1. The sands of Mesopotamia
BTVS and NCIS don’t belong to me, but to their respective owners. Please do not copy this story without my permission.A/N:
Set after BTVS S3E13 episode “The Zeppo”, and after NCIS S5E7 episode “Requiem”. I know the dates are off by something like 9 years, but as the year is not exactly important in either show, please just assume Buffy started being the slayer in 2005 instead of 1996.
It was a calm night for the Sunnydale High library. While his two slayers were patrolling, Rupert Giles was finishing an entry in his watcher’s diary, expressing some mild concerns about Faith’s impulsive attitude, and about the influence it had on Buffy. Watcher’s diary? He should call it his personal diary, as he was no more an official watcher, he thought. Willow was sitting on the other end of the table, preparing a tutoring session for Buffy and Xander. She wasn’t feeling like staying at home. Having her own mother trying to burn her at the stakes could have this effect on some people, Giles thought.
Once finished with the diary, the Watcher started reading ‘Esoteric Archeology Monthly’. It was a great reading and a great complement to his personal library, and it helped him to stay up-to-date on possible supernatural findings. Especially now that his links to the council had been severed. Giles was reading an article reporting the theft of a particularly ancient artifact, the Sword of Daha’guth, at the Sumerian section of the British Museum. It reported that the robbers seemed to have a similar modus operandi to the ones that had stolen the Golden Cutlass of Thrace at the National Archeological Museum of Athens one month ago. The article reported that in both cases, the attendants seemed to have been inexplicably murdered by exsanguination. Giles raised his eyebrow and started searching in a few of the library’s volumes.
“Looking for anything in particular, Giles? I can probably help!” said Willow, looking up. “It’s the last night of the full moon, it’s not like I have much else to do anyway…”
“Oh, thank you, my dear. But don’t worry, it’s probably nothing.” said Giles with a false smile that didn’t go unnoticed.
Willow was wondering what was going on with the Watcher. Looking around, she saw the copy of the ‘Esoteric Archeology Monthly’, and figured out that Giles was probably only checking some boring watcher stuff, and that his false smile was just a way of signifying that to her. She had to stop being so paranoid. Okay, they had averted an apocalypse two weeks ago, but such things luckily didn’t happen that often, she smiled.
“Oh, dear lord!” made the Watcher.
“Hey, Boss, did I mention how much I loved these foreign investigations? These navy gulf stream jets just get better and better each time we use them!”
“You mentioned it only a half dozen times, Tony.” said Ziva. “You sound like a broken tape!”
“It’s broken record, Ziva. He sounds like a broken record.” made McGee. “And I have to agree on that. Can’t you concentrate on the investigation ahead, Tony?”
“Do you really think I am going to read all this historic stuff on some old knife that some guys tried to steal?”
“The Falchion of Kish is no mere knife, my dear boy.” said Ducky. “In fact, when our troops discovered it by an astounding coincidence three months ago, it created a spectacular excitement in the Archeological community. It is said it was forged by Babylonian mages for Amel-Marduk, the very son of Nebuchadnezzar II. Interesting story, by the way. While most people refer to him as Nebuchadnezzar, actually, Nebuchadnezzar first of his name is completely unrelated to him and lived some five hun…”
“So, OK, it’s an interesting old knife.” interrupted DiNozzo, much to the relief of the others. “Do we have any idea of who might have tried to steal it?”
“I think that Sunni terrorists might be a safe bet, Tony. Probably some former members of the Ba'ath Party trying to get a piece of Iraq’s historical heritage. You know how much Saddam was fascinated by this.” replied Ziva dispassionately.
“… and by Nebuchadnezzar in particular. Did you know Saddam even named a division of his republican guard after him?” added Ducky
“Don’t jump to conclusions, Ziva. We’ll see once we get there. Plus they wouldn’t need us if they were sure of that.” said Gibbs without taking his eye off his papers.
The whole Scooby Gang was gathered at the library, waiting for Giles to expose his findings. Willow was leaning on Oz’ shoulder. They were sitting at the table, with Xander on the other side of it. Faith was sitting further away, cross-legged on the counter. Finally, Buffy was on the stairs, Angel close by, standing against the wall.
“The Nine Swords of the Flux are ancient artifacts, rumored to have been forged from the nine shards of a magical meteor, which disintegrated when it collided with our earth.” said the Watcher, pacing the room, an old volume in his hands. “Together, with the proper ritual applied, they are rumored to have the power to release the Old Ones on Earth once more.”
