"You never told me how you felt about Kim being in CTU," said the voice through his ear piece as he kept his eyes focused on the street below him.
Jack Bauer let out a sigh of impatience. His mind was already focused on the task at hand, not on other matters that were currently beyond his control. Any minute now, two vehicles were going to show up and their only lead to a missing nuclear device would be in reach. He and Tony Almeida had a team of seven CTU agents with them and the location was ripe for an ambush. Talking about his daughter on the line where others would hear was not sitting right with Bauer. In fact, it pissed him off. He made a promise to let Almeida know exactly how he felt about it when the job was done.
As he looked through the scope of his Marine Scout Sniper Rifle, he simply said, "All teams in position. They're coming."
In the night, it wasn't hard to pick out two sets of vehicles moving toward the warehouses the CTU agents were using as cover. The vehicles had their high beams on as they traveled along the deserted road that badly needed repair. The vehicles bounced along toward their destination. Looking through the scope and focusing on the first vehicle from his high vantage point, Bauer clearly saw the drivers face. The man was agitated and cursing angrily about the conditions of the road.
"Chloe..." Bauer said, watching the scene below him from the corner of the rooftop.
There was a sigh in his ear, followed by Chloe O' Brian's impatient voice. "Yeah?"
"Are we online?"
From CTU's central command, Chloe was helping the computer technicians fight the war on terrorism using technology. "I can see you, Jack," she replied, trying to keep her impatience to a bare minimum, which for her was very hard to do. "The satellite feed is on location directly above you, giving us your exact position. We can see everything. We're triangulating every frequency we can, but there are no nuclear devices in either one of those vehicles."
That wasn't what Bauer wanted to hear. "Are you sure?"
"Jack, when you point a gun at a terrorist, do I ask you if you know how to pull the trigger? I know what I'm doing."
Bauer glared at the approaching vehicles. If there wasn't a device in them, then they needed one or two of the terrorists alive for questioning. He looked into the scope and lined up his target. The vehicles were getting closer. Soon, they would be right where he wanted them to be.
The wait wasn't long. As soon as the two vehicles were beyond the point of no return, Bauer gave the signal. The signal was simple. He pulled the trigger.
The bullet covered the space between his position and his target in a heartbeat. It sailed through the windshield of the first vehicle and through the drivers forehead. Blood and brain matter sprayed out the back of his head and all control of the van was gone. It kept moving forward, but now there was no one to turn the steering wheel. The passenger was yelling, but his life abruptly ended when a second shot from Bauer's rifle took him out. The van crashed into the wall of the warehouse across the alley from his location.
The second vehicle seconds later collided right into the van. Two shots from Almeida's sniper rifle had taken out the driver and passenger in the front. With both vehicles down, the CTU agents on the ground immediately converged on them. The doors of the first vehicle wouldn't open from the inside. They had been jammed from the crash. Three men, however, piled out of the second vehicle with weapons of their own.
Most terrorists used only one method of attack. They simply came out screaming bloody murder at the top of their lungs as they opened fire. With no other choice, the CTU agents returned fire and three terrorists abruptly fell to the ground. One of them fell back against the van, sliding down to the ground as he left a trail of blood on the van. His hand gripped his weapon in a tight death grip, which caused it to continue firing until it clicked empty.
Then, there was silence.
By the time Bauer and Almeida were on the ground, they had joined the other agents who had the two crashed vehicles surrounded.
"We think there's two or three trapped in the van," one of the men told Bauer softly. "We can hear movement and -"
Suddenly, from within the van, there were two gunshots.
"No!" Bauer exclaimed. "Open it up, dammit! Get them out of there!"
The agents moved. They forced the doors open and found two men inside. One of them had used a gun on his companion before he turned the gun on himself. The message was loud and clear. The only lead to the nuclear device died in that van.
"Son-of-a-bitch!" Bauer shouted. He took a deep breath and punched the side of the van. "We've lost it!"
Suddenly, the man who had been shot coughed.
