The Problems That Come With Green.

Mac walked into ballistics and his best hope of meeting the new demands of the higher ups.  "Boys?"  They both stared at him.  "Green flu hit City Hall," he said quietly, shutting the door.

"Our paychecks go directly to Cleveland for the slayer support fund," 1 said, looking at his twin. Alex nodded.  "We can handle it being cut drastically for a few months."

"They're trying to force staff cuts."

"Without our salaries you've just saved enough to save another job," Xander pointed out.  "So that's really three there."

"Possibly up to four," Alex agreed.

"It might help if we auctioned off the stuff in evidence that's ancient and able to go," Xander added.  "And holding off on buying new guns since so many need them.  If they get waivers they can buy their own.  Which means they can definitely get something that works well and fits them better than the standard issue one."

"New guns can be expensive," Mac agreed.

"Seven to eight hundred a gun minus the ten percent discount," Alex said, looking at him.  "You were due to replace everyone's service piece because of the defects in the old ones.  Which is why we looked at Smith and Wesson for you.  Seventeen to twenty guns.  That's almost thirteen grand if you go with the cheapest at seven hundred plus taxes."

"That's a lot to ask people to buy," Mac complained.

"They can go used and we'd be able to run the guns to make sure they were legal resells.  That could bring it down to three or four hundred," Xander said.  He and his twin shared a look.  "We might even be able to let someone buy some of our older models to clear out our personal and company exemplar."

"That could help," Mac said.  "That still leaves two people's worth of funds."

"So we do some belt tightening and make deals with the equipment people," Alex said.  "The new 'scopes are good and all but way overpriced.  Especially with as often as they blow bulbs.  It's not that hard to change a bulb.  We can cut the maintenance part of the contract out and take a highest bidder or go with a lesser one in case of major repairs instead of every little thing."

"That should save about twenty there," Xander agreed.  "Especially if we do it with the other companies as well.  Plus you did include overtime projections and that can be weeded down.  There is another shift, even if they're craptastic half the time."

Mac nodded slowly.  "Are you guys good with budget stuff?"

"No, Tony is," Alex said with a smile.  "As long as ours balances we're happy most of the time."

"Then maybe we'll go over it later.  See where we can cut."

"If necessary, we'll go talk to the idiots in charge."

"They're starting to talk about holding back paychecks," Mac warned.

Xander nodded.  "Which will suck when violent crimes go up because we're all out with the supposed flu."

"Yes it will."  He sighed, going back to the office to show where it was coming from.  Those maintenance contracts were outrageous.  There had to be a single company that they could contract with.  Maybe Horatio knew?  His lab's budget was out of control too.

The twins shared a look and one went to talk to the higher ups.  He'd avoid the topic of donating since that would look bad on the company and look like they were playing favorites.  The other finished up for the day and went to talk to Stella about where other things could be easily trimmed.  The vending machines could be changed around and make them better money.  Especially if they self-stocked a few instead of relied on the company to do it.  They could buy chips at Sam's Club for a lot cheaper than the company was charging them.


The Borough Chief looked over the projections.  "You still need to cut about ten thousand," he pointed out.

"Which we may save in overtime.  I'm hoping we can.  Those are realistic cuts without creating an overload on my lab, which will create overtime."

He looked it over.  "Is there a maintenance company?"

"Two.  I'm taking bids.  I'm hoping they can come in under the bid price."

"You're cutting out ballistics?"

"Those two own their own company and have graciously agreed to go without salary for six months."  The Borough Chief stared at him, mouth slightly open.  "The Harris twins, sir."

"Oh, I remember meeting them on the last tour."  He nodded.  "Do we need both?"


"Can one go to the other shift to save more money?"

"No.  They won't.  We do need them, we do the majority of the work.  Besides that won't really save my budget any and they don't like her enough to offer that for her."

"Why not?"

"Because she's hit on them multiple times and got a bit pushy.  As I later found out when she tried to corner one and he nearly bit her, literally, for it."  The Borough Chief shuddered.  "You could cut her and elevate Marian, who probably costs you less."

"Will they make a report?"

"No.  I asked repeatedly to the point of nagging.  They didn't want to get into that citing politics."

"I can understand that.  They seem like nice boys."

"Yes but they do draw the most wicked and evil sorts," Mac said dryly.  "Which would be a problem if she is."

"I'll look into that."  He considered it.  "For right now, this is good.  We may still have to make you trim more."

Mac nodded.  "I know.  So does my whole lab."

"He really wanted positions cut because that would save in other areas, like health care," the Chief admitted, looking at him.  "What if we took out most of Marian's shift and let the techs be absorbed by the other labs that need people?"

Mac considered that.  "It would mean a lag in evidence processing and some of those openings are in our lab, sir.  It may save a few jobs but half of them aren't what's being hired for.  Most of them can't really switch that way either.  They can do some switching but not that much.  Half of them will need a specialist who's certified in those areas."

"They cost more."

"They're not qualified to testify and their results can be challenged and ruled inadmissable if they're not certified," Mac countered.  "Another consideration is that the DA's office will complain heavily if there's that much of a backlog.  It will overload my people as well."

"Are there machines we can buy to handle some of the more touchy jobs?"

"For things like DNA separation, yes.  To analyze it and compare it, no."


"If he was really interested in lowering health care costs, he'd give up his, sir."  The Chief smirked at him.  "Seriously.  He has a private insurance plan as well.  He could go without the NYPD health care.  And if they switched the other city workers to ours instead of their own they'd save a few hundred per worker."

"I'll make note of that.  You're sure?"

"Yes.  The city worker plan costs more and covers less."

"Interesting."  He made that note as well.  "What happens if you do need to cut a position?"

"I don't know," Mac admitted.  "Especially if we're going to be overloaded.  I can't cut my field techs.  We need another of those and we're in a hiring freeze so I can't fill that job.  My people are already overloaded."

"We could move a good bit of that other shift to yours," he offered.

"The reason we have the second shift is because we're overloaded and needed it."

"What's the repair budget?" he asked.

"That's in the facilities one, not mine, sir.  You can't fully cut that one either.  They usually come in under estimated budget."  He smirked.  "If you did cut it, it'd probably mean a fire somewhere that would make it go up drastically."

"Good point.  This is a good start.  I'll bring this to them and let them see it."  He smiled.  "It's better than most section heads do as a first off."

"That's the best I can do without causing problems.  You can warn them if they want me to go farther they get to listen to the DA's office complain, because I'm not, and it will create more overtime."  He stood up.

"I will.  We all know you hate politics, Mac."  Mac nodded and left.  The borough chief went to talk to his boss.  "Sir."

"Simon.  Good news?"

"Mac Taylor's lab managed to cut almost all that you wanted without cutting a position.  He also had a suggestion that we look at the city worker health care coverage plan because it's more expensive than ours and covers less.  That could save the rest of the city money."  He handed it over.

"Doesn't he need ballistics?"

"Those twins have volunteered to go without a paycheck for six months, sir.  They own a company outside the NYPD."

"Yes, an artillery design firm," he said absently.  "That's some good cuts but they need that gun update I thought."

"This would let them carry whatever they wanted to at their own expense.  I'm sure they can check the guns for being legal if they're bought used."

"That's not a bad idea.  Our replacement gun budget is horrendous.  And costs us more than theirs."

"I believe Taylor was talking to Smith and Wesson about a PD discount for buying in bulk or something."

"That's not a bad idea.  We can talk to our favored company or allow a waiver more often."  He looked at the rest of the list.  "That's a sound bit of cutting."  He looked up.  "Not all that we wanted."

"Sir, he pointed out that cutting positions would mean that the DA's office would start to be backed up for evidence and would complain."

"True."  He put it down.  "Any other ideas he had?"

"That second shift of his isn't all that efficient but apparently we can take out the head's job and put her second into the job.  Apparently there's been some sexual harassment that the twins did not feel like coming forward about because of the potential to run into politics."

"I can understand that fully."

"Plus there's a few other open lab spots that need to be filled.  We might be able to shift that shift to the other open spots.  That would mean restocking that shift in a few months."

"Does Taylor really need both ballistics techs?"

"Yes, sir.  There's no way that they will be split either.  Plus they're both backup field techs."

"That's reasonable I suppose.  Are they the freaky sort of twins?"

"I think only in extreme circumstances from the rumors I've heard.  When that law firm went after one, the other basically went psychotic and promised to turn a street gang gay among other things."  The commissioner snickered.  "I think he was serious, sir, but they're very tough.  They seem to keep a lot of problems down."

"I know."  He looked up.  "It's a good start."

"I warned Taylor of that but he did warn back that taxing his personnel any more and we'll be creating an overtime monster that won't let us have any leftover budget."

"Good point.  That's not really a nine-to-five job."  He rubbed his forehead.  "I'll have him look over the healthcare plan for the rest of the city workers.  If that'll save us some and be a better plan, I'm for it."  The borough chief smiled.  "Any others report their first attempt?"

"Two.  Both are weak so far but they've cut repeatedly until they're down to cutting personnel and it's a bad idea for them as well.  Two of them are so thin it's about to snap."

"All right," the commissioner sighed.  "I understand.  Thank you.  I'll bring this to them."  He nodded and left.  He went to talk to the mayor.  "The city worker healthcare plan covers less than the PD one and costs more?"

He looked at him.  "It does?"  He called that office to check on that.  "We may need to keep the other one for some people with health conditions," he said when he hung up.  "The PD one wouldn't take some with pre-existing conditions."

"Still, it's some savings for most everyone."

"True.  How goes it?"

"The felony lab managed to cut most of what we wanted without personnel but if they cut more it'll create overtime problems."  The mayor winced.  "Thankfully, part of that is that set of twins agreeing to work without a paycheck for six months."

The mayor sighed.  "Six months?"  He nodded.  "That's better than nothing I suppose.  How good did he cut?"

"All but ten thousand.  That may be saved naturally in his repair and overtime projections."

"Good.  That would be helpful.  The others?"

"Two others have reported to Simon.  They're already skin and bones."

"Do we need them?"

"Yes, sir.  Both are fairly important smaller offices."


"Sorry, sir.  We've cut and cut again.  Every time there's a budget cut we trim to the point of it being dangerous to public safety and we don't want that.  I'm hoping we don't have green flu call outs."

"Me too," he admitted.  "I wish like hell the budget wasn't this tight suddenly."

The commissioner shook his head.  "I don't know what to tell you, sir.  You can't cut the PD that much, or the fire department, without risking lives."

"I know.  I'm going to do what I can."  The commissioner nodded and went back to his office.  The mayor looked over the cuts and sighed.  He didn't know what he could do to make things easier.


Mac came back to the lab after a tense meeting.  His whole body was tense.  His head looked like the veins throbbing under his skin wanted to escape.  He looked like he was about to shatter.  He looked at his staff.  "Our projected cuts are good but the mayor still wants us to trim a position's worth.  The other departments up for cuts aren't doing any better," he announced.  "It's not just us," he said at the groans.  "Homicide is putting their people off on opposite days."  They all slumped.  "This is temporary.  There is a chance we can switch you to another lab to help them for six months."

Alex coughed.  "Depending on who it is, we might be able to get them a part-time for a short period of time for some specific research projects."

Mac relaxed.  "That could help.  What sort of research are you working on?"

"The whole 'authorized user' issue was asked to look over for the ELF's and other things.  There's a few others that our engineer wants to look over but she's on part-time for maternity leave."

"That could help," Stella sighed.  "So, what positions are open in other areas?"

Mac pulled out his phone to look that up.  "Mostly it's speciality spots, Stella.  And we'd have to see if they weren't counting that in their cuts."  He looked at the group again.  "They're trying to cut fifteen percent of the city's budget."  Most everyone winced and a few shuddered.  "Because they might have to start holding back paychecks."

Adam raised his hand.  "We're that short?"

"With the economic downturn, we are," Mac admitted.  "I've managed to give them most of the cuts they wanted without losing personnel but they're saying it might be necessary.  They're talking about getting rid of the special needs department, the people who do the special task force security jobs."  Stella shuddered.  "They're talking about cutting down corporate crimes by half."

Adam slumped, nodding.  "So we're looking at green flu situation as well?"

"Probably," Mac admitted.  "I would hope we wouldn't."

Stella looked at the twins.  "You two?"

"We've agreed to go without a paycheck for six months," Xander admitted.  "Since we don't totally need ours."

"Is the company suffering?" Adam asked.

"With two wars and a lot of special forces work going on?" Alex asked dryly.  "We need to make more practical things but we're specialists in weapons that can be used by a small team who snuck it somewhere."

