the utmost command authority, "Tell them they are to use non-lethal force only. I want these intruders taken alive."

For a moment it look as though the technician was about to ask the question 'why alive sir?' but he quickly saw the look in his superior's eyes and decided it would be safer to just obey. Ross knew that he would have to come up with some kind of practical military reason for issuing those orders in order to stem the line of questioning this course of action would provoke in his superiors. At the moment all he could come up with was that he suspected that there might be an mole inside their operation helping the intruders and he wanted to question them to find out who it was. That was true for the most part since the date, time and location of the test had been highly classified by military intelligence so only someone on the inside with a high enough security clearance level would be able to get the information. However as to who the mole might be he had no idea since most of the people here were military personnel he had chosen himself. The only civilians were Dr. Banner and a few members of the tech crew as they were more familiar with the device and tests of this nature than anyone in the military. However he highly doubted that Banner would help a group of malcontents sabotage his own invention especially when he had as much riding on this as the military itself.

In any case he just wanted this situation resolved before it got too complicated. Complications were never fun especially in his line of work.


Xander's Car, Twelve Minutes Later

~Something tells me I'm going to have one helluva repair bill when this is all over!~ Xander thought to himself as the car rocked up and down as it went at high speeds over the uneven terrain.

It had been a relatively smooth ride after they left the highway but that was more due to the fact that he had been taking it slow so that he wouldn't do any more damage to the underside of his car than was absolutely necessary. That had changed however when the men with the guts and the military fatigues started shooting at them and so here he was zigging and zagging across the desert floor while trying to stay on course. Needless to say he figured the only way something positive could come from his car after this was over was to sell it for scrap metal. After all it would take far too much money to repair it after this debacle and that left selling it for scrap the only way he could benefit from this. Of course he could always insist that these guys pay for the damages but considering that they were the ones holding the guns and the ones who saw him as expendable he wasn't about to jump into that fire anytime soon.

Whatever his future situation turned out to be his present one was not looking too good as the hood of his car was beginning to look like Swiss cheese and he was mentally thanking God for every second the engine kept running. As far as making any progress towards their destination he was still clueless as to what exactly that was but given how excited and impatient his 'passengers' were getting they had to be pretty close. However that only made them more insistent that he drive the car faster and get them there sooner rather than later. Kinda hard to do though when you don't want to run anyone over or get too close to the guns but seeing as how the hijackers' guns were closer than the military's guns he did the best he could.

Eventually though Betty seemed to have enough of the delays.

"Robbie! Toss out three cans of tear gas ^now^!" Betty ordered in a way women generally only behaved during ^that^ time of the month.

"Betty! We need these to make our getaway!" Rick yelled out loud as he was clearly not a big fan of losing their way out supplies.

"We don't have time to worry about that right now! If we don't hurry our mission will be a failure anyways!" Betty retorted with the patented female 'glare' that all women seemed to possess, "Now throw 'em!"

Sighing in a way that made it clear he expected them all to be caught and in prison before the sun rose Rick reached into a duffel bag in the back seat and pulled out three canisters. Pulling the pins he tossed them over as wide an area as possible to make sure they had a big entry point to drive through and in seconds everything was blanketed in a cloud of chemicals guaranteed to cause eyes to water and coughs to occur. Most of the shooting stopped as none of the soldiers apparently wanted to shoot their comrades by accident but a few still shot aimlessly in the cloud in the hopes of hitting something. Still it was a pretty smart move as it would save his car from any more bullet holes but it would also make driving through it hazardous since he wouldn't be able to see where he was going either.

"Drive through!" ordered Betty still possessing the determination to see this mission through to the end.

"What? But I might hit one of those guys!" Xander exclaimed not wanting to go to prison for vehicular manslaughter because of her.

"Then turn on the headlights! That should give them enough warning to get out of the way!" Betty said as though his concerns were trivial at best.

Growling in frustration at his 'between a rock and a hard case' situation he did as she suggested and flipped on the car's headlights. He would have felt better if they were brighter but they didn't think of that when they designed this car. Bringing them back on their original course he pushed down on the accelerator as far as he dared without making it impossible for those in the tear gas cloud to get out of the way. When they entered the cloud he was as blind as a bad and he was pretty much driving blind with all the tears in his eyes and the hacking cough hitting him every few seconds. Eventually though they managed to break through to the other side and he was sure his lungs were happy with that for sure. As a side bit of luck only a few of the soldiers they had encountered had managed to stumble out of the cloud but none of them were in any condition to slow them down. Before too long they had left all opposition literally in their dust and were back on course for their destination.

