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Harmony's Reprisal

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Lady Liberty Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Harm and Mac come to Sunnydale to find missing sailors from the visiting aircraft carrier U.S.S. Reprisal. Buffy/Harm. Prelude to "Lady Liberty" series. Reposted & Revised May 2006.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > JAG(Recent Donor)CaptainBoulangerFR18122,1111104,8582 Mar 033 Apr 04Yes
Harmony's Reprisal

Summary:
A Buffy/JAG crossover story, which also serves as a prelude to the Lady Liberty Series.

The (fictional) aircraft carrier U.S.S. Reprisal visits Buffy's hometown (Sunnydale, CA), September 20-29, 2002. This story takes place immediately after Season Seven, Episode Three, in which Willow returned from England; the remainder of the series is AU from that point.

Story Disclaimer:

JAG, and all characters drawn from it, and the U.S.S. Reprisal, are property of Belisarius Productions, etcetera. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and characters and settings drawn from it, are properties of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, etcetera. The Harry Potter books and films are property of J.K. Rowling and various publishing companies worldwide. The film series "Star Wars" and any concepts originating from it are property of Lucasfilm Ltd., etcetera. The U.S.S. Arizona memorial is owned and operated by the United States National Park Service, a component of the Department of the Interior. The above image is property of the United States Navy, a component of the Department of Defense. Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, Jack in the Box, Dodge Viper, and Porsche 911 are registered trademarks of their various owners. All are used without permission and without intent to profit. Story is for entertainment purposes only. Plot, original characters, and any fictional warships not used in "JAG" (including U.S.S. John Glover and U.S.S. Brooklyn) are property of this story's author. Disclaimer ends.

----
Chapter One: The Flat-Top
----
Thursday, September 19, 2002
1945 Hours (Pacific Time)
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"Xand, it's your turn." Buffy smirked. "And please, something in town, Will's
threatening to drag us all down to the Museum of Tolerance in L.A. next week."


They'd set aside Saturday afternoons to spend together, just the three of them,
ever since Willow's recent return from England. Dawn had tagged along
last week, to Buffy's chosen activity - a trip to Stonewall's, a new indoor
rock-climbing warehouse that had just opened near the Bronze. But with Dawn going to Disneyland with the family across the street, it'd
just be the three of them this weekend.


Xander leafed through the "Currents" section of the newspaper, while Willow was
engrossed in her iBook. "Y'know, Buffy, those who don't study history are doomed
to repeat it. Everyone should have to go to the Museum of Tolerance." Willow'd
been trying to talk them into going to the Holocaust museum in Los Angeles ever
since Xander had gotten his driver's license, but until now, the trip had never
materialized.


Xander spoke up. "That's next week Wills. My turn. And just in time, too, it
looks like." He creased over the paper and tossed it to Buffy. "How about that."


Buffy glanced at it, then up at him like he was insane. "Xand, this is an ad for
penile enlargement surgery..."


"Wrong side. Turn it over."


She obediently did, and saw the profile of a massive... something. With a flat
top on it. "Hmm... free tours. I like free. And it's right here in town... Pier
Thirteen? What is this thing...."


Willow snatched it, without looking up, and propped it against her computer
screen. "U.S.S. Reprisal." she read, pushing a stray strand of red hair behind
her ear. "An active duty U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Limited number of free
tours available during goodwill visit to Sunnydale. Ten days only... starting
Friday. Reservations required to limit crowds. Well, that makes sense."


Xander shrugged. "Sounds like fun?" Buffy looked a bit iffy on the subject, so
he added, "Men in uniform, Buffy."


"Oooh, count me in. You know what they say about dress whites. Will?"


Willow smiled. "Whatever you two want. I'll tag along." She tossed Xander the ad
and the telephone.


"Hello? Yes, I'd like to make reservations for three for the Reprisal tours...
yes... Saturday afternoon if you can.... yes, this Saturday.... five o'clock
will be fine.... Alexander Harris." He supplied Buffy's phone number - his
machine was on the fritz ever since Dawn had screamed into it last week - and
his apartment address, then hung up. "We're all set. Saturday at five. They said
to wear sneakers; apparently there's ladders."


Wills nodded. "I've got a new pair of Vans I've been planning to break in
anyway."


Buffy looked at her mud-encusted sneaks. "I suppose I can try sponging off some
of the slayage."



----
Friday, September 20, 2002
0830 Hours (Eastern Time)
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
----

"Tiner!"


"Yes, Admiral."


"What's on the situation sheet for today?"


"Well, Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie are wrapping up that dereliction of
duty case at Pearl, Lieutenant Singer's in the office - back from the Seahawk,
and Commander Turner's getting back from the Watertown tomorrow." He checked his
clipboard. "The rest of the staff is working on that bar brawl in Norfolk last
week. We've still got sixteen... no, seventeen sailors up on charges for
assault."


"Anything that looks suspiscious on the books?"


"The Reprisal's doing a port visit in Sunnydale, California." Bud Roberts
offered from the speakerphone.


"Isn't that the town where they all had laryngitis a few years back?" Tiner
asked. "And the high school that exploded the year before that?"


Admiral A.J. Chegwidden stared Yeoman Tiner down. "You and I both know that port
visits, especially in the continental U.S., aren't usually much to worry about."


"There was Mazatlan, sir." Bud echoed through the cheap government phone.


"Well, we'll keep an eye on it. Anything else?"


"Oh... your daughter, Francesca, is on the daytime flight from Milan today; I'm
picking her up at the airport for you at four."


"That's a negative, Tiner. You'll drive me to pick her up."


"But sir, you've got a meeting with SecNav..."


He leaned toward the phone. "Bud, I'm going to have to hang up on you. Hope
you're feeling better now that you're at home."


"Yes, sir." Bud replied, then clicked out to save the Admiral having to hang up
on him. A.J., for his part, dialed up the SecNav's office.


"This is Admiral Chegwidden at JAG. Please inform the SecNav that I'd like to
move up today's appointment if possible."


----
Saturday, September 21, 2002
1700 Hours
Pier 13
Sunnydale Harbor
----

"Rosenberg. R-o-s-e-n-b-e-r-g." Willow spelled out for the Marine guard, who
dutifully recorded her name on the list. "You couldn't just have us fill out
forms?"


"Random selection oral interview. Nine-eleven and all that. Address?"


Willow shrugged. "Sixteen-Thirty Revello Drive, Sunnydale. Ocupation college
student." She added, feeling that that was the next question.


He checked that off, then flipped the page. "Religion?" Willow shrugged, thought
briefly about claiming privacy and the First Amendment, then answered. "Judaism.
Or Wicca. Both, really."


"Sorry, ma'am. It says only one." He seemed indifferent; perhaps they were just
trying to weed out the likely terrorists by asking people if they were Muslim.


"Pick one." Willow sighed. The guard checked something off and went on.


"Are you a U.S. Citizen?"


"Yes, born and raised here in Sunnydale in fact. Next question."


"Have you ever been affiliated with a citizen of, or personally visited, any
country on the terrorism watch list?"


Willow wondered if Angel had citizenship, where, and if that mattered. But she
decided to leave that out. "Unless Romania, the U.K., or Israel is on the list,
no." Then she remembered Kendra. "Oh, or Jamaica."


"No hits. Next question... have you ever been employed by any government agency,
American or foreign?"


"Nope. Just a student." She'd had quite a few dealings with a secret military
project - she still wasn't sure exactly what branch Riley had been with - but
that didn't count.


"Alright, you can go. Be careful on the ship, Miss Rosenberg, and welcome to
Reprisal."


Actually, Willow thought, I was there a few months ago... but why bother
confusing people?



Buffy bounced up to her as soon as she cleared the security zone. "Wills, ya
passed!"


Xander grinned at the happy vampire slayer. "I told ya Will tests well." He
pointed up the long aluminum stairway that led to the massive aircraft carrier's
hangar deck, the vinyl banner on the siderails emblazoned with the ship's name
in huge blue letters half as tall as Buffy. "Let's go. The guard said they're
organizing tour groups at the top of the stairs."


A couple sailors pushed past, headed for town. "I heard about this club, man...
supposed to have one lethal metal house band. The Dark Knights or somethin'."


Buffy called out behind them, "It's called the Bronze. Downtown."


"Thanks, girl."


----
Saturday, September 21, 2002
1845 Hours (Hawaiian Time)
Conference Room, Brig
Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
----

"Well, that's the offer on the table, take it or leave it." Sarah Mackenzie
smirked.


"Leave it." The Captain shrugged. "I doubt you can find a jury that'll convict
me for dereliction for failing to render honors to the Arizona memorial. Not on
the evidence you've got."


Commander Rabb shook his head. "You'd be surprised, sir. I advise you to take
the deal." But Mac was already packing up her briefcase.


"See you in court then, first thing Monday morning. Sir." She added with
distaste, before hitting the buzzer to summon the guard.


----
Sunday, September 22, 2002
0800 Hours
Hangar Deck
U.S.S. Reprisal
----

Lieutenant Thompson uncomfortably shifted his clipboard to the other hand.
"Peters?"


No answer. "Where's Peters?"


Still no answer. Thompson checked him off. "Quincy?"


"Present, sir."


"Good man. Richards?"


No answer. Again. Thompson shook his head and kept going. By the end of the
clipboard he was missing three more crewmen. "Anyone seen Peters, Richards,
Ternate, Valencia or Wilson?"


Chief Sullivan spoke up. "They all took shore leave last night. Said they were
going to some dance club downtown with a metal band. I didn't catch the name."


A passing Marine guard spoke up. "The Bronze." Thompson looked at the Marine,
questioningly. "I saw a civilian girl giving them directions at the bottom of
the gangplank. Right after I finished questioning one of her companions.
Rosenberg.... I don't recall her first name."


"See if you can find this Rosenberg girl. And have the ship and town searched."


"And if we don't find your five missing sailors?"


"I'll call in the big guns."


Sullivan winced. "Not..."


"Yes. JAG."


----
Sunday, September 22, 2002
1245 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"Buffy!" Xander yelled from downstairs. The Slayer, as usual, was sleeping in.


"Coming...." She half-stumbled down the stairs, seeing him standing near the
door, sword in hand. "What is it?"


"There's two Marines at the door."


"Marines? That's new." Buffy chirped, pushing the sword away. "I know better
than to take on the Marines, Xand. Get that out of sight." After he'd quickly
stashed it behind the couch, she opened the door. "Can I help you..."


"First Lieutenant Tyler Kovalczech, U.S. Marine Corps." He checked his
clipboard. "You must be Miss Rosenberg."


Xander laughed, but Buffy silenced him with a glance. "No, I'm not. But you have
the right house." She paused. "But what do the Marines want with Miss
Rosenberg?"


"That's a matter of national security, ma'am."


"Since you're going to have to get past me to talk to her, I think you still
need to answer the question."


Kovalczech tilted his head a moment. "Fair enough. We're investigating a group
of five sailors from the aircraft carrier Reprisal who went ashore last night
and did not return. Sergeant Meathe here," he gestured at his companion, "seemed
to believe that Miss Rosenberg might have some relevant information."


Buffy nodded. "Come in. But only the living room. Xander, go upstairs."


"Dawn still leads with her knights." He said, cryptically, as both Marines took
seats on the couch.


"That's right."


By now, Kovalczech had a pen out. "Who is this Dawn?"


"My sister." Buffy answered. "She's out of town for the weekend."


He considered that, but didn't write anything. "Might I have your name... and
the young man's?"


"Buffy Anne Summers. Alexander Harris."


"And you two..."


"We've been friends since tenth grade. Miss Rosenberg, too." Buffy almost
stopped herself, but continued. "Actually, they've been friends a lot longer. I
moved up here from L.A. between ninth and tenth grades."


"So you're not..."


Buffy shivered. "My god, no!"


"Just trying to be clear, ma'am." He smiled. "You're aware of the Reprisal port
visit?"


"Went on the tour even." Sergeant Meathe nodded, a sudden look of recognition in
his eyes.


"It was you, then."


"Excuse me?" Buffy asked, looking confused.


Meathe explained, "I was the one that did Miss Rosenberg's security screening.
Shortly after that, I saw her with two people, which I guess were you and Mr.
Harris. You gave directions to a group of sailors leaving the ship."


"The Bronze. Yeah, so?" Buffy asked indignantly.


"Those are the missing sailors."


Just then Willow appeared on the stairs. "Missing sailors?"


Buffy summarized. "Five. From the Reprisal. Went to the Bronze and never made it
back to the ship."


Willow stepped down a step more. "Buff... remember Cordy and the chair?"


Xander nodded. "You're right, Wills. And Buff... remember Dru?"


Buffy suddenly looked stricken. "Damn it, why did I ever come to this damned
town?"


The two Marines looked confused. "What's going on?" Lieutenant Kovalczech asked.


Buffy looked at him. "You'd never believe it. But don't set a toe off that ship
of yours at night."


He looked confused. "Whatever it is, I can handle it. I've got the two most
powerful forces in the world on my side."


Willow asked, in a challenging tone, "Oh yeah?"


The Marine missed her tone. "Yeah. God and the U.S. Marines." He rose. "I think
that just about covers everything. Except for one question. Where did you three
go last night, after leaving the ship?"


Xander answered, having the coolest head of the three. "We stopped by Home Depot
and then had dinner at Applebee's. Willow had the sizzling steak fajitas. Buffy
and I had philly cheesesteaks." They didn't need to know that Buffy, with her
Slayer metabolism, had downed two. Nor that they'd spent two hours patrolling
oddly calm cemeteries afterward.


"You never went downtown?"


"Nowhere near it. Besides, the Bronze is just too packed on Saturday nights, and
it's the only place downtown worth the risk."


"Risk?"


Willow answered that one. "You try being a pretty girl like Buffy and walking
the streets at night. Especially in this town. Really brings out those animal
instincts."


Buffy nodded. "Well put, Will." She turned to Kovalczech. "We'll be around if
you have any more cryptic questions, but please, call ahead." She tossed him one
of Xander's business cards, from his contracting firm.


"Will do, ma'am."

----


Chapter Two: Sailors and Vipers

----
Sunday, September 22, 2002
1755 Hours
Pier 13
Sunnydale Harbor
----


"Well, guys, here goes." The seven hangar-deck mechanics tromped down the
aluminum staircase from the Reprisal to the dock, ready to go track down their
five comrades and get them out of whatever trouble they were into. Or get into
it with them. It was an old Navy tradition, after all.


In the shadows of the nearby warehouses, a young woman watched them hopefully.
"Ah, Miss Kendall," she said to herself, "didn't your grandfather always talk
about those bar brawls at Pearl in forty-five, with all those Navy hunks coming
to each other's aid?"


