Hurt & Comfort

Book 10: Elusive Comfort

© 2003-2022 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link.

Chapter 23 - The Lesser Evil

"Dis mean dat de Sentinels be like de kids, Borg drones?" Remy asked cautiously.

"No. I don't think so." Alan said thoughtfully, then explained, "The kids were taken from their homeworlds and made into drones. They had lives before that they were forced to forget. The Sentinels never had lives or even thoughts before. Nothing was lost. They were never sentient. This is no different from swapping out game cartridges."

"Actually, I think it all depends on whether or not you look at sentient thought as being something somehow 'divine' or simply a more complex level of programming." Warren said seriously.

"Look at that!" Willow said suddenly as she pointed at one of the monitors.

There was a thirty second battle culminating in a falcon punch which left the Macy's Sentinel with a gut full of nanoprobes.

"I just don't get how they can take them down so fast." Willow said honestly.

"Maybe it's like what Clark was saying about how the Sentinels can learn and tell each other how to overcome our abilities. Maybe the nanoprobes can learn and adapt that way too. Each generation improves on the previous ones and passes on successful strategies to those that follow. Since they only have one opponent, they are free to specialize the nanoprobes to be as effective as possible." Scott cautiously suggested.

"As frightening as that sounds, it would fit right in with Borg methodology." Alan admitted.

"Should we call Xander and Jimmy back? I don't know what's going to happen to the people in the area when two Sentinels get together like this." Warren asked with concern.

"I've got a video feed from.... um, it looks like it's from a kid's point of view, I mean, like we're seeing through his eyes... somehow." Willow said uncomfortably.

"We're seeing through Jimmy's ocular implant. He's used to acting as a photojournalist so don't be surprised when he selects an intriguing point of view or frames a scene in an interesting way." Alan said with a hint of pride hiding under his words.

"Hold on. They just reached the mini-mega-multiplex theater." Warren said suddenly.

"What does that even mean?" Alan asked as he watched Jimmy's video feed carefully.

"There are thirty or forty screens, ten or more playing the same movie at any given time, and most of the 'theaters' seat around twelve people." Scott said frankly.

"It looks like they're talking. I wish we could hear what they're saying." Willow said anxiously.

"As far as I know, Jimmy's video feed should have audio." Alan helpfully mentioned.

"Oh. Good." Willow said with surprise as she isolated Jimmy's video input.

* * * * *

"I brought you someone who can put an end to this." Xander said as he proudly presented Jimmy at his side.

"Does this kid have superpowers or something?" Ashley C. asked cautiously.

"No. But he's part machine and he can give the Sentinel a computer virus... a really nasty one." Xander said with a fond look at the boy.

"What do you need for us to do?" Ashley C. asked, always ready to jump straight to a solution when possible.

"Jimmy needs to get close enough to touch the Sentinel. If you could keep that thing busy while he does that, it would help us a lot." Xander said frankly.

"Anyone else telling me this, I'd think they were crazy. You... well, I know you're crazy, but somehow you usually get things to work out. You ready?"

"Jimmy, you got everything you need?" Xander asked gently.

"Yes. I should have enough nanoprobes. I just need to get close enough to deploy them." Jimmy said frankly.

"We're ready." Xander called loudly.

Faith, Robin, and both Ashleys renewed their attack on the giant robot, doing their best to overwhelm it.

"While that big monster is dealing with everyone attacking it, we'll quietly sneak in way down low, not making any sudden moves." Xander said quietly as he slowly and gently led Jimmy behind the Sentinel.

Just as Jimmy injected his tubules, there was a nearby rumbling and the murmur of voices from the gathered crowd.

"Um, Jimmy, it looks like we've got company. Unless there's a way you can do two of these things at once, we'd probably better back off." Xander said nervously.

"Janine, this Sentinel is emitting your transponder frequency. Are you in control?" Jimmy asked calmly.

"Yes. This unit now exists to service us. I see that you have already injected my intended target, so I will proceed to the next one. We must conclude this matter and relocate the units to a secure location of our choosing." The Sentinel said in a classic Borg whisper-voice.

