The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:50 am 
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the waiting is killing me make it fast please!!!


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:05 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Title: Dark Of The Sky
Author: Mike Mullen
Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, and adult themes.
Spoilers: None what so ever
Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.
Summary: Everything is in the balance as two possible futures present themselves to the family.
Authors notes: The penultimate story in the ‘Adrift’ arc.
Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.


[center]Dark Of The Sky[/center]

[center]Prologue: Adrift III[/center]

The tether holding LJ and Sabrina together had pulled taut as Sabrina's movements accidentally pushed them apart. Now it was reeling her back in; bringing her back to her lovers sleeping form. As she bumped up against LJ the girl stirred to a half conscious state, "Did it work?" she asked blearily.
Sabrina gave the Earth one last backwards glance, "Yes sweetheart it worked, their all safe."
"Good that's okay then." LJ announced before fading out once more.
Sabrina locked her arms firmly around LJ, and tried to draw comfort from the fact that however it had turned out for the two of them it was still better than the alternative.

[center]1. "Flipside"[/center]

The visits to the hospital were beginning to seriously depress Willow. It wasn't just the unhappy associations or the reflected pain from LJ as she sat by Sabrina's bed talking to her and watching the impassive monitors for any sign of change. The main source of her depression was the prospect of the inevitable argument as they made their way back to the car.
"We can't just leave her like that, we have to do something." LJ demanded angrily.
Willow hated trotting out the same rote answer again but since it still applied she didn't have much choice, "We've tried contacting her telepathically and we can't reach her. Without some sort of contact we can't really do anything, not without the risk of making things worse."
LJ knew that intellectually; if they simply turned up the power to try and contact Sabrina it could boomerang. Tara had offered the analogy of someone hanging from a cliff. If you called out to them they might answer back so you could find and rescue them, on the other hand you might startle them into losing their grip, and then they would be gone forever, "Well we need to come up with an alternative approach, soon."
Willow nodded and patted her shoulder consolingly, hoping her own sense of guilt wasn't written to clearly on her face. If it hadn't been for her ambivalence towards Sabrina, however unconscious and well buried, Jessica Lazar wouldn't have had the weapon with which to blind her to the gathering crisis with the girl. She might have stopped the gems sooner, or just offered a few words of reassurance instead of cold indifference.
The pair continued on in silence, with Willow hoping Tara was having rather better luck than she was.

As a rule Tara Maclay avoided having sessions with people she knew, it was difficult, verging on impossible sometimes, to maintain the dividing line between friend and therapist. In Dawn's case though there hadn't really been a choice, there was no way she could go to anyone else and discuss what had happened to her.
Dawn was currently staring into a mirror hung on Tara's office wall and taking in the teenage face that looked back at her, "Some people would pay a fortune for this, to shed twenty years overnight," she turned away from the mirror, "the doctors say it's more than just skin deep, I've been physically reset to when the monks made me."
There was a hollow detachment in the way Dawn spoke, Tara knew she had to break through it, "As you say a lot of people would pay for that, and since I would guess your retinal prints haven't changed you can still access your bank accounts so you've come out of this pretty well I'd say."
Her glib comments had the desired effect, Dawn's calm veneer burned away in a blaze of anger, "Is that what you think? I ran around trashing buildings, ships, and damned nearly a city. And you know what? It wasn't about power, it was about temper tantrums and just enjoying breaking things."
"And you still remember exactly how that felt, only now it scares the hell out of you." Tara observed.
Dawn was going to sarcastically demand to know how exactly Tara could know that; until she remembered that the woman had seen this before, "Yes okay, it scares me, that I lost control so totally."
"I think Jessica Lazar had a lot to do with that, she had longer to work on you than anyone else." Tara knew that was hardly comforting but compared to the alternative of letting Dawn carry the full burden of responsibility it was the best option.
Dawn pondered that, it was tempting to just blame Lazar for everything but, "After I laid my hands on the gem I wasn't under her control."
"But still under her influence," Tara insisted, "she was very good at manipulation with or without magic."
Dawn looked skeptical, "Not that good considering how she ended up."
Tara nodded hesitantly but didn't expound her own thoughts on that subject. They couldn't know exactly what had happened in the motel room but Tara had her suspicions. Jessica Lazar had to know everything was unraveling around her and that the Cartel would figure out she had used them, and their likely reaction. Added to that was what appeared to be a psychotic need for vengeance against Sabrina and Tara was far from convinced that Jessica had failed at the end. It was just a theory but for now it was one Tara was keeping to herself; there was enough pain around without her adding to it.

Unfortunately despite Tara's best intentions LJ already had the nagging suspicion that Jessica Lazar was laughing at them from whatever corner of hell she was occupying. She had done her best to ensure there was nothing to connect Sabrina to the events at the motel. If, when, her girlfriend woke up LJ had no intention of seeing the police coming nosing around making accusations, especially when those accusations were more or less true. LJ was absolutely certain that Sabrina had been provoked beyond reason, and had a guilt inducing idea of what Jessica had used to achieve that.
LJ did her best not to dwell on that, if Sabrina had acted to protect her then she was bound by love and her personal sense of honour to rescue her; problem was LJ still couldn't come up with a plan that was remotely feasible, at least not in her parents opinion and they had threatened to restrain her bodily if she tried anything stupid. Of course it was a ridiculous threat; if LJ was willing to pummel her parents that was, and none of the ideas she had thought of seemed promising enough to do anything that drastic, so we just sit here and keep thinking until we come up with something that will work, however radical.

"Thirty percent field test sequence complete. All telemetry data compiled and ready for analysis.
" System was as unflappable as always.
Reese shook his head, "Later System. Initiate forty percent sequence."
The computer was forced to remind him of the basics despite the likely futility, "Reese protocol mandates a reset and full analysis of results before proceeding."
“We are two days behind and the forty percent test was scheduled for today. So lets get on track.” Reese knew System was technically correct, on the other hand System wasn't the one who had superiors riding it every waking moment.
Initiating forty percent sequence, field strength increasing to target level. Detecting anomalous variation.” If it could have managed it System would have been sounding a little panicky.
“What kind of variation?” With no audible cue Reese wasn't worried; there had been plenty of such glitches before.
A self generating field effect from the core element.”
It took Reese a few moments to break down the tech speak, and a couple of more after that for panic to set in. “Shut down the field! Cut power flow.”
Shutdown already initiated. Self generated effect increasing, critical point in five seconds.” Reese had visions of standing before a firing squad. His fingers flew over the controls as he desperately tried to find a command sequence that would stop the inevitable.

The sensation that crept over LJ was like she was sat in front of a TV and someone kept changing channels every second. She was getting jumbled glimpses of places and events; not seeing anyone of them for long enough to make sense of what she was seeing. Somehow though she managed to push it back before it overwhelmed her and as she did LJ had a flash of understanding, almost of compulsion, she had to be somewhere.

Reese was staring at the console when the blue light began to cast a shadow across the room. He looked through the window into the chamber and saw a burst of brilliant blue light. The he was staring into an empty chamber and klaxons were going off everywhere. The control room door slid open and Reese span round in his chair. “LJ, the core element…”
LJ wasn't that clued up on Reese's machinery but this time she understood completely, “Is gone, I sort of noticed,” she pushed him aside and began tapping at the console.
“It's a little late for any commands.” Reese pointed out, not entirely sure what sort of commands LJ might know anyway.
“Not commands, just leaving a note.” She stood away, “I'll see you later.” With that LJ dissolved and coalesced in to a ball of light that shot in to the test chamber and vanished when it reached the place where the core component had been. Reese stared after her for a few moments, contemplating whether that firing squad might be better than confronting LJ's parents.
He turned his attention to the screen and the note LJ had composed; he read it before it occurred to him it might be personal.

[center]"Mom's got to go and
I guess you know
where. See you later,
or earlier, or both I
suppose, you know
what I mean.
Love LJ."
[/center]

The place LJ found herself in wasn't wholly unfamiliar, a sort of riff on the ethereal realm but glowing with a bluish light that illuminated everything; including a figure standing looking lost. LJ knew who it was and she steeled herself into a confident cheery manner, “Hey there you are.”
As the figure spun round LJ saw a face she hadn’t seen in years, at least not looking like that, “You were expecting me?”
LJ did her best to be enigmatic, “Of course, I had advance warning.”
Willow looked confused and then asked the big question, “Sorry, but who are you?”
Oh mom I so I wish I could tell you, “I'm LJ, and if you give me the crystal I'll get you back where you belong.” LJ extended her hand as she spoke.
Willow took a step back, “Just like that you expect me to trust you?”
“Basically yes.” LJ nodded.
Willow looked dubious, “Without any explanation?”
“If I explain things then you would know things about the future. I know it worked out pretty well the last time you got some hints, but I don't think either of us want to gamble on that again.” LJ had to fight down the mad desire to warn Willow, about the Fire, about the Athenai, about Sabrina but she knew what she had said was true; she couldn't gamble on changing the future.
Seeing that Willow was still making her mind up LJ prompted her further, “Come on Willow I already helped you once. I mean you felt that extra energy didn't you?”
Willow was startled, “That was you? You were feeding it to me?”
“Yeah that was me, now please could I have the crystal? Its time you got back before I say something I shouldn't.” Willow looked at the crystal, looked at LJ and then handed it over.
“Thank you.” LJ's gave her a broad smile despite the pain inside; she pocketed the crystal and saw the look on Willow's face, “Don't worry I just need to get this back to where it belongs. Opening up the doorway is easy.” LJ turned and gestured with her hands. Willow could feel the power like static electricity in the air, an immense amount of magical energy being poured through a human form.
An area of fog began to glow with a pale light. “Time to go Willow.” LJ suggested softly. Willow stepped towards the glow, and before she went LJ felt compelled to speak, “There is one thing.”
“What's that?” Willow asked nervously.
“You really did change things for the better, and you should do what you think is right.” It was the hardest thing LJ had ever had to say, it was true though and Willow needed to hear it. She shoved her mother through the brightness before she could respond and break down LJ's resolve.
As soon as Willow was gone the tears began to stream down LJ's cheeks. She tried to wipe them away but stopped when she saw the ripple moving through the ether, rising up to break over her before she could react.

[center]2. "Twilight Earth"[/center]

[center]"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"
John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958),
Kohima Memorial
[/center]

LJ watched the two technicians carefully taking the machine apart and contained the urge to tell them to hurry up.
"I'm going to make one last sweep of the building." She announced, receiving a vague nod in response.
As she walked out of the lab and into the corridor LJ tugged at the straps on the Kevlar vest she was wearing, juggling the helmet she had removed earlier from hand to hand. Adjusting the vest was a futile gesture, there was simply no way to make it fit comfortably. LJ took some solace from the fact that at least while they were indoors she didn't have to wear the equally uncomfortable helmet.
Lieutenant Cooper had pointed out it would fit better if LJ cut her hair in a more military fashion but her reaction made sure he only suggested it once.
Of course with her power LJ could wrap herself in magical protections that rendered the Kevlar redundant but wearing the vest and helmet, as well as a baggy set of khaki fatigues, rendered her just one more partisan dressed in army surplus to any prying eyes.
LJ stopped and looked through a half open door. Beyond it lay a college lecture theatre, gloomy without electric lights and thick with dust.
Mom would have hated to see this. She concluded sadly.
Feet pounding down the corridor towards her distracted LJ from her dark thoughts. She turned to see Lieutenant Cooper jogging towards her.
"Ma'am, Miss Harrington has picked something up, looks like we're about to have company." Cooper sounded keyed up but not especially worried.
LJ still couldn't quite get used to being 'ma'am' but she had given up trying to get the marine to call her by name. As far as he was concerned she was his superior officer and he was going to address her accordingly.
Regardless of her attitude to military protocol LJ had gotten pretty good with issuing orders, "Alright Cooper pull everyone back except the techs in the lab, we'll give them as much time as possible but I want us on the road before the bad guys get here."
Cooper snapped a salute and ran back the way he had come, leaving LJ marching along behind him shaking her head.

The engines of the Humvees were already growling into life when LJ emerged from the science block. She bit her lip as she saw the way the big military four by fours had chewed up the overgrown grass in front of the building but disguising their presence was academic now.
"Get your helmet on!" Sabrina's voice rang out from the backseat of the lead Humvee.
LJ did as she was told and stuck her head through the window. Naturally Sabrina's helmet was lying on the seat beside her. LJ decided to let that pass and concentrate on the crystal Sabrina was turning over in her hands.
"What sort of company are we talking about?"
Sabrina frowned with concentration, "Coming by air but not real fast. I'd say two or three helicopters, and something demonic keeping them company."
"So somebody picked up on the Humvees and called up the local response." LJ mused.
Sabrina smiled sourly, "Some upstanding citizen reporting us terrorists to the forces of truth and justice."
"Or just too scared of what will happen if they don't tell the Peacekeepers and their neighbor does." LJ was reminding herself of that as much Sabrina.
The sight of a quartet of soldiers lugging a pair of heavy boxes interrupted them. Cooper brought up the rear of the party, "That's everything we wanted ma'am."
LJ nodded, "Let's get it loaded and go. Just make sure it's secured properly, Reese will not be happy if we break them."
Cooper acknowledged her comments, though he didn't look overly concerned about incurring the wrath of Reese Burkle.

The vehicles had hit the highway and gotten maybe a kilometer down the road when the helicopters emerged over the horizon and veered towards them.
LJ watched them carefully, she could tell they were troop carriers rather than gunships, which meant they would have to get a lot closer if they were going to do anything to stop the Humvee's. LJ checked the landmarks rushing past, just give us one more minute and we'll be set, she wished.
Whether her wish was granted or the helicopter pilots were just cautious LJ got her minute before the aircraft dropped down and their big side doors slid open. Objects began tumbling out, objects that spread big bat wings and swooped towards the ground vehicles.
Summoning magic LJ tensed and sent out a telepathic; let it rip Avenger.
The third Humvee had stayed back under cover; it wasn't much use for carrying people or troops owing to the large turret mounted on the rear. The guns spun up with a buzz saw whine and the air was filled with high velocity metal.
The demon things were a mass of fangs and claws, not built to stand a hail of bullets and the creatures practically vaporized as dozens of rounds tore into them.
The helicopter pilots immediately tried to bank away but it was suddenly as if they were flying through mud. The rotor blades snapped and tore as they tried to move through the impossibly thick air, leaving the aircraft to plunge towards the ground.
LJ watched the plummeting choppers soberly. She had tried to avoid killing any of the Peacekeepers in the beginning, they were human after all. After seeing some of the atrocities they had conducted in the name of maintaining order LJ had concluded the Peacekeepers had resigned their membership of the human race. Even so it knotted LJ's guts when she saw the fireballs as the helicopters smashed into the ground.
Sabrina knew how badly LJ took moments like this and came up with a distraction, "We're less than a click from the fold, better buckle up because we are going to skid like crazy when we hit that snow."

The witch was in fact voicing a vile slander against the army driver. When they hit the space fold and instantly transited the hundreds of kilometers to their base in Colorado the driver handled the change from clean concrete to packed snow with aplomb.
The drive up to the former ski lodge was pretty short and soon the Humvee's were being offloaded and covered with camouflage netting. LJ and Sabrina led the way into the lodge, and were almost run over by Reese.
"Did you get the coils, all four of them?" The physicist demanded eagerly.
LJ peeled off her helmet and sighed, "Yes we got them, and we used up most of the Avenger ammo doing it so don't ask for anything else anytime soon."
"It's a promise." Reese assured them, and guided the soldiers carrying the boxes to the back of the lounge that dominated the ground floor of the lodge; a space which was already half filled with machinery and computer gear.
"Did you cover your trail properly?"
LJ turned to look at her mother, trying not to wince at the harshness in Tara Maclay's voice.
"We were careful," Sabrina assured Tara, "all the Peacekeepers will see is a bunch of well armed looters who vanished into the woods."
"Good." Tara announced brusquely and apparently lost interest in the conversation.
LJ wanted to say something that would reengage Tara but what was there to talk about? The unending pain and loss they lived with every day? The regret that Willow hadn't gone with Tara to that conference? The nightmares where she saw Willow dying alone in the nuclear fire that had destroyed their home along with the rest of San Diego? Sometimes talking doesn't make things better.

Sabrina found LJ sat on the edge of the bed in their room. Most of the military put up with barracks living but rank did have its privleges.
"So Reese seems pretty happy." Sabrina offered by way of an opener.
LJ's response was more or less what Sabrina expected, "Nice to know someone is."
Sitting down next to LJ Sabrina stroked her hair, "Which is not your fault, and no one is doing more to fix things than you. We would never have gotten this far without you."
LJ looked at Sabrina and saw the sincerity and faith in her expression. She took Sabrina's left hand and toyed with the gold band on the middle finger, "There are some things that I wouldn't change, though I'll definitely get you one that fits properly next time."
"Which I'll hold you to, except I won't remember this conversation if you change everything." Sabrina pointed out with a smile.
LJ ran her tongue over her lips, "So I basically can do anything I want and you won't remember?"
"In theory, just what did you have in mind?" Sabrina asked seductively. The answer was a long lingering kiss.

