So it begins
Chapter 16: So it begins.
Xander stormed through the base, causing every soldier in the base to quickly move out of his path lest they be shoved out of his way. The rage evident in his eyes was enough to make them nervous, even the seasoned soldiers among them were cautious when it came to Xander and even more so when they finally figured out just how much more powerful he was than all of them. They had all seen the sparring bouts between him and Faith, and the easy way that he had quickly overpowered her with nothing more than brute force. Faith’s strength was a source of great discussion, his on the other hand was the source of fear since they’d seen him grab her in midair and slam her down into a sparring mat so hard that it had left a dent. And the rumor mill had it that his armor actually amplified his strength greatly.
The rest of the group, minus Majors Carter and Castleman, and Lieutenant Hailey, followed along behind Xander each of them looking like they were truly pissed off.
Xander made his way over to the access hatch to his private armory, where his MJOLNIR armor was stored, shouting orders as he moved. “Team leaders, briefing in fifteen minutes. All teams draw full combat kit and prepare to move out. NOW people.”
Colonel O’Neill glanced at the soldiers, they were looking a bit confused since the last orders they had received were that they were standing down for the night and now it was prep for combat. Deciding to nip any problems in the bud he amended Xander’s orders. “Draw heavy weapons people, we’ve got some new Intel and we have to act on it quickly before it becomes useless.”
Doing as they were told the marines began to pull on their combat kit and prepped the weapons that they would need for the mission.
Seeing that things were well in hand O’Neill walked over to the armory room that Xander had disappeared into and after a moment to think up something to say he ducked inside. He found Harris stripping out of his BDU’s, putting on the skinsuit that a Spartan had to wear under the MJOLNIR armor.
“Wanna tell me what’s got you so brassed off?” O’Neill asked, not at all concerned about the nudity issue, decades of military service having expunged any nudity taboo’s he might have had had rather ruthlessly over the years.
“For over two week’s we’ve been hunting Angelus and every other goddamn night she’s been spreading her legs for that monster.” Harris raged as he zipped up the skinsuit and began to slowly pull on the armor.
“Ok, now you want to tell me the real reason?” O’Neill questioned. He could understand Harris’ anger over the blonde’s stupidity but in all honesty the girl was just that, a child. She didn’t have any experience in facing off against an enemy with centuries to learn patience and how to manipulate you from behind the lines using psychology to turn you into what you feared the most.
“I should have checked, we found Harmony’s body for Christ’s sake, I should have checked on Cordy, but I didn’t!” Xander nearly shouted. The rage evident on his face was something that O’Neill could understand. No one wanted to think that they might have made a mistake that would cost someone they cared about their life and Harris was feeling that guilt in spades right now.
“You don’t know for sure that she’s been killed.” Jack offered.
“No one’s seen her since Christmas break started and if he grabbed Harmony he had to have grabbed Cordy, he has to know that I didn’t even like Harmony all that much. It was a clue and I never even picked up on it.” Xander cried as he felt the first sign of tears beginning to build up behind his eyes. He couldn’t even begin to imagine the sorts of things that Angelus might have done to her with so much time to work with.
“You made a mistake, you’re only human.” Jack stated calmly knowing that the kid was looking for an argument, something, anything to let off a bit of steam. Unfortunately for him that would be the worst thing he could do, the US military and for that matter most militaries around the globe understood that when a soldier is looking for a way to release emotional steam off physically its best to stand by them but not to be confrontational. Either that or take them out on a training course and let them run themselves down till they could talk, unfortunately there wasn’t one available.
“I should have known!”
“You’re not perfect.” Cortana said as she joined the conversation, having been listening in on the intercom in the armory room.
“…” Xander just stood there on the platform, half in the armor, the heavy servos locking the leg portions together.
“You make mistakes, you learn from them and you move on. That’s the nature of the game kid. It sucks but unless you’re hiding a time machine around here somewhere I don’t see a lot of options.” Jack commented. He knew that his tone was probably going to aggravate the kid a lot but this was war, they couldn’t afford to take the time to hold his hand through these times.
