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The Hell-er-nator II: Ghosting the Machine

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Hell-er-Nator: The Cordelia Chase Chronicles". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Just because the spell is broken, it doesn't mean that the nightmare is over. Halloween may be ended, but Xander and Cordelia are still on the run – and the Terminator is still hunting. And they've intrigued a certain Dr. Walsh... X/C

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Movies > Terminator
Multiple Crossings > Cordelia-Centered
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1822148,5541223020,88828 Dec 1330 Apr 14Yes

One Tin Soldier Drives Away...





Chapter Fifty-two: One Tin Soldier Drives Away...



Monday, November 3, 1997: Lumley Flood Control Channel heading southwest, Near 150, Night 1:45am –

"OK. Coming up... coming up... coming up... " Cordelia said, her eyes anxiously searching the upper reaches of the channel ahead of them... There: "Now!"

Xander never hesitated, she noticed when she thought about it later. He merely swerved right, took his foot from the gas, and caught the ramp leading up and out at nearly eighty miles per hour and slowing, letting inertia and momentum ease them down a bit as he went.

They hit the gates leading up and out like Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell, the hasp of the lock shattering under the loaded curb weight of the Rover, chain gone flying, one of the chain link gates coming completely unhinged and sailing left and up and the other slamming back and bouncing.

They were through and gone before it could bounce back closed.

Sure you couldn't ever trust anyone implicitly, Cheng. Fuck you kindly, Master Sergeant.

Would have been a perfect time to nail the cruiser smack in the undercarriage with something, anything, maybe one of the grenades for the underslung launcher on Cheng's .50 Beowulf. But Cordelia was hanging onto the suicide strap for dear life, laughing like a maniac, Xander was glued to the wheel with his arms extended and his lips peeled back, and Cheng was hanging on to whatever he could get a hold of back there... and Xander swerved suddenly, just a hair, but it nearly threw them over and down again and then they were through and out –

– And they were airborne, catching air in a couple tons plus of massive four wheel drive loaded with gear and people at well over seventy miles per.

Death from above. Damned good thing there were no California Water Department people or vehicles on Drysdale Road outside the flood control channel. They'd have landed on one, for sure and for certain.

They hit with a jolt that rattled Cordelia's teeth in their sockets and couldn't have done anything in the back any good. Damned good thing they'd netted and lashed down the important stuff. Loose tools and odds and ends banged up into the air, and then dropped back with a crash and a clatter.

Xander stood on the brake for the barest second, downshifting frantically, hit the gas again and took the onramp at speed, and they were suddenly fishtailing with Land Rover all over two lanes and both shoulders. He straightened it out, cursing like a sailor on leave, and they slammed through and over the very slight incline change where ramp met highway with a jolt that crossed Cordelia's eyes.

"There goes the spare," Cheng said.

"Gee, we better not have a flat, huh?" Cordelia said, and then they were all laughing like maniacs again, laughing so hard that tears streamed down her cheeks and her stomach hurt, and she couldn't believe that Xander could see to freaking drive...

"'C-ca-cause t-that w-would suck so very bad," Cordelia finished, whooping.

Xander threw a wild eyed and wilder grin at her, snapping his eyes back to the road almost immediately. "We have a flat now, and we're dead before I can grab the lug wrench."

"Yeah. You just never get past the gates when that happens," Cheng observed. Dropping his voice, he said, "Ok, so, how did you arrive here? Uh, not sure, Peter. Hit a skunk and blew a tire at ninety per on Highway 150 in a flying Land Rover, I think.” (beat) “Ok, you go to Hell."

When they'd finally recovered from that one and Cordelia was wiping her eyes again; hey, so not funny except where it was, Xander said, "Sadly, I think Larry took driving lessons somewhere along the way."

"Well, phooey," Cordelia said.

"'Bout sums that up succinctly," Cheng said.

"She has a knack," Xander said. “Luckily, we have the other spare on the hood if we really need one.”

“Gee. Next time remember: it's good news first, Jerkwad,” Cordelia said, starting to laugh again.

There was freaking traffic on Highway 150, even at two oh clock in the freaking morning. And if she'd thought that the big Land Rover had been cooking on badly paved county roadway, dirt road, and gravel, it was a screaming rocket sled to Hell on good pavement. They blew through, past, and around other vehicles, with the big whatever-the-hell-it-was that Rory had stuffed under the hood roaring, at well over one twenty, horns blaring in their ears and a trailing blur of upraised middle fingers sending them on.

If ole Larry-bot hadn't been a machine, he'd have been toast and gone for dead certain at any number of points, lost and rolling wheels over bubble lights like that patrol car at the 33 juncture. Cordelia never was quite sure how Xander freaking Harris was managing, except that whatever Hicks had left behind, it came from Dale Earnhardt and Mario Andretti's bastard love child or something like.

They left a freaking Lamborghini in their dust, the driver coming completely unglued and swapping ends in a screaming spiraling donut down 150's sissy lane as he bent the wheel in a blind panic to twist out of their way.

Larry-bot just clipped his driver's side front bumper corner enough the straighten him back out again, sending the Lamb in a long fishtail until it ended up parked on the shoulder way, way back in their rear views.