LJ had finally fallen asleep and Sabrina was laying quietly beside her, just admiring the redhead's curves when there was a sudden hammering on the bedroom door, "LJ! Sabrina! We've got trouble!"
The sound of urgency in Tara's voice snapped LJ instantly awake.
In under a minute the pair was more or less dressed and when she saw everyone checking weapons LJ didn't need to ask what sort of trouble it was.
"How many of them and how soon?" LJ demanded.
Tara's haggard face looked even more careworn than usual, "Lot's of them, including their 'specials' by the way the wards are jangling. I don't think we've got more than a few minutes either."
LJ cursed fluently and looked towards where Reese was still resolutely working on his equipment. She hated to do it but there was only one order LJ could give, "Break everything down, we'll salvage what we can and set up again."
"No!" Reese shouted and almost grabbed LJ before he thought better of it.
LJ tried to reason with him, "Reese I know this is going to..."
Reese interrupted her, "You don't understand LJ I'm close, not days or hours close, I mean minutes close."
LJ was too astonished to respond but Tara remained practical, "How many minutes are we talking about?"
Reese thought it over quickly, "Fifteen, ten, if I push it."
"I would suggest you push it." Cooper snapped a clip of ammunition into his rifle.
LJ fixed a hard gaze on Reese, "You need to be absolutely certain about this Reese." We won't get a second chance if you're wrong, she added telepathically.
Reese understood, and remained adamant, "We can do it and do it now."
"Then I guess we better go man the perimeter." LJ decided.
Reese shook his head, "If this works I'm going to need you right here."
"We'll take care of things ma'am." Cooper assured LJ.
"And I'll help out Lieutenant." Tara squared her shoulders and joined the troops gathering by the door.
Sabrina followed her, "You'll need all the help you can get."
LJ stared at her mother and her partner, she wanted to say no, tell them to stay but she knew she couldn't let those soldiers go out there alone, she didn't have the right.
None of this will happen lover, remember that, Sabrina's thought was soft and comforting.
LJ returned the psychic equivalent of a hug and watched them all file out. She turned to face Reese again, "We are going to make this thing work Reese, no excuses," she insisted harshly.
The physicist worked, adjusting components and entering values on a computer display as LJ watched. There was a space in the centre of the apparatus surrounded by the superconducting coils the team had taken from the university.
As she stared into the space LJ began to see a shimmering glow take shape, a globular thing just on the limit of visibility.
At the same moment she heard the sound of muffled explosions and rifle fire, "They're getting close Reese." She muttered.
Reese rubbed sweat off his brows, "One last set of adjustments," he promised her, at which point the front door exploded.
Instinctively LJ threw a force wall across the room, keeping the shrapnel from striking the delicate equipment. She tensed as three figures emerged from the smoke of the explosion. She could see 'speed blur' around them with a faint wavering silver trail embedded in it. Wordlessly the three men advanced on the barrier and punched at it with their fists.
"It's done." Reese announced excitedly, "It just needs thirty seconds to reach full power." He looked towards the trio, "I'll try to make it fifteen."
As the three men pounded at the barrier the colour drained from their faces, all of them turning ash grey and distorting, like wax figures melting in the sun.
Normally LJ wouldn't have worried about the barrier but she knew those things would break through, they were unstoppable.
"It's done!" Reese yelled and dived for the gun he had placed beside the machine.
The barrier flared and died but before the trio could advance Reese fired several rounds into the middle figure. It staggered back but drew its own weapon cut Reese down with a burst of automatic fire.
LJ didn't have time to mourn; she was focused on the bright blue light in the centre of the machine.
Her concentration was momentarily disturbed as one of the figures spoke up, "This ends now Maclay."
"You better believe it." LJ muttered and slammed her fist into the light. As the magic engulfed her LJ focused on one simple command, REMEMBER!

[center]3. "Second Time Around"[/center]

The pulsing and flickering light was getting to LJ even with her eyes closed so she opened them to find the source and put it out of commission. When she did manage to drag the eyelids apart she saw that it was coming from all around her.
The void.
That recognition brought LJ fully awake and she tried to recall the last thing that had happened before she found herself sprawled here. Her brain offered up two conflicting versions of events. One was of a something like a wave breaking over her, the other…
LJ hastily looked around her and spotted the tuning crystal lying undamaged by her feet, “Which is good,” she muttered to herself, “but let's not get carried away here LJ. The void can play tricks with you.” After so many set backs and disappointments LJ was about to get carried away until she was sure.
The only way to be sure was to get out of this place, and face whatever was waiting for her out in the real world.

Reese looked at Willow and Tara accusingly, "You knew this would happen and you didn't tell me?"
"If we had told you that could have upset the balance of things, you understand why we couldn't do that?" Tara's words were offered apologetically in her most contrite tone.
Reese did understand, which didn't make the situation any less disturbing. It was one thing to consider time travel in the abstract, quite another to find yourself caught up in closing a great loop in time.
Willow wasn't really paying attention to Reese. She was staring the gap in the apparatus and reflecting on her memories of that first encounter with her daughter. Seeing it from the other end of time Willow realized how hard it had been on LJ to smile and keep her mouth shut about the future when she must have aching to beg Willow to change things and protect Sabrina.
There was a faint crackling noise in the air and a blue glow began to form in the centre of the machinery.
All three human occupants of the room held their breath until LJ came stumbling out of thin air, clutching the tuning crystal in her hands. She stood in front of the machine looking dazed and a little hesitant. LJ's gaze traveled from Reese to Tara, and finally to Willow; which was when LJ went nuts.
Of all the reactions that Willow might have been anticipating she wasn't expecting LJ to lock her in a bear hug.
"It worked, it really fucking worked!" LJ was too happy to pay attention to the shocked looks she was getting.
If her language surprised Willow and Tara her next gesture practically left their jaws on the floor. LJ walked over to Reese, pressed the crystal into his hands, and planted a kiss right on his lips, "You are an authentic frigging genius my friend, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
Since none of the humans appeared in any state to respond coherently System decided to intervene, "LJ I suspect you've suffered some ill effects from your trip. Perhaps some medical assistance would be in order?"
That did sober LJ up, though not for the reasons System might have imagined, "Sabrina, we have to go get her." LJ announced.
"Dear perhaps you've forgotten but Sabrina is in the hospital." Tara reminded her daughter gently.
LJ was unfazed, "Mom I know that, I also know how to get her out. I know a lot of things actually but we can talk about them later; Sabrina comes first."
Willow wasn't inclined to pick a fight right here and now with her daughter, especially when she was acting so, well insane was the only word that seemed to fit. She looked to Tara for some help but her partner could only shrug, she was as baffled as Willow by LJ's behaviour.
LJ could guess what her parents were thinking but she really wasn't in the mood to explain right now. She did however need their help, “Look I'm not crazy but I do need you to come with me right now. If you play along I'll explain stuff, you'll still think I'm crazy but I will explain.”
Since it was clearly the best offer they were going to get Willow and Tara conceded, mostly, “We'll come with you but you had better be ready for a lot of questions Lydia.” Willow told her firmly.
“And I'll answer them all.” LJ promised; you're just not going to like those answers one little bit.

The trip to hospital was instantaneous, something else that alarmed Willow and Tara. They always did their best to avoid anything that might attract awkward questions but their daughter seemed oblivious to all of that right now. Tara was doing her best to read her daughter's aura but it still left her puzzled. She had half expected to see a boiling turmoil of conflicting emotions. What she saw instead was a clear and steady pattern, totally focused on; something. That would have been reassuring except that Tara had seemed similar laser like focus in some of her more delusional patients, they also believed they were on a mission for some higher power, of course in LJ's case that could be true.
Luckily it was visiting hours when the trio arrived in the hospital, which Willow concluded was just as well as she pitied the poor doctor who tried to get in LJ's way in her current mood. She decided to engage her daughter in conversation in the hopes of getting her to take things a little more slowly, “Dear I know we said we would wait on the questions but could you at least tell me what the plan is here?”
“I'm going to go into Sabrina's mind and bring her out.” LJ explained succinctly.
Willow frowned, “Well you'll forgive me for saying so dear but that sounds like the same plan we decided not to try earlier.”
LJ wasn't annoyed by the doubtful tone, “This is different, this time you both reach into my mind and anchor it. Then I do a sort of psychic bungee jump into the depths of Sabrina's mind. When the elastic pulls back then I bring Sabrina's consciousness with me.”
Willow was far from reassured by this explanation, “You just came up with this notion?”
“Actually it's not my idea.” LJ countered.
That made Willow even more uneasy, “Then who's is it?”
“Hers.” LJ smiled and pointed straight at Tara.
Her parents were still trying to make sense of than when they marched into Sabrina's room. There was a nurse checking the readings on the monitors next to the unconscious girl's bed, “Hi there, could we have a few moments alone with my girlfriend?” Even as she asked LJ had a hand on the nurses shoulder and the baffled young man was practically thrown out of the room.
LJ sat on the edge of Sabrina's bed and took her hand, “I remember sweetheart, one that fits this time, I promise.”
She let go of Sabrina's hand and turned to her still baffled looking parents, “We don't really need physical contact to make this work but it can't hurt.” She extended her hand towards Willow.
Willow was still far from certain about any of this but she took the proffered hand anyway. In turn Willow offered her free hand to Tara, who took it much more willingly.
As she felt the psychic link flow from her to Willow and on to Tara LJ steeled herself and took Sabrina's hand once more, I'm on my way lover.

Somewhere during her long conversation with Rebecca the dark corner of Sabrina's mind had become distinctly less dark. In fact it had come to resemble some sort of office, with Rebecca sat behind an ornate desk while Sabrina occupied a large easy chair set in front of it, “This place actually exists right?” Sabrina tapped the dark polished wood of the tabletop to emphasize what she meant.
Rebecca shrugged, “More or less, or at least it probably will exist.”
Sabrina just nodded, she had managed to get her head around the odd tenses involved in talking about events that had still to happen, “I really wish I could tell the others a bout this, are you sure I have to forget it all?”
“Positive.” Rebecca replied resolutely, “But It won't quite be 'all'. You'll remember me being here, and you'll remember the last thing I say to you before I go.”
Sabrina was partly mollified by that but it did raise a question, “And when exactly is that likely to be?”
Rebecca smiled, pleased at the chance the offer a dramatic flourish, “Now Sabrina.”
Sabrina was suitably surprised, “Now, you mean right now?”
“The light of the Earth is on her way to rescue you as we speak.” Rebecca saw the hesitation in Sabrina's face, “Don't worry she'll be as proud of you as you are of her.”
Sabrina smiled, “That's the last thing you say right?”
“Oh no,” Rebecca shook her head, “The lat thing I say is one word; twins.”
“Twins?” Sabrina puzzled over that, and her eyes went wide as she understood, “Twins?!”
Even as she yelled out Sabrina realized she was alone in the darkness again, except there was something there. A faint sensation that built around her, a warm sensation that she knew all to well, one that she had missed so much. As it wrapped around her Sabrina simply let herself sink into it, the course Rebecca had laid out was daunting but Sabrina couldn't wait to get started, I think I'll save the 'twins' thing for when I really want to freak Lydia out, She decided, and then felt like she had suddenly gone into free fall.

Willow was watching her daughter anxiously. LJ's eyes were shut and there was sweat on her brow. Willow was about to suggest the break off and try again later when she saw the smile form on LJ's lips and felt her daughter cast the psychic connection loose. Willow let go of LJ's hand and almost fell back into Tara's arms. LJ slumped on to the bed.
“Your sitting on my hand.” Sabrina murmured.
LJ held her breath and shifted her butt, “Is that better?”
Sabrina was still bleary, “I wasn't complaining, you have a nice butt.”
LJ leaned over and kissed her hard, which helped to bring Sabrina fully awake. When LJ broke off Sabrina asked, “How long have I been here?”
“About three weeks, I'm sorry I couldn't get you out sooner.” LJ apologized.
Sabrina smiled, “It's ok, Rebecca told me you'd be along and she kept me company while I waited.”
Willow looked at Tara with a pained expression, “Rebecca?”
Tara sighed, “Honey I think we had better clear our schedule for the next couple of days.” iI]Because this is going to take some explaining[/i].


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:06 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Title: Dark Of The Sky
Author: Mike Mullen
Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, and adult themes.
Spoilers: None what so ever
Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.
Summary: Everything is in the balance as two possible futures present themselves to the family.
Authors notes: The penultimate story in the ‘Adrift’ arc.
Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.


[center]Dark Of The Sky[/center]

[center]Prologue: Adrift III[/center]

The tether holding LJ and Sabrina together had pulled taut as Sabrina's movements accidentally pushed them apart. Now it was reeling her back in; bringing her back to her lovers sleeping form. As she bumped up against LJ the girl stirred to a half conscious state, "Did it work?" she asked blearily.
Sabrina gave the Earth one last backwards glance, "Yes sweetheart it worked, their all safe."
"Good that's okay then." LJ announced before fading out once more.
Sabrina locked her arms firmly around LJ, and tried to draw comfort from the fact that however it had turned out for the two of them it was still better than the alternative.

[center]1. "Flipside"[/center]

The visits to the hospital were beginning to seriously depress Willow. It wasn't just the unhappy associations or the reflected pain from LJ as she sat by Sabrina's bed talking to her and watching the impassive monitors for any sign of change. The main source of her depression was the prospect of the inevitable argument as they made their way back to the car.
"We can't just leave her like that, we have to do something." LJ demanded angrily.
Willow hated trotting out the same rote answer again but since it still applied she didn't have much choice, "We've tried contacting her telepathically and we can't reach her. Without some sort of contact we can't really do anything, not without the risk of making things worse."
LJ knew that intellectually; if they simply turned up the power to try and contact Sabrina it could boomerang. Tara had offered the analogy of someone hanging from a cliff. If you called out to them they might answer back so you could find and rescue them, on the other hand you might startle them into losing their grip, and then they would be gone forever, "Well we need to come up with an alternative approach, soon."
Willow nodded and patted her shoulder consolingly, hoping her own sense of guilt wasn't written to clearly on her face. If it hadn't been for her ambivalence towards Sabrina, however unconscious and well buried, Jessica Lazar wouldn't have had the weapon with which to blind her to the gathering crisis with the girl. She might have stopped the gems sooner, or just offered a few words of reassurance instead of cold indifference.
The pair continued on in silence, with Willow hoping Tara was having rather better luck than she was.

As a rule Tara Maclay avoided having sessions with people she knew, it was difficult, verging on impossible sometimes, to maintain the dividing line between friend and therapist. In Dawn's case though there hadn't really been a choice, there was no way she could go to anyone else and discuss what had happened to her.
Dawn was currently staring into a mirror hung on Tara's office wall and taking in the teenage face that looked back at her, "Some people would pay a fortune for this, to shed twenty years overnight," she turned away from the mirror, "the doctors say it's more than just skin deep, I've been physically reset to when the monks made me."
There was a hollow detachment in the way Dawn spoke, Tara knew she had to break through it, "As you say a lot of people would pay for that, and since I would guess your retinal prints haven't changed you can still access your bank accounts so you've come out of this pretty well I'd say."
Her glib comments had the desired effect, Dawn's calm veneer burned away in a blaze of anger, "Is that what you think? I ran around trashing buildings, ships, and damned nearly a city. And you know what? It wasn't about power, it was about temper tantrums and just enjoying breaking things."
"And you still remember exactly how that felt, only now it scares the hell out of you." Tara observed.
Dawn was going to sarcastically demand to know how exactly Tara could know that; until she remembered that the woman had seen this before, "Yes okay, it scares me, that I lost control so totally."
"I think Jessica Lazar had a lot to do with that, she had longer to work on you than anyone else." Tara knew that was hardly comforting but compared to the alternative of letting Dawn carry the full burden of responsibility it was the best option.
Dawn pondered that, it was tempting to just blame Lazar for everything but, "After I laid my hands on the gem I wasn't under her control."
"But still under her influence," Tara insisted, "she was very good at manipulation with or without magic."
Dawn looked skeptical, "Not that good considering how she ended up."
Tara nodded hesitantly but didn't expound her own thoughts on that subject. They couldn't know exactly what had happened in the motel room but Tara had her suspicions. Jessica Lazar had to know everything was unraveling around her and that the Cartel would figure out she had used them, and their likely reaction. Added to that was what appeared to be a psychotic need for vengeance against Sabrina and Tara was far from convinced that Jessica had failed at the end. It was just a theory but for now it was one Tara was keeping to herself; there was enough pain around without her adding to it.

Unfortunately despite Tara's best intentions LJ already had the nagging suspicion that Jessica Lazar was laughing at them from whatever corner of hell she was occupying. She had done her best to ensure there was nothing to connect Sabrina to the events at the motel. If, when, her girlfriend woke up LJ had no intention of seeing the police coming nosing around making accusations, especially when those accusations were more or less true. LJ was absolutely certain that Sabrina had been provoked beyond reason, and had a guilt inducing idea of what Jessica had used to achieve that.
LJ did her best not to dwell on that, if Sabrina had acted to protect her then she was bound by love and her personal sense of honour to rescue her; problem was LJ still couldn't come up with a plan that was remotely feasible, at least not in her parents opinion and they had threatened to restrain her bodily if she tried anything stupid. Of course it was a ridiculous threat; if LJ was willing to pummel her parents that was, and none of the ideas she had thought of seemed promising enough to do anything that drastic, so we just sit here and keep thinking until we come up with something that will work, however radical.

"Thirty percent field test sequence complete. All telemetry data compiled and ready for analysis.
" System was as unflappable as always.
Reese shook his head, "Later System. Initiate forty percent sequence."
The computer was forced to remind him of the basics despite the likely futility, "Reese protocol mandates a reset and full analysis of results before proceeding."
“We are two days behind and the forty percent test was scheduled for today. So lets get on track.” Reese knew System was technically correct, on the other hand System wasn't the one who had superiors riding it every waking moment.
Initiating forty percent sequence, field strength increasing to target level. Detecting anomalous variation.” If it could have managed it System would have been sounding a little panicky.
“What kind of variation?” With no audible cue Reese wasn't worried; there had been plenty of such glitches before.
A self generating field effect from the core element.”
It took Reese a few moments to break down the tech speak, and a couple of more after that for panic to set in. “Shut down the field! Cut power flow.”
Shutdown already initiated. Self generated effect increasing, critical point in five seconds.” Reese had visions of standing before a firing squad. His fingers flew over the controls as he desperately tried to find a command sequence that would stop the inevitable.

