Author: Hawk

Title: Saraha's Revenge (Drake's Play)

Copyright: December 2002
Rating: R (Fight Scenes, Language)

Spoilers:
Buffy: Season 2 until Phases. Specific Episodes: None.
Highlander: Season 5 until Season finale. Richie Ryan lives and Season 6 does not take place.

Keywords: Buffy/ Highlander/ Forgotten Realms.

Summary: In the aftermath of Another Run, a woman seeking revenge and a demon seeking to eliminate the Slayer make their moves.

Legalese:
All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.
The characters Arrin Parkin, Drake the Silerwor, Solace, and Saraha Acheed are mine. Anyone wishing to use them may contact me at hawk@wandererverse.com.
The characters Steve St. Wolf, Randi Jessup, Brian Jessup, Marc Le Chevalier and the Knights of the Order of the Grail are property of Steve Pantovich, as is the universe in which this story takes place. Steve can be contacted at steve711@concentric.net.
The character Shaw Hunter is Tim’s. Anyone wishing to use them may contact him at doobytim@aol.com.
The character Robin Goodfellow is property of Mike Weyer. Mike can be contacted at SWERJ321@aol.com.

Author's Notes: This story takes place in early February of 99, after Another Run but about two weeks before Midlife Crisis and Another Tuesday Night in Sunnydale.

Dedications:
First, to Steve, who lets us have our fun in his universe.
Second, to Drake, for letting me make him a bad guy.
Third, to Tim, who's crazy enough to come up with wacky chapter titles.

Here are the changes from your normal shows that may play a part in this story:
Buffy:
1. Due to her drowning death in Prophecy Girl, Buffy is a Highlander type Immortal.
2. The Wandererverse splits off after the episode Phases, so Jenny and Kendra are still alive. Jenny is engaged to Giles, they live together, and Jenny is continuing to teach at Sunnydale High School. Kendra is attending UC Sunnydale and is sort of dating a Knight of the Grail named Joe N'Gato.
3. Xander and Cordelia are still together, although Xander has moved out of his home. It was recently revealed that Xander's natural father is Nick Fury.
4. Oz can control his werewolf changes except during the nights of the full moon. Willow is more powerful with her witchcraft than she was at the beginning of Season 5 of Buffy, but she shows little sign of becoming Dark Phoenix.
5. Amy joined the team in February of 1998 and eventually fell in love with Robin Goodfellow. She has thus far managed to keep herself from turning into a rat and keeps her blonde hair.
6. Jenny, Willow, Cordelia, and Amy are Amazons, given the blessing of the Goddess Artemis. Jenny is Artemis' new High Priestess.
7. Despite no official confirmation in the Buffyverse, in the Wandererverse Giles' father is alive and semi-retired from the Council


Saraha's Revenge

Part 1: Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold
(Unless You Like It Hot And Spicy)

Sunnydale Municipal Airport
Sunnydale, CA
4 March 1999 - 20:30 PST

Saraha Acheed's eyes scanned the small area in which the private plane had landed, her thoughts obsessed with the unbridled hatred that fueled her soul. She craved vengeance for the shame her family had suffered at the hands of the infidel pig and his daughter-of-a-whore lover. Now she would settle all accounts by paying the pig back for all the sorrow that he caused her family. She knew that it went against the ways of her people for a woman to command or even act; however, all the men in her family were too weak, too afraid to avenge the brother that had meant more to her than all the others combined. So without her parents' consent, and knowing that she could never return, she had set out to seek justice against the Wanderer and his bitch.

Even as she planned to eliminate the Wanderer's little whore, causing him as much pain as she had suffered, Saraha remembered bygone days when her brother would show her small acts of kindness in a culture where women were worth less than a good draft animal. Even when they were younger, Abula would go out of his way to show her the good in their world. Some nights, he would steal his way into her bedroom to ensure she was safe and content, often reading stories to her until she fell asleep.

Later in her teen years, he'd help her with her studies and once, he even took blame for something she had done and was severely punished for the act. Tears ran freely down her cheeks when she remembered the last time she had seen him. They were at dinner and her father had told Abula that he was to go to college and prepare to take over the family's affairs. It was then when Abula had changed her world forever. He told their father that he was going to join the army, that Saraha was smarter than any of the clan, and that she should be the one to go in his place. Father tried to talk him out of this course of action though, saying that if she were allowed to go in his place, Abula would cause a break in the family line.

Her mind tumbled back to the present when she saw a pair of men with turbans deplane. Both were dark skinned but that was where the similarities ended. The first one off the plane was a very large man. He stood closer to seven feet than six, with coal-black hair that made his eyes seem blacker than outer space. His tailor-made shirt accented his build and a prominent bulge under his left arm would have told even the rawest police recruit that this man carried a concealed weapon. The second man was slighter, his frame as nondescript as the rest of him, even his turban faded into the background. Saraha turned to this man with her questions.

"Mr. Kerish, you have been paid a lot of money to find someone in this town, someone who can help us remove the Wanderer's woman from her friends long enough for me to exact my justice. I trust that you did not fail in your task."

It was obvious that Kerish was nervous; he had been living in Sunnydale for the past three weeks but even this place, with all its nocturnal activities, didn't frighten him as much as the woman standing before him. "I have found a person who will help us by putting our people in a safe house. But he will not openly act against the Wanderer."

"A frightened infidel," the tall man huffed in response. "No wonder it is so easy for our organization to attack these fools."

"Do not be too quick to judge this man, Akim," Saraha said. "He might be the most intelligent among us. This man called the Wanderer left this place with only a handful of people, two or three of whom were mere teenagers. He attacked my family's oil refinery without just cause, and then during their escape, wiped out over a thousand soldiers. I would not blame this man for being fearful."

"He used the Jaguar and the cursed 1st DREP to get away."

"Exactly," Saraha replied, her contempt for the man in charge of that ill-fated mission plainly showing. "If he was able to do that in a foreign country in which he has a death warrant over his head, what do you think he will be able to do in his own homeland?"

"Watch your mouth, woman," the larger man growled, raising his hand to slap her in an attempt to assert his role over the woman. "You are in the presence of your betters."

"After you strike me," Saraha said with a nod toward his hand, her eyes blazing and her hand dipping under her light coat to wrap around the handle of the knife she carried there, "be sure to identify your next of kin so I can notify them of your demise after I leave you here to die like the pig you are."

In response, the big man grunted. "Let's get this job done, I hate this place."

"I agree," Mr. Kerish hastily said, helping the big man back away honorably from the confrontation.

"Where is this man who will help us?" Saraha purred as she dismissed the big man with a contempt-filled wave of the hand.

"He will not meet with you. However, he has an emissary who will meet us."

"Where is this man!" the taller man demanded.

"He is the bartender of a small bar just south of town. Come. We will go now."

*****

Espresso shop
Main Street
Sunnydale, CA
4 March 1999 - 21:00

"I still can't believe he left like that," Xander mumbled as he, Cordelia, Nick, and Dum Dum sat around a table talking.

It had been four days since Arrin had left town without saying good-bye. Nick had decided to stick around for a week to help Xander move into his new place and get to know his son.

"Didn't seem like the kind to stick around long anywhere," Dugan observed.

"He'll show up again," Nick stated as he watched the emotions play on his son's face. "I wouldn't worry about him."

"Oh I wasn't worried, just a little miffed."

"Ya know your step-mother…" Nick started just before his eyes lit up, an expression of fear, dread and doom passing over his face as he erupted. "Son of a Bitch!!! I'm a dead man; she's going to kill me!!"

"That's for sure," Dum Dum mumbled taking another bite of his sandwich.

"Who, pops?"

"Your step-mother."

"Why? Is she wicked?" Cordelia asked with giggle.

"No, she's just the meanest bitch in the Order. Hell, she sometimes scares Merlin and her name is up there with Aderron when the demons hear it."

Xander went pale. "And when she finds out about me?"

"She's going to kill me," Nick groused as Dugan began to laugh.

"What about me?" Xander whined with a lopsided grin as Cordelia giggled into his shoulder.

"I don't know, kid. I don't think she'll do anything to you, but me?" Nick moaned, "I'm a dead man."

"Sucks to be you," Cordelia mumbled into Xander's shoulder where she was still giggling.

"So pop, how long are you sticking around?" Xander asked as he glanced down at the top of his girl's head.

"Why...are you wanting to get rid of your old man, boy?"

"Naw, just wondering if you're gonna move in," he retorted.

*****

Drake's HQ
Same time frame

"They've just arrived at Sunnydale Municipal. The trip is all set up through the Mayor's office and the terrorists are in place," Billy informed Drake as he turned off his computer. "Willy delivered the message to the woman and she expects you to help her with housing."

"Tell them I will allow them to stay in town unscathed by vampires. Other than that, I do not promise them anything else."

"I'll e-mail her and pass the word."

*****

Mayor's Office
Same time frame

"Well aren't we having fun?" Mayor Wilkins asked. "It's so nice to see another attack on the Slayer."

"Seems like they're going after her friends first," Mr. Trick said as he dismissed the vampire who gave them the word. "I wonder how it will benefit us."

"Call the Hospital; tell them to set up a parenting class for the seniors of good old Sunnydale High."

"Already done."

"Good." Mayor Wilkins sat back in his chair and pulled out some chocolate chip cookies. "Let's sit back and see how the chips fall."

"And if the kids survive?" Trick asked; he'd seen what damage they could do in Atlanta.

Wilkins shrugged. "Then they'll learn how to be responsible parents with good, healthy family values."

*****

Sunnydale Motel

"Elimete, I have secured the entire front half," a dark skinned man with a deep eastern accent told the leader of the 30 men who stood in the front parking lot of the Sunnydale Motel.

Nodding his head in approval, the man waved his hand in dismissal of the runner and turned to his second in command, "Tell them to get plenty of rest tonight, we will be gone at first light, right after we pray."

Watching the man do as he bade, Elimete the leader of the attack group retired to the center room while two men took their positions outside his door.

*****

Part 2: Contingency Plans
(You Just Gotta Love A Villain Whose Plans Are More Than “Crush. Kill. Eat!”)

Darkened warehouse
Sunnydale Wharf

"The mercs will kidnap the Slayer's friends and they will trade their lives for hers," Drake told Mike and Billy as they stood in a small office in his new headquarters.

"Are you sure this is going to work?" Billy asked as he turned off his computer. "This merc is supposed to be one of the best when it comes to cold-blooded killing. But we just need them kidnapped, not killed. Some people get touchy when they are told to kill kids. So we should have a contingency plan."

"Just what would you suggest?"

"If things go sour at the hospital tomorrow, things are going to be pretty active around here." Billy said as he turned his computer back on. He brought up the page he had been working and pointed at a picture of a very old lady. "This is the Great Grandmother of one Larry Blaisdell."

"So?" Michael asked as he looked at the woman who looked close to one hundred years old.

"What would happen if this Larry got a message that his grandmother is on her deathbed?"

"This woman is alive???"

"Yes," Billy informed the group. "She is the oldest surviving member of her family, a family that takes great pride in their lineage."

"What are you suggesting we do?" Drake asked, looking at Billy.

"We isolate one of the Slayer's group," Billy replied simply. "We let the mercs try for the batch but we take out a hold card."

"Would be a smart move," Michael admitted grudgingly.

"Do what you have to do," Drake commanded before turning to Michael, "You and Richard go and take Blaisdell as soon as he arrives."

"What do we do with him?"

"Bring him back alive."

Nodding his head to signal that he understood, Michael turned and left the room without another word.

"You realize the mercs may try to double cross us," Billy observed.

"Perhaps," Drake agreed with a laugh, "but since mercs are greedy and all the kids combined, according to you, don't have what one of these diamonds is worth, I think they will cooperate with us."

"And if they don't?"

"I don't think it really matters; while the Slayer is distracted, we will deal with her."

*****

Home Economics Class
5 March 1999 - 08:40 PST

"Class," Mrs. Simms called the class to order as she came into the door, followed by a middle-aged man dressed in a white lab coat. "This is Dr. Fredrick Joston; he is the Doctor in charge of the children's ward at Sunnydale Memorial Hospital. Since this class tries to get you ready for domestic life, I feel it would be beneficial to you if I take you to get first hand experience with children. So today we are going to have a half-day. Since this is our only chance to do this, I took the liberty of notifying your parents of the change of plans. With a few exceptions, all of your parents were delighted to give you this golden opportunity."

"Do we have to go?" a jock from the back called out. "Shouldn't we have a choice?"

"Mr. Jones," Mrs. Simms addressed the fullback. "You do have a choice, you can go along with the rest of the class, or you can fail this course. Now while I admit that the choices are limited, you still have at least the opportunity to exercise your choice."

Her words were greeted with groans of despair as the students gathered their belongings in preparation of going to the hospital.

*****

"Great, Just great, Buffy's birthday and school trips; two sure signs that the Hellmouth has something special planned for us," Xander grumbled just loud enough for Cordelia and Faith to overhear. "Did either of you bring anything more potent than a stake with you to school?"

"I've got a silver dagger," Faith replied just as lowly. "But why the glum, chum?"

"Let's just say the track record with this school and field trips sucks," Xander huffed. "First we go to the zoo and I get possessed by a hyena spirit. Then we go to the museum and a girl follows us home...well, she started out as a girl and we met her as a girl, but somewhere between she turned out to be a mummy."

"Wow, slow down X-man! You're babbling Willow-style!"

"Don't forget to tell her about the time you reverted to your true nature," Cordelia hinted.

"Huh?"

"I was a dog."

"Sorry, Faith," Mrs. Simms interrupted the conversation as the three started toward the busses, "This trip is only for seniors."

Stepping back from the line she raised her voice for the rest of the students to hear. "Attention students, this trip is only for the seniors, so if you're not a senior please report to study hall."

As the grumbling juniors walked back into the building the rest of the students started to board the busses, just to be stopped by Mrs. Simms again as she put her hand across the opening. "Also the following students won't be going due to missing assignments; Cordelia Chase, Ray Donta and Susan Terrin."

"What?" Cordelia snapped.

"Also, if your last name starts with the letter A thru L, please get on the first bus, M thru Z on bus two."

As the students separated and headed to their respective busses Mrs. Simms walked over to the group of disgruntled seniors and juniors to let them know that for the first hour of the morning they were to report to the study hall and then go on about their normal day.

"Hello, Willow," Sheila Rosenberg addressed her daughter as she stepped on the bus. "I hope you'll get something out of this field trip today."

"Uh, what are you doing here mom?" the wide-eyed witch asked.

"Your teacher asked if I could chaperone this trip, and since my day is clear and I haven't spent much time with you in the past couple of days or so, I thought it would be a good idea if I went along."

"Gee, that's great," she muttered resignedly.

"I notice that they put that Oz boy on the other bus," Sheila noted with a nod. "Maybe you'll be able to meet some new people on the bus without having him here as a distraction."

Half-heartedly Willow nodded her head and took a seat near Amy and Buffy with an anxious look on her face.

*****

Oz did not enjoy the thought of going the whole trip without having his girlfriend next to him but decided to try and make the best of it as he took a seat next to Jonathon Levenson, while Harmony Kendall snagged the seat next to Xander. Leaning back in his seat he thought of his Willow and wondered what she was doing as he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

After all, they were out of class. < Cool,> he thought.

*****

Part 3: Carjacking With A Twist
(What Happens When You Kidnap The Buffster, Wolf Boy, Soldier Boy, Sabrina, And The Bad Ass Wicca?)

Highway out of town

After the busses had left Sunnydale High, the seniors started to settle down and talk amongst themselves to pass the time. Richard Littleton, the driver, had been driving for the high school for close to twenty years and in that time he had sent three of his own children to Sunnydale high. Two of them had reached adulthood, the third died in a reported animal attack on a camping trip. Now he had three grandchildren at the high school. Even though he did not know all that was going on in Sunnydale, it was easy for him to see the change. Even the influx of businesses, which seemed to be moving in overnight, was a promising sign that things were changing for the dreary little town.

