See Part 1 for details and disclaimers.
AN: I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout the first two chapters of this story got. It's one of my favorite plots (with a few twists I haven't seen in other fics, hopefully), and your comments have reinforced my desire to write. Some answers to questions by reviewers are met in this chapter, with more to follow next week. Please read and enjoy!~ Part 3 ~
"Alright, kids! Comments, questions, observations?"
Beating the two blonds to the starting gate, Teal'c inclined his head toward Jack and said, "I believe we have found a recruit worthy of joining the SGC. He portrays himself as carefree and uneducated, but to make such conclusions with so little data indicates a mind ready to accept the unusual. I am most interested in watching his interaction with the so-called 'locals' tonight."
Rarely did SG-1 get to hear their Jaffa make such a wordy observation. Sam seemed to want to argue a few points, but Daniel beat her to the punch.
"Jack, he's got background in languages I've never seen," the archaeologist stated in a rush. "That alone is worth bringing him in. And god forbid we leave him to Maybourne's group. Who knows what they'd do with him?"
Smacking the younger man on his arm, Sam finally had her say, "I can't swear I believe everything he's said. Vampires, demons? Maybe we should call in some of the other SG teams to check for another Seth or something, sir. But his attitude would certainly fit in with our program."
One finger raised, Jack called a halt to the impending argument between his geeks. "Aht! Personality assessment first, kids. I've already got my own ideas, so this is where you voice yours."
"Very well, O'Neill, then I shall go first." The big guy closed his eyes, focusing inward for a moment. "AlexanderHarris has the correct outlook to experience new worlds without the common culture shock -- I believe that is the term used most often -- of our newest members. His standardized testing shows a significantly higher intellegence than his classwork would indicate. It is my opinion that his attitude would fit in well with any number of our teams, both on and off world. I see the makings of a fine warrior, one that I would be honored to have at my back."
Jack blinked, once, twice; he was stunned at the rave review from their stoic member. Two rants in half an hour. If I didn't know better, I'd think T's got a little crush on the teen.
He choked down a snicker before it got him in trouble. Finally nodding at the Jaffa, he turned to the wonder twins for their input.
Sam cleared her throat and waited for Daniel's 'go ahead' gesture. "Alright, personality only. He's young, goofy, and harmless looking. I got the impression of a puppy from the way he bounced around at times. But underneath that, his mind is quick and ready to make leaps in logic that would hurt my brain if I didn't have experience with Daniel. I'm still not sure how much I believe of his 'background story', but if you back him up, sir, then there's got to be a reason."
Daniel's head nodded absently as he organized his thoughts. Before long, he appeared to have reached some conclusion. "Right, well. It would be nice having another member to the linguistics department, even if the languages he knows are obscure at best. The fact that he has picked up on them without formal training indicates that he could learn Ancient and Gou'ald with little difficulty.
"Xander seems like a mixture of us all, in a way. My languages, Sam's analyzation, taking several unrelated facts and putting them together to come up with an answer. Jack, he's got your outward attitude, with more than a bit of your lesser known talents as well, I'll bet. And Teal'c, if he isn't up to your standards now, I suspect it wouldn't take long. We'll have to see tonight how he deals with stronger-than-human opponents.
"All in all, I'd have to say we've got a winner. Whoever your informant was, Jack, they didn't tell us everything, but a nudge in the right direction would hardly get anyone's fingers dirty. Want to tell us who's been watching this little town?"
Jack's hands went up in the air, a symbol of giving up. Except that he would never compromise his informants. "Can't tell ya, Dannyboy. All I can say is that, if you ever meet them/him/her/it, you would never put the facts together. And that's the way it'll have ta stay."
His hands clapped together loudly, returning everyone's attention to the conversation. "Having said that, and listened to your initial impressions, are we all on the same page here? I'd like to leave this burb with Xander, packed and ready for immediate enlistment. We'll save the paperwork for after tonight's demonstration, but are we all agreed?"
Nods and murmurs of assent were exchanged, and the group separated to their individual rooms to shower and begin writing reports.~ * ~
With his parents supposedly
at work, Xander had the house to himself for a few hours. His internal monologue was brief -- both greymates agreeing that O'Neill's team were good people -- which left him with time to spare. The Scooby in him wanted to tell his friends about everything. But the paranoia he'd built up over recent years said no, absolutely not. Willow and Buffy, and even Giles, would try to talk him out of it, so sure were they that he couldn't make a decision over what to eat, let alone a massive career move like this.