Xander leaned forward and grabbed onto a nearby railing set up for him to get his balance when getting into and out of the armor. The muscles in his back and arms tensed as he felt the unbelievable amount of rage flowing through his system, the bar he was holding onto back to groan as the metal slowly twisted in his grip.
“If you go off on this mission letting your anger get the best of you you’ll just get a lot of us killed, hell in fact you can go it alone. I won’t let any of my people go with you if your not going to listen to any commonsense. But if you can let go of your rage then we can sit down and figure out a sensible plan of attack and we’ll take this bastard down.” Jack said calmly. ‘Walking a fine line here, push too much and he’ll snap, not enough and we’ll be walking into a suicide mission.’
“What do you want from me?” Xander shouted as he tried to get his rage under control.
“To accept the fact that you made a mistake, it happens, and to move on. There’s too much at stake to have you wallowing in self misery.”
“A mistake?” Xander spun around and glared at the older man.
“As bad as it sounds there is nothing you can do, you have to accept that.”
“So where do we go from here?” Xander asked as he turned back to suiting up in his armor. He knew that O’Neill was saying the right things but he just couldn’t make the connection in his mind, his heart, his rage and his emotions were just conflicting with the training he’d received from John’s personality integration and it made it hard to accept that he’d screwed up on this level.
“Time to take off the kid’s gloves. Up to this point we’ve only been doing small scale hit and run strikes, I think its time we brought in the big stuff.” Jack smirked as he mentally reviewed through the inventory of equipment that they had on sight.
“What are you thinking?” Cortana asked curiously.
“The Sunnydale National Guard depot has been reopened and we have another two hundred soldiers from there that we can draw on.”
“Guardsmen are no better than cannon fodder, save them the trouble and order them to shoot themselves.” Xander commented as he sealed the chest piece together. The helmet clicking into place a moment later and a second after that the charging platform that he was standing on jumpstarted the armor, the shield drawing power from the newly repaired fusion pack and growing in strength by the second.
“Can’t believe that we managed to move them in without you figuring it out. Their not guardsmen, their Delta Force.” Jack smirked.
President Thomas Whitmore leaned back in his luxurious office chair and stared out the window. ‘What I wouldn’t give to be out there at Groom Lake.’ The first reports had just crossed his desk indicating that the original two Death Gliders that had been recovered from the attack by Apophis were starting to generate enough real results to begin testing on new equipment installed on some test beds. Whitmore could almost feel the call of the air screaming through his blood, telling him to make whatever excuses he could just to get up into the wild blue yonder one more time. Unfortunately he knew deep down that his days of flying for pleasure were over, he had too many pressing duties to keep him tied to his desk for the foreseeable future.
Frowning slightly, Whitmore turned his head to look over at the Secret Service agent who had just entered the room. “I thought I asked to not be disturbed?”
“Yes sir, you did but you also said to remind you that you have a meeting down in the War room five minutes before it started.” Agent Garcia respectfully pointed out.
“Thank you.” President Whitmore replied as he carefully grabbed the needed files off his desk and walked over to where his detail stood waiting to escort him to the War room. Even after being President for going on three years he still found it ridiculous that he needed a bodyguard escort inside of the White House.
Entering the secure room buried deep underground Whitmore returned the salutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and nodded a greeting to the rest of the National Command Authority group, which had grown to include the Vice President, the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense. The quartet, which included the president, were responsible for insuring the continuation and safe running of the federal government so it was rare for them all to be in one location at a time. Technically it was a breach of policy, violating the designated survivor policy that had been put into play ever since the threat of the Goa’uld had been quantified with the discovery of their mobile assets. Namely the warships that could show up on Earth’s doorstep at a moments notice.
“Mr. President.” General Theodore Miles said.
“General, you called this meeting, what’s the word?”
“We recovered a ship from PX2-768.” Miles began.
“Good news, but not enough to bring us all here.” Whitmore interrupted. He had far too many other things to do today, namely to try and hold onto his majority in Congress. Too many people were starting to grumble about the number of changes that he’d railroaded through them lately. If he wasn’t careful the government could grind to a halt as they began to argue amongst themselves during the time when they needed to present a solidified front to the enemies that were starting to assemble at the gates.
