The following story is set in the Wandererverse shortly after the events in Born to Raise Hellmouth. I don't own any of the characters here except for the following: Jack MacPherson, Terrance Otterman and Freddie Bonnetti belong to me and cannot be used without my permission. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to use any or all of my characters. All of the others belong to other people and I have used them without permission(I hope no one minds!).
Summary: A Bureau 13 team in trouble is rescued by Section 7, leading to some surprise revelations, new allies, and one heck of a party. Oh yeah, and the world is saved again.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language.
Another Dimension Stardate 2417.1
The being known as J'ac struggled to maintain control of the stolen shuttlecraft as it shuddered from a near miss. A glance at his long range sensors told the tale, a Federation Orion class patrol ship was rapidly closing in on his ship. J'ac was running out of time and options. His mission to infiltrate the Federation Council had been thwarted. <Damn Jean Luc Picard anyway>. Now his attempt at escape was unraveling as well.
As the much larger Federation Vessel continued to close in J'ac had a thought. He threw the small ship into a hard bank to the left, followed by a loop that reversed his course. There was a small class M planet in this system. If he could evade his pursuers long enough to reach it , he could conceal himself there. The Federation ships scanners would not be able to locate him and their tricorders had to be very close indeed to spot him. Though the planet was a small one, they would not have the time and personnel to conduct a thorough search for him.
The next several minutes were tense and strenuous as he threw the small vessel through maneuvers its designers had never intended in an attempt to evade the Federation ship. Just as J'ac was starting to think he might make it, a direct hit tore through his shields and sent him spinning out of control. <At least I am still heading toward the planet.> he thought. He struggled frantically to regain some measure of control of the craft to no avail. The shuttle entered the atmosphere and began to heat up from reentry.
He moved back to the emergency transporter and began to enter coordinates to get him to the planet’s surface. As he finished and was preparing to energize, another near miss rocked the ship and the transporter went dead. J’ac ran back to the helm controls and began trying to make a controlled landing. Judging from the number of systems that had or were about to fail, it was going to be more of a controlled crash. If he was lucky, that was.
Finally all systems went out and J'ac could do nothing but watch as the ground seemed to rush toward him. He thumped his fist against the now darkened control panel one last time in frustration. Amazingly, the panel lit up as the controls began to come back online. Quickly, he tried to reestablish some control over his descent. He actually managed to stop the ships roll and had began to level it out when he saw the shimmering patch in the atmosphere ahead of the ship. It didn't register on any of the scanners so he was unsure what he was seeing, all he knew for sure was that he was heading right for it.
Suddenly the proximity alarm began to blare. He glanced down at the sensors again and his eyes widened, the Federation ship had fired a photon torpedo and it was about to impact!
The impact was far gentler than he expected, the shuttle lurched and then began to come apart as the torpedo detonated one hundred meters behind him. J'ac shifted himself from the human form he had been holding back to his natural form, a liquid-like shapeless form that somehow stayed together as the shuttle came apart around it. J'ac's last thought was <If I am to die, I shall die as myself.> As the shuttle lost its last bit of structural integrity, it struck the shimmering patch of atmosphere and vanished in a spectacular display of sparks.
On the bridge of the Federation Patrol Craft Osprey
On the bridge of the Federation ship the Captain, a slim blond woman looked over to her First Officer and asked, "What just happened Mr. LaCroix?"
"It would appear that the shuttle has been drawn into a temporal abnormality Captain." he replied as he examined his sensor displays, "Although there is some wreckage scattered over a five point two square kilometer area."
"It’s like no wormhole I’ve ever seen, Captain. The energy fluctuations are incredible! There was no sign of transporter activity before the shuttle was pulled in, so I don’t think the Changeling got out."
“Put us into a standard orbit and commence sensor scans of the planet surface and the abnormality.” She ordered, “Launch four sensor probes to cover the planet. If it got off that shuttle somehow, I want it found. Also, I want the scanner logs of the crash analyzed and reviewed.”
“Yes Captain.” The First Officer said. The next twenty-four standard hours produced no sign of the Changeling and a thorough review of the scanner and sensor logs provided no evidence of its escape. As for the abnormality, it had vanished as quickly as it appeared, just another unexplainable event in the universe, to be filed and forgotten in the database at Starfleet HQ.
“What is this electrical discharge?” the Captain asked as she reviewed the shuttles disintegration for the tenth time, “If I had to guess, I’d say it looked like a complete systems overload.”
“I would agree, Captain, as best we can tell, everything overloaded and created the discharge just before the shuttle was pulled into the abnormality.” LaCroix said.
“It just doesn’t look right.” She muttered, “And there have been no life signs that could be a Changeling?”
The only life signs we have found are primitive plant life and various microorganisms.” LaCroix replied, “This planet has no advanced biological life forms, and if the Changeling has evaded our sensors, one of the probes should spot him if it tries to leave the planet, after all, they’ll be in orbit for the next standard year.”
"Very good Mr. LaCroix. Send a priority message to Starfleet Headquarters, inform them that the Changeling was destroyed. Helm, set a course back to our patrol station." the Captain ordered. She sat back in her command chair and gazed at the main screen for a few moments. Then an Ensign brought her a report to examine and her mind switched back into the usual routine. It would be a long while before the odd demise of the shuttle came back into her thoughts.
Somewhere in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 0430hrs, 15 September, 1998
Jack MacPherson stood up, if he were human, he would have yawned, he was slightly fatigued from a long night spent monitoring a complex bank of sensors and monitors inside the big Colorado RV, not to mention retaining a human form the whole time. His teammates were used to him, but he had observed that they were more at ease around him if he took on a human form rather than his natural form.
He and his four teammates had spent the last five days in a vain attempt to locate a Bigfoot. There had been a rash of Bigfoot sightings in this area lately. That in itself would not have involved his team, but when thirty people, including two Park Rangers had vanished over the last month in this area, the team was sent in. Jack appeared as a small man, only five two and about one hundred twenty pounds or so, blond hair and fair skinned. He was dressed in jeans, a button down blue shirt and a black shell jacket that had a NASA logo on the back.
He checked his watch and walked back to the sleeping area to wake Terrance Otterman, his relief. He shook the area he assumed was a shoulder under the blanket and was rewarded with a groan. “Wakey, wakey. Your turn at the console.”
The blanket flipped off and Terrance sat up. He was a fairly big man, six two, about two hundred and thirty pounds, dark hair and medium complected. His voice came out surprisingly soft, “Anything going on?” he asked as he sat up and accepted the cup of coffee Jack offered him.
"No, Mary's outside meditating, Tim went to adjust that balky sensor in the north sector, and Jim is racked out by the fire." Jack replied. Terrance nodded. he swung his feet to the floor as he sipped the hot coffee. He put the cup down and pulled his boots on and tied them, then slipped a faded denim jacket on to cover the pistol he wore under his left arm. He stood up and stretched, not an easy task in the limited space available. He yawned one last time, picked up his coffee and stepped around Jack to the main console. He sat down and scanned the monitors and sipped his coffee.
Jack watched and shook his head, he was fatigued but not ready to rest yet, he could maintain his current form for perhaps another hour, then he would need to change to his natural form to regenerate, he had to do this for four out of every twenty-four hours. He settled for sitting down on another chair and watching his teammate for a few minutes. Terrance felt Jacks eyes on him almost immediately, and looked up with a quizzical expression. "What's wrong Jack?"
"Oh, nothing is wrong. I was just watching your ritual."
"It is not a ritual. And you know it annoys me when you do that."
"What you're doing now!"
"What am I doing now?"
"Observing me like I am a lab rat or something!"
"Terrance, you look nothing like a rat, although your species shares many characteristics with them as do all mammals."
"Drop dead ET!"
"I find your reference to a fictional alien life form disturbing, Terrance. Does my present form not blend in enough for your liking?" Jack smiled and allowed his form to shift to that of a human female who looked very much like the current Miss September.
"You find my references disturbing? I find your constant observation of us disturbing!", Terrance relied, “And stop that! You’re gonna spoil my fantasy life forever!”
"Since we have found nothing relevant to our present case here, I find it an enlightening way to pass the time!", Jack shifted back to his usual human form, “It is most entertaining to watch your discomfort, although it is a bit taxing to keep changing back and forth.”
"You can't just learn to play solitaire or something?"
"Really Terrance, next you'll suggest I take up viewing pornography with you and the other males!"
"Well it would help you blend in better!"
"I've been blending in with humans for almost five of your years! If I hadn't run into Team Albuquerque and gotten curious I would still be blending in."
"Obviously you never heard about curiosity and the cat did you?"
"What does a feline have to do with curiosity?"
"Basically, it means that too much curiosity will get you killed."
"If that is the case, why do all of you in the Bureau do what you do?" Jack asked.
"Because we just can't help ourselves. Just like you couldn't help yourself when you tried to see what Team Albuquerque was doing. It got you caught and turned over to the Bureau didn't it?" Terrance said smugly
"Yes, I suppose it did." Jack replied with a thoughtful look, "They were quite perplexed to actually have a unknown Alien life form in their midst."
"Especially one that had no memory of what he was, where he came from, or how he got here." Terrance said. "Look Jack, I'm not trying to be a pain, but it does bug us sometimes when you watch us like you do."
"I am sorry. But after I agreed to spend two years being observed, tested and interrogated, I sometimes find myself doing it to you without realizing it. And since no one has been able to ascertain my origin, other than references to a fictional television show. <I still wonder how Roddenberry got the idea for Changelings, they come so close it’s unnerving! Maybe he works for the Bureau department for disinformation? No, impossible, he planned the stories before I awoke. Maybe the Bureau sent some information back in time? Something to check after this mission.> I do feel that observing you all is helpful to me as far as being able to blend in on my adoptive world."
Terrance didn't reply, His friend had a point. Terrance was an orphan himself so he knew what it was like to be an outsider with no family, but that paled in comparison to Jack. Jack was an Alien with absolutely no idea how he got here, where he was from or even what he was. He could change himself to look like anyone or anything but he knew nothing else about himself other than his name. It had to frustrating as Hell but he never complained. He had been found by another Bureau team a few years ago and studied long and hard by Central. They determined that he was not a threat and offered him a chance to work as one of their own or to be studied. He had compromised and agreed to two years of study followed by a field assignment. He had been assigned to Terrance's team a year ago. He had actually made friends with Terrance quickly.
<I guess I don't have many friends and he sensed it, 'cause he sure worked hard to be my friend. He's the first one to volunteer to do almost anything and he has saved everyone's butt at least once. He wants so bad for everyone to like him it's almost funny.>
Terrance's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of gunshots outside. His eyes darted down to the monitors in front of him, and what they revealed was shocking, Jim was crouched over Mary's crumpled form next to the fire, he had his pistol out and was firing into a group of figures surrounding them. The Kirilean monitor showed the figures as black outlined in orange, evil and undead. He bit off a curse as he grabbed his own pistol and raced for the door, Jack right behind him with his own gun.
As they reached the door to the RV, Jack stopped and picked up what appeared to be an ordinary CB radio mike. He quickly reset the radio to transmit immediately, and cursed when he accidentally put it on one minute delay. Deciding not to waste time to reprogram it again, he keyed the mike, "Central this is Armadillo, time is 0440 hours PST, we are under attack by an unknown hostile force. We might have agents down! This does not, I repeat not, appear to be an ambush. We will pursue them to their base and report back in!" He dropped the mike and raced out the door to assist his team, slamming the door shut behind him.
