Title: Spy Game

Author: neoolong

Rating: T

Summary: Away for a year, Xander comes into his own. And finds out just what it takes to save the world when the forces of evil come knocking.

Disclaimer: Standard lack of ownership for anything that anybody else owns. No profit made and all that.

Prologue: The Hunter Who Came in From the Heat

One year later...

Wax Market, Lagos, Nigeria

Xander sat. And waited. A few years ago he would have been bouncing in nervous energy from the waiting and the heat. A year in the jungles and deserts of Africa and beyond had calmed him. And changed him in ways even he was still trying to figure out. Looking around at the mass of people in the crowded marketplace from his open air table, Xander saw who he was waiting for. Mr. Barnes.

Xander never did figure out what the man's first name was. Not that it really mattered since even Barnes was most likely a fake. He watched as his contact approached and sat down; wondering as he often did how such an overweight and unkempt man as Mr. Barnes could keep from sweating in such a place.

As the man sat down and ordered a drink from the waitress who had walked up, Xander slipped his hand under the table to rest on the handgun he had hidden there. While they shared a steady working relationship, though petering out now, Xander knew he couldn't really trust the man in front of him. Barnes was assigned to him after all. Not part of the organization. Him being here now was a statement.

Xander knew his position was secure. The organization he truly represented had proven itself. No. The message wasn't about him at all. It was about the slayers. The Company wasn't apt to let a bunch of supersoldiers out of its grasp. Intellience focused as it may be, the Company never gave up an opportunity for an advantage. The higherups in the agency must have been pretty peeved that the slayers had been declared assets of the newly developed Level 6. It had been one of the terms of his employ. But, things in the E-ring changed quickly. No matter how many good men wanted it different.

"Bad times, Mr. Harris. Bad times." Barnes took a drink after the waitress had walked away. Pulling a large white envelope from his pocket, he looked at Xander with an unhappy expression. "Eight months ago, you came to me. And we made a deal."

Barnes had been his first contact. He'd moved up in the world while Barnes had stayed in the hot zone. Xander just visited sometimes. Not something that would make Barnes particularly friendly to him. They didn't have to pretend anymore.

Xander took the envelope and spread the contents on the table with one hand. They were pictures. Stills from a video taken from some battle site in some forest he didn't recognize. What he did recognize however, was the mess that it was. Burnt corpses and burnt tents were spread in a clearing. He could see crossbow bolts, swords, and axes strewn across the ground. Primitive weaponry in the eyes of most.

The last two photos were what brought him up short. A corpse, not completely burned, allowed him to recognize who or rather what the inhabitants of the small village had been. Xander shot a questioning look towards Mr. Barnes.

"Kwaini." Barnes answered Xander's unspoken question, though he knew that the youger associate of the Watchers' Council, amongst of affiliations, already knew that.

"Since you're coming to me with this, I assume that slayers are responsible?" Xander asked, not liking where the situation was going. The species meant that the weapons on the ground didn't belong to the inhabitants. And it wasn't like that many hunters still ran aroud with swords and crossbows.

"Yes. These were taken in the Black Forest two days ago. A day before that, German airport security video reveals the arrival of 10 young girls originally departing from Cleveland. Or rather, revealed." Barnes gulped down his drink and ordered another.

"I know you. You don't really care that these were Kwaini or that some tribe of demons just got wiped out. So why come to me?" Xander asked, beginning to see where this was leading.

"We're both of us professionals. This however, was not. We provide you with the immunity and discretion you need to carry on your activities at home and abroad. And you do your job under the radar. That was the agreement, Mr. Harris. Level 6 can only protect you so far." Barnes grabbed the photos from the table tossed them into a pile with disgust. "And, before you ask, there was no evidence of drug use. Your former associate in LA saw to the end of that nonsense."

"So, the Germans are complaining about what happened?" In truth, Xander didn't really care about the politics of the massacre. He was more concerned that a group of slayers, apparently with approval from the reformed Watchers' Council, had wiped out a settlement of balance demons.

"So far, they don't know exactly what happened. Or who was responsible. Department C is in an uproar about a mass demon attack that they didn't see coming. And they're going to eventually ask "us" to help look into things." Barnes explained.

"And you want me to turn on my friends?" Xander retorted.

"I've been keeping count. You found all of two slayers in the entire continent. This isn't exactly an assignment that shows how valuable you are to the Council's operations." Barnes replied.

"That's not enough, you know." Xander sighed. "What do you want me to do?"

Despite his rather lowly position, Xander still cared about the slayers and didn't want to think about what would happen if the Company turned its attention onto them. Barnes had him. To a point.

"The boys upstairs are clear. This can't happen again. We can't keep protecting your people if they can't be discrete. The Kwaini that your rather ill-informed friends decided to exterminate were granted honorary human status and German citizenship. Their government is dropping terms, like "act of war" and "crime against humanity." Congratulations, your friends just committed genocide." Barnes stood up indicating that the meeting was coming to a close. "You need to get your house in order. Or we'll do it for you." Barnes dropped a plane ticket onto the table, and started to walk away.

Xander watched the man's retreating form as he pulled the ticket to Cleveland towards him.

Once the Company man had walked out of view, the tourist at the next table stood up and took the now abandoned seat. His name was Curtis Myers. 10 years in the Baltimore office of the FBI before he had been "asked" to retire for asking the wrong questions. Bad times led to good ones. Meyers had answers now. No more depression. No more suicidal thoughts. And a steady paycheck that kept his kids in private school and his wife able to pay the bills.

"What now?" Special Agent Myers said. They were all special agents now. Though the field teams were considered "operators." He was a good shot. And a better investigator. A decade in the Violent Crimes division until he came across the Case. The end of one job. The start of another. Same goal though. He was in country for their job in Nigeria and made for a good backup man.

Xander looked at his second in command and then down at the pile of photos.

"Now, I go home."