“We recovered a Sto’lek class transport, it was fully loaded with approximately twenty thousand tons of processed naquadah. Plus in addition to that windfall we also managed to recover three more sarcophagi, while they still present a hefty risk to anyone who overuses it we now have the ability to at least heal some of the more serious wounded that have returned from their missions.”
“That’s great news, and now for the bad news correct?” Whitmore prompted. Inwardly he was celebrating. That shipment of ore could be put to good use on Nova Terra and hopefully the first generation Naquadah reactor’s that Major Carter had designed could be put into service and a few of them might be brought back to Earth for use. If nothing else the scientific advances being done on Nova Terra were going to have to be filtered back to Earth sometime soon. Harris’s release of mass producible fusion power plants were something that could be built by modern technology if given enough time and time was the one element he didn’t think they were going to have a lot of in the coming days.
“The first elements of Delta Force have been fully deployed to Nova Terra, and thanks to all the materials that Mr. Harris has so generously released to us we have some concrete data to start feeding into the computers. We might be able to have a Cairo class station on within the next eight months, its presence in orbit of Nova Terra will greatly increase the security of the planet, not to mention with all of the starship information we now possess from him and a variety of other sources we just might be able to field two starships within six to seven months.”
“I thought we were still a year away from even laying down a hull?” Vice President Nathan Peterson questioned. He had seen the latest reports from the shipyards that were still under heavy construction out on Nova Terra and he didn’t recall them saying that they had any real free berthing space.
“We have one slip ready, another about to come online next week and with all the data we’ve been accumulating we’ve had people from NASA and the Bureau of ship design running constant scenarios ever since we started getting our hands on actual hardware. A few of them are sci-fi geeks and have been doing this stuff on their own time with their personal computers so we swiped a lot of stuff, designs, hull geometry’s and other stuff directly from their personal projects.” Miles replied. His staff was currently looking over the proposed plan to scrap the current construction schedule of the dreadnaught class in favor of producing four or five ships from the material to offer maximum diversity and effectiveness.
“Alright, and what ship design are you currently preparing to green light?” Whitmore asked.
“The Olympus class corvette sir. It’s designed to grant us the maximum number of hulls within the shortest amount of time.”
“Why does that sound familiar General?”
“The name was stolen from a popular television series, along with the general outward appearance.” Miles winced as he offered up the explanation. He could still remember the outraged shouts that the Admiral had sent his way when he had finally come across that interesting little tidbit of information.
“Not to sound too disparaging to whatever person finished the design but is the ship actually suitable for the kind of combat that we’re going to be putting it in?” Whitmore questioned.
“Sir, I understand your reluctance, but after talking it over with the design team they’ve assured me that while the outward appearance is that of a hull design stolen from a fictional source, the underlying technology is all sound and tested in a variety of combat scenarios.”
“We’re going to get our asses sued off.” Peterson muttered just loud enough to carry to almost every man at the table.
‘Must have watched the show at least once.’ Miles thought as he tried to come up with another defending argument for the ship design. It was a good little ship in his mind; maximum versatility and weapons packed into a hull design under 300 meters. Already he could see a dozen different uses for the ship.
“Turning our attention away from the overzealous efforts of a devoted fan, what’s the latest on the supernatural front, aka Sunnydale.”
“The latest reports coming from Colonel O’Neill and Harris, we really need to give him a rank, have been very disturbing. The town is infested even beyond our worst probability studies and from the looks of it even Harris didn’t think it was going to be this bad. For the past two weeks they’d fought a number of running engagements in a variety of terrains including, parks, tunnels underneath the town both natural and artificial, in and out of business, in people’s houses and a dozen other locations. How they’ve managed to keep this a secret I’ll never know.” General Finlay replied. He had been in the USMC so he knew how deadly things could get on the ground, especially when you were trying to take steps to keep everything from the general public.
“Just how bad is it?’