He could barely hear the click, as the automatic defenses of the Bureau vehicle went active. Even as he grinned at what would happen should the attackers try to enter the RV, he was struck by something. The blow bounced him off the vehicle, his head striking hard enough to dent any normal vehicle, but it simply bounced off the armor of the RV. Slowly his unconscious body glided towards the ground, reverting back to its natural form. In a protective reaction, the fluid moved below the RV.
Terrance sprinted toward Jim and Mary, Firing his Beretta 9mm until the slide locked back empty. Several of the attackers dropped to the ground as his bullets found targets. Blessed silver bullets would at least get the attention of most supernatural beings. He didn't bother to slow down to see what the results were here, he dropped the empty magazine and slammed a fresh one home. He saw Jim go down under on of the attackers and he got his first good look at one of them.
It had a ridged brow, yellow eyes and fangs <Damn! Vampires! Out here?> Knowing now what he was facing and dreading for his fallen teammates, Terrance stopped and took aim at one of the vampires. As he started his trigger squeeze, something slammed into him from behind and everything began to go black <SHIT!!!!>
Bureau 13 Headquarters, location, CLASSIFIED, 1105 hours EST, 15 September, 1998
Horace Gordon was not a happy man. The last report he had received from California was about as bad as it got in his business. He leaned over his desk and keyed his intercom, “Dimitri, get in here. We have ourselves a situation!” His office door opened almost instantly and his longtime assistant cantered in. Dimitri was in fact a Centaur. Horace was the Director of a secret branch of the Justice Department known as Bureau 13.
Bureau 13 was dedicated to controlling the more malignant aspects of the supernatural for the US Government. It was a challenging job in the norm, and at times like this it could be downright depressing. One of the Bureaus newest teams had gone out of contact while on assignment in northern California.
“Team Armadillo?” Dimitri asked as Gordon removed a bottle of Advil from his top drawer and downed two of them.
“Yes, they haven’t reported back in.” Gordon sighed, “It’s been over two hours since the report MacPherson called in.”
Dimitri nodded sadly.
“We are missing something here, Dimitri. They were checking out supposed Bigfoot activity in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, everything seems routine, and then they are attacked by an unknown hostile force. “
“I can't think of what or who it could’ve been.” Dimitri said slowly “Especially when they were just checking out a Bigfoot sighting.”
“It wasn’t a Bigfoot.” Horace said thoughtfully “Even an enraged Bigfoot would know better than to tangle with that many people. Especially if it noticed their guns. No, I think whatever it was had to do with the disappearances in the area, something else entirely. “ He tapped the computer screen again thoughtfully, “Who do we have in the area?”
Dimitri shifted all four feet nervously,” No one Boss. The Thunder Bunnies are still in Houston dealing with an Archfiend, Team Tuna fish is in Detroit chasing the Black Car, most of Team Albuquerque is in the hospital after that free for all with General Custer’s Ghost, Team Chicken Salad is in Florida dealing with a Voodoo Cult, and Team Chevy is in New Jersey trying to recapture the Jersey Devil. Every team is busy or laid up. Do you want to call J. P. in on this?”
“Not until we know who is responsible for the attack.” Horace replied’ “We need to find out what happened before we sic J.P. on anyone.”
Dimitri only shrugged, “So that means we have no one in the area.”
Horace turned to the old fashioned Rolodex on the right side of his desk and began looking through it. “WE may not have anyone.” He said, “But someone else might.” The grin on Horace’s face made Dimitri slightly nervous.
St. Wolf residence, Sunnydale, California, 0807 hours, 15 September, 1998
Steve St Wolf swung his wooden sword in a left to right sweep. His opponent brought hers up in a blocking move and he changed his angle of attack slightly. She tried to counter the move but realized that she wouldn't be able to get her own sword down in time so she fell backwards onto a roll, coming up onto her feet again out of his reach.
"Good move Buffy." He said as he brought his sword back up, "Most people wouldn't have thought to just get out of reach like that."
"Anything to avoid another rap on the knuckles.", Buffy Summers replied as she shifted her stance and moved in to attack. She started a series of fast jabs at his midsection that he easily blocked. As he watched to determine her attack pattern, a familiar voice called out his name, "Yo! Steve!"
"Just a sec Frank."
"Horace Gordon is on the phone for you." Steve's longtime friend called out, "He says it's urgent."
Okay, I'll be right there." he replied as he lowered his sword and turned to leave the gym. Buffy lowered hers and followed him across the room to a bench along the wall. They both dropped the practice swords into a rack. Buffy picked up two bottles of water from a cooler and passed one to him.
"I wonder what Horace would consider urgent?" Steve asked aloud after he took a drink.
"The end of the world maybe."
“Nah, that’s an everyday thing for him.” Steve said as he started toward the door. He walked into the study and picked up the phone, “Horace, what can I do for you?”
“I need your help Steve.” Horace said quietly, “One of my teams went missing and we have no assets available to look for them.”
Steve switched the phone onto speaker so that Buffy and Frank could hear as well. “I’ve put you on speaker and I’ll be glad to help, Horace. What’s the situation?”
“They were in Northern California in the Sierra Nevada foothills checking out a Bigfoot sighting. They were attacked by something early this morning, called in a contact report and then we lost contact.” Horace explained, “We don’t think they were attacked by a Bigfoot though”
“Why not?” Steve asked as he pulled open a map of California, “They have been known to attack if they feel threatened.”
“A Bigfoot won’t tangle with a large group of people, and Jack wouldn’t stress that it didn’t look like an ambush if it were just a group of bigfoots.” Horace replied, “And about thirty people have disappeared in the same area.”
“Wow!” The blond Slayer said, “Sounds like something really nasty or really fast got them.”
“That is what attracted our attention in the first place, Buffy.”
“Yeah. So what do your people think it might have been?” Steve asked.
“We don’t know.” Horace sighed, “The report didn’t say what it was, just that they had agents down and were under attack. They intended to track them back to their base, if they got them running, so they might just not have had any time to report in. But something doesn’t feel right about the situation, and a scan showed that one of the armbands is gone. This suggests some sort of magic opposition.”
“All right Horace, I’ll get a team together and we’ll check it out for you.” Steve said, “You and the Bureau are gonna owe me though.” Buffy giggled at that one, Frank smiled broadly, when Steve said you would owe him, and he usually got to collect on it sooner rather than later.
“I wouldn’t have come to you if I had another choice.” Horace said grumpily, “But I have no one else even close to the area.”
“Point taken, Horace.” Steve replied, “What’s the teams composition?”
“A female Mage, three human males, and a form-changing life form, apparently extraterrestrial, most often in the form of a human male.”
“Thanks, e-mail me the teams last GPS fix and recognition codes and we’ll get moving”
“You got it Steve. And Steve, Thank you and be careful.” The phone clicked off and Steve stared at it thoughtfully for a moment. He turned to Buffy and smiled, “It’s been somewhat quiet here lately so I think a change of scenery could be good for us.”
“Oh, absolutely!” Buffy said with mock sincerity, “We are just back to Sunnydale, and you’re bored again already and want to see more trees and mountains and do outdoor stuff. Like living in tents on that post apocalyptic world was not enough for a lifetime.”
Steve gave her a stern look and then grabbed her and pulled her to him, “I think Xander is starting to rub off on you a bit too much.”
“You really know how to make a girl feel good about herself, don't you?” Buffy said hotly, “You make a few more comments like that and you’ll be sleeping alone for a week buster”
“Ouch! That’s cheating.” He pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead. “I shall overlook this breach of etiquette this once, for we have much work to do before we leave.”
She kissed him back and smiled, and then bounced out of the room, “I never have been one to fight fair. Especially since I started taking lessons from you.”
“You’ll pay for that crack Missy!” he called after her. Steve smiled, she was right, she was getting to be even sneakier in a fight since he had began training her. Frank just smiled at his best friend and thanked God for letting Steve have some happiness.
Buffy was waiting in the kitchen with a mug of coffee for him. He sipped it gratefully and listened for a moment, “Who else is here right now?” he asked.
“Randi and Brian are upstairs.” She replied.
Steve grunted, they were usually more people around the house than that but it was still early yet. He moved from the kitchen to his office, and sat down at the computer. He quickly entered his codes, and called up a program to send text messages to cell phones. Checking the priority message box, he ordered the rest of the Sunnydale team to meet at his house ASAP.
“So, who do you think we should take with us to check this out?” Buffy asked as she took a seat on the couch.
“The question should be, who do we leave to guard the Hellmouth. I don’t know Shaw enough to trust her to do it alone, even if Giles seems to trust her. I think Giles, Jenny and Shaw should be able to cover here. That means Amy, Robin, Xander, Cordelia, Oz, Willow, Frank and we will go. Since we have no intel, I’d like to gather more people, but that’d take too much time.”
“What about Randi and Brian? Or the Zombies? Or Casey?” Frank asked.
“Randi hasn’t had enough training. She’d kill you, if you try to get Brian involved, no matter how much he would like it. I can’t call in the Zombies just to check out a possible crime scene. They have jobs to do in LA. And the last time I checked, we have no chopper in Seattle. No, until we know that we need more force, us nine have to be enough. Well, let’s get ready. Buffy, break out the weapons and ammo, I’ll get some maps. Frank, have the chopper prepped.”
Cavern in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 0815 hours, 15 September, 1998
The Vampire that had once been a man named James Finch moved silently though the corridors under the mountain on an urgent errand for his master. It was a toss up as to whether this was an honor or a death sentence, his Master was prone to radical mood swings. No, this was definitely an honor; the Master rarely killed anyone who brought him his dinner.
He turned left at the next junction he came to and continued on until he came to the holding pens. There were a dozen humans in them, most dressed in rags and cowering in fear. There were two who weren’t cowering though, one was in a cage by himself, he was big, a little over six feet tall and solidly built and he stared at the vampire with a look of cold calculation. The other man was tall, over six feet and very muscular wearing a Park Ranger’s uniform. He was in a cage with two frightened teenagers, he watched the vampire with a look of pure fury. James decided to take one of the teenagers, just to piss the big man off.
He moved over to the cage and unlocked it, he swung open the door and stepped in, the teenagers shrank back, the man moved between the vampire and the teens. “Master says I have to keep you alive for now, he didn’t say I couldn’t mess you up a bit.” He told the man as he moved toward him, “So you better move outta my way.”
“Fuck you, Asshole!” the man snarled as he launched himself at the vampire. James had hoped he would do something like this; he wanted to pound on this hard case some. James sidestepped the mans charge and drew back for a punch.
James started his swing, intending to land it on the man’s kidney, but something looped around his neck from behind. He was pulled back against the cage and the thin wire around his neck tightened, if he would have needed to breathe, his air would have been cut off. Fortunately he didn’t need to breathe. Still, he was pinned against the bars. He grinned, humans could be so amusing. He braced himself against the bars and began to use the inhuman strength he possessed to break free. Except, he wasn’t breaking free, in fact, all that accomplished was to speed up the wire’s cutting through his neck.
