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Mithras Chronicles

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Summary: Faith and Xander flee Sunnydale after the end of Season 3. AU, not Buffy-friendly.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-Centered > Theme: Heroic Xander(Current Donor)KCollFR181431,118,86317344303,5944 Jul 1218 Sep 14No

0.2

This many thugs, this well-armed, it would have to be a hell of a coincidence for them to be after anyone other than her and Xan. “I don’t believe in coincidence,” Faith decided as she grabbed her table’s single leg and threw it at the nearest trio of gunmen even as she launched herself out of her seat, diving for cover to the left.

The table caught the middle of the trio full on, and enough of the other two to also knock them to the ground. Faith looked around and cursed. Thanks to Tara’s spell there wasn’t even a single bottle she could use as a weapon. Shoving a fat, fifty-something to the floor, Faith grabbed the recently-vacated chair and flung it at a gun man jumping over the bar area’s railing.

The chair crashed into the man’s chest and propelled him back over the railing. Then Xander flew out of the corridor he’d disappeared into, his return heralded by a couple of ‘flash-bangs’ that sent Faith crashing to the ground, her ears throbbing and eyes streaming water.

Faith was still blinking her eyes clear when she felt Xander’s hand on her shoulder and heard his calm voice in her ear. “Let’s get out of here before their vision clear.”

“Sure.” Faith nodded as she allowed Xander to guide her out of the club, the chill night air easing her stinging eyes. “Jesus!” she gasped as a hand crashed into the small of her back, knocking her to the pavement and into an instinctive forward roll that ended when she crashed into the side of something hard, probably a marked car. “What the fuck was that!”

* * *

“Me saving your life,” Xander tersely replied as he dropped to one knee besides Faith as a trio of guns shot from across the road. “ Maverick-.”

“I’ve got my eyes on the club, Harris,” the mutant tersely interrupted. “You deal with the other three.”

“Give me the easy job,” Xander muttered. The bullets had taken out most of the windows and street lights on their side of the road, making it easy to see which car the three gunmen left behind by their accomplices had hidden behind.

”Why does it have to be mine?” Xander moaned as he threw a grenade under the vehicle. The explosive sent the car flying upwards in a fireball, the cars to its left and right flipped onto their backs, and its heats making Xander instinctively shy away.

“You don’t do things by halves,” Maverick commented.

“Do things by halves?” Faith chuckled. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Xander was relieved to see his girl-friend’s eyes had almost cleared. However that also meant the thugs inside the club would soon be coming around. “Let’s get outta here.”

“My car is down the street,” Maverick offered. “Where there aren’t actually any CCTV cameras.”

“Heh,” Faith snarked. “Every-one’s a wise ass.”

“Imagine my surprise.”

* * *

“Great news!” Tara broke in half an hour after they’d returned. “I can’t break into the club laptop’s hard drive.”

Faith exchanged confused looks with Xander. “How is you not being able to break in a good thing?”

“Well,” Tara smiled, “it isn’t, not really. But I’m a good hacker, I’ve been taught by the best. This is triple-encrypted and double-passworded. If I can’t get in, there must be something explosive on it.”

”Guess that makes sense,” allowed Faith.

”Maybe you could do some mojo on it?” Kennedy suggested.

”I can’t.” Tara shot her girl-friend a pained look. “The magical world doesn’t mix well with the technological world, you have to force it. I’ve got power, but not that much.” The witch paused. “We’ll have to do a remote link with Angela-.”

”No,” Maverick shook his head. “Let me have a look.”

”Sure,” Tara passed the laptop over.

“Why are you even here?” Faith asked as the mutant hacker got to work.

”A couple of my contacts,” the former Weapon X agent didn’t look up from the monitor as he tapped away at the laptop keyboard, “came to me with rumours of a scientist involved in a national or international shadow conspiracy. It seemed a little weird, so….”

“So?” Faith prompted.

“So I left it,” the mutant paused in his typing. “Then the two informants both turned up dead, so I started digging. I’m in.” The transplanted American started reading. “Oh it’s nothing. Just more detailed membership records, club accounting, ownership records, and a reference to a Swiss bank.”

“Diskret Bankgeld?” guessed Tara. The mutant glanced at Tara and nodded. The witch looked towards Xander. “Can we finally break into it?”

“Girl’s got a serious hankering to rob a bank,” Faith commented.

”Does that make me Bonnie or Clyde?” Kennedy wondered.

”It makes you a pain in my ass,” Faith snarked.

* * *

“Whoa.”

”Switzerland, land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, watches, and oh yes, highly questionable banking.”

”Shut up, Harris,” Faith ordered. “I’m basking.” Faith stared around the sweeping, forested hills surrounding the city, and the river shimmering in the city’s centre, shimmering in the cold sun. Zurich’s many medieval buildings added to the city’s picturesque beauty, the spires of its four main churches piercing the cloudless sky.

“Zurich’s considered one of the world’s most beautiful and finest cities to live in,” Xander said. “Low crime and tax rate, low pollution, and massive research and development expenditure.”

Sometimes Faith wondered if her guy ate tourist guides. “I’ve got a question,” Faith tore her gaze from Zurich’s many sights to look towards her honey. “Why is Swiss banking so attractive to crooks and shadow organisations?”

“It’s not just Switzerland, Bahamian, Lithuanian, Luxembourg, and Cayman Island banks also have seedy reputations.” David North answered for her boy-friend. “Not only do they have very low taxes, they’re also really private. They give bank privacy the same legal importance as attorney-client or doctor-patient confidentiality.”

“Which makes them ideal for money launderers, terrorist groups, and organised crime,” Faith nodded. “This bank, what’s special about it?”

”The Diskret Bankgeld isn’t one of Switzerland’s largest banks, but it’s one of the oldest and most exclusive,” Tara replied. “And we’re gonna bust it right open.”

***

“This really, really stinks.” Faith stared distastefully around the sewer tunnel. Mildew and just general crap clung to the curved walls like fungus. They were mid-shin, or in her case knee, deep in the city’s refuse as it swirled past, a greeny slime from which a vomit-inducing stench rose to cling to the back of their throats.

“What did you think?” Xander queried with a glance over his shoulder. “We’d put on masks, walk in through the front entrance, and steal the deposits?”

”Yeah. Well no, ‘cause hidin’ this face behind a mask would be a crime,” Faith snarked.

