Oh, Those Days!
Xander walked into an office building in LA the next day. His boss had been taken to one of the cults' locations so he could see why Xander was taking the day off. He had agreed it was creepy and necessary. "Hi," he told the receptionist. "I think my town has a problem cult that has higher weapons. Can I talk to someone FBI-y or ATF-y about them please?"
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yeah. I scouted them a few times to see when they got to the point of worrying. Last night I saw one of them gathering machine guns. Old ones but they were being checked over and it's a cult that believes buildings, literature, and science are evil."
"That sounds like something that should be more FBI than ATF," she decided, calling up there. "Sir, I have someone here who has information on a cult that wants to destroy buildings and has guns." She smiled at him. "Where are you from, sir?"
"Sunnydale. I can tell them updates on the other six we have in town."
She repeated that. She nodded and hung up. "He'll be right down, sir."
"Thank you." He smiled, moving toward the elevators. He went through the metal detector easily enough. The agent was waiting for him on the other side. "Hi, Xander Harris. Construction crew lead in Sunnydale."
"Agent Epps." He shook his hand. "Six?"
"Yeah, unfortunately. I even took tape." He held up the dvd from Tara's video camera. "I didn't get our hippie-ish one. I haven't seen signs that they're more than enjoying being together in one big happy family sort of way. The others, I'm not so sure you won't have to stop."
"Sure, we can look that over." He took it and walked the kid to the elevators and up to his desk. "Straight off the camera?"
He went to get a small player for it since his computer wouldn't. He came back. "So, construction guys usually worry about these things?"
Xander stared at him. "I'm sure you guys have sworn about Sunnydale a few times." The agent stared at him. He smiled back. "I also dabble and write fantasy novels."
"Hmm." He ran the tape, frowning at what he could see and hear. He took notes on his computer, also running a check on the kid next to him. He looked at the result then at him. "You were part of that military screw up?" he asked, sounding a bit cold.
"No, I was on the team that helped stop them," he said quietly. "You might say a few of us watch over the town."
Epps stared at him for a minute. "We heard rumors about a vigilante group up there."
"From the old Mayor's people?" Epps nodded. "You do realize that a few weeks back I helped the ATF get his stash of stolen and imported weapons, which he had been going to sell before he died during graduation, and the bomb he had that had a countdown in months running?"
"No," he admitted. He called the head guy in the ATF, speaking quietly as he walked off. He came back to stare at him. "Okay, so you're one of those vigilantes but you guys are handling things the cops aren't because they're dirty?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, putting it nicely. That's why we have so many deaths put down to gangs on PCP."
Don pulled up the town's stats, giving them an odd look. "How do they float those?"
"The old Mayor was incredibly dirty. He tried to blame some of his sins on our group. Multiple times. Part of the problem during grad was his doing to attack the students." Don shuddered. "Yeah, so." He smiled. "Since we do keep an informal eye on things that our boys in donuts won't handle, ever, I've been keeping track of the weapons coming in and out when I could. Frankly, I'm surrounded by a British librarian, two girls, one former commando now, a friend, and a slightly outcast male."
"The commando can't?"
"He helped end his former unit too. He stepped in a bit late as well."
"Okay. Got that." He looked at the film. "Why are they blue and green?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't care. I care that in about a minute they're going to hold up a flask that's going to destroy buildings since they think buildings, literature, and science are evil. That's above my skills and you guys would get pissed if we had to deal with it for you."
"Literature and science are evil because they give false ideas?" Epps guessed. Xander nodded. "Buildings house it so they want to destroy them and go back to something simpler?"
"Wooden houses ala Wild Wild West from what I've seen."
"The office in Texas had a group of them a few years back." He made that note and moved on. He paused it, showing him the weapon. "Any idea what that is?"
"That is an anti-aircraft system that's supposed to be tank mounted. Those are the missiles. The rest is out back."
"Your officers didn't notice that?"
"That would require them to *patrol*."
"Good point I guess." He let the tape go, seeing that the kid had filmed that too. He looked at him. "Good work, kid."
"Thanks. I'll leave this in your officially sanctioned hands. Unless I find them doing something really dumb, then I'll call afterward?"
"That'll work. You guys are three hours away?"
"Just over depending on traffic." He took the agent's card. "Thank you." He stood up. "Have fun with them. Their addresses are on a file on there. It's in WordPerfect but it should run somewhere around here since you guys are sucked into having to use Microsoft. That file also has my prior notes on them and that other one I'm not worried about. Have a good day."
"Kid, a few questions." Xander sat back down. "Your department still filthy?"
"Yeah. You should see our online paper. Today's had them bragging that they had handed out a hundred parking tickets this month. It also had a three page obituary column after a party the other night got out of hand." Don shuddered. "The whole town has become...avoidant to it really. They don't see it, don't want to see it, don't think about it, and tend to ignore it happening in front of them."
He got onto his web server, looking up that newspaper. What he saw amused him. The obituaries took a full minute to load. The graphics heavy front page only took thirty seconds, and the obits had no pictures. He stared at them then at the kid, who nodded. "So you guys are helping?"
"We've reduced the death rate by about ten to thirty percent, depending on what time you're looking at and what was going on."
"Graduation?" he asked, staring him down.
Xander shrugged. "I know all about the statute of limitations, Agent Epps. I'm not saying a damn thing about that for the next fifty years."
"Bombs probably won't ever run out of time."
Xander nodded. "Probably, but I'm not commenting. The only thing I will say is that there was an assault. That my group protected the normals and the average people there."
"The willingly blind, let's put it that way."
"We have footage of that. Blurry but taken from outside the event. Apparently the people taping were running a bit late to the ceremony. They showed people or something attacking people coming out."
"That was part of the Mayor's plan."
"Okay. Where were *you*?"
"Making sure parents like that got out," he said simply and stood up. "You have a good time with them, Agent Epps. Like I said, they're beyond us with that level of weapons and things. I can do many things, but I can't defeat anti-aircraft missiles or chemical weapons." He left, handing over his visitor's pass to the receptionist.
Don called his team and his brother together. "Bring an AV person," he told his brother. He pulled up the files he'd need and took the DVD and case with him. He didn't want that anywhere near LA. He walked into the meeting, his brother came jogging in. "There is a small town about three hours above us called Sunnydale," he said.
"FUBAR city?" David said dryly. "What did they do this time? I heard the ATF found a bunch of weapons with some help."
"They used to belong to the old Mayor," Don said. "I just talked to a young man named Xander Harris."
Colby sat up, staring at him. "He was in that group that stopped that bastard project up there, Don."
"Now his group is tracking the cults they have in town. He has six on watch, one's harmless he thinks. The others have weapons and things." He handed the DVD to the AV person. "That's tape of what he scouted recently. Also, pull up the file from graduation up there. I thought I saw him and it is an open case."
Charlie looked at him. "What did the kid say about it?"
"That there was an assault and defense action. That the people we got tape of being outside the event were the Mayor's." They all smirked. They had wondered. "He refused to say a single thing about the bombs, citing statute of limitations. I warned him that was thin. He agreed. We also apparently have the dirtiest department in the country up there. Charlie, pull up their online paper?"
Charlie set up his laptop to do that. "One hundred parking tickets," he said dryly. "Good money for the department." He put it on the main screen.
"See if they have a crime list from last night?"
Charlie looked, shaking his head. "No." He looked up. "Nothing listed, Don."
"Pull up their obits page." Charlie put it up and stared at it. "How...."
"That's what the kid pointed out when I asked why they weren't handling it. I'm seeing PCP gangs, animal attacks, and one nice one by pitch fork."
Charlie looked it over. "There's one here by decapitation due to sword or chainsaw." He looked up. "Isn't that a different sort of cut pattern?"
The AV tech looked over. "It's a well known fact that their department has no idea what they're doing; half the time they're making up case results, and they have so many cases open that they don't care. They don't come out unless it's something like a domestic homicide that they can use against someone or it's shoplifting, something that they can ruin a kid with. They also have the lowest rate of those over forty-five in the US." He went back to searching. "One of my roommates in college was from there. He had horrible nightmares."
"Was he at that graduation?" Colby asked.
"No, he graduated a few years earlier. I asked him once. He said, and I quote, seventeen people made it to his graduation." He looked up again. "I'm guessing his starting class was bigger than that."
"Damn it, how did we miss this?" Don asked, staring at the monitor. The graduation film came up and he watched. "Pause it." It was. "Back a few frames." He did that. "That's the kid that came today, Harris. And he's got a battle axe in his hands."
Charlie stared at it then coughed. "Go forward about ten minutes," he requested the tech. He did that. "Back." The tape was slowly rolled back. "Another few feet, into the bouncing." He did that. It was slowly inched forward. He pointed at the head. "There." It was frozen. "What's that? Larry and I have wondered what that thing was since we found it on the tape."
Don tipped his head. So did the rest of his team. "I have no clue," Don admitted. "A large snake?"
"Can you do a distance and height comparison?" The tech pulled up that program. It showed that the head was about fourteen feet across. He looked at his brother. "I don't think that's a snake."
"Would guns work against that thing?" Colby asked.
"That might be a good reason for the battle axe," Don decided. David, his other teammate, was just staring. "Any clue, David?"
"No. But for some reason I want to run to a church. I have no idea why I'm feeling that way but something in that is making me want to run now."
"You're not that religious," Charlie pointed out.
"I know. It's bothering me. Can we move on?" The tech advanced it past that. "Harris again," he pointed out. "Taking on something so someone behind him can move out of the way." He frowned. "Damn it, what was going on?"
"I don't know," Don said. "Think their very dirty PD will?" They all looked at him. "I don't like dirty cops. I definitely don't like their dirty cops. If a whole town is that dirty, then what else is hiding up there? More weapons lines? Drugs? Illegal immigration?"
"They do have a harbor," Colby said.
Charlie pulled up a map of Sunnydale. "Any idea where those cults are?" The AV tech handed him the case through Don. He put dots on the map. "Colby, where was that project that sucked in your friend against his will?"
"Under the college." Charlie put a dot there. "Is it just me or is the town wrong somehow? Proportionally maybe?"
Charlie studied it. "Most towns put the city hall or the courthouse in the center. This one put a high school." He looked up. "Seems like an odd choice to me." He typed in something into the paper's window. "They're rebuilding the high school right now. There's a very nice article saying that Mr. Harris blew up the remains to ease the cleanup process. He's listed as the interior crew chief."
"That's about what he said he was." Don rubbed a hand through his hair. "Something there is real wrong, guys. Let's start with the cults and see?" They all nodded. The film from the cult was run. "Don't ask me," he said when Charlie opened his mouth at the first non-human looking one. "I have no idea. His answer was because they wanted to look that way." He sat down, watching the rest of it. "That one. Pause it. That one is anti false ideals from books and science, hates buildings." He waved for the AV tech to go on. "He said that one's got the launcher out back and took pictures of it," he said a minute later. They kept going, making their own notes. He looked at his people once they were done. "Anything on the records, Chuck?"
"Not yet." He did a quick search. "Three of them are listed as not being owned by a living person. Two were condemned for all of a day then the orders were taken back. Looks like a bribe to me." He kept going. "That's interesting. Don." He put that up onto the screen. "Why is their sewer big enough to drive a mini cooper down?"
"It's big enough in some spots for a jeep," Colby said, frowning at it. "So they have a literal underground community?"
"Or it's used by the old Mayor's people or the current people, to run illegal things," Don decided. "See if Dad knows anything about them from when he worked for the state? Or if anyone he knows has." Charlie nodded, calling him, walking out of the room to do that. He looked at them. "I have no doubt, with that obit column, that the town's dangerous. I'm not going to bust vigilantes who're helping. Yeah, it's illegal, but apparently they're helping as far as I can tell. If that changes we know where one of them is." The screen wobbled and went dark, restarting Charlie's laptop.
"That's a hacker," the AV tech noted, isolating his system. "Charlie!" he called. "You got hacked!" He came rushing in to check over his laptop. He looked at Don. "Let me know if you find more information."
"I will. Can you do an evaluation on both those?" He nodded and took everything he needed with him. "Their department?"
"I can't tell," Charlie admitted. "They shut it down and those sites." He looked up. "They used mine to hack the state and shut everything down."
"Have dad get backup copies. I know they're in a dusty file drawer somewhere." Charlie nodded, calling him to do that. "This is getting me more and more interested." He stood up. "Let's start with the cults and move from there. I don't want that anywhere, but especially not somewhere the good guys who aren't might take it to use it on their own." They nodded, going back to their desks to start an investigation. He went to look up more on Harris, if he could. Most of it seemed blocked.
He did a google search, hoping that some other article in a paper mentioned the kid. He hit a jackpot on the second page. He got into that one, staring at the old personalized journal page. An old online journal done by a young woman who said Xander was one of her best friends. He ran the other names mentioned. One was listed as missing, presumed dead. One was also locked by that same program that made Colby swear. One... He smirked. "Found the hacker," he told his brother. "She's on a watch list, put there by the Sunnydale PD and her parents."
He read that note. "Her parents are psychologists who go around lecturing. I didn't know they had a child. I had dinner with them a few years back."
Don looked at him. "They didn't say anything?"
"No. They wondered if the house plants were okay." He sat down and took the keyboard to get into another site, finding their research and book site. "There." He got them on the personal section. "No listing of a daughter."
"Maybe they're protecting her?"
Charlie pulled up a picture they had listed. "No kid in the pictures they have either." He handed back the keyboard. "I'm wondering if there's a reason she's a hacker." He walked off to call someone in that department. "Hey, Bill, it's Charlie Epps. Don had a question about some researchers and book authors you guys had in to speak a few months back. The Rosenburgs. We ran into someone who says they're her parents?" He listened. "Really? And...." He got cut off. "Yeah, we think she's a hacker actually. That would fit, right?"
He nodded. "Thanks, Bill. Please." He hung up and walked back. "They do have a daughter. They go on extensive trips without her because apparently they think she's a genius so they leave her at home all the time, and a few people in the department who know that fact are waiting for them to be on a talk show some day to get chastised for their daughter blowing someone up. Bill said that hacking would fit just as well."
Don smirked. "That's child neglect, right? Because Dad wouldn't have left you alone at the house even when you in college and under age."
"Yeah," Charlie agreed. "It was. Bill said someone turned it in. The mayor took care of the case as it was told to them. That there was no open case because the mayor had decided it wasn't worthwhile to study when so many other problems existed in the town."
"That's not a his job."
"No, it's not," Charlie agreed. "A mayor would have nothing to do with social workers since they're a state agency."
Don typed something into his database. "There's a welfare office in the county, not in Sunnydale, but they have no CPS social workers. Just economic workers that sign you up for programs. No WIC office in the town either. It's outside the city." He looked up. "So the state maybe knows and is ignoring it?"
"If the mayor had power he probably blackmailed some people higher up." He shrugged. "I have no idea, Don. It could've been protecting their people since the death rate's through the roof."
"I guess that's possible. Colby, you know a social worker. See why they don't have an office there."
He looked over. "I called her already to check some statistics. She hung up after telling me she couldn't talk about that town or the disease running through it even though the mayor was dead. It sounded like she was ready to cry." He rolled over a printout. "That's the high school's enrolment from the state records. This is the graduating class. Notice the extra column of 'didn't finish due to running away/death'?"
"They have almost a perfect graduation rate for those who survive," Charlie said dryly. "That's interesting." He used Don's phone to call someone on campus. "Hey, this is Charlie Epps in Math. I'm wondering a few things while I'm helping someone with some statistical research. I need to see some stats on the town of Sunnydale and their graduation rates, college attendance rates, that sort of thing. Please. Sure, I can pick it up or you can email it to me on the school's server. Thank you."
He hung up. "He said give him thirty minutes. They keep track of those things for recruitment purposes." He logged in on Colby's machine, getting into his email. He found one from Larry and sent one back to Amita. She'd check hers before Larry did. That one came in and he printed it, including the very nice last page. He held it up. "It's good advice I think." It said 'don't go into the town if you can't leave before dark and do not get notice from anyone. Go through the local college instead of showing up representing ours.' He looked it over.
"Most of the kids attend the local state school in town. Almost no one appears to go elsewhere." He let Don have the first sheet and that one. "We have a statistic for recruits that died before graduation." He looked at it. "We had two people slated to come to our school who were accepted and then died." He handed that over, staring at the next one. "No way." He looked at Don. "This chart lists their school's stronger areas based on the state test's average score. So we go looking for students in those specialities." He held it up. Every single bit was below average except a blip here and there.
"Wouldn't the state step in?" Don asked, taking that one to scowl at.
"Usually within two bad years," Charlie agreed. "That goes back, what, twenty?"
"Twenty-five." He looked up. "Twenty-five years of really bad education, so probably a low preforming college branch. Why didn't it get cut?"
"No clue," Charlie admitted. "University of California cut two campuses a few years back due to poor enrolment and statistics. I don't even know who to ask."
"So we have piss poor schools, a high death rate in your teen and twenties," Colby said. "I'm not really surprised cults show up."
"I'm wondering why it took so long for their vigilante group to form," Don admitted.
Charlie shook his head. "Maybe someone got fed up finally or something new appeared that gave some of them hope."
David came over waving a paper. "The state did not close the city down a few years back for being dirty because no one wanted to piss off the former Mayor. It seems he had a few heads of places who showed up to fix things and they all had various accidents within a few days time. Also, their hospital? Selling something." He handed those to Charlie.
"High income, little patients. I'm not sure how they're not being sued by the families since they have a mortality rate among patients that's nearly double the town's." Don took that one to look at. He looked at them. "The old mayor is dead. Why isn't anyone looking into it now?"
"Status quos are hard to break," David said with a shrug. "One of the people I talked to for the hospital data wasn't sure he was dead. That he'd still get them."
"His blood was found on the stage where the explosion took place," Don said, handing it back.
"Um, Don," Colby said. "The explosion wasn't on the stage. It was in the school. The ceremony was outside the school."