"And the ELF system," Xander added with a grin. "They really like the ELF systems."

"I really like ours," Mac admitted.  "It's very handy at times."  He looked around.  "I'll do what I can to minimize things but be aware that things are bad for the next six months to a year."

"We're hoping we can hire whoever back in a year?" Stella asked.  Mac nodded.  "This totally sucks, Mac."

"It does.  He's already threatened to take our second shift and redistribute them."  They all groaned, shaking their heads.  "He tried to convince me we only needed one ballistics tech until I pointed out they were willing to go without a paycheck for six months.  So we don't know.  Right now, this is a head's up."

"So we should be polishing our resumes and possibly talking to our friends in other labs to see if there's openings," Adam said.

"If that's what has to happen, I'd be sorry to see any of you go."  He looked at his lab.  "Even if I do have to cut one I'm hoping I can hire them back fairly shortly."

Stella looked at the twins.  "Even if we donated, we'd have to donate to the department, not the lab itself," Alex said quietly, making her slump.  "Which wouldn't come to us most likely."

"No, it wouldn't.  It'd be used to keep some of the speciality units."  Mac grimaced.  "I'd never ask, boys."

"If we have to, we can find make work," Xander said.  "Tony has all sorts of paperwork he has to do.  They can be an assistant for a few months if nothing else works."  Mac smiled.  "Though we do need a computer engineer and another full time engineer badly."  Alex nodded.

"I might know one," Adam admitted.  "One of my online friends is a computer engineer and hacker."  The twins smiled at him.  "I'll have him send you guys a letter."  He looked at Mac.  "When will you know?"

"Within two months.  I don't want to drag this on but really, the longer it goes on the better chance we don't have to temporarily lay someone off."

"Mac, if we go green flu, we might end up back on the streets," Stella reminded him.

"We might.  It's going to get messy, guys.  We need to think logically and make some plans.  All right?"  They all nodded and left to go to their homes and warn their families.  Mac went to get drunk.  He hated giving that sort of news to anyone.


Don Flack stared at the borough chief, then shook his head.  "You're out of your ever lovin' mind, sir."  The chief glared at him.  "We're already understaffed by at least four people!  Do you expect homicides and dead bodies to wait until our next day on?"

"There's another unit in Manhattan," he said.

"Yeah, they were split off because it was taking us *hours* to get to scenes," Don reminded him.  "Thanks to the craptastic traffic problem we have.  It also took half of the people we need back over there.  Also, they work in *teams* and we barely get partners these days.  They also handle the higher profile homicides instead of the grunt level ones we get."  The chief sighed.  "There's no way in hell you can do that to them either."

"He's right," the lieutenant over homicide said.  "My guys are already overloaded, Chief.  Flack has the least open cases right now at eight."  Don nodded.  "I have one that has ten because they were a serial killer and one that has nearly twenty because they had a drive by that hit a club."

"We can't afford not to," the chief said.

"Chief, if you do, you're going to have to get back in uniform and start solving cases," another detective said.  "Beyond that, we make crappy enough pay as it is.  We don't make enough to have savings for this shit."  A lot of them nodded.  "I sure as hell can't make my house payments that way and detectives being homeless looks *real* bad on the city."

"It's this or we have to find some other way to cut fifteen percent," the chief said.

"Then cut SWAT's special training weekend," Flack said.  "They can push that back or run one in the park or something.  I know a company that has some woods they can train in if they ask real nicely."  He stared at him, arms crossed over his chest.  "Unlike most of these guys, I'm not married with kids.  I'm already pulling twenty hours of overtime a week because we're understaffed."  The chief whimpered.  "There's gotta be a balance because that homicide department won't want it either.  I'm sure they've got open cases on their floor."

"They don't," his lieutenant said.  "They're infrequent enough right now that they've got it done in teams.  They solve faster because they have a team approach.  I'd switch us but that would mean doubling our effective force here.  Which we can't do."

"I remember when you all had partners," the chief said.

"Yeah, that got cut in the last budget panic," one of the older guys snorted.  "Which is why I got a divorce, because I never made it home.  Though I hear she's happy with your ex now, sir."  He got glared at so he glared back.  "Truth hurt?"

"Enough," Flack ordered.  "Let's not make this personal.  We're not kindergartners."   He looked at the chief again.  "If you try that, it will fail.  Crime is going to go up because you're going to have a lot of officers walking out.  Especially in the more specialized departments."  He stared at the higher up.  "The union won't stand for it.  I'm not a union rep and even I know that."

"If we don't cut it, we won't be able to make pay at all," the chief said.  "They'd hate that more."

"Then everyone will hate it like hell when everyone goes on strike," the lieutenant said bluntly.  "Because I am a union rep and they are talking about it, sir.  It's gotten a lot of talk.  You're endangering the city by randomly cutting places.  Hell, I heard Taylor brought you all but a few cents of what you wanted and you still told him he had to cut a person.  Which they can't afford either."

"The DA's going to love this because it'll mean more delays getting thugs ta court," Don added.  "Because everything will be in chaos.  We'll start having evidence problems and things."

His boss nodded.  "We're already seeing that with the way the storage facility's people have been cut," he agreed.  "The DA's had four cases thrown out already because of the storage facility's problems."

"Taylor's using an empty room instead," Don admitted.

"How many cases do you get a week?"

"On average, six," one of the old timers said.  "That other one gets about four a week."  Don nodded that was true.  "You thinking about transferring?"

"Yup.  I'd like to have someone at my back sometimes.  Someone to bounce ideas off of."

"Why do you have so many open cases?" the chief asked.

"Because we're still trying to solve earlier ones," Flack said dryly.  "I know it's been a while, sir, but you take cases as they come in and if you haven't solved one yet, then you still gotta work on them both.  Some cases are going to take months to solve.  Some take days.  Two of mine are in DC in some obscure lab for tests our labs can't run.  It'll take two months total to get the information back.  Since then I've taken on another fourteen cases because it was my turn for the new one.  You want us to do less work, stop crime better."

"For that matter, stop the camera system's upgrades.  There's a crapload of money we can save," the lieutenant said.

"The city is," the borough chief told him.  "The city itself has to cut twenty percent of their budget.  Our fifteen percent is two of that.  The fire department is having to make the same cuts."

"Then we'll see more deaths from fires," Don said bluntly.  "Because they're overworked too.  That's why ambulances can sometimes take an hour."

"A union strike will only make it worse," the chief said.  They all nodded they knew that.  "I'll do what I can but we still have to make some concessions, guys."

"Hell, we'll quit working overtime if someone else comes in to magically solve cases while we're gone," Don quipped.  "Until the confession fairy shows up though, we're pretty well on permanent overtime because we're already understaffed."

"Flack, do you want to move up?" he demanded.

"Hell no."  The chief stared at him.  "I'd hate to turn into my father."  A few of the guys laughed.  "And by the way, he's already throwing fits.  Last I heard he nearly got arrested for throwing a golf club at the commissioner's head."

"I heard," he admitted.  "You're already on thin ice."

Don smirked.  "Give me incentive to go find a job in Hawaii, boss.  After all, I have an open invitation to there and a few other departments."

"Your father would kill us all," his lieutenant quipped.

"Yup," Don agreed with a smirk.  "Pity."  He looked at the chief again.  "Try some realistic solutions, not switching days between precincts.  Because they're going to be in on their days off to solve their crimes, the same as we will.  They won't wait for the next time you're on."

"We could recombine them," he offered.

"Sure, you do that and then have the same problem of it taking us three hours to get to the other side of Manhattan," Flack said dryly.  "Plus they'd never give up their team approach if it's working better.  Which means we'd have to match them and then we'd only have a few open teams, and therefore less area for new cases to hit."

"I...."  He sighed.  "I don't like it," he told them.  "I'll do what I can but those were the solutions put forth by the higher ups."

"I have an idea," Don quipped.  "Let the big guy and the mayor go without a paycheck for two months.  That should add a lot back to the budget.  Or put them on rookie salary if they have to have one.  Then put 'em in uniform on the street.  It might help some of the manpower issues and remind him he's a cop instead of a politician."

"He's not in any shape to do that."

"So?  He can take a salary cut if we do," Don insisted.  They all nodded that sounded fair.

"Is Mac cutting the idiot twins?" his lieutenant asked him.

"Danny said they've agreed to go without pay for six months," Don said, smiling at him.  "And possibly having make work for some unlucky CSI if they have to."

"Why does he have to have two ballistics techs?" the borough chief asked.

"Because they get our bullets, robbery's bullets, special project's bullets, SWAT's shooting reviews, and about half the others in the city right now because the other shift doesn't have anyone and the lab in Queens is hunting for a new tech," Don said dryly.  "They do over a thousand guns and bullets a month.  Plus they're backup field guys if necessary."  The boss slumped, shaking his head.  "They're also a pace setter in the labs.  They get info to us sooner than anyone but fingerprints.  Who is now a multi-purpose tech so they're not fully qualified to testify if it goes to the state supreme court.  Also thanks to the budget."

"They're qualified but not considered expert testimony?" the lieutenant asked.  Don nodded.  "That sucks."

"Most of the time it won't matter but some defense attorneys have pressed that issue.  They're certified enough but not specialists."

"Is the DA's office facing the same cuts?"  The borough chief nodded.  They all laughed.

"They've already got an eight month backlog that's pressing on that whole 'speedy due process' thing that got us sued a decade ago," the lieutenant said.  That got a further slump.  "I'm sorry but we're already on a shoestring.  Go cut some from SWAT or the other higher costing units."

"No, if they do that, we'll be without a lab," Don said dryly.  "And half of them are backed up by weeks sometimes due to needing more techs.  Who make more than us."

"Yeah but they get called out at four am," another detective said.  "That's the downside of the higher pay."

"Do you think we could put them on salary instead of hourly?" the borough chief asked.  They all shook their heads.  "Why not?"

"Be damned if they'd want to take a pay cut for doing more work," Don said bluntly.  "You guys tried that and had to rebuild the labs.  That's when Taylor got control in case you didn't remember."  That got a shudder from a few.  The lab had basically quit when they had their paychecks cut that way.  It had left three techs and two fields techs.  Mac had been senior, barely, and had gotten the top spot, fixing a lot of things, including going toe-to-toe with some higher ups over it.  That time he had federal backup.  This time... everyone was hurting.  "Let's have some sensible things cut, Chief.  Things like the fancy car upgrades that they wanted upstairs."  The detectives grumbled.  "And his salary going up yet again every six months."

"You know a lot for being this low," he said.

"Yeah, well, Dad complains a lot."

"Fine.  I'll talk to them about that."  He left, going to tell them the bad news.  Including that the pet projects were going to have to be cut.  The commissioner exploded but the auditors he had hired to assess where waste was agreed with that.

Don looked at his boss.  "We need ta redraw the boundaries of who gets where.  That way they get more cases."

"We can do that," he decided, calling that captain to talk to him.  They'd need permission to change it but it'd help.

Don looked at the other guys.  "Let's take this as the fair warning it is, guys.  Pay some ahead on the mortgages and all that."  They groaned but went back to their desks to call home and tell their spouses that things were going bad.  Don wrote his father an email, making sure he knew that they had tried this.  Maybe he'd throw a heavier club this time.


Mac came back from the next meeting looking slightly less tense.  "They're keeping special projects," he complained quietly.

"Then the cure for that is the Times," Alex said bluntly as he walked past him and Stella.  "Because the upper people can look dirty as hell if it helps."  He handed over a report. "Your gun du jour is a dirty filthy thing and I'd like to talk to the former user.  By the way, it got handed in the next day on a gun buyback.  Their taken information is in there but I doubt it'll help."  He walked off.  "Oh, beloved evil one," he called as he walked.

"No, Alex," Mac ordered.  Alex stared at him.  "Not yet."

Xander smiled.  "It's not tactical to let it sit."

"No, it's not, but others are working on that.  Including the mayor, who heard about them today and complained."

"He probably complained that his expensive coffee service got cut," Stella snorted.  "You tell whoever you want, Alex."  He grinned and went to make plans.  She looked at Mac.  "Better them taking the cut than everyone else."

"I know, but it'll seem vindictive."

"It is.  They're working without pay for six months.  They've obligated that money to the slayer support fund."  Mac nodded he knew that.  "So that means they're still probably out that money and losing double now."  She walked off reading that report.  Maybe she'd take another lab up on their offers.  She had a few that had reassured her they would still take her in the last month.  That their budgets weren't as bad.

Mac went to talk to the twins about what they had planned.  They knew federal auditors who could do a very nice one quietly and then publish the results publically.  Within days actually.