He really hated thinking like that about his girls. Deep down, they had his best interests at heart. Unfortunately for him, their ideas of what would be best for Xander was far from what Xander really wanted. They were out of high school, the girls preparing for college, and they all needed to grow up. A part of that was, sad to say, letting each other grow up as well. And if that meant growing apart, well, Xander was resigned to it.
He was more than a little curious about where O'Neill had gotten all the information on him. And whereinhell did they come up with that spell scroll? A dig snort
was not very believable. But if he was right about Teal'c being an alien, then they might have dug it up on some other planet. That made more sense than anything else.Ah well, maybe they'll spill their secrets after tonight. After I sign over the next few years of my life to them. And why doesn't that scare me more than this little shiver of... antici...pation? Mwhahaha! Tim Curry, gotta love him! If ever there was a time when his wicked voice should be used to narrate my inner thoughts, now's great. Daisy and Sarge are too quiet, which probably means they're trying not to laugh at me. Eh, whatever. If you can't laugh in the face of terrifying, life-changing paradigm shifts, you're gonna be locked away sooner than later.
Spending the next hour on straightening up the house, doing a load of laundry, and, though he hoped he wasn't jumping the gun, packing.If they really want me, I'd better be ready. I'll bet my best Snoopy boxers that they need to be back at base asap. Whatever this program of theirs is, O'Neill is high up. He's gotta have duties that don't involve dragging back a recent high school graduate. Glad it was him, though. If I've gotta join the military, I want someone like Jack O'Neill at my back. And Teal'c, whatever species he is, wow! Bet he'd be able to wipe the floor with Buffy in hand-to-hand. Sam... she needs to loosen up about the scientific reasons why 'it can't be possible', but smart chicks are never a bad thing. And Daniel. A younger version of Giles, maybe, but he seems much more likely to listen to me.
Just calm down, Xanman! What are the odds that you'll even be on their team? Looks like the four of them have been together for awhile now. They don't need to lead around some wet-behind-the-ears teenager. And who knows how the base is set up? I could be left in the mess hall, cleaning dishes. But that's not the way they were talking... more like they need more people on the front lines? Gah! Well, I've been there before, right? And if they're into aliens, then maybe they've got wicked advanced technology to make it easier to combat their big bads. Mmm, alien weapons. Big Guns from Outer Space!
Xander checked his chin for drool, then laughed at himself. Speculating was fun, but it wouldn't do much good. He let Sarge's memories guide him in packing his duffle bag while he tried to mentally write letters to Giles and his girls. No matter how quickly things moved from here, he refused to leave without saying goodbye. And so, yeah, he was chicken about doing it in person -- Willow and Buffy could be seriously scary when pissed! -- but they'd leave him alone for a little bit as long as he made some effort to explain his actions.Dear Willow,
Remember growing up, when I wanted to join the military? Looks like that might be my best idea yet. Career day twigged a few people to my awesome self, and I've had three offers. One was blah -- so very boring that I have little memory of it. One was sorta creepy, and watch out if you hear the name Maybourne! The other, wow, you'd like him. Colonel Jack O'Neill (and I'm giving you his name so you can snoop around a bit if you want, but don't get in trouble cus I'm pretty sure the base he's at right now is super secret) is a good guy. He's smart and has a sense of humor, so not like the recruiters we saw at school. And his team loves him! That says more than anything what kinda guy he is. COs aren't supposed to be
liked, y'know? Anyways, yeah, I'm going to take a field trip to look around and see if it's something I can be proud to be a part of.
Don't worry if I don't call you every day, alright? Who knows how long it'll take for the orientation. If this place is half as good as it sounds, I'll fit in great. They aren't regular military, Wills. These guys don't want a bunch of grunts. They're looking for people who think for themselves, who can add up random facts and come up with solutions. And they asked me to join. Sounds almost too good to be true. But if it is, I'll be outa there before they can hit a buzzer.
