The Hell-er-Nator: Chaos Machine

by Ironbear

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer-The Terminator crossover Event.

"The Hell-er-nator: Chaos Machine" – Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, and ensemble cast (YAHF x-over: The Terminator)

Story Blurb: Naturally, the bratty little kid from next door swiped the last military style rifle out of the cheap barrel, leaving only a few weapons that weren't what he needed for his soldier costume. Fortunately, Xander was struck by a burst of inspiration...

Title: "Hell-er-nator: The Chaos Machine"

Author: Ironbear

Rating: PG-13 (FR-18 at TtH) going all the way up to R or FR-21. There is sex, violence, threats of non-con, and bad language. And, at some points, violent death, and violent sex, some of it non-consensual. Actually, all of the violent death is non-consensual. Those chapters will be marked and rated as FR-21 when they are posted.

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series and characters thereof belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Kazui Entertainment. The Terminator, T2, and characters thereof belong to Orion Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Warner Bros, and James Cameron. Everyone else belongs to their respective owners too, except for my original characters, whom I suppose belong mostly to themselves.

This is a work of derivative fiction. All persons, characters, names, places, locations, entities, personages, and/or deities contained within are purely fictional, or fictional representations thereof, and any resemblance to any real persons, characters, names, places, locations, entities, personages, and/or deities are purely coincidental, or they are used in a purely fictional manner.

Don't worry: there will be a full list of credits and disclaimers in the afterword. There'll have to be.

Opening title song lyrics are from "Out in the Fields" by Gary Moore.

Summary: When the last toy military rifle is taken almost from under his nose, Xander is forced to improvise – his plans for being the Two-dollar Costume King and going as a regular soldier have just gone down the drain. Fortunately, one of the remaining weapons is a toy shotgun. Also fortunately, Xander remembers something from one of his favorite movies that will do just fine as a cheap, quickie costume. All he needs is a few more odds and ends... Unfortunately, Larry Blaisdell decides against going as a pirate when he's struck by the same inspiration.

Type: Action-adventure, sci-fi, romance, military, super heroic, and even some horror.

Chronology: Takes place during BtVS "Halloween", 'natch.

Pairings: Xander Harris and Cordelia Chase, Jonathan Levinson and O.C., and others. Mostly canon. Mostly.

Author's Note(s): Part I of a multi-part part series. Part one covers the events of the first Terminator movie. Kind of.

Hey, it's that time of year. I just had to do the nearly obligatory YAHF part of my resume. ;)

Warnings! Proceed at own risk! Sex, some non-con, nudity, death... oh my gods, is there death. It's a freaking Terminator crossover. Whattya expect fer crying out loud? Canon characters die. Canon characters get brutalized. Secondary canon characters die. OCs die. NPCs die. Cops die. People die both on and off-screen. Dead people die. There's violence: my fight scenes can be a bit visceral at times. There's snark out the wazoo (Geezus Keerist, it has Xander and Cordelia – of course there's snark). There's rampant cuteness. There's kung fu, claw fu, vampire fu, and gun fu. There's even express rifle fu. Hell, there is Land Rover fu. There's lame humor, bad humor, gallows humor, soldier's humor, and even inappropriate humor and humor during sex. There's brick jokes. There's what happened to the mouse? jokes. There's harsh language. There's anti-religious humor and snark. There's...

Oh, hell. It is seventy freaking plus chapters and over four hundred thousand words long. I'm pretty damned sure there's something in here to offend just about anyone, and if I find I missed your particular hot button issue, I can always rewrite a section to toss it in there too. ;)

About the only thing I think I didn't manage to pull off is character bashing. Hey – I actually like all of the various characters, even the bad guys and the good guys that I can't stand. OK, maybe there's a couple that don't come off at their best, but they were pricks in canon, too. Other hand, there's a few I portray in a better light than their canon depictions, so, neener neener.

Cast of Characters (Main): Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, Jonathan Levinson, Aura, Tor Hauer, Heidi Barrie, Larry Blaisdell, Harmony Kendall; Detective Paul Stein; Joyce Summers, Dawn Summers, Riley Finn, Professor Maggie Walsh, Consulting Psychiatrist. Several major OCs.

Dramatis Personae (Secondary): Screw it: it has a cast of freaking hundreds, at least.


Dedicated to:

All of the various fan fiction authors who have managed to make the YAHF my favorite guilty pleasure fic genre for so very many years now.