"How long until the specified time Robbie?" Betty asked as she focused her eyes on the land in front of them.

"We got about nineteen minutes before its set to go off." Robbie replied looking at his own watch to confirm his estimate, "We should have plenty of time as long as nothing holds us up."

"Um, when you say 'go off' I hope you mean a rocket and not what I think you mean." Xander said as he began to figure out what his passengers' mission was all about.

"I mean 'go off' as in a prototype cutting edge nuke that can apparently deliver twice the punch at half the size of a normal nuke." Robbie replied apparently unconcerned about telling him anything, "We're here to either send them back to the drawing board or make sure M.A.D comes into play by mailing the modifications of the bomb to every world power we can."

"Wouldn't that kinda be bad in the nuclear Armageddon sort of way?" Xander asked as his mind boggled at the implications of what he had been told.

"Not really. If every nation in the world had the plans then no one would have a real edge over their neighbors or their enemies." , Robbie replied as he pulled some papers out of the duffel bag and began to review them, "The real danger would be to let the United States be the sole possessor of this technology. They'd see it as a chance to rattle their war saber a little more and bully other nations around. After all who would oppose a country that could slip a nuke the size of a thermos into your country undetected?"

"As long as every nation had this tech M.A.D or mutually assured destruction would come into play and no one would want to risk global devastation on that level." Betty said putting in her two cents.

~Unless of course you consider the fanatics and the terrorists that don't give a rat's ass about anyone or anything aside from their 'cause'!~ Xander thought to himself as he recalled the number of terrorist cells and militia groups who had 'acquired' nukes in the past.

Still he had to admit that if the military did manage to put out a smaller but just as potent nuke and add it to their arsenal it would be questionable as to whether or not they'd resist the temptation to use it. As a wise person once said 'those who have power often seek to use it' and this new bomb would definitely qualify as something powerful. If he could he would try to persuade them not to mail the plans for the upgrades to other countries but rather just threaten the government with that course of action instead. After all why do something so drastic if the threat alone would be enough to get them to mothball the project. Still until they actually got to the bomb and decided on a course of action there wasn't anything he could do aside from follow Betty's orders and try not to get shot.

~Something tells me I woulda been safer spending my summer with Willow in Sunnydale!~ Xander thought with a sigh as he much preferred the usual hellmouthy problems to this situation.


Four Minutes Later, Army Mobile Command Center

"Intruders have made it past the perimeter guards!" the technician reported as transmissions from those same guards came in over the speakers.

"Damn it! Radio the guards on the northern perimeter to head for the prototype and to guard it with their lives!" Ross roared as he mentally cursed both himself and those fools for failing in their duty.

"It won't do any good General Ross! Those guards are all on foot and it would take them at least twenty minutes at a good run to make it to ground zero!" The technician said shaking his head at the bad situation.

"Blast!" Ross exclaimed slamming a fist down on the table in frustration.

This pretty much clinched the fact that he would have some explaining to do when he stood in front of the committee and tried to explain this screw up. Unless something dramatic happened in the next few minutes his daughter was going to succeed in reaching the neo nuke. From that point on who knew what she and her merry band of environmental activists would do in pursuit of their ideals. They might do anything from steal the device and sell it to just take it somewhere else and detonate it. He didn't believe his daughter Betty knew the Green Dawn's true intentions where the neo nuke was concerned. They probably fed her some fairy tale that was perfectly honorable and just without any evil act associated with it whatsoever. She always seemed to think that if she felt passionately about something that others involved in the same cause would think the same way she did. Either that or something close enough that they would have no trouble coming up with a compromise of some kind. It never crossed her mind that they might be willing to cross some lines that she would never even consider no matter how dire the situation. He had tried in the past to enlighten her about it but it wound up just getting her more and more angry with him so eventually he decided just to try and be there to clean up the mess afterwards. This mess however had the potential to be too big for anyone short of the President of the United States to cover up.

"Sir! I am showing another vehicle entering the testing zone!" the technician declared with some surprise.

"What? Where did it come from?" Ross asked as he began to wonder if today was simply his day for bad luck.

"It came from this direction! From the direction of the command center!" the technician replied with steadily elevating surprise.

"Get the vehicle on the screen ^NOW^!" Ross yelled since he was almost sure that the person heading to the neo nuke was the mole.