The children never seemed to give him much trouble as he drove, especially the seniors who all seemed to be well mannered and disciplined, although he seemed to remember a few of these same children from last year and there was something new in a lot of their eyes. Before it was as if the life had been sucked out of them, but now, it was as if they had gained new spirit. Confusing for sure, but not something he would worry about.

They had been on the road for close to half an hour when they ran across trouble. A tan minivan was stretched across the road, one man laid out in the road while another man knelt over him. Stopping the bus, Littleton opened the doors to go out and assist the unfortunate occupants of the van. Suddenly, six men rushed from behind some bushes alongside the road. Seeing the danger to the children, he started to close the doors. However, his concern served only to earn him two bullets in the chest.

*****

Seeing the driver start to close the door, Alifate, the man who would be in charge of the first bus, raised his 9 mm Uzi and pulled the trigger; driving the bus driver back into his seat with two bullets near his heart. Even as the driver slid down the wall of the bus, two of his teammates rushed onto the bus and fired a few bullets into its roof to show the kids the guns were real, and they'd use them if necessary. As expected, the children cowered in their seats. He was glad to see at least one more adult was on the bus; this would have a calming effect on the kids. But to be on the safe side, he pointed his gun at the woman.

"You, come up here." Alifate told the woman while removing one of the girls in the front seat and shoving her to the rear of the bus. "Sit here."

"What do you want?" a thoroughly shaken Mrs. Simms asked as she took the seat he'd indicated.

"Shut up!" Alifate snapped at her while slapping her across the face, drawing a gasp of surprise from the remaining students. "You," he said to one of his comrades, "drive the bus. You," he said to another, "take the back."

Alifate glared at his hostages as his two men took their assigned positions. Outside, the van had been moved and the riders sat patiently waiting for the convoy of busses to pass them. Drawing his small handheld phone, he spoke into it. "I am clear here."

*****

Elimete and his small team rushed onto the second bus. He calmly clubbed down the driver, replacing him with one of his own before he faced the bus full of students and one adult. His cold eyes fixed on the tall redheaded woman as he ordered. "You will sit up here!"

He watched as the redheaded woman walked toward him. The bearing of this woman, who held her head high and looked him in the eye, grated on him. He was a student of the old ways, where women knew their place in society and stayed there. His original plan was not to hurt anyone, but this woman's nerve bothered him so, as she moved closer to him, he raised his weapon and clubbed her down, splitting open the top of her head. Blood freely flowed as the children on the bus all gasped in horror. A few started to rise but quickly changed their minds as his associates fired off a few rounds just to remind them they had guns.

"Go to the designated area," Elimete replied when Alifate reported that they were also ready to go. Looking at one of the men who came on the bus with him, he barked, "Get this woman up in a seat and put something on her head."

Seeing that his orders were being taken care of, he took the time to look over the students. They all seemed to be frightened, although a few were more relaxed then the others. He took that as a good sign; the calmer children would keep the others in line. He also realized that these ones who were more under control than the others would also be the ones who caused them the most trouble. Deciding to eliminate any possible trouble, he pointed to a rather pretty blonde girl that sat next to a redheaded girl, who looked remarkably like the woman he had clubbed down. Pointing his gun at the blonde he ordered, "You...move over here."

"Okay, sir," the blonde answered demurely as she pulled herself away from the redhead after whispering something in her ear.

Scanning the bus again, he noted a third girl, this one with blonde hair but with a very fair complexion, who had been sitting behind the other two girls. This girl was also full of self-control; almost as if she knew something the rest did not. Having her near the redhead would not be a good idea and he decided to take steps to remedy that situation. "You...go to the back of the bus."

*****

Buffy was next to Willow and gasped in horror as she watched the men rush the bus and club down the driver. She was about to move when two more men with Uzi's boarded their vehicle; one was wildly spraying lead toward the ceiling of the bus. She knew that now would not be a good time to act, since now it was not only her life, but the lives of the rest of the kids as well. She forced herself back into her seat as she watched the man in charge motion Mrs. Rosenberg to the front of the bus.

Although she did not know what the man wanted with Mrs. Rosenberg, Buffy felt that everything would be all right as long as everyone remained calm. When the man struck Mrs. Rosenberg down for no reason, her first thought was to jump up and take him down. But when she felt the strong vibes coming from Willow, she knew that she must calm the red witch down first, otherwise things were going to get pretty hot in the small bus.

"Not now, Willow," Buffy whispered into her ear before standing up to follow the man's commands. Stepping away from Willow, she took a quick glance at each of the men, remembering all that Steve had taught her about gathering information and judging character.

The first thing she realized was that the people holding the guns knew what they were doing. The fact that they wore turbans was another indication as to whom they were, and after a minute she wondered if they were here to exact revenge on her and Steve for the attack they carried out in Libya only a few months before. She watched as the man moved Amy further from Willow and wondered if he knew about them, but when she saw where Amy sat she realized that he had no idea what he was doing with whom. A savage smile crossed her face as she demurely looked down when she passed on her way up to where one of the other men indicated she should sit, next to Sheila. She examined Willow's mom and found the deep gash on her head. Worriedly, she took a quick glance back at Willow and gave a fake hopeful smile before turning back to the man who had pushed her in the seat.

"She needs a doctor," Buffy demanded, her anger getting the best of her in the heat of the moment.

"What do I receive if I get her to the hospital?"

"What do you want?"

"If you, young girl, promise me that all the students will behave, I will have her taken to the hospital."

Somehow Buffy knew that if she promised the behavior of the students and they failed to listen, it was she that was going to pay the price. After looking back to Willow and Amy for moral support, she bowed her head and crossed her fingers in her pocket while she said, "I promise that the students will do as I say."

With a nod of his head, the bus pulled over and the van came to take Mrs. Rosenberg away. Then both busses continued toward their destination.

*****

Willow watched the man strike her mother and started to rise from her seat, but when Buffy told her to calm down, reason took control. She knew that right now, she could only get a lot of students hurt. So she settled back down.

She too looked over the group, noting which ones would be most likely to start shooting without provocation. She targeted him for a spell if things started to go wrong, and hoped that Amy would get someone else.

When Buffy gave her word that the students would behave for the release of her mother, she breathed a bit easier. But since she was not sure if the man would keep his word, she sent a silent prayer that her mother would be okay as she sat back down and waited for the word from Buffy to start this fray.

*****

Amy also watched the incident and felt that Willow would want the man who'd hurt her mother, so she targeted the driver, ready to take his will away from him just in case things decided to get out of hand, which would leave the last person standing for Buffy.

With a bit of effort, she stared into the bus ahead of them and wondered what was taking place up there.

*****

Xander watched in shock as the driver was thrown back by the impact of bullets as a man with an Uzi 9mm rushed on the bus turning the wicked little gun on the students as two other men followed him in. Each of the other men held small submachine guns as well and from the look of them, they all knew how to use them. Forcing himself to relax, Xander looked the three men over, trying to single out which one was the most dangerous of the group.

As he looked around while the man grabbed Mrs. Simms, his eyes locked onto those of Oz's only for a moment, that moment was all he needed to know that Oz was in his same self-controlled persona. He had never been quite sure how Oz could remain so calm, but he was certainly glad that Oz was there, for he knew that without a witch, Oz was going to be a big help when it came to eliminating the threat to the class and themselves.

Turning back to the men who literally held the lives of every student on the bus in they're hands, Xander waited for them to announce why they were being taken.

*****

In his place Oz watched the same scene as Xander, only his reaction was somewhat different. A soft growl emitted from his throat and his eyes flared the red that came just before the change came over him, but he forced it back down when he saw Xander look at him. He was not sure what Xander had in mind, but when their eyes locked for that brief moment, he knew that Xander wanted to remain clam for now. He turned in his seat just in time to see two men rush onto the bus where his Willow was, his eyes flared red again when he saw the driver coldly being clubbed down. A soft but urgent growl escaped his lips as he watched Willow's mom being clubbed down and the hurt look on Willow's face.

As he turned back to Xander, his eyes were now a flame red and he was just barely keeping his emotions in check. He noticed that Xander was signaling to him with his hand level, palm down. Slowly, Xander lowered his hand and Oz read the implied message correctly and forced himself to calm down. Right now would not be a good time to start hostilities. He was sure that Xander knew what he was doing, so he would follow his lead for now.

*****

Base of mountain range

Alifate was sorely disappointed that none of the children had tried to escape. He was still submerged in the kill lust and shooting down the driver, only added fuel to his flames. He was half tempted to shoot one of the dog children just to show the rest of them he would, but his orders were very stern, he was to keep the bloodshed down to a minimum. He could tell that his men were also looking for a reason to punish the teenagers who were quietly sitting in their seats.

Not really understanding the reason he was told not to harm the kids, Alifate placed himself between the children and his two helpers to stop them from trying anything. As he sat there he started to smile, they told him not to harm them, nothing was said about not teasing them or telling them what was to come.

"I think it will be fun to watch the girls scream when they watch the boys die." Alifate spoke to no one in particular while he watched the face of a brunette who sat next to him, tears were already running down her cheeks, but at his words she started to sniffle causing him to sneer at the weak-willed girl.

Soon the busses turned off the highway and onto a dirt path that ran thought a grove of trees that led to a small field that was at the base of a hill. The occupants of both busses were corralled off the bus and hustled up the side of the hill to a cave that was hidden by some wild brush.

"Place them at the back of the cave. Tie them up," Elimete told the others as he pulled Alifate aside, talking to him as the children were filed by. "These children are not to be harmed until the girl is dead, then we will just leave them here and let the fates deal them their destiny."

"Are we to stay with them until it is done?"

"Yes, if for any reason the Wanderer aids his bitch girlfriend, we are to kill one of the children and send the body to town."

"Saraha knows who the girl is?"

"Yes, our informant in town has provided a picture for us. The informant has told us that she is the Slayer."

*****

"Buffy, what the hell is going on here?" Xander asked Buffy as they entered the cave, having walked by the men just as they were talking.

"I don't know, Xander; keep your ears open let's find out what's going on before we make our move."

Splitting up, Xander moved toward Willow, who was standing against the wall biting her lower lip, like she used to do when she became nervous. As he walked toward her, he studied the area and their situation. He wasn't really scared; he had often believed that this situation would arise sometime and because of Steve's training, he knew they were all ready for it. Moving close to Willow, he briefly wondered why she was as nervous as he whispered to her. "Buffy says to keep it together for a bit longer, Will. Something is going on and she wants to find out what before we make our move."

"What's up?" Willow asked, her voice sounding a bit more worried than the situation called for; a fact that Xander picked up right away.

"We overheard them say something about killing the Slayer."

"Faith? Kendra?"

"Could be either, but from what I've gathered, they were talking about Buffy."

"Why?"

Not understanding Willow's question, he repeated the words he'd heard. He was just about to say Slayer when he noticed that Willow's face turned almost ghost white. Stopping in mid sentence, he looked at Willow as her mouth started to move but no words came out.

"What is it Will?" Xander asked, real concern in his voice.

"Cordelia," she said in a horrified whisper.

"What!?"

"Has to be, Xan," Willow started, her voice rushing to get out. "Ohmigod,ohmigod,ohmigod,SpikepointedoutCordelia'spicturetheymusthinkshe'stheslayer."

Understanding Willow speak was never an easy thing, but Xander had years of experience and was able to quickly decipher her frenzied utterance. His face showed his rage as he drew his own conclusions.

"That son of a bitch!" he growled but took care to keep his voice low. "I am going to put a god damn tree through his heart if anything happens to Cordy."

Forcing himself to calm down, but knowing it was a losing battle, he grabbed the red haired girl's hand and dragged her toward Buffy, conscious of the eyes on him, but not letting it bother him. His girlfriend was in danger; it was time for action. NOW.

*****

"Why couldn't I go with the others," Cordelia whined as she spotted Principal Snyder walking across the hall. Moving to intercept him she demanded, "Why couldn't I go on that trip?"

"Contrary to popular belief, Miss Chase, I run this school, not the students. Now you will either get to the study hall as you were told, or go home."

"Well, that's a no-brainer," she muttered as she did a turnabout and strutted toward the main entrance.

"Miss Chase, get back here or I will expel you."

"Don't try it, Snyder," Cordelia replied as she snapped back around. "You don't wanna see me mad; believe me, you really don't want to know me when I am mad."

"Miss Chase, you can go home right now!"

"Fine," Cordelia replied as she stomped off, unwittingly doing exactly what Snyder had wanted her to do. She was too angry to pay attention to her surroundings because she was still miffed that Harmony had sat next to Xander on the bus. She wasn't worried, she knew her Alexander would never cheat on her, but it rubbed her the wrong way knowing that Harmony would even try. Cordelia was so engrossed by her thoughts that she failed to notice the man standing across the street with the two-way, watching her.

*****

Part 4: Hunter And Prey
(I Tell You, It Was The Terrorist On The Grassy Knoll! What? Sunnydale Doesn’t HAVE A Grassy Knoll? Okay…)

Sunnydale

"Things are progressing smoothly; target has left school as we'd hoped," Mr. Kerish reported to Saraha who was still with Akim. They had taken up residency in the travel lodge just outside of Sunnydale, not wanting to announce their presence too soon. "She has left the school and is now headed south on Main Street."

"Very good," came the reply, shortly. "Watch subject and let us know when she reaches home."

Closing the two-way, Kerish got into the rented four-door and followed raven-haired beauty at a reasonably safe distance. He was not privy to all the details of this mission, but what he did know, aggravated him. He had been working as a lone terrorist in the US for close to ten years, working completely independent of other cells he knew operated in the US. If it was up to him, he would not have been so specific as to go after just one girl, he would have planted a bomb on both busses and let the media sort it out. To go after one person was too dangerous and pointed the fingers too close to home. He was aware of the Attack on the Ma'tan as Sarah Oil Refinery. He also knew why it was executed and approved of the job. It was one thing to kill the enemy, but to eliminate the whole species of man was idiotic. Why Saraha wanted to kill this one girl was none of his concern, and he would never have gotten involved if he didn't need the money to carry on with his terror.

He followed Cordelia to a nice house on Oak Street where she entered the house, but he was certain this was not her address, so he waited for a while before she walked out of the house, got into her car and headed to the business end of town.

The next place she stopped was a building that was being remodeled. She was only there for a few minutes talking to a incredibly beautiful, well-muscled red-haired woman who stood next to a smaller, but equally buff blonde beauty. Kerish shook his head and chuckled. Although this town didn't look like it had much to offer, he had to admit that the infidels living her had more than their share of lovely women here. After a few minutes of talking, his subject got back into her car and drove away.

*****

"The Wanderer's little whore is on the move again," Saraha told Akimas as she opened a long brief case, showing a 7.62-mm SVD Dragunov sniper rifle, broken down into five pieces. The gun was a marvel with its optical sight permitting it to conduct night firing at infrared sources and under bad conditions of illumination. Along with the rifle were 4 magazines, each capable of holding nine of the deadly 7.62 armor-piercing rounds. Not knowing what to expect from this so-called 'wonder girl,' Saraha had prepared for the worst. Quickly snapping the rifle together, she whispered, "Abula, my dear brother, your murderess dies today."

With Akim driving the small rented van, Saraha carefully put the rifle together, all the while thinking how good it was going to feel to exact vengeance on her brother's killer. Just as she snapped the last piece of the rifle in place and was getting ready to slide the magazine home, the two-way on her belt squawked.

"What is it?" Saraha demanded, as she pulled out the device.

"She has left her house and I've followed her to Elm Street," Kerish's voice came over the speaker. "I will remain here until you arrive."

"Good."

Saraha put the two-way down again, this time she allowed her thoughts to drift back to the awful night when she found out that her brother had died. She closed her eyes, allowing the memories to wash over her, while Akim drove the car.

*****

Oxford University
London, England

Saraha sat in the library studying her notes that she had taken in the Modern Business class; she was a happy student who studied hard and wanted to fully use the college for her own betterment. She knew that when she returned home most of what she'd learned would go to waste, but something drove her on to be better than her society would allow.

