Title: Emerald Flame: Coast City Getaway (0/8)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Just a little bad language.

Spoilers: Anything and everything.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Cortana has a suggestion on how Xander spends his suspension.

Author's Note: I suppose it was a matter of time before I broke away from the Emerald title theme. Despite my best efforts, I simply could not figure out a good title for this one that fit the naming theme. Oh, well.

"I think that's the last of it," Xander said as he gently lowered the boxes suspended by his ring into the room next to the others. Now that Rebecca was back on her feet, the Baxters were moving out and into their own place. Rebecca hadn't been comfortable essentially leeching off of him, no matter what he said about it, and their discussion on the matter led them to The Magic Box.

Buying up the lease had been a simple matter, but the business license had been a bit trickier. With that squared away, though, the two Baxter women were moving into the apartment over the store rather than waiting for the repairs to be completed on the first house he had acquired for them.

"You sure you'll be okay?" he asked.

"We'll be fine," Rebecca assured him.

Xander was pacing the library irritably. It was after dark, and he, Giles, and Cortana were considering their next move.

"I don't get it," he said. "Where is she?"

"Who?" Giles asked, having let Xander work the energy out of his system.

"Gwendolyn Post," Xander answered. "She should have shown up by now, looking for the Glove of Myhnegon."

"We destroyed it weeks ago," Giles pointed out, "at your direction, I might add."

"Yeah," Xander nodded, "but she couldn't know that, and I can't believe she'd just give up on it."

Giles mulled over that. The boy had a point. "Perhaps she hasn't," he suggested.

"Huh?" Xander stopped pacing and looked over at the Watcher.

"That's the thing about gloves, Xander. They come in pairs."

Xander stared at Giles, utterly dumbfounded.

"Well, worrying isn't going to help anything," Cortana piped up from one of the library's computers, "and we have contingency plans in place anyway. You've already diverted most of the major events for the next few weeks, so why not use that time productively?"

"What do you mean?" Xander asked curiously.

"The files I gave you a week ago?" she prompted, eyes narrowing suspiciously. "People you'd need to recruit personally. Ring any bells?"

"Oh," he said. "I, ah, actually hadn't gotten around to reading them yet."

"Well, read them," she snapped. "They're in San Francisco, and we could really use their skills."

"You want me to leave town again?" Xander said. "C'mon, Cortana, I'm still in the doghouse from my trip to Japan."

"You could take the girls with you," she pointed out.

"Then who would watch the hellmouth?"

"I think it can survive a night or two without your attention."

The two humans looked at each other, then looked back at the computer Cortana was projecting herself through incredulously.

"Great," Xander said. "Now you're taunting Murphy."

"We're doomed," Giles agreed, nodding solemnly.

"Michael," the synthesized voice emerged from the walls of the San Francisco beach house, "something's happened."

The retired crusader sunning himself and reading by the pool glanced back at the house. "What is it, KITT?"

"I happened to be monitoring several government databases when someone hacked in and altered them. A full identity creation."

Michael Knight sighed and tried to concentrate on his book. "I'm retired, KITT. I'm too old to go chasing bad guys now."

"Michael," KITT continued insistently, "this level of sophistication is far superior to what is publicly available. Were it not for my own computing capability and sheer happenstance, I would not have detected it."

"KITT, if you're really that worried, forward it to the FBI. Let them handle it."

"Perhaps I wasn't making myself clear, Michael. Whoever is behind this has capabilities on par with Knight Industries' best, including classified and confidential technology such as myself and other AI research. If not better."

Michael sat up and twisted in his beach chair. "You're kidding."

"No, I am not. And it's worse than that, Michael," KITT continued, almost sounding ashamed. "I was tracing this information when the perpetrator detected me."

"What? !" Michael shot to his feet.

"Michael, allow me to introduce you to Cortana."

"Hello there."

"Cortana, what's this?" Xander asked calmly, standing in the front door of the estate Cortana had procured for him. He was spending a lot more time here since Joyce had withdrawn her request to be his foster parent. He didn't blame her, not after how she learned the secrets they'd been keeping from her; Xander had pushed Buffy for full disclosure, but the costume thing had just been too much for either Summers woman. Even if it had been Willow's idea. Aside from classes, Alexander Harris no longer really existed, fading into obscurity; certainly, his home life had been swept under the rug with SPD's usual efficiency.

"It's a car," she answered primly. "Specifically, the eighty-eight Pontiac Banshee concept car, updated with a few... improvements."

"I know that," he said irritably. "Well, that it's a car, that is. I mean, why is it in my driveway?"

"I had it delivered. You'll need some form of mundane transportation, as the ring isn't always practical," she reasoned. "You're a young male, statistically handsome, and often accompanied by attractive young women of your age group. Research indicates a rare sports car like this would be appropriate."

"Uh huh," Xander muttered. "One last question: Why red?"

"Would you have preferred black?"

"...maybe," Xander hedged. He had to admit. The red looked good.

"It could be arranged. Why don't you take it out for a spin?" she suggested. "Maybe a trip up the coast?"

Xander scowled. "You're really not gonna stop bugging me, are you?"

"Certainly not," she answered with a haughty sniff. "This is important."

He sighed and threw his hands up in surrender. "Fine, fine."


"Whose car is that?"

"Wicked ride."

It was Friday afternoon, and the cherry red sports car that was attracting such attention was cruising along in front of the school until it pulled up next to Buffy, Willow, Tara, and Faith, one of the oddest cliques in the school: Hot, yet ostracized, outside the usual pecking order, with little visibly in common between them except the young man driving the car in question.

From across the school yard, Harmony's jaw dropped as she recognized the driver. "Harris? !" she sputtered.

Next to Harmony, Cordelia rolled her eyes, shook her head, and continued on her way. This wasn't worth her attention.

"Hey, girls," Xander said.

"Xander," Willow squealed, "what are you doing?"

"Road trip!" he declared with a forced grin. "Heading up to San Fran. Anyone wanna come with?"

"Well," Faith started with a genuine grin, "you know I'm-"

"Except you, Faith," Xander interrupted.

"What?" she squawked. "Why?"

"I want at least one Lantern on the hellmouth in case things go wrong," he said, "and Ms. Baxter's got some relatives up in San Fran she wants Tara to get in touch with."

"No fair!" Faith pouted.

"Sorry, Faith," Xander said. "Your face is just all wrong for pouting. Well, pouting in a make-me-feel-like-a-big-meanie way, anyway."

Faith scowled.

The thirteen-year-old boy watched the bus drive away and shook his head, turning to walk the final stretch to the house where he slept. Not his home. It wasn't home. Nowhere was home anymore. This whole "normal" thing was such a drag, but his mother was right. She may have been a wanted terrorist, but he was, at worst, facing juvie, and he even managed to get off with just probation. His new foster parents were pretty strict, but...

He froze in the yard. The door was ajar. They never left the door open. Suddenly hyper-alert, he began backing away, looking around suspiciously. It can't be, he thought, dread filling him. We stopped it! This can't be happening again!

He spotted movement in a window and bolted. He saw two armed men burst out after him: tall, broad-shouldered, muscular... identical.

Well, he thought bitterly as he ran across the street, it could be worse. Last time, it had been worse.

Just as he crossed the street, a car squealed to a halt between him and his pursuers. The door swung open, and the very familiar driver extended a hand.

"Come with me if you want to live."

John Connor got in the car.

Author's Postscript:

At this point, at least some of what's going to happen should be fairly obvious...

I'd also like to apologize in advance. This story is not my best work - things just don't seem to be clicking right - but there are some plot points in it that are integral to later events in the Emerald Flame universe.