CHAPTER FIFTEEN:

A Change in Plans…

"Since we cannot make 26th century weapons to give us an advantage in battle, Adriana and I have looked at what current weapons could be used and measured their effectiveness ... We found from field tests over the years, that a magazine mix of AP, HE and Incendiary ammo is very effective in dusting vampires ... We ... uh yes ... you have a question?"

Michael was interrupted from his briefing by one of the potentials raising her hand with a puzzled look.

"What is AP?" asked the extremely confused looking potential.

Michael let out a sigh, God, just give me one full Spartan team…an ODST team or even a full marine fire team and we would dust every last Ubervamp ... They're dangerous, strong and hard to kill, but you don't have to worry about plasma grenades, Wraiths, Phantoms or having the planet glassed underneath you.

"AP stands for Armor-piercing." he replied seeing more puzzled looks. Another sigh followed.

"That means that the bullet can go through metal."

oOoOo

As the briefing ended, Buffy, Giles and Faith came up to Michael. They could see the look of frustration on his face and they took the opportunity to voice their concerns.

Giles was the first to air his concerns of where Michael was taking the training, "Michael, I understand what you are trying to do, but is this the right training for them? These Potentials are only girls … young women and are not professional soldiers. You can only go so far and so fast with these girls ... you may be expecting too much for them."

"Giles is right, we have to prepare, but is giving guns to these girls and expecting them to fight The First the answer?" Buffy added nodding.

Michael looked at Giles and Buffy. He then looked at Faith, "You agree with them too?"

Faith was torn, she didn't want to go against Michael, but she knew deep down both Giles and Buffy had valid points.

She nodded, "Giles and B are both making some good points ... They aren't soldiers and giving machine guns to some of these girls could be bad mistake."

Michael listened to what the Slayers and Watcher had said and he took a moment to compose himself and his response. This first training/briefing with everyone had been hard for him. He was having some difficultly with being questioned with the tactics, weapons and training he wanted to conduct.

Back in his home universe, Spartans were never questioned over the advice and orders that they gave. It wasn't ego, it was a fact that Spartans were the best and had the most experience dealing with combat and battle tactics. It was a bit of a change and challenge having to explain what he wanted to do and why.

"The enemy will come at you in waves ..." Michael began, "They will use their numbers to overwhelm and kill you. Within their arm length, they are almost unstoppable ... The key is to kill them before they get close ... channel them into killing zones bringing superior firepower to bear ... killing them from range. If we don't stop them then ... all the Potentials and all of you will die. You will lose ... the human race will lose."

Michael could see that the others weren't convinced with his rationale, "I've been fighting for years ... I started my training when I was six years old. I learned how to work with others to take out bigger and stronger adversaries by the time I was ten. I have fought against beings, more dangerous than and just as merciless as any demon or vampire ... whose only goal ... a fanatical goal ... is the complete extermination of the human race."

He paused to let what he'd said sink in, "I know that given a choice between facing a Covenant battle group or a horde of these Ubervamps. I would choose Ubervamps every time as my odds of surviving are much better."

He paused again, "I don't expect these girls to be Spartans or even full-fledged marines, but they are the first line of defense whether they like it or not."

Neither of them could provide an immediate response, then Giles spoke, "I can appreciate your experience and knowledge, but we don't have years to prepare these potentials ... can't you just adjust your training methods?"

"The training is to help these 'potentials' stay alive in combat and kill the enemy. I will try to take into account the situation, but I will not compromise on the training as that will jeopardize the mission. "

oOoOo

Later on behind closed doors in their quarters, Faith and Michael rehashed the conversation.

"Aren't you asking too much of them ... and yourself?" she asked still not completely convinced.

"You know the facts, this is a battle for survival for the species ... there are no second place awards."

"Yes, I know ..." Faith responded, "But you can at least try to be a little more understanding when dealing with these kids. They are hunted and scared about the big bad that is coming from below to devour them."

"It's hard Faith ... I'm not use to dealing with non-military types. I'll try if you'll help me."

"I'll always be there for you." Faith said as she leaned in to kiss Michael.

oOoOo

Michael found himself wandering the warehouse after lights out, he'd left Faith asleep in their bed. He had a lot to think about and it was hard to wrap his mind about what was needed.

He had to admit that everyone had a point and he had to make that leap to be able to relate to these girls in order to train them to fight and survive. He walked through the quiet and dark warehouse ... a Spartan alone in his thoughts.

oOoOo

In the morning, Michael gathered everyone together in the common area. He walked to the front of the group. He'd always been a little uncomfortable speaking to large groups. He found himself glancing towards Faith, he was rewarded with a smile and wink from her. He couldn't help himself as he returned the smile. He saw that everyone was gathered and were looking at him expectantly. He took a deep breath to relax before he began.

"Before we go any farther, I want to make all of you understand who and what I am and where I come from. You all know that I come from an alternate future universe ... I was selected and trained for combat since I was six years old…"

This started murmuring among the potentials. Michael continued, ignoring them, "I have been fighting a war for over 20 years. Most of my human race's colony planets are gone and we have lost over 20 billion people ... Yes that's 20 billion with a capital B ... My human race has been fighting and losing against an enemy that wants nothing less than our total extermination."

His voice took on a harder tone and any murmuring stopped, "Do not doubt, for one second, my resolve and determination. I will stop at nothing to protect the human race, whether it is in my universe or this one."

He paused for a moment to let what he said sink in and then he continued.

"We are going to discuss our training plan and tactics we are going to use to fight and kill the Turok-Hans and anything else that comes out of the Hellmouth."

Michael looked around meeting each person's gaze. He could see the uncertainty and the fear there, "I know some of you have expressed reservations over my training methods, so we are going to use this time to discuss and come to an agreement over what needs to be done. Whatever we agree upon, after today there will be no second guessing each other ... Is that understood?"

Michael saw the people either nodding or mumbling their understanding.

"Everyone here brings a different level and scope of knowledge to what we will be facing, so it is key that we work together as a team. Training will be broken down into several areas. Individual training ... working on building up strength and endurance. Group training ... all of you will be split off to work in teams. Your teams will learn to work by themselves and with other teams to achieve objectives."

He could see the questioning and puzzling looks, That's a good sign at least ... At least no one is arguing.

He continued, "…There will be a lot of hands-on training that will push your limits, but as with all training there will be also classroom training to learn… knowing is half the battle."

At the mention of classroom training a lot of the potentials groaned and Michael could see that Faith and Buffy weren't too thrilled with that aspect of training.

"The training will be hard, but ask yourself ... would you rather be alive to complain about sore muscles or dead? Everyone will take part in training and everyone will contribute ... There will be no exceptions. I will now open up the floor to discussions ... any questions or comments?"

Hands went up as the discussions began.

oOoOo

Michael gathered what was the inner core of the group. He had already decided to bring in a rough command structure to help organize and guide them.

When he described what he had in mind, he saw the doubt again start to creep into their faces. He remembered what Faith had told him and took a deep breath and again patiently explained the benefits of being organized would give them over The First and its forces… They would be able to coordinate their strength, teamwork and communication, plus being organized would be the last thing The First would expect.

There was no real surprise as Michael selected Buffy, Faith, Giles, Xander, Willow, Spike, Dawn, Anya and of course Adriana to be on this "command staff". He'd been watching them for years and Adriana had built up psychological dossiers on each of them that Michael knew backwards and forwards. He knew their strengths and weaknesses and what each of them brought to this "party".

Michael moved to the front of the room to speak as everyone took their seats around the conference table. He already given much thought as to how he was going to structure his fighting force. It was going to be rough as there wasn't a lot of time, but this was all he and they had to work with.

He and Adriana had discussed privately whether they should go public and approach the government to get support and resources. The benefits were that they could bring in the manpower and resources to fight the kind of battle he wanted. The downside was trying to convince the government that the threat was real and also having to deal with all the different departments and organizations that would want a piece of an enhanced soldier and AI from 500 years in the future. Just because the Initiative was no longer in business didn't mean that he couldn't still end up in "protective custody" while they took apart and inspected his weapons and battle armor and data stripped Adriana.

Michael would have liked a bigger—and more military-like—force to fight with, but then he was used to fighting against horrendous odds before, plus he and Adriana and made their own contingency plans to deal with any threat that could not be contained within Sunnydale.

Michael looked at the group of people sitting at the table and could see the looks on their faces…he could see the trust and hope that they had in him to lead them through and keep them alive. He gathered his thoughts and spoke, "I've been thinking about our force structure and my recommendation is they we form five fire teams made up of the potentials ... I would like Buffy, Faith, Giles, Spike and Xander to be the team leaders. Each of you has proven yourself and have the necessary leadership and combat experience. As we organize the teams, you will be responsible for overseeing their training and selecting a second in command as your teams to work together. I know some of you are used to fighting by yourselves, but as I have talked about before, we need to fight as a team rather than individuals."

Michael paused to let his words sink, "For Willow, Dawn and Anya, your tasks are to provide support and work with Adriana in our command center. We're going to need you back here to support our operations in the field. You won't be in the field, but you will still be expected to participate and learn all the same combat and fighting techniques as everyone else. There will also be potentials assigned to the command center. You and them will constitute our reserve and support force."

Michael could see the nods of understanding plus worried looks of self-doubt as was always the case when talking about combat and war. Spike raised his hand catching everyone sitting at the table by surprise.

"Yes Spike?" Michael said nodding to the vampire.

"Yeah … About all this organization stuff … I'm all game to fight and mix it up, but I'm not exactly built to go out in the daylight to train … unless your plan is to use my dust to blind the bloody buggers!"

Michael smirked as he'd already taken Spike's "condition" into account, "I'm already ahead of you. Since you don't really need to get into shape ... You get to sleep in as we conduct the physical exercise and training in the morning…"

Spike got a big grin on his face and leaned back in his chair at hearing this news. Everyone else at the table got looks of hate on their faces at Spike's good fortune.

Michael didn't let Spike savor his good luck for very long, "The afternoons will be scheduled for classroom training. Since that will be mostly indoors ... you will be expected to attend. On those days where it is necessary to be outside ... I thought that we could do some sparring in the training area ... you know to improve your close-in fighting skills…"

Everyone in the room laughed as they saw Spike's shit-eating grin disappear along with the look on his face change as he realized that he would have to go up against the Spartan.

"Bugger!" Spike muttered as his eyes rolled skyward.

Michael continued, "Field exercises will be conducted in the early evening when the sun has set ... to allow for Spike's participation."

Again there more laughs as Spike groaned as he'd hoped to get a pass from all this training.

Michael cut off the laughter as he spoke again, "We might as well get used to fighting at night ... That's when they'll probably make their move."

He saw everyone get sober looks on their faces as the reality and threat came back. He was familiar with those looks—he'd seen those same looks hundreds of times before on marines. He noticed the looks on Buffy, Faith, Giles and Spike, they understood what was being asked and required.

Michael added, "I have confidence in all of you to do the training and perform the tasks that will be required of you. You are not rookies as you have all fought before and have prevailed. I will be working with you and your teams at every step of the way."

He could see that he had their "buy-in" on what he wanted to do. He moved on as he wanted to cover off the details of the training program. He had a little voice at the back of his head telling him that there wasn't a lot of time to prepare.

"Let's talk about the training program ... we need to start with basic physical fitness and then move to combat techniques. We'll start with hand to hand combat and then move to weapons."

The meeting lasted several hours until dinner.