"Split! Split! Split left! UCS Sunnydale, coming up," Cordelia yelled, bracing herself. "Now!"

"Get ready!" Xander slid left across two lanes and across the front of a semi, taking the exit at speed again as the Larry-bot dropped back slightly to slip behind the big truck and around.

"Born ready, kid," Cheng yelled back.

They slewed crazily through the curving overpass ramp, way, way too fast, and down onto UCS Drive, actually scraping along the concrete retaining wall at one point and leaving a trail of paint and sparks.

Cordelia would never be able to guess what that Sunnydale Power and Light crew thought about it as they hit the incline and slight rise and hump a long quarter mile past the end of the merger ramp at over ninety per, caught air, and sailed past them at about hardhat level. You just don't see flying CC130's all that often... all they needed was Ride of the Valkyries or Bat Out of Hell blaring from speakers and they'd have had one hell of a sound track to go with.

They landed with a jolting crash on all four wheels on UCS drive – six lanes and loads straighter than 150 where it veered around and through Miller's Wood like a drunken rattlesnake – bounced, and then the back tires dug in and they shot forward. And Xander downshifted, downshifted again, and stood on the freaking brakes –

– if Cordelia hadn't been braced, holding the suicide strap for dear life, and strapped in, she'd have been wearing the hood ornament once again. For a long brief moment there was CC130 all over two lanes just past the join of UCS Drive and the exit ramp from 150 West as they went from eighty-five to about thirty-five in the space of two hundred and fifty yards or so. Cordelia had a brief glimpse of wide eyed faces with hanging jaws on the walkways alongside as they barreled past decelerating. Xander straightened it out, downshifted and braked again, and they slid into the right hand lane at twenty and going down as –

– As the Larry-bot hit the rise and hump at probably nearer one hundred and airborne.

There was a loud crump! from the backseat, and something hit the forward undercarriage of the police interceptor and exploded in a ball of flame and shattering metal and a dull whump sound.

People alongside UCS drive scattered like terrified calves bolting away from a pack of wolves. Some even abandoned cars, leaving them door open and engines running as they unassed and bailed on whatever was going on with the maniacs in the flying Land Rover and the detonating police cruiser.

They just flat didn't want to know.

There were metallic load shifting sounds from the back as Xander shifted gears and accelerated, and the Larry-bot came down with a crash of vehicle and shattering front end and undercarriage right atop a parked and abandoned SUV in the road. No front tires, or much left of the wheels, either, and way too much speed and momentum. It rolled sideways as it slid on down and off the crumpling sports utility. It did a lengthwise mid-air three sixty and the front end of the patrol car kept going down and the rear end came over and up and another loud crump! came from the back as Xander picked up speed away from the crashing, flipping police car.

whump!

Something blew up inside of the squad car, and all of the rear windshield blew out in a spray of safety glass as it went up and came over again; part of the roof lifting away along with what was left of the shattered light bar.

And it still had enough momentum and centrifugal force – at least that's what Cordelia thought it was called – to do one more lengthwise barrel roll as it came up and end over and –

– It hit slamming down atop its hood and then its roof, and skidded sideways along UCS drive after them, but no longer accelerating and no longer under its own power or anything's control.

Xander downshifted and braked again, and they came to a sliding, brake and tire squealing stop about another hundred and fifty yards beyond where the sliding patrol car was gonna end up.

The cruiser spun a full circle once, on its roof, and slid another seventy five beyond that, finally coming to a rest.

"Rifle me," Xander said, popping his seat harness latch and stepping out onto the running board. Cheng handed him the big Griffin & Howe from the back seat, and Cordelia heard him rack the bolt to chamber one of the huge, cigar sized .505 Gibbs rounds as she was popping her latch and scrambling up into and through the open sunroof.

She braced the four-sixteen on a left elbow and tube of the roof-rack -slash- roll cage and waited, her eyes narrowed.

Nothing happened for long, long moments, except that anyone else who hadn't already had the minimal sense that God gave an Irish Setter took one look and bailed out of the immediate vicinity.

"Wish I had an armor piercer," Cheng said, quietly.

"You know what they say about wishing in one hand, and crapping in the other," Cordelia called down, her voice equally soft and equally intense.

"Hell, it steps out, I'll squeeze what I have," Cheng called back up, "And see what comes true."

Glancing down and to her right, quickly, Cordelia saw Xander opening the action and sliding another cartridge in past the magazine cutoff to top off the Gibbs. Good man. She wasn't sure at that moment whether she wanted to have his children, or his rifle's.

A UCS Campus cop car – glorified security guards, except they were probably tons more competent than the Sunnydale PD – came screaming out of Bockner Hill Lane onto UCS drive and then stood on their brakes as they took in the tableau before them. Yellow flashing lights washed the area in a swirling amber strobe from their light bar and grill flashers.

BOOM!

A six hundred grain, steel jacketed and tungsten cored solid smashed into and through the grill and radiator of the campus patrol car and a bare moment later, there came a loud hiss and an explosion of steam. The hood latch popped and the hood jumped up and stood at a thirty degree angle.

BOOM!