She was just leaning back, taking a small break, when two men who were dressed in military uniforms from her home approached her. She was close enough to her brother to know that one of these men were a major and the other a lieutenant. A sharp pain racked her gut as dread spread over her being when she realized what these men wanted.

"Miss Acheed," the Major greeted, his tone carrying the weight of death. "I'm afraid that I have some very bad news for you."

"Abula," she whispered, somehow already knowing what the news contained.

"He died two days ago," the lieutenant blurted out, not caring for the arrogance he saw on the woman's face.

"Lieutenant, go to the car!"

"What happened?" Saraha whispered, her mind slowly digesting the news.

"The Ma'tan as Sarah Oil Refinery was attacked, your brother tried to defend the place but was either shot down or was killed in the explosion that followed the attack," the lieutenant informed her, still in a callous way.

"Who would do such a thing?"

"Reports are that a man known as the Wanderer, working with a force of more than five hundred men, stormed in, killing everyone there. Then, as he left, he blew the place up." The Mayor frowned, trying to get his explanation in before the lieutenant could speak again. "The refinery was completely destroyed."

"My Abula dead?" Saraha repeated the words softly as she sat down in shock.

"Saraha, your father sent us here to escort you home. Your family's oil refinery needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, and there is no money to pay for your schooling this term."

During the next few weeks she had come to learn that the accursed Wanderer and his girlfriend, along with some type of assault force, had attacked the Ma'tanas Sarah Oil Refinery without provocation, callously killing everyone in the area. The information coming from the government was written as a first hand account, but it never occurred to anyone to ask if everyone had died in the assault, who'd written the story. After reading everything that she could on the incident, Saraha made it her mission in life to make the Wanderer pay for his actions.

*****

Sunnydale

Cordelia was too pissed to think about school and the fact that she was probably going to be suspended, as she drove out of the school parking lot. Feeling in a mood to do some damage, she wondered if Sonja or Gabby would like to go a few rounds. She headed toward the Cybertronics building, which was being refurbished and updated to become the new offices of the Wolf's Head Detective Agency. She knew that both women were overseeing the construction and thought that maybe they would find some time for her.

"What are you doing here young lady?" Gabby chirped as she watched Cordelia walk up the path. "Why aren't you in school?"

After explaining to the women what had happened at school, Cordelia finished by saying, "I just didn't want to deal with that midget's shit today."

"Well, you better go home and spend the time trying to get that assignment done. I would love for you to stay with us Cordy, but you need to realize you cannot be considered a troublemaker in school if you intend to work here. We don't want any undue attention pointed toward us and a truant teenager would definitely bring some heat."

Knowing that Gabby was right she smiled and kissed the queen's cheek before she turned with a smile to Sonja and walked toward her car. "I'll be at Xander's if you need me," she tossed over her shoulder.

Still unaware of her surroundings after the episode at school and getting no joy from her meeting with Gabby and Sonja, Cordelia headed to her house to grab a few more things. She had already decided to live with Xander but she needed to smooth things over with her Dad about the impending move. After she had picked up a couple of outfits for the weekend, Cordelia started to unwind as she headed toward Xander's place.

She had not gone a half block when she realized that she was being tailed. She knew by the make of the car that it wasn't a cop; the license plate was all wrong. Figuring that she couldn't lose him without making a scene, she remembered what Steve had told them to do if they were followed.

"Hello, Robin," Cordelia said over her cell after her call had been answered. Without changing her direction or her voice she went on. "Did you know that the tail of a dog doesn't grow back?"

The cryptic message wouldn't make sense to the casual observer, but Steve had warned them if someone was being followed nothing plain should be said. They were to call someone right away, preferably someone who was close and not working at the time.

*****

Interlude
(When You Live On A Hellmouth, The Big Bad Wolf Is The LAST Thing You Need To Worry About When Going To Grandma’s House)

San Jose, CA
South of LA

The sun was just setting when Larry and his family turned into the long driveway that would lead to his grandmother's house. The house, an old California style mansion, had been built back in the early-eighteen hundreds, built to last against attack from the roaming Indians and the outlaws that seemed to be plaguing the region. Indians and the American outlaw were not the only thing the Californians had to deal with at the time, being isolated from the rest of the population, those who lived in the San Jose valley had to deal with marauding Mexican bandits as well. The ruins of what used to be a ten-foot stone wall could be found at different locations around the hacienda.

Every time Larry had come to this land, he found that a lump of pride formed in his throat, his family had owned this land since the first Blaisdell came over from England. His great-great-great-great-grandfather first scouted this land with the mountain men of old. His whole family heritage was written in the books that were contained in the house, stories of his family and their quest for freedom.

The concern he had for his sick grandmother did not allow him to wait until the car came to a full stop; as soon as they were slowing down he jumped out of the car and ran to the front door, right into the hands of a man who seemed to be waiting for the family. The sun was now down enough that the vampires were comfortable enough to take their places and wait for the boy they were sent after.

*****

The Blaisdell mansion
San Jose, Ca.

"Take the mansion as soon as the sun drops," Michael ordered the group of vampires he had brought with him on this mission.

"Can we feed?" a young vampire asked as the group started toward the house.

"We are here to get the boy, after that I don't care. But make sure the boy is out of the house first."

The group was just about to move in on the house when the station wagon pulled up into the driveway, causing Michael to stall for a minute. A savage grin spread across his face as he picked up the pace a bit, giving out his orders as they moved quickly up the driveway. "Two of you grab the two boys, the rest knock down the adults. Leave them alive though, we are going to make it look like a kidnapping."

"Why can't we take someone for us?"

"I said no!"

Grumbling, the group moved in with speed only the vampire could attain. Getting in closer, Michael punched Larry's dad in the mouth, knocking him to the ground. "Grab them."

While two vampires grabbed Larry and Sam, another vampire backhanded his mother, sending her sprawling next to her husband. The vampire who did it bent down to take a sample but was stopped when he noticed the golden cross that lay partly concealed under her blouse. It had been a gift from Larry after he started working with the Wolf's Head investigation offices.

"Son of a bitch," he growled as he was driven away from the device, more than he would have been if it had been a simple cross. Unknown to him, this particular cross was blessed by both Shaw and Father Uric. But none of that really mattered as none of the vampires were going to get anywhere near either of the parents now. "Let's get out of here."

*****

End Interlude: Back To The Cave
(We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Ass Kicking)

Cave
12:00

Dragging Willow over to where Buffy and Amy stood talking with Oz, Xander ignored the looks he was getting from the kidnappers. He was tired of acting like the meek kid, and knew that if they all decided to act they could take out the six guards, even though none of them besides Buffy had a weapon.

"I'm not sure why they want me," Buffy was telling Amy in a low tone.

"It's not you they want," Xander told her having heard her words. "They want the Slayer, the Brunette Slayer, the one Spike helpfully pointed out to Drake, who although is dead has somehow gotten word out who she was."

"Cordelia," Amy and Buffy whispered together.

"That's right, Cordelia," Xander replied savagely. "We got to get out of here, Buffy."

"Calm down, Xander," Willow jumped in, seeing the worry on Xander's face. "We will get out of here as soon as we can do it without risk."

"Risk?"

*****

Alifate noticed the group of three girls and two boys mumbling together behind the rest of the children and started to move toward them. Finally, he was going to be able to punish the children. They had been told not to talk while in the cave. Now that he had found that they had, he knew he could punish them without fear from Elimete. Grinning toward another terrorist, he nodded toward the group of kids as he headed toward them.

"You were told to shut up!" Alifate barked at the group as he started to strike the dark headed boy from behind.

If Alifate had had an extra minute to consider the looks the girls were giving him, he may have changed his mind about striking Xander from behind, but since he was raised believing that all Americans were weak, he proceeded in his attack.

What happened next baffled him straight into unconsciousness. He swung the butt of his Uzi straight toward the boys' kidney, and it appeared that it would connect and he was already smiling at the pain he would cause the young man. But just as the butt was supposed to connect with the boy's kidneys, the boy was no longer there. Before he could think any more about it, he was laying on his back looking into the barrel of his own Uzi.

*****

Willow drew a sharp breath as she watched one of their captors approach Xander from the rear. She knew that this man was going to attack Xander and taking a quick look at Amy, she noticed that Amy too was ready for the attack that was about to take place.

"SLOW!" Willow shouted out, at the same time taking a hold of Amy, the closest person to Willow. All action in the room slowed to a crawl; the spell was one that Arrin had given them, in a defensive spell book, however like he had told them all so many times, there was no such thing as a defensive spell. Having realized what he meant at this moment, Willow cast the spell, putting her free hand on Amy so that the spell would not affect her sister witch.

*****

"Mighty Hecate give will to thee, raise the men standing away from me." Amy shouted as she pointed at the two men far from her. As the two kidnappers started to rise Amy smiled. "Hecate hear my cry, make the metal part heat in my eye."

Even though the metal did not react as quickly as it would have had they been in real time, Amy could see that the effects were beginning to take place.

*****

Buffy saw the angry look in Xander's face as the man tried to attack from behind. She also saw Willow and Amy getting ready to help Xander out. Of the group only she had access to a weapon, Vampire Slayer, hidden in its dual dimension under her jacket.

Even though she knew that she must act fast to keep up with her friends, Buffy pulled out Vampire Slayer and started to react to the assault upon her friend. As the sword slid free of its sheath time moved for her just as normal as it did for the two witches. With a quick look around, she deemed the most dangerous man left in the clear was a man who had already pointed his gun at Xander and his finger was slowly tightening on the trigger. Seeing the danger to her friend Buffy stuck without taking time out to think about what she was doing. She brought Vampire Slayer down on the back of the man's hand. The finely crafted blade sliced through his wrist like it was melted butter, and wrist, hand, and Uzi slowly fell to the ground with a silent scream from the man.

*****

Xander saw the worry in Willow's eyes and felt reasonably sure what her worry was over when she sucked in her breath, her hand shooting out as she shouted. Xander dropped into a deep knee bend, his right leg hooking out as he lifted up on his toes, allowing him to spin. His leg hooked behind Alifate's legs and brought him crashing down. Even as Xander came up, he reached out and grabbed the Uzi from the surprised man's hands. He concluded his move by pointing the business end of the Uzi down into the man's face, his hand automatically jerking back the loading lever on the gun.

Even as he pointed the gun at the man, keeping the gun close to his target's face, he took a quick look around and noticed that the girls in fact were gone. He was just about to ask the man who their warlock was when he noticed the man behind him lose his hand. A wicked smile spread across his face as he realized what was happening as two more men started to rise and drop their weapons. "Who sent you after us?"

"I…" The man started but looked over to another man who was floating in the air, his eyes shocked.

Figuring that this was just an Indian and not a chief, Xander used the Uzi like a club and knocked the man out before rising and walking over to the man who was floating. His eyes blazed with hatred when he demanded. "Who sent you after us?"

*****

Elimete was shocked at how easily his group was taken out; he was still processing the information as he watched the boy calmly knock out Alifate and start toward him. He looked at the boy's eyes as he thought of the shame that would fall upon him if this young boy killed him. It was one thing to die as a martyr causing the death of hundreds of the enemies, but quite another to be shot down like a dog. This boy, he was sure, would shoot him down like a dog if his questions were not answered correctly.

"All right, bastard," the boy growled shoving the loaded Uzi into his face. "Who sent you after us?"

A fine film of nervous sweat covered Elimete's face; his lips moved but as yet he could not speak. Finally after a few moments he got his voice, as he remembered the fact that they were in America and the things he was taught and have seen about America gave him strength. Swallowing, he took a deep breath and said. "I want my lawyer."

A truly cruel smile spread across the boy's face as the girls appeared from literally nowhere. "Not this time, this time you tell me or you die, right here right now."

"I have my rights!" Elimete demanded looking up into the eyes of the teenagers.

"You have only what I choose to give you."

Pleadingly he looked at the girls, who were now standing next to the boy while the other teenage boy tied up the rest of his men. Maldron was now in shock over the loss of his hand. "Please you cannot allow this to happen."

"Allow what to happen?" The red haired girl asked with a wicked smirk, looking around as the students were now mulling quietly over on the other side of the room as if nothing were happening. "I really don't see anything happening here, except a school group on a fieldtrip."

Sure enough, as Elimete looked over to the other students he noticed that a teacher was showing them the markings on the wall. Willow had placed a suggestion in the other students' brains about them being here to look for evidence of the history that had taken place here in Sunnydale before the first settlers arrived two hundred years ago.

The look in the boy's eyes screamed that he was a killer. The situation was hopeless. Elimete swallowed and inwardly cursed the woman who had told him that these children would be nothing more than spoiled rich kids to hold for ransom.

Looking away from the children in shame he asked. "What is it that you want to know?"

"Why did you grab us?"

"I was paid to keep you out of town," He answered honestly to the blonde's question.

"Why?"

"Saraha Acheed wants to kill the Wanderer's girlfriend."

"I'm the Wanderer's girlfriend, what the hell are you talking about?" The blond growled, allowing her sword to lightly touch his neck; he felt the sharpness of the blade easily slicing into his neck, leaving a paper-thin cut in it.

"That is not the information we received."

"Is this the girl she is hunting?" The boy with the Uzi growled as he shoved a picture of a dark haired girl into his face.

"That is her." He confirmed.

"They found who they're looking for," the red hair boy said as he brought one of their radios, which was squawking for answers.

*****

As Oz tied up the men, he heard a squawk come from the man's pocket. Figuring that it might be important, he reached into the man's pocket and pulled out the small radio calling for someone to answer it. Putting the device up to the man's face, he let his facial features change a bit to his wolf's before demanding. "Answer."

Seeing the face of a hairy beast momentarily show itself on the boy's face, the man quickly prayed to Allah to be saved and said. "Yes, what is it?"

"We have the girl in sight, this might be over in a few hours. Make sure that they are all secured or dead when you leave. Allah be praised."

"Allah be praised," the man replied weakly as he tried to back up a bit from this strange boy.

Nodding, Oz left the man tied up and moved over to the others to report his findings.

"They found who they're looking for." Oz told the others as he offered the radio to Buffy.

"Call them, scrub the mission." Buffy told the man as she pushed the radio toward their captive.

"I cannot."

"You can't," Xander screamed as he shoved the gun closer to the man.

"I cannot."

"I have no use for this man," Xander said as he started to pull the trigger, only to be stopped by Buffy.

"This isn't how we do things, Xander," Buffy replied softly as she looked down at the man. "Be very hopeful that your friends do not touch the girl. If they do, I won't be able to control him, and to be honest I don't think I would want to."

*****

Part 5: Goodfellow To The Rescue
(Vengeance Girl Done Pissed Off The Wrong Prom Queen)

Sunnydale

"Sucks to be the dog that loses his tail," Robin replied calmly as he flipped a switch on the side of his phone. After realizing that the Mayor was working against them, Steve had used his contacts with the CIA to install at least one secure line into each of the kid's houses, while the cell phones were all replaced by secure versions. The secure line would allow them to talk freely without the fear of being tapped. "Alright Cordy, it's safe, what is going on?"

"I think I have someone tailing me."

"Where are you?"

"Oak Street, headed toward Xander's."

"Alright, I'll meet you there. Be careful."

"Well, duh!"

"I'll meet you at Xander's," Robin replied as he hung up the phone.

*****

Cordelia parked her car in front of Xander's home and briskly walked up to the door, stopping at the mailbox to get the mail that Xander never seemed to get. Taking her time, she skimmed though the mail seeing that most of it was to the occupant. She felt a light touch on her shoulder, and having not heard anyone approach, she quickly turned around which saved her life. Just as she turned she felt a breeze past her left ear, then a solid thud sounded on the door followed closely by the sound of a rifle going off.

Judging by sound of the bullet striking the door, she knew that it had to be some type of sniper rifle. She brought out her keys but they snagged on her purse and were pulled out of her hand, dropping to the ground. Stooping down, she thought she still had another second or so while the shooter reloaded. But when her hand touched the keys, she heard another thud on the door, followed by another crack of the rifle.

