"Two Weeks at Saddy's..."



PG-13

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Summary: C'mon...You know you want Buffy and William to take on Sady and his boys...

Naturally, we assume in this AU the First's been dealt with...

***


     Dad...
 
     ...And the boys... (Qusai)                 (Odai)

Play theme

Part I...

Baghdad...Saddam's super-secret bunker...The night of the American missile attack...

A huge cloud of dust from a precisely targeted explosion fills the air...Various military types scattered like ragdolls about the bunker, some struggling to their feet...Others...Not...

"Odai?!...Odai?!..." A call as Qusai Hussein is seen rising to his feet, shaking rubble and dust from his three piece suit...

"Qusai?..." a faint answer as Odai Hussein crawls out from under the large conference table...

Shit...Crazy older brother's alive...Qusai sighs to himself...Damn...

"Where's Dad?..." Odai mumbles as he staggers about the room...Various medical personnel nervously and hurriedly...The Yanks might be back any moment, one notes fearfully, recommending they all leave...Tend to the wounded and dead...

"There..." Qusai points to a heap of rubble from which Saddam's body is being carefully excavated...

"Dad...?...Oh Mi Allah!...They've killed Dad...?!..."

Bastardi!...Odai shakes a fist at the roof...

"Order a counterstrike...At once..." he turns to the highest ranking surviving general...Who eyes Qusai...What the hell is your nutcase brother talking about...?...But nods...Odai may be crazy but the RG is in his pocket thanks to bribes...And threats...Of all kinds...

Yeah...Sure...The general looks at Qusai again...Who rolls eyes briefly...And returns to Odai... "A counterstrike...Right, sir..."

"Come, men..." the general turns to several confused young officers... "Let us plan the great counterstrike..." They stare at him...

See...Odai smugly notes to himself...Then to Qusai...And Dad thought I lacked that commanding presence...

Sir...? Counterstrike?...One young officer hisses...

"Shut up and lets get the hell outta here...My car can get us to Kuwait in two hours..." the general hisses back...

Other officers are now clearly debating leaving as well...Or, maybe just cutting the boys' throats and handing their bodies over to Bush as a peace offering...



Allah...Qusai sighs...And I thought it was gonna work out when I saw dear ole mad Dad dead back there and Odai apparently vaporized...

I'd present myself to the US as the sensible, progressive...Reasonable alternative...A member of the government and the Hussein family...Horrified at Dad's crimes but sadly powerless to stop him...The one man in Iraq who could bring this terrible conflict to a happy resolution with minimal causalities...

A fair-minded, liberal Democrat...er democrat...Of the Republican compassionate conservative variety of course...

An excellent choice for interim President...I'd say...

But crazy Odai had to survive...he sighs...

Well...Qusai reflects, looking at the surviving military and governmental figures now clustering in groups...Making rather ominous noises...There are a lot of guys here who'd love to ice him right here, right now...

Unfortunately...I think most of them would like to carry out my plan...For themselves...And don't exactly have a lot of affection for me...

"Qusai...?" Odai interrupts his brother's reverie... "Why are they all standing around?...Looking at us like that...? We're Saddam's sons...His heirs..."

Well...He thinks...I'm his heir...Even if he did take it all away from me and give it to wuss boy here...In his fancy-smancy sober businessman-politician suit...One of Dad's old suits at that, I'd bet...

Nerd...Bet he never tortured anyone...Lied that time he told Dad about the mom and her seven-year old...Just to suck up...

But...Gee...The others sure are looking kinda...

Is General Wadi humming "God Bless America"...?

"Qusai...?...What are we gonna do...?" he looks at his bro... "I think the guys want us dead as Dad..." he hisses...

"Shut...Up...Moron..." Qusai whispers back...Striking a confident pose...He turns to a doctor helping to dig his dad's body out...Hastening to shield the body from further view...

"So...Doctor...How long did you say it will take Dad to come out of this...Coma?"

Coma...? the doc looks at him...Blinking...

Allah...The man is in two pieces...What...Coma...? I guess Qusai's as nuts as Odai...he thinks...

But then if I were in either one's shoes right now...the doc looks at the officers and government types...Glaring at the boys...But a few hearing Qusai's "Coma..." take pause...

Qusai pats him, leans to his ear...

"Well...Two weeks?...Unfortunate...When Iraq needs Dad so badly...However..." he beams...

The doc blinks again...Odai however has caught on to some extent and takes the little doctor in hand...

If nothing else, he might get one last torture session out of the little fellow...

"Nod your head and be quiet, fool...Or die right now..." Odai hisses...The doc eyes him...And his large pistol...Nods...



"Yes..." Qusai beams jovially... "Allah has given us a sign...A miracle...My father has been spared...We must simply carry on for now until he...Recovers..."

The others looks at each other...Several trying to look past Qusai to the half-buried Saddam...

Hmmn...Saddy looked preety dead to me...One general thinks...But then again...The bastard looked preety dead last time we tried...

"Yeah..." Odai chimes in... "We shall bear the burden for him...Until he makes his speedy..." A medical worker by Saddam's body lifts a vital organ into view... "Whatdaya want me to do with this, boss...?" he calls to the doc...Odai and Qusai glare at the gulping doc...Who races over...

"Nothing essential...Gentlemen..." he calls cheerily...

"Our Leader is sure to make a splendid and quick recovery...Just a few days bedrest..."

"Beginning...Now...All of you out!..." Qusai snarls at the others...

A couple of generals eye each other...Well...The sob might have survived at that...And who's gonna take the chance...

Not me...

All shuffle out under Odai's glare but the doc and his assistant...

"Excellent, doctor..." Qusai smiles a paternal, reasonable...Excellent candidate for Interim Presidential smile at him... "You have rendered your nation a great service..."

Now...You will render Iraq...And us...An even more invaluable service...

Or...Else...Odai chimes in...

The doc gulps...

"Qusai?..." Odai looks at him as the nervous doc awaits orders...Hissing...

"What...Service...?"

"Our friend here is about to perform a miracle, Odai...Our dad shall return to guide the nation to victory over our enemies..." Qusai smiles...

Huh...? But, Qusai...? Odai blinks...Qusai waves him aside...

"Doctor..." Qusai beams... "Tell me...Have you ever seen an American film called "Weekend at Bernie's...?"

Ummn...

Hmmn...I remember that one...Great flick...Odai grins...Hilarious with the dead guy and all...

That Terry Kiser...So underappreciated a talent...he sighs to himself...

***

Meanwhile...At a super-secret American intelligence HQ...Somewhere in Belize...Dealing with matters best not for the US public to know...



A man-in-(jungle conditions adapted) -black faces his superior officers...

"Finn..." the commanding general nods...Pulling out a report...

"There is a... "Situation"...In "Target Uno"...That calls for your expertise..."

Geesh...Why can't they just say "Iraq"...? Everybody knows the war's started...Riley sighs to himself...

Hmmn...So much for my week off with Sam in Costa Rica...

"We believe now that "Target Uno-A" may have escaped our efforts to suppress him...In a unique way..." the general continues...

"Possibly a way...Your Special Ops branch might best be prepared to deal with..." the large colonel in jungle fatigues at the general's left chimes in...

"Saddam's gone vamp...?" Riley bursts out...

Jesus, kid...The colonel sighs to himself as the general frowns a bit at such directness...Didn't ya spend two years learning to talk like the guys in "Apocalypse Now"...

Hmmn...Iraq...Easy win...Nice desert scenery...Sam would be up for that...All those ruins...Babylon and all...And she loves ancient history as much as I do...

And I could always get Buf to help out with Saddam the Vampire now that she's sent the First packing...If Sady's been dumb enough to go that route...

"I'm ready, sir...As is my partner..." he hastily adds...

***



And, in Sunnydale...

"We're in the money..." Anya happily hums, driving down the main street of Sunnydale...As she surveys the bargain real-estate she and re-engaged fiancee Xander have just...Hastily...Acquired...

To be fair...Giles...And Buffy herself, at his urging...Wasted no time picking up a few choice parcels from those former residence who, still recovering from the First's influence, had been anxious to unload their Sunnydale properties at any price...

After all, the SITs and the new Council would need financial support...

Though of them all, Anya...And William... "Just had a few quid stashed about..." he'd explained to the others when buying up a fifth of Sunnydale's most equity-holding parcels...Had made out best...

That's mine...she nodded at the Sunnydale Rest Home...

Gotta remember to politely ask the evil wealthy elderly women who just moved in in a group to get outta town...Can't have residents of my nursing home possessing the bodies of young Sunnydalers in their ever-ongoing quest for non-vamp/demonic Immortality...

Good thing Xander volunteers there and caught on to them...The lawsuits we'd've faced...

Though I still think we oughta turn it over quick as possible...



And that's mine...er...Ours...Ours, Anya...she reminded herself, rather selflessly...Good re-fiancee that she was...Peering out the car window at the Main Street 7-11...

And...Sigh, no...No, only fair...I'm happy for my friend...There's Giles' strip mall...And Buffy's Sunnydale Art Museum...

Actually an engagement present from William...Knowing how much it would mean to her...Joyce's old place and all...

And...Our...Super laundromat...Our gas station...Our luxury townhome complex...With affordable housing included among the middle- and upper- units...She proudly reminded herself...

She turned down Cruishank St...Ah, Giles' and our new Magic Box...Twice the size of the old place

...Buffy's coffeeshop adjoining...

Good work experience for Dawn at least even if they run the place into the ground...

Andrew's Oddities Shop...Fortunately specializing in sci-fi and sci-fantasy rather than occult at Giles' insistence...For the sake of maintaining Andrew's redemption of course...

And with the fringe benefit of preventing possible competition in our rather specialized niche...

Life...Is...Good...Anya sighed contentedly...Turning to Nivens St...Where the new sparkling offices of Harris Construction, Inc gleamed before her as she pulled in...

"An...!" Xander called from his office window, waving...Anything but the dignified young head of Harris Construction, Inc...

Yeah...Anya waved back...

Life is good...

Thank God Andrew froze Caleb before he could kill me...But not until Xander realized he'd rather be dead in Heaven with me than ever be separated from me again...

And I proved to him I truly repented every death I'd ever caused...Nearly dying even when I could've taken D'Hoffryn's and the First's offer of restored demonhood...

***

Life is good...Buffy sighed...Waving her hand from where she sat in her wheelchair to the William happily hanging a new portrait of Joyce in the Summers' living room...

"Lil' higher, honey..." she called...

Dawn watched carefully...Determined to be included in this one...Hey, her mom too, ya know...

"To the left, Will..." she chimed in...

"Here, ladies?..." William eyed them...Dawn standing beside a bright-eyed Buffy in her chair...

"Perfect..." both replied...Nodding in unison...He tapped then screwed the picture holder into place...

So...Buffy looked up at Dawn...

"How'd the date with Connor go?..."



Pfft...Dawn rolled her eyes...

"When he wasn't talking about his Dad...It was all about his own incredible saga..."

Well...Buffy pointed out...It was kinda...

"Yeah, yeah..." Dawn waved a hand... "But the guy never shut up for ten seconds...I mean I have a story or two to tell too..."

Sounds like they're made for each other...Buffy thought...As did Will...Supersenses, ya know...

She caught his faint grin at her and returned it as Dawn continued...

"Talk, talk, talk...Ya wouldn't believe it..."

"Well..." Buffy began...

"Can't understand how a person can be so full of themselves...And not wanta hear about how we beat the First...Or about the Key thing and all..."

"That LA restaurant musta been nice..."

Yeah...But, God...The fuss they made over the "prince of LA"...God...Dawn frowned...

"Doin' lil ole me such a big favor...The little Slayer sis from the sticks..."

What the hell did Angel do there to get em acting like that?...You never got that kind of thing...she looked at Buffy...

Clearly a little wistfulness in her look...

"Angel's saved a lot of folks there...Some of them pretty big in LA...And Wes told me when Jasmine was beat, the locals were looking to latch onto to a new hero...Angel fit the bill..." Buffy explained...

He's earned a little gratitude, Dawn...And, ya know...He didn't get me or poor Darla's soul or his humanity yet...At least in this life, he's getting kinda the short end of the stick...

"It won't last...People will move on soon enough and the magic will fade out...Connor's just enjoying it while he can..."

"What a kid..." Dawn groused...

***

A gaggle of Iraq's top commanders watch their...Yeah, right...favorite TV show...The only TV show on Iraqi TV...With their beloved (uh-huh) Odai Hussein in their midst, carefully gauging reactions to his and Qusai's little effort...

"We...Shall...Smite..." a frozen-looking (yeah...cause, in this heat...an anxiously-watching Odai thinks...) Saddam intones...Thanks to carefully placed microspeaker...And Qusai's careful manipulation of old recordings...

God...He looks pretty hale and hearty all things considered...one general notes...Sadly...At least within...On the outside his face beaming with joy at the Leader's inspiring words of comfort...

How could the Yanks have missed 'im with my man's coordinates?...Bastard really does have nine...God, ninety lives...

"...the infidel...Iranian...Iranian...Iranian..." the tape jams...And on the worst possible word...



Shit!...Odai looks round nervously...I told Qusai not to use the old Iranian war tapes...

"...dogs...and our martyrs shall...Live...With...Glory forever in Palest..." whoops...Qusai switches tapes fast... "Paradise..."

Thank you...Sleep well...An arm lifts and drops several times in a wave...The hand flopping...The screen goes blank...

The commanders eye each other...Hmmn...Saddy's never been so friendly with the waving and all...Guess he's trying to appeal to the ordinary Joe a bit more...

"He looks...marvelous..." Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Information Minister proudly notes...

"Victory is certain...As I shall state at my next press briefing..." he nods confidently to Odai...

Phew...Odai looks for a place to mop his brow in solitude...And duck out quick in case another missile attack hits...

***

Part II...

Sunnydale...The Summers' home...

A rap at the door...Dawn excuses herself from the picture-hanging ceremony to get it...

"Hey, Dawn..." Riley smiles at her...Sam beside him...

Buffy round?...

Ummn...

"Dawn!?...Who's...?" Buffy wheels over, William following...Cautiously, watching the afternoon sun streaming in at the door...

"Riley?...Samantha?...Hi..." she beams...

"Buffy?..." Riley eyes the chair...Sam pastes a "chair, what chair?..." friendly look on her face...

"A little strength-draining from my fight with the First..." Buffy shrugs... "I'll be right as rain in a bit..."

Still on duty...she notes firmly...Glancing at Dawn...

"With Will's help..." she smiles back to him...William keeping back a bit...

"Finn..." he nods pleasantly at the man-in-black...Actually not unhappy to see the rather late arriving GI Joe...

Buf could use a little action...The chair's been getting her down a bit recently...Even with Dawn and Giles allowing her to resume Patrol...Under William and the gang's and the SITs careful surveillance...

If ole Finn hasn't just come for a friendly visit...Yeah, right...Might not be a bad thing to have a minor...Minor, natch...World crisis for my girl just now...

"William and I are...Engaged..." Buffy smiles a little at Riley...

"Soul quest, world-saving help, ever-lasting devotion and willingness to die for a lover even after said lover's death...Plus some kinda neat love poetry...And a real effort to breadwin...I finally had to cave..." she grins...