Six days later, the union voted to strike.  Half the lab was torn but Mac had begged to at least keep a skeleton crew on.  He agreed, but they couldn't solve crime without it.  Paychecks were going to be held for three extra days this time, which had caused the strike.  Things were not looking good in New York.  So it was the perfect time for a major case.  The twins pulled it as field techs and headed off to the scene.  They looked around, grimacing.  "I haven't seen this since Africa," Xander complained.

"Me either," Alex sighed.  Don looked green.  "Go outside and do that."  He nodded, going to get some air.  They got to work, notating everything.  The ME was suspiciously late.  They called in a second time and finally got one.  And an ME.

Sid looked around.  "I haven't seen something this bad since a war zone I happened to get stuck in when I was young and stupid," he said.

"Us in Africa," Alex said quietly.  "I think it's gang related."

"Why?" he asked, walking over carefully.

Alex held up the bag he was writing on.  "Meat cleaver."

"Oh, dear.  Triads."  They nodded and helped him gather parts.  There were a lot of parts. They got things back to the station and Don was questioning.  The knives they had found had very little evidence on it.  Their ID's would have to be found by fingerprints or something.  They had very little physical evidence to work on.  So Don was going to have to be the superstar this time.  Xander also took a small matter into his own hands, heading down to the uniform's desk, staring at the sergeant in charge.  "We gotta talk," he said dryly.

"Why?" he sneered.

"Because if something happens to my twin brother because CSI are left without guards, I'm going to kill every single one of you."  He stared at the shocked man.  "I know we're down at least twenty percent of our people, but CSI in the field don't pay attention to their surroundings.  We're paying attention to tiny little things that we have to pick up.  Now, when we're both there, I could probably see that because *we* have really decent situational awareness.  But the others.....  It might be a race to see which of us gets you first.  And the hell my brother had that night everyone told him I was dead?  I'm worse."  He stared at him.  "Am I clear?"


"Been in combat?  Yeah."  He walked closer.  "See, the detectives leave at least an hour before CSI do."  The guy shuddered.  "Especially since our last case was looking a lot like a Triad hit."  He stared at him.  "Because if I have to kill people that uniforms should've been getting, I will figure out whose fault that was and I will make them sorry in as many ways as I know how.  All the way up the chain to the failures in suits.  If one of us *dies* there's no hope and they should probably just commit suicide.  We do things so your guys can arrest others.  We're still part of the brotherhood and if you leave us uncovered we're all creative geeks, and most of us can at least talk to others."  The sergeant nodded.  "Am I clear?"

"We had other...."

"That's wonderful.  When the detective leaves, we'd better have coverage.  I know there's a strike.  I agree with the strike.  Hell, me and my twin are going without paychecks for six damn months because of the fucking strike."  The guy shuddered.  "Because we have another source of income.  Which means we design artillery."  He smiled.   "Our scenes still get cleared because we're not going to think of our guns first.  That's why we're CSI.  And we cost a hell of a lot to replace, which will make things worse.  So let's guard some of the assets to the department.  All right?"

"I'll make sure you guys stay covered, Harris."

"Thank you.  I'd hate to rip this department apart if something happened to my twin.  Or Messer since he's got Evie."

"Yeah, that would suck," he said flatly.

"Not his fault her mom went psycho."

"He's got a whole other issue with most of us."

Xander stared at him.  "Seriously, you're going to hate on him because he shot a dirty cop?"  The guy slumped.  "Or because his parents disowned him?"


"Yeah, so let's not play that game, yes?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm not a sir, I'm trying to stay reasonably nice.  We're usually better at it than someone like Doc."

"Shit, he'd rip us a new one," he muttered.  "Using big damn words and all."

"Yeah and if he's in a state where he can't, Taylor will.  With Stella."

"Can you just shoot us?"

"Yeah but we'd be cheerleading."  He stared at him.  "Work it out somehow so we're not fully uncovered please."

"I will.  You guys pulled a triad hit?"

"Yeah, we had a whole mess of bodies.  If any of you guys had shown up to clear the warehouse you'd know that.  It would've been really nice."  He nodded.  "Thank you."  He walked off, going to confess.  "Before you say a word, I made note that even with the strike going on, we are not to be uncovered on scenes because we get shot and then the rest of us will rip people apart.  Especially if it's my twin."  He smiled sweetly.  "Which will hopefully solve this morning's issue."  He walked around him.

"You were?" Mac asked.

"Yeah."  He turned to walk backwards and look at him.  "Fortunately we have good situational awareness so when the bum came in we drove him off."  He turned back around and went back to ballistics."

"Shit," Mac muttered.  He went to talk to the guy over the uniforms.  Who was not happy to see him.  "You do not leave my CSI uncovered!"

"I already heard Harris promised to destroy all the way up the line, Taylor."  He took an aspirin.  "That was a snafu."

"It had better not happen again."

"It won't!  Go do something to someone evil!"  He waved a hand.

"Thank you.  Because you know what happened the last time it happened to Stella."

"That's why I took the painkiller."  He smirked.  "Go."

"Fine."  He left, going to see what Xander had promised.  The desk sergeant stopped him.

"Your ballistics techs are fucking insane, Taylor."

"Now and then," he admitted.  "I take it he reminded you of that fact?"

"Oh, yes.  Do they really design artillery?" he asked quietly.

Mac nodded.  "They have a very nice company that does."


"That little robot we have?  It's theirs too.  So's that spider probably."  He pointed.  "They're good boys most of the time."

"I'll make sure you guys are covered.  A Triad case?"

Mac winced.  "I did not know that."

"Yeah, they think so."

"Damn it.  That makes more sense."

"If you guys have detectives...."

"At least clear the scene, turn it over to the detective, and get us one when they're gone."  He stared at him.  "Because I'm following Stella if one of us gets injured."  He shuddered.  "And yes, the twins will cheer us on."

"Got it.  I'll remind the guys of that."

"Thank you."

"Did you guys get to keep full budget?"

Mac shook his head.  "We cut ten percent and they're saying we may lose staff."

"Oh.  That sucks."

"Yeah, it does."  He left him alone, going to talk to Sid about a Triad case.  Because anything involving something like a major gang or major mafia-style organization was a bad thing for the lab and they had to take special precautions.  What he saw when he got to the morgue was them trying to match body parts.  "It was one?"

"Yes it was."  Sid looked at him.  "Did they tell you there were no uniforms when I got there?"

"Xander's already noted that and promised retribution if it ever happened again."

"Good.  It does make one a bit uneasy."  He waved a hand.  "Some of them we'll have to match blood type and possibly genetics to make sure of.  There's a few we can put together because there's only one African-American as far as I can tell.  Though I seem to be missing pieces."

"We sure it wasn't one of the other ones?" Alex asked as he walked in.

"No, they're missing fingers too."  He grimaced.  "One's branded with the local group's mark too."  He showed him.  "So they marked that they were going to get him."

Alex nodded.  "Okay.  Want me to start carrying swabs to Adam?"

"Please."  He pointed at the pile.  "Give me a few days to identify and piece them back together, see what we're missing."  Mac nodded and they left him alone.  Sid looked around.  "What a mess they make when they're behaving badly."  He shook his head, sorting the smaller bits and pieces for individual identification.

"Do not take on this case alone," Mac warned in the elevator.

"I'm not dumb, Mac."

"Thank you.  And thank your twin."

Alex looked at him.  "He won the coin toss."  He walked off the elevator, heading for the lab.  "I don't think I dropped any," he said dryly.  Adam whimpered.  "We had a mess of chopped up parts, dear."  He blew a kiss as he put them on a work table.  "For ID.  Hopefully it'll just take blood type and gender."

"That's at least faster but I've got tons in front of me."

"I've got two," Danny said, coming over to start with some of them.  "Finger three..."  He looked at Alex, who nodded.  "Dump?" he asked hopefully.

"No.  Fresh."


"Yup, but at least we pulled Don."  He shrugged.  "Who knows.  Let Sid know.  He's got all the tables in use."

"We can do that," Danny assured him.  Alex walked off to make sure he didn't drop any of them then went back to ballistics.  He and Adam shared a look.  "Think it was?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was.  The gossip chain said they were thinking Triad."

"Damn.  That's going to suck for the heightened security."  He got to work while his last two samples ran in machines.  There was an art to doing multiple sample runs this way.  Adam had it down to a dance but Danny was okay at it, just a bit jerky.  Adam went back to his pile of samples from all the other crime scenes of the day.  They knew the crime rate when up when there was a strike.  Unfortunately without their other shift, they were screwed.


Xander walked outside that night, stretching slightly.  His twin was going to date so they had driven separately.  He walked toward his car, staring at it.  Someone had clearly tampered with it since the roof was up.  He moved closer slowly, checking it over.  He wasn't going to be paranoid.  He found a doll with a bullet hole.  He called in security, who was going to get chewed a new one.  They weren't PD, they were private contractors.  He also called Mac.  Xander stared at his car, looking over as Stella came out. "Inside, Stella.  Now."  She paused.  "Someone fucked with my car."  She nodded, heading back inside until they could clear the other cars.  He walked over to hers, checking it over.  He shook his head, making her call Mac.  "Get the bomb people for official reasons."  She blanched and did that.  He glared at the guard showing up.  "Did you think to monitor this floor of the parking garage?" he demanded.


Xander pointed.  "When did the doll with the obvious gunshot wound get put in my car?  Or the bomb on hers?"  He called his boss, sounding frantic.  "You'd better!  Because I'm at my point of I'll be damned!  And I am the most creative bitch in this universe!"  He flinched back.  "No, Adam."

He paused at the doorway.  "What?"

"Bomb on Stella's car.  Doll with a gunshot wound in mine.  I haven't checked the others."

"Okay," he agreed, going to wait with her and pass that on.  Bomb squad rolled in and Xander pointed.  Adam called Mac too.  "Xander's on a rip about the bomb on Stella's car, Mac.  He's already gotten into the security guards."  He hung up and leaned out.  "Mac said leave him some.  He'd be here in twenty.  The mayor won't let him go early."

"Bet me," Xander said. "I've had enough of that shit too!"

"I thought your twin was the drama queen, Harris," one of the bomb squad guys called.

Xander looked at him then pointed.  "He's busy.  He's got a date tonight."

"I thought they forbid you guys," the head guy complained.

"No."  He smirked.  "We need stress relief more than you guys do because we had a whole shift of the lab taken away.  So now we're doing triple the work."  They all shuddered.  "So yeah, I need the stress relief.  I was going to go clubbing later actually."  He stared at the other cars.  "That's Amanda's, from reception.  It's got something blinking on it."

They split off someone to look at that one.  They were small ones, all remote controlled.  Just enough to make a pretty mess as a statement.  They got the doll out and it had one too.  Xander smirked.  "Ah, that's so sweet."  He walked off.  "Let me head home for a bit, guys.  Lock mine when you're done."  He headed off.  "They cleared yours, Stella."  He walked past Adam, heading uptown in a cab.

He walked into the Mayor's office since the damned meeting had broken up.  "You kept my supervisor from showing up when a clear threat to his lab was announced.  Especially since we found at least three explosive devices in our parking garage.  You *ever* do that again and I'll start with you and the city.  Remember, CSI are all very creative, very smart geeks, and we know the uses of a lawyer."  He stared at him.  "Am I clear why you're not going to fuck with us again?"

"How dare you...."

Xander stared at him.  "I can have all federal funding yanked from this department.  I can have all those grants investigated, which means they'd be on hold and future ones wouldn't be quite as speedy.  The lab is the one area that *always* brings in money.  Especially us since we're federal fucking contractors."  He winced.  "Do not fuck with the labs again.  We're already overworked and you just cut one of our shifts so we're even worse.  You *EVER* fuck with us and endanger our safety again for some petty whining at a meeting and I'll make goddman sure that every citizen in New York hears and then our oversight person at Homeland and the DoD."


Xander walked off.

"Harris!" the commissioner yelled.  "That was uncalled for."

Xander looked at him.  "Then I'm going to put all the bombs they just found on our cars in yours."  He stepped back.  "You fuck with us and the lab, I have a federal oversight person on speeddial."  He stared at him.  "Even way back when, when you were in uniform, you would've went to handle the situation, I'd hope."

"Taylor tried."

"I know.  I trust Mac.  I don't trust you and your shiny new ass car and your budget raise and salary raise.  Plus grant writing fees."  The man went red in the face.  "Shit stinks and it's not us not flushing.  If we have to react, so be it.  I'll protect the whole goddman lab and the rest of you can swing."