“Going in through the front would have made a lot of noise, we’d have real problems getting out again. Besides, most of the security is outside the vault, entering from beneath is the ideal solution,” Maverick replied.

”I’ve had guys tellin’ me that all my life.” Faith paused. “And it still means we’re standing in crap.”

The mutant ignored her grumbling to speak into his lapel microphone. “Tara, have you got the CCTV footage from the vault?”

“Just finished hacking it,” Tara’s voice crackled back. Faith half-grinned at the excited note in Sis’ voice. Way things were goin’, Tar wouldn’t be happy until she and Ken were Thelma and Louising it on ‘America’s Most Wanted’.

“Great,” North glanced at his laptop screen displaying the vault’s CCTV. “And the bank closed twenty-five minutes ago?”

“Yes,” Tara affirmed.

“Good, I want you to put the hack in position in sixty seconds.” The mutant looked towards Faith and her boy-friend. “The moment the footage is in place, we’ll blow the hole in the ceiling, climb up into the vault, get the deposit box, and get out.”

“What about alarms?” Faith demanded. “There must be an alarm system.”

“There is, but the hack also puts them on a continual loop for fifteen minutes,” Agent Zero replied.

“Why that short of a time?” Faith pressed.

”Because the alarms re-set every quarter of an hour,” North explained.

”Hack in,” Tara retorted.

“Thank you,” the timer on North’s watch beeped as the mutant glanced towards Xander.

Her boyfriend nodded and pressed on his detonator. The tunnel shook to the explosion’s roar as rubble fell from the ceiling, hitting the sewage beneath splashing it everywhere. North looked towards her. “Faith?”

Faith nodded even as powered up the nine feet to the vault, grabbed its floor, and powered up through her fingers and wrists, landing in a sideways roll, then scurrying back to the edge and flinging her rope down. “Come on guys.” She invited as she looked around the pristine, hospital clean vault. The lengthy tiled floor filled with row upon row of shelves filled with deposit boxes, all gleaming in the bulb’s fluorescent light.

Faith’s shoulders and arms were burning by the time she’d pulled her man and the former Weapon X agent up. North gave her a thanking nod before glancing around. “We’re looking for F-125.”

“There’s stack ‘F’,” Xander pointed to the metal case pointed towards a case three rows up and to the left of them.

“Now we’re talking,” Faith hurried over to the gleaming steel case, the others following close behind, leaving slimy footsteps in their wait. “Found it.” Faith grimaced as she noted the numeric key-pad fixed to the deposit box’s metal door, “oh shit.”

“Don’t worry.” Maverick soothed as he crouched by the number-pad, “this was in the blueprints.”

“Ah,” Faith nodded. Things like this were why she should pay more attention during briefings. “So what’s the plan, blow the door?”

“No.” Maverick shook his head. “These alarms are on a separate circuit to the vault itself, they’ll have to be by-passed.” As he explained, the former secret agent plugged a lead into the numeric keypad and attached the other end to a lap-top. “I’m just going to run a hacking program to find the code.”

“Well hurry,” Xander glanced at his watch, “we’ve only got eleven minutes left.”

“Tell me when it’s just two,” the mutant ordered. “When the alarms go off, the system automatically locks down the vault, alerts the police, and pumps knockout gas through the vents. We’ll have to hustle to the hole.”

“No pressure then,” Faith muttered as she joined Xander in staring at his watch.

The clock had just past three minutes to go when Agent Zero chuckled triumphantly. “Got it. 30-06-34.” The former secret agent’s brow furrowed. “Why is that date familiar?”

“Screw that!” Faith snapped impatiently. “Clock’s tickin’, just type!”

The mutant chuckled at her edginess but obeyed, fingers dancing nimbly over the key-pad. “If it’s wrong we’re out of here,” North stated. “Two incorrect codes and the alarms go off and the knockout gas is -.”

The former secret agent’s voice trailed off when the key-pad beeped, a panel slid up, and a drawer slid soundlessly out. Faith’s eyes widened. “A pack of CD-ROMs? That’s it! All this for that?”

“The annual fees for a box here are in the high six figures,” Xander reported as he picked up the CDs and put them in The Always Pocket. “It’s one minute forty, let’s get out of here.”

Faith groaned. “Back to the sewers! Fuckin’ A!”

“She complains a lot doesn’t she?” North shot her an amused look.

“After a certain point, it just becomes background noise.”

* * *

It took them a stench-filled, stomach-churning half hour to traverse the dankly dark tunnels. When they climbed out, they were in a secluded underground parking lot. Xander quickly cranked open the boot and pulled a trio of black commando outfits. “Change quick, then give me the used clothes to throw in the Always Pocket.”

Faith raised an eyebrow as she pulled her top over her head. It was sure lucky she wasn’t shy.

* * *

Tara joined Kennedy in leaping up when their hotel room door crashed open and their companions rushed in. “You’ve got it?” Kennedy asked a moment before she could. “What is it?”

Xander pulled the stolen items out of the Always Pocket. “It was a pack of CDs.”

“I’m guessing they’ll be encrypted,” the mutant added before looking towards her. “I’d appreciate your assistance in cracking them.”

Tara opened her mouth to say ‘of course’. “Tara,” Xander pre-empted, “can I see you outside for a moment, first?” Tara nodded her agreement before following her friend outside. Xander led her three doors down the corridor before spinning to face her, a vaguely bemused look on his face. “Is Maverick’s aura okay?”

Tara grinned. “He’s okay. Are you thinking about asking him to join the Brotherhood?”

Xander nodded. “Thinking about it.”

***

“Xander,” Xander looked up at David’s hard tone, the mutant having been hammering the computer with Tara for about two hours, “I know where I remember the deposit box code from?”

“Oh yeah?” Faith spoke up a second before he could. “Do tell.”

“It was the date of The Night Of The Long Knives.”

Xander grimaced at the mention of the night that the Nazi Party had eliminated their political competition in Germany via a series of brutal assassinations that had left at least eighty people dead. “Coincidence?”

“Doubtful.” Tara dolefully replied from her seat beside the mutant.

Oh boy. Xander exchanged looks with Faith and Kennedy before looking back towards the two hackers. “Why not?”

“Because,” North, his voice as grim as Tara’s, “these discs document the progress of a Nazi conspiracy from early 1944 to the present day.”

