Listening to the radio

Love and other bruises

Author: Norgco <norgco[at]>

Rating: pg

Summary: the dreams, hopes and future of the Harris's

Disclaimer: I do not own either the BtVS characters of the Starship Troopers characters.

Authors note: I, like everyone I know who has read it, vastly prefer the book of Starship Troopers to the film. If you don't recognise the ending of this, READ THE BOOK, it is a classic for a very good reason.

Hiscoe's gym, Sunnydale, 7:03am a few weeks after Anya's murder.

Xander was doing his normal morning workout in the gym, focusing too much to think. Gyms with proper boxing equipment are fairly rare, and he took full advantage of this one. First some mirror work, slowly practicing the various moves in front of full length mirrors, jab, right, hook, uppercut, slipping punches to left and right, blocking. Effectiveness comes from proper form, and it warmed him up for shadow boxing. In here he had no problems or concerns beyond performing to his peak, it was meditative in its own way.

"Remember Anya, the girl who wanted you to take her to the prom?" No, push away the memory, Buffy telling him about the killing, the corpse with its head blown mostly off, the … Ding, time for the next round, Xander Harris Vs Mohammed Ali for the heavyweight crown, he has more reach, slip the jab and close in, don't let him drape himself over you the way he always does. Uppercut, uppercut, hook, uppercut, another hook, he's dazed now, no don't let him step back out of your reach but still in his, think of what he did to Forman…

Shadow boxing is a freeform version of the kata's of the more popular oriental fighting styles, practicing moves against imaginary opponents. Three rounds then he went on to the heavy bag, listening for the bell that automatically timed off rounds. It was all done to a workout for a round, rest, workout for a round pace. Slam, slam, two jabs, then some combinations of jab and straight right, followed by closing up for hook-uppercut combinations. Three rounds of that then onto the speed bag. Get up a rhythm, tone the triceps, force out the image of the Initiative's casualties being loaded into bodybags with shovels. Thumpata, thumpata, thumpata, thumpata, three rounds, then on to the double ended bag.

Attached to both roof and floor by bungee cords, at first just hitting it twice in succession had been a major challenge. Thump, thump, here it comes at you slide to one side to slip it, really the best way to practice that without having someone in the ring trying to beat your brains out. Tara's despairing face as she realized that Willow would never be coming back, WHAM the bag hit him in the face and he had to focus again, thump thump thump, ding, end of round. Willow's former girlfriend was getting better, dating a cop actually. Who had explained that apparently no one was working overtime to find the former demons killer, most of the police were suspects too after all. Ding, onto the skipping rope.

Skipping rope is a very traditional part of a boxers conditioning, good for co-ordination too. Certainly he had tripped over the rope more than jumped over it at first. Afterwards he took off the gloves, then the bindings around his hands, as he walked slowly around while cooling down. Stretching, shower, and he was ready for a working breakfast with Warren and the robot development team. Another day had begun.

The Initiative's conference room, 9:37am.

"So, what your telling me is that you can make a perfectly adequate sex bot but not a combat bot?" Tobias Henderson asked of the robot maker. Xander was here partly because he had brought the whole thing in to them in the first place, though god knows Warren had never been a friend, exactly. Tobias was one of the Senior Technical Analyst's, one of the guys trying to keep the research focused on items that might actually be useful rather than pursuing 'interesting lines of research'. With the lab attracting bright minds from all over the tendency to wander away from the grim reality of demon killing was always present.

"No, what I'm saying is that we can't make a robot we can TRUST to be a combat bot." Warren Mears was frustrated, which tended to cause his limited people skills to disappear and his mindless rage to come out. The screaming matches that resulted when this happened were now legendary.