----
Sunday, September 22, 2002
1815 Hours
Outside the Bronze
Sunnydale, CA
----

Hinsley tapped his wrench against his open palm. "They've got to be around here
somewheres."


Just then, Ricardo Valencia popped out of a shadow behind him. "Right here,
Hinsley."


"What happened to you guys?"


"I did." An unfamiliar, blonde girl popped out from behind a Dumpster a few
meters further down the alley. "Join the Navy, see the world." And then her face
twisted into its true demonic visage. "And all its dark underbellies, I say."
Harmony Kendall laughed as her minions set upon the seven Navy men, and each was
having his blood drained within a count of ten.


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
0800 Hours (Eastern Time)
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
----

"The Admiral would like to see you, ma'am." Tiner announced as the coldhearted
Lieutenant Lauren Singer breezed in, her parchment-brown hair up in its usual
bun.


"Thank you, Tiner." She stormed into the office as calmly as possible. The
grizzled, balding ex-SEAL Admiral in charge of the Navy's legal division looked
up. "Reporting as ordered, Admiral Chegwidden."


A.J. nodded. "Tiner?" He asked the enlistedman closing the door. "Arrange
transport for Singer to the Reprisal."


"Yes, sir."


A.J. waited for the door to close, then began. "The Reprisal reported five
hangar-deck mechanics AWOL yesterday. An additional seven did not report in
today. The ship's Marines have only a single lead - all of them were on liberty,
apparently attending a local club called the Bronze. It's in Sunnydale,
California, where the Reprisal is conducting a port visit until next weekend.
I'm sending you out to Sunnydale to investigate their disappearances."


"Yes, sir."


"I want you to check in with Tiner or the night watch here every six hours. And
immediately upon arrival in Sunnydale."


"Aye, sir."


"Dismissed."


Singer stalked out to Tiner's desk. "Ma'am, I've got you a flight to North
Island NAS in San Diego, a driver to the civilian airport, and a civilian flight
from San Diego to Sunnydale. Oh, and a rental car in Sunnydale."


"It's not Southwest Airlines, is it?"


"Actually, it is, ma'am. Your ticket will be waiting at the counter at San Diego
Airport."


Singer rolled her eyes. "I prefer airlines with assigned seating."


"Your flight to North Island leaves Norfolk in an hour and a half, ma'am. I've
got a driver out front for you."


"Thank you, Tiner." But Singer didn't look happy.


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
0900 Hours
Counseling Office
Sunnydale High School
----

Xander leaned over the corner of Buffy's cubicle. "Everyone reported in this
morning."


Buffy raised her eyebrows. "After a whole weekend? That's a new one."


"Yes, but the word is out on the Navy guys. They're missing something like
twenty or thirty guys now."


"Hmm. Someone's got a grudge against sailors, maybe?"


Willow piped up over the speakerphone. "Maybe not. They have basic training,
boot camp, like that, right?"


Xander nodded. "Yeah. Physical training and all that."


"So maybe...." Willow's voice trailed off. "Someone's recruiting an army."


Buffy wrinkled her eyebrows. "But why an army of sailors? And why wouldn't they
go back to the shi.... wait, you mean vampire sailors." She looked around to
make sure nobody'd overheard, but fortunately, the other cubicles were empty.


Xander cringed. "Vampire sailors? But they have physicals and stuff in the Navy.
They would have been detected."


Buffy frowned. "Not if they got freshly vamped here in town. Maybe that's why they
disappeared."


Willow cleared her throat. "Hate to say this Buff, but if someone's lining up an
army of vampire Navy guys, they've got a plan for what to do with it. And you
have a lot of enemies who've tried to go after you one-on-one before."


"Not a lot. A lot of them got staked."


"But the ones that survived... might try to get an army of vampires to go after
you. Like Harmony did, remember when she tried to call you out?"


"Yeah, I remember."


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1100 Hours
NAS North Island
San Diego, CA
----

"Lieutenant Singer?" the Marine driver asked, his Marine-green Humvee sitting
not far away on the tarmac. She'd had to fly out on a COD, a plane normally
reserved for delivering mail and fresh foods to aircraft carriers. As such it
was noisy and not-at-all comfy, but at least this trip had not also involved
"trapping" on a carrier. That was perhaps the single most uncomfortable thing
she'd ever experienced - landing on an aircraft carrier while seated in the
uncomfortable, sideways seats alotted for passengers in the front of a COD, and
being jolted by the sudden deceleration of the trapwires. But the Reprisal was
in port, and aircraft carriers needed the extra airflow of sailing at top speed
into the wind to conduct flight ops. So she'd landed on a proper runway instead.


"That's me." Lauren descended the final step, clad in her dress blues. The
Marine, in desert-camo gear, saluted. She countered with a salute of her own, two wide gold stripes quickly passing before her eyes as she wished there was four.


"They sent me down from Miramar, ma'am. I'm supposed to drive you over to the
civvie airport for a Southwest flight at 1525 local. It's now 1100. I suggest we
get you lunch and get you to the airport, ma'am."


"Anywhere you would suggest? I could use a good cheeseburger." Lauren's diet had
been hampered in that department of late, as one of her coworkers had
blackmailed her into pretending to be Jewish at the office, complete with
getting her the days off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


"There's a good fast-food joint I like on Thirtieth Street, ma'am." The Marine
offered as he hefted her bags into the cargo deck of the Humvee, under a clear
blue California sky.


"Let's roll." Lauren ordered, as she piled into the passenger seat. Within
minutes they'd exited the naval base - one of several in the area, she knew -
and were headed deep into the city on a bewildering maze of one-way streets
named after trees.


"There's a pileup on the eight at Texas, ma'am. Traffic's bad over there, so
this'll be shorter." He swung the Humvee around a corner and onto Park Avenue,
passing the naval hospital. "Just a quick cut through Balboa Park, and we'll
practically be there."


Sure enough, moments later, they were on Thirtieth Street and pulling into a
crowded burger-joint parking lot. Many of the vehicles were sporting bumper
stickers from some Catholic school, she noticed. She shrugged it off, and her
and the Marine - she hadn't bothered to ask his name - headed inside.


The inside of the Jack in the Box was a madhouse. A portrait of a business-
suited man with a clown's head greeted them just inside the door, and about
three dozen seventeen-year-old boys were lined up at the counter. Every one of
them wearing some form of purple. "Some sort of convention, Marine? All these
guys in purple?"


"No. Lunch hour at the Catholic boys' high school. It's only a few blocks away,
purple is one of their colors, and the seniors are allowed off campus lunch.
Sorry for the delay, ma'am."


Lauren relented. After all, she was going to put up with this Marine for a few
hours yet. "So," waving at the menu board, "What do you recommend?"


"The Ultimate Cheeseburger, ma'am. It's a double with nothing on it."


"Sounds like heaven." Lauren beamed. Maybe this trip to California wasn't all
bad after all. "I'll have that, a large fries and a large strawberry shake." She
palmed him a ten. "If you'll excuse me..."


"Of course, ma'am." He even pointed her toward the restroom. Well, after coming
off a transcontinental COD, it wasn't hard to figure out she was headed for the
ladies' room.


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
0910 Hours (Hawaii Time)
Courtroom One
Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
----

Mac looked at the members, at the judge, and at Harm, then back to the members,
starting her opening arguments. "The government will prove that the Captain,
while in command of the guided missile destroyer U.S.S. John Glover, did
knowingly and willfully ignore a standing order, which has been in place for
over fifty years, that his ship render honors to the battleship U.S.S. Arizona - a tomb for honored American war casualties - upon entering Pearl Harbor on
August 27th, by countermanding orders by his XO to carry out those honors. This
is not only a lawful order, but one that has been in place for as long as every
person in this court has served in the Navy, and is common practice for ships of
the Pacific Fleet. And yet, this Captain decided that the normal course of
shipboard operations was more important than paying respects, as ordered, to one
of the most famous and moving war memorials in this country. This was in direct
violation of a lawful order and a dereliction of his duties."


The judge smiled as Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie returned to her seat. "Thank
you, Colonel Mackenzie. Now, we will hear the defense's opening arguments.
Commander Rabb?"


The Commander rose, but did not leave his seat. "The defense will prove that, as
all of his previous service had been in the Atlantic Fleet, the newly assigned
Captain of the U.S.S. John Glover was not aware of this standing order, which is decades old and applies only to Naval Station Pearl Harbor, which he had never
visited prior to the incident in question. His only crime was ignorance of this
standing order." He quickly sat down. Mac could tell, by Harm's stiff posture
and short argument, that not only did Harm think he didn't have a case, but that
he himself disagreed with the man's actions. And as he was the son of a shot-
down fighter pilot, as well as a former fighter pilot himself, she could totally
understand that.


But he had come up with a defense. Ignorance of the law wasn't an often
effective defense, but it was about all he had other than temporary insanity or
claiming the accusation false - and there were too many witnesses for the
latter. Mac leaned back, twirling a pen very slowly. Then the judge spoke up.
"Colonel, call your first witness..."



----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1350 Hours (Pacific Time)
Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter
San Diego International Airport
----

Lauren smiled at the ticket agent. "That's right, Lieutenant Lauren Singer, US
Navy." She pulled a note out of her pocket. "I had reservations called in this
morning from my office in Virginia..."


"Ah, here it is. Someone mis-entered your name, it's showing here as Laura
Stinger. Flight 1977 to Sunnydale, departing at 3:25. Just the one ticket?" She
glanced at the Marine escorting Singer.


"I'm just her driver, ma'am. Drove her over from North Island."


"Ah, I see. Well, we can take your bags here, and your flight will be departing
from gate three, which is upstairs."


Lauren nodded. "Thank you." She took her boarding pass, dismissed her Marine
escort, and headed for the security checkpoint at the foot of the escalators.


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1525 Hours
SWA Flight 1977
Departing San Diego International Airport
----

Lauren glanced over the safety card that the flight attendant had handed her.
She'd managed a seat in one of the emergency-exit rows of the small jet, located
just above the right wing. It wasn't nice, but it was much more comfortable and
had almost as much legroom as the seat on the COD. Plus, bonus points, it was
facing forward, the plane was sound insulated, and they both served drinks and
had a restroom. If it wasn't for the twelve-year-old brat sitting next to
her, the flight would have been perfect.


"Are you really in the Navy? My dad's in the Navy. He's a landing signal officer
on the Stennis."


"That's home-ported in San Diego. Why are you going to Sunnydale?"


"My grandma lives there. She's a teacher. But dad says there are scary monsters
in Sunnydale, so we only go there when he's at sea. Are there really scary
monsters in Sunnydale, Lieutenant?"


My, the boy knew how to read sleeve stripes. A definite Navy brat. "I don't
know, I've never been there. But I did hear something interesting." Lauren
leaned over and used the scariest whisper-voice she knew, just as the plane
started rolling on the runway. "About three years ago, the whole town lost their
voices."


The kid looked at her with big eyes. "But... grandma..."


"It was only for two days." She leaned back in her seat, smirking as the G-
forces of takeoff pressed her back into it.


The kid pulled out a battered Harry Potter book, previously wedged under his seatbelt. "Grandma said the school exploded."


Singer raised an eyebrow. She had forgotten that one. "Well, I'm sure everyone
got out safely."


"Hope so. My daddy went to school there. And Grandma said she knew some of the
teachers."


"What grade does your grandma teach?"


"Kindergarten. Dumb little kiddies, they gotta have help going to the potty."


Singer rolled her eyes. Perhaps the kid would start reading, and this flight
wouldn't be like this all the way. Then he started reading out loud, and she
moaned. A chapter in, she'd already heard more than she ever wanted to about
Platform Nine and Three Quarters.


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1630 Hours
Sun City Rent-A-Car Booth
Sunnydale Airport
----

"Laura Stinger?"


"No, Lauren Singer. But the airport in San Diego made the same mistake. I think
the guy who called in my reservations mispronounced it or something. He does
have a Virginia accent, after all."


"I guess. The rest of your details match, even your Virginia driver's license
number." The clerk handed her a small folder and a set of keys. "All we had left
was a navy blue Dodge Viper convertible. It's in our parking lot; we have a free
shuttle to take you out there. And a piece of friendly advice?"


Lauren looked attentive, after signing her name on the forms and handing them
back. "What?"


"Don't drive around with your top down at night."


"Why not?"


"In Sunnydale, people have a way of... dying at night. In huge numbers. The high
school yearbook even has its own obituaries. Every year."


Lauren blinked. "Gang violence? Drugs? Street crime?"


"Depends on who you ask, Lieutenant. Good day. Next!"


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1830 Hours
1400 Block, Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Lauren was driving around town, wind in her hair (which she'd finally let out of
its bun) and enjoying the power of the Dodge Viper on the quiet side streets of
this California beach town. She'd already prowled nearly every street on the
map. Except downtown and the harbor. Perhaps it was time to go check in with the
Reprisal. Then her stomach growled. Perhaps food first. Maybe she could find
another of those delightful Jack in the Boxes.


Just then she passed a house where a twenty-something redhead was carefully
pruning a large tree in the front yard. Or at least, as much of the huge tree as
she could reach. Lauren pulled over in front of the house, 1630 Revello Drive.
She killed the engine and called out, "Ma'am?"


The girl on the stepladder started a little, dropping the pruning shears. She
quickly ran down the steps and out to the sidewalk, blinking at the Navy chick
in the Viper, who was busy removing her sunglasses. "Nice wheels. Can I help
you?"


"Could you direct me to the nearest Jack in the Box, Miss...."


"Rosenberg. Sure. Down that way," she pointed, "Left at the third cemetery, then
right at the blue funeral home, and it's down six blocks on the left, next to
the Casket Warehouse." She stepped back as Lauren nodded, and started up the
Viper. As she slipped it into gear, Ms. Rosenberg added, "I'd put the top up if
I were you!"

----



Chapter Three: Lawyers and Vampires


----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1855 Hours
The Viper
Jack in the Box Drive-thru
Sunnydale, CA
----

"Can I take your order?" squawked the staticy speaker.


Lauren tipped her sunglasses down a touch. "Ultimate Cheeseburger, large fries,
large Coke. And a small order of mozarella sticks."


"That'll be $8.58 at the window... thank you."