And once again Xander heard those all too familiar warning bells in head. It took a couple of breaths to clear out the tension threatening to choke him, but once he did, he spoke. “Give it to us.”

“When the Germans conquered Europe they also pillaged untold billions from the occupied countries and salted it away in the Swiss banks. In January 1944, with the expulsion of their forces from Leningrad, the Nazi High Command realised the war’s tide had turned against them, and put Unternehmen Auferstehung in action.”

“Unternehmen Auferstehung?” Faith queried. “My kraut’s the shits, ‘specially the long words.”

“Operation Resurrection,” North translated with a wry smile that immediately disappeared as he continued. “Unternehmen Auferstehung used family and loyalty records combined with psychological and mental tests to select and match two thousand males from the Hitler Youth with two thousand girls from the League of German Girls. Then each of the couples were given half a million dollars, and smuggled out of the country-.”

“Wait,” it was Kennedy’s turn to interrupt, her tone tight, “you’re telling me this group was given a billion dollars back in 1944?”

David nodded before continuing. “With faked identities taken either from killed POWs, resistance fighters, murdered political activists, that sort of thing. Their orders were to indoctrinate their children with Nazi beliefs and use the money to become influential in whatever country they were stationed in.”

“Sorta like really long-term sleeper agents?” Faith suggested.

“Exactly,” the former secret agent nodded.

“But over the decades they had to go native right?” Xander suggested.

”No,” David shook his head. “You’ve got to remember these people were completely brain-washed in the legitimacy of Nazism from their pre-teens, that sort of programming is very hard to break.”

”And if they did break programming, there’s details of a shadowy organisation that’d come in and kill any family that deviated from their mission” Tara put in.

“Where did these agents go?” Faith queried.

“All over the world, a select few were kept in Germany but smuggled to the places not over-run by the war, but most left. They went to the UK., Europe, every continent except Antarctica,” Tara replied.

“And how many couples did the U.S. get?” Kennedy asked the question that was uppermost in Xander’s mind.

“They must have predicted that the US. would become the world’s super-power because we got more couples than any other nation, one hundred and forty in total,” Tara replied.

“And how did they turn out?” Faith asked.

”These CDs detail what all the families’ offspring achieved,” David said.

Xander winced at the mutant’s doom-laden tone. “Let’s hear it.”

“One off-spring is the chairman and owner of the world’s biggest private security company, Transworld Security. Another’s a general on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There’s also a Supreme Court Justice, two deputy State Governors, a Deputy Assistant Director of the CIA, a senator on the Intelligence Oversight Committee, and three congressmen. The Chairman of one of the five media networks. And that’s just the cream of the crop, there’s a total of eighty seven movers and shakers on this, all in positions to influence people on a daily basis.”

“Damn.” It was predictably Faith who broke the shocked silence that followed David North’s grim recital. “What are we gonna do about this?”

Xander pursed his lips for a second. ”How detailed are these records?”

“Everything’s in there,” Tara replied. “The genesis of Unternehmen Auferstehung, the false identities, where everyone was sent, everything, details of what everyone achieved on a year by year basis.”

”Like Tara said, everything. School records, graduation photographs, newspaper articles, even the homicides of the agents who went native.”

“Can you sort it into country?” Xander queried.

Maverick nodded. “It’ll take time, but yes.”

“Jesus, Xan,” Faith gasped. “We can’t kill all these people, there’s gotta be thousands! It would take forever.”

David smiled and chuckled. “He’s thinking of character, rather than actual, assassination.”

Xander smiled at the cagey former special operative’s astuteness. “I want copies of this information sent to every major media outlet in any of the affected countries.”

“Some of these people are in countries without a free press,” Tara objected.

“I know, but the countries’ intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be getting a copy the same day,” Xander replied.

“People will be ruined by just the association with the Nazi party, some of them might be innocent,” Tara objected fiercely. “You can’t condemn them based just on their families!”

“Willow’s grand-father went through the camps, I’d say survived, but I never saw that man smile or without a haunted look in his eyes,” Xander shook his head. “I’ll not see another generation suffer that, not if I can stop it.”

“These people have been brain-washed from birth, Tara,” David gently added. “You’ve read the files. They might not have done anything yet, but they’re all Nazis.”

“Then if that’s it-,” Xander began to rise.

”We haven’t told you about Riga yet,” David warned.

***

“He was one of those Nazi children wasn’t he?” Xander guessed.

“No, he was born in 1942, pre- Unternehmen Auferstehung. He was involved in the program’s secondary stage,” David corrected.

Xander’s heart sank to somewhere around his knees. “Okay, hit me with it. What second stage?”

“Unternehmen Auferstehung had blood samples taken from all the high-ranking Nazis and stored for the future. Fifteen years ago, an experimental cloning program began, with many of the world’s experts employed.”

“Oh shit,” Faith groaned.

“About five years ago, this ‘Operation Resurrection’ had a breakthrough, and with a combination of science and magic grew their first subject-.”

”Holy crap,” Faith muttered.

”Who they quickly killed and began working with the actual Nazi specimens. A few weeks ago Riga somehow discovered who they were growing and what the program’s actual objectives were and fled, a death notice being placed on him.”

“Who did they actually grow?” Kennedy queried.

“There are thirty specimens, but they include Axmann, Bormann, Eichmann, Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, Hitler, Jodi, Kaltenbrunner, Keitel, and Mengele,” North reported.

“Jeez, some of those names just give ya the warm fuzzies,” Faith commented. “The records do include the facility’s location?”

“They do,” Tara replied. “The thing is,” the witch heistated, “owing to the scientific processes used, these creatures aren’t human until their gestation periods end, but when their containment cells release them they’re fully grown.”

Xander heaved a relieved sigh. That was something at least. He didn’t want to kill children, but he also didn’t want to stand by and watch as they were released to wreck havoc on the world. “When does their gestation period end?”

“They’re scheduled to be released when they hit forty. Each gestation period is an accelerated growth phase, a month for every year. They were put in stasis thirty-three months ago, so seven months are left.”

“Unleashed on the world?” Kennedy queried. “What exactly is their plan?”

Tara winced. “When they’re ‘unleashed’, the right are going to declare them as the Germany’s true leaders sent to rescue them from-.”

Xander snorted. “That’ll never work. The world won’t let it.”