“They went in with a little over fifty men on that first night, plus a few extras that were going to be assigned as a rearguard over at the Guard depot. Over the past two weeks they’ve taken approximately fifty percent causalities from the various assaults, and even with the constant reinforcements that we’ve been sending they don’t have the strength to hold onto any of the ground taken.”
“Dammit.” Whitmore swore. This came as quite a shock to the others in the room; in the years since they’d known the man they had not once known him to actually resort to vulgarity. The Kinsey situation had come close but even that had only resulted in some pacing and jaw grinding.
“At this moment we’re waiting on word from the recruiting trip that Harris went on. He apparently felt it necessary to break confidentially on Nova Terra and bring in two civilians, along with their families. The man is a walking liability.” Secretary of Defense John Rolfe argued. “We need to have him sign a binding contract that restricts his activities to those that are authorized so we can avoid his damnable unauthorized activities, like the treasonous act of his dispensing the database of his to the Russians and Chinese. He had no right to do so until we had the opportunity to examine it for breaches of national security.”
Whitmore sighed and leaned back in the comfortable chair. ‘It’s going to be a long day.’ Even as he did so the Joint Chiefs began to argue loudly, some in defense of Mr. Harris and some against him.
Xander carefully walked up the stairs into the second floor conference room. It had become the defacto meeting place for the group over the past two weeks, the large screen monitors and computer stations in the room giving it the look of a command and control center, which in effect it was. His armor magnified his strength so every step he took was taken with care, sine he didn’t want to be stomping any holes into the flooring and take a sudden trip to the ground floor.
“Colonel, how long until the first Delta elements get into position?”
“They should be in position in the next twenty minutes, they’re still kitting out for tunnel fighting.”
“Good. Send a message saying that we’ll meet up with their squad at beacon Echo-48. The rest each have their assault route already so we’ll continue as planned” Xander replied as he took his place at the head of the table. For the past two weeks whenever the teams had went down into the tunnels they had dropped off radio beacons at several locations to mark navpoints on their maps. Plus the beacons also doubled as radio boosters to get around any interference that might affect the comm. systems that the groups were carrying.
“So this is it? We go down, kick some vamp ass and don’t come back up till it’s over?” Faith questioned.
“Bout fucking time.” Faith stated succinctly
O’Neill just smirked at the teens words. ‘To have the belief of immortality that came with youth once more.’
“And what if he runs before you get there??” Janna queried from her place at the table. As she asked the question several team leaders walked in from the door and took their seats around what had come to be called the war table.
“Simple enough, most of the tunnels that lead to safety have been collapsed, by us of course and the few that weren’t are the primary assault corridors that we’re taking. Anyway he chooses to run he’s going to run right into us and I don’t care how evil this bastard is, a mouth full of shotgun will take the fight out of anyone.” Jack smiled evilly
“He won’t run.” Xander stated.
Everyone in the room glanced at him, wondering how he could be so confident of that but after a moment just shrugged and went back to planning the operation. Assault corridors had to be assigned to the various squads and units that were heading down into the tunnels beneath Sunnydale and more importantly mission objectives had to be assigned so that they knew what they were doing.
“I’m sure all of you have had a chance at least once over the past two weeks to go over the portfolios on the vampires we believe to have returned to Angelus’ side but the main part is that Angelus has a superiority complex that could fill this room. He’ll think he can win and that gives us our best chance of finishing this.” Xander commented as he brought up the latest version of the tunnel map.
The screens showed hundreds of tunnels that crisscrossed there way beneath the sleepy little town of Sunnydale. A great deal many of them glowed the bright amber color of those that were known to be in use by demons, others were circled with blue indicating that they had been sealed off permanently by demo charges and others were blue showing the assault corridors that were going to be used. Each team had been given a different route into the main cavern and thanks to the advantage given to them by modern weapons, and communications, it should be sufficient enough to overwhelm the opposition that Angelus could have come up with.
“What I want to know is what are we going to do about Buffy?” Faith questioned. She was completely stunned that a Slayer would actually have a physical relationship with a vampire. For dozens of various reasons but most of them boiled down to a few specific reasons, namely the fact that no matter how you might look at it, a vampire was nothing more than a reanimated corpse. ‘Who the hell would willingly spread for a corpse, and get off on it enough to keep going back for more?’