Jimmy withdrew his tubules and stepped away from the Sentinel that was encircled by fighters.

The Sentinel that had been speaking then turned and started walking south, toward the center of the mall.

There was a moment of silence as the Sentinel that had been fighting suddenly froze in place.

"What the hell just happened?" Ashley C. cautiously asked as she tentatively stepped back, on guard for another attack.

"The Sentinel's programming is being rewritten. It won't try to hurt you anymore." Jimmy assured her with a toothy grin of accomplishment.

"You say he ain't got superpowers, but that's not how it's looking from where I'm standing." Ashley C. said frankly.

"I think maybe you're right. It's possible that we just don't have the right words for what his superpower is." Xander said with an affectionate grin at the boy by his side.

* * * * *

"William? How's your probe things? You full up?" Evan asked as they approached a single Slayer fighting a huge robot, all on her own.

"I have a sufficient number." William said cautiously as he assessed the situation before them.

"Unhand that fair maiden! Vile beast!" Groo bellowed as he plunged into the battle.

Angel couldn't restrain a smile of amusement before joining his comrade in the fight.

"Evan, see if you can draw its attention so I can get her away!" Caridad commanded as she pointed at a girl who appeared to be caught by one of the Sentinel's metallic tentacles.

"I'm on it." Evan confirmed, then turned to William and said, "Do me a favor and end this quick, would you?"

"I'm on it." William said firmly, but somehow at the same time seemed to be almost playful in his delivery. That said, William then dashed away to try and inconspicuously work his way in behind the Sentinel.

* * * * *

"Matt, can you cut him loose?" Rona asked as they approached the stationary Sentinel in the southwest parking lot.

"Probably, yeah, but I can't do much to stop that thing if it decides to select another target after losing this one." Matt warned her.

"Uncle Matt, I can disable the Sentinel, but I need to be able to get close enough to inject it. I believe that I will require your help... both of you." Trey finished by looking toward Rona.

"Do what you're going to do. We've got your back." Rona said assuringly.

"It's just sittin there, so there's no use in trying to sneak up on it. Let's just do it." Matt said frankly.

Trey nodded his agreement, then started to walk forward.

"Help me!" A young sandy-haired man called out as he struggled to free himself from the metallic tentacles that were tightly wrapped around him.

"Give us a minute. We've got to turn this thing off before we can break you loose." Matt said frankly.

"Okay. But you're going to get me out of this, right?" The young man asked hopefully.

"That's the plan." Matt confirmed.

Trey walked up and looked the young man in the eyes as he raised his right hand and thrust his balled fist forward. As he did, tubules emerged from the back of Trey's hand and pierced the body of the Sentinel.

The young man looked over his shoulder at the tubules, then at Trey with fear.

"Don't worry about Trey, he's one of the good guys." Matt said gently as he watched for any reaction from the Sentinel.

"Good. Because that looks like it'd hurt."

"It would." Trey said seriously.

"What's your name?" Matt asked quietly, unable to hide his smile at the dire persona that Trey was presenting.

"Wilkey." The young man said nervously.

"I'm Matt and he's Trey, the lovely young lady with us is Rona. Trey just injected that giant robot with something that will cause it to shut down. Once we're sure that it's not going to start back up, we'll cut you loose. How does that sound to you?"

"Yeah. That sounds good. I was going to the mall, just for something to do, for some excitement, y'know?" Wilkey said in a slightly hysterical ramble.

"Looks like you got it." Rona said frankly.

"Why did this happen to me?" Wilkey asked in a lost tone.

"From what we were told, the robots were programmed to go after mutants. I don't know how it decides that one person is and another person isn't, but it seems to have triggered on you." Matt said seriously.

"But I'm not..." Wilkey began to say, but the words died on his tongue.

"It doesn't matter. You asked, and I told you what I know. That's it." Matt said frankly.

"The Sentinel may have scanned you and received a false positive or you may have some form of mutation that is so benign that you haven't had cause to recognize it." Trey said honestly.