“Garrotes, gotta love ‘em.” A voice whispered in his ear. There was a wet popping noise and James ceased to exist.
Freddie Bonnetti walked over to the pile of dust that had been a vampire and came up a moment later with a ring of keys, “Nice work Agent Otterman.” He told the other man in the cage by himself, “Now we only have another hundred or so to get past.”
“I never said it would be easy.” Terrance said as he brushed dust off his arm and retracted the garrote back into his wristwatch. He reached down, manipulated the watch and spoke into it, “Armadillo to Central, come in central.”
“What is that thing?” Bonnetti asked, “Some kind of radio?”
“Of sorts.”, Terrance replied, “But somehow this place is blocking the signal.” <Must be some sort of magical barrier, I can’t teleport out either.>
Bonnetti herded the two teens out of the cage and began systematically opening the other cages, within five minutes everyone had been freed. Terrance shepherded them together at the mouth of the cave. “Okay people,” He said quietly,” My name is Special Agent Otterman, I’m with the FBI and I’m here to get you out of here, so stay quiet and follow me.”
One of the newly freed prisoners was looking at the pile of dust in terror, ”What the Hell was that?” the man asked, “I…I’ve never seen anything like that!” Now all of the former prisoners were looking around with fear on their faces.
“It’s a long story and we don’t have time for this right now.” Terrance told them, “Do you know this area, Ranger Bonnetti?”
“Yes I do.” He was a fairly big man, in his thirties with an air of confidence most of the others were lacking. Terrance noted that he was sporting a black eye and several bruises on his face.
“I take it you didn’t come quietly?”
“No. They jumped my partner and I as we were coming off the main hiking trail a couple of days ago. I emptied my pistol into them and they laughed at me.” The Ranger said evenly, “Then they killed Kelley, my partner, and brought me here. What are these things? They can’t be human.”
“They’re just really strong because of the drugs they’re using.” Terrance lied. “And they wear body armor so they seem not be affected by bullets.”
The group of people seemed willing to accept the story so Terrance continued on, “My team and I have been investigating this case for a while so we know what’s going on. Trust me, we will get you out of here.” There was a bit of mumbling at the statement and he distinctly heard a female voice say she just wanted to go home, but it looked like they would follow his directions. “Now how do we get out of these caves?”
“I know the area outside, not these caves.” Freddie replied, “I didn’t know they were here until they drug me in here.”
“Okay, does anyone know how to get out of here?” Terrance asked. No one spoke up, <Damn! I guess we do this the hard way.> Terrance addressed the small group in a whisper, “Stay behind me.” The frightened group obeyed with some hesitation, Terrance sighed quietly, he hoped they would be able to get them out, they had suffered enough already.
Another cavern in the same area, 0825 hours, 15 September, 1998
Benjamin White was unhappy. This in itself was an irritation to him, Master Vampires were not supposed to be unhappy, at least that was the motto he had spent the last four hundred years living, and right now he was unhappy. How he had let himself be talked into serving a Demon was a source of further irritation to him, it had all seemed like such a good idea ninety-five years ago, lately, it had become a larger source of irritation than he would have thought possible. The whole situation needed serious rethinking in his mind; it just wasn’t worth the constant aggravation it was causing him. To make matters worse, now that damned demon was sending for him at mealtimes more often than not, which tended to piss him off. This had better be a good one or he was going to walk, let some other Vampire serve this demon, he was through.
Benjamin was thinking these types of thoughts as he rounded the corner leading to the demon Thougnask’s lair; he entered and stood before the foul-smelling beast without speaking. “You have a problem, my pet bloodsucker.” The beast growled, “Your cattle have gotten loose again.”
“And you couldn’t send an underling to round up a few mangy humans?” Benjamin asked angrily, “You have to send for me personally just as I am about to sit down to dinner?”
“The cattle have a leader.” The Beast growled, “A dangerous leader, and he may prove dangerous to my plans. You will go; find this leader; kill him or turn him to your flock; I care not which. But you must do so quickly, before they escape and bring trouble to my lair.”
“They are only humans!” Benjamin snarled angrily, “I’ll have a few of the children round them up and we’ll be done with them!” Under his breath he added,” Humans a threat! Next you’ll be telling me that the Slayer is on her way here!”
Benjamin spun and stormed out, muttering under his breath. Thougnask closed his eyes and looked at the possible out comes of this event, for he had the gift of seeing the possibilities of the future, they were many and varied, but most ended with Benjamin being defeated by a strange human. Not the one leading the cattle, but coming back with him, after he led the cattle out. The beast opened his eyes and looked around the empty lair. He would leave for now, if Benjamin were to be successful, he would return, if not, he had an alternate lair and could begin anew. The matter decided, the demon vanished in a cloud of sulfurous smoke.
Benjamin, however, did not notice this. He was already heading into the communal area of the lair shouting for one of his Lieutenants, “Gregory! We have a problem!”
Gregory, his oldest lieutenant, got up from the long table he was seated at and yawned, displaying his fangs, “What is it this time? The Beast get indigestion from that last camper we fed him?”
“No, his Lordship says our humans have gotten loose again.” Benjamin sighed, “He says they have a dangerous leader and we need to kill him. I suppose we should also figure out how they got out this time so we can fix it so it doesn’t happen again.”
I’ll take some of the youngsters and we’ll hunt them down.” Gregory smiled evilly, “Nothing like chasing them through the caves to sharpen the young ones up.”
“While you’re at it, find that fool James and see why my dinner is late.” Benjamin said testily, “If he somehow let the humans loose, I’ll want to speak with him.” Gregory repressed a smile, if Benjamin had to speak to a minion, that minion was in for a very unpleasant time.
Gregory turned and made his way across the chamber, making follow motions to six other young vampires. Once he was satisfied that he had everyone he would need, he led them out of the chamber into the hall that would eventually lead them to the pens where the humans were held. He knew he would find them; they couldn’t leave the caves without going through the communal room.
St Wolf Residence, Sunnydale, California, 0905 hrs 15 September, 1998
The Sunnydale team had assembled in full force in Steve's living room and was awaiting a brief from Steve. Section Seven was a varied and interesting group; Steve St Wolf was the leader, ex-soldier, Knight Lieutenant of the Order of the Grail and immortal, bearer of numerous artifacts long lost, Buffy Summers, immortal Vampire Slayer, bearer of Vampire Slayer, Rupert Giles, Buffy's watcher and fairy empowered warrior mage, Xander Harris, who had the memories and skills of a Green Beret, as well as being empowered, Willow Rosenberg, Buffy's best friend and computer genius, also an Amazon warrior and witch, Cordelia Chase, Amazon warrior, fashion queen and Xander's girlfriend, Oz, empowered werewolf and Willow's boyfriend, Jenny Calendar, techno pagan, Amazon and Giles' girlfriend, Randi Jessup, a young immortal who wielded the Sword of St Catherine and her 12 year old brother Brian, Amy Madison, Amazon witch, and her boyfriend Robin Goodfellow, a Fairy in human form, Shawukay Madison Redarrow Hunter, a halfelf Ranger/Priestess from another dimension, but still related to Amy Madison, and Frank Iverson, ex-Navy SEAL, Steve's long time partner and best friend.
Steve took a final sip from his coffee and stood up, "Okay people, this is the situation; a Bureau 13 team has gone missing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We're going to find out what happened to them and assist them in whatever ways we can."
"The search tem will consist of myself, Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Amy, Robin, and Frank. Giles, Jenny and Shaw will stay here to continue patrols in Sunnydale. Randi will handle base operations. We need to pack for a two day stay in the woods and a moderate combat load, body armor and weapons."
Steve scanned the group as he spoke, Xander and Giles were taking notes, Oz and Willow merely nodded at each other, Frank was grinning, Randi looked slightly relieved, she wasn't a good fighter yet, Cordelia was looking at Xander with a wistful expression, Amy and Jenny were sitting quietly, Brain was fidgeting a bit, as 12 year old boys tend to do, and Buffy had a slight grin.
"How are we getting to the site?" Xander asked, looking up from his notes.
"I'll handle transport." Frank said "We'll use my latest toy, a UH-60 Blackhawk. We'll fly up to the area of their last known position and begin our search."
I want everyone packed and ready to leave in an hour. Questions?" Steve asked.
"Do we pack any heavy weapons?" Xander asked with his hand raised.
"Bring one of the M240s and about two thousand rounds." Steve replied after a moment, "Everyone takes at least six grenades, but pack more if we need them. Take a good mix of all grenades we have, no telling what we will need. Anything else?". No one else spoke up. "Okay, lets move it people, we have a Bureau team to find." Everyone got up and dispersed to their various areas to pack and prepare for the upcoming mission.
The team was packed and ready to leave in forty-one minutes. They loaded up Steve's Blazer, Oz's van and Cordelia's Shelby Convertible and headed to the airport. They arrived at the airport fifteen minutes later, an UH-60 Helicopter with the Iverson Air Logo on the side already had the rotors turning. A baggage line was formed leading to the helicopter and in less than five minutes they were airborne.
Cavern in the Sierra Nevada, 0915 hrs 15 September, 1998
Terrance had to admit it, they were lost. The whole area was probably criss-crossed with caverns, and even leaving scrape marks at the junctions they crossed wasn’t helping. <I feel a big headache coming on.> to add to the problem, his small flashlight was already starting to grow dimmer. <I’m gonna have to talk to Ray about longer life batteries for these things.>
He stopped and waved Bonnetti over to him, “We could wander around like this for days.” He whispered, “You got any ideas on how to find a way out?”
“Not really, like I said, I didn’t even know these caves were here.” Bonnetti relied tiredly, then he took a closer look at the cave wall, “Hey! These caves are man-made!”
“Old mineshaft maybe?” Terrance asked.
“Could be.” Bonnetti replied, “They did mine gold around here in the late eighteen hundreds.”
“Right, so then if we stick to the excavated areas, instead of the naturally formed ones, we might find a way out?” Terrance thought aloud.
“That’s as good a guess as any.” Bonnetti replied.
“Okay then, let’s go.” Terrance said. He moved out, playing his light along the walls as he went. <I wonder where Jack is? It’s not like they could have captured him if he didn’t want them too. They sure couldn’t have killed him, he doesn’t have blood for them to drain, so where is he? He should have finished regenerating by now, and he shouldn’t have any problems following the trail. Shit, he may be waiting for help, or he may be in here looking for us himself. Damn! If only I could reach him on com!> he thought as he crept through the darkness.
Airborne over the Sierra Nevada 1130hrs
Steve St Wolf checked the map he was holding, comparing it to the terrain flashing by below the helicopter and then pointed to a clearing about a mile away to the front right, "I think that's it up ahead. Frank." he said to the man in the seat next to him. Frank Iverson took a quick look at the GPS on the panel and nodded, "Looks like it. I'll have Irving set us down in the center of the clearing."
"Okay everyone, we're coming in. As soon as we're down fan out and set up a perimeter." Steve ordered. The rest of the team chorused out with okays and the sounds of weapons being charged was heard. The helicopter banked slightly and flared in for a landing in the clearing.
