Salem Fires

Author: Tenhawk tenhawk@sympatico.ca

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me.

Summary: A gathering of forces in Sunnydale presents a distinct challenge for Xander and his friends, while a growing threat outside of Sunnydale threatens to bring their secret war crashing down around their collective heads.

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.

*****

Initiative Bunker Sunnydale, California February 1, 2000 - Evening

Margaret Walsh stared at the video feed, her fingernails chewing holes into the palm of her hands. On the monitor she watched as the armored figure strode through the base, her base, with impunity. One by one it took down her guards, disposing of them with contemptuous ease.

It galled the woman to be placed on the defensive within her own base. It was a pill whose bitter flavor simply would not fade from her mouth. And beyond that, to be ordered... ORDERED to leave the bastard be when she knew where to find him. It simply would not stand.

She shut off the playback, and turned her attention to the monitor of her desktop computer. Military Files Code Name: Predator

The more she read the more it fit the description of the armor the Harris child wore. Stealth screen. Shoulder mounted energy weapon. Face mask. Laser designator. It all fit.

How in all that's holy did that child acquire a piece of alien technology? She wondered for the hundredth time. The answer simply wouldn't come to her, but she had realized early on that it didn't matter. The military file was enough to solve her problem, and that was all that mattered to Margaret Walsh.

She entered a code sequence into her computer, followed by an old ARPA-Net address. A moment later the Initiative logo on the large screen in her office was replaced by a face.

"May I help you?"

Walsh looked up at the screen and smiled, "Yes. I'd like to report a Predator sighting." ***** Pentagon, Sub-level 5 Washington, DC February 2, 2000 - Morning

"Sir, we have a Pred sighting."

"Confirmed?"

"Affirm. Solid evidence, Sir."

"How solid?"

"Video caps."

"You're kidding?"

"No Sir. This one is pretty cocky, Sir."

"Where?"

"Sunnydale California."

"Scramble the team. Contact Alpha and Beta... make them the offer."

"Yes Sir." *****

The man looked around as he walked up to his car. His wife was still in their home, but his hearing picked up approaching footsteps. He remained relaxed, calmly slid his key into the car and slipped his other hand under his jacket.

The footsteps got closer.

He slid his Government Colt out of the hidden holster and palmed the big gun in his bigger fist. Three seconds, he told himself.

Then Two.

And finally one.

He turned around, the big gun coming up in a blinding motion. He was a big man, but none of it was fat, and none of it slowed him down. The man was startled by his motion, and scrambled back a couple steps and raised his hands in supplication. "Jesus, Dutch!"

'Dutch'. The man hadn't heard that name in a long time. He stopped using it when he switched careers. Now he recognized the man, however.

"Colonel Greene." His voice was flat. He didn't like being tracked down, especially by old pissant bastards who tried to get his ass killed. Greene lowered his hands slowly. "Christ, Dutch. They told me you might have slowed down... I guess they're full of shit. And I'm out of the army now. I'm with the Company."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?"

Greene cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Look, Dutch... we have a..."

The man's voice shifted to a surprised squeak as he felt a pistol press against his crotch, snugly secured between his legs from behind.

A female voice echoed in his ear as he started sweating. "Is this man bothering you honey?"

'Dutch' smiled. "Not at all."

She shrugged, and removed the gun. "If you say so."

Greene started to breathe again. He hadn't been warned that Dutch had found a woman as dangerous as he was. "Look. Dutch,"

He was again interrupted by the woman, her voice amused. "Dutch?"

The big man shrugged, "I had a misspent youth."

She smiled and nodded.

Greene tried again, "Dutch... we've got another one."

Dutch stiffened. "When?"

"He's been around for a while... Hunting in a town in California... small shit burg called Sunnydale. Dutch, we want you on this one."

"No." Dutch shook his head, "No way. I told you people, I want nothing to do with those things."

Greene's hand went to his coat, causing both Man and Wife to lift their weapons again. "Whoa! Just some papers, I swear!"

"Slowly." the man said, his hand motioning. Greene swallowed and nodded, slowly pulling a sheaf of papers from his coat. "I may not be able to find out who you work for now, Dutch, but I know you still work for Uncle Sam. And he cut these order personally."

Dutch grabbed the papers, growling his displeasure as he did. "Damnit, Greene!"

"What is it Honey?" The woman was concerned. She'd seen her husband take on nuclear bomb's with less concern. "What's wrong?"