"You can't do that to this department."

"Bet me I can't.  You're endangering our lives."  He stared at him.  "You're making us break federal guidelines on how many hours we can work at a time, which can get the lab shut down."  He winced.  "I don't give a goddamn what the hell you want or need.  You want crime solved, you gotta support the people on the streets and your labs.  You want the city to go to hell, we'll take a vacation.  It'll take about a week probably."  He walked off again.  "This shit happens again I'm talking to my oversight person."

"We need those grants!" he shouted.

Xander looked at him.  "I need a department that doesn't quit protecting us when there's fucking bombs found on our cars," he called back.  "The two are not mutually exclusive."  The commissioner nodded.  "If I have to go to my admiration society to stop it, so be it.  It'll be messy, bloody, and very short lived."  He walked off again.


Mac came over that night.  "I'm to tell you you're suspended for that very undignified shouting match and the threatening, and to beg you not to tell anyone."

Xander looked at him.  "Yay and if I'm not being paid, they can't really suspend me."  Mac smirked at that, walking in.  "Secondly, I've actually applied for a new grant for you guys.  I sent it in yesterday.  It's for specialty, not SWAT departments during this budget crisis thing."

"Thank you."  He sat down.  "Were you just upset?"

"That he's still getting a new car?  Yeah.  That his new higher salary and bigger budget for another secretary to sleep with while we're being overloaded?  Definitely."

"He said he'd hold off on his raise."

"Uh-huh.  Unfortunately it started last month."  He smirked.  "And he has other income too."  He handed over that information.  "The shit you find in publically searchable databases."  He sat down and went bak to dinner.  "I'm about to let my admiration society handle it."

"I thought we arrested all them."

Xander looked at him.  "I still have some demons who'd love to own me or fuck me, Mac."

"Good point."  He put it down.   "He wants you off for a week."

"Sure, give me the time to plan things."  He smiled sweetly.

"I told him we couldn't be without you for a week and you were right.  They could've cut all that and saved over eighty thousand."

"More than that."  He ate another bite and grinned.  "Read the third page again."  He looked and shuddered.  "Yeah, a lot more than that.  By the way, the Times has that."  He grinned.  "I warned them fucking with the lab was a bad idea.  We're all very smart, very vindictive geeks.  So all the union reps have that too."

"They might say it's the perks of the office."

"Maybe but it's not all good funding sources."  His twin walked in.  "Good date, dear?"

"Very."  He smiled.  "I think some of that threat will be gone."  He sat down beside his twin, taking some of the food to slurp.  "Thanks for dinner, dear."

"Welcome."  They smiled at Mac, which made him have a very bad feeling.  With the look in their eyes, he almost felt like he should capitalize things like Winnie the Pooh would.

"I don't need to know unless it's going to destroy the department," he decided, getting up and leaving them alone.  "Switch off for a few days so you each get one off."  They nodded with a grin.  He left, going to deny he had ever seen them tonight.  The PD did not have telepaths yet so he was covered there.  He had plausible deniability.


Across town, a young woman walked into the club where her 'friends' were meeting.

"You let a white man touch you?" one sneered.

"There was a reason."  She walked back to the head guys, staring at one.

"Is he dead?" he sneered.

"Did you know they're Council?"

"What?" he demanded.

"You know that girl Mei?"

"I remember her getting in our way," he said smugly.

"Do you remember the one-eyed guy that showed up to fix it when we tried to threaten her?"  He nodded slowly, losing the smugness.  "That's who I was with tonight.  He's here in New York.  He's the ballistics tech.  He's still got artillery.  I saw that same necklace he unshrank last time, however he does that."  He frowned.  "By the way, they're twins.  His twin still has that eye."  She stared at him.  "He was getting all sorts of evil messages from his twin about his hissy because of the bomb stunt.  His twin quipped that they'd just have to kill us all this time."  He gaped.  "He wasn't playing."

"They can't do that.  They're cops," he sneered.

"Do you really think that the striking department will care?" she countered.  "It'd save them a lot of work and those two are CSI so they could probably find a way to make sure it looked like a rival gang did it.  He was more evil now than he was when we had to go around him and flee him in China."

He considered that.  "Is that why you went out with him?"

"He invited me.  He already knew."  He whimpered.  "I changed clothes to make sure he didn't drop a tracking dot or anything.  Left my phone at home to make sure they couldn't trace that.  I even took a shower in case he dropped something on me."  The head guy's phone beeped, making him look at it.  "What?" she asked.

"He said there's organic trackers you can hide in alcohol.  And yes he knew where we were already so quit stressing out.  You were too pretty to sweat that much."  He looked at her.  She shuddered, holding her stomach.  "He said it'll die in two days."

"I'll go wait at home," she promised, backing off.  "I couldn't call this warning in."

He shrugged.  "The pigs already knew."

"You pissed him off by threatening his twin.  If he did that over a girl that wasn't related to him, what will he do over his twin?" one of his lieutenants asked quietly.

"We don't have a choice," he said.

"We can let them get whoever and then free him," he offered.  "Once they're on bail they can disappear.  It'll make their reps higher.  Or else we're going against Taylor and his lab.  Last time that got us a lot of issues.  Ones that the higher ups hated."

He nodded.  "I remember.  I still owe Taylor for that."  She walked off, going home.   He stared at her back.  "How did he know she was?  There's all sorts of pretty Asian girls in the city."

He stared.  "You think he remembered her?  She was only fourteen the last time she saw him."

"I don't know.  That's what's bothering me."  His phone beeped with a message.  He snorted, letting his lieutenant see.  "It's nice they watch us that way."  Another message came in.  "What?" he demanded.  "They can't...."

"Rosenburg," the lieutenant said quietly.  "She can slip poison into anything we eat.  Even directly from the store.  She was the redhead that showed up to nag him about taking on gangsters since she considered him normal, boss."

"Huh.  Can she?"

"Did you see the mess she made during the last Council thing that was on tv?"

"I remember her lifting a good part of a temple off some trapped people a few years back," he admitted.  His lieutenant nodded.  "Huh."  He looked.  "Think she did it today?"

"Why warn today?  She's playing cat and mouse," one guy said.  "Could be anytime, anywhere with her sort.  Redheaded temper like that one guy in Miami."

"Could be," the higher up decided.  "Let me note that for the higher ups, get some clearer orders.  Because I'm not against doing the lab but that could cause them problems."  He walked off, going to call them from the club's office.  They remembered Harris *real* well.  Harris had made sure they got their present jobs by dealing with the last people in power over one of his slayers.  This was going to take some finesse to get him and not irritate anyone else.  Especially when he heard that the white boys designed weapons and were known to carry some pretty heavy artillery around by the rumors going out of Miami's groups.


Don walked over later the next day, staring at the single twin in ballistics.  "You had to put new stuff up on the bulletin boards, Alex?" he quipped.

"Yup."  He grinned at him.  "I thought those were some interesting facts."

"I think they are too.  Our union rep nearly flipped his weave."  He smirked.  "Anything on our bodies?"

"Definitely related to the bombs last night.  Which is why you'll only see one of us this week."

"I heard you threw a hissy."

"No, he promised he was going to call the federal grant people and tell them all that sort of stuff."

"Oooh," he said with a wince.  "That's not a good."

"No, but they don't fuck with us and we don't fuck back."  He smiled sweetly.  "The same as we don't with the Triad mother fuckers.  Speaking of, how did you want to handle that?"

"We're sure it was?"

"Pretty sure it was.  Though I did have a *wonderful* date last night to remind someone of the last time I ran into their little happy group."  He smiled sweetly again.

"You..." Don said, looking confused.

"They went after one of the local slayers."  He snickered.  "They were not prepared for a one-eyed white guy who had some combat stress to work out.  And then, geniusly unplanned and all that, Willow showed up to remind us we were the normal guys of the Council.  One guy who was lying bleeding from attacking me when I was holding a sword asked me if I was the base standard that had to be set for employment by them.  She said yes and glared that I had made a few messy things.  He decided the Council's people must be pretty damn tough.  Willow snorted and said most of them were even girls.  So they quit picking on Mei."

"So they know you," Don said.

"I learned long ago that talking to the local guys only got things done for local problems.  Talking to the head guys was for regional and bigger problems and I tended to skip the little guys when there were serious problems.  The head duo probably still thank my name and swear at it too every year since I took my complaint about hurting her alllll the way to the top.  I figure it probably gives them headaches since they took over."

"So they really know you," Don said.

"I don't think they realized there was two of us until last night."  He shrugged.  "Then again, he's my beloved eviler half so he's got a lot of plotting time today."

"Yeah, that's probably a bad thing," Don said dryly.  "Mac?" he called, bringing him.  "Did you know the twins had taken on parts of a Triad group before over one of the girls?"

"You're insane," Adam called from his lab.

"They come here again and I'm going to prove it," Alex yelled back.  He grinned at Mac.  "Willow told them I was the normal guy too."

Mac nodded once.  "Maybe you two should switch off today?"

"No.  He's being evil at home.  It'll be good for the company."  He smiled sweetly.

"Any other gang groups that might know you enough to be scared of you?" Don asked.

Alex thought about that, texting that to his twin, who sent back an answer.  "There was that Mexican gang in Miami."  He shrugged.  "The one here I vowed to turn gay if they ever touched my twin again?"

"They still think you will," Don quipped.  "Which gang in Miami?"

"I don't remember.  Some meth making mother fuckers who were threatening a church, which I didn't disagree with because I wanted to threaten that church, but you know the rules of case work."  He shrugged.  "Xander got that case."

Mac walked off calling Horatio.  "What gang did Xander threaten down there while on a case?  That wasn't in his folder."  He listened, pausing and glaring back at ballistics.  "Really?  Well, I guess that makes sense.  Are they going to cause them problems?  Good to know.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "You do not do that up here without warning me first," Mac ordered.

"Yes, dear," Alex called, coming to the doorway.  "I'll warn you like you're a worried spouse."  He blew a kiss and grinned.  "They won't come after us.  Both of them know about our very bad habit of carrying around a lot of weapons."  He walked back into his lab.  "So, how are we going to bust them if we ever find out which one it is?"

"I'm thinking gangs and SWAT personally."

"I could like that," he agreed.  "I might even pretend to be sweet and fluffy so they think the other guys are more badass than I am."

Don shook his head.  "Not too many in the department can do that.  Outside me of course."

Alex hugged him quickly.  "Of course you can."  He got back to work.  "Sid said it's going to be days before they get ID's.   Or are certain which parts go together so we can see what's missing."

"I figured as much.  Thanks."  He left, going to talk to Mac.  "The twins always react to a threat the same way, Mac."

"I know."  He stared at him.  "I'd like them to be scared sometimes.  Before that attitude is catching."

"Mac, look at what they've handled.  Is a gang really all that against some of the demons?"

"No," he agreed.  "Probably not."

"Besides, that could be their fear response, to attack.   If you have to fight the same way they did, you'd train yourself to attack when petrified.  That way you're not eaten or something."

"That doesn't explain the screaming rant."

"The higher ups made you stay, which left the rest of the lab unprotected," Don said dryly.  "Which meant that they turned on the department."  He smirked.  "Which means the boys consider him a legal target and they put up all sorts of information on them in the break rooms."

"I'm surprised it wasn't in the paper this morning."

"They probably got confused why they got that and maybe even investigated."

"If they wanted it investigated they would've went to someone like Reed."

"Who said they didn't?"  Don walked off to let him call.

Mac called him.  "Reed, did you get some information on the higher ups in the NYPD?"  He smiled.  "Yes, that information.  Oh, not you?  That was nice of them so it wouldn't appear to lead back to me.  No, I don't mind.  I know I didn't leak that information.  No, we cut what we could cut and they're threatening staff cuts next.  Thank you.  No, the full lab understands and supports the reasons for the strike but we have a job to do and we have to be doing it.  Thanks."  He hung up and went to talk to that twin.  "You went around Reed so it wouldn't look like I was involved?"

"Yeah.  That way you don't get more than your share of grief."  He smiled.  "He sent it to Fox News too.  You know how much they love scandals about money."

"That's going to cause hell."

"Well, not really.  They could have cut that.  They could have stopped our commissioner from marrying into a crime family and then divorcing her but somehow she's paying him spousal support."  Mac gaped, taking that to look over again.  He pointed.  "That is a relation to Eldwin's family."  He grinned.  Mac smirked back.  "And she's paying him spousal support even though there's no registered kids between them and he's remarried someone more politically correct."  He got back to work.  "You need to tell the DA that we're running at half speed.  I've already ducked one call."