“What do you think should be done with her?” O’Neill asked carefully.
Xander sat stoically in his armor not giving any indication that he was even listening to the conversation. It became rather obvious that one of the group had filled in the team leaders of the particulars of Buffy’s rather blond moment and that they were not happy at all with her.
“Should be shot for crimes against mankind.”
“Lock her up, she’s a danger to the rest of the human race.”
“Do we even have the authority to do anything about it?” Sgt Major Gale questioned. The two team leaders who had been the most vocal were not surprisingly from the two squads that had been hit the hardest since arriving in Sunnydale, having taken near 90 percent causalities after being overrun by a group of Were’s hiding out in the tunnels.
“She slept with a vampire, god knows what else she’s done. Hell she could be feeding him Intel on our movements for all we know! She should be shot!” Lieutenant Harder shouted.
“She’s a kid, she has no formal training and yet you want to just shoot her for crimes that are technically not even crimes. The only thing we might be able to get her on is desecration of a corpse, and even that is one hell of a stretch.” Gale argued.
“At the very least she can’t be allowed to run free, who knows what she could do. Colonel we have to at least send this on up the chain and let the Joint Chiefs figure this out.” Lieutenant Smyth stated firmly.
“Agreed.” Xander interjected. His emotions were running rampant, the few remaining feelings that he might have had for Buffy were being slowly buried under the weight of his memories of John’s Spartan training. Sometimes it was difficult to separate his mind from what remained of John’s. Not to mention over the past two weeks he had grown quite fond of Faith, her take life by the balls attitude was growing on him.
“I’ll send a report off and we’ll let NCA handle the fallout.” O’Neill agreed. His own personal feelings were to just remove the girl from town, lock her up in a psych ward where she’d get the treatment she so obviously needed. It was obvious that no one had ever seen how her actions as the Slayer had affected her personality, and not for the better.
“Alright, down to business.” Cortana piped in her voice coming through the speakers in Xander’s helmet. “Latest combat reports have been all pieced together and all available Intel puts Angelus at having a small army of demons under his command. At the very least he’s going to have enough vampires to equal us in numbers, plus that’s not taking into account any of the other demons that our sweeps haven’t caught.”
As she spoke she manipulated the computer screens to show the possible locations of vampire nests that would be encountered on the trip to the main cavern section. Two other screens popped up with the latest Intel on various demon races that were confirmed to have entered into the area. The word had gotten out to the demon community at large that the Spartan was stationed in Sunnydale, that having been well known for months, but the knowledge that he was increasing his numbers were enough to draw in some of the more warrior minded demon races.
“The fact that we encountered a Var’tos’ish over in grid epsilon eight, which means the Council reports of them being extinct is very suspect, means without real time intelligence we could encounter just about anything down there. After that particular encounter I began searching for any more caverns that could possibly contain one, and I’ve come across at least six possible locations. If even one of those locations has one of them there then we might have a problem since two of them are located close to the assault routes that we’ve planned out and we don’t have time to adjust them.” Cortana continued.
Xander listened with half a mind on the briefing; the other half was busy berating him for his failure to insure Cordelia’s safety. ‘I should have checked, I should have been there.’
“Xander, you ready to go?” The voice broke through his internal defenses. Quickly bringing his full attention back to the matter at hand he found Faith staring at him with a worried look in her eyes. Glancing around the table he noticed that she wasn’t the only one.
“Yup, good to go.” Xander stated.
“Good, lets get going. Delta should be in position for their breach by now.” O’Neill said. ‘The kid’s on the edge, won’t take much to push him over the line. Next time I talk to Hammond and Fraiser we’re going to have a little chat about getting some head doc’s for this group.’
Giles sat in his chair nursing a tumbler of scotch. ‘How could I have been so wrong?’ The thought plagued him constantly as he researched through every tome that eh had on the Slayer Essence. The Watchers Council had existed for thousands of years, long enough for its origins to be lost in the depths of time, and yet it had preserved. Its libraries surviving the destruction of fortress, bastion and even the wars of Mankind to be passed onto the next generation of scholars and warriors who took up the calling.