Don stared at him. "You're sure?"
"Yeah. I know one of the guys who went up on the investigative team." He looked around. "Tinker!" He came jogging over. "Cults in Sunnydale?"
"Doesn't surprise me in that town. So?"
"One of the people that brought it to our attention was at the graduation," Don told him with a slight frown. "Where was the explosion since some people we've talked to think the mayor's still alive? It's looking like he's real dirty."
"He was. The explosion was inside the school."
"Then why was only Wilkin's blood found on the stage?" Charlie asked.
He shrugged. "I asked too many questions and got sent home." He walked off.
"Internal Affairs," David said, heading that way.
"I'm going to go up there and talk to the cops themselves. See what they have," Don decided, standing up. "Colby?"
"Sure, I'm up for a road trip." He smiled at Charlie. "Let us know if you find anything."
"I can do that. Be careful. That town sounds really dangerous." He watched them go, getting onto Don's computer. It had better firewalls being FBI property. The hacker got him later on but not before he found new information.
Colby walked into the coffee shop, spotting someone. "Finn," he sneered. Riley stiffened and stared at him. "What are you still doing out of jail?"
"I did what I had to do," he said quietly. "They were wrong."
"I don't care. You still turned."
"And I'm paying for it," he assured him. "What are you doing in this town?"
"We got news of a cult or five."
"Damn it," he muttered.
Buffy stomped in and he handed her the coffee. "Buffy, the cults?"
"We can't handle what they're doing," she said quietly. "I'd rather have it be handled than us having to deal against chemical weapons."
He nodded. "That makes sense."
"Xander said he would."
"He did. This is Agent Colby Granger of the FBI. His cousin was on one of the teams."
She stared at him. "Buffy Summers. Please ignore them trying to arrest me for killing a robot?"
He stared at her. "I knew there was a problem but that bad?" he asked quietly. She nodded. "Are you familiar with Harris?" he asked very quietly.
"Had dinner with him last night."
"Good. Follow. You too, Finn." He walked them outside and over to the SUV and Don. "This is former Captain Riley Finn, Initiative, and Miss Summers. Guys, this is Special Agent Don Epps. He's the head of our team."
He stared at her. "We have one really grainy video from graduation that showed you fighting," he admitted quietly.
"Really? I thought they confiscated them all."
He smirked. "One of the agents accidentally gathered it into evidence during the investigation."
"Which took all of fifty minutes and then it was ruled a gas leak," she said with a nod. "Were they already here since it happened within an hour?"
He stared at her. "That's a very good question," he decided. "Get in. Let's go for a drive." They got into the back. Colby got into the front. He drove them off. "What do we know about what's going on?"
"They had dinner with Harris last night," Colby told him.
"Interesting. So you're both on the vigilante-slash-protection team? I'm going to assure you we are not here for you, we don't care about you at this moment unless you guys screw up majorly. We are here about those cults and the possible dirty department locally."
"I head it," she admitted.
"Okay, that's good. How bad is your department?"
"They tried to get me for killing a robot that had hit me and was going to hurt my mother," she told him. Don glanced back at her. She nodded. "They're so dirty to the old mayor they were making up charges."
"I've kept informal information on how bad I've seen them be," Riley admitted. "Unfortunately we had to rescue a few people who deserved to be in jail but not that jail. They got handed to the state police instead. That way they'd survive."
Don nodded once. "Survive?"
"Survive," Buffy agreed. She looked at Riley. "You're still doing that?"
"I'm up to my third notebook already this month."
"Can we get those?" Don asked.
"Of course. I know I need to cooperate with investigations."
"Good. Where are you staying, kid?" Don asked.
"Left, up two blocks. Halfway on the right." Don nodded, making that turn. They got out with Riley and went in there to see what information he had gathered. Don looked at his other stack of photos. "Problems?"
"I'm not so sure about part of the group at the moment. It's been dividing some of us off."
"Why?" Colby asked.
"Harris' ex and one of the original team were caught cheating."
"That'd do it to any team," Don said. "Sex destroys working relationships." He looked through those. "Is that a flame thrower?"
"It was necessary," Buffy assured them as she walked in. "Riley's mad or something because we found out that the cheating thing seems to be pretty much all over the team." Riley let out a nervous laugh. She looked at the agents again. "It's been causing problems but Xander is not the reason. The problems were the reason."
Don nodded. "Sex can mess up many things in a team, Miss Summers."
"Glad I never slept with Xander then," she quipped. She checked her watch. "You guys need to book soon to get home in time for closing."
"We were warned about after dark being more dangerous," Colby assured her with a smile. "Finn, any other information you have?"
He dug out something. "That might help, it might not. It's from the base's files."
He nodded, tucking that into the bag he carried. "Thank you, Captain," Don said. He looked at Buffy. "We'll be looking into those cults in a few days."
"If the cops don't get down on them for getting attention?" she suggested.
"If so, we'll focus on the department since it's so dirty." He smiled and she grinned. "Thank you for your help." He left with Colby. He saw an officer watching from his car and waved. "They gave us directions." He got in to drive. Colby got into his seat.
"No! Out!" Buffy shouted from the window. They got out of the SUV in a hurry. Which was good since it went up. She came jogging down. "You two okay?" They nodded. "Damn, that sucks."
"How did you know?" Don asked her, staring her down.
"Believe it or not, I heard a click." Xander came jogging with a fire extinguisher. "Any idea?"
Xander grimaced. "Camera in the donut shop," he said quietly as he worked. "You're Feds, you can get there first." Don went to confiscate that tape. He looked at the other guy then tossed him something. "My car's dirty, do not look in the trunk because it's patrol and necessary supplies," he said bluntly. "Take it and get out of town. It's in the parking lot of the grocery store at the moment."
"Going," he agreed, putting the bag across his shoulder and down to his hip on the opposite side. "Thanks, kid. We'll leave it somewhere safe."
"Give it to Angel Investigations. Their secretary Cordelia can watch it for me until I can pick it up this weekend."
He nodded, going to get Don and hike that way quickly. Buffy and Riley followed subtly, looking like they were running them out of town. Once they got into the car and made it past the city limits, Colby looked at him. "Harris said to not check the trunk. It's necessary supplies for patrol and things. He called it dirty."
"Probably means that there's weapons." Don considered it. "Where are we dropping it?"
"I'll call and find out." He called the office. "David, us. The SUV got blown up. Harris gave us his car to escape in. We're on our way back, just passing the exit for the next town toward us. We're to leave it at a place called Angel Investigations?" He looked it up and gave him an address. "Thanks, man. Now, look up Buffy Summers and tell me how she heard a click of a bomb from inside a building?" He looked her up. "Hmm. You know what? See if one of our hackers can get past that. Thank you." He hung up. "Surprisingly her background is blocked by the Initiative."
"What were they doing?"
"Very bad things," Colby said simply. "Finn was right to have stopped it but I still don't like that he turned on his own unit to do it."
"I get that," he agreed. "Where are we heading?"
"LA. They're in our town."
"Good." He pulled into a State Police barracks and paused, going inside. "Special Agent Epps, FBI." The desk sergeant called out their boss. He shook his hand. "We were in Sunnydale investigating a few cults that have apparently sprung up."
"Doesn't really surprise me about that place."
"We're talking chemical weapons and regular higher powered artillery at the moment. While there, our SUV was blown up." He nodded once at that. "Can you get a team to get the remains?"
"No way they're still there. We all know they're dirty but they're efficient in hiding it when outsiders come in."
"What do you know about the town?"
"Too much for my own safety and yours," the captain assured him with a smile.
"Can you send us that so we can look into it?"
"I might be able to but the higher ups would rather that cesspool stay safely contained in that town."
"I'm sure my bosses will feel the same but I don't want chemical weapons outside of it."
"True. I'll see if I'm allowed. Higher ups hate that town."
Don nodded. "Thank you." He shook his hand and left. Colby had kept the car running. "Higher ups aren't allowed to talk about it because they want it there instead of everywhere else."
"I'd be embarrassed too." He held up a journal with pictures on the page. "Beyond the cat on the page, he noted that they took six kids into the station and only two left."
"They could've been charged."
"This is a count of who left alive, Don."
"I see." He considered that. "We'll correlate to any reports in the system. The whole state's PD databases are merged now. Theirs has to be too by state law."
He looked over the notes. "He was as thorough as he could be I guess. Some names, dates definitely. Offenses if he knew them. Huh, loitering got you sixty days in the jail."
"That's absurd," Don complained. He pulled back onto the interstate. "Am I paranoid or is that a Sunnydale car behind us?"
He looked then nodded. "That's theirs." He called. "David, we're headed back on the interstate. We're being trailed by a Sunnydale city cop. Yeah, well outside of it, no one in the back so they're not transporting, no lights or sirens. Thank you. We just paused at one and the told Don they'd rather leave the crap in one area than have it spread." He hung up. "He'll get us some support."
"I hate being paranoid about my own people," Don said.
"Me too, man. Me too." He glanced back in the mirror. "He's not looking happy back there." Two black SUV's pulled up and stopped the cop car. He smirked. "Magic movements."
"Yeah they are." He honked and kept going. They found their boss waiting on them. "What, you're going to protect them too?" he demanded.
"Watch your tone," he said.
"No. I've already been told that the corruption there leads back here and through most of the state's agencies."
"There are people who are afraid of Mayor Wilkins and whatever sort of power he has that can make people die suddenly," he said bluntly. "I don't want to lose my team to that same power."
"Kinda hard to do since he's dead," Colby said bluntly.
"He is not."
"He is. He died in the explosion at graduation."
"You can't prove that," he assured him.
"I can." He pulled out something. "Someone slid that into my pocket earlier. Colby watched it when we changed out cars since we had to have a resident help us out of the town before they tried to kill us." Their boss moaned, sitting down again. "On it is a complete, really unbelievable tape of the graduation ceremony in question. Now we know why some of them had swords and battle axes," he finished dryly. "Wilkins died. His lackeys are still in charge. The town's still got a very high death rate thanks to what he put into motion. We still have cults up there with chemical weapons and artillery. I don't want it there or possibly coming here."
"I don't either," he sighed, looking at him. "Is it a good report?"
"It happened, the AV tech we watched it with said it wasn't manufactured, taped together, nothing. It's straight from the camera," Colby told him. "We stopped there to ask too after we needed Tums." He handed over the player he was carrying. Don put the disc in and let it run. Their boss watched, staring in horror at what was going on.
"What the hell?" he demanded, looking up. "Our techs say it wasn't fooled with?"
"Nope," Don said with a small shrug. "Considering some of those cults don't look human, I'm not sure what to think and I'm not sure I really care. I still don't want anything non-human to have artillery or chemical weapons either."
"I can see that point." He went back to watching. "Who are these people letting the civilians go?"
Colby walked around. "That is Miss Summers. Background file in the system but it's locked by the Initiative. That is Willow Rosenburg. A hacker we have on a watch list thanks to her parents and the old mayor. She also has a locked file." He paused. "Some of the kids in the class that .... there he is. Harris. Apparently he led this part while Miss Summers baited the former mayor and human." They watched as it went on. "Explosion," he warned quietly. It went up and their director flinched. "Which means that some of our people falsified the report," he finished, looking down at him.
Don nodded. "Tinker apparently knew, that's why he got sent back. The kids said they spent about fifty minutes, agreed it was a gas explosion, and left. Our records say they spent two weeks up there. We're not sure where they were at the other times."
Their assistant director looked at them. "Who runs Sunnydale now?"
"The former assistant Mayor. Wilkin's lackeys."
"How was he making people die?"
"He sicced those things on others," Colby said. "They're all over the world, sir. He had connections."
"How did he do that? Is that something people in the know can do?"
"I asked that when we handed Harris' car to his friend here in LA, after we watched it. She said it took him a century, a lot of deals I won't elaborate on or use what she called them," Don snickered at that, "and that it kills most people who try. If not, there's women like Miss Summers whose job it is to fix that."
His boss nodded. "I can see that point. How did you know about the bomb?"
"Summers warned us. She said she heard the click we didn't."
"We don't know how," Don admitted. "That files' sealed too."
"Can we get them unsealed?"
"It'd be easier to just ask," Colby admitted. "I had a friend who got assigned there and sucked in. The Initiative were closed for a very good reason, sir. A lot of it having to do with torture."
His boss winced. "Dead and gone?"
"As far as we know. Riley Finn is up there still helping out."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure he was dating Summers," Colby told him. "Or else he's really woosed up because he reacted to her pout about not bringing her coffee."
"They did seem like a couple," Don agreed. "By the way, that same Harris there was the same one the ATF nearly busted for buying explosives but it turned out to be a legitimate buy for a construction company. He blew the rest of the high school for the construction people he works with. He's also the same Harris that told them how to find the Mayor's former stash of weapons."
"From what we heard, he had a huge bomb," Colby agreed. "Probably to waste the town once he was done nibbling on it." He looked at his team leader. "So?"
"I don't want any sort of being, whatever they are, with those weapons. I don't care what it is. I wouldn't care if it a supply depot for Angels."
"Agreed," his boss said. "I'll assign someone to see how deep that rot went in that town and among us." He stood up, handing over the player. "Good job surviving. Very stubborn of you."
Don shrugged. "My dad would bring down that town if they killed us." He gave him a smirk. "I'm sure Charlie can figure out how to do it easiest."
"He'd probably ask Harris," Colby quipped. "It seems he knows that stuff real well."
"He did. I'm not sure if he built the bombs for that problem or not. Right now, I don't really care. He was protecting people. He was doing our job because we were scared. What're we doing about that team?"
"If we can clean up the town, get it back under control, whatever Summers is could move onto the next horrible area," Colby suggested. "By the way Chase talked, she's somehow made to do this stuff. Oh, small interesting fact. Charlie looked up Harris' profile online to find out more about him. That was the call I made. He texted back that he is an up and coming fantasy writer. Has published a few short stories in fantasy and sci-fi mags."
"With what they're doing I'm sure it's easy for him to do," Don said with a small shrug. "Any idea if he's showing other skills?"
"Charlie asked someone who read those mags. The first story wasn't much. Good but not great. The second one had military characters and Charlie said they sounded like me."
Don quirked up an eyebrow. "He doesn't have military training that I know of."
"He doesn't." He smirked. "No idea how he got it either. No one in his family had military service that we could find."
Don nodded once. "So, training from the stuff they handle?"
"That was within eight months of him starting up there. Did you see a DI figure to train them?"
"No," Don admitted. "So how?" Colby shrugged. "Something bothering you about that?"
"Just that it was an anomaly that probably helps them a lot. They all seemed like late teens outside of Finn."
"They were. It's something to ask if we have to question him." He walked out with Colby, going back to their desks. He dropped the dvd in front of his brother. "Graduation, the full film."
Charlie ran it on his laptop, staring at it. He looked confused. "Latin?" he muttered, turning the sound up. That's how they all heard the ripping noises that was coming from the former man. He paused it then looked up. "I guess I know why it had a fourteen foot wide head." Don flopped down, nodding. Charlie kept going, staring at it. "Harris looks good leading the defensive action. The blonde girl is...being a piece of snake bait..... Oh, damn," he said when the school went up. He shut down the play, looking at them. "Interesting."
"Very," Don agreed. "We have five cults with chemical and other weapons. We want them stopped as soon as humanly possible." David looked at his computer, moving to arrange for some surveillance work. He looked at Colby. "Did Harris remind you of anyone?"
"Suddenly appearing out of the blue with something we needed? The ammo fairy?" he guessed with a grin.
"No. Not like that. Though, yeah, he probably could be. Did you look in his trunk?"
"No. Because I don't want to know. Right now, he's on our side, he's doing some of our job for us, he's good with me until that changes. Then I'll worry what he's got in his trunk."
Charlie looked at them. "Why would we worry about that?"
"He told us not to look," Don told him.
"Oh." He reran the video to watch it. "Harris is in charge of the battle." Don and Colby came over to watch that. "He's giving orders. He field commanded everyone but the blonde."
"That could have something to do with how she heard the bomb click from inside and we didn't," Don offered. "Those idiots up there that they shut down for being asses had a sealed file on each of them."
"I'm not sure who locked it," Colby said. "If it was a hacker, ours might be able to crack it. If not, it's probably Pentagon ordered sealed."
"Can we figure that out?"
"Yeah." He moved to call a contact he had in the computer techs. "Hey, look into a file and tell me who sealed it?" He read off the number for Summers' file. He leaned back, listening to her. "Really? No, it's relating back to a few of our cases. Please." He hung up. "They are triple sealed. Pentagon. NSA, who admittedly had a hand in that fiasco too. And hacker sealed on top of theirs so they can't get into them either. Whichever hacker this is turned a bit paranoid. She locked other files that they did and made some of them disappear."
Don smirked. "Do we think it's their team's hacker Rosenburg?"
"Could be. There's been a few other hackers on the list from Sunnydale," Charlie said, looking up at Don. "One that's listed as dropped out of sight."
Don got into that file to look it over. He ran it through immigration. Then he updated that file for them. "He's in Tibet. I'm not sure if they have internet access there." He looked at his team again. "Let's start with the chemical weapons or do we want the artillery first?"
"How close together are they?" David asked.
"Pretty. Within six blocks for all the groups. But I'm not going to sit surveillance without backup, Don. Not until we figure out who tried to blow us up."
"I agree. Think they'd help?" He saw someone come off the elevator and frowned. "What are you doing here?"
"You're paying attention to the wrong thing. Channel 4 is just literally humming in pleasure."
Charlie got onto their website's live feed, staring at it. "The chemical weapon people moved."
"No." She smirked, getting into another file. "Familiar address?"
Don stared. "That's their compound."
"That had a fire?"
She nodded. "Heard from the gang up there. The cops are hellishly pissed at you guys for that. Any others you wanted to destroy?"
"Then who used the chemicals to blow up an outlying science building on campus?" Charlie asked.