"I can since I have to be down there later."  He walked off, going to talk to the head DA.  He needed to talk about a case anyway.  "Jack."

"Mac.  Problems?  You don't look happy."

"One of the ballistics techs is suspended for pointing out that the stuffed shirts were creating problems by making me stay in a meeting when bombs had been found on some of their cars."

"I heard.  I had a meeting there myself.  They're feisty little bastards."  He leaned back.  "Suspended for a week?"  Mac nodded.  "Are they actually taking it since I've heard they're working without pay?"

"They're switching off.   The one at home is being evil."

"I heard from Fox News."  He smirked.  Mac sighed but nodded.  "We'll weather this one like the last one."

"I'm not so sure of it.  Yesterday they pulled a massacre."

"Damn.  Bratva?"

"Triad they think."

"Even worse."  He considered it.  "How soon before you arrest on that?"

"Weeks probably.  They're still trying to figure out the body part puzzle."

"Oh, that sort.  Even better news," he said with a grimace.  "All right.  You let me know.  That way we can fight harder on bail and things."

"I will.   I do know that they're going to feel threatened by the twins.  Apparently one of the groups bothered a slayer once upon a time."

"Sounds like a fairytale."

"For the guys who got new jobs," he said dryly.  "Then Rosenburg showed up to complain about him being normal."

"If they consider him normal, I'd hate to see what they consider us who're really normal."

"Normal like them."  He shrugged a bit.  "No idea what's wrong with them."  The lesser ADA walked in with the case file.  "I was informing him of a new case and was coming down to your office next."

"That's fine," she said with a smile.  "Jack, it's bad."

He took it to look over.  "There's no way you can prosecute that."  He looked at Taylor.  "Are the other labs on strike?"

Mac shrugged.  "Supposedly not but ours seems to be getting a lot of samples from off the island."

"Figures."  He let him see that file.

Mac nodded. "Adam was running those most of yesterday."  He handed it back to her.  "He's good."

"Wonderful.  They'll still say things got switched in transport."

"Unless they broke protocol, all evidence is signed out to an officer, he carries it and hands it only to the tech, who then signs it in as his," Mac told her.  "Adam knows how to do his job and that end had better know."

She nodded.  "Is Adam going to be able to testify?"

"He has in the past."

"Good."  She looked at her boss.

"Make sure of that," he said.  "On their end, talk to the officer.  Let me know."  She nodded, leaving.  "We've had evidence problems."

"I've heard.  That's why I quit using central storage."  He grimaced.  "They got hit with the budget cuts first."

"Figures.  Now that you've made my morning need a three martini lunch, any good news?"

"We're running about one-third to one-half speed."

"I figured you probably were.  Fortunately we're so backed up it shouldn't really matter."

"Press for more deals," Mac said.  "That'll help with the storage issue."  That got a nod.  "I have no idea what's going on down there.  If I went down there, I'd start yelling and throwing orders around.  Which I'm told repeatedly is not my job."

"Fine.  Thank you."  Mac smiled and went to talk to that ADA about the upcoming trial he'd have to testify on.  "Maybe it's my job."  He got up and grabbed his jacket, heading to look things over.  Too many cases required that storage facility to be up to snuff.


Mac walked into the Human Resources/Paycheck department, heading to the boss.  "I need a bit of help."  She smiled at him.  "Two of my guys are volunteering to work without pay and they didn't get a paystub saying that or their health insurance cards this week."

"Hmm.  Did we get time cards?"  She let him come into her office so she could get their information.  "I have them in the system as active officers but on unpaid sabbatical.  Which is why they didn't get the cards."

"I sent a personal email about that issue and noted on their time cards with how many more days they were working without pay."  He sat down.  "They're not sure if they were fired, because if so we've lost them and a hell of a lot more since they're federal contractors."

"We got them on a grant?" she guessed, looking up.

"Their personal company."

"Oh, which is why they volunteered."  He nodded.  "That's sweet of them."

He smiled.  "They're very nice boys, until someone pisses them off."

She giggled.  "So are my teenage boys."  She looked over things.  "The commissioner had them put in that way."

"They got onto him after he forced me to stay at a meeting after bombs were found on their cars and some of the rest of the staff's cars."  She gave him an odd look.  "They also threatened to talk to their oversight person to have grants looked at harder.  They found that nice information about his first wife, his extra paychecks, all that."

"Ooooh.  No wonder he's biting back."

"The boys won't play with him."  He smirked.  "They're anti-political, which I adore about them.  If he tries something against them they're going to ruin him in any way they can then cackle.  They've been surrounded by girls for *much* too long."

She cackled.  "That does sound a lot like girls, yes."  She finished it.  "It won't stick."  She looked at him.  "You may have to have him fix it."

"I'll try but if we lose them, the whole lab may have problems."  He shook her hand.  "Keep an eye on that please?"

"I can do that."  She smiled, watching as he left.  "Those poor boys.  You don't get anywhere in the NYPD if you don't play politics."  She tried to fix it again but it wasn't allowing her.


Mac looked at his boss an hour later.  "Sir, the way you put the twins' volunteering to go without pay for six months took their health insurance cards," he said bluntly.

"They can probably do without them," he said with a smile.

"Sir, you do realize that them talking to their oversight person wasn't an empty threat?"

"They can't stop our current grants and a lot of them aren't DoD or Homeland related, Taylor."

"Sir, I think you underestimated things a bit.  The oversight people are over *all* those things."  The commissioner gave him a strange look.  "And they all know each other.  They're in DC so they all play politics too.  That's not counting the fact that two senators like the boys enough to offer them a bed if they move to a lab in DC."  He shuddered.  "Or their wide variety of dating traumas that sometimes require SWAT to save them.  The mayor's already panicked that one heard about that incident with the bombs and the fit afterwards, and is stalking him."

"I heard.  Can't you stop them?"

"No.  That's not my job, sir."  He stared at him.  "You really don't want to know what the twins could pull out of their asses since they've applied for three grants for the PD and one for the lab."

"Oh," he said, considering that.  "How far do their contacts go?"

"They did their internships at NCIS.  There was a conspiracy group who bombed their car during that.  From what I'm told, one called the Secretary of the Navy at home."  The commissioner's mouth flopped open.  "One of mine is also a profiler.  He interned at the FBI."

"Oh, dear."

"Oh, yes.  This may be their version of community service but they also back up the slayer network."

"Do we have any of those things in this city?" he demanded.

"Two, sir.  They're very helpful young ladies who stop problems and only stop the problems.  I've kept tabs on the underground information network in case something gets said."

"So they're only taking out the bad things?" he sneered.

"Yes, sir, that's the way they're trained.  It's not like we have a jail for them.  Or courts or anything else."

"I don't like that hobby."

Mac stared at him.  "I'm told it's a calling, like being a priest."

"You might be losing them and have to hire new ones, Taylor.  The mayor won't like that either."

"Then the mayor just killed his brand new shiny six mil grant," Alex said from the doorway.  He smirked.  "And the one that's coming next year worth about fifty."  The commissioner shuddered.  "And the others we've applied for.  Most of them are down between us and Vegas."  He waved at someone up the hallway.  "I can take these back really easily, sir, and I really don't care who you're indebted to.  I don't care if you're sucking demon cock day and night.  That's not my concern, it's not my job, and tell them we said hi.  They probably know who we are."  He waved the paperwork.  "I can shred these.  Not an issue."  He walked off.

"Alex," Mac called, going to get the papers.  "Thank you."

Alex smirked.  "We can easily move a lot of places, Mac.  Not a big problem in the least.  Hell, we've got standing offers to DC, Texas, Chicago, all sorts of places."  He shrugged.  "We're also not going to be in for two days.  One of the hackers we know caught something wrong on the slayer network and it's going to take some commando-like action, which is our job.  Adam's agreed to cover."  He walked off again.  "I have three days to say thank you and give someone a blow job over those.  Let me know if I need to."

"I will," he promised, going back in there.  The commissioner was saying a prayer.  Mac cleared his throat.  "He has three days to hand the paperwork back, sir."

The commissioner stared at him.  "I still don't like their jobs."

"Yay.  I don't like yours," Mac said dryly.  "You're political, you suck funds from things that need them for your own gain, and you're a media whore," he said bluntly.  "I put up with you and you have to put up with my ballistics techs unless you want them to start ripping down the NYPD's grants."  He held up the papers.  "I can easily tell them you don't need these after all."

"Don't you dare."  He took them to look over, smiling at the amounts.  "That will help a lot."  He looked up.  "Fine, you can keep them."

"Thank you.  Please undo whatever you did to their records before it comes up in a court case?"  He walked off.  The boys had made copies of the paperwork, he was sure of it.

The commissioner took the papers to the mayor.  "Did you know those twins were slayer related?"

He nodded.  "They're the logistics and support staff.  They're also training staff."  He took the papers, smiling.  "That's a welcome relief."

"The twins got them for us."

"I'd like to thank them."

"One dropped it off but they had a quiet talk in the hallway."

"That's fine."  He saw the man in the doorway.  "Yes, Agent...."

"Persimmons, sir.  I'm here to arrest your police commissioner for obstruction of justice and a few other charges that relate back to his graft taking.  The federal auditors are also here and waiting to talk to you about that, sir."

"Am I being charged?"

"No, sir, they found other irregularities from some of the other city's higher ups."  He smiled.

"Why did we do a federal audit?" the commissioner asked.  "There wasn't one announced and no warrant was given over."

"Sir, they don't need a warrant to audit grants," Agent Persimmons said bluntly.  Both of them stared.  "It didn't come from the twins since I heard you talking about them.  Apparently they ranted about your problems with them, sirs, and one of their people told the oversight people.  They have some very good, mostly upstanding people in their company."  He smiled.  "Sir, if you'll come with me?  If I have to cuff you I will but I know it'll cause a very bad scandal."

"I want your resignation," the mayor said quietly.  "If it's true, I want it post-dated."  He nodded, letting himself be walked off.  The mayor took the new paperwork with him.  They could get some of those funds back hopefully.  That would help the city a lot.  Some of this had roots in the 80's and 90's.  That was going to be harder to prosecute.


Alex watched the tape that his hacker had found.  "That's a body dump," he sighed.  "Thanks, Horace."

The small face on the screen smiled.  "Welcome, Xander.  We knew you guys would need to handle it.  Some of those skeletons look non-human too."

"I saw.  Do we know anything about their company?"  He got sent an information file.  "Specs too, thanks.  Let us start on this."  Horace nodded and disappeared, leaving the live feed up.  Xander walked into their office.  "It's bad."

"I figured it was.  Graham?"  He came in.  "Come see."

Graham moved to project the image onto the main screen in there.  "That's bad," he said, watching the guards.  They went over the specs.  "All right, you two are CSI.  You go talk to the locals.  We'll start reconing the company, see if there's an easy way in.  They look like they covered most of the entrances."  They nodded, taking that feed to the department about a half-hour up the road.  Graham called in someone.  "It's Miller.  The boys got told about a company dumping bodies.  No, skeletons.  A hacker got them live video feed.  Yeah, there.  Why?"  He listened, tapping out a text message to Xander.  "I'll let them know.  You sure?  Yeah, then I'll let them know."  He tapped that to them and then called his team to go back them up.  They'd need to move sooner instead of later.


Alex walked into the local PD up there.  "Hi, CSI Harris out of the NYPD," he told the guy at the desk.  "Can I talk to one of the detective captains please?  Someone reported a crime up this way and I need to liaison."

"Sure, sir."  He called.  "Sir, a CSI from the city's here."  He hung up.  "He'll be out in a minute."

Alex smiled.  "Thank you."  He moved away and smiled at the older officer coming out.  "Hi, CSI Alex Harris, NYPD felony lab in Manhattan."  He shook his hand.  "A hacker was watching somewhere that the underground was hearing rumors about and caught a body dump site."

"Up here?" he demanded.  Alex nodded.  "Let's go to my office, Harris."  Alex followed him.  "We would've seen that."

"They're on private property."  He opened his laptop, restarting the feed.  He had to hack back in but Horace had it set up so he only had to log in.  "That's the present one they're covering."  He let him see it.

"Where is that?"

"The chemists up the road."  He grinned.  "They told us because we're also a federal level weapons design firm and Council backup."  He pointed.  "That's demonic and the one next to it is human but short."

"I can see that."  He considered it.  "They've got some power around here."

Xander nodded.  "My twin and I are both fairly decent."  He smiled.  "He's scouting."

"That's helpful.  That has to be in their woods."  Alex nodded, showing him where it was.  "Damn it.  I have no idea how to get in there.  Would a local warrant work?"

