Sunnydale, CA, USA
It was a surprising thing to see, wandering through the house on the eve of the epic events that were set to take place the following day. It was surprising because of how everything seemed to be both normal and abnormal. The house was still packed with the same group of girls that it had been for months. The girls were still grouped together in various clusters, or by themselves in tucked away corners. The tune of the house was still the same low, droning hum of background noise that it had been for as long as she seemed able to remember.
It was familiar.
But it was also different.
The conversations, if she stopped long enough to eavesdrop on them, were no longer of cute boys, new hair styles, or clothes. They were now filled with nervousness. Nervousness and excitement. She understood that, though. Because she, too, was filled with nervousness and excitement as she walked from room to room, searching.
There were girls everywhere. They sat huddled in groups talking to each other, listening to music, or laughing and boasting. They sat alone looking out the windows, writing in diaries or journals, or just contemplating what was to come. But none of them, so far, were the person she was looking for.
Naturally it was the last room in the house to be searched, short of the basement, where she found who she’d been looking for. She found the girl, older than her by a few years and wiser by many in ways Dawn couldn’t even imagine sitting alone doing the most ordinary thing the circumstances could have allowed for. She was sharpening her stakes.
"There you are Faith." Dawn said as she stood leaning against the doorframe to the room. She smiled as the chocolatey locks of the girl dubbed “The Dark Slayer” swung up and out of Faith’s face as the older girl looked up at her.
"Here I am." Faith nodded, smiling at the younger girl. Dipping her head back down, Faith ran the exceedingly sharp edge of the blade down the smooth wood in her hand. With careful, practiced precision the blade sliced off the narrowest layer of wood. Lifting the wooden weapon up, her experienced gaze ran the length of the weapon as she appraised it. Nodding that it was as good as it could ever be, Faith took the piece of wood and added it to the considerable pile on her left of completed stakes. Picking up the final weapon from her right, she started to run her fingers and thumb over its surface, seeking any imperfections. As she tested its balance she glanced back, realizing that the younger girl hadn’t spoken yet and asked, "What's up D?"
"Tomorrow's a big day." Dawn said simply, gathering her courage. She knew why she was here. She wanted what was, hopefully, to come. But doubts kept creeping into her head. Trying to marshal her thoughts, she took a few tentative steps into the room as her eyes followed the smooth, sure strokes of Faith’s knife over the wooden weapon.
"That's putting it lightly." Faith chuckled, putting the finishing touches on the last stake before looking up at the younger girl. Standing and rolling her neck, the pops audible in the quiet room, Faith didn’t bother trying to hide the smirk that crept onto her face as she said, "It's going to be pretty epic."
"So many things could go wrong." Dawn said, taking a deep breath. Dawn knew that she had to get herself under control. When Faith had come back, the attitude that the older girl had had… Well, she’d worked too hard since then to convince Faith that she wasn’t just a little kid anymore. But with the impending apocalypse looming large, the younger girl had her work cut out for her as she opened her mouth to add more, only to have the words stall in her throat, "I could… I could…"
"I know Dawnie." Faith said sympathetically. Faith knew that this had to be hard, not just for Dawn, but for a lot of them. She was the Slayer, just like Buffy. And like Buffy, she’d lived well past the age of most previous Slayers already. The mortality rate, well it came with the job title and she’d accepted both a long time ago. But that didn’t mean everyone else had. Reaching out to rest her hand comfortingly on the younger girls shoulder she said softly, "And I get why you came back don't get me wrong."
"Yeah. I'm still scared." Dawn nodded. "I'm actually here because… If anything does happen… I don't want to die a virgin."
"Well you don't really have a lot of options there." Faith said, running over the possibilities in her head. Shock and grudging acceptance shot through Faith at Dawn’s words, even as she herself tried to help the younger girl out. Shock because Dawn wasn’t at all unattractive, and she had gone through high school after all. Then again, not everyone had had Faith’s experiences during high school so… The acceptance, she knew, was because now, at what could be the end of times, searching for that sort of connection wasn’t in the slightest bit surprising to her.
Hell, she’d already been there and done that, literally. So had the girl formerly known as Ms. Stick-Up-Her-Ass Summers, though Faith had to admit that she didn’t really get the blond’s choices for scratching that particular itch. Still, to each their own. Stepping back from the younger girl, Faith thought about the options and started to count them out on her fingers, "Spike, Robin, and Giles are too old for you, Xander is Anya's, and I don't think you're Andrew's type."
