(The Initiative Underground Base)
Riley frowned and was somewhat uneasy as he began to get ready for the night ahead. He was certain this time the patrol would go more smoothly and that he wouldn’t lose any more men. At least he prayed he would not lose any more men against the creatures they were here to fight. He was uncertain how things would go and with Walsh wanting them to actually capture the things he was even more unsure how things would go. Beside him the rest of the team was also going over their gear for the night’s mission. He noted Forest didn’t look as confident as he had done the previous night.
‘Good,’ he thought. ‘Maybe the loss of three men hadn’t been for nothing if he and the others learned to be more careful,’ he continued to think.
“Hey boss, do you want us to bring some of the heavier weapons along?” Jake shouted from the doorway.
Riley looked back for a few seconds before deciding against it. Walsh’s orders were to capture four vampires. She wouldn’t be happy if he instead destroyed them out of fear or worse lack of skill and so he was stuck in a corner with nowhere to go. This job had seemed like his big break when he was first offered it. He had felt special to be considered as the leading soldier of the unit. He was Walsh’s TA and second in command. The fact she hadn’t asked for a higher ranking officer had filled him with pride. Now he was almost regretting the fact there was no superior officer for him to answer to, all the hard choices were on him and that sucked.
“No leave them. We are on a capture mission not search and destroy,” Riley finally answered to which Jake nodded and went to begin preparing his gear.
“You’d think Walsh would allow for some measure of failure here, especially after we lost three men already?” Graham muttered to him. “If we can’t capture these things we should be allowed to destroy them,” he pointed out.
“I agree, but Walsh doesn’t strike me as someone who accepts failure Graham,” Riley responded. “She wants those specimens so she can begin her research in what these things can do, and more important to us how to kill them best,” he continued.
“I still think we should bring some heavier firepower than just our blasters and sidearm Riley,” Graham shot back. “We were lucky that pushing the blasters to their full power brought those demons down. What if the next demon is immune to the blasters?” he inquired with a frown.
Riley had no answer to his friend’s question, but for now he wasn’t willing to take the matter to Walsh. But he promised himself if they kept loosing men he would demand they be allowed to bring some heavier firepower.
In her office Maggie Walsh watched the conversation of her men through the security monitors. She was pleased to see Riley had come to understand how she did things. Miller she decided might be a problem. Granted she couldn’t fault his reasoning, but she had plans other than destroying the creatures they were here for. In her view these things could be harnessed for the betterment of mankind, or more importantly could be turned into an army to gain ultimate power. She just had to find a way to gain control of the creatures, but she had her scientists already working on some kind of control chip.
She leaned back in her seat and hoped the mission tonight went smoothly. She needed to get her research of the ground quickly before her superiors decided this whole thing was a bad idea and shut them all down. That had to be avoided at all costs she thought. Shaking her head she went back to her paper work, but continued to monitor her men’s conversations. But she noted none of them discussed the upcoming mission, even Miller seemed to have settled down somewhat much to her satisfaction. She preferred her soldiers to be completely loyal to her objectives; she did not like her methods to be questioned.
Tara was beginning to get more and more nervous as Joyce remained silent. The older woman continued to stare off into space thinking over everything they had told her. She glanced at Faith who could only shrug in response, neither of them dared to push Joyce and so they continued to wait. As she waited she thought about what she would say when she came face to face with Xander again. The idea that he was the same person who Faith had known back in the day was still hard to believe. That he was a vampire was even harder to swallow. ‘Why had he not told her the truth?’ she kept asking herself. The only answer she could find was he didn’t want to take the chance she would mention him to Buffy. Trust takes time she knew and yet she liked to think they trusted one another from the start. Hopefully when they did meet again he wouldn’t attempt to lie to her again and come clean about his purpose here. And more important what his true intentions were towards her, did he truly have feelings for her or was he using her in his plan for revenge? The answer to that question chilled her to find out.