"It does in ours.  If the locals need to look things over, a company can't argue with it.  I did tell our oversight person so he could see what they had on the company."  He checked his email.  "There it is.  Their federally reported fact file."  They looked it over.  "They're working on a what?" he asked, rereading that part.  "That's just wrong."

"Probably handy in a war," the captain sighed.

Alex nodded.  "Probably.  Still sucks since it'd hit the normal people instead."  He straightened up.  "Our tech person is copying down the feed thanks to our second-in-command, who is a former Ranger."

"Even better from an evidence standpoint."  He stared at him. "Are you a guns blazing sort?"

"No, that's my twin, which is why he's up there scouting."  He smiled.  "I'm the subtle evil one."  The captain snickered, nodding.  "Can you get a warrant?"

"I can."  He called a judge he knew wasn't related to them down to watch that feed.  They were covering up the bodies when he got there.  "This is CSI Harris outta the NYPD."

"Pleasure, sir," Alex said, shaking his hand.  He let him see.  "Someone told us."

"That's bad.  Is that company property?"  The captain nodded.  "All right, we can do a search."

"Say someone claimed they dumped a body there as a reason?" Alex suggested.  "When we have to talk to them."

"That'd work," the captain agreed.  "It'd let us bring the dogs too."  The judge nodded, filling out the paperwork and handing it over.  They left, Alex leaving his computer in the car.  They got hassled from the gate guards.  "I got a warrant, boy.  Get the higher ups to meet us at the door.  There's more of us coming."  They drove through and parked, getting out.

"Captain," a slimy looking woman said happily as she walked out.  "The gate reported you have a warrant?"

"Yes, ma'am, for your woods.   We had someone claim they tossed a body over the fence," he said bluntly.  He held up the warrant.  "We're bringing dogs out to find it fastest."

She paused to consider that.  "How would they do that over the razor wire?"  She saw the other one.  "New to the local department?"

He smiled.  "Manhattan felony crime lab," he said smugly.  "I'm on loan."  He shook her hand.  She was demonic, charming.  She couldn't feel him apparently, which was a good thing.

"That's interesting.  You had to borrow from them?" she asked the captain.

"They're the ones that got told."

"Oh.  I see."

"By law we do have to check up on each and every thing like that, ma'am," Alex said smoothly. "We don't make the evidence, we just follow where it leads."

"I can fully understand that."

"I'm bringing the dogs so it won't bother your people very much," the captain assured her.

"That'd be fine."  A K-9 unit with two dogs and an officer/handler got out.  "Which part of the woods?"

"He just said the fence," Alex said.  "So we'll walk a perimeter if that's the easiest way."

"I suppose we can't stop you."  She pointed.  "The nearest part of the fence is right there.  It's a good five mile circuit though, boys."

The captain shrugged.  "We all have to jog for the job, ma'am.  Thank you for not trying to get in our way."  They walked off.  Once they were out of sight the captain smiled at him.  "Slick."

"Sometimes.  Now and then I have to sell artillery to generals."  The captain snickered.  "That's what my people do."  They walked off.  It took nearly an hour before the dogs started to scent something and headed off.  The handler dropped the leash because the dog was pulling so hard.  The other, not so much.

"It's not a squirrel," he said.

"No, they have a body dump," Alex told him.  They followed the dog.  It was in the open pit digging at something.  The other was baying and pushing too.  "This isn't the same one," he said quietly.

"Shit," the captain muttered.  The dog dug up a bone and bayed loudly.  The local guards came running.  "Well, that's not what we expected to find."  The guards pulled guns.  Alex pulled out a grenade and stunned them with the light flash.  The captain blinked at him. Alex smiled sweetly.  "What department do you work in, boy?"

"Ballistics."  He grinned, calling his twin.  "Found a body pit, but not the same one."  He hung up.  "Feds are coming."  The half-demon woman was jogging their way.  "Ma'am, one of the dogs spotted this.  Did you know about this body pit?" he asked.

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded.

"CSI Alex Harris."  He smiled at her.  "Ballistics and field tech."

She stared at him.  "You can't be."

"I can be and I can also be a survivor of some of the really bad shit that's happened in Africa.  Not the first pit of bodies I've seen in my life," he said dryly.  She stepped back, looking alarmed.  "Heard of us?"  He smiled.

"You're...  You're Council!"

"Backup, mostly retired.  I'm only on for apocalypses now.  The NYPD does take up a lot of my time these days."

She swallowed.  "You can't....  Guards, shoot them!"

"Ma'am, my twin's already called the FBI," he said bluntly.  "They're already on their way.  As well as someone from Homeland and Oversight."  She tried to run off but he pounced her and cuffed her then took out the two guards standing there staring at them like they were evil.  Alex finished cuffing them.  "Hi to you too."  He looked at the captain.  "I hear a helicopter."  They watched as one landed, him whistling and waving.  The agent jogged their way.  "Body pit.  Not the one the hacker told us about."

"Shit, Harris!"

Alex shrugged.  "They've got a huge underground compound too.  The ground's not right out here.  The trees are too shallow."  He pointed at a few to prove it.  "Want us to bust in?"

"Where's your twin?"

"Probably with Miller by now."  He texted him, getting a nod.  "Going in with Miller's team."

"Boys, we have a body of pits and a company that was killing people," he reported.  "Captain, please have your dogs find the other ones."  He nodded, taking his people off.  He looked at Harris.  "You could've told us."

"I got to the locals first usually.  It's protocol."  He walked off, jogging to catch up to the team going in.  "We have an underground.  The trees out in the woods aren't real deep."

"Shit," Miller muttered.  "Someone crack their computers."  Agents came in to start rounding up workers hiding in offices.  They got the map and headed down to start freeing captives.  Graham saw the first ones and coughed.  "That's sick."  He called it in.  "Horace, let the agents up with us know that we need medical transpo *now*.   We've got a private Initiative mess."  He hung up and the twins had disappeared.  "Their funny feelings are going to get them dead," he complained.  "We saw three other halls, clear them."  They moved to do that.  Any scientist they got down one way or another.

Alex nudged his twin and pointed.  "Hidden doorway and I know there's something freaky."

"Okay," he agreed, heading down there.  It was easy enough to break once they had taken down the guard.  They got in and headed down the stairs, pausing before they came out to glance out the doorway.  More guards, some waiting.  So they sent in a gas grenade.  After some brief coughing they went in and shot the remaining ones.  They looked.  They had a map.  "Miller," Xander called over his comm.  Nothing.  He activated the comm switch.

"Miller," Xander tried again, taking down their anti-field generator.  "We have commando teams.  We have three halls.  Some are listed as 'gassed'."  He hung up and went to check on them first.  They were clean skeletons.  Nothing left on them.  They checked the others.  "Guys, we've got to move you," he said when a gas like noise started.  "Now."  He opened the cells, his twin hitting the other row of cells to get them out.  "Get everyone and let's go."

"Who're you with?" one asked him, coughing.

"NYPD."  He smiled.  "There's Feds upstairs."  They checked the cells and got them out of there.  Alex was helping out his row's.  "That all of them?"

"There's two but the gas is heavy," he said, taking his twin's leather jacket to cover himself and go in and get them.  One was already half eaten.  The other was being eaten.  He got him out.  "The other one's mostly gone."  They got his body and headed up to find people waiting.  One of the commandos took the extra guns the twins were carrying to solve that issue.

"Hardis!" Alex yelled.  "Get these guys back to our lab.  They had some sort of gas that ate down to a skeleton.  One's still being eaten.  I'm hoping Sheila can stop it."  He nodded, calling for an air evacuation.

"We're also SI Corp," Xander said with a shrug and a slight grin.  "You guys can hide with us.  We have a great infirmary.  That way you can call higher ups.  We have most of them on speed dial."

"You guys made that sweet surveillance gear," one said.

"Yes we do."  They got them out, including the body.  "This one first," he said with a point at him.  "The gas was acting on him and it's still acting."  The pilot nodded, taking them up the road.  It was only a ten minute flight.  The twins shared a look and went back to handle the rest of the prisoners.  "Graham, they had some teams.  They're developing a gas that leaves a clean skeleton."

"Damn it!" he shouted.  He reported that to the others.  They got more prisoners out.  The demonic ones they called a healer upstate to gather.  Willow created a small portal for them to grab them without notice.  Xander helped carry one over since it had no legs.  The healer smiled and nodded so they went back.  They had to evacuate the human prisoners.

Alex paused one of the agents.  "Downstairs, where we rescued the commandos, there's a whole row of them that got gassed.  Some still had uniform pants on.  I don't know what else."

"We'll gather them respectfully, Harris.  The others?"

"I had them sent to our infirmary.  We have some pretty damn good chemists who're used to weird things.  Plus we're two minutes from a good hospital."

"Good point.  Thank you.  Let their commanding officers know."

"Of course."  He looked around.  "Need us?"


"In the car.  We wrote it on the way up so we could hand it over.  They need more help finding the bodies?"

"No, we've found a bunch of them.  The dogs are good."

Alex nodded and walked off to meet with his twin, who was coughing.  Willow got them sent back to the company infirmary.  "Xander went in the gas to get that one team out, Doc," he called.  She came over to get him on oxygen and started something in an IV.  "We need more help?"

"The toxic gas is a heavy gas.  I'm giving him stuff to neutralize it and help expel it.  That stuff's really nasty.  Who?"

"It's all over the news," he said dryly.  "We found multiple pits of bodies."

"Damn."  She flipped on the news so the guys could see what was going on.

Alex walked over to the ones staring at their men.  Clearly in charge.  "Who should we tell you guys are alive?" he asked quietly.

One stared at him.  "We're both army units, sir."

"I'm Alex, my twin is Xander."  He smiled.  "We're not mean.  We're the reason they raided that company."

"Thank you."

"NP, dude.  I wouldn't allow that to happen to anyone.  Want me to call General Hendricks?  He's army."

"Hoarfrost Hendricks?" the other asked, looking at him.  "What do you guys do that you'd run into him?"

"He loves our ELF system."  He pointed at the helpful robot carrying things for the docs and nurses.  "We can call families too if you need us to."  He grabbed the nearby phone.  "Samantha, Alex.  Want him or someone else, guys?"

"We usually deal with Simons," the other said quietly.

"Call Eric and tell him we found two quiet teams being held hostage and another that had been killed.  The FBI has them.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "She'll call him.  We're due to see generals in about two weeks so it won't look too odd if they want to keep this news covert."  He looked around.  "Pippen, can you please bring some coffee and stuff to eat for the infirmary," he called.  He heard a beep and Pippen rolled off to get stuff from their cafeteria.  Their engineer walked in.  "Can you help?"

"Yeah, I can, and some of my favorite chemists are down here so I can chat."  She took the readout and called them from the same phone, chatting.  She took down what would break it down and that it was corrosive.

"We know, it created clean skeletons," Alex said quietly, watching those poor people and his twin.  "It's in Alex's lungs."  She repeated that and got something to try.  In the mock-up test it worked well enough.  She said a 'thank you' and hung up, going to tell the docs that.  They got the one that was being eaten covered in the paste and it did help.  They had no idea how to get it into Alex's lungs.

"I've had pneumonia before.  If I have to, I can have it again," Xander coughed.  They misted some down his airway through a tube they inserted for that purpose.  They hoped they could limit the damage.

Alex answered the phone.  "Alex Harris.  No, we can't come in for that, Doug.  Because we just ran into something nasty.  Do you need it right now?"  He listened.  "Faith's at work.  I can call her.  Then come in to do the gun review tonight.  Yeah, thanks."  He hung up and called her.  "Doug needs help ASAP."  He hung up and considered things.  "Doc?"

"It looks like it's working," she reported over the speaker.  "So far so good.  I'm going to call in the local docs to help."  He nodded so she called.  Pippen came in to give them coffee then went to the beds to hand over bottles of water.  The commanders got the same and a donut, making them smile.

"That's Pippen, he was our original ELF for home defense and help around the lab."  He petted him.  "Thank you, Pippen.  Good job."  He took his cup of coffee.  "No, Xander's sick."  He took his to his twin, letting him have it.  He was already coughing but they'd handle it.


Graham had just gotten back and was tired when the Generals showed up.  "Sir," he said, saluting.

"Don't do that, Miller.  You retired.  These commando teams?"

"Probably still in the infirmary, sir.  I know we found another one and they're in worse shape so they are."  They got led down there.  They had no idea the company had one.  "For Council things," Graham said at their curious looks.

"Figures they wouldn't want a regular ER."