North shook his head. “What if certain agents in the UN demand that the world not interfere? What if certain US. networks and lobbyists demanded that the US. government concentrate on greater threats such as Korea, Iran, and Iraq? What if certain agents in the British government say their military is over-stretched as it is and can’t possibly interfere? What if agents in the EU government decry any intervention in Germany’s soverign matters?”

Xander grimaced at the mutant’s doomsday scenario. “We’ll have to destroy the facility then. I suppose there’s plans to the security etc?”

“It’s a hard place to get into,” David warned.

“We just broke into a Swiss bank, we’ll manage,” Xander replied.

* * *

Two hours laters and Xander was beginning to heartily regret his earlier optimism. The fourteenth century castle that served as the research facility appeared to be tighter than a drum.

”I’ve a question,” Faith suddenly said. “What does destroying this facility accomplish? Are their other copies of the research?”

“Their only copy outside of the castle is on these discs,” Tara replied.

“What if Diskret Bankgeld have notified them of the theft?” Kennedy asked. “They’ll be making copy after copy.” The potential paused. “Heck, they might be waiting for us.”

David smiled wryly. “It’s unlikely the Diskret Bankgeld will have notified anybody. It’s more likely they’ll cover up the entire thing. If the fact their security was breached ever became public knowledge, given how security-conscious and publicity-shy many of their clients are, they’d probably soon be bankrupted.”

“Okay, so we’ve got until they go to Switzerland to update the CDs,” Xander said.

“They update the 1st of every month,” Tara supplied.

“So we’ve got time,” Xander mused.

“Time doesn’t mean much if we can’t come up with a plan,” Kennedy retorted.

“Kinda pointin’ out the obvious there,” Faith put in.

“Doesn’t make it any less true though,” Kennedy retorted.

”Okay then.” Xander broke into the conversation before it could degenerate into the pair’s usual full-blown argument. “Any ideas?”

”I’ve got one,” Tara replied. “We need to break into the company that supplies security for the facility, their owner is one of their children, and also uses the business for under-ground agitation, building support for right-wing extremists. We need to get some uniforms from their offices and go in undercover.”

“Don’t the reports say you need bar-code passes to get into the facility?” David objected.

“They do,” Tara nodded, “but the bar-code scanners are all operated by people who I can magically influence to let us in without IDs,” Tara replied.

“Jedi mind-tricks, cool.”

Faith shot him a disgusted look. “You fuckin’ dork.”

* * *

Xander tugged the dusty warehouse’s second floor window open. “No alarms?”

David glanced at his hand-held. “System’s not detecting our presence.”

“Cool.” Xander looked around the darkened building. “There they are,” he pointed towards the racks of clothes in the far left corner.

“Why do we need the uniforms if we’ve got Tara?” his mutant companion queried.

“The way Tara explains it,” Xander begin picking out uniforms, careful to get the sizes just right. God, Faith would just kill him if he got her one that was too big, he could just hear her nagging right now. “The guards have to be tricked into believing we’re on their side. Once they believe that, they’re more susceptible to Tara, more willing to co-operate.”

The former Weapon X operative chuckled. “Sounds like classic spook technique to me. Make someone believe one lie in order to plant another.”

“There is that.” Xander pulled the last of the uniforms off the rack and shoved it into the Always Pocket. “Have you finished?” North nodded. Xander grimaced. The mutant had pointed out that if their theft was discovered there was a chance that security arrangements at the lab would be changed. To prevent that the mutant had set a charge to burn the entire office down, concealing any evidence of their crime. “Then let’s hustle.”

***

Despite being just inside the Swiss border, Castle Grubber had all the hallmarks and charm of a Bavarian or Prussian stronghold. Constructed entirely of grey stone and shadowed by the surrounding mountains, it cast a forbidding presence.

“Hey,” Faith broke the contemplative silence as they drove into the castle’s parking lot off to the right, “here’s a thought. So what about the lab? Even if we destroy it, they can still rebuild. They’ll still have the scientists.”

”The knowledge is no good without the DNA samples,” David pointed out. “All the records state the samples are kept here.”

“Cool,” Faith nodded as they climbed out of the car before glancing at her pensive-looking friend. “Ya ready to get your Sabrina on?”

“I’m ready,” Tara replied with a determined nod.

“Wicked.” Faith fell in beside Xander as he led their group towards the castle entrance and the two man guard post.

“Where are your badges?” one of the guards, a beetle-browed man in his mid-forties, demanded. “We can’t let you in without your bar-coded cards.”

“You’ve already seen them,” Tara said. “Unlock the doors.”

“Okay.” Suddenly the truculence was gone from the man’s voice, replaced by a spooky dreaminess. “Your ids check out.” The steel doors, a departure from the traditional portcullis, slid apart. “Please go in.”

“Thank you,” Tara nodded.

“That was so cool,” Xander gushed as they strode through the entrance. “Can you make him say ‘They’re not the droids we’re looking for’?”

Faith shot her lover a disgusted look. “You are so not gettin’ any tonight.”

* * *

The castle’s interior had been re-designed from its extravagant medieval origins into a sterile corridored laboratory, Faith blinking under its yellow fluorescent lights. “Remember,” she glanced towards her sis. “If any guards in here see us, they might notice our lack of passes.”

”Ain’t you just the brightest ray of sunshine, always lookin’ on the bright side?” She looked towards North, voice rising. “Where’s the clones kept?”

“Centre of the ground floor,” the mutant replied. “The DNA samples are kept on the second floor in the centre in a refrigerated room. It’s only accessible via a coded elevator leading from the lab to the refrigerated room or by a locked and guarded outer door.”

“Nice,” Faith glanced up at the CCTV cameras lining the passageway, wherever you looked there was one. “You realise they’ll go ape once we make our move?”

“That’s why we decided to just throw our grenades in and run, rather than bother setting explosives,” Xander replied.

“Gettin’ out’s gonna be a bitch,” Faith commented as she halted by a stairwell door. “See ya later.”

* * *

“See you,” Xander smiled at his girl-friend as he passed her a trio of grenades. “Keep your radio on.” Faith winked at him before slinking off into the darkened stairwell.

Swallowing his misgivings, Xander followed his companions down the gleaming corridor, walking fast and looking straight ahead to avoid eye contact with anyone that passed their way. “This is the corridor,” North spoke as they came to a T-Junction and nodded towards a door down the left branch, the only door they’d seen with a guard station outside, “and that’s the entrance.”