As the doors flew open and the two campus cops bailed out of them, Cordelia's solid took the bottom of the light bar in the center, just under the speaker horn, and the siren gave one last whoa-oop! and died with a horrible sound as amber plastic, metal, and glass flew in a cascade of sparkly bits.

Xander racked the bolt on the big stopping rifle deliberately, holding it at high ready, and the two campus cops took one jaw dropped, wide eyed look, and turned and bolted back the way they came. One dropped his automatic to jounce muzzle first on the asphalt, and the other was screaming into a walkie talkie as they fled.

"Aiewah!" Cordelia said, laughing as she topped off her magazine. "The meat, I think, is pretty near to the bone, huh?"

"Yeah, but I don't think the bone is yet cracked," Xander said, laughing so hard he almost bent in half.

"You kids are insane, you know this, right?' Cheng said, laughing in the Rover's back seat.

"We are kinda hard on cops lately, now that you mention it," Xander said.

"Finding it real hard to care, somehow," Cordelia said, her mouth forming a thin, hard line. "Ask Owen and Aphrodesia about the cops. Jonathan freaking Levinson did more to save everyone's ass at the Bronze than every cop and Fed in California."

"Don't hold it in," Cheng said, "Tell us how you really feel, Miss Chase."

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

The passenger side door on the crumpled, upside down cruiser bent, bulged, and then kicked loose to skitter along the pavement. Something gleamed briefly in the opening...

"Think the Larry-bot finally rebooted," Xander said.

"No!" Cordelia said. "And your first clue was?"

It was gleaming silvery titanium steel with red glowing eyes, except where it was burnt and scorched black in places. It had tattered remnants of a CHP uniform blouse on one arm and the right side of the torso, and kind of still around the metallic neck. Parts of it were covered with charred meat, pinkish medium rare showing through the cracks. Half the flesh on its face was seared away to leave gleaming metal skull, half was scorched black and cracked pink. One metal skeletal arm was hanging twisted and kind of bent at its left side, and it had a Highway Patrol twelve gauge in the skeletal hand of the right arm.

There was a deep, dented in gouge along one temple...

Partially shredded black leather covered the left leg and hip, and there was a mostly gleaming skeletal and half fleshed right leg from about mid thigh down.

It crawled out through the kicked out door frame, and slowly, lurchingly, managed to hoist itself onto its feet. It stood there swaying creakily, the metal skull head and those glowing red eyes scanning about for its quarry, or perhaps just some fifty weight and a socket wrench.

The Power and Light company crew, still standing open mouthed and watching the last several moments of the Saga of the Flying Land Rover in wide eyed astonishment, took one long look and then bailed and unassed the area at speed.

On foot.

They had just seen the elephant, and they didn't really care to know what it was shaped like.

A small scattering of UCS students along the college side of UCS drive apparently did, for they stood watching, pointing, and aiming cameras.

Cordelia felt like screaming at them to run, idiots, but decided to not waste the breath.

Freaking Darwin in action, sheesh.

It apparently managed to get its graphic processors or whatever it had online, for the head finally ceased the tracking and scanning motions, and those glowing eyes riveted on one place.

Right on Cordelia Chase.

The skeletal hand holding the shotgun began to rise and come on line.

BOOM!

The last thing it ever saw from that particular eye was a brilliant, thousand watt toothpaste commercial smile behind a 2.5x scope before a four hundred grain Monolithic Solid removed that option forever.

And all the King's watchmakers and all the King's men weren't gonna put that camera eye back together again.

The Larry-bot kind of spun in place about fifteen degrees, wobbling a bit.

BOOM!

Six hundred grains of steel cored solid impacted on its right temple at twenty-two hundred and fifty feet per second, and it spun another twenty degrees, and staggered.

crump! whump!

Whatever Cheng had had loaded in the launcher under that Beowulf of his impacted on the Larry-bot just above the small of the back, and detonated with a ball of red orange flame and a roil of black smoke. Cheers and applause came from the small crowd now lining UCS Drive over there, and flashbulbs popped and crackled.

The Larry-bot staggered forward and went to one knee, the other, right leg, dragging out behind it.

BOOM!

Cordelia's next shot took it right where the join of spine and skull would be on a human being, and stretched it out flat on its metallic face. One arm twitched, and then slowly dragged itself up to bend at the elbow and plant a hand flat on the asphalt.

It did not lever itself up to rise immediately. Just twitched a couple of times.

"I think that got his attention," Xander said.

"Gee, I dunno," Cordelia said. "I don't hear footsteps. I'm gonna ring the bell again."

BOOM!

It had just managed to get itself up onto both extended arms when that four hundred grain solid took it in the exact same spot and stretched it out again.

"Gee, honey, I think they were coming to answer," Xander said. He threw her a wild, flashing half grin.

"Oops. Sorry about that," Cordelia said. She began to top off her magazine again. "Oh, wait. No I'm not."

"I thought rich people were supposed to be refined," Xander remarked.

"I cut class that day," Cordelia said. She closed the bolt on the freshly reloaded Rigby. "We were hunting Jack-a-lopes with Ghani, remember?"

This time it twitched a few times, creaked a bit, and rolled over. Then it lurched to a sitting position before a pair of solids took it in the chest plate along with a trio of rounds from the Beowulf.