"I see...Glad to hear the chip removal's worked out, Sp...(Buffy gave a slight hard look)...Will..." Riley corrects...

"Spike is gone..." Buffy notes firmly...

Yeah...Dawn chimes in...

"Dawn too...?" Riley gave William a genuine grin... "Nice work, there...William..."

"That's great, Buffy..." Sam nodded... "Congratulations, William..."

"So...Are you two coming in?..." Buffy smiled... "Or are you now some form of demon we can kill...?"

That'll be all right, too...William thought...

Either way she can use the action...

***

Baghdad...Iraqi Command HQ...A rather mobile HQ...

"All is well..." the information minister notes to Qusai, Odai, several weary commanders, and a rather frozen-looking Saddam...Sitting isolated at the end of the conference table, tended by a nervous-looking doctor and assistants...

"The British are trapped, stretched around Basra and menaced by our forces within...The Americans are paralyzed by our heroic flank attacks on the road to the capital...One hundred miles away at least..."

"Excellent...Our father is pleased with your efforts, gentlemen..." Qusai firmly nods...

Victory...As our dear MSS asserts...Is just around the corner...

Good Allah...One general sighs within, keeping a frozen smile of confidence in victory on his face...

So this is what it was like in the Fuhrerbunker?...

"Your Presidential Excellency..." one general tries to address Saddam...

"General..." Qusai sternly interrupts... "Our father will take no questions at this time...He requires rest after his ordeal..."

"But...Sir..." the general tries... "The Guards' divisions to the north must be given new orders...Pulled back and put under cover...Before it's too..." he hesitates...

Before they're needed to reinforce our victorious counteroffensive...? Qusai suggests...

Absolutely...the general nods hastily...

"And only His Excellency can..." he begins...

"My father...Has intrusted command of the Guard to me..." Qusai insists...

"And...I feel we must protect the northern oilfields at all costs..."

Got have somethin' I can deliver to President Bush when the capital falls...Soon, Allah willing...Qusai thinks...

Yeah..Odai chimes in...We must protect our northern territories...As Dad has ordered...He glances at Saddy...



"Right, Dad?..." he calls...Pressing a button on a concealed remote...

The President's head jerks up and down in a nod...

Damn you, you maniac...Qusai glares at Odai...You keep playing with that thing and it'll break...Not to mention they'll all see the ultrathin cables we've attached...

See...Odai beams at the commanders...

"Dad has spoken...Now...All out...And to the victorious battlefield...!"

Ummn...Odai?...Qusai looks at him as the commanders stare at each other...

"The meeting's just started, bro...We have a lot to go through yet..."

Say...he smiles fondly at his insane older brother...

"Maybe you should take Dad for a stroll while we get through the boring stuff here...He needs a little air..."

Odai glares...

On the other hand...If the Yanks should make an appearance...Missilewise...

Maybe with a few new coordinates to guide them...

Succession problem...Solved...

"Glad to, bro..." he smiles...Rising and moving to where the doc and his men cluster round Saddam...

"Time for a walk, Dad..." he eyes the doc who signals his men to unlock the nearly invisible cables...

Patting the concealed transmitter in his jacket pocket as he waits for the medical team to prep dear ole Dad for his daily outing...

"Gentlemen..." Qusai resumes the briefing...

"See ya in a bit, brother..." Odai waves, pushing Saddam in his chair...

In a large crater, Allah willing...Heh, heh, heh...

***

Sunnydale...The Summers'...

Buffy, William, Dawn with their visitors Sam and Riley are now joined by Giles, Anya, Willow, Xander, and several SITs still living in Sunnydale...

"So...The government thinks Saddam Hussein is a vamp...?" Buffy looks at Riley and Samantha...

"Our operatives confirmed he was hit on the first night of the attack...A special agent in his inner circle confirmed that he was killed...And yet...He's still up and about, apparently..." Riley sighs...

Hmmn...Giles shakes his head...Not many dictators go in for vamp immortality...Surprising as that may be, when they know the details of the vamp lifestyle and the demon possession thing, they generally seek other routes to eternal life...



I suppose they don't like to take a backseat to anyone...Even their own demonic counterpart...

"Could be another method..." Anya suggests...Like the Mayor...

"Maybe...Or he could just be dead and six feet under..." William notes... "Your boys in Baghdad could be selling you short or just clueless..." he eyes Riley...

"Possible..." Riley nods... "But...We've got to know..."

"Can't say as I like the idea of the Slayer getting involved in a political matter..." Buffy shakes her head...

"We don't support this war...Whole-heartedly..." Dawn firmly insists...

"Dawny..." Riley sighs... "I don't support this war...Any-heartedly..."

But, it's my duty to support the effort and I do support our forces...

Even if we find out ole what's-his-dad's-name is the First in a new form?...Willow thinks...I know I'd sure go that route if I were the First...Why settle for some dinky little place when you could run the world's one superpower...

"And, guys...Whatever you may think of the war...If a crazy dictator did acquire vamp power..." Riley continues...

"Buffy's in no shape to go running off to Baghdad to check this clown out...He's only one vamp if a vamp at all...You guys deal..." Dawn frowns...

"Buffy..." Riley eyes her... "I didn't know you'd been so weakened...We wouldn't have considered asking you under the circumstances...But, as long as we're here...If Will and some of the others would consider volunteering...And you could give us some..."

"I'll go..." Buffy insists, cutting him off...And sternly eyeing the gang...

"Not that I'm supporting this thing..." she notes... "Just checkin' out a potential Slayer foe..."

Xander, Willow, Giles, Anya, and Dawn rise in protest...

"I want to go...And I'm gonna go..." she shakes her head...

If the US government springs for it...she grins at Riley...

"For all of us who want to go, I mean..." she smiles at the group...

"Will..." Dawn turns to the fiancee in desperation...Help!...her look says...

"Dawn...If Buffy wants to go...I support her...And I will go too..."

And make sure she's nowhere near anything dangerous at any time...he thinks...A leetle excitement's all very well, but this lad's not about to hope for yet another successful resurrection...

"Then I'm going..." Dawn crosses arms determinedly...

Anya eyes Xander, sighing...O...K...

"Us too..." she nods...



"Buffy...William...You are risking throwing everything you've just won away...I cannot support you in this..." Giles firmly insists...

"I understand, Giles..." Buffy begins... "But the real work here is yours now, anyway...The new Council and..."

"However..." he smiles at her... "As a scholar of history and the occult...I would never refuse the opportunity of a free trip to the sites of ancient Mesopotamia..."

"We'd considered having Mr. Blair draft you, Giles..." Riley grins at him... "Thanks for sparing us the trouble..."

"Everyone does get it that I'll be coming too...?" Willow puts in...

Though I do not support this invasion...she firmly adds...

"Mr. Hussein will never know what hit him..." Riley smiles at Willow...

That's so wonderful of you, Willow...Samantha pats her...We'll need your magical experience so badly...

"And of course we completely understand your political reservations..."

God, lady...Don't you ever can it?...Are you gay too or something...? Willow thinks, glaring...Thank God for poor Riley's sake you're not my type if you are...

***

Part III...

Baghdad...Another locale for the Iraqi HQ...

The information minister, lovingly referred to MSS by the foreign press corps finishes his latest press briefing on TV as the assembled Iraqi commanders...Those who still could be and were willing to risk their necks...Watch, trying valiantly to suppress laughter...and tears...

The boys, at the other end of the room with dear ole Dad...Odai still in a bit of a sulk at finding Qusai intact on his return from taking Dad for some "air"...

At least, some airing out...Cause ya know, even frozen, in this heat...

He surreptitiously sprays the corpse with "Off" while the commanders attend MSS' inspiring words of coming victory...

The man may be dangerously insane but he's always a hoot...One general thinks...

"We shall meet them with shoes and bullets...I promise you...Thank you..." MSS ends the conference, the TV goes dark...

"Inspiring...Truly..." Qusai notes from their end of the room...

Absolutely...Odai nods in agreement...

"So...When do we launch the great counteroffensive...?" he innocently asks... "Cause ya know, I'm the one Dad entrusted the RG to...Even if you took it away..." he glares...

Soon, brother...Qusai soothingly tells him, a smile to the others...Very, very soon...

"And I promise you, you will lead the Guard units in this glorious battle..."



And you will lead it, please...he thinks...At the head of the assault column...

The commanders eye each other...

"Any word from Ali in Basra?..." Qusai changes the subject...

You mean besides...Help!!!...one commander who'd managed to slip out of the south in the nick of time thinks...

"No?...Well no doubt he will send word of new triumphs soon..." Qusai nods...

Kill him quick, Brits...Last thing I need is that nut trying a chemical attack...he thinks...

"Could we put CNN on?..." Odai asks... "Or better yet, the BBC...?"

Kinda like to know what the hell's really going on...he thinks...As do various commanders in the group...

"Later, bro..." Qusai hisses...

Last thing we need is hear the real situation just now...With the guys in position to capture or kill us...

"Shall we have a word of inspiration from his Excellency?..." a commander, one of those a bit on the murderously insane, dimwittedly loyal side...Eagerly asks...Looking back at his Excellency, rather quietly holding court in his chair...Still a bit on the mend as yet, Qusai had explained earlier...

Hmmn...The boys eye each other...

"Dad's resting just now..." Odai hastily notes...

Perhaps a bit later, at the end of our conference...Qusai adds...

After I try and get the tape machine working again...he thinks...

Not to mention...Dad's getting a bit...Ripe...

The commander seems a tad unhappy...Had really hoped for an inspiring word or two, he notes...The others eye Saddam across the room...Hmmn...Has been a while since the Boss put in his two cents of furious invective...

"And you will get it, my friend..." Qusai confidently...and hastily...asserts...

Soon...

"Qusai?..." Odai nudges him...Whispering... "What are you doin'...? Did ya get the tape machine fixed?..."

Shut up, moron...Qusai hisses back, keeping that confident smile on his face as he backs over to dear ole dad...Patting Saddam on the shoulder...

"We've got to try something new...This little scheme isn't going to hold up much longer..." Qusai whispers to his brother as he shakes Saddam's dead hand and fakes an brief conversation with Dad...Signing for the doctor and his team to help cover...

What are you gonna do?...Odai eyes him, likewise taking position as devoted son...

"I have a...Friend...With special abilities...Who may be able to lend us his services..." Qusai explains, whispering...

For now, just keep talking to Dad...And look like you're afraid...Otherwise they'll know something's up...

***

In the skies over the Atlantic, en route to Kuwait...

"Mr. Walthrop is just fine..." Riley assured the concerned military flight attendant... "His family can deal with this...Don't worry..."

William having just let loose an upset stomach full of blood...First time ever conscious on a plane since one brief joy ride in 1917 during the Great War, he explains...

"Sorry, sweet..." he sighs to Buffy...

"Oh, Will..." a sympathetic Buffy pats him, applying a cold cloth...Willow doing her best with Anya and Xander to clean up the mess...Giles manfully trying to distract as many of the other passengers as possible as Riley and Sam deal with the startled crew...Naturally ready to put down for an emergency landing asap...

"Say...?" Willow looks up at him... "How'd you get to Africa and back so quick?...If you couldn't use a plane...?"

"I used a plane...I just swallowed every sleeping pill I could get my hands on before I slipped on board..." he ruefully notes...And grins, eyeing Riley...

"Family, eh?..." he smiles at Buffy and a now standing Willow, throwing her blood-soaked towels into a disposal bag...Xander shooting a quick glare...

Fraid so, kiddo...Buffy beams back...

"With all attendant responsibilities and obligations..."

"Speaking of which...Dearest..." he grabs at the opening...

"You do promise to take it slow on the ground, right?...I've put a lot of sweat equity into our relationship...I'd prefer not to see it wasted..."

"I'll take it easy..." Buffy nods... "But I decide what my limits are..."

Hmmn...He frowns...As do Willow and Xander...Anya grumblingly ferrying more blood-soaked towels to another disposal area...

"Well, then...I thank God we couldn't get you an electric chair right off..." he eyes her...

Eh...I can push this ole girl ten times faster than any electric jalopy anyday...Buffy shakes her head, patting her wheelchair...

"So be prepared to eat my dust, Walthrop..." she grins...

Not on desert sands, love...he thinks happily...And Baghdad oughta be in US hands by the time we get there...

***



Part IV...

Baghdad, Iraq...Yet another bunker HQ...

Fortunately, as the minister of information has just assured the foreign press corps, the Yanks are "...one hundred miles away!...Committing suicide!..."

Qusai and Odai Hussein, with the frozen corpse of dear ole Dad prepare for a dark ritual...



Qusai reads from a large, ancient Sumerian text...Picked it up cheap at the last execution of academics, he notes...Odai, looking over his shoulder...Greek to me, he shakes his head...

Hey...he looks around his dad's private palatial bunker...One he's never been allowed into before...

"What a cool pad...!..." he eyes the gigantic sex murals on the walls...

"Say...Isn't that the Scoody Doo movie star, that blonde?..." he nudges Qusai...Pointing at a mural...A blonde girl, chained, facing a fanged creature of the night...Rather scantily dressed...

"No...That's the Slayer...The Slayer of vampires and evil underdwellers...Some American girl...And stop poking me!...This is crucial if we're to make contact with Joseph..."

"Dad's ole hero?...In spirit...? Stalin himself...?"

In spirit...Qusai nods...Now pipe down!...

A blue light forms...A small, death's-headed, bald man with glasses in rather nice, but clearly a bit worn three-piece suit appears...Looking, naturally enough considering the recent disasters for Evil, a bit down...

"Who's summoned me?..." he stares, blinking... "Oh, it's you, Qusai, hi...Your dad says hey...And has extreme torture ready for you both, fellas..." he sighs...

Heart not really in it anymore with the First herself, beat...Knowing already the likelihood of victory with these two clowns...

"Hi, I'm Odai..." Odai waves...

"Joseph...Of Wolfram-Hart, Inc..." Joseph nods...

Formerly the dark soul of Joseph Stalin...Nice to meet ya...

"We have summoned you, spirit of Hell..." Qusai begins...

Yeah, yeah...Joseph waves a hand...Your dad told me all about it...

"By the way...He's not too thrilled with you, Odai...And you damned well know why..."

Qusai grins...

Or, you, kid...Joseph eyes Qusai sternly...

"You both betrayed him...Gave away his whereabouts...And your dad, like me in my prime, is not one to forget and forgive..."

Not to mention this lil' scheme...he eyes Saddam's frozen corpse...

"Hardly the way to win your dad's affection, boys..."

However...He shrugs...

Hell has a stake here...The Slayer has decided to involve herself in this little affair...Thanks to some governmental screwups...

"The Slayer...?" Qusai looks at Odai...Who looks at the mural...Hmmn...Nice gams...

"Not that it'll do the slightest good now...But what the hell, we may as well give it a shot...Maybe our assistance'll help you briefly spoil her day..." Joseph looks down...

"Joseph...?" Qusai stares...Not exactly the kind of gung-ho, shoot-them-all-before-allowing-a-retreat spirit he'd expected...Why, back when he'd urged Dad to invade Iran...

Sorry...Just being realistic, fellas...Joseph pauses...Ok...

"So...You want your dad up and about for a little while...Zombie state'll do, I suppose...?"