"Ewww no." Dawn said, shuddering. Repressing the need to gag as she thought of how far off-base the older girl was, Dawn shuddered again. She vehemently shook her head as she went on, "Definitely not Andrew. He's annoying and he's not MY type. I like girls Faith. I want it to be you."
"Huh… That wasn’t exactly what I was expecting." Faith said, considering the girl before her. She definitely couldn’t deny that Dawn was attractive, and if it was going to be their, or most likely her, last night on the planet… Well, she could certainly do worse than Dawn. Wanting to make absolutely sure, however, she couldn’t help but quirk her eyebrow at the younger Summers as she said, "Didn't know you played for that team."
"You and Tara helped me figure it out." Dawn said wistfully as her mind wandered to memories of the witch. Shaking her head to clear the memories of Tara she returned the appreciative stare that Faith had just given her, eyeing the Slayer up and down slowly. Feeling emboldened by the fact that Faith didn’t just outright laugh in her face, Dawn took a step towards the other girl and held out her hand. Looking down into the dark, deep brown eyes that had haunted her dreams Dawn added in a soft whisper, "I've asked the girls in my room to find someplace else to sleep tonight. All I'm asking for is one night. One special night, please."
"I think that can be arranged." Faith said deciding to just go with it. Thinking ahead had never been her strong suit, and Dawn definitely WAS attractive. Taking the younger girl’s hand, she said with a sultry, seductive grin, "Lead the way babydoll."
Berkley, CA, USA
The café wasn’t packed full, but it wasn’t empty either. It was just busy enough that when Jill walked in the door no one really looked up at her. Which was exactly what she had been hoping for. Years of looking over her shoulder had taught her that sometimes the greatest safety could be found in the utterly mundane. When no one took note of you, there was no one to tell of your comings and goings.
With experienced eyes she swept her gaze over the interior, taking note of the people sitting at the various tables. Mostly young professionals, they were near a few larger office buildings and it was partially for that reason that she’d chosen this site for the meeting. She wanted to just blend in with the crowd.
Taking off her sunglasses she was a little disappointed to note that her contact hadn’t shown up yet, but she was a little early, so it was to be expected she supposed. After a glance to the sign by a small counter near the door Jill saw that she was expected to “Wait to be seated”. It didn’t take long before a young girl, probably college age and trying to help offset some of her tuition costs with a part-time job, showed up and looked her up and down briefly.
“All by yourself, hun?” The girl asked after a quick glance out the glass doors showed no one else following her in. She was already bending down and reaching behind the counter. Jill tensed just barely, irrationally expecting the girl to whip out something sinister. When she came back up with only a menu in her hand, the tall brunette let the tension ease from her. Her enemy may have people everywhere, but what she’d just done would have given her away to any one of them.
Jill hitched a smile on her face, a kind of dopey vacant expression and said, “Actually, it’ll be two. I’m meeting someone here in a little bit.” The girl, seemingly not put off by the expression, or almost valley-girl like tone, just smiled back and nodded. After she had grabbed another menu, she led Jill through the café to a relatively empty section. When she asked Jill if the table was ok, the brunette just nodded her head and slid into the booth.
Asking for a water for her and “her friend”, Jill smiled at the young hostess once more before she wandered off. Picking up the menu before her she scanned the room again and was happy to see that no one was paying much attention to her. From her seat she was able to clearly see the entrance to the café, so about ten minutes later when her contact approached the building, she spotted him almost immediately. Based on the very little contact she’d had with him over the last couple weeks, Jill was able to identify him by a pin he wore on his shirt.
As soon as the man entered the café he scanned the room like she had, and almost immediately spotted her. He didn’t react, however, and simply continued to look around the room. When the young hostess/waitress approached him Jill saw him shoot her a disarming smile and say that he was there to meet someone, a friend of his, and that she might have already arrived. The young girl glanced over towards Jill as she started to raise her hand, pretending that she’d just seen her “friend”. He responded with a wave in return before thanking the young girl.
As he walked towards her Jill made a few observations about this mysterious contact of hers. First off he carried himself in a very confident manner, he was dangerous and he knew it, but he didn’t overtly radiate that threat. She had guessed by the way his jacket moved that he had a small pistol concealed under it, and hoped that she hadn’t walked into a trap.