The Tech worked vigorously to comply but let out a surprised yelp before turning to his superior.

"I can't sir! Something is preventing me from establishing a link with the surveillance cameras!" the Tech stated with fear of court marshal or demotion in his eyes.

"WHAT!" Ross yelled with disbelief at how the situation was quickly deteriorating.

This could simply not be happening to him! The odds of a mission going so completely F.U.B.A.R so quickly was staggering and there was no way he was going to lose without a fight.

"Mobilize all forces and order them to converge on the neo nuke!" Ross ordered with fire in his eyes, "We may have failed to keep the intruders out of the test zone but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them just waltz out of here!"

It was a gamble though. At this point there was roughly thirteen minutes before the neo nuke was set to go off. That was just barely enough time for the troops to get there much less secure the intruders. He just had to pray that Betty and her friends weren't the suicidal sort and would somehow manage to defuse the bomb shortly after their arrival. If they did not there was no way that anyone would be able to get to a safe distance before the nuke went off. So it was either disarm the nuke or get blown to bits and since he was sure his daughter was relatively sane he was fairly certain that she would be able to persuade her friends to help her disarm it. Hopefully once the soldiers arrived they'd be able to also discover who the mole was and put an end to the fiasco that this operation had turned into. One way or another this was going to cost him. He just hoped that his daughter appreciated all the trouble he went through from month to month to keep her safe and out of trouble.

Not likely. He thought to himself as memories of her reaction to his last intervention sprang up in his mind.


Six Minutes Later, Ground Zero

"Alright Rick! Time to do your thing!" Betty said as they came to a stop twenty feet from their target.

"Just be quick about it though. We got about seven minutes before this thing goes off." Robbie said as he looked down at his watch with a little anxiety beginning to show itself.

"Don't worry! I went to M.I.T remember." Rick said as he grabbed a tool box on the floor of the backseat and jumped out of the car, "The day I can't work my magic is the day that we see you in a dress."

"Ew! Thanks for the imagery!" Betty said as an image of Robbie in a tiny black dress appeared in her mind.

"Just do your job egghead!" Robbie said angrily as he took up a guard position in case they had any unexpected company.

Not that there was much chance of that happening. She had been the one to lay down most of the groundwork for this operation because her father, the great General 'Thunderbolt' Ross was representing the military for this experiment. She hadn't liked the fact that she had been selected for this assignment because of her father but it had in the end proven useful. While she might not particularly like her father because of his obsession with his career and serving a government no longer representative of the people she could say that she knew him better than anyone else. She knew how he tended to think and that had allowed her to predict how he'd arrange the guards around this device as well as how he'd react once he found out she was here. The sabotage of their Explorer out on the highway had been the only real hitch in the mission here was she hadn't expected that he'd learn of her being in the area until they were already making their way through the desert. Obviously he had her under much better surveillance than she had previously thought and if she wanted to get rid of her father's hired shadows she'd have to get a bit more inventive in the future with her evasion tactics. Still despite the set backs they had made it in time and if Rick could deliver as he promised he could they should be out of here inside of five minutes. After all while the schematics and other important pieces of information about nuclear bombs weren't exactly available to the public there were ways of acquiring it for the right price. Also when you took into account how a nuke worked then there were some parts of the design that were absolute and would remain the same no matter what. Combined with Rick's M.I.T brain and defusing the bomb shouldn't be all that difficult.

No the real problem was what to do afterwards. She knew that she had said that their primary job was to send the eggheads back to the drawing board but she wasn't sure that was an option anymore. The guards that they'd encountered earlier had been expecting them. That meant that her father knew she was there and had an idea of what she intended to do. Therefore trying to modify the bomb to make it look like a dud or have it malfunction in order to have the military scrub the project was unlikely. With the knowledge that there were intruders present any 'design flaws' or 'malfunctions' would be attributed to tampering rather than the device itself. That left only memorizing the modifications and then sending the information all over the planet but she was uncertain whether they had that kind of time. By now her father had likely ordered every available soldier to converge on this location. That meant that their only course of action would be to take the nuke with them and study it elsewhere. If their informant's info was right then they should be able to escape with it and remain undetected from military eyes. After all if it was invisible to satellites scanning for certain radiation signatures as they had been told than once they escaped it would take quite a bit of legwork to find them again.

~Still things could have been worse.~ Betty thought to herself as she looked over at Brown Eyes wondering what he would do when all this was over with.