"Get that man some help," Bauer demanded. "Now!"
The agents moved quickly. They brought the man out and laid him on the ground under the street lights so they could see what kind of damage he had taken. To their surprise, he had been shot in the shoulder. The man who had shot him had been a good shot when it came to taking his own life, but he should have made sure his companion was dead.
Bauer pushed one of the agents aside and glared down at the remaining terrorist. "Where is the device?"
The terrorist looked up at him. Then, he spit at Bauer. It was a bad play because it was hard to spit at someone from the ground when they were standing over you.
"Jack, we'll get the information," Almeida said, "but we need to take him to CTU now."
Bauer ignored him. He placed his foot on the mans wound and pressed down with all his weight. "Where's the device?" he demanded once more.
The man cried out in pain. The pressure was so intense, that he began to cry out words just in the hopes that the pain would stop.
"Kidnap...Rosenberg...Boca del Infierno...sunny days..." Then, he passed out.
Almeida shook his head. "Way to go, Jack. That really told us everything we need to know about where the device is." He waved the man away, and the other agents loaded him into a unit to have him taken to CTU. "All I got out of it is that someone named Rosenberg is going to be kidnapped, but the rest...didn't make any sense. Boca del Infierno...sunny days? What the hell does any of that even mean?"
Bauer paused. "Boca del Infierno is Spanish." He was thinking of a time when he had gone undercover. "I'm not sure of the full translation...and I have no idea what the significance means other than what a nuclear device will unleash...but I believe he said, 'the mouth of hell.'"
"Really? The mouth of hell? And sunny days?"
"Not sunny days. He may have said that...but I think he might have meant Sunnydale." Bauer paused. He straightened and turned to look at Almeida. "You wanted to know how I felt about Kim being in CTU? I don't like it at all. I don't want her to face this kind of shit every day of her life."
Almeida was surprised by the sudden change of their conversation. "She's on the tech team, Jack. She's not a field agent. She'll be safe at CTU doing her job."
"If there's one thing I've learned about being in CTU, Tony, it's that you either come out into the field or the field comes to you." He glared at him. "Teri knew a Rosenberg and Kim as a little girl had gotten to call this Rosenberg her aunt. This Rosenberg at the time lived in a place called Sunnydale. If this is the same Rosenberg, then I may have to bring Kim in on this one...and if I have to do that, I'm not going to be happy about it one damned bit. And neither is anyone else before I'm through."
† † †
Lone Gunmen Publications
Fox Mulder stood in front of the thick, heavy door and pressed the buzzer repeatedly. As he did, he grinned up at the security camera mounted to the wall in the corner above the door. Although the buzzer had only one monotonous tone, Mulder then proceeded an attempt at playing the theme of Hawaii 5 - 0 on it.
"Okay, that's enough of that,"came an irritated voice from a speaker next to the camera. "The buzzer isn't out there for your entertainment, Jack-O! So back off." Then, there was a brief pause. "Oh. It's you."
Mulder looked up at the camera. "Are you gonna open the door, Langly, or should I find something else to play? I understand you're partial to the Brady Bunch. Let me try that one."
Mulder proceeded to press out a Brady Bunch theme with the buzzer.
The door swung open and Richard Langly appeared in the doorway of the residence of the Lone Gunmen. He agitatedly slapped Mulder's hand away from the buzzer. "What, are you crazy? You of all people should know that the Brady Bunch was designed to brainwash innocent people into living the dream of the American life…by becoming zombie's so that the government could begin taking full control of their lives! You can't play that kind of stuff here, man!"
"Wow...And they call me paranoid." Mulder stepped inside as Langly closed the door, muttering about the inaccuracies of the American dream as portrayed by the Brady's.
John Fitzgerald Byers and Melvin Frohike were at a table, papers and gadgets spread out before them. "You're early, Mulder," Byers said. "We didn't expect you for at least another hour."
Mulder shrugged as he approached the table. "I got bored so I booked a flight. I leave in half an hour."