About a month earlier Jill had received an odd communication from “a friend of a friend”. She had been highly suspicious at first, given all the dealings she’d had with the shadier elements of society, but for some reason she hadn’t immediately cut contact and moved on. For some reason, one she still wasn’t certain of, she had gone with her gut and after about three weeks of intense scrutiny, she’d agreed to meet up with him in this relatively secure neutral location to receive whatever information he had.
As he settled into the seat opposite her the two struck up a conversation, as though they were old friends just catching up. The hostess approached a moment later bearing two glasses of water and set them down on the table before telling them that she’d be back in a couple minutes to take their order. They both thanked her and went back to “catching up”.
Once she was out of ear shot her friend dropped his voice and pitched it so it wouldn’t carry far over the background noise of the café. He also drew from an inner pocket of his jacket a small electronic device which he turned on by pressing his thumb into a small button on the top. As Jill was just about to start to move, whether to flee or fight the brunette wasn’t sure, the man raised a hand and said, “Don’t worry, it’s just to prevent electronic eavesdropping.”
“You better start talking then, and fast. I’m still not even sure I should be here, or why I’m here.” Jill said, settling back onto her bench and also pitching her voice not to carry. She watched as her “friend” laid both of his hands on the table palms up and rotated them. Seeing that he had no weapons or anything she relaxed a touch more.
“I will, and don’t worry, it will be worth your time and effort. You are, I believe, familiar with some of the work our employer does, yes?” The man asked, cautiously. Jill was intrigued when he implied that they both worked for the same group, and raised an eyebrow at him before nodding once. At her nod he let out a slight sigh of relief and reached for his water. After taking a sip he said, “Well, I know that you are well versed in biochemistry, but how familiar are you with genetics? With human cloning?”
“Not especially. I mean, I know that the tech for it is in the works, but nothing definitive has happened yet.” Jill said in a slightly confused voice. Genetics had never really been her focus, but it was an interesting subject and typically found in a lot of the scientific journals she read. So she was aware that people were starting to experiment with it, but that it wasn’t up to the level of human cloning yet.
“What if I told you that you were wrong about that? What if I had some proof, some solid proof that our, uh, employer was in the testing phases of human cloning? And not just normal humans, either. Something new, beyond humans…” The man said, his voice dropping down even quieter as he spoke. Jill noticed too, especially towards that end, that he seemed to be struggling to get his words out. She was wondering if he had some sort of hypnotic or other conditioning against talking about it. It wouldn’t have surprised her, with all the things she’d learned about what her employer was up to behind the scenes.
“Well, I’d say that I’d be very interested in seeing more. I, uh, know some people. Some friends, or maybe former friends, who might be interested in it too. Are… Are you ok?” Jill asked, now growing alarmed as the man’s face turned red and then blueish-purple and he seemed to start choking quietly. In an instant she knew what had happened. A glance around the room showed that no one was paying them much attention, except one man standing by the door to the kitchen.
As she spotted him the man ducked back into the kitchen. Jill, no longer caring about what everyone else might think, moved suddenly. Sliding out of her seat she quickly made her way towards the front door even as she heard her former contact’s head smack the table. He was dead already, she recognized the signs of one of the toxins she’d developed for The Ring in action by the way the veins in his neck and forehead had bulged and turned black.
Right now all she wanted to do was to get out. Get out of the café, get out of the town, get out of danger. And she had a feeling that the only way she might be able to do that was to seek out some people who might very well put her into another type of danger. At least, though, with them there wasn’t a chance of them slipping her poison in her drink.
At least, she hoped there wasn’t a chance of that.
Burbank, CA, USA
"Bartowski, does the name Sunnydale mean anything to you?" Casey asked when he was certain he and Chuck were alone. He had seen Lester and the moron wander off towards the breakroom, and he was pretty certain the bearded freak was trying to chat up Anna over by the tv wall. For being in the middle of a Buy More at the Nerd Herd desk, the location was about as secure as it got.