Lauren shifted, letting the engine purr its way forward at barely more than an
idle. She was really learning to enjoy driving a machine with this much power.
And she was starting to understand why that infuriating Commander Rabb still got
himself rides in Tomcats at every opportunity. She reached the window, smiling
briefly at the ingenious advertisement plastered to the window, where a battered
Jack antenna ball was muttering "must... rest... bring in... substitute."
Alongside the price for a new antenna ball, a mere dollar. The little foam clown
head did look kinda cute. But Commander Turner would hear about the Ultimate
Cheeseburgers and blackmail her some more about having claimed to be Jewish.
Plus, it'd ruin the ice-queen image she kept up at JAG. Too bad, she sighed.


And that got her thinking about today. That young girl who'd given her
directions... she'd had a Jewish name herself. Rosenberg. Just screamed Jewish.
But she was out trimming trees and giving people directions. Did Jewish people
do that? She honestly wasn't sure. Oops... she'd almost missed the attendant.
She palmed her second ten-dollar bill of the day to the drive-thru lady - an
older lady sporting a sizeable silver cross necklace. People in this town were
just so odd. Using cemeteries and funeral homes as landmarks, too.


She collected her food and glanced forward before she slipped the Viper back
into gear. And something caught her eye. Ever since she'd had cable TV, she'd
gotten a perverse pleasure in looking at the programming menu and combining the
(often partial) titles of shows on on adjacent channels at the same time. Like
"Wheel of... World's Worst... Classic Tractors." But the one she'd just seen on
the strip-mall menu board took the cake.


Jack in the Box... Casket Warehouse.


She laughed as she pulled away, sliding the car effortlessly back into traffic
and heading for high ground. She always loved watching the sun set over the
ocean. A pity it was impossible in Virginia. Or D.C.



----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1600 Hours (Hawaiian Time)
U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
Naval Station Pearl Harbor
----

"Harm, this is what we're talking about." She pointed out the window at the Aegis cruiser Brooklyn coming into port, its rails manned and its flag at half mast.
Every man on the rails was saluting directly toward them. As if on cue, they all
snapped to smartly, and returned to their duties, as the flag was slowly hoisted
back to full staff. No, not the flag, she noticed. The new regulations. It was the original Navy Jack. No stars, a simple thirteen stripes, with a superimposed
snake and "Don't Tread on Me" emblazoned across the lowermost white stripe. Mac
turned to look at her... well, friend. They'd worked against each other on
dozens of cases, and together on nearly as many. In court, she thought, we
make good adversaries. Each dangerous enough to keep the other sharp.



"I know, Mac. I've served in the Pacific Fleet, you know. I've manned the rails
for the Arizona at least a dozen times. But that's not the...."


"Yes, it is, and we both know it, Harm. Talk to your client. You know the
offer."


"Reduction to the bottom of the seniority list, loss of half pay for a month,
and forty hours of community service here at the memorial?" She nodded. "I'll
talk to him, but he still doesn't seem to understand that ignorance is not a
viable defense in most cases. He thinks I can get him off."


Ah-ha! Mac grinned a little, then stopped herself. She'd known he didn't think
he could win. "So where do you think we'll end up next?"


She cocked her head a bit. "California or Iceland. Maybe Bremerton."


"Explain."


"The last assignment we had - Bahrain - was twelve timezones from Washington. This one was six. If the pattern holds, the next one would be three."


Harm shook his head at her uncanny sense of time. "So what time is it back at
headquarters now?"


"Twenty-two hundred."


"And I bet Lieutenant Singer's still in the office, figuring out how she can
have our jobs by the time your pattern has us back in Virginia."


"Sounds about right." Mac grinned. "And Harriet's probably arguing with Bud
about watching the ten o'clock news rather than some old sci-fi rerun."


Harm could play this game too. "And Tiner's probably figuring out how to make
his coffee even more horrible and make the Admiral more annoyed at him so he
doesn't notice the stunts we pull."


Mac smiled. "And Commander Turner's probably researching Judaism again."


"What?" Harm looked alarmed. "But he's not... his father's a minister..."


"Oh, it's not that. He likes to needle Singer about her being Jewish. Point out
all the little ways she's not following halachic law. Which of course means he
has to look it up to know what the rules are. Pretty soon she'll be asking to go
home early on Friday nights." She smirked. "Funny thing is..." she started to
head out, and Harm instinctively fell into step beside her, "Sometimes I think
he knows more about being Jewish than she does."



----
Monday, September 23, 2002
1920 Hours
The Viper
Somewhere near Lover's Lane
Sunnydale, CA
----

Singer smiled, watching the sun settle over the sea, the massive aircraft
carrier tied up at the pier glinting in the sunset. The whole town lay spread
out before her, from its mission architecture and tiled rooves to its
shamelessly commercial restaurant marquees and a university belltower. She could
learn to like it here. If she ever planned on retiring from the Navy. Which she
didn't.


The last arc of the sun settled behind a row of softly rolling waves that looked
miles out at sea. The coastline stretching off into the distance helped with the
illusion; the coastline here ran east-to-west, so she'd had to find a good spot
indeed to be able to see the sun set over the ocean instead of the hills west of
town. She sighed, pulling off her shades as the gold of the sky quickly began to
fade into oranges and then, quickly, into greens. She turned to retrieve her
cheeseburger - in Sunnydale, who cared that a cheeseburger wasn't kosher? Except
perhaps that Rosenberg girl? - from the passenger seat, and noticed the sky
behind her had already reached into blues and purples. The sun was setting fast
tonight, probably because of the too-clear sky. She checked her watch and
wondered how long it'd be until she saw stars.


She finished the meal and tossed aside the wrapper onto the passenger side
floorboard of the wonderful car. She'd just lain a hand on the key - still in
the ignition - when she saw stars. Several of them. Radiating from a fist that
had connected with her jaw. She turned, seeing... what? It certainly dressed
human, but this thing had glowing golden eyes and a face like something out of
one of Lieutenant Roberts' sci-fi programs. And long blonde hair and a horrible
fashion sense. The Barbie look was just not in this season.


"Hi. I'm Harmony Kendall. Give me the keys." it said, a low rumble undertoning
her voice. Lauren complied. After all, it was just a rental. Even if it was a
Viper! "Get out of the car." Okay, normal carjacking type stuff. Singer vaulted
over the stick shift, unlocked and slid out the passenger side door.


Of course, now she was trapped between the Viper, a steep drop, and a still-warm
station wagon with peeling paint that had just pulled up next to the Viper. The
thing that called itself - herself? - Harmony Kendall smirked at the driver as
he opened the door, boxing Singer in. Harmony simply vaulted over the hood of
the sports car, landing between the two cars' front tires. "You must be that
pretty JAG lawyer the Navy guys said would come. I want to talk. Just talk. For
now."


Lauren swallowed, but said nothing, her ice-princess facade slipping into place.


"Oh, don't pull the ice-queen act on me, I've seen Drusilla pull that crap
enough. Listen. I've got a teensy problem here in town. You're not going to
believe me at first so just shut up. There's this girl. She's been divaly
chosen..."


"I think you mean divinely chosen," Lauren piped up, timidly.


"Right. To kill my kind. And she's too smart. I've tried going after her, her
friends, even with a few guys on my side. But none of that worked. And I've SO
got to kill her."


"So..."


"Well then your pretty aircraft carrier comes to town. With a whole boatload of
these nice, young, physically fit men. I say, a few dozen of these and I can
kill Buffy Summers six times over. Then they send you out. The government's
gotten into the biz out here before, and all they did was muck things up and...
well, they did get rid of Spikey for me. So we've got to kill you to keep you
from bringing the government to town."


"But you said you just wanted to talk."


"For now. You see, I don't have to leave you dead."


"What?"


"Miss..." Harmony read her nametag. "Singer. I'm sure you've heard about
vampires, werewolves, stuff like that. If you are bitten by one, under certain
circumstances, you become one. Right now I can use all the help I can get. So I
offer you this choice."


"What choice, miss... Kendall?"


Harmony nodded. "You see, I can leave you dead on the ground and take this way-
cool car, or I can make you a vampire and you can keep the car. As long as you
promise to help me."


Singer considered. If this girl had only such a short-range plan... and her
"warriors" were Navy sailors... and she was a Navy officer... well then they'd
naturally look to her when their "orders" ran out, now wouldn't they? So after
this Buffy girl was toast, she'd have her own private army. Lauren smiled. "I'll
help you. So what does this... becoming... entail exactly?"


"I drink your blood. Not all of it, of course, but enough. And you... you drink
some of mine. To replenish you, and to change you."


"How much?"


Harmony considered. "A mouthful will do, I think." She batted at the
cheeseburger wrapper, which had fluttered up to her face in the breeze.
"Probably tastes better than this we-don't-make-it-until-you-order-it crap. I
like my food there when I go looking for it."



----
Monday, September 23, 2002
2000 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"Hey Dawnie, ya gotta stop doing that." Willow called from the kitchen as Dawn
fingered her queen's knight.


Xander grinned. "You do always lead with your knights, Dawn." He pointed to her
gleaming black chesspieces. "And that whole row of pawns."


"I don't like pawns." She said, half-between her teeth. "They remind me of keys.
Always getting put in situations where they just don't quite fit. And getting
stuffed in other people's pockets."


Buffy turned from the TV. "Dawnie, stop it. You're a human. Not just a key or a
pawn or whatever."


"But that's just it! I'll always be a key and a pawn too. Even Harmony thinks
so!"


"Har... Harmony?" Buffy couldn't help but giggle. Sure, Harmony had declared
herself to be Buffy's archenemy. But she'd had quite a few more intelligent,
more cunning, more sneaky archenemies before. In fact, pretty much all of them.


"Remember when she kidnapped me to get to you?" Then she defiantly grabbed her
queen's knight and plunked it down in the corner of the open center of the
board, in front of the pawn in front of her queen's castle.



----
Monday, September 23, 2002
2145 Hours
The Viper
Sunnydale, CA
----

"So how does this work exactly?"


"Well, the basic stories. We kill people, feed on their blood. Wooden stakes,
beheading, fire, sunlight, holy water... not things you want to mess with."
Harmony giggled. "And government commando soldiers with tranq guns."


"You were serious?" Lauren asked. Or the thing that had been Lauren Singer did. She still wore the Navy uniform, but her features were a bit more... feral. And
she'd kept the sunglasses. She hadn't got used to not seeing herself in the
mirror yet. With sunglasses at night, she could barely see at all. Which suited
her well, as it had been a long day. A very long day. And her last.


"Yeppers!" Harmony bubbled, spinning the car's wheel a bit more than necessary
at an intersection. "Lauren, take those glasses off. I've got to show you
something." She pointed at a house.


Lauren could have sworn it was that Jewish girl's house. Rosenberg.


"That's where your... vampire slayer lives?"


"Yep. Sixteen-thirty Revello Drive, ever since we were in tenth grade. Buffy
lived in L.A. before that."


"Buffy? What kind of name is Buffy Rosenberg?"


Harmony laughed her all-too-high-pitched laugh. "Two different people. She's
brought that witch Rosenberg to live with her since her mother died. Buffy's
name is Summers. She's also got a little sister named Dawn. Or younger I should
say, she's the tallest of their whole bunch. Even stupid Xander."


Lauren spoke up. "Since we're just looking, perhaps we should go before anyone
notices us."


"Anyone like..."


"Your slayer. Or Miss Rosenberg, who gave me driving directions a few hours ago.
And what's this about her being a witch? I thought she was Jewish."


"So did I. Till Cordy told me about the gypsies. But that was ages ago..."
Harmony gunned the engine and they were off. "Let's go get us a few more
sailors, and I'll show you what I did to you. We need all we can get."


In the distance behind them, Spike smirked. "So... Harmony's going after the
bloody Slayer again. This, I gotta see...."


----
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
0830 Hours (Eastern)
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
----

"Admiral?"


"What is it, Tiner?"


"Lieutenant Singer never checked in when she got to Sunnydale. I checked with
her airline and her rental car company. She did get to Sunnydale and did pick up
her car. But there's no trace of her after that. She never called in, there's no
hotels in her name, and she never signed onto the Reprisal."


"So you think..."


"She's missing too, sir."


"Who do we have we can send out there?" He glanced around the office. All his
big guns were out of town already.


"Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb are in court in Pearl, sir. I could
arrange for them to go to Sunnydale on their way back. Word is they might be
finished today."


"Do that. What's the Reprisal's missing count up to?"


"They haven't done morning roll yet, sir... it's 0530 there. But according to
the security logs, it looks like forty-two. Plus Singer."


"Damn it, this is escalating. Where could forty sailors be in a town that size?"
The Admiral asked rhetorically, before heading into his office and slamming the
big wooden door.


Tiner shrugged, and put in a call to Pearl. He got the night watch in the comm
center there; of course, it was 0230 in Hawaii. Plenty of time to wait for the
Reprisal's morning roll call before sending a message or two to Rabb and
Mackenzie.



----
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
0820 Hours (Hawaiian)
Courtroom One
Naval Station Pearl Harbor
----

"Please be seated." They all sat, and the judge looked at Harm attentively. "I
believe a plea agreement has been reached overnight?"


"Yes, sir. My client would like to change his plea to guilty, pending the court's
acceptance of the government's proposal for punitive action."


"Which is?" The judge turned to Mac.


"Reduction to the bottom of the seniority list, loss of half pay for a month,
and forty hours of community service here at the Arizona memorial, sir."


The judge considered for a moment. "Sounds a bit light to me. Up that community
service to fifty hours and you've got a deal. Plea accepted. Case closed."


He whacked the gavel, and Harm tuned to his client. "Thank you, Commander. I
thought they were going to drum me out of the service."


"The only permanent effects are the black mark on your record and your loss of
time in rank, sir. It'll be a long time before you get a new command, and
perhaps no chance at becoming an Admiral."


"Oh well, I never wanted to be an Admiral anyways. I always liked being on the
action end of the command tree."


Mac rushed up behind him. "Harm... got a message from Tiner. Orders, for both of
us."


"What's up?"


"The Admiral wants us to head for Sunnydale, California immediately. There's fifty-one
sailors missing from the Reprisal during a port visit. And..." Mac's face
brightened as she read... "Lieutenant Singer is also missing."


"Singer? How?"


"They sent her to investigate and she never reported in after arriving and
picking up her rental car."


"That's not like Singer at all. Let's go, Mac."

----


Chapter Four: Questioning Witnesses



----
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
1215 Hours (Pacific)
Construction Foreman's Office
Sunnydale High School
----

"There you are, Dawnie!" Buffy exclaimed. Not that she'd really been planning to
run into Dawn here, but Dawn liked exuberant greetings. She bobbed her head,
smiled, and embraced Buffy in a silent hug.


The reason? Xander and Willow were huddled over a speakerphone, their lunches
forgotten beside them. Buffy, with her Slayer's metabolism, seized Xander's
Twinkie while he wasn't looking. Willow saw it, and grinned slightly.


