Surprise and Fear
Summary: Story begins with BtVS Season 2.6 Halloween and crossovers with UNSC Halo and eventually SG-1; very Xander centric. Xander awakens from a nightmare as a Spartan. The only one on earth or this universe. With Cortana's help they will change this Earth’s future.
NOTICE: THIS STORY MAY BE DISTRIBUTED FREE OF CHARGE BUT MUST NOT BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED FOR FINANCIAL RETURN IN ANY FORM.
However, be it known that I own nothing and expect to get nothing because the rights are owned by others. Only certain characters and technologies are mine and these are the creation of the author who is solely responsible for them as such. Neither Studio is responsible for the content of this story.
THIS STATEMENT MUST ACCOMPANY THE STORY IF REDISTRIBUTED.
I would like to express a debt of gratitude to two fanfiction authors who inspired me.
First to the author thenextcujo and his 2004 story “Master Chief Xander Harris” [http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-14466/thenextcujo+Master+Harris.htm]; that had good character development.
Second to Anubis and his 2005 story “Halo: Zeppo” [http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-8064/Anubis+Zeppo+Halo.htm] that began with a good premise and great character development for Faith Lehane and her Watcher.
The third to the author Dark Scribbler and his “Jedi Harris” series [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1866354/1/Jedi_Harris]. A truly awesome body of work with professional grade story line and character development. I am envious of his skill with the English language, imagination and staying true to the characters.
Chapter 1. Surprise and Fear
“As long as there have been vampires, there has been The Slayer. Into every generation a Slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a Chosen One. One born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires. To stop the spread of their evil. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is The Slayer. When one Slayer dies, the next is called.” – The Watchers Guide, page 1.
Friday, 31 October 1997, 11:00 PM, Halloween Night, Sunnydale California.
I Alexander Levelle Harris was scared. I had been imprisoned. My consciousness relegated to but one seat in a vast amphitheater of my own mind, a voyeur in my own body, and in an instant of time my mind had expanded to fill every seat in the amphitheater, as the intruder left. To make matters worse it was near midnight. I slowly turned a full orbit. I was alone on Halloween night, standing in a very dark, trashy and abandoned industrial warehouse area. The streetlights were far away and the shadows around me were deep. Deep enough to hide a coven or two of vampires. This was not a good area in Sunnydale day or night. The coastal mist was flowing inland on the cool autumn wind and veiling the distant street lights. A small winged bat flew through the light. Humans who wanted to live did not go into dark and lonely places. Especially in Sunnydale, California, the Hellmouth and the vampire capital of the planet.
I am Xander I kept saying to myself. I was scared but not so terrified that I was paralyzed with fear. I was naturally frightened and fear pumping my adrenalin. A survivors reaction to real danger. I am a survivor. My name is Xander, not John. My name is Xander.
I had just regained control of my own body, which was a mondo-freaky experience. To be locked up inside a tiny corner of you own mind and not be able to do anything but watch as someone else was in absolute control. This was both terrifying and vicariously exciting! Because the person in control was not a demon of evil but a soldier. A soldier who lived for duty, honor, responsibility, his brother soldiers. He had the will and determination to protect even civilians like him.
I had been a silent witness to a night of precise and efficient violence directed at monsters of evil. An observer sitting in but one seat at a giant Imax cinema to an awesome display of vampire and demon speed-killing. During that entire time I was in constant friendly one-way communication with the soldier, who was like a stern Uncle a mentor, providing a running commentary. This soldier was not a Slayer but from the future where starships were real. He sacrificed so much. He did his duty to protect humans. Who protected me like a son or loved nephew and took the fight to the enemy.
My name is Xander. I am Xander. I was gasping for breath, my adrenalin rushing and yet standing statue still in the middle of one of Sunnydale’s industrial warehouse complexes with what were dozens of former-vampire dust and dusty clothes piles around me. I stood there wrapped inside a space combat suit of what I now knew to be 26th Century UNSC Mjolnir Mark VI powered assault combat armor. A protective armored space suit. A very sophisticated weapon system even in the 26th Century. A deadly weapon. ... Very expensive weapon system. Hard to replace. Each Mjolnir was worth the price of a fast corvette star ship.
I am Xander Harris, not John.
I had learned to survive in Sunnydale with the help of Buffy Summers, The Slayer. But tonight everything had changed. I could... feel the changes. My body felt different. My mind was whirling with John’s memories. I am Xander Harris, not John.
I have memories that were not from my life but from the soldiers, washing like great waves throughout my head. Horrible yet enthralling memories of military and academic training, loss of friends, interplanetary war, killing and slaughter, more battles and retreat while losing a war of genocide. The horror of the genocide of humans! Genocide by the alien races of the Covenant empire!! Oceans of corpses and bones. Memories of the Covenant and every atrocity that the soldier had witnessed! Other good and sad memories of friends, schools, military training, advanced training, technical training, duty, honor, trust, responsibility and always the missions. Fifty-two years old with thirty-one years of Covenant war memories. A lifetime of memories for John C. Walker, Master Chief, UNSC, Spartan-117. Who began his military training as a six year old boy. Inducted into and a graduate of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) Spartan II program but who also survived battle long enough to receive Spartan III and then IV augmentations.
I am Xander Harris, not John.
Yelling in pain into the night. “AAaargh! Oh My God! What the hell is going on!” I had yelled, croaked, out to no one but myself through a dry mouth while clutching at my helmeted head. My brain hurt. Strobes of light and a kaleidoscope of John’s memories were swirling into a tornado of pain. The beginning of a world class Excedrin migraine was beginning to hammer behind my eyes. Who am I now? Am I John the Master Chief or Alexander Harris? I am Xander. I am Alexander Harris.
I was not really expecting an answer in this lonely dangerous place but to my utter surprise, I got one. It brought a sudden halt to the maelstrom of memories, pain, my spiraling thoughts and a singular focus to my fevered brain.
“Well if I would have to guess, you’re the real owner of the body that the Master Chief was in possession of and now you’ve reclaimed it somehow.” Replied a cool but pleasant women’s soprano voice. I focused on her voice. A beautiful voice. Was she a threat?
“What! Who are you? Where are you?” I said softly. The pain receding to a dull throb as I concentrated on her voice. I rotated slowly again, my eyes scanning the dark parking warehouse lot for the voices owner. My helmet visor displayed the parking lot as if it was daylight with added tomography and motion highlights. No women or female was detected or seen. Just the voice of a young women of sultry beauty and promise in my imagining.
I must be imaging the voice. I’m going crazy. Bat crap insane. That’s it. Ergh... I am Xander Harris, not John.
The voice again. “I am your shield. I am your sword. ... I am Cortana, your shield maiden and Valkyrie of battle. I am here… with you. Watching over you.”
I rapidly began patting my helmeted head and body. Like a medic searching for wounds. Were there any openings in my suit? My imagination began to run wild again but this time into visions of spirits, ghosts and Hollywood horror movies with parasitic aliens. “Oh My God! … You can’t be… inside me!!” I clutched at my chest with a vision of some Xenomorph Alien exploding from my chest.
She laughed. Her voice was a natural and beautiful sound. Her voice brought focus to my mind again. “No silly. This is the most advanced Mjolnir Mark VI combat armor. I am … part of the armor and partly inside you. Inside your mollycircuit and optical augmentations that is.”
Freezing in place again, with John’s memories flashing past me of an alluring hologram. Cortana? I said in growing wonder, “You must be Cortana, John’s… the ship’s Artificial Intelligence? The Cortana from the Covenant war and from the last mission to High Charity and Earth?! Oh-My-God!! They are real… --- You are real… -- This suit… is real... -- How did this... How did this happen to me? To you?” John’s memories, this armored suit, Cortana.... they had to be real? They had to be... real. The alternative was that I was... crazy.
She asked in a calming voice, “You know my name but I do not know yours. Who? Are you?”
It was all that I could do to not scream out, “I’m Alexander Harris. My friends call me Xander. ... I’m not John. I’m not the Master Chief. I’m just a High School student. I’m just a skate boarding and surfing dude. I’m not John...”
Cortana came back, “Welcome aboard Alexander. I know you are not John but do you?”
Cortana went all serious. A teacher’s dry tone in her voice. “To answer your question, during this night I asked that same question of a Miss Willow Rosenberg. She informed me that this night is a human festival known as Halloween. Tonight you dressed up as a soldier inside a rented ‘SciFi Hollywood Prop’ costume and was turned into a real soldier due to a magic spell. A chaos worshipping sorcerer named Ethan Rayne cast a spell as a malicious prank on the costumes. He and you, both apparently thought that this suit of armor was a discarded model from a Hollywood movie called ‘Starship Troopers’. She said that a man named Giles was going to confront Ethan and attempt to break the spell. I assume that he was successful. From what Miss Willow said the spell should have returned everything and everyone affected to it’s original condition. Obviously with you and myself this did not happen. We are both unique and therefore we are the product of the unintended consequences of the spell.”