"Uh oh!" Rick said in a tone that no one present liked very much at all.

"'Uh oh'? What do you mean 'uh oh'?" Robbie asked as he turned to look at Rick.

"I hate it when people say 'uh oh'." Brown Eyes said as he glanced nervously between the three of them, "Normally because people tend to say 'oh crap!' next."

"Rick? What's wrong?" Betty said calmly trying to keep the others likewise calm instead of watching them freak out.

"Well it's no biggy. It's just that the timer has distinctly picked up its pace and I can't seem to stop it." Rick replied in perfect deadpan even though he was probably on the verge of panic.

"^WHAT!^" everyone exclaimed including Brown Eyes who started cursing in different languages right away.

"Hey it's not my fault! That Banner geek who built this thing must be insane with all the modifications and jury rigging in this thing!" Rick said as he kept his eyes and his hands focused on their task, "It was a mess in there but I still thought that I could defuse the damn thing without tripping anything!"

"Then undo whatever it was that caused the wire to speed up NOW!" Robbie yelled as he seemed to mentally restrain himself from going over and throttling Rick.

"I already tried that idiot! It didn't work!" Rick yelled back angrily with rising anxiety in his voice, "The best thing I can do now is try and reset the control mainframe and hope that that stops the countdown. I just hope that I can do it in the five minutes we got left!"

Needless to say the swearing potency coming from Brown Eyes went up a level and while most of the words were gibberish to her she could definitely pick out some Latin in the mix. Personally she couldn't really blame him for his behavior because she felt like cursing up a storm as well but held it in for the sake of the group. In the midst of this fear and impending doom someone had to keep a level head and keep the group from going nuts. Since the others had jumped into the 'scared/panicked' boat before she could that meant she was stuck with the job.

"Just stay focused and try not to get ahead of yourself Rick! You won't help anyone by becoming scatterbrained all of a sudden!" Betty ordered before turning to Robbie, "Robbie! If we needed to what is the absolute minimum distance we would need to be from this thing before it went off in order to survive?"

It took him a moment but eventually he replied "Well this isn't exactly your Hiroshima type nuke. No way the Feds or the government would condone the use of a missile type nuke for a test like this." , Robbie said as he gained some measure of calmness from reviewing the facts, "Probably it's the smallest yield nuke they got since the blast will wind up being magnified by the crystals in there. My guess is unless we want to be fried extra crispy we want to be at least three kilometers away from ground zero. Usually it'd be more but I figure if we can get this thing below sea level, into one of the canyons or valleys near here the stone walls should absorb most of the damage and take the edge off for us."

"You mean we'd have to drive it someplace before ditching it?" asked Betty as the look on her friend's face didn't exactly look comforting.

"Hell yeah! Even if we burned rubber in that junk heap right now there's no way we'd be able to escape the blast in time. We might escape the worst of it but that would still mean slow death by radiation burns which ain't pretty! Only way for any of us to save our collective skins is to drive the nuke east and floor the accelerator. Even then the driver would be going on a suicide mission since there's no way he'd get clear of the blast in time." Robbie said with fear in his voice as everything in his head was telling him they were screwed.

~This is ^not^ good!~ Betty thought as she looked back over to Rick to see if he was having any luck. However judging from his ever more frantic movements the answer was no.

It was at times like these she almost wished that she had listened to her father and stayed away from this sort of thing. Almost.


Xander's P.O.V, A Moment After Betty's Thought

~Lord I know I probably shouldn't have had sex with Faith outside of wedlock but I think punishing me by nuclear explosion is a little extreme!~ Xander thought to himself as he watched the wonder trio try and fix this screw up.

That was what he had pretty much been thinking ever since Rick had told everyone about their 'little complication' and it had only gotten worse once Robbie had told everyone what the minimum safe distance would be. The rest of the African American's explanation hadn't exactly filled him with confidence either since one way or another he'd lose his car. Not that his car was at the top of his list of things he wanted to survive a nuclear blast but without a car he'd probably be captured by the military for sure after the explosion. True he was just an innocent bystander in all of this but they'd probably still lock him away for aiding and abetting known terrorists or maybe just for seeing a secret military device. There would be no way that he'd be able to escape them on foot or even make it to the next town if he was somehow able to evade the soldiers. In short he had a choice to make: spend who knew how many years in prison or get killed in the center of a nuclear inferno. In a way it was something of a no brainer if he was concerned only for himself. If he gave himself up to the military there was a chance, however slim, that they might believe his story of being hijacked and when added to his school records they might just let him go. After all just because he saw the device didn't mean he understood it or could make his own if he wanted. He just barely graduated with the rest of his class in June and science was quite possibly his worst subject aside from math. Once they figured that out there was a chance they'd see him as just a nuisance and be content just to have him sign the usual non-disclosure papers or other agreements. All they cared about was not letting their secret get out. As long as they had that the rest was inconsequential to them.

