DISCLAIMER: The only thing that is mine is the inspiration that had melded these two worlds together. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stonyman Farm, the Executioner, et all, belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction done for entertainment purposes only.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: While this started with an idea bounced between myself and Pat Kelly this story marks a milestone in what is become an ever-expanding series because this is where I am wrapping up the televised BTVS world. It's the TV series that made me a fan, and this is the point I give a final sincere salute (as compared to the single finger salute I gave season 6 and their handling of it's fall out) and take the story in directions entirely my own. Not only am I adding a special thanks, but you all will want to thank Aj Saeed as well because their first feedback had me mentioning I was a chapter away from finishing this fic, and their joy upon hearing that gave me the kick to finish. Polishing took some work, but don't let anyone tell you feedback doesn't matter. As a final note I have taken too long with this fic already and after loosing touch with my beta I just sending this out in it's raw format with an apology for any mistakes.
SETTING: It is with this fic that I see what started with Life on the Farm turning into a continuing series. So it is set in that world following Life on the Farm and Declaration of War. More specifically it's the months following the closing of Declaration.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Angel 4 and 5.

The Front
By Dark Wyldchilde



"I'm just not sure about the outfits. I mean I'm afraid of looking at you too closely in case I make Tara jealous." Buffy and Faith were reclined on the slanted roof of a mausoleum, both were in the Lock's skin tight combat black suits and web gear.

"It's cool B. Tara knows I'm hot. The point of the outfits however is that it can truly suck to be sneaking up on someone, or something in our case, and have a loose sleeve brush against something and tell them you're there."

That got a reluctant nod. "I can't believe these radios though. Are you sure they can't hear us?"

The radios in question had their microphones strapped to the women's throats. Faith turned to Buffy and smiled while pointing to her own neck. "Well the tactical radios come with these sub-vocal microphones so you don't even have to whisper, but since it's slayers that are hunting us we need to keep it silent if they get anywhere near us."

Buffy was smiling back. "Cool. It gives me a chance to talk to you about something."

Faith sub-vocalized a groan. "Buffy..."

Buffy interrupted. "I don't understand why you still have issues with Willow. You've forgiven Giles. Tara has forgiven Willow."

Faith then interrupted. "We're not just talking about them trying to kill me B. It's the whole 'one you love' thing. B, I'm not judging Willow. I know I have no right to, but if you want to see my bad side come back the quickest way would be to do something to Tara. Look at it like this... What ranks higher, all the crap I did to you? Or when I put a poison arrow in Angel?"

The silence spoke volumes as Faith continued. "Ok. I have your recommendation, and since you've already passed your background check it has weight."

Buffy broke in again with an obvious pleasure in her voice. "Really?"

Faith had stopped smiling with the more serious conversation, but she grinned. "Yeah." The expression settled. "I also have Hunt's recommendation as well as his evaluation of her skills, and as the current head of our cybernetic resources that has weight too."

Buffy picked up on a point that made Faith wince at her realization. "Wait, 'current'?"

Faith did a sub-vocal sigh. "Yeah. Hunt has recommended that Willow get his job and put together her own team instead of the Lock piggybacking off the Farm."

Buffy growled. "I'm still cranky you didn't tell me we were just up the hill from the Farm when fighting Caleb."

Faith looked deeply into Buffy's eyes. "You know that's restricted information right?"

Buffy gave her own sub-vocal sigh. "I know, I remember all the stuff you had me, Xander and Dawn sign."

Faith continued. "Ok. Now, I even have Tara's recommendation, but you need to remember B, Willow took action against a government agent. Giles hasn't been cleared either. Even though I have no beef with him, he's still restricted to the first underground level... How's Dawn doing?"

"The girls seem to like her, and the younger slayers like having someone closer to their own age to help them adjust. With me basically their drill sergeant, and you somewhere between Xena and the chick from the Avengers in their eyes Dawn is someone they can relate to. Is Xander doing all right? I haven't had much chance to talk with him now that he's working with the rest of the troops."

Faith was smiling widely. "Yeah, he's actually sort of a vet to those guys. He has the soldier skills, and a ton of field time."

Buffy said one word. "Anya?"

Faith shook her head. "No real word on Spike either. Angel warned us when we dropped Spike off, while he had been there too he never broke like Spike did. It's entirely possible that he won't come back from that... and don't you dare start up with the moping thing over that."

Buffy and Faith looked at each other again, and it was obvious the senior slayer was about to do just that. Faith's anger was apparent. "Damn it Buffy..." The two slayers were distracted by cries of alarm coming from across the cemetery, looking up they could see a newly risen vamp was attacking their trainees and had one on the ground. Faith growled as she leapt from the mausoleum and hit the ground running, Buffy half a step behind.

As they got there they saw the vampire about to put the bite on a brunette slayer who was laid out unmoving, but it quickly became apparent that was what they were meant to see as the vampire pulled in close over the woman she became very active and slid the stake into it's heart with a smooth thrust.

As the dust rained down around her she turned to look at her trainers, and grinned. "How'd I do?"

The two trainers in question looked at each other for a moment and Buffy spoke with anger in her voice. "That was one of the most low-down, under-handed examples of dirty fighting I've ever seen!"

Faith was frowning as well, but just as the young woman was about to loose her smile the two trainers grinned and Faith spoke. "And that's quite the compliment. Buffy here is one of the dirtiest fighters around."

While Faith extended her hand to the young woman on the ground Buffy chimed in. "Don't sell yourself short Faith, I mean I may fight dirty, but you can get downright mean."

With the young woman back on her feet Faith looked to her. "Kennedy right?" At the nod Faith addressed her, and then turned to the rest of the trainee slayers. "The only rule when fighting in a life or death situation is to survive. I know we've said it before, but Kennedy here just gave you a real life example. Both Buffy and I have played hurt countless times to get in a sucker-staking."

That got a blank look from the pack of trainees, and Faith laughed a little. "Like a sucker punch, but with a stake. Sucker stakings, kicks to the crotch, rakes to the eyes, or simply pulling out the guns you're being trained in and blasting the damn thing are all acceptable."

In the back of the trainee pack Faith saw one of the girls, a gal snuck out of China to keep her abilities from being exploited by the People's Republic, ask a question of the translator that was necessary since she didn't speak English. Pausing Faith let the translator relate the question, but kept her eyes on the girl. "Why don't we just shoot them in the first place?"

Faith nodded a bit. "Guns are nice, but they don't kill the vamps, and as a slayer there's a good possibility that you'll face things that guns will have no effect on. Our goal here is to give you every tool possible, but more then that we're going to teach you how to find your own tools and make them work. Tell them about the Judge B."

Buffy stepped forward. "Invincible demon that could burn up any trace of humanity inside you, and burn you up with it. It was said no weapon forged could slay him, and back whenever they first encountered him it took an entire army to slice him into bits. A crazy vampire named Drucilla put him back together so he could burn all of humanity to ash. We killed him with a rocket launcher."

Faith picked up the lesson seamlessly. "Up until that point slayers hadn't gotten much more advanced than the crossbow. So the 'no weapon forged' was a huge obstacle. Now a few short years later you'll be using advanced weapons, high-tech body armor, and satellite communications, but in the end it is all about you. What Kennedy did was take control of the situation, and the vampire let her. If you get too reliant on all the toys we give you then you'll be handing control of the situation over to your enemy. The tools make your work easier, they don't do it for you."

Seeing the comprehension lighting up the girls eyes Faith gave a nod. "All right. That'll do it for tonight. We'll play hide and seek again tomorrow night."


Chapter 1.

"How close did you want me to get you to the hotel ma'am?" The question was asked by Apollo, his handle came from his Greek ancestry after he was confirmed as the Lock's new lead pilot. Screened by the same people who pick resources for the Farm, and further cleared by the procedures set up by Samantha Finn and Tara Maclay the ace pilot finally got the job after Fly Boy, aka Jack Grimaldi was suitably impressed by his skills.

The vehicle he was piloting was technically a civilian helicopter, but modified with a selection of military equipment of both lethal and non-lethal nature. Much like the three passengers were in civilian clothing with key bits of military gear. One of the choppers more lethal modifications being a mount for a door gunner, and Faith, aka Slayer was behind the M-60 attached to the post. "Right in front of the hotel. With LA in perpetual night I don't think we'll attract too much attention."

Despite so much military gear Faith and Tara were putting on a civilian appearance as well with Faith in her traditional black leathers while Tara was in a royal purple long skirt and shirt. Though in much the same way the two had an assortment of military options under the casual look.

"And once you and Witch Woman are offloaded?" The pilot looked from Slayer to Witch Woman, aka Tara Maclay, and then back out the front of the chopper.

"Pick a nearby military base and help them get locked down. Then hold there and wait incase we need fire support or a quick extraction. Now I need a phone line to call the Hyperion." There was a brief nod from the pilot and then the dial tone coming over her head set turned into a ring after Faith gave him the phone number.

Cordellia Chase picked up the phone and answered on seeming reflex. "Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless."

Slayer was quick with her reply. "I'm aware Cordy. Now, grab the big guy and get him out front to help me unload the chopper."

Miss Chase was obviously confused. "Faith? What? Chopper? What chopper?"

Faith put a hand over the microphone and sighed scowling at her lovers' grin, knowing Tara could hear everything over her own headset. "The chopper that's going to be dropping Tara and I off in front of the Hyperion in 5 minutes..."

Apollo broke in over his headset. "Three minutes."

Faith scowled at Tara and Apollo as the two grinned at each other. "Three minutes, and I want the chopper on the ground as little as possible so I'll need help getting our gear off it."

Cordellia was still catching up. "Who was that?"

Faith didn't pause. "The pilot."

Cordellia was getting up to speed. "I'll have Gunn and Wesley waiting, but what are you doing here?"

Faith finally smiled herself. "The sun over LA has went black, and Sunnydale is an hour away by chopper... we're here to help."

Cordellia was fully up to speed and sincere in her reply. "Good, we'll need it."

Five minutes later the equipment was offloaded, the chopper had taken off and Faith and Tara were standing in the lobby of the Hyperion, stunned at what they had just been told.

Faith was the first to speak, but it was obvious she was still in shock. "Angel... Angel ASKED you to take his soul out?"

Wesley had appointed himself the spokesman for Angel Investigations, though the entire crew was present, except for Spike who had to be restrained after hearing Angelus was coming back. "Yes, the creature we have taken to calling the Beast, the one who blacked out the sun, had met Angelus at some point, but Angel had no memory of the event. With all other options exhausted Angel had his soul extracted so that we could get the information from Angelus."

Surprisingly Tara was the one to reply to that, and her voice was now calm and focused. "And how has that worked for you?"

Wesley hung his head. "It has been unsuccessful so far."

Tara's expression was less than surprised. "Faith sweetie, please get our gear set up and get all the information they have transmitted to Willow." The witch started working on the gear in her own way as she took out a mortar and pestle and began grinding up a series of herbs which she then loaded into a pouch.

Cordellia perked up at the redhead's name. "What's Willow doing with you guys? She was telling us you were all evil Men in Black... and I thought you were fighting that First Evil thing."

Tara looked over, her voice still a even tone. "Willow had a change of heart and is our connection back to both our libraries and computer resources... and we beat it already... Your tax dollars at work." She followed that last statement with a little grin.

Cordy was nodding, but her look seemed to be seeing the past. "That sounds like a good job for Willow."

Tara met the woman's eyes. "That's what we figured."

Faith then seemed to snap out of it and looked to Tara. "So what are you going to be doing?"

Tara was striding towards the door to the basement. "I'm going to have a talk with Mr. Angelus." The room seemed unanimous in protesting the move and Tara held up a hand. "I'm the only one here he doesn't know."

That broke a great deal of resistance, but Faith wasn't ready to relent. "Then let me come with you, the gear will hold."

Tara shook her head. Stepping forward she cupped Faith's face in her hands, allowing her professional tone to be replaced with one laden with love and tenderness. "I can't allow that Darling." She then kissed her woman's lips. "I've been preparing for this ever since you and I got started seeing each other. I knew how important he is to you, and I knew something like this could happen, but that also means I know Angelus would know all the best ways to hurt you. I can't allow that as someone who loves you." Her voice then took on it's professional tone again, but she stroked Faith's cheek. "And I have to use the best person for the job."

Angel's son Connor then spoke up. "That would be me."

Tara shook her head. "You put Angel in a steel coffin and cast him into the sea when you could have simply destroyed him. That shows me too much of an emotional connection, one Angelus WOULD exploit."

Faith had collected herself. "Take someone Tara. You can't face him alone."

Tara actually smiled. "I must."


Chapter 2.

Angelus was sitting in the corner of his cage in the basement, singing. "If you go out in the woods tonight, you won't believe your eyes. If you got out in the woods tonight, you're in for a big surprise..."

He was looking up at the sound of an opening door when Tara's voice picked up the song. "Behind the trees where nobody sees. They'll hide and seek as long as they please, because tonight's the night the teddy bears have their picnic."

Angelus had a welcoming smile on your face. "You're new."

Tara was nodding, smiling as she put down a chair in front of the cage. "That I am."

Angelus then showed his human teeth and seemed to be pointing at them. "Um it looks like you've got a red hair between your teeth."

He was surprised when she laughed at that. "Not any more thankfully. Faith likes to go Brazilian, and while I know it's supposed to be some patriarchal scheme to make us women hate our bodies as they are oral is just SO much better."

Angelus actually seemed to consider the point. "I gotta agree, back my day it was a damn bird's nest down there."

Tara adjusted her skirt and got comfortable. "So is this where your going to make me tell you about the lambs?"

That got a laugh from the vampire. "I liked that Hannibal guy, he had a wonderful sense of style. MY sense of style, but who's counting? So is that how this is going to be? We'll quid pro quo our brains out until I give you the key to stopping the Beast?"

"Actually I was hoping to talk about Slayers. I mean you and I are unique in that aspect."

Tara was smiling, and Angelus returned it. "What aspect would that be?"

Her smile never flickered. "Being loved by one. Not just having sex with one like Riley, or fucking one like Spike, but truly HAVING a Slayer, mind, body, and soul."

He shrugged. "So what? You're looking for tips on how to curl Faith's toes?" He then deliberately looked downward. "You're a bit lacking there my dear."

Tara laughed. "First of all Angelus, we live in the wondrous age of synthetics. Not to mention I have the whole 'A woman knows, what a woman wants.' going for me. As well as at this point probably over a hundred sexual encounters with Faith compared to your one with Buffy. No, I want you to close your eyes."

"What?" Angelus found his smile starting to flicker.