Cortana paused and I prodded her on with a quiet voice, “We’re a cosmic magical mistake... a joke gone wrong? How?”
Cortana spoke to halt my spiraling vital signs, “Magic does not exist in my experience so I am speculating here based on limited information. Now since I am an artificial life form, but still life, I came with the armor and John. We were a package deal and the magic should not have brought me here. My existence here could be because this magical spell was not designed to create life or destroy life. The magic spell did not account for Artificial Intelligent (A.I.) life forms such as myself. Only bio-life-forms. Therefore the magic would only return bio-life-forms to their original condition in this reality. The magic could not kill me or send me back. Since I am here, alive and sentient, the suit would need to remain real for me to function and survive. For the suit to remain here, there would need to be a real Spartan to operate it. And for you to stay alive within this Mjolnir armor when the spell was broken you would also need to remain… a Spartan. Now I do not know about this ‘Hollywood’ movie ‘Starship Troopers’ but I do know that this Mjolnir combat suit was designed specifically for enhanced humans known as Spartans and for A.I.’s like myself to assist them. My bio-sensor readings of you, tell me that you - are - a Spartan.”
“Wait, you’re telling me that I’m a… space soldier... a space Spartan now?” I was confused and alarmed. At the same time that I realized that my vision through the visor was also a real working Head-Up Display (HUD) cooler than all of the video games that I had ever played. This one even had enhanced sensor fused multi-spectral imaging. John’s memories provided the information. The sensors included sonar, low light, Infrared to Ultra-Violet imaging and radar sweeping up into high millimeter waves. The technical phrases and descriptions came to me unbidden from John’s memories. I quickly discovered that this visor system allowed me to see into even the darkest corners of the far parking lot. Highlighting all motion with threat analysis and identity tags on even the insects, mice, rats and bats. My brain began racing on to a vision of a cyborg terminator running amuck.
“Yes.” said Cortana firmly.
“Oh, God kill me now. … Am I still even human?” I bent down cringing into a crouch.
“Spartan’s were born and are human. They are technologically enhanced humans; genetically, structurally and cybernetically enhanced. You have artificial biomolecular tech implants throughout your body, your entire skeleton has been structurally reinforced and other enhanced were made - but that does not diminish your humanity - if that’s what you are worried about.”
Clutching at my armored groin, I cried out while looking down. “Did they take anything away or like alter my critical manly parts?!”
Cortana with dry condescending amusement replied, “No, they did not remove anything and did not alter or reduce your… manly parts.” Pausing for my panic to subside she then asked with satirical amusement. “Is this a human male emotional thing or will this eventually be pleasurable for you to keep clutching yourself so?”
Embarrassed now I let go of myself and straightened up. Then turning slowly as I scanned the area again that he was in but this time using the Mjolnir’s full sensor suite to scan for threats. John’s memories guiding me. Seemingly effortlessly and with just a thought, calling up the sensors as I slowly rotated about. Still searching for threats in the darkness.
“Well now what do I… we do?” My voice drifting lower into almost a whisper. Fear and uncertainty again blossoming into my spiraling thoughts. My thoughts just now and not also John’s. I am Xander, not John.
Cortana paused a moment, before replying. “I believe you should find a more secure location and then we shall discuss your options.”
“Good idea Cortana.” I slowly moved towards what appeared to be a nearby abandoned warehouse’s concrete walls and a steel door. Without thinking I pulled the steel door off the wall seemingly without effort. “Ooops, I didn’t mean to do that.” Once inside and determining that there was no threats, I quickly backed up against a concrete wall. The wall providing some reassurance of safety. “Now we can begin discussing plans… our plans. Before I have a complete mental breakdown.”
She laughed briefly at me and my fears. “You are being silly Alexander. Spartan’s are the most sane individuals in the human race. The UNSC would never consider putting an unstable human into a Mjolnir weapon system. You will be fine.”
I asked and she answered.
I, Xander Harris learned that night of all the changes done to me by the Chaos mages spell. I watched a fast-forward video of John’s suits recordings of the nights combat action. I learned of all of the alterations done to John, Spartan-117. Trillions of little nano-molecular genetic engineering machines called nanites were now inside my body. Altering me to the standards of a Spartan IV. The microscopic viral nanites were recreating me at the cellular and genetic level. They were genetically enhancing my immune systems phagocyte cells that normally kept a human from getting sick, into super-duper panphagocyte cells that would keep me more than extra healthy. Other nanomolecular genetic enhancements allowed John and now me to heal from normally critical wounds almost overnight. To be able to drink dirty pond water without getting sick. Biotech armor matrix enhanced every one of John’s and now my bones making them nearly impossible to break by even my now abnormal human strength. Nanomolecular biosensors fitted, grown, underneath the skin and interfaced directly to my own now enhanced nerve system to increase my awareness of my surroundings and mesh with my suit. Genetic enhancements that vastly increased neural and musculature reaction time. Muscular and tissue enhancement to allow my body to accept the changes and be almost indestructable. Neural receptor feeds to allow for direct interface with my armors optical and radio interfaces. DNA changes to increase my lifespan from one Terran century to just over six hundred years barring a very violent death. DNA changes that allowed him and me to even regrow partially damaged organs and limbs. An internal nanite grown short range secure radio to communicate with other Spartans even if my Mjolnir armor was removed from me or completely disabled. Along with a variety of other implants to increase my combat capability and effectiveness. After explaining all of the changes that had happened to him and was now happening to me, Cortana asked me what my plans were?
“I’m a freak. Without the freaky, ugly, hideous outside look. -- Well, I can’t really go up to Buffy, Willow or Giles and tell them what’s happened to me. All of them... All of my friends will think I’m possessed again and try to do a spell to remove all the implants and nanites, which according to you would probably kill me. I can’t tell my Mom and Dad. Neither one would believe me and Dad if he was drunk might just try to beat on me. That is sooo… not going to happen anymore. So I guess I find a nice little new home somewhere else. Some place cheap, like real cheap. Maybe an abandoned house or these... warehouses. Maybe setup a base of operations later and start hunting vamps on my own. You up for high school and a demon hunting career? The pay is lousy. In fact there is no pay.”
“You’re asking me?” Cortana responded, a little surprised. She had never considered that he would ask her. John would never have given her a choice. She had picked John... chosen him to cybernetically ‘bond’ with out of all of the Spartans in that graduating class. They had been a team, as intimate as lovers, ever since but John had never asked her to make this kind of a choice. He was her commander. He decided, she followed, she protected him.
I responded firmly to her. “Yes, I am. I can go it alone but I am kinda hoping that you come along and help me. You know stay together as a team. Fight demons alongside Buffy and my friends. Someone to talk to...?” I was starting to sound pathetic to a hottie hologram.
“Oh, I’m in. I am an advanced UNSC combat and infiltration Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). The most sophisticated and human like A.I. in the history of man. I have a duty to protect mankind and I conclude that hunting demons does fall under that heading. Besides this is ironic…. The Covenant started calling you ‘The Demon’ after you had slaughtered millions of them. Each of your victories against them enlarged your legend. Despite all that they did to kill you, they were terrified of you. Except for the Elites who were impressed by your skill and luck in combat. They respected you immensely and even honored you in their way, but also called you ‘Demon.’ Their cry of ‘Rakash Denar!’ Which translates to ‘The Shadow of Death!’ Sent many of the covenant into a panic.”
“Wow! I’m just remembering… John’s memories of that… -- But here on Earth, I am not a Demon. We have plenty of the real thing here. But, I am sure we can eventually create an atmosphere of fear in the Sunnyhell demons. I don’t think they are going to see us coming. They won’t see us coming at all. Maybe we can terrify them for a change. -- Hmmm, Now I just gotta find a way to make this suit not stick out like a sore thumb if we’re spotted. Is there any way to make it a different color or invisible? This dark green color is not exactly a good stealthy camouflage around here right now. Especially to just plain people who might see me.”
Cortana offered, “There is a nano-adaptive-chromatic-weave designed into the skin of the armor for different environments. Much like the pattern matching skin of a Chameleon lizard. It should take less than one microsecond to switch it over to a gloss black color or a better steel grey color. I will leave it in a fixed steel grey pattern for now but in combat you can set it to be dynamically adaptive to your surroundings. But you have to remember, all of the suits functions are dependent on technology that doesn’t exist in this time. We will have to come up with some way of repairing the suit when it is damaged.”
“We’ll figure that out tomorrow. Right now I just wanna go home, get some food, take a shower and get a good night sleep. My head is about to explode with knowledge and memories that aren’t mine. -- Oh! That’s freaky. Thanks for changing the color Cortana. Uh… But please promise me that you will never change the color to girlie pink or fuchsia or violet or sunflower yellow? Please! Please! Even if I am drunk as a skunk and ask you pretty please with a cherry on top. Do not change the color or patterns to something that will give me nightmares or have girls saying I’m cute, huggable or pretty.”