"Duh, curly." She looked at Don again. Then she smirked. "Want me to tell them you'll be back?"
"Yeah. Tomorrow first thing." She smirked meanly at him. "Any other advice."
"Never be there after dark. Not without one of the gang." She left, going back to work.
"Hey, boss?" Don called. He came out of his office so Don waved him over. Charlie replayed the story. "That's the one that hated buildings and things." Charlie changed stories. "That's their compound and from an associate here in town we've learned that the police probably did it instead of them."
"Clean up that town, then worry about the weapons while you're doing it, Epps. Anyone hurt?"
"Not that they've reported but reporters can't get near the scene," Charlie admitted. He looked something up, finding a phone number. Women always had cellphones close at hand, right? "Mrs. Summers, I'm Charile Epps, I'm helping the FBI with a cult case up there and saw that they had a fire earlier and then somehow blew up a building. Do we have any idea what is going on up there? No, ma'am, I'm calling you because we've seen a full tape of graduation. Some of us also talked to your daughter earlier about these cults." He listened, nodding at that. "Thank you. Please do. Do you have Caller ID?" He smiled. "That's fine. Yes, that's what we were wondering. No, we have no desire to step on your daughter's duty, ma'am. We have no idea what she is, we frankly don't care at this moment. We're more concerned about the police department." He wrote down something. "Thank you, that could be very helpful. Please do have someone call us if something obvious comes to light that we won't have heard. Thank you, ma'am." He hung up, handing it to Don. "Their records storage area."
"Duty?" Colby asked.
"That's what she said."
Colby nodded. "That's what we heard from Chase too."
Don nodded. "I'm not going to worry about it. She's not the problem, she's a problem solver. Until she goes after normal people who aren't a problem, I'm out of that outside of watching somewhat."
They all nodded, including his boss. "Go to it, Epps. Since the cult was your case."
"It'll be dark by the time we get up there," David said more quietly. "I think there's a reason we were warned, sir. Most of their deaths do take place at night by the statistics. Also, they're not hooked into the state system. They put some older ones on there. More of a test run then it got shut down."
"That's against state law," the boss said with a shrug. "Fix it." He walked off.
"Charlie, get Dad to give us everything he can on Sunnydale. Tonight." He nodded, calling him. "Guys, I want maps." They moved to plan the invasion to clean up that filthy department. They could be up there to look over the cult's demise but they wouldn't be there for just that reason. "Chuck, see if Edgerton is on this coast and available too," he said suddenly. "I don't know why but I want him there if possible as a backup plan."
Charlie found his number in the database for agents. His desk phone was switched to his cellphone ninety percent of the time. "Ian, Charlie Epps. Don wanted to know where you were. Because he thinks he might need backup plans to save his whole team. Cults." He smiled. "No, some dirty officers just blew them up and used their plans to destroy a building in Sunnydale." He sat up straight, listening to him. "Yeah, that's Don's case." He nodded, taking down a file number. "Thank you. Please. Don?" He came over to get the phone and walk off. Charlie got into the file, staring at it. He started to snicker. "Um....."
Don came back to look. "Robots?" he demanded. He nodded once. "Please." He hung up. "They're so cracked." He walked off shaking his head. "They arrested Summers for killing a robot. Tried to charge her with homicide."
The rest of the team just nodded at that. It was the only thing they could do with that sort of information.
Xander looked up from his job when his name was called, holding up a finger and saying something to the guys he was working with before walking over there. "Yes, Officer?" he asked.
"Did you get those Feds down here, boy?" he sneered.
"No. Did they say I did?"
"You gave them your car."
"They're Feds. Don't you think blowing them up would've maybe brought more? Like most of them?" The officer gave him a horrified look. "I know damn well *I* didn't plant that bomb since I had been halfway across town when it was planted. There's not many other people around here who can build pipe bombs with remote detonators." He stared at the officer. "I was trying to save the city being Fed'd to death when they came down here like a ton of shit to figure out what happened to their agents."
"But... We all know what you guys do," he pointed out.
Xander shrugged. "Yay, then do some of it for us since it's the job."
The officer sneered. "Not mine. I don't get paid for that."
"Neither do I," he said sarcastically. "And you're taking me away from my paying job. Feel lucky we managed to evacuate them and they didn't arrest every single person they thought might be involved."
The officer stomped off. Xander shook his head. "The whole department hired for stupid," he muttered as he walked back to work.
His boss looked at him. "Problems?"
"Someone kindly tried to blow up a few federal agents yesterday."
He slowly nodded. "So why come see you? To see if you had made the bomb?"
"No. I gave them my keys so they could get the hell out of town before someone tried again and we all got ambushed by the Feds for every little thing. Because if they had managed to kill them, we'd have half of DC in this town by now."
"Yeah, I think we might. Sucks to be in City Hall if they are coming."
Xander nodded. "Definitely but oh well. I didn't build the bomb. I just helped the evacuation of them." He grinned. "He decided I was the reason we had Feds in town to look at a few cults."
"We have cults?"
"That thing at the college and the fire up on North? Was a cult. The thing up at the college was made to look like the cult since the fire was someone kindly burning them inside their compound."
"Aw shit," he muttered, kicking the dirt.
"We have five others but one's pretty hippie and peaceful. The others? Weapons mostly. I found a *pretty* anti-aircraft system at one's backyard."
He shuddered. "I might call a vacation if they show up. A few of our guys are illegals."
"We all know what I'll be doing," Xander quipped with a grin.
His boss snorted. "More elves?"
"Tral's a pretty cool elf. He likes virgin priestesses who flirt. He drinks. He's a fun guy but I have to find more stories in that uni."
"I don't need to know until they're published. Then I'll see." He walked off happier.
Xander shrugged. "Guys, fair warning. There was a duo of FBI boys in town yesterday. Someone tried to blow them up." They all groaned. "We're waiting to see how bad this'll become."
"The Feds show up here and I'm going," one promised. "I don't want to be in the same state."
"Interestingly enough, the FBI managed to get a tape of what happened here," Xander said with a smirk. "Someone's dropped camera from graduation got put into evidence. So they have a partial tape." They all smirked at that. Most of them had some idea that graduation wasn't really a gas explosion but they all figured it was a covered-up gang action. "So if they come, I'm thinking they're going to be hellishly pissed but not with the normals."
The guy shrugged. "I don't care, Xander. I'm going to be hiding."
"Sure, do that." He smiled. "Call off those days if you don't quit." He nodded, getting back to work. "That goes for everyone else. Remember to call off if you're hiding. The same as I will be if they try to question me for any reason." He hopped back down into the pit to help loosen up the pile so the crane could grab it easier. He waved it down once they were out of the way, letting it pick up more stuff. "I gotta say, I may have overplanned the explosion," he quipped. "But it was pretty." They all laughed and nodded.
The foreman looked over at the parking lot. "Hey, Harris? Fanclub's here."
"Local, state, or Feds?" he called back, not moving.
"Black SUVs. Feds."
Xander groaned and got out, going over to look at them. "Yes, what can I do for the ATF and the CIA?" he asked, staring at one. "Hi again."
"You're from here?" he asked, looking confused.
"I told you I was on a post-grad roadtrip and got stranded when my car broke down." He looked at the others. "What's up, guys?"
"Sir, do you know where the anti-aircraft missile system is? That address is now empty."
"Hmm." He texted someone, getting an answer back. "No it's not." He smiled. He called. "Tara, meet me and agents on fifth? Oops, I forgot you have class. The annoying bitch there?" He grinned. "Sure. She can help the Feds." He hung up. "Let's go." He got into the back of the SUV after he waved at the boss, getting a nod back. They drove off and he leaned over. "For future reference, that is the PD's concealed stolen from evidence area," he told them with a point. "Apt. 2. My uncle had to help them once for community service because their old one flooded."
The agent not driving gave him a strange look. "How long have you been in this town, sir?"
"I was born a block from the stupid former high school," he said with a smirk. "My uncle's the town drunk driver and former ambulance driver."
"Gotcha," the agent said. "So you know the town really well?"
"Better than some residents. Why?"
He pulled out the maps they had and held one up. "What're those?"
"Dangerous underground highways. I would not go down there, even with a strike team."
"Why?" the agent beside him asked.
"For the same reason that you probably went 'I wonder what sort of condition makes him look like that' on some of the video feed I turned over on the cults," Xander said blandly.
The agent shuddered. "Gotcha. How dangerous?"
"Depends on the being. Some are very nice. Some are very peaceful and just want to exist. Some, and most of those look more human, aren't. They will kill you, they will cackle, and they will have a grand old time with your body."
All the agents nodded. "Then we won't," the driver agreed. "What is Summers?"
"Human but special. Meant to be that way. She likes dangerous guys and she's only minimally attached to Finn if you guys wanted to flirt. We'd all appreciate her having a boyfriend who was *good* and dangerous at times."
"Married," a few said.
"How did you know that guy was CIA?"
"Stripping after I broke down. If you want details, ask him." He smirked.
"Will he try to put us in a secret prison if we find out?" the driver asked.
"I guess that depends on how paranoid he is about people finding out he went to a strip joint."
"Hmm," the passengers said, shaking their heads. "Not worth the risk," the one in the passenger's seat decided. Xander just grinned. "You hinting you need someone dangerous too?"
"I'm newly single after my last ex cheated with my former best female friend. Who you'll be seeing soon. There. The redhead." They pulled in and he got out. "Willow, back yard."
She nodded, going back there. She groaned and undid the spells. The house suddenly got taller and the weapons all got a fond look by the agents and CIA person. "Why are you guys after them?"
"Because they're dangerous," the CIA guy told her simply. "Don't you think people who hoard this sort of gear is dangerous, Miss Rosenburg?"
"How do you know me?" she said coolly, glaring at Xander.
"I didn't tell them."
"The Initiative's files had one on you. I managed to see it before you locked it. It went along very well with the reports from the city that you're a dangerous hacker and the ones from your parents saying you were just wrong and probably going to get into trouble."
"That would be *their* fault," Xander said quietly. "Not hers." He walked around them, staring at things. "Guys, something's missing." Willow glared at him. He stared back. "I did scout them the other day, Willow." He went over it. "There," he said with a point. "There was a black locking case there." He walked over to look at the indents in the ground. "Six feet?" he guessed.
The guys walked over to look. "Black?" Xander looked up and nodded. "Writing?"
"Not that I saw from the fence. Maybe on the top? Not on the handle side."
He walked the dents to see how long they were. "Six feet, two and a half inches or so," he called. One of his guys did a search with those parameters.
"With the padding, that would probably five and a half feet of useable space," Xander said, considering it. "But I've never seen a case like that. It wasn't a military issue case." He considered it, standing up. He looked around. "It was just thicker than that one," he said with a point, walking over. "Which is seriously classified." He considered it. "Do they make professional cases like they do for sniper rifles for artillery?"
"No, but you could probably set something up. Paint the old box." He looked inside that one, shaking his head. "We've got a missile tip missing."
Xander looked. "It's been a while though. It's dusty." He blew across it, getting a cloud of dust. "This one's been opened too." He stood up and went inside since the agents had confiscated everyone. He walked up to the main demon's body, kicking him over. "Where is the black case?" he demanded in the common demon language he knew. "If you tell me I won't tell them about the women in the basement. If they find them, they do but I won't tell them."
He swallowed. "The black case was taken by Haralat."
"City Hall. They are evil."
Xander nodded. "I know that." He squatted down. "I work with the slayer," he said simply.
"We know of you."
"Then you know that she won't tolerate this level of danger." He nodded at that. "Tell the agent there how you got the weapons. It can only hurt you. Maybe they can find some way to deport you."
"I will. Will she help us take them down?"
Xander smiled. "These guys are federal agents. Yesterday two of them nearly got blown up by the local department," he said quietly in English, making the demon moan. "I don't think your friend needs to help. Or mine." He stood up. "He said a friend named Haralat took the black case to City Hall to fight the evil." The agent called that in. He walked away from the demon. He pulled the CIA guy aside. "There's non-cons I will not tell you about," he said simply then walked off. He had to get back to work.
The CIA guy nodded. "Okay then." He went inside. "We searched the house?" They all nodded. "Fully?"
"Basement up," one agent assured him. "I have no idea what we're going to do with them, sir. I doubt most prisons will want to hold them."
"There is a place in LA that my kind come through," the head demon said. "We can be deported."
"You guys hoarded major weapons," the head ATF agent told him. "You're trying to destroy things, even if they are evil."
"There are others who will be fighting the evil for us. Some of us were brought here and sacrificed by Wilkins," he said then spat. "We owed him for it. We were going to bring down his people since the Jaleared has taken care of him."
"Who?" the agent asked.
"The one who fights," another said, looking at their captors. "She removed him from calling others to harm. He took seven hundred of our people in fifty years to sacrifice for power. We will not see this evil walk the earth any longer."
"Boys, that's partially why we're here," the head agent pointed out. "Our bosses and the prosecutors will have to decide that. Because what you did was illegal, even though it's righteous."
"Our people believe we are martyrs anyway," the head demon assured him. "If it must be so, then so be it, but we will stop him one way or another."
The head agents both nodded. The CIA guy squatted down to look at him. "Is there a cell backing you up? Support staff that should be told to stand down and wait for us to do our part first?"
He stared at him. "He said he would not tell."
"Xander? He didn't tell me a thing. Just that you guys probably weren't fully unsupported by your people. Which happens in most underground movements."
He stared at him. "He did not tell you?"
"All he told me was that you had non-combatants who needed to be told to stand down. He said he would not share any details with me about them."
The demon nodded. "You do not lie. Thank you. We do have families but for a human to touch them would sully them and they might consider suicide with our children for being so tainted. We do not wish it so."
"Would a female agent be better? There's some available."
He shook his head. "It is your species, not whether you push out eggs or you fertilize them."
The CIA guy nodded, standing up. "Do you have a holy figure or someone who can come get them? Because if they're not involved as more than family members, if they did nothing to gather the weapons, take care of the weapons, that stuff, we do not want them. It would be safer if they were gone."
He looked at the others, who nodded. "There are those who would but some of ours do not agree with us doing this."
"That's pretty usual," the agent behind them said. "Can we call someone? Someone who will protect them for you until we figure out what we're doing with you?"
He looked down then nodded. "In my tiny claw phone is a number of a priestess. She will guard and protect them for us."
"She disagrees with us," one hissed.
He nodded. "But she would not see innocents harmed because we did what we must. She would protect them from both sides." They nodded at that wisdom. "May I?" The agent handed over the phone he found. He got into the number, speaking to her in his native language. He hung up and handed it back. "It is done. They will be safe and if we are captured and made true martyrs, so be it. It is for the good of our people."
"We don't kill you for this sort of thing unless you actually manage to blow things up," the CIA guy told him simply. "For this, you spend time in jail." He walked out to call his superior and brief him. He saw Miss Summers. "Ma'am."
"Oh, please, not that old," she begged. "I know it's been a lot of long nights but I'm not that old."
"Fine, Miss Summers."
She stared at him. "How do you know me?"
He smiled. "The files that were sealed. Plus a few people looked at the film of graduation that got put into FBI evidence. It wasn't complete but we saw enough." She nodded once at that. "They have a priestess coming to help them."
She looked then at him. "I'd scare them."
"That's fine. Are there others that we should be wary of?"
"Yup. Plenty. Some look human." She saw someone running and frowned, watching them. "Xander?"
He panted, leaning against her shoulder, staring at her. "They just arrested Riley for something different," he panted. "And your mom's sick. She's throwing up. Said she's got a headache. Refuses to see anyone. I'll drive." She nodded, going to get her mother. He gulped air, looking at them. "What did the vamp feeding bastard do?" he asked quietly.
"Don't ask, kid. This goes before the Initiative stuff." Xander nodded at that. "Can we keep Rosenburg?"
"You can. If she needs backup, she'll call Spike. Or Angel's team." He walked into the yard. "Willow, Joyce is puking her guts up and has a bad headache. Buffy and I are dragging her somewhere against her will." She nodded at that. "Help them." He left, jogging off.
"It's nineteen blocks, why is he running?" she said.
"Because it's faster."
"He could drive."
"Sometimes you can't," he told her, walking her back inside. "He said if you needed help you knew who to call."
"Of course. I'm part of the team."
"Good. Riley just got busted for something older than his last problem assignment." She grimaced. "Your hacking brought it to our attention," he told her. He looked at them. "Where will she appear so we can get her here faster?"
"She will appear in town. Close by."
"Willie's?" Willow asked. "He's not open yet but I can call."
"No. That is too low for one such as her. She will appear in the Glade."
Willow nodded, texting Tara since it was past the college. "Tara's that way. She'll make sure she gets here." She saw someone walking in. "Graham," she said coolly.
"Down, Rosenburg. We had to take Finn in for a few hours to correct something done to him. I'm here to help. These ones?" He flashed his ID and badge.
"Wanted to take out the old mayor since he had sacrificed seven hundred of their people over about fifty years," one agent told him.
"If he was still here, I would have too," he agreed. He looked around. "What else is happening today? I can get some of my people to back you up. They *do* know."
The CIA guy smirked. "You were one of those commandos?" Graham nodded. "We'll see. We have a lot of help."
"But I know how to treat them so they don't explode. Speaking of, let that one go," he said with a point. That one was let out of his handcuffs and ran to the bathroom. "They will literally explode if they don't dump that." They all nodded at that information. It wasn't stranger than some things they had seen.
Tara smiled at the priestess materializing. "Ma'am," she said quietly.
She stared at her. "Wicca."
"Tara," she corrected. The priestess nodded at that. "Come, I will guide you to their residence so you can get the women and eggs."
"Are you native? You seem too pure."
"I'm from elsewhere but came here to go to school. Now I work with the slayer."
"I see. That is worthwhile. She has not threatened anyone?"