Unless you'd like to try for vamp...? Or even the brass ring...Full resurrection...?

Hmmn...Vamp Dad ripping our throats out...Human resurrected dad stuffing us in the shredder...

"Zombies take orders, right...?" Qusai hastily asks...

More...Or less...Joseph nods...

Whoa...What a nice...Odai, carefully scanning the mural of the Slayer at bay...A fanciful rendition by a hell minion of the First, given as a present to Saddy on his last birthday...

Hmmn...Well, I was gonna tell President Bush the rumors about me were all lies...As proven by my assistance in targeting Dad and my fiendish younger brother...Be very polite and dutifully horrified at Dad's crimes to Mrs. Bush...And exert my charms over those Bush girls and Ms. Rice...

No reason I couldn't give this "Slayer" a whirl as well...I mean...Odai Hussein, here...World's leading stud...he thought, an-Angelic smile breaking out...

What the hell's nut boy up to now...? Qusai frowns at his serenely smiling brother...

Kinda of a "Slayer" myself...Odai grins happily...In affairs de coeur...And literally, as well, if it comes to that...

Or has the fool finally gone catatonic at last...? Qusai glares...

And I've a graveyard full of undeserving old girlfriends to prove it...Odai notes to himself...

"Odai...!" his brother whacks him... "Pay attention...!"

Joseph regards them with resignation...

Great...Hell's last feeble throw of the dice...

***

Part V...

A landing strip at a newly acquired coalition airbase in the Iraqi western desert...Just after nightfall...

"Sure you're all right, Will?..." an anxiously Buffy twists in her wheelchair to look up at him as her new minted fiancee pushes her carefully towards the large tent where Riley is organizing a meeting for his guests with the local command of special Ops in the area...



"Fine, dear heart, just fine...Just an upset tummy..."

Pity it had to be full of blood...he sighs...So sorry about the mess...

Hmmn...Blood loss...And he does look a leetle extra pale...Buffy anxiously eyes her intended...

"Xander?..." she calls him over, waving...Asking William to hold up a mo...

"You do got the extra blood I asked you to bring?..."

On ice...Xander nods, patting the cooler he's carrying...

With my beer...He does not say...

Hey, weight and space limitations...And he'd thoughtfully included bottles of the ladies' favorite sodas...

"Great...Thanks..." Buffy beams...Willow and Kennedy, newly come up to them, look round...Hmmn...Lota sand...

Lota...Lota sand...

"Will..." Buffy turns...Hissing to him... "Make sure you grab a pouch the moment you can...We can't be sure how long we'll be able to keep it out here..."

Right, love...Don't fret...he pats her...

"Are you doing all right...?" he asks a leetle anxiously in turn...

Heat's not getting you down too much, is it...?

"I'm fine..." Buffy nods... "But thanks for askin'...Love..." she beams...

"So...This is Iraq..." Anya notes...Looking round...

Lota sand...

Yeah, Willow agrees...Lota sand...

"Wow..." Dawn comes up, Andrew following, dragging the three-weeks' worth of clothes she'd insisted on forcing Riley to approve for transport...

"Whata place!...This is so neat!!..." she looks round...

Just look at all the sand...The beaches must be incredible...

"What?..." she frowns at Willow, Buffy, William...As they look at her...

Xander, Anya, Kennedy rather inclined to her pov...

"I'm not stupid, ya know...Iraq has a little coastline...A coupla of big lakes with beaches...Rivers..."

The Fertile Crescent, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers...Cradle of Civilization...she notes solemnly...Eyeing Andrew, who's just come up with more of her luggage...He nods, rather proudly...Lesson learned...

With some very nice beaches...And great places to tan...she concludes...



Heh...She sniffs and heads for the tent...Summoning Andrew, who follows her...Lugging her bags...

"Nibs has been applying herself...I thought this trip'd be good for her..." William notes...

"I dunno if I like this thing with Andrew..." Buffy shakes her head, eyeing him narrowly as he follows after Dawn... "Crush or no crush..."

Crush...? Anya looks at Xander...I thought Dawn was just sharpening her dominatrix skills...

Dawny can handle him...William replies, reassuringly...Resuming his push of her chair towards the tent as the others follow...

"Hell, she handled Spike on her lonesome pretty well, pet..." he grins...

***

Baghdad...Saddam's super-secret bunker and sex palace...

"So..." Qusai eyes the manuscript a rather bleary-eyed, inattentive, newly returned Joseph has passed him...

This will allow Dad's corpse to walk among us, again...Under my... (Our!!...Odai hastily and angrily interjects)...Control?...

Yeah, yeah...He'll walk, he'll sit up straight...As a board...Joseph giggled slightly...As will other parts...

Really?... Odai stares...Wow...Dad would be grateful...He'd been worried about his...Prowess as of late...At least according to the info his doc spilled under torture...

Has he been drinking?...Qusai stares at Joseph...Who seems a bit more rumpled and somewhat unsteady on his feet...

"So...You guys wanta go ahead and try it out...Or no?..." he asks...

Cause I got lots to do...

Lots...To do...he repeats...Vaguely...

"Plentya paperwork back at my law firm...And I gotta work at it now, I guess..." he sighs...

Nothin' else left to me...Now...

"You sure you trust this guy...?" Odai hisses to his brother...

I mean competencywise...

"I heard that, punk!..." Joseph calls, annoyed...

Lemme tell you something, punk!...In my day...I'da had wimpy wusses like you shot...No waiting, no delays...

"Hell, you wouldn't even have made it in my law firm...As an office boy..."

Shot...Right through the backa da head...he puts a forefinger to the rear of his bald skull...

"Though now...I couldn't even take the chancea killin' even you there...Firm's all I got...Now..." he shakes his head sadly, his futile rage fading back into despair ...



"Well..." Odai senses a whipped type when he sees one...Having seen so many... "You better watch yourself, Mr. Joseph, in our place...Or you might not get back to that..."

Oh, boys...Joseph sadly sits down, clearly a broken whatever he was...

"I just saw the First in Hell the other day...Dear God or whatever...She was so...Shattered..."

Even talked well of Buffy...How much she admired...Joseph dropped his head in his hands...

Admired!...Her...

"She wants to try and be more like her now...Turn over a new leaf in Hell!..." he sighs...

My God...Gettin' beat...On the big One...That was bad enough...But this...This is just...Humiliating...

He rises, agitated...

"Boys...Ya got win one...Anything...No matter how small...Ya gotta ...For the sake of Evil's dignity..." he trembles...

But...I know, it's over...It's all over...Like this little tinhorn empire of your Dad's...

He begins despairingly singing, warbling as the boys watch in shock...

***

"Boys, the way the Master killed...(A fond look in his eye...)

The time we thought Darla'd had Angel drilled...

Lord, we all thought Evil had it made...

Those were the days.

You didn't know who was who then...

Demons turning into girls and men...

Mister, we could use a man like Richard Wilkens again...(he firmly nods...Good ole Dick...B'aal rest his soul...)

Broodo wouldn't've held out long...

The First sure did look good in thong...(She modeled for that mural by the way...he notes)

But somewhere it all went...wrong...(he's back to despair...)

Those...were... the...days..."

He stumbles to a desk chair, put his bald, death's head down, and begins sobbing...

Odai eyes Qusai...Hmmn...

"Why don't I go check the strategic situation reports topside why you test out ole Zombo Dad?..." he brightly suggests...

***

Part VI...

The head of Special Operations for the area, a very Christopher Walken-like colonel coldly eyes the "special team" Agent Finn has brought in...Under the highest priority...

A blonde, short, cute but slightly weary-looking girl in white blouse and shorts in a wheelchair, sweating profusely, attentively pushed by a young, good-looking, but rather slight fellow in black T-shirt and jeans...Remarkably cool-looking in the night heat...A short, red-haired cutie in tank top and shorts, holding hands with a long-haired brunette...Rather fit-looking at least...Likewise in tank top and shorts...Both sweating and trying not to gulp down the water in their bottle-packs too fast...

The English guy in khaki who seemed to know what he was doing...who'd entered earlier with Agent Finn and his wife...The rather hot Samantha in black night desert fatigues... The young dark-haired guy with eye-patch and what seemed to be his blonde-brown girl beside him...Taller than their friends...Both looking reasonably fit...The girl not only rather nice-looking in khaki blouse and shorts, but rather well-prepared with several water-bottles attached to her belt, survival kit pouch...

And finally, the oddest members of the little "team"...Some brown-haired teenager in blouse and shorts, with pith helmet and netting, looking eagerly round the tent, chatting at machine-gun speed to some bizarre little guy lugging what must be her suitcases...The guy, decked out like Lawrence of Arabia in flowing robes...

The colonel gives Agent Finn a narrow glance...

Still, word from on high was to give these clowns every possible assistance...Confirmed several times by the holiest-of-holies...After his staff's rather frantic calls to check...

Riley steps forward and takes the floor...

"Folks...Let me introduce Colonel Mathias Braddock, our local special ops head..."

The colonel nods severely...

"Colonel, Ms. Buffy Summers...The Slayer..." Finn presents Buffy...The colonel gives a cold nod to Buffy...

Slayer, eh?...

"Tougher than she looks, sir..." Riley grins...

"And her team...Likewise rather deceiving in appearance..." he introduces the others...

The colonel glances over each, fixing on William...

"So..." he consults his report on the "special team"... "You are William the Broody...?"

What!?...William chokes...The others staring...Buffy looks narrowly at Riley who represses a smile...

"Bloody, mate..." Catching Finn's little smile, he now glares at Riley as well...

Musta been a typo in the report...Riley grins...Looking innocently at the wall...

"Whatever..." the colonel frowns... "You are stated here to be a vampire...A human-souled vampire?..."

Absolutely...Certified human-souled...Buffy firmly insists...

"Sir..." Riley chimes in... "You are aware of our Initiative operations..."



"Fully aware, Finn..." the colonel glares... "But my concern here is with the mission...How can we count on a vampire?... "Human-souled"...Or no..."

Buffy gives a narrow, Slayer glare...Oh-oh...Willow thinks...

"William has put his existence on the line many times, colonel..." she coldly notes...

"All well and good, Ms. Summers..." the colonel coldly stares back... "But I am referring to his natural limitations...He can't go out in daylight...Our primary operational time is daylight..."

"This operation, colonel..." Buffy glares back... "Will be carried out at the time of our choosing...And we work best at night..."

The colonel gives Riley a slight, nodding glance...Not bad...

He turns to Andrew...Who looks a bit...Dawn firmly holding his hand...

"And, you...Sir...Just what is your..." he eyes the robes and headpiece... "Speciality in this group...?"

"Andrew is one of our technical experts...Science and the occult..." Dawn replies, rather sternly...

"Very expert..." Willow chimes in...Smiling at Andrew...

"Mr...?" the colonel addresses Andrew, moving back to the report left on the table...

"Tucker's brother..." Buffy explains...

The colonel shakes his head...

"And Ms...Rosenberg...?" he reads from the report...

The powerful Wic...What?

"Wiccan..." Willow steps forward...

Witch...she explains...

"Yes..." Giles cuts in... "Our Willow is extremely powerful, Andrew is quite expert, all of us have been tested many times, colonel...Now...You've read the report and heard from your superiors...Do you want our help? And shall we get on with the business...Or shall we get back on our plane and go home...?"

I assure you, sir...We are all very much ready for the mission...But given our recent battles, we would just as soon return home and enjoy the rest we've all earned...he finishes sternly...

"I see..." the colonel gives them all another sweeping look... "Well, it seems you all come with the highest recommendations...We'll see if you're up to your reputation..."

But...he adds harshly...

"Remember that this is a war zone, people...And you...All of you...Are under martial law here...And under my command...So...I expect you to comply with martial law and to follow my orders...Understood?..."

They all nod...Not bad, Will hisses to Buffy...

"All right then...Down to business..." the colonel has maps brought out...



"Our last report on Target Uno-A's location... was here..." he points...

***

Baghdad...the bunker...

"Not bad..." Odai eyes the staggering, slow moving Saddam corpse...

Reluctantly having stayed for the test run at Qusai's insistence...

Make him move his arms...Like he's ranting a speech...he turns to Qusai...Who chants...

The corpse stiffly waves arms...Flailing about...

Joseph, a bit sobered up, watches indifferently...

Ain't gonna change a thing...Summers'll laugh down her socks at this one...Probably catch it and have it put on exhibition...

Still, might be nice to watch her deal with the boys...

"Can he speak...?" Odai looks at Joseph who shakes his head...Some limits with zombs, fellas...

"That's ok...Best if we go on using the tape machine...I've had it fixed..." Qusai notes...

"Great...Say...Lets get Dad set up for a speech...We can run it on TV tonight...Even have some of the guys in attendance..." Odai eagerly suggests...

Not a bad idea, bro...Qusai nods...

"Best to move to another spot, fellas..." Joseph warns... "The US is gonna target this one this morning...In about five hours..."

They're gonna blast this place?...Odai eyes the sex murals...

Such a tragic loss of great art...Those barbarians...! he fumes...

"Well, there are plenty of presidential bunkers around as yet..." Qusai notes...No problem...

Just gotta get word to the commanders...Some of them anyway...

Odai...? Wanta take a little trip round town...See the sights while they're still standing?...he eyes his brother...

"Sure..."

Hell...Why not...Probably safer than staying in one spot now for any length of time, anyway...he reflects...

Pray Allah a commander with a chip on his shoulder gets a few guts when Odai comes calling alone...At some moment when the Yanks are bombing and no one's sure what's going on...Qusai hopefully thinks...

"Ok, fellas...I'll try to check in later from LA..." Joseph gets up... "But remember, my power is very limited now..." a catch in his voice... "And the First is powerless..." the tears well up...

Oh, Allah...Not another depressing chorus of that song...the boys think...



"Well, Joseph, we thank you for your assistance...We're sure our restored Dad will lead us to victory..." Qusai hastily cuts off Jseph's sad ruminations...

Yeah...Sure...Joseph shakes his head...

Oh...He pauses...

"Remember...You gotta feed your dear ole "Dad" with human flesh...About one pound...Preferably brain...Every twenty-four hours to keep him docile...Else he'll try to get it himself...Anywhere he can..."

The boys stare at each other...Oh, well plenty of corpses around...Prisoners...And there's always unwilling volunteers available from the loyal Iraqi people...

"See ya fellas...Good luck...Tell Ms. Summers, before she kills you...the First says hi..."

***

Part VII...

"And I say...We go tomorrow...Soon as it gets dark..." Buffy frowns over the rickety metal table on which maps of central Iraq and Baghdad were spread...Trying to rise from her chair a bit...

"And I say...We wait until we get some kind of confirmation from Uncle Sam's boys here that our friend "Target Uno-A"..." William rolls his eyes... "Is somewhere in that hell-hole of a capital..."

Urgh...Buffy turns a bit Slayer dark...

Will staring back at equal intensity...

The colonel eyes Riley, then Giles...Are they always...? his expression says...

Always...Giles' expression replies silently...

"You're just trying to keep me out of it..." Buffy glares at her intended...

"Until the capitol falls and we know what the hell we're about here...Yes..." Will replies...

Jesus, girl...A little self-respect...he frowns...