"See, fucking is fairly simple and requires no judgement from the machine if ya make it totally obedient to one person." Faith explained, she had taken an interest in the project early, much to Warren's annoyance. He's created the sexbot originally to AVOID having to deal with strong-minded independent women; the dark slayer was a nightmare to him. "Cause it'll only hurt ya if you ask it to, and that's your fault. Oh and Mears, good to see you can sit down again, did it really …"

"A fighting robot has to make judgement calls, one working in a friendly human population centre has to be able to make independent judgements about what to kill and what to protect." Xander interrupted quickly. Computer judgement, or lack thereof, was the brick wall they had been pounding their heads against for a while now. There was just no way of being sure what the computer would decide needed killing. MOUT, or Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facilities had been used for simulations, and the robots that had enough 'mental flexibility' to fight well kept making flexible decisions about what to kill. Improving one factor made the other worse. They just couldn't be trusted even if the politicians were willing to allow an army of killer robots, which was highly unlikely.

"So what do you propose as an alternative, because hopefully you DO have an alternative justification for all the money we've spent on this to 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' I hope." This from Senator Howard, who was part of the oversight committee and came here regularly.

"We propose creating an intelligent frame to enhance the soldiers speed, strength, endurance and weapons carrying capability." Was Henderson's response. "Our research into artificial motion, sensing, and so on has been spectacularly successful, but the real prize has been the power source."

"That's really the key, without a tremendous amount of power from a small, safe reliable source the thing just won't be able to fight for long enough to be worth while." The energy consumption was proportional to work done, just walking along was different from running at 50 miles an hour. Ten times the normal speed and strength of a human was a minimum requirement to be able to fight vampires one on one, and demons were even worse. "Mr Mears has made another of his breakthroughs on this, and it alone will more than justify the entire budget of the program."

"Well why didn't you mention it in your reports to me, keeping information from the senate is illegal you know." The senator angrily announced.

"Because the entire physics community has been calling Cold Fusion a hoax for years and they refused to sign off on it." Was Warren Mears equally angry retort. What was with these people? The whole project had been a nightmare of 'experts' who kept telling him he couldn't possibly do something that he had already done. Getting the bot to walk on two legs reliably, 3-D object recognition ? telling a door from a picture of a door, for example ? he had nearly killed so many of the condescending bastards. Ok, so the robots occasionally killed the people and protected the vampires, they had only been simulated people.

"Tell me more."

Faith and Xanders apartment, that night.

"So they'll go for it, do you really think they'll pay for it?" The dark haired woman asked. She was sitting next to her husband on the couch, the TV was on with something uninteresting showing. Her interest came from several sources, the main two being an interest in pissing off Warren and she needed the robot project going for that. Second she had developed and interest, over three years of marriage, in living long enough to have a family. She had changed over the years, and the increasing effectiveness of the military ant-demon efforts had created, for the first time, the faint hope of being the first slayer to ever have grey hair. If the project worked any soldier could be the equal of a slayer. She might not leave Xander a grieving widower after all.

"We have interest from NASA too, and our potential budget is peanuts by their standards." He kissed his wife long and deep. "I have a fantasy."

"Oh, kinky, what is it boytoy."

"I want to make love to you when you're a grandmother."

And with that he proceeded to demonstrate what he wanted to be doing to be doing several decades hence. Later as they settled in to sleep Faith had a question she was curious about.

"Xander, what do you think NASA wants with a space suit that gives the wearer slayer speed and strength, high tech sensors and more firepower than the first Marine Division?"

A drop capsule aboard the Roger Young, Klendathu orbit, several centuries hence.

Lieutenant Juan Rico ran another diagnostic. Waiting helpless in the drop capsule was the worst part; he wanted to be on the ground where he could affect his fate. for now the chug, chug, chug of the individual Mobile Infantry capsules being fired meant he had to be alert without being able to take action.

Soon the conveyor belt would deliver his capsule, he would be ejected and enter the alien home worlds atmosphere. After protecting him from re-entry the capsule would shatter away from him, leaving him to land in his suit.

A suit that would protect him from a lethal atmosphere, carried sensors worthy of a small spacecraft, and allow him to jog at 40 kilometres and hour. The capsule was jerking along as each cap before him was fired off. It was a long way from the Initiative, it was a long way from Earth. It was a long way from the American side of the family.

But the great, to the sixteenth power descendent of Alexander and Faith Harris was still fighting for the survival of his species.