”Right.” Xander looked towards Tara as he palmed some grenades to Kennedy. “We’ll take out the guards, Tara you blow out the door, Kennedy, you throw the grenades in.” Xander spoke into his microphone. “Faith, are you in position?”

”Comin’ up on it, hon,” his girl-friend jauntily replied. “Ready and rarin’ to kick some Nazi ass.”

“Say that a little louder why don’t you?”

Faith chuckled. “Bite me, you sweet thang.”

Xander flushed briefly. “Remember the drill; just do the job then get out.”

“Five by five,” Faith retorted.

Maverick spoke the moment he’d turned the mike off. “We’ll lead the way, I’ll be talking about German soccer, you’ll be shaking your head and saying ‘nein, nein’. Then when we draw level, we’ll take the guards out. I’ll take the farthest one, you take the nearest.”

”But what if I agree?” Xander blithely asked.

Maverick sighed long-sufferingly. “How much do you know about German football?”

“Point taken,” Xander conceded as he joined the mutant in walking towards the duo on sentry-duty, Kennedy and Tara trailing behind.

The moment they drew level with the pair of guards, Maverick moved, catching his guard with a side thrust kick that folded him in two. Xander’s guard reached for his shoulder holster, but Xander pre-empted him with a finger thrust to the throat, cutting off the man’s gurgle with a follow-up hook to the jaw. Blood crimsoned from the man’s mouth as he slumped face-first to the ground. “Down!”

Xander hit the ground at Kennedy’s yell, a quarter-second later and the lab’s windows exploded outwards and the building shook. Xander glanced through the now open door to see shooting flames, scorched walls, and over-turned scientific equipment, twisted and contorted. “It’s toast!” North yelled. “Let’s go!”

* * *

Faith sauntered towards the two watching guards, hands stuffed in pockets and hips swinging with practiced seductiveness. Suddenly the building shook and klaxons rang out. “That’s my cue!” Faith hollered as she leapt into the air at the shocked duo. Faith spun into a flawless airborne pirouette that ended with a hook-kick to the back of the nearest guard, Faith following through in the same smoothly effortless movement with a spin-kick that shattered the second guard’s jaw, blood spraying everywhere.

Faith landed side-on to the door, her thrust kick tearing it off its hinges. Faith had the briefest glimpse of an ice-covered room filled with what looked like incubation chambers, then she was flinging her grenades in and diving past the chamber.

The building shook and a fireball shot out of the portal, scorching the wall opposite. Faith forward-rolled to her feet, spun on her heel, and charged back down the corridor. A man leapt out in front of her, hands outstretched. “Oh please!” Faith snorted as she side-stepped his attempted grab and elbowed him in the side of the head without missing a step. Seeing the window coming up fast, Faith folded her arms over her face and leapt at it.

Reinforced glass shattered as she crashed through it, wind whipping at her, pulling her locks back as she plummeted, hitting the ground in a crouch some fifty yards behind her companions. “Hey!” she hollered and winked at Xan as she joined the others in racing towards their car, a hail of gunfire pursuing them. “We sure pissed them off didn’t we?”

***

“Gentlemen.” President Palmer nodded at the three men who hurriedly rose at his entrance into the Oval Office. “Please, sit.” As the men obeyed, he strode behind his desk and eased himself into his seat. “I assume you all know why you’re here?”

Jim Gardner snorted. “There’s only one news item worth discussing.”

“Yes.” Palmer stared at his Chief of Staff. Gardner was an incisive yet principled man with a certain steadfast charisma that Palmer profoundly hoped would one day translate to an ascension to the seat he currently held. “And,” his eyes swivelled to Lewis Berryhill, his Secretary of State, a shrewd operator and no stranger to Washington’s murky waters, “how are the revelations being received?”

Berryhill sighed. “Wide-spread panic at just how deeply ingrained these people are in our society.”

Palmer nodded before looking towards Trenton. “And how concrete are these accusations?”

“Very concrete.” His bespectacled National Security Advisor scowled. “It would appear we dodged a bullet here, Mr. President.”

“Several bullets,” Palmer replied. In a few weeks they’d been planning to announce several new appointments, amongst them an UN Ambassador, a NATO Representative, and a Deputy National Security Advisor. In all three cases the forerunners for the positions had been Nazi children. In just another month the damage to his government could have been devastating.

Gathering himself, he looked towards each of his subordinates in turn. “And how are the accused reacting?”

“As you’d expect Mr. President it’s a mixed bag,” Gardner replied with a grimace. “Some of the accused have resigned from their positions. Others have protested these accusations. Any company with members of the accused in prominent positions have seen their share prices nosedive.” Gardner paused. “No matter what, I’d guess none of the accused will have a career after this.”

“I’d suspect you’re right,” Palmer agreed.

“Sir,” Trenton spoke up, “there’s several of the accused who hold elected positions. You’ll have to make a statement.”

“I know,” Palmer paused as he considered his options before continuing. It would have to be a blanket condemnation, regardless of party affiliation. “I’ll talk to the press secretary later. I’m thinking about something about how outraged I am about the fraud that these elected officials have perpetrated on the electorate and expect their resignations immediately.”

“Yes sir,” Gardner said. “And what about your own appointments that number amongst the accused?”

Palmer scowled. It was rare these days for a politician to admit to mistakes, but in this case there was no other recourse. “I’ll demand their resignations in the same statement, and name each of them individually, in addition to expressing my disappointment.” Choosing to move on, he asked. “And international reaction?”

“Much the same as it is here,” Trenton replied. “In your more hard-line countries there’s been mass arrests. In more liberal nations, there’s been mass resignations and widespread media outrage. Certain Jewish groups have demanded reparation from those named individuals involved in business.”

”And what about this Operation Resurrection’s masterminds?” Berryhill asked.

”They’ve operated with impunity in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia by bribing local officials, but the amount of evidence and ferocity of the international outcry has forced authorities to act.” The National Security Advisor paused to glance at his notes before concluding. “Throughout the aforementioned trio of countries there’s been nineteen raids and seventy-five arrests.”

“On what charges?” Gardner asked.

“In these countries?” Trenton snorted. “Charges don’t matter.”

Palmer grimaced as an alarming thought occurred. “None of the arrested are U.S. nationals are they?”

He heaved a relieved sigh at Trenton’s headshake. “Looks like we dodged a bullet there, sir,” the bespectacled man commented.