It took it quite a bit longer to work its way up again this time.

They let it get onto its feet before opening fire again. By now, the crowd of picture taking onlookers numbered around fifty, probably.

"Hey! What movie are you guys filming?" a girl with blue eyes and long, dirty blonde hair yelled over to them.

Cordelia and Xander exchanged looks, and then shrugged.

"Terminator 3, the Wreck of the Fitzgerald Kennedy," Cordelia yelled back to her.

"I thought it was the Hindenburg Disaster," Xander said.

"Oh, shut up," Cordelia said. They exchanged wild, feral grins with each other, and then shouldered their rifles.

BOOM! BOOM!

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

BOOM! (beat) crump! whump! BOOM!

The Larry-bot didn't seem to be in any major hurry to get up after that round of impacts. Far, far off in the distance, sirens began to wail. They didn't seem like they were going to show up and join the festivities any time soon.

Then again, Cordelia reflected, with what sounded like World War III going on, after Halloween night, she'd have been real tempted to stop off at Smith Brothers for a dozen glazed along the way, herself.

At last, a twitching.

By the twitching of its thumbs, something gleaming this way comes. Eventually. The Larry-bot was starting to seem a bit worse for wear, by this point. Then again, it had had a hard night, so far.

Poor baby.

"Ah, fuck this," Cheng said, opening the rear passenger door on the Rover. Slinging his rifle, he headed around to the cargo bed, and pulled back a section of the cargo webbing after unlashing it. "Play time is fucking over."

After seeing what he was drawing out of the back, Xander grinned, slung his five-oh-five, and went to join him.

"Wanna do the honors?" Cheng said.

"Why sure, Master Sergeant," Xander said. As Cordelia watched the Terminator, and them from the corner of her eye, he took out a large, fat cased projectile thing with a long slender nose, and handed it to Cheng. Cheng loaded it into the recoiless, and then unslung his rifle again as Xander grabbed a second, shorter and non long nosed round and took up a kneeling position a handful of yards away, on the curb of UCS Drive.

The Terminator took a couple of dragging steps, and bent over to recover its shotgun.

"Target!" Cheng called. "Up!"

"Fire," Xander said, and squeezed the launcher's trigger. “Steel on target.”

A long burst of flame and cloud of burning, incandescent gas shot out of the back of the recoiless, and a brilliant streak shot out of the front as the Larry-bot straightened with the riot gun. Oh – so that was what back blast meant, Cordelia thought.

The scorched pattern of fall grass behind Xander was... impressive.

BOOM!

Her four hundred grain solid took the Larry-bot in the center of the gleaming and domed titanium forehead and it went staggering back with a large, raggedy, oval gouge burned into the left side of its chest as the recoiless round nailed it at the same time and blew the hell up. The shotgun went spiraling away somewhere to the right, to land with a metallic clatter and a bang! over by where the crowd was.

BOOM! crump! whump!

Cordelia's next round took it between the gleaming metal teeth just as Cheng's grenade nailed it in the lower thorax/pelvic region and detonated. Larry-bot fall down, go boom, not twitch again immediately. Xander unhurriedly broke open the back of the Gustav, swiveling it to the side, and began to reload.

"Cup check," Cheng said, grinning, as male sounding groans came from over at the crowd area.

"I think that bone may be cracked now," Xander said.

"If it's still cracking a boner after that," Cordelia said, "I may yark up what's left of my dinner."

The sirens came closer, but not immediately closer. Way off, over beyond where it looked like Revello should be, a helicopter spotlight came over and began tracking around slowly, heading gradually in their direction but taking the long way about it.

Again, Cordelia thought: World War III, donut stop. Maybe even a dinner break at Sizzler. Digging out some cartridges, she began topping off her magazine.

It began to get up, slowly and jerkily. It managed to get to about half way, on one knee and about to rise with the other leg, and braced on the spread skeletal fingers of the right hand.

"Target!" Cheng called. "Up!"

"Fire," Xander said, and squeezed the launcher's trigger again. “Steel on target.”

The back blast was equally impressive this time, and the round impacted medium low on the right hand side of its torso as it was just rising. It spun to the right, arching backward, and –

BOOM!

Cordelia's heavy forty-one caliber solid caught it just at the join of spine and skull again, and stretched it out flat.

It didn't twitch this time, at least not immediately.

Picking up the Carl Gustav, Xander headed for the back of the rover at an even trot. He set the recoiless back into the cargo bed, lashed it down, and pulled the webbing over it again, moving quickly and with no wasted motions. Cheng nodded, and headed for the rear door of the Rover.

"Time to go, boys and girls," Cheng said.

"Yup," Xander said, heading around the other side to the drivers door. He paused with a foot on the running board, looking up at her, "Saddle up, oh Queen C. We are leav-ing!"

"Hang tight, Bagheera," Cordelia said. "We need to see what it does. Don't want it to lose us now, huh?" She threw him a brilliant grin, and a wink.

Xander returned the grin, and slid into the driver's seat, starting up the Land Rover almost immediately. The applause, whistles, cat calls, and cheers from the UCS crowd were loud and raucous. Cordelia blew them all a kiss, and took a slight bow from her perch in the sunroof.