"Small city, couple hours away." Chuck listed off what he knew without looking up from the clipboard he was holding. He tapped his pen on the board, looking down the various calls for service that had come in and trying to figure out which ones he could afford to send Jeff or Lester off to. That pair, whether together or apart, had caused more close calls on sexual harassment suits than all the rest of the employees at the store. He swore that half the reason he was as good at talking the talk in the spy world as he was he owed to talking down incensed female customers from suing the store. Glancing up at Casey he stopped tapping the pen, which was causing the big man’s eyebrow to twitch each time it struck the clipboard and quickly added, "The engineering department of their branch of UC tried to get me to come there, but I had my heart set on Stanford."
"How touching." Casey grunted, rolling his eyes. For a moment he sat, watching Chuck as though expecting more. When he realized that that was it he glanced around the sales floor once more and said, "No flashes?"
"Should it?" Chuck asked, finally coming out of his thoughts about the Buy More long enough to realize that Casey was asking for other reasons. Following the big guy’s lead he took a peek around to make sure no one was paying attention to him. In the distance he saw Jeff and Lester bickering about something, and Morgan trying to get Anna's attention. Big Mike was nowhere in sight, no doubt in his office.
"Some people I know where involved in an initiative there. I've heard there's something big about to go down there and wanted to know how concerned we should be." Casey said, watching Chuck carefuly as he said it. As he expected he saw the telltale signs of the Intersect acting on the key word and recalling details. With a smug grin on his face he waited as Chuck processed the information.
"Whoa, yeah ok, there we go. Uhhhh… The army was studying what it referred to as hostile sub-terrestrials." Chuck said as the information from the Intersect coalesced in his brain. Of course, as soon as he said it, he realized just what he had said and had to stop. With another surreptitious glance around the room he barely managed to contain his inner nerd as he tried hard to keep his voice at a whisper when he said, "Seriously though, vampires are real?"
"Apparently." Casey said gruffly. He wasn’t sure if he cared one way or another, vampires or terrorists, they were all just targets. And if something was going down, he had heard some whispers, then maybe he’d have the chance to requisition that new gun and ammo he’d been looking at. A win-win in his book. Hoping that Chuck might have something a little more solid, something he could take to the General, he prompted, "That all you know?"
"That's it, there isn't much information, last Initiative report was a year or so ago. Nothing recent to be concerned with." Chuck said before pausing as another bit of information trickled up. Cocking his head a little to the side he wondered how that little blond girl could… Well, he’d seen his blond girl do some crazy things, but that. Deciding to see if Casey knew anything else he asked, "What's a slayer? Sounds bad."
"I don't know, I think we better get Walker, find out what's coming." Casey said, nodding toward the exit and to Der Weinerschnitzel beyond it. If he was lucky Walker’s CIA contacts would make it so that he could push that requisition through ASAP. It was turning out to be a good day indeed.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
The warm, early summer air wafted gently through the trees dotting the campus of Barden University in Southern California, carrying with it tidings of change. The school year was wrapping up and students were preparing to depart. The campus would, for all intents and purposes, become a ghost town for the next two and a half months. Populated only by the few faculty members and students who had chosen to stay on for the extra term, perhaps for some additional pay or to make up credits missed or to get a jump start on the following year. One whole class of students was preparing to depart. Others preparing to depart for months. Change was in the air, and it smelled like early summer.
Alice Bradshaw walked confidently across the lawns, her head held proudly in the early summer breeze, as she headed towards one of the frat houses on Greek Row for an “End of Year” bash that was supposed to be the blowout of all blowouts. She just hopped that it had a well-stocked liquor supply. Her gaze didn’t wander as she walked, she knew where she was and more important she knew who she was to this school. Currently the head of the Barden University Bellas, though she’d soon be passing that noble title off to someone who, if she’d had any other choice, might not even be a Bella anymore after…
*later that night*
"Whoever you are, I have mace and I'm not afraid to use it." Alice said. She had just left the SBT House, heading for her apartment when she realized she was being followed. She glanced behind her to try and get a look at her stalker and was shocked by what she saw. Expecting to see a student, or maybe a couple students, her eyes instead landed on the chest of something that seemed to have crawled out of a nightmare. Her eyes rose over the creature’s well-muscled bare chest that seemed to glisten in the moonlight. If there was even the smallest, darkest corner of her brain which wasn’t shrieking in terror she’d have thought that it looked as though the creature was wet; the way its skin glistened told how it had recently been submerged in water.