Joyce finally snapped out of her thoughts and stood up and moved to the window to look outside. Her mind was split in two as to what to believe. Xander had been someone she trusted to not only look after her daughter, but if it came to it then give his life for Buffy. The idea that she could have betrayed that loyalty he had shown her, that she could have purposely turned him into a vampire, souled or not, was horrifying to believe. But where Angel was concerned she knew, even if she fought the idea, that Buffy would do anything for him, even betray a friend. And if what Faith had told her was true then she had done it for revenge, because Xander had been smart enough to not tell Buffy the truth about the soul spell. Even she knew that had Buffy known about Willow redoing the spell at that time she would have held back and Angelus would have killed her.
She had heard both sides of the story, a very one sided view from Buffy and a more real sounding version from Giles and Cordelia. Now she was faced with a choice she didn’t want to make, but if she was honest with herself she had already lost her daughter to Angel a long time ago. She turned to see Faith and Tara had also stood up and were now awaiting her choice. She let out a sigh knowing there was only one thing to do.
“You may look for the scroll Faith,” Joyce told them. “But in return I want you to set up a meeting between me and Xander,” she added sternly.
Faith and Tara had been very relieved to hear Joyce say they could look for the scroll, but they were instantly uneasy when they heard her added statement. They had no idea how Xander would take such a demand, as a human he had been very close to Joyce often looking up to her as a surrogate mother just as Faith had. Faith had no idea how Xander might view Joyce now, but neither she nor Tara had much of a choice here. They would have to find Xander and tell him what Joyce wanted and then hope he was in a mood to be gracious with the elder woman.
“Deal,” she finally said, ignoring Tara’s pointed look.
“What if the scroll is not here but at her apartment?” Joyce inquired, not missing for a second the look Tara had shot Faith. She knew her demand might cause a bit of a problem, especially if Xander didn’t want to meet with her.
However no matter what, she had to find a way to save her daughter’s life. No matter what had happened she would not allow Xander to kill Buffy. She couldn’t fathom anything that would make her allow such a thing and she cursed Angel for coming into their lives. She also couldn’t help but curse her ex-husband Hank, because their daughter took after that womanizer quite a lot she thought bitterly.
“If it is then I will get it,” Faith told her in response with a determined look. “Might be difficult, but I will get it,” she stated before she turned and headed for Buffy’s room.
This left Joyce with Tara who continued to look nervous and if Joyce was not mistaken uneasy, but clearly not with her. There was something else bothering the younger woman, and if she was a betting woman she guessed it had something to do with Xander’s return.
Xander sat on his bed waiting for night to fall. He had already used up his five hours of sunlight so he had to wait. He’d had no luck in locating Tara and he was worried she may be wary of him. He was certain that by now Faith had told her the truth of his identity. He got up and began to pace up and down. His next meeting with Tara wasn’t going to be easy he thought. He half regretted revealing himself to Faith, but he knew there had been no other choice. He just had to pray that his lies had not damaged Tara’s trust in him. He closed his eyes and pictured her in his mind. This helped calm him and he smiled. After he helped Spike capture and turn one of these soldiers who were in town he would go looking for Tara.
Buffy entered the apartment and was relieved to see Angel was back, she quickly rushed over and jumped into his arms. She missed the look of annoyance that flashed across her lover’s face as she did so. She had missed him so much. Finally releasing him she stepped back and looked him in the eye, before she darted forward and kissed him before pulling back.
“Did you get the job?” Buffy asked as she moved away and into the kitchen to start making a cup of tea.
Angel was about to ask what the hell she was talking about when he remembered the lie he had told her before he had headed for LA. He cursed himself for almost slipping up. Granted he had complete control over Buffy these days, but he didn’t want to do anything that might cause her to begin questioning him, arrogance was the one major downfall of all evil things he knew. It was something he had learned from his time as a vampire. It was arrogance that had led him to be cursed by the damn gypsies in the first place all those years ago. While he may be human these days his soul was still as black as it always had been. His entire personality was the same as Angelus at his worst except he very rarely felt the urge or need to kill someone.