Tara's however didn't falter. "Close your eyes." There was a long pause with neither moving or speaking. "Come on Angelus, please close your eyes? Not all of us are immortal." As his smile vanished entirely he closed his eyes and Tara began speaking again, her voice soft, even seductive.

"Now, I want you to think of when you made love to Buffy. When the entire world was your flesh pressed to hers. When you could feel that love between you two become an almost physical thing connecting you both. When all there was, was the sensation of her gripping your fingers so tight you thought she'd break them." His eyes opened at that, and Tara gave a blush. "Sorry got carried away. Now close your eyes."

At this point the vampire complied and closed his eyes. "So why am I doing this exactly?"

"To make the spell work." His eyes flew open at that, but Tara already had a handful of the powder she ground up earlier and was blowing it in his face. Angelus found his natural aggression working against him as his instincts had him charging the bars and running head long into the cloud of powder.

He then recoiled, but it was obvious the magick was taking effect as his knees buckled. "I... I'll kill.."

Tara stood up, with the same sweet smile on her face that she had when walking down. "Sweet Dreams Angelus." Then humming "The Teddy Bears Picnic." she walked back upstairs, and upon pushing the door open with her left hand, the right still coated in powder she found herself being fiercely hugged by her partner.

Faith pulled back to look at Tara closely, and then hugged her once more to her chest. "What...the...hell! Were you doing?"

Tara smiled and wiggled free. "I'll explain in a second, but I really need to wash my hands."

Faith stepped back. "Why, is it dangerous?"

Tara wagged her head from side to side. "More really, really potent. A sink please?"

Fred motioned her to a restroom, and they all waited while Tara cleaned up. Surprisingly it was Gunn who was the first to question her. "All right, so while I didn't mind hearing about the details of your sex life I'm a bit confused as to the why?"

Tara smiled. "Because I needed Angelus to be thinking about sex with a Slayer before I dosed him."

Wesley then joined the questioning. "With what?"

Tara's smile never faltered. "A sort of super memory stimulator. He's basically reliving the memory."

Gunn was even more confused. "Of sleeping with that Buffy girl? I thought that was his moment of pure happiness?"

The blonde shook her head. "No, that was Angel's moment of pure happiness now chemically stored in the brain of Angelus." A scream from the vampire in question not only came over the surveillance gear, but was loud enough to echo up the stairs. "And what was a perfect happiness for the man is perfect torment for the demon."

That got Gunn smiling as well, but not nearly as sweetly. "So Tara? You're 100% with the gay thing right?"

That got a nod from the woman in question. "I like to think of it as 110%, but yep. Was gay before Faith found me, and would still be gay if she never had."

Gunn gave her a wink. "Shame."

Faith joined in. "Hey, at least she got the option of other women. She's ruined me for men AND other women so I need to stay on her good side." With that she walked over and gave her lady a kiss.

Wesley cleared his throat. "Yes... now what is our next step?"

Tara gave another kiss to Faith and then turned to Faith's former watcher. "We let him finish his trip down memory lane and then we question him again and see if he will be a bit more forthcoming."

The former watcher met her eyes. "And if he is not?"

Tara met his and let her smile fade. "Then we sit around and remind him of all the good Angel has done in the world and I'll dose him a second time."


Chapter 3.

As she walked back down the stairs she was greeted by applause, Angelus was smiling and shaking his head. "Nice work Tara, top marks. I have to admit I didn't realize you had it in you. I mean I know you're Moneypenny to Faith's Bond, but THAT was a first class piece of ruthlessness." Tara was about to smile, but Angelus wasn't done. "Must have picked that up from the ex. I mean that was a first class mind fuck worthy of the one she laid on you."

Tara's smile faded and Angelus continued, FINALLY having found a weak spot. "Hey, hey, don't let it get you down. I'm a demon. I've done more then enough to deserve it, and Willow? We both know she did it because she loved you."

While Angelus might not NEED to breathe it was a requirement for speaking, and the breath he took to continue on Tara left him in a painful rush as a bullet impacted his stomach from the top of the stairs. Knocked to the ground, mainly from the surprise, Angelus held his stomach and got up. "Let me guess... her girlfriend's back and I'm gonna be in trouble?"

Faith leaned her weapon back on her shoulder, a H&K Mk.23 it was a .45 automatic that was specially designed for covert military action, and Faith had both the silencer threaded to the barrel and the under-barrel optics package with both laser sight and flashlight attached. "Yes, and no. I am her girlfriend, but I'm back in a far grander scale."

Angelus smiled, but winced as he probed the wound. "That's more painful then most times I've been shot."

Faith nodded. "Meant to. If you were mortal it would be a slow, painful death sentence,"

He nodded. "Right, gut shot. I prefer knives, but it's the same principle. So enlighten me killer, sorry 'Slayer' how are you 'back'?"

Faith paced to a spot between Tara and the cage. "Do you remember when we pulled you out of the ocean?" After waiting for him to nod she continued. "And do you remember a stake being amongst the medical equipment?" Waiting again for Angelus to acknowledge her question with a nod she then continued. "Do you know why it was there?"

Wanting more then a nod she waited for the vampire to speak. "Presumably in case my higher brain functions were damaged by the blood deprivation and I had to be put down."

Faith smiled as she saw comprehension dawn in eyes both all too familiar and yet entirely alien. "Right, and I've now realized that you are Angel's worst nightmare come true." Angelus smiled and hammed up a blush, but Faith didn't stop to let him speak. "You know me, I won't doubt that. If it weren't for Angel I wouldn't be here now, and I wouldn't have the amazing life I now have, but that cuts both ways. I know him, and I know that if he were here he would want me to put you down if there was no other option."

The mocking expression that never seemed far from Angelus' face when Faith first came down here was gone and she nodded. "Ok, I think you're getting it now. Now I want to know what you know and I want to know it now. Continue to jerk me around I'll put bullets in all your joints and Tara will follow up with as much magick as is necessary to crack your spirit, and as we both know Angel will root us on."

He bowed, wincing at the gut wound. "All right, Slayer. It was 1789 and I was in Prussia enjoying the local cuisine. Well worth the trip let me tell you. It's like all those sweets get into the blood." He took a moment to savor the memory. "The 'Beast' had set up a little show to impress me." Focused now on Faith he could see she wanted him to elaborate. "He had staged a truly impressive slaughter to catch my eye, and it did. I mean the attention is flattering, but then he made a job offer."

Tara then posed a question. "I thought the vision put you two as adversaries?"

Angelus gave her shrug. "Hey, you two are the spies you know how today's friends are tomorrow's enemies and vice versa. When you've been around as long as I have it only gets worse. Anyway it turns out the Beast was having problems with a group of witches..." He paused to give Tara a wink. "Anyway these witches, the Sevea if you were wondering turned out to be real good at banishing. They also seemed to be pretty good at keeping our little rock star from laying a single green finger on them. They could not however do the same for a vampire, and he was hoping I'd be nice enough to take care of his little problem."

Faith then dropped her weapon to rest at her hip. "And so you did?"

Angelus scoffed. "Nope, they got together and sent him packing back to wherever he came from. It just looks like he finally made it back."

Faith then met his eyes. "Or something brought him?"

That got a huge grin from the vampire. "Oh you HAVE improved haven't you Faithy? So what was it that had you figure out what the rest of this brain trust couldn't?"

Faith shrugged. "Well Biblically 'The Beast' was part of a larger group, but then there's also the title 'The Beast' it sort of tells you a lot about him. I mean there was 'The Master', my old boss 'The Mayor', names like that tell you they are the thinkers, they stayed behind the scenes. This Beast is muscle, he's doing the grunt work."

He was laughing. "VERY good. Your chances of beating him might have actually jumped to slim from none."

Faith then gave him a long look, and a smirk. "I'm also willing to bet they were what brought you back from Hell." That left Angelus blinking as Faith reached out her free hand to Tara and it was accepted. "Come on Babe. We got work to do upstairs."

Upstairs work was already being done. Wesley was pouring through his books, and Fred was typing away at the computer linked up to Willow back at the Lock. Gunn gave the women a smile and a nod as he kept watch over Angelus on the monitor while Cordy was grinning at them from the front desk.

Wesley was the first to speak. "The Sevea, otherwise known as the Sevear. My information matches up with what Angelus said, witches, good with banishing, and while nothing particularly speaks of their ability to ward it would be a bit of a prerequisite of any good banisher."

Fred then added. "Willow is looking for any living Sevea in the computers as well as the library."

While they had debated keeping a constant uplink with Willow the technical resources of Wolfram and Heart left them fearing an intercept and playing it careful, just uplinking when there was new information to report.

Faith started checking her weapons. "Let me know what she finds."


Chapter 4.

The lovers first looked at each other for a long moment, and then they looked at the shamed expressions on all the faces of Angel Investigations, and then back at each other. That last look sent an unspoken message and Faith started speaking. "Don't. It happened, it's done. Angelus escaped, and while it's not a good thing the fact you got Fred away from him unharmed is."

Fred however didn't seem convinced. "Yeah, but now anyone he kills will be because of me."

Faith met, and held her gaze. "Fred, you can never blame yourself for the actions of the opposition. Anyone Angelus kills is on him."

Connor then spoke up. "Yeah, but if we don't put him down for good then we are responsible for all the people he kills."

Tara was the one to meet his gaze. "Then we would be responsible for all the lives he'll save once we return his soul."

Connor seemed ready to reply, but Faith held up a hand. "Look, we could find Angelus and put him down, but Tara's here, and Willow had sent us the curse as soon as she knew Angelus was back. So let's get the soul jar and put him back."

Cordellia had just been watching, but she then nodded and walked into the office and up to the safe. "FAITH!"

Slayer ran in, and everyone else was a step behind her when she saw the empty safe staring back at them. Cordellia looked at the assembled group, but Faith interrupted. "You opened it and it was gone." Cordy nodded, and Faith walked over to examine the door. "Angelus has the combo?"

Lorne shook his head. "I see where your going with this babe, but I was upstairs, and he never came near the safe when he took off out of here."

Tara picked up her lovers train of thought. "Could he have doubled back between escaping and our return?"

The Angel Investigations team looked like they wanted to say no, but more for their own comfort then any truth of the matter. Gunn was shaking his head. "Believe it or not we're normally pretty good at this."

Faith gave the man a smile. "I know you are. This is special circumstances. You have a traitor in the ranks, and that's going to screw your operations up. We're here, we'll help you shore things up." He smiled back, though it wasn't as enthusiastic.

Faith then took a breath, and Tara recognized Faith slipping into her "Slayer" title. Much like she would slip into her role as a vampire slayer as "Slayer' she mixed her natural abilities with military training. Training that was now coming to the fore. "Ok, I want the hotel locked down, and a floor to floor sweep with no one left alone at any time. Tara will supervise while I go try to shake Angelus loose."

Wesley was unsure. "And how do you propose to do that?"

Faith was answering the question with her actions as she went to the weapons bags and started extracting gear. A M-4 Ranger Carbine with ammo as well as additional rounds for her H&K Mk. 23 pistol. The guns were complimented by a tactical radio, web gear, plastic explosives, hand grenades and incendiary devices. Much actually went back into a weapons bag, but it was obvious it was now packed with definite intent.

As she armed herself she hit keys on the lap top that connected back to the Lock, and started speaking as soon as Willow's image appeared. "The Sevea are dead, not sure how he did it but Witch Woman and I found a massacre that seemed personally motivated . I want a larger net thrown. First check the other 47 continental, then expand. While that's happening I want a search of the library for anything we have on them with a focus on their banishing rituals, and wards. Get a message drop ready and keep it monitored, anything that pops up should be relayed to Tara and myself immediately ."

Willow blinked, and again. "Ok."

Slayer didn't notice. "Tara can bring you up to speed."

Witch Woman walked around and gave Slayer a kiss. "Be careful."

There was a nod, then Slayer seemed to vanish for a second and Faith grinned. "That isn't the traditional way you start a mission is it?"

Witch Woman winked. "Only yours."

Gunn held up his hands. "Wait, mission?"

Witch Woman answered. "She's going to launch a blitz. That means that she's going to hit as many sites as she can as quickly as she can, and each time she's going to make it clear that as long as Angelus is running free she's not going to stop."

Gunn's smile was far more genuine and enthusiastic. "And that works?"

Slayer nodded. "Very well."

He gave her a nod. "Want some help?"

That got Gunn a speculative eye. "I brought a second piece incase this one got fouled. You know how to handle an automatic weapon?"

That got him to actually laugh. "Please, I'm a young black man born and raised in LA."

Faith nodded and handed him the piece she was holding while reaching in for a new assault weapon, and extra clips. "Now, I know this weapon looks tiny, but it's a cut down M-16 so you'll need to be handling it like it's a rifle... and I only brought one set of tac gear, so you'll have to carry the clips in your pockets."

He was checking the assault piece. "Right, do I get any grenades?"

She smiled. "No, they actually take a surprising amount of training to not take yourself out as well. I'll be going in first, you are here to point me to the targets and watch my back as we work."

He was packing his pockets with a series of clips, stakes and bladed weapons. "Any preference?"

She shook her brunette locks. "The more valuable the better, but I want this random so they don't know where we'll show up next."

He tucked the gun up under an arm. "The message?"

Faith threw her jacket on and slung the M-4. "We want Angelus. Until we have Angelus we'll keep going. Anyone who hides him will get extra special attention. We give them the number Red set up and let them know a call that leads us to him makes their problems go away."


Chapter 5.

Faith gave an appreciating nod at Gunn's pick up. "Nice. I'm not going to insult you by asking if she's maintained, but I like older models like this because they are built to last."

Gunn ran an appreciative hand along the sky blue paint job. "You got that right. She's gotten me into and out of some of the most dangerous situations I've ever been in. She'll take care of us just fine."

Faith made herself not grin at the personification of the truck as she got into the passenger side. "Where is she taking us first?"

Gunn was sliding into his own seat as he replied. "Drug den. The junkies shoot up and the vamps feed on them. I doubt they'll have anything relevant to tell us, but I figure getting the news out there will get the news out quick."

Faith knew he was right, they would flee the burning building, and then tell everyone they knew that Faith the Vampire Slayer was in town and ready to burn it down if she didn't get Angelus. Then those lowlifes would tell others, and they would tell others and within an hour of her first strike the whole underworld would know that she was there and what she was after.

Some might balk at that level of attention, but that was the idea of a blitz. Hit the enemy with all the sound and fury you can muster, leave the survivors shaken and afraid. The survivors would spread that fear like a virus that would consume the fighting spirit of the enemy.