~I hope!~ Xander thought grimly as he watched Rick's pace increase.

On the other hand though he'd be leaving who ever did drive his car off into the nuclear sunset to die. Not that he was really 'friends' with them or anything like that but for some reason he knew he'd feel like a world class heel if he just let one of them commit suicide. A suicide he could prevent by taking the nuke himself and driving away from here as quickly as possible in order to save the rest of them. It was a classic dilemma: if you could save a person who wanted to commit suicide by giving up your own life would you do it? Even if the person was a complete stranger? Most people he wanted to believe would be good enough to at least try to talk the person down but only a rare compassionate few would actually put their own lives in jeopardy to save them. That left a question to be answered in him. Was he the type of person who only put as much effort into saving someone as necessary in order not to look bad or was he the type of person who gave his all in everything he did? Given the fact that he had patrolled almost every night with Buffy and the others as well as fighting demons that could quite easily kill him the answer was obvious.

~Well I better get on with this while I still have the nerve!~ Xander thought as he got out of the car and began to move towards the bomb.

"Where do you think you're going?" Robbie asked as he brought his gun up to bear on the Zeppo.

"To get the bomb into the car so I can get it out of here since it seems tweedle-dumb here can't stop it from going ka-boom." Xander replied as he continued to walk towards the device.

"What? Get it out of here?" Betty exclaimed in shock.

"You heard what your buddy Robbie said right?" Xander asked her rhetorically, "Since the chances of Ricky here being able to defuse the thing are slim to none right now there's only one choice here. Unless of course one of you want to see what a nuclear blast looks like at ground zero."

"Give me another minute! I know I can stop it!" Rick demanded as he seemed almost obsessed with not letting this machine beat him.

"Sorry Rick! Better luck next time." Xander said as he began to detach the bomb from the sensors attached to it as well as Rick's laptop.

He pretty much ignored everyone else from there on in and once he had unhooked all the wires and cables ran back to his car as the time left on the bomb was less than he had hoped for. Placing it gently in the passenger side seat he closed the driver's side door and started up the car. Before he could leave though someone grabbed him firmly by the left arm as if to stop him from going. Not entirely bright considering that if he pressed down on the gas the person would wind up being dragged across the desert floor for a little while before eventually letting go. Turning to this person he was a little surprised to find out it was Betty and she had a weird look on her face that he couldn't exactly classify. On the surface it looked like confusion, which was understandable when a perfect stranger said he was willing to die to save them, but there was something else there as well.

"Why are you doing this? You don't have to be the one to die with the nuke." Betty asked with confusion, "Any one of the rest of us could do it. Why die for people you don't even know and who less than an hour ago kidnapped you?"

"Wish I had a straight answer for you. All I can say is that according to my friends I have a White Knight complex the size of North America and I'm not the type to let a pretty young woman like you get blown up if I can help it." Xander replied as he was finding difficult to put the reasons for his decision into words, "Besides it's either get blown up in a flash of light or spend the rest of my life eating prison food. Needless to say I don't want to find out the hard way if they really do test new school cafeteria menus in prison before they pass it on nation wide."

This caused a smile to appear on her face and then before he knew what was happening she kissed him on the cheek before stepping away from the car.

"That was for luck. I figure that it would be wrong to let a cute guy like you drive off into the great beyond without at least a goodbye kiss." Betty said with a wink.

"Wow! I bet heaven's going to look pretty tame after a kiss like that!" Xander said with mock seriousness, "See ya later Betty!"