Three shots followed, the second shot with only a split second between them. Cordelia was looking for someplace more suitable for protection. Looking in front of her, she noticed Xander's big front window. Springing to her feet, she charged and leaped through the window, bringing glass and sash into the living room with her. She did not pause to look around, but scrambled behind a wall, hoping it was reinforced enough to protect her from the unseen shooter.

Robin appeared with a small flash of light in the middle of the living room behind Cordelia.

"GET DOWN! Someone is shooting at us!" Cordelia said urgently.

"What's happening, Peaches?" Robin asked as he erected a force field that, although invisible, was big enough to cover the front door and window.

"I don't know, it can't be the guy who's been stalking me, he drove away the minute the first shot rang out, and he didn't spare any gas either."

"Have you spotted the shooter yet?" Robin asked as he moved over to the surveillance equipment that Xander had installed.

"No. I don't know if he's a bad shot or if I'm unusually lucky today."

Just as she was about to move toward a cabinet where she knew a rifle was waiting she noticed a white object starting to take form. At first she was nervous, and prepared to dive for cover when the thing started to speak, catching both her and Robin by surprise.

"Warning, Cordelia, Danger, Woman, kill. Group in high desert."

"We better call Steve," Robin replied. Without waiting for an answer, he pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial. When the phone was finally answered he said, "We have a problem."

*****

Lawrence Antiques
12:00

"I'm telling you, Steve," Robert Lawrence said to his top and only salesman. "If we get many more of these big things, I am going to hire a few guys to do the lifting."

Even though his words were sourly said, Robert Lawrence was a very happy man. He had hired Steve St. Wolf just over a year ago and already had enjoyed a seventy-five percent increase of customers at his shop. The introduction of the world wide web was something he had not been sure about at first, but after seeing the influx of traffic, he was glad he had met Steve and promised himself to buy Duncan a big Christmas present this year. A side benefit that seemed to be passed over, since no one wanted to talk about it, was the sudden influx of new residents, and the introduction of a somewhat safe nightlife. He had heard that a group based out of San Francisco wanted to open a nightclub called P3-2 or something like that. Being in the Rotary Club, he also had information on various warehouses being bought, and the Cybertronics building being refurbished to hold the Wolfshead detective agency and a non-profit charitable organization. He knew Steve had something to do with both, but so far Steve had not told him, and he would not pry.

"If you're getting to old to handle the workout, maybe you should at least buy some equipment that would make the job easier." Steve laughed before going on. "I would call in Xander and Oz but they're both at school."

Almost on cue the phone rang, followed by Carol screaming "Robert! Steve!" then the sound of a TV being turned on.

Both men rushed into the living room, where they watched in horror as an ambulance pulled away from the TV cameraman. The announcer was already reporting when the two men walked into the room.

"We do not know the particulars of what is happening, but our prayers go out to the students on the busses. To recap, the senior class of Sunnydale High School has been kidnapped in what has to be the most daring kidnappings in recent memory. In broad daylight on the coastal highway, both busses, full of children were taken away. One man was found dead on the scene, but his name is being withheld for notification of his next of kin. The news was first reported when Sheila Rosenberg, a noted local child psychologist, was dropped off unconscious at the Sunnydale Memorial Hospital…"

Too stunned to say anything, Steve just watched the TV as his cell phone buzzed. Picking it up automatically, he whispered into it, his voice sounding dull. "Steve."

"We have a problem," Robin replied in a serious voice.

"What was your first clue?" Steve replied sarcastically, being jolted out of his shock at the idiotic understatement.

"Someone just tried to drill a hole in Cordelia's head."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Steve barked in to the phone, causing both Robert and Carol to stare at him in shock. After a minute he nodded and said in a much more stable voice. "Alright, keep her there, but you better turn on the TV, looks like something big is going on."

Hanging up the phone, he turned to Robert. "Sorry, but something has come up and I have to go."

"Of course," Robert replied, already in the process of locking the trailer. "Do you need help?"

"Robert!!!" Carol said, still not comfortable with knowing what her husband used to do.

"No, not right now," Steve informed Robert, ignoring Carol's outburst. "We still don't know what's going on."

Watching Steve walk out the door, Robert turned to his wife and sighed, "Ya know honey, I honestly don't know who to feel sorry for, the kids for going through such an awful experience, or the kidnappers who now have to deal with a very dangerous young man."

"I hope he will be careful. Buffy was probably on that trip."

*****

After the fifth shot, Saraha stripped the weapon and stuck it in the case while heading out of the area. She had lost the advantage of surprise, but felt sure that her shot was a sure thing. Making sure to pick up the brass casings, Saraha stopped for a moment, then angrily pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled quickly on it. She put it down with a brass casing as a paperweight before she hurriedly left the area, wondering when she would again get a shot at the girl.

She was not sure how she had missed the first shot; it was almost as if the girl had dodged the bullet. But that was impossible, how could she know? She ran the whole scene over in her head, the sights of the Dragunov had been aligned with her head, she reached out to open the door, then all of a sudden she turned, then the bullet passed her. Could she have heard the shot first? However unlikely it seemed, that must have been the case in this situation. She turned and looked right at her, but Saraha knew that she was too far from her, there was no way the girl could have seen her. The second bullet missed because she dropped her keys, the next three missed because she got anxious and shot as the girl jumped through the window. // You will not live to see the sun set, girl; this I vow. //

*****

Summers Art Gallery
12:15

"Joyce," Steve said as he walked into the gallery, closing and locking the door behind him putting up the closed sign. "We have to talk."

"One minute, Steve," Joyce called back to him as she came into the front showroom. Frowning as she noticed Steve's actions, she called Sherlock to her side before she, with a tinge of fear in her voice, asked, "What is wrong, Steve?"

"You better sit down," Steve replied, pointing to a high back chair.

"Buffy," Joyce whispered as she fell into her seat, shock seeping in, then her voice took on a touch of anger as she went on. "Where is she, Steve? What happened?"

"They were supposed to be taking a field trip," Steve started, trying to break the news to her gently. "They apparently never made it to the hospital. Sheila Rosenberg was dropped off at the hospital with her head busted open and a bus driver was shot."

"What about the kids?"

"We don't know anything yet."

"How are you going to find them?"

"I don't know yet, there are a few phone calls I need to make."

"I'm coming with you," Joyce replied, closing off any argument. With Sherlock by her side, she started for the front door.

*****

Desert

"Shit!" Amy said as she walked in after having gone outside to make sure it was all clear. "They took the busses and van away."

"Too bad Shaw isn't here, with her training we could find our way home quick enough."

"Can I just say for Oz's and my tracking abilities…HEY"

"No offense, guys,"

"Look, guys, I am all for getting everyone back safe, but first we have to get word to Cordy and let her know that she is a target," Xander growled brushing off Amy's attempt of hilarity

"That has to be our first line of business," Buffy ordered as she looked at the two witches, "What about it, can either of you teleport or contact Artemis to warn Cordy?"

"Teleporting is out," Amy stated with finality "We did not bring those type of components."

"Try Artemis," Xander growled, "Being her first new Amazon, Cordy has to have some type of pull."

"Will's already on it," Amy replied indicating over to where the Red witch was calling out to Artemis.

"We have to get word to her."

"Calm down Xander," Buffy ordered, her own voice full of worry. "Getting excited won't help."

"I might have a way," Amy whispered unsure of her words.

"How?" Buffy asked as Xander moved over to the cave opening.

"Arrin had a spell called message guardian," Amy replied as she picked a twig from a nearby bush, "I don't know the specifics since I just stumbled onto it the other day, but it doesn't need any ingredients and it works as a messenger. Travels at the speed of sound, and can perform menial tasks, but will dispel when its original command is accomplished."

"Any drawbacks?"

"Only one," Amy smiled at the concerned look on Buffy's face. "It takes lots of energy to cast this particular spell, so, after I do it, I won't be jumping around for four or five hours."

"Can you track it?"

"Its progress?"

"Yeah, to make sure it gets to Cordy,"

"I will know when it is done but I can't follow it all the way."

"Do it,"

"Can't contact Artemis," Willow said dejectedly, "forgot she is out of the dimension on her yearly trek with her cousin, won't be able to contact her for another week."

Turning from Buffy, Amy went about to cast the spell under the watchful eye of Willow who also had read the spell but did not commit it to memory. When all the preparations were done the two witches joined hands to put more energy into the spell and started to chant "deliver our warning to our sister."

Three times the girls chanted the words before a dot of light formed in front of them on the ground, then floated up level with Amy's chin, seeing the light hovering before them, both of the witches ordered, "GO!".

At that moment, the light rocketed away leaving nothing but a faint light trail as it flew over the desert on its way to Sunnydale and Cordelia. As it sped out of sight the two witches dropped to their knees, exhausted from the effort it had taken to cast the spell.

Helping the two girls up, Oz and Xander moved them over into the shade at the opening of the cave so they could get some rest; Xander was just about to ask Amy a question when he heard a commotion coming from further in the cave.

*****

"Class, please sit down and we will find a way out of this," Mrs. Simms told the class. "Does anyone here have a cell phone?"

"They took them on the Bus," Tor "the tor-nado"Hauer said sarcastically as he walked over and put his arm around Harmony as he whispered in her ear, "Don't worry babe, I'll keep you safe."

"All right, we might as well start walking toward town. Do any of you know where we are?"

Looking around the room she noticed that all the students were too much in a shock to answer her with any degree of certainty. "OK. Then, we will head east and hope that we find someone who would be willing to help us."

Calling the students, she started them outside but found her way blocked by Xander who stood in the middle of the opening. "Xander, please step aside and let the class out."

"Where are you going?" Xander asked.

"We are going to start for home."

"Sure you wanna do that?" Xander asked with a knowing smile on his face.

"Of course we do, now step aside."

"Alright, but you might want to take a few things into account."

"Such as?"

"First, you don't have any water, and we are about ninety minutes by car away from the freeway, second, we are in the California high desert area."

"Shut up, Xander," Tor replied sarcastically, "What the hell would you know about it?"

"Hey, I was just telling ya," Xander said as he stepped out of the way. "You do what you want."

Looking questionably at Xander, Mrs. Simms followed by Tor then the rest of the students started to exit the cave but were blocked again by Buffy this time.

"Where are you going?"

"We are all headed back." Mrs. Simms replied sternly. "Get your possessions and come along."

"Lady, the only place you're going is back into that cave until the sun gets lower," Buffy snapped. "Now get back in there and sit down, conserve your strength for later."

Backing down under Buffy's command voice the teacher along with her students stood stunned looking at the girl, who just stood there with her arms crossed just under her breasts.

*****

Buffy heard the words Xander had with the teacher and the others; she also realized that Xander would have let them go out on their own if they wanted to be bold about it. However she could not allow the others to go out on their own, Steve had talked to her about stepping up to the plate and now she realized what he'd meant.

"Listen, I'm sorry for being the hard ass here Mrs. Simms, but if I let you all go out there in the heat of the day some of you are going to get dehydrated or worse, there are poisonous snakes out there, and we don't have any medication if someone gets bit, so for now just go back in and sit down."

"All right," the woman replied in a voice so lost for words that Buffy thought she was having a stroke. "I just want to do what is best for the children."

"We are," Buffy replied in a much softer tone, "Please just keep them inside while we figure out what the best plan would be."

Watching the woman go back in the cave, Buffy shook her head feeling the pains of responsibility pounding down on her. Turning back to Xander she asked. "All right Xander, do you have anything in that mind of yours about this situation?"

"Actually I have been thinking about it," Xander replied while he watched the school group disappear deeper into the cave. "First we are going to have to leave here at sunset, that will give us about 5 hours of travel time before everyone starts to get sleepy, it will also give myself and Oz enough light to get something for the group to drink and eat."

"I'll go," Oz told Xander as he put his hand/paw on Xander's shoulder.

*****

Sunnydale

The light shot at the speed of sound through the high desert arriving at the city limits of Sunnydale even before the girls dropped. It rocketed to the only being it knew existed catching her standing just outside a door opening a mailbox. Feeling a danger nearby the light brushed against the girls' shoulders causing her to spin around, as a bullet punched a hole in the door.

Then as the girl dug into her purse the light sensed more danger and caused the girl to drop her keys, as the girl bent down to retrieve them a second then a third shot slammed into the door. By this time the girl knew she was in danger. Now the light just had one more task to accomplish and followed her into the room.

Watching the girl hide behind a couch while another more powerful being appeared in the room the light started to take shape and darken in color so they could see it. The light solidified and the words built into the spell were projected outward to the two in the room.

"Warning, Cordelia, Danger, Woman, kill. Group in high desert."

*****

Desert

Oz knew that between Buffy and Xander that the group would be all right. Buffy had the leadership needed to keep the kids and the teacher in line. Xander had his soldier knowledge to keep them all alive. He also knew that Xander would not be able to find water fast enough, while he in his werewolf form could find the water much more quickly.

Realizing that time arguing about who would go would be wasted he changed his hand into the wolf form before the argument could begin. As he had thought, Xander bowed out and allowed him to continue on his own in search for water. He jogged out of sight before he changed fully into the wolf and prowled around the area keeping within a mile radius of the cave. He was about a half mile up the mountain when his nose found what he was searching for, an underground stream. With one powerful swipe of his left arm he knocked enough rock and debris away to expose the water. He took a small handful and tasted the water then smiled to himself before strategically placing a few rocks to ensure that the stream would run straight down the left side of the cave. Taking another drink he smiled to himself then started his way back down.

*****

Xander stepped back when he felt Oz's paw on his shoulder as he thought about the amount of time it would take either of them to find water. Watching Oz head off, he grabbed up one of the Uzi's before he turned to Buffy.

"Keep them inside, try to get them to grab some sleep, I will go out and get us something to eat."

Heading out Xander took his time and kept his eyes on the ground. He knew that the gun would not be necessary for the type of meat he would be bringing back, however he figured that if he fired into the air a few times, maybe a passing motorist would hear and get curious.

He was about a mile away from the cave when he found something he could use, a fifteen foot diamond back rattler who was headed to its rock. Knowing that a 9 mm bullet would probably render the snake uneatable he grabbed the snake just behind the head in a lighting fast grab, then without pausing he grabbed the snake just under his right hand and ripped the body away from the head before the snake had time to wrap itself around his arm. Holding the body at arms length he let the life of the snake slowly dwindle out of it as it thrashed around knowing that it could easily take up to an hour before the body would stop moving. Not having that kind of time he held the body down and used his knife to split the snake in half and gut it.

Hustling back to the cave he stayed to the left of the opening and built a small fire place using a few rocks. Then he found a few long twigs and cut the rattlesnake up into bite sized pieces, then placed them over the fire to cook. The meat was just about done when he heard the small trickle of water as it made its way down the mountainside.

Seeing the water pool itself at the bottom of the slope Xander dug a small hole and lined it with small rocks. At the water's rate of flow, he guessed that it would take about 20 to 30 minutes to fill the small basin, now he would have to make something in which to carry the water. He knew he could find a rabbit and that by killing it and then curing the skin he could use it as a canteen, but the curing process would take too long. He also knew of another way, he would implement his idea after everyone drank their fill and they were ready to go.

*****

Smelling the meat as its aroma drifted past her, Amy rose and walked out of the cave checking to see what smelled so good. Seeing the meat squares on the sticks she smiled but did not ask where the meat came from. Reaching down she took one of the kabobs and lifted it to her nose. Setting it back down she moved over to where Xander was digging the hole that would eventually be a small well. The first thing she noticed was that Xander was pushing himself pretty hard.

"Calm down, Xan, Cordy will be OK."

"She'd better be," he growled as he looked back in the cave. "Or Spike's a dead man. Again."

"Come on, Xan, you know Spike had to do it."

"He could have turned in Buffy; he could have turned in me for that matter."

"They would have known it wasn't you," Amy laughed trying to get Xander to see the humor in his words. "You just too damn ugly as a girl."

Amy watched as Xander's eyes faded a bit as if he was remembering something. Then a smile came to his lips as he said, "Truer words were never spoken."

"Got that right," Buffy agreed with a smile.

As Xander turned back to the fire there was a small flash of light as Robin and Shaw teleported in.