"She wants the weapons they had out of her town. Others are handling the problems that they were trying to stop. We want nothing to do with their mission outside of agreeing on the end cause." She smiled at that, walking off with her. "I have a jeep I borrowed if you wish to use it. Or we can walk but it's about a mile."
"We can ride. It will not insult me." Tara got them into the jeep and drove her carefully to where the agents were. Tara got scowled at and one agent tried to stop her but Willow came out with one of them and let her in. The priestess nodded at her, saying something in her native language before walking inside. She looked at the men on the floor. Then at the agent standing guard. "Are they going to be struck down?"
"This isn't a death penalty offense, ma'am," he said, totally serious. "They may be facing some jail time though. We're not sure yet. That's between them and the prosecutor." She nodded at that. "You're the one they called about their families?"
"They're in the hidden portal in the lower cavern," one of them whispered, looking up at her. "My wife is due soon, Priestess."
She smiled. "I hold no onus and wish her no ill for you believing this was necessary."
"His evil still leads this town," the leader assured her. "Even the humans are tired of him."
She nodded. "I don't say I don't agree that something had to be done but this was too radical for our people. I will make sure your families are safe." They nodded. "Let me go down there." She walked off, an agent escorting her. She found the portals and looked. One had things that made the agent moan. The other had scared looking women and children. "Peace, children." They stared at her. "I am here to make sure you are not harmed. The men have told the human officers that you were not involved in the planning or the handling of the weapons. They are letting you go into my care so I can make sure none will harm you." A few relaxed. "Now, let's gather things and head home. I know some of you are worried. We will see what can be done for our people. Their cause was good but their execution was not." The head woman stood up. "Come. I will take you back to the portal I used. We will go to the temple and send words around." They followed the head woman out and upstairs where Tara smiled at them and patted a few kids on the sleeve. One mother looked horrified.
"I'm Tara," she said quietly. "I work with the local team."
"You dated that witch," she said.
"I did and she's outside. My own gifts ache for them."
The mother nodded at that. "Thank you, White One." She left, checking her child over.
Tara helped one woman up the stairs since she was having problems. "I'll help you." The woman gave her a sad smile. "It's not right to let elders flail when they only need a bit of help to brace themselves."
"Thank you, White One." She walked out with her.
Tara smiled at the priestess. "Did I hurt her?"
"No. There's not many would know what to do if a human offered help. It was kind of you to do so, child." She patted her on the cheek and walked out with them. Willow had changed the jeep so it had a lot more room in the backseat than it should. She let Tara drive her back once they were all inside. It was good to clear out the innocent and frail.
Xander walked into the Magic Box that night, flopping down to look at Giles. "Joyce is sick. She's in Cedars."
"Is she going to be all right?"
"If they can remove the tumor." Giles gaped, then pulled off his glasses to clean. "It's small, they're going to do a better CT tonight and probably surgery tomorrow. Buffy's with her."
"Of course she will!" He put on his glasses and looked at the young man. "I heard from an agent you showed up to tell Buffy that." Xander nodded. "That's fine then. I'll visit her." Xander handed over the visitor's information sheet with a grin. "Will she need anything?"
"Maybe something to lounge around in. I'm not sure how long they'll keep her but Buffy was already mugging the snack machine for candy bars. I know why she's worried but she refused to calm down earlier so they admitted her and gave her a light sedative. She's in her mom's room though."
"I'll gladly stop in and let Tara pick her out some things to have in bed, and Buffy as well. Are you going back?"
"Day after. I said tomorrow was Summers woman day and your day." Giles smiled at that. "I said I'd ask Tara and Spike if they wanted to come when I went back."
"He may. She did sympathize with him about Druscila." He sighed, looking around.
"Go. I've got it." Giles nodded and headed out, clutching the sheet to him. Xander got up and went to check things over. Willow had created their bar-code inventory so it was fine. All he had to do was scan it.
Xander had to stop about a block from his site because of a stop sign, staring at the parking lot while he waited for the school bus to go. What he saw amused him. Multiple SUV's, and a few Sunnydale PD cars too. He called his boss. "Let me guess, the locals are saying I'm one of the roots of all evil?" He snickered. "No, I don't think so. Isn't the ATF guys there? Well, no, that's why I didn't use homemade ones to blow the site, boss." He turned and drove off to park a bit away from them. "Hold on, no FBI? Yeah, you tell them to ask the FBI since they reopened the investigation." He hung up and watched. He saw it when someone spotted him but they made no move. He checked his mirrors and got out, shrugging at the agent from the FBI. "What?"
"We're not on your ass."
"You're sneaking up on me. That doesn't inspire trust of that statement."
"We were hoping you weren't going to be paranoid like the rest of us are, kid," Colby said from behind him.
"Oh, well, in that case, too late. Look where I live." He leaned against his hood. "All this?"
"Shit, Buffy. Tell me you guys aren't going near her in LA? Her mom's going into surgery today to take out a lump."
"Cancer?" David asked.
"They just found a brain tumor yesterday." They both winced. "Please, guys. She'll fight you if you drag her out of that hospital and she can hurt people. She shouldn't but she can."
"Nah, Don went to talk to her," David assured him. "He wouldn't react that way in that situation. Even if she did get huffy."
"Good." He relaxed again. "So what's up?"
"ATF wanted to know how you knew explosives."
"You want me to be honest?" They nodded. "Back in high school, we had this wonderful guy named Ethan who kinda helped us become our costumes one night. Memories and all," he finished quietly, looking behind him. "Eavesdropping is rude." He grinned at the CIA guy. "You're still here?"
"Yeah, still. I don't know how."
"Hmm, yeah, I wasn't on patrol last night. Buffy's family emergency had me watching the store while he went to sit with Buffy in LA at the hospital."
"I heard." He came over. "You got memories from your costume?"
"Technically he magicked us into our costumes. I went as a very nice PFC who had just gotten done with his training." David moaned. Colby gave him a horrified look. He grinned. "I looked him up, he's now a Colonel at some weapons designer near DC."
"So you know something about the stuff they took out of that cult yesterday," Colby said, staring the kid down. "That's how you planned battles?"
"That and D&D. Lots and lots of planning learned from D&D, dude."
Colby shook his head. "You got lucky."
Xander stared him down. "You have no idea the hell I put myself through before and after that night over that battle," he said quietly but was getting a bit colder.
"Yeah, I do, kid. Only mine was in a real war." Xander relaxed some at that. "Not criticizing," he promised. "You did damn good for what you had. I would've crapped myself."
"I think a few might have," he admitted. He made himself relax. "So why else is there a confab today?"
"Two agents are missing," David told him.
"Hmm. Did they get taken out of their rooms or are they dead missing?"
"We're not sure. The ATF is paranoid about you knowing about those things. The guy that helped yesterday is being overruled by his higher ups."
Xander nodded. "That's nice but I do what I have to do to protect all you guys and keep the bad shit here instead."
"We get that," Colby assured him. "Be damned if I want it in LA. They're paranoid for other reasons."
Xander grinned. "They can be paranoid if they want, but the problem is standing next to his lackey over there." He glanced at them. Then he smirked and waved. "Good morning."
"Harris," he sneered. "What are you doing here? Not out causing problems?"
"No, I was going to go to work today."
"I wonder what they'll find when they search your place," he said smugly. "Drugs?"
"I sincerely doubt they'll find anything but my laptop that I use to write stories with." He grinned. "Maybe a few swords because I'm that sort of guy." The agent huffed off with the assistant mayor behind him. "You might want to warn them that I do have a security system," Xander told David. "I'm not sure how it'll react against normals and if they break my laptop or do anything to the stories on there, I get to kill them. And yes, I can."
He called over there. "Guys, Harris said he has a threat assessing security system. Also, he has a work related laptop that he will be suing over."
"Because the stuff on there, is my retirement. That's how I just deposited heavily."
"We saw that," the CIA guy said. "How?"
"I sold four books," he said with a smile.
"Congrats, kid. Good job." He took the phone. "This is Denvirs. Touch the laptop and die. Bring it right to me instead." He hung up. "They haven't gotten caught in it yet."
Xander nodded. "Huh. We'll see. They wake Spike up?"
"Yeah, and he's not happy. He was complaining in the background."
Xander sighed. "Let's go." He hiked that way. It wasn't that far really. He got there in time to hear screaming. So he jogged up the stairs, tackling the agent in his doorway and moved Spike away from the sunlight. "We stopped the government from torturing people the last time," he sneered. He helped Tara up too, letting her shelter against him. "Did you actually present the warrant to anyone? Because I haven't seen it." It was held up. He snatched it and read. "Guys, small problem, that's not me." He handed it back. "That's not my name." He smirked. "I believe that makes it illegal," he said, looking at David, who nodded.
"It does." He took it to look over. "Yeah, you're not a Summers." He looked at them. "Get the blonde somewhere."
"Tara, help Spike down to the Magic Box," he ordered. "He can feed there." She nodded, getting him his heavy cloak and taking him out to the sewer entrance in the basement.
An agent followed and came back. "There's a huge tunnel underneath the building, sir."
"Duh," Xander said. "Didn't you see those plans? I know the FBI had them." He looked around and took his laptop back, checking it over. "Good, I get to sue you guys for lost income." He put it back into the safe and shut it in there again, hitting an extra key. Again, magic, but yay. He knew a computer tech who could resurrect all his files for him. He hoped.
"What were those long files?" the agent that had it asked.
"If you had looked instead of deleting you would know that. Because my cooperation is done." He smirked. "Which means you guys have no way of protecting your own damn selves. Congrats, have a will handy. Plenty of people like Spike." He smirked. "I wouldn't bet on making it out of this town alive, guys. I help the problems go away. You guys aren't getting anything from us."
"You know where the cults were," one of the other agents sneered, standing up.
"Yeah, because it's my job to watch them. Not like you guys are doing the job so we had to." One of the agents took a swing at him and Xander got him down and groaning within two blows. "No, I don't think so." He walked over to his security system and pressed a button to arm it. "You two, move," he ordered. They both glared. "Hey, get caught in it." They moved and the others started to. They got caught. All but one outside the radius and the one that was now locked in his weapons room. He stared at them. "Welcome to the hellmouth, guys. It ain't pretty." He walked off to open his weapons room, letting the other weenie out with a shove at the field. He got caught and lifted off the floor too. Xander checked then relocked his door. "Yes, they're all registered." He looked at David and Colby. "So, what do you two need today?"
"We were going to interview you about the other problems you've seen from the local government locally, Mr. Harris," Colby said, staring at the guys hanging in midair. "How did you do that?"
"It was a system made by someone in the demon community. Spike aimed me at him to cancel a poker debt he had with the guy."
"Okay, so that's demon created?"
"Yeah. It won't hurt them unless they had ill intent. Then, well..... I have no idea." Two more agents stomped in. "Morning," he told Graham and his associate.
"Harris. They're paranoid."
"No, they're asses. They also decided to erase my laptop on purpose then one asked me what the larger files were." He smirked. "You know what that means."
"They're dirty to some higher demon," Miller complained, walking into the apartment. "Can I?"
"Go right ahead." He turned it off for a second so they all thumped. Miller grabbed one and he put the rest back up. The agent was whimpering, which was probably why he was chosen. Xander strolled over. "I have a knife if you want," he offered with a grin.
"You have more than *a* knife," one complained.
"All legal," Xander quipped. He smirked at the two agents. "As for the two that got taken.... Any idea, Graham?"
"Yeah, it was vampires sent by the new head of the PD. We caught one. He's in a hospital in LA getting blood replaced. The other I'm not sure. We couldn't find him and have no idea where to start looking."
"Willie's doesn't open until ten," Xander said, considering it. He called Tara's phone. "Hey. They had an agent taken last night. No, these guys are dirty to some demon who likes them that special cocksucking way. Sorry, Tara. I'll smack myself later. Can you? Thanks." He hung up. "She'll call a few peaceful contacts we have to see if they've heard."
"The Black Thorn will win!" one of the stuck agents shouted. "There will be no more slayers!"
Xander snickered, looking at him. "The line doesn't move through Buffy anymore. She kinda died back before the Harvest and I know CPR. There's *two* for a reason." The man looked horrified. "Other than that, I doubt they can touch her since she's in custody." He called Cordelia. "Hey, small sitch. Someone called the Black Thorn want to take out slayers. Well, the line doesn't move through Buffy," he reminded her. "Yeah, I figure one of you can warn her. Thanks." He hung up. "She'll know by later." He smirked. "Any other demon plots you want to admit to? Because even if you took out Faith, it'd still move to another slayer, one in Council custody probably. There's always another slayer or potential waiting to come out."
The agent out of the field swallowed hard. "There can't be."
"There can be. You'll never find all of the potentials. Not even the Watchers can find all the potentials. That's how they missed Buffy." He smirked. "And look at her record. Longest of all ever called to the duty already. Handled more apocalypses than any of the others. Best dressed of them all too." The agent outside the field slumped.
"Oh no you don't," Colby said, moving closer.
"Stay," Xander said. Colby moved back. He didn't want caught. Xander grinned, grabbing the agent and Miller, walking them both back to his room. A minute later the agent wailed. Xander strolled out. "He'll go stop them. He has the connections and I called the one there who does it like we do to let them know at the same time." Graham walked out. "I guess Willow's new sheet set she bought me came in handy after all, even if they are ugly and girlish."
Miller smirked. "I didn't think you had picked out little blue flowers."
"No, that was a Willow plan."
"Ah. Where is she?" Xander shrugged. "Really no clue?"
"Really. Don't really care," he admitted. "Especially since she's been going off the deep end with her magic."
"Aw, crap. Stopping her?" he asked.
"Cordelia," he said with a smug look. "They had a *talk*."
Graham shuddered. "I've only watched her from afar, way back when, but damn."
"Yeah, she's my sort of woman," he sighed, grinning.
Graham looked at him. "You two dated?"
"Yup, it was her dumping me that indirectly caused Anya to lose her power center and become human. Of course, at the time, for some reason I had lost my mind and had kissed Willow. She caught us and got hurt in the process thanks to Spike. Then again, she was shopping around too."
Graham gave him a look. "Were you stupid?"
"No, I was a teenage boy. And hey, look what happened. Willow and my ex. Speaking of which, if any of you guys tapped her too, she had something like demonic syphilis. They'll need treated."
"I doubt my guys did," Graham said. Xander opened the drawer to pull out the black book. He took it to flip through, seeing a few names he knew. "Never mind."
"I took that to the clinic with me so the nurse would know what to check for. It took nearly and hour and I felt like I had fed someone. Then she pulled out swabs."
"The clinic on 8th?" Xander nodded. "I'll suggest some people find a similar place in LA." He handed it back. "What're we going to do about them?" he asked the FBI agents.
"That makes them dirty," Colby said, looking at David.
David nodded. "Sounds like they're dirty and trying to derail our investigation to me too."
"We'll bring them back to the head office," Graham sighed.
"Who are you?" Colby asked.
"My buddy talked about you," he said, grimacing some.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, exactly. And while I don't trust them.... Please get them out of my house. I have to see if any computer techs I might know can restore my files." One sneered at him. "Though that does mean I get to sue him, right? Since that was a false warrant?"
"Sure, go ahead," Colby agreed. "Was anything not backed up?"
"No, I had a backup but he basically deleted the hard drive. Didn't get to a disk compression though. My old dinosaur hates doing it without a lot of disk checks first."
"Then it should be able to be retrieved," Colby offered. "We can take it in and see."
"I don't have anything damaging on there," he admitted. He handed it over. "Please don't bang it into anything."
"I won't." He helped drag the guys out then came back for the laptop. This way he could still say it had been searched if someone higher up demanded. David grinned at him for that slickness. He went back up to get the kid so they could protect him and make sure nothing else happened. Clearly someone higher up was nervous.
They walked down to the site, which was closed, and then to City Hall to meet with the other agents. They were all holding guns on someone wearing an exploding vest. Xander walked up behind him and pulled the plug to the detonator switch. "How Speed did you go?" he asked dryly. "Should we shoot the hostage next?" The guy moaned. Xander tossed the cord over his shoulder and got out of the way. The agents came over to get him down, arrest him, get him free, then glared at Xander. "Just doing my civic duty," he quipped.
"They might've shot you too," David warned.
Xander shook his head. "I doubt most of them could've went through the other guy." He walked them into an office and then backed out while the agents stared in unholy glee. "Welcome," he quipped, heading for the coffee cart. "Hey, can I have a giant mocha?"
She stared at him. "I've seen you on chocolate, Xander Harris."
He shrugged. "I've had to defeat bad agents already today. I deserve it." He put down three bucks and she sighed, making him one with whipped cream. "Thanks." He walked off calling Buffy's phone. "Let me know how it's going. Tell the FBI guy that his buddies are still okay. That they stopped the bad agents who broke into my place. We stopped the one trying to bomb City Hall too." He took a sip. "And let us know when we can come back, Buffster. Remember, we're here for you." He hung up and went to nudge them out of their stupors. He grinned. "Yes, it's very pretty."
"Shiny," Colby agreed, staring at the large amount of gold bricks. "I didn't know you could have this outside of a Reserve site."
"We need to make sure this wasn't stolen either," David said quietly. "I hate working with the Treasury."
Xander snickered. "So delegate." They both gave him evil looks. He pointed. "The huffy one, I do believe, is Secret Service." He walked off happier. "Hey," he told that agent. "They're in the room of shiny."
"Yeah," he called.
"Are we keeping this civilian?"
"No. He's got a demo license, some of the ATF guys have seen him in the past. He just had bad agents break into his house to delete his fantasy novels he's writing." He leaned out. "He's right, you get to deal with the Treasury dweebs."
That agent walked that way and paused. "Oh, damn," he moaned.
"Half of Sunnydale is," Xander quipped, taking another sip. He saw someone coming up the stairs. "Hey, Tara."
"Xander." She gave him a hug. "That alarm system is still on. I nearly got trapped," she said quietly.
"Sorry. I'll turn it off later." He grinned. "They're in the room of shiny."