This one is for you, guys and gals.


Author's Forward: That Thing at the Beginning –

No really long forward on this one. It doesn't really need it (hell, it's already long enough) and you're not here to listen to me ramble anyway. You're here for the story, I'm pretty sure.

There is one thing that I do need to note, however...

Astute readers, and those conversant with Buffy-verse canon, comics canon, sci-fi and fantasy novels and movies and television, and various vehicles, firearms, cartridges, computer tech, and etc., etc., will note certain things that seem a bit off as you read through.

These are not mistakes on the part of the idiot author. They are anachronisms in most cases, but they are intentional anachronisms.

And intentional deviations from canon.

What they are, are in-story context notifications that the world and alternate universe here in this story is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) different from both our world, and from Buffy-verse 1.0.

So, when you run across things like certain car models being introduced ahead of time, certain novels and novel series being published a few years earlier, certain television seasons being mentioned back before they aired here, and cartridges that were in use post '97 being present, it's an alert to the reader that that's how things worked and work here.

Alternate universe, remember? Decision trees. Not all things occur in the same order in every single universe and reality in the multiverse.

Ditto for odd bits of Buffy-verse lore that aren't quite as die hard viewers might remember them. Alternate Universe, again. Not necessarily precisely identical to Canon Buffy-verse 1.0. And authorial preference: I hate it when a writer includes a huge author's note at the front explaining the differences between canon and his/her story universe, all of which happened offstage. I'd much rather introduce the differences in the context of the story.

Certain other things, like power levels for various characters, are authorial decisions made to fit things to the storyline.

And no, I am not gonna apologize for doing this. Just in the Marvel Universe alone, powers and abilities and strength levels and even back story vary so much from writer to writer, artist to artist, editor to editor, and even issue to issue, sometimes in the same run, that a writer has to make certain decisions about which version he or she is gonna use. My decisions may not be the same as someone else's, and that's ok by me.

They're mine, and I am at least gonna make every effort to keep them consistent within the confines of the storyline. (Which is generally a lot more than the writers at Marvel and ME ever bothered to do).

So, not much point in bitching to me in comments about that stuff. You'll just get the short form of this forward in response, and annoy me and irritate yourself.

Do, however, call out obvious typos and in names and inconsistencies in my usage of things. Even when you proofread multiple times and have beta readers as I do, you still, irritatingly enough, have errors slip in. Grrf.

This is not to say "don't comment or review". Oh, gods no. By all means...

I read and treasure every single comment. I do my very best to answer and respond to every comment I get, and every email, even the critical ones. I love constructive critique, even when I disagree with it. (And I have been known to argue endlessly for my interpretation over a critic's in email or comments, so be aware. Good naturedly, usually, because while I can be caustic and sarcastic, I try my best to not be offensive.)

Flames will be ignored, or possibly snickered at if they're good ones.

While I've been writing fanfic for some time now, this is my very first YAHF fic. I hope you guys enjoy it and find it as entertaining to read as I did to write.

As always, there'll be an expanded list of disclaimers and credits where credits are due in the afterword. I dislike author's notes in the story itself, so I don't do them. I save up all that stuff for where it should be put: at the beginning and end of the actual story.

Enjoy, and I'll see you guys in comments and in the sequel.

Let me know what you think.

– Ironbear

The Hell-er-Nator: Book I –

Chaos Machine

by Ironbear

"Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns." – Rules for a Gunfight (Anonymous)

Prologue I: Small Victories...

Tuesday April 20, 2033; Fargo Air National Guard Base, Fargo, North Dakota; Night 10:23pm –

Master Tech-sergeant Dwayne Hicks (no relation), Tech-Comm, North American Resistance Command, felt a shiver run up his spine that had nothing at all to do with the coolness of the Dakotas night...

It was always like that, right before an Op. No matter how good your Intel, no matter how good the scouting, no matter how air tight the planning and pre-mission drills and prep. Always. Never, ever failed. You always had, at some point, the nerves, the cold chill, and an attack of the heebie-jeebies.

Because even the best of plans never ever survived first contact with the enemy.

And, unless you were extremely lucky, luckier than you deserved, generally at least a few of your people didn't, either. Nor second contact. Nor third...

All right, belay that crap, Hicks. Do not jinx the mission, nor the teams.

What you don't think about, can't and won't happen. Believe it, imagine it, will it to be so, and it will be true. Because magic, they keep saying, works off of belief, imagination, will, and intent.