However her brain didn’t possess a single spare neuron to comprehend that. It was too busy having reached the beast's head to take in anything else. Great, gleaming eyes shone in the darkness as it stared straight at her. Moonlight glinted off wicked curved horns, almost like a goat’s, which circled backwards and down and only seemed to frame as a backdrop the wide, tooth-filled mouth that was just now curving into a wicked smile. Her brain finally realized that her tiny can of mace was about the most useless thing she’d ever even considered before, and she had taken a course on modern pop country music here at Barden, and finally seemed to kick into full flight mode. With pure terror powering her muscles she took off running, screaming out "What the hell is that thing!?"
Alice ran as fast as she could along the lake shore, screaming again when something tore her from her path. Looking up nervously, fearing the worst, she was surprised to find a tall brunette girl that looked to be a few years younger than her protecting her while another woman threw herself at whatever it was that had been chasing her.
Half-expecting the beast to simply toss the older woman aside, Alice was already struggling to rise when a sudden flash of blue light lit the night. Her gaze snapped back towards the beast, already anticipating seeing the woman’s mangled corpse laying on the ground. Instead she saw the beast flying through the air, propelled by something that Alice couldn’t see. The younger girl, the one who had knocked her to the ground, struggled to keep Alice in place, to stop her from running. It also made it hard to see everything happening beyond her.
But Alice could make out enough. The creature, whatever it was, had landed with a loud crash, but it hadn’t stayed down long. With speed that the senior couldn’t believe existed it was on its feet again, clawed feet tearing into the ground as it charged the older woman. Alice wanted to scream at her to run, to save herself, but instead the woman simply waited calmly. This time Alice saw what happened. As the beast closed the distance the woman suddenly glowed a bright, brilliant, pure blue and raised her hand in a whip-like motion. The beast, intent on charging down its new prey, staggered as a searing blue light flashed through the night. A massive gash appeared on the beast’s chest as it fell staggering to the ground.
Alice, expecting that it was over, started to struggle out from under the person holding her. As soon as she was half free the beast’s eyes turned and found her again. They seemed to light up, but not in a pleasing, bright way in which the older woman’s light was. No, in fact they seemed to grow darker, to suck the darkness from the night. Alice gasped as she saw the wicked wound on the creature’s chest starting to close up, to knit back together.
“Go, now! Get her away from here. It’s feeding on her terror!” The woman called out, looking back over her shoulder towards Alice and the girl who had her pinned to the ground. Alice screamed as the creature rose again suddenly and started moving. It resumed its earlier charge, heading right towards the older woman whose head whipped back around. The light flared around her again, casting everything around in a soft blue light. But she was distracted, she was too slow.
Even as the light coalesced and struck down on the creature, the beast reached her. It’s massive head dipped as it thrust the wickedly sharp, curved horn at the older woman’s exposed middle. The blast of blue light hit the creature, knocking it sideways and Alice heard a wet, ripping sound as the beast’s horn tore at the older woman’s flesh.
Alice watched her stagger sideways and drop to a knee. The beast, she noted, had landed in a crumpled heap ten feet from the old woman and hadn’t stirred. As the old woman’s knee hit the ground, the girl above her reached out towards her, forgetting about protecting Alice as she cried out.
"REGINA!" the mystery brunette called out, running towards her savior. The woman who had been fighting was in bad shape. The mysterious brunette ran her hands over the older woman once, twice, three times before letting out a cry of pure frustration. Alice had no idea what was going on, in fact she wasn’t sure she had understood anything that had happened since she’d left the frat house, but whatever was going on the young brunette seemed about to cry over it. Laying a gentle hand on the older woman lying in the grass, the brunette said in a soft voice, "I can’t… I can’t heal this. Come on, let's get you to the water."
"No, it won't matter." Regina said, looking up at the younger woman. Still graceful despite the wounds marring her body, the older woman raised a hand and gently caressed the younger girl’s cheek. The movement seemed almost maternal, and in the way the younger girl’s eyes shut with emotion, even Alice felt like she was intruding on a highly private moment. Wiping away a tear which was making its way down a perfectly sculpted cheek, the older woman whispered, "I'm dying, I can feel it."