"Half an hour?" Langly exclaimed. "You really think you're going to make it in time? The airport is at least fifty miles from here. You'd have to break every traffic law to get there, but even then, you'd never make it."
"I'm not going to the airport. I kind of used my badge and reserved a ride under the impression that I was using the helicopter for FBI purposes."
"Mulder! You're a part of the establishment, man! You're becoming one of them!"
Frohike was curious. "What FBI business did you give the pilot?"
Mulder couldn't help but grin. "Well...I actually told him that I would set up a date between him and Scully."
Frohike frowned. "Langly's right. You are a part of the establishment. And you should be ashamed using Scully like that."
"What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"How is she not going to know when you have to set the pilot up on a date with her, Mulder? She's going to find out."
Mulder grinned at him. "Are you getting jealous, old man?"
"You bet, I am. Scully can do better than a pilot that works for the government. Uncle Sam wouldn't give us a curfew."
"Look, don't worry about it. I'm sure she thinks only of you. But let's get to why I'm really here."
Byers nodded knowingly. "You're looking for something to do on your vacation and you were hoping that we would point you in the right direction."
"Like you need our help," Frohike snorted. "Your conspiracy theories are crazier than ours. What are you taking a vacation for anyway? I thought you hated those."
Mulder shrugged as he leaned against the table. He began to look through a stack of Lone Gunmen papers. "I like to find answers and most of those answers can only be found while I'm on the job. But Skinner gave me two options. Take a short vacation...or take a permanent one. I chose the first option." He paused. "Maybe I need this. Maybe I just need to step back and do something else that doesn't have to do with little green men or conspiracies. So what have you got that I can look into without getting into too much trouble?"
"Sightings of Big Blue are on the rise again at Huevelman's Lake in Georgia," Byers told him. "That would be a different pace for you."
Mulder shook his head. "Been there. Done that. In fact, that's the place where Scully's little yapper got eaten by a man-eating croc. And while we were there, we didn't see any sign of Big Blue."
Frohike shook his head. "Poor little yapper."
"You know," Langly began, turning to Mulder, "there is a medical facility that specializes in breast implants. We believe that the gelatinous goo the doctors use on their patients in the implants are some kind of alien residue, and --"
Byers shook his head. "Langly, for the last time. There is absolutely no evidence about any alien body parts being used for breast implants. They're not using any alien DNA for what you're suggesting, and women who have successfully had these implants are not turning into aliens."
"Oh, I see. You can believe in something like the alien Black Oil that gets dumped all over you so that it can enter into you and take your body over, but my theory about the alien breast implants is too preposterous? Have you ever been at a Star Trek convention and one of your favorite characters from the show starts talking about his experiences when one of those implants falls out onto the floor? Do you know how traumatic that can be? I saw it! That thing quivered on the floor like it was alive, so how can you tell me there isn't any alien DNA in those things? That's just wrong, man!"
Frohike rolled his eyes. "We were there, Langly. As I recall, you screamed like a little girl just before you passed out."
"I'm telling ya, those things are alive!"
Mulder shook his head and chuckled. "Well, Langly, I gotta tell you...I'm going to have to pass on that one. Byers...didn't you have something on a place called Sunnydale?"
Byers nodded. "Oh, yeah. The Hellmouth. The place in Sunnydale where there is strong evidence of a mystical convergence. This Hellmouth is said to be a portal to Hell itself and if it is opened, it will release the demons from within to bring the earth to destruction. It's a myth, but for a myth, there's a lot of activity centered around it. Some people claim that Sunnydale is a nest of vampires and demons." He went to a file cabinet as he talked and began to search for one of their articles on the subject. When he found what he was looking for, he handed it to Mulder. "This article has everything we found out about the place during our investigation, including something about a Slayer. I think you'll find it interesting, Mulder, but I have to tell you. Sunnydale doesn't sound like a safe place for a vacation."
"If I wanted safe," Mulder replied, "I'd go visit that medical facility with Langly."