"You just beat the First...You gonna let the Slayer be taken out...Probably by friendly fire at that...While trying to roll her way through a city full of trigger-happy fanatics?..."

She assumes a questioning pout...

"You'd push me, wouldn't you?..." a wistful look...A quick smile at Willow...

"Damn, you girl..." he begins...

Samantha cuts in...All "let me solve this little problem for you, guys..." smiles...

"Buffy...I really think William might be right to suggest we wait...Our troops are nearly ready to resume their advance..."

And we should wait to get detailed info on Hussein's and his sons' whereabouts...she nods...



The colonel frowns slightly...Caution doesn't win wars...

"However...While we shouldn't risk the whole team...Maybe you, William, Willow, Riley, and I could get into position in the capitol...In one of our safe houses..."

Then, in a few days...The others could come up...she finishes...Beaming...

Hmmn...Willow...And Kennedy...Exchange dark looks...As do Dawn and Andrew...

Bet she's a demon in disguise...The First's First cousin or somethin'...Willow thinks...Just been waitin' her chance...Bitch...

What the hell's she mean cutting my honey out of the action?...

Who does she think she is...Cutting us out?...Dawn eyes Andy...Who shakes his robes in frustration...

Yeah..."Come up...In a few days..."...Who does she think we are...?

Xander frowning as well...

Anya however is quite content...

"Well..." Riley catches the general discontent among the rest of the troops...

"Our occult experts might be best employed checking the data we've gotten so far...But I would imagine they could come up within a day..."

"Unless Andrew chooses to teleport..." Dawn notes proudly, defending the prowess of her team partner...

"Teleportation has become his forte..." she asserts...

Willow gives Buffy a nervous glance...No!...No 'portin' for Andy...Not after that last try last week...Geesh...

Don't worry...Buffy's look replies...No way...

"I think it would be best to go the normal way...Soon as you guys've looked over the latest stuff..." the Slayer notes...Hastily...

"Within the day, of course...So long as things seem ok..."

And once we've secured a safe place to operate from...she eyes William...Tomorrow...

Urgh...He gives a last glare...But gives it up...

Any more and she'll go alone with Ward and June, he knows...Eyeing the Finns...

"Very well..." the colonel brings the meeting back on track... "Finn, you and Sam will guide...The Slayer..." A slight degree of disdain creeping in that calls glares from William, Giles, Xander, Dawn, and Willow... "And her first team to the location you determine in Target Uno-C...The rest will follow on in with my selected people after reviewing tomorrow night's intelligence..." He gives Dawn a slight, very faint, extremely brief smile...Dawn returning...Ok...

Target Uno-C?...she looks at Andrew... Baghdad-C for capitol-he hisses back...His expertise in ridiculous codes coming to his aid...



"All right, people...I suggest dinner...And a quick retirement...We all have a busy day tomorrow before nightfall's operation..." the colonel turns to Dawn, a full smile this time... "If you'd care to accompany me to the mess tent, we'll see if the cooks have managed to turn their usual slop into something palatable..." Offering an arm...Which she takes...Andrew glaring as they head out...Giles with Riley and Sam, Willow and Kennedy, Xander pausing by Buffy...

Careful tomorrow...he sternly eyes her...With his one good eye...Anya beside him...Still rather pleased at the way the assignments had been handed out...

Hey, lots to live for just now...and by that she meant not just property lots...

"I'll watch it...Big Brother..." Buffy pats him...

And William...she grins at her still frowning fiancee...Won't let me do anything foolish...

"Already lost that battle..." he glares...As Xander and Anya head out...

"I love you, too..." she smiles at him...

And I will be careful, honey...she eyes him...Squeezing a hand...

"Just couldn't look squeamish...Especially with the chair and all...In front of those military types..."

The Slayer must maintain her rep...Or those military-governmental clowns'll be walking all over us...

"Or having us all killed for interfering with the first Initiative..." she notes...

***



"Inspiring...Truly inspiring..." one of the more dimwitted commanders notes to Odai as the group assembled for Zombie Hussein's first TV appearance breaks up...Looking over at where the Leader beams at the departing guests...Waving stiffly as Qusai stands by him...

"Yes..." Odai beams... "Inspiring..."

Indeed, the best damn speech Dad ever gave...he thinks...And all's gone real well...Except that Joseph had forgotten to tell them Zombie Dad required a first time feeding...

But then, they'd've had to have the doc tending him taken care of later anyway...And Zombie Dad had eaten his brain before the guests showed...So it had all worked out well...

And the doc's med tech assistant had been quite happy to accept his promotion to "doctor and chief attending physician to the Leader"...

A couple more commanders pause by him...He eyes them...A little more intelligent than the one he's been talking to...They seem relatively satisfied, however...

"I hope...Gentlemen..." he fixes them with a glare... "That you will carry out Dad's orders and hold your positions to the last...Er...To our final victory..."

They look at each other...Eh, what the hell, the Yanks'll bowl us over in a day or so anyway...

"Absolutely, sir..." one notes solemnly...They slip out quickly...

Qusai comes forward...The last two commanders, being in charge of the troops covering the northern oilfields...His most important potential chips...Are the most important to him right now...

"Odai...Dad wants a word..." he pats his brother on the shoulder...Eyeing him...

Odai glares...What's bro up to?...But complies...

Gives him a chance to practice for meeting the Bushes anyway...Not like Dad'll mind listening in his current state...

How do you do, Miss Bush?...So very nice to meet you, Mrs. Bush...I deeply regret my father's terrible crimes, Mr. Bush...But what could I do except work behind the scenes against him?...He flashes his most charming smile at dear ole Zombie Dad...Who maintains a stiff smile on his face...Still waving at the departing officials...

Qusai looking back at him as he pauses in his conference with the northern commanders...Whatever you do gentlemen, don't let the nuttier types blow the wells...he hisses...They nod, heading out...

What the hell is that nut up to?...

Oh yeah...Odai beams at still-waving, glassy-eyed Dad...By next May, it's son-in-law Odai visits the White House to advise his dad-in-law the President on Iraqi affairs...

And advises that his maniac brother be put on trial for his war crimes asap...

***

Part VIII...

The sky above "Target Uno-C"...Just after sunset, the following night...Aboard a transport helicopter...

"I'll be fine...!" Buffy loudly insists to a more nervous than ever William...Shouting over the sounds of the propellers above them...The Finns and Willow checking their gear beside them...

"I must be out of my 144 year old mind to let you do this...!" he sighs...Shouting back...

"Willow's spell will let me walk for a short distance...Probably all the way to the safe house..." Buffy points out... "And the chair will be with our stuff if it wears off..."

Oh...She suddenly looks at him...Having calculated...

"Will!?..." she shouts...Cupping her hands... "You were only twenty-one when you died...!?"

"Yeah!..." he hollers back...

Oh...She pats him...My poor honey...

Phew...She thinks...So...Humanwise, it having been 1880, he musta been practically a virgin...

No wonder Spike clung to Dru all those years...

"And so, dropping my vamp years...We're just the right age for each other...!" he notes, hollering again...

Yeah!...she grins...Nodding...

Still don't see why my girl couldn'ta come...Willow frowns to herself...



"All set, Willow?...!" Sam calls to her, beaming...

"Oh, yeah...!" Willow beams back...

Bitch...

"We're nearly at the drop coordinates!..." Riley hollers... "Everyone set?!!"

A chorus of shouted yes...

The copilot shouts back to him, pointing...Equipment on the way down, time to go!...

"Ok!...Lets go!!..." Riley calls...Sam moves up and jumps, Willow following...

"After you, pet...!!" William hollers to Buffy...Who moves a bit stiffly, grabbing him for a last hug and quick peck...

"Iloveyou!!!..." she yells... "Watch out for wooden stuff on the way down!..." he gives her a thumbs' up as Riley helps her jump...

"See ya below!" Riley calls to Will as his turn comes... "Remember...If we get separated...Our contact is Kalidah...!"

Right!...Will jumps into the darkness...Followed by Riley...

***

The desert airbase in western Iraq where the gang had arrived the previous night...

Dawn, Andrew, Xander, Anya, Giles, Colonel Braddock, and staff cluster around the radio awaiting word...

"Target deployed...! On site!..." the copter pilot's voice crackles back to them...

"They've been dropped?..." Giles eyes the colonel...Who nods impassively...

"How long before we hear anything?..." Xander asks anxiously...

"Could be minutes...Hours...A day..." Colonel Braddock notes...

We're still going tomorrow, right?...Dawn asks hastily...

Absolutely...the colonel nods...Unless...The mission must be terminated...

"You mean...As in, you bring Buffy and the others back...?" Dawn looks at him...

Giles eyes him as well...Colonel...his stare cautions...

"Absolutely..." Braddock nods...

Both Xander and Giles flashing quick, grateful looks...

"Hopefully not in body bags..." Andrew notes...Dawn nods...

The others break the glare that they'd begun at Andy to stare...Dawn?...

"Hey...It's a war zone, right?..." she shrugs...

And my sis is the Slayer...I'm kinda use to this sort of thing, guys...



"Sides...She always comes through...Intact..." she notes firmly...Andrew nodding as well...Shaking his robes...

"Andrew...Would you please take that ridiculous outfit off?..." Giles frowns at him...

"Giles..." Dawn frowns at the Watcher in turn... "Whatdaya talking about?...He looks great..."

"I chose it for him...So he could blend in when we get into town...I got the same stuff in my suitcase..."

***

Baghdad...Yet another presidential bunker...

Hmmn...Qusai stares at the map...Lets see...Where's the best place to await the surrender...?

He looks over to Odai...Watching CNN...With Zombie Hussein in a chair nearby...

Soon as I can give dear ole nut boy and zombo Dad the slip...

"CNN says the Brits are still stuck outside Basra..." Odai calls happily...

And the Yanks are still having supply problems...They think our strategy should be to keep hitting the refueling columns...Ok that I should call the southern command and tell 'em?...

Why not?...Qusai shrugs back...

"Thank Allah for CNN and their real-time analysis..." Odai nods at the screen...Picking up his cell phone...

Hmmn...Another call from my CIA contact...he notes, looking at the log of calls...Better get back to him soon before they start to think I'm not sincere about selling Dad and younger bro out...

"I think it may be gettin' near Dad's feeding time..." he calls back to Qusai... "How's about I take him for a walk outside?...We're sure to run into someone he can eat..."

***

Baghdad...A deserted stretch of field near a riverbank...That night...

Okay...Buffy looks round...Walking stiffly...

Made it...And Willow's spell is holding...Even if I can't feel a thing below my upper thighs...Now if I can just find William and the guys...Please God, let him be safe...

Or else, Pal...Cause if You're thinking about screwing with my romantic life this time...You better remember what happened to the First...

Not meaning to be ungrateful for the mostly happy outcome of my biggest battle of course...And anyway...Thank You I can still feel where it counts...What with my upcoming wedding and all...

Be a shame to have gone to all this trouble finding my true love, his recovering his soul, and still not being able to move beyond the platonic...

Though Angel would probably laugh his pointy-haired head off at us...she frowned...And stumbling as one foot went into a small hole blasted into the field, fell..Damn!...



Yuck!...she spits the mud out of her mouth, trying to twist herself face up...

Fallen...And I can't get up...Again not meaning to be ungrateful...Did I have to go through this little trial...?

Well, Giles did say the paralysis would wear off...Eventually...With a lot of physical therapy...

Gotta try and get up...Come, magically stimulated legs, get moving...No good...she sighs...

Damn...When William finds me like this...

"I told you so..." for the rest of my natural life...Say, where's my transmitter...Damn...Musta fallen out into the muck...She twists round, trying to feel for it in the mud...Nothing...

Well, nothin' to do about it...Say where the hell are the guys, anyway...?...Well, best not to start calling...Yet...

Hmmn...Wonder if the patrols ever come out here...That would be nice...My first government-authorized mission over before it starts...The Slayer taken by Saddam's troops...

His angry, vengeance-seeking troops...Hmmn...

"Will...?" she hisses...

"William...?" a bit louder...

Whoops...Was that a gunshot?...Oh, yeah...

Maybe best to can the calling for a...

He'll find me eventually...Supersenses, hyperdevoted romantic...Oh yeah...

God...If you let him get killed...The minute I can get my hands on You...I am gonna take You by Your damned beard...If you got one...And...

It starts to rain...

Very funny...she glares up...

Oh, where the hell is he...? Or any of them?...

"William?..." she tries cautiously...

***

"Where the hell is she...?" William hisses to Willow...Having made his second careful circuit of the area where the others had landed within a few feet of each other...

"I'm trying...Gimme a sec..." Willow hisses back...

"Don't worry, William..." Sam cheerily notes... "The Slayer will be fine..."

Riley off to seek their contact...And scout for Buffy...

William glares at the woman who had led his intended into this insanity...



Well, an eye for an eye would apply here...he thinks...Or in this case...A wife for a wife...

Though Ms. Finn's demise would hardly begin to make up for my losing my Buffy...

"I think I may have got something..." Willow whispers...

That...She blinks as William races off in the direction of her point...

"That's so great, Willow...Good job..." Sam beams at her...

I am gonna hold her up for Iraqi target practice if she doesn't lay off...Willow thinks...

***

Part IX...

The special ops HQ tent at the western desert airbase...

The remaining gang with Colonel Braddock and his people huddle by the main radio awaiting word of the fate of the Slayer and her "first team"...

As they all wait, Dawn holds the staff spellbound with the dramatic and romantic tale of the First's defeat...And her sis' finally getting things straight with her feller...

"So..." she pauses... "It seemed like we'd won again...Buffy had the Death's scythe in hand...She'd mowed down the First's first group of Uber-vamps, no prob...But little did we suspect..." Dramatic pause... "That the First had planned for the Slayer to obtain the Scythe all along...And hadn't even told her top dog, Caleb of her true master plan..."

Wanting his fear of the Scythe to push Buffy into taking it without hesitation...

"But...The First knew that only the Slayer...Rooted physically in our world, but with her dark link to the First...Her strength having been taken from the First way back when the First Slayer came to be...Could wield the weapon that would really make the Apocalypse come true..."

Hell, even we coulda taken out the Ubie army...Just freeze 'em and expose 'em all to daylight...

"Andy's plan by the way..." she gives Andrew a fond, proud smile as he beams...

"I'd've recommended use of a tactical nuke..." the colonel notes...

"Civilian population in proximity, colonel...Not an option..." Dawn replies...He nods...

"So..." she resumes... "The First was just waitin' her chance...And when Buffy had begun to unlimber with the Scythe and we were busy kickin' the Harbringers' asses...And Caleb had turned to quivering jello at the sight of the Slayer with the big one...She made her move...Just as she'd planned all year..."

Playin' on Sis' ego as well...The Slayer couldn't be possessed, oh, no...Dawn shakes her head...

Faith went down first...Naturally, the First/Buffy saw her as the most dangerous...But fortunately the blow was only glancing...She'll recover...

"It musta been awful..." a wide-eyed sergeant notes... "When the Slayer was possessed..."

"She looked preety Evil..." Dawn nods...As do the others, remembering...



"But hell, I've seen her when she was mad at me for ruining some of her best clothes...The First's evil look couldn't compare..." Laughs all around...

"But then, how...?" A lieutenant asks...

"William..." Dawn notes solemnly...