”We dodged several,” Palmer corrected. It appeared his administration was once again in Mithras’ debt.

* * *

Berlin, Germany

North looked around the lavishly decorated dining room. Three days had passed since they’d destroyed the lab and the news of Unternehmen Auferstehung had broken, shaking the world. “We were wondering,” Xander paused. “That is I was wondering you’d be interested in running a Brotherhood branch in Germany for us?”

North raised a non-committal eyebrow. In the days since Logan had clued him on the youths’ true identities, he’d spent every spare moment he could snatch researching and hacking into files about the Mithras Quartet.

What he’d uncovered was fascinating to say the least. A group of youngsters who’d built up a global organisation, containing some of the world’ most dangerous people and allied to some of the world’s most influential, while also managing to incurring the wrath of such disparate groups as the Illuminati, the Vatican, Wolfram & Hart, and many other powers.

Oh and had saved the world on numerous occasions. One could never forget that.

Or the fact the U.S. government had very recently re-classified Xander, Faith, and Tara as Uranium-Level Operatives, a level of agent previously reserved for the super-powered likes of Logan, Captain America, Deadpool, and Elektra. Rarefied territory indeed.

North hid a smile as he sipped at his immaculately brewed coffee. In his long and varied life, he’d worked for a number of clandestine organisations. Weapon X had been the shadiest, but not by much, and as a result he’d long ago decided to work solo.

These kids though, there was a cleansing whiff of idealism about them, although the bombshell Slayer would probably laugh uproariously at the accusation. Finally he nodded. “I assume your mission statement remains the same?”

“Build and command an army dedicated to protecting innocents from evil supernatural threats and proactively hunting down such threats,” Xander replied.

“Run me through the resources,” North requested.

”You get the interest from a hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund with which to run your operation,” Tara replied. “In addition, you’ll have access to our arms and electronics support, and all our records on demons etc.”

“And what about human resources?” North asked between sups of his coffee.

Tara glanced at her laptop screen before replying. “There’s two teams of eight hunters and a whit magic coven in Berlin, two teams of eight in Hamburg, a team of ten hunters and a white magic coven in Munich, and teams of six in Dresden, Cologne, Bonn, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.”

A long minute ticked silently by before David nodded. “I’ll do it,” he agreed.

***

“I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” Tara bounced happily about on her seat as Xander drove them through Berlin’s busy night streets. “Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Komische Oper Berlin!”

“Yeah,” Faith drawled, hot as hell in her backless and plunging neck-lined full-length black halter dress. “It’s goin’ down as one of my high-lights too.”

Xander grinned at her as he pulled into the parking lot. “Be nice,” her boyfriend warned.

“I’ll try,” she murmured with a wink. She didn’t really mind goin’ to the opera house. Yeah, it would be a bore, but it was a night off, and at least she got a chance to dress up real glamorous like.

Yeah, Faith whistled as she pulled her shawl around her shoulders and linked arms with her very-nattily tuxedoed stud, eyes widening as she stared at the front of the bathed in golden light opera house, tonight was gonna be a real nice change of pace.

* * *

“The Slayer and her companions have arrived at the opera house.”

Comte de Saint-Germain nodded at his minion’s report even as his nose wrinkled in disdain. A Slayer thought he so little a threat as to holiday in his city before hunting him? The humilation scarely bear thinking about, but he’d make these hunters rue their arrogance.

Climbing out of the back of his car, he saw his followers disembarking from their cars. “Schintt, Toten, and Kalt,” he looked imperiously towards his favoured childes, “you will have the honour of leading the attack, the rest of you follow their orders. I want the Slayer’s friends dead and her head on a plate!”

* * *

“Whoa,” Faith whistled as they entered the auditorium, awe-struck by its gleaming opulence. Her eyes eagerly took in every aspect of the beautiful opera house, from the cherubs carved into the walls flanking the stage, to the gold rimmed higher boxes, to the gigantic gleaming chandelier dangling from the artistically painted ceiling. Faith looked towards her boy-friend and grinned. “You booked us one of the boxes, right?”

Xander nodded. “Cost me three times its usual price at this short-notice, but I did it.”

“Knew you had your uses,” Faith winked at Xander. “Lead the way, stud.” Xander grinned before leading them up the steps at the rear of the auditorium, having the smartly-dressed man stood at the top of the stairs check their pass and then stone-facedly lead them to their box of four red-velvet upholstered seats, the man discreetly closing the box’s tasselled curtains behind them. “Wicked cool,” after peering inquisitively over the edge to the curtained stage and then glancing at the rapidly filling seats below, Faith sank into her seat. “How long ‘til it starts?”

Xander glanced at his watch. “About twenty minutes.”

“Cool,” Faith nodded before swivelling around to look at Tara. “So now we’re here, how about you tell us about the opera is about? I’m guessing ‘cause there’s Dons in the title it’s ‘bout the Mafia?”

Kennedy groaned. “Tell me you’re joking?”

* * *

“You’re seriously telling me you sleep next to that?”

“Kennedy!” Tara gasped at her girl-friend’s query.

“Well,” the brunette potential shook her head, “the snoring,” Kennedy shook her head again, “oh god, she’s drooling.”

“She normally does that when I’m in the room,” Xander half-joked before shrugging, embarrassed by his girl-friend falling asleep ten minutes into the play, “doesn’t normally snore though, it must be being asleep while sat.”

“Uh, uh,” Kennedy looked unconvinced.

“Goddess!” Tara suddenly let out a gasp. “Xander-.”

Suddenly Faith was surging up and twisting towards the gilt-edged curtains at the back of box. “Weapons now!”

Even as Xander simultaneously reached into the Always Pocket and opened his mouth to question his girl-friend, the curtains were torn away and a swarm of snarling vampires charged into their box. “Fur das Comte!”

Xander flung Faith a tomahawk and the same to Kennedy, before drawing a stake for himself, conscious of the need for some sort of covertness even as the box became a chaotic maelstrom. Xander sidestepped to the right as tall, powerfully built vampire charged him, grunting slightly as the demon grabbed his stake-hand about half a foot from its target before swinging its knee up at his crotch.

Xander’s leg came up, blocking the demon’s attack while yanking his hand loose of the vampire’s grip and re-attempting a staking. The vampire growled as his stake imbedded itself in his left shoulder, pain creasing the monster’s face as it reared back. Its reaction was just enough distraction to give Xander time to draw another stake and slam it home.