The sensation that crept over LJ was like she was sat in front of a TV and someone kept changing channels every second. She was getting jumbled glimpses of places and events; not seeing anyone of them for long enough to make sense of what she was seeing. Somehow though she managed to push it back before it overwhelmed her and as she did LJ had a flash of understanding, almost of compulsion, she had to be somewhere.

Reese was staring at the console when the blue light began to cast a shadow across the room. He looked through the window into the chamber and saw a burst of brilliant blue light. The he was staring into an empty chamber and klaxons were going off everywhere. The control room door slid open and Reese span round in his chair. “LJ, the core element…”
LJ wasn't that clued up on Reese's machinery but this time she understood completely, “Is gone, I sort of noticed,” she pushed him aside and began tapping at the console.
“It's a little late for any commands.” Reese pointed out, not entirely sure what sort of commands LJ might know anyway.
“Not commands, just leaving a note.” She stood away, “I'll see you later.” With that LJ dissolved and coalesced in to a ball of light that shot in to the test chamber and vanished when it reached the place where the core component had been. Reese stared after her for a few moments, contemplating whether that firing squad might be better than confronting LJ's parents.
He turned his attention to the screen and the note LJ had composed; he read it before it occurred to him it might be personal.

[center]"Mom's got to go and
I guess you know
where. See you later,
or earlier, or both I
suppose, you know
what I mean.
Love LJ."
[/center]

The place LJ found herself in wasn't wholly unfamiliar, a sort of riff on the ethereal realm but glowing with a bluish light that illuminated everything; including a figure standing looking lost. LJ knew who it was and she steeled herself into a confident cheery manner, “Hey there you are.”
As the figure spun round LJ saw a face she hadn’t seen in years, at least not looking like that, “You were expecting me?”
LJ did her best to be enigmatic, “Of course, I had advance warning.”
Willow looked confused and then asked the big question, “Sorry, but who are you?”
Oh mom I so I wish I could tell you, “I'm LJ, and if you give me the crystal I'll get you back where you belong.” LJ extended her hand as she spoke.
Willow took a step back, “Just like that you expect me to trust you?”
“Basically yes.” LJ nodded.
Willow looked dubious, “Without any explanation?”
“If I explain things then you would know things about the future. I know it worked out pretty well the last time you got some hints, but I don't think either of us want to gamble on that again.” LJ had to fight down the mad desire to warn Willow, about the Fire, about the Athenai, about Sabrina but she knew what she had said was true; she couldn't gamble on changing the future.
Seeing that Willow was still making her mind up LJ prompted her further, “Come on Willow I already helped you once. I mean you felt that extra energy didn't you?”
Willow was startled, “That was you? You were feeding it to me?”
“Yeah that was me, now please could I have the crystal? Its time you got back before I say something I shouldn't.” Willow looked at the crystal, looked at LJ and then handed it over.
“Thank you.” LJ's gave her a broad smile despite the pain inside; she pocketed the crystal and saw the look on Willow's face, “Don't worry I just need to get this back to where it belongs. Opening up the doorway is easy.” LJ turned and gestured with her hands. Willow could feel the power like static electricity in the air, an immense amount of magical energy being poured through a human form.
An area of fog began to glow with a pale light. “Time to go Willow.” LJ suggested softly. Willow stepped towards the glow, and before she went LJ felt compelled to speak, “There is one thing.”
“What's that?” Willow asked nervously.
“You really did change things for the better, and you should do what you think is right.” It was the hardest thing LJ had ever had to say, it was true though and Willow needed to hear it. She shoved her mother through the brightness before she could respond and break down LJ's resolve.
As soon as Willow was gone the tears began to stream down LJ's cheeks. She tried to wipe them away but stopped when she saw the ripple moving through the ether, rising up to break over her before she could react.

[center]2. "Twilight Earth"[/center]

[center]"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"
John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958),
Kohima Memorial
[/center]

LJ watched the two technicians carefully taking the machine apart and contained the urge to tell them to hurry up.
"I'm going to make one last sweep of the building." She announced, receiving a vague nod in response.
As she walked out of the lab and into the corridor LJ tugged at the straps on the Kevlar vest she was wearing, juggling the helmet she had removed earlier from hand to hand. Adjusting the vest was a futile gesture, there was simply no way to make it fit comfortably. LJ took some solace from the fact that at least while they were indoors she didn't have to wear the equally uncomfortable helmet.
Lieutenant Cooper had pointed out it would fit better if LJ cut her hair in a more military fashion but her reaction made sure he only suggested it once.
Of course with her power LJ could wrap herself in magical protections that rendered the Kevlar redundant but wearing the vest and helmet, as well as a baggy set of khaki fatigues, rendered her just one more partisan dressed in army surplus to any prying eyes.
LJ stopped and looked through a half open door. Beyond it lay a college lecture theatre, gloomy without electric lights and thick with dust.
Mom would have hated to see this. She concluded sadly.
Feet pounding down the corridor towards her distracted LJ from her dark thoughts. She turned to see Lieutenant Cooper jogging towards her.
"Ma'am, Miss Harrington has picked something up, looks like we're about to have company." Cooper sounded keyed up but not especially worried.
LJ still couldn't quite get used to being 'ma'am' but she had given up trying to get the marine to call her by name. As far as he was concerned she was his superior officer and he was going to address her accordingly.
Regardless of her attitude to military protocol LJ had gotten pretty good with issuing orders, "Alright Cooper pull everyone back except the techs in the lab, we'll give them as much time as possible but I want us on the road before the bad guys get here."
Cooper snapped a salute and ran back the way he had come, leaving LJ marching along behind him shaking her head.

The engines of the Humvees were already growling into life when LJ emerged from the science block. She bit her lip as she saw the way the big military four by fours had chewed up the overgrown grass in front of the building but disguising their presence was academic now.
"Get your helmet on!" Sabrina's voice rang out from the backseat of the lead Humvee.
LJ did as she was told and stuck her head through the window. Naturally Sabrina's helmet was lying on the seat beside her. LJ decided to let that pass and concentrate on the crystal Sabrina was turning over in her hands.
"What sort of company are we talking about?"
Sabrina frowned with concentration, "Coming by air but not real fast. I'd say two or three helicopters, and something demonic keeping them company."
"So somebody picked up on the Humvees and called up the local response." LJ mused.
Sabrina smiled sourly, "Some upstanding citizen reporting us terrorists to the forces of truth and justice."
"Or just too scared of what will happen if they don't tell the Peacekeepers and their neighbor does." LJ was reminding herself of that as much Sabrina.
The sight of a quartet of soldiers lugging a pair of heavy boxes interrupted them. Cooper brought up the rear of the party, "That's everything we wanted ma'am."
LJ nodded, "Let's get it loaded and go. Just make sure it's secured properly, Reese will not be happy if we break them."
Cooper acknowledged her comments, though he didn't look overly concerned about incurring the wrath of Reese Burkle.

The vehicles had hit the highway and gotten maybe a kilometer down the road when the helicopters emerged over the horizon and veered towards them.
LJ watched them carefully, she could tell they were troop carriers rather than gunships, which meant they would have to get a lot closer if they were going to do anything to stop the Humvee's. LJ checked the landmarks rushing past, just give us one more minute and we'll be set, she wished.
Whether her wish was granted or the helicopter pilots were just cautious LJ got her minute before the aircraft dropped down and their big side doors slid open. Objects began tumbling out, objects that spread big bat wings and swooped towards the ground vehicles.
Summoning magic LJ tensed and sent out a telepathic; let it rip Avenger.
The third Humvee had stayed back under cover; it wasn't much use for carrying people or troops owing to the large turret mounted on the rear. The guns spun up with a buzz saw whine and the air was filled with high velocity metal.
The demon things were a mass of fangs and claws, not built to stand a hail of bullets and the creatures practically vaporized as dozens of rounds tore into them.
The helicopter pilots immediately tried to bank away but it was suddenly as if they were flying through mud. The rotor blades snapped and tore as they tried to move through the impossibly thick air, leaving the aircraft to plunge towards the ground.
LJ watched the plummeting choppers soberly. She had tried to avoid killing any of the Peacekeepers in the beginning, they were human after all. After seeing some of the atrocities they had conducted in the name of maintaining order LJ had concluded the Peacekeepers had resigned their membership of the human race. Even so it knotted LJ's guts when she saw the fireballs as the helicopters smashed into the ground.
Sabrina knew how badly LJ took moments like this and came up with a distraction, "We're less than a click from the fold, better buckle up because we are going to skid like crazy when we hit that snow."

The witch was in fact voicing a vile slander against the army driver. When they hit the space fold and instantly transited the hundreds of kilometers to their base in Colorado the driver handled the change from clean concrete to packed snow with aplomb.
The drive up to the former ski lodge was pretty short and soon the Humvee's were being offloaded and covered with camouflage netting. LJ and Sabrina led the way into the lodge, and were almost run over by Reese.
"Did you get the coils, all four of them?" The physicist demanded eagerly.
LJ peeled off her helmet and sighed, "Yes we got them, and we used up most of the Avenger ammo doing it so don't ask for anything else anytime soon."
"It's a promise." Reese assured them, and guided the soldiers carrying the boxes to the back of the lounge that dominated the ground floor of the lodge; a space which was already half filled with machinery and computer gear.
"Did you cover your trail properly?"
LJ turned to look at her mother, trying not to wince at the harshness in Tara Maclay's voice.
"We were careful," Sabrina assured Tara, "all the Peacekeepers will see is a bunch of well armed looters who vanished into the woods."
"Good." Tara announced brusquely and apparently lost interest in the conversation.
LJ wanted to say something that would reengage Tara but what was there to talk about? The unending pain and loss they lived with every day? The regret that Willow hadn't gone with Tara to that conference? The nightmares where she saw Willow dying alone in the nuclear fire that had destroyed their home along with the rest of San Diego? Sometimes talking doesn't make things better.

Sabrina found LJ sat on the edge of the bed in their room. Most of the military put up with barracks living but rank did have its privleges.
"So Reese seems pretty happy." Sabrina offered by way of an opener.
LJ's response was more or less what Sabrina expected, "Nice to know someone is."
Sitting down next to LJ Sabrina stroked her hair, "Which is not your fault, and no one is doing more to fix things than you. We would never have gotten this far without you."
LJ looked at Sabrina and saw the sincerity and faith in her expression. She took Sabrina's left hand and toyed with the gold band on the middle finger, "There are some things that I wouldn't change, though I'll definitely get you one that fits properly next time."
"Which I'll hold you to, except I won't remember this conversation if you change everything." Sabrina pointed out with a smile.
LJ ran her tongue over her lips, "So I basically can do anything I want and you won't remember?"
"In theory, just what did you have in mind?" Sabrina asked seductively. The answer was a long lingering kiss.

LJ had finally fallen asleep and Sabrina was laying quietly beside her, just admiring the redhead's curves when there was a sudden hammering on the bedroom door, "LJ! Sabrina! We've got trouble!"
The sound of urgency in Tara's voice snapped LJ instantly awake.
In under a minute the pair was more or less dressed and when she saw everyone checking weapons LJ didn't need to ask what sort of trouble it was.
"How many of them and how soon?" LJ demanded.
Tara's haggard face looked even more careworn than usual, "Lot's of them, including their 'specials' by the way the wards are jangling. I don't think we've got more than a few minutes either."
LJ cursed fluently and looked towards where Reese was still resolutely working on his equipment. She hated to do it but there was only one order LJ could give, "Break everything down, we'll salvage what we can and set up again."
"No!" Reese shouted and almost grabbed LJ before he thought better of it.
LJ tried to reason with him, "Reese I know this is going to..."
Reese interrupted her, "You don't understand LJ I'm close, not days or hours close, I mean minutes close."
LJ was too astonished to respond but Tara remained practical, "How many minutes are we talking about?"
Reese thought it over quickly, "Fifteen, ten, if I push it."
"I would suggest you push it." Cooper snapped a clip of ammunition into his rifle.
LJ fixed a hard gaze on Reese, "You need to be absolutely certain about this Reese." We won't get a second chance if you're wrong, she added telepathically.
Reese understood, and remained adamant, "We can do it and do it now."
"Then I guess we better go man the perimeter." LJ decided.
Reese shook his head, "If this works I'm going to need you right here."
"We'll take care of things ma'am." Cooper assured LJ.
"And I'll help out Lieutenant." Tara squared her shoulders and joined the troops gathering by the door.
Sabrina followed her, "You'll need all the help you can get."
LJ stared at her mother and her partner, she wanted to say no, tell them to stay but she knew she couldn't let those soldiers go out there alone, she didn't have the right.
None of this will happen lover, remember that, Sabrina's thought was soft and comforting.
LJ returned the psychic equivalent of a hug and watched them all file out. She turned to face Reese again, "We are going to make this thing work Reese, no excuses," she insisted harshly.
The physicist worked, adjusting components and entering values on a computer display as LJ watched. There was a space in the centre of the apparatus surrounded by the superconducting coils the team had taken from the university.
As she stared into the space LJ began to see a shimmering glow take shape, a globular thing just on the limit of visibility.
At the same moment she heard the sound of muffled explosions and rifle fire, "They're getting close Reese." She muttered.
Reese rubbed sweat off his brows, "One last set of adjustments," he promised her, at which point the front door exploded.
Instinctively LJ threw a force wall across the room, keeping the shrapnel from striking the delicate equipment. She tensed as three figures emerged from the smoke of the explosion. She could see 'speed blur' around them with a faint wavering silver trail embedded in it. Wordlessly the three men advanced on the barrier and punched at it with their fists.
"It's done." Reese announced excitedly, "It just needs thirty seconds to reach full power." He looked towards the trio, "I'll try to make it fifteen."
As the three men pounded at the barrier the colour drained from their faces, all of them turning ash grey and distorting, like wax figures melting in the sun.
Normally LJ wouldn't have worried about the barrier but she knew those things would break through, they were unstoppable.
"It's done!" Reese yelled and dived for the gun he had placed beside the machine.
The barrier flared and died but before the trio could advance Reese fired several rounds into the middle figure. It staggered back but drew its own weapon cut Reese down with a burst of automatic fire.
LJ didn't have time to mourn; she was focused on the bright blue light in the centre of the machine.
Her concentration was momentarily disturbed as one of the figures spoke up, "This ends now Maclay."
"You better believe it." LJ muttered and slammed her fist into the light. As the magic engulfed her LJ focused on one simple command, REMEMBER!

[center]3. "Second Time Around"[/center]

The pulsing and flickering light was getting to LJ even with her eyes closed so she opened them to find the source and put it out of commission. When she did manage to drag the eyelids apart she saw that it was coming from all around her.
The void.
That recognition brought LJ fully awake and she tried to recall the last thing that had happened before she found herself sprawled here. Her brain offered up two conflicting versions of events. One was of a something like a wave breaking over her, the other…
LJ hastily looked around her and spotted the tuning crystal lying undamaged by her feet, “Which is good,” she muttered to herself, “but let's not get carried away here LJ. The void can play tricks with you.” After so many set backs and disappointments LJ was about to get carried away until she was sure.
The only way to be sure was to get out of this place, and face whatever was waiting for her out in the real world.

Reese looked at Willow and Tara accusingly, "You knew this would happen and you didn't tell me?"
"If we had told you that could have upset the balance of things, you understand why we couldn't do that?" Tara's words were offered apologetically in her most contrite tone.
Reese did understand, which didn't make the situation any less disturbing. It was one thing to consider time travel in the abstract, quite another to find yourself caught up in closing a great loop in time.
Willow wasn't really paying attention to Reese. She was staring the gap in the apparatus and reflecting on her memories of that first encounter with her daughter. Seeing it from the other end of time Willow realized how hard it had been on LJ to smile and keep her mouth shut about the future when she must have aching to beg Willow to change things and protect Sabrina.
There was a faint crackling noise in the air and a blue glow began to form in the centre of the machinery.
All three human occupants of the room held their breath until LJ came stumbling out of thin air, clutching the tuning crystal in her hands. She stood in front of the machine looking dazed and a little hesitant. LJ's gaze traveled from Reese to Tara, and finally to Willow; which was when LJ went nuts.
Of all the reactions that Willow might have been anticipating she wasn't expecting LJ to lock her in a bear hug.
"It worked, it really fucking worked!" LJ was too happy to pay attention to the shocked looks she was getting.
If her language surprised Willow and Tara her next gesture practically left their jaws on the floor. LJ walked over to Reese, pressed the crystal into his hands, and planted a kiss right on his lips, "You are an authentic frigging genius my friend, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
Since none of the humans appeared in any state to respond coherently System decided to intervene, "LJ I suspect you've suffered some ill effects from your trip. Perhaps some medical assistance would be in order?"
That did sober LJ up, though not for the reasons System might have imagined, "Sabrina, we have to go get her." LJ announced.
"Dear perhaps you've forgotten but Sabrina is in the hospital." Tara reminded her daughter gently.
LJ was unfazed, "Mom I know that, I also know how to get her out. I know a lot of things actually but we can talk about them later; Sabrina comes first."
Willow wasn't inclined to pick a fight right here and now with her daughter, especially when she was acting so, well insane was the only word that seemed to fit. She looked to Tara for some help but her partner could only shrug, she was as baffled as Willow by LJ's behaviour.
LJ could guess what her parents were thinking but she really wasn't in the mood to explain right now. She did however need their help, “Look I'm not crazy but I do need you to come with me right now. If you play along I'll explain stuff, you'll still think I'm crazy but I will explain.”
Since it was clearly the best offer they were going to get Willow and Tara conceded, mostly, “We'll come with you but you had better be ready for a lot of questions Lydia.” Willow told her firmly.
“And I'll answer them all.” LJ promised; you're just not going to like those answers one little bit.