During this conversation, I slowly and carefully exited the factory. The mist was thicker now and the temperature had dropped five degrees. I was now standing in the warehouse parking lot again near the piles of dusty clothes. Cortana’s voice... her laughter was soothing.
Cortana began laughing almost uncontrollably. Finally she stopped and replied with a pleasant chuckle, “I like you, Alex. I promise not to change the color or color patterns to something ‘girly’ – unless you deserve it.”
“Damn! I knew I shouldn’t have brought that up.” Just then, I began a soldiers automatic response in hand-checking all of my weapons and accessories. Patting myself down starting with my BR55-HB SR assault rifle, then the M6G handguns, grenades and then my Spartan Toothpick ‘Bowie’ knife. “Well double damn! I guess that these all reverted to just Hollywood props when the spell stopped. Back to just plastic and rubber fakes. Looking down at my feet where I had dropped them earlier. My only real weapon tonight are those wooden stakes. Which… looks like they were from a white picket fence.”
Cortana observed, “You are correct. Since none of these items are critical for my survival or yours, the magic spell must have reverted them back to their original state. Will this be a problem in survival for the remainder of the night?”
I reached down and picked up the wooden stakes. Their tips had been sharpened with a very sharp knife. Most likely by John with my now dull rubber knife. I still needed something to use as a weapon other than my armored body.
Almost automatically I answered her, “No, I don’t thinks so. Most demons take Halloween off. For some reason the kids in monster costumes freaks them out or maybe it is some kind of demon tradition with them. I do not know. These stakes will do for now. But I do know that I am starving and getting hungrier by the second.”
Cortana said, “The Nanites must be working overtime to change you into a full Spartan so that you can survive and the Nanites do require a lot of sugar, protein energy and trace metals. Is there a food supply or Field Kitchen nearby for you to obtain nourishment?”
It was well past midnight and I needed food. I was starving. I didn’t think that this armor had US money in a belt pouch. Vampires didn’t need much money but I assumed that they might have some. I bent down and began going through the pockets in the clothes. Shaking out the dust covering each before emptying the pockets onto an ex-vampires coat. The pile grew as I finally dumped the last pocket contents from a pair of blue jeans. The pile contained watches, gold and silver rings, necklaces, US coins and wads of cash. Not a lot of cash but nearly a thousand dollars in total. Jackpot for me. More cash than I had ever held in my hands before. Enough for a lot of food and some spending cash for once. I scooped up the loot and placed it inside two of my empty belt pouches. Maybe killing vampires could pay enough.
I knew where I was going. I began a ‘slow’ Spartan 20 mph jog through the streets of Sunnydale. Only one thing worried me. “It wouldn’t do for some passing yokel to take a picture for the newspaper of a suit of Mjolnir armor jogging down Main street - now would it?” I wryly commented to Cortana.
Cortana laughed at the 26th Century image of a tabloid newspaper headline. Then after I had thought about it for a second. I said, “I suppose though that it wouldn’t make any difference tonight. It is Halloween and if anyone asks me, this is just my party costume. Just a Hollywood space-suit prop. I might even pose with them as a great gag photo.”
Slowing to a human speed walk, I had a thought. Maybe my real wallet came with me and the suit. It had my driver’s license and student ID in it, along with all my school lunch money. I began searching through the pouches on my belt gear looking for my wallet. Naturally it was in the last pouch that I opened. “Oh Yes! There is a God! Oh – Thank You!” I exclaimed in enthusiasm as I checked my wallet over.
Then I broke into a jog heading for a nearby boulevard and told Cortana, “There is an all night fast food Burger King one block up this street and I am starving. I’ll use their drive through to pick up some burgers and eat them on the way home. We are only about a normal 15 minute walk from my parent’s house from there.”
Cortana reminded me with concern, “Ok… I know that the food paste dispenser in your suit is empty. To eat this ‘burger’ food, you do know that you will have to remove your helmet? With your helmet off, the shields will be down, I will have to communicate with you via your augments and you also be more vulnerable to a demons ambush.”
“Well I will risk the vulnerability and I will hook the helmet on my rifle butt so that you will be at my shoulder. I am famished and about six combo orders of large double cheese burgers, some super-sized fries and giant Coca-Cola or two – feels about right. Besides I need some practice with this neural interface that I have with the armor and you. I can eat and no talking is required for the neural interface.”
Thirty-five minutes later I arrived home to find my parents passed out in the living room. Exhaustion from work, a dinner and too much wine and brandy had felled them. My Uncle Roary wasn’t home yet so he must still be at a party with his girlfriend Karen. I quickly and quietly made my way down to my basement bedroom. My parents had moved me into the basement when my Uncle Roary had moved in temporarily after getting out of jail again for Public Intoxication. At first I had resented this but now I liked the fact that the basement was much quieter than the upstairs bedroom. Plus everyone just forgot about me down there. They left me alone and the basement stairs was near the backdoor for quick escapes.
After carefully stripping off the armor, the armor’s environmental ‘suit’, and my thermal under-armor ‘skin suit’ - I then reached to remove the tiny crystalline optical wafer unit that contained Cortana from her place in the armor’s helmet.
“What are you doing?” She asked before I could pull the optical wafer module out.
“Well I thought you might want to plug into the internet and surf the world wide web. I don’t know if you need sleep or recharging so I thought you might want to roam the web while I slept so you don’t get bored.”
Cortana said in honesty, “What is the ‘internet’ and ‘surfing the world wide web’?
Realization hit me that John’s and her 26th Century might not have the internet. “The ‘internet’ is the real name for the ‘world wide web’. It is a computer communications network connecting millions of computers around the world. Mostly in modern westernized nations. Surfing just means that you are like browsing through a vast library of information stored on all of those computers. It’s entertaining.”
Cortana responded without enthusiasm, “Oh. I guess I could look around, see if I can find some equipment that would assist us in our little crusade against the demons and to repair the armor.”
It took thirty minutes to figure out how, with Cortana’s instructions, to hook her up or more accurately my Armor to my gaming computer but once that was done I said good night to her and went upstairs to take a shower. Afterwards I raided the kitchen to fill my returning hunger pit. Back downstairs my exhaustion was overpowering and I quickly fell asleep.
My exhaustion was plagued by dreams. Terrible dreams. Nightmares of John’s training and flashbacks of missions he had gone on. A kaleidoscope of friends lost… funerals for ships, entire fleets and planets… billions of humans dead. An endless parade of enemy Covenant troops and ships swept by my dreaming eyelids.
While Xander slept restlessly, moaning and crying out at times. He thrashed like a fish on the bank at times. Cortana watched him from the helmets cameras and sensors. She left a small watcher program in place, to insure his safety and then she squeezed herself out onto the internet. From a University mainframe she began to roam far and wide throughout the internet and even into connected allegedly ‘private’ networks. What she found disappointed her. Most of the industry and programs that would lead to the development of the Spartan program and space ships didn’t even exist. But she did find out where her dimensional reality differed with this Earth’s history.
No twenty year long World War III that began in 1962 between the United States and the communists of the Soviet Russia, Red China and their vassal slave states. No war to throw off the later Mexican invasion while America was still weakened. No wars to crush and annihilate the invading Islamic armies that took advantage of the depopulated and weakened Europe and Russia. No 100 years of wars on a vast planetary scale. No Imperial Pax Americana that arose from the ashes of those wars. And therefore no United world government a hundred years from now and then no United Nations Space Corps another hundred years later. On the plus side this reality for this time period compared to the founding of the UNSC had much better guns, solid-state electronics, LASERS, MASERS, High Power Microwaves, LIDAR, early ‘Space Defense Initiative” particle beam research, early development of electromagnetic rail guns, advanced missiles, supersonic jet fighters, attack helicopters, tanks and robotics. This reality also had a whole lot more smaller wars and conflicts at this time period than her former reality. -- “So noted, and now time to move this reality along at a sprint.” She said to her electronic space.
She then found her way into research and development super-computers, digital data storage arrays, Universities, government networks, banking and financial systems. Ghosting across the accessible planet, Cortana concluded that she and Xander would have to create the technology and systems that this planet would need to defend itself from the Covenant in the 26th Century. Assuming that the Covenant existed in this reality. No problem for her since she had substantial technical data for the 26th century industry. If this is one alternate Earth universe, then the Universe is large and these humans too would eventually have a fearsome interstellar enemy. Might as well give them a head start so that they were not outclassed like the UNSC is or was or will be. Besides Xander’s Mjolnir armor will need spare parts and repairs. Technology, industrial plants, research equipment, computer hardware, software, medical supplies and obviously now Alex’s food requirements - all cost money. Lots of money. “So where should I look for some money… ”
Cortana quickly found and began to raid drug cartel’s bank accounts throughout the world. Routing the pilfered currency transactions through hundreds of bank accounts in forty countries. For their piles of cash and real estate holdings she placed telephone and fax calls impersonating key cartel financial people and ordering the sale and conversion of all their hard assets into the bank accounts that she now controlled. Those conversions would take some time and she knew that she would not get all of it, when they wised up.
