Sarah McAlister looked down at her agenda. "Okay, the next item before us is--" She broked off as an apologetic secretary entered the council room.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," she said, "but the Slayer-General is insisting on meeting with you."
"We are in the middle of a High Council session," Sarah pointed out, not that it needed it. "Tell Ms. Mariama that she will have to wait until we are finished."
"It is with the High Council that I wish to meet," Amanda Mariama said as she pushed her way into the room, followed by a series of younger Slayers.
"There are protocols," broke in Reginald Kilroy, "procedures--"
"--which I did not have the luxury of following," Amanda finished. "We are at war, and sometimes need must takes precedence over the rules of order."
"It is precisely because we are at war," Sarah answered, but Amanda broke her off yet again.
"It is a war the competence of your running of which has been deeply questioned," the dark-skinned, silver-haired Slayer interrupted. "I have just left a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Princess Royal, and the Secretary-General of the U.N., and all three have re-made their appeal for the Council to bring Lady Summers out of retirement to act in an advisory capacity."
"The Council of Watchers welcomes the assistance of the British Empire and the United Nations, Amanda," Sarah said. "But we are an autonomous organization and we are willing to run this war without them, if need be. They have no grounds upon which to dictate the behavior of this Council."
Amanda frowned. "No, they do not," she admitted. "Which is why I am here now. I had hoped I could get the High Council to see reason, but I see that your influence is too great. Therefore it is with great sorrow that I am dissolving this Council, effective immediately."
There was, predictably, a hue of outcry from the entire High Council, as they all objected at once. Only Reginald seemed to accept the claim with anything resembling equanimity. "The Slayers are the tools of the Council--"
"Spoken like the true hand-picked successor of Roger Wyndam-Pryce," Amanda interrupted yet once again, a grim smile on her face. "The power of the Council derives from the Slayers. Lady Summers understood that."
"Lady Summers re-instituted the Cruciamentum!" Sarah rejoined. "Has your misplaced loyalty forgotten that? How many Slayers died under Lady Summers' command?"
"I don't know," admitted Amanda. "If you wish to know, I recommend you ask her yourself. I have no doubt she could give you not only the exact number, but each of their names as well. From memory. It is an impressive sight." She paused, then turned to one of the younger Slayers which flanked her. "Iseul, do you remember your Cruciamentum?"
The young woman nodded.
"Do you remember what Lady Summers said to you when you passed?"
Iseult nodded again. "She told me to never forget she was not my friend."
Amanda turned back to Sarah. "It was the Cruciamentum which prepared each of us for this moment. Dawn Summers may not have been our friend, but she understood that Council relies on the trust of its Slayers, and when it had lost that trust it would be necessary for the Slayers to move against it. I regret that that day has to be today, Sarah, I really do, but you have misplaced the trust put in you."
She left the room, the other Slayers trailing behind her.
"What do we do now?" asked Alison Fairfax.
"There is nothing to be done," answered Reginald. "She is right: without the Slayers, the Council is impotent. The High Council is dissolved." He rose from his seat and walked to the door, stopping only once to turn back to the assembled High Council. "It was about time someone showed you that you weren't the bloody Queen of the Slayers, Sarah."
. . .
The eighty-four-year-old woman was clearly frail as she entered the Council offices, leaning on her cane as she took each step, but her eyes flashed with a fierce determination.
"Is that who I think it is?" Alison asked Reginald.
He nodded. "It is the woman who is going to save the human race," he said. "Again."