The trip to hospital was instantaneous, something else that alarmed Willow and Tara. They always did their best to avoid anything that might attract awkward questions but their daughter seemed oblivious to all of that right now. Tara was doing her best to read her daughter's aura but it still left her puzzled. She had half expected to see a boiling turmoil of conflicting emotions. What she saw instead was a clear and steady pattern, totally focused on; something. That would have been reassuring except that Tara had seemed similar laser like focus in some of her more delusional patients, they also believed they were on a mission for some higher power, of course in LJ's case that could be true.
Luckily it was visiting hours when the trio arrived in the hospital, which Willow concluded was just as well as she pitied the poor doctor who tried to get in LJ's way in her current mood. She decided to engage her daughter in conversation in the hopes of getting her to take things a little more slowly, “Dear I know we said we would wait on the questions but could you at least tell me what the plan is here?”
“I'm going to go into Sabrina's mind and bring her out.” LJ explained succinctly.
Willow frowned, “Well you'll forgive me for saying so dear but that sounds like the same plan we decided not to try earlier.”
LJ wasn't annoyed by the doubtful tone, “This is different, this time you both reach into my mind and anchor it. Then I do a sort of psychic bungee jump into the depths of Sabrina's mind. When the elastic pulls back then I bring Sabrina's consciousness with me.”
Willow was far from reassured by this explanation, “You just came up with this notion?”
“Actually it's not my idea.” LJ countered.
That made Willow even more uneasy, “Then who's is it?”
“Hers.” LJ smiled and pointed straight at Tara.
Her parents were still trying to make sense of than when they marched into Sabrina's room. There was a nurse checking the readings on the monitors next to the unconscious girl's bed, “Hi there, could we have a few moments alone with my girlfriend?” Even as she asked LJ had a hand on the nurses shoulder and the baffled young man was practically thrown out of the room.
LJ sat on the edge of Sabrina's bed and took her hand, “I remember sweetheart, one that fits this time, I promise.”
She let go of Sabrina's hand and turned to her still baffled looking parents, “We don't really need physical contact to make this work but it can't hurt.” She extended her hand towards Willow.
Willow was still far from certain about any of this but she took the proffered hand anyway. In turn Willow offered her free hand to Tara, who took it much more willingly.
As she felt the psychic link flow from her to Willow and on to Tara LJ steeled herself and took Sabrina's hand once more, I'm on my way lover.

Somewhere during her long conversation with Rebecca the dark corner of Sabrina's mind had become distinctly less dark. In fact it had come to resemble some sort of office, with Rebecca sat behind an ornate desk while Sabrina occupied a large easy chair set in front of it, “This place actually exists right?” Sabrina tapped the dark polished wood of the tabletop to emphasize what she meant.
Rebecca shrugged, “More or less, or at least it probably will exist.”
Sabrina just nodded, she had managed to get her head around the odd tenses involved in talking about events that had still to happen, “I really wish I could tell the others a bout this, are you sure I have to forget it all?”
“Positive.” Rebecca replied resolutely, “But It won't quite be 'all'. You'll remember me being here, and you'll remember the last thing I say to you before I go.”
Sabrina was partly mollified by that but it did raise a question, “And when exactly is that likely to be?”
Rebecca smiled, pleased at the chance the offer a dramatic flourish, “Now Sabrina.”
Sabrina was suitably surprised, “Now, you mean right now?”
“The light of the Earth is on her way to rescue you as we speak.” Rebecca saw the hesitation in Sabrina's face, “Don't worry she'll be as proud of you as you are of her.”
Sabrina smiled, “That's the last thing you say right?”
“Oh no,” Rebecca shook her head, “The lat thing I say is one word; twins.”
“Twins?” Sabrina puzzled over that, and her eyes went wide as she understood, “Twins?!”
Even as she yelled out Sabrina realized she was alone in the darkness again, except there was something there. A faint sensation that built around her, a warm sensation that she knew all to well, one that she had missed so much. As it wrapped around her Sabrina simply let herself sink into it, the course Rebecca had laid out was daunting but Sabrina couldn't wait to get started, I think I'll save the 'twins' thing for when I really want to freak Lydia out, She decided, and then felt like she had suddenly gone into free fall.

Willow was watching her daughter anxiously. LJ's eyes were shut and there was sweat on her brow. Willow was about to suggest the break off and try again later when she saw the smile form on LJ's lips and felt her daughter cast the psychic connection loose. Willow let go of LJ's hand and almost fell back into Tara's arms. LJ slumped on to the bed.
“Your sitting on my hand.” Sabrina murmured.
LJ held her breath and shifted her butt, “Is that better?”
Sabrina was still bleary, “I wasn't complaining, you have a nice butt.”
LJ leaned over and kissed her hard, which helped to bring Sabrina fully awake. When LJ broke off Sabrina asked, “How long have I been here?”
“About three weeks, I'm sorry I couldn't get you out sooner.” LJ apologized.
Sabrina smiled, “It's ok, Rebecca told me you'd be along and she kept me company while I waited.”
Willow looked at Tara with a pained expression, “Rebecca?”
Tara sighed, “Honey I think we had better clear our schedule for the next couple of days.” Because this is going to take some explaining.


Last edited by Sheridan on Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:07 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
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[center]4. “Tales Of The Fall”[/center]

The hospital staff had done their level best to stand between Sabrina, LJ, and the exit. The doctors had been emphatic that there was a whole battery of tests that had to be conducted before they could even consider releasing Sabrina.
Willow would have been inclined to take their side except she knew her daughter was not going to be thwarted in this and Willow also suspected that the medics wanted to run the test to satisfy their own curiosity as much as anything else. Not only had Sabrina been in an inexplicable coma but also she had come out of it in an equally unexplained manner.
It was Sabrina who finally ended the argument; “Look doc apart from being asleep was there anything else wrong with me?”
Doctor Hart was a middle aged man with a kindly face, currently twisted into a unhappy expression, “No, but that in itself can have physical consequences. Not to put to fine a point on it the inactivity has left you physically weak.”
“Well if I promise that she'll get plenty of rest and some properly supervised exercise will that be ok?” LJ demanded.
Hart's medical instincts warred with the practicalities of the situation and he decided on offering a compromise, “Perhaps, if you agree to wear an alert bracelet. And if it goes off you come straight back here and stay until I say you're fit to go?”
He was staring only at Sabrina as he spoke and she nodded quickly before LJ could say anything else, “It's a deal doc.”
“Very well then, if you can give us fifteen minutes we can get you out of here, and take things easy.” Hart insisted.
Sabrina doubted that was going to be possible but she didn't feel like lying to the doctor, “I'll do my best.”

Once they were out of the hospital and safely out of sight of the staff Sabrina slumped against LJ, who scooped her girlfriend into her arms.
“This is so undignified.” Sabrina complained half-heartedly.
LJ wasn't fooled, “You love it when I sweep you off your feet.”
Willow coughed politely, “Perhaps we should get home, if I remember rightly someone promised to explain what is going on?”
“So I did, and I will.” As she spoke LJ reached out and teleported the entire party home. “Just as soon as I put Sabrina to bed.”
“Hey I've just spent the last three weeks in bed.” Sabrina protested.
“That was a coma, and I'm not saying I'm going to leave you out. I think you can contribute just as well propped on some pillows.”
Since she was draped in LJ's arms Sabrina wasn't in a position to argue. LJ carried her up the stairs, and straight into LJ’s room. As she lowered Sabrina onto the bed she became aware that her parents were staring at her again.
“What?” LJ demanded.
“Dear in case you've forgotten Sabrina has her own room.” Tara stated diplomatically.
LJ looked at them like they were insane, and then looked sheepish as she realized she had forgotten. Even so that didn't change her decision, “Can we have a word out in the hallway?”
Willow and Tara retreated and LJ gave Sabrina a kiss before walking out and closing the door. “Ok before I start explaining about the big stuff there's one thing you're going to have to understand.”
“Which is?” Willow was doing her best to remain calm but events were wearing away at her patience.
LJ understood that and didn't react to her mother's irritated tone, “Which is that from my perspective I have spent a night without Sabrina for the last eighteen months.”
It was a shocking statement but Willow didn't find it surprising somehow, “You saw things when you were in the vortex, things that are going to happen.”
LJ looked pained, “It was more than just seeing, and I certainly hope that they aren't going to happen.” She chewed her lip, “Look I want to spend a few minutes alone with Sabrina but if you want to make a start on answering all those question you have trying checking the media grid for a couple of terms, 'Rockhopper' and 'Starshield', you should find them referenced under 'space'.”
Willow wanted to press for more information but could tell that was as much as she was going to get for the moment, “These things are important?”
“Everything may turn on them.” LJ replied with absolute conviction.

Downstairs in the living room Willow turned her attention to the computer and hesitated. She looked at Tara, “Do you think LJ is really ok?”
“If you mean do I think she's suffering some sort of mental problem? No.” Tara assured her, “Do I think something huge has happened to her? Yes. Willow the girl who went into that vortex is not the same one who came out.”
That was the conclusion Willow had been struggling to avoid, “So it was more than just a vision or a future flash.”
“A lot more.” Tara agreed.
“And since she isn't going to give us anything more at the moment I guess we do this search.” Willow conceded. “Computer start a search, material related to space projects referencing the terms Rockhopper or Starshield.”
Running search.” The computer announced and barely a second later, “Four thousand nine hundred and eighty seven references for Rockhopper, none for Starshield.”
“Well at least there's plenty to read on Rockhopper.” Tara commented amiably, until she saw the look on Willow's face. “What is it honey?”
Willow didn't reply directly, she addressed the computer instead, “Computer confirm no files on Starshield?”
Rechecking search, results confirmed.” The computer responded succinctly.
Now Willow turned to Tara, “LJ was sure this was something important but there isn't even one reference to it? Not even one thing that might be sort of related to it?”
Tara wasn't the biggest computer expert in the world but even she could see how weird that was. They had tried checking up on various obscure demonic stuff via the net and usually at least there was some reference to them, however obscure or inaccurate, “Either it doesn't exist, yet, or someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that there aren't any references to it.”
That latter possibility appealed to the hacker in Willow but she decided to concentrate on what they had turned up already rather than launching a fishing expedition, “Okay. Computer start at the top of the list, what is 'Rockhopper'?”
"In connection with space it is the colloquial name for the XAM project, a space vehicle intended to explore the economic potential of asteroid mining." The computer explained smoothly.
Willow was a little taken aback, "Is this thing theoretical or actual?"
"The vehicle is currently in construction in orbit."
Willow turned the Tara, "And this is the first time I've heard of it?"
"Well dear we have been a little busy with other things." Tara reminded her.
Willow accepted that, the latest breakthroughs in space technology hadn't been a high priority but now, "Computer how exactly is this Rockhopper supposed to work?"
"It is designed to use nuclear propulsion to rendezvous with asteroids that pass through earths orbital region and mine them."
Willow had a very bad feeling, "So essentially it’s a spaceship designed to go chop up big asteroids in Earth's neighbourhood?"
The computer needed a couple of seconds to parse the question but it finally answered, "Yes."
Willow groaned as she turned and walked back towards the stairs, "And I never liked Bruce Willis."
LJ was sharing a few inconsequential words with Sabrina, more interested in being close to one another than with what was being said. That changed when Willow and Tara reappeared in the bedroom doorway.
“How big was the asteroid?” Willow demanded without any preamble.
LJ was unfazed by that, “Big, not end of all life on Earth big but big enough to cause a disaster in China and south East Asia.”
Tara was a little taken aback by LJ’s tone but then it struck her, this is old news to her, “You’ve experienced all of this.” Tara stated.
Every rotten moment of the next two years,” LJ confirmed, then turned to Sabrina and smiled, “And a few good ones too.”
Willow braced herself and asked the obvious question, “How bad does it get?”
LJ looked at her mom and decided not to pull any punches, “After Starshield, or Rockhopper, or whatever you want to call it, failed they tried a last ditch nuclear strike. Some of the missiles malfunctioned. One of them landed on San Diego and detonated. You were at home that day mom.”
“Right, I see.” Willow had thought she was prepared but being told you had only months to live was still shocking.
Tara was almost as upset by the news as Willow but she saw the out, “I assume priority number one is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“If worse comes to worst,” LJ confirmed, “but I’m sort of hoping it won’t come to that. You see after the rock hits things really go downhill. Everything just falls apart, until of course they formed the Global Emergency Authority and deployed the Peacekeepers to restore order.”
LJ’s voice turned bitter and sarcastic as she mentioned the organization.
Sabrina grimaced, “Sounds like Phoebe would have been right at home.”
Willow remembered the leader of the Athenai, and had to agree with Sabrina. She turned to LJ, “I don’t imagine you just took all of this lying down.”
“We tried to take action even before the GEA formed. If all the higher ups wouldn’t see sense we were going to make them see it, courtesy of a little mind control.” She saw the shocked looks that got from Willow and Tara but just shrugged, “Hey at the time we had just run out of alternative. Besides when we tried it we found out someone else had beaten us to the punch. Some serious big bad was pulling the strings of all the factions; the GEA was just a front for them.”
“Who was this big bad?” Willow demanded, some demon was always scheming to take over the world or destroy it, and if it existed in the here and now she was going to find it and change its mind one way or another.
LJ dashed that idea, “We never found out. After we tried to intervene the GEA made nailing us a priority. We had to keep our heads down and work on ‘Plan B’, which brings us right back to today,” She looked at the others soberly, “If we don’t change the here and now we don’t have a future.”

[center]5. “On The Other Hand”[/center]

There was deep gloom in the bedroom as LJ finished; no one seemed to have anything much to say. Sabrina was as silent as the others but not because of the depressing tale, more because she was comparing it against something else. Finally she shook her head, “No sweetheart, that can’t be right.”
LJ shot her a wounded look, “You don’t believe me?”
“It’s not that Lydia, it’s just that I heard a different story from your sister.” Sabrina explained calmly.
If Sabrina was calm Willow was far from it, “Sabrina, LJ doesn’t have a sister.” She said it in a tone that suggested Sabrina was more than a little delusional.
Since it wasn’t an unreasonable suspicion Sabrina stayed calm, “She’s going to have one though, Rebecca Rosenberg.”
That struck a definite chord with Willow, “You saw her?”
“Large as life.” Sabrina stated definitely.
Willow couldn’t help feeling she already knew the answer to her next question but she had to ask, “So what did she look like?”
“Blonde, a little taller than you but her face resembled yours more than Tara’s. Definite family resemblance.” Sabrina assured her.
The description fitted with Willow’s encounter after their visit with the original Rebecca, “What did she tell you?” Willow asked softly.
Now Sabrina looked embarrassed, “Actually I don’t remember much of it, just like she told me I wouldn’t. I mainly remember how I felt about what she told me.”
As Sabrina hesitated Tara prompted her, “Go on dear.”
Sabrina frowned in concentration, “Well it ranged from, ‘you have to be kidding’, through, ‘wow’ to just being pretty happy with the way it’s all supposed to work out in the end.”
“Sounds like my sister enjoys being mysterious, I wonder where she gets that from?” LJ looked accusingly at her parents.
It just rolled off the couple. Tara smiled back at her daughter, “Actually dear I think your sister was the message,” she hesitated and cast a glance at Willow, assuming she really was here.
She was
, Willow confirmed, and continued out loud, “That makes sense. She couldn’t have to come to Sabrina from the future LJ saw.”
“Yeah but she hasn’t exactly provided us with any hints about exactly how we fix things.” LJ grumbled.
“I think that’s down to you sweetheart.” Sabrina suggested, “Besides I think it’s pretty obvious what we need to do; stop the rock.”
Tara nodded, “But we aren’t going to do that today, we did promise the doctor that Sabrina would rest. I think the world saving will wait until tomorrow.”

No one seemed inclined to argue with that and Willow and Tara walked out, leaving Sabrina and LJ alone. As soon as the door closed LJ leaned in and kissed Sabrina hungrily.
“It seems like forever since I’ve done that.” LJ whispered and stroked Sabrina’s hair.
“I’ve missed it too, and I missed the prom as well didn’t’ I?” Sabrina asked apologetically.
“Yeah but I’ll forgive you for that.” LJ offered magnanimously and kissed her gain.
This time when they broke Sabrina knew she had to bring up one other subject, “About why I missed the prom...”
LJ had been expecting this to come up and she cut Sabrina off by pressing a finger to her lover’s lips, “We had this conversation and I’m going to tell you now what I told you the other time. I know why you did what you did. If I had faced down Jessica Lazar I don’t think it would have worked out any differently. The woman invited death, she would have pushed and pushed until sooner or later we had to resolve it the hard way.”
The words resonated with Sabrina, she remembered the mad determination in Jessica’s mind, and had to agree with LJ’s conclusion. With that issue disposed of Sabrina’s mind skipped onto happier thoughts.
“You know there was one thing Rebecca did let me remember but I’m not sure is she wasn’t just trying to yank your chain.”
“What exactly did she say?” LJ asked hesitantly.

LJ’s voice echoed through the house, “TWINS?”

After leaving LJ and Sabrina alone Willow and Tara retreated to the kitchen, “So, this is pretty huge.” Willow commented as she poured herself a coffee.
“Hearing that you’re supposed to get blown up?” Tara’s voice was light since she sure that wasn’t what Willow had in mind.
Willow dismissed the comment as expected, “That was a shock but I’m not worried about it, that’s all just world saving, no big deal. Rebecca though, that is huge.”
“We’ve being discussing it as a theoretical possibility but now…” Tara left the words hanging.
“Now it isn’t theoretical.” Willow finished for her. Ever since they had recovered the data about the improved Tomarov technique from Oxford they had danced around committing to using it. Now it was clear that the time for talking was running out, biological clocks were ticking and the future was making their decision for them.
Tara wrapped her arms around Willow, “We still have a little time I think, and we do have to spend some time thinking about the whole world saving thing, however easy it might be.”
Willow laughed and was about to answer when LJ’s yell rattled the house.