Wilkey looked at Trey's ocular implant, then down at the metallic device covering most of his left forearm before asking, "Are you a mutant?"

"No." Trey said simply, then added, "I am something else."

"But if you're here, doing this, that means that you don't hate mutants, doesn't it?" Wilkey asked nervously.

"When it's possible, I'll help people who need it. Right this minute that means helping mutants escape from these Sentinels. Tomorrow it might mean helping someone else for a completely different reason." Trey said frankly.

"Going around helping people sounds like a really great way to live your life." Wilkey said with a smile at the thought.

"There's no entry fee." Trey said seriously.

"What?" Wilkey asked awkwardly, certain that he must have missed something in their conversation.

"You can go around helping people as much as you like. You don't have to pay a fee or sign a vow. There's nothing holding you back." Trey said firmly.

"Actually, there is." Wilkey said as he looked down at the metallic tubing coiled around him.

"Oh. Right. Let's see what we can do about that." Trey said quickly, then looked to Matt hopefully.

"Are you sure that the Sentinel's not going to wake up when I start cutting?" Matt asked seriously.

"I promise nothing." Trey automatically responded, then thought to add, "I've done all that I can to incapacitate the robot. My scans haven't indicated any automatic defenses that might be present, independent from the machine's primary programming."

Matt grinned at the response, then said, "At least I know you're not just telling me what I want to hear."

Trey nodded his agreement as he watched Matt cutting the coiled tubing with his claws.

"Guys. Better hurry it up. It looks like we're about to have company." Rona warned them as she nodded toward the west.

"We're done here. We can leave whenever you're ready." Matt called back.

"Are you going to be alright? Would you like to come with us?" Trey asked Wilkey with concern as he helped him to stand.

"If you're going into the mall, I'll probably walk with you. But if not, I'll be okay on my own." Wilkey assured him.

"Let me find out what we're doing next." Trey said, then tapped the 'X' badge on his upper left chest before continuing, "Mobile Command, this is Three of Seven, our mission is complete. We have visual confirmation of emergency service vehicles approaching from the west. Please advise."

"Three of Seven, there is a Sentinel in the south parking lot that's not moving. That might mean that it's already captured a mutant. We can't tell from here. If your team is up to it, I'd like for you to assess the situation." Scott said seriously.

After a look at Rona and Matt and affirmative responses from each, Trey responded, "We will do so. Three of Seven, out."

"Does that mean that there's six more like you back home?" Wilkey asked cautiously.

"Perhaps. It depends on how you look at it." Trey said frankly, then thought to ask, "Would you like to go with us?"

"Did I hear that right? Are you going to go save someone else, like you just did me?" Wilkey asked cautiously.

"Maybe. There's another Sentinel and it's not moving. That could mean that it's caught someone." Trey said as the group started walking away from the inert Sentinel that had only recently held Wilkey captive.

"But if there is someone who's been caught, what could I do to help them?" Wilkey asked uncertainly.

"Maybe nothing. Maybe you could tell them not to be scared and stuff..." Trey said, then leaned in and quietly confided, "I'm not really very good at things like that."

"You don't say." Wilkey said with a grin.

"But if there's nothing you can do, you could still go to the mall like you were planning on." Trey said frankly.

"Yeah. I guess that's true. I'd like to help if I can, if I won't be in the way." Wilkey finished uncertainly.

"Look at these two. Do you think either of them would let you get in their way?" Trey asked as he pointed at Matt and Rona.

"So you do realize how terrifying the three of you are?" Wilkey asked to be sure.

"We are the way we need to be to get the job done. If we could accomplish our goals with cuddles and angel kisses, then we'd probably be all about that. I promise, we're not putting on an act trying to be badasses, we're just dealing with everything we have to face the best way we know how." Trey said frankly.

"Have you tried cuddles and angel kisses?" Wilkey asked with a barely restrained grin.

"No. But I suspect that the Sentinels might not be susceptible to that tactic." Trey said with a trace of a smile.