“I don’t know yet,” Angel finally responded with a shrug. “They said they would get back to me once they had reviewed my interview,” he told her.
“Oh,” Buffy said with a frown, disappointed for her lover. “Well I’m sure they will hire you. I don’t see how they couldn’t?” she asked theoretically.
Angel smirked behind Buffy’s back at the way she completely supported him without any prompting. Had he still been a vampire this would be the greatest thrill ever that he had tamed a Slayer to be basically his pet. No one else had as much power over a Slayer as he did with Buffy. Not a demon, a vampire or even the damn Watchers, only him he thought with pride.
“So did anything happen while I was away?” he inquired as he dropped onto the sofa and began to relax.
“Yeah actually something did,” Buffy responded as she brought him his cup of tea. “We stumbled upon what looked a commando team in Sunnydale trying to take down a bunch of demons,” she informed him, quickly gaining his attention. “They were not using lethal weaponry from what I could see and from what I heard they wanted to capture them,” she told him as she sat down and quickly curled up against him. “What really annoyed me is they were wearing balaclavas so we couldn’t see their faces. I wonder what a unit like that is doing in Sunnydale?” she finished.
Angel didn’t respond as his mind was going a mile a minute as he took in this new information. He didn’t like the sound of it, not one bit. Had he still been a vampire when he got this news, his first response would be to wipe the unit out. However there was nothing he could do now as a human, more than likely once the demon community found out about them they would deal with the commandos if they became too much of a threat.
“I suggest you keep out of their way Buffy,” Angel finally told Buffy. “I don’t like the sounds of this idea of them capturing demons. If they see you in action or the others they might think you are demonic yourselves and try and capture you all so they can experiment on you,” he warned her actually serious.
Buffy frowned in response, at first before she nodded her head as what Angel had said made sense. If this commando unit was here to capture and study demons then they would also be interested in people who could use magic or bench press their entire unit. There was however one question that continued to plague her mind, she glanced at Angel and decided to ask him.
“How did they find out about all this?” she asked him.
“I don’t know Buffy but maybe the people aren’t as stupid as we always believed them to be,” Angel responded with a shrug of his shoulders. “Maybe they’ve known for a while and are only now prepared to act,” he suggested with a frown as he tried to figure out how this would affect them.
Faith paused in her search as she was digging into Buffy’s weapon’s chest. She had seen right at the bottom two planks of wood covering the bottom. Planks that should not have been there, removing the last of the weapons she removed the planks to find what could only be a scroll at the bottom. She glanced back to where Tara and Joyce were standing as she removed the scroll and opened it so they could all look at it.
“Son of a bitch,” Faith said with a shake of her head. “He was telling the truth, the scroll is real,” she stated. She had known there was a good possibility Xander had been telling the truth, but she had hoped in one sense that he had been lying. Now she had proof that Buffy and Amy had really committed a crime, a crime that went against all they stood for.
For Tara it was vindication that her belief in Xander had not been mistaken, that she had not made a mistake in letting her heart lead her. But it also increased her fear of Amy. Pulling off this spell took a lot of power. More than she had believed Amy had access to and that knowledge chilled her.
Joyce however stared at the scroll in disbelief, for her it was a conformation that her daughter may have done the unbelievable. That she may have betrayed a friend so she could make her vampiric lover human, she found it hard to focus as she collapsed onto Buffy’s bed.
“Joyce, are you okay?” Tara instantly asked in concern.
Joyce didn’t answer as she just stared ahead in complete disbelief. Tara decided not to push the older woman and left her to her thoughts. She did give Faith a concerned look which was shared by the dark haired Slayer. They both knew this had to be hard on the older woman.
“So now we have the scroll Faith, what do we do with it?” Tara inquired.