Pioneered by the Nazis back in World War 2 it became Mack Bolan's stock in trade when he was waging his alarmingly successful single man war against the Mafia. He had passed it on to his student back when he first took Faith under his wing. Now she was going to use it to put the fear of God into the legions of Hell.

As Gunn pulled them up in front of the drug den it looked much like the ones she'd seen back in Boston, and all around the world really. Sure the street signs might be in different languages when kicking down doors in Hong Kong or Berlin, but it was essentially the same. The same weight of despair, the stench that comes from those who crumble under that weight. The only difference Faith saw was that the boards over the windows were placed with more care, undoubtedly for their undead clientele.

Gunn turned to her as he pulled the vehicle to a stop. "Now, do you want me to send the message or will you?"

"I'll do it. It's a toss up since you are one of Angel's guys, but I'll do it since my reps even bigger after awakening the slayers."

With that the two stepped out of the pick up and started walking toward the building, not bothering to hide their hardware. Not only was this not the kind of neighborhood to call the police, but the visible weapons would guarantee that they could leave the car with the doors unlocked and key in the ignition and still have it there waiting for them.

Looking at her ally Faith gave him a focused stare. "Ready?" He nodded in the affirmative and Faith's foot sent the door blowing off it's hinges and dropping to the floor a good five feet from where it had previously hung.

Their opening action had been planned to leave both the living and the not, stunned and reeling, and they had been overwhelmingly successful as junkies and vampires were scuttling away from the sudden intrusion of harsh reality into their drugged haze.

Gunn's eyes were scanning the room but there were yanked into the action as Faith's gun cut loose with a short burst that sent one of the house's suppliers crashing to the ground in a bloody froth. His heart clenched when it hit him that it was a human that Faith had just dropped, a human that was working with the vampires, but a human none the less.

Thoughts of Fred's professor and the sound of his neck snapping echoed in Gunn's ears even louder then the autofire, and he couldn't be sure he could pull the trigger on a human. Thankfully the vampires were still in it so he didn't have to worry about it yet.

While Gunn knew to squeeze rather then pull the trigger he was surprised at how fast the weapon sent a dozen rounds hurtling into a pair of vamps who were going for the guns that always were close by in this sort of place.

So focused was he on his own opponents that Faith's tripping bursts cutting down three more of the dealers seemed to blend into one. That took their armed opposition out of play and Faith then seemed to take pot shots with the rest of her clip at the undead in residence.

Gunn realized she was insuring they had an audience for their message. "Ok, I'm Faith! Yeah, that Faith. I'm here in LA, and I'm going to stay in LA until I get Angelus. As long as I am here I'm going to keep amusing myself by burning your stuff." She matched words with her actions by taking one of the incendiary sticks and twisting the end before tossing it onto the wooden door she had kicked off it's hinges. "See?"

Reloading she then slung the weapon and handed Gunn a couple sticks to toss while she did the same. "You don't want me here, and that means you don't want him here. You know where he is you call me at 555-8308 and leave a message. You hide him and you'll wish for the days I was just amusing myself here in LA."

She jerked her head and he knew that meant he should fall back to the truck. It WAS still there, and Faith covered him as they withdrew back to the vehicle.

Gunn climbed behind the wheel, and then stuck his gun out the window to help cover Faith incase there was any trouble.

There was none, but as they got rolling Faith gave him the eye. "You hesitated back there."

He sighed and his jaw locked. "I've only killed one human, and while he deserved it I don't know if I can kill another."

Faith nodded, relaxing even. "Hey, I've killed more then one, and I'm sad to say not all of them deserved it. What you going through isn't wrong. It's what keeps you from turning into what Angelus is, and I was, but in the rest of our raids I want you to focus on the demonic opposition and I'll do my best to take any humans that give us any trouble."

The two warriors nodded and continued into the eerie light of the blocked out sun.


Chapter 6.

While Tara still bit her lip on occasion it was no longer a sign of insecurity. Now it was just a sign of concentration as she planned. Taking and then releasing a breath she turned to the five remaining investigators. "All right, I want to search the Hyperion from top to bottom, roof to sewers. Even if we don't find the soul jar we might find a trace of the thief."

Cordy wasn't convinced though. "What trace? I mean this isn't CSI, and anyone that would steal Angel's soul isn't going to 'accidentally' drop their business card."

Tara gave a tolerant smile. "That may be true, but there may also be signs of where they entered the building, and if there isn't that too could be a clue."

Connor was scowling. "And while we do this Angelus is out there killing people."

Tara didn't blink as she met and held the young man's gaze. "And Faith and Gunn are out there hunting him. While she is striving for a... 'live' capture I know Faith and I know she will do what has to be done."

He scoffed. "More likely Angelus will tear your little girlfriend to bloody chunks."

The rest of Angel Investigations looked horrified at his choice of words, but Tara still held his gaze. "I'd give her better odds then I would you, but saving your father's soul is only part of why we are here..." Everyone focused more on Tara then as she continued. "I think Faith was right that the Beast's boss is what brought Angel back, and consequently the odds are good that this same boss had the soul jar stolen. While I want Angel's soul back I REALLY want intel on this new player."

The group was sobered by Tara's words as she started handing out assignments. "All right, Fred and Connor will start at the basement and work your way to the roof, Wesley and Cordellia will start up on the roof and work your way down. While I don't expect you to find the soul jar in the fridge behind the mayo if ANYTHING stands out I want you to report it back to me."

Lorne then spoke up. "And what about you and I sweet thing?"

Tara gave the green skinned demon a smile. She then walked over to the weapon boxes and pulled out a mini-Uzi with sling and put it on. "I'm not Faith, but I've been taught how to protect myself and I figure if I start firing an automatic weapon it will let everyone know we need help. During the search I'll be here coordinating whatever Willow and our teams uncover... I assume you all have cell phones right?" At their nods she faced Lorne and continued. "You will primarily be making sure Angelus can't sneak up on me if he would decide to double back."

She then gave them all a smile. "Was there any questions?" At the assorted head shakes she smiled again. "Dismissed."

As the dismissed all spread out to their various assignments Lorne gave her a grin of his own. "You really have gone all mill spec haven't you sweetie?"

Tara gave a pretty blush. "I'm working with career soldiers most of the time so I picked it up, but I've found it really is an efficient form of communication. Not only is it a quicker way to get a lot of important information out, but it seems less likely to have a misunderstanding like civilian terms."

He then gave her a skeptical look. "Do you really expect them to find anything?"

She shrugged. "I've already scanned the safe to make sure it wasn't taken out by mystic means. So some physical being had to come in and take the soul jar out, and since I haven't detected any current dimensional apertures the jar was physically moved after being taken out of the safe. To do all that without leaving a sign would be a sign in and of itself."

While the former club owner was more known for his musical talents he was no slouch mentally and picked up what Tara was implying. "I'm not sure I like where you are going with this sweetie."

Tara frowned. "When a child is kidnapped the first people they clear are the parents since they have the easiest of access. By the same token whoever stole the jar didn't have to damage the safe to get in. So they probably had the combination."

He shook his head. "Who would have reason to steal Angel's soul?"

"The first possibility would be the son who tried to consign his father to an eternity at the bottom of the sea. If Angel was Angelus and there was no sign of him ever regaining his soul we would be more likely to help Connor then stop him, and if he's still carrying that grudge it gives him an incredible amount of motive. Then there is Wesley who has all too easy of a time betraying those near and dear to him."

Lorne frowned. "Sweetie, I don't need to have you singing to see that flash in your aura."

Tara ran her fingers through her hair. "I'm not going to lie about my personal issues with Mr. Wyndham-Pryce. It was his actions that first put my Darling on the dark path, but you can not deny that if he decides he knows better then everyone else he'll do whatever he chooses, and damn the consequences."

Lorne sighed. "Ok, I'll give you that. Do you have a reason for me? Or is that why I'm here with you?"

Tara smiled. "That's one of the reasons, but I didn't want to risk putting Connor or Wesley with the objects of their affections."

The green-skinned demon's head was bobbing in understanding. "So you paired them with each other's objects of affection. You really do know how to manage people."

Tara gave one of her little half-grins. "I've picked up a thing or two."

"Now... do you have any suspicions about Cordellia or Fred?"

Tara bit her lip. "None for Fred really. Barring some sort of outside influence attacking her will there's no reason for her to steal Angel's soul... you haven't picked up anything strange from their auras have you?"

He smiled lightly. "All ship shape... but you didn't answer about Cordy."

Tara had a full fledged frown. "My concerns about Cordellia are two fold. First from what I understand the dark forces HAVE been able to use her gift against her before, when that dark warrior made her feel ALL the pain happening in LA? But I'm also worried about the fact that she was out of touch for three months... while it would be a bit fast I have heard of cases of people being programmed in similar blocks of time."

Lorne physically pulled back. "Programmed? Like Manchurian Candidate programmed?"

Tara nodded sadly. "Yes. While Cordellia is an incredibly strong willed woman with three months and magick her will could have been stripped away and commands implanted. They could have even sent her the 'vision' of Angelus and the Beast so you would remove Angel's soul."

"You've thought a lot about this."

Tara's expression leveled to a focused mask. "It's my job."

Lorne was frowning deeply. "Must be a lonely one for such a lovely young woman."

Tara shook her head. "It's important work, and I have Faith."

He paused, then gave her a wink. "Big F or little f?"

Tara paused and gave a little giggle. "Both."


Chapter 7.

"I figure we hit Wolfram and Heart next." Gunn was turned in his drivers seat to look at his passenger Faith.

She nodded as she checked the action on her carbine. "Heck, I planned on hitting them either way while I was in town." As she said that she looked sideways from where she was checking her weapon and gave a wink.

He shook his head back, but he was smiling. "Might want to get ski masks though. These guys have friends on the force."

Faith shook her head, and she was not smiling. "No, if they wanted you they could have handed you over . I would LOVE it if they would hand me over. Officially I don't exist, and if they handed my image over my superiors would climb up their ass with a searchlight in the resulting investigation."

Gunn was skeptical. "So we just walk in their bold as brass and shoot up the place?"

Faith was smiling again. "From what I hear it wouldn't be the first time you've done something like that."

That got a laugh. "That was cool."

She met his eyes then. "But I want you to keep your eyes open for intel as well as hostiles. This place moves evil on a global scale and if there's a file marked 'top secret' I want to grab it."

Gunn's head was bobbing in the affirmative, and still was as they climbed out of the truck and walked into the lobby. The suspiciously quiet lobby, the suspiciously quiet lobby that had metal doors and shutters slam shut behind them. He then turned to Slayer. "I was going to say it's too quiet, but we're screwed."

Faith double checked her carbine. "I'll save the explosives for making an exit. So lets just look around a bit. See if there's anything neat to pick up or people to talk to, and then we'll bug out."

She tucked her rifle with one hand on the grip and the barrel resting in the crook of the opposite arm, and looked out the corner of her eye to make sure Gunn picked up on her actions, and bit down the urge to laugh at herself. Here big, bad Faith was keeping an eye on the new guy to make sure he didn't accidentally shoot himself.

They found the first body behind the reception desk. It was the traditional cute blonde secretary, but the cute little lady wasn't even whole let alone alive. The two warriors locked eyes in a silent appraisal of what they were up against.

While neither warrior would like to call themselves desensitized to violence the horrors they found tested even them as the rest of Wolfram and Hearts staff was in a similar state. Yet while Gunn was focusing on NOT getting rattled Faith eyes were sweeping the environment.

Her eyes locked on a doorway marked IT. Sending the door crashing open with a kick her gun swept the room only to find the truly dead laying in wait. Figuring they would not object she reached into her gear bag and pulled out an object that looked like a lap top that didn't open. Seeing the question in his eyes she answered without looking at him. "An invention of Willow's. She calls it the 'Box O' Cracker'."

Seeing a smirk on the black man's face she smirked back. As she started speaking again she pulled a USB plug out of the box and pulled it into a main frame. "It's a rare operative that can be a top notch commando and computer expert, or 'cracker'. This little box here will first try to contact Willow so she can crack their codes from our computer room. If it can't get a signal, like it can't now, it carries software that will download the files in order of most secure to least."

He face scrunched up. "And their computers will just allow that?"

Faith's head shook as her eyes looked at the little read out of the device's progress, she replied in a distracted voice. "It downloads them security programs and all. She'll still have to crack the codes, but this way I can carry them out to her without lugging the whole enemy computer system."

That got a far more appreciative look, but before he could respond his eyes caught movement, and the two warriors snapped their rifles in that direction. As experienced demon hunters dead bodies becoming animate wasn't exactly shocking, but they still realized whatever it was, was just starting.

Gunn was putting short bursts into the now animate dead, but they weren't impressed and started to advance on the living. Faith jumped up from the computer and was walking toward the door. "Head or extremities, the chest doesn't have anything a zombie needs."

At the close confines of the IT room he had no trouble making the head shots, and while he did Faith stuck her head outside the door. Popping back in she started speaking in a fast, controlled clip. "Wasn't just them. What's the box at?"

Gunn ran over and looked at the read out. "Eighty three percent!"

"Switch to semi-auto and join me here at the door. Head shots, let's keep this area clear for a fast exit!" She was already matching actions with her words as she had dropped to one knee and was taking a steady stream of well placed single shots.

Gunn joined her and for several agonizing minutes the only sounds were the shuffling of the dead, the repeating of their rifles, and the sounds of bodies hitting the floor. When the Cracker Box hit 100% it didn't make a noise, but it didn't seem to need to as Faith was on it right away and tucking it inside her gear bag.

"Cover me!" She got a nod as she reached back into the satchel and pulled out shapeable charges which she placed around one of the window shutters. With a cry of "Fire in the hole!" she shoved Gunn back in the IT room and blew the charges in the hallway outside, only to immerge to smoke, smoldering zombie bits, shards of office furniture and a fully intact wall.

Gunn was the first to curse "Damn it! What now?"

Faith was giving the wall a quick survey. "I'm guessing the walls are reinforced, the shutters too with both science and magick. The zombies aren't a coincidence either, probably a security feature meant to kill any intruders who managed to do this much damage."

"But we didn't do it."

Faith smirked. "It's the thought that counts, but it doesn't matter. My point is that it's likely this place is locked down in all the ways they, and their well paid consultants could think of."

"So what's that mean?"

She met his gaze. "You tell me. You're the native guide."

He pondered, and then scowled. "There's a possibility, but I can't tell you if it's better or not."

Faith looked towards the moving shadows that were drawing closer. "Death is the end of options. Show me."

The pair took off with Gunn leading the way to the elevator, and the White Room. In the elevator car Faith brought her eyes to his again. "Ok, right, White Room, kid, that sort of thing?"

