My Beta has reported in, but she's still taking her time on the backlog. Hope this keeps you entertained for now. Will replace when she gets back to me.
That said, I really should thank her for putting up with my somewhat erratic writing style and tendency to dump more than one chapter on her at a time. I am perhaps the worst kind of writer to beta for: I never know what I'm going to work on next…
Thank you Sara (aka, Crazy Danae)
Zeppo 3: Slayer Evolved
Part 15: Loose ends
Summoning up all the power she could without taking herself off-line, Cortana sent one last jolt through Xander. The armor jumped a clear foot into the air, emergency valves opening to allow overheated gel to escape the confines. The shields flared brightly, and then failed as the energy was transferred into Xander's body.Beep…
Electricity ached off the amour and grounded itself in anything it could find, blowing out every light in the room. Arcs of electricity placed across every metal surface, filling the room with an eerie blue glow.
"Oh thank god…" Cortana relaxed slightly as Xander's heart started beating again. It was slow and weak, but it was better than nothing. She ran a quick diagnostic: the armor was badly damaged, but it was nothing that couldn't be fixed, given enough time and resources.
A pair of blue blips appeared on the edge of the motion trackers range.
"You seem to be taking everything in your stride." Buffy looked at Johnson, "I heard of one person who hightailed it to the Vatican when they learnt the truth about this town."
"I'm a combat veteran Miss Summers; it takes a lot to shock me." The Colonel lit a fresh cigar, "That said, I did feel a little ill after my first briefing about what went on in this town."
"Yeah, it's a real party town." Buffy pulled her helmet off, "How are you supposed to breath in this thing?" She looked at the respirator, "Gum? Faith spat gum in this thing?"
"She sounds like a real character."
"What's going to happen to her and Xander?" Buffy asked, gripping her sword tightly.
"That's something that will be decided well above my pay grade: there is going to have to be an inquest into what happened here. Walsh was out of control, but she shouldn't have been able to do all that she did without someone noticing. I'll do my best on their behalf, but there is the possibility that they will face charges."
"They could go to prison?"
"It is a possibility, but after everything I've seen here, I'm going to push for extenuating circumstances. It could easily be claimed that Mr. Harris was temporarily insane when he killed Maggie Walsh. There will probably be some sort of deal offered."
"I don't think Xander's going to be willing to let you dissect him…"
"I was thinking more along the lines of access to some of his technology, but that's for the higher-ups to decide."
"He's always said that it could be dangerous for the technology to enter main-stream civilization. There is the possibility that he'd destroy it to keep it safe. And if there's the possibility of prison, I'd put money on Xander, Faith and Cortana running."
"I would stop them, mainly because trying would be an easy way to get dead." Johnson stopped outside of Lab 314, "This appears to be the place…"
Buffy kicked the door open, but it stopped short, blocked by Xander's body.
"XANDER!" The Slayer put her back against the door and pushed as hard as she could. The sound of metal scraping against concrete filled the air as the Mjolnir armor slowly moved.
"Thank god!" Cortana's voice came from the suits external speaker, "You need to get him to a hospital: his hearts already stopped once, and I can't guaranty how much longer I can keep him going."
"What in gods name is THAT?" Johnson pointed his gun at Adam's body, "Is it dead?"
"That is Adam." Buffy walked over to the Cyborg and pinned it to the ground with her sword, severing its spine, "And if he wasn't dead before, he is now."
"Good." Johnson looked at Xander, "We should probably get him to the infirmary at the base: we need somewhere that's not going to ask too many questions, and may be able to help him."
"If Buffy gets my mobile emitter, I should be able to help you: I have extensive files on Spartan physiology." Cortana sounded concerned, "How's Faith?"
"Stable; the doctor said she should be ok." Buffy lifted Xander, straining under the weight, "Ok, he's going on a diet after this!"
"I'll take everything else." Johnson collected the scattered weapons, "He did good, for a swabie…"
Xander felt like the world was wrapped in pink cotton wall; his entire body was tingling, like he was covered with static electricity. The sensation was not entirely unpleasant.