"I bet if you tried it, you'd have the element of surprise on your side." Matt said from ahead of them.

"Safe bet." Rona said from beside him.

"Let's just see what the situation is when we get there before we make too many plans." Trey said reasonably.

Wilkey nodded his agreement but couldn't fully contain his smile as he walked with the group through the parking lot toward one of many pillars of smoke.

* * * * *

"Buffy team, status?" Scott asked seriously.

"We're just doing a bunch of back-slapping and congratulating each other here at the moment, you know, typical battle afterglow. Do you have another one ready for us?" Buffy asked with anticipation, sounding more upbeat than was usual for her.

"Not so far. Let me check in with the other teams, then I'll make a general announcement about what we're doing next."

"Got it. Buffy out."

"She's right down to business. I like that." Scott said with a smile of admiration.

"That's our Buffy." Willow said fondly.

* * * * *

William stealthily moved behind the Sentinel and swiftly injected his tubules into the giant robot's mid-back.

"Let me know when you've done it so I can start hacking at this thing!" Caridad called from in front of the Sentinel.

"The nanoprobes have been delivered. Expect termination of functions in approximately twenty seconds." William called in a firm clear voice.

"Get out of there, William. We don't want you getting caught by a stray hit." Angel warned.

After taking a few steps back, William said, "I promise that I was watching where you were hitting, but thank you for worrying about me, Uncle Angel."

"Do you want to get a hit or two in on this thing before it goes down?" Angel asked as he offered his sword.

"No, thank you. I'm happy with my role in things and wouldn't wish for it to be otherwise." William said happily.

"Do you think you could help me with this metal hose thing? I can't get it loose." Caridad said with frustration.

"I'll be right there." Angel assured her.

Just as he knelt at her side, the Sentinel ceased all motion.

A cheer rose up from the crowd that was surrounding them.

Using leverage, prying with three swords, and the combined strength of a slayer, a master vampire and a demonic monarch, the group were finally able to free the young teenage girl who had been held captive by the Sentinel.

"Don't hurt me." The girl whimpered as she scooted herself away from the trio, half hiding herself behind the Sentinel's legs.

"We just saved you. We're not going to hurt you." Caridad cautiously explained.

The girl's fight or flight response seemed to have kicked in at that point as she desperately scrambled away in search of safety.

"Let's go." Angel said in a low, disturbed voice.

"Yeah." Caridad agreed, seeming to be ready to 'turn the page' on the whole incident.

* * * * *

"Is there any reason for us to think this one is going to put up a fight?" Rona asked seriously.

"We're assuming that it's already captured a mutant and is just waiting on the others to finish catching theirs. If that much is true, then it should go pretty much the same way as it did with Wilkey." Matt finished speculatively.

"There it is. What should we do first?" Wilkey asked uncertainly.

"It looks like the Sentinel is holding a girl captive, so I think our first move is going to be to fill her in on what's going on and see if we can get her to remain calm and work with us while we're freeing her." Matt suggested.

"Wilkey, do you want to go in and explain things to her, or would you rather wait until we have things a little more resolved?" Trey asked cautiously.

The expression in Wilkey's eyes spoke of the internal battle that was being waged.

"If you want to help her, I can go with you just in case the Sentinel decides that it'd rather have both of you." Rona said firmly, leaving no doubt that she would defend them.

Wilkey glanced at her, then seemed to come to a decision. He gave her a reasonably decisive nod.

"If you want, I can begin the implantation of nanoprobes while you're doing that." Trey quietly suggested.

"Yeah. Rona can cover Wilkey and I'll cover you. If the Sentinel reacts in a way that we don't expect, I can draw it while the rest of you do your best to complete your jobs." Matt said decisively.

"I'd volunteer to take your place, but those things don't seem to have much of a taste for Slayers. We'll do our best to see to it that everything gets done." Rona said frankly.

"Let's get to it." Matt said without further provarication.

Rona, Wilkey, and Trey followed Matt's lead and moved toward the Sentinel.

* * * * *

"Havok, what's your status?"