*****

Part 6: Chess
(The Bad Guys Make Their Moves To Cover Up Their Roles And Cover Their Asses)

Drake's warehouse
2 pm.

"We have the boy," Billy told Drake after he hung up the phone, "Michael is on his way back."

"Very good, how are the others doing?"

"We have lost contact with them, however Saraha has made her move, it was a miss."

Nodding his head Drake sat back with a smile on his face, this seemed to be moving along better than he would have hoped for. With one of the Slayer's friends as his hostage, and the rest of them slated to die in the high desert, Drake felt that by the end of the week Sunnydale would be his. The Wanderer would be distraught and easily taken care of, he had heard of course of how the others had failed in their dealings with the two of them. To his knowledge no one had ever tried the oldest tactic in the book, to divide and conquer so he decided to try it himself, only he did not want to be in the area of any fall out. Turning his back on Billy, Drake walked back into the main room of the warehouse where a group of vampires stood waiting. Raising his hand to get their attention, he announced. "I believe the next twenty-four hours is going to change things dramatically."

His words although softly spoken instantly had the attention of the entire room as the import of them became clear. The vampires exploded in pandemonium, questions were called out at the same time one overriding each other. Drake let confusion reign for a few minutes before he again raised his hand for the silence that soon followed. "The Slayer is in a fight for her life, her friends are all being held hostage, and tonight is going to be a great time to take back this town."

"The Wanderer won't stand by while we do it!" someone called from the back. "What about him?"

"He will be too distraught over the loss of his girl to do anyone any good. If he finds out what is going on before she dies he will be too busy with her," Drake replied with a sinister smile. "Besides I took out a small insurance policy just in case."

Mayhem again erupted in the room as the vampires talked among themselves, excited to be part of the group that would finally take the Slayer down.

*****

Mayor's office

"Someone took the two busses of student's hostage just out of town, one dead, one in the hospital." Mr. Trick informed the Mayor who was sitting behind his shiny oak desk.

"Well shoot, I hope the buckaroos are all safe."

"I believe we all do," Mr. Trick replied not sure what the mayor meant. Seemed to him that the mayor was a bit off his rocker, but since he was the big power he would follow for now.

"Oh Mr. Trick, make sure that the abduction of the busses is kept a secret for now, we don't want the FBI or the Police to be nosing around just yet."

"That is going to be hard since it has already hit the news."

"Fix it."

"Right away," Mr. Trick replied leaving the office careful to close the door.

*****

Police Station

"What do you mean no one is going out to look at the site?" Waco asked the mustering Sergeant.

"Those are the orders," the sergeant replied calmly never taking his eyes off the papers in front of him as he turned and walked out of the room leaving a very angry Waco in his wake.

Waco watched the Sergeant walk off and turned back to the rest of the afternoon police shift; he was surprised to see that no one in the room showed any concern. Grunting in anger, he strolled out of the room missing the looks that Officer's Patterson and Carstairs had spared him.

Waco was in a ugly mood as he stormed down the passageway headed for the office of the watch captain, he ignored the secretary as she stood up to stop him while he stormed past and into the office. He demanded, "I want to know what the hell is going on!"

"You will know only what I choose to tell you!" Captain Simpson barked at Waco in a commanding voice. "Officer Waco, you are skating on thin ice here. Be mindful of that if you ever think to burst into my office again."

"Sir with all due respect we are talking about a group of children!" Waco replied a lot of his bluster gone now. "We can't just turn our backs."

"Every possible avenue is being explored to get the children back, Officer. Now return to your normal activities."

Walking back out of the office Waco was still angry. He realized that he could not get anything done in his current state of mind. Forcing himself to calm down he went back to the operations room and picked up his notebook ignoring the looks he received as he walked out of the room.

Walking into the parking lot Waco was still steaming as he pulled out his cell phone and punched in a number by memory.

"Get me Captain Randall," Waco spoke harshly into the cell phone. "Tell him it's Waco."

"What is the situation Waco?" Captain Randall's calm voice came over the phone after only a few minutes. "What is wrong?"

"Two bus loads of high school seniors were abducted on the road out of town," he replied his voice tight with concern, "we have been ordered to bury it."

"Have anything to go on?"

"Not yet, should I investigate?"

"Not yet, I want more on what is going on in that town, I will call St. Wolf and ask him what he is going to do about it. Continue the surveillance and find out who gave the order to bury it."

"Alright," Waco replied obviously not liking the order but obeying it for now. Getting into his patrol car he leaned back to await his partner.

*****

Xander's Condo

"What the Hell happened here?" Sonja asked as she and Gabby strode into the living room of Xander's condo looking at the glass that lay all over the floor.

"Cordelia, are you alright?" The Amazon Queen asked, concern evident in her voice as she hugged her raven-haired daughter to her breast.

"Some asshole was following me, then, when I get here, somebody tried to use me for target practice!"

"Are you all right, honey?" Joyce asked having entered the room with Steve just in time to hear Cordelia's statement. "What is going on, Steve?"

Looking at the door where the bullet had struck it, Steve turned his head following the trajectory of the bullet. He started across the street to where a new house was being built. Climbing up onto the roof he picked up the shell of a large caliber bullet along with a note. He opened the note, read it, and grunted. Then, he closed it and placed it into his pocket before jogging back across the street where the women awaited him.

"What the Hell is going on, Steve?" The Amazon monarch demanded when she witnessed the look of concern on his face.

"Someone got some bad information and is acting under a mistaken impression," Steve replied as he looked apologetically at Cordelia. "Whoever it is, is smart, probably smarter than anyone we've ever faced."

"Why do you say that?" Cordelia asked, worried by the tone of Steve's voice. Taking the note from his hands she asked. "What is this?" St. Wolf said nothing; he just nodded for her to read the note.

"What is it?" Gabby asked taking the note from Cordelia who was stunned after reading it.

"The person after Cordelia believes Cordelia is my girlfriend. They want her dead and they are holding the others just so we won't get involved."

*****

The Note:

To the Wanderer's Bitch,
You were able to dodge this bullet. I will make certain that the next one gets you even if it takes my dying breath. I have come to the realization that you should know the reason you shall die by my hand. You and that accursed lover of yours invaded my country, shot my brother down in cold blood for defending our property, and murdered all of his comrades. Now his loving sister will avenge him by taking your decadent and worthless life. My associates have secured your companions in a concealed location with orders to kill them if you try to avoid the justice of your fate at my hands by involving the Wanderer. This is between you and I, Slayer-woman to woman. Unless you want their blood on your hands, you should avoid risking the lives of your friends by involving anyone else.

The Avenging Hand of My Dear Brother

*****

"Goddess...s-she wants to kill Buffy," Cordelia whispered.

"Actually," Robin drawled, "She wants to kill the Wanderer's girlfriend and she has the notion that she's you." At the harsh glares he received from Joyce, Steve, Gabrielle, and Sonja, the sprite nervously glanced at their faces and asked, "What?"

However, Cordelia ignored him and her face began to turn scarlet red as she lost her temper. "That bitch wants to kill one of my best friends and she has someone holding Xander hostage!"

"We'll find them," Gabby said putting her hand on Cordelia shoulder.

"You do that," Cordelia snarled as she shrugged off the comforting hand of her queen and stepped away from Gabrielle. "But I'm going to hunt down this psychopathic bitch and kill her. She has endangered my friends and has attacked me; now she's going to find out that payback's a bitch and I’m The Bitch!"

"Cordelia, calm down,"

"You calm down Steve, this bitch is mine."

"For now lets concentrate on finding the others," Joyce ordered concern for her daughter thick in her voice.

"No problem there," Robin said from where he sat trying to keep out of the conversation since he already received the look once this afternoon.

"Who was on the busses?"

"Seniors only," Cordelia growled as her mind connected the dots. "This was a set up; I was supposed to be with them.

"Alright, let's get down to business, Cordelia where were they headed?"

"The trip was to the hospital children's ward."

"Gabby call the hospital, find out if they even expected the group, Sonja, see if you can trace the shooter anywhere."

"I am not going to just stand around and wait," Cordelia told the others as she stood up, "Half of our group is at the school, the other half is kidnapped, and this bitch wants me let her come get me."

"Half our group?" Steve asked as he turned back to Cordelia, "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, duh-only the seniors went on the fieldtrip, so Shaw and the others who aren't seniors are still at school."

"The kids are in the high desert, I know exactly where they are." Robin stated matter-of-factly,.

All eyes turned to Robin as his words finally sunk in, "HOW" they all yelled at once.

"Xander and Oz are with them."

"Can you get them back here?"

"Not all of them, Remember Magic only for life saving, we can go pick them up from here."

"Are they safe?"

"Joyce if they were not safe I would already be gone." Robin smiled calming everyone's fears.

Cordelia watched as Steve's orders were carried out but inside she still wanted to go out and face this threat. Like the rest of the group she was fiercely loyal to the others and any attack upon any of them was an attack against her as well. This attack was different though, this attack was a very bad mistake for whomever had set this thing up. Now it became not only a matter of loyalty to Buffy, but a personal matter, a matter that she would take care of with or without Steve's permission.

*****

"Big mistake," Steve mumbled to himself a smile coming to his face as a plan formed in his mind.

"What are you talking about?" Cordelia asked

"Giles and Jenny are going to be the undoing of this group."

"How?"

"Hopefully they'll be able to find the shooter."

"Again, how?"

"We can have them cast a spell to find the shooter."

"Can she do that?"

"Hopefully they can cast the tracking spell Amy and Willow can cast," Steve told them all, looking over to where Cordelia was holding her G3 rifle he went on in a low growl. "We are going to capture this woman, not kill her."

"All right," Cordelia replied putting down the rifle. "But that is the last time she shoots at me and doesn't get something for her troubles."

*****

Part 7: Back Up
(The Scoobies Send Reinforcements Of The Pointy-Eared Variety)

Sunnydale High

"Students, due to current events we are dismissing class for the remainder of the day. Please gather in the main quad and await your parents or guardians to pick you up." The loudspeaker was greeted with cheers and shouts as the students rose to leave the classrooms.

"Please leave in an orderly fashion kids," Miss Calendar told the kids where were even now rising up from the computer terminals, some almost reluctantly as her class was popular. Hearing a commotion at the back door Jenny turned toward it and watched as two students pushed their way into the room. "Shaw, Faith, what are you doing here?"

"Kinda figured to hitch a ride from ya. So, what's up?"

Giles came in the room from the other end of the room.

"It seems that there was an attack on the busses."

"Attack?" Faith asked

"I don't know all the details at the moment, I just received the preliminaries from my radio, but the blasted news shut down just as they were reporting it."

"The whole group was taken?" Jenny asked gathering her things.

"I-I believe so, however I didn't catch it all," Giles replied as he tried to remain calm.

"We better contact Steve, huh?" Faith asked

"Already did, we are meeting up at Xander's condo." Shaw told the others as she turned to leave running straight into the Jamaican Slayer

"What is going on?" Kendra asked as she helped steady Shaw who had just literally walked into her.

"We are not sure yet, something about the seniors' field trip being attacked," Faith replied as she followed Shaw out of the room.

"Buffy," Kendra whispered, concern for her sister Slayer jumping to the forefront.

"And Amy," Shaw growled anger easily being heard in her voice.

As the group walked out into the hall way they ran into Principle Snyder who was currently yelling at a student who was in her locker.

"Young lady," Snyder was growling as Shaw stormed by. "When I tell the students to go home, I mean now, not tomorrow."

"I wanted to…."

"Don't talk, just go now."

"Asshole," Faith mumbled to Shaw as they walked by. "Wonder when was the last time he got laid."

"Huh?" Shaw asked as they walked out the front doors, realizing that she had never thought about it.

"Disturbing," Giles muttered from behind them.

"And disgusting," Kendra added.

"I don't know much, but I do know this, all troubles that men have can be directly linked to sex or the lack of it, and in Snyder's case my bet is going to the lack of it."

"Faith!" the group exclaimed as they all got into Jenny's car.

*****

Police parking lot

"Dan, I've been watching Waco," Wanda Carstairs addressed her partner as they walked out to their patrol car. "Something's not right there."

"Talk is that he was chased out of his last assignment, something about him being dirty."

"It doesn't fit."

"What do you mean?"

"He seemed honestly concerned about the kids, and he stormed into the Captain's office over it." Wanda replied trying to put all the pieces together. "That sound like a dirty cop to you?"

"He could have a soft spot for children."

"Could be," Wanda replied still not believing it. Looking at Daniel Patterson for a second she asked. "But normally when a person has a soft spot for kids it's for the very young, the kids on those buses were seniors."

"Oh shit!!!!" Daniels exclaimed as something dawn on him. "Wanda, the Summers girl, what grade is she in?"

The two officers looked at each other for a few minutes as they both realized who would be getting involved in this case. After a minute of silence Patterson went on his voice hinted with a bit of fear. "Trade places with Domingo, I will get in touch with Jason, see if he can find out if Stein is involved with this. Wanda, be careful, I don't fully trust Waco."

Nodding her head in agreement Wanda left her partner and headed over to where Waco sat in his patrol car meeting up with Officer Sanchez on the way.

"Hello Domingo," Wanda Carstairs greeted a large Hispanic officer who looked like he just took his uniform out of the laundry bin, as she got closer the smell that seemed to accompany him every where he went assaulted her nose.

"Morning, Officer Carstairs," he replied shortly.

"The Sergeant told me that you and I should change partners today." Wanda lied trying to make it all seem on the level.

"He didn't tell me anything about it," Domingo replied confused. "What about Patterson, we don't get along too good."

"Don't worry about Dan, he's OK with it." Wanda replied evenly.

"Alright, but if something happens, it's all on you."

Moving past Officer Sancho without really paying him any more attention, Wanda advanced to the patrol car in which Waco sat, his fingers nervously tapping on the wheel

*****

Waco's Patrol Car

Waco sat none too patiently in his car when Wanda Carstairs slipped into the passengers seat and buckled up. He gave her a disapproving glance but when she didn't exit the car he asked in an annoyed voice, "What the Hell do you think you're doing?"

"Your partner and I changed cars for this shift. Sergeant approved it."

Waco had been studying people for over a hundred years so he was reasonably sure that the tremor in Wanda's voice was due to her lying but instead of calling her on it he just nodded his head and put the car in drive. <This woman is up to something, might as well play along and find out what I can.>

"Why the change?" He asked as they traveled down Main Street.

"Don't know, something about you barging into the Captain's office." Wanda replied but her answer was too quick for Waco as he nodded his head. <All right, sweetie, let's play your game.>

*****

Officer Patterson's patrol car

Officer Daniel Patterson watched with concern as his partner for the past 9 months walked away, as he pulled out his cell phone to call Officer Jason Hendricks, the third of the obstinate trio. "Jason, this is Hendricks, you realize that the Summers girl may be in the group who was taken on the busses this morning, right?"

"Oh shit," the reply came at once.

"This means…."

"Maybe you and Wanda should go over by his house and see what he does."

"I'm with Domingo today."

"Why?"

"Wanda thinks something is strange about the file we have read on Waco, she wants to feel him out."

"Dangerous game if all we have heard about him is true."

'I know," Patterson replied with concern, "but you know how she gets."

"Keep me informed" the senior of the three replied as he closed the connection.

*****

"So what do you think about the situation?" Wanda asked out of the blue.

"Why should I care?" he replied flatly.

"Pull over here." Wanda ordered Waco as they rolled past the café shop, "We need to talk."

As Waco pulled over to a stop in front of the Magic Box, Wanda turned and quickly looked him over. She noticed a few things that she did not realize before and felt slightly ashamed about it. The first thing that caught her attention was his uniform, how each crease was sharper than which would have been the case if a cop was dirty, next her eyes fell upon his buckle and belt which was well taken care of but worn all the same. The watch he wore slightly hidden under his shirt sleeve was one that could be bought in any K-mart for under five dollars. Next she looked into the most caring blue eyes she would have sworn she looked into. Putting these all together she wondered who this man was. "Waco, you're not who you seem to be, are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You drive a fifty thousand dollar car, you live in a house that even here in Sunnydale would cost close to two hundred fifty thousand dollars, and your hobbies are antique guns, specifically hand gun of the revolver types, which cost money. Now I realize that here in Sunnydale we get paid a bit more than normally the case, but still not enough to maintain that kind of life."