"I remember seeing that on a tour Willow gave me." She looked around then at him. "Any word from LA?"
David called. "It's us. We're going to need a Treasury guy. Gold bricks. Also, the kids want to know how Summers is doing?" He smiled. "Good to know. Thanks, Don." He hung up. "Buffy's fussing and fluttering worse than some grandmothers. Her mother's about to go into surgery in an hour or so. He's talked to her and her mother told her what to admit to and what to glare about. Don said he'll talk to her while her mom's in surgery to help take her mind off it." He walked over. "You're taking this awfully well."
Xander grinned. "I was born here. Do you know how often we went exploring when we were little?"
"You managed to survive."
"We were damn lucky," Xander assured him. "Plenty didn't survive. When I found out why, I jumped in," he finished more quietly.
"It's something I can understand and respect, kids. Really. We just can't tolerate this level of.... filth."
Xander smirked. "If you're that dirt-phobic, don't go into the meeting room on three. He used it to meet with elemental demons. It still reeks of magic and has dirt on the walls, the floors, and the ceiling, held up by magic and demon snot." Tara shuddered. "Which will never come out. Trust us, we've tried."
David nodded at that. "I'll keep that in mind, kid." He walked off to tell Colby that, who had to go look. Colby came back shaking his head. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, fully covered in shiny, sticky dirt." He shuddered. Xander and Tara laughed from their seat on a bench by the doors. "Maybe the next one will take care of that," he called over.
"We're the only construction company in town," Xander said with an evil smirk. "We're rebuilding the school."
"The kids probably need it more anyway," David said.
"We wish they'd put it somewhere else," Xander admitted. "But no money." They gave him incredulous looks. "Supposedly. Hey, do I get a reward for turning in that artillery? We could use a good dinner when Joyce is cleared to come home." Tara pinched him, making him yelp. "What?"
"Behave," she said quietly.
Willow stomped in. "What are you doing here?" she demanded when she spotted them. They pointed at David and Colby. Xander finished his coffee before she could snatch it from him. "You don't need that."
"You're not my mother. Go away. Now." She snarled. He growled. She backed off.
"Miss Rosenburg, we had a few questions for you," Colby said, walking her off, giving the boy a look that said 'you owe me'. Xander just waved and grinned. "How much of the computers in this building have you hacked?"
She snorted. "Every last one whenever we needed to."
"Did you save any of the information down?" David asked. "It could be useful in prosecutions."
She stared at him. "That would leave an evidence trail back to me."
"Willow, they're the good guys," Xander called. "They had a partial tape of grad from a fallen camera."
She slumped, looking at them. "Of course I did." They smiled. "I'll have to get it from my parents' house. If they haven't thrown it out. I protected it but you never know."
"Sure, can we do that now?" David asked. "That way we could see what you have?" She nodded, walking him out to take him to her parents' house.
"Think her parents goofed?" Colby asked them.
"I think her parents are somewhere and haven't been home in nearly seven months," Xander admitted.
"Huh. You know, Charlie heard them speak once. He wasn't impressed with what they've done to that girl."
"None of us are. Willow's mom was the sort to scream about the least little problem but she was never there. Which was nice because it meant I could hide at her place when I needed to." Tara gave him a squeeze. "It's okay," he promised her.
Colby shook his head. "This town is so screwed up."
"Yup," Xander agreed. "Things happen here that no one pays attention to. Or else we wouldn't have twelve official cemeteries and another six unofficial ones."
Colby stared. "Any homicide victims?"
"Most of them are homicides, just not killed by people."
"Any idea where that cult from yesterday's people are buried?"
He got up and walked over. "Some. Some he had to burn by what we found when we were working on stopping him." He looked around. "I'm not sure if their sort bury their dead and what rituals are used. You'd have to ask them."
"Give me the location of those other cemeteries?" Xander nodded so he got a map for them to mark. "Thanks, kid. Any other weapons stashes? Personal, cult, his, theirs, anyone's?"
"Yes and no. I know where some are but I go to them when I need something so that's in bad form. Now, bad guys...." He took the marker and made a few x's. "Those are the ones I know of. These three may have moved since the last time I knew," he said with a point at them. "This one's always available and he sells cheaply to humans." He looked at him. "That's where I got a few that I registered."
"Dead people's auctions."
"How much have they bent the laws to speed up the after-death process?"
"You're buried within three days," Xander told him. "Or cremated by the city. Probates usually happen within four months. Death taxes make the city a lot of cash. Generally, if someone died today, within a month their wills are probated, their stuff is auctioned off or given away to whoever was in your will if they're alive, and you're pretty well forgotten by most everyone."
"Is that a spell?"
"We never decided if it was a radiation thing from the hellmouth or if it was sanity-saving on their parts."
"Could be both," Tara added quietly. "There's a high percentage on psychiatric drugs around here."
Colby smiled. "I know why. I want some already." She snickered at that.
"There's been days even I wanted some," Xander admitted. He spotted David and Willow coming back. "Especially recently."
"Why?" Colby asked. "We noticed the tension."
"She's kinda not real liked at the moment thanks to a few things. Like trying to make everyone believe I had left the town years ago and take over my apartment to harass Tara. I handed her over by grabbing her hair and giving her to the officers who actually showed up to find me doing something wrong."
Colby nodded. "Yeah, that's a bad thing. How?"
"Magic," he said bluntly, then looked over as they walked into the building. "They leave your room alone as a shrine even though they changed the locks?"
"It was all boxed up but yeah, basically," Willow admitted. "I have no idea where they are. I left a message saying I needed to get something out of my high school stuff because the FBI had just busted someone I did a paper on." She shrugged. "It went right to voicemail. Maybe she got Sunnydale'd somewhere else."
"Maybe," he admitted. He looked at David. "Would knowing where their file storage area help?"
"We've seen the one on two, kid," Colby said.
"No, that's their current storage of public records." He smirked. "Some people do know since the mayor was their boss or they were blackmailed." He led them down the hall and to the basement, waving at the two cops down there. "Conducting a tour."
"This is off limits to civilians," one said, trying to stop him.
Xander smirked and pulled something out of his pocket to gas them both. He walked on. "New guy. He tried to get me for pickpocketing a vamp the other day." He opened a door, looking inside. Then closed it and another one. "There you go but it looks like they've been moving some of them."
David walked in and looked around. He called someone. "Found more records."
"I thought the newer ones were still up by his office," Willow said, looking at Xander.
"It's usually dumped in April for spring cleaning. I figured they would've moved those down here first." He led Colby up there and gassed the two officers and an agent up there. "It's only knockout gas." He opened a door and looked in. "Ah, the sweet smell of corruption and the altar they had to make their blood vows of loyalty on. Which can kill you if you break." He got out of his way.
"Eww." He stared and called David. "Found more and a pagan altar thingy the kid said they made loyalty blood vows on that could kill them if they broke." He hung up, looking at the cabinets. "This is going to be a mess to straighten out.
Xander grinned. "The last mayor was a bit OCD and very germphobic. Hence the cleaning sprees. Those are marked by topic."
Colby walked over, nodding. "This one's marked payouts." He opened it. "Attempted and done, by year." He smirked at the kid. "Thanks."
"Next time I'll put a bow on the door," he quipped. He gassed someone else who was running at him. "This is entertaining."
Colby looked. "He's ours. Good guy."
Xander shrugged. "He was running at me with his gun out. I'm not that stupid."
"You're not stupid," Colby assured him.
"Tell that to the school."
"Your SAT score proves you're not," he countered.
"My D plus average says something different," he shot back. He looked back at the guy staring at him. "Yes, I heard you come up but unlike sparky there, you're not holding your gun. He's playing in his present of pay off files."
"He's cool, Ian," Colby said.
"He still gassed a few agents."
"The one on the bottom was helping guard the room with the locals." He looked out there. "Xander, this is Agent Ian Edgerton."
"Pleasure," he said, shaking his hand. "Um, Colby, shitload of a problem," he said, staring outside. "What the hell did the geeks do this time?" He walked over to a window and sighed, calling Tara. "Are you out front?" He nodded. "Which geek king is it?" He smirked. "Thanks. No, stay out of his way. Half the time his stuff backfires." He hung up and sighed, looking at it. "I so need something," he muttered, walking down there. He tossed Tara the keys to the car. "Please?"
"It's by the site," she reminded him.
He grimaced and considered it. "K. Be right back." He jogged off, heading to the police station out a side door and into their back room. Some of them looked curious but oh well. He came out with something, heading out to their front step. "Warren, you idiot!" he yelled, shooting the robot's feet. It fell down. He tossed the gun back inside. "Thanks for the lending. Warren just made a mess of the street with his new super robot, guys." They groaned but he walked off shaking his head.
"What was that?" David demanded.
"Well, that is one of our King Geeks. That's Warren Meers. He's some sort of super genius but he's annoying." He shrugged. "That is a Big O trial and it's probably got weapons. I don't know what he's doing but it's dumb and creating more problems since it stepped on you guys' car."
"I saw that, that's why I asked," David said sarcastically.
Xander shrugged. "It's not my thing. I like giant battle robots and anime as much as the next geek but really. This is their second attempt at being the huge badass he wants to be. Still failing."
"Of course he is." David walked out there to haul the geek up and arrest him, putting him beside Tara. "If he moves or gets mouthy, beat him." He walked off. "Colby?" he asked the kid.
"Third floor. Room with current records. Including payouts."
"I noticed they were nicely labeled."
"The last mayor was a bit OCD and germphobic."
"That explains a lot," David decided. He went back up there. Ian was still staring outside. "Does that really surprise you?"
"No," he decided. "Not about this town. There's something seriously wrong here."
"It's under the high school," Colby told him. "Don't ask, that's all we know about it. Ask the kid."
"No thanks. I don't want to know. But I'll know the next time I run into this sort of miasma of evil."
Xander strolled up. "Hellmouth. Six others in the world. One's in Cleveland but dead."
"Good to know that's why I hate working in Cleveland," Ian said. "Who're you?"
"Xander Harris. I turned in the cults that had weapons that nearly got Granger and Epps blown up."
"Blown up?" Ian asked.
"The locals have been dirty for over a century. They blew up our SUV. Harris gave us his car to get out of town in. They took out the cult we were looking at and used their stuff to blow up a storage building at the college."
"They hated her. She was working on a free energy project," Xander told him. "Can't make money if it's free. She didn't have a way for them to blackmail her or force her to work for them instead. Or a way to use the ideas once she perfected that. Even if they stole it, no one here is really brainy smurf."
"We've noticed that," Colby said.
"They graduated from here too," Xander quipped. "Our schools suck." He looked around. "Guys, it's nearly lunch time. Remember, out by dark for safety reasons. Especially with her out of town."
"We're taking over somewhere," Ian said, staring at him.
"Cool. Give whoever you're going to post as guards stakes and flame throwers. It'll help." He looked in the room. "Need more help, guys? If not, I'm going to take Tara to lunch."
"I think the idiots earlier tried to lock your account, Xander," David admitted.
"Yeah but I have money stashed away from Anya." He walked out, taking Tara with him to the local greasy food place after a stop at the bank. They all glared at him. "What?"
"You turned the town in?" one said.
"No, I turned in that a cult had an anti-aircraft missile system in their backyard. The cops tried to blow up to FBI agents." She moaned. "That's their own stupidity. I did what I was supposed to do."
"Good point," she sighed. "Which account?"
"My Anya proof one." She nodded, getting into it while he filled out a withdrawal slip. She handed him the money. "My others?"
"Locked," she said with a smug look.
"That'll be fixed. By the way, got the statement today." She whined. "Put it back. Today. I'm in a suing mood." He walked Tara off. "I wonder how long it'll be before the FBI calls in the people over the banks to get them too," he said as he walked her off.
"I don't know," she admitted. "That was mean."
"Yeah but they stole two grand."
"Oh. Never mind." She walked off with him to get lunch. She could get a salad there too. Even if he did insist she get fries too.
"Did you get the money orders for the rent?"
"Yup. They're safely stored in my undies drawer so I don't lose them."
"Cool. That way I can't forget," he said dryly. She smirked at him. "I would."
"I know. They're mean to you." She nibbled a fry. "What are you going to do about your laptop being broken?"
"I'm going to ..." He sighed. "I don't know. I only had one thing on there that wasn't backed up." She nodded. "I've got to mail those to Donnie anyway."
"I did before I came to get you at City Hall with a letter."
"Cool. Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek. "You make a very good sister." He grinned. She pinched him, earning a laugh. "So, what're we doing about this?"
"Don't know," she admitted. "What do you want to do?"
"It'll blow over. They'll get finished and the ones who're left will fill in the vacuum, same as always."
"I guess." He ate a large bite.
"You need to eat better."
"Be thankful I'm eating," he reminded her once he had swallowed.
"I am." She smiled at someone on the street, waving at him. "That scary one."
Xander looked then at her. "I have the feeling that there's some similarities to my hyena," he said quietly.
"Could be," she admitted, eating another bite. Willow walked in and flopped down so she gave her half her fries as a matter of habit. "They done for the day?"
"No, they took the officers and the whole of City Hall to the office in LA while the agents gut the building some more. They'll have those files moved in an hour or so." She nibbled. "I don't know what's going to happen."
"The cops shouldn't have tried to blow up two Feds," Xander told her simply. The ones listening to them groaned. He looked back. "Really, they shouldn't have." He ate another bite.
"You need to eat better," Willow complained. Xander glared while he chewed. She shrank back. "Fine. Whatever."
"Move to Iowa," he told her. He looked at Tara. "If we have to move, they'll want me closer. Got a college you'd like to transfer to?"
She shrugged. "UCLA is nice but there's a good few of them around the area."
"Cool. We'll start looking at those later." She nodded, smiling at him. "Then places to move come after that." She nodded again, eating a bite of her salad. "I need internet at home too."
"They'll turn it back on today," she reminded him.
"Cool. Thanks, Tara. I totally forgot."
"Who's going to be next in Tral's uni?"
"I don't know. It might be Heldra. She's an interesting character." She nodded. "Lots of stuff I can do with her." The muses hit and he had to snap back at them that he didn't have a computer at the moment. They quieted down. "Definitely if they're going to remember that in a few days." She handed him some paper and a pencil so he wrote it down. "Thanks."
"Welcome." She put it back into her purse. "Bad agents."
Xander looked then finished. He took her phone to text Epps. He could call his own people. He had only looked up that one's number in case of emergencies with those cults. The agents stormed in and stared at them. Then one grabbed Tara. "I would not, guys."
"Someone wants to speak to her," one sneered. "You move and you can be arrested, Harris."
Xander considered his gas but it was running low. He looked at Willow, who knocked them all out. "Thank you. Tara, let's go hang out in plain sight?" She nodded, finishing up and going with him. Willow followed.
This was not going to be a fun day by any means.
Don Epps looked at the list of arrests when he got in that night. He had brought Summers back for the night. "Looks like we smacked a bunch of roaches too."
"I had no idea so many of us in the local office were dirty," Colby agreed, sounding tired. "We started on the hospital but the state stepped in for us and shut them down pending an investigation." He took off his shoes and rubbed his feet. "There's no city service that wasn't involved. We left a single shift of people that didn't try to step in our way, just stood and glared, in case something happened."
David looked up from his eating. "When the locals started on the Harris boy he pointed out he only turned in the cults, the cops had tried to blow you two up. The whole town is now pissed at the officers."
"We put agents on guard here," Colby added. "Just in case there's retaliation or we get attacked by the others. Harris had to gas a few of those agents, Don."
"I saw that report. Buffy laughed. It helped her calm down." He looked up. "His laptop?"
"Fixed. We gave it back to Tara. She'll give it back to him after patrol tonight. I sent Edgerton with them in case they got attacked by the town. He's subtly trailing them."
Don nodded. "Good work. How much longer?"
"We have enough evidence that it'll take a year to go through," David admitted. "Going back to the founding of Sunnydale." Don sat down with a groan. "Harris pinpointed the hidden cemeteries that have been used in the last twenty years. Some other weapons storage areas, but not the ones that he has to go to if he need something."
"That makes sense," he agreed. "I don't blame the kid for not narking on his connections." He looked at them. "Anything good come of this?"
"We can close some out-of-town homicides too," Colby told him. "Otherwise, no. How's your dad?"
"Swearing and muttering while cooking probably. I told him earlier and he yelled about them nearly blowing me up."
"I wasn't fond of that either," Colby admitted. "We were nice, we brought his car back."
"That was nice of you guys," Don agreed with a smile. "Do we expect retaliation?"
"Depends on who called in their external minions," David said dryly. "I'm not doubting that we'll get someone attacked. Harris suggested stakes and flamethrowers instead of guns."
"I'm hoping guns will do," he admitted. "Any word from the higher ups?" They both shook their heads. "From any agency?"
"Treasury sent their AD," David said. "He was stunned at the gold. Half of it was bought, half was stolen. He was calling someone back in DC while staring at the pile. Don't know if it was his higher up or not."
"We haven't heard a peep out of ours," Colby said. "Anything from the other branches?"
"No. Edgerton nearly freaked out about Harris though. Said he was different and kept staring at the kid. I don't know why."
"Maybe one people hunter to another?" Colby suggested.
"Could be. Do we know anything that's going on tonight?"
"Town pretty well has a unspoken curfew," David admitted. "Everything but the mall closes about dark."
Don nodded. "Sounds like they're trying to keep things subtly safe."
"It only takes a month for things to be probated here," Colby told him. "I asked the kid. He said from death to burial is usually within three days. Probate usually within a month and by then most everyone's forgotten about you and they have a good habit of auctioning frequently to get rid of stuff that doesn't have an owner anymore."
Don shuddered. "I guess it solves the problem of a backlog from too many deaths." He put down the reports. "What now?"
"We have to finish going over the city's services and go through all the files we found today."
"Nicely labeled for us by the last mayor," David said with a look.