"You can't die." The younger girl was now openly crying, tears treating the perfect geometry of her cheekbones as racecars treated the road, hugging every curve and dip. In one last, desperate attempt the younger girl clasped both of her hands around Regina’s and squeezed her eyes tightly closed. Alice could swear she almost saw a faint light glowing through her hands. A blink and it was gone, if it was even there in the first place, and the younger woman’s tears seemed to have increased tenfold. Her voice was barely audible as she said, "We need you still. You need to protect the lake. I need you…"
"I've taught you everything I can." Regina responded, her breathing growing more and more ragged with each gasp. Giving the younger girl one final, tender smile the next words she'd speak would clearly be her last. With a determined look on her face she nodded weakly and said, "You are ready. The lake is yours Anastasia."
A final gasp and a soft exhale, and the older woman’s body stilled on the grass. Alice, having been held transfixed by the spectacle before her for the last several minutes, finally felt like her brain was catching up with things as all the weird shit that had happened suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks. Standing up hastily, the senior took several steps backwards, her mind gibbering uselessly. Before she could utter a single word, another incredible, impossible thing happened.
The corpse of the older woman, ragged wounds and all, suddenly seemed to shift, to change. In an instant the body wasn’t a body any longer. Before Alice even realized what was happening, the older woman’s body turned from a solid, human, form to a clear, impossibly beautiful blue liquid. For another instant the liquid held the form in which it had previous been, that of the older woman. And then it was gone. The liquid splashing down into the ground, which glowed with a faint, unnatural green light.
Part of the water fell on the younger girl, splashing onto her skin where she knelt beside the bent, crushed grass where Regina’s body had so recently been. Instead of rolling over and splashing to the ground, however, the impossibly blue liquid seemed to quiver on the younger girl’s skin. After the briefest of pauses, the liquid glowed a pale blue, the light casting the younger girl’s features into soft relief. A second later, the liquid seemed to sink into the younger girl and she gasped and shuddered as though experiencing the most powerful orgasm imaginable.
When every droplet of water had been absorbed into the younger girl, her head fell back, eyes and mouth open to the dark night’s sky. A sound emanated from the girl, Alice couldn’t call it a scream, because she wasn’t really sure if she actually heard it, but a feeling ripped through her. Something she’d never felt before, and would never feel again in her life.
Power. Power rushing into the younger girl and seeming to fill every nook and cranny of her being.
In a blink it was over. Alice might have thought she imagined the whole thing, despite the way her breathing was ragged and uncontrollable. She realized that a quiet keening sound could be heard, and as soon as she heard the sound, she realized it was coming from her own strangled throat. She didn’t know when she’d started, but she found she couldn’t stop.
Even as her gibbering mind was searching for words to ask just what the hell had happened, the younger girl turned her green-eyed gaze on Alice and the older girl felt her keening cry still. Her body, which had still been moving away from the horror she’d just witnessed, stopped its progress as though she’d hit a wall. The younger girl’s gaze was unearthly, her green eyes surrounded by a deep, calm pool of blue the same shade as the liquid. Alice didn’t know what was about to happen, but she knew that she was powerless to stop it.
The young girl stood, slowly and with a grace that was almost inhuman in its flowing, silky smoothness. As Alice stood transfixed, the girl raised a hand towards her, despite the thirty some odd feet that now separated the pair. For a moment, Alice almost expected a beam of something to shoot out and strike her dead on the spot. Instead, the younger girl spoke and her voice was different from before, calmer and wiser perhaps as she said, “Do not fear, mortal. You will not remember this come morning. Sleep now, and forget those things which your eyes were never meant to see…”
The last thing Alice remembered, though from that moment on only in her deepest and most secret dreams, was the pale blue light seeming to drain from the younger girl’s eyes and flow along her skin, ghosting over the tanned, toned flesh until it coalesced around the girl’s hand. In a flash, the power burst outwards and Alice felt a haze drop over her even as she felt herself slowly falling to the ground. By the time she had settled into a curled position, the older girl was unconscious, and all memories of the evening were hazed beyond conscious remembering. Calmly the girl walked to her and looked down at the sleeping form of the senior.
Now that the action was done, even the young girl seemed confused as to how she had made it happen. As she stood pondering the situation, a voice spoke softly from the air around her, “Worry not, young one. It is something that you will learn, eventually. For now, it was my last gift, a part of my last gift to you. Use the powers you have well, and you will always find cool waters, Anastasia.”
“No.” The young girl said suddenly, a confidence in her tone as she did so. Looking around she smiled, took in the sight of Barden University for a moment before continuing, “That was before. That was a name of the past. I have to move forward now. I shed that name, and all that came with it. No longer am I Anastasia.”