Another demon crashed through the first’s dust-cloud, hitting him with a whole lot of attitude and snarls. Xander grunted as he blocked its first two overhand rights on his forearm while snaking his second arm beneath the first, ramming his stake into the demon’s chest.

Just as another crashed into him at shoulder level, knocking him off balance and into the back of a chair. “Oh heck!” Xander cursed as his balance completely deserted him, momentum carrying him over the back of the chair to land on his back on the seat, legs in the air as he caught the briefest glimpse of the ceiling and then the vampire was on him, his hands grabbing Xander around the throat and squeezing.

Xander’s vision grew spotty as he pulled his knees in and snapped his legs out with as much force as he could muster. He heaved in a great breath as his feet crashed into his opponent, knocking him back a step and the hands around his neck were released. Xander’s eyes widened as his kick’s momentum carried him backwards, sliding off the chair to crash to the box’s floor in a bone-jarring heap. Xander grunted as he rolled to his knees in time to see Faith put her axe through the back of the vampire’s neck as it advanced on her.

”We need to get out of here now,” Xander said as he rose, blood leaking from his nose and head aching.

“Damn it!” Faith cursed as she stepped through the dust. “And I was enjoying that show too.”

Tara shot her a scornful look. “You were snoring.”

“Ah,” Faith shrugged, apparently unrepentant, “heard that did you?”

“You were briefly drowned out by a plane going overhead,” Kennedy snarked. “Only briefly though.”

***

“Damn,” Faith knew with a glance at the guard’s torn-out throat that there was nothing they could do for him, “he’s toast.” Faith started down the steps, stiletto heels no obstacle to Slayer grace. “Hey, Tar, what where those blood-suckers shoutin’?”

“Fur das Comte.” Tara murmured. “For the Count.”

“Say what?” Faith looked over her shoulder at the Wicca, brow creasing. “Only vampire count I know was Dracula, and I wasted his ass.”

“It’s complicated -,” Tara began.

”It usually is,” Xander looked towards Kennedy. “Ring Maverick, if he’s still at his hotel, tell him to meet us in our lobby, we’ll take things from there and ask him to hire a rental SUV. Tara,” Xander directed his gaze to the New Mexican as they made the opera house’s lobby, “if you don’t mind.”

“The vampire world was always ruled over by a body called the Blood Assembly,” Tara began as they entered the well-lit lobby. “However in the late 1500s, a cabal of rising powers, the Master, Lothos, Kakistos, Nostroyev, and the Prince Of Lies gathered their forces together and attempted a coup. A long and bloody war was fought but the rebels were defeated and fled, the first three masters to the New World and the others east.”

“That’s why all the old Masters were congregated in America!” Xander exclaimed as he opened the exit’s glass door and started out into the apparently deserted car park.

”What I noticed the word ‘was’,” Faith commented.

”Remember Haima?” Xander seemed to half-shudder at the mention of the vampire that had once been Mithras’ closest friend. “Well it seems he was summonsed by the Blood Assembly to kill Blade, but when he was summonsed he butchered the Blood Assembly.” Tara paused. “Since then, vampires that once obeyed the Blood Assembly have been busy creating their own fiefdoms, Comte de Saint-Germain, Johann Weyer, Giles de Rais, and Elizabeth Bathory amongst them.”

“So this Comte de Saint-Germain claimed Germany?” Tara nodded at Kennedy’s query, the potential then looking towards Xander, “North said he’ll meet us there.”

Xander nodded. “Right, thanks, we’ll have to get a cab there, no way am I risking our car now.”

“Bobby-traps?” Xander nodded at her query. Faith half-grinned. “Good to know it’s only my boobies you’re interested in.” Faith looked towards Tara. “So who’s this Comte then?”

Tara shrugged. “I’ll need my computer to check him up.”

Faith chuckled. “Why did I know you were gonna say that?”

* * *

Comte de St. Germain growled as he watched from his rooftop position as the Mithras Quartet so casually, so contemptuously exited the opera house. He looked over his shoulder to the remainder of his inner circle. “Gather the brethren, we strike tonight.” He looked towards the youngest of his surviving childes. “Follow them but do not attack.”

* * *

In less than half an hour they were rushing into the ultra-modern Grand Hotel Berlin, its stylishly decorated open-space reception area, tastefully coloured in a mixture of orange-red walls and yellowy furniture. The lobby was filled a background hum of conversation coming from the scattered groups of what looked to be businessmen doing deals, more than one of the men distracted by the covetous glances they were shooting his companions. “There’s North.”

Xander nodded as he followed Faith’s gaze to see the mutant putting down his paper and rising from his seat. Xander waved the man back down as he hurried over to the couch and sat on the creamy-yellow couch opposite, a brown coffee table between them. “What are we facing?” North asked.

”Uncertain numbers, but we know their leader is almost certainly a vampire named Comte de St. Germain,” Xander passed the laptop and relevant disc over to Tara. “Eight of them attacked us at the opera tonight-.”

”Eight vamps and not a scratch,” North interrupted. “Impressive.”

”I was with ‘em,” Faith said, as if that explained everything.

North raised an eyebrow. “I had a few run-ins with vamps during my Weapon X days, they’re tough but not unstoppable.”

“Comte de. St. Germain,” every eye turned to Tara. “He’s an interesting character, there’s no record of his true name or even his origins, but even before he died in the late 1770s, he was quite a celebrated and notorious figure in German society, a rumoured occultist, alchemist, and magician.”

Xander winced. If that was true, experience taught him that a mage’s powers only blossomed when they were vamped, meaning Comte would be a bitch to deal with. “Any Slayer kills on his record, sis?” Faith asked the question she always wanted the answer for before going after a vampire.

“None confirmed,” Tara shook her head after a quick scan of the screen. “Of the three Slayer deaths in Germany since Germain was turned, one was down to an Allied bombing raid, another was due to a Fell Brethren attack, and the third was by an unknown vampire. But if Germain had slain her, you can be pretty he’d have boasted about it.”

“Cool,” Faith relaxed slightly.

”And how do we track this Comte down?” North leaned forward, eyes intent on Xander.

”Oh crap,” Faith looked over her shoulder, eyes narrowing, “my guess is that ain’t gonna be a problem.”

”Ah crap,” Xander groaned even as he started pulling out weapons and throwing them about like confetti at a wedding, one eye on the vampires charging into the suddenly scream-filled lobby. “They followed us.”