With those words Xander pressed down hard on the accelerator and shot off away from both the area that was ground zero and away from anyone who might get hurt when the nuke went off. Needless to say he knew that one way or another no matter how this turned out this car was never going to run again when all was said and done. After all Cadillac's were hardly known for their all terrain capabilities and with all the bumps and bangs that were accumulating on the underside of the car it was a miracle every minute it stayed together. Still as he watched the speedometer continue to climb he was growing optimistic about the chances he had of getting a kilometer and a half away from them before the nuke went off. It looked like pretty much flat open desert in front of him but he suspected that sooner or later he'd come across a cliff or something. After all Robbie said that a cliff or a steep valley would be necessary in order to take some of the edge off of the blast. Sparing a glance at the visible digital timer on the nuke he saw that he had about a minute and a half until the big bang. When combining that with the increasing speed of the vehicle he had a feeling it would be close as far as meeting or breaking the kilometer and a half mark. He wished he could go faster but the gas pedal was already pressed against the floor and with the uneven terrain greater speed was slow in coming.

It was right about then that the full weight of the situation and what was about to happen finally came crashing down on him. He was going to die. He was going to get blown into vapor in the middle of a desert and get a rather potent ride into either heaven or hell depending on how things worked out on the scales of life. It would be goodbye life hello pearly gates! Which would mean that the Scooby gang would be done one member. Buffy, Giles, Oz and Willow would have to find a way to fight the good fight without him. For a moment images of Willow when she received the news of his death appeared in his mind and the pain he imagined would be on her face caused his resolve to waver. She was his bestest bud since pre-school and now she would lose him as they had lost Jessie. Perhaps not to vampires but he would still be lost to her in any case and that would hurt her greatly no matter who was there to comfort her. Unfortunately every time he tried to figure out a way that he could get the nuke to the 1.5 kilometer point without him at the wheel he came up blank. He couldn't exactly jam a piece of metal up against the gas pedal, tie the steering wheel in place and then watch the car drive off. If it encountered any kind of obstacle or barrier along the way before it reached the necessary distance then his little sacrifice would be for nothing. So in the end he had no choice but to continue riding the nuke out into the night to await the final few seconds before it went off.

Looking at the timer again he was just in time to see it lose its third digit and go from minutes to seconds until the big bang hit. Closing his eyes for a moment he tried to remember all the best times of his life, the moments that a person would want to remember just before checking out of the hotel called life. Meeting Jessie and Willow in preschool. Eating his first twinkie. Spending Christmas day with his friends. Meeting Buffy for the first time. Fighting to make the world a little bit safer from those who were of the darkness and the malevolent. Saving Buffy's life when Deadboy could not. Staring down Angelus without any show of fear. Being the 'key guy' not once but twice. All in all he had led a rather eventful life. Such a shame it had to come to an end no matter how spectacular the end might be.

It was then that he began to notice a change in the horizon and saw that there was a cliff up ahead that looked pretty deep if the land beyond it was any indication. Then taking into account how long it would take to go around it along with how much farther he guessed he had to go before hitting the one and a half kilometer mark and he knew what he had to do. The car had to go over the side of the cliff. Fortunately though he didn't have to along with it. After all once this tin can got airborne the driver would become useless. The abrupt landing would take care of car's ability to continue onward. After all when a car met the ground the only thing that tended to keep it going was the momentum and once that was spent there would be nothing. True he would probably die a few seconds after he jumped out of the car given that even if he wasn't next to it the nuke would still easily be close enough to fry him completely. Though it was debatable whether it would be preferable to die as a result of a head on collision with the desert floor or get vaporized in an instant as the nuke went off. In the end though there wasn't any real choice for him. If he went over the side with the car there was still a slim chance that he would survive and still be conscious when the nuke went off. However the few seconds that existed in between the crash and the detonation of the nuke would likely be spent in significant pain. Better to die in a flash of light instantly than to have to suffer through the seconds of pain between crashing and being vaporized.

Watching as the cliff got closer and closer he turned briefly to the timer on the nuke and saw that it would likely detonate the moment it made contact with the desert floor at the bottom of the cliff. A nice way for his old Uncle Rory's car to go to the great big scrap heap in the sky. Seconds ticked by as both distance and time decreased for him and just as he reached the point of no return he opened the driver's side door and flung himself out of the car. It wasn't a fluffy pillow landing but he figured getting a few bumps and bruises at this point didn't mean a whole lot. When he finally stopped rolling he looked in the direction of the cliff and was just in time to see the tail end of the car disappear from sight. It was almost time to kiss his butt goodbye.

~See you around Willow.~ He thought before his world came to an end in a flash of scalding white light.


Someplace, Some Time


W-wha? Where am I?






With that conversation did the slumbering goddess of the Earth influence the world she embodied and in doing so changed it forever.
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