"Ah... here it is..." Giles's voice came over the staticky line, his thickening
accent telling Buffy he was still in England. "The seer said that she saw a dark
force rising in Sunnydale. But its aura was not black."


"Not black? But dark?" Buffy wondered. "What is it then?"


"She said it was a very dark shade of the colour blue." The way Giles pronounced
it, you could actually hear the U in color.


"Like..." Willow stammered, as she always did when she didn't think before
speaking. "N...Navy Blue?"


"I suppose. Why?"


Xander recapped the weekend for Giles. "There's an aircraft carrier visiting.
They're giving tours, we went and saw it. And they're missing some sailors."


"Sailors as in more than one?"


Buffy checked the newspaper. "Sailors as in dozens. About forty."


"And they've been in port since...." Giles prodded.


"Friday." She glanced at Xander's Harry Potter clock, which was set on English
time, eight hours later than Sunnydale time. The clock had been a twisted gift from Dawn, who was - shall we say - obsessed with everything Harry Potter. "Probably Saturday morning for you."


"I'll talk to the seer, see if she had any more details, but it seems as if your
missing sailors may be the culprits."


Willow spoke up. "I had a theory about that. What if one of Buffy's old
enemies... Drusilla for example... decided to come back and kill Buffy, or all
of us? They might think, having tried and failed to do so before, that vampires
with military training might be just what they need to pull it off."


Dawn piped up. "You mean an army of sailor vampires?"


Willow nodded. "Right."


Giles coughed, and the static made it sound as if he was very ill. "It's
possible. Have you sighted anyone threatening lately?"


"Not that I haven't killed." Buffy spoke up.


Xander shrugged. "Just means maybe they're laying low for now."


Giles said, "I agree. It's a bit early to jump to such a conclusion, but dozens
of American sailors don't just disappear. Certainly not in an American port." He paused. "And you know, the government might send someone into Sunnydale to investigate."


"Already done." Willow remarked. "Two police-type Marines came and questioned us
at the house, because the first victims were last seen talking to us at the tour
gate. And I gave directions to some officer who looked suspisciously like a
lawyer."


"When?" Buffy asked.


"Yesterday afternoon, when I was pruning the front yard tree. She drove up in
uniform and shades in a blue Viper and asked how to get to Jack in the Box. I
gave her directions and she left. That was the whole conversation."


"Odd. Very odd. I advise you keep as close a watch as you can on these
government types. As long as you can do it without getting in trouble with
yourselves. Now, we'd best get off the phone before Xander owes Pacific Bell his
firstborn son. But call anytime." Click.


"So what's the plan? Dawn asked hopefully.


"Up our patrols near the docks. And Dawnie, you're goign to be in charge of the
house, in case the Marines or someone come back while we're out patrolling.
Willow, can you handle the house duty during the daytime?"


"Sure."


"Problem solved. I want a call to both me and Xander immediately if anyone in a
military uniform tries to talk to anyone. And don't tell them anything they
don't already suspect. Now, let's do lunch."



----
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
1530 Hours
Luggage Claim
Sunnydale Airport
----

Mac stopped at the bottom of the stairs from the gates. "I'll be right back."
She made a beeline for the ladies' room, leaving Harm waiting outside with their
claim checks. Correction, his claim checks. She hadn't handed him hers.


Moments later she breezed out, her face glistening wetly, but otherwise looking
just as she had going in, in her tropical-duty khakis, just as Harm was wearing.
"Why didn't you give me your claim check?" he asked.


"It takes a certain amount of time to unload the bags from the plane, put them
on the conveyor belt, and... five seconds."


Sure eenough, luggage started appearing just as Harm counted one-thousand-five.
"How do you do that?"


"I've told you a hundred times. I just have great timing."


"As regular as a Swiss watch." Harm joked. "So how long until our bags come up?"


"It's variable, depending on what order they put the bags on the conveyor. You
know that." Just then she leaned forward, then stood up, shaking her head. "I
hate those military-surplus sea bags. Always thinking they're ours."


"Not mine. Remember I had my wings stenciled on mine. Maybe you should get the
globe and anchor stenciled on yours."


"Not a bad idea." She swooped forward and gracefully lifted his sea bag, half-
tossing it into his stomach.


"Ow."


"Here we go." She scooped hers up. "Now for tranportation to the ship. Tiner
didn't mention any, so..."


"Taxi?"


"Sounds good to me, Harm."



----
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
1855 Hours (Eastern)
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
----

"JAG OPS, Lieutenant Sims speaking."


The voice on the line was all too familiar. "Harriet, it's Mac. We're on the
Reprisal. We're going to have to go into town a bit to investigate, could you
call a car for us?"


"Sure, ma'am. Where?"


"Pier 13, Sunnydale, CA. Have it here at... oh, 0730 local. We'll bunk down on
the ship tonight, if the Admiral wants to get ahold of us."


"Right, Colonel. 0730, Sunnydale Pier 13. Your name or Harm's?"


"Better make it Harm's. He's a control freak when it comes to driving."


"Okay, ma'am. Anything else?"


"Say hi to Bud and little A.J. for us. We'll be back in no time." Not quite
accurate, Mac mentally corrected herself, but it was the thought that counted,
wasn't it?



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
0755 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"I'll get it!" Willow called out in response to the doorbell, hurtling down the
stairs as Dawn finished brushing out her hair and Buffy hunted for the keys to
Giles' BMW convertible, which was in the garage. "And Buff, I'll drive." She
opened the door - bright sunlight, not vampires, therefore most likely not of
the bad.


Or maybe not. It was two imposing Navy types. One of them a woman. And she
looked kind of familiar. In more than just physical ways. She had Power.


The tall man - Willow blinked as he turned and the sun glinted off the gold
wings on his chest - leaned forward, hat in hand. "I'm Commander Harmon Rabb.
This is my partner, Colonel Sarah Mackenzie. We're investigating the missing
sailors. The Marines told us they'd been here already, so we thought we'd follow
up..."


Willow nodded. She quickly glanced at Colonel Mackenzie. She hadn't been aware
that the government was using non-Muggles (a Dawnism, picked up from the Harry
Potter
books no doubt) for interrogations, but the Colonel seemed not to be
trying to use any abilities. "Please, come in. Have a seat. The living room is
to your left."


Dawn tumbled out of the bathroom and bounced down the stairs, her usual
hyperactive self. "What's up, Will?"


Willow turned. "Nothing. Are you ready for school?"


"Yep." Then she noticed the two military officers on the couch. She waved
politely and emitted a single "Hey." accompanied by a head bob.


Colonel Mackenzie smiled. "Good morning. When does your school start?"


"Eight-twenty."


"How long does it take to get there?"


"About ten minutes."


"Relax. You've got another thirteen minutes and twelve seconds before you need to leave." Colonel Mackenzie smiled.


Willow turned, staring straight at her. "How do you do that?"


"I get asked that several times a day. Harm?"


Harm spoke up. "Mac says she's got great timing."


Willow thought it was more than that. This 'Mac' was definitely Powerful. No
muggle could calculate time to the second without a clock. Hell, even she
couldn't. But different people had different Gifts. "We'll take you early.
Buffy, you'd better call in sick. And then call Xander. I'll be back." She
grabbed the keys from where she'd hidden them from Buffy - under a potted plant
in the foyer - as she hurried Dawn out the door.


Buffy, for her part, dialed up the school. "Hello... yes, this is Miss Summers.
I won't be coming in this morning. Something came up. I might make it in this
afternoon, but if not, I should be back tomorrow." She paused. "Yes, my sister
will be in class. She's not... involved in this situation. One of my housemates
is driving her over as we speak." She could her Giles' BMW purring out of the
garage. "Alright, thanks." She tapped the hang-up switch on the phone and dialed
up the construction office. "I need to speak to Mr. Harris. Now. Tell him it's
regarding the conversation we had at lunch yesterday." She paused. "Buffy
Summers. He has my number and address. Bye."


She turned to Harm and Mac, sizing them up from across the room. Both were
seated in the early-morning direct sun, so that was of the good. "Can I get you
anything to drink?"


Harm nodded. "If you have any coffee. Black, with sugar."


"Done. And you, ma'am?"


"Milk, if you have some. Or just water."


"I think we can handle that." She headed into the kitchen, and quickly came back
with a tray with two glasses of milk, three cups of coffee, and a large plate of
toast. She plunked all of this down on the coffee table, snatched up a cup of
coffee and a slice of toast, and sat down. "Please, help yourself." she offered,
as she slumped sideways in the chair, her sock-feet hanging over the arm of the
chair toward the table.


"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name." Harm said, pulling a notepad from his
briefcase.


"Buffy Anne Summers. And I didn't catch yours either, I'm sorry."


"Commander Harmon Rabb. This is Colonel Sarah Mackenzie."


She smiled at his wings. "You're a pilot."


"I was. I'm a lawyer now. Night vision problems."


She turned and looked at Mackenzie. "And you're a Marine."


"Marine first, lawyer second, I say." Just then Willow and Xander came in, each
scooping up one of the two remaining drinks - like Mac, Willow chose milk, as
Buffy had rules about her caffeine intake - and taking seats across from Mac.
Leaving Buffy to stare at Harm.


"So what did y'all want to know?" Xander asked, being all Friendly-Guy.


"First, names?" Harm asked, tapping his notepad.


"Oh, right. Alexander Harris. But everyone just calls me Xander. And that's
Willow Rosenberg."


"How do you three know each other?"


Buffy fielded that. "They had gone to the Sunnydale schools their whole lives. I
moved up here in tenth grade, and we were fast friends. We've stuck together
after school, and when my mom died, Willow moved into her old room, to help me
raise Dawnie."


"Your sister?" Mac hazarded.


"Yes."


"Does anyone else live here?"


"No. We've a couple acquaintances who pop in from time to time."


Willow spoke up. "But they're all out of town right now. Out of the picture
really. At least, for now."


"So... what did you see that was unusual?" Mac asked, glancing around to
indicate the question was for all of them. But Willow spoke up.


"You mean on the ship, in town, or the girl in the sports car?"


"Let's start with the sports car."


"Well I was in the front yard pruning the tree. It was around six Monday night.
This Navy chick drove up in a blue Viper and shades and asked me for directions
to Jack in the Box. I gave them to her. Then she left."


Harm looked slightly puzzled. "Can you describe her?"


"She looked normal. Sand-blonde hair. Couldn't see her eyes. A little bit of a
sunburn on her face. Oh, and she was wearing a blue uniform."


"Dress blues. Did you notice anything on the sleeves?"


"Two wide gold stripes on her wrists."


Mac tapped her fingers on Harm's notepad. "Write that down. I bet it was
Singer."


"What were the directions?" Harm asked.


"Left at the third cemetery, then right at the blue funeral home, and it's down
six blocks on the left, next to the Casket Warehouse." Willow paused. "Oh, and I
told her she should put the top up. It was almost dark." That earned her a look
from Buffy and a slight kick from Xander. Mac caught it, she was sure.


"Why would she need to put the top up in the dark?"


Xander waved his hand. "Old Sunnydale custom. We used to run around putting the
hoods up on each other's jackets for fun."


Willow winced. She could tell, even with someone that she didn't know, from
halfway across a room, Mac had seen right through that one. But she didn't press
it. "So you told her she should put the top up and then she drove off."


"Yep, that was it."


Harm grumbled, "If it's who we think it is, she'd leave it down just to spite
you. Have you seen that car again?"


"No." Buffy answered. "I go for a lot of walks. High metabolism. And I haven't
seen it on the curb anywhere in the neighborhood. A blue Viper stands out, even
in Sunnydale, when you know to look." She snatched up a second piece of toast.
And a third.


"Now, about the sailors you saw leaving the ship on Saturday..."


"They were going to a club. Everyone knows there's only one decent club in
Sunnydale. The Bronze. It's an old converted warehouse downtown. We used to go
there a lot when we were in high school. So I gave them directions to it."


"That's all?" Harm asked, incredulously.


"Yep."


Xander spoke up. "You do know about the town, right?"


Mac answered, "No."


"The old stories say the Spanish called it the Boca del Infierno. Mouth of Hell.
All sorts of strange things happen in this place. I'm sure you noticed the
cemeteries?"


"There was a lot of them."


"Sunnydale has a high death rate. But the economy is so good, people still move
here. They say it has to do with muggers." Xander said, evasively. And Willow
knew Mac knew he wasn't telling the whole story. Strange, how she'd been able to
pick up on Mac that fast. It was almost as if they'd trained together. Perhaps
in a previous lifetime? Or maybe it was because quite a lot of Buffy's behavior
was a lot like Mac's. As far as she could tell so far. Perhaps she could read
Mac because she'd gotten so good with reading Buffy?


"So you're saying that our missing sailors are dead..."


"Most likely. Or worse..." Xander said, before Buffy stared him down.


"Worse how?" Mac asked.


"You'd never believe it." Willow said, putting some force behind her words.
Perhaps the Jedi mind-trick thing actually worked in real life?


Apparenly, it did. Harm finished his coffee and stood up. "I think it's about
time for us to go. We may be back, ladies, gentleman."


Mac hung on for a couple of seconds, then shrugged and followed Harm outside.


Those couple of seconds were spent staring at Willow.


----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
0825 Hours
Harm's Rental Car
Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"What's next?"


"Well, we could go look at this Bronze place." Harm offered.


"I doubt we'll find anything four days later at a dance club. Those places are
busier than that."


"Not all of the disappearances happened the first day. They're ongoing."


"True. Alright, then."

----



Chapter Five: Revelations and Allies



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
1145 Hours
Construction Office
Sunnydale High School
----

Dawn bounced into the move-on trailer, glancing eagerly at the Harry Potter clock that told English time. "Can we call Giles?"


"Sure." Xander flipped a few cards in his rolodex, coming to the G section.
"Here you go."


Dawn beamed as she punched in the dozen-plus numbers and heard the distinctive
trill of a British, rather than American, telephone. Giles picked up, but
answered with a curt "Evening."


"Hey Giles!" Dawn burst out. Xander could just imagine Giles having to hold the
phone several inches from his ear. "What's up in England?"


"Nothing you need concern yourself with. There was a bit of a magical surge up
in Scotland around noon, but otherwise, everything is the same as usual here.
What about Sunnydale?"


"Oh there was this Navy guy at the door this morning and Buffy stayed home.
Willow drove me to school. She's so cool. Thanks for loaning her your car."


"It was cheaper and safer than shipping it to England. Besides, the wheel is on
the wrong side, and I can use it instead of a rental when I come visit."