"From what I get it's dealer's choice. What you need to get is that this thing isn't under any obligation to help us. We'll need to give it a reason."

What Gunn and Faith found out though was that it already had a reason as the little girl who lived in the White Room was laid out on the floor as the Beast stole some sort of dark energy out of it, and her last act sent Faith and Gunn away.


Chapter 8.

The M-16 with it's under slung M-203 was sweeping the interior of the warehouse, it's wielder Mack Samuel Bolan's eyes were following the same path as he searched the interior. The solder knew that it would have been better if Slayer had been with him as he was attempting the live capture of one of the most notorious vampire's ever, but she had been out of touch for several hours now, and the message drop that Willow Rosenberg set up had gotten a hit.

With Striker in town to help with the impending apocalypse Tara had told him about the potential hit and he had went to investigate. He had been considering back up, but the tip actually revolved around the Wolfram and Heart lawyer Lilah Morgan, and her own hunt for Angelus, and with her... history with Angel Investigations the Executioner decided to go it alone.

The move was risky, but in the warrior's life most of his actions were.

Voices drew him deeper into the confines of the warehouse, but the echoes made it hard to track them to a specific source. They were however decidedly masculine and feminine, and when he made out the words "The Great Angelus" he knew he was on the right track.

He could now see the two talking and it was indeed the vampire Angelus and the lawyer Lilah. She had been speaking before, and he was now replying. "You need to say it with more conviction. 'The GREAT Angelus. Now what do you want?"

Striker was interested as well and focused on their conversation, but not so much that he didn't feel the shift in air pressure that came up with a large mass shifting. Swinging the rifle around the large mass was a humanoid, a large green human of metallic structure, the Beast.

The creature was ready to crush Bolan's skull with a single steel fist, but his sudden shift hit air as the warrior dropped to a crouch and pivoted. His finger was already squeezing the trigger and while a face full of 5.56mm rounds didn't have the same impressive effect as it normally did the Beast was rattled enough to let Striker backpedal towards the two he had been spying on.

Lilah was the first to speak, or shriek. "I want you to kill THAT! It killed everyone at Wolfram and Heart, everyone there, everyone sick that day. All of us!" She then shouted at the Beast. "And were the bad guys!"

Striker wasn't paying much attention as he lifted the rifle to his shoulder and triggered the grenade launcher. While it had been loaded with a buckshot round to shred Angelus without destroying him utterly the round again kept the Beast off balance so it couldn't counter attack.

As it roared in pain Angelus threw in his own shout. "Not bad enough it seems." Striker on the other hand was loading an armor piercing round into the launcher and letting it fly. The creature was actually knocked prone and Angelus laughed in glee. "Whoa! I don't know who this guy is but I LOVE him!"

The guy in question was loading another AP round as the Best showed it's brain that complimented it's brawn and grabbed Lilah by the ankle. She was shrieking and dove behind the rising Beast as Bolan let another projectile fly.

She was actually screaming as she used the Beast as her shield rather then the other way around. "He's the Slayer's damn father figure he isn't going to care if I'm in the way!"

Angelus was still laughing as he was a spectator to this lethal sporting contest. "Two birds with one stone, right big guy?"

The big guy didn't respond as he hurled a fragmentary grenade at the creature's feet. He had known this was a potential encounter coming in, and had came in ready for a man shaped version of an armored division. Lilah was still struggling and the creature then ended her struggle by shoving a crudely hewn stiletto into her throat and casting her aside as the metallic egg at his feet went off.

Knowing that if he let up, he died, he grabbed a block of C-4 that was already prepped with a radio detonator and fisted it in his off hand, Charging the reeling Best he slammed the putty into the monster's face and ducked behind it. Taking two more steps he triggered the detonator and was turning back around as the explosion went off.

Then he got a better look at the stiletto that had fallen out of the Beat's hand, and realizing it looked to be made of the same material as the creature. It suddenly became his priority, but he still knew he had to keep the Beast off balance. So he laid in with another rifle launched rocket.

As it screamed in a combination of rage and pain he dived and grabbed the knife off floor. His prediction was then proven right as the Beast was able to recover and was ready to smash the soldier with a two handed blow that would likely leave pieces of skull imbedded in the rock.

Bolan knew that his life was balanced on this one moment, and struck with all his skill as he sent the blade upward into what should, hopefully, be the creature's heart. The stiletto slid in with almost no resistance, and the blow that was set to end the Executioner stopped as the stony fists instead went to the hilt of the weapon now protruding from the stony green chest.

It staggered back and threw it's head back in a scream that turned into an explosion of light that turned into a pillar that burst through the roof and continued upward until it met the blackened sun and seemed to shatter the shell surrounding it, returning the blessed light of day.

A presence suddenly swooped in behind Mack Bolan and hit his forearm to jar the rifle from his grasp. His chin was grabbed and pulled backward, and a voice spoke into his ear. "Not happy to see the sun come back, but I think you'll be worth it big guy."

His jarred hand dropped to the Desert Eagle holstered on his hip and yanked it free. Before the fangs could piece his skin he snapped off a shot, but rather then hitting the vampire at an awkward angle behind him it smashed into the large window in front of them.

That sent Angelus hissing and skittering back into the surrounding shadows. He seemed ready to speak, but it was cut off into a strangled cry as the Eagle sent a .44 Magnum mangler through his right shoulder. It wasn't certain if Angelus was attempting to form another reply as a third round pulped his left shoulder, but he was only capable of making moans of agony as shots four and five punched through his left and right hips.

The remainder of the 10 shot magazine carved assorted channels through the vampires' torso and he was left to writhe and groan as Bolan grabbed reinforced cuffs and manacles and secured them on Angelus. While he had more chains in his vehicle the factory they were in had some of their own and he quickly appropriated them before dragging the bleeding carcass to his trunk where he finished securing the vampire.

Letting Angelus see him set a primed block of C-4 on his chest he palmed the detonator and took a moment to search Lilah Morgan's remains. Besides assorted platinum cards and some battered, but expensive jewelry he found pass cards for Wolfram and Heart that could prove useful. The final thing of interest he found was an ancient tome that he would bring back to Tara.

He set out to do just that as he picked up the C-4 and deactivated it. Looking into the vampire's eyes his voice was the graveyard tone that had put fear into the hearts of the living, and it was having a similar effect on the dead. "Feel free to try to escape. Just remember the only thing between you and the sun is the trunk lid."


Chapter 9.

Tara gave the man a smile and a nod as he walked in the door. "Striker, good work getting the sun back."

He returned the smile. "Glad I could help."

While the Angel Investigations team was looking surprised at the casual exchange it was Connor who put their thoughts to words. "Just a normal days work to you guys?"

The people in question turned almost in unison and locked eyes with the young man until his gaze drop away. Striker then spoke. "Any word from Slayer?"

Tara actually smiled at that. "She penetrated Wolfram and Heart with Gunn, but the Beast had already attacked and killed everyone there. Their presence there activated something that animated the bodies of the slain, and they ended up fleeing through the White Room. The problem was that the Beast was killing the entity that lived there and as it's dying act it sent them away... to the roof of the Lock."

With the Striker pulled out the articles he retrieved from Lilah. "I heard about the killings. Morgan was meeting with Angelus to try to convince him to kill the Beast. These were her personal effects."

Wesley picked up on that. "Were?"

Bolan gave the man a kinder gaze. "I'm sorry, but when I was battling the Beast it stabbed her with a knife it had made from it's own body."

Fred then interrupted. "How do you know what it was made from?"

He didn't blink. "I was able to use the knife to kill it."

Wesley was still on the earlier point. "Why did it stab her?"

The cool tones of the Executioner didn't change. "When we were fighting it tried to use her as a shield. She realized who I was and realized it would not stop me, and struggled to get out of the way. Her struggles aggravated it enough that it killed her."

Fred saw that Wes was having difficulty. "Hey Wesley? Why would Lilah have brought this book to her meeting with Angelus? We searched it already and it had nothing."

He leapt at the distraction, while Connor brought the conversation back to what he considered the more important topic. "And what about Angelus?"

Again two ice blue gazes swept over the petulant young man as Striker replied. "He's in the trunk."

Connor jumped at that. "You left him alone?"

The warrior's gaze narrowed. "We'd be smelling the smoke it he got out."

Tara moved to support Mack. "He knows what he's doing Connor. Now if you would please help him get a blanket over your father and get him back to the basement."

Before turning to leave Mack met her eyes in a much warmer gaze. "I assume Faith's en route?"

Tara nodded. "With a team of slayers." She picked up a blanket and followed them out the door.

Striker fisted the big Desert Eagle in one hand and the key in the other as Tara got the blanket ready. Connor stood back, but ready with a stake. The hood was popped, and Angelus seemed to realize his circumstance as the last sight he saw before his head being wrapped was Striker putting away the pistol and Tara pulling out the Mini-Uzi submachine gun.

He felt, but couldn't see his son grabbing his shoulders, and the soldier grabbing his legs as Tara kept him covered for the trip down to the basement. Of course he contemplated trying to get away once they were in the hotel, but the blanket was kept up around him until he was hurled into the cage so that even if he could ignore the pain from his wounds, and escape the heavy restraints he would have to somehow time it so he got out inside the safety of the hotel without Tara giving him a full magazine of 9mm persuasion to stay right where he was.

As his body was hurled headlong into the cage Striker kept hold of the blanket and his bound, bullet ridden form crashed to the bottom of the cage. Connor looked over and met Striker's eyes as the solider responded to the silent question. "I said I would try to bring him back alive, I didn't say unharmed,"

The response got the first smile from the young man as Fred observed the same situation and was alarmed. "We need to get him blood so he can heal."

Tara smiled softly while putting her arm out to bar Fred from getting close to the cage. "Angel will need blood to heal, Angelus can suffer."

Connor then snickered. "He probably suffering more from the fact he was beaten by a mere mortal."

Angelus then showed he was down, but not out as he laughed from his position on the floor of the cage. "Son, that's no mere mortal..." Tara darted an alarmed look to Striker, but he shook his head. "That's Mack Samuel Bolan, the Executioner. A man with a bigger body count then me."

Angel Investigations turned almost in unison as Angelus continued. "Yep, his pops was dumb enough to take out a loan with the mob, and surprisingly enough the Mafia is not known for the ethical lending practices..."

Gunn the cut the vampire off. "And they killed him for non-payment. We get the picture."

Angelus laughed. "Nope, they were roughing daddy up and when little sis Cindy learned about it she offered to 'help' replay the loan. When daddy learned about her after school job turning tricks for the mob he flipped out and killed the family, except for Mr. Executioner here who was out killing Gooks for Uncle Sam. Sound about right?"

Connor however was the first to speak. "And how do you know all this?"

Angelus grinned, looking fiendish even bound and bloodied. "This man is perhaps the biggest mass murderer of modern history, and possibly ever. How could I NOT know?"

Bolan turned and started walking towards the stairs to have Angelus shout to his back. "Nothing to say to that?"

Bolan looked back over his shoulder. "I've already beat you. What's the point?"

He said nothing more as he strode up the stairs, and Tara smiled as she turned to walk after him. Her last look at Angelus told her the story, he can be beaten, bloody and bound, but he didn't know how to handle being ignored.


Chapter 10.

Riley Finn was shirtless and in grey jogging sweats, and white sneakers with sweat running down his chest as he stooped over and rested his hands on his knees.

Next to him Faith was in black sneakers, grey sweat shorts, and black sports bra. While she was sweating she wasn't anywhere near as breathless. Ever since awakening the slayer line her abilities had even exceeded those of her senior slayer Buffy Summers, so keeping up with her human second in command was easy.

Instead she swatted him on the shoulder and he was smiling as he stood up. "Right, right." He knew like she did that staying upright gave the lungs more room to expand and would help him get his breath back faster.

After a few more moments panting Riley was ready to jog again. It had become a bit of a ritual for the two Lock officers. While they had access to the finest maps available, even a special forces grade topographical map with GPS it couldn't give the same feel for a given set of terrain as simply going out and walking it.

Another part of the ritual was a sort of one on one briefing which Riley started. "So Striker didn't care that Angel revealed him as one of the most wanted men of all time?"

Faith knew that was the nicer way of putting that Striker at this point had dispatched perhaps thousands wicked souls, but she didn't comment on that. "Nope. Striker's past may be violent, but he's at peace with it. Angelus was out of his league and just didn't realize it."

Riley's look was skeptical and Faith continued. "Striker has done more in a few short decades then Angelus managed in centuries. While Angelus preyed upon the weak and innocent Striker tested himself against the fiercest predators he could find. Striker makes war, but Angelus simply kills."

He then nodded. "How's Angel doing now?"

"Still tore up over Cordy, and no there's nothing new there. Cordellia is still comatose, and Tara's still blaming herself for not sensing the dark divinity that had taken up squatting."

The two were side by side in a steady pace as Riley replied. "I'm just glad Tara's shield's kept the Lock and the Farm from joining Jasmine's congregation."

That got a full-blown sigh from Slayer. "Yeah, and now the Southern Fried Son of a Bitch has been wanting Tara to make all military bases shielded as well."

Riley knew that the bisexual woman wasn't a big fan of the conservative Commander in Chief and usually expressed it in colorful monikers. "What's wrong with that? We just station war mages at each base."

Faith's head shook left and right even as it bobbed up and down with the jogging motion. "Jasmine would have blown through shields like that without even stopping. When we built the Lock, Tara used something called scared geometry. They used it to build ancient temples and the like to take full advantage of natural energies. She convinced Hal to remodel the Farm to the same, and that's what kept the Jasmine effect out, and much like when Angel's people managed to break the spell you were either effected or you weren't. It wasn't a constant effect."

Riley took a drink from his water bottle as Faith continued. "So future bases could be built protected, but there's no way to explain, let alone pay for remodeling all the ones already standing."

He finished drinking. "What about key ones?"

"Tara explained it to me, and the problems are two fold. First of all each base would be a unique creation..." Riley was nodding, experienced enough in seeing magic performed to understand that it can't be mass produced, or standard issue in this case. "... it also has to be in harmony with it's environment." That got a knowing groan from her second in command and Faith was smiling as she continued. "She was able to design the Lock from the ground up, and the Farm was built so covertly that the natural features weren't cut down or paved over like most bases NEED."

He was nodding knowingly and smiling ruefully. "So how'd the President take it?"

Faith stopped and took a deep, angry drink of water. "We'll you would think that such a religious man would understand that the ways of the gods are the ways of the gods... but shockingly enough he wanted to twist that to serve his needs TOO!"