And believe me, I have intent coming out of my hairy and no longer young ass, dammit, Hicks told himself.

Rolling onto his side slightly, he pulled the small leather folder on its thong from beneath his t-shirt, and kissed it lightly. He didn't open it. Didn't need to. Couldn't see the images inside, anyway, and it was ritual, really, and a ritual very nearly as old as his time in the Resistance.

Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he murmured a brief prayer to gods that he knew existed and had long ago come to hate.

Opening them again, he caught a quiet murmur from his right, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Tech-sergeant First Jaime Summers putting away her St. Brigid's Cross, completing her own pre-game rite. The murmur, he knew without glancing that direction, came from Tech-sergeant Vi Sorenson, a brief muttered prayer to whatever gods she believed in and hated...

No one in the Human Resistance worshiped the Gods, not any of them. Not any more.

Beseech on occasion, yes. Make ritual acknowledgment of, yeah. Send up the occasional offering to, yes. Invoke during the funerals and rites for the dead, hell yeah.

Worship? Not on your life.

No god or gods that could allow this to happen to humanity were worthy of worship.

Then again, Vi was probably offering homage to the Goddesses of Slayers, one or both. Or possibly to the spirit of the General of the Armies... Any number of Slayers in the resistance venerated both of their progenitors, and all of the resistance venerated their long dead Marshall General and her Consort.

Right palm caressing the pistol grip of his M41-A3, Hicks raised the macro-binoculars to his eyes, ignoring the brief moment of blurring as they automatically compensated for the range, light conditions, and atmospheric haze and auto-focused. A-yup. Fat, dumb and happy. Poor bastards had zero clue what was about to happen to them.

Grinning mirthlessly, more a peeling back of the lips from teeth that felt suddenly sharp to his imagination, he lowered the binocs and then glanced over. Vi grinned back with equal lack of mirth, her eyes bright with anticipation. She settled herself a bit more solidly behind the butt-stock of her RND-4500, cheekbone going to the cheek-piece once again as her eye found the sight of the .950 JDJ.

Even with the massive muzzle brake and the hydraulic recoil compensating system, only a Slayer, an android – or a Terminator – could handle the massive kick of that weapon. Hell, only one or the other could carry the damned one hundred and twenty-five pound semiautomatic.

But... thirty-four hundred grains of solid bronze slug wrapped around a tungsten alloy penetrator and capped with a titanium/tungsten alloy armor piercing tip. Twenty-two hundred and fifty feet per second. Over thirty-eight thousand foot pounds of muzzle energy.

What that projectile would do to the chest or head armoring of a Terminator, any make or model, any series, just had to be seen to be believed.

And an AP-HEI round could do a pretty good number on one of the flying HK models; not even considering what HE incendiary frags could and would do the demon-human hybrid cyborgs that made up the bulk of the enemy's foot soldiers. None of this 'sporting uses' crap. The BATFE had been a thing of the past as long as Sitcoms had.

Vi loved the thing. Not that he'd ever make the joke out loud, unlike some soldiers, but he suspected that she even had sex with the damned thing on occasion...

Not that he could blame her. He had his own medicine gun in the form of a synthetic stocked Steyr-Mannlicher Heavy Scout Rifle in .416 Remington. All of the old timers had something similar: half security blanket and half Terminator insurance.

Hell of a thing when a thirty-four year old San Diego boy qualified as an old timer in this man's army, but it was that kind of a world these days.

Shifting slightly, Summers settled herself in behind the tripod of the laser guided Dragon anti-armor missile launcher, her eye to the sight reticule. Too long a distance from here to anything down below for the missile, but that wasn't its main purpose here.

It was the laser designator that was the key piece of hardware on that thing tonight.

Raising the viewers to his eyes again, Hicks carefully scanned the surrounding terrain and the areas below for any sign, no matter how slight, that they'd drawn attention to their position or been spotted. Any, even the tiniest bit of movement out of the ordinary.

Having to do this under fire would suck rocks. Worse would be if they had to abort due to premature evacuation.

Vi clicked her mike, and Hicks became aware that for the past few moments he'd been hearing a distant, muffled drone.

"Right on time," Jamie said, chuckling. "One thing you gotta say about Michaela's Manglers, they're never fashionably late to the party."

"Promptness is a highly prized quality in this man's army, Summers," Hicks said, softly, not needing to check his watch. His own innate and ingrained time sense told him it was very nearly ninety seconds to go. And the time stamp in the lower right field of vision of the macro-binocs gave it to him in milspec time if he needed the verification.