Steve noted that there was a large RV parked under some trees on the right side of the clearing and a gravel road bisected the clearing running North and South as they came in. As soon as the wheels touched down everyone was out of the chopper, sprinting out about twenty meters and forming a loose circle around it. Steve dropped his headset into the seat as he exited the chopper and replaced it with one that connected to the small radios the team all carried, Frank did the same. With a quick pull, they yanked their base camp supply bag from the helicopter and dropped it to the ground. Frank closed the door and the helicopter lifted off.
The team was deathly quiet as the whine from the helicopters turbines slowly faded away. All of them were intently listening and watching for any sound or other indication of life, weapons at the ready. After five minutes of tense waiting, the only thing they heard was Amy chanting several spells. As nothing happened, Steve assumed that no hostile force was going to attack their LZ.
“Steve?” Oz’s voice crackled through his headset.
“What’ve you got Oz?”
“Three dead bodies near the RV and something new.”
“What do mean something new?” Steve asked. He half rolled to his left to look across at Oz who was lying at his three o’clock.
“I smell something and I don’t know what it is.”
“Where is it?”
“Near the RV.”
“The only magic in this area is around the RV. Four distinct sources. Three inactive, smaller ones, and identical. Likely some standard issue for Bureau agents. The RV is full of magic, but everything’s at least 24 hours old.”
“Okay people here’s the drill, We all pair off and check the tree line out to about one hundred meters.” Once we’ve secured the area, we’ll consolidate over by the RV to check the bodies and whatever else Oz is picking up. Everyone clear?”
“Clear” from Xander.
“Got It.” from Oz.
“Okay.” from Cordelia.
“Roger.” from Frank.
“Alright.” from Amy.
“Okay.” From Willow.
“Sure.” From Robin.
“Right.” From Buffy.
“Good, go!” Steve ordered. As one the team stood up and sprinted to the treeline. Steve and Buffy as a team, Xander and Cordelia, Willow and Oz, and Frank with Amy and Robin. Each pair split up upon entering the trees so that there was about ten meters between them and they began a methodical search of the area. After about thirty minutes, they all regrouped near the RV.
“Oz, you and Xander go bring the bodies over here and we’ll see where we’ll go from there.”
Come on Cordy,” Xander said as he handed the girl his M240B MG, ”You and Frank can cover our backs while we do the dirty work.”
“Oh sure, give me the heavy gun.” Cordelia said.
“You’re an Amazon right?”
“Imagine how cool you must look carrying it.”
“Cool? Listen Dweeb Boy, I defined cool in Sunnydale long before I became an Amazon!”
“How about sexy then?” Instead of replying to that one, Cordelia slapped him on the back of the head.
“What was that for?”
“For not keeping your mind on business Dweeb Boy.” She replied as she settled the MG butt onto her hip, “Now let’s get this over with so we can get our minds off business.”
Xander shook his head as he looked over at Oz who merely raised an eyebrow, “You keep quiet.” Oz held up his hands in a mock surrender pose. The two then moved off to begin the grim task of recovering bodies, Cordelia and Frank followed them at a distance providing cover.
Next to the RV 1205hrs.
Jack felt himself returning to awareness slowly. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious but it must have been a while judging from the position of the sun overhead.
He was still in liquid form but his senses were still exceptionally keen, especially his hearing. He could hear several people approaching and he realized that he had heard a helicopter earlier<That must be what started to wake me up.>
He did a quick mental check of himself and confirmed that his long bout of unconsciousness had restored his energy levels to their maximum, in short, he was juiced and ready to go. He paused and focused on the conversation next to him, “It looks like a puddle of clay.” A male voice was saying, young male 17 to 20 years old Jack estimated, kneeling next to him. The boy was wearing body armor of some sort and had a pistol holstered on his hip and a small radio headset on. <Military? Maybe someone from McAddam’s Marauders>
“But it smells alive.” Another young male, dressed identically but also carrying an M16/M023 combo. He was standing next to the first boy <He smells me? Intriguing.>
“Oz, it can’t be alive, it’s a puddle of something. Maybe it was alive until something got a hold of it.” The first boy again.
“No. It is most definitely alive.” The second boy, Oz replied.
“How can a puddle of goo be alive?” a female voice asked. She was standing about tree feet behind and to the left of the boys. She was also wearing body armor and carrying a machinegun like she knew how to use it.
“No idea,” another female voice said. “But it definitely gives strange readings. It doesn’t have any trace of magic in it, and does have an aura. So it’s alive.”
<Okay, these kids are probably another team. I guess central sent us backup. I wonder how long I’ve been out?> Jack decided that it was time to act, he shifted rapidly to his human form.
“Jeez!” the first boy exclaimed. He and his partner were scrambling back away from Jack. The first boy was already drawing a Glock pistol, the second boy, Oz, was already clear and drawing a bead on him.
“Xander! You’re in the line of fire!” the first girl yelled. The first boy rolled away to his right and the girl brought down the MG. Another man, older, was leveling an M16A2 at him as well. On the side he noticed at least thee people stating to chant.<DEFINITELY a Bureau cleanup team!>
“FREEZE! Uhh….goo?” the first boy, Xander, ordered.
“NO! WAIT! I’m not going to hurt anyone!” Jack cried out, raising his hands in front of him, trying to prevent any blue on blue.
The group was looking at him with varied expressions of shock on their faces, but all of the weapons remained trained on him. “What…ah...what’s your favorite state animal?” Xander managed to ask.
“Why, the Armadillo, of course.” Jack replied as more people came running up to surround him with even more weapons.<They REALLY believe in overkill, I guess.>
“What’s going on?” one of the newly arrived men asked. He looked to be in charge of the group.
“I’m afraid that was my fault.” Jack said to him, “I startled them a bit when I took human shape.”
“He formed out of a puddle of goo!” the girl with the MG shouted, “I thought he was a demon or something! He can count his blessings that I didn’t ventilate his ass!”
“I assure you, young lady, I am not a demon.” Jack smiled at her, “Although, my teammates might disagree from time to time.”
“Well, he did give the right answer to the emergency recognition code.” Xander said.
“Okay, who are you and how did you do that?” the leader asked.
“My name is Jack MacPherson. Who are you?”
“Amy, Willow, secure the area.”
The girls chanted for a moment. “Done.”
Jack blinked once, then answered, “Tartarus.”
“Mars in Venus fangs.” <A level 1 priority code! Who ARE these people?>
“Jupiter to the third degree. Okay, everyone stand down, he’s a friendly. Xander, make sure we don’t get uninvited guests.” Turning back to Jack, “Name’s Steven St Wolf. Horace sent me to check on your team. We found three of them dead, one broken neck, the other two drained. Neither turned. So I guess you were attacked by Vamps?”
“No idea. <Three dead! Dear God!> Something got me from behind before I could enter the fight. I only saw them on the monitors, they were shown as evil undead, so that fits.”
“Okay. It’s still daylight, so we should be safe for the moment. Now, Horace told me you’re some kind of shape changer. Care to give me details?”
“Can’t tell you much more. I woke up five years ago in Florida without any memories except for my first name. The goo, as the kids called it, is my natural form. I can assume lots of shapes, including inanimate objects, with certain limits in mass and volume. I have to rest a certain amount of time every day in my natural form. The only downside is that my aura is absolutely anti-magical, something very rare on Earth. That makes infiltration of organizations with magical support nearly impossible. But the upside is that I'm immune to most normal weapons, like guns." He grinned at Steve. <We won't talk about flame-throwers though.>
"Not these guns, Goo," Cordelia snorted, "Every single bullet is magical. Care to see if you're immune to that too?"
"Cordy, calm down. What's got you so agitated, anyway?"
"Maybe the fact that we're dealing with talking Jell-O? Not to mention the fact that he's wearing nothing. And I don't like the idea of him being able to assume our forms."
"What are you talking about, Cordy? He is dressed. And don't forget, he is a Bureau Agent."
"Maybe so, I still don't like it. And his clothes are created the same way the rest of him is, from that goo."
Steve shook his head. "Sorry about her, Jack."
"Don't be. I understand her fear and anger. If I may speak with her for a moment?"
"Your funeral. Cordy can be a handful."
"Hey! I'm standing right here!"
"Oh, right. You willing to listen to him, Cordy?"
“As long as he doesn’t touch me.”
“Very well. I meant you no harm. I apologize for startling you. If my being non-human is offensive to you, too bad. I am, who I am. Part of that is that I can assume many different forms. Since I have to have contact with humans to do my job, I have to assume a human form. And this form is a part of my very being. I know this concept is hard to understand for beings not able to change their form at will, but you have few forms you are very comfortable with. This form is one of those for me. But to be honest, currently I could care less about what you think of me. I screwed up this morning and three of my teammates are dead and one is missing. <Please let whoever it is still be alive, and not turned.> So I am going to find out where these Vampires are, and then I am going to terminate their existence, with extreme prejudice. It won’t bring my friends back, but since I made the mistake, I’ll be the one to correct it.”
“Wait a minute, how did you screw up?” Steve asked, not liking the turn the conversation was taking.
“I distracted my team captain with mindless chatter when he was supposed to be monitoring our sensors. If I had not distracted him, he would have seen the Vampires approach and three of my team would still be alive.”
“You can’t know that for sure. The vampires could have still killed some of you even if you were ready for them. And let’s not forget that Vampires are not known for their stealth. So it’s unlikely that they had total surprise. Besides, Horace mentioned that one armband can’t be located, so the same force that’s concealing it could have masked the Vampires approach.”
“Perhaps, but by distracting Terrance, I allowed them to attack us with no warning. At least one of the team was down before we even reacted. <My fault, I caused their deaths and no amount of what ifs are going to change that.> I joined the Bureau to protect Humanity, I have failed to even protect my team, therefore I have failed in my mission to protect Humanity.”
“Don’t know about you guys, but I think Jell-O Boy here, is one arrogant Bastard. Wake up, Jack-ie. The world isn’t centered on you, and no matter how large your ego is, you aren’t in control of everything.”
“Cordy…” Xander started to speak.
“Shut up, Dweeb Boy. I’m talking!” Cordy snapped at him before turning back to Jack, “So now get your head out of your ass, or whatever you have instead of that, and listen up, Jell-O Boy. Since you’re only five and I don’t like to hit kids, I won’t beat this into you, but you’d better listen. Your arrogance aside, I would guess you did all you could do. One of the Vamps got you before you could do anything. You’re pissed. I can understand that. Doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake. Goddess knows we have taken enough casualties, without making mistakes. Sometimes the other sucker is simply better. Accept life, stop bitching, loose your Rambo fantasies, and break out your dust buster. ‘Cause now it’s Vamp season!”
Jack blinked twice. No one had given him such a thorough ass-chewing since he had left the Bureau Hell-House graduation exercise. He looked at the expressions on the faces around him and then he looked back to Cordelia. “Very well, I shall do as you suggest. May I ask where you learned to be such a complete Bitch?”
“Natural talent. And I’m not a Bitch, I am THE Bitch!”
“Oh, I like you already. Truce?”
“Truce. But the first time you take on my shape, I’ll feed you your balls, or whatever you use in place of ‘em!” Cordy growled, “I’m an original, after all!”
“Fair enough. I believe we can move on then. Mr. St Wolf?”
“Call me Steve.”