“Ham,” Xander called up to her from inside.

“You're just jealous 'cause they don't want your autograph.”

“Ah dunno,” Cheng said, “I think a couple of those gals are waving their underwear at him.”

“Turn your head to look, dork,” Cordelia said, “And you'll get a cup check that'll make the Larry-bot's look like a love tap.”

“Aw, gee, honey – I never get to have any fun.”

“You don't get to have groupies, lamer,” Cordelia said. “I'm the only groupie you're allowed to have.”

“Hell, you're the only groupie I need.

Terminator Larry finally worked its way up, and then lurched to its feet. It looked at them with the one glowing red eye for a too long moment, and Cordelia gave it an upraised middle finger. After a long moment, it nodded at her, as if in wary salute.

BOOM!

Cordelia's final round for this encounter just missed the other glowing red eye, impacting instead on the occipital ridge just outside of the eye socket on the right side. It spun the T101L around to the right, and sent it staggering slightly.

Don't nod at me, you son of a bitch,” Cordelia said. “I am not your honorable fucking adversary, asshole. I am your death.

It straightened, turned slowly, bent and crawled inside of the overturned squad car, backing out after a minute dragging a semi-automatic rifle like Cheng's and a short sub-machinegun out of the front. Then it stood again and began a lurching, foot dragging walk toward the Sunnydale Power and Light Company truck.

Cordelia waited until it had its working hand on the door handle, and then banged on the Land Rover’s roof.

"Go! Go! Go!"



Monday, November 3, 1997: #4616, Apt. B on Windsor St., Sunnydale, Early Morning 2:00am –

"Mom!"

Joyce Summers folded her youngest daughter into her arms and pulled Dawn in against her, doing her best to attempt to field all of the questions the other seven were firing at her.

"And Willow!" Dawn abandoned Joyce to glomp onto Willow like a guided missile with arms.

"Oh, ah, hello," Joyce broke off from the building question and answer session to look around. In addition to Mr. Giles and Jenny Calendar, there was a rather handsome and distinguished looking sixty-ish black man in a wheelchair examining her and Willow and the greeting committee with a certain amount of sardonic amusement. "I'm, uh, Joyce Summers. Dawn's mother."

"So I surmise," the man said. He bowed slightly to her from the chest, and said, "And I am Doctor Samuel Zabuto. I'm – oh, hello... "

Several young voices went eep!, including Pooka Bell's, and Chessie, 'Kat, and Devila threw large eyed and startled looks at the door and vaporized.

Detective, no, Interim Police Chief Paul Stein leaned against the doorjamb just inside the doorway, giving the remaining kids a look of sardonic amusement of his own. He looked over at Joyce, raised both his eyebrows, and said, mildly, "Well, at least now I know what goes eep! in the Hospital."

Joyce looked at him, looked at Willow, then at the remaining children, and then looked at Giles and shrugged helplessly.

Willow flushed bright red and said, "We, uh, we were going to tell you really but then we were mobbed and we couldn't get a word in edgewise and then – oh! but we asked him to wait in the car but I guess he didn't well obviously he didn't as you can see that and... "

Willow ran down just before she asphyxiated, drawing in a long and ragged breath, and letting it out slowly. Stein looked at her in something that was between alarm, and amazement.

"Ahem." Giles removed his glasses and began polishing them furiously. "I, ah, umm, of course there is a perfectly rational explanation, Detective Stein, if you'll – "

"Oh, I'm sure there is," Stein said. "Do you mind if I record it for posterity?"

"I, ah," Giles began slowly turning a deeper and deeper red from the collar up.

"Give it up, Rupert," Jenny said, patting him on the arm.

"I'm given to understand that hallucinogenic gas leaks are highly thought of, these days," Dr. Zabuto said, his already broad smile beginning to broaden even farther.

"I'm not sure that 'highly thought of' is exactly the term I'd use," Stein said, his own smile broadening. "But they do get bandied about a lot around here."

"Oh, for crying out loud," Joyce said, rolling her eyes. "Chessie, Pooka, 'Kat, Devila. Here. Now."

A trio of large eyes came into view behind Joyce, peering out from around her at Stein, except for Pooka, who zipped in from the kitchen, brandished a small rapier with a flourish, and said, "Halt and be recognized!"

"Watch out, Detective," Dawn said, starting to grin. "She's seriously deadly on noses."

Stein's eyebrows went up even further, and he nodded. "I'm sure." Turning to Joyce, he said, "I'm gathering that this is the rest of the rest of the crew?"

Shaking her head, Joyce gave him a wan looking smile and said, "Why yes. Pooka Bell, whom you're already meeting, Chessie, Kitty Kat, and Devila. And that's Saavik over there attempting to hide behind Stephanie."

"I am not hiding," Saavik said, straightening indignantly.

"Oh, you so were," Stephanie said, shaking her head. "Give it up, trooper."

"I really, really can't wait for that explanation, Dr. Giles," Stein said.

"Neither can I," Dawn and Mr. Zabuto said, almost simultaneously. They exchanged looks and started laughing.