"He'd been watching her all along, it somehow having occurred to him that things were going too easy...And that there musta been a reason why the First had been taking Buffy's form in so many of her visitations to him...Besides even her wantin' to torment him and win his soul over to the Dark Side..."

He grabbed the Scythe and the amulet one had to wear to wield it while the First was still fully setting up...And called to Willow to help with an exorcism spell...

"Well..." She eyes the group as a whole... "The First, seein' that he had the amulet on and held the Scythe...And that Willow was ready to cast...Went to Plan B...And possessed him..."

Not that Will's body could really use the Scythe for long...Too much power even for a mighty vamp like WTB...But he could take the Slayer and her army out in the time he'd have...

"But..." Dawn hesitates...Holding for just the right time...As experienced storyteller Andrew proudly observes...

"Will hadn't fought with Spike a hundred years and overcome him to some extent with the chip's help not to be able to give the First some resistance..."

He held her back, and called on Buffy, his beloved and us...To destroy him...And the First inside him...

"Buffy, recovering from her possession, looked him right in the eye...And we could all see the love she'd been waiting to express, right there..."

Then the First won control...As she was bound to, given her Hell power and all...And taunted the Slayer...

"..."What, Slayer...Are you gonna finally kill me, too?...The one you love...And you and I know it, Buffy...Are you inhuman enough...Is there enough of me in you...To do that?..." the First sneered at her..."

"..."William!..." she screamed... "I love you!..."..."

But...She raised her stake...Dawn tenses...

"..."I will find you again...Somewhere...My darling..." she moved on the First..."

He raised the Scythe...But Will fought on...Slowing her down...

"He looked at her... "Hurry..." he managed to gasp out... "Do it, my love..."...he choked out..."

The group held its breath...

"Then... "No!!..." Buffy screamed... And grabbed him, wrenching the Scythe from his hand... "I won't let you go...!"... "You won't take him from me...!"..."

They fought...The First trying to reach the Scythe...

"Which I kicked away..." she notes proudly... "To Andrew, who grabbed it up..."



While Willow had to fight Caleb who'd recovered his guts seeing what the First was up to...She managed to get him in a binding field while we fought the remaining Bringers...Who were trying a last ditch assault...

"Poor Buf...She could feel the First draining away her strength, taking back her dark edge as it held her in its grip...But she couldn't give that final blow that would've finished poor Will as well as the First in his body..."

But then, just as she collapsed, drained of her strength, paralyzed...The First determined to at least deal with her once and for all, even if the Apocalypse was lost and she'd had to be "shufflin' off this mortal coil" in defeat...Not just by killin' her...Dawn explained...By making her watch the one she loved, destroyed....By the Slayer's own friends...And...Duty...

The First leered...Awaiting the fatal blow as Buffy watched...Helpless...But Buffy realized...She and the First were linked...They shared memories, existence...Not just the Slayer's strength and Dark Side...

Even her love for William...There was a reflection of that in the First now...

"Not to mention, a healthy sense of self-preservation...Which musta made dying just to hurt Buf seem a bit much..."

And Willow was free to deal with her now...She could see her moving up...

"... "You don't want him dead either...You love him too...We are One..."...Buffy called to the First as it stood over her..."

"Leave him to me...And go...You've lost...Don't let him go too...You know he won't go with you..."

And the First eyed her...Dawn paused...

"... " He's mine...And I will find him in Heaven...Whatever you do to us now..."Buffy eyed the First..."

Who hesitated...Just as Willow hit her with the exorcism spell...

"And drove her out...Drained herself...Owing to the effort in trying to take possession twice and keep Caleb supercharged..."

Then...? one corporal asks...

Then Willow hit her with the corporealization spell...She took physical form as a twin of Buffy, but utterly drained now...I tossed the Scythe back to Will who was back in control...And he cut her head off, sending the First back to Hell...Forever...

"Then he went to Buffy...And well..." she smiles...

The wedding will be in August...

***

"Two Weeks at Saddy's..."

Part X...



These things happen in operations like these...Samantha makes sympathetic noises to an increasingly frustrated...And furious...William and Willow as they hunt cautiously through the area around their drop site for Buffy...

Rather looking to avoid allowing his rage to focus on the ever-cheerful Sam, William diverts a little to ole Red...

Her and her anti-paralysis spell...It was supposed to last long enough to get Buf to them...What the hell went wrong?...

If she hadn't been vain enough about her skill to offer the damned thing in the first place...He might've persuaded Buffy to stay behind at the base until things were more settled...Using the ole "can't endanger our dear little scoobs..." argument...But no...

Willow for her part, realizing the true focus of Will's frustration...Besides his headstrong own true, of course...Bares it well enough...Making sheepish noises until he calms...While occasionally noting she needed a chance to focus if she was to find the Slayer's location...

Glancing over to Mrs. Finn as she speaks...Who can't resist offering a steady stream of suggestions, gleaned from her work...All well and good ones, but a rather distracting stream of happy chatter just right now...

However, in keeping with her somewhat dense and sunny mood, Sam chooses to take Willow's broad hint as a request to pull William off...

Which as Willow reflects...Would probably be just as well...His grousing howls being nearly as distracting as Sam's bubbly helpfulness...Though far less annoying...

He calms enough to catch her look and allows himself to be walked away...

To survey the ground, using his superior vampiral senses, Sam solemnly notes...Which, despite the tragic nature of their acquisition, have clearly proven to be rather a blessing...she happily points out to him as they head off...

If Spike makes one last comeback, Willow thinks...Watching them...

I could be persuaded to look the other way...

Hmm...Rain seems to be gettin' worse...

***

About a mile from the drop site...By the river bank...

Buffy lies on the ground, fuming...Her legs, magically stimulated by Willow's spell, moving stiffly but not so flexibly as to get her back on her feet...

Probably broke the one that went into the hole at that...she thinks...

Maybe the bone's sticking right out now...Just can't feel it...she tries to look down, gives up...

Ok, ok...This was a stupid idea...I give...

Come and get me, honey...I'm ready to be rescued...

Now, please...The rain continues falling, soaking her ever more throughly...

"William?..." she tries a low-voiced call...

"Anybody?..." A bit louder...Iraqis are, after all, a civilized people, sure to instinctively sympathize with her plight...

"Help!!!..." a full-voiced Slayer yell...

Damnit William!...What kinda Victorian gent are you?...Letting your intended do something so stupid...Jump outta helicopter in the middle of a war with non-optimal legs...If the roles had been reversed, I woulda clubbed you one first...

Hmm...I hear...Somebody...



Doesn't sound quite like...

A slobbering growl, followed by a loud sniff...

"William?..." she calls, hopefully...

Unless...

"Oz?!...That isn't you is it?..." You never know...And it does sound...

***

Play

"I'm singin' in the rain...Just singin' in the rain...Whata glorious feelin'..." Odai sings from under his umbrella as he has Zombo Dad stiffly hop about in the falling rain in a rather hideous travesty of Gene Kelly...As they stroll along the river bank...Dad having fed on a deserter they'd found attempting to slip out of the city with his girl...

The girl however...Being somewhat rudely unresponsive to dear Odai's friendly advances...Hell, her boyfriend had been a traitorous deserter for Allah's sake...He coulda had her shot or fed her to Dad...And just like the other three he'd encountered with Dad tonight...She'd spurned him...Had joined a small back-up of chorus dancers, female Odai had amused himself creating...

The spell manuscript...And his past viewing of zombie movies...Had suggested, after all...That zombies, despite their limitations...Could beget other zombies...By bite infection, apparently...All controllable via the original spell...So long as they received proper nourishment on a regular basis...

And to his delight...And the poor ladies' misfortune...The info had proven quite correct...

So that Dad was not alone in his dance number...The four zombie female offspring providing support as they staggered through the rain...

Of course, Odai comforted himself...If it had been daylight...And they'd had a chance to properly recognize him...

With a phalanx of brutal guards about...The ladies undoubtedly would have succumbed to his charms in a more normal fashion...

Still, even in zombie state...They remained rather hot...And Dad probably enjoyed the company...As much as he could just now...

He pauses, hearing a faint yelp for help...In English, he's certain...

The zombie dance troupe continuing their Gene Kelly tribute...

He summons them back, and into marching order...One never knows what dangers the next President of Iraq may face in these uncertain times...

They slowly follow him toward the source of the cries...Down by the river's edge...

He pausing to let them pass...

The future in-law of President Bush must take no chances if he is to help provide proper guidance later on in the reconstruction of his nation...

They halt in a circle around a muddy, matted area...With someone or something lying in the center...Twisting round in the muck...

"Hey...!" a call from the thing...He flashes a light...The clustered zombies awaiting instructions...

Buffy cranes her head up to see...Nope, not werewolves...



***

Part XI...

The western desert airbase...Now about 2am...

Giles eyes Colonel Braddock as they sit at the radio table...The others, except for a pacing Xander, sent off to bed...

"I assume they've had time to make contact by now..."

Braddock shrugs...

"Any number of reasons why they haven't checked in by their own transmitter...And their contact would be very hesitant to try us by any means but the courier route we've set up...The secret police were, at least til the attack, monitoring for unauthorized broadcasts..."

Xander comes back to them...Eyeing the radio...Willing it to....

A crackle...he rears back...Whoa...

Another example of the power of Love...

"This is...Ummn..." Willow's voice hesitates...

"ST-1...At Target Uno-C..."

Giles grabs the mike, startling both the colonel and Xander...For the past three hours he's been maintaining a perfect reserved cool...

"Willow?...Thank God...Are you all all right...?..." he sees Braddock frowning at him...

Oh, yes...Ummn...Roger?...he presses the mike...

"Well...Most of us are just dandy, Giles...Sorry for the delay in getting back to you...We were a little preoccupied...And it took a little while to find the equipment..."

"Preoccupied...?...How preoccupied?..." Giles anxiously asks... "Ummn...Over...?..."

Xander stands, breathless...Willow's voice has that unmistakable sheepish ring of impending black news...

"Well...We...Ummn...Sorta...Can't find Buffy...Ummn...Rupert...er...Roger..."

The three men look at each other...

"But Sam and William are out searching...And Riley was heading to make...Oh...He's back..." Willow pauses...

Braddock requests the mike...Sternly...Giles hands it over...

"Ms. Rosenberg...Put Mr. Finn on..." Riley's voice answers...A bit of static...

"What's your status, Finn...?" the colonel calls into the mike...

"All team members but Ms. Summers are accounted for...Equipment secured...I've made contact with our person on the ground in the area...We're nearly ready to move..." Riley replies...



Giles...? Xander eyes the Watcher...Who waves at him to calm...

"What is your plan for locating Ms. Summers...?" Braddock shouts a bit...

"Ms...Rosenberg is making a sensor sweep using her tracking spell, Hostile-17...er, Mr. Walthrop and Sam are still making a ground sweep..."

"Who the hell is "Mr. Walthrop"? Braddock asks Giles...

"William...The Bloody...Human name..." the Watcher explains...

"Buffy prefers we use it as much as possible...Makes him feel more at home in Humanity..."

"We may have to get the equipment out soon...But a couple of us will stay to track her..." Riley continues...

He should say "Over"...Willow eyes him as she stands by...Still trying to get a firm...Hmmn...

"Hey!..." she calls to Riley... "I think I got her!..."

"We may have something..." Riley speaks into the mike...

Hmmn...Say...

"She's moving...She must be on her feet..."

"Slayer is in motion..." Riley tells the mike...

Great...Still hobblin' round on her magic legs...Xander frowns, taking a chair...God, I hated this stupid spell idea...So did William...Why couldn't Buffy just once show us a little...

"But she's moving away from us...I don't get it...She's headin' for downtown, unless my map's wrong..."

"Slayer is enroute into Target Uno-C prime area..." Riley informs the mike...

"Strictly against the operational plan...What's she up to?..." Braddock frowns...

"Can you reach her by transmitter?..." he calls into his mike...

Shouldn't he be saying... "Over"? Giles eyes Xander...

"No response..." Riley replies...

"Wait a mo..." Willow calls...

I'm pickin something else up there with her...Something demony...she eyes Riley...

"Possible hostile in contact with Slayer..." Riley presses the mike...

Ok...Xander hops up...We're outta here...

The colonel raises a hand...

"Could it be... "Mr. Walthrop"?..." he asks into his mike...

Hmmn...Xander pauses...



"Nah..." Willow shakes her head at Riley... "William's aural signature stands out like a sore thumb with the human soul and vamp patterns and all..."

Negative...Riley calls into the mike...

Which way to Baghdad?...Xander moves towards the tent door...

"Mr. Harris!..." the colonel barks... "Wait..."

"We'll head out at the first opportunity but we'll do no good rushing out there like fools..."

"The colonel is right, Xander...Just wait a moment..." Giles eyes him...

And it's a bit of a walk...Especially at night...he notes...

***

The outer streets of Baghdad...About 3am

Buffy is being carried...Securely, more or less...Odai having cheated at his Iraqi Eagle Scout training by having another scout take his exam...Bound with rope...By two of the female zombies Odai has recently recruited...Dad's dignity naturally requiring that he not be reduced to helping to carry mere prisoners...

"So...The Slayer, I presume?..." Odai cheerily asks the bound but not gagged Slayer...Walking alongside her...

Sure looks like that mural...

"Put me down..." she glares at him...

"I am Odai Hussein...No doubt you're heard of me..." he beams...Pleased to have a chance to try out his English before his future encounters with the US High Command...Not to mention President Bush and family...

"I assure you..." he flashes a winning smile... "That you have fallen into the best possible hands..."

She twists a little to look at the zombie female porters...Hmmn...

"Gotta say I seriously doubt that...You do know your dates are dead, right?"

"Zombies..." Odai nods...

But very nice girls all the same...

"But my point is, Miss...Your superiors should have informed you...I am secretly on your side..."

A friend to Democracy and Human Rights...Working against my fiendishly evil father and sadistic younger brother...

Uh-huh...she eyes the zombies again...

"Unfortunate victims of my brother's evil dabblings in the occult..." Odai shrugs... "Tragic...But... Luckily for you, I have managed to continue to convince my brother that I remain on the side of Evil...He still trusts me enough to allow me to share in control of his unfortunate victims..."

Though, sadly...I could not intervene to save them...he looks down...



"As for Dad..." he looks back up brightly... "Well..." He eyes the lead zombie...Buffy twisting to see Zombie Hussein...

Crap...All this over a little zombification...? I was hopin' for a vamp Hussein at least...

"So..." she tries humoring the little nut... "If you control them, too...And you're on our side...Why don't you put me down and we head for the American lines...Or at least get me to a transmitter..."

Sadly...Miss...he shakes his head...I cannot take the risk of exposure just yet...

"Great issues are at stake...The future of my nation..." he nods solemnly...

I am sure...As the Slayer...Charged with awesome responsibility...You understand...

Hmmn...So she seems to be having a little trouble with the gams...From the parachute jump, perhaps?...

Nice...Hot and helpless...Just the way I like em...

However...One must consider the future of Iraq...And my role therein...

Unless of course she should choose to come on to me at some point once I've convinced her of my sincerity...

"I assure you...By the way, what is your name?...Slayer...I will see to your safety until the time is right for us to reach your people..."

"Buffy Summers...Thanks...But just where are you taking me anyway?..."

One of our many presidential bunker complexes...he tells her...Where you can be hidden in perfect safety, protected by my own personal guards...

The zombie troupe takes a sudden sharp turn...Hey!...Odai calls...

"What are you idiots doing?..." he yells...Attempting to summon them back on course...

Damn!...Must be that damned brother of mine...I shoulda known he'd keep master control in his hands...

"What's going on...?" Buffy cries...

"Just a minor difficulty Miss Summers...Not a thing to worry your little head over..." he hastens to keep up...

"Hey!...Help!..." she yells...As they carry her off down a side street, Odai racing after them...

God I hope I won't have to zombify her to please Qusai...he thinks, panting a bit as he hurries along...I mean the other dead girls were ok and all...But I sense a real kinship forming between me and the living Slayer...

Though...If it has to be...She'll still be quite a girlfriend to have round my bachelor pad...

'Worry my little head...'? Oh...Please let this guy be lying about being on our side...Buffy glares back at the stumbling Odai as he tries to keep up...

***

Part XII...

The outskirts of Baghdad...About two miles from the ST-1 (Slayer Team-1, natch) drop site...About 3:30 am...



"So..." Samantha Finn beams at William as they continue their latest sweep for Buffy... "Such an incredible story you have to tell, Mr. Malthrop..."

Walthrop...For the third time...he politely reminds her...

Damn this Victorian soul of mine sometimes...

"I mean..." she continues happily on, nodding...Sorry... "You've been lost for a century...Your soul...In Heaven?..."

"Not quite sure as to that...Haven't really had the time to sit down and try remembering..." he looks at her...

"Limbo maybe...? Our occult experts feel that's a very forgettable place...Whereas Heaven..."

Buffy was in Heaven, right...? she asks as they move along...William trying to concentrate...

"Yes, Heaven...Or so she believes...Please Mrs. Finn...Trying to focus here..."

Oh...That's so nice...she smiles...You're so devoted...A lot like my Riley...

And it's kinda neat to be called... "Mrs. Finn..." Not so many people do that nowadays...

"You know, I've always thought that if Riley got vamped...He'd be find a way to recover his soul and come back to me just like you and Mr. Angel..." she smiles...

William glares slightly... "Well..."Mr. Angel..."...Took a bloody curse...He didn't go seeking that soul of his..."

Not that Buf and I hold that against him...he notes...

Though...It might be nice if he'd get round to helping out poor ole Dru one of these days...

"But I guess that'll be a project for the Walthrops once we've got Buffy set back to rights..." he peered off...

"How long will her recovery take...?" Sam asks...

"Rupert...Mr. Giles...Feels it should take a few months...The physical therapy people seem to agree...Though naturally they told us they'd never seen a patient so strong in her other limbs or recover so much function so fast..." he notes rather proudly... "We had her on a respirator for two days after the battle, you know..."

Not an easy time for her...Which is why I signed off on this bloody idiotic field trip...he frowns...

"Buffy!!..." he calls...

"We really should try to keep our calls a little more on the quiet side, Mr. Walthrop...William..." Sam hisses...

"It could be dangerous for her as well..."

Right...he sighs...

"She'll be fine...The Slayer's not likely to be downed by a little parachute jump and some minor dictator..." Sam smiles reassuringly...

"But as I was saying..." she continues... "I hope you don't mind, but I'm trying to compile as much demon-vamp history and lore as I can...Pumpkin...er Riley and I are thinking of doing a book someday..."



Pumpkin...? William blinks...

If we can get clearance...she notes...

"Anyway...Your story is just so incredible...A vampire who fought down his dark nature and then went off to seek soul restoration...All for love..." she beams...Shaking her head...

"Well...Buffy is a very special bird...er woman..."

Nah...he thinks...Can't be the First back to haunt us...Girl's much too annoying...

"But...You did say you have little memory of your soul's out-of-body existence...?" she eyes him...

"Can't rightly say that it's the same damned soul I had in 1880..."

Hmmn...Our data suggests that each human soul is unique...she looks at him...

"If you got yours back, it's likely to be the original..."

Really...? he ponders...

So what the hell was I doing all those years...? he struggles a bit, trying to remember...

Nope, nothing but memories of Spike and his slaughters...Best not dredged up, actually...Kept poor Buf awake all night last Thursday with the remorsemares and all...

Well...Better to leave all that for now...Might be interesting to have Willow or Giles check me out...Hypnosis perhaps...

"I think we'd best focus on Miss Summers for now..." he looks as Sam...

"Of course..." she nods brightly...

A faint cry in the distance reaches him...A familiar cry...He tenses...

"William?..." Sam stares at him...Looking rather like a dog catching a scent...

"That way!...Lets go!..." he points...

"Excuse me if I apply myself a bit, Mrs. Finn..." he calls out a hasty apology as he shifts to high speed...Leaving her behind in a rush...

Thanks ole girl...he mouths a hasty prayer of gratitude to poor ole Dru and her gifts...We will do what we can for you, I promise...

Amazing...Sam shakes her head...Watching him race ahead...

Pumpkin would probably have found me even faster though...

***

Baghdad...The western districts...Still another presidential bunker...

Qusai frowns as Odai and his little zombie troupe enter, with zombie Hussein in the lead and a young, blonde...Hmmn, oh my Allah?...The Slayer?...he stares...Carried, tied to a pole...Odai panting and glaring at his brother in turn...



"Put me down!...Now!!..." Buffy hollers...Trying to get her magically stimulated legs to kick loose...No good...Can't get out of neutral gear it seems...

Well, Willow had warned her the spell wouldn't provide much in the way of speed or power...Just minimal walking for a limited time...

"Odai!?..." Qusai eyes his brother...And the zombies...Now five in number...Four new...All females...

Of course...How else would moron boy get a date without his personal army of goons beside him?...

"What the hell have you been up to?...Where did these...Things...Come from!?..."

"PUT ME DOWN...!! OR YOU'RE ALL DEAD!!!!..." Buffy bellows...

Odai signs for the zombies to lower her pole...She finds herself on the carpet, trying to twist free of the pole...He looks at Qusai...

"These ladies spotted Dad and me...I had to have him infect them...But it's fine, they're all following orders under the spell..."

And they've all had a square meal...So, no problem...

"By the way...Why the hell did you countermand my orders?...And how come you didn't tell me..."

"GET ME UP!!..." Buffy screams... "NOW!..."

"...about keeping control of Dad in your hands, you jerk...?...You could've marched us all right into an American missile..."

No such luck...Qusai sighs to himself...

"You did notice...I captured the Slayer..." Odai proudly beams at Buffy, still twisting on the floor...

"What's wrong with her...?" Qusai stares at the writhing Buffy...

"It was a great battle...On the banks of the river..." Odai begins...

Qusai glares...Buffy stops her struggling and likewise glares...

"I guess she got hurt in the parachute jump..." Odai looks down...

"Yeah..." Buffy hastily chimes in... "And in a coupla minutes, when I get the blood back in my legs...I am gonna kill you both...Unless you get me up, surrender, and put in a call to the US forces right now!!..."

"She's a feisty one..." Odai notes...

"Miss...?" Qusai addresses her...

"Summers...Buffy Summers..." Odai helpfully puts in...

"Miss Summers...I fear your view of the current situation is somewhat inaccurate...We have you...Prisoner...And you being clearly in no condition to oppose our..." he eyes the zombie troupe...

"Followers...I would suggest you relax a moment while I fetch our chief physician to examine you..."

Else...he narrowly eyes her...



"t might be necessary for you to join the ranks of our...Friends...here..." he indicates the female zombies, all standing stiff and staring blankly...

Keep an eye on her, moron...he hisses to Odai as he moves to an intercom in the rear...

"I still wanta know how come you got to have top control..." Odai hisses back, sulking...

"Because I summoned Joseph...And I'm not crazy enough to keep on making new zombies...Idiot..." Qusai glares back as he reaches the intercom...

"Yes...Qusai Hussein here..." he speaks into the box... "Send our chief physician at once...Which bunker?...G-37A, fool...Read your security screen..."

Remember, Buffy?...Odai hisses to her, standing beside her with the zombies in blank-eyed, drooling attendance...This is just a performance...I...Am on your side...

Gre...at...she replies...Shaking her head...

Hmmn...I don't see why the future son-in-law of the US President couldn't have a mistress or two on the side...he thinks, eyeing her...Especially if she's the Slayer...So long as he keeps it quiet...

And, if need be...Zombie servant girls are very quiet...

***

Part XIII...

The western districts of Baghdad...A little after 4 am...

"But...?!..." gasped the Republican Guard lieutenant William has just grabbed...About the right height and weight...

"You guys are 100 miles away...!"

'Fraid you were misinformed, mate...Will notes to the now unconscious officer...Dragging him into an empty alley and quickly stripping him...

Not a bad fit...he tightens the belt...

Now...A reasonable chance to walk the streets and enter the heavily guarded if non-descript building where he senses his intended has gone...Or more likely, been taken...

Poor Buf...She must be going crazy with the legs on the fritz and all...Though if her opponents, captors, who- or whatever they are, get within her arms' length...Won't be pretty...

Well...He can't help relishing the thought a little...This is a job for...William Soames Walthrop, human-souled...by voluntary act, one might add...vampire, poet, New Watchers' Council candidate, and Slayer's fiancee...

Not to mention...New assistant night manager at Doublemeat Palace...That quick jump up the Doublemeat corporate ladder having perhaps been the most irking thing for Buffy in the past few weeks...

A glass ceiling...At Doublemeat Palace?...

Still... It would all be in the family now... And it was just a temporary thing until the Council kicked in, they both got college worked out, and his writing career could resume...



This trip alone being certain to provide plenty of useful material...And after all, he'd, much to her flattered pleasure, suggested a joint project for his return to his craft...A series of graphic novels of their adventures...Names changed to protect the innocent of course...

Co-authored by Mr. and Ms...With perhaps a few acknowledgments to helpful friends and family, one teenaged-future-in-law bubbling over with ideas...A few possibly good...In particular...

Yeah...So long as she wasn't in any major trouble...And being able to sense her was a fairly good sign...A nice little adventure for one of their opening books...

Perhaps to be spiced up a bit if nothing more had happened than she'd been briefly captured owing to the legs problem by some moderately intelligent patrol squad...

He strode down the street confidently in his new uniform...the few, the proud, the Republican Guard...

Gotta get a picture in this before we go home...Make a great illustration for the book...he thought...

***

On the western outskirts of the capital...

"Pumpkin...?...This is Daisy Mae..." Sam speaks into her cell phone...

Willow blinks at Riley as she stands beside him...

Pet names...he shrugs...

Cute...she nods...Grimacing as he turns away to check Sam's coordinates on his map...

"Honey...William has found Buffy's scent...He's in pursuit into the city..." Sam continues...

"Willow thinks she's picked her up as well...We're on our way..." Riley replies...

Don't go into the main streets alone, Sam...he cautions...

"We'll be there in a few minutes..." he gives map coordinates...

"Ok, Pumpkin..." the reply...A pause, obviously waiting for...

"Love ya, Daisy Mae..." he tells the phone...

"Over and out..." a happy Sam signs off...

"Love is beautiful..." a solemn Willow beams at Riley as he puts the phone down...

"Yes...It is..." he firmly stares back...Then pulls out his transmitter to contact HQ...

Ok, ok...I did that kinda stuff with my honey too...she concedes to herself as he begins transmitting...

And love really is beautiful...

***

The western desert airbase...4:30 am...



Colonel Braddock, Giles, Xander have been joined by Dawn, Anya, and Andrew...All waiting round the main radio table, drinking...Coffee for the adults, YooHoo for Dawn and Andrew...

Awful...Dawn makes a face...

Yeah...But war is hell...Andrew notes to her...Manfully gulping the vile glop down...

Riley's voice comes through over the airwaves...They all cluster round the set...

"Will's on his way to her...We're linking up with Sam and then going in..."

Ah...Problem solved...Dawn and Andrew happily clink YooHoo boxes...

"Say again as to coordinates, Finn?..." the colonel asks...A grim look on his face...

A look Giles for one, Xander for another...Does not like...

Braddock summons an aide... "Get me today's target digest...From 0430 hours on...Western districts of Target Uno-C..."

Target digest?...Xander eyes Giles...

The colonel scans the list of today's potential targets for assault in "Target Uno-C"...Oh-oh...

"Colonel?..." Giles looks at him...

The colonel takes the microphone... "Finn?..."

"We have a problem..."

***



Presidential bunker G37-A...Western Baghdad...About 4:30 am...

The "chief medical officer to the President"...The same jumped-up med tech...Has arrived to make an examination of the Slayer's injuries...

Nearly all other medical personnel tied up, at the front, fled, or in hiding till the Yanks arrive...

"But sir..." the "doctor" nervously hisses to Qusai who's taken him aside to explain the situation...

Odai with his zombie quartet and dear ole dad in attendance, still with the Slayer...Now seated but handcuffed and ankle shackled, following her tossing of several large soldier guards across the room, a few moments before...

"I am not a doctor..."

"Nonsense..." Qusai pats him... "You played one on TV at Dad's last televised appearance, didn't you?...And all we need is for you to do a simple exam of the young lady over there..."

"But..."

"And give her enough of this..." he offers a syringe... "To keep her reasonably non-violent until I can safely get her and myself to the Americans..."

Demonstrating my good faith and my fitness for the job of interim President...After turning over my maniac brother...And our fiendish zombie father...he thinks...

"Do a convincing job...Keep her believing that she is getting the best possible treatment...And I might allow you to join us...And save your miserable life..."

"I promise you, Buffy..." Odai hisses to her as he sees Qusai engaged...And the various injured soldiers tend their Slayer-inflicted wounds...

"As soon as my fiendish brother leaves, I will get us both to safety...And we will seek your compatriots..."

Just trust me, baby...he smiles...Wagging a finger at her...

"Sure..." she glares... "Warren..."

He stares...Hmmn?...

"Sorry...It's just that you remind me of an old...Friend..." she gives him a brittle smile...

Ah...he beams...An old love, eh?...So many women see me that way...

God, I'm gonna love killing this guy...And his brother did say he made those poor girls zombies...she thinks...

***

Part XIV...

4:45am...A nearly deserted street in western Baghdad...The faint first signs of dawn beginning their approach...

"I have often walked...Down this street before...But the pavement always stayed...Beneath my feet before..." Well, maybe not this street...William notes, humming as he heads down the Baghdad street to the plain, rather unpretentious building where his supersenses suggest his beloved Buffy has gone or been taken...

The surface entrance to Presidential Bunker G37-A...

But certainly I have walked Buffy's street a million times...

The street where she lives...My own beloved...My future bride...And right now...This one'll do...

As I'm sure she's here...Somewhere...Dead ahead...

A private on guard duty salutes him as he passes, in his RG lieutenant's uniform...He crisply returns the salute...

As befitting a member of Iraq's finest...

***

The western desert coalition airbase...Same time...

Giles stares at Colonel Braddock in the main HQ tent as the colonel tries to reach US Air Operations' HQ...

"You mean to say that this area of Baghdad is to be hit within the next four hours...?" he eyes the map of the city spread on the rickety metal table before them...