“Steve, I believe that a quick review of the sensor recordings from this morning may provide some clue as to how many of these things we are facing. I also need to…ahh.. see the bodies so I…I can ID them, and send them back to Central.”
"We should get ready for a little hunting, too. The Vamps have to have some kind of base near here, most likely underground with a fortified entrance. Everyone take at least one HE, one Willy Pete and four Holy Mist grenades, stakes and wooden knives ready. Lock and load with the wooden bullets, but everyone carries at least one mag of silver, in case there are any demons with them. The backpacks and other gear stays here, Let's also leave the M240, it's no good for cave fighting with possible hostages in the area. And everyone takes an MP5, again at least one magazine silver, but wooden rounds loaded. Xander, pack a few claymores. Willow, prepare the hunting chains. Frank, Break out the PVS 7's. Amy, place a protective spell on the remaining equipment. We'll take care of the bodies. Let's move people. You ready, Jack?”
“Yes.” <I so don’t want to do this.> The two of them walked the short distance to where the three bodies were laid out side by side. Oz had already put their personal items in plastic ziploc bags, had laid out other, non-personal gear like weapons, next to them and was now unfolding a black rubber body bag. There were more of them in a box at his feet. “I’d like to do this, if you don’t mind.”
Jack knelt down next to the first body, it was Tim. His eyes were wide open and staring and there were two puncture marks on his throat. <God, I’m so sorry, Tim. You should’ve stayed in college, not joined up with us.> He reached down and lifted him gently, as one would a child, and laid him inside the body bag Oz held open. He closed Tim's eyes for the last time and picked up the plastic bag that held his effects. He examined it for a moment and then removed an ink pen from the bag. He tilted the pen and revealed a pretty girls picture, tilted it again and the girls clothing disappeared, "You never stopped trying to get me interested in the human female form, goodbye and thanks my friend." He put the pen in his jacket pocket and placed the bag in with the body. Then he zipped the bodybag closed.
He moved to the next body, Mary. Her eyes were closed and she had an expression of pain on her face, her neck had obviously been broken. he picked her up gently and waited as Steve opened a body bag for him. He laid her in it gently and massaged her face for a moment to relax her expression slightly. Again he took the bag of personal effects and examined it for a moment. He removed a silver earring shaped like a flower and placed it into his own left earlobe, "You once told me that if we made a difference to only one person, then we win against the darkness. You won, Mary. I shall miss you." He placed the small bag in with the body and zipped the bodybag closed.
The last body was Jim, Tim's twin brother. <So they carried you off did they, Terrance?> Jim looked angry about his death, his expression showed only anger, no fear. Jack lifted him gently and placed him onto the bodybag. He closed Jim's eyes but didn't try to alter his expression. He picked up the last bag of effects and removed a military issue ID tag, "The Marines lost out when you followed your brother into the Bureau. You taught me to always protect those who need protecting, even when they don't want to be protected. Stand down, your tour of duty is over now." As he zipped the final bag, he felt something wet rolling down his cheeks. Tears. <Strange, I didn't know I could do that.>
Oz watched the tears roll down Jack's face as he zipped the last bag. <Dude is more human than he thinks he is. Cool.>
Steve noticed them too. <He just learned the hardest part of being a Commander.>
Cordy saw and thought about how she’d feel about loosing any of the gang. <Okay, maybe I won't be a complete Bitch to him. Still gonna call him Jell-O boy, though.>
Jack stood up and wiped the tears away. he picked up the remaining items and placed them in a large black bag, pausing only to clear the weapons before placing them inside. He slung the bag over his left shoulder and waved Oz back as he started to lift a bodybag. "I'll put these in the RV and then have Central teleport them back."
"I'll help you, man."
"Not necessary." Jack extended three tentacle like appendages from his chest and each lifted a bag. "Just in case, there are three buttons in the handle of the RV door, you'll feel them if you try to open the door. To open it safely, press left, left center, right, right, left, center and open the door. The password for the computer is B13 space LoneStar, all one word, typed backwards. You'll find instructions there."
"That won't be necessary..."
"I don't think so either, but...Just in case. We...I...will change the codes and security measures anyway." Jack walked to the door of the RV and disappeared inside.
Steve started to follow, a dark look on his face but Buffy came up from behind and embraced him. "He'll get over it. Eventually."
"Yes, he will. But he is hurting. And will for a long time. I get the idea they were his first and only friends."
"I know. I know how I felt when I thought Willow was going to die. If it hadn't been for JP and that B13 healer..."
Steve nods. "I know." He takes a deep breath, "But we have to concentrate on the job now. There may be several dozen hostages with the Vamps. Let's get the weapons ready."
Buffy nodded and hugged him again. they walked to the center of the clearing to reequip for the mission.
Inside a cavern in the Sierra Nevada, 1230 hours
Terrance eased around yet another corner and halted to listen. Other than the shuffling of feet behind him he heard nothing. Nothing was good, he had no desire to run into any Vampires in the dark. His flashlight had died long ago, but they had found a passage with fresh air moving through it before it quit. Fresh air meant a way out, so they had been moving through the inky blackness, keeping the slight breeze in their faces.
To be honest, The strain was starting to get to Terrance. Creeping around in the dark, expecting to be attacked at any moment was wearing out his nerves. He was tired and he needed to rest badly. <Can’t stop to rest. Have to get these people out. I’m sure the Vampires know we’ve gotten loose by now.> He continued on down the passage, his every sense straining to pick up the first hint of an attack, or the way out. Every step seemed to increase the tension, and the fatigue that was threatening to overtake him.
It was probably because of the fatigue that he didn't notice the faint light, at first. He only realized it was getting lighter when he could see the outline of his hand stretched out in front of him. He stopped for a minute to look around. He still couldn't see anything, but the passage ahead seemed faintly visible. <A way out! Thank God!> Not wanting to raise his hopes too much, he began moving forward again, indeed, now he could faintly make out the passage walls.
A few minutes later, he found himself peering through a two foot wide hole. There was a small bush growing in front of it but it wasn’t blocking the opening. Still, it was a small opening that most of the adults wouldn’t fit through. Terrance sighed and removed his wristwatch. He pushed the button that activated the timer and set it for a one minute countdown., then he pushed all three buttons at the same time, twice, placed the watch at the side of the opening, and ran back down the passage.
He reached the main group and waved them back around a corner, “Fire in the hole!” he warned them, then seeing some confused looks, “I had to set a charge to make the opening larger, cover your ears and duck down!”
The group did so, and a few seconds later there was a loud thump, followed by a cloud of dust shooting down the passage. This was followed by several members of the group coughing. Terrance stood up and jogged back to the opening. It was now quite a bit larger, he could almost stand up as he stepped through it. “Come on people! This way.” He called back to them.
A moment later they began coming out. Most of them were half blinded by the bright sunlight they hadn’t seen for days. Terrance helped them as they came out, making sure no one fell on the roughened ground around the opening. Ranger Bonnetti was the last one out. Terrance gave him a minute to get his bearings and then asked him, “Do you know where we are?”
Bonnetti studied the terrain around them for a few minutes before he answered, “I think so, if I’m right, we’re about two miles from my station. There should be a trail at the base of this ridge that leads right to it.”
“Good. We need to get these people to your station and then get them to a medical facility.”
“No arguments here. I’ll lead the way.”
“Great. Take it slow, some of these folks are pretty much exhausted.”
“You got it.” The weary group then set off down the slope in search of the trail that would lead them to eventual safety.
Cavern in the Sierra Nevada, 1230 hours.
Gregory was now officially pissed. They had found the empty holding cages and the pile of dust and figured out that the fool James had gotten himself dusted somehow. Then they had begun searching for the captives. The had no luck for almost two hours until one of the fledglings spotted a mark on the wall. It was a crudely scraped 'X' at a passage intersection. After that it had been a simple matter to track the escapees. The discovery of a passage that the Vampires had overlooked since they had occupied the lair came as an unpleasant surprise.<Benjamin is gonna be livid when he finds out that we missed this. Especially if it leads to an exit.>
Then Gregory heard the thump of an explosion somewhere ahead of them. <What in the name of Satan below?> A few seconds later a cloud of dust shot down the passage into them. They vampires broke into a run, but even with their enhanced sight, the dust was still too thick to see much. They abruptly halted when the dust cleared and showed an opening with sunlight streaming in.
Gregory’s heart would have stopped if it were actually beating, the prisoners had somehow blasted open an escape route and were walking away down the slope outside. He gnashed his teeth in frustration. <SHIT!!! Benjamin is gonna kill someone for this one.> One of the fledglings was watching the departing captives with a thoughtful look on her face, “I know where they’re going.” She said.
“There’s a Ranger Station about two miles from here, they’ll head there.”
“We can’t follow them.”
“No, but they won’t be able to leave once they get there.”
“The phones aren’t hooked up and the radios have been removed. It was closed down last month due to budget cuts. They may make it that far, but they will have no way to summon help once they get there. All we have to do is wait for dark and go get them.”
Gregory smiled. Perhaps this was not a total fiasco after all. He extended his right arm to the fledgling, as a gentleman would to a lady, and she looped her left arm through his. <Yes turning the Park Ranger was a good idea.> He had always liked petite, dark-haired women, and this one was smart as well. He placed his left hand over hers as they walked away from the light, “Yes, I believe that is a fine idea, my dear.”
“Please, call me Kelley, all of my friends do. We are going to be friends aren’t we?”
“Oh yes, I believe we are going to be the best of friends.” Their laughter rang though the passage long after they were gone.
Clearing near the RV, 1215 hours.
The entire Sunnydale team was ready and waiting as Jack exited the RV. They stood in a loose group near the pile of equipment in the center of the clearing. Jack walked up to them and smiled a grim smile. He looked to Steve and said “Are your people ready, Steve?”
“Yes, have you taken care of everything here?”
“Yes. I contacted Central and updated them on what has happened and they teleported the bodies back for me. They also placed you in charge of the rescue, I am now under your command, Sir.”
Steve nodded to him and turned to face the Sunnydale team, “Alright everyone, this is Agent Jack MacPherson of the Bureau, he’s now working for us until this rescue is complete. Jack, the guys are Xander, Oz, Frank, and Robin, the girls are Buffy, my second in command, Amy, Willow and you’ve already met Cordelia.”
“I wish we were meeting under different circumstances, but I am very pleased to be a part of your team. Central told me a little about you all, and if half of what they said is true, then it will be an honor to fight by your side.”
Steve merely nodded, he didn’t quite know what to make of Jack’s reactions right now. The Alien’s face was completely unreadable. <If this guy plays poker, he’d have to be good with that face.> His words seemed very stiff and formal to boot. It was impossible to tell what he might be thinking. Steve decided to worry about it later, they had to get down to business.
“You’re not armed?” Steve asked as he noted the lack of a weapon.
“I rarely need firearms, but I do have one.” He extended his empty right hand and a Beretta 92 seemed to rise up out of his hand.
“You can make guns out of yourself?”
“No, but I can carry them within myself until they are needed. This is Terrance’s weapon, I believe he will want it when we find him.”
“Can you do that with other items?”
“Yes, but it does require me to expend quite a bit more energy than normal, and items containing magical energies require a lot of energy to carry this way.”
“Interesting. <This guy has a LOT of potential.> Well, I guess we’re ready to go then. Jack, is there any way you can track your missing man?”