"You're so smart! I wish I had a Watcher and he was just like you."


Giles coughed. "Dawnie, I consider all of you my responsibility. Now, where are
Xander and Buffy and Willow?"


"Xander's right here." Just then Buffy and Willow piled in through the flimsy
door. "And here's Buffy and Willow. They have the coolest timing."


Willow spoke up. "No, we don't. Is that Giles?" Dawn nodded, and Willow reached
for the phone. "Giles... one of the investigators the government sent out...
she's a Marine lawyer... and she's sensitive."


"How sensitive?"


"She knew what time it was to the second. Without a clock. Told Dawnie exactly
how long she had before she had to leave for school. Dawnie timed it with her
watch. She was right on."


"Bloody hell. Willow, someone like that... she may not be as powerful as you
are, but she might be powerful in other ways. She could have visions or
prophecy-dreams or uncanny luck. Keep your eyes peeled. She'll make a good ally
in a fight - but she's also a Marine, so you'll have to convince her she should
be your ally."


Willow nodded, forgetting Giles couldn't see her. "Yes, Giles. Want to talk to
Buffy?"


"Sure."



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
1225 Hours
The Bronze
Sunnydale, CA
----

Harm looked around at the converted warehouse-turned-danceclub. "I don't see any
sign of a fight. Except..." He pointed at a table near the edge of the dance
floor, which had an odd lump along its lower edge.


Mac, who was a little closer, ducked to look at the bottom of the smallish
table. Harm heard a sound like electrical tape being peeled loose, and then Mac
tossed him an object.


What he held was a wooden spike, about the size of a railroad spike he'd once
found on a childhood hiking trip. "Interesting." He hefted the smallish spike,
and asked, "I wonder who put this there."


Mac shook her head. "I'd be willing to bet it's one of those three we talked to
this morning." She pointed at a trail of tiny specks of blood that had soaked
into the flooring. "They said this town has a high death rate. Perhaps it's for
protection?"


"But why a wooden spike, and not a knife or a gun?" Then he answered his own
question. "Because those are things you carry with you. This is for
emergencies."


"Or..."


Harm turned, looking at Mac in the dim light. "What?"


"I remember hearing a few things about this town, now that I'm thinking about
it. A few newspaper clippings on Bud's desk. Mysterious deaths. Sightings of
non-human entities. That sort of thing. But nobody's ever had any published
proof. There's even a rumor that the Army had a squad of Rangers or Delta Force
out here a couple years ago. Supposedly hunting... well, demons, if you believe
that sort of thing."


Harm shook his head. "Probably just college kids making up stories like usual. I
remember when I was at the Academy, there was a story going around that there
was a ghost in the Naval History classroom that could suck the ink right out of
your pen. While you were using it."


Mac nodded. "Could be. But then, when you hear enough oddball things happening
in one place, there's usually a cause behind it. Even if it isn't what the
stories say."


"True."



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
1400 Hours
Bridge, U.S.S. Reprisal
Pier 13
Sunnydale Harbor
----

"Nice to meet you, Commander, Colonel. So, any leads on my missing sailors?"
asked Captain Fitzgerald, the Reprisal's commanding officer.


Harm spoke up. "We checked on the leads your Marines gave us - which wasn't
much. So far we haven't found any distinct evidence, other than a small trail of
bloodstains in the building they were reportedly headed for. They're too soaked
in, however, to collect any for testing."


Mac spoke up. "I'd advise that you cancel liberty for the remainder of your port
visit here, to prevent further disappearances, while we get this all sorted
out."


"Agreed. We lost another fifteen sailors this morning. I'm going to have the
Pentagon asking how we could lose sixty-six sailors in a week in an American
port. Even deserters don't come in large groups like that."


Harm nodded. "Obviously, some or all of them are either dead or being held
against their will. Either way, we intend to get to the bottom of it."


Mac's cellphone trilled. She looked at the caller ID, mouthed Harriet's name to
Harm, and turned to take the call. "What is it, Harriet?"


"Afternoon, Colonel. Bud just emailed me from the house. Apparently, the
Sunnydale PD has their dispatch computer linked to the Internet, and he's been
watching it. Apparently they are towing a car matching the description of Lt.
Singer's rental from a handicapped parking space. Would you like the address?"


"Certainly."


"It's at the Seaview Cemetery, on Sunset Bluffs Drive between Princeton Street
and South Bend Lane."


"Thanks, Harriet." She folded up the phone, and apologized to the Captain. "We
just got another lead. One of our staffers is monitoring the local police
dispatch, and they've located a rental car rented out to the original JAG
officer who was dispatched here but never reported in."


"Be careful. And keep me posted." The Captain turned, raising his binoculars to
watch a crowd of civilians walking the flight deck.



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
1845 Hours
Princeton Street
Sunnydale, CA
----


"Sorry about that, Harm." Mac had accidentally led them right into the heart of
U.C. Sunnydale's fraternity row, where they'd been delayed for several hours by
a traffic accident, when a fraternity student's car had burst out of a garage.
It had sideswiped their rental car, and caved in the entire passenger side,
deeply bruising the outside of Harm's right thigh when it had been impacted by
the passenger-side door's armrest. Strangely enough, just as the car had struck
them, its driver had burst into flames, and vanished. By the time the poice
arrived, there was nothing in the car but a light dusting of ash.


Now they'd gotten a replacement car - the rental company had sent them a sports
car this time, a Porsche 911 even. The British racing green sports car rumbled
to life, with Mac at the wheel. "Now let's go check out that cemetery."


"I'm sure they've towed the car by now."


"Yes, but there could be evidence at the scene."


She smoothly motored up onto the bluffs overlooking the Mission-architecture
town of Sunnydale, and not surprisingly, the first turnoff was Sunset Bluffs
Drive. About a quarter mile along the winding road, she spotted the gates of the
Seaview Cemetery, chained shut. But she pulled up in front of them and parked
the car in the driveway nonetheless.


"Looks closed for the night."


Harm shook his head. "It's just a driveway gate, Mac. We've gotten past much
more difficult obstacles." He opened his briefcase, taking out a legal pad, a
pair of pens, a pistol and a police-style flashlight. "Let's go check it out."


"Expecting to club something to death, Harm?" Mac asked, pointing at the
flashlight as she palmed the car keys into her pocket.


"It's almost sunset. Didn't want to have to come back to the car for it."


"Ah." By now they were both out of the car, and it was safely locked up. She
went over to the low-slung wrought-iron gate - topped with three-inch spikes
that barely came up to her shoulders - and climbed it easily. Harm winced as he
did the same, favoring his bruised leg. "Sure we don't need to take you to the
hospital? Or the sickbay on the Reprisal?"


"I'll be fine for a couple hours. Let's get this done, so this trip's not a
total waste." He pointed across the oil-stained parking lot. "There's the
handicapped spaces."


They slowly made their way across the old pavement, Mac nearly tripping on a
particularly robust weed coming up through a crack. But she didn't want to rush,
as Harm seemed to be having trouble walking on his injured leg. Just then, the
shadows became the night, as the sun finally went down behind the low trees
along the far edge of the graveyard.


Mac looked around as they reached the handicapped parking. Four spaces lay
side-by-side, all facing into an enormous marble mausoleum with the name
'Mackenzie' engraved above the door. Mac shivered.


"Talk about someone walking on your grave." Harm joked, looking at the massive
structure, as the parking lot got darker and darker. "I think I see fresh oil
here." He pointed at the slot closest to the mausoleum's door.


Mac pulled a digital camera out, and had Harm shine the flashlight on the oil,
finding a pair of tire tracks in them. "No wonder they spotted the car. It was
parked diagonally across the space." She clicked a couple pictures of the
tracks. "We'll have Bud look at those, see if they match the tires on Singer's
rental."


Just then, a growling sound came from the left of the mausoleum. Turning toward
it instinctively, both officers saw... something coming at them. Its build was
obviously human, but it couldn't be. It had a feral golden gleam to its eyes, badly
misshapen facial features, and protruding teeth.


And it was wearing the uniform of an Electrician's Mate Third Class.


Mac took a defensive stance in front of Harm, and punched the thing in the face.
It staggered a little, but kept coming. She hit it again, and it staggered again
before backhanding her across the face.


When she felt how cold its hands were - cold as death - she shivered again.
Behind her, she could hear Harm switch the safety off the pistol he'd brought.
He shot the thing twice, right between the eyes.


It blinked, looked at her, and growled. Nothing human could survive the two
bullets this thing had just taken to the brain. But somehow, this thing was not
only surviving, but looked like it was still ready for a fight.


Then Mac sensed something. Another person, coming up behind her attacker. She
backed up a step, seizing the flashlight from Harm's belt, and hit the creature
across the face with it, breaking its nose and splitting its upper lip. It growled, but its tone was painful and its voice thickened with the sound of wet blood in its mouth. Thank god for MagLite.


But the monster was still in a fighting mood. It kicked at Harm's ankle, knocking
him to the ground. And then, with the clap of what could only be platform shoes on asphalt, their second attacker came up behind the thing, and then it quite unexpectedly
stopped, a surprised look on its face, and burst into a cloud of dust.


As the dust fell to the ground, Mac recognized their savior. Buffy Summers, clad
in a powder blue duster and platform shoes that made her as tall as her
companion, the red-haired Willow Rosenberg, who was busily stuffing a pistol-
sized crossbow back into a duffel bag hanging from her shoulder.


Buffy looked at Mac, while sliding a wooden spike up her sleeve. She looked like hadn't a
clue what to say.


Neither did Mac, for that matter; it was Harm that broke the silence. "What was that... thing?"


Buffy answered, "A vampire. That's why it didn't go down when you shot it. There's not many ways to kill them, and a gun? Not one of them."


Mac peered at her. "But... vampires? If there really were vampires, wouldn't
people know about it?"


Willow spoke up, leaning against the mausoleum wall. "People have a knack for
not seeing what they don't believe. Seeing isn't always believing."


"You wouldn't believe how many corpses turn up in Sunnydale with fatal blood
loss caused by being stabbed in the neck with a barbecue fork." Buffy smirked.
"And how many people are disregarded in police reports because they're clearly
hallucinating."


Mac shivered again. "So that thing was..."


"One of your missing sailors, I expect." Buffy confirmed. "Vampires have the
ability to turn their victims into new vampires. It's how they..."


"Procreate." Willow supplied. "You see, they can't reproduce sexually. They're
also somewhat immortal. They don't die unless they are killed."


Buffy nodded. "It's because they're already dead. You noticed how he felt cold
when he slapped you?"


Mac nodded. "He felt cold as death."


"Because he was."


"But... you..."


"Know all about them. Come on, let's get out of here. It's not safe." The four
of them all headed for the gate, Harm limping a bit. Buffy looked concerned.
"Commander, you're limping."


"Car accident. We got sideswiped earlier today." Harm replied.


"Ah. So where were we?"


Mac said, "You know all about vampires. Or so you claim. But how?"


"Because I'm the Slayer."


Mac looked confused, but it was Willow who spoke up. "A Slayer is called from
among all humanity, and given the knowledge and power to fight vampires. Sort of
a champion, a superhero. And that's Buffy."


"But when Buffy dies..."


"A new Slayer will be called, instantly. It's happened before." Buffy said.
"It's always a teenage girl."


"But you're not a teenager." Harm commented, as Willow wrapped her hands around
the cemetery gate's lock.


"That's because I've been the Slayer for a long time. Several years, in fact.
One of the longest-lived Slayers yet." Buffy said, a twisted sense of pride creeping into her voice.


Just then, Willow shoved the gate open, the lock hanging, unlocked, from one end
of the chain. Mac looked at her. "Impressive lockpicking capabilities."


Willow blushed. "Actually, I have a key. We found the groundskeeper dead a few
months ago."


Mac shrugged, and pulled out the keys to the Porsche. "I think we need to sit
down somewhere and talk about this."


Buffy nodded. "Meet you at my house. Sixteen-Thirty Revello. Vampires can't come
inside a private home unless they're invited in. It's one of those magical-
protection type deals. Until then, stay in the car with the doors locked and the
windows up. And if anything attacks you, well... the cops in this town don't
write many speeding tickets."


"Gotcha." Harm moved toward the driver side, and Mac handed him the keys.
"Sounds like we might need a former fighter pilot at the wheel."


"Wouldn't hurt." Buffy answered.



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
1930 Hours
The Mackenzie Mausoleum
Seaview Cemetery
Sunnydale, CA
----

"My car!" Singer shrieked. "They took my car!"


Harmony waved her hand impatiently. "Don't worry. You still have the keys,
right?"


"Yes." Lauren hissed.


"Good. I know just where the police impound yard is. In the meantime..."


"We've got sixty sailors already, Miss Kendall. Shouldn't that be enough?"


"It is. What we need now are some tools. Sledgehammers, crowbars, axes, that
sort of thing."


"Why?"


"Because we can't go into a house unless we're invited by someone who lives
there. Everyone in Buffy's house knows better, so in order to get to her, we're
going to have to tear down her house."


"Ah." Singer nodded. "But... why not try to ambush her in public somewhere?"


"We've tried that before. She gets away. After killing a lot of us." Harmony
turned. "Do you know those two that were outside?"


"Yeah. Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie. Two of my coworkers at JAG. I'd
love to kill them both."


"Then you shall have that chance. But first, we've got a Home Depot to attack."



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
2020 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Xander came in the door, a trio of pizzas in his hands, and Dawn following with
another of those wooden spikes in hers. "Hey!" She chirped, dropping the spike
and hugging Willow.


Then she saw Commander Rabb and Major Mackenzie in the living room. With Buffy.
"Hi Dawn. Dawn, meet Harm and Mac." Buffy introduced them.


"Cool names. We've got pizza."


Xander nodded. "Didn't know what everyone might want so I got the classics. Two
cheese, one pepperoni."


Willow returned from the kitchen with a stack of paper plates, and the pizza
turned out to be just the right proportions. Mac and Xander took pepperoni,
while Harm, Buffy, Dawn and Willow all chose cheese.


Harm, still his curious self, had his notepad out. "So how do you kill a
vampire?"


Xander listed off a few methods. "Wooden stake through the heart. Beheading.
Fire. Holy water. And... I'm forgetting one."


Dawn giggled. "Sunlight. Not artificial light, though. Also they can't stand
crosses, though a cross won't really kill them, it just sets 'em on fire."


Mac nodded, looking at Buffy. "So what sort of weapons do you carry?"


"A few stakes, a crossbow sometimes, occasionally a sword." She looked at Harm,
longingly. It had been a long time since she'd had such a hottie of a man in her
house. Not counting Xander and Spike, of course.