"Last time someone called me dirty they didn't sugar coat it." Waco growled

"I don't believe you're dirty."

"Then what are you implying?"

"I don't know, but I don't care about all that, none of my concern." Wanda replied as she decided to lay her cards on the table. "Things in this precinct aren't what they seem. Too many disappearances, murder rate through the roof, and most people walk about like everything is fine. I want to find out what is going on."

"What does that got to do with me?"

"Why are you here?" Wanda asked as she looked Waco straight in the eye.

*****

Los Angeles Police Department office

"Pamela," Capt Randall yelled at his secretary as he hung up the phone, "Get me St. Wolf on the phone."

"Steve St. Wolf on line one Captain," The static voice of Officer Pamela Gray came back after only a minute.

"Steve, are you working on this problem?" Capt Randall asked jumping into subject at hand.

"Yes," came the reply in a growl.

"That is good; someone has ordered that no investigation be done."

"They might wanna stay out of my way on this one;" Steve replied calmly, "Buffy was on that bus."

"Anything I can do to help?" Randall asked

*****

Xander's home

Steve growled as he hung up the phone after talking to Shaw, turning to the room he informed them all, "That was Shaw, she said that school had been closed for the day they are on their way here."

"That is good; we are going to need them to crack this case." Sonja replied as she made coffee for the group.

Just as Steve started to look over a map that Gabby had laid out on the table of the high desert area his phone rang again.

"Better be good," He answered the phone not expecting anyone to call.

"Please hold for a call from Captain Randall from LAPD."

"Steve, are you working on this problem?" Capt Randall asked jumping into subject at hand.

"Yes," came the reply in a growl.

"That is good; someone has ordered that no investigation be done."

"They might wanna stay out of my way on this one;" Steve replied calmly, "Buffy was on that bus."

"Anything I can do to help?" Randall asked

"As a matter of fact their might be," Steve sighed in relief as a plan formed in his mind. "Can you get your copter over the high desert between here and LA, the kids are up there somewhere. They have already escaped their captors, I am pretty sure of that."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Trust me, I have a feeling."

"It's a long shot."

"Captain, they have six of my operatives up there, I will be willing to bet that the tables have turned." Steve replied not knowing that Larry did not go on the trip.

"I will contact the California Search and Rescue Organization and get them to send every team they have available."

"Thank you Captain," Steve replied his voice lifting as if a weight was lifted from his shoulders. "I have another problem to deal with, but I am sending two of my operatives out there to aid in the search."

"All right, I will call Rogers and get him to lead the search out that way since that is part of LA county"

"Thanks John." Steve sighed as he hung up the phone. Looking over to Robin he informed the group, "That was our friend Captain John Randall, he is going to help us out in the search for the guys."

"I will go," Robin volunteered himself.

"Take Shaw with you in case someone is hurt."

Reaching over Robin, took Shaw by the hand and disappeared teleporting them to where Xander knelt down over the fire.

*****

Outside the Cave

"Anyone here hurt?" Shaw asked as she and Robin appeared a few feet from Xander surprising him enough that he fell back from where he was squatting over the fire.

"Hello, cuz," Amy yelled happily as she ran to Shaw hugging her. "What took you so long?"

"We are here only as a preliminary scouting trip, choppers should be filling the skies any moment, we were sent to see if anyone needed any immediate attention."

"Everyone is OK," Buffy told them, "We need busses to get back, though."

"It's being taken care of." Shaw informed the blond slayer, "Captain Randall is sending some choppers to look for you, and I will guide them here."

"How?" Buffy asked, "I mean, how will you explain your presence here?"

"They won't see us," Robin told the worried Slayer, "We will be invisible."

"All right, get it done, someone is after Cordelia because they think she's me."

"We know all about it," Shaw told the group, "A woman already made a try for Cordelia, the rest of them are working on that angle of it."

"All right, get to it;" Buffy told the two, as they left she turned to Xander, "We will look for the choppers, Xander, start gathering anything that will burn."

She watched as Xander stood up and walked inside the cave just as Oz came down the hill buttoning up his shirt. "Was that Robin?"

"Yep, we are getting out of here soon." Buffy said picking up a kabob, "We might not have to eat this."

"Smells good," Oz said as he also picked up one and pulled a small piece of meat off it swallowing it whole he went on, "Can't let it go to waste."

*****

Part 8: FIGHT!!! FIGHT!!!
(The OK Corral, Wanderer Style)

Sunnydale Hotel

Mr. Kerish looked over the remaining members of "The Brother of the Sands" terrorist group. He was not pleased. Elimete and Alifate were two of his best men and neither of them had responded to his transmissions for the past hour. At first he thought it was due to equipment failure, but he immediately dismissed that since he had just talked to Saraha. Cursing the situation he found himself in, he left the motel and gathered the remaining members around him.

George heard the yelling, and watched the gathering from just inside his office door.

"Brothers," he stated as they all gathered around him, "our brothers Elimete and Alifate have fallen victim to a cursed plan which was schemed by a woman. I am partly to blame, for it was my greed that allowed us to join with this ill-fated mission, So, we will avenge our brothers and do something we should have done in the first place. Tonight we go and plant the explosives on the school grounds. We will place timers to go off at one o'clock tomorrow."

Cheers rolled over the parking lot.

"My brothers tomorrow, America will have cause to remember the Brothers of the Sands when Sunnydale High School is blown up."

"Oh My God," George whispered as he slipped back into his office. He hid behind his desk after locking the door.

*****

Pulling out his cell phone while hiding behind the desk George hoped and silently prayed to himself as he dialed a number from memory. He knew that he should notify the police about what he just heard but he also knew that St. Wolf would be very interested; and Steve would be more likely to react more quickly than the police.

"Hello George," Steve said, his voice carrying a bit of strain.

"Steve," George whispered, "There are men here who just said they were going to blow up the high school tomorrow."

"My God, George. Are you sure?"

Repeating what he had just heard George took a quick look around the end of the counter to see the men move back into their rooms. "Looks like they are moving back to their rooms, should I call the police?"

"No, I just learned something that I am not very pleased with," Steve informed George. "I will deal with it immediately. How many men are there?"

"About twenty, maybe twenty-five," George replied after another quick look.

"On our way," Steve replied as he broke the connection.

*****

"When it rains it pours," Steve told the assembled group as he hung up, "Listen up people, that was George at the hotel, seems that the group who took the kids is planning to let school out early for the year."

"What do you mean?" Sonja asked from the kitchen.

"According to George they are planning to blow it up.

"My word."

"Holy shit."

"That won't be too bad." Faith said shrugging her shoulders, "Xander was saying that every time they announced a school trip something bad happens."

"Kids were found, The Ventura county Sheriff department have sent three busses to pick them up." Robin told the group as he and Shaw popped back into the room.

"Looks like this is going to be a strictly magic fight on our side people," Steve said as he sat down at the keyboard pulling up the layout of the Sunnydale motel. "Best way to defeat them would be to take them at the hotel, however they may have some explosives with them so we have to be careful."

"What the Hell are you talking about?" Robin asked while Shaw was also looking around confused.

"Seems that the men who took the students hostage are now dabbling in terrorism, they plan to blow up the school tomorrow around noon."

"Holy shit!" Robin stated. "How are we going to stop them?"

"I want to get them at the hotel, away from town," Steve told the group, "Any suggestions?"

"We only have half of our force," Shaw said as she looked around.

"If we can get them without weapons we can take them without much of a fight." The Amazon queen hypothesized.

"That's true enough," Steve agreed, "any idea how to get the guns away?"

"I believe I have an idea how to do that," Faith grinned as she looked at Steve. "If they are going to be planting explosives at the school tonight, they are probably going to be sleeping right now right?"

"And?" Steve asked not sure where Faith was going with her statement.

"Most hotels are equipped with a sprinkler system, in case of fire."

"Now that is rich," Robin said catching on to where Faith was going.

"That is something I would expect from Xander or… well not from you," Shaw said with a smile. "But it sounds like it would work."

"What about the bitch?" Cordelia growled her every being focused on her one target.

"We will get her Cordelia," Steve replied his voice thick with concern as to the way Cordelia was acting. "Calm down, we will get her."

"I will get her," Cordelia stated clearly as she looked around the room her eyes sending a very clear message.

"I want her alive." Steve replied his own voice stern as he met Cordelia's glaze.

"Alright Steve, if she comes out and we do this hand to hand you can have her alive, but I'm not going to be a target."

"Fair enough," Steve said before turning back to Faith. "Your plan should work but if it doesn't, anyone else have any ideas?"

"Only one," Cordelia replied as she closed the loading gate on the rifle still in her hands.

"Let's hope it works."

*****

Mayors office

"The kids have been located by the Ventura county Sheriff's department," Mr. Trick informed the Mayor as he entered through his private door.

"Well, shoot. That didn't take them long, how many dead?"

"No one is dead, the kids somehow turned the tables on their abductors, and they were found about one hundred and twenty miles away from the coastal highway, in the high desert."

"Well good for them," The mayor smiled, "Get a hold of Mr. Johnson. Get him to write up a statement for the Media, the regular wash, and be sure to thank the Sheriffs for their assistance in it."

"CYA" Mr. Trick smiled as he walked out of the office.

"Remember, Mr. Trick, this is not our fight."

*****

Sunnydale Motel
5:45 pm

"Alright, this is how we are going to do it." Steve told the assembled group, "Cordy, Giles, Jenny, Faith and Kendra will be on rifle dart guns, I don't want any deaths if we can prevent it. Robin, Shaw, as they come out do what you have to make sure they are they are unarmed and reasonably harmless. Sonja, Gabby, Randi, and I will be on the landing, if anyone chooses to fight we will take care of it."

"What's in the dart?" Sonja wanted to know as the two girls went downstairs to collect the required guns.

"Laudanum, it's fast acting enough for what we need,"

"Isn't that illegal?" Gabby asked sweetly.

Steve gave Gabby a bored look before he turned to Shaw and Robin and asked. "Remember, you two put up shields if they start to fire, and stay behind us."

"Right," Robin replied as he followed the others out of Xander's home. "But shouldn't we wait for the others?"

"If we did that it would be too late, I am guessing they plan on sleeping til around midnight, we should be able to catch the lot of them with their pants down, literally. I'll call George on the way over and give him our plan."

*****

Cordelia was not really paying attention to the road as she headed toward the Sunnydale motel. Randi, Faith and Shaw also sat silently as the town flew by. She was not in the best of moods, she would much rather be hunting the woman who had taken a shot at her than going after these men. However she understood why they had to do this, besides there was a slim chance that she would be there.

"This is going to be touchy," Randi told the others in the car as she watched the street.

"How do you figure that?" Faith asked always eager to mix it up.

"If any of the other people at the motel call the police it could get pretty bad."

"We can fix that; motels can turn off the switch board so no calls can go out." Faith explained.

"What about cell phones?" Cordelia asked. She knew what Randi was thinking.

No one said anything else as Cordelia parked her car about thirty feet away from the motel's parking lot not wanting to scare the other occupants with their rifles. As the other two cars pulled up behind them the group of girls jumped out and moved back to the Blazer that Steve was driving leaving the rifles in the car.

*****

Steve drove in silence, trying to think of every situation that might come. He had already figured that he would need to remove any occupants from the motel before the attack, for they might call the police and to have those cops would be bad.

"Robin is there any way to stop any cell phone calls from being sent out?"

"My limitations won't allow me to do that," Robin replied, "as it is I am going to have to be very creative to get around the law."

"Well we will have to ask Oberon to lift such a demanding law," Steve muttered just loud enough for Robin to hear.

"Stay out of it Steve, even though sometimes I will bad mouth him, he is my father and he knows what he is doing before he does it," Robin told Steve his voice stern.

"Just thinking."

"Don't."

Silently laughing to himself Steve followed the car driven by Giles with Gabby, Jenny, Kendra, and Sonja.

*****

"Do you think we are going to have trouble?" Jenny asked no one in particular.

"By the time we get to the motel Steve will have a plan all laid out," Sonja replied. The confidence she had in the man was easily read in her words.

"Do you think Conan would have liked Steve?" Gabby asked teasingly.

"The Gods would have kept those two away from each other;" Sonja replied with a laugh, "For the battle that would have raged between those two could have very possibly ended the world."

"It's amazing that he and Herc get along so well," Gabby replied.

"Well here we are," Giles said as he pulled over to a stop behind Cordelia, "does everyone remember their part in this?"

"There's just one question," Jenny asked as she opened the door. "What happens if one of them is Immortal?"

"Let's just hope that we don't have to deal with that," Gabby said in a flat tone that implied only one thing.

*****

"Are there any questions?" Steve asked he waited for a few minutes then he carried on. "Good, let's get to it; girls remember shoot the legs I don't want this stuff to hit too close to the heart."

As the others moved to their objectives; Cordelia, Jenny, and Faith, Kendra, and Giles loaded the rifles and got ready for their part in the assault taking partial cover behind the cars parked in the lot. At the same time Shaw moved to her position by the office, while the immortals moved toward the doors of the terrorists.

"George, turn on the sprinkler system for five minutes, and cut the power to the phones," Steve told the motel manager over his cell phone, speaking loud enough for the other Immortals to hear he went on, "fireworks start in one minute."

"Si, Senor Steve," George's voice came back with a bit of dread.

When the fire system sprinkler was activated the whole front of the motel and in the rooms seemed to be caught under a mist storm, visibility was cut down to about 2 feet as a hundred gallons of water per minute was pumped out of the system's spinners, soaking all four immortals within two minutes. Inside the rooms they heard yells and curses mostly in Arabic. Before the third minute ended the door which Randi had chosen was thrown open and two men stumbled out, the first one was pulling on his shirt a pistol shoved under his belt while the second one held an Uzi ready to use it even though he only had a pair of boxers on. Randi made the opening move against this man. As he stepped out clearing the door she brought her hand down hard on his back just below the neck. The man dropped like a sack of rocks. She kicked out with her foot connecting just behind the first man's knee, driving him down to his knees. In a smooth move she finished her attack by grabbing the man's head and yanking it back to meet her driving knee which rendered the man unconscious.

Steve was in a bit more trouble as the first man out of his room came out with his gun first, firing blindly through the heavy mist. One of the bullets caught his shoulder driving him back away from the door. As the man moved through the doorway he dropped grabbing his leg; blocking the second man from exiting. Reaching past the man on the floor, Steve grabbed the second man and yanked him out before he could get deeper into the room. As the man tripped forward Steve delivered the same backhand chop that Randi had moments earlier, driving the man to the ground and skidding forward on his face

Gabby and Sonja stood four doors apart facing each other, these four door were to be theirs, when the sprinklers were turned on they no longer could see each other. However they had been traveling and fighting together for so long that they could anticipate what the other was going to do. As the men came out of the room whether they were armed or not the two women treated them as potential threats and moved to eliminate the threat.

Gabby slipped in behind the third man who came out the door and using the butt of her pistol she cracked him on the head driving him to the ground groaning; next she turned her weapon on the other men ordering them to drop to their knees.

Sonja was not so easy on the men who would threaten the lives of children, moving behind the last two men who came out of the room, she reached out and brought their heads together with the sound of two billiard balls clashing together. She also had a pistol but chose to punish as many men as she could before they had to call an end to the fun.

From their spot down by the cars Jenny, Faith, Kendra, Giles and Cordelia were picking off as many terrorist as they safely could, with only four of their own people up there it was an easy task, they were loading and firing a shot every 5 or 6 seconds, as the targets appeared. That cut the odds down quickly.

Things seemed to be moving along as planned when something unexpected happened. The first man Randi had chopped revived and slipped in unnoticed behind her. Before anyone could react he slipped a 7" black fighter Ka-Bar knife in her back, its razor sharp tip pierced her heart causing her to fall taking the knife with her.