"Now that was totally uncalled for," Langly snapped.
Mulder just grinned.
"If that isn't what you're looking for, we have a ton of places that -"
Mulder interrupted Byers with a shake of his head. "No. It's Sunnydale. I'm going to Sunnydale. You mind if I take this?" He held up the article Byers had handed him.
Byers nodded. "Take it. We have plenty of copies."
"Don't we always?" Langly complained.
Mulder nodded and headed for the door. "Thank you, gentlemen. Langly, my advice to you is to stay away from conventions. Which actor did it fall from anyway?"
Langly snorted. "I'm not telling you!"
Frohike shook his head. "Poor guy. He was traumatized, Mulder. He doesn't remember."
"I was not traumatized! Don't you get it? That freaking thing was still moving!"
Mulder couldn't help it. He laughed as he left the Lone Gunmen and got into his car. He drove to the FBI Building, parked in the garage and made his way up to the rooftop. He climbed into the waiting helicopter and once he was under way, he read the article. He was extremely fascinated by what he read.
He took out his cell phone and speed-dialed a number. "Scully, it's me..."
† † †
The Sunnyside Psychiatric Institute
Just out side of Sunnydale
They called it the Lunatic Fringe, but the actual name for the hospital was the Sunnyside Psychiatric Institute. For years, the doors of this mental health institution had been closed due to lack of funds and unsafe conditions. It was more than 1600 years old and had its share of history. Hundreds of thousands of the criminally insane and staff members have passed away inside the institute over the years it had been in service. It was now believed to be a hot spot for paranormal activity. The buildings and the grounds themselves were said to have so much history that those who had died there could never rest.
Nowadays, the place was used for something else. Audrey Linde and her boy friend Bob Turney were just about to find out what that something else was as they ran up to the doors. Without stopping, they pushed them open and ran into the haunted institute. The truth of the matter was they had bigger things to be afraid of than ghosts. A few moments passed since they had run into the main building...and then they came.
Four vampires - one girl and three men - slowly walked toward the entrance of the institute. The doors were wide open and inviting.
They laughed among themselves because they had just forced the two promising victims to run right into their home. They had been living there - if one wanted to call it that - almost as long as some of the ghosts had. It was their home. They knew every square inch of it. And they knew that their soon to be dinner guests were going to find themselves completely lost.
They went inside...And moments after they were all out of sight, the doors closed all by themselves.
The halls were very dark. There was no power in the building at all and Bob and Audrey avoided areas where it was completely pitch black. Bob suddenly realized the mistake they had made in thinking that they could hide themselves in this place. He doubted they would find their way out before the vampires caught them. As it was, some of the halls they had begun to take proved to be a bad choice for them. They would hear laughter or taunts coming down from them and would have to turn back. Before long, another realization dawned on them.
They were being led.
All the running they did, Bob and Audrey finally kicked open a set of double doors and found themselves entering into a large room. They moved into the center of it as if they were moths drawn to a flame and they realized where they were. The room at one time had been an auditorium of some kind. It had been used for conferences and meetings regarding the institution. Candles had been arranged throughout the room, enabling them to see that they were in the center of the stage, or lecture area. The seats looked intimidating and Audrey squinted her eyes as she looked toward the last row of seats up at the top. She thought there were people up there, but feared it was only her imagination.
She wished the rest of this nightmare was only her imagination.
Laughter to her right told her that their night was just about to get worst. She turned her head and screamed. Two of the hulking male vampires slowly strolled in. One of them was growling as it leered at them. The other one hissed through it's teeth.
A set of doors opened on the other side of the auditorium and the other two vampires entered. The girl was skipping happily toward them, humming a melody to herself. The male vampire with her simply walked toward the soon-to-be dinner entree's as if there was all the time in the world. For them, there was.
"Stay away from us!" Bob exclaimed. He had picked up an old chair and smashed it onto the floor. Then, he picked up one of the legs of the chair, intending to use it as a club. He kept Audrey behind him, but he kept looking from one side to the other.