Giles gave both of them dark looks and raised his eyes to the ceiling, sighing theatrically. "I'm afraid that I'm quite at a loss, Detective."

"Happens to the best of us, Dr. Giles," Stein said. "And it's Interim Chief Stein now. But my friends can still call me Detective if they want."

"I'm, uh, almost afraid to ask what category we fall into," Willow said, her own flush nearing brick red.

"Oh, come on, Willow," Jenny said, sounding a bit exasperated. "Detective Stein is obviously not drawing his gun, screaming in terror, or whipping out his badge and attempting to arrest everyone in sight."

"Wouldn't begin to know where to draw up the charges, actually," Stein said. He eyed 'Kat, Chessie, and Devila's rears suspiciously, and said, "Suspicion of tailing someone in their own home, maybe?"

'Kat started snickering, and her ears came forward. "I think I like him," she said.

As if that was a recommendation, the others almost visibly relaxed. Then again, maybe it was, Joyce thought. She still hadn't managed to figure out all of the quirks of the dynamics in the little group she was rapidly adopting, even after... uh, oh my god, was it really only two days?

"More victims of Halloween's effects, Chief Stein," Dr. Zabuto said, "I believe is the simplest and most succinct way to put it. Some of your affected people haven't returned to their former selves yet, and may not ever."

"Hey! Am former selves," Chessie said, glaring at him.

"Of course you are, Chessie," Joyce said, stroking the cat girl's hair. "I, um... hrmm." Joyce shrugged. "Seeing as how all of them are unable to return to their families and former, uh, lives, without causing all kinds of havoc, it looks like I'm ending up with a lot bigger family than I started out with."

Stein eyed Pooka Bell carefully, and nodded. "I can see where that might present a few small problems, yes," he said. "I – " he was interrupted by his cell phone and his radio going off simultaneously. Holding up a hand, he looked at his cell, and then clicked the radio off. "Excuse me for a moment."

Stepping off to one side just past the door, he spoke quietly into the phone for several minutes, with long pauses to listen. Finally, he sighed and flipped it shut, coming back inside.

"Problems, Detective?" Jenny said, giving him a curious look.

"Heh. When isn't an unexpected phone call these last few days a problem?" Stein said. All of the adults winced, and gave him sympathetic looks. "Ok, we are definitely going to need to have that long, serious talk, Dr. Giles, and very soon."

Sighing, Giles nodded and replaced his glasses. "I'm afraid that I am beginning to quite agree with you."

Nodding, Stein said, "All right, Since you've apparently extended a considerable amount of trust in my direction here," he gestured at Chessie, 'Kat, and the others, "Even if it wasn't exactly by your choice, I'm going to reciprocate. That phone and radio call concerned the missing two members of your small group of associates, Dr. Giles."

"Oh, my," Giles said. "Are they all right, I hope?"

"At the moment, at least," Stein said, nodding. "Seems that they were just now engaged in a major altercation at the very edge of the UCS Sunnydale campus. Multiple shots fired."

"Oh no," Joyce said, her eyes widening. She gathered 'Kat, Chessie, and Devila in closer against her. "Xander and Cordelia?"

“Tech-Sergeant Xander is alive and all right?” Princess Wicked said, smiling broadly. She clapped her hands, and Stephanie and Dawn slapped each other on the shoulders, grinning.

Nodding again, Stein said, "Look. I don't have time to go into things right now, so I'm going to have to ask you to trust me. Right now, I may be the only ambulatory member of any of the various police departments involved here who are in Cordelia's and Harris's corners on all of this. Period. Have zero clue how as of yet, but you have my word that I'm going to do whatever I can to extract them from all of this, alive, and hopefully with their freedom intact. That last may be a major problem, however."

"I see," Giles said.

"What can we do to assist, Chief Stein?" Zabuto asked.

"For now? Wait," Stein said. "Wait here, if you can. Well, except for Joyce, who is more than welcome to take her extended family home with her if she wants to." Stein sighed, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly, "And please: if either of those two kids calls or contacts you in any fashion, call me. Immediately. Not the police department, not 9-1-1, me. Period."

"All right, Detective," Joyce said. "We'll see what we can do on that."

"Best I can hope for on that, I guess, and, I'm sorry I can't give you and your brood a ride home," Stein said. Sighing again, he turned to leave, and then turned back. "Oh, by the way, Joyce, assuming that this doesn't turn into something that will end up taking out the remainder of the Sunnydale PD, would you care to have dinner at some point in the near future?"

"Oh! My, I, uh," Joyce blinked, looking at him. "I'll have to think about that. Certainly."

"All right. Gentlemen, ladies, kids," Stein said, and then left, closing Giles' door behind him.

"Well, that was certainly, uh, interesting," Giles said.

"I know that we Brits have a talent for understatement, Rupert," Zabuto said, "But you seem to take it to rarefied levels of skill that I have seldom seen heretofore demonstrated."

"Oh, do please stuff it, Doctor," Giles said, smiling at him.



Monday, November 3, 1997: UCS Drive, Sunnydale, Early Morning 2:20am –

"Here it comes," Cordelia called down from her roost in the open sunroof.