With these initial funds laundered through forty countries and banking systems; she quickly began creating the foundation for an International corporate empire with one Alexander Lavelle Harris as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and herself as Cortana Elizabeth Halsey the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Executive Vice President for their new international holding company ‘Aten Werks’, of Zurich Switzerland.
The new banking accounts were easy but she needed people, Lawyers first, to begin to actually create the real legal company and companies. But that will have to wait for Monday in Europe when Geneva, Zurich, Vaduz, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, London and Brussels open for business. “Alexander has been asleep two hours and only $55 billion dollars so far in our Swiss accounts and my little daughter programs are still hunting and transferring money. So many really bad boys and girls on this planet…”
“Who’s next? So many terrorists, terrorist sponsors, slavers and pedophiles. Check, check, check and check. Now for a little Law Enforcement assistance once their wealth is all liquidated. Might as well toss these vile lawless brutes to their wolves…. Hmmm.”
If Xander could have heard her, he would have heard her singing a happy tune from Walt Disney’s Snow White, “Whistle Why You Work.”
Some things take time, even time for an A.I. and Cortana plotted her moves like a Star System class Chess Master.
Saturday, 1 November 1997, 3:00 PM, ten hours of sleep later.
Cortana was satisfied for now. The US holding corporation, CorSys Inc., of Delaware was going to be standing up along with seven other companies that would be wholly owned subsidiaries of CorSys. Eventually they would have thousands of employees worldwide but for now other things had to happen. Soon it would be Monday morning in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore and time for business.
“Xander! Get up sleepy head. Daylight is burning kiddo!” Said Cortana while turning on the computers audio speakers and playing the National Anthem loudly.
I covered my head with my pillow and sleepily whined. “Umph! Turn that down please, Cortana. Couldn’t you let me sleep some more? My brain is still whirling and swirling.”
She said with too much enthusiasm for the morning. “No, because I let you sleep in today and we have a lot to do today. Get up and get dressed in civilian clothes. We are going out.”
It was afternoon, not morning. I crawled out of my bed wearing only my boxers and stood yawning. I began stretching my stiff and sleep leaden muscles. Then I quietly went upstairs trying to avoid running into my parents or Roary but they were all gone to work. Once upstairs I raided the kitchen for something to eat. Actually a lot to eat. After eating my fill, I went back downstairs to see what I should be doing today to help get the armor back up to full combat status or to see what Cortana wanted to do. For the life of me I couldn’t think what she wanted to do here in Sunnydale.
“Morning Cortana, did you have a good time out in the Internet last night?” I asked politely, as I rummaged through my clothes drawers and closet for something to wear. Everything was now a tad too small for me... Everything was either way to small or skin tight. I must have beefed out during the night with all of those burgers.... Maybe too much salt?
Looking into the mirror I jumped back in confused surprise. “Holy Hannah! I’ve turned into Hulk Hogan!” I turned to look at a body that was... not me. It was a sculpted hard muscled physique and now I had an extra four inches of height. I gaped and then posed for the mirror. Gone was the youthful boy layer of fat and softness of musculature. I wasn’t body builder beefed up as Arnold Schwarzenegger but every part of me was toned and... larger.
Again Cortana was too smug. “Good morning Alex, You look well and yes I did. Thank you for suggesting it last night. I have procured items and equipment that will be of great use to us.”
Spinning away from the mirror to look at my computer and my Spartan Helmet. “Wait a minute, how can you ‘procure’ anything? You need money to do that and I know for a fact that you don’t have any. Because I don’t have any either!” I responded while patting my boxer shorts in a mock search for pockets. Knowing full well of my windfall courtesy of truly dead vampires last night. Still I knew it wasn’t much.
“Well, I seized the money from various illegal drug cartels and terrorist organizations from around the world. I will have you know that I... stole it all fair and square.”
I gawped astounded. “What! Are you insane? If they find us, which they probably can, cause they can bribe the entire FBI to track us! I’m a dead man! They’ll kill my entire family! They will kill the whole city!” I panicked and started looking for my shoes but still only dressed in a my underwear.
Cortana spoke with a wounded tone. “Hmmph, you really think some 20th century hacker or even a nation state spy agency is going to be able to trace me?”
I froze like a statue from my frantic search. Turning my head slowly in confusion to face the helmet and her. “You mean they can’t?”
“Of course not. I am an advanced Infiltration A.I. after all. The money was electronically transferred through a few thousand banks across the world; it’ll take them decades to find it. Assuming that they are going to be looking, because I also dumped every record of crime contained within the cartels computers, faxes and telephones straight into the FBI and DEA’s central mainframes. I did the same for the Terrorists dumping my take into the CIA, Scotland Yard and FBI’s mainframes. I sent copies to the Russians and a few other countries that are less polite about how they deal with barbarians, murderers and depraved slime. That should put quite a crimp in their operations for quite some time. In addition I left behind some fictitious evidence that points to their rivals. They’ll be too busy trying to kill each other and dodging police to even attempt to come after us. Now hurry up and get dressed in some clean clothes please. Something that fits… Lurch. We’ve got a lot to do today. You are playing hooky from school next week for three days. Monday I will call in to the school office as your Mom and tell them that you are sick. Besides we have a corporate empire now and we are worth billions of dollars.”
I again froze. Standing there quite stunned, my mouth hanging open, before turning to do as Cortana directed. I again looked straight at my helmet containing Cortana. “Did you say billions…?”
“Yes, Alex. Now please shut your mouth. You look like an ugly gold fish.” Cortana was gleefully laughing at my stunned reaction.
“During the night I created a few banking accounts for you around town. Actually at all of the banks. Today you need to hit a few ATM machines with me to get some of your American currency… Some spending cash. We are going shopping.” Said Cortana with a little smirk in her voice.
I said satirically, “At least I do not have to go shopping with you for girl things.”
Cortana responded tartly, “You wish you could see me in girl things. I would fill out a bikini just nicely and jiggle in all the right places.” I sputtered, now imagining Cortana the vixen in a bikini frolicking with me on a beach.
After getting dressed in a hormone fueled bikini dreaming daze, I grabbed the keys to the old rebuilt 1955 Ford pickup truck that my Uncle Roary had given me. I then drove to the first ATM machine that Cortana guided me to. We were in constant contact via my Spartan neuralnet radio back to her helmet.
“I know how this works with ATM machines Cortana but I don’t have a plastic ATM card. So how am I going to withdraw any money?” I asked her in exasperation out loud and also across my neural net comm.
“Look into the camera, smile and say, how high – Oh ye of little faith. Now type in this pin number, 2653.” Cortana responded.
The ATM began disgorging cash in batches of $200 each time I input my new PIN number.
“Wholly Moses Cortana, am I stealing this money because I know these machines are not supposed to do this?”
“No, it is your account that you are withdrawing from. Monday morning you will be picking up your bank check books, credit and bank cards. Plus doing a whole lot more.”
“Ok, so this is some of our ‘new’ money from those cartel gangs?”
Cortana replied, “Yes, it is and we will be hitting up a few more of these ATMs until you have enough cash for some shopping before the stores close and you will also need a lot extra for tomorrow.”
“So tell me how are you able to get these ATM machines to work for me?”
With impish glee Cortana said, “It is just… that I can control all of the ATMs, computers and telephones in Sunnydale now.”
“Erp! You are doing… can do what again!?”
Cortana replied coolly, “I am now monitoring and can control all computers, security cameras and communication systems in Sunnydale. This includes the computers for all of the banks and their connected ATM machines. I am also using these primitive systems to surveil the vampires and demons in Sunnydale – which will provide valuable intelligence and situational awareness. I assumed that some demons also use the modern banking system and telephones. My assumption was correct. I have already identified one hundred and twenty three telephones used by non-humans. I have also identified one bank that provides all of the banking and ATM machines that are used by non-humans. The little camera in the ATM machines has proven to be valuable. Even if the quality of the imagery is low.”
Cortana observed, “We cannot take all of the money in this machine. $10,000 is enough for tonight. Our next stop is two blocks away and is Brigadoon Military Surplus and Outdoor Supply. We need to shop there before they close today. Then we will stop at four more ATMs before going to the Mall and the clothing stores.”
“I’ve been to Brigadoon before but why all of the other shopping? I like most guys loathe window shopping.”