"I'm here with Buffy, so you can save your breath. I heard. From the way we're being kept in the dark, you'd think that the people in charge don't trust us or something." Alex responded petulantly.

"I didn't want to use you as bait. There. I said it. Are you happy?" Scott asked with irritation.

"Not particularly. But I suppose that acknowledging it is a step in the right direction."

"Sit tight for another minute or two and I'll let you know what's going on once I've checked in with everyone else."

"Okay. Just don't protect me. I can do a real job."

"Got it. I promise."

* * * * *

As they prepared to leave, William looked at the people surrounding them curiously and noticed Rebecca amongst them.

"What is everyone doing here?" He asked as he approached her.

"They think it's some kind of fancy play or promotion or something that's being put on by the mall to celebrate the big shopping day. None of them have any idea what's really going on." Rebecca said honestly.

"This isn't a play." William assured her.

"I already figured that out." Rebecca said frankly, then quietly added, "You stopped another one."

"Yeah. We should be out of Sentinels before very much longer, then I'll have to leave. We can't stay..." William trailed off, obviously not knowing what more to say.

"I live here, in Westchester, I mean. I didn't want you thinking the wrong thing about me. I know when I'm being lied to and I know who the good guys are." Rebecca assured him.

"Good. Hopefully I'll be able to see you again one of these Fridays, really soon." William said with a timid smile.

Before she could respond, a voice came over William's communicator and said, "Angel's team, by our count, there's one Sentinel that hasn't been claimed. Are you guys interested?"

"Mobile Command, I think Groo would take it personally if you let anyone else have it. Just tell us where we need to be." Angel answered with a smile.

"Directly south of your current location, at Abercrombie & Fitch. You'd better hurry or Janine will beat you to the punch with one of her Sentinel drones. Command out." Scott announced with a smile under his words..

Rebecca regretfully smiled as she looked William in the eyes and quietly said, "Hopefully."

"Hopefully." William responded, before hurrying away with his team.

* * * * *

"Are you okay?" Wilkey hesitantly asked as he scooted in where he could get a good look at the trapped girl.

"I think so, but I can't get free." The girl said in a trembling voice, obviously on the edge of losing emotional control.

"I was trapped just like you are and these guys cut me loose. If you'll just hang in there for a few more minutes, we'll get the robot shut down, then we'll get you out of there." Wilkey told her gently.

"How's she doin?" Rona asked distractedly, keeping the majority of her attention on the Sentinel.

"Don't worry. She's dealing with it just fine." Wilkey assured her, obviously saying it loudly enough so that the girl could hear his assessment.

"The nanoprobes are being delivered. Assimilation is in progress." Trey said from a short distance away.

"What's the Sentinel doing?" Wilkey asked curiously.

"Nothin. Looks like the thing is happy as a clam since it got its prize." Matt said frankly.

"The programming of these devices leaves much to be desired." Trey said honestly as he stepped from behind the Sentinel.

"Do you want for them to be more of a challenge to defeat?" Matt asked curiously.

"No. I'm just embarrassed that someone would put a product into service in such an inferior state." Trey said simply.

"It takes quite a bit to scare me but... you keep it on the straight and narrow, would'jya?" Matt asked hesitantly.

The smile that Trey gave him in response didn't exactly put him at ease.

* * * * *

"Scott, look at this." Warren said quietly as he pointed at one of the monitors.

"What are they doing? Why aren't they helping the injured and putting out the fires?" Scott asked as he looked at the collection of emergency vehicles congregating in one end of the parking lot.

"Dey be waitin for a signal, it looks like." Remy said frankly.

"How's Quicksilver doing against that Sentinel?" Scott asked distractedly.

"I think he's annoying it, if that's even possible." Warren said uncertainly.

"If anyone could do it, it would be Pietro." Alan said frankly.

"You tink de team you sent be able to handle it?" Remy asked curiously.

After a moment to consider, Scott said, "Yes. I'm confident that they can."

"Den you need to trust dem an get everyone else on de move. De way dese emergency services be movin makes me tink dey be up to sometin." Remy said seriously.