“Yes, I can track his scent quite easily.”
“Excellent! Oz come here.” The young man came up and raised an eyebrow.
“Jack can track by scent, I want you to get the scent for the missing agent and the two of you will be our tracking team. Xander, you, Frank and Cordy will be their cover, keep twenty meters back, the rest of us will follow forty meters back, any questions?”
“You got something I can get a scent off?”
Yeah, follow me.”
Jack led Oz over to the RV and opened the door after keying the entry code. They went inside and Jack opened a hamper that was placed next to the bathroom door. He rummaged through it for a few moments and then came up with a black T-shirt, he held it up for Oz to read the writing on it. In bold red letters it stated ‘NOT a member of a top secret Government Agency’. Oz took the offered shirt, “You guys have one strange sense of humor.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
Oz sniffed the shirt, his sensitive nose picking out the scent of the last wearer of it through the other scents mixed in with it. He handed the shirt back to Jack, who tossed it back into the hamper.
“Let’s do it.”
They exited the RV and walked back toward the rest of the team. Oz abruptly halted. “Something just exploded.” He said. He turned and looked eastward, “Over that way, probably a mile or so away.”
Jack looked at Oz strangely, “And you could hear it?”
<Wow! This kid is really something.> “Then Terrance is alive and well.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He tends to blow things up when he gets mad.”
The two looked at each other for a moment, a silent understanding passed between them.
“Ok, let’s investigate that first. We can always return here and begin tracking. Vamps are no danger during daylight, but there may be some demons around, too. Oz, howl. You and Jack will go ahead, full speed. Buffy and me are drag.”
“You are a werewolf?”
“And you can change at will.”
“Interesting. Well, you go ahead and take lead. I think I’ll take top cover.”
"Sure." Oz turned and waved in a follow gesture at the group. He howled and started to change as his arm completed its movement. Jack flowed into the form of a large eagle and took to the skies.
"Show offs." Xander muttered to Cordelia as the group broke into a fast trot, trying to keep Oz's wolfed out form in view.
Gravel road in the Sierra Nevada 1240 hours
Terrance leaned against a tree looking at the pitiful group of people. They were finished, most of them couldn't take another step. They had made it down the slope to the road and that had been it. Only Bonnetti, another man, and himself were still on their feet, and not for much longer. Bonnetti was the most fit looking, the other man and himself were leaning against trees for support. <I am SO not in shape for this.>
Most of the former captives were suffering the effects of being starved and mistreated for days on end, Terrance's problem was simply that he wasn't used to long periods of exertion like this. <Okay, if I make it out of this, I'm instituting a physical training program for the team. And then I'll join a nice safe Monastery....>
Bonnetti walked over to him and leaned against the tree, "The rest of them are finished."
"I know. I'm about finished myself."
"I think I can make it to the Station. I can call for help and bring a rescue team back."
Terrance sighed heavily and slid down the tree until he was resting on the ground. He was tired but he didn't want to give up yet. Letting Bonnetti go for help was probably the right call, but he hated to do it, it felt too much like giving up or passing the buck, these people were his responsibility. He looked up to the sky for a moment. <Why me, God? What's that?> He focused on a large bird that was circling above the group. "I guess you'd better go then. The damn vultures are already circling us."
"That's an eagle not a vulture."
"They both eat carrion, right?"
"Go then. We are in sorry shape and I'd rather not sit here watching birds circle my carcass, it reminds me of a bad western."
Bonnetti laughed humorlessly and started to walk down the road. Terrance looked up again and saw that the eagle was dropping out of the sky toward some trees farther up the road. <Must be some road kill up there.> He lost sight of the bird as it disappeared behind the trees.
A minute later, he stood back up as a familiar figure appeared on the road. <Well, I’ll be damned!> Jack had come seemingly out of no where and had stopped to talk to Bonnetti. The two men then returned to where Terrance was standing.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“It’s okay. Ranger Bonnetti, this is my partner, Jack MacPherson, Jack, Ranger Bonnetti.”
“Glad to meet you. I brought some reinforcements with me, they should be here in a few minutes. They weren’t able to keep up.”
“Have they got transport to get these people out of here?”
“They flew in with a helicopter. I’m sure it’s on call somewhere. Place looks good enough for a pickup.”
“Okay then, tell those people, we’ll get them out of here soon.” Bonnetti nodded and moved off to start letting the others know that help was on the way. Jack reached out to Terrance and the Beretta 92 appeared in his hand.
“I thought you might need this.”
“I always liked this gun. Thanks partner. So what kept you?”
“I got hit as I came out of the RV. Hard. That combined with my having not rested in so long put me out until this morning. Central sent a rescue team and they found me, we heard the explosion you caused a few minutes ago, and here I am.”
“Who’s the rescue team? Anyone we know?”
“No. I had to look up their file through Central’s computer, they are an independent group called Section Seven. Not much info available, less then on any of our teams. And you know how little that is.”
“Yeah. Since when do we use outside help?”
“Trust me, Terrance, these people are good. Don’t let their youthful appearance fool you, they are pros and they have got plenty of experience. Do you remember the throw down in L.A. this past summer?”
“The one with the Vampire Cult? I though that was Team Angel.”
“Nope, they were somewhere in North California. These are the people that took them down.”
“Wow! That’s good, because we’re facing the real thing here.”
“Yes, I know. I reviewed the tapes from last night…”
“Where are the others? With this Section Seven group?”
Jack didn’t reply. He looked down at the ground for a long moment and then put his hands in his jacket pockets.
“They didn’t make it, did they?”
“No Terrance, I teleported their bodies back to Central already and the arrangements are being made for replacements to come to us from the next class.”
Terrance nodded and didn’t say anything. He was numb. The deaths of three of his team members was just too much on top of what he had been through. It was like a switch in his mind had been turned on, while a part of him was screaming in pain, another part took over and allowed him to continue functioning. The only noticeable change was the far away look in his eyes as he stood there. A veteran would have recognized it as the ‘thousand yard stare’.
Jack stood there looking at his friend, he saw the look come into his eyes and he realized that something was wrong. He wasn’t sure what to do, his own experiences earlier had left him confused about himself so he had no idea how to help his friend. His experiences with the human race hadn’t shown him what to do in a situation like this. He did the only thing he could think of, he reached out and placed his hand on Terrance’s shoulder, “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault, Jack. Sometimes it just happens this way, you know. We’ve cheated Death a hundred times. We can’t have luck every time.”
Their conversation was halted by the appearance of the Sunnydale team from out of the woods. Oz had returned to human form and Jack waved Steve over.
"That's Steve St. Wolf, he's in charge. By the way, Central put us under his command temporarily."
"Okay. Mr. St. Wolf?" Terrance extended his right hand, "I'm Terrance Otterman, and you have no idea how glad I am to see you and your people."
"Call me Steve, please." Steve shook his hand. "What's the situation?"
"Great Steve, call me Terrance then. I managed to get these people out of the lair, but that's about it. Most of them are gonna need medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion once we get them out of here."
"Not a problem, I have a Helo on call. We can have it here in fifteen minutes and there's a hospital ten minutes away by air."
"Great. I don't know how many hostiles we're up against for sure... based on the number I saw, and the number of missing, I'd say at least twenty or so. But we’ve no idea about the upper limit."
"Fair enough. Let's get these people out of here and see about dealing with them then."
"Right. Frank! Call the bird back in. Is there enough space to bring him in here?"
"It'll be tight but yeah, there is."
"Good, Xander, start marking the LZ, Amy, Willow, start checking out the civvies. Everyone else is on perimeter watch."
By now, a perimeter had been formed anyway, Amy, Willow and Xander broke away and began their respective tasks, and Frank got on the radio to recall the helicopter. Jack pulled a bottle of what appeared to be water out of the medical bag Willow was carrying and handed it to Terrance. Terrance took it and took a drink, grimacing at the sour taste. <God! Healing potions taste nasty!> It had the desired effect though, he felt his strength returning almost immediately, and the pains from his injuries faded away. There was nothing to do now but wait for the helo.
The same road, fifteen minutes later.
Freddie Bonnetti was not a stupid man, he didn't for a minute believe the crap the Feds were telling the other captives, gang members with bulletproof vests indeed. He had seen one of them turn to dust before his eyes and that wasn't explained away easily. The rest of these people were so far gone they weren't noticing a lot of details. Like how most of these 'Feds' were no more than teenagers, and were wearing body armor of a type he had never seen before, and handling automatic weapons like they did it on a regular basis. Freddie had been in the Delta Force for years and he knew for a fact that none of these kids were old enough to enlist. Even more disturbing was that they moved like seasoned vets, and they knew what they were doing too.
He had watched the tall, dark haired kid mark out an LZ quickly and efficiently, while two of the girls, a little red head and a pretty blond, checked over the captives, making sure none of them needed urgent medical treatment. The rest of them formed a loose perimeter and kept a steady watch for trouble. All of this was just too professional to be FBI in his mind. <Something weird is going on here, and I intend to find out what it is.> He looked over at the leader of the team and the short blond girl who was talking to him, they were looking back at him with an unreadable look. They made him nervous but he couldn't pin down exactly why.
He sighed in frustration and walked over to where Terrance was conversing with his partner. He waited for them to finish their discussion, something about someone named J. P., and then came to the point. "Who are you guys? Really? And please try not to insult my intelligence, I'm running out of patience with people who don't tell me the truth."
"Are you sure you really want truth right now? You might not like what you hear."
"I lost my partner and friend to those, those things, whatever they are, and I am far from stupid. I know these kids who you've told me are an FBI SWAT team are so NOT FBI, that it's almost funny. These guys have Spec Ops written all over them, and yet, not more than three of them are over 18 if I'm right. So, yeah...I want the truth, I think I can handle it."
"Okay, Don't say I didn't warn you."
"I will consider myself warned."
"Right. My partner Jack and I are members of a top secret branch of the Justice Department that is dedicated to dealing with the more dangerous elements of the supernatural. Those things that killed your partner were Vampires. The rescue team is a covert ops team called in to help us deal with the problem. Does that answer your questions?"
"Vampires? Like Dracula?"
"Well, not exactly, but that's another story."
"And the government knows about these things?"
"Not many, just certain elements."
"And you guys work for one of these elements?"
"Yes we do. I did warn you."
"Yes, you did. So now what? Am I just supposed to forget you told me this? Or do I simply 'disappear' like people who find out other dirty little secrets?"
“Please, like we need to make you disappear,” the blonde interrupted. “There are more efficient ways to deal with cases of too much knowledge. At least for us. You are thinking about other not really government organizations, that currently live on leased life.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ever heard of the Consortium? X-Files?”
“Yeah, I know about the X-Files. I’ve heard of them training with the FBI before I changed to this Bureau. What’s the Consortium?”
“Humans conspiring under alien overview to occupy Earth.”
“If the director knows about them, why don’t we take them down?”
“For the moment it’s left for the X-Files to handle. They will keep disrupting the Consortium activities, until we can take on the Greys. Then we’ll take care of them.” Buffy gives the four males a predatory smile as she finishes. The two Bureau 13 agents and Steve answer with their own smiles, all of them looking forward to get their piece of that pie.