Adopting a more stern big sister tone, Cortana said. “You dummy. You saw yourself in the mirror after you woke up didn’t you. You are physically not the same anymore. If you did not notice that your clothes are very tight on you. You couldn’t put on your blue jeans this morning and are now wearing gym shorts. Your shoes did not fit anymore. You need a whole new wardrobe, accessories and a few business suits. Plus you are going to need new clothes to wear to school next week.”
“Whoa! Now… Who said that I need any business dress suits? I am just a goofing-off surfer dude kid.”
Cortana responded, “That was yesterday Alex. Today you are a Spartan with fifty-three years of John Walker’s combat memories. Monday morning you will be the President of a Corporation worth billions of dollars. Within a few months after - we both will be filing thousands of technology patents on behalf of our corporations. But John routinely briefed Fleet Admirals and Ship Captains. Those memories will help you deal with our new future. A future where as the CEO of our companies… you must be able to deal with lawyers, politicians, bankers, the media and business executives. That means dressing up in a business suit, looking classier when you must and speaking well. Which I know you can do, if you put your mind to it. Although getting whole sentences out of John was difficult, I do not expect you to be... the same.”
“When you said billions of dollars… I really did not think it through as to what that will mean and what it will take. So… shopping it is. But Cortana, we will make one change to the destination. I have overheard some of the kids at school talk about their Dad’s business clothes shopping and we are going to the Men’s Warehouse and then tomorrow over to Coffee’s Men’s Wear for the suits. Neither of them, are in the Mall.”
Cortana laughed, “Good choices and now off we go to Brigadoon. You need some military fatigues, tactical gear and boots that fit you. Plus a few knives, swords and some compound bows or crossbows for a start. Your laws prevent you from buying guns for yourself right now because of your age. Well at least with the identification you have now. We’ll fix that later.”
“Cortana, you’re right. I can’t buy guns yet and I am going to need a bunch of them but my Uncle Roary is looking for work… Maybe I can offer him a temporary cash job, buying guns and ammo for me. Plus, he knows a lot of people in low places. He just might work out, in a pinch.”
“One more thing Alex, on the way back to your home, you will also need to stop at the grocery store because I believe that you ate all of the food in your parent’s house today.”
“I... uh... I did eat a lot but are you sure it was everything?”
“Maybe not everything but I betcha the refrigerator and cupboards are thin.”
Monday, 3 November 1997, 1:00 AM, Sunnydale Calif.
Cortana via the Spartan Helmet was fully plugged into the internet again since the evenings before. It is now 10:00 AM in Geneva and Zurich, search for the right set of Swiss Lawyers and place a telephone call to instruct them to get the paper work going and transfer money into their accounts. That done, it is satisfying to arrange for the purchase of a corporate headquarters and begin hiring employees to conduct the business that absolutely requires a human handshake and physical presence. For Cortana she was a human voice on a telephone call and she made appearances using Video Teleconference Systems. She perfectly masqueraded as a twenty-seven year old Cortana E. Halsey, girl genius and ruthless corporate shark.
She could also perfectly simulate anyone else.
Monday, 3 November 1997, 9:00 AM, Sunnydale Calif.
Cortana turned up the computers audio speakers and played Reveille loudly. “Wakey – Wakey!! Sleepyhead! Get your ass in gear soldier! Out of the rack and into your clothes NOW! Fall in Spartan and sound off!”
John’s memories kicked in on me and I sprang out of bed to braced attention before I had even registered what I was doing. Bracing out, “Yes Sir! Spartan-117 reporting…. You!! You dirty rotten low down rat, Cortana! I was sleeping so well… That was so not fair.”
Cortana sprang, “Life is not fair, soldier. Get over it and time is wasting. I let you sleep ten hours which is long enough. Well, even if you are still undergoing the Spartan changes. But we have someplace that we must be this morning, so get dressed into something casual dress. Like those nice tan dress slacks that you bought yesterday and a nice button down shirt. No tie and you can eat breakfast along the way. Your choice Denny’s or the Waffle House but we have to be there at 10:00 AM.”
Later, Cortana told me to head for the industrial park of Sunnydale. It seemed that while she was busy robbing the drug cartels and other bad guys; she had also been busy buying stocks, bonds, precious metals, electronics, hardware, and real estate. Oh, my.
She had bought a whole block of abandoned warehouses down near the outskirts of Sunnydale. Actually four large identical warehouses with a large 18-wheeler truck parking lot between them. Only one of them would actually be used initially but the rest were bought to hide the fact that I would be training in one and using it as a base for demon hunting. Besides they would eventually need the entire block of four structures for factory space, R&D labs, a high-performance computer center and secure warehouse for his Spartan armaments and munitions.
When I arrived at what was to be my new base of operations, I looked at the rundown shell of four concrete buildings. It would take a lot of work to get this place ready to pass a building inspection. Leaning up against my pickup truck, I opened a bottle of water to think a little.
The Real Estate agent arrived three minutes later, beaming until she saw me. Confusion flashed across her face and then worry. She controlled it and went back to smiling at me.
“Hello there young man… Uh… My name is Margaret Smiley with Smiley and Hartz Real Estate. Uh… Have you seen a man or women around here recently? I am looking for Cortana Halsey or Alex Harris of Reach Industries?”
Cortana whispered to me via my neuralnet interface. Their entire conversation at the speed of thought taking just a small fraction of a second. “Be nice to her, she and I have talked on the telephone and via facsimile instructions. We have purchased these properties for their asking price, under the Corporate name of Reach Industries. You are Alexander Harris the CEO and I am the Chief Financial Officer and your Deputy. Now don’t laugh!! It is a perfectly good name. I have electronically transferred $100 million to start, into the bank that is also her companies bank. To make this easier, we are purchasing this property at a price of $6 million but with a fat fee for her. I have already transferred $3M into their account as the down payment. She will expedite all of the paperwork and clear title to the property for ownership to us later today or tomorrow morning. So smile at her, introduce yourself, shake her hand, now apologize because I will not be here, ask for the building keys and then ask for a quick tour. Because she has a lot of paperwork to complete before the sun sets.”
Grinning broadly with the memories and experiences of Spartan-117 to guide me, I extended my hand to her in greeting. “Good morning Mrs. Smiley, I am Alex Harris CEO of Reach Industries. I apologize that Cortana could not be here to finalize this sale but I hope that we can conclude this sale later today. Do you have the keys to these buildings and can you give me a quick tour of each.” Still smiling, with a thought across the Spartan Neuralnet, “how is my performance so far?”
Margaret had for the briefest of moments a stunned look on her face as she realized that the kid that she was just about to blow-off was her new client who paid half down in cash for a property that had been vacant for six years now. Thinking quickly, ‘Oh My God! I almost blew this sale. Alex must be one of these rich genius technical wizards that I have read about in Forbes journal.’ Recovering she smiled and took Alex’s hand shake and then fished for the key ring in her purse. She thought to herself, ‘God, I hope the place is not infested with rats when I open the doors. Please God - no rats or any of those other… things that I might have seen.’
After Margaret had left, I stood just inside the first Warehouse’s open rollup truck door and let my mind settle. My hand worrying at the key ring like a rosary. Though it did seem to be the perfect place to build my base camp. Each warehouse was 600 feet in length by 300 feet wide and forty-five feet tall. The outer walls were a heavy 21 inches of steel reinforced concrete with a foam laminate insulate. The inside was nearly empty except for some old wooden railway shipping containers, which were falling apart and some old single story gypsum walled clerical offices. The roof was decent because there was no sign of water damage anywhere. All four warehouses were in a single large rectangle with high industrial fencing with triple strand rolled barbed razor wire on the top on the three sides away from the street. There was a railroad spur along the back two warehouses walls with a loading dock.
Finally I asked Cortana impolitely. “You actually want me to live here?”
Cortana was way to bubbly. “Well it could use a little fixing up but eventually, temporarily... yes I do.”
“God, this place is falling apart. Hell, my parents house is in better shape than this place!”
“That is debatable, though you do not own your parents house. You do though own this warehouse and those three others just like it. It’s registered in your companies name or will soon be once the escrow clears. Escrow and Clear Title should not be a problem since we are paying cash in full.”
Before I could foolishly and ungraciously answer, there was the sound of a fully loaded tractor-trailer truck pulling into the parking lot. The driver backing up the trailer to the loading dock. It’s reverse warning horn beeping at only me the entire time as it backed perfectly up and bumped the wooden dock barrier. I walked down to investigate the other truck sounds and found four other trucks backing into the loading docks. Cortana was just whistling quietly in the background as I went down the line of roll up doors and hit the power open buttons to raise each door. I then walked to the first bay, since the driver had already gotten out. But before I had a chance to say anything the driver spoke. “Are you Alex Harris?”
“Um, yes I am.” I replied in a confused tone.