"Yeah. I'm right there with you." Scott said decisively.

* * * * *

"Faith, this is Mobile Command checking in. What's your status?"

"Five by five. Just waitin for one of you to point us to the next one." Faith said frankly.

"It looks like all the Sentinels are being dealt with, but it's still too soon to call everything resolved. If your team will get ready to pull up stakes, we'll let you know as soon as we're more sure about what's left to be done."

"Got it. Mind if we stop in at a store or two while you're doing that? It looks like they've got some incredible sales going on."

"Sounds good, as long as you're ready to drop and go if something interesting comes up." Scott cautioned.

"Don't worry. We'll have our priorities in order when it counts." Faith promised.

* * * * *

The blur of movement zipping around the Sentinel was something of a surprise to see.

While William could see the mutant attacking the Sentinel, he could tell that the mutant's best efforts didn't seem to be making the least bit of difference.

"I am uncertain of the protocol in this circumstance. Would it be most proper for us to stay out of the way and allow this valiant warrior to claim his prize?" Groo asked uncertainly.

"Probably. But the truth is, we don't have all day to wait on him." Angel said frankly.

"If all of us jumped in there, I doubt that it'd make much of a difference." Caridad said honestly.

"Yeah. William's the only one who can do anything that matters. The rest of us are about as threatening as flies buzzing around its head." Evan said wearily.

"If we're flies, you're rotting meat." Caridad said thoughtfully.

"Hey! I wasn't bein mean to you! I was just sayin!" Evan said in offense.

"She was telling you that you have something unique to contribute in this situation. The Sentinel will ignore the rest of us, but you can act as bait." Angel explained.

"Right. And if you'll team up with the speed demon to distract the Sentinel for a couple minutes, William can sneak in there, do his business and get out before it knows what happened to it." Caridad further explained.

"Soundin rapey again." Evan said frankly.

"Get over it." Caridad said simply, then thought to ask, "William. How are your probes? You ready for this?"

"Yeah. Let's do it." William said confidently.

"Go ahead and start. I'll fill Pietro in on what we're doing." Evan said before pushing off on his skateboard, racing directly toward the Sentinel.

As soon as Angel realized what Evan was doing, he called out, "Don't! He'll switch his target to you!"

"Too slow!" Evan crowed, as the Sentinel made a clumsy swipe at him.

"William, go!" Angel commanded.

"Shall we lay siege to the beast whilst our compatriots work their magic to ensure our victory?" Groo asked passionately.

"Why not?! Come on Caridad! Let's hit it!" Angel said before rushing ahead.

After glancing around to account for his team members, as well as the onlookers, William casually walked behind the besieged Sentinel.

Amid the cacophony of screams and battle cries, William very deliberately injected the Sentinel in the back with his tubules.

While he was well aware of the movements of those around him, he was also cognizant of the fact that none of them were within striking range, even if they were trying to hit him.

The only one who would have any hope of surprising him would be the Sentinel itself. Observing the actions of it, William came to the conclusion that keeping up with and processing the actions of Evan and Pietro was making the big clumsy machine that much moreso. Any attack the Sentinel made toward them was stilted and far too slow to have any possibility of connecting.

Transfer complete, William stepped away from the Sentinel to watch it flap and grab at both Evan and Pietro. Angel, Groo, and Caridad were all hacking and chopping at the metallic monster, causing some small amount of damage while expending quite a bit of aggression in the process.

After a double tap on his badge, William calmly said, "Four of Seven to Mobile Command. Mission complete. Please advise."

"Angel's team, just lay low for now. Maybe take a few minutes to identify an exit route or decide what you'd like to do next. We'll be making a general announcement when a few more things are resolved. Command out." Scott replied.

* * * * *

"What's your name?"

"Ramona." The frightened girl quietly answered, then cautiously asked, "What's yours?"

"Wilkey." He answered gently as he turned his head to watch what Trey was doing.

"Wilkey? What kind of a name is that?" Ramona asked curiously.