"Yeah, apparently he was germ phobic and a bit OCD according to Harris."
"Wonderful." Someone knocked so he went to let them in. "Harris." Xander handed over Edgerton. "He get attacked?"
"Kinda got stunned stupid when we were attacked and I had to dust something. Better you keep him than we have to baby him through patrol. The vamps are thinking this is a playground. Buffy's got you guys' safety tonight." He walked off, heading back on patrol. It was an all guy's night.
Don helped Edgerton in, closing and locking the door. "You good?"
"They turned to dust!" he complained.
"Yeah, they're vampires," Colby said with a small shrug. "Apparently they're the main cause of death around here. That's why there's twelve cemeteries and six unofficial ones."
Don stared at him. "The group yesterday's people?"
"Some, no clue which yet. Tomorrow. They arrested?"
"They're talking about it but they're in a private portion of the jail together. That way no one has to think about why they look so different."
Ian shook himself. "What is that kid? He's not fully human."
"Yeah he is," David said. "Walked in sunlight and everything."
"He told me he jumped in earlier when he found out why so many people died. It's something I can understand and respect. I probably would've done the same thing."
"Me too," Don admitted. He sat on the dresser, letting Ian have the chair. "So, now what?"
"Now, we've got a mess. We've got a city that clearly needs an overseer for a bit but there's every chance that whoever wants it will do just as much harm," David said. "Apparently, that power thing that's under the hellmouth draws people like Wilkins and Rosenburg here. Though I think she's been here most of the time. She's just getting to her scary point."
"The state's going to name someone to rebuild," Don told them. "No idea how that's going to be chosen beyond the usual 'pick me' begging."
"Did anyone think to check the old base?" Colby asked. Don shook his head. "We might want to, make sure it's sealed."
"Old base?" Ian asked. "Or do I not want to know?"
"Hear anything about a special ops project that got shut down by some civies for torturing the town?" Colby asked. "Late this spring?"
"It was here. That Finn guy? He turned on his unit to help shut them down after dating Summers."
Ian squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing them. "I saw him with Harris. Seemed a bit....whiny." He looked at them. "How long has this been going on?"
"Wilkins was the first and only mayor until he blew up during Harris' and them's graduation," David told him. "About a century."
"Did you see Rosenburg?" Colby asked. Ian nodded. "Same way."
"Damn it. So now what?"
"Harris turned in a few cults that had weapons and chemical weapons," Don told him. "We came up to check on what he filmed for us. They tried to kill us. The state wasn't stepping in because they didn't want it to spread. Wilkins apparently had a lot of people disappear on purpose when they pissed him off as well. With him gone, and there were some people who thought he was still here, things are unraveling."
"Cute thing is, Harris just sold his first sci-fi novel," Colby said with a smirk.
"Wonderful! So we're relying on a tiny blonde girl who's having family problems with her mom being sick, a geek writer, a former military guy who turned, and two women who both have the scary powers?"
"Tara's a pure Wicca. She's not going to be causing us problems," David told him. "I asked her about the differences earlier. Especially when Harris kept glaring at Rosenburg. That's interpersonal on the team and bad. Tara explained it to me. Tara's like the earth goddess sort. Willow's a blended and having problems. She likes the power."
Ian nodded. "That was obvious since she was sipping a latte and used it to open a door."
"Tara doesn't unless it's necessary. She considers it a gift, not a right."
"So she's got the power but isn't scary. Good to know."
"Harris, somehow, and that hasn't been clarified for me," Don said. "Know artillery. Yesterday at the cult he identified what the things were. For us too on that tape."
"Harris also led the battle at graduation against the old mayor so people had time to flee," David said quietly.
"All he told me was a few years back, someone gave the whole town a bad case of memories from their costumes one halloween," Colby said. "That's all he said about it."
Don shuddered. "We know who he went as?"
"He's a colonel in some weapons design firm the Pentagon works with now."
"So he got it legitimately, just borrowed it," Ian said. "That would explain why he acts like the former military guys do but he's still light, quipping, all that." He stood up. "I should finish tailing them."
"They'll apparently know," David told him. "How did he look fighting?"
"Untrained. Finn kept brushing himself off and complaining they should have Buffy."
"She doesn't need the stress. Her mom had a tumor removed today," Don said quietly. "I questioned her earlier at the hospital. It helped keep her mind off the worry. Her mom told her to glare at certain questions. Like how they knew to use artillery in a mall."
David stiffened. "I saw that report."
Don nodded. "She finally told me later on while pacing and worrying. It couldn't be killed and they had no army unit to throw against him to hack him to pieces again. It let them separate the little blobs."
Ian shook his head quickly. "No. Wrong!" He sighed, sitting down. "This whole town feels wrong."
"The hellmouth is under the old high school," Colby told him. "I asked what that was, didn't get much of an answer I understood. I don't think Larry would understand it either."
"Buffy put it simply as there's multiple planes. Some we'd consider hell planes, though that's in the eye of the beholder as she put it. She said one's pretty nice it just has no music and they treat humans like cows according to Spike. The blond, British guy with Harris and them probably."
"I wondered about him."
"He's turned," Don said. "Just helping thanks to that military project putting a control chip in his head." He looked around then at them. "Apparently there's a thin spot between all those realms here. That's what's drawing all the bad things, all the vampires, Wilkins, all of it. Which is why girls like her get sent here to handle it."
"So the thin spot could let things through," Colby said.
"Especially energy. Which is what draws them and creeps normals out. Harris said he wasn't sure if that ignoring things problem was it's radiation or just sanity saving."
"I guess it could be. Keep the farm happy until harvesting," Colby said dryly. "They're putting the school back in the same spot. He said they didn't have money to move it."
"Sucks to be a student here anyway with the death rate," David complained. "It did go down in his tenth grade year, when Summers got sent here."
Don nodded. "She said that too. They thanked her during the prom."
"That's nice of them." He heard someone walking and glanced outside, opening the door. "Summers. You good?"
"Mom's getting a complication. I can't find Giles."
"Harris is on patrol," Ian offered. "He could drive you."
"I didn't even think about him." She called. "Xander, Mom's had a problem." He said something. "The motel the agents took over. Thanks." She hung up. "You guys try to be more quiet and safer today." She turned at the sound of a car, going over to it. "Riley?"
"My car was closer." He let her get in and drove her off to LA as fast as he dared. They nearly got stopped once but the officer decided to go after some boys racing their hotrod. He got her there and up to her mother's room, that was the important thing.
Don looked at them once the door was closed. "Okay. What're we doing tonight?"
"Resting so we can do it all again tomorrow," Colby said. "There's a few good piles of paperwork waiting on us hopefully from reports."
"I'd figure so." Don stood up. "I'm up the hall. Edgerton?" Someone knocked. He opened it to find Tara. "Miss."
She smiled. "Xander said that the townspeople are pissed and coming this way," she said quietly. "He led a few off. He's not sure you guys will be very safe here." He nodded at that. "I'm going to hide." She left, going back to the shop and then the apartment. Xander had finally turned off that security system. She turned it once she was back in there. If she was in there when it got turned on it wouldn't affect her magic. He had said so.
Xander panted as he jogged up to the agent on patrol an hour later. "You guys won't have too many normals but the rest of the fire department were gearing up and there's no fires going on." He caught his breath. "I led most of the normals off to the school. They're still there or went home."
"Do you think the fire department would stoop to arson?"
"Yeah. That's who did the college to discredit that cult." He glanced around. "I'm going to lay low. Can you tell Epps that?" He nodded. "Thanks. Tell him we have protections on the store, Summers' house, and my place. Don't worry about us when we're safe. They might try the store but I doubt it. Spike's headed there." He walked off, glancing around before taking to the shadows. Then into the sewers for a run home.
The agent went to report that. "Sir." Don nodded. "Harris said his house, the Summers' house, and the store had protections. He is heading home to lay low. He said he lost most of the normals are around the school but he did warn the fire department is moving for some reason." Don nodded at that. "He said they did the explosion at the college."
"I figured they did," he admitted. "Thanks. Keep in contact."
"Yes, sir." He went back to his patrol around the motel. His father had told him stories about busting a town that Russians used to train sleeper cells in. That sounded a lot less insane than this one was becoming.
Tara opened the door at the knock, letting Don Epps and Ian Edgerton in. "He's writing," she told them. "Xander, company?" He grunted. She walked over and closed the screen partially on him, making him frantically hit the command to save. "Agents."
He looked. "Hi, guys. Sorry, was involved in space vamps. When can I have my bank accounts back?"
"Later today when I call and tell them to stop it." Don walked over. "We found weapons sites you didn't mark and one of them hadn't heard of you."
"I don't usually hear about all the underground weapons unless I need something, I hear during a kitten poker game, or my connections tell me. Though are you sure a few hadn't moved? I knew a few might have."
"No, one we caught moving into town. He said the mayor assured him it was safe," Ian told him. "He was affiliated with some underground groups in other places."
Xander nodded. "Doesn't really surprise me. Not a whole lot does anymore." He looked at both of them then back at Don. "Most of my contacts are demons who deal arms off-realm. No one who would sell to someone who'd be against the team."
"We have discrepancies in the total amount of available weapons. Could that be the reason?" Don asked.
"I'd assume it was. Most of the places my main contact sells are having civil and other sorts of wars. He procures and sends to the arms dealers who deal on their realms instead of selling directly. I figured it kept him safer that way."
"Probably," Ian said. "What sort of ordinance did he move last year?"
"I know there's been a few anti-flying things. I know last month he sent an SR system up there." Don moaned at that, shaking his head. "But they're having a civil war against someone who was killing a good portion of the people while consuming more than his world's fair share. They were having a drought and even more were dying so they snapped."
"I respect that sort of uprising," Don assured him. "I'm worried that some of that won't be used and will find its way back down here to be used in a city by a gang or a drug cartel."
Xander nodded. "I'd worry about that too but there's only six guys I've heard of who import weapons from off-plane. Two are in LA. One's in DC, one's in Cleveland. The one in DC handles handing things out to those in New York. Tara, did you see my purple book the last time you cleaned?" She nodded, getting it for him. He flipped through until he found a page. "Here, my notes on that." He let Don see it. "We were wondering what was going to come back that could be used against us. Yearly apocalypses and the like, we have to worry about it."
"Yearly?" Ian asked.
"Usually every spring," Tara said quietly from the kitchen.
"We handle something major every few months but we deal with the spring apocalypses every year," Xander agreed. "Halloween might be normal this year. Not real sure. Usually those problems are human caused instead of demon related." He glanced at his laptop then back at them.
"Humans like the geek yesterday?" Ian asked.
"Sometimes. Sometimes someone with Power. Last year it was someone who accidentally summoned something. Depends."
"That Ethan guy you mentioned?" Don asked.
"I'm not sure if he managed to get free of the Initiative or not," he admitted quietly. "I didn't like the idea of them handing him to Riley, but Giles did because he was a chaos person doing what he did best, make everyone's life a bit more hectic."
"So he handed the guy over for causing problems. Did he know what they were doing?" Don asked. Xander nodded. "So it was expedient?"
"I think so. Or he figured Ethan would get free pretty quickly but have to leave the States. I'm not sure what he was thinking since he had been turned into a demon for a day."
"That had to suck," Ian decided. "But that's still inhumane."
Xander shrugged. "Ethan's a blight when he wants to be. Like Warren, he does things for shits, giggles, and in the name of Janus. I don't really like the guy but I have to admit some of the side effects have been handy to have around."
"What about Rosenburg? Where is she on his scale?" Don asked.
"She's not," Tara said firmly.
"Willow's looking more and more like a magic addict," Xander told them. "It's blinding her to what she's doing. She thinks she's helping. She's trying to get vengeance so things go back to the way they were, those things. Willow's and my problems are beyond that but that's something personal. Not her magic."
"So she's like a heroin addict who can't see that robbing someone so she can get her next fix is hurting them," Ian said.
"We've talked to her about it," Xander admitted. "We've talked about it as a group too. We have no idea. She might have cleaned up for Tara if she put her foot down but then Willow screwed herself there. I'm not sure why she did that, and to be blunt, I don't usually want to think about it or I'm going to get pissed again." They nodded at that. "Other than that, we've all tried to get her to see it. That's why I sent her to Cordelia after her last stunt. Didn't seem to fully work."
"She pouted Cordelia said mean things," Tara said.
"Good! I'm about to say mean things!" She smiled and shook her head. He nodded. "Yeah, I am." He looked at them. "I don't know, guys. I have no idea. I'm a grunt in this fight. Specific skills being tracking, hunting, and weapons. Some planning."
"From that memory thing?" Ian asked.
"Not totally. That possession was good but the other way a predator of a different nature." He grinned. "She's been very helpful at times."
"By?" Don asked.
He shuddered. "Good to know, kid." He looked outside. "This is a nice place."
"Thanks. We found it after I had to move from the last one because my landlord was a bit psychotic and kept seeing puppies around my feet that weren't there."
Ian snickered. "That's bad." Xander nodded.
"So what happens if you get famous?" Don asked. "You'll have to leave town or someone will find out."
"I write under a pen name to throw off my parents. I'll come back under my real one for some research time when Buffy needs me to."
"That's good to know." He stared at him. "What about now?"
"Within a month of you guys ending and leaving, it'll be safe for me to go out. They'll have forgotten like they do everything else. Until then they'll mutter, the bank people won't like me much, someone might try to key my car, those things."
"The city's going to be gutted," Don told him.
"Yeah but that won't help the angry people that will see this as a youth uprising, even if it does make the city safer. They're saying that this is making the city less safe, bringing down property values, all that. I pointed out a few times that I only turned in the cults, they screwed their own pooch. So some of them aren't mad at me for that part."
"Someone asked why you didn't turn them into the locals. I pointed out they wouldn't have done anything but sold it. They said that would've kept them safer," Don told him.
Xander nodded. "I've already gotten some of that. Within a few weeks of you guys leaving it'll be calmed down. Though our site is shut down right now because City Hall needs to pay us for our past work."
"The state's sending an overseer."
"Who won't know what's going on," Xander pointed out. "So they'll try to step on us for helping and the people will talk them into letting things slide again so they're more comfortable in their denial. The town can mobilize when it wants to. They sure did when a demon made them paranoid about witches. Buffy and Willow nearly died on a stake from that." He looked at Tara. "Who has the Amy rat?"
"Joyce. I fed her earlier."
"Cool. Just realized we had forgotten about her." He looked at the agents again. "We do what we can, guys. Really."
"I know," Don assured him. "This wasn't something you guys should have to handle. This is a government job. Not a protection patrol job."
Xander grinned. "Exactly."
"By the way, no patrols tonight. It's not safe. After we had to arrest the fire department last night for trying to burn down the motel and the Magic Box, we instituted a curfew."
"Whoever you have enforcing it might want to watch out for biters," Xander said dryly. "The ones around here you can stake or behead."
"We're sending them in pairs," Ian said.
"That might not help. They attack us as a group when possible," Xander said. "Some do troll singly but if they think there's a threat they will gather and do a minion-gang. Also, you need to tell Willie that. In person."
"I saw that bar," Ian admitted. "Demon bar?" Xander nodded. "We'll make sure he knows."
"He's got supplies for the vamps that can't hunt, like Spike."
"Sewer entrances too," Don said dryly. Xander nodded. "How would that get cleaned up?"
"A whole lot of holy water but some things down there are peaceful. Not all demons are harmful. I've played kitten poker with a good few peaceful ones."
"I want nothing to do with anything that won't attack us, kid. I don't care where they're from as long as they're not against the US and won't attack the agents."
"Willie caters to both types," Xander admitted. "He's our way of getting the harmless and peaceful things that they need. Some of the things buying out of the hospital are still peaceful too. They eat flesh but they won't attack."
"Then Willie can handle that during the daytime. The sewer would work for vampires, right?" Xander nodded. "Then that's fine. He can do it until ten, which is curfew."
"Um, eight," Tara warned. "Daylight ends, bad things come out."
"If we have to, we can lower it. Ten means that most people are inside and we'll have less need to patrol for enforcement. That'll ease things with the people and the agents," Ian told her.
"Okay. We'll remember that. I need to go grocery shopping."
Xander shrugged. "You have my wallet."
"I know." She went to get it and headed out.
Don looked at the kid. "You're very protective of her."
"Yes I am. She needs and deserves it after Willow screwed up. Especially if her parents show up here again."
"I recognized the signs, same as I have yours. Oh, and saw your uncle."
Xander shrugged. "DUI again? That makes his fifteenth or so."
"Drunk and walking this time."
"Huh. He knows better." The agents smirked at that. "He does. My parents?"
"Your father's throwing fits publically but he's slurring most of them," Ian admitted quietly.
"Which is why I write under a whole new name."
"That's not a bad idea," Don agreed. He stood up. "You good to hide?"
"Yeah. Can't work until the boss reopens the site. My editor and agent both hate that I'm being prolific but yay."
"Good," Don agreed. "Stay in as much as you can until they relax. We will make it known why we showed up. That should help some." He patted the kid on the shoulder and left.
Xander leaned back to call his boss. "Hey, it's me." He grinned. "I know. I just got told that. Yeah, well, I didn't try to get two agents blown up, boss. You know that. Exactly. They'll do that. No, I'm safely inside. They'll be unlocking my accounts soon since some bad agents did that to pay me back. Anything going on?" He listened. "No, I'm good. Writing of course but otherwise nothing big. Let me know and I'll be there. Thanks, man." He hung up, getting back into his space vampires. This was going to be interesting.
Don looked outside that night, staring. "Why is it glowing?" he asked.
Ian looked and shuddered. "I'm not sure I want to know." He looked at his friend. "Next time, call me for lesser things?"
"Gladly. If this happens again I'll give advice." Ian snickered at that. "I don't want to do this now either. Damn today was bad." He considered it. Summers was still in LA. He called Harris. "Look out toward your work site. It's glowing?" Xander swore and hung up. "Okay. He's not happy."