Riley's eyes were wide. "Faith, considering that you are part of the U.S. Military I think you might want to get counseling for these anger issues you have with our Commander In Chief."

She arched a brow. "Why? I wouldn't be the first soldier to hate their superior officer. Riley, I'm not going to go after the guy, but I can't respect a man who has made it clear that he considers me evil for being head over heels in love. I mean let's be honest, if you had my slayer abilities do you think I would have ever got out of prison?"

"Well Hal probably still would have sprung you because they needed help getting it together, but yeah I see your point, but if it helps I'm sure he's got just as many problems with you being a woman."

She laughed. "Thanks! The only good thing is that Tara's managed to work her magic... not literal magick just her normal makes you want to like her magic and the President has pretty much marked her as his go to girl for occult affairs. At least I think that's a good thing. Is it a good thing when the President likes your girlfriend?"

Riley was trying not to laugh. "Yes Faith, that's a good thing. Maybe seeing her like he does will show him that gay people are people too."

That got him a scowl. "Tara said that too. I think your giving the Decider too much credit."

They jogged in silence for several minutes before Riley posed a question. "Has Willow gotten anything from those files you lifted from Wolfram and Heart?"

"Nope, problem is that with their trans-dimensional resources Red's not even sure the information is coded in a human language. Bear and his people want to help, but they don't even have Willow's experience to draw upon."

His head turned and his eyes locked on his superior officer for several steps. "And how are you doing with Willow?"

Faith groaned. "Tara was able to forgive her so I could as well. I won't lie to you Riley there was a point I not only could have taken Willow out, but would have enjoyed doing so."

There was a long pause and Riley could see Faith struggling to find the words. "Now however I just feel sympathy. Tara really has been so good for me... I could try to imagine what it would be like to lose her, but I don't want to. All I need to do is watch Red, and realize that anything I would have or could have done to her would be a kindness compared to the Hell she goes through every time she sees Tara."

There was still some skepticism in his eyes. "No worries about Willow then?"

"Nah, even if I were to buy it on a mission tomorrow she wouldn't go back with Red. Even if she's forgiven her the love is gone."

Finn then tried to smile at Faith. "Not gone, just in better hands."

That got a definite smile. Then her cell phone went off, and the read out showed it as "Wolfram and Heart". Faith flipped her phone open. "Slayer."

Angel was on the line. "Hi Faith. Are you free? There's a situation here I need some help with."


Chapter 11.

"So Angel, what's a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?" The "nice girl" Faith was in a place like the newly restored offices of Wolfram and Heart, and if her current equipment was any indication she was going to return it to the state of destruction it was in when she was last here.

Faith had forgone even the attempt to look like a civilian as she had worn black BDUs with black combat boots and a full black nylon harness filled with her most lethal instruments of war. The assortment of blades, grenades and equipment pouches weren't even concerned with the stealthier aspects of the soldiering arts, but rather were all picked with the express purpose of unleashing as much hell as possible in as short a possible time. Technically the pistol on her right hip was the H&K Mk.23 that was designed for commando missions, but even this was bearing the optics package while forgoing the silencer.

The lead weapon was the hand held firestorm titled the Squad Automatic Weapon, or nicknamed SAW, primarily for it's effect on whatever the shooter unleashed it on. It had ridden to Wolfram and Heart in a duffle bag that Faith had put on the reception desk alongside the duster she had been wearing in the LA heat to keep her lethal wardrobe choices from alarming anyone.

It was her walking in the door, and taking off the concealment in question that had sent the receptionist frantically calling Angel to the front, but even as his familiar face appeared in it's traditional assortment of dark clothing Faith realized the fact that they called him rather then security or the police meant that she was truly expected.

He was grinning at her wardrobe choices. "I can't blame you Faith, but I PROMISE this visit will go better then the last one."

Faith nodded slowly. "I know it will, we've come up with spelled up demo charges that should crack even your walls."

Spike was joining them pushing a metal cart filled with an assortment of automatic weapons, he stopped, gave Faith the once over. "Right, won't be needing this then."

Faith gave Spike the once over. "Spike you're looking remarkably coherent."

The peroxide heavy head bobbed in the affirmative. "Yep, when Jasmine was making everyone else crazy she was making me sane."

Faith quirked her head. "Says you... but I get it. Irrational is of no use to her."

Spike's head dipped. "So... how's Buffy?"

Looking over she saw a similar hunch to Angel's shoulders and didn't bother to bite back the sigh. "Buffy's fine. Offered to come here and kick both your dumb asses, but I figured between her discomfort and the fights it would set off between you two I won't bring her in unless necessary."

Angel was the first to raise his eyes to meet Faith's. "We know what were doing Faith. We went in with our eyes wide open."

Spike was close behind. "We'll be ready."

Faith sighed again and rubbed her face with her hand. "They got you once already." That got a double puzzled look from the vampires, and Faith's expression grew resolved. "They have you fighting defensively. With their resources and their numbers they will win any defensive battle. The only way you can win a battle like this is to find a pressure point, grab hold and squeeze it till they scream. You then repeat that as necessary until they drop or you do."

A woman's voice then joined the conversation. "They'd be hurting themselves right along with us."

Faith pointed the SAW at the new speakers stomach and her voice took on a graveyard chill. "They deserve it. Who are you?"

The perky young woman smiled. "Eve."

She kept her eyes and her weapon trained on Eve, her voice kept it's chilled register. "Didn't that jump out at any of you?"

Angel put himself in front of the weapon. "If you want to cut loose Faith I won't stop you, but I'm hoping you'll hold off long enough to find the best ways to do the most damage. Ok?"

Faith held a long moment and relaxed her grip, shifting the weapon to a slug position. Giving Angel a nod she spoke. "Lead the way."

He led the way to his office where they were eventually joined by a Martin Fries. Martin was having legal troubles, and since Wolfram and Heart were his lawyers he was there to discus the issue.

Angel looked hopefully to Faith. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to pull some strings?"

Faith looked at him skeptically. "And say what? I get involved officially and Fries will be dead by morning."

The man in question stood up at that. "You listen here bitch!"

Faith was up in a heart beat and had the man bent backwards over the couch he was sitting on. Her H&K Mk. 23 was in hand and she had the muzzle jammed against his lips. "OPEN!" His mouth stayed clenched shut. "OPEN! OPEN or your lawyer will be filing for a continuance because I broke your fucking jaw! Now OPEN!" His mouth opened and she jammed the gun so far into his mouth she had to pull back once his gag reflex was triggered.

Her voice however dropped , low, soft, like fog in a graveyard. "I know you now Fries, and you need to decide if you fear jail more then the grave, because jail is the one place I WON'T get to you."

She pulled the weapon free, and took one of his teeth with it as she used his jacket to wipe his blood and saliva off the weapon.

Straightening his tie he attempted to recover some of his dignity. "I die, the whole city dies."

Faith's voice was still in it's glacial register. "That the only reason you're still alive."

Martin Fries' lawyer attempted to bring the meeting back to order. "Perhaps we should discuss some options that don't destroy the city?"

Faith shrugged, her voice back to normal. "I could break his jaw, they would have to give you more time if he was hospitalized."

The lawyer shook his head. "Even with real injuries at this point the judge would have his hospital bed wheeled into the courtroom."

Faith looked Angel straight in the eyes and sighed. "Do you see Angel? It's not your first day and already they have you compromising."


Chapter 12.

"I think Gunn was the most surprising." Faith was fresh from the shower and drying her hair. as she moved around the quarters she shared with Tara, getting ready for bed.

Tara was already in bed, while that would have once meant she was also in a nightgown Faith had worked diligently on convincing her on the virtues of sleeping nude.

Up until this point Tara had been content to listen. While they had already done a full debriefing Faith often needed this just to get out the emotional aspects of a mission, and this one seemed more emotional then most. "Really?"

Faith nodded. "You know I love Angel, and I owe him the kind of debt you can never really repay, but it took him 100 years and an encounter with Buffy for him to find the strength to step up. A moment of weakness from him is hardly a shock. Wolfram and Heart would just have to pitch it as a sacrifice for the greater good and he would be sold. Spike on the other hand, while I technically don't know him with a soul I would imagine the pitch was something similar."

Tara quirked her brow in concentration. "I dunno, Spike... Spike can be contrary just to be contrary. If he went in it was probably just to keep an eye on the rest."

Faith was brushing her teeth, but seemed to grunt something in the affirmative.

Tara then added in. "And I don't think either one of us is terribly surprised Wesley proved malleable."

Faith looked at her beloved and quirked a brow, showing her dimples as he gave a grin. "The word you're looking for Gorgeous is spineless. Deep down Wes has been jonesing for a large organization to give him toys and tell him he's a good boy, and if we could figure that out then Wolfram and Heart... yeah well even Angel was surprised at how easily Wesley went evil."

Tara gave her own quirked brow. "Evil?"

Faith climbed into bed, giving Tara a kiss she remained laying on her side. "Evil, I know it's a term we don't like to apply to humans, heck I applied it too quickly to myself back in the bad old days, but yeah, evil. Angel used it partially in jest, but he was saying that Wes has basically already fallen to Wolfram and Heart's buy out."

Tara's brow was no longer quirked, her voice had grown somber. "That bad?"

Faith leaned in and kissed Tara's cheek. "Technically he's got a good heart or Lorne would have detected his turn, but here at the Lock you've seen how someone doesn't have to be evil to do evil things."

Tara interrupted in a soft voice. "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Faith nodded and flopped down her back. "And at this point there is a whole Wyndham-Price onramp."

Tara rolled onto her side and draped at arm over Faith's abdomen. "What about Lorne, I gotta admit I liked him."

Faith nodded. "Lorne's cool, and probably the best suited to be there. As a demon himself he's going to know all the traps. If we have any reliable resource in there it's going to be him."

Tara wasn't sure about that. "What about Fred? Willow has said she's been a great help comparing the files you took out of Wolfram and Heart to what's there now."

Faith's head shook where it rested against her pillow. "Once they had a majority of the group they had Fred, and unless we would get a majority of the group flipped she won't be of any aid past things like making Wolfram and Heart resources available to us. Like I was saying, Gunn is the one that shocks me. Sure they didn't plant any hidden commands in his head, but someone who grew up in LA should know to fear people giving free gifts."

Tara sighed. "But Charles would have been their hardest sell. All he really had was his friends, but now Wolfram and Heart has given him things that can be taken away."

Faith pulled Tara's arm tighter around her. "He didn't have a handle they could grasp so they gave him one and let him install it." Faith paused a moment. "Did you know the mob tried to do that with Striker?" Tara simply shook her head in the negative and Faith continued. "As part of my training he let me read his old journals, and they included the ones from the Bolan Wars back in the 70's."

Settling both of them in Faith began the narrative. "It was rather early on, the ashes from his first strike against the Pittsfield Mafia family that had cost him his own family had barely cooled when he had hopped a plane overseas after getting trapped in an airport by a double drag net being run by both the Cops and the Capos. The plane that he ended up escaping in had dropped him in France where the Mafia families there brought themselves to his attention by trying to join the hunt for the Executioner, who they were calling Le'American De Formidable. Of course the French had a similar success rate." Faith was grinning at the last part, telling Tara the French mobsters didn't fair any better against Mack Bolan's deadly skills.

"From France Mack slipped over into England, hoping to find passage back to the States. It was there however that he realized his enemy was global, and so his war would be also. Yet even as he was blitzing through their ranks the Mafia realized that if they couldn't beat him or buy him with a contract they would attempt to join him, by making him their head enforcer. Letting him do what he did, but for them."

Tara then was able to pick up a small part of the tale. "But Mack refused because he realized that they would be able to control him and would be able to do business as usual while keeping him busy."

Faith sighed, but was smiling. "Ok, you got it, Mack obviously got it, and I of course get it, but why couldn't Angel Investigations?" Faith's smile was gone and she sighed again. "Striker was right, Heaven is built out of Hell."

Seeing the questioning look from Tara she continued. "It's one of the big themes of Striker's philosophy. The Meek may inherit the Earth, but only after the strong tame it for them."

Again Tara picked up the thought. "That the chaos of Hell must be beaten down before the order of Heaven can reign. I understand Faith, that's why I'm here... Slayer Powered Smooches aside..." Both women shared a grin. "It's a good fight, a noble fight, and I'm proud to be a part of it."

Faith's expression was in awe of her lover, how she could appear so gentle even while swearing herself to what Bolan titled the "Hellgrounds", the shadows where the battles between civilization and savagery were fought. She expressed that awe in the deep, lingering kiss she planted on Tara's lips.

As they pulled apart Tara was both breathless and smiling. "Speaking of 'Slayer Powered Smooches'."

Faith's reply was to lay another one on Tara, this time when she pulled back she explained. "You just amaze me so much Tara." She then proceeded to resume kissing her amazing Tara with that same passion.

The kisses deposited Tara onto her back where she was left looking up at her lover's kneeling, nude form before Faith leaned in and pressed their flesh together as she gave Tara another deep kiss. A kiss the didn't so much break as travel from Tara's lips to her neck where the blonde was left groaning and pushing into the contact. A response that left the full, kissable lips smiling where they were lavishing attention on Tara's increasingly sensitive flesh.

Tara's arms were around Faith's shoulders and playing with the brunette's hair as the kisses then moved to her collar bone. The lips then got a gasp after they finished their trip down the slope of Tara's left breast where they then latched onto one of Tara's nipples.

It was there Faith found her head starting to swim with desire. She always loved the taste of Tara's flesh, but when the scent and that warmth met the growing texture of Tara's nipples as they hardened with desire Faith felt lost in her lover. Lost in such a way she never cared to be found.

She found herself enough to move to the other nipple, but spent a great deal of time and attention on Tara's ample chest. The only thing that pulled her away was the sensation of Tara's hips grinding against her as the blonde's body was making it's own demands for additional stimulation.

Faith was torn for the briefest of moments on how to provide, but the soldier's mind was used to quick decisions and she was soon kissing a way down Tara's stomach. As her mouth finished this journey she heard the happy sigh "That's it Darling.".

A smile was on Faith's lips as they pressed to her lover's vaginal lips, as they felt that heat, and her tongue slipped between aroused folds to taste Tara's desire directly. At least the tip, the length was providing direct pressure to that excited bundle of nerves at the top. Pressure that was making Tara's hips arch into Faith's mouth each time the tongue came to push at Tara's clitoris.

Suddenly she felt Tara sit up. The confusion only mounted as Tara's hands went to Faith's shoulders and pulled them to face each other. Faith was then recipient of her own super-powered smooch before she then felt Tara's left leg slip over her right, and right leg slip under her left.