You can share this with Buffy, Giles and Mrs. S. I wanted to write everyone personal goodbyes, but now that I'm sitting down? Just isn't gonna happen. Remember how impressed you were by my SAT and ACT scores? I'm not as dumb as my grades say. This is me trying to remind myself of what you've told me for years, ok?
You and Buff have fun with the college thing. You've earned the right to be all the bookworm you can be. Tell Giles that I'll stick with the books too -- one of the team, a multiple doctorate named Daniel Jackson, he's ready to put me to work on some of the obsolete translations that no one in his department can figure out. If it's anything Hellmouthy, I'll send Giles a copy before they get theirs.
Wills, my yellow crayon friend, this feels
right. Wish me well, and don't get over your head in the magic without me there to bring you back. Ask Giles to show you how to learn it slow-n-steady, alright? Magic isn't something you can just jump into. Please, for me, be very careful with it. You know I don't ask much, so... be safe with it.
I'll miss you all, but miss you most.
Always, your Xander-shaped friend~ * ~
At ten minutes til seven, Xander pulled up to the hotel. His duffle was in the back, packed and double-checked til he had the contents memorized. After tonight's show-and-tell session, he planned on signing the papers to join whatever program O'Neill was pimping for. No matter the impression he'd given to Willow in his letter, Xander knew how limited his options were, and how quickly he needed to make a decision.
He put the van in park and was about to unbuckle his seatbelt when the front doors opened.
Unlike the earlier meeting where the military team wore comfortable, casual civilian attire, they were now wearing well-fitted fatigues that showed signs of action. O'Neill and Sam carried duffles with gun-shaped lumps, while Daniel's jacket barely concealed a single pistol. Teal'c, however, held a tall staff with intricate carvings spiralling down the sides and an odd top end. At least they're taking me seriously about the danger. Pity that their weapons will only piss off most of the wildlife in the area.
Xander's inner snark forced a wider smile of greeting.
"Evening folks! Are we ready to play meet-and-greet with Sunnydale's fabulous nightlife?" He clapped his hands together, wringing them with theatrical glee. "I can't wait to introduce Teal'c to Willy."
Xander's body tried to bounce in place as he talked through the open side doors of the van. The resulting motion made it... interesting for the members of SG-1 to load the van.
"Calm down, kid. We'll let you have all the fun you like as soon as we get there. In order to get there," Jack tried to scold through his own mirth, "you've gotta calm down enough to let us get in, then drive without pogoing into a parked car or three."
Xander's hands made exaggerated bowing motions and half salutes as he chuckled, "Ys'sir, right away sir!"
With everyone in a light mood, they headed toward the darker side of town. ~ * ~Hundreds of miles away, in a converted warehouse...
Harry Maybourne's growl of frustration caused several minor members of the local NID cell to scamper out of the room. He was never the most pleasant of men, but in a bad mood...
"How in hell did O'Neill beat us to the kid? Harris should've been wooed as soon as that stupid Career Day brought him to our notice." Eyes whipped around to focus on the NID's best recruiter. "You! Wasn't it your job to talk to him? Setting up a meeting with a small town kid shouldn't have taxed your limited facilities."
"No sir, Colonel, it was supposed to be set up at once. Unfortunately, we weren't the only ones with tags in place for Harris' type," Major Conrad Abrams replied in a calming voice. It wouldn't help much with the hot-headed Colonel, but it couldn't hurt either. "The town's mayor made it clear that no one was to have contact with any of Sunnydale High's students until graduation day. We were encouraged to meet everyone, parents included, after the ceremony. Seeing how the mayor went into HST mode during the opening speech, I believe he intended for all attending to be his first meal. Sir."
Maybourne's face crinkled in anger, but he knew the Major's thoughts were accurate. He had, after all, edited and authorized the reports himself. "Whatever. Now we're going to have to play hardball if we want the kid. Unless someone's got a better candidate?"
The room was silent except for shuffling feet and papers. A new technician, fresh out of the training facility in Virginia, raised her hand and meekly said, "Sir, there's a kid in Nevada who's been confirmed with Eidetic memory that's working on his second doctorate. At seventeen, sir. We wouldn't have him for more than ten years before he goes crazy with all that information crammed in his head, but-"
Harry's eyebrows rose, both at the new target and the new tech's boldness. Humming, he thought for a moment before saying, "Fine, track down... what's this one's name?"