Faith didn’t know how to answer that particular question right now, but at least they had the proof they had been searching for. They knew now that Xander had been telling the truth, which at least clarified things for them on where they stood in this mess.
“I don’t know yet Tara, but now that we have it we know where we stand,” Faith finally responded, locking gazes with Tara. “Now we move carefully, we’ll hide the scroll somewhere they can’t find it until we need it,” she told her as she turned and began to replace the two planks of wood and then the weapons from the chest. “Now we need to track down Xander and have a long overdue talk,” she stated firmly.
Tara nodded in agreement before turning back to Joyce who seemed to be coming back to reality. “Joyce you need to act normally if Buffy shows up,” she stated, gently gaining the elder woman’s attention. “You can’t let her know for an instant that any of us knows the truth,” she added.
“I realize that Tara,” Joyce managed to respond. “I will do my best not to give her any reason to suspect that I know the truth,” she promised confidently. “Now I suggest you leave and find Xander and ensure he agrees to meet me,” she told them both in a much firmer voice.
Faith and Tara both nodded and quickly turned and headed downstairs with Joyce right behind them. Faith hid the scroll in the sleeve of her jacket so it was hidden from view. Leaving the house they both said goodbye to Joyce. Once they were out of sight Joyce closed and locked the door. She then headed for her kitchen and pulled a bottle of whiskey out of one of her cupboards, pouring herself a drink which she downed in one go. She was about to pour another when she finally couldn’t deal with it anymore, she broke down crying as the full impact of what Buffy had done hit her.
Xander stood on a nearby tree alongside Spike as they waited for any sign of the commando’s. They had underlings posted throughout the graveyards all with mobile phones so they could call in a sighting. Xander had learned vampires had quickly picked up on any new technology mankind created only a few months after being turned, it had been an eye opening realization. Before when he had been human he had never really thought about vampires knowing much about new technology. He supposed that had been a short sighted view to have considering how long they had survived undetected in the world.
“We’ll have to be careful how we do this mate,” Spike told him as he lit up a cigarette.
“Actually all we have to do is wait for them to run into some trouble and then we take advantage,” Xander shot back. “Grab one of them in the midst of a fight and they will think he was killed during it. We turn him and then once we have the information we need from him we send him back with the story he was knocked out during the fight,” he explained with a cocky smile. “He can then let us into the base from the inside. If we leave it a day or two he can turn a few of his friends and build up a small assault force within their own numbers, making out attack easier,” he pointed out.
Spike considered the plan for a few minutes before he smiled as he blew smoke out of his mouth, he had to admit the plan was inventive. “I like it, but if we send him back in he’ll have to be careful not to be exposed otherwise we lose our way in,” he warned. “I mean how do we know they don’t know how to keep an eye out for our kind?” he inquired.
“We don’t know if they do Spike,” Xander conceded thoughtfully. “However I don’t think they do. They have only been here a week or so,” he countered. “So I doubt they know jack shit about anything, which is why they are capturing demons and if I miss my guess vampires,” he added. “They want to know what we are capable of so they can devise ways of fighting us, more than likely also to find ways of controlling us,” he continued, using the soldier memories he still retained to analyze how the commando unit would work.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Spike growled as he threw the butt of his cigarette away. “I think if our plan works we take the majority of them out permanently,” he stated.
“Agreed, they are clearly going to be trouble if they are allowed to stay here and get fortified,” Xander agreed with a nod of his head. “I just want to know how they found out about all this,” he mused as Spike’s phone went off.
He watched as Spike answered the phone, he really wanted to go and find Tara and explain everything but this had to be done first. He quickly took note of the grin on Spike’s face, looks like they were on.
“Game time mate,” Spike told him as he put his phone back in his pocket. “We have them, Wilson graveyard,” he told him.
“Then let us go have some fun,” Xander replied before he dropped of the tree and headed for the correct graveyard with Spike right behind him.