"You going to sleep all day?" a voice asked from nearby.
"What?" Xander blinked, his vision slowly clearing, "Faith?"
"Yeah, it's me." The dark-haired Slayer smiled, "Kind of a turn around: last time it was you waking me…"
"Where are we?" Xander tried to move, but his body felt weak, distant.
"Relax, we're as safe as we can be, all things considered." Faith sat on the edge of the bed, dressed in what was unmistakable a hospital-issue dressing gown, "You were in pretty bad shape when Buffy and Colonel Johnson found you: Cortana said your heart even stopped at one point. They brought you here."
"Where is here?"
"The infirmary at the army base: the Colonel said it would be best to keep you away from civilian doctors, considering your rather unusual physiology…"
"The Army?" Xander blinked, "What's going to happen to us?"
"Truth be told, I don't know: Giles, Cortana and Colonel Johnson are trying to come up with a deal they can put to the higher ups to keep us out of prison. Riley's been let off: they decided that Walsh's orders were illegal, so he was well within his rights to disobey them."
"The military always looks after its own." Xander mused, "What about us, you and me?"
"I honestly don't know." Faith shrugged, "I have feelings for you, but I think it would be best until we know what's going to happen to us before we start anything."
"Probably a good idea." Buffy stood in the doorway, "I'm glad to see you're awake again."
"Yeah, I just hope someone got the license plate of the truck that hit me." Xander smiled, and then turned to Faith, "I need to have a word with Buffy in private."
"No problem; I'll go see if they've got any new comics in the day-room." Faith kissed Xander on the forehead, "I'll see you later." She walked to the door, pursing by Buffy, "God easy on him B; he's been through a lot."
"I know." Buffy nodded, even managing a slight smile for the other Slayer. She waited until the door closed before she walked over to the bed, "You did well."
"I got my ass kicked." Xander shook his head, "I owe you an apology: I've been an idiot and an asshole. I wanted to hurt you for trying to push me away, so I pushed back. Call it pride, call it machismo, call it what you will; I almost let Adam win because I wasn't willing to ask you for help."
"You really think I could have gone up against Adam?" Buffy sat in the chair Faith had vacated, "Cortana showed us the footage from your suits recorder: the pouch you took to the head would have taken mine clean off."
"Yeah, and I almost died because of it. Maybe if you and the others had been there I wouldn't have gotten myself into the position. But that's not what Spartan's are trained to do: we protect, not endanger…"
"Cortana told us about your nightmares."
"I figured she would, eventually." Xander shook his head, "I need help Buff, a lot of help."
"All you have to do is ask." Buffy took her friends hand and squeezed it, "I'll do you a deal; I'll keep you in line if you do the same with me."
"I can live with that." Xander nodded, a faint smile on his lips."
"Sorry to interrupt." Colonel Johnson stood in the doorway with Giles and Cortana's mobile emitter, "We've come up with an agreement that we think might work…"
Faith couldn't decide who was more uncomfortable, Xander or herself.
The suit-dress Joyce Summers had helped her pick out was extremely conservative, while a stylist provided by the hotel had done her hair.
Xander was dressed in a slightly modified Navy dress uniform that looked stretched over his body, and threatened to burst every time he moved. He was standing against one wall while a Secret Service Agent looked for a chair that wouldn't instantly collapse under his weight. His hair was cut short, military style, but he still looked out of place.
Colonel Johnson had tried to get him into a Marine uniform, but Cortana had pointed out that he was technical a Master Chief Petty Officer, all be it in the fictitious UNSC.
A Secret Service Agent appeared, pushing an over sized chair from the situation room. He looked at Xander, trying to work out what chance they'd have to stop him if he decided to burst through the nearby door.
The fact that Xander has set of the metal detectors on the way in, and they had not been aloud to inspect Cortana's mobile holographic emitter that was sitting in Colonel Johnson's briefcase had already set them on the defensive.