"One for the money, two for the show... " Vi murmured. Just as she reached "And four to – "

A double click came over the comm net and a crisp quiet voice said, "And showtime!"

And something went up with one hell of an incandescent flash down there near the building complexes of long defunct Hector International Airport. Long moments later, the deep rolling crash of another .950 JDJ came cascading across the distance, followed by the rolling boom of a 15mm BRG, and the actinic stuttering flash of a heavy automatic pulse rifle came up in answer. The strobing flashes reached out fingers into the darkness.

The JDJ, or another one like it, spoke again and the tripod mounted weapon went abruptly silent.

Rona, probably, considering the direction of the distance delayed report. Shannon's position was off to the other side, and yeah, there was her heavy rifle opening up as well, sending another heavy weapon position up as its power pack detonated.

As if he were connected to them via the nerve endings, Hicks could feel the other eleven members of Hicks' Harriers tensing slightly, or relaxing as was their wont. Gearing up for combat...

Down at the air port, and over at the air field of the old Fargo Air National Guard Base, aerial Hunter Killers began rising up from the tarmac, ducted fans already spun up to full rotation. Slower to power up, HK Attack Helos began to lift shortly afterward. Search lights and infrared began to probe into the night. Plasma rifle armed T-800's and 850's, and wheeled or tracked Hunter Killer ground units moved out from their redoubts and revetments. They began heading out in search and destroy patterns to track down the attacking force as heavy pulse rifle fire and the projectiles from Barretts and RND-3500s started picking off targets of opportunity.

Almost precisely ninety seconds in, the drone grew suddenly louder and then began to doppler away almost immediately as a squadron of RAH-66 Super Comanches and Apache gunships swept over their position, flying nap of earth and en route to the burgeoning chaos below. They almost immediately split into pairs, veering off to intercept and take down the aerial HKs. Two full flights of V-22 Raptor gunships, each with its own escort of Super Cobras and Tiger gunships swept over them just after. Similar groups came in at speed, weapons hot, from south-southeast and northwest by north.

"And the Manglers have arrived," Vi said. "I'd say 'Gods help the bad guys,' but I don't particularly want them to get any divine intervention."

"Damn straight," Hicks said. The weapons fire down below and ahead of them was damned near continuous now, and off to the other side of Fargo ANGB, cascading streams of tracer, mixed with rocket fire, arced downward as a pair of Spectre Gunships began to light up the night – and the enemy.

"Oh, Puff the magic dragon," Summers sang softly under her voice, "Lived by the sea... "

A lance of incandescent gas and a rolling smash announced that a 105mm atop an upgunned Stryker assault vehicle had just punctuated some ground based Hunter Killer's sentence. Other guns opened up, 25mm Bushmasters, 35mm Oerlikons, and GAU-19 Gecal Fifties announcing their arrival on scene as Hardesty's Hellhounds, Tech-comm North America's Armored Calvary Brigade swept into the field.

A trio of Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolts began adding their better than two cents worth to the carnage, flying in their arcing, looping attack patterns. The V-22 Raptors, little brothers to the Spectres, were already spiraling over the battlefield between Hicks and the Harriers and the complex far down and away. Comanches and aerial HKs exchanged missile and cannon fire. A stuttering strobe and a distant aerial flash denoted the place where an aerial HK's plasma burst found its way home and a Super Comanche ceased to exist as its on-board weapons, fuel, and stores cooked off.

"Lock and load, First Sergeant," Hicks said. "On my mark... "

"Locked, loaded, and primed, Master Sergeant," Jaime said, her voice crisp and all business as Hicks began the countdown in his head...

"And, mark!"

Tech-sergeant First Summers' finger moved a bare fraction of an inch, depressing the firing button, and the invisible beam of the infrared targeting laser shot off through the night to impact on the target building far away and down below.

A very few long, long and endless moments later, a feminine drawl came over Hicks' headset. "Lined up and on the money," she said, "And good shooting, Leg. We are making our run. Over."

There was a long and endless pause that didn't, couldn't have lasted as long as it seemed to, and the voice came over again, "Package dropped. Five by five and in the groove."

Far overhead and to their rear, the three surviving B-52 Specials and five F-111 Phoenix bombers of Tech-comm, North American Resistance Command, Army of the Resistance, released their packages and sent them on their way.