The tall male let out a laugh. "That isn't going to happen," he said. "You and your lovely girl have been invited to put on a show with us for the residents of this fine establishment." He dramatically waved a hand toward the chairs surrounding them. "If we were to stay away from you, we would deny this wonderful audience an entertaining evening."
"What are you talking about, you freak?!" Bob shouted, glancing up at the seats. "There's no one here."
"Ah, but there are. There are many many people who have lived here at one time or another...and they are still here today...watching. And waiting. And hoping for one hell of a show. Now seriously, how can we turn aside and deny them that which they have been waiting for?"
Audrey swallowed. She leaned toward Bob. "Th-they're not all ghosts, Bob. I...I see people...up there." She pointed.
Bob looked...and so did the vampires.
"Who the hell are you?!" the tall vampire shouted as he saw for himself that there were two people sitting in the back row.
A young girl and a young boy each sat with their feet propped up onto the seats in front of them. They had a bag in an empty seat next to them, which clearly had snacks. There was a bag of cheddar popcorn open in between them and they each had a bottle of water. The boy was taking candy from a box of Milk Duds when the vampire demanded to know who they were.
He waved at them, almost spilling the Milk Duds. "Oh, don't mind us. We're just here for the show. Please, just ignore us...Think of us as a part of the undead audience you were talking about and go on with the show."
"We heard you were really good," the girl said with a shrug. "Personally, I'm not impressed by what I see right now...but maybe you'll improve." She glanced at her friend. "What do you think, Xander?"
Xander Harris sat back and shook his head. "I can't understand how vampires who have been around for longer than we have still can't bring themselves to act before a live audience. If I was an agent, I wouldn't even hire them for a role in a Twilight flick."
Willow Rosenberg chuckled. "Yeah. I know what you mean. Boy, did that movie ever get it wrong."
The vampires looked at one another. They had momentarily forgotten about Bob and Audrey, who had begun to back away, hoping to slip around them to escape.
"Who do you think you are?" the girl vampire demanded. "I know of no human who would dare be so bold as to treat us as insignificant!"
"Well," Xander said after he took a swallow from his water bottle, "we're friends of someone who heard that there were a bunch of vampires living in a mental institute. And these vampires like to bring their victims into the auditorium so that they can put on this appearance of acting out a show. When our friend heard about this, she decided that she really did want to make a guest appearance."
"Who is this friend?"
Xander and Willow looked at each other knowingly.
Then, Willow said, "Her name is Buffy." Then, she added, "She's the vampire slayer."
Silence filled the room until it was broken by a loud slam that caused almost everyone to jump. Xander and Willow had been expecting it, so they hadn't been startled. All eyes, however, turned toward the source of the loud bang. The doors had been slammed shut, and standing there with her left hand on her hip and a stake in her right hand was Buffy Summers. Her feet were placed slightly apart. Her eyes took in the positions of the four vampires, marking them. At any second, she was ready to do what she came to do.
The vampires exchanged worried glances.
The girl vampire glared as she took several brave steps toward Buffy. "You're not so bad. If you were, you would have already slain Spike, and we know he's bad."
"If he's so bad, then why am I still here?" Buffy asked conversationally. "And really, who's to say that I haven't slain him yet because of a promise I made?"
"What promise?" she asked, taking another step.
"What if I promised to slay all of the other vampires in Sunnydale first before I took him out? What if I said I wanted him to be the last one so he could suffer in fear while I made him wait? But none of that really matters right now, because it won't compare to the promise I'm going to make to you."
The girl vampire glared at her. "What promise is that?"
Buffy leaned forward. "You're gonna be first."
The Slayer was standing there, but suddenly she wasn't. She flipped over onto her hands and shoved upward. When she came back down onto her feet, she was behind the girl vampire. She tapped her on the shoulder.
The vampire turned to face her.
Buffy smirked at her. "I always keep my promises." Then, she shoved the stake into the girls heart and turned her into dust.
