CHAPTER FIFTEEN:
A Change in Plans…

"Since we don't have access to nor can we make the weapons from my universe to give us an advantage in battle, Adriana and I have looked at what current weapons from this universe we can use and have tested and measured their effectiveness. From field tests, we have found that a magazine mix of AP, HE and incendiary ammo is very effective in taking out vampires. We– Yes? You have a question?"

"What's AP?" asked the extremely confused looking Potential.

Letting out a sigh, Michael closed his eyes as he counted to ten, God…just give me one full Spartan team…an ODST team or even a full marine fire team and we would dust every last vampire bastard… They're dangerous, strong and hard to kill, but you don't have to worry about plasma grenades, needlers, Wraiths, Phantoms or having the planet glassed underneath you.

"AP stands for Armor-piercing," he replied. He saw more puzzled looks at his response. Another sigh followed.

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

oOoOo

As the briefing ended, Buffy, Giles and Faith approached Michael. They had been observing him and his briefing. They could see the painfully obvious look of frustration on his face. They were all a little worried how he would take it when they voiced their concerns.

Giles was the first to air his concerns about the type and content of Michael's 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. They're not professional soldiers. You can only go so far and so fast with these girls. You may be expecting too much from them."

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

Michael looked at Giles and Buffy and then at Faith, studying her face, "You agree with them too?"

Faith was torn, she didn't want to go against Michael, but she knew, deep down, Giles and Buffy had valid points. She nodded, "Giles and B both make some good points. These girls aren't soldiers and giving machine guns to some of them could be a bad mistake."

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

Back home, 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 challenging suddenly 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's length, they're almost unstoppable. The key is to kill them before they get close. We channel them into killing zones, bringing massive superior firepower to bear, killing them from range. If we don't stop them, then all the Potentials…all of you will die. You will lose…the human race will lose."

He could see that the others still weren't convinced with his rationale, "I've been training to learn how to fight since I was six years old. By the time I was ten, I'd learned how to work with others to take out bigger and stronger adversaries. I have fought against beings 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 those Turok-Hans. I would choose vampires every time as my odds of surviving are much better. I don't expect these girls to be Spartans or even full-fledged marines, but they're here and they're now our first line of defense whether they like it or not."

It took a moment for Giles to reply as he considered what the Spartan had said, "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?"

Michael grimaced at the request. He knew how important training was to survival and ensuring the success of the mission, "The training is to help everyone stay alive in combat and kill the enemy. I'll 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 found themselves rehashing the earlier conversation.

"Aren't you asking too much of them...and yourself?" she asked still feeling not completely convinced over the direction he wanted to take the training. She (along with the others) was having difficulties with grasping on how Michael wanted to wage this war. Buffy and her were both used to fighting in a certain way and a certain style and Michael was now talking about creating killing zones, fields of fire and channeling the enemy. She found herself feeling sort of out of place as Michael's idea of waging war seemed so completely different and so out of place to her Slayer training.

"You know the facts. This is a battle for survival for the species, there are no second place awards," Michael said arguing his point. To him there was no real debate over how to wage war. From his experience the one that brought the most firepower along with the ability and will to use it, usually won.

"Yes, I know," Faith responded, "But you can at least try to be a little more understanding when dealing with these kids. They've been hunted and are scared…hell everyone's scared about the big bad that's coming from below to devour them. You got to be patient with them…give them time to get used to your ideas and how you do things."

Michael sighed as he realized that he had to concede that Faith and the others did have a point. These people weren't UNSC military or had any real experience dealing with the military beyond Xander's exposure at Halloween and their encounters with The Initiative. He knew he was going to have to make some adjustments and allowances in his tactics and training plans, "It's hard Faith… I'm not use to dealing with non-military types, but I'll try if you'll help me," he said with a small smile.

Faith let out her own sigh, thankful that Michael was willing to be reasonable and try and meet them on this issue. She returned his smile, "I'll always be there for you," she said, leaning in to kiss him.

oOoOo

The lights had dimmed and the warehouse was quiet as Michael found himself wandering through the building alone. He'd left Faith asleep in their bed as he needed some time to think and wrap his mind around what he needed to do and how he had to proceed to get everyone ready for the confrontation that he knew was coming.

He realized that he had to make this adjustment. He had to be able to relate to these girls in order to train them to fight and survive. He just had to figure out how he would present it to them, so they would accept what he knew was necessary for them to have a chance to win without having to restore to last ditch scorched-earth measures, which considerably lowered everyone's chance of survival.