Xander did his best to look non-threatening as he sat down, the chair creaking under the weight.
He shot to his feet again when the door open, a young looking black man in an expensive looking suit and a harried look on his face all but running through. He stopped just before he left the outer office.
"You can go in now." He stopped just long enough pass on the message before sprinting off down the corridor on some important errand.
"Ok kids; game time." Colonel Johnson stood, straightening his own dress uninformed and retrieving his cap from the table before holding the door open for Faith, "Ladies first."
"Thanks." Faith smiled slightly, her nerves making her feel more than a little uneasy. Johnson and Xander followed, a Secret Service Agent brings up the rear, pushing Xander's chair ahead of him.
President Bartlet looked up over the top of his reading glasses as they came into the Oval Office, Colonel Johnson and Xander coming to attention while Faith did her best not to gawk at her surroundings.
"I'm glad you could make it." The President stood, walking round his desk to shake them all by the hand, "I'm sorry for the slight delay, but the job does keep me busy. Please, be seated."
Faith and Colonel Johnson sat down on one of the sofas while Xander eased himself back into his chair, trying to keep is from groaning too much.
"I would first like to make it perfectly clear that Professor Walsh's actions were in no way authorized by myself or anyone on my staff." The President started, "while I was aware of the Initiatives basic mission, I was under the misconception that it was purely a research operation." He looked round, "I think you can leave us now, Agent McGee."
"Sir, I must protest…" The Secret Service Agent started.
"You're protest in noted, but I insist." President Bartlet waited until the other man had left and closed the door before he turned back to his guests, "So, how is Ripper these days?"
"Excuse me Mr President?" Colonel Johnson blinked.
"Rupert Giles; how is he?" The President leaned back in his chair, "We met in collage; he was a few years below me. That and my mother knew his mother from their work in the Watchers Counsel."
"You're a Watcher?" Xander asked.
"One of the many tasks I perform these days." President Bartlet smiled, "Although I don't think I'm on the Counsel's Christmas card list; we have differing opinions on certain issues."
"That I can understand." Faith smiled, starting to relax slightly, "So, how does this affect the deal you offered us?"
"The deal is fine as it stands; complete immunity for any past transgressions wither of you have committed and a retainer salary, in exchange for which you will make yourselves available for any missions the Initiative needs you help with." The President explained, "Colonel Johnson will be in charge of reorganizing the Initiative, focusing on dealing with demon and supernatural threats to America and our allies. This will come with a promotion to Brigadier General, while Mr Harris will be given the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserve. I'm sure we can find some way to arrange you a similar position if you wish."
"I'd rather stay as I am, if that's ok." Faith nodded, "I'm not that good with authority figures…"
"So I have been told." President Bartlet took off his glasses, "This may seam strange, but would it be possible to meet Cortana?"
"Of course, Mr. President." Johnson opened up his briefcase and removed the holographic emitter, pleasing it on the table. A quick flick of a switch activated it, the A.I. physical persona appearing in a field of glowing dust.
"Mr. President." Cortana bowed slightly, "It is an honor to meet you."
"The honor is all mine." The President smiled, "By the power invested in my by the Office of President of the United States of America, I here by grant you full and irrevocable citizenship, with all the rights and privileges there in."
"I don't know what to say…" Cortana looked shocked, "Thank you, Mr. President, thank you."
"Let's just say I'm covering my bases." President Bartlet smiled, "I'd much rather have the three of you working for us than against us."
"Two days all-expenses paid vacation at a Five Star hotel in our nations capital." Faith stood looking out the window, "And an unlimited credit limit, courtesy of our new best friend, the President."
"Your Tax-dollars at work." Xander smiled as he wrapped his arms around her, "Where do you want to go?"
"Well, I defiantly want to do some sightseeing and shopping, but there is one place I think we should go first."
"Back to bed." Faith smiled coyly, "I'm not sure what the future may hold, but I plan to make the next few days memorable…"
I have another story planed, but I want to get some of my Works In Progress' finished before I start it.