When morning came everyone had enjoyed enough personal time to be able to focus on the small matter of the giant slab of rock threatening to fall on all of them. Since Sabrina was feeling physically stronger they had all gathered in the kitchen to share breakfast and ideas.
Willow started off with a question she had passed on yesterday, “LJ you said Starshield failed, how exactly? I mean was it just not powerful enough? Too late?”
“It blew up.” LJ answered succinctly, “The day they were supposed to be launching it from orbit on a ‘test flight’ it suffered some sort of catastrophic failure, made a pretty spectacular fireball in all the media coverage.”
“And nobody knew what it was really doing?” Sabrina asked dubiously.
“Some people tried to tell the real story but it sounded like just another conspiracy theory, and people had gotten pretty blasé about the whole idea of asteroids smashing into the earth.” LJ hoped she wasn’t blushing as she explained because she had been one of those who had laughed at the notion.
Willow deliberately ignored her daughter’s embarrassment, “”So it sounds like our first stop is figuring out what went wrong with the Starshield. Fix that and this whole thing goes away with no one any the wiser.”
LJ didn’t look convinced, “If it’s powerful enough, assuming it can be fixed.” She remembered the future she had lived through too vividly to believe it could all be repaired that easily.
“Fair points,” Tara conceded, “and we need someone who can provide us with answers.”
“And who do we know that can analyze the workings of a state of the art spaceship?” Sabrina asked rhetorically.
LJ smiled, “Well Reese does owe us one after I got the tuning crystal back for him.”
Willow looked dubious, “Actually dear I think we owe him one. If he hadn’t sent the tuning crystal back through time none of us would be here.”
LJ had to concede that but smiled mischievously as she answered, “True but as it happens I do have another ace up my sleeve.”

Reese rubbed his eyes and sipped from the cup of coffee resting on the table. He grimaced as he discovered it was now stone cold. He had spent every moment since LJ and her parents departed restoring the tuning crystal to the heart of the machine and going over the data from the near disastrous test, trying to see what exactly had gone wrong while at the same time trying to set things up for another try.
I really think its time to quit Reese, you are far beyond the point where you can function effectively.” System tried to sound stern but its speech synthesizer wasn’t really up to it.
Rees sighed and threw up his hands, “I know that system but we are already so far behind, we can’t afford to lose anymore time.”
The computer considered pointing out that attempting to catch up had nearly wrecked everything yesterday but decided that would only antagonize Reese.
With no further comment from System Reese turned back to the data on the display, only to be interrupted again when a quartet of figures materialized in the lab. He was surprised to see Sabrina with the others but that didn’t make him any happier. Tiredness and frustration had worn away his usual air of geniality, “Look I’m sorry but whatever it is I don’t have time right now.”
“You’re still trying to figure out what happened yesterday.” LJ wasn’t offended by his attitude and spoke softly.
That actually made Reese feel worse about his irritable manner, “”I really am sorry but...”
“The maintenance people failed to notice that a power regulator was faulty in their last inspection. It allowed a surge through the grid and that’s what caused the runaway, nothing to do with your equipment.” LJ recited the words as if by rote.
Reese looked far from convinced, “And who told you that?”
LJ had the killer reply all ready, “You did. You’re going to spend a week tearing your hair out trying to figure out what you did wrong before someone in maintenance finally admits to the screw up.”
Reese just stared at her and it was left to System to respond, “I think we are going to have to make some time Reese to listen to whatever Miss Maclay has to tell us.”
“No kidding.” Was all Reese could manage.

[center]6. “In The Wires”[/center]

LJ watched Reese intently as she laid out her story for him. He was obviously bemused to start with but as she filled in more and more details she could see the wheels turning in his brain, figuring out the possibilities, coming up with options and ideas. It was something she was all to familiar with courtesy of the memories of the next two years and it came as a relief to see him get with the program so quickly.
As she finished he sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, “Well that explains a few a things.”
“Like what?” Willow demanded.
“Like why the Rockhopper seemed to attract unlimited funds, why a couple of hack physicists I know seemed to have no problem getting grants,” he let that thought trail off, he was in danger of going off at a tangent.
LJ let it pass, “So its not a complete shocker but we still need to do something about it.”
Reese nodded, “What did you have in mind?”
“Couple of things but first and foremost we need to get the detailed spec on Starshield, and the rock.” There was a lot more but it could wait.
Reese frowned, “So nothing big then.”
“I know it’s going to take some hacking but I’ll help out with that.” Willow offered confidently.
Reese didn’t look reassured, “We’re talking about more than a little hacking. If this hasn’t gotten out on to the grid then we’re talking about maximum security with special measures, the kind of stuff that will fry your computer and have the FBI on your doorstep before the smoke clears if it goes wrong.”
“So how do we get round that?” Willow had never let a little firewall stand in her way and she wasn’t going to start now.
Seeing the resolute look on Willow’s face Reese racked his brain for the option least likely to get him jail time, “”There might be a way; how do you feel about VR?”

The image that stretched out in front of Willow had a certain fairytale beauty to it. There were shimmering threads of light crisscrossing the environment, intersecting with huge geometric shapes that floated in nothingness, suspended it seemed by those bright threads. It was purely an artificial interpretation of the structure of the net but impressive nonetheless.
Normally Willow wouldn’t have been able to see any of this, she would have been effectively inside one of those big geometric objects, visiting a bank, playing a game, or whatever program the shape enclosed in its protective firewall. Willow was enjoying her privileged view of this world courtesy of System’s processing power and her own magic. As pretty as it was the environment didn’t really hold her attention; Willow wasn’t interested in the perfect geometric patterns of the lines, she was interested in finding a flaw.
Working hard to suppress a sense of vertigo Willow scanned the ‘horizon’ until she spotted what she had been expecting, an area where the threads of data bent and curved, diverting around a seemingly empty patch of the network, or being shoved out of the way by something that doesn’t want to be noticed.
As she focused on the empty patch it zoomed towards her until the emptiness filled Willow’s entire view. Willow swallowed to push down a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea, renewing her vow to never set foot in VR again. Reaching out a virtual hand Willow concentrated on a small spell, a variation on one designed to summon up a bright light. As it collided with the dark something the blackness crumbled to reveal a vast silvery cube. A cube covered in pyramid shaped spikes that just screamed, ‘go away!’
Willow wasn’t about to be intimidated by this display of computer-generated hostility; she put a finger on the tip of one of the pyramids and light leapt out from it to the points of its four neighbours. The light radiated outwards, progressively forming a grid that connected them one to the other. Finally as the light touched one of the pyramids its sides opened up like the petals of flower, to reveal a dark red gem nestling in the centre of it. Willow floated along until she was looking directly at it. Regardless of how iron clad the security around the military’s private piece of cyberspace was it had to communicate with the outside world some times.
The access point was naturally locked with an array of fiendishly complex ciphers but that was the easy part as far as Willow was concerned. She had long since given up on trying to crack security codes like this one and come up with a simpler method based on the old familiarity glamour, basically she just made the computer think it had seen the codes it expected to see. After that the great wall enclosing all that data crumbled and Willow was inside.
She found herself surrounded by a vast collection of deep dark military secrets, the shadowy forms of machines that were being kept away from the public gaze. Willow was oblivious to all the toys; she was focused entirely on a very unmilitary object hanging in the very centre of the collection, a great uneven mass of rock, ominously labeled, Nemesis.

Seeing the screen fill with data Tara turned away from it to look at Willow again. As much as she had assured Willow otherwise Tara had to admit her partner did look kind of a geek wearing the VR headset and the body suit. She kept the smile off her face as Willow peeled the goggles off and clambered off the couch.
“Did you see what I saw?” Willow asked as she rubbed her eyes, trying to reorient herself on the physical world.
“We did.” Reese confirmed, “And system is grabbing everything about Starshield and the rock as we speak.”
“Nemesis,” Willow corrected him, “They called the rock Nemesis.”
Sabrina snorted, “Not exactly imaginative.”
“But very apt.” LJ pointed out. She looked at the screen that was filled with an image of the asteroid. She had never seen the thing that had brought her so much misery and it looked innocuous enough. It was a lumpy thing that looked like it had been made by squeezing a bunch of smaller rocks together. It was no different from the pictures of other pieces of space rock she had seen in junior science classes. Its just random chance that turned this one into a monster. Even as she was thinking that LJ couldn’t quite believe it.
I have the complete specifications of the Starshield available.” System chimed in and interrupted everyone’s chain of thought.
Willow dropped the headset onto the couch and tried not to think about what sort of rats nest her hair had turned into, “Let’s see it System.”
The image on the screen was reminiscent of a donut. A fat ring made up the bulk of the body of the Starshield with a small cylindrical body set in the hole. There were all sorts of protrusions and lumps marring the surface of the torus. None of the meant a great deal to any of the witches but Reese was in his element.
“Is it designed for rotational gravity?” The physicist asked eagerly.
Partly but the ring also incorporates a particle accelerator based weapon, substantially more powerful than anything specified in the public information on the Rockhopper.”
That got LJ’s attention, “Powerful enough to deal with, Nemesis?”
System took the long way round answering her question, “The mission profile calls for the Starshield to identify weak points in the structure of the Nemesis rock and use the beam to fragment it. Any large pieces which can’t be reduced by this method will be taken care of by drilling into the rock and planting tactical nuclear devices.”
“But will it work?” LJ demanded.
Given the available information on Nemesis and the firepower available on the Starshield, yes in theory it should work. System finally confirmed.
LJ let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Her greatest fear about trying to avert this disaster was that the Starshield would turn out to be incapable of dealing with Nemesis.
Willow was also relieved but she was already thinking about more practical matters, “That’s the theory but what about the practice, why doesn’t it work?”
LJ frowned and piped up again, “ I might have something that will help answer that, something else that future Reese gave me.” She walked over to the keyboard and closed her eyes. As she did so LJ summoned up the strings of symbols that she had burned into her brain over the months she had worked with Reese on the plan to access the past. Her fingers flew over the keyboard and the symbols flowed across the screen, forming three distinct equations/spells.
Reese stared at the equations. The notation was his, and the way they were laid out told him that these were his work, however “I don’t recognize what those are for, and I certainly don’t see how they relate to the Starshield.”
LJ looked disappointed, “You said they were important but you never did describe what they were supposed to do.”
“We can sort that out later.” Willow interrupted firmly, “Right now we need to know what’s wrong with the Starshield, what makes it blow up?”


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: !!!NEW STORY!!! 11/5/05
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:11 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
[center]7. “Angle Of Approach”[/center]

There was total silence in the room as everyone waited for System to answer. When the computer did it was a distinct anticlimax, “There is nothing obvious in the data that indicates any cause of the explosion.”
“Well it blew up,” LJ snapped vehemently, “it vaporized itself and left the world wide open to that damn rock.”
Tara laid a hand on her arm, “Take it easy dear. System I take it that’s just your first opinion?”
Yes Doctor Maclay. Analyzing all design specifications in detail will take some time, especially as I have to avoid using too much bandwidth to transfer data, or risk the authorities becoming aware of our having breached their security.” System assured them.
“So what are we supposed to do in the meantime?” LJ demanded.
Might I suggest that a little personal time would be advisable?” The computer responded.
“Are you suggesting we take the day off?” Willow was more than a little incredulous.
Before the computer could respond Sabrina jumped in, “That’s a great idea, I could use a little sunshine, maybe a little shopping.”
LJ was initially as taken aback by the notion as her mother but listening to Sabrina a thought occurred to her, “You know looking at it one way I haven’t had a day off in two years.”
That comment forestalled further objections from Willow. Instead she looked thoughtful; “I suppose we can’t do anything until System finishes its analysis.”
It is difficult to imagine any practical course of action without knowing if there is a flaw in the Starshield.” System agreed emphatically.
“We can call you the instant we find anything.” Reese added.
With that overwhelming consensus Tara wrapped an arm around Willow, “So what are going to do with our day off?”
“I’ve got some ideas.” Willow commented slyly.
LJ looked appalled, “Let’s get out of here before they get to lovey dovey and ruin the mood.”
As soon as the lab was empty Reese put a question to System, “Do you really expect it to take all day to analyze that data?”
It is a possibility but regardless of that the stress levels in our friends suggested they needed a diversion.” The computer asserted.
“Maybe.” Reese conceded.
There is also the matter of the equations LJ relayed to us. I think we should study those in more detail.”
Reese frowned, “Are you trying to divert me System?”
Perish the thought Reese.” System replied unconvincingly.

As they walked through the mall Sabrina couldn’t help frowning, “This isn’t exactly how I imagined spending the afternoon you know.”
LJ smiled and slipped an arm around Sabrina’s waist, “Well there were a couple of other things I wanted to do, first. Besides I’m not sure we have all the privacy I’d like at home.”
“Well I don’t think your moms would exactly be shocked.” Sabrina observed archly.
LJ raised an eyebrow, “You think not?”
Sabrina had the feeling she was walking into something here but couldn’t help herself, “What do you mean?”
“I mean I remember everything about the next couple of years, including all your little secret turn ons.” LJ’s smile was positively predatory.
Sabrina thought that over for a moment, before replying with a weak “Oh.”
LJ took pity on Sabrina and swung her into a clinch, “You are kind of kinky Sabrina Harrington but as it turns out I like that in a girl.”
Sabrina wasn’t sure what to say so she changed the subject, “ If you had told me that we were going shopping I could have tried to return that prom dress.”
LJ gently punched her arm, “Don’t you dare, we’re going to find an occasion for you to wear that.”
Try as she might Sabrina couldn’t really imagine an occasion where the rather clingy but formal gown would fit in but she wasn’t going to argue the point, “If you say so. What are we shopping for then?”
“You’ll see.” LJ responded enigmatically.
“Are you going to buy me a present? Because my birthday isn’t for months in case you’re still confused about when this is.” Sabrina teased her.
“It is a gift but is the kind you can give anytime, the kind you buy from here.” LJ added a sweeping gesture with her comment.
Sabrina followed it and found herself staring into a jeweler’s window, more precisely at the display of rings in the window. She tired to think of a way in which she might be misunderstanding LJ’s meaning but there really was only one way to take it, “You’re parents will kill you, or kill me, more likely me.”
LJ put an arm around her, “Sweetheart I’m not suggesting we run away to Las Vegas. Look if things work out the way Rebecca showed you we’ll have a long time together and we can wait until after college and whatever we decide to do then but there’s no reason we can’t get engaged now right?”
Sabrina thought that over, “That feels right.”
“Okay, now if we can’t make things right, if things go badly, well then this time I’m going to make sure I get you a ring that fits and then we will go to Vegas or wherever we can find someone to do the ceremony, assuming you want to?”
Sabrina didn’t hesitate, “Of course I do, so long as you tell your moms,” she was willing to face anything to be with her Lydia, except possibly the wrath of Willow Rosenberg.
“Deal, and I’ll make sure to keep them away from any sharp objects when I do.” LJ promised, more or less jokingly.

Willow’s day off wasn’t exactly proving to be relaxing, it being pretty hard to relax when your butt was hanging out of a hospital gown and you were surrounded by strange medical machines, several of which she had been uncomfortably intimate with lately. She was very glad when the door of the room opened and doctor Anders returned.
“Good news Willow, we’ve run the tests and the eggs are fine. In excellent shape in fact given your age.” The doctor announced.
Willow decided to take that as a compliment, “”So there won’t be any problems?”
“I don’t see any, we’ve already had success using the new techniques you provided us with.” Seeing the startled expression on Willow’s face Anders hastily added, “The material proved to have wider applications to fertility treatment. We haven’t dealt with anyone else with the particular genetic, ‘factor’, you and doctor Maclay share.”
That was a relief to Willow. The notion that there might be some unsuspecting couple out there with an LJ on the way had been more than a little disturbing.
Anders had one other thing she wanted to bring up “I did try to backtrack the source of the research but as you said the college seemed remarkably uninterested in pursuing any claims to ownership.”
“I did say they wouldn’t make trouble.” Willow observed.
Anders was tempted to ask how she could have been so sure but was prevented from doing so as there was a knock on the door and Tara stuck her head in.
“Are we all finished in here?” She asked.
“All done as soon as I get my clothes on.” Willow assured her.
As Tara stepped in and closed the door Anders looked between the two of them and decided to ask the one question that had been bothering her since the pair had appeared without warning a few hours earlier, “I was wondering what prompted you to decide to do this now, I mean the last time we spoke you didn’t seem to have any immediate plans to take action?”
How much do we want to share with her? Willow asked Tara silently.
Not the details but we do have an investment in making sure the clinic survives, Tara pointed out.
Willow nodded and gave doctor Anders a serious look, “There is something, it’s not certain and if things go well it won’t be an issue…”
“But.” Anders prompted her.
“How long could the clinic function if it was cut off, I mean if you couldn’t count on anything coming in from the rest of the world?” Willow asked as nonchalantly as she could.
“It has some emergency equipment but realistically not more than a few days.” Anders responded warily.
Willow frowned, “In that case I would start looking to upgrade you emergency capabilities, a lot.”
From anyone else that would have prompted the doctor to laugh and recommend they see a psychiatrist. The thing was though that she knew there was something about this particular couple, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on and suspected it wouldn’t be good for her own sanity to try. Regardless of that she had a very strong feeling that should start looking into the availability of bottled water and fuel cells.