They weren't going nearly as fast at the moment, not from a desire to take it easy on poor Rover, but in order to let the Larry-bot get its big stolen power company truck sorted out, started up, and on their tail again. Didn't want it too close behind, though...

"Eighth Street cut off ahead, Cordy," Xander called up. "Hard right coming... "

"I know," Cordelia said, her eye glued to the scope, and the cross-hairs searching for the proper sight picture. "I know."

BOOM!

Slap up bolt, rock it back, slam forward, down and locked. Sight picture exhale by half, squeeze...

BOOM!

Oh-kay... gonna have to do something about that huge starred area in the windshield right in front of its face. Snicker. The Larry-bot dropped back abruptly, still in sight, but no longer roaring up on them.

"Go go go go!" Cordelia locked her right arm around and through the railing of the overhead rack, now a beside her rack. She hung onto the rifle with her left hand for dear life as the big, souped up Rover slewed a hard right around the abrupt corner onto Eighth and UCS, not quite on two wheels.

A Sunnydale PD cruiser blew past them heading in the opposite direction as they blasted down Eighth at eighty plus, flashers and grill lights strobing and a pair of wide eyed faces gaping at them through the windshield, briefly. The driver hit the brakes, attempting a fast bootlegger at speed.

Almost a shame. The remaining three SPD patrol cars were practically an endangered species...

BOOM! Cheng's Beowulf went off out through the back windshield and –

It's kinda hard to pull off a bootlegger when your driver's side front tire detonates. The sideways slewing SPD cruiser just kept on slewing sideways down the road, now up on two wheels but never ever quite going over.

It crashed down onto all four and finished going on around into the skid, bits and pieces of gator spewing in all directions from the shredding left front wheel until it ended up rocking on its chassis facing in the direction it had been going originally.

The Larry-bot blew past them in the same direction Xander, Cordelia and Cheng were heading as Cordelia grabbed a handful of rail again and Xander went straight and off of the Eighth Street cutoff, going four wheel and off road in a maneuver that the big, massive SP&E truck could never ever match.

Dammit. If only she could manage to free a hand to use the rifle as it went past them on Eighth –

Holy fuck.

"CHENG! Anchor me!"

There was a mad scramble down below inside the jouncing and bucking Land Rover as Cheng did his level best to swap ends in the back seat and made it, those strong hands locking around and into Cordelia's belt and waistband. Good, oh man good –

– because she was gonna take the damned shot whether she was anchored or not had to take the damned shot –

The big rifle came level and the fore-end slapped into Cordelia's palm just as the nose of the Power and Electric company truck drew up even with the Rover’s rear bumper, and the Larry-bot was sticking its freaking head and arm out the window, and that short, black sub-machinegun looking weapon was tracking onto them. Muzzle flashes started to spew from the gun barrel, and a line of impacts rattled across the Rover's bumper, tailgate and upward and –

BOOM!

The ivory bead found the V-notch and the Terminator's face just before those impacts would have crawled on up and across Xander and Cheng.

Cordelia didn't see for certain what the result was, for the Rover hit a seriously uneven place and went jouncing and jostling over it, bouncing her all over the inside of the sunroof. She managed – just – to hang onto the pistol grip of the Griffin & Howe, her left hand grabbing frantically for railing until it latched onto one in a death grip.

At the same time that she saw the sub-machinegun bouncing muzzle over butt-stock across the way behind them, she became aware that Xander was screaming "Cordy! Get down in here! Now!" and probably had been for some time, her memory was saying.

Huh. Y'know? Really good idea, that... might just wanna do that thing.

Any day now.

Just as soon as she could talk her hand into letting go.

It seemed like it took Cordelia almost three long full minutes to convince the fingers of her left hand that it was a good idea. They just flat did not want to unclench from the railing. They finally did, and she slid back down through the open sunroof, breathing hard.

"Are you insane?" Xander said, throwing a fast, wild eyed look at her.

"Uh huh," Cordelia said, feeling kind of wild eyed herself. And wide eyed too. And about half numb, to boot. "I think I may be," she said, seriously. "If I ever do something like that again... "

"Don't worry," Xander said, equally serious. "Whatever it is, I'll do it to you."

"Maybe we should move a bit faster now, kids," Cheng said.

"Uh huh. Good plan," Xander said, slowly. "I think I'll do that." He accelerated and headed off across the stretch of open area between the Eighth Street cutoff and the access/exit road to 101 up ahead.

They bumped up onto the access road at a crawl of a mere fifty mph or so, sliding in between a gap in the guard rails and into the right hand lane. Ok, Larry-bot just caught a four hundred grain solid in the face, and after he rebooted and got back up to speed, he had a long sharp right hand curve, a hairpin left, another hairpin left, and a long curving stretch way beyond the high speed capabilities of that massive truck before it could swing onto Via Real properly in behind them and begin to speed up again. So –

"Stop the car!"

Xander hit the brakes immediately, stopping dead and turning wide and startled eyes in her direction, mouth opening to probably ask her what the hell was the matter and, hey, perfect.

Cordelia lunged across the edge of her seat and the center console and the space between them, throwing her arms around Xander's neck and nailing her mouth to his in the longest, hottest, wettest, deepest kiss she could manage.