"A last one. My first name is John... you know, the most common first name in the world." Wilkey finished with a smile.

"John Wilkey?" Ramona asked cautiously.

"Wilkinson. But I've been called Wilkey since I started school." Wilkey said frankly, then said more quietly, "They should be ready to cut you loose any second now. Just hold still and they'll have you out of there before you know it."

"Thanks Wilkey. I'd probably be freaking out if you weren't here to talk to me." Ramona said timidly.

"I'm sure you would've been fine." Wilkey assured her, then explained, "When I found out that there might be someone in the same situation that I was, I wanted to help out. It just seemed like the thing to do."

Before Ramona could respond, another voice said, "I wasn't as nice as I could have been when we met."

"This is Trey." Wilkey introduced.

"I regret that I wasn't friendly when we first met. I don't do 'friendly' well." Trey said regretfully.

"You might not have started off the best, but you were strong when I was feeling weak and afraid. Knowing that you were on my side made things better for me, so it's all good." Wilkey said honestly.

"Then I'm glad that we met the way that we did. I want for you to know that you can depend on me to defend you." Trey said seriously.

There was the sound of metal on metal from near Ramona's feet.

As all three turned to look, Matt said, "I wasn't going to wait for you three to stop yacking before I cut her loose. We'd be here all day."

"Look at that. You're free." Wilkey said to Ramona with a grand smile.

"Guys! Police!" Rona said as she pointed past them.

"Looks like they're on the move. We'd better get going." Matt said decisively.

Trey tapped his badge twice, then said, "Mobile Command, this is Three of Seven. Our mission is complete. Please advise."

"Stand by."

* * * * *

"All teams. Emergency services are in the parking lots surrounding the mall and will undoubtedly be going inside soon. If none of the teams needs us to remain here, we're going to be moving the Mobile Command Center out of the immediate area. Willow will still be able to take your calls if you need anything, we just won't be parked where you last saw us." Scott announced.

"What do you want the teams to be doing while you're doing that?" Alex asked seriously.

"That's mostly up to you. Those who want to shop, should shop. Those who want to leave, should leave. Although it may be possible that some of us have been recorded on security cameras, I can't actually think of any rule or law that we might have broken by engaging the Sentinels. In short, enjoy your evening and call if you need our help with anything. Command out."

* * * * *

"Look at this!" Willow suddenly barked.

The group in the Mobile Command Center watched as three Sentinels lifted into the air on columns of fire and smoke.

"Where do you think they're going?" Scott asked slowly.

"Don't matter." Remy interjected, then explained, "Dey be providin a distraction. We best be takin it."

"Right. Excellent idea." Scott said as he hurried toward the driver's seat.

"That's it. I count ten." Alan said as he watched the monitors carefully.

"Good. Let's get this thing someplace nice and quiet so we'll be available for anyone who needs us." Warren said as he looked out the window nervously.

"Any suggestions?" Scott asked hopefully.

"There's a nice little spot far out in the northeast lot 'B' with no fires or Sentinel damage. You should be out of everyone's way and easy to reach by any team members needing a ride." Willow said seriously.

"You've done this before, haven't you?" Alan asked with a grin.

"I don't have super Slayer powers, but I can do this... so I do." Willow said frankly.

//I hope they realize how lucky they are to have you.// Professor Xavier said into all their minds.

"It's funny but... they do. I know it." Willow said happily.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: Once again we have come to the end of a chapter.

It seems that most of the unpleasantness has disappeared.

Is the Borg infrastructure going to be able to use the Sentinels to do good instead of evil?

As far as we know they are not sentient. That doesn't mean that they are going to be useless. They can be programmed, at least I hope they can.

It is nice to see people accepting those who look and act differently as being good, and not freaking out at just having them around. That most likely could be explained by the fact that they got busy and saved some people from the danger that the Sentinels were causing.

It looks as if everyone performed their tasks to good advantage and saved lives and rescued the ones who needed it.

I will impatiently wait for the next amazing chapter of this fantastic saga.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher