Author: Tohonomike firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners...it will start off with the Joss/ME characters but also the National Treasure and Swordfish characters aren’t mine either and any real-life folks are clearly not mine. NO money is involved. None are mine.
The dust cleared over Sunnydale High, and the Scoobies and Angel took a stunned moment to watch as Xander stripped down to boxers and t-shirt, and within five minutes was wearing a spotless Armani suit, twin holstered-weapons under the suit jacket, and a light-looking bullet-proof vest under the dress shirt. He shrugged an expensive trench coat on, slicked back his hair and put slightly mirrored sunglasses on. He walked over with two duffles and tossed them into Angel’s car and returned, his actions slowing the vampire’s departure.
The young man turned to the vampire, “Since you’re heading to LA, I’m bumming a ride that can’t be traced.”
Xander then shook hands with both Giles and Oz, just saying their names as an address, and gave Willow a deep hug which she in surprise returned, sensing something wrong.
“Xander, you’re not coming back, are you?” his best friend said, “Are you?”
He hugged her again, and with a sad smile, shook his head slightly, noticing that Dead Boy was already heading to the car, “Sorry Wills. I don’t really plan on it, but maybe I’ll be back by Christmas.”
As she in shock let him go and leaned into Oz, Xander placed his hands lightly on Cordelia’s shoulders, “I’m only going to say ‘sorry’ this last time, Cor. But from Buffy’s birthday last year, until the Zeppo comment, I loved you and you alone. Slayers were hot, but you were sizzling…”
He quickly gave her a peck on the cheek, and snuck one on the lips, “I hope you do great in Hollywood…I’ll even be willing to pay full price at the theater. Bye.”
He smiled sadly as Buffy recovered from ‘fire bad, tree pretty’ and Angel’s departure long enough to sigh and look at him sadly.
“This is it, huh, Xan?”
“Yeah, Buff. Before Cordelia, you were my light. And remember, except for last night,” he said, referring to her bleeding for Angel, “you’ve been my hero. Bye, Buff.”
And with that he grabbed her, dipped her, and let her have in a single passionate kiss everything he’d learned in his year with Cordelia. He smiled as he left the stunned and smiling girl speechless, and walked away.
Two miles out of town, Angel finally broke the silence, “So what’s with the threads and the fast good-byes?”
“We need to stop in Malibu, then get to LA, DB,” a colder and older-seeming Xander Harris replied, “But I’ll give you a little 4-1-1. Soldier Guy was a real person, a super-nasty Operative, and every time I’ve really drawn on the memories, I’ve gotten a full and complete Technicolor update to my brain.”
“He’s alive? Does he know about Sunnydale?”
“Nah, he seems to think they’re weird dreams or something; for him they’re maybe a few seconds; I’m the one who gets the full package since the last time.”
“So, Malibu and LA?”
“He’s going by the name of Gabriel Shears, a Mossad identity if anyone actually digs deep enough, but it’s not him. He makes James Bond look like Barney Fife. He has a big operation going down right now, and I’m hoping to keep a little girl alive, and maybe gun down the bastard before he can further disgrace our country.”
“Huh? Who's James Bond?”
“Don’t worry about it…let’s just say his little group…of which he is one of five left, are America’s Preemptive-Strike Counter-Terrorist group that likes to overkill and stuff. You blow up a car…they blow up the city your group is based in. That’s their idea of a fair trade. And there isn’t an official chain of command, and he’s not authorized.”
“Why not let the authorities handle it?”
“Out of their league. He’s not above a nuclear dog-day afternoon.”
“Oh. That’s nuts.”
“Yup, and I have his mind stored upstairs as of an hour ago, DB. So we’re going to see about cutting ourselves into his plans, though I doubt we can do anything before he escapes.”
“I kill him and his bastards while you cover my back and have the getaway car ready.”
“You’re that good now?”
“Mostly. If it came to hand-to-hand he’d cream me. But guns…I’m good with, and explosives.”
“Then I disappear for a few months and see what happens.”
Xander, with DB in the trunk, pulled over and gave Stanley a ride back toward the house, the young man saying, “It’s about Holly” enough to get the man to agree.
“Just listen, that’s all,” Xander told him, “I’ve been shadowing Gabe for a while now, and know some of his plans. You instead of the Finn are kinda throwing a wrench into the works. I’m a free-lancer, and I’ve contracted the recovery at ten percent, of the funds you’re going to be hitting for Gabe. Ginger isn’t DEA, but watch her. I’m not quite sure what her game is. I want you to roll over the money as he directs, and if you can figure out a way of accessing it afterwards, we’ll split the recovery fifty-fifty.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll try and save your daughter if things get really nasty, Stanley Jobson. And if the FBI specifically asks you about me after this is over, or vice versa, I’m your way out of prosecution, and half of the ten percent will guarantee Holly is with you when this clears up.”
“That’s it…do what I’m doing anyway, and you’ll try to help?”
“Yep, come on, who but me is going to be insane enough to go against ‘Gabriel’ except me? Anyone else around here, Stanley, that’s offered to actually help with your daughter and NOT point a gun at you?”
Xander let the man off just around the corner from where they’d be seen together, “Good luck, Stanley. Like I said, I’ll try to help you, but if it doesn’t work…I’ll keep your daughter from becoming your ex-wife’s porn partner.”
DB kept looking at him whenever the vampire thought Xander wasn’t looking, but it amused the young man. Xander tapped easily into the ‘Super Spy’ persona, but the difference being that the young man actually had morals at the center of many of the same core values. And those negated much of the carryover of evil from the older man capable of anything. They’d gathered a few extra supplies and weapons, and the nest of vampires trafficking in illegal explosives had been equally surprised to find that sufficient gunfire could result in dusting. Angel had helped carry out fifty pounds of Semtex and C-4, plus detonators.
“Why do you need all of this, Xander?”
“I’m using some of it to blow up a large section of building to make sure he doesn’t escape.”
“What about the people in the building?”
“Lawyers and such, and he’ll be using a basement-level parking garage to exit. That time of day, for reasons too long to go into, it has been arranged by the ‘landlords’ that no one will mysteriously be there to notice anything amiss.”
“So you’re going to just kill a man?”
“A monster…this guy is human and has a body count like yours and Spike’s. And remember, unlike Buffy, I’ve read the stuff on you and your ‘family.’ This guy doesn’t play with his food, he just kills. And those around him are his…pack…for want of a better term. This guy would have shrugged off the Hyena and kept the powers.”
Xander looked to make sure the vampire understood the reference, “He’s that deadly… that dangerous.”
The vampire watched, and sometimes as directed helped, the young man prepare himself, listen to different police and Fed frequencies, and a couple that were a bit off the beaten path. At one point, the young man sighed.
“Let’s go, Angel. Show time…”
They were only a block away from their destination, but somehow Xander knew where all of Gabriel’s backup mercs were positioned. Xander carefully produced plans and told Angel where to find most of them, planning to take out the others by either a direct sniper’s shot or in the explosion. Xander also explained that some of the rounds on the opposition included stuff that mirrored what Xander himself had used on the nest of weapons dealers. And a quick access of police records showed the vampire what a prized bunch of killers he’d been assigned. There wouldn’t be any of them coming back.
Xander watched as the helicopter set the bus down on the roof of the Wolfram & Hart building, smiling with satisfaction that noticed a couple of demons after he’d scattered ten pounds on timers and remotes, deep. He’d hailed them, and in his Armani, they’d thought he was a lawyer.
“Hey, you guys here for the meeting upstairs?” he’d asked, “If so I need you to help me with this for the bosses.”
“Yeah, what’s in it for us?”
“How about two hundred dollars?” he asked, holding up a pair of folded bills. The mouthy demon grabbed the money.
“We need to stop down in the archives, first, then what floor?”
As the helicopter blew up, Xander signaled DB to begin his attack, as the young man himself, prepared, took three carefully planned shots in six seconds to eliminate his own non-building targets. He saw one of Gabriel’s men come out as if to check on things, and given the time from the explosion up in the sky, Xander set off the charges.
The world shook, and though he didn’t know it at the time, the supernatural world was also in for an interesting time. The amount of explosive was overkill, and the basement and even sub-basement levels ceased to exist within seconds, including the man now pretending to be Gabriel Shears.
Xander reeled back from the update to his mind that included the man’s death, and it was five minutes and a lot of puking later before he hit ‘return’ on his laptop to begin the complete transfer of all funds into his own series of accounts, and to bump up Stanley’s as well. Angel came in as the young man stumbled for the door, the vampire helping him down to the subway station the next street over via the service tunnels.
An hour later they were assessing damage as they watched television. Apparently the bottom floors of the building were gutted by fire, and the place considered unstable, but for whatever reason, each floor and most of the walls had maintained structural integrity. Nothing within them existed, though. After Xander changed clothes and burned the old ones and flushed the ashes with lots of bleach, he sighed.
Angel turned to the young man, “Is it over?”
“Yeah, DB, it is… Take me to the airport. I’m flying off and disappearing like promised. Probably won’t hear from me or about me for months if we’re both lucky.”
Xander and the others rolled their eyes as Ben went on again in his own special fashion, “I was thinking about Henson and Peary, crossing this kind of terrain with nothing more than dog sleds and on foot.”
He wandered off to check his gear and continue to observe the rather suspect figures employed by Ian Howe. He wondered if even Ben picked up on the fact that a Brit with the last name of one of the two British Admirals from the American Revolution, was helping them, and possibly two of his ‘assistants’ were at least German if not actual Hessians. And to a young Californian with the memories and experience of the late super-patriot and singularly fanatic ‘Gabriel Shears’ that spelt trouble. Maybe not imminent death, but at least trouble.
He smiled as he remembered changing his name to Alexander Hamilton Gates right before graduation, having already kept up correspondence that would allow him to finagle a spot on this expedition as general back up and as Cousin Ben’s research assistant. Xander in particular chose to keep his attention on Shaw and Viktor, both of whom seemed to be Ian Howe’s confidants where the others were trusted muscle only. And now, a few months later, maybe the Gates legacy of treasure-hunting was coming to an end.
After the discovery of the vessel, Xander carefully picked up his pack and duffle, but decided that his emergency cache would be between choices than just survey equipment. The way Howe’s men tensed ever so slightly when their leader headed into the depths of the vessel cued Xander to likewise make ready.
Heading below with some ‘sounding equipment’ the young man stealthily came upon a situation he’d come to expect. He heard Ben talking and drew his tranquilizer pistol out.
“What are you gonna do? Are you gonna shoot me, Shaw? Well, you can't shoot me. There's more to the riddle.”
Ian stared back at the worried Benjamin Gates, “Information you don't have. I do.”
“I'm the only one who can figure it out, and you know that.”
Shaw without taking his eyes off the two geeks in the ship’s hold, spoke sideways to Howe, “He's bluffing.”
“We played poker together, Ian. You know I can't bluff.”
“Tell me what I need to know, Ben, or I'll shoot your friend.”
“Hey!” Poole called out as Xander set his bag on the ground and pointed his weapon at the back of Ian Howe’s head.
“Quiet, Riley! Your job's finished here.”
“Look where you're standing. All that gunpowder.”
“You shoot me, I drop this, we all go up.”
“Ben...What happens when the flare burns down?”
Xander fired at Howe, the dart from ten feet miraculously enough striking the man’s neck and dropping him from a dose normally reserved for werewolves.
“Don’t move, Shaw,” Xander told the man, who had begun to turn. Shaw continued to point a weapon at the others.
“You can’t take us all, boy.”
“I don’t have to. Here’s the deal. Just take Ian and go. I have a week or so supplies and a few weapons in my pack; enough to cause you all trouble. But not enough to stop you from leaving. It might take us a while to hoof it out of here.”
“We need the pipe, Xander,” Ben told him.
“And the pipe, whatever that is.”
Shaw managed to back just enough to see Xander pointing a gun at him, “Not even real, is it?”
“Enough to negotiate with until you get Ian up the steps, Shaw. Now, the pipe.”
“No, you only have a tranq gun, so I know I can get one of you and the shot will bring down the others. So, we strand you here and take the pipe.”
“His word?” Xander said pointing at Ian.
“Uh-uh, *his* word.”
Shaw grimaced, knowing that his boss would shoot him if he actually did that, and broke it, being oddly picky about such things. The merc nodded, “His word.”
“Okay, take him and go…no shooting or killing or blowing us up.”
The three men watched from the shadows as the last of their transport and gear disappeared over a rise. Riley looked particularly peeved.
“Now what?” the young techno-geek whined, “We’re kinda stranded.”
Ben and Alex looked at each other, then Riley, and both chorused, “There's an Inuit village about nine miles east of here.”
Ben continued, “It's popular with bush pilots.”
Xander pulled out a digital camcorder, and smirked, "I’ll document this, Ben, then I’ll get out the shortwave in my pack and make a call.”
“Come on, Ben, you trusted a British guy named Howe? I have some limited back up and a plane as standby. And now that Ian’s out of the picture, I think the split is 5-2-2-1, the last being my backup’s share of anything. Fair enough Riley?”
“Let’s see, guy comes in and saves my ass from freezing off? Yeah, I can agree to be generous with Ben’s treasure.”
“If this works, but right now it looks like a dead end…”
“Okay, Riley, go through my pack and set up the radio. It’s in a bunch of smaller pieces. Ben, grab the other camcorder and go talk a lot to document the ship. Never know if Ian will try something nasty later, and it’d be a shame to let the ol’ gal completely disappear from history.”
“I *knew* you were a real Gates, Xander.”
“You mean under the practicality? Yeah, what can I say…to quote Bart Simpson the only three good wars, in reverse order, are the Star Wars Trilogy, World War Two as the Allies, and … drum roll… the American Revolution. I just won’t let innocents die for a treasure hunt, okay?”
“I get that, Xander, really.”
“Okay, so let’s get it in gear, guys. We need to get our butts back to the States and figure out a next move.”
Riley paused for a moment, “So who’s the guy serving as back up.”
“Name’s Stanley Jobson.”
“The computer zeitgeist that helped stop that terrorist in LA before we came up here?”
“Who are you, Xander?”
“I’m a guy that seems to attract lots of weird crap just for the heck of it, Riley. Now, let’s get going. ‘kay?”
Stanley and Xander weren’t exactly happy at the idea of Ian Howe and his mercenaries attempting and possibly even succeeding in stealing the Declaration of Independence, but Ben’s insistence that they try to prevent it had proved a failure. But now, sitting in a secondary van down the street and tapped into the city fiber backbone, they shook their heads as they began setting off fire and police alarms throughout the DC area, seemingly randomly. And they managed to use two of Ian’s front-online accounts to cover themselves further and blame the criminal himself. Tied specifically into a line with Riley, they see things as they unfold.
It had been quite frustrating for the three men to come up against a wall of indifference when they tried to tell the authorities about Ian and his plan to grab the Declaration, but here they were now making sure Ben wouldn’t get himself killed preempting the bastard.
As soon as Howe’s men closed in on Riley, Ben and the ‘Declaration of Independence’ lady, Xander swerved his van and opened up with a MAC on the vehicle with the criminals, missing tires but keeping most of the bad guys occupied. Again and again they managed, until finally forced to break of pursuit long enough for Howe to get away.
After a quick regrouping, and going over Ben’s escape, they abandoned the idea of going back to their makeshift base of operations in favor of the house of Patrick Henry Gates, father of Benjamin Franklin Gates and uncle to Alexander Hamilton Gates.
With Stanley and Holly, sleeping in the back of the passenger van, driving around for a while so as to keep an eye out, the others headed in.
“Dad,” Ben greeted his father, who answered the door.
“Where's the party?”
“Well... I'm in a little trouble.”
“Is she pregnant?”
“Well, if she is, are you gonna leave the woman carrying your grandchild standing out in the cold?”
“I look pregnant?” Abigail asked Xander in concern, Riley coming from the rear.
“No, you’re absolutely gorgeous; he’s just a mean old grump.” She smiled at the probable-criminal and stepped in after the others.
The elder Gates led the way into the home, “This better not be about that dumb treasure…Well, have a seat. Make yourselves comfortable. There's some pizza. It's still warm, I think.”
“Dad...I need the Silence Dogood letters.”
“Figured, it's about the treasure.” The older man shook his head, and looked at the others, “And he dragged you three into this nonsense?”
“I’m your nephew Alexander Hamilton Gates, Jessica’s son. So I already share the family insanity gene.”
“No, I’m Alexander.”
“Well get out of this before you waste your life.”
Ben grimaced, “Knock it off, Dad. Sure, sure, I know, I'm the family kook.”
“I have a job, a house, health insurance. At least I had your mother, for however brief a time. At least I had you. What do you have? Him?”
“Hey,” Xander shortly protested, “If it’s a matter of money, I could set Ben up on the Riviera for the rest of his life if he wanted. So at least don’t badmouth *me* Uncle Patrick.”
Ben sighed, hoping this wouldn’t escalate, “Look, if you just give us the letters, we're gone.”
“You disappoint me, Ben.”
“Well, maybe that's the real Gates-family legacy. Sons who disappoint their fathers.”
“Get out. Take your troubles with you.”
“I found the Charlotte.”
Xander and Riley cleared their throats, causing Ben to roll his eyes, “Okay, *we* found the Charlotte.”
“The Charlotte? You mean she was a ship?”
“Yeah, she was beautiful. It was amazing, Dad…”
“And the treasure?”
“No, no. But we found another clue that led us here.”
Xander spoke up, and with a gloved hand dropped a tape on the table, “And I have a copy of the film footage of her, from when we were there. It also has the pictures of the mercenaries we’re trying to keep the treasure from on it.”
The older Gates looked at the tape, then with a sigh back to his son, “Mercenaries? And another clue.”
“And that's all you'll ever find, trouble and more clues. Don't you get it, Ben? I finally figured it out. The legend says that the treasure was buried to keep it from the British. But what really happened was the legend was invented, to keep the British occupied searching for buried treasure. The treasure is a myth.”
“I refuse to believe that, Dad.”
“Well, you can believe what you want. You're a grown person. What am I doing? Do what you want, Ben. Do what you want.”
Abigail nodded and voiced her opinion at the man’s son, “He's probably right. You don't even know if there is another clue.”
“Well, I can think of a way where we could find out. And we can find out right now.” Ben removed the document and gestured for Xander to clear the table.
The older Gates didn’t move, but noted the old-looking document, “Looks like animal skin. How old is it?”
“Almost two hundred and twenty-five years.”
“Really? You sure?”
“Pretty darn. Now if this thing's in invisible ink, how do we look at it?’
“Throw it in the oven.”
“No,” everyone else responded to the elder Gates’ suggestion, further piquing his curiosity.
“Ferrous sulphate inks can only be brought out with heat,” Patrick Gates asserted.
Abigail began, “Yes, but this...”
“It's very old…” Ben finished, “This is very old, and we can't risk compromising the map.”
“You need a reagent. “
“Dad, it's really late. Why don't you get some rest?”
“I'm fine. Hmm, try lemons”
“You can't do that,” Abigail told Ben.
“But it has to be done,” he replied.
“Then someone who is trained to handle antique documents is gonna do it.” She held out her hand for the document.
A few minutes later, the group was ready, only Ben and Abigail hovering over the Declaration. Ben pondered, “Now, if there is a secret message, it'll probably be marked by a symbol in the upper right-hand corner.”
“I am so getting fired for this,” the woman grimaced, but nothing really was showing except faintly.
“I told you,” Patrick sighed, “You need heat. Hold it close to the light, there. See?”
They watched as something actually showed up, though not a map.
“That's not a map, Ben,” Xander jibed, “More clues?”
Patrick threw his hands theatrically into the air, “More clues. What a surprise.”
“Are those latitudes and longitudes?” Xander asked Ben.
“That's why we need the Silence Dogood letters. These are just the key. The key in Silence undetected. Dad, can we have the letters now?”
“Will somebody please explain to me what these magic numbers are?” Riley asked.
“It's an Ottendorf cipher,” the father, son and documents expert told him.
“And that means?”
Ben looked over, “Each of these three numbers corresponds to a word in a key. Usually a random book or a newspaper article. In this case, the Silence Dogood letters. So it's like the page number of the key text, the line on the page, and the letter in that line…So, Dad, where are the letters?”
“I don't have them, son.”
“I don't have them.”
“Where are they?”
“I donated them to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.”
Xander nodded and dialed Stanley, “Time to go. Pick us up ASAP.”
Abigail was still a bit amazed, “I still can't believe it. All this time no one knew what was on the back.”
“The back of what?” the elder Gates pressed, then he looked at the front, “No! Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
“I know…” Ben tried to calm his father as the others began mobilizing, Abigail reluctantly.
“Oh, my God. What have you done? This is... this is the...”
“This is the Declaration of Independence.”
“Yes, Dad, it is,” Ben replied as he handed it to Abigail, “And it's very delicate.”
“You stole it?”
“Dad, I can explain, but I don't have time. It was necessary. And you saw the cipher.”
“And that will lead to another clue, and that will lead to another clue! There is no treasure. I wasted years of my life. And now you've destroyed yours. And you pulled me into all this.”
“Well, we can't have that, Dad, so we’ll tie you up and borrow some stuff.”
Patrick Henry Gates’ car was left in a pay-by-the-month lot at the Philadelphia airport by the combined group. Stanley Jobson drove even though his daughter was present, turning to Xander as the others bickered or bantered in the seats of the dark-tinted passenger van.
“Xander…how old are you again?”
“Hmm, almost nineteen, why?”
“I’ve been meaning to ask, um, how is someone who is only nineteen able to deal with Shears, and now this?”
“Um, let’s just say that one night someone decided to download a copy of ‘Shears’ memories into my head…and with the…person who did it now on the run, I don’t plan on letting the government find out.”
“You just told me.”
“I trust you.”
“I, I have no real reason why…”
“Sure ya do…it started out because I was your backup to keep Holly safe; when Shears grabbed her anyway, I’m the guy who made sure none of his group would threaten you and her again. You figured you owed me. And besides, asking to be the rescue guy for an expedition into the Arctic involving a nearly two hundred year old ship? Admit it, you were curious.”
“Hey, the fact that I added a zero to what Shears paid you probably didn’t hurt.”
“Yeah…but now look what we’re doing…”
“Hey, they only know about the crazy people in the back seats, you and I are going to keep under the radar, especially you. When the Benster back there heads into the Hall, I’m going to be in the area in case Ian’s guys show up.”
“Why would they?”
“Come on, Independence Hall was where the Declaration was signed, where else would they start looking for clues but in Philly? Howe, whatever his real name is, isn’t stupid. That’s why as soon as anything happens to where one of us falls into his hands, you start sending his picture and the few bits of evidence we have on him, to all the law enforcement agencies, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, and use his accounts to stir up trouble again. I got it.”
“Not as much of a challenge, huh?”
“But more important…so what are you getting out of this?”
“The same, plus if a few items of a religious nature show up, I’m taking them for myself. Then give them to the Vatican or someone in a couple years.”
Ben spoke up from the back seat, “Like what, Xander?”
“The True Cross, the Grail, Excalibur, and the Spear…”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Gotta remember, Ben, I was raised Catholic…can you imagine a better Mass for a family reunion, than one with those items?”
“You’d use them?”
“Well, set up the Cross and have the parish priest do Mass with the Grail…yeah. But I’m not going to stab any humans with the Spear or declare myself King of the Britons with the sword.”
‘The sword should probably go to London…”
“Maybe…but the rest will go to the Mother Church if it leaves the States.”
“If it doesn’t?”
“The National Cathedral, where else?”
“I, hmm, I actually think that might work. And the Founding Fathers might like that since it wouldn’t really favor an Established Church.”
Abigail Chase spoke up, shaking her head, “You guys are strange.”
Xander smiled, “You wouldn’t be distantly related to a Cordelia Chase of Sunnydale, California, would you?”
“I’m not sure, but I might have a second cousin from there, why?”
“Ex-girlfriend of mine, used to call me various adjectives, too.”
“I’m not surprised,” she deadpanned, then turned back to Ben as the front seat folks quieted down and continued driving, “So you show up at your father's door and say you're in trouble and the first thing he assumes is I'm pregnant.”
“Is there a question in there?”
“I think there's an interesting story in there.”
“Well, my father thinks I've been a little too cavalier in my personal life.”
“Let me ask you something. Have you ever told someone -not a relative – ‘I love you’?”
“More than one someone?”
“Oh. Well, then my father would say you've been a little too cavalier in your personal life, too. Xander’s mom, my aunt, ran off with the second guy she went steady with. My father’s never mentioned her again.”
“So you get your sense of absolute certainty from him, do you?”
“Well, I'm sure I don't know what you mean.”
“Well, you're certain the treasure is real, despite what anyone else thinks.”
“No, but I hope it's real. I mean, I've dreamt it's real since my grandfather told me about it. But I want to hold it. I feel like I'm so close, I can taste it. But I just...I just want to know it's not just something in my head or in my heart.”
“People don't really talk that way any more, you know.”
“I know. But they still think that way sometimes. Even Xander.”
Xander came into the shop, Stanley and Holly having found and decided to rest at a nice extended-stay hotel. The group would join them later. He came up as Ben was talking about times of day and Independence Hall.
“Wait a minute, wait. You're gonna love this.” Ben said and turned and addressed the clerk, “Excuse me, can I see one of those hundred-dollar bills I paid you with?”
Xander interrupted, reaching into his own pocket and waving a ‘Franklin’ in front of Ben, “Here’s a ‘Ben’, Ben.”
“Thank you Xan-Xan…On the back of a hundred-dollar bill is an etching of Independence Hall…”
“Get to the point, Ben. We have a bunch o’ folks after us.”
“Now, I think that if we look at this clock tower......we may find the specific time.”
Xander rolled his eyes, “I’ll get the rental car ready; hurry up before you make us targets.”
Xander was realizing just how integrated his Gabriel Shears skills were as he with his trusty tranquilizer pistols rendered unconscious a third of six mercs after Ben, Abby and Riley. ‘Must have hired a few more after we nearly got him in DC,’ Xander mused. He cautiously he made his way toward where he expected Chase to run, maybe Poole.
Drawing out his sidearm loaded with rubber bullets, he returned fire on automatic when a ricochet nearly got him. The fourth merc went down, ribs breaking under the impact. Xander brushed away brick dust from a slightly scraped cheek and pocketed the handkerchief.
Xander waited with Abigail and Riley for Ben’s phone call. Relying on Ian to get the man out of FBI hands didn’t fill them with confidence, but they had little to work with on such short notice.
“Hi, sweetie. How's your day going?”
“It turns out helping someone escape from FBI custody is a criminal act. And he's the only criminal we knew. So we called him and made a deal.”
“Yeah, we’re both safe. Riley's right here, doing something clever with a computer.”
Riley nodded, Stanley watching over the shoulder, “I'm tracking him through the... Hey! I'm tracking you through the GPS in Shaw's phone. They take a turn anywhere we don't want, we'll know it. So don't worry.”
Abigail continued, “If Ian tries to double-cross us, we can call the FBI and tell them right where you are. And we figured out the clue, so we’re across the street. Hiding…Ben, there is a catch. We made Ian believe he could have the treasure. It was the only way we could get this far.”
“We’ll see you in a few.”
She hung up, and Xander turned to her and Riley, a happy ‘coldness’ radiating off of him as he straightened his suit, hair slicked back and shades on once again. “Okay, kids, its show time. If we’re lucky, everybody walks away. If not, I have three tracking devices on each of you. If they lead you into a nasty spot, I won’t be using fake bullets this time, so make sure to duck and cover. Got it?”
The two nervously nodded as this callous and yet gleeful version of Xander took control of the situation, continuing, “Stanley and Holly are in a red van, we have four different vans around the area; they have ‘Bon Jovi’ bumper stickers taped to the inside of the windshields so if you run, the keys are under the passenger-side floor mats.”
Riley frowned, “Bon Jovi?”
“Wanted, Dead or Alive…”
“Helps to remember, doesn’t it?”
“Next time *I* pick the band…”
“Just get going.”
Xander swore as the listening devices revealed that Patrick Henry gates was now also in the hands of Ian Howe. Swearing to himself, he continued to listen, thae taxi he decided to hail with a hundred in his hand already pulling over.
Ben, sighing, and showing concern, “Dad.”
Ian smiled, not quite a sneer, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?”
“Trinity Church. We have to go inside Trinity Church.”
Xander directed the driver to the church.
“Good. Excellent.” He turned to Shaw, “Well, why don't you ask Dr Chase and Riley to join us? I'm sure they're around here somewhere.”
A moment later, five mercs in addition to Shaw, Viktor and Ian came up with the others. Plus another driving the opposition’s vehicle. Ben stepped over to his father, “Are you all right?”
“What do you think? I'm a hostage.”
“Let him go, Ian.”
“When we find the treasure.”
“No, now. Or you can figure out the clues for yourself.”
“I don’t think so,” the man smiled, gesturing at Abigail and Riley being guided from behind the two Gates. Let’s go.”
Xander had barely managed to get into position a few moments before the rest arrived. Hiding back behind the altar area, he could her everything directly but not be seen.
“Parkington Lane,” the elder Gates stated, shrugging.
“Beneath Parkington Lane,” his son stressed, looking around.
“But why would the map lead us here, then take us somewhere else?”
“What's the purpose?”
“Just another clue,” Patrick griped, gesturing dismissively at his son.
“Dad. No, you were right. Parkington Lane has to be here somewhere.”
“A street inside the church?”
“Not inside. Beneath.”
“Beneath the church.”
Xander listened as the two men made a tentative peace, discussed the unlikelihood of escape and then discover that the route went through a tomb. Reception was becoming difficult, but he’d heard the merc leader tell his men left in the main area of the church to only break radio silence if the Feds showed up, then hurry downstairs.
Xander angled his way behind the largest of the men, one who decided to position himself near the front of the church. He listened a little longer.
“Okay,” he heard Ben grimace and sigh, “Who wants to go down the creepy tunnel inside the tomb first?”
Howe took control of the situation downstairs, the initiative being his after all, “Right. McGregor, Viktor, you stay here. If the others report anything, stuff the remains into one of the other chambers and retreat inside. And if anyone should come out without me, well... use your imagination.”
Xander drew out his tranq gun, hoping to use non-lethal means instead of the .45 in his main hand, when the man turned, and looked surprised. Xander fired both weapons, the dart going straight into the guy’s trachea, and the bullet passing through the lecturn and into the man’s shin.
The report of the weapon, followed by a scream, blocked out what little could be heard downstairs, but also drew the other two mercs in response. Xander emptied his weapon at one of the two men, following and leading the target,i finally winging the man as well as splinters from a confession booth tearing into the man’s face.
The second merc opened up as Xander dove through a door off to the side, some of the rounds actually striking his compatriot in an arm and side. Xander made the most of it, running outside and racing feverishly the long way around toward the front of the church. Moments later, he opened and rolled through the doors and close to where he’d wounded the second merc. Firing twice into the man, he assured only two downstairs and the one he saw in his own previous position would be a threat.
He smiled ferally, as he removed the downed man’s radio and weapons, “Piece of cake, I have them outnumbered.”
Stealthily he made his way to the tombs, fireman-carrying the unconscious and wounded thug, hearing only a murmuring between the two guards down below, but it seemed they were waiting to hear an update on the fight.
As Xander neared the bottom, he readied his captured weapon as well as his reloaded .45, then chucked the man out into view quite noisily. They opened up in response as he then rolled and fired both weapons, striking both men, but not too seriously. Viktor dropped his weapon, hand destroyed, but ‘MacGregor’ after a scream resumed firing, but hit only their fellow merc. Xander felt four slugs glance off the sides of the vest he’d taken to wearing, the pain incredible, ‘Yay me, cracked ribs!’
Xander kept firing until empty, Viktor ended quite rudely with four rounds going from groin to face, but the other man found cover. Xander rolled back and under the stairs, reloading as he heard the other man and another from upstairs both quietly readying themselves.
Slowly the he heard the merc make his way back toward the steps, as he heard soft footfalls coming down the steps. As the two men on the same side nearly killed each, then stopped in very brief relief, Xander rolled out, fired both weapons from the floor, causing the men to respond instinctually by opening up themselves. Their fire flew all over, but mainly into each other as Xander tried rolling out of the way. He felt several rounds again glance off the vest, and a few ricochets slicing into his ass and along his right calf muscle. He shouted and continued firing over the edge of the stairs until both guns were empty. A minute passed, and he looked to find the mercs dead.
“Okay, that leaves three bad guys down below, and the driver,” He said as he took up a position facing the stairs and fixed himself up. He left the vest on for a moment; it would hurt too much to remove. He reloaded, noticed his bloodied clothes, and shrugged. “Worry about that later. Maybe get out at night.”
He called Stanley, and told him to activate the Ian Plan. He also told the man to ‘run silent for now. Only if they actually physically showed up would it be safe. The man wished him luck.
‘Okay…it looks like they stuffed the guy into a tomb.’ Xander looked and noted the Parkington Lane one and opened it, ‘Guess they were planning on following Ian’s orders. Hope they weren’t able to contact him.’
He shimmied through to the other side, finding a rickety mess of poor carpentry, but was amazed that in such a dank setup it had actually lasted for so long. He rechecked his weapons, and slipped the night goggles taken off of Viktor and put them on. Before he could check the stairs in what little light seemed to leak upwards from a lantern below, moving upwards via some form of dumbwaiter system, he grimaced in realization he might be too late.
He lowered himself to the floor, checked his weapons next to him, the two guns and a knife. Plus his own two hands. He could at least avenge his family. The elevator crept up, and he could hear Ian giving instructions to Shaw and the other merc, but there wasn’t any sign of others. As the very tip of the elevator cleared, Xander simply emptied his weapons into the conveyance. Screams, blood spraying and, briefly, return fire without direction broke the silence and lit up the darkness.
Xander stood and looked around in the shattered elevator, swearing as Ian’s voice came over a radio, turning, Xander felt and herd four rounds strike the vest, causing him to scream in pain and fall hard to the floor of the elevator itself, which shattered from all of the pressure and abuse. Ian sneered and was about to finish him as it all gave way. Ian smirked at the amusing for him turn of events. Saluting with the tube containing the Declaration, he scurried away quickly.
Those down below heard gunfire, screams and gunfire. Then silence. They raced back from where they’d just opened the vault, to find two bodies thud to the ground with the remains of the elevator, but continued to hear screams, bad words and the splintering of woodwork until they saw a man suddenly swing on a rope from one side to the other in front of them. A thud on the stone wall. Then a whimper.
Then they found a barely conscious Xander Gates. Riley summed it up, looking at the young man, “Right now, it’s gotta suck to be him.”
Xander had regained consciousness to find himself lying down next to Ben and a bunch of Federal agents, bodies of the mercenaries bagged next to him. He chose to listen to the agent, Sadusky, interact with the only relative Xander really cared for so far.
“You do know you by giving the identity of the other guy, you just handed me your biggest bargaining chip?”
“The Declaration of Independence is not a bargaining chip. Not to me or my family.”
The agent shook his head, and gestured to a pew, “Have a seat, Gates. So what's your offer?”
“How about a bribe? Say...ten billion dollars?”
Xander in spite of the pain, gasped out, “Minus my two billion.”
The agent and the treasure-preserver both rolled their eyes, Xander continuing, “Hey, I didn’t actually steal anything…and I tried to warn your buddies about Ian…even gave them a name they didn’t even bother to write down. I get my share.”
Sadusky raised an eyebrow in amusement and turned back to Ben, “I take it you found the treasure?”
“It's about five stories beneath your shoes.”
Sadusky absently rubbed a mason’s ring on his pants as he pondered and spoke, “You know, the Templars and the Freemasons believed that the treasure was too great
for any one man to have, not even a king. That's why they went to such lengths
to keep it hidden.”
“That's right. The Founding Fathers believed the same thing about government. I figure their solution will work for the treasure too…Give it to the people…Divide it amongst the Smithsonian, the Louvre, the Cairo museum...There's thousands of years of world history down there. And it belongs to the world, and everybody in it.”
Xander, “And I get my two percent, plus religious considerations.”
Sadusky rolled his face, but continued to look at Ben, “You really don't understand the concept of a bargaining chip.”
“Okay, here's what I want. Dr Chase gets off completely clean, not even a little Post-it on her service record.”
“I want the credit for the find to go to the entire Gates family, with the assistance of Mr. Riley Poole and a researcher that isn’t directly involved hands-on.”
“And his two percent?”
“Tax-free for this year?” the boy interjected, “I’m a resident of the Grand Caymans, now.”
“Yeah, Xander gets his two percent, tax-free for this year, and if the Grail and True Cross are in there they go to the National Cathedral where he gets the first Mass. He did save it all from Ian,” Ben conceded, remembering how the young man had taken out all of Ian’s men except one in order to rescue and avenge them while keeping the treasure from becoming loot, “And you’ll probably need to make sure he hasn’t rigged the main shaft with explosives to keep Ian from winning.”
“You’re kidding…” the agent began, then looked at the bodies of some of the top killers for hire on Interpol’s lists bagged all around them, “Alright…and what about you?”
“I'd really love not to go to prison. I can't even begin to describe how much I would love not to go to prison.”
“Someone's got to go to prison, Ben.”
“Well, if you've got a helicopter, I think I can help with that.”
December 14th, 1999 7:00PM
Xander Gates landed at LAX and found the car he’d purchased over the phone waiting for him. In the two months, he’d become something of a celebrity, as well as one of the richest men in the world. And with the tax-freedom confirmed atop his declared residency, when eventually someone figured out he was really worth well over eleven billion, he *should* be able to avoid the taxes legally.
What he wasn’t really expecting was to find Angel, Cordelia, Wesley Wyndham-Price and another guy waiting for him at the terminal.
“Angel,” Xander greeted, offering his hand to shake, “Any reason for the visit?”
“Yeah, you hear about Sunnydale?”
“No? What’s wrong?” he replied, then nodded to the others, “Hey, Cordelia.”
Angel followed as Xander made his way with his two carry-on bags and toward a man with his name on a sign. The others followed, Cordelia a little surprised and indignant.
“The town is surrounded by military…a laryngitis epidemic. We can’t call, but we managed to exchange an email with Willow. They don’t seem to have their voices, but other noises are just fine. And there seem to be some nasty demons responsible.”
“Hold on a sec,” Xander directed, and filled out and signed paperwork that closed the car deal, tipping the guys a couple hundred, getting an offer to help him with his bags. Xander nodded handing over tags and promising two hundred to meet him at his car.
“Sorry, DB, go ahead. What can I do to help?”
“I don’t know, but you’re important now, high profile. Even if you’ve managed to somehow avoid most photographers.”
“Alright, I suppose you have at least the beginnings of a plan? And why’s Wesley dressed like a biker?”
“He’s a rogue demon hunter…” Angel deadpanned, causing the young man to turn to Wyndham-Price.
“Considering the two possible meanings of that statement, which of them applies to you?”
“I am not constrained by affiliation, but hunt demons.”
“You actually look fit; a little beat up, but fit. Joined up with these guys?”
“Um, not as of yet, though I am getting tired of the road.”
“And the guy who seems to be channeling my old dress sense?”
Cordelia smirked, “He’s Doyle. He gets visions. He’s half-Brachen.”
Xander smiled at the guy, and shook his hand, “It doesn’t show, though after months of that treatment I’m surprised even one of your species hasn’t run away screaming and swearing violence.”
“You know you demons…” the Irishman stated, a bit surprised.
Xander smirked at Wes, “I have since I forced DB to help me save Buffy in the Master’s cave. Just drove Giles crazy on purpose. Studied all summer; even learned Latin. Now that few people are likely to underestimate me, I figure it doesn’t hurt to let folks know I’m smarter than I seemed. Good luck to both of you, Doyle, Wesley.”
They reached the front of the terminal to see Xander’s new Jaguar, and that his bags were being placed in the trunk. Cordelia sighed almost in pain at the display of wealth as the young treasure hero tipped the guy half her month’s rent. Xander leaned on the car.
“Your plan, Angel?”
“From the news, there’s a few accessible subterranean ways under the cordon, and we can get in that way. We link up with Buffy after we kill anything that gets in our way.”
“I like this plan, Angel. We bringing any of the rookies with us, or are we doing a ‘Butch and Sundance’ again.”
“Well I’m hoping to avoid the Bolivian Army if we can. But just the two of us.”
Cordelia looked concerned, “What do you mean AGAIN? And why just the two of you?”
Xander looked at her, “I use lots of guns and explosives, and don’t care if the guy firing at me is demon or human. Angel’s good with that, especially since he wants me to help him save Buffy. Angel, what do you have for weapons?”
“I have what you left, in my trunk over there.”
“Okay, go get it, give Wes your keys and we’ll head out now.”
“It’s dark out, I’m rested, and haven’t made a reservation for a place to stay the night. Might as well do it now.”
Cordelia looked at his car, Xander catching the very slight sigh. He reached into his pocket, “Let’s make sure your people are safe while we’re gone. Cor, um, no…Wes, here’s five grand in cash; take the others to … Ojai or the Simi Valley for a couple days. Find a nice hotel and just relax. Here’s a spare cell phone; don’t use it except for an emergency…speed dial one is me. Got it? We’ll be in touch when we can.”
The two men looked at each other as they lifted out of a manhole in the town center; the younger man flipped a switch and suddenly the methane buildup in the tunnels and sewers, though faint, had a little help from some explosives and some wires. The cascading effect caused a bunch of damage while covering the amazing path of death the two cut swathed; atop of several similar explosions over the last hour, and a fair percentage of the town was beginning to sag from the underground stress, and they could see from where they were in midtown near the clock tower, a group of commando types Willow’s emails had warned about, were engaging bunches of frightened demons trying to flee the sewers and maybe even Sunnydale.
Xander watched as a somewhat hulky Northern European farm-boy type led his squad into some nasties; Angel waved and pointed in the opposite direction, where they found Willow and Oz backing up Buffy as she flipped a disgusting flesh-monster of some type to the ground. Another moved to grab her from behind, but both Xander and the souled vampire fired their .45s into the thing’s head from behind and the right of the Scoobies, startling them all as the flesh-thing’s head blew up, killing it.
Buffy turned and kicked her grounded opponent succinctly in what passed for a throat, then slid to the ground and used both arms to snap its neck and half-way rip the head off the beast. Xander and Angel continued firing at three more things, likewise ending them as they reloaded, pocketed the empty mags and turned as they detected two figures.
Moving at lightning speed, Xander quickly threw the first man to the side, rolling his gun around as Angel kicked-out and pushed the threatening vampire in the gut. Both men fired into heart and head, dusting a shocked and somewhat hurt-looking William the Bloody into dust.
Buffy started getting up from the ground, as Xander and Angel spotted two more flesh monsters entering the clock tower building. Dashing off with just some waving, the two signaled each other that they didn’t have much in the way of rounds left, maybe three mags between them and two WP grenades.
The two quickly were attacked by two of the flesh monsters as they neared the top of the steps, their guns wounding the things but not really doing any debilitating damage. Xander after months of activity and heavy lifting, had managed to bulk up enough not to easily lose his balance, throwing one down the stairs with a judo style move as Angel snapped the neck of another that continued to writhe. The young man retrieved his weapon, firing twice into the head of the thing, only to be struck with the club of a third, and he could feel the stress on his lower left arm. Buffy charges up from below, a stake catching the beastie in the hand as it tries again, the Slayer and Angel sharing the kill as they hit opposite sides of its head and causing it to mush as Xander and Angel bring up weapons and point them automatically at Buffy, who has a stake to Angel’s chest. The three look at each other, smile with some embarrassment, and stand down.
She watched as both males top off what they have left in the way of bullets, then nodded as Xander pointed at Angel to go first and to the right, shooting, then he, Xander, would do the same and to the left. Xander counted off three-two-one then pointed to Buffy to shoot up and go at it. She nodded again.
Angel and Xander make it up and in, shooting the nearest threats as they do. Three flesh-things remain, and behind them three skinny suited weirdoes smiling in a truly ‘whacked’ fashion. Angel close up manages to blast the head and face apart of two flesh-things, and Xander the other plus cause some damage to one of the ‘Gentlemen’ enough to cause the dropping of a scalpel. Buffy as her two partners have softened up the opposition, dives in with stake and a sword, trying to go to town on the nearest creeps (NO, Angel-haters, I don’t mean him!).
The swords briefly damage, but don’t seem to be doing the job. But she does manage to throw one down the stairs, even as Angel is badly hurt and stunned by another. Seeing Buffy grab the Gentleman’s arm, he goes for a playground move and drops to hands and knees behind the thing, helping her to toss a second down the stairs. He goes for broke and drops both his WPs down after them as she engages the third.
Angel looks around, and begins to wreck stuff, gesturing at Xander to do the same. Finally, they both see a box and Angel throws it against the wall, destroying it. Buffy turns, notices their waving and screams.
The threat of the Gentlemen is ended throughout Sunnydale, though the Initiative continues its battle with the demons until just before dawn.
Buffy looks tired, and with Angel and Xander to each side, slumps to the floor, “I’m tired.”
“Yeah,” the males agree, then Xander sighs, “Hey DB?”
“How are you on catching humans leaping from a clock tower to the ground?”
“Well, it looks like when I took out the two things downstairs with the Willy-Pete’s, I kinda started a fire.”
“Oh. I guess we better go?”
“Yeah, how ‘bout we take the little lady with us?”
“Just this once…Butch.”
“Come on, Sundance, Calamity Buff looks tired.”
And Xander Gates, intending at least for the holidays, came home.