"Mrrph!"

She had a partial glimpse of his still startled wide eyes through her half closed ones, and then his closed and she felt his mouth start to smile under hers as he melted into the kiss. It went on endlessly. And it ended way, way too soon.

Finally, after far too short a time, she pulled back and said, her voice husky, "Ok, you can drive now."

"Uh, I'm not sure I can, after that," Xander said.

They stared at each other, eye to eye from about six inches apart, and then dissolved into laughter. Cordelia nailed him with one last, fast kiss, and slid back over the console and into her own seat, still laughing hysterically as Xander put the Rover into gear and started off.

"There's a motel just ahead," Cheng said. "You kids want to pull in for a little bit?"

"Oh gods, Master Sergeant," Cordelia said, snickering. "I'd love to. But the Larry-bot might interrupt us."

"Yeah, you buy em books, you send 'em to school," Xander drawled, "But you just can't teach these cyborgs from the future any courtesy."

Snerk. Cordelia nodded, biting at her lower lip gently, and said, "But we did manage to teach it not to tailgate us."

"That we did."

A brief while later they went through the access road and 150 juncture, ignoring the light. They headed on across and over, merged, and headed down the Via Real at a leisurely fifty-five miles an hour, until the lights of the Larry-bot's big electric truck came around and pulled in behind them.

And then things got a bit less leisurely...

Xander stomped the accelerator immediately, shifting gears and double clutching as he brought it up to speed. Not much further now, if Cordelia understood what he had planned – and she thought she did – and at ninety-five, it wasn't gonna be long at all, really. No, make that one hundred and five, jeeze.

Gods, she loved this truck.

She did understand. Damn she was good. The intersection with Via Real and Ballard Avenue was coming up fast, and Xander braked, shifted, braked, shifted again, and braked down, frantically bleeding off speed for the hard, hard left coming up.

They downshifted once more and Xander tapped the brakes hard, momentarily, as he cut the wheel hard over, and the big Land Rover slewed around ass end past nose and then the fat gripping back tires bit in and dug for traction, found it and caught it, and they took the turn onto Ballard sideways at nearly seventy. The rear tires dug in again, and straightening, they shot off down Ballard at speed and decelerating fast.

The Larry-bot didn't take the curve nearly as fast. It couldn't and it didn't have to.

If you ignored the intersection of the long stretch of Via Real's sister road on the other side of Carpinteria Avenue/101, Palisades Beach Road, there was only one place you could go down Ballard in the direction they were heading at sixty plus.

All the way down to the very end where it culminated in a circle and dead-ended.

And, of course, with the fact that they had every single freaking light in the universe that was stuck to the Land Rover lit up and incandescent, it was real, real hard to miss the fact that they hadn't taken the sharp turn onto Palisades.

If the Larry-bot was really smart, he just had to wonder why they were heading into a cul-de-sac, lit up like Christmas and adding brake lights to the tree.

Apparently, he wasn't that smart. Or else he'd taken just one too many four hundred grain solids to the brain pan...

Then again, Larry hadn't ever been all that smart, either.

"Ready?" Xander said.

Cordelia nodded, grinning, and Cheng gave out with a truly nasty chuckle. "Born ready, kid. Ooh rah!"

"Rangers lead the way," Cordelia said, grinning from ear to ear, "Except when they're following marines."

"Hey, now, that hurts."

They had maybe a quarter mile, or just a hair more, to the cul-de-sac, and they were still barely coasting – at least for that huge freaking engine – and showing occasional taps on the brake lights. And the Larry-bot was increasing speed as he came...

It was apparent that he planned to just use the bigger truck's mass as a weapon, and just slam into them at speed, and overwhelm them and soften them up with a crash before the kill.

Sucker.

Cordelia and Xander exchanged feral grins, and then Xander slapped the gear shift up-gear and stomped the gas, shifted, shifted again, double clutching, and slewed into the broad circular cul-de-sac at over seventy five, with the Larry-bot no longer closing the gap. He aimed the Land Rover for a gap between the front and rear bumpers of two expensive looking cars lining the curb, and stomped the gas flat.

They shot the gap, Cordelia yelling with exhilaration, and jounced up onto the lawn of the huge beach home just past the curb, aimed straight for the tall, wooden privacy fence. The Power & Light Company truck slewed into the circle sideways, purely flattened the driver's side of a Mercedes XL, and straightened out on their tail, gears clashing all the way.

"Oh, gods, I hope they don't have a pool," Xander said, as they smashed into and through the fence, turning redwood boards and posts into kindling.

They did.

White faced and wide eyed, Xander twitched the wheel right and they skimmed the broad, deep end of the pool with just a bare half foot of clearance between the driver's side tires and the water's edge as the Electric truck took out the rest of the fence nearer to the house.

crump!

whump!

The entire inside of the truck cab blew up behind them, and then there was water sheeting everywhere and a ginormous crashing splash as the huge SP&E truck went grill first into the deep end of the pool.

And then they were turning the back privacy fence into splinters and heading out into the dunes, overland and in four-wheel drive.

Aimed straight for the Sunnydale Salvage and Wrecking yards.



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