"There's at least one presidential bunker there that we know of..." the colonel nods, tapping his list of the upcoming day's targets as he awaits reply...

"Very likely the place Miss Summers has gone or been taken to..." he notes...

Xander, Anya, Dawn, and Andrew looking at each other...

"Ok..." Xander insists... "Time for ST-2 to move out..."

Hmmn...The colonel looks at him...Then Giles...

"Yes...I think Mr. Harris is right...Our only chance to save Miss Summers may be to get the second team into that bunker compound before sunrise and the start of today's missions..."

Really?...Xander blinks...Dawn and Andrew nod solemnly...Time for ST-2 to demonstrate its can-do qualities...Anya frowns...But what the hell, pulling Buffy's ass of whatever disaster she's charged into is what her one-eyed honey does...

Braddock turns to an aide...Get a chopper ready...Immediately...

***

The ground entrance to Presidential Bunker G37-A, western Baghdad...

"You, there...Quick...!" William hisses at the two guards nervously patrolling the entrance...Watching anxiously for the start of the anticipated next series of coalition attacks that the coming dawn is sure to bring...

The guards stare at each other and him...

"I have just returned from a vital intelligence mission...!...I've urgent information for our superiors...!"

"If you're one of our intelligence boys..." one guard looks at him...The other raising his machine gun...

"Why are you speaking in English?..."

"Cause I don't speak Iraqi, mate..." Will grins...Deftly banging the guards' heads together and dashing inside...

***

The outskirts of western Baghdad...5am...

"Pumpkin!..." Sam hisses happily as Riley and Willow creep cautiously up to her hiding place...

"No word from William as yet..." she notes...

"Buffy's somewhere in that direction..." Willow points...

"And we've got to get her...And William out...Pronto..." Riley adds..."This whole sector is gonna be plastered by Air Command in under three hours..."

"So...? We're going in?..." Sam looks to her gear, rising...

"In just a bit...We got support coming..." Riley smiles, putting a hand on her shoulder...My girl...Always first to the fray...He eyes Willow rather proudly...



Ok...She makes the cut...Willow's look back says...Reluctantly...

"The other guys are on their way..." she explains to Sam...Who beams...Oh, great...

"Your friends all have so much experience...I know they're going to be invaluable..."

But she's still a smiling little two-faced...the Wiccan thinks darkly...

"They're being dropped right on the objective...At least as close to the place where we believe Buffy must be...With luck, they can secure her while we provide distraction..."

Oh...? Sam stares...

Right on the objective...?...Dawn and that Andrew...And the other two?...Her smile a bit stiff...

"Not Dawn, I'm sure..." Willow replies, waving a hand...

Giles and the colonel would never allow a kid to expose herself like that...

"Lets move up and I'll try calling HQ..." Riley suggests...

***

The skies over western Baghdad...5:20 am...

"You are a bit young for this, Miss!!..." Colonel Braddock stares at Dawn, yelling over the chopper blades...As she checks her parachute with the others...Giles frowning at her...

"However...As you managed to slip past my people and stow away on board here..." He eyes the blankets under which Dawn had hidden...Slipping in after Giles' firm insistence that she stay behind...With someone's assistance...Giles and Xander now glaring at Andrew who looks up innocently at the fascinating ceiling of the chopper...

Hmmn...All those interesting bolted metal plates...

"I must assume you have your own unique talents!!..." the colonel concludes...

"Oh...Dawny has many unique talents!!..." Andrew proudly chimes in...Yelling over the propellers as well...As Giles and Xander glare ever more intently...

Brave kid...That Andrew...Anya hisses to Xander...

Hopefully Buffy never hears him speaking of Dawn's "talents"... Unique or otherwise...

"Miss Kennedy?!..." the colonel waves her up...

Me...? she looks out the chopper's open door...Ummn...Maybe somebody el...she starts turning to look back as the colonel shoves her out...

"Mr. Harris?!..."

Ummn...

***

In the depths of Presidential Bunker G37-A...5:15 am...

Buffy narrowly eyes the "doctor" come over to "examine" her injuries as she sits, handcuffed and ankle-shackled in a chair...Odai, nearby with his zombie quartet and zombie Hussein, watching as well...Looking over to Qusai with a questioning look...?

What the hell is bro up to now?...He heads over to him...

Qusai on the phone, receiving the latest situation reports before the inevitable beginning of the daily coalition air strikes...

"How are your legs feeling now, Miss?..." the "doctor" tries a friendly bedside manner...

Hmmn...A rather scruffy-looking "chief physician" she thinks...Still, wartime and all...He may be running in from some front-line "MASH" or something...

"Qusai...?..." Odai taps him...Qusai waving him off...Busy!...

"Why are you having that clown "examine" her?..." older Hussein hisses...

"Well..." Buffy gives the "doc" a sweet smile... "I think if you'd help me up on my feet...Take these things off...And let me move around a bit...I'd probably be able to get the circulation going again..."

"Yes..." Qusai tells the party at the other end of the phone... "Have the available commanders and whoever you can find of the governmental staff assemble here before sunrise...Tell them this is an order direct from Dad..."

"Qusai!..." Odai taps him again...Qusai shoves him off...Moron!...On the phone here!?...Strategic-governmental matters at stake?!...

"Go sit...No!...You fool...!.." he cries at the "doc" now bending over Buffy's ankle "bracelets"...

Odai turns...To see the "doctor" go flying across the room as Buffy forces herself to a standing position with her arms...Snapping the handcuffs easily...

The human soldier guards whirl to look at her as she tries to move...Slowly on her magically simulated legs...One still shackled to the chair...

"Miss Summers!..." Odai calls... "Wait...!" He signs for the zombie troupe to move into action...They approach Buffy, several of the soldiers as well, while others block the exits...

The stunned "doctor" rises, syringe now in hand...A bit miffed at the young lady who's just taken advantage of his compassionate side to embarrass him in front of his bosses...

Qusai, glaring, shoves him forward... "Get her...Give her that stuff...!...Now!..."

Hmmn...The "doc" pauses as a soldier and a zombie girl go flying...

More commotion from down the hallway of the main exit...Odai looks over...What the hell's going on up there?...

"Is it sunrise yet?...Has the bombing started?..." he turns to Qusai...Now engaged in pushing the "doc" and other reluctant guards forward as Buffy staggers, more slowly than the zombies...Towards the main exit...Dragging the chair behind her...

The raging Qusai looks round for...Ah...Stun gun...He tosses it to one of the braver guards trying to reach Buffy...

"Hey!...OW!..." she cries as the guard hits her with a jolt...She stumbles and falls...



Damn...Fallen and can't get up...Again...

Still...I actually felt something in the thigh he hit...Maybe a little electrical stimulation would be good for my recovery...Sbe desparately raises herself to her knees...Awkwardly looking about for something to support a lift to her feet...

The now somewhat less compassionate "doctor" manages to reach her on the ground as she whacks off an approaching zombie...And...Yeow! she yelps...Inject her...

"You...Bast..." she goes a little catatonic...Staring...

Odai races to her, shoving the guards aside...

"Buffy...? We still have a deal right?" he hisses...She uncomprehending...

Qusai calling for the guards to back off...

More commotion is heard from above...Shots fired...

"Go and see what's going on!..." Qusai orders the guards by the main exit...While signing for the zombies to back off as well...

Buffy remains on her knees, staring...

"You can get her up now..." Qusai smiles... "She'll give us no more trouble..."

Two guards lift her up to stand...Odai looks at her...

She looks...Like a...He looks over to his zombie girls...

"Qusai...? What did you do to her?..." he turns to his younger bro...

There goes my ticket to President Bush's ranch...

"A new drug, developed in Dad's research labs...Induces a catatonic, hypnotic state...Not exactly the mind-controller he was hoping for...But..."

Will she...Take commands?...Odai asks...Eyeing her...

Somewhat hopefully...

"Not really...But she'll be good and quiet and follow where we lead her...For about ten hours, depending on her Slayer's physiology..."

Oh...Odai, a tad disappointed...Not exactly a reversible zombie...

Still...She seems quite pleasant now...

And her legs seem to be working again, a little...he notes...

More cries and shots from down the main hallway...Hmmn...

"The Americans?..." Odai eyes younger bro...

Hmmn...Perhaps Buffy and I should slip off to some quiet corner and hide till the Yanks secure the place...

Get to know each other better in one of Dad's hidden rooms while her troops take out Qusai...



"Take her over to the zombies..." Qusai tells him... "It sounds like we may have to head out..."

Several guards flee into the chamber...

"That way...!..." Qusai points to a side exit...

"Hold it, mate!..." William in Guards uniform, bursts in...Rather heavily armed...

A Brit?...Odai looks ...

But they're supposed be trapped outside Basra?...Oh, I get no accurate intelligence...he glares at Qusai...

"Buffy?!...Where is she?!!..." Will hollers at the group...Selecting out Qusai as the current leader...Whoops, he catches sight of zombie Hussein...

The Big Fish, himself...Buf'll be so...

"Buffy?!!!!..." he screams, seeing the catatonic Buffy in line with the zombie girls...

Hmmn...Only one?...Qusai stares at the now frantic William, racing over to Buffy...

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HER?!!!!?..." he screams, raging, hurling back a guard...Shoving the zombies next to her back...

The human guards attempt to rally...

"She is ours, my friend!..." Qusai thinks fast, calling to him... "But...She still lives...The condition can be reversed..."

And only we can release her from the spell...he notes...Ah, the guards have managed to regroup...

"Surrender or we shoot you and her!...Now!..." he cries...William desperately trying to chafe Buffy's hands...Reach her somehow...

"Odai...The zomb...The other zombies!..." Qusai turns to Odai...

The zombies move on William and Buffy...The human guards raise their guns...

No one but this one Brit?...Odai looks down the hall...

"Release her...! Now!...Or I will kill each and every one of you...!" William turns to Qusai...

Eyeing zombie Hussein briefly...Lord...Was all this over a mere zombie?...Jesus...Buf and I will have a bone to pick with US Military Intelligence when we get outta here...he thinks...

"Surrender...Now...Or you die!...And she stays a...Zombie!..." Qusai calls back...

The "doc", back in the gaggle of guards, blinks...What?...You bastards had me make that poor girl a...?

Yeah!...Odai agrees with his bro, glaring at William...

God, one Brit alone did all this?...he thinks, a little embarrassedly...

Who is this guy?...James Blonde...?

***

Part XV...



The main conference chamber, deep within Presidential Bunker G37-A, western Baghdad...about 6am...

William has reluctantly surrendered to Qusai and Odai Hussein and their forces...For the sake of freeing the now catatonic and possibly zombified Buffy from whatever sinister hold they've managed to get on her...

The guards truss him up as he stands by a blankly staring Buffy...On her feet again, at least he notes...Apparently Willow's spell to magically allow her to walk for a bit on her paralyzed legs is still working...

"Buffy?...Darling pet...?" he calls to her as she stands beside Odai's female zombies, with Zombie Saddam, as befitting the leader of Iraq, off to one side...

Odai comes over...Leading Buffy by the hand towards an exit and signing for the zombies to follow...

"Buffy!..." Will calls...

"Get him moving..." Qusai turns to the guards...Who shove William towards the exit...

"We'll find out who he is and where his forces are once we've reached the next bunker...Contact the commanders and staff who were coming here and have them meet us at our new location..." he turns to an aide...

Doctor...he eyes the "doctor" still staring after Buffy as she goes through the exit door with Odai...

"Lets get going...Unless you care to wait for the American bombers to come over...? Or our young friend's comrades to come crashing in..."

The "doctor" gulps and follows...

"If anything happens to her!..." Will turns to glare at Qusai as the soldiers push him along...Little suspecting how much he is restraining himself for his beloved's sake...

"She will be fine, my friend...I guarantee it..." Qusai waves airily...

So long as you cooperate...

***

The western Baghdad street where President Bunker G37-A lay...6am...Sunrise just starting break over the eastern hills

"Ooof!..." Andrew groans, as he touches down...His parachute dropping over him...

Help!...he cries, tangled...

"Arghh!..." Dawn groans, falling to her knees and rolling...About 25 feet away from Andrew...Her parachute settling down behind...Over Andrew as well...

He continues to struggle and flail in the chutes and cables...

"Wait a minute, Andy...!" Dawn calls to him...Spying a ghost-like figure stumbling around under the parachutes...She unhooks from her chute and starts over...

Only to be covered herself by Xander's chute...Which likewise provides Andrew with yet a third covering...

From down the street, by the building covering the bunker, Colonel Braddock, Giles, and several of the special ops troops are seen hastening up...



Damn..Dawn groans, trying to escape the chute...Hearing their voices...They would hafta find us like this...

"Dawn!?...Xander?!..." Giles calls quietly...

"Hello?!..." Andrew calls back, lost in the pile of chutes...Now bound up by cables wrapped about his feet and body...

"Giles?...Dawn...?..." Anya's voice is heard as she helps Xander along...Who is dragging his leg a bit...

Slight twist of the ankle when they shoved him out the copter door...

"Quiet down, people!..." the colonel hisses...Signaling his troops to uncover Dawn and free Andrew...

"Colonel Braddock?..." Riley emerges from a small building...

"Finn...Good..."

Sam and Willow now come out as well...

"Hey, Willow..." Anya waves cheerily... "Kennedy's here somewhere...!"

"Quiet!..." the colonel hisses at her...

A gunshot quickly adding emphasis to his warning...

Followed with commendable speed by several others...

"Take cover...!" Braddock shouts...The newly freed Dawn and Andrew joining the others, now including Kennedy, as they all scramble for the protection of the small warehouse Riley and the other ST-1 members had just emerged from...

***

Deep below the Baghdad streets, Odai Hussein leads an entranced Buffy and his zombie force down a tunnel passage to another secure Presidential Bunker...B87-B...

"So...Buffy?..." he whispers back to Buffy, gently pulling her along...

"What's with that Brit guy...? He a friend of yours...?...A boyfriend?..."

She stares blankly...

"The blonde Brit?...Back in the other bunker...? Who came to rescue you?..."

Br...it...she murmurs placidly...

"Yeah, that's it...The Brit...Who is he, anyway?..."

She stares, blinking, as they continue on...

"Blllonnnde...Brr...It..." she repeats...

Hmmn...Not much of a conversationalist this Slayer...Odai notes to himself...

Not that I care much for talkative women...

"Hey!...Keep moving up there!..." A shout from Qusai, back down the line...



Yeah, yeah...Odai calls back...

Hmmn...Well...Buffy...Odai resumes as he continues the march...

"How's about me...Do you think maybe we might have a chance to get to know each other when this is all settled...And I've gotten you to the American lines...?"

She stares...Blankly...

Hmmn...Best to keep it simple...

"You like Odai, Buffy?..." he tries... "Huh...Like Odai, Buffy?..."

"Likkkke...Odddaaii..." she repeats... "Buffffy..."

Well...Progress...

"Yeah...Lets hear that again... I Like Odai..." he smiles back at her...

"I like Odai...lots..." he repeats carefully...

"IIII likkke OOOOddaiiii...llllooots..." she murmurs...Staggering along...

Yeah...I knew it...he beams...

Wonder if Qusai has any more of that stuff...And the formula written down somewhere...