Three thermobaric GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bombs, the so-called MOABs, and five ten-thousand pound J-DAM penetrator munitions sped away from their launch aircraft. Shortly after, with the exception of the central MOAB – that one would home in on the designated target – they would each use their own targeting sensors and built-in targeting packages to locate the other buildings in their memory banks, and activate their control surfaces to aim themselves precisely to the payload point.

And then the six Fairchild Thunderbolts and six Harriers following them would scream in, drop their payloads and rubble what was left and smash the rubble. Popping up from nap of earth after the launch, they would go into their looping attack patterns and proceed to strafe what was left with air to ground missiles and cannon fire.

Following which, even before the rubble had hardly had time to cool, the heavy combat teams of Merrill's Marauders and Ricardo's Roughnecks would sweep in on their Lynx attack choppers, and begin the lethal and painstaking task of penetrating the below ground areas of the complex that hadn't collapsed from the penetrator bombardment. Their task to clear out the holdouts, wipe it clean of the hybrids, and set charges to take down the rest of the non-visible areas of the facility... and to capture or kill any of the human collaborators left inside.

A dirty and deadly job, but... needs must, and the Devil is always driving here.

Not them, though. As the complex below and ahead of them began to detonate from repeated impacts, Hicks nodded to himself. The part of the Harriers in this was done.

"Pack it up, people," he said. "Harriers, saddle up and let's move 'em out. We are leav-ing."

"Damn, Sarge," a male voice called back softly from ahead and to one side. "We never get to have any fun no more."

"Heya, Mal," Hicks called back, his voice equally soft and pitched to carry just so. "We got to have plenty of fun in St. Louis, earlier this year."

Tech-sergeant First Jaime Summers unbolted and then hoisted the Dragon off of the tripod one handed, the casual display demonstrating the inherent strength of her bionic left arm, and the reinforced skeletal structure it was anchored to.

Cyborg vs cyborg, Hicks thought to himself. Far, far too many resistance members had had limbs and/or body parts replaced by Tech-comm's surgeons... Not that anyone cared. No one in the Resistance were technophobes, or if they were, they had the sense to keep it to themselves. Too many of them, and too much of their survival depended on technology. The youngest Summers girl was simply one among many.

Some of their friendly tech made people nervous. It was just the enemy's technology that everyone feared and hated.

"Saddled up and ready to move," Vi announced. She handed off the tripod for her RND-4500 to a weapons crewman, slinging the heavy weapon diagonally across her back. Accepting her DPMS .325 Winchester Short Magnum AR-10 from another weapon crewer, she glanced to Hicks, nodding.

Nodding back, he said, "All right, people. Withdraw by the numbers. Scouts out. Let's pull back to the dust off point and head home."

First one in, last one out. Hand clasped around the grip of his battle rifle, finger outside of the trigger guard, he sent one last backward glance toward the battle still raging below their vantage point.

Down there cyborgs and automata were being turned to scrap metal, and men and women were dying. Just not his men and women.

Not this time.

Thank you, miserable gods. Not this time.

Wednesday April 21, 2033; Devil's Butte, Black Rock, North Dakota; Early Morning 1:43pm –

The armed V-22 Osprey dumped them atop Devil's Butte to find Dawn Summers already there, putting the finishing touches on a mystical looking diagram large enough for all of Hicks' Harriers and more.

Hicks waited a few while the Osprey spun its prop-rotors back up to speed and lifted off in Vertol, swirling down and away almost immediately to zoom nap of earth off to dust off point Charlie for another load. And then another, until it went bingo fuel and had to head back to a depot.

"Ma'am," Hicks said, snapping a casual salute to Tech-Commander Dawn Summers of the Resistance, Command Lieutenant Dawn Summers of the Irregulars. "Scratch one Terminator production facility. Merrill's people should be digging out the holdouts as we speak."

The pair of big wolfhounds with Dawn eyed the group suspiciously, sniffing the air. All of the Harriers automatically and obligingly moved so that the breeze would carry their scent to the big dogs. Dogs hated Terminators, and they were still the best last line alarm system against Infiltrator units. The more sensitive ones could even detect the newer 970i Humaniform cyborgs about seventy percent of the time.

No matter how they were made, or born and vat raised, something about the demonic taint to MALCOLM's cybernetic implants set them off in a way that the Resistance's own cybernetics and androids did not.

"Good," Dawn said, turning large blue eyes and a wide, bright grin on him. "And good."