"Most of them can't handle demon issues," Graham agreed.  "Guys."  He pointed.  The two commanders saluted.

"What the hell happened?  The last I knew your team was reported KIA," he told one of them.  "And yours... I have no clue.  I didn't get that report."

The higher general looked him up on his handheld.  "KIA, Afghanistan."  He looked at them.  "How did you get captured?"

"Ambush," they said in unison.

"Knocked out, moved, we woke up in the cells to people taking blood.  They took bone marrow samples.  I know one of them milked one of my guys for semen too," the other reported.  "One let slip that the gas seemed to work better on certain blood types.  He thought I was asleep, sir."

"All right.  The other team?"

"We didn't see anyone else but their ghouls," the other said.  "I know it was said that they found a fourth team and one had been gassed."  He pointed.  "That one was the worst injured and we did have one killed.  The twin that's on the IV line helped get them back for us, sir.  The gas was already starting."

"Perkins and Paris are handling the company's dismantling," Alex called.  "Sheila talked to some of her chemist buddies about that formula."  The lesser general went to talk to her about it.  "That's some nasty shit."

"How did you hear?"

"Horace.  He found them doing a body dump.  There were all sorts of rumors there, Alvin."

"Okay."  He looked.  "He be okay?"

"Some got in his lungs but they treated it pretty fast.  So far the x-rays are good."

"Decent.  I know Taylor would miss you two and you'd go insane if he died."  He went to talk to the doctor about what was going on and that other team.  He found them supposedly long dead.  That sucked since that one had been done wrong by the higher ups.  He came back.  "Can you protect them?"

"Of course."  He smiled.  "We can even treat them like we would the slayers."

"Thank you.  There's some dirty pool somewhere, boys."  He went to talk to the commanders.  Then that injured one.  He stared at him.  "Colonel."

"Sir," he said weakly, trying to sit up.

"Stay.  You were tortured to hell and back."  He stared at him.  "You're at a friendly, non-related company.  These boys make us artillery and are NYPD too."  The colonel nodded slowly.  "This is their infirmary.  They're not going to hurt you.  I saw what was in your file and that sucks big time so I'm going to look into it.  I want you guys to stay here to recover.  They're nice boys.  We trust the hell outta them.  In two weeks, we have a showing off weekend for their new weapons.  We'll be back then and I'll start alerting families."

"The things we had with us?  We were just off an ops mission and had the evidence with us, sir."

"I'll see if the FBI can find it.  They raided that company.  We trust these boys, all right?"  He nodded.  "They're a bit weird.  They're formerly Council."  He smiled.  "But they're nice, goofy twins."  He left him alone.  "We'll be back for the showing off, boys."

"Yes, sir.  We have a few new things," Alex said dryly with a grin.  "And some new gear ideas to put forward to see if anyone likes them or can see a use for them."

"That's fine.  We like it when you boys do that, no matter what Harry complains about."  He went back to Washington to tell the Joint Chiefs.  They were not happy.   They loved the twins and that they stepped in, but they weren't happy with that whole situation.  The FBI was going to get some 'help' and the ones that were leaning toward unhelpful were sent on vacation somewhere nicely warm.


Alex walked into Mac's office, nodding at the commissioner.  "Xander's still got pneumonia and the doc at the company won't let him out for the next few weeks."  He handed over that medical note.  "He's even quietly resting instead of working for right now."

"That's fine.  What happened?  There's been all sorts of rumors."

"Horace told us.  We found commando teams and other prisoners."

Mac grimaced.  "Are they all right?"

"They're in our infirmary too," he said dryly.  "Including some really nasty lethal gas."  He shrugged.  "The FBI has it.  They found fifteen pits of bodies the last we heard."

"I heard they uncovered a sixteenth earlier and the captain up there said thank you."  Xander grinned and nodded.  "And for the timely backup that meant they didn't have that much paperwork.  Plus the agents were nicely spending large in town, which could use it."


"Everyone else all right?" Mac asked.

"Yeah.  Xander was getting a last few out when the gas started."

"Good to know.  We got sent the bodies for identification."  Alex nodded.  "Sid might need some help."

"That's fine.  We can dig into our systems to help them.  That whole situation sucked since one got handed over."

"I'd have retired on the spot," Mac said bluntly.  "As soon as I heard that."

"Covert ops," Alex countered.  "Though yeah, I probably would've punched someone as I retired."  He put his hands in his pockets.  "I see Adam left us huge amounts of work so let me get back to that."

"Thank you."  Alex nodded, going to his lab.  He looked at the commissioner.  "Now we know."

"Who is Horace?"

"A hacker they knew in Egypt.  If there's chatter underground, hackers like him look into it and tell people."


"No, not that I'm aware of.  That's from their days serving overseas in the Council.  They made a lot of crossover contacts and friends, sir."

"Oh, I see.  That's fine.  Will they need more time off?"

"Sir, they're still within that six months," Mac said dryly.  "They'll be fine."  He nodded and left.  Mac went to help in ballistics, finding Adam in there.  "Adam, I'll help."  He nodded, going back to his own lab.  "You good?"

"Yeah, I'm a bit twitchy but we're good.  It was the only way to stop the gas from eating his lungs."

"Do we know anything about this gas?"

"It's why they're skeletons.  We had one guy that was partially eaten too.  Plus another that was dead but we managed to get his body."

"Thank you."

Alex shrugged.  "It's what we do, Mac."

"I know."  He smiled at him and got to work on one of the backlogged guns.  "I didn't know you guys had an infirmary."

"Yup, in the Council only part of the building."  He grinned.  "Doc Meyers is very nice to us.  Doesn't even poke too hard.  We don't usually do much with her outside getting bandaids."

"Why do you two take the health insurance then?"

"Because half the time we're injured, we're here not there."

"Good point.  Why a trauma doc?"

"In case something goes wrong during a test, Mac.  They'd be in bits and pieces usually.  Plus the usual apocalypse battle stuff."

"I didn't even consider that."

"She and the one in Cleveland flew out to LA to treat us after the last battle.  One of her daughters is one of the slayers that went to work for General Jack."

"Interesting."  He considered that as they worked.  "I didn't even think about the support staff something like the Council would need."

"They have some comms people for issues and monthly reports.  We have some analysts for tracking and a few of those are hackers who follow the various demon bulletin boards online.  Most of the higher ups know that they have them but the demons think it's a fun game to get around them.  Garcia picked the last analyst they hired.  That was our contribution to the setup since Giles didn't even consider those needs.  We showed up with the first one and within a day they had a threat assessment and helpfulness rating of various online sites Willow hadn't found.  It's led to a lot of info pre-apocalypse so we can plan things easier.  Plus they're usually family or in the know."

"That's a good thing."  He went to do a test fire and came out.  "Was someone in your firing range?"

Alex went to look, nodding.  "Yeah, apparently.  Looks like Michael's out of his mental hole again."  He cleaned up the mess by bagging it into an evidence box.  Then they got back to work.

"Why Mexican dolls?"

Alex shrugged.  "They're pretty.  They're representative.  He likes them."

"Oh.  Okay.  Do we know about him?"

"I don't know."  He shrugged.  "If it becomes more than this we'll brief you and Don."

"Thank you."  He went back to do his test fire.  Their firing pen being decorated like it was the Day of the Dead was a bit odd, even for the twins' stalkers.


Xander made it out of bed on his second try, walking over to where the others were gathered.  "Hey."  He sat down.   "I'm Xander."

"Why does an artillery company need an infirmary?" one guy asked.  "Though thank you for having it."

"We're retired Council, on call for apocalypse stuff," Xander said with a grin.  "Doc Meyers is real handy after a battle."  They gaped.  He shrugged.  "That's why we started designing weapons too."

"Wow," another one said.  "We heard about that battle in Sunnydale."

"There's been worse," Xander admitted.  "That was top ten definitely but there's been worse."  He shifted.  "Anyway, you guys doing okay?"  They all nodded.  "Talked to families?"  They all nodded.  "Do we need anything?"

"Not right now," one of the commanders said as he walked in.  "Those little tanks are cute."

Xander grinned.  "Thanks.  Pippen started out on home defense during our ballistics internships.  Then we moved him to lab helper.  We have one at home just for home defense and one in our ballistics lab for the NYPD helping stuff."  He grinned.  "Sheila, our wonderful engineer, adopted Pippen.  She even taught him how to feed the baby a bottle and change him."

Most of the guys grinned at that.  "She had to after the one time Pippen rolled up the halls as fast as he could, sirens blaring like it was a lab invasion, holding the baby up and out in front of him like he was toxic waste, and dove them both into the decontam showers.  She was only a few days post birth and couldn't chase him from her office up there."

"Do you use them in the field?" that commander asked.

"Sometimes for surveillance stuff.  Occasionally as a distraction.  We use the one at the NYPD lab for distraction when we want to have an extra candybar that they don't want to let us have because we bounce.  Our boss tries to keep him out of trouble after that one time another of us asked him to deliver something to Harlem.  He was so good, he even paid the subway toll.  Used the proper behavior on the train, all that."  A few of the guys laughed, shaking their heads.  "He's a smart little tank."  He grinned.

"Xander, the new latch system sucks!" someone shouted over the intercom.

Xander leaned back against the wall and hit the button.  "Sorry tog et too friendly," he told the person next to him. "What new latch system, Wendy."  He let the button go and waited.

"The one on the apartment.  We broke it by trying to open the door."

"I'll fix it when I'm allowed back."  He hung up and sat up.  "Sorry."

"That's all right.  Girlfriend?"

"One of the slayers.  They live with us for their own safety.  And so they can afford to shop like a slayer."  He shifted.

Sheila walked in and looked at the commando teams.  "If you guys had a generator that would work for a week but it weighed twenty pounds would you still use it?"

"What about the lighter version?" Xander asked.

"The charging part is having an issue again.  I'm not sure why.  It'll charge twice and then fizzle."

"Sounds like the pack instead of the charger," he said, considering it.  "Bring me the specs and we'll look it over?"

"I told Pippen to do that last night."

"Ah.  It's probably under my bed then."  She smiled and nodded.  "I'll get into it later."

She patted him on the head.  "Rest.  You need to get better."  She looked at him again.

"A week running what?"

"A whole computerized base camp setup like they use in temporary bases in the Middle East?"

He thought about it.  "If we had transport instead of having to walk in.  Twenty is too heavy for the more sneaking in ways.  Can it be dropped?"

"Not from a plane.  We're still working on that.  I can show you guys."  He nodded, following her up there.

Xander smiled.  "Something we've been working to make more field practical since Africa.  The bigger, less output version will run a single lab's worth of stuff for a week.  The higher output one glows a bit so it's not as practical for field use.  We have a heavier version but we're trying to shrink it."

The guys all nodded.  "Could be handy," one agreed.  He heard the beep.  "What's that?"

"The microwave or someone just beeped in."  He leaned back to hit the button.  "Was that you guys?"  He let the button go.

"That was the visitor alert, Xander."

"Thanks.  We're mostly down here."  He hung up and sat back up with a grin.  "I think someone has a spouse or someone."  They went to check.  She got handed to her husband, who took her back to his bed and they pulled the curtains for him since she was on his chest crying.  Xander grinned.  "Hopefully we'll get you guys home soon.  I know Doc Meyers said a week for most of you guys."  They grinned.  "It's cool.  We don't like hospitals either."  He shrugged and coughed some.  "Ow."  He rubbed his chest.  "Anyway, we do take ideas for field stuff you guys desperately need but no one's making."  They nodded, considering that while they watched _The View_.


Alex walked into quarantine that night, staring at the team in there.  "Relax, guys.  We're the ones who got them raided.  The other two teams are in the other room.  You're only in here because you guys had a different sort of injury."  He pulled a chair over to sit down, staring at them.  "Has anyone handed you guys a phone yet?"  The oldest of them nodded.  "Good.  Their families are starting to show up too."  He grinned.  "So, anyway, welcome to SI Corp."  One of them moaned, staring at him.  He grinned back.  "We make that same sound over our artillery," he quipped, making that one laugh.  He looked around.  "Do you guys need things that you don't have?"

"Our things?" the oldest one asked.

"The FBI found them, they're in a box in Tony's office.  He's our 2iC, but he's also NCIS so he's at his real job right now.  As soon as you guys can get up, we'll hand it back.  We're quarantining it because we found trackers on it.  We don't know who put them there but we're making sure they think it's just stuff in an office right now."  They all nodded.  "No one knew we had an infirmary before this incident so we're keeping that kinda quiet.  And you guys absolutely quiet because we were told to by the higher ups."