“Doesn’t sound so bad, Giles.” said Faith. “All we’ve to do is find one of these nine guttin’ toys, destroy it, and score!”
“It’s not as simple as this, Faith.” smiled Giles while removing its glasses. “Even eight of them together have enough power to destroy the souls of all humans alive. And seven would enable to perform a ritual to destroy the Slayer Line forever!”
“Whoa! That sounds pretty bad.” said Buffy. “But so, six is the magic number? If they only have six, we are saved?”
“Six shouldn’t be enough to do significant damage. If I read the Prophecy of Trach’gach correctly, four are enough to destroy or alter a soul, five to imbue someone with immortality, and six to acquire a touch of death like the Judge had. So, pretty bad, but not apocalyptic.”
“But so, if they have six, they could imbue a whole army with deathly fingers?” said Xander
“No. Once the swords are used once, they lose their power. So, only one person could have ‘deadly fingers’. It’s the only way to destroy them, by the way. To use their power.” answered Giles
“OK, so where’we going? Take them back from some vamp uberlord, maybe?” said Faith enthusiastically, squeezing her left fist aggressively in her other hand.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Faith. Willow?” made Giles
The redhead stiffened on his chair, gathered a few papers and started talking. “So what Giles could find is that the Sword of Daha’guth and the Golden Cutlass of Thrace were stolen in the past month by vampires. The Katana of the First Daïmo and the Macuahuitl of Quetzalcoatl seemed to have been stolen from Museums in 1974 and 1991. I wasn’t able to locate the Scimitar of the Šhayṭān or the Khanda of Undying Ivory; they seem to never have been found since the High Antiquity. Giles told me that the Meremeta Machete is in the vaults of the Watcher’s council. That leaves us with the Kris of Thousands Jewels and the Falchion of Kish. The first one is in a secret private collection, and the Falchion was just discovered in Iraq a few months ago.”
“So, Iraq, hu?” said Buffy “I guess there will be daylight travelling, then, sorry.” she added, cuddling Angel’s arm.
“Wait, I still need to locate that thing.” said Willow. “I don’t know precisely where in Iraq it is at the moment. It’s likely in Bagdad though, I don’t suppose that they would leave something like this just hanging in the desert.”
“The Al-Hajarah desert!” said DiNozzo, getting off the plane stretching his arms. “I guess one of the loveliest places in the world to spend your holidays. I mean, except for the deadly heat, the sandstorms and the terrorist risk.” He sighed “Why couldn’t we just stay on the jet?”
One officer and two marines were waiting for the team, on the tarmac of this small desert runway.
“Agent Gibbs, I am Captain Wilkins and this is Petty Officier Fisker, we are here to help you on your investigation. Welcome to Iraq!”
“Thanks, Captain Wilkins. These are Special Agents DiNozzo, McGee, Officer David and Doctor Mallard. So, where did the murders take place?” said Gibbs, straight to the point.
Wilkins fingered a warehouse a few hundred yards away, and led them to it. It was a regular military warehouse, but the scene inside was almost surreal. Some of the well-ordered piles of crates had completely collapsed, and pieces of military equipment, ranging from spare parts for Abrams tanks to medical emergency kits, had fallen from some of the boxes.
“We had to remove the three bodies due to the heat, obviously, but the photos we took should suffice for your investigation. I’ll show Dr. Mallard the way to the medical tent, and I’ll let Petty Officier Fisker tell you what we know.” said Wilkins
“Special Agents.” nodded Fisker. “So… At 3:23am on Friday, the base was woken up by heavy gunfire in this warehouse. Private Guerrini was on guard on the warehouse, while Private Deponte and First Class Amaturo were patrolling. When we arrived, we saw four dark shapes escaping, and our fire seems to have forced them to drop what they were fleeing with – the Falchion of Kish. When we reached the warehouse, as you can see on these photos, Private Deponte was lying on this crate twelve feet above the ground, while Private Guerrini and First Class Amaturo were on the floor. All dead.”
“Did you start gathering the bullets and cartridges on the scene? Any indication of what weapon the attackers were using?” said Gibbs, contemplating the scene at the same time.
Fisker sighed. “That’s the problem, sir. After interrogating all of our eye witnesses, not a single one of them remembered the attackers carrying guns. And all the bullets and cartridges we were able to find were M16 standard military issue.”
Gibbs frowned. “And where was this sword found?”
The Marine showed a flag, approximately 100 yards away.
“DiNozzo, McGee, try to find anything around that flag. Bullets, cartridges, anything!” Gibbs shouted.