Even before the dust fell, she spun around and her foot connected with the tall vampires jaw, sending him sprawling backwards. She found herself in between the two hulking brutes. They growled and rushed forward, not even giving themselves time to plan for an attack. That was the way with brutes. She let them come, and then jumped up. They were so intent on her that they didn't see each other until they collided. They fell on the floor, growling and angry. Buffy, however, was attacking the tall guy, She staked him through the heart before he could counter and then she turned to face the brutes.
They were both on their feet again and once more, without thinking, they simply charged her. Apparently, they only seemed to have one form of attack. Charge. That was fine with Buffy. She saw the ruins of a chair on the floor beside her and picked up two broken leg pieces. Once she put away her stake, she held a broken leg piece in each hand and waited. Bracing herself, she kept the leg pieces down at her sides. The brutes continued with their charge. They really thought they were going to hurt her, but she was the Slayer and she had great strength and fortitude to face them. Just as they came upon her, she swung the wooden leg pieces up and held her ground. The brutes crashed into her...or more accurately, they impaled themselves onto the wooden leg pieces.
One of them turned to dust.
"Oh, shit," Buffy cursed. She had missed the heart of the second brute.
Now, he was not only wounded, but he was angry. He yelled out some kind of a garbled war cry and picked Buffy up over his head. Then he threw her into the seats. Buffy crashed into the seats and cried out.
"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed. "Look out!"
"Thanks, Will," Buffy said. "I got it." She mumbled something else under her breath but no one could make out what it was.
Gritting her teeth, Buffy got back on her feet. She looked down toward the staging area and couldn't believe what she saw. The brute was charging toward her again. He was literally ripping the seats apart, throwing them out of his way as he moved toward her. Buffy scowled. She pulled out her stake and decided to take this fight to the next level.
She yelled out a war cry herself and charged forward toward the brute.
Slayer and vampire collided and fought each other to the death. They entangled themselves and began rolling back toward the stage, literally falling over the seats in their epic struggle. When they finally reached the bottom, Buffy was straddling the brute. She raised her stake high and then slammed it down hard into the brute's chest. This time, she didn't miss.
By the time Xander and Willow made their way to her, she was sitting in a pile of dust.
"Well," she said as she got to her feet and dusted herself off, "that was fun."
"That was fun for us, too," Xander said as he helped Buffy up. "I mean, given a choice to watch you dust some evil dead or crack open a book on a bunch of numbers that spell MATH, it was a no brainer."
Buffy put her stake away as she looked around. "Where did that couple go?"
"I think they ran," Willow answered. "I don't know what scared them more. The vampires, or you tearing them a part." She looked at Buffy and hesitated. "Uhm, not that you're sacry, Buffy, 'cause you're not. I mean, to the vampires, you probably are...bu-but I don't really think you looked all that scary. I'm sure that nice couple probably weren't used to seeing something like that, but...you? Scary? Of course not!"
"Thanks for that, Willow...I think." Buffy headed for the doors. "Let's get out of here."
They headed for the hall way, talking about their latest adventure.
By the time they reached the exit, Xander said, "You know, I have to say that was a nice affect you added when you first entered the auditorium and faced the suckers."
Buffy glanced at him, stopping several feet away from the front doors. "What affect?"
"When you slammed the doors closed to get their attention."
"I didn't slam any doors. I just came in and, well, started fighting."
Xander and Willow exchanged looks.
"Buffy, if you didn't close the doors at the start of the fight," Willow began, "then who did?"
Buffy paused. "Well, they do say this place is haunted, but I've never seen a ghost. Have you? You can hear and see all kinds of unexplainable things and automatically think it was caused from a ghost, but it really could be just your imagination, couldn't it?"
As if in response, the double doors to the institute slowly creaked open and then a disembodied voice whispered harshly from the darkness, "Get out!"
Buffy, Willow and Xander decided it was best not to argue with something they couldn't see. They got out.
_______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______