The leader nodded.  "I can understand that.  What about after we heal?"

Alex shrugged.  "Why would we care?"  He got a grin for that.  "You guys are only here to hide and heal.  We're not like them.  We might ask you guys for ideas of stuff you need in the field but we're not going to test on you or anything.   We helped take down another project that was doing that."  He looked at them again.  "Also, in your things was guns, was knives, was a ringing cellphone."  He tossed that over.  "The thing on the back is a blocker.  You can use our burnable phone to call them."  He tossed over another one.  "We found a bug inside that."

"Thank you."  He looked at the number.  "Your sister," he told one.  He called her.  "We're alive, safe, and healing.  Give us a week or so."  He hung up and put them beside him, getting a grin back.  "Anything we should know?"

"You're about an hour from New York City.  If you guys aren't fully healed at the same time and want it, we do have a bunk room for emergencies and you guys can bum it for a few days.  But we will probably pump you for ideas and let you look over the new field stuff to see how well it'd work.  Most of the time we work from past experience but the generals don't always think it's handy."  They all laughed.

"Exactly.  Oh," Alex added with a point.  "We do have a single surveillance camera up here in case someone does try to get in and manages to bypass security.  That only goes to Len's desk at the entrance.  It has no sound," he said, staring at the team leader.  "In case you guys have someone like Rosenburg who can mystically appear in a room."

"She can?" he demanded.

"Yeah, there's a few witches powerful enough to pull that off.  Each of the rooms has one.  The best ones are saved for things like the vault room and those areas.  You guys pretty well are covered up to your knees but otherwise not."  He stared at him.  "We don't care what you guys get up to.  If you're overthrowing the government, if you're screwing for stress relief, whatever.  That's just a security camera."

He stood up.  "When you guys are allowed out of bed, Doc Meyers will show you up to the bunk room.  Caf is up the hall from it, she'll probably pass by there to get a Dr. Pepper, she usually does.  Let us know if you need anything.  The red button on the tables is the nurse's intercom if you need it."  He looked around.  "We'll start removing the bugs within a day.  Send them off on some of the failed spiders that we want to blow up."  He walked off happier.

"He's trying to make us feel better," the one with the sister said.

"He is.  He's honest about things too.  Have we heard of them?"

"The new UAV system is theirs," that one said with a yawn.  "They're said to be good people.  They're weapons nuts."

"Council?  Witches?" another asked.

"That battle you wanted to believe was Hollywood, that was them," he told him.  "Him and his twin were both there if I remember right."

Their team leader nodded.  "Good to know."  He settled in.  "Rest, people, so we can go home sooner."  They nodded and got comfortable.


Alex looked up as someone walked into his lab, putting down things.  "You are not supposed to be in here.  Adam, visitors!" he yelled.  He stared at the idiot.  "Why are you in my lab?"

"Who are you to shield people that the US government wants?" he asked smoothly.

Alex smirked and pulled a gun, shooting him in the stomach.  "I'm Alex Harris."  That got more people running, including their guard officers.  "He just waltzed in here and demanded to know who I was to shield people from him."

Mac looked at him.  "Any idea who he is?"

"Yeah, I know who he was by that statement."  He smirked.  "He's a psycho bastard with delusions of grandeur and being an emperor of the new world.  Pity.  Just call me Brutus."

Mac glared at him.  "Put the gun down, Alex."  He did that.  "Is that yours?"

"Yeah."  He watched as they got him searched while waiting on paramedics.  "Guys, that's a low density, low range target bullet.  It didn't do that much damage," he said dryly.  "That's why I keep that gun in here."

"Like what they'd use on airplanes?" one of the guards asked.

"Yeah, same class, better type of bullet.  Harder to make so more expensive but better bullets."

He nodded.  "That makes a lot of sense."  Mac nodded he agreed.  Paramedics showed up.

Alex stared.  "Hi, Michael."  The supposed paramedic stared at him.  He blew a kiss.  "He wanted to know who I thought I was to keep people hidden from him."

"Pity," he sneered, staring at him.  "We'll have to talk to him about that, Alex."  He walked over him and looked at his love interest.  "Are you all right?  Scared?  I can cuddle."

Alex gave him a funny look.  "When was the last time you saw me scared?"

"Good point.  I'm scared, can I have one?"  Alex indulged him, earning a moan.  "You're using strawberry shampoo."  He let him go and helped pick up the body.  "Did you get the dolls?"

"Yes, but you can't put them in the firing pen.  They'll get nasty with GSR.  We'll put them up around the office instead."  Michael beamed at him.  "I'll tell Xander you said hi."

"Thank you, sweetie."  He left with the gurney.  His partner was giving him strange looks so he explained how great Alex was on the way to the ER.

Mac stared at him.  "Who was the one you shot?"

Alex got into his computer and found a file.  "Underground says he wants desperately to own what's in our vault."  He handed it over with a grin.  "Pity.  He even made a move to try to buy into the company.  He tried to get his dirty agents into our lab, all that."  He smirked.  "Double pity since apparently he'd like one of the teams we're sheltering."

"I'll let someone know."  He took the gun to look over.

Alex dialed the desk phone one handed.  "Babe, it's Alex.  We just ran into *him* here.  Had to shoot him with the low range bullet in the stomach when he tried to intimidate me."  He grinned.  "That's cool.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "The FBI will hear.  They have a task force against him."

"Even better."  He looked at his person.  "You have more than that one vault you accidentally showed off."

"Why yes, we do," he said smugly.  "Especially the toy vault but that's personal."  He grinned.  "Even the girls don't get to go into there.  That is Xander and Alex toys only."

"I remember that's where the spiders came from," Mac said, looking around.  "I thought the lab had two.  Stella was complaining again."

"One's in reception.  One's in your office.  Where did she think one was?"

"Adam's lab."

Alex went to look, poking the spider up there.  "No, it's real."  He killed it with the palm of his hand then went to change gloves and wash his hands.  He went back to his own lab.

"Thank you!" Stella shouted.

"Welcome, m'lady Stella."

She leaned in.  "The others?"

"Reception and Mac's office."

"Even better.  The changing room?"

"Not mine.  If it's mechanical it might be one we made but it's not ours."

She nodded, going to check on that one with Sheldon.  He'd kill it if it was real.  If not, Adam could trace the output.  It was metallic so Adam got a laptop and came into the locker room, loading up a porn page in case they were focused on his laptop while he hacked on a smaller window that his body blocked from sight.  He found it and shut down the feed since he knew that the commissioner should not have surveillance in the locker room.  He went to tell Mac, who took the evidence and went to talk to their temporary one.

Mac walked into his office.  "Mr. Mayor, please stay," he ordered calmly.  "We have an...issue."

"A bad one?" he asked with a wince.

"For some reason this temporary commissioner has one of the surveillance spiders we bought off SI Corp in our lab's changing area."

"I was making sure no one was using it for insurrection," he said bluntly.

"Then why was it pointed at Stella Bonasera's locker?" he asked dryly.  The man went pale.  He handed the mayor the information.  "One of my techs traced it."

"It does look like all the feed was of her locker area."  He looked at him.  "Do you have a good explanation?"

"She was formulating dissent.  She's the one who put out that information about the last one."

"No, she wasn't," Mac said.

"She was!  She's one of those petty women who does things like that!" he shouted back.

"The twins put that up," Mac said dryly.  "Granted, they have been surrounded by young women all too often in their lives.  Especially during their formative years."  He smirked at the mayor.  "I'll hand the device back to SWAT after I let him turn it back on."  He walked off.

The mayor looked at him. "I had high hopes for you."  He got his police guards to take him to Internal Affairs with that information.  He went to name someone else.  At least this was saving on the budget.  That last one had only cost a third of the original.  The next one would be about the same hopefully.


Alex walked up to the new commissioner as he was being announced.  "Sir, how do you feel about the upswing of latino cops?" he asked.

The commissioner stared at him.  "I think the PD should be represented by the best and in proportion to the makeup of the city, CSI Harris."  Alex smirked.  "I do believe that a few of our officers could use trimmed however because we're out of whack on that ratio."

"So you're against the heavy latino presence in the stations up in Harlem?  Like where you were protesting recently, sir?"

He glared at him.  "How did you hear about that?"

"I had a crime scene up the block and had to get around half of you bigots, sir."  He smiled sweetly.  "By the way, you might want to call your sister.  Her car was just on the news.  It was being chased by the DEA for some reason.  I think it was your nephew though, they said a young male driver."  The upper guy stomped off.  "Sir, what about Inspector Meadows?" he asked the Mayor.  "Most of us like and respect him and the union really does like him.  He used to be a union rep from what we heard.  He's a fair, upstanding guy. No political crises."

"I'll talk to him.  Thank you, CSI Harris."

"Anything for my adopted city, sir."  He walked off.

"How does an officer operate on the streets without an eye?" one reporter asked.

"He's a CSI, not a patrol officer," the mayor told her.  "There are some disabled officers and they are qualified.  We make sure before they go back on the streets, miss."  He walked off.  "Let me make sure there isn't a new problem."  He went to look that one up.  He was down the list but if the union liked him....  He called one of the union guys to talk to him.  They agreed they had sent Harris to tell him that.  It'd jump him ahead of a short list of people but most of them probably wouldn't mind because the headaches associated with the job were extreme right now.  Inspector Meadows showed up an hour later, saluting him.  He was a tall, gangly, smiling a lot, Irish cop.  Red hair and all.  "Inspector...."

"I was in the car so I heard, sir.  The union nominated me?"  The mayor nodded.  "Then I'd best do what I can to help before I retire in three years."  The mayor smiled at him for that information.  "My daughter's planning on having a child about then and I'm going to be the most spoiling grandfather ever from Florida.  What can I do to help, sir?"

"First, go talk to Taylor, have him calm down his ballistics tech."

"I've seen both twins at work, and they're good people," he assured him.  "As long as no one screws with them."  The mayor smiled at that.  "Taylor has a very short leash.  They're his attack dogs.  When he can't yell due to politics, they can."

"Good.  Second, go see if there's charges against the guy I nearly named.  Third, get with your borough chiefs to get a status update and see what we need to work on to stop the strike."

"I can do that."  He walked off to talk with them first.  That had to come first.  The city needed the PD back on the streets.

The mayor sighed in pleasure.  Thank the Lord for the higher ups who played politics and could send subtle messages before he created more of a mess for the city and the PD.  It'd mean the strike would've lasted a lot longer and gotten a second cause.  So maybe he'd put up with those twins of Taylor's.


Alex strolled in with a stack of small boxes.  "Dinner."  The guys in the quarantine ward looked up.  "Yeah, I helped cook."  He handed over boxes, checking one and handing it over.  "Yours is the super special softer version," he quipped with a grin, handing that over.  "Clanna said that it might be a bit spicy, so if it bothers you she'll make you more pudding."  He handed over the last box with a grin.  "You still get mush."  He looked at them.  "Need anything else, guys?"

"Doctor Meyers to let a few of us go?" the leader suggested, opening his box.  He moaned.  Linguini with clam marinara sauce, stir fried veggies without sauce, and chocolate pudding.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  We know you guys need good food to heal.  As for Doc Meyers, she's in Colorado.  Her daughter got injured on her current posting and she had to see her.  We're bumming Doctor Mitch from the local hospital tonight."  He smiled.  "He'll be in at nine or ten.  Then one of the nurses can lead you to the bunk room if you get to leave the room.  The other teams are going tomorrow.  The generals are sneaking them back home under the cover of the show off weekend.  The one that still needs hospitalization is going to Walter Reed."

"Us?" the one on mush asked before taking a bite.  "Nice."

"Thank you.  I made that part.  It's an old African dish with barley."  He grinned.  "Most of you guys won't be fit for a week according to Doc Meyers.  We can sneak you guys off with the slayers protecting you if we need to.  They're going to Cleveland in a week and a half.  We can get you there and let you disappear from that area however you want since the generals said to go on leave."  He handed over that letter.  "He'll be down during this weekend."  He smiled.  "Feel better, guys, and let us know if you need stuff.  Pippen's bringing sodas.  Oh, and he does play fetch.  I heard someone wondered and asked.  We do when we're stressed or thinking."  He walked off.

"They're nice people," that team leader said.  He read the orders, handing them around.   The food was excellent.  The little tank was cute and helpful.  It handed them glasses of soda without ice without spilling any.  "Thank you," he told it.  It beeped in response and dropped a ball next to one, who smiled and played fetch with him.  The little robot tank was a very cute thing.  Not all that useful in the field, it was too bulky, but fun and neat for a camp situation.

The End.