“So the X-Files is a project of the Bureau? Or yours?”
“Neither. They got involved in that fight on their own. Indeed they told us, and the director. But other sources, including Horace’s father and JP verified it.”
“You know Horace’s father?”
“Yeah, I work for him, part time.”
“You know, Steve, sometimes I think that you work part time for half the world.”
“Nah, just for a hundred or so people. Regularly, that is.” Buffy simply rolls her eyes.
“Ok, so what are you going to me? Brainwash, or whatever you usually do?”
"That is up to you. If you want to help, we always have vacancies for new agents. If you want to forget, we can help with that. We don't make people disappear unless they want us to, and we don’t have a dirty secret. We’re all legit. Our organization was founded by Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of the Civil War. Since then nobody there cared for us. Not our problem."
"Are you offering me a job?"
"If you want it, yes. After we clean out this nest, I'll forward your info to our headquarters and they'll look it over. If you meet the requirements then you'll attend the academy for six weeks and then be assigned to a field team."
"What are the requirements?"
"Make it through this alive."
"Take a look around you. All of the rest of these people are sheep, they saw everything you did, but they refuse to accept what they see, they look for any explanation but the truth. You looked for the truth, that makes you different from most. That's what we need, people who see what's really there and who are willing to deal with it. People who want to deal with it are better, but they're really hard to find. So, are you still interested?"
Freddie was silent for a few minutes as he thought it over. He could hear a helicopter approaching in the distance. "If I say yes, do I get to go in to help kill these things?"
"If that's what you want to do, yes, but you'll be under our command."
"Alright, I'm in."
"One more thing."
"Don't say yes for revenge. If you go in there with revenge in mind, you won't come back out. Revenge kills faster than a bullet."
"Easy for you to say, you didn't lose your partner..."
Jack interrupted Freddie by placing a hand on his chest, "No, we lost three partners. And it is FAR from easy to say it, but it doesn't change the truth of it. If you go in seeking revenge, then none of us will be able to help you, and the only way you will make it out of this alive, is with our help. So, were I you, I would listen to what Terrance has to say, he's been doing this longer than most."
"I...I'm sorry...I didn't know..."
"It's alright, just think about what I told you, don't go in thinking you're going to take revenge for your partner, go in thinking you're there to prevent that from happening to anyone else."
The helicopter was coming in for a landing by now, Xander was guiding the pilot in with hand signals and everyone else was either still on guard or moving to help the captives prepare to board. Freddie nodded and jogged over to help Willow as she assisted a woman to the helo. Amy, Buffy, and Steve were all helping people move to the helo. Jack and Terrance moved to assist others aboard. Within five minutes, all the former captives except Bonnetti were loaded aboard, belted in, and the bird was lifting off.
Jack turned to Terrance as the bird flew off, "So I guess now we go kick some Vampire ass?"
"If our new leader says yes, then I'm up for it. You stick to the new guy like glue, comprende?"
"As you wish. I'll do my best to keep him out of trouble."
"Good. We don't need to have to explain to Central how we recruited an agent and got him killed the same day."
"It would make interesting reading, wouldn't it?"
"Shut up, Jack."
"Really, I was just observing that..."
"Shut up, Jack. Don't make me shoot you."
Jack smiled to himself, his friend was coming back to himself a bit. That was a good start. His own pain somehow seemed to diminish when his friend began to act like himself. He would have to remember that, helping someone else deal with loss made his own pain retreat. <I wonder if that works for all humans, or if this is unique to me?> Jack shook his head and followed Terrance over to where Steve was standing, it was all too confusing for the Alien right now, later he would ponder this long and hard, right now, all he wanted was to go clean out the Vampires.
Benjamin's cave, 1300 hours
Gregory looked everywhere but at the two piles of dust that had been the two Vampires who had originally surveyed the caves as his master spoke, "And so now we have to move as soon as it is dark, because of these fools and their incompetence. And you, Gregory, I gave you a simple task, round up the humans, and you failed me. What am I to think?"
Gregory shifted his eyes to Benjamin. He didn't like where this was going at all, but he kept his face expressionless, "Master, we had no way of knowing there was another tunnel. And Elizabeth said she searched all of the prisoners before they went into the cages."
"And yet somehow, they got explosives into my lair without being found out. How?"
Elizabeth, a tall, auburn haired Vamp was looking decidedly nervous. She swallowed hard and tried, unsuccessfully, not to look at the dust piles. "I don't know, Master. We left them with nothing that could be used as a weapon, let alone explosives."
"Incompetent fool! You obviously didn't look closely enough!"
Benjamin whipped a stake out and threw it, faster than the human eye could follow. It impacted into Elizabeth's chest with a solid thump and she fell to the floor as dust. Benjamin stood for a moment lost in thought and then he turned away, "Have someone clean up this mess, double the entrance guards and start preparations to leave. We can no longer stay here, we'll have to return to our old lair. And of course, his Lordship has pulled a vanishing act on us as well." <Not that I miss the ugly Bastard, but he picked a lousy time to vanish. I wonder where he went and what he's up too? Bah! Good riddance! I wanted away from him anyway.>
“We may yet be able to recapture the humans, Master.”
“How, Gregory? It is full daylight.”
“They are tired, they won’t get far. I think they will only go to the nearest Ranger station.”
“Where they will no doubt call for help.”
“Yes, but if there are no phones or radios there, they cannot call for help.”
“Are you saying that is the case? How do you know this?”
“She told me.” Gregory waved a hand toward Kelley. “And she should know.”
“Hmmm. Perhaps there is hope for you yet. Very well, Make the other preparations, but take a dozen with you tonight, if you are successful, we shall return. If not, well, you can guess.”
“I will not fail you again, Master.”
Gregory turned to leave, he walked out of the cave with Kelley and several other Vamps. Around them, preparations to leave were already under way, Vamps were scurrying about, packing boxes and gathering up the few items they would take with them when they left. The trip back to the old lair would take about three hours moving though the mine tunnels to an old ski lodge on the far side of the mountain.
After a few minutes of searching, Gregory had found a dozen Vamps to take on his expedition, He had included Kelley since she knew the area and, more importantly, she knew the layout of the Ranger station. Yes, getting the humans back would restore some of Benjamin’s faith in him, and if it did not, well, he could always strike out on his own, well, maybe not on his own, judging from the smile Kelley was giving him.
Outside the ‘new’ entrance to the caverns, 1310 hours.
“How many, Buffy?”
“At least six, maybe more.”
“Damn, I wanted to get in there quietly.”
“No way, there’s almost a hundred meters of open ground in front of it, they’ll see us coming and raise the alarm. And both, gas and chains, would give them enough time to scream. And we don’t have silencers for the rifles. And a hundred yards is a lot for the MP. Say 2 in 5.”
“I know, Xander. Willow, how many people can you turn invisible?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Me, and one, perhaps two. Amy? Robin?”
“I can cloak 3, Amy and Willow one each. But if they are good, they’d still spot us. I could possibly get one in with me.”
“Excuse me, but I think I can get us in there quietly.”
“I’m listening, Jack.”
Jack flowed into the form of a very pretty young girl with a rather impressive figure. She was dressed in skimpy hiking shorts, a tight flannel shirt, and ankle length hiking boots. Her shoulder length blond hair was in a ponytail, and a pair of sunglasses hid her eyes. There were several glares directed at her almost immediately, along with a few appreciative looks from others.
“Miss May?” Terrance groaned.
“Vampires seem to like attractive young women.” Jack(?) replied in a soft voice.
“You are definitely killing my fantasy life.”
“It was a sad little life anyway, I think I’m doing it a favor.”
“Excuse me, but how does that, er, change get us in there quietly?”
“This is my specialty, distraction.”
“Okay, you distract them then what?”
“I kill them.”
“All six of them?”
Jack didn’t reply, instead, six tentacles, tipped with wooden stakes shot out of his chest toward the nearest six people. The appendages halted and hovered in front of their chests. Steve nodded in silent approval.
“I believe that would be fairly quiet.”
“Show off.” Terrance muttered.
The group as a whole was now looking at Jack in a slightly different light as the tentacles retracted and vanished. He had just moved up from capable to dangerous in most of their minds. He had moved those tentacles with lightening speed and complete control.
<He’s quick.> Oz thought.
<This is just too weird for words.> Freddie thought.
<So is he a he, or is she a she?> Xander wondered.
<Just had to be better looking than most of us, well, except me, of course.> Cordelia sniffed mentally.
<Wow, She’s… I mean, he’s…. or is he an it…or does it matter what…how does he do that?> Willow babbled in her mind.
<Man, we could’ve used this trick a few times earlier this year.> Frank thought.
<That was…interesting…> Amy thought.
<I’m gonna have ta talk to Steve about this one.> Robin thought.
<Hmm. I’ll bet he would’ve put a hurtin’ on those Vamps if they hadn’t took him out so quick last night.> Buffy thought.
<I have got to ask Horace to tell me more about this guy later.> Steve thought.
“Uhh, what is he? Or she? Or whatever?” Freddie finally asks.
“An Alien. The race is called Changelings by most other species. But they don’t exist in this reality,” Robin said absently.
“You know something about my people?”
“Not much. You’ll likely learn more about them on TV, then I can tell you. Roddenberry got them down quite well. It’s almost impossible for a ‘Solid’ to learn much about them.”
“Roddenberry? How does he know about them?”
“From what Quinn told us, he gave Roddenberry a history book about the Federation, and the races they interact with.” Buffy tells them.
“A Q. This one wasn’t anything like the ones from the show, though. Neither was the one from the shows. They are a bit arrogant, but usually keep out of the business of other races, or actively help them. Or at least some.”
“You have strange friends.”
“Yes, we do. Now lets get this done. Jack, go!”
And with nothing more than a sexy smile, Jack sauntered into the open toward the cave.
"I hope this works."
"It has worked several times in the past." Terrance said thoughtfully, "But we've never used this act on Vampires before."
"Jeez! He even walks like a girl. OW!"
"Stop watching his ass Xander!"
"I wasn't watching her ass. Cordy. I was covering her while she crossed the open area!"
"He's a he, not a her, Dweeb Boy, keep that in your dirty mind."
"Thanks for the lovely visual, Cordy." Frank muttered.
"Actually, Jack has no gender." Terrance spoke up, "He's equally comfortable as male or female. In fact, we call him Jackie when he's in female form."
"So, he gives a whole new meaning to the term 'playing for both teams'?"
Cordelia, Willow, Amy, and Buffy all hit Xander at the same time.
"Hey! We're trying to sneak into a Vamp nest here! Save the silliness for later!" Steve hissed. <I keep forgetting that they're still kids. One of these days I'll learn.>
The younger members moved away from each other sheepishly and resumed watching Jackie as she arrived at the cave entrance.
“So, can your friend assume any form he wants?”
“Pretty much so, why?”
“Well, you know, me being a ranger and all that, I just thought, why didn’t he turn into a snake or bird, and approached the entrance unnoticed? I can understand that this would be more suitable in Law Enforcement, but as far as I understand, this is a simply hunt and kill mission.”
Terrance shrugged. “Maybe. But it does work. And since we usually operate within cities, it’s best to not start playing loose. There are few missions where we can really play as freely as here.”