"Reid, sir. Spencer Reid."
"Right, track down Reid and see if we can't offer him a bundle of carrots."
"Right away, sir!" The tech wondered if she had done the right thing in bringing another teen into her boss' sights. But she'd signed up for this job, and the concequences of failure were traumatic
.~ * ~Back in good old Sunnydale
Willy's bar was every bit as dark, smelly and demon-filled as the last time Xander had been there. Stopping at the front door, he turned to face the SG team one last time, "Listen, it's possible we could go in, look around, and leave without a fight. Possible, but unlikely. We're more liable to go in and get pounced immediately by some demon who's got a grudge against me or my friends. So just a warning, be on your guard, ok?"
The group armed themselves with whatever weapons were most comfortable for them, and Xander opened the door. For a Friday night, Willy's bar was fairly calm -- only a half dozen beings occupied various tables throughout the dingy room. The proprietor paused in wiping down the bar long enough to sigh out, "Evening, Harris. What'll it be then?"
Xander grinned over his shoulder at the older folks before giving his attention to the barkeeper. "Heya Willy, long time no see. Just showing some new friends around town, thought I'd give them the nickle tour of places to go if they wanted to let off some steam. Your bar was the first one I thought of. Lucky you!"
Shaking his head hard enough to fling oil from the tips of his hair, the snitch was visibly upset. "No no no, I don't need any more trouble from you White Hats. Information, sure, but keep your fights outside. My insurance doesn't cover recreational killing."
"Willy, you don't have insurance," Xander smirked, "not since the mayor went bye-bye."
The weasely barkeeper's shoulders slumped in defeat. That was such a blatant threat that he couldn't think up a way to worm out of it. "If you're so interested in fighting tonight, you outa head down to the docks. Seems I remember some sort of illegal cargo being unloaded before midnight. Woulda mentioned it to your girl, but I haven't seen her in here for awhile."
"Yeah, she's been a little occupied the past few weeks, what with the mayor trying to make our graduating class into an all-you-can-eat buffet." Again, Xander smirked at the snitch. His eyes showed how seriously pissed off he was. "A little fact you shoulda told us about months ago. Y'know, Willy, for a coward, you aren't too bright. It's always smarter to side with the mystical warriors for things like this."
Willy's back hit the racks of booze behind the bar as he edged away from the irritated teen. "I didn't know what was going on until the last coupla weeks, and by then you and your friends had more info than me. Can't give what I don't have, you know that, Harris!"~ * ~
After a quick threat assessment, Jack's attention was primarily focused on the kid, watching as he dealt with the slimy individual behind the bar. It amused him how easily the little man bowed to pressure from a teenager, but considering who Harris ran with, it made sense that Willy wouldn't want to be on his bad side. His eyes quickly met each of his team's to see how they were reacting.
Daniel looked slightly worried, but close to letting out a few snickers. Sam's eyes were wide like she couldn't believe Xander was able to intimidate anyone. And Teal'c... was that respect on the big guy's face? Huh.
All fairly positive reactions at this point, confirming that he'd made the right choice in grabbing Harris before the opposition could. He inwardly shuddered over the idea of letting Maybourne have the kid. It might take years to corrupt the good guy outa him, but if anyone could do it, Harry 'the bastard' Maybourne could.
The other team? Well, they weren't into anything that bad these days. Not that Xander would work out for them. Unless... did they think he could be paired up with one of their experiments? Nah, that didn't make much sense either. Whatever -- Xander Harris was SGC bound, and nobody could do anything about it.~ * ~Elsewhere, in a different converted warehouse...
"Sir, we've lost Harris. O'Neill and his team reached him first."
"Hmm, yes. That's the price we pay for offering him a choice in his punishment. No matter, there are others who will work just as well."
"You have someone in mind, sir?"
"Of course. Send a small team, no more than four people, to Las Vegas, Nevada. There's a kid not much older than Harris, already got degrees to his name. Spencer Reid. And hurry! I suspect Maybourne's group might target him next."
Afternote/Disclaimer: DOCTOR Spencer Reid belongs to Jeff Davis/CBS' series Criminal Minds. And he deserves snuggles and hugs and being brought home as a pet *nodnod*