"I'm not sure if I want to be happy," Ian admitted. "Think we could Love Canal this place?"
"I'm not against it but the higher ups haven't decided. I asked. Maybe turn it into a national park or something and lock that area off to visitors."
Ian nodded. "I have the desire to pack, Epps."
"Me too." They shared a look. "Guys, there's a strange glow," Don called. "Pack things in case we need to evac." The agents hurried to do that. "Think we should try to back up Harris?"
"Nope. I have no idea how to help. If he needs backup in a physical manner, he'll call you."
"Good point. I don't want to let a few kids handle it though."
"He has Finn, that Spike guy, and Tara."
"Plus Rosenburg." He went to find her since David was asking her questions about magic. "Rosenburg, the school's glowing?" She gasped then looked and ran out. "Pack in case we have to evacuate. Make sure the others heard." He packed his own things easily enough. He only had the one bag and briefcase.
Xander looked outside and hung up, dialing frantically. "Riley, hellmouth's glowing. Meet us there." He hung up and told Spike the same thing. "Tara..." She handed him something. "Thanks. Coming?" She nodded, putting on a jacket as they headed out together. Xander hated this. He really hoped it wasn't a rare fall apocalypse. Especially with Buffy in LA with her mom. He drove them over there, getting out and unlocking the fences. Riley's jeep pulled in with Spike while he was getting the gate open. They ran for the hole. It was slightly open. Tara had the spellbook she needed and was chanting. Xander looked and dropped in a grenade, blowing some tentacles off. Still open. Willow rushed up and chanted with Tara, but it was stuck. "Why won't you close?" he muttered.
Spike looked. "Not stuck open."
"Not that I can see. It's not a general opening. It looks like something's trying to come through," he called.
"They're holding it open," Willow called back. "I can't close it!"
Xander got closer to the hole. It was inside the crater that the explosion had went into. He hauled Spike out of the way when a pike's spear came out. "Yeah, we've got visitors." He grabbed the end and pulled, getting it away from them. Better to have them unarmed. He looked at Riley. "My trunk, under the med kit. The fake flap. Take Tara." Riley nodded, taking Tara with him. He looked at Spike. "Nice knowing you."
"Been a trip," he agreed. Another pike head came through. He broke that one. Riley came back with a bag. Spike caught it, handing it over. "Whelp?" he said when he saw what was inside.
"This fucker needs to be closed permanently." He set the controls and nodded. "Run." Spike climbed out. Xander set it in the center of the glow then took the bag with him out of the hole. They had kept a ladder in there for work hours. He set it off and the hole sucked air back in, starting to suck ground too. "Whoa! Not supposed to do this!" It ended a few feet later, when they were on the edge of the hole. He looked around. Then at Tara, who was shaking. He pulled her closer to hug her. "It's okay. It was only an attempted invasion. That should keep it sealed for a bit." She nodded, shaking against his chest. He looked over. "Spike, take her home for me please. Riley, watch tonight? Let me get a few things, then I'll spell you. Spike takes tomorrow night, you relieve me at noon?"
"I can do that," he agreed. "How long?"
"I don't know," he said honestly. "I don't know if they can work their way around that trap I set. I don't know if they'll try it again."
Riley nodded. "Calling Buffy?"
"Not until tomorrow. Give her more concrete details." He took the pike he had thrown. "Let me see if anyone can identify what had it. I'm running to Willies and I have my phone." Riley nodded. "Spike." The vampire walked Tara off. "Thanks, Willow. Watch with Riley please." He walked off, running into a few watching agents. "We have no idea. We're watching to make sure the ones who tried to come through just then don't. I'm running to the Cantina then back here." He walked around them, tossing the bag into his car and closing the trunk. He walked around them again. If they were still there when he got back, he'd get Epps to relieve them so they could calm down. He walked into Willie's bar a few minutes later, putting the pike on the bar. "Know what carries those? And I need Gromans. Badly."
Willie shook his head. "No clue. The markings aren't one I've seen, Harris." He looked at him. "We felt it open? Everyone cleared out."
"They were trying to come through. We're sitting watch."
"Okay." He called. "Gromans, Xander's here." He looked at him. "He's mad. You turned in one of his connections."
"I didn't give them any of mine and I told them that bluntly."
"He said he didn't turn in any of his connections so he didn't know about yours." He nodded. "It opened."
"Tell him I used that explosive thing he got from the green ant looking demons."
"He used that bomb you got him from Peters and Suckers." He nodded. "He said you're welcome and there's no more here."
"That's fine. I need stuff in case it opens again tonight. We can't be sure it won't. If so, we need to be able to handle it long enough for people to run."
"He needs an anti-invasion strategy for four people." Willie hung up. "He's groaning but he'll be here soon, Harris. How likely?"
"Don't know. It's closed. Willow and Tara managed it but it sucked in a few feet."
"That's not a good thing."
"No, we don't like it either."
"Where's the slayer?"
"With her mom. Joyce is in the hospital."
"If it's that bad, I'll see if the agents can get Faith," he said firmly. "Joyce needs her."
"Fine. If you're sure."
"Yeah, I'm sure. We'll tell her tomorrow. Once we have a clue. You sure you don't recognize the markings?"
"No, not off the top of my head. Didn't Spike?"
"He took Tara home." Gromans came up through the tunnels, carrying something. "Thanks, man. How much do I owe you?"
"Just don't let us sink." He handed it over. "Then I'm going. Find a new contact."
"Sure. You going to LA?"
"Probably for now." He left again.
Xander looked at him. "Okay." Willie handed back the pike. "That'll work too. Thanks." He left, going back to the site. He tossed the pike to Riley. "Willie had no idea about the markings on it."
"Let me see if I can find it at the store," Willow said, taking it from him. "You'll call?"
"If it reopens." She nodded and left. He put the bag down carefully. "My contact's leaving for somewhere safer."
"It sounds like a sane decision. You sure we shouldn't call Buffy and Giles?"
"In the morning. I'm not going to wake her up and take her from Joyce's side unless we're in a big ass problem."
"She'd want to know."
"I know. She will when she wakes up. Because even if she came back on her way right now, if it opens she probably won't be here in time. If we need her that badly, I'm betting Willow has a way of getting her back here in case of emergency. Joyce is important and I'm not going to make her decide between worrying about her mother and us. Because if we have to, we have two dozen agents in town. Including Miller and two of his cronies."
"Good point. We should still let her know."
"Let her be with Joyce. She's in damn bad shape, Riley. I can switch out with her for a bit tomorrow."
"Fine." He looked inside the bag, moaning. "How in the hell, Harris?"
"He was suppling to some off-world sources."
"I guess that's good." He looked at the bag. "Should we stack it for easy grabbing?"
"Trailer." He handed over his keys. "The one with the blue thing around the head. No one but me and the boss have keys for it."
"Good." He carried the bag that way to unload it. He didn't want to know how so much stuff fit in the bag and why any demon, even one sending it off plane, had this much ordinance. He paused in there, calling Buffy's cellphone. She'd get the voicemail in a few hours when she woke up.
Xander stared at the hole. He had every idea Riley was going to call her but she had to have her cell off in the hospital. Better she get bad news from him. She'd yell at Riley less than him. Xander moved some things out of the way. That way nothing could be easily grabbed by the invaders. If they needed them, they could dive to them. Riley came back. "We good?"
"You tell her anything beyond we had it?"
"Told her it was attempted, closed, and we were on guard." He looked at him. "You knew?"
"Yeah. Your dick leads you, Riley." He shot him a look. "I may have let mine lead me with Anya but you pout if she's not in the mood." Riley glared. Xander stared back. "That's why you pouted allll last night."
"Uh-huh. You were watching instead of paying attention to your muses?"
"Yeah. I can multi-task. That's why I was paying attention and talking to my agent twice last night."
"You nearly got eaten."
"Spike was supposed to be watching behind us. He was finding smokes." He shrugged. "You get used to it." He heard a crackle and looked in the hole. More of the debris in there collapsed. "I guess that helped us clean up a bit."
"I can't imagine working here all day long."
Xander shrugged. "It's a good job. The guys have figured out if something odd's going on to send me to look at it. No one ever said anything but a few are native."
"Better you than me. I couldn't stand working here, getting irradiated every day."
"I was born a block away. Not much different really. Especially since we met and researched in the library right above it."
Riley shuddered. "I can't imagine. Even now it's creeping me out."
Xander shrugged. "You live here long enough and it's like living anywhere with radiation issues."
"At least your hair's not falling out."
"No, not at the moment." He grinned and ran a hand through it. "Then again, I can get hair plugs."
"Yeah, rub it in," he said dryly. He ran a hand through his own hair. "I'm not shedding right now."
"Good. She'd hate that." He heard another creak and looked down. "Settling."
"Let's hope it stays settling." He sat down next to the edge, getting comfortable. "You didn't bring drinks?"
"You can head out for some. Get me two twenties of coke please."
Riley got up and went to get some. Xander would pay him back. Or he'd get it from Tara probably since she had his wallet most of the time these days. He had no idea why she was doing girlfriend duty for him but it seemed to make her happy and give him more time to write whatever he was doing.
Buffy got out of the car, closing the door and stomping over. "You couldn't call?" she demanded of Xander.
Xander looked back at her. "I was going to tell you this morning. Let you spend more time with Joyce. I didn't think we'd have a problem during the night. It'd take time for them to try to open it again. Joyce needed you more."
"Yeah," she admitted. "She agreed with you." She punched him on the arm.
"Ow!" He rubbed it. "We have everything set up." He picked up the pike and tossed it at Giles. "Willow can't figure out the marks to see who it is."
He looked at the marks carved on it. "I'm not certain but I think I've seen them before."
"She's at the shop. I've got here right now." Giles nodded, heading back to get with the research. He looked at Buffy. "Riley's asleep on my desk. Gromans gave me his spare stuff before he fled for somewhere saner. It sucked in about six feet when it finally closed."
"It sucked in ground?" He nodded. "All the stuff in the hole?"
"It was on top of it but it did take about half of it."
"Cool." She walked over to look in the hole. She could feel the hellmouth. "Is it fully closed?"
"As closed as Willow and Tara could make it. Tara was shaken so I sent her home with Spike. He'll be here tonight to take watch."
She nodded. "That'll work. Anything else?"
"We're under orders to not patrol for a bit because it's not safe. The town's way pissed."
"Huh. Figures. It's breaking their denial. Anything good to report?"
"They're gutting it. We're getting an oversight person from the state."
She nodded. "Good."
"They might cause us problems."
"We can sneak around like we used to." She looked in the hole. "I don't like this."
"I've never liked it," Xander pointed out. "But it's reality so we have to deal with it." She glared at him. He grinned back.
"I'm tired of reality. Let's change the channel."
"We could be in Cleveland. It's got one and it's a real city. Think about running across it."
"Eww. Don't give me the bad thoughts."
"How's your mom?"
"They found a weakness. It's bad but not horrible. They have her sedated so it's healing without her having to strain and think. The nurses are all acting like it's going to be okay." He gave her a hug. "Thanks," she said quietly. She let him go and he stepped back.
"We'd all miss Joyce." She nodded. He handed her a napkin he had in his pocket, making her smile and blow her nose. "I was going today so you could take my watching spot."
"No, it's okay. I left a note with the nurses and I'll be back tonight."
He nodded. "Okay. We can handle it."
"I checked, Willow has a way to get me back in case of an emergency."
"I figured she did." Tara came over with bags. "I love you."
She pinched him on the arm. "I still like girls."
"I know. I can love you like a sister and not want to get down and funky with you." He took his bag. "Finn! Food!" he called. Riley came out yawning.
Buffy took hers and the coffee. "Thanks, Tara."
"How's your mom?" She gave her a hug. "We want her to be okay. I don't want to miss anyone else."
Buffy sniffled. "She'll be fine. I said so." Tara gave her a good hug. "Thanks, Tara."
Xander saw Riley's mouth opening and glared, making him back down. He handed him his bag of food. Some men were really dumb around women and he had no idea why. He handed Tara what was clearly hers since it was meatless. "Thank you for bringing breakfast."
"You're welcome. You needed to eat. You been up all night and not typing." Buffy snickered. "There's days I'm glad I don't have to proofread. I'd never get to do much else."
"I think Donnie has a helper," he said dryly. He sat down to nibble on his breakfast, staring in the hole. Then back at Buffy. "You want day watch?"
"Yeah, I can do that. Thanks, guys. Keep your phones?" They nodded and headed off eating their breakfast. Tara stayed with Buffy to keep her company and give her a way to talk if she wanted to. She was a girl, she understood about those needs. Buffy smiled. "I'm okay."
"You need to talk."
"Yeah," she sighed. "Willow still at the store?"
Tara shrugged. "I can get her if you want her more."
"No, not really. She's kinda...bouncy these days and she doesn't want to listen. She wants to talk."
Tara gave her another hug. "It'll be okay. We're here for you."
She smiled. "Thank you." She patted her arm. "I'll be okay. Mom's going to be just fine."
"Of course she will."
Buffy relaxed, nodding. "Good." She heard a creak. "What's that?"
Tara called. "That creaking?" She smiled. "Thank you." She hung up and put her phone back in her pocket. "Settling. It took some of the debris so the rest is sliding down."
"Good! I don't want to see an invading army." She sighed, sipping her coffee. "You knew I'd be here?"
"I figured you'd be here soon. That Xander was going to call around dawn. Even he needs to sleep sometime and this would give you a breathing break away from the hospital."
"Yeah, I needed it. I want to pace and demand, and find something to slay. Only there's nothing there that I can slay. Nothing to hunt, stake, beat the crap out of."
"I understand." Buffy slumped and nodded. "Maybe Angel can find you something?"
"I didn't think about that. I might call. Thanks, Tara." She smiled. She heard a car and looked. "That's a Fed mobile."
"Yeah," Tara complained. She got up and went out there. "Xander Harris has us watching the hole."
Don Epps looked at her from the passenger's side. "We know why, Tara. You guys need a break?"
"Buffy just got back."
"That's fine. We'll take over tonight?"
She shrugged. "Ask Buffy."
He nodded, getting out and walking over. "Miss Summers. How's your mother?"
"They say she'll do okay."
"Good." He smiled. "When we get done tonight, I'll assign people to help tonight."
She shook her head. "It's our job."
"I'm sure we can call if we need to. You have a higher calling being a daughter." She shook her head again. He squatted down since she was still sitting. "Listen, I lost my mom a few years ago. To this day, I wish I had spent more time there."
She slumped. "I might take you up on that during the day but Spike and Xander can handle at night and you guys need to make sure you're not attacked."
"We can do that." He smiled. "Someone will be heading back tonight. I'll see if you can hitch a ride."
"You can't keep your mind on the other things when she's sick. We understand that." He stood up. "I'll see you later. Come find me about fourish."
"Yes, Agent Epps." He walked off, giving Tara a pat on the shoulder on his way past. Tara came back. "He's kinda nice but I guess he got so high because he can be mean."
"I think he's the sort like Xander. He'd only be mean if he had to be."
"Maybe. Though Xander can be pretty mean."
Tara nodded. "Sometimes he has to be. Or when he's really mad." She sat beside her friend. "It'll be okay. This will be a false alarm."
"Good. I can only hope the hellmouth gives me enough time to help Mom."
"Of course it will. Because if it stresses you out that much, Xander will bomb everyone."
Buffy cackled, giving her a hug. "Yeah, he will." She looked down at the creaking but it was okay. It would be fine.
Xander walked onto the site that night, looking at the agents. "Guys."
"Mr. Harris," Colby said. "Dinner?"
"Yup. Have to eat sometime tonight to stay awake. Spike's getting his own." He put his bag down on the table someone had dragged over. "Anything happen?"
"Not beyond some creaking."
Xander nodded. "Thanks, guys." He smiled. "Have a safe night."
"We'll try. Now that no one's going to burn the motel down." The Secret Service agent looked down in the hole then at him. "You guys are insane to do this."
"If we don't, more die. It's a calling and a duty, not a game or fun."
"I figure it is, sir. Thank you." He walked off.
Colby nodded. "I agree, you guys are insane. Buffy was wearing heels. You're not wearing body armor."
Xander grinned. "It's too hard to move comfortably in body armor and she does a lot of things in heels that we stare in shock about. Should've seen her in the backless shirts, short skirts, and wedge heels she went on patrol in a few times."
Colby shook his head. "No thanks. She's too young for me and has Finn pussywhipped."
"You have no idea," Xander said dryly with a smirk. "You leave everything but the table alone?"
"Yeah. Though when we leave, the trailer is going with us if you guys don't need it."
"Who knows what the next apocalypse will bring," Xander quipped.
"Shit, I didn't think about that. I'll talk to Don." He walked off. "All yours. Edgerton will be here in the morning to relieve you and whoever."
"I don't want to know about him," he decided. He got into the SUV and headed back to the motel to take a shower. He felt slimy after sitting next to the hole.
Xander looked around. "It's clear, Spike." He sat on the top of the table, feet on the seat. He looked in the hole then pulled out a book to read. It'd be a long night.
Spike strolled over, putting his own thermos down. "Almost feels like a job," he joked.
"For some it is a job, it just pays sucky." He looked over with a smirk. "Daytimes always pay better in construction." He went back to reading. He heard another creak and looked. "Glow?"
He looked. "Glow." He opened the thermos to gulp it while Xander texted the others. Xander ate his dinner quickly. He'd need the energy later. Buffy showed back up with Willow and Riley. "Glowing."
She stared. "It is. That's disturbing."
"Very," Riley agreed. "Weapons?"
"Concussive," Xander added.
"Sure," Riley agreed, going to get into the weapons. Fortunately he had presorted.
Buffy looked at him.
"Something Giles said, and a few other sources. A portal can be closed by disrupting the energy flow. Magic is one way. Enough concussive force would knock the energy wonky."
"You sucked in science."