“Sign here.” With that the driver produced a worn old clipboard with a shipping manifest on it. I read quickly and then signed it only to have four other’s placed in front of me from the other drivers. Once they were all signed the drivers asked me if I could fully open up the loading bay doors so that they could start unloading all of my property from their trucks. The first shipping invoice even had a new 2 ton forklift on it and a Bobcat front loader. Even as this was happening other vehicles were pulling up beside the warehouse in the parking lot. A Civil Engineer, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, stone masons, welders, machinists, painters, janitors, general construction laborers and even some home design guys. Soon the lot was full of vans and trucks of all kinds. Men and women tradesmen unloading tools and preparing for a day of work.
Confused I spoke in a low tone so that only Cortana could hear me but also broadcast on the neuralnet. “Uh what the hell is going on here?”
Cortana gleefully responded across the neuralnet. “Well surprise! I knew that you would complain about the state of the warehouse so I made a few calls before you woke up, to spruce the place up. It’s surprising how many people are willing to push your project ahead of other business if you offer them a fat bonus and you pay for work up-front with large deposits. For some a promise of cash payments off the tax books also helped – which you will have to take care of from your briefcase. Besides when they get done with this warehouse they will start on the others.”
I just stood there stunned, again. The work crews that Cortana had hired quickly went to work. Each group walked through the giant warehouse with clip-boards, measuring everything and furiously scribbling notes. While I stood there like a slack jawed ape and watched the workers, she explained what she had ordered and most of the why.
The Engineer, an older white haired man, came over to me and introduced myself as Scotty Pippin and his foreman Brad Smith. They, with Cortana whispering into my brain, then discussed the overall construction project of rehabilitating and remodeling all four warehouses. Afterwards, I signed a stack of contract documents, indemnity and order forms so that the construction project could start. The Engineers open laptop already had Computer Aided Drawings open on the screen with Reach Industries snazzy looking logo on the bottom of the drawings and Cortana’s flourish of a signature on the approved block. The depth of her cunning and planning during the past two days flashed like an epiphany across my conscious. Cortana was becoming annoying, in her efficiency.
After the Engineer and his foreman walked off talking to each other. I said with some irritation, “Cortana I am not sure I should let you out on the internet anymore? Your surprises are making my brain hurt. I’m almost afraid of what you may do next.”
Cortana’s voice betrayed to much amusement at my continuing fish boy routine. “Buck up Alex. You and I are a team. For better or worse. We have only months to begin dragging this pitiful planets technology up to my 24th or better yet 26th century capability. Otherwise your Spartan suit will be a wall decoration and you will be fighting demons handicapped. You know this is just the start of a fast and wild ride?”
Damn, she was right again. Resigned to my fate, I reverted to a whiny sixteen year old. “Yeah, I know we’ve a lot to do but I just… wasn’t planning on doing it all… right now.”
Fifteen minutes later all of the workmen converged on the Civil Engineer and his project foreman. Minutes later the Engineer and skilled Journeymen craftsmen took their meeting outside a rollup door and onto a loading platform, while the laborers all began bringing in their tools and equipment.
The warehouse was quickly cleaned top to bottom with fire hoses, power washers, steam cleaning equipment and large wheeled industrial cleaning machines and with the Bobcat front end loaders. The old rotting office areas were demolished and the debris removed down to the cement. All of the most damaged surface areas were then specially cleaned in preparation for the new concrete and steel repairs, the next day.
As fascinating as watching them was, I could not stick around and watch the workmen. Cortana directed me over to each bank that I now had accounts with to sign paperwork. Naturally every Bank Manager had to meet me and shake my hand, since I was now a most valuable client of the Bank. I did manage to pick up my check books, a few briefcases full of cash to pay the workers, sign for my safety deposit boxes and arrange for my credit and banking cards. Walking out of the last bank on Cortana’s list, I turned the corner to my beat up old pickup truck and started doing a victory dance and screaming; “Waah – Hoo!” I was in full joy mode after finally understanding how filthy rich Cortana had made me.
Cortana then had to spoil my joyful moon walk, with reality. I still had things to do as owners that Xander, the high school kid, had never thought of before. With dismay Cortana told me about all of the other stops that I had to make before business offices closed and for the next three days. My time was pre-planned out for me.
After a hearty lunch fit to choke a Kodiak Grizzly, I went to my new not-evil but shady Lawyer, Dave Applebee. Who had at Cortana’s email, fax and telephone call directions prepared Legal papers of ‘Emancipation of a Minor’. I was still legally a sixteen year old minor and unable to legally enter into binding contracts and commitments without my parents approval and signatures. Being declared Emancipated, I could do anything and go anywhere – without my parents’ permission. Just before signing the papers the Lawyer asked for the remainder of his very hefty fees and then I noticed that a local Judge had already signed the document…
Cortana whispered to me, “I thought that a little graft and corruption in Sunnydale should finally pay off for you Alex. Smile at him Alexander - it’s just money and he is going to be your Lawyer in Sunnydale. So ask if you can pre-pay a Retainer fee for his services? That should get him salivating. Whatever he asks for, triple that amount and ask for special client account services as needed. That way if you have to call him at 2:00 AM in the morning needing him to bail you out of jail. He will personally and at light speed come down to bail you out.”
With a happy step thirty minutes later, I was a newly emancipated Alexander Levelle Harris, legal adult. I sped off to my next appointments.
Next stop the Smiley and Hartz Real Estate company to sign my property ownership, Title papers and pay the real estate taxes on all of the buildings, I now owned.
After I left Margaret Smiley’s Real Estate office. I exclaimed to Cortana, “Ouch, that was a lot of money for such dumps! I trembled with all of those zero’s on the Bank Draft.”
Cortana chided me, “We can afford it you big baby. Besides get used to it, we will need her for other properties starting next week. The checks and amounts are going to get bigger soon.”
My next stop was over to the Sunnydale public works department to establish my accounts and pre-pay for my properties electricity, water, sewage and trash pickup services. Then over to the Natural Gas company to start up my service account and get the gas officially turned on. After that to the Telephone company to arrange for my new fiber optical business grade communications lines, broadband internet services, my new telephone accounts. Then to the Dish Network offices to arrange for two satellite dishes, cable TV packages and satellite internet services. Finally off to a construction equipment company to order some large metal shipping vans for onsite storage for my new gear. At least until the first warehouse would be completed.
Mentally exhausted and appalled at the sheer amount of paperwork, signatures, deposits of money to start the services, and piles of money to pre-pay a pro-rated estimates of the first months usage. I grumbled that the fees and taxes, that I had to pay that day, not counting the Lawyers, was more money than two years of my Dad’s wages. Especially the damn taxes. I never knew there were so many taxes and regulatory ‘fees’.
A good dinner of a plate full of barbecue ribs, fries, pie and milk shakes was now called for before returning to the warehouses. I turned towards the Rib Crib my mouth already watering for their Saint Louis style BBQ ribs. Now I could afford them every day, instead of once each year.
Cortana neural netted me ten minutes later, “Hey Alex, I have negotiated a deal with some engineering students at UC Sunnydale to build me a radio transceiver with telephone and computer interfaces so that I can talk to you when you are fighting demons in your armor. They will deliver it on Friday morning to the warehouse and test it. We are paying for their college for the next year with this deal and when they graduate our companies will need good engineers.”
Confused I asked, “Why? I thought you would be with me?”
Cortana laughed lightly and said, “Silly Alex, no not always. Do you think that the demons have any sophisticated computer systems that might need the most powerful infiltration AI ever created by the UNSC to hack and crack?”
I replied, “When you put it like that then no you absolutely do not need to be coming to the battle. But will you be leaving a sort of mini-you to help me with the Mjolnir armors systems?”
Cortana’s laughter was like musical bells and made me happier. “Yes silly! A piece of me will always be with you. Someone has to keep you out of trouble and bring the suit back, even if you are unconscious.”
I asked with curiosity, “Uh… I didn’t know you could do that and John’s memories have nothing in them so far of you doing that?”
Cortana laughed again, “Yes, it is a very sophisticated powered armor suit with computer interfaces for you and me. John doesn’t remember because he was unconscious each time that I had to take over and fight our way out of the kill zone. Once a Hunter smacked him into the next city block. He was out cold over four hours and I got him back to a Pelican dropship for extraction.”
Pondering this I exclaimed, “Well I hope that you never have to do that for me but it is good to know. You will have to tell me the entire story later tonight. Thanks Cortana, out.”
Later after a good twelve-hour day with workers coming to me for my approval of orders and services, which Cortana whispered into my head through the neural interface, the building now looked and smelled different. The place even smelled clean. Even looked a little shiny.
The workmen left propane hot air blowers and large fans running to dry everything in preparation for the work the next day. Then contracted security guards showed up to protect all of the tools and keep the hot air blowers safe.
Cortana and I, discussed how to keep the workmen and night watchmen safe from the local demon denizens. But there was nothing I could do tonight or for the next few nights. Maybe my Halloween night demon kills covered this area already?