He debated with himself as to whether he should mention that he had planned for such a contingency, but decided against it because he didn't want to get into another debate about his tactics. He knew that if and when the time called for such drastic action, he alone would execute the plan and he alone would be responsible for what happened.

He continued walking through the quiet and dark warehouse…a Spartan alone in his thoughts.

oOoOo

In the morning, Michael gathered everyone together in the common area. Walking to the front of the group, he felt his discomfort growing as he'd always been a little uncomfortable speaking formally in front of large groups. Spartans weren't known for their ability to give speeches. Out of reflex, he found himself glancing towards Faith, finding himself rewarded with a smile and wink from her. He couldn't help himself as he returned the smile. Seeing that everyone had settled down and were now looking at him expectantly, he took a deep breath before beginning.

"Before we go any farther, I want to make sure 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. Ignoring them, Michael continued, "Where I come from, my human race has been fighting a war against a group of alien species, called the Covenant. For over 20 years we have been fighting this war. Most of our colony worlds are gone and we have lost over 20 billion people…" he saw the looks of shock followed by more murmuring, "Yes, you heard me…20 billion dead with a capital B. My human race has been fighting and losing against an enemy that wants nothing less than our total extermination."

The murmuring stopped as his voice took on a harder tone, "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 then he continued.

"We are going to discuss our training plan and the 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 and experience to what we will be facing, so it is important 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 no one is arguing...

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

A huge groan was released from the Potentials and some of the others at the mention of classroom training. Michael noticed that Faith and Buffy weren't too thrilled with that aspect of training as well.

"The training will be hard, but ask yourselves this? 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. Questions…comments?"

Hands quickly went up as the discussions began.

oOoOo

Michael had already decided to bring in a rough command structure to help organize and guide them in their efforts. When he gathered what was the inner core of the group, he described to them what he had in mind. He again saw the doubt start to creep into their faces. Remembering what Faith had told him, he took a deep breath and 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 literally years and Adriana had built up psychological dossiers on each of them that he knew backwards and forwards. He knew their strengths and weaknesses and what each of them brought to this party. He'd 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.

There was still the option of going to the government or even going public to get more support and resources. Adriana and Michael had spent much time discussing privately whether they should go this route. 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 anyone outside of Sunnydale, in position of authority, that the threat was real. Michael was experienced enough with dealings in his own universe to not be naïve as to what kind of can of worms he would be opening by going public not only about the threat, but about himself as well with everyone and their dog wanting a piece of an enhanced soldier and AI from 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, battle armor and data stripped Adriana. Then there was Faith… If they involved the authorities, in their eyes she was for all intents and purposes an escaped felon. Trying to sort out her situation would also waste precious time as he wasn't about to watch her get hauled off back to prison.

He would have preferred 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 had their own contingency plans to deal with any threat that could not be contained within the boundaries of Sunnydale.

Studying the group of people sitting at the table in front of him, he saw the looks on their faces. He'd seen the same looks many times before, on marines and civilians…the trust and hope that they had in him to lead them through and keep them alive.

"I've been thinking about our force structure and my recommendation is that 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. Each team will be self-contained fighting units. Your teams will learn to work alone as well as learn how to work together and support other teams in the field. 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."

He saw nods of understanding mixed in along with worried looks of self-doubt, which always seemed to be 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 and rigmarole... I'm all game to fight and mix it up with those bastards, 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!"

A small smirk grew across Michael's face as he'd already taken Spike's "condition" into account, "I'm already ahead of you on that. 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…"

A big grin immediately started to spread across Spike's face at this news. Looks of hate were quickly directed at him as he rubbed his good fortune in further by leaning back in his chair in a very relaxed and cocksure looking manner.

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 started laughing seeing Spike's shit-eating grin disappear along with the look on his face changing as the realization sunk in that he would be going up against the Spartan.

"Bugger!" Spike muttered in defeat, rolling his eyes skyward.

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

Again there were more laughs, with Spike groaning quite loudly as his hopes at avoiding all this training evaporated.

Michael cut off the laughter, "We might as well get used to fighting at night, that's when they'll probably make their move against us."

He saw the sober looks settle across everyone's faces as the reality and threat came back. He was familiar with those looks as well. He'd seen those same looks hundreds of times before on the faces of marines. He saw different looks on Buffy, Faith, Giles and Spike, he knew they understood what was being asked and required of them.

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

Studying their eyes, 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.

"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 on to weapons," as he spoke, a little voice at the back of his head kept telling him that there wasn't a lot of time to prepare.