[center]8. “Nemesis”[/center]

Reese stared at the display on the screen trying to further confirm what he suspected, “These equations are fractal System.”
An intriguing analysis, unfortunately one that can only be confirmed by, ‘incanting’ them seems the appropriate term.” System pointed out.
Reese nodded. Fractals had started life as a mathematical oddity, a family of simple equations that produced elaborate patterns and images. After a time it occurred to someone that if simple equations could produce complex images then perhaps complex images from the real world could be turned into simple equations. When they succeeded fractals became part integral to the compression of data for transmission over the Internet and for streaming video. Now it appeared to Reese that his future self was using fractals with a lot of magic to send him a message, a big message.
“I don’t think we have time to go into further at the moment.” Reese commented reluctantly.
Indeed.” System agreed, “The others will be back shortly and we should at least appear to have been focusing exclusively on the analysis.”
“You really are getting too human you know that don’t you?” Reese observed.
System didn’t get the chance to reply as the quartet reappeared in the lab.

Willow had been wondering about exactly what LJ and Sabrina had been up to on their day out but the pair had been smugly silent and Willow couldn’t exactly push without explaining what she and Tara had been up to, which might deflate that smugness. Willow amused herself with the thought for a moment but decided it would be better to let both their little secrets come out in their own good time.
Instead Willow turned her attention to Reese, “So have we got anything to work with?”
“Better ask System.” Reese suggested.
I’ve run engineering analyses on the mechanics of the Starshield, and even analyzed the underlying physics of its propulsion and weapon systems.” The computer explained.
“And?” Willow prompted, already suspecting the answer.
On a theoretical basis there is no reason why the Starshield should not complete its mission.” System admitted.
The smile disappeared from LJ’s face, “Well it damn well didn’t!”
She flushed as everyone turned their attention on her, “Sorry but it blew up, the rock hit!”
System was naturally unperturbed, “I am not denying that LJ, I am simply pointing out that based on the theoretical data stored in the computer system it should not have happened. There is of course always something of a gap between theory and practice.”
“If someone had screwed up or cut corners that’s not going to show up in their database.” Sabrina offered up that comment, she had seen plenty of occasions with the Athenai when what went into documents and records bore little resemblance to anything that had actually happened.
“Well that would a lot harder to find out by definition.” Willow pointed out, chewing her lip as she turned over the options.
Sabrina was one step ahead on that as well though, “Not really, we just have to and look at the hardware in person.”
System did a quick check of the computer files they had accessed, “Starshield is a highly classified military project, the records indicate that security forces are permitted to use lethal force to protect it.”
“Shoot first and ask questions later.” Tara murmured unhappily.
LJ heard that but shook her head, “Come on mom, you really think that a bunch of guards with guns are really going to be more dangerous than a demon’s lair, the two of us can handle it.”
“The two of you?” Willow asked warily, “When did we decide who was going to do this? For that matter when did we decide we were going to do it?”
LJ sighed, “Come on mom Sabrina is the expert on disguise glamours, and if she’s going I’m going. And as to whether we do it or not, well does anyone have a better idea?”
That question was met with a thoughtful silence which LJ let drag on for a few heartbeats before going on, “That’s kind of what I thought. System can you narrow down what we need to look at?”
That’s fairly simple actually LJ, there is only one source of energy that could have created an explosion of the magnitude you suggest.” The computer assured her, “That would be the nuclear energy cells.”
Nuclear energy cells?” Sabrina was suddenly anxious.
They are quite contained and safe in principle.” System tried to be reassuring.
It didn’t really work because Sabrina hadn’t forgotten the machines earlier comments, “Which are the only things which could have blown up the Starshield.”
LJ put an arm round her; “Well we’ll just have to make sure we don’t prod them too hard, won’t we?”

The one piece of good news about checking the power cells was that the devices were firmly earthside and not in orbit with the bulk of the nearly completed Starshield. It was one thing to move nonchalantly through a factory complex and blend in, quite another to pass unnoticed in the utterly alien environment of zero gee in earth orbit.
That wasn’t enough to make Sabrina feel any easier about infiltrating the place.
“They aren’t going to just leave the nuclear material just lying around the place.” LJ reminded her.
“Right, they’ll be really careful, because they wouldn’t want it to blow up or anything would they?” Sabrina replied pointedly.
LJ didn’t really have an answer to that, after all they were here looking for some kind of screw up in this place, and I really wish she hadn’t mentioned it.
The inside of the facility did calm LJ’s attack of nerves somewhat. It was broken into two distinct halves. In one they were walking through there quite a few people around but they were heavily out numbered by robots and automated machinery, all dedicated to the manufacture and testing of components that LJ recognized from the briefing System had given them. The other half of the complex was devoid of people and the only way that LJ could tell what was happening there was by checking out the big screens mounted on the thick armored wall that surrounded the ‘hot’ area of the factory.
“I hope you aren’t thinking of teleporting in there.” Sabrina commented sternly.
LJ shook her head, “We agreed we would just get some sensor readings.”
“Yeah but some of us have been know to change plans at the last minute.” Sabrina said it in an innocuous way but she was watching LJ like a hawk.
Truthfully LJ had been considering ways of spinning a forcefield that would let her get a closer look at the nuclear components. She had however come to the conclusion that anything that would screen out the radiation would also screen out all sight and sound, rendering it a little pointless.
“I promise I’m going to stick with the plan this time.” LJ assured her, “Of course if you want to be the one who goes and gets the readings on the nuclear components…”
“I’ll be just fine checking the mechanical stuff thank you.” Sabrina stated hastily.
LJ just smiled and headed towards the big screens.
System had tried to explain to Sabrina that the ‘mechanical stuff’ was actually a sophisticated electromagnetic conversion system designed to direct the nuclear energy of the modules into propulsion and weaponry to make the Starshield work. As far as Sabrina was concerned they were just big pieces of metal, which made them ‘mechanical stuff’.
The spell Sabrina was using was a very old one. It had begun its life as a simple incantation that could be cast on gold to determine its purity, very handy in an era where a gold coin might not be all it seemed. The Athenai had developed the simple form of the charm into a spell that could be using for determining the quality of any substance from gemstones to drugs, including high tech alloys. The other staff working around the components looked at Sabrina and went back to what they were doing. They didn’t even pay attention when Sabrina made her passes over the piece being worked. The magic fluxed and flowed over the metal work but there was nothing visible to Sabrina, which meant the piece was exactly what it was supposed to be, which is one down and about twenty more to go.
LJ found the technicians monitoring the nuclear processing just as accommodating. The magic she was using was the same thing that her mom used to do her hacking. She would have used it remotely except for one small problem; the facility had absolutely no external computer access. Some higher up had decided that the risk of some hacker messing with the computers that were controlling the shaping of nuclear materials outweighed the inconvenience of having to send information by courier and wait hours rather than seconds for a response.
One of the technicians turned to look at LJ as she placed the tablet she was carrying down on the console, “hey Fred.”
The greeting was causal and LJ responded with a nod and smile that seemed to satisfy the man as he turned back to the display in front of him. As he turned away LJ traced a pattern on the screen of the tablet and real time information for the computers monitoring the nuclear components flowed into the device.
Despite all her Slayer instincts and experience LJ still jumped when Sabrina tapped her on the shoulder, “Finished?”
LJ quickly composed herself, “Just about, I take it you’ve finished with the metalwork.”
Sabrina nodded, “Yeah and according to the spell its all as advertised.”
“Okay, we’ll have to let System look at these numbers to be sure but I’m guessing he won’t find anything there either.” LJ wasn’t certain but there was a vibe about this place that said the people here weren’t playing around, they took their work very seriously.
Sabrina frowned, “Which leaves us without a lot of options.”
LJ knew that was true but she wasn’t going to give up just yet, “Like I say, we can’t be certain until System gets a look at this information. If it says it’s all on the level then we’ll start figuring out the next move.”
“Well if that means we can get out of here then I can live with that.” Sabrina conceded eagerly.
LJ was more than happy to go along with that and the pair strolled towards the exit.

The woman had been doing her level best not to stare at LJ and Sabrina, terrified of drawing attention to herself. As soon as they were gone she made her excuses and practically ran into the staff locker room to grab her phone. The terminal she called answered after a single ring and she cut off all pleasantries, “We had visitors, the sort who could cause serious trouble.”


[center]9. “Public Disclosure”[/center]

The little group in the lab sat silently as System digested the data in the handheld. Willow couldn’t stand it any longer, “All the structural parts were completely solid?”
It was the third time Willow had asked, albeit with different phrasing. Sabrina didn’t take offence however, she was grateful for the excuse to escape the thoughts that were bothering her, “Rock solid, they were exactly what they were supposed to be, at least as far as I can match my magic against System’s engineering specifications.”
Willow knew that was a very good match in fact and couldn’t justify pushing the girl any further on the subject, not with drawing the ire of LJ.
She was spared having to come up with another conversational gambit as System finished its checks, “The nuclear readings are all within the specified parameters. Unless the data is being falsified at source, which I believe I would have been able to detect, there appears to be no flaws in the manufacturing of the power modules.”
LJ was appalled, “That just leaves a screw up, all this chaos because someone pressed the wrong button?”
“There is one last option,” Sabrina hated bringing it up but someone had to, “sabotage.”
That was something none of the others had wanted to think of, Tara least of all, because it’s insane. Even without any fore knowledge attacking the Starshield was close to suicidal, “I have a hard time visualizing anyone doing that.”
Sabrina shrugged, “That’s assuming they knew that Rockhopper is really Starshield. I can think of a few people who might want to sabotage Rockhopper; commercial competition, the more extreme eco freaks who don’t want us polluting space. Any of those might want Rockhopper stopped.”
That wasn’t something that the others had considered but know she thought of it Willow had to admit it made sense, “Accident or sabotage, the only way to counter either is to be watching the whole program twenty four seven. That means a lot of heavy duty scrying…” Willow tailed off as she saw the unhappy expression on Tara’s face, “What’s the matter?”
“I just don’t see how we can maintain that kind of surveillance on something so big, and I’m not even sure that we would know a fatal mistake if we saw it until it was too late.” Tara could see what she was saying wasn’t going down well but it had to be said.
LJ was too upset to be polite, “So what do we do? Just go up to them and say, ‘hey fellas we’ve had a vision of the future and your expensive ship is going to go boom’.”
Before either of LJ’s parents could say anything Sabrina answered her girlfriend’s sarcasm with complete sincerity, “Yes sweetheart I think that is exactly what we should do.”
Willow’s eyes went wide and she was going to question Sabrina’s sanity, until once again she saw the expression on Tara’s face, and realized where she had been heading with her original comment, “but baby, you know what happens when we get mixed up with the military, and this would be a hundred times worse.” Willow turned to Sabrina, “We wouldn’t be dealing with some little secret team like Colonel Finn’s. The kind of people you’re talking about are the ones we’ve been more than happy to have think magic exists only in my books.” The one we will never get away from once they see what my daughter can do.
LJ let the interchange wash over her as she recalled images from the future she had seen, what’s a little loss of privacy compared to saving the world?
“I think unless we have any better ideas then we have to do it, if we make them believe maybe we can just nudge things in the right direction.”
With the remainder of the family more or less enthusiastically supporting the notion Willow through up her hands, “Okay so we should plan it out, we’ll see you later Reese.” She called out absent mindedly to the physicist
Reese just nodded as they teleported out. As soon as they were gone System spoke up, “You could have suggested an alternative Reese.”
“I have no idea what’s in the fractal equations,” Reese pointed out, “and if this was a practical alternative wouldn’t my future self have mentioned that to LJ?”
System knew Reese far to well to take that at face value, “You however suspect what they contain?”
“Suspect.” Reese conceded, “Hope certainly. Until we know however I’m not going to distract the ladies from what they need to do.”

Admiral Lewis Haas was forty-seven years old even if he looked eighty-seven. When the Starshield project was first proposed he had fought a vigorous campaign to get it put under Navy command, the Starshield was a ship after all. Every passing month since he had succeeded it had come to seem more and more of a Pyrrhic victory, should have left the ulcers to the damn flyboys.
He barely acknowledged the salutes of the guards as he had his way to his quarters, quarters that he slept alone in since his wife hadn’t received the security clearance necessary to stay at the command centre, which led to arguments that made those that had occurred with his political masters look positively genteel. It was for that reason that that Admiral Haas didn’t realize he wasn’t alone for several seconds after he closed the door.
When he did realize he turned very slowly, he was tired after all and that feeling of being watched might be nothing more than irrational paranoia. The two red haired women standing in his living quarters dispelled that idea. From their looks they had to be mother and daughter and they appeared to be unarmed so Haas felt fairly safe to just turn, open the door, and yell for the guards. This sound plan fell apart when he found that the door simply refused to budge, and there was an odd hollow sound to the thumps when he started banging on it.
“That’s a total waste of time you know,” LJ pointed out calmly, “We didn’t go to all the trouble of getting in here just so you could have us arrested, or thrown in the brig, or whatever it is you do.”
That was exactly what Haas had in mind. Seeing as it wasn’t happening at the moment he settled for information gathering, “Who the hell are you.”
“That’s not important right now.” Willow snapped, she knew it was probably futile but she wasn’t going to make it any easier for them to identify her by using names, “What we have to tel you is what matters.”
“We know all about Project Starshield. We know the what, the why, and the how.” LJ announced.
“Do you indeed?” Haas responded noncommittally.
“Oh yeah, we know far more than you do about it in fact,” LJ assured him, “we know how it ends.”
“Ah, so we’re here to make threats are we?” Haas growled.
“Willow shook her head, “Not threats, more like a vision of things to come.”
Since that wasn’t remotely what Haas had been expecting he simply stood staring at the pair.
“It’s true Admiral, I’ve seen it, hell I’ve been there. The day the Starshield powers up to head out to Nemesis it explodes, and nothing but nothing will stop Nemesis, especially not throwing a bunch of nukes at it.” LJ finished emphatically.
“And you’re here to just warn me for the good of all mankind with your psychic prophecies.” Haas had pulled himself together and his voice dripped sarcasm.
Willow ignored the tone, “We’re not psychics Admiral we’re witches.”
“Oh well that’s different then.” Haas was clearly more interested in ending the exchange than listening to any more nonsense.
Willow chose to take the words at face value however, “Yes it is admiral, and you’ll see why in a second. Just remember what we’ve said. Something is going to go very badly wrong with Starshield, and that isn’t something any of us wants.” With that Haas suddenly found himself alone.
The Admiral’s brain refused to accept the fact that the two had simply dematerialized in front of him. His sense of reason insisted on him checking the entire living space for any technological means of creating what he had seen but there was nothing there that hadn’t been there the previous morning. Having eliminated that he shifted his attention to the watch on his wrist. He tapped a button and the liquid crystal display shifted to an image of the two witches, so they were definitely here, I’ll have to apologize to security about making me wear this thing.
Trying the door handle established that it was now functioning normally but Haas decided not to bother summoning the guards in the corridor beyond. Instead he activated the comms terminal on his living room table, “Activate Alpha security channel, connect to central security office.
The response was near instantaneous, “Central here sir.”
“I have visual data for you, I want you to identify the two women,” he hesitated for a moment, “and I want a full sweep on the Starshield.”
A full sweep?” The voice of central sounded alarmed.
“Every nut and bolt.” Haas confirmed, “And I want it started now.”

[center]10. "Right Off"[/center]

LJ's sleep was riddled with nightmares, all of which centered on the catastrophe of the Nemesis strike. Some were memories of the post disaster world her memory insisted she had lived through, others were twisted imaginings of the way things might be this time. Her imagination was just conjuring up the image of the entire family standing together while a thousand nukes dropped on their head, when a shrill beeping snapped her awake.
She blinked in the darkness and her heart jumped as Sabrina rested a hand on her shoulder and murmured sleepily, "Turn that thing off so we can get some sleep, or break it so it doesn't ever wake us again."
"That would be a bad idea Sabrina, especially under the circumstances."
It took a moment for LJ to realize that the electronic voice didn't belong to the house computer but to "System? Why are you hacking into our household computer?"
"Because it was the best way to avoid leaving a trail that might connect us." The normally unwavering calm tone of the computer sounded frantic somehow, "I suggest you dress and gather in Professor Rosenberg's study."
Willow and Tara had been having a parallel discussion with System, courtesy of the AI's multitasking ability. Even so they hustled into the study a good sixty seconds after LJ and Sabrina and Willow saw a distinct look of impatience on her daughters face as she walked in but ignored it, more worried about what had prompted the AI to invade their privacy in such a cavalier fashion.
She wasn’t left wondering for long, “Thirty two minutes ago the Starshield exploded in orbit.”
The announcement was met with sheer disbelief, “I though the nuclear power cells were still on Earth?” LJ asked uncertainly.
They are.” System confirmed.
That placid response turned LJ’s confusion into rage, “You told us they were the only things on that ship that could cause the explosion, I trusted you to know what you were talking about!”
System didn’t respond to the implied attack on its abilities, “I said that and it was true, it is still true, no component of the Starshield could have created that explosion.”
Tara grasped the implication, the possibility that they had all been avoiding as best they could, “it was an attack, a bomb.”
An attack yes,” the computer confirmed, “but not a bomb. When Reese and I were first investigating the physical properties of magic I had to learn to interpret some very subtle readings. I’ve detected similar readings in the telemetry recorded at the moment Starshield was destroyed.”
As soon as Willow heard the explanation she saw the logic, “Magic, right, how else would you get past all that security? We had to use plenty just to get a look at their machinery. If you actually wanted to do it harm…”
System waited for a moment to let that idea sink in with the others before it offered up the rest of the bad news, “Your own recent magic use has caused one other problem. Admiral Haas has issued orders via the FBI for your arrest. You have perhaps fifteen minutes before you have armed police on your front lawn.”
“Oh well that’s just great, we try to save his ship, he ignores us, and now he wants to blame us.” LJ growled disgustedly.
Willow wasn’t any happier about it but she tried to sound more philosophical, “it was the risk we took when we went to him.”
LJ wasn’t going to be deflected from anger and despondency that easily, “And it was all for nothing.”
Sabrina had remained silent but now she spoke up, “That’s not true sweetheart. I don’t know for sure, but I have a strong feeling that the Starshield never flew in Rebecca’s story either.”
“Meaning that we haven’t blown it, there’s still a way.” Willow seized on the possibility,
System added its own optimistic note, “Reese may have some ideas in that respect also. The material from the future is complex but may contain options.”
Against her will LJ felt the stirrings of hope, “So what do we do now?”
“We get out of here,” Willow responded firmly, “and then we figure out a plan and stop that rock, regardless of what anyone else says.”