Seeing one of his students fall a cold fury washed over Steve. He knew that she would revive, but any attack on his students was personal. He had been fighting with his hands and feet, but when she fell he pulled Demon Slayer and was ready to take more permanent action.

From their spot both Sonja and Gabby also saw Randi fall and they both redoubled their efforts in the fight. The attacks were now changed where once they were meant to disable, now their strikes were meant to hurt or cripple.

Faith did not see what had happened until Randi fell leaving the man standing out in the open with a crazed look on his face. Without thinking she shifted her aim and fired. She had been working with Xander in her shooting ability for months and the proof of her progress showed in this moment as she pulled the trigger and the dart stuck the man just below the belt dropping him out of the fight.

Cordelia was watching the other end of the fight so she did not see Randi go down. Her attention was on a man who was half in and half out of a door. He seemed to be putting something together and whatever it was could not be good. She kept her eyes on the doorway hoping for a break. Finally it came. The man appeared in front of the large window; adjusting for his movement she took the shot. The dart broke through the window and hit the man on the neck, and he dropped out of sight.

Watching the last man drop Shaw rushed across the parking lot to where Randi laid face down, the knife still sticking out of her back. Removing the knife Shaw kept the wound clear letting the Quickening heal her body and reviving her.

"Help me secure these people," Steve barked at Robin as the last man dropped to the ground. "Do you have anything we can secure them with?"

"No worries," Robin replied as he reached out in the air and produced a bag filled with handcuffs. "Here are some cuffs, but what are you going to do with them?"

"This was fun," Cordelia said sourly as Faith moved into the doorway where her target was. "Now do I get to go after her?"

"We go after her, Cordelia." Steve said flatly as he and Robin handcuffed the men, "Once we are done here."

"Looks like someone wanted to cook something," Faith said as she stood in the doorway pointing with her thumb over her shoulder. "Don't know what it is back here but it doesn't look good.

Slipping by Faith, Gabby took one step in the room then stepped out again, "Steve, you had better come look at this."

Moving over to the door closely followed by Robin, Steve looked into the room and saw what appeared to be a brown box with a timer on it, the timer numbers were counting up. Jerking his head to the side Steve looked at Robin a question and demand in his eyes. Receiving a nod from Robin he then turned and walked out of the room and headed toward the office.

Robin cast a quick spell that made the box disappear before he too followed Steve out of the room.

*****

George had been hiding in his office at the back of the office while the attack took place; Jenny had told him to hide in the tub and had told him not to leave it until someone came to get him which he eagerly obeyed. Hearing the doorknob turn he slowly looked over the rim of the tub and silently prayed that it would be one of Steve's friends coming in the door.

"You all right, George?" Steve asked as he walked into the bathroom.

"Yes, thank you, Senor Steve." George replied as he stood up. "How is everything out there?"

"It's over now, turn off your sprinkler system," Steve informed, "I am going to take the men with me, any damages occurred here just send the bill to me, and I will make amends."

"You do not need to do that; those men would have cost this town and me more than this motel is worth."

"It won't be me who is paying," Steve replied with a grin as he looked out at the men who were tried up. "They caused this, so now they should pay for the damages don't you think?"

"It would be only right, but how are you going to make them pay?"

"A friend will help me with that," Steve replied mysteriously as he walked out the door.

*****

"What are we going to do with them?" Giles asked Steve as he walked out into the parking lot.

"We're taking them with us." Steve replied calmly as he went over to the three rental mini vans parked neatly outside the door. "Load them up in the mini vans, Gabby, Sonja and Jenny will be driving the three vans. "

"Son of a bitch that hurts," Randi mumbled as she joined the group, "thank God I don't have to worry about my waist."

"Bitch," Faith joked having completed her task.

"Alright, Faith you ride with Gabby, Randi and Kendra will go with Jenny, and Cordelia will ride with Sonja. Go straight to my house." Steve ordered with a smile, seeing Giles worried look he whispered so only the group could hear. "Remember in the country these people come from, women are lower than a draft animal, putting them under the watch of women will both insult and shame them, by the time they get to my place they will be easily handled."

"Big gamble," Giles replied worry in his voice," What happens if they decide to try and rebel?"

"Would you rebel against these women without a weapon?" Steve grinned.

"Point taken," Giles replied as he went to his car.

*****

Part 9: Homecomings and Tragedies
(Lies And Deceit Cost Two Women Big Time)

High Desert
Outside cave

"Look there," Xander exclaimed standing up and pointing out to the west, "A helicopter."

Looking to where Xander was pointing, Amy smiled and called out, "Buffy, come out here-looks like someone is looking for us!"

"Huh? Buffy asked coming out and looking to where her two friends were pointing. Seeing the helicopter headed straight for them she smiled. "Looks like Robin and Shaw got their attention."

"What's going on?" Miss Simms asked as she stepped out of the cave where she had been keeping an eye on the children.

"Looks like we won't have to be hiking anywhere," Buffy replied pointing to the as of yet small dot in the sky, "A helicopter."

"How can you be so sure?" Miss Simms asked squinting her eyes to see what the dot was. "I can only see a dot."

"It's a helicopter," Xander replied flatly. "Looks like a Bell Jet Ranger, but I could be wrong."

"Then we're saved!" Miss Simms exclaimed.

"Until we're sure, stay inside the cave." Buffy ordered as she pushed the teacher into the cave.

"Why?" Miss Simms asked in a worried voice.

"It could be nothing, just do as I ask please," Buffy replied as she, Oz and Xander picked up a couple of Uzi's and hid behind the rocks, while Amy and Willow took up positions just inside the cave mouth.

"It's Ventura County Sheriff department." Oz said after staring at the helicopter for a few minutes.

Minutes later the copter was circling their heads preparing to land a collective sigh of relief could have been heard as an electronically amplified voice was heard. "This is Lt. Rogers of the Los Angeles Police Department, please stand back as we land."

Hurriedly putting out the fire Oz took one of the rabbits that Xander had been cooking while Xander took the other and stepped away from where the helicopter was to land.

*****

"Hello Buffy," Lt. Rogers greeted as he stepped down off the copter followed by two other men, shaking Buffy's hand, "Good to see that you are all right,"

"What about Mrs. Rosenberg?" Buffy asked her first instinct being to find out the status of her best friend's mother. "We were told that she would be delivered to the hospital if we remained calm."

"Besides a slight concussion, she appears to be in perfect health." Rogers smiled looking over to Willow, "Don't worry about your mom, she is in great heath."

"Thank you," a very relieved Willow replied.

"I have already ordered three busses to be sent out here, they should be here within the hour." Rogers went on to tell Buffy, "It was a stroke of luck that we saw you when we did,"

"Oh?" Buffy asked with a knowing smile, changing the subject she asked, "Do you have a cell phone?"

Taking a sharp look at Buffy, Rogers handed over his cell phone before he went with the other two officers to take custody of the men who were just then being lead out of the cave. As Maldron walked out of the cave he glanced at the bandaged appendage and knew exactly how it had happened. But when he looked back at Buffy he did not see anything that appeared to be a sword. Shaking his head he allowed his team to lead the first few men out of the cave.

*****

As Elimete walked out of the cave he noticed that the police were now on the scene and relief filled his eyes. He was just about to say something when he looked past the Lieutenant his eyes met with the brown-headed boy Xander. For a second he hesitated then he looked back at Rogers before pointing to Buffy and Xander saying, "I want to press charges against those two."

"Charges?" One of the patrol officers's asked stopping the procession from going outside.

"She used a sword to cut off Maldron's hand," Elimete stated pointing at Buffy then turning toward Xander he went on, "That one assaulted Alifate, and then turned a gun on me threatening to shoot me."

"Who do the guns belong to?" The officer asked.

"I want a lawyer," Elimete said after a minute seeing the laughter in the officers' eyes.

"You'll get one," The officer promised in a dreaded voice, "However you might want to consider what you say. If half the things I have heard about them are true, you don't want to end up in the same prison as him."

*****

Steve and the others stood around the twenty-three terrorists as they sat naked on the floor, they were just about to start the questioning when Steve's cell phone rang, "Steve here."

"Honey, it's me," Buffy's said her voice full of worry. "Where is Cordelia?"

"She's right here with me, honey," Steve replied keeping his voice calm even though he was relieved that he now knew for sure she was ok. "How is everyone there?"

"We're all ok, Lt. Rogers just arrived with the cavalry, but Cordelia is their target."

"We know," Steve replied evenly as he looked over to Cordelia, "She won't leave my side. Stay with the others and make sure they get back ok."

"All right, I love you, honey."

"Love you, too, babe," Steve replied as he hung up the phone and moved over to Cordelia. "That was Buffy, she and the others are all safe,"

"Now can we go after the woman?" she asked her mind set on the one track

"Now we go after her," Steve replied. "Do you have any idea where to start?"

"No, that's your department."

"Then calm down, let's question these people first," Steve replied. "Maybe they know something that will cut our search down."

"We won't tell you anything," a small weasel of a man snarled his eyes going over the other men in the room as if warning them.

"Are you the leader of this group?" Steve calmly asked as he moved over to the small man.

"You are all dead." The man snarled.

"Well that is something that we are prepared to deal with," Cordelia snarled charging the man and putting the point of her knife to his throat. Causing sweat to form on his forehead then in a voice as calm as the wind before a hurricane Cordelia went on, "But believe me, I will cut you in ways which will make your nightmares seem tame if you don't tell me where the bitch who is trying to kill my best friend is!"

From where he stood Steve saw the question in the man's eyes after Cordelia said those words and a smile crept across his face as he moved next to Cordelia. Tauntingly he told the man "Oh, didn't you know that your woman targeted the wrong person? The team you had out taking the students are out of commission seems that they had my girlfriend with them and let their guard down: Bad Mistake."

"You won't get anything," The man stubbornly replied his lips moving a bit more than necessary as his forehead began to sweat.

"You might wanna rethink your position," Faith said from her spot near the table saw, "If Xander knows that your woman is after his girlfriend, they might as well dig holes for the bodies."

"My boy can get feisty when it comes to my health," Cordelia agreed with Faith, her voice serious, "Why, last week one of the basketball players stepped on my toe, I believe Xander knocked out three of his teeth."

"I guess we just tell him that you shot at Cordelia and let the cards fall where they land." Steve added offhandedly as he started out the door followed by Gabby and Sonja. "Giles, Jenny, give them their clothes back; we have everything we need from them. We will turn them over to Xander when he comes in."

"You American dogs don't have what it takes to do this, we have our rights," the speaker for this group said with more confidence than he felt. "I demand to see a lawyer."

"You'll see one," Cordelia replied with a snarl, "after I get the information I want."

*****

Drake's warehouse

"Kids were rescued, the LA Sheriff department just picked them up, all the children were safe," Billy told Drake from his computer terminal, "Still no word about Michael's assault on the Blaisdell place yet,"

"Good, all we need to do is wait for the results of the duel between the woman and the Slayer," Drake grinned from his seat. "Have Michael and his team returned?"

"They're at the old mansion."

"Good, make sure that they keep this Larry boy alive for now, we might still be able to use him against the Slayer."

"Are we going to help the woman with the Slayer?" Billy asked.

"No, we are going to keep our distance. Send three men to the outskirts of LA and bring back some candidates for our new army." Drake ordered looking at one of the lackeys who were standing around. "How many vampires do we have so far, Billy?"

"There are twenty-seven here in Sunnydale and another thirty in LA that we can call on."

"See if we can't double that."

*****

Rooftop
(across from the Sunnydale Motel)

Saraha sat silently watching the assault on the Sunnydale motel. She was amazed at how the professionally the group moved, even the teen aged girls worked those rifles as professionals. For a minute she thought about shooting her target down but as she tried to line up the shot, she realized that whether by accident or design she was unable to get a clear shot because of the van between them. Cursing her luck she watched as the assault came to its conclusion, from her spot she was able to watch the whole thing. The four women firing the guns did not miss a shot. When the blonde was stabbed in the back her heart sang. She knew that the Sons of the Sand were going to lose this fight, but at least one of them would die.

She almost dropped her rifle when the girl who was stabbed got back up and walked over to the other girls. This was something she had never heard of before and it frightened her. Desperate to find out more she tossed caution to the wind and followed them back to a house where the men were taken into a garage possibly for questioning, since the garage door was now closed.

Deciding that the hunt had gone on long enough Saraha pulled around the block and parked her rented car before taking the briefcase and heading back to an empty house a few doors down on the other side of the street of the house they entered. Kicking open the back door she moved her way through the house and up into the loft bedroom where she had a clean view of the area. As she set up her nest a feeling of dread came over her almost as if it was a warning of the future. Taking her position behind the rifle Saraha knew it was time to get the revenge she so desperately wanted. Just as she took her position a LA County prison bus pulled up in front of the house she had been watching and a group of kids climbed down. The front door of the house was pulled open and the occupants ran out to meet those who were getting off the bus. All of a sudden she was there in the doorway, the cause of all her pain. Quickly she took aim and squeezed the trigger, whispering, "Now Abula, the Wanderer will feel the pain that your death has given me, now your murder has been revenged."

*****

High Desert
6:45 pm

"Call in a couple of busses and a prison van," Lieutenant Rogers told the pilot as he walked toward the cave entrance leaving Buffy to make her phone calls. Turning to one of the officers who accompanied him he went on. "You two take the statements of the kids, I want to talk to the teacher, oh and leave Buffy and her friends alone."

"Your call," the officer replied as he moved over to the children but making sure he stayed away from the blond and her four friends who gathered just outside of the cave.

Buffy spent almost 10 minutes on the phone with Steve catching up on what had happened at the motel.

About two hours later the busses and van arrived.

"Well, you five are the only one's we have not talked to yet," Detective Rogers said as he walked up to Buffy

"How can we help you?" Buffy asked for her friends.

"Ummm" Rogers started not sure how to go about asking a black op member questions. "Are you working on a classified mission?"

"Oh," Buffy replied her cheeks turning a bit red, "No, Detective we are actually just on a fieldtrip, I am not sure if Steve wants me to tell you everything that is going on, but he does have another group of prisoners at his house for you to pick up, then you can talk to him."

"More prisoners?" Rogers asked not sure what was going on, "Buffy were these people after your group?"

"Yes and no."

"That is not a answer, were these children put in danger because your group was on the bus?" Rogers demanded his temper now at a boiling point as his mind pointed to the possible reason for the busses to be taken.

"I can't say more, Lt. Rogers."

"Someone damn sure better tell me something quick."

"We're ready, detective," The van driver said as he walked up to the officer in charge of the scene.

"Take Lt. Jones with you, I will ride with Officer Peters," Rogers said as she looked around, "Henderson, go ahead and take the copter back, let the Captain know I am going to Sunnydale."

"Yes sir," The pilot called back as he jumped into the helicopter and flew away following the prisoner van.

"Buffy, I want some answers over this." Rogers told the blond making sure he kept his voice low enough so only Buffy could hear as they got onto the bus.

"Steve will answer them," Buffy replied taking a seat next to Amy.

The bus ride to the school was uneventful and quiet as Rogers looked over the students. He could not believe that Steve would allow something of this magnitude to happen. But on the surface of it, that was exactly what had happened. Looking over toward the boy Xander who was sitting by himself he wondered why. He thought that he would be sitting in the empty seat next to Buffy and Amy. However, he was off by himself, and he did not seem pleased. /was there a break in the ranks? No, they had seemed friendly enough at the cave. I wonder what is wrong with him?/

*****

Sunnydale High School

As the bus pulled into the school parking lot Buffy took a look out at the sea of very worried parents, then her eyes drifted to Lt. Rogers, she knew what Rogers was thinking and wondered if on a level if the man was right. It was a fact that the men were taking the kids to hold them against her in a deadly hunt. With the rest of the kids back with their parents, she was now free to see to her duty. Turning to Rogers she said, "We need to go now."

Nodding his head in agreement Rogers called an officer over and ordered him to ensure the parents and children were back together before he left the premises. She turned back to the driver of the bus that she and the S7 rode in saying, "Let's go. I will point out the way as we drive."