***

Xander and Faith exchanged shocked looks even as they grabbed at their weapons. There had to be a minimum of twenty-five vampires. “Faith!” Xander yelled as he kicked over the couch and twisted to face the on-rushing demons, his own MP-5 rising. “Get to the reception desk, cover them! Tar, Ken, you take the stairs, make sure they don’t get to the upper levels!”

“On it!” Faith yelled as she hit the gleaming floor in a forward roll before leaping up and racing towards the reception desk.

“What about the elevators?” Kennedy queried as she fired off a burst, the specially loaded incendiary ammo turning a pair of vampires to dust.

”They’re right at the back of the lobby, if they get to them we’re already dead!” Xander yelled over the sound of their gunfire.

* * *

Faith shook her head as she saw the two immaculately-dressed receptionists staring open-mouthed at the carnage as she raced towards them. “Get the fuck down!” she screamed. Not that it would actually help much, but it might give them a couple of extra minutes before the vampires actually noticed her.

Faith twisted at the waist when she saw a trio of vampires charging towards her out of the corner of her eyes. She didn’t miss a step as she raised her MP-5 to arm’s-length and gently stroked the trigger.

The first vampire exploded into dust, the second’s panicked veer to the left came way too late to make any difference as he too exploded. But the third, a perm-haired blonde in her late-twenties leapt at her through the air before Faith had a chance to draw a bead.

“Shit!” Faith grunted as the demon crashed into her upper torso, the impact knocking her on her ass, the back of her head bouncing off the ground even as she drove her knees up and into the demon’s chest, knocking the snarling monster off her and into a crouch three foot away from her as she swung up into a sitting position.

The vamp’s yellow eyes shone with malignant intensity. “Our master,” she hissed, “will see you scream for death.”

”Maybe,” Faith shrugged off the fear provoked by the demon’s words with the ease of long practice, she aimed her gun and fired, “but you won’t be here to see it.” Faith gasped as a strong hand grabbed the wrist of her gun arm and twisted, pain flaring in her arm as the weapon fell uselessly from her grip.

“Streben!” The Germanic bellow filled her ear as she drove her head back into her attacker’s face. The vampire let out a curse as he released his grip, Faith launching herself forward and at the dropped gun only for another vampire to snatch up her weapon and point it at her.

”Oh for fuck’s sake!” she changed her dive into a sideways roll that ended with her rolling to her feet and flinging her stake into the demon’s chest as he turned to face her, both him and her gun turning to dust.

”Crap!” Faith sidestepped a charge by the vamp who’d relieved of her gun, a tall, gangly man dressed in a biker’s leather, leaving her foot for the demon to fall over only for the blood-sucker to stagger rather than fall, and still manage to deliver a teeth-rattling elbow to the side of her head. “Oh for,” Faith leaned back at the waist when the demon threw a looping right, “fuck’s sake!” Faith snatched at the demon’s wrist before he could pull back and leaned down until her hair was brushing the ground, and her head around calf-level while at the same time leveraging her attacker forward and front-first into the reception desk.

Faith straightened and spun to face the vampire, catching it with a backhanded fist as it turned to face her, while slapping away its attempted palm strike. The vampire’s head snapped to one side, yellow eyes glowing through its lank hair as it smiled at her and threw a hook she parried away. “How will you kill me without your gun or a stake?”

Faith grinned at the vampire’s taunt, feinting with a right then driving a knee into the demon’s crotch, the vampire howling in pain as it doubled up. “Oh,” Faith grabbed a pencil off the desk and drove it into the vampire’s back, “I’ll think of somethin’.” The vampire was still bursting into dust as Faith leapt over the reception desk to land in a crouch beside the pair of receptionists. “Don’t worry,” she drawled, “I’m here to protect you.”

”But who will protect us from you?” sobbed the male of the two receptionists.

Faith glared at the youth. Smart-asses wherever she went, she was freakin’ cursed. “You want I throw you out over the counter and to them?” The pale-faced man shook his head. “Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

* * *

“Ah heck!” Xander cursed as his MP-5 clicked empty as he peered over the couch he’d taken cover behind. He’d taken down about half a dozen vamps, but there were still-.

Xander gasped as a short, portly vampire leapt over the crowd of rampaging demons to land beside him, grabbing his shoulder and flinging him backwards. Xander grunted as he hit the coffee table, but allowed momentum to propel him through a roll that ended with him in a crouch facing the vampire.

He’d barely made his feet when the demon’s fist crashed into his jaw, flinging him over the couch behind him and to the ground. Xander coughed and wheezed, blood filling his mouth as he laid there, his body shaking with the blow’s colossal impact. Xander rolled himself to the right when the demon leapt over the couch, his feet crashing into the floor where Xander’s chest had been.

Xander struggled his feet. Seeing the demon charging him, he spat blood out into its face. “You want blood!” he crashed a right into the momentarily blinded vampire’s jaw while simultaneously beating out a rhythm on its ribs with his left. “You’ve got it!”

The vampire snarled as it leapt into the air, swinging into a roundhouse kick that Xander ducked under before straightening and throwing his weight into his smaller opponent, knocking the demon to the ground. The vampire snarled as it backwards rolled to its feet in time to catch a foot to the face. Its head snapped to one side even as it launched itself at Xander, catching him with a side-kick that caught him on the side of his arm, pain reverberating up the limb.

Xander swayed away from an attempted uppercut then grabbed the vampire behind its head and dragged it down onto a knee to the face. “Damn!” he gasped when the demon grabbed his leg under the knee. Suddenly he was looking up at the ceiling as he fell onto his back, yet still had enough presence of mind to kick out with his other leg, his blow bouncing off his rival’s knee, knocking him back a step.

The demon jumped at him, pouncing on him like a big cat. Xander grinned as the vampire landed on him. “Surprise.” He briefly savoured the look of shock on the face of the vampire he assumed to be Comte. De St. Germain as the demon looked down at the stake he’d pulled out of the Always Pocket and the vampire had just landed chest-first on.

Then the vampire exploded into dust.

Xander just lay there for a second, winded from his meeting. Then North had his hand and was pulling him to his feet, the rest of the vampires having apparently fled with the death of their leader. “Are things always like this around you?” North queried. Xander nodded wearily. “Ah,” North sighed, “things must be eventful around you.”
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