Faith then smiled in comprehension as she put her hands on Tara's hips, and felt the blonde do the same. The next thing she felt was Tara's aroused sex grinding against her own. The lover's soon found a rhythm. and were meeting push for push as their gasps, sighs, and other sounds of passion seemed to find their own harmony.

One of Faith's hands had fallen behind her to brace her thrusts against Tara while the other was toying with her beloved's breasts. Both of Tara's hands were now pressing against the bed to help her grinding as Faith realized Tara was drawing close. The hand dropped between them and found Tara's clit to pinch it firmly, which was what carried Tara over the edge, but Faith wasn't far behind as the frantic writhing pushed her both physically as Tara's flesh pressed against her own, but mentally as well seeing Tara in the throws of delight.

Both lovers were left sweaty and gasping for air, but Faith's Slayer Stamina showed itself as she was able to roll over next to Tara and pull a blanket up to cover them.


Chapter 13.

Faith dropped to the cement floor of the warehouse, and while the maneuver jarred her right to her very bones the pain was barely recognized by her conscious mind. The rattle of automatic fire was her focus, and as it tried to sweep towards her now prone position she put her left hand underneath herself to get to her feet and pushing forward and away while her right hand was filled with one of the ubiquitous Uzi submachine guns that she was trying to maneuver towards the enemy gunman.

While he, as well as the rest of her opposition was completely human they were the henchmen of one Martin Fries, and Faith had considered it her duty both as the Slayer as well as the commanding officer of the Lock to make sure neither natural nor supernatural clout would get him out of her court of last resort.

The autofire kept coming, and Faith had to wonder if someone had started backing him up after driving her to cover. She snagged a fragmentation grenade from the pocket of her leather jacket, and tugged the pin free with her left index finger. While she always tensed up doing it she dropped the pin, and spoon, and waited a full heartbeat before pitching it as close to the source of the incoming fire as her enhanced reflexes would allow.

The was no real outcry so she figured that no one realized what had landed at their feet, but once the hideous roar of the grenade was a memory left in her ringing ears she turned and saw that two others had joined the first gunman to get shredded by her explosive.

After a short mercy burst to send the men to their earned fates she left them behind and ejected the Uzi's mag slid a fresh one home. At least that's what her hands were doing, her feet were taking up a quick stride that ended with her planting a boot at the door of the warehouse office.

Her foot connected near the handle of the door in a textbook example of door breaching technique, but rather then follow her foot into the door she hurled a primed flash-bang grenade right where everyone inside would be looking for her to be.

Instead they saw a blinding flash along with a deafening roar, which was all they still saw or heard as she then came through the door with the Uzi up and flaming. A tight figure eight caught two hidden behind a desk, while she hadn't needed to duck out of the way of any fire from a man standing next to a still-humming shredder it's the kind of maneuver that doesn't work if you wait to be shot at, so she was in that position when she nailed him with a rising burst that sent him up, and then down on the office appliance.

While the fourth and final street soldier was still reeling he seemed to pick up enough through deafened ears to shout in fear. He still had no idea where Faith's gunfire was coming from until it opened his chest up in a gory spray. Though Faith had reached the point that she could put away the sight of his flesh violated by her nine millimeter storm it looked like he had been handing documents from an open filing cabinet to the man next to the shredder, and Faith prayed that his blood hadn't gotten on the files since they were her objective.

New men could be hired, and new equipment could be purchased, but the information she suspected was in those files was truly irreplaceable. Not only in the process of shutting down Fries criminal empire, but in freeing it's victims, like the slaves that were such a generous part of his empire's stock-in-trade.

The big plus to the open drawer was that it told her it held the documents they wanted destroyed. She had slung the Uzi over her back as she began to stuff a satchel she had brought just for that reason, but the Uzi was back in her hands like a mil-spec magic trick when someone else came through the door.

Faith had the auto-weapon in a firm two handed grip and pointing right at the chest of the man through the door. A man who smiled and said "Relax Faith, it's just me."

"Me" was Charles Gunn, and that wasn't enough for Faith to drop her weapon, but she did explain why. "Let me see your hands Gunn."

He simply smiled at that, seemingly all too at ease in his new three thousand dollar suit, even as she seemed ready to turn it into expensive tatters. "Excuse me?"

Faith was just as calm, but no where near as amused. "Let me see your hands Charles. You might not be here to kill me, but if I were taking out one of your necessary evils then there could be a slayer-grade tranquilizer in your hands."

He gave a small smile and held up his empty hands. "No gun, tranquilizer or otherwise. We cut Fries loose as soon as his son was disarmed. I was actually going to suggest we do this exact same thing, but you beat us to the punch." He didn't bother to sense any skepticism from her, but rather simply assumed. "Don't be shocked, the Senior Partners might not have cared about all the people he hurt before, but Fries lab buddy stole company time and resources to make that virus and then sold it to him without cutting them in."

Faith's posture wasn't as tight, but her gun hadn't dropped yet. "Is that supposed to comfort me?"

Gunn smiled again, almost as flippant as when he had freed Fries in the first place. "Not as much as I had hoped, but I'm trying to make the point that we have the same enemies."

Faith sighed and slung her weapon. "But not the same goals Gunn. You may not realize it, but you just said it yourself. Your goals are their goals now. Doing good is becoming more and more of a side project. Soon it will be a hobby you do between cases, then it will be something you'll do 'As soon as your schedule frees up'."

"Well right now the only thing I have on my schedule is helping a girl named Dana, a violent schizophrenic... who was called as a slayer..."

The statement hung in the air like the curling blue gun smoke, but infinitely heavier. Faith finally broke it. "Damn it!"

Gunn was still smiling, but he had mixed in what appeared to be sympathy for Faith's plight. Faith wanted to glare, but that was unprofessional, and right now one of her girls out there running wild. She needed to protect the civilians from her girl, and her girl from the civilians.

Her face was it's professional mask, and her tone was at an even level as she activated the tactical radio that linked her back to the Lock. "Slayer here."

Tara's voice came right back over the line. "Witch Woman here, we read you Slayer."

"Have Red get in touch with Fred. Wolfram and Heart has located a violent mental patient who was called as a slayer."

Faith was expecting Tara to reply, but wasn't surprised when Willow cut in as her digital domain was where calls in where commonly routed. "We read you Slayer. Should I put an APB out?"

Faith contemplated that a moment. "No... a normal slayer would have no trouble taking apart a cop if she needed to. A crazy one might literally do so. Put out a normal 'wanted' notice, but attach things like 'extremely dangerous, do not approach' and get them to call us."

Willow then interjected. "I could put that on an APB."

"Yeah Red, but then they'll be looking, and no matter how much you would try to warn them there would be some hot shot who would say 'She's just a girl, we can take her.'..."

Willow then picked up on Faith's thought. "And the LAPD has another funeral, probably several after that when they get it in their head to even the score."

Faith exhaled. "Exactly."

Tara then broke in. "I would like to send you back up however. Scooby Squad has flagged themselves as ready for duty."

Faith muttered under her breath, "I hate that fucking name." Even as she understood it, made up of Buffy Summers, Alexander Harris, and Rupert Giles. They had volunteered when Faith had spoke to them about screening the war magi and slayer trainees for candidates to fill out the roster officially as action teams for the Lock.

While they, like all the Lock's resources, were slated for battling the supernatural they had been briefed on the possibility of facing supernaturally capable humans, and seemed ready to carry out their duties. Of course only time would tell, but Faith was no fool and their success record as the Scooby Gang had made them an obvious choice.

Faith then spoke in a normal tone. "Send Sam with them. I want a medic ready to keep the girl sedated."

Gunn then broke in to the conversation he was listening to half of. "We can provide all the medical resources the girl needs."

Faith sighed, then turned the microphone outward from her throat so it could pick up the conversation. "Gunn, I'm willing to believe that you really do want to help, but I also know without a doubt that Wolfram and Heart is using that desire against you. If you want to help us get her contained I'll truly appreciate it, but Dana's one of my girls."

She then put the communicator back. "Send em, and apologize to Buffy for me."


Chapter 14.

Standing at the Wolfram and Heart helipad Faith couldn't help but feel a stab of pride. Not at the fact that she was standing at the Wolfram and Heart Helipad, but the people she was standing out there to greet. The newly christened Scooby Squad was being flown in with Doctor Samantha Finn, by the Lock's resident pilot Apollo.

While she was already honored by the dedicated service of officers like Samantha Finn, and slightly eccentric but brave and skillful soldiers like Apollo. Faith couldn't help but be proud of the fact that the group she once angrily called the "Super Friends" not only saw the facility she built as something worth joining, but now could see her as someone they could take orders from.

Her tactical radio was still around her neck, but she was standing there casually with the majority of her gear stowed. The radio was now carrying the voice of her pilot. "All righty folks. the express from Olympus to Hades is now arriving. Please remove your weapons from overhead storage and have them at the ready. Are you reading us Slayer?"

Faith keyed the communicator. "Reading you just fine Apollo. The landing zone is as clear as it gets here at Wolfram and Heart and you are free to land."

The chopper looked like a civilian issue vehicle, but the Lock's technicians had upgraded all it's systems to military specifications. It touched down lightly and the doors opened to reveal the first member of Scooby Squad.

Alexander Harris, the former construction worker had taken the military talents put into his brain by the sorcerer Ethan Rayne and had found a new career as a destruction worker for the Lock as Scooby Squad's expert in military matters. He was manning the door gunner position, and Faith was pleased to see that he scanned the landing zone thoroughly before slipping from behind the weapon and out of the copter.

On the ground he was followed by Buffy Summers, while not the "Elder" of prophecy she was the oldest living vampire slayer and was now officially recognized for a role she had played all along, the leader of Scooby Squad.

The two figures were then handed black duffle bags by the third and final member Rupert Giles. At first the former member of the Watcher's Council had joined as a matter of necessity after agents of the First Evil destroyed the Watcher's Council, but the Englishman had come to realize that the militarized nature of the Lock gave them resources like the Watcher's Council, while their covert charter spared them the bureaucracy that had rendered the Council so ineffective.

Both he and Buffy had struggled against the fact that forming Scooby Squad had required they become as proficient in techniques for slaying humans as they were in the techniques necessary for slaying the inhuman, but threats like the sorcerer that had implanted the military skills that Xander was ready, willing, and able to use in the battle against supernatural menaces were eventually effective in convincing the pair to expand their martial skills. Something evidenced by the metal gun cases that joined their black duffle bags, as well as the bulge of the Browning 9mm under Giles familiar tweed.

The final person that climbed out of the helicopter was not a regular Squad member, but the Doctor Samantha Finn who had proven herself in the field many times before, and would be just as useful for her combat abilities as she would for her medical skills when they found the imbalanced vampire slayer Dana.

While they moved as one from the chopper to their CO, Buffy was the first to address her. "So is this where I say 'Scooby Squad reporting for duty.'?"

Faith smiled. "Good to see you B. Hold on a second." Keying her radio she spoke to Apollo. "You can return home Apollo. I'm going to trust Angel to provide our transportation, and if it goes bad it's an urban jungle were in the middle of. We'd manage till you could get back."

The pilot's voice came back even as the choppers blades picked up speed and started lifting it off the pad. "Roger that Slayer. Give my love to your fellas Buffy."

Apollo knew Buffy's slayer hearing would pick up his words over Faith's earpiece and was proven right as Miss Summers made a rude gesture at the departing chopper.

Everyone but Faith was looking at Buffy in confusion, and Faith laughed. "He sent his best to Angel and Spike."

The rest of the team couldn't help but grin at the situation a bit, but the grins vanished as Buffy focused on them. "Ok, what are we doing?"

Faith nodded. "First were going to Angel's office. As uncomfortable as I know this will be..." There was genuine understanding in her voice then. "A helipad is not a place to plan this out."

Words then matched action as Faith led her people into the belly of the beast, the offices of Wolfram and Heart.

Despite all the changes in his life Xander was still Xander, and he demonstrated that when he broke the uncomfortable silence hanging in Angel's Office. "Well this is a warm and comforting situation and not at all awkward."

Gunn and Fred were not familiar with the Harris brand of humor so they looked at well-armed young man with confusion. Angel and Wesley however were familiar with him and his humor and their pained looks of resignation said as much.

Faith, Buffy, and Giles however were also familiar, and while Faith allowed herself a grin Buffy and Giles had similar expressions of resignation, but Buffy actually spoke. "Hi Angel."

The vampire's face showed a flash of a whole other kind of pain, but it vanished quickly. "Hi Buffy, I was a bit surprised to find out you had signed up under Faith."

Xander must have been genuinely uncomfortable because he kept quipping. "Faith has a thing for blondes."

That got him a glare from both slayers, but neither addressed his joke as Buffy answered the question. "I finally took a good look at what Faith was capable of when she was given a chance, and I realized I never did. That and I now actually have a support system rather then just a bunch of stuffy British guys giving me orders." She threw a glance over her shoulder to Giles. "No offense."

The not-very stuffy British guy replied with an all too British droll to his voice. "None taken."

The small talk seemed to be loosening Angel up. "It's nice to not have to price wood before you sharpen it."

Buffy was smiling, but Xander cut in, and this time while it came out a quip it touched on a point the entire Lock was worried about. "Speaking of that I think you owe both Tara and Willow an apology. I mean they go to all that trouble to get your soul back when you loose it and you go and sell it off."

Angel glowered in a familiar irritation at the young man. "I didn't sell my soul!"

Xander shrugged off both his words and his anger. "Sell, lease with an option to buy. Still means there's another name on the deed.":

Faith held up a hand. "I think you can see why were concerned Angel, but you know it, we know it. I'm assuming were waiting on Spike."

While Angel nodded Buffy flinched and Faith threw a glance her way. "We can get started B, and just bring him up to speed when he gets here."

Buffy put a smile on her face for Faith. "Nah, it's ok. Thanks."

They didn't have to wait much longer as Spike showed up, and brought much the same tension without the small talk to break it down.

Faith shattered it however when she began the briefing after they had sat down around a conference table. "At this point most everyone in this room has fought a vampire slayer... actually Buffy or myself in most cases." That got a small smile from the assembly as she continued. "BUT even at my worst I was just unstable, Dana is fully imbalanced. While there's a small chance we will be able to play on that all indications are that her slayer instincts are batting a thousand so our target is going to be both lethal and entirely unpredictable."

She then took a deep breath and met all the assembled eyes. "I want to take her alive, if she dies I consider that a mission failure, BUT if it's her or you then you do what you have to." Letting the tension ease half a beat she continued. "Were going to split into two person teams hitting areas that our research indicates may be significant to Dana or spots where people go when they don't want to be found."