"I asked someone who wasn't." He smirked. "My agent got a BS in physics before he decided to be an agent and make real money. This way he gets to party more."
"I can fully understand going for a glamorous field instead of a more geeky one. I'd rather be doing something glamorous." Riley came back with a few boxes and dropped them on the picnic table then went back for another few. She opened the first one. "Shiny."
"Very," Xander agreed with as mile. "I made sure last night that they all looked like they'd work. I haven't seen signs of cannibalizing."
"Good. We'll hope." She turned back at the sound of crackling.
Xander grabbed something and looked. "That's one of the pikes."
She took aim and fired. It worked. The pikes splintered and someone in the portal screamed. "Well, that worked." She took Xander's weapon from him. "Lady's first."
"Of course." He grabbed something else. He'd keep her supplied.
That one clicked.
Riley took it and traded her, fiddling with it. "Screw," Xander ordered. Riley found it and screwed. She took it as soon as the one in her hands was fired. The glow was still going. A new pike tip appeared and she fired again. "Anyone getting tired of this?" he asked when it happened again.
"Yeah, I'm feeling like a groundhog," Buffy sighed. "Or maybe like a shampoo commercial." She fired it again. "Someone get Willow?"
"I texted," Xander said.
Riley texted her. "I sent another one." He and Xander fired while Buffy jogged off to get something better. "Alright, we're doing nothing here."
Xander looked in the hole. "It's brighter tonight." He looked around. "Text Tara?"
"I did in the last one."
Xander considered it. "If it opens, I'm so wanting a huge ass bomb." He snapped his fingers. "East Lynn." Riley gave him a horrified look. "I know they're a cult. Take Miller or send Miller to raid them so we have more. It's a good idea."
"It's not a bad idea," Buffy said as she came back. "It's still going?"
"Brighter," Xander offered.
Riley groaned. "It may be the only choice." He called. "Graham, Riley. We need the cult on East Lynn raided because the hellmouth is partially open and things with lesser weapons are trying to come through. Pikes at the moment." He listened to him complain. "It's this or you guys get to help with an invasion. There's a cult there. Number 115. They have some, including a huge bomb. Just bring it here. Yeah, at the construction site. Thank you." He hung up. "He'll handle it."
"Decent." She took the next one and fired it.
Graham hung up. "That was Finn. They need something bigger. They said to raid the cult on East Lynn. Bring them everything." The other team leaders he was in the strategy meeting with stared at him. "I don't know."
"Go," Don ordered. "Need backup?"
"Please. They're the wacko ones who think God is their personal saint of mercy." He grabbed his gun and his team threw him the bulletproof vest he had in the corner. "Thanks. Anyone else coming?"
"Yeah," Don agreed. "Let me get my gear." He went to his own room. "David, Colby."
"Yeah?" Colby asked, coming out of his room.
"Gear up. We need to hit East Lynn."
"They need it at the hole."
"Shit." He grabbed his stuff and came out, David doing the same. They left for the cult's house. They had to bust them anyway.
Buffy looked up as a few SUV's showed up. "That was quick."
"They have more people," Xander said, tossing in something and making the pikes disappear. "Hi, guys. Got anything high force?"
"If that was right it would've worked before," Riley complained.
Don dropped something on the table. "What is that?"
"Small portal," Buffy said. "They keep pushing up pikes. I don't know if they're hoping to spear fish."
"My editor has a BS in physics. He said if we disrupted the portal with enough energy, it'd close because it couldn't hold a solid shape."
Don nodded, calling his brother. "Tell me you're with Larry?" He said no but he could conference call him. "Please." He handed Xander the phone. "Tell him that theory, let him figure out how much force we need."
Xander took it, letting Buffy have his weapon. He walked a few feet off to tell them. Then he had to explain portals. They figured it up. "He said try about a ton PSI. Which means we need that bomb." He handed the phone back. "Miller," he said, taking the handle he held. They put it next to the hole. "Someone go turn on the crane for me." They went to do that. "Buffy, just keep them there. Talk me out of calling someone to see if they have a vial of the flu."
"We will not biobomb another place," Don said firmly.
"Shoot, keep me honest," he muttered. He got it set. "Look right?" he asked the agents staring at him. They all gave him horrified looks. He smirked. "Some day I might tell you how I know how to do this." He checked it again. "Running," he muttered, flipping it on. Not running. He groaned. "Fuck." He growled, checking again. "Ah!" He looked up. "Hairpins." Buffy tossed him hers. "Thank you." He used it to pick the key and turn it on. That worked. "Five minutes." They backed off. He jogged over to the crane, using it to pick up the bomb and then drop it into the hole. He got the bomb into the hole and was ready to drop it when he heard the whine. He hit the open lever and turned his head. He woke up an hour later, to Riley patting him. "Ow, and you make an ugly nurse."
"Don't move. The crane tipped with you in it."
"Fuck." He shifted. "I can move."
"You're probably concussed."
"Yeah, not the first one," he admitted, sitting up slowly. Riley helped him finish it all the way to sitting. "Ow." He held his head. "They gone?"
"They're gone," Riley promised. "Sucked in another ten feet. Buffy nearly got sucked in. She's fine. We're all good. You're in trouble."
"Why am I in trouble?"
"Your boss saw the crane and bellowed."
"It was that or they could spear him." He blinked a few times, clearing up the double images. "Hey," he told Epps. "Buffy?"
"Headed back to her mom's side since the problem was over with." He looked at the kid. "Want an ER?"
"They can't do jack for a concussion. I've had five others in the last few years. Gravestones are hard on the head." He stood up with help. He wobbled too. "Oh, god." He moved and puked. "I hate that part."
Riley patted him on the back. "It gets better."
"Move or I'll puke on you." Riley got out of the way. He straightened up, still holding his forehead. "I'm going to bed." He blinked at the double agents. Way too many of them. He moaned at them. "Home. Going home."
"ER," Don ordered.
"Can't do anything. Yay them." He wandered off. He heard a squeal. "Don't. Concussion. Puke on you." Tara still hugged him. "Home. Bed." He looked at himself. "Shower. Eww."
She smiled. "Shower, eww is right." She walked him off, scowling at the agents. "Move." She floated them off. "He's injured." She let the agent hit the ground and kept walking him off. "Spike?" she called. He jogged over. "Help me get us home?" He nodded. "He's got a concussion." Xander moaned and got free to puke. Spike got the vampire who wanted to kill him for puking on him. She shook her head. "Bad Xander," she sighed. "So bad."
He smirked. "I can't help where I puke." He let her walk him off. "Buffy and them?"
"Good. Riley didn't lie."
"Riley said something?"
"When you woke up. You'll be fine. Chuck won't yell at you for it." He groaned. She let him go. He didn't have to puke so she took him back and walked him off.
"He's usually tougher than this," Spike said.
She shrugged. "He had one about a month back."
"Forgot about that. Probably more serious this time too." He shook his head. "You sure you wanna Ma him like you would a babe?"
She smiled. "It's not that bad. I won't be sleeping for hours anyway." She glanced back but looked away. "It's done?"
"It's done," he assured her. "All gone, Glinda." She smiled at him. This was going to be a long night. But hey, he'd get the couch for a bit.
Xander blinked at the sound of the phone. "Who's complaining this time?" he complained from his spot on the couch. Spike was in Tara's room since there was less light and the cat was curled up on his chest.
"It's Chuck. No, Chuck, I can't give him the phone. Because he has a concussion."
"Not my fault they tried to visit," Xander complained. He fussed with the blankets, scowling at them.
"He said don't tell him that."
"Not my fault he called."
"He knows." She listened. "That's foreshadowing."
"The thing with Richard in book one of the space vampires. The new people want to take it out."
"It foreshadows to book two, around page 50, which then foreshadows book three's major twist and the revelation of a past and family of Roan, which Richard will have to deal with," he told her.
She repeated that. "The guild?" Xander nodded, holding his head. "Yeah, them, Chuck. Then have her read ahead. Even if she doesn't want to. Tell her that then." He smirked at her. She handed him the phone with a sigh and walked off.
"It's me. No, I can't see straight so the muses are being frustrated and talking about the Toal'ra priestesses getting honorably and religiously laid." He listened. "Read her the part in book three. About chapter eight or so. Scan for Roan and the word family." He waited while he did that and read it to her. She gasped. "So that's why there was that very seemingly out of character thing. Because later on, we find out why Richard hates the Guild and why things are going to go to hell if Roan can't make him believe him that he left. Which is later in book three."
She said something. "That's cool. Of course. Sure. I know, I foreshadow now and then. Sorry. Donnie hates it sometimes too because it means he has to pre-edit read and then go back." He rubbed his forehead. "No, small sitch up here last night. No, not robbed. Don't ask. Chuck doesn't want to know." He blinked at the juice glass and tylenol. "Thanks." He took one from the pills and the glass of juice. "Concussion. Sure, I'm here. We're not working. Because the Feds are having fun destroying the whole dirty town I live in. All I did was turn in a cult, Chuck, and I'm getting plenty of that from the locals."
She took the phone back. "Chuck, don't say such things," she said firmly. "It's bad enough half the town is upset." She handed the phone back.
"It's fine, Tara," he assured her. He listened. "She's being a very good sister." He took another drink of juice. "No, you can't. Because that builds to Richard and Roan, then later on it'll lead to Roan adopting a little sister into the made family." He took another sip. "You meet her in about six more chapters and I leave it as he offers her a spot as long as she'll work for it. That's something he'd only do if he liked her. Family groups are very important. Yup, that."
He drained the glass. "Which is why I did that." He shifted and kicked the blanket off his feet. "That's fine. No, headache. Concussion. I haven't puked since I puked on someone last night." She laughed. "I can do that. Thanks, Chuck. A week if it's usual. Later." He hung up and looked at the man who had given him the tylenol and juice. "What's up? Am I in trouble?"
"No." Don sat across from him. "You can take more of the tylenol."
"Okay. I'll let you make that decision on your own. How did you know that one had that bomb?"
"It was on the tape."
"The bomb wasn't."
"I saw it the other day on patrol. They were arguing over how to build the timer."
"That explains that. It looks like it's fully sealed."
"Good. 'Bout time."
Don smiled. "Is this a big problem?"
"Few times a year." He yawned. "Ask Giles that question."
"He's back in LA with the Summers women."
"He's sweet on Joyce since Ethan's deaging candy brought them both back to teens mentally and they got it on on top of a police car."
"I don't want or need those facts." He stared at the boy. "You could have went to the ER. They would've kept you under observation."
"I would've puked the whole way to the nearest ER since ours is closed for killing people for profit. It's easier here. There I'd never rest because I'd be worried about an attack."
"I can understand that." He shifted, staring at the boy. "You'll be fine?"
"Most likely. Not my first."
"You could retire."
"Only if the town is sunk. If you guys want to, I'll fall back to part time and write the rest as long as you shut the town down."
"I'm not sure if the town's going to keep standing," Don said. He stood up. "I got ordered to check on you by a very fussy blonde girl."
"Buffy or did I attract my next dangerous woman?" Tara made a moaning sound. He looked back at her. "I'll date sometime."
"Let's hope your next one isn't like your first."
"I don't think there's much chance unless someone breaks her seal again." She smirked at him. "Cordelia was only mean, not evil. Anya was human and mean but not evil."
"Uh-huh." She stared at him. "Next time, let me talk to her so you know that you're not going to date someone evil."
"If she's a normal sort of evil, just turn her in," Don told her, earning a beaming smile from the shy girl. He looked at Xander. "You should have better taste."
"Like Buffy dating guys like Riley, they've got to know what we've been through and what's going on in our lives. Otherwise we need to break them in gently so they don't go all thrill kill or otherwise go wrong."
"Riley's gotten better, Xander."
"Definitely but I'm still not sure about his stress relief habit." She nodded she agreed. He looked at Don, blinking a few times to clear up more of the headache and double vision. Don shook the tylenol bottle, getting a head shake. "I'm good, thanks. So is it going to be imperative that we evacuate?"
"Not right now. If that keeps happening, yes."
Xander nodded. "Well, I guess I can find another nice place. Maybe even with some growing areas for her." He moaned and held his head as the phone rang. "If that's one of them, tell them I'm in pain so unless it's about something I need to do right now or making some money, not right now."
Tara repeated that, smiling. "Yeah, I can tell him that. No, hold it right now. We're trying to see if we're going to have to evacuate. Because the FBI is a bit upset at our town. No, not us. We've been good about working with them. None of our group. Sure, I'll let him know you want us a lot closer for meetings and so he doesn't suddenly spring things on you every few weeks. Concussion. Pretty bad one. No, he refused. Said he's had plenty so he knows what to do. Thank you, Donnie." She hung up. "If we're moving, we're to go to LA or very nearby."
"'Spensive," Xander pointed out.
She shrugged. "I don't know, Xander. That's what he wanted."
"I'll figure that part out later." He scrunched down again. "Let me know when we can go back on patrol, Agent Epps."
"I will but it'll probably be days for you."
Xander gave him a dirty look. "I've done it before. I'll be in LA to visit in a few days too."
"They catch you driving in that condition and you'll be arrested," Don pointed out. He stood up. "So far we're doing okay. Just rest for now. Don't make her fuss. She seems very fussy when she wants to be." He smiled at Tara, who nodded he was right. He walked out laughing.
Xander looked at her. "If you'd fuss and get me soda I'd like that."
She sighed but got him one so he could nap and listen to the radio for now. "No muses either," she told him. "You'll never realize what you're typing and get too many typos."
"Fine." He laid there and sipped his soda until he could go back to sleep again. He hated concussions. He really did.
Xander walked into Joyce's hospital room, smiling at them. "Have we heard any news from up there?"
"Did you get hit on the head again?" Buffy asked. "Of course we've been watching the news, Xander."
He smirked and handed over the newspaper.
She read then let her mother have it. "Sure, I'll go pack for us."
Xander shrugged. "Spike has. Riley did the gallery with a few of his friends. With Tara making sure nothing got injured," he assured Joyce. "Your house as well." She sighed but nodded. "Mine's already heading this way. Giles has been on the phone but the Council isn't responding. We have no idea where you two are going to be."
"Why? I thought things were going better."
Xander nodded. "But someone wrote a real report that got seen by the higher ups. Who are all horrified that those sort have gotten a foothold in their country. Therefore they're going to cede that town to them and let us normal folk out to live more safely somewhere else."
Buffy stared. "Your doing?"
"No, I think one of them talked to Spike actually. I've been fussed at for the last few days. I had to sneak out today."
Buffy sighed. "So Sunnydale is off limits to us?"
"Unless they invite you back for something. Yup." He sat on the foot of the bed, staring at Joyce. "Tara's had all your stuff put into storage. The house selling is going to require paperwork that Epps will bring you guys. The Feds are going to buy it then sell it off to the residents. They've already put this plan around to the other communities they could find so anyone they catch can move there. I did point out the problem with the hellmouth but Willow's fixed it so it's staying closed." He looked at her. "I guess you'll get reassigned."
"Maybe," she sighed. "That gives me more time to stay with you, Mom."
"You can help Xander apartment shop when you're bored."
"Tara's found somewhere. Talk about expensive!" She smiled and nodded. "It's within walking distance to where she's transferring. The only problem I'm seeing is that Willow decided that you're transferring there and so is she."
"I'm not sure what I'm doing. I'll have to talk to Giles." She frowned. "Are you going to forgive her?" Xander shrugged. "Fine. Why did she transfer me?"
"Because according to her nothing's changed." He stared at her. "She's moved all your stuff in with hers. All your records are already there." Buffy moaned. "I thought you should hear that from me since it is an inter-Scoobie issue."
She nodded. "Yeah, I needed to. Thanks, Xander." He grinned. "Where are you moving?"
"Donnie found us a nice condo. It'll be cheaper. There went my advance totally but yeah. Then homeowners fees to cover the utilities and cable. Has a little bit of grass outside." She beamed at that. "Tara loves it. The bit of grass has a bench and a small water feature that looks like a spring running down a rock wall. The one next door is empty. It's three bedrooms so I can have an office or guest space again without having Spike on the couch. We close on it very shortly. It literally sucked all of my advance for the first four books gone. I'm down to my cut of sales so we're all hoping it sells *real* well or something else does."
"I didn't think you made that much," Joyce said.
"Well, kinda. I owe Chuck and Donnie back their cuts. They offered. Plus my savings from the job." She nodded. "So we'll see what sales are like and what the next few hopeful sales are like. He's still got seven other things and I've got a few magazine sales to go back over so he can shop them around. We'll make it. Kinda. I might take a part-time job just in case to give us some cushioning. Not that I'll make me as much as the construction job but my boss is still mad about the crane."
Buffy smirked. "He did yell."
"He's still yelling. Colby told him simply he would've lost it anyway when the thing had opened and we got invaded. He hated that reasoning even worse. So I doubt I'll get a good recommendation from him." He shrugged. "No idea but my room is soundproofed. Tara made sure I knew that so I could bring home the next evil girl."
Buffy snickered. "Yeah, I'm sure you will be soon." She smiled at her mother then at him. "Housewarming?"
"When we finally close. So probably be in about three weeks. They know we have to move quickly because of problems in our last town. The Feds are giving us all a month to move."
"I can handle that," Joyce assured him. "Any other good news?"
"Not yet. I'm going to see Chuck in a bit with Donnie for a lunch meeting. Thankfully Tara gave me my wallet back." They both smirked at him. "She makes a good helper. She makes the muses listen to her." He kissed them both on the cheek. "I'm commuting back and forth if you need me. My cell is still working." He smiled and left.
Buffy looked at her mom. "At least he brought cheery problems."
"It's nothing that we can't handle," she promised, stroking over Buffy's hair. "You need to go rest."
"You're not napping. When you do I will."
Joyce sighed but let herself be spoiled into a nap by her very fussy daughter. Maybe there needed to be a demon uprising so Buffy could wear some of that energy out on someone else.