Buffy pulled herself out of that line of thought to ask, "Why do you think they're sporting Navy uniforms now?"


"Obviously," Mac supplied, "those vampires are our missing sailors. So that's
the first part of our investigation solved."


Harm looked curious. "What's the second part?"


"The why." Xander offered. "But we think we might have that partially worked
out, too. There's certain vampires, demons, what have you - we just call them
baddies - who see Buffy as a personal enemy. Some of them, we know by name. And
we think this might be a scheme by one of them to recruit their own private
army, one of vampires with military training."


Mac nodded. "Sounds reasonable. Listen to me. I'm talking about vampires and
demons here, and I say it sounds reasonable."


Buffy smiled. "And you're talking with a Vampire Slayer, her little sister, a witch, a fighter pilot and a construction foreman in the room. Sounds reasonable to me."


Dawn joked, "Next thing you know we'll have Professor Dumbledore walking in
here."


"Who?" Xander asked.


"Geesh, Xander, crack a book once in a while." Dawn jibed.


"So," Harm summarized, "the missing sailors are now vampires, working for one of
your local archvillains. But we don't know exactly who, or what they are up to."


Just then, Mac's cellphone trilled. "Excuse me." She picked it up. "Colonel
Mackenzie." She paused. "Lieutenant? Are you all right?"


After a short pause, Mac held out the phone to Buffy with a curious look. "It's... for you."


Buffy took the phone, asking, "Who is this?" She listened, then tossed the phone
back to Mac, practically laughing her face red.


Willow told her, "Calm down, Buffy. What is it?"


"It's Harmony. She says she's raising an army to kill me."


"Harmony? I mean, come on, Harmony?!?" Xander choked, trying to keep a straight face.


Buffy was laughing so hard she was having trouble breathing, but nodded.


Harm looked curious. "Who's Harmony?"


Willow took it upon herself to fill in Harm and Mac. "Harmony Kendall. She was
one of the dumb blondes of the in-crowd in high school. Got turned into a
vampire shortly after graduation. We've crossed paths with her a few times since
then. Each time she's had a crackpot scheme to kill Buffy. Except... well, she
may be a vampire, but she's still a dumb blonde."


Harm smiled. "I see."


Mac frowned. "Yes, but this time, she's not the brains of the operation."


"What do you mean?"


"She's got a partner. Lieutenant Singer."


Harm blanched. "Oh, dear."


Buffy was still chuckling over Harmony's renewed threats against her life, so
Willow asked. "Who's Lieutenant Singer?"


Mac frowned. "She's the office bitch. Always scheming and plotting behind
everyone's back. And her schemes have a tendency to actually work. One time she
nearly had Harriet and Bud... sorry, our two married friends... not speaking to
each other and we had to fly halfway around the world to put things back
together."


Willow looked like she understood. And that this was a Very Bad Thing. "So we're
facing an army of sailor vampires with Harmony's vendetta and competent
leadership?"


Harm nodded. "That's about it." He looked at Buffy, who'd suddenly stopped
laughing.


Dawn jumped out of her chair, and started pacing. "Well, we've got to figure out
what she would plan to do. And knowing Harmony..."


Willow finished. "It'll be based on how her plan failed last time. Last time she
tried to call Buffy out, but Buffy wasn't home. And she tried to kidnap Dawn and
ambush Buffy by forcing her to rescue Dawn. But Buffy got Dawn away and back to
the house..."


Mac winced. "You said vampires can't enter unless invited?"


"Yes. It's the main thing we have going for us, other than Buffy, sometimes."


"But what if they could get around that somehow?"


"Nowhere would be safe." Willow nodded.


Dawn smiled. "Well, in the meantime, let's enjoy ourselves, 'kay?"

----


Chapter Six: Gathering Forces


----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
2130 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Three pizza boxes lay demolished on the floor, and Xander had taken Dawn out to
pick up some ice cream. Willow and Mac had retired to the kitchen, leaving Harm
and Buffy in the living room. "I wanted to discuss something with you." Willow
started, oddly timid all of a sudden.


"Anything." Mac answered. "Well, I reserve the right to stop you."


"You're sensitive. I can tell just by being around you."


"Sensitive to what?"


"Magic. The Force. Psychic abilities. Talent. Whatever you prefer to call it.
You've got it, and so do I."


Mac blinked. "You mean my visions?"


"It's not just visions, I think. But yes. You can train those abilities, and
they could come in quite helpful." Willow paused. "Especially around here. What
else have you done?"


"Well, I can usually tell what someone is going to say, just before they say it.
Assuming it's someone I know. And... well, I can tell time."


"I can tell time too, they taught it in kindergarten."


"No, not like that. Without a clock." Mac grinned. "Name a place."


"Cornwall." Mac's eyes didn't seem to comprehend. "It's a province in western
England."


"Oh. It's five-thirty-two tomorrow morning." Willow herself glanced at the
little glowy clock on the microwave, and added eight hours. She quickly checked
behind her for a clock Mac could have seen, but there were none.


"Do you mind?" Willow reached for Mac's arms.


Mac pulled her sleeves up herself. "No watch. I used to wear one, but only to deflect questions."


Xander and Dawn entered through the kitchen door, plastic bags containing sodas
and cartons of ice cream in hand. Will looked at Xander questioningly. "I
thought it might be better to... ah... not use the front door."


Willow watched Xander's skin turn a few extra shades of pink. "What's going on
in there?" She quickly got up, and opened the door to the living room - and
quickly shut it again. "Good thinking."


After the groceries were put away, and bowls retrieved for the ice cream, Willow
tried the door again. She listened intently, shrugged, and then called out.
"Would you two like some ice cream?"


Harm, slightly out of breath, answered back. "Sure. Two, please."


Xander, knowing Buffy's appetite, had already spooned out an extra-large serving
for her. Dawn scooped out one for Harm, and Willow grabbed both bowls. "I think
I'd better take those." She made her way into the other room, where Buffy and
Harm were straightening their outfits - not that Willow, with her senses,
couldn't tell what they'd just been doing, even if she hadn't overheard it a
little from the kitchen door. "Here you go, guys. And... you're not fooling
anyone. Except perhaps Dawnie."


Buffy blanched. "What did you tell her?"


"Nothing. And Xander was quite considerate. They even used the kitchen door when
they came back." Willow turned, and went back into the kitchen. "So, Xand, how
was traffic?"



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
2200 Hours
Home Depot
1774 Massachusetts Avenue
Sunnydale, CA
----

The manager was just palming the keys from his pocket - to lock the front door
at closing time - when he felt a knife at his throat. "Don't call out."


He whispered, "There's no money... it's all in the safe already."


Harmony peered out from behind a trash can on the opposite side of the doorway,
her demonic eyes glowing. "That's alright. We didn't come for money. Lauren, go
ahead and kill him."


For her part, Lauren Singer took the keys, and quickly twisted the door lock
back to the unlocked position, before sinking her teeth into the soft flesh at
the base of the Home Depot manager's neck. A cashier screamed.


Harmony nodded at her army - or was it a navy? - of vampiric sailors, and pointed
at the group of employees huddled near the cash registers. "Get 'em, boys. Then
get us some tools. Axes, crowbars, chainsaws..."


Lauren held up a hand, and Harmony paused as the former Navy lieutenant finished
draining the manager, dropping him unceremoniously on the concrete slab.
"Ladders, too. It's a two-story house."


"Good point. Ladders, too, boys!" Harmony bubbled. The sailor-vampires, for
their part, started draining the cashiers, while a few (the more recently-fed
types) started looking for tools.



----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
2300 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Xander flipped on the TV, wondering what might be on the eleven o'clock news.
Buffy and Harm had... what was the word... adjourned to upstairs, and Dawn had
headed off to bed as well. Willow and Mac were still talking in the kitchen as
the TV screen came to life, the "breaking news" graphic glowing across the
bottom of the screen.


Some mindless reporter was droning on in front of the Home Depot. "... Sunnydale Police officials on the scene are not revealing anything, but our confidential source claims that the entire store staff has been found dead inside, except for the manager, who was found just outside the front doors. What the police have said is that the entire stocks of chainsaws, crowbars, and two-story ladders appear to be missing. They claim,"
and it was obvious from the reporter's tone that the Sunnydale Police were not all that
trustworthy, "that this was a simple robbery. However, according to reports, no
money was missing from the cash registers or safe."


Xander bolted out of his seat as he caught a glimpse of a body at the threshold,
covered in clear plastic. The body was unusually pale. Like all the blood had
been drained from it. Yet there wasn't a puddle of blood on the ground. "Will!"


Willow ran in from the other room. "What?"


Mac was right behind her, and staring at Xander, she said, "You look like
someone died."


"They did. Vampires attacked the Home Depot at closing time. And they didn't
take the cash."


Willow started up the stairs. "It's Harmony. I'd better get Buffy."


"How do you know it's Harmony?" Xander asked.


"'Cause any other vamp would've taken the cash too."


"Good point." He checked his watch. "Anyways, I’m heading home. See you guys
tomorrow." He palmed a stake in one hand, his keys in the other, and headed out
the door.




----
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
2330 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"So... this is the couch... if you don't mind crashing on the couch." Willow
smiled, offering Mac a quilt with a green-and-red checkerboard pattern.


"Not at all." Mac took the quilt, tossing it to the far end of the couch.


"It's safer than a hotel. At least here, you don't have to worry about who the former
occupants might have invited in."


"Harm!" Mac called out, nodding at Willow.


Harm poked his head around the corner; he'd just come down the stairs. "Yeah?"


"Gimme the car keys, so I can get our things. Willow said it's not a problem if
we... sleep over." It was a problem with her, but she knew Harm too well. He
wouldn't understand what was bothering her, or why. Even if she said it. She had
to admit, though, that at least Buffy wasn't a military officer, and therefore
he wasn't potentially causing any chain-of-command problems. And there was
little chance that she'd end up in Falls Church with them, as had happened with
Bud and Harriet. And eventually, Harm would realize that she loved him. Probably
about a month after she worked up the courage to admit it.


Harm grinned. "Heads up." He tossed the keys from across the room, and Willow
noticed their trajectory alter slightly in midair. The keys dropped neatly into
Mac's hand.


Willow smirked. "Told ya, Mac."


Mac looked at her, questioningly. "Told me what, Will?"


"I'll tell you after we get your stuff. Come on." Will shoved the door open, and
checked the front yard, stake in hand. "All clear."


Mac hurried out to the car, all her Marine training telling her that the yard
and driveway were perfectly safe. Willow was watching from the open doorway,
anyhow. Mac lifted out Harm's sea-bag, setting it on the pavement, then hefted
her own. She slammed the trunk, pocketed the keys, and grabbed Harm's bag again.
She carried both of them up to the porch, and just inside the doorway, Harm took
his own bag from her. "Thanks, Mac."


"No prob, Harm. Have a... nice night." She smiled, but it was directed more at
Will than Harm. "So what were you going to tell me?"


"I noticed..." Will paused, until she was sure Harm was out of earshot upstairs.
Mac had said she didn't want to mention this to him, at least, not yet. "The
keys... the trajectory changed in midair. If it hadn't, those keys would've
fallen at your feet. And I didn't do it. You did."


"I did?"


Will frowned. "It was subconscious, wasn't it?" She looked impressed and
disappointed at the same time. "That means you've got so much power, and you're
so used to using it, that you don't realize that you are using it. Which makes
it very difficult to learn to use it consciously."


Mac slumped onto the couch, rummaging though her bag for some suitable pajamas.
"Well, I'd like to learn. How much can you teach me while we're here?"


"Depends on how much time you have." Will smiled. "And after, there's email.
It's not perfect, but I can give you a few pointers. I know how tough it can be
learning witchcraft solo, but..."


"You mean, like Wicca?"


"Wicca's a religion. Historically closely related to witchcraft, but it's not
the same thing. There's Wiccans with no power, and people with tons of power who
follow other religions, or none at all. Or make up their own - that one's more
common than you might think." She cocked her head. "Why do you ask?"


"I was undercover with a group of Wiccan Seabees a few years ago in
Mississippi."


"Heard about that one on the net. That was you?" Willow didn't pause, but
noticed Mac nod. "Don't worry about them. They sounded like the no-power types
anyway, and not exactly following the rules they claimed to follow, either.
Lucky for you - someone with real power like you and me, they would've known you
were deceiving them. Might have even figured out the truth, but I doubt it, with
your psychic shields."


"Psychic shields?"


"You know Star Trek?" Mac nodded. "Well, think of your mind as a starship.
Someone trying to get to you can do it the nice way, or they can try to come in
by force. And to prevent that, you have shields. And people like you, who use
their power subconsciously, often have either very strong or very weak shields.
And yours, well, they're stronger than mine are. And that's saying a lot,
because I've been using my power consciously for about six years." Will held her
hand up. "That can sometimes be a bad thing, because to use your powers
consciously, or in ways you're not used to, you've got to get around them."


Will looked at the clock, forgetting that she could have just asked Mac. "Well,
it’s getting late; we’d better try to get some sleep. I can teach better when
I’m well-rested."


"Agreed." Mac grinned.


"Have a good night. And if you need anything, don’t hesitate to wake us. We’re
right upstairs."




----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0030 Hours
Seaview Cemetery
Sunnydale, CA
----

"So, what precisely is the plan?" Lauren Singer asked, hefting a chainsaw
liberated from the Home Depot. Off to one side, a former Master Chief was
gassing up a half dozen more chainsaws.


Harmony smirked. "I told you, we can’t go in the house without being invited in.
But if we make the house unsafe, they’ll have to come out before it collapses on
them. And then we’ll have them."


"And if they don’t come out?"


"Once we’ve torn the house down to ground level, I think the mystical protection
it provides will go away. Either way, we’ll have them."


"Assuming we can pull all that off by first light. Maybe we should wait until
tomorrow night, so we have all night..."


Harmony shook her head. "We don’t know that they’ll be home. And with those...
colleagues of yours... and Buffy’s friends... they could find out what we’re up
to before that. It’s not safe to wait. Spikey used to say..."


"Spikey?"


"Another vamp I know. Thinks he’s the big bad. Anyways, he used to say that the
downfall of every vampire and demon who’s set up against Buffy in this town, was
waiting too long to pull off whatever they wanted to do, and letting Buffy get
wind of it in time to interfere. We’re not doing that."


"So we go tonight." Lauren nodded. "Any delay could be fatal."


"Right." Harmony wrapped an arm over Lauren’s shoulder. "I think we’ll make a
great team."