"It's going to be one augmented soldier with one un-augmented. In both cases Dr. Finn will be giving you tranquilizer pistols as well as a sort of combat-hypodermic made of a metal casing with shatter proof plastic and an air cartridge that empties it's payload when it's inserted all the way."

Fred then raised her hand and asked her question after Faith gave her a smile and a nod. "Won't that pose risk of causing a bubble embolism?"

Samantha Finn fielded that question. "No, the air charge is separated from the chemical payload by shatter proof plastic, and even if that were to break then the seal that deploys the air to the hypo's plunger would not work."

Faith scanned for anymore questions. "Ok, it's going to be Buffy and Giles, Wesley and myself, Angel and Gunn, Spike and Xander..." That got a double groan from the bleached blonde vampire as well as his new partner. Faith allowed herself a small grin before continuing. "I'll give you your assignments in a second, but remember to keep in touch. The rest will wait here with Wolfram and Heart security teams to back up whoever finds Dana first."

Faith then turned to Angel. "Make SURE your guys know this is a live capture. I may give the old Angel Investigations team some latitude, but as far as I'm concerned the normal staff sold their souls to the Devil, and in so doing gave their lives to me."


Chapter 15.

Xander woke up slowly, something that was surprising to him since he had so much experience. An idle part of him wondered how many times he had been knocked unconscious since he and Jesse spotted the "new girl" so many years ago. Of course while some things like Xander getting knocked cold hadn't changed many things had, the awkward young man was a soldier now, the skills first implanted by Ethan Rayne augmented by his experiences as a Scooby and the elite training given to him at the Lock.

It was that solider that bit down the pained groan that wanted to escape his lips at the pounding in his head that came along with consciousness. Taking stock of the rest of his body his arms and legs were able to tense and relax his muscles without the pain from tissue or bone damage. While his head pounded his thoughts were clear and he could feel himself laying on a poured concrete floor, listening as intently as he could his hearing gave the sense of a fairly open area, and he could hear someone yelling... in Chinese?

Opening his eyes to the barest of slits he could see one set of feet moving around a table... maybe a stretcher. While the person was wearing boots he could tell it wasn't Spike. It became glaringly obvious as the feet rapidly approached him and knelt over him. It was a young woman, Dana, the schizophrenic slayer. She matched her pictures for the most part but they were missing the streaks of blood running down her face that looked applied.

Yet while her appearance was totally alien her demeanor wasn't... if he still had his eyes closed Xander would swear he was talking to Buffy. "Xander? Can you hear me? Are you ok?"

Off to the side he could hear Spike's English tones. "Answer the Slayer now boy. Not polite to keep a lady waiting."

Suddenly Dana's whole demeanor shifted. Not only was she angry, she was an entirely different angry person. This angry person stalked towards the table cursing once more in Chinese. Then some dark corner in Xander's mind whispered to him how one of the Slayer's that Spike had killed had been back in China during the Boxer Rebellion.

"Buffy!" The plan was still forming, but as Xander pulled himself up to a sitting position he saw that Spike was strapped to a gurney. At least most of him was as his arms had been amputated somewhere around the elbows. He knew he had to act now. While he wasn't exactly concerned about Spike's well-being taking him apart piece by piece was just sick and he had to try to stop it.

He saw Dana looking at him, and he thought her fractured mind was picking up the Buffy piece once more. He had known there was a sort of link between the Slayers for awhile now, and the briefing had put forth that Dana's madness had her tapping into that link in unknown ways. Right now Mrs. Harris' boy was banking on a sort of supernatural multiple personality disorder.

"Giles, he's looking for you too. Call him and let him know we're ok." With Dana facing him Xander was the only one who saw Spike smile at Xander's idea, and the smile as gone when Dana whipped around to look at her captive.

She turned back, and was Buffy again when she spoke. "There's no phone down here."

Xander reached into his jacket and pulled it his cell phone. "Use mine." He even opened the internal memory and had it dialing Giles as he handed it to her.

"Damn it! Xander knows he supposed to call Samantha if he finds something." Rupert Giles pressed the button to accept the call, exasperation in his voice. "Yes Xander, what do you have?"

"Giles? It's Buffy." The comment coming over his phone caused his eyes to jerk up to the actual woman in question, and from her expression he could see that her slayer hearing had picked up the comment as well. The real Buffy was already in action as she grabbed her own cell.

Giles however had seen enough television to know he needed to keep her on the line. "Yes Buffy, is Xander there? Is he ok?"

"Giles! It's so good to hear you! Spike had captured Xander, but it's ok now. Sorta. Spike's working with these Wolfram and Heart guys hunting me. They captured Xander to try to make him help them."

The former Watcher's eyes opened at just how close to the truth she was. His keen mind was also putting together the puzzle much like Xander had. The problem was that he didn't know how much of "Buffy" he was talking to through Dana. "Buffy, I'll come get you, but I need to know where you are."

"I can't Giles. They can listen in on cell signals, they might even be trying to trace this call at the moment. I just wanted to let you know were ok."

"No! Buffy!" But it was for naught as the call ended. "Damn!"

The real Buffy was shaking her head. She held up her own Lock-supplied cell phone. It then carried the voice of the fourth Scooby, now the Lock's own 21st century Oracle, Willow Rosenberg. "Buffy? Are you there?"

Buffy then spoke. "We both are Willow. I put you on loudspeaker."

"Right, ok. With Xander's phone being on I was able to turn on it's GPS. I'm sending everyone the coordinates now." There was a brief pause before Willow came back. "Ok it not sure if Xander and Spike got unlucky finding her or lucky that slayer senses have put both Faith near by with Buffy not much farther. Angel and Gunn are closing as fast as possible while Sam and the Wolfram and Heart crew are scrambling."

Buffy's voice was calm. "Understood, we're en route and will leave our tactical radios on."


Chapter 16.

While Xander also had his tactical radio on he didn't dare use it as he was afraid it might have Dana asking questions that may or may not set the unstable young woman off. Yet he was almost willing to risk it as she turned back to the gurney holding Spike while undergoing one of the personality shifts that changed her whole body language.

He didn't need to as the doors at the top of the staircase opened. The combat boots where standard issue at the Lock, but the leather pants were pure Faith and Xander didn't bother to hide his relived sigh. The rest of the woman, in black t-shirt and web gear, was revealed as she calmly strode down the stairs to face Dana.

A brief glance told her Xander was alright, and Spike wasn't, before she focused her gaze on Dana. "It's time to stop Dana."

Wesley had skittered down behind her with his tranquilizer pistol at the ready. He didn't interfere yet, but kept the weapon up as he checked on Xander and helped the man up before moving to check on Spike.

Dana didn't like that and started cursing in Chinese again. That made Xander speak as well. "Careful Faith, that's not her happy voice."

Faith actually smirked. "I figured. Holster it Wes. Leave Spike for now."

The soldier shared a look of confusion with the vampire, but when he looked to the former Watcher there was a dawning understanding. "Ok Wes, did you get a memo we didn't?"

While he replied Wesley's eyes never waved from the confrontation between Faith and Dana. "She's establishing dominance." There was almost a note of wonder in the former Watcher's voice.

Looking closer they could see it. While Faith stood calm and tall Dana was slouched, her discomfort obvious in how she switched her balance from foot to foot.

Xander found his eyes as riveted to the scene. "Do you think she can do it?"

Faith however was the one to reply, with a smile. "Not this easily. She is a slayer after all." The woman's auburn mane was then swirling around her head as she jumped over a leg sweep from Dana. While that move was already at superhuman speeds Faith showed her status as the new First Slayer when she caught Dana's follow up back hand with no seeming effort.

Stepping back so her hip was in front of Dana's hip Faith slipped her free right arm under where her left arm kept Dana's right arm immobilized and hurled Dana in a hip toss. Xander was glad Wesley had helped him up because Dana crashed into the wall not far from where he had lay.

He was doubly glad when Faith's following front kick was barely dodged by Dana to then connect with enough force to leave Faith's footprint in the concrete wall. Dana managed to capitalize on that and hurled herself at Faith with her hands outstretched to Faith's throat.

While Dana's hands connected Faith's did as well as she grasped the younger woman's wrists and continued with the motion to first land on her back and then roll to her shoulders before rolling Dana onto her own back where Faith's hands were now on the younger woman's throat. At first Xander feared she was trying to strangle the life out of the mad slayer as she tried to do with him so long ago, but looking closer he could see Faith's hands weren't tightening.

Faintly remembering something about how dogs will clamp their teeth at each other's throats to determine the alpha he saw it was working as Dana first struggled, and then fell still. Only then did Faith pull one of the combat hypos from the web gear around her chest and use it on Dana.

Standing up she exhaled, and then smiled at her subordinate, nodding at Wesley she then looked at Spike and scrunched up her nose. Keying her tactical radio she spoke as she stepped up the stairs to grab her leather jacket. "Dana's caught, we need transport for her and medical attention for Spike..." She paused a moment to give Xander a questioning expression, but he had been hit in the head enough times to know Dana had hit him as gently as she could to incapacitate him, and he shook his head. "His arms were removed at the elbow. You'll want the responding team ready to preserve the limbs while having a surgical team prepped to reattach." Nodding even though she knew they couldn't see it she ended the communication "Slayer Out.".

Spike was weak, but managed a bit of humor, that was similarly weak. "Didn't know you cared."

Faith regarded the vampire frankly. "I don't, not really, but you're one of Angel's people, and if he hadn't clued us into Dana this could have gotten a lot worse then it did."

Spike's nod was more serious. "But if they can't fix me Slayer... will you end it?"

She appraised him. "I almost think there would be a line of people... but I'll make sure it's done."

The prognosis from the responding Wolfram and Heart ambulance however seemed good as they loaded him up. Now outside by the ambulance it's crew was turning to load up Dana who had been strapped much more securely to a reinforced gurney brought by Samantha Finn.

The woman turned her eyes to Faith, and the ambulance crew followed her gaze, but then flickered it to their own boss as Angel approached trying to mollify Faith. "Faith, I know you'll want to take custody of her, but we can take care of her till then."

Faith didn't bother to keep the pain from her expression. "I'm sorry Big Guy. Live or dead Dana would be a prize to your bosses. I can't let her spend minute one in your custody."

His expression grew angry. "They are NOT my bosses!"

Faith's expression was still pained. "Yes Angel, they are. You may be the Maverick, but you're THEIR maverick. No matter how much I trust you the fact is you're too close. Trust me Angel I was there, and I wasn't even trying to play the good guy."

That seemed to get to him, and before he could form a reply another voice joined the conversation, and it too had the tone of sadness Faith's voice was carrying. "It's taken care of Mr. Angel. Were ready to take care of her."

Faith knew the voice instantly, but before she could reply to Tara's beloved voice it managed to cut through Dana's tranquilized fog. "Mamma?"

Tara was approaching, with a well armed mixed squad of slayers and war wizards at her back. She walked past them to Dana's gurney and pet Dana's hair. "Yes Sweetie. Mama's here." Dana's face twisted in confusion, but Tara cut off the forming question. "Rest now, Mama will make it all right." Much to everyone's surprise Dana gave a small, almost happy sigh, and her face relaxed.

Everyone looked confused, but Faith was the first to speak. "Ok, I think we were all thrown by that, but I'll be the first to..."

She was cut off by Tara stepping close and giving her a quick peck on the lips. "Darling, when we awoke the slayer line you transmitted the energy that I then shaped and used to awaken our daughter's gifts. On a metaphysical level they ARE ours as much as if they came from my own womb."

The assembly reeled at that notion, but Faith seemed the first to recover, even as she seemed a bit dazed. "Wait, then I'm the daddy?"

Tara giggled. "If you want you can buy some cigars when we get back to Sunnydale."

Faith was still reeling as Tara turned to Angel. "We really do thank you for getting our girl back for us, but a single blood sample, a simple skin cell that fell into the wrong hands is unacceptable to us. So please let us take it from here."


Chapter 17.

While the form was indistinct as it bounced off the hood of the SUV and then away it was obviously inhuman. Giles couldn't help but turn to the driver and comment. "I do believe we've finally found the situation where your driving skills are actually an asset." The former Watcher was literally in the shot gun seat as he fired the named weapon outside the passenger window.

Buffy's expression was intent behind the wheel, but she allowed herself a smile. "Very funny."

Xander was stooping down to grab a fresh magazine for the M-16 he was firing from the sunroof. "I wish I had thought of it."

Buffy then scowled. "Focus! Angel and his people are literally being attacked by the Hordes of Hell. Faith's being dropped with a team on the other side, and she's counting on us to draw their attention!"

Xander then looked up. "I hope she's already on the ground cause Apollo's a bit busy at the moment."

They all allowed themselves a quick look up to find the fully armed military chopper dueling with a dragon over the skies of Los Angeles.

Apollo had managed to drop off Slayer's unit, and was thankful he wasn't carrying any extra weight as he pulled the Black Hawk helicopter into another turn to try and shake the far more agile opponent.

While he was staying ahead of it's claws and fangs it's fiery breath was posing a real danger of cooking off his rocket pods. Fearing what this kind of combat could do to a civilian sector the pilot laid in a straight line course to the coast and put his engines to full.

Doing so he suddenly realized he had one advantage over his reptilian opponent. While some sort of magic had to be keeping it's tremendous bulk aloft and maneuvering in ways the copter couldn't it's wings couldn't match the turbo props that had Apollo's chariot hurtling through the LA night.

After he had a sufficient lead he sent his vehicle into a 180 degree turn to face the way it had come, and then sent it rocketing forward once more. He didn't know if his namesake was smiling down on a lone warrior this night, but there was no fear in Apollo's heart as he charged into a 21st century joust with his rocket pods and machine guns his lance, racing ahead of him to seek out scaled flesh.

Faith was splitting up her team before her boots had both hit the ground. Pairing a war wizard with a slayer she directed one-third of her team to roof top positions where they were to simply support all friendlies they could. While all of the Lock's assets were flagged with Friend or Foe transmitters none of the Angel Investigations people were.

That was why they were here. While Buffy had been keeping the Scooby Squad on station in LA to monitor the situation Angel's transmission had been sent to a channel Willow had set up for him at the Lock. In it he explained that he got as close as he could to Wolfram and Heart so that he could strike them as deeply and as hard as possible.

He even detailed his plans so that the Lock could follow up. What he didn't count on was Faith planning the follow up from the air as she raced a team to LA to back his play while flashing an alert to Buffy that he needed her.

Now moving into positions her people were using silent kills at this point with the war wizards using silenced firearms while the slayers were using bladed weapons to dispatch the opposition they were finding on the fringes of the enemy force.