The big man sighed. "I have to go to California."

"Well, I'm coming with you."

He shook his head, "It's too dangerous."

"Bullshit! We're a team. We have been for years. I'm coming."

Dutch sighed. He knew he wouldn't be able to change her mind. "You don't understand... What we're going up against isn't like anything you've ever seen. It's dangerous..."

"So's breathing." She said, "I'm coming."

Dutch sighed and nodded, accepting his fate. ***** 13th Precinct Los Angeles, California February 2, 2000 - Afternoon

"Lieutenant Harrigan?"

The big black man looked up and his face dropped as he recognized, not the man but the suit. "Oh shit."

"I've been sent to get your help with a... confidential matter."

"Get fucked." Harrigan muttered before turning back to his paperwork. "I told you people never to come near me again."

"We have another sighting, Lieutenant. We need your help. You are one of exactly two people to have ever faced one of these things and walk away."

"So call the other guy."

"We did. He's on a plane as we speak." "Then what do you need me for?" The man shrugged, "We're hedging our bets this time, Lieutenant."

"Forget it." Harrigan rasped.

The man in the suit called out as Harrigan turned away. "It's in California!"

Harrigan turned back, his face setting. "Where?"

"A small town just outside of L.A." the man said, knowing that he had already won. "It's called..." ***** Bronze Sunnydale, California February 2, 2000 - Evening

Xander and Faith were on the floor, clearly enjoying the beat of the music as it flowed through them. Both were moving with little, if any, restraint and a large clearing had grown out around them. Neither dancer noticed, or cared.

As the song ended, they slowly came down from their tandem dance and grinned at the observers grouped around them they glided off the dance floor, waving and nodded at the whistles and catcalls they received from the other dancers.

"You two are crazy." Willow smiled at the couple as the slid into their seats.

Faith grinned, "Why, Red? Jealous? You want a turn with Boytoy? I'm sure I left enough gas in the tank for you."

Willow shook her head and slipped an arm around Tara. "I have my partner right here, thank you very much."

Tara smiled shyly, and nodded at her lover.

Faith shrugged, and grinned at the two Wiccans. "Whatever."

Xander was breathing deeply, though not as hard as one might expect. He grinned around the table and noticed the lack of drinks. He held his hand up for a waitress, and wasn't surprised when one appeared in seconds. He had a reputation as a very generous tipper.

"Another round." he nodded around the table.

"Right away," The girl winked at him, and he grinned and winked back.

Faith leaned in, "I think she likes you." Xander shrugged.

"Come on, don't tell me your not interested?"

Xander shrugged again, but spoke this time. "Not really. She's cute... but my likings have changed."

"Oh?" Faith looked at him, her eyebrows arcing, "How so?"

Xander grinned at her, "I like my ladies strong."

"Strong enough to kick your ass, lover?"

"Wouldn't have it any other way." ***** J&X's Home Sunnydale California February 3, 2000 - Morning

Xander got up slowly, mildly surprised to find that Faith was still laying beside him. She usually slept in her own bed, even on nights that started out in his. He watched her breathe for a few moments, smiling at the peaceful look on her face. He took a deep breath and felt a twinge in his gut as he got out of bed.

He loved Faith, as much as he had loved anybody. But he knew that he wasn't in love with her. And he didn't fool himself into thinking that she was in love with him. Still, he had to admit that they had a pretty decent relationship. No strings, at least no obvious ones.

He got dressed quickly, slipping into his workout clothes and slipping out of the room as quietly as he could. It was a testament to her trust and security that Faith didn't wake for an instant while he did all that. ***** Empire Hotel

Dutch tossed his suitcase to the floor, looking around at the 'presidential suite'. "What a dump."

"It's not so bad." His wife smiled, her face etched with sadness.

Dutch nodded. They had seen worse. Much worse. "It will do."

He looked over at his wife and forced a smile. "Who are you?"

She nodded, "hello, I'm Mrs. Schaefer, I work with the NSA as a consultant. But you can call me Sally."

He nodded. "Pleased to meet you, Sally." Sally smiled at him, and stepping in close. "You know.. I always did find this secret identity thing such a turn on."

"That's good to know." He smiled, "But we have some... friends to meet."

She sighed and backed off. "You're right... Alan."

They quickly got ready and headed out of their room. *****

"Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Schaefer... Good to see you again." Greene forced a smile as the couple walked in.