“Yes, boss!” said DiNozzo, heading immediately towards the flag, closely followed by McGee.
“It will be difficult for your men, sir! A sandstorm hit the base last night. Any evidence would be buried under one or two inches of sand.”
“Then they better start at once!”
Gibbs took a wide look at the desert. “Four unarmed men killing three marines, and then surviving a rain of fire. I see why you requested our help…”
Faith was lying on the bed in her hotel room, thinking. It was 3am, but she couldn’t sleep. Willow hadn’t been able to find anything yet, and the search was going to resume in the morning. She sighed. More waiting… She couldn’t take it anymore. She needed to slay something and let off steam. She jumped from her bed, grabbed a stake, slipped a dagger in her right boot, and left the room.
After patrolling in a first cemetery to no avail, she at last spotted 3 vamps in the second one. She jumped right behind one of them, and staked him before any could react. Two violent punches later, a second vamp was on the ground, the stake through his heart.
“Slayer!” said the last one, as he started to flee. He was a frail, probably young vamp. Faith took the dagger from her boot and threw at him it with dexterity. He fell on impact.
“Gonna enjoy this!” she said, tilting his head and forming a vicious smile on her face. The vamp was on the ground. She sat on him, tore the dagger out of his back, grabbed his hair, and dug the blade in the front of his throat. The blade ripped through his flesh, slowly. The vamp started supplicating, and ended groaning. Once the blade reached the spine, Faith pulled violently and decapitated him. That felt soooo good! And no Miss Goody-Two-Shoes to disapprove that awesome killing!
She thought for a moment. That was true. B could be such a pain in the ass, sometimes. She liked her sister Slayer, but her Better-Then-Thou side was so irritating. Slaying with her was like a race, removing all the fun from it. And these disapproving glances she sometimes had, when Faith was doing something that B considered ‘wrong’ like a brutal slay or punching a guy hard for info… Faith sighed again. And all that ‘I have been doing this the longest’ attitude. When all the Scoobies were around, it was like Faith was just another of B’s sidekicks. Sidekick… She needed to let off some more steam. She headed to a third cemetery.
After Gibbs and Ziva finished taking fingerprints on the Falchion and other evidence, they headed to the medical tent.
"So, did any of these marines say anything interesting to you, Doc?"
"Ah, Jethro, I am afraid that they weren't very talkative.” Ducky said, shrugging his shoulders. “That's a first!” He moved towards the body of the first Marine. “Private Deponte died from the fall on the crates. Multiple fractures to the vertebras. Very strange... His condition is similar to someone hit by a quite rapid car. I can't imagine what in the warehouse could have thrown him so strongly in the air.” Ducky then closed the corpses of the other soldiers. “First Class Amaturo died from having his neck turned around. The poor lad was probably taken by surprise. Now, Jethro, I said they weren't very talkative, but Private Guerrini was. The way he died is properly fascinating.” he said, excitedly waving its arms. “It looks like he died from exsanguination, though he barely had a scratch on him, except the two puncture wounds, and several scratches around his neck. Nothing that could have induced such a massive blood loss. It is a fascinating mystery!"
"Damn it, Ducky. It seems you are bringing me more questions than answers. And exsanguination? What can I do from that? Are you suggesting vampires?" Gibbs said, sarcastically.
"Please be serious, Jethro. I’m trying to be. Interesting story, though. Did you know that vampires really existed? Illnesses like Rabies and Porphyria can lead to the urge of biting and drinking blood. Actually…”
Before Gibbs could interrupt him, McGee burst in the room, followed by DiNozzo.
"Boss, we found something!" he said, brandishing what seemed to be rags of a coat. "The bullets seemed to have cut this coat in half. We found car keys, and... Well..."
"Well, what, McGee?"
"The attacker... Or at least this one... He might be American. His car was of a model that has only been sold in the US. I know it’s not a proof, but…"
“What would an Iraqi terrorist do with car keys of an American car? Why would an Iraqi terrorist with an American car steal some old sword, rather than supervise regular terrorist attacks?”
“Maybe it was not a terrorist attack?” proposed Ziva “They really were after the Falchion. And in such a hurry that they preferred to attack an American military base, than to wait for it to be transferred to a Museum. Which means…”
“That they’ll try again! We have to conceal the Falchion until we bust them.” said DiNozzo
“No, DiNozzo. Just the opposite. We will help them find it.” said Gibbs, smirking at his agent.
“Boss?” asked McGee, bewildered.
“A trap!” nodded Ziva, smiling.