Until this is over, Lauren thought. Once their orders run out, those sailors are going to look to me for leadership, not some dumb blonde former cheerleader. But
she held her tongue. "Why do you have such a thing for killing Buffy?"


"She’s the main threat. Once she’s out of the way, the rest of the town will
fall like dominoes." She smirked. "Especially Xander Harris." Harmony had been
wanting to drain him since she’d become a vampire. He was no better than she
was, and had only survived this long because instead of her teaming up with
Cordelia (who’d ultimately abandoned her and called her a sheep), he’d been a
sidekick to Buffy and Willow.





----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0210 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----


Mac woke up, a shadow passing over the front window of the house. No, not a
shadow, the headlights of a truck. She glanced out the window, seeing several
men unloading tools and ladders from the large pickup truck. A navy blue Dodge
Viper rumbled into the driveway behind her own rental, and its lights clicked
off.


Mac rose, pulling the quilt around her, and ran up the stairs. "Which one is
Willow’s?" she asked herself, looking at the hallway full of closed,
nondescript, white doors. She decided to simply start pounding on all of them
and see who answered. Through the window at the end of the hall, she saw a
ladder being raised against the outer wall of the house.


Dawn was the first to answer, coming out with her impeccably straight hair and a
blue nightgown with small rubber duckies printed all over it. "What’s wrong?"
Dawn asked, sleepily.


"Ladders." Mac pointed at the hallway window, just in time for Dawn to see a
vampire climbing it with a fire axe. "Buffy!" she shrieked.


Willow’s door flew open, the young witch clad in a set of blood-red sweats that
didn’t quite match her hair color. "What’s wrong?"


Mac summarized what she and Dawn had seen. "Vampires, with ladders and fire
axes. Here."


"But... but... they can’t come in without being invited."


"So what the hell are they doing?" Buffy blurted out, just as she herself opened
the door, wearing a white tee-shirt and plaid pajama pants, cradling a crossbow
in one arm and her favorite stake tucked into her waistband.


Mac frowned. "That’s what I’d like to know."


Harm appeared behind Buffy, in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants. "Whatever it
is, it doesn’t sound good."


Just then, they heard a loud crashing sound at the foot of the stairs...


Buffy pointed at a large trunk at the foot of her bed, which as always, was
sitting unlocked. "Weapons all around." Then she headed downstairs.

----



Chapter Seven: Deconstruction


----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0215 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Buffy ran down the stairs, looking on in horror as the front door lay on the
floor. Harmony stood on the porch, and the female sailor-type with the chainsaw
next to her had just finished cutting through the door frame. "You must be Buffy
Summers," the vamp snarled as the chainsaw wound down.


Mac hissed from just behind Buffy’s shoulder. "Singer."


"Colonel Mackenzie. How nice to see you again, ma’am. Pity it’ll be the last
time." Lauren Singer – or at least, the thing that once was Lauren Singer -
paused for effect. "Since you’ll be dead by sunrise. Where’s Commander Rabb?"


Harm hustled down the stairs, a wicked-looking machete in hand, and peered at
the vampire on the porch. "Singer? Bud always claimed you were evil, but..."


Buffy laughed. "Nice empty threat there. I hope your friend there," she pointed
at Harmony, "has informed you that vampires can’t enter a house without being
invited."


"Don’t need to." Harmony gloated, as Singer cranked the chainsaw again. "We can
tear your house down well enough from the outside."


Buffy’s eyes went wide. So did Willow’s – she’d pushed her way down the stairs.
"The Home Depot attack. We saw it on the news. Xander said it was you..."


"Harris." Harmony spat. "Where is that boy?"


"He went home a couple hours ago. Sorry. You’ll just have to get killed by
someone else." Buffy smirked. "Speaking of which..." She leveled the crossbow at
the two vampires on the porch, but just then, she was startled by a crashing
sound in the kitchen, as the back door fell in. By the time she recovered,
Harmony and Singer had taken cover by moving away from the doorway, and out of
sight from Buffy’s position at the foot of the stairs.


A rhythmic thumping sound came from the wall behind the fireplace. "What the..."
Harm started, just as the blade of a fire axe broke through the drywall.


"They’re trying to hack the walls down!" Dawn shrieked.


"Not quite." Buffy corrected. "They’re tearing down the house. This is SO not
called for." She turned to Willow. "Dawn and Harm upstairs, see what you can do
about staking the vamps through the windows. Mac, Will, you’ve got the
downstairs."


"What about you?"


"I’m taking the roof." She set down the crossbow, and hefted a wooden umbrella
from the basket by the door. It wasn’t a usual feature in a Southern California
house, but it did the job – keeping stakes handy near the front door. She
quickly slid on a pair of Willow’s Vans – good thing they were the same shoe
size – and ran out the door to the nearest ladder. Unfortunately, her Slayer
consciousness noted, they were fiberglass-and-aluminum ladders, hance no help
with the possible slayage.


Her Slayer speed and strength were, however. She raced up the two-story ladder
one-handed, and practically vaulted onto the edge of the roof. Thanking whatever
powers worked for good in the universe that her house had asphalt shingles,
rather than a cedar-shake or Spanish-tile roof, both of which were tough to get
traction on, she rushed a group of vampires who were trying to start a pair of
chainsaws.


"Nuh-uh, not going to let you do that!" She cried out, staking the vamp holding
the first chainsaw from behind, just as he was starting it. She carefully caught
the saw by the handle, and hurled it at another vamp’s head, the spinning blade
of death catching him in the neck and cleanly decapitating him. A third vamp
simply lunged at her, hungrily, and she easily dusted him with a parry with her
umbrella. Thank the gods she’d had Giles teach her fencing.


Three vamps down, but unfortunately, twice that many had come up the ladders in
the meantime. It seemed Harmony and this Lauren person had a good supply. She
thought she recalled Harm or Mac saying something about fifty missing sailors,
and cringed. She didn’t want to have to stake fifty vamps tonight.


One – oddly enough, the only one in sight not wearing a Navy uniform – rushed
her with a... crowbar? At the last minute, just as the vamp was about to clock
her with the crowbar, baseball-bat style, she slammed it in the chest with the
wooden umbrella, and he, too, turned to dust. The crowbar fell to the roof, and
slowly slid off of the shallow slope.


She turned, hearing laughter behind her. Just in time, too, as yet another
sailor-vamp threw a socket wrench at her head. She ducked it, then ran up the
slope of the roof. She knocked him off of the precarious balance he’d found on
the crest of the roof, and he was soon scrabbling along the shingles on the far
slope, trying to regain his traction before he fell off the roof.


Another sailor-vamp tried rushing her with one of the seemingly ubiquitous fire
axes. She parried with her umbrella, but it snapped in half at the force of
being hit by the much thicker wood of the fire axe handle. So she picked up the
chainsaw, which had luckily fallen to rest about where she was standing, and
blocked the next axe-swing with it. Then, she cranked up the saw motor, and the
third axe swing sent the axe head flying off the roof, severed from its handle.
The fourth swing found Buffy dropping the chainsaw, and carefully catching the
axe handle. A short stick-fight later, Buffy had not only wrenched the axe
handle from the vamp’s hands, but sent him flipping onto the wreckage of the
ruined umbrella. Luckily for her, he landed just so, and burst into a cloud of
dust.


"That’s what, five, six?" She guessed. Honestly, she was so caught up in the
fight, she’d already lost count and was simply in survival mode. Dawn hadn’t; a
crossbow bolt came flying out of one of the now-broken upstairs windows,
catching a vamp in the heart just as it was climbing off of one of the ladders.


"The ladders. Of course." She could get down through the upstairs windows – the
upstairs of the house was smaller than the downstairs, so the house actually had
a split-level roof. The vamps, on the other hand, had to use the ladders or
jump. She rushed over to the front-yard side of the house, and started shoving
the ladders away from the edge of the roof. She called out, "Get the ones near
the ladders!" For the time being, there was only one or two left on the roof,
and she didn’t want to get surrounded.


Meanwhile, Dawn and Harm were watching the battle on the ladders (and the lower
part of the roof) from the upstairs windows. Dawn had armed herself with Buffy’s
trusty crossbow, and was working the antiquated crank to cock it for a second
shot. Unlike Buffy, she couldn’t simply pull back the cable; that required
Slayer strength. Harm, for his part, had staked two vamps who’d gotten close to
the bedroom windows, while trying to clamber up onto the upper part of the roof.
They could hear the sounds of axes and chainsaws downstairs, and hoped Will and
Mac were handling themselves down there.


In the living room, Mac was staring down Lauren Singer through the gaping hole
where the front door had formerly stood. That is, before Lauren had sliced and
diced the doorframe with a chainsaw, and kicked the door in. A lot of good that
had done, since she still couldn’t come inside herself. She’d even given up on
trying to trick Mac into letting her in – she’d discovered that Colonel
Mackenzie’s invitation was worthless, since she didn’t live in the house.


Will, on the other hand, was battling over the remains of the kitchen door.
Harmony herself hadn’t approached – she was standing a good twenty feet away,
taunting Willow with childhood insults, like recalling Cordelia’s choice
comments on Willow’s school clothes from the pre-Buffy days. But several of the
sailor-vampires had approached, each being defeated by Willow, who was making
skilled use of the protective mystical barrier where the door had stood. Every
time a vamp would seemingly gain the upper hand, she took a step back, forcing
it to lunge forward into the shield, and then staking it before it knew what had
happened. She was tempted to break off and show Mac exactly what she was doing,
but then thought better of it. "Mac!"


Colonel Mackenzie rushed into the kitchen, a stake in each hand. "What is it,
Will?"


"Watch what I’m doing." She stepped out on the back porch, letting another vamp
come after her, just as Harmony made some silly remark about the ‘softer side of
Sears’. The vamp lunged, and Will parried with an arm, allowing it a little
closer. Just as it tried to seize her by the shoulders, she jumped back through
the open doorway. The vamp, sure enough, lunged forward, and Mac nearly
screamed. But Willow calmly said, "I’ve got you now!" and staked the vamp just
seconds after he pancaked himself against the invisible barrier at the
threshold. "They can’t enter the house, see?"


"Oh, I get it. Very smart." Mac smiled. "Mind if I try it?"


"I could use a breather. Maybe a glass of water." Will nodded. "Just don’t go
more than about three steps out the door."


Harmony yelled, "Willow Rosenberg, you’re such a coward! No wonder you always
had Xander and Buffy fighting for you in high school!"


Will scowled. "At least I survived graduation with my body temperature intact!"
She blushed. "I can’t beleive I just said that." She grabbed a bottle of holy water out of a kitchen cabinet, uncorked it, and hurled it out the door toward
Harmony. Unfortunately, her aim was off, and it sailed harmlessly into the yard,
five feet to Harmony’s left. To Mac’s questioning eyes, she explained, "Holy
water. Harmless to us, like acid to them. And not the LSD kind."


"Well, time to try out this door-fighting technique of yours." Mac grinned,
taking a pair of carefully measured steps onto the back porch. Then she found
out why all the action had been at the back door. Apparently the sailor-vamps
had enough of their memories intact that they weren’t willing to try to attack a
Marine Lieutenant Colonel with not one, but two weapons at the ready. Half a
dozen of them shrank back, and one even turned and ran out of sight completely.


"Spoilsports." Willow remarked, looking over Mac’s shoulder at Harmony. "And
she’s not even a vampire slayer. Just a Marine. I bet you didn’t even tell them
that the real Vampire Slayer is up on the roof." Willow turned. "I haven’t had
this much luck since I got back to Sunnydale just in time for Yom Kippur a
couple weeks ago."


Mac frowned. "I didn’t know you were Jewish... but with a name like Rosenberg, I
guess I should have figured that out."


Harmony cackled. "Touching moment, guys, real touching. But guess what? You’re
on the porch!" She rushed them, but pulled up short when both Will and Mac
lifted two stakes.... and was that a fifth, hovering behind them in the doorway?
"What the...."


Mac smirked. "Just something I thought I’d try." She closed her eyes for a
second, and the stake started flying through the air at Harmony, at roughly the
speed of a bird. Harmony backed off, and after she was about twelve feet away,
the stake fell harmlessly to the ground. Mac sighed.


Will, however, was impressed. "Took me three weeks to levitate a pencil, and
even then, I couldn’t do it from twelve feet away for another week." She hurled
a large stake in Harmony’s direction, but Harmony was a bit further away than
she could throw the heavy stake, and it fell to the ground well short of its
target. "Let’s get back inside the doorway. I don’t think this is working for
us."


Mac nodded, and spoke up loudly. "Too bad this Harmony has an army of such
cowards."


"They’re not cowards!" Harmony yelled. "They’re brave men who signed on to see
the world! And I’m showing them the real world!"


Willow grinned. "And the warning label. Keep out of direct sunlight."


"Rosenberg!" Harmony shrieked, finally provoked enough to lunge toward the door.
She stopped mid-rush, however – struck on the head by a fire axe handle – and
glanced upwards, into the face of Buffy.


For her part, Buffy was standing pretty close to the edge of the roof, a second
fire axe in hand. "Back off, Harmony. You’re no match for me and mine."


"Oh yeah?" Harmony called out. But it was starting to be obvious that her ragtag
army of sailor-vampires wasn’t making significant progress on the house, and
already at least a third of them had been dusted. "Come down here and fight me,
Buffy!"


"Fine." Buffy smirked, and without warning, she jumped down the two stories,
landing in the grass just past the back porch. She looked up at Harmony from the
cat-like stance she’d landed in, waving the fire axe about with one hand. "Bring
it."


A swishing sound interrupted Harmony’s reaction, and Buffy turned to see Dawn
leaning out a window with the crossbow, and another vamp turning to dust just
behind Harmony. "Nice shot, Dawnie." Willow commented.


"Nope, I was aiming for Harmony." Dawn replied, before ducking back inside the
upstairs window.


Buffy smirked at Harmony. "Nobody’s perfect. But at least those of us inside the
house are human. Or still human, I should say." She stared at the thing that
once was Cordelia’s dumb blonde Fashion Police sidekick, Harmony Kendall. "I bet
you’d give just about anything to be able to see yourself in a mirror right now.
You look hideous." Although, the fact that Harmony was in vamp-face was probably
a large part of that....


Harmony smiled. "I’ve gotten in touch with the inner me. And I like her."


"I hope you’re happy together." Buffy said, sarcastically, as she jumped up onto
the porch and ducked in the doorway. "What’s the next plan, Harmony? Are you
going to try to vamp the Ninja Turtles? Or perhaps the Muppets?"


Harmony scowled. "Shut up, Slayer!" Just then, a fire axe shattered the window
over the kitchen sink.