Dutch nodded at him, not bother to smile. His eyes swept the room, and fell on a surly black man who was already seated at the large table. "You must be Harrigan?"

The black man nodded. "Who the hell are you?"

"Dutch."

Harrigan's eyes widened. "So you're the other guy, huh?"

Dutch nodded, smiling a little ruefully. "I'm afraid so."

Harrigan shook his head. "So why are you stupid enough to be here?"

"Orders." Dutch shrugged.

Harrigan nodded. "Ok. At least you didn't volunteer."

Dutch laughed. "Not a chance. You?"

"I volunteered." Harrigan said sourly.

"Why?"

"Don't like the idea of one of those things this close to my city."

That was something that Dutch could understand. And something he could respect. "Good. Glad to be working with you."

"Same here." Harrigan extended his hand and Dutch shook it firmly.

Greene interrupted with a sarcastic tone. "If the mutual respect society is over, can we get to work?"

Both warriors glared at him, but nodded their assent and settled into their places at the table. Green pulled out a map of the town and started pointing things out. "Ok, we have sightings here, here, and here... always around the graveyards... always at night. Don't know why, but this one seems to be nocturnal..." ***** X&J's Building

Xander jogged up the path to the old brownstone, his chest heaving from his morning run, and quickly let himself in. He was halfway to the stairs when he heard voices in the kitchen and turned around.

In the Kitchen he found Giles, Jarod, and Buffy talking quietly. "Hey G and J-men... Buff... what's up?"

The three alternately smiled and grimaced and smiled at him, each a greeting in its own way. Jarod spoke first. "Mr. Giles here has found a piece of an old artifact that has him nervous."

"Oh?" Xander asked, his face as neutral as possible. Giles was pretty stiff sometimes, but he didn't get nervous over just anything.

"Indeed." Giles said, sliding his spectacles back onto his nose. "It's a piece of the Amulet of Amsheri."

Xander paused, hoping that Elan would have some info. No such luck. "Which is?"

"The Amulet is a very dangerous material component for a summoning spell. It can be used to raise the demon Amsheri from the third circle of hell."

Xander nodded, "ok... that sounds bad. But you have the Amulet thingy... so what's the problem? We toss it in the vault and forget about it."

Predictably, Giles shook his head. "I'm afraid that is insufficient."

Xander sighed. "I should have known. Why?"

"Because the spell has already been cast. The Amulet is broken as part of the summoning."

"Of course it is." Xander muttered.:So this Amsheri thing is running around town?"

"No." Giles answered. "Not until tonight."

"Tonight?"

"Tonight is a blood moon. The spell was cast last night so its completion would concur with the rising of the blood moon... He will arise after the sun sets tonight." "Of course he will." Xander sighed. "Who is this guy and what can he do?" Giles sighed himself and removed his glasses to wipe them clean. "I'm afraid the book is sketchy on that... but he is quite dangerous..."

"Of course he is." Xander muttered. "Do we have anything on him?"

Giles shook his head, "I'm afraid not."

Xander rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling. "Of course we don't." ***** Bridgewater Creek, Northern California

The young man ran, his legs burning, his lungs aching, his heart pounding. But he ran. Behind him he could hear the sound of a chopper moving against the pristine sky, searching, hunting. Ahead of him was a woman, a slim dark haired beauty that he knew well. Running went against her grain, and his, but they had little choice.

They were a few miles from the nearest town, and actually going there would be suicide. For him at least. So they were heading for the river. With some luck they'd be able to ride it to the coast, even it if meant floating downstream on a log or other piece of flotsam. Whatever, it didn't matter so long as they got out of here. And got help.

They reached the river quickly and waded in, hoping that they would lose their pursuers in the swirling water. The woman held his head above water as they were buffeted by the current, at least until his hands found a short log to grasp. Then they both held on and rode the current away from the carnage they left behind them.

"What do we do now?" She asked, spitting water out with every breath. "Heather said that the charmed ones could help... they're supposed to be in San Francisco somewhere?"

He shook his head, "I'm more interested in the stories about Sunnydale."

She scoffed, "The ones about a group of witches, Slayers, and god knows what else? That can't be true."

He shrugged, "I think we could use a Slayer on our side."

She shook her head, "We need the witches more..."

"San Francisco is a big city... have you stopped to think of how we'd find them?"

She didn't have an answer.

"No, Sunnydale is our only chance."