“But why would we have nothing on the Essence!” Giles roared throwing the tumbler across the room taking some small satisfaction from hearing it shatter against the wall.
Slumping back in his seat Giles angrily turned his attention back to the letter, having recently arrived from England, which lay in front of him. The words damning and his mind was unable to comprehend the severity of his mistake.
‘It is the opinion of this Council that Slayer Summers after having perished has retained her Slayer powers through some currently unknown action. It may be that the speed of the rescue affected by one Alexander Harris allowed a portion of it to remain behind. Current records do not show this event having happened before in recorded history, insufficient knowledge of life saving techniques were known before the 20th century to allow it to occur.
“Kendra Young was the known successor to the Slayer Essence, her tragic death so soon after calling has allowed another to be given the Essence. One Faith Lehane, current ward of Senior Field, American Branch, Watcher Linda Pryce.’
“On site.” Lt. Harder’s voice filtered through the encrypted comm. link.
“That’s the final team.” Faith whispered unnecessarily. Even though they were out in the open so to speak, the entire street was deserted. Xander having purchased a great deal of real estate in the town’s industrial sector over the past few weeks which created a large buffer zone surrounding the base.
Each team had been given its own assault corridor, backed up by members from Delta who while purported to be the best were not yet up to speed on tactics to be used against demonic enemies. It had rankled their Captain something fierce to find out his men were considered rookies by the more experienced members of the units already assigned to Harris and O’Neill.
Xander gave no indication that he had heard the comment Faith made. Plucking a grenade from his belt clip he nodded at the private who stood ready with the crowbar.
“Prepare to breach.” O’Neill ordered as he raised his own P90 assault rifle.
The private quickly snapped the manhole out of its recessed slot and grabbed the metal cover dragging it out of the way as fast as he could.
“Fire in the hole!” Xander shouted as he tossed the grenade down the tube.
The deafening blast was enough to make both Xander and Faith wince, their boosted senses savaged by the detonation. Xander at least had the partial dampening affect granted by his armor but it wasn’t on fully, he needed to be able to hear any sounds that emanated from the tunnel in case anything survived the blast.
Taking a second to glance around and make sure that everyone was ready Xander moved forward, letting gravity taking over and fell through the tube like a stone. His legs easily flexing to take the impact as he landed. Spotting a vampire trying to weakly crawl away, blood dripping from his eyes and ears. Xander stepped forward and stamped down, his armored foot snapping through his neck cleanly dusting the demon with contemptuous ease. “Clear!”
One by one the rest of the squad dropped down or slid down the tube’s access ladder.
“Sierra Golf Charlie One Niner to Delta One Niner.” O’Neill spoke into his throat mike.
“Delta One Niner. Go.”
“Sierra Golf Charlie One Niner moving forward, meet up at beacon Echo-four eight.”
“Understood. Delta One Niner out.”
Xander stood from his crouch at the head of the squad. His armor and shields making him the logical choice for point. Not that anyone would dispute his having called the position before they had entered the tunnels. “Move out.”
“Master, they come!” A fledgling babbled as he skidded to a stop in the middle of the chamber. For a moment he was truly terrified that he was about to be given his final death for having interrupted his masters favorite pastime but that quickly passed as he saw the pleased look that passed over the Master Vampires demonic face.
“Good.” Angelus smirked as he slowly stood letting Cordelia curl back up into the fetal position. Giving her a final caress that brought a shudder to her body he laughed before leaving the room.
“The Spartan comes.” Angelus yelled. His voice easily carrying through the vast cavern, the reply was enough to nearly deafen him.
Hundreds of vampires, master and fledgling alike, stood throughout the room that was nearly full to the point of their inability to move. Members from dozens of different demon species had come, some to fight the Spartan for the respect such a kill would entail, others because they were commanded to. Polgarans, vampires, werewolves, mages, and necromancers all joined together in one cause. To destroy the one known as the Spartan and gain the glory that would come with that act.
“Your journey is complete. You must learn to let go.”
“I don’t want to die, I’m only seventeen.” She sobbed.