"Remember no students will leave the school grounds with out a parent present to take them." Principal Snyder called out as Buffy turned to get on the bus followed by Xander and Amy, Oz and Willow were making their way to his van on the far side of the parking lot, "Osborne and Rosenberg, where are you going?"

"We are going to the hospital," Willow called back.

"You will wait here for your parents like the other students!" Snyder demanded giving the pair just a moment look before turning back to where Buffy was getting on the bus. "You as well, Miss Summers."

Giving Willow a look of sympathy Buffy shook her head before stepping back off the bus and headed to the principal. "Mr. Snyder, my uncle warned you about riding me, both Agents Mulder and Scully have told you about it, and so has my boyfriend. Yet here you are still trying to inflict what little authority you have on us. Now it is my turn. This time when I leave you will know exactly how little your authority means to us."

"Miss Summers…" Snyder started

"Mr. Snyder, shut up," Buffy snapped, she had just about enough lip from this man who had made her last two years almost unbearable. Now here he was trying to keep Willow from going to the hospital to check on her mother. He was also keeping them away from trying to help one of their teammates. That Snyder didn't know about the situation never came to her mind as she moved toward him her eyes flashing. "Willow's mother was clubbed down by a brutal killer on the bus and every one of these kids, my friends, were taken hostage, if it wasn't for the Sheriff's department we would still be out there in the mountains held hostage and beat or worse. Now Willow and Oz are going to get in that van and go see about her mom. Xander, Amy and I are going to get on this bus and go home, and you Mr. Snyder are going to stand there and not say a damn thing, is that understood?"

Not bothering to wait for Mr. Snyder's sputtering reply Buffy followed Xander and Amy onto the bus. She watched to be sure that Willow and Oz got off in his van. Then she turned to Lt. Rogers feeling a lot better than she had in a few hours. She went on sweetly. "Now Bob if you would be so kind to take us to Steve's house."

As they turned on Bryant Terrace the first thing Buffy noticed was the three white vans parked out in front of Steve's house. She figured that these were the rental vans that the terrorist had. She moved up to the driver of the bus, "Pull over in front of the garage, that is where they will have your prisoners held."

Doing as instructed the driver opened the door allowing the three teenagers and Rogers to climb down off the bus and walk out to meet the other teenagers and five adults who were coming out of the garage.

*****

317 Bryant Terrace

Seeing the LA Sheriff bus pull up in front of the house Cordelia ran outside when Xander stepped down from the bus and sprang into his outstretched arms. A thrill shot through her as he picked her up and spun her around as if she were a little girl. With Xander this close the world's problems seemed to disappear.

Those problems crashed down on her again. A rifle shot rang out in the night, the bullet aimed at Cordelia's heart was now stopped by Xander's bicep. He grunted and let go of Cordelia, sending her flying into the middle of the lawn.

Coming up with fire in her eyes Cordelia spun tracking back the trajectory of the bullet with her minds eye, as she turned she drew her Desert Eagle 45 Magnum. As she came to a stop she spotted a splash of color where no such color should be. She fired three times in rapid succession, the first one at the color, the second three inches to the left, then the third five inches to the right. After she had fired the third shot she realized her exposure. She dove for cover behind the front wheel of the van.

By the time Cordelia had fired the third time, Det. Rogers and the driver had moved into a protected position with a good field of fire. Steve, Giles, and Jenny also moved into positions as Amy and Gabby made a run to drag Xander into a more secure location.

"Cover me," Cordelia told Lt. Rogers as she made a break to run across the street jumping behind a car just as Steve moved into her old position.

"Cordelia," Steve snapped, "wait for me."

With still no hostile fire Cordelia waved for Steve to come on as she watched the house waiting for someone to fire. When Steve arrived at her location she took a deep breath, "ready?"

"Let's go,"

The minute he said it, they both darted around the car and headed to the house each of them expecting to catch a bullet as they moved closer to the door. Steve kicked the door open as they both reached it yet still there was no shot.

"Cordelia, there," Steve said as he moved to the couch where a bloody arm was sticking out. Even as Cordelia went to Steve's side, Buffy and Rogers entered the house having followed the first two at the first opportunity.

Kneeling down beside the woman Cordelia's facial features softened a bit, as she saw the spot of blood leak out the woman's mouth. Without thinking she lifted the woman's head and cradled it in her lap.

"You've won, Slayer," Saraha whispered as she coughed up a bit of blood.

"Surviving doesn't equal winning," Cordelia whispered.

"I am glad the children are safe," Saraha went on her voice a bit stronger.

"You are?" Cordy asked, surprised, leaning away from the injured woman. "I admit that surprises me."

"Tell me Slayer, how did he die?"

"Die? Who?" Cordelia asked confused.

"Please, about my brother, tell me what happened."

Shaking her head Cordelia decided to tell all that she knew about her brother's death. She told the story just as Buffy had told her. The woman in her lap held on listening to the whole story as tears came to her eyes. When Cordelia finished the story Saraha's eyes became clear, her face relaxed, and with a final gasp, she said, "Abula, they lied to me."

As the woman died in her arms, Cordelia started to hyperventilate repeating over and over, "They lied to her... lied... Oh god, and I killed her...I killed her."

"Come on, honey," Xander said softly as he put his hands under her arms while Buffy lifted the woman's head off her lap. "You can't do anything more for her."

*****

Epilogue: The Price Of Victory
(Sometimes, The Bad Guys Find A Way To Win)

"I never wanted any of them to go through this," Steve said his voice filled with sorrow as Xander led a weeping Cordelia out of the house.

"What the Hell did you expect?!" Rogers snapped at Steve his voice charged with emotion. "You put the gun in that child's hand and turned her into a killer."

Turning his dead eyes on Rogers, Steve was about to say something when Buffy stepped in between them. Keeping her voice calm so that the situation did not turn escalate she said. "Detective Rogers, although I can understand how you are looking at this situation, believe me, it is not as black and white as you would like it to be. You witnessed how dangerous this world could be last year in L.A. Believe me when I say this. That was only a small indication of the battles we fight. This world is at war, and we are on the front line. For two years we, without Steve, were the ones who prevented no less than four literal apocalypses. Since Steve has come along we have actually been gaining ground in this fight. What happened here was an unfortunate accident which we will live with. But don't you dare blame anyone here. You don't have that right. Why don't you come to this town and see for yourself just how black and white this world really is. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go see about my friend."

Turning her back on Bob, Buffy took Steve by the hand and led him out of the house of death. Internally she was kicking herself for being so abrupt with Bob. She knew that he was only saying what everyone else had said before any of them realized the truth about Sunnydale. However when Bob made out to blame Steve she could not stand by and let that happen, nor could she have allowed Steve to say what was on his mind as that might have only heightened the anger of the man.

As they started across the street, they both felt the solid buzz of an Immortal as a Sunnydale patrol car came down the street.

*****

Patrol Car
Other side of town.

"Sunnydale three and five, respond to reports of gun shots on Bryant Terrace. Inspector en-route to scene,"

"This is Sunnydale eight, responding to gun shots call on Bryant Terrace," Carstairs said.

"Why we going there?" Waco asked his partner for the night before turning the car in the required direction.

"That's the street St. Wolf lives on; I just want to make sure everyone is OK." Wanda replied. She was still not sure what was off about Waco and his file but something definitely did not fit. She had been riding around in the patrol car with him for three hours yet he had not said a word on his own. Every time he had said anything she had asked him a question, and even then his answers were vague. Now they were headed to what might turn out to be a sticky situation and she had to know where he stood. "Waco, I want to know something."

"Something that my file didn't already tell you?" Waco asked coldly.

"Why did you request to come here?"

"I didn't request it, I was sent here."

"No one is sent here."

"I was."

"You're a strange man, but something tells me you're a good man."

Turning on Bryant Terrace, Waco slowed down when he saw the LA bus parked in front of the house in the middle of the block, "What the Hell are they doing here?"

"I don't know," Wanda replied as they pulled up behind the bus with the other two patrol cars, "Let's find out."

*****

Bryant Terrace

Feeling the presence of a new immortal, Steve and Buffy turned just as the Sunnydale police car pulled up behind the bus. Out of habit Gabby and Sonja reached for the swords that were no longer hanging from their hips. Steve and Buffy stood side-by-side; each of them wore their dusters that carried the Slayer swords.

Steve stepped in front of Buffy indicating that if there would be a fight he would be the one to do it, however when they saw Waco get out of the car they both relaxed, as Steve moved ahead to greet the two new police officers.

Noticing the tilt of Waco's head Steve read it for what it was suppose to be, turning to Carstairs he greeted, "Good afternoon Officer Carstairs, where is Officer Patterson, right? Isn't he your normal partner?"

"I'm patrolling with Officer Waco today," Carstairs replied by way of introduction, turning to Waco she finished the introduction. "Waco, this is Steve St. Wolf."

"What is going on here?" Waco asked getting down to business trying to keep the mystique around him intact.

*****

"Welcome to the party," Lt. Rogers greeted the Sunnydale police from where he stood at the door watching Steve and Buffy cross the street. "Though you obviously have jurisdiction in this area, I would hope that you would allow us to take the prisoners to LA where we have the rest of their merry band."

"That will be up to the Detective when he comes." Carstairs replied being the senior officer on site. "What do you have?"

"Looks like we have a terrorist group called Sons of the Sand." Bob told the others, "We have a dead shooter over here."

"Who is it?" Carstairs asked as she moved toward the house followed closely by Waco.

"ID on her says Saraha Acheed."

Stepping into the house followed by Waco, Carstairs looked over the scene seeing the rifle; she put the scene together in her mind. After coming up with her own conclusions she turned to Rogers and asked, "Who shot her?"

"Her name is Cordelia Chase. It was a righteous shooting. I saw the whole thing."

"We will need your statement for our record." Carstairs replied as she left the house, heading across the street a slight groan escaped her lips as she watched the unmarked police car driven by Det. Stein pull into Steve's driveway.

*****

Groans escaped everyone's lips as Detective Stein pulled his unmarked police car into Steve's driveway just as Officer Carstairs and Rogers came back from checking out the body.

"Officer Carstairs, Officer Waco come here," Detective Stein called the two senior officers on the site, purposely ignoring Steve and the other adults who gathered on the front lawn. "What is the L.A. Sheriff Department here for?"

"They were here when we arrived." Wanda replied coolly, "It would appear that they rescued the students and were just bringing them home."

"Is that right?"

"Not entirely, sir." Waco replied in a slow drawl, "They also came to pick up a group of terrorist that Mr. St Wolf claims to be part of the organization that captured the children in the first place. It seems that a woman attacked the house when the children were brought home, a few shots were exchanged killing the would be assassin."

Looking at Waco, Det Stein nodded his head, he like the rest of the department had read this young man's transfer papers and assumed that he was a dirty cop who knew the in's and out's of any department. The story Waco just told him sounded reasonable and since there was no reason for Waco to lie he accepted the story at face value since the officers from LA did not argue the point. "Who did the shooting?"

"I did," Officer Rogers said as she stopped near Stein's car having heard Waco's explanation deciding to back him up she went on. "I would like permission to take the prisoners to LA."

"I will have to call my superiors but I don't believe we should have a problem with you taking them to LA." Stein replied trying to keep his tongue civil. He had been warned not to antagonize the police force outside of Sunnydale, and since he had such a great thing going in this town he saw no reason to put it in danger. Looking at Officer Waco he when on, "Since you and Carstairs were the first two officers on site, you stay until they clean this up, otherwise leave it for the Sheriff's department and get back on your scheduled patrol."

*****

Waco was puzzled by Stein's reaction, he should have stayed around longer to see what was going on, not just leave after only a few words. Committing the scene to memory he turned back to see Rogers and Carstairs move toward the garage to look over the prisoners who were to be bussed to LA. As the two women officers walked into the garage, Waco walked over to where the four Immortals stood talking as they watched the scene.

"Hello Steve, Buffy," Waco greeted solemnly as he advanced on the four immortals. "How is your operative?"

"She is taking it pretty hard, but we have someone who will talk to her." Buffy replied as she looked over the officer wondering where she had seen him before.

"Sorry, you might not recognize me without my hat," He sighed as he correctly read the questioning look in Buffy's eyes, looking around to make sure none of the Sunnydale officers were near him he went on "Or my guns, I am Officer Waco from the Ventura County Sheriff's department."

"Oh," Buffy exclaimed silently.

"Thank you for not blowing my cover, Steve," He replied smiling at the blush on Buffy face.

"No worries, but I always figured Wanda was a clean cop."

"I tell ya, that Carstairs should be a reporter, I'll bet her and Sue Dundee could compare notes and not be too far off when it comes to being nosy." Waco bitched which drew a soft laugh from Steve.

"Otherwise how is it going?"

"I don't like it, someone above the sergeant ordered us to stand down from looking for the kids, it sounded like it came from out of the office, but no one down the line seemed to care. Well, except the obstinate three." Waco cursed but still keeping his voice low so only those around him could hear, looking down at Buffy he went on, "I am glad to see that you all made it out OK. Do you think they will make another play?"

"No, the woman behind it is dead. The rest of them were nothing more then paid henchmen who belong to a world known terrorist group. I am sure once their names hit the wires a lot of countries will be wanting a piece of them." Steve informed Waco, "So you still trying to find out what is going on in this town?"

"Those are my orders."

"Be careful of the Mayor. He is the trouble behind it all, although I believe there is a lot of corruption within the force as well."

"I will keep an eye on it," Waco replied as the two women led the chain of men out the door and on to the bus. "I'd better help them."

*****

Steve stood silently at the entrance of the living room watching Xander hug Cordelia as she softly cried. He was not sure as yet how he was going to help Cordelia, but he knew that it would all start when Cordelia calmed down enough to ask for the help, until then he would have to keep an eye on her.

// It's bad // Xander mouthed the words as his eyes locked with Steve.

Steve watched as Gabby moved over to take Cordelia who was rolled up in a fetal ball from Xander, letting Xander go talk to Steve and Buffy.

"I don't know what to do, I have known Cordelia almost as long as I've known Will, and I've never seen her like this," Xander told Steve as they walked into the kitchen together. "Is she going to be OK?"

"In time. Xander, she just killed a human being. That's a whole lot different then killing a vampire. This was never supposed to happen and I blame myself for that." Steve said, as they sat down at the kitchen table. "Xander, what I am about to tell you might sound cold, but it's something that has to be done if we are going to help her. You're going to have to let her cry, hold her and listen to her, but she is going to have to cry, it's part of the healing process. Once she is done we will have Sydney talk to her."

"Isn't there anything we can do for her?" Xander asked, his pain readily in his voice.

"No," Steve replied sadly wishing there were. "The only thing we can do is be there for her."

"Steve, I just got off the phone with Willow," Randi whispered as she came into the kitchen with tears in her eyes.

"How is her mother?"

"She is unconscious in critical condition; Willow said her doctor is worried because she has been out for so long."

"Well at least that is something we can change." Steve replied his eye subconsciously drifting back to Cordelia.

"How the Hell are you going to change that?" Randi barked also looking over to Cordelia toning her words down some she went on, "didn't you hear what I said? The doctor said she was unconscious and has a severe concussion."

"I heard you," Steve replied coolly as he picked up his phone, hitting the speed dial. He spoke into the phone. "Hello Shaw, this is Steve. Can you do me a favor? Can you go to the hospital and help Willow's mom?"

After a few moments he went on, "Great. Yes, tomorrow is fine. I would appreciate it if you would call Willow tonight so she will also get a good night's sleep. Thank you."

"Right, healing spell. I really need to get some rest. Wish we could do something like that for her," Randi said as she looked over to Cordelia.

Steve turned to Buffy where she stood in the doorway. "Buffy, call your mother and ask her to call Cordelia's father and ask them if she could stay at your house tonight. Xander will be staying here as well." Turning to Sonja who stood over Gabby he went on, "Sonja please help Gabby put Cordelia in the first room on the right, she will be staying there until she wants to leave."

"Thanks Steve," Xander said as he got up to follow the women to the room.

The End

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