"Buffy...Buffy...I...Love...Odai..." he begins... "I...Love...Odai..."

***

Farther down the march line, Will contemplates his next move...Tear off the ropes and grab the younger brother who seems to be in charge?...He cranes his head back...Hmmn...Lotta guards around him...And Buffy far out in front with the other clown...And the zombies...Best to wait and see what the situation's like when we get where we're going...

Hopefully not out into the rising sun...

Thank God she didn't quite have that smell of death about her...Maybe Boss boy had been truthful when he'd said her condition was reversible...

Though the others sure seemed like your typical zombie...

God...She couldn't be...Not again...You couldn't be so cruel as to take her from me...And her little family...Again...Not now...

For your own sake, Pal...Cause you know as well as I do she'll kick your white-bearded ass out of Heaven if you've gone and let her be killed again...

And zombie death, being mystical...Would certainly allow for Willow to do one more resurrection...

***



The Baghdad street where ST-2 and Braddock's force had just landed...6:15 am...

Kaboom!...Another heavy explosion as the coalition ground attack aircraft Braddock has called in, continue to pound the buildings from which gunfire had emerged...

The gang huddles in the ground floor of the warehouse where they've taken refuge from snipers...A couple of buildings down from the building housing the bunker entrance...

"You sure they can hit the other guys and not us...?" Dawn watches a building collapse down the street...

"They're reasonably precise..." the colonel notes...As a nearer blast shakes their building...

"But you can only be so precise with heavy explosives..."

As soon as our people have shaken the enemy up a bit...I suggest we run for that building...Braddock points...

"Willow...?" Giles turns to her... "Do you sense Buffy in there?"...

"Yeah..." she nods... "But...She's faded a bit...Somehow her aura's weakened...And it may be in motion..."

"They're moving her?..." Xander eyes her... "Lets roll..."

Riley raises a hand...Just a mo, Xan...

"Yes and no..." Willow replies... "I think they're moving her...But that's not the main cause of the aural fade...It's like her self...Her soul...Has been repressed a little...By something..."

Xander stares at Giles...Sam at Pumpkin...

Kennedy at Willow, beaming...Hey babe...Love it when you get all solemn and earnestly Wiccan...

Could be magics, drugs...I dunno...Willow sighs...Maybe we'd best try getting in there...she notes, seeing the old gang's faces...Right away...

"But how's about the easy way..." she grins... "Avoiding the falling bombs and all..."

"Yeah...Teleportation...The only way to travel...If you can avoid the getting trapped in solid rock..." Andrew agrees happily...

***

"II..Addore...Oddai..." Buffy blankly repeats, marching along at Odai's tug...The zombies in front of them, soldiers, then far back down, William, more soldiers, and Qusai, the "doctor", and, naturally, more soldiers...

"The...Slayer...Is...Odai's...Girl..." Odai tries...

I wonder how much it would cost to keep her in an apartment or a house near DC?...Unless "Dad" Bush wants me and my Bush wife to live near the ranch in Texas...he ponders...

"Thhee...Sllayyer...Isss...Odddaii's...Girrlll..."

"Thanks...Buffy...You know you have beautiful eyes..." he notes, beaming back at her...

"Yooou...Havvve...Beeeauuutifull...Eyyess..." she repeats...

Oh, no...I meant...he begins...Well...Actually...



And all my ladies do tell me...

"You have beautiful eyes, Odai..."

"Yooou...Havve...Beeauu..."

***

Part XVI...

Baghdad...On the street outside Presidential Bunker G37-A...Daybreak...

"Now, Andrew..." Willow sighs... "You're sure you've got it...?"

Absolutely...he nods...And it's only a short jump...

Ok...she sighs...

"Wil...?" Xander hisses... "Are you sure about this?...I mean..." he catches an overhearing Dawny glaring at him...And pulls Willow away...

"I mean...Andrew?...Teleport six people...Including himself..."

"We haven't any alternative, Xander...I don't have enough left in me right now to take us all alone..." Willow shakes her head...

"He's been practicing...Dawny's sure he'll be fine..."

Uhnnn...Xander shakes his head...Willow goes back to the group...

"Ok..." Andrew takes the floor, Dawn pushing him...

"Lets get this illusionaire par excellent under way..." he notes...

God I wish it were an illusion...Willow sighs...

Dawn, rather proudly...With Giles...Giving a reluctant wave to Willow and Xander...Well, someone has to do it...And three soldiers..."Volunteered" by Colonel Braddock...Takes position by Andrew...

"Focus, Andrew!..." Willow calls...Gathering her group as well...

"You can do it..." perhaps a bit lacking in conviction...

Showtime, Andy!...See ya below!...Dawn replies firmly...Waving...As Andrew, she, Giles, and their companions vanish...

Followed an instant later by Willow and co...

Colonel Braddock and five remaining soldiers left behind to maintain contact with HQ and do things the hard way...

Hard...If the transports worked, that is...



***



Below the Baghdad streets, in the tunnel to Presidential Bunker B87-B...As the group moves slowly along...Qusai Hussein has decided to make his own attempt to deal with the coalition forces who've shown up on his doorstep...Slipping over to the trussed-up William...

"My friend..." he hisses to the blonde man in Iraqi Republican Guards uniform...In a voice that clearly suggests he wants this conversation kept secret...

"Please understand that I...Qusai Hussein...Am actually on your side...A friend to the Allies...Fighting my diabolical brother and father in secret..."

Really, mate?...Will eyes him...

"Well...Considering your dad's dead...Everyone, including your dead dad and that little quartet of the damned, seems to be taking their orders from you...And your little brother up there seems to be a freaking moron...What's holding you back from marching on over to our lines...?"

Besides possibly having murdered my fiancee...The Slayer... The American Slayer...he stares at Qusai narrowly...

"I assure you...Miss Summers is not dead...Yet...And I will do all that I can to protect you both until we can seek your comrades..." he blinks...

"Fiancee...?" he eyes William...

"That's right, friend...And one really pissed fiancee's what I am...So if you are on our team...Secretly or whatever...Best for you to show your hand...Now..."

And release my Slayer girl from that spell or whatever...

"As soon as it is safe to...I will..." Qusai nods... "For now, I ask your patience for just a bit longer..."

Mr...?

"Walthrop...William Soames Walthrop..."

Ah...Of her Majesty's Secret Service...?...MI-5...? Qusai asks, curious...

Hmmn...Well, I did pretend to be MI-5 that one time in Istanbul in 1982...Will thinks...

"With the Slayer's Special Team, mate...And the Royal Council of Watchers..."

Ah...

Am a New Council Watcher candidate, after all...he thinks...May as well start getting the title right...

***

"I knew you could do it, Andy!..." Dawn beams at him...As they stand together in some dark...Room?...Tunnel...?

Everyone else is ok, right?...she looks round...

"Giles...?" she calls...

"Yes...Right here, Dawn..." he calls back...



The three soldiers beside him...In good shape if a bit shaken by the trip...

Andrew beams proudly...A man touched by the Gift...

"Where the heck are we, anyway?" Dawn turns to Giles...Who shakes his head...

Hopefully, about where we wanted to be...He feels for his backpack...Nothing...

The soldiers likewise...And disarmed...

Andrew looking a bit sheepish...Guess I should have worked on the teleportation of accompanying personal objects...

Well...Giles notes...At least we didn't materialize naked...

"I don't suppose you could get some light in here, Andrew?..." he asks

Well...Giles...Ummn...Andrew hesitates...Looking embarrassed...

"That's all right, Andy..." Dawn pats him... "Ya did just fine...You're a large jobs kinda magics guy...I'll have Willow teach me the small stuff sometime..."

No one missing anything...Organic?...Giles quietly checked in with the soldiers...

***

Willow scans the lower level of Presidential Bunker G37-A where she, the Finns, Xander and Anya, and several soldiers have just materialized...

Xander looking anxiously round the large room for the others...Whoa...He catches sight of Saddam's sex mural collection...

Nice to see the Iraqi leadership takes an interest in the arts, he notes to Anya...

"Too bad you're missing that ole depth perception..." she replies, peering at the paintings... "Some of these are in 3D..."

"Andrew must have brought them a little further down..." Willow tells the others reassuringly...

Well, least I don't see their heads sticking out of the floor or walls or something...That's a good sign...she thinks...

"Lets see if we can find them..."

"Look..." Anya points at one large mural... "There's Buffy..."

Xander stares, blinking...Hmmn...Quite a good likeness...If Buffy's clothes were shredded and she were being lifted helpless in the ravishing claws of some gigantic red, horned demon...

"Could have been the First as model..." Anya notes... "I know that fellow..." she points at the large demon... "That's Dominitus, one of the guardians of the final portal to Hell...I saw him a couple of times on trips to Hell..."

Xander looks at her...

"Strictly business...For D'Hoffryn to obtain some vengeance-necessary items..." she explains...

"Yeah..." she shakes her head... "Musta been the First posing with him...Domy's actually a pretty shy guy...He'd never have done one like this unless she asked him to..."



Hot...Kennedy grins at the mural...Willow frowning...

Any paint around...? Xander asks...Preferably black...

***

Part XVII...

The tunnel under Baghdad leading to Presidential Bunker B87-B...

A slight hitch in the march...Something seems to have killed the tunnel lights, including the emergency ones...Plunging the whole place into darkness...

The zombies, halted frantically by Odai, seem to be retaining their usual calm...As does Buffy...Still catatonic and dutifully reciting back Odai's latest lesson regarding his many charms...

"...Bbbigggest III'veee evvver seeeennn..." she finishes...

Oh, I have definitely gotta get this drug's formula from Qusai later...he thinks...

"Qusai!?..." Odai calls back down the tunnel...Shining his electric lantern...

"What the hell's going on...?"

"Must be the Americans...Bombing our power grid..." Qusai calls back up...Still standing near William...

Whose amazing vamp supersenses do not, unfortunately include super night vision...

In fact, vision...Owing to his human defects...Is not Will's strongest suit...

Buffy having recently forced him to an eye exam after noticing what they'd taken to be his evil scowl in the bad ole Spike days was actually a desperate squint...

"What's going on?.." he calls to the faint figure near him...At least he can tell by sound and smell that it's the junior maniac...

Perhaps...If he can be sure of finding him...It might be time to break out of these ridiculous ropes and grab the fellow as hostage...

"Your forces must have knocked out the electrical grid...But I don't understand why the emergency lights don't kick in..." Qusai fumes...

***

Presidential Bunker G37-A...The main chamber on the lower level...

Dull thuds are heard by the Willow-transported half of the combined ST team...The bunker shakes a bit...

"Our boys are starting to hit this area..." Riley notes... "We'd best move out of here before they send in the bunker buster drones..."

Right...Willow nods...Wouldn't want to be caught by some little bomb equal to a small nuclear warhead...

Lets see...Buffy's aura...

Yeah...Faint but...



"That way..." she points to an exit in the back of the rooms...

"That's my girl..." Kennedy grins to Xander as they head out...

Wonder if the artist would be available for a private commission...she eyes the murals as they reach the exit door...Willow would look so hot in the outfit Buffy or whoever is wearing there...

***

Presidential Bunker B87-B...

Phew...Odai sighs, leading Buffy up the stairs into the new bunker...Funny that the power is still on here, though...Having halted the zombie force until he can alert the bunker entrance guards as to their being on the Iraqi side...

"Sir?..." a guard officer eyes him, the catatonic Buffy following...

"All's well..." Odai notes... "Meet my new girl, Buffy Summers...Say hi, Buffy...Hi..."

"Sssaay....Hiiii...Bbbbuufffyy..."

Hmmn...The guard eyes the blank-eyed Buffy...Pretty girl...And just bombed?...Or...Drugged?...No signs of torture...?...Odai's doing well these days...Or maybe she just has a large family under his lock and key...

"The commanders and staff have begun to arrive...But the bombing may delay many of them..." the officer fills him in...Eyeing the zombie force now emerging from the tunnel at Odai's command...

Saddam himself at the rear...

Odai moves back to dear Dad...Trying to look attentive...

"Ok...Dad and I will be up in just a sec...Tell them to check on the strategic situation while we prepare ourselves..." he checks his watch...

"Minister al-Sahaf should be doing his morning press briefing right now...If he's still alive..."

The guard nods and heads upstairs...

Our info minister's press briefing...Great...The best comedy on TV...he thinks...And looks back...

Geesh, Saddam looks better than he has in years...I guess the excitement of the war is having a tonic effect on him...

***

"Now let me see..." Andrew closed his eyes, then opened them...Hmmn not much difference in this pitch dark...

"Locator spell..." he concentrates...A very dim firefly of a light appears...

"Nice job, Andy...!" Dawn proudly pats him...The light winks out...

My fault...Dawn hastily tells him as a sigh is heard from Giles...Somewhere to their left... "I shouldn't have broke your concentration...Try again...ho..." she cuts it off...God, Giles in hearing range...

Did she start to call him...Honey?...Giles glares in what he believes is Andrew's direction...



Andrew brings his mighty abilities to bear once again...The faint light reappears and begins moving down the passage...

"All right, lets follow..." Giles hisses to the soldiers...Dawn happily taking Andrew's arm...After feeling round in the dark for it for a full minute...

The group proceeds slowly after the light...Trying not to stumble...OW!...Andrew hollers...Ouch!...Dawn goes into him...Into the walls or each other...

Sorry...Didn't see that wall...Andrew apologizes...

No problem...Dawn pats him... "And look, your locator is still going...Lets go, guys!..."

I distinctly heard the sound of someone kissing someone...Giles thinks, annoyed...

Dawn?...Andrew whispers...Did you just...?

"For luck...Sshh, Giles..." she quietly hisses back...But gives a hand squeeze...

Well...Andrew happily thinks...Carefully following the light of his Buffy locator...I guess I do have something of William's reformed bad boy about me...

Not to mention excellent housekeeping skills...

***

The tunnel to Presidential Bunker B87-B...

Qusai turns away from William as he and those around him hear sounds from further back down the tunnelway...A faint crash...Hmmn...

"Someone is coming after us!..." he turns back... "You...And you..." he shines his flashlight on two soldiers... "Take positions here...The rest of you...Hurry!..."

Hmmn...William ponders...Now?...He tenses...

But best to hold off until the younger maniac here gets me up to Buffy...Then see if it's our fellows behind us...He relaxes a little and picks up his pace as a soldier urges him along...Qusai moving past...

***

The main conference room of Presidential Bunker B87-B...

Qusai leads zombie dad and catatonic Buffy into the room...Now reasonably filled with military and governmental types, watching Minister al-Sahaf on TV...A few turn back to stare at the newcomers...And tap their fellows...

"They will advance to commit suicide!..." the confident words of MSS pour out from the TV...

"Gentlemen...And Ladies..." Odai calls...Leading Dad to a chair of honor ...Slightly off to the side...

The group rises to acknowledge the presence of the Leader...

Still kickin' eh...? one commander who'd been present the first night notes...

And lookin' better than in a long time...



"My girlfriend, Ms. Summers..." Odai proudly shows the blankly staring Buffy off to a few of the guests...

Hmmn...Looks like Odai got hold of compound S-37H...one of the group most familiar with Saddam's weapons programs notes to himself, observing Buffy...

***

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