Well. At least his journey would not be a wasted one.
Gregson regarded the colonial with some caution. New Slayers could be unpredictable. Slayers who appeared to enjoy wrestling with bears (if indeed that was a bear; it looked larger than he recalled) were not on any account to be trifled with. The parts of the girl visible around the fur and fangs were as described; small, scrawny, freckled. Undernourished, or perhaps merely ancestrally meagre, as so often with those descended from early transportees. And with, for some reason, a pair of forks in her hair.
She was, however, the Slayer. The fate of the world rested with her, at least for the next few months.
"Ahem? Miss Kelly? Might I have a word?"
Matthew Gregson had never aspired to international travel. His hopes, upon qualification, had been for a well-funded research post and a place on the waiting list for a Council librarianship. He had, unfortunately, been over-successful in demonstrating his worth, however, and the result had been a one-way ticket to the unknown Antipodes with instructions to assess its native demonic influences and locate potential Slayers.
In its way, groundbreaking and an honour. In another way – the way identified by those not inconsiderable legions of fellow-Watchers who had greeted the news of his assignment with references to Botany Bay, convicts and old cricketing wounds – it was an exile from civilisation.
Welcome to irrelevance, Gregson had lamented, in the achingly long weeks of the voyage. A nation of which he knew little, barring their lamentable behaviour in sporting victory, and a nursery tale of poorly-behaved youngsters meeting suitable ends. Some knowledge of scale, of endless pitiless space, of red dirt and mining wealth, and vast ranches barely supporting a few head of cattle. So little known. His for the discovery, assuming someone would care about the results.
His early months had been productive, in a negative sense. Native demons were there none. A few vampires, certainly, but closely clustered around major ports. The demons were visiting; they were not home-grown.
He had assumed therefore that the Slayer would be likewise unlikely to be native. There would be no need for a Watcher on this continent, not in all likelihood.
But the telegram had come, confirming that the Coven had sensed the Slayer rising, in New South Wales, of all ghastly places.
So here he was. And here she was.
"Strewth, mate," she said, grinning.
"Um," he said. Nothing else seemed fitting.
"Kidding," she said, grinning wider. "Not everything we say starts with strewth, whatever you Poms believe. You just drop by for a chinwag?" Sarah Kelly disentangled herself from the bear (it wasn't a bear. Bears had fewer teeth) and climbed out of the bear pit to greet him. She apparently calmed the beast with a quiet, "Cooo-eeee!"
This wasn't an ordinary girl. Not even an ordinary Slayer, and they were rarely precisely usual.
"Um," he said, again. "I…" Three deep calming breaths later he managed, "I am a representative of the Watchers Council. I must tell you, you have been selected for an extraordinary destiny. One girl in all the world, who alone will fight against the vampires, the demons-"
"Too right," said Sarah Kelly. "I sorta guessed that. All that extra strength and the way these bunyips kept on trying to kill me."
"Oh. I see."
"But it ain't easy to put the wind up a drop-bear master. We've come good so far."
"Really." On the one hand, Gregson was enormously impressed. A Slayer at ease with her powers, and with some more than formidable allies already. However, he was a trifle dismayed to find someone who appeared so little in need of the support and guidance of a Watcher.
There had been Slayers like this before. They were usually troublesome.
And yet he was smiling.
Gregson had gathered that it was rare for Australian women to enter public houses or to consume beer. Sarah Kelly was not an ordinary representative of the sex, however, and he was barely surprised when she led him to one such establishment within bare minutes of legal drinking hours. ("You look like a bloke in need of a coldie.") She drank, too, with relish but not desperation. The other patrons appeared to find this perfectly usual behaviour.
Just sufficiently emboldened by the alcohol, Gregson began to speak in full sentences for the first time since he'd sighted Miss Kelly.
"It seems - well, frankly, you seem to be a woman in as little need of a Watcher as I've ever beheld."
Sarah had a little foam from her beer on her upper lip. It fizzled as she spoke, turning back to liquid. "Well, that would depend. Since I don't know what a Watcher does. Don't need someone to watch me, that'd be right. Could use a mate."
"A mate!" Surely she hadn't spotted him taking an untoward interest in her mouth? But before he said anything disastrous, Gregson recalled that mate meant something quite other in this place. Something reassuring. "Yes. Yes, of course. You must feel terribly alone."
Sarah Kelly didn't look particularly lonely, in all honesty, even before she gave a careless shrug. "Got my bears. It's a start. But someone who knows what the hell is going on, that'd be beaut."
"Well, yes. I can see that. And fortunately, I have studied for many years for that precise role. I," he coughed, faux-modest, "-am one of the council's leading experts in supernatural and demonic phenomena." He paused. She didn't look impressed. "And if need be, I can telegraph for help."
She laughed. "Good on yer. That's what I like to hear."
Thus was a fruitful partnership forged. Sarah was creative, an excellent fighter. Her ability to bond with and train large numbers of the famed drop bears was no handicap either.
They discovered the secret of Vegemite. They saved babies from wild dogs bent on sacrifice. They even discovered the purpose of Ayers Rock.
When he came to bury her, more than five years later, Matthew Gregson made bloody sure she was properly remembered. More than one Slayer, she'd brought them an army.
He never did go back to England. Someone had to feed the bears.