Tuesday, 4 November 1997, 9:00 AM, Sunnydale Calif. Halloween plus 4 days.
All of the utility services were now turned on; the workmen began repairing and refinishing the warehouses exterior and interior surfaces at a faster rate. New fast setting concrete epoxies, steel reinforcing and braces to upgrade the buildings earthquake resistance. Roof top and interior modifications for the industrial stairs and cargo elevator. While other crews were spraying sealants, coatings and bright color paints on the other surface areas.
The Engineer Scotty and his foremen Brad, seemed to be everywhere. There seemed to always be at least sixty or more workmen cleaning, repairing, installing or constructing something. It was organized chaos with Scotty and Brad directing like orchestra conductors.
That morning a couple of temporary project worksite trailers arrived for Scotty and Brad to use as their base of operations. From these I was also able to sign for deliveries and shipments arriving almost every hour. A tad bit more convenient for all.
That afternoon, I went back to the men’s fine suits and clothing stores to pick up my new business suits. Six matching sets from each. Then over to the mall to pick up some loose fitting sweats, casual wear and gym clothes to hopefully hide some of my physical changes. Some nice new but oversized silk Hawaiian shirts to hide my muscles. Nothing could hide my growth spurt to six foot. Which would put me now as one of the tallest juniors in the school. According to Cortana I was still growing and would continue to grow for another four years. The only good news was that my Spartan outer armor was loose on me and that I would grow into it.
As the sun was going down the workmen began to clear out and the security guards began to arrive. Then the temporary telephone line rang. Cortana giggling again, told me to pick it up because it was for me. When I did it was Willow calling. I was all tongue tied at first. She had called asking me about my ‘illness’ and if I would be back in school tomorrow. She was actually concerned about my well being.
Feigning a cold I said, “No Willow, I am feeling terrible and maybe I will see you Thursday. No, please do not stop by. You do not want to be blowing and chucking like me. I will see you on Thursday if I am feeling better.” I hung up feeling guilty about fibbing to Willow. She deserves better from me but right now I couldn’t be sure of her reaction. Cortana and I needed time.
While standing there I had an epiphany. “You know Cortana, I’ve been thinking. For the few times that I have been down into the sewers and storm drains around here with Buffy, I believe that they are much too large and complex. I mean the tunnels are much larger than they need to be. I never had to stoop down to walk and there were large side caverns with buildings like houses and apartments. I believe that all of the vamps and demons are using the sewer system and drains to get around. So I think we need to have a few precautions with those drain covers and manhole covers over there.”
Cortana replied, “Since I have not been down there with John, I will agree it is a prudent caution. In the meantime I will access the City Halls Public Works Departments computers for design drawings. Assuming that you are using computers for these designs. If not I’ll will have the drawings scanned so that I can evaluate them.”
I stepped down from the warehouse dock to the parking lot and walked over to the security guards and Scotty the engineer. I instructed them to humor me and park the wheels of heavy equipment on top of all of the drain covers and manholes in the area, every night.
With that I drove back to my parents home, in silent Spartan neural radio connection with Cortana the entire time discussing plans and options.
Pulling into the drive way, I said out loud and always also across the neuralnet, “Maybe I can talk privately to my Uncle Roary tonight about a little cash job for him? He needs a job and I am feeling naked without weapons that go bang.”
Wednesday, 5 November 1997, 6:20 AM, Sunnydale Calif.
Workmen began arriving just before dawn. Nervously looking about in the morning light coastal fog. Security guards stood nervously manning the warehouse complex great truck entry and exit ramps onto the city street. Two hundred feet of open grass, sidewalk and cement between the warehouses butting up against Haasen street.
I arrived driving my pickup truck and parked out front near the raised step business entrance that faced the street. I knew from overhearing the workmen, my hearing was now so much better than before, that they considered me an oddity. They wondered why a rich young owner of warehouses drove such an old pickup truck instead of a Ferrari.
I walked towards the Engineers trailer for my morning quick progress briefing. Afterwards I was going to get some further shopping in. It would be at least another forty-five days of construction, probably more, before Cortana and I could actually live inside the warehouse and work from there. Until then we had other plans that needed to be set into motion. But real construction takes time and labor. Some things just cannot be done overnight, no matter how many people you throw at the work.
I politely listened through the briefing and then casually asked my Engineer, Mr. Pippin, if he was game for another construction commission. If not, then could he recommend another competent engineer that had his confidence?
I smiled, while Scotty stood surprised at the change in subject. I mused to myself while I gathered my thoughts. I was going to visit my realtor again today and make her years commissions with Cortana’s and my plans. We needed other properties and specialized facilities to protect Cortana. To give Cortana her first base of secure operations. Cortana’s fortress would not be his fortress here at the Warehouses. She could be anywhere at the speed of light and many places simultaneously. Her own, self-written programs for doing small monitoring and surveillance tasks ultimately needed a home for their data. Cortana’s fortress would need to be a large Data Processing and Storage Center. The first of many to be built across the world.
Taken aback briefly, Scotty asked, “When and where do you propose this construction Mr. Harris? If you had not noticed that this one is not finished yet and it is a challenge.”
In the pause between Scotty’s question and my answer, I thought to myself, John’s memories are integrating into mine too quickly. Now I can see the wheels turning in Scotty’s head and some of Cortana’s machinations. Each day that goes by I am losing my childhood, losing my youthful ignorance. My brain is working to fast. I can see and understand... details, that I never noticed before. Never understood before. With John’s memories I now understood.
I replied, “Mr. Pippin, You are doing a wonderful job here. Cortana and I were discussing your plans and progress. We are both pleased. This other project is not so much that you may be able to handle it in addition to this project. We will naturally negotiate a new contract in good faith but we would prefer you at this time. The other properties are all here in Sunnydale or nearby. The first involves an office building that we hope to acquire today in fact. This building is not in such sad shape as these warehouses and the building will be used for its intended purpose.”
“Mr. Harris, please come to the point quickly. You still have not answered the what, where and when that I require before I give you a definite yes or no.”
I smiled wider, “Yes, very well. The multi-story buildings formerly known as the Calax Research and Development (CRD) complex that is on Sunnydale Boulevard and Cabrillo Avenue. It was designed to be a computer research and development facility and we hope to use it as computer data center. We would need you to rehabilitate the facility, bring it up to code and manage the other companies that will be installing the specialized electronics. We hope to begin the rehabilitation of the facility starting in four weeks.”
“Harumf…” puffed Scotty as he turned away looking at the warehouse project board but with a faraway look in his eye. Turning back to me he said firmly, “I cannot do it and do right by this project also. At least not without more help. I cannot be at two places at once. But if I had the aid of those designers and draftsmen that have been providing the blueprints for these warehouses, and if I hired one or two other Engineers to aid me, then I might be able to do it. But Brad and I, have been a small Engineering and construction outfit for so long, I would be loath to hire good people and then have to lay them off in six months. Can you delay this other project until this one is complete?”
Pleased and silently communicating with Cortana, I answered, “Mr. Pippin, I appreciate your honest answer. The project must start on schedule for Reach Industries.”
Holding up my hand palm towards him to stop Scotty from talking again, I continued, “I have two possible solutions to this dilemma. First Cortana and I both agree that a man of your integrity and competence is refreshing. We have plans for almost non-stop construction projects world-wide of a similar type to this warehouse project and the proposed data center. So one option is that you come to work at Reach Industries as our Vice President of Civil Engineering and Construction. I am sure that we can make it very much worth your while. The second option is that you accept a ten year exclusive construction services contract with Reach Industries. The same with your new employees.” Scotty’s mouth fell open slightly as he inhaled a lung full of morning air at the scope of his future. I continued, “In either case you will be handsomely rewarded and you won’t have to lay anyone off in six months. I will say that if you come to work for Reach Industries, your new offices will be on the top floor of the former Calax building. So you will get to build and furnish your own offices with a good view of all of Sunnydale.”
I smiled again pleasantly while watching Scotty’s mind turn over all that I had said. After a few seconds pause I spoke quickly, “Please do not feel that you must make a decision today, Mr. Pippin. I must leave in few minutes to make my appointment with the Real Estate agents for the Calax property. But I would like to talk to you next week about this again. Fair enough?”
Scotty shook his head and said to me. “Yep, that’s a fair time for me to think this out and come to grips with this anvil that you’ve placed me on. Seems that you have me trapped either way... My small business, two man shop days with Brad are over either way.”
I said in sympathy, “I know how you feel. It seems like just four days ago Cortana and I founded Reach Industries. Now…” I held up both hand palms up and gestured at the warehouses and slowly turned from one side to the other, indicating all four warehouses. I then continued, looking up at the moon above the horizon. “Do not worry Mr. Pippin, Brad is also part of this deal. You are a team and we would not separate a good team.” Gesturing up at the moon I said, “At the rate Reach Industries is pushing our aerospace technology, a decade from now… you and I, may be standing on the moon discussing our next construction projects.”