Damn straight. One less factory to build MALCOLM's hunter killers, infiltrators, search and destroy, and assassin units. One more nail in the coffin of the enemy, and damn, but late enough coming after all these years.

Not really winning, not yet, but they were pushing MALCOLM, CAIN, and their forces back on all fronts, and retaking ground and facilities from them at long, long last. That they would win, eventually, was not in doubt.

MALCOLM was a demon and a computer program, with all of the limitations that both implied, despite his advantages. CAIN was a demon and a cyborg and a robot brain. Ditto for him.

Human beings were the deadliest predators and the most tenacious survivors in the universe.

And any species that could produce a Cordelia Chase, a Xander Harris, a Kendra Young, a Morgan Chase, or a Dawn Summers wasn't capable of losing. It just flat wasn't in the cards, nor in the genes.

"All aboard for the Home Express," Dawn said, her eyes crinkling slightly at the corners, as if she'd been reading his mind. And hell, maybe she had, or at least his expressions. His thoughts were probably printed all over his stupid face.

The fourteen members of Hick's Harriers took their places inside of the elaborately drawn circle, with Dawn at the apex. Murmuring a string of liquid syllables under her breath, Dawn pricked a forefinger, touching it to one of the inner lines, and closed the circle with an act of will and a pulse of energy. Green, heatless fire raced along the lines of the diagram, tracing out the circles and curves and limning the various sigils and runes in outlines of light –

– And everything flashed green for a moment -

– And then they were home.

Home base. Beluria Castle, city of New Sunnyvale (Sunnyvale, because no one would name a town, city, or settlement Sunnydale and tempt the worthless gods), on the shores of the Sea of Tranquility.


The very first fallback position and long ago main base of Tech-Comm's resistance command, way back when in 2013 after the Long Dark fell.

Roughly a million people – human beings, rather – plus another half a million or so assorted friendly and allied demons, crossbreeds, and various non-humans. And another two and a half million or so scattered out across the surface of Pylea in various settlements and Steadings. Not counting the native human beings of Pylea...

Counting the other two redoubts in other dimensions away from Earth, and not counting the one that no one mentioned or thought about, there were just over ten million human survivors off world.

Add in the millions still trapped on earth in MALCOLM and CAIN's hunting ground, and it was still just a small, tiny fraction of the billions that had been alive prior to 2013...

Now that they were back and away from the front, Jaime stepped forward and threw her arms around Dawn in a quick fierce hug. "Commander Mom," she said, stepping back and snapping a precise military salute.

Dawn returned it and grinned back at her. Sobering suddenly, and all business again, she turned to Hicks.

"Stand your people down, Tech-sergeant," Dawn said. "Not you, though. You need to Triple-S it and report to Main Drawing Room A1 for a briefing, ASAP."

Frowning, Hicks said, "Briefing? Not a de-briefing?"

"Nope," Dawn said, breaking out into a radiant smile. "Said what I meant, and meant what I said. Briefing. You are a go, Tech-sergeant."

Whoo-hee! Hicks gave her a crisp nod, not letting out the whoop that wanted to burst out from his suddenly tight throat. "Good enough, Commander. I'll be there with bells on."

"Your best Blacks will be fine, Hicks," Dawn said, her voice dry and her eyes crinkling at the corners. "The bells would be distracting."

Acknowledging the humor with a wink, Hicks turned to his people. "Aw right. Stand down, Harriers. Drop off your gear and call it a day. Fall out, you are dis-missed!"

Grinning, joking, and exchanging rude jokes and ruder comments, the rest of the team picked up equipment and headed off in various directions, jostling and elbowing each other. All of them paused briefly so that hard eyed Home Guard troopers with dogs could double check them for verisimilitude. Karelian Bear Dog crossbreeds this time, rather than wolfhounds. The Resistance had salvaged dogs of every breed possible after the hammer came down and the long night fell...

Cats, too, but cats were companions mostly, not guards. Only the big Savannahs with their Serval ancestry and the equally large Missouri Bobtails with their Golden Cat heritage seemed to share a dog's antipathy to Terminators. No one knew why, it just was.

Dawn and Jaime linked arms and headed off in their own direction, chattering to each other.

Hicks... Hicks just stood there a moment, nearly numb from the sudden wash of feeling sweeping through him.

Day-um. Just... damn.

Project Deliverance was a go.

Didn't that just beat all.