Inside the cave entrance
The six Vamps on guard at the new entrance were bored. it was bad enough guarding the main entrance that overlooked a hiking trail, this new one overlooked a meadow and trees. The road down slope was far enough away that no one would ever find this opening. If no one found the opening, then the guards wouldn't get any easy meals. Besides, sentry duty was something most Vamps don't do well anyway.
Unfortunately for this group of Vamps, things were about to change. A pretty blond woman walked into the open and began to walk across the meadow toward the opening.
"Hey, get a look at this." the Vamp closest to the entrance said quietly.
"Shame its still daylight, I wouldn't mind chasing that down."
"She looks tasty."
"In more ways than one."
"Like you know what to do with something like that."
"Drink her dry."
"Hey! She's coming this way!"
"Oh man! this is our lucky day!"
"Looks like we're gonna have an afternoon snack."
"Okay, move back some, let her get far enough in that we can surround her, then we'll take her."
The Vamps faded back into the darker recesses of the passage way and waited. They didn't have to wait for long, the girl came up to the opening and peered inside.
"I don't remember this cave being here." she said aloud, "I wonder if it's an old mine shaft?"
She ducked down a bit and stepped into the cavern, looking around with open curiosity. She pulled a small flashlight out and began to move further into the passage. She was humming a happy little tune as she went. The Vamps were absolutely beside themselves with joy, this was a dream come true, a tasty thing like her just walking right into their laps.
They let her get about twenty meters in before they showed themselves. She suddenly found herself surrounded by them, they all had their game faces on. She jumped back a bit with a startled little squeak. The Vamp directly in front of her laughed.
"Whatsa matter, little girl, you lost?"
"Ohh...you have really big teeth."
"That must mean you're a big scary Vampire, right?"
This wasn't exactly the reaction they were expecting, so there was a moment of confusion on their part before one of them finally replied, "Uh, yeah. And now we're gonna have you for dinner."
"Oh, I get it now, I'm supposed to scream, cower in terror and flee...."
"Or is it, flee, scream, and cower in terror...."
"Maybe it's cower in terror, run and scream....oh the heck with it!"
Jackie flung out six tentacles, each tipped with a wooden stake. Each one struck an undead heart with surgical precision, all six Vamps stood for a second staring at her with stupefied expressions before they crumbled to dust. The tentacles retracted as quickly as they had struck, and were absorbed back into her body seamlessly.
"For a top end predator, they're awfully stupid." She said aloud, "That's probably why they haven't overrun humanity yet."
Jackie smiled at her own wit and sauntered back to the cave opening. <I guess it's true, if you want something done right, send a woman to do it. I wonder if I should spend more time as one?>
She stepped outside the opening and flipped the middle finger of her right hand into the air in the universal gesture known as ‘the bird’ and then smiled broadly. The six Vamps she had just dusted seemed like a fine start to the mission. <It won’t bring my friends back, but it sure makes me feel better. Does that make me a bad or evil person? Can I even consider myself as a person? Hmm…definitely too deep in the philosophy arena for right now. I’ll save these questions for later, hopefully when I can think of some good answers.>
“There she is!” Frank whispered.
“She just gave us the finger!” Cordelia huffed.
“That’s our team signal for ok, c’mon in.”
“You people are so out there.”
“Okay, if you were a bad guy and had gotten the jump on one of us, and told that person to bring the rest of us in, you would expect a friendly wave or something, right?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“If we use a friendly wave, the rest of the team comes in with guns blazing.”
“Clever. But you’re all still weird”
“We like to think so.”
“Let’s go people, we still have Vamps to dust.”
The rest of the team broke from cover and jogged to the cave entrance where Jackie was waiting for them.
“Any problems?” Steve asked.
“Only for them.”
Benjamin was growing restless, the preparations for the move were almost complete, Gregory had left with his group a few minutes ago, and there was nothing for him to do right now. He hated waiting, even before he had been turned he had been a man of action, not patience. A nagging worry that he was missing something was not helping his state of mind either.
One of the fledglings chose that moment to come racing into the chamber with a frightened look on his face. “M-Master! Help! They’re after me!” He gasped.
“Who’s after you, you idiot?”
The Vampire didn’t get to reply, a six foot length of chain came flying into the room and wrapped itself around his body. The Vampire began to smoke and scream.
“What in Satan’s name?”
The other Vampires watched in amazement as the Vampire finally bust into flame and then dusted. As if that were not enough of a shock, the chain leapt from the dust and flew toward another Vamp, he ducked but the chain simply went after another one. She wasn’t as lucky. It wrapped around her and she began to smoke and scream in pain.
“Get away from her!” Benjamin ordered as two Vampires moved in to try to help her. “Whatever this is stinks of magic. We’re being attacked!”
“Boy, nothing gets by you does it Big Fella?”
Benjamin looked up to see a group of humans in the cavern entrance. A small blond girl had just spoken.
“Who the Hell are you?”
“I’m Buffy, the Slayer, and you’re about to be history.”
“Like we haven’t heard that one about a million times, PUH-LEEZE!”
The group took that as a cue and all Hell broke loose. While Oz secured the rear with his M16, Cordy, Frank and Terrance opened fire with MP5’s. Buffy and Steve tossed a holy mist grenade apiece, before adding the power of their M16s to the onslaught. Amy and Willow chanted, their eyes glowing black, their eyes black in black, while a couple Claymore mines flew forward and formed a line in front of the Slayerettes. Robin made a gesture and a blue shimmer appeared between the Claymores and the Slayerettes. Jackie turned herself into the facsimile of a M2A2 Bradley, and Xander jumped on the tank, held his hand up, and screamed, “Stop!”
The shock of a tank appearing out of nowhere, the booming sound of gunfire in a cave, only made worse by their vampire hearing, and the command from the guy on the tank, froze the Vampires for a second. Their last second alive, as the combination of holy mist, silver and wooden bullets, and the magic Claymores caused enough damage to dust each Vampire at least a dozen times.
Bonnetti was stunned into inaction for a moment, and before he could recover, no vampire was left alive.
“Thank god for the volume limitation spell. This cave is even smaller then I thought, without it I doubt we’d ever be able to hear again.”
Cordy promptly slapped him on the head. “That’s Goddess, Dweeb Boy. Goddess. Get it?”
“Cordy, please. Not all of us have a mystic enhancements that help them control their reflexes.”
“So? It’s been more than half a year now. No more excuses.”
“Stop it, Cordy. There might still be hostiles around.”
“I don’t think so, I can’t sense any nearby.”
“How many were there?”
“There should have been more than that.”
“What, and you didn’t tell us in advance?”
“Why would that be necessary?”
“To establish overkill. Buffy’s right, we had hardly acceptable overkill for twenty vamps.”
Bonnetti blinked. “What would you consider overkill against 40 of those things?”
“This tactical situation?” Xander asks, but continues before anyone can answer, “Perhaps opening a portal to the primary elemental plane of fire, or opening a portal to a black hole, sucking everything in. Without magic, a couple flame-throwers, or flashlights that create UV-flash, both blinding and burning the Vamps.”
The two experienced, and the newly recruited Bureau 13 members stared at Xander. Xander stared back, and then shrugged, “What? If you can use overkill, use even more overkill, just to be sure you’re on the safe side. And if you can’t use massive overkill, fight dirty, say illusions, invisibility, itching powder, mind blasts and such. Whatever is available to knock the enemy out before he knows something is attacking him.”
“I can find no fault in that argument.” Jackie finally said with a nod. She turned away and began to examine the cavern where they had surprised the Vamps.
“What have I got myself into?” Bonnetti whispered to himself.
“More than you can imagine in your wildest dreams.” Oz replied from behind him. He gave the rookie a slight grin.
The rest of the group had by now spread out and was going over the cavern to see if there was anything to indicate where the rest of the Vamps might have gone. After about fifteen minutes, no one had come up with anything conclusive.
Oz found it first, it was the smell that led him into anther cavern. The smell of decomposition and decay. He found a cavern partially filled with human and animal remains, mostly bones but there was still rotting flesh on some of the bones. His expression darkened as he caught the scent of some kind of Demon.
“Not good.” He muttered to himself, “Yo, Steve!”
“What have you got, Oz?”
“Demon lair, recently occupied.”
“I’m on my way.”
Oz didn’t reply, he moved out of the cavern so that the smell wasn’t quite so overpowering to his sensitive nose. Steve joined him within a minute. Oz pointed into the cavern and followed Steve in. The two warriors stared in disgust at the carnage inside. It was an unspoken agreement between them that whatever had done this would die.
“We need to find out what kind and where it went.” Steve said aloud, "Willow, Amy I need you here now.”
The two witches arrived quickly and began a divination spell. They went into a trance and five minutes later had an answer for Steve.
“It was a Second Circle Demon and it left about six hours ago. We didn’t get a name or a destination though.” Amy told him. She and willow were starting to look very tired by now, the divination spell had taken a lot out of them.
“Okay, that’s a start.”
By now more of the team was appearing near the Demon lair. Otterman moved up next to Steve and surveyed the interior of the lair. He spent a minute fighting down nausea and anger and then he turned back to Steve, “I’ll get a cleanup team here ASAP. They’ll set up a plausible explanation for this and ID the remains. That way these poor people’s families will have some closure.”
“Sounds good. We don’t have the resources to do that kind of cleanup.”
“Yeah, you got any leads on where this thing went?”
“Not yet, we still haven’t finished looking through the place though.”
“Okay, my people are in with you as long as it takes to run this thing down, no matter what.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that. Let’s find out where this Fiend went and then we’ll go after it.”
“Right. I’ll Get the cleanup team here as soon as I can. If this place is still shielded I may have to go back outside to call them.”
“No problem, just make sure someone stays with you if you leave the group. No sense taking chances.”
Terrance nodded and moved away, speaking into his replacement wristwatch. After a few minutes he shook his head, “I’m going outside, I’ll take Jackie with me, If I can find her. Where did she get off to now? Jackie?!”
Another part of the cavern
Bonnetti and Robin had found an area full of assorted loot that the Vamps had been collecting. Most of it appeared to have little or no value but some of it was interesting. In one box, they found about two thousand dollars in assorted cash. In another they found several pistols, none of which were loaded. Yet a third box yielded a stack of maps. Bonnetti opened the maps one at a time and began to examine them.
"What do you make of these?" Robin asked.
"Mostly maps of the local areas. I don't know what these markings on this one mean though."
"Let me see."
Robin peered closely at the penciled in markings on one of the maps for a few moments. He spent a moment comparing the markings to a map that was unmarked.
"I think we just got lucky."
"This looks like a diagram of the caves the Vamps were using, and look here, here's a passage leading under the mountain to another cave. That's got to be where the rest of them went."
"Okay, it makes sense. Hey, there's an old ski lodge right about here. That's almost right on top of that cave. You think they might be using it?"
"Does a bear do his business in the woods, Laddie? Of course they're usin' it!"
"Right, we need to let the others know about this!"
"Too right Lad, anything else of interest in there?"
"Some more maps, mostly of towns in the area."
If Bonnetti had looked a bit closer, he would have found one map marked 'Sunnydale, CA', but in his haste he overlooked it. His mistake would lead to unfortunate consequences later. For the present, he and Robin rushed out to notify the Team of their find.