They didn't speak again, instead spending all their energy just to stay afloat and alive as they spend down river toward the Pacific. ***** Empire Hotel Sunnydale, California February 3, 2000 - Late Afternoon

"We've had people setting up motion sensors in the UV spectrum all day. That should lead us straight to him if he shows himself."

"Hey," Harrigan looked up, "What about feeding?"

"What?"

"Last time the thing set up a feeding zone in a meat locker... anything like that around here?"

Green shook his head, "We don't think so. No signs of it anyway."

"Great." Harrigan muttered, "I don't like it when they change the pattern."

"I agree." Dutch said, "I've read the field reports on eight of these things... Nothing you've shown me here fits the pattern."

Green protested, "What about the death rate in this town?"

Dutch shook his head, "No. None of the bodies are missing their heads."

"Yeah... that's right." Harrigan lifted his head, "He didn't take any trophies."

"Precisely." Dutch said.

"So... if that's true," Harrigan muttered, mostly to himself, "Why's the bastard here?" ***** Angel Investigations Los Angeles, California February 3, 2000 - Morning

"Hey Cordy," Doyle grinned as he walked in, "How's it shakin?"

Cordelia spared him a mildly annoyed glance before turning back to Angel. "As I was saying... It wouldn't hurt to add a little color to this place... You know, a painting over there... maybe a new set of drapes for this window..."

Angel sighed, he'd been listening to this for hours. "How many times to I have to tell you, Cordy, I can't afford it." "Nonsense." Cordelia brushed that off, "Its just like buying good clothes... they're not a cost, they're an investment."

Angel looked to Doyle for help, "Any visions lately?"

Doyle spared him a dirty look. "No. And I'm so happy that you feel so concerned fot the well being of my..."

At that point Doyle's eyes slammed shut and his face was wracked in pain. He fell to his knees as Angel and Cordelia rushed to his side. "Doyle!"

Angel grabbed him up, pulling him to his feet. "Doyle, what did you see?"

Doyle staggered for a bit, "A demon... weird one... he's bending over a young woman, pretty thing... she's bleeding."

"Where?"

"I saw a sign..." Doyle said, looking at Angel, "You're not going to like it."

"Why?"

"It said 'Welcome to Sunnydale'."

Angel's borrowed blood ran ice cold. "The girl... was she blond?"

Doyle shook his head, "No... Brunette... very nice bod."

Cordelia butted in, "Very interesting... What did the Demon look like?"

Doyle shuddered. "We was wearing this weird armor... had weapons strapped all over his body.. Angel?"

"Yeah, Doyle?"

"I've never felt the visions pour on the cold like that before..." Doyle shivered, "It's like the PTB's wanted to make sure I knew who the target was..."

Angel nodded. "Then he dies... before he can kill the girl" ***** Sunnydale, California February 3, 2000 - Midnight

Xander crouched on a rooftop across from the first point that Giles had listed as a likely place for the Demon to arise. "Anything, Lover?" Faith asked from behind him.

"No." Xander said quietly, scanning the area through his hunting mask. "It's dead. The whole place."

"Well, that's good right?"

Xander shrugged in his armor, "I don't know. It might be too quiet."

Faith nodded. "You think this is the place?"

"I don't know... but someone's put out the word to avoid this place tonight." Xander shifted his weight, "Stay here... I'm going to get a closer look."

"Hey! Now wait a second!" Faith protested, but her jaw dropped as Xander shimmered out of sight.

"I said wait here, Faith." His disembodied voice echoed around her, "I can do this better on my own."

"Uh..." Faith stammered, "Yeah..."

Her sharp eyes caught a slight blur of motion and then nothing. *****

Tensions rose suddenly in the small room when a sharp beeping echoed around the room.

"We have a hit!"

"Where is it?" Greene asked eagerly.

"Graveyard across town."

"Send the team."

Dutch and Harrigan looked at each other, and nodded grimly. "We're going too."

Greene looked over at them, his face clouded. "I don't think that's necessary."

Dutch glared at him, "Get out of my way."

Greene swallowed, and backed off. He watched the two men grab assault rifles and grenades. "We want him alive!"

"Who's we?" Harrigan asked with a smirk, "I don't see any 'we' in here... Just you. And I don't give a flying fuck what you want."

Dutch smiled, "What he said." Then the two warriors turned their back on Greene and walked out. Greene waited for the door to close before he slammed his fist down on the desk and grabbed the tactical microphone. "All teams! Move in now! Isolate and contain the alien!"

*****

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