Twelve minutes later a SWAT team kicked in the front door, and found an empty house and a note set on the living room coffee table, with or without you, we’re going to save the world.

[center]TO BE CONTINUED…[/center]


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 12:10 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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thank you for continuing this story it is great love it cant wait for more!!!!!


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 10:49 am 
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I've seen this one, it hits Paris...

Yikes! It's cool to see them dealing with a non-mystical end of the world. I liked the scary post apocalyptic world, especially the idea of a global rescue organisation trying to solve problems turning in to a evil fascist empire. Who were the unstoppable men? Will we see any more of that future?

So I'm assuming future LJ used that machine to send her memories back to present LJ?

Another excellent episode, can't wait for the next part!


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 1:14 pm 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

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Quote:
thank you for continuing this story it is great love it cant wait for more!!!!!


More will be coming, actually technically there are two other RC2018 stories but they can't be posted here, too much sex violence and 3D inagery... :devil

Quote:
Who were the unstoppable men? Will we see any more of that future?

So I'm assuming future LJ used that machine to send her memories back to present LJ?

Another excellent episode, can't wait for the next part!


You won't see anymore of that future as such Chronic but lets just say that certain elements of it aren't going to be put down so easily, and the shadowy figure behind the GEA is still enroute...


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:25 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

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Glad to hear this story shows no sign of stopping. What are those stories you can't post? Have you asked Xita if they'd be allowed, maybe in their own, clearly labelled as 18+, thread? Or maybe you could host them or a site of your own?

chronic


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 11:01 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

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Quote:
Or maybe you could host them or a site of your own?

Actually they are hosted on a pay site, which is another reason they can't cross over here...


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:54 am 
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3. Flaming O
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Ok now the curiousity is piqued so I must ask, and which site would that be? I am looking forward to an update to this fabulous story. I will keep checking, and glad to hear there is even more of this story out there somewhere. :applause :applause


Last edited by Animism on Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 11:55 am 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

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Quote:
and which site would that be? I am looking forward to an update to this fabulous story. I will keep checking, and glad to hear this is even more of this story out there somewhere.

I don't think it would be fair to post it in Pens but if you PM me I'll send it to you. Those stories are total standalones by the way, so not reading them won't affect the thread here, but if you must be a completeist...:)


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:15 pm 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

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To give people a taste of my latest 3D work I've added a new image in my, 'and now for something completely different' thread over at Mi2.


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: Archive Plans?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:43 am 
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First, I must say that this is one of my favorite and hands down the best w/t fanfic I've read.

That said, do you have any plans to archive this story at other sites? Maybe the mystic muse? I've been reading through the previous posts and it's somewhat awkward to navigate.

Thanks for writing such an amazing fic!

T


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 10:44 am 
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It was nice to see this story at the top of the board. When should we start looking for the next update?


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 6:03 pm 
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Okay I do apologize for going so long without even acknowledging anyones questions. Thing is that I've gotten pretty involved in doing illustrated material and I'm working on rewriting a book, and that's not counting my full time job. In effect I've got time in a week to write 5000 words but I'd need to turn out 6000 to catch up on Reality Check. It's not forgotten but its going to have to wait for some free time, which has been in short supply recently, sorry. I will try and create some sort of wrap up for the series, and perhaps post some of my recent renders, whcih do feature some familiar figures.


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:02 pm 
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I am so glad you are back and will finish this it is just wonderful i understand about time being in short supply but thanks for coming back


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018
PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 5:37 pm 
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Its good to hear from you again - I was beginning to wonder if you'd fallen off the face of the Earth! I'm glad this story isn't going to end up in the netherworld that is the uncompleted fics archive - take all the time you need, we'll wait! :) And good luck with your other writing projects.

chronic


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 8:47 am 
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:pinky :tumble please update :kgeek

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 4:52 am 
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Okay can't do the whole story in one go so It's going to be a couple of chapters at a time but watch this space on Friday...


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2007 9:39 am 
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Quote:
watch this space on Friday...


*Jumps up and down*

Yay!!!


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: +++NEW STORY+++ 12/3/06
PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 6:33 pm 
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So after many, many, delays here is the Prologue and first two chapters of 'Light Of The Earth'...

Title: Light Of The Earth
Author: Mike Mullen
Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, and adult themes, and probably a little sex before we’re done…
Spoilers: None what so ever
Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.
Summary: The family try to stop Nemesis despite the best efforts of Admiral Haas. However even if they get the authorities off their backs there are enemies out there who are a lot less reasonable and a lot more dangerous…
Authors notes: The climax of our spaceborne saga .
Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.
l
[center]Light Of The Earth[/center]

[center]Prologue[/center]

The room was about the grimmest place Ira Rosenberg had ever seen, just a grey concrete cube with no windows, a single fluorescent light bulb illuminated a wooden table and two chairs that were firmly screwed to the floor. The only good thing about it was that at least he wasn’t being thrown around the way he had been in the back of the van that had brought him here, wherever here is exactly.
Ira would have demanded a lawyer and threatened his abductors with the authorities if he hadn’t rapidly concluded his abductors were the authorities. Since he couldn’t imagine anything he had done that would warrant this kind of special attention that only left one realistic option, which means this time Willow, Tara, Lydia, or all three of them must have done something pretty spectacular this time.
The thick metal door to the room was swung open by a soldier in all black combat gear to allow a fiftyish man in the uniform of a navy officer into the room, “Mister Rosenberg your daughter has placed you in a grave situation.”
The announcement was clearly meant to unsettle Ira, which made him all the more determined to remain calm, “Well its hardly the first time.”
Admiral Haas shook his head, “I don’t think you understand Mister Rosenberg, your daughter, and granddaughter for that matter, are currently America’s most wanted; every civilian and military agency is looking for them.”
That did trouble Ira and he certainly wanted to know what was going on, “What exactly is it you imagine they have done?”
“That really isn’t something I can discuss with you at this moment,” Haas stated bluntly, “I simply need your help in finding them.”
Ira eyed him sceptically, “Just like that?”
“If you are a loyal American citizen yes, just like that.” Haas stated firmly.
To the admiral’s surprise Ira laughed, “I see and if I don’t you’ll keep me and my wife here indefinitely is that it?”
“Regrettably that would be the case,” Haas confirmed and leant on the table, “and yet you still seem to be amused by the prospect. I assure you senior citizen or not I will detain you however distasteful I might find the prospect.”
Ira shook his head; “I’m amused because you think you really have the power to keep me locked up, hello Lydia.”
That non-sequitir left Haas staring at Ira until there was a response from behind him, “Hi Granddad ready to go?”
Haas spun round to see one of his fugitives standing right behind him. He went for his gun, and yelped as it flew from his hand and landed on the other side of the room. LJ strode forward and Haas tried to grab at her, only to run into an invisible wall that had sprung up around the girl.
LJ took Ira’s hand and looked over at the bewildered admiral, “We’re not the enemy admiral and you really need to believe that if we’re going to prevent a disaster. If you won’t, well then we’ll just have to do it without you.” With that LJ and Ira were gone.
Haas blinked but they definitely weren’t there. He resisted the temptation to look for mirrors and instead he concentrated on stopping his hands shaking before he left the cell to yell at the guards and search for a large whiskey.

Ira looked out of the window at what appeared to be a Mediterranean village spreading out across the slopes of the scrubby hillside. He closed the shutter and turned back to LJ, All right dear I’m grateful you rescued me but would you mind explaining why I needed to be rescued in the first place?”
LJ sighed and gestured for Ira to take a seat, “This is going to be a long story.”
As it turned out LJ was right, it was also a story that Ira found hard to believe; even by the standards of his daughters and granddaughters adventures, “So after the ship blew up you fled, and then realizing you had left us behind you came looking for your beloved grandparents?”
LJ was glad that Ira’s tone was amused because she had to shake her head, “Actually not quite, there was a little bit of a, ‘discussion’ before we made up our minds what to do next....”

[center]1. Run[/center]

“We jump up and down on him, or turn him into a rat, or maybe a toad; do you think a toad is worse than a rat?” LJ’s tone was conversational, and her suggestions weren’t as bloodthirsty as they had been only a few minutes before.
Tara looked to Willow and saw that she was looking thoughtful, “Toad,” she announced, “some people keep rats as pets but no one likes toads.”
LJ nodded and both redheads looked like they felt that settled things, which meant it was time for Tara to inject some common sense into this discussion, “Now look as much of an, idiot, as he may be turning the admiral into any kind of rodent or amphibian is not going to help.”
“And they probably wouldn’t even notice.” Sabrina interjected, not entirely helpfully.
Tara shot her a pained look that shut her up before turning back to Willow and LJ, “Our original plan is still valid, we need the authorities on side if we’re going to do anything to stop this asteroid, especially now that we know that its hitting the Earth isn’t entirely an accident.”
That brought a moments silence that was broken hesitantly by Sabrina, “Or maybe it’s completely deliberate.” She paused as all eyes turned to her, “Well China is a major economic and military power and there are some people who wouldn’t shed any tears if it was knocked out. If they knew where this rock was going to hit, or they could manipulate its course then they wouldn’t want Starshield to work.”
Sabrina stopped as she felt the hard stares she was getting from Willow and Tara. She knew her comments were just reminding them or her devious and shady past but however much she tired to forget about the Athenai they had imprinted themselves on her mindset to a degree, which meant she sometimes saw plots where none existed, but not this time. The more she thought of it the more certain she was that someone wanted that asteroid to hit.
LJ nodded in agreement, “Everything that happened in the other world, the GEA, the Peacekeepers. It happened so fast that it makes sense someone had their plans already in place.”
Tara didn’t like the theory but she couldn’t see any holes in it, and it reinforced her earlier point, “If that is true then its all the more reason not to do anything to Haas. At the very least we need the authorities off our back, and that won’t happen if we going around turning senior officers into rodents.”
With her anger having been cooled by Sabrina’s sobering suggestion Willow looked thoughtful, “The only way we can do that is find some evidence to point them in the right direction.”
“And get them to listen to it,” LJ added, “I mean as long as they think we’re the bad guys then it’s a catch twenty-two, their just going to assume that we’re just covering our tracks.”
“And there’s the small matter of finding some way to stop the asteroid.” Tara reminded them.
“So no pressure there then; we can probably wrap everything up by this afternoon.” LJ added a little sarcastically.
Willow couldn’t help smiling a little, “well may be by this evening. Actually I can think of one way we might be able to clear our name, or at least make the admiral think twice. And he owes us a favour.”
LJ was going to pursue that but Sabrina got in ahead of her, “There must have been someone on the inside at the facility where they were making those nuclear power packs, and probably someone with some magical talents. I mean we went in there looking for ordinary sabotage, and protecting ourselves against conventional detection, if someone picked up our magic that could be why they moved up their schedule.”
LJ thought about that and nodded, “They‘ve probably gone by now but there must be a larger organization behind them, we just have to find a link to them.”
“That might be easier said than done with everyone in the USA looking for us.” Willow pointed out, “And that still leaves the third thing, how exactly are we going to stop the asteroid?”
That actually was the one point where LJ had a definite idea, “We should call Reese.”
Tara was uneasy, “Are you sure? The authorities probably don’t know about our connection to him, maybe we should keep away from him for a while just in case.”
LJ shook her head emphatically, “No the information he gave me in the future, he wouldn’t tell me exactly what it was but I’m sure it was his version of a back up plan. I think he kept back the details because he didn’t want me to think he didn’t trust my abilities.”
Willow thought about it and then nodded, “All right then I suppose we better call him but I don’t think we’ll use the phone.”

Reese studied the blueprint he had assembled on the 3D display in complete silence. He understood it completely of course; it was after all his own design, albeit one he wouldn’t create for a year or two. Part of him was a little disappointed to be given the whole thing on a plate; it almost felt like cheating to have all the questions answered and the solution laid out in front of him, under the circumstances though I can live with that, and it is still all my own work.
He was so intent on the blueprint that he almost didn’t notice the telepathic contact slipping into his mind, How’s it going Reese? LJ asked.
He blinked a couple of times and finally responded, “I’ve figured out what the data was.” He murmured it softly. Of course he didn’t need to speak at all but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with those silent conversations.
So what does it do? Some kind of super bomb or asteroid smashing gun?
“Actually it’s a space folding device, a machine that can replicate what you do when you teleport.” Saying it out loud Reese felt a stirring of excitement about the idea.
LJ didn’t seem to feel the same way, that’s it? That’s all it is?
Reese let out a sigh of exasperation since LJ couldn’t hear it, “You don’t get it. This is designed to be made with parts we can get now, and with it we could send just about anything that holds air out to Nemesis; we can turn any available spacecraft into an alternate Starshield. We could make a dozen trips to blow the thing up if need be.”

Willow, Tara, and Sabrina were listening to the telepathic exchange, and Tara saw it as confirming her earlier views, “We definitely need to get the authorities onside, unless anyone happens to know where to find a spaceship in a hurry, or how to fly one?”

Reese confirmed her question when LJ relayed it to him, “Its more than that. Some of these parts are available but they’re classified military material. Even if you could, ‘borrow’ them the device needs to be built, installed, and tested. Then there’s the whole issue of how we destroy Nemesis. If we had a year or two then maybe with your talents and Systems help maybe we could do it. In the time we have we’re going to need a serious amount of manpower and money.”
Okay Reese we understand, we’re going to have to figure out how we get all of that.
As Reese was considering that System piped up, “Reese I’ve been monitoring the communications network and there is disturbing news about the ongoing manhunt.”
“What are they up to now?” Reese asked, knowing the words were being echoed to the witches.
The authorities have approached all the acquaintances of the family in an effort to locate them. Mostly they appear to have settled for brief if rather blunt questioning but they have detained Ira and Sheila Rosenberg in a high security detention facility.”

LJ swallowed a curse as she processed that news, “They can’t really think grandma and granddad really know where we are, I mean five minutes with grandma would convince them of that.”
“They’re still thinking in conventional terms, thinking they can lure you in to trying to rescue them and then snaring you in their security.” Sabrina suggested.
“Right but we can just bypass all that and get them out.” LJ responded.
Sabrina nodded, “Fine but that won’t take all of us. With the time pressure maybe we should split up and work on the other issues. While you’re grabbing your grandparents I can go chase someone who might have a lead on where to find our bad guys.”
When she didn’t expand further on that LJ was suspicious but before she could ask Willow chimed into agree with her, “While you’re doing that we can work on getting the authorities on side. We need to make progress on those before we can get Reese the material he needs to build his space bender.”
“Works for me.” Tara concluded as slipped an arm around Willow, “And there’s no time like the present to get started.”
LJ sighed inwardly, which means I get to explain this to granddad and grandma.


[center]2. Hearts and Minds[/center]

As he walked into his office Colonel Riley Finn locked the door behind him and settled behind his desk. He checked though some reports on his terminal but truthfully he was just killing time, waiting for, well he wasn’t entirely certain what method they might choose, or whether they would actually bother to get in touch, but their smart and capable and I’m sure…
The thought was interrupted as he found he was no longer alone, “Hello ladies, don’t worry there’s no electronic surveillance in here unless I want it, and right now I decided it would better to have it turned off.”
Willow was taken aback, “You were expecting us?”
“Well the security alert went out to all branches of the military so I thought you might come looking for a character reference.”
Guess he isn’t just another military blockhead, Tara commented silently to Willow, who flushed as her own words were turned against her.
Willow did her best to get past the embarrassment, “So you know why they’re looking for us then?”
“No, that remains highly classified, but I assume its something dramatic and dangerous, right?”
Willow hastily filled him in on Starshield and as she explained Colonel Finn looked increasingly angry, “Great, a major planetary catastrophe and no one bothered to tell them about you? It’s enough to make you think people are right about military intelligence being an oxymoron.”
Willow had always thought that but she didn’t bother saying so, “Could your bosses have had a more sinister reason for not sharing?”
“You mean could they be the bad guys you’re looking for?” Finn shook his head, “No this is just secrecy for the sake of secrecy.”
“What about Admiral Haas? Do you think he’s genuine?” Tara asked, the fact was that the Starshield had been sabotaged after they went to see him, so it was possible it was that which had tipped off the bad guys rather than the visit to the facility.
“Don’t know the man personally but from what I’ve heard he’s not the type for any kind of double play or bluff, he says what he thinks and gets the job done.” Riley explained.
Willow nodded, “Okay if that’s true is there anyway you can get to him and tell him the truth?”
“You mean violate security and potentially face a court-martial for divulging classified information?” Finn asked ominously.
“Yes.” Willow responded weakly.
Finn smiled and patted the computer on his desk; “I’ve already collated all the files on the Initiative, Cerberus and all the other fun stuff from good old Sunnydale. I think I can get to see Haas later today.”
“Great but you might want to hold off for a few hours, we’re probably going to upset him a little more.” Willow suggested. Finn considered asking why but then thought better of it.