"I’m surprised that took this long." Mac commented. "All the living room windows
are already broken."


A loud crash came from upstairs, followed by the sound of spraying water.
"Dawnie! What’s that?" Buffy yelled, already headed for the stairs.


However, it was Commander Rabb that answered. "They broke down part of the
bathroom wall, and they hit the shower pipes."


"Damn!" Buffy turned to Will and Mac. "I’d better go help Harm upstairs."


As Buffy left, a half-dozen sailor-vamps approached the doorway once again, and
Willow and Mac took turns fighting them in the doorway. The sailor seemed to
have lost their fear of Mac. Then again, perhaps they were just getting
desperate, Mac thought.


Then she saw their new coach. "Lauren." She scowled. Willow nodded in
recognition – this was the evil Lieutenant Singer. Mac had explained who she was
– the office malcontent, who was willing to sacrifice other people’s careers to
advance her own. Apparently, now, she was willing to sacrifice lives, rather
than just careers.


Strangely enough, though, those six were the last. A dozen or two must have
already fled, because once those had been defeated, Harmony and Singer ran for
the Viper, and peeled out of the driveway, speeding down the streets of
Sunnydale as fast as the sports car’s supercharged engine could accelerate. The
work truck, chainsaws, crowbars, axes and ladders their gang had brought were
left behind.


Buffy looked around, surveying the damage. "This is going to be costly."


"Maybe not." Willow replied. "After all, Xander’s a carpenter now. I’m sure he’d
do some of the repairs for you, for free."


"It’s still going to be a lot. There’s damage all over the house. And I’m pretty
sure the roof leaks in at least a dozen places now." She checked the clock.
"We’d all better try to get back to bed. Will, would you mind keeping watch
until sunrise?"


"No problem."

----



Chapter Eight: The Navy Blues


----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0715 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

Dawn pressed down on the little lever on the toaster, and turned to Mac. "How
long?"


"Depends on how dark you’ve got it set. Toasters aren’t all that precise." Mac
replied. She poked at the bowl of cereal in front of her. She wasn’t really all
that hungry; she was trying to figure out how to tell the Admiral what she and
Harm had discovered overnight.


"Morning." Willow grumbled, walking in looking rather disheveled in her red sweats,
which had doubled as both pajamas and combat gear during the night. She went
straight for a package of frozen waffles, and proceeded to dump two on a plate
and shove them in the microwave.


"Morning, Willow." Mac smiled. "You don’t mind if I use the phone?"


"No, go ahead." Willow grabbed the cordless, and tossed it in Mac’s general
direction. Of course, Mac caught it neatly, and dialed up JAG Headquarters in
Virginia.



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1016 Hours
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
----


"JAG ops, Lieutenant Sims speaking..."


"Hiyas Harriet, it’s Mac. Is the boss in?"


"Sure is, Colonel. How’s the Reprisal investigation?"


"Finished. Found out what happened to the sailors, and Singer. But you’ll never
believe me on the phone. I’ll tell you when I see you."


"Sure thing, ma’am. Please hold." Just Harriet’s luck, Admiral A.J. Chegwidden
happened to be walking by. "Admiral, Colonel Mackenzie’s on the phone for you.
Line four."


"I’ll take it in my office." He vaguely waved his coffee cup in that direction.
Mac waited impatiently, and after a moment, he came on the line. "Good morning,
Colonel."



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0717 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----


"Morning, Admiral," Mac said, speaking in the direction of the speakerphone. That got her a raised-eyebrow look from both Willow and Dawn, just as the toaster popped up and the microwave beeped. "I was calling about the Reprisal investigation."


"Oh, right. How’s that going?"


"We found out what happened to the missing sailors, sir. And Lieutenant Singer.
None of them will be coming back, sir."


"What happened?"


"You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, sir."


"Try me."


"Vampires, sir. They were all killed by vampires." At his derisive snort, she
replied, "I know, it sounds implausible, sir, but I have it on good authority
that Sunnydale is built on some sort of portal from Hell, and all sorts of
things happen here. Harm has even managed some personal contacts with a divinely
empowered vampire slayer." That earned her naughty grins from Dawn and Willow,
by now halfway through their toast and waffles.


"Singer too?"


"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Singer has apparently become something of a sidekick to a local
vampire queen named Harmony Kendall, who is a sworn enemy of the vampire slayer. They,
along with most of the missing sailors, attacked us at the Slayer's house last night."


"I thought you said they’d been killed."


"Vampires can apparently turn their victims into vampires under certain
conditions, sir. In this case, this Harmony was trying to use them as her own
private army, in order to kill the vampire slayer. It didn’t work."


"I expect a full report when you get back. And play it safe, Colonel. I don’t
want to lose you and Harm as well."


"Yes, sir. We’ll get out of town before sunset, then. Can you arrange us
transport?"


"I’ll get Tiner right on it. Call us back in an hour."


"Will do, sir." She punched the disconnect button on the cordless. "That was
easier than I thought."


Harm smirked from the doorway behind her. "Not if I know the Admiral. He’ll get
us back in his office and be asking us ‘What the hell is going on?’ and not in
the most calm tone of voice, either."


Mac shrugged. "Well, he is a former Seal."


Willow looked at her questioningly. "Yet he doesn’t believe in vampires?"


Mac looked confused, until Buffy filled her in – having just entered the room in
her white shirt and plaid pajama pants. "Selkies. Shapeshifting seals that can
become human."


Mac grinned. "Not like that. He was a Navy Seal. Like in the movie. Special
forces."


"Oh." Willow commented. "Sorry, living on the Hellmouth, you learn to take
things literally, even when they sound completely implausible."


Harm laughed. "Quite often, I could say the same for the United States Navy." He
leaned over and kissed Buffy.


"Mmm..." She grabbed him by the hand, and Dawn rolled her eyes. "Let’s forget
breakfast..." she whispered, as she dragged Harm out of the room.



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1120 Hours
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
----

"JAG Ops, Lieutenant Sims speaking."


"Hi again, Harriet, it’s Mac. The Admiral told me to call back..."


"Oh, right." Harriet turned away from the phone. "Tiner!"


The Admiral’s gatekeeper, Petty Officer Jason Tiner, came running from the
coffee room. "Yes, Lieutenant?"


"Colonel Mackenzie’s on the phone. Did you get those travel plans for her and
Commander Rabb?"


"Yeah." He pulled a note out of his pocket. "They’re booked on a commercial
flight from Sunnydale to D.C., leaving there at sixteen-twenty this afternoon.
Tickets at will call under her name."


Harriet put the phone back up to her face. "Still there, ma’am?"


"Yes, go ahead."


"You’ve got a flight out at four-twenty local time this afternoon. The tickets
are at the airport will-call counter under your name. We’ll have a driver meet
you at the D.C. airport and bring you here."


"Good. Anything else?"


"Yeah... what did you tell the Admiral earlier? He’s got Bud doing some research
on the ‘Net..."


"I’ll tell you when I see you. Later, Harriet."



-----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
0830 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"That your office again?" Will asked.


"Yeah. Just making the arrangements to get out of town before nightfall. Not
that I’m not enjoying Sunnydale..."


"But you’d rather make it out alive." Willow finished for her. "I would too...
if I hadn’t grown up here, and been fighting the forces of darkness since I was
fifteen."


"I hoped you’d understand." Mac smiled. "I just hope it’s not too hard on your
friend. Harm’s kind of the love-‘em-and-leave-‘em-behind type. Not that he
doesn’t believe in long term relationships, just that the job requires a lot of
travelling..."


"And you haven’t told him that you love him."


"That too. I don’t know when it happened. I used to pick on him for being
obsessed with airplanes and finding his father – he was shot down in Vietnam.
But once he found out what happened to his father, and I realized you can take
the fighter pilot off the carrier but you can’t take the carrier out of the
fighter pilot, well, we get along pretty well." She sipped her tea. "Actually,
it’s pretty nice, seeing the look on his face when we get assigned to a case on
a carrier. Even this case, his eyes just lit all up, even with the carrier in
port. It’s like he’s got jet fuel in his blood."


Willow nodded. "Buffy’s like that. She’s grown up being a vampire slayer, and
she’s always had this thing for warrior types. She’s been with a couple tame
vampires, a commando, well, you get the picture. The fact that she’s fallen for
Harm doesn’t surprise me in the least." She sipped her own tea, and continued,
"It’ll be tough on her, though, it always is. They always end up leaving town,
and she always thinks they left because of her."


"Well, at least in this case, it’s because of his job. Should be some comfort.
And Harm’s usually the type to keep his options open, in case he ends up back in
town in a year or two."


"A girl in every port?"


"Not quite, but something like that." Mac finished her tea. "Well, I’d better go
let the Captain of the Reprisal know what happened to his men. Is there a shower I can use?"


"You’ll have to use the one in my room. The hall bathroom is being fixed."
Willow pointed up at the pounding sound, where Xander was installing a temporary
wall of plywood. He’d already told Willow he wouldn’t have time to repair it
properly until this weekend – and that they’d have to postpone the Museum of
Tolerance trip. Will had agreed - she probably would have suggested that anyway,
as they’d need to cheer Buffy up over the weekend, and the Museum wasn’t exactly
that sort of activity.


"Thank you." Mac grabbed a pen, and scrawled out an email address on a sheet of
paper from her notebook. "Here’s my email address. I’ll get yours when you email
me something."


"Works for me." Willow tacked the slip of paper up on the front of the fridge,
and headed upstairs to help Xander.



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1030 Hours
Bridge, U.S.S. Reprisal
Pier 13
Sunnydale Harbor
----

"What are you trying not to tell me, Colonel Mackenzie?"


"Sir, that’s classified. But what I can tell you is that they’re not coming
back, and there is a continuing danger in town. You’re advised not to allow
anyone on or off the ship during nighttime hours."


"What about cutting the visit short and leaving town early?"


"That’s up to you, sir, but as long as the ship is locked down at night, you
should have no further disappearances or other problems."


"I imagine I’ll never see the full report on this incident, will I?"


"No, sir. I suspect Admiral Chegwidden will be sending you a censored copy in a
few days, sir."


"Well, as long as someone gets the full story."


"The locals are well equipped to handle this particular problem. I’m sure it
won’t be any more trouble, as long as you follow those recommendations, sir."
She hoped he didn’t notice that she had not specifically referred to the local
authorities.


"Fine. Dismissed, Colonel." As she started to walk away, the Captain asked, "By
the way, what happened to your partner?"


"He’s taking care of another loose end from our investigation. We’re leaving
this afternoon, sir." She handed him her card. "If you feel the need to follow
up, you can call me at the Washington office."


"I just might do that, Marine. Dismissed."



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1420 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"What do you mean, you’re leaving? So soon?" Dawn pouted.


"We’ve got to get back to Washington." Colonel Mackenzie explained. "We’re
scheduled for a flight out in two hours."


"But... what about Buffy?" she squeaked.


Willow cringed. Dawn had known. "She’s an adult, and Harm’s upstairs telling her
all about it. I’m sure she’ll be fine."


"Like with Riley?"


"I’m sure she’ll be fine in a few days, Dawnie. She had to know Harm wasn’t
going to be in town long."


"I guess."


"Why don’t you go set up the chessboard in the kitchen, Dawnie. I’m going to see
them out, and then I’ll play you."


"Okay." Dawn bubbled, and headed off to the kitchen.


"I’m sorry you have to leave so soon..."


Mac waved her off. "Don’t worry. We’ll still be pen pals. And you can keep tabs
on Singer for us."


"I’ll make sure to get you a jar of dust when we catch up with her."


"Good. Harm!" She yelled up the stairs.


"Coming, Mac!" he burst out of Buffy’s room, in his dress whites, sea bag over
one shoulder. "Time to go already?"


"Yeah, we’ve got an hour and fifty-seven minutes before our flight leaves."


"We’d better get going, then." He ducked inside the bedroom door to kiss Buffy
goodbye, and then bounded down the stairs. Just as they were leaving, Willow
caught the door behind them. "Be safe, and keep in touch."


"We will." Mac confirmed, tossing Harm the car keys. "Let’s go, flyboy."


Willow turned, and headed into the kitchen. Dawn promtly plunked down one of her
white knights in front of her untouched row of pawns. "Your move, Willow."



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1650 Hours
An airplane somewhere over central California
----

"Harm, why do you always do that?"


He looked up from his ‘Aviation Week’ magazine. "What do you mean?"


"You are such the ladies’ man. You don’t even know that you broke that girl’s
heart."


"She knew all along we’d have to leave when it was all over."


"Yes... but you didn’t have to romance her while we were there. And you do this
all the time."


"Maybe I’m not ready for a long-term commitment. And besides, with our job? Who
would have me, other than you?"


Mac blushed, just a little. "Good point." She shrugged. "At least we’ve got
quite the story for the Admiral and Bud and Harriet."



----
Thursday, September 26, 2002
1930 Hours
1630 Revello Drive
Sunnydale, CA
----

"Buffy..."


Buffy looked up, here eyes puffy from a few hours’ worth of tears. "What?"


"You knew all along he’d have to leave when they got to the bottom of this."
Willow stated. "Don’t feel too sorry for yourself. He didn’t leave because of
you. He left because he had to leave."


"I guess. But why do I fall for these guys?"


"They’re warriors, and so are you. It’s a common bond. Think about it."


"You’re right." She reached for a slice of leftover pizza. "Still, warn me next
time, okay?" Buffy’s voice was a little ragged from the sobbing, but she was
recovering pretty quickly.


Willow nodded, taking another bite of her tuna sandwich, as Dawn slipped her
favorite DVD into the player. Buffy rolled her eyes... "Not that movie again!"


Dawn turned, offended. "If you’d just crack a book sometime, you’d realize why I
like Harry Potter so much." She hit PLAY and bounced over to the couch.


Xander smiled. "Have to admit, she’s cute when she’s going all gooey-eyed over
Harry Potter."


"Am not!"


"Yeah, you are, Dawnie." Willow offered.


"I meant, I’m not going gooey-eyed over him!"


"Right." Buffy said, in her most laced-with-sarcasm voice. "I think I’ll
just..." She yawned. "Sit here and take a nap."


Willow looked at her knowingly. "Didn’t get much sleep last night, did you?"


Dawn looked at Buffy, slightly offended, as Buffy snored just as her movie
started. "She’s going to snore right through Dumbledore!"


Willow shook her head, grabbing Buffy’s feet. "No, she isn’t. Xander, her
shoulders. Let’s take her up to her room, so Dawnie can watch her movie in
peace."

The End

You have reached the end of "Harmony's Reprisal". This story is complete.

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