Three clicks then came over her comm. and Slayer knew it was Kennedy's signal that they were in position. Stealthy kills were done, Faith put the M-16/M-203 assault weapon to her shoulder and hit the M-203 grenade launcher's trigger to send a man-made firebomb hurtling into the largest concentration of enemy troops she could find.

Monsters from myths and nightmares were reduced to bloody refuse in a signal to her solders to unleash the same as the troops on the ground with her fell in behind to form a flying wedge that charged into the hole her hellbomb had opened in the enemy force.

Ahead of them her snipers were dropping leaden fury on the masses they were charging into while behind her auto weapons were ripping through the remains as they continued the push. The metallic thunder of Voodoo's M-249 SAW was to her left, but Hammer's rune singing was still audible, and almost joyous on her right.

Yet like any charge there is a point where it starts to bog down, and the fact that their charge was along the man-made valleys of alleyways and streets just brought it all the faster. It didn't help that their enemy had no care for the lives on their fellows, and had come up with the idea of literally hurling their weaker fellows in front of the weapons of the Lock's warriors.

The enemy was closing faster then she could worry about the speed of their dwindling ammo, but both were on her mind as the demons that were hurling the smaller foes in their path were suddenly bathed in headlights before being slammed into by a familiar black sports utility vehicle.

Alexander Harris was visible where he was standing out of the sunroof firing an M-16/M-203 like Faith's and Rupert Giles was cutting down demons in a hail of bloody froth with an ugly riot shot gun. Faith's command might not have been necessary, but she still bellowed it. "Get to Scooby Squad."

Leaping onto the back of the vehicle Faith paused while reloading to shout to the drivers side window. "You know what to do B! Voodoo, Hammer, follow with the rest!"

B did indeed as she spun the vehicle 90 degrees into the direction the flying wedge was charging and hit the accelerator. Faith's rifle was speaking from both barrels almost simultaneously as they hurtled towards the embattled forces of Angel Investigations.

Another Lock vehicle was charging into battle, but Apollo found his guns having much less effect then he had hoped. His missiles however were more telling and whether his missiles hit the dragon or the dragon ran into them was arguable. but the serpent didn't seem to care about the details as it shrieked in agony.

A moment that the pilot used to his fullest advantage. While he was sure that there was some sort of magic keeping the massive weight of the dragon airborne he could see it's wings catching the air as they dueled.

While the vehicle's weapons weren't precise enough to target the wings specifically Apollo still had an option. Though up until this point the helicopters' rotors had been occasionally used as a giant weed whacker to expand a jungle LZ this would be the first time where they were being used as a deliberate weapon, but this was also the first time a helicopter was pit against a dragon.

All Apollo could do was pray that he would hit only soft tissue and small bones as he swung the chopper on it's side as he passed the dragon. There was a promising bellow of pain, but he had to turn on his windshield wipers to survey the damage as a gout of blood bathed his vessel.

Now turned another180 degrees he could survey the results of his attack, and he presumed he had hit some artery as the beast was loosing blood in jets and streams as it frantically beat it's one good wing to stay aloft. Part of the pilot felt bad killing a creature that had so often been portrayed as representative of strength and honor, but it was in league with Wolfram and Heart, and Apollo didn't pause as he triggered missile after missile until the creature finally dropped and sank beneath the waves.

Knowing the Lock would want to both confirm the kill as well as salvage the remains he logged the coordinates and radioed the lock. "Oracle, it's Apollo. Do you read?"

While "Red" was being tossed around as Willow's handle for awhile Apollo had been the first to use the "Oracle" title for her and it stuck, and she responded to his hail. "I read you Apollo."

The pilot continued. "Dragon splashed at my current coordinates. How can I help out main body?"

Faith was bellowing at the top of her lungs. "Stand down! Stand down! We're here to help!"

Angel's hell god.. Illara, Illanna... one of those names that Tara would know had been literally piled on by the enemy and a grenade had been tossed into the mob. The blue haired goddess now inhabiting the body of Fred Burkle had taken it personally and was now about ready to attack the forces that had been sent to save her.

"You are a band of warriors set to battle the forces of Hell, and now your true intentions are revealed."

As she continued to advance Faith knew she wasn't going to have much luck negotiating, and perhaps it was some slayer instinct, but she didn't have much desire to do so with the force that had shredded a sweet young woman's soul when it had taken control of her body.

Faith found a snarl forming on her own lips, her fists tightening on her own weapon as her heart wept for the most innocent of the Angel Investigations team so cruelly sacrificed. "TAKE HER DOWN!"

While the maroon leather of her outfit was shredding under the streams of autofire she didn't seem otherwise effected. Some launched grenades got her attention, but it was not the kind of attention one wants from an infernal deity.

Slayer barked out another order as she dropped her rifle. "CEASE FIRE! HELP THE AI PEOPLE!"

The next sound out of her throat was an inarticulate yell, the battle cry of the first slayer. Faith's hands actually dented the roof of the vehicle as she leapt off and drove both her feet into the goddesses chest, rocking the woman. Though whether she was more stunned by the impact or the fact she felt the impact at all was debatable. When Faith's first attack flowed into her drawing the bladed weapon they had recovered when they had awoken the slayer line the goddess ducked back out of the way of the humming blade.

While Faith didn't get to open the abdomen with her first strike she checked her swing and drove the weapon downward to drive the stake affixed to the bottom of haft along her hip, and drew godsblood. In return the goddess drove a flat palm into Faith's chest, driving the slayer off her feet and hurling her a half dozen feet away.

Though she retained a grip on her weapon Faith was on her hands and knees , coughing she could feel where a handprint had been left in the titanium trauma plate. A sudden instinctive flash told Faith to roll, and as an angry god crashed back to Earth Faith had rolled into a crouch.

Since the dark divinity was crouched herself it only took a small leap to get behind her where Faith was able to turn and bring the blade down in a vertical slash. Godsblood was spilled again, but the god was rolling out of the way so it wasn't as much as Faith had hoped.

She had come to a stop and turned to face Faith again when a remaining headlight lit the hellgod's features. It hit her hard, but it was a hellgod hit and the SUV suffered the most as the front crumpled inward. Buffy however didn't seem to care as she cut herself free of the safety belt and kicked out the windshield. She was out and climbing over the remains of the hood to drive a fist into each of the ice blue eyes.

Rolling off the hood she drove her foot into the small of the immortal's back and found herself face to face with Faith who was closing in. Buffy smiled at her CO. "What happened to the whole "team effort" thing?"

Faith laughed. "I didn't think anyone else had a weapon that could get a god... I forgot about your driving."

The remains of the vehicle were hurled away as a wrathful god stared at the paired slayers, only to find the junior slayer Kennedy delivering a jump kick to the back of her head. By the time Kennedy was now facing the raging eyes a second junior was driving her shoulder into the back of the still human knee joint of the inhabited body while a third was clubbing the falling form with the steering column.

A fourth and fifth had torn doors off the SUV wreckage and began using them to pound the prone form. Buffy was smiling as she saw Faith's eyes narrow and ready the slayer blade as Slayer's frame tensed to leap. Buffy Summer's shouted an order to her trainees. "GET CLEAR!"

They responded as the unit Buffy had made them into and jumped away as Faith's leap landed with the axe blade cutting a diagonal line through the blue and white flesh of the face and not stopping until it hit the concrete underneath.

Behind her Faith heard the chain gun fire that told her Apollo had rejoined the fight and was helping cut down any massed remains of the enemy force. Looking up Faith could see there weren't many massed groups left as her people were hunting down individuals.


Faith jerked her head back as the knife whistled past her face. An idle part of her mind said that if she was going to left knife-wielding opponents get close enough to slash her face like that she should get a hair cut before some enemies combat knife gave her one.

That was a small voice in her mind however as her focus was on the determined figure that was coming in to stab at her this time. A direct right handed thrust at the heart left Faith in a poor position to doge the blow, so instead she caught the persons wrist with her right hand.

She was reaching up to snatch the knife with her left when the persons grip on the handle loosened and their grip went from point up to point down and cutting at the hand Faith was about to take the weapon with. That hand pulled back and the knife dipped to Faith's wrist to cause Faith to release the hold entirely.

She smiled. "VERY good."

Tara's grin was wide, energized. "Great teacher." The blonde witch was a red from exertion where her face, arms and abdomen could be seen around her grey sweats and sports bra combination, basically identical to what Faith was wearing. Now several paces apart on the training mat in the Lock's gymnasium she switched the practice knife to her left hand to wipe her palm on her sweats.

For her part Faith was just taking in the delicious sight of Tara covered in a light sheen of sweat, and painting in exertion, and the smile on her face made Faith's enjoyment of the sight apparent. "You're doing great Babe. Soon we can add that to the list of implements you can poke at me with."

Tara's face slipped into it's renown half-smile at the appearance of her Darling's libido. In spite of the light atmosphere the women always seemed to find Tara knew that Faith took these lessons vary seriously. While Tara had picked up some combat skill during her time in the Scooby Gang even the remainders that now called the Lock home admitted that those lessons we often instinct and experience more then real training.

So while Faith regularly reminded Tara that she was NOT a combat operative neither woman argued the importance of making sure Tara could protect herself.

Faith then held her hands up. "Hold on a sec." She walked forward and lightly pressed her fingers to Tara's neck. She then just arched a auburn brow in a silent bit of communication that ended with Tara nodding and resting her head to Faith's shoulder and panting while Faith rubbed her back and pulled away stray hairs that were sticking to Tara's sweaty face and neck.

Tara mumbled into Faith's shoulder. "You're not even breathing hard."

Faith laughed and kissed Tara's temple. "You can get me later."

Tara lifted her head to look into Faith's eyes, blonde brow arched. "After a snack?"

"I know, how lucky am I that my girl's got mad skills taking care of both hungry AND horny."

Tara rested her cheek to Faith's chest. "The witch woman was meant for the slayer."

Faith's voice softened. "That she was."

They stayed in that position for several minutes until Tara finally spoke. "How's Mr. Angel? While I've read the reports I haven't had a chance to visit."

Faith pulled back a bit and led Tara to where they had left their water bottles. Handing Tara one she cracked open her own water bottle as she replied. "Breathing, which is actually fairly new to him. So he's dealing with having to breathe for the first time in how many centuries. B's in a similar state so were lucky the baddies seem to be laying low after Angel's head hunt."

Tara got a noticeable grin at those words and Faith's expression made it obvious she wanted the blonde to elaborate. "We've been using our captured files to find the resources that were orphaned by Angel's wetwork. While the most despicable are being terminated we're starting to develop a viable intelligence network."

Faith was laughing, but she hung her head in exaggerated shame. "When I set out to corrupt you I just meant sexually. I didn't plan on turning you into some sort of spy master."

Tara leaned in and kissed Faith's cheek. "You mean mistress."

Faith spoke in a purr. "Yes Mistress."

Tara blushed. "I meant as in spy mistress..." She then straightened, and smirked. "But that works too."

The two women sat down on a bench. Tara then continued. "With Buffy on the reserve list we have several of the young slayers I have been reviewing for the second action team you've been wanting to assemble. They could fill in while Mr. Giles could take care of leading the team in Buffy's absence."

Faith shrugged. "Heck, I could fill in if it came down to it. I do have some thoughts on the second action team. Now Scooby Squad works, and with their history it's no shock. So I want to leave them as is... because you and I both know how poor they are at integrating new elements into their team." The two were nodding as Faith continued. "Now as I understand it Angel is breathing because of the Shanshu Prophecy."

Tara was nodding on her own this time. "Yes, Angel was always the vampire with a soul that would regain his humanity. The Higher Powers would have to explain why they finally decided to make it happen, but since Scooby Squad managed to steal the contract that Wolfram and Heart had Angel sign it was still able to happen."

"So his condition is stable?"

Tara smiled. "From everything we can tell Sweetie."

"Then I'm going to approach him with the idea of heading up the second action team. He would have to get used to the idea of fighting as a mortal, but I think we've shown that is a viable option."

A third voice approached having just entered the gym. "Could I PLEASE be his drill instructor?"

The two women looked at Alexander Harris and spoke in unison. "No."

He seemed taken aback. "Well... thank you for taking the time to consider the idea."

They both just gave him a long look, and he grinned. "So putting together our Phoenix Force?"

Faith clucked her tongue. "Basically. I mean while I'm not determined to model us after the Farm they've been doing what they do since the 80's and doing it well, and I'm not the kind to argue with success."

Xander pulled a bench over to theirs. "What about Spike?"

Tara met his eyes, and while she could have been commanding she went for understanding, and the anger in Xander's eyes melted as she started speaking. "Xander, you're perhaps the most genuine solider on Scooby Squad, and you know the realities of warfare. You MUST be willing to co-opt the enemies' ways and means. That means that we ARE going to have to deal with unsavory beings."

He sighed. "And they don't get more unsavory then Spike."

Tara shook her head. "Yes they do. While Spike might not be THE vampire with a soul he is A vampire with a soul, and therefore ripe to be turned to our side."

Xander looked confused. "Isn't he already? I mean he was working with Angel."

Faith shrugged. "And both Willow and Giles were Scoobies in good standing when they helped the Council to try and kill me."

He frowned. "That's a point."

Tara put her hand on Faith's knee while continuing to speak to Xander. "We haven't even approached him with the idea at this point, and even before we would there would be some deep consideration as it would be recruiting a demon, soul or not, and that's not something that would be done lightly."

Xander then spoke a single word. "Gunn?"

Faith was the one to answer that question. "Mentally he's crippled by survivors guilt. Physically he was pretty messed up, and needed some of the implants we reverse engineered from Adam..."

Xander interrupted. "I thought you said we weren't going to be like the Initiative?"

Faith shook her head. "And we won't, BUT part of our charter includes utilizing non-standard elements."

Xander's frown grew. "Like demons and demon cybernetics?"

Tara spoke up. "Like those, or magick."

Faith voice was calm, not quite hitting the register that she fell into as "Slayer", but close. "The line is thin Xander, and every solider knows it. It's the most important battle we fight, that internal one that draws the distinction between a warrior and a simple killer, but that's the real reason we're here. We take the risks so that others don't have to. We do the things that they can not. We could toss Spike out, and take out the implants that are saving Gunn's life, we could wage war like the Council has been for centuries, but they were loosing. The whole point of the Lock is to fight to win. I can't say we'll win this war, I can't even say this war is winnable. In many ways it isn't since it's a larger version of that war each person fights between "Love thy neighbor" and "Look out for number one" but I WILL say that I am fighting to win, and will never stop doing so."

The End

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