Sabrina picked her way cautiously through the rubble choked alleyway. The housing complex she had come to not only looked as though it should be condemned it actually had been and it was being demolished piece by piece. In the meantime though it was still home to some old acquaintances of hers, or more exactly of the Athenai. It pained Sabrina to have to come here but if they needed info about the supernatural underworld in a hurry this was the place to come. The reason she hadn’t used it previously was because the price of the information was going to be high, and she didn’t need to do anything to undermine the trust and acceptance she had been painfully building up with Lydia’s parents by sharing it with them.
The door of the abandoned house was hanging from one hinge but when Sabrina swung it open it proved surprisingly strong and didn’t fall to the ground. The inside was dark and gloomy, not so much though that she wasn’t aware of the figures lurking in the shadowy corners, “You might as well come out because if you’re thinking of jumping me that would be a very bad plan.” She summoned up a fireball and let it hang in the air as a warning.
The figures didn’t step forward but one of them did speak up, “What do you want here?”
“I need to speak with Dex, just go tell I’m here, I’m sure he’ll want to talk to me.” Or send his entire clan out to tear me to shreds.
Luckily it appeared that Dex was in the mood to talk because Sabrina was guided into the basement of the house with her escorts keeping a respectful distance. From what Sabrina had learned of Dex’s past while with the Athenai he had been either a pro wrestler or a professional body builder once upon a time. That of course was before he had been turned and become a vampire, a sort of blood drinking Arnold Schwarzenegger, she had once thought and he wasn’t someone to mess with lightly since as well as being strong he was also smart and vicious. His vampire clan had acted as muscle for the Athenai on more than one occasion, when they had decided it was worth paying the price.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the last of the Athenai.” Dex chuckled with a voice that sounded like her gargled with broken glass.
“You need to get your facts straight Dex, I left the Athenai, and brought the whole thing crashing down behind me.”
Dex nodded, “Oh I heard that; I imagine the Slayer had so much more to offer you than you’re former friends.”
“More than you can imagine.” Sabrina growled.
Dex ignored her tone, “And yet here you are, you do realize my price for assistance is the same as it ever was, regardless of who you’re with now.”
“I know that, and this time I’m willing to pay.” Sabrina replied, keeping her tone level so there was no hint of fear in it.
Dex gave her a long hard look and then shrugged, “All right what is it you want? I assume you aren’t looking for muscle.”
“I want information,” Sabrina explained, “I’m looking for some people, they might be demons they might be human but they are definitely magical.”
“I assume you have more to go on than that.”
“If you lay off interrupting yes I do. They’ll either have acquired a sudden fascination with space technology or they’ve started preparing like they’re expecting the end of the world.” Sabrina left it there, seeing no reason to mention her own predicament.
To her relief, and a little dread as well, Dex nodded, “I know someone who fits the bill, in fact their demons and humans, not the types you would expect to play well together but suddenly they’ve gotten very chummy and they are running around like they expect the sky to fall in.”
More than you know, Sabrina thought grimly but maintained a disbelieving look, “I’m going to need a little more detail than that.”
“Then I guess you’re going to have to pay up.” Dex’s face had a grin on it but his eyes were cold and implacable.
Knowing that there was no putting it off Sabrina rolled up the sleeve of her sweater and stepped forward, “You know what will happen to you if you get greedy?”
“I’ve heard all about your Slayer, all I want is what I’m due.” Since that was all the reassurance Sabrina was going to get out of Dex she extended her arm, Dex took it more gently than she had expected and lowered his mouth towards her wrist as if to plant a kiss on it, of course that wasn’t what he had in mind and Sabrina bit her lip to prevent herself screaming as his fangs sank in.

LJ had just about finished her explanations to Ira, and settled her grandmother down in the bedroom when Sabrina reappeared, and it was LJ’s turn to be horrified as she saw how pale Sabrina was, and the all too familiar puncture wounds, she practically teleported to wrap her arms around her girlfriend, “Who the hell did this to you?”
“It was just the price of getting the information we needed.” Sabrina explained weakly.
“Are you insane?” LJ asked; her angry tone undermined by the concerned expression on her face.
Sabrina managed a smile, “Well I knew you wouldn’t go along with the idea but I got the information we needed.”
LJ decided not pursue that for the moment, instead she sat Sabrina down and took hold of her wrist. LJ closed her eyes and focused on what she had come to think of as ‘the reset button’. What she did wasn’t exactly healing, more unwinding the flow of time since the injury had occurred. Sabrina didn’t really mind what it was called, she just knew the marks were gone and she felt a hundred times better.
Seeing that the magic had gotten the desired effect LJ went back to their previous discussion, “Do you really think what you found out was worth that?”
“You’ll have to decide if you think so but yeah I’m pretty sure I have the info to put us on the right track to find the bad guys.”
“Well that’s good news.” LJ had been so focused on Sabrina that she hadn’t even felt the gathering magic that heralded the return of her parents as they teleported in, and so was startled as Willow spoke up, “How did you get it?”
LJ glanced over at Ira, who was resolutely studying the curtains. Seeing that he wasn’t going to interfere Sabrina spoke up, “I just did a little horse trading with an old contact, no big deal. How did you get on?”
Willow shrugged, “The wheels are in motion, we just need to see if they get us where we want to go.” Or roll right over us.


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>>NEW STORY<<< 1/6/07(First
PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 7:14 pm 
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:pinky I am so glad you are back and I love the update :party

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>>NEW STORY<<< 1/6/07(First
PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:05 am 
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Its good to see you back, can't wait for the next update.


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>>NEW STORY<<< 1/6/07(First
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:36 am 
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Glad people are enjoying the update, the next one should be next Friday.


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>>NEW STORY<<< 1/6/07(First
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:37 pm 
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Okay so here's chapter 3, enjoy!

[center]3. ‘The Hard Word’[/center]

Admiral Haas let his gaze roam across the three large screens on the wall of the briefing room and he didn’t like what he saw. Each screen was occupied by the representative of one of the partners in the Starshield project and none of the looked happy. Granted General King who was the liaison on behalf of the European Federation looked sympathetic but then he was a fellow military man who at least had an understanding of the problems in involved in such a complex operation, the Russian and Chinese representatives were both politicians.
The Chinese representative was a small sharply dressed woman who looked as though she belonged in an expensive law firm rather than being a Peoples Commissar of the Chinese Communist Party. Perhaps that view was coloured by the way she was cross-examining the admiral, “And you still maintain you have no clues as to who was behind the sabotage?”
“So far we haven’t come up with anything concrete, the perpetrators have been quite elusive,” in ways I’m not even going to try and describe, Haas added to himself.
“Perhaps we should have insisted on Starshield being placed under our control, I certainly believe we could have done a more effective job of managing security.” The Chinese representative stated coolly.
And perhaps if you were a little less dedicated to security you wouldn’t be dealing with strikes and riots every other weekend. Luckily Haas had enough diplomatic sense not to mention that, and he was spared saying anything as the Russian jumped in with a comment that was something of a backhanded compliment, “I do not believe that the admiral is incompetent at all, he simply chooses not to share what he knows with us.”
The Russian might look like a used car salesman but he was far too astute for Haas’ comfort, “I assure you that if I had anything relevant,” or believable, “to share with you I would.”
General King nodded and got in ahead of the Russians or the Chinese, “While I agree that it is important to discover what happened to the Starshield perhaps we should be focusing on our alternative strategies to deal with Nemesis.”
Somehow the clipped upper class tones of the Englishman seemed to cool the anger of the other representatives and instead they looked rather embarrassed, “At this time my government feels it would rather work on those plans privately until other matters have been resolved.” Without giving Haas a chance to ask any questions the screen showing the Chinese representative went dark.
“I must concur with my Chinese colleague.” The Russian stated hastily and Haas was left looking at King.
The British general shook his head, “It was rather inevitable I’m afraid but you do still have assets available to you Admiral, of course you have to recognize they are assets first.”
Haas was still trying to figure out what that meant when King cut the connection. Alone Haas decided he had better head back to his office and prepare a report on the meeting and the search for the Rosenberg/Maclay clan; he wasn’t sure which was going to be worse.
When he got back to the office his adjutant practically leapt out of his seat, “Admiral there are two men waiting for you in your office.”
“I wasn’t aware I had an appointment.” Haas asked dangerously.
“No sir but they said it was urgent and they had vital information on the search subjects.” The aide explained anxiously.
Haas was intrigued, though his expression remained stern, “Who are they?”
“Colonel Riley Finn and a Mister Elias Carter.”
That did stir Haas’ curiosity; he had never heard of Finn but Carter was an old friend of the Rosenbergs and Maclays. When he had been interviewed by the FBI Carter had made it clear that he didn’t know where the women were and if he did he wouldn’t share that information. Had also had a few choice things to say about declining standards in the military, and now here he is having a change of heart, “All right then I’ll hear what they have to say but have security monitor the meeting, just in case.”
Neither Finn nor Carter rose when Haas entered the office but the admiral decide to ignore the lack of respect and instead turned his full attention to Elias, “I certainly didn’t expect to hear from you again Mister Carter.”
“And you wouldn’t have, if Colonel Finn hadn’t persuaded me that my presence would make it more likely that you would give him a hearing.”
That made Haas focus his attention on Finn, “And what is it that you feel you have to offer Colonel Finn? I was under the impression that all relevant departments had already offered up what information they had on Rosenberg and Maclay?”
Finn smiled genially, “I’m afraid that’s not true sir, in fact much of the information you have on them is either incomplete or fabricated.”
Haas sat down rather heavily behind his desk, “That is a very serious allegation.”
“It’s not an allegation admiral, it’s a simple statement of fact. What do you know about their background? That they attended high school and university in Sunnydale California?”
“Yes that I know.” The admiral interrupted impatiently.
Finn was unfazed, “And nothing struck you about that period as unusual? Nothing noteworthy?”
The admiral was beginning to have a very bad feeling, “No there wasn’t anything outstanding; pretty much the same as millions of other people their age.”
Finn picked up the briefcase sat beside him and placed it on the table, “In here there are details about several military projects but the two major ones you will want to focus on are the Initiative and Project Cerberus, both of which were based in Sunnydale California.”
Haas was too startled to say anything at first, and he simply stared at the briefcase before drawing it closer and opening it, He hesitated as he saw the files and computer disks inside, “Has this material been cleared for release?”
Finn shrugged, “Your security clearance is more than adequate admiral but this is an unofficial action on my part and I’ll face the consequences; so long as you read the contents of the files.”
Seeing Haas looking dubious Elias chipped in, “ Admiral you are making a tragic mistake with regard to Willow and Tara, and that goes tenfold for LJ. They could be an asset beyond price, or any enemy you really don’t want to face.”
Carter’s abrupt manner didn’t do anything to endear him to Haas but the use of the word asset reminded the admiral of what General King had said, there was no way Arthur King could know anything about Willow Rosenberg or Tara Maclay but then King had shown a knack for knowing things he shouldn’t, “All right I’ll read what you’ve given but I can’t guarantee that my next step won’t be to order your arrests.”
Finn and Elias rose and walked towards the door, and Elias couldn’t resist one last comment, “You can arrest us admiral but what makes you think you could hold us?”
Haas didn’t have answer for that, instead he just glared at them as the door closed behind the pair. Once they were gone the admiral began to feed the computer files into his terminal, cautiously checking them for anything that might harm his system. The scan said they were exactly what they claimed, official files using exactly the same encryption as the ones already on the system.
With that reassurance Haas began to study the contents, and found himself plunged into another world, a world where universal laws could be bent, a quiet California suburbistan had been the centre of a primal battle between good and evil; and the warriors on the side of good mostly seemed to be a group of teenage girls…


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< Update 15/6/07
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:38 pm 
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21. Geek Infested Roots

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:12 am
Posts: 3446
Okay so here's chapter 3, enjoy!

[center]3. ‘The Hard Word’[/center]

Admiral Haas let his gaze roam across the three large screens on the wall of the briefing room and he didn’t like what he saw. Each screen was occupied by the representative of one of the partners in the Starshield project and none of the looked happy. Granted General King who was the liaison on behalf of the European Federation looked sympathetic but then he was a fellow military man who at least had an understanding of the problems in involved in such a complex operation, the Russian and Chinese representatives were both politicians.
The Chinese representative was a small sharply dressed woman who looked as though she belonged in an expensive law firm rather than being a Peoples Commissar of the Chinese Communist Party. Perhaps that view was coloured by the way she was cross-examining the admiral, “And you still maintain you have no clues as to who was behind the sabotage?”
“So far we haven’t come up with anything concrete, the perpetrators have been quite elusive,” in ways I’m not even going to try and describe, Haas added to himself.
“Perhaps we should have insisted on Starshield being placed under our control, I certainly believe we could have done a more effective job of managing security.” The Chinese representative stated coolly.
And perhaps if you were a little less dedicated to security you wouldn’t be dealing with strikes and riots every other weekend. Luckily Haas had enough diplomatic sense not to mention that, and he was spared saying anything as the Russian jumped in with a comment that was something of a backhanded compliment, “I do not believe that the admiral is incompetent at all, he simply chooses not to share what he knows with us.”
The Russian might look like a used car salesman but he was far too astute for Haas’ comfort, “I assure you that if I had anything relevant,” or believable, “to share with you I would.”
General King nodded and got in ahead of the Russians or the Chinese, “While I agree that it is important to discover what happened to the Starshield perhaps we should be focusing on our alternative strategies to deal with Nemesis.”
Somehow the clipped upper class tones of the Englishman seemed to cool the anger of the other representatives and instead they looked rather embarrassed, “At this time my government feels it would rather work on those plans privately until other matters have been resolved.” Without giving Haas a chance to ask any questions the screen showing the Chinese representative went dark.
“I must concur with my Chinese colleague.” The Russian stated hastily and Haas was left looking at King.
The British general shook his head, “It was rather inevitable I’m afraid but you do still have assets available to you Admiral, of course you have to recognize they are assets first.”
Haas was still trying to figure out what that meant when King cut the connection. Alone Haas decided he had better head back to his office and prepare a report on the meeting and the search for the Rosenberg/Maclay clan; he wasn’t sure which was going to be worse.
When he got back to the office his adjutant practically leapt out of his seat, “Admiral there are two men waiting for you in your office.”
“I wasn’t aware I had an appointment.” Haas asked dangerously.
“No sir but they said it was urgent and they had vital information on the search subjects.” The aide explained anxiously.
Haas was intrigued, though his expression remained stern, “Who are they?”
“Colonel Riley Finn and a Mister Elias Carter.”
That did stir Haas’ curiosity; he had never heard of Finn but Carter was an old friend of the Rosenbergs and Maclays. When he had been interviewed by the FBI Carter had made it clear that he didn’t know where the women were and if he did he wouldn’t share that information. Had also had a few choice things to say about declining standards in the military, and now here he is having a change of heart, “All right then I’ll hear what they have to say but have security monitor the meeting, just in case.”
Neither Finn nor Carter rose when Haas entered the office but the admiral decide to ignore the lack of respect and instead turned his full attention to Elias, “I certainly didn’t expect to hear from you again Mister Carter.”
“And you wouldn’t have, if Colonel Finn hadn’t persuaded me that my presence would make it more likely that you would give him a hearing.”
That made Haas focus his attention on Finn, “And what is it that you feel you have to offer Colonel Finn? I was under the impression that all relevant departments had already offered up what information they had on Rosenberg and Maclay?”
Finn smiled genially, “I’m afraid that’s not true sir, in fact much of the information you have on them is either incomplete or fabricated.”
Haas sat down rather heavily behind his desk, “That is a very serious allegation.”
“It’s not an allegation admiral, it’s a simple statement of fact. What do you know about their background? That they attended high school and university in Sunnydale California?”
“Yes that I know.” The admiral interrupted impatiently.
Finn was unfazed, “And nothing struck you about that period as unusual? Nothing noteworthy?”
The admiral was beginning to have a very bad feeling, “No there wasn’t anything outstanding; pretty much the same as millions of other people their age.”
Finn picked up the briefcase sat beside him and placed it on the table, “In here there are details about several military projects but the two major ones you will want to focus on are the Initiative and Project Cerberus, both of which were based in Sunnydale California.”
Haas was too startled to say anything at first, and he simply stared at the briefcase before drawing it closer and opening it, He hesitated as he saw the files and computer disks inside, “Has this material been cleared for release?”
Finn shrugged, “Your security clearance is more than adequate admiral but this is an unofficial action on my part and I’ll face the consequences; so long as you read the contents of the files.”
Seeing Haas looking dubious Elias chipped in, “ Admiral you are making a tragic mistake with regard to Willow and Tara, and that goes tenfold for LJ. They could be an asset beyond price, or any enemy you really don’t want to face.”
Carter’s abrupt manner didn’t do anything to endear him to Haas but the use of the word asset reminded the admiral of what General King had said, there was no way Arthur King could know anything about Willow Rosenberg or Tara Maclay but then King had shown a knack for knowing things he shouldn’t, “All right I’ll read what you’ve given but I can’t guarantee that my next step won’t be to order your arrests.”
Finn and Elias rose and walked towards the door, and Elias couldn’t resist one last comment, “You can arrest us admiral but what makes you think you could hold us?”
Haas didn’t have answer for that, instead he just glared at them as the door closed behind the pair. Once they were gone the admiral began to feed the computer files into his terminal, cautiously checking them for anything that might harm his system. The scan said they were exactly what they claimed, official files using exactly the same encryption as the ones already on the system.
With that reassurance Haas began to study the contents, and found himself plunged into another world, a world where universal laws could be bent, a quiet California suburbistan had been the centre of a primal battle between good and evil; and the warriors on the side of good mostly seemed to be a group of teenage girls…


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< Update 15/6/07
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:41 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Posts: 9808
Location: Next to an Angel in Houston Texas
Dibs now off to read

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< Update 15/6/07
PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:27 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:28 pm
Posts: 60
Wow, wonderful as always. Selfishly I need more. Thanks for the chapter. ;-)


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: >>NEW STORY<< Update 15/6/07
PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 4:16 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Posts: 471
Location: Shoalhaven,NSW, Australia
Sheridan
I've finally caught up - I decided to re-read the lot before reading the latest postings, and it's taken me a while. It has been well worth it, I'm really enjoying the story, and am looking forward to more.

Thanks
Anne

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Every path has its puddle. Old English Saying... I think I just stepped in mine...


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