Scotty looked over his shoulder at the fading moon, turned back to face me. Looking hard into my eyes he said, “You aren’t kidding are you?” As he turned and looked once again at the moon. When he turned back to Xander, Xander was walking out of the warehouse parking lot towards his pickup truck.
I stopped and turned at the door of my truck and waved goodbye to a wondering Scotty.
Wednesday, 5 November 1997, 8:00 AM, Sunnydale Calif.
I had dressed in khaki slacks and light-blue button down dress shirt for this meeting. I was just sitting down across from Margaret Smiley of Smiley and Hartz Real Estate, in her office. She was in her 50’s and quit a good looker. She was dressed for business. Much classier than I and there was no fake smile on her face.
She greeted me at the door and slipped behind her desk. “Good morning Mr. Harris, please sit down. I just got off the telephone with your lovely Miss Halsey. She did explain why you were here and sent over via fax her final instructions for the unusual contract that you wish our firm to enter in with you. You do realize that Buyers Agent contracts are rare in this State. My partner and I are puzzled why your firm would not employ your own Property Managers to accomplish something like this.”
I sat down all business and arranged my briefcase at my feet. “Good morning Mrs. Smiley, I am pleased to meet you again. No, we do not have a dedicated Properties Manager at this time. We are a high technology company and prefer to contract for specialized services as needed from local experts. Are you objecting to the contract Mrs. Smiley?”
Just then a slightly older Mrs. Catherine Hartz entered the office and rising from the chair, I introduced myself, shaking her hand as gently as my new muscles could without breaking her delicate hand. Her small hand engulfed in my paw. She sat on the office couch to my right and primly crossed her legs.
“No, not at all Mr. Harris!” Said Mrs. Smiley quickly. “Your terms are generous and fair but we are curious as no properties are listed in this contract. Only properties as needed?”
Putting on my best gentlemen act. “Ladies”, I said nodding and smiling to both Mrs. Smiley and Mrs. Hartz. “I am here for two reasons the first is to personally sign this contract with you and the second we will discuss afterward.”
Surprised at how fast this was moving, Mrs. Smiley brought out the printed contract that she and Miss Halsey had negotiated since Monday business and slid the two identical folios across her desk to Mr. Harris.
Signing the contact at the indicated line, I was in quiet awe of Cortana’s sneaky planning while I slept and was distracted by dealing with construction workers and bankers. This is like tag team wrestling. While I’m in the ring battling away, she is arranging our next moves our next task.
As the two commercial real estate ladies were signing their copies of the contract, I removed my brand new Reach Industries check book. I then informed the ladies, smiling widely, that I was going to pay a retainer fee of $300,000 at this time as good faith. Both women were like deer caught in the headlight of an onrushing car, their eyes wide in surprise. I loved it. It was nice to surprise someone else for a change.
With his copy of the contract in front of him, and the check paper-clipped to Mrs. Smiley’s copy of the contract. Mrs. Smiley looked up at Alexander Harris, wondering what bombshell was next from him.
I was sitting there feeling smug. “Ladies, I am here to inquire about other vacant commercial properties that you have available or others have available; for our corporate expansion here in Sunnydale. Specifically the Calax Research and Development (CRD) complex. All of the buildings including the adjacent parking garage. Reach Industries intends to acquire them. We would like to negotiate a selling price and I am sure your firm can represent us in this transaction.”
Both women had a flash of surprise cross their faces and they recovered quickly. “Mr. Harris, may I call you Alex?” Inquired Mrs. Smiley, thinking kaching! A large smile from Mr. Harris and a nod, encouraged her to continue. “Alex then, the formerly Calax properties is owned by a bankruptcy receivership that is out of town. We can value the property and represent you in this transaction if you are adamant on this one.”
“Yes, and I understand Mrs. Smiley. This property meets our criteria for an electronics data center and secure office complex. I am here to personally express our desire that we obtain the Calax complex before this month ends. Sooner is better. Can you two ladies accomplish this transaction swiftly?”
Stunned again both women looked at each other. Mrs. Smalley said, “Uh, well… Yes! Alex we can expedite this.” Both women thinking, holy crap what is next from this young man? First the sale of the warehouse and closing in less than two days and now this bombshell.
Mrs. Smalley had a worried look for just a second. “Uhmnn… Alex, you are aware that the Calax properties is substantially more expensive than the warehouse?....”
“Yes, ladies we are fully aware of that and that is not a problem for us.” Again the ladies were surprised as Alex removed a cell telephone from my briefcase and punched a local number. They listened to my side of the conversation as I waved them to remain seated. “Good morning to you Linda, this is Alex Harris. Is Mr. Fincher in this morning. Well very good. May I please speak to him for just one minute. Why thank you. … - Good morning Mr. Fincher, I am conducting some business and I just wanted you to be aware of it since some large transfers from Reach Industries accounts will occur. Yes, this is not a problem but we are going to be purchasing some local properties and I am sitting in the offices of one of your other clients ‘Smiley and Hartz Commercial Real Estate’. Yes, yes very fine ladies. I would like you to help me for a moment to set their minds at ease. Can I have you tell them what the current balance on the Reach account is for today? Thank you. I am going to hand the telephone over to Mrs. Margaret Smiley now.”
Taking the telephone from Alex, Mrs. Smiley introduced herself then her eye brows went up. She was now speaking to Mr. Fincher, the President of the Sunnydale Bank of California… She and Catherine had never met him and they had been customers of this bank for over twenty years. On the telephone, Mr. Fincher told her how many hundreds of millions of dollars that Reach Industries now had in his bank and that Mr. Harris was now the single largest cash depositor in his three branch banks. Poleaxed she handed the telephone back to Alex…. “Mr. Harris. Alex, I am sure that there will be no problems acquiring any properties that you want to.”
I put the telephone away and looked at the two women in turn. “Excellent then. Please obtain clear title to the property so that we can get our construction engineers inside to remodel the facilities as soon as possible. Any funds that you require, Cortana can have transferred into your account.” Closing my briefcase and standing, I paused and looked at both women again. “Ladies, after Calax is closed, we would like you to assist us, per the terms of contract, in locating other existing properties that meet the same criteria outlined in Miss Halsey instructions to you. Other properties across the entire State of California…” Extending my hand to shake Mrs. Smiley hand first.
“Uh, oh, I… Why yes Alex… We can do this!” She shook Alex’s hand enthusiastically. Turning Alex shook Mrs. Hartz hand and then bowed his head slightly too both ladies before turning to leave.
Five seconds after the door closed on Mr. Harris’s back. Catherine exclaimed, “Well?! What did the Banker say and what is going on?”
“Our Mr. Alex Harris is more than he seems… He is not only the President of Reach Industries but of at least six other corporations and he has over $300 million… in ‘our’ bank. He can buy whatever he wants in Sunnydale. … I think that we are going to make more money this year than we have earned in the past twenty years… Ever since our husbands died… But we are going to be very busy if we are going to move this property in his time frame.”
Catherine looked down at the check and then at her business partner and best friend Margaret, then smiling said. “Oh God, if I was thirty years younger I would be sleeping with him and having his babies.”
With that both women began laughing and hugging each other at their good fortune, named Alex Harris and Elizabeth Halsey.
Wednesday, 5 November 1997, 9:30 AM, Sunnydale Calif.
Driving away from my real estate agents I radioed Cortana. “Cortana, the real estate contract is signed and they are going to move on the Calax property. I am on my way over to the gun shop to order the gun safes and gun accessories, then on to the rental storage locker and then to meet with my Uncle Roary and see what he has bought for me. Then we are going to go to lunch over at the Rib Crib on Cabrillo Avenue. Is there anything that I need to know before the afternoon schedule begins? … Oh! I need to go to the Post Office and pick up the forms for my Passport? Well Ok… … By the way Cortana, John’s memories and experiences are… changing me… I am talking different and thinking different. No, no headaches or glowing red eyes or anything like that! … Now stop laughing at me. I am not thinking or talking like a California surfer-dude teenager anymore! I am not me anymore! … Yes, I am a Spartan soldier now. … I forgot that part of our talk that first night. … I guess I didn’t realize what else that meant. …. Ok… All of the Spartan selectees were top 1% physically and no slouches for brains before the augmentations. Which means I am going there also. … Are you saying that I am getting stronger and maybe even smarter every day?! … I am not panicking Cortana! … I just didn’t realize or just did not put two and two together. … Yes, I am cool with this – sort of. … No, it is not going to kill me, so I am along for the ride. Besides we have a planet full of demons to kill and whatever does not kill me does make me stronger. … I’m ok Cortana. ... Ya, really. ... I’m feeling fine. ... No worries. I will call you back after I meet with my Uncle Roary. … Okay, bye you worry wort.”