MATRYOSHKA

DISCLAIMER:
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The opinions, views, and biases that may be expressed by the characters within this story are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the author or archivist(s). Certain real-life organisations are referenced, but all material relating thereto is fictionalised.

SPOILER WARNING:
Through the end of the third season. After that, it's effectively alternate-universe stuff.

RATING:
Uh... I'll call it an overall M, for coarse language, fairly graphic violence, and adult themes. If you couldn't handle 'Saving Private Ryan', you might want to find an elsewhere to be. You have been warned. ;-)

DISTRIBUTION:
, the forums (Creative Writing sub-forum), the XanderZone website and its associated mailing-list (), and its mailing-list (th_). I'd like to know beforehand where else it might wind up, so any other sites may archive this fic only by prior arrangement. You can ask my permission at . ;-)


Prelude

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When are you gonna learn, B? It doesn't matter what kind of vibe you get off a person. 'Cause nine times out of ten, the face they're showing you is not the real one.

Faith - BtVS 3.15: Consequences

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

H: Together again, huh?
L: Wouldn't miss it.
H: How we doin'?
L: Same as always.
H: That bad, huh?

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker - Return of the Jedi


04:32-Z, MONDAY JULY 5, 1999
CYBERSPACE

:ACCESS RESTRICTED

LOGIN: Opal
PASSWORD: ********

:Firebreak

*******

:Icarus

**** **** *****

:PERSONAL CODE-PHRASE?

Omnes moritatem; Deus suos cognoscet.

:ACCESS APPROVED
:PLEASE ENTER DAY-CYPHER AND ACTIVATE ONLINE TRANSLATOR

ON-LINE TRANSLATION ACTIVE

:THERE ARE NOW [2] PARTICIPANTS LOGGED IN
:THERE ARE NOW [0] LURKERS LOGGED IN

K: It took you long enough.

O: You know how much I despise these contraptions, Keystone. What is it?

K: I need you to go to Sunnydale to institute the Judas protocols.

O: I can't say I'm overly surprised. Which subject?

S: Both.

O: I see. Parameters?

USER [Ruby] HAS LOGGED ON

O: Punctual as ever, I see.

R: Go kiss a vampire. What *are* the parameters?

K: There are none.

R: It's about fucking time we took the gloves off.

O: Grow up, Ruby. Public considerations?

K: Just try to keep extraneous carnage and media exposure to a minimum. We don't need a circus like the Zyrianova deployment.

O: The Triads were blamed for that.

K: Only because you were so bloody obvious and clumsy about the whole thing. It's hard to keep a lid on things when you're shooting people on the streets of a country where the annual number of firearms murders rarely reaches double figures. Try to blend in a little more this time, will you?

R: Look, just get us their records, Keystone. We'll come up with something appropriate when we have a better read on things.

K: All the necessary data is being couriered to you now, and to Agate.

O: Agate!?

K: We can't season him without actual field experience, can we?

R: You just said you wanted minimal collateral -

O: If you saddle me with that congenitally incompetent butcher -

K: The decision is made. All three of you and your SHRIKE teams are to be in place as soon as possible. Understood?

O: Sir!

R: Sir. What about local assets?

K: It's in the intel packets, Ruby. Read them when they arrive. Good day.

LOGOFF [Keystone]

O: Ah yes, our beloved Sub-Coordinator (Security/Operations): sanctimonious to the end....

R: Attend the beam in thine own eye, Opal! I'll see you in Sunnydale.

LOGOFF [Ruby]

O: ........

LOGOFF [Opal]

........

LOGOFF [unknown user]


Chapter End Notes:

When I started this story, all I had of the fourth and fifth seasons was the TV Guide blurbs for each episode, so it becomes an alternate continuity effectively right after Episode 3.22, 'Graduation pt.2'. As I subsequently did see those seasons, I reserve the right to cherry-pick elements therefrom for the purposes of further writing-fodder. I am stalwartly attempting to purge the memories of the UPN seasons from my memory, and I outright refuse to recognise them as canon.

Depending on context, italic text indicates thoughts or non-verbal communication, non-English words, names of media product, or emphasis. [Square brackets] indicate dialogue translated from another language; {brackets} is a transmitted medium, be it electronic, written, or true telepathy.

The timestamp's 'Z' notation stands for 'Zulu' time, AKA Greenwich mean time, commonly used as the military's universal time standard.

Icarus, if you recall, ignored his father's advice and came to a bad end. (I can't remember if this particular story is from Greek mythology or if it's one of Aesop's Fables.)

During the Crusade against the Cathar heretics (who were attacked as much for their wealth as their belief structure) in the thirteenth century, one knight asked his commander, a member of the Inquisition, how he could tell Cathars from 'true' Christians. The Papal representative replied, "Omnes moritatem; Deus suos cognoscet" - 'Kill them all; God will know his own.' (Latin)

Ruby's parting comment is another religious citation - an allusion to Matthew 7, verses 3-5.

Note that someone has managed to eavesdrop on this whole conversation undetected, despite multiple layers of security around this particular chat-room. For all these folks' evident paranoia, apparently they're not paranoid enough.